Hey, pass me that drumstick

Nights where I’m working in the venue are often my favorite nights.

The venue is air-conditioned, so I can stay cool in there. And my job when working venue is one of the easier ones. I essentially sit at the curtain leading to backstage and the green room. I check wristbands for access, and make sure nobody gets back there without authorization. I help the musicians out, watch over their personal belongings and gear, and assist them with load out. I can help out the bartenders if it’s a slow night. I watch the crowd for issues and remove people if they get onstage. Crowd control includes watching you while you’re watching the show. I stop people from smoking pot in the venue, and ask people to leave if they are visibly intoxicated or being too touchy with women. And I’ll sometimes physically remove people if they belligerent, non-compliant, or start a fight. That’s the actual ‘bouncer’ part of this job.

But essentially, if nothing is happening that needs to be dealt with, I get to watch a free show from mere feet away from the stage.

Being a musician in a band myself, it’s a perfect job for me. I get to be around musicians and performers and watch them perform their art. I can network with them and pick their brain about things. I love watching a pro touring band pack up their vehicles like Tetris. I usually learn a few things about packing and storing gear for long drives to the next gig.  I often am given free CDs and t-shirts and such from the bands once they figure out that I’m interested in them.

Being a drummer, I am usually slightly more focused on watching the drummer play.  I was happy to discover that one drummer had the exact same Pearl Session Studio Classic kit that I have. Same color even. I definitely see what people mean about drummers making goofy faces while they play. I’ve been told that I actually don’t do that, but I don’t really know if I do or not. I try not to. Some drummers really do look ridiculous and distract from the show with their odd facial mugging.

One drummer poked his set list on the little hi-hat pull rod. This is the pencil-sized metal piece that extends vertically above the hi-hat cymbals. I’ve never seen a drummer do this before and, I’ll be honest, I judged him for it. Every other drummer simply lays the set list on the ground for reference. Some tape it to the side of the drum monitor. But never in my decades of playing shows and attending shows have I seen a drummer stab the set list on this little metal rod. It’s now on your instrument. You might accidentally hit it with your drumstick. Were you concerned about a gale force wind blowing across the stage and your set list flying away? Were you just too in a hurry to put it in an appropriate spot? Did you leave your contact lenses out and you can’t see the list unless it’s a foot from your face? Or are you just trying to be all punk rock rebel about it?

OK, that might be too picky. But this example is certainly a valid one of an unprepared and unprofessional drummer.

A fun band was onstage rocking some funk/dance music. This band shall remain unnamed. The drummer dropped a drum stick while playing.

OK, let me go back here and give you the background before I launch into this guy. Drummers break sticks. Drummers drop sticks. I’m not begrudging him for this, nor am I innocent of this faux pas myself. It happens. You’re gripping these custom cut pieces of wood and hitting things with them thousands and thousands of times during the performance. They chip away as you play, they crack, and then they break. You’re sweating. Shit happens. I pride myself on not dropping sticks very often when I’m playing drums onstage. But I hit pretty hard and the stage lights make you sweaty. I break sticks during shows and occasionally drop one.

But what you do is, keep playing the beat while you grab a replacement stick and forge ahead. Most people don’t even notice this happening unless they are a drummer themselves. You have extra drumsticks placed around your drum set for this very situation. You can just set some on top of your bass drum. Or buy a cheap clamp-on stick holder and clip it to the base of your hi-hat stand or any cymbal stand within reach. Or, your stick bag itself unfolds and hooks onto your floor tom. Any of these methods work to prevent being stick-less after a break/drop of a stick.

But this particular drummer on this particular night had a very unfortunate circumstance. He dropped a drumstick. But instead of it just dropping down to the floor around the drum kit, somehow it was flung sideways towards his fellow musicians. The drumstick went laterally to the right and hit the keyboard. On the keys. Stopping the keyboard player from playing. The stick bounced off the keyboard and hit the other guy in the chin. This completely stopped all keyboard parts in the song and made the musician recoil a foot away from his area.

That’s embarrassing and unprofessional. But accidents happen and you must expect misfires, and just deal with them like a trooper. But, this drummer had no replacement sticks set out anywhere on or near his kit. He was just screwed. He kept playing what he could of the beat with just his one hand and his feet, but the beat essentially disappeared. There was a gasp from the audience as they all worried if the keyboard player was ok. Part of me expected the keyboard player to launch himself at the drummer and wrestle him to the floor. A drumstick flung at somebody (accidental or not) could really hurt somebody. Especially hitting you in the eye.

But the keyboard player recovered and moved back up to the keyboard again. At this point I realized the drummer truly had no backup sticks anywhere in sight and this could be what’s called in the business a “Trainwreck”. That’s where somebody screws up the song so badly that the other musicians can’t maintain the song and it falls apart completely. But, the bass player came to the rescue.
He had to stop playing as well, but it was for the salvation of the song and the band at this point. He walked across the entire stage, crossing in front of the drum set and the singer and the guitar player. Somehow he had seen where that drumstick had landed and took it upon himself to go get it. He picked it up and handed it to the drummer, who sheepishly grabbed it and was able to play the full beat again. The other musicians could then return to the same part of the song and keep playing.

I was sitting in the backstage curtain shaking my head. Such a newbie mistake. I’ve seen high school drummers that had no experience bring backup sticks and recover from a dropped stick better than this guy did. It’s the same issue with guitarists having extra picks taped to their mic stand or the guitar itself. You’re gonna drop a pick and you know that you will need another one during the song. For the love of gawd, come prepared. It’s kind of just a given. There are enough other things that can and will happen on stage that you aren’t ready for. But hedge your bets and have a plan for the problems that you can foresee.

I would’ve loved to have been within earshot of the discussion after the show in the green room. The discussion where the keyboard player asks the drummer why he tried to skewer him with a flying machete-drumstick.

Maybe I should just double as a stage hand while I’m working security. I can bring my own drumsticks and carry a pair in my back pocket. When somebody drops a stick and has no replacement, I’ll just scramble up onstage with my flashlight and security shirt and hand the drummer new drumsticks.

I will accept tips, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop staring at me

Some nights, my main duty at the music venue isn’t working the door checking IDs or scanning concert tickets. On the more fun nights I’m actually in the venue during the show. I’m stationed at the curtain that leads back to the green room and the loading area for bands. My job is pretty simple when I’m working the venue. I essentially check for VIP wristbands given to the band members or their crew. Occasionally somebody’s parents or photographers are given these as well. If you don’t have a wristband, you don’t get past me. And believe me I’ve heard all the stories of why you deserve to go back there. But none of them work. I’m stubborn like that.

I also keep an eye on the green room itself since everybody’s backpacks and purses and laptops are in there. Since there is a loading door I’m also keeping an eye on everybody’s gear and supervising their load-in and load-out. I help the bands out and answer a ton of questions. Other duties would include removing people from the stage, and basic crowd control. I’m watching the crowd as they watch the show. If I see someone who is too intoxicated, or is making women feel uncomfortable by touching them, or the occasional fight, then I would physically escort them out of the venue. But basically, I get to watch a show for free, a mere 8 feet from the stage. I get to meet a lot of local and touring bands. Sometimes I get a free CD or act as a tour guide to recommend other Portland places for them to explore.  I like working in the venue.

One particular evening I was tuning out from the band’s performance a little bit because it just wasn’t my thing. We have all genres of music at this venue, and every now and then there is bound to be a group that I just don’t like. So I was scanning the crowd and people watching. The most exciting things that happened tonight were when I had to politely ask some people to not stand on the steps to the stage, and when I had to remind a patron that you couldn’t actually smoke pot in the venue.

But I noticed a young woman standing by herself pretty close to me, and she was watching me more than the band onstage. She was of the hippie variety based on her clothes and jewelry, with blonde curly hair. She would look directly at me and then look away. Then wait a bit, and look at me again. There was nobody else anywhere near me, so I knew that she was clocking me.

Maybe I looked like somebody she knew and she was trying to figure out if I was that person. Maybe she thought I was odd-looking. Maybe she thought I was smoking hot. But my experience is that women don’t particularly look at me dozens of times in public without at least coming over and saying something.

Here’s how my thoughts went:

Woman stares at me.

“Ok seriously? Come on, stop looking at me.”

Woman stares at me.

“Again, really?”

Woman stares at me.

“What, do I have food in my hair or something?”

Womans stares at me.

“For the love of gawd, stop staring at me, the show is up there on stage.”

Woman stares at me.

“If you look at me one more time….Oh great, you did.”

Woman stares at me.

“This is fucking ridiculous.”

Woman stares at me.

“If I was staring at you like this, you’d be creeped out. Should I be creeped out?”

After what felt like 25 minutes of this, she finally wanders over to me. No alarms were going off, she seemed like a nice person who wasn’t even drunk. She sheepishly starts a conversation with me. She said, “Hi there, I’m not from this area and I just wanted to ask if you could get me some cocaine?”

I paused. A long time. I wanted to say a lot of things to her. I wanted to ask her if she could read my shirt which clearly has SECURITY across the front. I wanted to ask her if she saw the walkie-talkie on my chest. I wanted to ask her if she noticed the earpiece I was wearing. I wanted to ask her if she really thought that asking a security guard for illegal drugs was a smart idea. I wanted to ask her if she could piece together that I’m the guy who kicks people out of this establishment, and interfaces with law enforcement on a regular basis.

But instead I touched my walkie-talkie to draw her attention to it and my security shirt, and said, “Well, I’m security staff here, so I’m not the person you want to ask about that. However, I am sure that SOMEBODY here in the crowd might possibly be able to help you.”

She got super embarrassed and apologized for offending me. I didn’t see her the rest of the night. Yet another first. While on shift as a security guard I’ve been offered free drugs a bunch, but never have I been asked to sell somebody drugs.

And now that I think about it, it was probably my dreads. I’m too approachable.

 

 

 

 

Shots Fired

While staffing the door checking IDs for a rock concert, a patron informed me that he heard gunshots just down the street from our venue.

I couldn’t hear any gunfire due to the music and chaos in the entryway, but the person was very believable and convincing. In a career where I assess if people are lying to me often, I can usually spot a story. This guy truly believed that there were shots fired.

I radioed to the rest of the team that a patron reported gunshots outside the venue. The police were notified. Most people who were outside on the patio came inside the bar, as they actually did hear the gunshots. There was nothing else for me to do except to continue working the door checking IDs and scanning tickets for the show.

I was near the end of my shift when this chaos happened, so I got to clock out and head out to my truck. I didn’t make it very far. I saw candy lights from numerous Portland Police cars flickering and flashing. This type of bright red and blue colors lighting up the sides of buildings only happens when there are fireworks or police lights. I saw several groups of what looked like Swat team members creeping along the side of a building just feet from me. No perimeter had been set up yet, so I could have walked right up behind these guys in flak jackets carrying AR-15 rifles and shotguns. Had I been a complete idiot.

Even though it was perfectly clear that these were real officers dealing with a potentially fatal situation, they looked like some regular dudes playing Airsoft or paintball. But out in the city. With real guns and uniforms. And I am only feet away, directly behind them on the sidewalk. I remember thinking, “If somebody fires at these officers and missed them, I could be an innocent bystander in seconds.”

I’ve always been fascinated by and drawn to police activities. When I see a police situation I usually go towards it like a magnet. Perhaps most security staff are like this. Since we interface with law enforcement often, and we are, in a very general way, in the same field as they are. And many security officers do indeed wish that they were real law enforcement.

I heard a calm voice over a bullhorn saying things like, “Get down on your knees. Now keep your hands up in the air. Move SLOWLY. Now back up to the sound of my voice. Slowly. Now put your hands on your head. SLOWLY.” I watched some teams establish positions and flank the events in the street. A car had been stopped in the middle of the street and they were slowly having each person exit the car and move into Police custody. I gathered that the person who was shot early was already taken to the hospital by ambulance. I was witnessing the very careful cleanup of the situation and removal of the alleged shooters. I think I even heard radio chatter about a sniper on a rooftop. I have to admit, seeing officers with these kind of tactical weapons drawn made me think of the epic shootout in the streets of L.A. in the movie HEAT.

This was all very exciting to me, and then I realized a different problem. My vehicle is parked on the street just a few yards from this car. The Police did have this area marked off with yellow tape that says POLICE. DO NOT CROSS. My truck is inside an active crime scene. I’m gonna be here a while. And possibly have my truck riddled with bullets like the Ford at the end of Bonnie and Clyde. It’s a 1999 Toyota 4Runner with 320,000 miles on it. So honestly, now that I think about it……fire away, gangstas.

I moved away to relative safety behind a concrete garage in case of a firefight on the streets of Portland. I texted my boss that my truck was unfortunately still inside the crime scene tape and that Police have their guns drawn. He texted back, COME BACK AND HAVE A DRINK AND WAIT IT OUT.

While I’m thinking about the surreal scene and inconvenience of having my truck stuck in a crime scene potentially all night, several men within shouting distance are thinking that the police might kill them right now. They are on their knees in the middle of the street with guns aimed at their center of mass. Their lives could very conceivably end in a moment by automatic machine gun fire.

I walked around the block a different way, backtracking so I could get a better view. By the time I emerged around the corner of the building they had successfully cuffed the people in the car and driven them off for processing. Now the police and forensics people were combing the street for evidence. I could see the police and the bystanders visibly relax since the situation was now over. Now they are going to go through that car looking for anything they can find. And that takes time. Hell, my truck might be stuck here until sunrise. I was considering if I should call a cab, then return to get my truck tomorrow. Or just go back to work and have a few drinks and hope that it gets cleared up by closing time.

I realized that I was still wearing my security uniform from work. I still had on the bright yellow shirt that says SECURITY on it. I think I even still had my earpiece in my ear. I was dressed in all black. I could see the yellow security tape just on the other side of my truck. I approached the yellow tape very slowly, pulling my jacket open a bit so the yellow security shirt was visible.

“Excuse me, officer. I know that this is a crime scene. I know you’re very busy. But I just worked a double at my job as security and would love to get home. That’s my truck right there. Is there any way I could drive under the tape and get home to sleep?”

One officer across the street responded how I expected. “Nope. You’re gonna be here a while.” Luckily another officer said, “I think we can get you out. Hang on.”

I  paced around slowly waiting for them to call me over. But some officers started moving the crime scene tape even further out, expanding their area to look for more evidence. Now my truck wasn’t just on the edge of the crime scene, it was deep within it.
The officer that was sympathetic to my situation got busy searching for drug residue and bullet casings. So I asked a different officer, repeating that I just worked a double shift as security and just wanted to get my truck out and go home.

This one invited me inside the crime scene tape to examine my truck for damage. We both walked around it, shining our tactical flashlights all around my truck looking for bullet holes, or drug bags or bullet casings underneath. Honestly, a bullet hole in this truck would be a pretty unique badge of honor. But, we didn’t find any.

The officer said he would walk over and lift up the yellow tape and I could drive out under it. I had to crank my wheels hard to the right and drive right up on the curb since there were cars parked close behind and in front of mine. And they didn’t want me driving on any of the street since they were still looking for syringes and casings. His final advice to me, “Oh yeah, please drive very slowly as you do this.” Damned right I will. The unspoken fear was that another officer might think I was trying to drive away without permission, or that I was a cohort of the people they just drove to jail and had a truck full of heroin with me. And that they could open fire.

The officer pulled up the yellow tape and let me slowly drive underneath and out. I don’t think I’ve ever driven so cautiously and safely before. The officer holding up the yellow police tape for me to pass under was exactly the same way I will pull up the velvet rope at the venue gate for a band member to pass under.

I looked it up later and the police stated that it was possibly a gang incident with people in the car shooting up in the air and at another person they saw on the street. The shooting victim was taken to the hospital and survived. The other people were arrested for the obvious reasons. I got home safely around 3am and quietly snuggled my step kids and my fiancé.

Pretty sure I dreamt about hearing gunshots off in the distance.

Onstage with Denzel

Working security at music venues continues to put me in odd situations that I never thought I would be in.

I usually do the expected things like greet patrons, check IDs, scan the concert tickets, stamp wrists, and bounce drunk people out that need to leave the venue.

But some nights I end up onstage.

Some touring bands with a fervent fanbase request that one or two security guards from the venue stand onstage during the set. This is to prevent overzealous (or over-drunk) fans from climbing onstage and interfering with the performance. And to prevent stage-diving or accidental damage to musical equipment.

On this particular night, we had a rapper on tour that requested security presence onstage. With only a DJ table onstage, there was more room than normal for the performers to run around. But also more room to entice a drunk fan to try to come on up and have a moment with their musical idol. So once the show began I positioned myself stage right.

I’ve been on lots of stages performing with various rock bands I’ve been in, so I’m quite comfortable on stage. But, as the drummer, I am the furthest away from the crowd and am somewhat hidden by my drum kit. It is indeed a strange thing to be onstage in full vision of the entire crowd and not be performing in any way. I’m literally just crouching down on the side of the stage looking out at the crowd. I try to make sure that my walkie-talkie is visible by hanging it off the front of my hoodie. The word ‘security’ is clearly printed on my hoodie as well. My boss actually hates being onstage as security, and he probably offers the spot to me because I don’t mind it.

My friends know that I’m a big teddy bear, and friendly as hell. But as a security guard I’m sometimes required to be the tough guy. When on stage as a preventive measure my job is to at least attempt to look intimidating. The message we want to send is, “Security guards are onstage to prevent you from coming up here, so don’t even think about trying to get up here.” So I’m crouched onstage wearing all black scanning the crowd for potential problem patrons.

The rapper is Denzel Curry. I had never heard of him and hadn’t had time to google him before clocking in to work tonight. The show was sold out and the venue was packed. His DJ/partner came out on stage and started playing the intro tracks. Denzel then came out and the crowd went wild. Little clouds of pot smoke puffed up over various spots in the audience. Denzel is an attractive young African-American man with huge thick dreadlocks. He was shirtless and pretty ripped. He reminded me of a leaner and younger Busta Rhymes. I later found out he was 22 years old. This dude wasn’t born until I was already out of college.

So he starts running all over the stage and getting the crowd going. He had a lot of room up there he could cover by running around and engaging with the crowd.  He sees me crouched over on the side of the stage. Now, just to recap, I am a Caucasian man twice his age, probably have 80 pounds on him, also with dreadlocks. I am quite sure that I looked….out of place onstage. I keep trying to look out at the crowd to make eye contact with people. Some patrons are just a foot away from me trying to hold up their smartphones to record the performance.

Some things that run through my head as I’m looking out into the crowd include:

“So if somebody gets up onstage should I throw them back into the audience like fishes into the sea? Or should I escort them off to the side stairs?”

“Man, I don’t even like rap music.”

“Some of these fans would pay money to be able to stand on stage with their rap hero. Maybe I can have one of them trade with me?”

“What if Denzel pulls me out onstage like Bruce Springsteen does with Courtney Cox in the Dancing’ in the Dark video?

Denzel makes his way over to stage right and is standing right by me now. He looks at me. I’m wondering if he doesn’t know that I’m security and is questioning why the hell I’m even onstage right now. I look back at him and he raises his hand high. He wants to give me a high-five. I raise my hand and we give each other a huge high-five clap. I grin a little bit, and the crowd right around us cheers.

Was it that we both had dreads? Was he thanking me for working security onstage tonight? Was he bridging the gap and being inclusive? Did I just get vouched for?
I have no idea, but it was a special little odd moment. I know that the crowd found it quite unique to see this 22-year-old African-American rapper high-five this middle-aged white security guy onstage. I wish somebody would’ve recorded this.
Nobody tried to get onstage for the rest of the night. Denzel put on great performance. Being the only person onstage with a DJ behind you, the responsibility all falls on him to be the entertainment and engage the crowd visually. He probably sweat out 10 pounds during his show. At one point he laid down on the stage and rapped from a prone position, twitching almost convulsively as the music traveled through his body. Great show, great performer, great vantage point.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow night has in store for me.

Night shift

I come home from my job pretty late at night. I work security at various music venues. Bars in Oregon close at 2:30am, so sometimes I’ll get home at 3:30am after closing. I call this the middle of the damned night. People who have been up are usually in bed by now, and people who have to wake up early for work usually are not yet awake. On my drive home I primarily see first responders doing their thing. Police vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks are all out taking care of people.

When I get home I quietly press the code and 8 beeps notify the dogs that I’m home. My fiancé and my two step-kids are always asleep when I come home. I step quietly in the house and check on everybody. Everybody has their own rooms, but tonight I noticed 4 little feet poking out of the blankets on the couch in the living room. Sometimes one child will still be out there after watching shows with their Mom. I think she intentionally leaves them out there sometimes, knowing that I’ll gently pick them up and tuck them in their beds.

But tonight was the first night that both kids were still out in the living room asleep on the couch. Looking at the Netflix queue I can gather that they were alternating between Naruto anime that I got them hooked on, and another cartoon series called Trollhunters. Then my fiancé watched some West Wing once they were asleep.

I often come home smelling like the smoke from a fog machine, or beer, or sweat (mine or others). This is my surreal life, and it never fails to make me smile.

“Is that a new cologne you have on?”

“No, that’s just the fog machine.”

So tonight I gently wake up the 8 year old girl and say, “Hey, grab on to me and hug me, I’ll carry you to bed.” She wraps her arms around my neck and I stand up, lifting her up off the ground. Her legs dangle down with her feet still over a foot off the ground. Or sometimes she wraps herself around me like a koala bear. I can smell the shampoo in her hair as I walk carefully to her room. I carefully step over the toy figurines of horses, and piles of books, and gently lower her into her bed. “Goodnight, sweetie.” Her face looks a little like a sleepy turtle.

Then I go back and gently wake up the 10 year old boy. “My dude, give me a hug so I can carry you to your bed.” He is a substantially heavier than the girl. But he wraps his arms around me and hugs me the same way. Legs dangling a foot off the floor as I carry him down the hall to his room. I have to slowly walk over the minefield of matchbox cars on his floor. Those little hunks of metal can really dig into the soles of my feet. And since his head is nestled right next to mine, I can’t cuss in pain if I crush a die-cast Bat-mobile car. I cover him up with a blanket and tousle his hair. “Goodnight, young man.”

When I leave for work , they both ask me to wake them up when I get home. Or sometimes they claim that they will wait up for me to get there. I tell them I would never wake anybody up at 3:30am intentionally, and they are always zonked out when I get in, as they should be. But it’s cute to think they fell asleep on the couch, knowing that I’m going to pick them up and carry them to bed in the wee hours of the night.

I spend most of my shift at work keeping people safe. Or trying to. When I come home I am reminded why. I spend many hours at work dealing with drunk or rude people trying to do things that I am not allowing them to do. Then I get to come home and keep these two little ones safe. They don’t understand or care about bars where people go to drink alcohol and flirt and see a music concert. All of this is still many years off for them. Once I showed them how I use a UV flashlight to show the hidden hologram on Oregon state IDs to see if they are real. They thought that was really cool.

Whatever problems I had to deal with at work always melt away when I come into my house. I’ll often replay interactions or situations or incidents that happened at work while I’m driving home. I’ll often be shaking my head at the behavior of a patron that I had to intervene with. I’ll be thinking of ways I could have handled that situation differently. Mostly I just think about how some people simply shouldn’t drink alcohol. But I am always humbled by coming home after thinking my problems are oh so important. I happily take care of our two dogs and two kids and I am reminded what is important. Taking care of everybody you consider family. Making sure everybody is loved and safe. These little moments that may or may not even register consciously for the kids. But when they wake up in the morning, they’ll remember that they fell asleep on the couch and are now on their beds. Maybe they won’t have any nightmares because I pulled their blankets up around them and told them I loved them.

I’m also painfully aware that these moments have an expiration date on them. In a few short years they are going to enter into puberty and will be teenagers. They are also going to get bigger and heavier. All of this means I’m not going to get to pick them up and carry them to bed to be tucked in for too much longer.

These two aren’t my biological kids. But I feel like they are mine nonetheless. Like they belong to me, as I belong to them. Family should never be determined by blood alone. You can choose your family. And they are mine.

I’ve got the night shift. And I’ll watch over you while you’re asleep. Sleep well.

Let me stamp your wrist

I’m a security guard at several music venues around Portland, Oregon. It’s probably one of the most interesting jobs I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few. You come in to a music venue to see a band or a DJ perform. To dance all night, drink, flirt, and tell loud stories. To make bad decisions and have great stories to tell the next day.

I’m the guy at the door checking IDs. We are going to have a brief little moment together. Usually polite, usually friendly, almost always pretty surfacy. Our special interaction takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. In that time I’m trying to do several relatively simple things.

I’m trying to be friendly and welcome you to the venue. Then I’m engaging you in small talk, looking at your eyes and your gait to assess if you are already too drunk or high to allow into the club. I’m checking your ID to be sure that you are actually the person on the ID. I’m making sure that you were born before this date on 1995, and if your ID has expired. I’m examining the ID to see if it looks fake in general. I’m also trying to keep an eye on people in my peripheral vision that might be trying to sneak past while I’m engaged with you. Then, depending on the event or venue, I’m also scanning your concert ticket and giving you stamps on your wrists. Usually you get one stamp for having a valid ID and being of age, and then you get a different stamp for having a valid ticket to the concert.

I’m also the guy who escorts people out if they’re fighting, or simply are too intoxicated to be there. I answer a lot of questions. The most common things I end up saying besides the usual include, “Yes, there is re-entry. The bathroom is over there. No we don’t have a coat check. You can’t take your drinks outside. The ATM is just outside by the door. The box office is just over there. Yes the show is sold out. No there aren’t any more tickets available.”

Depending on the venue, and my specific duties that night, it is possible that I will have anywhere from 150 to 600 small interactions with patrons of the venue. We’re  going to handle all of these things as quickly as possible, and I’ll try to not ask the same questions several hundred times.

Since I’ve lived in Portland for 20 years, it is a rare night that I don’t see at least one person that I know from my various circles of friends and acquaintances while working the door.

When I ask to give you a stamp on your wrist, we have a strange little physical interaction where a complete stranger is touching your wrist and putting a little ink mark on you. It’s actually sort of intimate. I’m cradling your hand in mine with one hand, then stamping your wrist with my other hand. We’re close and looking in each other’s eyes. It’s almost the way you would cradle your lover’s hand if you were proposing. Sometimes you have to remove gloves, move bracelets, or switch your phone or beer to your other hand. Very often you have wrist tattoos that make it difficult to find a good visible place to put the stamp. And sometimes you have a scar on your wrist.

This happens far more than you would think. I look at the scar on your wrist and sometimes I know it’s from a suicide attempt. Or that you are or were a cutter. If you and I ever had a personal talk you’d probably tell me it was from a car crash. I’d probably smile and agree with you. But cuts from windshield safety glass can look like cuts from your broken wine glass in the bathtub. Or a straight-razor. If the scars go across the wrist like where your wristwatch band would be, maybe you weren’t that serious. If the scars go up the length of the forearm, you were more dedicated. If there were numerous scars of differing healing patterns, colors, and scar tissue, you might have tried a few times.

I think about all of this in the few seconds before I stamp your wrist. Occasionally I have a debate in my mind deciding if I should put the ink stamp off to the side of your scar, or directly on top of it. Some people must wonder, “Why did that door guy just stamp my scar?”  It’s a strange little moment we have where neither of us acknowledges it or says anything, but we both know what just happened. Two complete strangers now sort of share a secret. When I stamp you on your scar I think of it as a protective seal. It is a magical binding. Don’t open this again. It’s me placing my sigil of safety over your wound.

It is a sobering thought to imagine that every person who has a scar on their wrist may have been so depressed and dejected that they tried to end their life at one point. I hope I’m wrong about this. Because I see a bunch of them each night. But here you are, out and about trying to have fun. Not staying home in your apartment where the darkness can take too strong a hold of you. Don’t paint it black.

Maybe someday you’ll try to take your own life again and succeed. Maybe you’ll never try it again. Maybe that was a specific dark time in your life. Or maybe you have to fight off suicidal thoughts every day. You may be here because music is the only thing in your life that keeps you going. Or you’re here meeting the one person that you’ve met that understands you and gives you reason to keep going.

I’m just glad that you are here. And I want to see you here again. Music heals.
Maybe tomorrow morning you’ll wake up and wash the stamp off of your wrist and remember what a great night it was. And maybe you’ll think again about how that scar got there in the first place.

Maybe I’m overthinking all this and I’m just a guy putting a stamp on your wrist.

But I don’t think so.

I’ve been having this dream where dozens of people are stumbling into the venue holding their bleeding wrists out towards me. I’m supposed to suture everybody’s cuts shut but there’s too many of them and I can’t close the wounds fast enough. They all are asking me to help them and pulling up their sleeves to show me their wrists. The crowd starts pushing past me into the venue. Both wrists of every single person have been slashed open and they won’t stop bleeding.

Everybody streams past me into the venue and I hear the music start. Then a figure slowly strides through the doors and stands in front of me. This tall robed figure gently lifts up my wrist and pours candle wax on it. This doesn’t hurt. Then he stamps a sign into the wax, just like Kings in ancient times would do after sealing a private letter. I look up to see his face and I just see light. And then I wake up.

I am an ally

I am an ally. I have always been an ally to the queer community.

I am also a straight white man admittedly coming from a place of some privilege.

Since high school I’ve been a supporter of the LGBT community. Always seemed like a no-brainer. Love who you want. Reject any religious faith or family member who condemns your love.

As a young child I was part of a dance class, so I was around gay men all the time. Kudos to my parents for putting me in those dance classes and not demonizing the gay men, like other parents might. One of the first jobs I applied for in high school was as a DJ at the local gay club in Eugene. My parent’s rental house was rented to a gay man, and I used to go over there to help my Dad do yard work and minor home repairs. Their example of not behaving any differently around him taught me volumes. When that renter became a more vocal activist in Eugene politics fighting against some hateful propositions, they didn’t evict him. They didn’t raise the rent. When the house got vandalized by bigoted morons, they never expressed wishing they had a straight renter that didn’t have these problems. I believe that they rented to him for many years after, until he also moved to Portland.

I’ve attended the gay pride parade every year since I moved to Portland in 1996. So that’s twenty years of gay pride. Some years I just attended as a participant. Other years I staffed the outreach booth for the non-profit dog rescue I ran. Other years I walked in the parade for that non-profit with available dogs for adoption. One year I held the banner for a drumming group. And for the last three years I’ve performed on the main stage at Portland Pride with my rock band, The Shrike.

I worked for many years as a mentor for at-risk youth. I would always work with them to understand others and learn tolerance and acceptance. Some years I would even bring the teenagers to Pride with me. A few youth came out to me over the years, and one helped start his high school’s first GSA group. As we would study the civil rights movement, we would also study the gay rights movement. I loved telling them about the Stonewall riots that ignited the fires that still burn today.

In the 2000’s I took a part-time job delivering the area’s only gay newspaper. It was called Just Out. I would work a couple of days a month delivering bundles of papers to over a hundred stops on my route. I wanted to support the cause and learn about cool businesses and venues in Portland, so it was perfect. I’m certain that everybody assumed I was gay as I walked into the gay club during the summer mornings in my tank top shirt. Getting hit on by people at noon in a bar is surreal. I also met one of my best friends while working at Just Out, Marie. After a decade of friendship, Marie introduced me to my girlfriend, Marcela. She and her two kids have moved in with me, and we are very happy and in love. Thanks again, Marie.

When the Multnomah County commissioners legalized same-sex marriage in 2004 I got to be part of the celebration. Hundreds of couples were standing in line outside the Multnomah County building waiting to get their marriage license. I was on my route delivering the issue of Just Out that had the story of recent legalization of gay marriage on the cover. I thought it would be a good use of my time to stop and get out with a stack of papers, offering them to everybody in line. So many people were excited to get an issue of Just Out as a souvenir of this historic date, and to commemorate the acquisition of their marriage license. It was a sweet moment, many people had tears in their eyes from happiness. Obviously, later that decision was nullified when voters made gay marriage illegal again. Luckily, about ten years later, a Federal Judge made same sex marriage legal across the country.

I have dated several bisexual women in my life, attended numerous lesbian weddings, and have always been a supporter of Planned Parenthood and NARAL. I could go on and on.

But all that is not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog is to inform you that now my job is to keep people safe. And in particular to keep the queer community safe. I’ve recently switched careers and work in the security industry. I got DPSST certified in November. My first event was a lesbian dance party at Bossanova Ballroom. My second event was a gay dance party also at Bossanova. I love these events. I felt kind of like I was back in college again. I have regular shifts at Doug Fir Lounge. Other locations include Stag PDX, Analog Theater, The Raven, and Tryst. I’m the bouncer. I’m the nice friendly bouncer, but I’m still the bouncer. I’ll check your ID, scan your concert tickets, answer all questions, maintain crowd control, help the bands load in/out, and even help you get a cab.  But I’ll also kick your ass out if you’re too drunk, agitated, hateful or aggressive.

I feel really good about this new career switch. I’m around live music all the time, and happy crowds of people. My employers have stated that the security industry has changed for the better. Instead of wanting huge scary dudes to break heads, they want a kindler, gentler security presence. My rangering skills from Burning Man are coming in so handy.   I don’t even care so much about refusing fake IDs. I’ve already politely refused several IDs that were fishy or expired. One guy felt such empathy for me having to deny his entry that he gave me a hug before he left.

But fair warning to the uninformed:
If I see you harassing a woman or trying to take advantage of someone who is too drunk, you’re gone. If I hear any homophobic slurs or gay-bashing, you’re gone. If I hear any racist hate-speech, you’re gone. You will be dragged out of the establishment and the police will be called for trespassing, disturbing the peace, harassment, or hate-speech. Not on my watch. The line has been drawn. That bullshit stops here.

Any venue that I’m working at is going to stay safe for everybody. I’ve already called for ambulances and police in just a few weeks on the job. I can kick you out for any number of reasons. And I will. So to all my queer friends, come out and have fun. Celebrate. Be heard. Be strong. Don’t hide. Unity is all the more important now. Nothing makes me happier than seeing 600 people dancing, flirting, drinking, and kissing in a safe space where acceptance and happiness is paramount. In some cases these dance nights are likely the ONLY place where people can feel this safe and open to be themselves. In the upcoming political landscape where our president-elect is condoning and encouraging sexism, intolerance, racism, and homophobia, this is all the more important. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. I’ve got at least four more years of fight in me.

I can sign up for particular events and venues that I am drawn to. So I’m purposely signing up for lots of events at queer clubs, or music venues that support and book queer events. Doug Fir has a drag queen brunch every week. Bossanova has huge dance parties several nights of the week. I’ve already worked a Blowpony event and a Bearaccuda event there. Apparently when Euphoria stopped booking queer events, Bossanova took over and is now welcoming the queer community. Tryst and Stag are strictly gay clubs. So I’ll be carding a lot of drag queens. I worked one event where I was the only white person there for hours. That is an experience that I highly recommend to any of my white friends. It’s humbling and eye-opening. I know that my working security at these events isn’t going to change the world, but it’s important to maintain a safe place for people in our community. The more islands of safety and sanity in Portland, the better.

And I’m not posting this for ‘likes’ or for kudos from anybody. If you like what I have said here, awesome. If you don’t, feel free to unfollow me and unfriend me. I don’t have time for bigotry.

I’ve always been drawn to helping people. And I’m still doing that, just more directly now. I’m here to help. And I’m watching out for all of you.

Hoping for peace, love and understanding.

Love always wins.