Saturday, April 28, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Time really does seem to speed up as you get older. For me, it’s a mad dash to the finish line to finish all my projects. Danny didn’t quite make it, so his material gets added to mine.
To really hammer in the point, my little boy just turned 18. He’s a full grown man now.
It seems like last year I bent over his little red, newborn body and rubbed his wet head. My whole world had just changed.
When I think about how much my friends and I had been through by 18, I’m astounded. We had long since left our families behind, well on the way to making our mark on the world.
Two weeks ago Dylan, his mom and I went to Webster University for his orientation. I feel like I grew up on this campus. I didn’t recognize anything. The old buildings are just a façade, hiding a huge complex.
The recording studio looks amazing. It has “state of the art” everything. I’m trying to convince Dylan that’s it’s just a glorified version of my studio. Everything is computer based now. When I was there, we were deep into multi-track analog recording. For all the technology of the day, the sound was terrible. The kids kept tweaking parameters they had no business playing with.
Dominic told me Go Dog Go recorded their CD in the new studio and it was hell getting a decent sound out of it. I guess some things will never change.
After our visit at Webster, Dylan and I drove to Chicago. Our birthday present to him was a day at the Chicago Art Institute. He’s wanted to go for years after listening to my stories. There are so many iconic pieces there, you really feel like you’re surrounded by history’s great moments.
Danny and I have always had a love hate relationship with Facebook. Some of our closest friends seem to live there, forsaking actual human contact.
In his last days, Danny’s wife Laura was trying to explain his disdain for it to a friend. “I’m sure Danny would have loved it, if he weren’t too sick to use it,” she said. “No, no, he hated Facebook before that,” Laura insisted.
The great thing about FB is the good friends I’ve found that had been lost over the years. Not to mention, I can spread announcements.
When I got the idea to take Dylan to Chicago, I knew I could only do it on the cheap. I’ve been there many times, but most of my friends have moved away. I posted, “Does anyone still live in Chicago?” on FB, not thinking I’d get a response. I ended up getting a few responses. My friend Susie Nicholson posted, “What about Terry?”
Marion and Terry Boyd were a couple that used to be regulars of mine when I tended bar at the Broadway Oyster Bar. We discovered we were kindred spirits sharing our love of the same bands. The Oyster Bar was an incredible place for music in the 80s.
With Facebook, I learned Terry was an old Laclede Townie too.
I hadn’t seen them since the 80s, but I wrote Terry asking if we could stay with them for a weekend.
“Absolutely!” he said.
It turns out Marion and Terry are members of The Art Institute and The Field Museum. We didn’t have to pay to get into either place.
The four of us ran through the museums like kids in a candy store. It was so fun to be with people who share my love of art and science. Dylan loved every minute of it too.
It turns out Terry taught an art class at Webster. Reality seemed to crystallize into the inevitable.
The knowledge we shared about artists and movements went on and on, but the Field Museum was the real surprise. The first thing you see when you walk in is the skeleton of Sue, the world’s largest T Rex. I had read 2 books about her and felt I was in the presence of a movie star. The museum also had the hundred year old, taxidermied remains of two lions that terrified South Africa. They found a cave with their collection of human remains. A whole train was filled with Great White hunters. When they were killed, rugs were made on their skins. By the time they put them back together for display, they were much smaller. I had read all about them with fascination.
We spent one evening watching home movies on YouTube with Marion’s sister and the inevitable Chicago pizza.
We also visited my dad’s old buddy Bob Koester. He’s a Chicago music luminary. Dylan wants to learn everything he can about my dad. He wasn’t disappointed with Bob’s stories. Dylan was also impressed by the fact that Iggy Pop had once lived in Bob’s basement. There was a T-Shirt in Bob’s record store signed by Iggy that said, “The most generous guy I know!” Iggy said Koester was always attacking him in his autobiography I Need More.
We left Marion and Terry from The Field Museum on Sunday afternoon. Marion actually cried.
I’m going back with Valerie. I’m also going back with my daughter Chloe. She loves dinosaurs.
I took the pic of Marion, Terry and Dylan with my phone at The Field Museum.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
I knew something was up when I saw several people hanging around the front door. I asked why they were out there, but I knew the answer. There was no reason to be inside now. My brother, Danny Stefacek, had finally died in the middle of the night.
I walked in and found his wife Laura. She took me upstairs to see Danny who was in her bed. He had been in his own room through most of the ordeal. He had gotten so small, even his smallest daughter could have carried him there.
Danny’s eyes were open. I kissed his cold forehead and told Laura, “neither one of us was very emotional.” We both almost cried.
I had been planning what I was going to post for the last year and a half, but when it finally happened the wind was totally out of my sails. I’m having trouble talking about it now.
There were many Facebook entries about it and for some reason it made me a little angry. I felt like FB should have shut down in his memory. I know everyone loved him and felt compelled to share it. Maybe I just didn’t want to see his death confirmed.
About a month ago Danny had finally gotten fed up with the needles in his arm and pulled them out. It was a turning point. The hospice nurse said his body was already in the process of shutting down and he could only last a few days. Laura came the closest I’ve seen to crying.
Danny’s sister took me up to his room to see him. His face was barely exposed under the blankets. He said something I didn’t understand. I asked, “What?” His sister said, “He said he loved you.” I knew he did, but my mind wouldn’t let me process it.
I wanted to talk about the adventures and trouble we’d gotten into over the years, but I can’t. Every morning I start the day thinking, “Danny isn’t seeing this.”
Danny was incredibly lucky to have found Laura. I can’t begin to describe her sacrifice and devotion. It’s truly humbling.
Our last adventure was the Wax Theatricks Reunion. Tony Patti video taped it, and I’m assembling it right now. Danny had already produced about four songs and I’m picking up the project from there. It’s going well and I hope we have a party for its release.
Our original intention was to use it to promote a prog rock tour in Germany. There seems to be a market for it right now.
I was getting excited about being in a band again. So was Danny. I can’t believe we let all those years slip away.
Danny was the best song writer I’ve ever known. My son has been discovering his lyrics on the Name Magic LP. It was really a Wax Theatricks record, but we were breaking up at the time. Danny even described it as the sister record of the last Wax LP.
Danny left behind a huge body of work including graphics, literature and music.
I was able to get him to lay down piano tracks for unfinished Wax Theatricks songs. I hope we can finish them.
He was in the middle of 2 CDs. Tony got him to lay out the order of the songs and even found the lyrics on Danny’s laptop. I couldn’t believe the luck. Danny had already recorded the music tracks and he had a habit of incorporating the melodies in his piano parts. I thought this would be a cinch!
Danny’s studio is still up and it feels like his specter is in the room. His laptop was on and in the middle of the room.
Someone has stolen his laptop. I can’t tell you what a personal tragedy this is. He labored over his lyrics more than anything else. I found 2 songs printed out and he’d finished his voice work on one of the songs. I’m going to search his other computers, but Laura assures me they were all on the laptop.
I’m going to do my best to finish the recordings and start web sites for his art and prose. He was incredibly gifted and his work should be out there!
When he pulled the needle from his arm he was supposed to only last a couple of days. He lasted two weeks. His blood pressure was 120 over 60. He had the heart of a teenager. He had the heart of a lion!
He donated his body to St. Louis University Hospital. He insisted there be no funeral. Unfortunately the chemotherapy rendered all but his retinas useless for transplant.
Our friend Dan Holt posted his film Doctor Ignarantia on YouTube. It was made in 1982. Danny and I play Ignatz’s friends who freeload and steal his beer and food. We’re also in the dream sequence. My friend Sharon pointed out how great it was to hear Danny laugh. We were 23 or 24. We’re about 8 minutes into the film.
Check it out-------
Everyone’s been thinking about what would be a fitting tribute. I intend to get his work out there which should speak for itself.
I would like to propose “Perform a random act of kindness for Fojammi” in whatever way works for you. Danny would not have approved of anything that caused stress.
Something small and beautiful------ like Danny.
Pics are----Danny's original referee profile pic for the St. Louis Arch Rivals---- Wax Theatricks plays Webster College Halloween '81 or '82---- the back cover of our last LP---- Danny's groomsmen at Graham Chapel-Wasington University. I think this was late '80s. Check out the flare bottom tuxes. Left to right---- Tracy Wynkoop, Dominic Schaeffer, Jimmy Voss, Fojammi, 2 guys I don't know (one of which is Laura's brother), and me---- Fojammi, Joanie Thomas, Stephen Martin and me circa 1985.