Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snorkel Fun!

One of the group activities I agreed to experience in Cancun was snorkeling. I've never done it - I regrettably passed it up a couple years ago in Maui. While my prime directive was to just relax in Cancun, (..sit on the beach, have cocktails and stare at the ocean), I felt compelled to stuff...since my wonderfully nice and generous in-laws were footing most of the bill.

All 7 of us piled into a mini-van, along with about 6 other folks, including a somewhat attractive, but very talkative Mary Kay saleswoman. I got to sit next to her. Lucky me.

We journeyed for about 25 minutes or so, ultimately reaching a road under construction. Another resort was being built on one side, and on the other was a swampy looking area that contained many crocodiles monitoring our progress, which had now halted while we waited for some machinery to get moved so we could pass. Nice touch!

When we arrived, we were all handed a box lunch, which while nice, proved very cumbersome to hold on to as we were all rushed through huts to pick out life jackets and fins. It was a bit frantic, but fortunately the first set of fins the dude handed me seemed to fit just fine. Note to self: trim toenails before wearing flippers..

We then were herded to small tables covered with thatched umbrella-styled tops. This is where we were to leave all personal belongings, including our lunches. Lockers were provided for valuables.

After a brief pep talk, we were sent down to our boat. About 20 of us "boarded". Stacey bashed her leg as she was being dragged aboard resulting in some of the most spectacular bruises I have ever seen (she bruises like a banana).

The weather was very overcast and the wind was chilly. Aside from flying, I think one of the things I hate most in life is being cold. Once the spray of the ocean hit me as we boated to our snorkeling destination, I knew I was in for a rough afternoon. I was freezing!

During our ride, we were all handed masks and snorkels. Once I saw all of us trying these on, I did find a moment in my misery to laugh at the sight. We were now all aliens! Aliens that were being taught to spit into our masks to prevent fogging. Well, I don't know about the rest of my new alien friends, but due to my usual state of white-knuckle stress, coupled with my battery of anti-stress medications, this particular alien had absolutely no spit to even consider. I guess I should of asked the talkative Mary Kay rep to borrow some, but that was a missed opportunity.

After about a 10 minute ride, we came upon our first snorkeling site. Great. More than one site?! We were given a relatively brief crash course on how to snorkel and then told to jump in. Jump in? Just like that? Into this Arctic Sea? It is freezing!!!!

It was actually worse than I imagined. Honestly, I thought my heart was going to burst. Usually that cold-water sensation goes away quickly, but this time it went on, and on, and on. Screams (and curses) of my agony were bubbling under the ocean's surface. While it took way too long to acclimate, I (we) finally did, and we found the ocean to be the warmest spot to be in at that moment. ...ocean=warmth=mother....sigh.... yeah, right...

The first site was pretty shallow and we were cautioned about the potentially eviscerating coral formations. Most of us got the hang of snorkeling pretty quickly, with the exception of the few (including Stacey's dad) that had to cope with ill-fitting masks due to facial hair. Drag, but the reefs were pretty cool and there were plenty of fish to see if you could....see. Note to self - next time, order prescription goggles for Stacey. Poor thing is blind as a bat without her glasses..

One of the guides was in the water with us. He had a big red buoy and would regularly call out to us to try to keep us somewhat together. It was pretty easy to get caught up and "wander" away from the group. It was sort of like a sadistic game of Marc Polo, because you could find yourself poking your head out of the water to see where we were all going, but as soon as you put your face back into the water, you could suddenly be way to close to some coral and my mind would flash to the image of my blood and insides spilling into the water from my ripped open underbelly. Relaxing.

Aside from the horror of underwater disembowelment, swallowing water, accidental flipper slashings, occasionally losing sight of Stacey, and most importantly, the absolute dread of getting back onto our Alaskan cruise passenger boat, it was pretty neat. In spite of no sunshine, the water was still very clear and many things could be seen and appreciated.

After about 30 or so minutes at site #1, that dreaded moment of getting back on that damned boat occurred. It did not disappoint. As each person climbed (or was pulled) back onto the boat, the individual moans (some screams) as the Arctic chill hit our bodies soon merged into one. In a vague sense (not unlike the recent economic...downturn), there was a tiny bit of comfort knowing that as one, we were all suffering.

We were purple, we had goosebumps, our teeth were chattering, we hugged complete strangers in failed attempts to get warm. We were united. We were one. Sorry Obama, but No We Can't!

Not soon enough, we arrived at site #2 which was deeper (colder), but had more complex and beautiful reefs. We were aliens that had found an unknown planet. It was very cool. And it was great to get off that damned boat.

I didn't like the feeling of losing sight of Stacey, so I developed a method to help me locate her while we were in the ocean (usually her red hair can do the trick, but when wet, most hair looks alike). I decided that the best way to locate her was to look above the water for her blue (swimsuit clad!) butt. That seemed to work fine once I figured out it was a blue suit she was wearing, not the green one I thought she was wearing. My apologies to the lady with the green ass!

After about 30 minutes, we were dragged back on board the torture ship and headed back to land. Sweet, sweet land with boxed lunches and towels. We did it. We were still alive. Just some impressive bruises on Stacey and a little salt water in our ears. And in store for me the next day, were some very sore muscles in parts of my body that I don't usually use (which is most of 'em!). But that was OK because the following day, I was scheduled for an 80 minute therapeutic massage in our resort's spa. Sweet!

*My underwater pics I took are not developed yet. If they come out OK, I'll be glad to share them, but in the meantime: here's another kitty picture!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

There Is A Santa!

Meet Dexter. 2 days ago, Stacey and I filed for adoption of this fine kitty from Oakland's Hopalong & Second Chance Rescue, and obviously, we were accepted! He's about 7 months old, and so far, seems about as perfect a kitty as we could have hoped for! He plays, he sleeps, he's an amazing leaper, and he loves to sit in our laps and kick back.

He's a fine kitty. Oops...check that. I just had to get him down from walking on my synthesizer....Oh yeah, he's a kitty, alright!

Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008


While not nearly as adventurous as my Mazatlan vacation (thankfully), our Cancun vacation was very nice! A couple of relatively minor adventures came our way, but for the most part it was just a week of eating, drinking and hanging out by the ocean or the pool (under umbrellas, of wife is a vampire with a huge sun aversion, and certain medications I'm on don't take to sunlight too kindly, either).

We stayed at a humongous resort compound named the Moon Palace. It's a timeshare kind of situation that Stacey's dad treated us to. All food and drinks were free. There was a full size jacuzzi in our room. We were waited on hand and foot. I loved it! I needed it! I deserved it! Sure, it sort of felt like we were staying at the "Village" the Prisoner was trapped on, but it was the perfect setting for someone like me.

We were joined by Stacey's dad, stepmother, brother and some friends of her dad's. I haven't seen her side of the family for some time, so it was cool to combine a vacation with a family reunion.

My priority was to sit on a beach, have cocktails and stare out at the ocean. It was mostly overcast (fine with us), warm, and pretty darned windy the first couple of days, but that didn't seem to hinder my chillin' at all. Unfortunately, the ocean was red-flagged the whole time, so we couldn't hang out in the water, but that didn't bother me too much, either (the constant parade of kelp removing tractors did, though..). The pool was way too cold for me, but I was fine just hangin'. Stacey's dad and brother are pretty buffed guys and her step mom used to be a Playboy bunny, so I wasn't looking forward to them seeing my pathetic little sunken chest (see above..)!

The resort has several restaurants to choose from ranging from "Mexican", "Italian", "Caribbean" and "Asian". We tried them all, and Stacey and I were shocked at how bland most of the food was. Some of it was very good, but I guess there must be a prime directive to not scare off the tourists with spicy food. Weird!

We ventured out of the safety and comfort of the resort a couple of times. Stacey went out silver shopping with some of her family and scored a very nice silver necklace for me, some amber and earrings for her. I believe on the same outing, her stepmother (now a nurse) scored a bunch of very cheap prescription drugs (nothing illegal!) at the local...Walmart!

We all went on a snorkeling adventure that I will write about soon. Not the most...pleasant part of the vacation, at least for me. And on our last full day, we all went to the Isla Mujeres. Not quite the relaxation I wanted on the last day (it involved a 30 minute bus ride and another 30 minute boat ride on a party boat), but I'm glad I went. view:

...his view: time!

For the most part, it was a very nice and much needed vacation. It's just the getting there I can't stand. I hate flying, airports and airplanes. So much, as a matter of fact, I think that the next time I feel the need to see a foreign land, I'll rent the DVD instead. I know...I suck.

(Some friends I made at Isla Mujeres...)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Me llama es Gilberto

The last time I went to Mexico (Mazatlan in 1986 with an ex-girlfriend), we had an adventure on our very last night involving an ill advised and drunken trip to our waiter's home to visit with his mother and to see "how real Mexicans live".

The trip involved a tiny village, his crazy mother (La Bruja), a dance with a giant wooden phallus, flooded roads, no taxi service, a ride back to town in a stranger's jeep, a machete, a stalled out jeep, and being surrounded by a carload of young Mexican men.

I hope our trip to Cancun will be boring. See you next week!

Uno mas cervesa, por favor!

Monday, December 1, 2008

You Are My Candy, Girl!

Sunday, Stacey and I (and 2 friends) drove up the road a piece and took a free tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, California. Being Sunday, the factory was shut down, but we still got the tour, saw the machines, and had an informative guide. There were short videos every couple of yards that explained all you need to know as to how Jelly Bellys are made.

Ronald Reagan made these gourmet jelly beans very popular while he was president. I guess Jelly Belly is very grateful because the whole damn place was outfitted like a shrine to him. Lots of Reagan portraits made with Jelly Bellys. Whatever...I'm not a big jelly bean fan anyway (hate Easter), but it was still a fun diversion.

Jelly Belly has many wonderful and unique flavors (I'm partial to the "soda pop" ones, myself), but they also make godawful yucky ones that I assume kids go for. Well, some of us must have been feeling like kids cause we went for the worst of 'em at the "sample bar". Here's what we tried:

Booger - disappointing because it was edible. Sort of...salty and warm.
Pencil Shavings - Stacey tried this one and liked it.
Moldy Cheese - Stacey tried this one and spit it out rather quickly.
Skunk Spray - Jennifer and I both tried this one and I think it stayed in Jennifer's mouth much longer than it did in mine. I barely cracked it with my teeth and that was enough. Out it went.
Vomit - I could have possibly gotten a little further with this one, but Stacey mentioned that she bet it would taste like pepperoni. It did, and I couldn't get it out of my mouth fast enough. Not that I hate pepperoni, it's just that I recently had a bout with a nasty stomach virus, and surprisingly, pepperoni sort of summed up all that is bad when it comes to to hurling.

I wonder if Jelly Belly has ever made "playdough" or "paste" flavors? Could be big.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

This New Music Creeps Me Out!

(another part of my life in music, late '79?)

Before Jamie introduced me to the first records by the Sex Pistols, Devo, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello, Wynn and I were both having a blast being married and working at New World Records. We were making new friends, getting tons of records, partying hard and occasionally going to the few rock shows Charlotte had to offer. By the late 70's, most major bands skipped Charlotte, opting to play in D.C. and Atlanta. We did see some shows, and while most were pretty lame; Heart, Firefall, Boston, Gino Vannelli, Kenny Loggins (!) - (funny...there’s a couple of those shows I wished I had paid a bit more attention to!), one concert that definitely stood out was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Charlotte Coliseum.

I still don’t know how or why, but the owner of New World Records actually knew Springsteen and Clarence Clemons. While we were 2 very small independent record stores, we would usually get Springsteen’s latest LP’s before the big record chains would ( Record Bar and Grapevine). The owner loved that! We were special! We were so special, we all got free tickets when Bruce came to town. Everything we had heard about his legendary concerts was true. 3+ hours of high intensity rock and roll. One of the best shows I have ever seen. And we had great seats! For free!

But things were changing in the music world. Frankly, things had been changing for some time, but Charlotte was very slow to catch on to just about anything as far as the cultural arts and trends were concerned (including liquor by the drink!). At work, we started getting in tons of new records from the early days of punk and new wave. Initially, I thought the bands all looked like freaks and couldn’t play their instruments - it was a knee-jerk reaction but I wanted nothing to do with such noisy sounding rubbish.

At this point I had been playing drums for about 13 years. I had played in many different bands with many different styles, and I worked hard to become a pretty good drummer - even made a living at it. It just pissed me off that these new snotty-nosed punks were making records, getting press and making statements that the bloated dinosaur-rock of the 70's was now over. Anyone could be in a band regardless of talent as long as you possessed a bad attitude and had spiky hair. That caused a huge disconnect with me. Damn amateurs! Learn to play your instruments, and then maybe.... I’ll give you a listen.

But then it clicked. Once Jamie got me to actually sit down and listen to these records, it quickly connected. I was as late to the party as Charlotte was, but there it was! Aside from the cosmetic aesthetics, punk wasn’t that far removed from the rebellious aspects of being a hippie freak; stand out, look weird, screw the Man, and bring on the Now. Ironically, both movements had no problem at all in plundering the past for inspiration, either. They took what they found appealing and incorporated it into something new and (hopefully) original. In the early days of hippie psychedelic bands, many San Francisco bands based their clothing design on the American Victorian age (Charlatans, Dan Hicks etc..). Punks seemed to go with a 50's biker look, but with crazy hair, and while most biker types did not favor the crazy colors the punk rockers seemed to enjoy, I bet the grease was somewhat similar...

The difference? Not much, really. But musically, the hippies seemed to expand earlier rock conventions with a no holds barred experimentation, long flowing jams, free love and....body odor, while the early punk rockers went back to more simple and basic chord progressions, adding rawness, buzzsaw tempos, spitefulness, pessimism and....spitting.

Since I was still stubbornly trying to retain at least some of my progressive-rock tastes, I was surprised that it wasn’t too much of a stretch to enjoy the more angular styles of New Wave. It should also be noted that in time, some of my prog rock heroes ended up embracing and being involved in this new music - Eno (Devo, Talking Heads), Robert Fripp (Blondie, Talking Heads and his side-group The League oF Gentleman which featured Barry Andrews (XTC) and Sara Lee(Gang Of 4)). Even Ray Shulman of Gentle Giant eventually got into the act with production chores on The Sugarcubes first album!

While the photos I had seen of Devo actually gave me the creeps, once I heard Jocko Homo I was locked in. The rhythmic play between their odd drum beats, bizarre instruments and decidedly warped view of life was hard to resist. Are We Not Men? I’m not sure! They actually frightened the hell out of me. Job well done!

Elvis Costello also looked scary to me, but the Attractions were and still are one of the best bands in the world. Excellent musicians, and one of the greatest drummers I had ever heard. They sported a great look (white socks!), and seemed genuinely pissed off. The song writing wasn’t too shabby, either.

Talking Heads also had sort of a prog-rock feel to them. Art damaged and clever. Not quite as scary looking as the other bands, but I found plenty of scary things in David Byrne’s vocals, and since I was just a few years from my disco days, I found much appreciation in their wonderfully danceable beats, but without the cheese of a mirrored disco ball hanging from the ceiling (unless of course there was some irony in the house!)

XTC were another band not too far removed from progressive rock. The speed and tightness that they poured into their very angular style (esp. the first 2 LP’s) appealed to me greatly. Herky jerky dislocation performed at warp speed. Pretty funny lyrics, too.

The first Sex Pistol’s LP was an entirely different style that took me a bit longer to get in to, but ultimately I was floored by the power and tightness the band displayed. Of course I had no idea that they had a bunch of studio ringers brought in to play, but I think that’s irrelevant. It blew the doors off of my world and I was gone! We all were and we embraced it with all of our hearts.

Everything was changing; our music, clothing, hair and perhaps most importantly, our attitude about culture and politics. We also found ourselves quickly wrapped up into a relatively hardcore lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Can’t really have one without the other, right? They were dangerous times, but it was also some of the most absolutely insane fun I have ever had. Glad that most of us are still here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanks For The Beats, Mitch

Probably my biggest rock 'n roll thrill was seeing the Jimi Hendrix Experience live, in Charlotte, way back in the day. My biggest thrill of that concert was seeing a roady actually nail down Mitch Mitchell's bass drum to the drum riser a few moments before they hit the stage. That moment cemented into my 13 year old brain that I had to be a rock drummer.

I'm terribly saddened by the news of Mitch Mitchell's death, yesterday. He has always been one of my favorite drummers. He could make some of the most powerful, intense rock music ever created, swing ! Hendrix's Manic Depression is a definitive example of this. One of the best rock drum tracks ever made. Ever.

Not only did his playing inspire me, the sound of his drum set set the standard as to how rock drums should sound. They sound like drums! Cracking snare, a kick drum that actually has personality and tone, and musically pitched tom-toms that ring out, instead of thudding! I call that sound the teen-combo-drum-sound, and while Sandy Nelson may have first recorded drums that sounded like this, Mitch Mitchell applied that sound to psychedelic rock and I've been trying for 39 years to duplicate that sound.

Rest in peace, Mitch. If there is a rock 'n roll heaven, I'm sure you've already hooked up with Jimi and Noel. Hope God has a box of nails.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Carolina Blue!

Weird. I have now lived 1/2 of my life in California. The first 1/2 was in Charlotte, N.C., and I gotta tell you, I'm pretty proud of North Carolina right now. Not only did N.C. go for Obama for President, they elected a Democratic Governor and Senator. Way to go, Tarheels!

While California is where I live, N.C. will always be my home. Someday I plan on coming back, but for now....good job! (I also found out that N.C. has a Transylvania County, and even though I'm sure they didn't go for Obama, who could resist not living there!)

Actually, I'm proud to be an American right now. We've done good, and I feel better about this country than I have for a long time. Hope is a good thing, and Obama's election has filled the "hope-void" in my heart that has been there for the longest of times. Feels different. I'm going to let it stay there for a while. Feels good.

This feels good, too:

At the 1:50 point of this video, I usually get tears in my eyes, but they are good tears. It's nice. Love and Hope. Good.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloweenie!

Here we are at work. It's amazing the effect one can obtain by the simple act of pulling your pants up as high as they will go. Within reason, that is...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

There's A Bald Moon Rising!

Not a very flattering angle, but I see that my hair's getting pretty long in the back. What you can't see very well is that I'm looking at a co-worker's dog - Toby.

Toby is in his annual Halloween costume, and this year he had chosen to be a knight in shining armor. Of course another co-worker (also from the South) and myself immediately thought that Toby had chosen to be the Grand Wizard of the KKK. Regardless, Toby wore his costume with pride, and I think he's a good dog!

While not dressed for Halloween, Petrie (a lovely peach colored cockatoo) is a regular at work. Her owner brings her everyday and I have enjoyed her company for years. She's a sweetheart that has a limited vocabulary, but she can manipulate those few words with so much inflection!

"Hello Petrie" is her favorite choice of words.

As I walk towards her, it usually starts very simple:
"hello Petrie"
As I get closer, she amps it up a bit:
"Hello Petrie!"
And once I'm directly in front of her:

That one gets me every time. I take her out of her cage and hold her to my chest. She then lays her head up against me and I proceed to gently scratch her underneath her feathers on her back.

I never thought birds could be this expressive and filled with so much personality. I've seen Petrie absolutely melt the most gangsta hardened rappers the Bay Area has to offer. She's a good bird.

Here she is having a bit of a tweak attack.

While these are indeed very tough times for indie music distribution, I really appreciate that the owners allow these very sweet and entertaining critters to be here. It helps.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Kissed A Boy (holy was David Yow!)

Well....that was different.

Saturday night, Stacey and I went to Annie's Social Club in S.F. to see a dear friend that I met in the Game Theory days in Chicago in the mid 80's. Her name is Ellen and we became great friends as soon as I met her and some of her friends at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois after a show. She has since moved to L.A. and is a successful T.V. producer.

She contacted me a couple of weeks ago with the exciting news that her boyfriend's band - QUI - had a gig in town and it would be great if we could hook up. QUI features singer David Yow (Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid ). I checked out QUI's MySpace site and got a crash course in their music and what to expect - very loud art/punk rock. Not my cup-o-tea, but I really wanted to see Ellen.

David is a couple of years younger than me and he was excited to hang with someone "older" than him for a change! Very cool fellow. He referred to Jello Biafra (who attended the show) as Jello BeaArthur, which cracked me up to no end!

Their show was loud, energetic and there were plenty of things I loved very much about their music. The band is just guitar, drums and David, screaming his way through some very tricky, almost prog-punk music. Sorta like Blue Cheer meets King Crimson with a screaming banshee for a singer.

David has incredible energy, screams a lot and at one point sang a song hangin' upside down with his knees holding on to plumbing pipes that hung from the ceiling. The fans were amazing. The club was packed and I've never seen so many digital devices taking tons of pics! Very punk crowd, but a bit older. Stacey noticed plenty of guys with male pattern baldness crimping the punk hairstyles that many still desperately hang on to.

After the show, we were hanging with Ellen, who was manning the merch booth. David came over, and was a bit...caught up in a pretty hearty beer and adrenalin rush. I bought a t-shirt. He gave me a CD. He also kissed me on the mouth. I submitted. Glad I don't have to kiss many people with whiskers. Been a while since I've done that. He also kissed Stacey on the mouth. I then kissed Ellen on the mouth twice. I guess you could say we had a faux 3-way. (Stacey and Ellen did not kiss).

Just another typical rock & night on Folsom Street.

Just so happens that today, Scott Miller posted his best of 1989. Surprised to see Jesus Lizard on his list.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Little Things In Life

For about 15 years, I've gone to Best Burger in San Rafael (at the Montecito Plaza), at least once a week for lunch during the work week. I am in love and addicted to their delicious Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich. Pretty simple sandwich - grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles on a soft roll with teriyaki sauce slathered on the chicken. No big deal really, but I'm a man that digs routine, and going there to eat, read the newspaper, and chat with the fab owners is all deeply embedded in me.

7 months ago, they had a kitchen fire and were "closed for remodeling". I felt lost. My routine was messed with. I had one less place to go for lunch in the town I've worked in for 25 years. I knew I would miss those sandwiches!

About once a month I would attempt to call to see if they had reopened, but all I got was that butt-ugly sound you get when a fax machine picks up. Occasionally I would drive there to see if I could determine visually, what was going on. No luck - the windows were papered over.

After about 4 months, I started to prepare myself for the possibility that they may never reopen. I was very bummed out, but this week....they reopened!

I was so excited! I blew off lunch with work-friends so I could go to Best Burger by myself. I wanted to be alone, at my usual table, eating the best chicken sandwich in the world, and to have a private moment between me and the owners to express my heartfelt joy that they were back. It was a sweet moment, and for a couple of hours, I was the happiest guy in the world.

Bless you, Best Burger!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Out With The Old..In With The New!

Another chapter of "my life in music"! 1979ish???

After Mom died, things moved very fast for me. The first thing I had to deal with was selling our family’s house. This was the only house I had ever lived in, but big changes were flying at me and I had to deal with it. My sibs offered me the house at a fair price, but I felt I needed to break away. I was caught in a whirlwind and felt compelled to start my new life.

First off, my high school sweetheart and I immediately found a decent house to rent in an OK part of Charlotte. It was “across the train tracks” from my nice neighborhood, pretty redneck, but OK. It was a 3 bedroom house with a fenced in backyard for all of $250 a month. After my sibs and I took what we wanted from our house, we cleared it out and my girlfriend (Wynn) and I moved in together. Mom would not have approved of course, but I felt free and grown up. Change is good! My dog (“Caesar”) and Wynn’s cat (....”Kitty”..) probably weren’t too thrilled with the arrangement, but Wynn and I dug it. It was all so natural.

Of course, selling the family home had some very...unusual moments. We originally tried to sell it ourselves, but not much happened (with the exception of a neighbor coming down and seriously suggesting that we don’t sell to...”blacks” - we responded by telling him that we’re gonna sell to whoever gives us the money!), so we went with a couple of real estate agents. Poor souls.

Since my brother and sister lived out of town, I was left to handle it. The first call from the real estate agent went like this: “Hi Gil. Ummm...I showed the house today and I think you need to do some serious flea-bombing - we walked in and there was a black cloud of fleas that went up to about knee level on my clients and myself.” OK, no problem. The fleas were bombed.

The second call came one morning after a night when I let some friends park their cars in our front yard while we all went and enjoyed Charlotte’s Festival In The Park. The house was vacant, we still owned it, and there was no place to park at all during that yearly event (the same event that I saw all of those great local rock bands back in the day!), so cool! Why not?

When my buddies and I returned to the house, we discovered that all of the cars in the front yard had their tires slashed! WTF? Could it be a sinister message from our racist neighbor? Probably just vandals, but bizarre none the less. About 3 cars were left in the yard overnight - the owners would come back the next day to deal with it. The next morning I got another call from our poor real estate agent; “ you know there’s a bunch of cars in your front yard with their tires slashed? Looks pretty bad..” I think I freaked her out a bit when I replied that yes, I knew about the cars. They would be gone shortly.

The house eventually sold, and I gained possession of Mom’s Buick. Now I had my own home, a decent car, and my girlfriend and her cat were living in sin with me and my dog. Pretty sweet, and Mom would have been very pleased to know that our sinful living wasn’t for too long, due to the fact that my girlfriend and I went and got married! In Rock Hill! By a Justice of the Peace! With our best friends in attendance! And we were drunk!

It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision - we just weren’t religious and thought it would be neat to do it this way. The Justice of the Peace turned out to be a bit cranky and actually threatened to stop the ..”ceremony” if our party didn't start behaving in a ..... more respectful manner. Screw that! I’ve already paid you your $35! Where's my gift bag containing toothpaste and condoms! It was a lot of fun, regardless, and we liked the idea of being married. We also learned that even if you don’t invite family to the wedding, you can send out announcements and still get cool gifts! I’m sure my sibs were disappointed but we did it the way we wanted to, and at that particular time of my life, it just had to be.

Wynn and I also had the greatest jobs in the universe. We now both worked at Charlotte's coolest record stores! Wynn worked at the main store and when they opened a smaller satellite store on the other side of town, I got a job there. The 2 store “chain” was called New World Records and for a while at least, it was heaven and yes, another life-changer!

I don’t remember the exact dates when this happened, but during my time at the record store, I became aware that something was up with rock music. My primary love at the time was still prog and jazz-rock fusion, but it was becoming a real stretch to find decent stuff to listen to. As time went by, Jamie Hoover kept putting a bug in my ear about new wave and punk. I was also noticing that we were selling more and more of this type of music at the store. At first, I was really put off by it all. I thought it sucked. I thought the musicians couldn't play. It was more horrible than disco!

But one night I was at Jamie’s house and he more or less forced me to listen to the first LP’s of Devo, Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello and the Talking Heads. Holy crap!

It clicked. Boy, did it ever.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Good job, guys! Mission Accomplished! Oh...and by the way, can we get that 700 billion back? Don't think that plan worked out too well.....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bye Bye, Summer

It's that time of year, again - Fall. It is my most melancholy season. I discovered this once I move to California, some 28 years ago. Where I live (S.F. Bay Area), there really isn't a true autumn, and that bums me out. Back in North Carolina, falls were magnificent! The air turns crisp, the leaves blaze with color, the air smells different, and as far as I was concerned, the stifling heat and humidity of summer were on their way out.

In a few areas out here you can sometimes find a few trees that turn color and occasionally the air can get crisp, but that happens mostly in the more wealthy neighborhoods that actually have trees! Still, it's a gyp. Here's a wonderful description of a N.C. fall.

I just bought the Peanuts Holiday Special DVD box set that includes the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Xmas TV specials. Oddly, I find it tough to watch them at times, in particular the Halloween Special because it nails my childhood perception of what fall should really look like. Look out! Here comes a big old blast of melancholy!

Fall also reminds me of my days touring with Game Theory. Usually, we would tour in the fall and we would have the honor of seeing mind-blowing autumns in the rest of the country. Driving from N.Y. to Boston in late September is something I'll never forget. Just beautiful!

But as I get older and those dear (and frankly rose colored at times) memories of my childhood and my young man rock days grow more distant, the wistful melancholy somehow get stronger. I find myself getting overwhelmed by a sense of loss. It's been 8 years since I've played in a band and about 20 years since the excitement of what a new tour could bring. Game Theory's relative success was due primarily to college radio, so we played many college towns. Such young, fresh faces! And the leaves and air were wonderful.

I miss that, but I thank my lucky stars I got to experience it.

Matter of fact, there are times that I still miss the fun and camaraderie of hangin' and playing with a band. Within reason, of course! I still get a musical outlet by writing, playing, and recording my own songs, but it's so insular. While I certainly don't miss the time, energy and any other of the bad things that come with playing in a band, every now and then some event will happen that will quench my desire enough to give me some sort of....contentment.

In 2006, Scott Miller asked me to come to his home studio and do some percussion on a Cat Stevens song (I Think I See The Light) for his Loud Family and Anton Barbeau album "What If It Works?". Me being me, of course I got a bit stressed out and anxious, but I went and it was just plain wonderful. After dinner we went into the recording room and it was just me and Scott and before I knew it, I found that beautiful sense of connection with Scott that I really hadn't felt since the Game Theory days. I can get uncomfortable at times in such a one-on-one situation, but this was magic! All I did was just shake and hit a couple of percussive instruments but we just....connected. That's what it was like! That's what it should always be like!

More recently, my good friends The Bye Bye Blackbirds just released a new album entitled Houses And Homes, that I got to play percussion (and a wee bit-o-synth!) on.
I've done this many times for them, and it fills me with such joy to be involved with them and to contribute what I can. As always, I get a tad anxious before I get there, but once I'm in the studio, that nice and warm feeling of camaraderie and friendship immediately takes over and I have a great time. Aside from Scott, this is the only band that could get me to leave my hermit like existence to actually get out there and make great music with people I love being around. It's a blessing.

I love being around these guys. They're way younger than I am and I find their enthusiasm for all things music exhilarating, be it for the songs, recording, playing, musical gear and even putting trumpet in some of their songs! (Bill Swan - rock trumpet genius).

The album is fantastic. Once you buy it, be sure to listen to it all the way through. Actually, let it play and then immediately hit replay and just marvel at how the end dovetails so nicely with the intro to the first song. Great songwriting (from many of the members), great production (some of the most crisp and gorgeous electric guitar I've ever heard) and a rave-up cover of an Everly Bros. song (It Only Costs A Dime) that I swear sounds like Phil Specter got out of jail and produced. ( he in jail?)
Here's more info you will need to get this album

So maybe fall isn't so bad after all. I'm now looking forward to watching the Great Pumpkin disappointing Linus so damned much. And Charlie Brown - a rock ain't such a bad thing after all.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"We Are Love" update

I've gotten most of the lead guitar stuff down on tape, and I'm pretty excited about it! There's a rather lengthy lead break (for me, at least), and it came together just fine. Most of it is kind of a big, delayed, and hopefully melodic thing, done on my Gibson SG. There is a one measure (!) blazing scale/run in the middle of it that I had to drop in separately. That took me about 25 minutes to get right. It stands out pretty well because I recorded it dry, with no delay at all. Recording this at low volume came out well.

Recording the distorted and (hopefully) BIG rhythm guitars did not turn out so well, but I have neither the gumption, or the money to rent a studio and crank my Fender Princeton amp to where it should be to get a good sound. Ideally, you should hear the fullness of the amp, the...wood ("he said...wood") of the guitar and the echo of the room. Recording at such a low volume, you're basically hearing a great guitar played through electricity. Not a great sound, really. But there it is....

Surprisingly, I will not put any keyboards or synth or samples on this particular tune. Just a wall of guitars, bass and drums and vocals. Need to mix things up a bit. Also need to clear my lungs out a bit before I start doing the vocals.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wrasslin' The Bastard


Yep...Gil must have been doing bass tracks today..but I may have a decent track down, on my new song We Are Love. I'm not sure, though..I need to clear out my ears and head and try to listen to it without my usual "optimistic ears".(I once cracked up Kenny, the Loud Family's bass player by admitting that when we were in the studio I would get into my "defensive drumming" mode, which meant that I would play a bit more conservatively than I would like to, but I thought it would be best just to get through the song without any FU's. Sad but true!)

"Optimistic ears" is the recording mode I get into when I've played a part more times than I can stand and think I may have it down with just minimal FU's and tuning problems. I make my ears gloss over any little thing that would stop a real musician in his/her tracks. I'm neither that good or that patient, and since I've just spent the better part of my Saturday writing and recording this confounded bass part, my ears were primed to do their thing. Bottom line - it'll just have to do.

It wasn't an easy part to play. I seem to frequently steal ideas from the Rolling Stones (!) of all bands. They love sliding bass and/or guitar lines, and so do I. Not just little wimpy whole step slides - we're talking whole dang length-of-the-neck slides. Not easy on the fingers, especially if you're playing bass. And especially x 10 if you're playing my bass: The Bastard.

It's a Charvette, by Charvel. Sounds like some fancy French perfume, but it's a cheap bass that was preferred by heavy metal hair bands in the early 90's. I was looking for a bass and a co-worker told me that his bass player was looking to sell his for cheap ($100), and that I should come out to their rehearsal studio in Oakland and check it out.

Cool. No problem. Until I started to drive there.

It was dark and I was in my little silver Honda Civic. I have never in my life been that deep in ghetto-land. The directions took me to a "main" street that I had to follow for about 20 blocks. There were stop lights at every intersection. On every corner there were 10-25 of Oakland's finest home-boize giving me the big stare-down. Honda, don't fail me now! It didn't, and in spite of my fearful white-knuckle drive, nothing happened at all.

I finally found the rehearsal space. More like a compound, actually. There was a fence with razor wire around the whole building. I buzzed the buzzer, my buddy came out to let me in ("thank you!") and the dude with the bass came out and showed me The Bastard.

Apparently, he had a crazy girlfriend that went nutso on it with a pair of scissors. There were gouges and slash marks covering just about every inch of it. Oddly, this was now the 2nd guitar or bass that I knew that had a history of a crazy girlfriend carving out a little bit of rock and roll angst on some poor little instrument!

Anyway, it played ok. Way better than any of the several bass guitars I had been borrowing from friends to get through my recording projects. I bought it, covered it with stickers, and still have it, still use it, still curse it at every intonation problem that it has (which are many, but oddly, today I noticed that if I took out the drum track, the tuning sounded better (!) between the guitars and the bass. Must be some weird overtone from the reverb on the kick drum...). Swear to God, next lottery fantasy is a new bass. I hate The Bastard.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Digging Gold

I am so glad I sold my stock holdings last Friday and bought all that gold! Speaking of gold, Scott Miller's take on the best of 1993 is pure gold.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Times Are Tough

Saturday night, someone stole a bag of groceries from my wife. There was no threat of violence or anything like that, and the bag only had about $5.00 worth of bananas, plums, okra and tofu in it, but it was indeed stolen.

She had stopped next door at a large shopping complex to get her nightly fix of tapioca tea, but decided to stop in the grocery store and pick up some food. She then went to the tea shop, set her bag down and turned to the counter to pay for the drink. When she turned back around, her groceries were gone.

The very kind hearted man that runs the tea shop went looking for the culprits, but could not find them. On the way to her car, my wife told a security guard what had happened and he told her that people are now driving up to shoppers that are carrying bags of groceries in the parking lot and snatching their groceries before speeding off into the night.

This is the first time in all of my 52 years that I have had this happen to someone I know. Things are really getting pretty bad out there.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"We Are Love" Guitar riffs and Drum beats

I have started work on the song We Are Love and it's progressing nicely! The drum and rhythm guitar tracks are done and on tape.

It's a long song that relies heavily on a middle section groove-thing with an extended lead guitar "solo". Since I'm not a good enough guitarist to just lay down mighty slabs of spontaneous and blistering improvisation, I had to work out the solo in advance, tape it on my tiny micro cassette recorder and learn the darn thing note for note. It came out pretty well, though. Muy caliente!

I had to figure all of this out before I could program the drum machine. I had to know exactly how many measures the solo was going to be. I have been burned pretty bad in the past when I miscalculated the measures and ended up having to finesse, in a fairly clunky way, a solo to fit the space I had already put on tape. Yes...I'm far too lazy to re-do the drum programming...

I thought it would be fun to make a quick and informal mp3, explaining how I come up with drum beats to go with the guitar riffs that make up the basis of this song. Of course it turned out to be a hellishly complicated and time consuming process, but I went for it anyway. I'm sure there's an easier way. Scripting it out might help. Jeez, I sound like a dork.

This is the mess I made yesterday to make this little ol' mp3 Hope you enjoy it!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Wake me when it's over.

Palin's "pole" numbers

I just don't think I can do politics anymore.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Note: This post is to be considered part of my ongoing life in music series even though there is nothing about music in here. I'm including it because this event directly put things in motion that would send me along on various paths that would indeed shape my musical future. Some of these roads were wonderful and fun, and some were not so wonderful, but seemed fun at the time. But most importantly, I've been wanting to write this chapter for a very long time.

In the spring of 1979 my mother died. Unlike my dad’s sudden death, we had advanced warning that her esophageal cancer would be terminal.

Mom started to have a series of health issues from around the mid 70's, namely stomach ulcers and appendicitis. She drank and smoked way too much, and had major stress anxieties. So do I, but at least there is better chemistry out there to help folks like me that just have a rough time of dealing with it all.

I learned of her emergency appendectomy while my girlfriend and I were vacationing in San Francisco. I think I got a call from one of my sibs who told me of the event, but also learned that the surgery went well and there was no need to cut short my west coast trip. What I did do before I returned to Charlotte was to remove my shiny new earring stud from my ear lobe knowing that it would upset mom. If she wasn’t ill, I would have kept it in and dealt with it upon my return, but since she was sick, I felt it was the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, her stomach disorders continued and she was back in the hospital for more tests. This time she was diagnosed with cancer. She called me from the hospital to tell me the news. (at this point it was just her, Caesar the dog, and myself living together). I hung up the phone and fell apart. I fell apart in a big way. For days. I was just so frightened for her, and I was alone.

The doctors decided that possibly, there was a surgical way to remove the cancer. It would be a major operation that would essentially remove the diseased tissue and replace it with tissue taken from somewhere else. I don’t remember if any synthetic tubing was a may have been.

The surgery was scheduled and it was going to take several hours for the procedure. My brother and sister (and maybe their spouses) and I sat in the hospital waiting room hoping for the best, but once the surgeon came down about 45 minutes after it began, we knew something was wrong. Basically, they opened her up and saw that it was a hopeless situation - the cancer was everywhere. They then closed her back up.

Once she recovered and was sent home, it was time for me to get my ass in gear and be strong. Basically, I was now her hospice worker. I knew she was dying and I would be the guy to hopefully help her get through this the best I could. I think that my...mourning had been done upon the news of the diagnosis. I was now ready to give something back to my mom, other than the disagreements and fighting that seemed to have defined our relationship. It was a very contentious way of life, but that was to end. I was about to get schooled in a most profound way. For once, even though it took the presence of death and dying, I was on the verge of learning a mind-blowing fact about the character of my mom, and the character of myself. It was heavy shit.

Up until then, I think I thought of my mom as being weak - the way she coped with my dad’s death, my sibs moving on, and of raising a rebel hellion (me) by herself. She was drinking too much and seemingly always having a petty argument with me about things that I deemed stupid and superficial - hair, clothes, appearances, girlfriends, friends, my music. These threatened her. What would the neighbors think? What would my grandfather think? How was I going to earn a living playing music? How would I build a comfortable future and prepare for a reasonable retirement that was so sought after, yet obtainable in the upper middle class values of that time? (Of course now, retirement is a pipe dream and as far as my hair goes...well, nature won that argument!) I fought these issues hard. I just could not see the relevance. She was wrong. She thought I was wrong. Neither of us gave an inch.

I did do the right thing when I quit Skyline. I had to be at home to help mom. In the following few months before mom passed away, I learned some life changing things that I was oblivious to at the time. It wasn’t until around 15 years later that the most valuable lesson sunk in to my mind and my heart. I actually didn’t think I could even put it into words until the last year or so, due to the reflections on my life I’ve written about in this blog.

What I now realize is that not only was my mom just trying to protect me, but she was undoubtedly the strongest person I have ever known.

Cancer of the esophagus is not a fun way to die. It should be a painful and horrific event on the human body. In the few months that I was alone with her, not once did my mom ever let me see her in pain. The only moment that came close was one day she was walking towards me in the hallway, winced a little, clutched her stomach and then turned around and walked back into her bedroom. That was it. I think my brother told me years later that she even refused to take most of her pain medication that was prescribed for her. I really was expecting the worst, but her inner strength spared me most of the trauma that I thought was inevitable. She was protecting me - her youngest child, with courage, strength and compassion. I now know this. My mom wasn’t weak at all. My mom was the strongest person I have ever known. Tough lesson to have learned so far after the fact, but it’s there now, and it is unshakable. In dying, she gave me more than she will ever know.

Mom died a few days after all of our family and her grandchildren visited one last time. She collapsed in the front yard, went into the hospital and was gone in a matter of days. A nurse called and told us that we should come in. We knew what was up. We went to the hospital and the nurse told us she passed away in her sleep. We went to her room and she was lying in her bed. I’d never seen a dead person before - my mom gave me a choice about seeing my dad in his open casket and I gratefully declined, but here she was, with no life left in her. I bent down and told her that I loved her and kissed her on the forehead.

The other day, my boss asked me if I missed my parents. My dad has been gone for so long and died when I was so young, it’s hard for me to think about missing him. But I also find it hard to miss my mother. She’s there in the mirror every single day - and unfortunately, at present, I just see her anxieties, her inability to cope, her drinking, and her smoking. I just hope to the high heavens that someday I will be able to see just a fraction of the strength that she so compassionately and courageously showed me.

Rest in peace, mom. I now know that you did the best you could. Thanks.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Damn. What a week!

My assistant at work was on vacation so I was the receiving dept. It's been scary-slow lately, but business has picked up mightily and I was slammed all week long.

I was also sick. As much as I worry about getting...really sick (disease, death etc...), I hardly ever just get sick. Stacey is amazed at my immune system. I think my immune system is so good due to cigarettes and beer and worry - it kills germs dead! Truly, I don't think I've had a cold or flu in about 8 years or so, but this cold got me and got me real good. So on top of being slammed at work, I did it all with probably 3 or 4 hours of the most un-restful sleep you could imagine, each night.

I also had jury duty. I frantically called the clerk at the Superior Court Of Alameda County, trying to postpone my duty. No receiving at work = no shipping at work. No one else can do the job with my assistant gone. She said that no matter what, I had to appear, but it might be helpful if I faxed a letter, and bring a letter from my boss.

I did both. The judge strung me out until lunchtime and then tongue lashed me. (hardship at work is not an acceptable excuse, just hardship personally). I was honest and told her that it wasn't a hardship on me, but work would be paralyzed. She asked the 2 attorneys, they had no objection, so they let me go. This does not count as serving on a jury. She was very clear that I would be receiving another summons "soon".

There was a $35 parking ticket flapping wildly underneath my windshield wipers as I returned to my car.

Oh, and by the way, it was a murder case in Oakland. Surprise.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Democract Corn, And I Don't Care (not really, but clever header, huh?)

I don't know why I subject myself to watching so much of the Democratic Convention. It's goofy, it's weird, it' watching any event now, be it sports, pageants, whatever. Every event is now a rock concert with bigger than life graphics blinding me on the giant screens. It is appropriate (gag) rock music being assigned and played for every single moment or speaker. It is just so.... stupid, degrading and big. I blame MTV.

But I end up transfixed. I also seem to end up in tears. Not for the sadness I should feel for what our world has become, but for ideals I developed many years ago. When I see Ted Kennedy bravely battling brain cancer, yet making the trip to Denver to speak, I cry. His eventual demise will truly mean the death of the 60's political and cultural ideals that shaped me so profoundly. Not all of the rich and privileged are bad. Some actually help the poor.

I cried during Hillary's speech, not because I'm a big fan, but I felt the pain of many women who were so optimistic that this might be the year a woman could be president. Of course the media insists on playing up the asshole angle of her fans that say they will vote for McCain etc... Screw them both.

Bill Clinton just gave his speech and I cried because he is undoubtedly the finest political speaker in modern times. God I miss him! No one can top him in that department. Pure inspiration shown with intelligence, knowledge and understanding. We as a nation were way better off when he was president. He is kind of strange, though. He looks and acts like a cartoon at times, but he can bust a speech and inspire.

That's all.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What The World Needs Now!

I'm happy to announce that work has commenced on my next "album": Tone X - the sound of love..

The world is in need of some love, and I'm gonna try to do my part in spreading the word. It's another concept album, as was my first album - I Am Atomic Man!. The reason being is that as a limited songwriter, I need....focus and boundaries, or I would just sit there wondering what the hell I was going to write about.

After the last Loud Family tour, I was determined to do a solo album at home, on very low rent equipment. I was talking this over with Stacey, and after I confessed to her that I had no idea what to write about, she smartly (as expected) suggested that I write about a subject I know about and enjoy. Well, I love 50's pulp science fiction and that opened the door in a grand way. (funny, though - take away the sci-fi decorations and what I ended up writing about was basically my inner demons and experiences!) Regardless, it was the perfect solution.

For this one, I got the germ of the idea from my friends Bradley and Gina, asking if I would be interested in maybe coming up with a song or two for their after-wedding party. Thrilled, I went for it! I had a couple musical ideas floating around in my head, and now I had the subject matter!

The lyrics came quickly, I practiced the 2 songs for weeks, and very nervously, actually performed them solo at the bash. That was a huge accomplishment for me. Never in my life had I done such a thing! It went over pretty well (of course it helped that the audience were mostly friends). I still can't believe that I actually did it.

The next idea that I came upon was a title for the next album. Not too long ago, I asked Mitch Easter what was responsible for that very groovy, buzzy and distorted bass sound the Rolling Stones used so much on their earlier albums. He mentioned that early Vox bass amps actually had a "Tone X" knob that was more or less a distortion control. I immediately fell in love with the phrase, and I'm pretty sure that I mentioned to Stacey later that night, that "Tone X" had to be the name of my next album. It's just awesome on so many levels!

It wasn't long after that, that I realized I already had 2 songs about Love already written, so I merged the two concepts together and came up with the present title. I also have a third tune (lyric-less) recorded, so I feel I'm on my way !

I plan to write about my recording struggles as I progress. I also will be providing a couple of...crude multi-media examples of the experience. Please stay tuned.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Disco Danger and Sad Goodbyes

Jennetta lasted about a month and a half with Skyline. She just wasn’t a very good singer, entertainer or even very good looking. I feel like a jerk saying that last thing, but we were paid to do all of that and she didn’t cut the mustard. She also had some attitude that was starting to wear on the band. After a brief discussion with our agents, she was fired.

It was a good decision - her replacement(s) were awesome! Before I joined Skyline, they had a young, talented and extremely good looking married couple named Scott and Danya B. They handled most of the vocal chores in the band. Scott B. also played rhythm guitar and both of them could flat-out sing their asses off. They were now back and I was thrilled to have them on board.

****Weird! Strange! Uncanny! They were the first real couple I ever played with (John and Pam’s affair in Rhapsody does not count!), and who woulda thought I would end up some 8 years later playing with another couple that could also sing their asses off named...Scott and Donny? Scott and Scott and Donny! Whoa!.....****

They were very young and occasionally things could get a bit volatile between the two. This didn’t bother me at all. By then I had dealt with girlfriends, affairs, couples, whatever...I learned to just go with it and to try and play great shows. This would of course be tested many years and many bands later, but at that time I was not bothered at all. The minor distractions were nothing compared to the pleasure of hearing those two sing together, night after night. Now, Skyline was overloaded with good voices - we had 4 sets of pipes that could easily sing lead, so my vocals were cut back, but I was fine with that. Let the professionals handle it!

There are only three particular moments that stand out in my memory of this version of the band. Unfortunately, my gig list and financial records end in December of 1978, but I know we played a bit longer than that. In looking through those records I now see that even though I was enticed into the band by their offer of an equal share of the profits, I only averaged about $101 a week. This was less than Rhapsody, but by the time I left the band, it was of no consequence at all. I enjoyed this line-up very much.

Skyline played a private party on Halloween night for a very cool record store in Charlotte called New World Records. This was a 2 store “chain” and by far the best record stores in town. They were locally owned and a perfect alternative to the other record stores such as The Record Bar, Grapevine etc...My girlfriend worked at the main store on Independence Blvd., and eventually I would end up working at the South Blvd. store.

The Halloween party was held at the “Top Of The Tower” - a ritzy place located in Charlotte’s tallest (at the time) downtown skyscraper. Since it was a Halloween party, we decided it would be appropriate and fun to perform in costume. Being serious musicians, we didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it, so we ended up at my mom’s house to raid the attic for fun stuff to wear. Here are a few pics from the resulting attic raid. I think it was probably the only time a black man ever picked me up and held me in his arms.
Don’t remember much about the show, but I think a good time was had by all. I made $45 that night.

The second event I remember regarding the Scott & Danya line-up was a very memorable show in Ronceverte, West Virginia, at the “Almost Heaven Supper Club”. The club was a strange place - off the beaten track and it had a...”roadhouse” feel to it. Very Twin Peaks ( the building and the people inside!). It was a 2 night gig and the final night on December 1, 1978 was a night I’ll never forget.

The evening started out a bit slow, but things were starting to pick up during our last set. The dance floor was buzzing (along with the patrons - we were pretty sure the club owner was the local coke dealer) and everyone was having just a good ol’ disco time. After we announced that we were getting ready to play the last song of the night, the club owner came up to us and told us that he’d give us another $100 if we played another 30 minutes. We immediately agreed and kept our boogie shoes on for the extra ½ hour. Money talks!

The club owner was a strange fellow, maybe in his late 20's, with long straight bangs (very redneck). He had a limp that required him to walk with a cane, and he wore a very...creepy leisure suit. He had a this gangster/ big dog thing going on; surrounded by lackeys, probably coked out and kind of mean looking, but he seemed nice enough.

When the show was finally over, Scott P. went over to the table where the owner was sitting to settle up with the money. The rest of us were packing our gear up when suddenly shit hit the fan. The club owner stood up, threw his table over, stepped back and pulled a knife on Scott and screamed: “Are you trying to screw me out of money? I’ll cut you and your g*ddamn n*gger!! Get the f*ck out of my club!! " Holy crap.

Scott P. was bit of a hard head when it came to money and business and he was not one to back down. He stood up and screamed back at the club owner that he owed us the extra $100. William (our black bass player) gingerly approached the scene and did his best to calm everyone down. Brave man, William. Fortunately the screaming stopped, we got paid (minus the promised bonus), loaded our trailer and got the holy hell out of there. We drove straight to Charlotte, not even stopping to change drivers. When Scott got too tired to drive, I went up front and we changed seats as the van was barreling down the highway. I slid under him and grabbed the wheel as he slid over me, relinquishing the driver's seat. Not recommended, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time. We had to get the hell out of West Virginia and this decidedly Twin Peaks/David Lynch nightmare. This was the South at it’s worst, and we saw it up front and personal. I cannot imagine what William must have gone through.

The last thing I recall about Skyline was also unpleasant, but not nearly as frightening.. We were playing at the Greenville S.C. Sheraton for 2 weeks (Rhapsody’s old favorite lounge), and on our last night there, I called for a band meeting. I announced to the band that this was my last show with them. My mom was dying.

After I told them this, I left them to themselves and went back to my room. About 20 minutes later, Danya knocked at my door and I let her in. It was obvious she had been crying. She told me she was not only sad for my circumstance, but she was angry that after I left the room, the rest of the band started to discuss hiring another drummer. I was fine with that - Skyline was a business, but to this day, I appreciate Danya’s concern.
note: a few years after I left the band, I was saddened by the news that Sammy B., Skyline’s keyboardist was killed in a car crash. He was a fun, talented, good guy. I’m very glad that I had a chance to know him and to have made music with him. Even if it was disco... R.I.P. Sammy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Remember when the Olympics meant something and were way more exciting?

I'm soooo not interested at this point. Bunch of petty nationalistic crap. What's even worse...No Tonya
Best to stay focused. The Left are being murdered by the Right. Georgia vs Russia is a set up. Russia best leave North Carolina alone. Crazy world right now. Pay attention.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Hole In Our Hearts

On Sunday, August 3, Mynya Giballawinsky passed away.

Mynya was one of the very first friends Stacey made when she moved to San Francisco in 1989. She met him at Tower Records, where both of them worked. He was 70 years old when he died.

I did not know him very well, he was Stacey's friend, but I did meet him and ran in to him on occasion. His life's story is an amazing journey. He lost his parents and his brother during World War II. He survived a Nazi concentration camp. He came to America as a child and was adopted. He eventually ended up in California.

The only memory that I have of Mynya goes back to when Stacey and I lived at Robert and Shelley's house over on Taylor Street in Albany. Stacey and Mynya came by, and I was in the backyard. As they walked towards me I was overwhelmed with an...aura that seemed to surround Mynya. I'm not a very..higher consciousness oriented kind of guy but I immediately got a sense of peace and gentleness from Mynya that I have never felt before. I swear, he seemed to...glide above the ground towards me. The most gentle soul I have ever known.

He had multiple health problems and couldn't get around very easily, so he had asked Stacey if she could bring him a large supply of Dr. Pepper (!) on Monday, August 4. We went to a store and got several cases, came home and there was a message on the answering machine. His caretaker/roommate asked that Stacey call - it was about the following day's planned visit.

Stacey called and got the news. Mynya had passed away peacefully in his sleep the night before.

Rest in peace Mynya, you made the world a better place. You overcame a horrible childhood, but your soul was never broken and you enriched all of our lives. Stacey has a big hole in her heart right now, but she'll be OK. She is a better person because of you. We all are. Thanks for the enrichment. We love you.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Jack Be Nimble (the voice! the voice!)

I love Jack Bruce. I love his music and I especially love his voice. He is my very favorite rock singer, ever. His voice is strong and powerful. It can also get quiet and delicate. The voice can slide, reach and hit some pretty challenging notes. It can also layer thick gorgeous clouds of harmonies.

Most folks know of Jack as the fiery Scotsman that played bass, wrote songs and sang with Cream. That's were I discovered him upon the release of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" back in 1967. Been in love ever since!

He was classically trained as a cellist and had roots in jazz and blues. His bass playing is like his voice - very powerful, very loud and always challenging. I love his playing. It was the perfect bottom for Cream, though that band had one of the most contentious histories (musically and personality-wise) of any band I have ever read about! I just read that back in the Cream days, Ginger Baker once tried to shove a fire extinguisher up Jack's bum. Don't know if that's true or not, but ill feelings still exist between those two, even rearing it's ugly head during the 2005 Cream reunion.

I have the reunion concert dvd, and while I was a bit shaken with Jack's frail looks (he was still recovering from a liver transplant), I was amazed at how great his voice still is. I actually thought it sounded better than most of the recordings I had heard of Jack from the 80's and the 90's.

Most all of the songs I'm presenting here were co-written with Pete Brown, whose specialty was very trippy lyrics that helped define Cream. Hell....helped define me.

1. "As You Said" (1968, from Cream's Wheels Of Fire LP) - A weird and beautiful song that really shows Jack's classical background. Lovely cello and a great arrangement. I'm guessing that some would be surprised that this was a Cream song.

2. "Doing That Scrapyard Thing" (1969, from Cream's Goodbye Cream LP) - A very playful tune that always makes me smile. This sounds very Beatle influenced, probably due to George Harrison hanging around the studio to play on Clapton's fantastic "Badge".

3. "Theme From An Imaginary Western" (1969, from Jack's first solo LP - Songs For A Tailor) - this is an amazing LP! This tune is very Procul Harum sounding to me, and Jack plays everything except for guitar (Chris Spedding) and drums (Jon Hiseman). Could be my favorite vocal performance of all time. It's such a great song! Mountain covered it on their debut album. (Mountain featured the late Felix Pappalardi who was Cream's primary producer)

4. "Tickets To Waterfalls" (1969, same as above) - Another great vocal performance on a song that had to be a bitch to sing! Check out the melody....his jazz roots really taking hold here.

5. "Boston Ball Game 1967" (1969, same as above) - Speaking of jazz roots...not only do you get one great vocal performance, howzabout 2 Jacks at once! According to the book I'm reading, Jack wrote this in response to a very unpleasant time Cream had in Boston on one of their tours.

6. "Folk Song" (1971, from Jack's second solo LP - Harmony Row) - Jack gets down with his falsetto in this pretty strange tune. When Stacey heard this album, she noted that she couldn't remember ever hearing music like this. For some reason, I think my ex-Loud Family mate - Alison Faith Levy might enjoy this particular style of writing.

7. "A Letter Of Thanks" (1971, same as above) - a powerhouse jazz fusion thing that works for me. Jazz timing linked with primordial rock riffage.

8. "Pollution Woman" (1972, from West, Bruce & Laing's Why Dontcha LP) - This is one of the strangest songs I've ever heard. I immediately recognize Leslie West's guitar sound, but the production and song are both out of left field. A great sampling of Jack's vocal harmony weirdness.

9. "Peaces Of Mind" (1974, from Jack's third solo album - Out Of The Storm) - disjointed but marvellous. Steve Hunter on guitar and Jim Gordon on drums. Great bass playing and of course, a great vocal track.

10. "Into The Storm" (1974, same as above) - wonderful harmonies and a difficult piece.

Here's the link to all of this. I admit that it may be a lot of Jack to take in at one sitting, so if you find yourself getting a bit worn out, please..just listen to a few at time. I hope you are rewarded as much as I have been, putting this together!

The voice of Jack muxtape

Thanks for the voice and the music, Jack. You lift my heart.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

...Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

I feel bad that I have not been blogging much lately. It's funny that my clever catch-phrase for the Po'buckra blog is "an unsettling look at nowsville". Very little of what I feel like writing about is about "nowsville". To be honest, not much good is going on for me at the moment. Stuff kinda sucks actually, but I got friends, music, movies and the most wonderful and beautiful wife on the planet, so I'll get through this eventually.

I do find it therapeutic to write about my past, though. I've been very fortunate to have had such wonderful and creative times with all of the bands I've been in. It's been a blast writing this stuff down! I enjoy the hell out of the nice responses I've gotten from readers. I was a bit shocked when I discovered that my brother had signed on and subscribed to the MySpace blog, but he's digging it ("quite and education!"). Not so sure that my sister would enjoy it so much, though!

The "my life in music" blog is coming to a very critical point in my life. I've got one more "disco days" post to make and it's gonna lead into some pretty heavy shit, and I have decided to go ahead and write about it. Some of it will have little to do with music - after the disco bands I didn't play with anyone up until Jamie reformed the Happy Eggs during Charlotte's punk/new wave..."explosion". From there, I consider my history in bands as current, even though it was 28 years ago!

Up until then all of this has been very distant, ancient and even abstract. Most of the people that crossed my musical path are long gone from my life and I've never really worried too much about some of these folks ever reading any of this stuff. But with this new fangled Internet thing, you never know!

1980 leads me into what I consider more...delicate territory. I'll deal with it when I get there, but it calls for a bit more finesse on my part. I certainly don't want anyone to feel concerned that I may write something that may come up and bite me (or them) on the ass.
Should be an interesting dance.

So, please bear with me....ultimately I need to define who the hell I really am.

Speaking of the past....I've been reading Dave Thompson's book on my all time fave band: Cream. What (brilliant) arseholes! And what the hell is up with Clapton's......pants? (actually, the "armadillo in the pants" is briefly discussed in the book. He thought the chicks would dig it).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

1977 All Over Again!

How timely! Scott Miller has been posting his thoughts regarding what he thinks the best songs were for each year, from 1957 - 2006. Scott's definitely a list type of guy and I eat 'em up. I love hearing his thoughts on music.

His last post was about 1977. That was my first year playing disco music with Rhapsody. Good Lord what contrasts! Not that disco music was ever my favorite kind of music - I was very much still into...players music (pretentious) such as Weather Report, Return To Forever and Steely Dan, but I find it really interesting in reading about that other music from the same era.

I sort of knew about punk rock and such at the time, but I don't think I actually heard it until 2 or 3 years later (thanks to Jamie Hoover). It was then that I went over to the dark side and got enlightened.

Check it out - it's a good read!

Scott Miller's best of 1977 here

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Skyline’s 2nd engagement was a 2 week stint at the Ambassador Inn, in Johnson City, Tennessee. I of it well...

The Ambassador Inn was a disco club out in the sticks. Actually, most of Johnson City is in the sticks, but this was a stand-alone club not associated with a hotel. Nice big dance floor, good lights, booming sound system, and a very cool staff. Matter of fact, they had a woman bartender (babe) that had the very first nose-ring I had ever seen. This was in 1978, and it blew my mind a bit. The bad news was that there was a very predominate sign posted on a column near the dance floor that stated in big bold letters: “NO SAME SEX DANCING!” It was the first and only time in all of my years playing in clubs that I saw such a sign. I was confused. The babe bartender was a lesbian with a nose ring, our band was racially integrated, but "NO SAME SEX" couples can dance together. Weird! Whatever....(actually, it probably wasn’t until the early 80's that I would finally “get it” that lots of gays went to discos and danced together. It just wasn’t on my radar back then. Especially in the South. And ultra-especially in Johnson City, Tennessee).

In the course of the first week I met this marvelous young (and cute) couple (straight) and we quickly became friends. This was unusual for me - with Rhapsody, most of our audience were older and...(occasionally) a tad...creepy, but this couple was my age and very cool. We had a day off coming up and they invited me on a guided tour of the backwoods of Johnson City. They had a jeep and told me they would show me the real deal. Sounds a little sketchy, but I trusted them and decided that I needed to see the world, so I agreed.

This was an important to me - my girlfriend was always stressing the fact that I needed to travel, see new places and pick up new experiences. She and her sister traveled a lot together, be it in Europe or the States. The only traveling I had really ever done was with the family at vacation time (which was usually limited to Pawley’s Island S.C., or our mountain place near Cashiers N.C.). Sure, I had certainly been to a lot of cities with the disco bands, but generally that just involved driving from Point A to Point B and staying confined to the hotel area. We never explored the territory - just hung out in our rooms sleeping, learning songs and when possible, rehearsing in the clubs during the off hours. Now I had a chance to do something exciting and to finally see the world. National I come!

It was awesome. The couple picked me up early one morning and we headed out. Took back roads, dirt roads and trails. The mountains and scenery were breathtaking. As we got further into..nature..things got very interesting, and two things stand out in my memory.

We drove by an old beat-down impoverished house trailer just like the photos I would see in magazines or on TV, and I kid you not, in the front “yard” was a tire swinging from a tree. Sitting on the swinging tire was a young lady that I swear to God was the spitting image of Elly May Clampett or Daisy Mae from Li’l Abner - take your pick. Cut-off shorts and a polka dot shirt tied in a bow just above her waist. I could not believe my eyes. It was the real thing and she even waved as we drove by! At that moment I knew I was seeing something most people only see in the funny papers or on TV, but this was real! It blew my mind. There is a big old world out there and I was now realizing that the ‘burbs of Charlotte were just a tiny little speck. I had seen and met mountain folk during visits to my family’s mountain cabin, but this resonated. I was not shielded by parents or seeing things through a child's eyes. I was seeing this stuff on my own terms, with people my age.

As we went further up the mountain, my new friends told me that we may come across some...moonshiners and to just act friendly, wave and we’d be on our way. It was interesting to learn that most of these folks were not making white lightnin’ any more - they had a new cash crop - pot. This was a bit unsettling to me (not sure why..) but at this point I was dialed in to my adventure. Sure as shit, we came across some of these folks.

Up ahead on a dirt trail we saw 2 men. Real hillbillies dressed in overalls, tattered hats and most importantly - real shotguns slung over their shoulders. Holy crap! They heard our approach, looked back at us. We waved, they waved and we went on our way. How cool is that! Of course in the back of my mind I was half way expecting them to kill my new friends, kidnap me, and eventually make me squeal like a pig as they took turns having their way with me, but that didn’t happen. Maybe these hillbillies had seen the "NO SAME SEX DANCING!" sign as well.

The rest of our journey was uneventful, but I was pumped with excitement and I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my girlfriend what I had done and seen with my own two eyes. I don’t remember a thing about our shows at the club (who would?), other than the fact that I made $350 for the 2 week engagement. But big changes were coming and things were about to get very weird.