There are as many reasons for wanting to learn slide guitar as there are pickers out there…

…and there are innumerable ways to go about learning.

Although it worked for me, I do NOT recommend my method. AT ALL!

“No pain, no gain” is what they say. I found it to be true while first learning guitar and bass at a tender age. Until one builds up callouses on their fingertips, the strings and the death grip of an inexperienced guitarist can cause excruciating pain.

Once one gets through that phase – if they ever do – things usually get a lot better very quickly. But the pain certainly tests one’s commitment.

With slide guitar, the string is never pressed down onto the guitar neck at all…that would defeat the whole purpose of slide playing – and sound really horrible too. Consequently, it would seem logical that the same painful entry point to learning would be absent, wouldn’t it? Well, read on….

I was already playing for a while when I first heard Duane Allman play slide guitar. I instantly knew I HAD to learn how to do this. But back in those days I HAD to learn almost everything I heard come through my streo speakers, so slide only occupied a small fraction of my overall attentions as an aspiring Rock God.

Yes, there are a lot of jaw-dropping slide players, and I’m sure I heard them all, but Duane had a fluidity and a bite to his style that simply stood out way above any other player for me (until I heard Derek Trucks play – but that was decades later). Of course he aced the blues, but he also had the same level of groundbreaking mastery over other musical motifs – like that bright country sound and even dobro and country blues styles.

It was on acoustic guitar that I first set out to get slide playing under my belt – and the acoustic guitar is a very forgiving instrument (once you have the pre-requisite callouses). But in order to really get where I wanted to be it had to be done on the electric guitar, period. And I didn’t have one…yet!

It wasn’t until I was in the Air Force that I finally got an electric guitar. I’d been dabbling on guitar for 5 or 6 years by then – my main focus was on bass guitar. But getting that electric axe and an amp was where I first started to shift from bass to full-time guitar picking.

The first thing I learned as an acoustic picker is that the electric guitar is not a forgiving instrument at all! Welcome to the land of amplified mistakes, where the name of the game is control. There’s a lot of power at your fingertips and what separates the meningitis from the boysenberries is subtlety. I had a lot to learn, but I had all the time in the world to learn it.

Now, I would never imply that consciousness-altering substances should be a part of anyone’s learning curve in any pursuit. But in my case, certain nefarious habits indirectly led me to a slide guitar “breakthrough” of sorts. It all happened during a late night run to a local store for that most innocuous of consciousness-altering substances: beer.

My Air Force buddy “Zipperhead” (let’s call him Zip, OK?) and I were out of beer and between us only Zip had a vehicle. To our great dismay we discovered his battery was dead. In a stirring testament to that epic U. S. military can-do, never-give-up spirit, we decided to “borrow” the battery from a mutual friend’s car. We debated (briefly) taking the time to go ask him, then decided he’d probably want some of our beer and chose the least time-consuming route: we simply stole (temporarily) his battery. We reasoned that he wouldn’t mind and, besides, he’d never know anyway.

So, we scoop up the battery and all is well. We get our beer and get back on base and park. Then Zip held the beer while I “un-stole” this car battery back into it’s rightful vehicle.

That’s when I dropped the battery about 4 inches down onto the fingernail of my left ring finger.

Karma? You be the judge. Anyway, the fingernail cracked horizontally about halfway down and hurt like the blazes! The beer didn’t even put a dent in the throbbing agony and even looking at it made both of us nauseous. So, a band aid was employed and we finished the beer.

I knew right away that this gnarly injury would NOT stop me from playing guitar. After all, I had played with a broken right ring finger back when I was a bass player, cast and all.

So the next day I picked up my electric guitar (this was a Fender Telecaster for those of you who care) and decided I would just not use my left ring finger while fretting. OUCH!!! I should have known that would be impossible, what with most of what one learns becoming muscle memory through endless hours of practice.

Clearly, there was no way to practice while trying not to use one finger. Fortunately, the mangled member was the one on which the bottleneck slide was customarily worn when playing slide guitar. I gave it a try and it was almost pain-free! Yes!!! Hello, Uncle Duane, I’m-a-comin’….

Well, in the year of 1983, there was no internet with instantly accessible slide guitar lessons, so I just set about figuring it out for myself, playing along with my favorite tunes whether there were slide parts in them or not.

I played only slide guitar for at least 3 months – until the top of my cracked fingernail finally fell off and the nub finally grew back enough to fret again.

So, you want to be a slide player? Don’t do like Tom! Go take a lesson!

If you care to hear some of the results of my ill-begotten slide guitar skill, such as it is, all you have to do is check out our new CD Love One Another. The title track and a number of others have plenty of slide parts. Go ahead, judge away! You can do it right here:

Listen

-OR-

Buy

Peace,

-Tom

Where the heck do they come from?
What stages do they go through between initial idea to finished recording?

 

Well, I’m glad you asked!

I have been paying attention to “songcraft” for many years. Songcraft is a set of widely-accepted guidelines – dare I even say RULES – that are accepted and employed by many top-teir professional songwriters.

These writers of hit songs tend to mention songcraft in the same breath as the widely professed practice of writing songs every day – to develop the habit of songwriting.

I have no doubt that these tips, tools and practices are awesome and will result in noticeable improvement in anyone’s song writing efforts.

I utterly ignore them.

I have written about one hundred songs and the vast majority of them have lyrics. Some of them are closer in format to something a “real” songwriter would approve of: verse, chorus and bridge. Frankly, when a song comes to me, I take what is offered and try not to cloud this ethereal gift from, well, wherever, with over-thinking and too much effort.

I guess the place to start is the faraway fanatasy land known as Inspiration.

I am of the opinion that inspiration is always there. It just doesn’t always whisper great song ideas into my ear. It may whisper any number of things – and half the time it has something to do with NOT speaking what I’m thinking. I was “inspired” to not put my foot in my mouth by voicing what I thought was a hilarious idea out loud. This kind of inspiration took decades to hone and is probably the kind I value the most. It is close to, if not the same as, intuition. Trusting it is what takes decades.

There seems to be a widespread notion that inspiration is the one that chooses when – or if – it will appear. I don’t think that’s true. While sometimes it will hit you over the head with an idea, then not leave you alone until you act on it, other times it just sits there, as if it is looking at you and waiting. Saying, “Well…???”

Every now and then I have to sit down and write a song for some reason not related to the dawning of inspiration. A request for an original song is a good reason. With inspired ideas nowhere to be found, one does what one must: grind it out! Here’s where things get kinda weird sometimes, for me at least.

I’ll write down a list of subjects, I’ll try on first person voices, second, third. I’ll write lists of rhyming nouns or verbs or other parts of speech that fit the subject. Busy work, nitty-gritty stuff.

This is usually all done with an acoustic guitar on my lap, a guitar pick and a pen in my right hand (at the same time), and paper in front of me. Still other times (more rarely), the lyrical content will come and I’ll put it to music later. Setting words to music is a million times easier for me than coming up with lyrics to an existing musical idea.

There will be iterations – except on those rare occasions when inspiration just wakes up suddenly and a sonic gem pours forth. That is rarely the case, however.

The iterations can bounce between musical genres (now its a ballad in waltz time, now its a reggae tune, now its fingerstyle blues…), or between what will be the chorus, what will be the verse? Will the chorus and verse be stuck together? Will there be a bridge? Will there even be a chorus? Will there even be rhymes?

Along the way, inspiration can jump in at any time. Or it might not. When it doesn’t, then you’re left with pure invention. And shameless copying…er, ummm…borrowing.

At some point an idea solidifies around the subject and there is some sense to what is coming out. A form and a theme take shape. Things tend to go quicker then.

Even still, there may only be two verses…no further lyrics are forthcoming. At this point, I just accept it. That’s all there is…guess this song is supposed to have a lot of guitar solos!

There are always those inspired moments in the past that were captured on recordings, too. I have turned a few of these into songs over the years. It is a case of inspiration first, invention later – often prompting still more inspiration.

Occasionally, in the midst of a jam with friends, with some form of recorder running, an entire song beginning to end, music and lyrics, just flat out appears and needs next to nothing to call it complete. They may not be the very best songs, but their miraculous nature sets them apart – for me, at least.

Other times, sitting in front of blank paper, I feel like William Friggin’ Shakespeare and the words won’t stop coming through. Clearly, in such a case, inspiration has decided to hop on the train and ride it to the end of the line. I only recently discovered that invention in the absence of inspiration will sometimes evoke inspired creation after all. You hardly notice the shift until suddenly you realize it all has become automatic.

I will say this, though: invention without any inspiration rarely results in “keepers”. Those wind up in the trash can most of the time. They feel contrived, or they would be too “untrue” for me to attempt to sing.

I’m not the type who can just sing anything – and it isn’t about my vocal range at all. It has to be somehow true for me (AND fall within my very limited vocal range). This is the case even with cover tunes.

So now there I am with a song that has been written on acoustic guitar and is more or less complete. A whole range of questions now need to be answered. Is this song going to stay acoustic? Will this song get recorded? Will this song get an arrangement for three or four peices (also known as a band)?

It is here that most of the changes occur. Particularly in cases where the song is getting a rock band arrangement. More than once I have gotten inspired during this part of the process – coming up with a gorgeous melody line for the lyrics I wrote – only to find after hours of programming drums and recording rhythm parts that I literally cannot sing the damn melody!!!

Other times, this part of the process stays in the solo acoustic guitar domain until after weeks or months, a viable lyric/melody combination falls into place. Then arranging for a rock band format goes a lot smoother. During the time that passed, drum, rhythm and bass parts will have settled into my head, just needing to be made official and permanent in the recording process.

Lastly, some of the most inspired ideas I get come during recording – and even mixing. Small changes may happen that affect the whole musical direction, or a backing vocal part comes to me that really makes the melody stand out.

Sometimes, it is a subtractive process. In the mixing of a song, more than half of all the recorded parts may just get deleted, because a more refined sense of the final product got clearer – and the discarded parts muddied things up and had to go.

No matter what, the best song I ever wrote is the last song I ever wrote and I hope it stays that way – until I write the next one!

Speaking of the next one…IT’S HERE!!!!

Our new CD is out and the only place to get it is our very own web site.

Whether you want a CD or digital downloads of the album (or single tracks from the album), we got it!

If you’re going to buy it, please buy it from us…

The Merry Jaynz ONLINE STORE

Peace and Music,

-Tom

“Why don’t you and your daughters just move to Las Vegas and join staff?”

That was the question I posed to “Elmer” – an elderly gent from Central California – during a phone conversation.

 

This phone conversation was at Elmer’s request – or actually his two daughters’ request. I’d been engaged in written communication with Elmer for a while. I had mentioned that I was from Brooklyn, and his daughters both were enamored with the “Brooklyn accent” due to movies and TV shows, but they’d never heard one in real life. Hence the call.

As a staff member at my wee church I was expected (ordered) to write ten letters a week. The point was to get people in the door under any pretext whatsoever in the hope that they’d pay for some services eventually.

We were provided addresses by the Mama Church. These addresses belonged to folks who had at some point provided them to The Cult for some reason. It was no surprise that the letter-writing aspect of our public outreach was a dismal failure. In fact, Elmer was the only one to have ever responded to my hundreds of letters.

Elmer, as it turned out, had been one of the very first people to latch onto The Cult’s Mighty Founder. They became close personal friends with Elmer even having been chosen by The Mighty Founder to deliver services unto The Mighty Founder’s Mighty Wife. Elmer eventually left The Cult – right around the time they decided to call themselves a religion. That’s when stuff started getting Cult-y. Good call on Elmer’s part.

Well, I had spoken on the phone to the daughters who were duly impressed with my authentic Brooklyn accent. Then, duty-bound to at least try to consummate the purpose of my communication, I posed the question.

Wouldn’t you know that less than 6 months later they all moved to Las Vegas and joined staff!

This was a nearly miraculous event, unheard of in my wee church. My standing improved immensely among my co-staff members and good things started to happen. Keep in mind all the other staff members had day jobs and only came in at night when there were courses happening. I slept in the church’s film room on the floor and kept the place open from 8 AM to 10 PM 7 days a week.

Among the good things that happened was that another staff member gifted me a car – my very first one! It was a $300-dollar 1965 Mercury Comet. Another good thing that happened was that some of my students convinced me to house-sit for some friends of theirs for a month. The house in question was a beautiful 4-bedroom deal with a pool.

My time house-sitting co-incided with some crucial visits to Las Vegas on the part of three very important parties: Our Mama Church’s two senior C-Members in charge of our wee church, Elmer and his daughters, and a female friend from my time at The Cult’s training place in Florida (we’ll call her “Spike”).

Spike was on her way from Florida back up to her home church in the Northwest. She had a long flight layover in Vegas and I had a 4-bedroom house, a pool and a car. She missed her connecting flight (pity) and had to spend the night…too bad! We had steak and beer and Very Good Times!

So, where did I get the money for steak and beer?

Good question! My first visitors were the C-Members from our Mama Church. While I was awaiting their arrival in the airport, it was announced that their flight was diverted due to major storms along the route. The delay was to be about three hours.

I had no money and lots of time to kill, so I did what any broke, bored Vegas resident would do in an airport filled with slot machines. I went looking for stray quarters in the payout trays. I figured drunk travelers gaming at the airport whose flight was called for boarding might in their haste leave behind a quarter or two. I found an entire intact roll of quarters!

In ten minutes, thanks to Ted’s video poker tutelage, I had parlayed that roll of quarters into $35!! When one is on a roll, one goes with it, so I drove to the nearest casino that had the much-sought after Flush Attack machines I loved so well. BAM!!! I walked out with $350 and still had a half-hour to kill before my visiting C-Members arrived. Good times!

Lastly, Elmer and his daughters arrived and I hosted them at “my house” most suitably. His daughters were “Teri” – 20 years old, and “Ana” – 17 years old. Teri was the most drop-dead gorgeous human I had ever laid eyes on – inside and out. I instantly saw our future together in my mind’s eye and my attentions somehow did not immediately scare her off – which was usually the case in such a scenario.

Eventually my house-sitting stint ended and I was back on the film room floor again, but not for long. Elmer and the girls rented a nearby apartment and I was invited to live with them. That worked out great, in more ways then one.

As time marched on, Our Mama Church decided that I needed to focus on tending to the growing student population in the course room at our wee church without the distractions that being the acting Executive Director posed. So they sent a couple of C-Members for a long-term stay to manage things. They slept on the film room floor.

When I finally managed to get Teri pregnant, she finally agreed to marry me and we would have a Cult wedding right there in the wee church with Ted (still in good standing with The Cult) as my best man.

Shortly thereafter we revealed the pending addition to our new family to the C-Members and announced that we’d be leaving The Cult for real jobs that actually paid money. Whenever something like this happens, The Cult’s C-Members are duty-bound to sit you down, “holding the cans”, and extract from you the overt acts you must have committed and witheld that were causing you to leave The Cult. They HATE it when someone leaves The Cult!

I got through my little session with no problem, but Teri came out from hers in tears. I was ready to kill me some C-Members! Having been so highly trained in Florida, the numerous technical errors they’d made in her session were obvious to me, but I was in a murderous rage only because they made my beautiful pregnant wife cry.

Three hours later after many threats of physical violence and lots of screaming and chasing each other around in the nearby streets at night in a rare Vegas downpour, the C-Members and I had tired each other out and called a truce.

It was done.

I haven’t seen the inside of The Cult ever since. Of course, despite changing addresses across many states many, many times, they always manage to find me and I still get mail and phone calls all the time, twenty-something years later.

One other good thing that happened was that our departure freed up Ted to finally unleash his long-planned program of protest against The Cult. He’d been holding off just because Teri and I were still in, but now he was free to let loose. It made him SO happy!

And now, my story about The Cult Years comes to an end. I am leaving out a million details, but you have things to do. Maybe someday I’ll write a screenplay and it will be a movie.

Thanks for reading!

This will be the part of the story about Ted…

…all about Ted and nothing but the Ted.

 

When I finally got back to Vegas after Florida and Brooklyn and Southern California (again), I wound up running the whole dingy store front Cult establishment as its temporary executive director. Most importantly, I also ran the wee church’s course room and all its training operations. That’s where I met Ted.

Like me, Ted was from Brooklyn. Like me, Ted was a veteran (he had been a US Marine in Vietnam). Like me, Ted was highly suspicious of the Cult’s whole “we’re a religion” angle – as well as all C-Members. Like me, Ted was in awe of the parts of The Cult’s technology that actually worked. It didn’t take long for the two of us to get downright conspiratorial.

He was already disaffected and was really just sticking around to gather actionable intelligence on the whole thing. He was good…played it cool, went along with stuff, but he was just biding his time. From the moment I admitted to him that I was basically just scamming room and board, we were instant best buds. You could say we went to different high schools together.

Ted paid his rent as a professional gambler in Las Vegas. He was born with a head for numbers. At his peak he was able to pay post-graduate math students to calculate odds on certain video poker and slot machine progressive payouts. At his peak he had enough money to pay for these calculations as well as more of the Cult’s courses so he could keep on “watching” their operation.

Ted could tell you how many video poker hands had to be played before a royal flush (the highest payout) was likely. Ted would know every progressive slot game in town, and at which point in the progressive growth of the payout each machine would be worth playing (in terms of dollars per hour given a certain number of hands played per hour). He was no amateur.

Ted’s real bread and butter was a particular type of video poker game that was always set up in a linked group of identical poker machines. This group of machines had the standard payouts for poker hands – except when the “Flush Attack” light turned on. Then a simple flush (5 cards all of the same suit) would be worth 40 points instead of 25 (with the maximum bet of $1.25). Ted had calculated the dollar-per-hour rate of return for Flush Attack machines.It was so much higher when the light was on that it was an irresistible source of income – as long as you stuck to his strategy.

Ted’s strategy on the Flush Attack machine was simple. Let the ignorant tourists dump money into the machine while the light was off. Sit at the machine drinking coffee and only playing a quarter a hand and only as many hands as it took to not get “asked to leave” by the casino. Then, when the tourists finally hit enough flushes with enough money in their machines, they’d turn on the Flush Attack light.

When that Flush Attack light came on, Ted sprang into action! He’d switch from betting a quarter a hand to the maximum bet and switch to playing a strategy that targeted flushes. He’d then play at lightning speed. He was going to be the first one to get a flush with the light on, and get his 40-point max bet payout. Then the light would go out, and he’d downshift, letting the tourists turn the Flush Attack light back on again.

This was worth an average of about $8 an hour. And it worked at whatever Vegas casinos where ignorant tourists were sitting at Flush Attack machines.Normal, non-linked video poker machines that did not have a progressive payout were not worth Ted’s time at all far as their dollar-per-hour rate was concerned.

After we’d been bros for a few months, I hopped on back of his motorcycle on a  rare day off and we hit The Maxim – an older “golden-era” casino that had the lucrative Flush Attack machines. I was an apprentice pro gambler!

He schooled me rigorously on his Flush Attack strategy. Once I passed muster, he would give me $300 of his own cash to work with. I would get to keep all the complimentary benefits and perks the casino offered just for playing (usually worth at least a few beers and a meal at the casino buffet every day I played).

I would get a certain percentage of any royal flush or four aces thad I’d hit (those were worth $1200 and $200 respectively – with maximum bet). And he’d pay me $5 an hour. Ted usually would get his $300 back and sometimes much more. I got to get out and about and drink the casino’s complimentary beer.

This lasted until the Heinekens finally won out over Ted’s strategy. After four or five of’ em, I’d start playing with my gut and chase the elusive Royal Flush – instead of using The Strategy. Naturally, this lost Ted money and eventually it’s what got me fired from the world of professional gambling. We remained close friends, though. In fact, Ted was the best man at my Cult wedding. Now THERE’s a story…one I’ll cover later.

At one point after I’d left The Cult, my Dad actually retired and moved to Vegas. He wound up getting a job as the head tech guy for the biggest gaming company in town – the one that manufactured and programmed most of the video machines. Crazy, right? I just had to get Dad (another Brooklyn boy – and veteran) and Ted together.

Sure enough, when they met it was instant fireworks! It was like the old Mad Magazine Spy versus Spy cartoon. Ted kept trying to wheedle something he could use from my Dad, and my Dad kept dismissing even the possibility that anyone could ever beat the machines with a mathematical strategy. It was epic!

Ted kept going to The Cult’s little church long after I had departed (as a married man with a kid on the way). Finally, he too parted company with The Cult as well. Thus began his long-awaited career as a full-time Protester of The Cult! He would attend every large Cult event, travelling hundreds of miles just to walk around with an anti-cult picket sign. He’d do that in Vegas too – in his spare time

He formally petitioned The Cult on a regular basis to officially declare him a Suppressive Person – as per their own very well-defined rules. Of course the Cult wasn’t going to do anything an Anti-Cult protester said to do, so he never got “declared”. This was very disappointing to him since said official declaration was considered a badge of honor among the Anti-Cult crowd he ran around with.

We kept in touch for years after I’d left Vegas. But, unlike Ted, I couldn’t be bothered being anti-anything.

While still in Vegas, but after The Cult, I sprouted a wife, a child and a promising software career. Then I started chasing money all over the continental United States, willingly re-locating to Memphis and then the Cincinnati area to stay employed.

Literally everywhere I ever lived since then, The Cult always found my address. To this day they still send me many pieces of mail a week.

I guess I have one more Cult story left in me. I’ll give the details surrounding the meeting of the wife, the wedding and the final rain-soaked, nearly violent confrontation with three C-members which led to my exit. That exit was what most would call a dramatic conclusion.

Speaking of dramatic conclusions, the crowdfunding campaign we ran for our new CD Love One Another wound up at 97% of goal – two days after the official end! We learned a lot from the whole thing and it was an unparalleled success. The physical CDs will be here within a week or so and are, of course, for sale. The tracks will be on Spotify, iTunes and all the rest of the world’s finest streaming sites at the end of August.

Go ahead and get your CD if you haven’t already!

http://themerryjaynz.com

Peace!

-Tom

Mission: Accomplished!

I had successfully escaped The Cult and was back in Brooklyn.

“Wow, man…you say the cult stuff you did helped you out, but it sure didn’t do anything for your dart game!”

This got lots of laughs from my Brooklyn friends as we re-entered the bar and re-convened around the dart board, all potted up on the weed.

Of course, in a sad attempt to explain the past two years of my life and justify my existence I had tried to explain to my friends the parts of The Cult that were actually worthwhile. I was careful to tone it down, lest I sounded like I was trying to recruit them. But it is in the nature of Brooklyn friendships to show affection and solidarity through the time-honored tradition of The Hurling of Insults.

“Yeah, Scmiddy…let’s see what The Cult did for you. Why don’t you use your new superhuman cult abilities to win at darts for a change?”

Now, I’m not going to try to claim any abilities gained, superhuman or otherwise. But every now and then everyone has something happen that is beyond extraordinary. Something that neither chance, coincidence nor anything else rational can explain.

Everyone gathered knew my dart-chucking skills were average at best. That day’s showing was probably below average since I hadn’t even seen a dartboard since leaving Brooklyn. But, as they say, in that moment I was “feeling it”.

I got a dart, walked up to the line, turned my back to the board and covered my eyes with my left arm.

With my right, I flung the dart blindly over my shoulder, not even expecting to hit the board.

Dead. Center. Bullseye.

Ordinarily, I’d be laughing and jumping up and down and eliciting high-fives. Ordinarily, even under the best of conditions, I was highly unlikely to hit a bullseye. I managed to play it off extra cool, though; as if I were totally expecting the bullseye. As if, “Was there anything else about my new superhuman abilities you’d like me to demonstrate?”

One of my friends managed to mutter, “Holy shit…” before his jaw dropped to the floor like the others’. I imagine they all must have been second-guessing their assumptions about The Cult and certain abilities around that time. Perhaps they were wondering if I could now read minds or whether I could suddenly turn invisible or teleport or something…

Nope. It was just a lucky shot and unimaginably good timing. But I wasn’t going to tell THEM that!

The subject of The Cult was never brought up again.

But my time with The Cult was not over quite yet. My girlfriend was getting impatient with my inability to get a job. Employment opportunities in New York City absolutely had not improved as I had hoped they would.

Meanwhile, I was a hot commodity as far as my wee church in Las Vegas was concerned, what with almost two years of the finest training The Cult could deliver under my belt. Before long, they sent me a plane ticket and I went back to Las Vegas.

All was forgiven and I was welcomed back despite my harrowing escape from Florida and the trouble I was presumed to be in back at the training center. It says a lot about the differences between local folks at one of The Cult’s wee churches and the big-deal C-Members and the Mama Church or other bigger operations The Cult was running.

In Las Vegas, I was getting heavily promoted as the highly-trained whiz-kid who would reverse the fortunes of this backwards little enterprise; and in fact, on arrival, people started forking over the cash to have me deliver services. Two thousand dollars bought someone a twelve-and-a-half-hour block of my time. Back in Florida the same block of time went for about four thousand.

I did not personally benefit financially from any of that cash infusion. They had made me the temporary Executive Director almost immediately upon my re-arrival, so I had to take that cash to the landlord and pay the church’s two or three months of back rent. My assignment as Executive Director was to be expected since I had the most technical and administrative Cult training and plenty of free time. Everyone else had day jobs and actual lives going on!

I moved into the church at that point. Every church in The Cult has a film room. A projector, a screen and some chairs in a room dedicated to the showing of The Cult’s training films and nothing else. This is where I slept on a sleeping bag on the floor. We also moved a few dozen boxes of Mama Church literature to free up a shower for me to use.

I would open the place for “business” in the morning, and close it down at night. Back to the 14-hour-a-day schedule. I lived on coffee and scambled egg sandwiches.

There were a few more students enrolled while I was away, but of all the training I received in Florida I was still not trained to run the course room. That would soon change.

Back to Southern California! Not the Mama Church this time, but a different one much bigger than ours. Like ours, it was supposed to focus solely on Celebrities (defined by The Cult as “opinion leaders” to help broaden the scope a bit and justify letting in absolutely anyone).

I was only there for two weeks and in that time completed the course that allowed me to run a course room and about ten other courses. Even there in Southern California, people were in awe of anyone trained in Florida.

When someone did a course in The Cult, there was plenty of reading, accompanied by copious amounts of time digging into dictionaries (they’re REALLY big on the definitions of words) and demonstrating what was just read physically, using anything – like checkers or dominoes or even modelling clay. Then there were drills. A student and their partner would take turns actually practicing the service that was just studied and demonstrated. Sometimes this was done on each other. Sometimes when the action being drilled had the potential to have an unintended effect on one’s partner, stuffed animals were used instead. Very often, the final drill was done using “bull-baiting” wherein your partner or a third student (or both) would relentlessly interrupt, insult, scream, suddenly try to run away or do anything they could think of to throw off your concentration. If they succeeded, you were told “FAIL!!!” and would have to start again – often after finding the definition of the word you didn’t fully understand (because, of course, right?).

So, I amazed one and all with my fancy Florida training and my ability to not only remember tons of services and their particular processes verbatim, but to flawlessly drill them while having dominoes and checkers bounced off my face and being screamed at. In the end I was certified to deliver a ton more services for my wee church in Vegas – and run the course room, too.

My certificates and I arrived back in Vegas to resume my temporary Executinve Directorship and show the current crop of course room students what REAL Cult training was all about.

My two sweet old ladies were still students there; and, while I was in Florida, we’d gained some actual Vegas Celebrities – performers at some of the bigger casinos’ most popular shows. But the most noteworthy student of all was Ted.

Ted wasn’t a celebrity, unless his station as one of the more successful full-time gamblers in town afforded him the status of “opinion leader”. But I told you that I was going to devote an entire newsletter to Ted and our various exploits – and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Until then, any of you that have considered owning our new CD Love One Another – and getting your copy when it helps us the most (namely: NOW!) – there is only one week left in the crowdfunding campaign. It will end on Wednesday August 9th. We are currently at 83% of our goal and we’re hopeful that we will make it – but we still need more help to do it.

To do that, click the link below, pick a reward level you like and donate! BAM! Easy.

http://themerryjaynz.com

Look for the next newsletter some time this coming weekend!

Until then, Endless Peace,

-Tom

I Was About to Leave the Desert…

…for a brief few weeks of training from The Cult in sunny Florida.

 

It’s easy to leave Vegas. I did it a lot. You never know you miss the color green until you get out of Vegas and see grass and trees again. What I did know I missed was the ocean. I grew up spending summers at the beach.

When I arrived at the gulf coast of Florida I knew I was in the right place.

Sadly, this was only to last for a few weeks. Just a quick training cycle and back to Vegas to my wee church to run their course room. Well…that’s what was supposed to happen!

As it turns out, there were a zillion wee-church people all over The Cult’s Florida training headquarters because there was a Totally Different Extra Special Training Program going on. It was much like the one that rejected me in southern California: it was mandatory that wee churches send people, they were told to send a team of a certain number, and it was going to take about two YEARS!

I need to help you understand just how much better this place was than the Mama church in California. In Florida, the training center bought numerous entire apartment complexes to serve as housing for their staff of C-Members and still had plenty of room for hundreds of us wee-church students.

I still lived with 13 dudes, but it wasn’t in a janitor closet. It was a 3-bedroom, 3-bath apartment. Sure, there were bunk beds in the living room, but this was relatively do-able. It was 20-minute walk from the apartments to the training. But, in the mornings and evenings The Cult even ran buses every ten or fifteen minutes.

Then there was the beach. That was a 30-minute walk from the training center. Dolphins, rays, manatee, huge crazy birds, flying fish. I was in love!

I’d made a lot of friends. Most of the students were my age or younger. A lot more of them were female. There was a fair number of minors who were sent by their Cult parents. Someone somewhere signed legal guardianship papers and these kids were on their own. I’m talking 12-year-olds.

I shared a room in our apartment with only one guy (from Australia), played guitar and bass whenever possible, went to the beach Sunday mornings, and hung out with some pretty cool people from all over the world. And the food was good. I decided I was going to get myself into that Totally Different Extra

Special Training Program. And so I did.

That really pissed off my Vegas wee church people. But they still sent me five or ten bucks every couple of weeks for soap and shampoo and such. I would go through several pairs of thrift shop shoes, pants and shirts to meet the dress code. We all cut each others’ hair to save money.

The Cult found that I needed to re-do all the clean-up services I had done in Vegas, so back to the sauna and the running (I ran to the beach every day!), and the vitamins. As soon as all that was done, I was assigned a training partner. My “buddy” for the next year or so was Molly, a 13-year-old girl whose Cult parents sent her for training.

It was an inauspicious pairing as far as getting training done, but we got along great most of the time.

You may wonder about the safety of setting a 13-year-old free in such an environment. The Cult handled all legal matters as Ethics Issues and never, never ever brought anything to the local law enforcement authorities. So, the multiple instances of underage sexual contact I had become aware of were dealt with internally. There were quite a few under-age brides who were C-Members (yes, they could sign up) married to other C-Members. Yes, again, I’m talking 12 or 13-year-old girls. There was a 14-year old girl all my friends had known from before I arrived. She left before I got there but now had returned to training after giving birth to a baby girl. She wasn’t even a C-Member, just of of of wee church students. There she was every day with the baby in a stroller.

I was strongly suspicious of this arrangement and a lot of others like it, despite never seeing any evidence of overt institutional attempts to take advantage of these girls. I was more leaning toward thinking that The Cult was just waiting for someone to take the “bait” (so to speak), at which point, they’d get out their meters, and get you to “hold the cans” and confess. THEN they had you right where they wanted you.

Of course, we non-C-Member wee-church people were under explicit directions to avoid any and all forms of sexual contact with anyone. The sexual tension was brutal. There were at least a half dozen times I was in delicate, nearly intimate, situations where I was certain I was being set up for a sting. I never fell for it, though.

Well, it was straight 94-hour weeks for almost two years. I got pretty far in training. Since students needed people to deliver services to, until they were certified, they delivered to other students under tight supervision. So, I got a lot of the services too. Most of it actually works and some of it really blew my mind. I had some experiences of being exterior to my body…and caused the same for others as a student. Great potential..too bad its all tied up with the strange cult situation.

At one point I was ordained as a minister of The Cult. I could do weddings! Somewhere, there’s a picture of me with a priest’s collar. Being an ex-Catholic, I though that was hilarious.

Well, right around the two-year mark I was about done. I had to plot an escape, so I got in touch with an old friend and had them send me $100. My plan was to go back to Brooklyn and get a job. Surely by now there must be a job in New York City!

I did all my planning in secret. I found out the bus schedule and got the number of a taxi company. I had to play it really cool the whole time, though, because one thing The Cult really hates is people leaving The Cult. They’ll get up a posse of C-Members and send ’em after you if they know where you went. They always assume there must have been an error made in your “services” that messed your mind up…and that you would run right to the cops or the press and say Bad Things. I don’t blame them for worrying!

The night before my escape attempt I walked home from training to the apartments and saw the convenience store I had always passed right by. All those neon beer signs! I was almost free and I hadn’t had a beer for two years…so….big 40!

I stealthily packed all my stuff (a somewhat easier task since my bass had been stolen at around the one-year-mark) and stashed it all in my closet for a 5 AM sneaky tip-toe departure. A cab would be waiting to take me to the Greyhound. I was done packing well before my new roommate came in to go to bed. I was sure everything looked totally normal.

About midnight, they came to get me.

My roommate totally busted me and they took my $100.

It’s OK, though, because a month later I managed to pull it off successfully. Same plan, minus the 40-ounce Budweiser.

I arrived back in Brooklyn and had a wicked awesome reunion with my old girlfriend and all my old buddies. It was shortly after my arrival that a bunch of us were drinking and throwing darts in a bar. We had gone out to have a puff of the domestic blend and when we came back in the topic of conversation turned to The Cult. I was getting ragged on pretty hard – in the way only friends from Brooklyn can do. That’s when it happened: The Cult-Related Dartboard Miracle.

That’s where I’ll pick it up in the next newsletter, because it leads right back into Vegas again…and more unbelievable tales from The Cult.

Speaking of miracles…we are progressing toward our crowdfunding goal. This is good because we are almost at the end of our crowdfunding project.

We’ve seen some enormous generosity so far and it tells me our music does make a difference for people. The gratitude we’re feeling is amazing…unparalleled.

If you haven’t yet checked out the crowdfunding project for our new CD Love One Another now is the time. If you’ve checked it out and plan to make a pledge…well..now is the time! Here’s where to click>>>

Peace

-Tom

So, back in Vegas…

…and The Cult was going to “clean me up” for the Mama Church

What this entailed was the delivery of some services meant to un-do all the years of gloriously misspent youth I had enjoyed up to that point.

One action purported to physically eradicated toxins and drugs from the body through excercise, sauna and ridiculous quantities of vitamins among other things. Another purported to re-orient a person to the present time and location – based on the notion that most of us aren’t really “here” mentally. Other services purported to rehabilitate a person’s communication cycle, ability to recall past events and strip the retention of false data preventing spiritual growth. Lastly, I was to be trained on how to study.

It bears mentioning that no alcohol was to be consumed withing 24 hours prior to receiving or delivering services. With a 7-day 94-hour weekly work schedule, that eliminated literally all opportunities to enjoy an adult beverage. Exceptions were made on Christmas Eve.

So, I was sober. That alone was a minor miracle only accomplished thus far by US Air Force basic training (and only for about 3 weeks). I was running again for the first time since I was 16. I was introduced to “The Cans” too.

Holding the cans, as it were, was part of almost all services considered Processing (as opposed to the other kind of services referred to as Training). The cans were metal and hooked up to an electronic device that measured small electrical changes in the palms of the person holding the cans. These changes were displayed on a meter to the person delivering the service. By astutely interpreting certain patterns on the meter, areas of spiritual or mental concern were said to be discovered and eradicated.

The Cult was desperate to get anyone in the door that they possibly could, but before beginning any services, they were extremely careful to weed out anyone who ever had any dealings with actual mental heath practioners: psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. Out the door they went! Except, they missed the elderly gent with whom I was partnered on the excercise, sauna and vitamins deal.

All training and some processing services meant being assigned a partner. You and your partner would go through the service together, kind of like a buddy system. Well, I was assigned a pleasent elderly gent. That kept me from over-doing the running bit – which I absolutely would have done otherwise. He was pretty cool. We were hanging out hours a day, so we of course got to chatting a lot. He had lost his Korean wife of many years not long before. He called her “Pinky”.

A couple of weeks went by and, who knows, maybe toxins started releasing in earnest from fat cells or whatever. After the sauna, we each went to our own showers. His began taking longer and longer. Then we started hearing him saying things in the shower. He was saying “pinky    Pinky!   PINKYYYYY!!!!!” Needless to say, this was unexpected and somewhat disconcerting to The Cult. Personally, I would’ve let it go, but word got around to someone in charge of stuff.

Well, they grilled him for an hour and he admitted he had indeed been on psychiatric drugs for a while. Out the door he went!

I went on to finish the list of services Mama Church said I needed. In all honesty, when delivered correctly, most of the early-level services actually do what they say they do. I say “when delivered correctly” because I would be made to do them ALL over again when I later weaseled my way into A Totally Different Very Special Training Program. There, they reviewed my records and determined that the local wee church folks got it all wrong.

The local wee church folks can’t be blamed for whatever confusion they were suffering. Mama Church was strident about keeping the technology absolutely pure and following everything The Founder had written to the letter of the law. The problem was, The Founder had died years before, and yet the folks running the Mama Church kept on publishing new technical and administrative directives bearing The Founders signature. I’m guessing at some point the local folks smelled a rat and began ignoring directives. That also helps to explain the hundreds of boxes of unopened Mama Church literature we were storing.

Soon I’d be on my way for more advanced training at the premier Technical Church in the world located on the gulf coast of Florida. Sounded good to me! There I was to spend a few short weeks becoming the guy my wee church needed to run the training courses. I’d come back and, BAM, the training money would start rushing in and our financial woes would be over!

I was assured that nothing like the Mama Church Approval Fiasco would happen to me in Florida. I was adamant that my guitar and bass were joining me, and so it was. Good thing, too, because I would up being there for about two years! I kinda fell in love with the gulf coast, what can I say?

I’ll start covering the Florida episode – and it may take a while – in the next newsletter. For now, suffice it to say I am really glad so many of you are enjoying the stories. It was due to positive responses and feeback that I even considered getting into the current subject.

The same is true for music, really. I didn’t know where I stood and lacked any kind of objective reality on the songs I was writing and recording until I finally started connecting with you fine folks. The fact that so many of you like the music gave me the confidence to get over the self-doubt that plagues most (or all) artists and really start getting serious about taking ownership for my music career.

The culmination of that effort – thus far – is our crowdfunding campaign. We’re just past the halfway point with 14 days to go and we are at 58% of our goal. That’s pretty cool – and we owe all that success to friends and fans like you who pitched in.

Here where you can check it out:

http://themerryjaynz.com

Click on the link, watch the video, listen to all the new tracks for Love One Another (our soon-to-be-released 2nd CD), find a reward level you like and help out with a donation. We’re self-hosted on this campaign…no make-or-break point so everybody gets what they order as their reward for donating.

Peace,

-Tom

So where was I…?

Ah!! Leaving Vegas for Southern California…

(new to this story? Check part 1 first here: http://themerryjaynz.com/index.php/2017/07/21/the-cult-years-part-1/  )

By now I had met all the other Las Vegas staff members. It was less than half a dozen folks (not counting the pregnant couple in uniform that was about to disappear). Everyone but the couple came in around 6 in the evening for the evening courses. I guess I’d only been around a couple of weeks at that point.

They had given me a couple of the raw public-level intro courses and they seemed to think I was OK. They were actually all pretty cool people. But once they saw I was literate and fairly willing to be sober I was sacrificed to The Mama Church which demanded every little puke-y storefront church send qualified staff to the Mama Church for a Special and Really Important Training Program.

This program was specifically meant for a team of three staff members from any given church…three different aspects of their Super Awesome Executive Course were to be imparted and the team would then return to their storefronts and instantly make them Mama Church-sized!!! So Vegas was sending me. Myself. And I. And upon my return, the reins of Executive Director-hood and Religious Leadership would be entrusted unto well-trained hands.

The little church in Vegas had plenty of room. There were only three customers, and they were only there for training 2 or 3 nights a week. So the course room where the training happened, and the tiny kitchen, where the coffee happened, were mainly free from crowding. The main room up front was large and in good shape, but always devoid of people. An office or two saw some life a few hours a week. Otherwise it was room after room stuffed with boxes…all the same size.

Do you know The Mama Church sent about a dozen of boxes of Mama Church publications, slick glossy magazines, every WEEK to the wee Vegas church? The denizens of our storefront enterprise were expected to get all of them distributed to the citizens of Las Vegas before the next dozen boxes arrived. Mama Church knew how many to send because Mama Church could look up the population of Las Vegas. These Vegas people all had day jobs…so, nope. There were many hundreds of boxes in every unused room in this building.

Now a bit about The Three Customers. This bears a bit of scrutiny. Two were a matched pair of retired well-funded older ladies from way West Vegas. They were as sweet as could be. We hit it off right away, because I was polite and skinny. They set eyes upon me and their new mission in life was to feed me. I loved these two! Then there was Ted. Right now all I want to say about Ted The Third Customer is that there’ll be an entire newsletter in this series dedicated just to Ted, his history, our Vegas skullduggeries and his Standing with The Cult. Oh, also, he was the Best Man at my wedding. The first one. The Cult one. But that’s much later.

So, off I go to Southern California. I was expected to quit my job and move out of my cheesy-ass room. I left my ’73 Strat and Precision bass there at the wee church in Vegas. My trust was not misplaced…it was as I left it when I got back.

Of course the training I was to receive was known to be months if not years in duration, but free as the wind for staff members. In Vegas I had signed a 5-year contract (knowing it was essentially meaningless, considering the utter lack of financial compensation). So, what the hey! What I didn’t know was…..well, read on.

I flew out of Vegas and was picked up at the airport by more uniforms. A couple of 40-ish ladies, very cordial. They drove me to the Mama Church. It was really a campus in the middle of a residential neighborhood. HUGE! About 90 percent of the folks running around this place were also in uniforms. About that…

I need to come up with a made-up name for the The Cult’s hyper-devoted inner-circle group of uniformed people. We’ll call them members of the inner core or Core Members. How about that? C-members, yes?

All C-members signed a one billion-year contract – because reincarnation, of course. They all actually got paid $50 a week, so there was that. Room and board and $50 a week and all the training and services The Cult had to offer – that was free. Except C-members worked 14-hours a day Monday through Saturday and a 10-hour day on Sunday…after 4 hours of Sunday cleaning  and Sunday inspections. And all C-members were very interested in convincing you to sign that billion-year-contract too.They know you wanna!!! You just haven’t gotten enough services to realize it yet!

For these C-members to actually get any fair amount the good freebies, they had to arrange to get in Really Big Trouble. Once that happened they were re-assigned to a life of something like 8-hours of hard labor and 6 hours of free services and what not. 6 days a week. Rather than take up the revenue-generating time of a trained and experienced C-member, those in Really Big Trouble would pair up, study the services to be rendered and render those services one upon the other. The only people on Earth who were allowed to do the services this way were C-members in Really Big Trouble.

After a year or two of Really Big Trouble, a C-member can come out so trained up and serviced up that The Cult is then obligated to promote them in rank and make them Executive C-members. Because that’s how awesome the services are, right? Really Big Trouble was actually very richly rewarded in The Cult.

Well, I was never THAT kind of staff member. No uniform except for a while they wanted me to wear a distinctive red “smock”; but that’s later, too. Nevertheless, I would wind up putting in those very same 14-hour days for most of my time with The Cult. That too will be expanded upon later. Now we’ve just arrived in Southern California’s Mama Church.

Crawling with uniforms!

I was dropped off at a gargantuan building, introduced to someone, then to someone else. Someone ELSE then brought to my new “room”..because it was late.

That room was a former janitorial closet that now had 14 beds of the bunk variety in it. A couple of janitors’ slop sinks and a couple of drains built into the floor were the only other articles of decor. I’m looking at thirteen tired dudes. I am assured there IS a vacant bunk in there.

We were in the middle of the third or fourth floor. There were dozens or rooms per floor – almost all way bigger than ours. There was a bathroom down the hall but the only showers we were OK to use were on the 6th floor. There were but 6 or 8 showers stalls for a few thousand C-members and hundreds of us students from wee churches around the world.

I literally don’t remember where or what I ate the whole time I was there. And I wasn’t there long!

I was there for New Years Eve, though! But that’s a few days off yet.

I spent my days getting shuttled from office to office mostly filling out forms, but sometimes getting interviewed…or interrogated. I still had to be approved by some executive Mama Church C-members before I could do this Very Special Training.

I think the interviews were where things started to fall apart a bit. Definitely.

I was actually looking like a great training candidate until some C-member with a form to fill out was compelled by duty to extract from me in minute detail the entirety of my sex and drug histories. I was bluntly honest. For about two or three hours. Hey, I had just turned 29. That’s fifteen years of gloriously misspent youth (and I was only getting started).

Needless to say, I was on my way back to Vegas, pronto. But not before I got to go out on the town for New Years Eve.

It took them until the 30th or so to determine that I wasn’t Executive Material. They also took pains to explain to me that all the LSD I had mentioned prevented me from ever becoming a C-member. In this lifetime. This little bit of actionable intelligence is what enabled me to actually sign one of those billion-dollar contracts at one point later in my brief career with The Cult (garnering much-needed goodwill and generating much grease for certain wheels…but, later).

They never stopped wanting you to sign that contract…even when they knew you were ineligible.

Anyway, I had become pretty good buds with these two dudes. Like me, they were flung unsuspecting from their crappy little storefront churches (in their cases in Australia and New Zealand) to the mama Church. We all shared a mild suspicion of the C-members and when it was announced that the C-members were going to be partying on New Years Eve unto their uniformed selves, and that the rest of us were free to do whatever, we three hit the town.

I still had a couple hundred bucks I’d saved from the florist delivery job in Vegas, so we bounced around a bit and finally saw a club that sounded like it was a-bompin’…

We paid $50 to get in (New Year’s Eve, Big City…) and found that we were the only white people in the place. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had! I drank like a fish and danced with all these beautiful ladies. I was well-accustomed to beautiful ladies never giving me so much as the time of day. This was great!

We all caroused till the early hours, eventually eating in a diner before heading back to The Cult.

No shower. Three or four hours of sleep. And I’m on my way to the airport.

Back to Vegas. Broke and hung over.

I arrived with Special Instructions From the Mama Church intended for whomever could rightfully be considered the Executive Director at the moment. The C-member couple had successfully escaped! One of the part-timers was supposed to step up, but that was like asking someone to hold a live hand grenade!

Someone finally opened The Special Instructions and it was a laundry list of training and services that a drug-crazed sex-fiend like me would have to complete before being considered for Any Special Training Program. My wee little storefront church was tasked with delivering all this training and all these services to me because, despite my shortcomings and dubious proclivities, apparently I was still potentially pretty OK. The C-members all had unlimited faith in their training and services, I’ll say that much.

Most other non C-member staff I met seemed to be barely tolerating the whole “its a religion, but also kinda like the military, but also a groundbreaking spiritual technology” thing that the C-members were pushing. The local regular staff usually were there because some of that technology – the earlier, lower-level stuff – actually worked like the bomb and had worked for them. There was always a faction that held the technology was great but the religion part and the C-members could go jump off a cliff. The C-members, meanwhile, were mainly there to keep everyone in line and protect Mama Church’s revenue stream.

So, I was to get all cleaned up by The Cult and resume my Very Special Training. At the Mama Church…or somewhere…

I’ll be covering all of that in the next letter. Many interesting wheels turned during the next few months in Vegas,  And then I was off again for Very Special Training, but this time to Florida.

At least in Florida I got to take my Strat and my bass. Never stopped playing.

Speaking of music, there are twelve tunes in our new CD Love One Another – none of which would have come out the way they did if my time on this rock had been spent living to others’ expectations. I knew the expectations, and I usually exceeded them if I felt like it. But in my own way.

That’s what creating original music is like, by the way. Everyone knows what is expected of a “successful” musician, band or artist. Some of us are called to make music and don’t want any part of that commercial echo-chamber pop-star nonsense. And that is exactly what gains us the kind of audience we want…the ones that see assembly-line pop hits for what they are and seek out better music, made by people like them. Music that connects with them and gives them whatever it is they REALLY want from music.

So we make the music we like, and figure that if it attracts people, they’ll be our tribe. Is that you?

Find out, I say!!! Check out the new CD!!! We’re in the middle of our crowdfunding campaign. Make a pledge that helps us finish producing this thing and get more for your money…it will help us out more than you know. All the new songs are available for listening and a bunch of reward levels are available to fit any budget.

Click this right HERE >>> http://themerryjaynz.com

Love from Tom and Susan

I Have My Opinions on Religion and Spirituality…

…but they have absolutely nothing to do with this story.

To protect the innocent and to keep hurt feelings to a minimum, this cult of which I speak will not be directly identified. It will be referred to from this point forward only as “The Cult”, with my sincerest apologies to the 1980s British rock band of the same name.

The way I found The Cult is a story unto itself, so let’s start there.

I had just left Brooklyn for Las Vegas. The money I landed with was running out and I was renting an apartment at this point, so I had to find a job. I moved to Vegas specifically on the recommendation of a Brooklyn drummer friend who preceeded my by just a few months. Neither of us could find a job in New York City. The economy was in one of those now-familiar 10-year “recessions”; but, reportedly, Vegas was booming. I found this to be true.

Now Las Vegas is a strange place to look for work as a new arrival. Every scam that ever walked the Earth learned to walk in Las Vegas first. That fact, combined with down-and-out gambling losers and transients lured by the gambling-subsidized low cost of living made Vegas natives a very suspicios and cautious bunch.

Consequently, my first attempt at gaining employment was fraught with red-tape and layers of precaution on the part of the employer. We are talking about a $5 an hour car wash job here, yet the employment process started with a 3rd party employment pre-screening company at which I was to appear dressed for success. I put on my lucky suit (a 3-peice navy blue pinstripe that served me well in cold call sales in NYC) and set out to walk the seven miles to make the appointment.

Yes, even I knew walking seven miles in the desert in a 3-peice suit was ridiculous. Luckily, I had made some acquaintances in my apartment complex and one of them offered me a ride. We made it there in minutes, so now I was about 3 hours early.

Well-dressed and with time to kill, I was looking for shade and a place to sit. It would be just plain silly to walk around in the sun for 3 hours after getting a ride! That’s when I spotted something familiar from my days walking about the streets of midtown Manhattan. It looked like a Christian Science Reading Room, well-known as the kind of place where a bit of bible talk might take up an hour (at least) and probably result in an offer of coffee and possibly a donut (donuts!!!). Without paying any closer attention to the sign on the door, in I went; utterly content to play this innocent scam on what I thought were some well-meaning Christian sect members.

It was not a Christian Science Reading Room. It was THE CULT!!! Even back then The Cult was notorious, but not nearly as much so as they would later become. Many folks had heard of it, but not most.

The only people manning this “church” were a young married couple, replete in their standard slightly paramilitary uniforms reserved only for inner-circle hyper-dedicated church staff members.

They were SO friendly and kind and cheerful! We spent all the free time I had talking about The Cult and its founder and perusing some of their basic books and cosmological dialectic. I was impressed with their knowledge and, honestly, the material I was reading was intensely interesting. I was genuinely curious.

When they asked me to come back to talk some more I assumed that they were impressed with me, too. Nope. She was pregnant as can be and the two of them soon departed The Cult, never to be seen or heard from again. Their last task was to replace themselves on staff…with me.

Yes, I joined staff. I figured I had little to lose (I never even got that stupid car wash job). It was explained to me that The Cult’s exorbitantly expensive training and services were available to staff members for free. I wanted to know more and wasn’t quite done scamming them yet!

The question may legitimately be raised at any point in this tale: Exactly who was scamming whom? In the end, I think I won the scam wars. That’s hardly the gist of this story, though.

Let’s move on….

I had started as a staff member, and also got a job delivering flowers. I moved from my apartment to a much cheaper weekly room nearby both The Cult’s little storefront “church” and the florist who paid me.

Needless to say, The Cult’s staff members were only paid if the little storefront “church” made lots of money (it didn’t) or if I sold lots of The Cult’s books (I didn’t).

About this “church”: The Cult claimed to be a religion (they aren’t) and the IRS agreed. They opened hundreds of similar little storefront, low-rent operations all over the country. They were no different from any dry cleaner, comic book store or tattoo parlor in appearance. These little operations were supposed to send paying customers on to larger more visually appealing operations for advanced services and so on. A cursory look into these services reveals that there is literally no end, no graduation, no point at which you “did it”. Eventually, I disovered the only form of “graduation” from The Cult, but more on that later.

Meanwhile, my drummer buddy from Brooklyn was a frequent visitor in my cheap little room, primarily because he had become homeless through a flaw in his own vastly inferior scam (relatively speaking). The last time I ever saw him, we jammed some music. I played my 73 Fender Strat unamplified while he played a beat on a Las Vegas phone book with his only remaining pair of drum sticks. We smoked the last tiny bit of weed we had between us, then said goodbye.

The next day I was being sent, all expenses paid by The Cult, to a huge sprawling training “church” in Southern California. Over the next couple of years I would spend quite a bit of time there. For now, let’s just say my first visit was…inauspicious.

(to be continued…)

In a band from a long time ago, in a time zone far, far away, our Super-Fan Alicia said it was totally cool to swim in her millionaire step-fathers pool…

…and she said of course we could skinny-dip, and put in a load of laundry.

 

But as it turns out, it was not OK.

We (the touring folk band) had spent the previous night on Alecia’s filthy, flea-ridden rug in an apartment off Sunset after a great show in Los Angeles. She became a fan back east and when she was informed of our west coast tour, she opened her home to us for the night.

When, in the morning, the four of us band members (as well as the 4-year-old and the 6-month-old) were up and ready to leave, we thanked Alicia and told her that we were off to do laundry at a laundromat and get a bite to eat.

Well! She would hear none of that! Her Mom and Step-dad had a great big beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills and she was totally allowed to use it – and the pool – whenever. We were to follow her to the house and put a load of laundry in and go swimming.

Anyone who knew us at the time would have easily predicted our next question, as the grownups were two couples.

“Well, cool! Can we go skinny-dipping in the pool?”

“Yeahhhh!!! Suuuuuure!!!!” said our benefactor. And off we went.

We were to find out that the Mom had married the step-dad, who was a Hollywood/Beverly Hills realtor, then became a realtor herself as well. As a result, they did really well and now had this serious mansion in the hills. It was like a movie set of a mansion.

Off with the clothes, in with the laundry and in the pool we went! Beautiful!

Then the step-dad unexpectedly arrived on the scene. Alicia, alone among us, had kept her clothes on. The step-dad walked into the backyard pool area wearing a white tennis get-up, but with an actual ascot. Not a silver hair out of place. He looked at us in the pool. He looked at his step-daughter.

“Alecia….I am going to f#cking kill you.” With picture-perfect diction and pronounciation. All the “-ing”s fully “-ing”-ed.

It was truly THE most cinematic experience I ever had. I could hardly believe this scene wasn’t written, conceived, staged, directed by film business pros.

It took us naked folks a good 5 seconds before we had to turn around due to the inescapable urge to laugh out loud. When we finally did, we held it in as well as possible and exited the pool to get our clothes.

The conversation between Alicia and her step-dad revealed that absolutely nothing was OK, and hadn’t they already been over this and agreed that she was never to visit the house…and all with perfect diction, every silver hair in its place.

Well, we put our soaking wet half-done laundry back in the plastic garbage bags we brought it in and beat a hasty retreat.

Down the hill to Sunset we go and soon the laundry is done. Driving down Sunset, on our way north for the next show at UC Davis (like twelve hours away?) A car pulls up alongside us on our right.

A lady of at least 70, every silvery platinum blonde hair in place and simply glistening with diamonds rolled down her Mercedes’ window and gave us the clear sign that she wanted to tell us something.

Unbeknownst to us, we had left a large pile of clean beach towels on top of the van when we pulled away from the laundromat.

“Dahlinks, you are looooosink everythink!” she told us in a thick eastern European accent. Sure enough, there was a trail of beach towels going back as far as the eye could see.

I swear to this day, as we all do, that THAT was one of the Gabor sisters.

-Tom

 

P. S.

A lot more truly noteworthy stuff happened on that tour. I’m sure I’ll get around to telling more soon.

For instance, I set out on that tour with exactly 5 cents in my pocket and returned home 3 weeks later with 15 cents!

We were deemed “too naked” by actual card-carrying nudists.

We almost got in fisticuffs due to a double-booking when the other (local) artist tried to bait our band leader with anti-semitism.

And all this while toting around a 4-year-old, a 6-month-old and about 250 pounds of vinyl LPs..