I awake in Santa Monica in my clothes, smacking my mouth wondering what the day holds. It sinks in almost immediately that I am finally going to get to meet all these Stick friends I have been chatting / texting / emailing with these past few months – I hope they like me (flash to 4th grade cafeteria line, looking for place to sit holding tray of food).
The first order of business is coffee and a little quality time with Mama, so we chat and get caught up. She has mended from a fall that happened in late June quite quickly, so I am pleased to hear that she is optimistic about the process. She has removable braces for her wrists which afford a lot more mobility, all good on that front. I do a little more Avanade work and then start rolling gear down to the car.
I was hoping to get over to Stick Enterprises to see Grace as I have this Polycarb project that I am working on for my friend David Jones, but it was not meant to be as time is flying now. I head out to meet Rusty at the AJU and finalize the details of our contract. We trade messages and then finally hook up at the AJU about 1pm. I write the check and then I go for a walk up Taper Dorm to collect the keys for our peeps. Randy Clere and I trading texts on the hour – I love his spirit and am looking forward to meeting him. I am also trading texts with Vladamir Gurevitch who has made the trip over from Russia – what a trooper. He’s at the airport, so I direct him to grab a cab and head directly to the AJU.
I check out the dorm that I am in, lay some of my stuff down and bring my amp into Auerbach Hall so I can do some playing. The dorms are simple and they have private bathrooms which is nice. I don’t know that the AC ever worked in my room (not a selling point, note to self, do more thorough check of dorm). I am rooming with Phil Rahn from Colorado – seems like a cool guy and an NS player! When was the last time I had a room mate?!
As I am heading down to Auerbach, I get a text from Vlad that he is on campus, so we wander around and I am flailing my arms and whistling trying to figure his exact coordinates, excited to meet our international FHA celebrity – and there he is. Unassuming, wearing glasses and carrying a backpack. No Stick, no baggage, just a backpack. I have a hug for him. I lead him over to his room, feeling proud of the AJU campus, as it’s a gorgeous day, and I can offer him some place to get some rest.
I saunter down to Auerbach and see a car with some people in it that are looking around, wide-eyed and almost giggling. Gots to be Stick players. My hunch is right. Out of the car comes Claire Steger, Evan Cloutier and Brett Bottomley. I hug them all – I am a hugger. They have all come from back east and I expect they are weary from traveling. Brett was a sport and rented a car, he was quite gracious about picking up other Stickists which really eased the operational chaos. They are glad to be on the ground so I do my best to get them quickly to their rooms and show them where Auerbach is. At that same time, I get the absolute pleasure of being reunited with my Stick brother from another mother JRJ. A sense of peace washes over me seeing his easy smile – and he’s got his friend Grant with him, this mellow cat from Santa Cruz, also smiling and glad to be out of the car.
Finally, we break them out and get plugged in. And here we are. There was a hysterical Stickist moment when we were all associating our Stickist.com identities – thinking back on posts that were made by JRJ, skydiver, fuzzy jammer. There were a lot of big smiles and it really lightened the mood.
Right about this time, Randy Clere and Dean Kobayashi join us. Randy is down here from Seattle and Dean managed to dovetail his FHA adventure off a business trip he was just wrapping up. We are now nine Stick players strong and having a grand time in the commons area, playing each others instruments, talking about the Railboard, getting to know one another. I get to jam with Brett Bottomley, whom I have known and respected on the Stickist for years. Then I get to compare Blue Railboards with JRJ! It’s incredibly fun. Everyone is relaxed and excited all at the same time – even without any formal instruction, this is a jam and we are all riding high on it. A bunch head into town for a late lunch, but I choose to stay back to make sure everyone gets their room and is received with a smile. I miss lunch. I don’t care.
Greg Howard rolls in. Ah Greg Howard. I met Greg briefly after a Stick Night with Don and Emmett in 2011. I was pestering him with StepAbout questions and he more or less tolerated me as we quite busy breaking down his gear. I have been known to charge people after shows, starry-eyed and curious. This meeting is more relaxed and I think he is genuinely glad to see me. Right away I thank him for all the guidance he has afforded me in planning this. Over the next few days, Greg’s experience with these events would be self-evident. He was getting to do what he loved and we were having a great time doing it.
The only other Thursday arrivals for Thursday night are Greg Smith and Chuck Hughes, both who are getting in a little late. I wait as long for him, but people are getting hungry. At 6:30, we head down to the Blue Dog Tavern. We make it in 2 cars. The Blue Dog is a small, unassuming tavern with decent fair and a nice selection of beers. It is located RIGHT at the bottom of the hill and quite ideal for our gathering. We manage to get a table outside all to ourselves, so it works out perfectly. I am trading texts and calls with Diana Amar (who is in town a day early with her son), Chuck Hughes and Greg Smith. I give Diana the business about not telling me she was staying for Thursday night – she’s a jewel. If ever you’ve met her, you cannot hold a grudge against the woman cause she is the milk of human kindness. Turns out she’s up at the AJU, so I quickly finagle a ride for Chuck, who just happens to be arriving at that same time, and give them directions to the tavern. They make it down the hill in good time and, with the exception of Greg and vlad, we are all together.
There is some great footage that will be made available in time of us speaking to how we came to know the Chapman Stick and what we are grateful for. Brett started and immediately drew attention to me, so I flipped him the bird. This sets the mood for the rest of the go around and I eat up all the memory on my phone taking video. I am not there when the food order goes out as I was going to pick up Diana and Chuck, but plans change. I see that Greg is not eating his chili – you gonna eat that?! He says, no. I am ravenous. I eat. I have 2 beers. Good, strong, dark beers. When the bill comes, everyone is good about putting in cash, I top it off as they were good with us. We stock up at the store which is next door to the Blue Dog, chips, drinks and some cokes for Vlad (I forgot to order him some food!) and we head back to the AJU.
At this point, we all head in mostly different directions. I somehow find myself out side Taper Hall with Claire, Greg H. and Brett. Brett’s got some smokes, so I jump in and there’s some merriment, but all on the sly. There are some fun discussions about music, some of Greg’s upcoming projects, Brett’s love of castles and Boston. Claire is a little quiet, but she puts her touch on the conversation and the whole evening just glows. We relocate to a nicer area with chairs, surrounded by lovely potted plants, but we are asked to leave by a resident student. oops. We head back over to our original location, chat some more, and then call it a night.
I am on the first floor, so I head upstairs just to make one last check. Greg Smith has someone in his room and they are playing and talking Stick! IT’S 2 IN THE MORNING AND YOU ARE ON EAST COAST TIME!!! He’s SO apologetic, I just laugh and we both share a smile – go to bed you Stick freaks. I feel like I might have to have him have his mother come pick it up after school. I feel bad for telling him to go to sleep as these guys are doing what we came here to do. I chuckle to myself as I head back down to the Colen Hall deck for one last look at the night sky over the San Fernando valley.
I realize that I have only had an apple, a bowl of cereal, a bowl of chili and two pieces of bread. Oh, and 2 beers. I still feel hungry and I probably could have gone with a little less merriment. Still, the feeling is very positive and it seems that our Stick friends are happy to be here and share in the experience. I will have to be up BY 6am tomorrow to get bagels, donuts, coffee, water and fruit as I did not purchase breakfast from the AJU for Friday morning. So, 4 hours of sleep aught to do it. I fall asleep in my clothes.