Saturday, July 25, 2009


Here it is the end of July and I haven’t gone camping yet. The kids and I will next week.

Sometimes I think I could live in a tent.

In the early 90s I traveled to a lot of small airports around the country to skydive. I never had money, but there was always somewhere to pitch my tent. There were usually water and electric hookups too.

I’d be snug in my sleeping bag with an electric blanket on an air mattress in the middle of Tennessee in December. Sometimes I had a TV. The only problem was running through the snow to the showers in the morning.

My friend Benet and I used to go camping so he could spend quality time with his blond lab Mel. I tried sleeping in my hammock on one of these trips. It rained but I stretched a tarp over a rope for protection. I remember reading about Simon Bolivar when he was first traveling through the jungles of South America. He’d sleep on a hammock. I wanted to know what it was like. I don’t recommend it. That was twenty years ago and I still haven’t made up for the lost sleep.

In the early 80s my girlfriend Pam and I spent a week camping just before she would leave forever to join a theater group in Milwaukee. We camped on the top of a hill. One night a bunch of kids came into the valley below. They were blasting Dark Side of the Moon. Listening to the music drifting up through the woods was a good as listening to it on drugs. We moved our camp to a private place somewhere farther up the Jack’s Fork River. We were trapped in our tent for days as it rained relentlessly. At one point I was afraid we were going to be flooded. I got out and dug a trench around our tent. When I finished I was so covered in mud I looked like something out of Quest for Fire. I threw off my clothes and walked into the river. It was warmer than the outside air. I had an incredible sense of well being that I’ve been trying to relive ever since.

My friend Sharon, her daughter, her ex, Dominic and I went camping once. We went to Clearwater Lake which was flooded at the time. Dominic and I found a tree that was several feet under water. We dove into the lake from its branches.

I was a vegetarian even back in the 80s. Sharon reminded me I brought a can of veg hot dogs. They tasted like Alpo. Things have improved greatly for vegetarians since then. They were too soggy to hold together on a stick.

In the early 90s I was practicing formations on creepers in a parking lot in Sparta, Illinois with my skydiving team Muffy and the Divers. It was always an event when a jumper had to cut away their main canopy and deploy their reserve parachute. Those of us on the ground would try to watch the main as it descended so it could be retrieved.

I remember the four of us looking into each other’s eyes as we practiced. My friend Laura told me to hold still as she took her fingernail and picked a piece of spinach from my teeth. You have to be a real friend to do something like that. Jumpers get incredibly personal with each other. A lot of social barriers seem pretty petty.

All of a sudden Muffy pointed up. “Reserve, reserve!” she shouted. We stopped what we were doing and watched what looked like a cut away main canopy float to the ground. We ran out to the middle of a corn field to retrieve my tent. I hadn’t staked it down yet when I set up camp. A strong gust of wind took it way up into the sky.

When I first began to camp as an adult my girlfriend Joanie and I bought a 2 person tent. We left the Broadway Oyster Bar around 3:00am after our shift and drove down to the Black River. We pitched our tent in the dark in the middle of a dry creek bed. It wasn’t long enough for me to fully stretch out on. I awoke to the most sever back pain I’ve ever known. The combination of lifting cases of beer and sleeping on rocks threw my sacroiliac out. After a chiropractor slipped the joint back into place I was on a cane for 2 weeks. I bought an 8 person tent and have been sleeping on an air mattress ever since.

First pic is at Mike Mullin’s dropzone in the middle of Tennessee. I’m with my buddy Pat Harrington. The airplane is Mullin’s King Air. It’s the fastest jump plane in the country. This is the airplane I was married from in Vandalia, Illinois. The other pic is from one of my camping trips with Joanie.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Sometimes I go through old photos for inspiration for my posts. I noticed my state of being at a particular time was pretty well illustrated by my hair.
When I began to grow my hair in the high school band picture, I began to defy my mother. Then there’s the pic where I’m packing my back pack to hitch hike to Indiana for a Jethro Tull concert.
The pic where I’m drinking a Coke with a halo over my head was me at my Jesus best. This was my band Earwacks in the mid 70s.
I didn’t want to be in a rut so I shaved the beard for the photo with the guitar cable wrapped around my legs. This was a VFW Post 555 in South St. Louis.
I actually sat on my hair going to the bathroom. I was so angry I had my girlfriend Lora cut half of it off. The only picture I have from then is the back cover from our LP Distances.
That haircut seemed half-assed so I took the plunge and cut it all off. You could tell I wasn’t sure how to deal with my new short hair in the pic of me at a party. I’m holding a beer and cigarettes and looking a little awkward. My buddy Matt O’Shea, who took it, wrote on the back, “Intellectuals shouldn’t go to parties.”
Then there’s the 80s pic of me in Mexico with short hair. Just befor this I was in the band Delay tactics. I shaved my head and it grew into my favorite hair style. I couldn’t find one of those pics. I think Carl Weingarten has some.
Somewhere in the 80’s I got sick of the slickness of the New Wave scene, grew my hair long again, jumped on my horse and rode into the wilderness.
The two mid length hair pics are from Jamaica. Drug dealers were trying to get me to run drugs to the states. I knew I was attracting the wrong element. The wet hair pic is me trying to disguise myself by cutting it. Unfortunately with short hair some Jamaican's thought I had money which caused new problems.
The picture in the Rocky Mountains is a few years ago with Tracy, Mark, Dominic, Benet, Danny and Vince. I was in the process of getting divorced. I was totally lost as you can see from the picture.
I found my way again when I met my new girlfriend Valerie. I tried to grow my hair again when we got an apartment near Tower Grove Park. That’s the pic with the guitar. Somehow my hair never gets past the awkward stage now that I'm older.
The comin' atcha pic is the most recent at our current apartment.
I guess it’s time to start experimenting with dyes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I don’t know if I was in a hurry to get out and start my life as an adult. Maybe I just wanted the convenience of mobility. My personal treasures didn’t come with me when I left home. Unfortunately they didn’t leave with my mother either when she eventually moved.
Stored in the basement on a table my mother built from a door were a halfway decent telescope, my coin collection (which included several Indian head pennies), a microscope, and most important- a stick that was beautifully carved into a spiral that swirled into ornamental shapes. I was supposed to finish carving it.
The artist was a man named David. He was my mother’s favorite person in the world and a true renaissance man. He made his own muskets including bullets and musket balls he poured from molten lead. His house was filled with artifacts that seemed convincingly Native American. He was into kayaking long before extreme sports became part of the American lexicon.
I remember going with his family to a very tall river dam that had been breeched. It looked like a huge fire hose was spewing from it. He and his buddies were shooting the giant wave in their kayaks. They weren’t made from the fiber materials they use today either. The guys looked incredibly vulnerable. At the end of the day he fired a canon he brought. He must have been into noise.
He was the first friend my mother spoke to about LSD. His stories fascinated her and I actually thought about doing it with her until I thought about it. It just wasn’t something one does with one’s mom.
David and his family moved to a small island off Ketchikan in Alaska. It had something to do with his job. They had two boys and a girl who were my friends. I think they were isolated on the island. Danny, the older brother told me they would comb the beach and find genuine Indian artifacts.
They came back to visit in 1975. We were living in the home I would leave and the one pictured.
My girlfriend Pam and I were inseparable at the time. To make beds available Pam and I slept on the floor out in the hall outside our apartment. This was the winter of a great storm and we were snowed in for days. My mother and their mother (also named Carolyn) were both surprised by the liberties each others’ kids’ had. I can’t remember if it was mushrooms or peyote buttons but they had so much they were smoking it. I didn’t even know you could. “How can you let your kids sleep with girls?” “How can you let your kids do drugs?” I’m sure we were all doing both at the time.
I was fixing supper for the kids out in St. Peters last week and was interrupted by a phone call. It was Carolyn. I’m not quite sure how she found me because the phone was in my ex’s name.
Carolyn, my mom and my kids spent the afternoon together yesterday afternoon. We walked through Soulard. I pushed my mom around in her wheelchair. We ate pizza at Joanie’s and talked about politics and religion.
David died from cancer in 2005 and the rest are still living in Alaska.

I got an email from a person in LA who was looking for the Laclede Town FaceBook group. I checked out his blog about his experiences growing up in St. Louis. Just like me he was fascinated with our architecture. I rollerbladed by my old house this morning and took this picture. I’ve always loved the brickwork. I kinda took it for granted when I was growing up there until my buddy Jell Knoll pointed out how cool it was. He eventually went into brickwork landscaping. I wonder if my place had anything to do with it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


This and my political blog are works in progress. You may have noticed a post can change from day to day. I'm not really a morning person but I usually hit the ground running in the morning anyway.
I couldn't believe how much was wrong with both posts this weekend.
I should write my post and let it sit for a day before I publish it. Sometimes I look at a post later and realize I didn't say what I wanted to or it doesn't even make sense.
I feel guilty if I don't post first thing Saturday morning. For me it's the only writing discipline I have. It's kind of a first step to spending a couple of hours every day.
Some of my posts may seem like they're written by a different person. What you're seeing is the editing process at work. I like it but I do feel a little exposed.
I like to check my site meter to see how many people are reading. The report also gives the time they read. Most of the hits seem to happen before the rewrite. It's maddening but I don't think i can change the way I work.
What do you think?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Day I Was Born

I remember holding my mother’s hand as we walked to the hospital where I would be born. I was almost a teenager before it occurred to me it couldn’t have happened that way. I have a vivid recollection of someone in hospital scrubs handing me a cup of thick brownish red liquid. I gazed into a large pool of water. Later I woke up to a Rice Crispie breakfast. I pedaled furiously through the halls of the hospital in a toy fire truck. There were a l0t of other kids. A bully pushed me out of my fire truck and took it.
As we age our recent memories die but the old ones are as vivid as ever. I know it involves a different function of the brain. I wonder what I'll remember when I'm a hundred.
Sometimes I think back as far as I can. I've asked friends how far back they can remember. Most seem to go back to about five years. I have several memories that go back to before I was two.
The memory of my birth ended up being a visit to the hospital to have my stomach pumped. I climbed onto a counter in the kitchen and swallowed a bottle of vitamin pills. I must have thought they were candy. Fortunately the ipecac worked and the pump was unnecessary.
I was born in January of 1958. I have a lot of memories before my brother was born. He was born in December of 1959. We lived downstairs in a barn shaped 2-family flat on Crescent in Dog Town.
I slept in a single bed in a room between our kitchen and living room. I was supposed to be asleep but the smell of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies permeated the apartment. I snuck into the kitchen and found them cooling on the table. I saw, through a window, my mother hanging clothes up in the back yard. I filled a sand pail with cookies and hid them at the side of my bed. I don't know why I wasn't caught.
I remember Eisenhower’s bald head on our TV and getting a huge toy steam locomotive from my folks’ good friend Paul Shult.
I fell from an open window in our front sun room. There were men putting up a new sun screen. What I really remember was getting a piece of the green opaque material they were making it out of on the concrete where I landed. I loved the way light passed through it.
We had an unused room with sheets on furniture and an old black rotary dial telephone. The room seemed haunted.
I had three different places to bathe. In a tub in a small bathroom in the hall that led to the haunted room. In a shower that was in a small bathroom off the kitchen where I showered with my dad. I wondered why he was so hairy. I also remember my mother bathing me in the kitchen sink.
One day my dad and I were having a cap gun fight. He used a small six shooter that was easy to pull the trigger of. I used a cumbersome, iron ray gun that was impossible to shoot. I thought he wanted to use the easy one but it occurred to me years later how cool the ray gun was. He probably thought I preferred it.
Right in the middle of our battle my mother walked in the front door carrying a new baby. Man things would never be the same.
The more I think back the earlier I go. It’s all stored digitally in the archives of my mind. I can’t believe it hasn’t deteriorated yet. It’s really the reason I write this blog. I wish my dad could have left me his memories. I’m still trying to get my mom to.
I don’t quite remember my birth but I've spoken with people who tell me they have memories from the womb.
My folks’ friends the Kornachers (Bob Kornacher was the drummer for the Dixie Stompers) had a daughter named Susan. She insisted she could remember experiences in the womb. She said she got waves of cold that would disturb her peaceful meditation inutero. Her mother Flo said it was very hot that summer and she drank a lot of of ice water. Hmmm---- who knows?
The more I think about it, the more I remember. It’s not important I guess, but it is the sum of my existence and all I have.
Pics are me when I was one. The porch I’m reflecting from is the place we lived at before Crescent. It was destroyed when the Channel 2 tower fell into one of the Arena’s gate towers during a famous St. Louis tornado. Most people who remember the Channel 2 tower at Hampton and Oakland don’t know it was once tall enough to fall that far. The Arena’s whole roof had to be replaced.