Saint Patty’s Day

Saint Patty’s day

It was Saint Patrick’s Day and I was checking ids at the bar. This particular bar had the kind of clientele you don’t really want to see on holidays like Saint Patrick’s Day or Cinco de mayo or any other similar holiday. These days have meaning but for a certain kind of person they’re an excuse to get really day drunk. It’s the kind of day whose ideologies don’t have to get in the way of getting seriously fucked up. I was doing the 5pm to 11pm shift and thankfully wouldn’t have to work the aftermath of straggling drunkards. I was close to done when a woman stumbled out of the bar. She was maybe late twenties or possibly early thirties.  A tad portly, short, and blond. My first thought was that her night should probably be over as her fumbling footsteps pulled her body towards the smoking area out front of the bar.
I checked a few more ids and didn’t think about her for a few minutes. Bothering me the last couple hours were a couple of panhandlers who were Ludlow street regulars. One of them was a dude we called Johnny cash. He usually wore sunglasses and was from the south and wouldn’t shut up. He’d go on and on with a slight drawl talking shit about anything under the moon until you would literally beg him for a bit of peace and quiet.  I didn’t usually give any of the regular panhandlers money. It’s a slippery slope.  All the beggars had you as a captive audience because you couldn’t go anywhere to get away from them. The job required that you guarded the door your whole shift.  The old dude I usually gave money to was an old Jewish guy named Nate who hung out on a bench in front of the American Apparel store on Orchard and Houston.  He definitely looked like he needed it and he didn’t do any drugs or drink too much so it was a safe bet your money would go towards food or shelter.  Very occasionally I’d resort to paying Johnny cash just to leave me alone on the nights that he really wore my ears down.

On this particular night Johnny cash was pan handling with this tiny emancipated crack whore lady. She tended to flirt shamelessly and say really lewd shit. She was pretty horror show repugnant and occasionally made a great or horrible team, depending on your perspective, with Johnny Cash as they were both extremely proficient in being persistently annoying.
Earlier in the night someone had obviously gotten fed up with Johnny cash’s shit because all his front teeth were punched in. This had happened recently as his gums were still a bloody mess. He smiled a lot, primarily sarcastically, which was not a pretty sight this evening as each time he opened his mouth blood would drip down his chin.

I looked up at a certain point from working and there was Johnny cash, the crack whore lady, and the drunken woman all making out together. It was a pretty awful sight that I will unfortunately never be able to un-live. Not minutes later the young woman tried to re-enter the bar.
” I’m sorry darling’” I told her,” but not only am I not letting you back in, but I would strongly recommend that you go to the nearest hospital and get yourself checked for every possible disease known to mankind.”

“What?  But I want another drink,” she complained.  Her voice wobbled woozily in sync with her body.  I could see the utter confusion in her face.  She was way beyond understanding the consequences of her actions.

It took some time but I convinced her to get into a cab and soon after I was done with my shift.  I walked up Ludlow and as I was passing Max Fisch my buddy Shannon called out to me, “Wolff.  What’s up?  You all right?”

I told him about the bloody make out session and about how the image was bothering me and he said, “Man, that’s nothin’.  I’ve got a few stories that’ll knock that shit right outa your head.”  And here are the two stories he told me…


It was a busy night and the bathroom was occupied for a really long time and customers were complaining so after 20 minutes or so I busted the door down.  There was a man standing in the middle of the bathroom with his pants down around his ankles.  His torso was wrapped in saran wrap and there was shit everywhere.  With one hand he was jacking himself off and the other hand was raised to the ceiling above his head.  He had apparently unscrewed the light bulb in order to stick his finger in the live socket.  He turned to me as the door opened, a shit eating grin plastered on his face, and said, “That’s right… I’ve been doing coke.”

I laughed at the story.  My friend Malik had wandered by part way through it’s telling.  He’s a very large man, friendly and gregarious.  He said to Shannon, “Man, I was working that night.  Why didn’t you come get me?”

Shannon replied, “Dude you’re too young.  You didn’t need to see that shit.”

Malik nodded slightly and got introspective for a moment.  “You know… In a way I really respect that dude.”

“What do you mean,” I asked.

“Well, think about it.  How deeply do you have to plunge the depths of your depravity to discover that that is the combination of shit that’s gonna do it for you.  He didn’t just happen upon that sequence of events.  Ya gotta figure he went through a whole bunch of shit before settling on that combination.  Yeah man, I really respect that dude.  I’m not sure I could be that honest with myself.”

“I see what you’re saying,” I said after I’d thought about it for a minute.  “I mean, who wants to see the deepest darkest depths of themselves clearly enough to find that shit out.”

“Whatever,” said Shannon.  “Another time a dude was similarly holed up in the bathroom.  Customers were getting pissed.  This time when I slammed the door open there was a regular passed out on the toilet with a dirty heroin needle sticking out of his arm and there was another Dude kneeling down on the floor and sucking the passed out guy’s dick.  I woke the regular up and kicked them both out and the very next day the dude that was passed out tried to come back into the bar.  I told him “dude you are 86’d forever,” and he got really pissed.

“You can’t just 86 me and not tell me why,” he said and I told him, “you don’t wanna know.  Just walk away and never come back.”

“It’s un-American,” he whined and we went back and forth for a while and people were gathering around.  Finally I said fuck it and I told him, “You can’t come in because yesterday I broke the bathroom door down and you were passed out on the toilet with a dirty heroin needle sticking out of your arm and there was another dude on his knees sucking your dick.”  He went silent and stared at me for a while.  I could see the gears turning in his head.  He shook his head slowly and he said, “damn… I’m not even gay.”

“It was 6 months before I saw him again and he was trying to get into the bar again.  I stopped him but he told me that he had checked himself into NA after that and that he was now a sponsor and he was just checking up on a dude in the program who might be relapsing.”

“I guess when you hit rock bottom like that,” said Shannon, “you either clean up or you die.  Their ain’t no other way.”

I can’t really explain it but laughing about that shit put everything into perspective and the stupid lady didn’t bother me much anymore.  I figure I’ll never see that lady again and hopefully Johnny Cash will stop bleeding and find himself some false teeth.  Maybe I’d stop off and get myself some falafel from Mamoun’s on the way home.  I walked home a happy man.


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Saw my buddy Mika’s band Schlaass last night.  It was awesome!  I couldn’t stop laughing. Here are a few pics and some videos.  Sorry about the crappy sound.  I’m still figuring out this new camera.  Looks pretty great though…

IMG_0043 IMG_0040

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It’s quite a beautiful sunrise as Wolff approaches Paris.  An auspicious beginning to the tour.  Wolff can’t wait to try out the new tuba…    IMG_5906

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This sums it up

So That1Guy is back on tour which made me really really really miss hanging out with him and touring around and playing music.  These two pictures pretty much sum up the quintessential nature of our last tour together.  Notice the look of sad consternation on Mike’s face in the second picture.  I can’t decide if this look is the product of being horribly full and about to enter a debilitating food coma or is due to the sadness of  yet another wonderful meal reaching  its conclusion.  Thanks to Lockheart, Texas for existing…

Before… bbq start After…  bbq end

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I’ve been noticing lately that Pussy Riot is pretty much everywhere in New York City right now.  Madonna just introduced Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina at the Amnesty International Concert presented by the CBGB Festival at Barclays Center on February 5, 2014 in New York City.  Nadezhda and Maria then met with Mayor DiBlasio the next day.  Turns out though that these two are no longer actually  in the group.  Pussy Riot is apparently a collective of 20 or so people and Nadezhda and Maria just happened to be its most prominent members after having been arrested by the Russian government for staging an anti-Putin protest outside a Moscow cathedral.  Apparently the other members of the group felt that Nadezhda and Maria bad strayed from the “ideals of our group — feminism, separatist resistance, fight against authoritarianism and personality cult.”

I’ve got no idea what’s actually going on between these folks but it made me think about how difficult it is to the maintain the altruism of a rebellious movement.  Supposedly the lawyers for Nadezhda and Maria have applied for a trademark for the name Pussy Riot and are looking to cash in on merchandize.  All the establishment has to do to undermine a movement or concept is to embrace it.  People’s natural predilection towards making money is almost irresistible.  The idea that there is punk rock anymore is ludicrous.  Everything about punk has been bought packaged and sold ad nauseam.  In this day and age it is practically impossible to do something new that is truly anti-establishment because the establishment no longer fights against anything.  It merely opens its loving arms and accepts everything into its enfolding embrace.  Viva la Revolucion…



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Wolff and Tuba: “Drowning” live at the Hollywood Bowl with The Blue Man Group

I recently got to play a song with The Blue Man Group and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Before this video starts I’m  planted in the orchestra brass section. The song before is Jalousie and I hold out the last note too long and the Blue Men look around and grab me from the orchestra. They take me out front and one of them grabs the baton from the conductor and creates the first loop by banging the baton on the bell of the tuba. I build the rest of the song and each time I come back to the verse the blue men have found new things with which to bang on the tuba. You can hear the audience laughing about midway through when the Blue fellas grab a purse from the audience and pull out hand cuffs and then an egg beater. The egg beater sounds great on the bell of the tuba. Then later they grab a stunt tuba from Jim Self (famous for Jaws and Close Encounters. Easily the two most heard tuba solos in existence) and take it out front and bang on it. He does some wonderful acting and grabs the tuba away from them.  The orchestra comes in as I build the end progression and sing the last theme and then the song is over.  That’s it.  Until the next time I get to perform with a 60 piece orchestra and the Blue Man Group…

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Wolff and Tuba at the Hollywood Bowl with the Blue Man Group!

Here’s a couple preliminary picks from Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl with the Blue Man Group and The LA Philharmonic. It was an incredible honor to sit in with them (Both the blue fellas and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra). I guess I didn’t really think about the show thoroughly but I never really considered that I would be sitting next to Jim Self (I have to admit I geeked out hard on his album changing colors when I first started playing the tuba back in 1994). Thinking about this was the first time I started being nervous about the show. Whatever to 10,000 people but I didn’t want to make an ass of myself in front of the orchestra. I don’t exactly get nervous anymore so much as there is a constant fear that my shit won’t work. I’m dependent on a lot of strange science to function properly (most of which I don’t thoroughly understand and I’m not convinced anyone does. The sound guys for the show had a great deal of trouble getting my rig to function wirelessly and were easily as confused as I am with my process of getting a sound out of an old Barcus Berry Pickup. We quickly abandoned the wireless idea and decided to stay hard wired. One less thing to go wrong!). I think it’s the tention danger of the live looping that adds energy to what I do. It’s quite obvious that a great deal of things could go wrong at any moment and that makes the execution of a song seem that much more exciting. I’d like to be smoother and more effortless but would that make the show more boring? Hard to say.
As of Wednesday’s rehearsal (shows were Friday and Saturday) apparently no one had talked to Jim Self about how he was supposed to be holding a prop tuba during my song which the Blue guys would grab from him and then take out to the front of the stage at which point they would beat the heck out of it. Mr. Self was then supposed to come out front and indignantly grab the tuba and take it back to the tuba section. Todd (musical director/the drummer who got me the gig) told me he asked conductor Thomas Wilkins (this guy was a complete badass in this performance. He did some great slapstick with the Blue Men) about asking Jim Self to be involved and Wilkins said, “You wanna ask WORLD RENOWNED TUBIST Jim Self to…” When I showed up for the first and only rehearsal with the orchestra Mr. Self was initially confused as to which was the prop tuba that the Blue men were planning beat on and which was my tuba that I was planning on playing. “I think you need to take that tuba to the repair shop,” he said to me.
“Actually I just did a few weeks ago,” I replied. Not a great start. He was really nice to me and I have to say his righteous indignation in the bit was incredibly believable.
The whole show was an amazing experience and I had a truly wonderful time and met so many wonderful people. Thanks to everybody involved!

Drowning with the orchestra and the bluemen

Drowning with the orchestra and the bluemen

Another shot of Drowning with the orchestra and the bluemen

Another shot of Drowning with the orchestra and the bluemen

The Finale of the show.  I'm down there somewhere I think stage left...

The Finale of the show. I’m down there somewhere I think stage left…

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Was this really me?

I recently came across this picture. Was this really me?  I recognize the tuba…tuba&mohawk

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I was recently outside of Madison, Wisconsin at a small farm called Pecks and I overheard a couple sheep that sounded like two dudes making a half-assed attempt at imitating the way two sheep might talk to each other…

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