Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I Got Fired? And the Long Windy Road to Recovery

Probably the biggest thing that happened this past month was that amidst all my doctors visits post-surgery, I come to find out that my insurance had stopped. So here I am, days after a dentist appointment, receiving a phone call from my dermatologist's office requesting that I update my insurance being that my current insurance was no longer valid. It kind of caught me by surprise, and now I have some huge bills looming in my future.

Upon further research I discovered that I received a termination letter in late April from my "day job" at the surf school, stating I was terminated March 17th, two days after my surgery... this is pretty obscene, but, I have a sneaking suspicion that this "termination" was completely inadvertent. Be that as it may, I subsequently received an insurance revocation letter during the first week of May as well.

Getting terminated from the surf school is kind of a weird situation in of itself, and I'm not sure if it's legal really; being that I can't work due to my surgery? But, if I remember anything from the Twist Tie Rebellion -- an event in August of 2012 when I was last living on Kaua'i. I confronted my employer [RESTAURANT B] for disabling my acquisition of medical insurance which resulted in my subsequent on-site termination -- it's probably best not to cause a ruckus with my current situation. At this point in my life yeah, a cash out from a lawsuit would be nice, but, I really don't want to spend my time and energy fighting the uphill crusade for workers rights. In fact, when I reported the Twist Tie Rebellion to the labor board in 2012, it was explained to me that there wasn't anything that was going to happen: "you'll just get fired once your employer receives our cease and desist letter -- after putting two and two together, this kind of thing always happens..." Well so much for enforcing the law? So instead of doing anything real about my current situation, I'll just write about it on my blog that no one reads. Maybe I'll get threats of arrest like I did last time when I used my FaceBook as a platform for the "Twist Tie Rebellion" whose purpose was to publicly log/chronologize the events in which I whistle blew the restaurant I was working at at the time.

This is all in the past, and we've all moved on with our lives (statute of limits is two years right?) but... why not revisit a little blast from the past and take a trip down memory lane! After all, my current situation has got me thinking of that point in my life, so why not share it all with you! All aboard!

In the summer of 2012, I confronted my fraudulent employer [Restaurant B] about shifting them to my "official primary employer" for insurance purposes (I was working two jobs and the one other job [Restaurant C] did not hire me for part time work nor were they working me enough to qualify for 20 hours a week, but this one [Restaurant B] was definitely working me 20+ hours a week and had been for months)...

Shortly after confronting my employer [Restaurant B] I found that I was suddenly getting scheduled only once or twice a week. I thought to myself, "okay great... these guys are fucking with me. That's fine, I'll just pick up shifts." Which I was doing for about four weeks successfully (which is strangely the window of time for insurance eligibility), this suddenly happened...

A co-worked wanted me to work their shift, and I soon thereafter received a screen shot of their correspondence between themselves and management. Come to find out, my employer then made it a policy that I -- Brian -- was no longer allowed to work more than "2 shifts a week." This deliberately disabled me from working 20 or more hours a week. Two shifts a week would be 16 hours, maybe 18 at best... slimey! I was shocked. I then decided to report the fraudulent business to the labor board of Hawaii and later publicly document (and bring awareness to) the sequence of events with the help of FaceBook.

The back story goes like this: I first was working at restaurant A, then I got hired at restaurant B [fraudulent restaurant], I quit restaurant A, which was when I first asked to make B my primary employer, being that all I had was restaurant B at that time. Nothing was done at the time. I later got hired at restaurant C (which only worked me about 14 hours a week), I then asked to go primary again at B... but to no avail. I was working two jobs, but was receiving no medical insurance. After speaking to the labor board (as I mentioned above) they basically told me that if I moved forward with reporting fraudulent Restaurant B, that I would get fired, so I said fuck it and asked the labor board to give me two weeks time [to get fired/quit] before they issued their warnings. Amidst all this I had an outbreak of shingles (I think -- I'm not a doctor), and kind of for once actually wanted/needed to get medical treatment. So, to ultimately bring awareness to this ludicrous situation, I took to the internet! I guess a part of me (even now) want's to "get caught" by leaving a trail of bread crumbs online...

I spoke to lawyers on Oahu and Kauai, and none of them really inspired me to move forward with anything. It seemed that I would just be pouring time money into a whistle-blowing action -- none of the attorneys whom I had spoken to said anything about a lawsuit/payout.

So, I got sent home for a doctor's note (in which I would have to acquire without medical insurance from the very place sending me home). I was outraged and decided to rant on the internet. A few days later I receive:

I guess someone clued him in on my Facebook? I still laugh about this now. It's all very silly. And of COURSE petty. But, ultimately, who's in the wrong? Leave a comment below LOL.

As I say in the music world, I suppose we're not compatible / not like-minded. I don't know, when I think of these kinds of things my intuition is like, yo, isn't it your responsibility/duty as a Hawaii State business owner to insure their 20+ hour a week employees? It'd be one thing if that wasn't a thing, but it IS a thing! Anyway, as it stood, I still had my one shift a week to work, and I wasn't told not to come in or anything, so I still showed up for my shift which of course there was another employee there (well they were 30 mins late) to work my shift (again, I'm always the last to know). So... I waited for the management battle.

"[The road to] success isn't pretty, but you got some dirty fuckin' hands." -- Brian Roberts, Wednesday August 29th, 2012 at 7:55am.

Recent circumstance has taken me back to that time in mind, so thanks for traveling with me on that trip down memory lane. So here I am, without insurance and with some huge bills headed my way.

Currently, I decided that it would be best to enter the world of self-financed medical insurance; a true self-employed individual -- even if it's temporarily. How much? $560 a month! Which obviously is a lot cheaper than $12,000+ for an out-of-pocket uninsured bill, but... $560 isn't something nominal/negligible. I know people who play less than that for rent! So it got me thinking sociologically; talk about disincentive. Disincentive for 1) employers hiring/insuring employees 2) entrepreneurial pursuits 3) people having the freedom to not work. And various other things. Anyway, kind of fucked up.

The road to recovery is slow however, although I did "graduate" from physical therapy on June 5th. Now I'm awaiting my orthopedic follow up appointment to find out the course of healing over the next couple months. During this meeting I'm going to have to level with the surgeon about my medical insurance situation.

I was doing guitaraoke every weekday for a couple weeks, but I've dropped off after about three weeks of doing it. Wasn't getting enough traction/attention. I'll probably revisit it soon, I think I'm going to wait until I can get the tri-fuckta of Instagram, Facebook AND YouTube. Right now I only have Instagram and Facebook going at a time.

In May I did my first ever Skype guitar lesson. I guess I'm way late to the game as far as that is concerned. Who knows, this may be a great way to off-set some of those non-desirable time slots in Hawaii if I market to those on the west coast, which is where my first Skype guitar student is living. Time zone's working in my favor.

Speaking of guitar lessons, I also officially booked Hawaiian Brian's for the second ever BRGA recital. Still won't beat Osoyami as far as perfect venue, but... I gotta do it! It's been two years since I've held the first one.

I've managed to meet some interesting musicians since my past entry. One in particular is a vocalist saxophonists looking to put a band together. Here's a clip of an open mic thing we did the other night:

With the initial success of the backing track thing I decided to fully commit to live backing tracks with whatever concept projects I have in mind. I've been hitting the open mics now that I can bicycle around, and I've been featuring live backing track performances of the Movie's that Rocked concept (Movie Themes as done by a rock band), Hawaiian Punk Rock Band Concept, VGM Band Concept, etc. I've also found that my ability as a frontman has significantly diminished since the Leviathan days; I am way out of practice.

At some point between now and my last blog entry, I was making my rounds on the various musician network sites (craigslist, reverbnation, soundcoud, etc.) scouting for prospective musicians to work with and I found this kid who I thought would make a perfect addition for the punk rock band. I auditioned him, and he did great, and he seems to be completely on board. Hopefully it's for long term designs, but even if not, it's reinvigorated my drive for the Hawaiian punk rock band concept, and as a result, I've spent some time rearranged tracks and even managed to arrange a brand new one! Exciting stuff. This is probably why I stopped doing guitaraoke every morning.

What else is new? Aloha Karaoke Band has finally got some soft-gigs booked. We're going to feel out the crowd at the Dragon Upstairs on Tuesday June 25th and we're gonna try out the windward side at Boardriders in Kaneohe on June 28th. We have about 60 songs or so, so in my opinion we're in the beta testing phase, still not quite ready to mint. Coincidentally, it was brought to my attention that there's another live karaoke band that has residency on Monday nights at this place called Workplay. Naturally, I checked them out. Musically, they are far better than we are at this point, but, I saw some other things that Aloha Karaoke Band does (and needs to do) better.

There was about a week as well where I binged hard an old game I played: Shogun 2. I beat it again, so now it can lay undisturbed and unplayed for another 5 years or so.

I've also picked up a couple paying acoustic gigs so that's been real nice. Found myself playing at the Hilton sky bar; swanky!

Shar [and band] got re-invited for the fireworks show in July so that's pretty cool. I'm super excited for the Karaoke band to go live and the new lineup for the Hawaiian Punk Rock Band as well as finally setting a date for the next BRGA recital.

Anyway, that's all for now. I hope I can get this medical bill/insurance situation figured out because I'm gonna go broke otherwise haha. See ya next month!

Friday, May 3, 2019

May Day is Lei Day

Howdy ho. Okay, yes, I was late. I didn't do a posting last month. Why? Well... I usually schedule "blog time" during the first three days of the month. The chances of me finishing a blog post if I hadn't started it by the first three days pretty much drops to like, 2% chance. Anyway, I was in Las Vegas (Blackjack Brian strikes again) for the first couple days of the month. Unfortunately I lost this time. But, as a result of not blogging in the early part of April; here I am in May finally writing.

ANYWAY, so, I had knee surgery.

Physical therapy was very difficult at the very beginning, I usually don't like taking pain medications, but in order to get through the first days of exercises, I needed it. It's kind of crazy how much we take things for granted; like movement. Here's a bunch of pics and videos of my rehabilitation process. A whole lot of icing, elevation and struggles. No surfing for an entire year.

I was hobbling around with some crutches for a couple weeks post-surgery, then I moved over to a cane; which came in real handy for my flight to Las Vegas in early April. Don't let the Bellagio winnings fool you, I lost it all minutes before leaving to catch my flight. The city with one story; "I was winning, then I lost it all." Dang.

What else, some things just prior to surgery. I got B.R.G.A. stickers from and I've been slowly giving them out to my students. I also used them to tag my various lesson equipments, as well as marking my parking stall.

After getting back from Vegas, it was off to the Kawaii Kon to perform with Console in the afternoon and Hitbox in the evening. Both of which were rather tough with the leg situation and lack of PT due to traveling. I also met the members of MoL (Magic of Life), some Japanese band backstage randomly when I was moving my equipment around.

Mid April it was off to the big island for some dear Seattle friends wedding. It was so nice to see my friends again from that period in my life. I had to confess to them why I had been out of touch... DUI fun~~

I made my first stock market dividend yields! Wooooo.

Acoustic gigs with Kulia have become operational, so that's nice.

This past week I've also decided to do Facebook and Instagram live doing guitar karaoke every weekday morning. Trying to shoot for an 8am start time, but, although I've been consistent with filming every morning, I have yet to be successful at consistently starting at 8am.

Other than that, more of the same. Hustling. And now, hustling while recovering. That's it for now. See you in June hopefully.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Beware the Ides of March

All right gang, d-day, March 15th. That's when I go under and get my left ACL reconstruction surgery. What is with it with March 15th? I remember this being an auspicious day in the past; I know there's more than only this memory, but my D.U.I. court date / trial was set for March 15th in which I lost. A lot of anticipation and grave changes lead up to and after that date. I believe this surgery to be no different.

As threatened, I went ahead and bought a NEW computer on self-credit due to probably being stuck at home a whole lot during the ACL recovery process. Hopefully I'm not too deep in the hole this month financially because of which and at least break even. We'll see, hopefully if my BRGA students keep showing up and my tax guy, Tax Guy Mike get's me a sizable refund, I should just make it. Undoubtedly surgery will cost some money (don't really wanna say arm and a leg, cause... well, my leg, y'know?), but I don't think I'll see those bills until April. I adhere to a strict month to month income/expense balance. Hopefully the computer arrives before surgery, that would suck to put together if I'm crippled.

I've been on a filming rampage since December's gigs, and I'm looking to stick to a consistent YouTube and Instagram single angle upload schedule for 2019. Uploading to YouTube on Tuesdays and uploading to Instagram Tuesdays and Fridays. I've been periodically "fileting" (trimming) the larger YouTube videos into shorter, 1 minute clips to be featured on Instagram. I guess it's obvious to some, but news to me, but I'm noticing that being aggressive on these various platforms (mostly Instagram for the young'ins) may be extremely beneficial.

Subsequently, I've made a BRGA Instagram, which is synced to the BRGA Facebook page, as well as a Console Instagram, which is also synced to the Console Facebook page. I'm looking to develop and stick to a system, and hopefully streamline the whole process.

On Feb 7th I did a gig with Last Resort on the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe. I had never been on a military base like that before, it was a trip. Truly a world of its own. I can see how that bubble -- the military bubble -- is what it is. You could live here for years and not really know what life is like outside of it, for better or for worse.

On Feb 12th I got suckered into doing an open mic (you know how I loathe those), and so I invited everyone to come play. Many birds with one stone, all the bands under one roof. Perhaps a precursor to Brian-Fest. Anyway, the impetus for this open mic meeting was for Console to test out the backing tracks idea, and by golly it fucking WORKED. We got some footage, upon reflection I re-iterated something that I witnessed from a previous gig that still was apparent in this gig; bass and other guitar needs to be a little more stage present, boring to watch... but, beyond that, another realization was that if we played to the same tempo all the time, it'd be easier to put together a video from multiple performances. GENIUS. End result, backing tracks were a huge success.

I also debuted a rag-tag assembly of dudes to help me realize the Hawaiian Punk Rock Band. It went all right. Looking to polish them up and see if we can try and pin down better shows? It'll take some rehearsing though...

Upon the success of the Console backing track night, I became completely convicted in using the backing track path. Now there is no doubt that this won't work. Instead of producing unique mp3s for every single amalgamation of present instruments versus missing instruments however, which is the only way I knew how to realize what I wanted, keyboard friend told me to look into a "multi track player" and "stem tracks." This was the answer! But, upon trying to realize that on my tablet, 3 hours of meticulous stem tracking and loading into mutlitrack player app, turns out it won't work that way. So, I decided to dedicate a laptop specifically for backing tracks and just use it exclusively for live backing track purposes. More $$$...

A day after the successful open mic on February 13th some sample stickers came in for my various recreational groups. This was my first time making my own stickers even after all the countless bands I had been in, unfortunately many of the bands up until this point either A) never made it to this point, or B) didn't have a brand/logo to manifest itself as a sticker. Anyway, the results from were great, and I'll be looking to mass produce more of those stickers when the time comes.

February 13th was also the first time I went to a comedy show here on Oahu. It only took me 6 years! I have always had this fantasy of being a comedian, but when it comes down to it... I think I'm too much of a wuss / I'm not actually that funny. Regardless, the comedy show was fantastic, it exceeded my [low] expectations, and it's definitely something I'll be attending (probably not doing) again in the future. In fact...

I got sold tickets to a touring comedian's for the next day at a discount price and brought my woman with me. Coincidentally I ran into one of my BRGA students on the way to the show in the elevator to the venue -- they were going to the same show! The show was great, and I didn't regret buying the tickets and spending valentines night at the comedy show.

I had been flirting with the idea of expanding BRGA, possibly hiring someone / finding an office space. I inquired on a location sometime in January and FINALLY got responded to February 15th. Things were looking okay as far as pricing went, but, the deal breaker was the parking wasn't necessarily reserved, so, unfortunately I won't be moving into that space... still [softly] on the look out for a zone / trusted employee.

ICC contacted me about re-enrolling for Japanese classes, and as fate would have it I was just talking about how I should probably attend again otherwise I'm going to start losing my Japanese skills. I'll be taking my first class tomorrow! ($$$)

I went to yet another comedy show Feb 20th and regretably I think I returned to the comedy club too soon. I learned that it's best to check in periodically -- but not regularly -- because it'll give the comics time to come up with new material. I basically watched a real life re-run haha. I still had fun though... just a pro tip.

Aloha Karaoke Band had it's first rehearsal since the what feels like forever on February 21st. We were holding auditions but unfortunately due to some logistic misscomunication we weren't really able to audition the applicants. SHIT. In other news, the band is up to 73 songs (which I think needs to be more like around 150 songs before it can really be considered a karaoke band), and we got some branding material and technological tools in order to help better deliver the AKB experience. More on that to come hopefully.

Feb 22 - Got to see my niece and sister for an afternoon becoming the familial medical shuttle service. Here we are at Curry House.

Later that night Breaking Anchors did it's first like real rock show. We finally nabbed an event that would have an audience that might actually like what we're trying to do. We were the openers so it was kind of a dull start as far as overall vibe, but it was still great none-the-less. After performing, a fellow musician whom I had been acquainted with for years expressed how it was good to see me play again [in this scene]. Thanks for the shout out. Honestly, it had been far too long! Makes me miss the Leviathan days...

The rest of the night went well,  I managed to sell all of my stickers that I made as well as some CD's making back the money I made from my initial investment in merchandise. Subsequently I bought 50 more stickers.

I also thought about how Breaking Anchors would probably need to work on stage pacing next... we were kind of jerky between songs -- which is fine for what we were doing -- but for bigger/better events, it's something that'll require some attention.

Something else I also saw that night was they had smaller acts (acoustic acts) in between bands, almost as if to be entertainment between bands as they set up and broke down. I started thinking that maybe I can get on that with my solo backing track stuff... we'll see.

Still got foot wart.

Feb 26 Rock Opera Theatre had its first rehearsal since the Christmas show. It was nice to see the guys again. Still curious to see what they create as far as promo video with all the footage that was collected. I also pitched an idea I had floating in my head since our performance. I had this vision of possibly putting one of my guitar students (who is extremely talented) up on stage to perform a song or two with R.O.T., so I threw the idea their way. Initially it looked like the guys were all for it, but, upon sleeping on it, they eventually decided that it was too risky. Bummer. Anyway, after meeting up with them it also inspired me to think of pitching a re-branding of their logo. Their current logo is this...

And I'm looking to switch it to something like this...

I'll probably do what I did with my BRGA logo, sketch it up nice, then throw it on craigslist to see if some freelance graphic designer want's to pick it up. Mostly the hang up right now is $$$. When I have some cash to spare, this'll be something I'll be looking to do.

Feb 26 was always the night that Console attempted a second open mic night. Bass player was wasted and made lot's of mistakes. No big deal for an open mic, but, the overall performance audio is botched because of which. Not the end of the world, at least everything will be in time should we use the footage haha. I also tested out my own backing tracks for solo guitar stuff and by golly it WORKED. Lastly, the audio cable that we were using for patching the tablet into the PA was spotty (you'll hear it in the video if you watch it) which lead me to throwing another $20 away towards another brand / cable, but luckily the one featured in the picture works... for now haha

Feb 27, Finally recieved my guitar world magazine that I placed an order in for at the begining of January, better late than never? It's packed full of ads just like how I remember.

Towards the end of February Breaking Anchors got invited by a college kid at HCC to do a recording session. I got there late, and found out that we were recording our one song that had time signature changes. In short, I guess it was a good opportunity for the engineer-to-be to learn about the headache of recording a song with multiple time signatures. In hind sight maybe we should have picked a more straight-forward song? Oh well.

I got some goodies today from amazon. Got a webcam clamp for BRGA as well as an old school metronome and a GoPro clamp mount. Started working on the blog today and actually finished it today as well, granted it took all day between everything else that I was doing. Now I can return to creating backing tracks and practicing, yay!

What else? I got a Biki pass and it makes renting a bike super convenient, I really appreciate the technology.

For the most part, just waiting for that surgery date. I am very curious as to what gigs (Battle of the Bands and Kawaii Kon 2019) and traveling (Las Vegas gambling and Big Island wedding) are going to be like as I recover. Firstly, I'm hoping that these activities will even be possible, and secondly, I hope it doesn't mess up my experience or my healing process up. Only time will tell... see you in April.

Future gigs and dates of interest:

March 23 - Breaking Anchors Battle of the Bands
April 5 Console at Kawaii Kon 2019
April 6 Hitbox at Kawaii Kon 2019