It's strange how things work out. Local talent buyer John Iskander, the man also known as Parade of Flesh, has been fiercely independent for years. He recently started a charity and retired from a full-time role as a middle school teacher after seven years to focus on PoF. But as he prepared for the upcoming Spillover Music Festival, a sudden health issue stopped him in his tracks. For the first time in several years, Iskander now finds himself relying on others.
It happened last Tuesday. Nothing was out of the ordinary and Iskander hadn't been partying. "It was like I had the flu," he says. "I woke up sick." He also woke up with what may have been a broken blood vessel on his forehead. After a quick meeting for Spillover, he went home and tried to sleep it off.
When Iskander woke up from his nap, there was a scratch on his face, as if he had flailed and gashed near his eye while sleeping. "Something just wasn't working with my body," he says. After vomiting, he took a cab to an urgent care center. In hindsight, Iskander's decision to take a cab was of utmost importance to his own safety and the safety of others. The last thing he remembers is a short wait at the urgent care center.
"They said I started convulsing in the exam room," Iskander says. "I woke up after that in the ambulance. I woke up again in the hospital." He does not remember the cab ride or being at urgent care, he just suddenly found himself in a hospital, "hooked up to a bunch of shit."
Iskander has several holes in his arm from IVs and needles; he spent two days going through every sort of test imaginable. But he still has no idea what caused the seizures. His energy level is not what it used to be. "I'm not going to lie," he says. "I'm not 100 percent." Last week took its toll both physically and mentally; he'd never had seizures before, and the suddenness of the episode made it especially scary.
When he was released from the hospital on Thursday, Iskander was told he is not allowed to drive for at least the next few months. "It's psychologically trying," he admits. "To have a certain level of energy, or a certain level of attitude and sarcasm. And then just have it all washed away."
Iskander has medical insurance, but certainly expects some out-of-pocket expenses coming his way. He has considered selling his car because it is an expense for something that is currently worthless to him. But luckily, Iskander has friends and family in Dallas who have reached out and offered to help with rides.
A YouCaring campaign was also created to help fund all the cab rides in his future. Iskander is lucky to be self-employed; his work is mainly e-mails and phone calls, so he can choose his work environment and picks his hours. But he has not been able to put in full days lately. "But I have a good crew," he says of his regular Parade of Flesh "faculty" and the additional support needed for Spillover. "People have donated from their hearts."
Iskander's support, the people who help him bring distinct shows to Dallas, stepped up and more or less ran the shows last week. "Everybody's understanding when they find out what happened," he says, with gratitude. For a guy who has never been married, he is also extremely grateful to have a girlfriend who has been at his side during this difficult time.
But this is quite an adjustment for someone who has been independent for so long. Iskander is considering going to a couple of his shows this week, hoping the loud noise will not affect him. If he is not up to it, he'll take another week off. Thankfully, he has shows booked for the coming months and preparations for Spillover are almost complete.
After leaving the classroom in January and getting busy working and planning ahead as a promoter, this health scare could have happened at a worse time. "It's good timing," Iskander says, before chuckling. "If that makes any sense." But now he has to plan for a future not knowing if the seizures were a one-time thing or if it will happen again.
Perhaps there is something that triggered the seizures that he will have to avoid. But for now, Iskander simply knows to proceed with caution if he wakes up feeling sick. He bit his tongue a couple times, thankfully no stitches, but it's still very sore. He will be on medication for months. In a few weeks he will start seeing a neurologist.
But Iskander considers his condition beyond that after learning that he knows people who have also suffered from seizures. "There's a lot of people who have this," he says. "I think a lot of people are not very vocal about it." Indeed, after his trip to the hospital he had friends tell him of similar incidents they had never mentioned before. After learning of this need for greater awareness, Iskander -- already charitably minded as his In the Garage Alliance has demonstrated -- believes he will participate in charitable activities involving epilepsy in the future.
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But in the meantime it's full steam ahead with shows. Spillover is the greatest annual alternative for people who can't (or won't) drive to Austin for SXSW. With stages in Deep Ellum under a bridge and in the venues, this year's edition will be the most ambitious yet. Led by Liars, this is a ridiculously stacked event that will be executed masterfully by the incomparable Parade of Flesh. Rest assured Iskander will do his utmost to be there, too.
Spillover Music Fest 2015 featuring Liars takes place 12 P.M., March 22, in Deep Ellum, $33.
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