Youth Gone Wild/Touch of Gray

I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was July 12, 1989. I was really early for a concert and found myself playing hacky sack around the back of the Richmond Coliseum. As I was kicking around the little leather bag I soon found out that it was Rachel Bolan, Scott Hill and Dave Sabo playing with us.

They were members of a hot new metal band, Skid Row and they were opening up for Bon Jovi that night. Skid Row had a song that was an anthem for our generation, Youth Gone Wild. It was about teen angst and rebellion. Aren’t they always?

At that concert they would film a video for one of Bon Jovi’s songs, Lay Your Hand on Me and they did the song over and over. In the final cut you can get a brief glimpse of me in the front row against the barrier with a chick in a fish-net jersey–you know the ones if you grew up in the eighties. We were sweaty and gross but having the time of our lives.

That concert was just a few weeks after high school graduation and a trip that I took across country in a car that I thought was mine. That is a story for another post for sure…

In the coming months I would find myself in L.A. to see the band Living Colour call Axl Rose out on stage for being a racist and Rose later stopping the GnR show and having a meltdown mid-set before The Rolling Stones took the stage. It would be the only time I have seen the Stones unless I am able to secure tickets for them in the coming week. I paid $50 for my ticket.

I drove all the way across country three times that summer. Twice in an Oldsmobile Cutlas Supreme that my grandfather gave me after the car mentioned above was returned to the dealership.

By the end of October I was in Florida with all of my possessions in a backpack and living on a sailboat with my friend Darrin. Neither one of us knew the first thing about sailing but somehow made it to Key West to see Billy Squire along the way. At some point I had fallen off the mast of the boat and broke my arm, with no money and no insurance I somehow set it by plowing a parked car, football-style.

By Christmas we were broke and hungry. The Olds had blown up and I sold it for 500 bucks to some guy on the corner. On New Years Eve we were homeless and living under a tree near the beach. My friends father quickly threw us off the boat when we found out we took it on our little trip.

Within days Darrin called his mom and she made him join the Marines on the spot. I called mine and asked for a plane ticket back to Portland, Oregon.

I started college and formed a rock band a few months later. We played at grungy clubs and I worked my way through school working the night shift at 7-11 and drinking, mostly as payment for our gigs, pretty heavily.

Fast forward to April 8, 1994. I was sitting on the beach in Fort Meyers, Florida with my toes in the sand and talking to an old beach bum that made hats for the tourists out of palm fronds. A special report came on the radio that the singer for the band, Nirvana was found dead. Just the night before our little rock band played Lithium and Come as You Are at a scuzzy bar called The Reef further down the beach. Those two songs were in heavy rotation in our set that mostly covered other bands with an original or two.

By the mid-to-the late 1990s my life was spiraling out of control. I was heavily addicted to gambling and spending my days “playing” the stock market. In one day in the autumn of 1999, I made $170,000 and it was gone by the end of the week. That is not a brag. Just the harsh reality of how reckless I had become.

The next decade is a blur of legal troubles, losing everything, my freedom, and almost my life.

I grew up. I met Michele. We married. Raised the kids. Bought a house and started a successful business. We ran sled dogs and became respectable members of our community, or so I thought.

Youth Gone Wild had come and gone but not without a lot of scars.

If we can back up just a bit, I remember playing poker in the back of one of those seedy bars in Portland’s northeast’s side were I would spend most of my time. I heard The Grateful Dead’s Touch of Gray for the first time. The Dead weren’t my favorite but I did get a chance to see them a couple of times. The last time was on the last tour before Jerry died. That will come into play in a sec.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

I am now in my late forties and struggle to make sense of the last (almost) five decades. I have spent my life doing what I wanted and paid the price a time or two. I have done everything I have ever wanted to do. I have travelled. I have seen many concerts. Met many people. Made many friends and had a lot of awesome experiences. About five years ago I returned to school as part of a mid-life crisis, just because.

There is a quote in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile you could miss it.”

I have spent my life trying to prove to myself that life is what you make it and you can’t let anything get in your way.

I was in fact very wrong. Just this past weekend I came to the realization that time passes too fast. How do I know? It was something as stupildy simple as visiting a Walmart of all places and trying on a pair of glasses. All the sudden I could read everything again clearly. If I can digress for just a second. As we age the lenses in our eyes become less flexible. To many of us this will be the first realization that we are getting old…

To some it is inconsequential. Others will blast me and say, “what the hell are you talking about. Everyone needs glasses in their 40s.” That is exactly the point. That simple, shortsighted and trivial, little step of realizing that I need glasses was a punch in the gut to me. It was the realization that we aren’t here forever and soon things will be much different than it was before.

I have lived fast. I have lived loose. I have slowed down and tried to re-connect with those I have let stray away. Just this past weekend I heard that my high school class is planning our 30-year reunion. 30 f-ing years. I will go.

Time will pass and there is still a lot to do. I am sure, all of you–my rabid readers–have had that realization a time or two that we aren’t young anymore. When was it for you?

In the words of Jerry, (and Robert Hunter)…but I also know that that we must whistle through your teeth and spit ’cause it’s alight.

Our time, oh, well, a touch of gray kinda suits you anyway.

I will get by.