Kickender Drive

Considering a ‘Kickender’ Kickstarter drive:

$50k goal. Represents one year of post-employability income.

If you send me money, I will keep updating this document after I am no longer employable, and will not have to exit gracefully before becoming incapacitated and a burden to my family.

Estimated date of completion: December, 2036. This is based on current life-expectancy (77) of an American male.

Rewards: Upon my death, contributors will receive a zip file with all my music, a PDF with commentary and visuals from this site, a copy of my death certificate, and a post-humous thank you note from me.

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Trump is Not the Problem

Trump is not the problem. He is a symptom of the problem. The problem is what has become of the GOP. Our country has a 2 party system. It is not good for our country when one of those parties has lost it’s mind. This all started with Lee Atwater and his Willie Horton ads during the 1988 election. The right never accepted Clinton’s win in 1992. People like Rush Limbaugh discovered they could rake in millions stoking right-wing resentment, and the right-wing talk radio industry was established. Newt Gingrich’s ‘Contract With America’ dominated headlines in the early 90’s and made him a household name. Rupert Murdoch created Fox News, which has become the media platform of the Republican party. These people, and others, have created financial empires dividing the US. THEY are the cancer that has overtaken the Republican party and threatens our country.

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Bringing Home Maya

Maya

Our efforts to find our next pet began Sunday, August 27, 2017,  when my wife, Julia, and I drove to the Chicago Animal Care and Control shelter down Western Ave. on the southwest side. There was one dog that looked nice and seemed to have a pleasant personality, but a couple of ladies had expressed interest in her, and wound up adopting her. We went to another shelter in the Loop, and a third in Lincoln Park, but we weren’t seeing a dog that we felt was the right one. It was suggested to us that we monitor the CACC website for new dogs being introduced for adoption.

Tuesday evening, my wife brought to my attention one beautiful female puppy shown on the website. She was a 6-7 month old pug/labrador mix named Elizabeth. She was tan and black with warm, trusting eyes. We knew immediately that if she was as sweet as she appeared, this was our dog. The next day I worked through lunch, left my office early, and drove an hour and a half to the CACC shelter on the southwest side. If the dog was still available for adoption when I got there, my wife and Julia would join me to meet her. I walked through the kennel looking for her, but she wasn’t there. I asked about her and was told she was still being evaluated in the medical unit. It was explained to me that we had seen her on the pre-adoption part of the website, and that I should be monitoring a different part of the website for when she would become available for adoption. I was told it probably wouldn’t be until the following week.

The next day at work I checked the website from time to time, and saw that she was still pre-adoption. Just before I left for the day, I took one last look, and saw that her status had changed and she was now available for adoption. I called my wife and Julia to let them know, then got in my car and made the trip again to CACC. I got there around 5:45, with 15 minutes to meet the dog, make a decision, and begin the application. But again, I didn’t see her in the kennel area. When I asked about her, I was told she was mistakenly listed on the website as available, and would remain in the medical unit overnight, as she had just been neutered. I asked the volunteer if there was any way they could reserve her for me until I got off work tomorrow and returned around 5. At first the volunteer said she could not, but when I explained that I’d done everything I was instructed to do, she got her supervisor, who was the person who helped me the prior day. The supervisor agreed to put a hold on her adoption availability status until I got there the following day.

The next day, Friday, I left work early and made the trip to the shelter for the 4th time in a week. Julia and Eli took a bus down Western and met me there. They arrived just before the shelter volunteer brought out Elizabeth. We all went into the yard with Elizabeth, then into a fenced-in enclosure where they took her off her leash, and let us interact with her. We immediately saw that she was a calm, affectionate, happy puppy. She wagged her tail and licked our faces, with her beautiful floppy ears pulled back, and an eager, questioning expression on her face. As we Facetimed Natalia, my wife arrived and joined us in the enclosure. There was never any uncertainty about her for any of us. We drove home with her sitting between Julia and Eli in the backseat. Upon arrival, we brought her into her new backyard to begin her explorations. Earlier, the family agreed on a new name. Elizabeth was now Maya.

Maya is our pug/lab mix. She has all the pug markings, but the lab in her pushed her smooshed-in snout back to normal and un-curled her tail. Today is Sunday. Maya is settling into her new routine of walks, naps, playtime with her chew-toys, backyard explorations, and pondering the elusive cat-thing. Only Kitty has yet to be won over. Just a matter of time.

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On my Mom’s Death

Ann Elaine Schuurman
January 2, 1928 – July 26, 2017

The buzzy, arcing live-wire of worry bounced around somewhere in her consciousness since my mid-teens when I began my rebellion. By the time of her death, it didn’t keep her up at night anymore. I think that somewhere deep in her fog of dementia she still recognized me because her expression changed pleasantly when she realized I was present, even though she couldn’t communicate verbally. She didn’t understand forty years ago when I left home, seeking a creative existence, disregarding good advice, stumbling frequently, falling very much short. She didn’t understand two years ago when my darkness ended and I landed on my feet. I have the same intuition now as I did when my dad died: Now she understands why I am this way. My black sheepishness is un-necessary.

My mom, Ann Elaine Schuurman, passed away peacefully in her sleep July 26, 2017. These were the events of her final days:

Sunday 7-23-17

My wife wakes me up saying something is going on with my mom. I call Patty. She says she’d been contacted by the nurse and informed of a change. Mom’s oxygen was low, and she was not responding to a supplemental feed. She had not been eating or drinking for two days. The hospice caregivers were now acting in accordance with my mothers’ living will instructions.  They didn’t expect her to wake up again. It would only be a matter of days. Me and Julia arrived late afternoon. We sat with her for some then left. Her breathing was shallow.

Monday 7-24-17

Patty had spent the night with mom. She told me there were no dramatic changes. She told me mom’s blood pressure was low. They were administering morphine to keep her comfortable, but that was all.

Tuesday 7-25-17

I took over from Patty from 9:30 AM until noon. At 7:30 PM I returned and settled into mom’s room for the night. She continued to sleep comfortably. I fell asleep before 11. I dreamt that my parents were meeting us at a hotel somewhere, but we couldn’t find them. The nurses and attendants came in throughout the night.

Wednesday 7-26-17

At 5 AM the nurse gave my mom a morphine dose. Around 7, a nurse came in to take her vital readings. Her temperature was up to 102.4. There was a purple area on her thigh that she brought to my attention. I asked her if she was able to compare these readings to the last ones taken. She said she would get them into the system, and we would be informed. I updated Patty on the phone, then left for work. I called Patty from work and we discussed this around 8:30. At the hospital, she spoke with the caregivers, but there were no clear medical events yet indicating death was imminent. Around 10 AM Patty called me and told me our mom was gone.

 Saturday 7-29-2017

We met at Patty’s house around 8:30 AM. The families were all present. We drove to the cemetery and parked, lining the narrow lane. The ceremony was brief. We left flowers for her, and she was lowered next to my dad. We drove to the Lutheran church. The service was nice. Family members spoke along with people she had mentored, worked with, and befriended. People spoke of her serving the poor alongside my dad in the 80’s in Washington DC. They mentioned how she was a successful business woman. Vince Salerno, my old friend and collaborator, accompanied Helen, the church music director, in a rendition of ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ as my mom requested. Afterwards there was a dinner at a restaurant where we were able to mingle and share memories.

I watched my mother fade over the last decade. When her passing finally occurred, there was sadness, but there was more a sense of relief. Years ago, when she was fully present, dementia to her was the worst imaginable exit. Nonetheless, she endured it with dignity and grace. All her children carried her in their hearts as she receded into her twilight. She was tended to most heroically by her faithful and devoted daughter Patricia. My mom is once again with her beloved husband Richard. When I was little, I remember wondering how I’d react when both my parents were gone. They are both gone now. I’m missing them very much.

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Letting Go Misia

Misia
Summer 2000 – June 15, 2017

I’d left work and met the vet at my home at 1. My wife had just said goodbye and left. Misia’s muzzle was moist and smeared with her lipstick. I sat down next to Misia who was laying on her cushion in the living room. I cupped her chin in one hand and stroked her face with the other as the vet gave her the first shot of sedative/pain killer. Misia and I were face to face looking in each other’s eyes. I was overwhelmed with sadness that this was our last moment together. After about twenty seconds, her eyes slowly closed, and she relaxed fully into my hand, peacefully sedated. We waited ten minutes, then the vet asked if I was ready. Unable to process things, I paused to brace, then told him to go ahead. He inserted the iv into her rear left leg, then began the drip. I felt her breathing, one breath, two breaths, three breaths. She stopped after her sixth breath, exhaled, then gave a little shake. The vet took his stethoscope to her side and listened. He leaned back and looked at me. I asked him if she was gone. He nodded, and said he was sorry. He laid her on her side, and Misia exhaled again one last time. I put my head down and lost it. I became aware of this image of me, viewed from above, sitting cross-legged in front of the cushion with my head bowed, crying and shaking. I looked up at her one last time, saw her laying on her side with her beautiful, pink tongue drooping from her mouth. I went to my kitchen, propped myself on the counter, and let the waves of emotion wash over me. I could not bring myself to look at her again. It was as hard as I knew it would be.

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Our Civil War

There is a political class that benefits from us being at each other’s throats. There are men and women who have built fortunes, leveraging and exploiting  our reasonable differences, magnifying them and using them against us for their gain. We have to ask ourselves when we hear something from them that stokes our anger towards each other, and makes us see each other as enemies: is what I’m hearing truthful, and how does this messenger benefit from our anger towards each other? It is time that we question sources of information cooly, neutrally, and soberly. All of them. There is no single, objective truth. The truth is the center of gravity of our collective understanding. None of us own the truth.

Our national emergency is actually a global emergency. This is easily imaginable. As a species, in fact, we are threatened. We have the ability, intentionally or un-intentionally, to bring about an end to our existence on this planet. We have to be willing now to re-examine our own beliefs in order to reconcile our differences. We must realize that there may be a seed of truth at the core of the grievances directed towards us from the other side. We must be open to changing the way we understand things. We are brothers and sisters truly at war. It is an existential crisis, and it falls on our shoulders, as our leaders have failed us.

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Creativity and Depression

My creativity has always had a ceiling. In my manic creative phases, all my time, energy and thought is focused on my art. Relationships become almost impediments. Work, an interruption. Eventually, significant problems arise because of this, which shuts down the creative will. Sometimes just until the next work budget materializes. Sometimes it remains asleep a lot longer.

After a two-and-a-half year creative marathon recording my eponymous album, released in 2007, a series of events converged in my life ending my high artistic plateau, plunging me into severe depression. The album never found an audience or generated much income. Big cracks formed in my marriage, putting it in serious peril. The Great Recession hit, bringing about the demise of my company. My best friend died too young at age 52. I suffered anosmia after a concussion. This convergence became my dark tunnel that lasted 7 years.

The Great Recession arrived in 2008, and a personal decline began to feed on itself. With my income dwindling to a trickle, there was no possibility to continue with my music. Anxiety crippled my creative spirit. As my business opportunities dried up, my self-doubt was sensed by potential new clients, sending them elsewhere. I felt like I had somehow wrecked my creative process, been found out as a fraudulent interactive programmer, and invalidated myself as a family member. It made me feel like I had to walk away from being an artist, chuck my old job skill-set, and start from scratch. The things that used to work for me were failing.

I went through the motions of doing everything I did when my interactive business was doing well, but there were no projects materializing. Before, when one project had concluded, I would get on the phone and make calls off my lists, and eventually there would be another one. The projects came to an end, and didn’t resume. My calls led nowhere. No one had budgets for content development, and there was nothing on the horizon.

Waking up became torturous. Re-emerging from unconsciousness, I would resume The Endless Loop of:

-You are not bringing in money.
-Your business went under.
-You have no relevant job skills.
-You are in your fifties.
-Your marriage is failing.
-You have embarrassed yourself and your family with your ‘art’.
-You have no-one to talk to about these things.
-There is no reason to believe any of this will change any time soon.

I tried to keep myself distracted. Immersing myself in a sports broadcast would provide temporary relief from The Endless Loop. Watching a film as I rode my stationary bike was a pause in the dark pressure. But for every savored lull came a jarring re-emergence into the ever-present swirling dark self-doubt.

Zoloft knocked down the depression at first, but eventually facts on the ground called the shots, and its effectiveness waned. I settled into a routine where any little ebbing of energy would be taken as a welcome opportunity to sleep and escape again. I had no idea how to productively spend my waking time. I was left with this vast blank black slate to scribble my Endless Loop over and over again in my head.

My wife had a good job in a bank, but it wasn’t enough to cover our bills. We went on public aid, with our kids eligible for free lunch cards. I repeatedly had to go to my family asking for help with the shortfall. It was embarrassing to be so reliant on others, but I had absolutely no visible route out of the awful maze I was trapped in. The thought that I would always be dependent on others, no longer employable, from my early fifties on thru my old age made me wish for an early death. The idea of being utter dead weight for decades longer was intolerable. The darkness that started in 2008 went on and on with no signs that an exit from it was possible.

By early 2013, my un-employment benefits were long gone. I found a brochure for a training facility that taught CNC machining in some of my paperwork from the state. I called the un-employment office and spoke with a counselor, who thought that it was a good idea to check into computerized manufacturing, where there were jobs, because of my computer skills. With the smallest creative spark, I visualized a way out. My family helped me with tuition, and I signed up. Starting in the fall of 2013, through early 2015, I sailed through the courses, all the while wondering how a guy my age was going to adjust to a new career working a manufacturing job on a factory floor. An instructor told me about a 3D modeling program called Solidworks used in engineering offices. This was more what I had in mind when I thought about computerized manufacturing. I realized that I was more CAD (computer aided design) than CAM (computer aided manufacturing.) I bought a student version of Solidworks and studied online tutorials and lessons from June, 2014 until April, 2015 when I tested and got my certification. By June of 2015, I had a job as a mechanical drafter in an engineering office in Schaumburg, IL, and the fever finally broke.

Almost immediately the dark place I was trapped in ended. My life finally, blessedly resumed a normal rhythm. A healthy, mildly dull but soothing beat of normalcy has come to sustain me again. I am grateful every day to be able to go to a job that I enjoy. Wounds in my marriage have faded. We are still together as a family. My children are healthy and doing well in school. The door of the long, black tunnel is behind me in the distance and closed now. Life has resumed.

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Anosmia

The weed in my front yard next to the sidewalk regrew every time I pulled it out. I would remove it, but the root would remain, of course, and a few weeks later it would poke from the ground again and begin spreading outward all spikey  and obscene. It was October 13, 2013 and I had just mowed my lawn for the last time of the year. I went to my garage and got a shovel. The weed was going to end. I poked the tip of the shovel into the grass several inches from the edge of the weed, jumped on the shovel, and bent the shovel back, lifting the weed in a clump of grass and mud. I pulled the shovel out and walked to the opposite side, poking the shovel into the lawn once more. I jumped on the shovel again, but this time the shovel flew out from under me. I landed on my back and my head slammed  onto the sidewalk. Immediately there was ringing in my ears and my head hurt like it had never hurt before. I crawled to my front stairs, pulled myself up using the railing, went inside, took some Ibuprofen, and lay down on the couch in silence for a couple of hours. I had not lost consciousness, and I did not have nausea, so I didn’t go immediately to the hospital. Later in the day, my head aching with what would eventually clock in as a two week headache, I went to Costco for household supplies. There were spring roll samples being offered by an employee. I took a morsel and popped it in my mouth. I noticed that it tasted odd, not particularly appealing. On my way home, I stopped at Jewel and bought some fried chicken. In my car, heading into my neighborhood, I found it curious that the food wasn’t filling my car with its delicious aroma that usually would have me leaning heavy on the gas, impatient to get home to eat my savory snack. When I got home, irritable from the ringing in my ears and the headache, I bit into a drumstick and tasted nothing that I was expecting. It occurred to me that I should call Jewel and complain that there was something off with their chicken. Then the thought dawned on me. I went into the bathroom, took the cover off one of my wife’s perfume bottles and sniffed. There was absolutely no scent whatsoever. I sniffed food in the refrigerator, cleaning solvents, gasoline in the garage, and the result was the same each time: no smell to anything. I went to the hospital and had an x-ray done that showed there was no skull fracture or bleeding on the brain. The doctor could make no prediction about my sense of smell returning. My daughter Julia told me the condition of having no sense of smell is called anosmia, and I may have damaged my olfactory nerve. It has the affect on my sense of taste similar to that of total nasal congestion. I can still taste saltiness and sweetness. The capsaicin in chili peppers still produces a burn. But flavor now is just a shell of what it once was. It’s like it once was in color, but now is black and white. I read that if the sense of smell didn’t return within a year, it likely would be gone for good. It’s been about three and a half years since my concussion, and it hasn’t returned. I can pick up the slightest scent of two things though: coffee and my shaving lotion, but the smells aren’t the same. Coffee produces the slightest whiff of something more like caramel or toffee. The lotion produces a tiny whiff of some sweet chemical odor. These whiffs of coffee and lotion are barely perceivable, more like memories that are triggered than genuine smells. I miss the smell of BBQ smoke in my back yard. I miss the taste of grilled meat. I feel guilty drinking my brother-in-law’s expensive wine. 30 percent of my senses are gone.  My interface with the physical world has been altered. Living creatures want to derive pleasure from the world around them. For me there is just a little less sensory information to do so with. Life goes on. Except for the weed, which I finished off upon returning from the hospital. Fucker.

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Free Association Song Descriptions

Suggestions?
      Love Dangerously

Alternative ballad, post-blues, reticent guitar passion, unique baritone vocals.

      Johnny Thirteen feat. John Halka

Alternative, genetic dice-roll bust, punk-induced, snarling at fate, John’s jail poem, a brother’s farewell.

      Monkey and the Button feat. Natalia Schuurman

Alternative narrative poetry, jungle novelty, suicidal tendencies of a species as told by an 8-year old girl and her 3-year old sister.

      Splinter

Alternative, swirling, poetic, witness to our disasters, debris and transformation.

      First Chapter Elizabeth

Alternative funk-ish, inspired by American religious fanaticism, cult of the innocent.

      Nightsweats (Tongues of Jakob)

Alternative, goth-opera, shades of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, lost language undecipherable, anthem of the grotesque.

      See Through Me

Alternative pop, shimmeringly textured, slightly jangly, a dangerous ambivalent love.

      Home Prayer

Alternative, menacing, dark and exotic, longing perseverance, unique baritone vocals.

      Jettison

Alternative abandonment, post-empathy, cold eyed alienation, isolation, disintegration.

      Far enough Away

Alternative post-blues/rock, a celebration of departure and lifted weight, foreign voices in the night mist.

      Baltic Rain

Alternative, post-folk, a sea voyage, tune of a new day, expat freedom, unique baritone vocals.

      Wade in the Water

Alternative, post-blues, looming swamp catastrophe, unique baritone vocals.

      For Nothing More feat. Stan Borys

Alternative majestic poetry, existential musings of a Polish rock legend, another through the ages, lost and found.

      New Amerika

Alternative voice, ragged optimism, ambiance of emergency, post-patriotic, anti-ideology naiveté.

      Maybe It's the Way feat. Tom Waicunas

Roots, folk, singer-songwriter, earnest longing from another era, the melancholy of distant train horns, Spice Factory feast.

      Sense of Humor feat. Tom Waicunas

Roots, blues, harmonica defiance, howling at the bleeding moon, plea for shelter from a burning son.

      Midnight Shuffle feat. Tom Waicunas

Roots, blues shuffle, ode to the dog-eared nocturnals, dirty blues harp, a guarantee of trouble.

      What You Gonna Do Now? feat. Tom Waicunas

Roots, folk, singer-songwriter, the question after it’s over, yearning for lost connection, heartbreak yelp.

      Techno Blues feat. Tom Waicunas

Roots, folk, deceitful chopping guitar chug, feelings disconnected survival, harmonica sympathy, robot laughter.

      My Phone Got Disconnected feat. Tom Waicunas

Roots, blues, King of pink mail, land-line-less, ironic harmonica, no walk in the park.

      Love Dangerously feat. BB Bugaloo

Soul passion, R&B orchestration, Stax-Volt influence, Memphis longing.

      Mr. Pitiful feat. BB Bugaloo

Soul, R&B orchestration, ghost of Otis, horn sweetness, a hurting Hammond.

      Brand New Cadillac feat. BB Bugaloo

Soul romp, vamps galore, humming V8 rhythm, key tickling axe chopping raging horn joy-ride.

      Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Sad Song feat. BB Bugaloo

Soul, not sad, another Otis redux, brother horn support, piano banter, a legit organ-ization.

      Love Dangerously Demo

Post-roots toss-off, lost weekend spoils, falsetto seed, primal genetic melody emerges, envelope guitar.

      In My Hour

Post-roots jangle, post-romance prayer, hymn to long-gone her, un-answered musical questions, melodic regret.

      Vineyard Homicide

Post-roots, slide guitar witness, 12 bar death scene, honking fit of random violence, unique baritone vocals.

      Winterline

Post-roots, creaking black ship departure, rolling party of disaster, tears for an abandoner, and a curse.

      Resurrection

Post-roots elegy, longing to un-do, echoes, reflections and lingering backward glances.

      Too Many Pieces

Post-roots circus of fools, idiot calliope, drunken lament among the wreckage.

      Take Care of Love

Post-roots blues, musical statement of the obvious, lost on the oblivious, do as I say…

      Apology

Post-roots waltz morose, morse code tones, a prayer for beloved parents, in-conclusion.

      Homeward

Post-roots rejoice, chiming battered gaggle, bloodshot light of morning revel, unique baritone vocals.

      Greenwich Mean Time

New wave ice lace synth, intoxication of youth, distant memories of distant places, symphony of innocence.

      Strange

New wave bludgeon, sweet little bombs, battered by a whisper, lip to ear to heart extortion.

      Dressed in Black

New wave noir, chimes of night and youth, urban gravity vibrato, north-side screenplay and wardrobe.

      Airplane Dreams

New wave fugue, instrumental, Bach and the MIDI spec, flight of the earth-bound.

      The Hand in My Head

New wave misanthropy, polished mechanical metal Etude, possibility violence, a bad influence.

      Waiting in the Rain

New wave ballad, haunted by a legend, fine ringing strings, steel drum secrets, the wait, the rain.

      Liturgy

New wave sacrament, skittering holy ghost, guitar birds, the soft embrace of strings, most sacred love.

      Marionettes

New wave puppetry, charms for children, strings, the caffeine of nervous music, resigned to tendon-cies of others.

      Heaven is Far Away

New wave dissonance and distance, pointless repetition of ill-defined chimes, joyless syllables, thin comfort for the weary.

      Klepsydra

New wave soaring instrumental, Bach and the MIDI spec, lost and wandering horn in hiding from the bridge’s snarling trolls.

      Time Falls, Run '87

New wave measure of time, signature of youth in slightly larger increments, layered wash of guitars, cathedral chaos concludes.

      Time Falls, Run '85

New wave measure of time, signature of youth in slightly smaller increments, synced vibrato guitar, a younger man’s voice.

      World Away

New wave blanket dive, synth sympathy, tunnel of love ecstasy, submission to 6-string Eros, 2 solo souls combine.

      Follow the Moon

New wave silver light night-time devotion, nocturnal schemes, frenzied tumbling percussive descent, subdued guitar warning.

      Snack

New wave diet, bagels and Progresso, starving artist ensemble, ricochet buffet, the oboe knows.

      Blessed

New wave psalm, propulsion of gratitude, cradled finger lattice synth, testimony of the horn.

      Autumn '85

New wave noodle, birthed of itself, touch of synth chill, celebration of techno color, feathered cello exit.

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