Saturday, August 14, 2010

So Long, my friend



I woke up this morning, getting ready for a vacation north to Chicago and on to Lake Geneva, where my parents used to go drink "highballs" when I was a kid. While I love my job, it is very stressful hitting numbers month after month. So, before the busy period heats up, it's off to cooler pastures. After being up late tinkering with the internet station, I woke late to devastating news. One of the true giants in my life passed in San Jose due to a failing heart. His heart was in such bad shape that he had to have a triple bypass just to get his heart healthy enough to handle a new, transplanted one. He didn't make it. I met Rich and Lisa through an old girlfriend. That girlfriend and I conducted the most tempestuous relationship I have ever known (her story is a number of posts down). Passion, anger, love and hate, all wrapped into one. She was the only woman in my life who ever hit me (actually gave me a cauliflower ear, she hit me so hard). During this relationship, I moved in with Rich and his girlfriend Lisa to a nice, porched duplex on Wyoming street in Kansas City. The porch over looked Roanoke Park and it was a funky, nice place for two guys our age. Even at that time, Rich had health trouble as he suffered from juvenile diabetes and once had a seizure that I didn't know how to handle. We moved in on 9/9/81, I remember it because I did a bit that day on the date, being 9 X 9=81. This was also a very strange time in my life because I was addicted to cocaine. Hey, come on, the rent was about $135 a month and my car was paid off. I had more money than I knew what to do with (Robin Williams was right). The weekdays were fine, I'd only do a little, but when the weekends came, I checked out. The girl and I split up, which propelled my usage of cocaine and now, women, to all time heights. Hey man, I was the king of nighttime radio and I was a star. Everybody wanted to be like me and everyone knew me. I used the power like very few before me. After having about the sixth different woman to the house in three weeks, Lisa and Rich finally said ..."enough." At 26, I was acting like I was 19. They had careers and passions in their life that were so diametrically opposed to mine. They needed to work/study and I needed to party and fuck. Lisa was in training to become a doctor (which she did) and Rich was developing an incredible passion for computers (which he parlayed into a great career). In 1981, he told me something about this thing called the "internet" that would revolutionize the way we did business. He also was following this upstart company called Microsoft and, if I remember correctly, starting buying stock when it was available gobs of it at a time. Rich also had cockatiels, lots of them. They were kinda dirty and loud, but they were also very cool. He trained them to do and say things at his command. Rich and Lisa saved my life. They walked up to me and basically saw me much differently than I saw me and proceeded to tell me about about it. Lisa called me out on the way I treated women and made me know in no uncertain terms it wouldn't be tolerated anymore. I tried to hid the women as I slept on the porch in the summertime, because I would get off work at 10pm and didn't want to disturb them when I would come in late stumbling and fumbling to get naked with someone I had just met. I remember those days well. Not long after that, I decided, for some reason, to take a job in Denver, leaving the new girlfriend (whom I was crazy about) and Rich and Lisa in somewhat of a lurch, because, like a lot of things back then, the decision was made on impulse. See, children of alcoholics go out of their way to destroy the things that mean something because we're not sure how to handle happiness and contentment, we don't know what it's like to be happy. It's a foreign subject for us. I went to Denver because I was pissed at the management of KY 102. That's it, that's the reason. Nice work, Randy, way to drop a nuclear bomb on everyone. After returning to KC in about six months because I knew I made the wrong decision, (Skid Roadie was hired as my replacement, I think that turned out pretty well), I reconnected with the girlfriend but didn't really get to see Rich and Lisa much, they both were on to other things. Engaged for 8 years, Rich and Lisa decided to tie the knot at Lourdes Church in St. Louis in October 1985. I believe the day they got married was the "..go crazy, folks, go crazy.." day. I danced with the tempestuous one that day, then never saw her again. It was a great closure. Rich had such a kind heart and soul and you could get him to laugh easily. You could certainly tell how much these two loved each other and I think secretly, I was looking for that too, but I had no idea where to find it like they did. We lived together for just over a year but I was a different person leaving Wyoming street than I was when I got there. It took someone of Rich and Lisa's temperament to slap me out of my adolescence at 26. We met up a few times through the years but we reconnected via...you guessed it, Facebook. Rich lived a full life and he was loved completely by a beautiful, talented, brilliant woman. It's what we all search for. He found it in bountiful ways and filled his life with so much cool stuff. I think he always knew that he would not live to be an old man. There was always this underlying feel with him. I think he wanted to do as much as he could do in this life. He knew it, so did Lisa and I knew it, too. I'll miss you Rich and all you taught me. I'll miss you mostly for throwing me a life raft as I wandered into waters that were much too treacherous and swift. Thanks for standing up to me and forcing me to confront my demons. I'll never forget you. Rest in peace, my good friend, the fight is over.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

East Moline




















The death of one of East Moline's legendary figures today got me thinking about the town that I spent many formative years in. There are five cities in the Quad Cities and for the most part, East Moline is the one left out. Yup, you have Davenport, Rock Island, Moline and...Bettendorf or East Moline? The consensus is Bettendorf, although years ago, Bettendorf was the little pip squeak, not considered part of the mix at all. What happened? In all honesty, East Moline was always considered "the other side of the tracks" along with, to a certain extent Rock Island. I think we had the largest amount of blacks and in East Moline's case, hispanics, too. Horrors! East Moline was a factory town, with John Deere, International Harvester, McLaughlin Body and other manufacturing places that at one time employed anyone who wanted to work. East Moline was considered a great place to move to if you wanted or needed a job. I actually met my first DJ there and I thought it was so cool to shake his hand. (I later worked with him KC which was a bizarre twist of fate). If you went to McKinley or Hoffman grade schools, the other kids in Glenview or UT knew one thing, the wrong side of the tracks in a town that was on the wrong side of the tracks. McKinley was the Campbell's Island kids and Hoffman was the projects. I went to Hillcrest, then McKinley (thanks mom and dad). The high school was huge. United Township High School. UTHS. That made us Panthers different, because all of the public high schools in the Quad Cities were named after their city. Not us. We're UNITED Township, mahfuggers!!! Take that, Moline! Except in the early part of the school year, when it got really hot and people noticed that we were all different and pointed it out with less than a political correctness. Every year it seemed at one time or another during the first couple of weeks at school, we'd "grab someone who looked different than us and go to the bottom of the pile" then just hang on. When the weather cooled, so did we. The high school was so big, it was housed in two campuses. The freshmen and sophomores occupied north campus ("the prison"), and the "big kids" went to South Campus, which was approximately three miles down the road. The teachers were as diverse as the students. Mr Diaz for American History and Miss Newborne for English. She was about twenty five, black and about six feet tall with legs... Man, it was hard to concentrate on anything she said. She was absolutely stunning, tall and slim. Gah. She wrote in my yearbook ..."to Randy, a guy who always underestimates himself..." Whoa. I "thought" about her a lot and she really took an interest in a kid that was just trying to fit in. One of my good friends was black, one was hispanic and the best kiss I had in high school was from Rosalie Martinez (God, what a wonderful full set of lips, she just swallowed my face....) Why was it called United Township? That's because we took kids from Silvis, Carbon Cliff, Green Rock, Colona, Hampton and other places. None of those destinations would make anyone's top ten on places to live. I also lived on Campbell's (cannibals) Island which was a haven for bad ass dudes who would just as soon whip you just to practice on someone. East Moline was not Bettendorf, that's for sure. We had a bit of a toughness and a bit of an attitude. It's a river town, for Pete's sake. My first marriage was to a girl from Silvis and my virginity was taken in a trailer for crap's sake by a woman older than me (That story is on it's way). That leads me back to my original point. Coach Talley died yesterday and anyone who was there at the time knew what an influence he was. He was the coach from 1964 to 1984. He was the John Wooden of UT. Second place in 1970, fourth in 79 and if a couple of the members of the 74 team hadn't gotten really stupid, he thought that team was his best. We were 28-3, ranked third in the state and right before the tournament, two guys got in trouble and we lost to an 16-11 team in the regionals. That team broke his heart. That was the cool thing about coach, it seemed his team were always ranked. One of the most famous residents of East Moline (Carbon Cliff) was Jude Cole, who has a few hits off his first album in the early nineties. He was taught how to play the guitar from a friend of mine Paul Durry. One of my ex-coworkers married a guy from East Moline, class of 84, exactly ten years behind, who hates going there. I get that. She doesn't know it the way I remember, a vibrant manufacturing town where the guys of my parents generation worked hard in the shops and drank hard. The women stayed at home and raised the kids the best way they could. I have nothing but fond memories of the place. It's a nice place to be from. But, for those of us who worked at (or went to) the Semri Drive In, went to Skateland every damn weekend, ate Franks Pizza, had Mexican food at Adolph's, went to shows at the Col Ballroom or RKO Theatre, had a Hungry Hobo, got ice cream at Whitey's, ate a Maid Rite,worked (or ate) at Harvey's Diner or bowled at Highland Park Bowl, it was, whatever else it was, home. With the passing of Coach Talley, my grip on home is loosened, however slightly.



HEY COACH, where's your crew cut?

His story, and a fine one it is...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Effing Facebook

I got this in my message box today...
August 10 at 12:39am
Hey there Randy! I don't want to sound corny or anything..but, thanks! Remember when your status said "if you could go back 20 years and tell yourself what you know now"..or something like that. Do you remember that status? I replied something or the other about telling myself that just because my birthmother couldn't be the person I wanted her to be didn't mean she didn't care and so on.....well...because of that status...I contacted my birthmother. I wrote her a letter....we've been in contact and started a new relationship ever since! She is actually very ill with Ovarian Cancer but so far, she's winning. They had given her until the 4th of July to live but she surpassed it! What is odd, is that you wrote that status, I answered...I then contemplated on what to do...I prayed...I didn't make church that following Sunday so I watched our church on TV..the sermon that day was about forgiving a parent for leaving them etc...made me think about your status and how I answerd..so I decided to write her. It just so happens that she found out about the cancer at the same time you put the status up...I don't know..it's like it was a plan or something....I dont know...
Anyway....thank you for this gift..it all started with your status and now I have something that I've longed for, for so many years...atleast the beginning of something anyway! You are amazing, even when you don't realize it!

Yeah, I know Facebook's a worthless past time, but dang, as Mr. Adujar said many years ago..."youneverknow"

Sunday, August 08, 2010

THE Band

I was discussing music (what else?)with a friend of mine the other day and we were talking about the "chair" structure in band. How the best players got "first" chair and so on. If you were "fourth" chair, you either had to decide that a)you were going to get real good real fast or b)you weren't going to do be doing this long and the football team needed a manager. The conversation then turned to who would occupy the "chairs" when it came to songwriters. That got me thing.. who would occupy my first "chairs" when it came to songwriters. Thinking that you could have ten "first" chairs...mine would look something like this (subject to change)...

First chair songwriters....

Lennon/McCartney
Bruce Springsteen
Bob Dylan
John Fogerty
Elton John-Bernie Taupin
Justin Hayward/John Lodge
Leon Russell
Jackson Browne
Dan Fogelberg
John Prine
Fagen/Becker

How Did Don Draper Die?


I love Mad Men. I haven't enjoyed a series on TV like this since "NYPD Blue". I think I cried when Sipowitz and the boys said goodbye. The characters in Mad Men are our parents. I remember when my mom wore her hair like that and smoked constantly. My dad wore his shirts like that and smoked and drank with the best of them. In fact, in historical comparison, I am about the same age as the little girl on the show. I probably would have "made a play" for her back then because she is kind of dark and brooding with a certain secretive nature. Yes, I thought about shit like that at that age. If you think about it, if Don Draper is somewhere in the vicinity of 32 (that's what I figured him to be in 1964), that means he was born in 1932, which would make him 78 today. I don't think he'd be around today because he led a very dangerous lifestyle then (smoking, drinking, cheating) and had a pretty difficult childhood. So, if he was 32 in 1964, I'm thinking he met his demise by natural causes in about 1994 or 95 (if it was smoking related cancer). That would have made him 62 or 63 when he died. That's pretty much in line with the national average of people who smoked more than two packs a day, and also in line with the family as my mom died at 62. If the smoking didn't kill him, the booze did at about 70, which means he died in 2002 of cirrhosis of the liver (one too many Canadian Clubs) . If the smoking and the boozing didn't get him, him being one of the biggest assholes on the planet (and a type A personality)lowered his life expectancy a great deal. If Betsy didn't kill him (as we join the story, she is living with someone else although the foundation to that relationship is crumbling), the jealous husband of one of his conquests probably waylayed him in a couple of years, which means he never made it to forty. Or, as future episodes will reveal, I could be wrong on all this. He could remarry a nice suburban girl who cared enough about him not to be an "enabler" (I don't think that word was in our lexicon back then) and straightened him up. But, what's the fun of that? With all of his baggage, the last thing I would expect him to do is straighten up his life. See, Don is the child of an alcoholic and he displays all of the behavioral signs. He's never happy and is always trying to destroy the things he loves. It's a classic alcoholic trait. Of course, he could fall so fast from the top that he ends up homeless and living under on overpass but I think the viewers would be disappointed. We are secretly rooting for Don because, somewhere in the corners of his psyche, the devil doesn't reside..I'm still waiting to see that place. I think he reminds us of the darkness in each of our parents. We always thought we knew about them and their lives, but we never knew much if anything at all. It will be interesting to see what happens. It is somewhat incongruous that I am living a bit of my early life through this show. My life was far from the "idyllic" lifestyle the Drapers lead. Being raised on a farm was so opposite of the suburban New York City life. But, I can see myself and my family in the characters on the show. Some of the hair styles for the women are spot on. The men seem to be the guys I saw on television back then (Darren Stephens, Larry Tate). I hope the writers don't cop a "Deadwood" attitude where David Milch said that they were "basically making it up as we went along" after the first season. You sure could tell. Cool, intriguing and full of surprises, "Mad Men" is about as sharp as it gets on TV. Doesn't hurt that Jon Hamm is a former listener. He told me once that I was a large part of his high school years along with everyone else at KSHE. How nice. Now, go get your life together (as much as you can with THAT childhood to go on)...Mad Men rules.

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