Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

PANDA MONY AL……..

HIM:

What’s up you gorgeous beeotch?…we need to hang!!! I saw on your blog you reconnected with Eddie. It took me a few to decipher it all. I thought it was great. please call your mother and have a swell afternoob.

ME:

This is a little ridiculous, you and I in the same town and all. I heard you fart. Still living in the same place? Maybe we should have you over. My mom loves Jo. Then we could retire to your place and get hammered. I heard you fart.

HIM:

Yes we are there until July 1st. all is swell. Are you nude? I also heard you fart…J-men forever, I need to find that fine featurette. Yes, we need to. are you still doing the part-time Costco gig? are you floundering for a cigar?

I Remember a time eons ago, 1982 I think. You were tanning on the back deck of Viking Way Manor. Not an unusual occurrence in those days, at least not during that time of year. Oiled up in a speedo sipping on homemade sun-tea, I’d put the time at roughly 10:30 a.m. Vitamin pills get popped, nausea gets to start, groceries are fucking blown.

You were a bit taken back, as you learned the hard way, to always have the Malt-o-meal, prior to taking your daily vit-a-mins!

Cobalt the Barkeep 🙂

ME:

What I flounder for is a vienna sausages. I make Carsonites happier one window treatment at a time. I’m a monkey on a stick.

Let’s fucking drink and reconnoitre. Our absence is criminal. I heard you fart. I want to be lended that Phenolbarbidolls CD. I’ve actually been asked to helm another…………………………….

………..Sooner or later I will carve bacon from her back.

Let’s hang.

HIM:

Do you ever take a fork to your favorite bird? I remember you asking me that once in prison.

Si Senior, I will have to go to the storage facility and grab the disc for you. Jo and I will be taking an extended weekend with the kids in Santa Cruz starting this Friday morning through Monday.

Perhaps the week/weekend I get back we can hang?

Do you have a new girlfriend, or just a new local girlfriend?
Is your back covered in flies? have you seen the inside of
the Gypsy Conventional Remedial Learning Center? Do you bask in the devils of the whiskey forlorn? Does madge still dip her hands in Palmolive? have you tailored a new cod piece? did you mention your stance to the brethren of metal?
are dipped cones dumb, or just chocolaty delicious?

These questions and more upon our next close encounter
of the ninth kinder.

Wong Tip Larue.

ME:

I’ve always been jaundiced you know. Crazy as clacking lucite balls on a string.

I’ve got notions for you.

Do you even understand three bean salad at all?

Man, if you could do that for me I’d fashion a bust of you out of paper towels and catshit and Crest. Bathroom gore. I can’t explain it. I kinda need that record. I still have your copy of the Gooch. I take good care of it.

I store it in my ass.

Close to the Monterey aquarium? Ever been? Bring your pistol and some Cheezewhiz. I liked touching the macular degenerates.

I work weekends as a monkey on a stick. We’ll figure it out.

My back was covered in flies upon entering the Gypsy Conventional Remedial Learning Center. My girlfriend is the same one you met, but you know chicks can’t help it with me.

I bask in the Devil of everything from eggs to cakes. Do you suppose the aliens watch that commercial and laugh?

I picture giant insects purring over the green in the bowl.

My codpiece is fashioned from a rare meat, pounded and tanned to the texture of a dried parsnip.

My stance is wide.

Chocolaty delicious with a heavy German female accent.

I have to go now.

Paula Prentiss

Drinks for my friends.

The will o’ the Wisp

Eyes against mine

I pull the small of your back

Hands slice slowly down your waist

I pull again

Lift you into me

Breathe each other

You are here with me

We meet

Drink of each other

Brown dress and beautiful skin

Gorgeous in my head in my nose in my hands and in my mouth even my ears there are no words for this

Trampled flowers

Good kisser

She lingers on the end of the word

Unlocking the door

A girl smiling back

Oh I think Oh

Then the back of her

The book closes

I am lost

Danced too long

Too late I see she can’t

feet make patterns in the sand

I understand that she cannot.

Ever Never lethal it stings then aches

Then She betrays

Slowly the crack crawls across

Trampled flowers beautiful vibrant

Rotting and pungent

It breaks me

I keep moving the universe pays no mind

Your money or your life

This weeks assignment in my advanced memoir & autobiography class:  “…you are encouraged to find meaning in other sounds, and to convey that meaning largely by describing the sounds themselves.”

Where do I begin?  I can be lulled to sleep by the sound of heels clicking in a mall or chalk on a chalkboard.  Water trickling, ice clinking, waves lapping, rocks tumbling or bacon frying all hypnotize me.  A tiny fraction for example.  I played the drums for years.  I was never very good but my kit always sounded better than everyone else’s.  Once I understood that my passion for music had so much to do with the sound of it as opposed to melody and lyrics and not that I didn’t have a profound appreciation for those things, I plotted a course to become an audio engineer.

I knew I knew.

I did just that.

It’s a huge subject for me.  What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not merely sound that stirs me so vehemently.  It’s all my senses.  I can’t know that I’m different in this way, but I suspect it.  I’m so easily overwhelmed by what I observe.  I love to cook.  It occurs to me to be enjoyed by the same part of my brain that was so rewarded by mixing records.  It’s all about the combination of flavors and textures.  My repertoire is not extensive but what I do, I do well.  I try to pair my efforts with an appropriate wine.  Sometimes the wine is complimentary and sometimes it represents a ballast or contrast.

Smokey old vine Zinfandel with homemade pizza, sauvignon blanc with an arugula and asiago salad  or port with Stilton bleu cheese for example.  I taste each dish and its oenophilic accompaniment in my head before I begin.  I never cook with a recipe.  I gather all the flavors ahead of time and commence to combining them.  I’m not opposed to recipes, it’s just that they don’t often look like they taste like what I imagine in my head.  My approach confounds my mother somewhat.  She’s an excellent cook but doesn’t always understand my seat of the pants approach.  I can taste it ahead of time or I wouldn’t be able to prepare it.  I can see the meal complete with the soft focus f-stop photography of a food magazine.  I almost always plate it myself.

When I read or write, it’s a movie in my head.  I see it, smell it, hear it and taste it.  The best records I ever made I could hear almost complete in my head within the very first days of recording them.

It occurs to me that this assignment is meant to be about the senses in general and with obvious reason directs focus to one in particular.  I can’t separate them however.  I’ve no idea whether this makes me somehow different or unusual.  There is no way for me to ever know because I simply cannot climb into someone else’s head.  Most of my friends are artists of one kind or another.  I think it’s because they see and interpret things with the same degree of awe that I do. I believe everyone one does to one degree or another, it’s just impossible to measure or quantify.

Dude, it’s so subjective.

The distinguishing characteristic of humans from all other species is without a doubt, art.

Imagination is the purest and most important sense and I know I’m intimate with it.  For me it is fundamentally intrinsic.  I see it in my head.  I can feel it and touch it.  I can’t help that it is my prevailing impetus.  Without my hyperactive imagination, I would be blind.  I was in analysis for a time and my therapist told me I was hyper vigilant and commented often on the noise she was sure I experienced in my head.  I would rather die than have it somehow revoked.  I imagine that were it to disappear, I would go gentle into that good night.

Drinks for my friends.

comeliness, callow and shallow class 7 I think sex and money

This is a tale of beauty and simultaneous beast.

Personal.

I think one of the reasons we share for being here in this class is we’re willing to tell the truth about ourselves.

Can’t ever write engaging or effective if honesty is neglected.  It goes for fiction as well as memoir.  It goes for writing anything.  In the broadest context, taking pen to paper should always be an absolutely honest endeavor.  I’m pretty adamant about that.

Here we go.

Her name was Linda and she was lovely.

Women would approach us out having drinks or shopping just to tell her how beautiful she was.  To compliment her on her skin or her smile.  Her hair or clothes.  This in LA.

She was drop dead in the eye of many a beholder.

First generation African Canadian.  Born and raised in Vancouver BC.  She was an attorney and a fashion designer with her own line; shoes and handbags too.  She actually made a lot of her products.  Painfully bright, talented and like I said, drop dead.  It was as though the sun shone on her even indoors or at night.  I picked her up at least once or twice when she was a bouquet.  I opened the door for her and flowers spilled into my car.  She smelled of gardens and seasons.

She possessed an elegance and composure that I’d really never experienced.  I irritated her once by using the pepper before passing it to her when she asked for it.  Not a low maintenance woman.  I opened every door and ordered for both of us only after understanding her preferences.  But, we had fun.  Drinking and laughing and making out in public.  Falling from the sidewalk onto the street in an embrace.  Pressing and groping each other against cars of strangers in parking lots.  She commanded breathy that I put my hand down the front of her pants or my mouth on her breast while we sipped cocktails in a dark swanky lounge on Ventura Boulevard in front of an elegant glass fireplace.  Gardens and seasons and immaculately put together.  Very little makeup.  A gust of femininity.  A tide of sensuality.  I adored her.

She fascinated me and lured my lust with  billboard smiles and clingy dresses and I’m not here to discount the wit and overt clever.

So vibrant she crackled.  Gregariousness, soft and subtle but insistent, insidious.  She checked into my head like an anvil.  I was smitten.  I was briefly beside myself.

I remember following her home after our first date at her behest and kissing her before she pulled into her parking garage.  Kissing her for the second time and watching her go safely inside.  She turned just before entering and giggled “Good kisser…..” all girlish lilt, almost Irish.

Pecan pie.

She had me.

There was a dress.  New Years eve.  A dress.  It was her brown skin and the brown dress and the way it fit her.  People stared.

Vanilla Swiss Almond.

She was thus far, the most beautiful woman ever to entertain my affections.

Ten or twelve years younger, I can’t remember now.

She drove a black convertible BMW Z3 roadster.  I taunted my Audi TT would embarrass her up in the voluptuous curves of Mullholland or in the 1/4 mile.  I was pretty sure I was right.  She was game.  Chicks can’t drive you know.

We had an excellent time.

I am here to tell you, beauty can merely be, skin deep.

It’s an awful truth.  Trite but still just horrible.

A really hard lesson.  A lot of men have this story to tell, the version varies somewhat but the plot is consistent.  Middle aged man falls into lust and infatuation with some young harpy and and she cleans his clock.

She got me for $10K.  Her name is Linda Antwi and she suckered me.  She played me.  She sucks and I’m stupid.  I hate being stupid.  I’m a man who takes some pride in not being stupid.  I pushed the envelope by fancying myself possessing a modicum of common sense.  Impervious to the wiles and charms of seemingly winsome charisma and benign guile.

We’re having cocktails one night across the street from my place and she mentions she’s got an opportunity to go to the Sundance film festival and get her product in the gift bags of the stars.  Her store on Santa Monica Blvd. is opening in eight or twelve weeks.  I have money.  I’m not rich but I’m no stranger to a six figure salary.  I don’t remember the exact figure but she needs a few thousand dollars.

It was $2,900.

No sweat.

I offer.  I’m pretty well ensconced in the idea of this woman so I offer to loan her what she needs to make it happen.  I’d like to think she didn’t ask but she did.  I want to help.  She is smart and beautiful.  She can do this and I don’t want to regret not helping her when she could really use a hand.  I care and believe in her.

She hoovered it, with a cursory amount of disclaimer and promise.  When I do something like that, I’m prepared to be out the money.  I was ok with losing it.

A couple grand, so what?

I picked her up about six minutes after I said I would to take her to the airport for Sundance.  I left work to do so.  She pissed and moaned at me for being late, despite getting her there in plenty of time.  She told me she was “really angry with me”.  You’re gonna see a pattern develop.

I’m gonna tell you more, but I’m just gonna look even more like the kid who eats paste in the back of the class.

Okay, so she’s getting her wisdom teeth pulled.  I offer to take her and pick her up.  She’s gonna be anaesthetized.  I leave work to do this.  I take her to the pharmacy after being a limousine for the extraction and we wait for her prescription to be filled.  In the parking lot I help with the bloody gauze.  They are blood saturated pillows.  I remind her if she swallows to much she’ll hurl.  I take her home and make sure she get’s in her front door.  I tell her to call my cell or my office if she needs anything and I’ll drop it off on my way home.

Didn’t hear anything that afternoon, figured she was sleeping.  On the way home I stop and get some daisies with sunflowers and chicken noodle soup.  The second I walk in my own door my cell makes it’s noise.  She’s hungry.  I tell her I have chicken noodle and not the cheap canned crap, but from the Ralph’s fresh soup kiosk.  She tells me she likes tomato.  Ralph’s is across the street from my swingers paradise.

I’m like 43 years old and getting this elaborately suckered.

I deliver a fresh tomato gorgonzola and a tomato basil bisque.  I bring the flowers.  There are shoes everywhere.  Not random but neatly paired and aligned along a wall in the living room.  I think about how many shoes must be in the bedroom.  Her place is odd.  Not as girly as I imagined.  Overstuffed and Canadian.  Very clean.  I wave a hand at the shoes.  This could be a problem.  She said no, she didn’t see a problem.

On the way down the stairs to my car I realize she’s never thanked me once for anything.  Ever.

It pisses me off.  I understand I’m an idiot.  I loathe the role of patsy.  It doesn’t fit how I see myself at all.

Outside smoking just now and an owl hooting the same three notes.  No wind, no noise from traffic.  The same three notes over and over so consistent.  I’ll bet it could carry my littlest runt of a feline away and tear it to shreds while eating it.  Beauty can be vicious.

I think she got over me pretty quick.  She was passive aggressive while labeling me narcissistic.  It took me longer so I tripped on my dick and my heart for a while.  I was in therapy at a buck seventy five an hour.  Not because of her, I was already there.  The shrink and I concluded that I had a fair degree of humility and Linda was a bitch.  It was handy to be in therapy during this one but it was still too little too late.

A few weeks before she’s about to open her retail store on Santa Monica, the same week I’m driving downtown every week in a suit and tie to testify in federal court on behalf of the company I work for that used to sell glass pot pipes and glass dildos, and now only sells glass dildos, my cell makes it’s noise and she tells me her investor ripped her off for $20k.  She is distraught.  Tears.

Are we there yet?

Somebody say grifter.

She sends me an e-mail so clever as to be clumsy.  She needs $7500 and she’s desperate.  The tone is unusually humble.  I tell her I have to think about it and I do.  I mean, this woman is kind of a bitch.  Tells me her investor ripped her off for $20k.  We have drinks at Mexicali on Ventura and she buckles for my benefit.  I believe her.

Because I’m a fucking sap.

I do choose to believe her.  I’m wondering just how she’s ripping me off at the same time.  Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.

She promises me for years she’s going to reimburse me.  Ha.

I’d just been with a woman, albeit briefly, who was sweet as pie but a bitch.  She was six foot one and had the most amazing face; it didn’t last long enough for me to get her clothes off.  At least she was sweet as pie.  She dumped my ass thank god.  She was a bitch.

I was just polishing what twenty year old chops I had so…..

Gorgeous though.  Oh my.  Just beautiful.  The sun was in her face too.  Really.

So anyway.

I loaned her the the goddamn money.  I can’t help but picture myself in a mirror with “dipshit” on my forehead backwards so I can read it.

I really can’t believe I did that.

I suppose I should be flattered by the amount of time she invested in making a fool of me and walking away with ten thousand dollars.  She worked hard at it.  Way short of earning it, she did apply her self with considerable effort to steal it.

Work with me here.

We were out one night and she got painted.  Hammered.  Linda Antwi is a good drinking partner.  There were two or three flights of stairs up until her door.  As waxed as she was, I had to make sure she got at least that far.  So I did.  She was able to find her apartment key and hand it to me.  The second we were inside with a light on she began to disrobe.  I paused.  I did.  I paused.  Spun around and raised my voice for her to lock it behind me.  It clicked and I surfed down the stairs with my head burning.  Perfume in my ears.

I don’t recall the circumstances but she needed me too open her store one day.  A Sunday.  So I did.  I thought it an interesting mission. All I had to do was open and close it.  She had an employee to work it who sucked.  She sold nothing the whole day.  The employee was tattood less than artfully.  Kinda dumpy and obnoxious.  She was dumb as a stick.

She checked up on me.  Called her store and I answered to tell her I was here now at five minutes to ten.  I think I bought a really cool coffee table off craigslist that day.

I don’t blame her.  I doubt she knows what she wants but it’s not me and that’s just fine.  I can’t help but be grateful for the heads up.  She just wasn’t that into me.  Fair enough.

It sucks to lose a chunk of  your ass to a woman who treated your heart like a pinata.

She is callow and shallow and she owes me ten thousand dollars.

She’s being very cunty about it and my only choice is to breath relentlessly down her neck.  I’m not sure I have that in me.  I entertain myself sometimes by plotting ways to make her regret and my mother reminds me that I don’t own a mean bone.

I will be dressing in Bear costumes and the like.  Tonight I’m the head of a pony……..Hey Linda……..

Now I’m a cowboy.

Tomorrow I’ll be a bird of prey.

She watched me lose my job and my apartment.  This while she was making money without rent or car.  Last I heard, two or three months ago, she promised to pay $200 a month.

I’ve begun to gather evidence for legal action.  I have other hobbies too.  It is what it is.  Someone who lies so well they are able to lie to themselves and a dumb ass like me who’s susceptible to beauty.  Two plus two = $10k.  Beauty is not necessarily three dimensional.  It may very well be just this tall and just this wide.  Not always.  I know different.

Really I do.

Drinks for my friends.

Ballad of Master Bacon

His name is Michael J. Bacon.

The only explanation for the rest I have to tell you is that I can’t help but attach to a shit hot brain when I spot one.

I first met Michael in Middle school.  Fifth and Sixth grade.  McGough and Paille.  Mcgough was handsome enough but a little too drawn and lanky for me.  She had an edge.  Very pretty nonetheless.  I wouldn’t mind remembering her better.  Paille was hotter than Georgia asphalt, a sassy China doll, immaculate and refined.  Always perfectly put together.  A story for another day.  I set a new record for demerits in her class.  She schooled me.  We were their pets.  Grace Bordewich Middle School circa ’75, ’76.

The building no longer exists.  It was old even then.  It was awesome.  Broad stairs and high ceilings.  Radiators for heat and their attendant dampness.  At it’s grandest in winter, it still informs my dreams.

Ridiculously smart.  Way ahead of me.  He very simply understood everything around him.

When I started fifth grade I was relieved to find out I wasn’t weird.  They put me with the smart kids.  I felt at home.  Smart kids have discipline.  They lost me there.  By sixth grade we were into Shakespeare and some Algebra and I was ditching school, chewing tobacco and riding my bike in every neighborhood I could find not like mine.  I was grooving on Beowulf though.  I got my hands on The Lord of The Rings.  Understand the West side was lush compared to the desert East where I slept, ate and rode the bus to.  A whole different world.

Most of the smart kids came from the West side.  Their parents were rich by my standards.  They lived in houses, I lived in a 40 X 20 foot trailer.  I was accustomed to walking through classes, tests and assignments without having to work or study.  I completed reading programs in a few weeks that were supposed to keep me busy for a semester.  I was used to being bored.  I started a chess club, read science fiction and designed my own space shuttle with elaborate blueprint like plans on graph paper.  I calculated thrust and fuel all to scale.  I studied the solar system, comets and astronomy on my own.

Yet one of these things just didn’t belong so I found myself back in Gen pop in Seventh grade.  I had no respect for the academic lifestyle.  Still, I’d made these smart friends.  I respected them.

Bacon was different.  We clicked.  He was smart and funny.  Irreverent.

Michael is a bartender in San Francisco.  Currently a candidate for a PHD in Victorian Literature.  That he entertains my impasse gratifies me to no end.  He is so goddamn smart.  He’s got this great theory about what he calls “gentrifuge” in the nineteenth century.  A theory about gentrification and the effect of a centrifuge on Fleet Street in London in the Victorian era.   He dispenses humor and wisdom with the same countenance because it’s all the same to him.  Robin Williams quick, without the embarrassing chewing of scenery.

He really is brilliant.  He carried a newspaper article about my arrest for possession of marijuana for years until he was finally able to give it to me.  I’ll tell you this about that.  We were gong so fast we didn’t know we were being chased.  He ended up giving it to me through someone else.  Was it Nebeker or Shaheen?  I found myself with a Gin Mary in hand, smoking a joint with him one Nevada day on the roof of Cactus Jacks.  At the time, the bar at Cactus built their Marys with a long string bean.  Michael’s maxim that day was “do the legume”.

He tells a story about me pulling an Everlasting Gobstopper from my mouth in sixth grade and pointing out the corn belt.

In the past few months, Bacon and I have had drinks a few times.

We are both very pro gin.  Bombay Sapphire.  Gimlets or straight up on ice.

I wrote a blog late last year about seeing Michael for the first time in fifteen years.  I’ll let it speak for itself:

“Morey (owner of Mo & Sluggos) touches me on the shoulder when I tell him I’m there to meet Mike Bacon and asks me if I want a drink.

Mike tells me I’m in graduate school.  He means that’s where I am in life.  He thinks that’s how I should look at it.    He’s so painfully bright he dances around me and I hope I’m keeping up.  He points out things I did or said I don’t remember and it’s kinda hard to believe it came from me.  We’ve been friends since the fifth grade.  He shares all manner of things.  I think he tells me he’s gay because I didn’t ask and I’m almost sure he tells that truth one person at a time.

He dated Cecilia Martin right before pining for dudes.  This is huge to me.  You gotta understand Bacon and I just can’t help you there.  I can tell you things about him but they don’t define him.  Plus, Cecilia Martin was an absolute vixen by the sixth grade.

I believe she had braces.  To this day, I find women with braces sexy.  I want to kiss them.

He’s episcopalian and he says he goes to church.  This is the single most confusing thing he tells me.  We drank gin.  Bombay Sapphire only.  I think I bought two drinks.  Joe Tresnit, who lives with my friend Kelly Newman’s dad Reg, bought a couple, Morey Tresnit who’s business I want, bought a couple and Bob Tresnit, father with the not a leg, bought a couple.

We liked the gimlets the best.  Mike had to remind Joe how to concoct them.

A subtle but sublime pleasure to indulge in cocktails and conversation with this man I’d not seen in fifteen years at least.  Erudite, razor sharp and lightning fast wit……..

Bacon took me to his athletic shoe of a rental car and gave me a small tin with Obama’s face on it’s sliding cover and a chunky little bit of green inside.  He also supplied me with a one hitter painted to look like a cigarette.  I’m no stranger to paraphernalia  but I never sold these.

Bacon said something pretty profound about re-branding the word ’socialism’ into an “E. Pluribus Unum” kinda vibe, “Out of many one”.  They didn’t teach Latin here in the brush but I got it.  Pretty elegant and disarmingly simple.  I think it means nothing about leaders or demagogues but it’s about ideas.  It’s just that in any other context,  it’s incendiary rhetoric.  Neither concept is understood at all by the average American.  That’s what I got.  I think he was reminding me of the consensus.  Maybe he was reminding me that we have one.  Could be genius and could be foolish.  Either one of us.

It’s this kind of confusion what makes pot great.

He spoke so calmly and sincerely.  He half asked if he was effeminate.  I shook my head.  What he is, is who he is.  He’s a sensitive and sincere man who sees most of what’s on display.  In Carson City, Bacon is like a well dressed comedian from New York City.  The Catskills.  Jewish maybe.  Carson folks have no idea but they like him.  He is as close to the ten to twelve year old that I knew, as a 44 year old could possibly be.

His beard and glasses are Freudian.  Marxist if only by visual implication.

He looks you in the eye and with very little physical language, imparts crazy thoughtful observations and very perceptive conclusions.

He delivers wisdom and humor in the same voice because it is the same to him.  He’s advanced.  He is calm and passionate without raising his voice.  Here is an orator for one or a few but not a crowd.

I am rich to have a man like Michael Bacon look forward to spending some time with me.  He told me, that I and his grandmother had made his day.  He is exceptional in many ways, but so foghorn, lighthouse bright it would be intimidating if not for the lack of ego and a completely unassuming honest look in his eyes and on his face.  I don’t doubt Master Bacon is what he his without exception.

He left a comment on that blog nearly a month later:

“Douglass, I was honored and privileged to see you and now to find this. You’re a star-maker!

Like you, I struggle with the ‘native Nevadan’ concept, partly because it is a rarity but also because of its stark loneliness. I carry the solitude of Nevada into every city I visit, re-writing the song as ‘Please fence me in’. It might have been easier to have assimilated to the Copenhagen/Coors/conservative set but that we were repelled by it makes us the Nevadans who weren’t, or the accidental Nevadans. The state is like an abusive ex, we know it when we see it. To have emerged with a great friend in you was more than I might have hoped for. By the way, the last time I saw Cecilia, she was still as lovely as ever– and fun……….

Now come to SF for a refill of that Obama tin. I will pass through there again the day before Thanksgiving. Thank you Mike. And look in on my beloved Tresnits when you can. They are and always were an oasis in that Great Basin which spawned us, tanned us, froze us and blew us away.”

I can’t help but adore this man.  I wonder how he’s evolved with so much humility being so obviously smarter than everyone around him.

The idea of wealth in friendship is no myth.  It just might be everything.  It makes me smile inside.

Drinks for my friends.

Nedermeyer

I’m here for glucose.  I have a special tube that collects it.  Looks like a long horn.

I’m like a humming bird.

When you first lay eyes on me you’ll probably think about children’s books, like Dr. Seuss or maybe Sendak.  I’m odd.  I look like an aardvark kinda.  I’m very friendly and enjoy picnics and barbecues.  I eat anything and every thing but my tube gets clogged easily.  I turn blue.  I love cheese but it clogs my tube.  Beans, meat and pasta make me fart.  They also clog my tube.

It’s a small town so at first, people had no idea what to think or do.  I’m sure I looked a cartoon to them.  I did my best to be non threatening.  Non confrontational.  I learned to dance.  Trimmed my nails.  It sucks to be pastel purple.  I pack a blunderbuss.   I can pepper anyone inside of five or seven feet.  I wear lip gloss, mascara and perfume.  Giant hoop earrings.

I’m a tuber.  A root that grows in the ground.  You can eat me.  I’m nutritious.

Mom shops the sales.  The new bottle/dispenser of soap at the kitchen sink was a dollar.  On special post Christmas was this Christmas scented liquid.  Vanilla and fig, I think.  Took me a day to figure it out but it smells like strippers.  Eau De Titty Bar.  I tell my mother this and she’s the tiniest bit taken aback.  I’m all nostalgic.  Having enough money to hold court in a Vegas strip joint is royalness.

She needs a nickname.  Sean calls his mom “Bob”.  I like that.  I think I want to call my mother “Sweeney.”  I had other ideas but they were too many syllables.  Had to be one or two max.  Plus it rhymes with her real name.  I thought about “Jim” for a while.  Couldn’t get used to it.  My mother isn’t any kind of “Jim”.  What she is, is a Sweeney.

I confess, I’m not sure how I’ll do this.  I’ll be subtle and respectful.  I’ll drop it in.  It will take some time.  Patience.

At one point I’ll make her read this.  If I really want her to read something, I leave a post-it on the end of the kitchen faucet.

Sometimes I forget I did so and she has to ask if I want to know what she thinks after 4:30 during gin & tonics and cigarettes with at least one of two propane heaters blazing on the portico.  She is funny and doesn’t really know it.  She cracks me up.  She never stops moving.  I love her.  Oh man.

Kraut Dogs.

Ballparks sliced down the middle and fried in copious amounts of butter and granulated garlic.  Chop yellow onions.  The idea is to make the dogs  begin to curl a little as the butter browns and the garlic blackens.  Kick out the jams and toast the buns (endorsement of Ballpark buns) in the oven.  Then, slather them with mayonnaise and be generous with the mustard.  Best food mayo and anything other than some vanilla American mustard like French’s.  Guldens is good.  I once had a cognac mustard.  It made me weep.

Whatever.  By now you should’ve drained and nuked the Kraut and added celery salt to taste.  Be liberal with it.  The celery salt.

Immediately out of the oven, place a large store sliced square of authentic Swiss cheese on the bread at a right angle and follow up by spinning a smaller square of imitation smoked Swiss 45 degrees in any direction and placing it on top of the larger cheese.  It should look like a star.  Trust me.

Apply the greasy dogs immediately.  I like to cook with tongs and this whole operation goes smoother with tongs.

Onions generously and then the kraut.

Haven’t had it in a few years but maybe a Mondavi fume’ blanc?  I hate that it’s not in the frosted bottle anymore.

Open faced.  Fork and knife.

Macaroni salad.

Drinks for my friends.

class 1

Rain drips slow.  The faux brick pathways glisten because we shoveled and the rain drips slow.

Mother pounds on my door this morning at ten ’til nine and clearly under the influence of her best authority, she barks throaty my first name and that we’ll be shoveling snow.  Sheezus.  Same way she calls me to dinner.  She grew up with ten brothers and sisters.  She’s very funny and she doesn’t know it.

Still, I’m thinking there might be a punchline.  Like she’ll come back an hour later advertising cinnamon raisin toast and hot chocolate.  I am not yet awake.

I’m not a morning guy.  I’m not an outdoorsy guy.  I don’t ski or snowboard.  I am not about any of this in any way.  I don’t hike.  I loath the cold as much as I loath the heat.  I’m forty four years old and living at home.  Temporarily.  If it wasn’t for the brutal knock on the door, these would not have been my first thoughts upon waking.  This morning, they sting me.  It is, after all, my own mother beseeching me.

I roll over while I roll my eyes.  I pull on some boots and jeans.  A shirt and it’s time to piss.  Check my eyes and nose for boogers.  A coat, and hat and here I came.  Not gonna brush my teeth yet.

Billy Jean, The Tripod Lab, revels in our shoveling.  She is black, happy and has a short but powerful whip for a tail.  She misses the right front leg clean from the shoulder.  She doesn’t care.  There are no social stigma among pets.  She can run like hell.  All the power coming from the hindquarters.  She doesn’t always steer very well.  She wipes out a lot.  We have no problem laughing.

She is happy and dancing.  To her it is a game.

I adore animals for their almost incorruptible innocence.

I throw shovels full of snow on her and she bucks and huffs with glee.  She is the world’s happiest dog and an anchor for my parents that you would have to witness to understand.  They dote.

The sun is out and I’ve taken off my hat and coat.  The sky is The Big Nevada blue.  I begin to sweat.  Mother is snuffling and sniffing but tearing it up.  Our breathy fogs hang in the crisp bright air.  My heart swells and I’m  grateful she got me up to do this.  I revel in the sound of our shovels scraping the ground.  Heels clicking and sliding on a polished mall floor.  Rocks tumbling from a pile.  Clay roller skate wheels on a sidewalk.

The sweet old man next door appears at the end of our driveway with a clattering red midget in his grip.  He ends up doing more good than harm.  Imagine what happens when the blower only blows two feet in either direction on a twenty five foot wide, seventy foot long driveway.  He let me make a couple passes but kept asking me if I was tired.  Never got to run one of these before.  This is an excellent morning.

It pulls to the right.

We’re in the back now and I think about throwing snow on my mother.  That she is out shoveling with me and moving just as much snow as me informs my reluctance.  I want to but this is going well.  I’m sweating and feeling vigorous.  I wish I could.  I will if the opportunity arises again.  I see me dumping a load of powder on her head.  I don’t mess with my mother much but I’m really feeling it.  Everyone owns a little crazy and I like my mother’s.

I might fling some and act it’s an accident.  I might, but I’m chicken.

Instead we shovel and talk, and I think about how vulnerable but how simultaneously tough she is.  I know what she’s afraid of and she need not worry.

Gin & tonics and cigarettes  at 4:30 with mother on the patio.  Billy Jean attends.  She eats dinner and her treats while mom and I wrestle her toys from her to throw as we survey the day.  We take turns negotiating the toys away from the Tripod Lab.  Smart dog.  We have to do good cop bad cop and variations thereof.  Mom and I talk.  I’m pretty sure we tell each other just about everything.

I know I tell her everything.

She tells me “You’re all I have everyday.”

We both have big mouths.

I believe it to be inherent.

We come in, wash our hands and begin dinner, sometimes I cook.

Rain drips slow.  The faux brick pathways glisten because we shoveled them and the rain drips slow.

A&M Chapter Twenty One Down By Law

So I made fast friends with this guy named Hunter Oswald.  The drummer.  He played drums.  Like a motherfucker.  As soon as I heard him I was happy to work with him.

The experience of making this record was daunting and cardio pulmonary.  It was hard and I complained.  I whined.  Mark Harvey reminded me that if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.  I wonder what he thought that day.  A mere few years earlier he told me I lacked confidence while I stood in front of the same desk and he was absolutely right both times.

He told me to shut up and get on with it.  Both times.

Mark charged us next to not a damn thing for Studio C while we had it locked out.  I think our bill might have been as low as $17k.

Best boss I ever had.

So this prick’s name was Hunter and he was a fucking punk.  He celebrated his 21st birthday during the making of, and I threw him out of the control room for participating in record making while drunk and surly.  It wasn’t really hard to do because I liked him.  He was a cynical, mocking, steps ahead little bastard.  Barely corrigible because he was so smart and so reckless.

Great goddamn drummer.  I don’t know how he plays now but when I recorded him he was Keith Moon meets Phil Rudd.  Really.  A buck twenty five maybe, but he’d chop up cymbals and burn through a snare head in two takes.  He had a way of looking at you and mocking you with a shit eating smug fucking grin that warmed the cockles of my heart.

Toothsome.

It was like I saw him and he knew it.  Plate of shrimp.

He told me once that he thought of me as an older brother.  I don’t flatter easily but that blew my skirt up.  I had the privilege of doing another record with him and it was just the most entertaining and somewhat nuclear of experiences.  Do yourself a favor and read it:  http://brainspank.org/wordpress/?p=102

We’d been in rehearsal for a few weeks.  We had no name for the record.  Half the songs didn’t have titles.  I knew what they sounded like and I had some ideas but this was seat of the pants for me.  I was totally winging it.  Alex took the wheel while I swam around and figured out what I needed to do.

We hung some huge poster board at the entrance of the control room for possible album titles.

They had this roadie they were all fond of.  His name was Jimbo.  He contributed “Whiskey Dick Chaos”, “Fuck & Suck Circus” and “Ebola Ain’t Shit” to the conversation.  The album was eventually to be called “Punkrockacademyfightsong”.  He could drink a 16 oz. Guinness in like three seconds.  After four of those, the power of Christ compelled him out of the control room too.

I may have told this story before.  Hunter is on the couch to the left in the very front lobby of A&M.  He knows The Stones are across the hall and he spends his off time making friends out front because he knows that’s where everyone comes and leaves from.  He doesn’t have a lot to do because he’s the drummer and he’s barely post adolescent.   And It happens.  One night Hunter is hanging out and in walks Keith Richards.  I was there.  Hunter was off the couch lickety split and he said, “Keith Richards” while pointing………

and Keith said, “Funny you should say that, that’s my fucking name.”

I eventually figured out what to do with the record.  As soon as I did, it was over and time to mix.

I was seeing Jules Bergman’s daughter.  Beth.  He was the science correspondent for ABC when I was a kid and covered all the cool stuff during the seventies including the Apollo Soyuz link up.  She had a great rack some freckles in her cleavage and rosy nipples, a moon rock, webbed feet, great lips and a beautiful blue eyed Sheppard Husky mix named Girl.  She was a lawyer and played violin and she was interesting.

I showed her the difference between tube and solid state amps.  I made her her a tube girl.

I’d recently stopped seeing an international Penthouse Pet I met in traffic court while bargaining with a judge over my shitbox VW Bug and the boot on it.  She was so hot I was intimidated.  Damn.  Her name was Olivia and she had a trust fund and a condo.  Damn.  My vagina was huge.  She was in AA but kept cognac in the cupboard for me and she made heaping steaming bowls of pasta.  She lived in Brentwood.  I knew she was older but she never let on how much.

I imagine coke was her vice.  She told me George Carlin was her sponsor.

When she wanted sex, she invited me into the bedroom to watch a movie.  She was hotter than Georgia asphalt.  She would remind me the VCR was in the bedroom.  She’d smile and ask me if I wanted to watch a movie.  Olive skin, tan lines, silk bras and lace panties.

I was about to mix the first record I’d ever recorded and tried to produce and my head felt like it was consumed by bees and ants.  We started in D.  Arguably the worst sounding console at A&M.  Beth was with me that night I pushed the faders up and began to listen to what I had.  The working title of the song was ‘Sam Police’ but it became “Minusame”.  We ended up remixing most if not all we did in D, manually in C.

Beth was wearing a Stones T-shirt that night and her tits were a major distraction.  Beth once got me drunk and fooled me into boning her while she was menstruating.  It was dark and she kept telling me not to look down.  One morning I woke up and she’s already been to the store and returned with raisin bread, orange juice and condoms.

She called cognac “wood drinks”.

I did know when I pushed those faders up that we had a record.

Somewhere in there was this adorable young black woman.  Lexi.  I really don’t remember where I met her or how we knew each other but she gave me a pedicure and a blowjob for my birthday.  It was dark and rained hard the next day.  She had small but perfect breasts and had just pierced one with a tiny silver hoop.  She spent the night at my place in Hollywood.  I drove her home past collapsed apartment buildings in the Valley.  She was beautiful and I don’t even know her full name.  We saw each other only a handful of times probably because I was a mess.

Drinks for my friends.

A&M chapter Twenty Down By Law

Listen up, this story is important.

Promise it’s a good one.

My first time engineering and producing a record.

I had no idea what I was doing.  No shit.  I really didn’t.

There’s no rhyme or reason other than right place, right time.

It’s gonna be more than one chapter.

It was pretty cool.

So I think I was twenty six or twenty seven years old.  I’d gotten a pretty good grip on most of the A&R department’s business.  Enough so that when another engineer appeared on the schedule, I could get proactive.  Sometimes I was actually able to take the gig away.  Other times I was at least able to insert myself as an engineer and avoid some full orchestra AT&T jingle or some ridiculous nine day mix of a single song with a total of 10 tracks of music with Don Smith and Shelly Yakus.

Some dog and pony fiasco by some major superstar or not that I didn’t give a mad fuck about either way.

It’s always good to work with others, share ideas and interact but you could check out the set up, talk to the staff guy, survey the gear, the mics and their placement without anyone bothering you.

I ended up under some dipshit named Graylin (sp?).

The band was Down By Law.  An Epithaph band.  This guy Graylin was a piece of work.  He thought himself some sort of wizard.  He wanted to meet me and talk production beforehand.  We had drinks and he told me he liked to sometimes bring a ladder to a session and sit on top of it while the band played.  Just to throw them off, he said.  I told him that was fine by me but I warned the ceiling in studio C was only about eight feet.  I ended up paying for drinks.

He was an idiot.

Turned out to be an excellent band and Graylin was the turquoise cummerbund.  Mouth breather.  We left him behind the first day.  I did the best I could.  I liked these guys.  They could play and they had passion and this producer they had was full of shit.  He had no idea what he was doing.  He had no idea what he had and he didn’t understand his band at all.  He showed up the first morning of the gig and burnt a wad of sage in the live room.  We were setting up mics and it took less than two minutes to smoke us out.  Studio C had a very small live room.  I tried my best to be nice when I asked him not to take it into the control room after kicking him out of the live room.

Before I ever pushed a fader on this session, I understood this guy Graylin to be a douchebag.

He was getting all bullshit native American spiritual for a punk rock demo.

Nobody cared.  Dumbass.

Graylin ended up being quite enamored of my capabilities.  Why not double the rhythm guitar?   Why not do so with a different guitar and amp as long as you can make them compliment each other?  Why not check the snare head between takes especially if the little fucker plays as hard as this one does?  Why not check tuning constantly?

Why not pay attention?

Why not wear your sunglasses in the control room?  Really, and a fucking trench coat.  What a dick.  Rock stars and wannabes wear shades in the goddamn control room.  I really can’t blame the rock stars sometimes.  The only time I ever wore my sunglasses in the control room was for a photo shoot.  I looked like a smug dick.

The session went well.  Good songs.  Great band.  Full of personality, humor and heart.  I got excited.

We let Graylin have the couch.

They could play.  They could really play.  Different tempos and sensibilities than I was used to.  I’m big on dissonance and the way Dave played wasn’t always tonally congruent with Sam and Angry John.  Usually worked out pretty good though.  Lovely dissonance.  I like when rhythm guitars rub a little.  Punk rock is a good venue for dissonance.
Oh, and Hunter.

Hunter has become one of my best if not closest friends.  Geographically inconvenient.  He’s a cracker and I’m white trash.  He’s upper Florida and I’m LA by way of trailer in Carson City.  We’ve both crossed the country to work together.  For years when Hunter was on my side of the continent he left a simple message: “plate of shrimp”.  Whereupon we would drink and such.  One night he was at the Roosevelt and we ended up with this group of high school girls from out of state on meth, seriously.  They were some kind of team.  They were tagging each other until sun up to do drugs in the bathroom.  I woke up among them.

Creepy.

I think I walked home.

I adore Hunter.  It’s a man crush but I’m not looking to give him the business or anything.

There’s no mirror that reflects half of what everyone needs to know.

I made sure, I did my damndest, to make sure they left with good rough mixes.  Graylin would be taking his vagina along with the rest of himself, to mix somewhere else.  What kind of an asshole takes his demo to another studio to mix when he has free time at a place like A&M?  When the band is being considered by a major independent label like A&M as opposed to a minor independent label like Epitaph was at the time?

I didn’t have much time but I spent every minute left to me on good aggressive punk rock mixes because Graylin thought he was working on prog rock.

I’m sorry Graylin, wherever you are, but you were an ass.  I’m sure you’re not a bad guy.  I hope not anyway.  I could be wrong.
It was alarming and depressing to know that such a poseur could somehow infiltrate this level of things.  Whatever.  I’d already seen this movie too many times.  Another day in the life.  Never expected to hear from Down By Law again much less Graylin.  Dave Smalley called me three weeks later and asked me to produce his next record.  I told him yes.  I told them all yes back then.  I had nothing to lose and didn’t believe a single one of them.

So many so willing to kiss without even touching.  I was already a whore.  What were they waiting for?

I was giving it away.

Long story short.  Six or seven months later, Dave came back around.  There used to be a diner on the corner of Sunset and La Brea, I honestly can’t remember the name but it was a very faux Hollywood/Fifties, suck my dick, touristy kinda deal.  They had pretty good milkshakes.  It may still be a Boston Market.  A family restaurant two doors up and across the street from a titty bar.

Crazy Girls.  Eh hem.

I can’t remember the exact sequence of events, but Dave contacted me at the studio and asked to meet me.  We met at that diner.  I think he told me he wanted to talk to me about making his next record on the phone.  I think he said that but I didn’t believe it so I don’t remember it.

We order fries or onion rings or something and he asks me, with his lovely wife Caroline present, if I would make his next record with him.  He said he didn’t have a lot of money to spend and he might not be able to pay me anything up front but he said there was money for the studio and points available and I didn’t care about money.  The offer was to produce, engineer and mix a record for Epitaph, for a band I already liked, had already recorded and sort of understood.

In the intervening months I’ve become a much better engineer.

My ass puckered because I didn’t really expect to hear those words.  Even at that young age, I was used to allusions and promises.  I’d heard it all before.  I thought maybe, maybe, I’d get offered this record but I didn’t own it at all until Dave Smalley actually asked.  I’d kinda forgotten about it.  I remember smiling and and answering.  I walked back to the studio wondering if it was real and what I had agreed to.

I barely understood what it was to produce a record and I would be engineering too.
I took the gig.

I accepted Dave Smalley’s magnanimous offer.

Al Reed was in front of my lobes.  Al and I had begun to work together but he probably still thought I was some kinda dick.  I couldn’t be positive he’d take this on with me.  I’d thought about explaining that I’d never produced a record before and that I really was relatively inexperienced as an engineer……..I thought about it, but Dave knew it, and it just didn’t bear repeating.  We were on the same page.

He wasn’t just willing, he was enthusiastic about taking a chance on me.  Turned out to be the best selling record Down By Law had ever or would ever release.  We really did see into and understand each other enough for us both to know I would do my best.  I did.  I did do my best.  Alex Reed did his best and helped me and the band to do our best.  We honestly all did our best.

It was fucking swell.

I struggled.  I lost and regained my confidence a half a dozen times.  Alex was amazing while he worked to define his own role.  We had a blast.  I melted down a couple times but not in front of the band.  I was sure I didn’t belong there, either as a producer or an engineer.  Al would shove some sturdy lumber up my ass and I’d be back the next morning and so would he.  The band embraced Al because he was so smart, organized and intuitive.  I’ll forever be grateful.  I made up my mind that I would never, if it were up to me, share anything but equal billing with Alex Reed ever again.

Once again, Alex would teach me, sometimes by example, what I needed to know.  An early symbiotic relationship.

He brought everything I couldn’t.  That smacks of melodramatic but I’m here to tell you it’s not.  We share a birthday but that is almost all we have in common.  Very smart guy.  Way more musical than me.

Could not have done it without him.

Much more to come, and it gets better.

Drinks for my friends.

For those about to rock

I feel like I told a big lie last night but I can’t remember it.

I had a damn nice Christmas with the Nebekers.  An excellent family despite the virtue of a Catholic rotisserie among other things.  They all are tanned by the requisite guilt.  None of them seem to really mind.  They are the single brightest family I know.  Meris or “Bob”, meets me at the door with a glass of wine.

Meris “Bob” Nebeker is marvelous.  Her cheer and optimism are infectious.

Right there is about as good as it gets.

A story so nice I had to tell it twice.

Meris is the matriarch and a happier or more lovely woman would be hard to find.  She has been a second mother to me since I was but an ignorant boy.  Her opinion of me is beyond important.  So is that of brother Miles.  We all  simultaneously remembered Miles driving us to Budget Tapes and Records after one of his summer softball games when he was in college.  I bought Supertramp’s Breakfast in America on LP.  Sean and I would later man the counter at that same record store in a strip mall on the other side of town between a Raley’s and a Mervyn’s.

Miles was my first inspiration to write.

We were “rock geeks” and were ruthless to almost anyone appearing at the register with music we didn’t approve of.  At the time, that meant almost exclusively metal.  If you liked Depeche Mode you probably owned a trench coat and had gender identification issues.  On Sunday mornings after a night of drinking until 4 a.m., we could be particularly brutal.  Sean would ask the customer whether they had ever “danced naked with their uncle with a pickle in their mouth”.  Fluster and confusion before I said to never mind and inform them of their total and take the money.

Good system.  Kinda good cop, bad cop, kinda Belushi and Akroyd.

There’s this hardwood chair here in the office.  I broke it.  Leaned back too far.  Hataway said I could blame him.  He and LZ saw it happen.  I was pretty hammered so it wasn’t that bad.  Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen but I think I need my brother’s help with this chair.  I’m sure I do.  I wasn’t sober and we were gathered in the office of the Douglass compound.  I was playing them some Gooch.

The Gooch is the shit.

I leaned back in the chair and there was a tremendous report.  I went down.  Over.  Ankles above ass.  I knew I was fine but because of the sound, Chris and LZ were alarmed.  There was cracking and snapping.  I made clear I was golden.

I was good but it’s not cool to break furniture in anyone’s house.  I’m in my parent’s house.  That’s so not cool, I can see my breath.

I know my brother can fix it but I don’t think we’ve spoken for at least four years.  When I was younger I had a problem with him.  I don’t anymore.  Partly because before that, I adored him and then I grew up enough to understand what it was liked to be judged.

He’s a good man but we just don’t have much in common.  We weren’t raised together, I didn’t meet him ’til I was 10.  He was 20.  We were both kinda 15.  I’m not really sure how well I ever knew him but we had fun and we liked each other until I was about 15.  He has quite a bit to do with who I am.  More than he knows.

This could really be a good and positive thing.  I need his help.

Chris brought Zeek over today.  I had asked for it.  Typical for me to dread visitors but when they arrive I’m a little beside myself.  Before striding into the house, Zeke tossed his snowball over his shoulder.  Ezekiel rocks.  At first he set about entertaining himself by exploring the house.  Opening doors and surveying contents.  He got bored for awhile.  We watched a reality tv show with police chases and wrecks.  I offered him a Coca Cola and he said yes.  When I brought it out and poured it over ice, he relented that he hadn’t been sure what I was talking about.  He wasn’t about it at first but eventually sipped on it and told us he liked it.  I asked him if he’d like a straw.  He liked that idea and I’m all over straws so I figured I’d really hit on something.

The straw was the deal and he slurped the soda.  The idea that he’s six years old and unfamiliar with soda makes me wonder if I’ve breached some serious etiquette.  Chris told me not all, but I wonder.  Next time, I’ll have real fruit juice without high fructose corn syrup.

This kid is excellent.  There were plenty of other revelations during the hour or so.  Chris interacts with him so adroitly and they function like a father and son that understand each other very well.  It was pretty gorgeous.  Thanks be to the Hataways and I guess I’ll see ya all tomorrow night for the taco feed.

Trying to think of how to impress Zeke.

How cool that Hataway brought his little boy to meet me again.

Then cousin Marlo shows and spills.

Drinks for my friends.

Be as fit as a horse in mating

I just watched a half an hour of wrestling.  I have no idea why.  It was the stupidest and most gratuitous thing I’ve ever seen.  I’m seriously confused.  What blows up the skirt here?  Why do people watch and follow such obvious chicanery?  It really is spectacularly dumb.

I need to remember that fully one quarter of America is stupid and there’s nothing to be done about it.

Miles helped me with that tonight.

My personal contrast is that I’d just spent an evening at the Nebeker’s.  You know, right before the wrestling on TV.

I spent Christmas with the Nebekers.  Bright, lively and hysterically goddamn funny brothers, Tom, Jeff and Meris the Matriarch who treats me like a son.  Jo might be the only adult that lost track of the conversation when she went forth with zeal towards the mess.  It was the absolute best conversation I’d had in a long time.  Come to think of it, the last best one was with the Nebeker, Sean.  He of best friendsmanship, honor and humor.

It was a Goddamn delight.

Miles was the “Vodka Whiperer” and after a not so brief cell phone conversation he told me, because I was stupid enough to ask, that it was a wrong number.  I brought a bottle of gin, diet tonic, a bottle of wine Chris and LZ left last night, A half tin of cookies my cousin Rod gave me, two cans of V8 because I wanted to make red beers and I knew Meris had capers and worcestershire and she would never be without lemon.  Miles called it an Irish lunch pail.  You can’t ask for more than sitting around the kitchen table in the house of Meris.  Worlds collide with humor and grace.

I really want to tell you the story of Miles going from looking like Michael Bolton, To Kelsey Grammer to Benjamin Franklin.  But I can’t.  I mean because I can’t.

Several people let slip the word “fuck” in the presence of Meris in one iteration or another and I’d like to remember I wasn’t one of them.  Jo’s potatoes rocked with creaminess and a rich swarthiness of flavor.  We had ham, tamales, a mixed green salad with walnuts and apples and croissants.  Everything rocked.  I was sent home with two foil covered plates that I’m pretty excited about.  Sean fixed my plate tonight and Meris made two for me tomorrow.

I can’t remember now if I asked for rum cake or pumpkin pie.  I bet I asked for pie.

Oh and then Chris and LZ last night on the eve of the Xmas.  Both brilliant funny and engaging.  I was so happy when they rang the bell.  I knew exactly who it was.  They stayed for a good long while and it made my reality.  Chris brought a sketchbook, he always does, but he left it behind.  I’ve already flipped through it twice and laughed out loud.  Wondering how long I’ll get to hang on to it.  I bet tomorrow it’ll be back in his hands.  I really want to see Zeke.  I can’t help but be so flaming curious about this boy Ezekiel raised by these two smart, sane and creative souls.

Then I got this excellent call from Faris, King Larel his own self.  We talk about everything, Lew and I.  I think about the Sue of Lew & Sue.  And the lovely young girl they would not sell to me.

I’m learning an important lesson here.

Spent an evening with cousin Rod the other night.  Rod is my favorite sonafabitch.  He’s surly and defiant but if likes you he likes you, and if he loves you he loves you.  We seem to understand each other.  Ten minutes in he told me my breath stank and got me some gum.  He’d already gotten me a beer and Tanqueray on ice.  I came home with cookies and goodies.  His woman is adorable, we played air guitar together.

Tuna salad must have texture.  Olives and onions at least.  Red, white or yellow onion.  Fresh garlic if you can find elephant garlic or similar, not too pungent or hot.  Try pickled garlic.  Relish is a cop out.  Chop some Vlasics and use good mustard.  Serve on a neutral cracker.  Your mayo is the other major component.  I’ve even fried and blackened the tuna, but tuna salad needs mayo.  East of the Mississippi it’s Hellman’s.  This side it’s Best Foods.

That’s a done deal.

Don’t even think about Miracle Whip.

Miracle Whip is for a bologna sandwich on white bread with store brand bbq chips for texture.  I have no problem with that but it’s not what we’re doing here.

There’s other things to talk about.  Get some fresh dill.  Dill can be subtle, so don’t be shy with it.  Lemon is good and so is lemon pepper.  Some caution if you’re doing both.  Do it right and you won’t need salt.  Everybody thinks canned tuna needs salt.  Nobody is right.  Use capers if you must.

You should never make the exact same tuna salad twice.

There’s all kinds of appropriate variables, paprika, peperoncinis, green onions……..there’s ginger and mint and Vick’s Vaporub.  Mercury and lead or clams and crawfish.  Even if you’re among the stupid 25%, never make the same tuna salad twice, explore yourself by trying different things.

Expose yourself to different things.  Try drinking straight vodka while listening to disco while making your tuna salad.  Think about that.  That sounds like a good idea except the taste in your mouth when you wake up.  Still sounds like a good idea.  I’ll have to insist on different music.  I wouldn’t mind hearing the theme from SWAT……..but we’ll need some metal and some blues.

Pepsodent?

Drinks for my friends.

A human condition

What intrigues me the most about human nature or behavior, is our ability to lie to ourselves.  It’s fascinating because of it’s fundamental flaw.  One must be honest with one’s self to avoid the traps and deceptions along life’s path.  The potential for being fooled by another is doubled by not being honest with the self.  It’s true.

I know because I’m guilty of it.  I’ve been perceived as arrogant and I most likely was.  I do my best to evaluate others empirically and avoid the polemic, but the truth is, I’m smarter than most people.  I know that because I know people way smarter than me.  I know the difference.  Still, there is emotional intelligence.  That sort of wisdom has very little to do with problem solving or algebra.  It has everything to do with being true to self.

Self delusion and intellectual dishonesty are glue traps in the kitchen of life when the lights are off and you’re competing with the cockroaches.  You shouldn’t be there anyway, but if you are, there’s a reason.  I guarantee you’re not paying enough attention.

In every instance it’s a red reflective road sign pointing to lust, not just for sex, but for power or influence and of course, greed.  Ah, avarice.  Then there’s chronic insecurity, those folks with chemical issues and the truly bipolar.  I know this to be true because it as obvious in my case as all others to which I bear arduous witness.

I’m not bipolar and my chemical issues are pretty minor.

There exists a very fine line between ambition, determination, altruism and too often, hubris.  Again, I know, I’ve been there.  All over that line.  Fingerprints and footprints smeared and chaotic in charcoal on white with a line dividing it all.  It is my wish that the disinfectant of sunlight reveals my various transgressions to be less than permanently damaging or impactful on the lives of others.

I hope.  I try pretty damn hard.

Unless I do it on purpose and that’s a whole nother conversation.  I’m quite capable of being a motherfucker.

Still, I’m in awe of my own propensity for self delusion and amazed by that of others.  People actually lie to themselves on purpose and with intentions they know and understand to be unsavory, yet they believe themselves at the end of the day.  I look in the mirror after a shower and tell myself I’m husky and broad shouldered, that I’ve got a pretty nice penis and my balls are gorgeous.  Then I comb my hair and am thankful it’s still so voluminous despite it’s rapid gallop toward gray.  I get dressed and decide this particular shirt makes me look broad shouldered and masculine as opposed to fat.  There doesn’t seem to be a muscle that allows for sucking in the neck.

We all do it to one degree or another.  I’ve had several people who are very important to me praise my honesty.  These people know me very well and they are nothing if not honest themselves.  It flatters.  But I know I’m not.  Not completely.  I will tell you that I understand the importance of being as earnest as possible when it comes to the truth.  It is the best and only way to even attempt to see life as it really is.  To see people the way they really are and events for what they really mean.  It can be just as painful as it it enlightening.  There is no free lunch.

The best lens is the first one, transparent at the source.  To thine own self be true.

I try, I really do.  I pay as much attention to this ideal as I can.

I’ve come to see people really close to me for what they are as opposed to what they believe themselves to be.  The truth does hurt.  It cuts both ways.

In the arena of business, it’s frustrating and infuriating.  When it’s personal, it can be overwhelmingly painful.  I know this too, from my own experience.

Under either circumstance they will lie to you because they are able to so easily lie to themselves.  They buy their own shit.  Willingly.  Anxiously.  It’s an insidious brand of sociopathy.  My own experience describes those who haven’t thus far allowed for it to devolve in to violence or homicide, so it isn’t the ugliest manifestation, but it still really sucks and I understand it’s a wholly owned subsidiary of that brand of lunacy.

Just because there is no body bags, doesn’t mean this human condition isn’t really destructive.  It is.  I know.  I’m there.  And by the way, it’s how criminals, murderers and thieves spill their own beans, because they believe their own lies.

I’m telling you I know people that are fucked in the head and they are or were very close to me.  Best friends and siblings.  I only have one real sibling.  Do the math.

The hardest thing is to move away from these people.  I’m not the only casualty, there’s collateral.  Family.  When it’s this bad, everyone ends up with blood on their Friday night or Sunday morning best.  Wouldn’t have been able to wreak the havoc they did if they weren’t so very close.  That’s not just me but the consensus of my very best counsel.  None of them warned against the idea of circling back around.  Some brought it up.  More than one endorsed the idea.

I’m beginning to take stock of what I have to lose.

Drinks for my friends.

A&M chapter eighteen

I’ve been laboring on this tome for some time now and I’m beginning to see an end to it, but there is still so much to tell.  I have three more big stories and a chapter or two of anecdotes about famous people.  Probably some other stuff.  This anecdotal chapter will be full of brief, uh, anecdotes about famous people and there’s lots to tell.  All these things happened the way I intend to describe them.  The way they happened to me.

I was in the Biz for awhile and I got a little dish.

I figure that if I put all the higher octane in one or two chapters, it’ll be more convenient for the lawyers and stuff.  Maybe if the book is good enough they’ll pay for my lawyers.  Really, what I have to tell you isn’t all bad, but it’s personal and it happened to me or around me.  Well within my periphery.   To the best of my ability, I will remember and describe.  No harm or malignancy is intended, but this is my goddamn book and I intend for it to be as truthful as is available to me.

Let’s start in the deep end.

Jimmy Iovine is a dick.  In a blond wig, heels and spandex, he could stand in for CC DeVille.  What chaps my ass so much about Jimmy Iovine is that he’s neither an engineer or a record producer.  Never has been.  He’s a deal maker, and he has very little to do with where the music comes from or how it gets rendered.  He puts the right people together, but I doubt Jimmy has ever actually “made” a record.  Jimmy Iovine is in charge of the production of, the marketing of, the cultivating of, as opposed to the making of.

People like him are there for a reason and he is the poster child for people like him.

It chaps my ass because the making of the music, the immediacy and permanence, is recorded and committed to by the hour, by engineers and musicians.  It is the center of the universe for the entire music industry.  It is the recording studio or any reasonable facsimile thereof, that is hallowed ground.  More in my day than today.   It is a delicate and intricate process under the best of conditions.  I’m amazed at some of the recordings before my time.

Yet it becomes more and more instant.  Disposable.

We still don’t know the impact of music in the thought and finger tip era of technology, but early results on science applied everywhere else is mixed at best.  I can’t think of where science hasn’t benefited art, except early digital audio.   I have my fears.  There’s a lot to be said for cracking the shrink wrap, smelling the vinyl and ink.  Reading the liner notes, who produced, engineered and played.  Where it was recorded and when.  It allowed me to have a picture in my head.

I must tell you, I never liked Jimmy but he wouldn’t know my name or recognize my face.  He wouldn’t give a mad fuck.  He is one of the most powerful men in the music business.   I hear he comes from meat packing on the east coast.  He could probably have me killed.  He survived Snoop, Dre, Suge and Tupac.

I can’t help but wonder at his success.  He’s got genius for sure but avarice and lust as well.  I was around him before he was all this, even though he was quite something back then, and he was a prick that wore a toupee under a hat.  A prick is a prick by any other name.  He wore a wig under a fucking baseball hat and he gave John Lennon’s mellotron to some department store magnate named Ted Fields.  I know, I delivered it.  One of the most amazing houses I’ve ever been in.

He looked at me once on some session I can’t remember, after I’d had the audacity to make a suggestion, pointed his finger and said, “You’re wood, wood doesn’t talk”.

 How am I doing so far?

Then there was the time I was doing a gig with Stevie Nicks and Chris Lord Alge.  It was me and Randy Wine and the cowboy coffee fueled Lord Alge.  He brought his own coffee.  It smelled pretty good.  Hell of a name.  New Fuckin’ York.  East coast guys had an automatic chip for west coast guys.  Chris was among the cooler east coast guys, but still a hardass.  He gave me some of his coffee once.  It was pretty good.  Stevie had the biggest posse for a white girl ever.  Remember this was fifteen, seventeen years ago.  Stevie looked more Presley than Nicks.  Her hangers on turned her pages and mixed her drinks.  She did far more than diet and work out for that last comeback.  She was a mess.

I think she was cryogenically frozen while they fixed her teeth at least.  They were the teeth of ancient flying reptile and had to be replaced with ones that resembled human.

Bulky and corpulent.  Sausage bursting from it’s casing.  I remember her feet looked as though they would explode from her shoes.  She had incense, candles, tissues and gobs of whatever else on her music stand.  Oil burners, foil balloons, kites and train sets.  Kidding.  I can’t remember the song so I’ll have to look that up before I publish.  That, and the Bon Jovi gig in D.  That was a train wreck too.  Anyway, we’re in the middle of a vocal, I mean Stevie Nick’s is out in the middle of studio A with a temporary vocal booth on wheels constructed around her.  Lights all the way down.  Just her and her candles and incense and whatever other paraphernalia.

The flame on her right goes from an inch to a foot.  I was transfixed.  Mesmerized.  Sitting there behind the tape remote in a dark control room.  Randy Wine got me moving.  We hit the button for the Star Trek door, through an iso booth, so two more sliding glass doors.  We tipped it over and stomped it out.

She did mention she smelled smoke afterward.

Then there was the time, with CC Deville, I was forced to punch in and out of record over an eight bar solo section for CC Deville for eight fucking hours.  A man who could easily have stunt doubled for Jimmy Iovine had he just replaced his ridiculous wig with a stupid mullet wig and cheesy baseball or bass fishing hat.  He sat there and did blow, take after take, while Julian Raymond did nothing to stop it.  Eight hours for eight bars in one of the most expensive studios in the world.  He played the same thing over and over until he got too fucked up to play it the same way.  It was ridiculous.  I’ve already talked about this, I just like the way I’ve managed to make the argument that CC and Jimmy just might be the same person.  $2.17 to the first person to provide a photo of them together.

How about me  driving Annie Lennox to her hotel in Beverly Hills?  We got to talking politics in my ’69 VW Superbeetle.  All I could think about was the springs that must be poking her in the ass.  Bare rusting springs tearing at the integrity of her garment.  The fabric on the passenger side had long looked to me like shredded wheat.  That, and the way the size of her voice rang my bell as she sang over my shoulder while I sat at the console when she suddenly had inspiration for a background vocal part.  I nearly shat myself.  I was vaguely worried she’d get tetanus from my car seat.

That woman moves between smoke and fire.

Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders threw a sausage at my head.  I didn’t see it coming but she popped out of the mix room pissed, as I was ambling down the hall to make a fresh pot of coffee for someone.  All I remember is teeth and heavily made up eyes hurling a giant log of flesh right at my head.  Apparently our concierge was clueless as to our new guest’s animal activism and solidarity with all things PETA.  I was happy to learn it wasn’t personal, as I was a vegetarian at the time.

She missed me, I ducked.

How is that Rush Limbaugh uses the Pretenders everyday as a bumper on his radio show?

I could mention the couple of times I got tossed out of the titty bar across the street because I was with Tom Petersen from Cheap Trick.  Great guy, notorious drunk.  I spent a lot of hours with a lot of clients in that titty bar.

Kevin DuBrow was a dick and I don’t care.  I deliberately spilled my drink on his shoes at a club after I worked with him.  Carlos Cavazo was the opposite, quiet and humble.

Warren DeMartini was also a very nice guy.  Spent the afternoon shopping with him one day because he didn’t have a car.

Me and Al hired Bun E. Carlos once for this Australian fiasco.  All Bun wanted was McDonald’s and a joint.  Then we were good to go.   We did a cover of Can’t Stand The Rain.  I gotta find that DAT.

I got Marcus Miller’s Porsche up to almost 90 on Delongpre between La Brea and Highland by ignoring the stop signs.  It took a couple tries.  It was hard to shift.  We’re talking about an eight of a mile maybe.  I was supposed to be taking it for a wash and wax.

I got Shelly’s jeep up to 85 on the way to Tahoe and got a ticket but I got his Jag up to 130 on the way back and didn’t get a ticket.

Ann and Nancy Wilson carved some pumpkins for Halloween in Studio D and I stole them for my apartment.  Ann thought nothing of letting her dog crap at will in the studio instead of walking it, so I thought nothing of stealing her and her sister’s pumpkins. Greg Goldman left a sign on the floor with the word ‘SHIT’ and an arrow pointing at a paper tent that also said ‘SHIT’ that covered the Vienna sausage sized turds before calling a runner to clean it up.

I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be funny or not.  I thought it was.

I remember picking up a keg for Ratt and hours later passing Bobby Blotzer in the hall with blow all over his face and crazy eyes.  I led him back to his control room and discovered even later that they’d managed to break the nearly half inch thick glass tabletop in the A lounge.

I drove a completely hammered Sam Kinison to some club I need to remember the name of.  The China Club maybe?  I had to babysit him one night as he slept on the couch in control B.  He snored like a drunk and talked in his sleep.

Aerosmith showed up once with a semi trailer full of gear that took us an entire day to unload.  I had to go a prop house for palm trees, south pacific art and memorabilia etc., the idea to create a vibey lounge for them to hang out in.  I think they actually called it the Voodoo Lounge.  They then tried to get all studio personnel to sign a memo promising not to drink alcohol or do drugs during their stay.  I guess their sobriety was still pretty fragile at that point.  Mark Harvey called bullshit on that.

There was the time that I answered a page to come to the front office and happened upon Cameron DePalma walking in circles behind Timothy Leary.  He was escorting Mr. Leary to the mix room to see Mick Jones from Foreigner.  It’s a long story, but Cameron had somewhat accidentally dropped acid that afternoon before coming to the studio.  He confided in me he didn’t know how hard he’d be tripping and I agreed to keep an eye on him and take the front desk if things got out of hand.  Later that night, earlier that morning, Mick Jones had Goldman set up a mic in the back hallway to record Cameron  at the front desk blowing his sax into the phone and over the PA system.  Since Cameron had the receiver off the hook, Mick would dispatch Goldman or a runner with requests to Cameron.  I remember him asking for “A Taste of Honey”.

To keep the higher ups out of your food when chained to the front desk phone, you had to literally lick it in front of them.

Sessions that went until 6 or 8 a.m. were called a “movie”.  As in, “Yeah, B is looking like a movie”.

I worked a lot of nights.

I can see this being more than one or two chapters.

Drinks for my friends.

Went to a party

Reminisced with my old friends.  A drummer I’ve known since he was fourteen.  He’s got the grease.  He’s had it since I first met him.  I told him as much as soon as I could.  He remembers.   Like all good players, he’s out of his fucking tree.

Other good guys and girls whom I’ve known for shorter periods.

Then their was Nebeker.  That’s pronounced ‘knee pecker’.  Understand he and I are best friends from boyhood.  He fixed me a plate and freshened my drink.  We were all playing music for each other in the garage.  Drinking and smoking.   I must tell you that I asked of him at least three or four obscure things, I have no music on me at all, one at least, a collection of demos I’d compiled on CD.  He produced them all within minutes.

He must have that shit alphabetized.

Then he brought me another fresh cocktail.

We’re not gay for each other, I’m just saying.  Point of reference.  Or parliamentary procedure.  Pre Law, Pre Med, whatever.

He sauteed some shrimp and advised us all on the sauces.  He’s always hugging on his friends and inherited family .  He really is full of love and compassion and full to busting with humor and artistic sensibility.  I remember specifically him explaining to Johnny, the mentally challenged uncle, how to eat the shrimp.  How not to eat the handle.

I got tired, so he fixed me a sandwich and brought me a blanket.

One of the things he says about the rabid right is “Hang a black man on Saturday night and in see ya in the pews Sunday morning.”

I teared up a little the other night when seeking his advice on this huge hole that’s been blown into my family and he hugged me.  He hugged me with sadness and sincerity.  He is my best friend.  He understands me better than any other male.  This is a little personal but I gotta bring it.

He’s my longest buddy.  He get’s that  I’m flying around with a bent wing.  I confide in him and he advises me honestly.  He’s got no stake in it and it wouldn’t matter.  He tells me the truth as best he can.

He has my back and I have his.

Before we decided to be rock stars we bonded over comic books.  And horror movies.  Nudity, violence and rape according to the HBO Guide.  I remember watching Carrie and being vaporized by it.  There was all this blood and satanic stuff and Travolta got a hoovering.  Brilliant.  I was always concerned about sleeping under any sheets or blankets that Brennon Griffin might have used.  He was chronic masturbator,  of oily face and head and with braces, a prodigious drooler.

We ended up mocking him and that makes me a little sad.

We went to Andy’s Smoke Shop for comic books, Chocodiles and Rondos.  The best stocked comic book display in town.  Marvel had better writing but DC had shit hot artists.  As much time as we could get away with in the adult section, a sea of tits and ass that was  often merely the covers before we were discovered.  We would be ejected but without much ceremony.  We were paying customers after all.  A rustic old place with high ceilings and fans, it smelled of pipe tobacco and cigars.  Glass and wooden antique display cases that contained all manner of traditional paraphernalia for smoking or otherwise imbibing the ultimate American crop via any orifice or methodology.  Brass cuspidors and snuff tins.  Pipes glistening.  Jars of brown moist weed that smelled of rum, cherries, honey, apple and cedar.  Huge vessels of peppered or teriyaki jerky, meat sticks, pickles, pickled eggs, licorice and sugar festooned horehound candy.

A glass door cooler in the back with sodas and beer.  Popsicles and ice cream sandwiches in freezer with heavy handles that clicked loud and solid on open and shut.  Liquor behind the counter on dark wooden shelves.  It was our pre adolescent mecca.  Right there on the main drag between Cactus Jack’s and the Horse Shoe Club.

We both loved KISS until I brought us the 8 track of Van Halen’s first record.  He advanced far more quickly than I as a musician.  All my friends did.  I sucked but he never left me behind.

We both went on to have sex with women.  He was a bit of a hound.  I bloomed a little late.

He welcomes me with open arms.  Always.  Doesn’t matter whether I’m on my ass, me knees or my feet.

When we face each other and start to talk, no time has passed, no matter how much time actually has.  It just doesn’t matter.  We worked together at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wienerschnitzel and Budget Tapes and Records.  We had a business when we were thirteen called “Rent A Kid”.

I’m pretty sure we’ve compared dicks and mine is bigger.

We experimented with drugs, drank copious amounts of Schlitz Malt liquor, because that’s what Van Halen drank, lied to our parents, stole from our siblings, broke bones, made dummies to put in the middle of the street in hopes that people would be confused enough to get out of their cars so we could pelt them with crab apples………….and blew a lot of shit up.

He remains the funniest man I know.  He calls jerking off, among other things, “launching a bootlace”.  Merry Christmas is “Savory Santa Day”.  An apology is “I’m so sorry for the sandwich I have caused you”.  He calls his mother “Bob”.  My nickname in Jr. High was “Pudwinkie”.  He’s an incredibly gifted guitar player/ musician who understands tone and feel better than everyone other than who he chooses to surround himself with.

My friend is whip smart and has a heart the size of the very biggest stadium.  When my own sister ignites an IED and walks away for no good reason and the rest of my family is shocked and confused into inaction, Sean gives me a welcome place to go and be.

Drinks for my friends.


It’s Nevahda, not Nevawda

Master Bacon was in town this eve.  He left a few cryptic texts to which I responded abbreviatedly, and he finally called sometime after eight.  Happy shit.  Just what I needed.  He bought me drinks.  He bore holiday greenery.  He counseled me.  It was good.  He gave me more or less the same advice every other smart person I know has given me.

Let it go, back away.

For now.

Now I’m cooking with butane.

See, it’s not really quantifiable.  To know Bacon is to understand he’s the shit.  There’s no real describing or explaining him.  He still dispenses humor and wisdom in the same tone of voice, with almost the same face.  Almost.  A third visit would allow me to verify that via triangulation.

See, I’m cooking with butane.

It was good to see him and I’m flattered that he again made time for me.

Conversations with him are a lot like conversations with Nebeker, Hataway or Fuckin Faris.  Even if it’s just casual, it’s deep.  Michael Bacon is a gentleman and a scholar.

Curious to be at a place where friends are approaching the import of it all.  Very lucky to have the friends I have.

I make most of my decisions based on my projected energy level at the time.  See?

Butane.

I watched at least one episode of My Name Is Earl tonight where Norm McDonald  was Jr. Chubby, Son of Sr. Chubby played by Burt Reynolds.  Bacon gave me nugs.  Norm is a funny mother fucker.  Reynolds didn’t suck at all.  His kinda role.  Nice toop.

Bacon’s classiest move was to buy me another drink for after his exit.  While paying the bill, he ordered another double Sapphire for me to nurse in his absence.  How cool is that?  I walked him to his mother’s Cadillac whereupon he stuffed a big fat bud into my half empty box of American Spirit cigarettes.

The bar he tends in San Francisco will be closing in a few days for renovation by new owners.  He has no idea whether he’ll still have a job but he’s paid rent in advance and intends to finish his doctoral thesis on Victorian literature.  I can’t imagine anything I’d like less to read but his concept of “gentrifuge” is so clever and he himself is so bright and vigilant.   I can’t wait to read what he has to say on a subject that finds me so under informed as to have no opinion at all.

I’m at one of the lowest points ever in my life and I feel as though my friends, including my hot, kind and compassionate girlfriend, are the only things keeping me from careening spastic like a full to bursting red party balloon without a knot at the bottom.  I realize my grasp is tenuous but there is comfort here in these people.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’ll be at my lifelong best friend’s mother’s house.  A remarkable woman for whom life hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park.  A single mother who raised three whip smart and intimidatingly talented children.  She can cook like a house afire along with her son, my best friend.  She put up with being Den Mom to every aspiring teenage artist or musician Carson City could afford her for years.  I will have plenty to be thankful for tomorrow.  I hope you do too.

Bacon wore a pinstriped affair but there was no shirt and tie.  Something else underneath, I don’t remember.  A gold watch with a sophisticated face but a vintage vibe.   I spent as much time talking to his head and his head talking to mine as I could.  His manicured beard lent the conversation a Freudian flavor.

Hey Bacon, were you wearing glasses?

You were.

It is said that you can tell a lot about somebody by the company they keep.  As far as I know, my closest are warrior/poet saints.  They all seem to have found peace.  I seem to have lost mine.

It’s temporary I’m sure.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Drinks for my friends

Sucker Punch

About a year and a half ago, my uncle Larry was diagnosed with stage four cancer.  I wept as my mother gave me the news on the phone.  Anyone who knows Larry at at all would describe their relationship with him as at the very least, unique.  He’s a unique little bastard.  Unique, yep.  Indefatigable, ornery, lovable, loyal.

He and my uncle Skip visited a few years back and helped with some insulation in my sister’s house.  After that they rubbed it in my nephews beds.  When their skin became inflamed and the mad itch had set in, Uncle Larry advised them to take hot showers.

Unique.

Here’s an excerpt from a blog I wrote at the the time:

“He was a bastard.

He deliberately shocked me with the horse equivalent of a cattle prod. He told me he’d caught a frog and wanted to show it to me. With glee, he electrocuted me.

He once moved our Christmas tree into the front yard and decorated it with my mothers bras and underwear.

I woke up one morning with his socks in my mouth.

I watched him wipe snot on my mother’s neck from the backseat of my father’s Mercury Cyclone.

He visited egregious acts on everyone he ever liked. It really was his way of showing you he loved you. Really.

Ten or twelve years ago, the Hardings had a reunion in a small town owned by my uncle Tyke in Washington just south of the Canadian border. I brought The Fish, my new girlfriend at the time.

The Matriarch of the clan had just passed. My Grandmother, eighty nine years old. She was awesome. We’d been lucky enough to have her for the holidays.

There were color themed t-shirts indicating which family you were from. We were purple.

We tore it up.

A very small town. If you didn’t mention you were a Harding and therefore related to uncle Tyke, you got no service, not even a smile. Play the Harding card and you were royalty.

We tore it up.

One night we cousins got to talking about Uncle Larry and how we’d suffered his obstreperousness. His orneriness. We decided to act. We dispatched one of his own children to secure his motel room key. A younger Begat had caught a six inch fish in the creek that day; it was confiscated under rules of executive privilege.

We salted his sheets and crumbled potato chips in them. We removed all towels and toilet paper. We covered every surface with shaving cream. We turned the thermostat all the way up. I placed the dead fish inside his pillowcase. We returned to the reunion and drank with him.

We tore it up.

Last time I saw him was two years ago at another family reunion. He and my Uncle Skip are a pair. It occurred to me they may as well stick thumbs up each others asses. There was chaos that only the Harding clan produce or tolerate. I’m sorry now we didn’t visit much but it sure was nice to see him. I can’t honestly remember if he knows I was the mastermind behind that revenge.

He is sixty six years old and cancer has invaded his body. There are plenty of loving Hardings, In-Laws and Begats to do everything they can. They will.

I will come too. I will make sure he knows I put that fish in his pillow.”

Well, he beat it.  Lost his teeth and ended up around ninety pounds, but he whipped it.  His body was some seventy plus percent infested with death but he smiled, did everything his doctors told him and beat it back.  Cancer free.  As of two weeks ago his back was beginning to bother him but he was up to his fighting weight and treatment was behind him save for checkups.  Clean bill of health.

He was a jockey so he knew well what it’s like to break bones.  When he heard of my father’s recent injury, I was the one to tell him, he was devastated and told my mother he’d be here if need be for anything including to drive the forty foot castle to Yuma so they could winter there.

My mother called today.  It has returned.  The big C is in his spine.  Not fair.  Not fucking fair.  The universe has chosen to shit on this miracle.  He starts radiation right away and twelve rounds of chemo immediately after Christmas.

For the first time in my forty four years, there will be no Christmas with my family.  This is not so much because of my uncle’s illness as it is the result of my sister’s deliberate blindness and irresponsibility with love and family.  Life sucks today.

Drinks for my friends.

A&M chapter seventeen

I mentioned prior that there are too many stories here for me to hope to tell.  So far, what I’ve related has been largely personal, as it should be, this is after all, my story.  It’s not lost on me however that I have an obligation to entertain you, the reader.  So many of the stories don’t necessarily warrant an entire chapter but they are important to my narrative in that they provide context for the absolute insanity that was my life.  The the constant and consistent wallpaper to my everyday existence.  Like any good Rock N’ Roll story, or medical drama or cop show, even the wallpaper was alive.

My life crackled and vibrated.

This may not be one of those stories, as it falls between the cracks of a tale about a famous musician most of you may not have heard of,  and my personal story of that musician.  Nonetheless, I would be remiss if I didn’t write about this one man in particular because he inspired me so much.

Sometimes, people come into your life or you accidentally enter their’s and you realize you will never be as good at anything as they are at what they do and despite that, they embolden you, by leaving you breathless and mesmerized.

Magic happens.  I’ve seen it.

There was this guy named Jeff Porcaro.  If you don’t read album credits, you may not know his name.  He was arguably the best studio, or “session”, drummer ever.  Easily one of the most recorded.  He played on some of your favorite records I guarantee, especially if you’re anywhere over thirty and no doubt if you’ve crested forty.  From Steely Dan to Toto, Michael Jackson’s “Beat it”, Don Henley’s  “Dirty Laundry” and “New York Minute” (which I worked on), Paul McCartney, Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, Madonna, Peter Frampton, Bee Gees, Joe Walsh, Diana Ross, Bonnie Raitt, Dire Straits, David Gilmour and Roger Waters, Clapton, Springsteen, Miles Davis and Elton John to literally name a few.

Jeff’s fame flamed because he could effortlessly cop any groove.

I worked with and got to know him a little, on two or three Richard Marx records and a few other sessions.  Richard always hired the very best musicians and it was always a seamless pleasure.  The best cats in the biz always.  Often a different drummer everyday.  Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffet, Terry Bozzio, Russ Kunkel, Kenny Aronoff………the cream of the crap.  Making slave reels by eight o’clock, while waiting for dinner from any one of the best restaurants in Hollywood, paid for by Mr. Marx.  Make slaves and order whatever you want he’d say on his way out the door.  One of the coolest guys I ever worked with.  Funny, easygoing and knew exactly what he was doing.  Bill Drescher was his tracking engineer and he too was talented, humble and cool as fuck.

Hey Bill, you fucking cunt.

Recording sessions where we actually enjoyed ourselves.  Made music.  With shit hot players.  I can’t tell you what an oasis it was.  We had fun on the records that me & Al made, but this was long before that.  It wasn’t just novel, it was an aberration.

Porcaro was a genius.  Amazing.

Richard Marx, a great guy, and a talent whether you like his music or not, said that Porcaro “was the best drummer he had ever worked with”.  Marx wasn’t splitting the atom, just writing, performing and executing good pop songs.

Jeff literally died in a bizarre gardening accident in 1992 at the age of 38.  It was a sad day around A&M.  We all liked him and we were all aware of his genius.  He was thirty eight years old and an accomplished legend at that age.

My memories of him are fresh.

Jeff’s tech would arrive first thing in the morning with his gear and set it up and tune it with fresh heads.   If I’m not mistaken, it was Ross with Drum Doctors and it was a Gretsch kit.  Every time I worked with Jeff it was in studio A.  The room.  The best tracking room in the world.  One of two custom designed consoles built by Rupert Neve for George Martin of Beatles fame.

I would later have the pleasure of hiring Ross for a few records I was producing.  I was a small fish but he always treated me well.  A total pro.  Much respect.  All the people in this story were cool and professional.  As good as it got on that level.

Jeff didn’t usually arrive until later in the afternoon.  Superstar players like Randy Jackson, Steve Lukather, Lee Sklar, Marcus Miller, Fee Waybill had already been there for hours rehearsing.  He’d already been handed a demo of course.  He knew the tune.  A relatively small guy who carried his cool and legend with quiet grace.  He was barely 36 or 37 years old.  I was in my early to middle twenties.  I just can’t describe my enthusiasm when he walked through that air locked door into the control room of studio A.  I was thirteen again.  I’d been reading about and listening to him since then.  This guy, known only to the musicians and music people that actually mattered, was an absolute legend to me and to them too.  It was palpable.  Whenever I learned that I’d be working with Jeff Porcaro, I lost sleep the night before.

Here I was, surrounded by musical legends, and Porcaro made me into a comic book collecting, album liner note reading, adolescent.  He was there to play and he never disappointed.  Ever.

Recording studio control rooms are heavily air conditioned.  Not just cooled but conditioned and that meant smells and odors had a very short life.  Jeff always smelled clean.  Like lotion and soap and nothing more.  I couldn’t help but notice.  He had a pretty deep voice for a man his size but he spoke softly as he greeted all the people in the control room.  He smiled a lot.  He seemed to be somewhat shy but his demeanor did not at all belie his confidence.  He shook hands and looked everyone in the eye, even me, the second engineer, lowest guy in the room.

He was there to execute.  It’s what he did.  What he was famous for and why he made the big bucks.

In no time at all, he was behind his kit, listening on headphones to the work we had done that day.  He would ask that the lights be adjusted in the live room so that it was fairly dark.  With a joint in one hand and a pencil in the other, he would sketch the song structure on his snare head.  He’d listen once, maybe twice.  If he had any questions, they were few and rare.

Sounds, levels etc. would have already been dialed in with the help of Ross, who could play well himself and was intimate enough with how Jeff hit, to give us the big picture and prepare us for how and what Jeff would do.

Jeff would give a take or two to while he felt out the track and while we dialed him the rest of the way in.  Good drummers sound good and that’s that.  Then, two takes, usually live with the band.  I don’t believe he ever gave more and I don’t remember us ever needing more.  I will tell you that he was never there for longer than an hour or an hour and a half.  Only ten or twenty minutes of it actually playing.  Not on anything I ever worked on anyway.

Then he was gone.  Sometimes someone would say it out loud but as often as not, we all thought it.  Holy Shit.

He truly was the shit.  Formidable.  An expert.  Realistically, a genius at his craft.

He would play these fills that were like falling down stairs until he landed solid on the one and picked up the groove in the greasiest and most fluid of ways.  He never overplayed on anything I worked on or anything I’ve listened to since.  Never stepped on the vocal or got in the way of any other player.

Ever.

He nailed it every time.

He was NASA to me.

I tell you this having worked with many great drummers who’s names I will not mention here out of respect for them.  Many of them just as famous and all of them still alive.  A few I had the pleasure to actually hire.

I will tell you that I have never been so consistently impressed with a musician as I was with Jeff Porcaro.

Thanks Jeff, may you rest in peace.  You inspired, impressed and excited me and working with you will always be one of my fondest memories in a time that my hell had found it’s center.  It was you and people like you, that by example, allowed me to eventually rise above it.

It was the religion of music that got me through.  I worked in a flawed church but the music is what literally saved me.  The deity that we were all there for was the art of music.  In the end, it was the music itself and the rest of us that believed in it that saw me through.

I am lucky.

“All this machinery making modern music
Can still be open hearted
Not so coldly charted
It’s really just a question of your honesty, yeah
Your honesty
One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity” -Rush

Drinks for my friends.

Indescretions

I read an article on Alternet recently that revealed the quarter pound double cheese burger from Burger King that sells for a dollar actually costs the average individual franchise as much as a $1.10.  For some reason this fact has been stuck in my brain and really has me thinking I need to get me a couple of them.  Apparently the bun alone has over 35 ingredients.  That’s some drama there.  Not to be outdone, McDonalds has the McChicken and their own McDouble among other items available for a dollar as well.  I read somewhere some months ago that the the house that Kroc built has enjoyed an increase of profits of some 200% percent in the current economy.

Have it your way.

No matter what culinary astrophysics are applied to zucchini or green beans, they will never taste as good as any item on any fast food dollar menu.  Not even to aborigines or rain forest tribes.  Even the French eat it.  You know Taco Bell has three tacos and a large drink for $2.99?  Subway’s got the five dollar foot long.  They screwed the pooch when they removed the tuna sub as an option though.  Pricks.  And I bet those sandwiches and tacos don’t look exactly the same after a decade like Mickey D’s burgers, McNuggets and fries do without refrigeration even.  No shit.  Not a single blemish of mold after ten years.  Absent only the glisten of hot grease.  The sheen of recent rescue from beneath a heat lamp.  That’s not food, that’s textiles.  You gotta hand it to them, in the fine tradition of Henry Ford assembly line methodology, it tastes the same wherever you go.  Weighs the same, looks the same and smells the same.  Here’s to two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.

I love fast food.  I try to stay away from it but I love it.  I was a vegetarian for nearly a decade.  I got fat on pasta.  I read “Diet For a New America” by John Robbins.  I’m aware what meat production does to our environment.  They aren’t kidding when they bemoan bovine flatulence.    Yet I thanked the BK lounge for it’s delightful Big Fish Combo in the credits of the first record I ever produced, recorded and mixed.  Jack In The Box has seriously good fish and chips, make sure you get some packets of malt vinegar along with the tartar sauce, and their egg rolls don’t suck.  I’m pretty sure it’s because they keep neither item on hand, thus they are cooked to order.  The secret with the egg rolls by the way, is to ask for ranch sauce in addition to the sweet and sour and to shamelessly double dip.

The Extreme Sausage Sandwich from the aforementioned is a gut bomb like nobody’s business; an excellent prescription for depression consumption.  Get some mustard packets.

Without a doubt, In and Out has the best burgers, and fries animal style, is a meal of itself, though Wendy’s doesn’t suck.  I adore the Beef n’ Cheddar from Arby’s with the eponymous sauce, but I’m boycotting the one here in Carson Shitty for distributing right wing propaganda.  Have you heard some highway patrol organizations stock Coca Cola in the trunks of their cruisers for blood cleanup from asphalt after traffic fatalities?  Have you also heard it’s one of the best solvents available for cleaning the household toilet?

Should I be brushing my teeth with it?

I’m not much for sodas but when I do it’s usually diet, still, I can’t avoid the pairing of it with onion rings from Sonic.  Sour cream and onion potato chips are awesome in a vanilla shake and a can of SpaghettiOs has a full serving of vegetables and fiber.  There is no redeeming value whatsoever with Ramen noodles, especially the way I prepare it.  I fry them in butter after boiling and then add the sodium.  Talk about a booze mop, it’s either that or Bombay Sapphire at 9:30 in the morning.  One is the short cut to a vomit comet, the other a gastrointestinal trek in the peaceful forest to a rehabilitating nap.

Countdown to angioplasty.

I lied about my age to get my first real job at Kentucky Fried Chicken, the gulag of fast food careers.  I was fourteen and said I was sixteen.  The Super Max of the food service industry.  Because of the pressurized vats of boiling animal fat and copious amounts of various flower recipes that harden to a near concrete consistency within minutes, the entire kitchen had to be hosed down with steaming water and scrubbed with a toxic, skin withering detergent every single night.  Giant squeegees were then used to direct excess water and flotsam towards the floor drains.  Finally a mop.  Winter nights, my pants would literally freeze to my legs on my bike ride home.  I stank like a dumpster full of discarded deep fried infant chickens.  Every Sunday we scrubbed the walk in freezer free of the fetor of it’s blood and gore.  We had to”break” carcasses by the case.  This involved snapping the breast bones, ripping off the tail and scooping the mucus yellow detritus of who knew what from iced boxes of chickens so young their bones were like paring knives that would lacerate my palms and fingers.  We actually competed for time in this grisly endeavor.  Those that would be champions would use their teeth.  It goes without saying I found myself to be a reluctant competitor.

Worse job I ever had with the exception of insulating a roller rink in the dead of summer and running a 90 pound jack hammer for my old man.

It was decades before I could attempt to eat at KFC and when I did, my bowels began to percolate instantaneously and I shat like a goose.  Volume and velocity.  Mere seconds from soiling myself in my own office.  What emerged, in the company bowl, floated like fowl in a slick of oil from a ruptured tanker.  It was delicious though.  Now they’ve got this batterless and skinless thing going on and I’m tempted, but so far lack the courage.

I went on to graduate with my masters in grease, saturated fat and carbohydrate slinging by becoming manager of a Der Wienerschnitzel.  Now, I know about hot dogs too.  But I still enjoy a good chili cheese dog with mayonnaise, mustard and onions on occasion.  There’s a Der Wienerschnitzel in Burbank that has Rolling Rock on tap.  Fuck me.

Questions?  Comments?

See, fast food is a uniquely American phenomena and arguably as important a contribution to world culture as is jazz.  Maybe not as important but certainly as significant.  Work with me here.  It is discussed at length in one of the most important movies of our time, “Pulp Fiction” and documentaries like “Super Size Me”.  Books like “Fast Food Nation”.  The industry literally feeds billions.  Bill Clinton patronizes.  They sponsor Nascar.

For what it’s worth, a good friend of mine died from mad cow disease.  That’s right.  Spongiform bovine encephalopathy.  He was a vegetarian.  When they say there are no American deaths as a result of it, they are lying.  In the same way they lie about everything else.

Here’s something else you may not have been aware of.  Too much oxygen and too much water can and will kill you.  I smoke between a quarter and third of a pack of cigarettes a day, I drink too much and treat myself to the infrequent fried or deep fried delight.  My body may be my temple but it’s also my only vessel for pleasure and by any measure, life is short.  I do my best to avail myself of life’s simple, and extravagant pleasures.

Beluga caviar and a good blanc de blanc.  A big ass cabernet or a pricey smokey zinfandel.  Sushi and cold beer, driving too fast and having casual sex.  A well written novel or an intelligent, well scripted, dialog driven film.  A really good crap.  The advice, consent and love of my mother.  A passionate well executed musical performance.  The color of the sky or the unconditional love and acceptance of animals in my charge.  The love of a really good woman.  Fireworks and art of all kinds. Family and friends.

I avoid the burger as best I can, but it is simple.  Life is bigger.  Much, much bigger.  It is the least of my concerns.  Moderation but still, indulge because we all fall down.  People get ready, there’s a train a coming.

Drinks for my friends.

Upside down

I rocked at Jeopardy tonight.  Even nailed the final Jeopardy question.  Rock of Gibraltar.

Shall we do a little politics?

First up, the alleged war between FOX and the White House.  Here’s my take:  FOX lies egregiously and irresponsibly.  Consistently.  They are shameless propagandists.    Therefore, they lose.  This President or any other has every right to neglect them, ignore them or even cast the occasional aspersion their way.  FOX is full of shit and any thinking, attentive American knows it.  It’s Obama’s prerogative.  It’s just that simple.  I kinda like that he’s dismissing them while saying he’s not losing any sleep over it.

Um, looks like the public option is alive once again.  Harry Reid says as much.  He told us yesterday he has the votes.  Turns out he probably doesn’t.  Olympia Snowe is blanching, or posturing as though she will, as I can’t imagine her blanching any more.  That bitch is pale.  Translucent.  Then there’s Lieberman.  Benedict Fliptop.  The little droopy eyed cartoon jowled prick announced he’d get behind a Republican filibuster on the public option.  You know he’s a former Democrat, now an Independent, allowed to retain his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs by virtue of tacit agreement between he and Mr. Reid that he would play ball on domestic policy.  Just so happens he’s the junior Senator from Connecticut, the finest and most luxurious mall in the country for health insurance corporations.  He’s taken over a million bucks in the last five years from the medical plutocracy.

Without even a conversation, not so much as a memo, Benedict Fliptop should be stripped of his chairmanship and barred from even caucusing with the Democrats.  This should happen yesterday.  He should be made to eat peanut butter and jelly on the steps or dine with his stinky Republican abominogs.  If possible, he should be ejected from his DC residence, have his single payer health care revoked and be issued a shopping cart, a hoodie and fingerless gloves, maybe a few cans of Sterno.  This fucker needs to understand that it’s politicians like him what cause unrest.  His own goddamn state favors a public option by some 68%.  What an asshole.

Let the asshat obstructionists filibuster if the Democrats can’t get their house in order enough to vote for cloture.  Force their hand and make them embarrass themselves and their party on C-Span.  Mr. Reid, you boxed.  You’re tough.  I know because you signed and inscribed your book for me at the respectful behest of my mother.  Bring in the cots, order pizza and throw Senate decorum out the goddamn window, at the same time throw tomatoes and rotten fruit.  Roll up your sleeves Harry, get a nurse for the elderly members.  Make the Republicans actually filibuster.  This is one one of the most important issues of our time.  Popcorn and porn for the junior members and Geritol, sponge baths and plasma for the senior ones.  Do I need to remind you that what happens here is not at your convenience but quite possibly at our abrupt financial inconvenience and physical well being?

I joke but I’m serious.  If it comes down to it and the Republicans aren’t forced onto the floor for days and weeks to read from their favorite children’s books, we will be justifiably far beyond angry.  Shame them.  Make them pay for attempting to prevent what every citizen of the richest country in history deserves.  For five fucking percent of our defense budget this would be a done deal.  Get this done.  How long did you want to be Senate majority leader anyway?  This is a cruel joke.  The debate is for and by the stupid.

If we can pay for these ridiculous wars we can pay for the health and welfare of our people and that’s right out of my mothers mouth.  The very first campaign I ever worked in was for you as Lt. Governor, I think I was seven and you were a “Goldust Twin” along with Dick Bryan.  You simply must do everything you can and give this everything you have, or I will campaign against you next year.

Let’s talk about the war.  You know, that one in Afghanistan where more of our men and women have been killed this year than any of the other seven?  The one Darth Cheney has the prunes to accuse Obama of “dithering” over.  The one he and Dumbya dithered over for seven years and ultimately bequeathed this mess of way too much technicolor that mother Cheney made for us?  Darth Cheney has my vote for most evil, most ineffective, most dishonest and most destructive President never elected in the 21st century.  The epoch is young but we should pray he prevails.

My money is on him and I can only hope it’s how history judges him and his little dog too.

I have to tell you I don’t envy our President.  He inherited a shitstorm of clusterfucks.  The electorate is flirting with disappointment.  The village folk grow restless.  The goddamn unscrupulous Republicans are pouncing on anything that moves even if it’s in the throes of death.  They’re stockpiling pitchforks and fagots (no, like torches).  I admit my own handful of discouragements.

We would do well to remember however, that a mess this size took eight long years to manufacture and the public was complicit for at least five or six.  Most of you have just woken up and are still rubbing the shit dust from your eyes.  We may not be all about a rose garden economically but the entire worldwide system is no longer staring into the mouth of the dragon and withering from it’s breath.  Jobs is what we need but jobs is always the last to appear.  It’s dicey yet, but we are closer to some modicum of meaningful healthcare reform than we have ever, ever been in an effort nearly a century old.  Troops are coming out of Iraq and he’s doing his damnedest to figure out Afghanistan.  There is legitimate effort in Gitmo and I’m not sure we’re done torturing or wiretapping but I know we’re up to far less of it these days.  He’s reaffirmed his promises to the the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender community and I believe he will follow through.

You can’t always govern with the President you’d want, you have to govern with the President you have.  I for one am still absolutely confident we picked the very best man.  There is not a doubt in my mind.

Drinks for my friends.

A&M Chapter Sixteen

I had my guinea pigs.

Bands and artists that suffered my inexperience.  I made more than a few really shitty recordings.  Sometimes there was some attitude there but I made some egregious sonic messes.  I’m as embarrassed over those recordings as I am over my contributions to my high school paper.  It’s true.  I was a dickhead.

There was a guy named Scott Thomas.  Huge talent but kind of a prick so I don’t feel so bad.  Jesse Montague, I got some of it right but some of it wrong.  The percussionist’s name was Jagoda (sp?), he spilled a bong into the console and smoked the power supplies but we did make some cool recordings.  She played and sang an entire chorus out of time without me realizing it.  Duck Duck Goose, I think I did okay by them, the guitar player had this tiny little 15 watt vintage amp that he got the coolest sound from.  Hard as fuck to record because I had to isolate the hell out of it.  It broke up as beautifully as a cameo broach and he had a lisp.  The gayest straight guys I ever met.

A band called Dumpster; have I told the story about experimenting with heroin with the singer?  A band called Eleventeen who would later become Eve Six.  My lawyer got me home early from vacation for that one.  Found me in Tahoe somehow when I’m not sure my parent’s  knew I was there.  Before cell phones.  Neverland with Pat Sugg, the best I’d ever heard a guitar player sound through Peavey amps.  Bill Kennedy was building the coolest record with them and it just never happened.

I’ve got to go through my DATs as I have thousands of hours of the best LA had to offer.  Before it was over, we were out scouting them and bringing them in.

Salad days.  Golden.

Along came a band called Rat Bat Blue.  Dabro, Ace, Fraulein Sniffy, Alan the genius and Teddy on bass.  Dabro, Dave Abrahams, was the guitar player and the archivist for A&M’s mastering department.  We became friends because he was so damn friendly.  One of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  It was a bad day when Dabro wasn’t smiling.  They were all sweethearts.

We had fun and worked way very hard to render their vision.  All night long whenever we could.  Must have done at least twenty songs together.  Songs don’t happen in a day you know.  Sometimes not in a week.  They could play, all good musicians, with Alan on keyboards being a bit of a stand out.  Alan and I seemed to understand each other right away.  I can’t explain it but we connected.  He was a sorcerer with a grand piano.  Funny and smart.  That actually describes the band as a whole if I toss in the words talented and dedicated.

They were a stalwart team.  They were to be my first experience and example of such a dynamic in many ways.  I was to work with many famous ones that didn’t share a similar ethic and it’s absence was always a hole in the process as much as it was an indicator of an obvious expiration date to come.

Professional.   They never bitched about or maligned each other.  They were confident in their abilities and never failed to share encouragement and support.  They were very sensitive in that way with me as well.  They treated me like a member and often left a few hundred dollars on the console after we’d worked all night and I was the only one who had to get up to clean toilets and fetch fruit in an hour.

I was mixing them the night of the ’92 Northridge quake and had just gotten home to fall asleep with a beer between my legs.  So tired.  Still on the couch.  A 6.9, and I slept through it.  What woke me was the arcing of the transformers.  Not the sound and crunch, but the blinding flashes.

My ears shut down to this day when I sleep.  I hear them turn on right before I’m completely conscious.  They click and work with my eyes.  Weird, huh?

I wasn’t sure what to do but understood something big had happened.  I put on my shoes and wandered out to find a community on the sidewalk.  Battery powered transistor radios, blankets and candles.  Some woman remarked at the irony of such tragedy on a so beautiful a night.  She gestured at the stars.  It was then I realized it had been a quake serious enough to knock out all the power of the entire LA Basin.  A celestial show like that hadn’t been possible in Los Angeles for a hundred years.

I was in bed asleep inside half an hour and slept through all the aftershocks.

I’m an agnostic, yet I can’t help but say, God love you guys for your patience.  Thank you.  Rat Bat Blue certainly wasn’t my first but we lasted, I learned and together we grew.  The first female drummer I’d ever worked with, Fraulein Sniffy, Jeanne Thomason, she could play, she had pocket and she could tune her own drums.  I almost always asked drummers to hit harder and Jeanne was no exception, but neither was it a problem.  She was very solid.  Always there’d be a message on my machine from Jeanne thanking and praising me after we’d finished a batch of songs.

“Magicfingers” she called me.

Dabro on the lot, spreading the word about what a good job I’d done.  Smiling and telling everyone.  This band was instrumental, pun intended, in earning me respect and legitamacy.

The band’s style was pretty eclectic and they seemed to go wherever they wanted musically because they had the vision and talent to afford and accommodate it.  Ace, Michael Baker, was a larger than life front man with charisma, chops and style.  A funny motherfucker, with serious lyrical and melodic ability.  He had an informed and clever grip on humor and pathos.  I was often in awe of him.  He was the real deal.

Exceptionally good live.  Always a function of the band’s ability to play and a front man’s ability to deliver.

When Dabro first approached me, I was still green enough to be leery, but I accepted.  Understand these transactions had nothing to do with money.  It was about us helping each other.  One of the reasons I was grateful is they could play far better than I could engineer.  Like I said, they were patient and I can’t help but know they were grooming me for their needs.  I had no problem with that then and I don’t now.

Before we were done with each other, about a year and a half in, they were being courted by labels and the fish in my pan had gotten considerably larger and a little more supine.  We’d accomplished what we’d set out to do, we’d helped each other and I was glad to have held up my end of the deal.  They signed to Atlantic and Rupert Hine produced.  Rupert Hine picked up where I left off.

It always broke my heart a little when a band I’d helped for free got a deal and never even threw some overdubs my way but I loved these guys.  My heart holds nothing but fondness for them.  We had shared with and nurtured each other in a musical equivalent of graduate school.  They did at least as much for me as I did for them and it was without regret on my part.  We had a good time doing it.  They didn’t owe me a goddamn thing.

As is often the case, they got lost in a shuffle.  Atlantic just happened to go through a “consolidation” and they were never really heard from again.  I never heard the record they made and I can’t help but be curious to this day.  They were exceptional.

The thing is this, when you work with a band for that long and that hard with a common goal, you share something beyond friendship, it becomes a partnership that approaches family.  You get to know each other pretty goddamn well.  I was to join many bands in the years to come but this was my first.  I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  My heart swells when I think about it.  Good people.  Good times.  A lot of honest talent and sincere friendship.

Here’s an epilogue for ya:

I’m not sure how, but word got out at one point about a batch of three songs I’d completed mixes on with Rat Bat Blue.  Mark Harvey, the Harvinator hisself, studio manager and boss hog, approached me to say he was impressed and  asked me to engineer for him that very weekend.  Again, I found myself flattered and intimidated.  A piano vocal session with Astrid Young, sister of Neil Young.  I accepted.  There was no way I could let this man down.

I was nervous but Mark was cool and It went well.  So much different than my hard ass boss.  We had a pleasant afternoon.  I documented everything I did.  Brian Schueble was to follow up on what I’d done and told me later that when he first looked at my signal chain he thought I was out of my fucking mind but it sounded pretty good.  Brian was one of the good ones still much to my senior.  One of the best engineers to ever walk the planet and as humble as  pornstar with a tiny dick.  He would later spend time with me sharing his micing technique on grand piano with emphasis on phase and right left balance.

Brian is another one I owe.  Damn he was good.  He showed me how to make a piano sound like God.  He handed me the keys.  He taught me to fish.  Listen to Fiona Apple’s first record, that’s Brian.

So the buzz about these Rat Bat Blue songs somehow continued to escalate.  Some of the techs were even talking about it.  I know Dabro was raving all over the lot.

It’s weird being under the microscope all the sudden in the most famous and renowned recording studio in the world.  Discomfiting and confusing.  I’d had the light shined on me before for other reasons and this felt the same.  It itched.  It was sore.  I wanted a vacation.  Given the chance, I might have run for it.

But I knew the songs were good.  I knew my production and engineering was good.  It sounded almost the same as it did in my head so I knew.  If I was wrong I was wrong and so be it, I would never be right.  My colleagues and contemporaries listened and smiled.  It was good.  Nine out of ten dentists agreed.

One day, in the middle of my session, I forget who I was working with, Shelly Yakus, President of Recording, the big cheese, in his inimitable style, walks into my control room, folds his arms on the meter bridge, looks at me and waits for me to stop tape.

I stop tape.  He tells me he heard I did something special.  I tell him I think I know what he’s talking about.  He tells me he wants to hear it.  I say as soon as I’m done here I’ll play it for you.  He smiles evil and says take a break, then tells me to meet him in studio B and exits stage right.  I tell the band I’ll be back in fifteen minutes and head across the hall with my DAT.  I sweat making the easiest patch in the world and bring the DAT up on “stereo A”.  I crack the gain to twelve o’clock.  I’m not sure where to stand so I lean against the multitracks in the back.

His head curly gray head dances without rhythm and he doesn’t say a word or open his eyes for all three songs.

I hear it through his ears with all the flaws and mistakes.  It’s amateur hour.  We didn’t have automation.  It’s overdone.  Too ambitious.  The effects are out of control and I’m positive he flinches where I cut the half inch.  The band helped and did mutes and fader rides and everything because we didn’t have automation.  I can’t tell anything because there’s no meter to his bobbing head.  It’s like he’s listening to a disco version.  But I know he knows.  He may be a sonafabitch but Shelly Yakus is an icon and he knows.

I hate his dancing head.  He’s going to mock me.

I’m thinking about being grateful for his inevitable criticism.  How I’ll be gracious and humble as he points out the flaws.  He’s going to have constructive things to say.  It will be helpful.  I’ll be ok.  He’ll tell me how far I have to go and the bottom sounds disconnected from the rest of the mix.  The mid range is skinny and my balances are off.

The last song ends.  The silence is deafening.  His hands are folded and he’s rubbing his nose with both index fingers.  I hope he encourages me.  That would be nice.  Tell me it’s a good effort and to keep working because I’m onto something.

I don’t know what to do so I pull the patch cords, step close to him to mute the console and sit down next to him for my lumps.

Well, well, well he says.  I can’t help but look him in the eye, you gotta pick one, so I do, and I want it straight.  I pick his right eye.  I’m ready to own what he has to say.

“Congratulations”, he says.  He grins wide and kind, “You’ve figured it out”.  “I’m impressed”.

I really don’t remember what happened next.  Free beer to whomever was assisting me that day or anyone that can tell me who was.

I had just earned myself a whole mess of trouble but I didn’t care.

This chapter is dedicated to Keith Woods, may his soul and consciousness rest in peace.

Drinks for my friends.

A&M chapter Fifteen

There are so many more stories between those days and the days I’m itching to talk about so maybe I’ll go back and tell some more, fill it all in a little more, regardless, you the reader, will never be the wiser.  There’s no real reason to tell you this.

Whatever.

We’re gonna dance around with this chapter a little.  Got ta, got ta, got ta go see Ben.

If it seems to  have taken too long for me to rise to the occasion of what I expected of myself, it didn’t take very long to get what I wanted once I figured it out.  It was equal parts unwilligness to follow the years long path a typical assistant engineer takes to get a shot at the show, as it was not at all congruent with my aspirations once I finally began to understand what I was doing.

Fuck all that.  I understood the big picture.  I’d seen enough.  Paid my dues.  Fuck all that.  I was busting.

I had a plan.  I was developing mad skills.

There was bullshit.  Shitloads of it.  Nonsense.  I’d be cutting through that.

I was a quarter century old.  I’d produce record and mix my first record before I was thirty.

The fact was, I could hear it in my head and knew how to put it on tape.  Or I knew I could figure out how to.  I had come to understand top and bottom and volume and chunk and circumstance enough to make it so.  I witnessed famous engineers and producers making huge mistakes.  Both in coaxing performances and being clueless while getting a sound.  I witnessed Bob Ezrin leave a turd in the punchbowl with a band called El Magnifico.  An A&M staff guy named Brian Schueble had already nailed the El Mag vibe.  He had already given the band their sound.  He understood them.  Their record was shit and I understood the biggest reason for that was because Brian didn’t do it.  I witnessed Mike Clink fuck up a band called I Mother Earth while I won his confidence after he’d thrown me off Gun’s & Roses two years earlier.

No one was any more or less fallible than me.

It’s a very delicate and elusive thing, the relationship between band/artist and producer/engineer.  As often as not, the band needs nothing more than an engineer with an opinion as opposed to an engineer and a producer.  It’s a fact, I’ve been there.  Foment an atmosphere where they are relaxed.  It sounds simple but cheer lead them into trying harder and reaching further.  Explore harmonies and percussion and other melodic instruments.  Musicians are creative animals and the man behind the glass and in front of the knobs must and should make them comfortable with experimenting.  That man must also contribute and suggest, make the band try things they oppose even if they don’t work because it pushes open doors to other possibilities.

I did the same with a brilliant band called Agnes Gooch.  There’s a story there for later but I’m here to tell you that I understood them and they did there best work with me and I think you’d know their name if it was left to our mutual muse and device.  We fucking killed it.  I joined that band and we did excellent work.  Goddamn they were special.

I punched the same sixteen bars for CC Deville one night for eight fucking hours.  Julian Raymond producing, Phil Kaffel engineering and CC on blow and guitar.  It was a cover of Hank Williams’ “Hey hey good lookin” for some Pauly Shore movie.  From eight at night until four in the morning we did nothing but the same solo over and fucking over.

I punched every note, every space, every nuance.  I could have played it myself by the time we were done.

Nobody stopped the little prick.  Julian was a sweet man but a worthless producer.  Philo was a good engineer but a bit of a prick who always looked like he combed his hair with a sharp rock.  CC was an obnoxious, whiny, coke fueled, Brooklyn accented self absorbed piece of shit.  That Julian didn’t stop the whole thing after an hour or two made him guilty of manslaughter.  It was profoundly ridiculous.  I doubt Julian ever made a dime for Disney or The Mouse (Hollywood Records).  Seriously, every time I worked for Julian, he sucked.  Indecisive and no control or vision.  The whole thing could have been done in any shithole in LA with a multitrack, a decent mic pre and a decent mic.  Instead, CC Deville was allowed to masturbate for eight hours without shooting his load because he was hoovering coke every other take at a studio like A&M at hundreds of dollars an hour on top of engineering fees etc.

Vulgar and insipid burlesque.  The kind of stupidity and waste of resources endemic to a place like A&M; a situation among hundreds that taught me me lessons I wasn’t necessarily supposed to learn.  How is it people don’t get embarrassed in the middle of shit like that?

I’d been engineering on my own.  I was taking all comers.  I was a whore.  You got a polka band?  Bring it.

I was confronted with my first horn section, my first concertina, my first stand up bass and my first violin, mellotrons, organs and Leslie’s etc.  I stood in front of these instruments, listened to them and heard them in my head the way they should sound.  The way they wanted to sound, so I figured out how best to be honest with them and still allow for them to speak in a song.

I took it very seriously.

I had ceased to fuck around.

I was faithful to them.  Honest with them.

I became somewhat expert at guitars and amps and distortion.  How an amplifier breaks up, how different ones behave and how to drive them differently to get what I heard in my head.  Hundred watt Marshalls tend to suck because you have to run them so hard before they bust up.  Fifty watt heads are much easier to make crunch.  Give me a 50 Watt Plexi and a 4X12 loaded with aged Celestions and I’ll go gay.  A Vox AC30 with a Tele or a Moserite.  Class A always runs hot baby.  I loved experimenting with voltage regulators, powers soaks etc.  Vintage Fender Bassmans were a favorite.  Hiwatts,  I adore a Fender Twin.  Boogie dual rectifiers.

My penis on a hot tin roof.  A wall of Ampegs.

Single coil, lipstick or double coil humbucking pickups.  Always check between the bridge middle and back pick up positions for every part.

I always brought my own cables because they made such a huge difference.

Tube or solid state.  Tubes in the pre amp or actual gain stage?  Is it a hybrid?

There is no finer perfume than a hot tube amp.

A/DA flangers, vintage MXR distortion, Wah pedals, Big Muffs, DOD ……..the variables were infinite and a geek’s dream.

A Les Paul, Strat, Explorer, Flying V, Rickenbacker, Moserite, semi acoustic, hollow body, acoustic with steel or nylon or both.

Six or twelve strings.

The thickness of the pick or plectrum, the gauge of the strings.  Where on the guitar the player strummed.  The size of hands and fingers.  The ridiculous shoes worn that day.

It’s kinda about the way you combine all the elements and the combinations were infinite.

Just turn every knob until it breaks up somewhere between barbarian and princess or love of self.  Only then do you add microphones.  414s, 57s, 421s, fet 47s and make sure all the diaphragms are lined up.  Phase is everything.  Use a flashlight but them there diaphragms need to be like ducks.

Before the sun sets, tone comes from hands and fingers.  Ignore that fact at your peril.

I tuned drums even.  Showed the drummer from Everclear how to do it himself.  He thanked me for it years later after a show in Vegas.  I was a shitty drummer, but my kit always sounded awesome.  I understood the kind of heads best for a drummer based on his kit and how he played.  The size of his sticks and how hard he hit.  light medium or heavy batter for the snare.  Ambassador, Emperor, Pinstripes or Black Dots on the toms.  The lighter head on the bottom, the thicker head on top.  Tune the bottom head a little lower, sometimes a little higher.  I spent inordinate amounts of time moving various blankets with various textures back and forth in kick drums.  I built gynecological tunnels and used sand bags, bricks, weights from the sound stage and gaffer’s tape.  I miced it inside, out side and way back, while pounding the shit out of the way back one with the most brutal compressor I could find.  An 1176 with all the buttons pushed in.

I made compression my friend and my bitch.  It’s an ugly muscular mistress with copious facial hair.  Ya just gotta keep it’s head between your knees and below your waist.  Compression done wrong will eat your genitals.

I really digress.  Sorry.

But goddamn, recording is a crude and manly art that begs a feminine touch.  Pricks.  Bitches.  Fags.

All necessary.

Once I understood the tools, and it took a while, but once that epiphany occurred, I had no interest in playing it the way everyone assumed it was to be played.  Studio C was my epicenter.  It was where potential wizards and obvious dipshits were first assigned to study the craft.  The idiots got fired.  I spent thousand of hours in that room as an assistant.  Mostly Demos for the record company but also working with the ‘B’ listers like Quiet Riot, Peter Criss and Alice Cooper.  Older luminaries like Mel Torme, Solomon Burke and Don Cherry.

I ended up being the last engineer to record Don Cherry alive with the Watts Prophets.

From Gospel to hip hop to metal, it was an excellent education.  A solid, real time crash course in just about everything.  I got a brainfull everyday.  I was a shitty assistant but I was learning to be a good engineer.

I understood there was no way I would survive as an assistant engineer.

I understood I didn’t want to.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I could do what these outside engineers could do at least as good and probably better.  At the end of the day, I was right.  I did it better.  Much better.  I heard it in my head.  Took a while for me to pull it off.  I befriended most of the A&R staff and earned their trust.  It didn’t hurt that in the beginning, no one on either side, the recording studio and the record company being separate entities, paid much attention.  The deal was, the A&R department had first dibs on the room (studio C) from nine a.m. to five or six p.m., five days a week.  That’s when demos got done.  The smarter, more adventurous A&R people took advantage of the free time in a world class studio to literally sound out artists with any potential.

Those smart ones I courted with a vengeance.  I made friends with them.  Before long, I was scouting bands and bringing them in under their auspices while they handed me projects.  Pierre Vudrag, Jeff Suhy, Michael Whitaker, Teresa Ensenat, David Anderle, Amy Brokaw (daughter of Tom)………

They just wanted a decent engineer they could trust and maybe spend an afternoon away from the desk and phone playing house and or record producer.  At the same time I began to have some facility as an electron director, I became an earnest student of the socio-political mechanics and egos of young ambitious record company wannabe heroes, lazy but talented musicians and older and wiser record execs.

I made friends.  I began to be a salesman.

Thus I was able to avoid dancing with more substantial egos of the famous engineers or producers by assisting.  I worked with plenty of the good ones but successfully avoided most of the assholes.  I never once assisted Shelly Yakus, Niko Bolas,  only once for Don “Dry as a bone’  Smith…….I did learn tons from Dave Thoener, Ed Stasium and Paul Hamingson, Thompson and Barbiero, Bob Clearmountain, Keith Forsey, Mike Shipley, Jimbo Barton, Tony Platt, Boll Dooley, Steve Barncard ……..

The rest of the twenty four hour cycle and weekends, the studio was free to book the room for profit.  It was such a technologically advanced complex that most people made the mistake of underestimating the little 32 input API without automation.  It was the red headed step child.  The truth was, it was an amazing sounding console and the compliment of outboard gear available in a facility like A&M, made Studio C an absolute asset in the hands of any capable engineer.

My contemporaries were damn fools for not realizing the room’s potential and assuming it was amateur hour.

It was a brilliant venue for overdubs.  But I tracked twelve piece bands, grand piano, horns and full on rock bands, all live, with very pleasant and thickly rendered results in that little 10×15 foot room without a single iso booth.  I used the “Dance Hall”, an equipment storage room down the hall with the master fridge for fruit and perishables.  It also housed some ancient power grid.  Hello sixty cycle hum and phase horror.  I used the guard shack even further down the hall.  I ran cables all the way out to La Brea Ave. on a Sunday for vocals.  I put mics and instruments and amps in the public bathrooms and in the other studios before or after they showed up or went home.  I recorded in the lobby and the live echo chambers.  I made the asses of the office bitches itch by using the mic closet for isolation with amps so loud they couldn’t hear the phones ring.  It was often a dorm room carnival with the phone on the console ringing and us not answering because we knew they just wanted us to turn it down.

Fuck them, it was a recording studio.

We recorded vocals live on La Brea Avenue.

I routinely blew up speakers.  A percussionist spilled his bong into the console and smoked the power supplies on my watch, a story that made it all the way to New York, where my assistant tried to tell me the story without realizing who he was telling it to.  I set him straight.  I had no respect for impedance, voltage, wattage or amperage.  Voodoo bullshit.  When the woofers in the NS10’s were toast, I muted the console, pushed the kick drum fader all the way up, cranked the line amp, twisted fifty hertz all the way to the right, master buss fader and console gain on overdrive and flicked the output toggles open.  Turned down the lights, started the multitrack and watched the little fuckers cough sparks.  Called the techs for a swap.  Learned that from the Kill Bennedy.  Seems like it was always Mad Dog Mannon who showed up with a fresh pair.

He looked at me funny for a decade.  Fuck you Mannon, I always liked you.

By the time I was done, that whole nine to five thing meant dick to me and eventually, I meant dick to management.

I was pushing other people out of the way.  Merely a way of life in a high pressure, high stakes environment.  Borja, Bogosian and a sweet man named Steve Smith who always wore a suit because he was engineering at A&M yet still honked a fatty from his endless briefcase supply. They all would see their gigs dwindle because of my ambition.  These men all taught me well and as importantly treated me in a way that was far more humane and kind than I was used to.  Good men.  I did blow with Borja in the gardens of Yamashiro and Mr. Smith always got me high while I drove him home.  Bogosian took me to the apartments of strange women during the riots and I always got laid.

Good men that I owe thanks to.  Before it was done, each knew they could trust me should they need to step away from the session.  I engineered completely for each of them before it was over.

I became better than them.  I did, no shit.

Inside of eighteen months, I’d taken over the bulk of the A&R departments business, drawing salary and benefits from the studio, between $25 and $35 an hour from the record company and vacuuming the best training any aspiring engineer could possibly hope for.  Most studios weren’t anything like A&M but many were like Studio C.  A new band every week or sometimes every few days for what felt like a forever paradise.

I ate, drank and slept it.

Along with my partner Alex Reed and a few complicit A&R guys, we’d eventually come to control the Studio C schedule for years.

Golden and ripe.

Once I’d figured this out and began to be able to make things sound like they did in my head,  the whole paradigm changed.

I went to town.

We started making records.  No one but Alex and I saw it coming.  Every band we recorded, we saw as a body of work with at least one one radio single.  I recorded and mixed a band named Wink, Michael Lockwood was the guitar player.  He now plays for Aimee Mann and functions as her musical director.  Back then, the singer named Roxy, did a head stand in the ice chest and the band paid me with a brand new pair of sixteen hole oxblood Doc Martins.  I have a Polaroid.  I still have those boots and I wore them on every record I ever made.  A plexiglass drumkit I barely got a handle on, good God it was hard to contain, a genius and kind guitar player, and a junkie singer.  I think we did a seven inch vinyl single and that would be my first produced, recorded and mixed by.

It sounded awful.

Thank you Michael Lockwood.

I kept at it.  I could hear it in my head.  It didn’t take long for me to hear and understand what the engineers I assisted were doing wrong.  I could hear it in my head.  Competent engineers.  More than a modicum of skill.  But they just didn’t get it.  They’d turn it up and make the paper NS10 woofers dance but that was easy.  Make ’em dance with clarity, thump chunk and chaos how you mean and then we can have lunch.  No shit.  That’s what is.  Sorry, but that’s what I did because I heard it in my head.

I figured it out and Alex Reed came along because he was way far from stupid and he knew I needed him as much as I was gonna need anybody.

Alex became my assistant one summer and he asked me to help him with an actual record he intended to make with friends of his from Berkley.  I’m not sure how much I contributed because I was suffering the slings and arrows of being a professional assistant engineer at that point and I really lacked both courage and conviction.  I was more than a little spent and beaten.

I ended up getting drunk a lot and trying to teach him to engineer.  To his credit, a fine record was made.  It was to be the first for both of us.  A band called Love Nest.  A very cool quirky record.  I still like it very much.

The truth is, Al thought I was the biggest most arrogant prick he’d ever met.  It’s true, he didn’t like me at all.  Ironically, we share the same birthday but we are about as different as the sun and the moon.  He was painfully bright, knowledgeable and both subtle and diplomatic.  I was loud and forceful.  He taught me far more than I ever taught him and he learned what I had to offer at a pace that humbled me.  I miss him.  We talk, but not often enough.  Music was our bond, we are otherwise different.  Almost entirely.

I have still, as much respect for him as anyone I ever met.  Alex Reed is is an example to me.  His mother passed while we were working together.  The very first time I was called upon to produce, record and mix a record, I said yes knowing Alex would agree to be there with me.  We made records together and you just can’t know what that’s like unless you’ve done it.  We slept in bedrooms, shitholes and fleabag motels.  We were more than the sum of our parts.  We did four times as much musical good together as we could have done by ourselves.  God love you Al.  I trust you are well.  We did the best we could.

Drinks for my friends.

Insert cheesy prom power ballad for Master Bacon

I hear Tam stirred a little shit.  She called night before last to tell me I would be spending the night with Dad and I’d be wearing a mask because of my mosquito sized cold.  She announces it matter of fact.  This is what’s happening now.  Mom is spent she says.  Who am I to piss against the wind?

I’d had a minor but obstreperous summer cold so it was decided I shouldn’t sit with the old bastard at least until I ceased to leak the mucus.  The other morning I fell out of, yes fell out of, the shower.  I was standing on one foot scrubbing the other.  Pretty fucking slippery.  It’s a tiny shower.  For people under 200 lbs.

What new devilry is this?  Same kind my dreams are visiting on me I think.

I show up to the old place on Viking and Nye.  Dad’s got a German helmet on and no one else is paying attention.  Outside the weather is gorgeous. It darkens and everything that’s bloomed seems to flee before the wind hits.  Whites and pinks go first.  Children are screaming.  I smell maple syrup.  My fingers are sticky.

We’re at peace because the bright red shag really does work with the paneling in the master bedroom and the wallpaper in the bathroom.  All hells breaks lose.  Often it’s a hurricane, sometimes it’s an earthquake and about half the time the trailer ends up on it’s side.  Rogue waves.  The giant motor home plunges of a cliff into a violent ocean.

I try to call her back to see if she’s got a laptop I can use and eventually end up with my old man on the phone while he’s doing his best to push one out.  He sounds strong to me and I smile.  There’s no phone in the shitter, they handed it to him.  How cool is that?

I’m a private first class

Third behind my Mother, my Sister and the doctors.  I know, my math sucks already.  I see myself as third because I refuse to be last.  4th, 5th and 6th are available to my niece and nephews.  I don’t need to be the xo unless it’s cognac..  My youngest nephew Keaton,  might just be a Carson City analog of Sean Connery and Richard Gere.  This dates me, huh?  I suspect he’s smooth.  Across the board they’ve benefitted from their respective gene pools.  Big cool brains on them.  Their style is.  Priorities is.  No respect for the Mason Dixon Line whatever that means.  The Westergards are a credit to their race and I adore them.

I wonder if they think I’m cool.

Anyway, Dad still live and pushing.

Neither one of us knows what’s up between the women folk but he thinks Mom is on her way to me.  I’ve pretty much decided I’ll finish my drink, brush my teeth and head out once Mom shows because she is my CEO and I gotta be consistent.  My briefcase ready and my teeth washed, I sit sipping my Bombay.

She arrives home and parks where the driveway meets the road like she’s going to get the mail without even coming inside.

It’s still a small town, no more than sixty thousand or so but it is the Capitol and my sister has been well and beneficially involved in it’s downtown.  An old city, even for the West, so there is architecture and landmarks aplenty.  It’s both bucolic and sleazy.  The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range hosts the sun every evening this Fall and for every season ever. I can see just about all of town from my folk’s backyard.

This makes me think of Wednesday morning trash pick up so I haul it out to meet her.  No recycling today, it’s every other week.

She’s flustered and alludes to my sister being a pain in the ass.  I think I know about that.  I don’t ask but set to making her a gin and tonic.  My brother in law did the coolest thing the other night by showing up to the hospital with pre-mixed gin and tonics in a big jar.  Mom jokes she considered crawling into the closet with the jar.

Mom is rarely funny herself but has a good sense of humor.  She is my mother.  I adore her.  She rocks.

I help pack some food and include a small Tupperware with ice because she’s still got some of that pre-mix at the hospital.

I hung out with my dad yesterday, he was good.  He flipped me off a lot and told me I was a shitass.  My dad is very often very funny.

Mike Bacon called and wanted to hang and we did but first I went to see dad for the first time in three days.

They brought salmon, green beans and rice for dinner. We shared it.  So surreal.  I applied the supplied packets of lemon juice, salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash and tarter sauce according to the best of my culinary instincts.  He asked me which utensil I wanted.  I chose the soup spoon as I had eyes on his soup and he’d already confessed to giving up all soup to my mother for the last few days.

It was cool in that was what he expected.  He assumed he was sharing his meal with me.  We ate it together.  It’s not so unusual on any level but it touched me in a way I can’t really describe.  We also talked about how things freeze in your memory perfectly preserved.  And of course, we discussed the dipshit Republicans.

He told me it was best case scenario under the circumstances.  He really likes it there and he’s comfortable.  He told me it doesn’t fuckin’ beat home though.  He flirts with the nurses and has nicknames for all of them.  No matter who enters his room he flips them shit and simultaneously charms them.  They all stay and sometimes talk too long for my taste.  He tells me one is a lug or another talks too much or that his affection for another is sincere.  My father has his flaws but he one of the best judges of character I’ve ever seen.  To this day I would trust his instincts over my own.

Note to self, the head administrator is fucking creepy.

You know I like soup.  Even shitty hospital soup.  The concept of soup is both wholesome and genius.

The ice maker on the fridge just made a squeaky farting sound.  Kinda like souls squealing and kinda cartoon spooky.

I wonder if he was on his best behavior for me.

He always eats desert.  We had fun yesterday.  He was in good spirits.  Patty was there when I arrived and was reluctant to go.  This guy Patty is the coolest.  I think I’ve already told you.  My father and I don’t have much to talk about so I tell him the news of the world.

Two men were wiping at their eyes today.  One was Maury and the other was my father.  I just remembered this.  Morey Tresnit, brother of Joe, son of Bob, tells me he got my message and will fax Tuesday.  He tells me this as the sun is setting in front of his bar & grill, “Mo & Sluggo’s”.  I’m not really sure in either case why eyes were leaking.  I can only be sure there was pain.  A drunk told me I had great hair and hi-fived me.

Morey touches me on the shoulder when I tell him I’m there to meet Mike Bacon and asks me if I want a drink.

Mike tells me I’m in graduate school.  He means that’s where I am in life.  He thinks that’s how I should look at it.    He’s so painfully bright he dances around me and I hope I’m keeping up.  He points out things I did or said I don’t remember and it’s kinda hard to believe it came from me.  We’ve been friends since the fifth grade.  He shares all manner of things.  I think he tells me he’s gay because I didn’t ask and I’m almost sure he tells that truth one person at a time.

He dated Cecilia Martin right before pining for dudes.  This is huge to me.  You gotta understand Bacon and I just can’t help you there.  I can tell you things about him but they don’t define him.  Plus, Cecilia Martin was an absolute vixen by the sixth grade.

I believe she had braces.

He’s episcopalian and he says he goes to church.  We drank gin.  Bombay Sapphire only.  I think I bought two drinks.  Joe Tresnit, who lives with my friend Kelly’s dad, Reg bought a couple, Morey Tresnit who’s business I want, bought a couple and Bob Tresnit father with the one leg bought a couple.

We liked the gimlets the best.  Mike had to remind Joe how to prepare them.

A subtle but sublime pleasure to indulge in cocktails and conversation with this man I’d not seen in fifteen years at least.  Erudite, razor sharp and lightning fast wit.  He’s currently a candidate for Ph.D. in Victorian literature, his thesis to be centered around his own novel concept of “gentrifuge”.

I either spent twelve or eight dollars.  Maybe both.

Bacon took me to his athletic shoe of a rental car and gave me a small tin with Obama’s countenance on it’s sliding cover and a chunky little bit of green inside.  He also supplied me with a one hitter painted to look like a cigarette.  I’m no stranger to paraphernalia  but I never sold these.

I’ve just discovered an entire box of Twinkies.   What new devilry is this?

I can hear Beddy wailing a little in the bedroom and Billy The Tripod and I have enough of an understanding for her to sigh and act like she can’t hear it.  A very good dog.

I think a piece on the actual difference (s), between Democrats and Republicans might be in order.  Thanks for the reminder.  It will be challenging yet educational………maybe a little didactic.

Bacon said something pretty profound about re-branding the word ‘socialism’ into an “E. Pluribus Unum” kinda vibe, “Out of many one”.  They didn’t teach Latin here in the brush but I got it.  Pretty elegant and disarmingly simple.  I think it means nothing about leaders or demagogues but ideas.  I hope.  That’s what I got.  I think he was reminding me of consensus.  Maybe he was reminding me that we have one.  Could be genius and could be a fool.  Either one of us.

It’s this kind of confusion what makes pot great.

He spoke so calmly and sincerely.  He half asked if he was effeminate.  I shook my head.  What he is, is who he is.  He’s a sensitive and sincere man and a little hypervigilant.  In Carson City, Bacon is like a well dressed comedian from New York City.  Jewish maybe.  Carson folks have no idea but they like him.  He is as close to the ten to twelve year old that I knew, as a 44 year old could possibly be.  He looks you in the eye and with very little physical language, imparts crazy thoughtful observations and very perceptive conclusions.

He delivers wisdom and humor in the same voice because it is the same to him.  He’s advanced.

I am rich to have a man like Michael Bacon look forward to spending a minute with me.  He told me, me and his grandmother had made his day.  He is exceptional in many ways, but so foghorn, lighthouse bright it would be intimidating if not for the lack of ego and a completely unassuming honest look in his eyes and on his face.  I don’t doubt Master Bacon is what he his without exception.

Drinks for my friends.

A frumious bandersnatch

I made a genius tuna salad.

I used albacore packed in water by Chicken of The Sea.  A little mayo, some honey dill mustard, bleu cheese (not Bob’s) dressing and some tartar sauce.  Lemon pepper, garlic powder, chopped white onion, dill, lemon juice, black pepper, but I resisted basil.  I felt the licoriceness of the herb would’ve upset the delicate whang and tang I’d so meticulously constructed.  I’m very pro basil.  Mother said it was a little runny but flavor solid.

A little fresh basil would’ve changed the calculus.  Fresh rosemary too.

I’m all about the herb.

I added more chopped white onions and another can of albacore and ran a handful of the mixture through my hair.  It informed mine own coiffure with bounce and volume. No chunkiness in my wig.  Nothing untoward.  Slick and glistening smoothness notwithstanding, I was pleased with it’s sandwich worthy texture and consistency.  Mother was ironing pants and otherwise puttering in a busy and random way.  My mother is blind shithouse loony when it comes household duties.  A fart in a whirlwind says my father. I was phoning clients while contemplating my culinary creation.  Relaxed and contemplative was I.

Wish I’d had a few green or black olives on hand, but they’ve just returned from the road and the larder is not stocked with the pre-holiday robustness to which I’ve grown accustomed.  Still, it’s an amazingly well appointed kitchen.  All flavors,  appliances gadgets and tools at hand.  I love fashioning anything edible in my mother’s kitchen.  I want for little if anything at all.

Olives and onions are flavor and texture, see. I used it for a sandwich on multi-grain bread and wished for some thinly sliced Swiss while she spooned it over fresh, vine ripened tomatoes from Pasco Washington for to take with her to the hospital.

Dad seems to being do much better.  Haven’t been able to pull a shift in a few days because of an obstreperous yet minor cold.  Feel shitty in the mornings, fine by dusk  but I’d like to look in his one good eye.  Really wanna see the bastard.  He’s doing much better by all accounts and there is far less reason to worry than the last hospital stay.  Tough old bastard.  More worried about mom.

Turns out because of my recent fall from financial grace, my concerned busybody and overly nosy aunt has decided, without evidence of any kind, that I must have a chronic and acute drug problem.  She’s convinced herself and a fingerful of her sisters that I could be bad news and they have nearly talked themselves into an uninvited and unwarranted visit to save my mother from me.  The aunt in question sent her son, my cousin, to check me out.  He’s the oldest of my fifty plus cousins and has seen plenty of trouble.  Thrown out of the Navy, convicted on what we all KNOW to be baseless child molestation charges involving his own daughter.  So yeah, prison. He was pissed about the mission but told me all about it and said once he looked in my eyes he knew I was good.  He called his mother, my aunt, and told her to back the hell off and leave us the fuck alone.

Michael is fine, he told her and so the rest of the retired overly concerned vultures, and offered to score me some pot.

I don’t mean to malign these women because they are each and everyone a love and really only concerned for their sister, my mother.  This is beyond the pale however.  Over the line and just plain irresponsible out of control cattiness fomented by one aunt in particular who would know who she is if she ever read this.  She won’t.  If she does, I love her, she loves me and I have nothing to hide.  She was wrong.

Way out of line and I am offended.  Deeply.

I could really use some green bud.  It’s been months.  Man, I could use but an eighth.  I don’t even have a goddamn pipe. He’s a handful and an asshole but he’s been fighting the good fight on my behalf for at least a week unbeknownst to me.  My parent’s raised him for most of his formative years.  He’s very loyal to them and therefore to me.  I believe him to be a flawed but good man.

It occurs to me I could say that about anyone including myself.

My sister doesn’t like him. She is often guilty of rushing to judgment, and she is a nuclear powered earth mover once she sets her sights.  It can be either or both, advantageous and/or deleterious depending on the situation.  I adore her.  She is a house afire.  Methinks she needs to settle down, take a breath and consider context more often. Who am I to piss against the wind?  I am the cautionary tale.

We fought on the phone last night and I hung up on her.  I hate that.  Hanging up on someone.  It’s a weak thing.   She tells me I’m a bad listener while refusing to hear me out.  A nuclear powered earth mover who wades into things convinced of her overview and the accuracy of her assessment.  It goes without saying that we both share a certain alpha dog proclivity.  It goes without saying that she chaps my ass in the most urgent and immediate of ways.

I find myself losing composure with her quicker than just about anyone else I know.

I love and respect her but she pisses me the fuck off despite always having the best of intentions, much like the aforementioned aunt.

Very much like the aforementioned aunt.

Tonight I sit here writing, her youngest son, my nephew, shows up with a plate for me.  It’s the other thing about mi hermana.  Her heart is the size of gigantic juicy melon that threatens to burst from her torso.  Wrapped elegantly in a soft cloth of sunflowers that secures a pale blue paper napkin, cookies, chips, applesauce and a sandwich on a gorgeous roll.  My sister cooks like an angel.  From a simple sandwich to an elaborate five course meal to a BBQ for a hundred and fifty guests along with ridiculous pies and pastries.  Anything of sustenance or comestibility benefits from the grace of my sister’s hand and her adept and instinctual culinary prowess.

I refer to her and think of her as “Pissy” and she really is the shit.  Any pun you imagine, I take responsibility for.

About five years ago, when my fiancee and I were busting, she called me at my office to ask about coming to LA for Thanksgiving.  I told her as much as I loved the idea, I couldn’t say yes because I’d just put my house on the market.  Two days prior to the holiday she called again and asked if she and her family “could come over”.  Hadn’t sold the house yet, so about five hundred miles later, her and husband and brood showed up with a fully prepared Thanksgiving feast except a brined turkey and pies that would require time inside of my oven.

It might just be my favorite Thanksgiving memory.  I got pretty hammered and slept late the next morning.  By the time I came downstairs, my house was spotless.  She’d even swabbed my entire refrigerator.  Coffee and breakfast of course.  I think of my sister’s face and my heart swells.  She is good smells, good vibes, happiness and unconditional love.        

A violent storm or a soft gentle rain with the smell of moistened flowers and grass.  An absolute force for good but perhaps too often willing to bulldoze subtlety and nuance. No one who knows my sister can possibly avoid loving her.  I know I do.  She is exceptional in so many ways. I know this to be true as I’ve been on it’s receiving ends.  Yes, both of them.  She has been my savior and a foil.  I want her to know, she is righteous, but not always completely right.  A stopped clock is on money twice a day.  Don’t wind your own clock, or it’s the best you and your clock can expect.

No thing or circumstance is even remotely as black or white as she sometimes perceives.  Grey is the day.  Most days are purple.  Neither blue or red. Gimme a break Sis, I know what I’m doing despite not being complete in your eyes .  Help me to do what I need to do as opposed to what you want me to be and do.  Stop fighting me and help me.  I’ll never be as antiseptic in your estimation as you would prefer.  I am me and you are you and we are all together.  I could just as easily battle what and who you are, but I think unlike you, I’ve long since learned that lesson.  Sometimes your righteousness is cloying.  I don’t doubt where your heart is but help a brother out.

I simply don’t want the same things for myself that you do.  We are very different.  Ketchup little tomato.

Come to think of it, if only I’d had some capers for that tuna salad……..

Drinks for my friends.

Can we just get to carving pumpkins?

September 16:

Hard day.  He’s so strong but so fragile.  Never witnessed this kind of pain.  He can’t find a way to sit where it isn’t excruciating.  He struggles to suppress his cough because it tears at his insides.  He squirms and fights.  He writhes and stomps and cusses.  I finally end up demanding the nurse administer a morphine injection.  His eyes  wide and his mouth open without a sound. It spooks me.

He says he wishes he could pass out from the pain.

It’s just so surreal and crazy.  I don’t remember being this afraid for him.  I don’t remember being this afraid.  I’ve come to loathe hospitals.  It’s  horrible.  A beautiful hospital, expansive slate walled lobby, fountains and modern sculpture, abundant natural light and beautifully scaped desert grounds, yet I hate it.  I want to run away.

If only there were a bar or cocktail lounge.  A silent television, a bowl of snacks and some cleavage.

I don’t want to come back here tomorrow but I will.  On the way, I will pray for him to be better despite my agnosticism.

Mother is breaking down.  It’s too much.  I understand.  They have been married for fifty five years.  She was eighteen.  They are attached at the hip, the brain and the heart.  I do the best I can.  Hug her and hold her.  He will be ok, I tell her.  We both know he will come down another notch or two in terms of what he can and cannot do.  He has beaten his body hard against the rock of concrete as a profession for some four decades and now this.

He was never out of work and he never really missed work.  He piled into his beat up Datsun pick up every morning and was gone long before six a.m.  In four feet of snow or hundred degree heat.  Hangover being the lamest excuse not to show up so that never stopped him.  He came home and drank a cup of coffee, read the paper with one eye, hard hat still on while I pounded on my drums.  He stopped me only when mom pulled up.

His lifelong friend Pat Sanderson walks in and even through his pain, they trade insults the entire time.  Pat wouldn’t have known had my mother not run into his wife this afternoon in the parking lot.  Both named Jeanne, both of similar composure.

We had decided not to tell too many people yet.  Until he could, I don’t know, be more normal.

Mom was raised on a ranch/farm with ten siblings.  They ate what they raised or grew.  They were poor and are still remarkably close.  The love in my mother’s family is as rare as it is exceptional.  Her parents did something very, very right.  She began by typing marriage licenses in the county clerk’s office and ended up an administrative assistant to the Governor of Nevada and at one point, the Nevada State Legislature created a position for her in the economic development commission and appointed her to it.  Very powerful politicians are family friends.  Mayors, Governors, numerous state representatives and Senate majority leaders.

She’s a very smart and accomplished woman.

My sister and her husband carry on that tradition but far more focused on local.  Their hands in and on everything municipal.

He hasn’t pooped since it happened, so me and Patty joke about a suppository applied with a hammer.  A gay hairdresser named Larry to feed my dad and maybe help him with his reluctant bowels.

I love Pat, he once bit off a man’s index finger in a fight because the sonafabitch kept poking him with it.  This guy is the shit and he’s gonna show no matter what when he learns my Old Man is any kind of trouble.  Same as last time.  Understand my Dad was a hard working, hard fighting man and men like Pat were by his side the entire time.  Hard hats flying in bar fights, they’d drink beer from them afterward.

I’m often impressed by the men who hold my Father in the highest regard.  My cousin Derek came by too.  Rough hands and bandaged fingers.  I guess my sister told him.  Found out in the morning and stopped by after work, then headed to my parent’s house to empty the shit tanks and grey water from the RV my Old Man was working on when he fell.  He adores my Father and my Father adores him.  My cousin Derek is the shit.  Race car driver who wins just about every race.  Fiercely loyal.  We have little in common but we like each other a lot.  He shook my hand and hugged me hard.  He loves me because he loves my father and I have no problem with that.

I adore him and his wife, My cousin Marlo.  Her parents, uncle Tyke and aunt Bobby, rock.

I can’t stand it, I’m so frightened and weak.  I advocate for him.  I bully the nurses and doctors.  I rinse his piss jug and try to entertain him. We’re not at all that alike you know.  I’ve spent so much time with him in the last few years in hospitals when his condition is dire.

September 17:

Pat “Patty” Sanderson calls this morning offering to take a shift from one of us.  He understands that we do not leave the Old Man alone; one of us is there 24/7.  I certainly don’t need it, but my mother could use it.  I tell him I’ll have mom call.  When I ask her about it, she says no, too soon, family only.  You need to call him, I tell her.  My uncle Larry calls to say if we need him he’s there.  This phenomena of love and selflessness would be multiplied by a hundred but we’ve decided not to tell anybody yet.

I call before I leave for the hospital to see if I need to bring anything.  The answer is no and mom says it’s been a pretty rough morning.  Instantly I’m fearful.  In the shower I try to imagine what it would be like to not be able to clean myself and realize he’s probably used to it.  In the past few days I’ve fed him, held cups for him to drink out of and scratched him where he can’t reach, fought with nurses and doctors to get him what he needs or what I think he needs.

We’re very different my Father and I, but his vulnerability has allowed me to love him and appreciate him so much more than I otherwise would have.  That old testosterone impetus for conflict has disappeared.  The rivalry between Father and son, especially between two of such different minds, is gone.  I understand that I’m of a different mind because both he and my mother wanted almost desperately for my sister and I to be.  He’s always been so proud of me and my accomplishments.  His praise and pride, always  so unswerving and resolute.  Love runs very strong and deep in my family.  I am so very lucky.

Patty didn’t hear from my mom so he just showed up with his wife this afternoon.  Brings a card that sounds like a toilet flushing when opened.  If you don’t tell Patty no, he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants.

He and Dad share a hysterical story about locking some asshole supervisor in a porta-potty on a high rise job, hooking it to a crane and dropping it.  They tell me they dropped it five stories before slamming on the brakes, so the cable stretched and snapped back causing the shithouse to tumble in the air a few times.  The super emerged, speechless, shaken and covered in shit.  When he finally reappeared at the job site, looking to fire somebody, they were busy working on the cable brakes for the crane.  He never knew until some twenty years later that my Father and Patty had been behind it.  Patty invited the man and my Dad to breakfast one morning unbeknownst to either and spilled the beans.  Patty describes the breakfast taking place in a booth neither could escape from as he was on the end blocking the exit.

He tells me that whenever my Father had a problem with someone on his crew, he’d ask Patty if he’d heard the shit the guy was saying about him (Patty).  Patty would beat the hell out of him and the problem would be solved.

Often as a child, particularly before holidays, my Father had to “work late with Pat”, that’s what mom said.  She understood these two fuckers were likely out drinking, getting their asses beat or more probably beating some ass.

They talked about Freddie Crowley, Ozzy Ellis, Roy Deihl, Johnny Annas and Frank the crane operator.  All icons of my youth.  More than a handful of times, Dad would come home, his entire orange Datsun pickup, the ‘Pumpkin”, wrapped from stem to stern in knotted together rubber bands, courtesy of Frank.  I remember him as the rubber band man.  More than once he came home with a brand new hard hat crushed by the crane Frank operated.  No choice but to show up to the job the next morning with his beat to misshapen concrete encrusted hard hat from days gone by.  Frank seemed to be just fine with that one.  In retrospect, I’m confident Dad would show up with a shiny new one, like a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt, just to bait the bastard into destroying it.

I believe my Old Man was gratified and amused to bring home yet another brand new one flattened by Frank’s crane.

He ate a full pork chop today and his chocolate ice cream.  None of the squash or salad no matter how hard I tried.  He needs a good crap.  We watched Hardball with Chris Mathews and I read to him from the paper.  His humor is good and he flirts with the nurses.  He had a shower because he stank.  He is brave and big hearted.  We will get through this.  I love him.  He is still my fearless, pick a fight with the biggest guy in the bar, Father.

The Old Man is rising to this occasion.

Further reading: http://brainspank.org/wordpress/?p=637

Drinks for my friends.

A dispatch from the North

For the past month or so I’ve been inhabiting my parent’s house in Carson City Nevada, by myself.  I’m here on business in the town I grew up in to hopefully take advantage of old contacts.  It’s not going too bad.  My folks are retired and travel as much as they can in a 38 foot motorhome more luxurious and better appointed than most apartments I’ve lived in.  It has a satellite dish for the all important NASCAR contests along with at least three televisions, it even has a washer and dryer.

Yesterday they arrived home after months away.  Mother has a kidney stone(s) to be dealt with via an ultrasound procedure.  I’m hoping it will be painless.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have returned until early December.

Not far from home they met heavy weather.  A sandstorm that compromised an awning on my father’s beloved rig.

My father is seventy seven years old.

We had a pleasant supper of tomato basil bisque and BLTs; we’ve been blessed simultaneously with an affluence of tomatoes of exceptional caliber.  My folks brought home bags of them and my sister dropped off gorgeous heirlooms along with peaches and handmade olive oil soap yesterday morning.  My family understands a good tomato.  A nice malbec followed by  a peppery shiraz.  Great conversation.  I adore my parents.  Bright, well informed, kind, compassionate, loving and remarkably open minded.  We caught up on all things family, my Mother’s nine siblings, politics and specifically the dumb fucking racist Republicans.

In case you wondered, I’m a product of progressive non-biased thinking.

My father mentioned casually how my mother would no longer allow him on a ladder.  My mother and I discussed how well he’s doing after a series of illnesses.  About two years ago he was hospitalized after a colonoscopy revealed a substantial tumor.  There were complications and by Christmas, things were more than dicey.  Before that he’d torn a rotator cuff after a night of getting shithoused with my cousin Derek at a NASCAR race in Phoenix.  Sometime after the surgery, he injured his back after falling from a ramp while helping to construct a porch for my cousin Dee Dee with my uncle Fred.

My old man is one tough sonafabitch.  No shit.  One eye lost in a barfight some 45 years ago.  A retired concrete foreman that coveted the idea of the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  He was fond of proving it to himself.  Left home at 12 years old after completing the sixth grade.  Honest, brave, fearless and a firm believer in hard work.  The kind of man that might not make cops obsolete, but certainly lawyers and courts wouldn’t be necessary if all men had his honesty, ethics and ideals.

I stayed up late writing a new A&M chapter, basking in the warmth of my parents return and writing another chapter for the book about my time in the music business.  Nostalgia fueled my muse and I went with it.  I was very happy to see my parents.

I was awakened this morning around eleven or so by mother.  She was asking me to move my car so she could get her car out.  There are two other vehicles so I rolled over to face her a little confused.  “Your father has fallen off a ladder and I need to get him to the hospital”.  I think I said “fuck me” out loud.  I rushed to pull on my pants and t-shirt and made my way to the driveway.  As I pulled my car out and away, I flashed on the blood I’d seen on my mother’s blouse.

I walked towards their hoopty Buick in the garage and there he sat in the backseat, head bowed, feet not in the car yet.  I touched him on the shoulder and said something like what the fuck happened?  He didn’t really raise his head as much as he raised his eyes.  He was in pain and a little confused.  His face was bleeding from where it had bounced off the cement.  “I fucked up”, he said.  I asked my mother if she had her phone and she didn’t.  I rushed to fetch it off the counter.

As they pull out of the garage I knuckle the window and give my old man a thumbs up.  He gives me one back and says take care of my puppy.  My mom echos it, take care of the puppy.  Billy Jean The Tripod Lab.  No worries I tell them.

I was left with my thoughts for hours.  His hips must be fine because he was ambulatory.  The head bleeds profusely, but their didn’t seem to be an inordinate amount of blood so hopefully that’s not a big deal.  His ribs I thought, he must have cracked some ribs.  That’s gonna hurt.  I understand that as well as I can without ever suffering it myself.  It goddamn hurts.

A few hours later mom returns.  X-Rays and a Cat Scan but no word yet.  We’re both hoping it’s just cracked ribs.  He’s in a lot of pain, they give him morphine.  She collects some pajamas and a robe and heads back.  I call my sister to tell her what’s happened.  No way I was gonna call her until I had some info.  She wants to head out immediately and I advise her to wait.  Let’s just see what the tests tell us.  Probably just cracked ribs I tell her hopefully.  He’s tough.  Hold tight.  He’ll be in a world of hurt but we know how tough he is.  She says she’ll shower, prepare a meal for us all and be ready for my call.

After five p.m. and no word from mom so I call.  She can’t get a signal at the hospital but calls me back minutes later.  Six broken, not cracked but broken ribs and a cracked shoulder.  No internal injuries and they’ve stitched up his head.  He has asthma and the doctors are worried about his blood oxygen as it’s excruciating for him to breathe deep. He’s on oxygen and they want to keep him for a few days.  She says she’ll be home once he’s comfortable, settled in a room and has a morphine drip.

I call my sister and in her inimitable style, she says a meal will be cooked and she’ll head to the hospital.  I tell her she doesn’t need to do either because mom is there and I’m an adult now.

Uncle Larry calls just to chat and I fill him in.  I love this man.  The orneriest bastard I’ve ever met.  Woke up with his socks in my mouth once.  Liked to blow his nose and put the tissue back in the box.  Decorated a Christmas tree with my mothers undergarments and left it in the front yard.   A former jockey, he liked to shock me as a three year old with his homemade version of a cattle prod.  Despite all that, he’s among the sweetest men to ever suck air.  I got him back but that’s a story for a different day.

He recently kicked the ass of unbeatable cancer through sheer force of will and an indomitable spirit.  We all thought he was a goner but the little bastard whipped it.  It was grim and he somehow handed the big C it’s ass.  He said to me, “goddamn I hate to hear that”.  As a onetime jockey, he understands very well the pain of broken ribs.  We told each other we loved and he said he’d be in touch.  I’m sure he will.  Probably everyday, even though my old man hates to talk on the phone.

Not long after that, the doorbell rings and it’s my brother in law Todd and my nephew Keaton with a basket of goods.  Two different kinds of ice cream, sliced peaches, cucumbers in vinegar & oil, bread and a hamburger helper casserole.  At the same time, sister Tammy has arrived at the hospital with a prepared meal for my father.

My mother is exhausted and tells my sister he’ll be fine, that she doesn’t need to stay.  My mom says to her, “You have to work in the morning”, my sister says, “Well, that’s why I’m here now”.  She then shouts down some nurses who want to remove some sheet from under my father they used to transfer him from the gurney to his bed.  They insist, she stands her ground.  He’s in pain and my sister is not having anymore.  Period.  There really is no use in fucking with my sister.

As I write this, she’s either snoring or watching my father intently in his hospital room.  She will spend the night in a chair and go straight to work as she did for weeks two years or so ago.  I arrived to give her a few much needed nights off.  My family does not fuck around.  My sister, well,  she is fierce and sincere with her love.  Intrude in the way of my sister’s love, loyalty or affection at your peril.  She will mow you down.

I am lucky.  I see a hospital room in my future with the man who made me goddamnit.

Drinks for my friends.

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