David, H.o.p. and Amy back stage

The other night, H.o.p. was being a real jerk, and what came out of my mouth was, “Yeah, you better hope you grow up to be Pablo Picasso”. He had no idea I was referring to the song, “Pablo Picasso Was Never Called an Asshole”, my preference being the crazed John Cale version. He having no idea what I was talking about, I chalked one up for me and turned on my heel and left the room. On the very rare occasion he’s left speechless–that was one of them. Marty, sitting by, looked up, took a second then went, “Oh!”

Later, H.o.p. having chilled a bit, hedging toward being conciliatory, had me come in with him and sit and go through one of our Picasso books. He’d gone and looked for it and hunkered down in the bed with it to read some before going to sleep, soon calling me in to ask about one of the fairly intense portraits. It’s been a while since he’s done that with Picasso (when he was five, for months he kept another Picasso book open, referring to it over and over again, one of the acrobat paintings in particular). Next, he decided he wanted to go through the book image by image, asking about each one. And we did. Examining every page. I’d forgotten there were two pages of Picasso’s decidedly erotic drawings stuck in the middle of it all, which made explanations a little more complex. Then we went on through the book, to the very last page. About 1/4 of the way through he asked, “Are there any happy paintings?” And we talked about that, too.

H.o.p. is surrounded by music, literature (he watches us read, hasn’t himself developed a taste for reading books yet, but loves being read to, is read to daily, and knows mom writes), movies (the past few days have been spent watching “the making of” Kung Fu films and wire work), and art. We thought music was what spoke to him first and most when he was a kid and his first words were all musical artists because he wanted to listen to their albums over and over again. As a baby he cried when played lullabies but quieted immediately and listened with rapt attention to the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black.” He was saying “Bob Dylan” and “Thelonious Monk” before he said mom. But then one day H..o.p. picked up a crayon and started to draw on the wall. I took him and showed him my paintings. “You know why you paint on canvas or paper or wood,” I said to him. “So you can keep it or sell it. You can’t take a wall with you. But you can carry paper and wood and canvas.” He nodded his head, totally getting it, and he never ever drew on a wall again. Some things, most things, I’ve told him daily, for years, and they’ve never taken. But all I had to do with the crayons is tell him artists paint and draw on paper and canvas so they can keep it, and he understood immediately, and started going through paper like crazy (and wanting to keep all of it). I lined both walls of the hall from top to bottom and end to end with his drawings.

This was all back at the old art compound we used to live in, with several of the people H.o.p. got to meet again tonight at the big arena pop concert.

I don’t do art shows. I paint on the computer these days, never print anything out, and he sees me writing on the computer but doesn’t know what I write. So in many ways music is more evidenced around him.

He would be better served with parents who are business people, I think. But you get what you’re born with.

When he was two years of age, at the end of all the road tour days came the invitation for Marty to tour with John Mayer playing keys. And Marty said no. H.o.p. won over John Mayer. Time to stay home, focus on studio engineering and production now, be there on a daily basis for H.o.p. growing up. He didn’t want to miss out on those years. Which he would have. Marty was on the road a lot during H.o.p.’s first two years. Some of the time we were on the road with him. H.o.p. learned how to walk on a tour bus.

Then his dad was home and there began the education of listening to music with a studio ear. Who knows whether or not he’ll later have any use for what he learns growing up around it, but he’s surrounded by music. He goes down to the studio. He experiments with his own little sessions. He is partial to no instrument and studies no instrument in depth, but he takes piano (never practices, he just likes taking piano and making sounds and beats) from a long time friend of Marty’s, and this summer he started taking group percussion lessons (Samba) from another friend of Marty’s, because he loves Samba and Marty knows some great percussionists. When he’s old enough, I imagine he’ll start sitting in on sessions and learning the rudiments of engineering and production, if he likes. Just being around it, it’s funny how much you can learn. The ear becomes educated. If he decides he wants to do something with music, he’s going to have years and years head start over these kids that high schools send to Marty to intern with him.

H.o.p.’s been to lots of small shows and some festivals, but not yet to a large arena event.

A good friend of Marty’s has been touring with Mayer all this time and tonight H.o.p. got to go to his first big arena show. After all, these things are loud and he’s not one for LOUD. Several years ago his uncle was working for Howard Shore and was traveling all the time from venue to venue where “The Lord of the Rings” concerts were being staged, and he arranged for us to go to the performance here and instead we just did rehearsal because I suspected it would be too loud and intense for H.o.p. Indeed, he enjoyed it, and enjoyed meeting Howard Shore as he loved the music and listened to it at home over and over, but he sat with his head buffered by my jacket most of the time at the rehearsal and wasn’t anxious to stay.

But he’s been to lots of festivals this past Spring and Summer. His ears are more hardy. And we decided he was ready for an arena show. Marty was comped two tickets and I couldn’t go as we don’t have a babysitter, and then we decided H.o.p. should go and I didn’t want to bother with bothering for a third ticket.

So they prepared to go. With earplugs. (No reason to be ashamed about earplugs. Musicians wear them.)

And with backstage passes.

I spent two days prepping the nine-year-old for his first big arena show. It’s big. It may be loud. (Earplugs.) He’s going backstage. He’ll see his friend David LaBruyere and meet John Mayer.

Which he didn’t, meet John Mayer afterwards. They were sent to the wrong room back stage with a bunch of other musician friends and after a very loud twenty minutes with lots of commotion going on, they realized it was the wrong room and by then Mayer was gone. But at least it was musicians and relaxed rather than a meet and greet. At first it was all pretty overwhelming to H.o.p. though. Not the concert, that was fine. But the back stage commotion was at first overwhelming for H.o.p. as it was a small room with a lot of people in it.

Now, I don’t even like the industry. I hate the big industry end of it all. It sucks. Musicians aren’t the industry. I have always stayed away from parties and from industry people because I hated the industry (I have stood and literally fled the dinner table when seated across from industry PR people–after one sentence out of their mouths I have fled, I can’t handle them) and only liked back stage when it was just musicians and no one but musicians. (Marty, by the way, says the show was great, Mayer did a great job and so did all else, and H.o.p. loved it.) So I wasn’t wanting H.o.p. to meet Mayer for the star quotient. But I had hoped H.o.p. would get to meet Mayer because H.o.p. believes in meeting people. I’ve met Mayer a couple of times but it was years ago, around the time H.o.p. was born, and what I remember of it is Mayer sitting at our table, playing his music on our sound system, and I thought, “Well, he’s going to go places,” because you could see it in his head, that he was going to get there, he was ready to get out and tour 365 days a year, which many people do, travel continually, but you could tell he had the focus and didn’t have anything to detract from that single-minded focus of making it, every step precisely calculated in terms of whether it fit into that big picture of getting his music done, which isn’t easy. And now Mayer’s a star and his image is plastered everywhere. But the reason I wanted H.o.p. to meet Mayer, like I said, is because he’s always wanting to meet people. Every artist and director and musician he likes, he says, “Can I meet them?” He thinks he should be able to meet anyone. And wants to. When I was a kid it never occurred to me to meet someone, just having their work around was enough. But H.o.p., he always says, “Can I meet them? I want to meet them!” He wants to get up close and personal with everyone. The work he likes, he immediately thinks in terms of the person behind it and wanting to meet the person. Which I think is a good thing. He’s not thinking, “That person is a star! I want to meet them!” He thinks, “I like that person’s work. I want to meet them!” I don’t want him to lose that.

He DID get to see David LaBruyere and Chad Franscoviak, which was more important–LaBruyere being an old friend who knew H.o.p. before he was verbal, who’s played bass for Mayer all these years and used to live a couple of doors from us in the old Decatur art compound, and Chad is Mayer’s front of house guy and tour manager and used to live on the other side of our duplex, again, in the old art compound when H.o.p. was pre-verbal. And saw a bunch of other old friends. If they had come home without seeing LaBruyere and Chad, I would have been really pissed.

He got to see again, too, Kevin Leahy, the drummer who was on the tour bus with us when H.o.p. was learning how to walk…

And then H.o.p. saw the WALL MURAL OF THE BIG RED HAWK and THAT was the event of the night and he got a picture of himself standing under that.

And then they got lost trying to get to the car and a Marta cop was real helpful and let them on a train with his pass and they found their way to the right parking lot. And THAT was the first thing H.o.p. talked to me about when he called me, the BIG ADVENTURE of getting lost.

So, H.o.p had a great adventure, and I’m glad he got some back stage pics taken with some old buds from the old art compound.

If you’re more into Country, Marty distinguished himself nicely back stage in that regard. A woman came up to him and gave him a big hug and said, “Marty, it’s great to see you again!” And he stared at her and she said, “I’m Jennifer,” and he said, “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to help me out, which Jennifer?”

It was Jennifer Nettles. Jennifer’s husband and Marty are friends, and he’s friends with most of the people in her band (Christian and Brandon Bush, Sean O’Rourke and Scott) but he’s only met Jennifer a couple of times.

Brandon is also an ex art compound resident.

Marty says Jennifer was nice as she could be about it, and that he fully confessed to her that he’s an idiot.

P.S. Must get a new keypad. This one keeps dropping letters.

Kevin Leahy’s arm, H.o.p., John Shofner and Chad

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".


  1. As soon as I read your mention of that song about nobody calling Pablo Picasso an asshole I was reminded of a student I knew years ago when attending the Corcoran. He’d walked up to a painting or print by Picasso and said “What an asshole!”. At that point I’d never heard of the song so I was a bit mystified by his comment, seeming to come out of nowhere as it did. I’ve heard the song, once, but don’t now recall who it was that performed it.

    It is curious, the things that take with one’s children, the things that don’t. I’d been talking earlier in the week to Ellen and as she talked I found myself super-imposing her almost 20 year old self with my memories of her as an infant, toddler, older child. It’s like I can see the beginnings of certain things in her, and how they are playing out now. One thing she has gotten very interested in is graphic novels and making comic books or zines with friends. She said recently that she was glad she’d grown up in a family where I sat around with her and her sister, daily, drawing with them, drawing, painting, making things out of paper. When they were little I was particularly inclined to make line drawings. I love line drawings, I love line. So I wonder now, did that “take” with her, all of my own interest in line drawings, because it was a natural interest of her own, and if so, isn’t it interesting that she’s put her own spin on it. I didn’t draw comic books but I did think of my line drawings, most of which have not been colored, as a kind of potential coloring book, but one more interesting, I hope, than the average ones found in the drugstore.

    And with Roxanne, I see different things playing out, some of which seem to be her natural gifts, intersecting with things I’ve voiced about what I wish I had done but so far haven’t done. She seems to have a gift for connecting with people, especially for people from other countries. I’ve always regretted that I never learned to speak another language. And sometimes these days, I think she may end up doing that, may have some sort of life involved with image-making through her photography. And it will be of people, because people are her favorite subjects, and that she may well end up living in another country, at least for a time. It’s interesting, too, her interest in photographing people. My mother had started out going to art school, wanting to paint portraits of people. My own art leanings were not of painting people. But here Roxanne is, wanting to make portraits of people via photography. It’s fascinating, I think, to watch your children grow into themselves, to watch and see what they pick and choose from what you as parents offer to them in their environment.

  2. What a wonderful post. I truly hope I know how the story of H.o.p. turns out.

    As for meeting people, I’m with H.o.p. I want to know everything! And not because people are “famous”, but because I want to know the process, the thoughts, the memories… all that went into making them who they are and what went into making all they make. I want to examine their souls under a microscope and then take notes. I think that is why I enjoy reading blogs to much. I like reviews, I like political commentary, but I love the snippets where people reveal themselves. I like finding out what’s hiding in the corners, yet steering the ship.

  3. Nina, funny how you’d do line drawings with the idea of them as potential coloring books, and leave them uncolored. I know I’ve seen some of them and they’re richly detailed and lively. I remember your kitchen wall being full with Roxanne and Ellen drawings clear up to the ceiling, too.

    Every so often I used to suggest to H.o.p. he color in his storyboards, because they’d make perfect comic books. He finally, frustrated, said, no, they’re storyboards not comics. And I realized this is a big distinction for him and didn’t suggest again. But he recently sat with some of Kurosawa’s paintings he’d do for his films and was fascinated by them all.

    I started thinking a while back that H.o.p. behaves like a director. And I’m not off target because recently Marty came home and said that someone H.o.p. had met at the studio had said, “I’ll tell you what he’s going to be. He’s going to be one of those people who makes movies and tells everyone what to do.”

    As the years move along he’s less interested in art for art’s sake than what it can do in conjunction with other mediums, driven by a story line. He wants to do music but he’s interested in it for textures for films, looking for sounds he thinks would be good for this storyline or that. He likes stories but he’s not interested in writing, he reserves them for storyboards.

    But who knows. He used to say he wanted to be a scientist and build robots until he realized it involved more than art. He kept saying he would build the first realistic robot.

    One of these days he’s going to ask us for a REAL movie camera. Well, he already has. “Too expensive,” I tell him, and for now he doesn’t mind.

    Three times daily he comes over and hands me the little point and shoot camera so I can empty all his little movies out of it onto the computer and then he pops the memory card back in and continues filming. And 50 times a day he says to me, “I’m going to make a movie about such-and-such.” And with every movie he sees, and many he doesn’t, he says, “I’m going to make a movie like such-and-such, only mine will be better!” Then he tells me all the ways it will be different. And with movies he’s curious about but we don’t let him watch because they’re too old for him, he drills me on what they’re about anyway and goes on about how he’s going to make them even better and runs by me the plot lines. And every day we’re looking up photos of different things online because he’s concerned about drawing the period costumes just right for the storyboards, and now keeps trying to get me to make costumes (which I can’t do) and has decided we must get rolls of paper so we can paint backdrops and hang them up so he can film against them. Well, I tried to talk him into paper backdrops because he wanted to build big cardboard sets. He’s saving boxes for them! In this small apartment! I’ve got a nest of boxes in the back room because he’s going to make sets out of them. He wants to do like floor to ceiling sets.

    I worry about this. If he does keep this interest, he’s chosen one heck of an expensive, exclusive profession to want to break into.

    It’s also kind of odd because film making is what I had my heart set on a long time ago–and don’t imagine that I don’t think about this and worry about influencing. But he didn’t know that until recently and I’ve only mentioned it a couple of times, briefly. But then I guess we’ve provided him with a rich background in films, and talked about them with him, and the theater thing too. So, I sometimes feel guilty about this, worrying somehow he’s picked up where I didn’t go and I don’t want to influence him, I want him to pick his own roads. Yet also wanting to encourage his interests rather than discouraging. I can say I never shoved a camera at him and said, “You’re going to make films.” It’s something that really has evolved naturally. And I was even taken aback initially when he moved away from doing all his wonderful, spirited drawings, and pared things down to storyboards. Because he was such a natural at line drawing. Almost all he does now are storyboards and filming and this has gone on for a long while.

  4. Jennifer, yeah, well there’s the question of what’s steering the ship, and then there’s the question of how much wind it’s got, and if it’s a bit of a blow hard without the required ballast, and what’s its seaworthiness, and what kind of a map does it have? In my case it’s not a ship, it’s a little funky rowboat in a big ocean. H.o.p., I hope, learns at least that little rowboats may be powered by determination, but can’t really cut through the waves.

  5. How exciting for H.o.p! Being new to your site, I am amazed at this awesome story and like Jennifer, have so many questions. I am eager to see the answers revealed as I continue to visit.

    Thanks for sharing such a great moment in H.o.p.’s life!

  6. AG, yes, H.o.p. was very excited about the Red Hawk mural. One of these days he’s going to call me on my BS about not painting on walls and the landlord will have some fun then…

  7. I love the second picture of H.o.p. – his expression is priceless. I love John Cale – was lucky enough to see him live in 1976. That’s two ‘I love’s – think it’s bedtime! hmm 1.24am here in Blighty.

  8. My husband was in a band (well, a configuration of a variously configured band) that used to play with Cale when he came through town. I was disheartened that his keyboard services weren’t required, but, whatever. Was satisfied with one person removed and enjoyed the rehearsal stories.

    As services weren’t required, we were elsewhere on the road and didn’t see Cale. No fun. I’m not as lucky as you.

  9. Lovely post.

    One thing (of many) I find interesting about h.o.p. is his sensitivity to stimuli. He’s obviously very sensitive; a human stylus. Should he pursue a path in film – and, as I’ve postulated, that’s what I’d bet on based on reading about the kid for the past couple of years – that’s one of the characteristics that’ll make him a good director. Film is such a delicate craft, with its reliance on so many elements – the conceptual, the visual, the musical and that weird intangible that is the sum of these things and more. Too much of any one element, and, kaboom, there goes the project (at least in the artistic sense). Between you and Marty, he’s being exposed to the required artistic ingredients.

    You say “He would be better served with parents who are business people, I think. But you get what you’re born with.” If I can go into psychoanalyst mode here, I dont’ think you believe that literally. But I *do* see this statement as an expression of concern that perhaps this is a recessive element in his early environment, as well as his natural make-up, that might turn out to be something of an obstacle later. I could be wrong, but you know me – I’m not afraid to overreach ; )

    If I’m wrong, by all means, please ignore what follows. But, in my humble opinion, that might be something which could be useful in terms of your role as h.o.p.’s primary teacher. He’ll hate it, in all likelihood. Artists almost always hate the practical shit. But, as a student, an emphasis on business might be just the thing to form the bridge which could later serve as a means for him to deliver his art to the world. I doubt it would be much fun for either of you, but, who knows, you might even learn a thing or two yourself in the process.

    All that said, art tends to find an outlet. As you well know.

    [/end of pedantry & unsolicited advice]

    I’ve always enjoyed meeting people whose work I admired, but some of *those* people – who have met others a little higher up on the celeb chain – have told me how disenchanted they’ve been with some of the people they’ve met. I guess if you meet enough of ’em, experiences will be mixed. I’m content with a moment of eye contact (which sounds creepy, given the Mark David Chapman story), but, most often, there’s something else to that connection, and, typically, circumstances prevail enough for the discovery. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate with having had encounters with kindred spirits. Speaking of which, I suspect I’ll get to meet the three of you someday.

    Except for that time I rode up in an elevator, just me and Leona Helmsley. It was in a hospital about the time she was getting a hell of a lot of media attention. I gave her the peace everyone deserves in such a setting. Thank God. Regrets about cruelty – no matter the scale – are the worst.

  10. Arvin, no, I was sincere saying he would have been better served with parents who are business people. Marty and I are both lousy at it and absolutely no good at self promotion and all that comes with that. So, I’ve no idea even where to begin as far as teaching him business. Like I say, I’m a small row boat and I will be very pleased if and when H.o.p. says, “You know, mom, you can keep your row boat and your pail. I’m going to get myself a serviceable ship.” I may be a primary help in his home education but you better believe I want him to have and seek outside tutors and mentors for advice and guidance.

    Celebrity is a troublesome thing. The individual becomes a consortium product and would have to be pretty firm in their sense of self considering the paces they’re run through. Some people succumb, others don’t. And, as they say in AA, if you’re an ass before you quit drinking, you’re likely to be an ass when you stop. What was the basic personality beforehand.

  11. I referenced this song in Chicago. It was really funny. I confused the hell out of a mommy blogger. Serves her right for filling up the tubesnet with boring stories of every moment of her kids’ lives.

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