Saturday, May 31, 2008


When I was 6 or 7 my dad decided it was time to take me camping. We spent so much time in a small cabin on the Big River it didn’t occur to me my dad wasn’t really an outdoors man.

His plan was to camp alone with me and later take my brother. My brother is bitter to this day that he never got his trip.

I didn’t realize until I took my own kids camping that we went to Meramec State Park. We drove out in a little convertible Morris Minor. Someone had lent him the camp gear.

After he found a site he decided we could set up the tent later. We should go hiking. We used to do this a lot at the cabin. The first thing we did was fashion tree limbs into walking sticks. I remember walking around for hours on a small dirt path.

We came to a log in the road and my dad flipped it over with his stick. There was a very angry rattlesnake underneath.

We followed an even smaller path around a hill and discovered a cave hidden by trees. I thought this was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Right out of Tom Sawyer. When we got to the bottom of the hill there was a larger cave and a tour was beginning. We followed the tour and saw an almost extinct species of bat. This section of the cave has since been blocked for their protection.

When we got back to our site my dad couldn’t figure out how to pitch our tent. He ended up stretching it from a car door to the ground. We had 2 single air mattresses that were inflated with built in foot pumps.

That night there was a torrential downpour of course. We awoke on rafts afloat in a small stream.

I don’t remember a camp fire or even that we ate anything while we were camping. I just remember he threw our gear into the car and said, “Come on, we’re going to grandma’s house.” She lived in St. Clair which, fortunately, was close by. We had breakfast as we dried. It’s hard for me to think of my dad running to his mom in times of trouble.

I resolved to take my kids camping individually in memory of my dad. Dylan was first. I randomly picked Meramec State Park and had chills when I recognized it all.

We immediately went hiking and found the same small cave I had discovered with my dad. Now it had a giant wooden staircase that led up from the bottom of the hill. They call it Indian Cave. The large cave at the bottom is Fischer Cave. I’ve taken the tour again with both kids. One of these tours was led by a woman named Jamaica. A unique enough name that I figured out she was my friend Sharon's daughter's best friend.

That first trip with Dylan we went canoing and turned the boat over in a rough spot. We float often but he doesn’t really like it unless we raft. I hate rafts.

There are caves along the river. We always bring flashlights so we can pull our boat over and explore. Once we were exploring the small cave I found with my dad. Chloe yelled, “Snake, snake.” I was sure it was just a rubber toy and told her to stop being so melodramatic.

Dylan yelled, “Cry baby,” and picked it up. It was a baby copperhead that was frozen and poised to strike. We all screamed and ran from the cave. Thank god it didn’t bite him.

Their favorite camping activity is reading comic books in a hammock. I can't think of anything I'd rather do.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


One chilly fall morning in 1992 I completed my first successful canopy relative work 4-stack. This is where you fly to another parachutist, slip your feet into their lines from the canopy, pull yourself down and wait for someone else to hook up with yours. Four of us would be stacked together flying in formation.

My drop zone that was usually in Sparta, Illinois was visiting Sullivan, Missouri. This is before Quantum Leap set up their operation there.

As I was landing I could see my friend Gary arriving with a very pretty girl. For the next few months we would make secret eye contact and occasionally even have a conversation. I was in my mid 30s and she was in her early 20s. My old girl friend Joanie would later call me a cradle robber.

Every December we had a chili party in the hanger. Kim came up to me from the dance floor and we were together from that point on.

To this day, with the exception of our kids, the only thing we ever had in common was skydiving. She never shared my interests in art, music, science or literature. She was young and pretty. What can I say? Men are shallow.

I cancelled a trip to New Orleans with Sharon to go to Jazz Fest. I couldn’t really afford it. Another friend invited me to go with him to Tennessee to jump. Unfortunately I accepted. A friend of Kim’s had convinced her I had turned down Jazz Fest because I couldn’t bear to be away from her. This was the first in a long series of things I did that disappointed Kim.

We were visiting friends at another drop zone. I let Kim use my rig. She misread the wind and did a down wind landing across the runway. She came in so fast I was afraid she had gotten hurt. We ran up to her and for some reason she was angry with me. As she was scolding me our friend Tammy noticed a hole in my rig that would eventually cost $400.00 to repair. She could tell I was trying not to notice. She looked me in the eye and whispered, “You’re a saint.”

Kim got pregnant and it was the start of 12 years of the strangest adventure I’ve ever been on.

I met her folks and they were shocked by my age. Her mother said she didn’t think she’d feel comfortable calling me son.

My kids Chloe and Dylan made it all totally worthwhile.

Pictures are from the 1993 World Freefall Convention in Quincy, Illinois. Kim says otherwise but I’m convinced Dylan was conceived here. The math works out perfectly. Kim is hanging from an upside down Steerman biplane. My mother asked if we were just totally reckless people when she saw this. I think you can see the earth’s curvature in the pic of us together.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Farmer Steve and Farmer Dave

When the Broadway Oyster Bar suddenly closed on December 31st of 1990 my roommate Steve and I were broke. I tended bar at several places and Steve did a lot of house painting. By the time spring came around we were willing to do anything to pay rent.

Rib Tip’s wife Sue began farming their land in Clover Bottom MO. All of her vegetables were grown organically. She was a few years ahead of her time.

We had nothing else going at the time when Sue made a proposition. She’d hire us for $5.00 an hour, meals, and all the alcohol we could drink. This last item made it one of the best paying jobs I’ve ever had.

I’ve never worked so damn hard in my life! Just using a hoe will give you blisters you wouldn’t believe. We spent hours on our knees planting marigolds to fend off pests. It seems like I shoveled manure for days. I remember standing on a hill of shit and saying to Steve, “Oops, stepped in it.” By the end of the day we were almost too exhausted to drink. We did though.

One of the nice things about their property is their pond. We started and ended every day with a swim. This is the pond we jumped into on January 1st.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Eventually I want to get to a girl friend I lived with in the 70s named Jill. When we split up she moved in with a friend of mine named Chas. Chas is the subject of this story. I wish I had a photo of him.

Chas was a drummer in a band whose pianist, Greg Hardin, ran Magic Masters Pro Audio. They built my band’s PA and did sound for all the great outdoor events of the time.

Magic Masters had a recording studio in their basement. This is where my band bought a keg, threw a party and recorded three live songs that appeared on a flexi-disc insert of Carrie Lindsay’s magazine “Noisy Paper”.

My band had an old refrigerated beer truck we called Zsa Zsa we parked out back. From my back porch in Benton Park I can look down on our old parking space. (Dominic this should give you an idea of where I live now. Come visit!)

Jill and Chas lived in a beautiful old mansion on the same Gaslight Square street where I used to live.

Our band was always looking for a singer and, for a minute there, Chas wanted to try. I’m not sure why we didn’t pursue that but he soon changed his mind and decided he wanted to be our promoter.

I was seeing Danny’s old girl friend Josie at the time. One night Josie and I were hanging out at my south side apartment when Chas showed up. He was very taken with Josie. He had booked several interviews at Chicago radio stations and I was supposed to push our latest single. I can’t remember if it was Lauren Garbo or The Scrape but I grabbed a box of records, we both swallowed a handful of speed and took off for Chicago.

Chas grew up there and we had plenty of friends to stay with. I must have done ten interviews a various college stations over the course of a week. I recently found a box of receipts for several record stores that sold our discs on consignment. I wonder if any ever sold.

I’m not a talented enough writer to describe what a sweet guy Chas was. The last time I saw him he was running his Dalmatian in Forest Park. One night, in the middle of band rehearsal at Magic Masters, Chas had a brain hemorrhage and died.

Photos of Jill, me playing a pre-punk VFW Post 555, and our first single.

Monday, May 5, 2008


When Pam and I split it would be several years before we would see each other again. I found out later we were still kind of keeping track of each other through friends.

Both of our dads died during this time.

One night I got a call from her that caught me off guard. She was coming to visit.

Pam had become a Playboy Bunny at the club in Chicago. She brought keys to the club for all the guys in my band. She dropped the names of rock stars she’d been partying with and had recently broken up with the bass player from Cheap Trick.

I tried to impress her with films and music I’d been working on. The visit went better than we’d expected and we ended up getting pretty intimate. She’d later tell me she could tell I’d slept with someone earlier that day. I felt like an ass because I had. When she left I figured she was out of my life again.

Several weeks later I got another unexpected call from her in the middle of the night. “Come get me,” she said. I drove to Chicago the next day.

She lived in a third floor apartment on Lincoln Avenue. I think she was living with 2 gay actors and her best friend GiGi. They all loved her.

My favorite music venue was Park West and it just happened to be across the street from the Playboy Club. She knew the owner and we could get in free. She asked me if I’d ever heard of the woman that was playing that night. Her name was Laurie Anderson. Laurie Anderson had just released the 12” single “O Superman”. The National Endowment for the Arts put up the money for it. I was already a big fan and it was a great show. David Van Tieghem was Laurie Anderson’s percussionist and years later Pam would marry him. I don't think she even remembers she'd seen him back then. She would tell me about the time she got in a fight with a friend of ours on the way to a Laurie Anderson show in St. Louis. She decided not to go. She would say she missed seeing him that first time.

I brought Pam back to St. Louis and we lived with Danny and his girl friend Josie. It got a little stressful between the girls sometimes. Danny and I could only laugh.

Pam and I moved into the apartment on Pershing with Kent and his girl friend Sherry. This was the place that had the big police raid I mentioned earlier.

Occasionally we’d go back to the apartment in Chicago. One New Year’s we took my friend Bill and he and GiGi hit it off immediately.

The first floor was a store front with a pet shop. Some drunken New Year’s reveler crashed into it shattering a giant aquarium. We found a shark wriggling on the sidewalk. Somehow we wrestled it up to the third floor and threw it into the bath tub. Someone yelled it was a salt water fish. Damned if someone didn’t start pouring salt into the tub.

Somehow the poor shark survived.

I have too many stories about my experiences with Pam. I’ll have to break them up.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Frankenstein Update

Valerie and I just moved into a new apartment in Benton Park this week so I’m a little late on the blog. As usual, when I don’t have a photo for one of my stories, Sharon saves the day. She thought a picture of me as Frankenstein was needed for the previous entry.