my Work In Progress (includes character interviews)

The novel Street Glass:
....descriptions I'm toying around with....

Underprivileged Latino 18-year-old leaves street gang and befriends white, overprivileged musicians.
* * *
Two unlikely friends discover that by being true to themselves, they can change the world they live in — around occasional kidnappings and gunfights, and frequent rock-n-roll shows.
* * *
In 1986 Los Angeles, having already decided he wants out of the gang lifestyle, Neal makes a deal with rock musician Sandy. In exchange for getting away from the gang, Sandy offers to help Neal turn his life around. The two learn as much about themselves as each other. Mentally leaving the streets isn't as easy for Neal as leaving them physically, despite his new life. Sandy sees that together, they could help others who are struggling but Neal isn't sure it's worth it to open his past up when he's trying to get beyond it. They find out that gunfights and kidnappings can get in the way of putting on live rock shows.
Neal Cory         [This excerpted interciew takes place in 1987: language warning! An update in 1992 follows.]  

Owlie: Your background is Latino, isn’t it? How did you wind up with a Caucasian name?

Neal: Mi madre called me after her Anglo padre. Then she married an Anglo so I got his last name. ¿ Y que?

Owlie: No offense meant. I’m just clarifying for our readers. What happened to your mother, and your father?

Neal: [grits his teeth] Mi madre was a puta —whore. She took off when I was ten. What kinda mother does that? Mi padre, which one? The real one or el marido de mi madre?

Owlie: Neal, not all of our readers know Spanish, would you mind keeping to English?

Neal: I don’t give a—[a foot under the table strikes his leg]—ow, damn you! All right. Edward—mi madre’s husband—kicked the bucket when I was three or four. Happy?

Owlie: Mostly, thank you. Tell us how you came to be associated with the band Sylvyr Star.

Neal: I had a knife to Sandy’s throat but realized who he was. If the plan had worked, we’d’a had a shitload of lana for his life.

Owlie: Excuse me?

Neal: Ransom! The band would’ve paid anything to get Sandy back. [Crosses arms and focuses on a spot beyond this interviewer.] But Sandy talked me into leaving the gang. Well I already wanted out, just didn’t know how to do it. Sandy said he’d help me start over if I got him out alive.

Owlie: You lost some family members to MF, is that right?

Neal: I’m not gonna talk about that. Ah shit, all right. MF tried to waste me, but they couldn’t so they hit my kids and my women. [Slides down in chair; voice becomes quieter.] The kids were all less than three years old. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Owlie: You have several tattoos. Would you describe them for our readers? And never mind that one.

Neal: [grins] Women like that one. Well I got—I’ve got the gang mark over my heart, the letters MF. I’ve got this fucking snake and the circle of thorns on my left arm. On my right arm I’ve got the dagger and my gang name initial. And the three dots on my left hand. [Rubs at dots.] They stand for la vida loca, the crazy life, the whole gang thing. It never goes away.

Owlie: Have patience. Now that you’re out of the gang, how are you spending your time?

Neal: I’ve got that English language teacher —tutor—and a general education tutor. I’m learning drums so I can be Sandy’s drum tech someday. On Star’s next tour I’m gonna be a grunt roadie. Sam showed me some of what that’s about. I read a lot, newspapers, whatever’s in Star’s library, sci fi from Sam, whatever I can grab. I write in my journal every day. I listen to music and try to play along. And I still go to TSO meetings once a week.

Owlie: TSO stands for The Secret’s Out, the recovery group you became part of while in rehab. How would you describe your faults?

Neal: Cussing out interviewers? Ow! Sam said I’m impatient. Tomá s said I don’t have much . . . what was it? Tact. Sarah said I need to cooperate more and swear less. After all the years I got kicked around, I don’t give a shit if I offend somebody. [Shifts away from foot aimed at him.] Damn!

Owie: I know this question annoys you, but what do you want to accomplish in the next five to ten years?

Neal: Get kicked less. I gotta know why my mother took off without me. I wanna see how far I can go with being a roadie. If I’m a good enough drum tech, I can pick who I work for. I want to do something in the music business.
--- --- --- --- ---
[The following update takes place in 1992] 
Owllady: Hello again. Look at you, wearing a dress shirt and premium denim. You’ve come such a long way.

Neal: Thanks. Dress shirts are fine but I’m never wearing a tie again. If I want to be strangled, I’ll go start a bar fight.

Owlie: Do you like what you see in your future now?

Neal: [taps on the chair arms with his fingertips] I’m still impressed that I have one. And yeah, mostly. I’m working with Brian to learn rhythm guitar.

Owlie: You’re learning guitar while functioning as second drummer for Sylvyr Star, is that right?

Neal: Sort of. Sandy’s more the percussionist right now and I work on the drum kit. For the upcoming tour, we’ve revamped a lot of stuff to accommodate Sandy’s expanded role and to accommodate a second drummer. We’re including a drum duet. [leans forward] I can’t wait. And I can’t wait to record some of my stuff.

Owlie: Why’s that?

Neal: So I can tell Sandy what to do. For four years, he’s been ordering me around and it got worse when I started rehearsing to play his parts on the tour. You’d have thought I was trying to replace God.

Owlie: Is that a little resentment on your part?

Neal: [grins and sits back] I hate being told what to do and everybody knows it.

Owlie: You do a lot of work with Canció n de Vida, the non-profit organization Sandy started with you.

Neal: I’ll thank you to stop putting me in the back seat about that. I’m an equal co-founder and I’ve spent way more time in schools and community centers for the Foundation. Did you forget about me and the mayor?

Owlie: Ah, you’re right. I apologize. Do you have any regrets?

Neal: Well that’s kind of a stupid question coming from you, but all right. Most people have regrets, don’t they? I’m sorry I didn’t realize what my kids and the barrio women meant to me before they were gunned down. I regret not telling Laurie that I loved her before the fire came through. All that shit that happened between me and Sandy and Sophie, when Laurie died, I’m sorry that happened because it was a serious falling out.

[studies the floor] I wish I could’ve stopped the rioting after the Rodney King verdict, all that burning and the hate. We’re losing so many good kids every day out in the streets who might’ve cured AIDS or cancer, or done any number of other things. Everybody figures kids in gangs made the choice to live like that. They don’t, most of them. When you’re born into hopelessness, you often stay hopeless. I wasn’t the only 10-year-old who had no place else to go. And I regret not putting a bullet in Tony’s head. [grins]

Owlie: Tony’s your biological father?

Neal: Yeah. I’ve been warned by Legal to watch my mouth here, but I do regret that and I’m not gonna lie about it.

Owlie: You met up with your mother too. How do you feel about her now?

Neal: [shifts in chair] Well, it’s—she didn’t—I still—[shrugs] It’s complicated. She says she cares about me, and maybe she does, but—whatever. I do think Tony hid it from her that I wound up in MF, but he knew. And that’s where I shut up about that.

Owlie: You talked Sandy into getting a tattoo?

Neal: [laughs] I can’t believe he did it! This tiny thing, and he gets all wound up about it. Look at it—he got the exact same one. [holds right hand up to show a tiny 5-point star between the thumb and first finger.] If that was any smaller, it wouldn’t be there. You’re gonna ask why I got it. It balances the gang tat on my other hand. If I have to look at that one every day, I wanted something to remind me of my future. Sandy got his tat because he loves his band, and because it adds something to his street cred. I’m not so embarrassed to go into the barrios with him anymore. [grins again
--- --- --- --- ---
Sandy Delling

[the following 4 excerpted interviews take place in 1987]

Owllady: You met Neal when he was still part of the street gang Mi Familia, right? Why did you offer to help him?

Sandy: Several reasons. First, I was desperate to get out alive. MF was not a wanna-be gang. If Len had gotten a ransom demand, all hell would’ve broken out. Second, the longer I spent with Neal, the more I realized the he was just a human being stuck in a bad situation. I was pretty sure nobody would choose to live that way. He reminded me more and more of my cousin Renee and my friend Greg. I thought they died because I ignored them when they really needed help, and I couldn’t add Neal to that list.

Owlie: Pretty risky, trusting that he wouldn’t change his mind and kill you anyway.

Sandy: [grins and shrugs] There’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity. I’ve never had a problem crossing it.

Owlie: You were born and raised in a small town, right?

Sandy: Miniscule, actually, but I love Crescent City. I go back whenever I can.

Owlie: Did you always want to be a drummer?

Sandy: Yeah. My mom says that by the time I was five or six, she had to hide the pots and pans. My parents thought piano lessons would benefit me more, so I did that too, but my heart has always been with drums.

Owlie: I understand your nickname of ‘Z’ is related to drumming.

Sandy: Yeah, I love Zildjian cymbals. Fast attack, shimmering top end, but deep and dirty when I need it.

Owlie: Your eyes lit up.

Sandy: [smiles] Drums are my passion.

Owlie: What would you say are your faults?

Sandy: Well. I guess it’s true that I’m stupidly naïve sometimes. Ah, well, that’s tied with not letting people find their own way. Sometimes it’s hard to let people make their own mistakes.

Owlie: What are your goals for the near future?

Sandy: To keep my—the band going. I love playing in Sylvyr Star. I’m only one-quarter of the band but that’s still an incredible creative outlet. I want to help more people somehow, but I haven’t had time to really think about it. It’d also be nice to have a girlfriend.

Owlie: How long has Star been off drugs? What prompted the decision to go clean?

Sandy: We’ve been clean for four years now. Coke affected our creativity and my timing. And it makes Eric mean. [grins]

Owlie: Is it true you have a Ferrari fetish?

Sandy: I wouldn’t call it that. Some people like ‘57 Chevys but that isn’t necessarily a fetish. I’ve only had three Ferraris.

Owlie: What’s your favorite food?

Sandy: Anything Italian.

--- --- --- --- ---
Lennie Barrett

Owllady: I know that you’re Sylvyr Star’s keyboardist and manager, but what other roles do you have?

Lennie: I produce or co-produce every CD. Of course I’m one of the songwriters and vocalists. I play bass when Brian’s on rhythm guitar.

Owlie: You started your career on bass, didn’t you? You and Sandy were friends very early on?

Lennie: Yeah. When Justin asked me to join The Four Winds, I thought I’d always play bass but keyboards just grew on me. Scott was already the drummer but he only lasted a couple of years. Sandy and I became best friends in grade school and had the same piano teacher.

Owlie: You primarily play a Rickenbacker bass in Sylvyr Star that, I believe, has a nickname?

Lennie: Well, yeah. I call it ‘Sergeant Paul’. It’s an expression of affection for an instrument superbly made and a dream to play.

Owlie: Sandy caused an uproar when he disappeared, didn’t he?

Lennie: He nearly caused Armageddon. The U.S. leg of our tour was scheduled to start in six weeks and he vanished off the face of the planet. Sandy has never disappeared without letting one of the band, or his family, know where he was going, so we knew something was seriously wrong.

Owlie: You had doubts about whether or not Neal would succeed out of the gang.

Lennie: Well, yeah. Anybody would. He moved from a street gang to life with a major rock band. He had Sandy at knifepoint, for God’s sake. He admitted that the gang would look for him. So my problem was, do I say it’s too big a risk for the band to harbor someone who walked out on his street gang? That would’ve been a death sentence because they wouldn’t take him back. Do I try to help this 18-year-old who says he doesn’t want to be a lawbreaker anymore? On what basis do I trust him not to change his mind and slit our throats in the middle of the night?

Owlie: And you took the high road. The band has done benefits for charity, right?

Lennie: Sure. We’ve done benefits for the Heart Association primarily but also for a few organizations researching blindness. We also did benefit shows for a fledgling group trying to study AIDS.

Charity is one thing, social work right in our own home is something else. I knew taking on a project like Neal would be life-changing for all of us. And don’t ask me if it’s been worth the risk, the jury’s still out on that one!

Owlie: You have a working-class background, don’t you?

Lennie: Absolutely. My dad works as a maintenance supervisor in Crescent City’s hospital—he’s a glorified janitor. He’s proud of having an honest job. My mom retired from the admissions office there. They taught me to make my own luck and never give up.

Owlie: What would you say are your faults?

Lennie: [laughs] Micro-managing. There are sharks in this business and I will not let my band be taken advantage of. And sometimes I get dragged into the keyboards-versus-guitar debate. Eric’s guitar virtuosity had a lot to do with Star’s hitting it big, but he complains that we do a lot of electronic keyboards now. The electronic trend is too big to ignore but I think I’ve found a balance.

Owlie: What are your goals for the near future?

Lennie: I want Star to be successful, but not at the expense our sanity. Eric carries a load as our lead guitarist. I’m thinking about easing up on our tour schedule. When Star winds down, I’ll produce other people. If Eric decides someday to go out on his own, I’d love to co-produce him.

Owlie: What’s your favorite food?
Lennie: Smoked trout with a mango vinaigrette.
--- --- --- --- --- ---
Eric Ritter

Owllady: So, a three-piece suit and silk scarf for a written interview?

Eric: This is me, baby. I don’t do second-class anything.

Owlie: How’s your guitar venture going?

Eric: I’m about to pick my main manufacturer. It’s a shitload of work getting this going, but I’m tremendously excited. I’ll have some high-end axes but the majority will be high-quality pieces that are affordable to most fans. I might do guitar clinics too.

Owlie: You still like to play without a pick, I’ve noticed.

Eric: Totally. I love that extra physical connection. Sometimes you need a flat pick, but I always come back to fingerpicking.

Owlie: How did you feel about Sandy’s suggestion that Neal live in Star’s home?

Eric: I thought his brains were scrambled. A gangbanger? Honestly? A dude whose gang had a grudge against him, too. That’s gonna work out all nice and happy.

Owlie: That’s harsh.

Eric: Oh, they knew how I felt. Listen. [Leans forward] I grew up around the homeless shelters my family runs. I worked in the soup kitchens for six years. I’ve seen what living in the streets can do to people, and none of it’s good. By his own admission, Neal spent time in a juvenile detention center and came within a hair’s breadth of slitting Sandy’s throat. Why does somebody like that want to associate with a high-level band?

Owlie: To break the cycle of hopelessness?

Eric: [Sits back and adjusts the sleeves of his jacket] Yeah, well, it could just as easily have been something else. I’m glad he’s off the streets. What’s that look for? If his head had gotten blown off before he could get out, it would have been a waste. Sandy is right about people having potential. I came from a family of religious fanatics and now I’m a rich hedonist. [grins] If you don’t try, you’ll never get anywhere.

Owlie: You’ve got an interest in Russian culture?

Eric: Russia is misunderstood. The country produced some of the world’s brightest minds. They didn’t always channel their intelligence in the best ways, but I admire their perseverance. I’m trying to teach myself Russian. It’s an uphill battle. [Another grin.]

Owlie: Would you ever want a solo career?

Eric: It’s possible. Star’s not going to last forever. A band of equals has disadvantages. Wait, that didn’t come out right. I mean, I’ve got music I’ll never record with Star because there are three other songwriters who expect to be on every CD. I’m not going to leave Star behind while the band is hot, but eventually I might solo.

Owlie: I suppose a band backing you would be light on keyboards.

Eric: [laughs] You’re not gonna push that button! Yeah, sometimes I get into it with Len about that. If he has to keep justifying his place onstage, he stays fresh.

Owlie: I’m not sure he sees it that way, but never mind. Are you seeing anyone special?

Eric: That’s not up for discussion. My private life is private.

Owlie: [smiles] Okay, if you want to believe that. What’s your favorite food?

Eric: Sandy’s sister Marie does a killer prime rib. And Marie’s not my type, so don’t ask. She’s happily married to Dennis.

--- --- --- --- --- ---
Brian Morel

Owllady: Brian, you were pretty open-minded about somebody you’d never met before joining the band’s household.

Brian: Well, I wasn’t totally convinced it was the best idea Sandy’s ever had, but it wasn’t fair to just dismiss the idea. It didn’t make sense to me that Neal was part of some scheme to rob us blind, or that he was operating alone to rob us blind. There were easier targets.

Owlie: MF did apparently have a plan to demand ransom.

Brian: When Neal was still with them, yeah. It wouldn’t have made sense to change that plan to something more complicated. Sandy’s not always totally grounded but I understood his wanting to help.

Owlie: Neal’s had some issues staying clean. Has it been hard for you, since most of your friends use?

Brian: Some of them do, but I don’t really miss it anymore. I’d rather have a few drinks. The effects wear off quicker and I can get back to work quicker.

Owlie: Let me ask, does your dad still work in the steel mill?

Brian: I’ll answer just that one. He’s working for now but he’s planning to take early retirement. It’s been hard on him physically.

Owlie: You have two brothers and two sisters? Have any of them expressed an interest in joining you in the business?

Brian: [smiles and shakes head]

Owlie: Fair enough. Tell me about your guitar nicknames.

Brian: I still use ‘Wonderbass’, the first bass Star heard me play on. There’s also ‘Sergeant Ric’, to differentiate from Lennie’s Rickenbacker. We wound up with identical twins. One of my early techs christened my Gibson ES-335 rhythm guitar ‘The Engine’ and that stuck.

Owlie: You’re interested in Asian cultures; can you elaborate?

Brian: The history of Japanese movie making is fascinating, and their traditional military history is tremendously long and rich. I love their calligraphy. Chinese art in general is subtle and bold at the same time. I keep meaning to find out more about India, but I get sidetracked. I’m sure I’ll never find out everything I want to, all those cultures are so deep and layered.

Owlie: There is one American tradition that interests you.

Brian: [smiles again] Yeah, baseball. Pittsburgh Pirates. I get to home games when I can. If I have to fly out of L.A. on game day and back the same evening, that’s what I do. You’ve got to support your home team.

Owlie: What’s your favorite food?

Brian: I have two: Thai green curry, and a roast beef sandwich with cole slaw. But I may find a new one if I ever get to investigating India.

Neal and the band have agreed to answer questions from fans. Please be aware of two things: it may take several days for me to hear back from them, and most importantly, you need to specify which year you're interested in. For example: Sandy in 1987 may answer a question differently than in 1992. Neal's association with Sylvyr Star continues well past 1992 so you can ask questions about those years also.

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