“Imagine”–In Eric’s Words

Gina and Sherry–Doppelgangers indeed…

As Sherry said in her post, we were introduced by our mutual friend Gina, and a HUGE thanks to you Gina for being an old-school “matchmaker” from the word go!!  In the modern era of impersonal dating apps and such, your personal interest as a friend who thinks and cares about your friends was something I am more grateful for now than ever.  Let’s face it—The odds of Sherry and I meeting on a dating app or at a bar, etc. were slim to none, and there is nothing as essential as a personal touch in most aspects of life.   I sent Gina a few pics to forward to Sherry, and I guess she went with the “Paul Weller” one Sherry liked (see Sherry’s post), and I was lucky enough to get a date!  Below is one of the pics Gina sent me, and it’s worth at least a thousand words.  What man in his right mind would say no to a smart, beautiful artsy-looking chick in an artsy-looking photo, especially given what you all know about me!

Gina sends me this pic and asks if I would be interested in meeting her friend Sherry. Seriously?!!! I assumed it was a rhetorical question of course…

As Sherry pointed out, the timing was prophetic in terms of our first date with being the best “birthday present” I’ve ever received in my life.  The entire “fixing up” process was fast, furious, and destined to be when it began on October 5 with a phone call from Gina; I sent an email with several pics the next day; Gina chose the right pic to send to Sherry; I got a positive response from Sherry on October 7, and I crossed my fingers while deliberately scheduling our first date for my birthday, October 9.  Of course, I got lucky in several ways…  First, October 9, 2015 just happened to be a Friday, which is definitely increased my odds of getting a date that day and not being rushed by Sherry having to work on a Saturday.  I think we set a record for a first date and spent 5-6 hours together talking nonstop!  Second, I had a good feeling about the fact that I had no birthday plans and that my last-minute birthday date with Sherry was really a form of destiny.  Third, the fact that it was my birthday in the first place made the date extra-special, and Sherry pointed out how it came up in the conversation.  And the confluence of timing continues to be extra-special to this very moment for both of us…

As Sherry mentioned, we liked to talk about every topic imaginable, but we also loved the outdoors, the gym, concerts, restaurants, traveling, and we were never lacking great things to do together which we both enjoyed very much.  And as Sherry said, the conversations about people, philosophy, religion, atheism, music, humanity, truth, science, health, politics, health, medicine, social mores, family, the future, life, love, and death never stopped.

Being compared to anything associated with John Lennon, much less his greatest song, has to be the greatest compliment I’ve ever been paid.  I’ve certainly been told many times I “looked like” John Lennon (I don’t think so, but I’ll take it!) or “reminded” someone of John Lennon, but being told I was like the existentialist ideal in Lennon’s greatest song (whether anyone agrees with every idea in the song or not) is about the highest praise I can certainly think of!

Besides the deep stuff though, I’m going to post some photos to remind me of all the fun places we went while we discussed the meaning of life.  We went to some really cool places and had some interesting experiences both during and outside of our conversations as the world and life came to us!

Sherry & both knew lots of people and did tons of fun stuff together. And no, we were not the models although Sherry certainly had the brains for it–Hahahaha! See below…

For Sherry’s birthday, she wanted to go to Palm Springs and stay at a place called “The Parker.” It was a really cool resort where apparently all sorts of interesting people from SoCal went to get away from it all. I knew she was onto something as soon as we were checking in. The guy in front of me turned around and it was none other than David Spade. An interesting portent indeed! (And no-I don’t have an iPhone selfie of that…)

We spent most of our time chilling at the gardens, the pools and the bar/club talking to various SoCal peeps. The one thing I certainly won’t forget is being hit on not once, but twice by other couples in less than 48 hours! It’s my guess that The Parker was kind of a SoCal Swingers (or “Lifestyle” if you want to use a more discreet term for polyville!) getaway. One couple were a very attractive married couple close to our age, and the other was actually two women! You would have thought it was my birthday instead of Sherry’s–Hahahaha!!! We weren’t feeling quite that adventurous although I can say that it was still quite flattering to be asked by the “beautiful people…”

Of course we had to do a sunset at the ocean…

Hiking was probably our favorite pastime together, and I think Sherry is still out there 4-5 times a week. Man–I really miss those beautiful trails together, and we took every chance we got to try them all out. When we stayed at Sherry’s, we would do the North Mountain/Piestawa Peak trails. When we were hanging at my house, we would do South Mountain. And wherever we traveled, we were always on the lookout for scenic trails.

We also did lots of other things including Vegas, Prescott thrift shopping and football.

And there was always music that we shared in common on more occasions than I can count. I don’t have many pics, but here was one Sherry took of me with the bass player from “Igor and the Red Elvises” at my friend Bob’s club the Rhythm Room. They are probably the most purely fun club band I’ve ever seen in my life! And I’ve seen literally over 1,000 shows in my lifetime.

If you do nothing else in life, be damned sure you see “Igor and the Red Elvises” at least once before you die. Seriously.

As Sherry mentioned in her post, one of our favorite places to go was my “ranch” out in New Mexico. It’s 800 acres of wilderness surrounded by another 3,000 acres of nature on three sides. A perfect place for us to hike, chill, and take beautiful photos. Sherry had quite a natural talent on both sides of the camera, and I chose one of her photos to represent my soul on page one of the blog. You captured my soul perfectly, and I love you for that Sherry…

What means the most to me about Sherry is her jumping in to support me emotionally when I really need it most. I can honestly say that my life is absolute agony and hell a lot of the time with this nasty disease, and Sherry is really the song “Imagine” come to life in a very visceral way. She is a constant reminder and represents all of the awesome things I had in life, and she sure as hell isn’t going to let me forget that! I know it must be very hard on her to see me this way and remember how things used to be, but I think she knows that who we both are hasn’t really changed at all at its core. I may be staring death in the face, but Sherry is there for me in the true spirit of friendship and love as I imagine what might lie beyond and contemplate all the things we have talked about. I think I will forever imagine the image below, which I think encapsulates both of us…

Peace and much love to you too, Sherry…

“Imagine”–In Sherry’s Words

This post was written by my last girlfriend Sherry, and I am so grateful she was willing to share our story in her own words. It really means a lot to me–A lot more than you can even imagine…

Sherry & I on one of our first few dates. We both loved the outdoors together.

In Sherry’s words: On October 6, 2015 I received a text message from Gina, one of my dearest friends on planet earth, asking, “Hey, are you still single?” I replied that I was and then she said she wanted me to meet someone who she knew from the “industry.” Allow me to take a step back to 1994, when Gina and I were in the movie production industry. Both of us were repeatedly approached by people stating we were each other’s doppelganger. Naturally, we had to meet. One of us reached out to the other (I cannot recall if it was Gina or I), and the conversation went something like this: “Hey, so I keep hearing you are my body-double, and people keep mistaking us for one another, so perhaps we should meet.” We met at Rosita’s in Tempe, AZ and that was it. She was working on the film “Waiting to Exhale” (she had been in the industry a very long time) and I was working on my first film, “Flirting with Disaster.” Our friendship remained intact through the years, and Gina remained one of the most real, authentic individuals I had come to know, and she was like a precious gem in my life. So, back to the text message in October of 2015. When I replied that I was single, Gina sent me pictures of Eric.

“He reminds me of Paul Weller, lead man from The Jam, and he seems to have a funky style, so yeah.”

Gina shared our information, and Eric and I met a few days later. During the typical nervous question and answering session upon people meeting for the first time and peeling back the proverbial layers, I mentioned I had just celebrated my 50th birthday, and had just returned from a month-long sojourn in Idaho and Washington where I went to reset after raising my kids. He mentioned was celebrating a birthday soon as well. “Oh really, when?” I asked. “Guess,” he replied. “Today?” I asked.

“Yes, today,” he said.

I thought it was interesting our first meeting was on his birthday (even as I wondered why he did not have other plans). However, as a huge fan of John Lennon, I thought it was cool he shared a birth date with Lennon. I knew this because I had just posted a link to an interview with Tom Snyder and John Lennon earlier that day. John Lennon’s activism for civil and human rights, his creativity and using his fame as a platform to raise awareness and mindfulness around peace, love and understanding always resonated with me. Quite simply, he was one of my favorite artists. I admired his intelligence and the impression he left in his wake.

Imagine, in my mind, was one of the most beautiful, poetic songs ever written, and it inspired a body of work that has continued to inspire millions for decades.

Exhibit B: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkgkThdzX-8&list=RDYkgkThdzX-8&start_radio=1&t=13

But I digress.

Eric and I got along very well, and began dating, albeit we took things slow.

We enjoyed hiking and going to the gym (he became my trainer), taking road trips to his “ranch” in New Mexico and other places, but most of all we spent a lot of time having long, deep conversations about: people, philosophy, religion, atheism, music, humanity, truth, science, politics, health, medicine, social mores, family, the future, life, love and death.

The biggest truth about Eric is: he loves life, more than anything…every moment, every experience. He is a compassionate, libertarian, life enthusiast, musician, activist and existentialist. In our time, he would always say, “I wish I could live forever,” which made no sense to me, because it is illogical (at least in one incarnation – who knows the absolute black and white or the expansive, quantum possibilities when it comes to the existence of the soul). So, discussions around mortality made him uncomfortable and sad, which is understandable (but I am a hard-core realist, so there is that).

But the moral of this story is…we come into this world, have the magnificent experience of life and the opportunity to meet and connect with amazing people who will leave an indelible impression on our lives. What a gift, regardless of whether it lasts a moment or a lifetime, I am so grateful to know and to have shared time with Eric, who is quite literally one of the smartest, individuals I have met.

I love this man, his voice and his passion for libertarianism, freedom, individuality, independence, expression, and LIFE… peace, love and understanding. Eric embodies what the song IMAGINE is about.

Think about it. And when you do, think about him. I do.

This is a picture I captured of Eric in New Mexico and it encapsulates his being and nature, which is beautiful.

IMAGINE

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today (ah ah ah)

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion, too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

Learning to Drive in 1975

A 1973 Olds Custom Cruiser

Chapter 1

This might seem weird to some of you, but I’m actually quite grateful to have grown up in what were really two distinct technological eras.  Of course human technology has always been advancing, and things were different between birth and death for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but the rate of technological acceleration seems to have gone off the charts in my lifetime.  I’m amazed at certain things, and I’ve probably said to at least 100 people that if you had told me when I was 25 that I would be able to hold a tool in my hand (as I wave my iPhone around) that can access almost all of the world’s knowledge and communicate with over a billion people, I would have thought you were crazy.  And all of this for under $1,000 and about $50/month.  Wow…

The interesting thing about the technology of the 1960s-2000 and 2000-present is to me the way it has impacted the amount and types of freedom I’ve experienced in my life.  Back in the “old days” of the pre-PC era, there was a great deal more personal freedom in many ways because nobody could “track” you, and there was no digital history of where you went and when you were doing what with who. 

One glaring example of how things have changed is in the area of driving a car.  Back in the old days, you had to learn to drive while you were as young as possible if you wanted to have any kind of freedom at all.  The only way to interact with other kids your age was to physically get out of Mom & Dad’s field of vision and do whatever it is you wanted to do.  Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were only available if you could go somewhere else to enjoy them!!!

During my childhood, kids started learning to drive first on their minibikes and go-karts when we were about 10 or 12.  I got a go-kart on my 10th birthday only because my Mom quashed Dad’s initial plan to get me a minibike instead.  Dad had a motorcycle or two when he was a young man, but Mom said “hell no!” to the 2-wheeled tool of danger, figuring (probably quite correctly!) that a go-kart with 4 wheels was safer than a minibike with only 2 wheels.  It mattered little anyway because the kids all took turns riding each other’s machines all over the neighborhood streets, our rather large yards, and in the farmer’s wooded trails that surrounded our idyllic “subdivision” of 12 houses on 2-acre lots.  Talk about having it made as a kid!  Once you were motorized, you were your own man (or woman) and had the freedom to cruise around at will. 

Of course, by age 13 or 14 we were more than ready to aim for bigger and faster challenges, and that’s when our parents’ cars and the roads outside the neighborhood started looking rather interesting!  I was staying over at my friend Eric D’s house (not in our neighborhood—about 3 miles away) one night in the 8th grade, and we were 13 years old.  Eric D’s parents had gone out for dinner and drinks, and Eric D. got the idea that it would sure be fun to take Mom’s Buick station wagon out for a cruise.  I’m pretty sure it was my neighbor Chris and I in the back seat, and we picked up Eric’s neighbor Leo on the way down the road and were out on our first cruise in a real car!  Well, Eric D. was a bit of a maniac driver considering his extreme level of inexperience, and I distinctly remember him burning rubber, skidding around corners and speeding like all hell!  I was honestly a bit scared because I knew he was just making it up as he went along, but we had so much fun cruising around that before we knew it, two or three hours had gone by.  I seem to recall Chris and/or Leo taking a turn behind the wheel (hey—we were all taught that “sharing” was an important virtue—Hahahaha!), but I declined and was happy just to be a backseat driver on my first clandestine road trip.

We decided that it might be smart to get home and park the car in the detached garage (they had a large lot out in the country) before his parents got home.  Well it was already too late for that, because as we started to pull into their long tree-lined gravel driveway, we noticed that Eric’s dad’s car was back in it’s usual spot next to the house!  Since we had to park Mom’s car in the detached garage anyway, Eric got the bright idea that we could turn off the car’s lights and drive through the apple orchard around the back of the garage and Mom and Dad (now sitting in the house) would be none the wiser.  As we started to pull through the rather steep ditch and into the apple orchard in the dark, it appears Eric had forgotten about the rather large willow tree that was next to the apple orchard.  CRUNCH!! went the Buick’s right front quarter panel and we were jammed in our tracks between the ditch and the tree! 

We panicked for a minute and then shut the car off and contemplated what to do next.  First we surveyed the damage—Yup, Mom was certainly going to notice that her car was quite smashed up and it didn’t happen in the garage!  Next, we figured that if three of us helped push the car out of the ditch with one guy driving, we MIGHT get it out of there and moving forward into the apple orchard again.  Eric D. was the biggest dude in our group, so I think my neighbor Chris drove while the rest of us pushed.  Well, we did succeed and managed to get the car back into the garage and entered the house quietly hoping Eric’s parents were none the wiser (yet—Obviously, Eric would have to tell them something to explain the smashed up car!)  His parents hadn’t heard a thing, so we all went upstairs to his attic bedroom and contemplated various ways to lie our way out of our “situation.” 

To Eric’s credit he decided that it would be best to tell the truth, and we also reasoned that we should do it right now to score as many integrity points as possible AND because his parents had had at least a few drinks and were in a happy mood when we came in the door an hour before.  This turned out to be a pretty smart move for some scared teenagers, and I figured I’d be in some trouble with my parents when Mrs. D told them we had been out cruising in her car.  But, get this—Mrs. D. was so cool that she didn’t even tell any of the other parents about the cruising excursion!  She was so impressed that we all came downstairs and admitted everything to her and Mr. D that we had learned our lesson and that there was no point in telling our parents.  They scolded us a bit of course and rightly so, but talk about luck!  I guess that honesty really is the best policy…

Chapter 2—Eric H. and Chris Learn to Drive

Well, Mrs. D turned out to be half right in thinking we kids had “learned our lesson” in terms of driving before we were legally old enough.  My next-door neighbor Chris and I learned what we used to call “The Eleventh Commandment” in Catholic high school, and that was: “DON’T GET CAUGHT!”  After that first joy ride, we both had a taste for the road and by age 14 we were continuously looking for opportunities to drive when our parents were out.  I’ll come right out and say that Chris had more balls than I did in the instigating department, but I sure as hell never said no!

Our usual mode of transportation was Chris’ Mom’s car—a 1973 (I think) Olds Custom Cruiser.  It seated 8 or 9, probably weighed about 6,000 pounds and was literally the largest passenger car on the road at that time.  The only problem with that was that Chris and I were both late bloomers and probably were about 5′ 4″ and 122# at the time.  The front seat literally swallowed us up!  But being ingenious youngsters who weren’t going to get caught, Chris grabbed some phone books and a couple of his dad’s dress hats so we would look larger inside the car in case any cops happened to notice us out on the road.  And we would of course be smart enough to get home before our parents did so we wouldn’t have problems parking the car!

To our credit, we did succeed in getting in at least a dozen excursions in within the next year or so, and half of them were in the winter.  Unlike Eric D., we didn’t drive like maniacs—We actually taught ourselves to drive and wanted to keep doing it right up until we were old enough to get our licenses.  Not getting caught and losing your “driving privileges” (and probably others!) was a big deal to us.  We had quite a bit of adrenaline junkie fun teaching ourselves how to navigate that giant rear-wheel drive sled on snow and ice, and I’d have to say we got pretty good at it until the inevitable happened…

No, we didn’t get into a wreck or caught by the cops (although our hearts skipped a beat when they drove past us on the roads more than once!), but we took a chance we shouldn’t have.  We usually only drove when both sets of parents were out for the evening.  We were next door neighbors and you could kind of see each other’s houses through the trees, but one night we bent our rules and paid the price.  Everything went fine on the drive, but when we brought the car back down his driveway, my Mom just happened to be looking out the kitchen window and saw the car pull in.  She happened to know what Chris’ parents were doing that night, and it was too early for them to be getting home at about 9pm.  Of course I unwittingly didn’t help matters by strolling in the door about five minutes after we parked the car, which further raised my Mom’s suspicions.  She mentioned something about it to me, and I just shrugged it off and told her I didn’t know anything about it.  Mom took it upon herself to call over there, and quickly found out from Chris’ older sister that her parents weren’t home yet, and it didn’t take too long for my Mom to get it out of her who was really driving the car when Chris’ parents were still out! 

About 10 minutes after I got home, my Mom came into my room and had it out with me.  Of course I lied and said this was the first time we had ever done such a thing, how sorry I was, blah, blah, ad infinitum, but she was still pretty pissed off about it.  I was 15 by then and would be eligible to get my learner’s permit in only a few months, but she said my punishment was that I would have to wait another year!!!  Well, the parents all had a talk about it over the next week or so and cooler heads prevailed.  Chris and I both got our driver’s licenses on time, and the best part was that we already knew how to drive!!!

Europe 2013 and “Fun with the French Police”

One of the highlights of my life was a 23-day tour of Northern Europe with Sandy and our very good friends Marc & Traci.  I have to give credit where credit is due (sorry, Marc—Hahahaha!), but Marc’s ex-wife Traci planned this excursion out to the last detail for months and did a great job of it!  The rest of us were along for the ride, and what an interesting ride it was!  The itinerary was a direct flight to London where we spent 4 days; a 13-day Baltic Sea cruise (it was July of course!), and we ended with 2 days in Amsterdam (duh!) and 4 days in Paris.  The cruise stopped in Copenhagen, Berlin, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, and Tallinn, Estonia. 

I’ll tell this story mostly in pictures with the exception of a few “interesting” incidents, and I’ll say that I really loved the trip because we got to experience so many different cultures and a ton of art museums, including the Lourve and the Hermitage (St. Petersburg’s version of the Louvre and a very apt description!).  Marc and Traci weren’t into the art thing as much, so they would explore the city while Sandy and I were exploring the art.  Then they would have amazing dinner and evening plans ready to go when we got out of the art gallery.  Talk about a win-win situation!

Let’s go to Europe and see what happens next…

My first of many beers in Europe at Heathrow Airport. One of my favorite things about Europe was that you were allowed to drink your beer just about anywhere. “Open container” law? They had no idea what that even was and were amazed at how uptight America is in this regard.
Sandy & I on “The Tube” or whatever the hell they call it over there.
Marc & Traci chilling in the park near Buckingham Palace.

One of the major differences between Europe and the US is that the Europeans aren’t nearly as fond of either fat or guns anywhere on their bodies (or more accurately, guns anywhere except for a few in the hands of the police.)  Now I certainly appreciated the European attitude toward physical health, but we had a lot of fun messing with their views on guns throughout our travels!  Now before anyone jumps to conclusions regarding we ‘ugly Americans” with big mouths obnoxiously pushing our views on the “more civilized” residents of our host countries, I can honestly say that at least 80% of the time it was the Europeans who brought up the gun issue when they found out we were Americans!  We seemed like normal, friendly, outgoing people to them, and they naturally assumed that we weren’t part of the “crazy, extremist” (or libertarian!) crowd who believed in gun ownership for the peons.  Or at the very least, they were nosy and self-righteous enough that they wanted to give the “ugly Americans” a bunch of shit if they didn’t agree with the European view of things!  We had at least a half dozen or so fun debates about this issue, and it was definitely an unexpected pleasure as anyone who knows me will understand–Hahahaha!

Marc & I asking these nice London police officers why the are UNARMED…. They explained that only “special police” in England were armed. We told them they looked “special” enough to us and that we would feel safer if they were armed since we obviously weren’t! They pointed to their radios and said that they could have the “special police” here in 10 minutes or so should the need arise. Seriously?!!!
But they were very sweet and friendly enough to pose for a photo with us! (And with me wearing my anarchist “anti-flag” shirt!)
The Museum of Modern Art in London
Uh oh–Let the trouble begin…

Those of you who don’t know Marc need to know that he’s a criminal defense attorney (and one of the best in the state!), so when ex-wife Traci wanted to bring her weed stash with her to Europe, Marc put the kibosh on that idea in a nanosecond or less.  But after a couple of days had passed and we adjusted to the time change, Traci decided she wanted to score some weed in London.  Marc wouldn’t have anything to do with it, but given my past history, she talked me into helping her.  After a detour to a guy who tried to sell us oregano (I’m not kidding—He still thought it was 1975 apparently!), we ended up making Traci happy, and that was a good thing considering we still had 20 more days in Europe together!

We can see who has “the munchies!”
OK–Twist my arm. I confess…

Christinana was a very unique part of the Netherlands because it was technically about 800 acres of its own country and not part of the EU either.  I’m not going to go into it’s interesting history here, but you can tell from the pics that it’s a different place altogether.  Weed is actually legal there and they grow it and sell it openly, but hard drugs are strictly verboten.  We met some very interesting characters there, and although photos are forbidden, the most interesting character of all let us photograph him! Ironically, he was the only European we met that agreed with gun ownership for civilians. As you can see from his tattoo, he didn’t trust the police–Hahahaha!!!

Next stop–Berlin

Our next stop was Berlin where we met Alessandro and Domitia. They are still friends to this day! Alessandro and Marc had met on the internet, and we hit it off so well at lunch that they took us on a bus tour of Berlin!

We spent part of a day in Helsinki, Finland, and then it was off to Russkieville for two days. St. Petersberg was an interesting place and much different than the rest of Europe. Almost nobody speaks English there, and you can’t read the signs in the Cyrillic alphabet! The Russian government requires you to have an approved tour guide with you at all times, and that’s the guy in the pics. He wasn’t too happy with us when Marc & Traci ditched him at the Hermitage museum and wandered around town by themselves–Hahahaha!! I did manage to talk him down off the ledge and convince him that they wouldn’t get into trouble and to continue the Hermitage tour which Sandy & I traveled literally halfway around the world to see! (I think St. Petersburg is actually 11 or 12 time zones east of Phoenix.) We had an awesome tour, and to say the Hermitage rivals the Louvre is no exaggeration at all. The Russkies claim it is superior to the Louvre, and they could be right.

Next Stop–Tallinn, Estonia (I never thought I would get to go there in my life!

Last stop–4 days in Paris!

Of course, no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower, and and we arrived in the large park around the tower about an hour before sunset.  It started out harmlessly enough with Traci & I sneaking a couple of hits while strolling through the Eiffel Tower Park with our non-smoking mates (somebody had to remember the way back to the hotel—Hahahaha!!)  We checked out the tower for a while, took a few pics, and then strolled across the park again to chill a little bit more.

Traci and I wanted to enjoy the rest of our herbage, so we had a seat on the lawn in a pretty remote part of the park (I chose the spot, so what comes next is largely on me!), and fired up the rest of our “smoky treat.”  Sandy (very wisely in hindsight!) stood about 50 yards away from us and was waiting for us to do our thing.  Marc, being the Mr. Social that he is, sat down with Traci & I so we could all talk for a few.  Traci & I passed the smoky treat between us a few times, and just as I was enjoying a big puff of the treat, four French police officers rode out of the woods on the bike path and stopped right in front of me!  The main officer was a woman, and I exhaled a bunch of smoke she asked me in French what I was holding in my hand.  (I don’t speak a word of French, but I was pretty sure that’s what she was asking!)  I was speechless for a variety of reasons: First, I don’t speak French and don’t know the correct word for “weed”; second, I was scared shitless at being possibly busted for weed in a foreign country, and third, I could hear the words of a very good criminal defense attorney friend of mind echoing through the canyons of my admittedly altered mind.  Those words were: “Never talk to the police!!!”  Of course, the person who had said this to me 100 times happened to be my good friend Marc, who was sitting right next to me! 

Just as I am thinking all of this (with a racing heart and feeling a little breathless to say the least), Marc leans in toward me with a shit-eating grin on his face and says (no, I’m not kidding!): “This is going to be an interesting conversation.”  Seriously.  That is exactly what he said and oddly enough, Marc turned out to be exactly right in the end.  But at that moment all I could think was: “Easy for you to say—I’m the one sitting here holding a burning doobie with a French cop and her three friends talking to me in French!!!   I did reply I English that I didn’t speak French, and she gave me a look of disdain as if to say, “Oh—A dumb American smoking weed in our park, and then proceeded to ask me in English what I was holding in my hand (as though she didn’t know!)  I didn’t say a word because I knew if I said the wrong thing I might hurt my cause, but more importantly I knew I would never hear the end of it from Marc who was sitting right next to me.  After a very long and awkward pregnant pause, Marc finally spoke up (it’s a good thing when your friend and criminal defense attorney is already there when the cops have questions for you—Hahahaha!!) and said something to the effect of: “I think we all know what that is officer.”  There was a bit more of an exchange between them and I think he did finally admit it was weed (which I honestly can’t remember because I was high as all hell, scared shitless and still holding a joint in my hand!), and the French police officer told me to put the joint out and shred it up into the grass!!  I was quite surprised and quickly did exactly that before she changed her mind.  Imagine being told by the cops to destroy the evidence—Things were definitely looking up!!  She asked where we had been before we came to France, and then told us that we weren’t in Amsterdam anymore and that weed wasn’t legal in France.  At that point I mumbled an apology and thanked her, and Marc started into profusely complimenting the French police for their sanity and reason, pointing out that things would have gone quite badly for us in the US, and launching into a libertarian diatribe of sorts praising Europe in general.

At some point, they noticed Sandy standing in the wings and asked if she was with us, invited her to join the group, and we all talked for about another half hour or so about the differences between Europe and America, and a bunch of other stuff that Marc brought up.  Mr. Social Libertarian was definitely leading the conversation after the first few minutes.  The upshot of the situation was that their “search” of me consisted of asking me if I had anymore weed (I truthfully replied that I didn’t), a very cursory pat down of my pockets (“that’s just my wallet, officer”), and at the end of the day, they didn’t even kick us out of the park!!!  Marc tried to talk them into an iPhone photo with us so we could add it to our collection of European police officers (see the British police at the beginning of this piece), but I think by then they had heard enough from Marc (who was doing almost all the talking by now), and politely backed away and rode off on their bikes. 

Thanks so much, man!!!  I owe you one.  Talk about good luck that your close friend and criminal defense attorney just happens to be sitting right next to you when the cops catch you with weed in a foreign country!!!  Am I seriously lucky, blessed, leading a charmed life or whatever words you choose to describe it?  I am truly grateful for that experience indeed!!!

We spent another day or so in Paris, and I had my final meal in France—Steak tartare, of course—Yum!!!  Sorry to all you veegie-weegies out there, Marc—Hahahaha!!!  I just had to celebrate my freedom in a truly French way…

Celebrating my good fortune and wonderful life…

Religion, Politics, Friendship and Love

Being an agnostic, anarchist/libertarian has always made me somewhat of a rabid individualist outlier (to say the least!) in a world of very tribal human primates, but I think it’s important to know that someone’s religious or political views typically have little to do with whether they make loving friends or not.  I’ve always had close friends all over the religious and political spectra, and let’s face it—I’m the weird one if some of my stories are any indication!  If I insisted on religious or political agreement, I wouldn’t have many friends.  Just the opposite is true, because there are loving people all over the place, and I’ve been lucky enough to find that out with a vengence now that I’ve taken ill.  (They may be politically or intellectually “confused” or “inconsistent” to me, but that just makes for some interesting discussions–Hahahaha!  And a lot of them think my extreme freedom value system is equally nuts!)

My view on any potential afterlife is that this is an unknowable thing as long as we are alive.  (For the record, I have very definite opinions about good versus evil, but that’s another discussion.)  I will admit I hope there is a heaven (who wouldn’t—It sounds awesome particularly in my current situation!), but even if there’s nothing, I still can’t complain about my “55 rock star years” here on Planet Earth.  That’s my rationalist view of things, but something really interesting and inspiring happened to me yesterday when my high school friend Dano reached out to me after hearing the bad news.  (Side note: Dano wrote “1981 Overture,” which was the inspiration for my blog and the first essay I posted!)  Dano knows I’m an agnostic (he’s a hard-core Catholic), and he told me he would come to see me next week.  During our conversation he asked me if I would object to a Catholic priest hearing my confession, forgiving my sins, and praying for my healing or journey to heaven based on God’s will.  Even though I’m an agnostic, this had to be one of the most touching and loving things anyone ever offered to do for me based on the incredible love in his own heart.  Whatever turns out to be true in the afterlife, his main concern was that I was not neglected based on his belief system.  If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. 

But wait, there’s more!  I was expecting Dan to organize the priestly visit when he was in town visiting me next week and it would be an experience we would share together.  I hung up the phone with him around 10am, and my Mom arrived for a visit at noon.  Like Dan, my Mom is a devout Catholic, and we were both surprised by a knock on my door at about 1pm.  My Mom knows I’m an agnostic, and she was very surprised to see a Catholic priest at the door!  It turns out she was thinking the same thing about the sacraments my friend Dano was (only she didn’t dare ask me), and the priest came in and administered the sacraments to me in front of my Mom!!  Both my Mom and I were in tears, and Dano, I can’t thank you enough for giving my Mom and I that very special gift. It gave my Mom a huge amount of peace, and it all makes me wonder if things don’t happen for a reason. 

To be clear, I’ve had two similar experiences with other Christian friends (both named Robert, ironically) who took me to church with them on more than one occasion and basically stepped up to help Eric the agnostic because of the love in their hearts.  Both of them flat-out said to me: “It’s what we do because we want to do it.” I have other friends who are believers who have done tons for me in the past few months as my needs have increased. From their point of view, they see good or “godliness” or something inside me that I don’t even see, and want to share their love with me.  I also have another very close friend named Robert who is more of an agnostic like me and still shows the same love the believers have!   It’s exactly the same with my die-hard atheist friend Marc too. Both of these guys totally have my back, and all of this is a bit incomprehensible to me, but writing about it helps me sort it out a bit in my mind.    

And if there really is a god, he definitely has a sense of humor.  My friend Kevin and I used to mock Dano in high school when he admitted to meditating with the Bible under candlelight in his bedroom closet.  His nickname: “Dan the Priest”—Now if that’s not some incredible irony for you!  Kevin even made up some song lyrics we sang to mock him based on the Rush song “Temples of Syrinx.”  The line we sang to Dano was (I think): “Dan is the priest of the Temples of Mequon.” (our home town).  “His Holy Bibles fill the closet walls.” (Or something like that—Kevin can correct me since he made it up—Hahahaha!)  If God made man in his image, he (or she!) definitely has a sense of humor! And if there really is a heaven, Dano will be having the last laugh! (And I will be meeting Jimi Hendrix and Tom Petty–Hahahaha!)

My 50th Birthday Parties

Sandy & I chillin’ in Milwaukee before the party. I didn’t suspect a thing…

OK—Mucho surprises here. Of course I knew when my 50th birthday was, but I had no idea that there were even one, but two awesome surprise parties planned courtesy of my friends and family!  The first party happened in my hometown of Milwaukee, and the general plan was for Sandy & I to fly in and get together with a bunch of my friends and have a few beers, etc. but no big deal (or so I was told).  Well, it turned out that since some of my close friends and old rock bandmates were in a band together at the time (see “Flashback” story), they decided to schedule a gig at a local bar called “Puddler’s Hall” in Bayview to coincide with me being in town for my birthday.  Once we got to Milwaukee, I was told about the gig and naturally attended.  Much to my surprise, it turned out that a major purpose of the gig was for me to do some jamming with my old bandmates!  We hadn’t played together in 30 years, but the upside was that we were all better players than we had been in 1982 when we were only 20 years old.  Here are some pics and a video, and I’ll never forget that party.  It was a very special evening for me and many thanks to my friends for setting it up.  I hope I didn’t annoy all of you with any much-too-long guitar solos—Hahahaha!!!  I’ll blame Steve the drummer for the one in the video just below.  I was trying to finish “Hey Joe” and he just kept pounding away! Click the link below and you be the judge…

Surprise Birthday Party Number 2!

Sandy & I came back to Phoenix after a great birthday week in Milwaukee and Chicago, and our friends Marc & Traci had another party planned a couple weeks after my birthday.  They had parties all the time, and I had already had my big 50th surprise party in Milwaukee. I was told it was a small party and that it had a 60s/70s theme, and that all sounded good to me (I had plenty of wardrobe for it—Hahaha!).  We arrived at Marc’s house and there were a few other cars parked outside that I recognized from our local group of friends, but nothing unusual.  I should explain that Marc had the most awesome party house at the time (you can tell in the photos)—It was about 8,000SF and just made for entertaining.  In fact, all Marc’s homes have been awesome party houses, and we’ve spent countless days and nights at them over the years. 

As we walked in the door I honestly didn’t suspect a thing, and it was actually a little quieter than normal in the house.  Sandy & I walked through the large atrium near the front door and nobody was hanging out except the dogs, but when we got to the main doorway to the main room, at least 50 people jumped out and yelled “Surprise!!!” as the music cranked up.  I honestly was never so surprised in my life!  After the party in Milwaukee, I thought that was it and wasn’t expecting this at all!  Thanks Sandy, Marc & Traci for making this thing happen!  You can tell from the pics that Sandy & Traci went all out on the theme décor, and we had another absolute blast as usual.  Who else could be lucky enough to get not only one but TWO surprise parties for his 50th birthday?  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! And who could be lucky enough to have so many close friends at both of them?

Much dancing was done, and that’s definitely my thing!!!

20 Years With Sandy & Eric

In a lot of ways, Sandy & I were fortunate to meet when we did, because I think Sandy was ready to break out of her New York City steady gig, and I was ready to settle down with the woman of my dreams.  There’s not enough time in my life to tell every story about our lives together, but it was good for both of us that we met when we did and shared 20 years together.  And I am very grateful for it. 

Sandy & I met on a fashion photo shoot in December 1992.  I was a relative newbie PA/motohome driver and Sandy was a younger but much more experienced photo assistant and pretty much her boss David’s right hand for anything work related.  We stayed long-distance friends for a while via phone and letters before my first trip to New York in September 1993.  We immediately hit it off, and by the following summer Sandy was headed to Arizona so we could be together.  In the business arena, we each had somewhat different strengths that made us an excellent business team as well and immediately formed East-West Productions to handle all the out-of-town shoots that came to Arizona in the winter.

Besides all the joys of self-employment I’ve mentioned in my other writings, I particularly enjoyed my life with Sandy because we both got 6-10 weeks off in the summer to travel for both business and pleasure.  We would road trip it (I hated flying and loved road trips—Sandy was just the opposite, but she tolerated me—Hahahaha!) first to Chicago and Milwaukee to visit my people and pitch potential clients for a few weeks, and the we would do the same thing in New York.  I had never been to NYC, and for a guy from suburban Milwaukee, New York City was like another country (at least in certain neighborhoods!)  I really loved our long visits to New York, but what I’m most grateful for is that we were able to spend so much time with family and friends and really enjoy the luxury of maintaining those relationships for decades.  Many people don’t get that opportunity (and get to see and do things that would only be possible in NYC!!) 

The other great thing about our summer “working” vacations is that besides always going to our hometowns in the Midwest and NYC, we would add different detours almost every year! Throughout our 20 years of traveling the US, we visited a lot of different cities, towns, and parts of the countryside visiting many different people. Here’s a short list off the top of my head: Boston & rural New England, Upstate New York, North Carolina, Florida, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Dallas/Ft. Worth, St. Louis & rural Missouri, Minneapolis & rural Minnesota, and at least a half dozen other places I can’t even think of right now. We had the pleasure of connecting with family, friends, and clients over the years to a much greater extent than most people do. I am very grateful for all the close friendships that freedom has allowed me to maintain that are still with me today!

We also took an awesome 23-day trip to Europe that I’ll talk about in a separate story. And I could kick myself now for passing up a couple of trips to Hong Kong and Singapore over the years. Sandy had family there, and I (what a dumbass I was!) decided that work was a higher priority and that I would always have another chance to get there. In fact, Sandy used to chastise me for never saying no to a gig, even when we already had a few others happening. She thought I was a little nuts in that department–I was Mr. Ambitious to the extreme, and Sandy–You were absolutely right! I’d feel a lot smarter right about now if I had said yes to Asia and no to a few of the 900 shoots we did in over two decades. But hindsight is 20/20, and I never expected what is happening to me now (or at least not so soon–Apparently, 55 is the new 95 in my case!) All in all though, I have nothing to complain about. Sandy and I explored a lot of places and had fun with a lot of people in 20 years!!!

Since Sandy is actually a real photographer (with a real degree from FIT!), I’ll let each picture tell a thousand words.  (And you’re probably sick of me blabbing by now—Hahaha!)  Of course, I could spend a year posting pics, but I’ll put up a few good ones so you get the idea… 

Yum yum, indeed Sandy! 🙂
Sandy & our friend Nick on his rooftop. I love NY!
One of my first times in the subway.
We were both so 1990s then–Hahahaha!!
Fashion does apparently run in 30-year cycles. Yoga pants are back and that’s a great thing!
Ride ’em “Cowboy?”
Chillin’ at “work” location scouting I think… We used to travel all around Arizona with cameras and call that a “job!”
Sandy the Glamour Goddess!
Good thing I liked Chinese food–Hahahaha!!
At one of my 50th birthday parties–Thanks, Sandy!
Me & my brother-in-law Evan. A truly awesome guy in every way!
Sandy, Eric, Grace (Sandy’s sister) & Evan
Sandy’s friend Willie had his own recording studio, and I got to play guitar on a couple of his recordings. I wasn’t much of a rock balladeer. but I’ve attached the songs so you can be the judge…
“I’ve Come a Long Way”
“Fade Away”
Me and Les Paul himself at the Iridium in NYC in the mid-90s. I would never have gotten to see or meet Les if I hadn’t met Sandy.
With the Scruffs in 2013

“My Greek Skin” or “How I Found My Bio-Mom”

I was born in 1962 and adopted by my parents Bob and Peg when I was two months old.  I am very grateful for this since they treated me with the greatest of love and raised me in the positively idyllic setting of Mequon, WI in the 1960s and 1970s.  Abortion and single motherhood were much less common then for a variety of reasons, and I am extremely grateful to my birth mother for making two really good choices, without which I may not have been able to have the awesome life that I have. 

Being a typical dude, I’ve only been mildly curious about my birth parents and never made any effort toward finding out who they were until my girlfriend Sherry made an offhand comment to me one day while we were hiking.  Sherry and I were avid hikers, and we would typically hike for 1-2 hours several times a week.  Sherry was of almost all Irish descent, and would always cover up her awesome body and delightful alabaster skin with hiking apparel, sunscreen or both!  I couldn’t blame her because when she missed a spot, she would burn, burn, burn in a nanosecond or two.  I on the other hand, only wore athletic shorts, no shirt, and I don’t even own any sunscreen. 

One day after a particularly long hike, Sherry noticed my golden brown all-over tan and asked me about my genetic heritage.  I told her what I had always been told—I was Irish and German.  She kind of snickered in disbelief and said, “No way dude—I’m Irish and look at my skin compared to yours.  You’ve got Greek skin!”  I had never considered that before and told her she was nuts, but the more I thought about it, I realized that Sherry indeed had a point.  What Northern European can walk around barely clothed in the blazing Arizona sunshine constantly and almost never burn?  Sherry knew I was adopted and strongly encouraged me to do the Ancestry DNA thing, which I quickly agreed to.  She was absolutely right in saying I really didn’t know shit except for some third-hand story I’d been told since birth.

Well, I spit in the magic tube and sure enough the results came back in a few weeks.  I’ve posted them below and it turns out the lovely Sherry was not only beautiful but quite smart!  This “German/Irish” guy turned out to be about 25% Southern European and barely German at all!

“Surprise, surprise, surprise!” said this Gomer Pyle…

That was in 2016 and I pretty much forgot about it until my neurological problems started getting worse in mid-2018.  I had heard you could download your raw DNA data and have it analyzed for health purposes, so I went back on the Ancestry DNA site for the first time in two years.  When I signed on I noticed that I had a 6-month old email from a guy named Duane, and it said we were very close relative in the first cousin range.  He told me a little bit about himself and was curious about how we might be related.  After a few more emails, we figured out that his older sister Denise (or “Dese” as the much younger Duane called her) was indeed my birth mother!  Their family were hard-core Catholics and Denise would never have considered an abortion (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Denise!), and my parents adopted me (I really shouldn’t tell you guys this!) for the princely sum of $5 and a modest donation to the Catholic Church (probably $100 or so).  So I am definitely one of the cheapest bastards on the planet—Hahahahaha!!! 

I can certainly see the resemblance, but I’m going with Uncle DQ’s opinion!
And it’s not like Uncle DQ and I look all that different either. Who knew that Ancestry DNA shit really worked?!!!

After Duane (or Uncle DQ as I now call him!) and I hit it off pretty well during our email thread, we started exchanging photos, and I’ll leave it to you to decide whether I look like my birth mother Denise or not.  I know Uncle DQ thinks so because we did eventually meet for lunch last winter when he was vacationing here in Arizona.  He is a super chill guy who is actually crazy enough to live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in a town on Lake Superior (He’s a freakin’ “UPer”—Hahahahaha!), and we had a great time meeting for lunch at the Space Age diner in Gila Bend of all places.  (Uncle DQ went camping in Why, AZ for 3 months and hates big cities—Ya think?!!)  All during lunch, he kept staring at me and smiling, telling me it was exactly like looking at his older sister again.  She had died of breast cancer at age 64 many years ago (he was 12 years younger than Denise), and I was so glad to be able to give him that gift.  We still stay in touch via email, and this story is so full of gratefulness all the way around it could make one’s head spin. 

I debated telling my adoptive parents Bob & Peg about this for many months, but as my disease got worse I decided to open up one day and tell them the story.  My Mom was practically in tears and expressed her gratefulness for the decisions young Denise made in allowing them to have me as their son all these years. 

There is one thing for which Denise and Peggy both deserve some blame though.  If you find any of my writing or musical shit on this blog to be annoying, you only have these two women to blame.  Denise was an opera singer/piano player, and she taught English and music as a career.  My Mom knew all of this about Denise when she adopted me and always pushed me hard in both areas because she was convinced I had natural talents in music and writing.  (Nature or nurture; talent or no—I’ll let you readers be the judge of all that—Hahaha!)  I ended up playing guitar because I quit the viola (can you blame me?!) at age 12 when I became interested in rock music. But Mom insisted that I take up another instrument to my liking and adamantly refused to let me quit playing music altogether. Drums were my first choice, but I’ll leave you to guess which member of our household vetoed that idea—Hahahaha!  (Hint—It wasn’t Mom…) And I had a 10-year career in writing which you can read about in my story “Do You Have the Term Paper Blues?” Nature or nurture? I’ll leave that for you to decide, although my mom certainly didn’t encourage my writing career in any way, shape, or form!

Thank you Sherry for your very wise observation about my “Greek Skin.”  Many people owe you a debt of gratitude for leading us down the road almost not taken!

Film & Photo Production–It Beats a “Real Job!”

Just another day at “the office” in beautiful southern Utah.
Ivo the German car photographer always had a sense of humor…

One of the things I’m most grateful for is that I never had to work a “real job” after graduating from ASU in 1987.  If you’ve read my story “Do You Have the Term Paper Blues?” you know about 10 years of one of my accidental career paths, but the bulk of my career (almost 28 years!) was spent working on photo and video shoots for advertising projects. 

My career in advertising production began completely by accident as well when I was introduced to Marc by my friend Robert or my neighbor Rick (I think—You guys can let me know how Marc and I actually met.)  Marc and I were casual friends for a while, and at some point Marc gave my number to another Mark who called me a few weeks later (July 1991) asking me if I wanted to be a production assistant (PA—a fancy word for “go-fer”) on a beer commercial that was shooting the following day.  I had never been on a set before, so Mark was authorized to offer me the princely sum of $75/day for an unlimited number of hours working in 115-degree heat!  Me being me, I thought “what the hell—I’ll give it a try,” and the assholes with attitude from a Miami production company worked my ass from 4am-10pm for the next two days!  I did ask Mark though what the hell anyone would be doing out in the middle of the desert in the dark, and he told me that I would soon find out.

In hindsight I did manage to do something smart after I got Mark’s call for the job though.  I called my friend Marc who had about a year or two into the film production biz by this point, thanked him for the referral, and told him a little bit about the gig at 4am the following morning.  I shall be forever grateful for the two pieces of advice Marc gave me before my first PA gig.  The first thing he said was to let anyone’s snotty attitude roll off you “like water off a duck’s back.”  And the second piece of sage advice Marc gave me was to look around closely on set and see where I wanted to end up in terms of my ultimate job goal.  He told me being a PA was strictly entry level and I needed to figure out what I really wanted to do as quickly as possible to have any long-term success in the film biz.  He briefly described the various departments to me, and I was off to the races on a few hours sleep (imagine that—Hahahaha!)  Life-changing advice to be sure.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Marc!!!

When I showed up at 4am at the corner of Hayden and Dynamite roads in Scottsdale (vacant desert then—now upscale homes worth seven figures!), a few other PAs and a location manager were wandering around in the dark with flashlights telling people where to park, etc.  Someone grunted that I was “the new guy,” told me where to park and to get out and follow him, be quiet, and do what I was told.  I followed Marc’s first piece of advice and did exactly that!  I was still wondering what the hell was going to happen out here at zero-dark-thirty am, and as the sun rose all my questions were answered.  By 6am the dark, lonely desert was full of cars, trucks, motorhomes, horses, piles of equipment, and about 100 people or so.  I soon found out that we were shooting a Stender beer commercial, and the client was from Holland I think. 

As the initial shock wore off and the sun rose ever higher, I began to follow Marc’s second piece of advice and look around at the various departments and what they were doing.  I immediately ruled out the grip & electric department when I saw about 10 dudes sweating their asses off unloading 18Ks and such from a couple of 10-ton trucks!  It was pretty much the same for the art department as I watched them build a set as fast as they could in the blazing heat.  At some point, I had to go into the production motorhome to meet the Miami production team and get my first “go-fer” assignment.  When I saw a bunch of people in a mobile office working on typewriters, calculators, etc. (yes—Stop telling me I’m old—Hahahaha!) in a somewhat air-conditioned space (hey–90 degrees in the shade sure beats 110 in the sun!) I made a mental note that production was definitely something I could do.  I had a college degree and some organizational skills, so I knew production was a strong possibility for me. 

As the day went on, I eliminated some obvious things like hair, makeup, and wardrobe (no straight dudes back in those days, although dressing beautiful women certainly had its appeal—hahahaha!), and I knew I didn’t have the technical skills or patience to learn them required to be a camera geek.  About mid-afternoon I noticed a guy sitting in an SUV with the windows rolled up, the motor and A/C obviously running, and he was looking at a map.  Now I had always loved geography and maps as a kid (I was one of those geeks who stapled all the National Geographic maps to my bedroom wall–it was literally almost completely covered much to my Mom’s chagrin!), and that guy seemed to have the best job on the set at that particular moment.  I asked someone who that was, and it was Mike the location manager.  I asked what the location manager did and was told that he scouted and photographed various location options for the client and then negotiated all the details in terms of prices, logistics, paperwork, made maps, etc. and made sure it all went smoothly on the shoot days.  Ka-Ching!!!  Production job #2 was staring me in the face! 

Marc and I eventually bought a production motorhome and both ended up as location scouts and production coordinators before Marc got a more steady corporate gig as a cameraman, which is what I think his goal became at some point.  I continued on as a location scout/manager and producer for the next couple of decades, and damn I miss not doing it anymore!

There are literally hundreds of production stories any of us in the industry could tell (and I’ll probably tell a few pretty soon), but I’ll sum up what I loved about production in a few bullet points and let all of you share your own memories, stories, photos, etc. in the comments (or send me an email if you don’t want to go public—Hahahaha!  I’ll keep your secret—“Scout’s Honor!)

–I had the pleasure of traveling all over the state (and occasionally a few other states) to more amazing locations than I ever dreamed possible.  I’ve seen the most scenic spots imaginable, the rattiest underbellies of cities and towns, and been in mansions and hundreds of other places I never would have been in if it weren’t for my “job.”  (Remember—It’s not a “real job!”) 

–I had the even greater pleasure of working with a lot of amazing local people who I consider friends to this day, and I met clients, crew, actors, models, etc. from all over the world.  Although we often worked very long 12-18 hour days, there was typically a lot of down time on set when some of us were free to stand around and socialize, tell jokes, talk about life, etc. waiting until someone needed us.  I’ve met everyone from famous athletes, actors, rock stars, and models to regular folks just like me from all over the planet.  Who wouldn’t be grateful for all of that?!!  It sure beat sitting in the same cubicle day after day like many people do.  Thanks again, Marc, Mark, and all of you I met along the way!

My “Martini Shot” with ALS

Please read this post first so you understand why I’m doing this. And please feel free to reach out to me either on the blog for some fun group chatting or at my personal email: erichofstetter62@gmail.com. FYI–If you view me on your computer instead of your phone, a menu of about 50 stories (and increasing!) will appear on the right. They are in no particular order, so please select whatever looks most interesting to you! And feel free to share with whoever you like. My life is a (mostly!) open book…

From “Heavy Lifting”
To “Crip Central” in about 18 months. Note the “Sanchez” hanging on the wall–Thanks, Peter!

Hello Friends (and even “Enemies”—Hahahaha!) 

Thank you so much for checking out my blog!!  Yeah, it’s kind of a weird idea I guess, but I think you all know that I’ve been a bit “outside the box” in life, and I’m sure as hell not going to change now!  I’ll get the bad shit out of the way first, and then we can have some fun reminiscing and ruminating on the meaning of life!   To be very clear up front—Other than this opening essay and one other post so far, my blog is not about the medical technicalities and torture of my illness (there are already a TON of books and blogs about the torture of ALS by other victims)—On the contrary, it is an expression of gratitude and a celebration of the awesome life I’ve been privileged to live before my health went south.

As a lot of you know, I’ve been diagnosed with some form of ALS, PLS, or cerebellar degeneration (depending on which doctor you ask), but the sad reality is that all these motor neuron diseases (MND) of the brain are debilitating, degenerative, and ultimately deadly.  ALS is the most common form (about 80% of cases, I think) and is the one you know as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”  I’ll let all you Dr. Google types check stuff out on the web if you want all the gory details, but I’ll give you a brief synopsis of where I am and how I got here over the past 18 months or so. 

The gist of it is that the motor neurons in the brain (the ones that control movement in the body) gradually die off, and it becomes increasingly difficult to walk, talk, write, get dressed, brush your teeth, eat, swallow, or move any part of your body in any way at all.  These symptoms affect each patient at different rates and in a different order, but it’s definitely a torturous way to go that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (or even on Donald Trumpf or Hitlery Clinton—Hahahaha!).  The sensory and autonomic portions of the victim’s nervous system aren’t affected much and dementia usually isn’t involved, so you are fully aware and can see, hear and feel every bit of the physical degeneration as it happens day-by-day.  You slowly become a prisoner in your own body, and what eventually kills you is that your diaphragm muscles become detached from the motor nerves in the brain to the point that your lungs won’t expand enough to breathe, and you suffocate.  I just read another victim’s blog who described having ALS as the feeling of “being slowly buried alive,” and as time marches on I can appreciate this truth more and more. Damn—The Marquis de Sade couldn’t have dreamed up something worse than ALS!!

On a personal level, I’ve gone from a gym rat and 10K trail runner to a homebound cripple in about 18 months.  I first noticed I was losing my balance after having a few beers, but I was nowhere near inebriated enough for this to be happening (just ask anyone who really knows me!).  I honestly thought I’d been “roofied” at the concert I was attending that night (an awesome Rolling Stones cover band with my awesome friend April!).  A few weeks later I started having trouble maintaining a running gait while perfectly sober out on my favorite South Mountain trail.  I was having increasing low back pain at the same time near the L5 disc I herniated five years earlier, so I assumed it was a back problem and was pretty bummed out thinking I might need back surgery or something. (Ha—If only!)  I’d honestly be better off with Parkinson’s, MS, HIV, cancer or a toasted spine and at various points in my the testing process I was indeed hoping I would test positive for one of these things.  Can you imagine HOPING you had cancer or HIV?!!  Talk about the ultimate irony! 

After seeing a dozen doctors and spending $30K on tests, I got my official bad news of a motor neuron disease in January 2019.  By then, I could no longer play the guitar, was having considerable trouble writing, some trouble speaking, was walking with a cane, and starting to have a tight feeling in my chest more often.  Things have since degenerated to the point that I use a walker around the house and a wheelchair everywhere else.  My level of fatigue is extreme, but it’s important to me to focus what little energy I have left on the awesome life I’ve been lucky enough to have. Nobody is safe as long as I can still type in the age of the internet!

Life is short (apparently sometimes shorter than we expect!), and I want you guys to laugh at some of the funny pics and stories you may not have known about me; tell your own stories (email a Word doc and I’ll do the rest); correct, criticize and give me shit about my stories, and maybe even learn something about life or yourselves in the process.  (Okay—that’s a pretty lofty goal, but what the hell…I’m trying my best as either a very crippled dude or a dude from some other universe, depending on when you are reading this page—Hahahaha!!!  Or not—Maybe the Zen Buddhists are right and life simply begins and ends with nothing…  I’ll try to let you know what to expect if “The Force” allows it!  BOO!)

You all know me from a variety of places, activities, and the stuff of life, but I’d like to think I always enjoyed my family, my friends, and my life regardless of the reason we were hanging out.  As my friend Ernie once said: “If you can’t have fun doing this, you’re doing it wrong!”  He was referring to libertarian political activism (which I enjoyed immensely), but I realized that his philosophy applied toward pretty much everything in life.  I honestly feel that I’ve had what I’m calling “55 rock star years” on planet Earth, and I’m soooooooo lucky to have had that.   I’m crying as I write this, but many of the tears are tears of joy because I love life so much and am simply missing the awesome life I once had. 

At the same time, I’m experiencing new tears of joy as my illness made me realize how many real friends I truly have, and that I wasn’t even aware of how much love and respect my friends had for me.  I am truly grateful for all your love and support.  I’ve tried hard to earn some of it by living a good and honest life, but you guys are way more than I deserve.  Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart!  I love you too; I loved my life before, and I’m doing my best to love it now and take full advantage of the time I have left to be grateful for everything I had.

Eric (and many more nicknames to come…)

Ric/Rick/Ricky/Rico

Crickey

And I’ll think of a few more as the stories evolve…

P. S. I was never a big movie buff, but if I had to choose I’d say my favorite movie was “This is Spinal Tap,” because of my intense love of music, sarcasm, absurdity, and irony.  In a lot of ways, my life has been like that. And a hell of a lot of fun!!!