Meeting Carmine Appice and Ozzy Osbourne [and an Autism Angle]

It’s early 1984 and I have returned to my college dorm room after Christmas break during my freshman year of college at Ball State University. Shorty after getting unpacked, I get a phone call from my marimba professor, Richard Paul.

I had started studying drums with Richard Paul around 1978-79, at the Paul Mueller Studio in Indianapolis, a music teaching venture that he co-owned with Dr. Erwin Mueller, a music professor at Ball State who specialized in bass. Dr. Mueller was my upright string bass instructor at BSU.

Mr. Paul was one of the people who had encouraged me to go to college to study Percussion Arts.

The purpose of his call was to let me know that Carmine Appice, then the touring drummer for Ozzy, was going to be holding a drum clinic at his facility before the concert at Market Square Arena on February 4, 1984.

It was my first-ever drum clinic. It was also the ONLY drum clinic where I paid to attend. The price for a ticket to the clinic was $35, which was more than double the concert ticket price at the time. Almost triple.

He threw in a big incentive. “Carmine will be giving away a backstage pass to the Ozzy show.”

Whoa! I’m in.

It was three years earlier, in 1981, when I told Mr. Paul that I wanted to skip a lesson because I had a ticket for Ozzy. He wasn’t too happy about that, as was evidenced in his response.

“Ah, you want to skip your lesson for a show? You DO have a choice to make. You can be in the audience, or you can be on the stage. Totally up to you.”

What a jerk! He didn’t even consider my perspective, which was that attending shows like this was a lesson in performance on a big stage.

I relented and decided to take my lesson and then change for the show. This experience is a great example of why he was known as “King Richard” by his students.

But after my lesson, I went into the bathroom to change, and I saw none other than Randy Rhoads in the restroom. We talked for a bit. He told me he was taking guitar lessons, partly because it’s a great pre-show warm-up, but also because, as he put it, “There is always something to learn from someone else.”

I asked him if he had any dreams, now that he was a huge guitar god. He said that his big dream was to perform at Madison Square Garden.

He would die in that horrible plane crash two weeks before a scheduled show at that venue.

After I bought my $35 drum clinic ticket [I already had a show ticket], money was tight. I put most of what I had in the gas tank. I had some money for a t-shirt, which I ended up not buying because it cost more than I had. I also had a camera with only a few photos left on it.

Back in this day, we had to use film. We’d take a bunch of pictures, forget what we had photographed, take the film to a drug store, pay for it to be developed, and wait a few days to get the photos back. Then you find out if your picture was good, or if it was a waste of money.

As it turned out, I only had two photos left on this camera. Below is one of the photos I took. The other one, which I cannot find, was taken from the ride cymbal side. It had the body of the cymbal in the lower half, with the drum stick in the middle pointing at me, and Carmine making a menacing face at the top. I hope to find that picture one day.

Carmine Appice, giving a drum clinic at Paul Mueller Studios in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 4, 1984.

Carmine talked about a number of things. For example, he pointed to a pink streak in his hair. He told us that it was wash-out coloring, and that rock stars don’t walk around dressed up like rock stars all the time. He also got into more substance, like polyrhythms, or how to put on a show behind a kit.

At the end, Mr. Paul told everyone to look underneath their metal folding chairs, for an envelope that contained a backstage pass to go see Ozzy. I carefully flipped my chair over.

Nothing. Bummer.

Oh well, I got to meet Carmine, and I had a ticket to the show. I got an autographed headshot of Carmine and then headed out to Market Square Arena. It was a VERY cold winter day in the early afternoon. I let my 1972 Pontiac LeMans warm up before I start carefully driving out of the parking lot.

As I got closer to the parking exit, I see a car with the hood up. When I make it to that car, I see Mr. Paul AND Carmine, standing outside of the front of the car, with the hood up. Carmine was wearing a full-length fur coat, probably a mink.

So I roll down my window and ask what’s going on.

Mr. Paul replied, “For some reason, my car won’t start. I need to get Carmine to Market Square. You’re going that way, so can you take him?

Can I take him?

Can I… me… a lowly freshman Percussion Arts student at Ball State University… take THE Carmine Appice to his gig with OZZY? Can I?

Fuck yea, I can!

Carmine got into the front seat of my car, carefully pulling his mink coat into the vehicle before closing the door.

Okay, so now I’m driving to the Ozzy show with his drummer, Carmine Appice, in my car. My writing style is most likely conveying the giddy feelings I was having about this experience.

I didn’t know what to do or say, so I said nothing for a while.

Carmine broke the ice. “Hey, I really appreciate you giving me a ride to the gig. I have an extra backstage pass if you’re interested.

I play it cool. “Ah, really? I’m in. Thank you.”

He gives me the pass. I glance over every so often, trying to not be noticed.

He probably noticed.

As we get closer to the venue, he tells me that I can park in an area that is reserved for limos and other vehicles that are delivering talent to the venue. We pull into this odd place on the side of the venue, and a guy puts a special mark on my windshield with something that looked like soap; like what they write on your windshield with at the car wash.

I don’t even use my ticket that I bought. I walk right into the backstage area with Carmine. I feel like I’m on tour.

There are people buzzing around everywhere. Some of them I noticed. Motley Crue was the second opening act [after Waysted], and they were already on the stage performing when we got there.

Yea, I would have liked to have seen them. But my experience driving Carmine to the venue was more than slightly better.

I was on top of the world. NOTHING was going to dampen my spirits. NOTHING!

Carmine is showing me the backstage area, when I notice Ozzy in the distance. He sees us and starts walking toward us. Except, it’s a faster paced walk and he doesn’t look all that happy.

Ozzy stops in front of us. He points at me.

“What the FUCK is THIS?!”

Oh, shit. Something was happening and I had no idea. Ozzy laid into Carmine about how he’d told him before that he doesn’t want ANYONE backstage BEFORE the show.

What I guessed was happening was that Carmine was giving away backstage passes for every date, and was inviting people backstage, and for some reason this annoyed Ozzy.

“You and him, get the bloody fuck outta here. NOW!”

I’m more than a little stunned. We do a semi-fast walk out of the backstage area, and to the side of the stage. We stand there and watch Motley Crue perform for a few minutes.

Carmine looks at me. He says, “It’s a young man’s game.”

And then he put his head down and walked away.

I don’t remember much about the show, beyond me NOT being into it. I left the backstage area, and wormed my way into the crowd off to the side of the stage.

Everybody was kicking ass. Carmine even had a drum solo. There was one part where a weird synth sound would happen every time he’d hit a cymbal. Then he’s stand up and grab the cymbal like a steering wheel, and the pitch would go up and down depending on how he turned the cymbal.

After the drum solo, I decided to leave.

I worked my way through the crowd to a merch stand. It was cold, so I had original had my heart set on a hoodie. But a “Bark at the Moon” hoodie was selling for $60. No fucking way. Besides, WHY would I want anything to remind me of this night?

So I went back to the side of the stage, flashed my backstage pass, and walked by myself around the backstage area, until I found where I was parked, with the concert sound in the background, fading lower and lower and being replaced by the sounds of people talking, gear containers being moved, and traffic that could be heard through the loading dock.

I remember thinking that this must be what it feels like to die. The entire universe just fades from perception until you’re alone.

Yes, I left an Ozzy show early. It’s the only show I left early as a young person. Based on what I have found about the tour, I missed 3 songs, and a 2-song encore. [Flying High Again/Iron Man/Crazy Train, and encore performances of Paranoid and Goodbye To Romance.]

I drove all the way back to the dorm. Straight there, about 80 miles. I didn’t even stop for a customary White Castle, as was tradition. When I got back, I went to bed. I was still upset about the whole thing.

A few weeks later, a bunch of kids were in the dormitory lobby watching the news so I joined them. There was a report that Ozzy had played his next gig the next night at another city. They showed some footage.

Tommy Aldridge was drumming.

That means that Carmine got fired from the gig. And considering how things went down, I did feel a bit of responsibility for that. I mean, the actual backstage pass winner wasn’t even back there. The only reason I was back there was because I drove him to the venue.

I have NO problem with Tommy Aldridge drumming. I’d seen Ozzy with Tommy at least 2-3 times before. My problem was with Carmine getting let go.

I went back up to my room. I found the backstage pass. I cut it up into little pieces and threw it away.

Late 1982: Less than 18 months earlyer, playing “Goodbye to Romance” at the high school talent show.

To a degree, I never really did recover. After that experience, I stopped listening to Ozzy completely. I stopped buying his records.

My feelings about Ozzy only got worse when I learned that he and Sharon were screwing Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake out of their rightful pay and credit for their contributions to those TWO big albums, “Blizzard of Oz.” and “Diary of a Madman.”

They even went so far as to RE-RECORD THE DRUMS AND BASS on the albums for a re-release, so they could avoid paying royalties.

And the stupid reality television show didn’t help matters much.

On December 9, 2006, I went to the Sandy West Memorial show at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood, California. Sandy was the drummer, writer, and founding member of the legendary break-out girl rock band, The Runaways.

December 9, 2006: Backstage at the Sandy West Memorial show, as a guest of The Donnas, at The Knitting Factory, Hollywood.

Both Carmine and his brother Vinnie were there, performing a dueling drum solo. While this was going on, I was backstage, bouncing around between backstage space for The Donnas, and The Bangles. I got to meet Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, and others. I didn’t take many pictures.

This was back when I worked at MySpace, and I was getting invited to lots of shows, on top of playing lots of shows.

I went and looked all over, but could not find Carmine. It was a chance to talk with him about it, and it just didn’t happen. For all I know, he performed and then left. I hope to run into him again one day.

Around 2011, I was in Burbank, CA, when a “record van” came to the area and parked near where I was eating. I got on the record van and found original vinyl pressings for the first two Ozzy albums, as well as a live picture album. I had previously owned all three of these when I was younger.

I confirmed their quality, AND that Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake were credited.

I still have these vinyl pressings, but have not yet listened to them.

September 29, 2021: My vinyl Ozzy collection.

I had also gone to Atomic Records in Burbank and found “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman” in CD format. Again, these are CDs that were made from the original pressings, so that I could get that original sound with Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake.

I’m sure the replacement musicians did a great job, since it was Robert Trujillo on bass and Mike Bordin on drums. Still, it’s not the original performances on the original recordings that I grew up appreciating.

As I have written previously, I was tested and properly diagnosed as having Stage 1 Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as ASD, formerly known as “High-Functioning Autism,” formerly known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” and known in my day as, “Stop fucking around and do your homework.”

Pick a name, already!

As an Autistic person, one of the things I have learned about Autistic people is that we have a VERY difficult time letting go of the past. If you wronged an Autistic person in 1969, you can bet that they’ll still be thinking about it on their deathbed.

Anyone who ever said anything negative to me, as well as anyone who ever did anything bad to me, would be spinning in my noggin, rotting in the synapses that struggle to bring an end to the mental torment.

In this regard, Wellbutrin is a hell of a drug, and I highly recommend it. I couldn’t ruminate right now if I was going to get paid to do it.

It’s also helping me to let go of some of the older traumas or general negative situations that stayed alive in my brain forever.

This can be a painful process, because letting go of these old bad memories actually allows for growth.

The other thing that helps me put these old memories in their place is writing about them while on Wellbutrin. It’s like I’m letting it go, and then I can watch it run away.

Go on, li’l guy. Run for your life, before I crush you beneath the sole of my steel-toed slip-ons.

I’ve only recently started listening again. I also picked up my acoustic the other day and played “Dee.” I’m really surprised that I remembered it, as I’d not really played it since high school. The same goes for that guitar solo in “Goodbye to Romance.”

Pop Rock music isn’t exactly rocket surgery.

Hearing these recordings, and really actively listening to them after roughly 37 years, takes me back to my teenage days. It moves me back to those times before the Ozzy/Appice incident. It takes me back to a time when I had a bad-ass car and Randy Rhoads was still alive.

It feels good. At the same time, it’s also not where I will stay. The past is a place to visit, not to live. Remember to set and maintain boundaries for time travel.

I may end up putting those albums on while I go for a walk today. Give both of them a front-to-back listen.

It’s fine to remember some of these less-palatable experiences from the past. The difficulty comes when the emotions that are attached to those experiences hang around as if the event in question had just happened.

As I write this, I’m reminded of a phrase that really fits this story well.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

If any of my life’s experiences fit that phrase, it was this one. It is hard to think of another time where I soared so high and then sunk so low so quickly. Manic memories like this can get sticky.

In a way, this is a great experiment for me. If I can listen to this music again after decades of hard feelings about events directly related to the music, then I might be able to overcome other hard feelings that I have about the past.

There are other things to do. One important thing is to forgive myself, as I wrongly blamed myself for Carmine’s situation that evening. The hard truth is that I had no idea that I wasn’t wanted backstage by Ozzy before the show. I have to let go and realize that this was on him, not me.

Another important thing, which is something I’ve been working on for a long time, is discarding the concepts of “good” and “bad” as they apply to things that happen in life. Because it’s really up to me how I’m going to feel about all of this.

In the grand scheme of things, as life goes, this particular experience is so very unimportant. It has no bearing on my life. All it really did was majorly mess up what I expected to be a great experience.

The relative unimportance of this experience is precisely what makes this memory and situation amazing, on top of the fact that it’s paired with music.

If I can let go of the negative aspects of that experience, AND if I can start listening to these albums again, then it will be a proof of concept moment for me; evidence that I can work through old pain and find success in healing and growth.

Should this work, then I might be able to get over some bigger things, like the utter contempt that I feel for Indiana in general, and big negative feelings that I have about certain people who have not been relevant to my life for almost four decades.

The lighter the baggage, the easier the travels.

It seems appropriate to end this entry with a clip. This is from shortly before the European leg of the tour, before they came to America, with Carmine drumming. The American show had a bigger stage with giant steps and the drums at the top. This is a more traditional band stage setup.

Oh, and one more thing. I know now that Carmine’s termination had nothing to do with me directly. It was that crazy b*tch, Sharon. You can read about it HERE.

Out of all of Ozzy’s post-Rhoads guitarists, Jake E. Lee was the best. Brad Gillis was second. At the bottom of the barrel is Zakk Wylde, who throws in a pinch harmonic about once every 3-5 seconds.

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Success: It’s the Thrill of the Chase

“It’s not the kill… It’s the thrill of the chase.”

I never had any question regarding what I wanted to do with my life. From the age of 18 months, when I first saw my uncle’s band, “The Sounder,” rehearsing at my grandmother’s house, I knew that I wanted to be a musician. My exposure to the band would last until 1972, when they split up.

Spring 1966

I would have a seat behind the drummer, wearing headphones for ear protection. When they went on break, I went outside to do my own drumming.

I would later get a toy drum set and an AM radio with the mono earbud. All I had to do was sit at the drums and wait for one of those songs by The Beatles to show up, and I could play along.

In my mind, it was clearly established that this direction was where I needed to go.

During the first week of first grade, we were all asked to go to the front of the class and tell everyone a bit about ourselves and what we wanted to be when we grew up.

My turn came, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share my vision with the rest of my contemporaries. I go up to the front of Ms. Gettinger’s class. On the wall was a HUGE blackboard. Above that was a map of the world.

I picked up the teacher’s pointer from the chalk tray and used it to point at the general area of Hollywood. Then I looked at everyone.

“When I grow up, I’m going to move to Hollywood and play drums.”

I expected my fellow classmates to be excited by this, or at the very least to be inquisitive. I expected at least one “Wow,” as well as questions about how I saw this working out.

Instead, everyone laughed. Everyone. Not one serious face in the entire bunch.

I went through grade school band. In junior high and high school it got way more interesting because of the variety of bands available. I played a variety of drums throughout my time in marching band, as well as playing drum set in the theater band and guitar in the jazz band. I also played drums for the pep band, sometimes switching to guitar. Somebody had to play “Beat It.”

I represented my high school in ISSMA competitions, taking all but one first prize. I represented my school with an appearance in The Cincinnati Reds High School Honors Band.

College brought about marching band opportunities, as well as the jazz ensemble, marimba ensemble, and more. I would even join a few bands during that time, which felt like the ULTIMATE preparation for doing what I wanted to do.

Finally, in 1986, I made it to Bakersfield, California. I would stay there for a short while before hitching a ride to LA, roughing it on the streets and struggling to make connections and get involved.

TRIVIA: I never played drums in a rock band in Indiana. The closest I got was playing drums on the studio recordings for my college band, “The Beertonez.”

I found a singer named Robin Baxter who helped me get established. She even bought me my first new drum set. She was a 29 year old singer who believed in me, and saw me as the key to her musical future.

I would end up playing a variety of instruments for Robin. I actually started out as a keyboard player, and then moved to drums after our drummer threw a hissy fit and quit.

She introduced me to legendary keyboardist Ted Ashford, from Big Brother & The Holding Company. He and I were best friends until he died of a heart attack, less than 2 years after we were introduced.

Circa 1987: On stage [keyboard] with The Robin Baxter Band at Club 88. I noticed that Robin would stand still and close her eyes while singing, but also noticed that she had a death grip on the mic. I asked her about it, and she said there was some dizziness. I encouraged her to go see the doctor and that’s how she got her MS diagnosis.

All of this lasted until she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. MS took her dream away, so she withdrew from the music scene and retired as an account. She still lives in the same apartment and does the same work.

This spelled the end for her pursuits, as well as the end of my pursuits with her. I still consider her to be a dear friend, even though we don’t really talk anymore.

We last talked in 1994. The sands of time have moved on, and so did we.

I spent 33 years making music in LA. I played every BIG venue on the Sunset Strip as a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and keyboard player. I have also recorded tracks on all of these instruments, and more.

I got to play at The Viper Room just before it got that name, when it was called “The Central.” Other clubs went through name changes, but I would keep showing up with new bands and new songs.

Late November 2009: On the stage of The Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip, filling in for a band’s regular drummer.
Being a drum mercenary in front of 500 people.

I got to meet LOTS of musicians whom I admired greatly. Some of them even became good friends and supporters of what I was doing with music.

There were many times when I’d be on stage, and would look into the audience while playing, only to see someone I admired in the audience. Some who have seen me play include Sally Struthers, Lemmy, Mick Fleetwood, Jimmy Page, Ric Ocasek, Nick Menza, Ty Longley, Marty Friedman, Max Norman, Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, Jeff Lynne, Joe Walsh, Gene Simmons, Bill Burr, Michael McKeon, Jack Black and Kyle Gass, Jason Alexander, and more.

In the studio, I encountered players like Bobby Birch, Steve Caton, Robbie Krieger, Nigel Harrison, and others. I got to record with producers like Jimmy Hunter, Travis Dickerson, and Ira Ingber.

I was also in a band with “Cousin Oliver” himself, Robbie Rist, called “The Wrong Dots.” That was quite the experience. We’re almost the same age, and I was always thrilled to see him on The Brady Bunch. I may have been the only one, but that’s another story.

I even got to play drums for THE Fred Willard. When I was on stage with him at The Wilshire Ebell Theater, it was safe to say that EVERYONE in the audience was someone in the entertainment industry. Over 1,100 seats, with prices starting at $500. That’s how you do a fundraiser. This fundraiser was for The Peter Boyle Multiple Myeloma Foundation.

November 2009: On the stage at Wilshire Ebell Theater, performing a comedy routine with Fred Willard.

I got to meet and study music with some people I admired. I took some drum lessons from Chad Wackerman a few decades ago. Most recently, I studied guitar with Zoot Horn Rollo for a year. He complimented my playing and compared me to players like Django Reinhardt and Robben Ford.

These are all people I had previously admired [and still do!] and I got to meet them and interact with them as a fellow musician or entertainer.

Things began to slow down in 2014. By 2019, I decided that I had more than enough music experiences in California. Seeking something new, I packed up and moved to the middle of nowhere in Oregon. It’s a stark contrast from the concrete jungles of LA and Hollywood.

August 2019: “Weird” Al Yankovic was making his way through Oregon, so I drove out to Bend to hang with drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz for coffee and pawn shop drum hunting.

As I write this, I am preparing for an audition [guitar] with a cover band. This band’s goal is to play songs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, at afternoon gigs in retirement homes.

Mine is a story that I have told many times. Each time I tell it, I frame it slightly differently depending on the details or lessons on which I want to focus. This time, it’s kind of like a high-level recap of sorts.

In the title, I gave a hint with the word “success.”

Remember those first grade classmates who laughed at me after I told them I was going to move to Hollywood to play drums when I grew up?

A few of them see what I’ve done with music, and they appreciate what I did. This opinion is sadly rare.

The overwhelming majority would say that I failed in my mission.


Because I “didn’t get rich and famous.”

Really. Yea. One person actually said to me on the phone, “If you were really a good musician, then you would have gotten signed. You would have made it. You must not be that good.”

It hurts when people say that, because I start to believe it.

The biggest problem with that sentiment is that relies heavily on the assumption that The Meritocracy is real and exists.

The Meritocracy is the American Capitalist idea that humans advance in their careers and finances based on merit, with NO regard for things like luck, inheritance, or connections. It’s a concept that gets thrown into the faces of those who do not fit in the system.

Whether a person be non-white, female, or Autistic like me, we get told that merit is what matters when we get downsized, or someone who doesn’t like us knocks us out of the running.

Nah, you didn’t get fired because you’re black, female, or Autistic. You got fired because you suck! You have no merit. The purpose is to demoralize.

This is NOT how the world works. The Meritocracy is a facade; a veneer designed to trick people into believing that they’re great, or that they’re shit.

It’s hard enough in a regular environment. In the music business, it’s even worse. I see lots of people who “made it” in the business who have NO musical talents or abilities at all! At the same time, I also see and know musicians whom I consider to be better than me, and they will NEVER “make it.”

“Making it” means getting rich and famous to most people.

Sadly, Americans measure success in these terms. It’s destructive and fallacious.

I don’t buy into things like The Meritocracy. I don’t believe that wealth or fame are good measures of success.

Did I “make it,” by my standards?

In 1971, I told all of those little shits that I was going to move to Hollywood and play drums when I grew up. It was a goal of mine.

To expand upon it, my goal was to make music, and to either make a living at it, or at least some extra cash. I was under NO delusions in any of this. I didn’t once believe that I was going to “get famous.” I didn’t believe that I would be a star of any kind, and viewed myself more as a paid player and a writer or producer behind the scenes.

I didn’t set out to get rich and famous. One cannot fail at something if it was never the goal in the first place. I never said that I was going to get rich and famous when I grew up. Those are assumed goals.

How did I view myself?

Think John Paul Jones. He’s the least famous player in Led Zeppelin, and yet he’s the most responsible for their sound. That is precisely how I saw myself.

So if I don’t measure my success by wealth or fame, then how do I measure it?

  1. I knew what I wanted to do.
  2. I told everyone what I wanted to do.
  3. I worked my entire life, so that I could do what I wanted to do.
  4. I moved 2,000 miles from home and struggled with homelessness and hunger to get established so I could do what I wanted to do.
  5. I did what I wanted to do for 33 years in Hollywood, while working jobs to pay bills.
  6. I worked with great producers, musicians, and other entertainers.
  7. I worked hard and had a great time.
  8. I made a bit of money along the way. Nothing to retire on.
  9. I have some fantastic, phenomenal memories.

Those are my avatars of success.

As I write this, the big musicians of my youth are going broke. They are selling their mansions, as well as their publishing catalogs. More and more, they are becoming irrelevant.

They “made it” in the eyes of the average American, as well as those who believe in The Meritocracy. At least, they did so at the time they were popular and a hot ticket.

All hot tickets cool down.

They’re musicians who are just as good as they were, if not better. They were once very rich and famous. Now, their fame has faded and their wealth has faded even more.

All they have left is basically the same stuff that I have. They made some great music, had some solid times, and now have wonderful memories.

In that regard, we all succeeded.

I don’t view ANY of them as “has-beens.” That’s an insult that people met out to show how little respect they have for others, and themselves.

Maybe I didn’t get the kill, but I did get the thrill of the chase.

This will add a bit more context to all of this.

My grandfather was always rough on me with regard to my music pursuits. In late 1985, I was living with him and my grandmother, just before I moved to California.

He was getting on me about pursuing being a musician. Things got heated and he yelled at me about how stupid my dream pursuits were. So I yelled right back at him.

“What do YOU know?! You’ve never had a dream.”

So far as I knew, he was a soldier for a while in WW2, then worked in a factory for 38 years before becoming the guy who works on cars and mows the lawn.

Grandpa, holding down the D major on his Taylor guitar, circa 1938.

He told me that he had dreamed of becoming a race car driver one day. “But then I met your grandmother, and we got married and started having a family…”

And then he started to cry. I had never seen him cry before.

I knew that he didn’t like my desire to chase my dream because it could mean that I wouldn’t be earning a living. But I never suspected that he wasn’t too happy about my dream because of his own dashed dreams.

I saw the regret on his face. In that moment, I promised myself to never wear those shoes.

So very few musicians “make it” in the industry, in the American sense. While the famous musicians are the most visible, there are so many other musicians who make great music out there. They lift people up after a rough day, or help someone reframe their mindset. They even entertain retirement home residents during the middle of the day.

They play guitar on street corners. They make YouTube videos. They might even sing in a karaoke bar. They are essentially everywhere.

The thing about my story is that it can also apply to you, even if you are not a musician.

Are you living the life you want? Are you doing what you want? Are you happy?

The thing is, you could be in a garage, painting a model airplane to put on your mantelpiece. You could be sitting in a spare bedroom, knitting a quilt. You could be on the patio, playing a song on the guitar for your own entertainment. You could be underneath your car with grease up to your elbows.

You’re NOT getting rich or famous with it. All the same, if it’s what you want to do and it makes you happy, then you are succeeding.

Your happiness is the most rich and famous star in your life.

Other people can knock you all they want. I get comments on my YouTube videos about my weight, or suggesting I need to buy a metronome, or whatever other negative things you can say. They can yell that you suck from the mountain tops. It doesn’t matter.

The thing is, it’s not their life. And anyone who shames you for doing what you love and enjoying it is probably someone who is upset that they cannot do what they love, or they’re otherwise miserable with themselves, and they’re spreading the misery in an attempt to gain some company.

Their opinions DO NOT matter!

In YOUR world, the only opinion that matters is the one that comes from within. It is important that YOU matter to YOU! It’s NOT narcissistic to love yourself, or to care about or respect yourself.

Be the best you that you can be, acknowledge it, and you will have success in whatever you are doing.

And if you doubt this, then consider the life of artist Vincent Van Gogh. He is celebrated around the world and his painting sell for hundreds of millions of dollars.

This was NOT the case when he was alive. He lived through a hard truth, where most people didn’t care about what he painted. He sold a few paintings, as well as a few drawings. He didn’t make much, never got rich or famous, and needed help from family members in order to survive.

And remember, above all else, that fame and wealth do not matter, and they matter even less when you’re dead and gone.

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Stop Attacking and Yelling at People Who Are Working

I took this photograph back on June 1, 2008. Look at those George W. Bush gas prices! The dark smoke in the air is from the fire at Universal Studios, where the original King Kong burned up, as well as boxes and boxes of MASTER TAPES that can never be revived again.

Indeed, Universal Music Group [UMG] doesn’t really care about the music masters from legendary artists. But that’s not the point of my post.

When gas prices first went up, I stopped at a gas station to fill up. Paying at the pump wasn’t working, so I went inside.

What I found inside was a man was about 10 years older than me, crying and cowering in the corner. I asked him what was wrong.

He told me about how EVERYONE who stopped to get gas was ANGRY WITH HIM!!!! They told him that HE was ripping off people. He got death threats from people. He was threatened with guns and knives by various customers.

They were SO STUPID that they believed that HE was responsible for the gas prices. They believed that HE was responsible for EVERYTHING at that station.

The hard reality is that he was nothing more than an employee working for slave wages and taking the brunt of every angry person out there.

We currently have an epidemic in America of people known as “Karens.” They will attack service workers, flight attendants, or anyone else who has ABSOLUTELY NO POWER AT ALL in the situation. The people they attack often times cannot defend themselves because they will lose their jobs.

In some cases, the Karens will KILL the worker who does something like trying to enforce a mask wearing policy. And people wonder why these workers don’t want to return.

A “Karen” is easy to spot:

  1. Typically female, although there are male Karens often referenced as Darrens or Kens.
  2. Typically older.
  3. Typically white.
  4. Typically Republican.
  5. Typically Trump voters.
  6. Lacking in sympathy, empathy, and Humanity.
  7. Always aggressive.

These are people who have lived HIGHLY privileged lives. But now that there’s a rule that applies to EVERYONE, they feel cheated and desperate. As a result, they get aggressive with ANY workers.

Here is an example of a Karen attacking a pizza parlor worker.

And here is ANOTHER Karen who was a Disneyland and decided that it would be a good idea to PEE IN A CUP.

They do not limit their attacks on service workers. They will also attack non-white civilians. They will attack POLICE OFFICERS!!!

They will even attack active military personnel. This Karen accused this Navy Veteran of stolen valor, and she SLAPPED HIM.

She has since been arrested, and she also lost her job at CVS. We need to see more consequences.

There are countless videos of Karens on YouTube, as well as ENTIRE CHANNELS dedicated to daily posts of Karen videos.

I’m going to keep this short.

Stop attacking people. Stop behaving like a spoiled brat. Stop causing harm to others. Stop being childish.

I am an Autistic man who is almost 57 years old, and who is also permanently frozen in time at around age 16. I say this so people can understand where I’m coming from.

Too many adults around my age, or older, really need to GROW THE FUCK UP. Just stop it.

Just stop.

Grown adults should know better.

I know the pandemic was rough. It was made more rough by those who have politicized the virus or who otherwise DO NOT take it seriously. Those who are stretching this disease out and giving it new life in the form of variants, ARE THE EXACT SAME PEOPLE WHO ARE WHINING ABOUT WEARING A MASK.

They stay in denial about it, even when they are in a hospital bed DYING of it.

Stupid, afraid, angry, and oblivious is no way to go through life. You’re making it worse for the rest of us. YOU ARE KILLING US, LITERALLY!

Stop it.

I do fear running into someone like this, as they love to push buttons and escalate. My concern would be that I might have an Autistic meltdown [panic attack] and launch something at them, which could be deadly. It could be a rock, or maybe a soup can.

So I am going to get pepper spray to protect myself from these self-declared “patriots.” I need to have something non-lethal to defend myself with.

What makes me a target of them is nothing more than WEARING A MASK.

This one isn’t even in America. This disease is spreading around the globe. The Walmart greeter, a DISABLED worker, asked a man to wear a mask, and this is what the guy did to him.

This really has to stop. Because if it does not stop, I might react in a way where the person attacking me may not get up, and I could end up in big trouble while defending myself. I’m too old to fight, so I’m more inclined to do something that will end it quickly.

I hope that I never have this kind of encounter with this brand of monster.

Grown adults should know better.

Seeking Help From Cincinnati Reds Fans [1983]

It was the spring or summer of 1983. So much was going on that it fogs my memory a little bit. I was graduating high school, preparing to go to college, rehearsing with the high school band for State Fair, band camp, dealing with my summer job, and more.

But there was ONE other thing that I did in the midst of all of that.

My high school band director had submitted my audition papers to be in the first-ever Cincinnati Reds High School Honors Band. I was told that over 14,000 kids from Indiana and the surrounding area had auditioned in an attempt to gain one of the 124 positions that they had available for this unique marching band.

I was one of the players chosen.

There are things that I do not remember about the day. I don’t remember the drive, or my mom packing sack lunches. I only learned a few years ago that my mom had NO CASH when we went, and that our ONLY hope of getting back home relied on whether or not there was a Marathon gas station in Cincinnati, since she had a credit card for that station.

I also don’t remember the sheet music that I studied to be ready to perform that day. I can’t name one song.

I don’t even remember if we played before the game, or at the mid-way point, or whenever.

What I DO remember from that day is that I got to meet and shake hands with Pete Rose. I also met his wife.

It was a “home game” for the Reds at Riverfront Stadium, which had a capacity of 40,007.

I remember that everyone wore their high school band uniforms. Anyone who can find video or photos of the band can easily spot me, since I was the ONLY player on the field wearing a cape. I played snare drum.

Also, I was put in charge of the drum line, and I was given 20 minutes to work up an entrance cadence, a mid-point cadence, and a march-off cadence. I recall how thrilling it was to be working with such top-notch musicians. Everyone was on board, and the drummers in the line actually let me lead.

Finally, I remember that they gave all of us special medals. I have most of my medals, but cannot find that one. It might be in my ex-wife’s storage unit, and I have my son looking for it. Knowing her, she probably threw it in the trash.

A few months ago, I wrote an email to the Cincinnati Reds in the hopes that they could help me out with finding some photos or video. They said that they had nothing available.

I have searched via Google, using a variety of terms to narrow it down.


Do you have a family member who religiously ATTENDED Cincinnati Reds games?

Do you have a family member who was a musician in 1983 who may have participated? I know there are only 123 other people, but it’s worth a shot.

Do you have any photos or video of The Cincinnati Reds performing in 1983?

Do you remember seeing the band march and perform?

If you do, then simply asking around would be help enough.

My goal, of course, is to find some photos or video of that event.

To anyone who finds this and can help, thank you in advance for asking and looking.

Riverfront Stadium, capacity 40,007: Where I found my biggest marching band audience.

Setting Boundaries on Time Travel

Since at least the early 1990s, I have been engaging in the behavior of time travel.

No, not the kind where you get into a machine and use science-based magic to physically go to a specific time in the past. There was no Delorean, and I never got up to 88 mph.

For the purposes of this entry, “time travel” is something where I will look up someone from the past. When I find them, I will pick up where we left off, no matter how long ago it was. This also covers traveling to an old place, like a home where I had once lived, to see what it looks like now.

When the average person time travels, they will typically utilize some type of media. This includes books, music, and movies. Some may be able to achieve this using more modern media, such as Facebook or other social networking platforms.

This engages the mind and achieves what I consider to be “personal time travel.” The more popular term for this is “nostalgia.”

When I travel to a place where something once happened, it fits within the construct of nostalgia. However, when I time travel to get to/with someone from the past, it’s a completely different story.

The former is somewhat normal. However, the latter fails miserably in that it requires the other person to be on the same page as me. What I have learned is that this is NOT the case 100% of the time.

For me, it goes way beyond the idea of nostalgia, and enters the realm of actually wanting to relive the past.

For the type of time travel that I have been doing in the past, the rewards are often times relatively small, especially given the time and effort that I would put into it all.

The rewards can be good at times, although they typically start out high-power and then devolve into something negative and ugly. I had written a while back about how I finally got the girl, and how that went down.

That is probably the best-case, so far as time travel goes. It started out really, really good. It was the kind of thing where I thought that things were finally going to be fine. But then, I suppose one might call it “reality” setting in, and things start to go south.

I went through this experience with “the girl” long ago. More recently, I went through almost exact the same thing with her aunt from late 2019 to the fall of 2020. It started out great, or so I thought, but it quickly devolved into chaos. In this case, it was so bad that my once-cherished memories are now so ugly that I am actively working to forget them.

Another risk, which applies mainly to people my age, is that the person I am looking for might be dead. There was one old friend from college whom I was seeking out and couldn’t find. I later found a mutual friend, who informed me that she had died almost 10 years ago.

Best case, the risk is that it ends up destroying a cherished memory. Worst case, it can pose a threat to your life.

It has been almost one year to the day since she walked out and never came back. The whole experience destroyed my confidence and breathed life into my depression, as well as my doubts about myself.

A great deal of work was required to get back up from there to where I am now. During that time, I’ve had a great deal of moments where I wondered what I did wrong.

The only conclusion I could derive was that my biggest mistake was time traveling. Digging up the past and attempting to bring it into the future.

After giving it much thought, I came to a few conclusions, based on my latest experience in late 2019 with “the aunt.”

I also came up with three important boundaries with regard to time travel.

The first boundary involves a promise to myself to stop digging into the past. I have some decent memories from that time, and I think it is best that I leave them alone.

This means that I won’t be looking for anyone I remember from a time long gone by.

To be clear, this DOES NOT impact those from my past who are in contact with me currently. I write on occasion with a scant few friends from the really, truly OLD days. That’s fine. And if I thought of them and wrote to them a year later, that’s cool. Same if they write to me.

The idea in this is to stop seeking out new connections to the past.

The second boundary is to stop thinking about my personal past. This does not impact old music or movies. Thinking about a date that went well in 1982 doesn’t really serve me well on any level.

The third and final boundary is all about how deep I am willing to go into the past.

After the break-up with “the aunt,” whom I had dated in 1982, I found another old girlfriend from roughly the exact same year. That experience was different because both of us had healthy boundaries in mind as we initiated contact.

My interest in boundaries for this situation were heavily influenced by the negative consequences of my experience with “the aunt.”

It really was how I should have handled things with “the aunt” in the first place.

  1. Make contact
  2. Hello, how are you
  3. Catch up on the latest
  4. Revisit the past briefly
  5. Email once in a great while

Those are really the proper steps to take for healthy boundaries in this situation.

Time travel to the past can be pleasant or traumatic. It can be positive or negative. It can be insightful or a major waste of time.

Pink Floyd warned us about many things in life. One major theme that runs through most of their material involves the idea that time flows by like a river. Thematically, their lyrics suggest that aging and dying are things that are racing at a high velocity straight toward us.

With that, I end this with a song of theirs that explains how you can try all you want, but you can never truly go back. In a way, it feels rather sad that we can never go back to those magical moments in life. But I have to wonder precisely WHY I want to go back to revisit those moments so badly.

It could be that I have no opportunities for NEW magical moments in my life. Even worse, it could be the case that life is no longer magical because I have too much experience with it.

The only thing I know for certain is that I cannot catch new magical moments with my hands if they are filled up with magical moments from the past. The water that once flowed through my fingers is no more, and the waters ahead are full of unfathomable mystery, pain, suffering, and possibly more magical moments.

The endless river. Forever and ever.

Steps taken forwards, but sleepwalking back again, dragged by the force of some inner tide.

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On Life and “Value”

The value of a dollar is where I think this entry needs to start, because this is something that I think most people definitely understand. Replace that US dollar with your currency, and it still applies.

In America, we do NOT use the Gold Standard, because there simply isn’t enough gold on the planet to back how much money we need and use. It’s a fiat currency whose value is highly dependent upon EVERYONE believing that a dollar is actually worth a dollar.

Imagine if your landlord one day decided that a dollar had no value, but they demanded to be paid “something of value.” What would you be giving them? How often? These are questions that are difficult to answer, and exist only to spur thought on what other options might be both valid and useful.

In this entry, I’ll be setting up the landscape by sharing a few personal anecdotes to set things up so that I can deliver my point more effectively.

I sold my last nice guitar for enough money to pay my rent for two months. Originally, I had paid at least three months’ worth of rent to acquire it.

Now imagine me trying to pay my rent by handing my landlord this guitar. If my landlord did not play guitar, didn’t need one, or wasn’t interested, then what kind of value would the guitar actually have in this situation?

To me, it was worth at least 3 months’ rent. But to my landlord, it is worth nothing.

Does this mean that value is a matter of perspective?

I once had an employer who saw some value in me, and paid me money for my work and contributions to the company.

When I got older, I was still capable of doing this work, but they decided to throw me out the door, along with everyone else who was over 45 and not in management.

The “value” I brought to the table was previously good enough. The quality of my value did not change. The only thing that changed was that I got older. To them, however, my age got in the way of their ability to build a “youthful, fun work environment, complete with a fully-stocked game room, fridges full of Monster Energy Drinks, puzzle stations, and a huge Manga library.”

What this situation tells me is that there are other things that companies value besides being a skilled, experienced worker who is good at their job. I mean, it’s ILLEGAL for them to do this. They get away with it by not saying the words, “We are terminating you because of your age.” It’s a technicality that favors the wealthy, who don’t pay taxes, so I don’t know why the law is kissing their butts.

But I digress.

In late 1988, I had decided that I was an utter failure. I had moved to LA in 1986 and spent time there working a good job at a computer rental firm while working on my music pursuits.

Long story short [at least, short for this section], I felt that I had failed miserably at my music career pursuits, mainly because I got nowhere. After having decided that I had given it a good run, I decided to turn my attention elsewhere.

What could have been

There was a girl in college whom I was madly in love with, and we had been talking on the phone earlier in the year. We talked about getting together, and even talked about marriage.

My plan was to move back home with my mother, find some other work, save up a little bit of money, and move to Chicago to marry her. But she got invited to The Virgin Islands by some asshole, and she married him right away. Her mother said it was because she wanted to get out of the house faster.

I found this out right as I was about to drop a long letter to her into a mailbox at the post office before I closed my account. Luckily, I checked my mailbox first and found a postcard from her, telling me that she had gotten married on a whim.

Feeling completely destroyed, I got on my motorcycle, accepted my defeat, and went to my mother’s.

There is nothing more degrading for a young man than to have to move back in with mom. I went through that twice.

Mom meant well when she told me that I needed to “get out of my funk” [this was before my diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder]. What better to get me out of that muddy ditch than to go clothes shopping?! Oh boy!

I suppose it works for mom, so she thought it would work for me. Alrighty, then.

My depression was fused with the sadness and failure that I had felt.

After we spent over one hour smelling cologne, I’d had enough. My mother saw my depression eating me alive, so she decided to say something to make me feel better.

“Come on. You need to pick a scent. Every man has to have a scent. If you want a woman in your life, then you have to bring something to the table.”

Something to the table. As in, VALUE?

At the time, I felt my personal value to be absolutely nothing. ZIP. Not worth anything at all. I couldn’t get my music career going, I couldn’t find a new job, the girl I cared about married someone else, and I lost EVERYTHING before moving back in with my mother.

So far as I was concerned, I had no value at all.

What was the fix for this? To make myself valuable? Or maybe to accept myself as I am/was?

Before I continue, I can imagine someone telling me that I need to believe in a god if I want my life to have any value. This only works for people who have been convinced that their god [the god their parents conveniently worshipped] is who gives them value.

So far as I can tell, the only “value” they talk about is after they die, when they’re in heaven, ON THEIR KNEES worshipping and praising a god with a very fragile ego, for All of Eternity.

That doesn’t sound like value. That sounds like bullshit. No offense.

This is NOT something that will EVER work for me. From where I stand, that does not look like value at all. It looks more like slavery.

So please do not offer that up as a suggestion.

YOU feel the value in that, while I simply do not see it.

This is because value is subjective, and not objective.

So far as I can tell, I was NOT born with a purpose. If there is a god, and if I do have a purpose, then I have been waiting for almost 57 years for this god to TELL me what this purpose might be.

Of course, as an Atheist, I am NOT holding my breath.

When people hear me say that life has no intrinsic value, they are upset, shocked, and even angry about it.

Since I don’t believe that a god gives anyone value, because gods don’t exist, then some have suggested that I must create my own value.

The idea is that you create your own purpose. You do this by serving your community, helping the needy, or reading books to kittens in the animal shelter. I have done the last one once, and I can say that I did feel as if I had made some lives a little bit better.

It was as if I did something that made a difference, because it did make a difference. But in American society, nothing you do is of any value unless it generates money.

Because in America, money is more important than happiness, health, or anything else. So far as your boss is concerned, working is more important than taking one of your sick children to the hospital.

If you can’t tell by now, I don’t like the “value = money” proposition. There are things I value that money cannot buy, and I find those things to be far more important than anything that Capitalism has to offer.

This section must be prefaced with the acknowledgement that I understand that my family and friends value me, just for my existence. I get it, and I think therein lies the key to answer all of this.

As for my perspective on my own value, I have to admit that I am a bit distracted as I am writing this. I got a notification that someone left a comment on one of my YouTube videos.

So I went to look. It was yet another comment on my weight, telling me how fat I am. Good thing I don’t value their opinions. Yes, I know that I am fat, and I know that it is an issue. What they don’t know is that it’s a struggle that I’ve been dealing with for decades. It has nothing to do with laziness or overeating, and everything to do with my gut biome and the bacteria that live there. I’ve been eating the Diabetic dietary recommendations for over two years. That’s as much as I am willing to write about my medical issues.

These are the kinds of comments are nothing new for me. It doesn’t hurt because I don’t know them and do not value their opinions.
Why would I value an opinion like that? Maybe it helps them to believe that their lives have value.

Comments like that would normally destroy any sense of value that I might have. The real question is, can something be destroyed if it doesn’t exist?

It doesn’t hurt me. It does make me sad to see that some people’s lives are so empty, hollow, and pathetic that this is the only way they can feel better about themselves. Maybe being a troll helps them feel valued.

So in an effort to help their self-esteem, I pinned their comments and put a heart on them. Maybe they will feel special now. I’m here to help.

Society might value me more, if I had a better job, or if I could lose weight, or if I were muscular, or if I were better looking, or if I were rich or famous. Since I have NONE of those things, then society does not value me or my existence at all.

Fortunately for me, I understand that American society and what it values has been broken for a very long time. The problem isn’t me.

It’s them.

Besides, what other people think of me is none of my business. I don’t care.

This is what really, truly matters. It’s my life, my body, my experience, and so how I see it is what matters to me. My own opinion is the main one that matters. One might say that it’s what I value.

As I think about my value to me, I must consider the world at-large. I have to take into consideration the vast list of friends, former lovers, etc., who do not value me, as well as the former and prospective employers who do not value me, and even those completely unknown strangers who go out of their way to let me know that I have no value.

All this talk of “no value” has me wondering if the concept of human value isn’t as idiotic and pointless as the perceived value of money.

When I look at the world, I see some dark things.

I see the husband who used to “value” his wife when she was young. He “loved and cherished her,” up until she got older. Maybe she gained weight, or maybe she just got wrinkles. And suddenly, he no longer values her at all.

I see the wife who used to “value” her husband when he was earning six figures. But when he lost it all, she suddenly did not value him anymore.

I would point to these two situations and ask my mother, “Is this really what ‘bringing something to the table’ ends up looking like?”

What it looks like to me is that the “value” is in the thing that is brought to the table, and NOT THE PERSON, AT ALL.

Without her looks or his money, these people have no value.

Or maybe it’s our society that has no values?

Anyway, back to my value of me, and I suppose that all of this was a roundabout way of saying that I acknowledge that I have NO intrinsic value, neither does anyone else, and it leads me to conclude that I also have no value, since I bring nothing “to the table.”

And I am okay with that.

If a woman wanted to be with me because I had money, power, fame, or a 7.2″ personality, then she’s not really there for me. I don’t have any money, power, or fame. You do the math.

If a friend wanted to be my friend because of what they felt I could do for them, then they aren’t in it for me. They’re in it for my services.

I have nothing to add regarding corporations, bosses, and employment. Those things don’t matter in the end.

What matters is people, and what THEY view as being valuable. I have friends who find value in emailing or calling to talk. I have friends who find value in getting together to shoot the shit. I have friends who find value in doing things together and sharing an experience.

And I find value in this as well.

There is no money. There is no bringing any “things” to a “table.”

I can be friendly, compassionate, sympathetic, empathetic, and more. Other times, it’s okay to simply BE.

From Bruce Lee’s book, “Tao of Jeet Kune Do.”

My value, much like everyone else’s, is highly limited in that it’s not something that is recognized worldwide. It might not be anything that would make the daily papers. And while it won’t change the world in a big way, it can change those around me who are perceptive and open to Humanity.

It’s not something that can be sold or purchased. It’s not something that will move Wall Street to the stratosphere. It’s not something that will pay rent or purchase a new sports car.

And yet, the thing I value in me is the same thing that I value in others. I care nothing about wealth, fame, good looks, or anything else that is fleeting. In MY world, you can be 95 years old, in a nursing home, broke as hell, not even able to get out of bed, and you can STILL have that value.

In American terms, I have no value at all.

In Human terms, my value is the same as everyone else’s value.

In consideration of the man who values his wife because she is beautiful, or the woman who values her husband because he has money, all I can say is that they are on a path of guaranteed disappointed, misery, and confusion.

It’s okay to have no monetary or social value. Some people get it.

Imagine having someone who loves you for YOU, and not for what you “bring to the table.” If you cannot imagine it, then some introspection is in order.

To those who do not, understand that your world view of value pertaining only to money is something that will trip you up. It could also very well lock you out of many of life’s experiences.

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The Grand Illusion

In the middle of the summer of 1977, between sixth and seventh grade, Styx released an album titled “The Grand Illusion.” The title track tells the listener to remember that you are surrounded by this grand illusion.

The idea was if you think “your neighbor’s got it made” or you “never win the game,” then you’re being fooled by that Grand Illusion. That is to say, be present, acknowledge this powerful illusion that fools everyone, and then re-adjust your own attitude.

Before I get to the meat of the matter, I am posting the song and lyrics below first, for the uninitiated.

For the uninitiated:

Welcome to the Grand illusion
Come on in and see what’s happening
Pay the price, get your tickets for the show
The stage is set, the band starts playing
Suddenly your heart is pounding
Wishing secretly you were a star

But don’t be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They show you photographs of how your life should be
But they’re just someone else’s fantasy

So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because you never win the game
Just remember that it’s a grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same
We’re all the same

So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because your neighbors got it made
Just remember that it’s a grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same

America spells competition, join us in our blind ambition
Get yourself a brand new motor car
Someday soon we’ll stop to ponder what on earth’s this spell we’re under
We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are

I was just 12 years old when that song came out. After listening to it a few times, I thought about my life and what illusions I may have seen.

It was 1968, and my parents had gotten back after spending a week on vacation at Lake Chapman. We stayed home with our babysitter, Debbie Bradford. She was our Avon lady’s 18-year-old daughter.

Dad got his vacation film developed and invited a couple they were friendly with to watch the video and then have snacks while playing some card games.

I was in the room, watching the video. I looked over at this couple, and their faces were blank. They looked like they couldn’t wait for the vacation movie to be over so they could get to the snacks and game. And I was with them in that sentiment. After all, I didn’t get to go, so it was hard to care.

To me, it was my parents attempting to show someone else how great their life might be. But, to be fair, it also could have been them sharing a video of the fun time they had with their close friends.

Could it be one? The other? BOTH? This is what makes the illusion so difficult to pin down.

Whether it was face-to-face with a friend and my scrapbook, or on social networking, or even right here, I have always shared photos and videos of my life.

My life isn’t anything particularly great. The only thing close to “greatness” in my life can be found in the fact that I pursued my dreams. I did not achieve my dreams, to be clear. I don’t have any big bragging rights in that regard, and I’d not be bragging anyway.

All the same, I do feel like sharing what photos or recordings I have from those times with people I care about. It does start to get weird when I’m sharing things like that with perfect strangers; people I don’t know who might actually use ANYTHING I post against me at any time.

It’s hard to work past that sometimes.

I’ll generate an example here.

This is the cover of a comedy album for comedian Chris Neff. He’s behind the bar and I am sitting at the bar with my then-girlfriend, Catherine.

If I put it out there just like that, then it would give the appearance of a “flex,” which is a form of bragging. Basically, I’m on an album cover and you are not.

As it stands right now, am I doing this to brag, or am I simply sharing something of which I am proud? At this point, it comes down to what the viewer believes is going on in my mind. They have to guess at why I am point this, and their minds will favor the more negative explanation by default.

We didn’t really drink.

But what would the viewer think if I added more information? For example, photo outtakes. Some would say it’s more of a brag, while others would say it’s documentation of an important event in my life.

If I said that this was a special day for me, would that change things?

Not pictured: Over 300 cocaine snorts and a loud air conditioner.

Now, I can add even MORE information by explaining that I was on the cover because I edited and co-produced the album.

Am I expressing pride in an achievement? Or am I bragging? Again, this is dependent upon the mindset and perception of the receiver of this information.

We have moved the goalpost once so far. We started with me posting that I was on an album cover. Then I moved the post by noting that I edited and co-produced the album.

I can move that goal post again by being completely up-front about the illusion of the album itself.

As you can see in the last image above, the album was heavily edited. I created his show by taking a bunch of his performances and “comping” the evenings. If I remember correctly, there were 2 Thursday shows, 2 Friday shows, 2 Saturday shows, and 2 Sunday shows.

That’s an album that uses EIGHT performances to present the illusion that he performed this perfectly over the course of ONE night.

The BEST night was where he had set his iPhone near a very active air conditioning duct. I had to edit that out of the entire thing.

He’d have a situation where the first half of the joke sounded best on Saturday night part 2, but then the second half of the joke was actually better on Thursday night part 1. So I would have to splice those together. It was seamless.

And there were two instances where two different women on two different nights heckled him at two different points in his act. He liked his responses, but they wouldn’t make sense without being able to clearly hear the heckles.

So I got two different women in the studio. I set up loops of the women talking and added a click for a beat to make it all rhythmic. I’d have the words the woman said, and I would coach them by the rhythm to say the same lines. I made it musical so they could be on-point in their spoken performances.

Note the DRUMWILD.COM microphone. This image is on the back of the album.

I re-created the heckles in-studio, which is a process known as Automated Dialogue Replacement, or ADR.

In the end, a solid album was produced. Is that illusion destroyed by the explanation? Maybe a little? Not at all? It depends on the person and their own preconceived notions.

In considering the above, about the album cover, album production, and the process, is that a brag? Or is it nothing more than a case of me talking about a project that I worked on?

It depends on YOUR perception.

To the people I knew in LA and in the entertainment business, they would view it as me sharing an accomplishment, and nothing more.

Those who are not close or involved in entertainment might view it as a brag. If they’re a fan of Mr. Neff, they might view me as someone important who was close to him. Whatever they view it as, I would say that they are incorrect in their perception.

Life context is SO important to the interpretation of this expression.

People who really, truly know me understand that I’m not one to share things in order to brag. Life is hard and has those occasional great moments and fantastic opportunities. It’s always a special day for me when I am able to latch on and end up achieving something; anything!

I might be able to change the illusion, yet again, by adding even more information. I took the album production gig without knowing the quality of the recordings, how many recordings there were, or what the artist would want done.

I accepted the gig on a flat rate, when charging hourly would have garnered me at least 10x the pay.

The stress put upon me by the artist and studio co-owner was very heavy. I had many sleepless nights where I’d wonder when the project was ever going to end.

And when I got taken by the cancer scammer later that year [2013], both the artist AND studio co-owner turned against me and decided to smear my name and reputation all over Facebook in a way that psychologically destroyed me until relatively recently.

My “friend” who co-owned the studio AND my “friend” the comedian BOTH stabbed me in the back and verbalized to me how they wanted me dead.

Theirs were but two of the many death threats that I received, when I sincerely believed that I was helping out a friend who had cancer. THAT friend was also a liar, and is now dead from either a drug overdose or suicide.

NOW, with THAT information available, am I still bragging about how great my life in LA was?

The more information you can get, the more realistic the situation seems. But with very little information, your imagination is allowed to wander and fill in the gaps of things you might want to know but do not.

Limited information adds to The Grand Illusion.

How much information do you want friends to have? How much information do you want out there for non-friends and enemies to have? Keep in mind that EVERYONE can read this. I’m certain to get a negative email and a request to take this post down by Mr. Neff or his attorneys.

But it’s MY story to tell, I did NOT sign an NDA, and I think that I can talk about the nuts and bolts of editing and producing this comedy album, since he thought it would be a good idea to spread the word that I was a scammer who was “in on it” with the person I believed to be helping.

Take the BLUE pill, and you’ll continue to believe those people are your friends. But take the RED pill, and I will show you how they REALLY feel about you, and also show you the big pieces of shit they truly are.

I suppose you could say that my friendships with these people were also nothing more than illusions. The sad thing is recalling just how happy I was when those illusions appeared to be real.

In a Blue Pill world, I would post a photo of the album cover and leave it to everyone’s imagination, where they might think that I’m rubbing elbows with celebrities.

I could put forth a bit more information, and come off as a comedy producer who is on his way to the Big Time. This might be called Purple Pill; something that contains a bit of truth. YES, I produced a comedy album, and NO, I wasn’t actually headed toward the Big Time.

Or I could go full-bore Red Pill and tell the entire story, which is a case of what felt TO ME like a good situation with friends, where we created something really good, and then I got under-paid and crapped on after it was all said and done.

What is reality? What’s an illusion?

Who IS that “beautiful woman” you’re on a date with? Probably not who you think. Remember that she is “putting her best foot forward,” and is keeping the closet door locked tightly until you’re sufficiently vested in a relationship. And people wonder why the majority of marriages fail.

How can you combat the issue of potentially falling victim to the illusion? You could tell yourself certain things, like instances where people put their best foot forward is a case of generating an illusion. They keep the monsters hidden away, locked in a closet, until they find the perfect time to let them pounce on you.

It might be easier to acknowledge that everyone is human, meaning they have problems, issues, challenges, AND they DO NOT have it so “made” as you might believe, or as they might want you to believe.

I wrote recently about how I finally got the girl, and she turned out to be no different from anyone else. It was actually heartbreaking to realize that she was not really that good of a person.

She didn’t put herself upon a pedestal; I did that. In this instance, I actually AIDED AND ABETTED the creation of the illusion, best case. At worst, I created the entire illusion myself, and she may have had almost no idea how that illusion looked to me.

If I ever see her again, I will tell her to her face about it. At the same time, I will not be holding my breath or looking forward to the day. Whether it happens or not, I will be at peace.

Alex Murdaugh had THE LIFE to many. High-power job, big payday, beautiful wife, and two sons. But now, his wife and older son are both dead, and he’s going to prison because he paid someone to kill him so that his youngest living son would get a $10 million payday. HE WAS WILLING TO BE SHOT IN THE HEAD AND PAID SOMEONE TO DO IT in order to keep The Grand Illusion alive.

Realizing that everyone is human is one important step. It is also important to realize that SOME people are VERY invested in The Grand Illusion, and that they will do ANYTHING to keep that illusion alive. They fear being judged or looked down upon by people in a vicious society based on the pursuit of wealth, fame, and a life that impresses others.

That fear is VERY powerful and destructive. YOU do not control so much as you would like to believe.

One could suggest that the addition of teeth generates an illusion, while others woudl be fair to say that the omission of teeth generated a negative illusion. If BOTH are illusions, then what is “real?”

As I write this, I would encourage others to NOT THINK SMALL about this. Thinking small means having paranoid conspiracies, like the ones that are spread about COVID, the vaccine, and other things that I refuse to dignify.

Small minds do this so that the person thinking it can feel a greater sense of self-importance. They buy a lie and then continue to lie to themselves so they can feel that they matter in society, while having the sensation that they know something the average person does not.

It’s self-delusion and I have no space in my life for any of that. We are talking about The Grand Illusion, not the mental delusion.

As I noted above, in reference to “getting the girl,” I may have completely generated that entire illusion myself. At the same time, she may very well have had NO idea at all, and may have simply believed that I was nothing more than an infatuated teenage boy.

That was neither the first nor the last time that I had generated an illusion for myself. It’s an unhealthy and VERY dangerous thing to do. The last time I did it was in late 2019, when I got back together with an old girlfriend from 1982. Ironically, she’s the niece of “the girl” I wrote about in that other blog entry.

The freaky part is that I had no idea I was doing it at the time. What I write next comes as a result of hindsight, based on experience.

During the few months we talked before she moved out, I encountered a high number of red flags. I should have heeded them as a serious warning. Instead, I made excuses for them and pushed them aside.

Why? Because I really, truly wanted things to work out, and I was willing to MAKE them work out, even if it meant struggling to bend, break, or change all of those red flags. It was pathetic desperation to finally have what I believed was something I needed and deserved.

The reality, of course, is that she wasn’t who I thought she was, at all. She had a host of problems, and I learned about many of them the hard way. I consider myself fortunate that she walked out one day and never came back.

But I chose to let myself be fooled by my memories of the girl I knew back in 1982. I gave NO consideration to the fact that people change, and sometimes for the worse.

Once I gathered up all of the red flags and threw them away, I found myself looking forward to entering a world where my own illusions would boost me up, sending my self-esteem into overdrive.

None of it was sustaining, because all of it was a LIE. Or, to put it nicely, it was The Grand Illusion. For once, I was the one who was going to have it made. For once, I was the one who would be able to say that things worked out. For once, I would be THE winner in life, love, and happiness.

It took me over HALF a CENTURY, but I had finally arrived. That was it.

Social Networking leads the way in generating Blue Pill scenarios, thanks to a concept known as “social bubbles,” where life is perfect and everyone agrees. It’s like The Grand Illusion, but with a booster seat.

The pandemic made sure that this illusion was shattered quickly. Had the pandemic NOT happened, we would have gotten married relatively quickly, her problems would have leaked out slowly, and I would have learned the REALLY hard way, as her husband, about these problems several years later instead of a few months later.

Then I would have been her SIXTH divorce.

Thanks to the pandemic, I was saved a great deal of trouble. For that, I am grateful.

In summary, it seems that The Grand Illusion [not the song, but the thing] is the perception and belief that other people around you have “made it” or that they have it easier or better. It’s a projection of the Blue Pill upon unsuspecting people, as well as those who work to force your mind to generate that false narrative.

It’s something we could experience without the aid of Styx, The Matrix, or the internet.

Keep on lying to yourself that Christmas is all about the birth of Baby Jesus, family, community, unity, and peace on earth. That’s a Blue Pill delusion, when we have Red Pill video evidence that it’s about getting a good deal on things to buy, and trampling anyone who gets in your way. This video footage would not exist if it were truly about the Blue Pill delusion.

We are surrounded by chaos, stress, aggravation, and the occasional existential crisis, which would be identified as Red Pill in nature. Is THIS the reality where we live, OR is it just a mirror image of the Blue Pill illusion?

The Blue Pill is la-la land, and the Red Pill is the harsh reality of it all.

Is the idea that these are the only two options yet ANOTHER illusion? As advanced as The Grand Illusion feels, it stands to reason that the idea that it is an illusion within an illusion is plausible.

As I feel my cultural relevance continue to fade into the darkness, I look back into the light. There, I see younger adults getting married and believing it will be forever.

I see them ignoring their lives as they work too much, believing that their hard work will “get them somewhere.” Their children grow up while they’re at work, and they still cling to this belief.

They do it for money; a mutually-agreed-upon delusion that is meaningless beyond being a fictional tool of survival. Anyone who disagrees can consider the scenario where one person has a loaf of bread and that’s ALL there is left. The other person has a $100 bill. They offer it to the person who has bread, and they refuse. You can’t eat money. In fact, if our financial infrastructure failed, money would be worthless.

I look back and see them doing all the things that I sincerely believed was important; those things that would “get me somewhere.” They often return this gaze and suggest that I am “jaded.” They might be right, as the things they are doing now are things that I did way too much for a very long time.

But they are wrong when they say that I am angry that I didn’t “get anywhere.” I am precisely where they will be, should they live to be my age.

We are ALL in the same place, pretending to be somewhere else so that we can feel better about our lives.

A lot of the pretty, aesthetically pleasing stuff resides on the surface. Once we break the surface, we also break the illusion and get into the murky waters that are filled with weeds, leeches, snapping turtles, alligators, fish poop, rotting logs, sunken boats, dangerous brain-eating amoebas, and an assortment of plastic and other human-generated trash.

We acknowledge the surface to feel safe. What lies beneath the surface concerns us only when it threatens our safety. We never think about it much, until one day when we are submerged against our will by life experiences. Once we have been submerged, we cannot un-see what we have witnessed.

The surface looks very real, as do the contents beneath the surface.

It is no different from when I look into the mirror. What I see in that reflection also looks very real.

The thing that I call “Dan,” or “I,” or “DrumWild,” or “me,” is merely a scaffolding that the brain in this body generated for the purposes of encountering the world for the purposes of potential procreation. It is created by the brain, after using sensory data to perceive what other beings with similar brains perceived.

With limited data and limited input by all parties, a being is generated for the brain. The reflection this brain receives from other brains gets twisted if the receiving brain has neurological anomalies in the pre-frontal cortex. On top of that problem, is the variety of problems that the perceptive brains may have, including narcissism or other pathological issues.

The accuracy of the data used in the creation of “me” isn’t very robust or reliable. It is the ultimate avatar of life not being “fair.”

Stories of a soul, a savior, a god, angels, heaven, and eternal life are fictional stories that the brain tells itself to cope with the burden of its knowledge of its own guaranteed, impending demise.

Set forth upon the world. Spread your seed. Work your job. Make your money, as well as your big plans. Make yourself feel that you are so very important to the world. It’s all things to keep you distracted until you die.

But if we die, then are we not real?

If death were not, at the very least, a concept, then we would NEVER, ever talk about being alive. We would not worry about life so much if it never happened. Without death, life would not exist as a concept, and neither would any of the other illusions that we carry, grow, and adopt over the course of a “lifetime.”

Life is an illusion caused by death.

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Checking My Personal White Privilege

For years, I have heard people tell others to “check your privilege.” It has been long enough that I have decided to check my own “white privilege.” Do I have it? Does it exist? Let’s find out.

I first learned about how others viewed my skin tone when I moved to LA and lived on the streets for a while. I encountered a black homeless man outside of a Jack in the Box restaurant. We started talking and I decided to split my last five bucks with him on food.

As we sat at a booth talking, he said, “You should be an actor, because you have a multi-ethnic look. You could be pretty much anything.”

I wrote it off as him being complementary because I had given him some food. All the same, this experience I had in 1986 would stick with me forever.

I’m 6′ tall and just over 240 pounds [my ideal weight would be in the low 180s]. I have a shaved head, which gives me an intimidating look, as well as an ethnic look, depending on the beholder.

When I get enough sun exposure, my skin gets really dark. As it is, my skin tone is slightly darker than average. More on that later.

My own mother said that if she didn’t know me and saw me walking down the sidewalk, that she would cross the street to avoid me. [People who actually know me DO NOT think this.]

I basically scare my own mother with my appearances. But there is more at work than appearances.

A report showed that 20% of Autistic people will have an encounter with the police before the age of 21. Also, Autistic people are 7 times more likely to have a negative encounter with the police.

Already, I can feel my white privilege melting away.

There is record of Benjamin Franklin having a problem with Germans moving to the colonies. He said that there were too many of them, that they won’t learn English, and that they won’t integrate, effectively “Germanizing everything.”

Photo from high school, when I got more sun. I have a dark skin tone. On a side note, the t-shirt that I am wearing here was to promote a radio station called WTLC, the may have been the first all-Black radio station in Indianapolis.

He declared that the colonies “MUST be kept white AND English.”

But he had more to say about German people like me.

He said that the “swarthy tone” of German skin was a clear indicator of lower intelligence.

Welcome to America.

Okay, my white privilege is in a state of peril.

But not just now. It always has been.

I had an encounter one night at 2am, driving home from San Diego to LA. About 30 miles inland, there is a border patrol. They waved me over. I had my shaved head, and was also wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts. I was relying heavily on the car to stay warm.

They told me to get out of the car. The officer, dressed in a wool-lined hat with thick gloves and a coat asked, “Why are you shaking so much, boy? What kind of drugs are you on?”

When cops talk to me like that, and it happens more often than not, I know that they DO NOT view me as being white.

I replied by asking him why he was dressed for an Arctic storm. He didn’t like that and told me to sit down. I first had to wait for over an hour, when they brought in dogs to check the car for drugs, which was when I realized that I’d recently bought this car USED, and did not go through it myself in that manner.

They could find ANYTHING, and it would get pinned on ME.

TWO HOURS after the car search, one cop told me that I could leave. I asked if he meant it, and he said, “Go on, leave!”

I stood up and was half-way to my car, when another cop pulled a gun on me, screaming, “FREEZE! WE GOT A RUNNER HERE!!!! GET DOWN GET DOWN GET DOWN!!!!!!”

So I have to drop to the ground. Someone picks me up and takes me back to the bench, where I would sit for another hour while they decided what they were going to do with me, or to me.

I spent FOUR hours at border patrol, and every hour of it was freezing cold and hyper-terror. I really believed that I was going to die that night.

There are many other examples of this, and on many occasions I feared that I would be facing the end of my life at the brutal end of corrupt police aggression.

Around 2010 or 2011, a guy wrote to me and asked me to join his organization, The Armenian Aryans. He said that I was a ” perfect specimen of genetic superiority.”

I told him that I was NOT Armenian, and even if I were, I’d NOT be joining ANY racial supremacy groups, EVER.

He got really angry, told me that I was LYING about not being Armenian, and said that he would KILL ME if I didn’t join his group.

Where did my white privilege go?

Yes, there are times when the police view me as white. On the occasions when that happens, I might get a warning, or I’ll be asked a few questions and be let go. Other times, I am ordered out of the car via the end of a shotgun, thrown to the ground, and brutalized.

The times where the cops were inappropriate and brutal with me would have ended in a lawsuit and a judgment. The WOULD have, but they never went that far. Lawyers would tell me, “You’re white, so we can’t accuse them of racism.” I would protest that the way they treated me proved they THOUGHT I was not white. Then I’d be told that we can’t read minds, or whatever bullshit excuse there was.

So I could get no traction in the form of a trial or compensation whenever this happened. It’s a case of the cops “screwing up,” so I would be told.

My son is half-Mexican. My nephew is half-Black. I have a motive for wanting to make the world a better place for them, and that includes how non-white people are treated by law enforcement and society in general.

My analysis is that, while I do have SOME white privilege, I don’t have enough to the point where I would ever feel comfortable doing things like driving to the store.

Between my “swarthy” skin tone, my Autism, and police department policies of ESCALATION of situations, I fear that I would have an Autistic meltdown and end up getting shot by an officer.

Effectively, I live in a type of No Man’s Land, where seemingly few can relate, and most don’t really care to even try. So I’d prefer that you NOT ask me to “check my privilege,” because I am horrifically aware already. Thanks.

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Visiting The Weed Doctor

If nothing else, I figured that this might be an interesting story for some.

In America, some states have legalized or decriminalized cannabis [marijuana]. It varies from state to state.

I fought hard in the 90s and 2000s to get cannabis legalized in California. For a while, only medicinal was available. This meant that you had to go see a doctor and get a prescription. More on that later.

We also had a Native American church that sold cannabis as “holy sacraments.” Eventually, California legalized recreational use. All of this comes with rules in the law relating to how much you can grow, how much you can buy, how much you can possess, etc.

At first, you would have to find a doctor who was willing to write the annual prescription, and it would cost as much as $500. Over time, things loosened up. To be fair, medically speaking, they got too loose.

How you’d go about getting your prescription today is simple and weird. You find a “doctor” who write cannabis prescriptions. That’s all they do. You go to their office, which is usually in a strip mall. The receptionist takes your drivers license and writes down a bit of information for you. You pay the receptionist $60. Then, you watch an Adam Sandler movie in the waiting room. This movie typically also stars Kevin James and is really bad.

You see the doctor in a little office room. He’s wearing a white lab coat and has a stethoscope. He says, “So, you’re having trouble sleeping right? Oh yes! Well, here’s your prescription. Don’t forget to renew on time next year to save $20.”

They MIGHT take your temperature and blood pressure. Maybe, for appearances.

Before I continue, I should say how cannabis helps me. As an adult with Level 1 Autism, I suffer a few conditions. For one, I’ve had life-long insomnia. With cannabis, I can get up to 6 straight hours of sleep. It also helps to “mute” some of my Autistic manifestations by relieving stress.

When I was deciding to move from California, it had to be a relatively “blue” state with regard to politics. They also had to have legalized cannabis. This is not just because I wanted to be able to purchase cannabis legally, but also because it shows how free or authoritarian their society might be.

Oregon seemed like a rational choice, for this reason.

Right after I returned the moving truck to U-HAUL, I ran across the street to my first Oregon cannabis collective and purchased an ounce of their premium Kush. They were very professional.

I will say that the budtenders in Oregon are generally better than the ones in California. In California, budtenders are typically women who are hired based on how hot they are. In Oregon, they hire people who have knowledge and experience. Unlike many in California, the budtenders in Oregon know what they are talking about and can make recommendations.

I asked the budtender about getting a prescription. He said that it cost at least $200 [it can be as high as $400], and that it wasn’t worth it unless you spent more than $1,500 per year on cannabis.

This is because when you purchase cannabis WITHOUT a prescription, you pay a 3% county tax, as well as a 17% state tax. 20% tax can add up over time. I don’t buy that much, as I do not use it beyond my occasional evening sleep aid.

The first step was to sign up with a collective that offers the prescription service. Most of them do. They might be filled up, so you could end up waiting a few months before they finally call you.

They ask what conditions you’re seeking relief from. I told her about my Autism and Insomnia, and she said those issues are not covered. She also said she believes they should be.

She continued to ask me questions, and we figured out that Type 2 Diabetes is a covered affliction. So we went with that and made an appointment.

I showed up at the collective for my appointment, and they had a TON of paperwork for me to fill out! I sat for about 20 minutes, constantly referencing my phone for information they were asking for that was not committed to memory.

Eventually, it is my turn to see the doctor.

This doctor is an actual doctor who has a practice in Portland, and who works to get patients a cannabis prescription if they qualify and need it. In talking with him, I quickly learned that this is NOT the joke of a front that you will experience in California.

He put a sensor on my finger that measured my pulse [75] and my blood oxygen levels [97%]. He asked a bunch of questions. One question was, “Is your stomach sometimes irritated?” I told him that it was, and that it felt similar to the gut sensation you get when you’re in trouble or something bad is about to happen.

I had previously written off this irritation as me struggling to deal with some internal fear that I could not identify.

The doctor called this Gastroparesis. He explained that Diabetes attacks your smaller, more fine nerves. This is why I am currently “glaucoma suspicious,” and have to have a bunch of eye exams to determine whether or not my Diabetes will cause me to go BLIND.

Yea, Diabetes isn’t cool. Ever.

But wait, there’s MORE bad news!

After he suggested an endoscopy to determine whether or not my stomach lining has this nerve damage, he also mentioned some fine nerves that travel from the spinal cord to the heart. He said that these nerves can be destroyed by the Diabetes.

I felt a great deal of concern. My regular doctor had never told me about any of this before. So I asked him what this meant, in terms of consequences.

He replied, “You could be having a heart attack RIGHT NOW, and you’d not even know it or realize it. You won’t be able to feel it because of that nerve damage.”

This is called Neuropathy. I had it in my foot, and my right heel is permanently numb.

When you suffer nerve damage from Diabetes, there is no going back. Nerves do not regenerate. Ever.

After I thanked the doctor for all of the good news, and paid the collective $150, I went home, scanned my paperwork, created an account online, filled out their form, attached my scans, and paid $50. I got a discount due to my current situation. The online portion can cost as high as $200.

I have a temporary card now, and am awaiting final approval. It stinks knowing that I could spend $200 and NOT get approved. But I am waiting.

My understanding is that this prescription lasts for one year, and then it has to be renewed. There is a discount for renewal, and it looks like renewal is easier.

I learned a great deal from the “weed doctor,” with regard to my Type 2 Diabetes and other issues that can come up as a result of this disease. It wasn’t really stuff that I wanted to hear, but I needed to hear it.

I mean, thinking that I could be having a heart attack right now is rather unnerving. At the same time, it is also helping me to come to terms with my own mortality, my age, my failing body, and my own eventual death.

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The Fine Art of Self-Hatred

If there is just one thing that I’ve learned in recent years about self-hatred, it’s that you don’t realize how much self-hatred you have until you meet someone who hates themselves even more.

There are many sources of self-hatred. In our formative years, it can come from things our parents might say. In school, it gets fed by other kids. In adulthood, your boss or co-workers can help ensure that your tank of self-hatred always remains topped off.

I could go into detail of situations, scenarios, and people who contributed to my self-hatred. However, I think that I’d prefer to jump right into the point in the story where my self-hatred was at its worst, and was made even worse before it got better.

By the end of 2013, I figured out that I had been taken for a ride for the previous four years by a “friend” with whom I was building a recording studio. He was a Malignant Narcissist who had the idea that he’d lost control of me and my money to another Malignant Narcissist. He was correct.

This was swiftly followed by being let go from my only live performance band in early 2014. I would have been forced to quit anyway, thanks to a labrum tear in late March of that year.

The “studio narc” was correct in his assessment, at least to a degree, as I was currently helping yet another “friend” who said she had cancer. She turned out to be yet another Malignant Narcissist who was lying about having cancer to get drug money.

And in late March 2016, LinkedIn decided to downsize me, along with everyone else who was over 45 and not in management. This was the last substantial job that I’d had.

2017’s contributions came in the form of my then-girlfriend’s brother dying from complications associated with Type 2 Diabetes in April, and then my little sister dying at the end of June, right after her birthday.

I had gotten my own Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis shortly before his death.

After my sister’s death, I got into therapy, onl to find out before the end of the year that I have Level 1 Autism and Major Depressive Disorder. Therapy was fine, even though my therapist was not really all that compassionate or empathetic.

I still felt as if I needed to do something in order to boost my self-esteem. For me, learning can aid in achieving this goal. What would I learn? I couldn’t really afford to go to college, and there weren’t any classes that were appealing to me.

So I decided to take guitar lessons from a true legend: Zoot Horn Rollo from Captain Beefheart.

One of my early lessons via Skype with Zoot Horn Rollo [Bill Harkleroad].

At first, I hit it off with Zoot, to a big degree. He was the Master, and I was the Grasshopper, eager to learn things from his perspective. Even if I knew it already, I wanted to learn it again from his point of view.

This song sparked my curiosity about his musical views and approach to guitar.

I wanted to get inside the head of Zoot Horn Rollo. To a big degree, I succeeded. At the time, I kind of wish that I hadn’t.

He was rarely happy. Even his expression seemed permanently fixed in an angry position. I could understand it. He was a musician who got screwed over in the music industry. He had been at a point in his life where he had a handful of successful albums and world tours under his belt, and yet he was still standing in line for food stamps and hoping his mother’s check to pay his rent showed up on time.

He ended up leaving Captain Beefheart in the mid-70s, taking the band with him and forming Mallard. The released two albums that flew completely under the radar. That band fell apart.

In a final attempt, some investors wanted to get the Trout Mask Replica band together for a tour. He was all in, until he got wind of some investors having some problems.

After that, he quit the music business, at least on the official level. He was a manager of a record store for a while before he started teaching guitar lessons. He would release some of his own stuff from time to time.

Even though he’s listed in Rolling Stone Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, he never truly got anywhere in the music business. If he couldn’t do it, then I’d have to wonder why I ever believed that I could do it.

I should add that I am not writing this to crap on him. Also, I am not saying anything that hasn’t been published in articles. My suspicion is that some of those stories are heavily influenced by his immense self-hatred.

Below is a screenshot from an interview that he had.

A brave admission of low self-esteem and self-hatred.

I was so lost in my own depression, low self-esteem, and self-hatred that I did not really notice much of an impact at first. But over time, it would become more obvious, dark, and desperate.

Zoot would ask me about artist influences, and whose style I’d like to learn more about.

I had heard that you NEVER ask him to teach you anything from Captain Beefheart. According to some sources, he had noted that he had no reason to remember how to play any of those songs.

So, on the spot in our Skype call, I struggled to think of someone I might want to emulate. I considered Zoot to be a strong Blues player, as well as a Master of the Abstract. I wanted to have a good name to throw out there.

My first thought was John Mayer, and I don’t really know why. Maybe it was his appearances on Chappelle’s Show, or maybe it was a live performance with The Grateful Dead that I caught online. It most certainly wasn’t any of his commercial stuff, which I do not care for at all.

So I just blurt it out. “John Mayer.”

He replies, “Oh, so you like THAT asshole?”

I could tell that bringing up these names was not going to help. I continued anyway.

“Jerry Garcia.”

“That loser only plays scales. He is practicing in front of his audience.”

“Okay… Jimmy Page.”

“You don’t want to EVER play like that. NEVER pick every note. He’s sloppy.”

The more relevant the guitarist was to Zoot’s particular moment in music history, the more he hated them. They “made it” and he did not. That’s my guess.

I continue on. “David Gilmour.”

Zoot relents. “Okay, we’ll do that, then.”

The following week, he kicks off the lesson. “So, last week you said that you liked the playing of old so-and-so…”

Old so-and-so? That’s how you reference David Gilmour? Okay, then. I guess I’m supposed to hate him as much as Jimmy Page and Jerry Garcia now. Fine.

Over time, my head began viewing every musician as being a horrible failure. And if they were horrible, then how much worse was I?

After a while, I started hating myself even more. Adding to that, I began to hate music.

I hated music so much that I felt like I was learning guitar, not so I could improve my musical abilities, but merely for the sake of learning guitar, and nothing more.

Play guitar to play guitar. Just don’t make music with it.

I countered this mindset by forcing myself to record as many songs as I could in 2017. Those songs are in a collection called “The Year of My Birth [2017].” These songs also served as ways of dealing with the people who caused me harm in recent years, before 2017.

I am not writing this to paint Zoot as some kind of horrific monster. He’s has always been in a terrible place, like me, except he flew closer to the sun and sunk deeper into the mire.

After I had started taking my lessons with him, I got tested and received my diagnosis for Level 1 Autism. I told Zoot about it. He said that his wife had worked with special needs kids, and he had some understanding of how to approach it. He talked about his own personal issues, which I won’t write about since I cannot find any articles on them.

We brought our conversation on Autism to a close. He said, “Everyone has rocks in their backpack.” That is to say, everyone has their challenges.

When Zoot gave me an assignment, I would often want to build a song around the assignment. I did this in 2017 with the song “Finger Nine.”

In his critique of my solo work in this song, he said that one of my biggest strengths was in creating motifs. A motif is the smallest musical passage a person can create. It has to have rhythmic qualities, as well as pitch intervals.

A great example is the start of “Beethoven’s Fifth.” That motif appears throughout the entire song.

That was a positive critique. But there would be negative critiques along the way.

On one assignment in particular, I wrote a Blues song. I also made a video of me driving up to the house where Captain Beefheart and the band wrote and recorded “Trout Mask Replica.”

The song included lyrical references that were relevant to our guitar lessons. One example is near the end when I sing, “An old jug of rum is my only friend.” Zoot told me that my vibrato was too fast, and that I needed to slow it down, as if I’d just drank a whole bottle of rum.

He had fair critiques of the solo work, and gave some praise for my composition. But when I asked about the song, he replied, “It’s okay, I mean, if that’s the direction you want to go with music.”

I told him that it’s not necessarily the direction I want to go, but to me it was something I’d have to pass through, to come out the other side to get where I wanted to go.

Fair enough.

By this point, I had been taking lessons from Zoot for 30-50 minutes per week, every other week, for a full year, at $75 per half hour. While I was seeing some progress in my guitar playing, my interest in music was dying out. Still, I kept on with my lessons.

At the same time, I was still looking for work. In this process, I got a rare nibble that ended up amounting to nothing. It got me thinking: If I get a job, then I would not be able to take lessons anymore!

I had to do something about this, so I decided to bring it up with Zoot during my next lesson.

Most of the work I was pursuing involved the typical Monday-Friday business hours schedule. So I asked Zoot about the possibility of moving my lessons over to a weekend slot.

He balked at the idea, stating, “I reserve the weekend slots for my really good students.”

Oh. Really.


We had our lesson, but his comment about his “really good students” bothered me. I wasn’t a good student? This was clearly a back-handed comment on my abilities.

With my Major Depressive Disorder in full swing, and my self-hatred at an all-time low, I did what nobody in this position should ever do.

I wrote him an email.

In that email, I apologized for not being a good student. Overall, it was an expression of self-hatred.

He responded by telling me that I was wrong in my assessment, and that he had thought that I was a good student. The rest of the email berated me, and ended with, “Stop believing that you have the ability to read other people’s minds.”

I didn’t believe that I had the ability to read minds at all. He probably didn’t even remember what he had said.

And with that, my lessons with Zoot came to an abrupt end. I got dumped via email.

The self-hatred that I had before, which was previously contained to just me, got expanded to include the music I had listened to, as well as my own music that I wrote and recorded myself.

I had the same attitude as him, that my music wasn’t any good because I’m a better musician now than I was a year prior.

Music was no longer my escape, and he had taken that away from me. It made my situation more desperate, and my depression worse. It got bad enough that I sought out medication in an attempt to level myself off.

It worked, to a degree.

Even worse, I could not listen to ANY old music that I had ever recorded. It took me THREE years after the end of my lessons to have the ability to listen to my own music again.

I was hating everything that I had ever done in my past, just like Zoot hates all of his own music. This was not a good thing.

I had experienced a major life change on President’s Day 2019 [February 18], when my beloved buddy of 16 years passed away.

My cat LP, one week before he had to be put to sleep. He was losing a great deal of weight and suffering for it. He was 16 years old.

When LP died, it lit a fire beneath my feet. My fear of leaving the house got tested when I loaded a van with Ronnie Wood artwork and drove it from Simi Valley all the way to San Francisco and back in one day.

It was proof of concept that I could leave the house. We made plans to move to Oregon, and did so by late May of 2019.

With all of that negativity, I tried to reconnect with Zoot after moving to Oregon. He also lives in Oregon, a few hours away from where I moved.

I’d had only written two times. He finally responded to an email with, “I assume this is my ex-student.” He could have said “former student,” but he wanted to drive home the fact that I was in the past, and would not be re-visiting lessons any time soon.

In working to get a handle on my own depression, I came to the conclusion that Zoot’s depression will rule him for the remainder of his days, and that he will not change. I got as much as I would be able to get out of these lessons.

I also concluded that his depression and self-hatred was having a big negative impact on me. It’s amazing what an hour or two per month with someone this depressed can do.

It gave me an understanding of the friends who have left me behind. It gets exhausting. I understand this. My own depression has always been exhausting for me.

Today, I’m in a relatively better place with regard to my depression. It still makes things difficult, but it’s not ruling every single second of my life. If it were, then I’d not be able to write this, or do much of anything online at all.

For a while, I sincerely hated Zoot for being so negative, for implying that I wasn’t a “really good student,” and dumping me for referencing his negative words. I was angry that he would effectively slap me down when I was at my lowest.

But I realized that he couldn’t ever help it. It’s a part of who he is, and a part of his personality. He doesn’t like himself, so I can’t expect him to like me, or anyone else.

Alone in my room, I verbally gave Zoot a proper goodbye.

It was done.

When a person has a high level of self-hatred, it can be made worse if they associate with anyone who has it worse off. Before meeting Zoot, I was the most depressed person I had ever known, and it stayed that way until 2017, when I met Zoot.

This was a story of my self-hatred, how it got worse, and how it got better. The purpose of telling this story is NOT to bag on Zoot Horn Rollo. I do think that he can be a decent person. He’s got a good heart, generally, and is a talented guitar teacher.

I just couldn’t effectively tell my story without including the story of my interaction with him. Since his depression and self-hatred is known publicly via older publications, I feel that bringing them up here is not a case of speaking out of turn.

But I want to be clear that it was not all bad.

Of course, I learned a great deal about guitar and music. I also learned how my depression impacts me and others. I learned more about my own learning style as an Autistic adult.

I learned that I have a physical playing style on guitar that is “similar and comparable to Django Reinhardt,” and that I should study Robben Ford’s guitar playing style for future improvement endeavours.

It is imperative that I end this entry on a positive note, and that is precisely what I will do.

We would always do a soundcheck before my lesson. I would play something on my guitar so he could see if he could hear me properly.

One day, I struck an F#minor chord. Zoot says, “That’s a majestic chord.” I agree and tell him that it’s how a song that I’m learning starts out. I then start playing the intro to a song that he wrote while he was in Mallard called “Mama Squeeze.”

Zoot instantly recognizes the song, declares, “Oh, shit!” and proceeds to play it along with me. After the short jam, he said that he didn’t realize that we had the bandwidth to play at the same time.

It was the only time that I saw him happy on video. It was a truly golden moment.

Winged Eel Fingerling, on stage with either Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa.

There was one other time where the names of some old players from his circles came up. He hadn’t talked to Winged Eel Fingerling [Elliot Ingber] in forever.

Since it’s a small world, I told him that I was friends with Elliot’s younger brother, Ira, who ended up joining Captain Beefheart AFTER Zoot quit, playing bass on Bluejeans and Moonbeams.

So I put Zoot in touch with Ira, and he was able to catch up with Elliot. I do think he was grateful for my successful efforts at reuniting them.

In the home studio of the great Ira Ingber. Ira has worked for musicians like Bob Dylan and No Doubt, and he also does a find job mastering music for one of my old bands, Noodle Muffin.

Finally, I must end with a note to Zoot, in the event that he ends up finding this and reading it.

For the longest time, when we would start my lesson, you would always says that you were hearing some reverb from my amp. My understanding was that you didn’t want any reverb cluttering up my sound.

Every time you brought that up, I’d look to my amp knobs, and I would see the reverb knob turned all the way down.

Tibo Bat, modeling my Fender Mustang III v.2 amplifier.

After I moved to Oregon, I took a look at my amp’s settings for the various patches that I have. The patch that I used in my lessons is the same one I use with my pedal board. It was supposed to be a clean setting with no effects.

The physical knob for reverb was all the way down. However, there is also a virtual knob that can be seen in the screen display on top of the amp.

The virtual knob showed that my reverb was set at 0.1, which is the setting right above 0. It’s the smallest amount of reverb I can get on this amp.

It was that small, and yet you heard it, when I could not.

You were right. I wish you well.

If you like what I write, then please consider sending a one-time donation to me via PayPal. Please use the following link and click SEND to donate, and thank you for reading!

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