now playing: gordon lightfoot, “if you need me”

ok…so i gotta share this with the rest of you. some of you i had sent this to right away, but there’s some twisted part of me that just wants everyone to see this. i don’t understand it, personally, but i can’t ignore it, either.

alright. here goes nothin’.

once upon a time, in a land far, far away...

this, my friends, is the new hope music project, circa 1983.

jerry, the fella directly behind me, sent this to me last week….it was in my inbox when i came in to work, and i opened it up and couldn’t stop staring at it all day long.

it wasn’t just that i was under the spell of my vigoda-esque eyebrows or perfectly groomed mane. no, although that was truly hard to ignore, it really didn’t have anything to do with that.

sometimes life throws you these little signposts…just like the green ones that earmark how many miles before you get to the next major city on that particular stretch of roadway, except in the case of this sign, the distance marked was how many miles i’d come since that particular part of my life.

there are people in my life who marvel at the sheer magnitude of the number of things on my plate at a given time…right now, for instance – building a recording studio, getting a charity auction off the ground, working 55-plus hours a week during the day, and playing with anyone who’ll have me at every opportunity.

to them, i say – it’s a damn shame you didn’t know me when.

at the point in time when this picture was taken, i was going to school during the day, working on the air at WKWX from 1am to 5am, and playing drums in this particular band. and i wouldn’t have traded any of it for anything else, at the time. i loved working at the radio station…even though the hours were harsh, i loved being there alone all night, playing whatever the hell i wanted to play. i really thought i had it licked…i was getting paid to listen to music! holy SHIT! whoever thought of this racket?

school….well, school was a necessary evil, but i was a minor celebrity, so that softened the blow considerably. i wouldn’t have known what to do with a member of the opposite sex if she handed me an illustrated manual, but i didn’t really care at the time. i had my crushes from time to time, but they never went anywhere…and besides – there’d be plenty of time for women once i was a rock star.

and that’s where these guys came in.

i know, i know…we look like a bunch of rednecks who couldn’t operate a CD player without a how-to video. but i’m here to tell ya, man – strap us in and we rocked. we were the undisputed top of the heap in my hometown….there were no contenders. we were IT.

ok, introductions are in order.

top left: pat durbin.

pat always had a smile on his face, as best as i can recall. he was always a sweetheart. to my face, anyway, he was very supportive of what i did, and was happy to have me in the band. pat worked for south central bell, i think, during the time that we were playing together. when i left the band to join the navy, though, i never had occasion to speak with pat again. i’m not sure what ever happened to him.

top center: frankie briggs.

frankie had one of those “lil’ red express” pickup trucks that dodge made…if you’re my age, you probably remember seeing them. it was the only one i was aware of in the area, and i figure that frankie always knew which car was his in the piggly wiggly parking lot.

frankie was one of the original partners in the recording studio that the band worked out of…i have such fond memories of that place. in truth, it wasn’t anything special, but they’d gone in there and done essentially what i’m doing now with my project….they took this place and made it their own and created a personal sanctuary where they could work and rehearse and have a band in every now and then to make a few bucks. it had red and blue carpet all over the walls, and there were isolation booths and a control room and all that, and for a 16 year old kid, it was just the coolest goddamn thing that you could possibly have a key to…as far as i was concerned.

i did have occasion to see frankie once after i’d left the band (and left town, for that matter), and i actually talked to him at one point about buying the old multitrack equipment from the studio and all the old tapes. i harbored that fantasy for a long time – going back and remixing and salvaging all those old tapes for posterity.

frankie had a long-standing attachment to robert, their old drummer, and his affection for him was a bit of a wall between he and i….i understand it perfectly now, but then i felt as though if frankie could’ve elbowed me out of the way to get robert back into the band, he’d have done it in a heartbeat.

top right: jerry opdycke. OPIE.

i’m just going to say, right now, that if you have any affection or appreciation for any work that i’ve done as a musician, you owe this guy a debt of gratitude. jerry was always my carpool buddy to and from gigs…we’d load all the crap in the van, and there’d be no room for passengers, so i’d ride with jerry. jerry turned me on to little feat before anyone else did, and i can’t buy him enough beers to thank him for that. jerry also turned me on to the first two karla bonoff albums. we’d go back to jerry’s house after gigs and he’d put on music and we’d all sit around and shoot the shit and jerry was a hero to me. he was easily the most accomplished musician in the band, and i learned a lot from watching him play. and he was my most staunch proponent in the band, as well. he was the one who took me aside when the rumblings started that robert was interested in coming back to the band and told me, point blank, that i was in and that was the way it was.

we were getting ready to start playing “only the lonely” by the motels. first time we played it, jerry just nailed the guitar solo. i still remember that rehearsal like it was yesterday. i thought that was just slick as hell.

how much of an influence was jerry?

jerry played a les paul standard through an old lab series L-5 amp for the entire time we were in the band. years later, easily a decade and a half after we’d last played together, i walked into a pawn shop here in town and saw the 4-10″ version of that amp – the L-7 – and i had to have it. i walked out with it that afternoon, and i couldn’t wait to see if i could get it to sound like jerry’s.

jerry and david phillips were the two people whose support during some crucial years made all the difference in the path i eventually took.

i hope he knows this.

bottom left: reggie treece.

reggie actually joined the band after i did…he had moved to savannah from memphis, i think it was, where he was a member of alex chiltons’ box tops for a while. reggie had this sideways sense of humor….you never knew when he was gonna drop one on you. for instance, i was putting together a portfolio of sorts of pictures of the band and bio information and the like…and i asked reggie how he learned to play piano.

he said, with a perfectly straight face….”i bought the liberace big note songbook and locked myself in my room for eight days.”

if i’d been streetwise enough to recognize it, i’d have seen that there was something a little odd about reggie from the outset…he had one of those ultra-clingy girlfriends, and he carried himself in such a way that you could almost make out the shape of the monkey on his back. sure enough, after the band split, he started showing up at frankies’ store, looking for money for his wurlitzer (this according to frankie the last time i saw him).

reggie is no longer with us. he’s probably arguing with johnnie johnson over a beer right now.

bottom, center: sheila “nikki” chandler

nikki and our soundman, “tricky rick” daniels, had a thing goin’ on, although i had no idea at the time…looking at this picture, she’s a lot more attractive than i remember her being. all i really remembered at the time was that she had a funny shaped butt…not misshapen or anything like that…just – well, not really normal. i can’t really describe it….i could draw it, probably, but i don’t know if i can put it into words.

keep in mind, i was the drummer and she stood right in front of me. i don’t care what anyone says…you’re gonna look. you can’t not look.

somewhere in my collection of shit that interests no one but me, i have a tape that ricky, nikki and i made for a commercial in the production studio at WKWX….she was shitfaced at the time, but i managed to get a couple of soundbites out of her. at the time, i could buy radio time at a significantly reduced rate, so if we had a kickass gig coming up, we’d buy a dozen commercials for it. you can’t even think about that shit nowadays, but we did it.

and then, of course, there’s me…heaven only knows whatever happened to the dweeb with the ‘fro and the hoodie.

so there you have it….that’s the band.

first bands are like first loves….they have their own special place in your heart, and no matter how crude the reality of the situation might have been, you still see it the way you saw it in the moment for the rest of your life.

the waiting is the hardest part

now playing: muzak

sitting in the waiting room at berks oral surgery this morning, where dylan is having his wisdom teeth removed.

he’s been his usual cavalier self about it – although if you know where and how to look, the signs of his nervousness were pretty obvious. he’s been a trooper about it, though….his biggest source of nervousness has been “the needle” – meaning the IV they give him for anesthesia. they had just administered the nitrous oxide before i was asked to leave. i would have personally wanted to stick around until he had gone under, but they didn’t really allow for that.

some time back, i took him for some bloodwork early in the morning and saw him have a seizure. he turned grey and his head tipped back and he started convulsing and it scared the shit out of me. i thought that, by going early in the morning, that we’d get him in there and get him something to eat and he’d be fine. he’d been fasting since the day before for the bloodwork, and i think he had a similar reaction to the one i had when i decided to become a human guinea pig while i was in the navy in DC.

i’d seen an ad in the DC city paper stating that you could make up to $1500 for a weekend by going in and being a test subject for these people who were – in theory – testing the variances between generic brand drugs and their brand-name counterparts. you stayed in their building for the weekend, ate and slept when and how they told you, and when it was all over, you left with cash. for a 20 year old kid, it seemed like a pretty good deal.

so i called and got the skinny – you were to eat nothing and drink only water from noon the day before until the morning you went in for testing, and they gave me the address to go to and so on and so forth. well, when i got there, there was quite a turnout…so many, in fact, that it took roughly six to seven hours to process everyone. well, by the time i got in there, i’d eaten nothing for almost 28 hours. now, those who know me well know what a feat of willpower this is in and of itself, but in terms of its physical effects on me, i didn’t really give that aspect much thought. i’ve never been skinny, even at my lowest weight, and i’ve always figured that i had plenty of reserves for such a scenario. so no big deal, right?

well, what i didn’t know is that there’s apparently a condition that exists, in terms of the oxygenation level of your blood or something of that nature, when you’re fasting…and when blood is drawn, it creates (for lack of a better word) a vacuum within your circulatory system and the blood rushes from your head. now, granted – i’m just trying to relay this in the way that i recall it, and it sounds somewhat preposterous when i repeat it…but that’s as close to how i remember the explanation as i think i’m gonna be able to get.

anyway, i went into this room where they took my picture, weighed me, did the whole shine-the-light-into-various-orifices drill, so on and so forth…and then they asked me to have a seat and prepared to take my blood. i remember sitting down, and i remember hearing the radio playing in the room….

…and the next thing i remember was seeing the linoleum tile on the floor from much closer than i had a reason to, and hearing the nurses’ voice saying to someone, “i need some help over here”.

she had put the needle in my arm to take my blood and i just slumped over in the chair. i don’t know if i had a seizure on the scale of dylans’, but i keeled right over. and i don’t remember anything. just the sound of the radio and the tile on the floor.

anyway, they got me back to an upright position in the chair, gave me some crackers and orange juice, and sent me home.

surprisingly, my phone never rang after that.

dylan came out of his lapse in much the same way…it only lasted a couple of seconds, and he got through it relatively quickly and got his color back within a couple of minutes….and while i tried to get him to let me take him to breakfast, he didn’t have any interest in eating at the moment. i had never seen that, though,and it shook me up. i still remember that shade of grey that he turned quite vividly.

today, i took the whole day off so that i could be with him through the whole thing…after the bloodwork, i had to go back to work almost right afterward, and today i didn’t want to have any other place to be.

we were all supposed to go to the beach this past weekend – i wanted to take them for the weekend, but they had a surprise birthday party on saturday, so i figured we’d just go for the day on sunday…but then they reported a high chance of rain on sunday from friday onward, so when we talked on saturday night, we decided that we’d have to come up with a plan B on sunday, and we’d talk then.

i was never as pissed to wake up to a beautiful day as i was on sunday.

as it turned out, we did ok…we went and hung out with pete and bridgets’ family for a few hours that afternoon, and we all had a good time – we went to sonic for dinner after that and then home for the night. i was originally planning on going to harrisburg to sit in with my friend michael anthony smith for his sunday night radio show on WRVV, but i was just wiped out and didn’t feel like doing anything.

i’ve given them both an ultimatum, though…that they have to come up with an idea for a trip for us before summer gets away from us. something that we’ll all enjoy. i haven’t heard any suggestions yet with regard to what it’s going to be, so i don’t know if they’ve even given it any thought. dylan and i have already talked about what we’re going to do for the year he graduates – we’re going to take a road trip across the country. we’re going to start out here, drive across the northern states to san francisco, then drive down to los angeles and drive back across the southern states and back home again.

we’ve talked about this for about two years…ever since we both read the memory of running. we don’t have any specific stops planned or anything of that nature….but for us, just deciding on something specific is a pretty huge step forward.

now we just have to execute the plan when the time comes.