While we're all much more than just being Royals fans, it is the tie that binds us. What brought you to the Royals' front stoop knocking on the door to be let in?
I kind of don't remember exactly how I got into the Royals, mainly due to it being so long ago. Somehow I started listening to games on the radio around 1976, when I was 10. I do have memories of listening to games on my little crappy red, white, and blue transistor radio in the back yard while playing wiffle ball and trying not to hit the windows on the back of the house. I always kept a least a toe in the royal blue waters (hoo boy, that's bad) through high school. Then in college I worked at a radio station whose AM side was a Royals' affiliate, so I would get paid to sit around & listen to games. This was 1984-'87, so needless to say I nailed the timing.
Perhaps more importantly, why did you stay?
Once I moved to KC in 1995 I became a real die-hard again, regardless of how shitty they were in any given season. There's few things in life I enjoy more than going to the K. But to answer the real "why" question, I dunno... OCD? I tend to stay with things to the bitter friggin' end. Which made this past fall so much fun.
Standard dating profile questions: Age? Sex? Height? Hair color? Marital status? Kids?
I'll be 49 in late March. Male, about 5' 9". What hair is left ( not much ) is brown-ish, I guess? I keep things pretty buzzed, hair-wise. Not "married," but I've been with the same person for 24 years this October. Why she's stuck around this long is one of life's great mysteries, but I'm glad it's worked out that way. No kids - just never really had the urge.
24 unmarried years? I came a week shy of 15. What is this saintly woman like? Is there an aversion to the institution of marriage that's driving the perpetual cohabitation or just never saw the point?
In regard to my relationship - yeah, it's just kind of always been a "what's the point?" deal with marriage. With maybe a light dusting of "if it ain't broke..." Every once in awhile, something will come up that makes me think "Boy, this would really be to our advantage financially/logistically/whatever if we were hitched." And this seems to happen more as we get older (I'm almost 49, she's almost 52). But at the same time, I've had a "financial considerations are almost NEVER the reason to make a big change" policy for most of my adult life. So I dunno. And yes - let's make no mistake. She is a friggin' saint. I can't imagine putting up with me for 20+ years.
While many choose not to define themselves by their job, what do you do to make ends meet? For how long have you been plying that trade?
Currently, I worked for a bank/financial institution. I've been there eight years, which is a personal best for me. It's pretty much drone work. I sit at a desk and type all day. But I don't mind it. Previously, I've had more interesting jobs - such as the radio station mentioned above, and as a person who used to work in radio/music research for the Nielsen company (yes, the ratings people). I used to get paid to identify songs, as nutty as that seems. But overall, I'm one of those people who's done a lot of different things to make a buck (and usually not much more).
If you could, would you go back to one of your previous jobs in place of your current one?
If I had a choice, I would probably go back to the job I had working in radio research. It's the only job that ever felt like a "career" to me. I (naively, it turns out) thought of it as a place I hoped to retire from. But it's the only job where all the "useless" knowledge that's in my noggin paid off. The only one where I thought "pretty much nobody here is better than me at this." Not in a bragging way - it was just fact. The mere fact that they would lay me off is proof of how badly that place was managed. I was one of the only people who could ID music from multiple formats...does that sound like someone you want to show the door? Seems to me like that's the guy you want to keep. And the proof is that since I was let go 10 years ago (just passed the anniversary, actually) they've continued a downward slide that's resulted in almost no one working there anymore. There used to be 20-25 people involved in ID. Now there's like, 3 or 4. So, for the reasons listed above, I guess I would go back to that. Assuming the business is still in good shape, etc. But it's not. And my current job is ridiculously easy, and I get to sit around and listen to podcasts all day. So maybe everything happens for a reason.
Where do you live now, and where did you grow up?
As I mentioned, we've been in KC since 1995. I grew up in Parsons, KS. Then I lived in Pittsburg, KS from basically the mid-'80s until the mid-'90s. There was also a couple-year stint in Joplin, MO, which was horrible enough to inspire us to just move to KC.
For those of us who aren't familiar with Parsons or with what life would have consisted of while growing up there, what was growing up in Parsons, Kansas like?
Growing up in Parsons, Kansas...hoo boy. In a word, boring. And then after a certain age, drunk. To counteract the boring. Looking back, I wonder what took me so long to get the hell out of that region. There is literally just nothing there. When I go back to visit now (which happens less and less as time passes), it's kind of neat for a couple hours. And then I just want to get back to KC ASAP. I'm in a couple Facebook groups of people that still live there. And they just strike me as small-minded, bitter, kinda sad people for the most part. I've said it before, but the main service those small town discussion groups provide is an ongoing reminder of why I left there in the first place. There's a reason why horrible political ideas find support in places like that.
If one was trying to get an idea of how your childhood formed you, how would you describe your family life while growing up?
Honestly? Pretty awful. My parents were heading for a divorce when my Mom got sick and died when I was 16. She was 38. It's always weird to realize I've lived a decade longer than she did. Very, very weird. My Dad passed away a few years ago. We got along OK, really - but we were just 2 people with nothing in common. I wouldn't have called us "close." I have a sister that I no longer talk to. I would be inclined to ignore her in the first place, as I find her to be obnoxious. But when my Dad passed away, she pulled some really unethical bullshit in relation to what little inheritance there was. So I'm done with her. I look back sometimes and wonder how I became a decent member of society at all, frankly. As bad as things got, they could have gotten a lot worse. That whole era resulted in a lot of dodged bullets for me. I mainly credit my girlfriend for coming along when I was 25 and helping me get my shit together and starting a new, better life.
Clearly losing your mom that early is going to color the whole experience of growing up. What was it like before she took ill?
Ha ha... yeah. Like I said, it's kind of a miracle I turned into a decent member of society at all. There was a LOT of stuff not working in my favor. The couple of years leading up to her getting sick, there was a LOT of fighting between my parents. Screaming at the top of their lungs type fighting. Far as I know, (and I'm pretty sure of this) never anything physical. They were on the fast track to a divorce (there was even "which of us would you want to live with" discussions when I was 15) when my Mom got lung cancer. I grew up in a heavy smoking household, and I've come to realize as the year pass that my Mom was also probably an alcoholic. There's just too many memories and bits of info to suggest otherwise. Far as I know, it was undiagnosed (for lack of a better word) at the time of her death.
What caused her death? How did you cope with her death in the early goings?
In a way, I guess I didn't cope. I just kind of became more of a loner (my natural tendency anyway). The fact that her illness took many months to play out gave me a chance to "prepare", I guess. It's made me not want to deal with family stuff (see the sister story I told before) at all. I suppose there's probably lingering stuff about my growing up that colors my everyday life. I'm just happier not going back to those times, frankly. Don't get me wrong - I'm fine talking about them when someone like you asks. It's just that the idea of spending hours and hours going back to it to "deal" with it doesn't hold much interest for me. I'm more about trying to make things better in the future, and being concentrated on that.
Also - I'm not gonna get a therapist bill at the end of this, am I?
We'll just add it to your membership dues. As someone who spent the bulk of your formative years in small towns, much of which occurred during the pre-internet age, how did that affect your arts proclivities, musical and otherwise? While the internet opened the door for easier discovery in these areas, did the move to Kansas City seem like an inevitability, or do you think you could have kept living in mid-sized towns and been happy?
After that [how did your childhood form you] answer, I guess it's pretty safe to assume I couldn't be happy living in a small town, huh? I have wondered if it would be more tolerable with internet access, but you can't stay tied to your computer 24/7. I will say - and I guess this was kind of my "internet" growing up - that MTV had a HUGE impact in my teen years. It opened up a whole world of music I wouldn't have had access to otherwise. Growing up, I had to road trip to find music or go to concerts. Usually to Joplin, sometimes to Tulsa. In Southeast Kansas, for some reason it seemed like Tulsa was the easier-to-get-to option compared to KC. I dunno why, really. You could pick up Tulsa radio stations (like the proverbial 100,000 watt blowtorch KMOD), where you could rarely pick up something like KY102 outta KC. This changed a lot once I to moved to Pittsburg for college. Crazy what a difference 30 miles can make. Once I'd met my significant other in 1991, we started taking vacations up here in KC. And I liked the city so much that at one point, I realized "Just move there, dummy." I consider KC my hometown now. I've lived here longer than anywhere else.
What is your educational background/area of study?
I attended Pittsburg State University, as a student of both Journalism and Art, neither of which amounted to much.
Was it studio art or more of a formal/historical focus in art? (If studio) What were your mediums of choice? (If formal/historical) What was your area of focus? How seriously did you try to pursue either area of study as a career? Do you still dabble in either area?
My art career (such as it was) was pretty general and confined to college, mostly. As far as mediums go, I probably liked painting most. Since I left school, I haven't really done much. I remember being a featured artist once and having a showcase that offended some of the older folks that came to see it. If that counts as a highlight of my time in that world, I guess I'll take it? But I look back on a lot of that stuff now and just think what a pretentious 21-year-old I was. And I was.
What about your showcase was offensive? Having looked over stuff I wrote 15 years ago earlier today, I can totally empathize with shuddering at past pretensions. With the gift of evolved perspective, what about your old work do you find pretentious now?
Just the standard "tackling the tough, serious topics" bullshit in my artwork. I was 21 and thought I knew about stuff. And I didn't know ANYTHING. Lots of "shocking" imagery - things like burning crosses, etc. Just laughable stuff. I'm laughing now just typing this. I was a fucking idiot back then!
With the understanding that obviously baseball and the Royals are an area of interest for you, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
I'm a total music geek. My album collection is well over 3,000 at this point. And I'm a huge fan of comedy and podcasts as well. My movie tastes run toward the cult/weird.
3,000 albums deep is a serious hobby. In which directions do your musical tastes generally skew?
I'm a big believer in the concept that there's two kinds of music - good & bad. Every genre has its great stuff and its duds. Now, preferences will vary from person to person. But I can point to almost anything & say "here's a good version of this kind of music, and a bad one". And I can hear something that I don't care for, but still recognize that it's a good example of something but just not for me. Generally speaking I'm a rock 'n' roller, but I also love classical, jazz, and reggae to mention a few other genres. But I always end up coming back to the guitar/drum/vocal combo. I should also mention that within the rock area I have a real mania for power pop. Nothing better than a 3 minute song that just smacks you upside the head, makes its point, and get the fuck out quickly.
What five off-the-beaten path albums would you recommend to someone looking to obsess over different albums?
Here's a stab at 5 Great Records You've Probably Never Heard Of:
1. The Wildhearts, Earth VS The Wildhearts - Imagine an unholy alliance of pre-Black Album Metallica and I dunno, the Bay City Rollers. Songs you'll have to have a lobotomy to remove from your head, served up via monster guitar riffs. Their main songwriter is named Ginger, and he's pretty much been my favorite tunesmith for over 20 years now.
2. TSAR, self-titled debut album from 2000 - Not to be confused with the AOR/hair band of the same name. There are days when this is my Favorite Album Of All Time. Just a candy bar of a record. Great tunes, perfectly glossily produced and performed. Lead singer Jeff Whalen once remarked that they tried to make every moment on the album a high point. It shows. This one falls into the "how the fuck was this thing not MASSIVE? category." You can probably find it for a penny on Amazon. It'll be the best penny you ever spent.
3. Sidebar here - not a record, but a recommendation for an online radio station. If you're interested in the more adventurous side of classical music, check out Q2 from New York. It's actually an HD Radio subchannel of the more standard classical station WQXR. You can hear them in iTunes, via the TuneIn app, or on their website.
4. Damone, Out Here All Night - I was a giant fan of their debut album From The Attic. Then they lost their chief songwriter and their record contract. So of course, THEY GET BETTER. They regrouped with a new guy writing the tunes, signed another deal, and released this whopper. Giant hooks and choruses, and songs that make you pump a fist like you're at fucking SummerJam. If this thing would've been released in the late '80s, they would've been everywhere. This band that really, really deserved better. A LOT better.
5. Kurt Baker, Brand New Beat - This guy's doing power pop as good as anyone at the moment. I also felt the need to put a record on here that's from the last decade. Great stuff.
With your movie tastes, I'm guessing we could veer down a rabbit hole pretty easily here. Given your comedy and podcast inklings, can we assume you're a fan of How Did This Get Made? Do you have cult directors of whom you are particularly fond? Hidden gems you'd like to share with the peanut gallery?
How Did This Get Made? is a podcast I listen to depending on what movie they're covering, or if there's a guest I like a lot. It's an OK show, but there's things about it that keep me from being a full-time fan (like Paul Scheer saying the word "amazing" 18,000 times an episode). For movie/comedy podcasts, I'm more of a Doug Loves Movies kinda guy. And for a recommendation of a show that's not super-funny but goes deeeeeeeep into oddball movies, check out The Projection Booth. I'm a big Hong Kong cinema fan - lots of great stuff there from the 90's in particular. I would recommend the work of Tsui Hark - especially the Chinese Ghost Story movies. Just nutty flicks with crazy effects and imagination to spare. Another fun one is Infra-Man...if you grew up with monster movies, this thing is a hilarious delight. And it's not too unknown, but you can never go wrong with Buckaroo Banzai. (looks at wall of DVDs) Ooh - Attack The Block. So much fun. For a foreign release, the 1-2 punch of Jean De Florette/Manon Of The Spring. Great classic storytelling if you've got an afternoon to blow. And for a documentary, try The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters even if you don't give a shit about video games.
What in the comedy world has been tickling your fancy of late?
For comedy - podcasts, podcasts, podcasts. I love how they've given artists the freedom to do whatever they want. I never miss Never Not Funny (hell, I pay to listen to that one), Affirmation Nation with Bob Ducca (just a hilarious character from the mind of Seth Morris), Comedy Bang Bang (insanely high batting average and has turned me on to so many comics), The Dana Gould Hour, Superego (those guys make me laugh as hard as anyone or anything), and loads more. A couple comics that are newer to me that I'd recommend are Chris Cubas and Geoff Tate. Really funny guys.
What's the best thing you've read in recent memory? Describe it as though you were trying to convince someone else that they should read it.
I can't say that I've read anything recently that really made me go "wow." I tend to read more for enjoyment than challenge if that makes sense.
You must have things you're drawn to, reading-wise. What would you say is your reading wheelhouse?
My reading wheelhouse would be 99% non-fiction. I just tend to find the real world more fascinating that most made-up ones. I read a LOT of music and movie biographies. Just finished a book written by the roadies for KISS back in the early '70s. Up next is Martin Short's autobiography, and then Patton Oswalt's new book Silver Screen Fiend. There's always a stack to grab something from, book-wise.
We all have a long list of stupid shit that we've done. What's the dumbest thing you've done?
I would put a lot of my stupid shit up against most people's. I mean, my life (at least up until my mid-20s) has been a collection of not-great choices. Frankly, sometimes I look back and wonder how I turned into a decent person at all. Having said all that, a specific choice would be all the times I drove drunk/fucked up. It's remarkable that nothing really bad ever came of it. I can remember a few times where something bad probably SHOULD have happened.
Describe yourself in three sentences or less.
3 descriptive sentences?
1. I will outwork you. I don't care if you're smarter or more qualified than me. When it's time to go at it, I will bury you, in regards to work ethic.
2. "Everything with you has to be so jokey" - a line from "Seinfeld" that definitely applies.
3. Do not mess with those I love ( very few people ).
Those are more than 3 sentences, technically. How about calling them 3 "traits"?
What Royals Reviewer would you be most interested to meet in person? Why?
I've been able to meet a few folks from the site, during Sung-Woo-Fest last season. That was cool. I'd be open to meeting anyone else, really.