Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Winter of My Discontent

I spent about ten years as a skydiving instructor and jumpmaster. Every spring was filled with a renewed optimism. There will be blue skies and the air will be warm. I’m waiting for that feeling now.

Skydiving brings people together who normally wouldn’t have anything to say to each other. Probably the only place an old lefty like me could be great friends with flag waving, jingoistic yahoos whose only sense of art is the old Red, White and Blue. Maybe it’s the answer for world peace.

I just got news that the St. Louis Skydiving Center is shutting down. It’s symbolic for me.

This is the operation that moved from Sullivan to Bowling Green Missouri after a tragic airplane crash. I taught there.

Apparently the present economy was too much for them. I have to confess I didn’t make a single jump last year because of my financial situation.

Maybe instead of feeling depressed I should see it as a sign that it’s time to move on. There will be new adventures. There will be new people to share life and death experiences with.

Monday is my favorite holiday, Groundhog Day!!!! My ex is forwarding emails from her friends who remember my love for this day. When I was a kid I used to think there really was a ‘Possum day, the Beverly Hillbillies favorite holiday. Some day I’ll make it to Punxutawney. Check it out-----

I’ve been without a car since early December. Anyone who's been even a few days without a car in our culture knows how hard life can be. I’m going to pick up my new car in an hour.

I can draw an analogy between the current economic climate and my own life. Let’s get the economy rolling first then we can worry about the deficit. I have to use cash advances from high interest credit cards to buy the car. I make my living driving so I have to have a one. I can worry about my deficit after I start my own economy rolling again.

I can picture myself driving my new car on a newly optimistic sunny highway. I feel that ice is slowly melting.

The picture is from the last official newsletter of The St. Louis Skydiving Center.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This birthday card from Valerie is one of my favorite Dali paintings,
Suburbs of a Paranoiac-Critical Town: Afternoon on the Outskirts of European History. If you look closely you’ll notice my face on Gala’s body. (Kinda spooky if you ask me) The structure in the cube on the left is an homage to the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. He influenced the surrealists for obvious reasons.

I was making a delivery to the Westport Sheraton hotel one day and was surprised to find the entire first floor was a gallery of large de Chirico prints. It seems like an odd choice for a hotel. If you get a chance check it out.

I was hoping we could sneak past my birthday without anyone noticing but Valerie had other ideas. We went to Friendly’s, the scene of the crime for last year’s surprise party. Somehow we ended up at The Shanti in Soulard. The band were mostly percussionists and 3 belly dancers. There must have been at least 10 people in the group and the bar is tiny.

The Shanti is probably St. Louis’ best club for live entertainment right now. William Stage met up with us a couple of weeks ago to see Red Ass Jones and the Gold Bondsmen. They are another group that’s so large you wouldn’t think they’d fit. I wanted to check them out because my friend Wren is a member. He's the tattoo artist who put the wings on my ankles.

It turns out another buddy of mine Mike Long is in the band. I almost didn’t recognize him. He had a full beard that gave a hillbilly effect which is appropriate for the band. This is strange because he comes from a punk/power pop background. Wren and Mike fronted the band. Their material ranges from Bob Wills to The Cover of the Riverfront Times. They’re funny as Hell.

Mike is calling himself Shorty Long. His son plays banjo and his name really is Miles Long. Man I want to be in a band again!

Valerie had an old oil painting of mine framed as a gift. I think I painted it around 1979. It’s called “After the Party” and was a jab at the Abstract Expressionists. I tried to go them one further. They wanted to bring the art to the surface of the canvas. The art isn’t representational; the subject is brought right to the surface of the canvas.

Mine is meant to look like the aftermath of a successful party. A total mess complete with a footprint. The footprint was a response to Jackson Pollack’s handprint on the painting Lavender Mist. It was meant to be displayed on the floor. The subject isn’t the surface of the canvas but us standing on it, outside of the canvas. Now it’s permanently enshrined in a frame in glass and hanging on our wall.

Were all the Abstract Expressionists physically abusive to their lovers?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today I wrote an optimistic if naive story for Associated Content about the wonderful things I’d seen in my 50 years.

Several of us turned 50 last year including Valerie, Fojammi, Tony, Benet and just a little farther back Dominic and Sharon. (Gorski what about you)?

Speaking for most of us 50 is a M$th&r F*ck#r!!

Valerie and I lost our cars. Everyone was out of work. Our vision is fading. The aches and pains are becoming intrusive. It takes longer to walk off hangovers. I think I still have one from the party Valerie threw for me last year.

As I turn 51 I like to think maybe I can leave 50 behind, move on and never look back. Kind of like the Bush administration. It’s going to take some time but if we keep working at it things will improve. Hey, come to think of it maybe a lot of the pain was because of George Bush!

The return of spring should thaw my arthritic joints. I’ve always thought April 16th (the day after tax day) was symbolically a beginning for fresh optimism. (As long as I’m not audited)

Until then there’s always February 2nd Groundhog Day, my favorite holiday. Not to mention the Soulard Mardi Gras Dog Parade, the world’s most dazzling spectacle.

At least my friends and I have gotten to watch each other grow old. Most of us are still around.

My son is still under the impression I’ll live to be 100. Of course he saw me as skinny when I was fat and young when my hair turned gray. I guess that’s the prejudice of love.

I’ve been criticized for being overly sentimental but nostalgia has always been my great passion.

Like my article last year, when I talk about growing old I begin to ramble. 

Happy birthday to us.

I love you all and you know I mean it!

Pic is Dylan and me at Noel and Dennis’ New Years Farm Party

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Speaking of Movies

Dominic has been putting Matt’s film “The Band Practice” back together. It was the 70s and I still had long hair. It’s heart breaking but most of the audio has been lost.

The film opened with Dominic performing his song “Listen To Me” with an acoustic guitar. He had to replace it with the band’s recording. He was correct when he said it’s my favorite song by him. I think that version was his demo for the rest of us to learn the song.

We ended up recording it in a small studio in the middle of the woods in Southern Illinois. I played an out of tune grand piano. For some reason it seemed better than recording it on my electric piano. At first I was unhappy with the sound but the piano’s tuning gradually grew on me. It has a very emotional, fragility the song deserves. It also features some of my favorite drumming by Benet. He was using mallets and I think his playing was absolutely inspired in those days.

I remember playing that song for my ex girl friend Jill. We were in the studio at Magic Masters and there was a piano. I even sang it to her. She liked it. We ended up recording the flexi-disc insert for Carrie Lindsey’s “Noisey Paper” down there.

Dominic has been sliding old recordings of the band in and overdubbing narration where he could read his own lips to restore Matt’s film.

There been a lot of email to each other about it and it seems Matt likes what Dom has been doing.

We all lived in Soulard back then. This was before it had a bar scene or even any rehabbing. Matt said it reminded him of the Beatles Liverpool. It always did to me too, even back then.

Of the 4 clips he put on YouTube, number 3 is my fave. Lora and I were seeing each other at the time. She’s the blond with the long hair. Our road crew and friends were always hanging out and there’s a great shot of them playing pool. Moe is the long haired gentle giant with the cue.

We were in the basement of a F.O.E.s hall we rented for rehearsals. The dream bit on clip 4 was upstairs in the hall. They would let us have parties up there as long as it wasn’t their card night.

The bar across the street where Dominic is pouring a beer used to give us half-barrels on credit for the parties.

The hall was at Compton and Meramec and it’s a bank now. All things must pass.

The audio is poor but we know what’s there. It’s a piece of history for us. I only wish we could have passed it on in tact for our kids.

Riverfront Times review was after we changed the band's name and added Fojammi. Publicity shot was in the F.O.E. hall. Hey I just noticed, Tony wrote the review!!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's at the Farm

I think I might have mentioned that for years, my friends and I either worked at a bar or played the best paying gig of the year on New Year’s Eve. It’s been a tradition since the ‘80s for us to have a “hair of the dog” party every New Year’s Day for us.

Sue and Rib Tip’s Polar Bear ice dive was one of these parties.

One year after partying at Becky’s Hyde Park house we all descended on Allen Avenue in Soulard. Rib Tip got a Polaroid camera and took some great pictures. I’ll have to get them. We spent the day there in robes and PJs like we were at home. It almost felt like we should have been arrested for public indecency.

For the last 15 years or so the tradition has been spending New Year’s Day at our friends Dennis and Noel’s farm. Dennis owned the Oyster Bar with another friend Donna Jean in the ‘80s. The farm party was a great way for us all to stay in touch. We all watched each other have kids, see the kids grow into adults and the parents get divorced.

Fewer Oyster Bar people and more locals have been showing up. Dennis tends to accumulate friends. The house has always been too small so it’s great when it’s warm enough for us all to wander around outside.

There’s always great live music and anyone can sit in. Noel always sings My Funny Valentine.

Bill Stage is always there. This year someone brought his book “Pictures of People.” It’s the one Valerie found at the library that I scanned for the pics in my “Ollie” blog. Bill’s daughters and my kids were the same age and the only kids at the party this year. They were too shy too speak to each other until it was just about time to go. Then they found out they shared the same taste in music. My son ranted about Curt Cobain. Something he has a tendency to do.

Bill asked him what he thought about Cobain’s suicide. I think we were all expecting some kid’s shallow answer about how his music rocked! Instead Dylan gave a very thoughtful answer about Cobain’s sickness. I was very proud of him.

Noel and Dennis are the best hosts you’ll find and they worked their asses off making sure everyone was happy.

There were a lot of conspicuous absences this year. The most notable were Sharon, Sue, Linda, Joe, and the Haveys. We found out Jim was at Barnes getting shunts for his heart. My mother had one put in last year. I hope Jim has a quick recovery. We may have to change our party habits around him.

Pic is Dennis working the kitchen at the party. It reminded me of when he and I would make a giant pot of gumbo upstairs at the Oyster Bar. We didn’t have a kitchen downstairs yet. We used to shuck Oysters at the bar. One day the health inspector came in to find me stirring a giant pot with a cigarette dangling from my lip over the food. I’m surprised he didn’t shut us down.