Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Day the Music Died

As a child, I had two brief forays into actually learning how to play music. In fourth grade, I took trumpet lessons in school for about half the year. Luckily for my parents, I didn't practice much. This may be one of the times when my parents were glad that I didn't put too much effort into something, given the ungodly racket a fourth grader with a discount school-issued trumpet can make. About all I remember from my trumpeting days is the spit valve. It was even messier than it sounds. It would take about 20 years, when I started listening to a lot of Miles Davis and Clifford Brown, before I had any misgivings at all about giving up the instrument.

Around the same general time frame, I also took guitar lessons from my uncle's friend Jim. This is the one which should have been an inspiring story, but instead, became just another vaguely amusing footnote. What songs was I badly mangling? Beatles songs. And what year was it? 1980. I remember I had a guitar lesson on December 8 of that year, the day John Lennon was killed. Should have inspired me to reach great musical heights.

But, once again, I didn't practice and quit taking lessons shortly. These days, BB EC has a better shot at playing an in-tune She Loves You on the acoustic guitar. And my destiny of being the guy who plays a very bad version of Imagine in the neighborhood bar was never realized

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My life as a reporter - the low

I was soaking wet, ringing a doorbell in the a torrential storm, looking to get a quote from a man accused of raping his granddaughter.
No immediate answer. Then I hear a dog barking. For the first time in my life, I am going to get a pack of dogs set on me. Standing there, soaking wet, without an umbrella, because I never remember to carry a god damned umbrella, waiting for someone to open the door, so I can then ask him for a comment about allegedly raping his granddaughter and preparing to be mauled by a rabid Rottweiler.

Did I miss the fucking class in journalism school that would have explained how to handle this situation, about what made it worthwhile to get paid less than most migrant workers for the honor and the glory of spending hours in a courthouse, reading unimaginably lurid details of a supposed crime that made me want to vomit all over the clerk of courts front desk. Not to mention the fact that my overall gut instinct was that this could all be some horrible family dispute that got way out of hand, that the guy likely didn't do what he was accused of. If it was clear he was such a monster, why had he been released on $1,000 cash bail? Why wasn't he locked up in the cargo bay of a pirate ship off the coast of Somalia, waiting to be used as shark bait?

Another added bonus that was part of the whole situation. The accused grandfather rapist lived directly next door to my newspaper's office. Meaning that from here on out, coming to my office meant not only would I have to put up with my odious prick of a boss, but I would also have to worry about some revenge-crazed accused rapist jumping out of the bushes and attacking me with this garden weasel.

Why the fuck hadn't I majored in accounting?

I ring the doorbell one last time. Now I can see the dog, and it's a golden retriever, slightly easing my fears of being mauled.

But behind the dog is an even more awful site. The accused rapist's wife is coming to answer the door. A sweet-looking, gray-haired lady of about 65. At this point, I would have given anything to face the imaginary rabid Rottweiler and the garden weasel-toting rapist rather than asking this woman for a comment on her husband assaulting her granddaughter.

"Can I help you?" she asks.

"Ahh, yeah, umm, I'm from the newspaper next door and I was wondering, ahhh, if Mr. X is home and has a comment on his, his, uhhh, legal iss..."

"Get Out of Here and Don't You ever Come Back!"

Door slams in my face. I am left drenched in the torrential rain. I drudge through the puddles, back to my office, back to my odious prick of a boss.

Friday, April 03, 2009

In which me and my best friend think about rocking the world, then drink beer instead ...

It was a brilliant idea. Okay, we probably didn’t even think it was that hot of an idea when we first came up with it, but it was an idea. Randy and I, true connessiurs of all non-Living Color music, would rock the world with our own band. Of course, the path to fame and glory is never easy, and Randy and I confronted several problems right off the bat. But we were not deterred from our dreams of one day creating the music that would serve as the soundtrack to some crappy laser light show.

First problem, neither one of us knew how to play, or even owned, an instrument. Somehow, our addled brains got us far enough to determine that I would play guitar, and Randy would play drums. Or Randy would play bass and I would play drums. Or I would play the washboard and Randy would 
blow into an empty moonshine jug. As for learning to rock, Randy decided that his brother Roger would teach whichever one of us was the guitar player how to play guitar. I preferred the option of having Kenny teach us, so we could hit the stage and play a neverending loop of the first 30 seconds of Sweet Child O’ Mine. 

Second problem we had was that there were only two of us. In those heady pre-White Stripes days, a two-person rock and roll combo was virtually unheard of, unless we decided we wanted to be the Everly Brothers. I think we recruited our friend Dave to play whichever instrument the two of us weren’t going to pick up and master in a matter of weeks. I don’t think it ever got to the point that Dave knew he was in our band. He would have just slowed us down with a desire to play Rush covers, anyway.

And that’s as far as it got, although I think I did suggest the name Slaughterhouse Five for our band. Randy thought it was a stupid name. And he was right. I’m hoping someday we can put our artistic differences aside and launch a reunion tour.