You think you know a guy. Well, it's not like I know Mike real well. But I've been to his house. He used to hang out with the great Sly Mee, my old friend from high school, and he's married to Sister Jeni's best friend Allison. And I knew he'd built a successful business from scratch—although I didn't realize his little La Verne pool cleaning biz had grown into a high-end pool building powerhouse for the likes of Ben Affleck. (Mike and Allison even got the invite to Ben & Jen's 1st pool party, where their little girls hit it off.) What I didn't know was that Mike is also the son of a former minor league pitcher, Jerry Kettle, who wrote this book about his life playing baseball. And Mike's grandpa was also a player—a legendary baseball clown and occasional actor, too. Broadway Billy Schuster—also known as "Buffalo Bill" and "Schuster the Rooster"—was a self-described "futility infielder" who was a Pacific Coast League Hall of Famer for the Los Angeles Angels in the '40s and a member of the last Chicago Cubs team to play in the World Series back in 1945. How strange that at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan, clear across the country from our hometown in SoCal, I find out this pool building badass friend of my sister has a direct link to the last Cubs team in the World Series. Who knew?!
Do I know you? One man's attempt at a lifelong head count.
NOTE: If you think I might have a photo of you—most likely at least one great photo of you—don't be afraid to ask me to post it (firstname.lastname@example.org) along with a brief entry about how I know you. And if I've met or known you but don't have any photo evidence, feel free to send along YOUR favorite photo of you. (I'm fascinated by what that slideshow might look like.)
I've got some serious hetero man-love for this guy. Besides Cojo, Larry was my first bonafide celebrity friend. And by bonafide, I mean not B-list, but Z-list celebrity, as Larry himself would tell you. Hannah was a fan because Larry hosted a Disney Channel game show (Off the Wall) that she loved. I was a fan for many reasons, starting with his brainpower, followed closely by his talentwisdomkindnesswit. (I couldn't pick one.) I met Larry when he was co-starring in a late 90's internet show—we're talking the dinosaur days of cyberspace—on a soon-to-be-notorious site called "the DEN" (Digital Entertainment Network) that I was working for. The show was a bawdy comedy called Frat Ratz and I was the creator/writer/producer on the project. Larry was one of my Wakenbaker brothers, a stoner role that his game show bosses at Disney had to see coming eventually. Before arriving on Frat Ratz, Larry had already co-starred in an indie movie in Boston that he still hasn't gotten a copy of. Then he fell into the recurring role of "Larry the Loser" on Singled Out, the MTV game show that gave the world Jenny McCarthy (with clothes on), Carmen Electra (who learned to swim after a lesson from Larry) and Chris Hardwick (nearly 2 decades pre-Nerdist empire). During our DEN days he was also starring in his own show called Limozeno, which featured Larry as a chauffeur/host driving actors and bands around in DEN's signature big black limo. (Which led to highlights like Larry getting stoned with Wilmer Valderrama.) For a while there, it looked like big things were on Larry's Hollywood horizon. But for reasons I've never quite figured out, it hasn't played out that way. Not yet, anyway. Instead of a blossoming acting or hosting career, Larry's post-DEN life saw him go on the road as a drum tech for more than one band, including Tool. He eventually became a high-end home aquarium expert, where his regular clients have included people like Dr. Dre and a former NBC executive who wants to help Larry get back in the game. After 13 years of aquarium work, he's decided to shift his focus to performing, creating and realizing his life's calling to be a modern shaman, spreading a message of love, transcendence and good times. You haven't heard the last of Larry Zeno. Welcome back, my friend. The world has missed you.
Posted on 2.5.15
Today we posted the 2nd episode of our new 2 Degrees of BOB podcast, featuring a conversation with our friend Larry. You can find it on iTunes—or listen to the Soundcloud version here. Enjoy.
Posted on 8.26.15
One of the many benefits of our recent move to NYC is the parade of visitors—old friends and family—who are likely to look us up when they pass through town. We hope it works like that, anyway. The day before New Year's Eve I got a text from this guy, my friend Eddie Elliott's little brother Dom. Dom said he was coming up from D.C. to celebrate New Year's in New York. Great. Molly and I had no plans so I was looking forward to seeing him.
I met Dom back in 2004 when he and Eddie played a bunch of gigs around the U.S. that I happened to catch. (A couple here at Bill's on the Mississippi River in Iowa, a show in Annapolis, Maryland and a gig in Boulder, CO.) Dom also showed up in Austin with Eddie back in '09, after Molly had just moved from L.A. and I was out visiting her in Texas. Dom (and Eddie) even helped us paint the trim on Casa Verde back then. I hadn't seen him since. But now, here we are relocating nearly 6 years later—Texas to New York this time— and he shows up yet again in our life?
I was liking the symmetry of this situation.
And then it didn't happen, after multiple texts, in which I told Dom we were eager to meet him out in Brooklyn post-midnight—before shamefully confessing that we'd been stricken with a serious need to nap not long before midnight. My new wife was down for the count, with no desire to head out into the New Year's Eve night. I'm not sure if Dom and his all-night party posse ever made it over to Brooklyn. (He did send me a text from Times Square just after midnight saying he was on his way to Brooklyn.) Either way, I'm sure a guy who rocks this hard on top of speakers in an Iowa bar on the Mississippi somehow managed to have a good ol' time in New York City on New Year's Eve. Until next time, Dom . . .
"I need to find something that lights me up."
My friend Chris was talking about his next career move back in November. Like many people, Chris doesn't love his job. Many moons ago, not long after Chris arrived in L.A. after moving south from the Bay Area, I hooked him up with a couple friends who were starting a production vehicle company. Somehow that connection turned into a 17-year career as a driver, then transportation coordinator, for various productions (mostly commercials) in and around Southern California. Now Chris wants to do something more fulfilling. But what?
I met Chris in 1989 when I was dating his big sis Kim. Luckily for me, my friendship with Chris lasted longer than my relationship with Kim. (Who's also still a friend.) More than 25 years later, Chris came out to Austin for our wedding. A few weeks later he was back in Austin for the Fun Fun Fun music festival. That's when I planted the seed about the possibility of Chris maybe joining me on my big adventure to Brooklyn, not thinking he'd actually end up doing it.
But here's what a mensch this guy is: With zero pre-planning, he decides to extend this trip and re-routes his flight back home. Instead of flying out of Austin, he's now flying out of NYC. All to help me pack up our big ass house (5bd/3bth), load the moving truck and accompany me on the drive to New York City. Once we showed up in Brooklyn, Chris did even more heavy lifting, helping us move our 16-foot moving van's worth of "essentials" into our new 1-bedroom apartment.
How could we not love this guy?
So now we need to find Chris his perfect job. My suggestion? Tap into his love of craft beers and become the brew version of the wine world sommelier.
"Chris," I told him after we'd squeezed all of our things into our Cobble Hill digs, "you need to become a brewmmelier! Or in your case, a brommelier!" Somebody get this guy a reality show!
So raise your beer mugs and pint glasses to my friend Chris—future brommelier and a solid amigo to have on a long drive across the U.S. of A.
America, light this man up!
I met Josh when I picked him up in my cab after he'd performed at a charity show at the Mohawk in Austin a few years ago. We immediately hit it off, became friends and I've been listening to his music ever since. I've driven him around in my cab with his wife, his brother, his dad and his friends. I even got into his music so much when I drove a cab that I went a month or two of only playing his One Shot album while I was in my taxi. If you've got Spotify, check it out. Listen to it for a week and you'll be hooked, guarantee. His musical presence in my cab led to this blog post by a New York City marketing exec after her visit to SXSW. He also shows up in a section of my new book. And he's playing in Austin tomorrow night—June 14th—a rare occurrence since he moved to Ft. Worth last year. If you're in town, you might wanna check this out.
Posted June 13, 2014
We knew it would happen. His music was too good to go unnoticed forever. The fact that it's playing out in real time on national TV just adds to the juiciness of the story. If you're not already watching him on The Voice, I suggest you get on it. And when voting begins next week, make sure you're all over that, too. And tell a friend. If this doesn't convince you, maybe this will. America is falling hard for this guy. I just scanned some of the nearly 400 comments on YouTube for the video of the song he sang on The Voice this week. Best comment: "He's a mix between Dave Grohl, Jimmy Page and Joseph Gordon Levitt." You be the judge. And check out his album One Shot on Spotify, if you've got it. The man has arrived.
Posted on November 1, 2016
This was a big week for me. A week ago today marked the 1-year anniversary of the day we began our 500-mile journey across Spain walking the Camino de Santiago. Then on Tuesday I gave my 1st cab ride in over a year. I've been wanting/trying to get back in a cab, any cab, since we got back from Spain last August. Last week I FINALLY got an offer—to fill in for a vacationing Austin Cab driver for a week. The cabbie who owns the car, Dan, also offered to let me drive his Prius cab on Friday and Saturday nights. Woo-hoo! So I'm back in the BobCab game until the wedding in October. And in honor of this new situation, I am posting this photo of one of my all-time favorite BobCab regulars. Dbo—or "Dave" as he's known to me and more than a few others—is one of the funniest, saltiest weekend drunks you'll ever meet. I've happily witnessed many a Dave rave, wherein he'll drunkenly, loudly, yet somehow endearingly, rail his profanity-laced invective on any number of subjects ripe for skewering. (Hipsters, tourists, Austin cops, the list is endless.) He's a damn hillbilly genius in my book and I just feel lucky he's introduced me to his musician friends, his comedian buddies (Blake Midgette, et al.), his Richmond homies (we miss you Bob-o and Katie), various dudes named David (there are at LEAST 2 of them, right?) and his awesome girlfriend-turned-fiance, Leslie (hey Leslie!). I've even met Dave & Leslie's big fat cat. Love those guys! Much of what I've been missing about not being a cabbie during this last year has been catching up in the cab with my old passengers-turned-friends like Dave, er, Dbo as he's known in the deep undercover world of the Internet. So here's to Dbo! The best damn taxi customer a cabbie ever had. P.S. I'll be driving the cab tonight and next weekend. Call me, maybe? :)
Exactly 1 year ago today—7.7.13—we said goodbye to the gray-haired woman I've got my arm around. For the previous 20+ hours, Maite (MAH-tay) had been our Spanish savior. We'd been the dumb Americans who showed up in Spain a few days earlier with no reservations and no plan once we walked into Pamplona for the running of the bulls. My compadres and I—Brother Deke and his boy, my nephew, Josh—just assumed it would all somehow work out. And, what do you know, it DID. Thanks largely to Maite, whose English was even worse than our shitty Spanish. The previous day we'd been put in touch with her thanks to an Irish bloke we met over dinner at a pilgrim boarding house in Roncesvalles during our 1st night on the road during last summer's Camino de Santiago adventure. The day before this photo was taken, Maite took our !50 Euros and gave us a room with a balcony overlooking one of the squares not more than a few blocks from the Pamplona bullfighting ring. A year later, our 1-day stop in Pamplona feels like a dream. We walked into the middle of a raging party, lucked into a room in the middle of the city and somehow got hooked up with a gay local artist who took us into her home, welcomed us with cold beers, showed us around her neighborhood, joined us for dinner before taking in the opening night firework show in the middle of the Pamplona, surrounded by thousands of roaring locals dressed in white, with their red scarves and sangria-stained shirts. Easily one of the most unforgettable days/nights of my life. Followed the next morning by an even bigger jolt of adreneline, when Maite took us jogging through her cobblestone neighborhood, looking for the perfect entrance spot for Brother Deke and Josh to join in with the running of the bulls. After a couple dead ends, she led us running towards the bullfight stadium, where she quickly got us a trio of scalped tickets just in time for use to get a standing room only spot inside when the crazy drunks and the bonafide Spanish bull whisperers came running into the stadium with the bulls. The whole things was a scene burned into my brain forever. From the spectacle. The roar of the crown. The grace and idiocy of the 400 or 500 runners left in the ring with the lone bull. And those moments where I couldn't help but feel sad for the bull and what the torment he was facing. It was a life experience that maybe doesn't happen without Maite's generosity and patience with a trio of Americans whose Spanglish sucked. Muchas gracias, Maite!
"I hate this car."
Last night I was almost 100 miles out of Durango as I listened to 10-year-old Alex, her teeth chattering in the cold Colorado night, complaining about the broken down Cadillac she and her Grandma were riding in when it died about 10 minutes before I picked them up in VanGo, my heater-less '72 VW bus.
"We shoulda taken one of the other cars," Alex was telling me, "but my Grandpa said we should take this one."
I'd been chugging up a steep, unfamiliar mountain road, wondering if MY old car was gonna break down. In the darkness I noticed a car pulled over. Its hood open. With what appeared to be 2 shadowy figures lurking near the driver's side door.
I didn't want to pull over. I was running behind yet again and I wanted to just keep going. As usual, my first instinct was selfish apathy.
Then I had flashbacks to all the people who had helped ME out....
* Excerpted from B.O.B. a blog story (vol. 1 — here & there), our first book of stories and photos.
A few days after our chance meeting, I got this email from Alex's mom:
"My name is Sharna and I am Alex's mom. I think you are a wonderful person and wanted to say thanks a bunch for making sure my little girl was safe. The world could use a lot more people like you. I am truly grateful for all the things you did for my mom and Alex and so was Alex. She came home last night and told me and her dad all about you. She thought you were pretty cool and had mentioned maybe being a pen pal if that would be possible. Maybe in the future I wish there was some way that I could repay you for all of your kindness. If you need something please feel free to contact me. I will try to do what ever I can to help.
Thanks a bunch and lots of luck to you and VanGo.
Still waiting on that pen pal letter, Alex. :)
If your name is Bob Smith or John Williams it's no big thing to meet someone who shares your name. But for a guy like me, it's not every day that you meet another Bob Makela. It's only happened once, back in '97 when I was barhopping for 100 days around the U.S. and I stopped in at this seemingly out-of-place western gear store on the Northern California coast near the end of my trip. I had never met my Dad's first cousin Bob before that night. In fact, that was my first visit to Fort Bragg, the tiny Mendocino County coastal logging town my great-grandparents settled in after getting to America from Finland around 1913. NorCal Bob Makela has lived in Fort Bragg his entire life, but for a brief stint in the military. (Was it the Coast Guard?) Even though we're clearly family—his father and my Dad's father were brothers—we are also different in a number of ways. First of all, he's a Giants fan. I'm a lifelong Dodger fan. NorCal Bob Makela talks quickly and often. I've been known to talk slowly, to the point of sounding comatose, and am a much better listener than talker. And just look at the differences in this photo. NorCal Bob is wearing Lee jeans, pearl snap long sleeve shirt, big ass belt buckle and a Ford cap. SoCal Bob is in cargo shorts, Billabong Aussie outback hat and a DIY George Harrison t-shirt—with a hint of his VW bus reflecting in the window. NorCal Bob has his old school, blue collar mustache. I've got the hint of a beard, too wary of shaving across my moles to bother with a razor. NorCal Bob Makela rides horses. SoCal Bob Makela rides surfboards. And here's the crazy thing: If my great-grandmother—Bob's paternal grandma—hadn't missed her connecting boat ride from Finland to England to catch the Titanic to America (she had her tickets, but one of her babies was sick), most likely neither one of the Bob Makelas you see here would be around today.
Another photo I love. I'm a sucker for candid shots of brides on their wedding day. But throw in the fact that the bride is my oldest niece, Sarah, and her cousin, the flower girl Ava, is my youngest niece—it all adds up to a classic shot in my book. Plus, the wedding was in Dana Point, right around the bend from where we learned how to surf at Doheny in the '60s. And we're about to ask Ava to be a flower girl in our October wedding. It's her birthday today, too. She's 8 and still every bit as cute as she is in this picture. And one more very cool thing about Ava: she shares a birthday with my oldest nephew, her cousin Josh, who turned 23 today. I have a feeling they're both destined for greatness. As is the bride, who just moved to Texas with her Marine husband, T.J., in April and is 6 months pregnant with their 1st baby. This big family keeps getting bigger. Happy birthday, guys! And welcome to Texas, Sarah. Make sure you keep that baby-growing body out of the Texas summer heat, girl!
Wanted to wish my niece Ava a happy birthday today. That's her on the left with Molly's niece Caroline. These two were a highlight at our wedding. We only wish we lived close enough to see them more often. Happy birthday, Ava!
Today I had lunch with a pair of ladies I'd never met before at my favorite spot for breakfast tacos. I've got a slight connection with Melizzoz. I interviewed one of the owners here for a video project I did when I first moved to Austin—back when it was just "Izzoz." I was interviewed here myself by a film crew for a project I'm contractually not allowed to talk about. (Very frustrating.) And this photo of me and Molly appeared on my 2012 photo blog. My connection to Rose Marie is through Heidi, one of the handful of readers-turned-friends I made back when I was blogging semi-regularly at TheGreatestYearOfMyLife.com. Heidi, who lives way up in Montana, heard about my blog through our mutual friend Scott, one of the crew members (1st A.D.?) on the DEN.net web series (Frat Ratz) that I created and wrote for back at the turn of the century. Heidi started reading my blog, liked what she read, decided we should be friends and offered to put me up if I was ever swinging through Glacier National Park. And through the power of email, digital photos, mutual respect and Facebook, we've been friends ever since. Now Heidi's gone and told her friend Rose Marie that I might be able to help Rose Marie's niece, Tamara, break into the copy editing world. I realized that our lunch today and my attempt at imparting some wisdom and common sense to Tamara was a direct result of me blogging about my adventures a decade ago. It's crazy to think of the ripple effect these things can have. Which, in part, is what I was trying to tell Aunt Rose Marie's niece. Never underestimate what can result from being proactive and taking action. You want to be a copy editor—with zero experience and a degree in anthropology? Create a blog, post a whole bunch of entries and make sure there are zero typos in your blog! Show the world your blog is the best copy edited blog in the universe. Get out in the world. Have adventures. Do every job you take with a smile and, if you can muster it up, passion. Meet people. Listen. Become the kind of person—interesting, interested, creative, curious—that I'm gonna want to hire. "Thank you for saying all that," Rose Marie told me. "I've been telling her all those things. But, of course, I'm her aunt so she's not really listening." It's just one man's opinion, Rose Marie. What the hell do I know? One thing I do know—I'm grateful for those tasty Mellizoz tacos today. Thanks for lunch!
I love this photo. This was taken on a cold concrete slab in the carcass of a rotting Upper 9th Ward neighborhood, where a bunch of us Common Ground volunteers sat around drinking beers and toking Katrina schwag over the chilly Thanksgiving holidays. We were a motley crew from all over the U.S. who'd been gutting mold-infested houses in Hazmat suits all day. This time spent on the corner, we had it coming to us. We'd been working with hazardous materials all day—for free. We deserved to catch a decent post-work buzz. Robert was one of my favorite volunteers. An eager, sweet kid from one of the Dakotas. (North?) He was too sincere to be an early hipster, though he dressed the part without even realizing it. Years later Robert sent me a postcard...with the request that I send him one in return. It's been a few years now and I still feel guilty about not sending him back a postcard. Yet. So until I find his address—send it to me again, Robert!—this will have to suffice.
Back during a certain era of my L.A. days—when we had a kosher butcher at one end of the block and a yeshiva across the street from my favorite sushi bar at the other—I'd ask friends and family who showed up to our 2-bedroom townhouse to stand against the blank white wall in our living room and strike a pose for me. I had just paid a grand for my 1st digital camera—an Olympus C-3030 with a whopping 3.3 megapixels—and I was eager to use it. My requests led to pictures like these. I haven't seen many of the friends in these photos for close to a decade. Like my old friend Cojo. I met Cojo 20 years ago when I was a staff writer at the Australian incarnation of People magazine (WHO Weekly) and Steven was a freelancer we hired to help us out with reporting on some ridiculous celebrity-related story. (I think it was an eyeball-gobbling piece on "nudity in films.") A few years later when he got hired to write a weekly fashion column for People, Cojo dished me his nationally syndicated show biz gossip column ("Hot Shots") that ran in over 60 newspapers around the U.S. and Canada. (Which led to a year of me writing under my 1st and only pen name: "Jackson Doheny") By this time we were fast friends and fellow herb enthusiasts who, at times, felt painfully out of place and unworthy of the glitzy show biz mind fuck. The TV Personality Red Carpet Awards Show Cojo is vastly different—usually—than the Hanging Out In Your 1-Bedroom Bachelor Apartment Cojo. He gave me shit about being a yokel from Covina. I gave him shit about his crappy little Chevy Cavalier. He loved my girlfriend and we loved hearing his lacerating Hollywood opinions or watching him break into song as Cher, one of his heroes. Cojo showed up to my surprise 40th birthday party in Santa Monica with a 4-foot tall red hookah, a gift I'm still explaining to the family. In the years since we hung out and crossed paths semi-consistently, Cojo went on to become a much-loved weekly presence on The Today Show, then a red carpet fixture for Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood. He's been on The Daily Show, he was a regular for 2 seasons on American Idol and he was spoofed in an SNL skit. (Jimmy Fallon as Cojo!) He's written a pair of memoirs and had a pair of kidney transplants—which has led to a pair of episodes devoted to his story on Oprah. The guy's been through a LOT since this photo was taken. The Cojo of this picture doesn't look much like the Cojo of today. I think they're both pretty badass. I'm sure the internal transformation has been hugely significant too. Cojo always was a seeker, a good soul trying to grow and evolve and love. I miss the days when he was just our hilarious, tortured friend cracking us up on our living room couch with his rendition of Madonna as a low-rent, Inland Empire Evita Peron: "Don't cry for me West Co-viiiii-naaaa...."
Compared to my Aunt Carol—middle sister of 3 to my kooky barefoot Dad—I'm a terrible uncle to my 16 nephews and nieces. At least, when it comes to birthday cards. (Why can't I get in the habit of sending cards?!) Aunt Carol is real good about buying books like this that I've published, too. Books she most likely won't be sharing with the people from her church or the kindergartners and 1st graders she taught before retiring not long ago or the friends she goes hiking with. Can't say I blame her. Many a family has someone like Aunt Carol. (Molly even has her very own Aunt Carol.) Someone who shows up to most, if not all, family functions. Someone who does a good job of filling you in on what she and her adult children have been up to. Someone who remembers birthdays with a card, knows family history like it was yesterday and celebrates your lineage and the very idea of family. If you've got an Aunt Carol in the family consider yourself lucky. In the prehistoric days before the Internet, my Aunt Carol created and sent out a regular family newsletter—monthly? quarterly?—replete with Xeroxed updates on who had a baby, who got shipped off overseas, who got promoted, who was graduating, who went where on vacation, etc. You know, all the stuff Facebook gives you. Who'd have thought Aunt Carol was ahead of her time?
Jules was one of the 1st people I met on "the hill" during my Sunday afternoon of research for my Austin Chronicle story about the HOG. Jules makes a point of meeting most of the people who show up at the Hope Outdoor Gallery. Especially the artists. Jules claims he's been up here every day taking photos for the last 2 years. He says he gets clean shots—before the tagging and outright eradication—of every piece of art that goes on these walls. The book he's holding up has dozens of examples. In the online version of my Austin Chronicle story, they also posted a link to a slideshow of 29 street art pieces from the HOG, each of them photographed by Jules. Seconds after we met, Jules was on me for a professional leg up. "You gotta help me, man," he said like the pesky kid brother you can't help but love. "Get them to hire me. I got pictures of all this stuff. My shit's good. Help me out, dude." I finally told Jules, "You gotta help yourself, bro. Build a website. It's not that hard. Put your photos on it. You've got the material. Make it happen! Don't wait for someone else to do it for you." I looked at his Facebook page and was more convinced than ever that his stuff deserves a wider audience. Jules has been the documentarian, archivist and human surveillance camera of this special place. As good as he is at initiating conversation, he must be equally adept at staying out of the way too. Especially when the artists are in the creative zone with their spray cans. Jules recently saw some punks paint "fuck you" over a pretty, crafted mural not long after it was completed. Did Jules ask what the little shits were doing or persuade them to find another spot on the wall? "No way, man," he told me. "I'm just a photographer. I'm not here to pass judgment or get my ass kicked. I'm just here to take pictures."
This is Todd Bot, aka "Deathfox." I didn't ask him how he came up with his street art name when we met at the HOG a few weeks ago. He did, however, tell me that he'd driven down from Dallas with his fellow artist and friend, Skele, whose arm reaches out and sprays the red wall in the photo. Deathfox stumbled onto this place a few years ago, but didn't actually start coming down to Austin and painting here until recently. His boy, Skele, sure is glad Deathfox stumbled onto the HOG. Both of them had their art appear on last week's Austin Chronicle cover that featured my byline. They told me there are a few paintable walls in Dallas—"But nothing like this," Deathfox said, like a Little Leaguer visiting Fenway for the 1st time. After seeing all the time and love and patience that goes into making many of these murals, I was finding it hard to believe that artists weren't just livid after seeing their masterpieces get painted over. But Deathfox, whose art you can check out on Instagram (@Deathfox), finally put it into perspective for me. "Everything is temporary," he pointed out as we looked down at the city below and beyond us. "Why should this art be any different? Sometimes, watching your art get destroyed right after you make it can be tough. But for me, at the end of the day it's really a lesson in detachment."
I stopped by the HOG today to see if the foot traffic had picked up since my cover story in the Austin Chronicle was published yesterday. And who do I run into but Daddy Otis himself, whose "to paint or not to paint" dilemma supplied the lede to my story. His wife had instructed him to "go do what brings you joy" and that's how we ended up crossing paths on that Sunday afternoon a couple weeks ago here at the HOG. Daddy Otis told me today that his story in the Chronicle had really scored him some points at home with the wife. In fact, a babysitter had been secured and Daddy Otis was on his way home to begin date night with Mommy Otis. Plus, a friend of a friend read about Daddy Otis and wants him to animate a children's book. How cool is that? If artists and other creative people can get some paid work as a result of the things I write, I will be a very happy man. From one Bob to another—congratulations, good sir.
Meet Skele. I barged in on Skele's painting party a few weeks ago while doing research for a story I was writing for the Austin Chronicle, the 1st assignment I've gotten from the local alt-weekly since I moved to Austin 4+ years ago. Skele and his friend Deathfox drove down this weekend from Dallas for 3 days of painting walls at the HOG, the privately-owned paint park/social experiment that sits just below "the castle" overlooking downtown Austin just west of Lamar Blvd. Skele says he usually doesn't know what he's gonna paint when he shows up to these walls. But he knew he'd be painting this wild-eyed shark when he showed up today. "I watched Jaws last night," he laughed. Skele proudly told me he's been making a living as an artist for a full year now. And now he's got this badass paint park to share his gift with the world. To top it all off, Skele found out today that one of his paintings ("hail bog") showed up on the cover of the new Austin Chronicle—in a story written by yours truly. Today was a very good day for me and Skele.
Since today was her birthday, I told Molly she could pick today's 2degreesofBOB guest star. Her choice, our friend Steve, celebrated his 1st Father's Day as a Papa last weekend. His baby boy, Henry, was born last month. Steve's wife, Allison, has been friends with Molly since they both went to the University of Texas in the '90s. Steve is a photographer by trade—with at least a dozen years and counting with the Long Beach Press Telegram—so I'm a little embarrassed by the quality of this photo I'm posting. The framing, the lighting, the composition—there's nothing particularly special about the shot. It's the people, the event and the moment that are special. Steve and his cameras have captured many a special moment during his career as a staff photographer for the Press Telegram. He was on the field and in the locker room after the Angels won the World Series in '02. He was on the floor for many of the biggest games during the ShaqKobe years and more recently during this recent Kings run of Stanley Cup glory. Not to mention years of taking crime scene photos, human interest shots and portraits of the people that make up the fabric of a city. And Steve's going right to the source, getting face time and connecting with so many people, so many stories. After browsing through his photos and hearing his stories, I'm always convinced that Steve has one of the most interesting jobs of anyone I know. And now he's just taken on the most fascinating job of all: Dad. Happy belated Father's Day, Steve!
From a July 2004 posting on TheGreatestYearOfMyLife 1.0:
Dallas Russell is a true rare bird among a flock of pigeons. Back in early May, Russell was driving his truck through his sprawling apartment complex when he spotted VanGo and shouted out the window in a syrupy slow Texas twang: "I like your ride!" Seconds later, he'd whipped his truck around a corner and parked behind VanGo. He told me he learned how to work on engines from fixing his first car, an old VW bug. "Actually, Bob," he corrected himself, "the first engine I ever took apart was a lawnmower. My VW was my first CAR engine. I love these babies, Bob. You're keepin' your valves adjusted, aren't ya, Bob? Please tell me you're keeping your valves adjusted." A few days later, I showed up back at Russell's apartment complex, where he happily gave me a tutorial on adjusting my valves. He changed my brake pads, too. And he refused to take a dime from me for all his work. I pushed him hard to at least take a $20 spot. He wouldn't budge. That's the kind of guy Russell is. "I've been like this since I was 12, 13 years old, Bob," Russell said referring to his giving nature. "People around me keeping changin'. Me, I stay the same. Been like this forever. And I'll keep bein' like this." Russell's got a tattoo on his left shoulder blade of the Grim Reaper holding a burning joint. There's a story behind that tattoo that Russell would prefer I didn't talk about. Let's just say we've got a lot in common, family-wise.