Saturday, February 23, 2008

Back Stage

These photos were taken in 1975. Believe it or not I was only 17. We were packing for a hitch hiking trip to Indianapolis to see Jethro Tull. I’m pictured with my girlfriend Sue and Mark Gray. Mark was really a baby back then. I remember the 3 of us sleeping in a ditch off the highway somewhere in Indiana.

Sue got us backstage for everything and I met all my rock and roll heroes. I don’t know how she did it and I didn’t ask questions.

We had just seen Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa at Kiel auditorium. It was their Bongo Fury tour. After the show everyone surrounded Frank which left me alone with the Captain. I think he was flattered that I was such a fan. I went into great detail about his album Trout Mask Replica.

We went back to their hotel. Frank had dinner and the Captain invited us to join him at a bar near St. Louis University called The 5th House. I had to leave to pick my mother up at work. I was borrowing her car. Heading back to meet up with everyone the clutch cable snapped in my mom’s VW. I could have cried.

My girlfriends always had balls. The year before we saw Captain Beefheart’s “Unconditionally Guaranteed” tour at Washington University’s quadrangle. It was an outdoor show. My girlfriend Pam grabbed my shirt and pulled me onto the stage. She told security we were photographers for the school newspaper and we were even allowed to take pictures.

A couple of years later, when I was living with Marge, Sue took off with Marge’s boyfriend. They went to Ireland and I didn’t hear from her for years.

I got a phone call a couple of years ago from a woman with a heavy Welsh accent. She invited me to a party at Tower Grove Park for a reunion with Sue. It was Sue’s daughter. Apparently they had moved to Wales.

I just remembered, in those days they didn’t care which acts they booked together. Styx opened for Zappa and they were booed off the stage.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Speaking of Valentine's Day

I took this photo on Valentine’s Day 1996. It’s my daughter Chloe’s birthday. It reminded me that I experienced the entire world through a viewfinder for almost 10 years. In fact, I cut both of my kids’ umbilical cords peering through a lens. When my son Dylan was born, I was so excited with the tape that I showed it to everyone. Kim was still in the hospital. When I told her she said, “I better not be in that video!” I assured her she wasn’t. When I took another look I discovered she was definitely the star of the show. I had such tunnel vision with the birth of my son that I didn’t see her in the tape at all. It’s no wonder she eventually left me.

I was a legal videographer. I taped depositions for lawyers. I had to watch autopsies, tape children that were dying from AIDS or sexually molested by their parents.

I crawled into a bed with a man suffering from mesothelioma until his hospice nurse told us he had to rest. We came back the next morning to find that he had died. All the attorney could say was, “Damn, now we can’t finish the depo.”

I once flew from Bethalto, IL to West Virginia in a chartered plane through a violent storm. The depo was canceled because a commercial flight from Chicago one of the attorney’s had booked was grounded. On our way back at about 30,000 feet the court reporter I was traveling with pointed out the window at a wing. She wanted to know if it was supposed to ice up like that. I was so scared I couldn’t drink the booze the lawyers had provided. It’s strange but if you're convinced you’re about to die you want to be totally lucid.

I taped a lot of high profile cases. I played the tapes the public didn’t get to see of the 4th of July fireworks barge that exploded in Alton, IL. 2 people died and I believe the display was canceled that year. I also video taped the depositions of the fireworks manufacturers. I learned a lot about computer synchronization of fireworks with music.

Probably the strangest case I was part of was the Russell Bliss trial. Bliss was the man that single handedly wiped the town of Times Beach, MO from the map. He had 2 businesses. One was waste disposal and the other was spraying dirt roads with oil to keep the dust down. He would spray the roads with used oil. Instead of disposing of the hazardous waste properly he would mix it into his oil. Bliss mixed dioxin in with oil and sprayed all the roads in Times Beach. He did this on Hall Street in North St. Louis too but no one ever talks about it. He had 3 grades of oil and would determine their grade by taste. Not surprisingly, he died from cancer. The EPA built a big incinerator where the town used to be and burned all the soil. It’s supposed to be clean now and I bet you could buy land there cheap.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Twins

My first real girl friend was Linn B. I‘ll get permission to use her full name if I ever run into her again. I hope I will.

I met her through her twin sister Lee when I was 14. Lee was Don Belk’s girlfriend. Don was the bass player in my first band and we got into a lot of trouble together when we were even younger. I’ll tell that story later. Don died a few years ago.

Just a little side note: the first song we played was Alice Cooper’s 18. We’d repeat the verse over and over and never get to the chorus. It must have been maddening to our friends.

Linn and I first kissed hidden in bushes by railroad tracks somewhere in Webster Groves. It took about 2 hours before we got up the courage for that first one but after that we were off and running.

We experienced everything for the first time together including drugs, sex, philosophy and politics. Linn and I were just beginning to read. I was obsessed with Gandhi, Herman Hesse, Joyce Carol Oats and Carlos Constaneda.

I went to an alternative high school at Grand and Washington called Logos. My teachers were Jesuit Priests in training that were opposed to the Viet Nam War. They were pulling their conscientious objection duties as teachers. They turned me on to a lot of books.

Linn and I slept together for 6 months before we even tried sex. When we finally did she got pregnant.

Her father Ralph was a saint about it all. Ralph was a single dad with 4 daughters. My friends and I pretty much took over the house.

Things were a lot looser in those days. I remember rehearsing in our guitarist, John’s basement apartment at Matrix High School. Ralph would walk around from musician to musician holding a joint to our lips. His real love was opera and often we’d find him in a Tux going out to sing somewhere.

Linn's sister Lee was not like Linn at all. She partied heavily.

It was during this time that I met Pam. Pam’s father was a successful psychiatrist at Washington University and had even written one of their school texts. I had a few girl friends whose parents were psychologists and they always seemed to be studying us.

One day Pam brought photos of a GED high school in Massachusetts she wanted to go to. She talked her dad into paying for it. The photos were of bare breasted teenage girls farming a field. The school was incredibly expensive and I was angry at the indulgence of her class. I hated her and everything she stood for. We had a terrible fight that frightened everyone around us.

Linn and I went to bed that night but I couldn’t sleep. I was still furious. Pam was spending the night. Several hours later with Linn sleeping next to me Pam crept into the room. She sat on the bed and rubbed my forehead. We fell in love.

The next morning I took a shower with Lee and Pam was very hurt. This is how naive and self-centered I was.

The sound track for all of this was Cat Stevens, Quadrophenia, and the Rolling Stones with Mick Taylor.

When Pam left me I thought I would die from a broken heart. I camped under her bedroom window every night until she relented. For some reason she came back.

Something in me had changed and I didn't want her anymore. My heart had hardened. The tables were turned and she wanted me back. I slept with Lee just to hurt her. The weird thing was, in the dark it seemed like I was with Linn.

I really loved both of them. Lee died 2 years ago from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. I had the hardest cry of my adult life. It was a total breakdown.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


I have a lot of friends whose folks got divorced when they were very young. We seemed to have the same visitation experience with our dads. Mom thought dad was taking us to the zoo or a movie but we’d end up spending the afternoon at a bar. He’d buy us cokes and give us money for the jukebox. We played Aretha’s Respect over and over.

We’d run wild in the neighborhood until it was time to go. This arrangement worked well for us. There were other kids visiting their dads so we had a gang. My mom would’ve seen it as neglect but we had a blast.

The bar of choice was Laclede Town’s Coach and Four Pub. My dad knew all the baseball celebrities. I met Lou Brock and Bob Gibson among others at the bar. Lou Brock signed a photo for me but I don’t know what happened to it.

We slept on giant rectangles of foam in my dad’s apartment. He had a large collection of Playboy magazines which is where all boys in the 60s learned about adult female anatomy. Girls would have impossible standards to live up to because of this. My brother owns the collection now and it’s amazing how people’s perception of beauty evolves. My physical ideal is frozen in time. I can’t stand fake boobs.

He also used to keep a loaded 38 on his night stand.

When a Beatles album came out we’d take it straight to my dad’s apartment. We didn’t have a record player. As much as I love stereo and 3 dimensional sound, those mono mixes were much better. If you can find a mono recording of Sgt. Pepper check out Paul’s vocals on the reprise.

My dad gave us money for a carnival at St. Louis University. As soon as we entered the gates a gang of boys overwhelmed us. They pinned us down and took all of the money from our pockets. None of the adults around would lift a finger to help us. It was like something out of Suddenly Last Summer.

I was in fourth grade. We lived in an apartment on Shaw near the gardens. We rode our bikes everywhere. We’d ride down to Laclede Town to visit my dad. We even rode down to the riverfront. Once we found a large log floating in the water so we jumped on. It was crazy, this was the Mississippi! We rode to the Pevely Dairy where they gave us chocolate milk and the Switzer Licorice factory where they gave us candy.

Four or five of us rode up to a soda display at a gas station. We all stole a can and rode off. The attendant chased and almost caught us. It was exhilarating and terrifying. If you see a group of kids without an adult you can be sure they’re up to no good.

One day we left our bikes on the sidewalk in front of a Burger Chef. A gang of boys took off with them. Two rode as the rest ran along side. We had no problem catching up to them but once again their sheer numbers overwhelmed us. My father was furious that we left our bikes unattended.

Months later, one Saturday afternoon, my mother made us clean the basement. We were working our butts off when she came down and told us to come outside. There in the yard were two brand new Schwinn 3-speed bikes. These were much better than the old 1-speed’s we’d lost. We jumped on them and disappeared into the day.

Our apartment had a fireplace that was set up for gas. In those days if you didn’t pay the gas bill they’d turn it off. We suffered two winters without heat. My mother burned wood in the fireplace. With no ventilation it’s a miracle we didn’t die. We cracked the windows to let the smoke escape. Everything was covered in black soot. I don’t know why our electric was still on, but we spent one winter in bed together under an electric blanket.

As a result my brother and I spent a lot of time outside. We’d sled at Compton Hill Reservoir Park. I couldn’t figure out how kids from the local blind school were able to dodge all the obstacles. They had absolutely no fear of speed or trees.

Highway 44 was under construction and the site was our playground. Boys have an evil streak. We found a dead rat in an alley on the construction site. We stuck a smoke bomb in its butt and danced around it like pagans. When I later read Lord of the Flies I took it from personal experience that kids left to their own devices........