Happy Birthday to Me

It’s a cold and clear morning here in Oregon, in the middle of nowhere. Being older [56] and in the middle of a pandemic, I have extremely low expectations for the day.

Most of what I will do today will involve practicing guitar and taking a day off from the never-ending job search. I’ve never been one for birthday parties and making a big to-do out of it all.

My brother’s birthday is in November, and my little sister’s birthday [RIP] was in late June. When we were kids, there were a handful of years where we lived on a house that was on farm land in the Midwest, where winters can be brutal.

Every year, my sister would have the biggest bonfire birthday party ever. Meanwhile, my brother and I got our birthday cakes and gifts at home while it was cold outside. I was okay with this, but my brother wanted something big, like what our sister had.

One year he and I were given our own bonfire birthday party in July. It ended up being my brother’s birthday party, as I was more at-home in the basement than in the field with everyone else.

It would be almost 45 years later, when I would learn that I am Autistic. A betting person would have taken that birthday party as a clear sign.

Are you someone who doesn’t like big gatherings? The big thing I’d say to you is to not feel badly about it, at all. Some people love those types of things, while others would prefer to keep things more intimate. The latter is me, definitely.

Although not by choice, I will be having the same birthday that I would have had without a pandemic’s help, thank you very much.

With Nick Menza at the YOUTHANASIA album release party, October 31, 1994.

This story begins on Halloween 1994. I went to this raging album release party for MEGADETH, when they were releasing YOUTHANASIA.

I was with my future ex-wife, who was pregnant with our son. All of a sudden, I felt a harsh wave of panic over me. In just over one month, I was going to turn 30 years of age.

The problem I had with this was that I was going to be 30, and yet I had not achieved even close to what I had set out to do, with regard to a music career. Plus, I was not happy about being forced into fatherhood [I do love my son], and started to get a nagging sensation that my life was over.

I went out of the castle, over the mote, and went toward the bushes. I did see Dave Ellefson and tried to talk to him, but he told me to “fuck off.” So I ran into some bushes and hid, hoping that my panic would eventually fade and I could re-join the party.

Dave Mustaine at the YOUTHANASIA album release party, October 31, 1994.

Out of nowhere, I am joined behind the bushes by none other than Mr. Menza himself. He asked me what was going on and I told him about it. I said that, “While I am happy for your success and want to celebrate it, I have the nagging sensation that I’ve not achieved what I needed to by age 30, and now the game is over.”

He replied, “Don’t worry about it, dude. Age is just a number. It’s the number of times you’ve been around the sun. It means nothing.”

Had anyone else said this to me, I would have called bullshit. But for some reason, it meant more because Nick had said it. At this point, we had been friends for a few years, so he knew more than a little about me and what I was all about.

A few weeks later, Nick called me and asked if I was doing anything on or near my birthday. I told him that I had no plans, so he invited me to his house to hang out. It would be like a last hurrah before he hit the tour in January 1995, and between dates where he would be playing on television shows. A few other people came and went, but it was mostly just us, drinking beers and listening to music.

He had a really nice drum set in his living room. He says, “My mom told me you could play.” He asked me if there was a song that I’d like to play. I said, “Yes. Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.” He chuckled, handed me a pair of his sticks, and said, “Go for it, dude.”

While I waited for him to put the CD on his stereo system, I just realized that I told Megadeth’s drummer that I could play one of his most difficult songs, and I was about to do just that in his living room!! There was a small wave of panic, which was quickly squashed by my confidence in my ability, since I had been practicing for this moment. Doing this was way easier than attending a big party.

After the song was over, there was a great deal of silence. Nick says, “Dude.”

Nick could say “dude” in 27 different ways, and you’d know exactly what he was saying every single time. This time, I could tell that he was impressed.

We would have a handful of jam sessions throughout the 90s.

I learned several lessons from the album release party and subsequent birthday get-together.

For one, I learned that it’s true that your age doesn’t matter. I mean, it might matter to record executives in the music industry, but who cares about what they think? I certainly don’t.

I was reminded that my heroes are people.

I learned that “making it” in the music industry is not a determining factor on whether or not a person is a musician. Some will even say that you can’t call yourself a musician unless you make at least $10,000 per year with it. They are wrong.

This lesson was reiterated when Nick was let go from Megadeth in 1997, when he had many years where he didn’t make any money at all from new music or drumming. He was still a musician in spite of it all.

Along these lines, I learned that luck is a MAJOR factor in getting somewhere in the music industry. And luck doesn’t show up just because you’re talented or have prior experience.

I was also reminded of the importance of taking a chance. I moved to LA in 1986 and took a TON of chances, with regard to music and acting. I didn’t make big bucks or become a brand name, but I learned a great deal and had some incredible experiences.

BACK TO 2020
Ah, the best year ever, amirite? Ha!

I suppose that I will be building more new memories, assuming that I survive this mess. Worst case, I can enjoy my old memories while I still have them, and even write about some of them here.

Also, I guess this entry matches up with an earlier entry where I wrote about doing an inventory of your experiences. I’m sensing a theme, so we’ll have more stories from the good old days in the future.

For now, I’m going to post this and get on with the day. Thank you to everyone who read this. I appreciate your time.

Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

One thought on “Happy Birthday to Me

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