late night thoughts on life (that i’ll probably regret)

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After rewatching The Sopranos in its entirety and then studying extensive theories about the final season before watching it one more time with a far more highly-tuned critical eye, I can’t stop reflecting on what I perceive its messages to be. I find myself mulling it over and over at all hours, to the point that I was up last night reading this lovely old piece in bed at 3 in the morning before hashing out this post, bleary eyed, stream-of-conscious style on my iPhone. I guess I’ll call it my review of the Sopranos? (That’s how I know it’s my favorite show ever. It’s still keeping me up thinking in the middle of the night after all these years.)

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It’s all automatic, a ride where the track’s already been laid out and you can’t get off, where the entire journey’s pre-determined. We see all the same sights and make all the same stops, none of them unique, none of them superior – not a one. We cling to the delusion of agency because we’re desperate for it, but it’s a fantasy, and a pathetic one. You’ve got no say, you’ve got no control, you’ve got nothing resembling power; now: be okay despite it. Be joyous despite it. Be kind. Be generous. Be patient. Be loving. You’ve got no say, no; but that’s no excuse.

We worry all the time, as if every mundane instance hasn’t already been faced by all who have come before us, as if the fate of the world rests on what we do right here, right now, in this “crucial” moment. We live as if billions haven’t already had the same worries, and billions more won’t still be having them long after our time. Think of all the countless people who have come and gone: men and women who have stressed, agonized, made decisions, lived, loved, and died, and you’ve never heard of any of them, nor a single one of their deeds, right or wrong. It’s as if they never existed at all. No matter what they chose, what they did, in the end it was all washed away. Their impact was as non-existent as mine will be. And yours.

And that’s not depressing. Or at least it shouldn’t be. This notion that it all has to mean something, that it all has to be for something? It’s a crutch. We depend on an imagined overarching narrative of how exceptional and unique and meaningful it all is to blunt the reality that it’s not, really, at all. But why does that reality need blunting? We’re alive, for the briefest of moments, and then we’re not. In those brief moments we get to experience beautiful things, difficult things – life. We can until we can’t, because it’s all gone almost as soon as it arrives. If that’s not reason enough to live – and I mean LIVE live, really live, not “American Dream” live – then there’s no hope for us.

What you do with what little time you’ve got: that’s all there is. So enjoy it. Embrace all that comes with it. Do it while you can, before you’re gone. That’s living. That’s life.

The Return to Guatemala: Part V

Guatemala City 19 Floors Up

Guatemala City From a TV Studio 19 Floors Up

You’ve made it all the way to Part V, the conclusion of my epic recap of our trip to Guatemala for the first ever Mountain Sounds performances. (What is wrong with you?) If you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, make sure to read Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV before continuing on. Or just do whatever you want. I mean it’s 2013. Go free!

/// PART V: DAYS 17-18

Lazily lounging around a picturesque pool on the coast of Guatemala, we figured we’d found the perfect vibe for our last day together, but the craziness of this trip was not quite done just yet. A little after 1:30 Juanps got a call with an offer for us to perform on TV that night. They needed us at the studio by 4. In Guatemala City. Two and a half hours from the coast. Do you even have to ask what we did at this point? We grabbed everything in a whirlwind of activity and all but peeled out of our sleepy beach house in order to make it in time. We got to the house with minutes to spare, hardly enough time to change shirts, brush our teeth, and grab a guitar (sound familiar?) before running out the door.

We’d had, I don’t know, 8-ish hours of sleep between the four of us? I know for sure Daniel had gotten about 15 minutes. No matter! There’s probably no better way to prepare for your first TV performance. And besides, these guys were pros. By the time we were out of makeup and back in the studio, you almost couldn’t tell we’d been up literally all night and spent the whole day in the sun. I mean… almost.

Right Before Our First TV Appearance (And Utter Insanity)

Right Before Our First TV Appearance (And Utter Insanity)

True to form, we had no real idea what to expect, but when the lady with the headset mic counted down from 5, we played Tired Birds into a camera that sent us all across Guatemala. And the moment that last, quiet chord rung out, lights started flashing and a DJ started blaring house music and some people with microphones came running out of a side door and dancing all around us and camera guys were swinging their cameras IN and OUT and IN and we truly had NO idea what was going on. We couldn’t hear anything, just the crazy music, and even if we could, I wouldn’t have understood what they were saying anyway.

Just Another Fake Casual Interview on the Couch

Just Another Fake Casual Interview on the Couch

The music never stopped pumping no matter who was talking, they randomly cut to a video montage of Coldplay songs for a couple of minutes with no real explanation, and then they motioned for us to come up again and sit on a couch. We answered some questions, or Franc did while we stared, and then we were done. Or so we thought. A few minutes before the show they asked us if we’d play another song to end the night. Sure, why not? We wanted to do Miles to Welcome but we couldn’t find Franc’s capo. We were looking everywhere, but the lady with the headset was frantically gesturing for us to get to our seats, so on the walk back to the stage we decided to do Find That Man instead, because hey, no capo! We didn’t have a moment to tune, but tuning’s overrated anyway, ammiright?

Performing Live on TV

Performing Live on TV

She counted down from 5 again and pointed at us and the monitor showed a close up of Franc’s hands on the guitar, and… there was no microphone in front of him. She’d forgotten to put the mic in the stand! She was still holding it, in her hand, a few feet in front of us, only it took her several seconds to realize it. By the time she did and slammed the mic in its place we’d been sitting there awkwardly on camera for about 10 seconds, but honestly, this sort of freewheeling adapting on the fly thing had pretty much become the theme of the trip, so it was old hat by now. We played the song, no big deal, and that was it. The wholly unexpected, official last performance of our trip. A bit wilder, a bit more improvised than we would’ve expected, but if you can manage that, you can manage anything, right?

In the parking lot Daniel and I said our last goodbyes to Juanps, who lives in the city and wouldn’t be returning with us to Franc’s house that night. (Last goodbyes until October, that is!) Back at home we had a quiet dinner and one last glass of wine before returning, sadly, to our practice space to pack it up. After all we’d done in the last few weeks – the rehearsals, the shows, the trips to Lake Atitlán, Antigua, the beach – it felt so strange shutting it all down, winding up the cables, putting pedals back in their boxes. I was technically going home, but after this trip, so much of what I love and aspire to exists more in Guatemala than it ever has for me in the States. But I guess that’s our challenge now, isn’t it? To find a way to bring what we’ve had the opportunity to do there, back here?

We got up early the next day, once again, before the sun. We said our goodbyes to Rosy, Franc’s mother, who’d cared for us so lovingly from the moment we arrived. We put our things in Franc’s trusty maroon Jimmy and made our way back down the mountain one last time, and I tried to remind myself that everything we’d experienced was just the beginning. This would not be the end.

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This is the end of my ridiculous recap of our trip to Guatemala for the first ever Mountain Sounds live performances. Thanks for reading! If you missed any of the previous installments, rest assured that Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV are all equally ridiculous. Feel free to check ’em out!

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If you’d like to help our band with what’s next, go “like” both of our videos at vube.com/Mountain+Sounds! We’re in the running for a contest they’ve got going on, and if we win, it could fund our whole next album!

The Return to Guatemala: Part IV

My First Time on the Black Sands

My First Time on the Black Sands

You’ve made it to Part IV of my epic recap of our adventures in Guatemala for the first ever Mountain Sounds live performances. If you’ve missed any of the other installments, be sure to check out Part I, Part II, and Part III before going on!

/// PART IV: DAY 17

We returned home from an incredible night at Teatro Nacional to find a big, delicious meal with all our favorites prepared by Franc’s mom: plantains, avocados, home made corn tortillas, the works. She was setting the table as we walked in – at 1:30 AM, mind you – and only too happily brought out extra plates and chairs for the additional four people we had in tow. We sat around the table laughing and talking in the middle of the night; a beautiful, impromptu dinner party I couldn’t possibly have expected, but loved more than just about anything I’ve ever experienced. Things like this are what make Guatemala so incredibly special. Such freedom of spirit, such generosity. It really is a place beyond words, a place defined by the kindness of its wonderful people.

Continue reading

The Return to Guatemala: Part III

Listening to the Late Night Sounds Of the Mountain After Our Last Rehearsal

Listening to the Late Night Sounds Of the Mountain After Our Last Rehearsal

This is Part III of my epic recap of our trip to Guatemala for the first live Mountain Sounds performances ever. Make sure you’ve read Part I and Part II before you read this one!

/// PART III: DAYS 12-16

The day after our second show we had another radio interview, this time at Los 40 Principales, Guatemala’s Top 40 station. They played our tunes and chatted with us in between songs by the likes of Robin Thicke and Katy Perry, but we’re not complaining. “El Oso,” the DJ who interviewed us, was cool and incredibly kind, and we had a blast hanging out with him. We couldn’t rehearse that night because Juanps had a prior engagement in Colombia (what a rock star), but the next evening we performed in Antigua at a sweet little jazz club called Dishualded. It was our final performance before the big show at Teatro Nacional – a dress rehearsal, of sorts – and aside from one lousy lost iPhone 5, it couldn’t have gone smoother. After the show we chatted late into the night with some friends, and the first seeds were planted for a crazy late-night trip to the beach after our final show. More on that later. Continue reading

The Return to Guatemala: Part II

Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán

This is Part II of my epic recap of our trip to Guatemala for the first live Mountain Sounds performances. If you missed Part I, read it first!

/// PART II: DAYS 7-11

The day after our first show (EVER!) we got up early(ish) to celebrate the occasion with an overnight visit to Lake Atitlán, a stunning crater lake a few hours from Guatemala City. The drive through peaceful Guatemalan countryside was beautiful, but nothing can prepare you for your first view of the lake, even shrouded in clouds as it was. But seriously: I can’t wait to go back when it’s not the rainy season! After navigating some mildly sketchy roads (and a horrendously dodgy pay toilet!) in Panajachel, we took a bumpy 45 minute boat ride across the lake to the town of San Pedro La Laguna. Continue reading

The Return to Guatemala: Part I

Day 1 of rehearsals

Day 1 of Rehearsals

I just returned home from a momentous couple of weeks in Guatemala. Momentous for a lot of reasons, but especially because these weeks marked the first full band rehearsals and live appearances of Mountain Sounds. I thought it would be fun to recount our adventures for posterity, but, in typical Tim fashion, things got a biiit long. (Just look at this intro. Enough, already! We’re doing parenthetical asides in INTROS now?!?) As such, I’ve decided to break the story into five short parts. We begin the journey with Part I, below. Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow!

/// PART I: DAYS 1-6

When Franc and I recorded our album a couple of years ago, we didn’t have an agenda. We didn’t even know if we’d release it; we just knew we had to make it. We literally never even discussed what we would do with it when it was done. Not once. But when we finished it, we liked it so much that we wanted people (other than our own moms) to hear it, so we came up with a way to publicize its release.

Still, we never talked about playing live. We didn’t have a band, it was just the two of us, and besides, as you well know, I’m in Portland, and he’s in Guatemala. How were we supposed to play, exactly? No, no; no touring. We were going to exist only on the internet, and record every now and again, and that would be it. Mountain Sounds: the virtual band. Continue reading

exploitation, two times over

san pedro

Guatemala is not my home. It’s far from it. I didn’t visit it for the first time until I was 23, and I didn’t know what it meant to me until I was 27. What it means to me isn’t “home,” exactly, in that I’m still, in many ways, uncomfortable when I’m there. I can’t speak the language, for a start, which puts me at a profound disadvantage in terms of feeling at ease. I’m still not used to the customary cheek kiss used to greet a woman, which leads to at least one fantastically awkward interaction per visit if not a half dozen. I generally feel unsafe enough during any car ride there that I hide my wallet and phone in the glove box like an idiot, as if the imagined (though to be fair, often very real) armed motorcycle robbers on the prowl won’t think to look there when they hold us up. Beyond all the real stuff, it’s probably too late for spoiled brats like me to call a place without an unending supply of blazing fast internet connections and craft breweries and indie movie theaters and impossibly detailed sourcing information on dinner menus my “home” at this point anyway. Continue reading