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I’ve Played in Some Bands…

Since high school, I’ve played in a number of bands. Like many others, making music has been a continual source of satisfaction and expression for me. I can remember back to one particular day, gathering at Lyle’s place (drummer) with about 6 guitar players and myself making some righteous noise on a warm California afternoon. There’s very little chance that we sounded good, but there was a certain excitement involved, and afterward there was something that I felt had to be recaptured. And I did.

I played in a garage band or two for fun, then through a friend met up with some others, started rehearsing together, played some parties (or an occasional talent show), rinse and repeat, each time trying to ramp it up a little from the previous experience. Fun stuff, learning a little more at each step, gaining a little musical knowledge and experience along the way. 70s guitar rock, leaning toward the loud side, just preceding the hair band metal scene.

Along the way, I got a little mentoring. My sister Shelley was fairly perceptive, she was smart, and I always kind of admired her subtle wisdom and worldliness. I suppose she identified that I had a passion for music, but I think she also identified that I wasn’t taking complete steps to reach my potential. I know who I am, I’m still not taking enough steps to become a great musician, I know where this fits in my life. But Shelley encouraged me to spend some time with a friend of hers, Chris, a keyboard player, and very talented. I’d met him a handful of times already since the time I was maybe 11 or 12, but when I was about 16 or 17, she arranged for me to visit him to talk music and play a little with him. What resulted was subtle, but when I look back I recognize that this encounter was a turning point in my musical development. Playing with Chris helped me realize where I was falling short. I admit that I was guessing a lot of the time when selecting the notes to play on certain songs and situations where I had to interpret a tune or figure out a complicated line that I heard on a record. Immediately after that, even though it took some years, I became interested in improving my overall musicianship – I took some college piano and music theory classes after high school. I wanted to be a better player and gain a deeper understanding of it all.

The whole while, I’m in and out of a handful of bands, making progress, exploring styles, artists – in short, growing. Years have gone by since meeting with Chris, when one day I get a call from him. I recall the conversation: “My brother’s in a band and they need to get rid of their bass player. They could be pretty good, but they’re not getting anywhere with him – you interested?” (Turns out he wasn’t such a bad guy, I met him a couple times, but there was a chemistry mismatch with him and the other 4.). You have my attention, I’ll check it out.

Parallel to all this, my on-and-off brother in law is telling me about a guy he works with, guitar player who reminds him of Peter Frampton (a compliment back in ’77 or so). “You should get together and play with Jack, I think you guys would hit it off.” Lo and behold, Jack plays in the band with Chris’ brother Pat, guitarists Dave and Mike, none of whom I’d met before. I agree to come check it out after they provide a list of songs – all familiar from hearing them on FM radio.

My first bar band (I’m 20 by now). I’ll skip over most of the drama that unfolds, but I joined the band and we had fun playing venues in the east bay for a couple years. You know what happens to bands, they break up, right? Careers and families take precedence, opportunities spring up, friendships taper off. I would see Pat once in a while, he started singing with a band that I previously played with. I’d see Jack now and then, he helped me with some plumbing things and jammed with him a couple times. Mike was the person I stayed close to, we did things together, including music. I worked with him for a while, we played acoustic guitars and I got a chance to sit in with a band he played with. I wasn’t a full time member, but now and then I got to play guitar, bass, harmonica, sing lead, and even play drums.

Fast forward 30+ years. Marriage, kids of my own, home ownership, work. And bands. I’m in touch with Chris a little bit, he connects me with Dave. Dave comes to see my band, on another occasion I go to see his. A year or so goes by and Dave tells me he’s back in touch with Jack. Would I be interested in coming over to play? Why not? Pat’s out of the bay area and has a busy career and life, Mike had moved to Seattle and passed in ’07 from a heart attack while playing hockey. I have some songs, Dave has some songs, all original. We come into a couple of opportunities to play, Dave hosts an annual backyard barbecue. The reunited band consists of Dave, myself and Jack. We’ve played with a few drummers over the last couple years, we found Kevin through a friend.

It’s a modest endeavor, but it brings a high level of satisfaction playing music that you wrote. It takes a lot of work negotiating arrangements, determining who plays what, establishing dynamics. Essentially nurturing a song to life. Back in the day we called ourselves Luther Blue. With the years in between (and a little tongue in cheek humor), we’re Luther Gray.

facebook.com/luthergraymusic

Hanshin Tigers! Fure fure fure fure!

It was with much excitement and anticipation that I attended a baseball game at Koshien Stadium. With Natalie living for the time being in Japan, the opportunity to visit this amazing country also meant the opportunity to experience Japanese big league baseball. There were several steps in preparing for this outing, and a series of google searches certainly helped, but the most useful resource turned out to be The Hanshin Tigers English News. I corresponded with Trevor, a dedicated fan who runs the site, who generously offered advice and opinions regarding buying tickets, food, and activities at the stadium. Beside reading up on the game in general and the current season, I read Robert Whiting’s You Gotta Have Wa, instrumental in learning about the cultural, historical and strategic differences between the NPB and the American game that I know.
Hanshin Tigers Fans are renowned as a extremely loyal and dedicated group, playing home games in Japan’s oldest and most storied facility. It feels a bit like going to a game at old Yankee Stadium.
Check out photos I’ve posted in this Flickr album, if you poke around you may see more photos of our Japan trip.

7th inning Lucky Balloons

Holiday Photo 2014

A little fun was had whilst taking our holiday photo

Warning: This is what can actually happen when you’re taking a holiday photo by yourself with the camera set to a timer. You can’t really check on what others are doing while waiting for the shutter to click.

Baby Room

panorama-feb-2014

Back in 1979 my sister Shelley asked me to paint Nils’ room.  Heck yeah, my parents’ first grandchild and all. In turn, Nils and Sarah asked me to help paint their baby’s room, the first great grand child.  This team effort included young Theo’s help with birds, and companionship from Walter the dog.

Pennant Race

I fess up, I’ve not added a post to this blog in almost a year, let’s just say I had a few other things going on. I’ve also been encouraged (ahem) to be a little less public with my personal life. OK. However, my last post will bear resemblance to this one. As I write, the Oakland A’s have a 5 and a half game lead in the AL West with just a couple weeks to play. In games I’ve attended this year, we’ve seen Bartolo Colon 4 times, the first 3 were wins. Doing it for old guys everywhere. Thanks Bartolo.  We watched his pregame warmup from killer seats on fathers day.

bartlolo 1

bartolo 2

Baseball Magic in Oaktown

I’m a local. By some stroke of luck, I was fortunate enough to grow up in what I think was the golden era of sports in Oakland: the A’s won 5 straight division titles and 3 world series starting in ’71; the Raiders were a perennial powerhouse, winning a Super Bowl in ’77; the Warriors brought us a world championship in ’75. But lest there be any doubt, the 2012 A’s will remain in my memory as one of the most enjoyable seasons EVER.

I had my doubts on opening night, despite an enormous homer by Yoenis Cespedes. Throughout the year we hung in there, and with every walk off win, you felt the team surging, both in the standings and in the amount of pride that swept the community.

Again, luck came into play for me this year, as I attended the last 3 home wins. Each time a packed house, each time a feeling of family in the stands, it was a vibe like that which I had never before witnessed. The players sensed it and their response was to reward us with wins.

Thanks, guys.

“Walk Off Capital of the Baseball World”

Overtaking the Rangers in game #162

Feeling the love

I hope these videos stay online (at least for a while, whaddya say, mlb.com?)

AL West Champs – How Sweet It Is!

A’s players stream onto the field following the final out

As I write this, it will be 41 years tomorrow that my dad extracted my brother and I from school to attend a baseball game. October 5, 1971 was a warm Indian summer morning in the bay area. That afternoon, game 3 of the 1971 American League playoffs would take place between the Baltimore Orioles and my hometown Oakland A’s. My classmates were envious, and I had to endure their good-natured teasing, but knew that somehow the class would monitor the progress of the game. My very first playoff experience.

Some striking similarities in the game Mary Ann and I attended yesterday. Weekday game with a playoff atmosphere, kids in attendance missing school, classic bay area Indian summer weather, Oakland Coliseum, green and gold taking the field, a palpable level of excitement. Game #162, the final game in a season full of magic and exceeded expectations. We endured a loss back in ’71, Jim Palmer threw a complete game, despite a pair of home runs by Reggie Jackson. But the O’s were a powerhouse, even though they lost to the Pirates in the World Series, their lineup was formidable up and down.

Texas has a lineup more than capable of lighting up a pitching staff, but my A’s never flinched.

To say that history was made this day is a little misleading, but it certainly marked the culmination of an incredible regular season.

My observations:

A.J. Griffin was pulled after surrendering 5 runs. Unfortunate for him, the quality of his pitches wasn’t all that bad, it looked to me like he was more a victim of bad luck more than anything else. Evan Scribner relieved Griffin and ended up getting the win, but after getting a force out on one pitch in the 3rd, he did give up some loud contact the following inning. With 2 out, Beltre smashed a single, Cruz doubled and Young lined out to first. Were it not for Brandon Moss’ reach, Young probably has 2 RBIs. Scribner was sharp in the 5th and into the 6th inning.

A 4-run lead was not enough to strike fear into the hearts of the A’s and their faithful fans. Yes, the volume dropped temporarily until Scribner got the out in the 3rd, but we sensed that being as early in the game as it was, scoring 4 runs was certainly within our reach.

A’s players run a victory lap after their infield celebration. Ah, to have front row seats – alas.

A’s fans are my people. It was like sitting with extended family – high fives, “Let’s Go Oakland” chants, vuvuzela blasts – the works. Lots of love in the stands.

The right field bleachers greet Grant Balfour with the boxing kangaroo move. Hilarious!

The players not only feel the love, they give it right back. The infield celebration was madness, the victory lap run by the entire roster afterward was even better. They just couldn’t get enough, returning to the field over an hour after the last out.