To the best of my recollection, I can’t recall ever being tear-gassed.
My first instinct should probably have been to turn around and run away from the plaza, just like everyone else who went scampering, screaming and covering their mouths. The old, indigenous woman, with the multiple petticoats and black pork pie hat, sitting at her usual location half-way up the block, from whom I usually bought a daily newspaper, suddenly bent over and vomited. Moments before, I had heard a “pop-pop” and saw white, billowing clouds of smoke. A young Ecuatoriano adult, running in a hooded sweatshirt, gave a sudden yelp and stumbled, after getting hit in the leg with one of the tear gas canisters.
It is Free!! It costs nothing!! Stated the elderly anesthesiologist to the boy’s family. To put your son to sleep for his surgery costs absolutely nothing!! It is Free!! Free!! But to wake him up??………very very expensive!!
Moments earlier, in the same pre-operative area in this public hospital in a large Central American city, I witnessed another local medical doctor, drill a metal rod horizontally and completely through an indegenous patient’s femur, with the patient wide awake, and only after injecting numbing medicine, not much deeper than the skin, on the entry site of the thigh.
Such is the plight of the poor and marginalized, of which I have witnessed as an anesthesiologist, in over 30 international surgical missions, and which dominate the lyrical content of Ojos Feos’ original psychedelic Afro-Latin rock compositions.
“…music is something to be passionate about, to learn about, and to gain mastery over, again and again, never actually surrendering to the will of the musician, but always driving them to continue to strive for something more.”
To begin, the album took about a year to finish, from writing to final production. Ultimately, I think it describes a period of thawing out from a pretty deep depression. The loss of several family members, a big move from Illinois to Oregon to live closer to my sisters after graduating from college to begin processing a lot of dark stuff that was hanging over me. So this album was a product of that time, of coping, thawing and trying to navigate my way back to somewhere that would hopefully be a lot healthier.
There were a few years there–the late 60’s and early 70’s–when underground FM radio thrived in Chicago. FM was new then, not yet corporate, and it offered, on weak frequencies, some very eclectic and adventurous broadcasting. I’d stay up late at night and record from the radio—musicians I’d never heard, but who fascinated me: Sibelius, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Skip James, Ornette Coleman, Doc Boggs. The tapes had no genre boundaries or even taste parameters, really–half the time I didn’t even know if I exactly liked the stuff I was recording. I didn’t yet have enough musical context to fully appreciate it. But I craved the soundscapes the tapes created. Avant garde and folk musics seemed much the same to me. It was all musical texture—fresh and new, especially the stuff that was old.
Sometimes a song writes itself, coming from the depths of an unexpressed desire or loss, guided by the mysterious forces of nature. “West Coast Blues” is a story of grieving, mixed with a touch of sunshine, exploring the gray area we call being human.
Seemingly unnaturally bound to an almost comically ignorant lover the story of Tin Spurs would start unraveling itself to me like Orpheus’ melodies echoing back from a once true and vibrant love of life and those I had shared it with.