Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Years at Deland





The winter of ‘92/’93 I was part of a competition 4-way skydiving team/study group named Muffy and The Divers. Muffy was kind of our team leader and she came up with the name. We did everything together. For New Years we decided to go down to Deland Florida for a huge skydiver’s party.

I think I might have run my little Samurai into a ditch at our annual chili party in Vandalia, Illinois because it was left there for repairs when we drove down. I drove down with Dan Cunningham and Laura G. Laura was on my team. We were taking her down to meet up with her fiancé Jamie, but that didn’t stop us from making passes at her. We were the perfect traveling companions. We laughed almost the whole way down. U2’s Achtung Baby had just been released. In a trance listening to the lyrics of “One” Laura turned to me and said, “Bono is God.”

When we got there I was the only one that was too broke to get a room. I pitched my tent at the airport’s tent city and somehow crawled back to it every night. We must have been there a week but hardly jumped at all. The sky was always overcast.

One night, after a day of not jumping, Rob Walsh and I ended up at the pilot’s bar at the airport. Rob was also on my team. Everyone was mourning the death of Tommy Piras. He invented the style of team jumping we practiced. He died nearby and everyone knew him. Rob died last year in that terrible airplane accident in Sullivan, Missouri.

Rob had an affinity for tequila. He lined up 5 shot glasses and told me he’d roll a quarter off his nose. If the coin bounced once and went into a glass I had to drink it. At 3 or 4 shots I looked up bleary-eyed to catch him holding the coins right over the glasses.

Several other jumpers were there and when the bar closed we found ourselves in the parking lot. Some big, dumb redneck took a look at me and decided he hated me and everything I stood for. I recoiled in surprise as he took a swing at me.

Laura came to my rescue. She jumped on his back, swung fists violently at him and yelled, “You can’t hurt my friend!” All at once there was a riot and 20 or so people were at it. We had to return the next morning to find Jamie’s glasses. I was the only person that didn’t even get hit.

That morning was another overcast unjumpable day. Jamie said he knew a place that made the best Bloody Marys in the world. We drove for hours along the coast. The bar was tiny and at the end of a pier. There was an angry pelican standing guard. Jamie was right; I had never had a better or more unique Bloody Mary. I wish I could remember the name of the bar.

Muffy was going out with John Vincent then. John was the guy that scaled the Arch with suction cups and jumped off. That Halloween everyone in St. Louis was the Arch Jumper. My skydiving buddies brought him into the Venice Cafe one night when I was tending bar. A lot of pop culture celebrities visited the bar but my boss Jeff Lockheed was most impressed with The Arch Jumper.

He ended up spending a few months in jail because he violated his parole by jumping off the radio tower by the Kendrick movie theater. I mention John because Muffy and I spent an entire day at all the head shops in Orlando looking for just the right hash pipe for his birthday.

The party was at Deland’s biggest hotel. I think it was a Holiday Inn. We partied with a lot of skydiving celebrities including Bill Booth, the inventor of the tandem parachute rig and the 3 ring cutaway system that greatly simplified reserve deployment.

I made it back to the airport and crawled into my tent. I lay awake most of the night trying not to hear the moans of my neighbors in the heat of sex. After sleeping it off I walked back to the hotel. The place was a disaster. Clothes, trays, and bottles were strewn across the halls. One of the doors creaked open and I watched Muffy sneak out of one and tip-toe into another room. She wore a tiara, a torn dress, and fishnet stockings with runs. She looked spectacular.

When it was time to go Dan and I drove back without Laura. It was an empty experience. When we got back to Vandalia I went to the shop that had my car. They told me they didn’t even look at it because someone had vomited on the passenger side floor. I always bring my own vegetarian chili to the chili party. My leftovers had spilled giving them the wrong impression. After cleaning it up I had to spend another couple of nights there before I could drive home.

Photos are of Laura, Jamie and Rob Walsh at the airport. Rob is in a white jump suit with a blue rig on the right in our Missouri POPS record photo.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas y'all


Pic taken of my son Dylan's first Christmas by my buddy 'Drea Stein. Her studio was in our basement. Check out her radio show at KDHX. I have a bit about them on an early entry. Also check out my version of the Christmas classic "Once In Royal David's City" featuring Yma Sumac at www.myspace.com/davidudell

Wasps


If you’ve been following my stories you may have noticed that I will sometimes sacrifice entertainment for detail. This really is a memoir for my kids that I hope they don’t find until after I die. With this in mind I will occasionally submit a short story with questionable entertainment value such as the following.

My childhood seemed to have been made up of single mothers with their kids networking into a giant extended family. One of these mothers was a woman named Marge Ramsey. We lived for a time with her and her 2 kids Joe and Jean.

Years later Dominic took our band’s PA system and my acoustic guitar to a party. He left them behind and they were stolen. Marge was gracious enough to co-sign for a loan and the PA was replaced. It took me years to get another acoustic guitar. Sorry, guess I’m still a little bitter.

Anyway I was about 8 I think. Our 2 families had spent the day in the country. On our way home we stopped at an Italian restaurant with an outdoor dining area. I used to tease Jeanie a lot. She was a girl don’t you know.

We sat at a picnic table and the ground was covered with gravel. I threw handfuls of the gravel at Jeanie under our table and had a totally innocent look on my face. She eventually figured out who was pelting her and returned the gesture.

Her return gravel hit a wasp’s nest that hung right above my lap. The whole nest fell into it. I ended up with 8 stings to my genitals. It’s a miracle I have kids.

The poor restaurant owner was horrified. Before I knew it we were in the restroom and he was rubbing me with ice.

“Don’t touch me there,” I protested.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fredbird


In 1981 I went to the first Cardinal baseball game I’d been to since the pennant race in 1968. I was a Cub Scout then. It was the first time I’d ever seen or heard of their mascot Fredbird. During idle time Fredbird worked the crowd. He wrapped his beak around a baby’s head and I thought he was more entertaining than the team.
In 1982 I started working at the Oyster Bar which was 3 blocks south of the stadium. This happened to be the year we won the World Series and turned out to be a baptism of fire.
We still had the football Cardinals and a lot of sports personalities would end up at the bar including Fredbird. Fredbird was a guy named John Kendall and I was more star struck with him than anyone else. We became good friends.
Before I knew him very well Marion Wynkoop (Tracy’s wife) asked if I could get him to appear at their daughter Sarah’s 4th birthday party. That’s what I got for bragging that I knew him. I told Marion I thought Fredbird was too busy, but I’d ask.
To my surprise John said he’d love to do it. I told Marion the good news but she had already booked a party somewhere that had a fake Fredbird. I think John’s feelings were hurt.
Fredbird would always open a gate at the stadium to let us into a game. Then he would take us into the bowels and get us good and drunk on Anheuser Busch products. He’d also find us great seats, usually behind home plate. I remember once our neighbor in front of us was the mayor.
Every year St. Louis has a bicycle marathon that begins around 1:00 in the morning. I’d get off work at the Oyster Bar and John and I would sneak into the stadium. We’d have a few beers and I’d borrow his bike for the race.
After I moved of Nancy’s apartment in Lafayette Park I found out John lived next door in another apartment building. I came to a party at his house and was surprised to see him making out on a couch with Lisa Sherman. We had recently broken up and didn’t know they even knew each other
Somewhere in the mid 80’s Fredbird’s head was stolen. St. Louis was in a panic. It was finally recovered when radio station KSHE put up a $500.00 reward.
John is a childhood friend of Jeff Lockheed's and I believe that is the reason I even know Jeff.
To this day John still wears his 1982 World Series ring he received as a team member.
By contrast Kim Tucker was the skydiving Fredbird. He’s also a good friend of mine and a great photographer. He took the pics that appear on my freefall wedding entry. He’s famous in skydiving circles for being the only person to spiral around a leg of the Arch twice in one jump. There’s a great picture he took with a fish eye lens of his dangling Fredbird legs hanging over the stadium. I’ll try to post this picture if he’ll let me.
I’ve probably been on hundreds of jumps with Kim but the most memorable was a time we exited the back of a 727 jet going 207 mph. Terminal velocity is 120 mph so it was like hitting a wall when we hit air. The idea was that DB Cooper exited a 727 at 200 mph and we wanted to see what it was like. Somehow Kim videotaped the whole thing with a camera on his helmet.
At some point in the late 90s I quit teaching first jump students down in Sullivan Missouri. My wife wanted me home to raise our kids. My last night at the airport we partied until the bar closed. It just happened that it was prom night and the cops were out looking for drunken teenagers. I had driven through a river that morning in my 4-wheel and my license plates were spattered with mud. I was pulled over on the highway because the cop couldn’t read my plates and thought I might be one of these teenagers. Next thing I knew I was blowing .033 (over the limit) and spending most of the night in the Eureka jail. Did I mention Kim was also an attorney? It cost quite a bit but Kim got me out of the DUI. When I appeared before the judge the arresting officer noted that I was clean and polite. Clean and polite??! Ever since then I’ve considered Kim my mouthpiece. He’s a municipal judge now.
A brief aside: It comes in handy to know a judge. When I was living in Lafayette Park I got a parking ticket in front of my place that I didn’t think I deserved. I decided to fight city hall. The judge turned out to be one of my regulars at the bar. We pretended we didn’t know each other and the ticket was thrown out.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Out of control

I was at my girlfriend Valerie’s office Christmas party last night and people were talking about wild parties they’d been to. It reminded me of a New Year’s party we had around 1990 or so. My girlfriend at the time was Lora
Steffen and she lived with my buddy Benet.

The party was at their house in Benton Park. I remember everyone got more and more drunk. The music got louder. Everything began to seem tribal.

A friend of ours who was pregnant whipped out a boob on the dance floor and squirted a giant arc of milk over the dancing crowd.

I turned to a friend and said, “I think this party has gotten out of control.”

Uncle Bill



Uncle Bill Green was the first impression you got when you came into the Oyster Bar in the 80s. He was our doorman and chronicler. Everything that happened ended up in one of his poems. Go to www.myspace.com/davidudell and click on Never Say No. This is a piece we did together back then and all the old Soulard characters are mentioned. I think it’s the only recording of my guitar synthesizer.

One night George the T-shirt man tried to get past Uncle Bill without paying the cover charge. He said “Denny” never made him pay. No one ever called Dennis Denny unless they didn’t know him. George was promptly turned away.

A few minutes later George’s car came rolling slowly down Broadway. He jumped out and started beating Uncle Bill with a wiffleball bat. While this was happening the car rolled across the street, up on the sidewalk and through a cyclone fence to our local electrical sub-station.

Years later Uncle opened for Timothy Leary at the Sheldon. I was working at the Venice Cafe. I’ll never forget Bill introducing him to me. He said, “Glad to meet you David.” He said my name and I was totally star struck. He was experimenting with legal ways to get high and was stoned as he could be. He died shortly after this.

You can still find Uncle Bill working the door at the Venice Cafe. He often jumps on stage between the bands’ sets and performs. There’s a portrait of Bill on the wall with the words to “Stupid and innocent.”

I’ll have more about him later.

Photos are of Uncle Bill and Chuck Berry with Doc Terry and the Pirates. This was a picture I took from my vantage point behind the bar.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Dub Club

After leaving the Oyster Bar I tended bar at a few different places. My favorites were the Dub Club on the Landing and the Venice Cafe.

The Dub club was a Reggae club. It was cavernous with 3 levels and 3 bars. This would have been in the early 90s. There was a thriving underground Reggae scene then. The only white people in the place were all on staff.

This place was hard core gangster. The bouncer had a Taser and I witnessed more than a few people getting zapped. Everyone was searched and a lot of guns were confiscated. We made absolutely no money but had the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

The bands came from all over the world. We actually hid an African band in the attic while they tried to gain political asylum.

A young couple managed the place for owners I’d never even met who were supposed prominent “businessmen”. She was a very cute girl named KK and had a crush on my old buddy and drummer Benet Schaeffer. I seem to remember she had some kind of facial piercing and a blue streak in her hair.

Benet got me the job. I believe he was booking some of their acts. (At the time I think I gave him a lot of trouble about the job because I was living in absolute poverty but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything.)

I’ll never forget this little girl standing up to giant, angry musicians who weren’t happy with the money the band was taking home.

Her boyfriend was a total hard ass and very funny. I wish I could remember his name because it was unusual. One of the bartenders gave his STAFF t-shirt to a pretty girl. “Did she give you a blow job?” my boss asked. “No”, replied the bartender.” “Then you’re fired!”

They went on to run a place downtown called The New World. I think their clientèle were about “Rave” age, mostly minors on X.

The Dub Club had a 3:00am license and we never got out of there before sunrise. What we didn’t make in cash we more than made up for in alcohol consumption.

One night after closing, we all stayed up drinking with the intention of bungee jumping from a balloon in the morning. I begged out at the last minute because a girl I had a crush on just got into town from LA. She wanted to go skydiving. Just to set the record straight I wouldn’t skydive drunk, but I took her there so she could. (I probably would’ve bungee jumped though).

Across the street they tried to open St. Louis’ first strip joint. I can’t remember the name but it was shut down almost immediately. This is the place that later became Planet Hollywood.

The Dub Club was just too out of control to last very long but it was the real thing. You can’t find places like it in many cities.

The next entry will be about the Venice Cafe.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My First Trip to Canada









As I mentioned earlier The Oyster Bar in the 80s would get too hot in the summer so we’d take a 2 week vacation. Sharon came up with the idea that Canada would be a much cooler climate. Joanie decided to come with us. I didn’t know her very well yet.

I made several mix tapes for the trip and it became clear that Joanie and I had the same taste in music. I’ll never forget the look on her face when Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover” played.
We celebrated every state line. We had to improvise with the provinces because they were so far apart.

We found a cabin in Michigan at a lake. I jumped in without testing the water. I found out why I was the only one swimming. I think the only reason the water wasn’t frozen solid was the fact that it was in motion.

I’m not sure why we didn’t enter Canada though Detroit but we drove to Buffalo, NY and spent a day at Niagara Falls. The contrast between the depressing, smelly, dilapidated US side and the fairy tale land of Canada was a shock.

We spent a few nights in Montreal checking out the club scene. This was when clubs only let you in if you looked cool ala Studio 54. We lucked out and got in.

We struggled with our French and I think the effort paid off at the bars. Montreal was thinking about leaving Canada and no one spoke English. After exhausting our finances we decided to drive north about a hundred miles to camp. My French was so bad I ordered a chocolate milk shake at a McDonald’s along the way and got a hot chocolate.

I was already a vegetarian at the time but Sharon wanted meat for the camp fire. We found a small store but that far north supplies were hard to come by. I’m sure the meat had been in the freezer over a year.

The roads had moose crossing signs and I got excited because I’d never seen one before.

It was late at night when we decided we’d better find a place to pitch the tent. We followed signs to Loch Ratt. “That sounds lovely,” we thought. If you hadn’t already guessed that translates to Rat Lake. We stopped the car and were surrounded by thousands of rats. I still get chills thinking about it.

Many miles later we found a nice spot, pitched the tent, and went to sleep. Aroused from sleep by a storm I heard what sounded like a horse walking around outside the tent. A flash of lightning threw the silhouette of a giant bull moose against the tent. I’m sure it wasn’t a dream. I told the girls about it in the morning but they didn’t believe me. We climbed out of the tent to find an enormous pile of shit blocking the door.

During the drive home Joanie and I seemed to laugh about everything. Sharon became withdrawn and got sadder every day with separation anxiety over her daughter. I never appreciated how hard it must have been to do anything and raise a child until I had my own kids.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Homosexual Ghost




I can’t remember if it was 1983 or 1984. My girlfriend at the time was either Lisa Sherman or Lora Steffen. I was living with Stephen Martin on Oregon in South St. Louis. We were living in a 2 family flat. His bedroom was at the back of the apartment. Mine was a large storage closet at the front of the house. I was just able to fit a single mattress and a large book case.

Between our rooms we had the rest of the apartment filled with a recording studio. We were doing audio for the St. Louis Hockey Blues commercials and various solo projects.

One night around 3 or 4 in the morning I was in bed in the dark about to go to bed. I could still see by the street lights that lit the room.

I heard my girl friend come into my room. I was happy to have company. My eyes were closed and my back was to the door. She crawled into bed and spooned me from behind. I reached around behind me and rubbed her ass. Something compelled me to reach around front. I grabbed what became an erect penis in my hand.

I am in no way homophobic or superstitious but I screamed, turned to find no one else in the bed, flew out of the room and jumped over all of our recording equipment. I woke Steve up and made him sit up with me for the rest of the night. “Do you believe in the paranormal now?” he asked. “No,” I coughed feebly.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Freefall Wedding

Early in 1993 my girlfriend Kim announced she was pregnant. Being that she was a good Catholic girl I suddenly found myself engaged. I always knew some day I would have kids but if we had waited until I was ready it never would have happened.

The first order of business was meeting her parents. Kim is 11 years younger than I am and her parents were shocked at my age. Her mother told her she didn’t know if she’d feel comfortable calling me son. The feeling was mutual.

Two weddings were planned, one for us and one for Kim’s folks. I’m going to talk about ours.

A friend of mine named Dennis Jett was a Viet Nam vet and an ordained minister. I always suspected he was ordained through the mail from some psychedelic San Francisco church. He was also a very experienced skydiver and offered to marry us in freefall.

I was tending bar at the Venice Café at the time and my friend Jeff Lockheed knew John Pertzborn. There’s nothing a skydiver loves more than a camera. Pertzborn was supposed to show up and put us on the news.

The big day came on a chilly, overcast day in October. I taught the first jump course that morning and the wedding would be in the afternoon. The weather was so nasty Pertzborn blew it off but we were determined.

Kim’s parents and a lot of our non-skydiving friends showed up at the Vandalia, Il. airport for the first time. There were 15 people in the wedding party and Sam Johnson was our camera person.

We had a formation planned that had the minister, maid of honor, best man, bride and groom in a circle. The rest formed an aisle behind us and we were supposed to turn after the kiss and fly through them.

At 14,000 feet we exited right into an ice cloud. Everyone was flying with their hands covering their faces. It was like being sand-blasted. My best man, Bob Mudge, gave up and Dan Wright flew in to take his place.

We went through the ceremony motions, I kissed the bride, we turned and got out of there. Kim landed and slipped on ice. She did the most spectacular tumble in front of her parents. I thought her dad was going to kill me for making her jump when she was pregnant.

Bob must have thrown the ring down in disgust. I found it on the ground as soon as I landed.

The ice pellets actually drew blood through our jump suits. My buddy Rob Walsh would talk about it for years as his worst skydiving experience. He died in a terrible plane accident 2 years ago with another good skydiving buddy of mine Scott Cowan.

A great thing about skydivers is they’re easy to please. I bought a half barrel of beer for the reception and that’s all it took. Kim brought a cake but no one touched it.

Sam left his camera helmet on and video taped the whole party. He got drunk and forgot he had it on. He was busted by his girl friend later when the tape revealed an awful lot of girls’ asses.

For the next eleven years I became a family man. The kids are a fantastic experience. They both took to music immediately. Dylan plays piano and trombone. Chloe plays piano and flute. They’re both picking up guitar right now.

The pictures show Chloe’s first piano recital, she is playing Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, and Dylan’s first incarceration.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Found Pics

I found an old box of photos. I've added and will be adding to previous posts. Check them out.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Escape from New York




I think it was in the spring of '79 that Danny talked me into to going to a cattle call at Talent Plus to audition as extras for the movie Escape from New York. We showed up at the last minute but they let us in. We were both scruffy long haired boys. I also had a full beard at the time. They chose me immediately.

I was in the Grand Central Station fight scene with Ox Baker. They placed me ringside, on a balcony on the second floor, and up in the rafters.

The first day of shooting I picked up my wardrobe from a truck. They were rags from the siege of Atlanta scene in Gone with the Wind where the wounded lay at the train station. I was very impressed.

Friends of mine have been renting the movie for years insisting they could make me out in the scene. To be honest I was just able to make out the poncho I was wearing freezing the frame on a friend’s giant screen TV.

There was a shot we did 3 takes of where we fled the building with stunt car drivers driving 50mph+ right at us. In 2 of the shots a car just stopped at my legs and I had a genuine look of terror in my face. I was right next to Kurt Russell in 2 of the takes. I thought for sure I was going to be larger than life next to the star. They scrapped the whole scene.

In contrast to my thuggish look Reed Nesbit was there. He was very fashion conscious. I’m sure they chose him for his futuristic appearance.

Reed and I have been on several music projects together. In fact he named and was co-founder of one of my bands, Delay Tactics. A great name considering our over use of digital and tape delays. I have never actually met the man.

Between takes I was getting pretty chummy with Ox Baker, Isaac Hayes, Isaac Hayes’ stunt double, Donald Pleasence, and a local actor named Dwayne. Dwayne was a friend of my parents and had a speaking role. He was walking around like he owned the place. The only part they used him for was the beginning shot in New York where he came out of a manhole. All these guys were totally bald.

The only people on the set that weren’t incredibly friendly were Kurt Russell and Adrienne Barbeau.

Ox Baker was huge but had an incredibly gentile and effeminate demeanor. I kinda thought maybe he was gay.

When shooting was over we had 2 great cast parties. I brought my brother to the second one at the 141 drive-in. He was very impressed to meet Isaac Hayes. I believe this was just after Hayes’ financial problems. He was very famous for his pimp mobile limos and had to sell them all. He showed up at the drive-in in the dystopian pimp mobile that Cadillacs by Jed put together for the movie.

Years later I tried to get a part in White Palace. All of Soulard had an agent and they got in as a group. I didn’t make it. I did get to know Glenn Savan before he died.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dave Gebben R.I.P.


Our good friend Dave Gebben died the day before Halloween. He had been fighting cancer for some time. From what I understand he was slipping in and out of a coma and finally died peacefully in his sleep. There was a beautiful wake at The Shanti in Soulard and a parade in his honor. I saw people there I haven’t seen in years.

Dave use to sit in with all the bands at The Oyster Bar playing a washboard. His washboard always reminded me of an electric guitar complete with guitar strap and psychedelic paraphernalia attached. He was a member of The Geyer Street Sheiks, a band filled with a lot of great Soulard characters. I consider Tom Hall, Mike Prokopf, Charlie Pfeffer, Steve Mote, and Kevin Keegan friends. I don't really know Alice Spencer but I think I may have met her when I tended bar at the Venice Cafe.

Steve taught me Travis picking on guitar when I was a teenager. This is a style that did me absolutely no good considering my taste in music. Kevin, an old drinking buddy, flew an airplane we use to jump out of in Greenville, Il. He also gave us a place to stay when we stayed too late and got too drunk.

Dave married a beautiful woman named Anita and in the early 90s they bought a small general store/bar in Dutzow, MO. Anita’s brother Tim was probably Dave’s best friend and was there at the end.

After the split with J I used to ride my bike up and down the Katy trail stopping at every winery. Dutzow was the end of the trail and I’d get there just in time for happy hour and 90¢ long neck bottles of beer.

The Washington Airport was right next door. I was able to talk the owner of an old open cockpit biplane into giving me a ride. All it took was cash. Knowing I was a skydiver he did everything he could to terrify me. We did loops, barrel rolls, and screaming plummets to earth. The only thing that scared me was flying a mile or so up the Missouri river. We were a foot above the water. I was in the front cockpit and could hear him yelling,” You know this is totally illegal!”

We all used to hang out at Sue and Jim “Rib Tip” McClaren’s farm in Clover Bottom. We’d have all night poker games. 3 philosophies were always represented; Jack Daniels, George Dickle, and Jim Beam. Jim and I were always searching for the cheapest booze that was palatable.

One morning their plumbing went out and I found myself squatting at a tree in the woods. It was bad enough that their dog Blue wouldn’t get his nose out of my ass, but what sounded like hundreds of wild turkeys were laughing at me. It made me self-conscious!

The males at these parties would always try to out-stupid each other. One January 1st (complete with New Year’s hangovers) we chopped a large hole in the ice of their pond and jumped in. We were going to make it an annual event but the following year the drill bit didn’t make it all the way through the ice. “Thank god this tradition was nipped in the bud,” we all secretly thought.

We still have the annual New Year's Day party out there. But now it’s at Dennis and Noel Connolly’s farm.

When I got married and moved to the county Rib Tip was the only person who volunteered to help. I have never felt good asking people for help moving.

Anyway it’s always about me. I wish I had more to say about Dave. We’ll miss him.

Photo supplied by John Gorsky

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Negril




While I was bartending at the Oyster Bar J and I made a lot of friends that traveled. We learned it was possible to travel for almost nothing if you had the time and made a lot of friends that would put you up. One of these travelers turned us on to an old woman in Jamaica named Miss Viv.

J wrote a letter to Miss Viv asking if we could stay with her for a week or so. She lived in the cliffs of Negril on the other side of the road from the water’s edge. We didn’t have to wait long for a reply. She’d love to have us.

Negril hadn’t really been built up yet. Rick’s Café was already famous. The Gray Line bus tour would bring tourists there to have a cocktail at sunset, gawk at the poor people, jump back on the bus, and get the hell out of there. Their patio hung over the edge of the cliffs and so did everyone else’s. From what I understand these beautiful places were all built from the profits of drug sales.

By contrast Miss Viv’s place was a small house with rats running under the porch and no air conditioning. The shower was a large black plastic bag that absorbed the heat of the sun. It was filled with rain.

When we met her she was a short, animated woman with long, white, Don King hair. Miss Viv told us she killed one of her chickens, cut it up and gave her little boy, Assburn, the larger half to feed his family. The rest was for us. We told her we were grateful but were vegetarians. She said, “no problem, more for us.” She went out to her yard, picked a large round piece of fruit from a tree and stuck it directly on the open flame of her stove. After it’s husk had become totally charred, she peeled the husk, sliced it into strips and placed it in a bowl. The strips tasted like French fries with a pumpkin aftertaste. It was breadfruit.

The next morning we walked into the kitchen to find a small, balding woman doing chores. We wondered where Miss Viv found the money to hire help. Then we realized it was Miss Viv. She had been wearing a wig. Her little boy Assburn was working in the yard. He was in his late 60s. Miss Viv was 92. We finally figured out Assburn was Osborne.

Everyone loved Miss Viv and we had free run of the properties on the cliffs. Rock formations surrounded natural swimming pools. They were great for diving and privacy.

Cocaine, marijuana, and mushroom tea were everywhere.

At he bottom of the cliffs where they met the beach was an open-air market. J decided she wanted to shop. I was left to my own devices. As I wandered from shack to shack 2 Rasta looking guys stopped me. They wanted to show me something in the back of one of the shacks. One of them produced a large glass jar full of what looked like hash oil. “We want you to take this back to the states,” one of them said. “No one would search you,” the other added. I politely thanked them for the opportunity but declined.

This is when I decided my long hair probably put me at a social disadvantage. J had a friend named Carla who decided to come with us. Carla had enough money to stay in a hotel at the beach. Carla was also a hairdresser. I had her chop off my hair. This presented a whole new set of problems. Now I was seen as a rich tourist and everyone wanted to sell me something.

One morning, while I was hanging from a hammock on the beach, the hotel’s concierge presented us with a giant spleef. I took one hit and spent the rest of the day in Carla’s hotel bed.

I’m not sure what happened but one night Carla went crazy and ran screaming into darkness. Somehow she got a plane back to the states where her boyfriend rounded up a few friends. They were supposed to be waiting for me at the airport to kick my ass. (J if you ever read this tell me what happened).

Osborne had 3 wives. One of them was an Indian woman who lived on a sugar plantation in the middle of the island with their 10 kids. We spent a day with them and I learned a lot about island living.

The final scenes of Papillion were shot where we stayed in the cliffs.

When it was time to settle our bill with Miss Viv it came to $22.00. This was for 7 nights and 2 meals a day! Years later there was a severe hurricane. J wrote and asked if there was anything she could send. Miss Viv said she could use sheets and curtains but don’t send money. It would never get to her.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Corrections from Debaliviere entry

My mom finally read my blog and pointed out a few facts I had wrong. Some of which my dad told me.
I didn't know Bob Koester actually lived with us for a while when I was a baby. We lived on Goodfellow on the north side. Apparently Koester had chronic migraines and wasn't easy to live with.
Here are her notes.

· Koester's record business wasn't a store downstairs from "The Garret" but a mail order business from "The Garret". Once a month Koester gathered some friends together to collate "The Jazz Report", a list he mailed out of 78's he had available for mail order sale. The Garret was subleased from artist Bill Fett.

· Your dad left "spiders" in bottoms of beer bottles because he said that was where the saliva had accumulated.

· Paul Schult (note correct spelling) did not paint during this period, but later, and attended Wash. U. school of Fine Arts.

· Chet Baker didn't play at Jacovac's Tavern at Manchester & Ecoff. Your dad was a member of St. Louis Jazz Club which held monthly meetings at various venues depending, I guess on cost and who they could get to play. Baker played at a small club on the south side of Delmar just east of Debaliviere. Yes, we sat front row, right under Baker, and yes, you lay on your stomach across my knees and slept, not waking until we got up to leave at the end of the night. Around this same time our good friends, Bill (great pianist) and Georgia Shearer threw a farewell party for Bob and Ann Tschudin (spelling?), who were moving to San Juan PI and we put you on a quilt under their piano where you slept through most of the live music. WHY AREN' YOU DEAF?

· I didn't know Dolly Jacovac thought I was nuts! Hmmpf! Oh, well, we always liked each other! In fact, I have pleasant memories of time spent at the Jacovac Tavern (although I don't drink), at the Jacovac clubhouse (including Shearer's and Kornacher's, and later after without your dad at the Jacovac home on Magnolia with you and your brother, Patrick.


Love, your Mom

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Distances


If you head southeast about 20 minutes past Carbondale, Ill. you can’t miss a terrifying giant smiley face looming over beautiful wooded valleys. This marks the road into Makanda, a town with about 4 houses along the railroad tracks. It’s Karen Duffy’s (owner of Duff’s Restaurant) home town. On the other side of the tracks were 2 buildings. There was a post office (which made Makanda an official town) and a small recording studio.

The owner/engineer of the studio was a guy named Carl Stein. He looked and had the exact demeanor of Otto, the bus driver on The Simpsons. He had a 12 track Skully tape deck and his reverb was a cinder block building with 2 microphones and 2 speakers. It was the best sounding reverb I’ve ever worked with.

In 1980 we recorded our first full LP here. We had already recorded and released 2 EPs at Oliver Sain’s studio with Oliver as engineer. It occurred to me later that his studio was called Archway and skydiving began for me at Archway Skydiving.

The LP was called Distances. I think it had something to do with the great distances we were willing to travel to save a few bucks in the studio.

We'd have great marathon sessions and then camp in our cars. Occasionally we’d have to stop for a passing train. We brought a lot of friends there and even recorded a party. If you can find the record, the party is featured in “Annie’s Premise”.

On December 8th we received a phone call in the middle of a session. I don’t remember who called but I think all they said was “John’s dead” and then hung up. We ran out to our cars and turned on the radio. Every station was playing John Lennon songs. We were paralyzed. The session was over. Carl said,” what’s the matter with you guys? Let’s go!” We just glared at him.

The song “This City” has a part with several televisions. We recorded the announcement of Steve McQueen’s death and it’s on the record.

Fojammi wasn’t in the band yet but he added synth parts to a few of the tracks. He was also working on his own project. I was crazy about his song writing and was trying to work him into the band.

He and I would stay after everyone else went home. I would mix our record then we’d work on his. He would ride shotgun home with me to make sure I wouldn’t fall asleep on the road. He was just the right height to prop his legs in the wheel well of my van and suspend himself horizontally so he could pee out the window. It was a long drive home and we didn’t want to stop.

One morning getting into town after sunrise, I snuck into my girlfriend Lora’s apartment with the intention of crawling into her bed for a well deserved sleep. There was Tracy (our bassist) snoring as loud as could in my spot. I was too tired to be hurt and crawled off to the couch. I woke up to the two of them sitting on the end of the couch insisting nothing had happened. I used the incident for psychological leverage but I believed them. We really were all like family and if it had to be anyone it might as well be Tracy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Freefalling between years

December 31st 1990 I was at a small airport in Sparta, Ill. when I received a phone call. The Broadway Oyster Bar’s gates were padlocked. The bar was closed. There was supposed to be a new year’s party. No one had been notified. Apparently the new owners were afraid to do business into the next tax year.

After working there for 8 1/2 years, I was suddenly unemployed. I wasn’t going to get depressed and anyway it was symbolic. I was going to make a jump at midnight. I’d be in freefall over the planet between 2 years. I would be descending into a new year and a new life. JT and I had just broken up and everything was strange and new.

I might be mixing the details of 2 different jumps together in my head but it was the same cast of characters and everything actually happened.

We knew the moon would be full and there would be no problem seeing. We restrained ourselves from alcohol the whole evening. 11:30 finally came and we got into a small Cessna and took off. Our pilot was Gary Peek, a fellow sky diver who is now our USPA Central Region Director. There were 3 other jumpers with me; Stuff (a 6’6” giant of a man who had spent time in prison and looked it), Mike Lambert (a skydive videographer), and Kevin Schaener (I’m not sure how you spell that. Gary if you read this leave his spelling in comments).

At the time I was listening to PIL and The Cure but I told Stuff that New Kids on the Block was my favorite band. He gave everyone nicknames and mine was Far Side. There was an extremely thin girl I was seeing that he called Paper Cuts.

A faint glow from the instrument panel lit our group. Stuff looked at me and said, “You know if you really wanted to take someone out in freefall no one would ever know it was intentional!” I laughed nervously and looked at Mike. He told me his dog’s tail got chopped off and had to learn to smile like a human.

We circled at altitude until just seconds before midnight. Gary said, “It’s time”. Someone forced the door open and the freezing winter wind came screaming in. One by one we exited.

Satisfied that I had fallen long enough to pass through midnight I deployed my canopy and finally took a look around. The moon was certainly bright enough. Everything was covered in snow. The highways, farmers’ fields, houses, even the runway. I was alone, floating in a great white infinite void. I had no idea where the ground was. The only thing I could think about was a dog smiling like a human!

A blue glow became faintly visible through the snow. It was a runway light. I landed safely and hoped Gary would too. I threw my parachute into the back of my Samurai and drove an hour and a half to a great new year’s party.

The Oyster Bar would be closed for several years. Decorations gathered cob webs like Miss Haversham’s wedding reception that would never happen.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

An Oyster Bar Holiday



The Broadway Oyster Bar in the 80s was much more austere than it is today. For heat in the winter we had 2 fireplaces and a sleeping bag over the door. The bar blocked us from the warmth of the fire so Sharon and I would warm brandy with candles and keep ourselves lit.

In the summer there was no air conditioning. We tried everything we could think of to cool the place down. We would fill a bus pan with ice and set a fan behind it blowing toward us and the customers. We would run into the walk-in cooler every 5 minutes but it became clear our food and beer wasn’t getting cold. Finally we just started closing for a couple of weeks every year in July.

JT was my girl friend. We were together for about 5 years. I’ll get permission to use her name later because she may not want me to air some of our dirty laundry. We went on a dozen trips together and all of them will make great stories.

We had already left the country 3 times (Canada, Mexico, and Jamaica) before it occurred to us that it would be fun to tour the American Southwest. We followed Route 66 all the way into the San Bernardino Valley in California hitting every spot in the song. I had just gotten a Suzuki Samurai. This little car is highly under rated and is great for 4 wheeling. I beat the hell out of it.

We stopped at the Cadillac Ranch until I was spooked by a bull, did Santa Fe and couldn’t find Taos, got drunk on Wild Turkey in the middle of the desert somewhere between New Mexico and Arizona, hit a ghost town populated by wild burros, and 4 wheeled muddy dirt roads that crumbled down mountain sides. We stayed in Sedona and the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.

Somewhere past the continental divide we noticed The Painted Desert in the distance. We followed small blue highways until we reached a gate with a sign that read, “Painted Desert closed at 6:00pm”. How do you close a desert?

Even the rest stops were fun. There were signs telling us to watch out for the scorpions.

In the middle of an endless expanse of desert in California we decided to go to Las Vegas. I was new to the commercial gambling scene and was struck by the absence of clocks, the free booze, and nearly free food and lodging. J would take a roll of coins and sit at the slots. I got involved at a black jack table and lost nearly all of our money. We didn’t even have enough to buy gas to get home and we still had a week to go.

J was furious. “Well that’s the end of our trip!” I should have told her I had a gambling problem. She handed me a roll of nickles and sat me down in front of a slot machine. She said as long as I was playing, they would still give me free drinks. She didn’t want to see me for the rest of the evening. I asked a waitress for Jack and water. "That's whiskey isn't it?" she asked. God knows what I had been drinking all night.

Somehow with our spirits undaunted we spent the next day at Hoover dam. At the state border I took our last $20.00 and turned it into enough money at a black jack table to get us home.

After an evening in a motel in Utah, we got onto the highway and saw a sign that read, “No gas for 122 miles”. “We mean it!” I should have paid attention.

At the other end of the state we got off the highway and spent the day at Arches State Park. A beautiful place I highly recommend. It was like Mars to me. I’ve never seen anything like it. Unfortunately I was so dazzled I forgot about our gas situation. When we got back onto the highway we ran out of gas. I could see the mountains of Colorado in the distance in front of us. There was nothing behind us.

Thinking I was being heroic I jumped out of the car stating I’d hitch hike to a gas station. I told J to wait there. “You’re not leaving me out here alone in the desert”, she howled. She jumped out of the car and slammed the door shut. I looked through the window at my keys that were dangling from the ignition. They were now locked inside.

After we got back with the gas and broke into my car we decided we could still salvage the trip by staying with our friend John who was managing condos in Dillon Colorado. He made most of his money in St. Louis dealing coke. He and his girl friend decided they had to live in the mountains. The condos were empty and we had a great place to stay. We drank Champagne in a glass walled hot tub blinded by the stars from our mountaintop and went cross country skiing in the morning. The local bar was a log cabin that was packed and had Blues bands. I remember finding a box of Tofu Helper at the local supermarket.

Someone told me John died from an overdose. He was the first person I ever saw free base cocaine.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sadie's Personality Lounge


St. Louis is one of the most blatantly segregated cities in the U.S... The north side is predominantly black and until recently the south side predominantly white. I’ve lived pretty much my whole life somewhere in the central corridor (no rules).

When we were 16 or 17 Marge, A. and I were invited to a blues club way north on Union called Sadie’s Personality Lounge.

We were asked there by our friend Freddy Morrell who was sitting in with the band. The idea was that I would sit in at some point. I recently spoke with Augustino Patti and he can verify everything I remember.

I’ll never understand why Sadie’s wasn’t shut down for serving minors. We were as conspicuous as it gets. Not only were we the only white people there but we were obviously just babies. The apparent lawlessness was a major part of the appeal.

I’m sure this happens to everyone when they become legal age but on my 21st birthday Dominic and I went to Mississippi Nights to celebrate. It was an empty experience. Hell, they didn’t even card me!

Anyway, the girls and I went into Sadie’s and the first thing that happened was a total shock. What must have been a 300 pound male double amputee grabbed me with one of his steel grasping claws and pulled me into the dance floor. I looked at my friends and said, “well, guess I’m gonna dance!”

Somewhere in here Freddy got me up on the stage and handed me a guitar. I started playing and the band’s singer looked up at me and asked, “Boy, did you go to music school?” It was the great Tommy Bankhead and I would have many adventures with him in my 20s at The Broadway Oyster Bar. At this point I was totally out of my element and totally green when it came to The Blues. It was like being in the heat of sex with a beautiful woman and she stops to ask what you’re doing.

To this day I won’t spontaneously jump on a stage to jam. Unless of course, it’s safe. For example in the 80’s I sat in with bands like The Soulard Blues Band, Leroy Pierson, The Heaters and others with a Theremin. If you don’t know what this is, Google it. I was probably the only person in town playing one at the time.

My fear of spontaneity has come back to bite me. I passed up sitting in with Chuck Berry and a few others. I’ll always regret it!

I wonder where Freddy is now.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sweet 16 And Never Been What?

When I was 15 Pam left me for God. I would hitchhike out to Webster Groves and spend the night under her window like some love lorn Romeo. For some reason she didn't call the cops and I eventually won back her heart. Somehow after this experience I was never the same.

This is when I met A. The coincidence was that A’s big brother Kevin had already been Pam’s boyfriend. I remember taking a short cut through her yard and seeing them with legs wrapped around each other on her trampoline. I thought this was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen.

This was the same Kevin I toured the East Coast with in the mini-bus. Kevin was seriously diabetic and wasn’t supposed to live to see 40. I believe he made it to 47.

A, Marge and I became inseparable at this time. Marge had moved into an old mansion A was living in in the Central West End. I pretty much lived there too although it wasn’t official.

I was a Central West End kid but I was new to the private street scene. A’s house had a huge leather sculpture above the fireplace and a waterfall that ran down the wall in an atrium connected to the dining room. At the entrance was a huge staircase with a landing large enough to accommodate the bands that played our parties. David Surkamp played Julia on his acoustic guitar. His band Pavlov’s Dog had just gotten signed with ABC Records and this song was getting a lot of air play. My attitude was, “who is this joker with the falsetto voice making all the girls swoon”?

A would warn the cops before a party so they could keep an eye on things. We were kids and I couldn’t believe she would be open with them about our intentions. This was an entirely different culture than I was used to; borne from privilege.

I remember one night A and I were sitting in front of the fireplace tripping and her mother called. She casually confessed we were doing LSD. Her mother came home around three or four in the morning asking about our experience. (She was a psychologist and was genuinely interested).

We were all going to alternative schools at the time. I went to Logos when it was still an urban school. I paid my own tuition - $5.00 a semester. My teachers were Jesuit priests in the making. They were serving their Viet Nam conscientious objection service with inner city kids.

I thought our school was tough because we smoked cigarettes and drank coffee in class. We had nothing on A. She went to Matrix which was a Free School. Our band rehearsed in the basement. A. told me one of her assignments was reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead on acid.

A went from 7th grade to Forest Park Community College. At graduation she scrambled to get a GED. From there she went to Vassar. She’s been a journalist ever since. She lived in Managua during the Contra years. She was in Lima Peru during problems down there. She’s even lived in Cuba.

I’ve always been very proud of her but never really told her.

When Marge turned 16 we had a party up in the attic at A.’s house. The theme was “Sweet 16 and Never Been What?” A. came up with that. My band supported Marge, A, and K as they sang Love Child by The Supremes. Pam worked with the girls on the arrangement. Pam was actually playing piano with us at the time and we had just gotten back together.

The party got out of hand and the last thing I remember was Pam opening a closet door to find A and me giggling like school children on the floor.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Faces - East Side


During my suave period in the 80s I would often end up after hours at a popular disco in East St. Louis called Faces. We would go there after the Oyster Bar closed. No one had a 3:00a.m. license yet on the Missouri side. I remember leaving Faces and shielding my eyes from the glaring sun. We were always surprised by the length of our stay.

Faces had several dance floors, a drag show upstairs, and women weren’t allowed in the basement. I saw things in the basement that still creep into my dreams. The urinal in the restroom was a long troth and the boys would be looking down checking you out. This made it almost impossible to take a piss.

The combination of strobe lights and isobutyl nitrate threw me into an epileptic seizure on the dance floor one night. This was the period I had most of my seizures. Over stimulated I suppose. I’ll be 50 in January and I haven’t had one since my late 20s.

I do remember coming to and finding this gay crowd to be the most genuinely caring people I’ve ever met concerned only for my welfare.

My partners in crime were my best friends Sharon, Linda and Nancy.

One night across the dance floor I noticed an absolutely gorgeous six foot Amazon woman. It was Monica Reed. I had run into her casually at a few parties. She was a well know singer in the area. She had already been a back up singer for the Allman Brothers and was making a name for herself as a solo act. She later went on to sing for Sting.

Monica danced over to me and whispered in my ear that she heard I was vegetarian. I said yes and she told me she’d like to cook me a stir fry. I told her I’d bring the sake. We were off and running from our first date and I won’t say anymore about that.

Monica was six feet tall but wore two inch pumps which made her taller than me. I always thought she was too big for me in many respects.

One night at Faces she was chatting with a beautiful Asian woman. She later told me her friend asked why she always dated wimpy white boys. This crushed me.

I would go with her to penthouse parties in Clayton. Any club we walked into, she’d be on stage in five minutes.

One night we were going to a party at Gene Lynn’s penthouse apartment in the Central West End. I was excited because there would be music industry people I wanted to run into. As we were getting out of my car Monica slammed the door on one of her long finger nails. It broke and she was inconsolable. We left with Monica in tears.

By contrast to her music scene I was playing private parties at the St. Louis Art Museum. A writer from the L.A. Times would be lecturing about technology in contemporary music. We’d be the example. This was my band Delay Tactics.

Caviar, champagne, and people talking to you as you played, asking how you were producing that sound.

I did end up playing a few shows with Monica, The Heaters, and Blake Travis. One of these was to raise money for Monica to get to Europe where her career took off. We also played the VP Fair.

Monica came back a few years later to marry the bass player from Bad Company at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral at St. Louis University. Monica was beautiful. A horse drawn white carriage took the couple to a club on Debaliviere for the reception. The band playing there was The Heaters and we had a great reunion.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Beale Street

My buddy Tracy Wynkoop decided that our small circle of friends should get together every year for a road trip. He calls our group “The Manly Men”. Our first trip a couple of years ago just happened to coincide with his 50th birthday and my being thrown out of the house by my ex.

I was just getting off meds for depression and had a new girlfriend named Valerie.

Now I was on a snow capped mountain in the Rockies sitting in 100 degrees of spring fed champagne bubbles going up my butt, looking out at vast panoramic vistas. I was surrounded by my best friends. Life was good again!

One afternoon I decided to check my phone for messages. I found a spot on the mountain that actually had reception. There was a nice message from Valerie and another that I could barely make out.

It was from an acquaintance of mine from my I.T. days at Harrah's Casino named Jaime. She was calling from Memphis and the background noise made it almost impossible to hear her.

She was on Beale in the middle of a street party. She said she had to call because she knew I must have been there before. I think she believes I’ve been to every street party in the country. ---- Maybe I have. I never got around to calling her back, but I did have a story for her.

In the early to mid 90s I often went to a small airport about an hour from Memphis. We would camp out for the weekend and skydive. At night we would go into town to party.

As I’ve already stated I can’t really smoke dope but I was talked into it. Anyone who knows me knows when I’m intoxicated I’m not exactly shy or even polite for that matter.

We were on Beale Street and it was crowded. There was a band outside at the W.C. Handy statue. I bumped into someone who said, “Damn, it’s my bartender from St. Louis”.

Someone suggested we visit the police museum. We were amazed at all the drug paraphernalia that had been confiscated. I was loud and obnoxious. There was a window inside that looked through to what I thought was a police station exhibit. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the actor portraying a cop. To my stoned horror I was told we were actually in a functioning police station. My friends pulled me out of there before I got us all busted.

I had a lot adventures down there and I’m sure I’ll get around to some of them eventually.

As an afterthought------ It's hard to find time to make an entry let alone check for flow and continuity. As my friend Sharon keeps telling me, I should mention the music I was listening to at the time. It is important for context.

In the early 90s I was listening to Nina Simone, Kate Bush, Daniel Lanois, XTC, The Cure, Riders in the Sky, John Lee Hooker and others.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Road Trip

One evening, in the middle 70’s, Dominic, Kevin O’Connor and I were hanging out at Pizza a Go-Go at its original location on Grand Avenue. Kevin found John Muir’s Volkswagen Idiot Guide, had acquired an engine block in 2 halves and a mini-van shell. We made plans to tour the east coast.

Dominic and I handed Kevin tools while he built a mini-van from scratch in his basement.

Dominic and I had already hitch hiked to the east coast a few times and we were still teenagers.

Somehow we got the thing built and it actually passed inspection. (It shouldn’t have).

The van had a collapsible bed made from 2x4s and it was very comfortable. We had no cash and I’m not sure how we kept gas in it. Kevin had a Gulf credit card but we couldn’t find a single station.

We camped outside of a friend’s house in Larchmont, NY. From there we went to Cambridge, MA where we were rear ended by a local. We learned about an insurance system they had in Massachusetts called no-fault. Each party had to pay for their own damage. This left us screwed.

We traveled down the cape and ferried across to Martha’s Vineyard. One of Kevin’s old girl friends had an aunt that lived on the island. Her name was Cousin Ted and her grandfather traveled with Perry on the famous expedition to Japan in the 1800s. Her old house was loaded with artifacts. She took us in without even really knowing who we were.

They had just wrapped up filming Jaws and there were still signs all around the island.

We went up to Portland Maine where I fell in love with a one legged woman who wouldn’t give me the time of day.

I’m not sure how long we’d been on the road but Dominic was beginning to smell bad. We threw him in the ocean at York Beach in Maine. It was September and quite cold. To be fair, I should ask him, maybe we only threatened to throw him in.

As I was saying earlier the van shouldn’t have passed inspection. On our way home we got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. At the entrance stall our brakes stopped working. I wrestled the hand brake and got the van to stop just before the alarm went off. We threw the money in the basket and pulled over to the side. We had lost our brake fluid. We were able to refill the reservoir and went on our way. Somewhere in here we picked up 3 or 4 hitch hikers on the turnpike.

The next morning Kevin went into insulin shock. (I forgot to mention he was diabetic). He instructed us to find a candy bar quick. Panicked and speeding I pulled off the highway somewhere in Ohio. We were on a steep off ramp and its side went into a deep ravine. Kevin was in the back oblivious to everything. Our hitch hikers were asleep. We were traveling at least 60 mph down the ramp. Traffic at the bottom was in full rush hour swing against us at the light. We lost our brakes again. I knew if we went off the ravine we were dead for sure and the traffic at the light was against us. Dominic and I looked at each other. Dom said, “Nice knowing you, man”. As we reached the intersection the lights changed and we rolled up the other side. We finally rolled to a stop on the side of the highway.

If you’re from St. Louis and have been on the road, nothing is more beautiful than the Arch when you finally come home.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Stories My Brother Told Me 1


Like I said, my brother is full of shit, but I love his stories.

He swore he once took a fondue fork, inserted it into his urethra, impaled and extracted a round, black, shiny bug.

A fondue fork?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Westminster Place

Sometimes a lapse in memory might not be such a bad thing. I’ve found myself asking permission to use names and being turned down. I want to give credit where credit is due but I don’t want to embarrass anyone.

When I was in 8th grade I lived in the attic of a mansion on Westminster Place near Boyle, the heart of Gaslight Square.

By then there was nothing left but abandoned buildings, a few antique dealers, KDNA radio, and O’Connell’s pub. Come to think of it, Jack Parker, the owner of O’Connell’s became an antique dealer. I grew up with his kids in Laclede Town. I’ll get around to Laclede Town one of these days.

“The Stroll”, St. Louis’ hooker strip was just beginning to get crowded along Washington Avenue. Years later there was a big bust and most of the girls relocated to Cherokee Street. Which reminds me, my brother once bragged that after sex one of the girls told him, “Honey, you’re so fine this one is on the house”. He was always full of shit, but I love his stories.

We rented our attic apartment from a man named Hirschfeld. He was proprietor of one of the antique stores. He was Al Hirschfeld’s brother, the famous caricaturist.

This was before the West End became fashionable and our mansion was quite run down. I remember a bloated, bald, water logged rat floating in our pool. The water had been black for years.

There was a guy named Bob who lived downstairs that turned my mom onto the apartment. Bob was a peace activist who spent time in jail as a result.

Rumor had it that Bob had been sodomized with a fire hose in jail. The implication seemed to be that it might not have been by fellow inmates. He spent the rest of his life on meds and had absolutely no sense of humor. We finally lost the apartment because his tolerance for noisy, obnoxious kids came to an end.

By 8th grade I was already hitchhiking. I had spent the previous 2 years living between Webster Groves and Kirkwood and my social life was still out there. Sometimes I even took the bus.

My friends were learning how to play guitar or drums. I was taken to Mel Bay Music one day and found the bargain bin. It was a cardboard box filled with guitars that were priced from $15.00 to $35.00! I fell in love with a green sunburst Fender Mustang knockoff that had a giant round knob, 3 toggle switches, and 4 pickups. I had no idea what the knob did and it reeked of cheap head shop incense.

Around this time we lived off and on with Suzy Gray and her kids Mark and Kent. She and my mother were both single and it was a good financial arrangement. I would call here Aunt Suzy and I still consider her sons my brothers. Suzy gained some notoriety as “Suzy Q” on KDHX. She also had a show in New Orleans on a Spanish station.

Suzy was a good friend of my dad. One morning we were all hanging out in kitchen and I started ranting about this guitar I had fallen in love with. They were selling it for $25.00. Suzy bullied my dad into coming up with $10.00 if she would come up with $15.00. I’ve never told her how much I loved her for this.

When the weekend came I tried to hitchhike out there. No one would pick me up and I ended up walking rail road tracks most of the way. I was sore but elated to get there before they closed. Then the whole world changed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Aside - Conspiracy Theory #1 - New Coke


Until I gave up smoking in 1990, my diet was basically Coca-Cola and cigarettes. In 1985 Pepsi's sales surpassed Coke’s. New Coke was introduced and the old formula was abandoned.

It was a disaster and they had to bring the original flavor back.

Garbage!!!!!

I believe it was one of the most brilliant marketing ploys in history. Coke Classic never had the same effect as the original. Where was the burn?

I’m here to tell you the truth. The new “Classic Coke” uses corn syrup instead of sugar. Corn syrup is a lot cheaper. If they would have just made the change everyone would have noticed and sales would have dropped. Instead the product loyalty zombies could voice their outrage and they would have to bring back the original. No one seemed to notice the subtle difference. Last I heard, Coke is on top again and it costs a lot less to produce.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Soulard in the early 70s

Last week my friend Dominic turned 50. My turn next.

Our friend Mark and Dom’s brother Benet threw a surprise party at Mark’s bar. Mark and I had a conversation about our chidhood.

In the early 70s Mark’s family lived under mine in one of the beautiful Soulard houses that had been converted into a 2-family. It has since been restored. If you get a chance drive by and check it out. It’s at the corner of 13th and Victor. You can’t miss it. It has the most ornate brickwork I’ve ever seen. It also has a very distinctive keyhole doorway.

The summer nights were incredibly hot and no one had air conditioning back then. I used to hang my legs out the window all night.

The music was Jethro Tull’s “Stand Up” and “Benefit”, Mahavishnu Orchestra’s first 3 records, Cat Stevens, Captain Beefheart, Todd Rundgren’s “A Wizard A True Star” and “Todd”, Roland Kirk, the soundtrack to West Side Story, and more.

When I was 14 there was a strike at the brewery and we’d hang out with the strikers on the corner. They had cases of beer stacked next to their umbrella. They would share their beer as long as we would keep them company in the middle of the night.

We would hang out on a billboard that hovered over the 3rd district police station. We were always high on something. We’d stay up there until the morning and watch the sunrise over the melting chemically saturated sky of Sauget across the river. The sewers would back up with beer suds flooding the streets and the smell would knock you over.

As mean as the 3rd district cops were, it amazes me that we were so impervious to their presence.

I’ll give an example.

I’m not sure why the cops showed up at the back door, but when the door was answered they were confronted by Mark’s German shepherd. One of the cops shot the dog. Mark was broken hearted. He went down to the police station and asked to see the cop that did it. When the officer came out Mark handed him a can of mace and suggested that, in the future when the cop was startled, he use it instead of a gun. The policeman took the can and angrily threw it against a wall. Mark was 12. 3rd district now houses some kind of artist cooperative.

Soulard was an interesting neighborhood before all the rehabbing. I remember the first Mardi Gras parade in the early 70s. There were about 3 cars. One of them was the volunteer fire department truck. Our alderman and a high school marching band made up the rest. I don't remember any beads. Certainly no exposed breasts. We were there only because they threw candy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Nancy


At some point in 1981 my girlfriend Pam moved to Milwaukee to join a theater company. I would commute by train once or twice a month. We carried on our relationship for another year before she fell in love with one of her directors.

There was a great music scene in Milwaukee and Chicago but it seemed that all of the bands were using drum machines instead of drummers. This made for very boring theater.

There were a lot of parties there and I had a blast. I loved the theater crowd because the women were beautiful and the men were gay. There was a serious shortage of heterosexual men.

It was at this time I moved into Lafayette Park with a woman named Nancy Theodoro. My friend Sharon had just moved out and introduced us. We would spend hours talking in the kitchen and once my cat walked in with Nancy's bird in his mouth. The bird survived but a few weeks later my cat died of kitty leukemia.

Nancy was a recovering alcoholic but loved to throw parties. She bought her favorite booze and had me drink it. She was a hypochondriac and was always heavily medicated. One evening I came home from work around 3:00 in the morning. A naked woman came screaming out of Lafayette Park. She had just been raped. I brought her inside and it became clear she was mentally retarded. I gave her my bathrobe and called the police. There must've been at least 12 police officers in the apartment. At some point in the morning after they left it occurred to me that I had lost my robe. As I was about to go to bed Nancy walked out of her room, rubbed her eyes, smiled and said, ”good morning roomy” . She could sleep though anything on whatever medication she was on.

She has since died and I always thought she would have been a perfect case for the headstone that read, “I told you I was sick”.

I remember a stranger walking in to one of our parties. We were tripping at the time. The stranger found a corner, sat on the floor, pulled his hat over his head and fell asleep. He had what looked like bird shit covering his hat. We began to panic thinking he had wandered in from the highway. We were finally told he was the Chuck Auger’s landlord. The splotches on his hat was paint.

I don’t want to get tedious but Nancy was a fascinating woman and she deserves more than one installment. I’ll have more about her.