Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My 12 Most Influencial Songs

A few months ago, I went down to Atlanta for my brother's birthday. We caught a Mike Doughty show and afterwards were talking about each of us posting the 12 Most Influential Songs. I posted mine at Eating Chicken Vindaloo, but alas, TA has not held up his end of the bargain. Perhaps he completely agrees that I have the definitive list here. Either way, enjoy.

The most logical way for me to do this is chronological.

My pre-high school music listening is probably similar to most. All of us listened to the radio. We played stuff that we liked to each other. We kept our ears open to hear what the cooler, older kids were listening to. During this time, I listened to a lot of pop music of the mid-70’s as well as some of the hard rock being passed around: Kiss, Rush, ZZ Top, and Starz. The first step in the right direction came listening to Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s album Not Fragile. The song Not Fragile is the first on this list.

The summer before my freshman year in high school, we moved to NY. My mother took us shopping and sensing our boredom, offered to buy each of us an album of our choosing. In looking through the selection at the PX, I came across the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. I had seen some of what they were up to on the news, and I showed the album to my mom. She freaked and told me that album was banned in our house. Now I really wanted to hear what this album was all about! A few months later I was at the Cadet Library, and guess which album I found there? I mean, if you were a West Point cadet in 1977, who would think you'd have an interest in the Sex Pistols? Apparently the library's music department head did. I have to say I never became a full fledged punker, more of an affectionado, but within the West Point Skateboard Gang, I listened to more than anyone else, at least among the hand-core skaters. The song that really hooked me on the Sex Pistols was Submission, my second song on this list.

I’m not really a Zappa fan. Many of my high school friends were way more into Zappa than I was. It’s hard now, 30 years later, to describe the disdain rock music fans had for disco. It went beyond the “Disco Sucks” t-shirts that I/we wore. Disco was putrid and anyone who listened to it was the enemy. To this day, I can’t/won’t/don’t dance. Frank Zappa’s Disco Boy from Zoot Allures captures what many of us felt about disco. It is #3 on this list.

We visited friends in South Carolina at some point around my sophomore year. I perused the available music and only recognized 2 artists: Ronnie Montrose and Jimi Hendrix. That’s what I listened to for a week. The Hendrix album was Crash Landing, one of those that was put together after his death that mixed some of his unreleased studio stuff with some later added musicians. It's considered by many to not really be a “true” Hendrix album, although I think it's perfectly good stuff. Further, Hendrix’s dad has banned its distribution in America, but I'm beyond his jurisdiction. Peace in Mississippi, is #4 on my list. It is what inspired me to become a Hendrixologist in the years since, including the Hendrix-Tanktop-Photo-For-My-Senior-Formal stunt.

I’ll never forget this next one either - Rogers brothers bedroom, sophomore year, Running with the Devil, #5 on my list. There had never been anything like that first Van Halen album before. I got laughed at for guessing it was Boston. Still, I was hooked. The music world was never the same.

Believe or not, I did not like the Ramones initially. I had heard their first album and Rocket to Russia and I was unimpressed. When I heard I Wanna Be Sedated, #6 on this list, on the radio, I began to change my mind about them. Sedated – that was a funny thing to want to be. When I heard The KKK Took My Baby Away, I got it. They were funny, silly. They didn’t take themselves seriously. They celebrated being less than stellar. I've been a huge fan since. I saw them 4 times back in the day. Now they're all dead (except the drummers).

In 1983, 2 years after high school, I went on a road trip to see Kingston Steve and Johnny B at Plattsburgh State. After much partying back at Johnny B’s room, I put on a pair of headphones to hear Oingo Boingo’s Who Do You Want To Be Today?, #7 on this list. It was strange. I immediately took the headphones off. Johnny told me to give it a chance. It had horns. It was fast, but it wasn’t rock, but I liked it! I don’t have a lot of ska in my music collection, and I don’t know where my taste for it comes from. I now have most of Oingo Boingo’s work, and I think Danny Elfman is a genius.

I had been a working stiff for a few years when I heard GNR’s Sweet Child of Mine, #8 on the list. Of course it’s phenomenal and I instantly loved it along with the rest of GNR’s classics, but it was bittersweet discovering GNR. I no longer had a network of friends who exchanged music. I no longer was in on the latest bands and the latest releases. I was on this bandwagon kind of late, and it was a benchmark of unhipness to be catching up on the latest so slowly. Also around this time, Pearl Jam was the industry big sellers. I didn’t get their appeal, and I still don’t. I’m not saying they aren’t good. I just never got into them.

When I heard #9, the Cult’s Bad Fun, it gave me hope that the type of music I liked was still being made. The 90’s were a tough time if you liked hard rock/heavy metal. Most new bands were killing themselves trying to copy Nirvana – relax, I like Nirvana – and rap and dance music were king, neither of which interested me much. The Cult is still a favorite today, even if they are a shell of what they once were.

Everclear’s Santa Monica, #10, instantly hooked me. If I had to pick a band's music to be the most representative of what I listen to and appreciate, it would be Everclear, at least their first 4 albums.

#11 on my list is 7 Nation Army by the White Stripes. It was instantly likable, and Jack White is every bit as good as the past greats (Hendrix, Page, Van Halen...) were. I have eagerly soaked up everything he’s done.

By the time I heard Bleed Black, my last song, the third track on AFI’s masterpiece, Sing the Sorrow, I had to know what the hell my stepson was listening to. Usually he had some crap like Slipknot or Korn on, but this was actually good. I'm adding it to the list as evidence that we have entered another golden age of rock.

So there you have it, Mathdude’s musical history in 12 songs. The following are the comments from when I posted this at Eating Chicken Vindaloo.

Jackson said...

McClaren: You should write a song about submission

Johnny and Glenn: I'm on a submarine mission for you baby....


Tony Alva said...

"I'm on a submarine mission for you baby...."

God that's fucking funny!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blogging Gold

I was doing some rearranging in my basement, and lookee what I found: my senior yearbook, aka blogging gold!

For those of you that know that my avatar was my senior formal photo, but were wondering how that looked in the yearbook (I blogged about it in my first posting), here it is. Pampdog is in the upper left corner. You may understand now why so few of the ladies were interested in me as they were busy fighting, for real - fighting, each other over him. God I was* jealous!

So if that's my Senior Formal, what was my Senior Informal, you ask? Here it is here.

OK, maybe blowing up the school was funnier before Columbine and 9/11, but still...how many of you wish you were in your yearbook blowing up the school? And that's the legendary Clem Aidone's window. Speaking of Clem, here's his picture which is sure to send chills down any James I. O'Neill grad's spine!

Here's my brother's junior photo. It's not as spiffy as his senior formal he uses for his avatar on Facebook, but it is badass. You look like a convict bro! Awesome!
Finally, I found this one scanning through real quick. I have done nothing to her picture. This was her own doing - hilarious!More to come in future postings!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Atlanta O'Neill gathering, etc

Hey Ya'll,

I just got an evite from Thomas Wix who was a friend of ours a few years ahead of most of us. Not sure if the evite url will work here but it is:

Host: Thomas Wix
Location: Atlanta
When: Friday, March 20, 7:30PM
Phone: 770-314-0413

Doubt I'll make it but I know a few of you are in or close to Atlanta. Enjoy.

If anyone is ever in the Portland Oregon area look me up! mark at rootsrealty dot com.

Now let's hear some more about those legendary exploits...

Reminds me of the very 1st night I hung out with some of ya'll after just moving in, we stole a cooler of beer from a tail gating motorhome and got drunk in the woods. This became a regular pastime... and I guess old habits die hard. Cheers.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Veteran's Day Posting

I'm going to take a break from the "We-Were-So-Cool-In-High-School" postings.

You'd think a bunch of former smart-mouthed, (mostly) pot-smoking, slacker, skateboard teenage thugs wouldn't be patriotic, but you'd be wrong. My brother, for instance, is one of the most patriotic people I've met. The common bond to all of us in the West Point Skateboard Gang was that our fathers were in the Army. Most served overseas or in a war. My own dad was badly injured in the Vietnam War.

None of the Skateboard Gang did time in the services, except Huck Tater (I think). For me, it was never an option. Shave my head, sleep with men, tell me what to do 24/7, where do I sign? Nah, no thanks. But that doesn't mean I'm not patriotic. And while, none of us in the Skateboard Gang have been lost in action, I'd like to take a moment to remember those we went to high school who have.

Donnie Tillar was different in many ways from us back in the day. He was clean-cut, popular, and completely confident with himself, even as a freshman (a rarity at James I. O"Neill, trust me on this one). I wish I could write more about him, but I didn't know him. He was a couple of years younger than me, and our circles of friends were completely disjoint. He was killed while serving in the first Gulf War.

CJ Meine was another we went to school with who went into the military. He went to West Point, got married, and served our country until a horrific accident injured him. I can't say I really know much about CJ either. In fact, if I'm being honest, I'd confess I didn't care for CJ much in high school, and I don't think he thought much of us. But that's ok. It doesn't mean I don't admire the sacrifices he made for his country. I do, and I think part of the maturation process is being able to let bygones be bygones. We are all very different people than we were in high school.

If I could write more about Donnie or CJ, I would. I'm asking that you leave a comment about them (you can do it anonymously if you want), or any others that we went to high school with that I've overlooked. In the spirit of Veteran's Day, let's take a moment to remember them and give thanks for their sacrifices, the benefits of which we enjoy every day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Another Max Q. Peck YouTube Classic

Before you go see this shameless display of goofiness from 25 years ago, I'd just like to add these thoughts.
  • Max's DMTV Project (Dumb Music TV) was unscripted for the most part. We turned on Max's camcorder and went with the flow. Max eventually did all the editing. I posted about the Sister Twister video here.
  • Yes, those that made this video couldn't stand Kevin Debreaux and Quiet Riot. He was a dick, completely deserving of our scorn and ridicule.
  • We were pretty good at ridiculing things because we practiced so much.
  • Uh, yeah, we broke into the West Point Movie Theater at midnight or so, filmed for an hour, and got out before anyone caught us. I was a projectionist there (awesome job BTW), and the movie in the background was some forgetable flick with major nudity scenes in the first 15 minutes or so.
  • The guitarist, Mitch, is a serious musician in real life and was actually playing the song note for note on the first of two takes. (Me: Dude, we're lipsynching, you don't have to really play it. Him: I know, I just want to be accurate.)
  • I am donning a wig for this one. Why? I don't know. My hair was as long as the wig. The wig was definitely goofier.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Awesome Photos

This was our not-so-awesome sign on our 12 shades of awesome half-pipe (picture from Dave Stewart). Would it have been "cool" or "uncool" to be suspended from the ramp? And how would we have enforced it? Had Clem Adone watch it for us?

The Final 4 of the West Point Pot Smoking Championship.

Doesn't it seem kinda narrow? I remember now all the little beat up spots we had to avoid. I think Huck Tater (2nd from the right) was punking us. He couldn't skate the half-pipe, could he?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Awesome Photo...

Courtesy of Dave Stewart's Facebook page. The only known photo of the Chapel half pipe. That's Dave riding high on the vert (look at that crappy 1/4" plywood transition! How the hell did we do that?). That's Hutch with the red hair of course, and skinny me with my face hidden. Ann McNut's got the girl on the bike right: Cheryl Anderson. Enjoy! Thanks Dave, keep'em coming!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll

The other day I was reading about the 6 Degrees of Music Separation Challenge that Beth Coffey was selling over at her blog, Cup of Coffey. Rather than participate legally in their little reindeer game and bring them to tears with the awesomeness of my selections thus ruining it for them when they realize the inferiority of their selections, I thought I'd go rogue and do my own. The idea is to come up with 6 songs that are linked in some way like the game 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Here's my 6 Degrees of Music Separation.

#1 - I'm starting off with Wendy O. Williams' band the Plasmatics and their version of No Class. With lyrics like, "Shut Up! You talk too loud! You don't fit in with the crowd!", "Too late, you're way out of line. No buddy I can't spare a dime!", and "Your perfect smile betrays your lack of style", it'll have you thinking of that total fucking asshole you have deal with on a regular basis. Yeah, you know, him/her! Jerkwad!

#2 - No Class, of course, was written by Motorhead's Lemmy who was hanging out with Wendy O for a while. I would be utterly negligent, then, if I failed to link No Class to Motorhead's We Are the Road Crew. If there is a band that musically links all the West Point Skateboarders together (more than any other anyways), it would have to be Motorhead. We Are the Road Crew was especially popular to the non-skateboarding skateboarders* who at one point called themselves the Road Crew, even taking it to the extent of only drinking RC Cola. You know, "RC" stands for "Road Crew"! When Jackson first played WATRC for me at the Teen Club, I thought, "This is catchy, but they need a new lead singer and another guitarist for a more polished sound." I've never been more wrong in my life.

#3 - Jealousy over Wendy O, among other things**, eventually caused Motorhead's guitarist, Fast Eddie Clarke, to leave the band, forming his own band, Fastway. Fastway had this amazing Led Zeppelin sound. In fact, I defy you to listen to Far Far From Home and not think it's Zeppelin. OK, singer David King's no Robert Plant, but still. Too bad Fastway's second album sucked so much.

#4 - The "Way" in "Fastway" was Pete Way (although he left Fastway before their albums were released), best known for being the bassist of UFO. UFO's masterpiece is, and there can be no argument, the greatest live performance of all-time, Strangers in the Night. From that album comes Rock Bottom, which has surely inspired many moments among the members of the WPSG similar to Elaine's boyfriend on Seinfeld with Desparado. Rock Bottom is simply the masterpiece of masterpieces. Recently, I was talking with a guy who makes and delivers my weekly meals , and he spotted my Strangers in the Night CD in my truck, and he begged, like you've never seen anyone beg before, to let him borrow it so he could burn a copy, mostly for Rock Bottom. There simply is no scale to measure the greatness of this one!

#5 - On February 18, 1980, Way and UFO guitarist Paul Chapman met briefly with a mutual friend and made plans to meet up later that night. Ultimately, they did not get together that night, and the friend partied without them. The next morning, the friend, AC/DC's Bon Scott, was found dead in a car after passing out on the drive home and being too heavy to be carried inside. I admit I was a little surprised when nobody argued with my labeling Whole Lotta Rosie the Greatest Rock Song of All-time, but then I'm always right and people just look foolish when they argue with me.

#6 - Within 5 months of Bon Scott's death, AC/DC released the album Back in Black. The cover was solid black on both sides. Amazon.com now has a black cover with a faint image in it, but back when it was originally released it was solid black. Another album with a solid black cover was Spinal Tap's Smell the Glove. From it, I give you Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight. Up-bup: fess up, you didn't see that connection coming, did ya?

If you're missing any of these classics from your music collection, feel free to download them here by clicking the links. Credit me with extra points for the Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll theme intertwined with some of the WPSG's favorite music. Most of the musicians battled drug/alcohol problems, and many of them are dead including a string of drummers from Spinal Tap (man, can't anybody survive being their drummer?) Enjoy!

*Perhaps Billions can clear "nonskateboarding skateboarders" up for ya
**Legendary consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Golden Delicious

Mike Doughty is not a member of the West Point Skateboard Gang. He's about 10 years too young to be associated with fogies like us. He is, though, the most famous person to have graduated from James I. O'Neill High School. He beats out Kevin "Iceman" Lewis who many of us watched playing for SMU in the NCAA basketball tournament, the Rogers Brothers (who were part of the WPSG) who were featured in a segment on the 2nd(?) X-Games on ESPN for their mad street luge skills, and dhc who finished third in the Miss NY Pageant back in the day. Also, many conspiricy theorists* have strong evidence** that Pampdog is actually Buckethead. I know, it was like going to Beverly Hills High with celebrities all over the place.

Mike Doughty was a twerpy little kid who was my girlfriend's little brother's best friend. That would be the girlfriend whose name I now have tattood under my ex-wife's name on my left bicep. Back then, MD had an unkempt head of curly blond hair and he wore nerd glasses. He and my girlfriend's brother played a lot of video games on a Commodore 64 - sorry dude, if you're reading this, for so outing you.

Fast forward many years later, my brother TA asks if I've ever heard of Mike Doughty. I say sure I have, I knew him when he was a little kid. TA tells me Grey Ghost is a great song, and I should listen to it (I did, it is). Last fall, with the release of MD's Golden Delicious CD, TA and I went to see him play in Atlanta. TA had already met up with him in years past, and MD knew my youngest sister, Coolmomma from back in the day, and he knew TA was Coolmomma's brother. Doughty set up in a music store down the street from where he was playing and played acoustic versions of some of his music to whoever was in the store. TA requested a few songs, including the James I. O'Neill alma mater. MD actually remembered it was a remake of Oh Tanenbaum. Afterwards, we went up to talk to him. TA introduced me. I asked him if he remembered his old friend and his sister and the thug she went out with. He did. I figured he was about to credit me for having such a profound musical influence on him. After all, Mathdude was the consumate music critic even back in the day. Pretty much everyone's taste in music was raised by osmosis from having known me. He asked to see my "Rock Rules" skull and cross-bones tattoo. I guess I could be remembered for worse things. We went to see his show afterwards, and he was great.

I've made available for you to download two songs: Grey Ghost and Fort Hood. If you're from West Point, you'll know exactly what they're about. Kingston Steve and I were chuckling a while back imagining some lame-o emos trying to figure out what "Stony Lonesome" was, not realizing it was a housing area at West Point. Both of these are really good. If you like them, I encourage you to pick up either his Haughty Melodic or Golden Delicious CDs. Feel free to add any of your memories of Doughty in the comments. If by some chance you're reading this, Mike, keep up the good work, dude.
So here's what we learned here: 1) Mike Doughty is a great up and coming musician, 2) Don't get anyone's name tattood on any part of your body, and 3) Pampdog is in all likelihood Buckethead.
**Buckethead shreds. Pampdog shreds. Also, when asked if he was Buckethead, Pampdog emphatically denied it. Which is exactly what he would do if he were Buckethead, right?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

James I. O'Neill Cheating Scandal - Spring 1980

Cheating, to me, is a desperate means to achieve a higher score on a test than can be obtained through traditional score-improving efforts. Since I wasn't into things like "achieving" or "effort", cheating wasn't really my thing. Sure, I was the Class of '81's best math student, but I received my fair share of bad grades (even in math once in a while). I just wasn't motivated enough to be a big-time cheater.

Anywho, I took Chemistry in my junior year (1979-80). The chemistry teacher* was an obnoxious asshole, so yeah, I looked up to him a little and did well in his class. He had a habit of taking the days off that he gave tests to his classes. On one such day the sub walks up to the 3rd floor, walks past us with an armload of tests, unlocks the chemistry room halfway down the hallway, and then inexplicably leaves (to use the bathroom I guess). Lockaby, aka Eraserhead** comes up to us hyperventilating, "The tests are just sitting there! Someone could just walk up and take them!" I thought about it for about 8 billionths of a second and said, "Hmm, that's a good idea." I walk into the empty classroom, pull a test from the middle of the pile, shove it up my shirt, and walk out. After I stroll back to my friends, I dig it out, and we look it over. As I'm quickly doing the test with effortless ease, I notice Eraserhead is twitching and practically going in and out of a coma he's so excited. Uh-oh. No way this isn't getting out. It then dawned on me that I got A's in Chemistry (the math involved was childsplay for me, even if I thought it was extremely boring), and I thought "What the fuck am I doing?" After a few more minutes of worry, my prayers were answered. YSP, a Korean foreign exchange student, make that an honors Korean foreign exchange student, comes up to me*** and says, "Uh, Mathdude, hey, listen, I hear you have a certain Chemis-" It's yours dude. Have at it! Now the thing spreads like wildfire.

I took the class during one of the lunch hours. Pampdog had lunch while we were in Chemistry, but he came in that day because his girlfriend, Irene G, was in the class. He told the sub he was Dave Pandernaski, which practically made me piss in my pants. Irene, who knew all the answers, because, well, the whole school knew all the answers, fed them to him during the test. About 2/3 of the way through the period, Pampdog's lunch bell rings. He gets up, hands the test to the sub and says,"Hey, I'm just going to head out now...I'm good...I don't need any more time, thanks...." I think I stopped laughing 3 days later.

So the Chemistry teacher gets back the next day, and man, was he pissed. Not only did every one of his students get an A on the test, some guy named Dave Pandernaski got one as well, and he walked out 2/3 of the way through the test! I think he made us retake the test, but I never got caught. Nobody in authority ever found out it was me who took it, and on the plus side, I started spending more than 8 billionths of a second on my decisions.

*At my 10 year reunion, two classmates told me how the Chemistry teacher had a nasty habit of waiting until the lab emptied except for 1 girl, and that he would corner girls and cop some feels. Ugh.
**Jimmy Ransone gave him this name. He was a true pencil neck geek and had this spikey hair that made him look like a pencil.
***YSP was very cool. In a school with such tight social circles, YSP was friends with everyone. This was extremely rare.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Best AC/DC Album

I'll admit I don't know much about the newer releases, but from where I'm sitting, Back In Black and Let There Be Rock are the 2 finalists. I really liked Flick of the Switch, but there's no great song on it that compares to ones on our 2 nominees. I started listening to AC/DC with the US release of Powerage, and it also is a favorite of mine, but again, no great songs to make a good case for it. Highway to Hell barely gets nudged out of the picture in my eyes. It's almost good enough to make this a "Final 3" posting. What's left? High Voltage? Dirty Deeds? For Those About To Rock? Not even close on all 3.

Why Back In Black is their best album: It's got the ubiquitous You Shook Me All Night Long. Next best song? Hell's Bells? Maybe. I like that Trevor Hoffman comes into a game with that one blasting. Givin' the Dog a Bone passed for clever double-entendre back in the day, and I guess it still does for someone as immature as me. Let's see, there's Shake a Leg and Have a Drink on Me...really, all of it is good stuff. Hard to make an argument against it as a whole. BIB sold about 10 billion times more albums than any of their others. The vocals are not as limited as Bon Scotts'. The coolest thing about BIB is the memories of driving around in Savage's Challenger blaring it. Here we were worried AC/DC was going to be ruined with the death of Bon Scott, and BIB was amazing!

Why Let There Be Rock is their best album: I'm drawing a line in the sand here (you writing this down?): Whole Lotta Rosie is the greatest rock song ever! Up-Bup: don't argue. You'll only make yourself look foolish. Let There Be Rock is very good and Bad Boy Boogie has one of Angus' best signature-style solos. The rest is also really good stuff. The production quality doesn't compare well to BIB, but that's ok in AC/DC's case.

So which album gets it? I gotta say, Let There Be Rock has something that BIB doesn't. It never became popular! That sounds contradictory, but when BIB was in its heyday, alot of people adopted it, which is cool in a way, but not so cool in that our music was a means to piss people off. With everyone diggin' it, BIB goes down a peg for me. For this reason, I'm making it official: Let There Be Rock is AC/DC's best album! Let the hating begin.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

West Point Police Blotter: July 4,1980

Our blog won an award after only 14 postings! OK, it wasn't a very prestigious one, still. I'm going to try to jump start this thing.

(Reprinted for Eating Chicken Vindaloo)As my junior year of high school ended at the end of June in 1980, my parents planned a trip to go down south, leaving me by myself for a couple weeks. Wait, let me back up.

Brother Tony Alva, then 16, “went to Virginia” for the summer with two of his friends, one 16 and the other 18 or 19. When I say “went to Virginia”, I mean the entire plan, down to the last minute detail, was “going to Virginia”. I wasn’t around when he convinced my parents that this was a wise, real-world experience that he should undertake, but I always imagined it went something like this.

Dad: So, what are you doing this summer?
TA: Me and a couple friends were thinking of driving to Virginia.
Mom: Well, they do say it’s for lovers. You’ll be safe.
Dad: We’ll *cough-cough* miss you.

Like I said, I wasn’t there, but I know questions like “What town?”, “What’s the number you can be reached at?”, and “How will you pay for things like food, clothing, shelter, and gas?” couldn’t have been asked. My brother had a part-time job that year cleaning dishes at the Thayer Hotel. And by part-time job, I mean “a means to raise money to smoke more pot”. And smoke pot he did. Impressive amounts. Legendary amounts. I don’t want to incriminate anyone here too badly because my dad put me on notice at the family reunion that he stops by Eating Chicken Vindaloo now and again, but let’s just say it was a lot.

Anywho, my parents signed off on sending his thug-pot-smoking-trouble-making-curfew-breaking ass down to Virginia, and they packed up my sisters and headed south. On the night of July 4th, we had a little gathering at my house, me and about 30 of my closest friends. Oh, and there was beer. Lots of beer. Back in the day, the drinking age was 18, and I was 17 myself, so it was extremely easy to get beer.

In addition to the party at my house, there were two other things happening on the post late in the night of July 4th: the gas station was broken into and many tools were allegedly stolen and a huge 12 foot by 12 foot PA system was stolen at a camper/air streamer gathering.

A couple months after his return from Virginia, apparently none the worse for wear, my brother and I were called into the MP station with my dad to be questioned about those crimes. We were interrogated separately, first him, then me, with our dad. I found it especially comical that my brother was a suspect since HE WASN’T EVEN IN THE STATE THE ENTIRE SUMMER. I don’t really know how his interrogation went – perhaps he’ll comment in great detail or post on this story to fill in the details from his perspective.

I was told about the crimes and that I was a suspect, but the CID guy interrogating me didn’t think it was me, and he wanted to help me prove my innocence, 'cause he really believed in me. See, he was the “Good Cop”. I told him I knew exactly where I was July 4th. I was busted the morning after my parents got back because one of my drunken dickhead friends thought it was hil-freaking-larious to run around the house flicking bottle caps all night - fucking Gorko! Not that I was punished. Man, I swear, my parents must have lost interest in raising us and were just crossing days off the calendar until we left home.

Anywho, I tell Mr. Goodcop I got 20 or 30 witnesses that can tell them where I was the night of July 4th. No, Mr. Goodcop had a better idea. How about ol’ Mathdude submit his fingerprints for the FBI and take a lie-detector test they were bringing up from DC (hey – it was 1980 for chrissakes)? We danced this danced for about 20 minutes – him insisting on me taking a lie detector test and being fingerprinted, me asking him how many witnesses would he need for me to “prove” I wasn’t at either crime scene.

Eventually he had to accept my refusal on both offers – fucking jerkwad. It was one of the wiser decisions I ever made. Brother Tony Alva initially said he would do the lie-detector test, thinking it would be a joke, and then refused when the FBI showed up with a huge freakin’ machine. I hope he’ll give his side of it, because I remember it was a pretty big deal.

So while we may have been on West Point’s Most Wanted List, neither of us made it into the FBI’s files. That we know of.

TA answered in the comments with:
You got most of it right Mathdude.

The back story...The real reason mom and dad let me take my adventure was basically the result of my exalted reputation coming to roost. I had just wrapped up getting into some sort of trouble, the kind that dad’s boss called him into his office about at a time when he was applying for a permanent slot there. He instructed me to “do everything in your power to stay out of trouble these next few weeks”. The next night I got into that fracas you blogged about over the cemetery wall. So, either three things were bound to happen had a hung around that summer: 1. I’d have found trouble of my own doing (get busted getting high or something) 2. Got in trouble on account of the MP’s thinking I ate babies as Jackson understood I did at the time, or 3. Trouble would have forced me to react in a way that would inevitably ended up being my fault even though it wasn’t (someone picking a fight with me because I was a long haired, baby eating, skateboarder).So when I suggested the trip, it was met with open arms.

How naive was I. If it wasn’t for our collective naïveté, my summer would have been quite frightening actually. The first night in VA we met a friend in a park at dusk. Ten minutes later, cops showed up and arrested us for being in a park after dusk (who fucking knew you couldn’t be in a park after dusk). At the station, they couldn’t believe our stories about being on this adventure so they of course, had to call mom and dad. Yep, dad laughs at that to this day (after crying about it for years). “Couldn’t go one day could you…?”.

We camped in the woods behind an elementary school for most of the time. We worked labor pool construction when we wanted to, getting picked up in Tyson’s Corner and riding in the back of the pick up truck to Harbor Place in Baltimore which was under construction at the time. Good money, could work when we felt like it or whenever we got up early enough to catch the ride. Attended the 13th Annual Great American Smoke In demonstration in Washington DC handing out pamphlets for The Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition (CAMP) getting stoned out of my mind. The demonstation was held on the Lincoln Memorial lawn over the July 4th holiday.

Traveled to VA beach to see friends and basically hung out. It was actually pretty chill deal.As the summer wound down, I ran out of money and had to come home of course. By that time I fully understood that my reputation was causing everybody a shit ton of grief and I committed to myself, probably for the first time, that I’d avoid trouble at all costs.

The call about the gas station break-in came a couple of months later and that’s where your story begins. They even offered me a glass of water which I promptly turned down in an attempt to get my finger prints (Nice try Barney Fife I watched Kojack too, dumbass!). Since I’d actually been careful after my return, I was anxious to prove to dad that I had nothing to do with either of those crimes, so I agreed to the lie detector test. What the hell, right? They scheduled it for a couple of weeks later and flew some agents in to administer it. Dad told me I didn’t have to go through with it, that it was my decision. I just wanted him to believe me really.So dad picks me up at school at noon (got out of school, excellent!) and we went down to the station. They put me in a chair and I could see the lie detector machine and it’s just as you describe, pretty scary. Think flux capacitor. The operators were dickheads too.

Dad saw it and wanted to talk to the officers about HIS reservations. What happened next was a turning point in my life: As I sat there looking at the machine, I most definitely changed my mind about going through with it, but I never had to deliver my vacillation to the Fed’s because through the door I heard dad and the officers talking. It quickly became pretty heated and all I heard was dad raising his voice (you know he NEVER raised his voice) and said, “Why should I believe you’re looking out for his best interests? When have any of you EVER looked out for his best interests?! I think you’re taking advantage of this situation and I don’t trust any of you!”, pretty bold considering the rank of some of those in the room with him. He opened the door and reiterated that it was still my choice, but he was recommending that I not go through with it. “Cool, let’s get out of here!” I said. On the way home he told me that he’d always have my back as long as I was clean on things. From that point on I’m pretty sure I flew either straight or kept myself under the radar.

I had nothing to do with either the PX gas station break in or the missing PA system.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Holy Shit!

Look what Tony Alva posted over at Intravenus DeMilo. Blogging gold I tell ya.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Judas Priest

The Metal Mega-Gods Judas Priest have a new album out - Nostradamus. I'm getting killed over at Eating Chicken Vindaloo for thinking it's got some worthwhile tracks. Jackson likes the early studio albums. I find the albums before Hell Bent For Leather to be nearly unlistenable. Am I right? Eh? Of course I am. Unleashed In The East had some of these dogs (The Ripper, Diamonds and Rust), but played at the faster live speed and with some final polish, they came out ok. I listened to Unleashed over the weekend, and while Halford had that 4 octave range back then, I think his voice is stronger today.

Priest peaked with British Steel. Up-Bup. Don't argue, you know I'm right!

Screaming for Vengeance was decent. It has Fever on it which I think is arguably their best song.

I really dug Defenders of the Faith. I put it up there with British Steel. Go ahead and blast me for it. I don't see a bad song on the album.

I concede Nostradamus takes a nose dive after the 5th song on the second disc. There is an excellent 35-40 minutes worth from these 2 discs though. What does that make it then? I say it's pretty good.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Oh yeah, now that's what I call dressed to the nines.

My uncle just sent this to me, had to share. You just can't keep shit like this to yourself.

Damn.....cool or fool? Can I be both?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This might soil our rep, but...

For me, it's always a blast to be "found" by someone from our shared youth at West Point no matter whether they were inner circle to our gang or not. Technology has lived up to all the hype to become the great reconnector of our age to be sure.

Some of you guys have commented to me at various times, "How do you remember all this shit?" Truth be told, while my recollection of events can be a bit uncanny at times, there are many stories that have been told to me by others from that age that I have no recollection of at all (not just the potentially criminal stuff either).

Having said that, I think you'd be surprised how many times folks who shared the bus, classroom, teen club, etc... with us have recalled to me a story completely contrary to our exalted reputation. Much like Bill's story in an earlier post of me "saving" him from getting pounded by some Garrison thug his sophomore year.

Last week Danny Wattendorf, who lived next door to us after we moved to Wilson Rd., befriended me on Facebook. My sister might have steered him my way. He was a young kid then, much younger than I, but I do remember him and his family being very nice folks, always kind and pleasant to me. Back then, you’d come to notice things like a Colonel in uniform giving you a cheerful “Hey, how’s it going Pat?” after years of adults looking the other way when you pass them on the sidewalk and not returning your “Hello”.

Danny had this for me:

“Subject: Loooong time ago


Funny what my childhood memories are: In 1979 My family moved to Lee Rd from Ca. and one of my first memories is some scary skate dudes with crankin' long hair hangin' out at the bridge on Lee Rd. I couldn't quite figure out how you got to grow your hair that long given my parents tight control over me at the time. My buddy, Doug Asiello, had nothing to do so we used to dumpster dive behind the PX. We actually once found a wooden mannequin (but, that is another story). Anyway, we used to hang out at a vending machine room they had on the corner of the PX on breaks from our dumpster diving. One day the skate board dudes came in and I remember discussing with Doug whether we should leave given our latent fear, but one of you came over and a bought us one those Hostess pink snowballs (the ones you can peel the pink marshmallow layer off)...."

Thought you all might find this interesting…

Monday, July 14, 2008


Why does doing damage to property figure so largely in the development of the American male? Do French kids fuck shit up for shits and giggles? Are the Greek teenage boys defacing their surroundings on hot summer nights?

Running along the Hudson River from West Point's North Dock to South Dock winds a well worn path through the woods named Flirtation Walk by ancient Cadets for obvious reasons. By 1984, however, Cadets and their significant others were thin on the ground at night on Flirtation Walk. The advent of the automobile, and the sensibilities of the sexual revolution had taken their respective tolls on it, and after dark it was largely deserted, which made it an attractive destination for our little gang.

Also by 1984, our little gang had ceased to invite chase from the Military Police; we pretty much just wanted to be left alone to drink, get high, and score with the ladies if at all possible. Sometimes, however, circumstances demand drastic measures, and one night in the spring of 1984, such measures became necessary.

A small group had assembled at the little lighthouse at the western point in the curve of the river that gives West Point it's name. The lighthouse was maybe fifty feet high, at the top of which was a wrought iron catwalk that ran the perimeter, inside of which was the bright green light that flashed for the benefit of passing boats. We'd always climb the little rungs jutting out of the cylindrical base up to the top; climbing things was what we did.

This particular night, however, we weren't interested in the climb. A number of us were under the influence of psychedelic drugs; we just wanted to chill out, listen to the water lapping on the rocks, and otherwise hallucinate and giggle. The problem was, our ability to do so was being seriously hampered by The Thing That Goes Bing.

The Thing That Goes Bing was a small device the size and shape of a beer keg located at the base of the lighthouse facing the river. Every minute or so, it emitted a fairly loud 'bing'. I suppose the sound did the job of the flashing light when the weather went foul. Well, as important of a job as that was, The Thing That Goes Bing was driving us batty. For some unknown reason, leaving for a more peaceful locale never came up as an option.

Suddenly, through the trees appeared two or three figures that turned out to be a few senior members of the notorious baby eating Skateboard Gang, friends of ours as it were.

In due course, we related our dilemma to the new arrivals. We figured that since they weren't tripping, they would come up with a reasonable solution to our problem.

And so they did.

That night, The Thing That Goes Bing became The Thing That Used To Go Bing.

As I recall, it took three or four of us, with our backs to the tower and our feet pressed against the offending device to dislodge it from it's well secured, bolted down presence on the shore, and urge it on its way into the Hudson.

That incident was the most shameful act of irresponsible behaviour that I was a party to. I can't recall who the actual dislodgers of The Thing That Goes Bing were, and I have purposefully kept any names out of this post, but as I was certainly the weakest physically of the assembled miscreants, I'm fairly positive I was simply an onlooker during the task, but I was absolutely encouraging.

Today there is no 'bing' going thing. They never replaced it, and since that time have torn down the lighthouse and in it's place resides a sinister looking metal box about three foot square with a flashing light seriously secured to the rock it sits upon.

Wisely, it makes no sound.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Bill Devine was already a good guitar player when I met him upon my return from Germany in 1980. Pat Wilson and I had been messing around with guitars prior to my departure, and during the year that I was away he had obtained a drum set by way of a cadet who needed a place to keep it. It was a Sonor kit, which was cool because Phil Rudd from AC/DC played Sonor drums. The music thing had developed into a more actual deal while I was away, and when I got back, I did my best to jump right in. I remember learning "My Best Friend's Girlfriend" with Pat from Jamie ‘Hey Hey’ Lagasse in somebody's attic, possibly Pat's. It was only natural that a band formed. Pat Phillips and some of the skate crew had been assembling a band, Head, and we were struck with idea of doing the same.

Bill and Jamie played guitar. Bill had just gotten his Silverburst Les Paul, which is still his main guitar 28 years on, and Jamie had a D'Agostino Les Paul that was a brilliant piece of work. It was wine red, and played just like a Gibson. Pat played the Sonor drum kit previously mentioned. Bob Gosiki was the only bass player in town, so he was in. Bob was the son of a West Point Band member, and he had gear. He had a Gibson Grabber bass, a Kustom bass amp (that quilted sparkly blue plastic upholstered beast). Bob also had an amp he built, which was like twelve watts or something. We used it as the PA for my vocals. I remember two things about that amp: it had an AC/DC sticker on it, and it was so weak that you couldn't hear me above the band. I look back on the latter fact as a fortunate circumstance.

I was bloody horrible. I could neither sing, nor remember the lyrics to the various Deep Purple and AC/DC songs we were doing. The distance I have from those days, and the things I have done since leads me to believe that I simply had no idea what I was doing, but at the same time I knew that cover tunes were not my bag. I didn’t know what my bag was yet, but I was looking for it.

Although I wasn't interested in covers, they were, and are, where it starts. I ended up extemporizing, improvising, and fucking about over top of whatever song was being played. I didn't know it then and neither did anybody else, but what I was doing was writing songs. Bill had a riff that he called 'Center Of The Universe' which was an ode to another local guitar player and son of a West Point Band member, Bubba Dixon. Bubba was a natural musician, he could play, and he knew it. I gave the tune a rebirth under the more direct moniker, 'Bubba Is a Cock'. 'Bubba Is a Cock’ was quickly followed by 'Jill's A Bitch', and 'Donny Go Home' (to the tune of ‘Cocaine’), the subject matter of which, respectively, were the Teen Center manager/supervisor, and my neighbor, the late Donald Tillar.

We played two gigs, I think. I remember one at the Teen Club, where ‘Jill’s a Bitch’ was born, and thanks to Sam Saldivar’s recent YouTube post, I was reminded of a show at the Golf Club House. The lack of sound on the 8mm footage was a blessing for me, but it would have been cool to hear the band. Mostly I got a kick from the milk crate light show, and Billy’s Molson t-shirt.

Songs about people that I didn’t like couldn’t keep me in the line-up of Platinum Dragon for very long. Soon came the fateful night at the West Point Elementary School playground where I was relieved of my front man duties in favor of Sam Saldivar, who had bailed on NYMA, came to O’Neil, and got cool quick. I'm sure I wasn't happy about it, but I think I was relieved. I knew I wasn’t holding up my end. I was still enthusiastic about the band. I liked them, they were my friends. Very shortly after my dismissal, Platinum Dragon was transformed into Nightwolf.

Jamie moved to Colorado. Rob ‘Savage’ Simpson, and his cool-ass siverburst Gibson Flying V replaced him. Bob Gosiki was sacked in favor of Chris Dice. I guess everybody had enough gear by then.

I don’t remember a whole lot about Nightwolf. I remember a show at the Golf Club House. I remember the lyric:

“I don’t really know nuthin’ about ya”

They wrote songs. That was way ahead of the curve. A lot of the creativity must have come from Sam, who was certainly the most creative person we knew.

At any rate, Nightwolf lacked legs. It ended all too soon.

I think, at this point Rob Simpson joined Head. Bret Baugh, guitarist for Head, must have moved on as well. Bret was the most gifted musician in town. He had that ease of play, that effortless vibe that you see in guys like Hendrix or Clapton.

Head, to my poor memory, at that point, consisted of Pat Phillips (vox), Dave Palmer (guitar), Savage (guitar), Hutch (drums). Did Dice play bass at this point?

Head gigs were fairly memorable.

The North Pool gig stands out. My mother, Peg, whose chocolate chip cookies were renown, loaded up the Wilson family Malibu Station Wagon with band gear for the event.

There was something about the sound reverberating off the cement; it worked for War Pigs at least.

Riot Night.


Palmer doing ‘FX’ with the Memory Man. A proper show with lights………and a church…..

How does that happen? Who let’s a bunch of teenagers loose in the basement of a church overnight, largely unsupervised, with sound gear, video gear, light gear, other gear…..?

I remember spinning the first Schenker record before the show, and Chris Phillips suggested ‘Victim of Illusion’. The night ended with watching Bruce Lee (Enter the Dragon?) on a big screen as the sun came up.

Then they all graduated, but they weren’t done yet.

Before all that though, we need to revisit our friends Pat Wilson and Billy ‘Guitar’ Devine. After Nightwolf they went underground for a bit, jamming in my basement, and Bill’s. Bill had moved next door to me in a weird magical confluence of circumstance. Pat played bass for a bit, but soon succumbed to the gravitational pull of the guitar.

Around the same time a friendship had developed between our immediate crew and Brian Spears who was succumbing to the gravitational force of the drums.

The base of operations moved to Brian’s basement in Highland Falls, and Talon was born.

I suppose Diceman had been playing with Head, because initially there was no bass.

I don’t think there was bass at the Talon gig when they played at the school rally for financial aid. I do remember the set. Okay, I remember two songs. An instrumental called ‘Backseat Overture’ featuring Pat’s phase pedal, and a cover of ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ featuring Lynn Maloney. Lynn could sing, and she had the Benetar look well in hand. I leant her my silver spandex pants, y’know, as you do. I got them back soiled. Sorry, Lynn, if this public outing upsets you, but posterity must be observed. Lynn decided panty lines could not be tolerated, and so she went commando in my spandex as she menstruated all up inside them shits.

Eventually Chris Dice joined Talon and brought his singular showmanship to the band as well as the sorely needed bass. Chris was great to have in the band. His good nature and work ethic were commendable.

Talon gigged a few times, at the obligatory Golf Club House, the 49er Lodge, and most notably a major show at the Fort Montgomery Elementary School. We pulled out all the stops for that one, which basically means me lighting off flash pots manually behind Brian. There was another female guest appearance. I forget her name. She was okay, she sang Frida’s ‘I Know What’s Going On’ while Pat hid behind his Carvin stack clearly wanting no part of it.

Like most local bands at the time, Talon played mostly cover material, but there were some original compositions. The most memorable was, of course, ‘Take Up the Cross’, which featured a Brian penned lyric about the Children’s Crusade. Everybody was excited about the new tune, and when a chance to record it came up, the opportunity was leapt upon.

Bill Walsh is a legend. He is a musical genius. He was also, at the time, a serious party machine. Bill was a West Point Band member as well as an audio engineer. He had the keys to West Point’s very sophisticated recording studio. Who knew?

Bill took us in, skillfully ushered the band through the process, and produced a nice little demo featuring ‘Take Up the Cross’, a cover of Judas Priest’s ‘You Got Another Thing Coming’, and probably Sweet’s ‘Action’. I’m not sure if the band paid Bill for the session, but I do know Lagasse dropped by.

At the end of that school year, ‘82/83, Talon played an outdoor show at the O’Neill High School Graduation where Bill and Brian received their diplomas. It was off to college for half of Talon, and thus, the end, almost……


The Death of Talon was the title given by Pat of the video of their farewell gig. Bill and Brian came back for winter break, and we decorated the Ace in the Ground – Brian’s basement, and invited a bunch of friends.

Talon went all out in preparation. Costumes, make-up, set design, oh yeah, and everybody took acid about an hour before the show. The latter was regrettable, especially considering the costumes, make-up, and set design. Hey, we didn’t know, really, we had no idea.

The first few songs went well, then a fuse blew and all the power went out as they began ‘Mr. Crowley’. As unsettling as that was, by the time we got things running again, the effects of the LSD had begun to undermine the bands ability to perform. Brian, in his own words, got lost in his cymbals, and Pat seemed to have forgotten how to play. Thankfully somebody gave their guitar to Dave Palmer, and Talon officially died as a loose jam session evolved in the wake. I think the lawn doctor practiced his lurid craft on Brian’s front lawn that night. Pat and I giggled a lot.

Back to Head. I know a few of them went out to LA for a stint, Palmer staying longer and coming back a shred-god. Before long they obtained the residence that gave them their name. The House In Newburg. Pat, Hutch, Palmer, Savage……who played bass? Diceman?

It was a great house. The basement housed the rehearsal space as well as at least one bedroom. There was pinball, booze, and mayhem. That house prepared me for college much more than O’Neill did.

Head wasn’t Head any more, but I don’t think they ever landed on another name, nor do I think they ever played out. They were The Band at the House, and they practiced Metal tunes, many of which were unsuitable for Pat’s bluesy gravel pit voice.

In 1984 Metal cover bands could get paying gigs, and I guess that was the idea. I always thought they should have been writing their own material.

Neither the band nor the house lasted very long as they began to be interested in their lives and soon went their separate ways. It turns out there wasn’t a surplus of dudes who could sing Maiden or Dio.

Savage went to California to be an actor. Palmer went down south into academia. Hutch moved to San Francisco. Pat enrolled at the local Community College. I don’t know what Dice did, or if he was even a part of the scene at that point.

1984 saw the end of the West Point Skateboard Gang bands in the proper sense. Many of us stayed involved with music, however. During breaks from school music was still being made.

The Ace in the Hole gave us Danger Penguin. Ostensibly, at its inception, the Danger Penguin line-up was Brian (drums), Pat Wilson (guitar) and Mitch Turner (guitar). Soon Pat Phillips was showing up as well. The band never gigged, but it served as the spring board into the next era, the studio years.

Pat Wilson obtained a multi-track console and tape machine. We all caught the bug. By 1986 Pat Phillips and Brian had converted Pat’s parent’s basement into the Coal Mine Studio.

We recorded every chance we got. Mitch would come up from Georgia. Whoever was at the University of Maryland at the time would make the trip. We learned a craft.

Eventually the Coal Mine closed its doors, and we all went off to our lives, but those of us who came out of the Coal Mine are all still involved with making music today. Pat Phillips has a studio in Atlanta. I have mine in Brooklyn. Mitch is a Doctor of Tunes at LaGrange College in Georgia. Pat Wilson still plays his white Les Paul, and Brian plays drums with Jesus.

Now, everybody please fill in the blanks and correct my incorrect notions.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I am what I am...

You know, it's funny...

My first brush with pop music idolatry was Elton John back in 1975-76 I was in 5th grade. Loved all those early records and knew them upside down, every single note. As I was exposed to other stuff over the course of time (we all sort of share the familiar musical journey, it's what has us talking about this shit 30 years later), I as 14 year-old male forgot Elton John and went on to deny him to the point of ridicule at points past. I wrote off my affection for his early music as child like naiveté. Thing is, every time one of those songs came on the radio (think 'Mona Lisa's & Mad Hatters') I would secretly think to myself, "That's a great fucking song". It sounded just as good as it did when I first heard it back when I was 14 and it STILL sounds that good today. At some point in my life, I decided to cease the whole denial thing. Probably because I no longer cared (or got too old) to be hip, that includes music snobbery. As a matter of fact, the whole "I'm into Gabriel Genesis now, Nugent and Kiss are kids play" thing that I ran into in college is what shook me out of it. I liked Gabriel Genesis too, but I could never understand why it had to come at the expense of Kiss 'Destroyer' which is a great fucking record BTW! It was quite liberating to get to this point actually. I can actually enjoy the wake of my musical journey as much as what lies ahead!

I went to see Iron Maiden last weekend, not for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, but because those first four or five records were GREAT and I STILL listen to them today. Iron Maiden were fantastic! (see Ted's blog for a run down). Ted and I played cuts (all on vinyl of course) from Nugent's 'Free For All' record before heading out to MSG and we were jumping around playing air guitar like maniacs. Racked up some UFO 'Obsession' (arguably one of the greatest records ever made) and cranked it up so loud we chased Ted's gal out of the apartment. All of these acts have become a study in not knowing when to quit to be sure, but the early catalog undeniably stands the test of time IMHO. Why fucking deny it? Why not groove to it instead?

Shit yeah Lee, I just spun 'Gimme Back My Bullets' last week. 'I'm on the Hunt' another great Skynyrd track from the era, and there are many more. I wouldn't go near a Skynyrd concert (or one of their post plane crash records for that matter) nowadays, but man that early shit cooks.

It's a little like this skate blog my bro has fired up. Our youth was a bit unique. Strange time, strange place. For me, it had it's ups and downs. There are things that I did then that I'm embarrassed to even think about now, but overall I had a blast as a kid. Would I go back given the chance? Like Lee, hell fucking no. I'm having a much better time now, but I've come to accept all that teenage stupidity and after years of guilt, have certainly come to have a good laugh at it (God we were so serious, weren't we?).

I was a bit ambivalent about the Skate blog myself when Chris first mentioned it, like I was about attending my O'Neill reunion years ago, thought it might be nostalgia for nostalgia's sake trip, but like the musical denial thing, I've decided to say fuck it, I'm in. You guys make me laugh when we get together. Not just our stories of yore, but what you're doing now, so why the fuck not?


BTW, all new music sucks!!! I STILL GOT IT!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Are You Listening To These Days?

Huck Tater writes:

Bad Motor Scooter---Montrose (back before Sammy Hagar sucked)
Stranglehold (back before Ted Nugent sucked)
Toys in the Attic (back before Aerosmith sucked)

.....sensing a theme here?????

I have a feeling there could be some 'spirited' discussion about music then and now on the blog. I have kinda wondered about what you fellas are listening to these days and what made the cut as far as holding up over time from our high school days. Just to put out one of my opinions (Pat P. can tell you that I have a few opinions from time to time) Ted Nugent did not stand up to the test of time. A few songs make the cut but....'Intensities in Ten Cities'??? More like "Milktoastities in Ten Cities'. Everything after the Double LIve Gonzo is crap.

I would be truly interested to hear what is on people's current playlists. If you haven't moved beyond the 70s or 80s as far as music goes please also include a photo of your mullet.

Please feel free to call me an asshole but I won't change my mind.

I would also be interested to hear what everyone is up to these days. Pat P is the only guy (My brother excluded) that I know anything recent about. That sort of thing is probably a blog entry but I thought I would put the question out on email. Jobs, hobbies, kids etc.I will put up a post about my sometimes other than glorious (beer truck driver and 3 years in the army) and fairly glorious (going to Antarctica for 4 months and getting a PhD) past 25 or so years.

Hope you are all well

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The rest of the world will never fully understand what it was like to grow up on a national landmark. That coupled with the insular environment provided by the military made West Point a singularly unique and fantastic setting for one’s youth.

West Point is a campus first and foremost. That fact makes for a lot of buildings, facilities, and other apparatus. Those structures, the academic and athletic, the historic and the commercial, were our playground.

Breaking and entering is a serious crime, and though our activities bore resemblance to criminality, in actuality they weren’t malicious in any way. We simply had an undeniable urge to explore. Of course any clandestine venture taken by teen-agers after dark is logically suspect, a fact we understood, so it was with the greatest of care, indeed sobriety, that we undertook our mission.

Our mission was to find our way to the roof of every bit of brick and stone assembled by man within walking/running/skating distance from our homes.

There were many favorites: the Cadet Chapel, Washington Hall, Egbert.

Finding your way into buildings was key to accessing roofs, and was equally part of the kick. Eventually we ran out off roof tops, so we diversified. It became simply a matter of gaining access to places were not supposed to be.

Again, the term ‘trespassing’ is a bit past the mark. We weren’t vandals. We weren’t there to drink beer or make out. Our motives were much more laudable. We were marking our territory, but in the harmless Zen-like fashion of simply being there.

After a few years, just as we were starting to shift focus to women and beer, we did develop a ritual that although still harmless, it was certainly less than nice. Of course the victims of pride, the intended targets of our mischief, was the Military Police, the sworn enemy.

Fort Putnam had long been a feature in our nocturnal activities. It was, in fact, part of the trifecta of mischief. A night swim at Delafield, a romp through Fort Putnam, and a stroll through Michie Stadium. By this time the route into Fort Putnam had been well established. The giant wooden double door was locked promptly at 4:30, but we rarely used doors. A brief walk around the exterior wall to the left brought you, after about 100 yards and some narrow footing, to a spot in the wall that features an inward right angle as well as the lowest part of the wall. It was like they were asking us to climb up and over.

At some point somebody got wise to our shenanigans, and a security system was installed. This security system consisted of a cable that ran around the outside of the wall at about a foot and a half from the top. The cable incorporated a series of phono jacks, which when pulled upon would disconnect, breaking a circuit, and triggering an alarm somewhere at MP HQ.

The effectiveness of this system was laughable, as were far too nimble and easily climbed over it.

I guess we got bored. One night, on the way out, somebody yanked the cable behind them. We thought we might hear an alarm, but there was nothing. We didn’t stick around though, and we made our way down through a wooded incline, across the road that leads to Delafield, and into the woods where we hid behind a boulder and waited.

We didn’t have to wait long before a MP car showed up. There was a lengthy display of spotlights and fumbling around in the woods on the part of the MPs. We were delighted.

We began to yank the cable regularly. Then they stopped showing up.

It was a hollow victory. We moved on to women and beer.

More From the Archives

John, what's up? What are you doing hanging out with fucking douchebag Matt Dubois? Right, you were really hanging out with the girls, and Matt happened to walk into the picture. He may not have been the biggest asshole during our reign of West Point, though. I'd rank Mike Devereaux and Frank Fey higher and that Nielson asshole, not Mike from Stony Lonesome - he was cool and funny as shit - the other family that was at WP but moved to Highland Falls. The wrestler asshole. Whatever. Matt was a huge dick in my eyes, too.

I blogged about Matt already on my blog and got several funny insults hurled his way. I hope this doesn't come out as being all negative and shit. I'm mostly amused by the vast majority of the people that didn't like us back then.

Tales of an Outlaw Skateboarder Vol I, Or "You mean up this ramp?" REVISITED

(Originally posted at Intravenus De Milo 6-16-06)

Ed note: The following story is true and the facts are accurate to the best of my knowledge. NO names have been changed to protect the innocent since nobody I knew back then ever remotely fit that description.

While reading Jackson's blog this past week, a commenter using an alias let it be known through the use of cryptic clues that he grew up with us at West Point, and had known some of the same folks I hung out with. He asked a couple of specific questions regarding the skateboard ramp in the background of my profile photo and alluded to another that myself and my gang of skate rats built. Jackson recommended that perhaps it was time for a post on the subject, and I couldn't agree more if for no other reason than to coax our mystery blog commenter out of anonymity.

If you’ve seen either of the Dogtown movies: “Dogtown and Z Boys” (most excellent documentary), or the drama enhanced “Lords Of Dogtown” (as the Outback Steakhouse dude says, "not as good...") you know that skateboarding’s first big quantum leap occurred when the street skaters of Venice and Santa Monica discovered a practical use for all the swimming pools left empty due to the severe drought Southern California was grappling with in the late seventies. This gave birth to the art of vertical skating and all it’s popular offshoots so common place nowadays (snowboarding halfpipe being at the top the list). Street skating was cool and any teenage male growing up in 1976 could certainly find plenty enough mischief by doing that, but vertical skating took real balls. The consequence factor went up ten fold when one went from doing kick flips in the street to sailing up the 12’ vertical concrete wall of an empty swimming pool. Naturally, once me and my gang saw pictures of guys skating pools it was a foregone conclusion that we had to have us some of that!

The problem we confronted was that unlike drought laden Southern California, where I was living in the spring of 1977 (Newport News, Virginia), there weren’t an abundance of available empty backyard pools to do this activity in, and neither was this the case at West Point NY where I, along with my family, would be moving to in a few short months. Back in Virginia after school let out for the summer, my skating friends and I put together a poorly constructed two transition ramp and began shredding it. It was by far the most fun we’d ever had in our lives up to that point at least, and I was genuinely sad to leave it behind when my Dad packed my brother and I into the car for the long drive and our new life in NY. Oh, what was in store for me I had not a clue…

On my second day as a New Yorker, while at the local swimming facility, I met West Point’s lone resident skateboarder at the time. His name was Chris Lagasse and by the time we headed home for supper, me and my new found friend had plotted an after dark plywood stealing raid for that same evening. As planned, my new friend showed up at the predetermined rendezvous point, but he had some new intel to divulge: on his way home for dinner, he had met a couple of guys who, that same day, had moved in down the road. The Rogers brothers, John and Dave, had skated on a team over in Europe and had just begun skating ramps before their family had to pack it up and move (for those unfamiliar, this is the life of a career service family). The Roger’s Bros. were definitely interested in helping the ramp cause. We met them over at their house and after introductions and helping their older brother set up his killer stereo, we spun the first side of "Aerosmth “Rocks”, and then set out for the historical post cemetery, the final resting place for many of our nations finest, to commandeer our needed building materials. This began a long legacy of night time dark ops style missions in search of materials for skateboard ramps. It’s worthy of note that this inaugural mission to the cemetery was also the first time we were detained by the Military Police (they let us go with the plywood intact after hearing our hastily put together bullshit story. That would be the LAST time they did that). This first ramp went in against the side of the hill where our house shared the parking lot with the Catholic Chapel. It was a crude two transition job much like the one I left behind in VA, but it was a little bigger and better built thanks to the improved quality of pilfered material. It was also closer to true vertical at its peak.
The West Point winter took its toll on that ramp and by the time the spring of 78’rolled around, we had a chance to study some pictures of what other swimming pool deficient skaters were doing to satisfy their jones for anything vertical. We carefully analyzed each and every photo in Skateboarder Magazine throughout the entire winter (nothing cured the winter doldrums like coming home from school and finding your issue of Skateboarder Magazine in the mailbox). The typical solution was a quarter pipe to vertical 10’-12’ tall ramp. This required a higher level of engineering and more complex bill of materials than either of the first models we’d built.

By the time our second summer was upon us in NY, we’d all become proficient at sneaking out of our houses in the wee hours and it was almost a nightly thing. The time was spent either taking these gorgeous downhill speed runs on West Points’ mountainous Hudson Valley terrain, and/or swimming under the stars at Delafield Pond. We took a night or two off from the usual routine to scout and abscond with our needed material from any of the academies bazillion construction sites. We were so familiar with every rock and tree on post by then that it was like taking candy from a baby. It’s funny, my folks rarely asked where all the lumber came from and accepted the lamest of responses whenever they did. Maybe they just didn’t want to know. We’d even use the yellow saw horses that the MP’s would use to close roads and redirect traffic for these ramps with the words “Military Police: Do Not Cross” stenciled across them ("...Oh, these are the ones they didn’t want and were getting rid of anyway. They said we could have them…”)

The plywood surface for this next project would come thanks to Matt Beall and the use of his VW van. Matt wasn’t a skater, but some in our group were his soccer teammates and somehow convinced him that loading up his parents van with stolen plywood in the middle of the night from the roofing jobsite at the cadet Field House was something he wanted to do (If I never told you Matt and if you’re out there, thanks dude!).

The ten foot tall quarter pipe we built as a result of all this hard work was magnificent. The run up to it was down grade so getting speed was easy and it allowed us the opportunity to focus on developing and setting up moves instead of pumping the ground for speed. I remember a few local publications coming up to shoot pictures of us ripping that ramp, but can find none of the resulting photos anywhere. I also don’t remember when that ramp came down or recall for what reason.

I do remember the details of next one though. We had befriended a couple of guys in the housing area across the reservoir from the football stadium by the fall of our second year at West Point and it was decided that it was time to build another ¼ pipe. The location we decided on was a lightly traveled road that ran along the back of Lusk Reservoir and happens to be one of the worlds most beautiful and picturesque backdrops. This location was ideal for three reasons: it provided a close location to steal lumber from (the stadium was under construction yet again), it provided the most excellent wooded groves for sneaking off and smoking cigarettes and other things, and it also had a good hill to run down to so we again didn’t have to worry about pumping for speed much like it’s predecessor.

Unfortunately, the stadium lumber raid netted us only the two by four materials we required and we had to come up with another location and plan to jack the six sheets of exterior grade 5/8’’ plywood required to complete the job. On my way home from my dishwashing job one night, I was delighted to discover a road work project that was underway on Wilson Road. The post engineers were replacing all the manholes along the length of the entire street. It was a long ways down the hill from the tentative location of the new ramp, but was off the beaten path a little bit providing very favorable conditions to ply our well honed lumber thieving tactics. It would definitely be a haul to get the plywood up to our ramp location, but they were using brand new sheets of 5/8” exterior grade and after conferring with my esteemed colleagues we quickly determined that it would be well worth the extra effort. Hell, if the Druids hauled all those boulders over those long distances to Stonehenge, carrying six sheets of plywood a mile or so up a hill wouldn’t be all that bad, right?

On the night of the operation, my friends hooked up with me after work and we set about on our mission. We made our way to an unlit spot off into the woods close to the Wilson Road jobsite where we passed around a joint, and plotted the final details of the caper together. The plan was to break up into two man teams. Each team would approach a sheet of plywood laying on the ground, one person in front, one in back, toss their skateboard on top of said plywood, pick it up, and as quickly and quietly as possible, make their way into the woods and up the hill.

All was going according to plan and I was feeling confident as ever as I bent over to grab the backend of one of the many sheets of plywood laying in the street. Once my partner signaled he was ready to go, we picked the sheet up, I took my first steps forward and WOOOSH! The next thing I remember, I was laying on my back in cold mud roughly 15 feet down a manhole with a blurry view of my friends’ heads peering down at me from above. At this point, I heard one of the guys say, “He’s dead, let’s get out of here!”, to which one of my more level headed compadre’s replied as he began lowering himself down the hole, “He’s not dead you idiot, help me get him outta here”. I have no recollection of getting home, or how I got to the hospital, but after a few days of shaking off the concussion I received from hitting my head on the back of the iron manhole, not to mention biting the shit out of my tongue as my chin hit the plywood on the way down, I was extremely relieved to find out that the guys had completed the mission that evening despite my mishap. The resulting ramp was more magnificent than the last and we had a lot of fun shredding it. It’s this ramp that we all caught our first air on (a maneuver in which the skater and skateboard leave the ramp and turn around in mid air). It was also the first ramp to attract a steady stream of spectators, some of which were of the female persuasion, and a big hit for the tailgating crowd at the opening Army football game that season as well.

One day during that same fall, my brother and I came home from school and was informed by our mother, who bore this look on her face as if someone had died, that our ramp had been hauled to the dump and burned by the Military Police. Apparently, some desk Sergeant, without consulting with his commander, had taken this action base on a single complaint from some nanny officer’s wife who rang the station up the prior day to complain about hooligans hanging around her house skateboarding and terrorizing HER neighborhood. The Post Provost Marshall who had been out of town at the time found out about this serious(?) error in judgment by one of his men and in fear of the potential major retribution campaign he assumed would follow shortly as a result of this mistake(?) wanted to call my folks and offer a plan to smooth it over (imagine THEM being afraid of US, it just doesn’t get any better than this!). Before my brother and I could utter a single word, she told us that the Provost Marshall had directed the Army Corp of Engineers to build us a replacement ramp ASAP and put it right back where the original was. Here I thought we were about to face the music for stealing lumber, and now I’m hearing this story of contrition from our arch nemesis, AND we’re going to get a new ramp built out of it!

An awesome ramp it was too. We all took the ride with the newly completed ramp on the back of a flatbed truck upon it’s completion from the carpenters shop located down on the banks of the mighty Hudson River. As the tractor trailer made it’s way through the housing area, I was hoping in all my glee that the harpy who had called in that original complaint was looking out her window as we drove by. The Army Corp guys dropped our ramp on the spot we designated and left us with the instructions that the monstrosity had to be painted (green of course), but other than the skate punk spray paint graffiti we applied, the green paint they left for us got tossed in the woods. We were quite the popular attraction that football season and we drank up all the attention thrown our way, not to mention the free beers compliments of the most impressed tailgaters.

The winter that followed, boredom, and some asshole who drove his car onto it spelled the death of that ramp and we were again left with no vertical surface to skate. During the snowy months though, our collective and insatiable need for vertical drove an attempt at an off season solution. Again, we “procured” lumber in the usual manner and build a small half pipe in our empty garage up by the chapel. Much to our dismay, it was a disappointing and failed project on many levels. The garage was WAY too cold to skate in during the winter, it was insufficiently lit, and it never dried out enough to skate not even once.

When the spring finally arrived, we decided to pull the halfpipe out of the garage and move it parallel to the side of our house. This took some serious effort since it was built beyond the size of the garage opening, but we managed to make it happen nonetheless. It was a very tight ½ pipe, perhaps 13’ in diameter. For those familiar, you know this is a very hard pipe to skate, certainly difficult to learn the basics on. Didn’t matter, it took no time to get good at it and we were again impressing passersby with our acrobatics, this time church attendees coming and going to mass and no serious objections from my parents or the priests from the church for that matter. I guess my folks were happy to have us within sight, although all the extra curricular activities were still going on as usual. They even somehow managed to ignore the constant whooshing sound of the ramp and the blaring rock and roll music that was a constant backdrop. They didn’t ask my friends to stop while we ate dinner even after John Rogers skateboard came crashing through the window as we ate one time. We cut our teeth on that little halfpipe and it took us to a new level of skating. Yet, it’s meager diameter was extremely limiting. We had to now set our sights on something major, something more like what the guys in Skateboarder Magazine were skating. This would be the projects of all projects. It would require material thievery on a scale not previously imagined. Some thought it was almost too big. We also knew that the halfpipe we wanted to build would not be one that West Point was going to just let us plop down anywhere without a battle. We spent a lot of our smoking time talking about possible locations and material pilfering plans. What and where was it going to be? I don’t know if it was attempt to coop us, or simply legitimize our plight, but our parents began simultaneously coaxing us to petition West Point’s Youth Activities Division to provide us with a facility to skate. You have to understand that skateboarding was all but illegal by now after many regular trips to the Military Police station by all of us. Our parents put together some kind of informal proposal and submitted it to the powers that be on our behalf. The “powers” couldn’t bring themselves to reward us hooligans for all of our misdeeds, nor did they want to endorse or otherwise spend money on such a non-cadet type activity, but they did concede to allowing us to build a ½ pipe ramp using our own funds adjacent to a playground located in one of the more popular housing areas.

That’s all we wanted and needed. We took a chance and broke with all our previous outlaw conventions and determined that with a contribution of just $20 a piece from each of us, we could build a 10’ tall, full 20’ in diameter state of the art halfpipe. Once the funds were collected my wonderfully understanding, if not a bit naïve, mother drove our family station wagon piled with a bunch of longhaired miscreants up to Newburgh’s Myron’s Lumber and we loaded that thing up until the leaf springs sagged so low we almost didn’t make it back over the mountain (Thanks Mom, after that token deed all my friends thought you were cool. At least cooler than their moms). We put together the project over the course of a week and the result was a sight to see.

It was conveniently located close to the perimeter woods which were more than sufficient to camouflage our extra curricular activities, but visible enough to attract a goodly amount of spectators. At first, the “civilians” were afraid to come close to take a look. This was due to our well established and notorious reputations, but in time it was normal to see a handful of parents and kids standing around watching us skate this ramp with our Aerosmith and Ted Nugent blaring from boom boxes. This halfpipe was constructed in the spring, so we had unfettered use of it all summer. MANY girls came to hang with us here and for a longtime it was THE place to be. This also happens to be the ramp featured in the background of my blogger profile.

Alas, like most all good things, they don’t last and we all grow up. I can’t tell you when I stopped skating that ramp or when I stopped skateboarding period. Thinking back on it, I’d say a change of focus to music (I started singing in a band), fellow skate friends moving away, too much partying, girls, or a combination of all of them put skating further and further down my priority list as time wore on. I can say with absolute certainty that there is no way anyone had more fun than I did when I was an out of control teenager and have the residual scars and guilt to prove it. West Point, in its own hyper conservative and strangely paternalistic way, was a perfect place to grow up despite the oil and vinegar existence we lived as outlaw skateboarders amongst the pinnacle of institutional military indoctrination. There had been nobody like us before we all arrived with our families back in the summer of 1977, and I’d say without a doubt in my mind that there’s been nobody like us there since. All someone has to do is mention skateboarding and ramps and a smile will instantly appear across my face.

The Other "Tony Alva"

UPDATE: I completely forgot that Mike Blackburn, an OG Skateboard Gang member, had given me a copy of a local newspaper that printed a picture of us. This photographer came up and took pictures of us shredding the hell out of the Chapel 1/4 pipe for the enite day. I remember going down to the publishing office and looking at a hundred photos from the shoot. The guy got some great shots as a result of his efforts. I seem to remember him being concerned about the fact that we weren't wearing any safety gear and that his editor may not let him use some of the cooler shots as a result. We were deflated when they went to press with this lame photo:

Also, by request, here's a link to the Flickr page with the above photos along with attributes. Please forward to me any corrections that I need to make.