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Writing my ticket

Writing is my passion. It is born out of life experiences.

If it weren’t for the pay, I would probably be doing it full-time to support my family. Instead, I fell into advertising and use written words in various aspects of my professional and personal life to create change. I change perceptions. I change feelings. I change opinions. I change mistakes. I change the world around me in small ways every day.

I took a break from university for a bit in the mid-1990’s to follow the Dead, start a family, and see the country. “This is my chance to get a head start on material for my auto-biography!” I rationalized to myself. My search for content; for meaning; for purpose; for experience; shaped who I am today. These experiences didn’t lead to a traditional path, but thanks to my journey, realization came at a young age that life is about experiences. A few papers missed, a few tests failed, a few days of work blown off…but I learned to prioritize my life and focus energy on things that matter to me . No regret will occupy my soul when I part this very intricate and confusing connection of the paths of experiences I’ve been so blessed to encounter on this earth. I refuse to leave doubt in the hearts and minds of those that matter most to me in this world about what they have meant to my life.

Mystic /ˈmɪstɪk/

A person who achieves mystical experience or apprehension of divine mystery.

Maze /ˈmāz/

Any complex system or arrangement that causes bewilderment, confusion, or perplexity.

College was exquisite prep for both my career and personal pursuits. My eyes were opened to the realization that individual experience is what defines one’s life, and I fine-tuned my skills and passion for acquiring more experiences, more knowledge, more creative ways to consider problems; Problems like the art of persuasion. I convinced my parents to partially fund a bachelor’s of fine arts. They wanted me to get a business degree, but I convinced them it just wasn’t my path. Next, I moved on to asking the government and large financial institutions to fund some very large grants and loans to cover the rest of my Jesuit education at a private university. This was really just a twice-a-year opportunity to cover my college buddies’ exorbitant bar tabs in celebration of my Stafford Loan check arriving; An ongoing, bi-annual floating holiday – celebrated religiously during my 9-year college career. The holiday is no longer celebrated, but quietly observed each month by writing a payment to Sallie Mae that rivals a lease payment on a fünf or sechs series BMW.

Although I didn’t realize it, by the time I was nearing the end of my long and at times, committed, collegiate career, I had learned to negotiate with my professors. Asking them to be mindful of my financial situation, and to consider the fact I was supporting a family while working full-time in order to pursue my degree, I asked for and received, special consideration for deadline extensions and a unique educational experience. These answered prayers resulted in an opportunity to participate in classes at a higher level as an actual business professional and attain some pretty decent grades (despite my lack of mathematical or scientific prowess). I took some classes on campus, and others on-line, as I continued to further my professional career. After graduation, I improved my job hunting skills and “selling myself”…The training of persuasion via the written word seemed to translate well in the real world, so naturally I gravitated toward sales and advertising. My ability to present myself and my ideas was a realized strength. My verbal communication was improving, as well. Many of the literature and theater classes I had taken focused a great amount of the curriculum on public speaking and oral presentation. I earned a management position before ever graduating college and it catapulted my career.

Before my first big break in the ad world at age 23, I was working at the local weekly entertainment rag in Kansas City answering phones taking ads for the “adult section” of the paper making $6.00 an hour. I once took a call from Joe Perry (of Aerosmith) who was dialing in for an interview with our music editor…it was a very strange place, and I loved it. My goal at the paper was to land an editorial internship in the fall, which would ultimately launch my writing career. The summer prior, I had completed an internship with Saint Louis Homes and Gardens magazine doing some basic proofreading and low-level copy, but never had anything published. I had another short stint in the print world with a four-week-debacle at a business magazine which shall remain nameless, but it taught me what pressure was all about. It also taught me to be cognizant of the supporting cast around you, and how to evaluate a corporate culture before committing 50+ hours a week to anything. I returned to the Pitch for about a year in ad sales, where I worked for an amazing mentor and she pushed me to discover the power of punctuation and to fully utilize a fax machine; I’ll document that funny story at a later date. From there, I launched my agency career with Draft working in nightlife promotions for clients in the liquor, tobacco, and music industries (tough gig). I used this experience to work for several other agencies, including the Sunflower Group (West Coast Sales Director and National Event Director), a year as VP of Sales and Marketing for the sponsorship acquisition arm of Braun Racing (now Turner Motorsports), an Account Director for Wunderman, and my current shop, VML, as a Product Director and Account Director. My current gig is probably the best agency on the planet, and I have long-term aspirations to do really big things here…stay tuned and watch.

Agency life just seemed to be my calling. It wasn’t the planned path of writing for a living, but it felt right. I seemed able to deconstruct client and prospect problems with ease, and assert myself / insert my ideas into almost any equation. If I couldn’t generate the answer on the fly, I knew the right questions to ask that would eventually generate the answer — either myself, or by adding more characters to the “story” (in writing, this is called character introduction, but in the ad world, this is RESOURCING). Asking for things and creatively explaining options (instead of telling clients I had all the answers) seemed to come naturally and be well-received. I didn’t sell my ideas – I gave my clients and prospects a story. The story had many options and paths that it could go. I could re-write the story differently each time. Everyone wants to write their own ending, and my ideas and agency’s services allowed this to become reality.

So, back to my original point. You need experiences to develop strong writing. I have had some amazing experiences, but I have yet to transform them into finished pieces. Many of my emotions and learnings are still trapped inside. I believe I have lost about 8 or 10 poems I poured over during a tough year (2005)… they may turn up somewhere, or they may be gone forever. At the time, I didn’t realize the personal importance writing had on my life, but I had a few people read my work (including my then-future-wife) and was told that it was strong. I hope to re-capture that passion this year and start writing regularly, again. 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration — that’s what Dr. Charles Kovich (my college English instructor, mentor, and English chair) always preached. I have done a few things, including a piece that was published in a small business publication, but it was less creativity and more business-focused. My work obviously needs polish, but just the act of writing again is the first step. I remember a couple of lines vividly from those poems a few years back: “Camping near rivers of free-flowing thought. Havoc is heaven. I reap what I wrought” and “Pencil meets paper. Lead crumbles. Magic ensues…” The rest of the lines escape me now, but I will regain that magic and passion I know I still have.

All that said, my advice to any aspiring young English majors out there: RETHINK YOUR ASPIRATIONS. Pick Math or Science. Don’t spend the rest of your life having your livelihood depend upon your ability to convince anyone to give you anything. I’ve been lucky because I am pretty good at it, but some days I question my choices and am left with little time to write. Stay in school, kids. Live vicariously through folks like me and do something to better this world. Or get a head start on that auto-biography… and remember, bad decisions make for good stories, but good decisions make for even better ones. The world needs another author like the world needs another author.

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NYE 2012 snow in KC


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I left my pennant in San Fransisco…

The loveliness of Atlanta and D.C.
Seems somehow sadly Chipper.
The glory that was Strasburg,
Is of another day.
I’ve cheered,
And cheered, and cheered in StL…
But I’m going back to the city by the bay.
I left my pennant in San Francisco,
High on a hill, it calls to me.
To be with little Pagan,
Who thinks he is a star?
The morning fog may chill the air
I don’t care!
My pennant waits there in San Francisco.
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come back to you, San Francisco!

Go Cards! #12in12

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A long, strange trip…

I began following the Grateful Dead in College. My first show was July 26th, 1994– my life was pretty much changed that night.

Riverport Amphitheatre, St. Louis, MO (Tuesday, 7/26/94)

Jack Straw
Friend of the Devil
Little Red Rooster
Lazy River Road
Queen Jane
Tennessee Jed
Childhood's End
Easy Answers

China Cat Sunflower ->
I Know You Rider
Victim or the Crime ->
Samba in the Rain
Estimated Prophet ->
Drums ->
Space ->
The Wheel ->
Attics of my Life ->
Sugar Magnolia

E: I Fought the Law
19 Songs

I had listened to the music, but never “heard” the music. It was a spectacle. It was a circus. It was a party. It was a family. Who were the Grateful Dead and why were they following me??

Since then, I’ve seen a decent number of shows across the country. Dead, Phish, Panic, Festivals like the New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival (1996), Bonnaroo (2005), Wakarussa in Lawrence (2006 and 2007). Although my frequency for touring and seeing shows has declined, my appetite for the music hasn’t diminished. I don’t have a single musical bone in my body, and I really can’t read/hear music very well — to me, it’s more about the atmosphere and the environment. The people at a show that contribute to the experience is what drew me into the jam band scene, and I am still a big fan.

Below is a timeline (that I can remember and verify with a ticket stub, or photo-documentation of some sort) of all the shows I’ve attended since the summer of 1994:

1994: PHISH – Riverport ampitheater, STL, Steve Miller Band, riverport ampitheater, Everclear (Hurricane-KC), Tina and the B-side movement (Hurricane – KC)
1995: Grateful Dead 3x (2 Riverport shows in STL and the final show at Soldiers Field), Phish 2x (Riverport in STL, Municipal in KC), Beastie Boys (Kemper Arena, KC)
1996: Panic in KC, The Furthur Festival – Riverport in STL, PHISH 3x (STL – Kiel Center, Sandstone, KC, and Champagne, IL at Assembly Hall) G-Love and Special Sauce at The Grand Emporium
1997: Blues Traveler – Red Rocks in Denver, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (some club in Denver)
1998: Furthur Festival – Fiddlers Green in Denver, Victor Wooten at Quioxtes, (Denver, CO), David Nelson Band at Quixotes (Denver, CO), Blink 182 (Ogden Theater/Denver, CO) Blues Traveler (RedRocks in Denver) Panic (Red Rocks, Denver)
1999: Phil + Friends with Willie Nelson, Allman Bros, (Sandstone, KC) Phish (Sandstone, KC)

2000: RatDog (Lawrence, KS), Phil Lesh + Bob Dylan (Sandstone, KC), Panic (River Market, KC) Bella Fleck/Dave Matthews (Sandstone, KC) Phish -(Sandstone, KC)
2001: can’t remember
2002:The Other Ones, Henry J. Kaiser Arena, Oakland, CA
2003: The Wailers – some random Reggae Festival in Dana Point, CA
2004: Tom Petty (Sandstone Amphitheater, KC)
2005: The Schwag (Schum-a-palooza), Bonnaroo (Panic, Bob Weir, Dave Matthews, etc.) Tom Petty (Sandstone, KC)
2006: Panic – KC, North Carolina, Wakarussa (Lawrence, KS), Cake (Uptown, KC)
2007: Wakarussa (Lawrence, KS) Phil + Friends (Uptown, KC) KC Blues/Jazz (Tower of Power headlined)
2009: The Dead @ Pepsi Center in Denver, Coldplay (Sprint Center, KC), Poets and Pirates Tour (Houston, TX) Phish (Fox Theater, STL) Panic (Midland, KC)
2010: The Dead @ Chaefiez Arena in STL, Cypress Hill/Slightly Stoopid (Crossroads KC), Tim McGraw/Lady Antebellum (Sprint Center, KC) Panic (Midland, KC)
2011: Widespread Panic, Roger Daultray – Tommy Rock Opera, Furthur-STL @ the Fabulous Fox Theater, Hot Buttered Rum (Steamboat Springs, CO)


What music have you seen that has changed your life??

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Winter 2012 bus restoration plans

Well, it looks like I have a new warmer spot for some winter repairs to my ’67 bus! I am having an insulated garage door installed in a couple of weeks, and it should make for a nice winter work spot for my ride.

Thanks to my wonderful wife, I have a few Christmas presents to install over the winter:

  • A new Ipod stereo with a custom speaker for under the parcel tray
  • 50 square feet of fatmat sound deadening material
  • New, custom-stitched reproduction curtains made from original German plaid material (thanks to my sis, Karen, who is a professional seamstress!)
  • Cut & stain the birch panels on the interior walls
  • Cut and install the last 3 screens for camper windows

Besides the cosmetic and music enhancements, I have some real work to do, too. Install the following parts that have been sitting in my garage for 2 or 3 years!!:

  • Transmission swap (my original slips out of 4th, but I have a spare)
  • Install a new wiring harness to replace the old crusty wiring (that should be an adventure… I think I will install a new fuse box while I’m at it)
  • Install a dual circuit master cylinder/reservoir for better breaking
  • Install 2 rear shocks
  • Get some of the lower metal welded (passenger side rockers, cargo doors, and floors) – I am having a friend do some of this, but I may take on a little of it myself 🙂
  • Install a nicer set of front cab doors/window frames
  • Install door seals

Lots to do — and i am hoping for lots of help from my buddies John, Jack, and Brandon!!  This “to do” list should supply plenty of bus-related updates over the winter, in preparation for the spring/summer camping and show season!!

Happy Camping!

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And so it begins…

Hello world.

The overhead view is of me in a maze
And you see what I’m hunting a few steps away
And I take a wrong turn and I’m on the wrong path
And the people all watching enjoy a good laugh

Embarrassed with failure, I try to reverse
The course that my tread had already traversed
So doing the trauma engulfing my dream
Invaded through what was an unguarded seam
The torrent of helplessness swept me away
To the cavern of shame and the hall of dismay
Inside me a voice was repeating this phrase:
“You’ve lost it, you’ll never get out of this maze”

You’ll never get out of this maze.
You’ll never get out of this maze.
You’ll never get out of this maze.
You’ll never get out of this maze.
You’ll never get out of this maze.
You’ll never get out of this maze.
You’ll never get out of this maze.