Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year


I was thinking about posting about the events of 2011. It’s been a really hard year for my circle of friends. I’ve never lost so many people I love.

I’ve never been so busy with projects either. It’s getting hard to find time to post.

Right now I’m working on a short presentation of Webster Hangover, the rock opera Dominic and I wrote when we were 15. I found cassette recordings of most of the songs. The sound goes in and out but I think I’ll be able to put something together with photos.

We’re about to plunge into Fojammi’s next CD and I’m expecting it to be a lot of work. He’s doing his best to finish the band’s documentary while Dom and I work on the sound track.

If there’s enough time, and Fojammi has the energy, he’s going to help me finish a video I’m putting together about Lora Steffen, my dear friend we lost this year.

We’re trying to start work on a Wax Theatricks studio project, but it’s really hard to find the time. Not to mention my own project that keeps getting pushed back.

It’s hard to find a bright spot in this world that seems to be getting greedier, more ignorant, xenophobic and just plain mean!

I have a really special circle of friends and our art is our way of reaching out. There are a lot of us left who still care about a decent quality of life and each other.

I love you!

Blue Skies Magazine found my story about my freefall wedding and they’re going to publish it in February. I LOVE being published.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Saturnalia


I decided to upload my mom’s Christmas CD covers since 1999. I’ve produced a song for her every Christmas since the late 70s. Gloria is from 2010. I’m still putting the finishing touches on this year’s song.
It’s just a sappy Christmas slide show of my kids over the last few years.
Chloe played flute and Dylan played acoustic guitar. This year she plays flute and Dylan plays bass.
Check it out---------

http://youtu.be/IsHkdQ0Uyew


Also if you haven’t gotten the chance, check out my video from 1995. I didn’t have access to a studio that year, so I video-taped it. Dylan was a year and a half and Chloe wasn’t due until Valentine’s Day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJVeLHxKhl0

Also, there’s an older one from before they were born on MySpace. Remember that? Once in Royal David’s City features Yma Sumac on vocals.
Check it out------------

http://www.myspace.com/davidudell/music/songs/once-in-royal-david-s-city-9438307

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rehearsal Spaces part 3







When I was 15 I got a cassette recorder. This was really high-tech stuff back then. My first recorder, a few years earlier, actually used two small, open reels.

I actually got some recordings of the rock opera Dom and I wrote. It was called Webster Hangover. I think I might have 4 songs from it.

We were world weary 15 year olds. For example: “You say you can rely on me, but you don’t know for sure. My blood runs cold, I’m thin and old and my thoughts aren’t quite so pure.” Or, how about, “So sit back in you easy chair and light your smoke without a care- Pretend that I’m not even there- and dream of days now gone”?

Dom and I actually wrote lyrics and music together, contributing equally. It’s amazing, considering how big our egos would get. We had a blast!

I was listening to E Harmonix from those recordings. That song made it all the way through the band’s career. We played it our very last show. We opened our reunion show with it.

Benet’s drumming on the old recording is amazing. He was dropping beats like an old jazz pro. He was the best in St. Louis even at 14.

We lost him several times to paying gigs. He’s the only one of us that could pull that off. We lost him while we were rehearsing in Theo’s basement.

I think I posted an ad that got us Keith Hittler. Keith sounded and looked like Bill Bruford.

My dad moved into a really cool house in LaSalle Park with his girlfriend Joan. He invited us to move into their attic. When I think about it, my dad did everything he could to support the cause.

It was at this time we played our first Euclid festival. My dad confessed that I was realizing his personal dream when he heard kids yelling out my name from the audience.

The attic was beautiful. The walls were brick but it still sounded great. All was well until winter came around. We were faced with our old curse--- no heat.

We burned Dura-Flame logs in an old Franklin stove and played right through the winter.

Eventually Keith found a paying gig and dropped out of the band. We went through several drummers. Most notably, a guy named Anthony who eventually left us to play for Jesus.

Nothing could break our spirit, but being in a band without a drummer is like being homeless. You’re convinced you could get your life back together if you could just get a break.

It turned out Benet was still paying attention and liked what we were doing. He came back and the family was whole again.

Joan’s ex was a psychotic Marine. Benet hung an American flag around his drum booth. Joan’s ex thought we were desecrating it. He took it out to the back yard where he burned and then buried it. The guy was totally raving. I think that’s why we decided to move. Maybe it was the absence of heat. We lost Theo, too.

There was a Fraternal Order of Eagles hall in the Dutch Town neighborhood. I have no idea how we found it, but their president, Marty Luepker told us they only met once a week to play cards. We could rent their basement.

This is where Matt O’Shea shot our sessions for his film, The Band Practice. We ran it at our reunion gig.

I think we grew up down there. It was the late 70s. I recorded my first Christmas song for my mom there. I’ve done it every year since.

I remember opening the door to go down into the basement one night. There was a frightened rodent at the bottom of the stairs. We squealed like children, convinced it was a huge rat. The poor animal was someone’s escaped gerbil.

We began to write the songs that would end up on the records.

Tracy and I were living together in the Central West End. Washington University bought our building and we were forced to move. It was the third place I had to move from because they were buying up the whole West End. We decided to get out of the neighborhood.

We moved into a 4 family flat in Benton Park. Dom and Benet lived a few blocks away. Fojammi lived in an odd little house in our back yard.

Right around this time the band moved into a studio on 39th street. It was attached to the Lester Family’s record shop. They were a gospel group and they even had their own TV show. Our rehearsal space was their recording studio. It was old and funky, but we were definitely moving up in the world.

Fojammi was playing drums in my brother’s band, Jam Box. They recorded an EP in the studio. Fojammi began to put together a solo project. He was really a keyboard player. I began to work with him and realized he was a great song writer.

My band found a 12 track studio in Southern Illinois that was really cheap. Fojammi and Earwacks split expenses and bought blocks of time.

We recorded Distances down there. John Lennon was shot during one of the Fojammi sessions.

It became clear he had to join the band.

A guy named Rick owned and lived at the Lester’s studio. I worked for him in trade for studio time. I still have a lot of good material I need to finish from those sessions. I got Jon Rosen to lay down keyboard tracks for me. He’s an incredible keyboard player and picked up on my material immediately.

The Lester’s studio only had 8 tracks and we wanted more for the band. We found a 16 track called Swing City in Collinsville, Illinois.

Dominic had come up with the name Earwacks for the band but he envisioned a theater group that would work with us called Wax Theatricks. I loved that name and when it became clear the theater group wouldn’t happen we adopted it as the band’s name.

In those days records were called wax. I love the idea of theater on wax.

Unfortunately I was drifting apart from Dom artistically. Being a control freak, I began to push for us to play more and more of my material. Dom was gradually squeezed out and, as a consequence, isn’t so fond of the name Wax Theatricks.

None of his songs made it onto the last LP.

On a brighter note, we had friends who owned an 8 track studio in Benton Park called Magic Masters. We bought a keg and invited 100 of our friends to a party where we recorded a live flexi-disc that would be inserted into a local rock mag called Noisey Paper.

We recorded Dominic’s classic punk song “Ronald Reagan”. The folks at Evatone Records decided they wouldn’t allow us to use the F word. They beeped the record in 4 places. Unfortunately Dom only sang the word 3 times. They also deleted the word Fun. When the disc came out Timothy Time, who wrote the accompanying story, noted, “There will be no fun under Ronnie’s rigid rule!” I know I’ve posted that story several times before, but I love it!

It was at the Lester’s studio that we decided to part company with Dominic.

We did a 2 week marathon of farewell shows at Heartbreak Hotel and Billy Goat Hill. They were our best shows and we should have realized we could have outgrown our differences.

Jon Rosen took Dom’s place. He sang, wrote and played. He seemed perfect. He was way more professional than us.

We had 2 weeks to teach him our material for a big fashion show at the Shell Building downtown.

The deadline was already creating too much stress when Jon announced he wanted half the songs to be his. Unlike Jon, we weren’t quick studies and I was very unhappy.

We pulled off the show, but this wasn’t the same band. I felt like I was responsible for kicking Dom out of the band and now I didn’t even recognize it. I quit.

I went on to work with a lot of great musicians in Delay Tactics. I started finding distraction in skydiving and eventually having a family.

Man, kids are a whole ‘nother story!

I’m still plugging away at the music. We all are.

Pics are: Theo’s basement, Theo and me in my dad’s attic, the attic with Anthony-Tracy and me, the attic with Keith- Dom- Tracy and Mark Gray, and a newspaper shot of band at the Eagles Hall. I can’t believe I don’t have a single shot of the Lesters’ studio. Years later I heard a news story that they were trying to kick out elderly people who lived on that same block. Televangelist Lary Rice fought the eminent domain powers at city hall. I sent him a little money to help with attorney’s fees. He wrote me back the most beautiful letter with all kinds of biblical quotes pertaining to the evils of greed and corporate corruption.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rehearsal Spaces pt. 2





The grocery store didn’t last long. It was depressing anyway. It’s hard to be inspired when the band sounds like crap. If you’ve ever had the feeling of insignificance as you gazed into the infinity of a starry night sky, you’ll get how our tiny group felt illuminated by a couple of bare bulbs in the inky darkness of that vast deserted grocery store. (Whew!)
I was still living with my mother in Soulard. It occurred to me that we had a garage we didn’t use. I think it was really an old stable. There was no electricity and it had a dirt floor. The door slid open and offered little protection from thieves or the elements. Those horses must have frozen.
We powered the whole band with one extension cord. The garage was about two stalls large and we weren’t happy there.
I must have been pissing and moaning about it to my dad, because he offered us his basement. I guess it was summer, because we weren’t aware there was no heat at first.
We threw up sheets to hide ugly objects in the room. My dad lived upstairs in a two family flat that a friend of his owned. You’d open the front door, lift the stairs (like the stairs in the Munsters where Spot lived), and walk down into the basement. It probably had dirt floors too.
When it got cold we found a huge, oil burning, heater. We never should have been left in charge of the beast. One night it blew up, covering everything in black soot. It took weeks for the smoke to clear and in spite of the cold air outside, we practiced with the door open so we could breath. We were writing the most complex arrangements of our career at the time. Dominic is trying to get us to record some of that stuff right now.
The songs included: Psychedelicness, which was based on a few really interesting chords I found in a Joe Pass music book, Cold Hands (a fast and furious song in 13/2 time signature), and the Magic Glass (Crimson-like arrangement about alcoholism).
We have always been an emotionally volatile group and we ended our stay there when we kicked Dom out of the band. We found ourselves back at Dom and Benet’s mom’s basement. At least there was heat!
We suddenly found ourselves without a vocalist and front man. As a three piece, we began to experiment with improvisation. We recorded it.
It’s a great document of the band. The first recordings are the three of us. Eventually you can hear Dom upstairs jamming along on his sax. One day he just walked downstairs playing and was back in the band. I don’t think we ever even really talked about it.
Tracy was still living in the county. Before we got Dom back, Tracy introduced us to a keyboard player and guitarist. The keyboard player was infatuated with Keith Emerson. I hated Keith Emerson. We found ourselves in a garage in the county showing these guys our material. Upon hearing Psychedelicness the keyboard player asked, “Is that comedy music?” Oh, I almost forgot, he wanted to call the band “Colossus – The Forbin Project”. I think it was some kind of science fiction movie (a genre that never really captured my imagination). I was so happy when we got Dom back.
We decided we needed a real vocalist. I’m not sure how we advertised, but we found a guy named Theo Johnson. Theo ended up being one of my favorite people in the world. I wrote about him in an earlier post about single-handedly wrestling with me in the snow and getting me up to my second floor apartment while I was in the throes of an epileptic seizure.
Poor Theo! I spent a year with him just acquainting him with the band’s psychology. We went through everything together.
We ended up in Theo’s basement. He lived in a run down mansion in the northern part of the Central West End. It was right next to all the private streets with all the mansions that were built around the time of the 1904 World’s Fair. I think we might have been back on a dirt floor, but there was heat. We always mixed acoustic and electric instruments, so we separated them in an old coal chute. We put Theo and Dominic back in there.
We went through some major changes there that I’ll get to next week.
Pics are all from Theo's basement.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rehearsal Spaces pt. 1



The band’s been working on a documentary since our reunion show last summer. Fojammi’s been working his butt off on the video part of it. He’s been interviewing artists and friends who were there. The whole experience has forced me to think about a lot of our history that I took for granted.

There are hurdles every young band has to get past. You have to have a shared commitment to your art, individual drive, the will to practice, similar taste, and your own instruments and amps. Not to mention, just like young lovers, you have to develop along a similar path as you age. Besides that last thing, the two most daunting hurdles are a P.A. system and a rehearsal space.

I’ve decided to lay down a history of our rehearsal spaces. I think the P.A.s will make a good story later. I hope the band will chime in if I’ve forgotten anything or if I’m not remembering correctly.

I remember watching Dom and Benet play in their bedroom in Laclede Town. I was blown away with their talent. Benet was 12 and a metal barrel made up part of his kit. There wasn’t enough room for anyone else, but it didn’t matter, no one else was good enough to play with them. I was totally inspired though. I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

My buddy Don Belk helped me get my first guitar at Mel Bay Music. He had a bass and knew another guitarist named Chuck Taylor. We started jamming in Don’s bedroom. Don was always working on his image. He built a huge piece of furniture to house his 10 watt amp and 10 inch speaker. It didn’t sound better and it wasn’t louder, it just looked cool. Between his amp and a new drummer Chuck found named Leland Smith, we had gotten too big for Don’s bedroom.

I’ll never forget loading up a little red wagon with all of our equipment. We walked along side of it holding onto everything so it wouldn’t fall off. It must have risen ten feet into the sky. We took it to a garage that was about twelve blocks away. I have no idea who lived there. We were so excited we’d become an official Garage Band!

We learned House of the Rising Sun and the verse to 18 by Alice Cooper. We never got to the chorus; we just played the verse over and over again. It must have been incredibly hard to listen to.

At some point during all of this, Dom taught me how to tune my guitar in open G. He showed me Down By the River by Neil Young and Honky Tonk Women by The Stones. I brought them back to my band and became a contributor. Up until then, Chuck decided what we’d play.

One day, as we were jamming in the garage, a cop showed up. He was very polite. He said we sounded great and watched us play. When we finished, he said there had been a complaint and we would have to break it up.

By this time I had talked my dad into cosigning for a loan on an off-brand Les Paul and small electric organ amp. I paid for it with my school lunch money.

Ludwig Aeolian had a little Rock n Roll department in their basement downtown. I bought them from a guy named Bob Powell. I wanted to throw his name out because he was the sweetest guy in the world and really worked with the kids.

Dom invited me into his band because he needed and amp and mine would accommodate two. John Steffen joined and we moved into Dom and Benet’s basement.

I remember our first name was Bronco Bullfrog. I always loved that name. We settled on Jon Cotton and began building our repertoire. We played a little bit of everything. We played a lot of Canned Heat, The Stones, Jethro Tull and Spirit.

Our first bassist was Jimmy Hill. He knew the song Killer Joe and that was our introduction into Jazz. Jimmy works with U.S. Representative Barney Frank now.

Jimmy left and for a while we didn’t have a bassist. A friend of ours named Albert Teithenbraum (help me out with the spelling guys) had a beautiful Gibson EB-0 bass. I don’t know how Dom did it, he not only got Albert to let us rehearse in his basement, but Albert let Dom use the bass. Dom became our new bassist. Hey, bass was more necessary than flute and a third guitar!

I think Albert was beginning to feel used and we lost it all. We moved back into the D&B’s basement.

I think I’m the one who got Tracy to come over. Tracy got us to play One More Red Nightmare by King Crimson. I didn’t know they did anything after Court of the Crimson King. It opened up a whole new world of music to me.

We began to write our own material.

We lost the basement, but someone found a really cool Art Deco industrial building at Vandeventer and Highway 40. It was attached to the old Famous Barr warehouse. We got it for free. It had a security camera and an intercom to buzz people in. This was all very futuristic at the time. It sounded terrible, but man did it look cool.

Tracy still lived way out in the county and worked at a Flaming Pit out there. He told us about a friend of his who had gotten fired. They made their house salad in a large Rubber Maid trash can. His angry friend peed in it. If I’m remembering correctly who the friend was, I have a great story about an adventure I had with him later.

We lost the Deco building. Tracy was friends with the manager at Flaming Pit. The restaurant was attached to a deserted super market and his friend let us use it. It was the strangest place we ever practiced. The whole building was completely empty. No matter how much we sprawled out, we were still a tiny little band in the middle of thousands of square feet of dark emptiness. Man did we feel insignificant, not to mention it sounded like we were playing in a cave!

I have a long way to go so this will be continued…………….

Band pic is in D&B’s basement. It features John Steffen, Jimmy Hill, Dom, Benet and me. The other pic is D&B in that same basement.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors (Debris by Wax Theatricks)



It’s always been about the music.

When I was making 8mm films in the 70s, my aim was to eventually find a way to visualize music. Even before MTV, every time someone made a film featuring music there were people in it. I wanted to see the music itself.

I’m sure there were short, underground films out there, but I never saw one. The closest thing was Bach’s Toccata and Fuge in D Minor in the film Fantasia. Of course they had that unlimited Disney budget.

My experience of music involves shape, texture, patterns, and (for lack of a better word) dance. Imaging an artist playing the music misses the whole point of what I’m after.

Most of my life has been spent going after whatever that is. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds and time, I’ve had to keep most of it in my head.

The pursuit has had its ups and downs. I’m sure it cost me my marriage. My ex was always mad at me for spending so much time in my dungeon (basement studio).

Of course art is communication and if you don’t get it out there, it’s just masturbation.

Anyway, when I was a kid in the 70s, I spent a lot of time with a camera experimenting with smoke and mirrors.

I put together a small film made up of some of this stuff. I used the song Debris from the Wax Theatricks LP because it’s an instrumental.

It’s not exactly pure music because I used a lot of nature shots. It kinda looks like New Age film making now, but it was before that. Believe me “New Age” is not what I was going after.

As far as editing film goes, I miss the old razor blade and tape. It seems every digital edit I make affects the film negatively in two other places. I’ve had to use several editing programs because each has its own strengths. The learning curve fro each has been daunting.

I feel sorry for Fojammi because he was put in charge of producing the documentary of the Earwacks reunion. He’s been showing it to Dominic and me as he goes.Wow! We’ve been working on the audio end and it’s a lot easier.

Check out the link -----------

http://youtu.be/ETRrIjlpyw4

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Scrape


I have a routine on Saturday mornings. I get up early, write my blog, go rollerblading, spend a few hours in the studio and come home to a few beers and music with Valerie on our back porch.

Yesterday I decided to throw together some film I found as a surprise for the band. I started working around 6:00am and when I decided to take a look outside it was already getting dark. Man, I hate these winter hours.

I’m not sure who shot it, but I found footage of the band playing in the country. I could tell it was The Scrape right off the bat. I had footage of the band in my dad’s attic I shot for my movie Porkchop. How could I not use that too?

There was also a bunch of throw-away material I finally found a use for.

In the country film you’ll see Chris Howard, Jamie Blanke, Josie Christen, Pete Spoto, Moe (one of our roadies), my brother Patrick, Marge and Kay.

There’s a blurry shot of the only existing footage of Wuxtry Records in the 70s.

There’s also a blurry shot of Dominic and my girlfriend Jill clowning around in our apartment in the West End.

The photo is the original cover for the single by Matt O’Shea. He actually scraped a photo of me (that he took) with an exacto blade to get the effect. I thought it looked too much like Jerry Garcia and turned it down. He did do the final one, but I’m not sure I ever told him how much I appreciated all his effort.

Check out the link-----------

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCqmBM6P4r4

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Linda


I always thought Chaka Khan was talking to me when she sang, “I bet you wish there was 48 hours to each day!” I’ve been putting off posting until I could knock off some of the editing for my old 8mm transfers.

I’m starting with the easiest stuff first, but video editing software isn’t nearly as intuitive as audio software. I’ve been burning through days like they were minutes!

One of my unfinished films from the 70s was called Porkchop. In those days, everything seemed like a distraction. There seemed to be some underlying truth that I had to get at, something deeper and more real than religion or drugs. In fact, I could see a lot of similarities between those two things. They could both be satisfying, distracting, and sometimes horrifying. And of course, some were good and some were bad.

My roommate, Linda Freeland, agreed to play a part in the film for me. We got 3 or 4 takes and spent the rest of the day goofing off. That was a lot more fun. I have better films, but I love seeing her from those days.

The scene for the film is Linda shooting up with triple exposed shots of the St. Louis Cathedral and an out of focus shot of Dominic’s head. He played the protagonist (as usual).

I used the song Kites from my band Delay Tactics’ album “Any Questions?” We recorded the record just 5 years later, but by then I was a completely different person.

I’ve learned over the years that my experiences are far from a distraction. They are who I am.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIoS2SePc4o

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Earwacks in Lights


I just spent the last 2 days trying to get to my AVI files I had transferred to an external hard drive Dominic lent me. My PC just could'nt see the drive.
It seemed hundreds of people had the same symptom, but no one's fix did the trick. It had been formatted for Mac but the company that did the transfer said they reformatted it.
I decided to re-install the driver from the drive's web site. They had a download that said, "if you want your PC to recognize your drive, download this." It worked!
Here's an ad from our first single.
When we released our first single "Lauren Garbo" in 1979, either Tracy or Fojammi got The Jefferson Gravois Bank to put it on their marquee. I started my first checking account there when I was a teenager.
When I visited Tracy in the Rockies a few years back, he showed me the first check I ever wrote. It was to him for $1,000,000.00. I wonder why he never cashed it.
This is looking up Gravois toward downtown. In those days a row of street lights went over Gravois every 100 feet. The lanes were reversible. Somehow all the lights made Gravois look more intimidating.
The soundtrack is from that recording and it was engineered by the legendary Oliver Sain.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Just an Afterthought


I’ve been feeling guilty about my blogs being just an after thought the last few weeks. I’m in the middle of restoring my old films, working on the Wax Theatricks Live video, recording a new Wax album, and remixing and cleaning up the soundtrack to the video.

To be honest, the films have been the most fun. I’ve gotten a bunch of new audio forensic software to try and make out the words so I can redub the audio. I’m using the same software the FBI uses and I still can’t make out about 20% of it.

I’ve been finding bits and pieces of it in my old notebooks from the 70s. As I’m going through this stuff, I find about 75% of it is embarrassing and self-conscious. The rest is good enough to publish if I could find a market for this crazy sh#t. It would definitely take a little work on the part of the reader, but most of it’s pretty funny.

I took most of my films to a place in Soulard called TVPro to transfer to DVD. They’re cheap and professional.

It took a couple of weeks, but they finally finished it. They owner stayed late last Friday, so I could pick it up after work. Man was I excited! He handed me a huge reel and said he put the films all together on it. My first thought was, “I’ve never seen a Super 8 projector that could handle a reel that large.” Then I thought, “Oh well, at least I have the digital copy!”

Then he smiled, and looking very pleased with himself he said, “Some of your film was upside down, so I flipped it digitally.” I held back a scream because I could see he really thought he went the extra mile for me.

I spent a lot of time coming up with special effects for my films. Most of my astronomical $400.00 budget for my Cages film was renting a smoke machine and strobe lights.

I told the guy the film wasn’t upside down, it was backwards. I was very proud of the fact that I was able to figure out if you turn the camera upside down and shoot your footage, all you had to do was turn the developed film upside down, then flip the film so the sprocket holes were on the correct side. This would give you backwards motion. I figured this out in my head before I shot anything. It worked!

No matter how many times I explained it to him, he couldn’t get it. We finally came to the conclusion that I could re-reverse it digitally when I ripped the DVD to my computer.

There was one scene where I pluck flower petals out of the air, assemble it, and present the finished flower to my girlfriend Lora. Now all you see is me pulling the petals off while she has a surprised look on her face.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to correct all of this but ripping the DVD to my computer is taking forever. I started the process Saturday morning. Valerie and I went camping. When we got back it was only 49% done. It’s Monday morning now. I’m looking at it and it’s still only 76% done.

Speaking of Valerie, she hasn’t had a weekend away from my kids in months. The camping trip meant a lot to her. In spite of that, she could see I was getting antsy and wanted to get back to the studio. She let me cut the trip a little short so I could put in a couple of hours. I was able to finish a mix for Pleasure from Sadness for the video. It’s amazing how much sunnier life is when you accomplish something.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

R.E.M.


I was just thinking about R.E.M. quitting after all these years. I’ve seem ‘em several times and they’ve passed through my life in other ways too.

I worked at Wuxtry up until 1982. Michael Stipe and Peter Buck worked at our store in Athens, Georgia.

My boss Dan really liked them. He called them the new Southern Rock.

They were part of the cool underground scene, but I never really liked them until (Don't Go Back To) Rockville came out on their third record “Reckoning” in 1984. Man I loved that song! I was alone at the time and a song about a deserted lover in a shut-down steel mill town was perfect. I was still hurting from my girl friend Pam’s departure.

My friends Stephen Martin and Jon Rosen used to play it on a Monday night jam session they threw at 1860s Saloon in Soulard.

One night, after playing the song, the band went on break. My friend Mengesha and I went outside for the break. Soulard was still being rehabbed then. We were drunk and stupid and decided to climb scaffolding at a building under construction. With our cocktails in hand we stumbled up the street to a bar called The Great Grizzly Bear. We were about to walk in when the bouncer informed us there was a cover charge. A young band named Uncle Tupelo had just been signed and they were throwing a record release party.

We stayed outside and heckled the band. Now I love that band and every offshoot. If I’d only known!

Coincidentally their first three records were on the Rockville Records label.

Somewhere around this time my friends Sharon and Joanie and I went up to Hannibal, MO to see a Monkees reunion show. Sharon and I even rode the Clarksville sky lift and watched the last train come in.

After the show we went back to our hotel where I literally bumped into Mickey Dolenze who was also staying there.

Joanie’s young niece Kelly was always part of the hip crowd and we were invited to a big party in the middle of the woods. I think they were using a generator for electricity. We were in our mid twenties and totally out of place with this young crowd. I overheard a kid say, “Let’s get the old guy to buy more booze!” They were blasting nothing but R.E.M. from a P.A. system.

I saw R.E.M. a couple of times at places like the Kiel Opera House.

Years later, in the heart of my skydiving period, my team drove up from Sparta, IL to the Riverport Amphitheater to see them. Michael Stipe had just had some kind of surgery and was apologizing for a few weak moments. The show was incredible. Stipe’s lyrics were so complex he had to use a teleprompter to remember them.

My team was called Muffy and the Divers. Muffy was pretty enough that a group of Hooters girls told us we could get in for free and up close if we said we were from Kansas City. I played the bar manager. I was the oldest member of my team.

I think we saw The Cure that way too.

It’s been thirty years of watching that band go through life’s changes, I wish them well.

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Films




Just before the Wax Theatricks reunion show I went down into Steve Martin’s basement to see what vinyl I could recover. I stored our records down there when I lived with him, but it flooded and I gave them up for lost. Not only were there a lot of records in pretty good shape, but I found a lot of my old movies from the 70s.

In 1979 or 1980 my girlfriend Pam found an angel. She was able to hire actors, a theater, and fund a film I would make.

The play was called Cages and my budget was $400.00. Far and away the most I ever had to spend on a film. It had sound too.

The art director at Webster College personally raved about it. Somehow it got lost along with my other films. I began to call it my great, lost, pretentious art film. It was a lot better in my memory than it could ever live up to.

I had it digitized and began to work on it this weekend. To my great regret, the soundtrack is unusable. I have the best audio editing equipment there is and, after spending the entire weekend on it, I still can’t make out half the script.

Fortunately I saved all my notebooks and have retrieved about three quarters of it. I will overdub my part (a TV announcer) and have Valerie overdub Pam’s part. I’m sure this won’t make Pam happy but it’s the only way to save it. I call it “I Know Why They Caged the Singing Bird”.

I’ll put it on YouTube as soon as it’s finished. Meanwhile the others are being digitized right now.

I have one with Lora Steffen, one with Linda Freeland, and my epic, Beanie and Cecil Demille’s “Birth of Frustration.”

Frustration starred Paul Steffen playing the young Dominic. Filming came to an end when Paul died. I’m going to try to do something with it.

My first and longest film is still missing. I think it made its rounds to several parties and dissipated into the ether like so many of my memories from that period.

Since I don’t really have a blog this weekend I thought I would post a couple of my poems from the period.


My pea brain thoughts roll down the corridor and onto a tray lifted like my spirits on the 4th of July Come open my zipper and we’ll explore my vast and infinite resources


Trip the light, plan spastic tactics
Sodomizing firm and supple plastic romances
Close your eyes and get lost with Playtex Love Gloves
Crack your whip and slip the load unfolding all around you


Pic is from the film. The ghostly dancer in the background is Josie Christen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Different Voices


Fojammi, Dominic and I were sifting through miles of Wax Theatricks videotape last week for our film about the reunion. Fojammi’s song Different Voices was about to start. I sing it and as I was introducing the song, Fojammi said, “Benet didn’t believe a word of your story.”

I was telling about the recording sessions I had been working on with Fojammi before he joined the band. He needed a drummer for the song, so I did it. I decided to try an easy disco beat with a straight bass drum, snare and high hat. Try keeping an even repetitive bass drum going for five minutes. I thought my shins were going to collapse.

As I was describing all this, Benet, sitting behind his drums, nodded his head and was generally intimating that none of this was true. From my new vantage point of audience, it almost seemed like Benet was sticking up two fingers behind my head. I guess he just can’t picture me playing drums.

It made me realize there were a lot nuances to the development of the band. Many were not shared by all members.

To start at the beginning, probably a year before Danny (Fojammi) joined the band we went on a road trip to Chicago.

My buddies Kent Gray and Michael Slay were chefs on a beautiful, antique railroad club car called the North Star. It was generally parked at Union Station but they’d do corporate parties. They would hook the car up to an Amtrak train and travel around the country. Most of their journeys were in the Northwest.

They ended up in Chicago after one of one of these trips.

I’m not sure who all went, but Dominic, Danny and I rented a van to get up there. The whole trip Danny was working furiously at some kind of poem in the back. Right as we were arriving at the train yard in Chicago Danny said, “Finished!” They were the lyrics to Different Voices.

We partied in the train yard for a couple of nights. The car was incredible. We each had our own bedroom and bathroom. Finally, we hooked up to a train coming back to St. Louis. We sat on a little back porch on the car shooting bottle rockets and drinking Bloody Marys.

I was still working at The Broadway Oyster Bar back then and the tracks ran right over the roof. Come to think of it, I had to go to work without sleep and drunk right off the train.

Years later, Kent threw my favorite party I’ve ever been to on the train; it was my bachelor party. There were boys and girls and a separate train car hooked up for a band. The only one I’ve ever been to that was even close to being as much fun was the one I threw for Tracy at Kent’s brother Mark’s warehouse apartment. Man, there was a great jam session.

Different Voices became my favorite song to play lead guitar to.

Promo pic of Wax Theatricks by Matt O’Shea around ’79 or ’80.

L-R front--- Dave, Fojammi, Dominic

back---- Tracy and Benet

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On Being Opinionated



My ex and her friends used to poke fun at me, insisting I was incredibly closed minded about music. I spent years trying to turn them on to Bernard Hermann, Ennio Morricone, John Barry, Kurt Weill, Prokofiev, Grieg, Stravinskiy, Radiohead, Doves, Spike Jones, Louis Armstrong, Talking Heads, Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Judy Collins, Roland Kirk, Captain Beefheart, Woodie Guthrie, Hank Williams, Leo Kottke, The Bonzos and many others.

It blew their minds that I hated Rush, Foreigner, Styx, Journey and Kiss.

I’ll never forget our friend Laura showing me a lead solo by Eddie Van Halen. I said something like, “Yeah, it’s okay.” She said, “Oh yeah, show me something better!”

I played Adrian Belew’s solo from The Great Curve on the Talking Heads Remain in Light LP. She laughed and said, “Sh#t, I could play that!” Man those were lonely years.

I’m not denying I’m opinionated. Why is it I love Captain Beefheart, but find Frank Zappa cynical and pretentious?

One night Kim’s friend Sandy was visiting. I was listening to Buddy Holly. Kim said something to the effect of, “Do we have to listen to that crap?” Sandy asked if I liked normal music, like Country. I said I loved Country music. Kim said, “He only likes that old sh#t.” I never considered cowboy hat wearing, bare chested, pop, baritones filtering their accents through Auto Tune being anything like Country music.

I like to brag that I partied with Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Grandpa Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens, Porter Wagner, Boxcar Willie and others in Acuff’s dressing room after having sat in the church pews on the stage during a live radio broadcast at Opryland.

My son is into Dub Step. I really can’t hear the difference between it and the Industrial Disco that was popular in clubs in the 80s. It has good visuals, but no dynamics or sex. There doesn’t seem to be anything beneath the surface.

I feel the same way about Lady Gaga. She’s a Hell of a performer and I think she has a lot to say, but the music has run its course.

My buddy Fran loves Yes. He always had a hard time understanding why I didn’t. After all, I love King Crimson and Art Rock in general. Yes has always felt like family though. Their arrangements are incredible, they’re all virtuosos and they’re sincere. I believe they’re great guys. I just don’t like their music.

I have guilty pleasures too. I’m embarrassed to admit I like some of the Moody Blues records. I like Tom Sholz guitar work even though I don’t like Boston.

I think I could fill a book on this subject. Maybe I’ll make a list of likes, dislikes, and guilty pleasures.

Joanie and me partying with Roy Acuff and Grandpa Jones

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mazuma


When I began writing this blog it was in response to a story about Wuxtry Records by Steve Pick. I think there were a few inaccuracies I wanted to set straight.

Wuxtry was the first real used record store in St. Louis. We also sold comic books, so I had to work there.

I was Wuxtry’s first local hire and only employee for years. I became so associated with the place that, when Marge and I were robbed in our apartment at gunpoint (I was hit on the back of the head twice by a gun butt) and then rolled up in carpets, it was because they thought I owned the place and couldn’t believe there wasn’t money somewhere in the apartment.

In St. Louis we ended up with 3 stores. The first one was on Euclid, then on Cherokee Street and finally the Delmar Loop. They were three incredibly diverse neighborhoods with incredibly diverse customers. I remember kids walking into the Cherokee store with rags in plastic bags soaked with tulio. They must have been huffing all day. The room would spin as soon as they walked in. What a way to experience life!

Wuxtry started in Carbondale, expanded to St. Louis, Colorado, and then Athens and Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia stores are still there. Members of REM and The B 52s worked in the Athens store. Fojammi moved there to work at that store for a while. He lived with Cindy from the B 52s in an old church. My friend Dan Wall opened that store with his college buddy Mark. He tried to get me to move down there, tempting me with the church as a rehearsal space. This was just before all those bands broke.

I opened a sister store in Charleston, IL for Dan’s brother. I’ll never forget the bus ride there. It probably would have been only been a couple of hours drive, but the bus stopped at every tiny, ancient gas station bus stop in every tiny, forgotten Illinois town along the way. It took all night. I was the only passenger, so I had to keep the driver company. I remember it being hard to keep my eyes open listening to his boring stories with only the faint glow of the dashboard lights to see him by.

The store was called Mazuma. That was Dan’s idea. Mazuma means money and the name combined two of Dan’s favorite ideas; money and a memorable name.

Charleston is a college town and I arrived during the Thanksgiving break. The town was deserted.

I slept in the back room of the store. I’d start every morning looking up and down the desolate, chilly, wind blown streets. Man, it was lonely.

Every night I’d play a 1940s antique guitar Dan left for my amusement to old Bing Crosby records. I still love those records. Instead of comic books, Mazuma sold romance novels. I had nothing to read. It was a retreat of sensory deprivation except for old records and the guitar. It was like fasting. I found it very cleansing.

Dan collected instruments and amps; that’s how I was often paid. I acquired a 12 string acoustic guitar, a flute, an alto sax, and a beautiful Ampeg VT-22 amp which I rented to the group in Hail, Hail Rock and Roll, the Chuck Berry movie. I don’t know who ended up using it, but there were only legends in the band. I finally sold that amp last year.

I can’t figure out how I ate or paid rent.

Wuxtry in St. Louis turned into Euclid Records and Steve Pick still works there.

It turns out Valerie was going to school in Charleston when I was there. So close and yet….

My brother Patrick and me in front of Wuxtry on Delmar in the 70s before Joe Edwards rebuilt U City. Matt O’Shea took the pic.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Under the Ice


I loved the Christmas records The Beatles made every year for their fans. It was fascinating the way they matured as the years went by. I was so inspired by them, I started making a Christmas recording for my mother every year. I haven’t missed one since the 1970s.

In 1995 I didn’t have access to a studio. My son was a year and a half old and my daughter was on the way. It was the most removed I’ve ever been from music. I was making my living as a videographer, so I taped a live performance for her. My son can be seen running in and out of the frame. I will post that around Christmas.

Some time in the early 80s I began work on my mom’s song and I showed what I had to my friend Carl Weingarten. We were working on the second Delay Tactics album. I had a repetitive guitar part and Carl talked me into making a loop out of it. The piece went through several changes before it became Under the Ice on the Any Questions? LP.

We performed the song live on the show Sound Waves which was hosted by Kevin Martin. That must have been before the release of the album because it was called Antarctica.

Last year I came across the show on YouTube. Unfortunately whoever posted it only played the band being interviewed and none of the musical performance.

I borrowed my buddy Tracy’s fretless for the song and was very proud of my part. That show was the only time I’ve ever been featured as a bass player. I wrote Kevin to see if he had a copy of the show. He said he thought it had been Wax Theatricks and didn’t save it because he was embarrassed by his part. I wish I could find out who posted it and get a copy.

I came up with the name Under the Ice because I had been reading about Harry Houdini almost dying when he performed one of his escapes in a frozen river. He got trapped under the ice and almost died.

Suffocation has always held a special fascination for me. I read somewhere that it was the most painless way to die. I had recently had an experience in a dream. I was drowning in the river where I grew up. I had just gotten past panic and was ready to accept the inevitable. There was no pain and I had an overwhelming sense of peace. Suddenly I awoke to see my girlfriend Jill’s cat moving away from my face. My dad had also recently died by drowning.

Under the Ice went in such a different direction with Delay tactics that I can’t even call it my song, it’s a Delay tactics piece. I’m really happy with it.

St. Louis dancer Suzanne Grace made a great video using the song but I can’t find a complete copy. KETC-TV made a documentary of the band showing how LPs are made and they used part of her video. I posted it on YouTube. At the end of the piece Walter and I joked that we would take one song and slow it down or even run it backwards so we could resell the same song several times. The interviewer took us seriously.

The record pressing plant was in Arnold Missouri. The narration was a little silly, but check out Suzanne’s performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLAJUrLyDbI

Here’s what there was of the Kevin Martin show

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNIFHzbZRb8

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Help Desk Limbo


I spent the morning in AT&T Helpdesk Limbo. No internet can be pretty disconcerting. I’m a Microsoft certified network engineer and it’s strange when you know more than the person trying to help you.

A friendly guy named RJ tried to walk me through several different possibilities before he finally mustered the courage to admit he didn’t know what the problem was.

I kept trying to get him to see if he could communicate with my modem. That would tell us if it was me or a general outage. He finally told me he had no way to do that. I couldn’t believe it. All he could do was ask me what color the lights on my modem were and tell me to restart it.

Valerie pointed out he was probably being paid minimum wage and had a script with a check list. He probably wasn’t certified in anything.

I was a tech at Harrah’s for three years. There was a woman there named Maya that didn’t know the first thing about computers. When she was fired from another department, she threatened them with sex discrimination. Instead of fighting it, they put her in our department. When she was sent on a trouble call, she simply rebooted the computer. This works 85% of the time and everyone thought she was great. It took about a year and a half before everyone caught on and she was fired.

Harrah’s couldn’t say why she was fired and she got a job in the tech department at The Admiral Casino. I think she was there until they closed. Maybe she learned something.

I was a tech at Charter Communications for a year. Anyone who’s read my political blog knows about my hatred of corporations.

When people talk about the evils of big government and its bureaucracy a sense of hopelessness grows in me. Big money is the real Big Brother. Their bureaucracy is governed by profit, period.

We get a jobless recovery, maximized productivity at minimal expense (f#ck employees), and, of course, we mustn’t tax the job providers! My job provider has found a way for me to be a private contractor. I’m every bit their employee and at their beck and call. I have no benefits and I pay all taxes, unemployment insurance (which I’ll never be able to collect), and can’t take a sick day or holiday.

I haven’t posted in my political blog in weeks because it’s giving me an ulcer.

At Charter I provisioned VOIP phone service. I made the modem connections with the person out in the field. I also took calls from people with problems. I was able to resolve almost all of their issues from my desk. I couldn’t believe it when the AT&T tech couldn’t even see my modem from his desk. That would really limit your ability to do anything.

I lasted less than a year at Charter because they had so many issues across the country we were forced to take mandatory overtime. Every month they said it was the last. When it happened the fifth month in a row, it finally sank in that this was permanent. They didn’t want to hire new employees and have to pay the benefits.

That’s another political issue that really gripes me. Health care should not be attached to our employers. I am so disappointed with Obama. I’m convinced he’s a corporate shill.

To give you an idea of how corporations work; when Charter acquired California they deliberately sold the service to many times the customers there was infrastructure for. They knew we’d be swamped with trouble calls because no one could use the service. The number of accounts was way more important to them than actually being able to provide the service. Charter should have been sued. Helpdesk had to take all the heat.

To add insult to injury, they demanded we try to sell them additional services when they called. Imagine what it was like listening to an angry customer with no service, then have to sell them 3-way calling.

I went back to being a courier. At least I’m theoretically my own boss. My heart will always go out to the help desk rep with the funny accent.

Hey, my internet just came back!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flip Book from The Oddity


I just assembled the flip book from The Oddity. Check it out.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Oddity







We finally had our gathering of friends and family for Lora yesterday. We waited for her birthday which was last Wednesday. We gathered at our friends’ Kay and Matt’s and watched a film that Kay and Lora made a long time ago.

I posted a while back about waking up one morning to find Lora stripping from paint soaked clothes. I was turned on by her painted body, but she said, “Don’t touch me, I feel disgusting!” That was after they had been filming all morning.

From Kay and Matt’s we all went to Forest Park where a tree was planted for Lora. It was next to a beautiful little pond surrounded by other trees.

Dominic brought a guitar and sang a song.

Kay gave me a couple of books I made for Lora in 1980 for her birthday. Lora and I had the same sense of humor.

We loved to poke fun at pompous artists, although we would cringe when people wore buttons that said “Back to Mono” or “F&ck Art, Let’s Dance.” My response to that was, “F&ck Dance, Let’s F&ck!” It was the only thing I didn’t like about the Punk movement. It kinda felt like, “Let’s dumb it down a little!”

In response, Lora made a great flip book of photos of her called “Lora’s Peep Show. There was even an animated kiss. I posted some of those in my memorial post.

I’m going to post The Oddity here but I want to point out that it’s supposed to be funny. I used to make animated flip books and there’s one that runs through this. I’m assembling it and will put it on YouTube when it’s finished. I also found a bunch of my old 8mm movies in Steve Martin’s musty old, post flood basement. There’s stuff I did using Lora that I can’t wait to digitize. I’ll be posting that too.

I wrote a song called Conversations for her that’s at the end. I’m not posting that but Wax Theatricks is in the process of recording a CD and the song will finally be released. The band will probably be called V3.

THE ODDITY-An epic poem by Gomer-Translated from the Greek text by David Udell


Fill the hole you dirty beast

Injustice mocks and life has ceased

The carcass seethes in its breathless life

That fills the air with its deathless strife

And yet I live through cruel endeavors

To carve a slice, to go wherever

The nature of the game so clear

I live, I love, I die, I fear

I am and so are you

And so are you too

I’m here to tell you of the glory

The rules and politics of the story

The knowledge in our hearts so clear that often fogs with passing years

Time is our very own back yard

We play and fall and end up scarred

And when it’s time to come inside we often find a place to hide

We’ll hide inside our lonely minds and die alone and

Fill the hole you dirty beast

Of songs I’ve known I’ll often wonder

What the Hell tears me asunder

Could I say it in a verse?

Would you love me in reverse?

Can I see the world through you?

Would you even want me to?

Spills the beverage through my life

The need to bleed, to take the knife

And so our hero drifts ashore

His vessel useless without oars

His throat is parched, his eyes so red

As fevered thoughts burn through his head

Another island lost so far

No phone, no lights, no motorcar

Drifting in his fairytale silence

No people to fear, no fear of violence

He falls asleep exhausted

Aware of all the lives it’s cost to get him this far

Rain will wash away his sleep

He prays to God his soul to keep

It’s cold now and it’s getting dark

He slits his wrist for a lark

God if I’m not crazy now, take me to the sacred cow!

Take me from this comic Hell, splash me across the fiery well

Let me eat, that I may feed the cannibalistic patron’s need

And so from life to art he wanders

His lucid dreams and schemes he squanders

Frivolous though his plans had been they always kept him grinning

So travels thus our heroic friend until his life comes to an end

But suddenly amongst the rocks

A band of gypsies scorn and mock

He thinks them harmless so he stops

Amused because they look like cops

“I flirt with madness,” struck bold his claim

“but I wouldn’t mind a little fame!”

“Travel with us,” said their king.

“But first you must learn to sing.”

So his life took on new meaning although he had to do their cleaning

He became a figure in their small regime

And then he began to dream

He built an empire on their image

Had lawyers always in a scrimmage

Met a woman by a pier

All at once he shed this tear

Undaunted reached the conclusion

Vision is illusion

And so he pissed inside his clothes

“Who but me will ever know?”

1-2-3-for 5 years he dwelled there

without a hint of despair where

from the ground beneath his nose

a majestic volcano rose

propelling him through the air toward God

a bird flew by to nod

the adventures of life have just begun

as he flew toward the sun

I often look up and wonder

Does he look down at my blundering?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Log Book


My kids and I are headed for the woods this weekend, so no time for a real post. I was looking through my jump log book and decided there were a lot of stories on its cover.

The fact that there’s an image of a 4-stack is interesting to me because I’m really a free-faller. I think those jumps must have made an impression on me.

The upside down patch on top is my Quantum Leap Orphan Patch. Quantum Leap was my home DZ for years. As I mentioned earlier, Sullivan wanted us out after the airplane crash. I really miss the place. The kids and I are camping at Meramec State Park at Sullivan this weekend. Come to think of it, my dear friend Lora who died a few weeks ago was living in Sullivan. Dominic, Danny and I visited her there at the end. I have a lot of history in Sullivan.

New owners took the DZ to Bowling Green and tried to make a go of it but it didn’t last.

I have my 4-stack patch sewn onto the cover. As well as my Gold Wings (1000 jumps), my Diamond Wings (2000 jumps), and my Gold and Diamond freefall badges—(12 and 24 hours).

The patch I feel I really earned is that Royal Order of the Crutch patch. That’s the one I got when Kim Tucker sat on my foot when we were doing a tandem. Last but not least is my Stiletto pin. I have a Stiletto 120 parachute. It’s small and fast. I’ve owned a lot of parachutes over the years and it’s by far my favorite!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kim Tucker

Maybe this is too much, too soon about skydiving, but from 1990 to 2003, except for my kids, it was my entire life. I taught it for ten years and even spent a little time as a tandem master. Boy, did I hate that!

I’ve been really lucky that some of my personal heroes have also been personal friends.

I posted earlier about my buddy Kim Tucker. He was the St. Louis Cardinals skydiving Fredbird. He would exit a small Cessna over Busch Stadium holding a giant bird’s head, putting it on after his canopy deployed. He’s been a photographer forever and has probably taken hundreds of pics of me over the years. I uploaded a video he took of a 9 way we did in Sparta, Il around 1991 or 1992. It’s great old school skydiving.

We had 2 groups meeting up in freefall from 2 different Cessna 182s. Nowadays you can carry 14 people and get to 12000 or 15000 feet in less than 10 minutes. More than 20 if you fly a tail gater. You can only squeeze 4 or 5 people into a 182 and it takes 30 minutes to get to 9500 feet. Needless to say, the lower altitude gives you a lot less time to do anything as a group. It was great discipline!

The really spectacular thing about this video to me was the fact that Kim climbed out of the trail plain, hung upside down from the plane’s strut, let go when the jumpers from the lead plane exited, and turned around in freefall. He never once let the formation drift from the center of the frame.

I was crouched in the back of the same plane and exited last. You see me coming in from the right to join last. I’m in a black jumpsuit with a gray rig.

Kim’s been in the sport a long time. Our licenses are issued in numeric order and his D license is in the 600s. I got my D license in 1991 and it’s D-13961. I just got a copy of Parachutist and the most recent one is D-31060.

Speaking of numbers, D-1, Lew Sanborn is good friend I’ll write about one of these days. He got his license D license on 16 March 1959.

D.B. Cooper has been in the news a lot lately. He made his famous night time escape from a hijacked 747. The plane was supposedly going 205mph.

Terminal velocity is 120mph. That’s as fast as your body can travel in freefall. You can make yourself fall as fast as 150mph.

At a World Freefall Convention in Quincy, IL in the late 90s, Kim, my buddy Tom Kuehnle and I jumped a 727 going 205mph to get a sense of what D.B. Cooper experienced.

There was a long set of steps that descended from the back. Only one person at a time could go down. Kim went first. He was wearing a sit suit so he could video in a sitting position, then Tom and I followed. I jumped off in a sitting position and stayed seated during the whole FF.

It was like being slammed into a wall. We never did slow down to terminal velocity. When I opened, I was slammed by my canopy opening so fast. I loved every second!

I was in a 4 way team that was based at a club in Greenville, IL. The club paid for their airplanes by doing a lot of demo jumps. We used to do the VP Fair under the Arch. Kim was an honorary club member for life. One year he circled the north leg of the Arch twice under canopy. He’s the only person who’s ever done that.

The only time I’ve ever been injured jumping was when I was training to be a tandem master. Kim was my passenger in one of my first tandems. As we were coming in for a landing, I told him to slide in on his butt. At the last minute I decided I could stand it up. He sat (as instructed) on my foot. It broke my ankle and earned me a Royal Order of the Crutch patch. I taught my classes that whole summer wearing a cast. I lied and told my students I was in a motorcycle accident.

Tom was my landlord and I’ll never forget hanging that cast out of the bathtub at his apartment.

Kim, Tom, and I were in the POPS (Parachutists Over Phorty) skydiving record together in Sullivan, Mo in 2005. That’s the picture over to the left of my blog. I believe the record still stands. That’s what the group photo was for.

I wish you could see Kim’s shirt better. There’s a photo he took of a tiny Busch Stadium underneath Fredbird’s spindly legs.

We jumped from the same plain that crashed, closing Quantum Leap (our DZ). A few of the casualties were in this group.

We consider ourselves Quantum Leap orphans.

I think it was around 2000 that I finally had to quit teaching at Quantum Leap. We closed the bar that night and I made it as far as Eureka before being pulled over. I’ve told this story before. Kim was my DWI lawyer. Since then, I’ve called him my mouthpiece.

Here’s the clip that Kim took in Sparta of us doing our Old School 9 way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oy5X4mvgiTo

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My First 4 Stack


I’ve been digitizing old videos and came across my first 4 stack jump. When I started jumping I was determined to try everything. CRW (canopy relative work) is when jumpers deploy on exit and start doing things together under canopy.

There’s no free fall.

CRW makes for kinda boring video, but I can’t think of anything scarier your first time. Jumpers don’t want to be anywhere near another open canopy, let alone deliberately making contact.

At the end of the day we’d often party ‘til pretty late. My buddy Louie had an old school bus he’s converted into an RV. He painted it white and had NASA logos all over it. It was a great place to sleep, and was long enough to pack your parachute in.

Louie would do fish tails and figure 8s in the parking lot as I hung on to the end of a rope in my roller blades. You’d be surprised how maneuverable a school bus can be!

Around 4:30am I awoke in the bus to someone kicking me in the leg. I was groggy and hungover. It was still dark, but I could make out my friend Apple’s long silhouette looming over me. I didn’t actually see him drinking out of it, but he had an open, half empty bottle of Captain Morgan in his hand. I assumed he had never made it to bed.

“I just woke up the pilot and he says he’ll meet us on the runway in an hour,” he said.

Our pilot was another buddy of mine who tried to get me to work for him as a private eye. But that’s another story for another time.

That first 4 stack was one of the most satisfying, peaceful experiences of my life.

A year later I was doing another one at Sullivan. It was one of the many times our group had been thrown off the airport and had to find another airport.

By then I was an old pro. When we landed, people actually applauded.

The first thing I noticed was a pretty girl arriving at the airport with my buddy Gary Peek. He’s our USPA regional conference director now and had been for quite a while. The girl was Kim, the mother of my children.

Check out the link of the video Louie took of my first 4 stack. I’m the guy on top. My canopy is white from above and rainbow from below. The guy with long hair and the bandanna around his head is Apple. The other guy is my buddy D. Wright. I believe all three of these guys were part of my skydiving wedding. The white bus at the end of the video is the bus where it all began. Louie wore the video helmet and it’s his voice you hear.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FRNWcPQFSA