More Scootin’ Along ~ Guest Post by Steven Miller

My friend Steven is one of my very best friends. He has his own health issues and certainly his very own style of wit. He offers this guest blog ~ hopefully his first of many! Without further ado, welcome Steven!

More Scootin’ Along

My name is Steven and I do not have MS. I am a music producer and consider Erika one of my very closest friends. The NAMM convention she describes in her “Scootin’ Along” story is one of the most noisy and physically exhausting environments I have ever encountered. I have always marveled at those had to endure the non stop madness for days on end.

Manny’s Music in New York City is perhaps the most famous music store in the US. On any given Saturday, the store is jam packed with 30 guitar shredding kids plugged into amps turned up to 10, 20 or more; drummers violently assaulting various kits and congas; and countless folks pounding on a vast array of keyboards and synthesizers. Add to that trumpets and trombones blaring, and well, you get the picture. The sheer cacophony is simply astonishing.

Now, imagine that x 1,000!!!!! That is the mind numbing experience known as NAMM. Good luck trying to hear anyone talk to you unless their mouth happens to be no more than 4 inches from your ear.

As an attendee, my limit was 1 day for about 3 hours max. Any more than that and your brain throws up the white flag before completely shutting down. Even if you don’t touch alcohol, I guarantee that you need at least a few drinks just to come back to earth after even just 3 hours in the convention center.

As luck would have it, I developed a music software product a few years ago, and you guessed it. My NAMM status immediately morphed from attendee to vendor. From that point on, I would no longer have the luxury of leaving when I reached the breaking point. I now had to demonstrate my product every second of every day!

While I was bemoaning this situation to Erika, we were also discussing her upcoming NAMM reality – introducing a red scooter as her newest and most eye catching fashion statement since a particularly alluring blue silk number that used to attract potential clients by the dozen.

While I do not have MS, I am afflicted with a severe back ailment that sometimes requires weeks of uninterrupted bed rest. I count myself very fortunate when I can get through any 24 period without crippling pain. The catch is that I never know what is going to transform a good day into a bad one. Sometimes it is a cough, sometimes it’s just lifting the lightest of items off a desk, and sometimes it’s simply turning my head the wrong way.

Near the end the first day of NAMM, I was in the midst of my umpteenth product demonstration when I spotted Erika’s red scooter rounding the corner to the isle I was situated. While trying to simultaneously keep eye contract  with my audience and the various computer screens that contained my demo material, I couldn’t help but notice that the scooter was heading straight into 4 foot tall stand that held a large speaker.

Knowing she had laid waste to one booth already, I was not eager to see her plow into this thing and have a 75 pound speaker come crashing down on top of her. I thought that maybe she would eventually recognize her predicament, but unfortunately was distracted by industry friends wanting to greet her and the red scooter.

Time was running out and impact was imminent. On top of this, I was still conducting my demonstration while trying to figure out how to stop this disaster. Luckily, I caught the eye of an assistant and simply said “Erika.” With that, I turned my head to the left to point out the situation that the assistant needed to deal with. To my shock and dismay though, the act of quickly flinging my head hit the proverbial spinal jackpot – sending excruciating pain throughout my body and almost launching me out of the high stool I was sitting on.

At that same moment, blood curdling screams and all forms of low brow expletives came roaring out of my mouth at a high pitched squeal. And if that wasn’t enough, I was wearing a headset microphone for the demonstration that was being pumped into some good sized speakers.

Apparently, this all added up to cause the volume of my amplified voice to be far and away the loudest element in the already deafeningly loud convention center hall. This became clear when virtually all time and space stopped momentarily. The hall became like one of those classic EF Hutton commercials – “When EF Hutton speaks, everyone listens.” Suddenly, you could hear a pin drop. It was like someone hit the mute button of the TV set and everyone just stood in place.

And funny enough, even though this was hardly how I planned it, my outrageous pain did at least serve the initially intended purpose. Erika did slam on the breaks as everything and everyone around her stopped in their tracks. So while she avoided deadly contact with one of JBL’s newest speakers, I was writhing in pain directly in front of 40-50 people who still were interested in the finer points of my software product.

When calm was restored, Erika asked what all the fuss was about. As it turns out, she had no idea how close she was to disaster. Even in my highly diminished state, I had to laugh. But the funniest thing though was, at that point, I needed the scooter just as much as she did! Although she declined to lend it to me, I did forgive her.

Smarter Than a 5th Grader

As I’ve said before, I’m applying for SS disability. Everyone from my friends to my own Dr. have told me it won’t go through the first time, and that I’ll need to get a lawyer and appeal. Ah, America. Sigh. Believe me, if this thing could get cured, I’d be the first person in line to shred the application.

Anyway, about 2 weeks ago I went in for my mental exam. Similar to my sense of playing pretend during the physical exam, this consisted of playing with blocks, counting backwards and naming the current president.

The oddest thing was, when Dr. M opened her mouth and said hello, I started to cry. I am not a crier. I can see baby seals being clubbed on TV and be outraged. I can have my heart broken and drink whiskey. I can read about tsunami victims and send money. In my day to day life, I buck up. I am a bucker-upper.

So what the hell was this all about? I hadn’t even told her the name of the president yet, and here I was crying. Not a drop or two, but a full on Kleenex/not able to talk/hiccuping kind of a cry. The Dr. handed me the box of tissues and asked if this was normal behavior. I should say not!

When I was able to talk it all came pouring out. Being at a disability exam is down right humiliating. I don’t want to be disabled. I repeat. I don’t want to be disabled. Like renting the scooter, this was another landmark event bringing it all home. This time, in addition to being plain mad, I allowed myself to be sad for a change. I dipped my toe into the pity party pool for a few minutes and, truth be told, it felt good.

It didn’t last. I can’t feel too sorry for myself. When I think of all the poor baby seals and broken hearts and tsunami victims I recognize that I don’t have it so bad. I found out after spelling my name backwards and defining “foreboding” that I am still smarter than a 5th grader, and THAT is something to hang on to.

Today I am headed off for the physical side of the SSD exam. Doubtful if this time I’ll tear up, more than likely I’ll just hirple the hallway under the Dr.’s watchful eye and hopefully get a bad enough score on my gait to exempt me from future lawyers and appeals. Stay tuned.

Scootin’ along

Last year, prior to my blogging hiatus, I wrote about renting a scooter. Subsequently I promised to share that experience here, so let’s get to it.

NAMM. The National Association of Music Merchants as it used to be known, now called the International Music Products Association. This is a convention held each January in Anaheim, CA and it is the Holy Grail for musicians. Anybody who is (or wants to be) anybody finagles a pass for this trade event in order to check out the latest and greatest in gear, catch up with old friends, network and be seen. (Back in the old days we’d make up badge names to give to our friends like Dwight Mansburden, Mike Oxlong, and of course the Stitz sisters, Gloria and Norma ~ think on it, you’ll get them. But I digress….)

So after my NY debacle, this is where I opted to make my scooter debut. I rented this cool red number that was delivered to the Marriott for me. When the bellman rode it in, he looked pretty happy and a tiny bit smug, and at that point I wasn’t sure why. Whatever dude, here’s a couple of bucks, thank you very much.

I stopped and started and jerked it up to my room. Music hipsters, generally with attitude, held the elevator doors, asked others to wait, gave me big smiles and aided me in guiding my way up to my floor. I was genuinely warmed by their helpfulness, and quite frankly, a little surprised. I’d run into a lot of these same folks in previous years later at night and they were not nearly so genteel.

In the morning, I gathered my briefcase, computer, purse, media kits, a sweater and loaded up the buggy. I banged into every surface of the hotel room maneuvering out into the hall and finally got sorted out and on my way. The same ilk of hipsters (slightly less effusive on the dawn, but still helpful) got me down to the lobby and I was on my way. Once I got outside to a clear sidewalk, I got the bellman’s smirk. This sucker was fast!!

There was just one tiny problem. In addition to being fast, it had a hair trigger going both forward and backward. My fingers have a tendency to be a little numb all the time, so I couldn’t always tell how much juice I was giving, or which direction (forward or backward) I was going. No matter, let’s get on with it!

I pulled into our booth where our marketing manager Kirby was suitably impressed (and I think a little jealous) when he saw my cool ride. Showing off a little, I gunned it, and proceeded to go through the wall of our booth right into the one behind us. Uh oh. I was laughing so hard I was crying. A nice, tiny, foreign woman came around the corner apologizing for her booth having been in the way and Kirby shooed me off while he took matters into his very capable hands. I felt I was off to an auspicious start. (In hindsight, I was laid off 2 months later, so perhaps it wasn’t so auspicious after all).

At any rate, I had a wonderful time motoring around as did my clients. This was my 29th NAMM show (as in yes, I attended my first show in 1981) so of course there was a lot of meeting with old friends, who all wanted to take a spin. My friends John and Dusty really took it for all it was worth and raced around the convention center sending attendees scattering. It was joyful to watch.

I was sorry on my final day to turn it back into the bellman (who was happy to see me, and now I knew why). Not only did I feel remarkably refreshed after a 5 day convention, but I had discovered a new side to the  humanity of NAMMsters.

I made myself a deal years ago that I wouldn’t go to NAMM for 30 years  (egad ~ an old rockster, the worst!) and thanks to the alignment of stars and endless management changes at my old company, I will not be attending this month. That is a relief, but I must admit, after finally taking the scooter plunge, I was kind of looking forward to again hurtling around on that bitchin’ red scooter, as I’m sure were Dusty and John.