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Entries in adjusting to reality (79)

Thursday
Jan062005

1995 Redux

The last two months of 1994 and about the first half of 1995 was spent hauling my drums out to somewhat regular band tryouts all around San Diego county. I played with too many metal bands in El Cajon and La Mesa, some alt rock bands, a few prog acts that I thought I would like because they put "Rush" in the ad (only to find those are the ones I need to avoid). There were some King's X and RHCP ripoffs too. Oh, and what was I thinking? Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and STP were godlike then! I played too many classic rock songs in some of the auditions. The best of the bunch never took me, and the worst of the bunch left me feeling dirty! The only band with any name that I even got a shot at was a Sandy Eggo rising star called Lucy's Fur Coat. Of course, not only did I not get the gig, the band mostly caved in after their search turned up nothing. After all those months of looking, I ended up heading for my own little world of solo recording and experimentation, with a few players dropping in to contribute. Most of my musical output would be based on that for years to come.

So last night's little audition on bass was sort of like that. It has been forever since I really took a stab at joining anyone else's gig. I've done this solo stuff so long now, and variations have really only included looking for others to enhance it or start a band around my ideas. I really came to hate the cold call audition sort of method for meeting people. Working around some established players gave me a certain aloofness when it came to wanting to deal with the garage rock crowd. I got some decent names to at least play bits on my stuff, and for me that was fine. So I stayed away from the general ads for years, instead trying to network from the pros that I worked for. Now, after some years of stagnation, I've wanted to tighten up a certain musical sound I have been pursuing, but it hasn't happened, but I still want to play. My time and energy to produce music like before is not what it used to be, so I have been coming around to maybe joining up with one or two people to do some small scale work, or even joining a band that already has a "thing" about them and some material ready to go.

If nothing else, auditioning for different gigs has a way of developing one's readiness for things later on. As unfamiliar as last night's music was, I felt like I held my own and even had some little touches (a slid harmonic as a fill was almost brilliant at one point). I didn't have much room for an ego; I was still a babe in the woods, but it seems that my time with the intentionally horrendously bad Magnificent Meatsticks and all the little band combos that have been here in my studio has finally primed me for a variety of things, at least when it comes to thinking on my feet, which is something multitrack recording doesn't do. I'm just getting off on playing in real time now. The shoe is on the other foot. I'd prefer to be a player in a band now. If someone else wants to record stuff and go doctor it up, I'd be interested in seeing what comes up.

*********

It was also ten years ago today that I got some life changing news. There is at least one reader who will relate to this. Can you believe it? TEN fucking years now?

Wednesday
Jul282004

Sunset on the Single Life

kelli with flowing hair in a summer straw hat with flower a short while before our wedding day.I am getting married on the 28th of August. It is one month from now. We got engaged on the 16th of February. It wasn't that long ago. It was a cloudy, cold Monday and we were tucked into some blankets. It was about 6 pm or so. I had given Kelli the ring before (one that I received on the day my grandmother died, nearly three years before), sort of as a goofy gesture I am inclined to do. I had been warming to this new idea, obviously, but I don't think she knew that. We had been going to counseling for a few months, and that was starting to show some progress, and our life together was showing more promise than it had in a while. Let me put this out there now—I never had a proposal planned out. I knew she was good for a "yes." We've known each other for 14 years now. Anyhow, we were there, sort of fighting off the chill of the winter (all 50 degrees of it), and she asked me, "so uh, what does this ring mean? It's too big for my pinky, and its too small for my middle finger. I'll have to have it resized. What finger am I supposed to have it on?" To which, I said coyly, "I thought you knew that by now..." It was cute. That was, as much as anything, my proposal. Was I chickenshit, or just confident that I didn't need a plane to write it in the sky, or a banner hanging from a bridge, or a billboard on the way home from work? It was sort of a spontaneous thing, giving her the ring, and letting her wonder all week what all that meant.

I never really told that story before.

I had a mentor like figure in the music world who once told me he was about to get married at 30, but decided against it, because he was afraid he was doing it only because he was 30. At 46 he wasn't married. A little later on, he was. He got a 50% extension on the single life. I have always sort of had that story in the back of my mind, as I go ahead with the few relationships I have had.

Last year, at this time, life was utter hell for me. In fact, getting married this year on 8/28 is a few days short of the darkest day of my life so far, but the one that also was the biggest opportunity for turning shit around. A year ago, by my reckoning, I was supposed to be dead. September 4th was the day. No particular significance for that; it was just in the few short weeks before I was to turn 30. And, with 30 being one of those arbitrary ages when you are supposedly judged by people, I wanted nothing to do with it, because, at that time, I felt like an utter failure, and saw no need to get an award for it. I was a reasonably functioning clinically depressed dude. Two of my musical heroes, Jeff Buckley and Kevin Gilbert, had both died under "mysterious" circumstances in about a years' time. Jeff was 30, Kevin was 29. I guess I had some morbid fascination with them. I still love their music, but I gotta watch out how much of their mythology I take in. For me, as a frustrated artist and human being, 29 or 30 was as good a time to check out as any. I had my bags packed, so to speak. I just wasn't committed enough. The funny thing about the suicidal is that they are either on or off that bus. The ones who really don't give a shit just go ahead and do it. But here was me—I just somehow had to know what would be around that next corner. So I chickened out and called for help. Like the space shuttle when a piece of equipment fails before launch, the countdown to death by 30 stopped.

I didn't know what help would offer, or what form it would take, but I caved in and went for it. I ended up turning things around far better than I would have thought. I still am in solo counseling and couples counseling, and time permitting, a group. I've been doing most of this pretty solidly for a year. While I was at the residential center being tended to by nurses, counselors, a psychiatrist and my housemates, Kelli was always there for a visit. Rock solid. Of course, she hid the fact that my little antic scared the living shit out of her. Sometimes the stuff that women put up with just amazes me.

Kelli was one of the few things that made me put on the brakes that day. Of course I would say that, getting married as I will be, but really, it's more than diplomacy. Kelli and I have been on different paths, but have enough common ground to communicate this stuff to each other, but her experience in life has been one untimely death after another. It's terrible. And there I was, wanting to pull the plug on my own life. The thought that made me stop my little ritual was that she had lost enough, and didn't deserve to lose again if it were in my hands. I still had other people I wanted to spite, and other wrongs to right, but the look of Kelli being broken down again from losing another loved one? That was it.

I had expected that maybe I was going to miss my 30th birthday, but somehow, I didn't. And, in one of those really odd course of events that really makes a person know he isn't the boss of his own destiny, just two weeks after I got back from the residential care center, I got notice that my little job was going to be cut out of existance. I had been trying to think of better things, and this could have sucked me back in, but no. I found that the center I now work at was willing to have me on, based on a reference from the first center, and "how soon can [I] start?" That job, and the greeting I got on the first day ("we are so glad you are here") just sort of turned things around. All of a sudden, as bad as things were in August, they were great in October. It was like taking out the mental garbage. It was work. Kelli didn't understand some of it; the signs of her stress while I was gone were becoming evident. Meanwhile, I was riding a wave with my new job and just about everything else going good.

I turned 30, got a satisfying job (not super paying, but intrinsically satisfying), got into a few routines to change my outlook, and even put my studio back together. I got A grades in the three classes I have had since September. I am wayyyy more aware of my world, and that of the outside world. Instead of using doom and gloom as a weapon against myself, I am trying to use it as a force of change. I am a lot of things I wasn't last year. All of a sudden, the age that was supposed to be lights out, turned into the exact opposite. Do I still think the world is fucked up? Yeah, mostly. But do I feel I need to knock myself off for it? Not as much. I won't kid you. Some days can be pretty bad, but more of them aren't, and the 'bad day dots' aren't connecting like they used to.

So if my music buddy was saying he didn't want to get married at 30 just because he was 30, I ended up coming to the same decision about suicide. I guess I shouldn't do it simply because I am 30. But jeeezzzeeee, what a difference a year makes. And, what a difference a warm caring person makes. Its not that she wasn't here before, but I had fallen into a spiral of negativity that was like a black hole. She was always there as much as ever. And, trusting more and more that the future would be like that, it didn't seem all so bad. I have stopped mourning the inactivity in music. I still go in and mess with stuff, and I still have not come up with a damn piece of finished work in ages, but the energy I spent hating myself for it was better spent learning about my world or cutting a homeless person a break with some food or talk, or just sitting here in the company of my lovely fiancee.

My single life was the dying days. And now those dying days are dying. So be it.

Monday
May312004

True Love

Sometimes you just gotta do something that justifies your place here on the planet.

On Saturday, Kelli and I went to go see some old folks. Three of them were former clients of mine on the HDM route in Poway, and then there was a couple that were friends of Kelli's parents back in the day. We spent a good full afternoon running around and just visiting these people who had somehow endeared themselves to us. More and more, we like to hang out with older folks, and some of our clients are really sort of like grandfolks to us, but really, more like friends. It is sort of cute that both Kelli and I show up. On two different occasions, we have worked for the same company, first her position getting me the Poway gig, then my position getting her the La Jolla/Clairemont gig. So we make this little team which goes out and just on the spur of the moment, drops in on random clients, off hours. Some of them have been clients of both our separate programs, and once in a while it's good for a laugh when we both show up and only then does anyone realize how we all know each other.

Sometimes we take some of the food we are blessed enough to have from my job's occasional surplus, or any other source, and we go feed the random homeless person. No preaching, no bait and switch, just the deed. Sometimes we even give away our silverware in the process!

I suppose this brings me to the topic of Kelli. I usually don't talk about her on the web much. But, since we are getting married this summer, I suppose for those who don't know us too well, or only know me, the story sort of goes like this:

Kelli and I have gone to the same church for ages. My grandmother was a founder of our congregation. I was baptized there as a tot, and Kelli's mother was Sunday school teacher for the kids around my age, Kelli being about three years younger. So we go way back, but I really don't recall either of them when I was no older than age eight maybe. Kelli and her mom were gone for some years and then returned in 1990, when I can honestly say I remember her and remember finding we both had a musical kinship in certain classic rock artists. This was huge; I really didn't know anyone near my age that could be talked into liking Jethro Tull, so it was nice that she was free thinking enough, even at 14 to accept some comp tapes I made her. But I digress. Anyhow, 1990 is when we both were back in the church world, and that was a common thing for a couple of years, though I took off for about ten years. Kelli was, however, a person with whom I stayed in touch, and really was pretty much my lifeline to the church for that time. She was there in early 1993 when I needed a shoulder to cry on after my first girlfriend and I broke up. Or she and her mom hosted a party that my band played at on new year's eve 1994, or—  We had some experiences off and on as friends, spotted by her departures for colleges and other interstate trips.

In 1998-99, we did a CD together, of her poetry and my overly-heavy handed soundscapes. Then she was gone again for two years to Mills College in Oakland, returning in 2001. 2001 of course was a big year, and we got together a few times, then for the first time, she was here on my birthday, and the end of the year was what finally led us together, with some holiday minglings with her friend Amy. We started our current relationship on January 1, 2002 (easy to keep track of). At that time, we had known each other for more than 11 years, or maybe more than 25 if you want to look at it that way.

It was a good foundation for us. I had always entertained the notion that a relationship should be built on some history, or that the stronger ones as lovers would be founded on some history. So I went looking for all that with a few other people over the years, and all the while, Kelli and I were unpretensiously racking up the points, and all our times of meeting in Ocean Beach, or seeing a movie at the theater she worked at, or all the late night conversations and the occasional sleepover—those were the moments that slowly added up to our foundation. She had kept me abreast of the church happenings, and sort of always challenged me to get back into it. Well, the first week of 2002 was when it all made sense. The few weeks before had been sort of a family disaster for me, and as before, I wanted to talk to her. There was also the fact that 9/11 was recently seared into our memories, and there was plenty to talk about on that topic. We also had had a dear church family friend die in a foul drug related murder a month before that, so we really needed to be open to one another. In the same week as we started our current relationship, I went back to church, not because she wanted me to but because it made sense in the light of things then. And now. And I also knew there would be a good solid support for us there, even though we were coy about our relationship for months before we came out to most of the people. I know for me it was surreal—being with her seemed oddly right. It felt oddly proper. Even early on, I had this inkling that she was the one. That feeling grew as we let the word out at church in the first half of the year and the support was definitely demonstrated.

In the middle of 2002, Kelli got me what I thought was going to be a pickup job for two weeks for about $600. It was as mercenary as anything else I had done in music, but that soon changed. To start, the job began at 8 am in Poway, a half hour drive away. This quickly brought an end to my uber-bohemian life of going to bed at 6 am and sleeping until 1 pm. That short fill in job segued into the home delivered meals job that I stayed at for a year, which then led to the same type of job here. The first year of that job in Poway was one of modesty. I worked 12 hours a week there, for about 90 bucks a week. I had a few other irons in the fire, but some months that is all I made. Period. I sort of allowed it to happen. My consciousness began to change in the year after 9/11 and at that time, partially because the work I used to do was whittled down to nothing, but also because I wanted to let a lot of old ideas and practices die, I went ahead and accepted that low paying job as a certain life lesson.

I had to scrape for bills, or had to not spend like I used to, or not drive as much, or any of a lot of things. Between going to church, making myself useful and more enlightened about how life really works, and working for peanuts, I began to see things differently. The job itself became an agent of that change in me too. What I do, I decided, was important, and I began to find ways to understand its place in the world, and my place relative to that. It was modesty, no fooling. But since it was a food-related job, I did get some food from the service itself, or some other outlets related to it. In fact, when I worked there, I actually put on weight. Kelli and I got resourceful, and we both had more bread and sweets than we could handle, and many weeks, I got a lunch for each day worked, and a few beyond that sometimes. The only thing I lament is that the job was so far away from home for such a low paying job, and for, well, a person who was more and more aware of the cost of gas, not just in my world, but after 9/11, the entire world.

I got by. All that time was a time when I did something I don't think I ever had done. I actually appreciated what I had. That is sort of an archaic idea here in the USA, but for me, I went with it to see where it would lead. It's hard to think of my life as a hard one, but really, living on maybe $700 a month or less does actually have its hangups, when you are used to twice that and more. But, to make up my meager income, I found myself doing moving, painting, web work, music recording, renting my music room out, and a number of other jobs that sort of put me in touch with people on a different level. It had its drawbacks; depression advanced to a dangerous point in that same year as I worked at Poway. But depression and suicidal thoughts were just a platform from which to depart onto better things.

Kelli and I had been going out for nearly two years when I had my breakdown in September 2003. She never wandered from me. She was always there. It was sort of like the movies, but different. It was better. I know she didn't understand what all went into it, but she was as compassionate as could be, similar to the way I knew her to be before we became an item. We had our problems, and some stemming from her not understanding what made me depressed, so we started going to counseling to learn a thing or two about how to work past the misunderstanding that sometimes obscured our views of each other. Ironically, some of that came from our familiarity, something that presumed we knew each other, but something that came out entirely wrong sometimes. Our counseling has been an adventure, and we have a terrifically supportive counselor who might only be my age or a little more, but one who has all the insight it takes to wake us up to something we don't see, even from where we stand.

One of the things we are often reminded of is that we are there out of devotion. Even after some marathon two hour sessions, with the roof coming off sometimes, our counselor lets us off easy, and just won't let us go without a good send off, saying all the work is just a measure of how much we want this to work. And she's right. Growth doesn't come easy. I had wanted to ask Kelli to marry me in the first few months we were going out because I knew she was the sort of material that would make that possible, but counseling was what awakened things in me finally so that I could go on and ask. We had already known togetherness in a lot of ways, but this was the next step. And, when I think that Kelli and I are together in the church, or together in the sort of work we do in the community, or that we still go on to do some of the same stuff off the clock, on our own dime, I just feel that things are the way they should be. The last two semesters of school she has also taken a class or two for her own enrichment, but for me as a returning student and recovering depressive, it was so nice to know she was a student again, and we could have yet another dimension of common activity and understanding and support. And, we also like doing some really mundane things too. We both cook for each other, do laundry together, and now that we have matching computers and a pair of bikes, we do even more together.

She even listens to Jethro Tull with me. Now that is love.

Friday
May072004

TAPKAE.com Refocus

This site is being pared down to as little as possible for the time being. Right now, the only think I feel I have to offer in terms of content is my blog page. Anything else seems wrong to me. The old version of the site was way too self indulgent, and that is but one reason I buried it. It just doesn't speak to me any longer, or the way I want to present things.

The world is an interesting place. More and more I find I am awakening from a sleep. Sometimes it is terrible, sometimes it is joyous. The first two semesters of school after my ten year hiatus were important to me. Each was an important addition to my ability to communicate. Likewise, months of counseling sessions for myself and for my fiancee (two different sessions) have further added to my communication toolbox. The school assignments have had me approach things in a systematic and generally objective way, though there has been subjective wiggle room too. All my topics have been near and dear to me, ranging from depression to many of the socially conscious topics that turn up in my blogs. In fact, the blogs have actually been testing ground for some of the more recent papers I have done. On the counseling front, I have had to become more subjective, and frankly humble in learning to communicate with people around me, hopefully in constructive ways. In most cases, there is progress. One relationship in particular is sliding backwards at an alarming rate, and it is absolutely not because of me, even though I would be given credit. But we all know parents are fucked up, right?

Anyhow, things are just different. I want you to read my blog entries. Some are pathetically mundane, and some emerge from me almost without my knowing, and sometimes I just read it back and feel like a person I never knew I was or could be. More than the silly collages I make, or the dissonant music that has lost its luster for me, the word is the fundamental unit of communication, and for years, various people have told me to write because I emote in one way or another, or that I have a perspective, or whatever any given reader latched on to at the time. Ironically, some of those people aren't here to read it because that same use of language has liberated me from them.

The promise of any random person stumbling upon this material is a motivator. The Internet has been my home for a while now, closing in on three years. I once abused it, and abused people I met through it and really got in over my head. There are lots of reasons. But all the while, I wanted to be heard. Well, this is my little piece of Net heaven, and now I can say whatever I want, and anyone can read however much they can tolerate. Part of it is good just to get things out of my head, but I really do hope it has some impact for someone, even if I don't know who they are, or what happens. I guess it is just a leap of faith. What I do know is that I email people who have somehow enriched me while on the net, so they feel validated. The opportunity for direct and pure communication is unmatched by any other medium. It is an opportunity. There still will be gross misuses of the medium; but for those willing, it can be the light in the dark, when all else we read or watch can be disturbing or downright lies, and a million degrees in between.

Namaste.

Tuesday
May042004

Music

As some of you know, my relationship with music has been sort of iffy for a while. At this time, I can only say I have been in the studio three times to do anything resembling making music. I have just been too busy to go in there, and while some days I go in all charged up and ready to make recording and compositional history, somehow, I lose track of the spark and it slips away into the ether. Some days, I have to sit and stare at the recording rig to remind myself how it is all set up. My mind has not been obsessing over technical details, so I sort of shy away from recording.

I also have been on a trend to shut music off. It isn't so much that I don't want to be a listener, but really, I want to have the option of hearing it when I want to hear it. You know, you go to the grocery, the bank, the office, the traffic intersection, and you get to hear music that you didn't choose to hear. And the stuff that comes out of those outlets is all too often nothing you would ever choose to hear if you have your pride. I never ever listen to commercial radio by choice. All I listen to is public radio, and that is pretty much only in the trucks—one for work, and one for commute. I have nearly all my music on the computer, excluding tapes, minidiscs and certain other CDRs that just haven't been ripped yet. I have a few favorites, but some of what I found to be stunning music for me before has sort of faded. I find myself moving backwards in time in my listening tastes. I have been into Erik Satie for a while, and following that school of compositional thought in France, I have dabbled in Debussy, Milhaud, and now Poulenc. I may as well get all the Les Six stuff.

Some of this stuff is so amazing. Even a hundred years on, it just sounds unlike anything I anticipated, and compared to the drivel that fills the air now, it all sounds fresh and alive. And I daresay, beautiful. Sometimes, I think popular music has given up on beauty in favor of a few angry poses and a rather short list of cliches. A lot of what passes for popular music now is utter crap. Recycled utter crap. Punk is more popular than ever. Maybe thats why it has no balls anymore. Metal is boring to no end. Rap was empty from the start. All these things are so canned and recycled now. I wish I could have seen Black Sabbath. That was revolutionary. Their imitators, two or three generations removed, are not. Tool was one of the few metal-like bands that I ever liked, and even they are done. Lateralus was boring. King Crimson they are not, unless they change lineups, instrumentation, and compositional mindset. A good rock band they are, but they are now repeating themselves. Blink 182 has no choice but to do that—the musical well from which they drink was dry in the early 80s at the latest. Lemme see... a rock trio carrying on about what it is to be a teenager? The Who did that, didn't they? (Yes, I know, they had a singer too.)

I guess I am trying to erase things from my head. I would like to let a lot of stuff slip away before I take another serious stab at making music. Too many cliches out there cluttering things up so that the good ideas don't come through. Even my erstwhile hero, Mike Keneally, seems to be in a rut. It is sad. He is squandering his talent on some attempt to gain some pop credentials. He is on the verge of repeating himself now. If a talent like Keneally can get to that point, I don't really trust myself to make any significant waves. My creativity in music is gone. Even I am repeating myself, even as I consider it refining myself. I used to actively avoid playing by numbers, but when I got bored with that, I had to do something else, and even that has been a no go. I stopped relying on my crutches—the effects, the goofy editing, the other things I did to mask my unskilled playing. Sometimes I pulled off some neat stuff, or as my guitarist and buddy Todd said: "got lucky." My approach to music after foreswearing that method was to try my hand at forming a band. That was work, and I got enough payoffs to know the potential was good, but it never worked out for the usual reasons. And now I am just not sure music is the right way to channel my creativity. I need to find a new way to relate to it. Sometimes you just need to let all you have learned just settle in.

Part of what drove me to musical madness was the fact I knew too much. Not that I knew it and observed it to the letter. No, but with my addiction to music related news groups, I spent all my time learning how you can't make good music without the latest and greatest gear. Bullshit. Bull. Shit. The stuff that I did that still brings me unerring joy, was way underproduced, played badly, and not scripted. There is a ditty called "Everything is Better Wrapped in Bacon." It really is a hachet job. But every goddamned time I hear it, I am transported to a time when I just didn't care. When I broke rules. Or there were the times when I did rulebreaking stuff without even knowing. I just made the sounds I made, and worked it out to a finished piece. And I didn't tell myself that it was shit because some other recording hacks on the internet thought it was too compressed or too bright or too in tune or out of tune. I made stuff with the expectation that I would please myself, and anyone else was free to get on my bus. Now, I feel there is some level to match or exceed, after releasing my CD. It did raise the bar, but even 3-4 years after the fact, I didn't expect to be musically crippled in the wake of it, still not sure how to do that sort of work again.

I wake up to Debussy's La Mer every morning, but almost as quickly turn it off. Not because I don't want to hear it, but because I want it to matter to me later.

Monday
Jan262004

Addictive.com

(...With a tip of the hat to Michael K. who actually admitted to reading this journal.)

I don't really know what I am about to tell you, but the aforementioned MK (not Keneally) was just begging to have something new to read. Whatever. Some people! :^) So here I am. And there you are. Well, I assume you are. If not, who am I talking to? (Actually, WRITING to.) I am not really talking to any of you. But you get my drift. Actually I don't have a drift, and never had. But if I did, it would be teal and would operate on Mac OS 9 where I still operate. Actually, I am not licensed as a doctor, so I am therefore not allowed to operate. But I am aloud when I play drums. I play fairly loud. Some people wish that wasn't aloud, you know? You probably don't actually know, so you will have to take my word for it. But I hope you won't take it far. I need some of them. Without them, I would be speechless. Some people wish I was speechless. But I did well in speech class so they can shove it up their class. (I really did do exceedingly well in speech class last semester— #3 of 102 total students in my instructor's classes. Made me proud.)

Okay, so I'm stalling for time. I've been discovered. You want fries with that?

Well, among the couple of newsworthy things to take place since the last entry at the end of the year, I have to report that I have cracked the whip on myself (not literally, I don't play that rough) and made myself shut off the damned internet and stop screwing off at my computer needlessly like I did for the first two years I had it. Well, that has freed up a good deal of time to get back into the studio where I really belong. I can't believe how many hours I needlessly sacrificed to be on the net when I could have been recording or whatever. Well, I guess things happen for some reason. The net was a fascinating place for the time I was rabidly into it. But now I know what to expect in the certain corners of it that I frequent.

For one, repetition, repetition, repitition. In hanging out on a number of music and recording related boards and groups, certain topics are bandied about so freaking often its sick. I mean, how many times can people talk about preamps and compressors and the world's most underrated guitarists in one day? A month? A year? I don't really know. But finally I decided I'd been around that block too many times and had to get back to work, because my time has been more measured in the recent few months, and frankly, I worsened my depression by hanging out on the net as a substitute for other things. It surely cost me a lot of studio time, caused some relationship snags, and in some groups made me unpopular when I would sort of troll just to keep things interesting. The time on the net came at a turning point for me anyway, and I was really ready for something new, and well, I just got addicted. I mean, addicted. You know, like, it tells ME how life will be. You know how people smoke cigarettes when they wake up, then at meal times and after sex and all? I swear, that was me, but I was a net addict. In my most indulgent days, oh, maybe in early 2002, I was on the computer doing one thing or another for most of the 18 hours I was up. I suppose maybe it was 12 or more of those hours. I don't even know how, but I wasn't working and I sort of inched myself out of a social life. I also did my graphics related stuff (not even music then—I didn't have Pro Tools then, nor anything else). It was just prowling the same 5-10 groups over and over all day long. I later took to messaging with Doug in Texas, sometimes going at it for hours and hours. Doug is one of the few success stories I have to claim. Once we transcended the topics of preamps and what recorder sucks less or more, we got on with some good chat about a huge range of things.

There are people in some of those groups that write so many entries it is a wonder they have time to do anything else. I swear, I see some dudes on multiple groups, and it seems that nearly around the clock they have something to say on the same five topics, day in and day out. I can't for the life of me figure how in the world they have a chance to play or hold a day job. It baffles even me, who did clock some good time doing the same thing, often sans job or social life, or music. It just boggles my mind. When I got into the net, I was finishing my CD and was all excited about having the computer to do a little bit of everything—social life, art, some music (at least for listening), studying, promoting my CD, making web sites, etc. So I completely threw myself in head first. I would find any excuse to do something on the computer. The only thing I really didn't do was play games and buy porn (no, really!). Any excuse was good enough. It really was an addiction. If nothing else, it got me a little fatter and sedentary, and sort of kept me from having some other more varied and maybe even more real encounters with the world, even as it opened up a whole other world of its own. I would wake up and switch the computer on and spend an hour before work if I had any at all, and I would kiss it good night as late as I could, about 18 hours later. In between, I just couldn't peel myself away.

I guess there are worse things to be addicted to. Some can actually do real damage. But addiction is a pattern of behavior, and is basically the same rules apply to whatever the variable is. I guess I must have had some addiction before the computer, and it just transferred. I used to be addicted to cross referencing my life, and doing all sorts of introspective and sometimes destructive stuff by keeping myself acquainted with old events and experiences and people who maybe I should have let go of. Really, it tied up a lot of time. I didn't sit in one place, but it DID act in the same way as the computer later did. It consumed my energy and told ME how it was going to be. I think that the difference might be that some addictions only TAKE, and I do have to say that my time on the computer and the net is not all a waste. Certainly not. It did give, and it continues to give. But living out of balance certainly is a problem. I think moderation is called for. Just about anything is good in moderation. I guess I can aspire to that.

Oh yeah, I was going to talk about my studio time lately. I came up with a great hybrid system last week. Since all the gear is in the little room now, I feel a lot more like experimenting and at least getting ideas out and captured. But now I have made it so I can run Pro Tools from the little room while the full computer system is undisturbed in the other bigger room, complete with scanner/printer and all the other stuff. What I did was get a second mouse, keyboard and VGA monitor in the small room, and passed relevant audio cables from the PT system into the computer with the help of the little mouse hole between rooms. Now I am jazzed. I like all the flexibility of PT, and having all my instruments right near me. Now I got the best of both worlds. So far it is working for me. But I think I just got so damned frustrated at things that I just HAD to find something that would work. So now I am just committing myself to getting in there and getting something, anything out of myself.

Monday
Dec162002

Stuck In Neutral

The following is an email I wrote to my pastor after about a year of attending church and dating Kelli. I was pretty torn up. Jerry had been a confidant for me since 1987 and before.

Jerry:

I have finally decided I am more beset with paradox than I want to be. The topic to me is so massive I don't even know where to begin. I don't even think of myself as unique in my concerns. No doubt it's every living person's dilemma. It's just that my number is up.

In short, I guess I may as well put it on the table: for every good/decent/honest/well intentioned, etc. thing I do, I seem to be able to match that with something that undoes things as much or more. And for some years that led me to some self righteous indignation. I was never wrong, or could never fess to being wrong. Or I slipped by on a technicality. A loop hole. I'd be great in government or something. But al this has been making it hard for me. On one hand, I know I sit in church and hear what you have to say, and it registers deeper than ever. Ditto hearing stories of people and events on NPR radio (the only media I volunteer to listen to anymore). There is so much in the world that is hitting me like a ton of bricks, and all the while sometimes I fear that I am not adding anything to the whole ordeal. And I am simultaneously becoming aware that to not be part of the cure is to be a part of the problem. And it's paralyzing. And to me, it's working inside and out. I have mastered some damaging things so well I don't even realize it, yet I leave a wake of people who turn against me, some who are more explicit in explaining the where/how/why. But little by little it's not something that even needs to be explained. And sometimes I do that to myself. Or maybe often is more apt a word.

I sometimes still have thoughts that the world would not miss me much. I do think about that. And more than I did almost exactly ten years ago to the day when you and Judy bailed me out of such thoughts for that first spell. But now I have been around the block a few more times, and instead of being so inwardly turned and having such thoughts only because I myself feels bad, I have my finger on the pulse of the world more than ever. Inner and outer life. Myself and others. And I STILL am not happy. It's less me than ever, but it's still as murky for me as it was then. I have wildly conflicting views on life due to the radically opposed backgrounds presented to me by the different sides of my family. It was a year ago this coming evening that the last shot was fired between my mom and I in that flurry of emails that spelled doom for us. Again. At the time, I felt not happy, but more like it was back to normal. I have not heard from her since. Nor anyone else. It's an all or nothing thing. And I know it's as wrong as can be. But in the three times that we have had any mutual relations, it's been doomed. And I just can't buy that it's my fault. Have I made mistakes with her? Sure. Have I done them twice? Sure. I guess I don't need to say that all that is just such a messed up blueprint for me—torn edges, drink stains, cigarette burns and sun fading. I simply was not given some things that I think make a person whole. I know everyone must feel that too, but I have finally been coming to such conclusions.

But if I were to brush aside all my direct personal woes, that doesn't change that I finally sense the fear of war—it's not a plastic model or a book, or a piece of hardware at an air show. It's not just on the other side of the world. It's not just my grandfather's era, or my dad's. It not far away. If I was two years younger, it might have been me drawn into it. On one hand, I feel cheap for not serving the country and being one of those guys that gets lauded for actually doing something of merit, even at the age of 18. And now I am 29, and really am in some odd place. Like everyone who had been there promised me, I now wonder where some of my best years went. Yet, I try to tell myself that there are no such things as "best" years. But assuming that youth and some degree of vitality go hand in hand, lets just say that I blew it in some regards. And now it's hitting me. Dodging some things that would have done me better in the character department, outwardly and inwardly. But I literally feel paralyzed some days. Like I just dropped a box of puzzle pieces and have not the will or skill to put things together right. Not for me, not for anyone.

Which, I guess brings me to the Kelli question. This year, she has been the greatest ray of light, the stabilizing force for me. I really could see marrying her. But I absolutely can't tell what she sees in me sometimes. Really can't. It's hard for me to think on one hand how high she sets her standards for things she will and won't take, and then is with some guy like me who really doesn't have his shit together. Sometimes I think or fear that she will wake up from some dream and will not be so happy. Granted, we are rooted in each other's histories a lot more than we were with anyone else, and that it's connected to the church is all the more significant. But sometimes the cold hard facts settle in with me. One of the things that I have been vocal about is that I really can't stomach the thought of having kids. That's the other side of the fact that I want to put family back together if I can. Paradox. If I can't look back and get my mom's family on my side, the logical thing is to start one of my own and make it a point to do better that that to the greatest extent. But my dilemma is that I, as a sensitive human being in training, can't even find it a humane thing to do in this world. Oh, I know the lines about 'you never know if your kid will be the next Einstein, Gandhi or MLK jr.' True, I don't know that. But what I do know as a hardened realist, is that the world probably doesn't need to added population and all that that taxes the environment and society. Some third world country will probably be able to do that for me. But I have to say, I have a really dim view of the world, lightened only by the things I hear you preach of. And remember, I didn't hear any of that for about ten years, and they were not the years I would look upon as happy or content, fulfilling or fair. I never recharged my batteries. I never did much to challenge my own dim view of things, and I know well enough that there is more to do in that department. But part of my gift to humanity, in my somewhat warped view, is to NOT have kids. They may be a few fewer kids who get abused, or a few fewer kids that go hungry, or that suffer from hunger or discrimination, or divorce, or get killed in a drunken accident, or an overdose, or in a war that has no clear intent, or ultimately, winners. I don't know. It could be warped, or it could be the greatest idea to come down the pike since Kennedy. But it's one of those things that causes some difficulty in a relationship, and Kelli has been nothing but an angel this year, and we aren't deep into plans. Still, it's a tall order to suggest to a young woman who likely has a family in her plans. Who knows, maybe I am the best qualified father-in-waiting because I have seen this from a good number of angles. But I'm not going to give myself that much credit. I'm a guy who is at odds with a lot of the world as it appears at the present. Born too late or something. I just don't wake up in the morning and kid myself. So I am perpetually depressed.

I don't know if I told you, but for several months from late summer 2000 till about early summer 2001, I was taking some antidepressants. They worked. I liked it. It leveled me out and let me think straight. I was in some talk therapy at ECS on Bonnie's ref. Then I began school. Less than a month later, my grandmother died. Then it was time for my dad and I to have a match that was unlike any before (not loaded with grandmother/property issues alone—no, we had to tackle the whole mom/sister/1973 thing too. It was epic). But we shook off enough old issues that things have been on the level for the time since then, and even being pieced back together again, but more on my terms. But all the while, with the antidepressants and talk and general effort to combat the demons, I was not doing much with music. Not enough. Not nearly what I do when I am filled with angst and really allow myself the liberty to let my opinions and vitriol shine. But either I have not been angst ridden, or Kelli has occupied my time, or I have not had the time or will to do music. And in recent weeks, I feel that I have been denying that important part of me. But that tree only gives fruit when I hate the world and succumb to all sorts of stuff I would never purposely seek out as a healthy person. On one hand, Kelli and I are doing peaceful domestic things—watching movies, talking, listening to music, field trips, acting like kids with a clean slate on life. On a lot of levels that is deeply satisfying. But I also have a very outfitted studio that is going to waste, and a head full of musical ideas that I have not been granting the time to escape to recordings. It used to be the only thing that mattered. After over two years of not doing anything but trying failed band projects, I am getting that frustration and angst that usually feeds a creative but emotionally charged frenzy. And that may butt heads with all the more steady things that have been harder earned, like the Kelli time. And we have had a few encounters over this issue. And I don't have answers for her how to deal with both. In my mad recording days, I never had a girlfriend enough to "get in the way", and in the days when I have a girlfriend who is one of the few people who can mellow some of my wilder thoughts, I haven't made music much. But I feel that the muse is knocking and I had better answer soon. So that almost puts me into a Jeckll/Hyde situation. Angst is about the only thing that *motivates* me to do music in the way I like to do it. It's the stuff that gets me to block out other stuff.

Okay, I've been at this for almost two hours, and it's past 3:30. If nothing else, I've jostled some things loose. I know there are reams more lurking, and I do want to shake it out. It's like poison to me as it is now. As always, I appreciate your presence, and don't think I didn't miss it in that ten year black out.

Thanks

ed

Saturday
Dec232000

The Big Letter to Shelby—Time and Space, Unraveled

With the writing of this letter, I basically brought a dozen years of emotional enthusiasm to a standstill. What started in 1988 as a massively hope-filled encounter with her at a church Christmas play and after party crashed and burned exactly 12 years and five days later after a few hours' reconnection the day after she returned from a nearly 2.5 year stint in Tanzania for the Peace Corps. We sometimes called ourselves "space" and "time" because she was the traveling one and I was the one who tended to have a memory of things and was always seeking meaning in events. She was well traveled and I was quite rooted in San Diego. I wrote long letters, but ones that were far more restrained and measured than this one which just dives in and says everything that had been stacking up for all the years of our relationship, but particularly in the Peace Corps time. I knew I was losing my ability to keep on with my fanciful notions of our friendship ever turning into something "real," i.e., overtly amorous. Until I found this, I forgot that I had basically written a similar blowout letter to her at the end of August four months before. That it did not arrive in her hands was cause for a lot of consternation for me. I really wanted to not see her face to face without this message having been conveyed. So the day after she returned, I went to her mom's house and she showed off all sorts of items from Africa. We went to lunch and had an awkward experience that nearly perfectly mirrored one from 1991. We went to Costco and got her amazing volume of photos done in one hour. While there, I made a gesture of sitting next to her and she sprung up like she sat on a tack. On the way out, I told her I had been in touch with Robin during 2000, in an effort to start mending my life. Shelby told me Robin was "a rock in [my] garden." It was a tense experience that day that brought up all the wrong stuff and finally I broke. I came home and wrote this letter, and just as soon as I ran it through a copy machine, I drove it straight out to her mom's house and stuck it in the mailbox, not wanting to mail it on account of it being a Saturday night during the few days before Christmas. This had to happen NOW. I don't remember if there were any calls, but the months following had a few sharp tongued emails that were just as bad as I could have imagined, Shelby tearing into me for "falsifying the pretenses of our relationship and demeaning it in the way that [I] did." I took the opportunity to finally say more that isn't quite so pining as this. Crash and burn. It was a period that lasted as long as my schooling. Hopefully I learned a few lessons along the way. It was sometimes an arduous thing to put myself through. 

Images and more commentary appear in the Friends and Skool Daze galleries.

Shelby—

I can't fucking believe I need to write this letter again. Damn postal service! But I can't just let it slide past 1/3/2k1 [Shelby's short stay in San Diego was ending less than two weeks after she got back from Tanzania two days before this letter was originally written]. 

I don't know how to start. Twelve years of starry optimism may just be on its way out. I've enlisted the help of a few friends: Kevin Gilbert, Jeff Buckley, Nik Kershaw, Karl Strauss, and Radiohead. All the ideas here were generated while sober but the balls to put it on paper is Karl Strauss' fault.

To be blunt, I can't help but wonder where the trajectories of our respective sides of our relationship cross. And I'm only all abuzz right now because another year of confusion is simply intolerable. I should have done this in '98, but clammed. That's all I ever do around you (particularly so in person, like in '95). Our relationship is, except for a few days or weeks every few years, intangible. It's abstract. Imaginary. It only exists on paper, in space, in my heart—and I'll dare say, in yours too, though the huge question mark is to what degree it exists in your heart. Presently, and um, in the future

At the heart of this letter is my assertion that you're a very interesting, exceptional person. I've never changed my tune since we met 12 years ago. It's something I thought then and still believe it today. But to be frank, I want to move closer to your flame. It's something I've seen from afar for a long time. I know you turned this sort of thing down in the past. It's something at the front of my mind every time I think I've got the balls to speak up, but clam up instead because of the feeling that timing wasn't right. Well, fuck timing. I've stirred in this for so long now I've had ridiculous delusions. I'd not be one bit surprised to hear you say the same ting as you did when I propositioned you in high school [images of the naive personal ads are in the Friends gallery] and right afterwards. But for me to not try anyway is stupid. We're maybe almost ten years older than then. We aren't the same people. Things have changed for us both. It's not beyond the realm of reason to bring up currently relevant issues and give it another shot. I don't know what went into your declining my advances then, but I can understand. But now that the stakes are higher and we have a lot more history to support such discussion, I simply can't settle for imaginary relationships.

In one way I see our relationship deepening, but falsely so. I'm perfectly content to say nice things about you and my compliments are genuine, both between us directly and in my comments about you to other people. Any of my letters that "dug in" to personal dymanics and relationship talk were meant to hook you some. Why kid around? I think you're a great person and would like to escalate our involvement, despite such distance we are used to. I'm not even in a hurry—not in a hurry for that, especially after the whirlwind that was the Robin period. I saw that quick [plunge into a relationship] didn't suit me. So what's left? I'd not yet had a relationship that few over time into one that could support such levels of commitment.

The fact is, you're a person I could, in a strange way, envision that scenario working out. I respect you. I know you're a very "together" person on your own. I never had a chance to develop that perspective in advance of a relationship before—before heavy drama played itself out without the infrastructure to support it. It was the story of a castle built on sand. Look at how much baggage I carried after that episode. I'm scared of meeting people for that reason alone—girls, obviously, because they could crash like they did with Robin and I'd have shown no progress or growth even after years since breaking up with Robin. I've since mellowed in my assessment of Robin, but the relationship still has things to teach me. Sure, I've tried to let it go, but I wanted to raise the bar and try not to be caught like that again. As a result, I haven't yet met anyone that suits my current picture of what a relationship should be. Sarah came as close to that as I think I'll get, but she wouldn't go for it. She let me in on some things well after the fact—things I've taken to heart and tried to fix.

Sarah was to me a microcomic version of you, scaled to about one sixth of our experience. What saddened me is that it didn't pan out. It's useful lifespan was about a year. I got a lot of brushoffs from her; discreet ones. I'm not telling you this because I think you're a last resort. Contrary! You've always been the north star for me. I have no shame in saying that. Everyone else I've seen has been measured against some picture I had in my head about something that might exist between you and I. 

I'm not dense. I can read your letters and see things that tell me "no." I guess I just have a vision. I've had it for a dozen years. I don't know how I could top anything I've said to you already. I've laid it on thick for years. And you're not going for it. I'm not surprised as much as I'm baffled. Baffled at such gestures as avoiding any physicality except a hug or a knee slap or whatever. I still don't know what makes you tick. Maybe that's the hook for me. I may never actually figure you out, but the sport of trying is interesting. I guess I don't know what makes you jump up to avoid my sitting next to you, like at Costco today. The standoffish bit is funny sometimes but as regularly as it happens worries me. Do you just not like people at close range? Has anything I've said or written done anything to bridge the gap, even after 12 years? Does it offend you to be close to someone who is seeking your trust and compassion? Would another 73 years help? Does a head on your shoulder scare you? Do you need to put your head on anyone's shoulder? Forgive me but sometimes your independence bothers me if only because it distances me (at least) from having anything more than a spoken relationship and entry/exit hugs. I just marvel at the absence of such simple contact. It made sense in school, but after ten year of growth and change, love and loss, it seems that a 12 year old friendship could support some random contact. I feel so awkward needing to analyze it all this way. I wish I could just put my head on your shoulder, or vice-versa, and have the message come across from that gesture alone.

Maybe you do that on purpose. I dunno. There's so much speculation, empty spaces and gaps to fill in on my own, things I don't know about you. I also feel the pinch when I need to police my every word and action sent your way. Even before my early '95 Robin/abortion letter [Shelby's delayed holiday card response] I had to bite my tongue or hold back, lest you disappear for a while. I guess that day at the church with Judy was the model for how easily you're set off. For all I've told you, there's a lot that got put away because in self-censorship I decided not to risk it. Distance is already great enough between us and silence is no icing on that cake. I have a bunch of letters just filed away, some barely started, some almost finished, some in envelopes and so on. I didn't think it would be right to send them. They date back to 1994. Yet, a lot of them are good.

As I said, regardless of what your response is to this chatter, I can't let the next year slip by with this issue not being addressed. In fact, I need to wash my hands of it. I have far too many other relationships to work on now with my mom and family back in the fold. Key relationships, all. My dad and I just might as well have erased four years of progress in one day. I have to see that set straight, or at least my end of the bargain. I still consider you a key relationship but in the realization you may never look my way I just need clarity. Sure, I almost expect a ready "no" unless there's some wild card up your sleeve, but my sad realization is that since our relationship exists on papers and in my head, I don't know what there is beyond that. Our in-person visits are few and far between; strained at times and amazing at others. If I were to withdraw love interest from my end of the relationship I'm not sure what would remain because it's been my main focus for three years now, and one that obviously goes back to 1988. I'm scared that could be the case. You have been a real charge for me at times, a genuine friend that keeps it all going, and part of my interest in you is that we've had some elasticity over the years. That makes me believe in it. I think you're a beautiful person inside and out, and to be honest, I can't think of someone I'd rather have a chance with—someone I respect, someone interesting in tangible and intangible ways; someone who dared to be kind to me and others; someone unique. Those are some top-of-the-list things for me. I haven't met anyone ('cept Sarah, maybe) who lined up points like those. I'm willing to understand your wanderlust because it's one of the things that makes you someone I dig. I can't guarantee it, but you ma not meet someone who has the perspective of time to get to know this about you. You may meet people more impressive than I, whatever definition you give that, but I stake my claim. I saw that in you first!

[Here's where it gets interesting, particularly with the characters involved!]

At this point, I'm going to throw all caution to the wind. My friend Kelli and I had a few beers over a game of pool in March '98. I told her all about our little parking lot meeting [8/10/97] and told her how abuzz I was that you'd be back in San Diego after some five years and more. She responded with this line after I spewed forth a bunch of pro-Shelby talk:

"Why don't you just ask her to marry you?"

Yeah. Why the fuck not?

"Shelby, will you marry me?"

THERE! I said it! Something! Anything!

Amen.

If I never hear from you again, I'll understand. But I hope I do. Sorry for the mixed tone of this letter. Twelve years is a long time to be latent. I love you.

ed

Wednesday
Jun121991

Life At The Top

The following is where my introspective journal writing career started. I am posting this exactly 20 years to the day after I first wrote it on a small pad of paper on the day following my graduation from high school. I had been so surprised at the stream-of-consciousness recollection of thoughts and feelings and memories that within the next week and a half, I typed it on my word processing typewriter. (It had about two lines of text viewable before committing to ink, and a bad set of punctuation keys that didn't actually register the mark properly so periods and other marks I had to put in by hand.) I gave that typed copy to a few people mentioned in the journal. What I didn't realize when I did this new transcription of this entry was that the manuscript and the typed version were rather different. I was working from the typed one and only found after all but a page or two that I really should have used the original! I immediately set about reviewing and fixing things so they more closely resemble the manuscript. However, since it was pretty sloppy and written so fast, there are a range of small fixes I decided to implement, but the spirit of the original was reinstated, even as it is sometimes rather unflattering. I was surprised at how much the typed version deviated from the manuscript: cleaner and better structured at times, but there were some notably distorted parts that I wanted to bring back. Interesting to see how much of my present concerns or insights were in place at this early date. There are a few [bracketed editorial marks] to fill in some of the incomplete references, but pretty much this is what I wrote that day. Pictures that appear here might be found in the Skool Daze gallery, with even more notes. Thumbnails here will pop up upon clicking.

scan of the original manuscript of my first epic journal entryLife at the Top original manuscript

June 12, 1991

("The Day After the End of My Life")

Dear Reader,

I've given it much thought, what it is I've felt so good about in the past few months that should so compel me to want to pass it on. I am a very reflective person, some would say, who is living in the past. But with a past such as mine, who can't help but appreciate the present and look forward to the future?

I've never experienced a turnaround quite like that of my transition into high school, and later, my senior year at Madison. I've had so many people tell me what a change they have seen in me. (99% is for the better.) I usually think a great deal. I began thinking some two years ago about an event that happened some four years ago, about a month before I began high school. I had been a less-than-desirable person to know until that point. Looking back, I can see in 20/20 that what went on one August day on the grass at a church picnic was nothing short of incredible. And who knows? Maybe an act of God? Let me tell you about it. Inevitably it will be very detailed and nebulous as I try to make a connection of two in this, my little record of my thoughts.

I was never too well liked by many people. I was the type who could draw dissent. I was the opposite of charismatic, whatever that might be. I was making wrong turns at every corner. I imagine it was a leftover from elementary school experiences. I just did many things that made me disliked. Comments, actions, and so on. That day in '87 at Crown Point, I had been up to my usual mischief, being myself. I was being reckless on my bike around people, perhaps even endangering them. At the same time I had to choose between having "headgear" or having teeth pulled as part of orthodontic work. (As it was, I opted originally for pulling teeth.) I didn't want to wear headgear for the simple reason of the looks of it (certainly not at high school!) and for all the embarrassment that was sure to follow. Anyhow, everyone suggested to go the headgear route and take a little embarrassment. So I decided to take it up with Jerry in a talk. Well, to make a long story longer, I'll say that the problem with my attitude and my orthodontic decision came together that day.

scan of my report cards from 8th grade to 9th, with a wild upward shift evidentMy grades from 8th grade to 9th grade... notice the radical changeJerry took me aside to talk to me about my concerns over the headgear, as well as to tell me that he'd gotten a few complaints and/or suggestions about what directions my attitude about things was going. Needless to say, much got said that day. I can't remember what we talked about, but when we were done it was clear that something in me had changed.

Upon entering ninth grade, I had noticed a change. I had my braces, my headgear and a refreshed attitude toward some people. The thing that comes mind was a personality change that had come over me. Granted, there was some old me lingering, but I had a new chance to do things. The most noticeable change was my grades, which had been in places I had never seen. And the grades continued on the way up. I got some respect from people. I'll be back to this…

Quickly skimming through school...

shelby duncan in one of her goofy i-can't believe-i-am-with-ed-in-this-pic posesAll I needed to know about Shelby, I knew by my graduationOne of the other important people in my life is Shelby Duncan. Shelby is one of the most important people in my life, and one who I love very much. She was a major trauma [sic—people have asked me about this word but I knew what I was talking about] in my life. Life hasn't been the same since the night that I met her. December 18, 1988 was a turning point. If 8/5/87 was my entry into learning to be better liked, 12/18/88 was the night that taught me how to love. Arguably so, but I think June '89 wouldn't have happened if I didn't meet Shelby.

Shelby is the one girl that is my age that I loved the day I met her and continue to love. My love for her isn't for the way she looks. There are other places I could go to find better looking girls. Shelby is…Shelby, and I love her for it. She is a good person. I will always remember when we met, and under what circumstances. I'll remember what we did and talked about; how I felt; how inspired I was in a sea of insecurity. I could see that what went on that night was the start of a new chapter for me. The strangest thing is that she seemed to take an interest in me, which is what we all need. We talked about much. I told her things about myself that next to no one could have known. It was an amazing, free feeling. Something I had never been able to manage was actually communicating (a basic human necessity) with people my own age. Now there was not a problem with it. I miss those older days when we first met. There were some disappointments and more than a year went by before we actually talked like that, person-to-person, via AT&T. In February of '90 I expressed my concern for our friendship. We began to be able to talk seriously once again and in doing so, cleared some air.

Shelby (God, I love that name!) returns love in strange a strange manner. Shelby, to me, is one of those people whose love doesn't come back in what might be thought of as a usual way. Shelby is one of those people who makes you feel good about yourself—gives you confidence just by knowing her. It's all weird. Hard to explain. Sometimes it seems as if it's one-sided but now and then we in some way reaffirm our friendship for each other.

I know that in tenth grade, another change over me. I'm not sure if I should attribute it all to Shelby. Maybe, but we'll let historians figure it out. (Me, in five years!) [That's actually part of the original entry!] I'll return to Shelby for the section on 12th grade.

ed at drums, 1989My first drumset, dug out of the corner where it sat for five years

Eleventh grade was an improvement on tenth, but still had more shocks in store. I went into 11th grade with two significant things having taken place: I went in 100% dependent on church and its activities (church junkie). I also made the transition away from building plastic models to enjoying music and playing it (mind, I wasn't very good). I had been pounding around on the drums and got hooked on the stuff. People gave me more respect.

I took morality seriously. I also gained insight into peoples' actions because I was involved with people. I had personal problems that surfaced. I became much more human than before. I got acquainted with emotions. It was a growth-ful time. The summer of '90 was stressful, to say the least. I had been depressed since May that year. Problems with work, boredom at church and church activities, other people's bad news at Shalom group, routine… it was all getting me down and I didn't have an outlet for it. The car accident on August 1st and the resulting tension in the family wasn't helpful. Everything ganged up on me at once, including problems with my dad. It all got me down. I wondered about suicide. I wondered if I could keep all this stuff with me. I talked it over with Jerry and I came out ahead once again. I guess I felt detached from my church, see how much time I'd lost by being at work. Looking back, if I had seriously considered the other side, I'd have missed so much and I can't bring myself to consider what would not have happened if I did kill myself. All I can say is that summer '90 sucked and I came out a wiser person. business card to the command post store where I workedThe Command Post where I worked my first jobYes, I lost my job, but it really wasn't for me any longer. I never thought I'd say this, but I didn't appreciate life until I got back into school. Let me tell about 12th grade.

TWELFTH GRADE!!! I can't believe it. All of it was incredible. I wasn't a dynamic year [with the heaves and sighs of the prior year], but it showed off for the first time what I could do and be. It wasn't dynamic; it was awesome. Twelfth grade started for me when I got the senior pictures taken. It was then that I realized what I could do as a senior. It foreshadowed what '90-'91 would become for me. After canceling the session twice earlier in the summer, I finally went in late August. And I'm happy I did. The experience itself was one to make me happy. I walked out of the studio with a smile (a leftover from the session). I finally felt the urge to do the things my dad told me to do…that is, to get involved. I never denied how much better things would be if I was active in school. a respectable pic from my senior poses. sorry for the glasses. the drum was nice and new thoughOne of the posed shots that came out pretty alrightI just made excuses. In my senior year, I decided there would be no more of that. I walked into a world of things and feelings that had been unseen, and unexperienced by my senses. Let me try to describe 12th grade.

I started it with an enthusiasm that I imagine all seniors have. It was the "last year" attitude. The Senior Ego, if you will. Whatever it is, I caught draft of it. In class, I became more assertive and too more risks than before. Big risks—like talking to people and being myself. The best part of it was that I didn't feel insecure about doing it. I became much more outgoing for the better. I met new people and older acquaintances became closer. I lost a great deal of my fear of people. school newspaper with article on the new exchange studentsTALON article on the incoming exchange studentsOn the first week or so, I met Stephan Rau. He is (was) a German exchange student. I didn't get to know him well until February. In the mean time, we talked and got to know something of each other. I didn't give it much thought that he'd become one of my closest friends, and I his. I'll return to Stephan in more detail. How couldn't I?

Back in class, I became more assertive and took more risks than usual. They were risks such as talking to people, answering questions, being myself and being proud of it. Basically I became much more outgoing. I met new people and became closer to older acquaintances. I lost fear of people. a progress report from journalism class with a rather undignified C- grade and a needs improvement mark for citizenship. also mentions making some trouble in the editing roomI wasn't always the objective journalist you see before you...Accidentally I became a member of the school paper, the TALON. Also accidentally I ended up on the drum line, until the season was canceled. I joined the Future Educators of America group out of an interest in becoming a teacher, partially inspired by my third grade teacher, Mrs. Charlotte Eastland.

I remember one night in the first week of the senior year (September 2, 1990), when I laid awake thinking until 2 am. I must have thought about a million things. I know I had history and its importance on my mind, inspired by government teacher, Mr. Steinmetz. I thought about love: who I love; who loves me; how it can touch you. I thought about how insincere relationships are. I thought of so many things I wanted to say. I also thought of my past, of Eda, whom I love very much and how I've been touched by her love. [We were in clandestine, secret correspondence around this time, and reunited openly early in 1992.]

Once I got up the next day, I made it a point to confront Mrs. Eastland with the idea of passing my thoughts onto her kids. She and I talked for a few hours one day after school. She and I talked about things for hours that day. Eastland has made a bigger mark on me in a few days than the year that I was in her class! It was another one of those talks—one that gives you the strength to do anything, and anything less is criminal. It was so inspiring that I'd feel bad if I didn't do my damnedest to live up to their hopes. I had felt so good that others had sincere confidence in me. The talk never happened in the classroom but I dropped in on my days off to help out in class. I enjoyed working with the fourth graders. I've always been a person who looked up to role models and I fully understand how important it is to kids to have one. I wanted to much to become one, and to pass along what's been given to me.

In the real world, I was enjoying sharing my Rush or Jethro Tull. I was somewhat proud of seeing my work in the TALON. Drums Across California (DAC) taught me a little about drumming before the instructor dropped it on account of people goofing off. All my other classes were okay. Computer class sucked but I became a minor cult figure in there, as in others. Teacher Mary Wavrik was a bitch, but hey! She's entitled to be. Math I had to work on, with a lot of Phil Calabrese's help. Government class was a great experience. I was about #3 in the class and many looked up to me, which is a great feeling for those who don't get that kind of treatment often. Mr. Steinmetz is a care-full teacher who has a great deal of love for his students and wants to see them succeed. He is well liked and I'd rank him one of the top three teachers I've had, if not #1. If I ever become a teacher, I'd like to be like him. This is the class in which I met Stephan. We both think Steinmetz is the best teacher.

steve rau at dinner the night before graduation. handsome fellow, he.Steve RauRight now I am finding it hard to go not telling what a great year I had without mentioning and indeed telling about Stephan Rau. So much happened after I became acquainted with him that it is not easy to not say anything about him.

In a sea of superficiality, there lie islands of sincerity that lie uncharted. A friend. None of us can do without one. This what I discovered, and wondered how I ever got along without one. I found out what it is to have and to be a friend.

Stephan helped bring out the best in me. He is like Shelbdweeb (sic) in that I could be completely at east and be much more relaxed. I felt good by just knowing he was there. Happily we became good friends…well, in one night. For most of the first semester, having him over at lunch and stuff like that. I told him about my experience taking German class and all that stuff. I told him that I'd be sure to go see a movie or laser show with him, etc. Except I had no transportation [he lived about seven miles away in Tierrasanta] so nothing got done. Sadly we lost some valuable time. (My name, Edward "procrastination" Loring Lucas.") That seems to be my life story but as is my senior year, I made the best of what I had. Fortunately, not too late. Finally I decided that time was being wasted and I would not let that happen. His American stay was nearly half over and all I did was make lame excuses. Over the five or six months that we really became better friends, we've do so many things it's unbelievable. We've seen movies, laser shows, races, car shows, Balboa Park, Seaport Village, Julian. Pacific Beach… so much it's hard to believe. And that's only scratching the surface. That's only the things we've done. Talking with him is as easy as talking to Shelby, if not easier.

Thinking back to one Sunday in February—the 17th—I can remember when I realized Stephan would become one of my closest friends. It was completely amazing. I am rarely at ease quite like I was that day. We talked about everything under the sun. We spoke of religion (which I rarely talk about), friendship, love, God, spontaneity, education, intimidation, music, not having a mother, family, careers, life, philosophy (our own), and the list goes on and on. As you can infer, anytime you can talk like that to someone about all that, you're bound to become close. We talked about things we've never mentioned to others before. Of course, we were stuck for something to say the next day, but there was a bond very well established.

One of the most noticeable qualities about our friendship has been that when I am with him, I can do anything. I'm not scared. We functioned like a team. Sidekicks. I was confident. We became like brothers and began to think alike. He was something of a brother to me. But more than a brother. Knowing him freed me from a binding shell that kept me to myself. I'm not sure whether I would have been able to free myself. It was something I'm not sure if I could have broken out of. But now I am much more sure of myself. I felt so much better about myself and others, and I'm sure it rubbed off on him. He was here at a crucial time in my life. Many elements in my life came together.

February 10th was one of my favorite memories from 12th grade. It was the first time I'd seen Shelby in eight months. She had been going to night classes near my house so I got a chance to see her twice a week for a precious few minutes. But from the end of her classes about this time last year until February, all I communicated with her was over the phone. So as you might imagine, February 10th was a very happy day for me, being able to have two of my closest friends together. I also met Trudi Lepique, another exchange student from Germany who later became my prom date. Shelby is always pretty to my mind but that day was even better. It was classic. We went to Balboa Park and enjoyed a few hours together. The four of us… we were only four one other time, but for me it was absolutely lovely. It was an inspiring day. Stephan and I continued to do stuff on the weekends.

the two performance wonder band subliminal gestures, formed just for the talent show and named well after the fact.Subliminal GesturesSometime in February I was asked to play in the talent show at school. Once again, I took up the invitation. Carpe Diem, as I learned from watching Dead Poets Society with my youth group just a couple years before.

TS '91 marked what I'd say was my highest point in high school, socially speaking. It was a #1 desire to get up and play live in front of an audience at school. I had the strongest desire to do it for nearly a year. I'll tell you now, it was simply a dream come true. The show kicked minor ass and boosted me to a small time celebrity status which was nice. A new thing to me was people I didn't know telling me what they thought [specifically a girl I'd never met complimenting the show later that same weekend at a carnival event held on campus but otherwise not a school function]. I didn't hear any negative comments. I wanted it so badly but it [forming a band around Tull and Rush influences] kept eluding me. Finally, when it did happen, it happened. We did it royally. But alas it was over.

the infamous have you seen me poster with giant print and one picture of katrina foster the australianKatrina Foster, aka WombatOut of the TS '91 came the infamous HAVE YOU SEEN ME? poster. That was great. I won't go into it except to say that if a little stung for April Fool's day did something like lose me some "friends," well, I'd like to offer my thoughts on how superficial friendships are here. It was fun, and I don't really care if I don't know Kate and Wombat (Katrina) because it was a joke and meant to be taken as such.

A prom. You are supposed to go to yours in 12th grade or be a loser ("Huh!" [an in-joke saying with Ross Shekleton from the Command Post, "Huh! Loser!"]). I had been warned by my dad to make all efforts to go. I didn't have a clue who to ask. I asked Shelby but got the response that I expected. However she thought it would be cute for me to ask Trudi while she was interested in Stephan. Well, that's not what I had in mind. After asking about five girls, I eventually got Trudi [thanks to Shelby setting us up]. I have no gripes about that. putting on trudi's corsage at her house. she looks pretty angelic with her pulled back hair and black dress and red corsage.Trudi LepiqueI had a fine time and think it was more special for the two of us. Over in Germany, they don't have such things. I mean, an American can go to as many proms as s/he wants but it wouldn't be the same. I got my answer a short week before prom. Time enough to get dressed up nicely and get fixed up with a cool car and dinner at Tom Ham's Lighthouse. No, I didn't get laid, but hey, that's okay. I'll live. (Well… she would not get any complaints from me.) Actually Trudi was very beautiful. Shelby was good to me and fixed me up with three rolls of pictures. It was enjoyable. I had warned Trudi in advance that I couldn't dance, and I guess I proved it! Oh well. Big deal.

Getting back to serious stuff. I'd like to talk about the last few weeks of school. Particularly Tech Math class.

a progress report for algebra class: F in academics, Excellent in citizenship.Here is why I needed the tech math (geometry) class: I can't hack algebra!I took tech math in order to pass high school, and it seems the whole class did too. Much of the time I got the highest grade in class for the semester I had the class. That took some getting used to. As you may know, I am no math genius. Usually I never get the highest grade in math! The high grades put me in demand in that class for the cheaters. The teacher, Fred Hueneberg, is not known to be anyone's favorite teacher. Generally, far from it. The whole class took the course in hopes (assumption?) that it would be incredibly easy. For me it was almost that, but most people there didn't get it and blamed the teacher for their crappy grades. It they want to screw around, fine. Most of them did, but only a few actually made an effort to pass, although it was pretty late to do any good. I was volunteered to tutor Tina Murphy and Tina Moraga when they decided that the time had come to get out. I agreed because I had known Tina Moraga since first or second grade and I felt for her. I didn't want to fail, nor did I not want to not help her. I seriously thought she couldn't she could get by, but I was in for a surprise.

The week before school got out I tutored those two Tinas in geometry. It was pretty basic stuff but they didn't have a handle on it and I did. The test that we took the next day was nothing short of shocking when we got it back. One got the same grade as me—an A—and the other got one point less, still an A-. I used all the positive encouragement that I could, for at times it got a bit hairy. Tina Moraga lacks a lot of basic understanding for math and admits defeat early and gets emotional. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased with the chapter test results, and was willing to do more. All we had to worry about was a little final. We met three more times and crammed. In the end of the math episode, I don't think either of them passed (certainly not well), but math is not what I wanted to teach them.

Ed (not Ed) Guerra joined us and we enjoyed some math. The tutoring was therapeutic for me. I got a chance to learn about my students. Tina Moraga is a fragile person. She doesn't have self confidence. She doesn't believe in herself and I think no one else but her very closest friends do. Sadly, Tina has been told that she can't do stuff. Even more sad is the fact that she believes the ones who tell her the negative things. She's playing their game. Her boyfriend isn't terribly supportive offer and I've watched how he can (possibly) unintentionally hurt her. To me it is a shame that Tina is being so mistreated. She is a good girl; I love her because I understand what she's going through. I've had people tell me what I can't do. And if that's all you hear, you begin to believe it. Tina isn't all brains but she has a youthful energy that I believe if she puts it in the right direction can take her anywhere. I am her friend and am concerned about her.

Her life has been—pardon my French— shitty. She has had incredibly family problems that obviously left their mark on her. It's just a shame that Tina is so taken advantage of. It now bothers me when I hear someone talk about her negatively. Just yesterday I hear someone call her a bimbo. If it wasn't ten minutes from graduating, I felt like knocking that guy around for offering the unsolicited comment. It's just that I know what she is going through and couldn't stand for it to happen me, and I hate seeing it happen to her.

During the tutoring, I didn't allow negative comments. I told them to think positively and advised them on how to take a test. I offered my complete faith in them. I drew strength from Tina, Tina, and Ed (not Ed). I hope I inspiring for them. While we had those three hour sessions, I gained an understanding of them and myself. I saw myself in many people this year, those three included. I knew what it was like to be where they were and I put myself in their shoes. If I were them, I'd not want to be let down.

The three of them passed school but I don't think they passed the test. I hope I instilled some self confidence in Tina Moraga. I am so happy for them and am glad that I had a chance to be a part of their success. I just want to be a friend. Good luck to Tina (x2) and Ed (not Ed). Thanks! [The Ed (not Ed) think is a slight reference to the band Was (not Was), but without knowing anything about them but their odd name.]

Well, twelfth grade has been a relatively uneventful year. —NOT!!! To the contrary. It combined the finest elements from my life. In it can be found renewed friendships with people from my childhood, academic success, youthfulness, seriousness, and the love that's been given to me all along that only recently I've been able to give back through new outlets.

[Here's where I am profoundly embarrassed to have transcribed this so faithfully in 2011. Just suspend your disbelief! I'll pardon your groaning. I am groaning myself. I told you I came from a conservative family, pretty well shaped by the military.]

me at my drumset with a small flag stuck into the hardware in front of me, and on the wall behind is a pretty big american flag. during the height of the Persian Gulf war.Trust me, I'm groaning too!One thing that often goes through my mind is the way we fought and won a whole war in less time than one school year. How many senior classes can claim that? The war had such a positive impact. It was incredible. The successes created a bonding between people. It was obviously more than a strategic victory; it was also a victory for everyone at every level. It created a good feeling that everyone benefited from. I suppose a little of that feeling was contagious and I guess I caught it. Oh well, if that is sickness, I want to be sick!

[Alright, if you want to go out for a smoke, or to spit, meet back in a minute. I'm gonna go wash myself.]

Another big part of my life is church, although I've been less active lately. Here is a little history of me and CCCPB. As I said in depth in my 1989 memories, I got quite involved in church that year. In January of '90 I was elected as a deacon. I did what I could as a deacon. Looking at it from now, I think I tried too hard to please others and not look out for myself like I should have. That got in the way when I got the job at Command Post and tried to form the band, which became a driving interest. I got terribly confused, which led to my depression. Anyway, I enjoyed trying to be a good deacon. I did what I could with the church sort of set it first. When I became interested in forming a band, I made that a driving interest. In the mean time, I lost some of interest in the repetition of preparing for church every week. I was becoming more selfish, but to the point where I was getting what I needed to keep myself going alive. I mean, take some time to get a rest. I lost the drive to push for others.

the page out of the church newsletter with me and jenny slaughter as the year's graduatesJenny is daughter of youth pastor Judy. Shelby came to our church on Jenny's invitation.I decided I'd surprise everyone and not show up for one week. I must have said that for seven or eight months. I set dates when I'd skip a week (after my birthday, after Christmas…) I never did skip… until February. I became increasingly dissatisfied with church. Shalom group was boring. No fun activities. Adventure class was a drain of my energy to get up and go to. One person even started probing me when I skipped class and didn't give an answer. It sort of bothered me having to support my case every way I turned. All I wanted was to see Shelby. [She lived five blocks away from the church so I went to pay her a visit but apparently she wasn't home. So we went to Balboa Park the next week—the first I saw of her after eight months.]

me and steve at the senior breakfast at humphrey's by the baySteve RauI turned some heads when I finally skipped a week in early February. I wanted to find out what it was like to exercise my freedom. I got a couple calls from some in the church, but I was unimpressed. They offered some of the support that I thought had fallen off since the zenith of activity the year before. I showed up the next week for convenience and decided to keep away for a time. Sure enough, no one missed me the next time. I was enjoying Stephan's company. I was eager to make friends with him. And a good thing it did work out. The people at church said they wanted me to rejoin them. So I tried it out and gave it another chance and got another negative response, so I decided to stay away for even longer and did so until I came to a few Shalom group meetings in May. Now I am on better terms now that Stephan is gone and I have no excuse (other reason) for skipping so much. I may not be in church on sunday but I'll try to get into other stuff.

I suppose I'm nearing the end of my paper. Conclusion time. I don't know how I'll be able to try and sum up the time I've had at high school and certainly in 12th grade. The last few years have been pretty remarkable. It is tough trying to sort out things that "aren't important" because all of it is. It's just that some of things will get lost. I learned quite a bit about others, God, friends, parents, and above all, about myself. "Those who say the sky's the limit are limiting themselves." Who said that? Someone in the class of '89. What can you say when so man open up so much? Thanks? That hardly seems appropriate. What do you say to people like Stephan and Shelby or Jerry or Judy who have somehow brought out the best in you…The stuff you didn't even know you're made of. How does one express the love for everyone who has somehow touched my life? "Uh, I love you"? So naive, but effective. Do I say it or show it? I think the best way to show your love for someone is to be yourself. Make them proud of their contribution to you. I can't say thanks enough to those who played a part in my life. I can't say, "you know who you are" because they probably don't. I've had a revolving cast of characters, with many starring roles—many are people I just look up to, silently.

trudi, shelby, steve, and me in a goofy lineup at shelby's house a couple days before graduationTrudi, Shelby, Steve, MeLeaving the Madhouse [Madision High] and high school in general won't be easy even if it is necessary. I'll be missing a few of my dearest peer-friends. Stephan and Shelby at the top of the list. Trudi to a lesser extent, but all having their part in my mind. And heart… As a group, or individually these are the people who left a mark on me. Thank you so much, people!

There is so much that I've failed to include in this little work. (Little?) Some of it will be forgotten, or other parts will remain vivid as if it happened to me yesterday. All of it is me. I've tried to make all of this so sincere as possible. It's race that I am so liberal with my thoughts. But, it's a good thing. I hope this has offered a taste of what life was like at the top with me, '87-'91. May there be many more.

steinmetz our government teacher, steve's dad, me, and steve immediately graduationHarry Steinmetz, Gerhard Rau, me, and SteveI'm glad it's over. Sigh of relief. Actor exits stage left… [Yes, a Rush reference.] but it will be a bittersweet ending (ending?). Thanks reader, for wading through this shit.

That's all, folks!

Edward Lucas
June '91

Ich liebe dich, Shelby. 1988-?

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