Monday, January 18, 2010
Advice from a Road Scholar
Recently, a musician, writer and film-producer from San Antonio, TX was found sealed in the trunk of his burned to a crisp car he named “Linda” about 17 miles from where I live. Adam Espinoza, 20, was going west, so to speak, to renew his life, his passions and his dreams. He posted on Facebook, Dec. 30;
"Although this year may have had more stress than we could handle, whether it be from work, or school, or heartbreak, we mustn't dwell on them. Let us tie up any loose ends we may have left, and enter the New Year, nay, the new decade, with enthusiasm. Let us see life through a new perspective, Let us live life with love and compassion, and let life take us where it may." He never made it. Someone insensitively wrote on the Las Cruces Sun-News page that he probably committed suicide; most people’s capacity for denial being their strongest emotion. It’s mid January and I’m planning my own tours and travels. They will take me tens of thousands of mile by auto, plane and mass transit from Albuquerque to Florida. Arizona to Wisconsin, Illinois, Austin, San Antonio, Utah. This being only January I know my calendar will fill up and I’m grateful. Nonetheless, Adam’s murder reminds me that violence is real and a possibility and sometimes you do nothing more than exist to tempt an already intolerant, angry or strung out person to want to limit your freedom—hurt you or kill you. I go on the assumption that people are basically nice and want to be left alone to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be, as much as the next person. As I travel alone mostly, drive 9-12 hour days, stay in unfamiliar places I make sure I’m as aware as my last cup of Gas Station coffee allows, of everything going on around me. I try to not put myself in situations I know can turn volatile. Having played in many, many a bar, club, dive, party etc. I know what to look for. Fortunately I don’t need to play in these places any more.
In a climate where people will give you physical grief for a bumper sticker I’ve learned what so many women, differently colored skin than Band-Aid people already know. The less attention you call to yourself the less violence you’re likely to encounter. Truth be told the most threatening places are the little gas stations that serve as the de facto community centers in many rural, off the interstate, places. You walk in and there is a woman behind the counter with teased bleached blonde hair and way too much make up. She is talking with about 5 rather stout guys all gathered round “shooting the shit” as they say. So you get some tea or a Starbuck’s Frappe and take it to the cash register. There are cards and signs for Deer skinning or ammo loading. They get a chance to completely scrutinize you like those body scanners. If there is anything about you that threatens them they will start to giggle and you can feel the tension rise. I always look at them and ask directions or talk about the weather. Sometimes it works sometimes it don’t. I was in a Whataburger (a place I no longer go) and ordered some food. I gave the cashier my name, Randy. I noticed a table of 3 good-ole boys giggling and saying under their breath, “Raaaannnndddeeeee.” I got tense and decided to ignore it. It went from Randy to “Randy is a fag. Randy is gay.” I just laughed to myself. Looking different, and attractive if I might add, has its price and I’m used to attention. But they were giggling so hard the other customer and staff noticed. I thought, fuck this. What is this high school all over again? So I went to the counter and ordered 3 Strawberry shakes. I waited till they were done and took them to their table. I said, “You guys looked thirsty. Enjoy.”
I know they could have chased after me and kicked my ass. I guarantee they would have not walked away unscathed. The point it is could have been anyone. I don’t take anything personally. Black musicians, punks, blues etc. etc. have all gone through this shit at the Waffle House. Certain people just need someone or something to be against. I see right through people. My intuition and perception is keen, strong and highly developed. I see through the friends on Facebook who passive aggressively challenge my manhood or sexuality. Love it. Keep em guessing and let them read your fan’s posts. A musician’s persona and personality will always be in question. We shred the envelopes so many are inside. It’s not arrogance, its confidence. A deep self-belief that supports us regardless is what sustains what we do. It sustains me as well as a compelling drive to create, to work all the time, to distill some of this creativity that is flowing through me like an unbridled waterfall. Adam Espinosa told his family a car was following him since about 100 east of the New Mexico/Texas border. Having been through that area I think I know exactly how it went down. I’m hoping it won’t happen to me, but if it does there will be scars on my attackers deep as the Rio Grande Gorge. I’m not fearful of anyone but am always willing to flee first. My hands are way more important to me than leaving a mark. Adam said in his last post; "I am ready start over with a clean slate! California, here I come! I love every one of y'all! I will see you guys in the summer (I hope)!" Hope. Hope is a fragile thread but reinforced with gold.
Artists living their life in fear should take a job at the AutoZone or work for the city instead. You can’t be afraid of danger. You can be aware and do some things that to me are common sense like:
Don’t advertise you are a musician for god’s sake. Take off the bumper stickers of all the music stores and manufacturers and don’t put a sign that says: “musician on board.” I’ve seen it.
Cover your instruments and gear with a beat-up old blanket.
Dress like a college student and not Ani di Franco when you go into the McDonalds to bathe.
Don’t post every stop and place you are at on Facebook, twitter etc. Do it afterwards.
Don’t say how much money you made at a gig tonight on the above sites.
Only drink bottled beer or water at a gig and keep it close. I’ve had more stuffed slipped to me at bar gigs…. Luckily I automatically throw up everything that doesn’t agree with me.
Never, ever part with your gear! I don’t care whose boyfriend of the venue owner’s girlfriends’ brother they say they are.
Criminals are most likely people who look like you. Not the other color.
If there is a group of people in the hotel parking lot, take your gear in later when there aren’t any.
Don’t tell the night clerk everything about you. They are underpaid and often work with friends and guess what? That electro key they made for you can be copied in a sec.
When you stop to get gas, go somewhere else for grub okay. I split my stops up because when you stay in one spot too long you let your guard down and criminals have time to size you and your car up. I’ve had people come up to me on one side and ask for directions while the other tried to open my back door. I always lock it and always say oh man I don’t know. Maybe they’ll know inside…. What I’ve learned is pleading ignorance works wonders.
Always trust your intuition. It’s been around about 300,000 years.
Be careful out there but never be in fear. You are not an accident and neither is your music.
Some of the information for this Blog was gathered from the Las Cruces Sun-News by reporter Ashley Meeks.