I turned 21 years old in 1990. From about ’90 – ’93, I was an aspiring drummer in college studying computer music, working at an electronic drum factory making electronic versions of my favorite instrument. It was a good set-up. My buddy Dan, the most mechanically-inclined dude you’d ever meet, owned the drum company. We had a huge shop at the 300 block of W. 130th Street at Broadway, in an industrial pocket on the outskirts of the the shady hood of Los Angeles. I consider this an integral chapter in my formative years. The 1992 Los Angeles riots happened during this time in my life.
Looking back on my days at the drum factory invokes the kind of nostalgic memories of, say, junior high school. Or summer camp. The future was basically my oyster, but I really had no idea what the fuck I was gonna do with it yet. It was an experience I’ll always remember, and I consider a critical point in the sequence of events that led to the situation I’m in today.
While not necessarily realizing it at the time, I learned lots of fundamental things about Life. Making ends meet. From getting work done to paying bills to embracing technological tools that make oneself more productive. It was during this time that I got my first computer (a Mac Classic maxed out to a whopping 4mb of ram and a 40mb INTERNAL hard drive, stylin’), and dove in to this computer thing that ultimately led to the reason you’re even reading this in the first place. Oh, and I was really, really, really stoned the whole time.
I also I learned a lot about people.
While at the drum factory, we found ourselves in dire need of manual help with production, and brought in a dude named Horace Shearer. A guy through the grapevine. He was just out of prison on his first strike, but he seemed like a good worker. Hardcore, but industrious. To give you a quick visual of Horace: Mulatto, about 5′ 8″, 160-lbs, totally cut, shaved head, fully tattooed, white wife-beater tank-top with Dickies, “Horace” tattooed on his neck, “Shearer” across the ribs, and miscellaneous scratch from the joint up the sleeves. I wish I had a picture, but this was before digital cameras, and we didn’t exactly walk around with Polaroids in our pockets back then.
Horace also was a chain joint smoker, which fit in perfectly with our lifestyle at the time.
I spent countless of hours alone with Horace. We had some productive times together. I remember one time, shortly before the holiday rush in 1992, we needed to get an order of about 1200 drum pads out the door in about four days. It was an impossible task. But we buckled down, cleared our heads, put on some tunes, got really baked, and made it happen. From mounting the piezo transducers with silicone to soldering the pick-ups to heat-shrinking the wires to sealing the rubber heads to trigger testing (my job) to bagging to boxing to taping to labeling to plastic wrapping in stacks of five to filling out shipping orders and packing slips to managing inventory in FileMaker Pro templates to moving the shit out the door. All of it. It wasn’t supposed happen. We didn’t have the resources.
But we did it. Just me and Horace. It was an accomplishment I was proud of, and he was too. In that, we shared something undeniably real. We were a team.
Horace was a bad-ass mofo. Scary, but a survivor. A thug in every sense of the word. Somebody with a history you’d rather not know about. Somebody you wouldn’t make eye contact with in public. He had a shotgun I never asked about and friends I didn’t want to know the names of. Hanging with Horace for extended periods made me understand a part of the human condition that I otherwise would be oblivious to today. I’m grateful for the experience. In an oddly useful way, I found my own inner hardcore mutherfucker. Don’t fuck with me, you know? Fuck you.
But underneath all that physical and psychological hardness, there was something about Horace that connected with me emotionally. Especially in the hours we were alone working. He enjoyed music, he liked jokes, he loved teriyaki, he appreciated drumming, and he had a great smile, albeit riddled with missing teeth and fillings. He also worked out a lot, and inspired me to start ripping things up myself. He’d spot me on the bench press. He’d push me to do the sixteenth chin-up before giving me the high-five.
Horace was a soul that I’ll never fully understand, and yet a friend I trusted. In a purely physical sense, he was the dude to have in your corner in a fight. I knew with 99% of my brain, and perhaps some of my heart, that if I was ever in a life-threatening situation, Horace would have my back. He wouldn’t leave me hanging. No way. He was good guy to know, especially when you’re getting in your car after dark on 338 W. 130th Street.
I just got an email from Dan, who I haven’t heard from in years. He informed me that a couple years ago, our friend Horace got caught up in a high-speed chase with the cops on his third strike. Cornered and facing certain lock-up, Horace put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Horace is gone.
I’m sitting here thinking about Horace, playing some of the albums he and I had in heavy rotation back then. On that list would be Cowboys From Hell, Facelift, …And Justice For All, Rust in Peace, Slave to the Grind, Batmotorfinger, Mama Said, Seasons in the Abyss, and The Real Thing. You know how music is. Brings you back like nothing else can.
There was one particular song that was Horace’s favorite song in the world. It was a song called Come As You Are off a record called Nevermind from a new little band up north called Nirvana. Horace would play that song over and over and over and over again, closing his eyes, banging his head. While I often wanted to, I never found the heart to stop him from hitting the Rewind button. I appreciated the fact that the song touched him, and, in a way, I saw why. It almost defined our friendship.
Horace Shearer was, in some weirdly correct indirect way, a part of who I am today. I owe it to him to tell my story of him.
Horace also had a cute little boy we called Little Horace, who was probably about three years old back then. I guess he’d be about seventeen or eighteen today. Little Horace, if you’re out there, email me.
Big Horace, rest in peace, my friend. Or, as the kids are saying now, peace out.
Take a rest,
As a friend,
As a known memory.
–Nirvana, “Come As You Are“