48 years of Music and Memories

My 30 year high school reunion is coming up. Its odd because just yesterday I was six and me and my sister were at my Aunt Rose’s house listening to Muskrat Love by Captain and Tennille. Wow! that was a terrible album…But, I own it because it reminds me of my Aunt Rose. She exposed me and my sister to some absolutely terrible music but at the same time, she had some greats like Barry Manilow and who doesn’t know who Lola the showgirl is and where Barry fell in love with her. Admit it, even as a straight male, you’re singing that song in your head. You can’t help it. I still flip through records and remember people and places and things. I don’t have as much time as I’d like to do it but when I get the chance and I’m not completely annoying my family members, I put on those old records and they immediately take me back. They take me back to my uncle Bob’s room at my grandmothers house where he had these gigantic speakers and he was listening to Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers.  Even though Donald Fagen only had one good album (The Nightfly), I owe my appreciation for his and the smooth voice of Michael McDonald to my Uncle Bob.

I think more than anything I am thinking of my son, who is off at basic training in S. Carolina right now. He’s a true music fan and Simon and Garfunkel and Johnny Cash and Al Green are some of his favorites. When he was younger, we would listen to music together and as his tastes developed in different directions, I stuck to the 70s and 80s mostly, still enjoying various artists and genres but sticking close to home and the memories attached to the songs I love. There were those times as a small child that I listened to The Imperials and I closed my eyes and in my mind, I stood and watched an eagle fly, spread his wings and soar across the sky, how gracefully he flew. There was the time, me and Jerry Lamb listened to the 45 record in his room, Convoy, over and over. I bet his mother was about to flip out if she heard “10-4 rubber ducky” one more time and there we were, both of us listening to Convoy and I know, secretly just there, hoping that Sandra Wilson would come outside her front door so that we could go out there and compete for her attention.

I remember hearing Stanley Clarke’s Album “Let Me Know You” on a trip to Monterrey Mexico at my Uncle Beto’s house and actually realizing how much I enjoyed jazz. Gino Vanelli and his Brother to Brother album, every song is gold on that album. Every song on albums like Def Leppards’ Pyromania, Bryan Adams’ Reckless, Prince’s Purple Rain.  I could go on and on from popular music to the classics from Journey that now stop people in their tracks to sing along and reminisce.

I’ll do my best to remember and I know that after I save this, more will come to me. I remember my brother, Robert, coming home with Boston’s Third Stage. The insert in the cassette cover was so cool! and every song was awesome. We played it on his little jam box that he had unscrewed the back from and cut the speaker wires and run wires into my dad’s old Radio Shack, wooden Realistic Speakers. Those speakers sounded amazing! I adopted much of my brothers musical tastes as well. I have just about every Pat Metheny album because of my brother bringing home First Circle. He was a Rush fan too and over the years, I’ve picked up every Rush album for my son, even the bad ones. Wait, are there any bad ones? Maybe, I don’t know. It’s not about the music, Its about the art.

Back then, we listened to Friday Night Videos. MTV hadn’t come on the scene and the only time to watch videos was on Friday and Saturday nights and if you were a headbanger, you had to stay up extra late to watch Headbanger’s Ball…but, if you were a headbanger, that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem because you were, of course, a natural rebel. After MTV, VH1 came along and I started to appreciate Lionel Ritchie as a solo artist a little more and smooth jazz became part of my repertoire when picking up the ladies. I can’t even begin to count how many times, I popped in the cassette Collaboration by Earl Klugh and George Benson, doing my absolute best to get the girls swooning. I will admit, Collaboration worked a little better than Larry Carlton (one of Mark Bairrington’s favorites). I hear a Larry Carlton song and I think about you Mark. Good stuff. One of my favorite Commodores albums, “All the Great Hits” has the song Painted Picture on it and Man!!! that’s a great song.

When I would visit family in Corpus Christi, I acquired musical taste for Sade from my cousin Velma and in the 80’s, of course, spending time with my cousin Pam, we couldn’t go without listening to Don’t Disturb this Groove. I actually now have The System on vinyl because, of course, its another memory I need to make sure I don’t lose track of. my cousin Ronnie would allow me to go with her on her occasional trek to Craig’s Record Factory and it was like Heaven in that place! The music that came about in the late 80s and early 90s was deeply appreciated. I can’t even think of most of it because I was in a bit of a fog most of the time. I do remember, cruising around in Manny Chapa’s lowered Toyota truck, with some sort of short in the radio that buzzed louder when he hit the accelerator. It didn’t effect our ability to thoroughly enjoy The Cult’s Fire Woman, She Sells Sanctuary. I’m telling you, if you haven’t listened to those songs and music from Poison or Motley Crue in a small cab on full blast, you just haven’t appreciated the music to it’s fullest. Of course, you have to be enroute to Elizabeth’s By The Sea, Vernon’s or Bobarubas or just cruising around the Dallas/Rio parking lot because you’re not quite old enough to get into the clubs.

I could also go on and on about the memories attached to the music. Like how whenever I hear Summer of 69, I remember Bryan Stewart driving like a maniac, or how absolutely spotless Rod Bryans car was and how he was meticulous in keeping his music just so when we listened to Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” in his back room, or listening to The Outfield’s Play Deep with Mark Willmann. How can I ever forget listening to shock heavy metal with Boozer Pennington when he first came home with a cassette by a band called W.A.S.P. Talk about rebellion. I guess it wasn’t a far stretch from listening to AC/DC’s Back in Black with Scott Brewer in his little jacked up Toyota, so completely hammered that he had to dump me off at the back of my house and my throat was scratchy the next day because I actually became Brian Johnson in the front seat of the truck.

Riding around in cars, blaring music, being completely irresponsible with alcohol, that’s just what we did in small town West Texas in the 80s. Am I proud of it? Of course not. Did it happen? Hell yeah it happened and it was the best time of my life. I remember the first time I heard Crazy Train at Larry Abney’s house. Man! that rocked. We also listened to Quiet Riot that day. Honorable mention goes out to Keric Clanahan and Erik Wilson for letting me experience a group called The Meatmen and a song called Tooling for Anus. What the hell was that about???? Oh yeah, one more, Shawn Holliday, Chad Redwine, and myself and I would say maybe a few hundred other people can’t go through life without hearing a Duran Duran song and thinking of Mindy Kniffen. Mindy…from the bottom of my heart, I apologize for Shawn when he threw your Duran Duran cassette out of the back of the bus window. I can’t fail to mention, Patrick Guzman. We were all in his front yard, he was washing his car and me and Victor and I think Patty was there too and he had Pass the Dutchie playing at full volume on his car stereo. I remember cruising around with Shawn Holliday in his Camaro and listening to Til Tuesday. A couple years back, I had to pick up the CD “Voices Carry” and wondered, “why did this sound so good back then in that car and now…not so much?” The answer…because I was hanging with friends and family and people I cared about. That’s it. The music was background noise. Whether it was Russ Taff, Keith Whitley or Aerosmith or Def Leppard or Chris Botti or ZZ top or Ozzy, We were building memories. I figure I better enjoy those memories now because with all the spray aerosol deodorant I’ve used over the years and all the Sweet-N-Low that I put in my tea every day, who knows how long my mind will stay sharp.


My Angel is a Soldier

When I saw this picture today, my heart swelled up with pride and my eyes swelled up with tears. My daughter Sarah is a Soldier the U.S. Army. She’s a platoon leader and before she left I told her that she was a leader, not a follower. I’ve always been proud of her but seeing her in this picture, in army fatigues, and with the flag of the United States on her shoulder just put me in awe of her. The other kids in that picture are not mine but I’m proud of them too. I can’t speak for those other kids (adults really but they’re so young) but I know what my Sarah is made of. She’s fearless and brave. She’s a defender of others and she always has been. She has a heart of gold and it’s filled with fire when she sees a goal in front of her. She’s a fighter and nothing will defeat her when she sets her mind to something. 

I sat in my car for a little while and sent that picture to several family members. I was about to go on my evening walk at the bayfront and the feeling of pride was overwhelming. As i walked along the waters edge i asked a man that was fishing if he had had any luck, “just little bites” he told me. I talked with him for a brief moment and he asked how my day was going. I told him, “it couldn’t be better.” He said, “that’s good” and I couldn’t resist but to show him the picture and tell my daughter is in the army and I got this picture today. He smiled and said, “God bless her. I know you’re a proud daddy.” I told him I sure was and I wished him luck and I was on my way. I feel so grateful that Sarah was given to me as a daughter and no matter what difficulties I’ve faced in life, I’ve been able to feel that feeling of being proud of not only Sarah but my other kids, Allie and Isaiah, as well . They’re the best kids and I know they will all be successful. 

They will all have their shining moments and I know that although Sarah may not realize how I felt about her today, today is the day I felt I was going to burst with pride for her. My heart aches a little because I miss her so much. My Angel is a soldier. I love you Lulu. 

To my Heroes at The Hot Pepper

I recently started a new hobby of growing hot peppers. Now, when I say hot, initially, I thought, Habaneros and Serranos had some heat. I’ve always enjoyed spicy food. When I go to a barbecue joint, I reach for the spicy sauce. When I go to a Thai place and the waitress says, “one through five,” I boastingly say, “make mine a six.” So, to try out my hand at growing peppers, I began with the basics; jalapenos, habaneros, serranos, and some thai chili. About a month into my new hobby, I stumbled across a website called “The Hot Pepper.” I thought it was amazing to see all these people who were almost fanatical about their hobby. They really know their stuff. Every bit of information you could possibly want is on this web site. The peppers are works of art. The knowledge runs so deep with the people on this site that they should be teaching at Universities! I was amazed. They have the best recipes for hot sauce. The forums are always interesting. I could go on an on.

Well, after a few weeks, I ventured off into the realm of making my own hot sauce. I did pretty good. I made dozens of batches. People were asking me for more of my sauce. My neighbors loved it. I was making everything with Habaneros; mango habanero, peach habanero, pineapple habanero, pineapple mango habanero, pineapple coconut habanero. You have probably guessed that I like the heat of the habanero and I like fruit flavored hot sauces.

I decided that the next step is to try my hand at growing some of what the aficionados call “super hots.” These peppers have names like “devil’s tongue”, “Yellow 7 Pot”, “Trinidad scorpion”, “bhut jolokia” (more commonly known as the ghost pepper). The names go on and on. I started watching the Youtube videos of these people sampling these super hot peppers and wondered, “I wonder if I could do that?” Needless to say, I made contact with a “THP” member and bought some of these peppers with the intention of getting the seeds, trying to grow some, and to make some hot sauce. Many people have asked me for something hotter than what I had already so I figured, “what the hell, I’ll make some super hot sauce with some of these super hot peppers.”

I followed the lead of some of the pros on the website and got out my surgical gloves. I got all my ingredients together and me and my 13 year old son jumped right in. Halfway through the process, my son put a cut pepper up to his nose and next thing I know, He’s bent over the sink, coughing, hacking up a lung, yelling and telling me, “I DIDN’T EVEN TASTE IT BUT IT GOT ON MY LIP AND IN MY NOSE!!!” For the next couple minutes, I attended to him and he downed a few glasses of milk and ice water and eventually, he was able to pull himself away from the ice machine. I put all the cut up peppers in a foil and put them over the burner. They were going to get a little roast on them and then go into the blender. Before I knew it, both me and my son were coughing and gagging. It was like a dozen police officers had come into my home and pepper sprayed both of us!




“OPEN THE DOOR SON!!” I yelled to him. He made his way through the haze and opened the back door.  We had come too far. We had to push on. We had to complete this mission of making this super hot sauce. I wouldn’t allow the peppers to beat me. I have been watching young girls eating these peppers on Youtube and I thought, “If they can do that, I can do this!” As I dumped everything into the blender, the fumes hit me in the face and almost knocked me into the cabinets on the other side of the kitchen. At this point, I started asking myself, “Are these people Super Human???? How the HELL do they do this!!!??” I pushed on. My son had made his way into the backyard and avoided the cloud of fumes that had overcome my kitchen. My two dogs that are typically waiting at my feet for any bit of morsel to drop, had already headed out the doggie door and were at the back fence. I blended this deadly mixture to a consistency that I thought was suitable for the mutant that would be able to put this stuff on a taco and took the blender into the back yard and told my son, “When I tell you, run into the kitchen and get the jars out of the hot water and bring them out to me.”

My son quickly replied, “I’m not going back in there!” as he held an ice pack to his nose and mouth area. I put the blender down on the outside table and took a deep breath and ran back into the house to get the jars. As I hit the threshold of the open back door, I felt like Nicolas Cage in “The Rock” running into a cloud of poisonous nerve gas and all I could think about was that I might go into a seizure if I took a deep enough breath. Needless to say, I completed my mission and I filled up four jars of this nuclear waste that I was going to call Super Hot Mango Hot Sauce. The reality is that if you put this stuff on any food you plan to eat, it will eat right through it and then burn through the glass plate and the wooden table underneath. It will probably look like a clip from the movie Alien Vs. Predator when the aliens get cut and their acid like blood splashes onto the people and burns right through to their bone marrow.

I want to close by saying one thing. “You people at The Hot Pepper that eat this stuff have stomachs made of Unobtainium and my hat goes off to you!”