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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


For about ten years, I made my living video taping depositions for attorneys. I was lucky enough to be involved in some of the most interesting cases in the Midwest. One of which was the Times Beach/Russell Bliss fiasco.

As a consequence, I taped everything in my spare time. My camera was there for the birth of both of my kids. I remember proudly showing the birth of my daughter to all my friends. My wife said, “I better not be in those shots!” “Of course not,” I replied. I had such tunnel vision about my daughter, I hadn’t noticed that every bit of Kim was in the shot.

I was so bad that, when the doctor handed me scissors to cut her umbilical cord, I did it through the view finder.

The birth of my son was my single biggest life changing event. There’s nothing like being responsible for the survival and development of a human being to give you perspective.

He made me proud even before he was born. They took an ultrasound to see how he was doing in the womb. He was kicking back with his legs crossed when he flashed the most spectacular peace sign. Luckily, they let me put a video tape in, and I got it.

By the time Kim was pregnant with Chloe, the insurance companies wouldn’t let us get it on video tape. Apparently if anything went wrong, you might see it on tape and use it in a law suit. All we got was a photo.

Dylan was born at Barnes Hospital. When Kim went into labor, it was extremely painful and took forever. It turned out Dylan was lodged sideways in the birth canal and he wasn’t coming out.

I almost fainted when I saw the extremely long epidural needle sticking out of Kim’s spine.

The doctor’s called in a specialist. They all gathered in the corner of the room, and I overheard one of them say, “It’s going to have to be one or the other.”

I thought they meant only Kim or the baby would survive, but not both. What they really meant was they’d have to use forceps or a suction machine.

They wheeled a huge suction machine in, but they couldn’t get it to work. A frustrated young intern kicked it, and it started. I couldn’t believe I was in one of the world’s great hospitals.

Dylan finally came out, and I told Kim that, except for six toes on one foot, he was perfect. She began to cry. “I’m just kidding,” I said. “Don’t mess with my head!” she said.

The whole thing seems like a dream. I remember they threw the afterbirth in a bowl and it sat there for hours.

I wrote a guitar piece called Baby’s Baby to celebrate the event. I’ll post it one of these days.

I think I’ve posted all this before, but I can’t find it. I’m bringing it all up now because I just got the hardware to digitize my tapes. I’ll probably be posting a lot of links to YouTube.

Here’s the link to the YouTube video-----

Pics are: Chloe's birthday and Dylan in the womb flashing his Peace sign.

Heartbreak Hotel St. Pat's 1981

Last week I uploaded a jerky old clip I found of Wax Theatricks at Heartbreak onto YouTube . It was St. Pat's around 81 or 82. Dominic put a link to it on the Earwacks/Wax Theaticks FaceBook page. Just in case you don't do FB here it is.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vacationing With Tracy

In the late 70s my bass player, Tracy, and I lived in an apartment on Sidney. It was a 4-family flat my buddy George’s sister owned. Valerie and I drove by a few weeks ago to get photos for Tracy to use for the big Wax Theatricks Reunion show. We all lived there. George was in one unit, Tracy eventually moved downstairs and Dominic moved in. Danny and I moved in together in one of the units with our girlfriends.

Danny planted a large rose bush out front for his girlfriend, Josie. It was there for years. The place got really run down over the years and no matter how derelict the building became, those roses came out every year. Now there is some kind of large fern thing growing there.

I became a vegetarian back then.

I had a lot of fun living with Tracy. I remember he tried to teach his cat, Funkapuss, how to use the toilet. He set up a tray with litter over the bowl and she was supposed to think it was her cat box. I seem to remember she pooped on the rim and that made the whole thing pointless.

One day we decided we would only communicate to each other by singing. We made it about an hour that morning before the whole thing got totally obnoxious.

Somehow we all worked, rehearsed, performed and still had time for other things. I was making films with my girlfriend Lora.

One really cold January, Tracy and I decided we needed a vacation. We figured Chicago would be really cheap in the winter.

I think it might have been my first trip in a commercial jet. It was a small DC 9. I remember going up, having coffee, and coming right back down into Chicago. It was the only time I’ve ever been at Midway Airport. What a dump! It looked just like the Greyhound station in St. Louis.

We caught the El into downtown. It was the middle of winter and we had no idea where we were going to stay.

We found a place called the Cedar Hotel. It was $15.00 a night which was cheap even then.

You had to step over people in the hall to get into your room. I’m not sure, but I think I got my case of crabs there.

Tracy and I put six packs out on the window ledge to keep them cold.

We went up in the John Hancock building and spotted our room with binoculars from the observation deck by the beer on the ledge.

Bob Koester was a big deal blues record producer in Chicago. He had a record business in St. Louis called Delmar Records. He took it to Chicago and called it Delmark Records. He was also one of my dad’s best friends.

We looked him up and he really took care of us. We got into some really great dives on the south side. I remember they were like swamps, but the music was incredible. All doors were open to Bob. A few years later, Tracy got a copy of I Need More, an autobiography by Iggy Pop. He mentioned living with Koester. Leroy Pierson knows him, too.

Bob showed us movies in his personal theater and played audio tapes of crazy drunken comedy sessions with my dad when they were teenagers. We used to make the same kind of tapes.

That reminds me, one of those tapes was used for lyrics in a song called Monster Music we played at out Wax Theatricks Reunion show. It was one on my brother’s ad libs-----

“Mommy, what are we having for supper tonight?” – “We’re not having any supper tonight.” – “Why?” – “Because I killed your father!”

Tracy back in the day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Self Promotion

I'm posting a link to the band's FaceBook page in case you don't know about it. As soon as we figure out the right place to do it, we'll be selling a program/record package, the 2 singles and 3 LPs on vinyl and the 1980 KWMU Live on Pipeline CD. (The 3rd LP was the Fojammi "Name Magic" LP- They were Wax Theatricks songs Fojammi wrote that were performed by us. Dom and I sang them live.)

Photo by Cathy Koch

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stage Fright

I’ve always had a problem with stage fright. I remember a 6th grade audition that was so terrifying I excused myself right in the middle, telling the class I had to run because I was late for my band class.

That same year, my voice changed just before the Christmas performance of the school choir. I was so afraid, I lip synced the whole thing. My dad told me he could make my voice out in the crowd and that I was excellent. That’s when I learned you could lie out of compassion.

The school must have thought I was a budding young Ted Bundy because they assigned a psychologist to bring me out of my shell. I was actually quite popular then, but I guess my attempt to navigate through school unnoticed convinced them I was a loner.

If I wasn’t going to grow up to be a Beatle, I was going to be a scientist. I had a lab in the basement that consisted of a chemistry set my mother got me one Christmas and random animal bones I had found on the railroad tracks. I put them back together into grotesque, previously unknown species. They must have been pretty dry because my dog Sinbad showed no interest in them.

This is the same basement where I learned to let go of material possessions. It flooded once, turning my priceless comic book collection into a beautiful, psychedelic pile of pulp. Sometimes you just have to move on.

My friend Jeff taught me how to make gun powder, so the only thing I ever produced in my lab was a lot of home-made fireworks.

The psychologist found out about my skeletons and made me tour a few of the nearby schools giving lectures. I embedded pieces of bone in clay so it looked like I found them in the field during my work as a paleontologist.

If they were worried I was crawling into a shell, being heckled by a bunch of 6th graders certainly didn’t help.

Years later, when I got in a band, the specter of stage fright reared its ugly head. Every night before we went on, the anticipation of the show almost killed me. I got physically ill. I knew I had to overcome it because show business was in my blood.

I convinced myself the cure was having the perfect show. No flaws! That’s not easy when you’re just learning to write songs. They’re not going to be perfect at first. We practiced our butts off. Even when we were finally gigging regularly we’d practice two weeks for every one show performed.

I was always fighting my personal battle with stage fright. I would deliberately plunge into frightening public displays.

My buddy Dominic wrote an instrumental called Sports Car. I didn’t need to play in it so the band dressed me up in a car costume. During the song I jumped into the crowd and drove through the dancers. It was ridiculous but therapeutic.

The band just finished a big reunion show that really went well. We rehearsed a lot.

A couple of days before the show, we set up at the club where we would perform. During a rehearsal of the second song we were going to perform, I started getting the shakes. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get through the song. There were a couple of strangers sitting out in the audience, but I wasn't conscious of any kind of fear. Here I was going through the symptoms again. I couldn't figure it out.

It only happened during this one song. The song was This City, and, to be honest, it is a little hard for me to play.

I stepped away from the piano, went back to my guitar, and all was well for the rest of the set.

The night of the big show, when that song came up, it happened again. I was afraid I wouldn’t get through the song but I did.

The rest of the show was no problem. I felt incredibly comfortable with our audience. They were all dear friends.

I broke a string, forcing us to stop, I started a solo in the wrong key and even began to play one song with my guitar in the wrong tuning. These are all things that would have destroyed me in the old days.

On this occasion, I played on and no one even noticed. I really think I have finally conquered my demons.

Photo by Donna Weber-Havey from her phone.