Saturday, March 31, 2012

Guns and Chinese Food

I didn't have too many encounters with guns growing up. Seemed they were reserved for robbing banks, and adult crime activity. They weren't popular on the streets. I grew up in west philly. We weren't aware of it, but some of the men we looked up to, men who would often give us change, men who wore silk and wool pants, Italian double knit sweaters, sun glasses and processed hair, were members of the infamous "Black Mafia". I was shocked a few years ago when I was in Walmart, fishing through the budget movie bend and came across a crime series dvd about "The Black Mafia". On the cover were men I recognized well, men I'd rather not name.

Aside from getting befriended by a gun collecting Peavy exec in Meridian, Mississippi who would invite me to join him on the shooting range, I've only seen a gun twice or should I say, I've only had a gun in my face twice.

At the age of seven, I had two brothers, Greg and Alvin and a sister Pat. Alvin was the baby, he was three. One morning he was standing on the top of the stairs point ing a gun down at me. He must have gotten the gun from my uncles room (that's another story). I freaked. I dashed up the stairs and tackled him. Yes, it was loaded.
It was terrifying, but fortunately no one got hurt. You never hear me talk much about my baby brother. He died later that year from spinal meningitis.

Then there was the chinese food incident.
Our teenage Friday was a trip to the chinese joint around the corner, grab some food and pepsi's and go to my house. There we were, Darnell, Joey and me. No one else was in the place. "Wa u wan?" "Lar shrim n' rice, egg foo yun and Lo mein wit chicken and 3 peps." "Wa u say?"
Then someone else entered. He didn't live in our neighborhood, but we recognized him. He pulled out a gun and asked us for our money. I was confused. I didn't understand why he was robbing us and not the chinese store. Clearly they had more money and soon would have most of ours.

There was no one behind that bullet proof window. They disappeared.
Ahhhh of course, bullet proof glass, that's why he's robbing us and not them. Hell, he could have shot through the wood. Anyway the robber was getting anxious and decided to step it up, he stuck the gun in my face and demanded that we hurry.

While shaking and staring at the gun, I noticed that the gun had a cross brace in the barrel. It was fake. I started laughing. Joey and Darnell thought I had gone mad. They found an opportunity to jump the perp. He ran out of the joint. We chased him. I don't know why we were chasing him. What were we going to do if we caught him? He got away. Phew. Good.
We went back to the chinese joint, and there they were standing behind the bullet proof glass handing us our food and soda. Now that's service.

As we exited the store the perp returned with a gang and chased us until we lost all the food trying to get away. Now I've got a taste for some chinese food and a pepsi.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Eggs and Ethics

James Clark, that's a name that still gives me chills. We grade schoolers were all terrified of him. Funny, he was only known as James Clark, not James or Clark. We'd keep a quarter in our pocket just in case we'd run into him. He'd always come out of nowhere.

Me and one of my buddies were walking up 52nd street. What a nice day. Out of nowhere poofs James Clark. "You got any change?" "No." "Oh yeah, do some jumping jacks." I don't know what was more embarrassing, doing jumping jacks and jingling like a piggy bank or being a reject fitness spectacle in front a some school girls who were walking by. He'd take all the money and then "slide" you for lying (hit you in the head). Great, he's got ethics.

He also had great aim. Greg and I were going to the movies one afternoon, POOF! It's James Clark. "You got any change?" This time we ran. We stopped to see if he was still chasing us. I turned around to look and WHACK!!! I got smacked in the face with an egg. I think he was a half block away. Where the heck did he get an egg?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Grandma Could Have Been a Great Drummer

My younger brother lived with my grandparents for a while. Some weekends I would go to stay with my grandparents so we could play together. Greg's life was different than what I was used to. He was allowed to drink coffee. A kid drinking coffee, wow. My grandfather used to say "Coffee puts hair on your chest". I'd have to check to see if Greg actually has hair on his chest. I don't think so. We were also told that bacon comes from a monkey's tail. I'm not sure why he told us that one. Probably so we wouldn't want to eat up all the bacon. It didn't work.
Occasionally I would stay over on a week day. This was especially cool because my grandmother would let us stay home from school if we wanted. We'd stay home from school and play Greg's drums all morning. My grandparents lived in an apartment right above a doctors office. In the back of the apartment was a school (not the school we went to). One day we decided we would grab a few eggs from the refrigerator and throw them at the school kids through the apartment window. It was too much fun, we cleared a whole dozen eggs. "What happened to all my eggs!!!???" "Greg, Mick, you better tell me what happened to those g** d*** eggs!!???" There was a knock on the door. It was an officer from the school in the back of the house. "Eggs were seen flying from your window ma'am." My grandmother could have been a great drummer. She sure knew how to beat the hell out of two knuckle heads.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Good Boy

I was a good boy, but that was only because I was so lame at being a bad boy. I tried. I remember two kids walking by me in the school yard. I guess they bumped into me or something. "Hey, watch where you're going or I'll beat both of you up." I've seen bullies do this effectively. It didn't work for me. The both of them beat the crap out of me. Getting beat up by two kids younger and shorter than me was a indication that my career was over. Then there was playing hooky from school. There was a four lane street we had to cross to go to school. It would be busy in the morning. The crossing guard would be there and eventually would leave… I saw to it that I was late, so there would be no crossing guard . Then I could allow myself to be afraid to cross the street, which I did convincingly because I WAS afraid to cross the street. I would then go hide by the train tracks which was behind our house. I was found by a truant officer who dragged me to school and called my mom. You'd think my mom would wait until we got home before she beat the crap out of me.

Like I said, my career was over.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I liked Elementary School

I liked elementary school. No one made fun of me for having to take remedial reading or speech class. I don't know what the problem was, but they thought I had speech issues.
Maybe I liked elementary school because of the near-by candy store. All those jars and wrappers and colors.
Mary janes, tootsie roles, frenchies, and red licorice wheels, beaded neckless's, Sugar Daddies. candy buttons, cigar bubble gum. etc. Squirrel nuts were my favorites.
Or maybe I liked elementary school because bullies wore brogans. They were easy to detect. One sight of those shoes, you'd run in a different direction.

Everything changed in Jr. high school. :(

What was your favorite candy?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blacks and Whites

Most of us grew up playing a lot of the Parker Brothers board games, particularly "Monopoly". Oh the fun. Oh the long hours and the annoying cousin who would always win. Another game we played a lot was a game called "Blacks and Whites", circa 1970.

Very similar to Monopoly, with a few not so subtle differences: Whites started out with a million bucks, blacks one hundred thousand. Whites could buy property anywhere, blacks could buy only certain properties. Blacks collected less money for completing a lap around the board, etc. We didn't know or care at that time that the game was designed for educational use. It was just a game we had fun with. Interestingly, no one wanted to be black. Better role those dice and pray : ) Take a look:

Blacks and Whites

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Model Cars

The Red Barron, The Pie Wagon, The Paddy Wagon, were just a few of the model cars I built and worshiped as a kid. After spending hours in my little room building these things, the glue would get to me. :( Then came HO slot cars. I never entered a race, I just loved 'souping' them up.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chocolates and Discipline

I'm sure in some cultures eating chocolate covered bees, ants and grasshoppers are a delicacy. In our house these special treats were truth retrievers. Red, green and yellow foiled wrap cubes. "Who made the mess on the back porch!!??" Long pause. We were handed a cube. "Greg did it mom. Greg did it…" "Mick did it. Mick did it" The green cubes were the crunchiest. :(
I have two sisters. When those cubes were in the house, there was no way they were going to tell a lie.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Uncle Corey

My uncle Corey (my grandfather's brother) was into recycling years ago. It was called "junking". He had this huge orange wooden wagon that he would wheel around. He knew which neighborhoods were having their trash picked up. He'd take me with him sometimes. We'd go looking for metal and newspaper. The wagon was too big for the sidewalk so we'd have to walk in the street, which required the wagon to have a license plate.

When his day was done he'd return to the house and funnel all the paper through the window into one of the coal bends. My brother and I would live for the moment to jump in the piles a paper and look for comic books. He'd eventually tie up the paper into stacks. He always rewarded us with jelly beans. I love jelly beans : )

Thursday, March 22, 2012

OCD Keeps Me Humble

I discovered in the 90's that I had a bit of this OCD. It was torture sometimes wondering why I felt this need to count to 10 before making a turn, or if I dared say something good about myself something bad would happen, etc...

It wasn't as bad as some cases get, but it would get in the way sometimes. Being late because you have to go through this protocol before leaving the house OR ELSE.
I went on stage once, it was the biggest show of my life at that time, opening up for huge act in NYC. I was so afraid to appear to be 'showing off' (because something bad will happen if I do) that instead I had one of my worst guitar performances. I've learned to live with this. The good thing is, it keeps me humble.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is She Still Playing?

Many years ago I was in a road band out of Williamsport, PA. Seven weeks on the road, one week off for two years (something like that). I wasn't making a lot of money, but being a single young man not having to worry about food and lodging. I felt rich. I used to frequent this music store. One day a young lady walked in the store wanting to buy a guitar. She found something she liked but couldn't afford it. So I bought it for her. Do I remember her name? No. I remember I felt pretty good about it. I wonder if she's still playing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Awkward Moment

As a kid and young adult, it was disrespectful to address an older person without using Mr or Mrs. . As for family, you'd never dream of calling an aunt or uncle by their first name. I had an uncle "Tom". He was the one guy we could count on for giving us a nickel or a dime, sometimes a quarter. He was incredibly funny. To say we loved him would be an understatement. One day while riding the public bus, I saw him as he got on. My first instinct was to shout "Hey uncle Tom!", but I became sensitive as to how that could be embarrassing for him. I never thought about it before. Instead I said weakly, "Hi Tom". I can't explain the shame I felt for calling him by his first name. It was an awkward moment.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Manager

Back in my day, bands would rent a storefront on busy streets. The windows would have curtains but the windows would be left wide open for passerby's to watch us play. Hopefully someone might discover you. Such as a manager who more often than not would look like Don King. We ended up with a manager. He didn't look like Don King, he looked more like a butler with a pimp hat. He was legally blind. He got us enough work to buy a van. Then he left town with our van. "Anybody notice a black, blind, butler with a pimp hat driving south in a blue van?"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Super Heroes

My brother and I used to play super heroes. We were quite serious. A Lone Ranger mask, our sisters leotards, some swimming trunks would do the trick. Our Tree house in the back yard was our headquarters. We'd roam the streets looking for… I don't know what we were looking for. One night we found it. I got robbed, my brother made it back to the headquarters.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Jr. Prom

"Why you rotten, goober faced, bucktoothed, son of b***** bastard, Kojak watching , nut breath, skinny, caddy looking, House of Pancakes?, crooked afro-ed, bad sketch of african art, ghetto hillbilly otter…………………………. Termite teethed, left handed, stage band failed, metal type hit, bully beaten, quiet, funny talking ,which can only mean one thing, thermometer sucking, year round halloween looking, bald headed frog. WHAT THE F*** TOOK YOU SO LONG????!!!!!!!!"

- That's not what she said, but that's what I heard. I'll never, never, never be late for a Jr. prom again, not even in my dreams.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Thermomter

I was sitting on the porch on a hot summer day with a friend. I could have been 7 or 8 years old. We had a thermometer, probably attained by a church group. I was totally fascinated by it, staring at it to see if the red stuff would go up or down.
Since it was red, it probably tasted good. I couldn't resist. I broke it in half and put it to my mouth to drink. All I remember is I woke up in a hospital and was fed gobs of butter. I had a fear of thermometers for a while.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I liked 7th Grade

The only year of school I liked was 7th grade. Class clown, A/V captain. It was great being able to skip a class so I could run the projector for the girls hygiene class. Boy, I missed a lot of classes. To next two years were hell. Somehow the bully's were attracted to me. Print shop was the worst. Getting hit with metal type was a pain. I was quiet and everyone thought I talked funny. Which as far as they were concern could only mean one thing.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Things That Can Inspire

I started playing music in Jr. high school. When I got to high school I tried to join the school band, but my unorthodox playing style (upside down and strange tuning), not to mention my inability to read, made it impossible for me to pass the audition. I went to see a guidance counselor he said "… there are too many students who started playing music long before you. I'd advise you to think about doing something else."

Monday, March 5, 2012

I Fell Out Of School

I fell out of school. I didn't have the sense that I was there to prepare myself for a future. I thought I was in prison. Once I got out of prison I would get a job. As for music...