Wednesday

Wrote a new song: "What You Want." A sister to Joe's song "Holding Hands" that we recorded as Plastic Beef at He's Dead Jim studios in Queens this month. What, you thought all he could do is play the drums? They are both 3 minute garage-y pop songs, a little primitive, but make you feel good. Tracking "Holding Hands" felt easy to me. Not being in charge, I watched as two handfuls of musicians were invited, shaken and stirred. It was my first experience recording in a digital studio without ProTools recording software. A limit! 24 tracks. I liked loosing the visual component of ProTools - makes you focus on your ears more, and who doesn't enjoy a good sound board all full of dials and toggles? Mixing is a little more complicated. Running a board mix with drums, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, 12-string guitar, mandolin, vocals, backing vocals, and I don't know three or four percussion tracks. We had a pretty good mix from recording, one long day of people dropping in and out. Photos exist of the Firefly Backing Choir and the Cheaper By the Half Dozen Percussion Section. We went back and mixed again last Saturday. I like the fades in and out of the song. I can see though how this way of mixing can easily become obsessive - you can't go back and do a mix like a prior mix and change from there. You have to go back and re-set up the board, select each track's level, eq, panning, effects, and then a board mix means some things actually get laid down there in the mixing process, like if you want an instrument to be featured in a section of the song, an engineer is actually riding a switch to adjust the volume in real time as the mix is recorded. Speaking of doing things in a different way, here's another post-England story: We've been back for almost two months. It's deep into the holiday time of December. The multi-colored lights are festooning the living room with care, and we're cocoon-ed in with festive bottles and snacks, making the odd foray up and down the avenues to procure the holiday veggies, the holiday meat and last holiday treats and that. Before giving myself over to the total abandonment of the season, I riffle through the months bills, and what's this unexpected £35 charge on my credit card from the UK rent-a-van company? Figuring it's some kind of bullshit stain removal charge or something, but curious to hear what we're paying for, I make a call to Alamo, but guess what, it's not some bullshit charge. It's a Notice of Intended Prosecution for Traffic Violation Handling and Information Processing Fee, or something, which is clearly bullshit in another way, but nothing stupid about it. So I'm all like, this is the first I've heard of any Intended Notice Violating Traffic Hullaba-hub. But I know there are cameras. Cameras all around the South of England, and some of them are traffic cop cameras that photograph you speeding and then send the ticket to your house. Except when they run the plates they don't go to a house they go to Alamo rental company who then charges you £35 for their bother of looking up who had rented the car and telling the cops. That explains the fee, but what about the ticket? It would have been sent to your address by the Winchester Constabulary, says Alamo customer service guy, who then amazes me by plucking an address from my past history and not the address I would've filled out on any form presented to me in October 2007, or let's keep in mind the address corresponding to the credit card which they had no problem finding or billing me to, don't forget about that. But Alamo customer service guy is apparently also Alamo desk-bound traffic cop, because he totally cops an attitude with me. You know in most states, he says, they take away your driving license for having an out-of-date address on your driver's license. Now, I don't think this is true, and anyway is Alamo customer service going to have a hotline to the local DMV ratting out paying customers who are trying to sort out a ticket and clear up the wrong information? Oy, so trying. So Assistant Deputy on the phone agrees, after a second time berating my urbane and incompetent ways, to e-mail a copy of this ominous sounding Notice of Intended Prosecution. Then I remember something and I'm all like Hey, Sir Mister Alamo Dickhead Sir, I realize that I'm the first person of responsibility here being the owner of the card we used to rent the van, but we did pay extra to certify a total of three drivers including myself and like you all will vouch for that right? Lovely. So I get the e-mail and it's New Year's Eve and Day, and I'm all over the internet trying to figure out levels of severity in British traffic violations and how to interact with the Winchester Constabulary, and how much this thing might ultimately cost us. And I'm using online maps to figure out where we got the ticket, and then something scary occurs to me that this whole rigamarole pertains to something that happened the very day we rented the van, not even eight hours after arriving in the country and we were driving around everywhere for two weeks after that, although respectfully and carefully let's keep in mind. That's why we certified three of us to alternate as drivers. So bright and early January (extra early because of the time difference) I'm up and calling Winchester with my print out copies of Notice and Intended Rental Agreement Credit Blah to sort out the whole mess and ring ring... please press one or two... and I'm through. To a very agreeable girl who chats with me about her recent great holidays and assures me that the whole thing is dropped now so nice and easily as soon as I confirm the ticket was incurred by three law-abiding rent-a-van foreigners who didn't mean to slightly exceed a 35 mph speed. And so far that's been The End. Liza will be guest-hosting Crash Course Karaoke this Saturday Feb. 2 from midnight to 2:30am at Kenny's Castaways Brings to mind the old Late Night Pleasure set when anything could, and often did happen at the now-defunct BMW bar on Seventh Avenue. The weekly residency where Liza & Ian saw the late night wine-drinkers give way to the after-hours Chelsea boy crowd Saturday after Saturday winter and spring of the year 2000.

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