Punk Rock Eulogy

There’s a statistic that says if you make it into the latter part of your 50’s clear of cancer and heart disease, there’s a good chance you’ll live well into your 80’s.

But there’s a corollary: all the other stuff that can take you out before you ever hit 60. Things you can die from at 18 or 53, 31 or 45, birth or 27.

Brain tumor, birth defect, suicide, landslide, broadside, embolism, aneurysm, undiagnosed diabetes, untreated depression, untreated alcoholism, overdose, stroke, heart attack.

No matter how many times it happens, it’s devastating when someone dies unexpectedly.

An acquaintance of mine– a really great stagehand– died all of a sudden last week. He was only 45, putting up a show, and his heart gave out. No warning. I can’t get him out of my mind even though I only played through his town twice.

How does someone you’ve worked with exactly twice leave a mark like that?

When you’re a stagehand on the road, everything changes with every move: Your home, your workplace, your co-workers. An awful lot of how it goes depends on the local crew in the new town. They can make your life easy or make it a living hell.

They can either tell you how to get in & out of the best BBQ joint in town on the lunch hour, or give you wrong directions on purpose. They can load your show in like a dream before you even ask for anything, or they can unplug cables on the sly. They can tell you how to make friends with the head carpenter or set you up to unwittingly play into their long-held feud.

When you played through Providence, Pop didn’t make your life easy or hard; he made your life interesting. He was a truly unique individual and had so much in his life in addition to being a stagehand. Outspoken doesn’t even begin to describe him. If you played through Providence and he liked you, he made sure to stay in touch through email and text before there was Facebook. His was, of course, one of the first Facebook friend requests I received.

He was so punk rock, in the truest sense: no bullshit, and never concerned about what people thought of him. His ideals, his friends, his family, and his work ethic were sacred. He always helped people get what they needed.

He was a staunch union advocate. He backed artists and spread the word on Kickstarter projects. He turned people on to local bands and was quick with gems of history from the scene. He sent comic books to little kids when they had surgeries. He spread the word for fundraisers.

When I posted about #4 being Gene Simmons for Halloween, he sent me a picture of himself as Gene from back in the day. He emailed me when a new guy I had trained played through Providence to tell me what a good job he was doing, how he was holding his own. When my niece Colby died, he shared with me how he was born prematurely and his own twin didn’t make it.

My favorite Pop memory was a small, perfect moment on a work day. We started the show call and I put on Queensrÿche’s Operation Mindcrime to test my sound system, quite possibly the most ridiculous thing that feeds my soul, and walked the house. When I went back to the console I saw Pop sitting in the seats with another stagehand. For some reason I thought they were having a meeting and said, “Sorry, Pop, I’ll cut the music,” and Pop goes, “Nah nah nah, leave it. Turn it up.”

I turned it up. Someone dimmed the house lights. Other guys drifted out and sat down in the dark to listen. We played the album out until they opened the house.

People die young and you’re left there going, What the fuck? 

Would they give anything for it to not be over yet, or in the moment they passed, did they suddenly understand everything they came here to remember?

I don’t want to spend much time thinking about that. I’ll get my own answer soon enough. I picture asking Pop that question and him saying, “Nah, nah, nah, leave it. Turn it up.”

Will do, Pop.

DSCF3012

Chris Popoloski’s Obituary

IATSE Local 23 Photo Gallery

Mindcrime:

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Do You Believe In Magic? or How I Finally Quit Smoking

I used to smoke.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t even start until I was 24: unfiltered Lucky Strikes. I liked imports but rarely had the money to buy them. But living in Arizona, I was introduced to Delicados, a Mexican cigarette you could pick up cheap in Nogales. Basically a harsher Lucky Strike in rose-scented paper.

I can’t for the life of me explain why I liked these, but I did.

The impact on my health was dramatic. I’d get winded and light-headed at work just pushing boxes. By the time I didn’t drink any more, I was hooked on cigarettes even though I’d only been smoking a couple years. I tried to quit a few times and failed, trying new things each time to lessen the addiction. I ended up switching to American Spirit Lights and cutting the filters in half.

Hey, it was an improvement.

Back then smoking American Spirits was a total pain in the ass. Most places didn’t carry them and pretty much no one had websites yet. By this time I was on the road, so every week I’d be in a new town having to scout around for a place that sold my brand.

If I spent all the time reading that I spent trying to find my brand of cigarettes, I would have finished Gone With the Wind, War and Peace, and everything Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon ever wrote. With comprehensive literary analyses.

I changed tours and my new show had a service truss. Translation: you climbed an 18-foot straight ladder about forty times a day when you were setting up. Believe me, your lungs felt every damn cigarette you’d ever thought about when you got to the top and collapsed on the platform. I was always afraid I’d get too light-headed and pass out while I was still on the ladder.

It was really getting old. I was only 29 for God’s sake.

When I was a little kid, my sister and I were crazy for Shaun Cassidy. We saved our allowances and bought his records. At the top of our birthday lists were Shaun Cassidy posters and T-shirts. We bought every copy of Tiger Beat that mentioned his name (which was all of them).

Shaun’s older brother David starred in The Partridge Family, but my sister and I weren’t taken with him the way we were with Shaun. Shaun was in The Hardy Boys and my sister and I fought for the seat closest to the television every week when it was on. She claimed more rights to the seat: I had the 45 of Hey Deanie but my sister had his whole album.

mine
mine
Hers.
Hers.

I had a t-shirt, but somehow she had scored the Shaun Cassidy satin jacket.

satin
Also hers.

She never let me wear it.

Not even once.

So this tour with the service truss that was kicking my lungs’ asses on a daily basis was Aida (the Elton John musical, not the Verdi opera) and we were playing San Francisco. They often did opening night parties for us and while I generally hate parties, I loved not having to go find my own food in a new town the first night.

Our male lead was Patrick Cassidy, another Cassidy brother and an all-around good guy. One of my tasks was to put Patrick’s mic on him every night at the 15 minute call, and check it every intermission.

Standing around at the opening night party in San Francisco, one of the actors came up to me.

Him: Hey, do you have an extra cigarette for Patrick’s brother? You’re one of the only people Patrick knows who smokes.

My heart did a little flutter, and it wasn’t because of the cigarettes.

Me: Which brother? Shaun or David?

Him: Shaun.

Me: Um, let me check.

I pulled an American Spirit out of my pack, grateful that I was smoking something sort of normal now. Nobody ever wants your Lucky Strike or a Delicado.

Me: Can I give it to him myself?

He lead me through the crowd to a little cluster of people standing around Patrick which included a well- dressed, slightly older, slightly fuller Shaun Cassidy.

And so it was that I bummed a cigarette to my very first star crush.

Then called my sister to brag. Something along the lines of “Holy sh*t, Beth! I just bummed a cigarette to Shaun f-ing Cassidy!! Take that, satin jacket!”

I knew I had reached the pinnacle of my smoking career. Nothing else related to cigarettes would ever surpass this moment where I bonded with Shaun Cassidy for 1.4 seconds over an American Spirit Light with the filter cut in half. I was finally able to quit smoking.

The patch helped, but it was really Shaun Cassidy that did it for me.

He certainly does. He may also make you lose weight.
He certainly does. He may also make you lose weight.

Who was your first star crush?

I originally wrote pretty much this whole post in a comment on Darla’s blog She’s a Maineac; the day I decided to write it as an actual post Darla also wrote about Shaun Cassidy, so Darla, I think he’s going to do something magical for you too.

Things You Think in an MRI

Does this sound more like a jackhammer, or a hangover?

Good thing I’m not claustrophobic or I’d be totally freaking out in here.

Hmm. If I did completely freak, how would I get out? Like, there’s not even enough room to bend my knees to skootch myself down the tube.

Is this more, or less, room than I would have in a coffin?

Ooh, bad thought. Better not think about coffins. Better close my eyes and pretend like I’m in final savasana at the end of Bikram class. Savasana. . . translates to Dead Body Pose. Dammit!

If I have glitter on me anywhere, is it going to ignite? 

I wonder if my feet are sticking out of the tube. I can’t tell how far out they are.

This headphone cable is cutting into my carotid artery. I think it’s doing it on purpose. Maybe my headphones are possessed. They remind me of the headphones in the language lab in high school. We always made a mad dash to claim  the least disgusting set of headphones. The ones without Dippity Do or Jheri Curl all over them. Wow. I totally just dated myself there.

Oh no, not Freebird. Wasn’t I hearing Alicia Keys a minute ago? Did they change the station? God I hope so. Otherwise I’ve completely lost it.

I haven’t listened to Freebird in its entirety in so freaking long. Nobody ever sits through this entire song on purpose. I can remember exactly two times in my life I have listened to this whole song.

There was that time in our driveway in Bloomington, me and K out of our minds and for some reason sitting in the car listening to the radio. We could have gotten out any time we wanted to, but by then we were thinking how good a song it was. Stockholm Syndrome. This song is long enough to give that to you.

You know what? MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which is kind of misleading. It’s very accurate in terms of the test itself and the visual aspect, but in my world “resonance” has a somewhat pleasant connotation and very specifically refers to sounds. Nowhere in the name of this test is implied the sound of a jackhammer, and really, it should be stated outright.

The other time I heard all of Freebird was working the Laughlin River Run with Milk and Genevieve when the new Skynyrd was headlining. We had a morning free so Genevieve and I went shopping at the flea market in the parking lot and picked up leather biker chick halter tops. I had to have Milk alter mine by shortening the halter a couple of inches with a piece of tie-line because it was made for someone with much bigger. . .attitude than me. We wore them for the gig and when we did the band changeover Genevieve and I got applause, which was sort of embarrassing, but sort of cool. Though I don’t remember hearing all of Freebird then either. I think I may have gone to the bathroom when they played it. Which is probably what the DJ is doing right now.

You always need a bathroom song when you’re a DJ, the song you can put on and have time to run down the hall to the bathroom and come back before it’s over. I worked on the high school radio station for two years. Our bathroom song was Metallica’s One (seven minutes, twenty-four seconds).

Why do I keep thinking about high school?

This is quite possibly the longest guitar solo ever in the history of guitar solos. This song has been playing for the majority of the time I have been in this jackhammer tube. Tapping? How did I not ever know there’s a tapping section in this solo? Oh right, because I never listen to this song all the way through. Because nobody listens to this song all the way through. I don’t have anything against the band. Given the choice, I could easily have picked three Syknyrd songs that I like in place of this one.

Three songs that would be over by now.

If I ever get out of here, I’m going to ask everyone if they’ve ever listened to this entire song on purpose. All the way through. I’m going to ask everybody if they understand that there’s a tapping section in the guitar solo. I bet nobody will believe me.

I hope I’ve been holding still enough.

I wonder what they’re going to find.

I wonder if I ever get buried alive, if I’m gonna have Freebird stuck in my head because of this. If I have a choice, I’m gonna pick something else. Like maybe all of 2112. 

When is the last time you listened to Freebird all the way through?

If you got to choose, what song would you pick to have stuck in your head if you got buried alive?

Hummingbird by beccapuglisi via WANA commons, Flickr
Hummingbird by beccapuglisi via WANA commons, Flickr