Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ed and Jan

Growing up in Laclede Town my folks both tended bar across the street from our townhouse at a place called The Coach and Four Pub. Ed and Jan Eldredge owned the place. It was a great place to be a kid. I got autographed photos from the likes of Lou Brock. My folks knew everyone.

A few years later, when my folks split up, my dad would take my brother and me for the day. We’d make it as far as the Pub. It was okay though, we had a lot of friends in Laclede Town. My mom would be furious when she caught him. My brother and I became bar flies at an early age.

Ed used to park his race boats out in front of the bar. They looked like space ships to us. They were so sleek and modern.

My dad was famous for making every experience an adventure. The first boat race of Ed’s we went to he decided we needed a better vantage point.

He found a crop duster with a small Cessna on a grass runway in his back yard. He talked the guy into flying us over the race for a better look.

This was my first time flying. I have flown in small Cessnas thousands of times since.

Jan and Ed had a small piece of property at a lake in Illinois. We used to picnic, swim and fish there in the summers. I once swam the length of it to get to a general store at a public beach on the other side.

I used to play poker with the adults. They’d get mad at my folks for letting me in the game. I had a lot of beginner’s luck.

My dad and his friend Joan swam across the lake one summer afternoon. When Joan got to the other side my dad wasn’t with her. They found him tangled in weeds at the bottom of the lake.

Ed became a completely different person after a stroke. They moved to some small town to retire. 

The Laclede Town paper I got this pick from has stories about Dick Gregory and others. I’ve been promising my Laclede Town FaceBook group I’d scan all my publications but it’s going to be a huge undertaking. I will get to it, I promise.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tuna Can

I was just looking around in my drawers for a pair of underpants. I could only find a striped pair. They were horizontal stripes so I asked Valerie if they made my ass look fat. It made me wonder why they don’t make them with vertical stripes. Valerie says it might make my penis look longer. Do these people have no sense of fashion?

It reminded me of a friend of mine named Jason. I worked as a computer tech at Harrah’s for 3 years. Jason was a programmer and had a lot of colorful stories. He told me about a friend of his they called Tuna Can. I asked him why they called him that and he said it was because his penis was very short and very wide.

Jason asked Tuna Can who he was going to please with that thing. “Myself,” he replied.

Skydiving Exit

My friends from Chicagoland Skydiving sent this. I thought some folks might like to see what exiting an airplane is like.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


My mother has always accused me of being a star tripper. Her disdain for people in general has always made her immune. I have always had a fascination with celebrity and have been known to drop a few names.

As a kid I got a ride from Rich Little hitch hiking from Laclede Town to the West End. I had a conversation with Timothy Leary when I worked at the Venice Cafe. I still get chills thinking about him saying my name. “It’s nice to meet you David.” Some of his ashes spent a few years in space before burning out on reentry in the Earth’s atmosphere. I’ve met a lot of pop culture luminaries but never really got many autographs. I gave most of them away. I gave several to the Broadway Oyster Bar. All were stolen.

My favorite was Seymour Duncan. He’s famous for his guitar pickups. He’s done personal work for every guitar god you could name.

Seymour sat in with the Heaters one night. At the time he was playing pedal steel for Chet Atkins. I was practicing yoyo tricks behind the bar trying not to break the liquor bottles. I always used a Duncan Imperial. I made some kind of flippant remark about his name. By a strange coincidence the yoyo people were his family. I received an autographed promotional Fender yoyo in the mail later that week. It hung from the ceiling of the Oyster Bar for years until it was eventually stolen too.

The day I declined the invitation to sit in with Chuck Berry I did get him to sign a menu.

Valerie and I met Elvis Costello after a show at the Pageant last year. My son loves Elvis and was disappointed to learn we didn’t even ask for an autograph.

I found my autographed copy of Robert Fripp’s first solo record at my ex’s house. He was doing his one man show anti-tour. I watched him at Peaches records and then the next day at Streetside records. He recognized me and made a point of thanking me for coming back. Then he signed the record for me.

When 10,000 Maniacs toured their first LP they played at Keil Opera House. Their guitarist came to the Oyster Bar. We got to know each other and did several shots together. Joanie and I actually already had tickets to the show. He gave me a couple of back stage passes. When we went backstage after the show a young girl, waiting by the door, gave me a T-shirt and begged me to get an autograph.

We partied ‘til dawn with the band. When we left she was still waiting outside. I had completely forgotten about her. I was still clutching the shirt and had managed to get everyone’s autograph with the exception of Natalie Merchant. I don’t even remember seeing her. The girl was ecstatic.

My autograph of our buddy William Stage gives me a chance to plug his new book, Fool for Life. It’s memoirs of William’s job as a process server and his search for his biological family. It’s a good read and very funny.

The others are from A Prairie Home Companion when it came to the Fox a few years back. Garrison Keillor was obviously exhausted from touring and a little grumpy. I was growing my hair long again and it was at that awkward length. He asked, “What do you call that hair?” I hate myself for not saying, “Nigel.” I also told him I loved his book WBLT. Valerie pointed out the book was actually called WLT. Garrison said nothing. I’m still embarrassed about it!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

R.I.P. Mickey Carrol

One of our favorite things to do on a warm summer evening is to bring lawn chairs and a full cooler to one of our local parks for Front Yard Features. They inflate a large screen and show free movies. It’s a great place to take kids. There’s always a lot to do. 

Last year at LafayettePark they screened The Wizard of Oz. Mickey Carrol, one of the last surviving Munchkins was there complete with throne.  Mickey died Thursday morning just short of his ninetieth birthday. If you’re looking for something to do this summer check this out--  

National Train Day

I was going to write a story about autographs but it will have to wait. Today is national train day.

I’m old enough to remember real train travel in America.

When I was very young we lived in the Delmar-Debaliviere neighborhood. My dad could walk to the Wabash station on Delmar and catch a train to Chicago to visit his friend Koester. It seemed like there were stations everywhere back then.

My dad and I took a train from Union Station to visit my grandparents in Arkansas. The trains still had Pullman porters. Bald headed black men in white coats that looked like Uncle Ben.

They were all called George, as in George Pullman, after the practice of calling slaves by the master’s name. When Pullman died Robert Lincoln, the president’s son, took over the Pullman Company. Apparently he tried to undo his father’s work when it came to employees. As bad as things were, the porters were the beginning of the black middle class in America.

At some point in the 60s train travel changed. Amtrak made taking the train feel like you were taking a Greyhound bus. Even the stations began to get seedy.

In the 80s my girlfriend Pam moved to Milwaukee to join a theater company. We kept our relationship going for a year by train. I’ll never forget how great the trip was from Milwaukee to Chicago. I would ride on the upper level. The countryside was beautiful. It all changed at Chicago. The train got dirty and the passengers were scary, especially when you got to Joliet. Everyone seemed to have just gotten out of the prison there.

After a year Pam got involved with a director, but that’s another story.

There was a beautiful, refurbished antique train car called the North Star parked at Union Station. They’d hook it up to the back of an Amtrak car and it would travel across the Northwest. Only corporate execs could afford to ride it. My friend Kent took care of them. My band Wax Theatricks rented a car and met up with the train in Chicago after they unloaded its passengers. Fojammi wrote Different Voices on the way up.

We partied in the train yard for a couple of days. We had a little back porch on the car. I remember drinking Bloody Marys and shooting bottle rockets from it on our way back to St. Louis.

I can’t remember who threw my bachelor party. It was Kent, Stephen Martin, or Tracy. Maybe it was all of them. It was on the North Star connected to a couple of other cars. There was a band on one of them. It was spectacular.

For Kim’s birthday, one year, we took the kids on a dinner train tour from Union Station. It traveled up the Mississippi, then across to Illinois and back down. It stopped across from the Arch where we had dinner. It turned out my buddy Michael Slay was the chef. He came out from the kitchen, bought a round of drinks and sat with us. It was a lot of fun.

Madison County in Illinois is the lawsuit capital of the country and it’s all from the railroads. Ninety percent of the work I got videotaping depositions was railroad cases.

My mother’s brother and Valerie’s dad are old railroad men. Valerie’s dad went from lighting flares and throwing switches to everything being completely run by computer.

They’re talking about a high speed rail line from St. Louis to Chicago as part of the stimulus package. I hope it happens. As big as our country is, it’s hard to believe we don’t already have one.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Taylorville, Illinois

About an hour northeast of St. Louis is a small drop zone called the Mid America Sport Parachute Club in Taylorville, Il. They’ve been there for years and I’ve had a lot of adventures there.

In the early 90s it’s where I went through my jump master training course. In those days that was the first step toward becoming an instructor.

I had already been working for Dave Verner in Sparta, Il as a jump master. The jump master’s job is making sure the airplane is where the student jumper needs to exit and then making sure they exit safely.

The weekend we went up to Taylorville for the course, I rented a hotel room and had planned a study group with 5 or 6 friends. They were due to arrive around 7:00pm.

At 5:30 my buddy Jim showed up at my door. His CRW 4-way team were already national champions. I think this was before they became world champs. He convinced me that I would have no problem with the course and the study group was a waste of time. I assumed he was one of the course instructors. He had no trouble convincing me to go out drinking instead.

Needless to say at 6:00am the next morning as I tried to focus my blood shot eyes I saw Jim sitting at a table across from me. He was a student too and had no idea how hard the course was going to be. I’ll never forget his evil grin.

Like most DZs there was usually a bonfire when it got dark.  One night I noticed a pretty girl dancing around the fire. She was pouring shots into open mouths. Her name was Bridget. Later that night I ran into her at a bar where the jumpers all went. I introduced myself and everything was going great until I found out she was only 17. I was in my 30s then.

I would run into Bridget a few years later. She was running around with Dave Flanell. I remember she was wearing large dark sunglasses. I asked if that was her under there. She said it was. That’s all we had to say.

Dave was president of the club back then. He had a bright red rosacea face with a constant smile. He had a real lust for life. He died repelling into Carlsbad Caverns (I think) when his cable snapped. I think he was scoping out the opening to do a base jump.

I landed way off course at Taylorville once and landed on an old family plot nobody knew about. Some of the grave markers were 150 years old. It was totally hidden by weeds.

It’s also the only place I ever had to deploy my reserve parachute and I have over 2400 jumps. My canopy opened into a violent spin. I was totally out of control and getting dizzy. I never figured out what the cause was.

My 4-way team used to go up there to practice. Our coach was a guy named Marshall. One night, after a hard day of practice, we went out drinking. We found ourselves in a biker bar in the small town. Marshall was dressed in tights and looked like a ballerina. It was a very long, uncomfortable night.

In 1994 the power company Central Illinois Public Service Company was sued for contaminating the ground water. Taylorville became known for an unusually high rate of neuroblastoma, a cancer that affects the brain. It hit kids mostly.

I also found out Yvonne Craig, the woman who played Bat Girl on the Batman TV show is from Taylorville.

The picture is the Missouri CRW diamond record. Jim’s team Quantum Leap is part of this.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gone Commercial

I don't really get enough hits for this. If it's too gaudy I'll kill it.