#007 Fire and Rain

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end

I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend

But I always thought that I’d see you again

James Taylor

Swate drames uhn flahn’ mushaines ian paces own thuh growuhn’. 

I can’t help myself. I still speak in Appalachian, mostly to my dog and sometimes my wife. I don’t sing in my native dialect, though. I just wanted to see what it would look like transliterated and typed it out.

I miss the lush green mountains of the East. Michelle and I both love rain. And mountains. On a day off we head to the mountains more than the ocean. If we see it’s raining in the mountains we’ll often take an impromptu day off and chase the storm. We found Green Valley Lake by accident, chasing rain.

Everyday I daydream of our move. We’re thinking Portland, Maine or Winchester Virginia. I’m tired of the desert. I don’t want to wish my life away, but the next three years can’t pass quickly enough. I’m going to miss the ocean, but there’s another ocean or a river somewhere for us to live by.

My intention, yet another metaphorical brick paving my personal road to hell with unbought stuffed dogs (some Hemingway fan somewhere will someday get that literary joke), was that this blog would be about my music career touring the United States and a chunk of the world with various artists, bands, groups and productions. I’m finding it very difficult to write about those years without manslpaining why I got into the music business in the first place. It’s not an easy explanation. Sure I could give a paragraph and summarize it all very neatly, but my desire for self-expression, in spite of what anyone thinks, overrides that very quickly. I’d ask for forgiveness or permission, but I’ve gotten to the age I don’t need or care about either. 

You know, the joke about the older man being interviewed by the twenty-something HR girl? She asks him what he thinks his worst trait is and he says “honesty.” She replies that she would think that honesty is a positive trait to which he replies, “I don’t give a damn what you think!”

It’s weird. I care and I don’t care. I think I’m just sleep deprived from too much school and work. Sometimes my words flow better with the adrenaline of exhaustion, but I second guess myself and want to edit more. Anyway, lets get to the point, shall we?

As I begin examining and discovering my own latent reasons for adopting a gypsy lifestyle in service to those with artistic talent I’m seeing aspects of my life I had not even thought about. For me this is a cathartic experience. There’s also a dangerous feeling of overexposing myself.

I have no desire to be brief. I truly hope I don’t lose both of my readers over taking my time and meandering down whatever country roads I feel necessary. Trust that we are about to leave Romney, together, even though I could easily stay here for a few more posts. 

The tony side of LA is on fire this morning. As one takes Sunset to the sea, a la Steely Dan, one leaves the grit of Hollywood to pass through the flamboyance of West Hollywood to be surrounded by the mansions of Bel Air to pass north of Westwood and UCLA to cross the 405 and enter the wealthy suburbs of Brentwood. The hills become a bit more untamed. The canyons dead-end, instead of passing over Mulholland, dotted with largish homes. Brentwood turns into Pacific Palisades where Sunset meets the sea at the Pacific Coast Highway, smack into the Gladstone’s parking lot. 

The drive is lovely. It’s one of the first things I did when I got here 30 years ago. The scenery is unchanged. The road the same windy thread from downtown LA to the sea. I drove from downtown near Dodger Stadium, all through those neighborhoods, and had a seafood salad at Gladstone’s, so fresh and primordial that I discovered a little crab, alive, drenched in blue cheese dressing, between the size of a nickel and a quarter, at the bottom of the bowl. Cute little crustacean, it was. I’m fairly certain I didn’t eat him alfresco, but I don’t remember tossing him back into the sea, either. Today, all I can think about is wishing I would have cleaned him up and tossed him back into the ocean. I’m a different person now. I’d do it today.

So we’ve talked about the fire. Let me turn my attention now towards rain. It Never Rains in Southern California, as Albert Hammond sang back in 1972, but last winter we had much more rain than usual.

People either don’t realize or they forget that Southern California is a desert by the sea. If it weren’t for man’s intervention, this would just be brown sandy desert with very little green growth and no palm trees. But every year, sometime between November and April, it does rain either a little or a lot. The mountains green up. There were so much rain this past winter that the Hollywood hills literally looked like they had green hair growing out of them. The sky was so clear in Los Angeles that you could actually see the mountains way off in the distance and they were snowcapped. I had to check my sanity a few times, believing for moments that I was actually in Salt Lake City.

By June the greenery of the mountains and hills have turned brown. And by August and September any spark could set that dessicated flora on fire, as they did today.

I’ve never had to run from a fire. I’ve had to escape two different fireworks accidents over the years, one when I was younger than five, and another on New Year’s Eve in Rio at the turn of the century. Yes, sigh, another story for another time, which we will get to. I promise.

But I’ve had to escape a flood. You see, somewhere around 1970 or 1971, the tail end of a hurricane came up the Atlantic Coast and dumped butt-loads of rain in the mountains of West Virginia and everywhere else.

Perhaps you’ve heard me mention the little creek behind where I lived as a boy. That gentle little stream, the North Branch of the Little Cacapon, merges with the South Branch, which flows into the Potomac, which of course flows into the Atlantic Ocean. So my little stream, barely six feet across, swoll up to way over fifty feet in width and came to just within a few feet of our home. Mom and Dad bundled my brother and me up, and we drove away in the middle of the night to somewhere safe nearby, and waited for the waters to subside, which they did. 

I don’t know if I was scared or not. I remember it as an adventure. But it gave me one more reason to respect Mother Nature who I knew could be much more of a bitch than portrayed in the margarine commercials of the day.

Next week, we’ll be back to more music and the foundations of my Classic Rock upbringing, seeds planted by the age of ten that would sprout as I hit puberty and beyond. Those seeds would ultimately grow into the mighty oak of my love of music and that is what would drive me into the music business. 

In the meantime, ✌🏽❤️🖌

As always, if you haven’t yet, please follow using the button to the right. 🙏🏽

#004 Some Days Are Easy

Today’s post is not my usual Second Act Sunday post. Homework and an online exam will be occupying my whole day, so please accept this song I’ve written instead.

As always, thank you for reading and subscribing.

Some Days Are Easy

Some days are easy
Other days are hard
Some say I'm a genius
But I feel like a 'tard

Sometimes I'm effusive
More often I'm terse
My moods wax and wane
From better to worse

I've drank a lot of whiskey
And smoked a lot of dope
I've chased a few women
Most have said "nope"

Liquor can't fix my problems
Weed don't make me forget
But I get relief for a while
And don't give a shit

They say that eventually
Our brain cells are diminished
It's so hard to tell just
When a song is finished

Some days are easy
Some days are hard
I'd call myself a poet
If talented like the Bard

#002 Introduction

”The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” – Hunter S Thompson

I started to call this “book”, chapter by chapter, “Second Act Sunday” because it’s about my second act in this lifetime. If you saw recently the picture of me at age 9 with the stethoscope playing “Emergency!” with my little brother juxtaposed with me now with my real stethoscope you know what I mean. 

I’ve decide to actually entitle this project “How I Screwed (Up) My Way to the Top.” Amidst much success there were also many mistakes and blunders, which now, I’m able to start laughing at. Actually, I’ve laughed about them for a long time, just not publicly.

In January of 2003, I accepted a job working in-house with the band I had just been on the road with. It paid less than I wanted, but in terms of a per annum figure it wasn’t that bad. The job had been offered to me even though I was highly unqualified for the position. 

I saw it as a chance to segue off the road to a different way life. I was tired. Being on the road nine months a year, year after year had taken its toll.

With hindsight, a lot of it, I wish I had taken six months off, or even three, but I had just bought a condo in Culver City. I wanted to stay in one place for a while and live in my first real adult home. My bank account was depleted in the purchase, so I felt motivated to get back to work. 

I also hated to say no to work. A-level work was A-level work. Plus, all involved had thought highly enough of me to consider me in the first place. I felt honored. They didn’t realize I was unqualified. More than once in my life people have thought me capable of more than I could handle. 

When I accepted the gig, I knew it would be challenging and a lot of work. I was my style then, as is still my style now, to jump off the highest diving board I could find only to be submerged way in over my head in the freezing cold water of the deep end of the pool and learn how to swim all over again.

By early July, I was told that I was rendered redundant. I’ll save those details for the final chapter. When I was let go, I felt as if I’d been set up to fail. I was behind before I even started. Even worse was the realization that ultimately, I, myself, was the one who set me up to fail. I should have said “I’m not your guy, buddy.” I’d like to think by now, all these years later, I’ve learned to say no. We’ll see. Just know that I had truly put my full heart and energy into the job. By the time I was let go, one of the band members had become insufferable and only now can I forgive him.

(Yes, chucklehead, I forgive you. I even began listening to your latest album this week. I wish you well.)

I stayed on for the next eight weeks at full pay, handing off to the next person who lasted on the gig about as long as I did.

At the heart of it all, I was embarrassed. I thought the firing would follow me around. I’d lost jobs before, or had not been invited back later, but this somehow felt different. I failed to recognize that sometimes being sacked by people known to be difficult  could be a viable calling card unto itself. It was little consolation that on their next tour they did housecleaning of personnel, anyway. 

A friend gave me an opportunity to interview at his company. I got the job. I was excited to start a new career in sales.

A few leads came in for road gigs, which with hindsight, might have been really great tours. I turned them all down or didn’t follow up. I, as has been my modus operandi with many a relationship, turned my back and walked away.

Music had been my life for forever. It had been more constant than any friend, lover or anything else. It had been my “thing.” Leaving the touring industry felt as if my best friend, no, a part of myself, maybe the biggest part of me, MY IDENTITY, had died.

I mourned. I grieved through the various stages of a denial, anger, bargaining and depression. I stopped listening to music. It took years to go to a concert again as a fan. 

I’ve never been diagnosed as manic-depressive, but I certainly have tendencies. All my life my moods have ranged from dysthymic to hypo-manic. If I’ve ever disappeared on you as a friend, just know it was me, not you. I, for whatever reason at the time, wasn’t in a great place and couldn’t stand the emotional  pain of answering the simple question of “How are you?” 

I’ve always regarded myself as a high-functioning depressive. I knew that sometimes the highs were too high and lows were to low. Life is, as Sue Marshall reminds me, about finding a broader middle spectrum. 

The last two years have been a time of reinvention. I’m truly happy, even though I’m making far less than I used to make. For now. School is beyond rewarding. My internship at the hospital fulfills me. I have a true inner purpose again and a reason to wake up every day before the alarm clock. I am in a great place emotionally with a new passion and career-beginnings, carving out my little corner in health care. 

Even though it’s been nearly 30 years, I feel the same buzz that I used to feel. Walking into the hospital feels like what walking into a load-in used to. Hearing a sick baby cry or someone scream in pain moves me more than the house lights going down and the punters cheering ever did. Comforting someone who’s afraid, connecting with them, human-to-human, feels better than faxing a show settlement at one in the morning and heading to the bus and the comfy confinement of my bunk.

I look forward to each new day and each new learning moment. I’m in my zone. I’ve found my new tribe. I’ve found my new “thing.”

Even Michelle doesn’t know much  of these years of which that I’m about to write. I just didn’t talk about, until recently. I can now write about my years in that cruel, shallow money trench, that long plastic hallway. 

I’ve finally reached acceptance. 

#001 Preface

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages…

William Shakespeare 

“As You Like It”

Published 1623

I’ll spare you the reading of the complete passage. Let us suffice to say for those who know or choose to know, that I vacillate between what the Bard called the “schoolboy” and the “soldier.” 

Four years ago, when I was 52, I noticed my life had this beautiful symmetry to it. Dividing by 4, I was looking at 4 distinct 13-year periods. 

Ages 0-13 were spent growing to adolescence in Kentucky and West Virginia. I had an idyllic Appalachian upbringing. I would not trade growing up on the top of a mountain for anything. Those years themselves could, and maybe will someday, be the source for much writing. 

Ages 14-26 were my Indiana years of puberty, high school, college and the beginnings of my music business career in Indianapolis with Sunshine Promotions. Oh, what wild times. 

Ages 27-39 I traveled to all 50 of our United States and nearly 30 countries, in service to a wide variety of entertainers and musical groups. These expeditions with so many minstrels and troubadours kept me very busy. That is truly the subject of this “book.”

Ages 40-52 were in one place, with one job, in my adopted hometown of Los Angeles, which I had used as a home base during the quarter before as well. 

The purpose of these writings is manifold:

One is to inform those who know me, but have no idea what I did before they met me at the age of 40 or beyond. 

Most people who knew me growing up, family included, have no idea about my young adult life. 

Another is for me, myself, to put it all together. I’ve forgotten more than I remember. At least it feels that way. With luck, by reflecting and typing it in, I’ll have a mostly complete recounting to share with you.  

Additionally, I just may be able to pull together a complete employment resume. 

This is not going to be a Hollywood tell-all. Don’t expect a lot of TMZ-style dishing. Under the advice of Bambi’s Thumper and my mother, Mary L. Woolsey, if I don’t have anything nice to say, I will be far less effusive than with those I admire. 

I’ll be starting with how I came to love music, especially live music, and how that passion turned into a career. The beginnings of my touring career with Sunshine Promotions in Indianapolis are as important to me as my 13 years on the road. 

These weekly Sunday installments are a grand experiment for me. Conflicting parts of me are shouting that I can’t, I shouldn’t or I won’t tell my story. I do and don’t want any commentary. 

Done correctly, a week at a time, this will take a couple years at least. 

Bear in mind that most long-term touring pros are humble people who simply do a job they love day-in and day-out. They do not boast and brag. They are not conceited. They are not of the “Hey, look at me!” variety. They sacrifice time with their families or maybe decided to forego the family route at all. Some suffer in silence over what is missing in their lives, as other parts are very full. It’s not an easy path to choose. Yet there are many rewards. 

I’m not trying to call attention to myself. At least not in the vein of “Look what I used to do for a living!” I generally say, when asked, that I did some behind the scenes stuff in the music business, and hope no more questions are asked. 

There are many who have done it much more than me, and done it far better. 

I’m not special. Yet, when I stop and recognize that I’ve worked for and with a Nobel Prize winner and 3 EGOTS, maybe there is a story to tell. 

Thank you in advance for reading. 

I want to thank the following people:

Jim Cimino  and Chi Neal for their incessant prompting. 

Kelly Morgan for helping me find my voice as a writer. 

Fred Schrott, Tony Collins & Sally Mann Romano, writers extraordinaire, for being salient, current inspiration. 

Michelle Minor Howard for her constant love, energy and support. We met each other way back when, and we are miraculously and joyfully married today. To you, my soulmate, life-support system and partner for the rest of my life, this “book” is humbly dedicated. 

Dave Howard

Long Beach, CA

15 September 2019