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(With Casey King and Danny Trejo. Photo: Gene Ho)

On Sunday, February 12, The Sun News published my profile of professor Casey King, founder of the Horry-Georgetown Technical College Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series, which kicked off last Thursday and will continue for three more weekly installments.

King teaches physics at both HGTC and Coastal Carolina University, and has been organizing this series since 2008. He will be the first to tell you that the series has very little to do with him and that it has taken on a life of its own.

I am grateful to King for his candor during the process of putting together the story, as well as for contributions from Dr. Victor Archambeau, local chapter chairman of Faces and Voices of Recovery – or FAVOR – as well as the heartbreaking input from a young man by the name of Dylan Parker, an HGTC student who lost his brother to the heroin epidemic in 2013 – and for a couple of to-the-point quotes from actor Danny Trejo.

Danny Trejo? “Machete?”

Yup.

Trejo was the series headliner, slated to kick off the event on Thursday night at the Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium on HGTC’s Conway campus.

I was bummed out that I was not going to be able to attend that event because of a weekly gig I play at House of Blues with my brother – but as fate would have it, I got a message from King. It turns out that Trejo was also set to speak in a classroom setting at HGTC’s Myrtle Beach campus Thursday morning, and King offered to save me a seat.

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(Photo: Gene Ho)

Thankful to have been included, it did my heart good to hear Trejo speak. For an idea of what he was talking about, go here.

And here is my Sun News article:

‘Machete’ star to make appearance as HGTC’s Addiction and Recovery Lecture series headliner

On Thursday, February 16, actor Danny Trejo will kick off the 10th annual Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, bringing his story of personal transformation to the Grand Strand.

Trejo’s iconic rugged demeanor has served him well over the years, and he has appeared in dozens of films from “Desperado,” “From Dusk till Dawn” and “Con Air” to the “Spy Kids” trilogy, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and of course “Machete” and “Machete Kills.”

Trejo, now 72, struggled with addiction early on and has been sober for a jaw-dropping 48 years.

The HGTC Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series has been going strong since 2008, bringing with it a veritable Who’s Who of well-known people who have struggled with addiction: Louis Gossett, Jr., Meredith Baxter, Steve Ford [son of former President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford], three stars of A&E’s “Intervention” and more.

The series continues for three consecutive Thursdays following Trejo’s event and will include featured speakers and community panel events.

Longtime HGTC physics and natural sciences professor Casey King is the organizer and the de facto face of the series, even though he will be the first to tell you that it has a life of its own.

King has been living and teaching on the Grand Strand for more than 20 years, following a stint in nuclear energy. After finishing graduate school at the University of Virginia, his first job was as a radiation specialist for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] in Chicago.

“That lasted about a year, and I last worked in a nuclear power plant. I was there for about four years until about 1994,” he said.

He said he was miserable.

“I worked in the control room and it was either incredibly boring or intensely manic,” he said. “The job was bipolar.”

King made the switch to academia when a job came open at Coker College in Hartsville and he was accepted to teach.

He went on to other teaching jobs at Francis Marion University and Florence-Darlington Technical College before transferring to HGTC in 1996. He also began teaching math and physics at Coastal Carolina University in 2003.

“It was like a breath of fresh air, and incredibly refreshing to begin to teach. That’s why I have been in the teaching field for 23 years. I love it, and look forward every day to going to work,” he said.

King has four adult children, three of which he raised as a single parent. He has been in a relationship with partner Jennifer Neafsey for nearly eight years.

King also struggled with addiction. He said he thought he had a lot of people fooled along the way, and that an active addict by his very nature has a way of covering things up.

“When my career with substance [abuse] appeared to be at its end, I knew I had no other choice but to seek some kind of help. It had been suggested to me by some friends that 12-Step programs worked – and I knew enough to do something before it was too late,” he said.

King got sober in 2005.

At that time, he was involved in organizing a general series of lectures on assorted topics at HGTC, but this changed in 2008.

“After we had done this for a few years, my partner dropped out and it was just me. I chose to include the topic of addiction and recovery because It because it was near and dear to my heart,” he said. “It was something that I had decades of experience with.”

King knew plenty of people in recovery and was already in the position to reserve the auditorium.

“I don’t think I have any special ability, but it just seemed like I was in the right place at the right time to do this lecture series.”

But he had no funds to work with, and relied for the first few years on local counselors and doctors to speak – sometimes more than once.

Eventually, HGTC got behind the series with the funding he needed to ramp things up.

The series has always been free and open to the public.

“There has never been a charge for any of this over 10 years. No money has ever been involved from the attendees,” he said.

The first Hollywood-connected speaker came in the form of screenwriter William G. Borchert, who lived in Little River at the time and wrote the 1989 film, “My Name Is Bill W.,” based on the true story of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and starring James Woods and James Garner.

King’s networking efforts paid off next when he secured cast members from A&E’s “Intervention” for speaking slots in the lecture series – and his relationship with them has grown into a valuable resource to the point where he calls them whenever he needs to.

“There are people that come to me for interventions, and I will farm it out to one of them. It’s networking at its best,” he said.

Locals might remember the billboard on U.S. 501 touting the arrival of academy award winner Louis Gossett, Jr. last year. His speaking engagement was so full that some attendees had to use an overflow area.

This is shaping up to be the same scenario with Trejo.

“We’re making plans to accommodate a large crowd. There will be closed-circuit television in five rooms,” said King.

King just got word that a film crew will be on hand to grab footage from this event for a Trejo biopic currently in production.

“I want people to see that there are multiple paths to recovery – and when Danny Trejo comes, he will tell his story and how he did it. On the second night [February 23], there will be six to eight students – all local and in recovery – who are going to tell you their stories.”

On Thursday, March 2, William C. Moyers will tell his story.

Moyers is VP of public affairs for community relations for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and son of journalist Bill Moyers. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption.”

The final installment of the Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series on March 9 is sponsored by the local advocacy group Faces and Voices of Recovery – or FAVOR – and will include the showing of a film called “Generation Found,” which focuses on youth addiction and recovery in Houston.

Local FAVOR chapter chairman Dr. Victor Archambeau said he met King in more than three years ago, when FAVOR was being formed on the Grand Strand. The group has been involved with the lecture series since then.

“Casey joined FAVOR and asked how we could help,” he said. “He offered to extend the conference to four nights and let us have the fourth night for a program of our choosing.”

Archambeau is a family practitioner who said he has been in recovery for 23 years.

In addition to sponsoring the showing of “Generation Found,” Archambeau said FAVOR members will help with the dinner service for all four nights.

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(FAVOR Chairman Dr. Victor Archambeau and FAVOR Secretary Susan Shirley. Photo: Matt Silfer for The Sun News]

King’s efforts in the name of recovery are not lost on Archambeau.

“Casey is passionate about what he does and really wants others to get the message about recovery. This program is a labor of love for him and requires a huge commitment of time and effort to make it work,” he said.

HGTC student Dylan Parker is not in recovery, but he will be telling his story on February 23.

Parker lost his brother to a heroin overdose in 2013, when Parker was 15.

“My brother Clay was someone I always looked up to dearly and loved,” he said. “He was my best friend, and we connected on so many things that we were almost twins. I don’t remember exactly when Clay first admitted his addiction. After his death, a lot of things went blurry on me.”

Parker said his brother’s problem started with the abuse of pills – first taking them orally and then injecting them – ultimately moving on to heroin and the black tar that ended his life.

“Clay’s death showed me that drugs are a disease,” he said. “It’s one that people don’t want to realize or acknowledge. I was once one of those people. Drugs not only took my brother. They’ve taken away a part of my mom and dad. When Clay passed away I didn’t want to keep quiet about his addiction. I wanted people to know that drugs are a real problem and they show no discrimination.”

Parker said his brother’s death gave him the ability to share this story with The Sun News and to speak at the lecture series.

“If this could help or save someone then by all means I know my brother is proud of me. It’s time to speak up and help those that are in need,” he said.

Although King is the founder and organizer of the lecture series, he strives to keep himself out of the picture as much as possible.

“I am not an expert. I am a physics professor and just happen to be in recovery. It’s not about me. It’s about the series,” he said.

In a statement, Trejo told The Sun News that he has never been to Myrtle Beach before.

The focus of his message is to the point:

“Never give up on someone.,” he said.

And for those thinking about getting help, Trejo had this to say:

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train.”

For more information about the HGTC Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series, email Casey King at casey.king@hgtc.edu or call 843-477-2154.

Thursday, The Sun News in Myrtle Beach will run my story on the FDA’s Deeming Regulations and their impact on a local vape shop here, Zuluvape, and what owner Orit Deverell is doing to stay ahead of the regulatory curve.

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Above: With Orit Deverell, owner of Zuluvape

I also had the pleasure of interviewing John Boynton, executive director of an organization called the South Carolina Vapor Industry association [SCVIA] – which is affiliated with the national trade advocacy group, the Vapor Technology Association – which lobbies at the federal level to give the vape industry a voice in Washington.

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For the sake of keeping this story balanced, I also got some medical input at the local level from a family practitioner, Dr. Victor Archambeau, as well as a statement from Coastal Carolina University public health professor, Dr. Michael S. Dunn.

As some of you might know, I work in the cigar industry – specifically Tinder Box Myrtle Beach, under the umbrella of Tinder Box of the Carolinas. I am also a committed vaper, having given up traditional cigarettes for electronic cigarettes nearly three years ago.

The fact that the premium cigar industry and the vape industry are lumped into the same legislation by way of the FDA is a bit surprising and although these industries might be considered strange bedfellows – the strength of lobbying efforts has effectively doubled.

United we stand, right?

Here’s a peek online- and this is just the beginning.

FDA Regulations Impact Myrtle Beach-area Vape Retailers

laurel-and-hardy-with-yale-brothers

In early September, a message appeared on The Yale Brothers’ Facebook page from a guy named Roger Robinson in the UK. He was very complimentary about our music, but the crux of the matter was that he was doing research on the original Yale Brothers for a magazine he publishes in England called The Perry Winkle, which is devoted to all things Laurel & Hardy.

He was aware that my Dad and “Uncle” Roger had performed with Laurel and Hardy – presumably at the Glasgow Empire in 1947, and had stumbled across an old black and white photograph of the four of them together while visiting the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston.

This intrigued us, and I was happy to help with any information I could provide – and my brother Chris felt the same way.

Robinson heads up Saps at Sea, a chapter of Sons of the Desert/The International Laurel & Hardy Society. Interestingly enough, there is a Saps at Sea/Sons of the Desert chapter or oasis/tent here in Myrtle Beach. Full circle.

I am so grateful to Robinson for reaching out to us about this because this is part of the legacy left by my dad, Carl Yale. He meant so much to us.

Here is the finished product.

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Thanks again, Roger Robinson – happy to count you a friend!

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I started smoking cigarettes in earnest in1981.

I was 17, and at that time idolized the iconic British playwright Sir Noel Coward, who more often than not had a cigarette in hand in most of his publicity photos spanning 50 years.

He died of a heart attack at 73, and biographer/life partner Graham Payn noted Coward’s circulation issues as early as ten years before his death.

“Noel was suffering from circulatory problems in his legs, but was lazy about taking any form of exercise beyond reaching for a cigarette,” he wrote.

Poor bastard.

noel-coward

Above photo: Noel Coward Society

I quit smoking cigarettes on Ash Wednesday – March 5, 2014, after 33 years. Calling this a dalliance would be a colossal understatement. This was a committed relationship – a marriage – and I loved cigarettes.

But I know they didn’t love me.

For a couple of years before this, I messed around with e-cigarettes – or more specifically, “cig-alikes,” those disposable numbers you can buy at convenience stores – and eventually bought myself a vape pen called a Joyetech eCab with a refillable cartridge, but I used these intermittently while continuing to smoke cigarettes.

But my daughter challenged me to lay down the cigarettes and vape exclusively for Lent in 2014 – and this time it stuck. I admit I stayed in bed the bulk of the morning on Ash Wednesday because I knew I would be tempted to light up as soon as I got up – so I stayed where I was until I was sure I wouldn’t.

By then, I had a few more e-cigs – this time of the variable voltage variety with a combination of tanks and a collection of e-liquids to back up my resolve. I picked up these items from a friend of mine at a local vape shop when I was writing a cover story for an alt-weekly about the vaping trend on the Grand Strand in 2013.

I roped by twin brother into doing the cover shoot with me, although he is not a vaper.

In that article, I profiled vape shop owners as well as several people who had given up traditional cigarettes in favor of vaping. I also explored the existing American Medical Association [AMA] data about a concept called harm reduction and spoke to a cardiologist, who told me that he could intuit that vaping was less harmful than cigarettes, based on his experience with his patients at the time.

When I finally got out of bed that Ash Wednesday, I began to vape exclusively and never looked back.

Rog Celeb Square New

By that time, the technology had improved, and variable voltage made a huge difference. I could tailor my “hit” to feel like it did when smoking cigarettes.

I knew from previous experience that this was an altogether different activity, and as such was not going to be identical to cigarette smoking – but it was a smooth transition and one that I don’t regret.

With the FDA attempting to impose its heavy hand on the vaping industry, I see a lot of dirty pool at play – most notably a total disregard for the legions of former cigarette smokers who now vape, and their stories. It seems like Big Tobacco is behind a scheme that would have us believe that cigarette smoking is the safer option.

That, my friends, smells like bullshit – and I aim to dig deeper.

 

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Almost a month ago, my daughter took off to New York City.

Taylor had only been back in Myrtle Beach for a month when the opportunity presented itself, and it’s like the universe conspired to make the trip possible: A friend of one of her lifelong friends was heading up there and had room in her vehicle – but the friend making the trip was leaving from Winston-Salem, NC.

And that lifelong friend had a place for Taylor to stay when she got there.

It just so happened that my niece – Taylor’s cousin – was in town for Labor Day and was heading back to her home in High Point on that Sunday.

High Point is 20 miles away from Winston-Salem.

See where I am going with this?

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By a wonderful, serendipitous miracle of logistics and goodwill – my daughter is where the action is.

She already told me she wasn’t coming back. I hope she’s kidding – but I am also confident that she will carve out a niche for herself up there and will be able to put that College of Charleston communication degree to good use.

If she can make it there, she’ll make it anywhere…

My daughter isn’t one to let the grass grow under foot. Within about a week she snagged a hostessing job at a French-American restaurant and cafe in Brooklyn called French Louie. No doubt having worked at excellent places in Charleston such as Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) and more recently Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar, coupled with her familiarity with OpenTable were big pluses.

They told her that they were after hospitality at French Louie. My kid lived in the epicenter of Southern hospitality for four years.

This week she was interviewed by a College of Charleston graduate at a PR firm on Madison Avenue. There is a CofC alumni group in Manhattan – and another friend made her aware of this.

Frankly – Taylor has a group of friends in The City that parallels her Charleston experience. Not to mention that lifelong friend since middle school in Myrtle Beach, who has already been working steadily in the entertainment industry up there.

If not now, when…

Taylor was about to wait until she saved up a bit from working here in Myrtle before heading up North to poke around – but I suppose fate intervened when the universe conspired.

The last thing I would want for her would be to “settle” for a temporary job here and then, ten years on, wonder what the hell happened.

I can’t be more proud.

Or more terrified.

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My son graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on June 3.

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Wesley became a United States Marine a week before marching across the Peatross Parade Deck on the island – to the delight of the friends and family members who made the trip to experience that transformative moment in his life and an unbelievably emotional moment for his father.

He completed a grueling event called the Crucible, effectively ending his time as a recruit when he earned his EGA, or Eagle, Globe and Anchor – an emblem presented to newly minted Marines immediately following the event.

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Photo credit: http://www.mcrdpi.marines.mi

The Crucible is no joke. It is 54 hours of food and sleep-deprived physical and mental challenges bordering on the surreal, including 45 miles of marching and simulated battles – and is in fact the culmination of the most intense recruit training of any branch of the American military.

Wesley told me that the Crucible was the most fun he ever had.

What fresh hell! Who says that? Is he kidding me?

His reasoning was that his CrossFit training over the years at CrossFit Myrtle Beach put him in excellent shape, and that he welcomed the Crucible with open arms – a testimony to his mental and physical readiness.

And now, just like that it seems, my young man is a Marine.

The next step for Wes was SOI – or School of Infantry. In his case, this encompassed Infantry Training Battalion.

The official Marine Corps  website, http://www.marines.com, sums up this second-stage school much better than my puny civilian brain can hope to:

“Infantry Training Battalion (ITB) is a 59-day course. The mission is to train, mentor and evaluate Infantry Marines in specific entry-level tasks under the leadership of Combat Instructors. Marines are instructed in marksmanship, patrolling, grenade usage, identifying and countering improvised explosive devices and land navigation, among other various infantry skills. In doing so, the Infantry Training Battalion provides the Corps with Marines who are fully prepared for service in the operating forces.”

Mind blowing stuff.

After a scaled-down but no less impressive graduation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station New River, where Camp Geiger is located and where he participated in SOI, Wesley was unceremoniously shipped off to his next school. We had less than an hour to hang with him.

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But I relished every second with him – and even took footage of the bus as it left. I am nothing if not dramatic.

For most of the other 03 infantry “grunts,” as they are affectionately called, Geiger was the last school before taking up their positions in the operating forces.

Wesley is finishing up his final school for now in Chesapeake, Virginia – in line with his MOS – or Military Occupational Specialty.

At this point, I have no clue where he will be going after this. He won’t know for another week or so.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Or more terrified.

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Yale Brothers with SignsMy brother and I have done six or seven of these SoundCloud audio tracks, which would be considered podcasts if we had them set up with the proper feeds and delivery systems.

The fact that we haven’t yet done that is a head-scratcher – considering that a middle school kid could likely have us ready to go in minutes.

But we love these sessions, and they have a way of meandering off into the tangential.

Where else in 30 minutes can you hear about everything from the bands Big Country and TSOL to Robert Morse and Larry Kert and (of all people) Fifi D’Orsay – to Orson Welles‘ questionable housekeeping practices – to my incessant vaping – to our upcoming gigs at House of Blues Myrtle Beach?

Yale Bros Podcast Pic

I WAS WRONG: We ARE playing the Brews Blues & BBQ event there this Saturday!

Blues and Brews HOB

We’re dads as well – so we love to chime in about what our adult children are up to!

This is, indeed, a junk drawer – but we all know what cool shit is to be found in the junk drawer.

Have a listen.