It’s funny how life seems to work in circles and seemingly little things are born out of necessity and grow to take on a life of their own. Things like the beginning of lifelong friendships like the one I’ve had with Davy or nicknames like “radrich” (maybe not a nickname so much as an alter ego). Actually my first name is Chris and my last name is Richards. My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Drogt started calling me “Radical Richards” because I was way into BMX. The real reason he started calling me that was because my best friend and arch nemesis, Davy, was also in my class and also way into BMX. Davy’s dad had bought him the latest and greatest Diamond Back and Mr Drogt just started calling him “Diamond Dave” one day. Having recognized the fierce competition that existed between us he came up with “Radical Richards” only after he started calling Davy “Diamond Dave”. Having a nickname for Davy and not for me would manifest itself into fist fights between us on the playground during a bout of kickball, dodge ball or that game boys play where they just run around and knock each other down. Without a nickname for me, Davy would have thrown “Diamond Dave” around the school and brag that Mr. Drogt had given him a nickname, claiming superiority and I suppose I wouldn’t have tolerated such nonsense. The hierarchy of the 6th grade alpha male is a tricky one to navigate and to be at the top, one had to elbow and claw their way up there and not be afraid to punch or be punched in order to stay there. And Davy and I got into many fist fights trying to stay at the top of that hierarchy. So realizing this, Mr Drogt came up with my moniker. Even once I had my nickname Davy always made a point to say that Mr. Drogt gave him a nickname first and the way he looked me in the eyes and raised his eyebrows always put me in my place. There was nothing I could say and we both knew it. I did much more with my nickname than Davy did and at the end of that year and every year after I penned “Radical Richards” in any yearbook that I signed. Eventually it shortened to RadRich and here we are today. Davy is still a friend of mine and that story is just way too crazy, not all details appropriate to list here.
I can remember the first time I saw Davy. We were both in 1st grade and our classrooms were on opposite ends of Turner grade school. The cafeteria where all three 1st grade classes ate together was in the middle of the school and several days after the school year started this red headed kid appeared one day and we ended up in line together the both of us looking each other up and down, each sizing up the other. If we were dogs we would have walked in circles sniffing each other. He told me his name was Davy and I told him I was Chris and that was that but there was something there that let each of us know the other was a force to be reckoned with. Soon after all three classes met for gym on the playground. Usually all classes had their own gym time but the teachers needed to attend some conference so on that day gym was a way to babysit us. That day we did several types of relay races and the end would be an all out race to see who was fastest. I was generally the fastest when it came to these things but on this day the red headed stranger got the best of me…barely. It was on like Donkey Kong. An immediate rematch was set up for the next recess and we lined up side by side for an all out dash across half the playground from the east wall to where the basketball court ends. I did not let him catch me off guard this time and I got the best of him…barely. This went on several more times over the next few days and weeks, all races ending closely with a different winner each time and the loser calling for a rematch to even the score on the next race. Being the fastest is one thing but on an elementary playground the game of kickball is king and each recess was a chance for bragging rights. It was never fair if Davy and I were on the same team so teachers usually made us both captains to put us on opposite sides and each game was epic, nothing but being on the winning team mattered. There were only 3 kids in my elementary career that kicked the ball over the “big fence” and Davy was one of them. I hit the top of the bar many times but it never went over, something Davy reminds me of to this day. We were evenly matched in all sports and remained extremely competitive throughout the years making us the best of friends….and brothers. That competition spilled into all areas of life and once girls came onto the scene, forget about it. There were many times being so competitive led to fist fights and we each got our share of cuts and bruises from other one but five minutes later we were always best of friends again. But as much as we fought I remember times that we both compromised to let the other take a winning shot or bat last in an important game and share in the glory of victory. We were still happy for the others accomplishments.
Davy was born on Christmas day 1971 and I was born 2 days later so we both share that Capricornian drive for success but it turns out that we were both born in the same hospital. We didn’t realize this until the 6th grade when his mom happened to ask me which hospital I was born in. When she found out she got up and went to her room and came back with a picture from the hospital nursery and it turns out that the boy laying next to Davy wrapped in a blue blanket was me. It also turns out that on the morning of December 27th Davy was the only boy in a nursery of 8 newborn girls. Later that night I joined him and the others and I suppose our quest to be the alpha male began there. It’s interesting how it didn’t fully manifest itself until years later in a random twist of fate. Both our mothers remember that there was only one other boy in that hospital nursery so many years ago but they do not remember meeting at the time. Davy’s parents did not even live near us and it just happened that they moved into the same school district 6 years later and buy a house down the street from ours. Davy and I also just happened to be in the same classroom in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade.
Junior and senior high were rough on Davy as his parents split and he was torn into new directions. We still hung out frequently as he moved from school to school. He always ended up in the wrong crowd but we still remained close friends. He struggled and I helped him through some rough times. In my college years, unfortunate circumstances led to a falling out and I did not hear from Davy for 17 years, often wondering if he was even alive. Last year I got a random message on Facebook from Davy and I called him immediately. We caught each other up on 17 years and it turns out after many moves with the prominent company he works for he is doing very well and living in Kansas City with his wife of 11 years and their 2 kids. He apologized although I had forgiven him wholeheartedly in my mind years ago and was not carrying any grudges. He is, after all, my oldest friend. He goes by David now but I refuse to call him anything but Davy. We meet up every time I am in Kansas City and go down memory lane and drive through the old neighborhoods we used to terrorize as kids and teenagers.
Yep…it’s funny how life seems to work in circles.
I love being in a band and all the opportunities that comes along with it. Everything you’ve heard about it is true and if you want the full on rock and roll lifestyle, it’s yours for the taking. It’s true that sex, drugs and rock and roll go together like peanut butter and jelly and it all tastes delicious but what I’m really talking about is the opportunity to witness a pirate wedding. Yep, I said pirate wedding.
Besides the fact that I love playing music with my boys, being in a band affords one to be out and about for life to present you with such random things, like the aforementioned pirate wedding. 106 days ago I quit drinking and living the rock and roll scene. 103 days ago I gave up a job and the car that came with it. With no car I stay pretty close to home and with no drinking I stay pretty far away from the bar, but with the band I am still able to be out in that environment where I can still see and meet all the characters that inhabit the night (or in this case, day) in a city that never sleeps and takes partying to another level. Is it tough to still be around all that temptation? You betcha. Am I a man capable of making a decision and sticking to it? You betcha. Am I still having fun? Damn straight.
Araka had a gig in Key Largo yesterday and it was a much needed escape from the humdrum of Miami gigs we have been playing through. We played at Pontunes, a tiki bar with a patio stage right next to the water that had a pirate boat, Queen Annes Revenge, docked alongside. Greg and his girl Jess drove down in her car and I drove Greg’s car with Bruno, the trip to the keys passing quickly as we discussed Peruvian politics and how life was “back in the days.” We met up with Greg and Jess at the Fish House, a spot just down the road from Pontunes that looks exactly like that rustic seafood joint in the keys you are imagining as you read this. Lunch with Greg and Jess is always an experience that requires multiple cameras (to take pics of each dish and post on Facebook) and an above average food IQ. Lunch with Bruno at an American style restaurant is equally entertaining as his diet is mainly Peruvian and he never misses an opportunity to bag on “gringo food” as he happily eats each bite. I was in rare form and doing my best to spout off facts and stories about nautical knots and deep sea fish, things I know nothing about, with a straight face to see how much my friends would believe. That is my charm. The food and company were excellent and after it was all over, Bruno, Greg and I piled into Greg’s loaded down station wagon. Since it was packed with equipment, Greg and Bruno had to share the front seat for the 5 mile journey back to Pontunes. Jess had offered to round us up some Cuban coffee so she went her way and we went ours to prepare for the gig.
The locale and small crowd was incredible and they inspired some of our better playing in a while. The keys is such a relaxing atmosphere where time stands still and there are no worries. The afternoon gig was perfect and capped off by a wedding party dressed in pirate garb making their way to the docked pirate ship. During our last set break we all hung out with the pirates and they got to hear our last set before the wedding ship set sail. Although not quite sure how a couple comes to the decision to hold a pirate themed wedding, it seemed like a memorable moment and looking back on it today, I’m glad to have been a part of it.
Check out Pontunes if you ever make it to Key Largo and check out Araka at www.arakamusic.com
When I told my mom that I would be starting a blog she asked if it would contain the kind of material she could read. My mom spent the first half of my life teaching me and telling me what I should do and I have spent the second half of my life doing the opposite. I recently told her all of those things, as bad as they are, and have nothing to hide. She does not cuss so I told her there shouldn’t be any stories she hasn’t heard and that I would keep it clean by not swearing. That may be easier said than done because I swear like a sailor but life is about being creative and working your way around all of the crap.
There is crap all over the place. It’s everywhere you look. Doo-doo in your wallet, crap all over your house, stuff in your car, things in your basement, and ca-ca that you’re holding until somebody dies or doo-doo that is waiting for you when somebody else dies. There’s a bunch of stuff you have to do to get ca-ca and you have to keep going to that place your entire life so you can obtain and keep more things for the people that depend on you for their doo-doo and stuff. The more ca-ca you get the more doo-doo you have to pay somebody that knows a lot of stuff about ca-ca to protect your doo-doo. It’s a crazy cycle. As much as I am embroiled and entangled in it, I just don’t get it. Last year I made almost 6 figures. This year I’ll be lucky to make high 4 figures. I have way less doo-doo to do stuff with and have cut back tremendously on my things. I have some ca-ca in the bank but with no more coming in I am evaluating just exactly what stuff I need and am finding that I do not need hardly any thing to make or keep me happy. My doo-doo goes much farther. I appreciate the crap I already have so much more.
I used to work in retail and I did it much longer than any one person needs to. I escaped but many of my friends are still there and actively living that lifestyle. Voluntarily. I do understand the need for retail as it is what keeps the cycle of doo-doo and stuff continually spinning. Retail is the top of the food pyramid. It is what the economy needs to stay healthy and robust. Our perpetual need for more doo-doo is fueled by our greater need for stuff. It’s a glorious and simple formula that keeps us alive. A machine that was designed by The Machine, a wasteland where the strong survive to ultimately help the weak, Jack robs Peter to pay Paul and there is no limit to how it evolves.
I worked for one company a particularly long time that had this process on lock. They put as much crap as they could in a small space and somehow had the entire workforce trained to think that moving the crap around as many times as you could to find the perfect spot would bring in more people who would miraculously be seeing the things for the first time because of all the different places you put the stuff to confuse them, effectively bringing in more doo-doo. 300 small box stores across the country filled with nothing but stuff and things. For not much doo-doo they would give you medium quality crap from China that looked like the high quality stuff that others were paying major ca-ca for down the street. These things were great for your house and since you weren’t shelling out much doo-doo, you could keep coming back for more stuff when you were tired of your things. They sold the kind of crap that contained the sayings that bored housewives all over the south put in their kitchen. Sayings like “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain” and “Dogs are not our whole life but they make our lives whole” and on and on. And they sold this crap in high volume and have been doing it for over 40 years.
The thing about retail is that it’s not science, yet most of those who work in retail try to make it just as complicated. There are no more definitive answers somewhere out there waiting to be revealed. There is nobody in a labcoat practicing the scientific method, attempting to break through and discover a better way because there is no better way. Retail is the wheel. It’s sliced bread. The system cannot be improved upon. It’s give me some doo-doo for this crap and that is it. No more and no less. Yet every company is holding this wheel and every one of them are trying to improve upon the design. The only problem is that the system relies on people. And most people could care less about the crap. And the doo-doo that retail companies spend for the people they expect to cherish the stuff they are cramming into the stores is not enough. People will let you down…..unless you pay them and pay them well. And there in lies the rub.
At some point I will have no more doo-doo and be forced to find somewhere to jump back onto the hampster wheel. But that is a choice that we all have. The doo-doo we need to exist is minimal. It all depends on how much stuff you convince yourself you need based on all the crap you hear coming from all of the things we pacify ourselves with.