Random thoughts from a random mind…

Family

Been a while…

Wow, has it really been over 3 months since my last post?  Not that any of you were losing sleep, wondering what the next “great” thing to come out of my spacey mind would be, but I’m sorry that it has been so long.

So much has happened over the past 3 months:

  • For starters, we are only 8 weeks away (give or take) from an anxiously awaited addition to the Brooks household, Jacob.  I can’t believe it is going to happen so very soon.  We are excited to finally meet the little ninja that constantly attacks his mother from the inside.
  • Brendan has started the sixth grade!  I can’t believe how fast they grow up.  I mean, it really only seems like not that long ago, he was so excited to start school.  It truly is amazing how fast the time flies.
  • Another school year has begun…not only Brendan has started another school year, I have also.  This really doesn’t mean much since I don’t get the summers off, but this year has been a bear thus far.  Truly seems like summer never even happened.  This is the start of my 5th year at the school, and I have never felt so overwhelmed.  Not sure what that is a sign of, but we’ll see how the rest of the year goes.  Hopefully things will get back to normal.
  • I had one of my photographs entered into my first Gallery along with some of my PikTripper friends.  It is at Buon Giorno Coffee in Grapevine if you’d like to go and see it.  The Gallery will be up through the month of September.
  • Football season has started! After a record-breaking summer, finally, there is a sense of fall in the air and along with that comes another season of college football.  There is just something about the cooler fall air, and meat on a grill in preparation for another great game.  Really looking forward to the hopes of a great season for ASU this year…Go Devils!

I guess that’s about it, but it seems like a lot has happened since we last spoke.  I will do my best to get back into the swing of filling the screen with my random thoughts.  I’m sure that will be easier said than done once Jacob arrives, but then again, he may be just the fuel needed to spark a few more random thoughts.

Hope you had a good summer, and are ready for whatever is next.


There’s “Bandwagon” and Then There’s “Confusing”

Some of my collection: ASU hat, Tigers hat, Red Wings hat, D-Backs hat from Opening Day 1998, 2001 World Series "Official Ball," ASU flag and Suns throw.

Have you ever sat back and really thought about how big a role sports plays in our lives?  I mean think about it, we complain about the millions and millions of dollars these guys make in a year, but we pay millions to see them play.  Cities (and you) pay millions to billions to be able to build the next, state of the art facility for their team or teams to play in.  I remember as a kid, and even still today, when I fly into a city, I’m always looking around trying to see the arenas or stadiums from the air. It’s the only time you get the opportunity to see the whole thing other than a photo.  Sometimes you don’t realize how pivotal the placement of a sports facility can be until you’ve seen it as you descent into a city from the air.

As a guy, you often get the question: “what is your favorite team?” This can often be a tricky question to answer.  If you happen to say a team that is currently playing really well, then you quickly have to justify the answer to not be tagged as a “fair-weather” or guilty of “jumping on the bandwagon.”  There are even times that if you happen to say the wrong team, you could be looking at a fist fight due to the person asking being a die-hard fan of a rival (slightly over-exaggerated, but could happen).

This question has often bewildered many friends of mine through my answers.  I could, at times, be accused of trying to hitch a ride on a couple of wagons, but I can justify all of my answers (at least to myself, and that’s what counts).  You see, growing up in various places throughout this sports-loving nation, it is very difficult to just have one favorite, or be a fan of just one team.  Is it really a crime to be a fan of multiple teams from a few different cities?  Feel free to judge.

When it comes to college that’s an easy one, Arizona State (Go Devils!!!) – You become slightly biased when you’re an alumnus, no matter how good or bad your teams may be.  When it comes to the Devils, not too many people are jumping on your wagon (hoping that 2011 proves to the hype for the Devils in football.  Unfortunately, hype, has never bode well for the Devils in years past).  The Lady Devils just won the softball National Championship and the baseball team is still battling its way to Omaha, but being a fan of the Sun Devils has been very trying over the years (Ahh to be a Sun Devil).  I will admit though, being a member of my wife’s family has also made me a fan of the Irish (fan, not a favorite…is that ok? Oh, and living near South Bend for a few years may have helped this as well).

When it comes to professional sports, it is a much harder story to tell.  My first professional influences came from the NFL.  It all started in the mid 70’s when we lived in Powell, Wyoming, and my father was a sports announcer for the local radio station.  They just so happened to cover the Orange Crush – you may know them better as the Denver Broncos.  I had a little plastic helmet that my dad had painted to mach a Broncos helmet, they were my team….until I heard about the Cowboys.  Yes, I do live in Dallas now and wouldn’t exactly consider myself a true blue Cowboy fan, but back in the day, yes, I was a fan.  Ok, so they were in their heyday (one of them).  Can a five-year-old boy really be guilty of jumping on a bandwagon? The point is, that at the time, living in “the middle of nowhere,” Wyoming, there weren’t any teams to be a fan of.  Looking elsewhere was your only option, even for a five-year-old.

Now is when it all starts to really get messy – at the age of 6, I was relocated with my family to Arizona.  Actual years are needed here for clarity, so this would have been 1981/82.  What that means for those of you not in the know, is that there weren’t any professional sports teams in Arizona except for the Phoenix Suns (NBA), but I didn’t really learn of them until a few more years down the road.  We lived in Kingman, AZ, again, middle of nowhere.  Like most families, my family went in different directions.  I lived with my mother and sister, so there weren’t many influences on sports.  I did enjoy playing baseball, soccer and basketball though.  Finally I became more aware of the sports world that was out there.  I began to learn more about professional teams around the nation – again, none in the local area.  I learned of the Phoenix Suns, and to no surprise, they became “my team.”

In 1986, I again relocated.  This time we moved to Michigan, Trufant, Michigan to be exact.  AGAIN, middle of nowhere! (Starting to get the picture?)  By this time, I was really getting into sports.  I knew all the best players on all the best teams in all professional sports, except hockey (more on that in a moment – remember, in Michigan now).  January 1987 was the year that I got to watch “my” Sun Devils down the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.  I knew then that I wanted to be a Sun Devil.  I was still a fan of the Broncos (NFL) – even after all of the Elway (still one of my favorite players ever) chokes in the Super Bowls, the Cowboys (NFL), and the Suns (NBA).  Raise your hand if you thought KJ was the man!  I knew all about baseball and its best players/teams, but hadn’t really thought about a favorite team yet.  Again, it was hard to have one when there wasn’t a team nearby to follow; I mean, the Tigers were all the way over in Detroit, a 4-5 hour drive from Trufant.  Many of my friends would follow the Tigers.  It didn’t take long until I began to follow suit.  I also found myself becoming a fan of the lowly Atlanta Braves as we watched them climb from the trenches to go from “worst to first” (OK, maybe this one was bandwagoning, but it was a great story and hard not to follow).  Soon, I became used to the cold Michigan winters, and began to learn of hockey.  I truly fell in love with the sport, and what better place to be than the state of Michigan, home of the Detroit Red Wings (NHL)!  This was definitely a team that was hard not to love.

Ok, just to be sure you’re keeping track: Sun Devils (NCAA), Broncos (NFL), Cowboys (NFL), Cardinals (NFL), Suns (NBA), Tigers (MLB), Braves (MLB), and Red Wings (NHL).  Confused yet? Oh, yes, I’m sure you noticed the addition of the Cardinals in there – even living in Michigan, I still felt a connection to Phoenix/Arizona.  My dad still lived there, and kept me abreast of the latest happenings.  They moved to Phoenix from St. Louis in 1988, so I slowly began to adopt them as one of “my” teams, even though they were horrible for many, many years.  So there I was, now a teenager, all confused with who was my favorite team, and then I graduated HS and made another move back to Arizona.  This time I was off to college, to be a Sun Devil.

I moved to Phoenix in the summer of 1994.  Shortly thereafter, a new team had come into my life.  This one isn’t considered a definite “favorite,” but they are still a team that I will follow.  The Winnipeg Jets had made a move to the desert and had become the Coyotes.  Yes, there was now hockey in the middle of a place that was too hot for anyone to exist let alone play on ice.  It’s hard not to be into a team when you see them grow before you.

Which brings me to the next state of confusion…the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In 1998, the D-Backs franchise joined Major League Baseball.  Again, and even more-so, it is very hard not to be a fan of a team that you get the opportunity to see start from the very beginning.  The 2001 World Series win over the Yankees might have helped a little too (I say this as I look at my “Official Ball” from the 2001 Series that is on my desk).

Now I find myself living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Now, as you may recall, the Cowboys were “one” of my original favorite teams, but I truly don’t follow them in the same way.  In fact, I honestly find this current team to not fit into any class that earlier Cowboy’s teams have.  Romo just won’t ever be the leader that Staubach, White or Aikman were.  As for the other teams here: I don’t have any plans to ever follow the Stars for the Wings had my heart long ago; it was fun to see the Rangers go to the World Series, and I enjoy going to a game now and then, but the Tigers and D-Backs are enough for me; and lastly, yes, the Mavs are currently in the Finals, and I do honestly hope they win, but not as a fan, more as being not a fan of the Heat and the egos of Wade, Bosh and that other guy…oh yeah, the “King.”

So, would you consider my choices of “favorites” a sign of bandwagoning? I’m sure some could argue a few of them, but I feel that my mobility through life from town to town and the confusing nature of some of my locales has legitimized my choices.  When it comes down to it, I’m a fan of sport, of competition.  I am one that will watch a game, because I know it will be a good one.  Not caring who will win, just wanting to watch some good competition.  Maybe some of my “favorite” choices are because of this i.e. Atlanta in the 90’s, but that’s ok to me.

 


Customer Service: Not Lost, Just Harder to Find

In an age of “I need it now,” customer service has taken a back seat to mediocrity.  People have learned to no longer expect “good” customer service, but to rather settle for customer service that is better than “bad.”  How many times to you choose a restaurant or business based on its great customer service? More than likely, it’s not very often.  But on the flipside, how many times to you choose where NOT to go based on how bad the service is? I’m not going to go into a huge lecture on how we’ve lost our sense of what great customer service really is, that is for Seth Godin to do – and he’s really good at it.  What I am going to do though, is fill you in on a place that knows what it means to stand out as a company with good, nay AMAZING customer service.

I understand that not many of you out there may be runners, but we all need shoes.  And more often than not, running shoes are what people end up getting because of their comfort.  Many of us, me included, are bargain shoppers and stray away from the stand-alone stores for fear they will have jacked up the prices.  There is a place that I’ve been shopping for the past couple years for things for my wife.  Luke’s Locker in Colleyville is where I do my shopping for Megan when she is in need of some new running gear.  As I said, I have been shopping here for the past couple years, and the salespeople are great and very knowledgeable about running and gear, for they all run, themselves.  Their prices are right in line with anyplace else you’d find similar gear, even the chain stores, so I was more than happy to shop here without worrying about paying too much.  Now, I didn’t have a bad perception of this store at all, but I never realized how GREAT this place really was until I shopped there for myself.

I found myself in need of a new pair of “tennis shoes.”  If any of you know me, and as I have already mentioned above, I am a very frugal shopper.  Hell, I seriously can’t remember the last time I paid full price for a pair of shoes, let alone any clothing.  But as many of you can attest to, the older we get, the more important a really good pair of shoes is, so I made my way to Luke’s Locker.  I knew that they would actually tell me what kind of shoe my feet really needed, and not just put me in the next best thing. I went into the store one day after work, and Ed was my salesman.  This man was so very helpful.  He knew exactly what to look for in what my feet needed.  He made me walk a line so he could actually see how my feet moved and reacted with each step.  He then came out with 3 different pairs of shoes for me to try.  The thing is, he knew which shoe I was going to leave with, but he wanted to give me options.  This man took the time to learn about me and what my intentions were with the product, so that he would be able to provide me with the best solution.  Seems so “Business 101,” but when was the last time someone gave you this kind of service when you shopped? I was truly happy with the service that I received from Ed and everyone else at Luke’s Locker.  I wouldn’t be taking the time to share this blog post if I wasn’t.

My point is that we shouldn’t get as excited as I was about a good experience.  We should expect it.  We have been so desensitized to mediocrity that we don’t care about what good service should be.  Yes, this was a great experience, and yes, they have earned my loyalty as a customer – but it’s a shame that other businesses can’t do the simple task of listening and truly observing their customers like the staff at Luke’s Locker.

 


Properly Aged Cheese

Various CheesesResources say that it can take a few days to several years for cheese to ripen, but how long does it take for “good” cheese?  I guess it would depend on the cheese that you enjoy.  Cheese has been a product of the Brooks family for as long as I can remember.  My dad started in the business long before I could ever talk, but the art of attempting to create “good” cheese is engrained deep within me to the core.

Cheese can be a very acquired taste amongst individuals.  Most people don’t mind mild cheddar, but sharp cheddar is another story.  And then of course there is the stench of a good limburger cheese.  The various types of cheeses around the world are of no comparison to that of which has been cultured and ripened within my family.

This post is just another proof that cheese is not just created in my family, but is running rapid through my veins without any cure.  If you haven’t already figured it out, my family has never actually made cheese.  Well maybe someone attempted to make some mozzarella along the way, and I know I’ve done a few experiments growing mold on cheese as a kid, but no one has truly made cheese as you know it.  The cheese I’m referring to is similar in terms of the acquired taste and whether or not it is “good,” but you may not want to eat it.  I’m referring the cheese of jokes that cheesy dads set forth all across this world of ours; the stupid puns that shoot out at a moment’s notice to the reaction of rolling eyes and the occasional success of a good laugh.

My father is the master or jester of the cheesy joke, and from what my family tells me, I’m not far behind him.  This is where my theory of “properly aged cheese” comes to fruition.  You see, a good cheesy joke is very hard to come by.  Most of the time, people will just ignore you, roll their eyes, or laugh “with” you.  The art of the cheesy joke comes with age.  You learn how others will react, you better your timing, and you better your understanding of the English language to “help” not make a fool of yourself (this result is and never will be guaranteed).

To me, this is something that truly comes with age.  As we grow older and wiser, we learn more and more how to deal with what life throws at you.  I am one of those who believe that one of the reasons we are here is to touch other lives; to make other people’s lives a little brighter and put an extra smile on their faces.  Whether that be at our own expense in a horrible cheesy joke, or the success of a great one that will come up in future conversations.  When someone needs a little pick-me-up, there’s nothing better (or worse) than a “good” cheesy joke.  Either way, they will smile and laugh.

As I just celebrated my 35th birthday a few weeks ago, I wanted to write a blog that talked about growing older and lessons learned in life.  This is what I came up with (pretty sad, huh?).  The world is full of those trying to perfect the art of the cheesy joke, and I am still far from ripening that good cheese, but will continue to do my part in helping others.  As for the family business, I have a feeling it will continue to grow as my son takes a shine to the cheesy side of life, working on the perfection of the craft.


Origins of a DJ – Part 5 (Final Chapter?)

At the time I was working with inner-city youth in Pontiac, MI.  I began to figure out ways to reach these youth, and one way was through music.  My favorite genre has always been hip-hop/rap, and I thought maybe this would be one way I could connect with some of the kids.  I began working with some of the projects (yes, projects, as in housing projects) that were part of a United Way funded collaboration.  I met with some of the community leaders, and asked them what they had wanted for the youth.  The leaders wanted programs that would appeal to the youth, but would bring a positive outlook.  I offered a number of programs, but my favorite was one where my DJ background would come into play.  In this program the kids would learn about music history, and move up to the music of today, seeing how computers are used to create music.  I would show them the beginning steps of how to “spin,” and how to record and edit on a computer.  Thanks to Keith “Bubby” Webb, even had the opportunity to take them to a studio in Pontiac to show them the process of recording an artist.  In this, I made some very good friends in the music industry coming out of the Pontiac area.  This was my sign to get back into DJ’ing.

I got the opportunity to do some shows with a couple of the artists in Pontiac.  I did some work as the house DJ for a couple of studios.  One of the guys I worked with, Uncle-P, gave me the chance of a lifetime.  I got to do a show on the stage of St. Andrews Hall in Detroit.  If you know anything about the Detroit music scene, you know what St. Andrews Hall is.  If you’re a fan of Eminem, you should know, or at least recall the mention of St. Andrews Hall.  It was surreal.  I was on spinning on the very same stage that had seen the likes of Bob Dylan, the Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, Nirvana, and even Eminem.  In fact, Eminem did one of his first shows here (well, his show was in the Shelter, which is in the basement, but it was the same building).  St. Andrews Hall is mentioned in many of Eminem’s songs, as well as the Shelter being mentioned in his movie, 8-mile.  If you haven’t noticed, I was pretty stoked about this opportunity.

After doing various shows at other venues in the area, my last stop was this little bar in Lake Orion.  It was like so many other places I had DJ’d at before, but again, I had some opportunities arise that I never could have dreamed of.

We would have “rap-artists” do shows there almost every week.  I say “rap-artists” because these were guys just trying to get their foot in the door.  Some of them were good, some not so good, but we gave them a stage to perform on.  Then one day I got the word that a bigger act would be coming in to perform.  Some of you may have heard of him, and some may not (I have dated myself with this one).  This was a local guy, from Flint, MI, who had had a couple of big hits in the ’90’s: “Ain’t No Future in Yo Frontin” and “Gotta Get Mine” featuring the one and only 2Pac.  I’m referring to Eric Breed, aka MC Breed.  I had the opportunity to do many shows with MC Breed.  In fact, this was my first taste of sipping Hpnotiq and Hennessy in the VIP area.

The summer of 2003, I had moved with my son to Indiana.  I would still come back though, about once a month, to do a show, usually with MC Breed.  The largest show came on September 12th, 2003 when I did a show with MC Breed and none other than Proof of D12.  To me, this was probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done as a DJ.  The last show I did in the Detroit area was a New Year’s Eve party with MC Breed on December 31st, 2004.

While living in Indiana, I again put DJ’ing off, and would only spin in my house on occasion.  Shortly after moving there though, I did begin working as a radio DJ for 103.9 the Bear, a rock station in South Bend, IN.  As I said in my first chapter, my father has been in radio all my life, and this was something I had always dreamed of doing.  There is just something about being that voice coming from radio, it is a pretty cool feeling.  I also go the chance to be a PA announcer for the Elkhart Express, a semi-pro basketball team.  Again, something that I’ve always dreamed of doing.  This, I have to say, was one of the coolest experiences ever.  I did begin spinning in Indiana eventually, but nothing major ever came of it.

People always asked me why I didn’t DJ as a “full-time” gig, and my answer was always the same: because of my son.  My priority was always to put him first, and my interests second.  Even though this interest brought extra income, it just wasn’t a lifestyle that worked while being a single dad.  I do have to thank those that helped support me while DJ’ing though.  Without all of your help, I never could have made it work, thank you!

I got to do some pretty amazing things as a DJ.  If anyone had ever asked me 13 years ago if I thought I’d get to work with even one of the amazing artists that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, I would have said “no way.”  I was blessed, and was given opportunities that I never could have dreamed possible.  In a way, I owe it all to my buddy, DJ Marcus McBride, for helping me get started with something that is so important to me.

Will I ever DJ again? I’m sure I will, I just have no idea when or to what capacity.  I just can’t let go of something that I enjoy so very much.


Origins of a DJ – Part 4

I’m Really Doing It!!!

So here it goes; DJ Buck-5 has begun his journey into the life of a DJ…Well, more like a DJ in training still, but I’m really doing it!

My first official gig went really well at the Mill Avenue Sports Club.  In fact, they offered me a regular spot: Wed and Sat nights.  It was pretty funny, Wednesday nights were South Park night! I would DJ for a little while, and then we’d stop to watch the new episode of South Park – Keep in mind, this was back in ’97 when the series first started, so there was a market for a night dedicated to the show.  Once the show was over, I would spin the rest of the night.  Then came Saturday nights.  This was fun.  Usually there was a band scheduled or two, or three, and then me.  This was something that I got very used to in my “career.”  The places I would spin would usually also be a venue for local or touring bands that would play, then I would wrap up the party into the wee-hours of the morning.  I digress, Saturday’s at Mill Avenue Sports Club became very interesting.  Tempe was, like any other college town, a thriving base for upcoming musicians – you may have heard of  some of them: Satellite (Stephen Ashbrook), Dead Hot Workshop, The Gin Blossoms (Robin Wilson), and The Refreshments (Roger Clyne – one of my favorites of all time).  Maybe you have heard of all of them, or at least one or two.  I know you’ve heard of the Gin Blossoms, and can guarantee you’d know a Refreshments song if you heard it.  Anyway, These were only a few of the many bands that have come out of Tempe.  These are ones that have at least made a name for themselves…not that others haven’t, but they are partial to me.  These are bands that we used to go and see on a pretty regular basis while going to ASU.  We used to go and see Satellite every Thursday night at Long Wong’s in Tempe on Mill Avenue, and as for Robin Wilson, lead man for the Gin Blossoms, and Dead Hot Workshop, well…I got to work with them quite a bit.  I’m sure by now, none of them would know me, but I used to do shows with Dead Hot on a pretty regular basis.  And then Robin and his then band, Pharaohs 2000 began playing there on a regular basis as well, with me rounding out the night.  I got to do some Hip-Hop nights, some pretty big weekend parties, all sorts of cool things.  I was getting very good with the beat mixing too.  I would even invite my mentor Marcus along for help with some of the events if he was available.  I felt like this truly was my first step to making something of this DJ’ing thing….and then we moved.

You see, my ex-wife was pregnant with my son, Brendan, and she wanted to be closer to her family as the baby was coming.  So we picked up and moved to Western Michigan, a home-coming of sorts, but I never really wanted to go back.  I mean, I’m one of those, “everything happens for a reason” kind of people, so without this move, I wouldn’t have done all the things I have….but I really didn’t want to move back to Michigan.

As for DJ’ing, this meant I would be hanging it up, at least for now.  I had eventually set up my tables in our apartment, but I had no crowds to play for.  I did do a few small things for friends here and there, but it wasn’t the same (no offense).  I felt lost at times.  My release had been released.

Eventually, we found ourselves moving to Detroit (well, north of Detroit), but I saw this as my chance, my opportunity to once again get my wheels turning – pun intended.


Origins of a DJ – Part 3

I NEED A DJ NAME!

So, here I am…I’ve now learned the basics (still plenty to absorb). I’ve helped do a few gigs now, and I’ve cringed at all the “train wrecks” I’ve orchestrated.  It is now time for me to move on…Really??? I just started, I’m not ready for that, not yet…too bad! I’ve now been given my first gig, and it’s only a week away.  As I said in the last post, my fraternity was having a large party at a local bar, Mill Avenue Sports Club.  I have my equipment, and I’ve been practicing every day…but wait!!! What is my name? My DJ name, what is it? I have my first gig in only a few days, and I have no name!  I spewed this afterthought to my co-workers, and an idea emerged.

You see, for a while now, some of my co-workers/friends have been referring to me by a slightly degrading, yet funny and truthful, nickname – Buck-5.  What would be the meaning of this you may be asking? or maybe you have already figured it out and are laughing hysterically.  Well, it referred to my weight.  Yes, at the time, I weighed in at a solid 105 (one-hundred five pounds)…some dogs (many actually) outweighed me.

So I now have a DJ name….DJ Buck-5! It was a cool name, I thought.  It had a story behind it, it had meaning (or was it demeaning?), it was somewhat catchy; no matter the questions it had raised, it would be my namesake for the next 13 years…at least.


Ahh to be a Sun Devil – the disappointment continues

So, here we are, 2 games into the CWS, and 2 games out of the CWS.  The Arizona State Sun Devils came into this year’s College World Series as the #1 seed – apparently that didn’t mean sh*t (pardon the expletive), as usual.  I mean really, the Sun Devils hadn’t lost 2 games in a row ALL season! – Until tonight.  They were one of the last college teams to even lose a game in the regular season (24-0 to start the season, 25-0 if you count the exhibition game).  I say as usual, because what else can we really expect being a Sun Devil fan.  I hate to be so cynical, but one can only take so much heartbreak.

Do you remember January 1st, 1997? I do, I was there…oh the horror!  This was my first taste of the drama of ASU athletics.  The UNDEFEATED Sun Devils had won the Pac-10 title and were on their way to the Rose Bowl to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes whose only loss was to Michigan in their last game of the season.  Here is the wrap-up:  With just over a minute remaining, Jake “the Snake” Plummer scrambled to lead the Devils to a 17-14 lead over the Buckeyes.  OSU got the ball, and began driving down the field, finding themselves on the 5 yard-line after some crappy penalties called on ASU.  With only 19 seconds – YES, 19 seconds – on the clock, David Boston walked into the end-zone untouched after blown coverage by Courtney Jackson (who’s jock strap can probably still be found on the 5 yard-line) to take the lead – 20-17.  Game Over!  Standing the bench seats in the stadium, in the corner directly above the aforementioned touchdown, we went from jubilant screaming and yelling to a deathly silence drowned out by the scarlet fans 50-plus yards away.  We could have been the National Champs!!! – Thanks Courtney.

What about the numerous “good” teams that Bill Frieder led onto the court only to flop below expectations – Ok, we made the sweet 16 ONCE, but what was that? Now we have Herb Sendek, who is doing a great job of re-building.  We can only hope the cycle will be broken…although that early exit from the NIT this year wasn’t exactly a good sign.

And how about the countless times that Dirk Koetter’s squads were listed as a #2 favorite (second to USC) in the Pac-10, to end up having a losing season? Koetter was Kut and now we have a proven coach, Dennis Erickson.  Please Dennis, let’s get this turned around!!!

And now baseball…well not now, but it is just the latest example.  Pat Murphy was brought into this storied club from Notre Dame to lead ASU to another championship.  He did that, but only Pac-10 championships (4 of them).  He got ASU into the post-season numerous times, but missed the expectations each time. This year was just one more sampling of the heartache a Sun Devil fan goes through each year.  The Devils were in the top 5 in the nation all year long…hell, maybe top 3.  They went into the post-season this year as the #1 seed – only to end up the first #1 seed to go 0-2 at Omaha since 1999.  Again…they didn’t lose 2 games in a row all season! – Hope be for next season, once again, due to the fact that this team is young.  Only 4 seniors on the squad (providing no one leaves early).  Best of Luck Esmay!

I love ASU, if you know me, you KNOW this.  I am always reppin the Sun Devils; whether it be shirts or my sweat-laden ball cap, I’m representing Maroon and Gold.  It is great to be a part of such a HUGE family.  In fact it is like being part of a family…at times, they make you so happy, and other times, there is disappointment…but, you still love them, you will still do anything for them.  It is just hard to go into each season with the high hopes (sometimes) – due to the stupid analysts and their predictions.

BUT…we love you Sun Devils, and we ALWAYS will.  Go Devils!!!

OK…this last line is being added for one reason and one only – superstition!  Prior to this line, when I ended with “Go Devils”, my word count was 666…that along with “Go Devils” was just a little too creepy…hope you understand.

Oh, and Go Devils!!!


Soccer at 35 (well, 34, but close enough)

First of all, pardon me as I take a slight “random” break from my DJ progression, and give you a little insight to my most recent brush with insanity.

My son has been playing soccer for the past two years.  I have really enjoyed watching him play, and helping him with some techniques (not that I really have any, but he thinks I do).  It is quite fun, and I even would help coach the team every once in a while.  This past season, they played on an indoor league at Stampede Sports in Southlake, TX.  This just made my inner kid want to join in even more.  I had already been trying to subdue this playful energy since watching him play, but the indoor thing started to make me really curious if you will.  It is such a faster version of the game, being able to kick off the walls, as if making a bank shot in pool.  So, yes, I just did the unthinkable last week…I signed up for a men’s league.  I didn’t go too crazy, the league I signed up for was a men’s “take it easy” league.  Well, I didn’t think I was going too crazy anyway.

I got myself signed up last week, and was told my first game would be Monday, June 7th.  I had very little time to get ready, but I wanted to do this.  I went out and got all my equipment: shoes, shin guards (which are way cooler than when I was a kid), soccer shorts, socks, and a new ball (well, I “needed” this, because my son’s ball is a size 4 and I “need” a size 5).  Everything was in place.  I even started doing some “sprints” on the treadmill.  For those that don’t already know, I’m not a fan of running.  I give my wife so much credit for the long distances she endures.  I can’t go more than 5 minutes without wondering “are we there yet?”  I was ready, excited, and yes, definitely nervous.

The day came, and I got really nervous.  I hadn’t played an organized game of soccer since the 4th grade!!! I remember thinking to myself that some of the kids on my son’s soccer team would ask if I play soccer because of some of the “moves” I had, and that my thinking I could really play truly was  just an insane thought (remember, they are all 10 and 11).  As the day went on, my nerves began to dwell upon the unknown: will I be out of shape? (yep), will I pass out? (almost), will I get killed?! (no, but felt like it once, and got pushed around a lot).  My family wanted to come to watch me play, which I was truly happy for, but it just made my anxiety rise even more (I can’t let my son see his dad get carted off on a stretcher because he passed out!).  As we drove to the arena, I was really starting to freak out.

I got all my gear on.  Even began to question my overly cautious and protective nature in whether I needed a cup or not (YES, definitely glad I went with that decision!).  As we walked in, I saw the game before us (same league), and a sense of relief fell over me.  These guys, well most of them, were older than me, and doing well.  Most were pretty big guys, and I don’t mean football player big, I mean couch potato big – but they could move!  I was finally starting to calm.  That was until the air would no longer go into my lungs through my mouth during the game!

Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I was definitely OUT-OF-SHAPE! The team we played had like 5 subs, and our team only had, NONE!  We held up pretty well for the first 5 minutes or so, but were sunk after that.  It’s pretty sad when we were swapping to goalie for a break (I didn’t take on this responsibility – call it cowardice or just the fact that I’m too small to black such a big gap in the wall).

The other team were some pretty big guys.  Yes, similar to the team I saw when I entered, but some were actually football player size.  They pushed a lot, but I held my own as well as my small stature could – which I feel was pretty well since I didn’t hit the turf once!  They were a good group of guys though, no one wanted anyone to get hurt.

When all was said and done, we did ok.  We did lose, 7-1, but none of us died.  A few bumps and bruises, and I’m sure I won’t be able to walk all that well tomorrow, but all in all, we survived to play another game.

I felt great after…yes, I was sore, but it was the best exercise I’ve had in a VERY long time.  I am truly glad I joined the league, and would like to continue this – at least for now.

I really feel the need to thank my wife and my son for their inspiration in doing this.  Yes, it’s still somewhat ludicrous, but sometimes we need that in our lives.  We are only mandated to grow old, not up.


Origins of a DJ – Part 2

DJ Cheesy Dad

ADD MUSIC AND MIX

My love of music grew more and more as I was introduced to more genres.  In fact, even today, it still grows.  My appreciation of truly talented artists is really what I base my “favorites” on (more on this varied list later).  I knew long ago that I wanted to do something with music.  In high school, I began my trials of making mixes (in a very elementary sense) of music for parties.  I would be the one going from CD to CD, playing various songs to make the people enjoy their evening.  I wasn’t ever one for drinking or really partying.  Music was my drug, it was what made me happy (or at least one of the things).  Dancing also became one of my favorite past-times.  I found myself very good at being able to follow a beat.  My friends and I would go “clubbing” every weekend all through high school.  Our main hang was a teen dance club in Big Rapids known as Gatorz.  Prior to Gatorz was the Skate Estate lol…oh the memories.  Gatorz eventually was closed due to “racial tension” – can’t we all just get along?  Gatorz was my first real interaction with a club DJ.  Occasionally I found myself hanging out in the booth in awe of the equipment and the crazy things you could do with music and similar beats.  My friends and I would constantly joke about buying a club one day where I would get to be the DJ.  One day…part of that dream did come true, and it lasted over a decade.

While in college at Arizona State, I was working for FDS (Federated Department Stores – Macy’s, Bloomingdales, etc.) in their call center. During my time there, I met my mentor, Marcus McBride aka DJ Metro (well, back in the day…now he’s known as DJ Marcus McBride, and has his own remix company, Full Tilt Remix – So jealous!).  Marcus shared my enthusiasm, no, hunger for music.  We would have many conversations about music styles and artists, both current and past.  He enlightened me on the magic of techno and electronica music.  This was a genre that I hadn’t had much exposure to as of yet.  I explained earlier that my mother showed me many types of music, but my old stand-by was hip-hop/rap, more specifically – old school hip-hop (nothing like “diggin’ in the crates”).  I don’t really know what it was, but I was always (then and now) drawn to it.  Marcus and I would go on and on during our shifts at work about these topics of musical creativity.  At this time, Marcus had already been a DJ for a few years while living in Cincinnati.  He was beginning to toy with the idea of getting back into the game now in Phoenix.  I was so intrigued by this.  This was something I had always dreamed of.  We got to a point to where he was willing to help teach me the art of mixing.

The first lesson was more on BPM’s (Beats Per Minute).  I already knew the concept, but I needed to learn more.  BPM’s are very crucial when DJ’ing.  You truly need to understand and begin to simply hear the BPM’s of a song, and how it will connect with the BPM’s of the next song.  Just as a marker, most rap songs are 80-90 BPM’s, hip-hop 90-100, Techno 120-140.  Now, that isn’t always the case of course, but that is a pretty close summation of where your songs will lie.  Understand this is the first step to learning how songs can be mixed together.  You wouldn’t (although you can in some circumstances) mix a 92 BPM song with a 123 BPM song.  Back then, a good rule of thumb was to stay within 5 BPM’s of each other; using that rule to build up or down to your next set.  We were just working with turntables and a CD deck that didn’t have the bells and whistles of those out today; we didn’t even have any type of beat counter!  Therefore, we had to stick to this rule pretty closely.  Now, keep in mind that this was back in the mid-90’s, so no Serato or MP3 mixing programs yet (which in my personal opinion are so not the real form of mixing – the MP3 programs that is…Serato at least still uses tables).  The tools Marcus had to begin my journey were a pair of Technics SL-BD2200 belt-drive tables (1200’s were on order) and a GLI DC-5000 dual-CD deck.

I got the concept of BPM’s down pretty well, because if you understand music and can count, you can get this part quickly.  Although, you do need to keep learning BPM’s of all your songs…that takes time.  Next came learning how to manipulate a song to match the one that is playing.  Oh, this is the fun part! This is when you get to use your fingers to speed up, slow down, or bend the songs.  This is the true art…to me anyway.  Well this and being good at song selection, but this was something I always had a knack for.

For the most part, we stuck with getting me started by mixing on the tables.  The GLI CD deck was very touchy, and we wanted to get that soft touch needed for vinyl.  In my opinion, I think I picked it up pretty fast.  I do believe I even heard Marcus say that I was a “natural” at some point.  After only a few sessions, I was mixing…matching beats…it was heaven.  I truly can’t explain what this does for me, but it truly makes me feel good.  If you’ve ever seen me DJ, you would understand.  Don’t bother talking to me, I’m truly in a zone when I mix.  I was by no means good yet, but the concept was absorbed.  Now on to the first gig!

Marcus and I went around Tempe, selling our talents….well his, I was just his roadie for the most part.  One of the places we went to was Bash on Ash.  It was a newer club on the backside of the infamous sports bar, McDuffy’s (Which I’ve heard is no longer in Tempe? – very sad).  We (Marcus) got the gig.  It was a pretty sweet place, just not too many people knew about it yet.  If you’re in the business, you know and understand how hard it can be to get a new club going.  I got to mix a bit here and there, when Marcus would go off for a drink or what not.  It’s way different mixing in front of people instead of in your own apartment.  I very quickly learned I still had a lot of work to go, but I would NOT give up…Hell, I couldn’t give up – I was on the verge of getting MY first gig!

Practice, I would, every night.  I quickly went to Guitar Center to get my own set-up:  a pair of Numark TT-1700’s and a Numark CDN-24 (hey, they weren’t anything fancy, but they got the job done).  As I saw it, if I could learn on these “no frills” instruments, I could use anything.  I’m not sure how long we had been working at Bash, but it wasn’t very long.  I had just recently pledged with AKPsi at ASU.  Word got out that I was a DJ, so…I was recruited for an upcoming social event as the DJ.  OMG, I was a DJ!  Here it was, my opportunity to really do this.  Working with Marcus at Bash was real, but this was going to be a huge party at a small venue, and it was going to be just me….Tell you the truth, I was scared out of my mind!


Origins of a DJ – Part 1

PURE ENJOYMENT OF MUSIC

My father has been in radio, well, broadcasting for all of my life.  Some of my fondest memories are visiting my dad in the station, and getting to go on the air with the DJ’s.  I’ve seen that industry change so much in my 30+ years…It’s been very interesting.  I remember when my dad was GM at a station in Kingman, AZ, and they had just gotten a new, “state-of-the-art” computer that barely fit in a 10×10 room that was able to provide music and commercials for an ENTIRE weekend! lol….some of you may not understand the joke with that, but it will make sense soon.  I remember sitting in the studio as the DJ “put the needle on the record”…yes, literally, put the tone-arm down on the latest 12” release; when commercials were run on CARTS (cartridges – very similar to an 8-track…if you remember what that is) – That’s enough of the history lesson for now…I’ll continue with why music is so important to me – but we will get back to the advancement of the radio station in another installment of this topic.

My mother was also very musical in my life.  She sang in a few choirs while I was a kid, in fact, myself and some other kids sang along with one of her groups.  We sang “Rainbow Connection,” yes, the one that Kermit the Frog sings in the Muppet Movie.  I think I was like 4.  My mom has always been a huge fan of all types of music.  She would listen to everything from AC/DC to Buddy Holly.  In high school, she would even comment on really enjoying the beats of many of my 90’s rap CD’s (yes, even the hardcore stuff lol).  My dad has very diverse taste in music as well, but I must say that I really feel I got my like of ALL different kinds of music (except most country music – which I owe my dislike of to my grandparents) from my mother.

I did and always have enjoyed ALL kinds of music.  Everything from 50’s “happy” tunes, to the 60’s “creativity” era, to the 70’s psychedelic ensemble, and yes, I was a product of the 80’s and MTV so you know that I was a fan of this fun/odd time for music.  I love hard rock, soft rock, the occasional ballad, and even some Mozart when the occasion presents itself.  But…when it is all said and done, the one that caught my attention the most was rap/hip-hop.  Maybe it was just the time.  I was influenced heavily by the hip-hop scene:  The gangs, the guns, the drugs…..COME ON! I was a scrawny white kid in farmville-USA, Michigan.  I just like the music.  Did I wear baggy jeans…yes, I did.  Course I weighed barely 100 lbs, so my 80’s parachute pants would have been baggy.

I don’t really know what it was about this genre…that hard bass drum, those beats and the poetry that entangled your brain with the perils of the streets intrigued me for years.  I was caught up in what others thought was just crude, vulgar and violent, but I studied this music with an open eye, understand that it was no different that so many other genres.  Think about it: Country for example is about the troubles of life, the cards you are dealt and how bad it can be; the Blues was a form of poetry about how hard life can be and how it gets you down, but you strive to make it through; hmmmm and then there’s rap.  In the 80’s rap was more about the beats and various rhyming schemes that were just fun.  In the 90’s, rap went through its spawning of a separate genre, Gangsta Rap, which was more of a story in poetry, telling of the hard times and the dangerous surroundings a young black man grew up in (interesting?).  Yes, there were always the “artists” that created songs of sex and what not, but again, a lot of them were only emulating what they have been used to their entire lives.

This is just a simple example of how music creates us, both as individuals and even cultures.  Each genre of music brings with it so much more than just some notes on a sheet of paper.  Name a single genre of music that didn’t include a wardrobe change, a particular hair-style, or a certain type of alcohol?  Music was this, it was and still is culture – every single genre is its own culture…YES, even the anarchist and apathetic ways of punk rock, and grunge conformed to create their own style and commercialized culture.

I really think this is just one part of music that consumes me.  To me, music isn’t just sounds, it is so full of emotions.  Music is everything we want to forget, and everything we want to have.  The memories that I have when a certain song plays is a testament to music’s power on the human soul.  Tell me you don’t occasionally have a memory of an exact moment in your life when a certain song plays?  For example: Every time I hear “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama, I see Ralph Macchio riding his bike to school in Karate Kid.  Crazy and silly I know, but that is just one association that music has instilled in my brain.

To me, and this is cliché, but music is our soundtrack.  Just like in a movie: when you’re angry, a hard-rock song may be your weapon of choice; when you’re in love, maybe a nice ballad; when you’re ready to party and go dancing, those pop songs that you hate may become your dance track.  No matter the emotion you are feeling, “there’s a beat for that.” (Yes, I just shamelessly plugged commercialism)

Without the power of music, there would not be a video montage of your favorite team winning the championship.  The action scene in your favorite movie just wouldn’t quite have the same effect if playing in the background was “Tip toe through the tulips” by Tiny Tim.  Tell me that women, and some men, would still cry during that scene in Ghost if the Righteous Brothers were replaced by Weird Al.  When it comes right down to it, some people just truly underestimate the power of music.


Origins of a DJ – Intro

INTRO

So, I’ve been sitting here for the past few weeks, trying to figure out what to write about next.  The topic of music keeps coming up in my mind, but to me, that is a massively overwhelming subject.  See, music has been a major part of my life – or at least, I’d like to think it has.

What I started was a blog that was just going to talk about my love for music, and my transitions through just being a listener, to being a “DJ,” to being a DJ, and even being a radio personality.

As I began to write, I realized there was no way that this will work as just one blog.  So in order to keep your attention (hopefully), I have broken it down to more manageable posts. I’m really not sure how many there will be, but I hope that you take the time to read them all.  You may just enjoy them, or may  not…either way, I hope you are entertained, and maybe even learn a little more about little old me.


Getting old?

So, today is my son’s first birthday – holy crap, what?! it’s his 10th?!!! (Funny thing is that I really did start to type “first,” so I went with it)

Um yeah, so today is my son’s 10th birthday.  I can’t believe that it’s been that long.  I mean, it just doesn’t seem like an entire decade has passed since one of the most amazing, most memorable days of my life.  Has it really been that long since everyone feared the end of the world in the celebration of Y2K? Have I really been out of college that long (ASU ’99)? Does that really mean it’s been 16 year’s since I graduated high school (LHS ’94)? This list could get long….

I guess what I’m getting at, is the older your children get, the more you realize how much the world is changing around you.  The past couple of years have been full of “ah-ha” moments.  One of the first was when I added my step-sister, (former, how exactly does this work anyway? – do you just lose step-siblings in a divorce? I digress) Dawna, on Facebook.  Her initial response was, “you look like a young Art (my dad).”  It was at that moment that I began counting the years back only to realize that my father was my age when he joined their family.  That truly struck me, not so much in a bad way, but in a relative way.  I began to see many things in my life in a different light.  I began to realize my parents ages and what they were going through as I enter certain moments in my own life.  You really begin to get a better perspective of your own life through this imagery.

What does it mean to get old? to grow old? Is it the collection of new aches and pains you wake up to each day? Is it the way that you run out of breath trying to race your son through a bounce house obstacle course? Is it the way that you begin to look at yourself in the mirror each morning, realizing more and more that you look like your parents? Or is it the growth in knowledge, and the realization that your parents were one of the best forms of education you’ve ever had (good or bad)? It could also be the fact that you’ve become boring to everyone around you, well, at least some of the time.

Age is definitely just a number, and how old you are really is based on the way you feel and think.  I feel old….lol I don’t know, sometimes I just feel so run down, but when I think of others throughout my life, I do my best to drudge through and keep going.  My son definitely helps me stay young.  I do feel at times though, I really need to do a better job to do more things with him.  As I’ve already said, a whole decade with him by my side has gone by, and I feel I’ve missed so much already.  Looking at him in pictures, it is just so amazing to see how old he now looks.  He is growing up so very fast right before all our eyes, and we don’t even notice it until it’s too late.

So now the question becomes, is growing old the realization of what all you’ve missed?

Nah…but I do think that it get’s you to think about it, and that’s a good thing.  It’s a good thing to take a look at what’s around you and realize what all there is.  Too often we take for granted everything that we have.  Life IS too short, and we need to cherish every opportunity, every smile, and every birthday.  It’s a sign of us growing older, but it’s also another chance to remember and be thankful.