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14 Things

Alrighty then–this list was brought on by a circulating request going on on Facebook. For those of who do not visit the land of fb, I thought I’d post my list here, too. Fourteen things you probably don’t know about me:

1. My first music-related performance on stage was as a (pre-mortem) Elvis impersonator (“tribute artist”, I think they call ’em now) in 3rd grade, for the school talent show at Cedar Creek, in Ruston LA. Historically it was completely inaccurate (singing Jailhouse Rock while wearing a 70’s era jumpsuit-ish sorta thing my mom made me), but I never forgot how bright those footlights were, the energy of being up there, or the cheerleaders backstage waiting to go on after me. I saw the “real” Elvis twice; once in Monroe ca. 1975—the same show after which he almost died from choking on a hamburger, back at the hotel; a story which I believe appears in Peter Guralnick’s fantastic two-volume biography of Presley.

2. In 5th grade I had a “girlfriend” named Rhonda Fetty. She was from California; this seemed very exotic in a good way. We talked on the phone a few times after school. Our mutual favorite song was Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business”. And the Beach Boys “Help Me, Rhonda” resonated with new meaning. But our romance was doomed: my parents and grandparents wouldn’t let me meet her at the skating rink one fateful Saturday. (I can still hear my grandmother’s musical and indelibly southern voice, peppered with scorn: “You are NOT going on no “DATE”!) Then, all of a sudden, according to her parents, Rhonda was never home when I called. Then she moved away. Bummer.

3. Not a fear of flying, exactly–just a fear of crashing. Others: deep water. Being buried alive. Door-knocking solicitors of any variety. Slightly claustrophobic.

4. My friend Coleman and I got away with a lot of things that would have been real trouble had we been caught when we were 12-14, among them shooting out the window of a Monroe city bus with a pellet gun, and attempting to blow up trash cans in the neighborhood via home-made explosives. I’m so grateful the bomb thing failed miserably.

5. I’ve always had a hard time with organized religion. I mean, since I was a small child. And trying to explain what a complicated thing religion is for me now, doing what I do as an artist/creative person, just feels impossible at this point. I suppose that’s what songs are for . . .

6. I believe in an underlying goodness in people, that can transcend race, religion, politics, gender, age, sexual preference/identity—all those things that tend to divide us. I wish we could all show it a little more often.

7. I am an eternally frustrated guitarist, seldom satisfied with my efforts. The more you know, the more there is to know. Some nights it feels like I’m having a fist-fight with myself. But I am forever grateful to those who have been mentors to me, as players, and as people. A partial list: Buddy Flett,Kenny Bill StinsonBo Ramsey.

8. I played football in 5th and 9th grade. 9th grade was more of a social move—trying to escape the nerd herd—and I wasn’t that good. Virgil Watson was our coach. I loved and feared that guy; he had a temper that knew no equal. When he got pissed off at us during practice, he’d have us do this sadomasochistic exercise called Bull in the Ring. Every member of the team took turns being in the center of the ring that the rest of us made around him. The guy in the middle had to take hits from each player in the circle, from about 20 feet out. Big fun. We did our damnedest to not piss off Coach Watson.

9. Mrs. Batten, my 5th grade teacher at Sunset Acres Elementary in Shreveport, was one of my favorite teachers ever. I still remember how she pronounced Chicago: “shi-CAR-go”. And that she had a grown son named LeMoyne.

10. I can’t stand hard-boiled eggs. That smell . . .

11. I often imagine writing long letters to my children, who are now both teenagers, to try to express my love for them and explain more about my unusual life and the things I do, in the hopes that they will understand me—if not now, then at some point in the future.

12. I am a reluctant eccentric, passionate but shy, a loner who enjoys (some) company, a slob plagued by a small bit of vanity.

13. I had an brief but ugly verbal exchange with the poet John Ashbery, while in grad school at Iowa. At the party after his reading, I was, let’s say, not at the top of my cognitive game. I was one of a group of students and faculty surrounding him. He mentioned he was reading in Des Moines the next night, at the art museum. I said, “That’s a nice museum”. He replied, without a hint of mercy or humor: “Young man, there is NO SUCH THING as a NICE museum!” I wanted to be swallowed by the earth right then. He was mean. And I never forgave him for it. Okay, well, maybe I have now.

14. I was a skateboarder while in junior high & high school. One of about 8 guys in the whole town. I was too tall to be really good; the shorter guys had a lower center of gravity that helped when negotiating vertical terrain. We built our own ramps with 2 x 4s and plywood. I designed a portable half-pipe that we used when skating at the Ark-La-Miss Fair once or twice. We blasted Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and other obnoxious-to-the-mainstream music. Folks thought aliens had landed.

3 Responses to 14 Things

  1. Stuart Kendall November 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    There’s a movie in here just waiting to get out, opening shot being the stage at the Cedar Creek talent show with the footlights blinding you in your jumpsuit, doing Jailhouse Rock. Cut to you self-consciously crooning ‘Taking Care Of Business’ over the phone to young Rhonda… Calling MGM now.

  2. Andrew parr November 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Ever come up to Ontario Canada?
    Let me know if ya do

  3. Jim Tomasino November 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Hey Kevin, my fifth grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Hatten and we all hated her. We used to bombard her house on Halloween with eggs and anything else we could find (dead squirrels, etc.) What a Bizzaro universe. Of course, I grew up in NY.

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