New Model Army or The Reason I’ve Never Been To A Concert

In 1990 I was a newly trained 19d10 US Army Scout stationed in Wildflecken, Germany in the 4th Infantry 1/68 Armored Division. During my short stint with this unit I was introduced to a band that would very rapidly become a staple of my life.

I was assigned to a room with a young man from Brooklyn. At the time I felt like my life was a living hell. He was loud, brash, and in my opinion just a little bit thuggish. I on the other hand was quiet, unassertive, and in my opinion just a little bit too well behaved.

I not sure if we ever got along, but I do remember when his opinion of me improved.

One day a few months after arriving , I was returning from the library when a Mortar stationed in the same barracks passed me and said something I found offensive. I must have been in a mood because I actually went against my usual forgiving manner and corrected him. He charged me and I defended myself. The altercation didn’t last because Scouts and Mortars began jumping out of their windows to break us up. I proceeded to my room. When I’m in a situation like this, I remain very calm and collective. I don’t lose my temper I just take care of the task at hand. It is when the everything has calmed down that my adrenaline starts to boil. By the time I entered my room I was shaking with pure emotion. My roommate looked up from the bed and started to ask me what was going on when my adversary burst into the room and attacked me. I went into a blind rage, grabbed him, threw him out into the hall, and proceeded to try and put his head through the mortar wall. I am lucky the rest my platoon saved me from causing him any serious injury.

From this point on my roommate showed me more respect. We weren’t friends, but at least he wasn’t such an ass.

Now this roommate listened to a lot of music I had never heard or even liked at the time. I would come to like most of the bands he listened to years after we parted company, but I just couldn’t get past my own distain for him to appreciate the bands he was exposing me to. That is until one fateful occasion. He had a car and would regularly drive to see his girlfriend who lived quite a distance away. One morning he came into the room looking more haggard than usual. On his drive home he had hit a patch of ice and barely escaped with his car intact.

He commented that he had been listening to New Model Army at the time.

For a month or so he had been listening to a bootleg cassette of New Model Army’s album Ghost Of Cain. When he would put something in his boom box I would either leave the room or grab my Walkman, put on the headphones, and play one of my own cassettes never paying attention to his selection. As he is telling me his story he puts the cassette in and pushes play. I’m actually paying attention this time and as he recounts what is in his mind is a near death experience. The song he plays is stops me in my tracks. (click on blue name to hear a snippet)

I was hooked. I spent the rest of the work day thinking about 51st State. The song was in my head. There was something about it that just appealed to me. I hadn’t even heard it enough to know what it was suppose to mean. It was just the beat, the acoustic guitar, and the lead vocals spoke to me. I sit here now trying to recall just what it was but after 29 years I have listened to 51st State so many times I know all the nuances and subtlety I missed that first time. It’s not my favorite NMA song but I am still very fond of it.

When I returned to my room that afternoon, I asked my roommate to borrow his cassette. You should have seen the shocked look on his face as he handed it over. I plugged The Ghost of Cain into my Walkman put on my headphones and didn’t come up for air the rest of the night

Cover Art



Every song on the album captured my imagination.

From the hard driving opening The Hunt

To the forlorn track Ballad

A month later my roommate commented that I listened to the cassette more than him.

Sometime in August 1990, Our unit was being disbanded when Iraq invaded Kuwait. I was only days away from being sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana where an uncle of mine was also stationed as a Scout. All of my belongings had already been shipped and I was just waiting for my travel papers to come in. Our platoon was playing basketball in the Gym when our Captain called us together and asked for two volunteers to be transferred to another scout unit that was being deployed to Saudi Arabia with the 3rd Armored Division. I thought about two seconds and raised my hand because I had joined the Army for a challenge and didn’t feel I had really been presented one yet. Three hours later I was in a military van on the way to my next assignment with the NMA cassette in my possession. A kind parting gift from a roommate who decided I needed it much more than him.

I have considered occasionally what my music collection would be like if I had not raised my hand in that faithful moment. Here in the states in the 90’s one of the hardest things to get ahold of was a New Model Army CD. I managed but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t until Amazon became a household name that I was able to complete my collection.

So I was transferred to the scout platoon with the 4/34 Armored Division in Mainz, Germany. When my unit deployed to Saudi Arabia on New Years Day 1991 I listened to The Ghost Of Cain the entire 14 hour C130 flight. The day after my unit left Mainz, New Model Army played a concert in the area.

Our first night in Saudi Arabia was spent in a US troop camp on the Persian Gulf. I remember standing on a rock barrier staring out into the Gulf with NMA blasting through my headphones. My M14 was slung across my back with the muzzle pointed downward resting along my right thigh. I must have feverishly been playing air guitar with that muzzle because that night I earned the nickname SPAZ. I’m still proud of that nickname.

Day 2 Saudi Arabia

I distinctly remember getting lost in these songs that night

Needless to say NMA was my main staple during my entire Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Desert Farewell deployment. Sometime in April or May of 1991 my unit returned to Mainz, just days after New Model Army held a concert in the vicinity. Seeing a pattern here?

My time in Mainz was spent between my military life and exploring the town spending my money hand over fist. I bought my very first Cd player and every NMA Cd I could find in German record stores.

The Ghost Of Cain

Vengeance

Thunder and Consolation

Impurity

The newly released live album Raw Melody Man

a Cd with the cover I posted at the top of the page

I was in New Model Army heaven. There wasn’t a track on any Cd I didn’t like. It doesn’t matter what kind of a mood I’m in, I can listen to any NMA Cd and I’m instantly content.

Here’s Something I bet you were expecting. By this time I was trying, planning, saving for the next NMA concert anywhere within a feasible commute for an active duty person. Two days after I was sent back to the US in July 1991 New Model Army held a concert close enough for me to attend.

On the plane ride I vowed that the first concert I ever attended would be a New Model Army performance. 28 years and I am still waiting. You see they don’t tour the United States very often and before the internet and they established their website http://www.newmodelarmy.org/, I had no way of reliably knowing if they did. So I bought the few Cd’s I could in the States and didn’t go to any concerts.

In 2009, NMA announced tour dates in the United States. I talked to my boss and planned on taking my first vacation in 5 years on a trip to Austin. I was ready. Then their visas got cancelled. A few years later they came as close as Albuquerque, NM but I had neither the time nor money to make the trip.

So I wait. I try to expose everyone to a dose of New Model Army.

I have still never attended a concert.

I hold true to my vow.

New Model Army has my first and only loyalty

I’m just a vagabond… prisoner forever

Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave

On February 7, 2019, my favorite podcast Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave released their spectacular 400th episode. In this day and age that may not seem like much of an achievement but with the cast of characters behind this endeavor 400 is a milestone.

A little background for those who are wondering what the hell is a podcast. I’m going to turn to Wikipedia for that answer. A podcast or generically netcast, is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download in order to listen to. It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.
By 2007, audio podcasts were doing what was historically accomplished via radio broadcasts, which had been the source of radio talk shows and news programs since the 1930s. This shift occurred as a result of the evolution of internet capabilities along with increased consumer access to cheaper hardware and software for audio recording and editing.

I first became aware of podcasts in 2013. I had gotten tired of the radio playlist years before and often listened to talk radio and National Public Radio. One of the Programs that really fascinated me on NPR was an outstanding program called Radiolab. I eventually went to the internet and found out I was able to listen to past episodes on their website. I continued to do this for a year or so listening to many NPR programs while I played video games. I know it sure drove my girlfriend and future wife batty. Sometime in late 2013 I purchased my first smart phone. I wasn’t to impressed or happy with the device until I discovered that I could get an app that let me listen to programs I liked by downloading them to my phone. Suddenly a whole new world opened. up to me. I was able to listen to my phone while on the road driving between locations and even while I counted money from the Jukebox’s and pool tables at each location.

One night in February 2014, I’m perusing Netflix and I watched this program called Comic Book Men. I really enjoyed it. The main person I recognized was Kevin Smith, who I knew as the character Silent Bob from Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.   What I didn’t know at that time was that he was also a director of both films along with a few others I was to learn about very shortly. Kevin owned the location where Comic Book Men was filmed and was lifelong friends with two of the stars. I was fascinate with the program and really enjoyed it especially Bryan Johnson and Walt Flannigan.

During each episode the cast would gather around a table and discussed what happened in the store that week. For the first six episodes I devoured one after another. I noticed the table had microphones in front of each individual and I began to wonder if they were also taping a podcast that might include more material not shown on the series. To the internet I went and discovered Smodcast.com.

Suddenly I was pulled into a world I have not left since.

Jay and Silent Bob Get Old with Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes. Recorded in front of a live audience where Kevin and Jason started out discussing Jason’s battle with addiction as a way to hold him accountable and has turned into so much more than a group therapy session. Each episode Jason will reveal how many days he has been drug free.

Smodcast with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. Kevin and Scott can and have discussed any and everything including taking a humorous ad for a tenant and turning it into a Movie (TUSK)

Plus many other podcast that have come and gone since I first discovered the Smodcast Network. Please check it and them out they are worth the listen.

I started listening to each podcast from episode one and refused to listen to the latest episodes until I had caught up with all previous episodes, some of them dating clear back to 2007. Ten months into my listening experience I caught up with every episode of every podcast I enjoyed and have been faithfully subscribed to each one since my night of discovery.

The crème de la crème of Smodcast, in my humble opinion, was Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave. It started out as an attempt by Bryan Johnson to help battle his demons and give his unique since of humor a forum it deserved. Walt Flannigan, Bry’s friend since the fifth grade, was willing to participate in an attempt to help Bry. Neither participant thought the endeavor would last very long giving Bry’s proclivity to give up on almost everything he ever attempted.

Sometime in November 2009 the very first episode was recorded at the secret stash in Red Bank, NJ. It was released Feb, 21, 2010. Brian Quinn who would later go on to fame as one of AMC’s Impractical Jokers was silent, acting as sound engineer. He would not be included as regular until the 4th or 5th episode. At the time of recording Bry wanted to name the podcast Joint Counter Joint. Walt didn’t like the idea and advocated for Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave since they were both the most famous for the utterance of this line in Kevin’s movie Mallrats.  Bryan didn’t want to barter on their friendship with Kevin. We are all glad we are the TESD ARMY ANTS instead of the CJC ROACHES .

One episode in and I was intrigued. Episode two hooked me. By episode three TESD was my favorite podcast, I was listening to 5 or more episodes a day in an attempt tp catch up. By episode #228 in Dec 2014 I had caught up with the current episodes and was a lifelong fan. Of course at this point I supplemented my addiction with re-listening to the entire library.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not big into “fandom” I like the Cowboys but they are not we. The same goes for the Rangers, Rockies, or any other sport team or entity. I enjoyed but I did not obsess. So what is it about TESD that makes me identify with them so much? In a nutshell its three things.

Bryan Johnson Walt Flannigan Brian Quinn

Walt, Bry, and Q

All three are complex characters and creative geniuses.

Bry battles depression, anger, and the stupidity of the world in general. It is not unusual for him to rant about many things. His parents and the idiocy he sees in social media and entertainment media are common foibles for his ire. He has the uncanny ability to take anything and make an hilarious joke or observation that gets all three laughing uncontrollably. Bry has niece with Down Syndrome who lives with him and he has clearly loved her since birth. His relationship with her is one of his most endearing qualities. If it wasn’t for the podcast and his niece there is no telling what hole Bry would have hidden himself down by now.

Walt is the sanest person he knows. He runs the Secret Stash with an tenacity to pull every dime he can from the sweaty hands of each and every individual he deals with. Walt will argue a point he believes in to the death. He will also argue any point he doesn’t believe in just to bust balls or for a laugh. In the early days he didn’t want to be on the podcast but he made a promise to Bry that he would stick around for as long as it lasted. Sometime before episode 100 Walt realized the potential of TESD and the faithfulness of its listener base and has put his heart and soul into making TESD the best it can be, coming up with games, commercials, and many projects to reward the TESD ARMY. It was Walt who first mentioned that we are all ants and will never be anything but ants.

Q was just suppose to be the sound guy. One day he started talking on an episode and the die was cast. A former firefighter and now Impractical Joker, Qs first love and devotion is to TESD. The very first podcast vinyl album was his idea and project. Much like Walt he is not above espousing a contrary idea to make something funnier. He created the all inclusive Four Colors Demons Club.

I didn’t even break the surface in my description of these three men

I identify with this trio of friends. They know each other well and are not afraid of offending anyone when they bust each others balls over the littlest thing. This form of humor is how I always interacted with my friends because it is much easier than admitting just how much you truly like and respect each other and there is something special about someone you don’t have to worry about having a filter around. When I listen to TESD I feel like they are my friends and there is nothing I would like to do more than sit and bs with all three for hours on end. I fact I have had dreams where we just sit around and talk.

Much like me and my few friends they also playfully antagonize guest and outsiders with quips, jokes, and observations.

I feel sorry for the many guest and various characters who enter the arena and attempt to match those three for wit and humor. Very few stand up and hold their own. Dave Windorf, Maxwell, and Frank Five are treasured guest who know how to just be themselves in the TESD universe. Others like Sunday Jeff and Ming Chen know they are not on the podcast to be witty, but to be a catalyst for the humor that will arise from their interplay with the three main players. Probably the most polarizing and misunderstood guest on TESD is Gitemstevedave, who tries so hard to match wit Bry, Walt, and Q that he ends up failing horribly alienating himself from the TESD ANTS.

I digress.

It would take a book to explain the complexity of the TESD run of episodes and the growth of all three. Not to mention charity episodes, bonus episodes, Christmas episodes, audible books, vinyl records, movies, television series, and merchandise.

I just wanted to pay a small tribute to the boys.

I am contemplating adding new section to this blog where I discuss TESD episodes.

I am just an ant. I’ve always known I’m an ant. I’m proud to be an ANT in the TESD anthill. I buy the T-shirts and Merchandise because I want to support the guys and be an TESDANT.

Episode 400 was outstanding. I know many didn’t believe it would last this long. I know it can’t last forever, but for as long as it does I am along for the ride. Here’s to many more years of TESD.

Thank You, Bry, Walt, and Q

My Earliest Memory

My father, me, and my little sister


My first Memory may not be a true memory. As I tell this story you may see why I believe this is a strong possibility.

I must have been around two years old.

The earliest I can remember is the park. I recall playing in park with my mother. I believe that this park was just across from the apartment complex we lived in situated somewhere on the Concho River in San Angelo, Texas. If we are ever happen to be in the area at the same time I might just try to show you where I think this occurred.

We rode the See-Saw
We played on the slide and swings
I remember the Merry-Go-Round

I was happy. I was a child having fun. What more could any ask from a memory. As I sit here typing thinking about that time I get chocked up hoping that my 4yo son is always as happy as I was at that moment.

Eventually we crossed the street and went back to the apartment. I can still almost see in my minds eye a little girl who I thought was the most beautiful girl in the world running on the second floor walkway. She had long strait shiny brown hair. Lovely blue eyes. I don’t recall if I ever played with her or if I even talked to her. I just know I liked her.

The next memory is of moving men coming into the apartment and taking my toys away. I jumped on my riding horse. Do you remember those? The ones with a spring to make it bounce up and down. I stayed on until I was forced to depart my steed. I was not a happy camper.

Next my memories jump to me standing next to my father in the cab of his yellow or maybe orange truck. I don’t know whether it was a Ford or a Chevy, but it had one long seat from door to door. My sister was between my mother and me. I’m unhappy and my father stops at a store and buys me a toy.

I was happy again. Hey I’m a toddler, simple things simple things.

This is where the memory ends.

I have no idea how old I actually was when I was finally left with the couple who adopted me. She was my fathers sister. For clarity anytime I talk about my adoptive parents I will call them mom and dad. I do know I am now in possession of a birth certificate that states they are my birth parents. My father told me that one of his conditions for letting them adopt us was that our last names not be changed and he was pretty furious when this occurred. I do know that he came to visit often and somewhere deep down in the my subconscious I knew who he was long before a neighbor girl spilled the beans about us being adopted when I was seven or eight. I would stare at him. I felt a connection to him. I knew who he was without really knowing.

I have talked to my mom, my grandmother, my father, and a few years ago my mother about how I was left with mom and dad. I have heard four different stories.

My point is nothing happened like I remember. My father and my mother were no longer together at the time I was left with mom and dad for the final time.

My earliest memory a lie…

A lie..?

A dream?

It seems too real and too vivid to be a dream. I remember dreams I’ve had when I was five and six (before I even knew one existed, I was the fourth musketeer…that was a reoccurring dream). Those dreams aren’t as clear and precise as this “memory”. I don’t know how old I was when I consciously became aware of this memory, but it feels like it has always been present.

I finally have found an explanation I am willing to
accept.

My father said that many times before we were left for
good we had been takin over to my aunts to stay while tried to go their separate ways. Maybe I’m remembering one of those occasions times.

Maybe my happiest memory of my birth mother is not a
dream….

My Father and me 2018

The Day It Was Hot At Dusk

The sun is just beginning to set.

My opponent and I enter the clearing on schedule.

We stand facing each other.

I recall the countless times I have been here before.

                Metal flashes in the sunlight.

                Rapiers clash.

                Blade upon blade.

                Oh how I loved that tone.

                In an instant it is over.

                Steel pierces flesh.

                The look of surprise on his face.

                                One falls, one stands

                                One dies, one walks away

                                                                                Weeping.

So here I stand once again

The heat is unbearable.

It is so hard to breathe.

I am drenched in sweat.

It started as so many others.

An unintentional insult.

The challenge answered.

The look of fear as my identity is revealed.

I glance at my opponent.

He is calmer than before.

So easy, so young, so sure of himself.

He has resigned to let the fates guide him.

We begin.

                Metal reflects the orange tinge of a fading day.

                Rapiers clash.

                Blade upon blade.

                Oh how I have grown to loathe that clamor.

                In an instant it is over.

                Steel renders flesh.

                A look of surprise on his face.

                                One falls, one stands

                                One dies, one walks away

                                                                                Smiling.

Sometime during my junior year of high school, I pulled one of the books my mother had displayed on the previously discussed desk. It was part of a two volume set: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. As I perused the book trying to work my way through Hamlet, I would occasionally skip ahead trying to find anything that would actually catch my interest. At one point somewhere in all of that text, I came across a sword fight scene. Trying to read the scene, I suddenly had the image of two swordsman weapons in hand standing of in quiet clearing. This is the result. I have never tried to pick up The Great Bard again; unless it was an assignment.

My Desk

desk

I have no idea how long this secretary desk was in my families house hold. I don’t remember it in the 70’s but I do know that when we moved from San Angelo to my parents newly built retirement house on Lake Buchanan in Tow, Texas it was moved into my room.

I have very fond memories of this desk.

It was one of three pieces of furniture in my room. It shared very limited wall space with a bed and a dresser. I have no idea what happened to the bed. Correct that I have no idea what happened to the second bed. The first one perished in a fire sometime around my freshman and sophomore years of high school. That’s a tale for another day. The dresser, was recently sold or given away by my sister after it spent many years providing shelter to clothes, nick nack’s, and things that would never have been allowed to keep in the holy reservoir of apparel.

In front of the desk was the same poor pitiful swivel chair I am sitting in at this very moment. For at least 38 years, the same spindle has been broken and if you grab the chair too forcefully, four other spindles will dislodge from their moorings requiring a hammer to return the chair to sitting condition. I have contemplated at least twice in the last week on grabbing my gorilla glue and seeing if I can afford this poor chair 38 more years. I’ll let you know if I attempt said project.

This desk occupied the left corner of my room if you considerer laying aback the non existent headboard of my bed the center of observation. In the summer, open windows and an open door provided a nice lake breeze. In the winter, double panes provided protection from the cold and kept me from freezing because my mother didn’t like me using my one wall heater. (it was her opinion the fireplace in the living room provided plenty of heat for my room a mere 50ft away)

For eight years, I performed many activities in that little corner of my room. Homework. Modeling. Drawing (poorly) Composing poetry. Writing songs. Working on short stories. Rolling stats of characters I was making for the RPG’s Star Frontiers and Knight Hawks. I even remember creating a war game played with dice. This was the desk where I composed two 1st Place VFW Voice of Democracy speeches. I spilt many drinks. (hence the watermarks) I know I drew on it. (the pen and pencil marks have faded but the indentions are still present in the wood) I’m surprised this desk survived.

By far my best memories of this desk are the books my mother displayed on the shelf. I ignored them for two years and then one bored summer day I decided reading wouldn’t be so bad. I went and asked my mother if I could read the books. I guess she thought I was old enough, because the next thing I know I’m immersed in literature no 12yo would normally read. I have never stopped reading since. Alex Haley’s Roots. Wow . Next I remember reading Diane Pearson’s Czardas, about an aristocratic Austrian family from just before WWI to after WWII . Included on the shelf were a few of the Readers Digest condensed books. Do you remember those? They would have three or four condensed novels in each edition. In one was a book by Alan Scholefield, The Great Elephant about a family that lived under the protection of King Chaka of the Zulu nation. Harrold Robbins’ The Adventurer’s was a story of South American Revolution. Joe David Brown’s Paper Moon on con artists in the South during the Depression. I currently have first edition copies every novel but Paper Moon (I have a reprint) in my library so that I may read them again every few years. Without theses Novels, I would not have the love of reading.

In the Summer of ’89 I moved out my mothers house and forgot about the desk. By the time I started to settle down in my 40’s, I began to think fondly of that old desk and wondered what happened to it. My mother passed away in 2002 and it was not among her household items. Two years ago a cousin mentioned that he had a desk my mother gave him and he would bring it next time he came to the reunion. He was under the impression I wanted it. I thought he was talking about my father’s roll top desk and though I had never expressed an interest in it I thought it would be nice to have since the deer rifle my father promised me never made it to my possession. I skipped he next reunion and my cousin left the desk at my brother-in-laws house.

Last October I went to the reunion making sure I took my truck so I could transport the desk back home. It was overjoyed when I saw the desk I never expected to see again waiting for me. It now sits in my bedroom holding some of my prized possessions.

I hope that some day my child will mar this desk as he sits there trying to avoid doing his homework.

The Thousand Screams

It is fall.

The sun sets.

The rays of my existence have almost descended.

The breeze caresses me.

It soothes while it struggles to destroy me.

Soon I will succumb.

My usefulness to the mother is at an end.

No longer will I spend my days nourishing her.

Once I was vibrant, now I’m dull and pale.

Once I was useful, now I’m a burden to be discarded.

I can feel my brothers and sisters surrendering.

They leave us.

They break away from the mother.

Does she not feel anything?

Does she not care?

Why does she discard us?

The wind begins to rip at me.

My tie to the mother is being torn apart.

I begin to fall.

For what seemed like an eternity I plummet.

Finally I land.

I lay there among my siblings.

Pleading, weeping, crying.

We scream out our indignation to deaf ears.

                 In the middle of nowhere,
                 The screams of thousands pierce the evening.
                 Unheeded, unheard, un-mourned. 
                 Except by their own silent mothers.

Background

I first conceived this poem in the summer of 1991. While I was serving in the U.S. Army 4th Battalion 34th Armored Division as a 19D10 Cavalry Scout on a modified M1A3 during Operation Desert Shield, one of my fellow scouts received a letter from his mother in Seattle. Along with the letter was another letter from one of the neighbors of my friends mother. It seems this neighbor was looking to support our troops by becoming a pen pal with a deployed soldier in need of some support from home. I wasn’t receiving much mail because at that time I really wasn’t in communication with my family. I was given the letter and so began my correspondence with a highly intelligent young woman. Her name was Catherine Test and we exchanged quite a few letters discussing many topics ranging from day to day activities to her encounter with a celebrity at a party in Seattle. (I will forever keep that one secret to protect the still famous actors privacy) After I was sent back to Germany I received a letter from Ms Kitty Quiz (as I like to call her) that had missed me in Iraq and took some time to get to me. In this letter she told me that I was so descriptive in my writing that I could make someone hear the falling of leaves. That got me to thinking “I could?” “Maybe I can” “Damn right I can” so I proceeded to prove it to myself and KQ that I she was correct. I wrote the poem in an hour pretty much as you see it here. The only revisions I ever made to it in 28 years I made today as I prepared it for this Blog and those revisions were very minor changes to sentence structure and a couple of words I decided needed to be changed. Katherine loved the poem. I lost touch with Katherine as life got in the way, but I will always remember her as someone who first believed in my writing.