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..

The Sinatra Story

In about 2002 or 2003 in fair Covington Kentucky there was a fairly popular corner bar on the main strip. A good friend and musical collaborator at the time managed to talk his way into a Friday night open mic at this club. Since I would help load, unload, set up, break down and so forth, I would always get to perform a nice long set.

It was in the middle of such a set that a very large, very drunk man began to loudly demand that I play some Frank Sinatra.

This fellow was seated at a table surrounded by cards, friends and empty beer bottles when we arrived. Now, hours later, Frank (yes, he was wearing a gas station shirt with his name stitched over the pocket) was swaying on his feet and looking dangerous. And demanding a solo acoustic guitar guy play Frank Sinatra.

Think fast!

I put the spotlight on him, figuratively speaking, by telling him we were going to do “New York, New York”. “That’s right, Frank…I don’t know it on guitar, but I’ll sing the band parts up here and you sing the words over there, got it?”

I didn’t wait for an answer, just started in singing “Bap, bap, bada-bap! Bap, bap, bada-bap…”, you know – the musical intro. I fed him his cue to start singing at the appropriate point and with an elaborate dramatic gesture in his direction. Silence.

“That was your cue, Frank! You start singing right there. We’ll take it from the top…Bap, bap….”

This time, on cue, Frank meekly mumbled, “…start spreadin’ da nooz…”

He got better as line followed line and within 30 seconds the entire bar was singing along. I was high-kicking like a chorus girl, all the while punctuating this unlikely sing-along with stacatto bursts of horn section enthusiasm..”BAP!….BAP!”

Victory was mine! My friend’s jaw hit the floor and stayed there the rest of the night! As for Frank, I received big hugs and at least one beer from him.

Just another tale…stay tuned for more!

-Tom

The Village Voice calls themselves

“…the nation’s first alternative newsweekly…”

But it was around starting in 1955. I started looking into New York City’s only Musicians Wanted listings in exactly 1984. Prior to that I was joining neighborhood bands in Brooklyn or impromptu, short-lived bands in the Air Force.

I answered a lot of those ads between 1984 and 1991 when I finally left New York – and I got the gig about half the time, usually as a bass player. But there were 3 gigs that stand out.

The very first time I answered an ad for a bass player in the Village Voice, I was to show up at a house on Staten Island. This was either the night of Thanksgiving or the night after in 1984.

The act was a husband and wife duo who played folk. They had an established act and got a decent number of gigs. They were also the high priest and priestess of a wiccan coven. I was still getting over having been raised a Catholic, but as open-minded as I was, I still worried at first about “spells” and so forth.

There was an abundance of musical talent afoot. The leader of that group is still the best fiddler I ever played with, but I was more awestruck at my first real exposure to alternative lifestyles. For instance, their household’s primary means of financial support was the wife’s career as a phone sex lady. If the phone rang in the middle of practice we all had to stop on a dime and remain utterly silent while she wrote down the phone and credit card numbers and then called the guy and got him off over the phone.Almost all of these calls were dominatrix stuff, and so she’d often order the guy to call back and exactly when to call back – and they did!

Besides all that, I learned a lot of folk music I never would have even heard otherwise, Celtic, Gypsy, Yiddish songs, the British folk of the 60s, but I also learned a lot about paganism and wicca. I never was initiated, but I attended lots of rituals and larger pagan gatherings. There was ALWAYS nudity going on and I was down with that! This band caused or was indirectly the cause of no less than two major altercations among audience members which outnumbers those in my rock band experience two to one.

The first was at a YMHA which is like a YMCA but Hebrew instead of Christian. It was way uptown and a YMHA of great repute and renown. Half the audience were rabbis and we had a sizable set of Yiddish and Hebrew-language songs thanks to our leading lady. One song was about a rabbi whose sermons were so boring that people went to sleep in the temple. Well, a rabbi in the audience started yelling at us for the disrespect we were showing, then another rabbi started yelling at him because of the disrespect he was showing. Next thing you know, a half-dozen rabbis were on their feet yelling and things were getting tense. There were no fisticuffs.

The second was at a big pagan festival in upstate New York (or maybe Western Massachusetts…hmmmm….). There was another coven in Staten Island we were friendly with. In Wicca, at the time at least, the theory was that a full coven ought to have an equal balance of male and female energies if possible. Well, this other coven was comprised of thirteen gay men. Wicca was fraught with lots of opposing viewpoints about the traditions involved and what was legit and who was who, but this festival was run by people who could not possibly be more freaked out by a coven of gay men – so our friends were “dis-invited” – told not to show up. Long story short, festival tickets were purloined and passed along to the verboten gay coven and they showed up. While we were on stage (again), a full-blown bench-clearing brawl broke out – true fisticuffs and worse.

Some other highlights from my tenure with this band were a 3-week California tour that seemed to have been planned to maximize the driving we had to do. San Diego one day, San Fran the next, followed by Los Angeles, followed by Sacramento…that kind of driving. We drove around with four band members, about a thousand pounds of vinyl LPs for sale, a 4-year-old and 6-month-old. This trip saw us all get caught skinny dipping in the pool of a fan’s step-father. This was at a multi-million-dollar Hollywood Hills mansion. We were assured it was totally cool, but suddenly there he was. It was obviously not cool at all with him and we beat a hasty retreat.

I was fired from that band just before their gig on the nudist whale watch ship….too bad.

The next episode of note that arose from answering a Village Voice ad was a guy who had written all these great tunes and was looking to put a band together starting with a guitar player. I got the gig and started learning all these really great songs he had written, went to some practices and so on. One day at a practice he gave me a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I don’t know if you’ve ever read it or heard about it, but you learn a LOT more about the person giving you that book than you do about much else. I decided to just ignore it and carry on. After another practice or two I had apparently gained his confidence somehow, so he revealed to me his big secret: He was The Messiah….that was about the end of that gig.

The last ad-answering adventure I want to mention was with a Mr. Mike Quashie, formerly of Trinidad and Tobago. This man skyrocketed to international fame in 1959 by introducing the limbo dance to the world, and by the early sixties he was performing for Presidents and royalty – only to get bumped off the pop charts by Chubby Checker.

By the time I met him he had been in the same Greenwich Village apartment since 1966 which was in actual fact Jimi Hendrix’s apartment before that. He had trunk after trunk of 60s era costume stuff filling his apartment, claimed close relationships to Jimi’s former wife and Steve Stevens (who played for Billy Idol), had toured with Led Zeppelin and appeared in the Song Remains the Same film, and was now working in the Brooklyn Borough President’s office.

New York Times – “Limbo King of 60’s Says He’ll Sell Mementos to Pay Rent”

Well, Mike was intent upon making a comeback, and he had an act all planned out and some really good songs. The rest of the band he put together were really good players and it was starting to come together. Then it was time for costumes and photos. I was supposed to get a haircut (!!!!), put on green tights, silver spray-painted combat boots a fringe suede vest and a furry armband and go have my picture taken. I protested, but he was calling in all kinds of favors with hair people and photographers so it wouldn’t cost the band members anything. Eventually I went along with it. Even the photographer lady seemed sympathetic about the Jackson 5-era get up. She was kind enough to get me plastered enough to go through with it. I left the band shortly after that…..

I also answered similar ads in Los Angeles in 2004, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story.

In other news, there is the last and final song for the next CD release! It is written and the recording will begin soon.

I am considering doing a pre-sales thing with this next CD rather than a crowd-funding campaign – maybe even breaking the tunes up into two or three groups that align well genre-wise and doing EPs instead

We would love to know what all you guys think about that. It would help us a lot to know how you like to buy your music and how you feel about pre-sales and crowd funding too.

So, drop us a line and let us know!

Thanks ’till next time,

-Tom

This tale isn’t music-related…

other than the fact that it will become a song in the near future.

How does a Brooklyn-raised, newly tech-trained, very recent arrival at an Air Force base in the South suddenly become a highly-regarded, much ballyhooed local celebrity? How does it come to pass that he suddenly gets invited to all the biggest and best parties, and winds up with the coolest possible roommate in the dorms? How does he go from unknown outcast to The Man?

I owe it all to Iran, actually.

It all started when the U. S. tried a rescue mission in Iran in April of 1980 during the Iranian hostage crisis…the Jimmy Carter years. Some US helicopters crashed in the desert, people died, big black eye for Uncle Sam.

An Air Force Cheif Master Sergeant involved with that mission was eventually re-assigned to our little Air Force base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. We were kind of a chump base, flying relatively obsolete F-4 fighters. They were soon to be relagated to the Air National Guard, and shortly thereafter, used as target drones. This re-assignment was a big downgrade in prestige for him and, as the story was told to me, somewhat of a punishment.

This guy was a mover and shaker, a take-no-prisoners alpha male who rose to a position that most enlisted folks could only dream of, only to have his career blemished by a disaster that was probably not his fault in any way. He arrived at this little airbase only a few months before I did and he was not at all pleased to be there. Consequently he did whatever he could to make everybody’s life as miserable as possible.

One other thing I was told about this Cheif Master Sergeant is that he was referred to among the rank-and-file as “Da Creef” because he had an obvious and very unfortunate speech impediment. They told me he sounded almost exactly like the Mushmouth character from the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon. I used to watch it all the time! Oddly enough, he sang Soul and R-n-B music as a hobby and when he appeared onstage in a base talent show before my time there, he apparently sang with perfect diction and pronunciation. So it goes…

Well, when such a flaw is revealed prior to meeting someone for the first time – especially when that someone is an authority figure hell-bent on torturing those in his charge with needless and vindictive military nonsense (like daily pre-shift uniform inspections for us flight-line mecahnics who routinely were covered in sweat, hydraulic fluid and jet fuel) – that first meeting is apt to be fraught with peril.

As you might expect, my first face-to-face meeting with Da Creef was at just such an inspection. I had been there maybe a week or two. It was probably October and still 95 degrees with 95% humidity. There were three ranks of us lined up and I was in the middle of the middle rank, at attention, awaiting intense and hostile scrutiny.

While I waited, Da Creef was engaged in a level of haranguing, humiliation and debasement over uniform issues that nobody present had experienced since boot camp. Nobody was spared, it was nasty.

Finally, it was my turn. I really hadn’t been out on the flight line all that much, being so new and all, and my uniform was likely the most presentable among all assembled. As with everyone else, he looked me up and down with a keen and spiteful eye for detail. He found nothing! But as he was about to move on, he stopped, looked again and said,

“Whey yo dee-o doh boot-at??!!”

I wasn’t sure quite what I was hearing, but I translated it as a question regarding the place from which I had stolen the boots I was wearing. Namely “Where did you steal those boots at?” I couldn’t fathom why he would ask that, as it was obvious that all of us had gotten our boots from the U. S. Air Force. Why would he think I had stolen them? I was confused, but knowing his reputation, and being so recently graduated from boot camp, I barked back in classic boot camp fashion,

“I did NOT steal, these boots, Sir! They were issue to me in Basic Training, Sir!”

There was a noticeable stirring from those nearby – all still at attention. This was most un-at-attention-like, but I had bigger problems, so I ignored it.

Da Creef sort of expanded, or inflated a bit. Eyes larger, and more loudly he repeated,

“I THAY WHEY YO DEE-O DOH BOOT-AT??!!!!!”

I just didn’t know what in the hell was going on. So I repeated the answer, with an appropriate increase in bark factor. I was desperate, I guess.

“I did NOT steal, these boots, SIR! They were issue to me in Basic Training, SIR!”

Now the noticeable stirring around me was more widespread (as both he and I had gotten louder), and contained a definite element of barely stifled laughter. I was at a loss. How could this be happening? What was happening? Someone was gonna get busted, and not just me, either. Or was this some kind of practical joke they play on new guys? I was sweating bullets by now. And he repeated yet again,

“I THAY WHEY YO DEE-O DOH BOOT-AT??!!!!!”

This time, I finally caught on. He was asking me where my steel-toed boots were at. When a flight-line mechanic finishes tech school and arrives at their first Air Force base to work on real planes, they are issued a new pair of boots. You can’t wear your broken-in, comfortable basic training boots on the flight line, no matter how shiny they may be. There is unspeakable and ever-present toe danger lurking everywhere on the flight line! But my steel-toe boots were so new that they gave me debilitating blisiters so bad that I couldn’t walk. Since I was too new to spend much time on the actual flight line anyway, I had thrown toe-caution to the breeze that day and had worn my very shiny non-steel-toed basic training-issued boots.

Realizing my misunderstanding and suddenly remembering its relationship to the unfortunate speech impediment, I almost laughed out loud myself. But, such was my relief at no longer feeling like an accused boot thief that I replied with a relieved smile,

“Ohhhhh! They gave me really bad blisters and I couldn’t walk, so I had to wear these.”

Silence from Da Creef. Then I remembered expected decorum and tacked on,

“SIR!!!”

He actually looked relieved too, kind of. He just said,

“You whey yo dee-o-doh boot.”

And he moved on. We never met face-to-face or spoke again.

After the inspection was over and we were dismissed to swelter in the mosquitos and the hydraulic fluid, I was threatend with brutal beatings by some for getting them so close to laughing out loud while standing at attention during an inspection, but from most I was lauded and offered kudos for having “brass ones” and pulling off the funniest most insubordinate thing they had ever seen. Even my own direct supervisor and his sergeants were beaming at me with pride and admiration

Not only that, but there was never another pre-shift uniform inspection after that day.

Try as I might, I was never able to convince anyone that I simply mis-heard Da Creef and it was all just an innocent misunderstanding.

And THAT is how a Brooklyn-raised, newly tech-trained, very recent arrival at an Air Force base in the South suddenly become a highly-regarded, much ballyhooed local celebrity. That very night I attended a keg party off-base, and within a week had a pot-dealer roommate in the baracks. The worm had turned!

So, thank you Ayatollah, wherever you are.

-Tom