KA-CBG

I’ve spent the better part of the past 5 days attempting to grasp the concept that the world has one less ass-kicker (bubble gum not included) in it. For as much as I’d think that I would sadly be used to professional wrestlers passing away these days (including the recent death of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes), the loss of the Hot Rod hit me hard. Really hard. Especially after coming to the realization that for as much as I love listening to him telling stories, there won’t be any more new episodes of his podcast to look forward to.

I initially started paying attention to pro wrestling at the age of 11, in that window between WrestleMania 6 and SummerSlam 1990 (back when the then-WWF only conducted four pay-per-view events per year). At that time, Piper had just come off of a match at WM against Bad News Brown, and was floating in limbo until 1991 when he played into the storyline of Virgil vs Ted DiBiase. Nonetheless, he was a polarizing character who immediately grabbed my attention. Going and renting VHS tapes from the local video library store allowed me to go watch older matches and promos of his (this was long before the interwebz, kids). I had become a fan. He also entertained me outside of the ring (and “Piper’s Pit”). Go google “Tag Team” with Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura. It’s cheesy, yet comical.

Then, I found a way to become an even bigger fan of his. Once upon a time (1993-ish), WWF had a weekly radio show on Saturday evenings, “Radio WWF”. Hosted by Gorilla Monsoon and Jim Ross (and later, Vince McMahon), they would occasionally have guests on the show, and listeners could call in and interact with the guests. On one particular week, their guest was the one and only “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and I got to spend a minute or two on the phone with him. Couldn’t have been a nicer guy. Thankfully, somewhere amidst my archive of old audio cassette tapes, I have (at least most of) this conversation recorded. One of these days, I’ll have to find that tape and dust it off, and convert it over to digital.

Over the years that I’ve followed pro wrestling, some of my favorite characters have been the in-your-face, solid talkers, take-no-crap attitude, kick-ass-and-take-names guys. The Road Warriors. Brian Pillman. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. CM Punk. And currently, Dean Ambrose. Piper paved the road for all of these guys.

Piper was more than just a legend. He was an architect. And the professional wrestling business is a much more solid structure because of the work he put into building it.

Farewell, Hot Rod. Hopefully Heaven is full of bubble gum.

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Tonight, the final episode of “The Late Show with David Letterman” will air on CBS. While I’ll admit that I haven’t watched Dave much in recent years, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to acknowledge his excellence over the years – nay, DECADES.

Back in my junior high and high school days, if I arrived at school the next morning looking tired, more often than not it was because I was up watching Letterman. Between his interactions with great guests (Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Howard Stern, Jack Hanna, etc), his regular interactions with Rupert Jee from the Hello Deli, and Stupid Human Tricks/Stupid Pet Tricks, what wasn’t to love? Guests and skits may tend to stand out, but to me, musical performances will always stick with me the most. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed countless musical guests, from a variety of genres/styles. For many of the older performances, I’d recorded them to VHS, and then additionally dubbed them over to cassette.

So here, from the Vivid Home Office (which may or may not be located in Sioux City, Iowa), is my personal Top 10 musical performances (that I have remembered) from The Late Show with David Letterman.

10) BLUES TRAVELER – “HOOK” (11/1/1994)

9) CHERRY POPPIN’ DADDIES – “ZOOT SUIT RIOT” (7/13/1998)
 

8) ENYA – “ONLY IF” (12/10/1997)
 

7) SPIN DOCTORS – “WHAT TIME IS IT?” (9/1/1993)
 

6) GIN BLOSSOMS – “FOLLOW YOU DOWN” (2/12/1996)
 

5) WHITE ZOMBIE – “MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN” (7/14/1995)
 

4) COUNTING CROWS – “ACCIDENTALLY IN LOVE” (8/23/2004)
 

3) THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT – “SOMETIME AROUND MIDNIGHT” (1/18/2009)
 

2) MEGADETH – “A TOUT LE MONDE” (2/2/1995)
 

1) GORILLAZ – FEEL GOOD INC (7/10/2010)
 

Farewell, Dave. Thanks for the memories. Read the rest of this entry »

FLOATING 101

For a full detail of the concept of “floating”, along with its origins dating back to John C. Lilly, check out FlotationLocations.com. Here is the quick breakdown of Sensory Deprivation (“floating”).

– An enclosed tank: oversized tub room, pod, or chamber
– 10 to 12 inches of water, loaded with approximately 800-1000lbs of Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate), temperature-regulated to match your natural skin temperature
– Minimal to zero light inside the tank
– Earplugs

Together, this combination allows you to lay completely flat in the water, with your body forced to float. The earplugs, combined with your ears being underwater (while your face remains above water), eliminates sound. There is little to no light, and if there is minimal light, closing your eyes competely blocks that out. The temperature-matched water makes you lose track of where your skin ends and where the water begins.

The European Bath Ritual (photo via thespaatbriarcliff.com)

The European Bath Ritual (photo via thespaatbriarcliff.com)

This brings me to my first floating experience, as done at the Spa at Briarcliff in Kansas City. Before I get to the float itself, allow me to share what they offer as a complimentary service with your float purchase. They have a room known as the European Bath Ritual, which has three different jacuzzi pools set to different temperatures (90°, 100°, & 104° respectively), each with its own individual waterfall. Jets and waterfull for each pool can be turned on and off whenever. During my one hour in the EBR, I rotated amongst each of the three pools, and utilized the waterfall on the warmest of the three. The water cascaded down onto my shoulders like a super-sized pulsating hand-held shower massage, gradually numbing my body leaving me extremely relaxed. I made sure to finish my time in the 90° pool, as it was closest in temperature to what I would be entering in the float tank.

Now, to the isolation float. Their setup is essentially a chamber: an oversized round tub, fully enclosed, I’m guessing about a 3.5-4ft radius (7-8 feet from side to side) with a ceiling high enough for you to completely walk into. The only light inside the tank is a single, soft, colored bulb that allows you just enough light to see what you might need. These needs might be the inflatable neck wrap that some people choose to use to keep their head out of the water during their float, or the supplied spray bottle of plain water (do NOT try to take care of an itch by rubbing your eyes when your hands have been in high-concentrate salt water).

The entrance to the isolation tank (photo via thespaatbriarcliff.com)

The entrance to the isolation tank (photo via thespaatbriarcliff.com)

I was introduced to the setup by their staff, and told that after my 1-hour time was up, they would come in and knock on the side of the tank to let me know. After they left and the door to the tank room was closed, I forced myself to disrobe (note: their supplied robes are VERY comfortable), cut out the lights (save for the single bulb inside the tank), stepped inside, and closed the chamber doors. I took a moment to acclimate myself to the environment, lowered myself down to the water, and eventually laid back and allowed the water to lift and hold me. It takes a bit for you to figure out what feels right – in my case, where my arms should be. I ended up just outstretching them to each side, and the water holds them there. As I was suspended by the water, I could immediately feel relaxation and relief. Because of the buoyancy, your body is literally having to use zero muscle activity, and is allowed to be at rest.

As I became more and more relaxed, I closed my eyes. Almost involuntarily – it just seemed to come naturally. Having my ears under the water with the earplugs in, it eliminated nearly all sound. Every once in a great while, I could hear if someone bumped up against the wall in the hallway outside the tank room. With no sight, no sound, and no touch, I became overwhelmed with the sense of… well, nothing. I lost track of my surroundings, having that only interrupted on a couple of occasions when I’d float close enough to one edge of the tank and would feel the side touch up against my hand, head, or feet. It was just my body and my mind – nothing else existed. At some point during the float, I slipped away and fell asleep. How many times, I won’t ever know. The only I thing I know is that I was told by the staff that it took several knocks on the side of the tank to get an audible response from me.

After regaining my senses, and slowly getting back up to my feet, I stepped out of the chamber and over into the in-room shower to wash all of the salt water off of me and out of my hair. To say that I felt like a million bucks afterwards might sound overstated, but I can’t really describe it any better. With all due respect to anyone who’s known me in that way, the post-float euphoria is better than sex. My mind and body both felt alive, rejuvinated, and carefree.

This is something I most definitely plan to do again – not only at the Spa at Briarcliff, but also at a new facility opening soon in the Kansas City area, as well as one in St. Louis with whom I have already been in touch for a future visit.

Will we see moving vans hauling Rams equipment out of STL? Will we care?

Will we see moving vans hauling Rams equipment out of STL? Will we care?

Let me preface this entire piece by saying that my point of view may be slightly off, as I’m a St. Louis transplant residing four hours away, so I’m not in the middle of the pulse of the city on a regular basis.

Having said that…

The ongoing saga of the Los Angeles Rams of St. Louis is akin to watching a tennis match between two competitors who you aren’t really familiar with, and therefore lose interest the longer it goes on.

And both sides are to blame.

First, you have the guy with the second-worst hair in the National Football League (top honor goes to Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis), Stan Kroenke. He’s the proverbial Darth Vader of St. Louis. The all-mighty and powerful man with a plan, the money to back it all up, and seemingly has zero (cares) to give.

His intentions are well-known: be the financial supplier for a state-of-the-art facility in Inglewood (Los Angeles) and move the Rams back out west. The Los Angeles market has become that hot new girlfriend that has his eye, while St. Louis at this point is the old ball-and-chain that he’s grown tired of being with, and can’t be bothered to return her phone calls.

Now, I’ll call this as I see it. Moving the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles, at least short-term, would be a major financial gain for a guy who is, after all, a businessman first and foremost. By going out into that market, the overall value of your franchise will immediately go up. Couple that with a brand new stadium and entertainment complex that would demand unquestionable attention from the masses – at least for the first year or so. After that, it’s up the Kroenke to put a product on the field that will actually encourage fans to buy tickets and come out to support. Fans who could easily be distracted by other, much cheaper options, such as the beach. I’ll give credit where it’s due to Rams fans, who in spite of this team’s future hanging in extreme limbo, and continuing to be a disappointment in terms of success, still showed reasonable attendance numbers through the 2014 season.

St. Louis stadium task force leaders Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz put together a pretty good presentation for a new, open-air stadium. Even after various tweaks and modifications made to the plan due to logistics, it still looks pretty impressive. Couple that with the agreement struck with the labor unions to approve around-the-clock shifts that would cut overall costs plus reduce the construction time, and things look promising for having a new home for a team set to stay in St. Louis, right?

Not so much.

The cold reality of the situation is that Stan Kroenke is a man with what, for lack of a better term, has F-YOU money. Sure, he’d be faced with the NFL by-laws of ownership voting to approve or deny a relocation of the Rams organization. However, we’re talking about a guy who could could easily sustain any fine thrown at him by the league for moving without permission, and losing no sleep over it. If he truly wants to go, he’s going to go, and who’s going to stop him?

And will we ultimately even care?

Let me preface this by just saying it… I’m pissed off.

At what point, exactly, did this generation of parents turn into total incompetent morons? For a demographic who is constantly in need to be in the top tier of knowledge when it comes to technology (don’t even get me started on Apple fanboys/fangirls), there is ZERO knowledge when it comes to common sense.

This topic has been festering in my mind for a while, but the event that proved to be the catalyst for this blog was a completely preventable and unnecessary crime that took place within walking distance (by my standards) from my residence. A car, parked and unlocked with the engine running, with a 5 month old child in the car. Both parents were outside of the car, although within eyesight of the car.

What happened next, you can probably figure out on your own. THIS IS NOT OKAY. Thankfully, the vehicle was parked and abandoned a short time later across the state line in Waldo. The parents are LUCKY that their child was able to be returned to them safe and unharmed.

Luck is for losers.

From my in-car dashcam: the scene of the auto theft is 200 yards down, and occurred less than 3 minutes later

From my in-car dashcam: the scene of the auto theft is 200 yards down, and occurred less than 3 minutes later

I understand that, at times, it’s a flat-out inconvenience to have to lug your kid(s) around and deal with the concept of taking them into places with you, when leaving them in the car for a minute might be much easier. But here’s the thing – making sure you have your kids with you is called accountability. Nay, it’s called RESPONSIBLE PARENTING. If you’re not capable of this, perhaps you shouldn’t be a parent.

I can’t count the number of occasions where I’d label the situation as an inconvenience when it comes to being out and about with my daughter, and needing to stop someplace to run an errand and need to take her in with me. Especially if inclement weather happens to be involved. Here’s the thing, though. I’m more than willing to deal with that inconvenience if it assures me the ability to be back home with her and playing together later.

There are two things that I do not do. I don’t leave my car unattended with the keys in it, and I don’t leave my car unattended with my daughter in it. I can’t prevent someone from breaking into my car – if they want to break a window and enter the vehicle, they’re going to do it. What I can prevent, however, is their ability to get away with the car and the ability to have access to anything more than material possessions that can be replaced. Rest assured that if your home windows are rattling because of the police/news helicopters overhead, it won’t be because of me.

I’ve wanted to pen something on the whole Ferguson, Missouri situation for months. Days after the fatal shooting on August 9th, I wanted to take a point/counterpoint approach, and try to play Devil’s Advocate on/against both sides of the debate.

Alas, writer’s block is a SOB, and that piece never got written. Here we are now, three months later, and it’s been a fluid situation ever since. While the core of violence/rioting was more or less contained to the first week after the incident, protests have carried on regularly. Some civil and peaceful. Some far from. I’ve been keeping as close an eye on the landscape as possible from four hours away. The epicenter of this, after all, is less than 20 miles from my roots.

As a whole, the past three months have been a massive black eye on Ferguson, as the fallout ultimately paints the entire St. Louis area in a negative light. That hostility, anger and frustration extends far beyond Ferguson, and understandably so. The writing I wanted to do three months ago cannot be done today, even if I still wanted to take that approach. The evidence that has been presented since then simply makes it impossible. Prior to that evidence, it would’ve been easy for me to take the side of Michael Brown. With the forensic evidence found within the interior of Officer Wilson’s patrol vehicle, it removes any doubt that there was a physical struggle between him and Michael Brown.

I’ve spent enough time with and around law enforcement to know that, in the event of an altercation/struggle, you are to respond not with equal force, but with the next step above. If a tazer is available and can be used on an unarmed suspect, that would be an acceptable less-lethal response. If the officer is not equipped with a tazer, or if it were to be unaccessable, then you escalate to the next level of defense, which would most likely be the gun.

As I write this, the jury is still out regarding certain evidence, including the events that transpired between the shots fired while Michael Brown was at/in the police vehicle, and the spot of where he fell to the ground and died. One fact that is unquestionable is that, yes, Michael Brown is dead at the hands of officer Darren Wilson. Was it justified? Based on the evidence presented, if I were forced to make the call, it would be difficult to say that it wasn’t. I’m not blind to facts, nor to evidence, and the evidence revealed thus far has been pretty condemning to Michael Brown.

We now stand by and wait for the pending announcement from a grand jury, which will determine whether or not there will be an arraignment and charges filed against Darren Wilson. If I were a betting man, my life savings would be put on the wager that Wilson walks free. The negative to this, is that there are hundreds of protestors who seemingly have remained blind to evidence, and will simply not accept any sort of exoneration of officer Wilson.

The protests, riots, and overall violence of the initial week following Michael Brown’s death were not pretty. I realistically fear that if officer Wilson is not charged in this incident, that what we saw in that first week will pale in comparison to what may take place following the grand jury announcement. In my head, I picture a repeat of April 29, 1992. That was the date that police officers were acquitted in the videotaped beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. The core of violence from those riots lasted nearly a week. We’re two decades beyond then, and the landscape for a similar situation is greatly advanced. There was no social media in 1992; all gathering of rioters were grass-roots. These days, it’s infinitely easier for forces to organize and strategize. The tensions are already high, including the publicized “list of demands” put towards the police force.

I love my home city. I haven’t lived there in 14 years, but it’s still home to me, and always will be. I’m embarassed at what the image of St. Louis, as a whole (as noted earlier, this is much bigger than just within Ferguson city limits), has been since early August. I wish I could say that the embarassment will fade away, but I project it getting infinitely worse before it gets better. It’s a no-win situation.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And if you’re of that belief, prayers for peace might not be such a bad thing.

We’ll go ahead and preface this entire entry under the label of “humblebrag”. Over the years, as a fan of various interests (music, sports, etc), I’ve been fortunate to meet a number of people involved in those interests. Plenty of wrestlers. Many musicians. Heck, somewhere out in the interwebz is a photo of myself alongside Vern Troyer (Mini-Me from the Austin Powers movies). If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to pick up that name I just dropped.

Very rarely have I ever found myself starstruck at the meeting of anyone – I can easily count those occurrences on one hand. Arguably the most bizarre occurrence was meeting at-the-time-editor of Metal Edge magazine, Paul Gargano. The funny part about it is that it wasn’t even a coincidental or unexpected meeting. We were in Los Angeles for a concert, and he was the interim manager for the band I flew out there for. This was a band whose members I had effectively become friends with over time, so I knew for sure that I would end up meeting Paul. Nonetheless, a tap on the shoulder while in the lower “basement” area of the Viper Room leading to an introduction from him caught me off-guard, and for a brief moment, I didn’t know what to say. Go figure.

Another one of those moments was yesterday. The local alt-rock station here in Kansas City – 96.5 The Buzz – does an occasional event known as “Kegs & Eggs”, where a musician/band will play a short set early in the morning while fans enjoy breakfast and drinks. In this case, the performer was singer/songwriter Meg Myers, who was in town for a show the night before. I’ve been a fan for a while, very familiar with her EPs, had listened to her on a few podcasts (her laughter is contagious), but had never seen her live. Having said that, it was a no-brainer for me to take a few hours off of work to go down and fix that.

I’m not sure at what point they reached capacity at The Tank Room, but I know there was minimal room remaining when I got there, which was about 7am. Meg went on-stage around 9:30, and even with only playing five songs (the K&E performances are usually never full sets), blew the audience away. She has been compared to artists like Fiona Apple, which is not a bad thing at all. Small in stature, but deep with her words & song lyric subjects, and boasting a powerful voice to back them up (look up her song “Heart Heart Head”, and absorb her lyrical delivery almost become Siren-ish towards the end).

Twenty seven minutes and five songs later, her performance was complete, and the crowd let out a collective exhale to catch its breath. I stuck around for a short while to catch up with a few members of the radio station, and at one point, had mentioned that I loved the show but was hoping that Meg would have stuck around after the performance. I was informed that she was still in the building, and asked if I would like to go say hello (YES). As I was walked down towards the back room she was in, I was mentally preparing myself for a scenario of her being in the room, perhaps carrying on casual conversation with a handful of people. Maybe there were already a bunch of people behind the door just waiting to meet her. As it would turn out, my mind couldn’t properly prepare myself for what awaited.

As the door opened to let me into the room, I saw her. All alone. Completely lost in her emotions as she sat there playing piano. One one hand, I wanted to say hello in the worst way and compliment her on her music and the performance. On the other hand, I could have stood there and watched her play piano for hours. Finally, I got the words “Excuse me, Meg?” to leave my mouth, and had a very brief exchange. Many thanks were said – from her to me for coming out to the show and supporting her, and from me to her for being an incredible artist who is amazing at putting mood to music. Our conversation was maybe two minutes at most, but I got lost in time.

To Meg: If you should happen to see this – Thank you again for putting out some of the best albums I’ve heard in quite some time, for being an even better live performer, and for giving up a couple minutes of your personal/alone time to talk with a fan who found himself lost within thoughts and almost struggling at times to convey those thoughts into words.

With Meg Myers (and the piano to the left), 7/23/2014 at The Tank Room in Kansas City MO

With Meg Myers (and the piano to the left), 7/23/2014 at The Tank Room in Kansas City MO