The 2-meter ham band is a depraved and lawless slag heap of old

I grew up as the internet grew up. And so, I grew up in chatrooms. I was there for the glory years of Yahoo! Chats, AOL IM, and even the Boston.com HTML-based chat that required you to hit “Refresh” to keep up with the conversation. They were debauched and freewheeling days, when everyone was no one and your parents didn’t want you “doing e-mail.” The late 20th Century. Your beloved 1990s. In that brave time bridging the sepia-toned stick-and-hoop epoch of The Old Days and today’s morass of hollow, befiltered self-made superstars and truth having no meaning, before comments sections, before the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Harlem Shake, before Instagram and YouTube and your grandmother getting on Facebook, chatrooms were where Reagan babies came into our own.

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My Mother Road

Sarah and I were charged with retrieving a brand new 4×4 Sprinter van from Mercedes-Benz of Temecula and delivering it to my brother-in-law in Cedar City, Utah, equidistant between the Benz dealer and Jeffie and Kevin’s mountain home in Old Snowmass, Colorado. I drove the Sprinter and Sarah followed in Vanna White. After we dropped the tall Brotwagen off to an eager Kevin in the Beehive State, we got in Vanna and wandered south into Zion National Park. It was there I found my white whale.

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Vallury & Butler hit high water mark in history of jazz, or at least tomfoolery

Further to the earlier post on Joey Clift’s Our Fifty States Project, the collaboration between one R. K. Vallury and myself rolls on like a Deltic diesel locomotive, belting through the countryside night in a blue haze and dusting the sleep from the gentry’s eyes. Or something.

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The 50 States Project, or: Why I can never show my face in Chicopee, MA

This quarantine situation has somehow both stifled my will to do anything and also jump-started a long-dormant creativity. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, some days I do the best work I’ve done in over a decade. LA comedian Rama Vallury and I have found ourselves in a songwriting partnership that went back to his days as half of the comedy duo George & Vallury, writing songs for their sketch comedy shows at the Second City.

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Shop Update: The Wild, The Innocent, and the C-3 Shuffle

At the end of January I caught a wave of impulsivity. One night after a gig with Bobby Bluehouse I decided that my current road organ, the chopped C-2, was good, but not great, as a live rig. It lacked the responsive key feel and screaming, spitting fury of my other organ, the “studio” A-100. That thing will just cut your coolyans off. That one, I felt, should really be for live use. But the chop wouldn’t be ideal for my recording purposes, owing to its clunky ratcheting drawbars that make smooth timbral transitions nigh on impossible–something that would be very noticeable on a record. Yes, I could always swap out the drawbar rail, but good luck finding a good set of smooth drawbars for less than a car payment, if at all, and the money and time spent on the conversion would be better spent on a -3 series organ, I believe. It was time to do the organ shuffle.

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New music for the apocalypse

Yes, times are strange and frightening. But in the spirit of the Italians who are persevering through song, I decided to put out another single from the All Ages Record. From Disney’s 1963 classic “The Sword in the Stone,” I present the folk-opera-funk arrangement of “That’s What Makes The World Go ‘Round (To and Fro).” Featuring:

Sean George: lead vocals
Shannon Rose McAuliffe: lead and backing vocals
Jordan Gravely: acoustic guitar
Brian Weiland: hammered dulcimer
Bunny Butler: electric pianos, Hammond organs, organ bass, synthesiser
Vinny Monya: cajon and other percussion, backing vocals
The Hondu Choir: backing vocals

Go wash your hands then take a listen.

On the significance of a gone dead Ampeg and the Old Vineyard Way

“But then the fire in my boiler up and quit before I came/there ain’t no empty cellar/need a gone dead train.” –R. S. Newman, 1970

Long before I could drive, or really even play, I fell into a collection of instruments that would make the Silver Lake $100-undercut mavens of vintage skip a collective heartbeat. I was given more cool gear before I was 12 than I would be able to afford until I was in my 30s. Such was the benefit of living among the cabal of doting Vineyard hippies with leaky barns and mildewed basements full of things that hadn’t seen the light of day since Nixon.

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Shop Update: Tallboy Leslie at last fully operational

Tonight I put the finishing touches on the internal restoration and modification of the Leslie 31H, with the completion of the lower motor reconfiguration scheme. It is now a proper two-speed cabinet, using classic two-speed motor stacks and not the—in my opinion, hacky—electronic two-speed conversion kits that are easier but don’t have the right speed and acceleration characteristics. See the video below for a demonstration. Cabinet cosmetic restoration to be completed.

The Blowout Sail, or: A tale of the greatest race on Earth

Originally written in spring 2005, Milan, Italy. Revised October 2019.

I’m sure there are many civil, gentlemanly model boat races on calm inland waters throughout America. Chrysler-driving old men and cornflake-fed children in Polo shirts gather on a lichened pine dock to launch factory-painted balsa sloops and ketches, tending them with sticks and perhaps a radio controller. At the drop of a flag, the craft totter and slurp through the wavelets to a pink mooring ball, arriving in a tidy flotilla of white nylon sails and politely wagging telltales. Golf claps and spilled lemonade are the only action from the sidelines.

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A man, a van, a canyon, Malibu: The mad midnight technical trial of a Transit Connect

The evergreen pursuit of overland speed leads folks to the expected places. Stingrays, Shelbys, a rainbow of subprime-financed and mileage-limited leased German sedans for the temporarily embarrassed millionaires. But some of us have things to do. I can’t carry hundreds of pounds of electric organs, speaker cabinets, and their attendant toolboxes and accessories in a Challenger—ignoring that I gigged on a bicycle and a Harley Sportster for years. You make do with what you have, after all. But an increase in live rig size meant a commensurate increase in road rig size. I also like to enjoy myself while driving. That’s why I keep around a Ford Transit Connect van.

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