Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kevin’s Song

Becca asked me how my nickname is pronounced and after talking to Rayne I decided to share how I got it.

Leaving Art School and freelancing in NYC was a difficult time for me. I was broken, my dreams shattered by the realities of that life. I went back to my parents house and did not return calls from those that wanted me to return.

I spent my time playing my guitar and listening to music in seclusion. My sister decided to give me a dog to keep me company and to get me out of the house. As I was walking my dog a teenager in the neighborhood took an interest in me. His name was Kevin and he lived on my street. He was in trade school for auto mechanics and soon we were busy getting my old Corvette ready for the road. We would spend hours working on the car and playing with my dog.

I allowed Kevin into my world and soon he said that I should try out for a band. Now Kevin was a huge MASH fan and would watch every episode. When I was at art school they wanted me to have a catchy signature so I played around and made one using my initials which are “C. J.” While at art school people started calling me by my initials.

Now one day Kevin called me “Ceij”, pronounced “siege.” In the TV show MASH there was a character named B. J. Honeycutt and his best friend called him “Biej”. I didn’t like MASH and hated the nickname. I used to expend unimaginable amounts of energy trying to get Kevin to stop calling me Ceij.

After a while I did try out for bands and landed a gig playing for a moneymaking top 40 cover band. As I grew more confident many bands wanted me to leave and play for them. Eventually one very talented band convinced me to leave and join them. I gave my notice and promised to stay with them until they found my replacement.

The time finally came and I was to play my last gig with the top 40 band. I wanted Kevin to go to my last performance to see me since I was moving far away to be with the new band and would be traveling a lot. Kevin was 17 but I could get him into the nightclub as a roadie. When we asked Kevin’s parents they forbid it and so Kevin could not go with me to the last gig.

On the opening night of the last gig we had a terrible rain storm. Flash flooding was everywhere and I was fortunate to arrive at the nightclub on time. I setup, went through sound checks then the performance began. I returned home very late that night and went to bed. The next day, before I returned to the nightclub I learned that Kevin went off the road in a flash flood on his way home from work and was in a terrible accident. I had to get a friend to take me to the gig; I was far too upset to drive.

After each set that night I went to the back of the club and sat under a table holding my knees and crying. All I could think was that if Kevin was with me last night he would not have been in the accident.

The final set ended, the performance was over and I said goodbye to my band then went with some people to a 24 hour diner. It was very late as my friend drove me home. We were nearly at my town when the dawn approached. As I watched the sun rise above the horizon I realized that Kevin was gone. Then I felt his presence telling me he was OK and happy. A small smile came onto my face as a small stream of tears rolled down my cheek.

Kevin was gone and I went to his funeral a couple of days later. I thought about all the time we spent together and how much I missed him. I thought about how much he helped me return to the world after my self imposed exile. Then I thought of how much time I wasted arguing with him over the affectionate nickname he gave to me.

It’s been over 30 years since Kevin left us. Someday I will leave as well. There is a song that makes me think of Kevin each time I hear it – “Shooting Star” by Bad Company. When I look back at my days playing in bands I call myself “Johnny Rock Star” after the character in that song:

“Johnny’s life passed him by like a warm summer day, if you listen to the wind you can still hear him play”

I can still hear Kevin play in my soul and I will never forget him.
That is Kevin’s song.

To Kevin, from your friend always,

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Stamp Episode

My last girlfriend called me one night and asked if I could come over the next day.She wanted me to fix her computer and said we could get pizza delivered and watch the college basketball game to make a day of it.

Being a well qualified geek I was very happy to spare her the expense of the Geek Squad and told her I’d be over at 12:30 or so, and started preparing all my diagnostic software in a canvas carry bag that Adobe gave away at the last Seybold Seminar I attended.

At 12:40 I was parking my car and she called asking where I was. She seemed surprised and relieved that I was in her parking lot and would be ringing her bell in less than 3 minutes. I’m typically very punctual but she lives about 40 minutes from my house and I was running a little behind.

When I went into her place I was a bit surprised to see that she had already been drinking wine at that time of day, but thought “well it’s Sunday” and put my canvas bag on her counter, put my ginger ale in her fridge, then proceeded to boot up her PC.

The basketball game was on the TV within view of the PC and I settled in to begin working on the rouge computer. She went about her Sunday chores, busily folding laundry and sipping wine. We took a break when the pizza delivery man appeared and sat on the floor and watched a little of the basketball game.

Shortly after we resumed our tasks she looked over at me and sweetly asked “honey, do you have a stamp?”

“No sweetie, I don’t carry stamps with me” I replied.
Instantly she became visibly agitated and began to vent her frustration. She said she absolutely needed to mail out a bill immediately so the payment would not be late.I then said “Why don’t you give me the letter, I have plenty of stamps at home and I’ll have it next morning’s mail”.To this she insisted that tomorrow wasn’t acceptable it absolutely needed to be mailed today.
“It’s Sunday sweetie, the post offices are closed. The letter is just going to sit in the box until tomorrow anyway….”

At this point she was getting quite angry and said “NO you will mail it from (your town) or (your workplace town), it has to be mailed from (her town)”.

“It’s going to Aurora Illinois, it will get there on the same day whether it’s mailed from here or (my town)”.

Now I’d done it. She became furious and yelled “Have you been reading my mail?!?”

“No sweetie. I put my canvas bag on the counter next to your mail. I recognized the envelope by all the big blue graphics. It’s AT&T – I pay that same bill every month and know it goes to Aurora Illinois. It’s their central billing center, every AT&T bill goes there.”

She ran to the counter, picked up the envelope and stared at the mailing address. “How do you remember these things?” she asked as it seemed her anger was subsiding. “I told you about my memory sweetie” I said as I smiled.
Then she said “CVS sells stamps, I wonder if the Cumberland Farms convenience store up the street does also…”“Well the CVS is less than a half mile away, I’d just go there” I stated in a matter-of-fact” way.

“No, I’m going to call Cumberland Farms and ask them if they sell stamps” she said as she reached for her wall-mounted land-line phone.

I returned to the task of repairing the computer and noticed that she had installed both Norton and McAfee anti-virus applications which, not to mention her AOL junk-ware, was most likely the issue.

About 15 minutes passed and I assumed she was talking to a friend on the phone when suddenly she began to slam the phone against the wall and cursing Cumberland Farms for not answering.

“Was it ringing this whole time?”

“Yes, and they did not answer it the $*@! *$#@*s. I’m calling the phone company and make sure I didn’t get charged for the call!”

“Um sweetie, it’s a local call on a land-line and they did not answer…” I stopped in mid-sentence. She glared at me like a rabid werewolf so I quickly returned to staring at the computer monitor hoping she would find a more suitable target.

She immediately called the phone company and I could tell by her responses that they were trying to explain that “it’s a local call on a land-line and they did not answer…” but for over 15-minutes she insisted that the representative check and confirm that she wasn't being charged for the call.Then she slammed the phone against the wall one more time before she slammed it down on the cradle.

She was cursing to herself as she put on her coat and her fuzzy blue slippers. Then she wheeled around and with her eyes full of fury she angrily directed her attention back to me.

“Can I trust you if I leave you here alone?” she growled like an angry tiger defending its cubs.
“Sweetie, I’m a grown-up, I’m not going to go through your things… look I am still working on the computer, the basketball game is right there… I’m not going to do anything.”

Without a reply she wheeled around and I shook as the door slammed behind her.

Well, I got to a point where I had to download some updates, so I left the PC, poured a glass of ginger ale then sat in front of the TV to watch the basketball game for a bit.

Suddenly, without hearing her key or any other warning the door flew open and she burst in like the Tasmanian Devil until she saw me on the couch.

“I’m sorry sweetie but North Carolina just went ahead, it doesn’t look like you will win the pool” I said as I looked up and smiled at her.

“What’s going on with the computer – why aren’t you working on it?” she interrogated.

“It’s downloading some patches sweetie. I can see it from here. As soon as it finishes and the screen changes I can reboot it.”

She put away her coat and slippers, poured another glass of wine, then came over to the couch and sat next to me. As quickly as it appeared, the storm had passed and all was calm.

I looked at her, smiled, and asked “Did you mail the letter OK sweetie?”

She looked at me and said: “you think you can get anything you want with that cute innocent smile of yours don’t you…”

“Yes sweetie, indeed I do.”