I’m starting to suspect that I’m paying too high a price for high fidelity! 

Listen while you read to “Drunkard’s Blues”.  As much as I would have loved to soundtrack this post with “Brain Damage” from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album, I will stick with Panache tracks rather than use material whose copyright is owned by others, for which permission to use may be complicated and/or costly to obtain….


ca. late April/early May 2011

Wow!!  I’ve had one hell of a week, and I thought last week was pure, unbridled hell…..

Chi’s alcoholism and mentally disturbed behaviour is getting worse.  I noted this week that his behavior toward me abruptly changes as soon as the alcohol he is consuming reaches a certain concentration.  It has become mathematically predictable, so I am no longer blindsided and traumatized by these instantaneous switcharounds.  We could be in the middle of a perfectly pleasant dinner or productive rehearsal, but as soon as his blood alcohol content reaches a certain magic number, the switch in his head flips and all hell breaks loose at the drop of a pin.

Anyhoo, after Chi’s weekend trip to Japan, he was especially nice to me consistently for two straight weeks.  This is highly unusual and while being relatively good, it means only one thing: that we’re at the top of the abusive behavior cycle with his mental illness, and it’s only going to go downhill from there.  Naturally the descent into absolute living hell would be timed to coincide with the one week we had to rigorously prepare for an appearance at a music festival.

I came home from the day job totally knackered Monday evening, so we took a nap.  Since the early evening sun was making the main bedroom uncomfortably hot, we slept in Chi’s room.  While we were sleeping I heard our next door neighbors, a Thai family, late 50’s-ish man and 5-year-old daughter out front.  We were awakened by the sound of a crash right below our window and the little girl crying.  While trying to wake up and go outside to assess the situation I had a vision of the man lying on the concrete steps bleeding profusely from the head with a dazed look on his face.  Still not fully awake, I fumbled for my outdoor shoes and we went out the front door, and that was exactly what we saw.

I had just updated my first aid training (at my day job, the Safety Director regularly holds CPR and first aid training/certification sessions that all employees may take), and wished I had known where I’d put the little safety kit I received at the training session that contains latex gloves and a breathing barrier, among other first aid items.  As I write this, I realize how odd that is: I had a precognitive vision of the accident scene and what I would be dealing with, but couldn’t visualize where I had put my safety kit!  Anyway, I knelt beside the man and checked whether he was breathing/conscious (affirmative), told Chi to attend to the little girl – try to comfort her and calm her down – while I called 911 for help and initiated first aid.  After about five minutes, which seemed like an eternity,. the paramedics arrived and took over.  Fortunately the injury was not severe despite the extensive bleeding, but he did need stitches and a CT scan, so off he went to the emergency room.  Fortunately his wife was able to come home from work quickly and I helped her with directions/map to the hospital where her husband was taken, and then poured bleach on the blood that was all over the front walk and hosed it down, taking care to steer the bloodied bleach-water clear of the garden.

The scene that had just taken place apparently pushed Chi into full-on demolition derby mode.  It must have confirmed to him that not only had he completely failed in his apparent life’s mission to break me down, but worse still: it further demonstrated to him that I was even capable of taking charge in a crisis situation and helping to fix a broken person while he just stood there looking on helplessly along with the crowd of neighbors that had gathered.  Oh yeah, and there were other factors in play, like an important show the next weekend to scupper, and this time he could even score a bonus point by sabotaging another band too: the one that got us the gig, no less!

Readers must be wondering what he did…well, he rained down shit all over me as I was trying to prepare and assemble promotional materials to bring to the festival and kept refusing to rehearse with me, or rather, saying “let’s rehearse”, but then getting drunk and stoned out of his mind and making a big, ugly stink, i.e., creating a set of conditions I find intolerable, and basically scuttling any attempt to properly prepare for a major show.  This time I finally saw the raw humor in how he totally FUBARs his part (i.e., playing completely wrong chords, etc.) because he’s focusing almost all of his attention on trying to undermine me instead of playing his best.  And that’s after his endless bloviating and lecturing ad nauseaum about how performing and being a musician is all about serving the music and giving to the audience!

In the process of developing various coping strategies, I find myself developing annoying mannerisms like tapping my foot constantly while playing so I can keep the tempo straight when he starts playing crazy, confusing rhythms with no other goal in mind than to destabilize me and make me look bad.  Needless to say, having to resolutely bulldoze through his repeated attempts to sabotage me greatly reduces my ability to focus on playing the melody as well as I can, and compromises the whole performance.  That’s in addition to the awkward visual created by me having play while turned completely away from him and even closing my eyes to at least visually block out the ugly, hateful, toxic energy he spews at me while we are performing.

Around that same time, against my better judgment, I joined a tribute act to the band Kansas (a topic for a separate blog), who had a big show scheduled for June 10.  That presented an opportunity for Panache to play the opening slot, and I thought it would provide a rare and good chance to not only get to perform our rock material (we almost always get booked based on our quiet, calm repertoire), but get a strong video demo of it and some decent quality audio tracks since the leader of the Kansas tribute band was planning on taking a multi-track audio recording of the performance.  At that point it looked like there would be sufficient time to get a backline (bass & drums) in place too, but naturally since that was my idea, Chi ruled that it was a spectacularly horrible one and trashed the whole concept, and then it flip-flopped back to life again like a fish run aground once he co-opted it and took over, trying to insert such absurdities as demanding that I call in a bagpipe player from San Francisco to play on one song.  However as it happened, due to miscommunication about the opening slot and Chi’s initial resistance to the idea, we ran out of time and ended up having to scrap the backline idea and all other ludicrously inappropriate things he tried to bolt on to it.  It turned out that was a good thing indeed (separate blog about that coming).

As this discordant theme keeps playing on and on, I have been having increasing difficulty imagining Chi being employable as a music director since he has roundly and repeatedly demonstrated his complete inability to effectively direct or manage anything that I have been involved in.  Was he fit for such a job when he was younger, i.e., before he had rotted his brain with drugs and self-indulgence?  Before his mental health had deteriorated to the point it has?  I guess I’ll never know, but I am reluctantly letting go of the plan to try integrating other players into the Panache Orchestra, as subjecting others to his drug-addled, sabotaging, psychopathic behaviour would be unconscionable.

I have long been aware that learning to have confidence in myself is one of my core challenges in this present incarnation.  As I learn to fashion myself into a nuclear-hardened target, I dread to think of what my next life will be about, if I am being prepared like this!  Speaking of nuclear, he let slip that that is another part of his problem lately – he is freaked out over the press surrounding the ongoing radiation emission from the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, and that he’s jumped on the “May 21st is the end of the world!” Rapture bandwagon – God help me – this is totally out of hand!