Welcome to the halfway point. If you’re still with me, THANK YOU!!! This is probably where I lose some of you. Haha!! I hope not, but I have to apologize in advance, as what you’re about to read if you so choose, is not fun nor juicy (no crazy rock n roll tales with famous rockers here). It’s actually a bit of a bummer, but it is still part of the story. Only half of this chapter relates to the band, and I probably over-shared way too much in the second half, but it was what it was. To try and make up for the lack of fun in this chapter, I’ve included a couple of videos from a gig we did opening for WASP in Dallas in March of 2000.
At this point, we’re in the period from, say, March to June, 2000. This was the period in which we played more local shows, and some of them reminded me of what ol’ Willie Hicks (Lance) had said earlier in the year about not all shows being amazing. But we had to do some things to raise money because touring costs lots of money. We were looking at a several thousand dollar bills for the rental of an RV. Thankfully, Lance purchased a trailer, so that was covered, but there would be gas expenses, campground hookup costs, and the occasional hotel room stay. We held car washes to raise money and sold special merch and also just chipped in because there were nine of us heading out on this nutty adventure.
Around this time, the topic of that production deal they signed with “VD Productions” came up. I asked Thurb if they ever had it reviewed by an attorney before signing it. He said they had not, but did so AFTER they signed it, and learned some things that weren’t so great. At that moment, he couldn’t recall anything specific. I get a copy of it and I think I see the out clause, which requires the band to formally send a letter to the brothers’ attorneys informing them the band is exercising their out clause. I asked them to not do anything until I had it reviewed in Phoenix.
I took the contract back to Phoenix and contacted Connie Mableson, a well-known entertainment attorney who happened to be based in Phoenix at the time. I asked for a contract review, and to let me know if the contract included standard language for its type, etc., I remember it well, because she said, “sure, that’ll be $500, thanks.”
A couple of weeks later, I got a package in the mail from Attorney Mableson. She had reviewed every line of every paragraph of every page in the contract, and then commented in the footer of each page, on each item she thought was either standard or problematic. (I still have it!) Ultimately, there were more red flags she highlighted in the contract than she felt were standard, and strongly recommended the band exercise its right to free itself from the contract.
“I look for a helping hand, it was never found, through a sea of booze, yeah, I slowly Drown”
PUMPJACK – “Drown” – 3/31/00, Dallas, TX
Here’s the thing, do I think “V & D” personally knew of the not-so-great clauses in the existing contract? Maybe, but probably not. What I think is that they told their attorneys they were helping Pumpjack and if a deal ever came about, based on the brothers’ efforts, they wanted to make sure they were cut in. Nothing to disagree with there, but I think their attorneys heard what they wanted to hear and created a contract that completely favored the brothers’ interests over the band they were trying to help, to a degree it could actually harm Pumpjack’s chances for long term, independent success. (Not to put too fine a point on this, but Attorney Mableson literally noted next to one of the red flag items – “Gasp!! this is some of the strongest language I’ve ever read regarding (issue).”)
I sent the report I received back to the fellas in Texas. When I chatted with Thurb again, he
said, yeah, that’s basically what their attorney friend told them (all the red flags). That would have been nice to know $500 ago, but in truth, it didn’t matter to me, I wanted to know what I was potentially getting myself into, from a legal standpoint. Anyway, hindsight being what it is, it seems to me, and this is only my opinion, that what we probably should have done is had Thurb call Dime and ask to redo the contract, explaining that we’d had it reviewed and there was some concern. But, that would have cost money and time, both of which we didn’t have much of, so instead, we had Pumpjack’s attorney friend send a letter to VD’s attorney advising that the band wanted out of their deal. I half expected to hear the band was no longer part of the tour, but that didn’t exactly happen. We were just trying to protect ourselves, in the event the rarest of rare things happened and somehow a label or mgmt company showed interest in the band during the course of the tour or perhaps after.
Ok, buckle up, folks, the ride gets bumpy in the super buzzkill second half of this chapter… and 3, 2, 1…left turn!
June comes around and I formally leave my job. I stayed working until my last commission check came in and then off to Midland I went. I was planning on being there for a couple of weeks, rehearsing with the guys, before we left on the tour. I wasn’t in town 3 days and I get a call from my sister back in Phoenix. She told me our Mom had suffered a Grand Mal seizure, that she was in the hospital, and it was unknown whether she’d pull out of the condition she was in.
I flew back to Phoenix the next day. I learned my Mom was heavily medicated and would not be able to live alone nor care for herself for the foreseeable future as she slowly recovered from a severe trauma to her brain. No one had any clear answers. As anyone in the medical field will tell you, brain trauma is a mystery and doesn’t adhere to any timeline. Mom didn’t have a history of seizures, so this was all completely out of left field. My brother flew in from Chicago and with my sister, the three of us scrambled to try and figure out what to do. Mom was only 64 at this point, still working, but because she liked to spend, had no real financial savings, and none of us could support two households. We made the snap decision to sell Mom’s house, the Arizona family home Mom had owned for 14 years in which we’d all lived at some point. We took out an ad for an estate sale, moved all of her must-have things into storage, and sold everything else, including the house. This all took place in the first 3 days I was back.
That was heartbreaking for several reasons… For starters, that home held many happy family memories of holidays and other celebrations from when we all got along beautifully. Second, Mom had no say in the matter, and would never get to say goodbye to her home. That was gut-wrenching because of the third reason, which is that after I moved out, and my Mom was there alone, she turned her empty nester grief into a plan of action. She hired a grounds person to have the lawn manicured just so, had new plants and yellow rose (her favorite) bushes installed around the property, and had the pool shimmering like glass even though she never dipped even a toe. She busied herself in a positive way and got her already-lovely home into even better-looking shape. So to have to just let it all go, it was killing me, because I knew how hard Mom had worked on all the improvement/beautifying efforts.
“The man who’ll share his bottle, that’s the man I trust, because, Booze is Thicker than Blood”
3/31/00, Dallas, TX – PUMPJACK – “Booze is Thicker than Blood”
It was a horrible nightmare of a situation. Emotions were running high, my brother and sister and I were fighting and crying and wondering if our Mom would ever pull out of her condition. When Mom suffered the seizure, there was no one around, so the physical result of the seizure left her looking like she’d gone 6 rounds with Mike Tyson. She was found on the floor in her bathroom by her cleaning person. Mom had fallen from a standing position, so on top of convulsing from the seizure, she then smashed her face on the countertop on her way down to the floor. Her entire face was black and blue, with one eye closed from swelling. I’d never seen my Mom with so much as a bruise on her arm, so to see her that way in the hospital bed completely broke me.
We reached out to family in Chicago (our uncles and aunts, who we’d all grown up with – Mom’s brothers and sisters, of which there were seven, yes, S E V E N, and to put it numerically, I mean “7”) for help, support, advice or guidance of any kind.
Only one of them responded, who said, “You’re all adults, your Mother has done plenty for you, it’s time for you to figure this out.” What in the what? Of course we were adults, and of course we could and did figure it out, but what the heck had whatever she’d done for us have to do with ANYTHING?? What these jerk family members failed to comprehend was that we weren’t asking them to help us with anything – we were asking them to show support for their sister, who had over many, many years helped every single one of them (and many of their kids) in pretty much every conceivable way at one point or another. We just wanted Mom to have familiar faces around her as she started to heal while we were running around like chickens without heads trying to figure out how we were moving forward. To learn no one was coming in my Mom’s critical hour of need, when she wouldn’t have hesitated a second for any of them over something far less, gave me a new perspective of the “family” in Chicago.
If I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I was dead wrong. To make matters even more difficult, after we started to understand what the future needed to look like for our Mother, in terms of caregiving, my sister freaked out and cut off communication from my brother and I. At that point, my brother was living in Chicago, in an apartment, rebuilding his life from a divorce, and not yet remarried. I had just left AZ to pursue this rock-n-roll dream. Point is, my sister knew she was the one who had to step up at that moment and care for our Mom but she mentally imploded for about 3-4 days.
Thankfully, my sister came around and got her spare bedroom set up for our Mom and therein started a period where my Mom lived with my sister and b.i.l. for about two years. Good news – Mom ultimately made a full recovery. Bad news – my sister used that as an excuse to toss Mom out of her house and into the street, essentially, when Mom was back healthy again. See, warned ya, bummer memories!