Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Punk Rock...Oh! I can do that!

Sitting here thinking back over my musical career, the ol' brain spent a fair bit of time on my love of so-called punk rock

I don't really like to categorize music. Always feels like a sales gimmick to me. Music, at least to me, is a form of sonic communication. (Note: I said "music", not "lyrics") I can feel the same energy from Beethoven that I do from the Sex Pistols. I can glean the same musical intent. 

But punk rock....

When I first started to listen to it, and play it, my basic thought (which, I guess, was very punk) was "Oh! I can do this." Basic chord progression. Repeat at rapid fire speed. Turn volume up. Go. Yep...I could do that. 

I have always enjoyed classical music, so these 3 chord aural assaults were a whole new thing to me. Around the same time, I had been introduced to the music of The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. The Beatles got me with the production. Hendrix...I remember seeing footage of him on TV once and being awestruck and just trying to comprehend what he was doing to his guitar. WHAT WERE THOSE CHORDS????? 

In the early 80s in Nowheresville, OH, I found that no one wanted to play punk rock and there was no audience for it. A few house parties, the even more rare bar gig...it was already a non-event. It was a fashion show, if anything. It all took away from the music. Sure, I had the weird hair, dressed my own way (still do) and all...but especially now, I see that aspect as little more than a uniform...same with almost anything else. 

To a teenager of that time period, who had a strong desire for political change and an even stronger desire to make music, punk rock was the answer. The whole DIY approach appealed to me. I was a self-taught guitarist. I had my 2 minutes of local fame as the kid who could play Hendrix stuff (although how well I could play it remains up for debate). I never cared to play anyone else's riffs. Still don't. In fact, I've only ever learned one guitar solo, note for note, from the record (because nothing else fit the song!). I still carry that punk ethos with me. I can do that. I'll just do it my own way.

That punk bands are still a thing...that surprises me. Many are kids who weren't alive went punk rock first happened. They can't conceive the context of it. It's just their chosen style. Its still a fashion show. There's no rebellion. Its very status quo. I see them sporting the same look we did 35+ years ago...and my contemporaries and I were, pretty much, Johnny-come-latelys. 

By my mid-teens, punk was pretty dead. I joined my first so-called rockabilly band at 16. I'm still known by most for playing in that genre...but I don't think I ever really played it. I was then, and still am, just a musician with a punk rock attitude playing his own take on music. I lean more towards what folks called the blues...but again, music is music. I think I'm musically well-versed enough to figure out what fits a song. Again, it's communication. Its a vehicle to convey a thought or emotion. 

I like energy in music. Probably what appeals most to me in punk rock. The same energy is what attracts me to any music. Bach, Beethoven, Jimmie Rogers, Hank Sr., Blind Willie McTell, BB King, Link Wray, early Elvis, The Beatles, Hendrix, rap, hip hop, jazz...all musicians creating their own thing, their way, with a definite energy. The "Oh! I can do that!" mentality. 

The younger musicians probably see me as an old fart blues player now. I'm OK with that. A few years back, I recorded some rather punk rock stuff with a project we named Losers After Midnight. In spots, we were just trying to recreate sounds from our youth. In other spots, I attempted to create something fresh and new. Whether or not I achieved that remains to be seen. I can do that. In fact, I did do that. And will continue to do so. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Looking For A Test Student For Guitar

I've taught guitar before. I can honestly say that it was neither a pleasurable nor enriching experience. Yet...here I am again.

Why?

Good question. The answer is pretty simple. For me, its about sharing the joy of making music. People often ask how I started playing, how long I've been playing, etc. My former guitar teacher, Kevin, showed up at a gig the other night. It got me thinking. I CAN teach...provided I can teach the way that I learned.

How NOT to play guitar.


No discredit to Kevin. He tried to teach me the way that countless others were taught. It was already too late for me. I had been teaching myself for about 6 months at that point. While he did teach me many valuable things (forcing me to use a pick, various ways to tune, the rudiments of finger-picking, and harmonics all come to mind) the whole 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" crap just didn't move me. It's not what I was listening to or what I was feeling. After a few months, the lessons ended but we've stayed close friends for decades. This friendship is based on a mutual love of the guitar.

So, back to other people. People will say things like "Man! I wish I could play like that!" After I ask myself why they would ever want to play this sloppily, I tell them that they probably can. They just haven't done it yet.

That's really the first step. Deciding you really want to. Once you get that idea in your head, it becomes an addiction, of sorts. You're not going to be great at first. Hell, in all honesty, you'll suck at first. It will be difficult. It will physically hurt at times...but...like working out at a gym, no pain no gain.

So, I'm looking for a student. Here's what I need from the student:


  • A true desire to actually play guitar. Not just a dreamer. Someone that wants to learn more than "just a few chords". (I can teach that person too...but for now, I want a serious student)
  • A level of dedication. I'll need to set up a weekly lesson for no less than 6 weeks. Cancel once and we're done. (within reason)
  • No piece of shit guitars. No. You don't need a $2000 Martin (I don't even have one of those!) but you will need something decent to learn on. A decent student guitar can be had relatively inexpensively. Beware the salesman. He/She will try to sell you any piece of shit just to make a sale. If ya want, I'll go with you and show you what to look for. The right First Guitar is one you may never want to ever let go of. But...if you get the right one, you'll never lose money on it. (the only reason I don't still have MY first is because it was stolen)
  • You must LOVE music. All types of music. Keep that mind open!


That's pretty much it. I like to have a person actually playing  a song the first day. Will the student play it well? Probably not at first...but they'll have the tools. Practical application, if you will. If the student puts in the time (and never call it 'practice'...that's too much like work!) and allows themselves to ENJOY it, they'll get pretty darned good pretty darned fast!

So, if you or someone you know REALLY wants to take that leap, get ahold of me. Let's make some noise!!!!!!

One last thing: Before you look for excuse why you CAN'T, take a look at this guy. He was one of the greatest guitarists EVER. He really only had use of 2 fingers and a thumb. If he could do it, YOU can.

Django!



Sunday, January 14, 2018

KA-BLAMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!

Just had a kitchen accident. It's OK...the cats weren't hurt. Neither am I. However, a treasured family heirloom is gone gone gone.

OK..."heirloom" might be a stretch. It was one of my grandmother's old mixing bowls. Your grandmother might have had one. Hell, you might have one. These things were sturdy and built to last! And...they have roosters on them. You know the ones.


I can only imagine the thousands of meals that were prepared in this thing. I've never known life without this mixing bowl. I've eaten countless servings of popcorn from it. And now it's gone.

I was making dinner. I had the front burner on, searing a roast. I thought I'd turned it off...but I'd only turned it down. Roast was in the oven, and I was doing dishes. As I needed sink room, I had set the bowl on the stovetop. As I was getting ready to reach for the bowl....KA-BLAMMMM!!!!!!



It just shattered. Freaked me the hell out. The cats came in to see what was going on...but were more interested in the smell of the roast.

While "heartbroken" is too strong a word, I will really miss that bowl. Lots of memories. I guess it's time to hit the thrift stores...bound to be one around somewhere.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bar Fly

She was a beauty back in her day. She's still a sweet young thing in her mind but her varicose veins tell another story. You can practically hear the bone crumbling when she swivels her hips as she makes her way to your seat at the bar. Calls you "hon" or "sugar" as she tries to con you into buying her a drink. She hasn't willingly paid for one in 30 years. She'll tell you this could be your lucky night, provided you're blind or just plain desperate. 

She tells herself, in a voice you're not supposed to hear, that she's going to get her life together...tomorrow. One last night on the town...the same night in the same town in the same bars she's been haunting for a generation. She's a ghost who doesn't realize she's dead. 

She probably can't remember what color her hair used to be. Somewhere, under the layers of drug store dye, its just white. Her skin looks like a bad paint job on an old oak tree. Her voice, gravelly from a few Pall Malls too many, travels on breath that gives away her diet of cheap gin and fried food. Her clothes may have been in style once but even then, they were cheap knock offs. 

She used to be the girl of somebody's dreams. Those dreams ended when she made an name for herself. "Easy". She wasn't too worried. Someone better would come along and save her. She's still waiting...but closing time is ticking ever closer.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When Homer Saved The Day

I was just telling this story to a friend of mine (it's what us older guys do...we tell old stories) and he thought it was pretty damned funny. I've always thought it is...especially as I lived it.

ERNIE & HOMER

When I was in college, back in the 80s, I had a friend named Ernie. He had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair. He also had, by choice, a colostomy bag...which we referred to as "Homer". You'll find out why in just a bit.

I'll admit, I thought that choosing to get a colostomy bag was a pretty radical idea. Being the kinda guy I am, I asked him about this choice. His answer was pretty simple and to the point. "I was really tired of shitting myself and having to wait for someone else to help me get cleaned up." 

It really made sense! This was a young guy, in his mid 20s, with a dual degree in psych and criminology. He was bright! He lived on his own and handled his own affairs. There where, however, certain things he couldn't do. Like stand. Or walk. Or dress himself. Due to the cerebral palsy, he only had use of his left arm. While pretty much able to do a lot of things with it, like driving for instance, getting himself completely dressed, in/out of his chair, bed, the shower, etc. were not in his skill set. Not for lack of trying. There were a few times that I got calls in the middle of the night to help him get back in bed or into his chair. Or to help with "Homer". Sometimes, I'd just need to help him get into the apartment building...because he'd gone out, got drunk, and well...we've all been there.

"Homer" was a blessing in many way but also a curse. It meant no more sitting in his own shit for hours on end but it did require occasional assistance in emptying it, changing it, and maintaining the stoma. (For those that really want to know what that is, look HERE) He had a few people that helped but like the old saying goes, good help is hard to find.

As the semester was ending and I was looking for a way to keep from being homeless, Ernie made a suggestion: Why don't I become his "assistant" and help with all of the aforementioned. The state would pay me (and pay decently, I might add). The state would also pay me to go on vacation with him! In fact, he had a trip to Florida planned. A few phone calls and I was added along. It also meant he could get me to do the driving, thus making it easier to find a rental car.

We lived in the same building, on different floors, so this was a no-brainer. Of course I'd take the job! We were friends and hung out a lot anyway, so why not? While not thrilled about his early hours, I figured the man has to work so the least I can do is help him get ready.

Most of the routine was pretty simple. Get him out of bed, to the bathroom, help him shower, get him dressed, and he was on his way. I was pretty much 'on call' throughout the day, should an emergency arise. "Homer" wasn't too difficult, aside from the smell. Opening that thing up was like diving into a New Jersey sewer line. Pretty gagtastic. One of those smells that days later, out of nowhere, will appear in your nose. Imagine the smell of shit...but without the benefit of finishing it's way through the digestive tract, which in case you didn't know - actually filters a good bit of the stank out! The toughest part for me was maintaining the stoma but after a couple of weeks, it became pretty routine as well.

If we were going out someplace, to a bar or something, we'd take "Emergency Homer Packs" with us. These were one of my inventions. We kept them in a backpack on the back of his wheelchair. Each one consisted of paper towels, baby wipes, and rubber gloves, packed in a quart size zip lock freezer bag. Once I'd empty "Homer" into the freezer bag, I'd just close it up and throw it away. I'm sure it really freaked out the occasional janitor. It's not every day one comes across a bag of shit in the garbage.

ON THE ROAD WITH HOMER

Like I said, we were going on vacation to Florida. While not my favorite place in the world, a free holiday at the beach is a free holiday at the beach! And I was getting paid to be there! The trip was not without a few misadventures.

One day at EPCOT Center, we discovered that Ernie's stomach didn't handle Japanese food well. "Homer" was filling up and filling up fast! We had to get to a bathroom pronto! Only problem, the number of handicapped-accessible bathrooms were limited. Luckily, I got a map of all of them, and tilted Ernie's chair on it's back wheels and we raced to the nearest one. Heading straight for the handicap stall, I already had the Emergency Homer Pack out and as we opened the door, what do we see but some asshole middle-aged white guy in white pants taking a piss in the stall. I had Ernie's pants down enough to have "Homer" out and the look on this guy's face was sheer terror! I yelled for him to get out and he knew if he didn't, "Homer" was about to empty all over those white pants. Or worse...a "Homer-splosion"...which is exactly what you think it might be. Those colostomy bags are pretty tough...but they're plastic. They can only hold so much. (Note* Don't be a dick. Don't use the handicapped stall unless you really are handicapped. You don't want to run the risk of a face-to-face Homer encounter)

ERNIE LIKES THE LADIES

Like I said, Ernie was, in almost all ways, a typical 20 something. He liked to go out, he liked to get his drink on, and he really, I mean REALLY liked strip joints. As he wasn't the luckiest with the ladies, this was where he got the most attention from the ladies. Sure, he dated on occasion (and dated a few beauties too!), long story short, it never lasted. You had to feel bad for the guy. So, while not a fan of strip joints, I'd take him to one when he wanted to go and hang out with him like at any other bar.

One night in Florida, we were doing the tour of the OBT (Orange Blossom Trail) which, at the time, was well-known for it's large number of strip joints, dirty book stores, adult theaters, etc. Ernie was, in short, loving it. I, for the most part, felt completely creeped out.

We ended up at The Doll House, which was later mentioned in a Motley Crue video. As strip joints go, this place bordered on classy. Credit where due, the ladies there were really stunning. As we were having our first drink, Ernie offered up a bet. He wagered that he would have the best looking woman in the place hanging on him in 10 minutes. If he did, I bought drinks all night. If not, drinks on him.

Sounded like a pretty easy win for me, so I took the bet. If you know me, you know I'm not a gambling man. A "cheap bastard" would probably be a better description. I underestimated Ernie. He could be as conniving as any card shark.

Right after taking his bet, Ernie put on what I call "the gimp look". The sumbitch was milking it for all it was worth. He couldn't have looked more pathetic if he'd been holding a dead puppy!

His planned worked brilliantly. Almost too brilliantly. It didn't take 10 minutes. Hell, it didn't even take 5 minutes. In 2-3 minutes, all of the best looking strippers in the joint were all over him. "Poor little angel"...they were saying things like that. His smug mug just smiled at me as he said "Jack & Coke...and keep em coming my good man!" I would've been furious at being had if it weren't for the sheer brilliance of it...and how obviously happy he was. The night wasn't a total loss for me either. I got to talking with one of the dancers, I think her given name was Donna, and we hit it off. She had a great old powder blue 65 Mustang convertible. We hung out in the car a while, had a smoke and got to know each other a bit. But alas, I had to make sure Ernie was OK.

I went back in and some Marines had Ernie out of his chair, in their arms, on his back, while he tipped the dancers with bills in his teeth. He was living it up BIG TIME! Making friends everywhere he went...that was Ernie. You should've seen him in Vegas! (but that's another story)

Eventually, we had to get back to the hotel. I really should not have been driving. I'd had a few too many (Note* Never drink and drive!). I made the usual fool decision, thinking it was only 20 minutes or so to our hotel...I could make it.

I was pretty much a lead foot at the time. Apparently, I was also weaving a bit.

HOMER SAVES THE DAY!

Next thing I know, I see police lights come on behind me, and I hear the siren. FUCK! I figured I could handle a night in jail but Ernie? Man, that would be a disaster. At the very least, there'd be a Homer-splosion which would probably result in some other drunken asshole getting violent in the cells. But then I thought, HOMER! It was a quick idea but it had to work. It was our only chance. I just had to hope the cop wasn't too bright and had never seen a colostomy bag before.

I told Ernie to get "Homer" out, and to just sit there, look pathetic, and don't say anything. Maybe moan a bit like he's in pain.

I pulled over and rolled the window down. As the cop was asking where we were going, etc., I said "Officer please! If I don't get my friend back to our hotel room ASAP and take care of THIS (point to "Homer") he could die!" The cop shined his flashlight and a look of terror came over his face. "Homer" was pretty full at the time...mostly gas but still impressively disgusting looking. The cop asked what hotel we were staying at and gave us a full-speed police escort there!

Had that been all, it would still be a great story but noooooooo...it gets better. As we pull into the hotel parking lot, by the time I'm getting out of the car, the cop already has Ernie out and in his arms, waiting for me to get his wheelchair. The cop then opened the main door of the hotel and opened our hotel room door for us! I hurriedly wheeled Ernie into the bathroom, opened the gas valve on "Homer" (again, as gross as you're thinking), waited a minute then walked back out into the room. Officer Helpful was waiting with a look of great concern on his face.

"Is he OK? Does he need an ambulance??? What IS that thing????" he asked. I assured him Ernie would be OK and thanked him again and again for his brave, compassionate assistance. I even went so far as to ask for his name and badge number so I could call his captain in the morning and recommend him for a medal! He became Officer Humble at this point, saying things like "All in the line of duty, sir. Just doing my job." He acted like he did this all the time. After he left, I grabbed a beer out of the room fridge. As I opened it, I heard Ernie yell from the bathroom, "Hey! Are you just gonna leave me in here all night or what??????" Oops!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgivus! (Again!)

I wrote this over a decade ago. It's still just a bit of silliness...but some folks like it and some look forward to it. I hope it can bring you a smile. We need more of those these days.

THANKSGIVUS

Thanksgivus: that's what she called it. The 'she' in question would be a very short, loud, middle aged black woman with retardation who I supervised for years. Her name is Omega...fitting because she truly is THE END!

Omega didn't exactly have a speech problem but I think her hearing wasn't 100% on the mark, as certain words would get slurred together such as "Thanksgivus". Another fave was her version of Social Security, which often sounded more like "sociable secretary" (of which I've known a few).

Thanksgivus (which is what I now prefer to call the US holiday Thanksgiving) is the last Thursday of November (this is for my overseas friends who may not be fully knowledgeable of the subject). It is the holiday where we Americans give Thanks to God for giving us BIG tasty birds, punkin pie & cranberry sauce...all courtesy of a tribe that we soon took great pains to wipe out. In short, when those Pilgrims (essentially English religious nuts) 1st landed at Plymouth Rock, they didn't have a CLUE what they were doing or what they were in for!

After that 1st winter (what do you mean "No Central Heating"???), most of the Pilgrims had died off. A few hearty ones remained (probably by eating the others...but that story seems to have vanished in the annals of history) and it was looking bleak for them, as they didn't know SQUAT about farming North American soil. Luckily, the Indians (bite me, I will NOT be PC) took pity on them, showed them what to do and the Pilgrims survived. They did sooo well, in fact, they had a big feast and invited the Indians. When the Indians showed up, they realized that white folks are either really bad at planning feasts or are just stingy, so they sent some braves to go kill a half dozen or so deer....gotta make sure ya don't leave the table unless yer ready to burst....STILL an American Thanksgivus tradition. NOWHERE on the menu was green bean casserole....PLEASE make note of that! (the Americans reading this will get the humor)

Finally, sometime in the 19th century, after decades of confusion as to what this "New England" holiday was and when it was supposed to be observed, some mad woman wrote everyone in the colonies suggesting the last Thursday in November...just in time to mark the start of Xmas shopping season!

Now, contrary to what some of my English colleagues have been lead to believe, Thanksgivus is NOT the American Xmas. Trust me, NO ONE on this planet overdoes Xmas like the Americans! Here it is, the Sunday BEFORE Thanksgivus and I'm looking out my front door at my neighbor's Xmas lights! 1 month 5 days before we celebrate the Man's b-day (even though we have the date wrong)...1 month 5 days of looking at those damned lights! Don't get me wrong, I love the holidays as much if not more than most people...but I like things to be done for the right reasons...not just to be the 1st, best or brashest.

For the holidays, I wish you all peace, happiness and a full belly. May your homes be filled with laughter (and not just the canned version coming from your TV). May your pockets never be empty, maybe your fridge always be full (with at least 1 6pack of decent beer...in case I should stop by lol) and may your troubles be few & far between.

In fact, I don't just wish you these things for the holidays...I wish them for you all EVERYDAY.

I'm having a few friends over (as usual) this year for Thanksgivus. It might not be the fanciest dinner but I hope to guarantee all a good meal, a full belly and someplace to sit and digest and enjoy some good company after (and before...as long as they stay OUTTA MY WAY in the kitchen.).

We will revel in the death of a turkey. We shall take delight in the taters, which will be mashed. The rolls will hopefully not be slightly burned on the bottoms...but if they are, that's what butter, gravy & butter knives are for! The veggies will be plentiful and not overcooked. The pie will be chocolate cream...NOT PUNKIN! (my tradition...not yours, OK? ) And yes Virginia...there will most likely be cranberries of some sort...JUST NO DAMNED GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE...PLEASE!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Old Woman In The Shoe

"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread;
And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed."

You probably remember the old Mother Goose tale about the old gal in the shoe. Reading it now, its really rather disturbing. This is a tale of a woman at her wit's end...or that's how that Goose person wanted you to believe.

Let's think about this: How old was she? 40s? 50s? She probably couldn't have been older, assuming that these kids are hers. And why did she keep having so damned many kids? Why didn't she keep her legs shut? JUST SAY NO! Where was the father in this story? There are many unanswered questions.

I will put forth a possibility: The Old Woman in the Shoe was a prostitute. A Shoe-dweller of ill repute! At the time, birth control was not an option and abortions were often a death sentence. That she kept having the kids tells us a few things. She was either very stupid, or didn't care to spend the money on a back alley procedure. Her actions show some level of maternal instinct and a sense of self-preservation. She lacked, however, the ability to think ahead. Her actions were based on present needs and indicate no thought whatsoever to future outcome. This led to a shoe full of children, each needing food, clothing, love and attention.

One can only guess where the broth came from. A local soup kitchen perhaps? A handout from a benefactor of better means? The most disturbing aspect of this tale is the violence toward the children.

She "whipped them all soundly and put them to bed". Did she use an actual whip? Perhaps as part of her prostitutial duties, she enacted the role of a dominatrix. Whether the whip is literal or figurative, the violence is well indicated. Here are a brood of children, most likely her own, who are acting out due to malnutrition and abject hunger. One can surmise that there are other health issues, not mentioned, involved with their behavior. We're talking about a woman, of limited financial means, who beats her poor, starving, unhealthy children until they're unconscious. Perhaps she needs them quiet so she can go about her business of selling herself. One can only guess.

Let us now discuss the elephant in the room...the shoe. A shoe of such a size that would permit multiple humans to dwell in it, would be costly. Where would one even find such an object? It doesn't seem well-suited for a residence. A cave would be better!

Was there no local orphanage? No local church? Was the local government so uncaring that this woman, of questionable mental health, and her brood of sickly, starving, children (with behavioral issues) simply fell through the cracks? Were the local citizens also so uncaring? One would think that a woman with many children, living in a shoe, would be pretty common local knowledge. That she and her family were so treated is a testament to the cruelty of humans throughout the ages.

There are other possibilities. Perhaps, as an elderly spinster, she had gone mad and kidnapped various children to claim as her own. This is not an uncommon practice, however, the sheer number of children is alarming. At feeding time, especially, reality crept in. Did she eventually turn herself in and the authorities returned the children to their respective families? Were any of them offered counseling after?

Where was the father?

I probably just ruined this story for you. Didn't I?