Meanwhile in the Corn Crib…

Anybody who last knew me in September of 2009 might be very surprised to see what’s happened in my life over the last three years. For starters: slings. Also: arrows.

Corn crib shack on the Pennyroyal Arms estate.

At the end of 2009 a calcified rock the size of a marble with protruding glass-sharp shards of crystallized oxalate scraped the insides of my left kidney which gave me a threshold of pain I now know for a fact I can not withstand. I know this because I passed out from it on two occasions. The constant scraping produced a mixture of body fluids that turned my urine to the color and consistency of, well, blood. This condition continued for six solid weeks after it was discovered in Spain. American medical institutions needed those six weeks to fret over indemnity before handling a Spanish “internal catheter.”  The device in question was a stent inserted and lodged into my urethra in order to prevent the stone from leaving my kidney — a life threatening scenario. The questions regarding the legal implications of touching a Spanish stent on American soil were finally ameliorated when it came to light that my Visa card could hold a $10,000 charge upon admission to the hospital where the surgery to cut me open and remove the stone (and stent) would take place. At some point, well after the fact, it occurred to me that the entire Spanish end of the affair was completely free both in terms of paperwork and cost. Four days in a first class, first-world hospital, scads of tests, including MRIs, x-rays, blood and urine cultures and the procedure to install the stent: all free.  Yes, clearly, the better decision would have been to remove the stone while still in Spain but for some reason I thought it would make more sense to have the major surgery “back home.” So after four days of being diagnosed and initial treatments, I flew to the States only to find the American medical profession is totally out of control. To give myself a bit of a break: of all the twisted rationales for all the stupid brain-dead life decisions I’ve made the last 53 years, puking and passing out from pain while peeing sticky globs of blood seems like a reasonable excuse for not thinking straight. More to the point, the six weeks of waiting for the American medical industry to do its (presumptive) job of healing a person in writhing agony took its toll and it was several months after that before I could check a few things off the Things I Will Never Take for Granted List which was now topped with: see through my pee, walk a brisk mile and do a sit-up without wincing.

A few months later my father, my hero and mentor, was dead. At the risk of laying on the melodrama too thick: my family is still in emotional tatters. For all his rocket-scientist-with-a-law-degree immaculately laid out plans for after his death, right down to the font on his gravestone, his legacy did not include his broad, wise shoulders. Two years later his survivors still lean in for them, falling through the empty space, knocking heads instead.

Through all the changes and choices and consequences, which also happened to include divorce with its requisite change in financial status, (dream) job change and moving twice (Hawaii -> Seattle -> Brooklyn), the last three years has rendered my life unrecognizable to anyone who lost touch with me.

Did I mention I stopped making music? In fact, for the first year of this period I didn’t want to listen to music. To my ears, all music, ever created fell into one of two categories: earnest and whoring. It was all so annoying that it was a no-brainer to extract all forms of music from my day-to-day. It was blessed relief.

Amongst the steps back into the fray were a few bracingly corny guitar arrangements of standards and Beatles songs, the aural equivalent of an out-of-season worn through appliance like an electric blanket on the most humid day of the year, or an air conditioner a week before Christmas that you might find at a Fort Greene stoop sale, but not a hint of the shiny online-electronica career I had started in the late 1990′s.

This summer I had an amazing opportunity to get my DAW out of storage and set it up in a finished shack, a former corn crib, in the middle of a pasture in rural Massachusetts on a farm dominated by a 19th century boarding house called the Pennyroyal Arms. I was out of excuses.

I had nothing at all in mind when I opened the laptop and fired up Ableton for the first time in almost three years and I don’t claim the result is anything Earth shattering or even important. Come to think of it, much of it is very, very trivial indeed. But I think, or rather I hope, that careful listening (assuming it deserves it) reveals and reflects something about the the last three years.

In some ways, much of it is exactly where I left off in 2009 (in fact, some of it is eerily similar to stuff I was posting in 10 years before that !!) but I’m thinking it’s a reboot of sorts. Below is the snapshot of the rough mixes after six weeks of knob twiddling and plectrum scraping before packing up the DAW a few days ago.

Now: does anyone know of a rehearsal/studio space where I can crank it as loud as a deserted 400 acre farm in the middle of nowhere? In Brooklyn?


  1. Wow, rough ride, Victor. Glad you’re back.

  2. Just to be clear: that period of my life is ancient history – I’m not feeling the least bit victimized. More like the luckiest, randomly blessed bastard ever.

  3. Timbre is the New Harmony | Ass Over Tea Kettle - pingback on September 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm

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