The Big Ask

This is the forum for all Steve Vai-related discussion including Steve's albums, videos, performances and frequently asked questions.
Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:47 pm

The Big Ask

#1 Post by DeCav » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:06 pm

TO: Steve Vai
FROM: Mark Stubbs

Mr Vai,

Hello! It is a great honor to write to you and temporarily be under the impression that you are indeed reading this. I’ll say first that I am a huge fan and have two Jems that are signed, one of them #85 LNG, the other one a floral print.

I’m currently working on a music project that is rather multi layered. I thought it would be a novel idea to also initiate a film project to document the music project. Furthermore to truly bookend this ambitious endeavor, I thought to myself, “Why not make the film about whether or not I can encourage Steve Vai to make time to join a project for a noble cause. After all I just watched the truly earth shattering Jamathon!”

So to that end my plan is to start the film with the big ask. The opening scene will be me writing you this missive inviting you to become part of the project somewhere along the way. Do not be afraid to turn me down several times before swooping in at the 11th hour for the dramatic and fashionably late entry. It will add to the suspense of the film which will of course begin with the ask and end either with a warm and thankful credit for your participation or the epilogue that Mr. Vai declined to participate in this film. Having duly yet subtly twisted your arm let me say welcome to my film. I’ll explain the premise thus…

The film, to be called tentatively, “DeCav’s Tangents” will revolve around the recording of a song. I have created an episodic 15 minute piece of music and deliberately left many pockets and empty spaces that need bass lines, guitar lines, strings, vocals... you name it.

The aim and ultimate arc (underneath the overarching theme of can or can I not get Steve Vai to participate) will be turning this music into a tribute to my alma mater Dorman High School. To that effect I will go on a search tracking down alumni of all ages that are graduates of Dorman and also still playing music and recruit them to lay down tracks of all kinds and to populate this song and have it overflow with the creativity of generations.

At the end of this film will be the final product, a 15 minute music video paying tribute to everything Dorman. Among other phenomenal and lesser known talents it has been suggested that the surviving members of the Marshall Tucker Band might be interested in participating in this project.

Of course I know awesome musicians who aren’t Dorman graduates, so one of the jokes of the film will be to slip in the occasional musician from a different high school (the film will attempt to briefly show the yearbook photos and class year of each contributor). You see one of the other layers of the film will be my active social participation in the high school football community for the last 8 years. I have been messaging and blogging about football ( a little ) and life ( A LOT) on South Carolina High School message boards. The amazing people and experiences constitute in my opinion a need to be recounted.

One not uncommon post might be the following true one…

DeCav’s Intellectual Corner Week 9: For A Friend
Postby DeCavelier » Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:19 pm

Well it is with a heavy heart that I’m writing this post. It’s always a mystery to me, of course, about how my life unfolds like a book one page at a time. One chapter after another. Life, like a book, is full of what you might call the meat and the potatoes, the interesting stuff and the fillers. Ian Flemming (the author of James Bond) said about his writing that he had a formula for scripting his stories. He had a tool that he called a “bump” when writing.

Basically as he outlined what he wanted to happen in the stories he would structure them with these “bumps” which were the events that would set the main character off in a new direction or which would affect the outcome of the story. A bump could be a clue the character discovered that would cause him to have to fly to a different location, or he might meet a character at a party or in a casino which would carry the story in a new direction. A bump might be a car chase or an assassination attempt that would result in some new insight that would help the main character fulfill his mission. Everything in between the bumps was basically just filler: interesting dialogue, romantic interludes, action sequences, character development.

Of course a James Bond novel is going to be infinitely more interesting than most of our own lives. Even the filler in a James Bond novel is more interesting than the day to day routine that I and most of the people in the world experience. I go along from day to day just living in “filler” which can be summed up by one very famous phrase, “Same ****, different day.” This phrase also accurately describes Sparty’s posts!


Ok, just kidding Sparty. You’re one of the cornerstones of the board and definitely the most talked about poster this season. They may call you a nut but at least they call you.

So most of our lives are made up of filler. Some parts more sweeter than others but ultimately aren’t life changing. You may spend most of your day on a fishing trip and not catch a thing or you may catch the biggest fish of your life. You may go out on a date and catch a really good movie or just stay home and watch TV. If you are a member of PFT then it’s almost a given that at least once a year you’ll see a heck of a football game that will stay with you for weeks. Some of us are more lucky in that respect in that some seasons bring nothing but heartache.

Most of us have gotten up and gone to work, come home and turned on the TV, ate dinner, talked with the wife and kids, and then gone to bed only to do the same thing the next day all the while marking each day off the calendar one by one as they come and go.

But whether your day to day life is more or less exciting most of it ultimately doesn’t every really change the course of your life. We can all look back over our lives and see the points where our lives took new directions. If you mapped the story of your life you’d see these nodes where someone you met or some event that occurred had profoundly affected your fate. Most of them are easy to identify. For most of us there was surely a day that we were told we were going to be a parent. For some of us this was highly anticipated and welcome news (like myself), for others it was not something we’d planned.

The day you met your future wife or husband was surely a bump that would affect the rest of your life. Your senior year of high school might have found you trying to decide what you wanted to major in in college or indeed whether you even wanted to go to college. How many athletes every year sustain an injury in a game that drastically alters the course of their lives?

Some of these life changing events are foreseen and some are not. The night I met my wife online while chatting was not exactly foreseen. However, the night she told me she was pregnant definitely was because we’d paid $5,000 to have her tubes untied so that we could have a baby together. Some of these moments come about as a result of planning and intent and of course some of them hit you sideways.

While standing on the field at district 3 stadium in Rock Hill watching the bearcats play and talking with Sparty, 88, trojangrad78, and BearcatinOK I had one of those moments of musing where I wondered to myself about what events transpired to bring me to that place at that moment in time. I could have been any place at that moment in a million other lives but I was there in Rock Hill participating in an event which fate seemed determined to have me be a part of.

What were the events that led me to be there? Well let’s trace back awhile. I’ll say that being a student of any high school didn’t necessarily predetermine me being there since I was a Dorman grad at a Rock Hill event. But it’s almost certain that I wouldn’t have been there that night if it hadn’t been for a coach named Dave Gutshall. Why’s that? Well it was back in ’93 that my friend happened to mention to me that Dorman had gone out and gotten itself some big shot football coach from North Carolina. Up to that point my friend and I hadn’t attended any Dorman games since graduating in ’90. But hearing that we’d hired a new football coach got us to thinking it’d be fun to go watch Dorman play.

Well from that point forward we’d watch Dorman play every year for the next 16 years until 2009 when we beat Byrnes to win the 2009 state championship. Now on that day, I came home from Columbia and called my older brother to tell him the news.

“Yeah, we were following on the message board!”, he said.

“What message board?”, I asked.

“The one at”, he answered.

Well I got on the computer that night and found PFT, created an account, and posted my first post congratulating Byrnes on a great game. I got an immediately positive response from several Byrnes fans and decided that this message board might be a lot of fun during a whole football season. I promised to come back around the following year and I did just that, forming many friendships throughout last season.

So you’d probably expect me to say that after registering on PFT I became friends with Bobby Thompson. Unfortunately I didn’t actually get to know him at all on the board before he passed away. I was aware of him vaguely towards the end of the season last year as far as him having cancer but let myself miss out on striking up a friendship with him.

So as I’ve said before it was actually Sparty who inspired me to get involved with the RHHS1981 presentation and I’m very glad that I did because it was an incredibly rewarding experience. Having everyone come together and share their stories about Bobby really illuminated for me what a shame it was that I hadn’t built a relationship with him as a friend like I have with several other posters on the board.

It also made me aware of how precious life really is and how easy it is to take all the days we have for granted when we think we still have plenty of them to experience. I personally am a big procrastinator and can put off doing just about anything for another day. Including living. I’m sure that one day there’ll come a reckoning when I’ll regret ever sitting on the couch all day watching TV or playing on the computer or passing up any chance ever to do something meaningful with my son.

The song, “Cat’s In The Cradle” is obviously about a father who’s always too busy with day to day life to stop and savor the precious time that he has with his son. But isn’t it more than that? Isn’t it also about missing out on life itself? I heard once that life can be like a bag of M&M’s. At first you gobble them up a handful at a time but as the bag begins to get empty you start to slow down and enjoy each M&M one at a time knowing that you don’t have many left. Now personally I’m not sure this is a great analogy as I usually buy one of those big bags and get sick of the M&M’s way before I finish the bag.

I’m sure for many who knew Bobby well, either on the board or in person, it was impossible not to wish you could wave a magic wand and take away his suffering. How many thousands of prayers were sent up for him to be able to be with us longer than he was? What would you have been willing to do to save him if it were possible?

About two and a half years ago my wife and I became friends with a couple named Jeff and Kym who’d just moved to SC from Rhode Island with their young son, Carter.

Okay, so at this point it just occurred to me that Rhode Island is called Rhode Island and Rhode Island is not an island. So I went where else but Wikipedia to find some answers and I discovered some very interesting things!

Okay, so they’re not all that interesting but I thought I’d share anyway. First, historians aren’t exactly sure where we got the name Rhode Island from. Huh? No, it’s true. There are a couple of theories about this.

The first states that an early explorer in the 1500′s noted that what is currently called Aquidneck island, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay, reminded him of the Greek Island of Rhodes. What’s odd about this is that historians aren’t even sure what Greek island he was talking about. What was this guy smoking? So Rhode Island might have gotten its name from a guy who apparently wasn’t a very informed explorer. So I have this image in my head of two Chevy engineers working on a new design...

“Hey man, this car really reminds me of one of them old Ford Fandango’s!”

“Ford whats?”

“Fandango’s man! Fandango!”

“Dude, there’s no such car.”

“Sure there is and that looks just like one of ’em!”

“’re just stupid. BUT that would be a pretty cool name...“

The second theory suggests that during his expeditions in the 1610’s, an explorer by the name of Adrian Block (probably called “blockhead” 470 years before Charlie Brown) passed by what is now known as Aquidneck Island and described it in his notes as and island of reddish appearance. Dutch maps from as early as 1659 call the island “Roode Eylant”, or “Red Island”. Many believe that the reddish appearance was either from the red foliage of the island or the red clay on portions of the shore.

In any case the mainland portion of the state apparently takes it name from Aquidneck Island off the coast which was officially known as Rhode Island until the mainlanders hijacked the name for themselves and gave the old Rhode Island the new name of Aquidneck. Now in my opinion, naming an island Aquidneck is just stupid. Pretty confusing stuff.

Another very interesting fact is that the official name of the state of Rhode Island is...

“The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” which is the longest official name of any state in the Union. Now at this point you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking...

“I thought the official name of a state was just the state’s name!“

Not so. Apparently there are some people out there who really love to split hairs when it comes to symantec's. Our own state’s official name is NOT “South Carolina” but “The State of South Carolina”. Ooooh!

Whatever! Gimme a break. I looked up a few other “official” state names and as near as I can tell the “official” name of most states is just the name of the state preceded by the words “The State of...” Now according to one source the official name of Texas is “The Republic of Texas” which makes sense when you consider how many Republicans live there.

But wait a second! Let’s get back to Rhode Island’s official name! “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”. Now this name came from this religious cat named Roger Williams. He’d been run out of Massachusetts because he was a bit of a radical and liked to provoke England a lot. He had some nutty ideas that, even though he was a devout Christian, people should have complete freedom of religion. Also he felt that the UK had stolen all this land from the Indians and should have had to buy the land from the Indians instead of just stealing it from them. What a buffoon, right?

So Massachusetts basically told him, “Dude, you gotta go. You don’t have to go home but your can’t stay here!” So he wound up in present day Rhode Island which back then was an uncharted piece of land that he bought from some Native Americans. He called the place “Providence” because he believed it was God’s providence (God’s will) that brought him there. The word “plantation” was an English term for colony and the state’s official name eventually became “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”

Now here’s the interesting part. When you think of “Providence Plantations” what do you naturally think of? Right! Plantations. As in cash crops and slavery. But, as was stated earlier, the term plantations was just another word for colony back then. But some people were concerned that the word “plantations” would confuse people. So, on June 25, 2009, the General Assembly voted to allow the people to decide whether to keep the official state name or drop “Providence Plantations” due to the misperception that the name relates to slavery. The referendum election was held on this subject during the November 2, 2010 elections, and the people overwhelmingly voted (78% to 22%) to keep the original name.

So, it appears that 78% of Rhode Islanders are racists and they’re proud of it! And the rest are just guilty white crackers! Well that explains why our friends Jeff and Kym moved from the racist colony of Rhode Island to the great “State of South Carolina”. To get away from all those bigots!

No, I’m just joking. Jeff and Kym didn’t move to get away from racists. They’re as racist as they come and want to spread it!

No no no, ok...I’m obviously joking again. Seriously they are two of the nicest, friendliest people you could imagine meeting and do not see people as one color or another.

Obviously the residents of Rhode Island didn’t feel like bowing to political correctness since the origin of the name had nothing to do with slaves in the first place. They just wanted to preserve the historical significance of the state name especially, I suspect, because of the divine origins of the name.

Ok, now enough about geography. I know what most of you are thinking....

How did my wife and I meet Jeff and Kym?!?!

And if your first guess was you are 100% correct!

No, what actually happened was that not long after moving to SC one of them posted an ad on craigslist looking for other people who had children close to their son’s age because their son just didn’t have many friends when they first moved here. Well my wife answered the add and she and Kym had a playdate for my son and their son Carter.

That went well and not long after that they planned a day at the park for all of us which totally reminded me of Chris Rock’s routine about when wives arrange for their husbands to have play dates with their friends husbands....


So me and Jeff wound up the first day we met throwing the baseball with our two sons at the park. It was at this first meeting that I learned something about Jeff...

Five years ago, at the age of 33, Jeff had an MRI study done for complaints of headaches, coordination problems, and weakness in his left arm and leg. His wife Kym had taken their then 3 year old son to see the movie “Cars” that night, and awaited a call when Jeff was through with the test. The call she got changed their lives forever....

So began the battle with the brain tumor that was discovered in the right side of Jeff’s brain.

Initially, Jeff’s tumor was discovered to be an “astrocytoma”- a nasty tumor that had a pension for coming back, which it did twice, in Jeff’s case. Jeff would have 2 surgeries over the next year to remove the rapidly-growing, recurring tumor. Jeff underwent radiation treatment daily for 6 weeks. Jeff later found out that the radiation he received was the maximum allowance for his lifetime. Radiation would no longer ever be an option for any future treatment. During one of his surgeries, Jeff suffered a massive seizure on the table and tore a cranial artery. This was not discovered until a day after surgery, when Jeff lay in a coma, unresponsive to anything around him. Decompression surgery was performed as an emergency and he recovered well from this. Each surgery brought an out-of-pocket expense of close to $3000 each, with medications, copayments, and deductibles.

So this is basically one of the things I found out about Jeff and Kym the first time we met them. The surgeries and treatments seemed to have been a success and the cancer as I understood it was behind them now. MRI showed no evidence of a tumor having returned. I asked him that day if it was the case that his battle with brain cancer had taught him some new appreciation for life.

“No, not really. It didn’t really have the kind of effect on me that it does on other people because I already appreciated my life and tried to squeeze as much life into every day as I could. It wasn’t as if I got through it and decided to get out and live as a result. I was already doing that every day and loving life. For me, the battle with cancer had just been an interruption to my life rather than any kind of wake up call.“

Well a few months after meeting Jeff and Kym we got some bad news...

One day, Jeff suffered a massive seizure while driving Kym to pick up their son at school. This was the first sign that the cancer had returned. An MRI confirmed a new tumor at the original site. Jeff had his next surgery done at Duke Hospital. Again, the cost over the next year was about $3000 out-of-pocket.

It was after that surgery that the news took a bad turn: the former astrocytoma had developed into a glioblastoma multiforme, grade 4 - the most deadliest form of brain cancer, and not survived by many. Somehow, under the close scrutiny of constant MRI studies and doctors appointments, the cancer had come back with a vengeance, catapulting up several classes to become a GBM.

Jeff started on monthly chemotherapy pills and a biological medication delivered via a 2 hour infusion every other week. He did this for a full year. The chemo pill was taken for 5 days every month. By the 3rd day of treatment, Jeff would feel sick. By the 5th day, he could not get off the couch. The next year cost close to $1500 in out-of-pocket expenses.

Amazingly enough, Jeff managed to work every day from his home office, even traveling across the country to meet with clients at their locations. He also ran three marathons. He coached 2 basketball teams, a baseball team, and a soccer team. He continued to provide for his family. He went 15 months without any sign of his cancer returning. He flourished.

In early October, on a routine MRI scan, he was informed that his brain cancer had returned and spread like a blanket of stars in a sky over the cavity of his former tumor site. He was started back on chemo and biological medications.

On Monday, October 24th, Jeff got a call from Duke Hospital. His brain cancer was dividing rapidly. His current medications were no longer working, and there was no use continuing them. His cancer was “too deep” in his brain tissue, so surgery would no longer be an option for him. He could, however, try some other drug therapies involving 3 different drugs. It had some limited success. The doctor sited a patient she had that was still alive. A patient.

So how about that?

Here I was spending all that time with the Bobby Thompson plaque and I don’t know folks, I mean Karma can be a bitch but where is it when you need it? Bobby Thompson...I guy I didn’t even know when he was alive but which definitely had an effect on me once I got involved with that. And people sent messages of support and thanks but I didn’t really do any of that for the purpose of receiving praise or anything. Just felt like something I needed to do. It popped in my head to do it and I felt it would have been wrong to ignore it.

But really I just wanna make some kind of difference in this world. Wanna leave some kind of small legacy. I wanna know that I didn’t just phone life in you know? I don’t need to be the next Martin Luther King or John Lennon or Bill Gates but I do want to feel that my life has some purpose to it. And almost at the exact moment I feel like I’ve participated it something great, I get the news that my own friend is dying of cancer.

I don’t know. I naively felt that maybe being a part of Bobby’s plaque would somehow prevent the darkness from blowing under my own door. The part that really shook me up was getting home from work about two weeks ago and having my wife tell me about what had happened to Jeff the night before...

Jeff was driving with his son in the car at night and realized with horror all of a sudden that he felt himself possibly slipping into a seizure. He quickly pulled over to the shoulder of the road and shut the car off just before blacking out. So there is his 8 yr old son watching his father lose consciousness and have a seizure. But the boy was definitely a soldier about it and kept his head. He got his father’s phone and tried calling his mom. Then he tried calling 911 but for some reason couldn’t get the phone to work. He got out of the car and began trying to flag down another driver.

Would you believe several drivers passed right by the boy before someone finally stopped? Jeff eventually recovered and they made it home but it took a lot out of Jeff and definitely shook him up. Of course there were thoughts and speculations about how much worse things could have been if he’d not felt the seizure coming on soon enough. Needless to say he did not and does not drive anymore and had no idea that his condition had progressed so far.

I don’t need to tell anyone the helplessness of knowing someone with terminal cancer. He will not even throw out a number. I asked him frankly how long. He didn’t say. He just said, “It’s not good. It’s bad. It’s really bad.“

So I’m not trying to bring anyone down about this but before I go any further I just thought I’d post some pics of Jeff and his family. It’s hard to see these pics and not think about how this situation affects and will affect his son…

The rest of the story can be followed in the following two threads... ... =6&t=16523 ... =6&t=18924

Needless to say it did not end well for Jeff. That is to say if you read the end of the second thread you’ll see it did end quickly but to say it didn’t end well wouldn’t be true. It could be said he and his family experienced as beautiful a passing as could be had. It occurs to me now, and yes I mean now and not before I began writing this that I posted the lyrics to your song “Brother” on Jeff’s facebook page after his passing and his sister picked them up and recited them for her brother’s eulogy.


These are the kinds of musings over the years that kind of grew a following and allowed me to meet a lot of new and interesting people and make new friends. And of course some of them are musicians so I’m thinking, “Why not just sneak these guys in? Yeah it’s all about Dorman graduates but what about tributes to Dorman from OTHER alumni? Yeah, let’s do that.

And while we’re at it let’s see if alumni from other states would be interested….guys like Steve Vai. Really it was the Jamathon that put this idea into my head. You only have yourself to blame. I kid. I kid.

So that will be the film. There’s a deeper more final message to the film which will be revealed towards the end. And then almost as an epilogue or tease I’ll have the film briefly mention my stand up comedy and my patent pending invention for traffic stops.

SO! Welcome to the project. It’s good to have you aboard. We encourage you to muddle up the story arc and suspence and jump in early or put it off till the last minute with a dramatic flourish like having to sit through Crossroads just to get to the head-cuttin duel. Or you can be a more passive participant and receive a footnote at the end of the film. Which is totally cool too! You have paid any debts to Karma with your true and passionate direction and dedication in life.

I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits.

I hope to hear from you sooner rather than later and later rather than never.

Peace Out Mr. Vai.

Mark Stubbs

Post Reply