It’s a very special day here in North America. One of the last remaining holidays that has not been sold out and / or overcome by commercialism. For shame Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day etc…
November 11th marks Remembrance Day here in my homeland Canada and Veterans Day in my homeland away from home America. I know for one I am wearing my poppy proudly today. Note: I recently found out this is a strictly Canadian thing . I like that. In fact I think many Canadians are feeling this day just a little bit more this year after the recent senseless murders of two Canadian soldiers, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
So if this here holiday isn’t about getting free stuff, what is it all about? No presents, no chocolates, no cards…
No today is not about free stuff per se. It is about the freedom and opportunities that we are all so fortunate to have. But one thing this holiday does have in common with the other gift related aforementioned holidays is that deep down November 11th is actually about giving. It is about giving recognition and remembrance to all of those who themselves gave the ultimate sacrifice for their / our country and for their fellow man, woman and child – FOR US.
I keep thinking about how incredibly lucky I am today. Lucky that young men and women past, present and future put their safety, their well being and their lives on the line so that the rest of us can live in our free countries and experience the luxuries I think most of us take for granted on a day-to-day basis. I know I am feeling grateful today for these unsung heroes. And as Tim Armstrong sings in the aptly titled Rancid soldiers anthem Bravest Kids… The bravest kids I know; are the ones that gotta go; ah ah ah; fighting over there. Bravery indeed.
At a time when my life has been as great as it ever has been I really had to take a moment today and personally say THANK YOU to all who have given their all in order for me to be able to live the life that I live and have been living. I am so very grateful for the following words and stories down to the smallest detail and even the most minuscule mundane event. I am beyond appreciative for those who put their necks on the line, many never to return home again so that I could sit here writing these words.
I write this blog from Calgary airport. I am bundled up warm inside with a lined leather jacket and a toque. Red poppy in nice sharp contrast to my black leather. The temperature outside last I heard was a blustery -25C with wind-chill. The ground is white with snow and ice. Winter has arrived in Alberta. It was even cold leaving Vancouver this morning. However Vancouver is still green with hints of fall just finally beginning to overshadow the remnants of summer. It will probably be some weeks until I see green again. It is likely the last time I will see above zero temperatures too as this is only a pit-stop. I am on my way to Winnipeg, Manitoba for my 5thFriends For Life Speaking Tour sponsored by Manitoba Public Insurance. Oh Canada!!
The past couple weeks since I last wrote were epic. My last three presentations in Burlington, Massachusetts and Santa Ana, California respectively were just rad. It’s hard to even put into words. I am pretty sure this picture might help a bit. This is a standing ovation at Burlington High School with a whole lot of metal horns flying in my direction. EPIC! My Santa Ana audiences the following day were incredibly kind to me too. This was for sure the best Red Ribbon Week I have ever had. And although I spoke just 3 times, I reached close to 3000 people in just those two schools in just two days. My social media has been buzzing non-stop. I am as stoked on speaking as I have ever been!!
And the happiness and great times have not only been abundant in the schools where I have been speaking… I have been hitting shows like crazy and traveling and meeting new people. I am living the dream.
As per usual, I decided to stick around Southern California for a while after my presentations there. The weather was still great and a few punk rock shows were happening in and around my visit. No brainer there. I booked myself in Long Beach Wednesday night; Hermosa Beach Thursday night and Hollywood Friday through Sunday for Halloween. Let the adventures begin!!
I made a stop at In N Out between Foothills High School in Santa Ana and Long Beach. A celebratory burger if you will. The sun was shining and I was smiling big. When I arrive in Long beach I quickly realized the Hilton Hotel I was staying in was much nicer than what I was looking for. I mean I was going to a Guttermouth /Voodoo Glow Skulls concert that night. I did not need to be sleeping in some posh hotel at all. Fortunately the girl at the front counter respected my predicament. She not only let me cancel my room with no penalty last minute BUT ALSO recommended a hotel better suited for my needs. I thought that was pretty rad!
My new hotel, The Marriott, right in downtown Long Beach sure wasn’t a dump by any means. It was also closer to the action within rolling distance to restaurants and other haunts I may want to explore. It was also 25% cheaper than the Hilton BONUS and had a rooftop pool BO-NUS!! Ummm… Yeah I was stoked!!
It’s so crazy to me to think that not even two weeks ago I was laying by a pool in the sun. I actually got so hot I had to seek shade. Meanwhile outside in Calgary right now… Oh Canada… it is f-f-f-f-f-freezing. The Guttermouth show in Long Beach was rad. Voodoo Glow Skulls were awesome. I had never seen them before. I was also introduced to a dirty rock n roll band called Against The Grain from Detroit this night. If you like Zeke of Motorhead give em a whirl. I hit the merch table hard. More black tees for the collection. My drawer barely closes these days. What a night!! The atmosphere was great in Alex’s Bar as it generally is in punk shows. I saw some familiar faces aka Mark from Guttermouth and even met a few new ones most notably a beauty named Michelle.
Uber got me back to my hotel. I can’t wait until Uber comes to Vancouver!! I had a good little sleep-in Thursday. Gotta love those comfy hotel beds. My next destination was Hermosa Beach, the only location on this trip that wasn’t strategically planned around a show. Though Hermosa was still punk rock inspired. Two of the bands that got me into punk rock hail from Hermosa: Pennywise and The Desendents. I figured it would be a good place for me to check out. I was right.
I checked in to the Hampton Inn in Hermosa around 1pm and quickly I noticed it was located right beside a massive Vans store. Score! Ya, spent a few bucks in there. I was rolling distance to the beach. TO the beach as it was all downhill for about half a mile. I wasn’t planning on rolling back. My first stop was actual Hermosa Beach. Golden sandy beaches for as far as the eye could see in both directions. Massive waves crashing ashore. A huge pier jutting into the whirling ocean. And a paved pathway busy with skateboarders, bikers, joggers, rollerbladers, scooters and even a few wheelchairs. None as badass as mine of course. Oh SoCal you seductress you.
My next stop was a place called The Standing Room. The irony of the name is not lost on me I assure you. This place is owned by Fletcher the mighty guitarist of Pennywise. It is also home to probably the best burger I have ever ate in my life. As I sat in the Standing Room, cracks me up writing that, I noticed that everyone seemed to know everyone. Lots of locals for sure. But I didn’t feel on the outside by any means. I did not feel unwelcome at all. There are plenty of transplants in Hermosa. I am not surprised. I would live there in a heartbeat. The first one I entered I met was a rad Hawaiian punker named Hoi. We exchanged numbers as he was leaving. We are still in touch. Dude is rad! Then I met a new best friend named Anja. Anja was visiting from Austria. I was visiting from Canada. We hit it off right away. Anja and I cruised around a bit but found our way back to The Standing Room. There was a sick cover band with an super chill ska and reggae vibe that had us dancing it up and into the night. Beauty night.
I picked Anja up at her hostel around noon on Friday. She also was Hollywood bound so I offered her a lift. Anja would prove to be an awesome travel buddy. We both had the same intentions for our respective Halloween weekends in Hollywood. We wanted to rock out. I stayed at The Grafton on Sunset Blvd. They had treated me so well on my last visit, it was a no-brainer. We didn’t hang around the room long or much at all though. Our first stop Friday was the legendary Rainbow… however a block away I spotted the lead singer from LA 80s glam rock band Faster Pussycat. He was chilling in front of the Whiskey A Go Go. I told our driver to stop.
By the time we got out of the vehicle and down to the Whiskey the dude we stopped to see was gone. But luck was on my side this trip. Faster Pussycat who were playing the Whiskey later that night were doing a sound check inside. The doors were open. Nobody stopped us from coming in and finding a spot. The band played full songs. There were maybe a dozen and half people in the Whiskey. It was like our own private show in Hollywood. EPIC! And for anyone who doesn’t know The Whiskey is legendary. The Doors used to be the house band there. Enough said.
Our next stop The Rainbow is equally if not even more legendary than the Whiskey. Think what Graceland is to Elvis and Rock N Roll but instead the Rainbow is a communal Graceland to pretty well every rocker that has ever existed in Rock N Roll. Elvis notwithstanding: Sinatra & The Rat Pack, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, AC/DC, Zeppelin… The Doors, Joplin, Hendrix, Sublime… If they are rock n roll they have eaten and god knows whatever else at The Rainbow.
I like it here you may have figured. Anja and I mingled. We chatted with the 90 year old founder Mario, who to my chagrin remembered me from my last visit. He even poked fun at my Halloween costume. Pretty rad! Thanks Mario!! I also made a new pal named Sonny who penned a poetry book on the LA bar scene and who generously shared stories of young Motley Crue and Van Halen for my hungry ears. Man! For me this is the best place I could possibly be at any time. ROCK N ROLL!! Our waitress even borrowed us some black make-up so Anja could give me some Halloween ink. I went Turbo. I was feeling the ROCK!
My pal Macgregor met us at The Rainbow and after some eats we braved the rain.. YA IT RAINED!! A four year drought in LA and it rains when I am in town. Hey, can’t win em all. I wasn’t complaining either… just saying… So we braved the rain east on Sunset to the House of Blues. Here we would take in England’s pop punk darlings The Adicts. DUDE! Like for real. Show was EPIC. Night was EPIC. Shutting down Jonny Depp’s former club Viper Room later was EPIC. EPIC EPIC EPIC. Night one was a success.
Saturday was a sunnier day than Friday had been. Anja and I patio hopped around Sunset eventually meeting up with a rad couple we had met the night before from Dallas. My brother from another mother Chad. Dude loves punk rock, metal and all that mayhem as much as me. Kindred spirits he calls us. We definitely see eye to eye eh. We did er up Hollywood style and as the day began to turn to night we headed back for The Rainbow. Chad had tickets to see Marylin Manson at the Roxy next door.
Anja and mine’s plan was to hit a Guns N Roses cover band that night at The Whiskey but thanks to a chance meeting with Marilyn Manson’s dad and some of his crew the night before we were invited into the sold out show no charge. So here I am with this rad girl from Austria getting escorted VIP style to the front of the stage at the Roxy to see Marilyn Manson. DUDE!! Ya!! See why I am not gonna complain about a bit of rain??!!
I can’t even say I am a big fan, but Marilyn Manson ROCKED OUT Saturday, November 1st at the Roxy in Hollywood. Anja and I ended our evening at the legendary Comedy Store where such legends as Andy Kaufman, Eddie Murphy, Richard Prior, Sam Kinnison, Robin Williams etc have graced the stage. Hollywood I tells ya. It is the place to be.
Sunday was a chill day. Anja and I hung around the beach in Hermosa before saying our goodbyes. I am sure we will meet again. I drove to LAX and caught a flight home pinching myself to see if all of this was indeed real. Like seriously!!?? I arrived in Seattle around 10:30pm to torrential rain. Yep, this seemed very real. Cali is RAD!! But again, no rain was knocking me down from my perch on stoked mountain. It rained hard the entire two hour drive north back home. But I didn’t mind because I had the new Lagwagon album Hang to keep me stoked. THE NEW LAGWAGON IS AWESOME!!!
It felt good to be home and unwind. My cats were stoked to see me. I wasn’t stoked to see they puked on my Dropkick Murphy’s setlist I had gotten from a recent show and all of my upcoming show tickets. Little buggers. That one seemed intentional. I’ll give em credit. I couldn’t even be mad.
In my week at home I saw my family and friends. Hayley and I had a jam session one night. I hung out with my dad another night. My mom came for dinner another night. And me and my bro Nick hit a metal show, Kreator and Arch Enemy at the Commodore Thursday and the Misfits Sunday at the Rickshaw. Our bro Mikey joined us for that one too. Both shows were sick. Misfits was pretty amazing. They played over 40 songs and I left with some pretty sick merch and loot.
I considered hitting one more show last night. Mariachi El Bronx in Bellingham. But opted to just chill at home a night and rest up for this trip. It was a tough call considering my buddy Keith from Mad Caddies who now plays horns in Mariachi El Bronx and had me on the guest list. But I think it was the right call. I needed some down time and to just chill and pack. Next time Mariachi El Bronx. Next time for sure. SICK SICK band by the way.
And now here I sit awaiting my connecting flight too Winnipeg, Manitoba where it is only -5C outside. I am stoked for the next 11 days. MPI has me booked for 15 talks in and around Winnipeg. I have had nothing but great audiences, amazing memories and fun times in Winnipeg in my past visits, so I am expecting more of the same. I don’t think I have ever been so stoked on life and my presentations and just everything. So my plan is to take this tour to a whole new level of AWESOME!!
So there you have it. I have plenty to be thankful for. And once I again I want to say that without the brave men and women who sacrificed everything I would have none of this. None of these stories. Who knows what…
Before I go I must mention one more personal connection I have with November 11th. My grampa Kozevnikov fought in the second World War. At the time of its breakout him and my gramma and most of our family were living in their home country of Estonia. Russia had occupied Estonia and were pretty well ethnically cleansing the country. It was so bad that my granmma actually said to me once that the Nazi’s were a welcome change. It has to be pretty bad when Nazis are an improvement. My grampa did not talk much about the war. The only time it ever really came up as a kid was maybe when I was playing GI Joe’s or watching a movie like Rambo that glamourizes and grossly misrepresents the reality of war. As a kid I always got kind of bummed when he would raise his voice at me, shut down my war movie I was watching and tell me to change to a nature show. But now I get it. He had seen the horrors in real life. There was no reason for him to relive them. I have so much respect for my grampa Pete Kozevikov. May he rest in peace. And I choose nature shows over war shows all the time now.
Only after his passing did my gramma begin to open up and share stories. Many of our family were killed. Houses were blown to pieces. My great grampa was shipped off to Siberia to a labour camp to never be seen again. My grampa and gramma managed to escape Estonia and get to Germany. Germany was no Disneyland at the time. It was under strict Nazi rule and absolutely every single word you said and move you made was being monitored. At any moment you could be taken away and beaten or killed or worse. It was a horrible time.
My grandparents managed to escape Nazi Germany. They arrived in Manitoba, Canada with two small children, my great uncle and aunt and my great grandparents who survived the war. They started a new life in Bisset, Manitoba, a small mining town that in all of my travels in this province I have never been even remotely near. I think that says something for how remote it is. My grampa worked wherever he could and learned whatever skills he could to provide for his family. Eventually they migrated west to where we all still live.
I am remembering my grampa right now. The sacrifices he gave and the battles he so courageously fought so that we could be here in Canada. Here in North America free from oppression and occupation and all of the other horrible things that are going on elsewhere in the world. I had the honour of speaking at Fort Polk, Louisiana in 2012 to a couple thousand uniformed troops over two days. It was the most humbling experience of my life. I have so much respect for all oof these brave folk past and present whether they are my grampa Pete Kozevnikov, a soldier who may have heard me speak or one I will never meet. Thank You. I just want to close by saying thanks again to all who have fought to give us all that we have. To all those who are currently fighting. I hope you make it home safe so you too can once again enjoy these luxuries and freedoms and opportunities that we are enjoying because of you.
Lest We Forget.
ROCK N ROLL!!
Just Wiggle Your Toes.