eNewsChannels BOOK SERIAL: “Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G: Chapter 43 – “The Others.”
There are things that go bump in the night. Strange, alien, otherworldly things. They’re big, bad, bold, and sometimes icky, these nocturnal creatures. Oh sure, they can also appear in the daytime, but they prefer the darkness. If you’re an adult, you may need to be reminded of these things, but every kid knows this is what happens:
You’re alone in your room, the covers pulled up to your chin, and you want some sleep so you’re rested for tomorrow’s spelling test and the softball game at recess, but then WHAT WAS THAT? You hear a creak or moan or crack or groan somewhere in the house and your spine stiffens up like a tetherball pole and it’s impossible to let down your guard even for a catnap. Hell, you might not ever close your eyes again.
“It’s just the house settling,” my grandpa told me. This didn’t make perfect sense to me but his tone was very reassuring. He didn’t seem worried at all, so sleep became possible. Until the next night when the house offered up another chorus of Unexplained Sounds.
“It’s just the walls reacting to the change of temperature,” my dad said, pointing out that it had been eighty-five degrees that day and now was down in the sixties and everything expands in the heat and contracts in the cold.
“Your dad’s right,” my Uncle Man said. “Ever notice how your cock gets smaller when you go into a cold swimming pool? Same thing. Only difference is that your cock doesn’t creak or moan or crack or groan,” which didn’t seem to be necessary to say. But then he added, “Actually, mine does,” and started in on an explanation: “but mine’s bigger than the rest of yours, and therefore . . .”
“No,” my mom said firmly. “No, we don’t need any additional information,” she emphasized, “and don’t you be showing us.”
“Yeah,” my dad added, “we don’t need to see that again.”
“You’re just envious,” he huffed and marched out of the room, cock proudly leading the way, creaking and groaning.
Science and Rationality
My dad was primarily a mathematician. That is a branch of science where you can make any assertion you want as long as you can prove it and otherwise you should just shut the hell up. Two plus two always equals four, any time, any place, any language unless you’re in Congress where two plus two equals about a billion dollars once everyone gets their grubby little fingers on it.
The point about math is that my upbringing didn’t include ghosts, specters, aliens, auras, ESP, and so on. “Where’s the proof?” was the mantra, although my upbringing didn’t include mantras, either.
Yet one day, my dad totally floored me by admitting there are things that go beyond proof. “People increase their weird behavior during a full moon,” he said. “Random events tend to cluster,” he pointed out. “And there is only evidence of God when someone does good even when they cannot benefit from it,” he said.
“You mean there are things that cannot be explained?” I asked him.
“Sure,” he said. “Although you should always ask for the proof.”
Back when my main income was from advertising, my life split into “the day gig” and the night-blooming semi-career where suddenly a creature called The G-Man would be seen roaming the halls of a music studio that was so gothic it could actually harm you. The studio was called Songs and Soundtracks and it provided amusement and terror for all who dared enter. Which was usually only me, for which my insurance company gives much thanks.
Working in the studio was fun but the techniques employed there were bizarre. Even I admit that things were baroque in their unnecessary complexity (“we’re taking the sound impulses from this Minarik electric guitar and routing them through a TC Helicon VoicePrism and then into a Peavey TransTube FEX Guitar Preamp/Processor and then into a BBE Sonic Maximizer and then through a Roland GR-20 Guitar Synthesizer and then into a RANE Mojo Compressor and then into a Roland VS-2480 where we can process everything before running it through a TC Electronic Finalizer and burning it to disc on this Tascam CD-900SL before putting the tracks into Logic on the iMac where we can really edit the crap out of it.”)
Sure, there were some successes. Ad agencies used my stuff, and DJs liked using portions of my tracks as sonic spice between the guaranteed old-school hit and the latest aural outrage, be it from Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, Justice, Daft Punk, or even club-friendly remixes of Bieber.
By the time of my final albums, some nifty sounds were being made. (Try the 1-minute video “Ahh Ooh” http://youtu.be/7_m8lCD7n6k if you don’t believe me.) But this has been covered elsewhere. The point isn’t my music; the point is: experiences that are beyond-the-norm. Extra-science action. Or what some folks call paranormal activity.
Mixing it Up, Down, and Sideways
When recording was completed on the “Audio Takes a Stand” album, it was time for mixing. Note: music folks can skip this but for the rest of you, audio mixing is where you take all the recorded tracks and adjust them so they sound good. Of course, “music that sounds good” has a number of different meanings:
The drummer likes the version of the mix where you hear a lot of drums.
The guitarist likes the version of the mix where you hear a lot of guitar.
The keyboardist likes the version . . . and so on.
But most of us enjoy it when all the sounds fit together in a smooth way. There’s an art to mixing, or perhaps it’s a craft, or some sort of combination, but in any case it’s a lot of work. Not to bore anyone, but ya got yer volume, ya got yer left/right/center panning, ya got yer distortion vs. clear-as-a-bell sound . . . And there’s a whole bunch of other stuff to consider, like frequency, meaning that the sound waves can all support each other or they can try to occupy the same sonic space, in which case it all comes out like mud. As noted, it can be a lot of work.
Ghost in my Machine
During flush times (those delightful moments of existence where we enjoy having discretionary income), a professional mix could be purchased from Anisound Studio or some other top-notch place. But usually, the mixing was up to me.
So, one evening after a few days of rest, it was time to mix the dozen songs on “Audio Takes a Stand.” The studio was made ready: phones turned off, soundproofing panels put over the windows, lights set to a soothing level, DAW (digital audio workstation) warmed up, speakers adjusted, etc. etc.
I brought up the tracks on the DAW, stared at the thing in consternation, and then jumped up and away from it with such force that the chair went flying across the floor. The soundboard was adjusting itself and the first track began playing. And what was playing was a final mix on the stereo channels that were supposedly empty and awaiting my final mix-down of all the recorded tracks.
The mix was done! By who? Or by what? A tremor shook my body. This was my studio, my computers, my DAW. No one else used them. And my passwords would prevent anyone else from playing with the gear even if they did get into the studio. What entity could possibly have been fooling with my tracks? Could the equipment suddenly develop a mind of its own?
I stepped up to the board and examined the settings. It was not a simple mix job. All the various tracks of bass, drums, keyboards and guitars were sonically arranged in a way that was pleasing. (Not just my opinion BTW; the tracks were played for a couple of people I respect and they agreed the mix was good.) So, the ghost or whatever had done some nifty work with every one of the 12 songs, each of which was a multi-layered instrumental using a combination of rock, dance and ambient sounds.
My goal on “Audio Takes a Stand” was not only to have cool electronic rock songs but to also create subliminal reactions from listeners. The album was described as “sonic applications of hypnotic euphoria.” The ghost helped achieve that. Ghost, spirit, guiding hand, leading light, soul-director . . . Don’t know what to call it, but the final work was not done by me and it’s difficult to see how anyone else could have done it. “Audio Takes a Stand” indeed. I don’t comprehend what happened and welcome your ideas. (Actually, I welcome the return of the spirit because good help is hard to find.)
Elevator to Nowhere
Being a member of NARAS means getting invitations to Grammy Parties. (NARAS stands for National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization that runs the Grammys, although some people think it stands for Nabobs and Reprobate Asshole Suck-ups; but not me, no, never, ever, I love the Grammy people.) (Note to self: The Grammy People would be a good name for a bad rock band. Band uniforms would include name tags.)
A friend and fellow songwriter, Danielle Egnew, who contributed the “name tags” line above, accompanied me to a Grammy party at the Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica, California. (The recent court decision finding the owners guilty of anti-Semitic acts had not yet happened and I guess it isn’t relevant here.)
Danielle and I had a good time, mostly. Oh sure, some people forced unwanted CDs into our hands (“This is a great recording by Tia Carrere who is not at all using her looks to be able to get recording time for these schlocky conglomerations of Hawaiian sounds and real music”) but that was a small price to pay to mingle with a bunch of people who are responsible for nominating some of the most wretched music in history for awards that are almost as highly-valued as the prizes from that organization with the Best Onscreen Kiss category.
After the party, we took one of the hotel’s two elevators to the rooftop bar where you can stand outside by a fire pit and watch the moonlight shimmer on the ocean waves. Nice. By and by, it became time to leave and now Danielle and I are waiting for one of the elevators and there’s a pause in the conversation. We’re looking at each other with quizzical expressions on our faces. A pall of potential gloom is settling upon us for no apparent reason.
An elevator arrives and the door opens. It’s not the elevator we rode to the top of the building. Instead, it’s The Other One. I step halfway in while holding my arm across the door to make certain it won’t close on the lady’s shoes while she enters. But she doesn’t enter and for some reason I keep moving forward into the elevator. And the lights go very bright and the sound of the wind and ocean are suddenly turned up good and loud in my ears and the audio onslaught shoots into the center of my skull like a hot needle penetrating a cold grapefruit.
There is no way to see because of the bright blinding fog. There is hardly any way to hear, but way off in the distance is a friendly but urgent voice saying “Get out of there! Get out! Get out now!”
A hand grabs me by the shoulder and pulls. Hard. I stumble back onto the landing, breathing heavily. The lights suddenly dim back down to normal and the noise level abates.
“What was that like?” Danielle asks.
“What?” I said, still not getting enough air in my lungs. My body went from stone cold sober to having the shakes to feeling exhausted in the space of about three seconds.
“What happened in there? What was it like?” She was genuinely interested in my moment of confusion and incapacitation.
After telling her what it felt like, she was calm, cool, and collected. “No way are we getting into that elevator,” she said.
“You’re wearing heels,” I said, “‘and it’s a lot of stairs to the lobby.”
“Hey, I’ll crawl down if I have to.” The other elevator arrived. “Or we can just take this one,” she said and stepped inside.
“No problems with this elevator shaft?”
In the lobby, Danielle signaled to the Concierge and the Doorman and asked them, “What can you guys tell me about that elevator? Not this one, that one.”
“Nothing,” one of them said almost exactly at the same time as the other one said “That one is from the old hotel. Everything you see here,” there was a sweeping gesture taking in the entirety of the premises, “was recently built, but some of the original building is still there.”
“Anything unusual happen in the old elevator?” Danielle asked them.
“Nothing,” one of them said almost exactly at the same time as the other one said “Someone was killed here a lot of years ago.”
“Thanks,” Danielle said. “That might have something to do with it.”
The one who pretended to know “nothing” was now forcibly shooing the other one away from us and we took our leave.
While my experience with this stuff is fairly limited, Danielle Egnew has lived with quite a lot of it. In fact, she wrote a book entitled “True Tales of the Truly Weird.” You can get it on Amazon and you’ll find her writing about these events is quite enjoyable. Y’know, in a spooky sort of way.
Death and the Rainbow
When my dad was near the very end of his life, I was often at his bedside. Certainly not often enough, but I would drop into the hospital on lunch breaks, after work, on the way home from seeing a band in a club (here’s a big Thank You to the nursing staff of the Tarzana Encino Regional Medical Center for letting me wander in and out so late), on the weekends, and so on. Often I was there by myself but frequently with my mom and sometimes with special guest stars. . . .
One afternoon when I was pretending to be at an ad agency photo shoot, I went to the hospital and the subject of tap-dancing cropped up. Yup, tap-dancing. My dad always enjoyed tap and took lessons (in his seventies) from a legendary teacher named Louis DaPron, the guy who taught everybody from Ruby Keeler to Donald O’Connor to Savion Glover. My dad wasn’t very good (by his own admission) but he loved tap-dancing and he really enjoyed tap-dancers. There were the dancers I’ve mentioned, but also Fred Astaire, Gregory Hines, Sandman Sims, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and others.
Okay, you need to know that my dad made friends with people of all ages. For example, an actor/dancer named Greg Poland was a young show business professional who became friends with my father. (Greg is much better known for his stage work but you can see him ask an important press conference question in The American President.)
Greg brought to the hospital a video of some of his tap work, including a hilarious bit when he guested on the “Darma and Greg” TV show. In it, Jenna Elfman suddenly is in a fantasy tap routine with Greg which was titled the “Darma and Gregory Hines” show. My dad laughed so hard the nurse came in to check some of the monitoring equipment.
As the days wore on and my dad’s health wore down, laughter was not much in evidence. Conversation ceased and so I would read a poem or just talk quietly about how he had influenced me in my life. It was also gratifying to tell him that people were sending me e-mails about how he had influenced their lives.
On a bright sunny afternoon I’ll never forget, my mom and I were just about to leave his hospital room when my dad turned his head and spoke to us, his first coherent words in quite some time.
“After I die,” he said, “and there’s thunder, lightning, and rain, that’ll be me and Louie.”
His friend Louie DaPron had died the year before and my dad often joked about “hooking up with Louie in heaven.” And when he thought my mom couldn’t hear, he’d add “And Marilyn Monroe.”
The statement about rain was the last sentence I heard him say. He died shortly after during the hot days of August and my mom and I worked through the intense sadness and emptiness by staying busy with the memorial service and all the work that surrounds the settling of someone’s affairs.
Two weeks later, after returning to the normal workday schedule, I was in the offices of a company about ten miles from my mom’s house. It was a bright sunny day. Piercing blue skies and hardly a hint of clouds. Temperature in the nineties. The kind of day when even the shade seems to be quietly simmering. I’m sitting in an office, writing an ad or a brochure or a script or something equally worthless in the scheme of things. Wait. What was that? Was there a sound? Just the normal office hum of machines and hubbub of phone conversations. Was there a change of atmospheric pressure? The air conditioning system just kept on pumping out the phony but pleasant cool breeze. Everything seemed the same as it ever was in those oh-so-corporate suites of offices. So, what made me stop?
I turned to glance out the tenth-floor window. It provided a nice view of the suburbs, including the one where my parents’ house was located. All the way across The Valley was something that is not often seen in Southern California during the summer:
Storm clouds. Flashes of lightning. A rainbow. And the unmistakable downpour of rain.
All right, I hear you saying, there can be rain in summer. Yes. Yes, that’s true. There can be rainfall in summer. All perfectly normal. But I’ve never seen something like it. Dark clouds and rain in one small area of an otherwise hot and sunny day.
I went to the phone and called my mom. She picked up but was barely able to speak. She was crying.
“Mom, are you all right?”
There was a sob and what sounded like the word “fine.”
“Mom, is it raining where you are?”
My mom was weeping openly now, but happily. “It’s your dad,” she said between her tears, “your dad and his friend Louie, dancing up a storm for me.”
Who am I to argue with that?
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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G, is Copr. © 2011-2012 by JSG, all rights reserved under U.S. and international copyright conventions. Commercial use in any form is forbidden without express written permission of the author. Originally published on eNewsChannels.com with permission. Credits: Book cover design: Phil Hatten.