Our Satanic Majesty’s Naughty Bastards

Classic tracks that defined the greatness of The Rolling Stones.

Bitch – Sticky Fingers (1971)
It all begins with Keith’s simple but killer riff while Charlie and Bill dutifully follow Keith’s funky groove with their typically understated but cool rhythm section aplomb, and we’re off and running with one of the coolest, sexiest, absolutely badassed tunes the Stones ever recorded. Mick sounds cocky and shit-kicking mean, the pale English whiteboy acting black for over a decade who—almost—finally pulls it off on this killer track. Producer Jimmy Miller then tosses in the fucking superb brass section of sax man Bobby Keys and trumpeter Jim Price to literally embarrass all the “jazz rock” shit by bands like Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Ides of March. Like, come on, you silly cats, rock like this, motherfuckers. You can’t ‘cos you ain’t got Keith, bitches. You ain’t got Mick Taylor either. Game, set, and match. This is one of the greatest Rock & Roll songs you’ll ever hear, breathtakingly confident and cool, swaggeringly sexy like a motherfucker, and utterly fucking groovy, The Stones at the height of their power and glory as the self-proclaimed greatest Rock & Roll band in the world. A decade later while I was in college, we’d spin this record at parties to get the girls feeling dirty and decadent on the dance floor. Fuck yeah. We’d follow this with Prince’s Uptown to crank up the funky-sleazy factor and shit would get wild fast. It’s only Rock & Roll but I love it.

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) – Goats Head Soup (1973)
Billy Preston kicks off the first four bars of this killer track with a gorgeously funky clavinet intro that informs folks that the Stones means business and to put down whatever you’re doing, shut the fuck up, prick up your ears, and listen. Yeah, sure, the Mickster gets all socially conscious and shit, and lays down one of the best vocal performances of his long career, but what drives this song is the brilliant interplay between Preston’s clavinet and Keith’s wah-wah guitar strumming. Keith also laid down the funky bass line just to tart up the whole thing. The bands sounds weary and dragged down by dope and decadence and life and all the misery on the streets they witness from their limousines, and Mick reminds us all how fucked up everything seems, yet the song still gets your ass shaking to its downright dirty nasty groove. With the producer Jimmy Miller at the helm since Jumping Jack Flash, the Stones went on a sonic binge from 1968-1973 that defined their career as Rock & Roll grand masters. Miller always brought out what made the band so great, and when he was unceremoniously fired after this album, the band never rose back to this unbelievable level ever again, though Some Girls and Tattoo You had their moments; however, let’s be honest, after 1973 the Rolling Stones basically became a tribute band to their past greatness. They weren’t cool any more.

Tumbling Dice – Exile on Main Street (1972)
Legend has it that Mick was incensed that the record company used the wrong mix for the album version of this song, and that it took Jimmy Miller and the band over 150 takes to get anything decent on tape, but who gives a fuck, this is such a sleazy, dope-and-booze-soaked boogie-woogie classic that no one cared once it blasted through speakers in living rooms, cars, jukeboxes, clubs, and everywhere else in 1972. Drummer Charlies Watts was throughly incapable of playing the coda on this song right, so Jimmy Miller came from behind the console and pounded the fuck out of the skins to drive the groove with a dirty, nasty, sexy raunch that turned this into a classic. Of course, the greatest backup singers in Rock history, the divinely awesome Clydie King, Venetta Fields, and Sherlie Matthews, bring the sass and sexy attitude and ebullient black church chorus that keep fingers snapping and asses wiggling throughout this roadhouse romp. Yes, this song is the grand mess of a doped-up and ragged jet-set rock band in the throes of an out-of-control superstar lifestyle where no one told them no, but what a fucking glorious mess, eh? Bands like Aerosmith and Guns-n-Roses made a career of sounding like this even down to copying Keith’s majestically decadent but abjectly destructive lifestyle. But they never sounded this great. They didn’t have Keith. Or Mick Taylor. Or Jimmy Miller at the console.

When the Whip Comes Down – Some Girls (1978)
The Stones were well aware that Punk and Disco had usurped all the fire and glory from all the tired old 1960s rockers who were now mostly drug-addicted millionaires safe inside their limousines clutching massive record contracts despite the fact their music was rapidly descending into uncool piles of shit. Sure, the old guys sold out arenas and still got more than ample airplay on American FM radio, but none had any street cred in New York or London, where the Punks reigned supreme and garnered all the best press accolades. In 1977 nothing was more uncool than The Who, Stones, and Pink Floyd to the kids who mattered and now dug the Pistols, Clash, Ramones, and Talking Heads. Mick and Keith had always had their ears to the ground when stealing source material, beginning when they were young lads glomming the sound and style of the American bluesmen they worshipped. Mick lived in New York in 1977 and clearly saw that the nutty and frenetic kids at CBGB’s made him and his band look old and uncool. Or that Disco music had now become the cause célèbrere among his champagne-sipping jet-set celebrity clique. No one was digging The Rolling Sones in 1977. Not even the Stones. So Mick got off his ass and took charge of the band while Keith wallowed in a heroin haze, and the result was a “comeback” album, Some Girls, that ripped off both cool trends of the time, Punk and Disco, but with the typical Rolling Stones unapologetic swagger, and, lo and behold, for a brief moment the band was cool again. It didn’t last and they never made another fully end-to-end great album again, but Some Girls evoked some of the old magic. Yeah, the Stones were cool in 1978. Even some of the Punks grudgingly agreed on that. And the Disco fans loved Miss You like a motherfucker because it was superb dance music. So all was well again in the Big Lips-Wagging Tongue Land.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1968)
The Summer of Love and all it’s silly hippie-dippie fluff and psychedelic horseshit fell flat when the Stones tried it on Their Satanic Majesties Request. The band that invented the whiteboy-wannabe-black-bluesmen swagger with Satisfaction now tried to go all Pet Sounds and Sergeant Pepper’s, and the result was a gigantic pile of embarrassing shit. It could have been curtains for most Rock bands, but Mick and Keith smartly hired the hottest producer in London, the American Jimmy Miller, who’d recently helped Little Stevie Winwood and his band the Spencer Davis Group sound almost black and cool like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave, though not quite, let’s be honest. Miller’s genius was how with soul-rhythmic interplay and rock grooves he could turn a simple pop-rock song into a goddamn almost-Stax-sounding soul hit. Listen to Winwood’s Gimme Some Lovin’ and I’m a Man, and, hot damn, I am sure Wilson Pickett smiled when he heard them. With the Stones, Miller already had a band that could riff and jam, but all they needed was strong push back to their roots and what they did best. He restored their confidence in making copycat black blues music, but with their uniquely cool English flair. Keith wasn’t Muddy fucking Waters, but he also wasn’t moldy cheese; he was a pretty cool cat in his own right. And no one would ever confuse Mick with Little Richard, but Mick had star power nonetheless and decent chops. Moreover, Mick & Keith, in spurts, had proven to be fantastic songwriters with amazing pop sense. Both just needed a musical mentor who could make them sound cool again. Jimmy Miller deftly remade The Rolling Stones into The Rolling Stones v.2, and it led to a glorious 6-year, 5-album run that proved overwhelmingly that they were, indeed, the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band. And it all started with this song. Hello, Rolling Stones v.2. Honor was restored. The bad boys were back from their failed LSD trip. Even James Brown admitted these whiteboys were cool.

Waiting on a Friend – Tattoo You (1981)

My generation came of age in the late 1970s early 80s, and to us the Stones were old dudes our older brothers and sisters dug. Our bands were The Clash, Prince, U2, Elvis Costello, Run-DMC, Metallica, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Beastie Boys, Def Leppard, Guns-n-Roses, R.E.M., Duran Duran, The Smiths, et al., young, new, fresh bands that pushed the limits of where Rock could go beyond the Classic Rock of the 70s that had grown stale and overplayed. And yet these old fucks still put out songs that made us smile, like this chill motherfucker; okay, yes, The Stones were all right, man. The 80s were not kind to these geezers (or The Who, Pink Floyd, and Bowie for that matter), and they ceased being cool forever and turned into a tribute band for their former selves, but in 1982 MTV played the fuck out of this song and we all loved it. I saw them live in Louisville in early 1982 and they were fucking great. Mick & Keith & Ronnie and boys were cool dudes, no doubt. Sadly, ego, dope, and excess forever stole their creative juices, but in this glorious moment they still shined like the superstars they were.

The Doobies Summer 1975

On May 15, 1975 my crazy Mom uprooted my family from our home in Rock Island, Illinois and moved us to Makakilo, Oahu, Hawaii. Her husband and our Dad, Mike Scheck, had died of cancer a year and half prior to our move, and Mom felt we needed a new life to get us all out of our extreme grief.

I was the Scheck child in the deepest throes of depression and grief. I was the youngest and hardest hit by Dad’s long illness and death; before he died I was a vivacious and athletic Tom Sawyer kind of kid who’d fallen into such abject despair that I grew fat and nearly comatose as I stumbled through life miserably. Worse was that I started wetting the bed nearly every night because my nightmares were so horrific. Much worse was I’d become almost obsessively suicidal, but luckily they were just thoughts upon which I’d not acted yet. I rejected god and religion, and most of my childhood friends were perplexed and frankly repulsed by what I’d become, fat and weird and depressive, though none would say anything because they at least understood my grief. Mostly they tried to help me, but I was in a deep, dark hole. I think there’s no doubt my Mom moved us to Hawaii to save me.

Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is catapulted by a tornado out of the dull, dark, black-and-white Kansas and steps into the technicolor brilliance of Oz? That’s how it felt when our United Airlines 747 jet landed in Honolulu and we first walked out of the airport and drove to our new home in my brother Mike’s Mercury convertible. It was, literally, paradise on Earth, at least to my depressed, pathetic, tubby, twelve-year-old self.

Hawaii is so incredibly beautiful when you first experience it through your senses, the sight of the lovely, lush, hyper-green mountain ranges on both sides, and in the middle the most beautiful flora and fauna you could ever imagine, all surrounded by the aqua-blue Pacific Ocean, moreover your sense of smell is literally assaulted by the gorgeous scents of the fresh plants and flowers and fruit trees and salty-sweet ocean breeze; the feeling you get is so magnificently exhilarating that you feel like you’ve died and gone to the very best version of heaven you could ever imagine. I spent my first hour in Hawaii hyperventilating with utter joy as we drove to our new home. This ain’t Kansas, Dorothy. It was 180 degrees different than the Rust Belt shithole we left behind in Rock Island, Illinois, and all the tragic memories that hung over it like a foul, tepid swamp mist.

I was saved already. That first hour in Hawaii awoke me from a dark nightmare that had lasted about 18 months and nearly destroyed me. It was like a shot of adrenalin to overdosed junkies near death that causes them to almost leap up from their deathbed. I was vividly awake with a gigantic gasp of air. Arise, you fat, depressed little bed-wetting Lazarus! You’re alive!

Our house was located on the southern foothills of the Waianae Mountain range on the western side of Oahu that overlooked Barber’s Point to the southwest and Honolulu and its ubiquitous and massive former volcano Diamond Head far (about 25 miles) to the east. Our house was about 1000 feet above the ocean and about two miles from it, and was situated on a steep hillside, with a gigantic back porch called a lanai that was on stilts about 15 feet above our back yard, with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean that still makes me smile some 45 years later when I think about it. There were days when we could see schools of whales in the ocean below with the telescope mounted on our rail. There was a huge mango tree in our back yard that yielded fresh, delicious fruit every few months and smelled divine. I could sit on our lanai for hours and never feel bored or sensory deprived.

My brother Mike was in the Navy and stationed at Barber’s Point Naval Air Station, and he and his Navy buddies were renting the house when my Mom visited him just after the previous Christmas. Now that they were all getting out of the Navy and leaving, the house was ours to live in, so Mom moved there and rented it for us. Mike left a few weeks after we arrived to make a motorcycle trek across America with his best Navy buddy Nick, which took the whole summer. He left behind all of his furniture and possessions, especially his massive stereo system he’d bought when he was stationed in Okinawa, with a powerful amp, turntable, reel-to-reel tape deck, and quadrophonic speaker array that created the most perfect audio experience possible. Dude, it was the shit, Moreover, he and his Navy buddies left behind all their albums, acts like T. Rex, The Allman Brothers Band, Doobie Brothers, Yes, Pink Floyd, Bowie, Alice Cooper, Little Feat, Rolling Stones, et al. It was a treasure trove of great music from that era.

They’d also, and probably not on purpose, hidden their pot stashes all over the house like a stoner’s Easter egg hunt. I literally found joints and buds hidden in every nook and cranny of the house. I was only 12 and had never smoked anything before except an occasional cigarette I stole from my Mom. All I needed was the chance to try it for the first time.

One day I stayed home alone while Mom and my sisters were out shopping and my brother John had left to play tennis. In this “Home Alone” experience I cranked the Doobie Brothers album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits on our stereo, opened all the windows in the house, and sat on our lanai to smoke my first joint with my neighbor and best friend, Danny Cunningham, who had a Hawaiian mother and a white, retired Army Master Sergeant father. Danny too had never tried pot, so this was going to be an amazing experience for us both.

So, wow, how cool was it that my first pot high was in Hawaii, with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean, coupled with the most amazing aromas a human being could ever smell, and with a really cool record playing on the stereo! The pot was pretty potent shit and in no time Danny and I were blazed out of our minds, dancing around the lanai like idiots, laughing like crazy and feeling weirdly, magnificently, and spiritually awesome. Bliss to the max. The rest of the day we sat at Danny’s house listening to Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album while we polished off two more joints.

I wish I could have bottled those intense feelings and drank them whenever I felt low the rest of my life. It was as if those last two years of nightmares, grief, anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies I felt pretty much all the time were lifted and exorcized like I had been possessed by a demon and I was now free. It would take me years to be whole again, but the momentum was finally shifting; after this day I not once had suicidal thoughts or wet the bed ever again, and I was moving in the right direction to the light away from the darkness.

No shit. It literally saved my life: Hawaii. The pot. The amazing music. Look at the healed me a year later, smiling, happy, sane (and probably high!). That which does not kill me makes me stronger. Goddamn right.

Thank you, Hawaii, marijuana, and The Doobie Brothers.

1999 in 1983

I arrived at Fort Sam Houston, located in near-northeast San Antonio, Texas, on a Friday evening on January 21, 1983 after being stuck in a crippling ice storm that grounded my flight from St. Louis for three days. I was on my way from Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky to my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Sam’s US Army Academy of Health Sciences, where I was to embark upon a rigorous, 4-month, 6-day-a week schedule of Chemistry, Microbiology, Hematology, Parasitology, Immunohematology, and all the other fun courses in the Basic Medical Laboratory school. My class was BML3-83.

So I arrive at my new unit’s HQ that Friday night to learn I’d arrived too late to enjoy the weekend pass that was given to the rest of my class that arrived that Wednesday when I too was supposed to arrive, but was delayed. I was confined to the barracks for the weekend because I wouldn’t get properly signed into the unit until that Monday, so I was basically a captive until then. The Sergeant on duty handed me two wool blankets, a pillow, and bedding, then escorted me to my new room, where he handed me my new meal card and gave me a quick but very demanding set of rules for what I could and couldn’t do. I couldn’t leave the barracks compound and especially not the post. I could go to the mess hall, gym, and Post Exchange (PX). That was it. Nice.

Luckily at the St. Louis airport I’d purchased Prince’s new album 1999 on cassette, so I loaded it into my Walkman and headed downstairs to my barracks day room, where there were a couple of TVs, a few pool tables, and some food machines. Sitting in one of the TV lounges was a tall, lithe, utterly gorgeous blonde girl wearing only PT clothes (Army logoed T-shirt and shorts) and flip-flops; since I’d just come from Basic and hadn’t seen a hot girl in ages, I naturally walked over to her and introduced myself. Boldly desperate would be the best description of me at that moment.

She too had arrived late as she was a Reservist from Maine who finished Basic in December and went home on leave for a few weeks before AIT, and, like me, her flight was delayed, although for other reasons than mine, so alas she too was confined to the barracks for the weekend. She had taken a year off from the University of Maine after her sophomore year to join the Army Reserves for the college money, went to Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and here she was at Fort Sam for BML. Late, like me.

She was tall, beautiful, fit, and smart. My kind of girl.

Right away, as if to ward me off, she declared she was engaged to the love of her life, which I duly noted but ignored, as I sensed immediately that this declaration of monogamous intent in her life was a weak attempt at repulsing her own urges, not mine, and of course within thirty minutes of meeting we were in her room making out like maniacs, our clothes coming off with frenetic naughtiness, with my cassette of Prince’s 1999 blasting on her little boombox. Music that, as we all learned while listening to it, was the sonic representation of sex. Perfect for this moment.

It was, I should say, a wildly erotic and fun weekend, the two of us all alone in that huge barracks for those three nights and two full days, taking breaks only to go to the mess hall for food and the PX for beer. We played the fuck out of 1999 as we screwed like a couple of rabid dogs. It should be noted we also played my recently-purchased cassettes of The Psych Furs, The Cure, The Time, Ray Parker, Jr. and Raydio, Depeche Mode, and Stray Cats, but mostly our fuckfest of a weekend was serenaded by Prince. Dance Music Sex Romance, all right.

That Monday, after we had our first formation with our classmates who were all back from a wild weekend pass that they bragged about to us relentlessly, she informed me she really loved her fiancé, although, yes, for sure, she had a great weekend and I was a great guy, and hot, but that was it, we wouldn’t be repeating our weekend’s carnal adventures. And we didn’t.

We remained close friends all through our training, and, oh, man did she make fun of and mock the endless line of insane and slutty girls I caroused with those four months as I experimented with my newly-found confidence with women for the first time in my life. When we parted at the San Antonio airport four months later, as our flights left about the same time, she heading back to Maine and her life there while I was off to Fort Benning for my first duty station as a Regular Army Medic, we kissed for about ten minutes. A great kiss, the best of my life if I may be honest. “I love you, you psychotic, wonderful asshole” she confessed quietly, with tears flowing. I just nodded in agreement, too chickenshit to be as brave as she was at that moment. But, hell yes, I fucking loved her. We realized with that amazing kiss that we probably should have been a couple, but such is life. Choices had been made. Paths were set to follow. Neither included each other.

She married that fiancé a year later as she told me in a letter while I was at Fort Benning, which was the last I ever heard from her. And that was that.

I stalked her on Facebook about 2009 and she looked as amazing as she did back in the day. She was still married to the same guy and had three kids and two grandkids. She’d led a beautiful life and was still gorgeous and cool. My life path had gone well too. We were just not meant to be a couple. But that kiss in 1983 at the San Antonio Airport, holy fuck, it spoke of an alternate universe where I am sure we’re still in love and playing 1999 every night as we frolic in bed like we did that incredible weekend.

Thank you, Prince, you super-cool, nasty, sexy motherfucker.

Una noche de fútbol en Valencia

Watching Valencia FC versus Chelsea FC, 11-27-2019, at Bar Canada in Valencia, Spain

My best mates in Valencia and I gathered at Bar Canada on Avingnuda Regne de Valencia in the Russafa neighborhood to watch Valencia CF play Chelsea FC in a Champions League fixture. On hand in the green shirt was my very good English mate Clive, who, like me, is a diehard Arsenal FC fan and avowed hater of all things Chelsea, and, as you can see, my brother John attended, sporting his Valencia CF shirt, and next to John in the black sweater and blue shirt is his best mate in Valencia, the Belgian ex-pat Lodewijk. The other two chaps were friends of friends who are now my friends after a fantastic night watching a brilliant match, which ended in a 2-2 draw. Many adult beverages were consumed and we all went home happy.

Watching Valencia FC versus Chelsea FC, 11-27-2019, at Bar Canada in Valencia, Spain

Missing was our good English mate Chris, originally from Newcastle—who is now, like John, Clive, and Lodewijk, a permanent resident of Valencia—and the owner of Bike Alao; Chris was off to Girona visiting his father, though we texted him constantly with photos and commentary. Also on hand was London native Jonathan (standing behind me in pic #2), another fanatical Arsenal hooligan like Clive and me, who works for Chris’s Bike Alao shop in Grau. It was one of the best futbol matches of the year and about as exciting as European soccer can be, full of dramatic goals and wildly exciting attacks by both clubs. I only have a few days left in Valencia before I head home, but I am so glad to have made so many epic memories on this current trip. I’ll miss my good friends here until my next trip on 2020. This time I stayed 46 days after staying 40 back in February and March, and hopefully next time I can stay much longer. It is slowly becoming my second home.

Irrational America

The new USA motto: “It don’t matter no more, so pass the Oxy, Cheetos, and vodka.”

As I stated the day after Trump won the US Presidency, his win marked the end of the Age of Enlightenment in the United States of America. Although Hillary Clinton thoroughly dominated the popular vote by well over 3 million votes, our insane Constitutional loophole called the Electoral College gave Trump the win. Millions of people across the states needed for an Electoral College victory for Trump voted for this insane, bloviating, utterly contemptible human being, like it or not. Sure, he lies like no other public figure in recent memory. Sure, he bragged like a randy frat boy about grabbing pussies and assaulting women against their will. Sure, he insulted and mocked the disability of a New York Times journalist. Sure, he bankrupted nearly every business he started and yet parades himself as a success. He’s an avowed racist asshole, pathological liar, failed businessman, and raging dumbass, and yet people voted for him.

That question I asked then was, simply, what the fuck, America? Why would people vote for this insane, silly, deeply pathological man-child? What insanity gripped so many millions on that Election Day in 2016? What nihilism led to this madness? Well, now I know.

The USA is, simply put, populated by some increasingly irrational, stupid, insane, and self-destructive people. Voting for Trump is just one symptom of a much larger problem with this country. Rejecting science is another, as is the rise in fundamentalist and evangelical religions and other irrational belief systems such as libertarian ideology or Chicago School economics. And finally there’s this amazing sad fact: recent health statistical data points to a declining life expectancy in the USA, due mainly to profligate alcohol and drug abuse (alcohol-related deaths have risen 41% since 1999; fatal drug overdoses have increased 387% in the same period!); overeating and morbid obesity and all the chronic ill-health pathologies associated with it (hypertension, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, et al.; mortality rates for obesity-related maladies have increased 114% since 1999); and a 39% increase in suicide rates for Americans aged 25-65—with a whopping 56% suicide increase for ages 55-64!

That’s right: Americans are killing themselves either slowly or quickly in much greater numbers. And this increase is largely happening to people in their middle-age years after 40. It has shifted health stats overall to reflect the first decline in life expectancy in a century in the United States of America. Crazy but true.

What is astonishing about this report in the Journal of American Medical Association is that this decline in life expectancy cuts across all races and ethnic groups, and happens whether people live in cities, suburbs, or rural areas. It’s not just the poor and disadvantaged who are dying younger from self-destructive habits. The sad fact is that people of middle age across all demographic categories are dying in greater numbers in the USA from mostly preventable maladies in a country that outspends on average for health care than the rest of the world, and yet it has the poorest health of any wealthy nation. America, we have a problem, and we’re mostly doing it to ourselves.

People are literally killing themselves in this country with a frightening, and, I might add, highly perplexing self-destructive streak that defies logic and reason. So why not vote for a fucking asshole like Trump when you already don’t give a damn whether you live or die any more? Why bother listening to scientists who are screaming at the top of their lungs that our planet’s climate is in serious danger, or that income inequality continues to rise and the middle class is largely disappearing, when you’re going to OD on smack, or overeat yourself into a diabetic ketoacidosis state, or drink yourself into systemic organ failure, one abjectly self-destructive habit or other that will lead to an early death before you’re 60? Worse, why care at all if you’re going to blow your brains out with a gun immediately? Live and let die, bitches. Flip the world the bird as you exit that mortal coil. God and Ayn Rand are waiting for you with open arms in the afterlife you so quickly want to join, so fuck it, right?

I probably sound like an elitist jerk, and maybe I am, but I’m completely dumbfounded and stupefied by the overwhelming irrationality and suicidally self-destructive behavior of far too many of my fellow citizens. Rejecting science is insane on its own, and fraught with horrific peril for our future as a species. Voting for reprehensible human beings as our democratic leaders who then do everything to destroy the self interest and well being of tens of millions citizens to favor the super-rich elite few is another form of insanity. Add all that to millions of citizens—millions!—deliberately eschewing good health and longevity through shitty eating and not exercising, or suicidally abusing drugs and alcohol, or simply killing one’s self outright.

What the fuck, people? Are nihilism and self-destruction your only coping mechanisms for a life you so obviously hate? Is dragging everyone else down that rat-fucked hole with you your master plan? It sure feels that way any more. Like a kid who shoots up his school then turns the gun on himself, people are no longer content killing themselves, they have to take everyone with them. People voting for Trump in numbers great enough that he won the Electoral Vote indicates this insane nihilism as much as anything I have witnessed in my 56 years of living. Just look at the map of where life expectancy decline is the greatest: it’s in places where Trump won lots of votes. Think it’s a coincidence? Hell no.

Not all Trump fanatics are self-destructive alcoholics, drug fiends, or chronic overeating fat pigs. Nor are they all uneducated dopes who reject science and higher learning. Of course not, and I would never state something like that with any sort of scientific certainty. But, let’s be honest, his success seems to be greatest in regions where so many of the citizens are dying young from these highly preventable maladies, so there is some provable correlation between voting for Trump and all this self-destructive behavior that drives down our national life expectancy. He won because he got votes across the Ohio Valley, from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, and also throw in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Missouri too; all of which, if you look at the map above, is where life expectancy dropped the most since 1999. The exception is northern New England where life expectancy dropped considerably too and Hillary won those states, but that’s not a lot of people (or Electoral Votes) compared to the states I mentioned above.

I rest my case; I really can’t say much else. The facts, as they say, are clear on this. Res ipsa loquitur. Extreme negligence towards one’s self means extreme negligence towards others. If people don’t give a flying fuck about themselves, how little do they care for others? The evidence clearly indicates they don’t give a damn at all about anything. Just pass the Oxy, Cheetos, and vodka, and everyone else can go to hell.

Life Update: Fall 2019

Mercado de Colón, Valencia, 8 Nov 2019

I’m spending more and more time living in Valencia, Spain, as I’ve built a nice home office here and can do my job more than adequately some 6200 kilometers from my home office in Philadelphia. Spanish culture is vastly different than in Philly, considerably safer, cleaner, and less frenetic, and, for the most part, much cheaper, especially thanks to a strong US Dollar these days. I work US hours, so I have mornings off to go biking or walk around this old, beautiful, utterly magnificent city. With each passing day my Spanish gets better, but it’s a difficult process to fully master enough of the language to be effectively conversant. It will take me years to do so, but I welcome the challenge.

The good news is I have lost 40 pounds since I broke my arm in 2016. I haven’t been this thin or healthy in ages, and I’m working harder every day to keep thin and fit. I’m also gathering a nice group of friends here with whom to pass the time watching fútbol while guzzling beers at Bar Obispo or Bar Canada, our hangouts for such an activity. My friends Chris and his partner/girlfriend Klara own bike rental shops, called Bike Alao, in the Russafa and Grau districts of Valencia, and sometimes I join Chris as he takes tourists on bike tours of Valencia and the surrounding environs. Most of my friends are British and Belgian ex-pats who have lived in Valencia for ages, so much so that many have married or partnered with Spaniards or other ex-pats and have built nice family lives in this great city.

The Scheck Brothers bicycling to El Monasterio de Santa Maria, El Puig, Spain, 1 Nov 2019.

The best aspect of living part time in Valencia is spending time with my brother John, who has lived here 13 years and speaks Spanish like a native. John’s been arduously writing three novels the past few years and I’ve been helping him as his sometimes editor and critic. All three are fantastic and I hope they get published soon or picked up as the next cool Netflix series. John’s life experience as a master linguist, world traveler, and well-read intellectual has helped him create novels of tremendous depth, insight, and thoughtfulness, while also being exciting works that grip the reader’s attention on every page.

I return to the USA in early December, so my days are winding down on this trip. Next year my company is kicking off a huge project in Souther California, so I won’t have as much time to live in Valencia until that project is finished in a few years, though I’ll escape to here when I can. This trip will be my longest continuous stay, 46 days, though my last one was 40 in February-March of this year. It gets harder and harder to go back. It gets easier and easier to stay.

Music Moment: January 1987

Das Marabu Diskothek, Zweibrücken, West Germany
I was at a German dance club called Marabu, located in the city Zweibrücken near the French border, in early 1987, and the DJ spun this song. I think nearly everyone in the club thought it was a new Depeche Mode song because the lead vocalist definitely sounded like Dave Gahan, but when I asked the DJ who the fuck this was, he said Kissing the Pink, an English band I knew but who had been more of a chic arthouse band to my recollection. No bother. This was an amazing dance track and all the cute girls packed in Marabu danced their perky asses off to it. Good enough for me. I met the love of my life at that club that April in 1987, a ginger-haired beauty named Tanya, who could have been Scarlett Johansson’s hotter twin (no shit!), and who introduced herself to me one night rather aggressively by pinching my ass; her English and my German were poor, but our attraction to each other overcame that barrier. Oh, it was on. Certain things are likely indeed. I can still picture that smoking-hot Teutonic beauty dancing her perky ass of some 32 years later. And so it goes.

Certain Things Are Likely – Kissing the Pink (1987)

 

It Was 46 Years Ago Today…

My old man died of a brain tumor on October 15, 1973. He was 48, 8 years younger than I am today.

Memories fade as we grow older, but I cling to the memories of Michael Leo Scheck greedily with every fiber of my being. He was a very good man taken from this world at far too young an age. Some men, some fathers, are complete shitbags and hardly worthy of living, but my Dad was one of the good ones, a smart, kind, gentle, highly moral and ethical, loving, and yet super-strong man who loved his wife and nine kids with all his heart and sacrificed his own well being to ensure we had a good home and everything we needed. He just ran out of time too soon to be there for most of my life; 82% of my life has been spent without him around, which sucks.

I take full ownership of every aspect of my being and how I have conducted my life, and I certainly don’t blame the fact my Dad died when I was ten years old for any of my mistakes or shortcomings in my life. I am responsible for everything fucked-up that I have done, no excuses, no blame anywhere but towards me. However, my teen years were a fucking bleak nightmare of trying to overcome his massive loss in my life. I don’t even remember who I was before he passed. I just remember the dark wilderness through which I tried to navigate the decade after he died and what a god-awful time I had finding my way to the light again. How, in my 20s, my fear of dying young like my old man led me to unbelievably stupid behavior, reckless and thoughtless at every turn, and how my anxiety and self-loathing damn near destroyed me, and yet how I overcame that toxic shitpile of neurotic self-abuse and emerged a better person. Not a great person like Mike Scheck, but I’m not a villain or scumbag either.

I can tell you this: I’d have rather he lived longer. Over 16,360 days have gone by since he died, and on not a single one have I not thought about him, that 6’4″, lanky, eternally-grinning, charming, deep-voiced man that he was, and a delight to be around. He was as human as the rest of us, sure, and like us all he had flaws, but he was a better human being than 99.99999% of the other human beings I have encountered in my life. I say that from an objective point of view as well as a highly biased one.

I don’t know how many days I have left in this world, but already I have lived over 3000 more days than he did, so I have been luckier than he in that respect, but I’m hardly half the man my father was, and everyone who knew him and knows me would heartily agree. And I am at peace with that fact. He was a great man and I’m merely average at best.

RIP +46, Dad.

Life Update: 4 Oct 2019

Middle aged but refusing to get old, 30 Sep 2019…

My retreat from the social media world since I quit Facebook and Twitter some 18 months ago has been a rebirth of anonymity for my personal life. This silly and pointless blog remains my one tie to the weird, crazy, and confusing Internet culture. For my friends and family, this photo is a proof of life, and as you can see, I’m thriving. I still look and feel younger than my age and my hair refuses to get grey or fall out of my scalp.

Life slips by so fast; I wake up today and I’m 56, my bones are creaking, I’m diabetic with a congenital aorta defect that is like a ticking time bomb in my chest, and yet I’m as fit and healthy as I have been in 20 years. The true key to good health is a sparse, processed-foods-free diet mostly consisting of fresh plant-based foods, abstaining from alcohol, and exercising like a demon. My blood test results recently were astonishingly great, a massive improvement since I started my new exercise and diet regimen 18 months ago.

Mostly I have eliminated stress from my life by reducing the need to give a shit about anything, whether it’s my work life, politics and current affairs, finances, whatever. I can keep this up for 40 more years. I don’t plan on aging a lot in the upcoming decades as I think I’ve found the key to arresting the sinister forces of aging. Sure, I will get older, but I will fight like a motherfucker not to surrender to its more nefarious effects on my health and well being.

The news headlines and relentless babble emanating from the boob tube all scream we’re in one crisis or other, but the truth is, life and living in this world will always present challenges to one’s survival and well being, and yet living life is a brilliant gift that one should not waste wallowing in fear, anxiety, or self-doubt. Yes, the future feels dark if we don’t fix the environmental crisis we’re creating with our pollution, and, yes, democracy is failing everywhere. Yes indeed. But wait.

Those out there who try to upset my karma can all suck the sweat off my fat ball sack. I am stronger, smarter, tougher, and more resilient that 99.9999% of humanity, so don’t tread on me, you miserable fucks who try to bully or impose your will on the weak. I am not one of the sheep, motherfuckers; I am the Alpha wolf who would rip your fucking heart out if you mess with me. Bold words, sure, but I am also mostly indifferent to anything but living life in the now and enjoying the good vibes of living well for as long as I can. Anyone trying to upset that balance is unwelcome in my immediate vicinity.

People who know me best know that I am a generous, altruistic, magnanimous, and mostly positive friend. People know where I stand because I am thoroughly unafraid to express my feelings, thoughts, and ideas. I will never be the most well-liked person in a room because I am so direct and blunt when I speak, but I will also never be known as a cowardly, timid, untrustworthy, and duplicitous person.

Like all human beings, I am far from perfect and my flaws and pathologies could fill volumes of books. I apologize for nothing about myself at this point in my life. I’m super-self-confident—some would label me arrogant—but I tender that bluster by always admitting when I am wrong, by always learning from my mistakes and shortcomings as a person and trying my best to fix, correct, or change them. I never try to obfuscate or deceive others when honesty and directness are truly warranted.

I am a weird guy, maybe an anachronism like some old medieval knight swinging his sword at windmills as if they were giant monsters. The principles that guide me are often obscured in a culture obsessed with opulent wealth, fake beauty, the anti-intellectual dimwittedness brought on by fanatical religious and political certainty, and hugely compromised moral and ethical standards in the reckless pursuit of greedy, self-obsessed ambitions, even at the expense of others and the future of humanity. There are plenty of good people out there, but there are also masses of rotten ones too. The balance seems to weigh towards the rotten, to be honest.

I see democracy fading as the guiding ethos of even the most advanced nations, mainly because wealth and power have fallen into the hands of a few oligarchs and warlords worldwide who don’t like the idea of sharing their wealth or equality with their fellow citizens; they prefer subjects to their wealth and power over citizens sharing the wealth and power. I see our environment barreling downhill into catastrophe as mankind destroys it by emptying its filth into the air, land, and sea without regard to its horrific effects. Ugh. So much is wrong. And yet I worry less.

I’m 56 and will be dead before the environment collapses and the world falls into chaos. In my youth as a soldier I joined the fight against worldwide communist aggression because, truly, they were the bad guys and evil, and their rapacious criminal enterprise collapsed in 1989 just as my military service ended. I never thought in 1989 that the world would be far more dangerous 30 years after the fall of communism. How naive I was at the age of 26. I thought democracy, regulated capitalism, and good will would triumph and uplift the world. It has and it hasn’t. Maybe as people were uplifted they forgot how we got to that good place, and now cannot wait to tear it down even if they don’t know why. It’s a weird world right now.

The anarchy, nihilism, and chaos we face today is far more evil and much more dangerous than anything since World War II. There is no singular entity or nation-state driving this chaotic madness today because it is driven more and more by powerful but not politically-connected people who thoughtlessly pursuit personal ambition over the good weal of humankind. Meanwhile hundreds of millions of people seem to have accepted this fate brought on by such dark forces without putting up much of a fight against it, or perhaps are thoroughly incapable of even acknowledging or understanding that it exists, and so the chaos, anarchy, and nihilism the world faces grows stronger and more deadly while more and more people get captured in its whirlwind of destruction and decimation. At some point good people will turn on each other in a savage pursuit of simple survival. This isn’t a science fiction fantasy; this is our future and I’m sadly pessimistic we humans can vanquish it before it engulfs us all. Or maybe we find our way out and the world thrives in the future. Maybe, a big maybe indeed.

All I can do is stay true to my beliefs and live my life being on the side that is good and just and caring. I don’t wallow in misery and fear of this future I see because I realize I will be dead long before it truly gets awful. What precious life I have left will be spent enjoying what is still good, beautiful, and wondrous about the world outside my door. To enjoy the company of good people, to savor all the good food, to enjoy every day I draw breath, to keep myself fit and healthy and not let the aging process piss on my parade.

That will be my role as a faithful witness to a life lived well. Please don’t try to get in my way.

1978 Took a Big Loss

Solo rocker Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek of The Cars, two acts that hit it big the summer of 1978, passed away over the weekend. Oddly, both were born a couple days apart and died a couple days apart; Ocasek: March 23, 1949-September 15, 2019; Money: March 21, 1949-September 13, 2019.

In the summer of 1978 both The Cars and Eddie Money had huge hits that made it a fun summer, as music was fantastic that year and their songs were among the most memorable, and certainly made that summer rock & roll like few others.

My two best friends and I were 15 and about to start high school that summer, and we had the best time of our lives mostly fucking off, smoking pot, and hitting on cute girls everywhere we could. Doug Russell and Chip Johnston, wherever you are, these are tributes to you two and that amazing summer and all its great music. You dudes are the best friends I’ve ever had by a huge margin. What’s great is I’ve been in contact with both the past year and we’ve shared a lot of laughs and memories since those wild times as bad boys 40 years ago.

From left: Chip, Mat, Doug, high school, 1979

RIP, Eddie & Ric, you were both great rock stars from my youth. Your music made life fun and worthwhile and cool.

Just What I Needed – The Cars (Released May 1978)

 

Two Tickets to Paradise – Eddie Money (Release June 1978)