Flouride

With little research, but equal reason to do otherwise, I have decided I will monitor my intake of fluoride going forward. I need my third eye and can only imagine how shrunken and damaged it is from years of fluoride abuse. I note that the label on the bottle of “Dasani” water that my dad prefers here at the office only due to the rigidity of the bottle makes no mention of fluoride but does mention a “negligible amount of sodium minerals added for taste”.  I wonder if sodium fluoride is added in “negligible” concentrations?  I am surprised that the FDA would allow Coca Cola to use this word, negligible? And also not make them list the exact “sodium” minerals that are added? I know that with cosmetics, I have to list everything by “common” name AND chemical name, including any minor impurities. When you use a fragrance made up of concentrates of say rose or lily flowers, these labels can start getting long and scary sounding quick. This is stuff that is not ingested but put on your skin in most cases. The only reason I am aware these labeling requirements changed recently is because of EU regs that are much more strict than the US.  Does this seem strange?

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The Problem with the Left….and Not so Much the Right.

I just watched an immature Preying Mantis use his unbelievable gift of cunning stealth to cling to a small branch in a hedge just out back of my office. I marveled at the perfect camouflage that nature provided him as he awaited patiently and nearly undetected for the arrival of his next meal. I then quickly went back to thinking about the many imperfections of the Mainstream Media as it currently stands in America.

You see, it wasn’t long ago that people didn’t think about these things at all. God bless them, it was no doubt a better world, as my parents and others of the Baby Boomer generation love to often remind us. The news was the news, and whatever the networks decided to run as a story had to be pretty good and relevant, otherwise you got up and changed the channel. Hopefully, after watching all three for a bit, you settled on one that seemed to provide the best source of information and entertainment to suit your needs.

There was of course no Internet, so it was critical to get your best men and women on the ground and make sure that they were got the “scoop” on what was going on in the World. Network news reporting was a very different world from the one we have now, indeed.

These are of course were the days when reporters consistently went out into the field and checked their stories with sources as close to the event as possible. Of course, in many cases reporters were personally responsible for ensuring that all witnesses were reliable and credible as possible. Not that this doesn’t happen now, I just have to believe that these days, much information is received and processed using the Internet and other electronic means. It is a very different World.

For many years, even decades, there was no need for a station like CBS, NBC or ABC to have any type of slogan after their name. It was simply CBS News, or ABC Nightly News, etc. It wasn’t until much later that Rupert Murdoch felt that the news as he saw it had become perverted enough that he wanted to distinguish his outfit with a catch phrase. Hence “Fox News…Fair and Balanced” was created. I’m sure this is close to the truth, I really didn’t research this at all.

The point is, until fairly recently, Americans never seemed to have any reason to believe the network news stations would ever intentionally not report on national or world news of significance.  It was assumed that this was their duty, just like the newspapers. It never occurred to most that in many cases, the papers were owned by the same corporations that owned the network news TV stations. Plus, we all know what happens when you assume. Things worked out just fine and dandy for the major networks for many, many years until the inevitable flood of technology and information came to be such that the inevitable happened and people began to ask questions that had not been asked before.

Now I will be the first one to say that Fox News is not necessarily Fair or Balanced. They are however, after looking at the alternatives, about as good an option as we American have these days. It is of course the job of the editors and others in charge of selecting which stories are important to run as headlines or at all in the “prime time” news segments. Likewise, it is also the same editors and others in charge responsibility of picking the stories that they deem not important to run. These decisions are just as critical, if not more so, as those that decide what does get on the news at 5.

It is of course much more difficult to criticize any editorial or management decision concerning news that was never reported. One has to first become aware of this news from some other source, and then go about the somewhat arduous task of finding out why it was not reported, when that decision was made, why it was made, and the toughest of all usually…..Who was responsible?

One of the problems I have encountered over and over again with Liberal friends and other acquaintances is that while many are quick to criticize Fox News sharply and even in a mean tone of spirit, few can readily cite clear examples of where they have been less than “Fair and Balanced”. There are a few, but not many, examples.

On the other hand, just in the recent months, I can honestly say that the three network news stations (ABC, CBS, and NBC) have had shockingly little coverage of what I would consider important news, worthy of prime time exposure:

1)  The emails gone missing at the IRS. The odds of not being able to recover these from a Federal Institution this size has been calculated as roughly the same as winning a Powerball sized lottery jackpot. News concerning this should be reported on nightly on all three networks, it is not.

2)  The continuing escalation of Hillary Clinton’s and the State Dept. involvement with missing evidence in the Benghazi tragedy and investigation.

3)  Obama sending Attorney General Eric Holter to Ferguson, MO to visit the family of African American Mike Brown who was fatally shot by a white police officer earlier this summer. Two days later, a similar incident happened in Salt Lake City but the officer was black and the young male victim white. Obama did not send any representatives and there is no Federal Investigation that I am aware of, unlike the case in Ferguson.

These are only recent examples, there have been many, many more over the years. The fact is, America would do well to have a news organization similar to the BBC in the UK. They report the news at home and around the world fairly accurately and succinctly, they do not have much obvious bias that seems to cause a lot of controversy, and those in charge seem to do a good job of making sure all of the important domestic and world news gets reported and is given fair treatment.

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The BIG Picture

It is not all that hard to find examples of journalists, Left or Right, lauding their leadership’s accomplishments, few as these might be. Perhaps, it is the precise rarity of such accomplishment at all by Government which necessitates this phenomena?  That said, I was shocked by the seemingly utter lack of humility and most basic common sense offered in an Op-Ed piece written by Paul Krugman of the NY Times on November 4, 2012.

In comparing Mr. Krugman’s account of the “near flawless” actions of President Obama following Hurricane Sandy as opposed to the utter trainwreck that was the sole responsibility of President Bush following Hurricane Katrina, even a 7th grader, if given a couple minutes to compose his thoughts, could see at least one of the many glaring omissions.

Sometimes the Left, especially editors at very large newspaper operations, would do well to run their thoughts by a room mixed with proponents and, more importantly, opponents before publishing such nonsense in haste. Especially given the nature of how infrequently Government accomplishment, and thus the ability to report on them, arise. This is actually not a bad idea for anyone in the publishing business.

Unfortunately for Mr. Krugman, this proposed little system of “checks and balances” evidently did not happen in this case. This does not seem to matter to Mr. Krugman nor the Left. The Obama zealots seemed to really enjoy the piece regardless, and these simple, yet equally critical omissions flew right over their pea sized craniums.

Again, maybe the sheer rarity in which information arises that might lend even a hint of accomplishment at all to the work of Obama or Government in general, was reason enough for the Left to offer much praise and thanks to Mr. Krugman in the comments that follow the piece? Also note that the many warranted criticisms of the Right, which were vast and no doubt came swiftly, were seemingly absent in these comments? Could the NY Times be so brash and openly biased to have them removed?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/opinion/krugman-sandy-versus-katrina.html?_r=0

I encourage you to read the article in the link above first and then see if you concur with what I think should be at least three elementary and obvious omissions:

  1. Krugman has no problem ignoring the fact that the residents of New Orleans, along with the rest of the Gulf Coast had at least 3 days of very serious warnings, urging most residing along the coast to evacuate. The severity of the storm was well known, yet many decided to ignore this and stayed anyway, much to their peril. In fact, New Orleans Mayor, Ray “Chocolate City” Nagin, did order the first ever mandatory evacuation of New Orleans prior to Katrina. Is this really the fault of George W. Bush?
  2. Obama had the enormous advantage of hindsight and was able to learn some valuable lessons from Katrina, which was still relatively fresh in the minds of most Americans. The mistakes that followed that tragedy were many and well known. As often happens in America, we are much better at reacting to natural or other disasters, and only start the process of initiating proactive procedures and measures after the fact.
  3.  Perhaps most important of all, Krugman believes that people should rely and depend on the Federal Government as their primary means of assistance and aid in the event of a natural or other disaster. This is obviously a very grave assumption, and even if you believe this it to be true, shouldn’t you look to your local and state branches of government first?
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Rodrigo Gilmorosa

Roger Gilmorosa was born in Crescent City, California in 1942. This is about as far north as you could get along the northern California Coast without being in Oregon.  His father, Alejandro, headed a group of a dozen or so migrant workers, except that the term “migrant worker” had yet to be invented in 1942. The men were largely laborers, assisting hundreds of farmers scattered throughout California plant and harvest crops. World War II had of course created a serious shortage of manpower required to perform labor of any kind in the United States.

The crops grown in California were an essential part of the war effort, and the U.S. Government assisted farmers with funding under Roosevelt’s Bracero Program to help them offer a decent wage for the labor necessary to feed the hundreds of 1,000’s of troops stationed abroad and at home. Most of Alejandro’s crew were born in Mexico, and granted temporary visas to allow them to work, but a few were “illegals” that had been in the country for over a decade and had no interest in exploring any of the legal channels to citizenship.

Alejandro was born in San Diego, and was a proud US Citizen that spoke English very well and gravitated to this “leadership” position quite naturally. He had studied agriculture for nearly three years in the early 30’s at California State University at Chico, but lacked the time and money needed to finish his degree. The l in Gilmorosa, like most l’s in the Spanish language that are stuck somewhere after the first letter of any word, is silent so it is pronounced Ghee-more-ose-ah. As with most rules in the Spanish and English language, this is most of the time, but not every time and exceptions are plentiful.

Alejandro married his wife, Isabella Maria in 1936 and the reception took place in the basement of a small Catholic Church located on Coyamucca Avenue in Chula Vista, CA. Just as Crescent City is the northern most coastal city of California, it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes on a good day to get to the US / Mexico border crossing heading south on Highway 5 out of Chula Vista. Alejandro grew up in this neighborhood and friends and family walked the few short blocks it took to get to the church. Some that had instruments to carry, like Alejandro, decided to drive.

Alejandro played the guitarrón mexicano, which literally translates to “Mexican large guitar”. The instrument might look like a guitar, but was actually developed independently in Spain and is related to the de uña or fingernail-plucked bass.  This instrument has six large strings tuned in alternating fifths and fourths that grace a short, fretless fingerboard. Wound steel or brass is typically used for the bass strings and the higher three treble strings were constructed of nylon. It takes great strength and dexterity to facilitate the two note octave fingering used to provide the bass lines in the mariachi and other traditional Mexican music played capable of the instrument.

The bass lines in mariachi music are not unlike those found in most forms of popular music, producing an alternating “oomp” on the root or one note, followed by the responding “pah” on the following plucked fourth except these are done with two strings, one on the root and one and octave above. There was of course much more complex uses for the instrument depending on the level of intricacy. Just like American folk, jazz and even rock and roll music, Mexican folk music had variety, and could get just as simple, haunting, beautiful, or weird depending on the mood of the composer. Mexican music generally did not get as weird as American music, but there are some who would argue otherwise.

You do not see Mexican guitarrón players getting all “Jaco Pastorius” when they strap on the instrument. This is because of the short neck, high string tension, and other physical factors. It is simply beyond the design capabilities of the instrument. Just holding the thing in the proper position is awkward. It is not a melody or solo instrument, nor have there been many attempts to change this over the years despite brief attempts by overly drunk American tourists. These are usually told to “put the instrument down” in a piercing Mexican accent before much damage is done.

The guitarrón was the inspiration behind American manufacturer Ernie Ball and other manufacturer’s early attempts to make a guitar shaped acoustic bass. Why Ernie waited so long is a mystery, but the first examples started showing up in the early 1970s. They basically added a longer neck, frets, removed two strings, and tuned it in fourths like a “normal” bass. Though it was slightly more portable, this idea never really took off other than having a brief spurt of popularity during MTV’s “Unplugged” series in the early 1990s. The double, or upright bass developed centuries ago in Europe remains the only viable and acceptable acoustic bass used in almost all live and recorded music today.

Of course Roger was fascinated by the guitarrón and all the other instruments that his father’s many friends would bring to the numerous sessions he, along with young Roger, would host and attend over the years. His older brother, Miguel, had been given a soprano ukulele when he was just four years old. This is an excellent instrument for a young child, the chords are relatively simple, the strings are nylon and soft, and the scale is about as small as it gets. Roger, three years younger than Miguel, started to pick on his brother’s instrument at about the same age. He would play it any chance he could, and Miguel was never overly hostel or selfish with sharing just about everything with his younger brother. They had a surprisingly good and loving relationship even in their younger years, and this continued through their teens and into adulthood.

Alejandro decided to settle his family in Bakersfield for a few reasons, but most importantly, much of the work the family performed throughout the year was located in the orchards of the beautiful and vast southern San Joaquin Valley. Dubbed the “food basket of the world” this massively fertile valley is capable of producing nearly every variety of vegetable and fruit known to Man. The one and only resource it lacked remains vitally important.

Water.

Given sufficient quantities of this precious resource, the valley could provide more than enough fruit and vegetables to feed the entire United States population with ease, and some estimates do indeed account for the entire world.

Alejandro, along with his family and crew, chose to work the shady orchards, rather than toil in the heat of the plains and fields. Not that he was lazy or that this work was a whole lot easier. He had simply made connections early in his life and became very schooled and respected in the art of planting and harvesting peaches, tangerines, and oranges. So much so, that he became a “consultant” of sorts, and his advice and expertise where sought frequently.

Alejandro, or Alex and he became known, along with his family and crew received very little of the harsh prejudice that would befall the Okies and Arkies that had come to the Valley earlier in the twentieth century to escape deteriorating conditions on their own homesteads back east. Mainly because most of the white men of suitable age were off assisting in the war effort, but also because of Alex’s reputation. They worked hard and smart, and this was appreciated at a time when it was tough to find people to work at all.

This was much unlike the “Dust Bowl” days of only a decade ago, where cataclysmic disasters one natural and the other economic had collided to grip the entire country in the Great Depression. Work in any form was a coveted possession sought by many a proud man, young and old, color and race of little importance. The hatred displayed by the locals towards the Okies and Arkies competing for these same precious few jobs the Valley could provide at the time was somewhat understandable and expected. Besides, technically they were not disobeying the fifth Cowboy Code of Honor which states that “A cowboy is free from racial and religious intolerances.”  These Okies and Arkies were white and Christian too, so it was OK to hate them.

The differences between the Great Depression and recent Great Recession that supposedly ended in 2009 are as vast as the San Joaqin Valley itself. During the Great Recession, we did not witness unemployment approaching anything near the level of hopelessness seen during the Great Depression. There were no signs whatsoever of significant numbers of white people, young or old, forming long lines to apply for jobs involving manual labor of any kind. Manual labor in the United States, whether it be agricultural, landscaping, masonry, or the many other forms, remains largely accomplished by people of Mexican heritage and descent. This has been the case for years, and is not expected to change any time soon.

I for one have great respect for manual labor, as do most people who have performed the act in some capacity throughout their lives, no matter how briefly. It is a necessary and essential part of any successful country’s economic backbone. Most suburban white people are well aware that Mexicans are performing the bulk of these jobs, yet remain very ignorant when it comes to their culture and origins. Though many might briefly ponder if the 5 guys that show up at their house every week to perform an amazingly efficient job of cutting the grass, trimming, blowing, weed whacking, etc. might be “illegal aliens”,  few lose much sleep at night thinking about how much money they make, how many children they might have, where they came from, or where they lived. As long as it was not next door to them. Most interact only with the typically white owner or foreman of the business, and that is normally good enough.

This is not all that different than the way farmers and the few remaining rednecks living in the San Joaquin Valley in the early and mid 1940’s viewed Alex and his com padres.  They did not really understand them or know where they came from, but seeing as they seemed to be quiet, hard working people, did not feel the need to do so and generally left them alone. Most people of Mexican origin at the time and now are quiet people, who respect the privacy of others regardless of race and expect the same.  They do not frequent many of the same restaurants and other establishments of entertainment that white people frequent, nor do they feel the need to do so very much anyway. Interaction with these people, other than the occasional ones that happened in the fields, orchards and highways and byways to and fro, was rare. These would be brief and typically insignificant in nature, the language barrier not being the least of reasons.

Roger was an exception. He made a few white friends in school and his ever evolving interest in the country music that was very popular in Bakersfield at the time would encourage him to start seeking interaction with more and more like minded individuals, regardless of race or color.

 

 

 

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Bloggin’, like the dooh, da, man…….

Well, there are many reasons why I have never started writing a blog up until now but so far, I have few regrets. Overall, it has been smooth sailing here at wordpress.com or wordpress.org, I am still not 100% sure that these are indeed one in the same. I should probably figure this all out asap and make sure I am expending all of this time and energy on the site with the best hopes of actually surviving and making it through any of the numerous disasters that can befall a website in this day and age. If they are not one in the same, one or the other has done an amazingly good job of copying the necessary code and making sure that their domain is as close as possible to a mirror image of the other. For future reference, I will make note that I am typing this current message on wordpress.com.c

I should probably figure out a way to backup this stuff regardless. In my archaic way of looking at the computer world, the only relatively easy way of doing that is to copy and paste each blog into either a word or txt file and save to my hard drive. Being early in the game, this should only take a couple of minutes, and not set me back much time or effort at all. I am sure others who have been doing this for years have easier and more sophisticated means of accomplishing a backup. I would like to learn about this, but it is not a matter that interests me much, so I will put it on the “to do list”.  Of course, my hard drive is backed up daily by carbonite.com, whom for the sole reason that they have enough cash to advertise on TV, is deemed acceptable and about as safe as these kinds of things come. I have never really tested this backup system, although my Dad has, and if he says it works I believe him.

Other than the minor hiccup of losing about 500 words when trying to copy the image of a vintage Ibanez guitar and pasting it to my blog, causing Google Chrome to uncharacteristically freeze, my wordpress experience has been great. The spellchecker is much better than Apple’s annoying iPhone version which auto-corrects me to madness at times, but I am not sure if that is saying much. It did not pick up on my first attempt above to spell sophisticated with an f instead of the correct ph, but that is no biggie. An “undo” button would be nice, and I am sure there is one, but I do not see it on my tool bar. If home based recording on a computer could be this intuitive, I would be light years ahead of where I want to be with that hobby. As it stands now, the simple act of recording a mandolin over a previously recorded guitar track is a very complicated and tedious process, so much so that recording anything has been on hold for over a year.

WordPress is very intuitive and user friendly, but I am surely not really asking a lot or pushing it’s capabilities. I just want to be able to type a title and content and be able to easily return to make edits when necessary. I can’t really think of much more to do with whatever you call this, maybe software or cloudware? Then again, there is likely much more of a “social networking” aspect to all of this that I have yet to discover. I am in no hurry to rush into that foray and not really concerned at all about “missing” anything.

Just about the only downside I have seen so far, besides the minor quips mentioned above, is no fault of wordpress at all. My wife has a rapidly growing distaste for this “blogging” or “writing” or whatever this might turn out to be. It has only been a little over 24 hours since I opened up the blog and she has been quick to start an argument or three ever since. In fact, this morning I went to watch my son run cross country over at Shawnee High School and returned to a few moments of peace in an empty house. She was at my daughter’s soccer game which was almost over, so I knew the quiet would not last. It never lasts for long in my house that presently includes three children (Caroline 7, Thomas 10 and Jacob 13), two adults (my wife and myself) and three cats (two newly adopted kittens and an older female).

Even though I have made it publicly and repeatedly well known to all parties concerned that I absolutely LOVE having the house to myself and all that goes along with that simple pleasure, there seems to be no coordinated effort or movement of any kind to ensure that this happens on a regular basis.  Let alone for any great amount of time on the rare occasion it does happen. My wife equally values her alone time, and absolutely LOATHES summer vacation when all three kids are home all day, every day for three months.  She looks forward to September with glee, and celebrates by buying all three of them brand new school supplies. In fact, this year, she made sure to buy them brand new EVERYTHING I guess to celebrate their relatively good behavior over the summer. There was very little recycling of items such as backpacks and lunch boxes that really should see a few good years of use in this overly disposable society in which we live.

Anyway, my quiet / alone time today lasted about 35 minutes. As soon as she walked in the door, she saw me behind the keyboard and the first thing out of her mouth was quote “You’re going to have to put whatever creative juices you got flowing over there on hold as we have plans this afternoon!” Now, as if this wasn’t nasty enough, as usual, her body language was throwing off a whole lot more negative vibes. She has never been keenly aware of the way her body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can elicit a very negative response. It is so obvious to everyone but her yet she continues to express herself this way repeatedly.

Now, to be honest I am not the best listener and have been known to not fully understand or bother to really hear her “instructions” from the previous day. The only “plans” I had was going to Home Depot to get some weed fighting chemicals as well as some of that special “weed block” sheeting.  I did plan to spend at least an hour actually pulling weeds as well. I had not even eaten anything all day and had just fired up the oven to heat up some left over pizza. It wasn’t like I had just spent the last 4 hours blogging away. That would come later in the afternoon, when a heavy rainstorm put my weeding plans on hold.

Our relationship has been largely great recently and I have few complaints. The only thing we really fight about at all is my distaste for soccer, which is warranted, but I will reserve that for a blog of it’s own. Even the act of practicing my guitar or mandolin has been tolerated recently to an extent I never thought possible. This gives me hope. I do realize that these blogs take away my time and attention that I could be devoting to her and other things, but it is a new and exciting experience for me and seems relatively harmless.

I do have a newly found appreciation for Jack Torrence, the tormented author and lead character portrayed in the film version of Stephen King’s brilliant novel, The Shining. Even though he was typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again, this still seemed to require a whole lot of concentration, requiring absolute quiet and eventually isolation from any DISTRACTIONS that might interrupt his work. “Wendy,……..”

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Robbie Barlow

Robbie Barlow, unlike the other members of the band, grew up a little further outside of Bakersfield, in Barstow, California. Born in 1947, he was the “baby” of the band.  His friends growing up teased him with seemingly endless nursery rhymes and silly songs inevitably starting with some variation on “Robbie Barlow, he lived in Barstow, his dick was so short we thought it would never grow.” etc.  Robbie was more than a little sensitive to this subject and not afraid to voice his irritation. This only further encouraged members of GOD to start 1,000’s of their own little riddles, rhymes and whole rock operas that continue to this very day.

The son of an Army Lieutenant, Robbie had a younger sister named Heidi who could have passed for his twin in his younger years and to a lesser extent, beyond. His boyish looks followed him into his twenties and became kind of a burden for him especially when the hippy movement got into full swing and he started wearing his hair in a long pony tail. You see, most rednecks found in the typical diners which dot the highway connecting Barstow and Bakersfield had little trouble distinguishing typical foul smelling, unshaven, long haired male hippies from actual women. Robbie’s girlish looks and lack of facial hair, however, made their jousts and name calling particularly brutal and frankly, cruel, even by redneck standards. This is likely why Robbie has elected to grow the grayish brown fuzz that now graces his high cheekbones and most of his face.  It wasn’t until his late twenties that he ever needed to shave on a regular basis.

Like most rock stars, Robbie had a somewhat troubled youth. To this day, he continues to suffer from some type of serious learning disability, likely acute dyslexia coupled with ADHD, but never properly diagnosed. Neither of these now commonplace conditions had yet to be regularly and routinely recognized in young children in the early 50’s.  Presently, Robbie would have indeed been placed in a special school and given copious amounts of strong amphetamines to treat these disorders. Unfortunately for Robbie, his father decided the proper treatment for both was to upgrade his beatings from level 8 to level 11. As expected, the results were less than positive.

Robbie’s obsession with sock-hop rock and roll started at a very young age when he first heard “Thirteen Women”, the “B” side to Bill Haley’s 1954 smash hit “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock”. Oddly enough, this was also the first incidence of rock stars thinking way too long and hard about song titles and overusing parantheses.  Add footnote [This author just thought way too long and hard about the plural of paranthesis] end footnote. Robbie almost always preferred the “B” sides to every record, a trend that would continue for the rest of his life, or at least until they stopped making records.  He would fervently try to persuade his friends, and anyone else that would listen, that the “B” side was way better.  Few would be swayed, and most took this as a good enough reason to distance themselves from Robbie.

Robbie also liked the cowboy songs broadcasted from the tiny AM radio stations located in and around Barstow and Bakersfield. As with his beloved sock-hop, the more minor chords and weirdness of the melody, the better. He liked the sadder songs too, which led him to discover the eerie old folk ballads where murdering your one and only true love was a very viable and popular option. Drowning seemed by far the most popular way to accomplish this drudgery, and was AOK with Robbie.

In 1954, Robbie’s father took him to a rodeo / carnival held in downtown Barstow where a hero to both would be making an appearance. Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy, was still riding the slightly diminished wave of popularity he helped create along with Roy Rogers in the early 1930’s.  The fact that the rest of the country had moved on to other genres of popular music was largely ignored by the overwhelming majority of people inhabiting the 100 square miles or so of desert that surrounds and separates Bakersfield from Barstow.  As far as they were concerned, any kind of music was good, as long it contained country and / or western.

Gene Autry had one and only one publicity photo taken over his long career spanning nearly 60 some years.  Like all good Cowboys just starting out, Gene was a little cash poor and thus self sufficient. He took pride in accomplishing most tasks by himself, whenever possible.  He did not like to ask for help but was glad to offer it, especially if you happened to have a nice camera and modicum level of talent behind the lens.  He made sure that all of the important elements of his forthcoming fame would be on prompt display for this glossy 8 x 12″ black and white photograph. At the time, these included his gun, horse, guitar, and last but not least, himself.  Gene and his photographer friend Jack Delano were lucky and got it right the first time.  There was never a future need to add or remove any of the accessories featured in the shot.  One of the conditions that Robbie’s father made him agree to before enduring the nearly 90 minute wait to meet the Cowboy was to promise to memorize Gene’s legendary Cowboy Code of Honor printed in bold black ink on the back of the photograph:

  1. A cowboy never takes unfair advantage — even of an enemy.
  2. A cowboy never betrays a trust. He never goes back on his word.
  3. A cowboy always tells the truth.
  4. A cowboy is kind and gentle to small children, old folks, and animals.
  5. A cowboy is free from racial and religious intolerances.
  6. A cowboy is always helpful when someone is in trouble.
  7. A cowboy is always a good worker.
  8. A cowboy respects womanhood, his parents, and his nation’s laws.
  9. A cowboy is clean about his person in thought, word, and deed.
  10. A cowboy is a Patriot.

While it may seem that the order seems to be a bit random, it is tough to argue the insignificance of any of these principles. Not unlike the 12 Steps of AA, this code was never intended to be restricted only to Cowboys. The world would be a much nicer and better place if everyone could adopt and live by at least 3-4 of these seemingly simple precepts. Though Robbie never forgot any of them for the rest of his life, he would never be able to come close to obeying them all with any degree of precision.  As many members of AA have often observed, it is best to practice and measure progress, not perfection.

Not unlike certified junkies, change did not come often or without careful consideration at our nation’s oldest guitar making factory, C.F. Martin and Co. est. 1833.  Since their humble beginnings, and for nearly 100 years after, they made and sold guitars that were not at all very different than the one’s Christian Frederick Sr. learned how to craft working under the the esteemed Johann Stauffer in back in his native and cherished Deutschland. They did not see a need for any type of research and development department, as the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seemed to fit just fine.  Insert editor’s footnote [the actual company logo at C.F. Martin was created in 1920 and reads “Non Multa Sed Multum”.   This is of course Latin for “Not Many, But Much” or “Quality Not Quantity”.  Frank Henry Martin crafted a wooden sign using simple hand tools alone that still hangs in the factory today.] end footnote.

The only time change usually came at Martin is when a very popular and talented musician had an unmet need or an idea that has not been met by any commercially available products. Sometimes, these ideas were given to Martin’s competitors first, and in most of these cases, Martin was far too proud to simply copy and be the last one to the party.  More often than not, Martin was privy to the benefit of first advantage.  In 1929, only a few short years before the Singing Cowboys started pestering Martin about the need for bigger and thus louder guitars, a talented and popular banjo player named Perry Bechtel made a visit to the factory. Upon seeing the guitars and other fretted instruments in various stages of construction, Eddie quickly observed that it would be great to have a guitar with a longer and skinnier neck similar to a banjo. This would give him easier access to those pesky upper frets that most mortal guitarists try to avoid.

Martin thought about this, as well as their policy concerning visitors to the factory, and decided that with some relatively simple modifications, the neck on one of their 000 sized guitars could be modified and joined at the 14th versus the current 12th fret location.  Because the resulting guitar had a body that was essentially the same size as the existing 000, they did not even bother with naming it a 0000, but instead chose to call it the Orchestra Model, or OM.  Years later, these early OM models would prove to be some of the finest and most valuable guitars ever made by Martin.

Begin footnote. [I hope that the decision for this author to use the enormous benefit of hindsight and retrospect will not be used often. I will do my best to use restraint and only when I absolutely think that this tool will enhance the average reader’s experience. When the subject of guitar geekery arises, you will have to excuse my excursions into this format. This subject holds great interest to me, and the need to somehow convey this fascination and vast knowledge to the innocent reader might go beyond the bounds of good taste in more than one instance.  Please do forgive me in advance.] end footnote.

The creative juices were definately raging in the bloodstream of Gene Autry the day he named his famous horse Trigger.  These fluids were much calmer the day he decided to name his equally important large bodied guitar about to be assembled at the Martin factory.  There were a few good ideas for guitar names, including Bullet and Ranger, but in the end, Gene Autry decided to name this masterpiece of 1933 luthiery……..drum roll……..Gene Autry.

Martin, ever conservative, saw no problem with this at all and began immediately inlaying the artist’s name in large billboard sized mother of pearl script, stretching from the 12th to the 2nd fret.  While he just as well could have had a fancy new 14 fret necked OM just like Eddy Bechtel, the early Singing Cowboys had no real use for any frets below the 7th. Even those below the 5th fret were only used occasionally, and only then with a capo or “cheater” as Robbie called them. (ed. note, do I need to define capo?) end ed. note. Contrasting with their normally timid fashion, Martin decided to name this the largest guitar in their lineup the “dreadnought”.  The British had coined this phrase earlier to describe their largest and most heavily fortified battleships employed at the time. {editors note- Martin had actually made a few dreadnoughts for the Ditson company earlier in 1931, but this was the first introduction of an official “Martin” dreadnought} end note.

Continuing with tradition and at the request of Gene, Martin made this dreadnaught in the “45” style so the guitar came to be known famously as a “D-45”. For decades, a 45 grade guitar was painstakingly and lovingly adorned with pearl or abalone inlay on virtually every visible joint and right angle.  While it was tempting to inlay both sides of each of the twenty frets with a pearl border, Martin was able to use it’s ample supply of reserve and opt for hexagonal shaped wedges of pearl to identify select fret locations.  On some examples of the 45, Martin would go a little overboard and inlay a beautiful and incredibly intricate “tree of life” pattern along much of the entire fretboard.  After the introduction of these two new guitars to their catalogue, Martin was done with change for a while. It would be another 50 years or so before they would introduce a new body size to their guitar lineup.

Despite the fact that Robbie saw this autographed picture of Gene and his beautiful crustacean encrusted Martin guitar hanging on his wall nearly every day of his youth, Gene’s good taste in guitars never rubbed off on Robbie. Robbie craved to be different, and his longstanding inexplicable bad taste in guitars manifested itself early. Even with inexpensive guitars, Bobby was able to find the weirdest, rarest of them all- a 1957 honey blonde Ibanez Hi-Tone.  In reality, this Japanese import actually played and sounded better than a lot of the comparably priced Kays and Regals that other kids flocked to back in the day.  The action was high, like cheese grater high, and the tones emitted by the lone single Guyatone made (another odd Spanish sounding name coming out of Japan) pickup were limited, but more than sufficient.

Robbie, like many boys his age in late 1950’s Merica, was eager to get his first electric guitar, but not quite as keen to pick up the necessary books and instructional materials necessary to facilitate a proper education on the basics of Guitar 101.  Robbie thought that all the strings should be tuned to the same note, and was lucky that he chose the key of A as most of the gauges would accommodate this rather primitive tuning style.  Robbie of course could not have known at the time that if he had selected the key of G, he might have been well on his way to learning the early blues styling used by virtuosos like the Reverend Gary Davis and Leadbelly.

Ibanez was kind of a strange name for a Japanese guitar making company to seemingly randomly select upon opening in 1956, but really not that strange. I have always chosen to pronounced this as “I bin ez” just like it reads, and only recently had to question that decision.  Without getting too much into the subject of Spanish and the use of phonetics (we will no doubt touch on this in detail when we get to the story of Roger Gilmorosa), if the Philadelphia Phillies had not picked up a player named Raul Ibanez (pronounced EE bahn yez) I would have happily gone on to never question this decision at all.

To prove just how rare and strange the Ibanez Hi-Tone is, the Gods of all things Strange decided to crash my minty, clean as a Virgin, never seen much time on the internet at all thus should be relatively corruption free, Lenovo Z570 laptop computer when browsing and finally finding an image of this vintage piece of kit. Even the Lenovo’s “Enhanced Experience v 2.0” was not enough to combat this savage attack.  I am of course accessing WordPress through the most updated version of Google Chrome, a browser and internet platform that is new to me, but supposedly solid and reliable. My father insisted that I finally give up on Internet Explorer and all of the quirks that come along with that experience in favor of Chrome.

If you think about it, Microsoft had a pretty good run. Their products are the only successful example I can think of where consumers will tolerate a product that needs to be turned off using any number of increasingly complex algorithms in the hopes that when it is restored to power, all will be well. Not only that, but if it crashes and burns, and they do crash and burn in a very fatal way all day long, every day, 8 out of 10 consumers will simply shrug it off as being “just the way it is” and go run out and buy another PC.  Wordpress seems to be a pretty good experience so far, but I have only been using it for two days and have yet to explore less than 1% of it’s features. I had assumed that it was autosaving everything I typed in real time, but you know what they say about assumptions. I will not repeat that mistake, hopefully.  Sorry for that sidetrack, back to Robbie and his cheap weird guitar……

Robbie also could not have known at the time that this purchase would be the beginning of a relationship with Ibanez that would last a good length of his professional career.  Robbie would have been wise to hold onto this first guitar of his, but alas, he lost it long ago under circumstances that remain foggy to this day. For one, Ibanez really wanted the original so that they could measure the exact dimensions and electrical specifications for a Robbie Barlow signature model. Instead, they had to make some educated guesses based on the few existing photographs of Robbie and the guitar.  Secondly, due largely to Robbie and their rarity, original examples of a honey blonde, single pickup Ibanez Hi-Tone guitars have become valuable collectors items fetching real money when they come up for auction on Ebay.  Lastly, this is the only guitar that Robbie gets a little sentimental about and seems to miss terribly.

Neither Robbie, nor any of the other members of GOD, were astute in realizing the potential future collectible value of the many, many instruments that would pass through their hands over the years.  For instance, Robbie had a chance in the mid-60’s to purchase an original 1937 Martin D-45 guitar very similar to the one owned by his childhood hero for the very reasonable sum of $300. This was a little too rich for Robbie at the time. This guitar today, even in moderately poor condition, could easily fetch over $100,000.  Instead, Robbie purchased a new Burns Bison imported from England. A guitar that only ended up holding his interest for a few months before he ended up giving it to one of the road crew.  This was then, like many of these “gifts” would be over time, quickly swapped for whatever drugs of lesser value materialized first. This would not be the last example of Robbie and other members of GOD missing out on opportunity.

 

 

 

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911

This simple cluster of three single digits used to be meaningless. Sometime during the latter portion of the 20th century, some geniuses at Bell Labs no doubt spent some serious coin figuring out that punching or dialing these three digits into a phone was the most efficient way to get an immediate connection to the nearest local emergency services operator. There had yet to be a breakup of the telecommunications monopoly, so this over inflated behemoth had plenty of cash to burn. No harm, no foul, but why they didn’t simply make it 111 is still a mystery.

Most Americans do not remember what they were doing on September 10, 2001. I myself vaguely recall it being a Monday and having just returned from a long weekend at the Jersey Shore, but I am unsure about that and just guessing to the best of my ability. Roger Gilmorosa definitely doesn’t remember what he did on September 10, 2001. Copping dope around 10 AM and then walking down to the local hot dog vendor would be as good a guess as any, as this is what he did nearly every day he wasn’t on tour with GOD.

Roger doesn’t really even remember what he did on 9/11 all that well. His heroin addiction had started really manifesting itself in ways that began to surprised him, and Roger didn’t like surprises. It wasn’t until after his noon time nod that he even became aware that planes had hit the World Trade Center and that shit was really hitting the fan. This was only because every TV channel that he normally watches which included only Comedy Central and PBS at the time, had started covering the days events. The news was horrifying no doubt, and Roger didn’t like surprises or horror. Well, he did kind of like horror films, but only the old Bela Legosi soft core variety. He decided to seek comfort the only way he knew how- by tearing an extra large chunk of Persian off his baseball sized glob and getting down to business.

Roger does remember the days and weeks immediately following 911 fairly well. You see junkies don’t like change, and after 911, if your profession involved flying on airplanes on an almost daily basis, your life was going to change big time. Roger also did not like to refer to himself as a “junkie”.  His logic is not uncommon. Junkies used needles and even though he consumed far more heroin by inhalation on a daily basis than even the hardest of hardcore intravenous junkies inject into whatever is left of their veins, Roger simply considered himself a casual user who might be getting close to being kind of concerned about having a problem.

One thing junkies are good at is planning. As long as the plan involves how they will get enough drugs and money to get them through another day without getting dope sick. Now this might seem pretty simplistic on the surface, but trust me, if you are a full blown junkie, you have planning and organizational skills that rival some of the best minds in the world. As long as the planning and organization is going to result in getting you high all day long, every day. This is why change is hard on a junkie, it throws off their plans and routines and makes them have to think on their feet and come up with new plans.

911 made airline travel alot more difficult and a rather loathsome experience for most Americans. It made it 1,000 times harder for an aging rock musician with a serious opiate addiction that has to tour the world or at least most of the United States 9 months out of the year, every year. Shoes, once thought of as a relatively safe haven for the amount of drugs necessary to get you through a 3 hour flight, now had to be removed for inspection before you got within 20 feet of the first round of security. This took planning to a new level and much like the TSA had to rethink how to handle security at airports, the junkie had to rethink just about everything.

It is times like these where Gilmorosa really thinks about throwing in the towel and making another shot at sobriety. Serious consideration is given to the matter, but as often happens, he decides to take the easy way out and demand that his tour manager handle this problem. Tour managers really do rank pretty high among the many unsung heroes of rock and roll. They are generally not paid well and never know what types of issues or problems are going to arise trying to get a rock and roll caravan from one city to the next. Generally, they are nowhere near as good at planning and organizing as junkies but then again, they have a few more responsibilities beyond getting high all day long, every day.

When these multiple responsibilities collide with the additional task of absolutely assuring that the necessary quantity and quality of drugs are available at all times, all the time, the results are usually disastrous. It is important to remember that most of these drugs are a little beyond the tour managers expertise and comfort zone. This is why many rock star junkies insist on having a tour manager that is an equally good junkie himself. Unfortunately, junkies at this stage of the game do not usually last long, and junkie tour managers have an even shorter half life. Most of them go mad and seek the solitude of rehab rather than put up with the madness. This usually occurs during international tours, where the stakes for getting good drugs are significantly higher.

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