floppy disk jockey

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Some Samples from my Auto-Biography

In late 1992, I found myself sitting in a Camp Fuji  “Welcome Indoc” Learning that, what we call a “thumbs up”, is the Japanese equivalent of the middle finger;  a fact, proven to me one day, by the occupants of a school bus.

I arrived in Okinawa on a sweltering 100+ degree day in August 1992. After the ride from Kadena Air Base to Camp Schwab in “cattle cars” (yep, just like it sounds), we assembled in the parking lot of the base theater. This was assembled entire battalion, around 600 men. We were greeted by two permanent personnel who began to remind us that we were in a foreign country, and although in the Marines, we were still subject to customs rules.

They referred to the brief we had been given before leaving 29 Palms, concerning contraband items. They told us that they were, in fact, the customs officers for the base, and this was an official customs inspection. Bear in mind, we had “oh so carefully” (and tightly) packed all of our worldly possessions into one single sea bag. I mean, these things were literally about to burst at the seams. We were standing on scorchingly-hot black asphalt in the blazing tropical sun, and these guys had just told us that we were about to dump all of our clothes (and everything else) on the ground, in this parking lot. Nobody was smiling.

My dad had shared many stories of his service in the Army, and when I joined the Marine Corps he was justifiably worried. His lone bit of advice was the venerable “Never volunteer for anything.” However, he was in the Army, not the Marines. Being motivated makes a big difference in the Corps. It’s called being a “hard-charger.” That’s exactly what I was, and it came in handy quite often, especially on this day.

After letting the painful thought of dumping our gear settle in on us, one of the Sergeants says, “Would anyone like to volunteer to be the first to dump their gear?” a moment passed and nobody said a word,.. except for PFC Brown(me) I said, “I will.”  The Sergeant replied, “Good,…you can go.” “Everybody else, dump your shit!”

In October we transferred to the Mainland to do some cold-weather training in and around the famous Mt. Fuji. The field-op that sticks out most in my memory, began on a cold and rainy Saturday morning. We marched all day and into the night. I couldn’t tell if I was wet from rain leaking through my so-called waterproof gortex, or if it was sweat from the blistering pace set by Lt. Colonel Biszaks’ black-coffee-fueled attempt to make 24 miles before stopping. (24 miles is a standard set by the marine corps for marches, we call them “humps”) Either way, it was around 3 am when we finally stopped. It was pitch-black dark, rain was coming down in buckets, and I was standing in about 4 inches of water. I heard the Colonel say, “Alright you guys, get some sleep.”…….Gee thanks

Let’s get back to those first few days at Fuji. Camp Fuji is, as the name implies, on the base of Mt. Fuji. When you get to a new base, they have a meeting and tell you about the base, the command, and the town(if there is one) My concerns were “how far are we from Tokyo?” “how do I get there?” and “where do I sleep when there?”

The Indoc answered most of those questions. They had some handouts that described getting to Tokyo, and what you could do when you get there. For some reason, Brandon wasn’t excited about going to Tokyo, but another guy was. His name was Gino Aiello(RiP) In the pamphlet, we were informed that the govt ran a hotel in Tokyo. It was called the Nu Sanno, and the room rates were based on your pay grade.(a blessing in Tokyo) There was a limited allotment of rooms for us, so if we wanted one, we had to sign up right then. Oddly, Aiello and I were the only guys in our platoon with the foresight to sign up. Not that it did us much good, because the officers usually snagged the rooms anyway.

The pamphlet also alerted us to the existence of an area of town called Roppongi where there were many “Discotheques” Aiello and I had a lengthy discussion about “What are ‘dis-ska-theks’” -take a moment and laugh, it’s ok……remember, less than a year before, I was in Arkansas, living at the end of a “dirt” road. Don’t worry, after a few days it sank in, and I had my Eureka moment ‘Dis-scoh-teks’ Ah!!!

I may get around to stories of the “Gas Panic” and Pachinko, but first, I’d like to tell you a travel tip, in narrative, if you’ll indulge me. One Sunday evening about 5 pm, Aiello and I made our way to the train station. We bought our tickets, and boarded the train back to the base. We talked and looked out the windows at the green rolling hills and lush country. After about an hour and 1/2, we began to get suspicious that something wasn’t right. This trip generally took about an hour and 15 minutes, but..there were three different speed trains; 1 that made every stop, 1 making every 5th, and another “express” that stopped like every 10th or something. We hadn’t entirely figured out this system, so even though we thought we had been on the train too long, we just thought maybe we were on the slow one.

As more time passed, our worry increased. We frantically looked out the window for some familiar site. After more than 2 hours on the train, we decided it was time to get off and see what we could figure out. When you’re in and around Tokyo, everyone speaks English. The street, bus, and train signs are in English, but when we stepped out of that train we knew something had gone wrong. Nothing was written in English, and the guy at the ticket counter had no idea what we were asking him. We tried writing it down, but no joy. Finally, we showed him(and the group that had now gathered) our tickets, to which they all laughed wildly. The ticket man wrote down a figure in Yen (about $12), and held out his hand. We paid him, and he led us to a train.

Once on our new train, we started talking and wondering what could have happened. We couldn’t understand it. We’d taken that train several times before with no problems. We settled in for the ride, but were intent on keeping a sharp lookout for our station.

This older Japanese lady comes and sits down next to Aiello(chick magnet), and they start having this weird convo where each one pretends to understand the other. He makes a few jokes, “she wants to hook me up with her daughter.” He starts telling her what had happened to us, and why we were on this train. He’s enjoying it, and basically just assuming that she’s pretending to understand. About 20 minutes passes, and the train stops at a station. The lady gets up, says goodbye, does a few bows, and leaves. We’re sitting there laughing about it, when just then, the lady runs back onto the train and begins to yell and motion with her arms. We’re so clueless, we think she’s come back to say goodbye again, so we wave and say “goodbye..goodbye” By this time, we’re really getting a kick out of all this. She grabs Aiello by the arm and leads him off the train. I follow, and she leads us both around to the front of the train car. There, we see two workers, disconnecting the car we were sitting in from the rest of the train. (this is what had happened to us the 1st time, the train had split)

Still holding Gino’s arm, she leads us to the proper train, and we squeeze in through the now closing doors. We wave goodbye for real this time, reminded that there are good people everywhere, thankful and mindful of just how memorable a train ride and a conversation with a stranger can be sometimes.

There you have it, my Travel Tip. The trains in Japan split, the front half goes in one direction, and the back half goes in another. Make sure you’re on the correct half.


To be an artist you must be an observer. The art is the reproduction, sometimes a literal copy and sometimes a representation, of sounds or images we have observed previously. I never set out to be constantly observing, but those years in which my cultural growth had been on hold made me very eager.

I left the Little Rock MEPS, entrusted with a large binder full of paperwork about my fellow soon-to-be Marines. Although the youngest of the bunch, I was their leader. This remained to be the case for my entire tour.

Our plane flew to San Diego, but couldn’t land due to fog. It was 10 pm when we finally touched down in Ontario, California. (about 2 hours away) We loaded onto buses, and began the ride to SD. For the beginning of the ride, many of the guys talked and looked out the window, but eventually they all went to sleep. I did not. I was finally California; finally in the place, that the 5 yr old kid had told his dad the he would someday move to and be “in the movies” And here it was, in all of its’ yellow streetlight-lit glory. For the entire ride, I stared out the window, both entranced and confused. It was just stores, houses, warehouses, gas stations, etc.  I had seen these things, but “something” was different. At the time, I didn’t realize that the “difference” WAS the streetlights. I had never seen one before.

I suppose there’s a metaphor or something in there somewhere; streetlights, street-life, nightlife, club-life, raves, parties. It all must be connected somehow. Like I was being shown that there was another half of the day, when all this fun happened, and although I didn’t know it yet, “nightlife” was what I had come here in search of.

In the Marine Corps, we have two places that people get sent for boot camp;  west of the Mississippi River and you go to SD, east and you go Parris Island. We have a sort of rivalry, where we remind them that the wm’s(women marines) go to PI, and they tease us with “Hollywood Marines”- a title that suited me just fine.

Speaking of Hollywood, Brandon and I didn’t always go to SD for the weekend.  Los Angeles was also 3 hours away, and the allure was undeniable. Only problem was, LA had no built in club culture for the under-21 crowd.(we did not know about raves yet) Many times we would try LA first and then drive on down to SD.

If you’ve never been to LA, don’t picture it as a city. Picture it as 20 cities all crammed together. You could drive for 3 hours, in one direction, and never leave LA. Imagine a place where the freeways have 10 lanes in each direction. The city streets have 6 lanes on each side, with a speed limit of 35, and there is bumper to bumper traffic, all going 70.

My most memorable night in Los Angeles, doesn’t involve music or clubbing. It was Friday night, and we had been unsuccessfully driving around hollywood looking for something to do. Basically accepting that the night was shot, Brandon turned south on Sunset Boulevard, and I leaned against the car door to go to sleep. Maybe 10 minutes passed, and I was just about to doze off, when Brandon woke me with a shake and “Duuuude, wake
up, we’re gonna give this hottie a ride” This was the first time I had heard the word “hottie”, and I’m certain that it was a recent acquisition to his vocabulary. He had obviously been itching to use it.

I opened my eyes, and since my head was laying on the small ledge where the window meets the door frame, my eyes were perfectly aligned to the passenger side mirror. In the distance, I could see the faint image of a girl with bleached blonde hair, in what looked like a long black dress. Habitually prone to ignoring any and all traffic laws, Brandon stopped, threw the car in reverse, and began to back up towards the girl.

As I became more awake, I looked around. How long were my eyes closed? Just minutes ago we were in an urban area. Now, all I saw was rows and rows of warehouses(I now know that they were storage units, an idea that was foreign to me at the time) surrounded by tall chain link fences. As I looked out the windshield, I could make out the ocean about a mile or so in front of us.

As the car stopped, I rolled down the window. There beside the car stood a girl of about 25, with short blond hair, and wearing a black lacey nightgown. She was holding a shoebox. I scanned the area for any sign of a human dwelling. There was nothing, no houses, no people, and so I wondered where had she came from. Brandon asked, “Are you OK? Do you need a ride?” The girl leaned into the car and dropped the shoebox in my lap. She said, “Can you look at my puppy, I think he’s sick?” I opened the box, and inside, sadly, was a dead puppy. Tact not being my strong suit at the time, I said, “Sick? Lady he’s dead” To that, she let out a screeching howl that could have come from a Vincent Price movie. “Nooo!” she said, “he’s supposed to look like that, he’s a Malteeese.” I said, “ok, ya know” “maybe he’s just sick” She started crying and sobbing. Still holding the shoe box, I put the lid back on, and took another look around for any sign of life, wondering “Where did this chick come from?”

Brandon and I looked at each other wondering what to do. We asked her again if she needed a ride somewhere. She didn’t answer, just kept crying. By this time, I began to wonder if the rest of the coven was hiding behind a building somewhere waiting for their chance to pounce. I gave her back the shoebox, told Brandon “let’s get out of here”, and watched her image in the mirror as she faded back into the LA night from whence she had came.

We found our way back to the 5 freeway, pointed the car south, and agreed to not go back to LA. After that, San Diego became our go-to destination and our home away from home.

It was August 10, 1992. My friend Michael Canyon and I had just checked into 2/7 comm platoon two days earlier. I remember how scorchingly-hot 29 palms was the day we checked in in full Alpha uniforms. The 10th was a Friday, and the whole company had been turned loose at 1400. We were all going to Okinawa in two weeks, and they were giving us some extra libbo (liberty, or “leave the base” time) Canyon had a car, and we had known each other since MCT.  So, as soon as we got off work, we were headed to San Diego.

I met Mike at the car, and we both jumped in. He started the car ,but didn’t back out.  I said “what are we waiting for?”  He said, “this guy is going with us.”  I said “who?”  He said “White.”

…. Brandon had checked into 2/7 a few weeks before us, and since we were going to Japan, he had been home on leave. I hadn’t met him at the Comm shop. This was not someone that you think of when you think “Marine.” About five/five and all of 140 lbs, he looked more like the Dutch Boy Paint mascot than a “jarhead”.  Who knew that this guy climbing into the back seat of Canyon’s tiny Turcel  would absolutely alter the course of my life.

So who was my new friend in  the Social Distortion t-shirt and the first pair of Doc Martens I had ever seen?  He was the son of two LA hippies who had finally grown up, become mail carriers, and moved to Illinois. However, there was still a lot of LA in his attitude and style. And when I say style, trust me, he had it in spades.

I hope I haven’t strayed to far from my artist theme.  This is all important to my development.  It was Brandon that took me to Iguanas, and showed me how to sneak into a Henry Rollins show. It was he that took me to Tang Records, back when it was still on the boardwalk.  And he who took me to my first Rave.

You have to keep in mind that we joined up directly after the first Gulf War, and there was a certain attitude and air.  The Pres. was from AR, and it certainly made people give me a bit more respect than they would have otherwise.  I was in a Corps that was fresh off of a big victory and eager to celebrate. Basically our time in uniform was thought of as a necessary delay in between weekend adventures.

This was also the hay-day for “Avenida Revolucion” in T.J.  I would say that on that 1st weekend that Canyon,  White and I went to T.J.,  there were about a dozen clubs going.  The streets were packed with Sailors, Marines, and kids from SD.

The drive from 29 Palms was 3 hours, yet it passed like minutes.

This was my first time in San Diego in a car, so I was finally mobile. I had been to LA once before, and to SD on the train from Oceanside, but this was different: I was grown, with money in my pocket, and in the place that kids like me dream about when they see it on TV.  I immediately fell in love with the look, the vibe, and the culture; an affinity I still hold today.

You grow up fast in the Marine Corps,  and in SD.  I got a dose of both that “culture shock” can not adequately describe.  For the first year or so,  I was haunted by my redneck roots.  I didn’t know about music, or clothes, or cool words like “Rad”.

The first time I heard “rad”,  I was going into the SD Convention Center with Brandon and some kids he had met.  We walked by a car, and the girl with the funny haircut (I would later discover she was a “rude girl”) said, “that car’s rad”. Brandon and I looked at each other silently acknowledging that we would later pow-wow about the experience that signified we were actually in CA.  This would become a habit with us for words such as “raver” (which, hip as he was, Brandon did not know the meaning of  the first time we heard it)  and phrases like “no worries”.

Speaking of “raver” (a word and concept integral to shaping my life as a D), I was in Temecula when I first heard this. Brandon had met this girl that had a small part in “The Wonder Years” . I don’t know where he met her,  but we were at her house.  Eager to escape the living room,  and the company of her mother ( who kept referring to her daughter as, “the doll”),  Canyon and I followed the sound of the Beastie Boys upstairs. She was playing CDs, which were  still very new( to me at least.)  “The doll”  asked where we were from,  and we talked a while. Like I said,  she was playing some Beasties, and informed us that “this is what Ravers listen to” . This only fueled the desire to get out of this wacky house, if for nothing more than to see if any of us had ever heard that word before, and knew what it meant. None of us did, and it would be nearly a year before I found out.

So much of the early experiences in CA revolved around music, clothes, and culture.  Because this was what Brandon and I had joined up for,  we were both looking for it.  I feel very lucky to have met the loon, who was not-so-affectionately referred to on base as, “F#{|<ing White”.  As good as he was at sniffing out record stores,  clubs(SOMA) and Raves, he was equally as bad at being a Marine.  He was habitually late,  hair not cut, boots not shined,  and uniform not pressed. I, on the other hand, was what we call in the Marine Corps, a “Poster Marine” everything on point; could run all day, march, shoot, and say the general orders under water in my sleep. We were truly an odd team.

I also feel lucky to have been in SD at a time when free Raves were common.  The first Rave I went to was in the college area, it was basically a house party. They had a big open room for a dance floor, a DJ playing house, and what was the epitome of cool to me at the time, a fog machine.  The cost of admission was one can of canned vegetables. I had black eyed peas, and I always think of that night when I see the band. This night passed uneventfully and wasn’t a big to-do, but it left an indelible mark on my mind as to what parties were really about.

The 2nd rave I went to was a little more exciting. We met up with some local kids in what is now the Home Depot parking lot, just east of Mission Valley. I didn’t know what we were doing there. They were scouting out a location. At some point, the word was passed around, and we all caravaned to Hotel Circle. Just south of where Fashion Valley mall is today, on the street that runs beside the 8, there is an office building with one of those circular corkscrew type parking garages. Since it’s at the top of Misson Valley, the garage spirals down, not up. Someone knew the security guard at the building, and the 8 freeway would drown out the noise. As I sat on the curb, I was still confused as to what was supposed to be happening. Then a  “Bunny Bread” truck pulled up. The roller door went up, and all I could see was speakers. Here I was again, in a world that had only existed in my imagination, (well actually I hadn’t even imagined such things) and all the people, places, and events that had motivated me to join up were happening.


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