April Fools

 Forty years ago today, only three days removed from New York City, I walked into Tower Records on Sunset Strip. I was looking for a job. I had just spent nearly a year working for a guy named Sam Goody at his flagship store in Rockefeller Center, but I was not prepared for the size and breadth of “Tower Sunset” – or the staff. At Sam Goody’s the staff wore shirt and tie, the managers wore suits. We were exceedingly attentive to our customers. We closed at 6pm.  

 I was awestruck by this enormous Hollywood record store and wandered gob struck in a straight line until I came to a wall, a wall of cassette tapes. An endless wall of cassette tapes. A bit disoriented, I looked up and there was a gent behind the counter, with long flowing hair and an astonishingly expansive mustache. He was absentmindedly drumming away on the counter with a Bic pen. He couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge me staring at him. Finally, I mustered the strength to say, “I’m here to see the manager”. Without looking up, or missing a beat, he said, “Back room”. 

 I found my way to the back room. I filled out a job application and was led into a tiny office where a rather tall, blonde, hippy-looking guy sat behind a desk wearing dark sunglasses, faded jeans and a raglan t-shirt. His sneakers were on the desk and he looked at me like I was a bill collector. I asked to see the manager. He said, “Yeah, I’m Bob” and reached for my application. As he glanced at the paper, I perused the dirty, cluttered, fluorescent lit, white walls. My eyes froze on a picture of this same guy standing with his arm around Bob Marley. Before I could finish my gasp, Bob said dismissively, “You worked in a record store for a month and you put it on your résumé? I arrogantly replied, “I worked there from January to December. That’s eleven months”. Bob grumbled something under his breath and said, “Okay. Thanks for coming in. Got any questions?”

I answered, “Just one. When do I start?”

 Bob started to answer a couple of times, but couldn’t find words. Finally, he managed, “Come back tomorrow at 3:30. Ask for David. Shift ends at 12:30am”. A tiny woman materialized, escorted me out of the room, gave me some paperwork to fill out and wrote me out a schedule. 

 My 26 year journey with Tower Records had begun. 

First day on the job? April Fool’s Day, 1980

Employee #3047


POSTSCRIPT;

Wow! How gratifying to see so many reactions. Thank you!

 Right after I wrote this little piece, I realized that I forgot a great detail. During the interview, Delanoy asked me where I saw myself going with the company and I said, “I think I’d like to have your job”. Hahaha! True story.

 Nine “short” years later, that little office was mine.

 And here’s a picture of me and some random job applicant in that very room. 

LOVE!


New York City

3/27/2020

 40 years ago TODAY, I left my childhood home of New York City. NYC was a hovel in the late 70’s, broken down, filthy and hopeless. Son of Sam was reigning terror, the subways were a lawless no-man’s land and the South Bronx was on fire. I was a starving musician sleeping on a friend’s pull out couch. It was freezing outside, I was broke and my family had all moved to Beverly Hills. They had a swimming pool and lots of sunshine. Every winter, my folks would send me a round trip ticket to visit LA for my birthday. In February of 1980, Mom said, “No more round trips. If I gift you another ticket, it’s going to be one way”.

 Our band was changing. We had been increasingly successful in ‘78 and into ‘79, getting lots of gigs all around NYC and Long Island, playing big clubs (and small) and the college circuit. We were reviewed in Variety and local papers. On a good night, we could draw 200-300 people, maybe more at the college lunch hour shows. We even played twice at the Central Park Bandshell and twice in Washington Square Park. But punk and disco and rap were all blowing up and suddenly we were questioning our direction. We stood in front of Great Gildersleeves and looked down the Bowery where one block down the lines in front of CBGB kept getting bigger as our crowds started getting smaller. We added more band members, tried to adjust our sound. We even played a gig at CBGB. 

 Arista Records Publishing was having meetings with our band leader. They started feeding him tunes from their catalog for us to arrange and demo up. The feedback that was slowly coming back to us was, “Great work. You’re getting close. You could be signed in a month”. I was unconvinced. I needed unfiltered info and demanded a meeting with this exec. My partner and I ventured to this guy’s Lower Manhattan loft for the meet up. I don’t remember anything about the place other than it was brick walled and the walls were covered with zithers. Rad! We “got comfy” and he played us some of the new music he was into. It was the first time I heard Squeeze, a real game changer for me. 

Side note: the guy’s name was John Wonderling and he had a little girl named Allison. Yeah. His daughter’s name was Allison Wonderling. Hahaha. How cool is that?!

 After hours of avoiding the elephant in the room, I finally gathered my chutzpah and said, “So, I hear we could be a month away from being signed”. John responded, “Yeah. Could be a month, a few months, a year, but I like what I’m hearing”. A year? Could be? I didn’t hear anything after that. My heart sank and my ears shut down. The next morning, I called my Mom and asked for that one way ticket.

 I’ve been back to NYC at least 20 times since March 27, 1980. I just love that place. I’ll always consider myself a New Yorker and I am so eternally grateful to have grown up in the greatest city in the world. My thoughts are with all of my friends in NYC who are living through times that must make the 70s look like Disneyland in comparison. I cherish my 40+ year relationships and I love you all. I hope to see you all again after this storm passes. 

LOVE, peace and wash your hands.

Joel

You’re Gonna Be Okay

  I cried today. For the first time since this crisis started, I cried.

 I woke up this morning to find my beloved sitting at her new “desk” (the kitchen table) all showered and made up and dressed for work. The 3-day pajama party had ended. She’s struggling to find normalcy in this epic shit storm. Her head is in her hands. Her young autistic son is stuck here at home and Nickie has to go to his school and pick up lesson plans. She worries that she’s not doing enough to keep Jason active and learning. She feels she is somehow failing him, that she’s a failure as a parent. She breaks down and sobs, completely overwhelmed by the weight of the moment. She pulls herself together and heads out, only to return empty handed. No one answering the door at the school. I console her as best I can, but hugs can only do so much.

 It’s Thursday, just before 8am. I suit up to catch the last hour of “senior shopping”. The mask, the gloves, the hoodie pulled up over my baseball cap. Not my nice cap. An old skanky one. I get to the market and wipe down my cart. A young employee, a kid really, stands in front of the market looking shell shocked. He pulls out a rag, sprays some sort of clear liquid on it and wipes my cart down. Didn’t he just see me? No matter. I venture in. It’s not the same experience of just two days ago. People look forlorn. The smiles are more tired, the shoppers moving a little slower. Probably just a reflection of myself. I thank every clerk and shelf stocker for being there. I’m finding most of what I need, but still no paper products, no cleaning products, no eggs or ground beef. I don’t even want eggs or ground beef. We have all we need for the next week. And then it hits me. The novelty has worn off. I see my fellow shoppers, many old and frail, frightened and confused. This isn’t a fun little adventure anymore, this is literally life or death. How many of them won’t survive? And it’s still early days. This is only the beginning.

 There is now a huge piece of plexiglass between the cashier and me. This massive sneeze guard wasn’t here two days ago. The clerk looks like he’s lost his will to live. I bag my own groceries and thank him. He grunts something in return.

 I arrive home, with the groceries and all of the good advice I read in a doctor’s post that President Obama shared. I carefully remove my mask and cap and hoodie and put my keys aside. I take the tainted clothes to the laundry room and grab some Clorox wipes. I return to the front room and start removing all of the groceries from the bags, carefully wiping each package down. Nickie comes in to help and the absurdity of the moment, the REALITY of the moment, hits me. What if I did all the right things but in the wrong order? What if I brought one tiny, little nasty bug into our home? What if I’m getting my wife and children sick just by bringing home some frozen peas? 

 I looked at my partner and I just broke down and cried. Is this our lives now? This surreal sci-fi movie? Good Lord. Who could have imagined?

 I know I’ll find the light and I’ll have many little victories today, reignite my spirit and regain my resolve. I know am more fortunate than so many, that my blessings are many, that my gratitude for what I have is greater than fear and sadness. 

MUCH LOVE TO ALL! You’re going to be okay!

Joel

Baseball, Ray

 It’s really hitting me hard today. We’re all struggling to adjust and adapt, to find some normalcy in this madness, to come up with a routine, to live in the moment, to find some joy and beauty among the fear and sadness.

Today’s a tough pill to swallow. I’ve always said that the saddest day of the year is the last game of the World Series. Today is even sadder.

 It’s not just a game. 

 This too shall pass. 

LOVE!

Pandemic 2020 – 3.25.20

Facebook’s asking me, “What’s on your mind Joel”. Well, glad that you asked 🙂

Here’s something I heard today:

“My mother is not expendable, and your mother is not expendable, and our brothers and sisters are not expendable and we’re not going to accept the premise that human life is disposable,” Cuomo said. “We’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life.” 

NY President Andrew Cuomo, March 24, 2020

May I be frank for a minute? I’ve been doing my best to remain positive, to not resort to invective, to post mostly positive commentary, to take the high road, to offer hope, to focus on “We’re going to be fine”. And I believe that the vast majority of us will be.

But I’m a little angry tonight. My step-son Jason just said, “Trump is a piece of shit” and I thought, “No. That’s not right. He’s like 10 pieces of shit fused together”. This fucking syphilitic, narcissistic, cloven hoofed, fucking loquat is going to kill an untold number of Americans with his “commerce first, what’s in it for me?” immoral, sick, psychotic, profiteering off of misery, bull fucking shit. And down in Alabamy, and Oklahoma, and in Evangelical *clusters*, ignorant buffoons are having their #COVID45 rallies and incubating mass destruction. And in some ways, that’s just fine. Let their God damned Lord sort it out. But what about the “collateral damage”? It won’t just be jackass trolls getting sick, and suffocating our health care system and stacking their neighbors corpses in refrigeration trucks because there’s too fucking many to bury and no one to bury them. Fer fux ache people. Do you EVER think about the rest of the world?

Breathe, Joel. Breathe.

Now breathe again.

Exhale.

Listen. I’m heartened that many, many state Governors are in charge now, not Cinnamon Hitler. I’m grateful to live in a state where California President Newsom is calling the shots, not this useless game show host and serial-failed businessman. And I’m grateful to live in a community that seems to be pulling for each other and, for the most part, following the advice of the Professionals. 

Today was wonderful for the most part. I heard and saw a lot of beauty in this darkness (it’s everywhere if you look hard enough for it) and I loved and I felt love. And I know I’ll wake up in the morning (that’s the plan anyway) next to my Sweetheart, my soulmate, my wife and my Perfect Plague Partner. Yes, we’re scared and we’re worried, more for our loved ones and our neighbors and humanity in general than our own personal selves, but we remain optimistic that this too shall pass and somehow, something good will come of it. I KNOW it will.

For the survivors anyway. 

Goodnight, my friends. Sleep tight. Tomorrow is another day.

LOVE!
Joel

P.S. OMG. Malachi Constant, Unk, the Space Wanderer just popped into my head. I think it’s the perfect time to read Sirens of Titan again! My favorite book and totally relevant to our current situation and the hope that I am cultivating.

Pandemic 2020

March 22, 2020

I’ll say this about the pandemic. It has truly helped me focus on today.

 I know I’m my best self when I’m living a life of gratitude, but it isn’t always easy to remember to stay in a positive space.

Until now.

 I’m finding that, once I got past the initial terror and shock, and turned the news off, life has become great. I wake up each day next to the woman I love with all my heart. I’m blessed to work from home and tomorrow Nickie starts working from home too. I check in with my family and we tell each other that we love each other. I scroll past the horror stories on Facebook and land on the many positive posts where people are sharing music and humor and stories of kindness and hope. I feel such gratitude that we are healthy and fed, that we still have income and medical insurance. We are so blessed. We have what we truly need for today. 

 This afternoon, we drove on empty freeways enjoying the clearest blue skies we’ve seen in forever, arriving at the ranch where our horses were delighted to see us. We sat out in their pasture for hours, the horses coming up and putting their faces against ours. They feel the energy and just love on us as we love on them. Today, they actually led us to their leads, imploring us to take them to the hitching post where we groom them and let them eat the long grass. At these times, there is no worry in our worlds, just pure love. I’m so, so very grateful for today.

 Afterwards, we drove to our favorite burger joint, hoping against hope that the drive through (which we’ve never used before) would be open. It was! The first words to come through the speaker were a cheery, “Thank you so much for coming”, to which we replied, “Thanks so much for being here for us!” I’m finding this everywhere I go. People actually seem happier, more courteous, nicer. Maybe it’s just the way I’m seeing the world, but either way I’m feeling a lot of love.

 As far as getting sick, I’m pretty convinced that I’ve had this crud for a week or more. Seriously. I’ve had mild sniffles and headaches and sore throat and a pesky little dry cough. Of course, this is probably just first week of spring allergies, but if I remain convinced that I have low grade symptoms of the virus, I’m no longer afraid that I’m going to get it. Liberation from fear is so powerful.

Bottom line, I feel happier than I have in a long time. Every day is a gift, a miracle, and I’m so grateful for all of the blessings in my life.

As bobwhite once said, “Tomorrow’s gonna be what tomorrow’s gonna be tomorrow.”

Until then, today is pretty great! 

Love to all! I hope you’re finding peace and hope and love and humor. You deserve it

2020

Good Lord, is it really 2020? Not much more to say other than I’m revisiting my old website, trying to fix shit that got broken (my entire media library is gone! Broken links everywhere…) and find something better to do with my time than play solitaire or do crossword puzzles. Hope it’s fun 🙂

And how better to start the new year than to attach a screenshot from me in Chaka Khan’s 1985 music video for her hit Through the Fire? I’m the skinny guy on the left 🙂

Happy New Year.

Thanksgiving

I have so much to be thankful for.

I enjoyed a truly delicious feast with my wife and four of our kids this evening. Good food, great company and, of course, we are all constantly entertained by my Grandson Javi. Javi is 13 months old, so he is a ball of energy. After dinner, sprung from his high chair, he is non-stop walking, or more like stumbling like a tiny little drunkard, bouncing off of things, falling on his butt, getting right back up and doing it again and again and again, grinning all the way. You try to pick him up, well… you know how babies are, when you pick them up, they turn to liquid and dribble down the front of you ’til they’re back on the ground, off to wobble another lap around the room.

I pull out my screen to show Molly the awesome new Beatles video (Glass Onion). She’s totally into it! And Javi wanders up and leans on my thigh. So I pick him up, put him on my lap and this is what we looked like for the next half hour as we watched damn near every Beatles video on iTunes.

All through it, I’m rocking him to the beat and he starts grooving out. LOL. A couple of times, I stopped and he looked at me like, “Hey! Don’t stop. Let’s rock!”

The next generation of Beatles fan. Yeah, yeah, yeah 🙂

LOVE!!!

DODGER STADIUM MEMORIES

I lived in Los Angeles from 1980-1993. I made a lot of great friends there, started a long career, played music in damn near every club, heck, my kids were born there and my Dad lived out his years there. Guess that makes me part Angelino.

Back in those days, Tower Records and all of the big record labels had season seats, so I could pretty much go to any game I wanted. For several years in the late ‘80s, during the Dodgers’ glory years of Fernando, Pedro, Orel, Sax, Gibson, Scoscia… Opening Day meant a limo to the park, box seats behind the Dodger dugout and free food. According to my ticket stub collection, I went to over 30 Dodger games in 1986 alone (I lived 10 minutes from the park, so I’d go all the time, even if it was just for an hour before heading to a concert).

But my favorite Dodger Stadium memory happened in the 1st inning of Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS. This turned out to be a game of infamy for the Dodgers, the “Jack Clark game”. The Dodgers were leading 5-4 with two outs in bottom of the 9th, one out away from forcing a game 7, when Mr. Clark hit a heartbreaking 3-run homer. Three outs later, the Cardinals celebrated on the Dodgers field.

But back to the first inning…

Spoiler alert – Kenny G performed the National Anthem (we all took a knee for that one. LOL).

So, I’m getting settled in to my seat right behind home plate – IN THE UPPER DECK – when a guy approaches me and asks for my autograph.

I’ll say that again. A guy approaches me and asks for my autograph.

MY autograph.

I say, “Um… I’m not all that famous, Chuckle. Chuckle”.

And the guy replies, “I respect your privacy, just need a quick autograph and I’ll let you enjoy the game”.

And I say, “No seriously, I don’t think I’m who you think I am”.

But this dude is now all in. He can’t back down and folks are starting to take notice (“DOWN IN FRONT”).

He says, “I really don’t want to make a big fuss. Just give me that autograph please”.
Finally, I have to know. “Um… Who do think I am?”.

And he says…“You’re Kenny G”.
Me: “Um… No, I’m not”.
Him, getting frustrated… “Yes, you are”.
Me: “Seriously, bro. Do you think that, a) You play the anthem and then get seated IN THE UPPER DECK?! and, b) How do you suppose that I got up here this quick?!”

Then I actually pull out my wallet; show him my freakin’ ID and say, “Look. I’m not Kenny G”.

I swear to God, he looks at the ID and says…

“I get it. Stage name”.

Completely humiliated, he finally says, “Well can you just sign your name?”.

And I “autographed” his ticket stub.

True story – this I swear.