I was once a rock star.
Ok, I played a pretty mean rhythm guitar in my day. I also had long hair, and a bad attitude. Except almost no one ever knew it, well, very few people anyway.
To be fair to myself, and my brother, Tim, who was and is the real musician in the family,
we did make our own independent album (Quest for Lasagna)—which no one bought—and one of the songs did get played on the radio in our home town, a couple of times, and we did an interview on the same radio station, once. But no, we gained no real fame & fortune.
The closest I ever came to ‘feeling’ famous, or at least getting a taste of it, was at a Jimmy Buffett concert, in like ’97, in Raleigh, N.C., at Walnut Creek Amphitheater.
That’s when I was mistaken for a famous rock star. Well, it wasn’t the first or last time, but it was the last time that I really wanted to be famous.
I used to look a lot like James Hetfield, you know, the lead singer of Metallica, back in the day before he cut all his hair off. Of course, I’m much prettier than James—sorry man, I am—but in his defense, he’s much richer and more famous-er, and ok, probably a better guitar player, and singer than I am.
Anyway, I did look like him. I give you photos on the right as evidence.
I was mistaken for James several times over a couple of years, in various places. Once, in Clawson’s 1905 Restaurant in Beaufort, N.C., I was failing so badly at convincing the kitchen staff that I WASN’T the famous metal god, that I finally decided to shock them, so I signed the bill, “Thanks for the great meal guys…James Hetfield.” So James, if anyone has ever asked you what the hell you were doing in Beaufort, N.C. back in like 1991, now you know why.
So, I’m standing on the cool grass, in the warm sun at Walnut Creek, listening to Jimmy sing “Margaritaville” for the millionth time, and I’m there with about 7 friends, who are for some reason, not standing next to me. So they’re talking with this guy—a stranger—and pointing over at me, when I realize what they’re doing.
The guy looked kind of like Shaggy, you know, from Scooby Doo, and I suspected, correctly, that he was smokin’ the same wacky weed as the crime fightin’ dog’s best friend (why else would they always be headed for the kitchen while ghouls are chasing them?). What my wonderful friends were up to, was convincing this guy that I was in fact, James F’N Hetfield. So a few moments later, after he screwed up enough courage to talk to such a god of rock as me, or more precisely, James, he sauntered over. Okay, he stumbled a bit, but saunter sounds better in a story.
Now every time I had been approached this way before, I had immediately denied being James, including the first time it happened, a couple of years before, when a really hot blonde girl surprised me on a dance floor one night with the question, and I was so shocked that I instantly replied, “no,” which destroyed any interest she had in me, and she walked away, and I kicked myself the rest of the night. Oh well. But this time—at the Buffett concert—I decided to give it a shot, just to see what happened, not that I wanted to dance with Shaggy, but hey, it might be fun to mess with someone, right? Well, I shouldn’t have, and I never did it again.
Not that the stoner guy was an asshole or anything–actually he was pretty cool–but he was just so intrigued to get to talk to a famous rocker, that he had a million questions—most of which I answered wrong (like the number of guys in the band, Metallica, you know, the one that I was supposedly the lead singer of. I said 5. There are in fact, 4. Hey, I was drinking and not a huge Metallica fan, go figure—sorry James). So, there I am, trying to listen to the chorus of “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw,” and this guy is asking me about the members of some other guy’s metal band, and I’m fucking up the answers. Smoooootheee!
After about 5 minutes of this, I started to think, “Man, being famous really sucks ass!” So, I kinda blew the guy off with, “Hey man, I’m glad to meet you and all, but, I really came here to listen to Jimmy.” And he apologized, and said “later,” and walked away, never to be seen by me again. I’m sure, that somewhere, in N.C., there is a story still circulating about how a stoner guy met James Hetfield at a Jimmy Buffett concert back in ’97, at Walnut Creek Amphitheater.
Why am I telling this story anyway?
It’s really about fame & fortune. Do you want fame & fortune? I once did, but not anymore.
That moment at the Buffett concert was an epiphany for me. I realized then that what I really wanted in life, was not FAME, but just the fortune. Give me the damned money, but to hell with the fame. With fame, you can’t leave your house! You can’t even stand on the grass at Walnut Creek and listen to “Pirate Looks at Forty,” without some Shaggy-looking, hippy dude accosting you for 5 minutes about the size of the band Metallica! WTF?
Of course, I was still pursuing the dream of rock stardom at the time, so that didn’t really mesh with my new found revelation, but hey, I was still pretty young, and dumb. It took me many more years to realize that really, I don’t want either of them. Not even the money.
Yes, I’d love to have enough cash to pay off my student loans—a subject for another day—and some credit card debt, not to mention, you know, eat, and sleep indoors (two of my favorite habits). But I don’t need more than that. I’d like to travel a bit, ok, a lot. The house we live in now, is not big, but we certainly don’t ever need a larger one, in fact, I’d be happy with a much smaller one, especially one built into the side of a hill, with a round door.
What do I want?
I want to bring Shire-ness to the World, and Spring again to the Trees. Sounds like kinda fluffy, hippie-dippy, tree-huggie shit for a James Hetfield-lookin’, guitar playing, long haired, rocker like me right?
I guess if I wore enough tie dye—and I never wear it—I’d look like a hippie. Or when I wear my Jim Beam t-shirt, I look like a Southern redneck—which I’m not. Ok, I’m Southern, but I only ‘sound’ like a redneck. I’m actually too educated to be one. I don’t even own a gun, though I own several broadswords. What can I say? I’ve mellowed out in my old age. No really, this IS the mellow me. Trust me on that one.
No, what I want in life, really, is to see a world where people learn to cooperate together, instead of running around in fear of each other. When I say I want to bring Shire-ness to the World, I mean, to bring a sense of community back to it. This must start at a very local level, literally, block by block. At a level of say 150 people or so. This is the maximum number of people who can work together effectively in a group. Trust me it is. Look it up.
We must start small, and build from there. If we can build millions and millions of block communities, we can start to link them together, and thereby change, or Save the Earth. How do we do that? That’s the subject of my book, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth, and the central idea behind much of what I write here on this blog.
Bringing Spring again to the Trees? That’s a metaphor, sort of, that I stole from the late, great, Professor Tolkien, a reference to his books on Middle Earth. He gave a speech in 1958 in which he challenged us all with the following words:
I look East, West, North, South, and I do not see Sauron; but I see that Saruman has many descendants. We Hobbits have against them no magic weapons. Yet, my gentle hobbits, I give you this toast: To the Hobbits. May they outlast the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees.
What does it mean? Only that we, as a species, need to return to harmony with Nature and with each other, to become what humans were destined to be, builders of gardens and Shires, hobbits (if you will), not Masters over creatures great and small.
Do you still want fame & fortune? I don’t. I have no use for either. I don’t need riches, not monetary ones anyway, or fame—I prefer walking down the street talking to friends and neighbors, not dodging autograph seekers, or stoner, hippy, Scooby-Doo buddies. I just want to see Spring in the Trees, while listening to Jimmy sing, “I’d rather die while I’m living, than live while I’m dead.”
That’s really all I want.