megalomania

funny, music, Portland No Comments »

This ad was posted on ListByCraig today, in the ‘musicians’ section.

“Very experienced drummer without legs. What I can do with the rest of my limbs will surprise you! Looking to jam or maybe start band with good people who can accept me for who I am.. Below are links to my drumming videos. Thank you to my brother for allowing me to post a few videos of me playing on his synth youtube channel! Love you and God Bless!”

Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leppard, has shown the world that a person doesn’t need all of his or her limbs in order to rock huge arenas around the world.  I was expecting this guy to be using a modified drum set of some sort, or maybe he was even a guy like Trilok Gurtu, the amazing Indian percussionist who used to play with John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra and all that. He has legs, and he uses them on occasion, but his main Thing is to sit on the floor, surrounded by a mountain of percussion instruments, creating a soundscape that is both big and small.  He sounds like a drummer, but so much more.  He’s amazing.

trilok_gurtu

So I’m giving the guy who posted his ad the benefit of the doubt.  He seems like a good guy, is really confident, and he isn’t going to let his disability come between him and his dream.  This being Portland, there are a million hippie percussionists out there, and this guy could be one of them.  Good on you, dude, and more power to you, I thought, as I clicked on the links to his videos.  Do not read the rest of this entry until you’ve watched both of the videos.  Don’t worry, they’re not very long.  Here’s the first one. . .

. . .and the second one.

I can imagine him twirling his virtual drum sticks at the end of that second one, or holding his iPhone aloft with the lighter app flickering on the screen.

I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

I have to commend the guy for his positive attitude, and his gumption or moxie or whatever, but OH MY GOD.  SO FUNNY.  Here he is bragging about how what he can do with ‘the rest of his limbs’, and he can’t even keep a solid beat.  And ‘very experienced drummer?’  What does that even mean?  Very experienced playing the drum machine with his fingers in his bedroom?

Okay, so assuming that all the stars align, and that a band actually wants someone to do that for them, what would that look like on stage?   A couple of guitarists and a bassist with their big amps, a singer strutting around on the front of the stage, and a guy sitting in the back tapping out beats with a drum machine on his lap.  Hilarious.

I hope he gets in a band.  I’ll absolutely go see them play.

This all reminds of a band I saw about eight years ago at the venue formerly known as the Rabbit Hole.  It was a female singer-songwriter and her ‘band’, which consisted of two electric guitarists and a CD player on the back of the stage, which provided their backing tracks.  She would say something like, “Here’s another new song,” and one of the guitarists would turn around and push the button on the CD player to make it play.  It was the (unintentionally) funniest musical thing I’ve ever seen.  I seem to recall that she even counted off one or two of the songs with, “One. . .two. . .three. . .four—” before one of the guitarists started the CD, but maybe I just wanted that to happen so badly that my memory is playing tricks on me.  It’s been known to happen.

In the interest of full disclosure, my first band (back in 1987) used the same Yamaha drum machine as the one in the top video when we recorded our song demos, and I played it the exact same way, by tapping on the big buttons.  We made a video for one of the songs at the local community-access TV station, and I’ve heard that they still play one of our other videos on their ‘Flashbacks’ series, which is simultaneously very flattering and slightly cringe-worthy.  Suffice it to say that I have first-hand experience with playing that exact drum machine in that exact way, and I’ve played all kinds of  instruments (including a keytar) on all kinds of stages, but I would never dream of doing that in front of people, for any other reason than a humorous one.

Some of my favorite things to watch on the youtubes are videos made by people playing in their homes.  Guitarists who shred and dance around in their bedrooms are always a hoot, but amateur drummers seem to take the cake when it comes to megalomania.  This guy is one of my favorites, for many reasons.  Most of all, he’s just not very good (but he THINKS he is, and THAT’S funny), but it’s the ridiculous and ergonomically challenging setup of his drum kit and the way he keeps looking at himself in the mirror that tell me all I need to know about the kind of person he is.

The best news of all is that he has his own channel (of course he does!), with an entire series of videos that we can all watch and enjoy together.  I recommend his version of “Limelight” by Rush.

The subject of auditioning and dealing with potential band members dredges up similar feelings, and I’ve written about that before, so if you’re so inclined, you can read more about it.

Okay,  I admit it; I’m an elitist musical snob.   Are you happy now?

 

 

Vinnie Vincent, part two

blogging, funny, music, pictures, sad, true 1 Comment »

When I left you hanging at the edge of the cliff with Vinnie’s story, I didn’t realize that it would take A MONTH AND A HALF to get back to the story. Huge apologies for that.

When we left off, Vinnie had disbanded his Invasion band (truth be told, the singer and bassist quit and formed the band Slaughter, which was much more successful, and still exists today), and the so-called ‘grunge’ of Seattle made 80′s metal obsolete. The guys from Kiss are pretty tight-lipped about their dealings with Vinnie, but Gene Simmons famously called him “the most self-destructive person I’ve ever met.” Vinnie also apparently reneged on contracts with Kiss, or failed to sign them completely, and even ended up suing the band—twice!—for songwriting royalties he felt he was owed. Apparently the courts didn’t agree, since he lost both of the lawsuits.

In the late 80′s, he also dabbled in songwriting for other people, including—somewhat surprisingly—The Bangles.

Color me surprised, then, when in 1992, Vinnie got called to write songs with Kiss again for their Revenge record. Most people didn’t see that one coming, but apparently he swore up and down to Gene and Paul that he was sorry for all the shenanigans he’d pulled, and that he wanted to make a fresh start with the group. They agreed, but it soon became obvious that Vinnie was still Vinnie, and that it wasn’t going to work out.

Vinnie has spent the intervening years as a recluse, turning up at occasional Kiss conventions, and even awkwardly sitting in with a tribute band in Sweden called Kiss This. Watching Vinnie fake his way through these songs is hilarious and priceless, since he clearly doesn’t know them. The guitar solos you hear in the video aren’t played by Vinnie, they’re played by the band’s usual guitarist. I suspect that Vinnie’s guitar isn’t even plugged in. See what you think.

These days, Vinnie seems to have become obsessed with embellishing his reputation. In 2011, he was offering an online chat session on his web site for the admission price of five hundred dollars. He sells his own brand of V-shaped guitars for the astronomical price of nine thousand dollars, unless you want the gold-plated one, which boosts the price to well over twelve thousand dollars. Good luck with that, Vinnie. And his questionable reputation still lives on. The guy who wrote the following piece (in 2011!) is a guitar maker who used to do some work for Vinnie, and who also currently sells his own V-shaped guitars.

“In my past experiences with Vinnie I am aware of certain issues that will likely trainwreck this instrument. If you want details contact the Jackson Custom Shop, they will tell you why they discontinued the original model. In the case of many multitalented individuals there are certain eccentricities that cause them to become their own worst enemies. I am and always will be a fan of Vinnie’s work but working with Vinnie was very unproductive for us.”

Six months before the online chat thing happened, however, he had a bit of a kerfuffle with his wife, allegedly punching her in the face and dragging her through broken glass, before she drove herself to the police station in Nashville, where the couple live today. Also, the police found a bunch of dead dogs, who had apparently been killed by their ‘aggressive’ dog, on their property. Here’s the news story from the incident.

The picture I posted at the end of my previous blog entry was his mug shot from that night.

It would be unacceptable not to let Vinnie speak for himself, regarding all the things I’ve posted here so far. I came across this rebuttal on another web site:

There is much to say to all of you but the most important thing for me to let you know is that what you have been reading is not true. Irresponsible reporting and fabrication of events that never happened destroys people’s lives, and that is exactly what has happened.

It’s very unfortunate we live in times where you’re guilty even if you’re innocent, but it’s the way of the world now. It’s also sad to me that not only do the media get away with publishing unsubstantiated sensationalized reports that are then taken as ‘the truth’, but people now routinely hide behind their computers and usernames to intentionally inflict enormous damage without consequence, all for their own amusement. What they don’t know is the pain they cause will always be greater than their fabrication or exaggeration.

About my precious dogs: My dogs and cat have been, are, and will always be the most important thing in my whole life. I love them more than my words can say. I look at dogs and cats as ‘perfect little people’ with loving and unconditional hearts that I believe God gifted to us to help comfort us through our lives, which always seems to be filled with pain in one way or another.

I have 20 dogs that were rescued since 1999 from unspeakable and horrible abuse. I never turned my back or said no if a dog or cat needed a loving home. Each one of them is spoiled rotten; great food, love, comfort, care and shelter. They never leave my side and sit with me when I watch videos or when I play my guitar, the sound of which seems to fascinate them.

Out of my twenty dogs, half of them are big dogs and the others are small. Fencing was put up to separate the big dogs from the little ones who could roam without any problem. One day, without my knowing, some of the big dogs accidentally got loose somehow and killed three of my babies. When I found out, it was too late. I was shattered and just too devastated for words. I still am and always will be. I will never get over it and I will always live with a pain greater than that of anything I had ever known or ever will know. I wrapped them each in blankets and laid them to rest in ‘caskets’ where I made a cross and wrote the words to ‘Danny Boy’ on their casket.

The weather had been pretty bad here for awhile and an excavator was planned to come the property to dig up the ground so I could give them a proper burial when this terrible thing happened.

I only hope someday we’ll be together and I can watch them once again run in the meadows under the deep blue skies.

As for the despicable reports regarding my beloved dogs, those who know me know I would never harm any animal as they are God’s most beautiful and innocent of creations. I’m a vegetarian because of my respect for all animals.

For those of you who wrongfully accused and judged me based on these ‘stories, I understand because I would feel the same way if it was the truth. But it’s not the truth. So, to all who perpetuated these cruel and vicious lies, may the truth bring you to your senses so you can stop these terrible and unfounded accusations.

About the domestic situation: As you must know, this is a private matter that I cannot comment on at this time. Please don’t believe everything you read. I would never hurt anyone – ever. What has been reported is an absolutely inaccurate depiction of the events that occurred that evening. When it’s time, the truth will be known.

In all, God gave me a silver lining to this terrible time by putting a long-lost family back together through this tragedy and for that, it was worth what I am going through. Unfortunately, this ‘incident’ caused my loved ones, who suffered through another emotionally devastating experience, to suffer a new burden they didn’t need to bear. As much as they are hurting for me and from this, they’re still there for me. I am a lucky person.

I’m an immensely private person and these events have caused me great pain and emotional anguish.

I am requesting that you respect my privacy and that of my family during this difficult time and not engage in harmful useless gossip posted on blogs and forums.

My music: It has been my greatest desire to put out my new music, including remixed/remastered tracks that I am very proud of which many of you seem to enjoy, but I have experienced setbacks that hindered and delayed my plans. I am hoping to work through it all and get back on track. I would appreciate it if you could please bear with me.

About the Vinnie Vincent model guitar: My website is in the process of being constructed. Keep watching YouTube for the link to the site and for the video catalog. The Vinnie website will be a fun place to visit with everything Vinnie Vincent: music, photos, and the Vinnie Vincent guitar in all its glory.

After all this research and writing, I have to admit that feel bad for Vinnie. His rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags story is a fairly tragic one, and I would hate to see him become just another rock and roll casualty, but I fear the worst. I learned to play guitar to many of the songs that he wrote, and his guitar playing is part of my musical DNA. I have both of his albums, and I still listen to them much more often than you might think I would. My intention with this two-part story was to provide a sort of tribute to Vinnie, but his story, compelling though it may be, is a troubling one. It seems to me that his woes are self-inflicted. He’s made some bad decisions, and burned some bridges that he shouldn’t have burned. That being said, I’m still a fan of his, somewhere deep down in my heart of hearts, but I’m also an adult and a professional musician in my own right—on a much smaller scale, admittedly—who’s had to deal with the slings and arrows of not-so-outrageous fortune in my own ways.

If these stories have compelled you to explore Vinnie’s musical career further, I recommend that you check out his iTunes page, as well as the Kiss albums Creatures of the Night (my personal favorite) and Lick It Up. And, as always, thank you for reading all of this.

We now return you to BFS&T’s regularly scheduled programming (whatever that is!), already in progress.

Enigma and Fire

music, pictures, recording, true, Yakima 1 Comment »

Here’s another story from the Enigma Files, about the mysterious studio owner I knew in my late teens and early twenties.

Not long after the shooting incident,  a room opened up in the basement of the biggest music store in town, and Enigma jumped at the chance to rent it.  When they were negotiating the terms of the rental, the store’s owner told him that if any kind of disaster affected the store, Enigma would ‘totally be covered’ by the store’s insurance policy.  Enigma asked a few times if he could get that in writing, but the owner always waved his hand dismissively and told him, “Yeah, yeah. . .some other time.”   Enigma thought that was fine; what was the likelihood that anything would happen?  They could always figure it out some other time.  He would occasionally remind Owner about their deal, and Owner would always postpone.  I was there during a couple of those conversations, and I remember them well.  I knew Owner a bit, by association, and I had a friend or two who worked in the store.

Enigma had his studio in the basement for two or three years.  It was mostly electronic, which is to say that it was computer-based rather than tape-machine based.  That’s the norm these days, but in 1991, it was pretty rare.   He had a Mac Classic computer with a synthesizer or three connected to it, and that was how the majority of his projects were started.  If he needed to record drums or anything really big, he’d worked out a symbiotic deal with the drum teacher who rented the room next door.   He’d pull out his tape machine and mixer and run cables through the hall.  Here’s a picture of the studio at that time.  I’m the person in the middle, wearing the weird sweater.  My drummer friend Half-A-Bee (that’s an inside joke) is on the left, and Enigma is on the right.

It was much smaller than the other place, but the location was better, and he saw an instant jump in the number of clients that called on him.  That meant that he also called me more often to play on songs.  By then, my band had essentially broken up, but I had a bunch of songs of my own that I’d been working on, and I banked all the time I’d earned from working on all those other peoples’ sessions into my own blocks of studio time.

One thing about recording studios is that they usually have multiple projects going on simultaneously.  Large studios will sometimes be booked by record companies for weeks or months at a time, but most people these days are financing their projects themselves.   My current studio setup (otherwise known as my living room) puts Enigma’s to shame, and I can spend as long as I like working on songs, for only the price of the equipment.  Back in 1991, however, even the ancient Mac in the picture would have cost a couple thousand dollars.  It was all pretty state-of-the-art back then, and Enigma had lots of people working with him.

My ‘day’ job at the time was the night clerk at a video store.  That was one of my favorite jobs, and I worked there for quite a while.  One afternoon, my co-workers and I heard an unusual number of fire and police sirens racing across town.  We looked out the window and saw a huge plume of smoke rising from the direction of downtown.  We asked the customers as they entered the store if they knew what had happened, and someone was finally able to tell us that the music store was on fire.  My blood turned to ice, and I grabbed the phone to warn Enigma, and to tell him to get over there.  He didn’t answer, but he got my message (he told me later) and raced downtown to hopefully salvage whatever he could.

As afternoon turned to evening, the fire raged at the limits of control, and it took the firefighters until almost dawn to extinguish it.  As soon as the surrounding roads were open, my friend and I drove downtown to survey the situation, and the smoldering remains of the building were pretty terrifying.  Enigma’s studio didn’t burn, but it was buried was under fifteen feet of sludgy water and charred debris.

Remembering their verbal agreement, Enigma tried desperately to contact the building’s owner, who was unreachable for days.  Once the water had subsided a bit, the police allowed Enigma to go to the basement and retrieve what he could.  Most of his stuff, including his tape machine, was completely destroyed, but he was actually able to salvage some of his gear.   He wrapped everything in black garbage bags and carted it to his mom’s living room, where it sat for months while he completely disassembled every piece and cleaned it up.  The computer actually came back to life, eventually, and the mixing board only needed some slight repairs.  Amazing.

After a week or two (if memory serves), he was finally able to track down the owner of the building, who had managed to conveniently forget about their permanently postponed contract.  I told Enigma that I remembered those conversations, and that I’d be happy to testify in court if it came to that.  The owner continued to balk, so Enigma had no other choice but to sue him.  He invited those of us with studio projects in the works to join in the lawsuit, so that we could also be compensated for the amount of time and money that we’d lost.  Some people only lost a song or two, but some of us lost a significant amount of music in that fire.  I had accumulated about three thousand dollars’ worth of studio time, and there was a hip-hop guy whose album was completely finished and ready to be sent to duplication.  Of all the studio’s clients, his loss was by far the most devastating.

The details of the case were these:  the owner had let an employee and some friends dink around in the store after it had closed for the day, and that employee had been smoking a cigarette while he was in there.  I don’t remember if the guy dropped the cigarette, or if he left it in a garbage can and thought he’d extinguished it, but the cigarette was thought to be the cause of the fire.  The police suspected arson, which seemed especially credible since the store owner skipped off to Florida with his two-million-dollar insurance settlement, and couldn’t be tracked down for the next few years, by which time our case had been dropped since the lawyers couldn’t find Owner.  I will go to my grave believing it was arson, because if it HAD been an accident, Owner would’ve been outraged (which he was not), and much more willing to fulfill his responsibilities to his various tenants.  As far as I’m concerned, foul play is the only thing that explains his bizarre behavior, and his unwillingness to deal with those of us who were left high and dry.  Not to mention the fact that the owner was able to salvage a great deal of his inventory and have a huge ‘fire sale’ a month or two later, so he recouped a sizable amount of that money as well.  Yakima’s online newspaper archive only goes back as far as 1997, unfortunately, so I wasn’t able to find this story, but I would really love to find out how they reported the story.

One funny thing about this story was our lawyer’s name.  It was the kind of name that only appears on cheesy TV shows.  I can’t tell you what it really was, since she’s still around and practicing law, but I can tell you that her name sounded like “Money Law.”   Isn’t that cute?

Every once in a while, I search for Enigma online, and I find him.  Sometimes I think it’d be nice to reconnect, but then I remember some of the weirdness, and I lose any motivation to contact him.  Best to let sleeping dogs lie, I’d say, in this particular case.

Enigma and Otis

funny, music, recording, true, Yakima No Comments »

My last entry was about Enigma, the studio owner I knew back in my Yakima days, and I promised you a couple more stories about him. Well, now is as good a time as any, and I’m ready for one if you are.

After I’d spent a few nights recording my own songs, and Enigma saw that I could play a number of instruments, he started calling me in to play keyboards or guitar on sessions for other people. One of the people was a singer-songwriter who A) fancied himself the next Otis Redding (despite the fact that he was white and had difficulty singing in tune), and B) coincidentally enough, had the same name as my childhood optometrist. We also worked with a group of four guys who were modeling themselves after the New Kids on the Block. Ever the budding entrepreneur, Enigma had the brilliant idea of introducing WhiteOtis to the NewKids and creating a ‘supergroup’ of sorts, which he himself would manage. I was called in to help them write some songs. This relationship proved to be ill-fated, and everybody went back to what they’d been doing separately. Otis continued working on his solo project, “Do It,” which would be the first session work on my musical resumé.

One night, we were working on one of the songs for that album—I should really call it a ‘tape’, since calling it an ‘album’ makes it sound much more glamorous and legitimate than it was—and I invited a couple of my bandmates to the studio so that they could hear what Enigma and I were up to. We arrived early, and hung out with Enigma in the studio’s front office for ten minutes or so, until Otis arrived and we all made our way to the main room of the studio. Not more than a few minutes after we had moved to the main room, we heard a bunch of loud sounds that we assumed were firecrackers until we heard things hit the window and saw the curtains moving. It was then we realized were being shot at, and we ducked behind whatever cover we could find. Otis and I hid underneath the studio’s large mixing console, which was sitting on top of a sturdy wooden table. My two bandmates hid around the corner by the bathroom, while Enigma grabbed his shotgun and climbed up a ladder and into the crawlspace above the ceiling. He intended to climb up to the roof and survey the situation from there.

Otis and I were nearest to the phone, so I suggested that we call Nine-One-One and report what was going on. He lifted the receiver and made the call. “We’re being shot at,” he said tersely.

“Okay, where are you located?” the operator asked.

“Uhh. . .we’re kind of. . .on Lincoln and 26th. No, 24th—” He lowered the handset and whispered to me, What’s the address here?

I happened to know it (it was on 20th), so I whispered it to him. He relayed it to the operator, who said that the police were on their way. We thanked her and hung up.

After that, the shooting stopped, but the five of us stayed crouched and hidden until we saw the flashing red and blue lights of the police cars a few minutes later. Enigma had come down from the roof and joined us in the studio again, although he returned by way of a different route than he exited. He jumped down from the ceiling with his shotgun slung over his shoulder, and he tucked it behind his back as he peeked through the front door’s mail slot. “You might want to put that away,” I told him, gesturing at the huge gun.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, and returned it to its hiding place somewhere. While he was putting it away, the police called for us to come out with our hands up, and we walked single-file toward the door. I was the first one outside, and I was faced with the horrifying sight of four handguns pointed at me. I was told to put my hands on the car, and I did so immediately. My bandmates were the next in line, and they followed suit. Enigma was behind them, and he sauntered over to the car next to us. Otis was the last one out of the building, and he was just as calm and cool as can be. “It’s okay,” he said to the police, “we called YOU.” The guns were lowered and the officers came over to talk with us.

We told them what happened, to the best of our ability, and there were lots of rounds of ammunition strewn about on the ground outside the studio, which the police said were from a .22-caliber rifle. We showed them the holes in the windows and curtains, and even found a few rounds embedded in the desk and shelves near where we’d all been standing only minutes before. It was pretty scary, and I’ll never forget that experience. Here’s a picture of the building today, thanks to GoogleMaps.

I love that there’s a derelict shopping cart in the photo. I could have easily cropped it out or chosen a different angle, but why? The cart seems so apropos, somehow. Also, there used to be a row of tall, beautiful trees across the street from that building, but they’ve been cut down in favor of. . .a lawn for whatever business is located there now.

Anyway. That’s neither here nor there.

The full story came out as Otis was telling his story to the police. Otis and Enigma had been hanging out at the studio earlier that afternoon, when a group of four or five young guys came to the door and said, “Hey, we’re looking for [Otis Redding].”

“Yeah, that’s me,” he replied.

“Oh, uhhhh—” they stammered, “we were looking for the [Otis Redding] who went to Hick High School.” [For the record, I had recently graduated from Hick High School, and there was no one named Otis Redding.]

“No, I go to Redneck High School.”

“Okay, sorry to bother you guys.” They walked to their car and drove off.

Otis stood in the doorway and watched them leave, then turned back and said to Enigma, “That was kinda weird. Don’tcha think that was weird?”

Enigma agreed that it WAS weird, and Otis decided to go out and get some food (and, I suspect, to try and hunt down the group of guys), which is around the time that my bandmates and I arrived, unaware of that conversation. In retrospect, it seems that Otis had stolen a girl from one or more of the guys in question, and they were out for revenge. They knew he was a singer, and that he was working with Enigma, so he was easy enough to track down. The rest of us would have been collateral damage.

That was one of the strangest moments of my life. It was certainly the only time I’ve been shot at, as far as I know.

The shooting incident also scared Enigma into moving his studio to a more secure location, and when the biggest music store in town had an open room in its basement, Enigma jumped at the chance to move in. That’s the starting point for the story I’ll tell you next time on. . .The Enigma Files. Or something like that.

To be continued.

Enigma

funny, music, pictures, recording, true, Washington, Yakima No Comments »

When I was about eighteen years old, my friends and I had been writing songs for our first band.  We had about fifteen or twenty songs in various degrees of completion, and we’d been recording demo versions of them on a four-track cassette recorder.  There were lots of other short song ideas, some of which were done with our tongues firmly planted in our cheeks, but we definitely learned a lot about the recording process, and how to make instruments work together in a song.  In retrospect, it’s easy to see that that’s where I learned many of the musical skills I still use today.

What had started as a two-person group had morphed by then into a five-person group, and we felt it was time to make some professional recordings that reflected and showcased our new members.  I went to the phone book, called a studio that seemed promising, and booked some time.  The studio owner and I would turn out to be pretty good friends, but he was also one of the most enigmatic people I’ve ever known.  He has used multiple versions of his name throughout the years of his professional careers, so in the interest of anonymity, I’ll go ahead and refer to him as Enigma from now on.  He was always a jack-of-all-trades, and he dabbled in music, photography, and even acting.  In fact, here’s a recent profile picture from that online movie database.  I suspect this was taken on a film set, but that’s how he used to dress all the time, right down to the bandana.

He owned a small recording studio in CityOfAngels and had recently relocated to Yakima to take care of his aging mother, as well as to live on the cheap for a while.  I don’t mean to paint him in a negative light, or give you the impression that he was in any way a bad guy, because I don’t think he was.  He was just very mysterious, that’s all, and though we knew each other for years, I never felt like I knew him very well.  He seemed to have lots of secrets, and he liked to live off the grid.  He had inherited a bit of money, so he bought a bright red Toyota four-wheel-drive pickup, loaded his camping gear and his two white Siberian huskies, and floated between Yakima, AngelCity, EmeraldCity, and NearestLargeCanadianCity.  He kept his lifestyle simple, so that he could pack up and leave at a moment’s notice.  And he would, too.  He would disappear for months on end, and none of his friends would hear from him.  He’d turn up like nothing happened, with no explanation for his time away.  Everyone suspected that drugs were involved somehow, but he claimed not to use or sell them.  In fact, he was a very health-conscious guy and a long-time vegetarian, well before vegetarianism was de rigeur. I’m not saying that vegetarians aren’t capable of doing drugs—they certainly are—but I spent enough time with him, at all kinds of crazy hours, that I like to think I would’ve noticed anything out of the ordinary.  Who knows.

He met one of my college friends, a beautiful blonde girl, at a party one night, and asked her to be his ‘assistant’, since she already had a boyfriend.  She reluctantly agreed, and she answered phones and kept his books and all sorts of other thankless tasks, while constantly rebuffing his romantic advances.   After a few weeks of working for him, she asked me, “What does he do?  For money?  I don’t do much all day, and he hardly gets any business.  I don’t get it.  Does he sell drugs or something?”

“I don’t think so,” I replied, “but nobody really knows for sure.  He’s so hush-hush about his life.”

She gave me a conspiratorial smirk.  “I think I’m gonna try and find out.  You know, I’ll ‘get close’ to him and stuff.”   I thought the idea was hilariously diabolical, and told her so.  It just might work.  I told her I would do my part to pry information from him too, to the extent that I could, and we both pledged to share whatever we found out about him with the other person.  We both came up empty-handed, and he disappeared from town again.

Enigma was a bit of a conspiracy theorist, and a self-professed ‘huge fan’ of Area 51 and UFO’s and all that.  In fact, in the outskirts of Yakima is a top-secret NSA listening station which can be briefly glimpsed from the freeway up in the hills just north of town.

(photo taken from Creative Suggestions’ Flickr page)

Like I said, it’s a top-secret installation (one of many in the Yakima area), and if you try to drive out there, you’ll be stopped by soldiers in jeeps, with guns.  Enigma called them on the phone more than once, and when they asked who he was and why he was calling, he was shockingly candid.  “Well, I’m a big fan of secret government operations, and I’m an American taxpayer and a concerned citizen, so I was just hoping to find out what you guys are doing out there.”  As if they’re gonna roll out the red carpet for him and invite him on an all-access tour.  “No comment,” he was told, and the connection was terminated.  So he tried driving out there, with similar treatment from the soldiers in the jeeps.  “Turn around and go home,” they told him.

This entry is meant to provide context for the next couple of stories I’m going to tell about Enigma, each of which is fairly long in its own right, so I thought it best to break them up and give each one its due, rather than cram them both into one mammoth entry.  Besides, if I think of more stories, then adding them individually is definitely the way to go.  In order to tantalize you, I will say that one story involves an arson fire that destroyed the largest music store in town (Enigma’s second studio was located in the basement), and the other involves Enigma, my bandmates, myself, and a singer getting shot at.

To be continued.