All posts by dc2112fan

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

My junior year in high school was full of exciting happenings. The football team won its first state title that year.I had settled in to my school and had built a very solid group of friends. I was a long way removed from the dreary days of junior high. As a guitar player I was getting better by the month. Studying my craft, practicing relentlessly. It was starting to pay off from a playing with other musicians standpoint. It was the spring of 1990 and coming up was the annual talent show. Always good for entertainment. There were usually a variety of acts. Most of the school would be there. And why not?? Admission was a buck. Who wouldn’t pay a dollar to get out of class for a couple of hours.

Some guys I had been playing with and I decided we would enter. Eric was our drummer. Even in high school he was a talent. He would continue to get better. Chris was our bass player. He hadn’t been playing long, but was rapidly getting better. One of the best I ever played with. On rhythm guitar was Scott, one of my two best friends in high school and beyond. He and I had met the previous year, and though he was a year older he spent most of his time hanging around our class. Scott had been playing about the same amount of time that I had, but we had vastly different technique and influences. I guess the differences created a nice polarity, because we played any chance we could. The only thing we were missing was a lead singer. Oh sure, Scott could sing some. Eric could sing some as well. I hadn’t yet discovered my voice. But that wasn’t going to cut it. We needed a singer. In came a guy named James. He was a bass player, but could also carry a tune. At least he could carry the tune we chose. “Talk Dirty to Me”. Ah yes…the inspiration that led me to that point. I was about to play the song that drove me to pick up the instrument and it was going to be the first thing I ever played for an audience.

I could say that we all went on stage and played the song and some people cheered and some didn’t and leave it at that, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story. Not by a long shot. The week before the show Chris, who was in the band, the marching band, realized that he was going to be gone to Missouri for a band contest during the show. So guess what? No Chris for the talent show. Well fabulous. There goes our bass player.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Those words will forever ring true in this instance. We were indeed, desperate. How desperate? We concocted a plan that in the 25 years that have passed I still don’t know what we were thinking. I don’t even remember how it originally started. Earlier in that semester Scott and I had lost our Music Appreciation class because the teacher ran into some trouble and lost his job. We were instructed to find a new 4th hour one morning with no explanation as to why. We both ended up in Government. A nice class but hardly interchangeable. However, in that class which was taught by what would become the next year one of my favorite teachers of all time Mr. Wade, we met a guy named Danny. Danny was a state champion wrestler, extremely popular in the school and quite the character. What better way to get more of the crowd behind us than to get one of the most popular guys in the school to play bass for us. Only one problem, he had no musical ability at all, much less played an instrument. Desperate times, desperate measures. Scott and I thought, well hell there’s only 5 chords in the whole song and on bass he only has to play one string at a time. Certainly we can teach Danny how to play this song.

So Danny enlisted in the Scott and Dayne Bass Boot Camp. Four days training and you’ll be ready for the stage! Keep in mind neither of us played bass either. Semantics. So we taught him. Where to put his fingers, when to move them and how to keep a steady rhythm. Truth be told, it’s not exactly a difficult piece on any instrument. It really was the perfect song for a non musician to learn in less than a week. By the night before we had it down pretty well. Just to be sure when the time came to take the stage we enlisted our insurance policy. Scott standing next to Danny to guide him and tape on the neck of the bass to help him locate where to put his fingers. The day before the show Danny told Mr. Wade, “I’m playing bass in the talent show!” To which Mr. Wade responded, “I’ll pay a dollar to see that!” See the dollar excitement wasn’t just limited to the students.

We were chosen to open the show. As were standing there waiting for the curtain to rise, Scott from the other side of the drum riser looks at me and asked, “Are you nervous?” And it hit me, I was about to play live for the first time in front of around 800 people. I hadn’t had time to get nervous, because of all the preparation we had to do that day. But then it hit me. And two seconds later the curtain went up. The crowd looked right at me and James said those words, “Hit it DC!” So I did. In four minutes it was over. I remember the spotlight shining on me during my solo, and I remember it not being a very good mix. The drums totally drowned my guitar. Afterwards I asked Scott if he got to look at the crowd at all. He said, “Ya…when I wasn’t helping Danny, I turned and smiled.”

What I didn’t know at the time was my mom, aunt and new baby cousin was in the audience. When I learned that I discovered something. I was a little embarrassed at the song we chose considering my family was in the audience. I’ve since learned that I might would’ve made a terrible rock star. I could never have been ok with doing or playing anything that would’ve embarrassed my family. Most of the music I was into back then could be considering embarrassing to me from a performance perspective.

What a way to begin what turned into a very short stage career. I never played another show with James or Eric again. And despite all the playing Scott and I would do over the next few years until his untimely passing in 1994, we wouldn’t occupy a stage together again until college. There was at one time video evidence of that performance, My aunt shot it. I used to have it, but it’s disappeared through the years. It wasn’t the greatest. As I said, you could barely hear me in the audience, but I knew what we achieved. We had taught a non musical wrestler a major hit from that time and proved that indeed “the show must go on”.

Cats and Dogs

I’ve spent the first few posts essentially explaining why I’m trying this. For the last several years I’ve found very little creative outlet that soothes my nature. In the last few days, however I’ve found it rather easy to put words down and pass ideas on. Progress! I thought maybe with this post I might try an actual subject that I find interesting to observe in our house. That would be the cat and dog dynamic, or as we refer to it, “The Zoo”.

Currently we have two dogs and two cats. There was a third cat which sadly, we lost last year far earlier than we ever expected. It’s a blended family, just like the humans in the house. I brought two of the cats. My wife brought her cat and dog and we acquired the second dog. To be more accurate, he found us. My wife still refers to him as “homeless”, but she wouldn’t trade him for anything, except maybe chocolate covered strawberries. But that’s a post for another time!

My wife brought into the family her miniature schnauzer. I will say it right now…I have never been a fan of any dog that had more hair on its face than its body. Schnauzers were always at the top of that list. But having one in the family has certainly softened that point of view. Princess Dog, as we refer to her, was diagnosed last year with diabetes. Add to that she has cataracts, most likely a result of the diabetes so she is essentially blind. We inject her twice daily with insulin, just like a human would do. While it’s not necessarily funny it’s hard not to chortle when she goes bumping into things. I call her our furry pinball. She just bounces off and rolls on.

Zeus Dog found us as a puppy when he wandered into our garage 4 years ago. We’re still not entirely sure what he is, but a mix for sure. We were sitting at breakfast when we heard this crying coming from the garage. My stepdaughter goes to the door and screams, “It’s a puppy!” He was about 10-12 weeks old and he’s been a fantastic dog. Although he clearly is the neediest and most jealous animal I’ve ever been around. He will frequently sit, yes it, on Princess Dog if we show her any attention. And he has just the butt to do it!

Iris Cat is one I brought in. I adopted her from the Humane Society along with the late Rosie. She is a Russian Blue mix. Maybe it’s the Russian heritage but she clearly she feels she’s royalty and should be treated as such. I’ve spent the last 3 years trying to convince her she’s nothing special, but I’ve failed miserably. What she lacks in cuddliness she makes up for in snobbery. But it comes from the heart. If you need to go to the bathroom she’ll be there to sniff.

Then there’s Shyanne Cat. My wife’s cat…..for I don’t know, something like half a century. In other words, long before I was around. Shyanne is hard to define. She really must be experienced….but at a paw’s distance. A Rumpy Manx, she’s a no nonsense cat, full of cattitude and extremely sensitive to anyone she doesn’t trust. Which is everyone except my wife. Shyanne and I got off to a surprisingly good start when we first met. I had been forewarned that she doesn’t take kindly to strangers. Things were cozy until I got my face a little too close while she was in my lap. Let’s say I can still see, but only because her aim has faded in her advanced years. Let the war begin! Having not really been around cats much in my life it’s probably fair to say I MAY have overreacted….for nearly 2 years. But they say time heals all wounds. I call it more attrition. I simply got bored and tired of hating her. So we, for all intents and purposes, signed a cease fire and since we’ve bonded quite well I think. Oh don’t think I’m going to pick her up and carry over my shoulder anytime soon, but she certainly took good care of me during my surgery recovery last month. Well that is if you considering lying on me so I can’t move easily taking care. But as the wife says, “She means well.” Mmmhmm.

It’s quite the sociological study to watch the dynamics of “The Zoo” unfold. For starters, if the dogs are outside and it’s just the cats inside, Iris acts like the dominant cat. Oh don’t think Shyanne won’t occasionally stand up to her, but more often than not she’ll tuck rump and run off griping the whole time. If it could be translated I’m pretty sure it would just get bleeped out. So then open the back door and enter the dogs, or rather the “Canine Tsunami”. Zeus Dog will go nowhere near Shyanne Cat, even so far as to run completely around the house to avoid having to cross her path. Now the important info here is Zeus outweighs Shyanne by about 45 pounds. In other words he could simply put his paw on her, or as he does to Princess just sit on her, but no. He’s our big baby. It is entertaining to watch Shyanne feverishly slap her front paws at him if he does blindly wander in the no fly zone. Even more entertaining when you know Shyanne has no front claws and can’t do any damage at all. But as long as she has the con in on Zeus, we’ll have our cheap entertainment. Who needs cable tv?

Princess, the blind, diabetic furry pinball isn’t fazed by Shyanne’s self perceived dominance. She bumps into anything in her way and doesn’t care what it might be. She’s like that old person that just says “Screw it! I’m old and IDGAF” I’ll leave you to google that last acronym if you don’t know it. I’m writing a family blog here. Iris goes from being the faux dominant to getting out of the way. Usually that means the kitchen counter or bar. Bring on the perch.

Good times are had by all except maybe Shyanne. I’m not sure if she really ever has a good time. She’d probably hiss at me for that remark.

-RIP Rosie

The dynamic will never be the same without you….

Still Grooving…

So as I read back through my first two posts a few things standout. The most notable is that this isn’t really much of a blog. It’s turned into more of an autobiography of sorts. Not a bad thing mind you, but not necessarily interesting reading unless you actually know me. However the purpose of this was to “foster the groove”, and I’m still putting words to screen. So from that perspective, it’s been a success so far. I’ve actually spent time the past few days counting down the time until I can sit down and write. Another good thing.

What I initially sought to explain was how I arrived at my creative stagnation. I’m sure I would’ve gotten there, but I was taking a very linear approach. It’s a story that is many years in the making. Once again, not really good blog material. I’m encouraged that as I read through my first two posts that even though they were long, I could’ve made them longer. In other words, I still have a lot to say. The best part…I’ve enjoyed writing again.
So where this goes I’m not sure, but hopefully I’ll keep moving and creating. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One post at a time. One sentence at a time. Once word at a time.

And So It Began…

So there I sat, inspired but with no idea how to recreate what I’d just heard and would hear again many times over. I told my mom I wanted to play the guitar. She bought me a guitar/amp combo. I think she paid $99 for it. It was a Harmony guitar painted in an orange sunburst. I remember opening the box, pulling it out, plugging it in to the little peanut butter sandwich size amp it came with. I let go a powerful strum and it sounded well, terrible!! Not at all the way C.C. Deville’s sounded on the Poison record, or Eddie Van Halen’s on 5150, or well anyone album I was spinning at the time. See there’s this little thing called distortion, but I didn’t know anything about that at the time. For that matter, I didn’t know anything about tuning it, either. I didn’t even realize on an electric the strings even moved! Of course, I never even thought of the mechanics of how a guitar actually makes sound. I just knew it didn’t sound anything like what I heard.

It wasn’t long before I started taking lessons. Mike was my instructor, and he was an incredible teacher. So, once a week, for 30 minutes at a time I had my brain filled with the concepts of how to play. It was up to me then to go home and put in the practice. Which I did not do much of the first couple of months. Why? My guitar sounded nothing like what I heard on the stereo. Even though Mike had worked up “Talk Dirty to Me” for me and in a short period of time I was able to play it, it still sounded nothing like the record. I didn’t know why.

Chris told me, “Dude, you need a distortion box.”

“A what?”

I had no idea what that was. So for Christmas that year I asked for only one thing….a distortion box. Mom and Granny gave me the same look I gave Chris and said the same thing….

“A what?”

One evening before my lesson while I was hanging around the music store I asked one of the people that worked that worked there how much a distortion box was. The answer, between $30-$100. Reasonable, I guess. Not long after I walked into a music store in Norman with Granny and Mom and I found a distortion box. $30. Keep in mind I still had no idea how to use it, but I had one and inspired I was again.

I got it home and plugged it in. Hit the pedal and Voila!! Now I knew what I had been missing! “Talk Dirty to Me” finally sounded close to what was on the stereo, and I was on my way. From that point forward I had this voracious appetite to play. I couldn’t get enough. And as with most things the more I did it, the better I got. Which only made me want to play even more.

It was the same for learning. I gobbled up everything Mike could throw at me. Songs, technique, theory, all of it. And so it began…

How Did We Get Here????

Foster the Groove….

That’s a title I came up with in 2010 when I last attempted a shot at a creative outlet. I liked the sound of it then, and I still do. It was supposed to represent the simple, sometimes not so simple, act of moving forward. Or rather, moving period. The goal at the time wasn’t necessarily to create something brilliant, just to not stop. I found that to be harder than I first imagined, because when within a few weeks I had done just that….stopped. Bye bye creative outlet. Hello feelings of stagnation.

How did this reporter get here? Certainly not a short journey. As a Pisces child, I lived in a world of fantasy and play. Whether it was imaginary friends, when my real friends weren’t around, pretending to be a doctor, fireman, policeman (California Highway Patrolman or “Chip” to be exact) or an athlete in a variety of sports, I was always the most alive when my mind was creating some new world or role to live in. And live I did.

But time doesn’t stand still. I grew out of those imaginary worlds and creative outlets, and they were soon replaced with something we now refer to as Hair Bands. Although back then we just called it Heavy Metal. I thank my older cousin Chris for that introduction. He moved back from Italy when I was 13. Being an only child and my younger cousins not really being of “useful” age, or in Brittany’s case even around, having Chris to hang out with was certainly an impression. I ate it up. The hair, the clothes, the posters on the wall and what would certainly change my life, the music.

Having grown up around music in school thanks to the wonderful Mrs. Callahan at Ridgecrest, I loved that time everyday at school to go to her class and sing. As we got older we were introduced to instruments, the xylophone being my favorite at the time. To be able to create melody out of nothing using some simple theory rules and a rudimentary ability to read music was for me, awe inspiring. I would run to the xylophone when it was my turn. The favorite tune of the day….Linstead Market, an old Jamaican folk song. Talk about a melody that moved me. Loved to sing it, loved to play it.

But returning to Chris’s influence. We would spend most of our summer days hanging out at the pool, walking through the mall, playing at the arcade or simply cruising around in his convertible MGB. Mountain Dew and loud metal music!! At the time I had a little Casio keyboard that my mom had bought me for Christmas I think. I had started to have this desire to make my own music. Unfortunately the keyboard wasn’t leading me anywhere.

And then it happened….this guitar riff I’d never heard before…it sent chills through me and I thought to myself, “That’s what I want to do!” The song was “Talk Dirty to Me” by Poison. Ya, I know not exactly a guitar classic. But, you see, it didn’t need to be a classic. All it needed to do was inspire, and that it did. In that moment, I found my next creative outlet. One that would consume my life for most of the next 25 years.