Stories from Real Life

Doing It In The Streets

This week is one of the busiest weeks for a musician in these Central New York parts. It certainly was for me and my gang. I'm very proud to see all of the events taking place, especially this past weekend. It's great to see people out and about being happy doing happy stuff. Sitting here with coffee this morning, I'm reflecting on it all: the jams we had, all the beautiful people and the friends we made, (sips coffee, looks out the window) the stuff we saw, the food we ate, the perfect weather, how much I love my Quatros, walking barefoot in the grass when I had a few moments to myself... 

But the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning from it all was the gentleman (betting he was a veteran) who walked out the door of the Dinosaur BBQ event entrance, right as we finished a song. We said "hello, how are ya?" And with a lump in his throat he went straight into telling us how much he misses his late wife. In that instant felt myself "leave the room" I was in so-to-speak, and enter his room. He was so still mourning and spinning in the hell of that loss and heartbreak... probably wandering onto any next thing in the anxiety of not being able to escape his pain - when he encountered us. I looked into his eyes and could see the hole in his heart. Feel it. And I know what that is and what it's like to live in the agony of missing someone like that. It's amazing what can happen in one's mind and heart in a matter of seconds. 

Fuck everything I just hugged him. He held on for dear life in those few moments. I think I did too. We chatted for a few more moments and he moved on. I snapped back into professional posture and also moved along, sending that man a prayer for peace while thinking about what I'm doing in my own life. 

And, I'm thinking this, morning that yeah.... we worked this weekend and it was lucrative.... yeah, all these things stated above and more happened. A downright blast. But, YEAH the real reason, the first reason, the most important reason that I am a musician is for the service moments like this. I am grateful that I understand how music heals and teaches all of us how to be more human. It is a fellowship that excludes no one. 

I wonder how that gentleman is doing, this morning. 

My friend Heather took this photo.

The Time We Met Spock! 

My Dad is  a career pilot.

Back in the day, while moving up in the professional aviation world, he decided to spend a Saturday off helping his pal, Mike, who was coming along with his own piloting development. The two rented a Piper one-engine, four-seater—which meant there was room to bring my brother (7years) and me (10) along. 

"Guys, today we're going to Catalina Island. Wrigley Gum used to own the island." He said, as we threw ourselves aboard and buckled-up.

Now, Catalina is an island about 45 minutes off the coast of Southern California if you fly it from San Diego, while working on minor flight assignments as part of the agenda. As we approached the island which jabs it's way out of the Pacific Ocean as a tall jagged mountain, Dad informs, "See that part right there? That's the airport. The runway goes from that cliff edge to that cliff edge over there...." delighted at the opportunity. These cliff edges are a shear 200? 300? feet from the ocean surface.

Understanding what he's saying, I start to wonder things like: "How does one land a plane on a golf tee in the middle of the ocean?" This is a landing strip? Wow. And since my Dad is absolutely 007-cool in real life, I bail on my doubt. I can't wait to see this landing happen.

And it does so, smoothly, like it ain't but a thing. And, pretty soon we're inside the teeny airport facility where they offer lunch. In fact,they specialize in buffalo burgers, since buffalo roam wild on the island. So do wild boar, but, I didn't see any specials for that. Dad and Mike make it an event that we're having buffalo burgers and soon we're dressing our burgers with condiments..... squirting ketchup on our fries..... relish.... when I hear my Dad say.....

"Well, hello Mr. Spock! What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be up up on the Enterprise flying around the universe and stuff?" This was the era when it was on TV and a major hit. Spock is a cult hero to any young boy at this time—on the pointy ears, alone. A REAL Vulcan.

He looks at my Dad, giving him (in what I perceive, now,  in my mature retrospect as a) "Dude, I'm on my day off" sort of a look. He then looks at us and gives in for the benefit of the kids, so-to-speak, super cool...... relents into character and says:

"eh hem... Well, you see, the Captain, Dr. McCoy and I are all very hungry and we couldn't decide who should get lunch. So, we drew straws to see who's turn it is to beam down for buffalo burgers. Logically, I drew the short straw, so, here I am."

My brother and I lose our minds, frying in the moment. Looking at his ears.... knew it! We turned to each other, freaking, my brother and I, excited "Wow, wow it's him! Oh my oh wow and all that....."

"Hey, where'd he go?" He was gone.

We ran over there to see. Nope. To the other side.... nope. To the window..... nope.

"Dad, where'd he go?!!!" pretty fired up as far as boys go....

"He got his burgers and thy beamed him back up to the Enterprise." Dad explained in and "of course" elephant-in-the-room logic and cool.

"Well...uh... yeah.... " And we realized how this goes.

I hardly remember eating the burgers. And I don't remember flying back to the coast from the Island. But, I still make the Spock hand sign, whenever possible. Logically.

Hungover Lacrosse Players and a Real American Prince 

I joined the lacrosse team in my first year of college at San Diego State University (SDSU). Lacrosse isn't very big in southern California. And, I'm not very good at it. I never played on a team, but with pals in the yard. But, since I was from NY, they figured that I must be a "natural" and so they recruited me. Being new in a huge new city, this was a way to make some friends.

Lacrosse was "Club" sport in the school's eyes — which meant that they let us use the fields, but we had to buy our own equipment, pay for the refs, etc. It was while hanging out with these guys that I discovered the extent of my wild side. We made "Animal House" look like well-behaved cub scouts. Some of those "tell-able" stories could make this blog as we go.

One weekend, we were playing "away" in LA, taking on UCLA on Saturday; and then USC on Sunday. The way it works is that the hosting team provides the hospitality — shoving over to make room and accommodation in their dorm rooms, apartments, etc.for the visiting team. After-parties are required in college. And beer is the number one equalizer at a college party.

So we played em. We beat em! I got my only goal of the season in this game. I remember getting clocked-hard, too, sending me to the sideline for a short while as stars and tweety birds circled my head.... I remember laying there, dirt in my teeth... snapping out of the 'ditz" when our goalie, Doug ( a real-deal bushy-bushy blonde hair surfer dude )  ran all the way down the field as I was layed-out flat on the field probably blinking out of one eye..... dazed with players and the refs we paid for, hovering. Doug looked at me for a few moments with great concern and quips, "Woah, dude.  Hey can I have your helmet?" I snapped out of it with the hilarity of the moment. Laughing. Groaning. I was fine but took a break to get some Gatorade. "Fuck you,"

I remember we had a great time at a party that night.... and that we all woke up Sunday morning, hungover of course, in time to watch the USA hockey team play the Swedes(?) at 9am, in the exciting year they won the Gold.

Unshaven, sleepy, stinky, still drunk and gross....

We got up and swerved down the dorm hallway to somebody's room to watch the game for breakfast. We play USC at 2pm. I'm sitting on a smallish couch with two dudes of whom I don't know. I learned that at UCLA, the rich kids wake and bake for breakfast. I'm 18 years old, in a new huge city, it's 9AM in a stranger's dorm room in LA, watching hockey, puffing weed from one of those three-foot bongs that you have to stretch your arm all the way out in order to light, with a buncha hungover jocks that I don't know; and of whom am unlikely to see again outside of the game schedule.

They guy next to me conked-out halfway through the first period, napping with his head on my shoulder. Gone. Snoring. For the rest of the game.

Wouldn't ya know it?

The USA team wins!!!!!! We're stoked. Awake, by now.  It's time to shower, eat and ride over to USC to kick their ass. It's going to be a hot day.

As we leave the dorm room, thanking the guys from the UCLA for a great time, etc., I lightly make note of the stubbly napper. "Man, that guy was pretty wiped out. Was he on the team? I didn't recognize him? ... jeez, yada yada...."  humored by the episode.

It was here, when the UCLA host dude leading us down the hallway back to our rooms in concierge fashion turns and looks at me with a curiously strange expression that tells me he thinks I'm a dumbass  — and matter-of-factly states: "You don't know who that was."


His cold blank stare suspending a collective silence over the group, halting in the hallway.

"Who is it?" I crack.

He looks at us all, realizing none of us know cuz we're dumbasses...... "That's John Kennedy, Jr."

"Oh, Okay. Hm." I acknowledged, probably appearing underwhelmed.

Now, I knew who John Jr. was and that we're about the same age. But, I was young and didn't realize the magnitude of Jr's significance. I didn't give a rip. Whatever.

How did this happen?

Apparently — the way I understood this — was that John was out for the weekend from Brown University (where he attended) visiting his best pal (attending UCLA). — out to party with his best pal for the weekend. It was in his best pal's room where we collected to watch the hockey game.

A few years later while at a Safeway supermarket check-out line, I as a post-graduate by now, saw the People magazine on the rack with John-John on the cover, looking all cleaned-up, royal and super-classy with a headline declaring him as the "Most Eligible Bachelor in America...." and something about Daryl Hannah.

By now, I had  just finished college where we studied the hell out of the Kennedy years... I was now mature enough to understand the magnitude of the Kennedys and thus, the size of my encounter.

And that's when it hit me with massive impression. "Wow!" And I started to chuckle in the overdue full realization.

The elderly lady in line next to me, also looking at the same magazine on the rack in front of us, sighing, "He sure is gorgeous," privately salivating in her crushing gaze.

If you let it, life leads a more interesting path than one could ever pave.

My Extremely Refreshing Drink with Todd Rundgren 

I was in a group called Modern Peasants through the last half of the 90's. Terrific group [ Jm Earp, Kevin Irvin, Andrea Altona, Bastos Moenho, Eileen Marie, Dan Allmann and myself ]. Our manager Meredith had us talking with Guardian Records. The label also had Todd Rundgren on their roster, among other top names. Needless to say, we were excited to be in this capacity. One day, Meredith called me and asked if we'd want to come to Todd's show at the prestigious Belly-Up Tavern in Solana Beach. We' were told that we'd get to be "in" the show. So, we went to seize the opportunity. It was a great time, hanging out in a the VIP area, meeting new people... cocktails... taking in the show.

The show itself was a blast in that Todd had rearranged all of his tunes to be played in tiki-touristy fashion. They went so far as to turn the stage into an entire tiki bar — complete with a lounge to the left of the band; and a tiki bar to the right of where the band was playing — like a club inside of a club. Serving real drinks. Super cool concept. The members and guests of Guardian Records took turns acting as human props — taking part in he show by sitting in the tiki lounge or standing at the tiki bar — right up there with the band as they played their tiki gig.

About an hour or so into the set... mingling with the peeps....Meredith, approaches:  "Hey, Chuck! Y'wanna go up there?"


"Go over there to that bouncer guy at stage left."

"Yip!" and I was off.

I pull up to the standing tiki bar. Todd's bass player is close enough to shake hands with. Acknowledges my arrival with a welcoming smile. Todd is immediately next to him.. six feet away. They're playing, "And I Saw The Light." And, I'm already having a super-blast. It sounds great.

"You wanna drink, man?" the bartender says. "On the house, Todd's got it."

I turn around and look at Todd. He smiles. I nod in thanks. He nods.

"Sapphire and tonic, please." as the bartender sets  a 3x5 card in front of me with instructions since I am now part of the show. He spins away to furnish my drink.

I read the card. it says: "An attractive woman is about to approach the bar to your left. She'll order a drink. After she does, hit on her."

I chuckle. "Cool." Todd's still smiling. My drink arrives.

A few minutes later, the beautiful woman—I MEAN MAGNIFICENT—woman arrives and orders her drink, doesn't acknowledge me and turns towards the band to watch. I play it cool and do the same while thinking how much I like the Todd-gone-tiki thing. I wonder what the woman's role is going to be. Her drink arrives shortly. She turns to receive her drink and her 3x5 card with her instructions.

Todd is smiling, watching the action, singing, "and I saw the light in your eyes...."

I give her a minute to take a sip and be there. You know, make it look natural. I take a drink and seize the moment to hit on her. "Hey there, Hi I'm Chuck. My card says I'm suppose to hit on you. So here ya go. I'm hittin' onya." I take a drink and smile.

She says, "Hi, I'm Katie,"  picks up her drink and throws it into my face.

"And I saw the light, in your eye-eye-eyes....."

The place roars into laughter so does the band, and so do I—I look at Todd who nods laughing as if to say "welcome to the big time buddy, gotcha!" Katie is laughing at me too saying, "dude I'm so sorry are you okay." The bartender hands me a towel.

"Never been better."

I got to meet Todd after the show. Nice guy.
Great sense of humor.

I love rock and roll.

Staring Into the Eyes of a Wild Animal  


A few years back, I was visiting Yosemite National Park in California. The valley. I used to go there quite a bit, which redefined the way I use the word "awesome."

One morning, I got up early. It was still dark on the verge of becoming lighter with the forthcoming sunrise. I made a strong coffee. Grabbed my guitar. Headed into the woods. Light was creeping into the day. I headed further into the woods that would be beneath El Capitan and Half-Dome— two extremely significant rocks. Trees are really, really tall in Yosemite. I was looking up when a pack of wolves raced by... one of them taking account of my presence as they hurried along, loyal to their mission.

If I was still sleepy before this moment, I was no longer. I wondered if I'd see a bear.

Pretty soon, I found a "place." Misty woods. Filtered misty light. Soft. The smell of trees... I settled in, taking it in, sipping my coffee and started playing my guitar. My good friend (and Modern Peasants bandmate) Jim Earp had shown me some alternative tunings—namely DADGAD—of which I was eager to learn. I was soon exploring what the new tuning offered—buzzing on coffee,  the scent of giant ferns and basketball sized pine cones.

"Oh. There's E-minor..... mm hm, G...." Pretty soon, I was naturally working a composition through the process, because I just do that. Lost in it. It was still not quite fully light out. The valley was filled with a thick fog on this morning; and the sun had a ways to go before making its way down to the floor—4,000 feet below the ridge. Everything was still.

Just me, the woods, God.

After a while, concentrating on what my hands were doing, I looked up for a moment to find myself in the company of three very large buck deer. Giant racks of antlers. Wow!  They wore these racks royally like crowns. I'd never seen anything so majestic. Ten or twelve feet directly in front of me. Looking at me. Listening. As to not disturb the moment I just kept playing acknowledging with a nod. Smiling my ass off with the privilege of this.

Have you ever stared into the eyes of a wild animal? In his house?

In this moment, I saw soul. We connected. We communicated. Staring at each other in music. It was nice like slow-dancing. Staring and witnessing... In this moment I knew I'd never be the kind to pull a trigger on these guys. Eyes locked, staring. A freaking beautiful moving experience. After about ten minutes, they sort of nodded, turned and made their way — with a motion of supreme grace and strength — into the mist as I kept playing on my composition with a lump in my throat. A moving privilege, indeed.

I left those woods that morning with the composition and decided to call it, "Three Kings."

...And got some breakfast.

Link below.