In the tradition described in this piece, Chi blew another opportunity to secure gainful employment, this time in a capacity that would have suited him perfectly.  What did he do this time? 

As much as I would like to soundtrack this post with “The Wreck of the Sloop John B”, I’ll stick to a Panache piece due to copyright and other reasons, so listen while you read to “Carousel” from the “blue side” of the “10 Strings” album as it evokes the calm, cerulean waters of the Caribbean, a destination frequented by most cruise lines.

24 March 2013

Our producer was at the house for another work session for the “Victory Speech” project, and while we were faffing about with the gear Chi happened to find an ad on Craigslist seeking musicians to play in the show band on cruise ships.  That would be a perfect job for Chi!  Not only would it be something closely related to what he had built his career as a professional musician doing (only at sea instead of on land in this case), it would get him OUT OF THE HOUSE AND EARNING MONEY FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME!!!  What a concept….

Here is some background information about this type of work, for which one requirement is being able to sightread music well.  While Chi is a strong reader of the standard slash charts w/chord symbols most commonly used for bass scores, for some reason the cruise ship companies insist on making bassists read traditional notation in bass clef when auditioning.  Chi can read (and write) traditional music notation, but in treble clef for guitar parts since bass parts for practically all but classical music are hardly ever notated like that.  

Anyway, I downloaded and printed out the scores the guy at the cruise ship agency emailed to me after a phone conversation in which he sounded very interested in Chi and certain that he could have him booked on a ship within a couple hours of receiving a video audition that I was to shoot and upload.  After forwarding the mp3 clips of the pieces that the agent had sent to Chi, I brought out the scores and he set to work learning them.  

I was actually quite pleasantly surprised at how long Chi lasted at working diligently to read through the numerous scores before getting overwhelmed and discouraged and detonating with a big hissy.  His flat refusal to listen to the MP3s that had been sent along with the scores vividly reminded me of my long-suffering violin teachers’ insistence when I was a young violin student on getting recordings of the pieces I was working on and listening to them, and then finally having that epiphany of how that vastly facilitates the process of learning a new piece sometime when I was in COLLEGE…yes, I too can be rather obtuse about things and resistant to authority.  

He really did make a sincere effort though, and I feel fairly certain that if he had just been able to continue doing his best instead of flaming out with a spoiled toddler temper tantrum (if not wholly precipitated by, than at least exacerbated by his rapidly escalating blood alcohol content), he could have got the job even if he wasn’t able to get through all of the music sent for the audition, since according to my research these agencies get so desperate to hire musicians during the feeding frenzy that takes place for the spring/summer cruise season that they apparently book some pretty terrible players, which Chi is not.  I am sure that reading bass clef could become second nature to him inside of a week with half a reasonable effort, especially given his keen musical intuition and wealth of experience and musical idioms he is familiar with, and if one agency is so desperate to fulfill contracts now, there must be others.  

Unfortunately as Chi got more and more frustrated (and drunk), Steven made the mistake of attempting to pep-talk him into persevering, and then the whole thing quickly descended into another head-spinningly absurd blow-out, with Chi practically throwing down his bass, grabbing a book written in Japanese and demanding that Steven read it, which of course he couldn’t do.  He also demanded that I sightread the bass part he’d been struggling with on my violin, and while I was somewhat familiar with the piece, my reading on bass clef is quite poor, and possibly aggravated by my fatigue level and my own rapidly escalating blood alcohol content at that moment, there was something so entirely wrong about trying to read bass clef on an instrument that does not work in that register that it completely messed me up.  

Since the piece was in my head now, I picked up his bass and began to play it on the right instrument.  It was far easier to read on an instrument that’s supposed to read that clef, and my interval reading skills filled in where my ability to recognize the position of the notes on the bass clef staff left off, but wow, how my bass chops have degraded!  My fingers were coming down well short of where they should have been.  Even though I was for the most part reading the notes correctly, I wasn’t hitting them since I haven’t practiced bass in so long that I was no longer used to stretching my left hand out as far as I need to in order to reach the notes I was trying to play!  

While I laboured at my “assignment”, Steven was in the kitchen being subjected to another stellar example of how profoundly damaged and sick and fucked in the head Chi is.  It is a bit of a relief to have some independent validation and vindication that this is indeed what I am living with every day of my life instead of people just shaking their heads in disbelief, going “oh no, you must be making that up — he’s so sweet and mild-mannered, he would never do the things you describe!”

Now that there is a third lead actor in this absurdist play complete with his whole own side plot, I am finding myself dusting off my long-abandoned acting chops from when I was the star of the school play back in grade school.  I’m finding myself timing my entrances into the room where the action is taking place and deciding on what attitude I should convey and an appropriate facial expression prior to walking onstage.  It’s really bizarre, and I wish we had some sort of video camera that can feed footage directly to a massive hard drive so we could leave it rolling constantly.  That would make for a nightmare of an editing job, but we’re missing out on so much astonishing potential footage that could be put to great use.  

Steven eventually gave up in despair and went home, and my eventual success in getting Chi to actually cooperate (well, sort of!) in at least going through the motions of filming something was no doubt due to Steven taking the especially brutal and vitriolic hit that was no doubt intended for me.  Of course!  It’s somehow all personally and singularly MY fault that Chi has never seen fit to lift a fucking finger to make himself employable in an viciously competitive industry during the nearly 10 years that we have been here!  What a narcissistic douche….

After finally getting a clip of Chi staggering drunk and clad in his pyjamas playing horribly through a couple of the dozen or so pieces he was supposed to record brief clips of him performing while dressed appropriately for the actual gig since this footage was presumably going to be sent to the client(s) for their review and approval, I was up for the rest of the night editing and uploading it with the only expected reward for my trouble being a sleepless segue into the day job I have to work because of this shit.  This is what I ended up with and sent off to the agent for better or for worse:

While this video was supposed to demonstrate Chi’s competence for that job, what it much more clearly conveyed is that Chi belongs somewhere in the mental health care system, and is most definitely NOT fit for a professional gig entertaining people on cruise ships!  Oh, and needless to say, he did not get the job.  What a surprise….

To any right-minded 3rd-party observer, what took place that night would most likely be described as incredibly funny in a deeply deranged way, but it’s pretty hellish to have to suffer through it from the inside.  In fact, my friend and ally in surviving this whole debâcle put it so well that I will quote him here:


“Thank you, Brenda, for saying that.  It is a salve after one of the most surreal days of my life in which I have shed more tears than I care to count.  You think all the shit with Chi was bad enough piled on top of Saturday night’s fucking fiasco?  Wait…it gets even more absurd after leaving Chez Panache!

Where to start? [through gritted teeth] Let’s deal with the Perfect Prince! I could see the sight-reading thing going from bad to worse in a hurry. And it was of course *your* fault, you bitch who obviously has never learned *anything* meaningful in your life, and were put here on the planet to serve one purpose only — to make mischief and make him look foolish.  The issues with the sheet music you put front of Mr. Jazz Chart [“oh! isn’t he lovely”] spiralled out of control in a direction I was not equipped to deal with.  The fact that he wouldn’t even listen to the MP3s, which could only have helped, was a huge red flag as to his intent to derail the train and fuckup our win for the day.

As it all slid into the toilet, I could not think of what else to do but let Chi direct all of his irrational anger and vitriol at me. You clearly had everything there that he needed, even if you couldn’t play that funky music white gal! I could see that he was for whatever reason coming unglued and would not do the smart thing, which was to say “Brenda, my devoted and loyal wife, who has stood by me through thick and thin even though I have been a giant cock and do not deserve you, will never be worthy of you, and every sane person on the planet except our strange producer insists you run for your life…you are classically trained and sight read in your sleep, please help me.”

It was obvious we were back where we were when I drove drunk to San Diego two weeks ago.  But I could not let him turn that on you. Because we — you, him, and me — need Chi onside, focused, working towards a common goal.  Getting this kind of gig is crucial.  So I decided to take his absurd challenge, and demand he teach me Japanese in 10 minutes, knowing that it was going to be a disaster and a brutal, humiliating, lesson in the day-to-day life of Brenda K.

I’d go so far as to say that other than the night that I spent as a guest of the state of California in the SD County lockup, and a couple of times I made terrible judgements about women and got castrated for my pains, I can’t think of anything remotely as belittling as what I took from Chi tonight.  There’re a few men who I have put down hard for less than the abuse Chi directed at me.

When I got home I locked my front-door keys in the car in the garage.  I couldn’t wake anyone in the apartment, even the dog was only marginally responsive. The neighbours across the hall were having a party/drunken altercation.  I wound up there playing rational person and nursemaid to several drunk 20-something women.  All of whom were obsessed about my accent.  At about 3:30am it all wound down and I was finally able to get the dog to wake up, which caused Sandy to wake up and let me in.

As I said…a surreal day.  Almost a visit to the Twilight Zone. But it’s a new day, and it looks like we weathered the Chi-storm.  So all’s well that didn’t end badly.  We will resume Wednesday.”

– To Be Continued –