If you're reading this, then I would presume you, like the rest of us, have survived the Mayan Apocalypse, and something far worse - shopping for Christmas presents. I've been surviving as well, though as usual, it's never been easy. And I even have a Fred Phelps Award winner for you. But before we get to that poor soul, let's recap, shall we?
For me, today is the last day of a roughly five-and-a-half week run. Originally, there were to be four gigs on the run, but it got cut to three. Steppen Stonz started its run at the Atlantis, playing the Monday-through-Saturday shift. The bandhouse is a little better than it used to be, with the televisions in the house now receiving HDTV signals with the help of digital signal converters. It's not cable or DirecTV, but at least I can watch Zomboo.
From there, the plan was to take a week off, then play a weekend at Casino Fandango. And this is where things began to go off the rails. I set up the old pop-up trailer behind my stepdaughter's place in Sun Valley, fired up the propane heater, and did my best to stay warm, and keep from getting too bored. I didn't really have good Internet access while I was there, because for some weird reason I couldn't get this poor old laptop of mine to connect to their router - even with the password to it - though my 360 was able to connect to it. I actually have to take my computer in their house and physically connect it to their modem to get online, and since there weren't any empty outlets nearby, I was running on batteries only, which gave me about an hour to get things done before I had to shut down and take the laptop back to my trailer to plug in. This would be a minor problem compared to what came next.
I'm pretty sure that it was the Wednesday of that week off when I got a phone call from a very pissed-off Mike. Our keyboard player Miguel had chosen to quit. And he couldn't even be a man about it and tell Mike to his face - he sent him a text message with a link the the band's website that announced his resignation. from the group. And it turns out that he wasn't doing it of his own free will. But I'll explain later, when I announce the latest recipient of the Fred Phelps Award.
We had to scramble to find a replacement, and we were only able to secure one just a few days before we took the stage at the Fandango. The guy we'd brought on to sub for Miguel when he went on his honeymoon was unavailable due to prior commitments. And the permanent replacement wouldn't be available until after New Year's because he had to scramble to renew his health insurance before the end of the year, which involved several appointments that took him right up around Christmas to finish up.
The irony is that Miguel actually sent the temporary replacement in our direction. His name is Alex - don't have a last name for him yet - and he knew Miguel when they worked together at Maytan Music Center here in Reno. He's a multi-instrumentalist and a music student here at UNR who also has an original band somewhere here in town, but mostly what he does with us is run sound for us through his laptop. He'd lost his job just recently, and was more than happy to come in and cover for us without really any clue as to what we played. And thankfully, Merrell, the soundtech (and entertainment director) at the Fandango, was cool with the emergency sub we had to employ, and we got through that gig with few problems, other than having to explain Miguel's absence. A lot.
Things didn't get any better after the Fandango, as we learned that the next gig in line had been cancelled. According to our agent, the owner of the Carson Valley Inn had requested that a country band play this weekend, because a big food drive was scheduled to take place that weekend, and the people who were in charge of this drive wanted a country band to play that weekend. By the way, our agent runs a country band. Read into that whatever you want to, but the truth is that this turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise. Allow me to explain. Y'see, the CVI is a three-night gig. At first our agent offered us another three-nighter at the CVI in late January, then a few days later offered us the option to take a six-night run at the Atlantis that week instead. Add that to what we'd wind up getting offered to us by the folks at John Ascuaga's Nugget - playing an extra two days (Christmas night and tonight, the 26th) in addition to our winter-schedule three-nighter - and suddenly those three nights we lost turned into eight nights in total. So in the end, we'll actually make more money than we'd originally planned. I have no problem with that, and neither do any of the other guys. But the downside was that I'd miss Christmas with my family back home. I'd been looking forward to it, but Joy had warned me that I'd probably be working Christmas one way or another. Damn that woman's intuition. I'm used to spending Christmas alone, but it still sucks nevertheless.
Now I know that I've left you hanging on a couple of things. So here come the big announcements. First off, the new keyboard player. It's Calvin. As in Calvin Sims, my old boss in Powerlight. He hasn't been busy for quite a while, and was more than willing to come on board. And it actually makes perfect sense. He's known Mike and Arthur for nearly a quarter-century now, knows their material, and how to run sound. And he still has functioning mini-disc players and the equipment to equalize and level out the sequences. Not to mention that he still lives in Tacoma, and I can either pick him up on my way to Reno and he can help offset fuel costs for the trip, or I can park my truck in Tacoma and ride with him while helping pay for his gas for the trip. Either way, it's a win-win situation for all of us.
And now for the Fred Phelps Award recipient. Y'see, it turns out that Miguel didn't just quit the band. He quit pretty much everything that defined him as a person. At the same time he'd bailed on us, he also announced that he was quitting the two church bands he played in. And he quit teaching at Maytan. And he sold his car. And last but not least, he gave away - gave away! - his gear. What could possibly have gotten him to do such a reckless, ridiculously stupid thing?
His wife made him do all of that. I've joked with our friends that she basically grabbed him by his huevos and said "ay cabron, you're staying home with me from now on." And like a good little puppy, he did exactly what his wife told him to do. He just gave up. Walked away from pretty much everything that defined him as a person. Walked away from a lot of people who depended on him, because his wife 'didn't want him out at night.' Are you kidding? Miguel may be a naive little fucker, but he isn't stupid. He knows how to stay out of trouble far better than most people can at that age. But apparently his wife can't trust him, or anyone else for that matter. I'd joked with friends that I thought Miguel was a virgin, saving himself for marriage. Those friends thought I was being cruel - and in hindsight, perhaps I was - but I'd always said that I found it honorable in a quaint sort of way. His faith is his guide, and always has been, and I considered it to be an admirable quality.
But in my opinion it's also proven to be his undoing, because a stronger, more experienced man would've stood up to his wife and tried to hold his ground, or at least get her to accept that he had commitments to honor before he could walk away from us. Had he done that, there wouldn't have nearly been as much angst for the rest of us to endure, and we would've wished him well in his future endeavors and hoped that he'd remain friends with us. But Miguel has proven to be nothing more than a pussy-whipped little coward with his actions. And Mike, Arthur and myself all agree that Miguel's marriage isn't going to end well. We hope that he decides to take his brain, spine and balls back from her and either put her in her place or just dump her altogether. But I doubt that will happen. She wants him to make a mommy out of her, and fast, and eventually he'll wake up one day and realize just how much he threw away to make one person happy. I don't foresee a happy ending for him. In fact, if anything I see this relationship eventually coming to a violent end somewhere down the road, when he comes to the realization that she made him give up so much for her selfish wants and needs, and that mental stress breaks him - which it will eventually.
So with that, I give you the latest recipient of the Fred Phelps Award for The Dumbest Humanoid On The Planet - Veronica Arredondo. How many lives has her distrust affected? How many will it affect? And will it come back to bite her in the ass in the future? I'm sure that it will. So congratulations on your award, Veronica. And may your God have mercy on your soul.
UPDATE [Jan 31, 2013]: It turns out that Calvin is not going to be able to join Steppen Stonz at this time, perhaps not ever. As I write this, he's back home in Spartanburg, SC, taking care of some family buisness involving his daughter. He was two days away from joining us in Reno when his ex-wife called him and basically begged him to come to Spartanburg to help his daughter out of some situation, what it is I don't know, and don't really want to know. He had to cancel on Mike and Arthur on two days' notice, and they didn't take it all that well. I can't really blame them, but on the other hand they don't have families of their own, choosing the life of the eternal bachelor in order to avoid conflicts between family and business. Not a bad decision in and of itself, but it renders them pretty much incapable of understanding that players with wives and kids (such as yours truly) might have problems with those wives and children that supersede the needs of the group. I've asked Mike and Arthur to at least keep Calivin in their thoughts, but they consider him to be 'untrustworthy' now, and for the time being Alex will continue to play keys and twiddle knobs for us - not to mention collect fan mail from a collection of adoring women. Now if only those adoring women weren't uglier than sin and quite possibly mentally defective as well.....
UPDATE [March 28, 2013]: Alex Kaufman.