Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Feeling the absence...

Yesterday was a tough day for me.

Five years ago, my father passed away. I still miss him very much. His absence is felt even more when big events or landmark moments occur in my life, and I’m unable to share them directly with him.
I know, I know…you’re probably saying to yourself, “He’s there” or “He knows”…
And while that may be the only comforting words one could find to say to someone feeling the absence of a loved one, it doesn’t help much. Regardless of whether or not it’s actually a correct statement in a factual sense.

And while I’m on the subject of “comforting phrases of condolence” here’s another…”It gets easier”…or “It will get better”.

This, my friends, is quite simply...

When you’ve experienced the loss of someone close, it never gets easier to feel their absence from your life. You will always wish for them to be there from time to time, and big moments of your life will always be bittersweet…sometimes painful.
The only thing that becomes easier as time goes on? Acceptance. Acceptance that the person you are missing is simply not there any more. You still miss them greatly.

I really miss my dad. Especially in those times of note when I wish more than anything that he could be there to share in triumph. I miss his stories. I miss his snarky one-liners, his insanely lurid and downright irreverent jokes, and his topically irrelevant anecdotes. I miss his hugs, his gentle hand on my shoulder along with the fatherly squeeze of approval and pride he would give me on the back of my neck.
I miss the sound of his voice…the calm timbre of excitement when he was proud, and the stern, quizzical tone when he was concerned.

Over the weekend, my bandmates and I made history…literally. We achieved something that, for now, has never been achieved by anyone else. The experience was incredible, unfathomable, and surreal. And while I had someone dear and special to share it with (my precious wife and one of our daughters, to be specific), having it occur at the anniversary of my dad’s passing made me feel his absence far more than usual.

I miss you, Pop. I still love you deeply. Hopefully, you’re aware of all that I’ve accomplished. Hopefully I’ve made you proud. Over the weekend, in a place so steeped in history, I helped add to that history. I was set upon this path in part because you bought me a little guitar when I was six years old, taught me a few chords, and saw to it that music was a part of my life. I hope you know how thankful I am. I love you, Pop.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My conversation with the "dancer"...

DISCLAIMER: To those of you who might be easily offended, this post may not be your cup of tea, for it contains subject matter and language of a nature that you might not want to have to discuss with your kids...or your grandmother for that matter.
My sincerest apologies go out to any exotic dancers or drummers who are offended by the following post.

Years ago, when I was a young adult (long before I was married to my amazing wife), I was in a band that had a regularly occurring gig at a restaurant/bar four nights a week. During the course of such tenures, members of bands get to know some of the regulars that will frequent the establishment...in fact, it's kind of hard not to.

One particular night, at this one particular house gig, I struck up a conversation with one of the regulars. She had come in plenty of times before, had made song requests, put money in the tip jar, etc. She wasn't in every night, but when she did come in, she always came in alone, usually stayed for the entire evening until the gig was over, and then left alone. She was an attractive girl but I never saw her with a guy. We had often exchanged pleasantries in passing, though I cannot recall her name anymore (not that it really matters now). One night, between sets, I bought her a drink and decided to have an actual conversation with her. What follows is the conversation as best I can recall it...

GIRL: Thanks for the drink, sweetie! So, um...are you going to take me home tonight or what?
ME: (chuckling) Well, I guess I don't have to ask if you have a boyfriend...
GIRL: (smiling) Uh...no. Obviously not. So what do you say?
ME: That sounds like a lot of fun, though I don’t know if I can handle a girl like you.
GIRL: What do you mean a girl like me? Exactly what kind of girl do you think I am?
ME: Sorry. I was just joking. Inviting me to take you home was maybe a little more forward than I'm used to, but I honestly don’t know you well enough to know what kind of girl you are...though you always seem to be a sweet girl whenever I've talked to you in the past.
GIRL: (nervously) Oh. Not very funny...your joke, I mean.
ME: (scrambling to recover) Sorry about that. I get kind of awkward around girls sometimes. So, um...you’ve been coming here for a while. You know what I do for a living, but I have no idea what you do for a living. So tell me...what do you do for a living?
GIRL: (reluctantly) Um...well...um...I’m a dancer.
ME: That’s pretty cool. I used to take ballet when I was younger. People don’t realize how grueling that kind of stuff can be. I didn’t think there was a ballet company in town anymore. Do you dance for a private company or something?
GIRL: Um...not that kind of dancer.
ME: Oh, sorry. So you do traveling musical productions and off-Broadway kind of stuff then?
GIRL: Um...not really. I’m an exotic dancer.

(And here, my friends, was when my general sense naivety got the best of me)
ME: Oh, cool. I’ve always loved those Burlesque shows with the big feather-fans and...
GIRL: Um...I don’t think you understand.
ME: Oh...I guess I don't. Where, exactly, do you work?
GIRL: I work at [insert name of the local gentlemen’s club].
ME: (sighing with relief) Oh, okay...I get it! You’re a stripper. Why didn’t you just say so?
GIRL: I’m not a stripper...I’m a dancer.
ME: Um...okay. Are you ashamed of what you do?
GIRL: Not at all.
ME: Then why didn't you just say you’re a stripper?
GIRL: Because I’m not. I’m a dancer.
ME: It’s ok...I don’t care. It’s not a problem for me...I’m not judging you.
GIRL: I didn’t think you were...Besides, I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.
ME: So...why can’t you call yourself a stripper? I mean, that IS what you do.
GIRL: (in an irritated tone) Because, that’s NOT what I do...I’m a dancer.
ME: Calm down a little...now just answer a few simple questions for me so I’m clear about all of this in my own mind. You didn’t study your craft anywhere like Julliard, Joffrey, or any place like that, right?
GIRL: Right.
ME: And when you’re at work you’re usually in a dark bar full of drunk men, right?
GIRL: Right.
ME: And while on the job you walk out onto a small stage, next to a pole, right?
GIRL: Right.
ME: And then you take off your clothes in front of said drunk men, right?
GIRL: Right.
ME: And during the process of taking off your clothes in front of these drunken strangers, they give you money in one-dollar increments, right?
GIRL: Right...lots of it.
ME: Good for you! So to be clear...when you are at work, you get up on a stage with a pole, “dance” around in a "sexy" way, take off your clothes to the point of being almost completely nude, in front of total strangers, and you do this for money, right?
GIRL: Yes...that is correct.
ME: (laughing sarcastically) Then you’re a STRIPPER!!
GIRL: Look...you don’t have to be an asshole about it. I’m not ashamed of what I do for a living. I just prefer to refer to my work as dancing.
ME: I’m not trying to be an asshole about it. I’m just curious why you insist on calling yourself a dancer instead of a stripper. What does your grandmother think you do for a living? Does she know you’re a stripper?
GIRL: My grandmother doesn’t know, and never needs to know what I do…especially that! She might die of a heart attack if she ever found out. Besides, if she asked, I would tell her that I’m a dancer.
ME: Why? Are you ashamed of what you do?
GIRL: Not at all...I just wouldn’t want my grandmother to know it. She would be so disappointed in me. I tell people I’m a dancer because it sounds more respectable. It keeps regular people like my grandmother from thinking I’m a half-naked, coke-snorting whore.
ME: Didn't you just say you don't care about what people think about you?
GIRL: (glaringly) I don't! Does your grandmother know that you’re a drummer?
ME: Yes, she certainly does, and she is quite proud of me. However, I’m now thinking I need to remove the potential stigma of her assuming that I might be a lazy pot-smoker who delivers pizzas when he needs to raise enough money to buy weed. I’m going to start telling her that I’m a “poly-rhythmic time passage regulatory engineer specializing in mood enhancements using harmon-orbital trans-atmospheric suspended vibrational membrane systems".
(I know...I shocked myself when I spit that one out. Had to write it all down afterwards!)
GIRL: (sarcastically) Why? Are you ASHAMED of what you do?
ME: (calmly grinning) Not at all. If you can get away with calling yourself a dancer, I don’t have to call myself a drummer...we can all be something else!
GIRL: You’re an ASSHOLE! You know what? I’m going home by myself tonight...I can't believe I wanted to go home with you!!!
ME: (very sarcastically as she walks towards the door) SEE YOU AT THE OFFICE!!!
GIRL:  (as she reaches the door) FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE!!!

My ability to play drums has only ever been rivaled by my ability to piss off members of the opposite sex. I certainly worked my magic on this one! I was surprised that she didn't pour her drink on me. Needless to say that I never saw that girl again. Though, if I had, I would have apologized for being such a horse's ass. I still don’t know why I felt the need to be antagonistic about the whole stripper thing, but I do know that it was one of the most hilarious conversations I have ever had with someone. It may not have been amusing to her, but it all seemed so absurd and funny to me at the time. In fact, to this day it still is very absurd and funny to me. Even thinking back on it now, I'm not sure exactly when the conversation took a turn for the worse...perhaps when I sat down and said "hello".

I suppose the moral of the story is this: Own it! Whatever you choose to do in life, own it! Don't be shy about it, don't try to hide it, or rename it to better suit society's labels. Do what you do, do it the best you can, and be proud of what you do...even if it's being something that others might frown upon. Just be sure to be honest about what you do, with others, and most especially, be honest with yourself. Your grandmother may or may not be proud of what you do, but at least you'll be able to sleep well at night knowing that you can be your true self regardless of what others might think.
Apparently someone read one of my blog posts and had some problems with what I had written. Don't bother searching for it...I took it down. For no other reason than I probably was not voicing my opinions very well in the post.

To my antagonistic reader (whom apparently had used the modern marvels of social media to try to bring attention to their apparent discord...which might have worked if I actually checked such things regularly),


Now, I must say that I am not apologizing for what I wrote. I'm not apologizing for how I felt at that time, or for feeling so strongly that I was compelled to blog about it. I'm not apologizing for your being offended by what you read. I'm not apologizing for my using some harsh language in that particular post.

What I am apologizing for is this...
I'm so sorry that your sense of discord and contention with my opinion has apparently clouded your ability to recognize that I too, have First Amendment Rights that entitle me to have any opinion I choose, even if it is one of dissent from that of the popular views of others.
True, my language and verbiage may have been a bit inflammatory, however it was a post about politics and my opinions over the state of affairs at the time. Did you catch that one? My opinions... I don't expect you or anyone else to ever agree with my opinions. I actually don't expect anyone to even read my blog for that matter.

That said, I respect the fact that you disagree. I respect the fact that you were offended by some of the wording I used. I respect the fact that you chose to voice your discord in the fashion that you did (however, there is a place to lodge your complaint directly on my blog...the comment box). I encourage you to start your own blog...you can write about your opinions, your feelings, your experiences. Hell, you can even write about me if you like.

What I do expect of anyone who might stumble upon my blog posts is this...I expect for the reader(s) to understand that it's my blog and I get to write about whatever I want, express my opinions (for better or for worse, right or wrong), and I get to use whatever vernacular I choose. It is my blog after all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New adventures with old dogs...

Ok...maybe not "old" per se, but certainly...you'll figure it out...

A few nights back, me and the boys had a really fun experience. We played at CMA Fest...the big stadium show. As has been the case in the past, it was such a good time!
Every year we have done this, one of the highlights for me has always been bringing out a special guest, usually a very well known artist. This year was no different. This year, we were lucky enough to be joined by double-necked guitar aficionado Richie Sambora of the band Bon Jovi. He came out to perform with us one of their biggest hits, "Wanted, Dead or Alive".

While the performance went very well, and was arguably one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the night, the real joy for me was getting to hang with Richie. (He's one of the biggest rockstars on the planet, how could that not be fun?) Not sure what I was expecting from a guy that's had an amazing thirty year career of being a bona-fide rock star, but I can tell you that I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much of a regular guy he is. Our first introduction was in the parking lot, we were both headed to the bus where we would hash out the arrangement of the tune. Handsome and kind-natured, he shook my hand and gave a brotherly hug as if we had known each other for years. (incidentally, for those of you with olfactory fascinations, he smelled amazing!)

During the "rehearsal", I was deeply impressed with his musicianship. We wanted to change the key of the song so that it would be easier to sing, and with a very cavalier attitude he enthusiastically said it wouldn't be a problem. He fiddled around on his guitar for a few moments and with a big grin said, "Yeah...I got it. No problem!" This impressed me because he's been playing that song in the same key for thirty years and then out of the blue, he's asked to perform it in another key. Without hesitation, without reservation, he jumped in and made it happen. Impressive indeed.

Soundcheck...he gave us all a reminder of what an electric guitar is supposed to sound like in a stadium. It's not often that we get to perform in those types of settings, but for Richie, it seemed like it was second nature...hell, I guess it is at this point.

Performance...it was loose and fun. To me it felt as though we had been playing that song together for years. It was a rockin' good time and the crowd at LP Field sang along to every word. If Richie had half as good of a time as I did, then he had a lot of fun!

Much later, after the performance, there were mutual hugs and "thank you's". He even took the time to snap a quick photo with me and my wife (who had jokingly said meeting Richie was, for her, being in 1986 all over again!). And, after collecting his things, Richie rode off into the night, much like the character described in the lyrics of "Wanted", moving on to the next show in another town.

My impression of Richie is that he's just a regular guy, with regular problems like the rest of us...he happens to have an amazing job doing what he loves, and being able to do it at an amazingly high level. Believe me when I tell you that he loves making music. Thank you, Mr. Sambora, for being so
kind, gracious, funny, and for making a memorable time even more memorable. I hope we cross paths and share the stage again soon!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dinner with the coach...

Tonight, my wife and I went with some friends to a large dinner with one of today's most successful college football coaches, Nick Saban of the University of Alabama. It was one of those big fundraiser type of dinners with many in attendance. The friends of ours who had acquired the tickets also got us some VIP passes to meet the coach beforehand, as well as the Athletic Director, Bill Battle and several other important folks there.
Getting to meet Coach Saban was such a treat. Very well spoken, with a friendly and inviting demeanor, he was kind enough to take a few moments to speak with everyone before indulging everyone with a brief photo op.
My wife, although cool and collected on the inside, was quite excited to meet Coach Saban. Afterwards, I asked her if it was equally as exciting as the time she met Sheila E. at the NAMM show in Anaheim earlier this year and she calmly confirmed what I already suspected...that she was way more excited to meet the coach.

Later, Coach Saban spoke to everyone in what could loosely be described as a "State of the Program" address. To have met the man was an enormous treat for me, but to hear him speak on subjects such as success, discipline, and maintaining momentum...well that was even more wonderful.
He addressed what he felt were potential problems, heralded achievements and progress, and above all else, he accepted accountability for the shortcomings of the team as a whole. He spoke with conviction, direct candor, and at times, with a little humor. He even gave me cause to look inward and think of ways I can be better at my own job...which, incidentally, has very little if anything to do with football. He was eloquent and inspiring.

Yep...it was a very enjoyable night. Seeing my wife have an enormously good time, and the smile on her face for the whole evening was definitely worth the price of admission. Thank you, Coach Saban, for putting a smile on my wife's face and for taking the time to speak to a group of fans and supporters.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What's up with that?!?

For the past couple of years I have noticed that more and more atheists have been filing lawsuits and making television appearances to lodge their complaints that they find the sign of the Cross, and many other Christian symbols and representations of faith offensive.
This morning, while reading a newsfeed, I saw a story on another such lawsuit in which an atheist was demanding that the steel girder cross at the site of the World Trade Center should be removed due its highly offensive nature. Hmmm...

By the way, in case you don't know---
Atheism, by definition, is the disbelief in any deity. It is the belief that there is no such thing as God in any form, or by any name.

Feel free to look it up. After you do, here are a handful of important questions that (in my mind at least) beg to be asked...
~ Why are so many atheists offended by only Christian symbols of faith and no other religious symbols? You never hear of any atheists boycotting or protesting because of the Star of David, the Menorah, the Crescent and Star, Om, the signs of the Zodiac, or the myriad of other religious representations. What exactly is it about the symbols of Christianity that are so overwhelmingly offensive to atheists? And why be offended at all by any religious symbol?

~Would it not stand to reason that the mere fact that an atheist would become so offended by the religious symbols of Christianity in some small way validates the existence of God, and also somewhat contradicts an atheist's belief that there is no such thing as God?
Think about that for a moment and then consider this...
A true atheist would not be able to see any religious symbol as a representation of any deity. A true atheist should might be able to recognize that any given religious symbol is a representation of belief by someone else, and that said symbol it is only that...just a symbol of what someone else believes. Wouldn't a true atheist have complete and total disregard for any religious symbol? In my opinion, to become offended by any religious symbol, an atheist is questioning their own personal belief system- which by definition, is the complete and concrete belief that deities do not exist in any form.
How can an atheist be offended by the representation and symbols of something they believe doesn't exist anyway? Would it not stand to reason that by being offended by a religious symbol or artifact, that  an atheist would be acknowledging even the possibility of the existence of the represented deity, and therefore cease to be an atheist in the first place? There are millions of people around the world that have very convicted religious beliefs, and they aren't even remotely uncomfortable seeing other religious symbols. Perhaps that is because their belief system and faith are so concrete that they cannot be offended by that which others believe.

~And how can any atheist expect to have their belief system respected by others if they are so unwilling to be respectful of other beliefs?

For the handful of you out there who might be atheists, my apologies if I have offended you. I'm not trying to ruffle any feathers here...just trying to point out a little absurdity that seems to keep making the headlines.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Most commonly asked...

After my last post, a rant of severe proportion, I've decided to do a post that would be a little more useful...

Through the help of modern technology, via this thing I commonly refer to as the "interwebs", I get asked many questions from fans and aspiring drummers. The most commonly asked question as of late is this: How do I make it big like you did?

Truthfully, there is no concretely guaranteed way to accomplish this. If there was, I would have found it long ago and avoided many years of keeping hunger at bay by eating Ramen noodles and ketchup soup.
I certainly wish to be helpful, but I feel that it is my duty to be a realist over the matter. So...here's my two cents.

Step one: Be realistic. When you put the numbers to it all, there's no way that everyone is going to "make it big" in the music business. Just look at how many people play a musical instrument (A WHOLE LOT). Now look at how many hugely successful bands/artists there are out there (VERY FEW). Clearly, not everyone will become hugely successful. Once you have accepted this axiom, you can move on to step two.

Step two: Define success. You don't have to be "famous" to be hugely successful. A long while back I defined success for myself. It was a simple way of looking at it...and I still look at it this way. Success in the music business (for me) means that I never have to rely on a full-time day job for my income. Success (for me) means that on my taxes, my primary occupation reads as "Musician". Does that mean I never had to struggle? NO. Does that mean I never took part-time jobs to make sure my bills got paid? NO. What it has always meant is my primary source of income was from making music. I have always thought of myself as being successful. I never cared about fame or money...those things can lead one down unscrupulous paths in my opinion.
Once you have clearly defined success for yourself, you may find that the search for success may become easier. Now you're ready for step three.

Step three: Set your goals. Believe it or not, after you have defined success for yourself and what being successful will be for you, you have actually set a goal for yourself. Feel free to go ahead and set a few more. Perhaps conquering and mastering a particular style of playing, or soloing concept. Perhaps a good goal to set would be to do more networking with local musicians...or certain touring musicians. Maybe something smaller like practicing just ten minutes extra every day.
Write down your goals. You cannot imagine how empowering and motivating it can be when you put things down with pen and paper. You can also keep track of your progress. And now...

Step four: Achieve. Now that you have your goals set, it's time to work to achieve them. Do what it takes to accomplish the tasks you have asked of yourself. It won't be easy. In fact, it might actually be very difficult. There will certainly be times you find yourself asking, "Why am I doing this?!?". Stay the course. If you do, your hard work and dedication will pay off and you will be scratching a few of those goals off the list. If you find that your goals just are not getting realized, perhaps you may need to put more effort into accomplishing them; or perhaps you might need to remove them from the list and replace them with something you would rather be dedicated to.

Step five: Be honest with yourself. This is a big one. If you can do this. You can really make some progress towards realizing your goals and accomplishing them. Be honest about what you really want. Be honest about about how much effort and dedication you are willing to put forth to accomplish your goals. If you are not being 100% honest with yourself, you most likely will never accomplish anything to great levels of success, and if you actually do, you most likely won't feel very fulfilled.

It takes dedication, determination, perseverance, and clear and honest intent to become successful at anything. Some times that's all you need. Some times it will never be enough. Some times you will bust your hump with all you have and you might still fail to reach your goals. But there's one more thing you should consider...

Here's my real secret to success...FAITH.
During the toughest of times on my musical journey through life, and especially when I felt that everything in the world was conspiring against me to ensure my failure, I relied on faith to see me through.
That's right folks...the real secret to my success is the will of God. I had faith that He had a plan for me, and that part of that plan was for me to be making music. He blessed me with a gift, and it was my duty to put it to use. I also had faith that He would never give me anything I couldn't handle. I had faith that He would give me strength to change the things I could change, courage to accept those things I couldn't change, and the wisdom to know the difference. It was my faith that helped me persevere through the tough times, and it was my faith that gave thanks and glory to God when times were not so tough.
Yep...God is good. He has blessed me beyond what I feel I deserve. He continues to bless me every day. All that I have is because of Him. And I couldn't be more humbled or grateful.