Saturday, October 27, 2007


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 CafĂ© 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


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.