Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Ghosts of Dallas, 1pm

Nearly half a century has passed since the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Perhaps, the greatest story never told. The details of that day in Dealey Plaza are tucked away in official records, sealed until such a time that every person involved will have passed on. So much for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

JFK’s death, while a tragedy in and of itself, has triggered a chain reaction that as a people, we will never recover from. We the people, have not trusted the government ever since.

I say that as a spectator, as I was thrust upon this sunlit marble some six years after the fact. But, I don’t see another event occurring on American soil prior to this that was so polarizing in an “Us vs. Them” sort of way. There was the Civil War, but that was more “Us vs. The Other Us,” this was different. This event gave rise to unreal levels of suspicion. Suspicion so strong that we doubted our leaders…that we chose! Suspicion so strong that has us doubting the very thing we hold dearest…the truth.

Doubt has created cottage industries. Don’t believe me? Moon landings staged in a Texas Air Force Base, top secret alien runways in the New Mexico desert, Bigfoot… there are countless conspiracy theories generated by this inherent doubt and lack of trust. Take 9/11…as a nation we got punched in the gut, and then had lingering doubts as to who really did it, and why. Why is it that when someone famous dies, we fail to believe it? We’ve got Elvis, Hitler, Kurt Cobain, and Jim Morrison working in the sporting goods department of Wal-Mart.

Doubt as a form of entertainment. We’ve skewed perception so badly that we now, as a people, are force-fed “Reality TV”, a concept so unbelievably wrought with doubt and deception. Often a show is based on the premise of someone doubting, or causing doubt, lying, cheating, or stealing to move on to the next round, Bill. All the while wired for sound, in perfect lighting, and caught on super-deluxe hi-def equipment, with the right amount of “life-like” drama, prodded-on by directors and producers. Barely “TV,” and certainly not “Reality.” The good news is that the “reality TV stars” will be back next week to dance with the retired relief pitcher. Where the fuck is the Brady Bunch when we need ‘em? At least we knew up-front they were putting us on. And, Mike Brady always made sure we knew the truth before the end credits.

Doubt has created health issues…anxiety, gastritis, addiction… Doubt has made us cynical as fuck. Ever try to give something away? I’m always met with “What’s the catch?” or “I’m not interested.” It’s because we simply doubt the sincerity of the giver or their motives. Just as you can’t un-ring a bell, we’ll never be able to trust the government, and we’ll never really be able to embrace the truth, without giving pause for…what if…

I’ve researched quite a bit of the JFK story…as a work of fiction, it’s got it all… murder, sex, power, intrigue, and at it’s core, conspiracy. There are way too many theories on the subject to number, but suffice to say, a tangled web indeed. Some theories even contend that the government seeded some bizarre theories to throw us off the scent. But I know the truth…Bigfoot did it, in a UFO, with Colonel Mustard and a lead pipe.

The saddest thing about the JFK assassination is lost among the scattered shards of truth and deceit. A young man lost his life, a young woman lost her husband, and a young family lost “Dad.” Perhaps I’m hyper-sensitive to that because being a father and a husband is all I really have, and all I really wanted out of life. But that idea is perhaps the most disturbing out of all of it.

I used to watch the Oliver Stone film JFK quite a bit, admittedly swept into the double-crossed details of regicide that would give Bill Shakespeare a boner. I also watched a ton of those documentaries about the 'dissection of a crime', applying science to the shooting, where they buy Oswald’s Mannlicher Carcano rifle on Ebay and shoot fruit from a crane while timing it against standard Marine training. Then I thought, hmmmm...would JFK watch a show about my death? Granted, I’m not very presidential and don’t have any high schools named after me. But, I’m sure he was as important to his wife and son as I am to mine.

How about the assassination of John Lennon? I was watching a show about his last days, and the narrator discussed his relationship with his son, Sean, and his re-invigorated role as a Dad. The details carry on through his last day; signing autographs for fans that he never dreamed would end his life, going about his business, recording, etc. My son recognizes John Lennon, and the rest of the Beatles for that matter, and he always says, “Daddy, he was shot on his way home to see his son!” My view is forever altered on the details of that day.

I guess what I’m getting at is… We’ve created a mess for ourselves, we’ve let outside sources create a lapse in confidence in us as a country, and in us as individuals. We can’t go on together with Suspicious Minds (thanks Mr. The King!). We’ve excelled at turning our shortcomings and our misfortunes into entertainment; we’ve turned entertainers into heroes, and heroes into fundraisers. Truth, Justice, and the American Way…man, Superman’s gonna be pissed when he sees what we’ve done with it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Has it really been a year since I peed on this here tree? It has been a long strange trip indeed. As I write, it’s a Tuesday, the first day of March 2011. That number, 2011 seems so freakish to me. A mere 4 years away from Marty McFly dropping in to Hill Valley to help his son make the right decision. Alas, no flying cars and hovering skateboards in my neighborhood, what a gyp.

2011…what the fuck happened to 1997? Why can’t I seem to remember a single thing that happened in 2003? And who’s that fat guy that moved into my bathroom mirror?

So as I sit here, a goblet of Malbec, the whir of the dryer in the background, and the soothing strains of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue providing the ebb and flow of the wordsmithing (what? go on…), I reflect on the juxtaposition of my life vs. the rest of the world…in the year of our lord 2011.

As alluded to in the last words herewith, we brought our beloved Metal Lessons Radio internet radio broadcast, or rather webcast, back from the dead, in fact, alive, err live. We spent a few years honing our craft, recording, editing, and listening to playbacks of the show. It took something like five nights a week to get it where we wanted, then we eventually got sick of the work, a seemingly thankless task, in that there was no real-time gratification, no organic reaction, no interaction. The airings occurred all over the clock. So we brought it back live, one night, one show, and it is worth it.

One night, during a show in early summer, we received a phone call whilst we were on the air. Our friend and former drummer, Curtis Beeson, was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor. It was right about the time my father was fighting off a very aggressive melanoma on his skulltopper. After surgery and rehab, radiation…Curt’s bills started rolling in. A lifelong musician that dabbled in cab driving to support his drum habit, he didn’t have adequate health care insurance, which is to say he didn’t have any. In true underground fashion, the local metal scene decided to try and take care of their own!

“We’re getting’ the band back together….we’re on a mission from God!” – Elwood Blues

Several years ago, whilst attending an emotional roundtable discussion, I blathered on in a Cabby Savvy-induced weep about my dream of having one more shot, one chance to front a band. Not just any band, but my guys, a once fierce force of metal know-how and spare time, Fester. I mused at how interesting it would be to once again be on stage, with life experience, and a better sense of performance. After all, I had to teach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Macarena once, so I don’t embarrass as easily anymore.

Somewherez around Christmas time, I was dispatched to a top secret meeting at a clandestine location. We all met at Hooters and hugged, chatted, and committed to performing at what would be dubbed the Curtis Beeson-Kill The Cancer Benefit held in Ybor City on February 11, 2011. After twenty years, we were a band again, and had six weeks to prepare for what would be thirty minutes on a bill that included some 8 bands, including Tampa heavyweights Obituary and Deicide, and headlining was Curt’s other band, Nasty Savage.

Commence the rehearsal. As we slogged away trying to figure out the hours of our collective youth, the football playoffs moved silently in the background. That was the feeling! It must be like that first heroin rush that the junkies keep reaching for. Making music with those gents is a sensation I won’t even begin to try and explain. Pure aggressive magic.

The show day arrived, the old school metal scene responded better than expected. For most of us, it was our college reunion. 500 or so people packed into the Crowbar to help raise money to combat Curt’s immense medical-bill-mountain. We raised over $10,000 to get him started, but the night meant so much more. For us, it put away a lot of ghosts that had been running around our conscience for a coupla decades. It did a great deal of healing for anxious memories, answered a lot of questions, and raised a few new ones…what if?

There we stood like men amongst men, a compliance officer, a postal technician, an insurance agent, a disabled electrician, and a cancer-fighting cabbie. Inciting the muse of days gone by, the band roared through twenty years in a single half hour. The response, and the pure magic has inspired us to give it the old college try once again. Metal has never had to grow up before so, middle age really is a new suit for the music to try on. What the hell 45 is the new…40, something like that. Anyway …

I joked on my birthday that I wasn’t 42, I was on my second lap at 21. While at 42, I’ve refinanced the mortgage, sat for state insurance licenses in property, casualty, life, health, and variable annuities, and fathered three amazing children, I get to be 21 again. I get to enjoy the experience of joining a band again, writing songs, and being part of something built on mutual respect, rare in this world. On a mild Florida friday night in February, I took to the stage to throw a musical tantrum right after Deicide and Obituary left the stage, on a day that started with Dad’s-n-Donuts at the catholic school!

The juxtaposition? Well, according to the media, facebook, and word on the street, the world is in trouble. The economy, crime, pills, the government….a heep of mess. And for me, it’s a quirk of timing that I seem to excel when all else is falling all around us. In the midst of all this decline, I’m alright. I love my wife, I’ve settled into a career, there’s room in my life for two music habits, I’m in a good place with my faith…I’m comfortable in my own skin.

Now, it’s time to live vicariously through my son, as I share with him one of the sacred scrolls…Van Halen I. Another generation of…lives ruined by music.