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"Next time you hear an effective and affecting lyrics-first, narrative and nakedly personal songwriter like Billy Manas, just remember that this act of staying out of the way of the lyrics is a musical skill, not a literary one. Props where they are due." -John Burdick  Hudson Valley Almanac 

"Billy Manas has star power."  Woodstock Times


"Billy Manas is a very passionate guy who operates on many levels and all of this finds its way 
into his music." Poughkeepsie Journal

"You could say that Billy Manas gets straight to the point - his no-frills directness takes familiar songs and makes them his own - his locomotive acoustic guitar, exuberant harmonica, and road-worn voice are the touchstone of a seasoned troubadour."  Paul Higgins WKZE

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 14- Thanksgiving 

I realize I began this blog with a promise that I would be consistent and dedicated, but alas! life is so complicated at times.  I noticed it has been two months since I wrote Part Seven of The Origins of Frankenstein Dog and I plan on making a nice dent in Part 8 at some point today, but let's do this one first: I have been working a lot--which is nothing new for me but between that and the gigs I've been playing, a performance on Q92 FM that I rehearsed for weeks, recording an EP and family responsibilities, my plate has been full (to use a lame and over used colloquialism). Now when I am with family and enjoying my turkey-less Thanksgiving, I am going to reflect on all the people and things in my life I am grateful for.  There are people who have helped along the way that I have so much gratitude for: Jamie Saft for his help with my music, the folks at Baldwin Winery who really got the ball rolling for me, Megan Eckert who helped get me so many more gigs out of nothing but the kindness of her very humane and animal loving heart; Tiffy from Robibero Winery who helped me out so much this year, Uncle Mike from WRWD who hooked me up with so many cool things and events, John Burdick for writing that incredible review of my acoustic album, MK for playing my songs on her WDST radio show "Locally Grown"...I mean the list can almost go on indefinitely because there were so many people instrumental in helping me experience my greatest year as a singer-2016 (and, please, I realize this list is woefully incomplete and if I left you out it wasn't on purpose).
When we are young we never imagine that our greatest year will be smooshed in between driving a truck 70 hrs a week, supporting a family and being 46 years old but life is inconvenient like that.  I do remember going to Oscar Montessa, Ludwig;s dad, for a reading when I was in my twenties and he said to me that I would absolutely realize all of my dreams and aspirations but I will need to be patient because "it won't be for some time."  And, of course, cynical bastard that I was, I just assumed that was his way of pacifying my angst.
Even this blog has been magical in its own right.  I wrote one about my childhood friendship with Chris Notaro from the Crumbsuckers and he found it online, got in touch and we talk almost daily once again.  Cat Ballou, a writer who penned my first review in 1995 in The Woodstock Times, found me through this site also.  That review when I was twenty-five was so important to me.  I still use a quote from it on my website.
Cat Ballou is a card actually.  I remember in 2006 I was asked to be the musical director on a Sam Shepherd play that was being directed and produced by Glen Lazslo Weiss and starred so many fine actors--and like many dramatic affairs, there was no shortage of ego on the stage.  Well Cat Ballou showed up unexpectedly and wrote a review in The Kingston Freeman that said--to paraphrase--I came to see this play because I like Sam Shepherd, but mostly because Billy Manas of Frankenstein Dog was in charge of the music.  To use another colorful colloquialism, that went over like a fart in church.  And just like a fart in church, it made me laugh.
Well that gets the rust off the typewriter, as it were.  Winery season draws to a close and I have no plans to hibernate.  I have the finishing touches on the new EP, my blog, goal setting, lots of groceries to deliver, books to read, motivational tapes to listen to, and life to live and before I know it, I'll be setting my PA back up at Baldwin Winery and playing all kinds of new stuff so the employees don't get bored.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 13- The Origins of Frankenstein Dog ( Part 7) -Charlotte 

Okay, before I took that diversion to explain the recording of the first Frankenstein Dog studio record, See Us Run, our story stopped when Chris Magistro and I were at his dad's in Matthews, NC and Ria was blindly coming after us--driving an 88 Cutlass down I-95--with the express purpose of re-joining the fold.
It finally got to the point where Chris's stepmother, who did not enjoy solid mental health (did I couch that appropriately?) told me to get a handle on that "bitch" before she calls the cops.
A few days later, Ria showed up with a couple grand and we got a hotel room at the Days Inn in Charlotte, NC where she spent a few days recuperating.  In the old days this was known as taking the cure.  
It wasn't too long before the sun came out, Ria was shed of the poison, and a plan was beginning to be formulated. 
I know that Chris really resented the fact that we took great pains to escape the madness and here I was days later back with her in a hotel while he suffered at his dads and step-moms, but at the time I felt a lot of things were beyond my control.  I didn't feel like I had the energy to fight off Ria, I wasn't that great at not being in a relationship and after a few days of uncertainty when I was faced with the choice of being at someone's parents or in a hotel with Ria...well, ya know.
There was a righteous soul kitchen attached to the hotel named GA on Tryon and it was owned by a beautiful big lug named James Bazelle.  Grits and eggs for breakfast, oxtails and fried chicken for lunch, fried okra, rib eyes, peach punch, sweet tea...they had it all.
James and his wife Renee immediately fell for Ria and displayed many of her paintings on their walls.  It wasn't too long before she was making quite a bit of money off painting commissions and sales and after a week of the hotel, we moved next door to a complex known as Renaissance Place.  It was an efficiency apartment which meant it was a bedroom with a balcony and a glorified hot plate.
I became a waiter for James Bazelle and Ria started working at the catering business in Renaissance Place.  The catering business was owned by a guy named Ron, who at one time was James Bazelle's boss and mentor before James got a business loan and struck out on his own.
Ron would show up at GA on Tryon every morning and he spent the entire meal sniffing in constantly.  There was a rumor that he had a horrible coke problem but now that I am 46 and I've been around for awhile, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that that was a bullshit rumor.  The guy always had a hearty appetite and--even more than that, he was a focused and hungry restauranteur and relied on his solid standing in the community and voracious word of mouth to keep himself booked at every wedding, church function, engagement party, and reception in that part of Charlotte.  No one could touch the guy's fried chicken.  It was from another planet.
Within a month, Chris Magistro saved enough dough to get himself an apartment at Renaissance Place also and then weeks later, Bobby Parrillo moved down also and shared a place with Chris.
On Friday nights, James let us set up and play in the dining room.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Frankenstein Dog was a restaurant house band for a soul food restaurant in Charlotte.
He couldn't pay us, but he would bring out enormous platters of spaghetti and garlic bread and we had the opportunity to play all the time.
One thing we could not seem to figure out, was why we were having trouble booking any paying gigs in the area.  I think what it came down to was that even though Charlotte is a capital city, everybody knew everybody, so if you weren't hooked up in the network of bands that all originated from the high school, you didn't get booked.
So we never got Frankenstein Dog off the ground there and that was beginning to depress the hell out of me.  As a matter of fact, I got so depressed that I didn't feel like getting up for work anymore.  So I didn't.  
Me and Ria wound up getting further and further behind on our rent until the day came where we were asked politely to remove ourselves from Renaissance Place.
It was then that I had a fabulous idea.  Let's move into Ria's dad's house on Staten Island and play in Manhattan as much as we possibly could.  We were close enough to the clubs to pound the pavement and book stuff, so what did we have to lose?

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 13- The Origins of Frankenstein Dog ( 6.5) -See Us Run 

Well this is the kind of story that will not make me any new friends, but it needs to be told because it happened.  There is no changing the past.  The function of the past is to realize it as honestly as possible and learn from it.  I call this 6.5 because it happened simultaneously with moving into the Tramontana house on 208 and practically moments before me and Magistro left--literally in the middle of the night---for Charlotte, NC.  It's actually ironic that the first Frankenstein Dog album was called "See Us Run" because that is precisely what we did.
Right after that fateful night where we played at CBGB for Genya Ravan, our drummer Stevie D. had a meltdown and went the way of the Indian from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.  Chris Magistro had this incredibly impractical and lovely idea to ask Bob Parrillo to play drums for us.  Bob Parrillo was a virtuoso drum prodigy from Medford, NY who played in a band with Michael Bergeman (see part one of this series) and the accomplished bass and lead guitarist Sean Kupisz.  His level of playing was light years ahead of where I was, but we were close growing up on Long Island and it was more his loyalty as a friend than the "challenge" of playing my style of music that led him to even entertain the idea. With nothing but the prodding from Magistro, I called Bob and asked him if he'd consider it.
Bob's response was a request for me to send him recent material on cassette and he would listen to it and decide if it was something he could deal with.
I decided to slap together a rough copy of the proposed album See Us Run...that way he'd have every track I wanted to record in the studio and in the order I wanted to do them in.
As this was going on, I believe Chris, Fabrizio and I had about $600 saved plus a reel of two inch Ampex tape and we planned to stay within that budget.
The day before our studio date, in what I remember as a blinding snow storm, Bob Parrlllo showed up at the Tramontana house with his kit and he set up.  We played every song on the album and, of course, Bob played each one as if he was there since they had been written.  His playing was flawless, creative and appropriate.  Between Chris' fretless and inventive bass lines and Parrillo's progressive approach, Frankenstein Dog took on a whole new sound.  I remember this particular song called "Child's Scream" where Bob's left hand on the ride cymbal never stopped playing this one particular pattern--from the moment the song began until it ended.  All the while, his right hand was playing a completely different pattern and both his legs were occupied with two other things.  I had never played with anyone like him in my entire life.  
We went to the studio in Rosendale, NY the next day and if my memory serves me, there was a couple hours devoted to setting up and miking everything and then approximately three hours where--as a three piece--Bob, Chris and I tracked all ten songs perfectly and usually in one take.  We stayed within budget and we all left the studio feeling hopeful and joyous that the first Frankenstein Dog album was on its way to being an auditory masterpiece. 
The next step was going to be Fabrizio going in and tracking his leads and that was to be followed with mixing.
Now right here is where everything began to crumble down around us.  We showed up a week later to listen to the work Fabrizio did and also to begin the mixing and when we got there everything began to spin out of control.  Me and Chris were not even slightly happy with the lead guitar work but even more than that, we learned that Fab was there for seven or eight hours tracking and re-tracking them.  We were so god damn angry that it is really, even now, difficult to convey.  We managed to set up the studio and track the entire foundation of the album as a live three piece in less time.
The more we ruminated over this, the more we began to see dirty pool.  We were pretty sure that Fab was fucked up during the entire thing and the studio owners just kept allowing him to track and track and re-track for hours as our bill steadily climbed way beyond what we could afford.  So the money we had on us to cover the mixing became the money to pay for that lead guitar session...and I don't think we planned on spending that much time mixing the whole thing, so we were most likely short on that end too.
But the studio owners allowed us to go ahead and mix the record and owe them the rest of the money.  We asked if it'd be ok if we took a cassette copy of the mixes with us and they agreed.
Me and Chris decided to call Tod at Magnetic North and turn that cassette into a CD one off.  Then we handmade a hundred See Us Run cassettes off that CD.
Needless to say, we left NY still owing that money to the studio owners but in our minds, we didn't feel it was something that we had to pay for.  We were convinced that the owners knew he was far too fucked up to realize the sort of tab he was running up trying to track thoses leads.
Now twenty plus years later, I will say this: this was most likely the first in a series of reputation building maneuvers that Chris and I were involved in that led to our being known as half musicians, half crooks.
I still remember Jack Rosenthal telling us that he gave all the proceeds from our cassettes he had at Jack's Rhythms to those studio owners and I also remember that they wound up tracking over our two inch tape.
If I had the wisdom that I have now, I would've found a way to pay for those hours and considered it an expensive education but I am entirely willing to accept the fact that I was some kind of motherfucker in my early twenties.  I walked around believing that if you so much as tapped me on the shoulder, I had every right to hit you over the head with a hammer..  I lived.  I learned.
Regardless, the album was incredible.

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 12- The Origins of Frankenstein Dog (Part 6) -Escape  

"Fuck you!!!!" Ria screamed shrilly as an unopened Hawaiian Punch can sailed through the air and made direct contact with the glass kitchen window shattering it into what seemed at the time to be thousands of little glass shards.
Chris Magistro and the plumber who was working at our house on 208 both muttered the same thing..."you gotta be shittin' me."  
It would've been funny if it wasn't so terrible.  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
Sometime in Sept of 1995 we grew tired of the place on Church St--dump that it was--and began to look for a suitable band house.  There was this really nice place out on 208 by Jansen Rd that was owned by a "butch" (for those of you unfamiliar with the accent, that means butcher)  from Queens named Joseph Tramontana.  He was a strict first generation Italian and this was basically his upstate project summer home.  The house was being rented by a Real Estate agency so we realized we'd never be approved if we showed up saying we were looking for a band house.
So I found a halfway decent suit at Salvation Army and Ria had a dress from her last society affair on Staten Island and we posed as a married couple looking for a place to start a family.  We invented and finagled all kinds of fictional references and past histories and we managed to wrangle the house.  It was occupied by me and Ria and Chris Magistro and Sarah.
Things began on a positive note there.  I was wrapped in a magical flow with writing and recording.  Some more notable material was "Guess That's What I Gotta Say", "Main Street The Other Day" and an entire rock opera called Wax Wings.
Wax Wings was truly a glorious affair.  Sometime around December 1st, I decided I wanted to give Ria a rock opera for Christmas.  The premise was that I wanted it to be a surprise, so I didn't want her to hear any of it beforehand.
So I was writing stuff, multitracking it at The 87 motel and handing it off to Chris who was writing bass lines in his room through headphones.  It was truly inspired and coming together nicely.  I based the format loosely on everything I learned from years and years of listening to Tommy and Quadrophenia.  Instrumentals that seamed together all the different melodies from all the songs, a solid theme that ran throughout, dramatic tensions, sweet resolutions--it was all there.
Ria wasn't all that impressed by it, and if I remember correctly she was wondering if I got her anything real for Christmas but as a songwriter, I was stretching quite a bit and it felt really good.
Now in the middle of all of this, our friend Michelle Moriello was killed in a car accident and it affected all of us emotionally and I think it even altered the flow of the writing of Wax Wings.  The last few songs took on a really sad and darkish tone, but it really balanced all the pot and Ritalin inspired stuff nicely.
A night that will live in my memory forever was, a week or so after Christmas, when me and Chris decided to get some recreational drugs and re-record the whole thing live from start to finish.  It was amazing.  I did the guitar and vocal live with Chris accompanying me on bass and then we tracked hand percussion and lead guitar.  This entire event went on from nighttime til dawn and when we woke up later the next afternoon, we could not believe what we had.
We bought tapes and made about fifty copies and I made these librettos by hand to go with them.
Two or three nights later, we performed the whole thing at Creations Coffee House on Church St, and managed to sell every copy we made.  We taped that live performance and we made fifty more and made the live Creations gig the B side of the tape.
There was something that was also working against us during all of this.  We were partying like crazy.  Some might even say abusing drugs like crazy.  And the more we were, the more chaotic things were getting. 
Add to this the fact that that particular winter was brutal with its snowfall and the fact that the Tramontana house was really a summer home that was not meant to withstand a winter onslaught such as this and you'll get the idea.  Chris Magistro and Sarah's rooms had no heat, mine and Ria's section was electric baseboard==it was really beginning to get untenable.
And that led to the Hawaiian Punch blow out.
Chris and I had a meeting while driving up to get cigarettes:
"If we're going to get anywhere with this band, I need to get away from dope and away from Ria..." I remember saying.
Magistro spoke to his father who lived in Matthews, North Carolina and a plan was hatched to just leave in the middle of the night--no warning, no official break up...nothing.
The way I was able to make this decision seem more palatable was by convincing myself that Ria was out of control, irrational and strung out.  You don't try to sit down with someone like that and explain a decision that they are going to be very angry about.  You're just wasting a whole lot of time and energy and opening yourself up for more craziness and violence.
So we did it.
We left in the middle of the night and as we trekked down I-95 I was having mad visions of success, a new start; a dream of Charlotte, NC being the new Seattle and as Frankenstein Dog being the next Soundgarden.
We told no one what we were doing and felt completely safe and insulated until the phone call came to Mr. Magistro's house.
It was Ria.  She was in Delaware and had every intention of continuing to drive south until she was in our livingroom.
Huh????

Truck Stop Troubadour-The Origins of Frankenstein Dog (Part 5) 

Look-  anyone who has ever been young and striving to break into the music business has at least one I Coulda Been A Contender story.  Actually, Frankenstein Dog has a couple.  And I have friends that have known me for over a decade that I have not told this story to because frankly it sounds desperate and exaggerated as all stories of this type seem to.  In fact, I would still be keeping this story to myself if I didn't know in my heart that Chris Magistro, Fabrizio DiCamillo, and perhaps even a few of our close New Paltz friends at the time will vouch for what I am about to tell  Here goes:
The apartment on Church St was owned by a guy named James and his wife.  He owned a contracting business named "Home James" and Fabrizio worked for him full time as a carpenter.  One day James told Fabrizio he had some real important music contacts in the city and he would see if he could hook us up.  So at one point we were probably all sitting around getting stoned and Fab was relaying this information and we most likely got excited and said "sick!" and then played for three or four more hours.
But sometime later in the week, James pressed it further.  He said, "Here Billy.  This is the phone number of a real heavy hitter in the village music scene, give her a call.  Her name is Genya Ravan."  
Well if you could picture this, there was no internet at the time so there was no cause to celebrate just yet.  I called her and she talked to me for a half hour bandying terms around like Sony, Warner Brothers, fingers on the pulse etc etc.  Well it was starting to get exciting.  Then she ended by asking if I could send her a demo.  She gave us her East Village address and then--oh by the by, there's an article about little ol' me, she informs us, in Goldmine magazine.  
Believe it or not, Convenient sold Goldmine magazine in 1994, so we scurried up there to get the publication.
I'm thinking we most likely began to palpitate because the article was just this dream discography of a very influential woman who was involved with EVERYONE at one time or another.
Now please try to understand-we weren't typical hayseeds.  We were all in our early twenties, we all really believed in what we were writing and playing and we were all under the impression even prior to this that we were destined for world stardom and greatness.  This just added fuel to an already blazing fire of inspiration and focus.
That fated phone call from the Great Ravan:
"...I really love the sound you guys have and I think we could get you picked up by a new division that Warner Bros. is just now about to get off the ground.  What I need from you guys is a really clear demo of your four best songs.  Do you have anything like that?"
Well of course I responded in the affirmative and I hung up promising that she would have exactly that within three days.
It was like the green flag dropped and we were off and running:  Magistro used everything he learned from his two year tutlage under Garrett Uhlenbrock (Skinny Bones) and miked our practice room with direct mics, PZM's nailed to the walls--for the resources we had, the sound we got was pretty phenomenal.  We also had another key ingredient.  George Matthews on drums.
George also toured with La Vista Hotheads which made this rhythm section the best I ever played with.  Not only were they both rock solid, but they both just played numerous gigs together up and down the eastern seaboard and rehearsed for hours and hours before leaving for that tour. I never knew what it felt like to have players like this behind me.  It kind of felt like you were playing in a hammock because the pocket was so tight.  Even if the front end crumbled in rehearsal, those two would just keep going---crazy precision.
The first song we recorded was called Cold Winter.  This song was the obvious choice for leading off the tape.  You pressed play and immediately you heard George's 1-2-3-4 and clock like stick count followed by my Drop D tuned acoustic and Fabrizio's riff which was perfect and catchy as hell.  Add to this Magistro's fretless P Bass which filled the room with wall shaking bottom end and we were making a very clear point.  We were serious.  It may not have been everyone's favorite music but no one could deny that they were listening to something angsty, pure and sincere.
We Fed-Exed the tape to Genya and waited for the reaction.
The reaction went a little like this: real killer stuff guys.  Can you possibly book a gig out here so I can shop you to the industry people I know?
Once again, another hoop to jump through--but we booked CBGB for sometime that December.
So that's it.  Everything that we did for the next three months was strictly to get ready and be the tightest and best we could be for that night.  And there were challenges along the way.
About two weeks before, George moved from the apartment to the 87 motel and he just completely lost interest, until finally we were faced with needing a drummer.  We had a gig booked at The Sleeping Turtle in New Paltz with--believe it or not--"Three" opening.  Our line up was a very scary guitar/vocal, lead guitar and bass.
Some dude in the audience introduced himself to us as Stevie D.  He approached us by saying "you guys need a drummer".  He was good, too.  I mean, crazy as a loon and neurotic as hell but good.
So for two weeks we practiced with Stevie D and got tighter and tighter until that fateful day.  We got on the stage at CBGB and played the tightest and most inspired 40 minute set I can ever remember performing in front of an audience.  The whole time we were up there I kept thinking that whatever industry people she brought didn't matter.  Nobody could possibly say we lacked polish or lacked anything really.
At the end of the set Genya came up to the stage and said, "Real super guys.  What an incredible drummer.  I am going to discuss this with my people and see where we're at."
Chris, Fabrizio and I rented a car the next day and drove to Charlotte to Chris's dads house for a very well deserved vacation.
When we got back to New York, we attempted to reach out to Genya.  No answer.  No answering machine.
The next week, the same thing.  And again the week after that.  It seemed pretty mysterious to us but we attributed it at the time to something happening to her or some shit.
Now we, personally, began to concentrate on other things.  Cat Ballou wrote us the best review ever in the Woodstock Times after seeing us play at Tinker Street.  We were exceptionally lucky because Dave Matthews was at Bearsville recording "Crash" and Carter Beauford  and LeRoi Moore were at the bar.  They loved us and gave us their home addresses and phone numbers..
Ok, so there we are just going along and driving down the road with WDST  playing in the background and the deejay began to talk about this particular artist from the East Village who enjoyed some major success in the seventies but hadn't really put anything out in almost twenty years that anyone cared about.  So the deejay goes on to say that she's got this new album with this real fresh sounding single and he played it.
One scene that will forever stay in my mind was that we had to pull over to the shoulder so Chris Magistro could get out and vomit on the side of the road.  The single began with the count and the stick count and the drop D tuning and Fabrizio's exact riff hook and very expensive production that went far out of it's way to replicate much less expensive production.
We didn't even have to ask each other.  It was our song.  The chorus wasn't there, the lyrics were completely different but there was no way it could be explained as a coincidence.  There were just too many exacting similarities to deny what just happened.
We were pretty good friends with Jamie who owned Not Fade Away on Main Street and we showed him.  He mentioned that his dad was a pretty high end music attorney in Manhattan and he was good enough to get him to agree to listen to my evidence and advise me. So I took the Trailways to Grand Central and a taxi to this beautiful glass and concrete structure somewhere in a very expensive part of the city.
I was so completely out of place in that office, I am almost positive that no one working there initially believed that I was in the right place.  My appearance spoke of a young adult who could in no way afford even a consultation with anyone there.  But they buzzed Mr Mayer and he told them to let me in.
He listened to our tape.  He listened to this artist's new single.  And then again.
He looked up and called one of his interns into the office.  The intern listened and smiled.  They both agreed.  It was no coincidence.  Mr Mayer whispered something to the intern and the the intern left the room.
While we waited, the attorney engaged me in conversation about the band and what I was up to and just friendly stuff.  The intern came back in, handed a piece of paper to the attorney and left.
Mr. Mayer summed it up like this:
Ok there's no question that somehow this material more than inspired this other material but the problem is that this record is not really selling that great and the amount of money it would take to litigate this would never be worth it.  Let me give you some free advice.  You seem talented.  You're young.  You're most likely going to write a lot more and perhaps better stuff in the future.  Let this go and consider it a learning experience.
Well I was back on the Trailways heading north with some really mixed emotions.  A hot music attorney said I was talented and predicted a bright future for me.  He agreed that we were ripped off.  All this is good stuff.  But there was also the feeling of being tricked and that got to all of us.
But Frankenstein Dog continued on.

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 12- The Origins of Frankenstein Dog (Part 4) 

One night in early November 1994, I saw Chris Magistro outside on Main Street in New Paltz and I ran up to him and told him that my band was really coming along and mentioned that if there was any way I could open for The Hotheads at some point, I'd be eternally grateful.  He matter of factly mentioned that they were playing Cabaloosa that very night and we could play a twenty minute set before they went on.  We then proceeded to run to my apartment, grab all the gear I had and run back across the street to set up.  I must've been inebriated by the time I left because I left more than 50% of my gear behind--this includes my Tascam multitrack.  For two or three weeks I asked everyone I knew if they saw Chris and nobody had.  Besides that, there was no way of knowing that he even thought to take it for me.
Well one night I was doing that sweater fall walk to Hoffman's for cigarettes and coffee and there was Chris...and YES! he had my gear.
It's funny how there are moments that stay in your mind forever and one such moment was when I was fumbling with my keys at the door of the apartment on Church St and Chris told me that I reminded him of himself when he was twelve..."just excited about everything".  I was.  But mind you I also just spent three weeks without the ability to record, nor did I know if I still owned this stuff, so it was very exciting.
 I brought him up to smoke and listen to all the new material I was working on. It was then the truth came out.  It was December and he was living in a mini school bus in the Oasis parking lot. He'd come out only to forage for food and cigarettes.
I told him straight out to live at my place.  I figured that I worked at night anyway so he could sleep in my bed and when I got up in the afternoons we could work on new material. And little by little, what I wanted to have happen was actually taking place.  Chris and I were becoming close.
What was truly interesting was what was happening to my songs.  Chris, in preparation for touring with La Vista Hotheads became a ravenous student of bass.  He took four lessons with this guy in Woodstock, a few with this guy on the Lower East Side...then this other person from West Saugerties. He was at the cutting edge of what the new music scene was evolving into.
So even though my song were folky, formulaic and simple, he added a rhythmic element that was unique and novel.  A little bit of contention began to grow.  I was living with my current bass player Dana at the time and his style caused my songs to sound hokey and dated. Chris took the mature approach.  He told Dana he just wanted to write some bass lines and he'd be our drummer in the interim.
We actually played our first gig at CBGB with me, Fabrizio on lead guitar, Dana on bass and Chris on drums.
I'm sure you can guess that this arrangement did not last too long.  The more Chris and I wrote and recorded together, the less Dana seemed like a good option.  One day, feeling the weight of the pressure, Dana finally packed his stuff and left.
At that point Chris moved into the apartment downstairs with a girl named Ria who was a recent transplant from FIT.  It was a platonic arrangement.  I stayed upstairs working on new material until it was apparent that I could not afford the place by myself.
So by April 22 1995--my 25th birthday--Me, Chris, and Ria were living together in the apartment downstairs.  Chris lived in the practice room with all the instruments and I lived in the room with Ria.  And so a whole new chapter began. 

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 11- The Origins of Frankenstein Dog (Part 3) 

I saw an ad for a full time job as an overnight desk clerk at The 87 Motel and I ran down to the Salvation Army to get a dress shirt and apply for the job. I loved the idea of working midnight to eight and having all day to focus on music.  I was thrilled when they told me I got the job.
The guy who was working the shift before me was named Jon and he had to be one of the strangest dudes I have ever met.  Odd mannerisms and facial expressions and persona.  He was twenty-five, he still lived with his parents and his entire identity was rooted in his supposed ADHD and his passion for the Asian culture and its people.
In those days, it was safe to say I was stoned almost every waking hour of everyday--from the second I opened my eyes until I went to sleep.  I was plugging away trying to write songs and I probably wrote one everyday at that point.
When I wasn't writing songs, I was floating around New Paltz, meeting other musicians, lots of girls, and staying friendly with the townsfolk.  One guy who I loved talking to everyday was Jack from Jack's Rhythms.  I met him as a senior in college when I was working at Hoffmann's Deli.  I remember buying a used copy of Dylan's Bootlegs Volume One for more money than I could probably spend and spending my nights at The 87 listening to it.  I was awestruck by the material on that collection.  Farewell Angelina, the Blood on the Tracks outtakes, and all the rest of it.  I wanted to learn all of it.
The nights I didn't work I'd be out on Main St busking and making out with whomever I was in love with that week and it just turned out to be one of those incredibly carefree summers.
Every other day I'd bring a cassette into Jack's and he's listen to it thoughtfully.
"Sounds like Dylan," he used to say.
I'd keep writing.
"Still sounds like Dylan."
And back again I'd go.
Jon, the weird dude from the 87, I learned, had prescriptions for Ritalin and Klonopin and this guy literally spent his entire work days nibbling on one and then another.  Up and down, up and down.  Noticing the state I was always in, he asked me one night if I could get him some ganga.  I gave him a joint and I could not believe my eyes when he unraveled a little bit of it and began to eat it.  He explained eating herb extended the life of the Ritalin.
Not long after this, I woke up one morning and wrote the song "Guilty of Yourself."  It, like most of what I wrote for the first five years, was a plea to--you guessed it--my college sweetheart.
I remember being really excited and going to Jack's with it.
I almost burst into tears of joy when he put it on his store stereo, looked up and said, "Yes!  Yes!  Now you have a sound!  Now you're onto something!"
Shortly after that, I came to work on two or three hours sleep and I could hardly keep my eyes open.  Jon took pity on me and gave me my first two Ritalin,
That night flew by and I spent most of it writing endless lyrics...some of the best stuff I've ever written. I felt like I discovered the keys to the universe.
The routine was to go home, sleep for three or four hours, wake up, write music to go with it and then record.
At this point, I met Dana the bass player, and it wasn't long before we got an apartment together next door to the bike shop.
That was the period I also wrote Jersey Turnpike, Smile Used To Be, Allison, Another World, Best Times, Paper, Dear Sister, All's Well in Denial and dozens more.  It was the beginning of the most meaningful and prolific periods of my creative life.
But as incredible as the writing was going, the band--Frankenstein Dog--was just that terrible.
I knew nothing about being a band leader and being as stoned as I was all the time did not help my lack of communication skills at all.  All I knew was I had a vision for these songs and it was not being met by the people I was playing with.
It was at that time that I ran into Fabrizio outside of Cabaloosa.  We were dorm mates when we both lived in Bouton Hall.  His roommate was actually Murali Coryell.
I excitedly told him, about everything I was doing and he said he wanted to hear, so the next day, he came over with acoustic Guild.  It was old and beat up but it had an incredible tone.
The musical chemistry between the two of us was obvious.  We would play inside, we'd play on Main St...we played constantly.  Now things were starting to become exciting.
One night, Fabrizio came over with this six foot tall, really skinny dude with moon boots and dreads down to his waist. I learned that his name was Chris Magistro and he just came off a tour supporting the Ramones with a band called La Vista Hotheads.  It was Garrett Uhlenbrock's band and it was one of the best in the area at the time.  He played the meanest fretless bass I had ever seen in my life.
I walked up to the 87 motel to work later that night with one thing on my mind: that guy is going to be my best friend.

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 10-The Origins Of Frankenstein Dog (Part 2) 

All I could hear in my head was this cacophony of  wild tin can conspiracy, his mouth moving defensively, as I thought to myself, "your what couldn't do who with what???"
Almost immediately that thought changed to "how could someone who was supposed to be my friend, knowing full well how that guitar was once again giving me the will to live after such a dangerous period of suicidal ideology--how could this person do a thing like this?
In retrospect, the answer is quite obvious.  I spent all of my twenties and most of my thirties laboring under the assumption that, not only was my well-being and comfort my highest priority but it should be yours too. If it wasn't, you were an asshole.
In this case there were added difficulties.  Me and Curley were not friends; nor had we been for years.  We were what young people today refer to as "frenemies." Quite honestly, at that point he would've had no problem selling me off to slavery if he thought no one would find out.  Yet I endured him because he attracted girls like flies to dog crap and I thought that would bode well for my case.  I was very dumb.
After two hours of my fantasizing all the different ways he could die a slow, painful death, it became clear to me what I needed to do. I scoured Tempe's free music paper and found something that could answer all my prayers.  A music store in Phoenix was advertising brand new acoustic guitars for $99.99.  My paycheck on that Friday was probably about $300 and my bills were most likely quite a bit more, but as far as I was concerned he could kick me out, I was getting the guitar.  And so I did.
At this point, there was two separate realities going on in my life.  There was my home life which was deplorable.  It basically consisted of me coming home exhausted and spent everyday to a stoned roommate who was systematically sleeping with every female in the complex coupled with my job at the gas station which was hot and grueling and frustrating.  And then there was the yin to my yang...music.
At night I'd come home, take a shower and head out to a club where they had an open mic so I could sing all my sad mournful songs that were comforting me at the time.  "You're a Big Girl Now", "Sarah", "To Ramona".  Every week I'd try to learn more and go back and sign up and play them.
I finally met a cute girl after a few months named Angie. We dated for a few weeks and I disappeared and stopped calling.  This wound up becoming a pattern for me.  I told myself the story that I would never care for anyone like the girl I just lost in New Paltz, nor did I want to.
Now many people like to argue this point, but for me--in my world--the coolest place to hang out in Tempe at the time was the "Coffee Plantation."  It attracted hundreds of ASU students, locals and tourists.  With the exception of Angie, I met every girl I was ever with in Tempe there--which, in that ten month period, numbered close to fifteen or sixteen.
Let's put this in context though: writing this now, it seems like a lot of promiscuity but I walked around convinced I was a loser because Curley managed to sleep with that many girls in about a month.
Regardless of this fact, I was a regular at the Coffee Plantation.  It's so funny, but as I reflect back, my brain tries to convince me that I went to Arizona, spent a few years working at a miserable gas station, then a year or two at a chain auto parts store and after struggling and pushing, I landed a job at the retail counter of the Coffee Plantation-what I considered, at the time, to be the coolest job in town.  In reality, this progression took about six months.  They were very intense times though and it probably accounts for why they live in my memory as years instead of weeks.
The owner of the Coffee Plantation, a mormon named Joe, took a liking to me and one day out of the clear blue mentioned to me that he heard I was an aspiring musician.  I said that I was and he asked if I wanted to play a whole show at the Coffee Plantation--$50 plus tips! I was very nervous when I stepped up there but as I played my Dylan songs--it was all I played--people were clapping, putting money in my jar, stopping and watching and I remember this drop dead beautiful girl who worked at the coffee counter-Christine--shouting out, "we love you Billy!!!"
So if there's any confusion about why I am still doing this today, there's the answer.
The funny thing was that Curley was employed as a busboy and just happened to be bussing that night.  With a plastic bus bucket filled with mugs, saucers and silverware, he got as close as he could get to the live mic and he lifted the bucket so the sound of all that loud crap crashing together could be amplified and overpower my singing.  For one night I got to see him walking around jealous of me instead of the other way around.  It was a victorious moment.
I became a regular performer there and it wasn't until I got into some trouble at that job that I stopped playing there.
Shortly thereafter I wound up moving out of the apartment with Curley and I shacked up, platonically, with a counter girl at The Coffee Plantation named Deb.  Or at least it was platonic at first--I'll save that for my novel.
I forgot who first suggested that I leave Arizona to go into business with my uncle in Silver Spring, MD but someone did and I inquired.  I had spent almost a year living really rough.  Bad food, almost always penniless, less than ideal living arrangements--I was ready for a change.  My uncle was an extremely successful businessman with a Maserati who had a very expensive house in a very expensive neighborhood.  The thinking was that if I partner up with him, my Maserati would be just around the corner.
I could not have been more mistaken.  He was one of these guys who thought it was fine to yell, scream, curse, berate, verbally abuse and judge anyone he felt like.  Then he'd call you a baby or a p&%#y if you did not follow him into his "better" mood twenty minutes later.  I knew it wasn't going to work.  He wanted me to start going on sales calls by myself, so he bought me a 1967 Chevy Pickup turquoise and creme colored and for liability and legal reasons, he had it titled and registered to me.
I escaped in the middle of the night one night and drove straight to New Paltz.  It was a depressing, scary and miserable drive that I really wasn't financially prepared for and if you were around when Frankenstein Dog first started you may remember a song called Jersey Turnpike which described in detail what it felt like.  The story I was telling myself was that I haven't been happy since I lost my one true love and until I  find a way to win her back, I'd never be happy again. During that drive I ran the greatest fantasy movie in my head.  I'd get back to New Paltz, I'd put together a band--in fact, I'd put together the hottest band in New Paltz.  She'd walk into Cabaloosa and see me---rock star that I was--we'd get back together and I'd live happily ever after.  This was really an actual plan that I developed a step by step strategy for.
I couch surfed for awhile when I got back and when that became entirely untenable I decided to sell the truck. The money got me into an apartment with three other dudes above the bike shop on Church Street, a small multitrack, a radio shack reverb unit, a microphone and headphones.  I managed to grub a bass and a keyboard for drums when I needed it.
My uncle, who still doesn't talk to me, could not believe I vaped in the middle of the night,  stole the truck, went up to New Paltz and then sold the truck; and the responsible adult inside of me can see how underhanded and foul that was.  I do have to admit though, that as evolved as I have become spiritually and morally, there is still a part of me that smiles when I think about it.
When I leave abusive situations, it's usually done with legend and drama.

To Be Continued

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 9-The Origins Of Frankenstein Dog (Part 1) 

If you've read my posts on social media up until a few days ago, you may have noticed that I have been reaching a peak in my life in all areas.  Lots of gigs, a beautiful new guitar, great family, super income, respectable credit score, an excellent review of my new record...just everything coming together.  
I'm not entirely sure if it's conscious or unconscious, but there always seem to be people who, observing how great things are going for you, will do anything in their power to provide some ballast to bring you down closer to the mud where they reside. In fact I'm even a little suspicious of the way some people act if they even notice that you are simply striving for a better life.  I wonder if it's just the contrast that scares them.
To be fair, I will also propound the theory that quite possibly, early in our childhoods we may actually set a foundation of how much loveliness and joy we are willing to accept.  It could be possible that we are fitted with some kind of hedonic thermostat that will kick off if the room of our experience gets a little too cold. Perhaps we choose to focus on whatever will bring us down when we feel our balloon is getting too close to the sky.  Your guess is as good as mine.
Regardless of what the phenomena actually is, I have been thinking about my formative years as a performer and the people I was surrounding myself with when this all started to go down.
When I first started attending SUNY New Paltz I had a great life affirming situation going on.  I lived in the "art" dorm with artists-people whose sole purpose was to create.  I loved it there.  Dorm mates Tom Lenz,,  Evan Day and Mark Albright were painting great stuff.  I couldn't paint but I had everything I needed to record anything I could imagine.  An electric guitar, a Tascam four track, every Boss stompbox that was important and a casio keyboard with drum pads.  At this time in my life I was turning against the two and a half minute hardcore song I knew for so many years and trying crazier and more esoteric things.
 My friend from home, Michael Bergeman, recorded a song in high school called "I'm Coming After You With An Axe" which was sheer genius. It was part of his teenage masterwork Seizures and Candybars. "Axe" was incredible because Bergeman dragged along all of his knowledge from performing in the Catholic church as a child and recorded a pipe organ piece with extraordinarily believable hymn-like monastic harmonies and canons singing repeatedly "I'm coming after you with an axe; coming after you..." It was the sort of thing that could get you in near hysterics as it just continues so true to form over and over--every so often a new vocal key would appear and you'd start laughing even harder.
One night at SUNY there was this girl I met at the cafeteria who came back to my room and decided to remove all of her clothes. I did not sleep with her, I just audio taped the whole debauchery and superimposed it over Bergeman's song.  She wasn't terribly thrilled when she found out and admittedly it was an awful thing to do to someone, but it made great art. 
One of my friends who heard it thought it was simply wonderful...and then slept with that very girl the next day. He was the kind of guy who slept with everyone he possibly could.  It wasn't too difficult for him.  He was this Irish cat who was well over six feet tall with dark curly hair and piercing blue eyes.  
If there was another human being on this earth who would've been worse for me to become best friends with and try to compete with, I couldn't find him.
So after the smoke cleared from the "Axe" incident, I decided to snub all of my high quality friends from Bouton and partner up with this bottom feeder at Lefevre Hall--the dorm best known for illicit sex, parties, bongs and the last stop for dozens of Long Island kids before starting their next semester at the community college after being sent back home. 
There we were; he with his collection of Bob Dylan CD's (which I absolutely despised with a passion) and his never ending string of different bed partners that he discussed in detail every chance he got, and me and all my home grown Long Island dysfunction.
The new semester started and I met a freshman girl whose name I will withhold because she has a very unique name and we are still Facebook buddies. But this girl was, what I thought at the time, the most incredible and beautiful being on the planet. I spent about six months--an eternity at the time-- doing anything and everything in my power to get her to date me.  I was living in the purgatory that is commonly referred to as the friend-zone, but eventually, as George Costanza once said, "I wore her down."
Now I am not going to make too much of this and I am going to attempt to be as clear and succinct as possible: for a young man with the upbringing I had--an upbringing that netted a low self-esteem, super egoist, sometimes egotistic and terribly insecure disaster, having my first long term relationship with a girl like this actually set in motion what could only be described as the perfect shit storm.
And when we broke up the week I was to graduate, I remember experiencing feelings I never have either before or since. I spent a week as a drunken, incomprehensible, suicidal, empty, cold sponge of nothingness that wasn't even too sure how to inhale or exhale at times. 
This room mate of mine was planning on a trip cross country in a puke green Volkswagen van and one night back on Long Island, in lieu of killing myself, I called him and asked if it was still possible for me to tag along. I needed to get away and see new things because there wasn't a single minute that elapsed in weeks where I wasn't completely consumed with thoughts of her and the very idea of seeing her with someone else sent tears streaming down my cheeks.
So there I was blindly hurtling toward the west coast with about $800 on me.  It was at this time that a serious transition began to take place.  All of those Dylan songs that I recently could not even stand listening to were describing this hell I was in more accurately than anything else I listened to in my entire life.
Yes, the Iggy Pop stuff was rebellious and the hardcore songs captured the essence of what it felt like to be outcast and angry, but this was something on a completely different level.  It was as if Dylan was there with me, experiencing the exact situation I was in  and explicating every shade of dark emotion it triggered to  the most minute detail. I didn't just start loving his music--I actually decided that my life's work was going to be spreading it everywhere I could.
Luckily Curley had a cheap Epiphone Acoustic with him that he could not play and by the time we hit a campground somewhere in New Mexico, I was teaching myself "All Along The Watchtower" and "Tangled Up in Blue".  I was still enveloped in this dark death like pallor but now, once or twice a day I smiled. I felt something happening inside of me but I wasn't too sure what it was.
It wasn't too long after that that we wound up in Tempe, AZ looking for an apartment.  Truthfully, I was just going along with what was happening.  Curley was making all the decisions and I was almost surgically attached to that Epiphone.  By the time we got into that apartment by A.S.U. I was penniless. Like "could I borrow fifty cents for a pack of Ramen" penniless. But it was ok because we had new neighbors in our complex and being summer in Arizona, everybody was at the pool. At this point, I knew about six Dylan songs and I would play them for the neighbors and always wind up with a meal for my trouble.
More than being fed, the Epiphone was also providing me with admission into people's lives.  I was getting new friends, I was learning about the area, getting crucial tips on where to find work and more meals to keep surviving.
Curley had a different trip going on.  Everyday for about forty five minutes he'd be in his room, whispering to his mother over the phone. Truthfully, I found it a little spooky, but every week he'd be down at the western union picking up a check .
One day I walked in the blazing sun up to the Chevron station to ask for a job.  I'm pretty sure it was a lead from a neighbor.  At this point, I was in arrears for a few hundred, so I had to start working.  My first couple of checks were already spoken for. The manager of the station promised that he'd call my references and get back to me.  I walked the two miles home in the 102 degree heat thinking about the air condition floor I slept on, my ex-girlfriend and if it'd be possible someday to get back together and the guitar I'd be playing soon.
I walked into the apartment and Curley wasn't there...and holy shit! ...neither was the Epiphone.  I sat there in a negative spin cycle for an hour, thinking about every possible terrible thing I could when the door finally opened.
I looked at Curley and he spat back, "I had to pawn the guitar.  My mom couldn't send me any money this week."

To Be Continued

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 8-Heroes 

Being the new kid on the block every other year can really shape a person's character. Generally I've noticed that the tendency is to either do everything and anything to fit in or do what I wound up doing-the exact and literal opposite of that.
There I was in 10th grade at Comsewogue High School on Long Island-I had the black combat boots because I couldn't afford the Doc Martens; I had the fake leather jacket because I couldn't afford a real one but I assure you, there was nothing second rate about my shaved head. This was rebellion at it's finest.  In the eighties on Long Island, it was day-glo and Frankie says Relax; and it was coiffed and sprayed hair helmets.  The fact that I had white-out painted obscure and inflammatory band names on my jacket (Agnostic Front, Crumbsuckers, Cro-mags)    left me open to all kinds of daily abuse.  The thing I hated most of all was the jocks calling me Agnostic Frog.  Every teenager secretly longs to look like a heart throb or Johnny Thunders or something...anything other than a frog. But that's what they called me.
At this point in time Agnostic Front's "Victim In Pain", D.R.I's  "Dealing With It" and Suicidal Tendencies' famed debut records were all just released and the greatest demos on earth were circulating. Cro-mags' "Age of Quarrel " and Crumbsuckers  "From The Crumbsucker Cave" were definitely two of the hottest.  
I was utterly obsessed with the New York Hardcore scene and every weekend I'd take the LIRR to Penn and make my way over to the Lower East Side to Bleeker Bob's for records and T-shirts and then CBGB for the Sunday Matinee.  I have so many strange and wonderful memories from that small piece of real estate at 315 Bowery.  Hanging out with Peter Steele who I swear was seven feet tall.  The time Vinnie Stigma pulled me out of the path of a fast moving car when I forgot that cars actually used that road. The Cro-mags record release party where they had a free buffet of vegetarian krishna food, getting my picture taken with Harley and then actually hanging with Harley's mom when she told me how Harley's first instrument was the drums
As a fifteen year old, there was always a 50/50 chance of getting tossed out of the club because at that age, I looked like I was about 12. I hated it but I could still hear the band outside so that was how I got to see Suicidal Tendencies, PTL Club and a few others. 
I got the idea to start a fanzine and because of that I got access to Vinnie Stigma's (Agnostic Front) home phone number and Gary Meskil's (Crumbsuckers) number. Gary's number was at the Buy Rite liquor store in Baldwin, NY where he was a manager at the tender age of eighteen.
The fanzine actually never wound up materializing but now I had the ability to talk to two of the top level dude's in the NY hardcore scene whenever I wanted.
Believe it or not, they were very patient as I told to them my woes of being picked on everyday, the troubles i  had keeping my band (Angry Youth) together at that age...just about anything.
I got my hands on another demo from a band that started doing matinee's.  They were called Krakdown from Huntington, Long Island.  The singer was a guy named Chris Notaro and his voice was otherworldly.  It contained all the anger, emotion, negativity and fearlessness I longed for.  Nobody and nothing else sounded like him. Krakdown didn't really have any real great songs but they had two cool ones and I listened to them over and over because of that voice.
One day when I was on the phone--as usual--with Gary Meskil, he was telling me that their singer Dave Brady was too strung out to really be any kind of effective front man for The Crumbsuckers anymore. He said Chris Notaro came over and sang all the songs perfectly and sounded great.  I couldn't believe that my favorite singer was about to start singing for one of my favorite bands.
"Give him a call," Gary suggested, "He's a really nice guy"
So I did.  After telling him my whole life story he offered to drive from Huntington to Port Jeff Station to pick me up and take me to a Crumbsucker rehearsal at Gary's house in Baldwin.  I couldn't believe it.  I got to spend the whole day with him.
Within months,  the SOD album "Speak English or Die" was released and all these record companies who were considering signing the cream of the crop in New York Hardcore bands, became a lot more aggressive.  Bands like the Crumbsuckers and The Cro-mags and Agnostic Front were being courted and fought over from competing companies and everyone who was able to headline a matinee was holding out for the best deal possible.
Simultaneously, I was not only talking to Notaro every other day, we were hanging out more and more.  You got to imagine, this guy was my hero.  When they played CBGB, you couldn't even get within 100 yards of the stage and there he was on Saturday night driving from Huntington in his brand new Monte SS to pick ME up and take me to the village where we would spend the night doing the most ridiculous things.  No drugs, no alcohol...just strange esoteric weirdness: Japanese restaurants, tea rooms, clove cigarettes, and wacky dive bars and then he'd be dropping me off around 4am...which was cool because we were both scheduled to work our respective jobs two or three hours later.
The Crumbsuckers were getting bigger and bigger.  Tours, interviews, you name it.  Then Notaro was invited to be on a panel on The Phil Donahue show with Jimmy Gestapo from Murphy's Law, Gestapo's Hollywood girlfriend and this dufus who wrote an awful article about the hardcore scene from The New Yorker.
I assumed that was it.  He was a great guy but after that notoriety I was most certainly going to take a backseat as he climbed his way up the ladder of celebrity.
But that Friday night the phone call came..."YOUNG BILL!!!! Are we going to the city????"
At this point, thirty years later, I haven't heard from Chris Notaro in over a decade but I will never forget how worthwhile he made me feel at a time when it seemed like so many were so invested in making me feel the exact opposite.
And no matter what anyone's opinion of the hardcore scene might've been, I thank God for the Vinnie Stigma's, the Gary Meskil's and most especially the Chris Notaro's who had so many other things they could've been doing when this irrational, emotional adolescent called them in the middle of the day to complain about his life.
Vinnie, Gary and Chris were as different from each other as three people could be; but collectively they all understood the responsibility of being somebodies hero.

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