Pursuit of the Dream

Today’s entry was inspired by a piece written by Johnny L Brewer. Click his name to read.


Spring 1966

My dream of being a musician started before I was 2 years old. I would sit in my own seat behind the drummer of my uncle’s band, The Sounder. They played around Indiana, and had bands open for them, like Johnny Cougar.

In first grade, we had to go up to the front of the class and tell the class something about ourselves. I took the teacher’s pointer and pointed at Hollywood, California, on the global map that spanned across the wall, above the blackboard. I told the class, “When I grow up, I’m going to move to Hollywood and play drums.” They all laughed, of course. That changed nothing for me.

School was a place where they did their best to crush any dreams or creativity that I had. They gave it their best go. I must admit, it’s what they do best. Teaching certainly isn’t on that list. Fortunately for me, they failed miserably. Thanks, yet-to-be-diagnosed Autism!

What was called “just a phase” persisted throughout my entire life. After high school ended, my dedication to marching band shifted to the dream of a standard rock band.

Time flies…

I had gotten a taste of what that was like in the winter of 1982, when I put together a rag-tag three-piece band to play just one song.

It wouldn’t be until the fall of 1984 that I would join my first real band in college. The Beertonez was a band that had a great deal of potential as a house party band, and I did what I could to see that potential through. On our last gig, we made enough money that I paid off my student loans for that year. It would end up being the period in music where I would make the most money.

First gig with The Beertonez, Halloween 1984

I had big plans for the band, which included taking the act to LA to give it our best shot. Yes, this was somewhat naive. This was 1985, and I would later learn that Metallica had gone to LA at that time, and then ran back to San Francisco, crying about how nobody liked them because Glam was starting to take over. I had no idea.

Unfortunately, I was the only one who was up for tackling this idea. When the school year ended in the summer of 1985, pretty much everyone in the band just went back home. To me, the band was everything. But to them, it was just something to do.

Rehearsal with The Switch, fall 1985

There were other factors that lead to my decision, but my drive to be a musician was too great. So I quit college and decided that I’d work while staying with my grandparents and see what happens.

I joined a band called The Switch in late summer of 1985, as their guitarist. We would play some big gigs. The band had promise.

Audio: TIME IS FOREVER by The Switch, final live performance November 1985. Video: Me driving the moving van from California to Oregon.

And then, my mother invited me to move to California. But before this move, I had an important discussion with my grandfather. He was a man who played something like 14 instruments. He played so many that I lost count.

Grandpa with his guitar, 1938

He had also been really rough on me about my music pursuits. He would say, “That’s nice and all, but how will you pay your bills?” He was this super-practical guy who always did what he needed to do, and saw no use for such folly.

I told him that mom had invited me to move to California, and that this was my chance to pursue my dream of being a musician.

This was his cue to give me the hard talk about how I was wasting my time “chasing such nonsense” as music. He pushed me far enough that I barked back at him. “What do YOU know! You’ve never had a dream to pursue.”

Things suddenly got hauntingly calm and quiet. He told me that when he was young, he wanted to be a race car driver. He learned how to fix cars when he was a kid [and cars were a relatively new thing back then]. He knew cars inside and out, and wanted to be a race car driver. He really wanted to go for it.

Grandpa with another guitar, 1938

But then he met my grandmother, they fell in love and got married. When my mother was born, he decided that it was time to put his dream aside and start working. He joined the Army, fought in World War II, and later worked in an auto factory [Delco Remy] for about 40 years.

As he told me this story, he fought back tears. There is something unique about a WWII veteran. They cry only when they truly mean it. This was the first time I had witnessed it. Heck, this was the first time I’d witnessed an emotion coming from him that wasn’t a chuckle at a dirty joke.

They were tears of regret. It was unmistakable.

That’s when I knew that I had no choice but to move to California and give it a go.

1987: Playing keyboard with The Robin Baxter Band at Club 88 in Santa Monica, CA

I would call him a few years after I got there and tell him about some of my adventures. Of course, he asked what I was doing to make ends meet, and I told him that I worked days and played out nights.

His responses to my stories sounded somewhat proud. He was glad that I set out to pursue my dream. Without saying it outright, he admitted that he was wrong to be so rough.

Just a few years after that, my grandmother would have a stroke, and grandpa would end up in a hospital for the last two years of his life.


One night, I was playing with one of my bands at The Rainbow on The Sunset Strip, when I thought back to my first grade class, and how they all laughed at my dream. Now, here I was, in Hollywood, on The Sunset Strip, playing drums in a rock band, and I actually got paid.

I was actually doing what I said I would be doing. Who’s laughing now?

I never forget.

I spent 33 years in California, pursuing my dream of becoming a professional musician. Of course, it didn’t pan out, as is the case for most musicians and artists in general.

Now, I’m an old man. I’ll be 57 this December. I left California two years ago, which was bittersweet in its own sort of way. I don’t have any fame or fortune. No top 10 hits. No big record sales. No popularity.

I also don’t have any regret.

Sure, I could find some regret if I tried. If I had stayed in college for two more years, I might have been active in some other bands. I might have been there for the heyday of a club called No Bar & Grill, owned by record store owner and fellow musician Jon Rans. I could have been there to perform with bands like Big Black and Modern Vending.

That would have been cool.

Roadmaster ticket from 1978. Check out those “special guests!”

I also could have stuck around in Indiana after college. The Switch was a solid band, and it could have lead to a situation where I would have been a big fish in a little pond, like Faith Band, or Buccaneer, or Henry Lee Summer, or Roadmaster. I might still be gigging in Indiana today as some kind of legacy act.

When I was 15, I wanted to quit school and go audition for Henry Lee Summer [he was looking for a drummer]. I assumed that I’d get the gig, and then I’d be all set from there. I let that idea go, since I didn’t even have my drivers license yet.

Late 2009: Drumming on stage at The Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood, Sunset Strip.

There are lots of “could have” scenarios that I can cook up to generate regret. Who knows, those might have been some good times. I have no doubt about it.

However, what all of those potential scenarios are lacking is the act of going to Hollywood to give a big career a shot. Had I taken any of those other paths, then I would have been left wondering, “What if?”

I don’t wonder that today, and I’m grateful for that. With those other scenarios, I don’t have the “what if” issue because I have a good idea of how that would have gone down. And all of those situations would have left me in Indiana, which was the last place I’d ever want to be.

I could have bet half on the future. Instead, I bet it all. Everything. Went for broke.

2003: Drumming with WHIPLADS

All I have to show for it is a few recordings, a few videos, a few photographs, and a ton of stories about gigs, bands, venues, musicians, rock stars, and wild nights.

Whether people believe the stories or not is none of my concern. I have these experiences under my belt, and they serve to repel regret. For anyone who is open to hearing them, I think some of them are fun stories.

I have no regret. I knew what I wanted to do, and I set out and did it.

Circa 1994: Pretending to be excited about an award I had won, for some reason, at work. Nobody cares about those stories, not even me. My buddy Tim, whom I met at this job, is probably reading this right now. Hi, Tim!

And how I made money is nothing more than a series of boring stories about horrible situations, mostly terrible people, and sheer ugliness that served no other purpose than to make someone else rich while I struggled, just like everyone else.

The money paid rent, bought food, and other things. It’s gone, like the breeze that was blowing last night.

In many ways, my life is ordinary. The only exception is that I actually set out to pursue my dreams. It doesn’t matter if I caught them or not. I got close to the sun and felt the heat melting feathers from my wings.

I gave it a shot, instead of letting everyone destroy the dream and subsequently giving up.

And it feels good to be writing about these stories. For the longest time, I feared writing about these stories because I had not gathered up enough evidence along the way to back up these stories. As a result, I felt that people would dismiss them as made-up fantasies.

Hanging with WHIPLADS fan Kendra Jade after a show. She used to call me on my drives home from work to read books to me. My music pursuits gave me the opportunity to meet some truly interesting people.

Over time, I came to realize that I don’t care if people believe the stories or not. I’ll tell them, if for nobody else, then for myself. It’s a way to remind myself that I knew what I wanted, worked hard, and went for it.

Hard work does not always pay off, at least not in the ways one might want. I expected my hard work to bring me some results, like a living. Instead, I have the few things that I mentioned earlier; the recordings, videos, images, and stories.

At least I don’t have regret.

Some might read this and feel inspired to go for their own dreams. Other might read it and feel some regret of their own, believing that maybe they chose the wrong path.

The problem with that idea is that there is no right or wrong path. Every path leads to the same place.


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Celebrities and Attitudes About Music

I’ve been a musician my entire life, and I spent 33 years in Los Angeles making music. These are two topics that go hand-in-hand for a variety of reasons.

The thing that these two topics have in common with everyone is that people have different attitudes about them. Sometimes those attitudes can be toxic or destructive.

In this entry, I’ll write about my experiences, approaches, and ultimate decisions regarding these two items

2010: Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Mel Gibson’s church, with Mel’s nephew, Owen.

SOCIETY AND CELEBRITIES
For as long as our modern media has been around, the average person has put celebrities upon a pedestal. Some even engage in worship. Many would call themselves a “fan,” which is short for “fanatic.”

Before media, this may have happened with royalty. I don’t know for certain. I’ve not concerned myself with royalty since 1776.

But I’ve met LOTS of famous people. I have gotten some autographs and some photographs.


When I first moved to LA in 1986, my internal dialogue about celebrities was “be cool” and “don’t be a crazy fan.” This was because I almost immediately met people who were friends with celebrities.

Outside Starbucks with Sid Haig

This is because celebrities are regular people and they will hang out with their friends and do things. They go to the store to buy their own groceries at times. They go to clubs and bars. They go to Starbucks. They are pretty much everywhere.

Fortunately for me, the early celebrities I met were mostly NOT musicians. This bought me some time to fine-tune my approach.

TREAT FAMOUS MUSICIANS LIKE ASSOCIATES, NOT CELEBRITIES
This approach involved talking about music and music-related items in a way where mutual concern existed. We would converse for a while, hang out, whatever.

Maybe later I’d ask for an autograph or a photo, one or the other. For every autograph or photo I have, there are dozens upon dozens of meetings and time spent where I have NO photo, no autograph, and no evidence of anything. All I have is my memories.

Like in 1989, when the owner of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood saw me waiting in line to get in one Saturday night. He had hired me as a Pee-Wee Herman impersonator recently, and wanted to get me in the restaurant quickly.

Backstage with “Weird” Al Yankovic and my son, for the “White and Nerdy” tour. Al wanted me backstage to talk about MySpace, and to ask me about un-deleting the deleted MySpace profile of his friend, Emo Phillips. I was able to do it.

He treated me like a celebrity. It was cool.

He asked if I minded sharing a table, and I said that was fine. We ended up sharing a table with Stevie Wonder and his family. I learned that he has a brother who is also blind.

We talked about music. Stevie said that he had a songwriting project coming up, where he had to write and record something for a homeless children’s charity event that was to be sponsored by HBO. I told Stevie that I could write lyrics.

So there I was, in a major restaurant in Hollywood, sharing a table with Stevie Wonder and his family, writing lyrics to a song that he was going to record.

Joan Osborne drummer Billy Ward. I participated in Billy’s forum recording projects in the past. He’s a good dude.

Ultimately, the deal fell through. All the same, I got to have dinner and write a song with Stevie Wonder. It happened because I was open to new experience, and because I had the capacity to treat him like an associate instead of a fan.

This was exciting to me, not because Stevie Wonder is famous, but because he is a successful musician. Any time I can interact with a successful musician, I stand to gain some knowledge along the way.

Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie drummer Ginger Fish. We spent time talking about how getting older impacts drumming. He also gave me tips to help me overcome my Tendinitis, so I owe my continued ability to perform to him and his wisdom.

There is a danger for celebrities of all types, where a “parasocial relationship” develops. This is where a person invests a great deal of time and emotional energy into a “relationship” with someone [typically a celebrity], while the other party has no idea that this is happening, at all.

I’m nowhere close to famous, and I’ve experienced the bad side of a parasocial relationship, where a woman believed that I was famous, and that I was just downplaying it so that she wouldn’t feel intimidated. She had an entire scenario playing in her head that wasn’t playing out anywhere else.

I have many, many celebrity-related stories to tell, that are part of my life experience. I tell them if they are interesting. But for me, I have very rarely been star-struck. Yes, it happened a few times during my first year. I found that being star-struck lands you in the same camp as everyone else, including those who build parasocial relationships.

Not every story is positive.

With 311 drummer Chad Sexton, at Chad Sexton’s Drum City. Chad’s brother Mac and his mother Linda made sure I had the drums and gear that I needed, and I consider them to be dear friends.

I once went to a drum clinic that was a drum-off of sorts. It was the college-educated drummer [Terri Lyne Carrington], vs. the street-educated drummer [Sheila E].

Their “drum-off” performances were almost like a staged rap battle. There was no real animosity or “better than” attitude on the stage.

When the performance ended, manager Glenn Noyes said that everyone could go into the store, take pictures, get autographs, and get deals on gear. That last part was why they did these things.

Drummer Rick Latham

I go in and get into a line relatively quickly. I’m not sure where this line leads. After a short while, I figure out that it leads to Sheila E, signing headshots.

My attitude about drummers was that I would ask for a photo because I wanted to document the drummers that I’ve met. For every photo I have, there are dozens that I do not.

With Journey drummer Steve Smith and legendary drummer/instructor Freddie Gruber. Drinking with Freddie is one of the highlights of my experiences.

When I got to the front of the line, Shelia E signed a head shot. I asked her for a photo. She said that she wasn’t taking photos. I noted that Glenn said otherwise. She pushed the headshot to me and said, “Here you go. Take it or leave it.”

By this point, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, so I left the autographed photo behind and walked away.

As I was looking around, I saw Terri Lyne Carrington, just hanging out. Nobody was talking to her or asking for an autograph. This is because Carrington isn’t a celebrity like Sheila E. Realizing that I had Terri Lynne Carrington to myself, we spent almost 90 minutes talking about drumming, completely uninterrupted.

Combichrist and Army On The Dance Floor drummer Kourney Klein, at one of her shows celebrating her 23rd birthday.

I didn’t ask her for a photo, because I had already gotten turned off by the idea of taking any photos that night. All the same, I had a pleasant interaction.

Most drummers I meet understand it when I tell them that I’m a drummer and would like to have a photo.

Sometimes it would be at a drum clinic, where they would expect to take photos or sign autographs. In other cases, there was a show and we would be hanging out afterward.

The bottom line on this topic is that celebrities are people, too. They just have a job that pays a great deal, and that job also makes them highly visible. It’s someone you recognize.


Some of my high school competition medals. The one with the red on top is the only second place I ever received, and it’s the only important medal I have.

ATTITUDES ABOUT MUSIC
When you’re a musician, you have to be aware of your attitude about music and make sure that it’s contextually sound.

When I was a young drummer in high school, my focus would be on things like solo competitions. My goal was to compete and win.

By the time I got to college, my focus shifted away from solo performance to performing within the context of a band. In my college band, my focus was to find big parties, play at them, and make a few bucks along the way. It would end up being the most money that I would ever make with music.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1986, my focus was to find a band on its way to success and get involved on any instrument they needed. I’d play drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, or whatever. My goal was to be involved with a band that was signed by a major label, and to have a career. I cared nothing for fame.

1987: On keyboard, playing Club 88 in Santa Monica in The Robin Baxter Band, opening for The Go-Gos.

In the mid-90s, my focus was on songwriting and recording, with the hopes of building an industry-focused recording project that would attract top-notch musicians.

1998: Drumming with Sun On Skin

By the late 90s, my focus shifted from industry-driven projects to doing things that I loved. I would find a band, and if I liked what they were doing, then I would work toward joining that band.

This phase would last from 1998 until late 2013. During this time, I would not only join bands, but I would also fill in for bands that were having temporary drummer issues.

Around 2005, I was drumming in 3 bands, but also playing at an open jam night, put together by my good friend and fellow drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz.

2019: Hanging out with Bermuda in Bend, Oregon, while there are a few days between performance dates for him with “Weird” Al Yankovic. Lunch, coffee, and pawn shop drum hunting were on the agenda for that day.

The end of 2013 saw the end of my live drumming with bands. A few months later, in late March 2014, I experienced a labrum tear that would keep me off the drums for a few years. So my focus changed from drumming live in bands, and live performance in general, to taking guitar lessons.

Skype guitar lesson session with Captain Beefheart guitarist Bill Harkleroad, aka Zoot Horn Rollo.

Sometimes life gets in the way. I had gotten downsized at work and was having trouble finding a new job. Sensing that I’d never get hired for another good paying job again, I decided to move to Oregon, where I could slow down and do other things.


A DEFINING MOMENT
Before I get into what’s happening now, there was one experience that I had around 2012-2013 that influenced what I am doing right now.

From late 2010 to late 2013, I had been working on building a recording studio with a “friend” who turned out to be a Malignant Narcissist who ripped me off for everything I had contributed to the construction and implementation efforts.

When this project was almost completed, I went up to San Francisco to jam with a friend who was a former MySpace co-worker, named Aaron.

Aaron is one of those guys who methodically considers everything that he does in life. Aaron picked me up at the airport, and I was telling him all about the recording studio that we were building.

He said that it sounded “cool and all,” but he also said that “music isn’t about recording.”

Wait.

I had been recording my music since I was 13 years old, when I had my first session at an 8-track studio. I would use a tape deck to record live shows, either through the air or off the board. My GOAL was to be able to record. When home recording became achievable and affordable, I set out to make a decent home recording studio. And then, I was helping to build an actual physical stand-alone studio.

And now you’re going to tell me that it’s NOT all about recording?

As he explained it, “Recording music isn’t the future. We will soon be entering a time when people will not purchase music like they did in the past. Recordings will exist merely for the sake of posterity, but recording is not the point.”

We got to his 3-bedroom apartment, and he showed me his live jam set-up. He had four stations set up for four instruments. Each station had its own “Jam Hub,” robotic desk that moves up and down, 32-inch touch screen, and headphones.

In this set-up, each person could control how much they hear of whomever else was playing. They could raise or lower their own levels going out. Everyone had their own mix.

Everyone involved would have a different experience.

We jammed for a bit. When we were done, Arron continued sharing with me his wisdom.

“There. That was fun. It was an experience. No recording, because a recording doesn’t matter. The moment happened, and now it is gone. We can return to this later and have a different experience.”

This got me thinking back to all of the times when I wasn’t recording. I didn’t record any of my ISSMA competitions. I had many jam sessions where I didn’t record anything. I was playing at the open jams every Thursday night with Bermuda, and most of the time I didn’t record, although I did get some video.

In those situations, recording was not the point. Being perfect was not the point. Getting a record deal was not the point. Being a rock star was not the point. Being the best in the room was not the point. Getting a medal or award was not the point.

So what was the point?

The point of it all was utilizing music as a form of social interaction, as well as a vehicle for personal wellness. There was a point, an instance, a need. This need ranged from keeping myself occupied while learning, as I did in school, all the way up to engaging others within the social context of a group performing music.

It was about the moment. A moment that would happen and then fade, turning into a memory. In these moments, recording is acceptable, but it’s not the primary goal.

Recording is not important. Perfection is not important. Even the idea of having a song is not important.

The importance comes from the interaction and how the experience feels to me.

WHAT I AM DOING NOW
After I quit taking guitar lessons from Zoot Horn Rollo in 2018, I spent a few years working on myself. The situation was such that I had to mostly set music aside.

The pandemic knocked things back by a year, after it interrupted an audition that I was going to have with a cover band that plays out and makes money. I might do something like this down the road. But this is about what I am doing right now.

Catherine has a co-worker who plays drums. He has been playing with this guitar player for quite a while, and they’ve always wanted to have a bass player. They had even considered bringing in a friend who knows nothing about music to teach them how to play bass.

Yesterday, I met up with them in a garage for a jam session. It’s my first musical interaction with other people in years.

The drummer records the sessions and puts them online on YouTube.

Recording isn’t the point. Songs aren’t the point. Being proficient or accurate is not the point.

I think the other guys were concerned about me being a seasoned musician. “Whatever,” as I so eloquently put it.

I went into the encounter with no judgments or expectations.

As it goes in these situations, someone plays a riff and everyone else joins in. People find their place in the jam, and a groove can sometimes develop. Then, there’s the “feel,” in that moment. It serves the moment before it goes away.

The recordings aren’t about how “awesome” we might or might not be. It’s more of a photograph for posterity.

When I was in Hollywood trying to build a band for commercial success, you can bet that I focused on things like solid musicianship, presence, and so on. There were too many things to think about and it got exhausting.

But in this situation, none of that applies because it doesn’t matter. This situation is all about hanging out, jamming, coming up with ideas, and enjoying the entire thing.

The context is fun, and the goal is to make that happen.

I have played with musicians who are better than me, equal to me, and worse than me. None of it matters. What matters is what they’ve got to say with their instruments and how effectively they can say it. Our ability to communicate is a deciding factor on how it all goes down.

If it’s fun, then I do it. If it’s not, then I don’t.

For me, this gathering is based solely on the social elements, some live jam musical elements, and how much I enjoy the experience.

So far as that goes, we’re jamming again this afternoon. As it turns out, they had something to say with their instruments, and I enjoyed the “conversation.”

I might keep doing this for a few years, or maybe just a few weeks. Who knows. Anything can happen. I may end up with a work schedule that conflicts and prevents me from participating. Anything can happen, so I don’t worry myself with any of it.

What can happen right now is what is important.

The moments happen. They exist. And then they go away forever, leaving nothing but memories, and sometimes a few pictures or a recording. Anything left behind only serves to stimulate the memory. It’s not for sale, not to impress, and not really for anyone else.

Did you enjoy your life? Did you enjoy the ride? Did you take on the adventures and chill moments that you wanted?

Those are the important life questions for me. They are the kind of questions where you cannot lie to yourself, because you’ll know that you’re lying.

Whether it’s writing song lyrics with Stevie Wonder at a famous restaurant in Hollywood, or jamming with new friends in a garage that is used as a garage, enjoying the time and building a new memory is what counts.

The experience matters. Everything else is fluff.

2009: Drumming at The Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip.

Ellefson Out of Megadeth

To give my opinions some context, a little background is in order.

In 1992, I got a job with a company, as people looking for work often do. The accountant was a woman named Rose Menza. She told me that she heard I was a drummer, and she told me that her son was also a drummer.

Rose looked very young at the time. I didn’t yet put the names together, and had no way of realizing that she had a son who was six months older than me. So I asked if he was in marching band, or what.

She says, in her Long Island accent, “He plays drums in a little band called Megadeth.”

She introduced me to Nick shortly after that, and we became fast friends. I’d always get backstage passes for any performance within a 500-mile radius of Los Angeles, and many after-party was at his house. I’d often wake up on his couch after a wild night of sushi, with too much Sake and Asahi.

I didn’t take many pictures from those times, except for when I went to a few invitation-only Megadeth after-parties or pre-parties. These photos were taken after their concert in Las Vegas to promote their Cryptic Writings release.

with Dave Mustaine
with Marty Friedman
with my buddy, Nick Menza [RIP]

Above are pictures I took with Dave Mustaine, Marty Friedman, and of course, Nick Menza. If feels like someone is missing. Who could it be.

I suspect the only reason this CD has Ellefson’s autograph is because Rose got this signed for me.

Oh yea! DAVID ELLEFSON.

Do you know why I don’t have a photo with David Ellefson? It’s because he consistently told me to “fuck off” every single time I had asked for a picture with him. Truth be told, so far as I was concerned, the Menza/Friedman line-up was THE quintessential Megadeth configuration.

Those were the only two words Ellefson had ever said to me.

with famed Jazz saxophone player, and Nicks’ dad, Don Menza. Nick inherited Don’s energy. You’ve heard Don play on The Pink Panther Theme by Henry Mancini.

To give that more context, one time I had asked for a photo, and two times I just said hello. I attended many more events and hang-outs beyond the three that I mentioned. After a while, I learned my lesson and just stayed away from Ellefson.

At all of these events, everyone was consistent. Mustaine was consistently friendly, yet seemingly on edge. Friedman was consistently chill. Menza was consistently cool and energetic.

And Ellefson was consistently a jerk.

ELLEFSON FIRED FROM MEGADETH
Here’s a video of the news release, from about two days ago:

Hairstain ain’t havin’ any of this. “Hairstain” was a nickname bequeathed by Nick.

So far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

MY PROBLEMS WITH MEGADETH
When you get close to the sun, you can feel the heat. When you get close to Megadeth, you can taste the dysfunction.

During the Friedman/Menza years, I always got the vibe that both Marty and Nick were treated like second-class citizens, or outsiders. Mustaine presented himself like the boss, and Ellefson [the band’s co-founder] was the guy who acts they way he thinks a boss would act.

Mustaine, to a big degree, has always treated Megadeth like it’s The Dave Mustaine Show, with a constantly revolving door of players. These players have talent, but it’s not the band anymore.

I’m sure there are Megadeth fans who say it’s not the same without Gar Samuelson. Fair enough. It’s all a matter of subjective opinion, and those opinions will differ. They’re all valid opinions, in their own rite. Mine is that the Friedman/Menza era was THE top era for Megadeth writing, recording, and performance.

Yes, I may have some bias. I accept that. Again, it’s subjective.

MUSTAINE BECOMES INSUFFERABLE
Before I met Nick in the early 90s, it is no secret that Mustaine had a serious drug problem. This is a life-long problem for him, so it seems, as addiction is a big and unfortunate part of his human chemistry.

Mustaine fired Nick after Nick had surgery to remove a benign tumor from behind one of his knees. To be more specific, Mustaine called Nick and fired him while Nick was STILL in the hospital recovering from surgery.

Nick had these guitar picks made. They’re easier and cheaper to hand out to fans than drum sticks. Plus, he was starting to get into guitar, as well as acrylic painting. I keep these on my keychain for good luck.

Mustaine had his grievances with Nick. He accused Nick of not wanting to be a drummer, just because Nick was playing guitar and had some guitar picks made. Mustaine said, “I want a drummer who is actually interested in playing drums.”

Mustaine also accused Nick of “lying about having cancer.” I never heard Nick say the “c word,” not even once. He always said that it was a “benign tumor.”

This leads me to conclude that Mustaine had other reasons, most likely petty and punitive. All I will say is that I suspect that it came to a head when they were playing in Helsinki. Nick made a minor mistake on stage and Mustaine shot him a look. After the show, Nick said, “Don’t you EVER shoot me a look on stage in front of the fans.”

I think that’s what it was all about. Mustaine took it as a challenge to his power and authority, and he decided to give Nick the boot.

Long after Nick was out of the band, Mustaine became a hard-core Christian. he says that he’s not going to play certain songs anymore. He responds in interviews when asked about gay marriage with, “I said I’m Christian.”

Ellefson became a Christian minister as well, possibly to get on the same page as Mustaine. Who knows, but that’s my suspicion, based on 5 years of a first-hand understanding of personal dynamics.

Mustaine went from being an intolerable junkie on heroin to an intolerable junkie on Jesus. The only difference is that one will kill him, and the other will not, but both make him difficult to be around.

So my hypothesis is that Mustaine fired Ellefson, primarily out of self-righteous disgust. If there is a secondary reason, it’s concern that this will detract and distract from the band’s activities and image.

WHY I AM TELLING THESE STORIES
I do have some good memories from all of those concerts and parties. None of them involve Ellefson. In the past, I’ve written mostly positive stories about my experiences, but would shy away from writing about Ellefson. The way I saw it, he was such a jerk that I didn’t want to waste time writing about him.

When this news hit, I decided that I would write and tell my story about my experiences with Ellefson.

And now he’s facing consequences. If he was engaged in sexual activity with an underaged girl, then the law will deal with that. The rest will be dealt with by his wife of 27 years. That’s all his business, and I don’t really care too much about what happens.

As I say in situations like this, if he really believed all of the religious things he claims to believe, then he never would have stepped out on his wife. Then again, misbehavior like this is easy for people who have a perpetual get-out-of-hell-free card that is eternal forgiveness. Just get forgiven, do it again, and get forgiven again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Those are the concerns for the moralists. I only point at hypocrisy.

I would say the main reason I’m telling this story is to get the past off my chest. The past has been a big topic for me lately, and I am finding that writing about it tends to help me let things go.

IN THE END
Maybe Ellefson is nice to very selective people. I don’t know. I never knew why he was always so negative and stand-offish with me. At this point, I don’t care to know. It was what it was, and that’s how it sits.

When a person carries themselves in this highly negative way, they may end up thinking they’re above others, or better than others. This can lead to poor decisions being made.

Megadeth performed at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, with special guests The Misfits. I had a general admission ticket, but sat in the balcony with the Menza family and other Megadeth family members, and a few radio station contest winners.

I know this first-hand, as there was a time when I believed that I was way too smart to be taken by a scam artist. It took me getting taken by a scam artist to wake up.

What I learned was that when one believes they are above it, they are actually below it and at great risk.

For this reason, I suspect Ellefson saw himself as being a bullet-proof co-founder of a big band, whose position was secure and would never be under threat. He may very well have believed himself to be invincible, flying at 40,000 feet, looking down on the rest of Humanity.

I’m sure there are people reading this who disagree and like him. To that, I would only say that chances are good that you weren’t too close with the band in general. But it’s possible that you were. If that’s the case, then we’re just in the same theater watching two different movies.

All I can write about is my experience. If you had a good experience, then I’m glad that was the case for you, and I’m sure you have a different Ellefson story to tell. Go for it. I won’t say you’re wrong, and I won’t assert it, even if you may assert this of mine.

There really is no good way to end this, so I may as well end it with something funny from that day in Las Vegas 1997.

My now ex-wife was getting kind of cozy with Mustaine during the day. This ended when Mrs. Mustaine showed up. Oops! Of course, she was fine with her own coziness.

But I take just ONE picture [not even hanging out or talking] with the first-ever Miss Megadeth Arizona, and I get the evil eye. This picture is a classic, and tells you everything you need to know about how I was treated in that marriage.

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A Completely Different Movie

I spent roughly 20 years with a woman whom I consider to be very cool, kind, compassionate, understanding, and more. Catherine and I went through a break-up in early 2000, then the pandemic hit, and we are still making the best of it.

We get along, as mature adults should. There is no hatred, anger, sadness, or other problems that make things worse. We have accepted where we are, and are making the appropriate plans to move on in a way that helps each other.

It’s the kind of mature break-up that one wouldn’t think exists, given how people behave in the world today. But that’s another entry for another day.

Lately, I’ve been writing about the past and other aspects of life. This morning, I had a thought that seems to be relevant to how we perceive life.


My taste in movies is kind of strange, and sometimes rough. On many occasions, I would go see a movie alone, decide if maybe Catherine would want to see it, and then take her a day or two later so we could see it together.

It was October 29, 2004, and I had decided that I wanted to go check out that new SAW movie. I love horror movies. They’re like pizza. Even when they’re bad, you still kinda like them.

I go see it and decide that she needs to see this. I would later realize that she and other women watch those CSI detective shows with lots of blood and guts, so this made sense.

We go on Halloween, watch the movie, and then talk about it on the drive home. I’m talking about the weird traps and whether or not I’d be able to escape any of them.

But she was talking about the detectives, who was doing what, and character dynamics.

Effectively, we were watching two different movies.

We did this every year. Go catch the latest SAW movie, drive home, and talk about two completely different movies. We both understood where the other person was coming from, but all the same it was fascinating.

We watched all of them, and never saw the same movie together.


HOW THIS APPLIES TO LIFE
In an earlier entry, I wrote about how I would work to learn marching band routines for State Fair, perform them, and then forget them.

Stick with me on this.

Performances aren’t just for State Fair. Actors also perform in movies. The movies contain their performances. They perform the role, and then move on to the next movie.

This is where it gets a little bit complicated.

Let’s consider the idea that I’ve had this really horrible experience. It was negative, bad, felt ugly, left a scar, you name it. Kind of like how watching a movie is a type of experience.

In that horrible situation, I had a specific experience. However, the other people who were also there may have been watching a completely different movie at the same time, and had a different experience, as well as different memories.

In other words, what it looks like to me is now how it may look to someone else.

The probably didn’t see it that way, didn’t feel the same about it, and it may have made absolutely no impression upon them at all.

I saw blood, guts, and traps. They saw a detective story.

They might have no idea how I perceived it, how I felt, or anything else. And chances are good that they didn’t care, either.

So it’s just me, replaying my movie experience over and over, while everyone else has gone to a new theater.

In my mind, it’s like being on a loop that gets bigger and bigger, so it plays faster and faster to keep up. My loop is currently 56 years long, so one would think that the whole thing would be exhausted by now.

It certain is an exhausting experience.


AN EXPERIMENT
I’ll spend some time today mentally slowing down that loop and watching that “movie” that is my past. Then I’ll write about it in my journal.

Hopefully after that, I’ll be ready to move on to the next “movie” and watch it with fresh eyes.


ON A SIDE NOTE
We haven’t decided if we’ll go see the new SAW movie starring Chris Rock. The reviews weren’t all that great, and these were reviews from sources we trust. As it stands, we’re not talking about high-brow cinema, either.

We will see what happens.

Dumping The Past

The future is where we travel to build our past.

When we were young, we obviously did not have much of anything resembling a past. We are set loose upon the world, we do what we do, and it becomes part of our past, our life experience.

Sometimes it can be useful. We can remember how to do something properly, or we can remember that doing something else is dangerous so we can avoid it. In this regard, it shapes and influences our decision making.

Sometimes it can be a good memory of another person, an activity, or a place we have visited.

Other times, it can be a collection of nightmares that follow us around and haunt our minds at random times for no good reason.


This thing that I just wrote above is officially in the past for me. About 20 minutes later, I’ll post it online, which will move this past back to the present. Then you will read it and it will become the past for you.


I wonder if we can selectively discard of specific memories from the past, while keeping other pieces in-tact.

This can happen in a bad way when someone romanticizes something or someone from the past. They forget the things that were bad or whatever went wrong, and only remember the good times.

That’s not what I’m talking about.

There are things to remember that are good, and things that are bad. We determine that these things are good or bad by how they impacted us or how they caused us to feel at the time.

These people, actions, or instances may not necessarily be intrinsically bad, and may only be bad to us from our perspective.

Many of these things are events that witnesses may very well have long forgotten. However, I still remember as if it were yesterday.


This is a topic that I have written about before, more than once. This tells me that it’s a very important issue for me.

As I searched on YouTube for videos related to this topic, I was presented with religious videos, motivational speakers, and psychological experts. The most useless one I found was this video about four “easy ways” to forget the past and move on. I have seen this video before.

This may very well be the most useless video on YouTube.

Her first step is to “forget the past.”

Her second step is to “move on.”

Wow, what a freaking genius! And people in the comments said that she was helpful. Something tells me they’d not be writing that comment if she were a man.

It has nothing to do with how to do this, and is more of a list of things that someone may want to do.


Even in the non-religious videos about this topic, they seemingly still need to invoke a god, the universe, Smurf fairies, or whatever you look up to as a “higher power.”

There is just one little problem in this for me, in that I do not have any concept of a higher power. I look up to nothing. I don’t believe in any gods, regardless of whether or not they are commercially available for purchase.

I see no reason to believe in an intelligent, interactive universe that somehow cares about me and how I feel. I am insignificant in all of this.

And the person in that particular video adding “Smurf fairies” to the mix actually represents how I feel about the idea of gods or a universe that magically cares. It’s all invented silliness, and somehow people are able to utilize this silliness in a way that is actually helpful for them.

They can successfully trick themselves.

My Autistic brain does not allow me to trick myself. It is up to others to trick me, and many have succeeded. They are the ones I need to forget.

And I don’t think it’s even a case of being angry or mad about any of it. The problem is that the past is just… there. It’s just sitting in the corner, staring at me, watching me sleep at night.


Something tells me that I’m not supposed to forget about any of it, even though maintaining a memory of most of it serves no practical purpose.

That broken, awkward, and disturbing experience that I had during orientation at college in the fall of 1983 serves absolutely NO purpose at all in my modern daily living. It was a long time ago. The people involved were only around that day. I never saw any of them again [they all transferred, long story]. I don’t remember any of their names.

That memory just hangs out for absolutely no good reason.

I can try to re-frame the memory, and have done so. They were the assholes in this situation. They were wrong. This re-framing does nothing to change the sensation that this memory causes.

Logically, I doubt that anyone thinks about it or brings it up anymore. Odds are that a good number of the people involved in this event are possibly dead.

I can even suggest that I was just being myself, and if they had a problem with it, then they could transfer to a new school [which they did]. Still no change.


At risk, of course, are the good things that can end up being forgotten. They’re way more likely to get forgotten.

Good memories feel good to recall. They may not be intrinsically good, but merely good because of how I define them.


I was giving this topic more thought as I was finishing up my daily game on the Commodore 64. On this system, the games never save the high score. They don’t ask you to enter your initials if you got the new high score.

What happens is I achieve whatever score I get. When the game is over, I turn off the computer. Done. A blank slate.

I can power up the computer again, and it’s ready to go. It knows nothing until I load something into the memory.

What if I could mentally file these things away on their own virtual floppy disk in my mind? Then, I put them in mental storage, so that they don’t get loaded up again. Is this even possible?


Am I just afraid that I’ll accidentally forget something important?

One of my big problems is that, thanks to my Autism, I will remember information that is completely worthless because it holds no value for me. For example, the perfect pressure for making espresso is 9 atmospheres. I don’t even drink espresso, so I’ve never owned a maker. And yet, here I am, with the information stuck in my brain that is useless to me.

Oh, but when I meet a new person and they tell me their name, I will forget it within the first ten seconds.


Here’s a great example of the kind of memory I want, and this might be the perfect way to close this out. This topic is by no means finished for me, and I am certain that I’ll write about it again.

I was in the high school marching band, starting in 7th grade, up through graduation. I even marched the summer after I graduated, and returned the following year to be a camp counselor.

Here is how things went down every single year.

First, the band director would pick out songs and then work to make the songs fit a specific time length. Then he would draft up a marching routine.

As a band member, I would learn the songs and then learn the routine.

We would meet every day after school, before summer break, to march on the football field. We would go back to the school on Saturdays to run the routine.

Before state fair, we would go to band camp, where we would run the routine several times per day for an entire week. After that, we’d run it a few more times the Saturday after that.

Then, we would run the routine at the Indiana State Fair. We would march during the day.

There are TWO fascinating things that would happen for me.

  1. After we marched the routine on the fairgrounds field, I would immediately forget the routine. The music still lives in my head, but the routine would be gone.
  2. Sometimes my school’s band was asked to march at night with the winners [the “Sweet Sixteen”] as an exhibition or encore performance. I would still remember the routine, but would then forget the routine right after executing it, once again.

This raises some questions, such as why I would forget the routine after the performance, yet I never forgot the routine when we would have rehearsals. And even though I would forget the routine after the performance, I would be able to recall it for the encore performance, and then forget it again.

During rehearsals, the routine would always run through my head. After the final performance, it would not come up again. Maybe the key to this is to consider it a performance, where the show is over, and I can work on a new show.

Maybe treating my life like a series of performances would be key to solving this mystery.

In all cases, I would have no memory of what it felt like to be on the field, marching and performing in front of 40,000 people. It’s like I wasn’t present in the moment and functioned purely on autopilot the entire time.

To translate this into something a non-band person would understand, it’s like driving to work and then having no idea how you got there. You don’t remember the scenery, which roads you took , or any other detail.

This topic is far from over, and I’ll be writing more about it once I get some new ideas, or maybe have a break-through.

Yes, being present and living in the moment, “the now,” is ideal, but those memories still live and show up at weird times for no reason. I’m not one to wait for Alzheimer’s or Dementia to fix it for me.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll see you on the next one.


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The Past, and Total Recall

NOTE: The names have been left out, since the purpose is not to call anyone out. Rather, the purpose is to discuss how having a photographic memory can impact communicating with people from the past.


When it comes to the past, I have a memory that is photographic. This can be good for some things. But most of the time, it seems to cause problems when I discuss the past with people from the past.

There are three main problems that arise in these conversations, and I’ll give an example of each.


REMEMBERING SITUATIONS ACCURATELY
My memory of most incidents and occurrences from my past is solid. It’s even stronger when it involves a person with whom I had a strong connection.

It was 1988, and I had fallen for this girl I had met in college. I as absolutely nuts about her. We would run up our phone bills talking, so I would write on occasion.

I had spent the previous two years pursuing my dream of becoming a signed musician in California. When that pursuit fell apart, I had decided that I would make a MAJOR life change, where I would save up some money before moving to where she lived so we could get married and start a life together.

I gave up the room I was leasing so that I could go stay with my mother rent-free for a while and save up. I had written a 17-page letter to this girl on yellow legal paper, going more into detail about those things that we had talked about on the phone.

She had mentioned this one guy. She said that he wasn’t as good on guitar as me.

Upon arriving at the post office to close out my PO Box, I decided to check my inbox before mailing this huge, thick letter. In the mail was a postcard with an explanation. Seems this guy invited her to go on a trip to The Virgin Islands with him. While they were there, he proposed, she accepted, and they got married right away.

Wow.

I tore up the big letter and threw it away. I would later call her mother and ask what happened. Her mother said, “I guess she was just in a really big hurry to move out, away from home.”

8She would call me about 6-9 months later with a complaint about her new hubby. He was in the military. Her complaint was that they would move into a house and be there only a few months before her new husband would complain that “the government” was spying on him and that the house was “bugged.”

This had happened more than two times. She sounded more than a little frustrated by it. I told her that I was sorry to hear that it wasn’t working out. I wished her the best as we hung up. Personally, I was torn between hoping the best for her, and noting that she got what she deserved for marrying him instead of me.

Flash forward over 30 years later, to 2019, and we reconnected on Facebook. We would end up writing a series of emails back and forth.

Here comes the problem…

In one of her emails, she seems to cheerfully remember the early days with her husband, when they were “flipping houses” and making money.

I figured one of two things had happened. Either she lied to me about her husband’s paranoia, which I seriously doubt, OR she had to force herself to be a history revisionist in an attempt to rescue her marriage, which was off to a bad start before it started.

Either way, we remember this detail of the past differently, which made it difficult to carry on an honest conversation.


PICKING UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF
This goes back one year earlier to 1987, when another former girlfriend called me to ask for relationship advice. According to her, I was the only person she could trust to give her a solid, honest, and non-judgmental answer to her problem.

She had met this guy who works at the grocery store while shopping one day. They hooked up and started dating. They had about six months’ worth of fun, when he decided that she should meet his father. After all, things were getting serious.

So they go over to meet his father. Wouldn’t you know it, his father was also HER father.

Her question revolved around whether she should pursue this romantic venture with her half-brother, or dump that and try to build a relationship with her biological father. She noted that she is sterile, so the issue of having children was not in the picture.

My answer left it up to her. On the one hand, romantic partners can change over time, but we only get one set of parents. On the other hand, her father cared so little about her in the first place that he had NO place in her life at all. Trying to build something with him felt like a fantasy move.

She thanked me for the advice and we hung up. She did not talk to me again for about 20 years.

We had our first major discussion in 2020. At this point in her life, she had been consumed by a combination of her hatred for Trump and being a pwnage warrior on TikTok. I don’t like Trump, either, but she was overly addicted to hating him. It consumed her day. She talked about her TikTok activity like she had just graduated from college.

She told me, “You should really get on TikTok. You’re creative. I think you’d have a good time with it.”

I don’t think “creativity” when I think of TikTok, but that’s another story. Truth be told, I avoided the anti-Trump stuff online just as much as the pro stuff, because I don’t let losers like Trump live in my head rent-free. I don’t mind the occasional meme, but she was spending what sounded lke 8-12 hours per day on TikTok.

After I told her that TikTok wasn’t for me, she proceeded to get into a hard sell. She wasn’t going to take no for an answer. She was going to push until I agreed to get on TikTok. She was getting so pushy that I almost hung up.

Here comes the problem…

Instead of hanging up, I decided to change the subject. My mind went back to 1987, to that phone call that I had with her. Suddenly, my mind had a problem in that I had no follow-up.

So I asked her, “Hey, whatever happened to you dating your half-brother? How did that go?”

She got angry, “That’s a sore subject. Why did you bring that up. You know it hurts me. Are you trying to hurt me?”

Instead of answering her, I deleted my Facebook profile. Yes, this was the incident that pushed me over the edge. The truth of the matter was that I was not trying to hurt her. I just wanted to know whatever happened. I’m going to guess that it didn’t go well.


CANNOT FORGET THE NEGATIVE
I actually remembered the negative things when that woman from my past [1982] decided to visit me in late 2019, and then decided to stay. Yea, I went with it and we seemed to be doing okay for a while, until she either went crazy and left, or acted crazy and left.

Either way, she left.

The entire time she was here, I remembered the negative things that happened back in 1982. The big thing was her father trying to kill me with a wrench, because she didn’t tell him that I existed, and he found out the hard way when I showed up to pick her up for a date.

I never forgot that negative experience. For a while, I did ignore that red flag as I moved forward with her.

That past negative experience would soon get replaced by a series of new, fresh negative experiences, directly with her. Without going into detail, I have 13 new negative experiences with her.

To be clear, these are 13 new negative memories that I will not ever be able to forget. This means that there is no romanticizing of the past. There is no forgiving and forgetting. There is no possibility that I will ever even consider the idea of maybe getting back together.

A few of these things are hard-and-fast deal breakers that serve as permanent red flags to stay away. So if she ever wanted to try to get back together with me, I’d have no choice but to let her know that it’s impossible for us to do that, because of the things that I can never forget.

Even if I had the capacity to forgive these things, I could still never forget, and the status of the situation would remain the same.


IN THE END
To summarize, there are three reasons why I have difficulty discussing the past with someone from the past. They do not remember events correctly or try to re-write history, they may not like picking up where we left off with regard to old situations, and negative memories can still get in the way [and sometimes they should get in the way].

All three of these scenarios involve former girlfriends, although the third one has earned the title of “ex,” which was previously held exclusively by my ex-wife. Now I have two exes.

With the first two, there was no attempt to get back together. It was simple conversation that ended up causing relatively mild problems for either me or them.

These interactions caused some damage to previously-held fond memories. In a strange way, these interactions may have helped me to rid myself of these memories. This leads me to wonder if it might be a good idea to work toward purging all of these memories, since my memory of it might be positive, while their memory of it might be a different story. That’s another entry for another day.

But with the third one, I learned a few very valuable lessons.

Never dig through the trash. It’s already at the curb. Your neighbors can see you sifting through it, which is embarrassing. It makes a mess. Your hands get filthy. And whatever you end up dragging back into your life, it will continue to stink like the garbage bin from which it was pulled.

Never make concessions. This would involve making excuses or otherwise ignoring a red flag or series of red flags. I made a special exception for her, not only because this was someone from my past, but also because I really want something good to happen, and I was going to make sure that this perceived good thing was going to happen.

I was attempting to re-work my current reality so that it would be the precise way that I wanted.

Making these types of excuses amounts to me lying to myself. In order to forgive myself for doing that, I must make sure that I do not do this to myself ever again.

Above all else, I must remember that I deserve better. Maybe these women and situations were potentially good in the past. But the hard truth is that they were not really all that good for me. The first one has moved on, the second one is insufferable, and the third one is flat-out toxic.

They could have been, but were not. That was then. This is now.

That’s my cue to move on, to move forward, and to remember that I deserve good, positive relationships in my life with people who actually want to be involved, and who care about my well-being.

As I have said before, there are a handful of people from the past who are still involved in my life. I appreciate them, their presence, and their wisdom.

In this life, that must be more than enough.


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The Evolution of an Autistic Understanding of “Friends”

NOTE: I cannot speak for all Autistic people. This is my experience, and there may very well be some who have had very similar experiences. I would even contend that some Neurotypicals may have had some similar experiences.


No, I am not talking about the television show “Friends.” Nobody can understand or explain that. Rather, I will be discussing the concept of “friends” and how my understanding of that has evolved over the decades.


THE EARLY YEARS [Up To 1969]
When I was about 4 years old, I made my first friend. She was my age and lived a few houses over. Her name was Teresa Colliers. She was also my first crush.

I found her while running around a common area that stretched behind the back yards of the homes on the block. She was also back there.

The neat thing about it was that I didn’t really do anything. She approached me, and we’d just do stuff, like find frogs, throw a ball, or whatever else we would do as kids.

My interpretation of this at the time was that those who live close by may very well be your friend. At least, this is how friends are found.

This was before I got ruined by school.


THE GRADE SCHOOL YEARS [1971-1977]
This was a completely new concept to me, as it may have been to everyone else. I suspect that some kids in my class were socialized by doing things like being taken to the park, or having play dates.

I didn’t do any of those things. Well, I was taken to the park once, and I had a run-in with another kid that didn’t end well. Nobody died, I think.

My giant noggin follows me everywhere.

At any rate, those days were gone, and it was now time to figure out how to find or make these “friends” in grade school. I didn’t know exactly what to do, and it seems that anything I might have learned from the earlier years was either gone or didn’t feel relevant.

I had a plan.

I watched a kid named Frank Sheldon. He always had friends and was doing things. He would organize a game of “Star Trek,” and of course he was always Captain Kirk. I was never invited, so I watched.

It seemed to me that Frank was really good at negotiating things. Maybe that’s how I should do it.

So I approached a kid named Darryl and asked him if he wanted to be friends. He said that he did, so I proceeded to lay out what we would be doing over the course of recess. Go here and do this, then go there and do that.

Of course, NO little kid wants to hear any of that! He ran off before I could finish my list.

My eventual “friends” in grade school were comprised of whoever was siting closest to me, who wanted to talk or get into trouble. Laughing, fart noises, spit wads, you name it.

THE JUNIOR HIGH AND HIGH SCHOOL YEARS [1977-1983]
These were kind of the same as the grade school years, except I also had Band. I would draw from Band membership and ended up gaining a few friends.

But once I got my drivers license and car in late 1980, the game changed. I would spend more time in neighboring towns where things were happening. Suddenly, I had friends who were going to different schools. We’d meet at the movie theater during the Midnight Movie screenings in Anderson.

More than likely, a friend in high school was someone I would meet at Star Skate, the popular skating rink at the time.

What all of these people had in common was that they didn’t spend 8 hours per day with me five days per week at school. More importantly, they didn’t suffer the peer pressure that was present at school.

Peer pressure can prevent everyone from talking to you, if the situation is right. But having friends outside of the educational institution meant that there was more freedom.

The price to be paid for this is that many of these friends were highly transient in nature. Plans were rarely made. Meet-ups often times happened by accident. In the night time, if it wasn’t the Midnight Movie, then it was Star Skate. During the day, it was the Mounds Mall.

All of my serious girlfriends went to other schools, for similar reasons. Nobody at their school would be saying, “Ewww, you went out with HIM?” I’m glad that I didn’t helplessly suffer that gossip-driven garbage.


THE COLLEGE YEARS [1983-85]
Now things were starting to get more difficult. Everyone I would encounter went to the same school. Many were from other places, which was a plus. But sometimes your reputation can grow in a way that may be unfavorable.

In my Music classes, I developed the reputation of being the very depressed guy who studied on the weekends. I was that guy who went to bed while the sun was still out.

Midnight Movies were too far away, as was Star Skate and Mounds Mall, and the kids who were hanging out there were simply too young, so those options went away.

The first year was not a total loss. I would sit in the lounge and play piano, which ended up being a good way to meet people who liked music. It was a good way to meet others who were having the same problem of making friends. Mutual awkwardness would often times get in the way. I continued this my second year when I had free time.

A lot changed during my second year, when I found myself joining a pop/punk band as a bass player. When I was in this situation, “friends” would appear in the form of fellow bandmates, the bandmates of other bands in the area, party-goers, and those who hosted parties at their homes.

For those who would suggest the Greek option of joining a fraternity, I avoided that for a few reasons. Beyond my not being able to afford such a luxury, I viewed this as purchasing friends. Plus, any club that would have me as a member must not be all that great. I learned that from Groucho.

THE HOLLYWOOD ERA [1986-2019]
Beyond making friends, life can be difficult when you’re new in town and broke as hell. I’d scrounge up enough money to get into a Sunset Strip club like Gazzarri’s.

For a while, I tried talking to people who were watching the bands, but that wasn’t working. I figured it would be in my best interest to meet people who do some kind of work — any kind of work — in music. So I would gravitate to the person working the sound board.

The guy working the sound board was usually connected in some way to someone. Hanging out with them, I’d meet people who were in bands. I’d also meet women who were looking to get with musicians. Maybe they had struck out waiting for a band outside the venue. I would be their second choice, at best, and I didn’t care.

Work was never a good place to make friends, oddly enough for the same reason it was difficult to make friends at school. Nobody at work wanted to be associated with “that guy,” it turned out.

Office politics is just like high school cliques, except the consequences venture beyond the social, and into the professional. If you wanted to move up in the world, then it would be a good idea to avoid that awkward guy in the office.

Plus, there was a long stretch of time where I was the youngest person in the office, so there would be some difficulty in that dynamic. Seemingly overnight, this switched and I would be the oldest person in the office. Same problem. I rarely worked with people my own age.

I would have periods where I’d be established and doing fine, and then something would happen and I’d have to move back home. I’d go back out, get established, and something would go wrong again.

This happened several times, which is disruptive to the idea of having a social life. I would not learn that I was Autistic until late 2017.

All the same, the years where I was actively drumming with live bands were the best for meeting people. Occasionally, a friend would be made in all of this. Other times, there were wild encounters. I’ll be a gentleman about it and spare you the details. Life was good.

In late 2018/early 2019, going guitar shopping with Bob was the highlight of my weekend. We still keep in touch.

In the later years, after I was no longer playing in performing bands, I would meet people at the music store. We would end up talking about guitars, drums, or whatever instrument I was checking out at the time. Some of my friends were older than me, which was fine.


SOME MAJOR PITFALLS
Before I get into more current times, it is important to cover some of the major pitfalls that occurred from around 2005-2014.

My former boss, and everyone’s first “friend,” Tom Anderson of MySpace.

2005 was when I started working at MySpace. By this time, MySpace was starting to become a very popular website. My boss, Tom Anderson, was famous as hell. Being one of 40 people working in an office with him, I was bound to be hit by some of the fame schrapnel.

It happened, and was more like nuclear fall-out. Next thing you know, people are asking me for MySpace favors, such as helping them with technical issues.

I would get recognized at clubs and parties, which was an odd thing to happen in Los Angeles. Lots and lots of people wanted to be my friend and hang out.

This mostly came to a crashing halt in mid-2008, when I was part of the initial 5% downsize at the company. Like magic, people started dropping off. I didn’t get calls or messages so often. I wasn’t invited out to so many things.

It was kind of like being in high school, hanging out near the candy room, and getting asked for a nickel. I’d often give people a nickel or dime if they asked. In that regard, I had a good number of “friends.” They weren’t real friends, however, and I think this was mostly the case in 2008.

A few hung around, but the connection was weak. When I ran into trouble with a cancer scammer on Facebook, these “friends” instantly turned against me. Real friends saw that I was in trouble. But these “friends” saw me as some type of monster who enabled someone who was lying about having cancer to get sympathy and money. My real friends saw the hooks in me, and acted accordingly.

Nothing like a personal disaster with social and financial elements to weed out all of the phonies. It’s upsetting to learn that they were all phonies. One real friend who was in this group later said, “I was under no delusion that any of these people were ever truly my friends.”

Well, I was.

2019 AND BEYOND: THE POST-PANDEMIC TIMES
In May 2019, I moved from sunny Southern California to get a new start. Someplace more affordable and new. So I ended up settling on Oregon.

I had visited Oregon a few times before, when I was still connected to a few of the weak friends who turned against me in 2014. I got to see enough of it that I was convinced this was the place to go.

I didn’t really get the chance to make any friends during 2019. But near the end of summer, a good friend of almost 20 years [and a fellow drummer] called to say he was in Bend for a few days. So I drove over 3 hours one way to have lunch and then do some drum hunting at the local pawn shops.

In Bend, Oregon, with Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz. In the background: Rich people living the rich people life.

The end of 2019 found me in a strange predicament, where I had gotten in touch with an ex-girlfriend from 1982. She was supposedly in an abusive and dangerous marriage, so she came out to visit on Christmas 2019 and ended up staying by her own invite.

She stayed until early October 2020, when she walked out one day and never came back. She either lost her mind and had a mental breakdown, or she pretended to have a mental breakdown. The truth is unclear. Either way, it was not good.

This experience set me back socially for a few reasons. The main reason was that she had me convinced that she liked me and cared about me. However, looking back, she was mirroring me and telling a bunch of lies that were basically built upon what she thought I wanted to hear.

This type of “mirroring” was Machiavellian, done for the purpose of giving the appearance that we have things in common. Malignant Narcissism most likely played a role in this.

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

It was so bad that by the time she was long gone, I realized that I never really knew her in the first place. Nothing gives me the creepy crawlies like having the realization that a manipulative person I never really knew lived with me for the better part of a year.

So much of it all went over my head for the longest time.


RECOVERY, UP TO NOW
I spent about 5-6 months being depressed and sifting through the rubble to try to figure out how this happened, why it happened, and how I could avoid it happening again. At my age, an experience like this may not always be a survivable event. Plus, I need to learn how to protect myself.

The biggest problem was me ignoring all of the red flags. Why did I ignore them? For one, I made an exception for someone from my past, when I should not have done that. A bigger problem, in my opinion, was that I really, truly wanted this reconnection to happen, and I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way.

It’s like having a big fire. You know that sticking your hand in it will burn you. All the same, you still want to stick your hand in the fire. It’s like a compulsion. So I stuck my hand in the fire. For the first half-second, I thought it looked really cool. But it didn’t take too long for it to start burning. Once it started burning, I would wonder why it was burning and do whatever I could to keep my hand in the fire.

It sounds really sick when I put it that way. It most definitely was not healthy, at all.


GETTING AWAY FROM OTHER FRAUDS
The best thing I could have ever done for myself was to delete my Facebook account. I feel so much better, now that I’m away from all of these frauds.

There were a handful who are genuine friends. They have my number or email. Some are reading this now. They are the exception. Facebook is full of horrible people who were never my friends in the first place.

Facebook was where other fraudulent friends attacked me in 2014, with the cancer scammer incident. My 2020 Facebook experience was almost no different. Instead of attacking me while I was being emotionally and financially exploited, as was the case in 2014, now they’d do it for seemingly no reason at all.

I waste no time thinking about the, worrying about them, or wondering. They are gone. Those who want to remains friends can do so by reading the blog, emailing or texting on occasion, etc. Hell, a few times per year is just fine. I am low maintenance.


POTENTIAL NEW FRIENDS ON THE HORIZON
This Wednesday, I will be meeting up with a few musicians. They work with my former girlfriend, who still lives here. No, not the one who moved out in 2019, but the one I have been with since 1999.

Although we broke up after the ex-girlfriend moved out here in late 2019, we are solid roommates and get along just fine. We have our separate lives, but work together when it comes to common things. As friends go, I would say that Catherine is in my list of the Top 5 best friend that I’ve ever had.

Late 2004: Randi, me, Catherine, and Becca. Still friends to this day.

Catherine met one of these new friends at work. She told me he’s a musician, is just like me, except maybe 25 years younger. So I’m probably at least twice his age.

All the same, he and his buddy play drums and guitar, and have been desperately looking for a bass player, to the point that they’ve considered getting someone they know and teaching them.

They’re excited about having a post-COVID jam session, and I am as well. It has been more than a few years since I’ve made music with another person. Their situation is open jam with no set songs. Just make things up and go for it.

It’s a low-pressure situation, and I have to remind myself of that.

But yea. Wednesday afternoon or evening, it’s happening.

Who knows. Maybe it will be a one-off type of thing. But it could also end up being something really cool.

There is only one way to find out.


IN THE END
The obvious thing to take away from this story is that we make friends in different ways through different stages of life. There is no set way to go about it.

How to go about making friends now is a bit of a mystery to me, like it always has been. My problem isn’t finding the people, so much as it is figuring them out and being safe.

Luckily, we have things like “boundaries,” and mine are set. Red flags will not be ignored. So long as I respect my boundaries and heed the red flag warnings, I feel confident that my safety will be more than adequately served.

For me, it’s kind of like when someone says, “Act your age.” I would act my age, but I’ve never been this age before, so I don’t really know what to do.

The good news is that, thanks to the COVID lock-downs, everyone will be as anxious, nervous, and awkward as me. Finally, the rest of the world will understand what it feels like from my perspective! This means that my awkwardness will be dismissed, as everyone will be excusing it, and they may be more understanding.

Who knows. Before too long, I might have a new band, maybe some new friends, maybe a new girlfriend down the road. It’s really anybody’s guess what could happen in this crazy world.

I’ll be considered officially “fully vaccinated” after tomorrow, which will mark two weeks since my second Moderna shot. The world will be mine, and I plan on weirding it up. It is time to break out of my comfort zone, shake off the rust, and start meeting new people.

The worst that can go wrong is that I’ll never see them again.


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Why Some Are Not Returning to Work

INTRODUCTION
I went to my local antique store to talk to the nice older lady who works there. She’s a Right-winger, but not crazy or violent. We will sometimes have political discussions, and it always ends well.

It is the closest I will ever get to replicating the discussions I would have with my grandmother as a young teen.

We talked about people not going back to work. When I told her the minimum wage was going up to $15 per hour, she had this panic about her. “I can’t afford to pay anyone that.”

My response was, “Then you can’t afford to have employees.”

She has a few helpers who show up on occasion and do some things for free. Most times when I go there, I end up running around the shop, reaching the high spots that are dangerous for her. I get paid nothing, but I am glad to help out a little bit.

That said, I would not want to be there for 8 hours per day, serving my time, getting paid crap, and having a constant nagging worry that there is no way in hell I can pay my rent with that.


WHAT IS NOT THE CAUSE
Humans are complex animals. In writing about a topic like this, I think that it is equally important to cover what does not make up the cause. Additionally, it is also important to know how to identify a weak argument or a non-argument.

People are lazy: This is a common argument that is made by Right-wing voters and their politicians. Actually, most of these on the list come from them.

Beyond being reductive, this non-argument carries a great deal of judgment of people, while those doing the judging have NO information about the people they are judging.

It reminds me of an insult that I’ve heard, made to my face, when I’m in a job interview and they inevitably ask me about the gap in my resume.

“So, I see that you have a big gap here on your resume. What did you do during this time? Kick back? Take it easy? Watch TV? Drink? Lay around all day? What did you do?”

Do they not see how this judgment is insulting? How can they suggest this when they don’t even know me?

There are a number of responses I could have, and I’ve used some of these.

  • “It’s good to hear, up-front, what you really think of me.”
  • “Well, maybe that’s what you would do.
  • “Funny how lazy people apply for jobs and go on interviews.”

These responses to their insults are combative and have sometimes resulted in an abrupt end to the interview. So I’ve addressed the issue this way.

“I understand your fear, because this could happen to you, or anyone else, just as easily as it has happened to me. Autistic adults enjoy a 90% unemployment rate because the average employer does not know how to deal with us or utilize us to their advantage. I’m here today because I think your company is different.”

I have learned over the years that one reason why potential employers don’t like me is because my existence represents their own perceived worst case scenario. They know that gaps in employment happens, but that happens to other people. To have one of “those people” in their presence makes the situation too real, and it terrifies them.

People get more in unemployment than they do at work. This can be the case. If a job pays less than unemployment, then it doesn’t pay enough.

Going to work costs money. You have to shower and groom, wear clean clothes, maybe pack a lunch, and use gas in your car [which must be insured] to drive in traffic to the job.

I have had to quit jobs because I could no longer afford to go to work. In one instance, not only did this job have a commute, but employees had to pay for parking and then get reimbursed at the end of the month. Reimbursement was not timely, and would sometimes be contested.


MORE LIKELY CAUSES
The above talking points might be the most popular ones, but the list is by no means comprehensive. Neither will this list of more likely causes. They’re not lists, so much as talking points.

A segment of the population has gotten more rude, violent, and unruly. These are the Right-wingers. They include primarily Trump voters, mostly white women and some white men, and can be broken down into anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and in some cases sovereign citizens.

These aggressive people are known as “Karens.” The men are called a variety of things, including “male Karens,” “Kens,” or “Tuckers.”

As a quick aside, I recall an older family member who voted for Trump. Before the 2016 election, he was so angry and full of hate. Just perpetually pissed off.

Anger is the body guard of fear and sadness.

What was interesting to note is his behavior after Trump was elected in 2016. He remained angry. This is because the media he consumes pumps out fear constantly, and they let him know that he should be angry about things that either aren’t really a thing or aren’t really happening.

These are very angry, entitled white Republicans who have existed in this country for a very long time. However, they became emboldened and came out of the woodwork in bigger numbers, thanks to the aggressive, racist encouragement of Donald Trump. You would be hard pressed to find a speech of his where he’s not yelling, being angry, threatening, and encouraging violence.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PEOPLE NOT WANTING TO GO BACK TO WORK? I’m glad you asked.

Most of the jobs that are struggling to get filled are Service-Oriented Jobs.

It’s bad enough to have a hard job like this and getting paid almost nothing. What makes it worse is when these people are added to the equation. Imagine being worried about your family, or how you’re going to make rent, WHILE YOU ARE WORKING a full-time job, and then THIS walks into your place of employment.

They yell, scream, threaten, and even get physically violent. And YOU, as the employee, are NOT allowed to defend yourself at all. The “Karens” know this. They understand that they can do whatever they want, and they will most likely face no repercussions of any kind.

There is a level of Malignant Narcissism in these people that has been encouraged to grow over the past five years.

Ask yourself: Would YOU want to work in that situation?

No, of course not, nobody wants to work under those unreasonable conditions.

This is why, as an Autistic adult, I cannot get a job that would require me to deal with customers. Some Americans have gotten so aggressive that it’s just no longer worth the risk.

Low pay. This points back to my friend who owns the antique store, who can’t afford to pay even ONE employee $15 per hour. Not only can she NOT afford to hire anyone, but she also can’t really afford to stay in business. My suspicion is that she’s got a good deal of old money, and she runs this shop at a slight loss so that she can have something to do with her time.

The hard truth is that if you cannot afford to pay employees, then you cannot afford to be in business. The owner’s inability to pay is NOT the problem of the potential employee.

Think about it: Would YOU want to work all day for almost nothing and still have the problem of paying bills?

All it takes to understand this issue is just a LITTLE BIT of empathy. Empathy is precisely what is lacking with Republicans, as well as people who actually have money or good-paying jobs.

The answer to this is to take out a loan to cover your payroll, and then devise a way to pay that back. Hire a financial consultant. It’s YOUR company, so YOU must put in that work and make the sacrifice.

Education and/or experience no longer matters. I have 13 years of experience in my previous field. That number doesn’t matter to potential employers as much as the bigger number of 56, which is my age.

Experience equals higher pay, and nobody want to pay a seasoned, experienced worker.

I have two friends who went to school for a few years and went into debt to improve their education.

One was only expecting to get a raise for his new degree. It didn’t happen. Most companies have stopped paying degreed employees more.

The other was hoping to get a job. It didn’t happen.

Now both of them have big debt and are in the same problem they were in before. This is why I have great concerns about going back to school. Plus, the cost is prohibitive.

You don’t have to listen to the whole thing. Just the first five minutes. But there is an actual ending, for those who are curious.

The trap is real.

OTHER REASON, AND END-STAGE CAPITALISM
While my list is by no means comprehensive, it also is not reductive. It doesn’t point fingers and judge those who are not going back to work right away.

Indeed, there are many other reasons. Maybe a person has children who aren’t going back to school yet and they can’t leave the children at home alone. This is a difficult position that I do not envy.

These people get to hear idiocy like, “Well, you should have planned for it.”

Nobody planned for the pandemic. And, of all Industrialized nations, America helped its citizens the least. We were almost left to die, and it was not an accident.

Pandemic stress has accelerated End-Stage Capitalism. This is where the Capitalist system is rife with hypocrisy and inequity, as well as a lack of integrity.

Where we are now, the Capitalists enjoy Socialism in the form of government subsidies, while the workers get to suffer the lie promoted by Republicans, known as “Rugged Individualism.”

People talk about the free market. The problem is that we do NOT have a free market.

A MORE PHILOSOPHICAL REASON
This philosophical reason is pointed toward the people who once worked in the service industries, who are not returning to their old jobs. This issue is impacting customer service, as well as a business’ ability to turn additional profit.

Again, the people who are not returning to these jobs are judged and called “lazy.” I contend that something else has happened.

People who work in these types of jobs work really hard, and they almost NEVER get a break. They work all the time in constant fear of losing the job. They’re so busy working that they have no time to find a better job.

The pandemic gave them a special opportunity.

For possibly the first time in their adult lives, they are forced to NOT work. Yes, people watch television and use the internet. This only goes so far.

As I have experienced first-hand, when a person stays at home for a few months, they inevitably are forced to face themselves and their own thoughts.

A person can be of regular intelligence and experience this. One does not have to have studied philosophy in order to encounter this issue.

People are starting to figure out that their lives are worth more than what they’re being paid. They’re realizing how much they have that they do not need. They’re beginning to realize the truth.

This is why the rent was not shut off. When the pandemic hit, I was certain that they’d have to shut off rent for at least a few months. Of course, they didn’t do it because this would break the illusion that how things are is how things must be.

Still, part of that illusion got broken all the same, when people had to stay home.

To make it worse, the anti-maskers and other Trump voters made the entire pandemic worse by going along with their leader, who is such a psychopath that he politicized a public health crisis for his own benefit. He did it for his own enrichment, and nothing more.

These people refuse to do what it takes to protect others. They don’t really care about others, and in fact are trained to fear “the others.” They have no empathy, and this will be the downfall of America, because it leads to us not caring about each other. It leads to our division.

This lengthened the time that we had to spend in lock-down.

Imagine if we had locked-down everything for three months, everyone followed protocol, and essential workers were protected. This would have been over in 8-12 weeks.

But that’s not profitable, and it most definitely is not a way to gain political leverage. Only a monster would use a pandemic for political leverage. There is only one monster in this situation, and unfortunately it was the person entrusted with the role of leading the country.

In case it’s getting lost in my excessive and detailed explanation, people are changing their views on life. They are starting to realize that they won’t live forever. They’re realizing that they are missing so much by struggling so hard.

They’re realizing that they are missing the experience of their children growing up.

They’re realizing that they are missing out on life itself.

This is not a dressed rehearsal. We get one life. What will yo do with your time?

These are the philosophical issues that have presented themselves to people in this position.

IN THE END
Society is more aggressive. These jerks will probably get me fired anyway. They could end up getting me killed. This job isn’t worth the hassle. This job isn’t worth the pay. This job isn’t worth the stress.

Those are the thoughts that I imagine.

Judging people by calling them “lazy” or “stupid” does nothing to help the situation and only makes it all worse.

The hard truth is that both minimum wage and general pay for many workers has NOT kept up with inflation and price increases since 1980. For the past four decades, the hardest working people have been squeezed, and continue to get squeezed.

Now that we are in End-Stage Capitalism [aka “Late Capitalism”], the workers are letting the owners know that enough is enough. It is UNETHICAL to financially abuse working people like this.

It is UNETHICAL to get super-mega-ultra-fucking rich at the expense of the people who are doing all of the heavy lifting.

  • We are alienated from our work.
  • We are alienated from other people.
  • We are alienated from Nature.
  • We are alienated from ourselves.

Yes, this is Marx’s Theory of Alienation in a nutshell. I don’t agree with everything Marx wrote. And really, the writings of Marx only lay a foundation, and many stronger, better, and more relevant ideas have been generated since that time.

But we are alienated.

There is no denying this.

It’s why people don’t care about their jobs. It’s why people don’t care about others. It’s why some might view shooting up a place as a solution. It’s why some may kill themselves. It’s why mental illness has taken hold of our country [special thanks to Reagan for screwing that up].

It’s why we are judging others.

It’s why we are divided.

It’s why we are falling apart.

The “United” part of “United States” no longer makes sense. The states fight each other. People fight each other. Republican leadership view Democrat leadership as “evil” or “the enemy,” when they’re supposed to all be working together. To be fair, some Democrat leadership is also doing the exact same thing.

Nothing is united.

If you want to learn about how to save Capitalism from itself, then you can read this article, which has some good suggestions. No, it does not suggest that Socialism is the answer. America does need a stronger and more robust social safety net.

If you fear words like Socialism, then I suggest that your fears could be quelled if you learned about it, instead of being afraid of a buzz word.

For the record, Joe Biden is NOT a Socialist. He’s also not a Leftist. He is Right-of-Center.

How can all of this be fixed?

It starts with YOU. Yes, you. Are you angry about Leftists, Communists, Socialists, and caravans of non-white people? This is fear, based on lies.

Anger is the bodyguard of fear and sadness. Fear has no place in the “home of the brave.”

Turn off Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax. Stop watching Mark Dice and other fear merchants on YouTube. Give it up for 6-8 weeks, since this is the same amount of time that it takes for these outlets to grab a hold of you.

Stop being afraid. Demand that your representatives actually DO SOME WORK and work with the other half of Americans. Yes, we are ALL Americans here.

Volunteer. Donate if you can. Get outside of yourself.

Nobody likes a Karen, and nobody wants to deal with them.

If nothing else, stop fearing “the others” and start being kind to other people. Stop the judgment. Stop feeling entitled. Stop acting childish in public when things don’t work out exactly as you would like. A fast food worker forgetting to give you ketchup packets is not an honorable hill upon which one with intelligence would choose to die.

It starts right here.

I went to Taco Bell the other day and they screwed up my order completely. It couldn’t have been more wrong. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t go after people. I didn’t judge anyone. I didn’t make an angry phone call or write a nasty email. I didn’t confront an employee. I didn’t scream in a childish Karen tirade. I didn’t act entitled.

Yes, I paid for the food. Yes, they screwed it up. If that’s the worst thing that happened to me that day [and it was], then my day went really well.

I viewed it as a reminder of why I don’t go to Taco Bell very often, and why I should avoid it in the future.

Problem solved, at least for me.

We need more sympathy, empathy, and understanding.

These Taco Bell workers weren’t out to get me. They didn’t say, “Oh, here comes THAT guy again. We’ll screw up his order really good. Bwahahahahaha” [rubbing hands together, indicating an evil plot].

Chances are really good that they are under-staffed because the world has gone crazy and some of their workers don’t want to return. I can’t blame them.

Hell, if society were able to straighten up and mature, maybe a person like me could get a job in public service and deal with customers.

But because people are so angry, hateful, judgmental, aggressive, and childish, I have to limit my job options to things that are AWAY from the general public. I cannot deal with people in any way. Thanks, Autism!

And if you are NOT that way, as I suspect may be the case for many of my readers, then I thank you for your maturity, and for being part of the solution.

Truth can be found in humor.

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Mixed Memories

Some say that it’s okay to look at the past, so long as you don’t stare. Others say the future is full of anxiety and the past is full of depression.

Truthfully, I know that the future is where we travel to construct our past. The thing about that is it doesn’t always go the way we had thought. I most certain never saw myself being an old man filing for disability and struggling to survive.

I have been dealing with the past in a few ways. Scanning and organizing photos is one. Another is writing stories about the past. Doing these things allows me to declare that I’ve “dealt with” the past properly.

When I can say that a piece of my past has been preserved in either images or anecdotes [or both], I can relax and safely let that memory go. Or, at least I can try to let it go. The key thing is that it’s not in danger of being lost.

Why should I care if these things get lost?


Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth, but the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth.

Here, in this photo, I had recently seen Rush on November 1, 1982 at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was their Signals tour.

Not only was I still pumped up from that concert, but I was also feeling a sense of relief that it was my last year of high school.

I was going to be 18 in a few weeks.

My 1972 Pontiac LeMans was in tip-top shape, I had been accepted to Ball State University’s Percussion Arts program, no audition required.

The end of the first full measure of the guitar solo.

Life was relatively good.

I was also pulling together a rag-tag band, with a drummer, a bass player, and me on vocals and guitar, where we would work to perform just one song at the school’s talent show. It was “Goodbye to Romance,” by Ozzy Osbourne.

Earlier, I had lost a girlfriend I had been seeing during the summer. Her name was Annie, and I had high hopes. Seems as though I got over it rather quickly.

Since then, I’ve learned the hard way about the real hazards of romanticizing the past. Digging into the past and trying to bring it into the present is a fool’s errand, and I gave it my best shot for the last time.

Shortly after basketball season had begun, I started casually dating a girl named Lucille, who was a mascot for a rival school. The rumors flew. I never did well with girls at my school, as they were all afraid of having their reputations ruined by dating “the weird guy.”

It was a time when six weeks felt like forever.

High school was coming to an end. I would be an adult in a few weeks, in the first picture, and the second picture shows me after having been an adult for a few weeks. There really is no noticeable difference. All I remember is that this milestone, or technicality depending on how you see it, was a really big deal.

Feeling ecstatic about the end of high school would sometimes be interrupted with hard anxiety about going to college. I would also feel a bit sad while thinking about the few whom I would miss. I knew that major changes were on the horizon, and I had mixed feelings about it all.


Why do I sometimes go to the past?

My suspicion is that there are times when digging up these old memories from the past is better than facing the relatively lackluster chore that the present has become.

Dealing with lock-down has certainly made the present stink, and it has also given me the free time necessary to engage this nostalgia. Sure, I do other things with my time. It hasn’t been a total waste. All the same, there are memories that would sometimes help me cope with the present and future.

I know that these memories will hold me back if I hold onto them too tightly.


When we are young, life is all about potentiality. We might do this or that, we might go here or there. Who knows? There was an excitement attached to it that helped to dull some of the anxiety.

But when we are older, life is all about actuality.

Polk High, class of 1966. And while I find you fat and repulsive, I would like to tell you my glory days how I scored four touchdowns in one football game and won the very last city championship trophy that Polk High had.

Living at home provided a certain safety net, and I know that’s a privileged thing to have. When we get older, whatever we had all goes away and the playing field gets leveled for some of us. Things that mattered at the time no longer mean anything. A major accomplishment of today will be meaningless before long.

Maybe the trick is to hang on to what it meant to me, even though the rest of the world no longer cares.


As a young teen, I had aspirations of making something of myself in the music business. My dream was realistic, in that I was under no delusion that I would become a star. I went into it accepting that it takes a level of popularity and personality to become a star. I also knew that what I wanted would take a great deal of work and sacrifice.

My mission was to attach to a star and see how far I could fly.

In thinking of a best case scenario, supposing I was able to attach myself to a star. This star makes it big and takes me along for the ride. Suppose I got to enjoy 15-20 years of being part of that project. They aren’t exactly The Rolling Stones, but they’re no slouches, either. That would have me starting at around 1986 and going to 2001-2006.

Then what?

I know musicians who have experienced this, so it is a realistic scenario. One person I knew was in a big band for 10-11 years. He was known the world over and celebrated for his decade-plus of fame. And yes, he did get a good amount of fame.

When it ended, his entourage of friends stopped visiting him. I was his only visitor for a while. His famous porn star girlfriend dumped him. He took a crap job with a crap company. He became forgotten by many rather quickly. Only those who truly cared about him remained.

He aged quickly and died performing on a small stage.

The funny thing about artists and musicians is that they are romanticized, revered, and respected after they die. But when they are alive, it’s a different story. People will wonder what went wrong. They will judge. They will abandon.

They only cry when you die. Then they get over it.

So even if my life went they way I wanted it to go, I’d probably still be in my current situation.

It’s weird to realize this, just now. It’s almost as if achievement doesn’t really matter in the end. The only thing that does matter is how I feel about it right now.

Everyone and everything dies.


For now, the present is mostly about the future. Finding a job that can pay enough for actual survival would be fantastic. Most of this is uncertain.

The one certainty that I do have, at least for now, is that I have been invited to join a few musicians, a drummer and guitarist, to get together to jam and see what happens. The location is a four-minute drive from where I am.

We will be starting next week, after I’m considered “fully vaccinated.” Worst case, I will enjoy it, so I’m looking forward to that. It is nice to not have any expectations of “making it” or getting somewhere. Just get together, be creative, and enjoy the moment.

Just be.

This means that I need to get my bass rig organized and ready to go. That won’t take long. And there are no songs to learn, so I can get ready by practicing scales and jamming along with some backing tracks.

It’s a potentiality in a world of actualities.


IN THE END
The 80s can mostly stay in the 80s. The majority of the people in my past can stay there, too, save for the few who have indicated that they want to keep in touch.

Once I post this, today will be about today, with possibly a hint of tomorrow. It is okay to relax with the understanding that the past most definitely is NOT going anywhere.

Below is a video slideshow that features some moments from my musical past. The song is called “One of Those Days,” by a band I formed called WHIPLADS. In that song, a passage can be found that is a personal favorite of mine.

This is one of those days
The stage fright in the theater of life
Gets in your way
Feel free
As free as you can
You’ll see
You can be the “I Am.”

Calling Out Your Own

I first started calling out my own in 9th grade, when most of the drum line graduated high school and I was left to take over.

1980: Already one year deep into this leadership role. Practicing my parts while the rest were still getting ready.

In this situation, in 9th grade I had been taken into the fold of the drum line by the older kids [The Hefty Patrol], was taught all of the cadences and other tricks they had, and then was ultimately left to my own defenses.

One night, the leader of the drum line, Mr. Hefty himself, told me that I would be on my own, and effectively handed me the proverbial keys.

Music was my life. It always has been, and remains so to this day. It was also my only reason to stay in school, so I took it seriously.

In this picture, the kid to the left was a solid bass drum player. He and I did at least one ISSMA performance together. The one off-camera to the left was a total jag-off and he actually quit shortly after this photo was taken.

The left arrow is me. The right arrow is Mr. Hefty.

In the above photo, the third line is almost all drummers, except the Drum Major in white. By the summer of 1980, it was just me, the guy 4th from the left, and one other person.

I had to be tough and call out those who were lazy, or who were there just because they thought getting a band credit was “easy.”

Me, at the front of our three-person “drum line.” performing in front of roughly 45,000 people.

I had to be tough, because the last thing I wanted in the group was a slacker who was going to make us look bad. Considering how small the band was, this was very easy to achieve.

The one-snare drum break starts shortly after the 3:37 mark.

The three-person drum line was a success, although it would have been nicer to have an actual line of drummers. Part of me enjoyed being the foundation of all of that. It gave me a sense of purpose.

I would continue to call out lazy drummers until the year after I graduated, as a band camp counselor for the drum line.


CALL-OUTS LATER IN LIFE
There are a number of times, and I wasn’t shy about it.

In 2009, I began making Atheist videos on YouTube. The thing I hate about the term “Atheist,” beyond all of the irrelevant attributes and lies that are attached to it, is that it asserts a sense of community.

Two years earlier, when I was on the Presidential cabinet for comedian Doug Stanhope’s presidential run for 2008, we were in a strategy meeting [2007] when someone brought up the question of how to get the Atheist vote.

None other than Las Vegas magician Penn Jillette said that it would be impossible, “like herding cats,” because Atheists aren’t really a group, per se. That is, they do not generally organize. It’s more of a label that individuals take for themselves.

I’m to the photographic right of Penn Jillette. Stanhope’s presidential run was cut short by limitations placed on the campaign. After this, I learned the hard way that ONLY rich people can afford to run for office, due to the array of restrictions.

Plus, the only thing that Atheists have in common is non-belief in gods. That’s it. A falsifiable position does not lend itself to community. By “falsifiable,” I mean it’s a position that would go away once proof and evidence of a god were presented, tested, and validated.

It really isn’t a strong glue, in some regards. Although I will say that some communities have sprung up since then, and they seem to be getting more cohesive. But Penn’s words would come back to mind a few years later.

Taken just now: I still have my Stanhope lawn sign.

Back to 2009…

I started making Atheist videos as TheOtherSide100, and became known by many as TOS100. It started out as me just basically talking to myself. This changed one day, when DarkTheAtheist gave me a shout-out on one of his videos. Instantly, I had thousands of subscribers.

There seemed to be this sense of community building up on YouTube. For a while, I felt as if I fit in, which was really weird.

But then I started seeing some problems. Without getting into details, it was statements and situations where I didn’t agree, and did not want to be involved.

So what else could I do but call them out.

Sure, I lost some friends along the way. I lost some clout. Maybe I gained some respect for standing up. I’m not certain.

The only thing I know for sure was that I did not want to be involved with certain ideas and behaviors.


THE POINT OF THESE ANECDOTES
The first is my earliest memory of me calling out my own. The second is my latest memory of calling out my own.

Between these two times, there were a variety of other times when I would call out my own.

I think of it this way.

Suppose there are five friends who meet at the coffee shop every Saturday. They get together and talk about their week’s activities.

Now, let’s suppose that one of those “friends” tells his buddies about how he participated in the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Upon hearing this, maybe the friends chuckle a bit to themselves. Let’s suppose that they simply said nothing, took it as just another thing that one of them did, and move on.

What this indicates is that the other four friends are fine with what that fifth friend did. The bar has been lowered to that point.

They find the behavior acceptable, and give silent approval. In this situation, the ONLY way to maintain integrity is to first say something about it. Calling it out. If these friends verify that they are okay with it, and say it’s “not a big deal,” then that’s your cue to leave these friends behind. Staying with them will bring trouble down the road.

No, I don’t have any friends or associates who participated in that crime.

But that leads me to the heart of the matter.


CALLING OUT YOUR OWN
In America, we are seeing a phenomenon where Christian Conservative Republicans are being show the door and ostracized for calling out their own. In Fascist groups, the rule is simple: “Disagreement Equals Treason.”

In other words, you tow the party line without question or dissent, or else you get kicked out.

In a call-back to my Atheist video days, one of the biggest issues I had was Christians NOT calling out their own. They would avoid the call-out by invoking The No True Scotsman Fallacy.

“Oh, well THEY aren’t true Christians.” This is what they would tell me. I would reply, “Funny, but they say the same of you because you’re not doing what they are doing.”

How can ANY person or group be morally-sound if they don’t have the courage and decency to call out their own? Now we have preachers making all kinds of wild prophecies about Trump and Republicans, none of which have been true or accurate.

They embarrass themselves, but also make American Christians look bad.

One problem with the Christian club, beyond the bar being set WAY to low with regard to recruitment, is that they don’t want to lose one member. They don’t want to speak up or say anything. They can make an excuse for it.

With the Republicans, who are now split between Traditional Republcians and Trumpers, an internal Civil War is brewing. A big divide. A schism. The Trumpers say that if you call out our own, then you’re not loyal to the party, and you need to leave.

They don’t want any doubt about who is standing next to them.

They’re so busy making enemies of everyone else, that they’ve forgotten that it’s THEIR JOB to WORK WITH Democrats and other Republicans for the good of the country. The people.

But no, they don’t care about that. They only care about power and Trump worship.

It’s dangerous.


IN THE END
Whether it’s something as innocuous as a casual group of friends, or something as important as political or religious affiliation, it is ESSENTIAL to the integrity of the individual to stand up and say something.

Silence may be construed as consent. Before you know it, you’re implicated as being complicit, even though all you did was say nothing.

If I had said nothing when I took over the drum line, I would have ended up with a drum line that stunk. Instead, I had a smaller group that took our mission seriously and did their best.

Had I said nothing when I was making Atheist videos, I could have gotten wrapped up in some of the issues that particular YouTube community was suffering. I could have ended up with an association that I’d not want to bear.

And to everyone who is involved with a religious or political group and says nothing, understand the risk that you are taking with your own reputation.

If just ONE person in your group is a horrific example of a human being, and you all accept them while saying nothing, then you are on par with them. You are no better than them.

Who are you?

What are your values?

Where do you stand?

Only a broken coward or criminal would allow someone to dictate what this might be.

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