Why does California always seem to represent freedom? Is it because the NorthEast was the beginning of America? And has never really been able to shake the puritanical stench? And that when people grew tired of living under a new version of the old boss, they headed west…? In search of the vaunted American Dream? From what we learned in school, it was the wild mean that headed west. Those who didn’t have anything , so they had nothing left to lose. It was the dreamers, the explorers, the prospectors, the homesteaders. The risk takers. The miners. The 49ers. The wild men. The Lewises and the Clarks. That was the 1800s.
Then who was next. People with automobiles could get out there easily enough. Or it was open to hitchhikers. But it was always someone in search of something new. Or those looking to get as far away as they could from what they knew back east. I used to think it was just those looking for sunshine. And sure, California ostensibly has plenty of that. But where has it gone. This autumn has been one of the worst in recent memory in SoCal when it comes to sunshine and warmth. It’s been a grey and wet and chilly autumn. Yet here I am. Chasing the freedom that no snow, no literal freezing temps, and no one physical location ca give me. And the freedom I find on two motorized wheels.
It’s been sort of freeing to be in no one single place, and not even really have one single home in this offseason. I have been doing os much traveling whether by two wheels or two wings. And having my stuff always split up into at least two locations. Thank goodness I have so many more than two good friends out here. I think pretty soon Im going to start dedicating a new blog post every day to a great friend. Giving back gratitude and letting my friends know how much, and more importantly WHY I love them. Which is going to be daunting.
Because, sure, it’s easy enough to write a paragraph about why you love somebody. But 1,000 words. That’s not gonna be easy. Well, here’s a little bit about why I love Rodney so much, for starters. Or at least about why I love how much he loved music. For years, I would open the side door on of Wetlands on Laight Street in Downtown Manhattan and there would be Rodney on the other side of it. His job was to be cleaning the place, but more often than not I would find him in the DJ booth, playing music. Back in the day then we had dual Denon CD decks. The Pro DJ kind, which were equipped with pitch shift, so you could try and match beats, like a DJ would with vinyl. It was damn near impossible to do with the CD players, the way the manufacturer had hoped it would be anyways.
But Rodney had a whole other plan for the pitch shift. He would be playing CDs all day, often times making mix tapes. And he would always do it with the tempo pitched up as high as it could go, which I believe on this decks was 8%. It agave the music a slight Alvin and the Chipmunks feel, but not so much to be bothersome, or to really transform the music into any sort of unrecognizable form. But just enough to notice that it was somehow… off. Just not exactly right. Which was enough to sort of throw you off, especially if it was a song you loved. Because music was all about FEEL, right? You just FELT IT when a perfect song came on.
But with that slight variance in tempo, it always gave the songs juts a little more urgency, and, I figured, helped Rodney get that extra pep in his step and that last extra gear and anergy he needed to clean the whole club by himself. So I never bothered him about it. I always just let him do his thing, and sort of appreciated from afar how he had gamed the electronics system of the club to his energetic advantage.
This went on for years and years until one day IK thought to ask him the story about what made him start doing that. I think maybe somebody else asked about it, and I thought it would be insightful for me to have Rodney explain it in his won words. So one day I wandered into the DJ booth and said “You know, Rodney. Ive always admired how you played the songs sped up a bit, to give yourself a that little extra pep!” I was quite proud of myself for congratulating him on this little life hack.
But his look let me know that I was as far off as could be. He shot me this look, the look only he could deliver, that let me feel foolish and inquisitive at the same time. Dying to know what the real reason was. He quickly shot back “Jake, I play the songs sped up so I can listen to more songs in less time. There’s a whole lot of music in this DJ booth, and Ill never get to hear all of it if I play it at regular speed.
BOOM. HEAD = EXPLODED.
That made so much damn sense to me right there in that moment, and to this day still explains Rodney’s passion for Rock N Roll in a way no other story could ever hope to capture. Rodney wanted it all. S important was music to him, that he wanted to get as much of it into him as he possibly could. To be honest it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you told me that he would often listen to tow different songs on his headphones at the same time, one in each ear, just to also get as much music as possible into his brain. And it also wouldn’t surprise me if you said that his brain was so complex that it could fully process two songs at the same time as well.
God damn I miss him and that big rock n roll brain of his.