August 21st, 2020

Just things, Music, Uncategorized

My first taste of Scotch was in the early 1980s when I was a stagehand at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

The Uptown was (and still is as far as I know) a beautiful old theatre. It was built in the 1920s and opened in 1928. It is adorned with balconies, columns, and a black ceiling with “stars” (lights) to emulate an outdoor nighttime setting. It was a movie house in the grand tradition and had a proscenium stage with big maroon velvet curtains. It was like many other theaters back then; some, like the many Fox Theatre venues still left in the country, were owned by the studios. It is a special place and holds a spot in my heart.

Back in those days the Uptown was a very busy place and was staging several shows a week. I had started there without any experience after losing my job in 1980 (given a job out of compassion by a big burly guy named Jimbo). I had earned my place as a regular on the crew through hard work and perseverance and worked many shows through both of my stints there (second run was in the late 80s in charge of the lighting rig and as house electrician).

The shows ran the spectrum – Toots and the Maytals, Johnny Rivers, Men at Work, A Flock of Seagulls, Nick Lowe, Steppenwolf, Jean Luc Ponty…and so many, many more. It was also the place I met and hung out briefly with Robin Williams. It was a great, intimate venue for a show.

One show in particular in the early 80s I got to have a conversation with a guy in one of the bands that came through. He was one of the nicest people I ever met when I was doing stage work. Between the years that have passed and, well, it WAS the 80s, I cannot remember the date or the two or maybe three acts that night; I narrowed it down to these bands: it could have been Dokken, Streets (Steve Walsh’s band after he left the band Kansas), or Strange Daze (a great Doors tribute band who I was asked to tour with in Europe but the tour unfortunately fell through), but I am thinking that it was Dio on his first solo tour after leaving Black Sabbath. Thinking back a little more in depth I think the other bands I mentioned were all together on another show there.

At sound check, the drummer for the opening act came up to me as I was standing off stage left near the monitor console and we started talking. Not like rock star talking, but as two guys just talking about topics now long forgotten (again, the 80s). I know from being around this type of work for several years and being on the road it’s nice to just have a conversation without the star struck condescension, and that’s what this was. Human interaction.

As a stagehand you pretty much know to be a wallflower. It’s unprofessional to be star struck; your job is to make the show happen and stay in the shadows. You would get a “how’s it going?” or an unsaid “thanks” sometimes via a nod or smile, but you don’t approach people. To have someone come up to you and strike up a conversation was very out of the norm. If you think about it they are surrounded by fame, drugs and people kissing their asses constantly – all leeches and posers. I would think just having a normal conversation with someone was not very common and something longed for those in the entertainment lifestyle.

He went onstage to do his sound check and came back by. We chatted a bit more and he asked me if I liked Chivas Regal. I said I don’t even know what that is. He said to me “It’s Scotch and when I come back for the show I’ll bring a bottle and we’ll have a toast!”. I said “Okay”, thinking it was “rock star talk”.

The doors open for the show and we are all putting on the final touches dressing the stage. I get back in position by the monitor console again, ready to run onstage during the concert to fix something if need be (as I had to do about 90 minutes later in the middle of the Dio show and during other shows).

The guy I was talking with earlier walks up to me, and sure as hell he had an unopened bottle of Chivas in hand. He cracks the seal and hands it to me. I give him a toast and a nod and take a big hit off of it. I hand it back to him. He gives me a toast and a nod and takes a big hit off of it, we smile and shake hands and he hits the stage with that bottle. They were on fire that night and had the crowd in their palms. They left and we passed each other, nodded and smiled and I told him “Great show!”. Since I was getting the stage ready for Dio I did not have time to talk.

The band was Quiet Riot. The guy’s name was Frankie Banali.

I write this story because Frankie lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. I had read articles lately about him being sick and it made me think about that special moment all those years ago.

I have read many tributes to him and everyone says he was such a nice guy. He really was a nice guy that night to some lowly stagehand.

Rest peacefully, Frankie, and thanks for the Chivas and the memory.

April 29th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

While doing the various things one does when getting ready to move a lot goes on in your mind – that constantly-changing mental checklist of things like shutting off your utilities, thinking about the logistics of getting from A to B, and changing insurance agents just to name a few. And then there are the other things like the insomnia. Most of you have moved at one point or another in your lives so you probably understand. I don’t stress about it much these days; this will be my 15th address change since 2012. It’s just another move to me.

However, one thing currently stands out well above the rest while getting ready to leave – the inability to see family and the friends I have made here the last 7 ½ years in person before I leave. And that’s the part that really sucks. With the ‘rona quarantine there will be no hugs, handshakes or tears; the tears will still be there, but it’s more out of frustration than from leaving. We all know that once we are able to do so we will be seeing each other again. I still plan on traveling as much as I can when I can and when it is safe to do so. With the internet it is easy to keep in touch several different ways so we will still keep in contact with each other.

Sometimes it is not easy to move away no matter how badly you want (or need) to leave, and other times it’s no big deal. I was numb and emotionless leaving Colorado that cool, dark, rainy morning. Heading off into a new life had me preoccupied and I was not thinking about leaving a place that made me fall in love with the outdoors and the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains.

There is the excitement and “that new car smell” of going to a new place with new people and experiences, be it for work or just because you want a change in your life. Some people deal with the uncertainties, and even embrace them. There are the others who dread it and decide to stay in their safe place and that is fine. Me, personally, I thrive on that unknown. I want and crave those new experiences and it is only one reason why I love travel so much.

I have certainly had more new, different and amazing experiences than I ever dreamed I would have in my life living in the Midwest, and I have had even more after moving to Colorado and then Washington. I won’t list them here as they are already written about, starting with the first blog entry I posted in 2012 (so by all means go back to Day 1 and have a look!). And the stories in these posts are just since 2012…there are countless other stories from a lot of other experiences before that and some of those are probably best left on a dusty shelf.

Some may look at these experiences and say “Boy, you’re so lucky”, while others say “WTF are you doing? I couldn’t do that.”. It’s not about luck. It’s about what YOU choose to do with your life. And if you say “I couldn’t do that” then no…you couldn’t handle it but it is because you don’t WANT it bad enough and prefer to play the game of life safe. That is all well and good since we all get to live the life we choose. I choose differently.

The lifestyle I have had since moving to WA is certainly not for everyone, and I could safely say it not for most people. It is not an easy lifestyle and there have been tough times without a doubt – a few extremely tough times. In the 80s I did some freelance stagelighting gigs getting work wherever and whenever I could find it. Just as it was then, it is sure not about getting rich…working in the outdoors is more about the freedom and experiences and a true passion for your job. You give up a “home” and security but the amount of freedom is amazing and worth the trade-off.

At one of the outdoor jobs I have had the last few years I heard someone say “we get paid in sunsets” and to me that is how it should be. It’s not about the money but unfortunately  it is what matters in the world. When you make a decision to get into this type of career you should fully understand the sacrifices you have to make to do what you love and be flexible enough to make it happen. For me it was not that difficult to “roll with it” since I had already lost my job and my house. I chose a new path, got rid of pretty much everything I owned, and hit the road for a new adventure. I didn’t let it get me down and I still don’t. Life marches onward whether you want to play or not so make it what YOU want.

It is exciting to think about this move and potentially ending up back in the place I love most (well, second to Ireland) – Colorado. With some variables to ponder in the future that may be later rather than sooner…but I will get back there. It is not that I dislike Washington, but I have never really felt that “magic” like I do in Colorado. I like the forests in the Rockies better because of the openness and not feeling “closed-in” when I go for a hike in the woods.

So now is the time to not look back at the latest fork in the trail but to instead look forward and head for the Rockies.

April 24th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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This is a stick-up; give me everything…well, except your coronavirus.

It has been a busy week – packing and storing stuff, doing some real cooking, cleaning, mowing…just nonstop festivities. My neighbor is going to work on the shower pan in my trailer and that’s about the last major thing needing to be done before loading up. My timetable for moving actually moved up a little yesterday so it will be happening sooner than planned.

I already have most everything packed up and ready to roll. Most of the things that aren’t I am still using, like kitchen stuff and clothes. I was going to take this weekend off but it looks like I will be not only packing more things but also mowing the grass since more rain is coming. I will also start moving whatever I can from the pantry into the trailer. It is nice to have the luxury of a little time so I do not have to rush but I won’t wait until the last minute. Need something to do!

Apparently it needs to rain a lot more. My truck is no longer white and allergies are at it en force again. The break from the rain is good, but the pollen needs to be disciplined and cleared out.

In preparation for the big move I have started getting utilities notified for shutting off in my name. Today I contacted my internet provider today to make arrangements to get my internet shut off. I went the online chat route and got a little crazy in the chat window.

At the bottom of the chat window it says “Type here”…so, being the smartass that I am, I typed “here” several times as you can see in the window below:

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Having a little fun…

Unfortunately, “Justin”, my alleged customer service dude, never took the bait. I tried though!

I reluctantly went to get groceries today (last time was three weeks ago I think…time is all a blur at this point) and people just don’t care – aisles are labeled one way and they just do what the hell they want. I’m fed up with stupid fucking arrogant Americans. I yelled at two people for being just that and potentially endangering others. I think I will start doing grocery pickup while I am still here since it is safer and just save myself the aggravation.

That’s about it for now.

April 22nd, 2020: A Fork in the Road…

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Travel, Uncategorized

I am leaving Washington.

Yeah, it’s another big move for me and now my furry sidekick. I put in my notice with the  landlord today and will be heading to Montana for a while. After that, possibly/probably back to Colorado to be more centrally located between all of my family.

Part of my being able to retire was I could travel and not have to pay rent anyplace (yes, I know it still costs to do that). I could take my time and see new places and things and revisit some old favorites (which is one of the big reasons I want to go back to Colorado). It meant I could save quite a bit of money actually. Travel can be expensive but I tend to live cheap and would rather stay in a campsite out in the forest than in a campground.

I actually considered moving back to Colorado a few years ago when my mom died. I considered moving there to be closer to my dad. I didn’t end up doing it since he seemed to be doing okay, but then he got sick, too.

I have blogged about the magic of Colorado before. I have missed it quite a bit and the very few times I have been back in the last 7 ½ years since I left brought back some great memories and made me realize how much I do miss being there. I will be able to visit family more and take care of things at the house when I can get back there. It’s a little frustrating I cannot go take care of some of it now but it’s okay. Things are not pressing at this time so it’s all good – hence the “possibly/probably” I mentioned earlier.

It finally rained today so I can see and breathe once again. Instead of yellow my truck is back to the white it was when it left the factory. The dog had fewer eye boogers today and my allergies were a little better…until I started to clean the house and kicked up the pollen. I made sure to work in small sections toward the air purifier I have so it could suck in the bad air. It helped tremendously to keep some of the dust and dirt down. Then I had to vacuum the couch, recliner, and rugs and wash the bedding to get rid of those pesky allergens.

In closing I will definitely miss Washington, however Colorado and the Rocky Mountains are where I feel most at home. In the time I have been up here I have met a lot of people, made some lifelong friends, got to do some incredible things and have amazing experiences the whole time starting on the very first day I moved up here. There has been the good but there has also been some agonizing heartbreak and pain, a motorcycle wreck, two surgeries, deeply personal loss, a couple of really shitty “human” beings and 13 addresses. It’s a bit sad for me to think about leaving…but it’s what I need to do. It has been great up here all in all but it’s time for a new and different road to travel to some new adventures.

So I’m doing it.

April 21st, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, Uncategorized

I really needed to do something different so I decided a few days ago to make a few changes to help myself get through staying at home better and easier. As a preface to this post, I am REALLY trying hard to keep my political opinions mine in this blog. I have to say it is sure as hell not easy given what is currently happening in this country.

First and foremost, I quit watching the news and haven’t watched the news for the last 3-4 days; in fact, during this time I have not even had the TV on until late at night and that was to watch a movie (and having some beautiful weather here has helped in many ways). There is entirely too much negativity and misinformation along with the political lies and bullshit. That alone has made me feel SO much better and has helped rid myself of the bad moods and given me more energy. I really suggest trying it to see if it helps you feel better.

Granted I still do get on the internet and do see things on there but I filter through said political lies and bullshit on there as well and don’t click on much news even on the ‘net. I am doing the things I am supposed to do (and much more) according to my state’s orders to stay healthy. I do pay attention to my local news to some extent so I am aware of what is going on close to home. As far as national politics I will be quite blunt –  I don’t fucking care.

Second, I am finding other more productive things to focus my energies on and spend time doing (other than mowing grass). I am looking at new recipes and making up a shopping list with new ingredients that I don’t have on hand (one recipe I really want is the cottage pie recipe from The Shack in Dublin, Ireland). I have an Instant Pot recipe magazine a friend sent me so I am looking through that along with some of the cookbooks I brought back from KS that my mom had.

I will be spending LOTS of time deep-cleaning my house starting tomorrow (supposed to rain so I will be in the house anyhoo) to get rid of the pollen that is all over everything in my house. It was so bad yesterday that I actually had to go inside – my nose plugged up and my eyes watered relentlessly just sitting outside enjoying the day. I am not looking forward to doing it but it has to be done and hopefully it will rain later today and tomorrow to clear the air. At least I got the yard mowed before the rain gets here. I have also been getting more motivated to do a few other things I need to do but have been low on my priority list.

It is easy to get wrapped up in current events but I am now approaching things differently and I feel MUCH better. I wanted to pass these things along in case someone needs some ideas.