Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back in the Saddle

We made a time machine yesterday. I first met Collin Dupuis in Owosso, MI, in 2001. He was assisting engineering my band's album, which was being recorded in a large industrial space that had been converted into a makeshift studio. Flash forward seven years and I'm tracking with Collin Dupuis, in a large industrial space that has been converted into a makeshift studio, this time in Detroit.

There are significant differences though. This is a solo flight, and so no collaboration or camaraderie. I miss my old gang, especially Charlie and Rodrigo - those were inspired partnerships. But doing it alone forces me to play up my limitations, particularly as a drummer, and I think I'm coming up with something more spontaneous and raw, and not overthought. We'll see.

Anyway, yesterday I tracked vocals and drums for 11 songs in under twelve hours, getting home around 4 in the morning. I'm tired as hell, my fingers are blistered and my back hurts. And I feel great.

Photos by Kevin Bayson

Friday, June 27, 2008

Calling It

I've never had a good Halloween costume. But it just occured to me what I'm going to be this year and I want to call it now, in June, before everybody else tries to take my idea. I'm going as Chigurh:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Monsooner or Later

It has seriously rained every day for two weeks. Seriously.

Our Flowers Died

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


More great moments in mugshot history, via following the stories of my reporter girlfriend. This lady was pulled over driving a school bus (it was freshly empty). She blew a .30 and admitted she had just chugged much of a fifth of Vodka. Which is, like, damn.

I should say here that my new obsession with mugshots is not about laughing at other people's hard times or even judging them, really. There's just something about some of these pictures - the energy coming off of these people while they are photographed stepping outside the lines of the social contract - that is powerful.

The Rip

I was already having trouble getting this song out of my head. Now that I've seen this, it's going to be even harder. Sometimes I forget how good Thom Yorke's singing is.

Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood covering "The Rip," by Portishead.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dating Lois Lane

Somebody once said that the secret to complimenting women is this: beautiful women want to be told they're smart, smart women want to be told they're beautiful. Simple enough. The conundrum for me, if you could call it that, is that my baby has got the beauty and the brains happening in equal measure. And I don't know which is hotter.

Lately, I've had the pleasure of watching her take on a new position as a reporter for a local newspaper conglomorate, covering the beat of an entire city all by herself and just freaking nailing the job. It makes me proud on many kinds of levels; I get to see her honesty, her drive, her curiosity and her high personal standards at work on a daily basis. It's like dating Lois Lane, though that in no way is meant to imply I'm Superman (although I just had my vision tested and I'm freakishly between 20/15 and 20/10. The nurse looked half-scared when I slam-dunked the smallest lines on their eye chart and said, "That's, like, x-ray vision or something!").

Last week it was cool to be behind the scenes as Kirsten scrambled to cover the breaking story of a 1979 robbery-homicide case which had gone cold, and that was reopened and solved by an industrious local detective.

These guys are alleged to have held up a grocery store and, when the night supervisor was unable to open the safe, shot him in the head and left. Looking at their scary-ass mugshots, the most baffling part for me is how, after 29 years during which they lost contact with each other, it appears they were both arrested while showering.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Wedding of Robert No. 3

My little brother's name is Robert. So is my other, littler brother's. So is mine, actually (I'm the oldest of the Brothers Robert, and the shortest, and the least athletic). My dad's name is Robert too. We're all Roberts. Robert, Robert, Robert, Robert. Yes, I know. Just like George Foreman. I've heard the jokes and they're not very good. Anyway, Robert No. 3, otherwise known as Christopher, got married to Jessica Saturday. This is Jessica:

And this is Christopher himself and his daughter Sepporah, Claire's cousin in arms:

As you can see, blondeness abounds in my family. I'm a freak actually, dark of pigment and spirit. For further blondeness, observe Robert No. 4, aka Robert Matthew, and his team of towheads.

Robert No. 4 is a reverend with a license and everything. He performed the ceremony. I, being godless, stood outside the tent as far away as I could, snapping pictures with a telephoto lens while things were consecrated.

In this time-honored Johnson ritual, the newlyweds recreate the scene from What's Love Got To Do With It where Ike Turner humiliates Tina by shoving cake in her face in front of their friends and says, "C'mon baby, eat the cake!" Only we use gender reversal for extra effect. The whole thing is a broad social commentary.

These were my dates. Claire was an old soul this day.

Robert No. 4 with the bear.

More gratuitous blondeness. My moms and Titus, my youngest nephew.

Jessica is saying: "We freakin' nailed this wedding. I mean, we just freaking nailed it. Gou-let!"

After being outside for hours, and the kids had played their assess off, we decided to take family pictures. And all of the children simultaneously had breakdowns. Here are some images of the sadness descending, and Kirst and I trying to manipulate Claire into sucking it up and smiling for the freaking camera.

Suddenly, there was drama. A rival wedding party arrived and claimed to have more Roberts in their family than us. Chris and his brood made their throw-down faces and scared the bastards away.

For the feats of strength portion of the ceremony, Chris and Jessica decided to "prove something" by hoisting Cole and Titus, who cumulatively weigh around 115 lbs. I just kept shouting "lift with the legs!"

We all love Jessica. She's a class act, supremely sweet and fun to be around. Saturday was definitely one of Chris's finest hours.

The end.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Claire and the Dozen Roses

Chapter 1.

One spring morning, when Claire was five years old, I found her in the back yard holding a freshly picked rose, in the spot where the neighbors' flowers sometimes grow through our fence.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Picking a dozen roses for mama," she replied. "For Mother's Day."

"Claire," I said, "That's a very sweet idea. But I'm afraid that only one rose grows on that bush every year. And you've picked it."

She frowned and thought about this for a few minutes, taking deep breaths and staring into the distance as she did.

"What if I wait?" she said.

"Wait for another rose to grow back?" I replied, guessing at what she was thinking.


"Well then you'd be waiting a long time. You'd have to stand in that spot for 11 more years to make a dozen."

Her eyes got farther away, her breathing deeper, as she contemplated this astounding fact.

Then she said, "Okay."

And that's how Claire ended up standing in the same spot - in the backyard, near where the neighbors' flowers sometimes grow through our fence - for 11 years, with supreme patience and thoughtfulness, gathering a new flower every year and adding it to her bouquet.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Lucy being led to her shearing.

Tobias before: Fur Manatee.

Tobias after: Looking svelte.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bear Moments

Every night before we put Claire to sleep we do the following: I lie on the bed, Claire picks out a book, slams it dangerously down on my stomach, then, while I'm still reeling, jumps up onto and over me, kneeing me in the stomach or groin, before laying down on my left side, where she complains that she doesn't have enough pillow. Then Kirsten slides onto my right side and I read both of them a story. Usually Claire stops me with bizarre non sequiturs or to demand that she be allowed to say the lines of the female characters, and I stop her from time to time to tell her to stop walking her feet up the wall and quit chewing her hair. Then, around the last few words of the story, Claire springs up and makes mischievous eye contact with Kirsten before they descend on me and tickle the dickens out of me. I fight back the best I can, usually too hard, bruising Kirsten in the process, and then jump off the bed and get the hell out of there.

That's the routine.


Last night, we were reading Curious George and Claire pointed at an exclamation mark that was part of some of the artwork and said: "Look, an Eskimo point!"

I said, "Yeah, an exclamation mark."

She said: "Yeah, an Eskimotion mark."


On Father's Day I suppose I had the right to take a day off from any major projects, but for some reason I decided it was a good time to give the cats their summer hair cuts. Shaving cats in the summer was a tradition in my house growing up. The cats freak the fuck out when you're doing the shaving, but afterward they snuggle you for days because they feel great. And it cuts way down on loose hair in the house.

I get a little better at this every year. I learned to clip their nails beforehand, and during the reign of Keith, I started padding myself with sweatshirts to cut down on the amount of blood he could draw from me. This year we threw tranquilizers into the mix, with leftovers Kirsten had gotten from the vet to knock Lucy and Tobias out on the long trip from Chicago to Detroit.

Still, even using tranqs, it's a hot, stressful job that involves locking myself in a stifling bathroom with an annoyed feline while I chase it around with an electric pair of clippers like an idiot and cat hair flies around the room like feathers in a pillow fight.

When I emerged from the bathroom Sunday night, covered in sweat and cat hair, there was a folded piece of paper taped to the door. It was a hand-made Father's Day card from Claire to me. Claire had instructed Kirsten to dictate her exact words: HAPPY FATHER'S DAY. HOPE YOU HAD A GOOD DAY. LOVE CLAIRE.

To be honest, I was touched, but feeling a little mental from my marathon shearing session, and didn't totally process the card. I thanked her and hugged her though and told her I loved it. She must have sensed my absentmindedness and so asked Kirsten which side of the bed I slept on. Kirsten told her and she taped the card on the wall above my pillow, where it still is. Later, after Claire was asleep, the piles of cat hair had been cleaned up and I was calmer and cooler, I reread Claire's card when climbing into bed. Besides the note, I took a closer look at the picture, which was in yellow marker (she knows yellow is my favorite color). It was a picture of a car. And then my stomach sank and I recalled the following conversation from an hour earlier:

I was rifling through the drawers in Claire's room, looking for something, and she was kneeling on the floor drawing.

Claire: Dad, do you like cars?

Me: No, not really.

Claire: Really, you don't like cars?

Me: Um. I mean, not really. I know. Most boys do. I guess I'm just different.

Claire: Really?

Me: Well, I don't know. I guess maybe a little.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008


This is the mugshot of a woman in a case Kirsten is covering. She's accused of embezzling a ridiculous amount of money from a company she worked for for over 20 years. For some reason I love this photo. The colors in it, her beautifully resigned expression. It looks like it was shot by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair or something.

I suppose that all any of us can hope for in life is that, when the Feds finally come for us, we go down looking this good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


These are my friends. The toothy guy on the left is Max, my old roommate. Center is Nicolle, who looks fresh and rested in this pic but, as we'll soon find out, is anything but. The questionable-looking guy on the right with the mustache that'll haunt your dreams is my old bandmate Rodgrigo Palma, musical genius and Bandito to the stars.

Nicolle decided to get a head start on her ZZZs, and passed out at the bar. Thankfully there was a camera on hand to document the glory of a grown-ass woman, completely cashed and slackjawed in public. This shot could be captioned: Orange you glad you picked this night, and these idiots, to fall asleep with your mouth hanging open?

I'd say in the Jokes-on-You department, this one's a toss up, because Rod comes out looking too disturbing for comfort. Dig the way his left eye looks demented and stalker-ish, and a little skewed to the side. I don't think I trust him any more after this pic.


This is Kirsten's new nephew, Anthony Richard, who just arrived from The Other Side. I love the expressions on newborns' faces, and all the wisdom behind them. The places they've been. The things they've seen. I wish we could talk about it. I would pump them with questions about transformation, mind states and their memories pre-conception. As it is, they haven't learned our language yet and all they do is blink and look around as Anthony is here, like, "What. The. Fuck."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Friends in Thai Places: Trevor Naud, Renaissance Outsider

Trevor Naud might be my strangest friend. And because Trevor is of slightly sensitive stock, I should quickly explain that this is probably the highest compliment I can give a fellow human being. I value strange. I need more strange. My life is not strange enough. If friends are like accessories, providing texture and pulling the wardrobe of our lives in jagged but complimentary directions, for me Trevor Naud is like a feather boa, some Kanye shades, brass knuckles and that tattoo I never get, all rolled into one.

I first met Tre (I sometimes call him Tre, and everybody else should too) a long, long time ago, when our bands started sharing shows in Detroit. "You guys are going to be huge," he said to me after a performance, in what has to go down as one of the most un-prophetic statements of all time. Even though that comment might have pegged him as an inept visionary, Trevor has always remained ahead of the curve artistically and I like to think he was just having an off night. He's what I would call next-level or, to use a better term which I stole from him: second-territory.

First of all, you have to see Trevor to get the full picture. I've covered his band Zoos of Berlin a few times this past year and tried to put his striking stage presence into words. In a review of a live performance, I said that he looked like the "skinny Cheshire Cat" and anybody who's ever seen Trevor perform and come down on the receiving end of his smiling, unblinking eye contact knows exactly what I mean. It's playful, with a hint of malicious. Very Willy Wonka.

For their Metro Times feature, I described him as a "spindly 6' 2" of metrosexual elan," and mentioned his iconic half-fro as an "unkempt nest of hair, shocked back like a Beethoven bust." The Beethoven reference and the use of the word "shock" were an attempt at capturing both the visual and stylistic sense of the man, as I imagine he gets that hair from always sticking his finger in the socket of the zeitgeist.

Trevor is a renaissance outsider. He can do many things well, and turns them all into an opportunity for crooked creative expression. His AIM ID changes almost daily, every one a little weirder than the last. (Today it's PROUD UNICORN OWNER.) He's a bit of a fashion whore and his jeans are as tailored as his socks are strategically tacky. I once spent an afternoon hanging out as his apartment after coming over to borrow some instruments. Of course he had mounds of impeccable CDs, books and Criterion Collection DVDs. But what really caught my attention was the apartment itself, which had been used as a canvas. And not for IKEA chic, but for really fresh, resourceful decoration concepts that looked great while improving the experience of being in that space. One detail: some used guitar strings were wrapped into an uneven coil and hung in the corner of his ceiling. On paper it might not make sense, but when I saw it I thought: "Of course. Guitar strings as tapestry. Why didn't I think of that?" When I got home I realized what little thought had gone into the way I had set up my own house, and spent the night changing that.

I think it's fair to say Trevor invests most of his creative energy into music. I mentioned that he's in Zoos of Berlin, which he co-founded. As far as bands go, they're the most advanced, special thing happening in Detroit right now. I saw them open for The National last Saturday and it was just the latest in a string of performances that were "by far, the best yet." They didn't do my favorite song though:

Zoos of Berlin - "On Large Amusements" [From the Zoos of Berlin EP, which is three songs and $2 and awesome]

Somehow, between the demands of Zoos, working as a full-time copywriter and the above-mentioned life-as-installation, Trevor found time to make a solo record in his apartment last year that will scare the teeth out of people when they hear it.

Hidden Ghost Balloon Ship - "A Head For Gabriel Dove"

And then, beyond all that, there are the sick, surreal things he does with graphic art. When I ended up browsing his Flickr stream a few months ago I had a small seizure.

Timed City 1

Timed City 2

Dual Street
Echo to Courville

Eff Sound

Citizens Army Uniform

Trevor's art is pretty while being acidic and paranoid. His collages and digital treatments are often clouded at the edges with dimly lit centers, like someone looking for spots of beauty within the closing walls of claustrophobia. This is a perspective that just feels right to me, as one of many people suffocating from the constraints of a day job in a world of boxes. It's great to have a friend like Trevor who you can stand at a distance from and be overwhelmingly inspired by their talent but who you can also feel is just like you: another sucker buried in that world of boxes, with just a flashlight and some ideas, trying to dig their way out.