Wednesday, December 29, 2004


For a moment, lets step just to the left of this most recent natural disaster and visit ancient Pompeii. Looming in the distance is a slumbering volcano. Everyone is quietly going about their day to day activities, when all of the sudden in the distance a dark cloud emerges. Most people begin to take notice and flee the city. Many stay. Many die after the city is consumed by sulfurous smoke, ash and then rivers of mud and magma.
I've read a volume of literature about Pompeii over the years. Its an archeologist's wet dream to discover a site kept pristine for thousands of years. As I wander through the streets of Pompeii I wonder what it was like to live and die there. I imagine children chasing ducks and dogs in a courtyard just before the explosion. People race to their temples, but the temples offer no protection from the decending ash.
I'm thinking about the tsunami victims. I think all the tourists are as we walk about this ghost town. Its winter, and it gets dark early. I didn't expect the sun to go down so quick. So now I walk through the abandoned homes and streets of Pompeii. I find a small room with a small rope to keep tourists out. Inside the room are remains of the victims of this episode. Its dark and I am looking at a human skull. Its not fossilized like the rest. This skull is partially exposed from the rock around it. I think "Poor Yorrick, I knew him well..." and then am overwhelmed by the number of other human remains that litter this room and clutter the dark. Pompeii is a strange place to be in at night. I decide to leave with my morbid curiosity still intact.
The train platform, which is normally full, is empty as I wait to get to Naples. I'm glad I stopped here. I always wanted to visit Pompeii. Now I can check that off the list of things to do and I got it done in 2004.


Friday, December 24, 2004

Pontif Plans

I guess I'm going to see the Pope tonight. It seems like the thing to do when you're in Rome on the Eve of Christmas. I remember from a long time ago that the Pontiff said Xmas mass was his favorite. As I'm polarly opposed to many of the Pope's stances on political and social issues, including, but not exclusive to repoductive rights, I'm not sure what I think about going to a mass presided by him celebrating the birth of lil baby Jesus (Hey-suess). Though raised Roman Catholic, I have a hard time coming to any other decision that no one person is closer to god than another regardless of the number of texts one reads. This is not an issue of faith, rather, its simply a justification to dispell the banter of a guy in a pointy hat as just one man's belief and is not representative of the will of God.
Sometimes "The Church" seems shortsighted. Often times I meet people who obviously dropped or failed out of Chemistry/Biology/Physics... and decided to scorn the sciences instead of trying to learn what they have to offer. And these are the same sciences that are providing treatments that could help the Pope. Does the fact that the Pope came down with Parkinson's mean God does exist or that he doesn't, and if he does exist, does it mean that (s)he/it's not Roman Catholic?
Anyway, I'm going because its important to my mother that I go and my brother went through the trouble of going all the way to the American Embassy and picking up special tickets for us in the diplomatic section.
Ok, I just got back from Mass. We took a cab. Normally, you wouldn't need to take a cab, but my parents just feel safer in a taxi. In Rome, I feel safer on the train. I'm less afraid of pickpockets than street traffic with crazy Italians behind the wheel. Of course, I had to sit in the back seat. Its horribly uncomfortable for me as the tallest one in the group to sit in the smallest most cramped seat, but no one in my family seems to realize that their baby is actually the largest of the household and needs about 4 more inches of headroom than the rest of them. It seems it my lot to sit in the back when it comes to my family. Of course, when it comes to lugging my parents 240 pounds of suitcases up the stairs then I'm A#1 on their list of subjugates. Fortunately, my brother has the ability to listen and appreciate what one says. My parents wanted to stay in line to get into mass. I was really annoyed by the overemphatically exhuburant Roman Catholic teens who were ahead of us who kept cheering for "Papa" and clapping. Regardless of the line, I wanted to be away from them... really far away. I appreciate lines... I really do, but not under these circumstances. Though disregarded by my parents, my plan of cutting in line was reintroduced by my brother which received a much better reception. We usurped three quarters of the line and we were actually able to get seats with a view of the Pope from "off stage left"... I'm not sure, should it be called off alter left?... whatever.
We sat around for a while. I was offered a candy from a former diplomat's wife from Panama which looked like a small piece of black licorice. I innocently accepted... in my experience its generally ok to accept candy from strangers in church. I was horribly wrong about the taste of it. Was it candy? I'm not sure, but it was hard and it tasted something between earwax, aspirin, and bathtub moonshine. Shortly after I was told by her daughter that the candy should last through out the mass... and shortly after that I spit it out.
Finally, after alot of waiting, the pagentry of the event started. From our side view we weren't able to watch the procession, but finally after these men file in the Pope makes in there on his scooter chair. They should really have smoke shooting out the back of it... maybe a nice light show... I think the guy who used to do Phish is available.
I must say that the most impressive thing about the whole affair was the church itself. It was beautiful, but I could have come back any time during the day and looked at the stain glass windows. I thought about that when I was dazing off during the mass. I kept looking around me at all the people who also weren't paying attention from all over the world. I saw some cute girls. Is it a sin to hit on girls in church? Its possible that my parents would say no, just so that I would go to church back home. Anyway, from time to time I focused in on the liturgy itself.
I've seen plays more interesting... PLAYS!
Yes it was boring, and though snipits of the mass were in Spanish, Portuguese and English I wasn't following what was said. And when the Pope spoke... forget about understanding what he says no matter what language its in.
After it was all done it was the cattle herd trying to stampede its way through the main doors. It was a cataract of people poring out of every available oraphice, but not really as dangerously so. Its funny how people are like herds and how herds are like water and how water can be directed and manipulated. I was being pushed over chairs towards the door. I thought about the line from It's a Wonderful Life "'Here's your hat.' What's your hurry?" Its raining outside and I haven't looked up yet. C'est la vie. Some forces push you out regardless of your will.
Eventually, we walked three blocks to make it to our cab. I could hear people in the distance lighting off cheap firecrackers. Every once in a while someone would pass by me with one of those musical santa hats with lights on them. I put on my santa hat to fit in. I'm glad its more temperate than Chicago in Rome. It occured to me that I'd like to be back in Brazil for the Winter. I thought of the amateur fireworks I saw from the balcony of my brothers apartment in Sao Paulo. It looked like a small artillery war across the horizon. I'd love to be there again.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Dad's Broken Arm

On the plus side, his hand is fine.
They did a nice lil Xray here in Rome.
On the negative side, he has a small fracture on the radius. I
only got a second to inspect the Xray (which was miniturized and
they didn't have a proper screen to evaluate it... so I had to do
with the florecent light which dangled from the ceiling). Its
enough to put his arm in a cast up to the armpit.
Its also enough for Dad to get depressed/angry about the trip.
On the plus side, the hospital didn't charge us for the assessment
or the cast! If only the U.S. could provide this type of
affordable care. Though it did take all day.

By the time we left the hospital, the sun was setting. It was a
dark sky in the West... a storm is coming. Birds were flocking in
giant swarms in the sky which looked like an oil blob dancing in a
beaker, like a lava lamp. I hope this is the end of my Dad's
loathing and I hope the weather shapes up for the better, but by
the look of weather central, I'd better prepare for fun inside.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Accademia Nationale Di Santa Cecilia

Today I went to the Accademia Nationale Di Santa Cecilia and saw their orchestra directed by Yuri Termirkanov. They called it "Russkij Festival Russo." The orchestra played works by Tchaikovsky (Cajkovskij), Glinka, & Borodin. We sat behind the orchestra, an interesting perspective. I definitely heard more bassy instruments than if I were to have sat in the front of the house.
It was a fine time, and I was in good company. I'm sure I wouldn't have been there with out him. He has an appreciation for orchestral music and opera which I haven't really developed. I feel bad for my Dad. A dark cloud hangs over him and I hope it lightens up. He has a cold. During the performance he had to step out because of his coughing. I hope I don't catch his cold. I don't want to be both cold and injured.
BTW, I had my first experience with the tiny transportation in Italy. They're basically clown cars. They're aweful and I don't recommend them. I prefer the trains & busses and I recommend them to anyone who comes here.



I made it to the Colleseum which is just a few blocks from the apartment. Its a grand site, even if its just a hollow shell of its former majesty. The Colloseum has been robbed of its marble plating by many churches and public institutions over the centuries.
I found a park that bared my namesake with a great view of the city nearby. Again, I went with my parents, but sometimes you just need to be apart from them. Space is very important to me. Anyway, my previous post about my dad's "dark cloud" seems to have foreshadowed future events. A short time after I left, my Dad fell by the Forum. He's complaining about arm and hand pain. I know exactly what he's talking about. I'm sure I busted a metacarpel at the house of blues when I was pushed down a flight of stairs. My injury has gone unattended because of this trip. My brother and mom are pushing for him to get an Xray. Its probably for the best. He has good range of motion in his arm. The muscles by his elbow are tense, though he swears he landed on his hand and not his elbow.


First Day in Rome

My brother stood just outside the customs area after the smooth flight over. He hired a driver to run us into the city. His name was Mario and he went out of his way to quickly run through the city for the short but necessary driving tour of Rome. The check in to my apartment was at noon, so we had breakfast to pass the time. My parents, also along for the trip, are staying with my brother and Valqueria.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Fantastic Four - Review

A musician can play an instrument, but a performer adapts their practice to the crowd. An entertainer gets the crowd into it no matter what it takes. I consider the Fantastic Four, the combo of Robert Walter, Adam Deitch, Eric Krasno, & Cheme Gastulem consummate entertainers, because as they vibe the crowd so well. They leave their troubles on the doorstep.
I was privy to certain information, like Krasno & Deitch caught tough colds. By the time I made it to the venue, the guys from Silver Wrapper (very effective grassroots promoters) were taking the band out to dinner. I was fortunate enough to join their company. Kraz & Deitch struggled through dinner trying to figure out what food they could eat and make them feel better. I remembered Moona's ill experience with sushi the night of Del up in Madison... They stuck to cooked foods & soup.
Before the show, Eric & Adam both took naps in the small backstage room while two spinners warmed up the crowd. I'm not sure if I could sleep right above a stage while the music was bumpin' but its a testament to their need for rest, but as soon as the guys hit the stage, it was showtime. No one in the crowd was the wiser that the Fantastic Four weren't at 100%.
The first set started off in grand form, but it didn't last too long. It seemed like there was one unfortunate technical problem following another. First, the high hat stand crapped out. The promoters were "Johnny on the money" with a new stand in a flash. Then Kraz breaks his high E string, as he's just getting it tuned to perfection, the new string breaks! He whipped out a third string kind of wondering what was goin' on. After that gets fixed, one of Robert Walter's keyboard's dropped out of the mix for a short time. The fact that I'm writing this opens up interpretation of the show if and when you download it off of etree, but the fact is... I've never seen musicians handle the situation in a more calm and collected fashion. From the crowd perspective, we weren't really aware that there were any problems. From our side people were noting Deitch's treatment on the snare and ride. Robert put his hand on one of his other keyboards. It was fairly evident that Kraz had broken strings, but again, a lesser entertainer would have taken the same amount of time to just fix one string. After that short series of peculiar phenomena, the show continued on beautifully!
I hung on every note... I snapped a few pictures here and there. I really didn't want this combo to stop playing. I was watching a bridge being built between the older West Coast 20th Congress scene and the newer Deitch & Kraz explosion. This is what jazz is all about, musicians exploring new musical territory by giggin' out with one another. It was almost like school, but way more fun, you know, music education.
Plus, I was and am very happy with all of the people who made it out to the show. Friends from Wisconsin, Indiana, & Michigan all made to Chitown for the affair. I'm going to miss seeing Nathan around Madtown, though I have a feeling I will see him around. The picture was taken from his blog. It always helps to party amongst friends. In retrospect, I neglected a few, but its hard when everywhere you turn is a friend and you're awed by a rare and ridiculously amazing performance by consummate entertainers.
If you look at the picture you can see me wearing my santa hat holding the video camera. Below me is Vince Iwinski, manager of Umphrey's McGee. On Keys to the left if Eric Krasno and to the right is Robert Walters. By the way, to Nathan, if you're reading, this wasn't a hippie show, it was a jazz show. This was the real deal.

And now for the setlist:
Friday December 17, 2004 @ The Subterranean Chicago, IL - A Silver Wrapper Production
Set I:
Get Up & Get It
Big Brother
Let The Music
Set II:
Palm Grease
Kraz/Cheme Tune
Fire Eater
For Granted
Love Having You Around

What a great send off on my way to Rome!


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Nonukah - in Santa Monica

Here's a holiday that you can keep in your heart 357 days of the year & 358 every leap year.
Honukah last for 8 full days, but my friends also celebrate the non-honukah days!
On Dec. 18th they celebrate with Broccoli cheese casseroles, latkes and beer!
They celebrate their friendships and love.
They do it every year, and it's getting to be that time to dance and cheer.

Other friends festivities follow for fun in holiday days!
But alas, I'm a single traveller and time still never stays.
I'm blessed to know you all and to have you in my heart.
My soul's enriched by the best of your best parts.

So as I jaunt to Rome, to Rio, Curcao or come home;
as I fly by to CA, Madtown, Chi, or NY
I want you to know I love y'all so
and in a sense where I go, you go.


Happy Birthday Phil!!!

My Big Brother Phil ROCKS! And its his birthday. In a few days I get to spank him in Rome... that is unless his girlfriend Val beats me to it and renders his rear black 'n blue.
My brother left Colombia last year, so this is his first birthday in Italy. Actually, it may be his first birthday in Europe!
He's a good boy!
Everyone hold up their drinks and cheers to Phil Stewart, a great friend and brother!


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Fantastic Four - Walters, Deitch, Cheme & Krazno

Four of my music heros are coming to town and they're going by the comic superhero name The Fantastic Four... But don't confuse these guys with those guys... And, please don't confuse these guys with the 1970s Detroit soul quartet that put out "Alvin Stone (The Life And Death Of A Gangster) (Westbound 1975)." This Fantastic Four plays instrumentals in the jazz fusion vein.
Its gonna be an off the hook mad soul jam on the 17th in Chicago featuring elements of hip hop, soul, jazz, boogaloo, & rock!

I have not heard them play together before, but reports from their show in San Francisco included: "Unf#&*^n-believable!" "Supadope!," and "Who taped it? Who taped it?" I've listened to all of these musicians before, but never before in a manifestation like this. You MUST come to this show!

From Left to right its:
Robert Walters from The 20th Congress & Greyboy Allstars on Keys
Adam Deitch from Scofield, Lettuce, Fire Dept & a slew of side projects on Drums
Cochemea Gastelum from The 20th Congress on Sax & Flute
Eric Krasno from Soulive, Lettuce, Fire Dept on Guitar

These are the types of guys that will eventually come up with the quintessential soul, RB, & Fusion albums of our generation... if not all time.
It is FRIDAY DEC 17, 2004 @ The Subterranean 2011 North Ave Chicago, IL 60647 A Silver Wrapper Production
Click Here for Tickets
Two more things: This is my last night out before I leave for Rome over the holidays, so lets party it up NYE style! Bring your boogie shoes!