Friday, February 20, 2009

And then there was one

I'm fast approaching graduation from University of Phoenix- 8 more Wednesday nights! After April 15th, I'll be lernded gud! I have had a really great experience at UOP. If I can get some fire in me to get a Masters Degree, I'd consider teaching there. I don't know if I have a Masters degree in me, but in any case, I need to take some time off and replenish the financial reserves for awhile.

When I started there in January of '07, they transferred all of my credits from Riverside City College way back in the 80's, including some dubious classes like "History of Rock and Roll" I had to take algebra over again because I'd earned a D way back when. D is barely passing, but it's not transferable. Math is not my gift in life and I had a great teacher at UOP, Ms. Bledsoe, who really brought it to life and I thought- "Well if Mr. Bellman in High School had explained it that way when I was a sophomore, I would have got it!"

In my first few months, I was taking some basic classes that I hadn't done earlier and then as I got onto my Bachelors of Business Administration track, I have largely remained with the same students pursuing the same degree in each of my classes for the last year. In addition to individual assignments and readings, we are divided into teams of 3 or 4 for projects where you take real world or fictitious companies through various market simulations and scenarios and do reports or presentations to the class on findings.

This is my team at University of Phoenix. We have worked together for about a year and we'll be parting ways after this class. I'm finishing and they all have two or three more 5-week classes.
That's Andrea on the left. She works for Apollo Group which owns University of Phoenix. She's a corporate liaison. I think she will have a great career in Public Relations or Broadcasting or Politics or whatever she feels to do. She is really got a gift in life. Laurel is on my right. She works for Banner-Baywood Healthcare in their construction division. She has been there for 30 years and has is incredibly valuable to them. She doesn't need a degree, but is doing it for the love of learning. She's actually approaching retirement- I know- she looks younger than me! Blanca is on my left. She has worked for the city of Phoenix for many years with their "Hope 6 Project" which assists low income families with housing. The City of Phoenix is having a major financial crisis and her job may be on the cutting block. We are praying for her but even without the degree she is earning, she could do just fine on her charm alone! She's about the nicest woman you'll ever meet.

It has been absolutely a pleasure to associate with them. It is interesting that people who have no other connection or bond- and no reason to have one- can go through a rather intense school or work experience together and come out of it at the other end having such affection for each other. I'll miss them terribly.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Styx rocked my face!

I have been a Styx fan since I heard Come Sail Away at age 12 in Winslow Arizona on a tiny transistor radio that had a crummy, tin-sounding speaker that you had to hold right up to your ear. It was broadcast on X-Rock 80, a pirate AM radio station in Tijuana Mexico that used to blast across the southwest to avoid U.S. radio regulations. That was the first song that ever "spoke" to ME, as opposed to, say, my parents music. About 3 years ago, Dennis DeYoung who wrote the song, appeared with the Orange County Symphony and the Pacific Children's choir and a small 4-piece rock band and performed that song in a proper symphony hall. He knocked it out of the park that night and that song re-inspired me just as it had when I was 12! As a fan, I have purchased everything that Styx has ever commercially released and all solo and side projects even a few soundboard bootleg recordings.

One fallacy of the business model of the music industry, however, is that while I have only purchased Come Sail Away 5 or 6 times, (8-track, a couple of cassettes, a couple of times on CD, a digital copy, and a couple of live versions) I have "consumed" it thousands of times without paying for it again. While they have made a few musical mis-steps, Styx has produced a body of work that has moved me and that I have always appreciated. The least I can do to show my appreciation for such a body of work is to go to the concerts once in awhile and pay for a live airing of some of those songs that I love- and buy a concert T-shirt.

6 weeks ago, Styx played practically in my back yard at the Tempe Town Lakes Fiesta Bowl Block Party on New Years Eve. I was working elsewhere in Phoenix- see older posts for my DJ adventures that night. Thanks to the serendipity of the universe though, I had a DJ job in Santa Monica California Friday night and Styx was also in town for about 5 shows around Los Angeles and San Diego. I sat in the 6th row for a Styx show this week in San Diego, I had a great visit with my son Javin in Riverside, turned in a career performance at the Santa Monica gig and was offered 5 more gigs afterwards. The money from the gig paid for the tickets, the fuel, the hotel room etc. God Bless America!

Many years ago, I happened to be playing Come Sail Away at a Grand Opening/retail promotion with the Laker Girls when a travelling gospel choir pulled their bus into the parking lot for a meal break. One of the lead female voices came over to introduce herself and say "hello" and stretch her legs and back and see what was going on. She starting singing along a bit while we were talking. She was an obvious talent and I quickly handed her a mic. A half dozen of her companions joined her for an impromptu Baptist gospel choir rendition of one of the great rock songs of the rock era. I mixed in a longer live concert version to keep the beat going for them. What a fantastic talent! Anybody who wasn't already a Styx fan converted that day and we worship at the shrine that is Styx. "A gathering of Angels appeared above my head. They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said, they said, Come sail away, Come sail away, Come sail away with me!"

Funny story from my road trip last weekend- This is Lawrence Gowan, Styx's Keyboardist and vocalist.

I was staying in the giant hotel/casino where the concert venue was. After I checked in, I was approached for autographs 4 times just getting from my room to one of the restaurants for some dinner and then on to the concert venue. My waitress thought I was with the band too and swore she saw me on the picture on the huge electronic marquee outside and on posters in the lobby and casino and asked for an autograph. Here's a recent pic of me in my Rock Star DJ persona... I guess there is a bit of a resemblance.

I corrected them as to my identity and told them that I took it as a great compliment. We exchanged some Styx stories that fans would tell and then they still didn't believe that I wasn't with the band.

Anyways, they all seemed very happy as they walked away with their "Keep Rockin' ~Curtis Whipple" autographs!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

And... Mr. Whipple doesn't have any hair!

That was the comic relief tag line for a radio ad campaign for my bald father and my bald uncle, also a Mr. Whipple of course, who had a small chain of department stores in northern Arizona when I was a kid. It didn't matter which bald Mr. Whipple they were referring to as they were both markedly BALD! My nephew, Jeff, wrote a very funny and a very raw blog post last month about the fact that he is losing his hair at a rather young age. Here's the link

Thankfully, I have a full head of hair at the old age of 43. It started graying on the temples about 4 or 5 years ago and although I said I would never color it-- I swore that I'd wear it like a crown--because I'd earned it! Well, I find myself coloring it- and liking it. One can only change around the living room furniture so much-- to change my hair up from time to time seems to satisfy my need for some spice. The gray is advancing, but thanks to the chemical weapons deployed by Michelle at Ultra, I'm winning the battle. It still seems pretty thick and she has sworn that she'll tell me when I begin to have a bald spot or something.

I'm sad that Jeff is losing his hair-- because I love my hair-- We don't have much control over whether it stays in our scalps, but we can all CHOOSE how to cut it and color it and I still seem to be able to screw that up!
Here's me in about 1988. That's alot of years ago. In spite of the mullet-ness of that one, I still kinda like that photo. This was taken in 2006. The easy-to-maintain-scare-the-new-neighbors-in-Arizona cut. It worked just fine as an entertainer in Los Angeles. Arizona? Not so much...Here's me in about 1993- ish. POOF!

This is me (center) with my crew at the steel yard in LA in about 1991 or so. This is probably the only picture where the crazy hair seems to make any sense. We are some scary looking guys that I wouldn't want to tangle with. I miss them.

The last one here is the most current- it compliments the other guitar pic from 20 something years ago. I was getting myself pumped up to entertain about 200 13 and 14 yr olds at a Bat-Mitzvah up in Scottsdale last month. Adena Photo took this one. She does a great job on family photos too. My bangs have grown another inch in the front and I had Michelle cut about an inch and a half off of the back since this was taken.

Stand by for some more crazy hair before 2009 is out.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Miscellaneous thoughts for the week- thoughts that wouldn't otherwise have a home

Thought #1: It's great to have a garden year 'round in Arizona.

THIS (above) is what it looks like out in the backyard. There are peas right in your face on the left of the pic with the white blossoms, red leaf lettuce in the shadow at the bottom center, moon leaf lettuce further back, then the big blue/green looking broad leafed stuff is red cabbage and then cilantro behind that and then more cabbage and then turnips just out of view.

THIS (below) is what it looks like at my dining room table!

There is some moon leaf lettuce, some red leaf lettuce, some green onions, a turnip and some cilantro. Topped off with half of an avocado and some strawberry slices from the local farmers market and some fresh coarsely ground black pepper.

Thought #2: I had a bride in my home office last Monday that was absolutely a pleasure to meet and I am so looking forward to her wedding in June. We had such a great chat and inside of 5 minutes it felt like I was talking to an old friend. She wept openly about the beautiful things about her relationship and about her fiance and her dreams for her life.

When doing a consultation, I try to make my office a place that- as a salesman- I can have an edge. I can play some music and show some photographs and have some bridal magazines handy that I have written articles in or that I have advertisements in. I'm a pretty good DJ, but I'm not a very good salesman so I use every advantage that I know how to use effectively in the given time. I try to create moments during the consultation where they can feel the emotion of the day--the fact that I created that moment right in my office is usually a great sales point.

There was none of that in this consultation. We just really hit it off and I was honored and flattered that she felt comfortable enough in front of me and in my home to express her emotions about her relationship even though we had just met. She and her fiance are separated by school commitments- he's finishing up at MIT. Songs that had meaning for her relationship really touched feelings that ran close to the surface.

Over the years, during these consultations, I've predicted fairly accurately who will make it in marriage and who will not just by how brides and grooms interact while doing something as simple as talking about the music for their wedding ceremony and the celebration that follows. They get so caught up in the details of the wedding that they make no preparations in their personal lives for the marriage that will follow. I predict that this bride will have a great and happy marriage!

Thought #3: Most people who travel in Arizona through the high desert country along Interstate 40 or those who travel through the low desert along Interstate 10 have no idea of the beauty in those brown ugly looking mountains in the distance. I had a break between homework and DJ business last week to go on a weekday hike in the Superstition mountains. There is so much greenery and water and life out there in the desert- several million people even 20 miles away in the Phoenix area have no idea that it even exists. Saguaro cactus takes 50 to 75 years to grow their first arms. The two that you can see in this picture are probably 150 years old. It's brilliant that a plant that gets a tiny drink of water maybe 6 or 8 times per year and braves 115 degree heat for 3 months with NO water can make a living out of a crack in a rock!

Two of my sisters here in the Phoenix area are hikers and I'm wondering why we don't hike together... oh yeah... it's that whole alternate lifestyle that I lead. I work on the weekends when everybody else hikes. BUT, I usually have the desert and all of its beautiful solitude for myself during the week- when all the other blokes are slaving away at their desks.