Thursday, August 10, 2017

So much depends upon an orange lighter.

In 1991 Camel cigarettes still advertised. You could smoke in bars and if you went to clubs in Chicago there were girls paid by the company handing out cigarettes. Camel branded everything. They had a cartoon camel. It was still okay to smoke.

It's not, anymore, and probably never was - though I still do. I had a few zippos at the time. I still do. It's a better option than disposable plastic lighters. I may be a nasty smoker, but I'm somewhat sane and responsible about the world and all. I had one in particular.

I dated a woman when I was 21 who was a couple of years older than me. Not by a lot, but enough. I had something of a motif going with women older than I was. The theme was that I would date them and at the same time resent them for being more experienced or well travelled than I was. In my younger days I had a lot of sicknesses that I'm too tired to maintain anymore. Let's call this young lady Liz. Liz was 25 or so and had brutalized me by having dated before she met me and by having enjoyed a life without me. I wrecked it. That relationship, though I've always been convinced my wife would have loved Liz. She was a pretty great person, had amazing taste in music, was funny, cute, confident. She was simple and if I'd been my life would be super different now. Not better, but different. I really did love her, though I had no idea how to at the time.

In those dark days before she knew I existed she once went to Mardi Gras with a guy she was dating. At some point on an evening I can now imagine would have been a pretty fantastic the guy she was with stole a lighter. I wasn't hurt by that. I wasn't even hurt that she kept it. It was a fabulous, worn, orange, Camel zippo. The lighter was brass, but painted a neon orange, so where the paint had worn through the bras showed on the edges and corners and suff. Somehting about it was beautiful. The only piece of the story I remember is that this guy had lifted it from an old hooker in NOLA. I lifted it from her when she left me.

Those were simpler times and I once forgot it on the bar of a Hooters in Downer's Grove. When it was there the next day I decided it was imbued with more than some sort of abstract, undefinable mojo, but also decanted luck from object to bearer. It was a variety of contact magic I never believed in but practiced, nonetheless. When Matt had a first terrible break up he was bouncing between Florida and Illinois and I gave him the lighter because I thought he needed it more than me. He gave it back when I got sick. I gave it back when his second break up got ugly. I hope he still has it.

There's no narrative in this. This isn't a story. But in my head the lighter was something more than a totem or familiar and it has more than passive contact magic. It has something to do with Five Year Jacket and I don't know what what.

Still, it belongs on this page.

The End Of Everything From One Point Of View Part II

Because blogs are a stupid way to publish things you'd have to go down to the last post to see part I if you were inclined to do that. It's all reverse-like and this won't make a ton of sense unless you do, so do that if you're interested. This will wait.

Welcome back. When we parted, dear reader, I was about to fuck up a CD release party. Have you ever just been an asshole to end a relationship? This was about 1/3 that. It was another third self loathing and, I hope about a third love. Real, honest love. I mean that, I think.

I got the diabetes a couple years before. I was tired and in shitty shape and a little disappointed that it hadn't killed me. Some of the supernatural drinking stunts should have ended, though they hadn't. Some of the drugs should have lost their shine but . . . you know. I had a girl who seemed to like me a lot of the time and I was still thinking about one who didn't. I was, in short, a bit of a mess. And I was a coward.

I suspect some of our fears shape our lives more than almost anything else. That love I was talking about? I really loved Matt, Ron, Jay and Chad. Chad had been living off of this music thing for a while now. I got to see my favorite people every weekend, even if the job we were doing had turned into a pretty joyless thing for me. I resented having to play songs I wrote. That should be some sort of depression and anhedonia barometer right there.  The day you get angry that someone loves a thing you made up is the day you should just look everyone square in the face and say "I'm not in the right head space to play music right now." The rub? If I don't go do the thing I always had done, no one would be in my life. That sounds like the irrational fears of someone depressed, but you gotta know, I was pretty intensely alone for about Three or four years after my time with Five Year Jacket died.

But it didn't die that night. It rattled and shook for a while, yet.

I went in to the Arcada in St. Charles thinking we would play the album and then we could hang out and talk to people and that they would like us and tell us how great we were and this thing I was doing without any joy would be second for once in my goddam life. Let me tell you the truth, finally:

I wanted to feel like someone liked me when I wasn't playing music.

Which was both sad and dumb. I'd done too little work on myself as a musician and almost none on myself as a person. I guess we all want to be loved for "ourselves", whatever the fuck that means. And me? I was gonna get all of that love I was hungry for in one night in September of 2003. I didn't much think about what anyone else had planned - which was that we would play and that we would make a party for everyone else outside the band and set ourselves aside again and give them their money's worth. Which is the right thing to do.

I, however, refused.

I played the album - which was only a few songs and then we played a couple more. My shoes were these weird, cordovan, second-hand wingtips that didn't fit. I was on an borrowed amp that was some sort of Solid State Peavey and I fucking hated the sound of it. I was hungover and most of the way toward being drunk again. And I don't remember in detail how it all played out. I know we did the short set and then took a break and I kinda dug in my heels and refused to play anymore. I told the band they could play without me. It was some sort of power thing, maybe. Maybe, if all I was gonna get for love was in these songs and what I brought to them I'd somehow prove that the songs needed me. I didn't wanna play "Laid" again. I didn't wanna go back up. I wanted someone to say something about me.

They did.

They said I was being a dick, and I was. I remember trying to explain it to Matt while he tried not to hit me in the alley behind the place. I remember how RD looked baffled by me. I remember letting people down. I remember that not being enough to get me on the stage again. I remember crying a lot.

I should have never gotten back on the stage as 5YJ ever again. A brave man would have known it was dead right then and would have said it. I've never been a brave man.

Whatever postscript followed, whatever gigs happened after I don't remember. I know of their existence though I don't know how many of them existed. I only know that the band died that night - at least for me.

And I'm the only one writing this.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The End Of Everything From One Point Of View Part I

Whenever I get to thinking about this or that, all the stuff that went down or all the people I used to know I can come over to this place and write it all down. Tell another story - although I have to admit, sketches of the players is about as far as I've been able to do so far. I can't really tell these stories. I'm just not sure where to start with them. I might just pick one and say it. I'm so afraid to try, because the tendrils of connotation run so far, the roots run so deep. I don't know how to make you hear this. I mean assuming any one every finds this shrine I'm building to my own youth. Ha. Like youth is anything deserving of enshrinement. It's not even worth these words. I mean, youth forgets itself. I can't imagine my reckless self getting all nostalgic about who I had been - though I'm fairly sure I did plenty of just exactly that.

Fuck. Maybe I should tell the big story. The one that made the whole thing end for me. The Arcada.

I don't know how. "do it anyway . . ."

But to tell that I would imagine I have to tell you about two people at the same time, or as preface, I don't know. I would change names on these, too, but they're innocents. They didn't get into the whole thing. They never joined a band and screamed "look at me three nights a week like I did so it's pretty unfair to drag them into it. They just dated me - which is dumb in it's own way, but hardly cause to have to see their names on a stupid website.

The first was a girl with a boy's name. We'll call her Billy. Good enough. First, it's not really important about her, most of that thing was in my head and trying to tell it all I have to come to the defense of Yoko Ono. Maybe John just fell for her and she didn't do a damn thing about breaking anyone up. Hell, she probably didn't. But loving some one is a sort of mirror and maybe John looked in Yoko and decided he didn't really need to be any of the things he had been before. And everyone got a little pissed at John for that but they couldn't really be pissed at John because they loved all the things he'd been before.the things he had made in the past and they all did the easy thing and blamed Yoko. And all she did was reflect him in a new way and made him see some other thing he could be.

That happens, you know. Because Billy didn't love me, even, though I loved her a little bit. I loved her for being funny but more because I liked the way she reflected me as a guy who didn't need to get drunk all the time and ask to be loved into a microphone. I guess it was the age and just feeling tired of being drunk and stupid and lonely. I think I knew she wasn't gonna make me brand new: but I liked that I saw that maybe I could be.

She ran through my life pretty quick, maybe a little ironically losing interest in my potential. She was young and maybe would have preferred me not so ready to become some kind of man. I don't know. She never really said and I think I've done enough putting words in little balloons above the cartoon I made out of her. That's not a fair thing to do, either.

Crap. This isn't gonna be a little story.

So Sherry and I started dating. It's a much longer story than that, of course. Billy was gone. I wanted something that would stave loneliness, but not really demand any risk or contain any chance of permanent damage on my part and that was a bigger sin than any part of trying with Billy. I was totally broken after Billy dumped me, but it was an honest and earned thing. I crapped all over Sherry. I damned her with feint affections and I kept her around for a long time because I just didn't want anything to hurt for a while. It was shitty. I regret it. I like the hell out of her, but I never invested all the way and that's a pretty terrible thing to do.

And what's all of this exposition have to do with the Arcada and that last CD release party?

A lot. Mainly it has to do with how badly I acted and what I expected and who I was planning on turning into and how I never really told any body about it.

I guess that's a Part II. It doesn't make a ton of sense to try and get it all out in one sitting. For either of us. Still, let's finish what we started with a recap and cliff hanger . . .

I was done. Sherry didn't much care that I played in a dumb ass band, and I guess I didn't either, anymore. She had noticed - rightfully - that being a part of 5YJ wasn't particularly good for me. I'm not saying that the band or the people involved made me a bad person, I'm saying maybe we're all kind of bad people in certain situations, and that situation was one where I was able to be a bad person. Worse? I dunno. How do you say it? I used the band as an excuse to feed all the crappy parts of me and let them run things. Not very cool of me.

And Sherry knew it. There's the movie version of life and there's life. The movie version typically assumes a pretty concise and informed agency on the part of the characters and life seems to assume the opposite. In a movie some antagonist or giant obstacle gets in the way of you becoming something great  - the path you were obviously on  - but in life sometimes you're grateful that something got in your way because you didn't want to be that thing anymore. Failure can come as a sort of relief, too.

So she didn't want me to do it anymore and I was in agreement, but saying that out loud would have been almost as crappy a thing. At least in my head.

So, you know what happens when a coward lets someone else do their thinking for them? Shit goes south.

This seems a good spot to stop. Part II soon-ish.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Joe.

Joe Peters.

Patches, Chesty Joe. Motherfucking Joe. Every good story from my 20s ends in Joe. Every sentence I could start about that time in my life starts with a Capital Joe. We are grown ups, now, with children and spouses but if anyone ever asks we were once wild.

It's sort of impossible to tell a story and encapsulate Joe. It's a sum. It's about a dozen stories: there's the day we were photographers capturing Americana for Time Magazine and we stopped at miniature horse Farms and ended in a second floor brownstone in Chicago sitting on the keg, tucking the party go-ers in, There may have been no film in that camera, but there is a train shot I will remember as if it was a photograph. And I don't think in images. From that to driving home from Rockford or some place with the headlights off at 2 am. We missed a deer by feet. It's Pat puking in Joe's boots. It's waking up on his couch. It's drives home neither of us remember. It's Miller Lights and Winston Lights and neon lights and so much more that the act of putting this in a sentence makes every bone in me sing that words will never be enough and that memory is eternally referent.

Joe could tell you that story in a barrel chested baritone, rich and jagged, soothing as any trap you'd ever fall in.

I think I thought I was an artist when I was 24. Maybe we all do. I think I did. Joe was the human thing that kept me from being in my head. We stayed drunk and side by side from Thursday to Sunday and met people. Talked to them. Found out the random family in the hot tub at the hotel were on a vacation from his job at the Railroad and her job at home. Heard the stories in the VIP at Crobar on bondage night. Hit the social clubs in Aurora and talked to the old guys at the bar. I still couldn't tell you what the hell that guy at Duffy's was saying, but Joe reassured me he was gonna sleep it off in the cab of his rig.

I love you, Joe. I miss you a ton. I wonder how you're doing. How's the wife? The kid's are healthy? Growing up big, I see. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that is pot growing by your front stoop. I'm surprised the cops who took apart our party didn't notice it.  Me? I had most of my shoulders into Kathy's sister under that tree, I couldn't see a thing. I never even saw the cops. What? No. Kathy caught us and broke it up.

Goddam it. What was Kathy's friend's name? The one I really had a thing for. Damn it. Donna. That was it.

Either way, I love you, Joe. I always did.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016




Well, it would seem that Tom Wilson will become a character you'll need to get to know. He did a ton of our graphic design. From Tom: 

"OK, I’m not sure I even remember this t-shirt design, but apparently you all did a Y2K New Year’s Show?  This one might create more questions than it answers."



 Indeed. I'm pretty sure I can't remember the show and the shirts were never printed.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Personnel

5YJ went through a ton of folks. I mentioned that Chad was probably the longest member, having only missed a year or so while he was in France. Next, I guess, was me - I missed the last year and some change.  After that was Pat who was in two times, never really had any bad blood with any one, and showed up here and there. There were three full time bass players: Erik Panyko, Todd Graham and Jay Olaszek. Ron Donavon and Matt McCain were both guitar players as was Chris Bauler.

We played a bunch of shows with Pete Dell and Tom Wilson as the Blues Brothers. They hired us for a gig, asked to sit in and we kept on inviting them back. They will always be members to me. Ask me sometime about the exhibition game between the Bears and the Sandwich Police Dept. We were a part of the half time show.

I think after I left there was a bass player who's name starts with an L that I am completely forgetting. Lionel? Linus? I don't know.

We had a few subs here and there.  Justin Marcellus played bass with us once because Jay couldn't make it. It was a really great time, Justin was a fabulous bass player. I think I musta majorly miscommunicated with him because he showed up for the next gig thinking he was in the band because of how much we all enjoyed playing with him. He was pretty pissed at me when I let him know that Jay was the guy. I feel bad about it. I liked Justin a ton but after that he was pretty much done with me.

Come to think of it the only 5YJ bass player that's still facebook friends with me is Jay. Erik and Todd both unfriended me at some point. I guess I have a problem with bass players liking me.

And so it goes.

While Chad was out of country we used a couple of subs. We played at least two shows with Matt Karl, who was the ultimate gentlemen and a solid fill in. I think he probably thought we were all fucking batshit. At the time it was Pat, Jay and I. Actually, that's likely the tamest we ever were. Right around that time we played a party with Jay on drums, me on bass and Pat. I remember being terrible.

Nevertheless, the great sub story is from that same time. I worked with a guy who played drums and we needed to cover Chad for a gig at Pages. Damn I wish I could remember his name. I remember he was Mike Macintosh's cousin and his girlfriend was named Star and they were from Florida. He was a fine player, solid time and I liked the dude. We did a few rehearsals and played a backyard party and everything was groovy as hell. We got to E.C Pages, set up Jay's drums for him, he showed up with some sticks and his girl and we settled in and played the first set.  It was starting out fun and we had some beer in our guts and got going. Me and Pat were screaming over the tunes, getting him going - we thought.  It was drunken merriment and encouragement from our point of view. His was different. He thought we were being total dicks. So after the first set he and the girlfriend left. I recall Pan and I finding this hilarious. We went up for the second set and politely let the bar know our drummer bailed but that we'd do our damndest to not let that spoil any fun. Some dude comes up and says he plays. Being without any drummer we figured it was no time to check credentials and told him to sit on down.

And he did. And he was good. We got him some free beers and gave him some cash and had a merry old time. We counted every song in and came in together. You could tell he played more metal, but folks danced and  we put it in the win ledger.

I can't remember his name, either.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Oh, I bought the domain.

I don't really know why. I don't think about it very much. I don't think anyone cares, either. But I've put together some very simple sites for the things I am doing, so it seems like it's an okay thing to put something together for something I did.

First thing you have to know:  This died. Five Year Jacket was a band that started in Chad's basement sometime in the early nineties and ran over ten years into the 2000s. I wasn't there for the last year or so, and I don't really know much about it except that I went to two gigs after I was gone and cried at both. It would seem that the only member who was there start to finish was Chad, even though he went to France for almost a year at one point and we kept playing without him. Pat bookended the thing, he started it with me and I was playing with him in high school. He introduced me to Chad. He and Chad were there at the end with Matt. Matt . . . I can't wait to write about Matt.

I guess I'll tell my part of it all. I'm Kevin. I wrote a bunch of the songs and sang most of them. We were a lot of things in the time we existed. Some of those are bad memories for me, but I guess I'll tell those, too.

I had planned to write one single history of the thing, but as I sit here and start this I don't think that's possible. I walked away from it thinking I was leaving a band and found out a long time later that we weren't just a band. I mean, we were a band, but we never saw much real success and almost no money, so we never were a band that can be remembered for that, or even the songs - proud as I am of some of those.  We failed hugely and the music part isn't our legacy.

So this isn't going to be a story about music. At least not as some gestalt. I plan to post all of the songs and what I know about those. The whole albums, the stories, the regrets and the little triumphs. But mostly I'm gonna tell you about the name over and over again.

We named it Five Year Jacket after a song. I don't remember how many times I told that story and how many times I lied about it, but Pat wrote a song that I don't remember being very good. My memory is pretty faulty, so it may have been incredible, though we never used it. If I recall the song tried to get a piece of a story about an actual jacket. I had some friends in high school. Some pretty damn good ones. I can tell you more about Steve and Chris and Todd and Jay later, but we were pretty tight. Some body bought a Jacket before I met everyone. It was a leather biker jacket with a skull and 'Ministry' airbrushed on the back - one of the ones you got from The Alley. Nothing much, I guess, but everyone wore it at one point or another. Sometimes it got sold when someone needed cash and then sold back or just loaned back. I tried to tell Pat about it one night in Jay's basement and I'm pretty dramatic so I made the story about friendship and brotherhood and all that. About taking care of one another.

And I don't really know. Maybe it was.

So Pat wrote the song and we never used it but we took it as our name and sometimes it was about that stuff. More than I would have admitted when I left a lot of things about Five Year Jacket had to do with taking care of each other.

So here's a bad history. It's going to be done in infinite parts and it's going to be about music and a stupid band for sure, but I hope it's also about friendship and brotherhood and taking care of each other. We grew up together and we worked out some of our demons together. No matter how any of us feel today we really loved each other once.

Be calm with me. I'm rusty as a writer. There's a lot to tell and a lot of stories and I hope a lot of the people I hope to read this that I wanna fit in here.

Any way, Non sum qualis eram, y'all. But I'm gonna try to rise to the story.