Archives for category: Life

I played guitar and sang in bands from about 1979 to 1989. I have no really outrageous stories, but here are a few I remember.

Just Say No

One time a friend and I were going to buy some LSD (ah, young and stupid). Black Pyramid, I believe.

We went to the guy’s house and he said, “you’re not gonna believe this, but I put the hits in the cellophane from a cigarette pack, put them in my wallet, and accidentally ran the wallet through the washer.”

He showed us the cellophane. There was a big black smear on it.

He said, “I don’t know if it’s any good. You can lick the cellophane and see what happens. If you feel something, just give me a few bucks.”

That night, in the van on the way to a gig, my friend, the other guitarist, and I ripped off pieces of the cellophane and licked the smear. After a half-hour or so, we all agreed we didn’t feel anything.

We got to the bar and began hauling in and setting up. Still not feeling much.

About halfway through the first set, though – holy shit.

The bass drum was breathing. The goddamned drum was breathing. My guitar was wildly out of tune (it wasn’t). In between songs I’d frantically try to tune it. It just got worst. The singer was yelling at me to hurry up.

I should note that this was in the redneckiest of redneck bars in southern Iowa. The dancing hillbillies were freaking me out.

I got through it, and learned a lesson. Water has little effect on LSD. Also, don’t take roughly the equivalent of four hits.

Drunk and Stupid Again

We had an outdoor gig once, a big barbeque or party or something. We were set to play in late afternoon. The drummer, other guitarist and I brought the equipment and got ready to set up.

But when we got there, the bassist – who had been there all day, with several kegs – was hammered. Like, ready-to-pass-out hammered. So hammered he couldn’t play, and thus we couldn’t play.

So the rest of us got drunk too and ending up leaving the equipment out in the (eventual) rain. Some of it got damaged.

What a bunch of idiots. Didn’t even get paid.

Sweet Home Shut Up

All the bands I played in played in the Midwest, so if you were a cover band, you were wise to know a Lynyrd Skynyrd song or two.

Nothing against the band, but they have (or at least had) some HARDCORE fans. I can’t remember how many bars had a resident Skynyrd expert. The night would be over, I’d be tearing down and looking forward to pancakes on the way home, and some drunk dude would be going on and on. He’d know all the details and stats about all the members. He’d seen them in concert several times. You get the picture.

NOTE: If you’re a superfan of ANY band, you can get annoying.

First Gig

The first band I was in was at 15. I, a bassist and a drummer called ourselves “Fission.” We played at the high school talent contest. Our set was Ides of March’s “Factory Band,” “Wipeout,” and Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” (female drummer). I don’t think we won, but it was fun.

Our next gig was playing at the 8th grade graduation dance. So we really moved up to the big time.

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Back in the late 90s and early 00s, I worked at a toy company (I won’t say the name, but their hit toy rhymes with “Schmurby”). It was the most fun company I ever worked for, and I got to know most of the employees.

One of my coworkers was a 22-year-old, Sheila (not her real name). Sheila was nice, down-to-earth, had a good sense of humor, was happily married, and ecstatic that she had newborn twins. She’d often stop by my cubicle to chat.

Also: Sheila was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. I won’t go into a physical description because we haven’t kept in touch and my memory’s a bit foggy, but suffice to say she was a definite head-turner.

If a group of us went out for drinks after work, most guys at the bar (I’m not exaggerating here) would take turns hitting on her. She’d politely turn all of them down. One particularly interested guy claimed to be from a modeling agency and gave her his card.

After I got to know her pretty well, I asked her a question while we were cube-chatting one day. I said, “this may sound a bit strange, but…what’s it like looking like you do?”

She wasn’t surprised at all, and replied, “it’s hard, because you have what every guy wants.”

I said, “that’s exactly what I thought it’d be like.”

I already knew most of the male employees acted like idiots around her, but she’d tell me stories of how some of the women were very bitchy to her – jealous of her looks and the attention she got.

I should stress that she didn’t dress inappropriately or give anyone the impression she was interested in anybody. In fact, she was one of the most normal women I’ve ever worked with. And in case you’re wondering, she had average-sized boobs.

But I felt sorry for her. Can you imagine: you’re happily married, well-adjusted, love your family, and just want to live your life – and nearly everywhere you go, men behave like horny apes and women get pissy with you?

Anyway, I sympathize with the world’s truly beautiful women who just want a normal life. Beautiful men? Eh, deal with it, hombre.

I was born in 1964, in the Midwest of the USA, to two raised-on-farms-folks who were descendants of European immigrants.

I didn’t ask for that. Nobody has any say-so as to where, when, and to whom they’re born.

Yet, for some reason, it seems I’m obligated to think, without any question, that the USA is the greatest country ever – just because fate said that’s where I was born.

Why is that?

Don’t get me wrong. I had a great upbringing, and I do like the USA. But why do I have to just blindly accept that it’s greater than other countries?

I’m sure many people have seen the popular scene from the HBO series “The Newsroom,” in which TV journalist Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) answers the question “what makes America the greatest country in the world?” while part of a panel discussion in front of a large college audience. Just in case, here’s a transcript:

 

“It’s not the greatest country in the world, professor, and that’s my answer. Sharon, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn’t cost money; it costs votes and airtime and column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? It’s because they lose. If liberals are so fuckin’ smart, how come they lose so goddamn always? And with a straight face, you’re gonna tell a bunch of college students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The U.K., Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Australia. Belgium has freedom! Two hundred and seven sovereign states in the world, and, like, a hundred and eighty of them have freedom.

(Addressing girl in crowd who asked question) “You, sorority girl. Just in case you wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know. And one of them is: there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest county in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, a hundred-and-seventy-eighth in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six nations combined – twenty-five of whom are allies…so when you ask, ‘what makes us the greatest country in the world?’ I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

 

That’s pretty much my sentiment. And not just because I love Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

On a side note, I support our military personnel. I support our policemen. But these are professions people choose to go into – they’re not forced to do so. Does that mean I have to worship them? I went into public school teaching after college, largely because I thought it was a noble profession. It sure didn’t seem like people held me in high esteem (I lasted a year and said to myself, “this isn’t worth minimum wage”).

Anyway, I don’t get the blind nationalism. Many other countries have much better health care systems, education systems, job vacation policies, pay for their middle class, recreational drug laws, etc. They make us look pretty sad and backwards in comparison.

So, America, keep on waving your stars and stripes. Just know we’re not that fucking great.

On one episode of Restaurant: Impossible (great show), Robert Irvine encountered, in his words, the worst eatery he’d ever seen.

I don’t recall all the details, but here are a few main points:

— There were fire hazards all over the place

— The back outdoor area was piled up with junk

— The front dining area was completely grimy

— Spoiled food was lying about

— They found several dead mice on the kitchen floor

You get the picture.

So what did Mr. Irvine do? If you guessed “turn that motherfucker around,” you win a kewpie doll.

He scrubbed and updated and renovated (as is his wont) and cleaned up the back area for DJ/dancing. There was a long line on opening night.

The episode’s postscript said they called the restaurant a few months later to see how they were going, and were told “everything’s great.” When the show sent a camera crew, however, there was a “closed” sign out front and junk piled up in the back area again.

My point is…some people don’t seem to learn.

I guess I just don’t get it. You choose to make your way in life, you’re a complete fuck-up at it, someone shows you how to do it correctly, and you just completely ignore their advice and carry on as a fuck-up?

In my first major paper I wrote as a college freshman, I used “it’s” instead of “its” (I wasn’t an English major yet). I got it back with all my mistakes circled and the message: “Learn its/it’s difference.” I never made that mistake again.

There have been many instances in my life where I’ve said, “yep, this is the way to go.” Someone at least as smart as me has said, “ummm…you might wanna rethink that.” Nine times out of ten, they’ve been right.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Learn from your mistakes, and if a wise person gives you good advice, take it. The world already has too many headstrong misguided fuck-ups.