21
Apr

The End of An Era

Oh, my friends, this is hard to write. As blessed as we have been to be the ones that get to live here, the family has decided to sell The Magic House. We will be leaving here soon to start a new adventure. I can only begin to tell you how bittersweet it is. There are so many stories, so many lives changed, so much music, so many memories… it overwhelms me to think about it all. Trying to decide what to pick out to relive the magic with you here knowing that, perhaps, it is better that some stories go untold.

The End of An Era

25 years ago this past November we moved in. For me, it was an actual “dream come true.” You see, when I was a kid, we spent summers in a cabin that was a part of my Mom’s family since before she was born. The pine tree I climbed in the front yard started life in a pot as a Christmas tree in the city when she was a child. In those days, it was not uncommon for New Yorkers to have a summer place upstate somewhere. Our somewhere was the Lake Osiris Country Club in Walden, NY. My Grampa was a golfer and this great course had a lake surrounded by cabins. I have early childhood memories of driving the one-stick golf cart around in the grass. Our “cabin,” a 3-bedroom with a wrap-around porch and a huge dining room that sat 18, was up on a hill, nestled in the woods on three sides; the fourth overlooked the lake. It was rustic and cabinish but it was awfully nice. We had a lakeside beach at the bottom of the hill with an old wooden dock. I learned to swim there. It was also there, around that big table, on July 4ths throughout my early childhood where my holocaust survivor uncles would tell the stories so we'd never forget. I would run my finger over their tattoos as I listened to the most horrible things. Then we'd have hotdogs and corn-on-the-cob. The family sold it shortly after I left NY in ‘74. (This is what our beach looks like now.)

The End of An Era

Every single summer of my childhood was spent there. It was glorious. A storybook setting, fit for an oil painting, with adorable red-cheeked kids dangling bare feet and bamboo fishing poles into the water from a rickety old wooden rowboat. Yeah, I knew then that when I grew up I’d want a house by a lake. Well, I grew up and for the last 25 years I’ve lived on the shore of Lake Elsinore.  It is one of the fastest growing little towns in SoCal. Therein lies the problem. Things have really changed here and, frankly, it is much easier to leave now than it would have been a few years ago. To have lived the dream though, priceless, a goal I made as a child. It felt so good to move in. The sense of accomplishment when something like that happens is a feeling that never gets old.

In this house, the lake house, lives changed and it soon became known to everyone as The Magic House. I wrote a song for it. It’s on the Floating CD, an instrumental because then, like now, there were not enough words. The magic began almost right away. Our business flourished and we got married. Living half outside in the sunshine, our house was the center of the world for a great group of friends, laughing and loving and making music. The Magic House, the center of our world: we lived there, we worked there and all our friends hung out there. Life was good. At the same time, there are the untold stories of a dozen or so runaway or thrown-away kids put up, cleaned up and pushed through school, including one of my own.  The Magic House, a respite from the turmoil, was a peaceful, loving home where magic happened and lives were changed - lots of them - changed in the most amazing and magical ways.

For the longest time we had a webcam on the net, lakelsinorecam.com, with a live cam on the lake and local info and such. Folks would tune in and watch me mowing the lawn or playing music around our firepit and stuff. It was a lot of fun and a great income stream for a little while.

The centerpiece of our time here was our July 4th JAM at the CAM parties. They were something special. It started out with some friends around a campfire with some guitars. One year my buddy and I decided that the best way to get our trailers in order was to take all of our equipment out and set it up and then put it away again, all nice and tidy. So we went nuts and set up a super system of both of our setups combined. It became a yearly ritual for us and, for the most part, it kept our kits in working order. Everything got fixed. Upgrades were planned to premier at the event and we could train stagehands in a relaxed, comfortable setting… while hammered. For 20 years it kept getting bigger and bigger and better and better. One year we had over 500 people in the yard, 5 cameras to the bigscreen, 5 bands, 3 days of music and fun in the sun, in the lake, in tents on the shore with thousands of people within earshot of our stage and loving it. Swinging by in boats to shout out, throwing beers over the fence and making friends at full volume.

The End of An Era

My neighbors began adding “Live Music” to their party flyers and we could hear them clapping from two yards away on either side. The 4th is huge for the tourist community on the lake as we have the perfect spot for a monster fireworks show and they rarely failed to deliver. Reflected in the lake, the spectacular shows were right across from us. From there we could often see 4 or 5 concurrent shows from cities nearby. It is a great spot. Our side, the far side, was in unincorporated Lakeland Village and it was like WW3 on the shore. Folks spent thousands of dollars in the sheriff-starved village on fireworks to send up over the lake in a mostly illegal fashion. A not too subtle bit of independence and a bit of “screw the man” attitude in fire-prone California. ‘Merica f*&k yeah!

The End of An Era

One of my favorite things in the world is to put 4 or 5 musicians who don’t know each other on a great stage with all the toys and just let ‘em go. I have enjoyed literally hundreds of magical musical moments on my stage and I have heard from all kinds of musicians about their story, their moment. They came from miles around to play here. Folks became lifelong friends here. They formed new bands, got business cards, played gigs, made records, broke up, moved on and played some other year with other people bringing more players into the fold. We played loud, loud enough to be heard from boats out on the lake. One year a couple of kids showed up on the shore and asked to join the party. As one of them tells it, after he asked me if they could hang out, I asked them “Are you cool?” They said yes and the rest, as they say, is history. They called their dad who packed up all their amps and guitars and drove them over to the house. He also joined us for the jam and those kids came back year after year.

The End of An Era

They brought their kids and were a fixture at all of our parties. One of them just bought a house down the street and I’m really gonna miss them. They’ve become our boys with our grandchildren. I’ve become great friends with their mom too. She has been to nearly every party since.

There is something about being the guy that gets to provide a crowd, lights, sound, big screens and a stage to some teenage band and watch them play their first big show. That moment when you get to see the look on their faces as they see themselves on the big screen for the first time… it is nothing short of magical.

The End of An Era

When they hear the applause and look at each other like, "Holy shit I wanna do this forever!"  When they are just crushing it and you turn around and their parents are crying and laughing at the same time, trying to capture moments with their cameras in the dark. The look they give back, so proud and grateful. That picture they took, of which we have many, of the silhouettes of listeners’ heads dark against the lit-up stage, hands up high, ponytails in the air, fireworks in the sky all around while their child is holding the audience in the palm of his little hand.

Magical.

To have been a part of those moments was an honor for us and we will never ever forget you.

 

The End of An Era

So many friends… they showed up as kids, grew up, got married, brought their kids and formed family traditions around our parties. Creating memories for those kids that will last a lifetime. As fondly as I recall those days how can it compare to catching your first fish, getting to ride a jet ski for the first time, flirting with that girl you only see on the 4th at dangrigor’s house. (That’s what they call me here, dangrigor - all one word - and the kids mostly call me Papo or Uncle Dan.) My absolute favorite thing about those parties is the multicolored Otter Pop tongues thing with the kids. Pfffffhbhbhbb! Otter Pops were a staple with the kids as was that big bottle of Jack we passed around for the grown-ups.

The End of An Era

Kids grow up and things change and soon after our 20th party, where my son’s band was the headliner, the big empty lot we used for parking sold and the new owner fenced it off. Just like that, it was over. We were pretty much done, though. It was a lot of work and we got old and then sick and then I got older again. It was time. Now, like then, we look around and see the town changing and we so miss that small-town feel. So we’re bugging out.

Starting over, we are, in a tiny little town of two thousand a few hours north of here… at our age.

Altitoodles!

 



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