Ross is an active member of Amigos de Bucerias: he hauls his PA equipment to and from our monthly meetings; he tows the recycling trailer around in the summer and whenever needed; and he went all over Bucerias with Dick Pickup numbering the street lights to make reporting of faulty ones easier.
First of all Ross: thank you for your participation in Amigos – Edmonton’s loss is our gain! You were born and raised there – when did you start playing drums?
When I was 12, I started banging on my mother’s pots and pans. My parents bought my first set of drums – I have no idea what they were thinking! The drums were British and black and they bought them from a guy in the paratroopers for $150. My Dad had a lathe and made me a set of drumsticks; and they paid for me to have lessons.
And the lessons paid off?
Yes. I started making a living playing drums when I was supposed to be in high school – I was too busy having fun to finish! – all through the 70s. My first group – with 2 buddies, was called Triad and our first gig was in a bikers’ bar, we played the rock’n’roll of the day. Right after that we went to our second gig at Prince Rupert, B.C. , in a lounge bar and they made us play so quietly we turned off the PA. They gave us free food and drink – I remember drinking copious quantities of Black Russians! We had been hired for two weeks but after the first week they fired us – because we were too loud. They should have hired a piano player! Then we were booked into a downtown bar which was pretty rough. We asked what happened to the band booked in before and it seems a fight had broken out and one of the band members had been stabbed. We played whatever they wanted us to !
In between gigs what else did you do?
While I was still in high school I had worked at several boat dealers in the summer and after that I did it full time, rigging and so on, I helped on Peter Pocklington’s race boat, which he ended up sinking on the Rio Balsas – here in Mexico. Coincidentally that’s the name of the road I live on! I love boats but I made more money with my band than working on boats – we were playing country music then 6 nights a week.
And then a change in direction for you.
Yes. I went to college and studied music, which doesn’t count for much in the real world. I worked in sales for many years and did quite well at that. I also got my GED, and I landed a job for the 1991 census in Canada – it was one of the highlights of my life. I was one of two Managers for the Western Region . It was for 6 months and I went to the North Western Territories and looked for people “living off the land” because we had to count them. I was driving a van with my co-workers on the Bering Sea and a blizzard came and we couldn’t see, so we turned around. A semi trailer went past us going in our original direction – he was stuck on the ice for three days. I also was in charge of a large call center of over 100 staff in Edmonton and a smaller one in Regina Saskatchewan.
So when the 6 months were up – back to drumming?
Not quite. I enjoyed working for the Government. I’d met Kim by now and figured I had better get a real job. There was a competition for a tax collector and I came in first. I enjoyed this job – I traveled all over the North West Territories and Northern Alberta again – Yellow Knife, Grande Prairie, I was working in collections and also “non filers” – we had to find them and track them down. I chased one guy all the way into BC – I was in a rented car that was not supposed to leave the province. There were times when it was 53 below and I was bar hopping and wearing sneakers.
Not your trademark pink crocs?
I shouldn’t think too many of these tax evaders greeted you with open arms.
Really! One guy came out of his house, grabbed me by the throat, smacked me in the face and knocked me off his property. I had a lady allege I had kicked in her front door. Then there was a family upset with me claiming I had given the father a heart attack. And then I had the police called on me because I was going through their trash can. (People’s lives are in their trash and they don’t realize it). I did find a letter from the bank so that worked out pretty good ! I had quite a reputation in the Tax Department (& still do !) One day a file arrived on my computer regarding a man nobody had been out to see because he had held a RCMP at bay on his farm with an AK47 for 24 hours. So I called him, got directions to his house, went in and he was fine – he filed and we collected ok.
The story of you and Kim meeting won you first prize on a Valentine’s Day radio competition: a romantic weekend in Victoria, BC! No prizes now, but please share it.
I was getting a divorce and living in a buddy’s basement. I met a girl through the classifieds and we became really good friends. My buddy saw a picture of her and wanted to meet her. He had a girlfriend, Kim, who was going to be moving in with him – with her kids, and he wanted me to take her off his hands so that he could date my friend! I’d actually met Kim a few days earlier when I’d been invited along to a Thanksgiving dinner at her house but we didn’t gel at that time. I was also dating another girl from work who was with me that Friday night, and I got to thinking about Kim. I was drunker than a skunk and I called her and said: “Why don’t you come over to the lake, I’ll come and get you” – she took some convincing. Then I said to the girl from work I would drive her home – she lived in the South side of the city and then I went and collected Kim from the North side – she didn’t know where we were going. She told me how my buddy had dumped her – in fact she cried all night. The next day I dropped her off, I closed up the cabin; I got my stuff and went back to her place and never left.
It comes as no surprise to learn that the details concerning your wedding in 1995 were not ordinary either!
Kim’s son Stacy called from Denver and asked what were we doing in a couple of weeks’ time and we said nothing. So he told us he was getting married in Las Vegas to his girlfriend – her real name was Venus and she was a stripper – and as we’d been talking about getting married, why didn’t we make it a double wedding. Well we didn’t have a pot to piss in, couldn’t afford the flight, and our car for sure wouldn’t make it. He said he’d call me back, and when he did, told us they’d booked and paid for the limo and the preacher for a joint wedding. At that time my parents lived outside of Los Angeles and we told them what was going on, and they said they’d call us back… and when they did it was to let us know not only were they coming but they’d booked and paid for our air fare and hotel – and also for Kim’s daughter Pam. It was one of those 4 days 3 nights packages. We all met up and went out for a real Chinese meal. Friends of Stacy’s turned up – and I declined to go out on the stag night. I knew I was getting married in the morning and for once in my life sanity prevailed. Yes, the next day they were all seriously hungover, bodies everywhere at the motel from the pool to the doorways.
We were married at The Little White Wedding Chapel – it’s gone now – and the preacher was a real fire and brimstone guy. Then we went across the street to Circus Circus for some lunch, there were 15 of us. We waited over half an hour and were not served anything at all, and I called the management – who comped our party with a prime rib dinner in their upstairs restaurant. It was one of the best prime rib dinners I’ve ever had!
You seem to have had more than your fair share of lucky streaks!
We won a contest for a trip to Costa Rica but unfortunately couldn’t afford the spending money so didn’t go. We’ve won all sorts of freebies and prizes. We were engaged on the 23rd, and married on the 23rd, our granddaughter was born on the 23rd and 23 has always been important. But the lucky streak seems to have worn off now, although CFE gave us a new digital power meter on the 23rd too!
In addition to my full time job I was the (volunteer) Transportation Manager of the Edmonton Champ Car/Indy Race from its inception in 2005 to 2008 when I quit to move to Mexico. What a great experience that was! I had a staff of over 30 drivers who shuttled VIPs, celebrities, volunteers, and goods and services to and from the airport, race site, hotels etc. I had full access and top security clearance and was involved in all the planning meetings throughout the year for the race, I got all access even to race control and the track. I could watch the race from the track side of the fence with bits of rubber and gravel flying at me and even drive my own car on the track (when it wasn’t “hot”) if I wanted, although I didn’t. Got to hang with celebrities and walk through the pits any time I wanted to, even had lunch in Paul Newman’s trailer. I have some lifelong friends from that experience and will cherish it forever. Kim also worked on my team and got to do her favorite thing, which is driving a golf cart all day shuttling people around the race site. To this day she wants a golf cart to drive around Bucerias. We both have a standing invitation to work at the Long Beach Grand Prix any time we want.
And there was something else you had to give up in order to come down here
We were also very involved in volunteer work in Edmonton. I was VP and Kim was treasurer of The Albert Blain Performer’s Aid Society, a charity to assist musicians and other performers with serious illness or other issues. Not a lot of artists have health insurance or a good safety net. We were also founding members of ABPAS. It was formed after Albert, a bass player who was a very close friend of ours died suddenly from an aneurism and his family couldn’t afford the funeral.
So – why Mexico?
Every February or March like everybody else in Edmonton we said: “Why are we still here? It’s so cold!” I had 2 daughters from my first marriage I wanted to stay close to, but 5 – 6 years ago they had become adults. The cabin at the lake was on 10 acres, which was owned by myself and my 2 sisters, and one of them called from France saying they’d like to sell, so we put it up for sale in the summer of 2008, just when the market crashed. But we did sell it that fall for a sizeable amount of money, enough that Kim and I looked at each other and thought: we will never have this amount of money again – and also I was coming up to retirement with a full pension. My older daughter had told us we really had to come to PV and so we visited, and that first time the people were so amazing. We stayed in a hotel in Nuevo. We came back a couple more times house hunting. We stayed in PV, but it was too busy a city for us, and we knew we didn’t want to live there. We’d previously joined the Bucerias Yahoo Group and hooked up with John Forget, and he became our realtor – and friend – and then we found our house in Bucerias and bought it. Doing that, coming here – it was a leap of faith.
Had you thought of other areas in Mexico?
Not really – maybe Lake Chapala for about 10 minutes. I wanted to be by the ocean, to get out on the water, also the direct flights for whenever we need to go back, and it is as near as hurricane free as we’re going to get. We like Guayabitos a lot – but it’s that Golden Hour when you’re sick and have to get to a hospital in a hurry – and we’ve got really good ones here in PV, plus we’re close to shopping etc.
Before you drove down you had a practice run?
Yes, we bought a motorhome in December 2008. In April 2009 we were meant to visit friends for a weekend, but they postponed, so with our 2 dogs and 3 cats we went to Southern BC to get away from the cold weather for a few days – and it snowed. I’d never been to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, before so we went there – and it snowed. I’d also always wanted to go to Reno so we went there – and it snowed. Well, a week later we ended up in San Francisco – there was snow on the mountains, of course. I’d always wanted to go to the Fisherman’s Wharf so we went for lunch – then we took highway 1 north from San Francisco, there were hairpin bends and at times the RV was hanging over the edge – great fun! We visited other friends in Vancouver and our weekend trip turned into 2 weeks.
So with motorhome driving practice, down you came.
Yes – towing a trailer full of stuff, still with the 2 dogs and 3 cats, and Kim following behind in a car. We arrived at the Nogales downtown border crossing and they made us go to the truck crossing. It was a Friday before a long weekend and the border was closing in a few hours, so we were up against a time deadline. They opened up our trailer which took several hours of investigating and then said we had to pay a broker’s fee. We had already done a full inventory and had it authorized by the Mexican Consulate in Calgary. We didn’t have enough US money for the fee so Kim returned to the USA to hit an ATM, and the USA official checked the car and found Kim had a vacuum cleaner in the trunk and asked about it, so she had to explain we were moving and it hadn’t fitted into the trailer and that cost precious minutes . Then all the ATMs didn’t work, so she had to go right into Nogales and got to a bank where the line was really long. She prevailed upon the woman at the head to let her jump the line. She dashed back, we paid the broker, and then the authorities sealed the trailer with big metal pins and told us we were not to open it until we got to Bucerias.
So we got through the border before it closed – just. And then further down the road at the army checkpoint they wanted us to open the trailer! We said: “Uh-uh, no way”, and indicated they could do so if they wished. They brought out huge bolt cutters and did so – the stuff was packed to the nines and nearly fell out on them! They peered through the tiny spaces with flashlights… I had danced around a bit in my pink crocs to be friendly – and they let us go.
We broke the “no no” rules and stayed inside our RV at the side of the road a couple of times (one was at a Pemex station) and we were fine.
Your house is in Tule Dorado near Manos de Amor orphanage – have you had any work done to it?
Only a little – we do seem to fix the roof every year! We leveled the back yard for our above ground pool. Put a roof over the washer dryer area.
How about the noise of living in a rural area?
Well we discovered, like John Forget, that roosters don’t just crow at dawn, but you get used to it. Also we don’t have any noisy bars or neighbours – although we do have one who is a tuba player who practices once in a while, but that’s OK.
You are both well known for taking in rescue animals – how many are you up to now?
Four dogs and ten cats: Kim says that’s it.
What did your family think about you moving here – and have any of them visited you here?
My Dad passed away in 2006 so he doesn’t know. My Mum was upset as she wanted us to be near to her, but she understands. She was here for my 59th birthday and would like to come again but it’s difficult, she’s in a nursing home now. Of my two sisters, one came on a cruise ship for the day but didn’t get in touch. Her husband has disliked me since high school and wouldn’t allow her to visit us. The other is too busy to come down although she has been in Guadalajara on business, maybe she will one day. As for my girls: we see more of them now than when we lived across town in Edmonton, they love it here – they say we “live in a cool place” !
After your somewhat alcohol fuelled hell raising days, you are now a teetotaller. What brought that about?
It was the passing of my father in February 2006. I shaped up and quit drinking in June 2006 and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, (besides marrying Kim). I attend weekly AA meetings – it’s not obligatory but it reinforces my sobriety. It’s not only about not drinking; it’s more about living so I don’t have to drink. Kim says when I’m acting up “You should have seen him when he was drinking!” My favorite drink was tequila, so where do I move to? Go figure!
What are your personal interests or hobbies?
Music, my home theater – and of course – helping the community in Bucerias! But most of all I love the ocean, being out on a boat.
How good is your Spanish?
Not very ! So many people here speak English.
Looking back, any regrets?
I’ve had a few bands over the course of time and my last one was a really good corporate one who are now very prominent called “Capital Newz”and playing regularly in casinos. Also: I would have loved to have bought the boat my friend was offering to sell to me, a 27ft Fountain poker runner with a 987 HP blower motor that propelled it to just over 100MPH, but we had our quota of importing vehicles and no way to tow it down. Also I thought about how much it would cost to maintain, store, insure – and to run! But it would have been so much fun! We hope to get a boat in the future so we can spend more time out on the bay.
So now the plug: What’s happening with your current band, the Rhythm Roosters?
We have had a fluid line up since that first successful experimental jam session at Philo’s when I met Ralph the bass player – and that continues! Right now it’s me on drums, Ralph on bass, and now we have John on guitar and vocals, Scott on sax and sometimes Jay is on keyboards.
For this coming high season we are looking at returning to Chasers in Nuevo Vallarta, Latitude 21 on the beach in Guayabitos, and hopefully return commitments to the Vallarta Yacht Club and Anna Bananas in La Cruz. We are available for private gigs! We also have a new CD we have just completed to be ready for sale this season. I am very pleased with it. It’s a mix of original music and blues and soul covers.
Along with others, we know your group’s music adapts to the ages and favourites of the crowd and wish you good luck for the season.
Thank you Ross !