So I called my good friend Steve yesterday…
Good friend? Best friend? Former best friend? Can you have a former best friend? It’s not like it’s a divorce… Hmmm. Commence ‘splaining: Steve was my roommate for four years. (1993-1997). During that time he was EASILY my best friend/uber compadre/ brother-from-another-mother kinda guy. In ’97 he moved to Savannah, Georgia. Here’s the skinny:
OK- The way I met Steve was that he was actually my college percussion professor (lesson-giver, mentor-guy… whatever) for my last semester at Moravian College. The guy that had been my teacher left to go do some tour or something, so I was kinda left alone and hosed because in order to graduate, I had to complete a senior recital. (A senior recital being an hour’s worth of percussion repertoire.) NOW- I was IN NO FREAKIN’ WAY ready to do an hour’s worth of material- mainly because of a combination of my previous teacher’s ineptitude AND my complete lack of motivation and acquired skill. Seriously- It really was 50-50. Jim T. (the former teacher) was a VERY nice guy, but he had the personality of an accountant. An accountant that liked to collect Wonder Bread bags. A Wonder Bread bag collecting accountant that thought ketchup was “spicy”. Anyway- When I first arrived at school as an UNBELIEVABLY GREEN freshman- I was motivated and terrified and excited, and worked somewhat hard. I remember being told by the head of the department. WE DO NOT MISS LESSONS. Miss classes if you want (that that she was recommending that mind you) but WE DO NOT MISS LESSONS. OK. For the first two and a half YEARS I didn’t miss a single lesson. And in those two and a half years I learned…DICK. Seriously. I was still using the same method books, working on the same exercises, and really getting into a true cul-de-sac of frustration. NOW- It didn’t help matters that I was a better drum set player than Jim T. THIS IS NOT BRAGGING. Believe me. There are some percussionists that are incredibly facile on timpani and mallets and snare drum- that CAN’T PLAY KIT TO SAVE THEIR LIVES. It’ s a very different skill set- and hey, if guys don’t want to play kit that’s cool- HOWEVER- I distinctly remember my first impression of this guy. I walked in to the main auditorium for my first lesson, and Jim T. was sitting at the drum set “playing”. I SERIOUSLY thought he was kidding. Really. I slowly realized that HE WAS ACTUALLY PLAYING at his ability. Now remember- I’m a stupid terrified 18 year old kid and what I’m hearing is astonishing. To call his playing CAUCASIAN would be an insult to ELMER’S GLUE and WHITE OUT. (I’m not sure what that means…) Now again- Jim T. NEVER claimed to be a drum set player- but think about it: Here I am – it’s my first week of college- I’m psyched but so nervous that I’m literally nauseous and I’ve come from a small high school where I was KING SHIT in the music department but I’m aware that I’m going to have my ASS handed to me at this excellent music school (that I STILL can’t believe has given me a scholarship) because ASS HANDING is what is SUPPOSED to happen in college and I want to just be BOWLED OVER by the level of EVERYTHING and I walk into my first lesson and I’M A BETTER DRUM SET PLAYER THAN MY TEACHER. [sound of balloon deflating]
OK. Cut to Three and a half years later. Jim T. has tried somewhat to teach me. I have tried at first to be taught. The relationship wasn’t working. It was kinda like a breakup when he told me he was going on tour, and that I’d have to work with his substitute. (I think I need to teach other people…it’s not you , it’s ME.) OK- fine. Whatever. By this point I was about as unmotivated as possible, and was aware that I probably wouldn’t graduate.
The last semester starts, and as per my current behavior, I blow off my first lesson with this “new teacher”. Well- Steve wouldn’t have any of it. He comes and finds me in the cafeteria and says somewhat sternly that we need to schedule a lesson and get started. Instead of being a dick about it, he joined me for lunch. We start talking about music, and Steve tells me that when he was in college he played in a Zappa ensemble.
ZOINKS! [Please picture Scooby Doo suddenly sitting up with ears pointed at the ceiling. Thanks.]
Well- we proceed to have a GREAT conversation about Zappa and his music. I schedule my lesson and we get to work. (After this amazing chat / lunch I said to myself: “ok Geo, you douche bag- WE DO NOT MISS LESSONS.”)
At our first meeting Steve took a look at what I was “planning” on doing for my recital (the material that Jim T. and I had picked out). After examining the pieces he said:
“This is all shit. Here’s what we’re going to do…”
Steve then picked out some challenging stuff (especially for someone that WASTED 3 and a half years of school…) and put me on a schedule. We had about 3 months to cram in 4 YEARS worth of percussing. NOW- Steve’s job description said he was required to give his percussion students one 60 minute lesson per week. He ended up giving me two to three hours A DAY up to 4 times a week. The guy did this because I think he saw that I had some potential, and that I had been somewhat gob-knobbed by my former teacher. (Years later I looked at Steve’s notes from those first few lessons, and therein he wrote about me: “…incredible amount of natural talent but LAZY and needs to be focused!” Bingo, doctor.)
Early on in our lessons, Steve sat down and played some drum set. Holy living fuck was he good! Ass: prepare to be kicked. Nice. PLUS he knew DEEP music theory and played piano and knew the chords to EVERY SONG WRITTEN in the last 250 years. No shit.
Well- 12 weeks later I had my recital and completed the requirement. The scuttle in the department was that there was no way I’d play the required types of pieces. Thanks to Steve- I did. Thanks to Steve I graduated. Thanks to Steve. Thanks.
SO- (this is one FUCK of a TANGENT)
After I graduated, it looked like Jim T. was NOT coming back to the department, and I IMPLORED AND BEGGED that Steve be hired, seeing as he was THE MOST TALENTED MOTHERFUCKER I had ever worked with or heard, and even though I would no longer be a student, the department needed a guy like this.
Funnily enough, Steve and I BOTH ended up working for the music department. Sort of. He got the Percussion chair on a sort of provisional basis, and I was going to be the Music Librarian on a provisional basis. (Both Jim T. and the guy that WAS running the library didn’t come back but hadn’t OFFICIALLY quit and there were some weird politics going on…) regardless- Steve and I realized that we both needed to be in Bethlehem. Steve lived in Wilkes Barre (about an hour from Moravian) and I was determined to not go back to Jersey. We sort of were talking to each other one day and thought- uh… wanna try and find a place? We seemed to get along, and figured that we’d be decent roommates.
So we found an AMAZING condo, and in August of ’93 moved in. (This place was HUGE and CHEAP and I remember that we told each other- “if we end up HATING one another, there’s enough room here that we can COMPLETELY ignore each other.” Needless to say that never happened. For years we were waiting for the catch as to why this great place was so inexpensive. I’m STILL waiting…) Continuing- The teacher student relationship changed VERY quickly (Steve’s only about 4 years older than me) and we both started working at Moravian. It was great. We’d walk to work in the morning, go home for lunch, walk back in the afternoon, hang out and perform in ensembles, and everyone absolutely thought we were gay. (It probably didn’t help that we joined the Lehigh Valley Gay Men’s Chorus… kidding.)
After four or so years of working at the college, the atmosphere of the school changed. I quit and started doing music full time, and Steve realized that he had no potential for tenure at the college, so he applied, and got a position at Armstrong Atlantic University in Savannah Georgia.
He subsequently met and married an incredible woman, and so far has THREE daughters.
He also subsequently got his doctorate and is now tenured. Dr. Steve!
Now, during our time here in Bethlehem (I still live in that very same HUGE-CHEAP condo by the way, just for geographical narrative) I could not have been closer to a person sharing the same genitals. (We kept one pair in a box… Bad joke. You know what I mean…) Steve and I really did become brothers and then… he moved. Is he still my best friend? Yes? I guess? Can you really STOP having, or CHANGE your best friend after the age of 12? I dunno… I DO know that we don’t talk to each other as nearly as much as you think we would- and that’s probably mostly my fault. When we do talk though, like with all incredible relationships, it’s as if little or no time has gone by. Ah well. The vagaries of adulthood.
AND NOW THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS LONG ASS POST…
So I called my best friend Steve yesterday…
to see how his holidays were and how New Years went, and how the kids are, and seeing as we hadn’t spoken since the summer I figured I’d give him a ring. As we were talking he told me that he was at a gig. He was preparing to go onstage, but had 20 minutes or so before his set. As we were chatting he suddenly stopped and told me that he was staring directly at a plaque on the wall that was from the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board. That’s right: GHRAB. I of course went to their site and found out that:
The Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board (GHRAB) promotes the educational use of Georgia’s documentary heritage by all its citizens, evaluates and improves the condition of records, encourages statewide planning for preservation and access to Georgia’s historical records, and advises the Secretary of State and the Georgia Archives on issues concerning records.
GHRAB works to ensure that Georgians of all ages are made aware of the significant historical records located statewide, enhances the preservation and care of these treasures, and improves the access that Georgians have to their records.
Well I’ll be.
While looking at it, Steve jokingly said that this PROVES that there’s a god (Steve’s as much of an atheist as I am…my brothah!) and we laughed and laughed in that condescending, a-moralistic, Christian-baby-butchering, meaningless universe, monkey evolved, no-need-to-be-good-to-each-other way we atheists do.