The Story of Four Fretless Bass Covers

This blog entry is about four different cover songs that I have worked up and recorded http://and%20video over the past week. I’ll write about what each song entailed, the challenges each song presented, and why I picked these songs in the first place.

Let’s gooooooo!!!!!

This song was released in 1979. The first time I heard this song, I thought that the bass line was complicated to play. To be fair, I’d not been playing bass for one full year by that time.

For me, my musical sensibilities were about to change from things like The Beatles and pop in general, over to rock and metal. The song represents the last time I would listen to this type of music for quite some time.

This song was a bit of a challenge to play on fretless bass. On top of finger picking, the spread required to play this at the 2nd fret is enormous. I have a decent finger spread, but maintaining this position for an entire song is a great deal to ask. It would be a cakewalk with a fretted bass.

I compensated by moving to the 7th fret. The first two notes are plucked on the open low E, which is the second lowest string. It then moves to the low B string, where the rest of the riff is played up on the 7th fret.

Finger plucking and using a pick generate two different types of sound, so having the ability to do either is a bonus for a bass player.

Because my musical tastes changed after 1979, I never really sat down and learned this song before. It was familiar, I had it in my head, and it just a matter of finding the root and going with it. Doing this song is like ticking off a line on my bucket list, except I had long forgotten that it existed.

This 1978 disco hit, like many other disco songs, featured the bass in a big way. What drew me to the song, beside the energy, is the octave-rocking chorus. That part of the song just sounds really cool.

What also strikes me about this song is the complexity of this 4/4 song. The chorus has pick-up notes, but it also has a staccato rhythm that I would consider to be advanced for the average non-musician listener.

Once again, I would go higher up on the fretboard to take advantage of the smaller finger spread that is afforded to me when I access the low B string. That string is super-fat, and produces a thunderous tone. The deeper the better!

This song reminded me of when I was very young and had relatively fewer problems.

Unlike the first two songs, this is a departure in that it’s not an old song from my past. Those songs have an advantage in that I’ve heard them many times before, to the point that they’ve become part of my psyche. For this reason, it is by far easier to work up those songs than this one, and the next [final] song.

I love the ethereal feel of the song and the occasional syncopation of the bass line. The lyrics might be funny, but the music is serious, varied, complex, and strong.

When I heard the song, I noticed that the bass lines were in a relatively higher range. This is because Hot Dad probably used a 4-string fretted bass, which is the standard configuration for a bass guitar. Because of this, he starts on the D. The only two options for him are either the open 2nd string, or the better 3rd string on the 5th fret, because it is deeper.

I can play a much lower D on my low B string. I felt that the song had an even more solid feel with the bass lines played an octave lower.

Hot Dad is a musician and video creator for whom I have a great deal of respect. I have shared the link on his pinned comment on the original video, and hope that he sees it. The song is one year old, so I have some doubt that he will. But if he does, acknowledgement from him would mean a great deal to me, not for the validation, but just for the nod.

Hot Dad is best known for the two theme songs that he wrote for Big Money Salvia, another comedy YouTube video creator. If you are curious, here is the first one [Big Money Salvia], and this is the second one [Big Money Salvia City]. These are truly well-crafted and produced fun songs.

Hot Dad also streams frequently on Twitch.

This J-POP song from 2015 is a big mystery to me. I do not speak Japanese, so I cannot understand what it is about. I heard the song only once before, last week when I was watching the nightly YouTube stream run by Based Shaman. He played part of my video last night on his stream.

I chose this song for several reasons. Since I don’t understand the lyrics, I do not get the benefit of having lyrical cues on when changes will occur. Like the previous track, it is not one that I had heard before. This was kind of genre-busting for me, as this is the FIRST-EVER J-POP song that I have heard in my entire life.

I also chose the song because of the higher energy, the interesting changes, and the emotional manipulation that exists within the context of the chord structures.

Most of all, J-Pop is VERY unfamiliar for me. Because of that, I saw it as a challenge. I’ve mentioned that before, and I cannot mention it enough.

Chances are very good that I will NOT be exploring the catalog of KOTO, mainly because I am not the intended demographic for this song. This song seems to be directed at a pre-teen audience, mainly young girls and the young boys who are noticing them. KOTO is only 22 years old and retired after her final “one-man performance” at the end of April 2021.

For the past several years, I have been struggling with Major Depression Disorder and a host of other issues that promoted depression. It robbed me of my energy, my enthusiasm, and even my interest in music. Before this, I hadn’t really picked up my bass for any significant amount of time in years.

Years of therapy and a few different types of medications had been explored. There are no short-cuts, and the great length of time that it took me to deal with this was difficult, yet necessary.

I had something to prove to myself. Can I still learn old songs? New songs? Can I perform and record them? Can I post them on YouTube? And will I not get too self-conscious and leave them up?

I made three videos previously, and they were rushed. I ended up taking down the Hot Dad video and re-doing the entire thing. He deserved better than me sitting in my office chair while playing.

None of these performances are 100% perfect. I’m working to get away from perfection, in favor of what is good. Some of the imperfections are only noticeable by me, or may be noticeable by a musician who is scrutinizing the tracks.

The point isn’t perfect.

The point is fun.

I haven’t had fun in maybe 7 years, and the last few years before that involved fun that was shrouded in conflict, stress, emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and other horrors. So it might be more accurate to say that I’ve not had fun in over a decade.

That changed this week, and you got to see it. I want to close by thanking everyone who takes the time to read this, as well as watch the videos. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to like and comment whatever it is that I’m doing.

Thank you so much!

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A Return to Self

Over the past 3 days, I have released 3 videos of me playing fretless bass on 3 different songs. The videos and the performances were not particularly amazing by themselves. The important thing is the meaning behind the videos.

Today I will be writing about what it all means.

Over the past 7 years, I have put out a few videos here and there, which were mostly clips of me playing things, like guitar solos.

Most of these were things that I had learned long ago and played many times before. So it was just a matter of shaking off the dust and practicing something I had already learned. In the end, you get a 30-60 second video that is of decent quality and it fits the short-term attention span of today’s internet user.

The thing is, these songs weren’t new to me. I had nothing to learn.

There were a few things that were new to me, and were full-blown songs. Still, I got no real happiness out of any of it.

Long story short, I got involved with some bad people who ended up ruining my life as I knew it. They destroyed everything, including what self-esteem I had going for me.

It killed my motivation to do things, my ability to do things, and left me in a useless state of constant and persistent depression. It’s the kind of depression you lose friends over, which stinks when you’ve already lost most of them to a series of horrible events orchestrated by Malignant Narcissists.

Before I had the idea to make the first bass video for this past week, I said something out loud that I have not said in a long time.

“Welcome back, self-esteem.”

I just knew it was there. So I went for it and pumped out videos until my fingers began to split. It hurts to type and I am being very careful. Totally worth it, though.

After life went south roughly 10 years ago, it didn’t take long for me to fall out of love with music, at least for a while. It was the one thing that had always brought me happiness, so it was a rather odd sensation for me to wake up one day and realize that it no longer made me happy.

I tried desperately to get that back, too. I even spent two years doing nothing but applying for jobs, avoiding the world, and purchasing new premium guitars. Over time, I actually owned every guitar that I had ever wanted, and it was nothing short of meaningless.

I didn’t care.

When your life gets turned upside-down, being in the same place can only serve as a reminder of what once was.

Moving from California to Oregon gave me that change of scenery that was necessary to recover. As luck would have it, Oregon has superior health care, among other things. Because of this, I have been able to get my physical and mental health the necessary attention to start getting results.

It took a few tries, but the therapist I’ve found is top-notch. The doctors here are also better.

The new meds that I am taking for my Major Depressive Disorder have been performing on a stellar level. For the longest time, I was worried that psychiatric meds would kill my creativity or my drive to pursue music in my life.

I am glad to be wrong on both counts.

When I say “technical,” I am talking about musicianship, as well as the recording of the audio and video.

Learning a song, or the majority of it, in 30-60 minutes is nothing new for me. I have always been this way, and I cannot help but suspect that it’s all thanks to my Autism.

Logic dictates that if I can do what I did in the videos in that short amount of time, then I can get even greater results if I sit with these things for just a day or two. Spend one day learning the majority, half a day with details I might be missing, and a half day of rehearsal. The video that would be made after that would be of vastly superior quality.

With regard to audio, I should record the bass with a compressor in the line. My engineering was okay. I noticed some plucked notes would be louder, and that may be a matter of technique and not audio engineering.

With the video, there were many problems. One big problem is lighting. It’s either too dark or too harsh. Sometimes it causes the camera to go in and out of focus.

As for video editing, this was probably the most frustrating. For the last two of the three videos, they would look fine after rendering, and look fine after uploading. But then the video and audio would get out of sync.

I actually deleted the second video, re-produced it, and re-uploaded it. It seemed to look fine. But it was out of whack on my phone and even worse on the TV when I looked the next day.

I’m using CyberLink PowerDirector 365, which has a feature where AI will sync up the audio and video. I can do this, thanks to my video production process.

I put the song in a track on Reaper, and open up a track for recording bass. The mix of the two is broadcast over the studio speakers, which is picked up by the camera [phone].

This video was made using Windows Movie Maker. I had to try to line up the audio by sight, which was difficult. You can hear a slight phase, as I used a different technique, where I’d use the audio from both the phone AND the track.

Then the audio gets mixed and rendered.

I bring the video, the audio, and my logo graphic into the software. The song audio on the video and rendered audio track both get selected, and then I can tell the AI to line things up.

Once the video and recorded audio track are lined up, I then mute the sound on the video, so that all we hear is the produced track with a nice mix of the song and the bass. No over-air noise or hum.

The synchronization issue may have been caused by how I add the logo at the beginning and end with a crossfade, which causes things to be off by a fraction. I’m in the process of figuring out what happened and how I can remedy the situation.

Currently, the last two videos are set to unlisted. The third one, which was the Paul McCartney cover, isn’t lining up the way I’d like.

The second one, the Hot Dad cover, has similar sync issues, as well as some performance issues, which I noted in the companion blog. While what I played technically works, I got more accurate in my interpretation and it is so much better.

I have a great deal of respect for Hot Dad as a songwriter and performer, so I’d prefer that I do a better job, because he will see this and I want it to be impressive. What I did might fly for the average listener, but I want him to be impressed with it, too.

I may very well end up deleting those videos, as well as the companion blogs, so that I can upload higher-quality versions of what I did over the hot weekend.

The neat thing is that I don’t feel embarrassed by my efforts. Instead, I get the sensation that I’ve learned some things, and that I’m on my way to being better. Major Depressive Disorder typically does not allow me this fantastic luxury.

So don’t be surprised when they are deleted, and know that I will be uploading better things moving fowrard.

The awesome thing for me is that I am deleting them because I want to replace them, and not because of any confidence or self-esteem issues.

It’s an amazing sensation.

I am probably going to let my fingers rest for a few days before I jump back on and get better versions of these songs documented.

You know how life goes, though. The minute I get excited about doing a project means that a job will land in my lap and distract me. So I will be moving as if I have a limited amount of time, while allowing the time needed to get this done right.

So if you are reading this, then you’ve witnessed the return of my self-esteem, and my return to music. Thank you for your patience.

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Things Get HOT in Oregon

The photo in the heading is NOT Oregon. It’s Panamint Springs, California, which is in Death Valley. I’m using that photo because we’re going to get that hot by the end of the weekend.

Today in Oregon, we are expecting a high of 102F, or 38.8C. On Sunday, it will get up to a blistering 111F, or 43.8C. This temperature represents Death Valley territory.

Panamint Springs, California, in Death Valley

There is a big, big difference between a little resort in the middle of nowhere, where they use the air conditioning all the time, and a more compact, condensed town with more A/C units and people.

It is very possible that we could have some power outages, as power grids in America are criminally neglected and pathetic. The freezer has some extra ice packs in it to help keep the temperature down, should that happen.

And poor Tibo Bat, my half-Maine Coon. He’s got a double-coat that is super thick. My guess is that he will be in the bathroom on the cool marbled sink all day, away from the sun. I’ll be paying close attention to him during the day. There are blowing fans throughout the apartment. So long a we have power, he can have a fan.

He’s got way too much fluffy floof.

Usually, I power up my computer very early in the morning and then leave it on all day. That’s fine on a normal day, and it’s not good to be turning things on and off all the time. But today, I’ll be shutting it down to avoid damage, should there be a power surge.

And I’ll be doing what I do when I visit Death Valley. That is, stay in the A/C or the shade all day long, hydrating, and then going out at night when things cool down. There is a casino not too horribly far away, so I might spend the day in the casino, sipping water and people watching.

What happens in Death Valley… well, should never really have happened in the first place. [Pictured: Joey Pringles and his “date.”]

But when things get unbearable, I’ll just comfort myself with the thought that all of the suffering we are going to endure with heat, water shortages, food shortages, land shortages, and more, is TOTALLY worth it, because a handful of people got really super-mega-ultra-fucking rich in the process.

Americans love nothing more than to cheer on those who get wealthy at our expense. It’s like being happy that your executioner made it to work early.

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Fretless Bass Cover: Dance With Me, by Peter Brown

I was searching on YouTube for songs from the 1970s that were good for playing on bass. That’s an era where orchestras had job security, hi-hat manufactureres could barely keep up, and the bass reigned supreme.

Almost like throwing a dart while blindfolded, I found this song. “Dance With Me” by Peter Brown is a good song to cover, because the bass is so prominent. The bass player cannot hide. Plus, I think it’s funky azz stuff.

Here’s the video, and below are some production notes and a word to critics. To everyone who doesn’t go below the video, and that’s cool, thank you for watching!

This is not a song that I have played previously at any time in the past. In the span of about 30 minutes, I heard the song, picked up the bass, figured out the song by ear, ran through it a handful of times. Made mental notes of special one-off flourishes that happen. Shot a dozen videos or so, until I got this one.

I’m playing an Ibanez GWB35 5-string fretless bass, through a Fender Rumble 40. Direct line out, to the BOSS BR-800 interface, and into the Windows 10 machine with REAPER as the DAW.

I’m using BOSS WL-20 wireless pods. At one point in the song, the bass loses volume for a few measures. I suspect that some interference with the pods may have caused this.

I learned the song and made the video within the course of 30 minutes. Because of this speed, I had not yet perfected my hand positions on the fretless bass.

The fretless bass requires precision because you put your fingers where the frets should be. You can slide around a little to adjust. That’s easier to do with a song that I know better.

There are a few spots where there are plucks, and they are a bit louder than the other parts. I need to work on that, as I’ve not yet added plucks to my rehearsal schedule. It’s there now.

There are also some notes that are either sharp or [mostly] flat. That’s due to only spending a short time with the song and probably being a bit tired from working on the song so much.

It is not perfect. Nowhere close, and I know what’s wrong with it. If I wanted it perfect, then I would have spent a few more days with it and done several takes in video before I got one that was absolutel spot-on.

I wasn’t shooting for that. Music these days is too perfect. I want to allow some imperfections into my playing on things like this. This isn’t about trying to win a contest, or impress anyone, or to win bragging rights.

It’s about fun. It was also a personal challenge.

People have forgotten how to have fun. Try to remember. You’ll be glad you did.

Relax and have fun.

On Avoiding Scams and Trusting Yourself

This is a brief overview for new readers, highlighting my experiences with scammers, before I get into the tools that I’ve found to help me better avoid scammers. I believe that it is vital that the reader understand my experiences, so they know what I’ve been dealing with, to see if it resembles anything you may have encountered.

Chester A. Arthur III is the “friend” I helped to build a recording studio. Malignant Narcissists are dangerous.

In late 2010, I started working on building a recording studio with a “friend.” We had no contract and functioned under a gentleman’s handshake. As work on the studio was coming to a close in 2013, I was approached online by another “friend” who cried and begged for help because she had cancer.

The recording studio friend decided one day that he was done with me, so he confronted me at the studio. He told me that I did nothing and barely contributed anything to the work. I showed up every day for 3 years, invested at least 50% of the total costs, and had a good amount of my personal gear inside, as well as gear that I either paid for fully or split with him. There was never ONE day of construction where I wasn’t present and doing something.

Kristen Carole Bible Hines was the cancer scammer. She died on June 4, 2019 at the age of 40. No cause is listed, so it was either suicide or drug overdose.

The other “friend” who had cancer turned out to be a lying junkie who kept me on an emotional rollercoaster for 8-9 months. Realizing that I would never come to the realization that something was wrong, she decided to drop the bomb on me, showing me that it was a total scam.

My experience with these two scammers overlapped. The studio scam came to an end in December 2013, and the cancer scam came to an end around July 2014.

With the studio scammer, the investment in materials, the gear, and my personal gear, I estimate my loss to be approximately $10,000. This is on top of 3 years of my life.

With the cancer scammer, over the course of 8-9 months, we sent her over $30,000. $10,000 of it was loans that had to be paid back, so put this one at $40,000.

So, overall, my total loss is at $50,000. This is a conservative number. At the studio, we agreed that I’d be “bought out” for $5,000, which was my estimate. The cancer scammer also got $2,000 in gifts, when we sent her clothes and a new winter coat.

In reality, financial loss was probably closer to $55,000.

Oddly enough, losing that much money was the easy part. Since we both had great jobs at the time, I was able to pay off the $10,000 loan in just a few months.

What both of these scams have in common was that the unfolded on Facebook in front of everyone. Also, both scammers became friends with all of my friends on FB, so they could see what was going on and combat or respond to anything I might say.

I lost dozens upon dozens of “friends,” thanks to the added dynamics of it all. I had been wrapped up with the studio scammer for 3 years. When the cancer scammer showed up, the studio scammer felt that he was losing control of my money.

At the same time, rumors were flying about the cancer scammer. Most of them were weak arguments, and some even made the situation worse for me by getting me more invested.

So the studio scammer decided to tell everyone that I was “in on it” with the cancer scammer. This would allow him to rip me off in plain sight in front of everyone. The overwhelming opinion, after that, was that I was “getting what I deserved” for being in cahoots with a cancer scammer.

Ultimately, I lost a TON of “friends,” mostly people I had met in Death Valley in 2006. Another person I had met there, who thought that I was abused harshly in the situation, told me, “I was under no delusion that any of these people were ever my friends.” Boy, I sure was.

I lost my only gigging band, being let go by the band leader because he felt my presence would harm the band, and he “needed to be taken seriously.”

I lost the respect of former co-workers, some of whom went on a mission to make sure that I would never be employed again. It was a valiant effort on their part, but it became pointless after late 2014, when I turned 50. After that, my age did all the work for them.

I lost my apartment, which was owned by the parents of the studio scammer. Now I know why he offered me a sweet deal on the place. He held it over my head constantly, and used it as control. His dad called me and told me that I needed to get out. He said, “I’ve seen what’s in the news.” This made absolutely NO sense, because there was nothing in the news about any of this, so my name was NOT in any articles.

I also lost one of my cats, because the place where we moved had a limit of 2 cats. I was heartbroken to rehome Daisy. She’s still doing well.

I lost my self-respect. I lost my confidence. I lost my trust in others. I lost what emotional stability I may have had.

I lost my mind.

In late 2017, I was tested and diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. I didn’t know that I was Autistic before this.

For me, it’s not something that I can exactly hide. In doing my own research regarding Autistic adults [there isn’t much info] and how Malignant Narcissists behave, I learned that people like me attract people like them.

It’s like having a dinner bell. They run right over and dig in.

01 Nov 1995, New York City, New York, United States — Crocodile hunter Steve Irwin and alligator “Irvine” pose together at the Central Park boathouse. — Image by © Najlah Feanny/Corbis

After all that happened and all that I ended up losing, my confidence was shot. I no longer trusted myself with regard to being a good judge of character. The world was literally out to get me, and I had no clear way of telling who would cause me harm, and who was safe.

This left me with two very clear problems.

The first was how to avoid scams. In the past, I thought that only stupid people got taken by scams. This false belief was based on the “419 scams.”

The 419 scam got its name from Nigerian Criminal Code 419, which focuses on fraud and penalties. How this scam works is they send mass emails out. These emails have lots of spelling and grammar errors, which serve to weed out intelligent people. If someone responds, then the scammers know that the person did not spot the errors, and therefore will probably not spot the scam.

Just send him the transfer fee of $5,000 and he will reward you with $5,000,000!! [yea, right]

We all know this scam today, in email form, as the Nigerian Prince who has $25 million in the bank, but he needs help to get the money out, so he writes to an American citizen for help. He makes sure to convey the idea that he’s a Christian, to alleviate their worries.

Similar types of approaches are used in America. For example, when Donald Trump gave his highly-racist speech about Mexico “not sending their best,” it weeded out people like me who had a problem with what he was saying. At the same time, it filtered out the racists so that he could gather them together and focus on manipulating them.

To this day, he is hitting these people several times per day with texts and emails, demanding money, or else.

So when I think of scams like this, I used to think the people who fell for the were stupid. To a degree this is true.

However, the scammers I dealt with went straight for the emotional manipulation.

In the case of the studio scammer, he appealed to my desire to have my own place to play drums. He also appealed to my age, stating that I “wasn’t getting any younger,” and that I should focus on facilitating younger bands by building a studio.

He had big dreams for the four of us as a team. He, his future wife Jasmin, Catherine, and I would be retiring to Tennessee with a house on the lake, and a floating recording studio. None of that is particularly outrageous.

He backed this up with action. He really wanted to build a recording studio in his back yard, and we did just that. He just didn’t really want me owning even one square inch of it.

As for the cancer scammer, she went straight for the girl tears. She told me that she had cancer, then cried, begged, and pleaded for her life. There was a romantic element; however, contrary to popular belief, that element entered the picture AFTER both Catherine and I started helping her.

She did other things to sell this. Her mother got on video at one point and thanked me for helping her. She sent me a letter from her divorce lawyer, where he said that he was sorry to hear of her cancer diagnosis. She took photos of “receipts” and promised to get them to me “soon.”

It is typically not fair or productive to pathologize others. However, when someone takes advantage of me like this, and I have time to think about it and learn more about what happened, I am more than comfortable labeling both of these people as Malignant Narcissists.

One popular clue is that they’re really into themselves.

I remember planning a birthday party for Catherine. She is VERY straight-laced and doesn’t party at all. Chester declared what he thought was “the perfect birthday party for Catherine.”

His idea involved “getting drunk, going to Las Vegas, getting more drunk, gambling, getting strippers and cocaine, and partying in a hotel room all night long.” Yes, he had a cocaine habit, which was a red flag that I ignored.

I replied, “That sounds more like your birthday party than Catherine’s.”

As for the cancer scammer, I suffered a major injury on March 25, 2014, when I had a Labrum Tear. If you’ve never had one of these, then just wait until you get older and your body starts to fail you. It was so painful that I couldn’t even lay down to sleep, and the pain killers weren’t helping.

The cancer scammer was on the phone with me, while I was going through a great deal of pain. She interrupted, “Excuse me, but I am the one who has cancer. Not you.”

How compassionate!

But the biggest thing that Malignant Narcissists have in common is that they all operate on the same three phases of a relationship:

  1. Love-Bombing: This is where you’re the greatest in the world, you are awesome, and they consider themselves fortunate to have found you. This will cause your own ego to experience a bit of inflation.
  2. Discounting: After a while, their attitude shifts. Now you are now here close to being the greatest in the world. You’re not awesome in the least. Everything you like is bad, wrong, or stupid, as is everything you say. This will encourage you to double-down on your efforts, so that you can win them over and be “the greatest in the world” again.
  3. Discard: When they are done with you, they throw you away. This is because they view other human beings as objects that they can manipulate and use to their advantage. When you no longer serve a purpose, or they tire of you, they simply toss you out. This will leave you feeling used and destroyed.

Here we are, at the meat of the matter. Now that you know what types of scams I am talking about, we can discuss how to avoid these scams, as well as how to built up your self-trust over time.

Both of these things can be achieved with the same tools, so the work you do for one will apply to the other.

Set personal boundaries: Looking back, I had little in the way of personal boundaries. Keep in mind that all of this happened from late 2013 to early 2014, and I did not have my ASD diagnosis until late 2017.

With the studio scammer, I could have started by thanking him for the apartment offer, and then graciously declining. This is because one of my new boundaries is to NOT accept sizable favors from anyone.

When he wanted to build a studio, I should have told him that we needed to have a contract in place before I lift one item or spend one dollar. Boundaries for this include requiring a contract for ALL significant work, and thinking about things instead of going with feelings.

With the cancer scammer, I could have started things off by telling her that I was sorry to hear of her predicament, and that I’d be glad to offer her SOME help, but that I would need significant evidence that she really had cancer before I would send her anything substantial.

In both cases, I would have put up proper defenses when they got emotional. So when a young woman cries because she’s afraid she’s going to die, I need to park my natural response to want to help, and instead listen intently and pay attention.

Respect Red Flags: There were many, many red flags in these two relationships, and I ignored all of them. Why? Because in both cases these were things that I really wanted to make happen. I wanted nothing more than to be part owner of a recording studio. And saving the life of a friend felt important to me.

Red flags with the studio scammer included him lying to me about certain things and then writing them off as “no big deal.” His treatment of others and how he talked about others was despicable. He spoke VERY poorly of Aaron Kohler, the former lead singer of the band. He’s the guy who sent me death threats on behalf of Chester. If only he knew how much contempt Chester has for him.

Red flags for the cancer scammer included lots of crying, everything being an emergency.

Both of them spoke of “deal breakers,” which was their way of threatening me with removal of our connection and relationship.

Gaslighting is where someone lies to you in a way where you start to question your own perception of reality. It was successfully executed by both of them. The studio scammer told me, at the end, “You never contributed anything. You did nothing, except maybe sweep the floor.” This is not true, and it confused me. I looked around and replied, “We both were there. We both know what I did. Who are you trying to confuse?”

The answer was “me.” He didn’t say it. I just figured it out later.

The cancer scammer was by far more dastardly in this regard. She had cultivated special relationships with both Catherine and me. One day she said that I was jealous of Catherine, because they were talking on the phone more often. She continued this, saying that my jealousy was a “deal breaker that will destroy our relationship.”

Next thing you know, I’m in a therapist’s office telling her about my “two girlfriends” and how I have severe jealousy issues that threaten the entire situation.

Her lies were so powerful that after she showed me it was a scam in early July 2014, she kept Catherine on the hook for another two terrifying months. I told Catherine what happened, that it was a scam, and the cancer scammer’s words were carrying more power than mine. She told Catherine that I was abusive, that she’s just here due to Stockholm Syndrome, and that she needs to get out.

Catherine was considering leaving her job, leaving me, and moving to Tennessee to be with the cancer scammer.

That is some powerful emotional manipulation.

To recap, it is important to set personal boundaries, respect red flags, beware of gaslighting, and generally keep an eye out for people who are trying to manipulate you in an emotional manner.

I have my personal boundaries set. I am prepared to heed ALL red flags, regardless of the situation, and adhere to their rulings. After all, I put them there for my own protection. If someone lies to me once, they don’t get another chance to do it. And when someone is being overly-emotional, or playing to an emotional element of my own life, I shut down the feelings and listen intently to ensure my own safety. Their tears are only there to inform me on how to feel.

The best way to end this is to give you an example of how I utilized these tools to protect myself.

I was at a gas station, when this guy approached me. He says, “Excuse me, sir. My truck is over there. My wife is 8 months pregnant and in the passenger seat. We were in town visiting relatives, and my wallet got stolen. Can you spare some gas money to help us get home?”

Lots to unpack here, and a great deal of emotional manipulation.

The very FIRST red flag for me was when he called me “sir,” which is a term of respect. Terminology like this can be used to boost the ego a bit, which will disarm any defense mechanisms.

As for his “pregnant wife,” I did see a woman in the driver’s side, but I couldn’t tell if she was pregnant. This man rendered the image of a pregnant woman in my mind to garner sympathy and instant concern. Her late-stage pregnancy was mentioned to inspire a sense of urgency.

Luckily for me, I shut down my emotions after that first red flag and listened to every single word he said. As was the case with the two scammers in my story, he was trying to make his problem my problem.

In the past, I would have been HIGHLY empathetic and sympathetic. I would have either given him $20, or I would have used my ATM card to fill up his tank. That’s the kind of person I used to be.

But now, with my new tools, I was ready. Since I shut my emotions and listened intently, I caught something he said that was a sign that he was lying. So I gave him an asnwer.

“I am so sorry to hear about your dilemma. I wish that I could help. Fortunately, you’re still in town, so you have a chance to get help from your local family members. I’m sure they’d want to help in your time of need. Best of luck.”

He looked at me as if he’d never heard that response before. This might be because he hadn’t.

I then went about my day. Normally, I would feel badly for someone in that position. Thanks to listening, I figured out that he was lying, and so I had no hard feelings at all.

Be aware. Be present. Do not engage emotionally with strangers or new friends. With established friends, know your limits and stick with them. They are your limits.

Your boundaries are there to protect you. Red flags are there to warn you.

Be safe.

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Not Returning To Work: Abuse and Something Else

I had written a previous entry about why some people aren’t returning to work. In that entry, the main focus was on external sources of abuse, such as horrible and childish abuse behavior on the part of the customers and general public.

This entry is going to focus more on the internal problem of abuse, as well as one other point, which I will name and detail near the end.

In the early 90s, people were hurting and looking for work. The jobs just weren’t there for many. In an effort to prove the public wrong, Vice President Dan Quayle stood outside of a fast food restaurant with a “Help Wanted” sign, so that he could point to it and tell people they were wrong; that there are jobs out there.

Much like today, the conversation around fast food restaurants is that these are actual jobs. Yes, you work, and technically you get paid, so it’s sort of a job.

Here’s the problem:

When the businesses are struggling, they call it a job. But when the worker is struggling, and they ask for a dignified adult living wage, they get told, “Working at McDonald’s isn’t a ‘real job.’ It’s something that high school kids do to get work experience, so they can go get a job elsewhere.”

So, is it a job, or is it not?

Since it does not pay a dignified adult living wage, I am going to say that it is not. Every American adult who works at least 40 hours per week — and you can bet that many at McDonald’s are working more like 70 hours — must be able to pay their rent, food, transportation, medical, etc.

No, I am not saying that they should be paid big bucks, or that they need to have mansion or Mercedes money. That’s another flawed argument known as the false dichotomy. The idea here is that you’re either making almost nothing, or you’re earning millions.

It’s flawed because it’s not realistic. Between the super-poor and the super-rich is a HUGE area wherein most of us live.

Being at McDonald’s is work. However, it is not a job. A job is where a person is actually paid and treated with dignity. You won’t get either of those in fast food, and I’m not talking about the customers this time.

When I moved to Bakersfield, California on January 1, 1986, my sister landed me a job at McDonald’s within 3 days.

This was impressive to some friends I’d talked with in Indiana after I got there. One person said, “Wow, you must know somebody.” This is because of how it was when we high school kids tried to get work at McDonald’s. I once applied and waited NINE MONTHS for a response. I had an “interview” where they told me that interviews are backed up by nine months because so many people were applying.

This speaks volumes about the horrific condition of the economy in the area where I lived. Grown adults fighting over a McDonald’s job.

This lead me to think that maybe I’ll be able to earn enough to live an adult life, or maybe there was room for advancement. I was dead wrong on both counts.

1986 California minimum wage at the time was $3.35 per hour. That is where I started. They pay every two weeks, but hold back two weeks. Due to the timing of when I was hired, I ended up working for one full month before I saw one penny of pay.

After two months, they gave me the designation of “Swing Manager” and my pay went up to $3.75 per hour. However, they would not “certify” me. If I were a Certified Swing Manager, then I would have gotten $3.85 per hour. As it turns out, this multi-billion dollar company just couldn’t find the wherewithall to get me that extra ten cents per hour for my efforts.

I was shocked to learn how much the Store Manager was making. One day I had an idea of how to do something better, so I brought it up. The Store Manager told me, “Don’t you worry about those details. I’ll figure it out. That’s why I get the big bucks. $4.25 per hour.”

That’s “big bucks?” Alrighty, then.

People I worked with at McDonald’s quickly figured out that I was highly-reliable. I chalk this up to my Autism, although I would not find out that I was Autistic until almost 32 years later.

This meant that I would often times be called to open. The phone would ring at 2:30am and my mother would answer. She would wake me up to tell me that I was needed to open the place.

I’d work 12+ hours, mostly averaging 18 hours. Then, sometimes they’d ask me to CLOSE, too. This came with the promise that someone else would be opening up the next day. This, of course, was a lie, and I would be called the next day to open.

This resulted in my entire life being all about working there, and nothing else. And I wasn’t really getting paid much for this sacrifice.

1986 was the year that McDonald’s began to offer their breakfast biscuit sandwiches. This required training on how to make the folded eggs and circular bacon. This training was done in the back at the grill, so that was cool.

But there was this biscuit machine. It had a digital display and there was a mix to be used. Biscuit training was to be held at another location. They had that training during the day, so I held down the grill while others who worked in the back attended.

I protested this, citing that I was always asked to open. They told me it would not be a problem. Someone else will open, I’ll get the training, and everything will be fine.

I did not believe them. 2:30am the next day confirmed this. My manager told me, “Don’t worry about the biscuits. I’ll be there an hour after opening [6:00am] and will be making biscuits.”

We needed biscuits at 5:00am, but all I could do was go with it, or else.

I get there at 4:00am. I stock all of the freezers and sections myself. I get all of the grills up and going. I get the grease fryers going. I get a cash register up and running. I start making the first round and unlock the doors.

There I am, struggling with the drive-thru AND people at the counter, AND cooking all by myself.

Some people were asking for that “new biscuit thing” that was advertised. I had to then go back, while I was doing everything else, and try to figure out the biscuit machine and mix on-the-spot.

I made some biscuits as best I could. 6:30am, and I am still alone. At this time, I should note that the Ming Avenue McDonald’s in Bakersfield was, at the time, the biggest McDonald’s profit center in all of California.

Eventually, someone else showed up to help at the grill, as well as two others for the counter and drive-thru. Then, the unthinkable happened.

The Regional Manager showed up.

She grabbed a Bacon Egg & Cheese biscuit and took a few bites. She asks who made them, and I tell her that I did. She tells me that something doesn’t seem right.

When I tell her that I was the only one who did NOT get training, that my managers KNEW this, and then I was told that I had to open, she got furious and BLAMED ME for the whole thing.

Never mind the managers who were grossly mismanaging the store. This was all my fault.

My sister was let go because her manager claimed that her drawer was $100 short. Funny how this manager had a new $100 boom box in her area of the break room a few days later.

Her manager basically stole $100 from her, blamed her, fired her, and got away with it.

This same person was doing some shady things with my time card.

The law in California states that anyone who works for 8 hours must have a 30-minute lunch and TWO 10-minute breaks. If I don’t take the breaks, and scan in and out for them, then the company will get in trouble.

What they were doing with me was having me work 18 hours straight, without a break, and then telling me that I have to STAY AFTER for another 50 minutes to clock in and out for all of my breaks.

I actually did it for a few days, until I got tired of giving them almost one free hour of work to cover up their transgressions. So I told my manager that I refused.

She responded by taking MY MAGNETIC TIME CARD, and scanning it for my breaks WHILE I WAS WORKING.

But she screwed up a bit, forgot a scan, and it reversed everything. This messed up my hours.

For the many hours that I was working, I quickly got an idea of what my check should look like. But one payday after my manager’s mess-up, my check was significantly smaller.

I complained to my Store Manager, and he told me to calm down and sit in a booth in the customer area.

He and the Swing Manager came over to the booth with a BIG print-out that was representative of payroll. It came from a 24-pin dot matrix printer in a HUGE stack.

They plop it down on the table and tell me, “It’s YOUR problem, so YOU figure it out.” I had never seen anything like this in my life. I didn’t understand the codes next to the numbers, so I had no real way of figuring this out.

Still, I had to make things right. I had a plan, and it involved swimming trunks and a white t-shirt.

Every day I would wear swimming trunks and a white t-shirt underneath my McDonald’s uniform. I would work, and I would wait for my perfect opportunity to unleash my plan.

The “lunch rush” at this particular McDonald’s was nothing short of overwhelming. At the time, Bakersfield was the fastest growing city in the entire nation, with 5,000 new people moving into town each month. So to say that it was busy would be an understatement.

Then, one day, the perfect storm hit. I was working on the grill by myself during the lunch rush, which is something that nobody else has been able to do. A Grill Master making 10:1 burgers might engage a “12-turn-lay” approach. But for me, I was doing a “24-sear-lay” technique. The hard part about this is having the buns ready. But I digress.

Not only am I working alone at the grill on lunch hour, but NINE tour busses park in the parking lot. These busses are full of Asian tourists who are probably riding longways across the state.

This was my chance.

I walked out from behind the grill, to the cash register area, and took off my uniform. My Swing Manager looked at me in horror. The Store Manager was not there, because he gets a whole $4.25 per hour.

“What are you doing?” she yelled. I threw my paper hat on the ground and replied, “That’s it. You broke me. You win. I quit.”

The lobby is filled to the brim with people waiting to order. There is a line out both sides of the building. It was chaos, and I was expected to be the only person cooking for all of these people.

She panics, “You can’t leave now! We have the lunch rush AND tourists! What are we going to do without you?”

Yes. This was it. Exactly as I thought.

I smiled and replied, “I don’t know. It’s YOUR problem. YOU figure it out.”

And then I left. I would later take what little money I had saved up and move to Los Angeles to pursue a music career.

I think it would be fair to say that McDonald’s and other companies like this have learned nothing over the decades. They abuse their workers physically, psychologically, and financially. This abuse never stops. Some franchises might be worse than others, but they’re all bad.

Now they’re whining that nobody wants to work there. Gee, I wonder why.

They are currently working on replacing all cashiers with Artificial Intelligence, or AI. Last I’ve heard, that is not going well.

Although I’ve not worked at McDonald’s or a place like this since 1986, I really suspect that it has gotten worse.

Now that I’ve given my anecdotal evidence of abuse at McDonald’s, and I’d be willing to bet there are way more stories out there, it’s time to consider another factor in the issue of why people won’t go back to jobs like this.

Yes, there’s the physical, emotional, and financial abuse. Yes, it’s true, that working here will NOT pay your rent. I was not offered medical insurance at the time, even though I worked full-time. Yes, there are abusive and shifty managers. Yes, there are abusive and sometimes deadly customers, and this aspect has gotten worse, thanks to our previous “president” normalizing selfish and childish violent behavior.

It’s basically killing yourself so that someone else can get rich, while you have to make hard decisions between paying rent, buying food, getting medicine, or getting a bus ticket.

What you get in return is the illusion that you’re getting somewhere, because you’re physically exhausted at the end of each day. You’re still broke, but people will say, “It’s better than nothing.”

But then, the pandemic happened.

This woke people up.

Life is too short to continue suffering this type of abuse.

In life, we often times get wrapped into a cycle of something, in this case it is work, and we might continue that cycle without ever stopping to really think about it.

When people step away from an abusive situation like this for an extended period of time, it becomes difficult to consider returning to it. People also find other ways, other things. Some are starting businesses. Others are finding more creative ways to make at least what they were making at McDonald’s, but without the abuse and effort.

One would expect the richest and self-declared “Greatest country in the world” could be capable of offering jobs that pay a dignified adult living wage. “It’s better than nothing” has become the working person’s mantra in recent years, which is not representative of a “great” country.

Thanks to COVID-19 and people dying, it got people to realize that life is way too short to be wasting it slaving for someone who is abusive and only technically pays you.

Life is too short to keep doing what we were doing, as we were doing it.

Fear can keep someone where they are. The fear of losing your job is real. I’ve lost many, many jobs over the course of my life. While there were a few times where it was warranted, most of the time it was petty. Sometimes it was illegal.

But then people found something bigger to fear.

Jeff Bezos says that humans are “inherently lazy.” If the pandemic has done anything positive, then it has proven him to be wrong. Yes, the number of people not returning to work or quitting their jobs is big. Many more are expected to quit in the coming months.

To suggest that they’re being lazy and sitting on their asses all day is a fool’s declaration. They’re finding other things to do. They’re gaining knowledge. They’re getting both formal and informal educations.

They are reimagining their own lives, including how they live and what they do for work.

Meanwhile, I’m struggling to get even a rejection letter out of potential employers. No, I’m not applying at McDonald’s. I have no confidence that they’ve done anything to fix their problems, and suspect that they’ve gotten worse over the past 32 years.

There are many reasons why I don’t get responses. I’m an old, white, straight male. I don’t tick any of the affirmative action hires. I’m not young and cool. I don’t fit in with the American “culture of youth.” I’ve not had any substantial work for the past five years, and this gap makes prospective employers view me as lazy. I will test positive for Cannabis on a drug test, and I neither advocate for OR practice using Cannabis while on the clock. I have too much experience, which makes me look expensive.

It’s not just me. Autistic adults enjoy a 90% unemployment rate. That’s bigger than any other group. I won’t let that stop me, and I’ll keep trying until I die. I’ll have to work until I die, since I have nothing except what is in my pocket or the bank right now. No retirement, 401k, or other luxuries that are required to retire.

No, retirement is a luxury; a dream. And I’m not alone. Most people who are 40 years old also have nothing in the way of retirement.

There will be people who say, “You should have planned for retirement.” While it would have been nice to sock a bit away, it never really worked out that way for me. I needed all of my money RIGHT THEN to survive. And since I never had steady employment for longer than 5.5 years, with an average of 2-3 years between jobs, saving up simply wasn’t an option for me.

This is the case for many Autistic adults, as well as people who are struggling as they work while getting paid slave wages.

The bottom line is that the world is a vastly different place now. The majority of people out there now know how I have felt for my entire life. They have social anxiety now. They may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. People have lost homes, money, everything.

To them, it’s a disaster.

To me, it’s just another day of survival.

Survival sucks. I’d much rather LIVE and get to enjoy life more.

No matter what happens, the world will not return to what it was before. I, for one, am happy that this statement is backed up with observable facts.

I don’t want the world to go back to what it was before. It sucked hard.

What I want is a better world.

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Thoughts on Heroes

I have no heroes. Life is better without them.

Thank you for reading. See you on the next one. 🙂

A “hero” is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. For me, having a hero is like having an idol. It’s someone with a specific talent or attribute that encourages you to place them upon a pedestal.

I had two heroes when I was a little boy, before I was school age.

They were my uncles. One uncle had a great deal of confidence and came off as witty. The other was a solid guitarist. I viewed both of them as models to consider imitating. I wanted to be just like them.

The funny thing about life is that our perspectives change as we get older. For me, what I once found impressive became red flags over time.

Both of these heroes eventually fell. But how? Why? What happened?

My uncle who played guitar was truly inspirational to me. He played in a band called “The Sounder,” and played all over west central Indiana. He had the most awesome tobacco burst Les Paul that I had ever seen. He played so effortlessly.

One time, he sat with me and wrote out an F Major scale, starting on the first fret and using all strings. This was in 1969, and I would hold on to that piece of paper until sometime around 1975-76, when I started playing guitar myself. I would sit with that paper and practice that scale.

And when I’d practice that scale, I’d think of him. One day, I was going to be just like him.

But this changed in the summer of 1985, after my second year of college. He came back to Indiana to visit, so I went to my grandparents’ home, where he would be staying.

He had brought two 10-speed bicycles along and asked me if I wanted to go on a ride. We rode for maybe 20 miles. At times, it was difficult to keep up.

During this ride, I confided in him and told him something that I didn’t want anyone else to know. Without getting into dirty details, let’s just say it was something I knew he had done when he was 20 years old. I did the same thing.

In looking back, I think that this was an attempt on my part to be more relatable to him, and to gain favor. After all, he was an amazing guitarist, he and his band influenced me, so why not?

When we got back to the house, the first thing he did was tell everyone in the house about the thing that I told him. He did this because he thought that he was doing me a big favor.

That was in 1985. This “favor” still follows me around to this day. My mother will bring it up at-random, and did so at the Thanksgiving table about five years ago.

To me, this wasn’t just a case of an uncle betraying my trust. This was MY HERO betraying my trust. Stabbing me in the back. Selling me out.

As noted, this happened in the summer of 1985. I am writing this in the summer of 2021, and I have yet to talk to him since that major transgression. Since it has been 36 years since I last talked to him, I believe chances are good that we will never speak again.

I suppose I should note that these two heroes didn’t seem to like each other all that much. The uncle I wrote about in the previous section above was considered to be a lazy loser who wasn’t ever going to get anywhere. Truth be told, I believe that he is an undiagnosed Autistic.

The successful businessman was the opposite. A real go-getter who was an athlete in high school. He worked manual labor jobs until he moved to California, where he was told that he’d not ever get hired in manual labor because “that’s what Mexicans do, and they do it for almost nothing.”

He claims that he was told this when he was looking for work on oil rigs. So he got into investing, insurance, and wealth management. I was significantly closer with this uncle, so I would give him a few breaks before things got ugly.

I worked for him for a while in 1986, while also working at McDonald’s. I didn’t stay long, however. He had me doing some phone calls that turned out to be unethical. His wife would go to the City Hall and get records of couples who’d recently had babies. I was given a list with names, phone numbers, and other information.

I called the first number and a seemingly kind woman answered the phone. I tried to give her a sales pitch about infant insurance. I heard the phone drop, and it sounds like she is crying out of control. Within a few seconds, her husband picks up and asks me what I’m doing. I tell him, and he informs me, “Our baby died three days after we brought her home, you monster.”

I hung up.

I also quit, right there. I told him that I didn’t feel that this was a good thing to do, and not worth the money. I don’t know if he dropped the idea or pressed on with another person.

Another reason why I quit was because he never paid me. I kept holding out for the day when I’d be paid my $5 per hour. It never happened.

Nobody got rich by paying the people who help them get rich.

Our second run-in would not happen until April 1999. We were having dinner at his house and the television was on. We were watching live coverage of The Columbine High School mass-shooting.

At the time, nobody knew what was going on, so people had their ideas. One of the ideas that the reporter suggested was that these were “outcast kids” who had been bullied by jocks [athletes], and they snapped.

To give this more context, this uncle was a jock, and I was an outcast.

I say something about how bullying other kids at school is horrible, abusive, wrong, and needs to be stopped. He counters my statement by saying that, “The jocks set the pecking order for the school. They determine who gets the best girls. They decide who gets preferential treatment. And they keep deciding this for our entire lives.”

I got pissed, stood up from the table, and said, “Well, by the looks of it, I’d say that your pecking order bullshit just got re-pecked.”

I left his house and did not go to his house again.

The third and final straw was in early 2003. I had the most horrible day of my life, to date, when everything went wrong. It was raining really hard. I had lost my job. Someone stole my car. I got a call that my father died. And my mother called to tell me that she had cancer.

It can’t get much worse than that.

The car was found, but I was in bad shape, as were my finances. Mom had gone into surgery and was recovering.

I went to a flute performance to support a fellow musician. On break, my phone rang. It was this uncle, whom I’d not spoken with for the previous four years. He never apologized or anything.

But he called for a very specific purpose. To yell at me.

“What are you doing? Why are you still in LA? You should be HERE with your mother. Your mother is dying [hyperbole] and you need to be here and present in this room.”

I think that he was over-compensating because he paid no attention to his own mother when she was dying, because making money was far more important. And that’s the thing in America. You can pick wealth building, or you can pick family. You can’t have both.

He assumed that I could not afford to drive out to see her, which was true, so he continued his attack.

“I don’t want to hear that your car is broken down or stolen. I don’t want to hear about your money problems. You need to beg, borrow, or STEAL to get your fucking ass out here to see your mother.”

I replied, Since you don’t want to hear about any of it, I won’t tell you about any of it. I’m not one for begging, but would you spot me $100 for gas and other expenses?”

He said, “No,” of course, because he’s a greedy narcissist.

Finally, I let him have it, telling him that I have my relationship with my mother, that we have OUR own understanding on how we want things done, and that he needs to keep his nose out of my fucking business. I told him that it wasn’t my fault that he neglected his own dying mother, and that his compensation for his own failings was painfully obvious.

That call ended with a harsh hang-up. We have not talked since.

I did tell my mother about it. She said that she was fine with me not coming out to visit in-person. She doesn’t like people in her room, and when people DO show up, she feels like she has to get up, take care of them, and entertain. She was in pain and couldn’t stay awake long enough to have a long conversation, so a personal visit would have been a total waste.

As I said, we have our understanding.

While these two uncles were my childhood heroes, the hard truth was that they were and are both highly-flawed individuals. We are related by blood, and that is the only thing we have in common.

Neither of them really cared about me. The second one saw me as a joke, and he loved messing with me and teasing me. For the longest time, I believed that people will do this to you if they like you. It’s basically a positive spin on abuse.

By putting them on a pedestal and the inviting them into my life, I was setting myself up for disappointment. Because they were not really those awesome people I thought they were.

The guitar player quit and did nothing else that I can speak about. I really have no idea what he has done with himself. The successful one was and is a Malignant Narcissist. I have no room in my life for those destructive monsters.

My falling out with the first uncle happened in the summer of 1985. My first of three incidents with the second uncle happened in the early months of 1986. By late summer of 1986, I was in Los Angeles, working to pursue a career in music.

When you’re a young musician, it is seemingly natural to want to place successful musicians onto a pedestal and declare them to be heroes. This is not only unreasonable on the part of the young musician, but it is unfair to the successful musician.

In the mid-80s, there were a great number of self-declared “success gurus” who had lots of advice. One piece of that popular advice was to study, analyze, and figure out the behaviors of people who have already succeeded where you wish to go. If you can meet with them and talk to them, then you’re in an even better position to succeed.

Just as a heads up, the music business does not work this way. I tried.

So whenever I would meet a famous musician, it was always in my best interest to NOT entertain their prior hero status. What I really had to do was to talk to them as peers.

Talk with those famous drummers as fellow drummers who made it in the business. Ask them questions and take their advice to heart.

The more I did this, the easier it got. Over time, I would come to realize that things like luck, family connections, industry connections, and other things I would never personally have, played a major role in their success in the industry.

Being a great drummer is never enough.

As a result, I was able to become friends with some drummers and other musicians whom I had previously admired as my “music heroes.” They became regular, real people. They became peers because I treated them as such, and the good ones returned that treatment.

This change in my perspective was not a guarantee. Some of these people were just plain jerks, like my uncles. When I’d find this out, it was still a disappointment, but less upsetting to me. This is because I no longer had hero-like expectations of them.

Getting rid of the “idolize the heroes” mentality allowed me to have more authentic conversations. On occasion, it also allowed for some awesome friendships.

One of those friends is Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, who has been drumming for “Weird” Al Yankovic since 1981. 41 years!

Summer 2019: In Bend, Oregon with Bermuda. I drove just over 3 hours to meet up for lunch, and then we went drum hunting at the various pawn shops in town.

We met on a drumming forum in the mid-2000s. He saw that I was posting some things, which indicated to him that I was getting mixed up with some shady characters.

He actually called me and we talked on the phone for over an hour to discuss what was going on, how this company got me sucked in, what they’re really doing, and what it’s all about. He even clued me in on why some of my posts were so upsetting to the community.

All of this helped me to change my perspective, my thoughts, my behaviors, and more. It put me in a better place. Bermuda is that kind of guy.

August 2006: Auditioning for one of Bermuda’s bands. I had just played for one set, and now he was going to show me how he plays the next set. I learned that the poor treatment that I received from the guitarist that night was not due to me or anything I did. It’s how he treats everyone.

He would later invite me to audition for one of his local bands, as a temporary replacement whenever he went on his big tours with Al.

I ended up not taking the gig because I wasn’t meshing with the guitarist. All the same, I got to be the first to audition for this spot, and I felt honored.

I could go on, but I think the point has been made. When you stop looking up to people as heroes, it gives you the chance to get to know them.

The alternative to getting to know them, of course, is NOT getting to know them. Had I not looked up to my uncles in that way, and had actually gotten to know them, I might have had a better childhood experience. Maybe we would have had a different relationship, although doubtful, it still could have happened.

And maybe I’d still be on speaking terms with these uncles.

There is no difference between hero worship and celebrity worship. It makes them out to be something they are not. It mythologizes them as something great, fantastic, and bigger than they are.

Making someone your hero means that you are willing to overlook their flaws and imperfections. This allows you room to build them up into something they are not.

And if the person you have turned into a hero is not a good person, they will take this hero worship and use it against you for their own gain. My second uncle did it, and others are doing it right now.

If you’re impressed by someone’s wealth [be it real or just perceived] and celebrity, it leaves you open to exploitation, just as I was when my uncle didn’t pay me for the work that I did for him.

Be honest with yourself. If you worship celebrity, money, fame, or other false avatars of “success,” then I would encourage you to break that cycle and get out of it, before it consumes you or drives you to do something that you will regret.

Hero worship can often lead to what is called a “parasocial relationship.” This is where the person doing the hero worship feels a great connection and bond with the celebrity. This can be a YouTube creator, a rock star, movie star, or even a politician, while the person who is the object of the hero worship has no idea that the other person even exists.

A great current example of this can be found in the people who believe that Trump is their friend, that he will help them, that he cares about them, and so on. I’d call him a shifty used car salesman, but he’s lower than this.

While his fans worship him and believe that he can do no wrong, not only does he not even know that they exist, but he also DOES NOT CARE that they exist. It doesn’t matter. The only person he cares about is himself.

A person like this is never worthy of hero worship, among other things. You can’t even call a person like this a friend, because they don’t have the capacity or need for things like friendship.

When you give up hero worship, you’re putting yourself in a safer place. You’re also having more reasonable expectations of others. You’ll be less likely to develop a parasocial relationship. You’ll also be less likely to be scammed.

“Influencers” on Instagram take advantage of the people who worship them. It’s a multi-million dollar business, and that’s putting it conservatively.

Instead of getting all starry-eyed, consider treating them like any other person. Yes, they have a job that has high visibility and may gain them a substantial amount of money. They might have a household name.

NONE OF THIS makes them any better or worse than anyone else. However, it might allow them to take advantage of you, if they’re actually a bad person. And the person worshipping them won’t even know or acknowledge this.

Consider the young woman, Desiree Washington, who had a parasocial relationship with a certain celebrity in 1991, and then found herself in his hotel room in the middle of the night, getting attacked.

You do NOT want to end up in this situation.

People are people. Humans are flawed and messy. Some are bad. Others are corrupt. Some are decent people. Hero worship and the parasocial relationships that come from them may leave you open to harm. It gets in the way of better judgment.

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Happy Father’s Day: My Best Father-Son Movie Experiences

I love movies, and have seen many. As a result, I’ve had some fascinating movie viewing experiences.

Most of these experiences extend well beyond the movie itself.

When The Exorcist was in theaters, I went with my father to see it. As we were leaving, this old lady was walking in front of us and talking to someone. She said, “That was terrible. I don’t know why nobody put down their cameras to help that poor girl.”

She thought it was a documentary.

On another occasion, again with my father, we went to see Earthquake in the theater. They had this technology called “Sensurround,” which would be activated during the earthquake scenes. I sensed something extra, beyond this Sensurround, and so we went out through the emergency exists. The roof of the theater would collapse seconds later, due to an excessive amount of snow on the roof. One person died.

When I was older and drove my own car, I’d go see the Midnight Movie, which was whatever was playing. They played movies like Pink Floyd The Wall, or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Faces of Death.

These are all great moments for me that were tied to movies. But there was one movie where we went all-out on the experience.

Today’s entry is about my best movie experiences with my father, and my best movie experiences with my own son as a father.

Happy Father’s Day!

It was the summer of 1975 and dad had a plan. We were going to go to Florida, for the first time ever. All of us were looking forward to it, but nobody knew what he had planned.

We get in his old Grandville and hit the road. We make a stop in Arkansas to visit one of my mother’s brothers. The foundation of a house two blocks away had been dug up, unearthing a bunch of scorpions and centipedes. My uncle’s house was covered in centipedes. It was a weird visit.

While driving, dad missed the exit he needed to get the restaurant he wanted to visit. The next exit was 30 miles away, so there was no turning around. We take that exit, and there’s a truck stop. The only place to eat is called “Rosie’s Cafe.”

We got something to eat. Right before we were done, the waitress comes over and says, “Lick your forks, everybody. We’re havin’ dessert.”


We make our way over to Georgia and stop in Cobb County to stay with one of her other brothers. While we were there, this neighbor kid died emulating something he saw on a cartoon. He put a garden hose in his mouth and turned it on.

There were also tornadoes to see and avoid. We got through that.

Finally, we made it to Florida, and we stay at The Aegean Sands in Panama City Beach. I turned on the television set for a minute and caught a report that there was an axe murderer loose in town. So I turned off the television and went out to the beach.

The sand was very soft and white, like powder. It was nothing I had expected. I got into water up to my neck and could still see my feet on the bottom. This was going to be a great vacation, I knew already.

This is the sand at Pamana City Beach, Florida. I don’t have any pictures of my own, so the photos you see in this post are from Google.

The next day was our first full day, and we did the usual. Go to the beach, catch sand crabs and sand fleas, go swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. I dove down and caught a blue crab with my hands.

Later that day, it was time for Dad to enact his plan. He has my mom stay at the beach with my brother and sister, because they were too little to go to the movies to see this film.

We get in the car and I ask him what we’re going to see. He tells me, “Jaws.”

Wow! I’m pumped up. My ten year old self could hardly contain the excitement.

We go see the movie, and I won’t get into the details of that, since just about everyone has seen this movie by now. When we leave the theater, it is already getting dark.

Dad asked how I liked the movie. I said, “That was really intense. I guess I need to be more careful when I go out into the water tomorrow. Maybe not get in above my knees.”

He laughed. “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be getting your feet wet tomorrow, because we’re going out on a half-day deep sea fishing trip.”


This would be a 12-hour adventure on a fishing boat, so far out to sea that you can’t see the beach. And we’d be doing this after having seen Jaws the night before. Classic.

“Sweet dreams. We’re getting up at 4:30am.”

I don’t recall what I dreamed about, but the next morning arrived in the blink of an eye. We got dressed for the day and got everything together.

Then, my mother did something that would end up completely ruining my entire day. I don’t blame her, though. She was just looking out for me.

“Now, you can’t go out to sea on an empty stomach. Here, have a glazed donut and orange juice.”

Take it from me: If you want to enjoy your deep sea fishing expedition, one of the handful of things that I will recommend is to avoid foods like this.

We get to the dock and board the boat. I say out loud, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Nobody got it. I guess Dad and I were the only ones to go see Jaws. It was still relatively new.

It didn’t take long for us to be out before I started getting sick. That sugary, greasy donut was dancing in a pool of acidic orange juice. I was throwing up all day. At one point, I thought I was done, so I went to the edge of the boat, baited my hook, and dropped it in the water. As soon as my bait hit the water, I got sick again and left dad to tend to two rods.

He was not happy about this.

You can catch some big fish in the ocean. Photo from Google search for deep sea fishing in Panama City Beach and Gulf of Mexico. You can see how far they are from the shore.

I went to lay down in the galley. Ten second later, another kid threw up all over me. That got me going again. I was sick the entire time.

Dad got over his disappointment. And although I couldn’t stop hurling long enough to fish, I was both fascinated and terrified by the thought of the incredible amount of water that was underneath us, and my imagination about what was in the water, waiting for one of us to fall over the edge.

We enjoyed the rest of our stay in Florida. The day we left, a hurricane was making its way to shore. We barely beat it out of town. There was another tornado in Georgia. Bad things followed our bumper all the way home.

And when we got home, there was a notice on the door of the farmhouse that we were renting. It seems the owner of the house had sold it the day we left, put a 30-day notice on the door the same day, and then died the next day.

We had been gone for a total of two weeks, so this mean that we had two weeks to find a new home and move out. This got us out of Edgewood and straight into Lapel, a very small town where I would spend the better part of the next decade living.

Dad and I were not as close is it sounds by this story. He spent most of his time working, being a volunteer police officer, and gambling in Las Vegas. This was the only vacation that we took together.

The movies we had seen together in the past were just him trying to scare me. I would get a little scare at these movies, although truth be told, Dad was by far more scary when he wasn’t trying.

Planning a vacation to Florida to see Jaws and then go deep sea fishing the next morning was nothing short of genius.

Yes, the movie was scary. However, from scorpions and centipedes, to a kid dying while playing, to an axe murderer, tornadoes, and hurricane, there were scarier things all along the way. The deep sea fishing excursion was scarier, probably because of the movie. I might have been even more scared, had I not gotten so sick.

Scariest of all was Dad’s reaction to the notice on the house door when we got home. Oh, man, stay out of his way!

Just over 23 years later, on Thanksgiving Day, I had an interesting movie experience with my son. He was 3.5 years old at the time.

His mother was going to Bakersfield to visit her family. I did not want to go with her to spend time with her. We had been on the outs since before our son was born. She basically got pregnant to trap me. Ah, holes in condoms.

Since I didn’t want to go, she went without me. However, she left our son with me as well, in order to control me. She thought that it would ruin any plans that I may have had.

It actually enhanced the plans.

I had been drumming in the band Sun On Skin for about half a year. The band’s leader, John Parker [RIP], apparently had no plans, so I invited him to come over to my apartment to hang out with us.

1998: Sun On Skin

It was a gloomy day and a storm was brewing. John would not be on his way over for another hour, so I took my son to Starbucks. He wanted to order a “kid coco.” We got our hot drinks and drove back home.

I had a key to get back into the apartment. However, there was a security gate to get through. His mother had the key to that door, and I would always use the keypad to get in. Problem was that the storm knocked out the electricity, so I couldn’t get through the door.

My son was small enough to squeeze through an area at the bottom of the bars. He then stood on his tippy-toes to open the door. Success!

The power came back on about an hour later, just before John arrived. Up until then, we enjoyed sitting in the dark playing with toys.

John showed up with a turkey roll and some other things to cook. I had not really gotten into cooking yet, so I was impressed with his cooking abilities.

After dinner, it was movie time, so the three of us went into the living room. My son had his own little chair next to mine.

I had a double-header planned: Psycho and The Exorcist.

Both of the movies were on VHS. I put the movies on and we sat in the dark and watched both of them, back-to-back.

The first break was after the infamous shower scene in Psycho. I paused because we were taking a bathroom break. While John was still in the restroom, I asked my son, “Did you see that? How many times do you think that lady got stabbed?”

He said that he did not know, so I challenged him. We played it back in slow motion and he watched carefully, counting how many times the lady got stabbed.

After the slow-motion playback, he says, “None. She didn’t get stabbed at all.” I replied, “Ah, the magic of movies. They get you to think that you saw something, when you didn’t.” He was very impressed with how the scene was shot, and had a new appreciation for movies after that.

The other break wasn’t really a break, so much as it was us watching the special features on the VHS of The Exorcist, where they had interviews, deleted scenes, and talked about other scenes.


The part about the “crab walk” caught his attention. He was fascinated by how she moved upside-down like that, and later he couldn’t stop sticking out his tongue while chasing me around and laughing. He was just being scary.

With the three of us hanging out, it was literally boys’ night. We had everything: A dark day and evening, rain/thunder/lightning, a good dinner, beers [and ginger ale], and two classic movies. The quiet that comes with staying in Los Angeles over Thanksgiving was icing on the cake.

Of course, his mother was not happy at all to hear about these movies. She changed her tune a little bit, after hearing how happy and excited he was about our movie night. I do think it upset her that we had fun.

Summer 1999: My son at the first-ever Pagan Day Festival in Los Angeles, with a stuffed dog and John Wayne Gacy painting at the booth for The Museum of Death. We are lifetime members, pun not intended.

She was hoping to hear me complain about how having him may have ruined my plans. But the truth is that having him around always made my plans even better. We shared lots of things together.

He was always a good boy. Now he’s a good man.

As noted earlier, my Dad took me to scary movies because he wanted to scare me. I shared the same scary movies with my son so that we could have something in common to appreciate and talk about.

Although I couldn’t top going to Florida to see Jaws before going deep sea fishing, we ended up having a classic, magical evening.

I moved away from Indiana at the end of 1985, and only saw my dad a few more times before he died in early 2003. On December 19, 1998, I left my ex and no longer lived with my son. I would see him on weekends, especially when I would tell his mother that I had plans and didn’t want him showing up. I did that a lot, so I got to see him a lot.

Sometime near Father’s Day 2018.

We would continue to enjoy movies whenever he visited. I think the last movie we watched was Super Bad. He said it was good, but “not the kind of movie you watch with your parents.”

I’m trying to think of how to end this, so I’m going to throw in a short bonus movie experience.

My son loved the John Leguizamo movie “The Pest.” If you can find it and rent it, know that it’s a comedy that failed the weekend it was in theaters in 1997. It’s not politically correct. The jokes are sometimes horrible. Lots of bathroom humor, etc.

We would rent that movie from a small mom-n-pop video store a block away from our apartment. He was at that age where he always wanted to watch things again. So we would take the rental to the store and just renew the rental.

We ended up keeping that movie for two months.

The last time we took it back, the video store owner looked at his records. He saw how many times we had rented the movie. He also noted how nobody else had ever rented that movie.

Having some scary fun with Photoshop.

He typed away at his keyboard for a minute before putting the movie in the cover and giving it to my son to have. I found the movie again on DVD at Fry’s Electronics for $5, so I bought that as my copy and watch it a few times per year.

Every time I watch that movie, or any movies I shared with my son, I think of him when he was little and all the great times that we had.

I hope that you have a wonderful Father’s Day. If you’re not a father, then consider enjoying a movie and the memories that go along with it.

I leave you now with the opening sequence from The Pest.

Groovealocious a-docious

A Tribute to Kristan

Today is Juneteenth, which is a new Federal holiday that observes the official end of slavery on June 19, 1965. In no way whatsoever do I feel that this new holiday is getting in the way of my future celebration of the 4th of July, which is our Independence Day. It’s almost as if they’re not on the same day at all.

Kristan, front and center. I’m on the far right.

This June 19th would have also been my little sister’s 53rd birthday.

Kristan was a funny little kid. Being a girl, she was dad’s favorite.

When she was really little, for a brief while, it was my brother and me against our sister. We’d mess with her any chance that we got.

But by the time I was at the end of grade school, the tables had turned, and my brother and sister teamed up against me. They’d party in the garage after school and make fun of me because I was being responsible and doing my chores.

Christmas 1987

She graduated high school early and moved out to California with our mom in mid-1985, roughly six months before I was invited out.

When I first got to Bakersfield in 1986, she helped me get a job at the McDonald’s on Ming Avenue in Bakersfield. This is where I would work until I saved up enough money to make the move to Los Angeles.

She was dating our swing manager at the time. He already had a girlfriend working there. Her name was Jackie. So I helped them out by going out with Jackie. The pleasure was all mine; Jackie was a gorgeous young woman. Ah, the old days.


I spent the better part of 2 years in Los Angeles, chasing my dream. Kristan and Richard broke up shortly after I left, because he wanted to get married and have children right away. They were not on the same page, so it was time to split.

With David on their wedding day, 1988.

She moved to Koreatown, which is a really rough area of Los Angeles. She shared a flat in a brick building with some “Scene Kids” whose job it was to party in gay clubs. I don’t know all of the details.

But just before my first attempt at my music pursuits came to an end, she got married to a really nice guy named David.

The tied the knot in Las Vegas, in The Little White Chapel. It’s a truly intimate setting. The funny and cool thing about it is that after a while you forget that you’re in Las Vegas.

Our dad flew out all the way from Indiana, just for the occasion. He loved Las Vegas, or maybe it was just his gambling addiction. But we spent the day together and celebrated Kristan’s new life.

Kristan and Dad, on her big day [1988]

They would end up having one son, Ryan, in the early-mid-90s. Today, he has grown up to be a good young man.

Kristan and Dave lived in Los Angeles, not too horribly far from me. They let me stay in their spare room, where I slept in a chair, when I was going through a split with my future ex.

That was in 1998, so I know that they were married for at least 10 years. At some point, they ended up splitting. I don’t know why, but I suspect it might have been related to her chemical and alcohol dependency.

Kristan and Ryan, back when he was a wee little guy.

We spent a great deal of time apart, but would see each other during holidays at mom’s place. For a few years in the mid-2000s, she would come out to my shows with my band WHIPLADS and bring a bunch of friends.

This was very important to me. Outside of my mother, she’s the only other family member who showed support for my music endeavors.

Her support for my gigs and our time that we could spend together came to an end around 2010, when she left LA and moved to Bakersfield.

Bakersfield is a horrible place. There’s nothing to do there anymore, except get into trouble. It has gotten really ugly, and is most definitely not the place we moved to in the mid-1980s.

Mid-2000s: At The Gig in Hollywood for a show with my old band, WHIPLADS.

She ended up dating a few shady characters while living there. I did not like this, at all, and would try to spend time with her while distancing myself from these “bad influences,” to put it nicely.

I want to be sensitive as I write this, since her son or other family members might read this. Probably not, but they could. It’s public.

One night, she decided to partake of some drugs. I won’t get into the details. Her boyfriend tried to wake her up, but there was no response.

I got the news from Mom. I knew that something was wrong when she called. I didn’t know it would be this serious.

Early 2003: Me, Kristan, and Todd, at our Dad’s funeral in Indiana. This was the last time that the three of us were together in the same room.

We went out to show her support, and went with her to the place she shared with her boyfriend to get her things. Her boyfriend was also her dealer, so you can imagine the tension that was present as we were all in that studio apartment.

2017: Kristan with her little yappy dog. She treated him like a child. Given that my son is grown up, I understand this.

Of course, we all blame him. Certainly, he supplied her. But she also had a lifetime of addiction. To the best of my knowledge, she didn’t ever try to do anything about it. She once said that it was “fun” and made her happy.

I didn’t buy it. Nobody did.

It’s a weird thing. When I was a kid, I would sometimes try to imagine what our lives might have been like when we were all adults. I would imagine that we all owned homes, that we had our families, and that we would work together and help each other along the way.

Of course, none of this happened. My brother and sister were both against me by the time I got out of grade school, which didn’t bode well for a future.

By the time I was almost out of high school, my brother and sister had become a unit. A small, destructive unit.

None of us ever owned homes, or even new cars. None of us had any great success in life. I had some moments, and that’s as close as we could get. The two of them developed some destructive habits early in life, and it ended up shortening her life.

Mid-2000s: Kristan, Mom, and me, with our sons in front of us.

You’re born. You live. You die. That’s it. There is something rather unceremonious about it all. We might celebrate our birthdays, but we don’t consider that it might be our last one when we do it.

Kind of like how I don’t think that this might be my last entry while I am writing it. I could die ten minutes after I post this. I just don’t know. Nobody knows.

Being an Atheist who doesn’t believe in a god, angels, heaven, or any of that stuff, I do not have any belief that we will reconvene in an afterlife. I may write an entire entry on this later.

But I know the question that people are thinking: What do you think happens when you die? I really have no idea. But if I had to guess, I would say that dying means returning to the same state that I occupied before I was born. That is, returning to a state of non-existence.

The thing that I call “me” is a construct that my brain invented, based on the ill-informed reaction that others have as a result of temporary exposure to me, and then conjured up by my ill perception of their ill perception.

In other words, I am a mess. We all are. We get created by those around us. How they respond to us, how they interact with us, and how they treat us will ultimately play a role in what we ultimately become.

Either way, and regardless of whether I am right or wrong, today is Kristan’s birthday, so I will celebrate it accordingly.

Happy birthday, Kristan. You are missed.

The center charm is an urn, and it contains some of Kristan’s ashes. It is permanently sealed. I pin this to my guitar strap or jacket sometimes.

Autism, The Past, and Letting Go

I wasn’t properly tested and diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] until late 2017, when I was 53 years old. This means that I spent my entire life with this, and since I didn’t know I had it, I didn’t do anything to deal with it. Nothing at all.

Sometimes it feels like a life wasted, because things may have turned out so much different, had I known and had the ability to do something about it. But it’s too late for that.

The thing is, I’m not the only one who does this. Lots of people romanticize the past. They may not realize it. The problem with this activity is that it demonizes the present, compromises the future, and leads you to believe that the good old days were better than they truly were.

Don’t worry. It can be worse than this. Way worse.

I struggled greatly in grade school, high school, and my first year of college with concepts like making friends and fitting in. Today, I suspect that way more people had this concern back then, and not just me. Those who acted like they were fitting in were doing just that: acting. They were presenting themselves in a way where it would lead the observer to believe that they had their shit together.

They didn’t.

The guitar I had during my first year of college: The Hondo H-1 Death Dagger

Things changed for me in my second year of college. It all ties back to just ONE incident on the first day of my first year of college. Long story short, I was playing electric guitar in my dorm room, when this guy walked by. He was dressed all in khakis. He says, “That’s a weird guitar, man. Can I play it?” I let him play it. He rocked on it for a few minutes, thanked me, and left. I didn’t see him for the rest of the year. I didn’t know his name or anything about him.

Now, flash forward to the first month of my second year. I was still struggling with making friends, fitting in, finding activities, and dealing with my crippling depression.

It was a Saturday night, and I was about to go to bed at 7:30pm, as I would do, when my little brother showed up, kicking at my door.

He asked me where the house parties were. I had no idea, so he dragged me out and we found several. At the last one we stopped at, I saw the same tall guy wearing all khakis. We recognized each other instantly.

Halloween 1984: JD and me [R], playing our first gig.

“You’re the dude with that weird guitar, right?” I confirmed it. He told me that his band, The Beertonez, was looking for a bass player. I said that I’d do it, and ended up doing it.

It was my first real band, so I was super-excited about the entire experience.

I have considered the idea before, about how it seems that I was the only person who took the band seriously. This turns out to be completely true.

If you ever want to find out the truth, Facebook is a good place to do it. I found the truth about so many things that it got depressing.

I found as many people as I could from that time period. The majority of them have turned into horrible people, quite frankly, and it was disappointing. One of them felt the need to tell me that, “people change.”

While I accept this, I find it hard to believe that they changed THIS much. I have changed as I’ve gotten older and gained experience. However, I didn’t lose my core, which is what I’m going to call it. At my core, I am eternally 16 years old; frozen in time. This will never change. I’m still the hyper-depressed, Autistic guy I was in the mid-1980s.

I don’t even want to try to describe them. But I will.

One of them decided that it would be fun for him to mock my weight gain. He became super-hyper religious. Funny how he wasn’t mentioning Jesus even ONCE while he was drinking heavily and chasing women. Fine.

One friend of the band was angry all the time. Another one, I found out she had died 7 years earlier. One of them decided that they need to talk to me like a child, and would write in a very condescending tone. A few just said, “Hey!” and didn’t care to talk much at all.

I thought that maybe JD was dead. However, his ex-girlfriend pointed me to his wife, who was posting on Facebook. Via this, I was able to acquire an email address.

I had wondered what happened to JD. I was excited to be able to email him, since we had lost touch over 30 years ago. It would be fun, kind of like getting the band back together.

For some odd reason, I thought that re-connecting with him would be different from my experience with all of the others. I soldiered on.

We wrote about music. He said his guitar became unplayable, so he gave up on it. As he put it, “Besides, I’m not going to be the next Eddie Van Halen, so what’s the point?”

That may be another topic for another day.

I trusted him enough that I wanted to tell him about my diagnosis, so I let loose and told him that I was tested and diagnosed with Autism at the end of 2017.

To this he replied, “Makes sense. I always knew there was something wrong with you.”

Let that statement sink in. I did.



Up until I got back on Facebook in mid-2019, I was of the belief that I found these people in 1984, we connected, and something awesome happened. We made great music and became friends.

That’s what I used to believe.

But after my interactions, how those went, and what they said, I now have a different picture of the past.

What happened was someone who remembered me asked me to join their band, not because I’m anything great, but because they needed a bass player. They needed a warm body to fill a slot.

I got so excited about it that I just assumed that I was “in” from the beginning. I never got kicked out of the band, and in fact, I kicked out a few people myself, with buy-in from the others. I took the band seriously and ran it like a business. The rest just went along with it until the school year was over. I was the only one who took it seriously.

The problem was that I had gotten so excited about it all, and I was so giddy, that I didn’t realize that none of these people really liked me at all. I didn’t pay attention to what they may have been saying behind my back, or what they would talk about when I wasn’t around. I know there were times like that.

At best, they tolerated me. I’m sure it gave them something to talk about later, although I can’t confirm that. It would be a brief reference, like, “Dang, you remember that one guy?” And then, they’d forget about it, forget about me, and move on.

Meanwhile, I never forgot about any of them.

The singer for the old college band got in touch in 1996 and wanted me to move from California to Virginia to get the band back together. I dropped everything and moved myself out there.

On the phone, he was pumped up about it. The same was true of the letters he wrote and the tapes that he mailed. He talked like he wanted to actually have a band together and get out there again.

However, he failed to disclose his mental health issues. My first night there, he came home from work, did not acknowledge me, turned off the lights and went to sleep.

I would later find out that he was taking Prozac 10mg. There’s no shame in this. I currently take Wellbutrin 150mg, which is kind of equivalent to Prozac 20mg. I’m not judging that. If he were honest with me, then I would not have uprooted myself and moved across the country for nothing.

He later turned hyper-religious. I can only guess that it was Jesus who told him to make fun of my extra weight gain and how I look. He did this after I wrote to him, where I apologized that my openness about being an Atheist upset him, because religious belief is a very fragile thing.

Funny, there I was, apologizing for not believing as he believes, and his response was to crap all over me.

That’s not a friend. Maybe he was a friend in the past. Maybe not. I don’t know. But what I do know is that he doesn’t act like a friend now.

About 3-4 years later, I had re-connected with one of the girls who lived in a house that hosted our band for their parties. Things got serious between us and we even talked about marriage.

However, we had a difference of opinion on how things should go. I wanted to be responsible and save up money for a few months before flying to her state to get married, as I didn’t want to show up broke. She, on the other hand, wanted to get married right away, just to get out of the house faster.

She didn’t love me or care about me. She just wanted to use me to get out of her house and out from under her mother’s thumb. I base this opinion on a telephone conversation that I had with her mother, after she ran off and married someone else in a big hurry.

I wanted to try to re-kindle things with her at one point. Nope. Her responses to me were somewhat cold and distant.

Worst of all, I romanticized a short-lived relationship that I had with a girl back in 1982. When I found her on Facebook in late 2019, she lead me to believe that she cared about me, that she still loved me, that she still thought about me, and that she wanted to pic up where we left off.

Within about 6 weeks, she planned on leaving her husband of 16 years, flying from Indiana to Oregon, and moving in with me. Initially, she was supposed to just visit. But I found out that she filed for divorce and it might not be safe for her to return, so she stayed.

I thought that it was going well for about 8-9 months, until the stress of the pandemic caused her veneer to crack. She didn’t love me or care about me. She wasn’t telling me the truth about her life experiences.

Instead, she lied to me about her past, about her family, about her FIVE marriages, and more. She would just agree with me on things, and I didn’t notice, until one day when she got lazy with it and I caught on.

It was a total nightmare.

Before I deleted my Facebook account a few months back, I saw that she was “friends” on Facebook with her latest ex-husband. The one who was abusive and neglectful, and who left her to die in a hospital parking lot because he didn’t want another medical bill.

Everyone in her life abused her. She made sure that she sold herself to me as a perpetual victim. Every day, she would remind me of who victimized her, going all the way back to the late 1960s.

Her dad raped her. Her brother raped her. Her sister threw a ball into traffic so that she would get hit by a car. All five of her marriages were abusive and she was raped in every single one. One of her ex-husbands, the one who supposed raped her the worst, was the one that she married a second time.

I am willing to bet that she’s talking with a new guy, and that she has added me to her extensive list of rapists. Always the victim, without nuance.

I could have gone to my grave believing what I used to believe, and I would have been fine with that. I would have been fine with believing that I had friends in college, or that a few of the ladies really loved me.

However, when the truth presents itself, you have no choice but to pay attention to it. At least, that’s my reality. I cannot lie to myself on purpose. But I did lie to myself a lot on accident.

I lied to myself about the reality of the situation, because that was how I saw it at the time.

As romantic as the past sounds, the times were also hard back then. I quit school. I had a crap job moving dirt on a construction site. I lived with my grandparents. I joined another band, and that situation was by far more professional.

There were a few good things here and there, even if most of them were illusions. But as is the case with any other times in my life, those were also some hard times. I did what I did and saw things the way I did because of how I viewed the world, how I viewed others, and the value I would come to place on these people and experiences.

The situations mostly sucked. The people mostly sucked. The experiences mostly sucked. And, as is the case for most people, I had a few good moments here and there.

When the present stinks, and the future looks bleak, it feels as if the only way to have anything resembling positivity is to look to the past and seek out those nuggets.

Those nuggets become the whole of the memory.

Looking at the past with rose-tinted lenses tends to obscure the red flags.

When this happens to me, it leads me to want to return to the past, at any cost. This is not only impossible, but it is also NOT healthy.

The hard truth is that my life mostly stunk back then, and it has remained the same for my entire adult life. I think this is the case for most people, that life is mostly hard bullshit, with some little nuggets of goodness or happiness sprinkled in during certain moments.

When my rumination became intrusive and non-stop, the only defense I would have would be to focus on those moments that I had romanticized. Sure beats the hell out of ruminating over all of those horrible, negative experiences.

Still, rumination is destructive and dangerous.

To be really, truly crystal clear, I have nothing against the majority of the people from the past that are referenced in this entry. How I viewed things during those times in the past was on me.

How they treat me now is on them.

I most definitely will not be communicating anymore with the ones who were abusive, or the ones who lied to me. But I think that maybe I should not ever talk or write with any of them ever again.

They had chances to keep in touch. I could be found through the phone directory. Since 1999, I had my website []. I have been searchable online since before Google existed.

Anyone who knew me and thought of me could very easily have found me. The thing about that is none of them did it. Nobody looked for me. Nobody thought of me. Nobody cared.

To be fair to them, they had their own problems, their own challenges, their own disasters, their own insecurities, and their own lives. They have their own stories to tell, and I recognize that. The only story I can tell is mine.

It’s mostly my fault that I believed they were my friends. A few of them did some things to string me along, true. At the same time, I have to take responsibility for my own perception and behaviors.

I was the one who listed them in my head as being my friends, as being important, and all that comes with these designations.

It is also my responsibility to let them go. Just let go of the past, and don’t be afraid to let them fade into relative obscurity.

I have some photos and recordings. I have some positive memories. That’s fine. But to think that the past and these people were somehow better or different is nothing more than a self-inflicted whitewash of the past.

They didn’t tell me how great those times were. I did. And while there were some great moments, the times were not really all that great.

As part of letting go, I think it is important to note the lessons that I learned, the things I achieved, and the silver lining of it all.

That’s what we get with this segment. To reiterate, my focus is on my second year of college, when I had my first rock band and a bunch of “friends.”

I got real-world experience with a band. It was my first band, and I was taking it all on. I set up rehearsals. I engineered our recordings. I recorded all gigs. I made flyers and promoted the band. I paid everyone whenever the band got paid. I organized and coordinated with people via phone, which is difficult for me. I was in charge of branding. I would rent the PA system from The Convertibles whenever we had a gig, and made sure they got paid.

All of this made my eventual move to Los Angeles to pursue a music career all that much easier, because it was way less mysterious. I learned more doing this than I learned in all of my classes combined.

I stepped out of my comfort zone. Whether it was dealing with other people, booking gigs, hanging with “friends,” performing in crowded houses full of drunken college kids, or anything else, it was all outside of my comfort zone. Even the act of going to college in a different city, far from home, was outside my comfort zone. And during this second year, I got way more comfortable with that idea / situation.

What was IN my comfort zone was staying in my room, keeping to myself, and going to sleep at 7:30pm. You show me another 19-year-old college boy who goes to bed at 7:30pm on a Saturday night, and I’ll eat my own face. They typically do not exist.

This experience helped me when it was time to network in Los Angeles, get a job, get an apartment, meet people, and promote.

01 Nov 1995, New York City, New York, United States — Crocodile hunter Steve Irwin and alligator “Irvine” pose together at the Central Park boathouse. — Image by © Najlah Feanny/Corbis

Not everyone who gets on with me is my friend. This was maybe the hardest lesson to learn, because I am so easily fooled by others. Just because someone lets me sleep on their couch, it doesn’t mean that we’re good friends. The problem is that I’d not let anyone BUT a good friend sleep on my couch, as I don’t want to get killed in my sleep by someone with ill intentions.

My perception and definition of what constitutes a friend was clearly not in line with their perceptions and definitions.

We partied hard. We had some good times. But we weren’t really friends, in the sense of trusting each other and being candid. It was casual drinking beers, enjoying music, and letting out that excess energy that we carry around as young adults.

I made these “friendships” way more than they actually were. I lifted all of them higher than they deserved. While I thought they were the coolest people ever, they barely thought of me at all. Reality requires balance, and this is clearly off-kilter.

My belief that they were my friends, in the true sense of the word, was a fantasy.

Allowing myself to be happy. Whether or not my happiness during that second year was based on truth or illusion, I had a great deal of happiness. It was based on creativity, ownership of my creativity, promotion of my creativity, and taking in the fruits of my labor without judgment.

When I was in LA making music, I put every single note under the microscope. I did a retrospective of every single performance. I got obsessed with metrics. With all of that self-judgment, I was still able to carve out little chunks of happiness here and there.

A show that was successful. A great recording session. Meeting new people while promoting. I would find happiness in these things.

Now that I’m not “trying to make it” in the music business, I can get back to the mindset of the house party band. Play for fun, money, and social opportunity. Bring the fun back.

I got more comfortable with social situations. This is a big deal for Autistic people, regardless of where they exist on the spectrum. I talked to musicians in other bands during that year. I also talked to both men and women with a relatively surprising level of comfort. This comfort level was backed by the confidence I gained from being actively working in a band.

Yes, it’s weird to experience this mind-blowing revelation that my feelings about the past were mostly an illusion. I have only myself to blame for that. I have little in the way of hard feelings about most of it. The parts that were hurtful have been let go, to slither down the drain.

I made mistakes, such as believing that these people were my friends, believing that the past was greater and better than it was, and more. But the biggest mistake of all was my romanticizing of the past.

When I had intrusive rumination, the idea of letting go of the past seemed to be nothing short of impossible. How do you let go of something when it plays in your head constantly?

As I write this, I couldn’t ruminate if I tried. My new medication shuts off automatic rumination, and makes the act appear to require way too much energy. It probably does, which may have been exacerbating my Major Depressive Disorder.

And so, I bid my past a fond farewell. Goodbye.

If someone from the past writes to me, and it’s positive in nature, then I will consider writing back. But I won’t instigate a conversation with the majority of people from the past. The exceptions know who they are.

I have many recordings, a few videos, and a good number of memories that have been re-framed with this new attitude. I can recall them when I want and enjoy the memories. However, I will NOT be recalling them in a way that romanticizes them in any way at all.

It was what it was. Now it is no more.

I’ll end with this: Remember that ALL of this is temporary and ultimately meaningless. It has meaning in the moment, for sure. When the moment goes, feel grateful for the meaning at the time, then let it go and move on.

Most of the people from my past have already forgotten me. In roughly 50 years, there will be no living being who remembers me at all. The negativity, bad situations, bad people, horrible times, and all of that will all go away, along with anything that is positive. All of it dies and rots.

I watch this video from time to time, in order to put everything into perspective. Eventually, ALL of this — absolutely EVERYTHING — will be gone. Everything.

By everything, I mean the sun, the stars, the solar system, the galaxy, and everything else. It will all die. When it dies, it will remain dead forever.

But THIS moment, right now — the moment that I am spending writing this entry — will never, ever be here again. It’s here.

Oops, there it goes. Gone.


How so very small are we and our problems.

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