Red Maple Heron 2 by you.

Hi everybody,

Been procrastinating about writing this post for some reason. Maybe I was waiting for some insight or witty tag line to help me tie it all together. I have been running hard now for a little over 17 months or, if you want to be technical, maybe a while longer than that. My experience this fall working for Metallica was one of the highlights of my career and a great way to wrap up a good year of touring in a bad economic time.

I have spent most of my work life touring, usually taking care of the band or sidemen but very rarely the guy or gal down front. It’s a different kind of pressure. If you screw something up, the show often comes off the rails; no place to run no place to hide. I often catch myself playing “under speed”, a term used by pool players when you don’t play as good as you can to sucker in a mark and build up his confidence. Not wanting to take on the challenge or attention, I guess I have stuck to the shadows.

When I contacted my friend Arthur about working this fall, I wasn’t even sure which position I was looking at. I just wanted to work with my friend again and having learned that it was a temp job filling in for someone who had the job for years, I figured I could pull it off one way or the other.

It turned out to be taking care of guitars for James, the singer. I had inadvertently taken on a pretty good sized challenge. My fear was replaced by a drive to prep as much as possible and find a way to stay relaxed, believing in myself. Thanks to the crew, Chad (the guy I was filling in for) and James, I learned the set up and the songs. I tried to make my mistakes when it didn’t count and just focus on the details I needed to make his show smooth. I think my most valuable asset  was that he was very clear in what he needed and what he wanted from me. You would be surprised how much of the difficulty of my job is either a lack of communication from a client or their belief in my ESP abilities. A relationship is a relationship and being clear without punishing the other is a really good way to get what you need.

Coffins Down by you.

The Metallica touring machine has a reputation as a steam rolling force of nature with a large show that can move fast, often with multiple systems and across continents. A number of well known production managers have held the job and the team has great pride in their ability to attack tough gigs and get it set up in time, safe and sound. There is always infighting between departments and individuals but it’s been a long time since I’ve been around such a team. Very refreshing.

My part of the tour turned out to be 14 shows, a casual few legs as the band decided to work one week on, one week off as a way to not get separated from their families and their sanity. It is a civilized way to go out and work hard and then recover. The show runs around 2 hours, filled with lasers, fire and riffs of doom. It requires a great deal of focus, especially as the backline guys all do some form of effects switching, actually having to hit the button at just the right time for different sounds as they run across the stage.

I returned from New Orleans for the Thanksgiving break, a little down as I was not going back and still struggling with a lingering cough and cold I had been fighting for weeks. I spent a great deal of the holiday week in bed. Last Sunday around lunchtime I felt like I was having integestion and it came back at breakfast on Monday. Concerned I went to a cardiologist on Tuesday and found that I had arterial blockages bad enough for a double bypass. One was about 70% blocked and the other front side one close to 100%.  I was admitted and scheduled for a  “Cabbage” (Corinary Artery Bypass Graft) on Thursday.

The procedure went really well and I got out of ICU Saturday morning 6am all tubes and lines pulled by noon Saturday. My progress has been helped by my age and being in relatively good shape. I have been up walking and doing breathing exercises since Friday and after getting cleaned up Saturday night I woke up Sunday morning saying “I feel good this morning” which I probably have not said in 20 years.

I was released Monday afternoon,  3 and a half days after double bypass surgery. It is truly amazing.

A few challenges exist as I try to regain my breathing volume and deal with the coughs that are part of the healing process which clear the cack out of my chest and require me to carry a pillow around to wrap against my chest to protect my cool new scar and keep the pain from knocking me over. In all, my discomfort has been minimal, some antinflammitories and 2 small pain pills a day have been doing the trick. For a roadie to be home for 6-12 weeks and be limited to lifting no more than 10 lbs. is looking like the hard part; patience is a new focus. The rehab of my breastbone and chest muscles as well as the new lifestyle I’ll need to lead will be the new focus.

The love and support of all my friends and family have made it easy so far. I feel blessed and truly lucky to have discovered this problem which in reality is mainly a hereditary one with midnight bus pizza thrown on top…. and a long stint of getting away from exercise.  I hope all my friends go see the doctor after hearing my story and go for a walk.

As with most of my days since I’ve been home, I start out filled with energy and promise and then the reality of my situation is I am a bit winded and tired. I’ll keep getting stronger.

You’re stuck with me for a while longer.