Dad and Chris outside Dad’s Apartment at Peyton Hall – Circa 1977

It smelled different. It felt different.

I felt at home.

Hollywood. 1973.

Dad was living in an apartment at – I will remember the address forever – 7267 Hollywood Boulevard.

Peyton Hall was a lovely garden apartment property at the corner of Hollywood and Fuller, just west of La Brea Avenue. It featured beautifully manicured sprawling grounds and walkways, interspersed by white bungalow-style buildings boasting four units each. I don’t remember if every building had the same layout. I don’t think so because some units were singles – bed-and-bath affairs – and I assume there were two-bedroom units available. Dad’s place was a one-bedroom.

Somebody told him that actor Leo Gorcey once lived in that apartment. Gorcey was best known as one of the Dead End Kids.

His rent? $225 per month.

Just up Fuller was the parking garage. It seemed ancient to a ten-year-old – like it could have been an old stable or something. I could imagine early-model cars parked there back in the day, way older than my dad’s 1967 Chevy Impala. According to an ad I found online, a parking attendant once worked in there.

I thought his Impala was ancient, too, but it was only seven model years old. What a difference a little perspective makes…

Behind the garage was an Olympic-sized pool, said to have been built for aquatic MGM star Esther Williams. The pool was a huge feature at Peyton Hall. It was textured with small square tiles, most light blue and some black to mark the lanes.

Even as a youngster, the magic of the place was not lost on me. It was palpable.

Strolling east down Hollywood Boulevard was a journey of discovery for me and for my brother. This was a world we had not known in Miami, although that place, especially Coconut Grove, holds an altogether different treasure trove of memories.

Bookstores like Bennett’s, Cherokee Bookshop, Pickwick Books and Bond Street Books were awesome places to score old comics, lobby cards, posters and even slightly used shooting scripts. The movie theaters were mind-blowing – the Chinese, the Egyptian, the Cinerama Dome on Sunset

Hollywood Toys, Hollywood Magic

Lunches at the Copper Penny on Sunset and La Brea, Ice Cream at Thrifty Drugs at Santa Monica and La Brea…

Swimming in that awesome pool and being shushed by McLean Stevenson

And the sign: “We don’t swim in your toilet. Please don’t pee in our pool…”

Peyton Hall was the precursor to our eventual life at Franklin and Orange.

More to come.

If you enjoy stuff like this, be sure to check out the podcast I have with my twin brother, Chris – The Yale Brothers Podcast.

Dad’s Building was 7267 Hollywood Blvd.
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I recently received my second Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The first round was inconsequential, and I’m sure that emboldened me to believe that I would have no ill effects.

I also brought all of my visualization skills to bear, seeing myself as perky and good-natured in the days that followed the shot.

I also bet my daughter ten dollars that I would be perfectly fine, a bet she took immediately, scoffing at the arrogance of my remark. Taylor went through headaches, chills and night sweats as a result of her second vaccine, which she received a couple of days before my girlfriend and I had ours.

After the event, we went to work as usual and neither one of us felt unusual. That was some sort of cruel joke perpetrated by Mother Nature, because by that night I was becoming tired. I went to bed early and wound up sleeping until the following afternoon, leaving just enough time to get ready for work.

Brenda felt the same way. Tired, warm and listless with a slight headache. But here’s the difference. She can be much more realistic than I am, more meat-and-potatoes, if you will.

Neither one of us were looking forward to our shifts at the cigar shop. Myrtle Beach is starting to become a very busy place, with an influx of tourists for what we call “the season.” But it was a Thursday, and we both knew we could get through the day. Thankfully, the crowds were not nearly as large as they had been for the several weekends before.

We made a stop at Chick-fil-A before we headed to the shop and ordered soup and sandwiches. If ever there was a time for chicken soup, it was then. Never mind the soul, we were thinking in far more corporeal terms.

When we arrived, my sister-in-law and brother said they would be happy to work our shifts for us. We thanked them and said we could handle it, but it was nice to know they would come back if we needed them.

We made it through, and it took days for us to fully feel better, but we are heartened to now be fully vaccinated.

My daughter, observing all of this, offered me her Gatorade and dutifully checked on us.

She also told me I owed her ten bucks.

I paid up, of course.

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As the old saw goes, “A stitch in time saves nine…”

My father used to say that, and it makes sense. If you take care of a problem immediately, you will likely save undue time, effort and trouble later.

It’s like a homespun way of asserting that being proactive beats procrastination any day.

Have your air conditioner checked before it peters out in the middle of a sweltering summer or a subarctic winter. Check your oil before your engine seizes up, leaving you stranded at the side of the road in rush hour traffic.

If something is not right in your personal life, speak up. You might not need to “forever hold your peace,” but speaking now is infinitely better than bottling up your feelings until they turn into resentment and anger.

Take care of yourself. Stop kicking the can down the road when it comes to your well-being.

Do you really need a crisis of any kind? Sure, crises can be calls to action, but a little vigilance goes a long way – and small, preemptive measures can help you correct course in the present.

Take action. Show up at the gym. Throw on your running shoes and go outside.

Politely decline an invitation to some event you have no interest in attending. Call your mother. Show appreciation for the kindness of others.

Call somebody on their bullshit, or they will continue to lie to you because they think you believe them. Do you really have time for that?

By taking small and positive actions, you will reap dividends of peace of mind and of clarity.

Say no when you want to say no.

Extract yourself from toxic situations, people and conversations.

Say yes to the simple steps that lead to a life free from drama, fear, worry and anxiety.

By you I mean me.

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This blog post is about an altogether different sort of flow from my previous post.

Recently, I took a trip with my girlfriend to the mountains of Southwest Virginia. I wrote about this area a while back. It’s where I had a brush with Mountain Music Royalty. Click HERE for more.

Brenda grew up in those mountains – the Blue Ridge Mountains – in Independence, Virginia, not far from where we stayed in the decidedly bigger burg of Wytheville.

Wytheville is on the I-81 Corridor, which follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains and is a major trucking route spanning the Southeastern states into the North. Every time I am in or around Wytheville, I am almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of big rigs on the road. I am also impressed by the generous sprinkling of truck stops with clean restrooms.

Before I take a road trip, I try not to overdo the coffee or other fluids because I don’t want to stop every five minutes for a bathroom break. Still, I am ever-vigilant about my options because it’s only a matter of time before I need to make a visit. Truck stops are always a welcome sight. Any McDonald’s is a good option, too.

I have been on these trips numerous times – and sometimes they seem like a urinal tour. I begin to notice the brand names of the urinals I visit – American Standard, Sloan, Zurn – each with their different personalities and shapes. Some you still have to flush, others flush when you step away because of the sensors attached to them.

Some spots have privacy partitions. I like those. When I was younger, I used to get stage fright if another guy was doing his business even remotely close to where I was doing mine. The older I get, the less I care – but I’m still no fan of the open troughs like they used to have in some ballparks. No thank you.

Dignity is important, at least to me.

If I was in the urinal business, I might understand the frequent stops, if only to check out the competition. But I find that if I can dehydrate a bit, I get to my intended destination that much quicker.

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It’s true that writers should write every day. But what if you are also a musician, like I am? Is it better to practice music one day and write the next day? Should I try to cram both things into a day also filled with a day job, exercise, the Yale Brothers Podcast, music gigs, reading and other pursuits?

I have tried both approaches, and I am beginning to realize that my writing and my music would be better served if I practiced only one of these things per day.

Of course, if I were to eliminate my day job I would have ample time to pursue both disciplines on a daily basis – but I also like to pay my bills.

Most people enjoy ticking off items on their to-do lists, but how far should a person go with this? I mean, it would be ridiculous to include bodily functions on that list, no matter how gratifying it would be to put a bold line through those activities with a Sharpie.

Can there be any deep work if you only write for 30 minutes a day? Is there a level of mastery to be attained by sitting at the piano for the same?

I suppose we take what we can get, but I am sure that devoting the proper time and attention to one of these disciplines per day will set the table for a more profound experience.

Am I wrong? I know there are plenty of you who have multiple passions.

Thanks to the march of technology, on-demand media, incessant notifications and myriad distractions, we have become fragmented. Our attention is divided at all turns and we have trouble being still, living “in the moment” – and achieving the coveted sense of flow.

Without the opportunity to drill down, the time to allow thoughts and processes to become fully formed, we find ourselves trapped in a self-imposed prison of superficiality and mediocrity.

Lukewarm gets spit out.

The Yale Brothers – Photo by Joan Powell

Recently at LuLu’s North Myrtle Beach, my brother and I played Skynyrd’sFreebird.”

Interesting choice for a duo consisting of a piano and a guitar. Doesn’t the recipe call for three guitars?

No matter.

Early in the evening a couple of people shouted out “Freebird.” I am sure most people are joking when they shout that out at live shows because shouting out “Freebird” is a thing – so much so that a new response to the request – two middle fingers up with a “here’s two – no charge” – also became a thing.

But we did a short version of the song, complete with piano and guitar solos – and people loved it. I even did the little organ bit at the beginning before switching to piano. My brother sang.

It’s always fun trotting out songs like this – and it certainly helps when folks are surprised and tickled about it.

I also like the idea of playing snippets of other songs that people request. It helps to foster a feeling of connection and a sense of goodwill. In a setting like LuLu’s, it’s all about the experience.

Performing with Chris is always a good time. The fact that we are twins makes for an interesting vocal dynamic, and our harmonies are tight. This covers a multitude of musical sins.

Judging from the crowd at LuLu’s, I bet the season in Myrtle Beach is going to be a busy one. I only hope that common sense will reign supreme.

Check out the Yale Brothers Podcast. We’re having fun with it!

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Yesterday, I got to work hungry.

I felt depressed and angry at the same time – so I was hangry and low-energy.

But here’s the thing – we were busy and as time went by I still hadn’t sneaked off into the office to eat.

I am a friendly guy – and people kept coming into the store. I knew many of them and I hope I was cordial enough – and I am sure I was professional enough to everyone. But this sense of edginess would not go away until I ate, and I knew it.

I imagined that many people don’t ascribe this edginess to a lack of nourishment, but rather it becomes some sort of existential dread…

I can see why.

If we don’t understand what’s going on in our bodies on a physical level, our default is sometimes to blame our minds for our sense of ennui or unease – and then our emotions take over to amplify this situation.

You feel that you are spiraling out of control.

Every task you do in the moment feels herculean and somehow inadequate.

You lack enthusiasm, find it hard to engage with others and have trouble being genuine. Thank God for the masks in this case, right? You might be squinting, but it looks like you are smiling.

This is not like you.

You are a nice guy. Most people agree that you are a nice guy.

There is a good reason you feel like bitch-slapping a complete stranger, and you don’t need therapy to figure it out.

Eat!

Photo: Brendan Wright/BWI Images

I was a music major back in the dark ages…starting in 1980.

I spent two years at Los Angeles City College, or LACC. As you might expect with any music program, I took classes in music theory, harmony and piano…

For some reason – it was insufficient attention and the fact that I was not very disciplined – I never got to the point where somebody could drop a piece of music notation in front of me and I could play it on the spot.

I regret that. I should have been more devoted to the instrument. I have said before that my piano-playing style is a conglomeration of ADHD, trial-and-error and muddling through. There is much more about my piano journey HERE.

I have a great ear, though, and I can also play like hell from a chart.

But that’s not why I wanted to write this.

We also had choir and voice classes, including sight-singing (solfeggio). Somehow I was OK with that. Way more than sight-reading piano music.

Early on, the professor in charge of the choir stuck me in the tenor section.

Problem was, I couldn’t sing that high. Still can’t.

That was a mistake – so I just pretended – using falsetto or simply mouthing the words. I should have said something, but I was not exactly a self-starter back then.

In voice class, another professor named Wes Abbott knew I was struggling with the high range. I remember complaining about it to him, and he recommended a renowned throat specialist named Hans Von Leden. Some names just stick with you, and a name like his is hard to forget –

But my then girlfriend’s dad was an audiologist and I went to see a throat guy in his practice in I think West Covina or San Dimas. I don’t remember exactly what the guy did, but there was nothing inherently wrong with my throat.

My brother and I could sing high before our voices changed – and the same girlfriend’s mother seemed relieved when she met me in person, because I sounded like “a used car salesman from Van Nuys” when I called for the first time to speak to her.

Well then, I have a low voice – and I should not have been placed in the tenor section.

Which brings us to rock ‘n’ roll…

When I was growing up, a vast majority of rock singers – and pop singers for that matter – seemed to ascend into the heavens with their vocal ranges. Think about early Elton John or Billy Joel for instance. Or Robert Plant. Or the late Tony Lewis from The Outfield. They must have had a Vise-Grip attached to their nether parts…

Steve Perry, anybody?

Not me. Or my brother.

In some band lineups, we tuned down a half-step to give us a little breathing room.

And the transpose button has long been my friend.

I enjoy playing and singing Elton John songs – and I take a perverse comfort in the fact that he can no longer hit the stratosphere. But then again, at least he used to.

I’m somewhere between Tom Waits and The Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio. Somebody once said I sounded like Elvis Costello, but he can sing higher. Randy Newman, maybe.

Acceptance.

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Most of my life, I’ve been made giddy by possibilities.

With life spread out in front of a young person, the options seem endless and there is ample time to explore any avenue that appeals to them in the moment. If they are lucky, they have at least one parent on board with the concept – and luckier still if that parent encourages them to spread their wings far and wide.

I had one such parent in my father.

Dad was the perennial youngster. He died at 70 but was endlessly drawn into a sense of childlike wonder about life, places and people. Sure, he had his down moments, but he was full of love, life and joy most of the time.

I will never meet anybody quite like Dad.

But is there an expiration date on the endless-possibility mindset? Doesn’t this encourage a mile-wide-and-inch-deep way of living – relegating a person to life as a generalist?

I bet this exacerbates ADD…

Does seeing the world as full of endless possibilities – especially at a certain age – limit one’s ability to focus?

Can a person reverse this – and when is it time to throw a dart at the map and move toward that coordinate?

Maybe we “possibility people” can enjoy the best of both worlds. We can throw the proverbial dart and move toward one main thing while keeping our hearts and minds open to happy coincidences, serendipity and spontaneity.

Can we move in the direction of that main thing without becoming so rigid that we cut off our ability to find joy in the realm of possibility?

It’s possible.

As my brother and I progress with our podcast, we’re finding our way.

27 episodes in, I believe that we are living up to the discipline it takes to continue the process. So far, we like the 30-minute episode format. I know we have the option to go as long as we want to, but in this world of immediacy, sharply declining focus and distraction, I don’t think marathon-length episodes are the way to go.

Does anybody really listen to all three hours of, say, Joe Rogan? Do folks just pop in and out of the Experience (see what I did there) whenever the urge arises?

The bulk of our podcast has been one-on-one, in-person conversations between us – trips down memory lane about growing up in Hollywood, original music and observations about our current lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We have included phone conversations with friends several times, and plan on doing more of that.

When we come to the end of the digital music archive, we will start to include live performances. Also, there is so much stuff on audio tape that a digitizing project is in order.

I am happy that folks say they enjoy listening to us and we are stoked that we finally got this thing going.

I cordially invite you to have a listen and let me know what you think.

Get the podcast HERE.