|Side Stage - May 2012|
Ahhhhhh, just back from vacation in sunny Los Angeles
This was the first vacation I have taken in a long time and the first time the rest of my family had a chance to go to California. My kids could not have been more excited to see the "glamorous" world of Hollywood, and maybe catch a glimpse of one of their favorite TV, movie or music heroes. Their unbridled enthusiasm reminded me of my first trip there and the similar excitement I had, albeit for slightly different reasons.
Back when I was first getting serious about playing music I had no vision of my life other than playing drums full-time. That was it. That was the only acceptable path I could see for myself as I had no interest in anything else at the time. Eat, drums, sleep, drums, rinse, repeat. As it came time for me to make decisions about what my next move would be, I gave serious consideration to going to the Musicians Institute in L.A.
The more I looked into the school, the more I felt that it would be a bad idea. It just seemed like "Rock 101" to me, not a place where I was going to prosper as a musician. So I bagged that idea and dove head first into playing full time. I took crappy jobs to earn enough money to exist, yet still have enough flexibility to leave town on a moment's notice, or play weekday gigs without fear of getting fired if I was late the next day. Everything was second to drums and playing gigs was my "college", if you could call it that. Sooner or later, I started to pick up some steam and was able to snag a few low level endorsement deals. When this happened, I felt that I had made a significant accomplishment in my music career. When I had the opportunity to go to the NAMM show in Anaheim and possibly snag some more endorsements, I jumped at the chance. Not only would this give me the opportunity to get my name out more, but also a chance to go see California in all of its rotten glory, particularly Hollywood. So, with wanton abandon, myself and some of my bandmates at the time - names withheld to protect the innocent - hopped on a plane and flew out for a week of true Hollywood stories.
Needless to say, I was stoked to go. Not only was I excited about the possibility of interacting with some of my musical heroes, but also putting myself in the epicenter of the place I had seen and read so much about. We had meetings scheduled with some heavy-hitters while we were there, and the whole O.J. fiasco was going down as well, so it had all of the promise of a hell of a good time. The NAMM show was fairly successful for all of us and we managed to get through that without getting into any trouble. Once the show was done we had a few extra days booked to go "exploring", and that's when I realized how happy I was with my decision to not go to M.I.
I know now that if I had made that move and enrolled in "Rock 101" that I would probably have ended up in the same boat as so many other people that moved out there with the best intentions; broke and probably completely wasted on drugs. That area has a way of hooking people in, like a giant vortex of seediness. I have recently read several books from prominent L.A. Musicians, and there is one recurring theme ... heroin. I know this is not the only place where drugs rule the scene, but man it is blatantly apparent that there was no escaping it. From my vantage point on that trip I had made the right decision to stay away, especially based on the amount of crazy crap we got up to in just a couple of days. I thought about how much damage I could have done in a few years time. Would I have even made it out alive? Who knows?
On this trip I got a chance to go past M.I. and see the latest batch of kids who would be learning to play a guitar solo with a cordless drill, and reflected back to that decision. In the daylight, with tourists everywhere, the scene in Hollywood is much as advertised. My kids got to see the walk of fame and all of the other stereotypical tourist crap. But they also got to see a cross-dressing street entertainer singing Madonna songs through a karaoke machine on a street corner. And for good measure, they got to see their dad sing a chorus of a song with said cross-dressing street entertainer. As I looked back and saw them laughing at me, I was glad I made the decisions I had made in life. I was happy to not have been the author of an autobiography filled with tales of heroin and cocaine-fueled nights of paranoia. I was happy that I have never played a guitar solo with a cordless drill. I was happy to not be a cross- dressing street entertainer singing Madonna songs with some jackass from Maryland trying to harmonize with me. Hooray for Hollywood.