Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Crappy Jobs part 5...

Hopefully I can wrap this up and bring you up to the present day in my crappy jobs. The R. L. Polk job was seasonal, so when we canvassed the entire area, I donned my backpack and crashed the student union job placement notebook again. One of the jobs I got was at the Valspar paint factory. I was hired as a lab assistant, it sounds great but I swept floors and fetched chemicals for the lab technicians. They gave me a metal bucket with a big jumper cable clamp on it. (the clamp was to ground the bucket to the spigot to prevent sparks and fire) I had to go down to the basement and get chemicals (from a spaghetti network of piping) that had names like FH-2, AD-8 etc. I had no idea what they were, but they gave me a hell of a buzz. As a matter of a fact all the employees there walked around like they inhaled way too much of the chemicals. The scary part was it was a very old building and the big paint vats were accessed from big holes in the floor. One wrong step and you could be part of the next batch of eggshell ceiling paint. I lasted about 3 months when the next student union job called.

It was the big boss at the county highway department. They had a part time temporary job open at one of their satellite garages cleaning up at the grounds for the summer. I started June of 1986 for $4.78 an hour with no benefits. I was still playing guitar in bars for whiskey and food (and a few dollars) so a government job seemed like a good idea. Plus I know how the government works, part time today could be full time tomorrow. The supervisor at the east garage was Don Shoudel. On the outside, he was a 300 pound mean son-of-a-bitch, but once you got to know him, he was one of the nicest guys you would ever meet. He would give you the shirt off his back and really helped me out when it got close to laying me off. I developed a strategy to lengthen my employment status. On Thursday afternoon of Friday morning, I would completely tear everything out of an area of the garage to give it a thorough cleaning. Of course, there would not be enough time to complete the job as needed by the end of the week and I would have to come back monday to finish it up. I would then coast until Thursday or Friday and start the process all over again. I did do a good job cleaning and Don made a few phone calls and they kept me on; part time still, but at least I still had a job.

I worked part time at the east garage until November of 1987 when a full time position came up. I became an official government full-time employee with benefits! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I traded the 76 pacer for 78 Ford Granada and rolled the biggest fattie I could hold in my grubby little hands. It had been a long time (since the bowling alley manager job in Garland) since I had health insurance, vacation days and the job security a 26 year old needs. The rest is history. I have been at the highway department for 21 years. I now hold (with pride I may say) the crappiest job ever. Plowing snow sucks, I take that back, it is actually fun for about the first hour, then it sucks. But like I said at the beginning, (whoda thunk it would take 5 posts to get this far?) in today's economy, we should be happy to have any job. I write this post with a pending snow storm and a scheduled mandatory overtime posting for us to come in at 4 am.

We made it, thanks for stopping in...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Crappy Jobs part 4...

Now that I have you crying crocodile tears that I didn't get the glass lab job, I have to tell you of one job I had between my two years of college (that I forgot about). For a summer job, I was referred to Classic Company of Fort Wayne. Their big thing at that time was making trophies and concert t-shirts. One of their sidelines was to sand and refinish bowling lanes. I was told just to show up one Monday morning so I did. When I got there, the boss guy said where is your suitcase? No one ever told me that I was going to be staying overnight anywhere, but I needed the money and decided to go. Before the two old boss guys took off in a Cadillac, they asked me if I ever drove a box truck. They gave me a map and me and this other kid ground the gears until we finally made it to the out-of-town bowling alley. The worst part of the job was washing my socks and underwear in the sink every night. Were gone for generally 1 whole week at a time, and they would rent 1 motel room with 2 double beds for the both of us. The 2 old guys would be out like a light and snore like sailors. Whoever the other helper kid was would sleep on the bed with me. We were some stinky tired grunts. We would work from dawn to dark then move on. Sucked, but the best money I had ever made.

Ok, we are caught up now. I didn't get the glass lab job in Texas and I basically had told all my old employers to kiss my ass so I was screwed. I had very little money and NO job. My next decision was mostly a matter of timing. My friend Pat who went to college with me, happened to be living in Terrel Texas, about 30 miles from Garland. He was moving back to Fort Wayne and already had an apartment. He said I could stay with him and his roommate and I agreed. I crammed everything I could in my 1972 Nova and told everyone goodbye. I called Pat and told him I was ready to go. Pat then told me he had changed his mind and he wasn't going. He said I could still live with his roommate if I could pay half the rent. I had no money or job and had never met his roommate, so I declined that offer with a sigh. I was already on the road in my mind, so I called my parents (yes my parents) and asked if I could stay there for a while. They said ok, and I headed out.

I arrived at my parents house and unloaded all my junk. I had to swallow my pride and listen to my dad tell me how he knew that bowling lanes management wasn't a good idea and that smoking pot would ruin the world and he knew I would not amount to anything. After we got over that hurdle, he was pretty cool. We finished the attic over the garage and turned it into a pretty cool bedroom. I sold my 72 nova and bought a 76 AMC Pacer wagon and started the job hunt.

Pat from the paragraph before did give me 1 helpful hint for which I will forever be in his debt. He said to dress up like a college student and go to the Indiana University (of Fort Wayne) Student Union building and look at the jobs. He said just go in and go to the job room (he explained where it was) and just sit down and act you like you belong there. Take a paper and pencil and just copy the jobs out of the book. They did ask me if I have filled out my class schedule, and I told them I would and they gave me a paper (3 different times). I copied down a whole bunch of jobs and went home and started calling.

I actually found a job right away, though not the most desirable, it was a great start. It was with the R. L. Polk City and Suburban Directory. My job was to go door to door and verify the residents and get whatever information like who all lived there and where they worked etc. The company actually gave you a sheet for every street with all the information on it already, but they intentionally put one wrong one on every page so I couldn't just mark them all correct. I would earn about 10 cents for every verification and like 20 cents for every house that they had no information for. They figured in a minimum amount you could make an hour so I would kick ass for about 4 hours a day and turn in 8 hours. They didn't mind too much, because I was the only guy that would go to the neighborhoods that weren't in the best part of town. I didn't mind too much because in those neighborhoods, pretty much everyone everyone was home during the day and I could get information pretty easy.

One day I pulled to the corner of Pontiac st. and Alexander st. and was getting my paperwork ready when a big dog put his paws on my car window. He looked pretty friendly, so I rolled the window down a little to see what he would do. He turned out to be really friendly so I got out and petted him and started off down the street. The dog followed me to every house and waited while I did my business, then I would lean down and pet him and he would follow me to the next house. It went like this all the way down the block and halfway back on the other side. I went to this particular house and had to go through an open front porch to get to the front door. The residents were not home, so it is customary to leave them our paperwork tucked in the door. I shut the paper in the door, stepped out to pet my buddy but when I leaned down, the bastard jumped up and bit me on the cheek. When I finally found a brick to beat the dog's head in, he took off running. I can only assume I finally found his house. I believe I had to go get a tetanus shot.

Another funny thing happened one day when I was canvassing a fairly nice neighborhood. It is a good habit to ask a potentially nosey neighbor about the neighbor you are getting ready to visit next in case nobody is home. I did this on this one house that was completely blank on my sheet. The lady I was talking to was more than willing to give me everything I would ever want to know about her neighbor. I jotted everything down, thanked her and headed next door. It turns out that the guy was home, but when he found out who I was he was not too happy. He cussed me a bit, told me to get lost, and that he would never give me any damn information. I said ok, you have a good day "Mr. Johnson" and proceeded to leave. He came out of the house and asked me how the hell did I know who he was. He was a bit excited for a bit, but he knew I had him so he mellowed out and calmed down. He explained to me that he was an ex-detective or prosecutor or something and it was to his best interest to not have his information public. I told him he might want to be a bit more friendly next time and have a talk with his gabby neighbor. He actually turned out to be a pretty nice guy and I tore up his information. I could have used that 20 cents though.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Crappy Jobs part 3...

Well here we are at St. Regis Paper Company in Garland Texas. Things were great for a while. I was enjoying the evenings and weekends off and learning the true spirit of Texas from the inside. I have to admit, there is a feeling you get when you are a Texas resident. It is hard to describe, but the pride you feel to be a part of the whole Texas thing. I made some really good friends and lost a lot of the edge I was burdened with for the last few months. I joined a band and things were looking up. My brother Jerry and Tim Hendricks (a friend of ours we met from the Brunswick experience) moved down to Garland and we were having some freakin' parties to remember. We rented a house that took 4 of us to pay the rent but it was pretty cool.

Wouldn't you know, I got bumped to 2nd shift; 2 pm to 10 pm. The work was the same, I do have a couple funny ass memories, like the time with my supervisor Clovis Stevens. Clovis was ok, but like a good company man, he would smile rarely and watch us out of the corner of his eye. One day I was sitting outside at the picnic table eating lunch at work and I looked at the nearest tree and there was like a hundred of those discarded cicada (locust) shells stuck to it. I remember In Indiana, we would find 1 or 2 of the bug shells stuck to a tree, but on this Texas tree was busload. I collected about 50 and put them in a sack and took them back into the building. Clovis was not back from lunch yet, so I opened his top middle desk drawer and lined up the 50 cicada shells like a little bug army. I closed the drawer real careful and snuck back to my machine. A couple hours later, I heard Clovis let out a blood-curdling scream. I am sure he knew I did it but no one would fess up.

Getting off at 10pm though, it was party time! We would party till 3 or 4 in the morning, then I would sleep till around noon. I would get up and get ready for work and leave the house by 1:30. So it seems all I was doing was working and partying. It was great, but looking at the big picture, I could tell I was getting nowhere. Rent and partying kept me from saving any money and after a year of this, it just seemed like a dead end.

Inside the factory was about the most boring thing ever. I was running a box stitching machine that stapled the boxes together in the corner. Once I set up the machine, I could run the same size and style of box through the machine for 2 to 3 days. I would just stand behind the stack and fold the 2 flaps in and push it into the stitcher. Repeat this like 50 thousand times. There was clock within eyeshot and time went frustratingly slow. I would look at the clock and "oh shit, it is only 3 minutes later than the last time I looked at the clock. I was 20 and burnt out again, I started looking for a different job.

The first job I actually had a chance at was Highland Appliance. It was a big electronics store and it just seemed exciting and I am sure time would go much quicker than factory work. I made it past the interview and they sent me to a lie detector test downtown Dallas. I found my way there and was invited in by a 300 pound ex-marine looking guy. No joking, just sit down and get to the matter at hand. He strapped me in and for the next hour gave me the third degree. I knew I was screwed when he asked me if I ever stole from an employer. Working at Sambo's restaurant, I ate my share of overcooked steaks (does that count?), and working at Brunswick bowling alley, I bowled thousands of games after we locked the doors. Not to mention working for Bud and Marvin, I drilled my own bowling balls and chalked it up to promotion. Needless to say, I cannot add Highland Appliance to my resume.

Here is where it gets interesting. I found a company that made optical glass and lenses for telescopes and binoculars. They had a new government contract to make a bunch of stuff for the Army. The place was amazingly clean. Everybody had on white lab coats and were smiling. The hr guy led me all around and introduced me to everyone. He said I would be working in the test lab smash testing glass! This was a dream come true and he could start asap. I told him I needed to give 2 weeks notice at the box factory. We set a date for me to start, but he said they are very strict for the probationary period. I was not allowed to be absent or late for the first 90 days. I put in my notice at the box factory on my 2 year anniversary (to the day). I got my vacation check and said good riddance. I spent the next 2 weeks just partying my ass off.

The day finally came when I was to start the new job. I don't know if you are familiar with the thunderstorms in Texas, but when it rains, it freakin' rains. And as luck would have it the power must have went out for a couple hours and my alarm clock did not go off. I would have been 15 - 20 minutes late (if I was allowed to come in). I called and pleaded my case, but the hr guy reminded me of the strict probationary period and said there was nothing he could do and he was sorry.

There was nothing he could do and he was sorry.

To be continued...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Crappy Jobs part 2...

Before I get into the life changing decision, I must have had a mental block because I left out one of the crappiest jobs ever. Somewhere between Sambo's and Brunswick bowling alley, I worked a couple months at a plase called the Casad depot in the "frog shop". A frog is the piece of steel that hooks 2 pieces of train track together. Our job at the frog shop was to get in old frogs and refinish them into new frogs. We got them in two different ways. One way was several hundred stacked on a pallet on a flatbed semi truck. They had to be unloaded by hand because we did not have a forklift big enough to lift the pallet. So 5 or 6 of us would climb up on the trailer and one by one we would lift and stack them on a new pallet on our little fork lift. Each frog weighed about 50 pounds and it would take a couple hours.

The other way we would get them would be used ones. I don't know how those got unloaded, but when we got them they had to be grinded down to bare metal with a grinder. After that it would come to my portion of the program. They had a jig that was made out of a 4 foot piece of train track with c-clamps on it. I had to place a layer of this plasticky burlap in the jig, then coat the frog liberally with the stickiest glue you have ever seen. I would place the gluey frog in in the jig on the plasticky burlap and clamp it tight. It then went in the oven for an hour or so. When they came out of the oven, I had to unclamp it, remove it from the jig and trim the excess garbage off the frog. Between the glue, the oven and the lingering grindings, it was a hot, dirty stinking hell-hole. Everything I would eat would tase like the gluey smokey inside of a building. I remember the boss always wore an orange hooded sweatshirt and yelled at us constantly. That job paid $4 an hour with no benefits.

Ok, thankfully the bowling alley called. I then had a better attitude about work... Like I said before Joe was a pretty good boss. Brunswick had a habit of changing managers every couple years, so I had me 2 other managers before Joe got there. He told me that the bowling alley business was actually a pretty good business to be in. He said I had a good aptitude toward it, and it was kind of nice actually getting a compliment at work instead of being yelled at daily. He recommended looking into Vincennes University, which at the time had the only bowling management major in the United States. It was junior college, and their record was 100% placement for bowling management graduates. Ok that was it, the most critical decision ever was to go to college for bowling lanes management in Vincennes Indiana.

Since I am discussing the crappy jobs I have had, I will not go into my schooling (for now), other than the fact that I graduated in 1981 with a 3.75 gpa thanks to instructor Jim Sullivan. I took a job in Garland Texas sharing management duties with fellow graduate "Rich". Rich and I were to manage both Fiesta Bowl and Bowlerland Lanes in Garland. During interview week, I was actually in Buffalo New York bowling in the college national bowling tournament. Needless to say, since we were bowling management majors, we had a kick-ass bowling team. (We came in 2nd). Anyhow my point is, I missed all the damn interviews except the Garland Texas one and an offer to run a bowing alley in Saudi Arabia on a military base. I took the Garland Job at $16,000 to start (1981).

Rich and I got an apartment together not to far from the bowling alleys. We got to know the owners, Bud and Marvin. A couple of eccentric fellows that moved here from Chicago to make their fortune. Rich was generally at Fiesta bowl with Bud, and I was mostly at Bowlerland with Marvin. Rich lasted a grand total of 3 weeks when I woke up one day and found a note and his keys to the bowling alley. So now I got to (learn to) run both centers. At that time, the county we were in were in was dry, meaning no alcohol sold there. And in my history, bowling alleys and beer were inseparable and since there was a Don Carter supercenter just across the county line, we were losing a lot of business. I was hired to build the business back up.

I spent weekdays from about 8 am to 4 pm out on the streets going to businesses and factories offering free bowling parties to the human resource manager of anywhere I could find. I would offer them 3 free games of bowling and 2 hot dogs to every person if they could get 20 or more people to participate. Then I would spend the evenings during the parties talking to everyone, trying to get them to sign up for a bowling league. Then I would tally up the day's earnings and make out the bank deposit and the cash drawers for the next day. I would lock the doors on weeknights around 2 am. Weekend around 3 am.

This went on for 3 months with not one day off. I expressed my dissatisfaction several time to Bud and Marvin. I asked for more money, but they said they wanted to see the results of my bowling party sales finesse to see if they could afford it. One beautiful 100 degree Texas day, I was scheduled to meet with the hr manager of St. Regis Paper Company in Garland. He was actually a nice guy and we got to shooting the bull about my plight. He said they were hiring at a starting wage of $6.92 an hour starting wage. I did the math and figured about $14,500 with just a bit of ot, but working only 40 hours and having weekends off was just too enticing. I was just plain wore out from the last 3 months, and asked Bud and Marvin one last time for a substantial raise. They declined so I resigned. It was a hard choice, after basing a lot of my life's goals around the bowling biz, but if there ever was job burnout, I was the poster child.

to be continued....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crappy Jobs...

In an era where you are supposed to be happy with having a job at all, I have been reflecting on my past jobs I am glad I don't have. I have been at my current job for 22 years so we have to go way back in my past.

Age 15, my first job was at Frank's Nursery. They sold plants, potting soil etc. They also had a corner on the crafting market so they sold Styrofoam, balsa wood and stupid stuff you could assemble to make more stupid stuff. The job wasn't all bad but there were no clear lines on what my job actually was. There were like 10 of us kids that basically did everything from stocking shelves, cleanup, unloading trucks and assembling the stupid stuff that people were too stupid to assemble. So most of the time I just wandered around the store looking for stuff to do until I got yelled at to do something else. I think I made $3.25 an hour.

Luckily at 16, I got a job at the Mr. Wigg's department store across the street from Frank's. I started a couple months before Christmas. They hired three of us and I don't know why I remember the guys' names but they were Chuck O'niel and Wylie Lymon. We were told from the beginning that 1 of us was going to be let go after Christmas. I started in the departments of toys, lawn and garden and trim-a-tree. So I got to handle Christmas trees, garland and ornaments. Also I had to put the toys away that little kids played with and left out. Two of my friends Mike S. and Kelly H. already worked there in the automotive department. To make a long story short, Me and Chuck made the cut and were allowed to stay after Christmas, but me and Kelly got fired a couple months later for "conspiracy to shoplift". They swore we were going to steal something, but we used to just play with the stuff that was returned as defective "to make sure it still worked". I think I made $3.65 an hour when I got fired.

What luck, there was a Sambo's restaurant right down the street that need a dishwasher. So at 17 I donned a plastic apron, a clip-on bow tie and paper hat and took another job that rated pretty high in the suck scale. The only good thing I remember was that for the summer I got to work 3rd shift. I remember the radio blasting "Back in the fast lane" and taking New York strip steaks home to cook for breakfast. One funny story from there was one night when I was mopping the floor at around 4 am and some drunk guy kept making fun of my uniform. I am generally pretty easy going, but this guy just kept going on and on. So I went in the back and dumped in about every chemical I could find in the mop bucket. I came back out and parked the bucket across from his table. Now it is a boiling cauldron of probably deadly chemicals and I started mopping again all around his table. He got pissed and asked me what was in the mop water. I told him it was the same thing that was in his coffee, but we have to dilute it to mop the floor. He stood up like he was going to punch me, but I told him to go for it; there would be nothing better in the world at that time than for me to get assaulted on the job. He backed off.

To end my career at Sambo's, they hired a new manager named Lenny. I called Lenny Berkowitz; "Son of Sambo's" This was during the time of the Son of Sam serial murder case if you are not familiar. Anyhow Lenny was a dick. I was on first shift and scheduled to work a Sunday, Sambo's busiest breakfast day. When I got there at 6 am, there were like 20 full bus trays lined up on the dishwasher and as soon as I got in the door the cooks were screaming for stuff they needed. Evidently the 3rd shift washer did not show up and Lenny did not think anyone needed to cover for him. Fuck that, I quit. $3.75 an hour down the drain.

Now a 17 year old bullheaded cynical teen, I applied for a job at the local Brunswick bowling alley. I got hired to clean ash trays, empty trash and sweep floors. I really liked bowling anyway because bowling was only 50 cents a game and this Brunswick center was one of the first to have automatic scorers. My brothers and I found a way to use the score sheets in such a way that we would bowl 1 or 2 games, then remove the score sheet and insert one we would find in the trash and bowl like 20 more games. When we were done, we would take our sheet with 1 or 2 games on it and pay for it. They never caught on and we got to be pretty damn good bowlers at $2 a sheet. (As a matter of fact my brother Ron is still pretty damn good HERE).

That job went pretty good, I learned to work behind the machines as a pinsetter and got free Bowling alley from "Flo". (Her son Buddy won one of the first Indiana lottery drawings for like 11 million). They then hired a new manager Joe Shemenski. Joe was one of the coolest managers they ever had. He was the first boss to ever trust me with money. He let me work the cash register when they were not too busy. Joe influenced me to make one of the most important decisions of my life.

You will have to tune in tomorrow to find out what that was....

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gullible Warming..

That's right; gullible warming as opposed to global warming. The temperatures for the last 5-6 days have been hovering around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Friday morning in Fort Wayne, Indiana, it hit 19 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit. We tied an all time record. If the globe is warming it is not happening around here. If it weren't for reports of the ice caps melting, I would swear the whole global warming thing was something made up by a bunch of tree-huggers to try to make us feel guilty for driving 4 wheel drives.

And speaking of tree-huggers, I don't feel the least bit guilty. If you want to get on somebody's case, get the damn Chinese to quit polluting. Same with Mexico. How green can we be with the rest of the world burning fossil fuels willy nilly? I am tired of all the propaganda already.

I am sure that the weather has cycles within cycles within cycles. We have only been keeping records of the weather and temperatures for around 100 years. Now the media would have us believe that within 30 years the planet will be so hot that we will all be dead from famine.

And if that's not enough the freakin' swine flu is coming...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Regardless of your religious conviction, the finality of death is foreboding to say the least. I am not going to preach my beliefs because I am really not sure what I believe on any given day. I have trouble accepting that death of the body is just the absolute end of the soul. It just seems so usless for such a phenomenal thing as a sould just to end forever at the time of death. I would like to believe that the energy of the soul is at least released to return to the great gathering of former beings.

Some days I think that reincarnation would be a logical way for the soul to learn all the things needed on it's path to become enlightened, and join the other enlightened souls in the great hereafter. One lifetime is not enough for 1 person to experience all the trials and triumphs offered by this world. I imagine that 10 lifetimes may not be enough, and some people may be cursed to repeat the same mistakes and never move on.

Here is my offering in this great debate. I find it hard to believe that just being human with every incarnation would allow one to learn all the lessons available. Seeing a horse proudly grazing carefree in a pasture would lead me to believe that being humble would be a great lesson learned from being a horse. A seeing-eye dog dedicated to it's owner would be a great lesson on the benefits of not being completely self centered. The whooping crane that will not take another mate for the rest of their life if his (or her) mate dies could teach us something. Even being a dung beetle with only one task on his mind could be a useful attribute.

I do not even think that being a human would be at the very top or last stop before becoming enlightened. The last step may be any of the great creatures that have a trait that the soul would require. Some animals have a much more beautiful honest existence than many people I have met. So the next time you see a robin turn his ear to the ground to listen for an earthworm, stop for just a second and absorb the greater picture and it may save you a step.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Paying for the upkeep of schools..

About a year ago, the Fort Wayne Community School system said they need $500,000,000 (that's right 500 million) to maintain and repair their schools. The budget submission was rejected (by referendum) and they are having to make do with what they get. As buildings age, the maintenance cost increase and the older the equipment, the less efficient. With the cutbacks in municipal spending across the nation, it is just a matter of time until the bottom drops out. I really don't care about that, but I am just setting you up for my idea.

Why not take the brightest Juniors and Seniors and let them stay home and home school via computer. Accept only those students that have an outstanding GPA and WANT to participate in the program. With a webcast and webcams, there would not really be much difference, other than we don't have to pay to transport, house or feed the student. If you look at the big picture in the long term, it is antiquated to bring kids from all over the biggest county in Indiana to buildings to educate them. It is inevitable that one day there will have to be some type of BIG change.

As a pilot program it would have to be closely monitored, but I think it may actually give younger students something to try extra hard for. Not having to go to "school" after age 16 may make kids study a bit harder. It would also save a ton of money and time for "snow" days. Let it freaking snow, class is on! How about saving the heating of an old schoolbuilding when it is 0 degrees outside and then they cancel school. That's MY money. How about maintaining the school all damn summer when the building is empty?

Computers ARE our future and the KIDS are smarter on them than any of us adults, so why not put them behind one for the 11th and 12th grade? You may say that the human interaction amongst children builds character; screw that! Wait till the bird flu finally hits and they close schools for weeks, or months at a time and screw up the whole system.

I am just proposing that we should do it voluntarily instead out of necessity. We would have time to work out the bugs and save money at the same time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The magic of music..

I have touched on this subject before, but gosh, I know you wanted an in-depth explanation.

I have fond memories of when I was about 10. (I am 47 now so you can picture the time frame). They were developing the few acres near our house and were installing a long stretch of storm drain. It was probably about 48 inches in diameter and a run of several hundred feet. There were manholes about every 50 feet, and after the construction workers left, I would go down to the construction site and crawl in the pipe and just hang out and be a kid. The pipe had an amazing echo and reverb that made my voice sound almost pleasant. I would sit in there for hours and sing the pop songs of the day at the top of my lungs. The songs I remember singing most were House of the rising sun, Temptationize and Lay a little lovin' on me. I spent an entire summer on a world tour in my mind.

Of course at the age of 10 I had no formal musical training and had no idea what made up music. I was oblivious to the constraints of music. To me, music was almost a 6th sense - it had an untouchable indescribable quality that combined hearing, touch and emotion. It produced an euphoric response that took this 10 year old kid far from the pressures of growing up. The welcome escape was an addictive respite and took me places I had never dreamed of. It was something I could not touch but was enveloped by. That is why I thought it was magic - and with a personal touch.

Well years passed and the magic got compressed inside my little brain with all the other crap that a teenager has to deal with. At about the age of 17, I thought I would like to learn the guitar. Now we are in the age of Bob Seger and Neil Young. You could still pick out the acoustic guitar in the mix. I bought a $100 Yamaha on credit and signed up for lessons. Well I took 2 lessons and said "screw that", and quit taking formal lessons. I wanted to learn songs, not the etude crap a beginner has to learn. My older brothers had every Beatles record ever made so I thought I would start there - learn the simple songs like Love me do. I did learn one very imprtant thing from the 2 lessons, learn to tune your guitar and keep it and KEEP it in tune. Tune to 440 cycles (concert pitch) and you can train your ear to play along with records (and I used real vinyl). With the help of chord books and playing with the records, I thought I was making good progress.

In a couple more years, I moved off to college in southern Indiana with my best friend Kelly (Ken) Hicks. He played some guitar too, and we roomed together in the dorm. And mostly out of boredom and poverty we played a lot of damn guitar. We would impress each other regularly with new chords, combinations and progressions. It was amazing some of the stuff we came up with, and I am absolutely sure we would have been famous if only our voices didn't suck.

Well my point here is that unknowingly, music had gone from the magic of a 10 year old to the daily habits of a couple punks. Still rejecting formal music training, there are still some things that I picked up just trying to play with other musicians. Like what chords GO together, and what chords are used in the melody, and the predictable chords of the chorus or bridge. I learned the meaning of 5ths, 3rds, 4ths, minors, minor 7s, major 7s and a bunch of crap I stumbled on by accident.

Looking back now, realize that was the time music had lost its childhood magic. The more I learned about the formal structure of music, the tighter the constraints became. Music now had limits. It is actually like math when it boils right down to it. There are rules that cannot be broken, notes that just cannot go together, and just a buch of crap you have to think about that is distracting. That is (in my opinion) why a lot of school-trained musicians cannot improvise. They do not have it in them (any more).

Lets move forward 2o years to today. Yea, I still have my guitars, but I rarely play. It took all these years, but I am finally (almost) rediscovering the magic in music. I am sure it is not the feelings I had as a ten year old, but I do detect more of mysterious quality to music. I do not try to break every song down to it's least commom denominator. I try to just experience it. Of course I am not talking about today's freakin' hip-hop or techno. I have actually been listening to a radio station that plays a lot of the older classics (and I mean older). You can hear it on line HERE.

I guess the point of it all, is there a benefit to NOT being a musician. You can appreciate the art of it without the math. I would not change anything about my musical back ground, and you can hear a couple of my songs HERE. It took me a long time to get at least some of the magic back, or at least recognize the difference.