Saturday, December 9, 2006

The Shift

She sent me ten dollars. And a canister of homemade glazed pecans. The gesture is so huge, it defies parable. A My Space soul from the southeast whose every day is blessed by the site ‘o the celestial surf, took it upon herself to read, no not just read, feel the blogs. Nothing to do with Planet Rock or Planet RIP. A million dollar act of kindness. It’s nuts! No, pecans. I am a stranger to this woman. Yet she knows me better than I know myself. Know thyself. Those three words are inscribed at the Oracle of Delphi. It is the penultimate double whammy. She evoked The Secret: Law of attraction. Since we last connected, you and me in blog land, there has been a shift. No specifics required. Just know I’m cool and covered. Shooting a TV demo next week. Talk show. Them and me. Simple. Under a serious full moon, the stars are aligning.

House is on. It’s as good as anything parading itself around as network television. Sela Ward is the guest. You knew all along it had to be a chick. No man gets this twisted without the aid of the muse. I sat next to Sela on a flight to NYC during the Arista years. Business class days. She was so sweet. Classy. Stars do shine sometimes. I have had House moments. Dark, despairing. Disgustingly beautiful. I’ve lost count. All the women partook in the futile adventure of excavating yours truly from his illusions. It is spiritually comical. Today, I proclaim homey don’t play that no ‘mo.

House is in constant pain. The physical manifestation mirrors the psychic. He pops Vicodins the way Dimebag used to shoot Crown. But Dime was happy. House is not. I am not. Or least was not. Carmen Elektra is putt putt golfing through a ceramic Buddha. Power of Now Carmen. Where were the writer and the Applegate Sunday afternoon? Marching around the castle on the green carpet in the ‘old hood. Putt putting about in the so Cal sun, dumb day, fun day, Valley day. Post a cole slaw and cheese dog from the eternal Weiner Factory. Back in the 70s, rocker dude proprietor named Steve used to deal ludes through the side window o’ the WF. My brother worked across the parking lot at Valley Beverage, delivering cases of beer nightly to Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers who lived a few blocks south on Valley Vista. I was employed by the UCLA Registrar’s office delivering grades to kids at Widow A. I told you in the book, I was clueless when I graduated. But the gig was not without its perks. Like the transcripts, for instance.

The conversation was overheard one day while I was xeroxing documents. “You know, downstairs in the archives,” someone said, “are the transcripts of every student that’s ever attended UCLA, all the way back to the 1930s.” Guess who was hanging around one of the four original buildings of the Westwood campus back then? Henry Miller. He befriended the then librarian, Lawrence Powell. The ghosts are many and oft times magnificent. “Transcripts?”

One day, I’m feeling inquisitive. It’s like one of those X-Files vaults. Endless and dark, row upon row of dusty, yellow, fragile folders. And inside those folders, road maps back to the source. I did a little research. These are the transcripts I found and photo copies: Francis Ford Coppola. There was a line denoting, ‘Where the Boys Are,’ a student film that would be viewed far beyond the student body. The finest all-girl collection is Vivid’s Where the Girls Aren’t. But let’s stay on path here.

Carlos Castaneda. I wasn’t of the mind back then so I didn’t pay attention. Didn’t discover the mystical Bruin until the spring of ’98, Don Juan Matus and later, the book on tape of The Active Side of Infinity. A sorcerer? A hippie? Who the fuck really knows? Geoff Tate wrote his Harley from Seattle to the Yucatan in 2003. Sojourns like that require authentic inspiration. God leads you to it, God leads you through it. Judy showed me that sentence today.

Carole Burnett. The legendary comic, heir to the Lucy Ball visual clown thrown. I can’t remember anything about that one except that I saw it. But the only one I still have a copy of is Jim Morrison. The shitty grades, the bad attendance. The reluctant rock star report card. You can’t read the copy that well anymore. It’s been a lot of places the past quarter century. But it’s priceless. I had to sell some memorabilia when I left Vegas to finance my return to angel city. Never gave unloading the J-file an instant’s thought.

How is it all connected? Just pay attention. Like what Nick Nolte says in Way of the Peaceful Warrior. “There is never NOTHING happening.” In meditation, you’re captivated by the invisible dance of molecules and atoms. House is talking about death. Death has been the topic of conversation on the ride and to and from school the past couple days. Megan knew the 17-year-old boy who died during Mr. Prison Break’s odd evening out with the kids. “Everyone liked him. I saw him two weeks ago. It’s not fair. The whole school left their classes at the same time today and met out on the lawn.”

It’s tough to swallow but that doesn’t stop me from saying it. “Meg, these are the times that make the least sense. But you must understand that his time was up.” Six years ago, I was playing golf at Hillcrest Country Club with an agent friend from William Morris and a TV director. A month after the round, the director’s son is in the news for running down some kids in San Diego. Drunk. Wasted. Like Castaneda? Sitting in silence and evaluating the Universe and its myriad questions is a reverent act. Being fucked up and manning a two-ton motor vehicle is not.

Do we forgive? Yes. We must. It’s a bitch. Ask the parents of Meg’s friend if they’re TiVo’ing Prison Break this week? The mass media is bombarding us with challenges. Danny DeVito, Foley, Kramer, Gibson. Modern satirist supreme, Harry Shearer, has a segment on his Sunday Le Show program called ‘Apologies of the Week,’ that opens to the strains of McCartney’s “We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert.” God I loved that song when it was released. It shifts, mid tune. Like Elton’s Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding. Or Clapton’s Layla. Or GN’R’s November Rain. No man is unflawed, regardless of socioeconomic standing. Harry pokes fun at those who fucked up and are now remorseful. He evaluates the sincerity of said remorse and pontificates accordingly. OJ still hasn’t said he’s sorry so fuck him and his cancelled Fox TV mistake. House and Jack Bauer. Give me the heroes, not the boobs of the tube. Did I tell you I met Kiefer last week? Gave him my book. He and Jude Cole have an indie record label called Ironworks Records. Their first signing is the honey voiced Canadian balladeer, Ron Sexsmith, who I just happened to work with back in ’99 at Interscope. A gentle man with a gift. Connected we are like the threads on a galactic spider web. See all, feel all, be all, free all.

“I’m about to go into cardiac arrest,” cries House. He knows thy self. His wit is dry, his genius perverted, his reality distorted. Behold a modern media fictional character in constant anguish. But a man of truth. So Dostoyevsky. What’s it like on the other side? We’re free to hypothesize. Technicolor, pain free, Disney animated and Rumi anointed. Pain. It’s in the head. Judy smashed her finger in the car door today. Ten seconds after the slam, she was staring at the digit now growing in size by the millisecond and starts smiling. Reminded me of that night Carrie Ann sliced her finger while chopping veggies. Was like a Monty Python scene over the sink. “It’s just a flesh wound!” We’re sitting in the Henderson Emergency room and she starts giggling. “I’ve worked on the energy. There’s really no pain.”

Healing is a choice. Living is a choice. So is dying. The other side, the ‘active’ side? Carl Sagan knew. Joseph Cambell knew. The Yogis knew. “Die while alive,” they urged. Cross over, get a glimpse, and lodge it deep in your corporeal memory banks. For that image, that realization, that epiphany is the key to everlasting grooviness. It’s the Dave Gilmour guitar solo that never ends. Gratitude, observed the Dalai Lama, is the only true meditation. And medication. We are a sick race. Critical but not terminal. And the cure is really cheap. Ten bucks. Nuts.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Grassy Knoll

Note: The following two pieces were written in November 2002, the first while on an two-day assignment to interview Ronnie James Dio for the liner note of Dio: The Anthology; the second a week later. On the evening of 11/22/02, Dio performed at a local club. I was joined by local rockers and old friends, Dime Bag Darrell and Vinnie Paul as well as Alice in Chains guitarist, Jerry Cantrell. We finished the long, crazy night at The Clubhouse, the gentlemen’s club owned by the Pantera brothers. It was the last time I saw Dime alive. While on that brief but memorable sojourn, my oldest friend, Mark, rang my cell phone to tell me that his father, Morrie, had died.

The Grassy Knoll

I’m sitting at Ground Zero. The first Ground Zero.

A butterfly the size of Mothra is fluttering inside my belly. I can’t be sure that I’m even really here. I feel like a retarded child who’s wandered away from the safe haven of his protective parents. I always feel that way when I’m in the midst of a serendipitous adventure. The mystery controls the television picture. Do not attempt to sharpen the focus. This is reality TV. And I am your on the spot correspondent.

It’s a sunny day in Dallas, Texas. And I’m sitting on the Grassy Knoll, twenty feet from the X on the blacktop at the end of Elm Street denoting the exact spot where the skull, brains, hopes, dreams and sanity of humanity were splattered onto the pavement 39 years ago today. It is sheer synchronicity that brings me here today. An overnight rock n’ roll journalistic endeavor, like the hundreds I’ve experienced before, put together in haste over the past several days. It was decided that Dallas would be the city for the interview so I said, cool, and arrangements were made and off I went. Then yesterday, before I left Los Angeles, I saw the item online. November 22nd, the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In Dallas. I’m going to Dallas. Go fuckin’ figure.

There are a couple hundred people at eyeball estimating milling about the white concrete memorial located opposite the grassy knoll, on the other side of the road. The entrance to Interstate 30 just a few feet away. Had the motorcade reached the highway, a couple seconds more, he would have been off and safe and history wouldn’t have changed and we’d be okay. Or would we? Meditating in this spot two years ago, I remember intense feelings of sorrow and despair, not for me, but for everyone. When you close your eyes and focus on the place you’re at, your mind can do carnival tricks the likes of which the non-meditative psyche can imagine. I’ve felt the Druids at Stonehenge, Quasimodo at Notre Dame, the elders in Santa Fe, Bono at Joshua Tree, Ray Davies on the Waterloo Bridge in London, Elvis at Graceland and the Armageddon screams of Twin Tower Wall Street.

November 22, 1963, right here, right now. Feel it, let the event that altered the world settle into the bowels of your consciousness. Don’t intellectualize, that will corrupt the sensation. Just feel it. Let me tell you what I see through the laser vision clarity of my third eye. It’s a sunny day, much like today. Cool, breezy, a typical Texas November morning. There are people crowded around the area, lots of folks, good folks of disparate color, creed and social configuration. They’ve come to see the President. He’s going be cruising by here in a few moments. There’s a buzz in the air, crackling chatter. How often do you get a glimpse of the most powerful man in the world?

His name is Ernest Brandt. He’s a white-haired, chipper little man with a black derby atop his 76 -year -old head. Carrying a scrapbook about the plaza, he chortles with visitors, conspiracy buffs, curiosity seekers, teenyboppers, tourists, natives, Texans and closest terrorists. “That’s me, right there,” he points to a photograph showing the car carrying the President, the first lady and Governor John Connelly. The motorcade is ten feet in front of Ernest, on the curb, watching the parade.

“I heard the first shot and saw the President grab his throat,” he bristled, much to delight of the two, round- bellied Chicago-born onlookers, who’d just come from the tour of the 6th Floor Book Depository. One of the on staff guides was on a break and came down to visit with Ernest. He’s here every year, along with a half dozen other surviving witnesses. Most are dead, however, according to Ernest. “When I heard the shot, I got scared and ran behind that tree.” We all know the tree. It was in Stone’s film and documentaries galore about the assassination.

A toasty discussion of Lee Harvey Oswald ensues where one lady, a 30 something Air Force employee from San Antonio, proclaims her diligent support of the theory that our government was involved. She brings up Oswald’s wife, Russia, and other fascinating things we’ve all heard before but love hearing again. And why not? This is the greatest unsolved crime in the history of modern civilization; makes OJ and Jon Benet Ramsey look like bad episodes of Law and Order. Excuse me, the Warren Commission Report? To quote the late, great John Candy from the immortal film Planes, Trains and Automobiles, “And if I told you Wolverines made good house pets, would you believe that, too?”

“Did you see Oliver Stone’s, JFK?” I asked. “No I didn’t,” Ernest answered succinctly. “I didn’t want to. Heard it was a bunch of little truths mixed up with a lot of Hollywood fairy tales and wild speculation.” The Chicago boys agree. “Yeah, that film was too out there,” they add. A heated debate on the much-maligned single bullet theory transpires as Ernest flips out black Xerox numbered frames of the Zabruder film. I, for one, can swim around in Stone’s theatrical speculation and feel clean as a newborn pup. The Donald Sutherland ‘deep throat’ scene alone I could watch over and over. It’s so deliciously scandalous and absurd yet to an old, rebellious hippie like myself, entirely believable.

I scan the horizon and see the buildings immortalized by media and Hollywood. The theories and explanations have ranged from wild to precise, organically credible to interstellar impossible. But isn’t that exactly what November 23, 1963 was? Right there, beyond the grass that fronts Dealey Plaza, the bullets flew, the battle engaged. Soon, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy would hit the casualty list. And in coming decades, the Descent of Man played out from Mother Earth’s stem to stern. The righteous and extremists cried ‘foul’ and skulked into their dungeons to map out the Apocalypse. From Kent State to the Middle East, inflexible minds converged and the result was death and destruction. Was and still is.

Look where we are today. Read your newspaper, flip on NPR, embrace your AOL home page (if you can get past the crap their trying to SELL you) and what do you see? The world is an escalating bonfire of greed, hate, anger, territorial inflexibility, religious toxicity, cultural erosion in the form of boy bands, misogynistic television, tit -happy magazines, corporate scandals, loss profits, sickness, disease, stupidity, implants, plastic plants, nuclear power plants and endless socio-political rants that hurt rather than heal, steal rather than congeal, reel rather than feel.

The bullets that flew on this spot 39 years ago shattered the brainstem of humanity. Whether they or we murdered JFK or together in diabolical concert, it doesn’t matter. On that day, he died and the dream died with him. Here was the man who challenged technology to put us on the Moon before the end of the decade. And technology was so inspired that in July of that tumultuous decade’s final year -- six ticks of the calendar after the man who prophesized the day was laid to rest under an eternal flame -- we made that small step for man. But that leap has proven to be far from giant. On the contrary, we’ve instead slunk into a sad, pathetic stumble. Without Tom Hanks, we’d have no space program at all. We’ve chosen rather to spend billions on war and pennies on peace. And beyond the fiscal dementia of this unconscious agenda, no leader has emerged since Kennedy with the balls to stare down that scolding, rising, blazing pyre of flame and say, “No! You will not get another ounce of kerosene.” Clinton came close but his time ran out. Since then, it’s been Camelot for the Evil Doers.

Veteran black actor/singer Carl Anderson played Judas in the original Jesus Christ Superstar. He has, uh, resurrected that role with my old friend, Sebastian Bach from the 80s hard rock band, Skid Row, and more recently, bravura run on Broadway in Jeckyl and Hyde. Now donning a crown of thorns above his still stately metal mane, the devil boy shakes hands with God, and the performance is quite remarkable. So is the chemistry between Christ and Judah, on stage and off. Carl is 60 years old, an engaging spiritual man who possesses remarkable insights into the human condition. In Sebastian’s dressing room last weekend post show in the quiet suburb of La Mirada, California, our eyes and soul connected.

“If Arafat would leave his compound and walk directly to Ariel Sharon’s headquarters and put out his hand and say, ‘Come, let us walk together, across OUR land, for peace,’ the people would follow.” Carl believes that. I commented that perhaps one or both would be assassinated during the Forrest Gum-like pilgrimage but he said “No, not if they walked together. Close together, speaking with one voice, one message: Stop the killing and start the living.” Christ, Moses, Gandhi and the Dalai Lama all rolled up into one. It’s courageous; yes, a profile in courage, that was Kennedy. If Jack were here, post 9/11, what would he do? We get cues from his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis but it is historical apples and oranges and the argument is pointless.

After the Towers fell, George Bush galvanized the country, but only for an instant. He is not courageous but vengeful, a sign of extremely weak character. The Republican party of pit bulls are beating the drums of war, pissing on the constitution and terrorizing the public with relentless Saddam-ing misinformation and fear driven rhetoric designed to divide not unite, conquer not connect, eliminate not enlighten. Osama is the Devil? Perhaps. But is GW God? Try and feed that to the MTV generation.

The crowd is growing. It’s almost like they’re waiting for something to happen. Cameras are snapping at the famous ‘spots’ landmarks where time is forever frozen. A large-assed lady with a Missouri college tee shirt darts out into the middle of the road so her hubby can snap a quick shot of her standing behind the ‘X.’ Others just gaze outward, psychically awaiting the ghost mobile to pass by. The highway to hell has been repaved in the past 40 years but the X still marks the spot, as does a plaque, placed there by the National Park Service, a division of the Department of the Interior in 1993. Small and unassuming, it’s laid into the grass bordering the sidewalk at the street side of the Plaza and it reads as follows:

Dealey Plaza has been designated a national historic landmark. This site possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America.

A solo bouquet of flowers sits atop the one by two foot bronze slab accompanied by a photograph of JFK with a the hand-scripted note, “We will always love you.” I wonder why so insignificant a memorial. Maybe the place itself is memorial enough. It must be strange for the community – thousands of whom pass this way each and every day – not to think about what took place here. They probably don’t, not anymore. But today, well, today, even the locals giddy over the Dallas Mavericks amazing start to the 2002 NBA season or what the point spread is on Sunday’s Cowboys game (remember when they were ‘America’s Team?’), today, history is on everyone’s mind. Dallas, 1963 plus 39. Blue sky, same temperature, even a Friday. “Tranquility Base, can you hear me?”

An old black Buick convertible passes by, young men in the car wave gleefully at the crowd. Is it disrespectful? I’m not sure how accurate I’m processing the images that are flooding into me right now. On my walk from the Aristocrat Hotel ten blocks from here, it hit me that JFK was killed and two months later, the Beatles landed on US soil. I was seven years old but I recall both events, the latter more clearly than the former. Baby boomers should all document that time for their children and their children’s children. This generation has 9/11 but where are the new Beatles? Where’s the balance? Who is going to save our offspring?

I close up my computer; real time reportage over. On the stroll back down Elm Street, past umpteen workplaces and eateries – like the famous Smokehouse BBQ opened, as the sign says, since 1910 – I stop at the light at Stone Street. A brown UPS truck is making a left turn in front of me, facing my way. As he passes, his engine backfires, resonating like gunfire. It’s freaky. Heads turn, startled. Then, as he’s crawling down the street away from the intersection, another loud blast. Two shots. And then, one more, as he disappears into traffic.

I look around to see if anyone is pulsed. No reaction, not anywhere. But your cosmic narrator can’t help but think that from beyond the pale or the grail or the frail fabric of time and space, a message was being sent, laser guided to a lone star gazer in the lone star state on a lonely day in November, 2002. And I shouted out, “Who killed the Kennedys?” “Well after all,” came the voice from the sky, “It was you and me!” Talk about eaves dropping…

Lonn Friend
With Sympathy

Tuesday with Morrie

Tuesday with Morrie

"It was only one hour ago, it was all so different then
Nothing yet has really sunk in, looks like it always did
This flesh and bone, it's just the way that we are tied in
But there's no-one home."

--"I Grieve" by Peter Gabriel

Today is Tuesday. Today, we laid Morrie to rest. Today, a thousand suns in a thousand galaxies could not match the light radiated in the words of a son to a father. Today I'm not afraid to write. Today the Universe is just and fair. Today there is balance, definition, clarity and communion. Today is Morrie's day.

'Tis a maddening time. The voice within is yapping 24/7, spouting off to anyone and everyone who'll listen, least of whom is ME. Henry Miller said that he got down about a 'tenth on paper of what was going on inside that unfathomable, endlessly enlightening noggin. Henry's realized deca-slice filled more volumes than the finest dozen American authors combined. I mean, if the Master only got down a smidgen, where does that leave hacks like us?

Guru Singh was telling us in class last night to stay away from the turkey. "The turkey represents unfulfilled potential." A hundred sets of open eyeballs, spreading souls and expanding limbs waited with baited breath for the punch line. "The turkey is a bird that can't fly," he said with that wicked, wise and slightly wily grin, the gray whiskers pointing south off his chin slightly aquiver. "How much more unrealized can you get than that?" If we eat that bird, we're feeding our inability to elevate. Remember the classic Woody Allen line about God being an underachiever? We're all underachievers, except, well, folks like Henry and Woody and, oh yeah, the Guru.

I bought it because it made spiritual sense. That's the only sense I comprehend these days. I get lost when the discussion involves deals, numbers, dollars, things, idiots or politicians. I'm right there, in the present, when the babble's battling fear, doubt, inflexibility, art, music, God or awareness (which is redundant. See how fucking sharp I am?). The angels floating into my airspace right now have the widest wingspan of any such creatures I've ever experienced. Fuck the turkeys. You wanna fly, just wake up and turn your eyes skyward.

Goddesses aplenty, Clooney's si-reens are singin' sweet. Oh brother, I know where out thou sister and she rocks. Why haven't I communicated lately? I haven't put a word out into the ether in ten weeks. The reason for this change of course is not quite clear, not even to me. Let's see. Here's how I've rationalized the behavior, to myself first and then to whoever will listen and affirm whatever it is the fuck I'm doing or not doing. "I felt Breath of Fire served its purpose." Not bad. "I gave my words away for two years. Not a dime was earned, so I'm keeping the prose close to the bone." Lame, even though several close compatriots nodded their head in agreement. When you lead by nature, heads tend to bob. That's not a narcissistic statement. It's just the truth.

I've watched others plaster the landscape with their virtual billboards. I just don't care to spread toxic rhetoric, however well intentioned. You see, that's why we're where we are: in the darkest moment of the darkest time in human history. Of course, no one will be able to prove this statement for several hundred years so you have to take it on faith that's it true. I have. That's why I just don't give a fuck anymore about the lies or the bullshit or the assholes and fools devoted to furthering their own lot at the cost of others, building their castles on the backs of authenticity, or spreading the disease of misinformation devoted to some ridiculous assumption that you are any better than me or I, you.

I took my wife and daughter to a funeral today. Mark's father died. When we were kids, Mark's father was my second father, because my first dad and first and only mom (the mold was shattered, trust me), divorced when I was eight. That's when Mark and I me, in 3rd grade, Chandler Elementary, Sherman Oaks, California. After school in the mid 60s, I'd come over to his house and we'd watch Leave it to Beaver. Hell, we were Leave it to Beaver. Mark's older brother, Steve, WAS Tony Dow. And Steve's best friend, John, was Eddie Haskell. And Mark's mom? Let me introduce you to the real Barbara Billingsly, forever married, forever loyal, forever beautiful.

One year ago, almost to the day, they buried my other best friend Peter's father, Rabbi Weiss. I retuned to the same location of internment -- Eden Mortuary -- in San Fernando, near the mountain, on a hill, close to God. The day the Rabbi was sent off to preach his wisdom and beauty on high was much like today; azure blue, windy, very windy, and extremely dry. If you were here with me last December, you recall the piece titled, Father and Son, about the Rabbi and my third childhood pal, Neal, and his father's passing within a week of Rabbi Weiss. The title was inspired by the Peter Gabriel track from Ovo, a musical love note to a departed patriarch.

I wrote about Mark last year, too. He's the Dead Head, stoner PhD who brought 50 demos back from his nine- year exile to Honolulu where he became a doctor and an island minstrel. He and his (Hawaiian for brother) laid down tunes so sweet, you could taste the melodies all the way to Maui. They called it 'porch rock," under the moniker, Deer in the Headlights. I told Mark I was getting him a record deal this year but it didn't happen and I didn't really understand why until today; until this most exceptional mind, man and spirit, and lest I forget SON -- delivered a eulogy devoid of script and swollen with love. I was blaming myself, my laziness, whatever. One properly placed phone call and it's a done deal. We both knew that.

How blazing is the truth when it slaps you in that third eye? Mark belonged with his father this year and God made certain nothing and no one was gonna fuck with that. And if I may delve just a bit deeper and closer to home, Mark belonged with me this year, because every time he made the trip down from his home in San Francisco to be with his parents during 2002's vigil of pain, he stayed with me, in my guest house. And those nights, those incredible, soul searching, revealing, musical, hysterical, intoxicating, liberating, humiliating nights, they took us from lifelong friends to eternal brothers. The bond is so strong, each man would take a bullet for the other, gladly, with a smile and an inside joke.

Mark came over to my house some evenings after the most enduring days with his dad the details of which are personal and serve no purpose save glorification. And I'm not into that. You're just going to have to take my word for this stuff, and of course, I know you do. So let's move on, shall we? It's always been his delivery. He's the most natural dry comic I've ever known and I've known several, guys who make a living at it. But Mark doesn't make a living at anything except being, which is why he is my greatest hero. He affirms every move I make that doesn't conform. He can quote Henry for hours because he's had a twenty-year head start on me. Henry sent Mark to motorcycle across America at age 18 and to backpack with the Tibetan Sherpas at 20. And he gets where Henry has sent me, my journey, the words and the examination of the human condition.

Morrie Henteleff was a giant of a man. His stature was large, but his heart was larger. I never saw him mad or worried, not once, not ever. He was the epitome of self-made and he took care of his three sons, especially Mark, because he was the one who never figured it out. I know that's why my dad, the piano man, Don Friend, has always kept a special eye on me. God, I'm so glad I've still got my pop. I called him after Mark called me and delivered the news about Morrie. Just calling your parents when they're approaching twilight holds great power. You don't have to say anything. It's the gesture that forces the cup to runneth over.

My bizarre life had me sitting at Dealey Plaza in Dallas on the 39th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination when my cell phone rang. "Hey, man, it's my dad. He died last night." In 24 hours, I'd meditated twice at the sight of modern civilization's first Ground Zero and written 3,000 words about it; spent three hours talking to a man named Dio about his incredible career, reconnected with metal's Cowboys from Hell (look it up) to the tune of tequila and unclad dancers, had a close encounter of the angel kind, and now this. Emotional Armageddon or simple divinity at work? You decide. I've no clue.

I spent a weekend with Mark in San Francisco a few months ago when I was asked to speak at a Metallica fan convention. I made the trek up Highway One, paying a visit to the Miller Library in Big Sur on the route North. Mark and I met these two extraordinary girls at the event that was great fun. I love public speaking, especially to captive audiences, like the ones cultivated during the RIP Magazine years. Two sisters from Kansas City, Missouri, a Thelma and Louise scenario of escape and change at the hands of desperation and despair. Bad marriages, children left behind and an archetype devotion to their favorite band brought them to the West Coast for inspiration and perhaps, a miracle.

They drove a beat up van that should have never made it past Texas, had pennies in their pockets but a will and drive that they believed would take them to the convention and afterwards, to a new home in a place they'd scouted would welcome their weary, wounded spirits. Mark and I took them to see the Ocean from a breathtaking spot five minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. They'd never seen the Pacific. Upon first glance, their expressions mirrored those of Spielberg white light alien inspired awe. Then we took them to Haight Ashbury to show them where it all began, the summer of love, Jerry, tie-dye, bongs, gongs and throngs of peace and orgasm makers, changing the world, alerting the Devil.

We took them to the cheapest (and best) Mexican taco stand in the Bay and they confessed they'd never eaten Mexican food. Who are the aliens, now? The entire weekend, Mark and I were conscious of the fact that we were performing what the Jews call a "mitzvoth" or blessing but when the shift took place and perspective was heightened, we really lost it. One sister lives in constant pain from a chronic and incurable condition that involved her passing a cyst every week or two. It is absolutely hideous but she refused to be defeated. The night she described the ordeal, Mark and I understood it was we who were being blessed. Look at what these barely 30- year- old scar ship troopers have endured and how positive they remain about the future. What the fuck are we complaining about? We knew the lesson was there, in God script, but the internalization of such was still months in the offing.

Who are your reflections? Who tells you with their darkness how radiant burns the light? Who is the keeper of your humble reference point in time and space? Who is your teacher? Who is your student? Who uses the word 'synchronicity?' Who approaches their spirituality with reverence rather than lip service? Who has, as Henry would say, given up the ghost? Who is Satan? Who is God? Who are YOU? Who among you is a father?

I stopped communicating in mass but I never stopped writing. Privately, I've disseminated a hundred thousand words either in structured (well, semi structured) composition or passionate email. I take this medium very seriously for it has become my own blood of Eden, connective tissue, sharing of breath. Peter Gabriel's first solo date in nearly a decade took place earlier this month in Chicago. I was there. I had to be. I'd been there since day one. Thanks to Bob Ezrin -- my kindred spirit and second tier Shaman (he knows well of the Guru for some time) -- I had an audience with the angel Gabriel after his resounding UP tour debut.

"It's an honor to witness the resurrection," I said to the artist surpassed only the Beatles in personal historical adulation. "I've read your epistles, Lonn," he said, "And rather enjoy them." I was taken aback. "Epistles?" I said. "Rants." We sat and spoke of the comeback, the toys on stage, his daughter Melanie, now in the Secret World Paula Cole vocal shoes. He was not the untouchable, deified Gabriel of yesteryear. He was earthen, mortal, funny, sweet, sensitive, brilliant, disarming; he was just like his performance. "It's so important to rock n' roll that you're out there performing again," I said as we strolled the hallway. "I've written 5,000 words about UP already but it's not even close," I said. He smiled. We parted. I floated.

It doesn't concern me anymore that my writing loses focus or takes unexpected off ramps. What I've learned from Miller is to regale in the stream, ride the wave of recollection, purge and pontificate as the words pass through you and seek neither rhyme nor reason. What commenced as a eulogy was never a eulogy at all. What ends as an anecdote was never an anecdote at all. He who finds something, anything 'neath the folds of my unveilings, that affirms or connects something, anything inside themselves TO themselves, behold then the angel unmasked.

I will not eat turkey this Thursday but I will give thanks for everything; every molecule that constructs every brick, bug, bad boy, bitch, brother and beanstalk. Be it ever so humble, there's no place like awake. Morrie, you rocked. Kick back in that cloud-built Lazy Boy recliner and enjoy your eternal reward. And don't worry about Mark. I got it covered. You took care of that, too, yes you did.

Lonn Friend
Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Monday, November 20, 2006

Faith, Glory and Medicine for the Masses: Bon Jovi Blows Away the Windy City

Friends…six years ago tonight, I witnessed a band determined to reclaim their seat atop the rock throne with fury and vengeance. Little did I know the evening’s performance would prove to not only be one of the most uplifting and inspiring I’d ever lay eyes on, but would change my life in ways I never thought possible. Bon Jovi took their blue collar work ethic to a higher plane on that night, however it was a close encounter with a veteran journalist that would prove to be truly life changing.

There he stood- like a battle torn warrior, looking like some kind of mythic figure in the flesh. You know, the guy who had his mug on the Editor’s page of RIP Magazine, the guy from Headbangers Ball, and the dude from “Behind the Music”. Standing mere feet in front of me was the one and only Lonn Friend. He had a beard and was wearing an Anthrax jacket…just like you would imagine back in 1993. At the time, I was too intimidated to go up and introduce myself…for the time being. A month later, a good friend asked me if I had seen the review Lonn wrote about the Chicago Bon Jovi show. I said “no” and she appropriately forwarded it to me. Lonn’s recollection of the evening was beyond inspiring…it was divine. Bon Jovi is a band whom I felt the mainstream press never truly got. Sure they give them nice pats on the back when needed, but the article Lonn wrote not only got it, but he elevated their music and performance to legendary status in less than two-pages. As a result of finding the article,I wrote to him and over time, a friendship was born.

A few years down the road, I began to help Lonn amass his first book, ”Life on Planet Rock”. In the course of a few years, I read approximately 2,500 pages of Lonn’s compositions. I helped him shape, proof and fact check this into the 300 cohesive pages which can now be found in bookstores. However, these 300 pages are just the tip of the iceberg. While the core story of his life encompasses “Life on Planet Rock” there were a lot of “outtakes” that did not make the final cut. Many of his finest interviews, fly on the wall moments and writings had to be excised for clarity and content. The goal of this blog is to give these writings a proper home.

The first composition we will share is one that has sentimental meaning to me. It’s the Bon Jovi piece which inspired me to write to Lonn six years ago. Upon reading this review all those years ago, I felt it rivaled Jon Landau’s article on Bruce Springsteen from 1974 heralding Bruce as “the future of Rock N’ Roll”. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an piece of writing on rock that defined who Bon Jovi is better than this piece. The Bon Jovi chapter went through what seemed like a hundred versions and in truth, Lonn had an entire book just on the Jersey Brotherhood, but most of it (some of the best things he’s ever written) were cut out. I hope you all enjoy what is hopefully the first of many "from the vault" articles.

Anthony Kuzminski
November 20, 2006

Faith, Glory and Medicine for the Masses: Bon Jovi Blows Away the Windy City
By Lonn Friend

I've seen a million faces an I've rocked them all

I was standing in the backstage hallway of the Allstate Arena when the lights went down. Instantly, the 17,000 sold out faithful exploded into a thunderous din the likes of which I hadn't heard in years. As the band poured out of the dressing room to my left and headed for the stage, Jon Bon Jovi altered his course and grabbed my arm. "Lonn, go out to the front of the house!" he yelled in my ear at a volume barely audible above the hurricane crash shaking the massive room from the side to side. "You have to see the opening! Go!" With a high five from Richie, Dave, Tico and Hugh (McDonald, bassist), I dashed around stage right and battled my way to the sound board as the massive video screens extending the length of the performing platform high overhead lit up with images of the band members in varied behind the scenes wide-angle poses. As the camera follows their elevator ride to the stage, each Jersey boy mugs for the lens in a "pre-game mug" while the crowd reacts wildly to their faces with ascending explosive roar, crescendoed by Jon, smiling that disarming, street -born-rocker -done -good smile. The elevator doors open onto the stage and out walks Bon Jovi, alive, extremely well, and holding a secret they will shortly reveal to every single human body in the room over the two and a quarter hours: TONIGHT WILL BE AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

Vaulting into an exhilarating "One Wild Night," notice is served early that the five years the band's been away from the American road has spawned a magnificent hunger in not just the fans whose '80s/'90s support drove their multi -platinum star a mile or two past Alpha Centauri, but in the guys themselves. What isn't widely known across our great land is that the rest of the world -- namely Europe and Asia - have never blinked in their support of Bon Jovi and continue to pour out to stadiums in droves with an almost religious dedication no other band in the world except perhaps the Stones and Metallica can touch. Last month, they destroyed Wembly Stadium's 80,000 strong in what both press and public called one of the most awesome live rock events in U.K. history. As "Night" segued into the first classic of the evening, "You Give Love a Bad Name,"

I took off my Friend-of-the-band cap and began observing as the eternal, journalist/rock fan I've always been. What hit me instantly was the complete, almost mystical comfort the guys had with their instruments, their movement, and their performance. The comic book opus, "Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars" off the CD that resurrected Bon Jovi to the domestic commercial masses, Crush, brought Jon into interaction with the crowd and prepared the pulpit for the back to back uplifting anthems, "Faith" (wallpapered by some amazing, fast-cut political/spiritual images that married beautifully with the song) and "Living on a Prayer," a sing-a-long moment so splendid, I could not find a single set of jaws not flapping happily. The room was like a gargantuan campfire, one voice, one spirit, one helluva moment. Then came "Born to be my Baby" and the evening took on almost dreamlike qualities. They were five, but they were one. No, beyond that, they were 17,005, and they were one.

Bassist Hugh McDonald, who took over for Alec John Such during the Keep The Faith sessions, looks like he's always been in the band. His groove is tight, effortless, fluid. Drummer Tico Torres, the foundation on which the Bon Jovi building was constructed, has never hit 'em harder or with more confidence. He is passionate yet playful -- a bad-ass ballet of balance. Winding his keyboard textures around every melody, Dave Bryan's nimble fingers add the color to the black and white. His subtle yet articulate presence a joy for both eye and ear to behold. The set pulls back now for an acoustic "Runaway," the match that lit the Bon Jovi fire some 17 years ago. I note here that there are moments in the song where you can't even hear Jon's voice due to the volume in the building. The audience was almost Beatle-esque in their constant, unwavering mania. With surgical precision, the band then cut into Jon's solo classic, "Blaze of Glory," heightened to brave new levels by the players he knows best, a testimonial to the camaraderie once again shared most notably by Jon and Richie, whose "marriage" through the ages has been both rock solid and just plain rocky. Of this I speak as an insider, someone who's sat down at the Bon Jovi family table and broken bread many times since I first met them in the early RIP days on the New Jersey tour. Jon and Richie are the epitome of that rare and amazing frontman/guitar hero metaphor. They're strength and success has always come from the combination of their individual talents/energies: the synergy of the magnetic, superstar vocalist and the reserved, cool, soulful shredder. There was a time they battled for the same turf. No more. Wisdom gained from time and experience has fostered a mutual respect so strong, no outer or inner forces of evil can tear it apart. Richie Sambora is one of rock's great guitarists, both in his deftless picking and bigger than life onstage persona. He strikes the musician's pose with a humble confidence, sans pretense, never overshadowing the Man. Like Page, Perry, Richards, Slash, Edge…they complete the picture, occasionally stealing the show, but forever content with the on deck circle.

"It's My Life" soared out of "Blaze," an anthem of both resurrection and affirmation. For those in the "business" who - cloaked in their flavor of the moment "new" rock fa