Rock Accountant

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A Warm Dinner in Front of the TV.

My life’s work has been watching TV. The programs and their quietly strewn advertisements decided all that I wanted and consequently needed growing up.
I hadn’t had dinner, except in front of the TV, until going off to college in the early “70’s. The abrupt and painful separation from television that I experienced back then led to my generation’s spectacular use of drugs. We acquired new gifts for producing pictures in our heads with these pharmaceuticals. I had a deep and forgotten skill for this that stemmed from listening to the radio while lying next to my dad on the bed, in the dark, as a little boy.
My early sexual education evolved entirely from the reduction sauce of things my parents forbade me to watch and the tight skirts of hot women on game shows. It took me nearly forty years to love any woman who was not opening a door that had a prize behind it.
Without TV, I most likely would have become a Methodist minister or just another standard guy.
I saw my first black person on TV. Those strange people called the Chinese were an excitement when I came to NY.
Real life ending badly, was unthinkable to me until Vietnam, thanks to TV. Of course, I was reading books that had horrible things happening, but they never climaxed into any potent today for me.
We Americans owe much to our TVs. I suppose my son will write someday that he is all that he is because of the Internet, and that, though foolhardy, is OK with me.
People fasten to others if they can find a shared illusion. We cluster as a species after agreeing on some truly dumb ass shit. But then, just when you need it the most, a Bill Cosby comes along, and we settle together into a warm dinner in front of our TV.

Permanent in this life

The only thing permanent in this life is the memory of a true friendship.

Concrete Fields of Play

Dark grey winters would finally unclench into light grey springs in Pittsburgh Pa where I grew up and went to high school in the middle sixties. I played football.

Our field was enclosed with black cyclone fencing. It was built entirely on concrete and was attached to our school like an athletic bedpan. Every other spring a caravan of heavy loaders filled with dirt would enter through a special gate that was theirs onto this field to refill it.

People who lived in the neighborhood would show up and sit outside this fence on the cement spectator stands connected directly to our field like a giant stone Legos.  These folks came because it was something different. We would steal peeks from our windows when the teacher had his back to us.

We did not get new dirt every year, as erosion was nearly impossible, it being jailed in the field’s cement encasement and besides, dirt was not cheap. The pitch must have lost some of its volume from the unavoidable adhesiveness of our uniforms, cleats, and eyes and ears. A lot of the valuable dirt went down our mother’s water drains at home every night.

We would start practice for football in the hot and dry late Augusts before the school year started.  Oil trucks had come the week before to spray the dirt dampening its dust. Through the first few weeks of practice we would come home much stained and slick.

Many of us grew what the coach called “carbuncles” on our backs. I remember them as sort of elephantine pimples. It had to be from the oil of course. I still remember my coach telling me to tape a raw slice of potato over them at night to draw out the bad stuff. It did work just so you know.

The Blind Men and an Elephant

Jainism is an Indian Religion based somewhat on this: The parable of the blind men and an elephant. In this story, each blind man feels a different part of an elephant: its trunk, leg, ear, and so on. All of them claim to understand and explain the true appearance of the elephant but, due to their limited perspectives, can only partly succeed. If one alters this story to include a donkey you pretty much have America.

Rock’s Most Embarrassing Moment

I was the tour manager for Genesis during the years that Peter Gabriel was with them. I was also largely responsible for what was arguably rock’s most embarrassing moment.
This was how it had been planned and rehearsed so long ago. Peter Gabriel, showman that he was, would be dressed in his “Gods of Magog” outfit , consisting of a long, velvet black cape and a giant triangular headpiece . Through this helmut, only his green iridescent eyes could be seen because of the black light. At the very climax of the set, he was to be made invisible to the audience by a combination of controlled explosions coming from pods on the front lip of the stage. This would temporarily blind the audience. These canisters were filled with a martini of flash and gun powder, which would be criminally outlawed today, whereas back then they were simply banned. This was a working example of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. We never told anyone we were going to do it. One of our roadies , Jeff Banks, filled them a couple of hours before the show and would set them off electrically.
Peter was to be further camouflaged by smoke machines ( they looked like leaf blowers) and an intense fog that bubbled up by dumping blocks of dry ice, by hand (gloved), into huge buckets of water by the crew. They would explode with vapor, filling, if the prevailing winds permitted, the entire stage. Synchronous with this, Peter was to throw off his hat and cape while keeping a grip on his microphone, as he was “shot,” (hoisted) fifteen feet into the air by nearly invisible thin metal wires, “ called flying” in those days. He would finish the song, in a silver jump suit, as the curtain closed. End of show.
This incident took place somewhere between 1973 and 1975 either in Cleveland, Ohio or in Berlin, Germany. Believe me, in my world, this is terrific accuracy. I think had Genesis attempted to do more shows than they did during my years it would have required time travel. I can pin it with such exactness because at that time we would only play proscenium arch stages which allowed for curtains and flash pods, as well as the overhead latticework necessary to hang wires for the flying equipment.
Here’s how the “flying” was to work. I had brought in an “expert” who had flown Elton John and his piano into the air a few months earlier. This guy was harnessed to the wires which were connected to Gabriel and he climbed to the top of a tall ladder on stage left, out of sight and waited. On my cue, he would leap off the ladder and because he was the counter balance, up our artist would go. I did the cueing only because I had no other real job, having finished my very important job of literally running around hallways closing doors so no breeze would alter the course of our stage fog.
I sweated the cue because if I got it wrong, Peter would be mid-song and everything else would fall to shit. Well, I thought I nailed the fucker, but I was maybe a second too soon and all hell broke loose. Peter went up fast and sadly, crookedly. His left shoulder was at least a foot and a half higher than his right. In his surprise, he launched his live microphone forward, onto the stage and into the preternaturally loud explosions of the gunpowder pods, sending the blast sound through the mic and into the giant audience speakers deafening Lord knows how many of the punters. Meanwhile some asshole had clearly opened a door so all my smoke was blowing backward towards the dressing rooms leaving the mayhem clearly visible. The flash pods ( we were later to learn from the fire dept.) had been way over loaded becoming perhaps the first incident of real canon fire ever, during a show, in the history of rock. Peter’s mic sound , as my luck would have it, also went through the band’s stage speakers. Tony Banks, the keyboardist, I saw out of the corner of my now tearing eyes, was hitting Jeff, the explosion roadie, over the head with a tambourine, (of all things) screaming “I am deaf, you made me deaf”. Now all this was happening within a nightmare zone of about ten seconds.
So let me recap, seeing as we both have come this far. I have Gabriel nearly horizontal, fifteen feet in the air, with no microphone and a black cape dangling from his foot. I have the keyboardist in the middle of the stage pounding a roadie as the roadie is desperately trying to extinguish the residue flames pouring from the canisters. I have an audience in a state of mass shock and I have smoke filling up the dressing rooms. So what was the absolute last thing this God could think of to do with me? The front curtain would not close.
In my mind’s eye, even today, this was not a tidy episode. To their credit and my forever resentment, most of the audience hung around to watch us try to get Peter down. It took such a long time.

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