Since learning last week that I’ve been laid off from my job of the past 10 years, I’ve been feeling a bit anxious and unsettled. So imagine my relief when, this morning, just a few short days after uploading to CareerBuilder.com a copy of my résumé, I received the following email:
It was supposed to be so simple: take the little block of wood, cut it into a car-like shape, slap some paint on it, attach the wheels, ta-dah, done, finished, no sweat.
Of course, when it comes to me, nothing is simple … particularly a pseudo-carpentry project.
OK, so here’s the story with this bullshit:
A few weeks ago, my wife and I took the kids to the comic-book store. While there, my wife, who is on the school council at our son’s elementary school, hit up the owner to help sponsor a school fundraiser by providing for the event one of the costumed characters that often appear at the store. The owner said he didn’t have anyone specific he could send, but he’d be willing to loan out the store’s $800 Darth Vader costume.
“Jon’s pretty tall,” Mr. Helpful Comic-Book Store Owner suggested. “He could wear it.”
Well, as we all know by now, no one loves to get himself into ridiculous shit more than me, so I, of course, said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.”
I can’t believe I forgot to introduce you all to the newest member of the family! Where are my manners?
This little bundle of joy is Baby Alive Tink & Poops. No, that’s not her real name, but that is what Jayna has been calling her since, like, a year ago when she first saw the commercial. As you can probably surmise, the “Tink & Poops” part means she not only urinates—which is just so yesteryear—but she also defecates. And if there is one thing we need around here, it is a fake baby who shits herself.
There is a scene in the movie “Almost Famous” during which the protagonist — a young and budding music journalist — approaches the backstage door of a concert venue, rings the buzzer, gives the surly security guard his name and says that he’s there to interview the band.
The guard checks the guest list on his clipboard.
“You’re not on the list,” he says dismissively and slams the door shut.
Me to Wonder Woman after running outside and catching her before she backs out of the driveway so that I can hand to her the cellphone she left on the kitchen counter—the one that I can never reach her on:
“Please keep this on you.”
“Yes, I do. That’s why it was inside.”
As anyone who has spent more than 60 seconds in my presence can tell you, I have several yarns I like to spin about exciting moments I have had with the members of Van Halen. The man standing between my wife and me in the photo above is Kevin Dugan, a good friend to whom I owe a great deal of credit for quite a few of those experiences—the latest of which took place last week, and buried the needle deep into the red on the Holy-Shit-That-Was-Coolometer.
Kevin is the bass-tech extraordinaire for Mr. Michael Anthony of the once-mighty Van Halen. Though that band seems to have gasped its last breath, Michael and singer Sammy Hagar are very much alive and kicking, and are spending the summer touring together. For some reason, their only New England-area stop was at a shed up in New Hampshire called the Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center, which my wife and I discovered is located just north of The Middle of Fucking Nowhere. After driving for over an hour—a period of time during which we watched the weather go from bad to awful—we almost turned around and went home. It was largely because we didn’t want to blow off Kevin that we forged on … and, as it turned out, he made it more than worth our while.
Shortly after we arrived at the venue, Kevin set us up with passes and escorted us through the gate into the open-air backstage area, where we hung with him before the show and visited with Michael for a bit—and if there is such a thing as writing nonchalantly, I could try to do so right now, but I’d be bullshitting you … so forgive me for sounding like a starry-eyed fan-boy, but, as someone who began worshipping Van Halen starting at around age 12, it is still beyond surreal to have the bassist from that band recognize me on sight and say “Hey, Jon!” before shaking my hand and giving me a quick hug. To what I think is my credit, I respect this dynamic by resisting the urge to slip into starfucker mode and ask him to pose for pictures with us like he’s a prize deer when we see him. (And for those VH fans wondering: yes, Michael is at least as nice and as cool offstage as you would hope).
So, anyway, here’s the part where Kevin kicks things up a notch.
My wife and I had tickets that I had scored earlier in the week from Sammy’s publicist. Those tickets, it turned out, were for seats set a good distance back from the stage, which I have identified below with the two red circles in section E.
You know how sometimes a radio station or an artist will have staff members roam through the audience at a concert and give ticket upgrades to people with less-than-stellar seats? Well, Mr. Dugan, it turns out, has a similar such program, which last Wednesday involved upgrading my wife and me from the two red circles in section E to the two black circles located on the stage. Cha-ching! It is from there that we watched the entire show and hung with Kevin while he worked the bass rig.
Sammy’s stage is designed to look like the inside of his Mexican nightclub, the Cabo Wabo Cantina, and includes an actual bar. The moment the show began, the bartender delivered to my wife and me a couple of big, fat, delicious Waboritas (margaritas made with Sam’s own Cabo Wabo tequila—which, by the way, is muy delicioso). When we emptied those, he promptly delivered two more. “Mas Tequila,” indeed.
The concert was split into two halves, the first half of which featured Sammy and his band—drummer David Lauser, guitarist Victor Johnson and bassist Mona—playing a bunch of Sam’s solo material and cuts from his days with Montrose. Michael spent most of that set hanging out with Kevin and us, then strapped on a bass and hit the stage with Sammy, David and Vic for the second half of the show—or, as I like to call it, The Part That Kicked Total Ass, which comprised about an hour of nothing but Van Halen songs.
By the time it was over, Kevin had loaded us down with guitar picks, the setlist and an empty bottle of Cabo Wabo that Mike, Sammy and Mona had signed for us during the show.
The full set of pictures we took do a pretty good job of capturing the experience.
Meanwhile, I’d just like to say: Hey, Kev—thanks. For everything.
On the first day of the first class of my freshman year in college, my College Writing 101 professor instructed us to go home that weekend and write a paper about the person whom we would most like to meet if given the chance.
And I could have bullshitted him. I could have written about wanting to meet JFK or Martin Luther King Jr. or some other revered, sociopolitical icon … but I wasn’t an 18-year-old freshman just out of high school; I was a 22-year-old freshman who had recently spent nearly four years in the Army, and my inclination to sling bullshit in order to impress a college professor was, by that point, quite nonexistent. And as I looked down at the blank notebook in front of me that weekend, I saw stretching out before me four long years of higher education … and I knew that the only way I was going to make it to the finish line was to figure out how to marry my own personal interests to my academic pursuits.
So I wrote the “I want to meet Eddie Van Halen” paper.