“There’s danger on the edge of town
Ride the King’s Highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby
Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake, he’s long, seven miles
Ride the snake
He’s old and his skin is cold…”
Jim Morrison, from The Doors song, “The End”, 1966, released 1967
Adventures are typically exciting experiences. Sometimes they involve risk. Sometimes there is danger lurking for those living on the edge. There were so many layers of meaning in The Doors song, “The End,” that represent adventure: the excitement of taboo sex, of murder, and the exhilarating freedom experienced from defying the norms of a civil society; norms that are in place to guarantee the survival of a species. But Morrison questioned everything. He pushed the envelope to the point that it became unrecognizable as an envelope; merely a tattered piece of paper. And in the end, his life became that tattered piece of paper. For Morrison, adventure became misadventure, providing him a seat at the table of the 27 Club.
College Freshman Adventures
Not all adventures are extreme. When I entered my freshman year of college, my dormitory roommate, John, was a member of my high school graduating class. We were high school buddies and agreed to room together. John was a bit socially awkward (probably I was as well, but I didn’t see myself that way). He did not do drugs, nor alcohol but he was inclined to some peculiarities such as buying a medium-sized jar of maraschino cherries and consuming them in one sitting. I recall that after doing so he went into an episode of nearly convulsive laughter to the point that the dorm floor counselor stopped by and asked me if John was tripping. I said “no” as I pointed to the empty cherry jar, at which the counselor just shook his head and left, while the intensity of John’s laughing orgy took an exponential upturn.
Back in 1971 there were no co-ed dormitories at my university. Our eighth-floor dorm room was surrounded by a variety of colorful individuals. There were two other normal guys, Rich and Ron, who came from a high school in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. They were a bit on the reserved side; clean-cut kids who were serious about their studies. We became good friends. Then further up the hall was another freshman, Lorenzo, who was a philosophical Brainiac and the floor cynic. Lorenzo had an acerbic wit. He verbally pulled no punches. We got along great. Directly across the hall from me was Joe from Erie, Pennsylvania. Joe was quite a character. He had two high school friends who were in a different dormitory on the other side of campus who spent a lot of time on our floor. So, we hung out together a lot. I remember Joe admiring my Gibson SG and often asking to play it. Together we all did some innocent but crazy pranks, like dropping a water balloon down the stairwell from the eighth floor to the basement when someone came through the basement door. We also had a group participation on each floor in bouncing super balls down that stairwell. Right next door to my room were Woody and Wayne, sophomores who returned to school with the plan to stay high on acid the entire year. One time when they were tripping the rest of us had squirt guns and freaked them out. Thinking they were real guns, Woody and Wayne stayed in the bathroom shower stalls and refused to come out for hours. Innocent stuff.
I hung out with Woody and Wayne because they had some terrific music albums – everything from Soft Machine and Van Morrison, to Luciano Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen. We got high together. The difference was that their adventure was to drop out and mine was to graduate, so I was a bit more balanced than they were in my use of interesting chemicals and entheogens. Joe and his Erie buddies, Dennis and Chuck also partied with us but not as frequently. I remember that Lorenzo took huge amounts of acid at a time. A year later I remember that while his sharp and biting comments continued to flow from his mouth on a constant basis, he no longer had the ability to concentrate, and could no longer grasp complex ideas, whereas in the prior year we had some excellent discussions regarding the existential philosophers we both loved. The contrast was startling to me and an assurance that I was on a better path by being more balanced in my adventures. Of course, hanging out with Jesus freaks who were there the moment after I had had a very bad trip helped to steer me away from self-destruction. Joe’s roommate was a senior who invited me to The House of Light, which was a refuge on the outskirts of town for wayward acid heads and heroin addicts who had found Jesus. But that is a topic for another blog post.
I am getting away from the main idea for the title of this post. When I returned to my dorm room after class one day, I found a magazine photo cut-out of two refugee children taped to my door. Joe had labeled one as Burt Tee, and the other as Quan Lapose. Burt’s mouth had a hole punched through where Joe had placed a lit cigarette. Now, he must have timed this for when I was expected back from class, because the cigarette was not burnt down very far. Somehow, I became associated with the name Burt Tee while my roommate was Quan Lapose. Those names stuck. But let it be known that I did not smoke tobacco. Since my parents had been chain smokers until they quit when I was 11 years old, I detested the smell of cigarette smoke.
By the end of my freshman year, Joe’s roommate had graduated, Joe and his Erie entourage never returned for the sophomore year. My roommate, John quit school and married his high school sweetheart. Woody and Wayne dropped out, but Wayne returned two years later and was much more serious about his education. Mid sophomore year Lorenzo dropped out. But Rich and Ron continued and graduated. To them I continued to be Burt Tee.
Later, I would take up various aliases in radio or writing personalities: Ray Cathode, Harry Face, I.M. Intoxicated, and Popeswami to name a few.
My Recent Adventure
Over the past two years I have dropped 50 pounds but gained about ten pounds back in the past six months. My work involves travel throughout the US and 2018 seemed to have me out more than in past years. This left me with few days of free time to blogpost, and fewer days to attend local music performances. Anyone following my posts will see that there has been a great decrease in describing local music events.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, I was supposed to get home late Friday night from Tallahassee via Miami. Well, once my flight arrived in Miami mechanical problems with my connecting flight necessitated a stay in Miami until Saturday morning, with only a couple hours sleep before the morning flight. When I arrived home, I felt “fluttery” in my chest. I thought it was due to the combination of the excessive amount of caffeine I had consumed the past few days, dehydration, and lack of sleep. But it did not let up. All through Thanksgiving week I just felt weird. The week following, I was on the road again. Then the next week, in Chicago, it was bitter cold, and my quarter mile walk from the hotel to my worksite caused my chest to hurt. Again, I assumed it was the cold air irritating my lungs. The next week I was in Kentucky and still the flutters in my chest continued.
When I got home from my Kentucky trip that Friday night, I was feeling very strange. I called the nurse on call through my medical plan and she told me to immediately go to the emergency room. The next morning, after several irregular EKGs and foreboding blood work results, they scheduled me for a stress test by injection. Later that day they told me I had had a heart attack some time ago and they prepared me for angioplasty the next morning. They thought they would be putting one or two stents in arteries to the left side of my heart. But once they were in and cleaned-out the blockage, no stents were necessary. According to the cardiologist my heart is strong with no significant damage. While undergoing the angio, my mind faded out until they were done, but I do remember the pain as they pushed further into my arm with the line. Apparently, I was conscious enough to follow instructions, but I am mostly amnesic regarding this experience. It left me with a very painful arm where nerve endings were irritated, and even though the procedure was done a week before Christmas, I still have some pain in my elbow now and then.
I was off the road the month of January and will not return to travelling until February 18. With one break the week of March 4, I will then be out every week for the remainder of March, all the way through mid-June. While home, recovering from my stay in the hospital I finished my last blog post, and in January we went to three music events. Two of these events were to see Robin Henkel with Horns, and the other was to see the Now Time Jazz Quartet, featuring Alicia Previn on violin. Venues were Lestat’s West, Proud Mary’s, and Tio Leo’s.
This adventure has taught me to appreciate the here and now, and the people and things that I love. I love live music – the hear and now. I have some wonderful friends. I love good food a bit too much. That is where moderation comes into the picture. That will be the most difficult transition to make – eating healthy. Well, maybe exercise is going to be a tough one, too.
Between Thanksgiving and my trip to the hospital we obtained a shelter dog. On December 8, when she became a part of our life, she was 11 months old. A very cute and lovable chiweenie (that’s a cross between a chihuahua and a dachshund). She can be quite mischievous and playful. The day the foster family brought her to our home, she bonded with me immediately. Nancy named her Gracie. Her name had been Victoria, so I suggested we have her proper name as Gracie Victoria. She looks like she could be part fox, with her long legs and tail. The mix must have been with a long-haired dachshund. She is much more weenie than chi. A long body but big eyes like a chihuahua. She is very fearful of new experiences. We are taking her to dog (owner) training, and much of my free time is spent interacting with Gracie. We need to get her out and about more so that she can get more used to traveling in a car and seeing people and other dogs in public places. She has been great therapy for me getting over my big adventure.
My first outing was on January 13 to see Robin Henkel with Horns at Lestat’s West. Jodie Hill was on string and electric bass, Troy Jennings on baritone sax, Steve Ebner on trumpet, Kevin Koch on drums, Michael Yates on congas, and Mark Lessman on tenor sax. The selections were largely from the mid-40s through 60s cool and cool bop jazz. These were songs I’ve heard Robin and his group do on many occasions but there is always something a little different and delightful each time I hear them. Also, Robin has a story to tell about most of the songs played. Slim Gaillard and Mose Allison were two of the great artists covered that night.
A few weeks later, on January 26, Robin was appearing with his horns at Proud Mary’s. We wanted to go to dinner, so why not hear some music as well? And the taste of New Orleans cuisine sounded good. This evening instead of Troy Jennings we had David Castel de Oro on sax and clarinet, along with Jodie Hill on bass, Steve Ebner on trumpet, and Toby Ahrens on drums. Again, fine playing, including many of the same songs heard at Lestat’s and one with a bit of Sonny Rollins rolled-in. Always great fun.
January 31, we headed to Tio Leo’s for some Mexican food and to hear a jazz group we had not heard before. The Now Time Jazz Quartet surprised me with their 70s easy jazz, with a bit of funky improvisation added in for good measure. The band features Adam Wolff on keyboard, Michael Oletta on bass, Jeff Dalrymple on drums and Alicia Previn on violin. I’ve seen Alicia perform with Mundell Lowe as well as Bart Mendoza’s band and was surprised to see her yet again in another band with an all together different style. Accessible, popular tunes with enough improvisation to keep them interesting, as well as some self-penned numbers. Another fun evening.
This past Thursday we had intended to see The Swing Thing featuring Liz Grace and Jon Garner at the Riviera Supper Club but a problem in the gas line at the restaurant caused it to be closed. The Friday prior we had wanted to see Dave Humphries, Mike Alvarez and Wolfgang Grasekamp at the Downtown Café in El Cajon but it was pouring down rain and the closest parking space was several blocks away, so after circling the block three times I decided to go home.
On February 10 we went to Urban Solace for the bluegrass brunch where Plow was performing. It was a great show as usual with Chris Clarke on mandolin, Jason Weiss on banjo, Doug Walker on string bass, Dane Terry on harmonica, Alex Watts on guitar and Mark Markowitz on snare drum. Vocals by Chris, Dane, and Jason. Good harmonies and great picking from this accomplished group of musicians, exposing San Diego patrons to historic bluegrass and old-time sounds.
I have acquired some nice vinyl lately. One is the 1973 release by Robb Kunkel titled “Abyss”. This album was one that I discovered via the former Lysergia website (note that through the Wayback Machine website you can still find this amazing site with a treasure trove of obscure artists who should have been better recognized in their time). I was very pleased that someone took the time to re-release this LP in 180-gram virgin vinyl. The label is Future Days Recordings/Tumbleweed Records, Inc. It is also available as a digital download in lossless FLAC. The vinyl is in sky blue with clouds, and the cover is the original gatefold, and includes some history about the late Robb Kunkel and the original label, Tumbleweed Records. Only 500 copies were originally pressed, and the album received no promotion because the label was falling apart at the time. Beautiful melodies, lyrics of a pensive quasi-spiritual nature, a West Coast vibe, sounds of the ocean waves and seagulls as well as jackhammers (not in the same song), a country style ditty thrown in for good measure – everything about this album screams 1973 at the crossroads of new age and Southern California easy peaceful feeling. I love this album. And Kunkel was a fine guitarist and singer. The studio musicians backing him were top rate. Crazy thing, the repress from the original master tapes is also in a limited release of 500. But at least the digital download is limitless, provided it continues to be available. Highly recommended here at the Popeswami ashram.
The other vinyl arriving recently are 45 rpms. The one is something I thought would never come to pass. It was the rarest non-Residents release on Ralph Records; Schwump – Aphids in the Hall b/w You’re a Martian/Home. I had obtained a digital copy many years ago from the artist, but now Psychophon has obtained the original masters and re-released it in three variations. Mine is the red vinyl numbered limited edition, with only 100 released. The original pressing in 1976 was 200, and most went to friends, radio stations, and others in the music industry. An original today averages $700 but I have seen it go for over $1000. Schwump was backed by The Residents on this release and their influence is obvious. But I must say that Schwump was a kindred spirit to The Residents. His real name is Barry Schwam, and he was a DJ at Portland, Oregon radio station KBOO when he discovered The Residents, or should I say they discovered him. My understanding is that an album’s worth of material was recorded in 1976 but Barry decided he did not want it released, so the only effort to reach the ears of the public is this 45. What does it sound like? Melodic but slightly off key with strange progressions, slowing and speeding up of rhythms on purpose, raspy creepy singing, pseudo-schizoid-childlike lyrics, untuned piano – very much like early Residents recordings. I am so glad to hear this as it was originally put onto tape.
The remaining vinyl to come my way was a 2014 re-release on Superior Viaduct Records of The Residents’ Santa Dog double 45 from 1972. The original was the first release on the Ralph Records label. The music is from the original master tapes, made to sound fresh and crisp. The only drawback is that they did not put the sides in the original order. Sides two and four have been reversed. Also, the label artwork on the 45s themselves is different from the original Ralph Records artwork, but the gatefold cover is identical except for saying it was issued by Superior Viaduct. Again, this was a limited edition, but no fancy vinyl colors – just black. Originals are in the $1000 range while this limited edition often goes for over $100. I did not have to pay that much, but I was lucky. Another 200 pressing limited release, just like the originals. This is probably the most Avant Garde of Residents releases, with many found sounds, clips of old obscure recordings, musique concrete, acid drenched nonsensical lyrics but somehow out of the bubbling chaos comes organized insanity that makes sense. Does that make sense? I don’t know. My head hurts.
Well, that’s it for now. See you in a few.