About gstockton

I am originally from England. When I'm not doing marketing I'm writing and recording my own music, or reading, or blogging or spending time with my family.

Random Woman Met Adele and Never Saw The Photo

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My wife and I were lucky enough to see Adele the first time she came to America, shortly after her first album “19” came out. The show was at the Roxy on May 21st, 2008, it was awesome. Adele wasn’t very well known at that time, but word was spreading fast.

Anyhow, we stayed after the show and met Adele, who was delightful and real. When I spoke to her I told her she would win a Grammy for “19”, to that she exclaimed “Oh stop!”  There was a girl there who had us take a photo with Adele. I suppose she never had a camera. Anyhow, I’ll post it here in the off chance she is still Googling the “Adele Show at the Roxy from May 21st 2008” looking for that image. Without further ado.

Adele with Fan at Roxy May, 2008

Adele with unknown fan at the Roxy May, 2008, Los Angeles, CA

 

Huntington Beach Time Lapse

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Some footage shot at Huntington Beach Pier using a Cinetics AXIS360 Pro glide track. This was my first successful shoot at the pier, the previous day I tried to get the scenes recorded, but the settings on the Canon camera were not correct.  I like the Cinetics AXIS360 kit, it breaks down and can be carried in a rucksack.

The video contains some other shots which were taken in black and white to contrast the colorful scene at the pier, where thousands of visitors strolled to pier’s end where Ruby’s Diner is located.

Love Thy Neighbor

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Hoag_Hospital
It’s been a peaceful Thanksgiving. We had dinner with the family. Festivities included arranging our nieces and nephews to recreate a famous family snapshot in the front of my in-laws house. As is normal with me lately I enjoyed things from afar, sneaking candid photos of the family while the rest of them conversed, keeping this otherwise quiet Southern California cul-de-sac buzzing with conversation about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, college studies, church fund raising and even Cyber Monday. We all enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, celebrated by millions of friends, neighbors and countrymen.

Later in the evening Steph and I were in bed watching a movie when the phone rang. It was Stephani’s Mom, Dottie. The conversation consisted of “no”, “for how long?” and “We’ll be right there”, at which point she put the phone down and told me her Dad was feeling ill and we needed to take him to the hospital. We threw on whatever outfit made sense in a panic and bolted out of the house.

When we arrived back at my in-laws and entered the house, I could see my Father in law, John, hunched over the kitchen table in obvious pain. I’ve never seen him grimace like that before, so we got him into the car and headed off to Hoag Hospital. He told us he had pain in his lower right side for the past five hours and had been vomiting, so the hospital recommended bringing him in as a precaution.

We got him checked in, Dottie went with him while Steph and I sat in the waiting room and watched the steady stream of patients come in over the next few hours. A woman who had been drinking wine came in with her right hand bandaged and held above her head, her fingers were purple. She had apparently fell and landed on glass. There were drops of blood on her orange shirt, or was that Cabernet? After the wine lover came “Tequila Sam”, a large man now positioned in a Hoag Hospital wheelchair. Tequila Sam had sprained his ankle earlier while drinking tequila. He looked a little bit like Bryant Gumble, was jovial, even disclosed to us in the first 60 seconds that he had been married four times. He was wearing expensive slacks that had been cut to length with scissors, which gave him a slightly homeless look. His companion wore expensive snowboarding pants and sat quietly across from Tequila Sam as stretch marks around his ankle grew larger while he was feeling no pain.

We sat in the waiting room gazing at our mobile phones until a slim man in dark jeans and hoodie stood in front of us pacing. He looked like a healthy Southern California surfer in his mid to late 50’s. I didn’t get his name, but he looked like a Sal. So let’s call him Southern California Sal. Sal had striking white cropped hair, was either very tanned or of Hawaiian descent. He had a magnificent white toothy smile, and white white eyes which peeked out from his silver rimmed glasses. He was nervous and jumpy. After a few seconds he sat in the chair in front of us and started to recount why he was at ER. He pointed out a young man on the far end of the waiting room who was sitting with his wife and a young teenager, and told us that he and the man had become friends over the past few months. The man had recently relocated his young family to Southern California from New Orleans. Sal said “He was like a breath of fresh air to the neighborhood.” A few days ago his new neighbor’s Father flew in from New Orleans to join them for Thanksgiving and while at the airport fell and broke his shoulder and injured other parts of his body. He was a man who had lived the hard life, had, as Sal put it “not taken care of his body”.  He wound up at Hoag Hospital for two days and had been checked out with a clean bill of health on Thanksgiving morning.

Sal was instantly likable and someone who I wished I could trade for one of my current neighbors. He was friendly without being pushy, and had a kindness about him. I started to sense that I was not giving him 100% of my attention given the gravity of the current situation, checking the screen of my phone. But then he told us why they were there tonight. He said they were all enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together when his neighbor’s Dad stopped breathing and went down. Sal had a firefighter background and knew CPR, while his neighbor called 911, Sal performed CPR until the ambulance arrived saying “I wasn’t going to let this guy get away from me.” Sal had our full attention at this point. Stephani and I sat there listening to him retell the past 30 harrowing minutes.

The door of the ER flew open and the doctor called the name of the son who was sitting in the far side of emergency. The two of them went around the corner and the two women who were with him went into the ward. After about 2 minutes the door of the ward opened and the two women slowly walked out. They were crying. Sal walked up to them and they said “He didn’t make it.”

We don’t know why the man died. All we know is these two neighbors were enjoying a Thanksgiving meal together. Sal’s 6 year old daughter had presented his neighbor’s Father with “Get well soon” paintings just a few hours earlier and Sal wondered how he was going to be able to explain to his little girl that the man had not survived. Sal called a cab, but before he left he shook our hands and said how nice it was to talk with us about it. I think in that moment he just wanted somebody, anybody to talk to.  Minutes later I thought to myself wow, I just touched the hand that within the past hour had been pressing on his neighbor’s family member’s chest, trying to keep him alive.

After a battery of tests John was released and Stephani took him home. It’s been one of the most memorable Thanksgivings ever, getting to see how my neighbors are helping each other. This morning I wonder where Sal lives and hope I run into him again at a Starbucks. The next time I will get his number and try to make a new friend. Sorry I didn’t seize the opportunity to do that this time Sal wherever you are.

Love thy neighbor as they say.

Earthlog Helps Girl With Asthma Enjoy a Back Yard Bonfire

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Earthlog Citronella Logs

I was thrilled to see the guy from Earthlog on Shark Tank last night. This is the company who took over the space my wife’s company vacated in Huntington Beach. The company is run by Tom Sanetti, who was kind enough to make sure my wife got her mail after they had moved, thank you for that Tom.

Earthlog makes an eco-friendly, scented log that not only helps the environment, but smells great. There are no other products out there that can make a fire smell so good.

So this morning I took an interest in what they were doing on social media and found a great video on their Facebook page made by one of their customers.  She describes her daughter’s illness, and goes on to describe how she discovered Earthlog while she was at a conference in San Diego, and took some samples home. Her daughter would normally become ill if she was near a bonfire, but not on this occasion.

Absolutely thrilled to see their appearance on the Shark Tank. Thankfully they got a deal with shark Lori Greiner (@LoriGreiner) who will hopefully be doing all sorts of exciting things with Tom and his team.

What being a father means to me

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Source: Katalina-Marie Kruszewski (Flickr)

Source: Katalina-Marie Kruszewski (Flickr)

I never had children, but if I did, I would try to be a good Father.  Being a Father is a huge responsibility. You pass on your DNA, your wisdom, your hopes, your aspirations and yes your love.  But sometimes you pass on your troubles, your guilt, sometimes your anger to your children. You expect them to behave a certain way, you expect them to accomplish what you may have wanted to accomplish and when they fall short, some Fathers take out their frustrations on their kids. It’s a hard job. A  big responsibility.

What do I know of Fatherhood anyway? I never had children.  I almost did when I was a teenager, but that was interrupted. I think that was my opportunity, but the timing wasn’t right, I was an immigrant, I was dirt poor and needed to find my path.  I think back on those times and wonder what kind of Father I would have been sometimes.  I know I would have been a hard worker, that has been a constant in my life, work.  That was a constant in my own Father’s life. I know that it was a constant in my Grandfather’s life when he worked in the shipyards of Belfast, and his Father before him when he built furniture for the inside of Titanic.

Being a Father takes patience and dedication. When your kids have problems you need to be able to communicate with them. You need to be able to love them unconditionally, and for a great many Fathers out there, this comes naturally, for others it’s hard. I admire Fathers who stand by their children and support them no matter what. Fathers who work at having a good relationship with them have my respect and admiration.  Fathers who give up on their kids are lazy.  Fathers who place conditions on their relationships lose in the end.  The children stop calling, stop coming around because they grew tired of the moaning, tired of the criticism, they grew tired of being victimized. They move on.

If I had children I know what kind of Father I would try to be. I would be a kind, patient, generous Father. I would covet education. I would teach my kids to love their fellow man. I wouldn’t discriminate against others. I would try to teach them practical life lessons. How to manage money, how to negotiate, how to play guitar, you know, the important stuff. I would teach them to stick with a job, even though its tough.  I’d encourage them to look inward and explore their emotions.  I would actively listen to them and encourage without browbeating them.  Above all I would love them unconditionally. I think if I did that they might respect me as a Father.

That’s a tall order isn’t it?  Being a Father sure is a hard job. So, Happy Father’s Day to all the Fathers out there who are doing it right, every day.

 

 

On meeting my idol Pete Townshend

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Anyone who knows me personally will soon learn how much I love The Who. It’s almost like I look for an opening to mention a great Who song or one of their great rock operas, TOMMY or Quadrophenia. My love for The Who started early when I was about 8 years old, having heard the acoustic guitar introduction to “Pinball Wizard” and thinking, “I have to learn how to make that exact sound”. I was too young of course to understand many of the dark themes in the lyrics to TOMMY, was even turned away from a cinema in Camberley one Saturday when my Mum took me to see the movie. My Mum loved The Who, though her favorite has always been Roger Daltrey.   I wanted to know who did that with the guitar and that person was Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend.  I picked up a guitar and the inspiration was born.

I followed The Who and the solo career of Pete through good times and the bad. He was not only The Who’s primary songwriter, but arguably the most entertaining guitarist to watch on stage.  I  found his music both inspiring and a constant source of comfort to me over the years. It’s in the words of songs like “Behind Blue Eyes” for when I am feeling misunderstood, it’s the fading end to “Bargain” when I I yearn to be taken away by the majestic groove, it’s my teenage years walking around hopeless Aldershot, England in “Rough Boys.” It’s in “Exquisitely Bored in California” shortly after emigrating to America as a teen. 

So you can imagine my delight in late 2005 early 2006 when Pete decided to open an account on Blogger and start releasing chapters of his novella “The Boy Who Heard Music” each Saturday, interacting with fans about the story, offering insights on the writing, and holding our attention for about three precious months.  Over the course of the project a core group of around 100 bloggers became friends and started to connect with each other. We would start to read each others blogs, learn about each other’s lives. There was Maria in Finland who would soon graduate with a PHD, there was Gina B and her dog Beatrice or “Bea Bea”, the two were never photographed separately. There was a mysterious character named Tommy D who would post incredibly long verbose diatribes which would sometimes get a rise out of Pete, and finally there was a fellow named Neil Emery who went on to become one of the greatest friends of my life who I never met in person. Neil was a wonderful funny guy who would post the most hilarious blogs about meeting Pete, or other famous musicians. He would mock up photos in Photoshop of himself standing next to Pete and put “I love this guy” with an arrow pointing to himself on Pete’s tee shirt.  Sadly, Neil passed away a few years ago at a very young age. I grieve his loss to this day, he was a comedic genius.

I remember almost falling out of my chair when Pete sent me a note one day thanking me for my comment on his blog and offered an opinion about what I said. It was a remarkable time.  But when the project concluded and the Epilogue was published, Pete announced the blog would stop accepting comments and soon close. The core group of bloggers were very sad about this and started rapidly exchanging email addresses and blog URLs vowing to stay in touch. Blogger had served its purpose. Pete had published the work online for free, and interacted with a large audience on the material    The last line of the last post read   “…now the art is finished.”

Feeling sad and inspired and wanting to say more, I picked up my guitar and started writing a song that would capture my feelings about what we had just been through. I wrote and recorded “Walking On The Grid” in my little home studio.  In “The Boy Who Heard Music”, the Internet was referred to often as “The Grid”, and meeting people from all around the world felt very much like walking on a simple grid to friends in close proximity.  These were now people with whom I interacted with on a regular basis, they were people I considered friends.  After I recorded the demo of the song, friend and blogger Paul Biscardi contacted me asking permission to use the song in a video tribute he was working on for Pete. Paul created a wonderful montage video with clips of Pete in his studio and pictures of the bloggers who I mention in the song.

Around this time, Pete’s partner Rachel Fuller had started an Internet chat show called “In The Attic” with her childhood friend Michael Cuthbert. Pete would regularly guest on the show with his younger brother Simon Townshend.  The show was cutting edge. Several notable artists of today appeared on the show.  Adele sang two songs in one episode and sat chatting with Pete and Rachel while smoking cigarettes. It was a wonderful follow-on to the now defunct “Boy Who Heard Music” project.

In April of 2006 Pete and Rachel premiered Paul Biscardi’s video. It was one of the most amazing birthday presents I have ever received, having my idol sit there talking about a song I had written. It felt so wonderful hearing him interact with us on that level.   In 2007 Pete, Rachel and Mikey took “In The Attic” on the road with The Who.  Rachel had just released a new solo EP and was promoting it across the country in appearances in Barnes & Noble, so we went up to The Grove in Los Angeles to one of the events and met Rachel and Pete, who was there to support her.  He was so very kind, and signed a copy of “The Boy Who Heard Music” which I had specially bound for the occasion. I gave Pete a copy too.  We had a wonderful conversation about an unpublished Who song called “Uncertain Girl”, and Pete gave me the back story on the song, knowing I knew all of the words, he disclosed the song was about Sinead O’Connor, who had invited him to give her away at her wedding.

Pete Townshend signs Gary Stockton's copy of The Boy Who Heard Music

Pete Townshend signs Gary Stockton’s copy of The Boy Who Heard Music

I think back on this period between 2005 and 2007 with such fond memories. I got to meet my idol. I got to write a song. I got to make new friends. I grieve the loss of a friend I never met.  What a wonderful journey that was.

 

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Another Senseless Victim of Addiction

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Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman

This morning I clicked onto the headlines to see what was happening around the world and was jarred by the sad news that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had died at 46, apparently from a drug overdose.  Hoffman was one of my favorite actors, perhaps one of the finest actors I have ever seen. Each time a new movie would come out staring Philip Seymour Hoffman, we wouldn’t wait for the DVD, we would go to the cinema to watch it. His performance in “The Master” was one of the most powerful pieces of acting I have ever seen.  He was brilliant in “Doubt”, electrifying in “Charlie Wilson’s War” and masterful in “Capote”.

Drama as a genre is my favorite.  In my DVD’s you’ll find movies starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Michael Shannon, Robert Di Niro and Al Pacino. My movie collection contains an equally magnificent assortment of films with women like Dame Judy Dench, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett.  I relish great acting, and feel sad at the prospect of never seeing a new film from Philip Seymour Hoffman ever again. All day I’ve been trying to come to grips with the loss, it’s going to take a while to accept.

What makes it harder as a long time fan of Mr Hoffman’s work is speculation he died from a drug overdose, a heroin overdose, and had been separated from his partner since October, and that he was a Father to three middle school aged children.   Was it hopelessness? Was it heartbreak?  Was it boredom? Was it selfishness? What was it that allowed the dark vines of addiction reach out to such a gifted man and pull him back under? A talented, complex man like Hoffman would be hard to truly figure out based on the body of work he left us. The depth in each of the characters, the intensity, the passion.  In “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead“, Hoffman played Andy Hanson, a man who had been embezzling money from his firm, and was about to coax his younger sibling played by Ethan Hawke into joining him in a scheme to rob his parents business so they could benefit from the insurance money. In the movie there were scenes where Andy would visit a heroin dealer who would inject him. The apartment was a new age, feng shui, high end Manhattan apartment, much like the $10,000 per month abode Mr. Hoffman had been renting since October. These scenes seemed a little out of place in the movie, a little too raw for my own taste. I wonder now if these scenes might have posed a risk of triggering Hoffman.  When he died, he had been clean for 23 years.

I will never understand drug addiction. Heroin is a killer. Last week I heard about a new blend of heroin that’s made with Fentanyl, a powerful pain killer, more powerful than  morphine. Twenty eight addicts had died in one town in just two weeks. Truly frightening.  Heroin scares me.  I once started to watch the film “Trainspotting” starring Ewan McGregor, but was so disturbed by the heroin scenes, I had to turn it off.   Heroin has killed so many of our most beloved artists and musicians. Drugs in general are killing thousands.

Tonight I am sad for Mr. Hoffman’s family, his little children and the acting community who have lost one of the greatest actors of our generation. It will take me a long time to get over Philip Seymour Hoffman. I am truly gutted.

Deafness and relationships

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Stephani met me when I was in my early 30’s and by then my hearing loss had started to manifest its self, mostly in social settings, where I had started to retreat from loud environments.  She puts up with a lot. It must be tough having to repeat yourself constantly.    My hearing loss is profound in my left ear, and partial on the right. If I can control my environment, sitting in a particular seat in relation to a gathering I am more comfortable, however, if I end up with someone to my left, event with my cross-aid hearing aids, it can be a real challenge understanding what is being said to me.   The other thing is misunderstanding things completely if I am not wearing my hearing aids.

This video was published on the Phonak “Hearing Like Me” site.  It encapsulates a very upbeat version of what life is like for a hearing impaired or deaf person vs. what it is like for the hearing person.   I think reality is somewhat less rosy than this lovely picture, particularly when you balance things like the stresses of traveling with a hearing impaired individual, anxiety and confusion with other emotions like pride or fear of humiliation.   If I could put my life experience into one sentence it would be “bashing through it, one day at a time”.   I’d give anything to have my hearing back, honestly I would.

So, what has your experience been? If you are similar to us, what is life like for you?

Ricky Gervais on the moral of Humpty Dumpty

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Ricky Gervais is a funny man.   Watch this video and try to not laugh.. Impossible.

He was loved

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It’s been an emotional day.  We attended a beautiful mass in Fountain Valley for Stephani’s cousin, Tony Cardullo Jr., who passed away suddenly in mid November over in Thailand. We heard so many moving eulogies. It was a day of tears.

Following the service Tony’s parents hosted a very special reception at the Huntington Beach Hilton. Hundreds of people who knew Tony came together to celebrate his life.  And what a life it was. Today I learned that Tony was in a band in the 80’s, even played the same festival as No Doubt back in the day. Listening to his brother Andrew describe him,  Tony was a driven, but kind and compassionate man who lived the life he wanted to live.  Red tape, bureaucracy, procedures that hold us all back did not exist for Tony.  He was a person who always looked on the bright side of life, always gave others the benefit of the doubt, and later in life became something of a local hero to the people in his community, volunteering his time, working with the homeless and less fortunate.

Tony was a very successful business man. While working on a film in Thailand some years ago, he fell in love with the place and decided to set down roots and become part of the community. He was loved by so many people.  He took care of his employees, and was very generous and compassionate to his fellow man.

Listening to his friends and family speak today, all of them still very broken up by his loss, I had a real feeling of regret that I had but a few scant opportunities to spend time with Tony.   He was a person who initiated and nurtured friendships. He was a true friend.  I could use a friend right now.  The world seems like such a lonely place without Tony in it.