Yesterdays (in keeping with the recent Billie Holiday theme)

The past few days have been pretty weird.  There is a cloud of multi-flavored nostalgia following me around – sometimes it rains good memories, sometimes bad feelings, and not a few lightning storms of unresolved issues.

I sent two emails to family members to follow-up on some thanksgiving conversations.  One dealt with web design and made me think about my guys in India and my success and failures there.  Our corporate websites and domain names expired quite recently and were not renewed.  I have not really done much with any of those companies in two years, and the websites were not very good – they served more as examples of why I chose to leave than as examples to steer international customers to our shop – but it is still sad to see them go.  I do still talk with my partner Ram regularly and we still talk about and share business ideas, and I do still plan to start more companies outside the US, so you never know what may happen in the future.  The patient was on the table for a long time before anyone had the guts to call it, but the “death” of Red Bananas is still sad.

Me and RamKamal - family celebration at an employee's house
Me, Vijayraj, Ramkaml, and Govind - the birth of Red Bananas

I played some harmonica during thanksgiving which led to a discussion that revealed that a few folks did not know I played harmonica in a metal band for a few years.  So, I wrote a brief thing on being in a metal band and gave a link to the band’s MySpace page which has a few sample tracks, one of which has me playing harp. I had to find a very brief way to mention in the mail to my cousin that this MySpace site does not have my name anywhere.  Truthfully, I am not really sure why that is.  We had a very nice run together.  Things got a little tense between two of us towards the end of my run in the band, some of it musical/band related – some of it personal, but I don’t get it.  So, it just brought up memories of bad times a little more than good times trying to figure out something that I don’t think I ever could figure out.  I try to focus more on the good memories; touring, performing, bathing in creeks, cooking food in parking lots on camp-stoves, feeding XstraightXedgeX kids, coining the catchphrase we put on our business cards “…the straight edge metal band that drinks”, performing on the radio live, playing CBGB, getting to open for Sliang Laos!, and all the rest of the great shows and good times.

I have been thinking about a few cyber-reconnects with folks from the past recently.  Some are comical and fun and some can be confusing.  I have two cyber friends that one could qualify as long lost loves {the loved from afar, love your best friend, never really worked out kinda loves – not the other kind(s)}.  Sometimes it is a little tempting to drop the “so what the hell happened” bomb, but that is actually way more fun to think about (which is not a lot of fun) than it would be to do.  I have been on the other side of some somewhat similar coins, and have actually put some time into thinking how I might answer such a question as well as wondering if I should prepare and freely offer up this info, and the answers just are not fulfilling for the “injured” party.   What can anyone say: I just did not love you, I did not love you the way you loved me, I was a stupid kid and wanted some hot semi-random sex more than poetry and flowers, i did not know you cared, i did not know i was that important to you, your intensity scared me, I did not realize it was such a big deal for you, I know you think you loved me but you did not even know me, I was a big fat faker and did not really know who I was, you did not know who you were, seriously – how could you have loved me, you are great and I was in a terrible place, this is great but i learned i do not want it – take a few minutes and you can continue to fill in this list, none of the answers, even the deeply true ones, provide comfort or itch that place inside you that still needs scratching.

One of these lost loves was with a lady who did have some real problems and seems to be doing very well today.  It makes me really happy to see that, and it makes me want to say that, but I don’t have confidence that I can do it without in the end (or the middle, or near the beginning) turning it around and making it about me – or the me I was then, which by default, makes me try to make her into the her she was then, and that is (in simplistic terms) the person in the time that was having the troubles that I am supposedly so glad that they have overcome?!  And it all gets twisted and fracked up pretty quick.  So, I step away from the keyboard and just be happy from afar.

In part I bring up the “love stuff” because I did get that call recently – the “what in the hey-heck-ho-de-do happened” call and I am not entirely sure how to respond.  This kind of area is one of the only ones in which I have issues wrestling with “the truth”.  In almost every circumstance, I do believe that the truth is the best policy, if for no other reason than it gives you less stuff to remember.  But there is some distinction between leaving things out and lying, and I never know how to deal with this.  When I look back, it seems that all of my “high-minded” attempts to save someone’s feelings by hiding some of the truth did not work out too well.  But this is a different kind of thing.  I am not so much troubled by trying to obfuscate real issues to ease the blow, I am struggling to leave out stuff that is probably not useful or relevant but just hurtful (though entirely true) that I am tempted to say out of my hurt and anger.

And, I have not been in this situation for some time.  I have only really dated two people since about 2000 – one in 2006 for a few months, and one for about a year from 09-10.  There was also one brief fling in the early aughts, and one false start in a long line of false starts with a recurring love interest from high school in 04, and what could have been a complicated sticky international potentially un-requited love mash-up in 05, but – for once – I kept my mouth shut, silently loved from afar, and enjoyed the friendship.

All of these things are fogging up my brain and I am trying to figure out how to vacuum up the thoughts, send them to the right place and make room to get back to work at looking for work.  The situation is getting desperate now as I continue to run out of money and lose sanity living with my folks.  I am still on my most recently developed timetable and things can still fall in line if I manage to hold down my end and put forth appropriate effort, but like sands through the hourglass, these are the times that try men’s souls – or however that goes…

Billie Holiday

I have been saving this one for a little while.  About two weeks ago I had to go to the storage unit to look through my stuff in order to review my library to see what remains of my sci-fi section.  (I have always maintained a library but I tend to give a lot of books away.)  For personal and professional reasons I want to re-read the writings in Asimov’s Foundation Universe and the Dune series.  I did have all of the Asimov at one point but could only find the Foundation series minus book one – no Robot books.  I did find my special copy of Foundation and Earth.  It is thankfully back in print now, though it was out of print for years.  I picked up mine from my room in a hotel made famous by a former president.  They had not one, but three hardback copies on one of the four bookcases in the room. I liberated two and gave them both good homes.  I remember having four Dune books but I cannot remember them all.  I love the world of Dune and I did enjoy the first two or three books but I remember having trouble maintaining interest during God Emperor of Dune

I bought another copy of Foundation and began the re-read.  I started Foundation’s Edge last night.  I am really enjoying re-visiting this world.  Even though I know and remember and anticipate the major plot shifts, it is still a great ride.  My familiarity with the books makes the professional side of the re-read a bit easier.  I am paying attention to methods of character development, landscape descriptions, and descriptions of space travel, as well as keeping an open ear to how the broad spans of time are used, layered, and referenced.  The Dune re-read will have a similar focus.

While digging through paper bags, boxes, and suitcases full of books – I did come across a few other interesting items.  The find that beat all other finds probably ever in the history of my life – three cassette tapes.  I found more than three, but these three are special and magical.  This is really about one tape, the first tape, my first real exposure to Billie Holiday.

I cannot say for sure but I believe it was 1989 and i was 13 or 14.  I took German in high school and despite attending a gigantic school, language classes tended have smaller class sizes.  There were two German teachers and most people found one they liked and stuck with it.  I was a Frau Fredette (sp?) man and I had the same teacher and the same classmates for three years running.  One of my classmates who became one of my buddies was Jen.

I had just started my several year affair with the Beat Writers and was at that time still reading and studying On the Road.  Jen and I talked about this a little bit.  I don’t remember exactly how it came up, if it was me or her that brought it up, but we talked about the scene where Sal Paradise was driving away from his recent Mexican lover without any real goodbye or explanation and he is fantasizing about Lover Man and wishing that he could make someone feel like that someday.  Not necessarily make them feel that sadness, but feel that depth and intensity that would be the precursors for such a level of sadness.  It came up that I did not know this song, nor was I really familiar with Billie Holliday.

Some short period of time later, Jen brought me a mix tape.  Since I have it in my hand, allow me to quote the spine, “Billie Holliday – Live Recordings (Mostly)”.  This is an amazing collection of recordings.  Not only are they mostly live, they were taped from a collection of vinyl records (!) many of which were rare.  These are very raw and full of emotion (duh) but I say that to contrast to the bulk of the studio recordings that just don’t reach the same emotional level.  This set of live recordings has (to me) a really depressing (but beautiful) current.

I was instantly in love.  I would have fallen in love with Billie no matter what, no mater what I heard first, or how old I was or what I was reading.  But, I was 14 years old, in love with Kerouac, in the midst of discovering how to live the theory of excess in all things – that I of course thought I invented.  (Like most arrogant kids who read Blake, and love the Proverbs of Hell, I only had the limited wisdom to understand one interpretation of “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”.)  Over the next few months and years as I added Miller into the mix, I had predictable habits.

But the tape, I loved this tape.  I listened to it driving alone or with others.  I listened to it in the rain.  I listened to it while i read Important Books and had Big Thoughts.  I listened to it while I drank wine on the roof.  I also listened to it with many, many girls.  Probably the trappings had little to do with it for anyone else, but the basement, the fire in the fireplace, and the Billie on the high fi – quite a bit of magic happened.

The tape I found is not the original tape I was given.  It is at least a second generation tape of that tape – maybe further down the train.  It is still in good shape, and luckily i kept the original case and liner notes. Compared to the polished studio stuff, the degradation of the tape itself or issues brought on my multiple dubbings only add another layer of beautiful ambience to the existing hisses and pops of the vinyl from which it was taken.

I mentioned three tapes.  The other two are also Billie Holiday and they too fill me with joy.  My parents found these for me and what a happy accident this turned out to be.  They bought me the two cassette collection “lady in autumn: the best of the verve years” and this is definitely my favorite collection of Billie’s studio recordings.  I have owned others and heard others, but I got rid of them all because they did not capture what I love about Billie.  These verve recordings have a lot of live material and while they do have some velvety smooth studio cuts – they maintain the deep despair that I love in her tone and delivery.  I have not taken the plunge yet, but I did finally find this exact set of verve recordings available for download on iTunes (I had never found the cds before) – and it is not polished, it is just the same recordings in a different format and I could not be more grateful that they left them alone.

I used to listen to the verve tapes on my walkman riding a bicycle on the macadam paths through the farms outside Stuttgart with a little wine and/or beer flowing in the veins and thoughts of loves past, loves lost, and loves yet to be.

When I put a few extra coins together I must buy that verve download, but more importantly, I must find an audiophile to turn my original mix tape into digital files.  Now that I found it again, it must be preserved!  If you will excuse me, i am going to set something on fire, drink wine from the bottle and find some ladies…just as long as there is a tape player nearby.

*** Written after sleep – apparently someone at NPR was up late thinking about Billie also.  I found this today.

I was just a little bit older than this guy
But not as old as this guy
Jen has the shortish blond hair and glasses

I am going to start a blog…

From October 7th – In preparation for the launch of this blog:

I have been thinking about this for over 10 years because there is a lot to consider.  I have not started it yet and am not starting it now because I still need more information, but I have resolved enough of my concerns to know that I am going to start a blog.


I am a writer.  For a long while I was hung up on putting my product ‘out there’ for free.  Three elements have eased me over that hump.

1: The immense success of the two-fold Scott Sigler podcast novel publishing model – give it away for free and be able to demonstrate to traditional publishers that you have a following of size X – and also self publish limited runs but only after half your target run has been pre-ordered guaranteeing that your personal costs are covered.

2: The ‘new’ Creative Commons relatively easy copyright formula.  (I probably should have figured out how to trademark that use of ‘Creative Commons’…)

3: The success of other writers who have used blogging as a means of honing their craft and transmuted their free blogs into product.  I don’t really care about ‘product’ in the strict marketing sense, but I have had people steal my words for their benefit before we even really had the net – and I would like to make money because not having any and living in your parents’ basement is – less than ideal.

It is both hard for me and uninteresting to me to tell incomplete tales.  I tell pretty long stories.  I don’t have short answers to questions, and I really like to explain why and how it is that I have come to certain conclusions.

1: One of my overseas 18 month adventures needs to be told and has fascinating stuff in it.  I was on that adventure to Doha, Qatar for my family company, Renfroe Associates International.  Some of the things that happened, my reactions, and my feelings about all of it pose complications.  The core of RAI is me and my Dad.  I have to consider how anything I say about that may impact our current and future business, our relationship with certain companies and individuals (and maybe countries and governments) and it is possible that some of it could be classified.  The tales from Doha will largely just not enter into the blog.  One day, when we are all more financially secure – I will put it out there.  Hopefully that will be sooner than later, but who knows.

2: Another overseas adventure, my 18 months in India founding 3 companies, also really needs to be told.  It is marvy!  But there too we find complications, fewer than with RAI, but similar.  I love my chief partner in India, RamKamal.  There is less danger of saying anything that could have any negative impact on Ram or our companies, but I am currently searching for new contracts and very soon will re-enter the world of consulting/full-out working for someone else who is DC based.  I am not embarrassed about any of the things I have done, even the embarrassing ones, and I am not afraid to share these stories, with one small caveat.  I can’t tell them incompletely, and I have to recognize that what I write can impact whether or not I get interviewed.  I don’t think that anyone at the top of any company, anyone else who is or has been a CEO or President or Big Kahuna or Whatever, would have a real problem with my take on business development, team building, operations management, marketing, and the real deal on how that does or doesn’t work (and the rest of what goes into building an organization), but they are not going to be deciding who gets the interview.  That person may not have ever been in the position to understand the pressure and the kinds of decisions I had to make.  Hopefully I can tell the India tale sooner than later, probably much sooner than the Doha adventure, but who knows.

I can tell you anything you want to know about Renfroe Tile as long as Mike, Steve, Matt, and Tony sign consent waivers and that would probably be pretty easy to acquire.

There are some of my book projects that will not come into it.  I am not going to blog about my intense beef with what is happening in Epistemology or philosophy in general, or some of the other technical concepts like use/mention distinctions and other minutia.  I probably won’t blog about “how to fix education at the collegiate level” – or “what’s wrong with universities”, because I am still trying to decide if I need this as my fall-back business.  I’d rather give it away for free, but if I can’t get another job…

But that still leaves a whole bunch.  I write constantly – but I do all of my writing in my head.  Since I got out of college in 1998, I stopped putting it also onto paper or electrons.  Since I have ceased to utilize an outlet for all this stuff it is cramming up my head and driving me a little nuts, so I am going to start giving it to internetica.

A few things I still have to research – Form and Function.  I am pretty anal about most things, but most especially how information is organized.  It should be easy to find whatever you are looking for really quickly.  I am going to write about golf, and cooking, and running, and smoking/not smoking, and my family, and dogs, and hiking, and travel, and religion, and politics, and everything.  I don’t want 15 blogs or even two.  I want to do it all in one place.  I could probably have figured out how to do it in the time it took me to write this (and read it 700 times), but then I couldn’t sleep because I would still be writing this in my head until I got up and typed it out.  So research comes later.  Good night…