Here Comes The Sun

February 26th, 2005

February 25, 2005, was nothing short of miracuous.

I woke well before my alarm at 6:35 from a series of dreams into which all of my life’s major players, excepting my parents, made prominent cameos. I saved them all: Erin from an ill-fated relationship, Sibby from an ill-fated lifestyle, and my brother from the clutches of gigantic, cannibal witch. At the end of the dream, I stood before all three of them and sobbed.

A fresh blanket of snow had fallen overnight. The sun hadn’t yet risen. I pulled on my running shoes and went downstairs to await the sunrise. I sat on my stool, set up for the evening’s performance, and began strumming “Here Comes The Sun” randomly and for the first time in my life. Sadness rose in me like lava as I sang the words, “Little darlin’, it’s been a long and lonely winter.” Soon I was choking back months of heartache, and then, in a torrent, heavy tears, until I couldn’t sing anymore.

I stepped outside and ran through Central Park clutching my camera. The Gates, great bursts of color against the drab winter landscape, fluttered in the wind. I paused every few hundred yards and snapped photos, knowing full well that literally and existentially, this moment was fleeting.

My workday began with a marathon, three-hour broadband meeting. I spent the precious minutes of our mid-morning break arranging for a custom t-shirt for the evening’s performance. “Kluge,” I explained to Harvey at Custom T-Shirts on 80th Street (use Neighborhoodies if you have time; Harvey’s a bit of a jerk). “K-L-U-G-E. Black letters on a gray shirt. Medium. Perfect, thanks.”

I’ve been bandying the word (“a system, especially a computer system, that is constituted of poorly matched elements or of elements originally intended for other applications; a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem”) around quite a bit at work, and it seems, somehow, to be meaningful in the rest of my life. I’ve called this a rebuilding year. I feel a little like Frankenstein, cobbled together from the parts of my life that have worked, and the scars tissue of that which didn’t. So I thought I embrace it. Seemed funny and/or poignant.

A half-dozen creative and organizational meetings (one of which involved me wolfing down a salad as my colleagues sat across my desk from me discussing the computer system we were, ahem, kluging together), and a few major deadlines later, I skipped out of the office. I had butterflies in my stomach (host, engineer, perform) and a yellow sticky in my pocket (t-shirt, flowers, beer, chips, candles) as I stepped off the subway at 72d Street.

No sooner had I showered, changed, and lit a few candles, then the buzzer began screaming: first Rachel (with wine, bless her heart), then Heather, Elisa, Ted, Joe … and then I lose track. Showtime and I haven’t even gotten levels for the live recording. Showtime and I’ve never played “Here Comes The Sun” straight through, yet I intend to close with it.

Showtime. This is when it turns blurry, and not because of the booze because I laid low on that (until the performance was over, of course). But this is also when it turns beautiful, and meaningful, and wonderful. Here’s my big white apartment, virtually empty for the three months I’ve owned it, full of friends and strangers alike. And here’s me, sitting on a stool with a guitar in one hand, an Apple G4 laptop in the other. I’m playing, and singing, and clicking on icons, and telling stories. And we’re joking and laughing and singing and even crying — just a little bit — together. It’s not about me, it’s about us. And we’re all richer for it.

I can regurgitate facts. I started at nine o’clock. I played twelve songs. A cell phone rang in the middle of “The One I Love.” I abandoned “Jenny” on the second try. I used a cheat sheet for the lyrics to “Shiver.” And I forgot to push record on the encore.

But it wasn’t about that. And I don’t want facts and figures and “did this, did that” to be the take away message. No, it was sweeter than all of that. It was luckier than all that. It was, well, miraculous.

I didn’t muster the courage to listen to the recording until this afternoon. I have a long history of hating live recordings of myself. And this one isn’t perfect. But it is real. It’s the dreams, the tears, the snow, the sky, the work, the worry, the friends, and all of the things that were February 25, 2005.

Of course, my original plan was to put some MP3s online. And I’ve done that (go here). But I was so pleased with the experience, and the result, that I decided to hand-craft a full-length CD. So that’s what I’ve been doing all day. I edited the tracks, maxed the levels, sweetened them with just a touch of reverb, and put together a new CD, artwork and all. I futzed around with a couple of title ideas — “Cold February Night,” “Afterglow,” “Live On The Upper West Side” — but in the end just decided to leave well enough alone. It is what it is: “February 25, 2005.”

Nothing short of miracuous.

Movies Of Myself

February 24th, 2005

Um, hi. What the hell was I thinking?

The way I reckon, I’ve spent exactly 30 of the last 60 nights sleeping in my own bed. In the last two weeks, I’ve been home exactly four nights. So WTF!?! Let’s throw a party! In my empty apartment!

Making matters only slightly worse, I violated the cardinal rule of musicianship and left my guitar home when I went to Sundance, when I went to the Grammys, and when I went to Florida. Last time I played it? Three weekends ago. So WTF!?! Let’s play a show!

Adding insult to injury, it would appear that more snow will fall in the next 24 hours than the previous 24 days combined. So WTF!?! Let’s invite everyone I know — and to kick it up a notch — folks I don’t even know, folks who only so much as read my website over to my humble abode!

And you’ve never done it before, WTF!?! Record it for posterity!

Good thinking, dipshit!

I’ve been home from The MTV about an hour. It wasn’t the least stressful day of my eight and a half year career. I got a few new candles, a couple of six packs, moved the two chairs I own out of the way, and hung a little art. I’ve purged a bunch of old files from my laptop — the very machine from which I write to you now — to make room for whatever I record (for f***ing posterity!) tomorrow night. Which was no easy task. Every time I went to delete something I recorded but never released I thought, ‘Wait, what if you die suddenly and tragically? Don’t you want that random f***ing demo released posthumously?’ Eeek. Dude, get over yourself.

So I have about six gigs of hard drive space for whatever I record on the fly tomorrow night, something, I’ll add, that I’ve never attempted. Feeling overwhelmed? Me? Maybe just a little.

Still, you know how I do: I love a challenge. So make a date of it. Just don’t show up at 8:31. If you’re the person who buzzes in the middle of my first song, man, you’re gonna’ get it!

Benjamin Wagner – Solo
Friday, February 25th
103 West 80th Street #5C
Doors 7:30 / Taping 8:30

And absolutely, there will be booze!

I’m With Stupid

February 23rd, 2005

Why’s the dude in the argyle laughing?

Because you’re all invited over to his apartment!

Ok. I was supposed to perform with Tony and Walker at Alphabet Lounge Friday night. Ends up the house band (as it were) is shooting a DVD. Which the sweetheart who books Alphabet Lounge (she is, really) found out yesterday. I found out shortly there after. “I’d love to discuss a new date,” I said, “But my left hand is on the cell phone, and my right hand is on the steering wheel.”

I was headed to the airport. Headed home.

What to do then? No gig? What will I do with my Friday?

‘Why not play in your living room?’ I thought to myself.

‘Nah, that’s lame,” I countered. (I have these sorts of conversations with myself all the time.)

So I took a straw poll at work. Which is to say, I asked one person. And she said she’d come if I moved it to my apartment. So it is. Moved to my apartment. But you know me. I had to kick it up a notch …

Here’s the deal (bearing in mind that you’re invited):

I’m gonna’ play my set in my apartment (don’t worry, it’s big), and I’m gonna’ record it. There’ll be MP3s online in The Morning Mix by Monday. Live MP3s! From my living room! Sweet!

So here’s the details. Do come on down, er, up.

Benjamin Wagner – Solo
Friday, February 25th
103 West 80th Street #5C
Doors 7:30 / Taping 8:30

Oh, and yes, there will be booze.

Welcome home!

A Shot In The Arm

February 22nd, 2005

I’m running. It’s 80 degrees on the Gulf Coast. The air is thick and sweet. The palm tree-lined boulevard is wide, hemmed in on the east and west with sleek, South Beach-style condominums. Every few feet, I pass a pair of senior citizens, some walking, some riding bicycles. I wave and smile.

A few miles in, my uncle honks the horn of his white, four-door BMW and waves. He pulls over, smiling beneath his white golf cap. His skin is tan. His eyes are bright. I shake his hand.

“Thanks for everything, Bill.”

Last time I visited him, he insisted I call him Bill. I’m still not used to it.

“Your welcome, pal. Come down anytime.”

“Yunno,” I say, “I just said to Eileen that I’m returning to New York with a lot more perspective than I came with, and I have you to thank for that. So thanks.”

“Anytime, pal.”

He pulls away and heads for his tee time. I resume my run. Our farewell is brief, like many of our conversations. I’m often at a loss for words with him. He he tends to speak in short bursts. I’m pretty sure we understand one another, though.

I decide to run farther than any other morning before, past the high rises I’d previously considered my terminus, then home via the beach. I resolve to push myself just a little bit to get incrimentally stronger.

I’m out of my depths, beyond what I recognize, when I see the street dead end. I turn right on a narrow foot path along the bay, running further still from home. It’s nearly 11 a.m. It’s hot. I’m tired, and parched. Still, I run further and further out of my comfort zone.

Turning southward, I run a long, land-locked, sun-soaked road towards home. The sidewalk is gone. Contruction workers breaking on rooftops stare at me like I’m mad. Vehicles are sealed tight against the hot air. I consider walking a while, but persist, remembering the cool, refreshing ocean which I seek as my goal.

I am descending a white stucco bridge over the sparkling bay when I hear the melody, “Excuse me, son, why do you blame youself?” The latter-half of the phrase — blame youself — is sustained, higher. And just as quickly, as I turn back onto the wide, familia r boulevard towards the beach, the voice in my head finishes, “Are you too close to it to see?”

It’s a song. I think, ‘This is good. Keep singing it. Don’t forget it.’

And as I run further still, closing in on the water fountain at the edge of the public beach, it hits me like a bolt of lightening: That’s The Good Voice! The Advocate! The Fighter! The Man! Listen to him! He’s the one that needs to win!’

You’ll recall me writing about the other voice, the ‘You’re an idot’ voice. Well, this voice is the counterpoint. This is the positive to that negative. The protagonist. And that negative, it occurred to me as I ran on, is The Addict. It’s the part of me that wants to smoke cigarettes, get stoned, and drink beer until I can’t see. It’s the devil on my shoulder.

Well, I found my angel. He’s talkin’. And I’m listenin’.

When I finally make it back, I peel off my clothes and slip beneath the waves. It’s like baptism. I force myself underwater, lingering there in the cool, quiet, blue light, as long as possible. There, beneath the waves, it is as peaceful, as tranquil, as out of body experience I know. I swim and swim and swim, like a kidm like a teenager, out past the buoys, out as far as I can go.

Inside, cleaning myself up for the trip back to New York, I look at myself in the mirror. I am reminded of the first night of my vision quest way back in 1993. I emerged from an hour in a sweat lodge — an igloo-shaped structure covered in animal skins with a deep hole in the middle filled with firey lava rocks — with absolutely every inch of me body and soul, every pore, wide open. Then too, I looked in the mirror and said, “I am a man.”

It’s been a long struggle. It’s difficult to feel like an adult when you work at The MTV, you’re an aspiring rock star, and you live in New York City where material minimalism and renting is the norm. Plus, let’s face it, I was stoned for a good minute there. I wasn’t growing up so fast then.

And it’s difficult to feel like a man when the iconography for man is some kind of intangiable, abstract other. A man is a doctor, or a lawyer, or works on wall street. A man wears a suit. A man own a car, and a house. A man has a wife, and kids.

My father is a man. My uncle is a man. I am not.

Worse, I am none of the anti-establishment versions of man. I am not famous. I am not on the inside. I am not cool. I don’t dress well. I just … am.

Later, waiting in the Ft. Myers airport, I read an article in “New York Magazine” on failure, or the perception thereof. The author, a fiftysomething executive who’d unexpectedly lost his job and was wrestling with the emasculation therein, finds himself sobbing as the credits roll on “Death of a Salesman.” He quote’s the late Arthur Miller’s autobiography:

“Willy Loman was a vessel designed to contain the essence of our human longing to ‘… excel, to win out over anonymity and meaninglessness, to love and be loved, and above all, perhaps, to count.'”

To count. To count.

He concludes:

“All of us, I suspect, imagine that a world exists from which we alone have been excluded; all of us have our noses pressed up against the glass. But if we contemplate our own lives, not the phantom life on the other side, we might find things in them to envy — a family that;s intact, a job we like, excellent health (the thing we take for granted on which all happiness depends). Good fortun eis there, however sporadic, however modest, however difficult to achieve. The trick is to recognize it.”

I am listening more closely now. For the first time in my life, I think I know what I sound like.

The Scientist

February 21st, 2005

I woke this morning from a dream-soaked sleep. The alarm clock letters read 5:53. I had a distinct sense of unease, as if I wasn’t alone in the room. I lay there a minute in bed, unmoving, listening to the wind and the waves, then got up for a glass of water.

I caught the moon, a fierce orange ball just a few days from full, in the corner of my eye. It was minutes away from plunging into the Gulf. I thought for a moment that my unexpected waking was a blessing, and grabbed my camera to capture that one, still instant before dawn. Back in bed, a lay awake for what seemed hours, rolling over worry in my head like a shiny stone.

The website redesign. The broadband project. The un-hired new hires. My fifteen employees. My credit card debt. My empty apartment. My health. My love life, or lack there of. The winter that lay in wait for me back home.

A thousand little anxieties poked and prodded me there on the edge of sleep, so much so that the once soothing sound of waves became grating, like fingernails on a chalboard. I pulled a pillow over my head and prayed for morning.

When morning finally came a few hours of fitful sleep later, I pulled on my running shoes and began stretching. Laying on the living room floor, knees to my chest, I replayed my uncle’s advises, and set a course.

“Nothing is achieved without measurement. Do your research. Set goals. Write them down.”

Finish the book. Arrange each chapter around the women in your life. Be honest to a fault. Embarass yourself. Trust your voice. It’s conversational. It’s first person. It’s yours. Use it. Don’t worry about the outcome.

Record the album. Track the drums and bass at Dough’s studio. Finish it at home. Don’t make a thousand, make one hundred. Your audience is there. They’ll support you. You have the songs. You’ll figure it out. Don’t worry about the outcome.

Order a couch. Get a good one, not something flimsy from Ikea.

Run more. Ride more. Swim more. Be good to your body. You’re getting stronger every day.

Put your shoulders back. Speak less. Listen more. Trust yourself.

A few minutes later, I realized that I was laying there in the deep pile carpet, neither strecthing nor moving. I noticed a winged demon in the ceiling, then commanded myself to find a happier visage. I searched and searched the off-white stucco to no avail. All I could see was the winger demon, teeth bared, swooping down on me. I counted to ten, stood up, and went outside to run.

The colors are so intense here, such rich blues and greens, that it becomes difficult to imagine anything different. I ran a few miles around the well-groomed wide boulevards, then cut westward to the beach. Once back to my condo, I unlaced my shoes, took off my shirt, and began doing push-ups and sit-ups. I didn’t do many. I am not that strong. But I pushed myself just a little harder, just a little further, than I wanted to. Chest heaving, brow dripping, I walked to the ocean, and slipped beneath the cold, hushed surf.

Later, flipping through Thomas Merton’s “The Seven Story Mountain” on the beach, I read this passage, then dog-eared the page for future reference. That future is now.

Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture. This is another of the great perversions by which the devil uses our philosophies to turn our whole nature inside out, and eviscerate all our capacities for good, turning them against ourselves.

I payed down 50% of my credit card debt just now. Then ordered the couch. In cash. It’s nearly seven feet long with deep, soft cushions and wide, angular arms. It is modern, and cool, and timeless. I custom ordered it in charcoal gray fabric, with stainless steel legs. It arrives May 9th, just after the launch of the broadband project, and just before the launch of the website redeign.

Momentum

February 20th, 2005

I’m relaxing big time down here in Florida, though I have spent plenty of time at my computer. Still, I just can’t seem to find anything eloquent to write.

I’ve done a lot already. I picked up a little sun. I fought off the jones to buy a guitar to play while I’m here. I’ve done a little bit of homework. I’ve run, read, swam, and slept. I’ve watched “8 Mile” on VH1 at least twice. I had a great, late night out on the town with my cousin Bill. I’ve had a few gorgeous afternoons on the beach. I went to a party at the country club. I’ve been set up on two dates in as many days. And I’ve started dreaming again. I can’t remember how long it’s been, but it’s nice to sleep deeply enough to have dreams again. I must be relaxed.

I feel really good. I had a really nice time with a whole bunch of prosperous, successful strangers last night. For a guy constantly wracked with anxiety about fitting in, I felt fine. I’ve had a few moments of reflection today where I’ve thought, ‘Dude, what’s wrong with you? Why are you always doubting yourself?’

Of course, I am on vacation. I have no obligations, no demands, and virtually no schedule. I’m totally relaxed (though my eye is still twitching). But if I can apply just a little bit of this feeling to life when I get home, well … then …

Grounded, 5 A.M.

February 18th, 2005

I’m writing you from Gate B-40 at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Why I’m layed over here en route to Ft. Meyers, Florida, is anyone’s guess. Only USAir will ever know.

I stayed up kinda’ late last night cleaning up “Handshake Drugs & The Social Registry”, the first installment of my memoir-in-progress, “33 1/3,” and hastily posting it to the site. You may recognize some of it from the liner notes of “Love & Other Indoor Games” (a record highly informed by the relationship in question). It’s a dozen or so pages I wrote last winter. My objective was to write about what I don’t blog about. My objective was for something of a tell-all. So, it’s a little raw.

I’m not entirely sure what motivated me to put it online last night. Stephanie’s recent (well-deserved) success definately inspired. She’s been working really hard on her writing, even though it looks like she’s all martinis and hot guys (that too), so I couldn’t be more excited for her. And she was sweet enough to IM me, “You’re next!” Which, at my age, I’m quite dubious about (but wouldn’t my father be proud). I appreciated the sentiment. I also figured that if I made it a bit more public, then maybe it will motivate to keep writing, and finish off my account of last year, my 33d year, which was a doozy.

So I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning, having neither packed, nor secured a vehicle to get from the Ft. Meyer’s airport to my aunt and uncle’s 30 miles south in Naples. In fact, I still don’t know how I’m getting to their place. Seems I’ve been racing around so much — New York to Sundance to New York to Los Angeles — that I failed to even rent a car. So when I finally had 30 seconds to look online yesterday, it was $1000 for a Hyundai for five days. Um, no thanks. Looks like it’s gonna’ be a long cab ride.

So once I get there, I’m pretty much doing nothing. Heather (who endorsed my posting of “Handshake” last night, but warned, “Don’t expose too much of yourself,” to which I replied, “Have you listened to my records?”) encouraged me to leave my guitar and ProTools at home. So other than “Rolling Stone,” “Entertainment Weekly,” “Premiere,” “Interview,” and “Esquire” (all of which have been sitting unread for weeks), plus Thomas Merton’s autobiography, “The Seven Story Mountain” (thanks, mom), well, looks like I’ll be sitting in the sand watching the sun track overhead. And swimming with the dolphins. Which ain’t bad, really. Ain’t bad at all.

Oh, P.S. If you’re a New Yorker, or aspire to be one for at least a weekend, I’m playing an honest-to-God solo show next Friday, February 25 (Alphabet Lounge on Avenue A & 7th Street). I can’t remember the last time I played in the city without the band. So if you’re into that sorta’ thing, please do come down.

P.P.S. I changed my mind. Walker’s joining me on drums, and Tony’s gonna’ play his upright bass. But we’re still dragging out some of my more obscure songs, plus one new one, plus a new cover. So it’ll be cool, and still well worth your effort.

Automatic Stop

February 16th, 2005

Yes, I’ve had a few drinks. And yes, I got my karaoke on. “Jessie’s Girl,” if you must know. Why?

I was promoted. To Executive Producer. Sweet, right?

I don’t mean to gloat, I’m just excited. It’s rare one get’s an email written about them and sent around the company. I’ve said it for years: my boss is a fine advocate and mentor. I’m lucky. And I’ve said it more than once tonight, “Stick around long enough here and they gotta’ find something new to call you.”

Truth is, I’m stoked.

I was offered a job at the MTV when I was 25-years-old. I was kinda of on the fence as to whether I should take it. I was afraid it would corrupt me, change me inextricably. I was worried it would be like high school, all cool kids and scenesters. So I went camping 13,000 feet in the San Juans to think it over. Seriously. I fasted, drank tea made from twigs, and wrote in my notebook. The last night, I had a dream where Allison Stewart said, “Is this what you want?” All true, I swear.

See, though it’s true that I watched MTV every day after schools, and though it’s true that I grew up reading Kurt Loder, I’m a little bit more of a PBS mind in an MTV world. I’ve never really liked what’s popular; I’ve always liked what’s good, what resonates, what feels good. And MTV is all about The New, and all about The Rating. It is a business after all.

Fortunately, it’s a creative place. For a massive global entertainment corporation, we’re still able to take quite a few risks. We’re encouraged to throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. We talk about the audience, and the music, every day. In the end, I’m serving myself. That is, myself as a fourteen-year-old, there on the ratty couch in the tv room watching Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, JJ Jackson (God rest his soul), Alan Hunter
and Martha Quinn.

But little did I know I’d be here nearly a decade later.

I had a few beers to celebrate the achievement. Ok, and one shot of tequila (thanks to Rahman and Sha). And I rocked the karaoke. I was surrounded by my colleagues. Hipsters and scenesters? Not really. Just a diverse, hard-working and hard-partying bunch. Good people, all.

At the end of the night, though, it was me and an H & H Bagel. A guy needs some carbs, after all. Or at least something other than booze in his stomach. Friday morning I fly to Ft. Myers for some QT in with my fam in Naples. Am I stoked? You bet. My plan? Sitting there in the sand and doing absolutely, positively nothing.

Sweet.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

February 14th, 2005

When I was making my first CD, “Bloom,” way back in 1994, I sent a solicitation letter to friends and family. It read, in essence, “Please help me win a Grammy.” That was the penultimate then. Today I was a heartbeat away from the red carpet. I wasn’t on it, but I was near it. Here’s how it went down.

2:01 AM – The cell phone rings. Christina Aguilera’s gotten engaged. I boot up my laptop and publish the story to MTV News.

3:24 AM – I reset my alarm for 9:00 AM.

7:37 AM – The hotel phone rings. Craig wants to know when I’m heading over to the Staples Center. I toss and turn a while.

8:01 AM – I get out of bed.

8:11 AM – Whitney, one of our talent bookers, calls to tell me that John Legend, one of the two artists we’re shooting photos of getting ready for the awards in his hotel room, has thrown a wrench in the works: he’s getting dressed backstage. I begin to credential my crew.

8:22 AM – Production management guru Nicole Collins calls to ask if I’m taking the shuttle bus. “Nope.”

8:23 AM – Erika calls to ask if I’m taking the shuttle. “Nope.”

8:24 AM – Producer Jane Mun needs me to upload a bunch of photos to test our “Instant Fashion Profile.” I use pictures of Ethan at the park.

8:33 AM – Room service arrives as I juggle my cell phone between John Legend’s manager and Jane Mun. I eat while I shower.

9:20 AM – I hit the road in the rent-a-Hyundai. I hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” twice en route.

10:00 AM – I spot the Hollywood sign while driving west on Sunset. I think about how differently I spend my time in Losa Angeles than the days when Matt and I would grab a Fatburger, drive up to Grffith Observatory, and spend hours looking down on the city. I also realize that I haven’t seen the Pacific once.

12:01 PM – LAPD does a bomb sweep. We’re kicked out of the truck farm, so we sit on 11th Street in front of the red — green, really — carpet and talk amongst ourselves. I call Madonna, my dad’s wife, to wish her a happy birthday. Unfortunately, I’ve missed her birthday. Because I suck.

12:42 PM – We wait in craft services line. Union guys get to cut in front of us. The turkey burger’s just on the edge of undercooked, but it’s delicious.

1:34 PM – Arrivals begin. We take our positions. Game on.

2:01 PM – News VP Ocean MacAdams pops into my trailer and says, “You’re not gonna’ like this, but Eve and John Legend are arriving early. We need their Instant Fashion stuff for pre-tape by 3:45.” “We’ll hit it,” I tell him, even though I’m not sure we will.

2:44 PM – Matt shows up with photos of Eve for the IFP.

3:37 PM – The TV production truck is hassling me for IFP. I promise it in :30. My laptop crashes.

3:39 PM – My boss calls. “Eve is on the red carpet. Are you ready?” I run next door and order the photos and captions over Jane’s shoulder.

3:48 PM – Owen shows up with photos of John Legend (who we shot in his hotel room after all). We got photos and captions online and into the truck in less than ten minutes. Which is good, because the MTV News Grammy Pre-Show starts in ten.

4:22 PM – I take a walk along the backside of the red carpet. I see Kanye, James Brown, Incubus, Usher, Duff McKaegen, Usher, John Ceceda, Star Jones, Joss Stone, and Hulk Hogan. Then I cross the street, and go back to work.

5:09 PM – The show’s begun. The carpet’s nearly empty. Everyone’s packing up.

6:36 PM – I grab my third Vitawater and a fistful of grapes.

6:47 PM – Dinner: BBQ chicken, baked potato, steamed vegetables, and a homemade biscuit, and a Vitawater. I tell the dude from Filmmagic, “This is better than I eat at home.”

10:54 PM – Andrea says, “I’m Vita-drunk.”

11:54 PM – The power goes out in our truck. We leave.

I’m skipping all kinds of stuff, like all the smart assed remarks my colleagues made during the show, and a whole bunch of hustle and heart from all of them. In the end, though, today was like most other days, except my view was slightly different. Instead of seeing the Upper West Side out the window, I watched the music industry celebrate itself. I wasn’t invited. But I was there. Which seems just about right, I guess.

Turn Smile Shift Repeat

February 12th, 2005

I’ve increased my collection of laniards and hotel pens by exactly one each.

The MTV News team stormed the Grammy red (green, actually) carpet today. In t-minus 20 hours, we will be live on air. And I will age exactly one year for every minute elapsed. Here’s the day in a nutshell.

8:01 AM – I go for a run in Beverly Hills. The rain has stopped. The clouds have broken. The well-manicured lawns positively glow green.

8:49 AM – Room service.

10:18 AM – Robert and I wait for valet. Two tour busses are parked outside the hotel. Members of Soulfly mill about, including guitaris Mark Rizzo who wears blacks shorts and moon boots. I suggest to Robert that he adopt the look for our next Cockfight record.

11:17 AM – We arrive at Staples Center and locate the truck farm. (What grows in a truck farm? More trucks?) The MTV News Online office is a narrow, wood-pannelled trailer crammed with iMacs, PCs, monitors, and flimsy folding chairs. We settle in.

12:34 PM – Lunch break in the catering tent. LA pizza? Not that good. My boss tells me to “be thinking about how what we’d do for broadband.” Remote video production for the internet. In one second, I age another year.

12:36 PM – I tell MTV SVP Dave Sirulnick that MTV News Online is “Locked and loaded. Ready to go.” He just smiles.

1:42 PM – The Academy gives us our walk through. The green carpet is wrapped in plastic. Everything is tented, which is weird ‘cuz it’s beautiful outside. The walls are brown with white Grammy logos, except where someone’s broken in and torn one away. We pause at our various camera drops — limo drop, fan pit, green carpet — check out our “home base” (where my boss nearly knocks over a set piece), then pass through metal detectors into the big house. The one-on-one space is unfinished pipe and drape. The stage looks small (the VMAs spoiled us) and, awash in gray, a little boring. The symphony is rehearsing. It’s feels a little too Lawrence Welk. Not very rock-n-roll.

2:46 PM – Robert, Michael, Corey and I get credentialed. E!’s Leon Hall rushes in and politely brushes me out of the way. “Excuse me.” Robert points at his badge and whispers, “You know what this photo says? ‘Take me home.'”

6:03 PM – MTV News Online is done for the day. The web site is fully Grammy-ized. Robert and I load into his rented Impala, cranks Queens of the Stone Age, and head home.

7:33 PM – Robert and I stop into a liquor store on Sunset. I pick up a six pack of Harp. I’m $.06 short. Robert hooks me up.

8:12 PM – Room service arrives: turkey burger with cheddar cheese, mustard on the side. Apple pie a la mode for desert.

8:13 PM – I purchase “The Incredibles” on demand.

And so it is. From my balcony I can see the spotlights swirling amongst the clouds above the Staples Center. The anticipation is building. I’m due on site at nine in the morning. My two “Instant Fashion Profile” crews go out around noon. And it’s go time at four. in between? Well, lots of worrying, and a few moments of panic. Afterwards? Hours of internet production, worrying, panic, carpel tunnel, bleary eyes, and skull crushing headaches.

It’ll be good.