Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bob and Ollie

I'm not posting a new story this week.
I've removed some of my story about Ollie Matheus because it's causing a great deal of pain for someone in my comments section. Ollie was a truly unique person but had flaws. The bigger the personality, the bigger the flaws sometimes. Ollie told me some of the things I posted, but so have others.
I can't really see what's so offensive about my Burkhardt post. I love him too. I love both of them!
I agree that people find these posts because they're Googling Bob and Ollie, not because they're trying to find some nobody named doggie, David Udell.
I'm not quite sure where the person responding got the idea I was calling Ollie yellow. I put him out of an airplane when he was 60 and he was in poor condition. He wanted to try everything.
If you want to set me straight on everything, my email is
I will be happy to print a retraction.
As for the Soulard code, you have to be kidding!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why I Love Nurses

I learned the hard way that the most important part of healing is human contact.

When I was in my early twenties, I needed a root canal.

I’m sure I didn’t have insurance, but in those days a person could actually afford to pay a doctor.

I was living in the city, but for some reason my dentist was in Kirkwood. My girlfriend Lora had to go with me because drugs would be necessary and I wouldn’t be able to drive.

I should have known something would go wrong; my doctor’s name was Hugh R. Dunn (no kidding).

The procedure to remove the nerve in my bad tooth went well and Lora drove me home.

A week later we went back for the follow up. Dr. Dunn took a long needle he called a probe and poked it into the hole in my tooth.

The whole world spun into a violent torrent of super heated gasses. As my mind raged I could just make out a woman’s face.

Her arms caressed my head. She held smelling salts to my nose, put a cold compress on my forehead and whispered, “Don’t go under.” Her beauty was the only thing I could hang onto. I think I fell in love with her.

As it turned out, I’m an anatomical freak. I have two sets of nerves in my teeth. The doc’s needle hit an exposed one.

The nurse, using every means at her disposal, kept me from going under. She really cared and it meant everything to me. I realized that was the job description. It gave me a great respect for the profession. I would go so far to say that nurses and the human contact they provide are more important than doctors when it comes to healing.

Pic of me helping Lora convalesce.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


When my life passes from one chapter to the next there’s always a spectacular event that makes it official.

In spite of the fact that I haven’t jumped in three years I still consider myself a skydiver. For ten years it was my entire life. I was a skydiver even more than I was a musician or artist.

The woman I decided to have a family with was a skydiver. My son has 37 jumps in the womb. At the time that was more than was required for an A license. I’m convinced he was conceived at the World Freefall Convention in Quincy, IL in 1993.

The next chapter in my life would be father.

I was an instructor and made most of my income that way. My wife wasn’t happy being a weekend widow. Somehow having kids ended her desire be jump completely. She made it clear that she wanted me home. This was really the beginning of the stress between us.

I wanted my family with me at the drop zone and she thought that was inappropriate.

To be honest, our relationship was never really fair to her. I was in my mid thirties and she was in her early twenties. I had already become who I was and she was still figuring it out.

I knew that, of course. Before we got married I warned her I would never have money, I’d always be obsessed with music, and I would always jump. She assured me she understood.

After two years of marriage we had an argument and she actually complained about all three things. I reminded her about my warning. She said, “I thought you would outgrow all of that.”

I put music on the back burner for a while and it became clear that the airport was putting too much of a strain on our relationship.

One weekend I announced my retirement to my friends at Quantum Leap Skydiving in Sullivan, MO. It was the end of a large part of my life. We partied at the Blue Sky bar until closing.

As I drove my Suzuki Samurai through Eureka I was stopped by a cop. The cop said he had been following me for several exits trying to read my license plate. I had gone 4 wheeling through creeks and river beds that afternoon. (Man I loved that car.) The plates were spattered with mud.

As it happened, it was prom night and the cops were out looking for drunken teens. Although he had no problem with my driving, my car must have smelled like a brewery. He told me to get out of the car.

All of a sudden there were cops everywhere. They went through my car like they thought they’d find the mother load of all drug smuggling operations. I found out highway 44 is the main corridor for illegal drugs in the U.S..

I was terrified they were going to open my reserve parachute and I’d have to pay for a repack. That turned out to be the least of my problems.

They took me to the station and gave me a breathalyzer test. They held me in a cell until my wife came for me.

She called my mom to come watch the kids while she was gone. My mom said Kim’s reaction to the whole thing concerned her. Kim had her arms around the kids as she sobbed, “What are we going to do?” As if I was a fallen man and I was going to drag my whole family down into my personal Hell.

One of my very dear friends at the time was Kim Tucker. Not only was he a great skydiver and photographer, he was an attorney. Kim was the skydiving Fred Bird who always wowed the crowd at the stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals.

We were doing a skydiving demo at the Arch for the VP Fair and Kim flew around the north leg of it twice. He’s the only person who ever has.

Anyway, Kim represented me. When I went before the judge he raised his eyes without lifting his head and said, “The arresting officer says you were clean and polite.” I asked, “Is that going to help?” “No!” he said.

It cost $5,000.00, I wasn’t allowed to drive at all for a month and could only drive to work for two months after that. I also had to attend SATOP meetings for a while.

Our teacher was some other poor boob who got caught. He did give us some good tips though.

If you see a sign on the road that says checkpoint ahead, don’t get off. That’s where they’re waiting.

If you get a DWI, don’t let a friend represent you. It’s much cheaper to go to TLC and it doesn’t make a difference otherwise.

Blowing positive on that breathalyzer actually came in handy for me. I was stopped for speeding in Florissant a couple of years later and the cop said, “I’m going to give you a $10.00 ticket for driving without a seatbelt because I see you have a “Chemical” on your record. I was wearing a seatbelt.

Kim’s DWI would happen at the end of our marriage.

This pic of Kim and me getting on Mike Mullins' King Air was taken by Kim Tucker. Our skydiving wedding was out of this plane. Mullins is a character too. I'll get to him soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Day I Let Go of God

When I was a kid my thoughts were haunted by the presence of God. I tried my best to suppress my lurid thoughts but I would slip. I was convinced I was destined for Hell.

These thoughts were shared by a conviction that I would grow up to become a super hero. In the 4th grade I got a new pair of tennis shoes I was convinced gave me the power to run as fast as The Flash.

Beatle Bob has been posting a lot about The Flash lately. I have a feeling he had the same childhood I did. Sometimes I think it’s a little hard for him to let go of. Why should he?

I’m not sure why God had such a grip on my childhood. My dad was atheist and my mom was, at best, agnostic. Once a year my grandma took my brother and me to Sunday school for Easter. I never realized what an active member of her Lutheran church she was until she died.

The stories they told us seemed like they came right out of comic books.

Every now and then I get a look at what this kind of thinking can lead to if you take it into adulthood and it ain’t pretty.

Last week was filled with Catholic funeral masses. They were tedious. I got the feeling the idea was you had to suffer to truly mourn. One was for my friend Sue, who strangely was an atheist. I know she would have preferred a party in her honor.

My friend Dominic grew up a good Irish Catholic altar boy. When we were teenagers he told me he wanted the ultimate Irish wake when he died. He wanted a taxidermist to prepare his body so that he would be standing with his hand extended to greet all who came to his party.

Something about that reminds me of Finnegan’s Wake. (Those Irish!)

As a child I was obsessed with death, and now that I’m aging it’s all coming back. What do we leave behind when even our friends who have memories of us die? Life goes on until it doesn’t anymore.

Right around 6th grade I realized I wouldn’t become a super hero. I think my sense of reason must have been developing. I began to think the idea of God judging my thoughts was becoming a real drag. God was becoming an annoyance! One day I snapped.

I was with my friend Geo Ramsey and for some reason I was really mad at him. My anger welled until I could no longer contain it. “F*&K YOU Geo Ramsey,” I yelled.

All of a sudden a lifetime of repression disappeared. I felt light as air and free. I couldn’t believe how good reason felt. I would learn that a profound sense of loneliness would come with that feeling.

What is what you make is!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Perfect Day for Nothing in Particular

After spending the week burying friends and family, and the day scanning and uploading old photos of the band for a project we’re working on, I’m tired of focusing on the past! I don’t feel like coming up for a subject for today’s blog.

Valerie, the kids and I sat through a painfully tedious funeral mass yesterday. When it was over the priest said, “This ends our celebration.” I could only think, “These Catholics really know how to party!”

I just got back from rollerblading around Lafayette Park. It’s a beautiful spring morning and it fills me with hope. It’s time for new things from old people.

Dominic and I have been working hard turning a live 1981 KWMU broadcast of the band into a CD. The audio has deteriorated over the years, but the performance is there. Danny wasn’t in the band yet, but you can hear him in the audience. You can also hear our friend Sue who passed away recently. Jim Wallace was in the studio. He went on to do bigger and better things for NPR.

Valerie and I will be picnicking in the park later. We do that every chance we get. She’s recently been experimenting on the kids and me with exotic new recipes.

I had a big scare this morning. I smelled smoke and thought the house was on fire. Smoke billowed across my office window at the front of our apartment. I ran out back to find our neighbor smoking some kind of meat.

Rehearsals for our show in June have been going well. It’s convinced me it’s time to get a regular band together. I have so much new material I’ll never get it all recorded by myself. I’ve been advised to have 3 new songs available by then so I can use the show for advertising. It’s good to have goals.

While I’m busy writing about nothing in particular, I have to mention all of my favorite bands have just come out with new albums. Radiohead, Elbow, Sufjan Stevens, Cake, The Decemberists, and not too long ago, Doves. It’s pretty amazing considering you can’t make money on recorded music anymore.

Valerie, the kids and I went to The Decemberists at The Pageant last Wednesday. It was a great show, but you could tell they were exhausted after their long tour. Unfortunately it’s the only way you can make a living at music these days.

Everyone I know is excited about Neil Innes playing at Off Broadway next month. It’s hard to believe one of my idols is playing a small bar that’s within walking distance of my house. Innes is responsible for The Bonzo Dog Band, The Rutles, and much of the music of Monty Python.

My son is building up his Neil Innes collection. He’s really into vinyl right now, which is good because some of the albums are so obscure, they will never be released digitally.

A Perfect Day for Nothing in Particular is a song I wrote for Earwacks in the 70s.