How do you feel when you lose someone in your life? Friend or not. Even if it’s an acquaintance. How do you handle that? Do you sulk? Do you celebrate their life? Mourn?
I’m not good with death. Never have been. Losing someone is not easy for me. Some people can be in the same room as their loved one passes. Not me. I lost my parents just a few years within each other. Both had DNRs. I remember getting the phone calls that they were soon to be gone and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit in the same room.
I got a phone call from a kid I used to coach years ago. He asked me if I heard about someone that I used to coach with. Kevin was one of goalkeepers. The guy I coached with was German. He was one of those sort of coaches that had winning teams and the clubs always just let him have the best players due to this. We were a travel team. Actually, one of the best teams I ever coached. All three of my GKs got scholarships and two became All-Americans. Something I’m proud of, as if you can’t tell.
Anyway, when I heard that Detlef had commited suicide. It just took the wind out of my sails. He owned a local garage that specializes in German and European cars. I used to stop by his garage when he stopped coaching just to chat. He was one of those people that was philosophical and you could learn a lot from just by a conversation. I miss that and him. I guess he was that big brother that I never had.
This friend of mine that passed recently was a local musician that broke out. He toured with national bands. Did well. He showed up in the scene back when the swing movement was happening locally. Me and a few others were trying to grow the scene here for swing and rockabilly, so people that kinda lurked at shows were out front and center stage. We sported pompadours, spectators and BC Ethic/Sopranos-style shirts.
I don’t know what happened to my friend. But I feel like I need closure. It’s hard to explain. I’ve lost friends through the years to car wrecks, overdoses, getting shot, disease and so on. I hate it. I hate this feeling of empty. I know we all have our time and when it’s time, it’s time. We all handle things in ways that we’re able to with the emotional tools we’ve been given or learned along the way.
“I am a child of the science age…” – David Lee Roth
Yeah, I guess I am. I’ve seen technology come and go. I’ve seen video evolve from top load VHS players that was big as a console television to everything you ever need video-wise condense down to a 10″ tablet or even the phones we keep in our pockets.
Growing up TV wasn’t something my family gathered around really. We had our moments I suppose. Occasionally watching “Hee Haw” or some football game. On Saturday mornings, I’d watch local wrestling or some kung fu movie. Considering how much I love movies and the elements of TV shows, I’m surprised it doesn’t mean more to me.
The past few years after watching social media change the landscape of what I do for a living and how we work. I have to take breaks nowadays from all things online. Yeah, I’m guilty of binging all episodes of a show on on occasion, but most recently, I’ve learned to turn things off. I’m not as active as I once was online. I’ve had enough by the time the afternoon comes around. I don’t want that external interference or stimulation. I need a break.
A form of addiction
According to a recent study in the UK:
Kids spend twice as long playing on screens as they do playing outside.
3-in-4 kids spend less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.
1-in-5 kids don’t play outside at all on a typical day.
3-in-4 parents said their kids often refuse to play games without some form of technology.
2-in-3 parents say their kids spend less time outside than they did as children.
I’ll sound like a grandpa here; “Back in my day…” We HAD to go outside. We weren’t allowed to come back inside until the sun went down. I would ride my Kuwahara BMX bike everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Until I learned how to drive and got my license, then I was never home because I was either at soccer practice, doing something for school or working at the record store.
The hover parent generation has changed the landscape of being a child. They schedule playdates, they enforce things like everyone gets a participation medal, they throw a tablet in front of their kids faces just to shut them up. I was once coaching a group of U12 boys for a local soccer club. One of the kids never wanted to practice or play. He told me point blank that he was only there because his parents made him. He said he’d rather be home playing Call of Duty. I made him sit out of practice and never played him in games.
It wasn’t until the kid saw how much fun the other players were having (something I strive for at that age when I coach), he decided to get more involved and by the end of the season, he had turned into one of my best players. What he didn’t have technically, he made up by playing with determination and would give it his all. He’s one of my success stories. He now plays soccer for a DIII college as a hard-nose defender.
All of these kids, unfortunately, will never know what it is like to do without something. Their every need and desire is met with almost immediate gratification. They can order practically anything online and it will be delivered as quick as logistics will allow it. They have a hard time making friends occasionally due to their use of text apps. They don’t know what it’s like to make small talk in person.
I’ve watched my own boys have a conversation via text while they’re all in the same room. I’ve seen married friends on Twitter do the same thing. Come on…put the screens down and communicate in real time. I’ve seen videos offering advice on how to have a conversation with people.
I’m of the generation that crossed between analog and digital. I know what it’s like to not have a screen to look up trivial information or to have the weather report at my fingertips. I know what it’s like to have to sit in the parking lot of a soccer field while you wait for a parent to pick you up and wonder if you were forgotten. So there sits the conundrum; Technology is great and useful. It’s helped to solved crimes. But it’s also guilty of a crime itself in denying people the useful tool of communication.
I’m not one for the whole “you must do these things to live a better life.” But I was thinking recently that I have learned a lot in my years on this planet. I try very hard to be a good person every day. Simple things can lead to that. Some of these things I’ve learned, some I’ve been taught. Growing up in an Irish family, we learned a lot by watching and seeing how the elders in the family treated others. I subscribe to the ‘treat others as you’d like to be treated’ – aspect of things. Unless you wrong me and betray my trust, then the Leo and Irish comes out and Lord have mercy on your soul.
In no particular order, here are the things I live by and try to do each day;
Take small steps. They all add up and can get you to your goals. Sometimes it’s easier to take smaller steps instead of trying to leapfrog to the front.
Hold the door for people, especially ladies and the elderly. You can light up someone’s day by this simple act.
Read. Doesn’t matter if it’s a story on Harry Styles or a book. Reading does wonders for your brain.
Challenge yourself to do something. Want to write a book? Want to learn a new language? Nothing holding you back but air and opportunity.
Believe in yourself. Don’t worry about what the neighbors do. Stop comparing yourself to others. You got this!
Learn from the past, but don’t dwell in “what ifs”…man, this is hard for me, I have to work at it every day.
Get up every time you fall(fail). I love that line from Batman when Alfred tells him that “we fall so we learn how to get up.”
Just because you don’t like the fact(s), stop arguing with them. A lot of people in this country need to learn this.
You can feel good by doing good. End of.
Pick up trash whenever you see it and dispose of it properly. What someone does with trash tells a lot about a person.
Do the absolute best job you can no matter what it is. You work at a deli? Good, make the best damn sandwich ever..every single time.
Take a moment, walk outside, close your eyes and just breathe.
Keep your mind open to learning. I tell my boys this all the time. Opportunity is everywhere. It’s having the mindset to be able to learn from it, good or bad.
Cut toxicity out of your life regardless of what it or who it is. That crap will eat you up.
GO TO SLEEP. Turn off the screens. Life will still be there tomorrow.
Stop reading and watching the news. Too much negativity nowadays.
Reread your favorite books. You may have missed something the first time.
Favor obstacles; these lead to opportunities.
Live by the four Stoic virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.
Concentrate on what you can control.
Be kind to everyone. You don’t know what that person is going through or what their lives are like.
If a child or anyone smiles at you, smile back.
If a child hands you their toy phone to answer, you answer it.
If someone drops something, pick it up for them.
Never forget where you come from. Ever.
I hope these help you in some way. Take what you will from them. Read it, learn it, live it.
Recently, Gina Carano, the actress that played Cara Dune on what is quite possibly the most popular and successful part of the Star Wars universe was fired from her involvement with the show. In their statement, Lucasfilm called Carano’s posts “abhorrent and unacceptable.” The actor has also been dropped as a client by her talent agency UTA. In addition to the comparing the treatment of people with political differences in modern times to that of Nazi Germany…she also was an anti-masker and tended to share information publicly on social media about other falsities that stem from the (insert letter here) – believers.
Sure, You Can Say Whatever You Want
Let’s look at the 1st Amendment and break it down from there. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. There is also this bit that people fail to understand or refuse to accept: Speech provoking actions that would harm others—true incitement and/or threats—is also not protected, but again determining what words have qualified as true incitement has been decided on a case-by-case basis. This was a reaction process by our founding fathers due to previous experiences.
Basically, you can’t go into a crowded movie theater and yell “Fire” for the sake of provoking chaos or fear. You also can’t incite a riot or threaten others. There are consequences. While Carano did not threaten anyone or cause any sort of chaos, she did choose her social media platforms to share false information and make comparisons to what is a very ugly part of our history. It wasn’t hate speech, but it was thoughtless and emotionally harmful to some. This particular event that I believe was the final straw for her role on The Mandalorian. It’s sorta like Disney was saying, “Ok, we’ll overlook the first few ones, let’s see where she goes with it.” Well, Gina went too far.
We’re in a world currently where events like this would have been simply ignored in the past or not even broadcast to the point where it is now. Unfortunately, for some, this sort of thing happens sooner than they would like. We’re in a world where media can ruin someone’s career. The people that abuse or even assault others are being exposed and shamed. Calls for employment termination have become the norm. Good. You reap what you sow. If you’re that sort of person, you have no business continuing in anything until you get help to stop the cycle of abuse and/or face the consequences of your behavior.
There are those on that scream “Cancel Culture” or try to find a “yeah, but…” reasoning. Are we too quick to cancel someone because of what they said? Or something they did? Possibly. But in the same sense, these are just the cases we know of. These are the tip of the iceberg.
This Brings Us Back
Ahh…the 1st Amendment…Freedom of Speech. The Carano event, like it or not, happened. She put these words out on a public platform that is privately owned. Guess what? Freedom of speech doesn’t apply here. The US Government didn’t stifle her speech, they didn’t fire her, they didn’t do anything. She did. She did it all by herself.
Disney and her agents took a look at what she was saying and sharing on Twitter and said, “No, thanks. We’re going to cut ties with you because we don’t agree with what you’re saying. It goes against our policies.” It’s just like if I walked into my employer and publicly said awful things about my coworker or used racial insults in emails. I’d be gone immediately. So save the complaints about her losing her rights and freedom of speech. That doesn’t apply here. Read a book and figure it out.
So here we are. Cancel Culture. Some people are enjoying it depending on who they are and who the person is getting canceled. Personally, I’m of the opinion people should be held accountable for things they say or do. Behind every word said out loud, there is a lot of truth behind it.
People that are in the limelight need to understand and accept that like it or not, their words hold a lot of weight and sway over others. I totally disagree with Charles Barklee when he said that he was not a role model. (Like it or not, you are.)They can easily manipulate others thanks to this power. They can choose to use this power for good or to take advantage of others. But to pass it off as “I was drunk” or “I didn’t mean it that way”…is ridiculous. You said it. End of story. Alcohol is the greatest truth serum in the world. It lowers inhibitions and people will say what they’re thinking or believe easily.
I’m a huge stand-up fan. Love it. I remember listening to Pryor and many others growing up. I’ve gotten to know several national acts through the years. But if I see or hear something that happens or that they do that I disagree with, I don’t immediately cancel them. I’ll try to do as much research into the incident as much as I can on my own before making that final decision to unfollow or stop supporting them.
The Names Have Been Changed because I don’t want to get sued
When the Louie SeeKay thing happened, I was disappointed. I loved his material, his show was great. I knew his writing was one of the key elements to Chappell’s success. But as I went back and listened to his older material, I realized he’d told us who he was early on. He even hinted at it on his show. Someone said to me just recently that the comedians he’d performed his “private act” in front of were adults and they could have left the hotel room. But remember what I said about the influence people have? SeeKay at the time was one of the top comedians, if not THE top comedian at the time. His words had power. When you’re in the standup world, every day is a hustle. You drive the circuit, make $25-$50 a night, if you’re lucky. You’re looking for that big break.
SeeKay offered that. If you played the game, then you could maybe get that break. It was a new version of a casting couch scenario. Then you have the Kris Dahleeah situation where he took advantage of underage girls. His little crew of hanger-ons have been called out as well. Good. While both SeeKay and Dahleeah are very talented and have, in my humble opinion, some of the best material. What they did off the stage is apprehensible. It’s gross. I haven’t watched it, but supposedly in the “apology” video, Kris doesn’t even apologize….which doesn’t surprise me. A narcissist won’t. They don’t know how.
But what is the weight of an apology anyway? It doesn’t take things back. The damage has been done. It doesn’t take one back in time and remove the incident. An apology is this case is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. It should also be an acceptance that change is required. Get some help. Go talk to a therapist. Figure out why you do this horrible stuff.
We live in a country where politicians, people that are supposed to be respected and trusted to be leaders lie, cheat and steal. And they do it right in front of us without remorse. One of my favorite events I ever saw unfold was that senator from my home state of Texas got confronted by a reporter during an interview. It went like this:
“Did you sign this bill?”
*she pulls out a copy of the bill*
“Is that your signature?”
“So you signed the bill”
“Look, I get so many things across my desk daily, it’s hard to keep up with all the things I sign”
“You signed a bill without reading it first? Something that will impact millions of people?”
He then proceeded to gaslight further and distract the reporter away from the bill.
Apologies don’t mean jack
This is why an apology means fuck all at the end of the day. Sure, we can complain on-line through our social media channels until the person loses a role on a very popular hit show or clubs refuse to book the comedian or the person loses record deals, whatever it may be. But until someone is called out on their behavior by a peer and gets help to figure out why they do the things they do, the apology is worthless.
I asked for a writing prompt on Twitter and Jackson Ford didn’t disappoint. Jackson is an author and has a couple of books out, check them out here. They’re a fun read. He’s created a very intriguing world. I think the books should be optioned for a movie, but that’s me.
By the time I got to Mexico…
By the time I got to Mexico, my parents had fought several times. My dad was driving too fast. He was driving too slow. My mom was smoking too many cigarettes. It was raining, our luggage was going to get wet. Why were we staying in Brownsville instead of Padre Island or Corpus Christi?
We moved to Texas when I was a young child. Growing up on the Florida Atlantic coast didn’t prepare for the culture shock of the Houston area. I had led a somewhat sheltered life as the son of a NASA employee. I wasn’t prepared for the food, the variety of cultures and its people. My dad had taken a job with Texas Instruments, so we moved. It was during the oil boom, so everyone was happy. (well, until gas got rationed)
My dad got a wild idea one summer. Let’s drive down to Mexico. It was just inside the border from Brownsville and you can drive your car around. He had decided that we’d stay overnight and then drive back the next day to Houston. My mom, craving the smell of salt air, wanted to drive back to Padre Island or Corpus Christi. and stay on the beach.
Back then you could easily cross without much trouble. They rarely searched vehicles and you didn’t need a passport. It took several hours to get there and we’d stopped for food and gas more times than I wanted since my dad decided to drive his truck down there. I was anxious to get down there. I had been told tales by friends of the almost anarchy that existed there. You could buy anything you wanted.
Little did I know that the reason reason my dad wanted to go was because alcohol is dirt cheap there. After a brief stop at the border, we drove into the bustling city of Matamoros. For those not familiar with driving in Mexico…let’s say it’s chaos. We almost got into an accident several times and the horns…wow. It’s like using the car horn is breathing air there. My mom recommended we park and walk. My dad had been given a map by coworker on an area to do some shopping and that’s where we headed. We parked the truck and started our visit.
We went to one store and I was so excited to buy something in a foreign county with my own money. I bought a (are you ready?) a switchblade! It was white pearl, about 5 inches long and pointy. I remember buying a few little knick knack things that, along with the knife, has disappeared through the multiple moves I’ve made during my life.
As we walked down the sidewalk, my mother reminded me to keep the switchblade in my pocket and don’t pull it out in public. It was like a burning coal in the pockets of my shorts. Whenever my parents weren’t looking, I’d pull it out and push the button. I was sure they heard it, but they never said anything, I think they were on high alert and chose to ignore it.
Eventually, we came to a little grocery store that literally shelves of every liquor bottle you could ever imagine. This is what my dad had wanted to come for. We bought so much that even I had to help carry a bag. The smells of food were everywhere in this area and even my pleas of “I’m hungry” and “Are we going to ever eat again?” came out as a child does were ignored until we got to the truck.
Now let me explain this truck. In case you don’t know, trucks are a big deal in Texas. The more custom, the better. This one had been purchased from a Houston area golf pro. It had custom seating in it with compartments built in and if you weren’t aware of them, you’d just think it was part of the seating layout. These compartments came in handy as my parents loaded the bottles everywhere you could think. We left a small bottle out in the open that my mother held onto.
We headed back to the border with my parents putting the fear of jail in me. They told me to take the sombrero out and sit it next to me. Anything to distract the border guards. I had learned at an early age to do what was I told to do or else I’d receive a quick backhand across the face or back of the head.
The border passing went fairly quickly as my dad just declared the small bottle of vodka. We passed through after that without incident. My mother won out and we ended up staying on Padre Island at a small motel that faced the Gulf of Mexico. There was a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant that we walked to after unloading the truck into our room. Even though my parents got tipsy, they didn’t fight that night. The remainder of the trip home was enjoyable. It remains one of the few good memories of time I spent with my parents.
And yes, my dad had an ulterior motive for buying all of the alcohol. He resold them to a bar that he frequented; a bar he eventually ended up owning. Smokey and The Bandit didn’t have anything on Jimmy Hood.
Have you ever experienced something and wasn’t really sure how to explain it? The practical side of your thinking says, “Nah, no way”, but the other side that is open-minded says, “Maybe”?
One summer afternoon, my ex and I were out running errands. Nothing really planned. Our son was on his own with some friends and we decided to take the afternoon basically just goofing off. We had done a bit of shopping and was heading back to our home when we saw a sign for an estate sale. Locally, estate sales are very popular. I guess it’s our morbid curiosity to see how other people live. That snapshot of time that is frozen in their homes.
We decided on a whim to follow the signs to the sale. We weren’t much for buying things like that at garage sales or thrift stores at the time so it was basically a way to kill more time during the day. We arrived to a large ranch-style, single level home that was very packed with shoppers. People carrying out all kinds of goods from this home. We walked in and it honestly appeared to be similar to a Black Friday sale at Walmart. People were yelling at each other, snatching things out of each other’s grasp, complaining that something had been sold to another person and so on. I looked at my ex and told her, let’s split up and meet back here in the living room in 10 minutes. The living room had been set up as a processing and checkout area. She headed off to the kitchen area of the house and I headed towards the bedrooms.
I walked to the very back of the home and looked into a bedroom that was stuff with furniture from the 60s-70s. People were standing almost shoulder-to-shoulder and trying to take everything they could; off the walls, out of drawers, closets…It was seriously one of the worst examples I’ve ever seen of human behavior. Second bedroom; same thing. Walking back down the hall, I noticed another bedroom that had been converted into an office. It wasn’t as busy as the rest of the home and I felt compelled to walk in there. I needed a break from the compact feeling I got from exploring the other bedrooms.
The gentleman that owned the home must have been a naval officer. There were degrees, certificates, photos and even medals hanging on the cedar panel walls. Someone was sitting at the large oak desk and going through all of the drawers and behind him was someone standing in the doorway of the closet, pulling down boxes off of the top shelve and looking in them. As he would replace them, he did it like you think a burglar or someone on a timer would do it. No respect was shown to any of the items in this room or from what I could tell, the home overall.
I don’t know how long it had been since the owners of the home had passed or any of the backstory. All I know was I got an overwhelming feeling of dread and anxiety. Something let me know that everyone was not welcome there. Whatever it was, was angry. No, nothing moved. Nothing made a noise, but I felt it. I felt it as if something had grabbed me by the back of my neck and asked me to leave as a bouncer would at a bar.
I immediately walked out and met my ex, who was basically just standing against a wall in the checkout area to avoid being in the way. She asked me if I was OK and I was white as a sheet. I remember telling her that we needed to leave from there “now.”
As we got in the car, I told her what had happened. The feeling that we shouldn’t be there. The anger I felt and the “Not welcome here” – thing. I’m naturally skeptical and cynical. Yet, as the poster that Fox Mulder had in his office on “The X-Files”…I want to believe.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet some of my “heroes.” Are they heroes per se or just people that I admired that I knew a lot about them and wanted to mimic their actions and success? It could be one or the other…or both I suppose. The earliest memory I have of meeting someone I look up to was when I was a fledgling soccer player in Texas and thanks to some of my father’s contacts I was able to attend a camp for youth players with members of the Houston Hurricanes. The Hurricanes were part of the North American Soccer League in the 70s. They basically did what the MLS did and still does to a point; bring over popular European players that may have aged out. Players like Pele, George Best of England, Franz Beckenbauer from Germany, Johann Cryuff of Holland and many others. The marquee player for Houston at the time was the American Kyle Rote Jr.
Attending the camp was much as you would expect; about 20-30 kids, who couldn’t pass or trap a ball. Loads of yelling by players who were acting as coaches and so on. This camp was in the Houston Astrodome. It was turf. Nothing like the turf we have now. It was basically plastic blades of “grass” on top of cement. No padding. Nothing to protect you in case of falling. I’m not sure how the American Football players played for very long on that stuff.
Rote showed up about an hour into the camp and we all crowded around him. He talked to all of us and made time to ensure that we felt appreciated to be there. It just so happened that the Hurricanes were to play the NY Cosmos later that evening. And guess who played for the Cosmos back then? Pele. The one and only.
Pele showed up as the camp was finishing. We were given soccer balls and t-shirts as part of the camp experience. But guess who didn’t get their ball signed? Yep. I wasn’t sure who he even was, only that he could move the ball around, even in street clothes, as if it was a part of his body. Through the years, that ball would show up on occasion. My parents would remind me to get it from them and it would be forgotten. When my dad passed away my mother gave a lot of stuff away or threw it away to downsize to a condo from a house. After she passed and I was going through the remainder of their things she did keep, I remembered that ball. It was nowhere to be found sadly. It’s funny the little things that you miss the most when they’re gone.
I have PTSD. No, I didn’t serve. Almost, but that’s another story. I have PTSD from years of emotional, mental and physical abuse from someone that a child should be able to trust as if their life depending on it; my father. My parent. Someone I should be able to depend upon. Someone I should trust to not hurt me intentionally. Maybe I’ll get into the specifics some other time as well.
When my parents would fight, I would run and hide in my room. I would play music to drown out the yelling and the sounds of things being broken or even destroyed. We had music constantly in the house. My parents listened to some great music; artists like Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, Willie Nelson, classic R&B, Soul, rock like The Doors and so on. It stands to reason that I can listen to Dwight Yoakam just as easy as I can Earth, Wind and Fire.
There was also always a keyboard in the house as my mother played. She wasn’t accomplished, but would play standards and just make noise I think to sooth her mind. I would get on the keyboard, usually an organ, and want to play something by Deep Purple or Stevie Wonder. I ended up just being able to play standards. As I got older, my interests in music changed; but it still served the purpose to drown out the fights or to soothe myself after being hit or insulted at some level.
Eventually a Les Paul copy made its way into my home during Christmas as I wanted to be Ace Frehley from KISS. I took a few lessons, but the teacher was horrible and my patience was beyond playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Show my some barre chords! Show me the intro to “Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest. If the guy would have showed me how to play “Strutter” by KISS, who knows where I would be today.
Instead I approached music and my interests from another angle. I would learn as much as I could about each and every album through the liner notes and any and all music magazines I could talk my mom into buying for me. I never turned down an opportunity to go to the grocery store with her as it meant I could read magazines while she shopped.
The Teen Years
As I got older, I was able to start attending concerts. Speaking of my mom….she took me to my first concert. Yep, it was KISS on the Dynasty tour. We brought along the daughter of one of my family’s friends. She was a cheerleader and quite popular in the small east Texas town I grew up in. During the intermission between the opening act and KISS, we went for a bathroom break and some people saw me holding hands with her (The next day at school, I was very popular for that). I still have the guitar picks from Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley that my mother convinced a roadie to give me.
This just fueled my passion for live music. When I turned 13, I lied about my age in order to go to work at a local Jewish deli. I would go on days when I didn’t have soccer practice. I was making great money back then and the couple that owned the place loved me because I wanted to work as much as I could. It allowed me to buy more music, posters and magazines.
It was also around this time that when I would attend a show, I would look for people I could introduce myself to…people who would later give me free tickets and even backstage passes. Simply because I took the time to talk to them and they could see my passion for bands. It was also around this time that bands like Slayer, Metallica and the like came around. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal started also.
By this time, I was working for a record store chain called “Hastings.” While it wasn’t as cool as Texas Tapes and Records, it did allow my constant communication with the record label reps. I saw so many bands back then and unfortunately, the abuse got worse and it seemed to want to counterbalance the shows and bands that I was able to meet. I could make a long list of bands that I was able to see back then. Bands that fill arenas now. It was so much fun. The Houston music scene was exploding in all the different genres. And all of these bands supported each other. If you know anyone from Houston, they’ll tell you that in addition to the pride Texans have…there is something about if you’re from Houston, we’re brothers and sisters. It’s hard to explain.
During my days at Hastings, I went on the road for a few days with Motley Crue. It was through a guy I knew in Houston that basically knew everyone and was the drug supplier for bands as they played locally. His uncle was some big shot with CBS Records and if I wanted passes and/or tickets. I’d reach out to him. In return, I’d give him his choice of albums or cassettes. We met up with Crue in San Antonio, traveled to Austin, Dallas and then back to Houston. Memories. Man. Me and Tommy Lee, who was only a couple of years older than me became a pair of idiots. I wish I’d made an effort to stay in touch but as much as I was a fan, I also was respected them enough to not be a pain.
Me and Tommy Lee
Me and Tim Ferris of INXS
I was also one of the founding members of a group called The Doom Society. We were basically just a bunch of knuckleheads that was into punk and metal. Some of us skated (me), shown below:
Some were just guys that had long hair and loved music so much we’d do whatever we needed to do to support it. So there was this band that came out of Los Angeles called Slayer. They had debuted on Metal Blade records with an album called “Show No Mercy” followed shortly after an EP called “Haunting the Chapel.” For some reason on the tour behind the EP, Slayer wasn’t scheduled to play in Houston. WHAT? We had established the scene here as one that any self-respecting band played. We’d seen Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Anthrax, Motorhead, Metallica, Trouble, Exciter, Armored Saint, The Rods, etc, etc, etc. play here. HOW DARE THEY?
So what do we do? We track down Brian Slagel, the guy that founded Metal Blade. I think he was still living at home. We made a deal. They were scheduled to play San Antonio and then head back to LA. Our part of the deal was to get them a place to play with a real promoter, a place to stay, etc. Perfect. Done. We got you, Brian. There was a place in Houston called The Arts Annex. It was basically a warehouse with a stage and a PA. Loads of bands played there; primarily punk and metal.
The guys in Slayer stayed with my buddy, Rob. They came in Saturday afternoon from San Antonio, hung out with us that night and then played Sunday. It was an experience I’ll never forget. If you look on the liner sleeve of “Hell Awaits”, they thanked us and most of the photos I took and sent to them to use. It’s shown below and the photo of the guys in front of the UHaul? That’s us.
I mentioned the abuse. Well, my father was a Korean War vet. He was shot down twice and saved his flight crew both times by fighting off capture. We never knew this until he passed away. He hated flying and hated crowds. He drank to forget. Unfortunately, it was my mother then eventually both of us that felt the fists or emotional abuse due to his own PTSD. He also was abused in his youth. He grew up in a rural area and a lot was put upon him at an early age. He overcame a lot of it and learned how to be an electrical engineer eventually thanks to the Air Force and the IBEW union.
My dad on the right
But he didn’t know how to deal with the triggers. His response was to lash out in whatever manner he could on those that he was supposed to protect. So to protect myself as I would grow to do, I would run off to my room, throw on my headphones and drown him out with music. As a child of the 80s, I grew up on MTV. I got to know Alan Hunter and I’m glad to call him a friend as he was a big part of my growing up. Of course, he would hate to hear me say that.
Music was my escape and still is. It allowed me to go into a world that is full of wild entertaining stories, some of them are my own. KISS is my first love. After that…man, it’s a tough call. I’ll make time for a lot of different bands nowadays. It’s funny after I switched to playing drums and started to consider myself a musician, I think I matured enough to understand that all forms of music have amazing musicians. I’ll listen to some bands just for the respect I have for them as masters of their craft. But I’m still just a fan that loves it.
Very First band I was in, I shared drumming and singing duties.
I was fortunate to meet Paul Stanley a few years ago and I told him my story of how my mother took me to the show and how much I appreciated KISS. His response after I told him was, “God, I’m getting old..”
Me and Paul
The Bama Years
After I moved out to Birmingham to go to college. My ex had just started a business and I was in college full-time. I did whatever I could to help out; Waiting tables, working concerts as security, writing for music magazines, etc. It was around this time I was able to get involved with the local scene just as I had in Houston. A lot of great 90s bands broke out of Birmingham believe it or not. Bands like Collective Soul, Matchbox 20, GooGoo Dolls, Better than Ezra, 311, Counting Crows…even Dave Matthews. It was thanks to a station called “The X.” You can still find remnants of the station online. Look for “Live at The X Lounge”, it was a collection of live shows that were performed here in the style of MTV’s Unplugged series.
We also had “City Stages” music festival that started with I think it was 5 stages and grew to almost 20 over a three day period. I started working the festival as the site’s drum tech. We worked solely with the artists. Some I even became friends with to this very day. I got to sit behind Phil Collins drum kit while he and I discussed the differences in a 20″ kick and a 22″ kick. Through the years I’ve limited my exposure to live music due to a severe loss of hearing in my left ear and tinnitus.
Of course I had to take my youngest to go see KISS as his first show during one of the reunion tours. During the past year or so, we’ve gone to see Metallica and Flogging Molly. I love to watch him enjoying the shows as it reminds me of my own love of music. I still will slip in and see a band. But I’ve limited it to who I go see. Now I just mess around on one of the basses I bought to bide time and decompress after work. I enjoy playing along with bands I grew up listening to. And I have found that nothing has really changed for me and music. It’s just how I listen to it.
Like a lot of people, I have a recurring dream. In this particular dream, it involves a race of man against nature. It involves a water spout. In the dream my father is racing against a water spout. His goal is simple; reach the bridge to safety before the water spout can cross our path and make things quite miserable for me, him and my mom.
This Actually Happened
The difference in my other recurring dreams is that this actually happened. My dad had a Dodge Charger. It was bright, fast, macho…everything that someone who worked at NASA at Cape Kennedy(as it was known back then) wanted. It was a Saturday on the Florida Atlantic coast. A day that was filled with the usual threats of inclement weather throughout the day as it’s prone to do in that area. We had spent the day visiting my uncle and going to Merritt Island mall. After meeting my uncle at one of his bars and me being distracted with endless quarters for the pinball machines, my mom decided we should head back home before the storms hit.
We lived in Melbourne at the time. To get there from Cocoa Beach, one goes down Hwy. 1A1. This is the road that basically travels up and down the far east coast of Florida. We said our goodbyes and headed out. I remember it as a good day because my parents were fighting after the alcohol had flowed and for some reason, my father was in a good mood. I had scored some nice toys at the mall. As we arrive into the Melbourne Beach area, I remember the suddenness of the rain and wind. The storm had arrived. I looked out at the waves with a bit of fear as they were crashing onto A1A by this point.
There is bridge that is called the Eau Gallie Causeway. This bridge crosses over the the Intercoastal Waterway and connects the older part of Melbourne to Indian Harbour. There is a bit of road that sits almost at water level before you actually make it to the bridge. When it storms in that area, the water from the Waterway will spill over onto the road. Not flooding it, but as a child, I thought it would flood and impede our safe passage home.
Take a right turn, Daddy
As we headed towards the Causeway, to my left I saw something moving. I yelled at my parents to look and there it was; a waterspout. It was headed down the Intercoastal Waterway as if it were on a leisurely stroll, but it was moving much faster than that. On top of the water tornado, the water was washing up onto the road. I remember my dad shifting gears with the pistol-grip shifter that Dodge used back then and the rear tires spinning a little as he gunned the Hemi motor.
My mother, for all the things she’s been through and experienced, kept calm. No screaming, no raising her voice. She simply said to my father, “Just drive, Jimmy.” My dad was an Air Force veteran. While he wasn’t a pilot, he was shot down twice. (that’s another story for some other time) When he wanted to be, the man was cool as could be and couldn’t get frazzled. He stared straight ahead with two hands on the wheel. Luckily, there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the road as he pushed the car forward with what I believe his only thought to be, “I’ve got to save my family.”
The road began to elevate towards the bridge. I remember watching from the back seat driver side windows then turning around with my knees on the back seat, the waterspout crossing over the road just behind us. The Charger lost a bit of traction due to the wind velocity from the outer edges of the water spout. I used to hate crossing over that bridge back then because I feared the metal grates wouldn’t bear the weight of cars constantly.
As drove down the bridge and then back up into Eau Gallie, I think my mom crossed herself and my dad looked in the rear view mirror and winked at me as I sat back down.