Me and Mona, April 2010
In Persian culture, if your back is to someone, it is polite to apologize. – The response from whom your back is to will likely be, “No Problem, a flower has no front or back.”
How rad is that?
I didn’t learn this little factoid from the poet Hafiz, although it’s romantic enough to seem like his doing. Instead I learned it from Mona Tavakoli; my Iranian wing-woman; co-conspirator in costume warfare; the better half of my new group, The Duo Decibel System; And my most esteemed plus one on this far out expedition to Antarctica.
Me and Mona, February 2012 (photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins).
This morning on board the Explorer, I volunteered to sing the morning announcements over the PA to the passengers and crew. The mellow-melodic “Wake up it’s time for breakfast…” became an instant hit measured by the smiles that echoed throughout the ship. Of course, when I proposed the idea to the fearless ship’s captain-in-chief, Al Gore, he said, “That’s a great idea, but you HAVE to do it with Mona. You’re better with Mona.”
My thoughts exactly.
This is why I decided to invite her on tour with me this season. Mona, who founded the Los Angeles Rock’n’Roll Camp for girls, is a world class drummer who takes my music in an exciting new direction. She’s incredibly smart, grounded, funny and present, which makes her the best possible candidate to represent myself, my fans, and my music. And with talent and kindness so extraordinary, I thought it wisest to bring her on tour so you can see and hear it for yourself.
Somewhere in the middle of our first evening performance on this voyage, the loudest and most recognizable voice on the boat rang out, “We Love Mona!” It was Mr. Gore, who I believe now has a huge crush on my Persian Percussionist.
I met Mona in 2006 at a college gig when I was booked to play with her amazing Los Angeles-based lady-band, Raining Jane. I was so impressed with their attitude and musicianship I asked them to become my backing band.
Since then The Janes and I have teamed up to write a variety of songs; such as the California Wildfire Relief smash Silent Love Song, my personal favorite, the epic Beautiful Mess, and the recent Best Original Song at the Hollywood Film Festival, Collapsible Plans from the feature documentary, The Big Fix.
Look out for Mona and I later this month appearing on Today, Ellen, and a YouTube channel near you.
You can also follow @Mona_Tavakoli on Twitter and wherever else voyeurs like to trend.
At 10am on December 19th, 2011 I received a call from Al Gore. I was at the gym when his secretary, Beth, who has a sweet Tennessee accent dialed me asking if I had a few minutes to speak with the Vice President. Of course I said, I don’t care much for squats anyway.
Over the next 3 minutes I listened with a dropped jaw as the iconic voice of environmental protection, conservation, and climate change invited me to join him on a once in a lifetime journey to the icy blue bottom of our warming green earth. Antarctica.
The goal he said, is to see for myself, up close and personal, one of the most important places on the planet, while learning from top scientists and researchers, all of whom have decades of experience in the region, how rapidly our climate is changing and what it means for the world as a whole. He kind of went on and on as if I needed to be convinced to go on a trip like this. I actually stopped him. I’d caught wind of this event a few weeks prior and was honored that I’d been selected to go.
And so, for the past 40 hours now, I’ve been earning my sea legs on board the National Geographic Explorer, a Lindblad expedition ship that set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina on Sunday. By the time this is posted, I will be on thin ice. Literally.
For the week to come I’ll be exploring the Antarctic Peninsula with The Climate Reality Project, an assembly of minds gathered here from all over the world that works as a kind of floating symposium, much like the TED talks series. In fact, a few of my favorite speakers from the TED series are here, like the brilliant neuroscientist Jill Bolte-Taylor and the famed National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen, who’s been giving me photography lessons.
Our mission is to download information and ideas from one-another in order to return home with stories and solutions, that which might wake up the world to the very serious climate issue.
What’s the issue? In my opinion, it’s food.
The moment the weather goes, so too does our food supply. Droughts, floods, rising sea levels, the change of ocean salinity, all goes against our ability to drink water, grow food, and sustain human life. Sure we can eat processed food, or each other, but I’d rather learn and apply the common sense ways to reduce and/or stop my carbon emissions altogether and live in harmony with the planet, the place that we are a part of, not separate from.
We are not passengers here. We are earthlings. This is our home. The mother from which we sprang. We can be as vital to her system as the sun itself. And we are! Yet, at the moment we’re acting more like a disease than ass-kicking white blood cells. What’s it going to take for us to collectively wake up and make a difference that actually makes a difference?
I’m here to find out.
Yesterday, when checking through security at the airport, the TSA officer said to me, “Keep up the good work. I like what you do for the world.” In that moment, as I walked on with my over weight back pack cutting into my shoulder, I gained a new view of love that I hadn’t seen before. He, like many strangers I meet, wasn’t strange at all. He, like many, is actually cheering me on.
Being recognized can sometimes cause a weird feeling. We all have a sense of being stared at and it’s not easy to know how to act. One’s ego might think, “I must look cute today, or “they totally know me, or “there must be something totally wrong with me. “Do I have toilet paper hanging out of my ass? “Is my zipper down? “Do I have BO? “A cowlick? “What?!
And yet, to be acknowledged by anyone is a wonderful feeling. And it’s beginning to happen more and more. At least once a day in fact. “Hey, Are you… I really like your music. Keep it up.”
I don’t recall this happening at other jobs I had. “Hey, Are you… I really like how you get the shit streaks out of the toilets. And you mop the floors real good. Keep it up!”
“Hey, Are you… Oh man, I really love how you barely get to work on time and sleep under your desk. Keep it up!”
Sometimes people stop me and say things like, “I hate to be a nerd but… or, “I’m sorry to bother you, but… or, “I’m not a creepy stalker, but… And often their hands are shaking while forgetting to introduce themselves. It’s usually a very sweet exchange. I’ve yet to meet a creepy stalker. Even among the creepy stalkers.
The feeling is enormous to have people in airports, airplanes, restaurants, hotels, gyms, malls, markets, theatres, street corners and parks, all around the world, cheer you on. It’s like I’m in some kind of decade long ultra-marathon whose crowd is spread out all around the globe to give me high fives and encouragement – a little hydration for the soul – as I pass them by. And personally, that’s pretty fckin’ radtastic.
Thank you for that.
2012 has proven to be a prosperous and adventuresome new year.
Just 2 weeks ago I had a skin graft to relocate tissue from the roof of my mouth onto a receding gum line. Upon getting the stitches out yesterday I realized in that relatively quick time of healing I managed to do quite a bit. For example, I wrote a few new songs, scored a documentary, cycled about 75 miles, surfed, went to Sundance Film Festival, went snowboarding, saw some great movies, went to LA, started building a motorcycle, saw Skrillex, performed live several times, ate lots of amazing food, painted the garage, made a music video, painted a rad mural, kissed a girl, many times in fact, flew to Argentina, and even slept for 15 hours straight at one point.
I’m as grateful as I am tired.
And I still love my life.
And I love you.
I have a nose for roses. I can also smell marijuana a mile away and tell you who lit it. This was always convenient at DMB concerts when I wasn’t holding but wanted a drag or two during my favorite song. My technique is a humble one. First, I dance my jig alongside whichever group is tokin’ up. Then I offer a smile and/or a polite bow without ever saying too much and I simply step into the rotation. I then express my gratitude with eye contact and usually mouth the words thank you while I exhale a plume of smoke, so as to delight and not bother the group with my cheap antics anymore than I already did during the music. I always liked that about pot. It brings people together in a special unspoken way. Rarely does a stranger come up to you and ask, may I have a sip of your beer. A doobie doesn’t have backwash.
As I drive around LA on my Vespa, I get to experience each neighborhood thru the nostrils. I’m not joking when I say I smell pot every 15 minutes. And I pull up next to at least one car every morning that has that sweet, tangy smoke fuming from its windows. I can smell it all the way down the lane, using my olfactory radar to lead me to whichever car is blazing. At a stoplight I’ll give the driver a nod. Again, it’s an unspoken acknowledgement from one stoner to another. Although, the paranoid look of being busted is the most common expression I see on drivers’ faces.
A remarkable thing happened on the bike trail near my house in San Diego. I could smell a pungent skunk but I knew better. At first I thought someone was being sneaky in the woods, but low and beholding were two cyclists ahead of me passing a joint back and forth between their spandex frames. I couldn’t believe my luck. OF COURSE I pedaled up next to them and got myself in the rotation. You don’t pass up a rare opportunity like that. I never slowed down nor removed my headphones. We shared the moment rolling along, nodding smiles and throwing peace signs, the international gestures for It’s all good.
In CA, pot laws are lenient as medicinal marijuana is available for people seeking natural remedies for pain, insomnia, or short term memory loss. I recently had skin tissue removed from the roof of my mouth and transplanted slash grafted over my gums to keep my teeth from falling out later in life. It’s not a painful procedure but it does take awhile to recover from – adjusting to a mouthful of stitches covered up in silly putty. Instead of Steroids, Antibiotics, and the prescribed pain reliever, Naproxen, I used high doses of leafy green produce, garlic, ginger, turmeric, oregano, and ye olde cannabis extract for a completely homeopathic approach to healing. It’s been a week now and I’ve not once endured swelling, pain or infection. In this I prove one doesn’t need expensive pharmaceuticals nor the nasty side effects. There are all-natural solutions all around us. Always.
I’ve also been on a pretty strict plant-based diet for 4 months now – feeling stronger, fitter, healthier and more productive. I ride longer distances on my bike, can do more pull-ups than ever, and my brain seems to have a larger capacity for new projects, problem solving, songwriting, and fielding random questions. My health and strength make me a better performer and all that combined gives me more confidence to go out in the world and shine my light. It also makes me a lot better in bed. Just sayin…
I’m grateful to the boy I was that believed in the man I’ve become.
For those curious or concerned about a plant-based diet, check out the film Forks Over Knives. It’s a life changer. You can get all the protein you need from greens, quinoa, and hemp seed. I also supplement my diet with multiple servings of Warrior Food by HealthForce.com. But that’s just how I roll.
Always listen to your body before doing anything drastic.
This post is dedicated to my friend Sacha, who everyday in the studio would start by googling the latest news in shark discoveries. Most often I think he was looking for a story about another attack, something to make us all wince. Whatever the case, from the center of London, his passion for great whites kept our hearts and minds close to the coast.
Also, my roommate (whose name I’ll refrain from using to protect the reputation of he and his roomates) we’ll call, Willy Walegood, won’t swim in a pool at night due to his fear of these teethy creatures patrolling his mind. True Story.
Last week a new app launched that he and you will love. It was created by a neighbor and friend of mine, a local guava farmer who raises bees and makes the most delicious honey, who also happens to be a marine biologist. Throughout his career in the ocean, he’s tagged hundreds if not thousands of great white sharks in the wild. The sharks remain free and are able to be tracked by satellite all around the world helping scientists and researchers learn about food supplies, changing weather conditions, and a whole lot more about the ocean, in depth – above our heads; puns attempted.
The new app lets you keep up in real time with a fleet of sharks. It’s a great educational app, perfect for kids, divers, ocean enthusiasts, and those who think sharks may be hiding in their swimming pool. Not so good for fisherman who like shark fin soup.
Get the app here.