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Camping with the Music

Camping is a singular privilege in my book. However, we don’t all live near good sites and have the time to take off on a whim to escape the routine of our daily lives. If we can, it is pure joy. Getting away from it all sounds like a cliché, but it is oh so true. Everyone needs a change of scene and a way to refresh the body and spirit. You can do this at the gym, in a spa, residing in an urban four-star hotel, or in your man cave in the basement of course. I like the idea of outdoor camping in the wilds. There is nothing better and it is the cheapest of them all.

I have one condition, however. I have to have something to do while “out there”. I can’t just sit tight and daydream or twiddle my thumbs. I can go for a hike, get on a bike, cook up something yummy on the campfire, or swim in the lake; but when it comes down to it, at night I want to relax and listen to my favorite music like Nirvana – yeah the whole Kurt and Courtney show. You ask why? Let me tell you about punk rock… well, that’s another blog.

I need a generator along to power up the batteries that are sure to go dead as much as I like to play and replay my favorites on a cell phone or iPod with my trusty little speakers. The right music lifts my mood and sets a tone. I get juiced and inspired. Did I say camping had to be relaxing? I have been known to move a bit in time to the beat, in private that is. No Instagram photos here please.

You think a generator is a lot of trouble? Not really. They aren’t all huge – there are plenty of modest small generator models on the market that are easy to transport and have just the right amount of power for little things like your night light or laptop. Honda makes a good one for an affordable price. You will never be bored. You want to drive a hairdryer or electric toothbrush? You can do that too. It is a handy device for even a very short trip. It doesn’t take much room in the van and isn’t heavy to tote around. Better yet, get a friend to accompany you who likes your kind of music and they can do the dirty work for you!

I once forgot my backpack with all my essential musical gear loaded inside. That was a tough weekend. I had to hum to myself (just kidding). My friends all laughed and thought it was amusing that I was so at sea. They had their music, of course, and it wasn’t to my liking. They would blast it just to irk me. This lapse will never happen again or I will find new friends with better taste. They think they are more current and up-to-date, but I beg to differ. There is a certain era you can’t replace in my opinion.

My First Halloween: Thanks Mom

Halloween strikes a chord in everyone’s nostalgic heart. The kid in the most staid adult comes out grinning widely at the memory of being a scary zombie, a punk rocker with a Mohawk do, or a pirate (old school but still popular due to Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack). Mom could whip up anything on her trusty Singer sewing machine—a marvel of technology. No store bought stuff adorned my pampered body. I was her precious son and she could spend hours making costumes year after year.

She didn’t get to make school clothes as I grew so fast, so had to express her creativity with Halloween garb. My first one was awesome—thanks mom. I remember every stitch and seam. She designed it herself, cut her own pattern, bought the fabric and accessories, and it fit, as they say, to a t. You will never guess what it was.

No, not a cowboy outfit or a spaceman. Too run of the mill. It was not an alien of any kind, nor was it an animal of an exotic nature like the Lion King. Mom knew I liked music and dressed me as Gene Simmons from Kiss, her personal favorite. Ok, it was before my prime time, but I knew all the guys well—those weird painted faces, wild hair dos, studded leather vests, and black very high platform boots. Mom wanted to make a wide triangular collar. You can see it in old photos. She made it out of cardboard that she covered with fabric and painted metallic silver. All the details were there. It had a zigzag design in the front and went over some kind of black shirt. That was the easiest thing she had to make but it soon turned into a project as she appliqued shiny silver stars on the sleeves. The leather skinny pants were tougher, even if it was done in a small child’s size.

You couldn’t get the boots easily online then—such a unique item—but she found a movie studio outlet store and bought some outer space-looking punk ones in a diminutive size. I think they were adult shoes made for a little person who might have been a transvestite. She made them almost knee height with a row of silver leather at the top. The sewing machine had met its match with these heavy fabrics.

I admire her efforts and photos show I looked pretty good, a miniature Kiss band member in all my tiny glory. I had a painted cardboard guitar that looked like an ancient silver arrow. It had sharp edges that flared out on both sides. So cool. She told me to stick out my tongue as I went trick or treating and hoped I would get a lot of laughs and extra candy.

I actually did that first Halloween. It was a landmark event and my mother’s supreme triumph. All her costumes in later years were great, but that one stood out as very special. I have a nostalgic feeling about it and great love for her loving care (and fabulous sewing machine).

Lose Yourself To Find Yourself


Interestingly, sometimes when we try to lose ourselves, we end up finding ourselves.  Such was the case for Kurt Cobain.  I am a huge fan of Nirvana’s.  They represent my generation in so many ways.  One of the things I like most about them is that they just couldn’t run from their uniqueness and ended up embracing it.  That is what makes Nirvana, Nirvana, the best band ever if you ask me.

You see, grunge had just taken off.  Kurt and the rest of the band felt obligated to sound grungy.  They did for the most part but they also had a one of a kind sound that some describe as “arty”.  I am not sure how to describe it.  It’s just…Nirvana to me.

Finally, the true colors of the band kept shining through.  Kurt was then encouraged to write songs as he naturally did with his personal touches in the mix.  The band was celebrated for its uniqueness rather than scolded for it…eventually.  It was something that was in them that couldn’t be squashed.  But that was what set them apart and made them great.

The more they tried to hide their unique sound, the more it seemed to come out.  I can relate.  It seemed to me in those days that the more I tried to do things that were expected of me, the less I became what was expected and the more I became the person I would be.

My parents wanted me to go to law school.  My dad is an attorney, a pretty well-known one at that.  He was just sure I would be one too.  What made it worse is that he is a criminal attorney so he knew when my friends got in trouble and…when I did too.  That made him furious but he did defend us and eventually we grew out of the getting into trouble phase.

But I never found it in me to go into law.  In fact, far from it.  I chose to go into first one thing and then another.  I bounced from electronics to being an electrician, all in the name of NOT being an attorney.  I knew my parents would totally freak if I sold my soul to music.

But in trying to avoid law and avoid doing what I love which is music, I finally found myself having tried darn near everything but those two things.  I would not, could not bring myself to be an attorney so I conceded to music and found my love.

I’m not a singer or a musician although I wish I were.  I am a writer so I write about music and actually write music as well.  My parents are probably disappointed that I am not in the court room defending some criminal but they have accepted who I am.  And the best thing is that so have I.

Like Kurt and the rest of Nirvana, I bucked being who I was but failed.  I am who I am and am who I am still becoming.  Thanks, guys…you taught me well!

Finding Nirvana In Life and in Death

I get it all the time.  People (who don’t get it) are always telling me that it’s crazy to be so obsessed with Nirvana.  They go so far as to tell me, “Nivana’s dead.”  I’ve got news.  Nirvana will never die!

The funny thing is that the people telling me this actually listen to Nirvana.  They just do it in moderation.  Me, I am consumed by Nirvana.  I believe they were the greatest band there ever was and that through their music, they live on.

Nirvana did to me what Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones did to the older generation.  Although I was young, I was instantly mesmerized and changed forever.  They were singing my song, my life song.  I could so easily relate to each and every word of the lyrics and the music itself was like heaven to my ears.   And…it still is!

Do you know what nirvana is?  That’s ok, most people just think it’s a cool name for a band.  It is a cool name for a band but partly because of the true meaning of the word.  By definition, nirvana is a place of freedom that has no pain.  Wow!

The funny thing is that the success of the group really took them by surprise.  “Nevermind” was the big one.  Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic didn’t know how to handle it all, if you ask me.  They were not only suddenly rock stars, they were the leaders of my generation, generation “X” and pretty much were responsible for kicking off the grunge movement and inventing alternative rock as we know it.  That was huge.

I think I liked the songs that weren’t big hits even better than the ones that were like “On a Plain” and “Stay Away” which many overlook and go for “Heart Shaped Box” instead.  There’s no song done by Nirvana that I don’t like.  I would give anything to hear more.  But…I never will.

I remember finding out about Kurt’s first overdose.  It was on prescription drugs and alcohol.  I wanted to shake him to his senses.  I was young and many of my friends did the same stupid thing but it was different hearing that Kurt did it.  He was my idol and I looked up to him.

Then the news came that he had overdosed on heroin.  I couldn’t believe it.  I felt sick.  It was such as senseless loss it made me mad for quite some time and actually…it still does.

The band was great.  Kurt was great.  I think that perhaps, he was too great for his own good.  I think he just wasn’t prepared for all that would go with how fast the band got popular and for what it meant to the generation.  That’s a lot to live up to.

When I listen to Nirvana, which I do most every day.  I think about Kurt and what brought him to stardom…and what brought him to his knees and eventually, his demise.  But he lives on through the music.  Nirvana lives on.  Nirvana will never die.