A terrible thing happened on October 27th, 2015….but….I’ll get to that in a minute.
Meanwhile, here are a few things I will not write about today.1
I will have nothing to say about the terrorist bombing in Paris. That ‘s been covered by everyone else on the planet, and I hate to say it, but for the overwhelming majority of most people, it’s an event that will be (has been) noted with alacrity and soon forgotten. Sad to say, but true. Je suis Charlie. Do YOU remember that? Je suis Paris. Je suis Egypt Airlines plane crash. Je suis Laquan McDonald. Je suis San Bernadino. And so on. I’m not making light of terrible tragedy mind, I just shining a bright light on one of the many terrible aspects of human nature. Je suis moi.
Likewise, not a world spoken about NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Kyle Busch winning the Winston Cup Championship instead of That Homo Jeff Gordon. I was rooting for Jeff Gordon to win his 5th Championship and end his career in style…go out of top. But it became obvious as I was watching the race that Gordon didn’t have the car to get it done despite driving his ass off. So I started rooting for Kyle Busch and against all the odds after his horrible wreck at Daytona, he won….but as I said, not a word about that either.
As you might expect, I will not discuss Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors 20-0 start to their NBA title defense this season, a feat not even Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls could accomplish. I mean, who gives fock all about the freakin’ Golden State Warriors anyway…..so, nothing to say here or read here…just move along.
There’s a list a mile long of things I will not write about or mention as I finally get on, continue on, with this. Pretty much everything that happened in the sporting world in November to be exact. A new World Champion in Heavyweight boxing after what, 11 years…?? Tyson Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko2 and now there’ll be some hype about the resurgence of heavyweight boxing and all for a descending series of moments. But don’t in any way, shape, or form, expect to read about it here.
No…as I mentioned, something terrible happened on October 27, 2015. And that event, that moment, has drained the words from my soul, the light from my eyes3, and the music from my heart4. Which I suppose is a fairly insipid way of putting it, and maybe I’m overstating it all to cover up for laziness, but….what happened on October 27, 2015 has left me at a loss for words, mainly because I know that to tell it all, and tell it honestly, would take far too many words to even scratch the surface, let alone paint a coherent picture. 100,000 words? No where near enough.
So…onward I guess. Onward….
October 27, 2015
On October 27, 2015, terrible things happened, as they do everyday, and in an otherwise normal world, I would have written a scathing post about 2 of the terrible things that happened that day: both Chelsea’s and Norwich City’s losses on penalties to Stoke City and Everton, respectively and then got on with things as I normally would have done. But those little events pale in comparison with the truly terrible thing that happened on October 27th, 2015
On October 27, 2015, I found out that my long-time friend, Stan Erickson died. Finding that out was obviously bad enough, but what made it, makes it, ever more terrible for me is the manner and timing of how I found out.
I found out about Stan’s death on a whim. Through mere happenstance.
I’m not a fan of, or a user of, Facebook. I don’t use it these days for anything other that a conduit through which I auto-publish these bloog posts of mine. And for reasons that have been validated by the passage of time, I don’t use my real name there, but it passes muster….so my initial distrust of Facebook, and the Harvard educated nerd who dreamed up this scam/scheme up essentially to get a girlfriend5 when I first checked it out years ago has been obviously proven correct. So…no one can find me there. Which is a blessing for the most part, but in this instance, somewhat of curse.
On the morning of October 27 2015, I got the whimsical notion of checking up on how my auto-publishing to Facebook was actually working. I get emails from Facebook all the time to the secret email account I used to sign up for it. In fact, in my inbox right now I have a missive from them with the subject line: (*Redacted*), you have 8 new notifications and 1 close friend update. I delete most of those emails without bothering look at them, since there really is nothing of value in any of them, and on that statement, you’ll just have to trust me6 instead some Harvard nerd.
So I looked at my wall, or whatever the hell, and the posts seemed to be publishing up there just fine, but then in the midst of those, a post on my wall from my brother, dated August 8th caught my eye. It was a simple note that said, “Did you hear about this?” This being THIS. This being a notice of Stan’s death and an obituary written by our mutual pal, Blaine Schultz.
Needless to say I sure as fock hadn’t heard about any of that until that moment on October 27, 2015.
I don’t ((and quite rightly, despite it all)) use Facebook to communicate or interact on any sort of personal level. If I have your email or phone number, you will hear from me directly. And if you live nearby, I might just knock on your door, though, more likely, expect the phone call or the email. If you want to find me, and you have my email or phone number, then you can shoot me an email or a text, or bust me a phone call. Hell, if you’d like to, you could actually sit down and write me a letter like the scientists used to do back in the day.
But that’s the hell of Social Media these days. People have forgotten the virtues of actually writing words, or dialing telephones, or knocking on doors.
After all, when my brother found and posted the link to Blaine Schultz’s obituary for Stan, why the fock didn’t he just bust me a phone call on August 8th? After all, he’d been calling me and talking to about all sorts of other dross during the span of time from August 8th through November 27th. But he never mentioned it to me. I suppose, perhaps, he just blythely7 assumed that I’d seen his post on Facebook….but remember….I never look at Facebook anymore. You might as well piss into the mighty wind if you expect me to see any communication from you to me on Facebook. I have not spoken to him about this yet, but I will the next time he calls.
So, anyway….October 27, 2015 was the day my good friend Stan Erickson died, even though the actual date of his death was June 17th 2015, a month to the date before his 62nd birthday, and it’s been grinding me to halt ever since.
2. The Imaginary Stan Erickson
The reality of Stan Erickson and his life was profoundly fascinating without any embellishments or imaginings. And like Blaine Schulz and others, the reality of Stan and his impact on all of us has been covered in writings and reminiscence and hopefully, song.
As I implied at the outset of this, I could add my 100,000+ words to all of the others and still not have covered even a percentage of all the things his life has meant to mine and others with the adequacy it deserves.
So typical of Stan’s influence on me, I’m going to just wander off down a path of my own devising.
Over the past month, as all this was sinking in, I kept looking around for any photographs I had of Stan. I knew I had some, at the very least I was certain I had a proof sheet of some black & white photos I took back in the mid-late 70’s of a road trip bunch of us took with Stan in the good old Plymouth VALIANT to Trempeleau County. But I couldn’t find them. So, cover art not available at press time for that one I’m afraid. But there was one photo in that mix that was perfectly apropos and true to Stan’s spirit and views about life.
While traveling around Trempeleau County we found this Norwegian or Swedish Lutheran Church with a graveyard up on ridge on the way either to, or from, Chepaultepec (yes, there actually is a place in Trempeleau County Wisconsin called Chepaultepec). While we frolicked, respectfully now, mind, in the cemetary, I snapped a few pictures. The one I wanted share was one where Stan found a tombstone with the name Erickson on it. And he laid down on the ground in front of it with his hands on his chest if laid out on a casket. I snapped a photo of that and damn, I wish I could find it right now. I know I at least have the proof sheet somewhere.
But enough about the real Stan Erickson for a minute.
Stan was an enormous influence on other people’s creativity, knowledge, and outlook on life. Just go back and read Blaine’s obit and you’ll see what I mean. I wish my words could have been included in that but for reasons I’ve explained, my words were not available at Blaine’s press time, and even if they were, I’m sure Blaine’s editor would not have been able to find the space for 100,000 extra words….not to mention Blaine’s time.
So I’ll simply say that Stan has always had an enormous influence on me and still does…not so much perhaps on what I write, or draw, or photograph…but on the simple fact that I do. Not so much on the actual content, but on the spirit of that content.
The hell of it all at the moment is not the journey finished, but the journey not completed.
Which brings me to an imaginary Stan Erickson of my own devising.
As the 80’s finally swirled,8 thankfully, into the 90’s, I was becoming more and more enamored with manga and anime, and started to draw my own fan art, or doujinshi, in that style. Stan couldn’t really get why I would draw things that way, but I did, which of course, confounded him, since his art style, as evidenced on the covers of his mix-tapes and in his hilarious little series called TORNADO FACTS, was a far simpler style which I could never in a million years do to save my life.
So I got this wonderfully daft idea to do a doujinshi about Stan for his 40th birthday entitled STAN NO CHOUNENKIKI, which translates into English as STAN’S TERRIBLE MID-LIFE CRISIS. I was riffing on my own personal
lolita complex mid-life crisis at the time which we need not go into all that much except to say that in my comic for Stan, my version of me was hanging out on my private yacht called the Obscure Reference with the girls from Sailor Moon.
So Stan became a Ninja. He was a wild ninja guy! I had written a whole scenario up for that and drew the panels. Then in part 2 Stan became the sumo wrestler Kusomittomenai, with his business partner at New Frontier, Fred Burts, as his stablemaster. In the opening panel of the first page of part 2 I have Fred prepping Stan for his live news conference on ESPN broadcast from New Frontier Record Exchange by telling him, “But you’re going to have to stop smiling so much. I don’t think sumo wrestlers are supposed to smile.”
In the bottom of that first panel is the following bit of narration:
“After Stan delivered a thoroughly rehearsed statement and his Stablemaster, Fred Burts, imparted some kindly wisdom of the ages, Stan fielded questions from the hirsute sports media who’ve assembled amongst the the most amazing collection of Barry Gibb LPs and The Vontastics 45s imaginable. Not to mention the Mickey Gilley cassette tapes and the Starland Vocal Band CDs (Special Reissue Series with tracks not found on any album). Their National register danced to the tune of $57.57. John Whitehead of Minnesota Public Television asked the first question. Let’s listen in…”
So there’s three panels on the bottom. The first one where Whitehead asks: “Will you still be the Stan we’ve always known and loved?” And Stan answers: “NO! I shall henceforth be known as Kusomittomonai!!”
The next one has Jauin Lamont of NHK Tokyo9 asking Stan: “What is your purpose in the life of Sumo?” And Stan’s reply, with a Louvin Brothers cigaret burning in an ashtray in front of him is: “I shall strive to become an Ozeki champion. And someday, a Yokazuna,”
The third panel features the final question of the press conference in which Johnny Lappen of MTV, drawn to look more like someone who could more likely be some fictional illegitimate love-child of Johnny Lappen who weaseled his way into an internship asks Stan: “So….who won the fuckin’ ballgame?”
On the next page, the press goes off to get story material from Stan’s buddies and associates. For example, they get a well-reasoned “No comment!!” from Jess Coburn at his gallery opening at the Vox Volkstadtgalerie in Bad Kummerbund, East Germany posing in front of a recent painting entitled Lynn’s Left Tit.
And so forth.
Then we have a few samples of Stan’s debut basho where he is shown getting crushed by a 437lb Mongolian. “I’ll KILL you Schmitty!” he says in the last panel. And I’m sure he would, except, ofcourse, for the part about calling me Schmitty. Stan steadfastly refused to do that, btw. I think on some level he thought it was unbecoming of me to be called Schmitty.
Then we had part 3 in which Stan becomes the first man to jet-ski across the Atlantic. Sanctioned by the International Jet Sports Boating Association and sponsored by Louvin Bros Cigarets (sold ONLY in Southern Prisons), he accomplishes that.
But wait, there’s more!!
While in Europe, Stan was also presented with the Liechtenstein Medal of Honour and Courage by Prince Franz Josef III in Vaduz, Liechtenstein for his epic victory in The International Pan-Galactic Scrabble Trivia Contest & Glass Bead Game.
After that, he’s back to Appleton where gets a job as a school crossing guard in order to meet girls
Now mind, this one is based on Stan’s ribbing me about my so-called Lolita Complex, so I thought I’d turn the tables.
Now there are several problems with this scenario besides the OBVIOUS one:
- First off, Stan was hired by and employed by Lenny Kachinski.
- Lenny smokes Notre Dame College Football brand cigarets
- The wind keeps blowing Stan’s police cap off and Lenny threatens to fire him.
- It’s summer time so school is out.
Finally, Stan meets the girl of his mid-life crisis dreams. It turns out she’s a doll. No literally, a actual doll, albeit a magical one.10
So what the fock actually happened with this? Well…not much other than a reasonable number of drawn pages, almost enough to do a regular 24 page comic book (manga). But as I got into it, I ended up writing and drawing myself into a corner. Also, my creative talents lie more in the writing and storyboarding and the rough art and not the finished art and inking. I wanted to get good at that, but that’s not where my talent lies.
It would have been funny if some of that stuff had actually happened. And it would have been better if I’d have just inked it up and actually finished it. But I didn’t. I hang my head in shame.
So that imaginary Stan Erickson is out there.
And he’s just as real as the real one was. Just as surely as I sit here with a carp driven through my skull, wondering where to go with this and what to do next.
Well, since Stan is my influence, then I suppose more writing is what to do next. 97,000 words to go. Hang on. Here we go.
3. Essential Music You Can Live Without
I believe that I was the first person to bring and use a laptop or any sort of computer at Stan’s house on Catherine Street. Ditto the first to use a computer, rather than an array of encyclopedias at the Midwest Trivia Contest sponsored by Lawrence University. This was in the mid 90’s when the Internet was invented and AOL and Geocities were in their pomp, and I had to use dialup and a 600 baud modem11 using Stan’s telephone line in the kitchen to keep in touch with my Internet Teenage Girlfriends® and the nascent online Anime community, not to mention playing GemStone which one of my Internet Teenage Girlfriends® dragged me into playing, kicking at screaming at first.. I mention all this not to boast up anything, but to explain a little bit how the gulf between me and Stan started to widen in way that I never expected at that time.
Stan was, for the most part, a confirmed Luddite. This was a good thing in many ways, although it somewhat confounded me as time went along. It made communicating the bulk of my creativity with Stan a bit more difficult if not impossible. And I felt that the certain aspects of his life would have been simplified by digitizing them. Stan resisted that, of course. Stan was correctly a resident of the analog world. And I was clearly mostly wrong about his needing to embrace my digital world. His meticulous record keeping of his astonishing music collection for example. Stan did it all by hand in his unique handwriting style on notecards and so on. He was an analog man and remained steadfastly so for the most part right up and to the end. He was a man who remained true to his soul and spirit. And that was the most valuable lesson any of us learned, or could have learned, from Stan.
As I look back on the last 40-45 years of knowing Stan Erickson, and I hate to simplify it all, but for me, in many ways it all comes down to music…the notes, and the silence between the notes where Stan’s soul truly resided.
In the 70’s music and the discovery of music, for Stan, burgeoned not only into a lifelong career, but a life in and of itself….the life we celebrate and remember. Back in those nascent days, and as the days tumbled through the world ever after, the challenge for me was to discover new music before Stan did, a task that became more challenging for me with the passage of time.
This was good thing, for me, and you and everyone else. As one of Stan’s greatest gifts12 was the gift of music.13 The knowledge he possessed and the array of music in his collection was Wikipediaesque, long before there was there was anything conceivably approaching an Internet. And when he and Fred opened New Frontier Record Exchange, Stan’s musical knowledge and his influence grew exponentially. To grasp at grace with a metaphor, for many of us who knew him well14 for many years, myself, say, or Blaine Schultz, or Timm Beuchler, and many others….we were like Paul Westerberg and The Replacements and Stan was our Alex Chilton15.
Well…I could go on for another 96,000 words or musical notes, which ever comes first, trying to weave all the musical threads of Stan’s life into a symphony of many symphonies. I keep forgetting this is meant to be an obituary of sorts, and not a biography, memoir, or history/musicology textbook. So forgive me if I don’t write about every mix-tape Stan lovingly made. Or the night I took him to Jay’s Longhorn in Minneapolis to see the Suicide Commandos. Or the many night of my days on the road in 80’s and into the 90’s when I’d crash at his house on Catherine Street and we’d be up at 4:17 AM listening to “Lamplight” by The Bee Gees or “I Learn A Meringue, Mama” by freakin’ Robert Mitchum.
One musical memory of Stan I do need to share is the final, last time in his life and mine when I trumped him on music, and shared a musical discovery with him that he did not already know. On June 5th 2007, Porter Wagoner’s final studio album, THE WAGONMASTER was released, and I bought a copy shortly thereafter. It was a fabulous album and Porter, who I’ve always admired, was in great and powerful voice considering his age and health issues. I was working up in Appleton16 later that summer and as I would do, I popped in to Jim’s Place for a few and of course, Stan was there and that was always a wonderful, happy thing no matter what. So I started raving about the new Porter Wagoner album. Stan was skeptical about it since he had utter disdain for Rick Rubin and what he did bringing Johnny Cash into the studio one last time.17 And said to Stan, ” No….Rick Rubin had nothing to do with this. This was produced by Marty Stuart. I’ve got it in the car. I’ll bring it in.” So I brought it on, and soon Jim’s Place was filled to the brim with Porter’s powerful music. And Stan was enthralled. He immediately wanted to burn a copy that CD. And he did, and I’ll be honest here, as I sat there with Stan, drinking my beer and listening to Porter, I thought to myself, “Yes!!! SCORE!!!” A final victory for me, as it turns out. But really, it was more of a victory for Stan, having that music. My final chance to give something back to Stan, who has given me, and all of us who’ve know him so much more. There was a joy in that moment that was priceless. I’ll miss those moments. I will.
So I’ve been cordially invited to write about death once more, a death I never ever EVER wanted to write about. And ofcourse, the way I came to find about this death has coloured and altered the way I’ve had to write about it. But that’s not what matters
Writing this sort of thing is never easy, no matter what. When my longtime friend, Jim Engeseth died last year, I wrote an obit for him and in that obit I said that I’ve never had to write about a close friend who’s passed away before.
Well here I am at it again.
So forgive me if I don’t cover all the bases here either. I’ve tried in my own way, with a carp driven through my skull, to at least capture a little bit of the spirit of Stan Erickson and hopefully those of you who read this who don’t know Stan Erickson and never will, will at least have a sense of who he was and why he meant so much to me and all of us who knew him.
I’ve talked about Stan and music and could go on about that alone for another 96,000 words.
But music vanishes once it’s played. And what is left behind is the most important thing about music of all. The heart and soul of music. The silence it leaves behind is where the heart and soul of music lies…the infinitesimal moments in between each note, and the resonating echo of silence once they’ve been played.
It was that heart and soul of music, of life it itself that Stan Erickson brought to the forefront. Not just the soul of music, but the soul of each and everyone of us. No matter how much Stan cared about music, he cared about our hearts and souls even more. And that is what I’ll miss about him most.
He cared about my soul.
As the years rolled along, as I moved away from Appleton and stumbled, fumbled m way through a 30+ years career in sales, insurance and advertising, Stan was most concerned about my soul, my heart, and my place in the world. He was worried about that whenever we saw each over those years, which occurred less frequently with the passage of time. But that was always his biggest concern for me….that my business, my work, my wearing suits and ties, didn’t corrupt me. He was always worried about me becoming a Republican. And I assured him, each and everytime that I’d never be like that, or lose something that has and had always been valuable to both of us. And I haven’t. Thanks to Stan.
So music vanishes once it’s played. And Stan has now vanished from this mortal coil. When I next go back to Appleton now, he won’t be there at Jim’s Place, or Catherine Street, or anywhere else. And that will always be sad forever.
But like the silence after the music has vanished, he will still always be there in another, bigger sense. A spirit, a guide, a gust of wind…in the flickers of the shadows of the leaves at the corner of, say N. Union and E. Franklin St, or any corner you care to think of, at 2:47 in the morning.
Stan will be there, caring for your heart and soul as much as you should.
Stan wanted this world to be a better place. And by making this world a better place, by staying true to your heart and your soul and yourself, those of you who knew him, and those of who know him only through this obit, can bring his vision to life.
It so easy to take these things for granted, but once they’re gone, it’s up to us now to care about each other’s hearts and souls. Stan life was a tough example for us to live up to in that regard. But we have no choice but to honour the man, Stan Erickson, and give it a go.
And I hope this little piece has done that for Stan….given honour and love where it’s due. I’m not so sure I measure up. But these few words will have to do.
So I look up from this little Adler J-5 typewriter equivalent and look around me and my wife’s new place here in an old schoolhouse in Mineral Point WI. The light of half-past Noon on Dec 11th 2015 fills the huge office/living room/dining area/kitchen with a cool and precise eastlight. It’s a shame that Stan never got to see this place, crash here over night, enjoy a few beers and a few meals with me and my wife and our 2 dogs, and take a few trips down to FAT BOY SLIM’S. It’s a shame, yes. But ya know? His spirit is here with me right now. My wife is at work. Our dogs are asleep…Sophie on the bed in the bedroom and Stitch on the sofa in front of me. The only sound is the sound of my fingers typing on this keyboard. No music, just words. A can of HAMMS is within reach. And Stan’s spirit is here, watching me. I’m not sure what he makes of all this, really. This place, this blog, this post, this life of mine now. He does not tell me. But the main thing is is that he’s watching over me. And knowing that his is, and knowing his measure for me, I will not only bear that in mind but try to bring that measure to life every single day.
I hope y’all, in honour of Stan, and for the betterment of the world around you, can do the same.
With that I’ll close with some essential music we can live without. In all those 40+ years that Stan and I talked and lived music, we communicated more by way of music than with direct words, especially about relationships and girls and all that. So I really can’t say what Stan’s favorite song is, let alone what his favourite George Jones song is, any more than he would have known mine ((and for the record, my favorite George Jones song is “Walk Through This World With Me.”)). So I’ll close with a song that was written well after those heady days of the 70’s when Stan was truly in his pomp and Appleton was very much like the Berlin of Christoper Isherwood…..a tune that captures, despite itself, that spirit in and of the way we were back then that will no doubt horrify some, or many, and perhaps even Stan himself….but I’m sure he won’t mind my sense of humour…18
- Today being a relative term since this will be written over a period of a month
- Most people couldn’t have named the heavyweight boxing champion before the fight, and I’ll bet you a 6-pak of beer that most STILL can’t name the heavyweight boxing champion after the fight.
- Or, insert you own unreasonable stupid hippie metaphor here
- Ditto the LAST footnote
- After all, why ELSE would you even bother inventing something like Facebook, yes?
- Beloit College nerd
- (Psuedo)British spelling alert…take a drink!
- If you can think of a better verb, feel free….
- Jauin Lamont was the news presenter on the NHK Japanese news broadcast on Milwaukee Public Television. Her eyes brightened up like the 4th of July when she broadcast the latest news about Sumo wrestling
- I unwittingly anticipated Rozen Maiden by a few years there…
- It was actually a bit faster than that, but from today’s perspective it might as well have been a 600 baud modem
- I will get to his greatest gift to us all in a minute, if I haven’t alluded to it already
- Clearly, not as a performer…heh
- As well as one can know someone, I guess….even some like myself who left the day to day life in Appleton behind in 1978…can ever know anyone…
- Which puts us on a much higher plane than we ought to be, and Stan on not a high enough pedestal….but….as I said, it’s a metaphor….and as I’ve always said in my writing here, I’m not about to let the facts get in the way of the truth…
- By that time, I was staying in hotels and not staying up ’til 4;17 AM….
- Though I had no problem with Johnny Cash doing “Everybody Hurts”….His version was/is a thousand times better than Trent Reznor’s original….Stan, ofcourse, did not and would not agree.
- Party at Dairy Dip!