Gigs and Gas

Drummers, by and large, are apolitical animals. That's because they're usually just animals. This is why I've steered clear of saying anything political, outside of a recent column I wrote for the Naples Daily News on the late, perennial Presidential candidate, Harold Stassen.

But the present situation in the United States, specifically the out-of-sight prices of gas, is impossible for anyone–drummers, saxophonists, pianists, brass players and even string players–to ignore. Gigs for jazz players, or any players, have always been tough enough to get. Now? It just can't get any worse.

The powers that be in The White House, and whomever else is responsible for this embarrassing and deplorable state of affairs, appear to have ignored the fact that five dollar a gallon gas prices–and five dollars is where prices soon will be–effect everything and everybody. No one and no business is exempt.

Let's make matters simple: Venues that use live music are in more trouble than usual. Food and beverage prices are high because of the high cost of fuel needed to transport and manufacture food and beverages and everything contained in food and beverages, from sugar and corn to packaging. High prices in restaurants, and the high cost of travel to places that use live music, mean fewer customers. This means cutbacks, and we all know that live music is often the first to go. The scenario is an obvious one, but it's really bad right now. I'd be interested in knowing how many visitors have lost gigs or have been cutback in recent months.

While spending fifty bucks to fill the tank of my 1995 Olds, I've often thought of exactly who is responsible for these ridiculous gas prices. Is it one guy who calls the gas stations and says, “Okay. Raise the price two cents today.” Who is this guy and why can't anyone find him? And, pray tell, just what would happen if the decision were made–tomorrow–to lower the price of gasoline at the pump, everywhere in the country, to two dollars a gallon? Would the world end? Would there be revolution in the streets? Would people go hungry? Would we all die? Two bucks a gallon. Just what would happen in the United States beyond making a bunch of people very happy?

The problem now of course is finding the guy who makes the calls and convincing him to drop prices by two bucks. I'm telling you. It's a guy. And Bush knows who he is. Bush calls this guy first and tells him how much to raise prices.

If there is ever going to be a resolution to this problem, we must find out who and/or what is to blame. Currently, we're not even close.

The President's latest gambit is to blame a Democratic Congress for soaring oil prices. Incidentally, others named in the “who's to blame” sweepstakes have included the Arabs, the Saudi's and the oil companies. Eight years ago, when gas prices increased a penny or two, one consumer coalition blamed Al Gore.

High gas prices are central to Gore's political philosophy, and he has deliberately tried to raise them during his entire career in Washington, said Consumer for a Sound Economy's Director of Environmental Policy, Patrick Burns, in 2000. Whether it's casting the deciding vote to raise gas taxes, preventing domestic production of oil, or slapping costly regulations on consumers and producers the responsibility for the current crisis rests squarely on Gore's shoulders.

Right. It was all Al's fault. Hey, maybe he's the guy on the phone. But he showed them all. He won the Oscar. Just like Sinatra.

This is interesting. Not only will no individual, no organization or no country take responsibility for the gas price situation, but the most brilliant minds in the universe don't even know where to look for the responsible party or parties.

This recalls a personal incident of a few years back. I had received a check in the mail for services provided to a national company, and they inadvertently listed both my name and my then-company name as the payees. The company name was never registered, nor was their a business banking account created with that name. It was just something I used back then to call my company.

I took the check to my local bank branch to deposit it. I guess because it was somewhat sizeable, the teller inspected the document closely and asked who the company was. I explained that the company was really me and that it was just a name I used to describe my business. The teller then voiced true concern about whether or not the check would ultimately be accepted for deposit.

I went to the branch supervisor, showed her the check and asked her who makes the decision about whether or not a check is accepted for deposit? The answer was that the paying bank–the name of the bank on the check–decides if the payees, the endorser, etc., appear to be correct and in sync. If so, the paying bank pays and everything goes through properly. Then again, the branch manager said, banks don't look at each and every check for this, so my check might go through or it might not go through.

“How would I find out in advance whether it would go through or not?” I asked the manager. “Call the paying bank,” was the reply.

It took nearly five hours of telephone work the next business day, but I finally got into the main office of Mellon Bank and the division of that office that handles these things.

My question to that office was simple: Who decides whether a check will be accepted for deposit if, as in this case, there is more than one payee and endorser listed. Is there a person–a guy–who decides this, and if so, could I please speak to them?

The answer as to who makes decisions like this? There was no guy. There was no department. There was no individual. There was no office. It wasn't really an automated process, either. Computers, though, may be involved. Bottom line? No one knew, or no one would take responsibility for knowing. From what I heard, the check could have been made out to Stan Getz and it would have gone through.

Maybe, just maybe, the guy who makes the decisions on checks is the guy calling the gas stations. Let's check Gore's phone records. Then let's book him on a “728.” And what's a “728?” I don't know. But I know a guy who knows.

I'll bet that Bush, Cheney, Congress, Iran, Iraq, the oil companies, the Saudi's, and all those who have been accused of ruining much of our country didn't know that their shenanigans would hurt America's only original art from. Jazz.

Now things have gone too far. In one opinion, mine, the administration that has been serving in Washington for the last eight years has destroyed virtually every area of our society. Jazz is one of the few things we have left. Let's see that we save it.

Meanwhile, in a cover story in Rolling Stone magazine, Senator Barack Obama, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, said that his iPod includes music by Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.

Right now, probable Republican presidential candidate John McCain, whose daughter as long worked for Capital and EMI Records, has only said publicly that he enjoys the work of 1980s rock group ABBA.


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