Thursday, November 6, 2014

Reading vs Writing vs Kansas

November 5, 2014

 On November 11, Revival, the new novel from Stephen King, will be released. Months ago, I made sure that I was at the top of the hold list to borrow it from the Lawrence public library. Stephen King is one of my absolute favorites, and I always wait with high levels of anticipation for his books.
  Today, I'm canceling my hold. Not because I don't want to read it, but because the library lends new books with a two week limit, and I no longer have the time to read a novel in two weeks. Instead of enjoying the story, I'll be thinking of overdue fees. I don't need to be under pressure to finish a book that I'm trying to read for enjoyment.
  I'm also thinking of cutting back on reading altogether. Not stopping, I could never stop reading entirely, I'd go completely mad. It's just that I feel that sometimes I pick up my book when I should be picking up the pen. Reading, I think, is cutting into my writing time. I now see why my musician friends can't get enough of what they do.
  I notice when I tell some people I'm doing this, they raise their eyebrows, say "Cool", and move on. Maybe I really do seem like a silly dreamer to them. But do not underestimate me. I am very serious about this, and I am not viewing any of this as a hobby. Now it is time to stop approaching this as a hobby. It's time to get to work.
  Here, already, in November, I make my first resolution/goal for 2015. For 2015, my goal is to complete a first draft and start revisions on my first book, and maybe begin a first draft on my second. There's even a spore for a third, and a children's book idea to build on with my wife.

  In 2006, students from Xavier High School in New York City were asked to write to their favorite authors. Of everyone the students wrote to, the only one to send a return letter was the late Kurt Vonnegut. In his letter, besides thanking the students for writing to an old man such as himself, he encouraged the kids to do art. Any art. Painting, sculpting, music, acting, or writing. "Sing in the shower," he said. "Write a poem, even badly."
  "Not to get money," he wrote, "but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow."
  I implore each one of you reading this to take up this challenge. Take up an art form. See what's inside you. You may be pleasantly surprised.

  I was born and raised in Kansas, and I'm proud to say so. I love my state, even when I don't necessarily love the politics. Sam Brownback's re-election does not bode well for education in this state for, at least, the next 4 years. Arts funding has already been gutted. Art breeds imagination, imagination in children breeds adults with new ideas.
  I'd like to ask those who would consider leaving our state to, instead, stay. Why run away from what you see as a failure, when we could work to fix it. Even little bit by little bit. I'd love someday to be the hometown writer visiting Kansas schools in the spirit of Mr. Vonnegut, encouraging kids to take up an art form. Or standing before the state education board. For now those are dreams, and I need to get to work on my book.

  Revival would make a great Christmas gift. ( Wink, Wink )

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Famous People Are Fucking Weird Vol. 1: Success vs. Fame, or, Whose Face Is It, Anyway?

  Hey everyone, it's been a while, I know. And there's various reasons for my absence: among them, the birth of our third child, and the fact that I felt putting up posts every 2 weeks may have been too soon. Maybe I was flooding the Travisceration pond.
  There is also a third reason why I have not been writing for you lately, reason being I have been writing for you lately. In the distant past I have written many short stories, and I had planned to write more, but, in August I had a story idea that proved to be much bigger, and I have begun work on my first novel. The task ahead is daunting, and considering the work it takes to raise 3 kids, will probably take awhile. So far, I have around 40 finished pages, and I foresee a finished product in about 2 years.
  Without giving away a plot synopsis, it will deal with wasted, misspent youth in the Midwest, circa '80 - '84. I also have the general idea and framework for a second book that will probably be a bit darker and possibly even better than the first. So that's what I'm working on and towards.

  And so...

  I was thinking the other day, in light of the recent unveiling of Renee Zellweger's new face, about celebrity life. The lives of female celebrities in particular. First of all, I want to address the fact that there seems to be a debate amongst some people over whether Renee's new look is due to surgery or weight-loss. I'll answer this for them: it's surgery, folks. Those squinty eyes didn't just widen out by weight-loss alone, they needed help.
  I'd like to state right away, that I'm not writing this to deride Renee for her decision. She's a 45-year old woman with a lot of money who was able to afford to get the work done right. She really doesn't look bad, she just looks different. If you weren't told that it was her, you'd just see a pretty lady in a pretty dress.
  However, it is saddening that Hollywood standards force so many already beautiful women to constantly alter and enhance themselves in order to continue to obtain work. This is an issue that male actors don't really have to deal with. And you can't really blame Miss Zellweger; the last hit movie she was in, was 2008's Leatherheads, and her last hit movie in which she was the star, was the second Bridget Jones movie, which was released in 2004. These ladies are only wanting to be back on the top of the movie star heap. I have to tip my hat to those ladies who have chosen to age gracefully: Jamie Lee Curtis, Blythe Danner, and Anjelica Huston, to name a few. Still, whatever Renee wants to do is her choice, and who the fuck am I to chastise her for her decision? Nobody, that's who.
  The only concern that I would have, were I her, is that completely altering her pre-established, unique, and instantly recognizable face, might actually doom her career. Take Jennifer Grey for example. Jennifer Grey had one of those faces. Unique; she looked like no one else, everyone knew who she was. And pretty. But after a string of successful movies, she decided she didn't like her nose, and had it changed, slightly. The initial surgery was botched, requiring a second, more extensive surgery, thereby, changing her entire face and leaving her totally un-recognizable. Since she no longer looked like herself, she could no longer be marketed as 'Jennifer Grey'. The brand had tanked. The last time I remember seeing her in an acting role was in a 1995 episode of Friends. And she hasn't done much since, save for some voice work and being the 2010 winner of Dancing With the Stars. 
  Again, the choice is theirs, and I'm not here to say if these ladies are wrong or right, I just hope that, for her own sake, Renee Z doesn't end up on the unemployment line next to Jennifer G. If nothing else, they can at least take solace in the fact that they are both still attractive women, and they didn't end up looking a Michael Jackson or Donatella Versace kind of freaky. I wish both women and their new faces much continued success.

  Of course, the purpose of this post isn't really to talk about Renee Zellweger's new face, it's to stress how fucking weird famous people can be.

  Being a published author is obviously a goal of mine and anyone else who wants a writing career. And you want as many as possible to read what you write. Yet, fame is a thing that holds no allure for me. People always in your face and wanting a constant piece of you. Not for me.
  Success, however, is a thing to strive for. If I could be one of the lucky handful to have their writing published, I'd be very happy to be a mid-range-selling author who remains un-recognizable.
  Success to me would mean:
  Selling enough copy to write full-time, pay off debts, and send kids to college.
  Still being able to go grocery shopping or to a restaurant with my wife, peacefully.
  Remaining successful enough at the thing I like to do to enjoy some of the finer things with my wife.

  Should I ever experience literary success, here are some things I promise to my family and friends to never do:
  Permanently alter my appearance surgically. This one should be a no-brainer, but I feel I should mention it, since we were on the topic. Anyone remember what Dean Koontz used to look like? Balding, mustache, sinister glare. These days, he's sporting implanted hair. And if he ever brings the mustache back, he's gonna look exactly like Ned Flanders.
  Wear ridiculous clothing in author photos, a' la Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, or T.C. Boyle.
  Buy a mansion or a yacht.
  Hunt endangered species for sport. Because: Fuck That!
  Hunt people.(Big Jon!)

  Those are a few that I could think of, but I just wanted you all to know that, if this should work out for me, I promise not to be a Renee, or a Jennifer, or a Michael, or God forbid, a Mickey fucking Rourke!

I won't be going all weird and shit on you. At least no more than I already am.

                                              Renee, Before and after.
                                                Jennifer, Before and after.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chevy (Hit and) Runs Deep

  For the first few years after earning my drivers license, I only drove around my dad's pick-up, a white 1981 Chevy Silverado. Dad let me drive the truck quite a bit, usually with a Hutch Only stipulation.
  Dad never knew this, but I committed two hit-and-runs in that truck. The first was outside of  Gamblers, a short lived bar on Hutchinson's east side. Gamblers allowed you to enter at 18, an allowance most likely made to attract younger patrons of the female persuasion.
  I was 18 myself so I was very sober when this occurred, just not yet very experienced behind the wheel of a vehicle. I had just arrived, and finding that I had parked the truck uncomfortably close to the Ford Explorer beside me, attempted to back and re-park. Not yet having many opportunities to drive at night, I turned my wheel too soon, scraping the right side of the trucks front bumper down the driver side of the Explorer.
  I hightailed it out of there! A few blocks down the road I pulled into a Kwik-Shop parking lot and checked for damage. There was nothing! No marks on the truck, no collection of paint from the Explorer. Nothing! Elated at my good fortune, I went back to Gamblers, parked on the opposite end of the lot, and on my way inside walked past the victim-mobile to see what I had done. There was a huge gash in the green paint all the way down the length of the Explorer. I had fucked that bitch up!
  Upon entering the bar I had a waitress that I knew sneak me a beer.

  The second occurrence, I was meeting a friend who was just about to end her shift at an assisted living center. She had already pulled away, and I was to follow. Again, it was night. And again, I turned my wheel to soon.
  This time the victim was a little compact car with a hatchback. The front bumper of the Silverado caught the other car at the driver side door, and actually began to lift the rear of the little car as I backed. The further I backed, the higher it lifted. I thought about putting the truck back into drive, but   I was so close that had I gone forward, my entire side would have scraped against theirs. My only other choice was to commit and keep backing, which is what I did.
  The rear of the car lifted from the ground even more until I reached it's rear bumper. I gave the truck a tiny bit more gas and I had come free. The car fell back to the pavement and, unbelievably, the hatchback flew open! Once again, I fled, and reaching my friends house, I asked her mother for a flashlight to check for damage on the truck. Again, nothing!
  If I learned anything from those experiences, it was this: Nothing sticks to a '81 Chevy Silverado.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Musical Tastes Volume 2: Crue-cial Elements Concluded

 It's funny how sometimes you can wake up expecting your day to be a certain way, and by the time you close your eyes that night you are in awe of the path that you had just been led down. In my last post I had mentioned that I had planned to do a review of a Motley Crue show for writing practice. I even had my little flip-up notepad and my Pilot gel pen in my pocket. However, pen and paper would not be meeting. There would be too much testosterone and alcohol in me for that.
 I suppose that I should first explain that I did not pay for my ticket that night. We have just bought a new house. And between that, a new baby on the way, and a few other personal events, I would never have been able to think about paying for a concert ticket. Right before tickets went on sale, I half-jokingly said that I would go if someone were to buy me a ticket. Much to my surprise, my sister and my cousin Pete did exactly that. Consider it an early birthday present, they said. I have rarely been so grateful.

 We met up in Wichita at Walkers Bar and Venue just 2 hours before showtime with the plan of having a few drinks to get us loosened up. Walkers is located directly across the street from Intrust Bank Arena, a perfect location for preparatory imbibing with no need to drive afterward.
 '80's rock cover band The Banned is playing on the patio under the 97 degree sun and the presence of local rock station T-95 is everywhere. Upon entering we place our names into a radio station drawing for a pair of front row seats. The place is packed but the air conditioning feels great, which is good because the lines at the bar are very long and it takes forever to get a drink. We hang, sip our drinks, and make fun of our bartender who looks like Bobcat Goldthwait dressed as a male stripper in his leather vest, top hat, and eyeliner. 
 Our first drinks go down quickly and soon we are back in another eternal line for drinks, people watching and making derogatory comments about Bobcat the Bartender. After we once again have drinks in our hands we decide to brave the heat(there is no shade anywhere on the patio) and check out The Banned. I'm not sure if these guys are really bad or if the sun and heat are making them unenjoyable. Maybe it's the fact that they keep mutilating Motley Crue covers and we're about to see the real thing. Pete bails first and heads back to the air conditioning. I'm sipping on some straight liquor and while it is delicious, I find myself wishing that I had some soda and ice to make a cooler, more refreshing drink. The heat and The Banned both suck and I tell Hope and Anna that I'll be joining Pete in the AC.
 Pete and I do some catching up while the girls are outside listening to the music. We're only 6 months apart, and as kids we did everything together. We were very close as kids and even into high school when our differing interests and cliques sent us down divergent paths. As adults we see each other far less and always enjoy our opportunities to get together, catch up, and reminisce. Motley Crue is part of that history, and their music is one of the things that kept us close as teenagers when we sometimes had little else in common. That and the fact that our family is just too close to ever really let anyone drift too far.
 The ladies make their way back in when the band finishes. My sister mentions that it's pretty much time for the drawing. I'd nearly forgotten about it, my drinks are very strong and after only two I'm already quite foggy-headed. I tell everyone a gruesome story of a botched attempt to score concert tickets from plasma donation earnings, and how after giving up completely I ended up winning a pair from a Kansas City radio station five minutes after waking up the morning before the show. I've never won anything else. The balloon arm story is one I like to pull from my pocket every once in a while.
 We walk into the main bar area and there are at least another 300 people waiting to hear the same results. Just as we find a spot where we can see what's happening, a T-95 "rocksquad girl" is reaching into the box to draw a name. The dj takes the slip of paper and announces the winner into his mic. Travis West. Wow, whoever that dude is, he's super lucky to be sit-  Wait a second, that's my name! 
 I'm more intoxicated than I thought and suddenly I've gone totally deaf. I see my family members freaking out and jumping up and down but I'm just standing there staring at them.   Allow me to say here that cognac is very good shit, be careful with that stuff. Finally, Anna gives me a little push and the world turns back on. I walk up to the T-95 table with the entire bar cheering and hollering and they ask for my ID. After confirming that I am me, Tyler from the Todd & Tyler Morning Show asks if I already had tickets. Yes. Where were those seats? All the way in the fucking back, I tell him. "He says all the way in the fucking back, folks!"
 They hand me my new and improved tickets, turn me toward the cheering crowd in the bar and take my picture. I'm not even sure of who is in the photo with me until it appears on the station website the next day. 3 - 4 people offer to buy them from me immediately but these babies are mine! No way I'm giving up a chance to see the Crue and Alice Cooper from the front row!
 It's easily decided that Pete is coming up front with me. I find a quiet corner to call my wife while Hope calls our mom to let her know that there are two extra tickets and that she now has her opportunity to see Alice Cooper. Angie is just as excited for me as I am about winning. A Crue fan she is not, but she understands the significance this moment holds for me. I love my wife!
 We leave Walkers and head across the street to the arena. Walking through the parking lot, one of the T-95 guys from the bar spots me and introduces me to Hank the Mechanic, T-95's afternoon guy. Hank takes my number, gives me his card, and we agree that I will call him on the next Monday to talk about the show.

 Pete and I part company with Anna and Hope then make our way into the arena. First things first: restroom, beer, t-shirt. In that order. It's 6:45 and although the tickets advertise a start time of 7:00, opening act The Raskins are already on the stage. We hear 3 of their songs: a cover of The Breakup Song by Greg Kihn, an original that I forgot as soon as it was over, and another cover tune, this one of The Stooges' Search and Destroy. 
 A very short break follows before the man, myth, and legend that is Alice Cooper appears under a cascading shower of sparks, kicking off his performance with Hello Hooray. Alice is a rarity of an artist with his longevity in that, along with all of his classics he is also continuously making and performing new music. However, being an opening act and only having 50 minutes, tonight he is sticking mainly to his classics. Even the heavy theatrics that  he is known for are largely stripped from his show, relegated to a 3 song arc. His boa constrictor comes out for Welcome To My Nightmare, during Feed My Frankenstein he is transformed into a 12 foot monster, and he is made to wear a strait jacket by a wicked nurse for The Ballad of Dwight Fry, at the end of which he breaks free and attempts to strangle her. He is then punished at the guillotine.
 For a man of his age Alice still sounds very much as he did in his youth, and he pushes his voice to the limit for the set closing School's Out. Alice is one of the masters and, overall, he and his band put on a very solid and entertaining display of rock and roll showmanship.
 As soon as The Man Called Alice leaves the stage we hit up the beer stand again, grabbing 2 apiece. We get back to our seats and discuss how absolutely crazy it is that we are going to see one of our favorites so close up. Motley Crue's stage show is so over the top that, to me, it is best enjoyed sitting some ways back. The better to take it all in. What will it be like so close up? We are soon to find out.
 A Motley Crue show usually starts with a fiery bang, but their first 2 songs are performed balls-out without any show-y excess. They play so loud that it takes a few minutes to even comfortably breathe due to the sound vibrating through our chests. I have seen many a metal band and never has it felt like this!
 As they launch into their third song, Primal Scream, it finally turns into a true Crue show as giant fireballs take up half of the space on the stage. The heat from pyrotechnics of this sort are able to be felt even from the very back of an arena, from front row it feels like having a blow-dryer in your face. You can even feel the heated wind blow your hair back!
 During the course of the show we will also be witness to a flamethrowing bass and a drum set that raises some 30ft into the air and over the front of the stage, careening end over end and upside down the entire way. And while all of these spectacles are entertaining, what really matters tonight(to me anyway) are the songs, and the sheer volume of it all. The Crue play every song one would expect them to play with a few surprises thrown in. My hearing won't entirely come back until the next day.

 From the ages of 12 to 16, Motley Crue were my favorite band in the world. I owned every one of their albums, and scooped up any music magazine I could find with their name on it, reading every interview to gain some new insight on the band or some new information on things to come. As I've grown older, my music tastes have grown and expanded. I listened to punk and grunge in the '90's like everyone else my age. But no matter what was popular at the time, I never let trends dictate my tastes. And I never stopped liking Motley Crue. I still own all of their albums.

 We can't go back in time. There is no such thing as a time machine to take us back to relive the defining moments of our youth. Yet, on July 12, 2014 for 2 hours, I was 14 again. It has been many years since I've spent my entire time at a concert leaning on a security barricade while pumping my fist and singing every word to every song. For me, everything about this night comes down to 20 seconds.
 Motley Crue are playing the classic Sex Pistols tune, Anarchy in the UK. When they reach the verse that begins, " There are many ways to get what you want. . .", bassist Nikki Sixx walks to the edge of the stage in front of us, crouches down with his bass, establishes eye contact, and from the beginning of that verse through to the end of the chorus, we sing possibly the most classic punk rock song ever written. At the end of the chorus he stands back up, gives a Hell Yeah fist pump, and moves to the other side of the stage. Pete reaches over and smacks my shoulder. "That's you!", he shouts.

 For those 20 seconds the two of us are not 37 year old men, but we are two boys of 14 years having our existence acknowledged by one of our rock 'n' roll idols. It's funny and trivial, sure. But it's also badass as fuck! Your own father would do the same if Keith Richards were to sing Brown Sugar with him.
 They say that this will be their last tour, and if so, that will be fine with me. This is how I want to remember them going out. When Motley Crue left the stage that night, Nikki Sixx had already forgotten about us, more nameless faces in the masses. But the 14 year old boys inside of us will remember.

Alice Cooper
Intrust Bank Arena
Wichita, Ks July 12, 2014

Hello Hooray
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under My Wheels
I'm Eighteen
Billion Dollar Babies
Dirty Diamonds
Welcome To My Nightmare
Feed My Frankenstein
Ballad of Dwight Fry
I Love the Dead(partial)
School's Out

Motley CrueIntrust Bank Arena
Wichita, Ks July 12, 2014

Saints of Los Angeles
Wild Side
Primal Scream
Same Ol' Situation
Looks That Kill
On With the Show
Too Fast For Love
Smokin' In the Boys Room
Without You
Mutherfucker of the Year
Anarchy In the UK
Dr. Feelgood
Shout At the Devil
Don't go Away Mad(Just
go Away)
Drum Solo
Guitar Solo
Live Wire
Too Young To Fall In Love
Kickstart My Heart

Home Sweet Home 


Friday, July 4, 2014

Musical Tastes Volume 1: Beginnings and Crue-cial Elements

I'm kind of a dork about music. I'm not a musician. I've never learned to play a note of anything past the recorders and little blue keyboards that we would mess with in grade school music class. Once upon a time, I was able to play the riff from J. Geils Band's 'Centerfold' on the keys, but the intervening years have eroded that knowledge. I've often thought myself interested in learning to play guitar, but the truth is that I am not. I've come to realize this fairly recently.
 Still, I love music. Love it! My wife calls me the ultimate fan. So many of the people, places, and memories in my life are associated with music in my mind. Almost anything that happens or is said around me can bring a bit of music and lyrics out. I'm the guy who will randomly blurt out words to songs in the middle of conversation. Excuse me, I'm sorry. You were saying...?
 It's always played a huge role in my life, and I really can't remember it not being there. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad and his friends playing music loudly and singing along just as loudly. I remember hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'What's Your Name' and imagining the singer to be a bald, bearded guy with crazy sunglasses and a big toothy smile, as if Elton John and Doctor Teeth from the Muppets had somehow made a child and named him Lynyrd Skynyrd. I would have been 5 or 6 then, and when I was a little older and began to explore Dad's records, I was surprised and a little dismayed to find that Ronnie Van Zant was actually a short, chubby guy with a blond skullet.
 Dad had tons of great records in that old fruit crate. Classics by The Beatles, Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, and the aforementioned Skynyrd.( Dad sometimes referred to them as Skinny Leonard. ) The collection also featured more obscure stuff by Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Spooky Tooth, Black Oak Arkansas, and early REO Speedwagon albums that were actual rock and roll. I spent endless hours listening to those records through my headphones.
 Dads albums weren't all I had. I was also discovering music on my own. This was the mid-eighties, and for my 8th birthday I received my first boombox and Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' on cassette. I played that tape so much that my parents threatened to reclaim it. Other acts making the Travis rotation included Van Halen, Fat Boys, the Hooters, and Tears For Fears.

 In 1987, when I was 11, two things happened that would alter my music tastes at the time.
 The first was the discovery of snark. I bought an album by a 4-piece band out of Kansas City called the Rainmakers who boasted a crazy-eyed lead singer named Bob Walkenhorst. Their music was straight ahead rock in the vein of Tom Petty, but Bob sounded crazy and lyrically was a real smartass.
 It may have been the first time I really paid attention to the words of a song. I still have that album, both on vinyl and cd.

 The other thing happened on my 11th birthday: I discovered Motley Crue.
 For my birthday, my step-cousin Jason said that he would let me choose from a couple of cassettes that he had. One was 'Night Songs' by the band Cinderella. The other was Motley Crue's 'Shout at the Devil'. Having never actually heard either band, I was in no position to choose based on music so I had to make my decision based on the covers of each tape.
 On the cover of 'Night Songs', Cinderella are standing in what appears to be a tunneled alleyway. A lamp-post can be seen through the fog/steam rising behind them which is backlit by a separate light, casting a very purple hue over everything. The bands logo is also purple, and the guys are wearing long, dark, sparkly coats over black or zebra striped spandex pants. Silk scarves hang from everywhere. Their hair is very teased and lead singer Tom Kiefer looks as if his lips are caught in a mousetrap.
 The 'Shout at the Devil' cover is similar, yet quite different. It is made up of four separate photos, one for each member. There is fog/steam in the background of three of them. Their hair is teased, and their make-up and red and black leather outfits make them look like a group of post-apocalyptic whores straight out of a Mad Max sequel. Bassist Nikki Sixx has one hand raised; thumb, index and pinkie fingers extended. He is either shouting at the devil, or preparing to give a blowjob. Vince Neil and Tommy Lee look like a couple of Barbie dolls whose heads have been placed atop men's bodies, Vince's blond and Tommy's raven-haired. The real kicker is guitarist Mick Mars. This man actually looks like the devil that the rest of the band have been shouting at. Instead of fog, the background of his photo is a pillar of flame.
 With song titles such as 'Bastard' and 'God Bless the Children of the Beast', I was sold and my choice was made.
 Although the Crue had a look that was similar to that of bands like Poison, Ratt, and Quiet Riot, they always sounded a little tougher. Poison may have wanted you to talk dirty to them, but it wasn't hard to imagine them wanting to hold hands and cuddle afterward. Motley Crue wrote songs about fighting cops, the seedy/druggy L.A. underworld, dirty sex, and of course, the devil.
 It wasn't long before they became one of my two favorite bands along with Guns 'n' Roses. And with the exception of GNR, who were even harder(at least on that first album), no one from that era even comes close. Maybe W.A.S.P.

 My first concert in an arena was Poison in Nov. 1988. I was in the 7th grade. It made a big impression, lots of lights and fog, and very loud. But the next year, 8th grade, I finally got my chance to see the Crue! They made Poison look like the poseur amateurs that they were.
 My parents were really cool, and they and some friends took me and my cousin Pete to the show at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhatten, KS. We stood there slack-jawed at the spectacle before us. Many don't remember this, but Motley Crue used to have a cartoon mascot, much like Iron Maiden has Eddie and Megadeth has Vic Rattlehead. His name was Alister Fiend, and he was an amalgamation of all the band members. During the show intro a laser graphic 'hologram' of Alister appeared above the stage and told a brief history leading to the bands entrance. They shot out of the stage like leathered, hairsprayed jacks-in-boxes accompanied by an arena shaking pyro ka-boom. They were way louder than Poison had been, and gave way less of a fuck. As a matter of fact, Vince Neil even said "Fuck". A lot. And urged the crowd to chant, "Fuck". A lot.
 Then came the highlight of every Motley Crue show: Tommy Lee's "drum solo". I use quotations because Tommy doesn't use his time to show off his prowess behind the kit and therefore, does less of a drum solo and more of an entertainment interlude. This show, Tommy shared some of his favorite classic rock tunes with himself as drummer, all while his drum set moved out to the rear of the arena on a track suspended from the ceiling above the heads of the audience.

 Pete and I left that concert totally stoked and forever changed. This was March of 1990, and that July the band came around again, this time to Wichita. And we went again! I mowed lawns for a month to earn the ticket money and this time we went with an older cousin, sans parents. Until I saw The Rolling Stones 16 years later, no other show had left me with that feeling of having just seen something truly special, an enjoyable assault on all senses. Maybe my first time seeing Ozzy.

 I love music of all kinds, and along the way I've seen some tremendous stuff. I've seen Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash with June Carter, The Ramones, Roger Waters performing The Wall, and the original line-up of Black Sabbath. All were fantastic performances and I enjoyed them all. I'd still like to see David Bowie, Neil Young, Iggy Pop. Those three guys are on my personal bucket list.
 I've heard people say that you can't love one style of music as much as another. That you can't love The Beatles as much as the Stones or Elvis. I call bullshit. I love all three, all for different reasons. Maybe I'll like The Beatles more today. Maybe next week it will be The Ramones. Maybe one of my favorite local bands. Or maybe I'll just listen to the radio.

 I've managed to see Motley Crue twice more since those two shows in '90. In 2005 and 2011. They killed it both times. I used to tell people that they were my guilty pleasure band, but not anymore. At 37, I'm getting too old to feel guilty about liking anything. I saw Iron Maiden last September and they were amazing. I like what I like. No apologies or excuses.
 This past January, the Crue announced that they were done and would head out for one final go-around. And I'm actually believing them, they seem to get that one can play hedonist for only so long. July 12, in Wichita. I'll be there with my sister, my cousin Pete, and his fiance Anna. Pete and I saw them for the first time together, and we'll see them for the last time together. Full circle. This time I plan to document the show for my first concert review. It will probably be biased. I'll let you know how it goes.
 I can already smell the pyro and AquaNet.

*Note: As I've mentioned before, this blog has no real theme. I'll just write about random stuff. However, I probably will write about music quite a bit, hence Volume 1. Like I've said, this is just for writing practice and your entertainment. I hope everyone enjoys reading my bean spillage. Have a safe and happy 4th, and until next time. . .

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Tale of Violence and Interstate Pubes

  When I last left you, I signed off with a promise that the next time we were together, I would tell you about a game. And I will, along with how we got there. However, please let me warn you that this isn't a very nice game.(Or it is, I suppose it depends upon your own perspective.)
  I also warned you that things could get a bit vulgar.
  At first I figured that I would write a few nice little pieces and then, after we had gotten to know each other a bit, I'd cold-cock ya with a dirty little zinger. I soon realized that this could not be so. If we are going to co-exist here, you need to know now how things really can be. I wouldn't feel right if you were to feel ambushed without knowing where the exit door was located. That having been said, we can now reach that fork in the road where you either join me, or we bid each other adieu.

  I grew up in Hutchinson, KS. And in the fall of 1994, at age 18, I was to meet 3 guys who would become nearly constant companions for the next six years of my life. One was a rail-thin, pale wraith of a guy named Jason, who at the time was homeless, wore occasional eyeliner and sometimes liked to sleep in sundresses. The other two were brothers named Brian and Danny who grew up in Lansing, KS and had just reached an age where they could leave the youth homes they had spent a greater part of their childhood in, having no parents to speak of.
   What the brothers did have was a house to live in, and upon meeting Jason they immediately took him in, knowing about being misplaced themselves. I spent a lot of time in the next few months hanging out at that house. Never had I been witness to such squalor. No one had any money or jobs except Jason who worked at Burger King, yet there always seemed to be beer and other substances of an illegal nature. Brian had hardcore porno pics and High Times posters on his bedroom walls the way that normal kids had posters of their favorite rock bands. Danny, who kinda resembled a young Jim Morrison with lighter hair, was always trying to get into the pants of different girls, often succeeding. Almost every dinner included mac and cheese, and once I saw a pitbull forgotten in a refrigerator icebox. The dog proved to be okay and lived another 13 years, so no need to worry there.

   Another thing that everyone had in abundance, was boredom. And when young stoned men with no skills of any sort to speak of get bored, they sometimes turn to a loving, friendly form of violence. Everyone could be in conversation, laughing, having a great time, when completely out of nowhere you would get a lightning quick punch to the arm. Other times it could be a slap to the back of the head and in extreme cases a straight kick to the balls. I once took a thrown cigarette lighter right between the eyes, drawing blood. And keep in mind you, that all of this was out of friendship and love. Honestly. You took your blows, you gave your blows, everybody laughed and you moved on. Also, this was pre-Jackass. If we had filmed everything, it could have been us having our 15 minutes.

   Eventually, things began to get out of control a little bit. One day I walked into the house and found all 3 guys with another friend sitting in a circle facing each other. They had fashioned little homemade darts out of sewing needles and aluminum foil, and after holding the tips of these darts to a lighter flame for sterilization, they would throw these heated little missiles at each other. The rule seemed to be: limbs only. Soon enough, one of the little bastards(as was bound to happen) went astray and ended up embedded in the top of our friend Dave's ear. I was out! Fuck you guys! And Fuck THAT!!

   Years went by, houses changed, many more friends were brought into the fold, but still we took and gave our blows. Homemade darts even gave way to real darts. Jason and I were now co-workers and once, a guy we worked with who was about as redneck as you can get, witnessed Brian and Jason throwing real weighted darts at each other. It was a long time before he came back around.
    As one would expect, that kind of pain gets old after awhile. At least I imagine that it does. I happened to be one of the very few lucky ones to never catch a dart. And while we still took and gave punches, slaps,and kicks, I believe that deep down everyone knew that a new game was due. A less violent game. A game that was fun, yet was still punishing. And THAT, FINALLY is the game I've promised to tell you about.

    I have no idea who thought of it first, but that man was a genius! It spread like a wildfire through our vast clique of wayward misfits, and that was because ANYone could play. Those who had once avoided our immediate reach could now come close and take part in the fun. This game had a name, and that name was Pubing!
    What is Pubing, you ask?
    Well, allow me. You know the game where someone connects their thumb and index finger and extends the remaining 3 fingers while keeping the hand below the waistline. If someone looks at the hand, you get to punch their arm. This was like that, kinda, only you hooked your thumb into the waistband of your pants and lowered the front down enough to give your victim a full view of your pubic hair. Fun, Right?!? And if they looked, you didn't even have to punch them. Looking was enough punishment in itself. Unless, of course, you wanted to punch them. In which case, you did.

    As I said, wildfire. Getting pubed became a rite of passage. Sometimes, if you were really unlucky, someone would lower the pants a little too low and you'd end up getting an eyeful of part of your buddy's dick. Then he'd get punched. A few girls even tried playing but soon quit because the guys would fail to see this as a perpetration upon their senses and would lean in for a closer view. Wildfire. Everyone played and this game went on for probably 4 years! It even outlasted friendships! There were drive-by pubings, and Jason I believe, even once committed a pubing by post. He simply trimmed a little off, stuffed 'em in an envelope and mailed them to a friend out of state. Complete genius that guy!

    The game eventually died out with encroaching TRUE adulthood. Some of these friendships fell apart, some had kids and moved away. You know? Life. Today I only keep in touch with just a few of those guys. Jason and I are still long-distance friends. Our friend Mooney still keeps in touch. Brian and Danny I had to let fall by the wayside, it happens. Sometimes I miss some of those guys all of the time. Sometimes I miss some of those guys some of the time. I'll never miss the sudden blows. Sometimes I miss the utter absurdity.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Traviscerations: A Welcoming

Allow me to explain exactly why we are here. When I was a high-schooler, my favorite subject was English. I loved everything about it; the way that a sentence had separate parts, and how all the words could come together to SAY something. I was totally enamored with linguistics, and remain so today.

 My favorite moments in those classes were when we were allowed to do creative writing. One teacher in particular would play sound effects or show a photo to the class, and then we were to write a story based on that sound or image. And everyone's story would be completely original. Mrs. Hipp was probably my favorite teacher because of these lessons. She encouraged me to write more and even mailed letters to my parents asking them to encourage me to write more.

 However, when I left high school, I also left writing. Why was I going to write stories when I could be having so much more fun hanging out and partying with my friends? My twenties were there to be enjoyed and enjoy them I did. I don't think I ever thought about picking up a pen in that way for more than ten years. I only wanted two things: to get fucked up, and to get laid. Most of the time I succeeded grandly in the first endeavor, and failed horribly at the second. A ladies man I was not.

 At some point along the way I grew up, met a woman who liked me back, and now here I am at almost 38 with a growing family and a brand new home that we haven't even moved into yet. One of the best things about my wife is that she is a lady with ideas, and she likes to share those ideas. A few years ago, Angie and I were discussing what it might be like to co-author a book. The idea, like many, was tossed around and then placed onto a shelf in our minds to gather dust. Very recently this idea returned to me, only this time with a vengeance. And I imagine that for Angie this idea, in a very Travis sort of way, came at the most impractical of times. Here we are in the middle of buying a house and preparing to move with a baby on the way and I'm all, " Hey, Babe! Let's write that book we talked about 4 years ago!"

 So I will wait until she is ready and in the meantime work on projects of my own. Because here is the thing, I have already started a couple of projects. A few weeks ago I put pen to paper for the first time in about 20 years, and it felt like a weight being lifted from my mind and soul. I haven't said so to my wife, but this has been therapeutic beyond belief for me. I would imagine that this is how a musician feels when playing, only my instrument is a Pilot gel pen. It's gonna take a little while to brush off the rust, but I think I've got this.

 And so, here we are. Me. You. And this blog page. You will notice that I have titled it Traviscerations, a play on my own name and the word eviscerate, which means: to disembowel. Grotesque? Perhaps, but that's kind of the point here. To spill my guts out to you. From time to time I will be sharing with you my thoughts, opinions, ruminations. Sometimes I will be sharing memories, sometimes the present. Some posts may be as simple as a review of an old or new album, and other posts may be confessions that cause those who know me to question who I am. And I hope you have a tolerance for vulgar language and a sick sense of humor, because now and then you'll be getting both. In my opinion, the best writers are those who are honest, whether they write fiction or non-fiction. I want to be honest. This blog will be my pedestal, my confessional, my platform, your entertainment. I hope to serve us both here, you get an interesting read and I get writing experience to hopefully help me in other areas and projects. It'll be fun, I promise.

 Soooo... Big breath! I will be fairly absent for the next week and a half or so. Big plans. I have boxes to pack and a new house to move into. But keep your eyes peeled, because the next time that we are here I'll want to tell you about a little game.