Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I know what I'll be doing, in my pillow fort with a bowl of Twizzlers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

That's right: Watching gruesome morality PSA's about teen vice and sexuality.

Happy All Hallow's Eve!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

“For death begins with life's first breath And life begins at touch of death”

While vacationing in Washington D.C., my family discovered I had asthma. I was four.

Memories of that trip are among the first that could be combined into a narrative and attached to a particular time and place. Before then, I was merely a toddler scavenging old Cheerios off the floor and breaking heirlooms left on bottom shelves. No delineations, no passage of time. Just one protracted day of discovery, experimentation, and occasional retribution.

I realize that, coming from a near infant's perspective, some of my recollections are unreliable. The many mixed images I see bear a striking resemblance to photos of the trip. The day we visited the Washington Monument, for instance, is in third person, like the snapshot of my Mom, my Sister and I, huddled together in front of the yellow cement wall. It was cold, and blustery, the wind spanked my cheeks. I cried out, yelling that the gale was going to blow me away. Mom laughed, I think. I believed it would and, though I had no way to articulate this at the time, thought her a fool for not taking better precautions.

The family went to see the Ralph Bakshi "Lord of the Rings" at the Smithsonian Institute (I have no idea if the movie was actually AT the Smithsonian, but the photographs on exhibit bleed into the film). This was back in the days when "if it was animated, it was for children". If you have seen the Ralph Bakshi "Lord of the Rings" then you know they employed rotoscoping animation, in which color and exaggeration are layered over live action footage. Everything on the screen looks so real - a glance of the eyes, a gesture - but the mind knows it's not and is trapped in an awkward mix of revulsion and thrall. This was made all the worse by my four-year-old brain - just inches away from dreamtime anyway - trying to make sense of the violence in front of it.

The opening is strange and gruesome. And, lucky us, we watched it twice...having missed the first couple of seconds at the first go round. The murder of Schmeagle's brother won't ever leave me, even now 30 years later, I can see his shadow transform in to Gollum.

In the hotel, we first noticed something was wrong.

Carpet: grey green.
Red coat on the chair.
Old cigarette smell.
Not hungry.
Lie down.
Purple cow sippy cup to my mouth.
Warm liquid.
Fuck you that's soup not juice.

Past that night in the hotel room, I don't remember. We came home. I went to a doctor. He sent us to a specialist. It turned out, it wasn't just a cold, I had asthma.

I don't talk much about being an asthmatic to nearly anyone. I grew to resent it (and illness) as I grew up and have no interest in anyone feeling careful around me. Lots of people have it, but mine was particularly severe, sending me to the hospital over and over- until I left for college, when I was twelve one of my lungs to nearly collapsed. At one point I was my doctor's most medicated patient. We tried every experimental drug out there.

Lucky for me, when I came to Chicago, it faded and, after time, almost vanished. I quit taking my drugs and took up smoking - I think in part to rebel against my own body. SEE? I'll show you. I can smoke and screw my OWN self up. I'll show YOU I'm no panty waist.

All this of course, would backfire when I would get a cold or take ill. My lungs would close up, and remind me of those days when every breath was tenuous.

My mother has a penchant for the dramatic. In her recollection of that first night, I almost died. I wonder how much of that is true and how much is the construct of a helpless mother, unable to help her baby and not understanding what was wrong.

I have memories prior to this, I know: Mrs. W at my preschool fussing at me, the nursery attendant in church, the smell of my Granparent's bathroom. But the night in Washington carries real potency. The colors are sharp, the sensations still tickle. This may or may not be because it was my introduction to the notion of my own mortality - I doubt many four-year-olds can even comprehend such a thing.

But nothing molds a memory into a building block of personality than Death hovering in the doorway.

He waves at you.

He says, "Hey there. I think you and I should be friends."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Over the past few days, time has slipped out of my hands like a greased water balloon. On Saturday, I was so sick I couldn't stand it. I don't think I've been that unable to move since I was twelve. I'd close my eyes and lose time, conversations were difficult to maintain.

As a result, I've become anxious over whether or not "I'll get it all done." Get all what done? What's going to happen if "it" doesn't get done?

I've been hearing a lot of people lately expressing a similar anxiety - they've got to get it done (whatever that it may be) before time runs out.

I sort of blame Al Gore for this heightened sense of finality. I saw a couple of years ago "An Inconvenient Truth" and afterwards, everything had a deadline on it. As we rush, with increasing speed, towards the giant globular meltdown ahead...who is going to do these FUCKING DISHES? WHEN WILL I BE ABLE TO RUN TO THE GROCERY? THESE TOENAILS AREN'T GOING TO PAINT THEMSELVES.

With all this rushing around, I fumble, make mistakes...grasping so tightly to that oily water balloon just makes me drop it. I become thoughtless of myself and others.

I'm going to try to stop doing that this Tuesday.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Running Inner Monologue

I run about 20 - 22 miles per week*. I usually do this over the course of three runs, between 6-7 miles at a time. Last Sunday I made it to 8 miles...a fact I am extremely proud of as a former smoker and chronic asthmatic.

The first few times I went for a jog, I wished I were dead, my whole body rebelled. The only thoughts buzzing through my skull were "Almost over...almost over...almost over...get to pot hole...get to bus stop...almost over..." I returned home, sweaty, destroyed, looking like the start of a self-improvement montage out of a romantic comedy - somewhere in the background Donna Summer's "Enough is Enough" plays, at first mocking my pathetic attempts and then encouraging me as I head down the road to self actualization.

I listen to a variety of music as I jog around, but I choose it with care. Tempo and power has a tremendous effect on my stamina. Once, I listened to Killswitch Engage's cover of Dio's "Holy Diver" over and over and nearly killed myself. By the end of the run, I stumbled, out of breath, wondering what I could have done wrong. When I finally switched the music to something more reasonable, like "Mystify" by INXS, I figured pumping music that might accompany my escape from 21st Century Zombies (the fast ones), was more a hindrance than a help.

Running helps me get a lot of elective thinking done. I used to believe runners were idiots when they said things like this as I was still in the incubus stages of my own exercise and could not fathom an idea composition beyond "I want to die...I hate this...I hate this..." Now, My brain freely floats and these days, with time at such a premium, jogs are the only opportunity I have to get any day dreaming in.

Below is an approximation of my inner monologue when I run, warts and all. Writing this, is actually more like trying to recapture a dream. Some escapes some lingers, and there's a powerful need to attach some narrative.

My advice is, don't. It's best not to try to make sense of what the mind throws your way when it it left to wander without a leash.

(Starting out with Kanye West's "Stronger")

I don't really feel like doing this now i could just go home if i wanted too but then i'd feel like a big fat quitter and i should probably do this because i don't want my body to start to slow down this song is not at all what i thought it was about i actually prefer the original daft punk version but this one is pretty good i guess i wish i knew more about Kanye West except that he's got a big ego i think maybe he's a big contributor to the evolution of hip-hop i may have to look this up when i get home and see how he viewed by critics who know him better than i do i bet it would be really hilarious if i sang this at a karaoke night or something it would either be great - maybe i would get a gang of people yelling 'go white girl go white girl go!' but in all likelihood i would probably get my ass kicked jesus i'm such a racist sometimes is it racist of me to want to sing a Kanye West song at karaoke? maybe it is i wish i was black i'd be so much cooler if i was black and then i'd have a cultural identity to hang onto beside being white because we have no cultural identity except self-hatred and being complacent because we know we hate ourselves so why change it but isn't is still another sign of my own racism that i fetishize being black a symbol of "cool" rather than trying to understand the black experience as something far more complicated i still want to sing Stronger at a karaoke night i bet it would be really cool if i did it right or maybe if I just did the robot to the daft punk sample that would be pretty cool too I remember watching the sheilds and yarnell robot stuff and it scared the living shit out of me but i wanted to do it so badly it looked like the most badass thing in the world i bet i could do a really good robot if i tried but i'd have to be goaded into it there's no way i would do that kind of thing on my own and would i ever really do it even if goaded? maybe and why are these fucking people taking up the whole side walk don't they see i'm coming towards them move your m'er e'ffen baby carriages out of the way dammit you don't have to take up the whole sidewalk with your baby hummer man they hate me i know they hate me they saw teh anger in my face as I went by oh well they'll never see me again m'er e'ffin m'er effin' I should remember to credit CP with that on my blog it's such a great way of swearing without actually swearing i should remember to do that i think i'll try to run the marathon next year that would be cool i wonder if i could get so in shape that i could actually place too wouldn't that be a coup a woman my age with no previous athletic record placing in a marathon that shit never happens and I'm not sure I want it to it's great when an underdog comes out from behind and all that but what about the people that work so hard and have a skill what was that This American Life about this something about being a jackass i'll have to check that out when I get home

(Music changes to Rodrigo Y Gabriella's "Diablo Rojo")

I want to start taking salsa classes...'s probably for the best that this stuff stays "Inner".

*Not this week though...disease has taken over the family and my body is a prisoner of illness.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I started the morning thinking, "Aw, I'll just throw something quick up...I got a busy day."

Unfortunately, everything I began working on got interesting and I didn't want to short change it.


So here's my offer for the weekend. This is called "Jocelyn". It was my entry into a storytelling competition last year.

Hope you enjoy!

It was a nightmare scenario. A lie, twenty years in the making, was about to experience an atomic collapse.

It began innocently enough, and quite by accident, the night Julie was forced to attend some party thrown by friend of a friend of an ancient business acquaintance of her father’s. She was told by her mother “Of course, you don’t have to go, but you should, sweetie. Maybe you’ll make a new friend…not be so alone out there.”

By “new friend”, Julie knew exactly what her mother meant. She was picturing, not some swell and jaunty girlfriend, but a husband for her daughter, who seemed hopelessly single, after having jilted her one romantic possibility from high school, Bill Owenby. It was assumed that Bill and Julie were made for one another (perhaps based on a mutual like of Peter Gabriel’s 1986 Album, So).

Bill was sweet but his sweetness was far from satisfying and she jumped at the first chance to wrench herself away from him when fall arrived. “It’s for the best, really, we’ll both be meeting new people and why would we want to tie ourselves down?”

Six months at Northwestern, and there was Julie on the front steps of a palatial home belonging to a vague parental acquaintance. Julie listened at the door, catching light jazz and laughter from within. She thought it sounded just as a party should from the outside. She knocked and the house’s owner, Glen Powers, emerged. He was a tall man with aggressive build man and his last name, Julie thought, appeared to be no joke. He smiled his capped teeth down at her.

“You Jim’s kid?”

Her father’s name was, in fact Jim, so she gave a little snorting laugh and half nod as he escorted her into the spacious living room. Glen powers brought her to a group of people her approximate age.

“Everyone, this is Jocelyn.”

And that was the moment. Jocelyn? Julie partially opened her mouth ready to give her host a quivering correction, but she caught a glimpse of her audience. As soon as the name Jocelyn reared its head, their eyes brightened, heads cocked and there was the almost imperceptible leaning in. Julie closed her mouth. She certainly didn’t want to embarrass her host. And wouldn’t it prove also that her name was not worth remembering if she had spoken up? Very well. Jocelyn for the night.

And she had a lovely time.

Afterwards, ruminating the bathroom, it occurred to her that all the brightening of eyes and cocking of heads and the almost imperceptible leanings in had given her cause to be more pert, more convivial. She spoke, they listened. She joked, they laughed. She was lively, and ebullient with a hint of self-deprecation, which, in a pinch, will serve as a fine substitute for self-awareness.

Julie was proud of her creation and felt it a victimless crime, considering that she would probably never see any of these people again. As time passed, she all but forgot her night as Jocelyn.

But those who are pert, convivial, lively and ebullient will be tracked down by those who aren’t.

As Julie marched, books crushed close to her through the quad three weeks later, a familiar voice called through the bitter cold.


It took her one or two seconds to realize that the voice was calling to her. She turned. Approaching her were three attractive and fashionable girls from the party - Whitney, Christie and Cadence. They followed her into the commons and Julie was hit with a barrage of high-pitched exclamations, perms and plucked eyebrows.

“My God! We’ve been looking all over for you!
“We had such a great time the last time we saw you!”
Wouldn’t your brother go nuts for her?!”

Then, Cadence blurted out:

“My Dad is taking us to Boca Raton this weekend, and I think you should come and meet my brother! It would be so awesome!’

Julie stammered for a moment, trying to come up with a reason not to go.

“I will absolutely not take No for an answer, JOCELYN!”

Jocelyn. The name hung in the stagnant air of the commons. The name Jocelyn demanded a suntan. The name Jocelyn went to Boca Raton.

The short days at the beach house were spent under excruciating interrogation by Whitney, Christie or Cadence, who seemed almost pitifully desperate to know their new friend. Julie was careful not to make Jocelyn seem too made up, too extraordinary. She told of her parents who had been killed in a car crash when she was just a baby, and her loving grandmother taking her in and raising her as her own only to die just after Jocelyn graduated from High School, leaving her enough to attend college and get started. Julie had been an A student on scholarship to Northwestern as a communications major, but Jocelyn was a gleeful C student, biding her time with a liberal arts degree.

On her second night in Florida, Derek arrived. Derek was Cadence’s brother and a match would be made, like it or not. Jocelyn was reluctant, held back by childhood-created notions that Derek was a terrible name, coming a close third behind Merle and Emmett.

Derek, however, soon dissolved any preconceptions. He was a tall and chiseled marketing major, with swimming pool blue eyes. His smile dazzled, he was confident and unashamed to be male. At restaurants, he touched the small of her back to guide her towards a table, a trait that ordinarily would have made her skin crawl. But with Derek, she felt eager to fall under his sway.

Months passed, they spent time together and rumors began to swell that Derek might be making a proposal soon. Julie panicked. So often had she the opportunity to come clean, to tell him that she wasn’t Jocelyn, but Julie. She almost told him the night he proposed. She was about to confess when they announced it to his family on New Year’s Eve. She was on the precipice of blurting it out while they were in New York picking out china patterns.

Julie built into Jocelyn a mysterious and secretive trait as her marriage loomed on the horizon. She confessed to Derek that she needed some time away, just a couple of days to clear her mind and relax. Derek conceded, but with some trepidation. “Why would you want to be alone…what could you possibly have to think about?”

Julie raced to her parent’s home and dug her birth certificate out of their garage. She held an artists eraser to the paper. It hovered for a moment, and finally she wiped it clean of her birth name. In an instant, Julie disappeared, and Jocelyn took her place.

The honeymoon was a Grecian excursion. Derek and Jocelyn drank uzo and wore loin cloths on the beach. Jocelyn returned pregnant and nine months later she gave birth to her first child, Summer, followed in short order by Huck and Ptolemy. Time brought Derek’s meteoric rise in the advertising industry, a house in Palm Beach, A flat in Paris and an apartment in New York. The tidy little family traveled frequently, enjoying parts of the world that most regular folk would never see.

Jocelyn took great care to preserve all this. When passing through parts close to her hometown, she would steal herself in the event she might encounter someone she knew. She would take her clandestine vacations away from her children and husband to visit her previous life, talk to her parents. They never showed much interest when she came, assuming that her life had turned out as they had imagined – unwed and desolate. It made it easier for Jocelyn to see them less and less and, at last, not at all.

Insomnia struck, and dreams of searching and unease stormed her sleep. She would wake in the night and stare down at Derek making piggy snoring sounds in his unconsciousness.

Jocelyn’s children developed into stingy and entitled teenagers, she nursed Cadence through her fourth divorce, and Jocelyn’s own marriage became shrouded in loneliness and isolation after Derek had her followed, certain of some imagined infidelity.

And then, in the blink of an eye…

It was the day before Summer’s graduation from high school and Jocelyn, now 38, was shopping in the produce section of Dominick’s. While examining an avocado she heard from behind her:


A chill danced its way up her spine. She froze, the avocado gripped to her nose, her eyes pierced straight forward. There was a full-handed tap on her left shoulder. After a considerable pause, she turned around. It was Bill Owenby.

Time had been very good to Bill. Only a little receding hairline and slight ponch betrayed his 38 years. His eyes were still soft brown and full of comfort and sweetness. Bill appeared so genuinely happy to see her, it was almost unfair. She couldn’t help but smile back at him.

“How are you Julie? I’ve tried to look you up, but it’s like you dropped off the face of the planet.”

Jocelyn swayed a bit and her head felt foggy. There was Bill, the boy she never slept with because she couldn’t be bothered, and with him poured in a tide of what might have been. Jocelyn stuttered and bumbled out a makeshift past…one that did not include Derek or her children, or even the name Jocelyn. She ended it with some half-baked job at a local radio station as a technician.

Bill glanced down at her hand. “You didn’t mention your husband.” He pointed out.

Then, as if by some awful magic, she heard Derek’s voice behind her.

Jocelyn felt the red escape from her face. She stayed focused on Bill’s oddly shaped nostrils. In a weak stammer she got out:

“This is my husband, Derek.”

The two men shook hands. “Singin’ in the Rain” started to play as the misters spit out vapors to keep the vegetables fresh. Everything slowed to a near halt.

“Bill Owenby. We went to high school together”

“Is that so? It’s so rare to meet someone from my wife’s past. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever… “

“Well, actually I was just telling Julie that it was like she had dropped off the face of the planet.”

The words, “dropped off the face of the planet” were intoned exactly as he had uttered them seconds before, as if he had rehearsed for this moment.


Derek’s voice had a sound of true curiosity.

“Julie.” Bill repeated and gestured towards Jocelyn.

Derek looked at Jocelyn, she remained with a steadfast focus on Bill. Wishing, wishing, wishing.

“Julie? Who’s Julie?”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. There is a word that has wrecked our ability to truly appreciate the complexities of other people's appearances:

Pretty - adj. a: Pleasing by delicacy or grace b: having conventionally accepted elements of beauty

Once "pretty" is settled on, the person hearing the description is immediately short changed. Come to think of it, so is the person described.

I don't have anything against "pretty" people. There are plenty of pretty people, male and female, that I can't help but stare at, enjoy the contours of their faces, so on and so forth. However this may be - obeying my centuries evolved instinct to marvel at pretty and try to possess it myself - the very description - Pretty- doesn't mean anything.

Taking up perch on Pretty, robs us of the opportunity to enjoy and marvel at "Unique", "Square", "Bulbous", "Spotty", "Mustachioed" or "Cavernous".

(There are a lot of P's in here.)

2. North Carolina's state motto is
Esse Quam Videri: To Be, Rather Than to Seem

3. The other day, I mentioned a hot cattle brand, burning an image into the brain. At the moment I typed it, I shuddered a little at the thought. But then I remembered that the brain itself feels no actual pain.

I wasn't sure if this is an urban legend. I recall the scene in that terrible movie, "Hannibal" in which Anthony Hopkins cuts out and eats a portion if Ray Liotta's grey matter, Hopkins making the ominous statement that the brain feels no pain.

I looked it up (with an exhaustive two word search, I tell you, on Google. Never let it be said that I don't know how to do my research.) and it appears to be true.

This plays neatly into my ongoing skirmish between my two selves: the body and the mind (each having a "mind" of its own). Here we have an organ that can feel no pain itself, but can perceive pain, both physical and emotional. So, who (what) is the brain perceiving pain for? Why, the body, of course. But where is my body's mind? Is it the physical organ of the brain?

And where am I in all this? I can see them competing with one another, while I sit in the empty football stadium wearing colors for both teams, unsure of who to cheer for.

I guess that's what it's like if you are a Sox AND a Cubs fan.

4. If you make an agreement with yourself, keep it, no matter how small. It's like cheating at solitaire if you don't: no one else will know, but you. There may be no perceptible or immediate consequence to such a thing, but one day, this tiny erosion will make itself known to you.

Repairs are so much more trouble than they are worth. A stitch in time saves the the glass house...or something.

5. The craggly old dude selling you shoes might be totally drunk, but when he offers sweet aphorisms about inner peace, you really can't fault the guy.

Prisoners be silent, Be sharp

It's been a very long week and it's only Wednesday. So, I'm whipping one out from the cellar to share. Below is a scene written based on the song "This Lamb Sells Condos" by Final Fantasy. It's unfinished, but now that I've read it again, I think I might continue to work on it.

(In the darkness, we hear the opening strains of the This Lamb Sells Condos by Final Fantasy. As the verse starts a pinspot comes up on MEAGAN, an average looking woman in her late twenties, early thirties. Her face is the only thing that is illuminated as she mouths along with the words.

At the end of the verse the lights spread out and reveal an office of someone in the higher ups. She is sitting on the receiving side of the desk and has been restrained with rubber bands or tape. The music cuts out abruptly, and she continues to sing:

“Prisoners, be silent, be silent and be sharp.”

(She stops singing any words and hums for a moment, then stops looking around the room.

JULIE appears behind her and looks in the door. She is a woman in her mid-forties and is apparently the “higher up” who occupies the office. She peers in at MEAGAN and looks off, perhaps as if she’s talking to somebody else. A beat.

JULIE enters with a flustered look on her face and she tries to hide this through out the scene. She is carrying a folder.)

Meagan, hello.

(MEAGAN makes a little wave at JULIE, her hand only able to go so high due to the restraint. A beat. JULIE sits.)

You live in my condo.


I don’t own there, I just rent, but you live in the building there.

On Marine?


I’ve never seen you.

Yes. But I live there nonetheless.

(JULIE opens her folder and looks at it. MEAGAN quietly sings.)

“Prisoners, be silent, be silent and be sharp.” What’s that?


Is that my personnel file?

As a matter of fact, it is.

I see. Okay.

(Another beat. JULIE studies MEAGAN.)

Well, you’re not what I expected!

(Pause. MEAGAN gives JULIE a blank stare.)


Didn’t you hear me, I said “You’re not what I expected.”


(A beat. JULIE reviews the paperwork in front of her. MEAGAN mouths the words to the song, hearing it in her head, but with no sound.)

What a strange thing to say.

What’s that?

What a strange thing to say. That I’m not what you expected.

It was just something to say-

But why did you say it?

Say what?

What? That I’m not what…you just said it. Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

I am completely confused…you aren’t what I thought you were going to be.

Okay, fine.


I thought – in my mind I saw you like you were fat or something.


Yes, or ugly or scraggly…you know how crazy-people are. Or people who have a beef? They look terrible and hairy or…whatever. That’s probably why they’re pissed off to begin with anyway. You don’t look like that – like you have a beef. (A beat)



(A beat. MEAGAN sings)

“Prisoners, be silent, be silent and be sharp.”

I’d really rather you not sing right now.
Does it distract you that I’m humming?

A little. I don’t much like it when people sing and I don’t know the song. It just winds up sounding like a bunch of tuneless gobbledygook.

But it’s not.

Right…but I don’t know the song, so it sounds that way to me.

I can sing something else if you like.

(They look at each other.)

Quiet…would be what I’d like.

(MEAGAN looks away. JULIE pulls out a pen and pad.)

Now, before the police get here, I’d like to do something in the way of an exit interview.

Oh…all right.

I’m looking over your file and I’m noticing that there has been no incident since you started working here five years ago. Is that right?

If that’s what it says…no incident except today.

Yes…that’s right. That was implied in my statement.

No it wasn’t, but okay.

Excuse me?

There was no implication in your statement to me that you were referencing the past five years INCLUDING today.

(A beat)

Are you one of those irony people?


Right, where everything’s a joke and you go around making the rest of us feel stupid?

Irony people?

See? There you go…how am I supposed to feel now?

I was just saying that…

Let it go…let it go, let it go let it go.


(JULIE reads over her file again and looks at MEAGAN and looks back at her file.)

Okay, I just want to know: Why did you set fire to your cubicle?

“Prisoners, be silent, be silent and be sharp.”

I said to stop singing.

“Prisoners, be silent, be silent and be sharp.”

I said STOP.

Oh, me. That's the end. Huh. I better get crackin'.

Ah, yes. And here's the video for the song.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Was there ever a Tuesday-er Tuesday than this Tuesday?


I think after the confusing admission last week about the non-song David Archuleta has released (I mean, Christ, it's not even good-bad - it's like eating candy you don't care for...but -sigh- I still listen to it...on purpose. It's best not to dissect further, wouldn't you say? Let's move on.), I figured I should post something of a little more substance today, to show that I haven't totally gone off the shallow end, as it were.

I have a beef with Jack FM and that whole "Playing what we want" lie they keep telling themselves - making the broad, stick-it-to-the-man claims that they are somehow a renegade station playing whatever shit they feel like. In recent months, I think they've moved on to "Playing what we want as long as it's from around late 80's and not particularly good 80's, just the so-so 80's". Every time I flip through the stations and land there, it's like I'm on the desert isle of 1988's Hot 100 and there's no escaping the rotation of UB40's "Red Red Wine" and the Beach Boys easy listenin' return to the airwaves, "Kokomo."

I don't think there is a commercial radio station that can play whatever it wants - there are far too many financial problems posed by such a thing. The closest thing to it, though, might be Chicago's XRT.

I swear to God, I've heard XTC's "Mayor of Simpleton" and (for real, now) "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" by Leonard Nimoy all in one morning.

Good for them. I'm not a regular listener, but when I do, I'm always curious about what comes next.

Today's song is from "what comes next". And it's perfect for just how "Tuesday" today is.

"Whatever It Takes" is a new song off the album The Fabled City by Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman. Morello, formerly the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine (Whose "Killing in the Name" is one of the greatest songs of revolution EVER.), is pretty unknown to me as a solo artist. But driving down Irving Park Road on a late night, with little traffic, and a hurricane swirling through the brain, "Whatever It Takes" both calms and stirs this tin can heart of mine.

May your Tuesday be filled with "what comes next".

Monday, October 20, 2008

Report Card

Today is my 50th post.

I'm pretty proud of that. I set myself an assignment (to write every day) and, for the most part I've done it.

Now it's time to get better at it.

Goals for the next 50 posts:

1. Spelling: Current Grade, B+

In this day and age, with spell check, there is absolutely no excuse for misspellings. At all.

Little known fact about me: In the 8th grade, I purposely failed Spelling the last grading period before summer began - sort of my way of objecting to busywork. Take that, The Man! My ignorance is a thorn in your side!

Never mind the fact that I still have to think twice about how to spell Surprize*.

2. Grammar: Current Grade, C

i think i do okay, for, the most part when it comes to...grammar?

(Reading that sentence, as written, is painful.)

I have the usual pet peeves about "it's" and "its" and whether I should use a - or a , or a :. What kills me is when I reread a post and I have these errors all over the place. It's not that I don't know the difference (mostly), it's that I didn't proofread.

Which leads me to...

3. Proofreading: Current Grade, D

Anyone who has ever received an email from me, at any time, has experienced the terrible glory of my proofreading habits. Just last week, I sent an email with the subject header "Call Off the Dogs". Or, at least, that's what I had intended. What actually went out was "Call OF the Dogs", which lead to some confusion.

I am, by nature, an impatient person. Once I've finished typing something all out, I hit send or publish right away. I doubt any of you keep tabs on what minor changes I make to a post through out the day. On average I have to go back about ten times and alter turns of phrase, grammar, all the "teh's", and add that one sentence that actually makes the paragraph comprehensible.

This is also a result of my wanting to get it out of my hands before I destroy it. Many of you have been truly encouraging (it is so exciting that you choose to read it at all), but, after having gone back and rechecked some earlier posts, it's all I can do not to hit the delete button.

I haven't done that yet. I suppose it's natural on some level to want to destroy what you create. Jeez, look around us.

4. Preparation: Current Grade, C

This is one upon which I really want to improve. Every post with one exception is the result of me thinking about what I'm going to write for about an hour, writing for about an hour, and then getting it up as quickly as possible. On more than on occasion, I have short changed some larger point because of my impatience and lack of preparation.

In high school, I was always that kid who sat with a blank page in front of me for the first hour of a 90 minute essay test, and then wrote furiously until time was up. In general the grades were why change the habit?

Now that there is no real grade, but the one I give myself, I realize exactly how dissatisfied I am with "Just Good Enough To Get By." It can be better. And that was the whole point of starting this blog in the first place.

Many thanks to all y'uns for reading and commenting. Here's to taking the great leap forward into betterment!

And using questionable words!

*Yeah, I know it's surpriSe...or is it? FUCK.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Affable Fourth Reich

The Advertising Industry spends millions of dollars each year crafting the the ultimate spokesperson for their product. It's all part of the process of branding - taking a searing hot logo shaped iron to our brains and burning a permanent mark into our collective conscious.

Sometimes the spokesperson is something fanciful or magical, like the Hamburger Helper Hand, or the Energizer Bunny, or the Keebler Elves. These little guys arrive on the package to make our lives easier, longer lasting and more fun.

In other instances, the spokesperson is intended to be a representative of the people. A salt of the earth type who is inoffensive, kind, inviting, with a gentle sense of authority. The Everyman. These guys would not be so easy to find as one would believe. According the amount of play this representative of the masses gets on TV, in film, and on commercials, you'd think that the streets would be swarming with this fella. No...not really. Advertisers send teams far and wide to hunt this rare animal, only to return with the skins of fakers and failures. The huntsmen will prop up their trophies, display them to the tribe and, if the tribe responds poorly, they will gladly pitch the faulty skin aside and try another.

Cell phone commercials have a particular problem finding a trustworthy advocate. For a while, Sprint had a pretty good run with the black-coated government spook sent to calm fears over a wireless bill. T-Mobile employed the impossibly beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones to inform families of all their wireless options. Cingular used that blob made of orange molecules. After a while, however, most of them vaporized in the blinding glory of the lightening trapped in a bottle by Verizon. The bespectacled "Can you hear me now?" guy has become as much a part our branded landscape as Ronald McDonald.

(Notice I'm not including the shameful campaign US Cellular attached to Joan Cusack. I love Joan. It was like having teeth filed down to see her utilized thus. Everyone's gotta pay the rent, I guess.)

The Verizon Guy did not start out as such a giant icon. At the time of his first appearance, he looked like a satisfying approximation if the Everyman, with plenty of gentle, authoritative inoffensiveness to go around. And then he ballooned up. The ubiquity of "Can you hear me now?" forced him into the role of paragon, rather than representative.

These days, the cellphone landscape has changed somewhat. The ideal Everyman no longer has to carry any gentle authority. In fact, it's best if he doesn't have any authority at all. He just has to be some ambition-free happy-go-lucky guy who makes us feel like we're all included in his vast network of good time buddies. He's that guy we can't hate, because there is nothing to hate. He has no strong opinions, no real goals. Just a mildly chiseled jaw, meticulous yet carefree hair, and a winning smile. Men are okay with him, women maybe want to make out with him at some point, but it's totally fine if they don't.

Enter Alltel. And Chad.

At first glance, there's really nothing to see. Chad, a forgettable nice guy is showing up the geeks with his new all inclusive circle. Easy enough. The commercial is informative and does what ads are supposed to. Sell the product.

But...Does anyone see something mild, yet insidious going on? Like a smiling, bland Hitlerjungend kindly telling the Jews, Homosexuals, Intellectuals and Communists how his brand of messaging is cheap, easy and open to everyone?

But it's just one commercial, and hardly propaganda.


BEHOLD! The Jew in his nest of Homosexual, Communist, and Intellectual cohorts conspiring to bring down the the glory of the Alltel. They are a scheming crew, aren't they? But the Reich shall prevail! COME AND GET YOUR LOVE!

(On an off note, what's it to them if Alltel takes over? These guys work in a mall and have no actual stake in the company do they? Aren't they going to college or have art showings at night? Jesus. Get it together guys.)

And Lo! The conspiracy broadens:

What shall they do with Chad? Where are they taking him? How angry, how resentful! Of course they are. These sub-humans were put on the planet to test our vanilla superman and are jealous of the network he has achieved. Look how calm and self assured he is, and how he fights fire with fire! Chad knows his opponent, and can turn his enemy's strengths to weakness in seconds.

Chad was not made this way. Oh no. Since Childhood he has been able to defeat his detractors.:

Must be the genes. Right?

And with his clean cut and unflappable recruiting power, the streets will be filled with legions of Chads in no time.

(Also, seriously - and I mean this for Chad as well - come ON fellas. The end of the avenue of goals CANNOT be working in a Cell Phone store. It mustn't. Move away, move on, move up. Make discoveries for your innermost selves. Don't waste your turn on this planet hocking wireless services. You may need it for now, to make money for later...there is no shame in that. But PULL IT TO-FUCKING-GETHER. All of you. )

I'm sure Altell would be shocked and horrified to think that their fool ad campaign presents even a remote allusion to WWII Nazi propaganda. I wonder how many of them, working on these commercials unknowingly borrowed from history's shadows. It's not their fault that pretty much any time you pit a blond man with good bone structure against an antagonist of brown haired complainers and rabble rousers that National Socialist images are bound to crop up.

No...not their fault at all.

But I am on alert. Alltel. I have my eye on you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. I run three or four times a week around my neighborhood.

Towards the end of my run, I pass by a house with a trim backyard and a swing. Living in this yard is a tiny dog. He is an intense guard of his fiefdom. When he sees my approach, he dashes to the chain link fence and yarks at my heels.

Each time I pass, no matter where I am in my thoughts, I imagine him trotting back to his bed thinking, "Yeah...that's right,RUN, mortal...I will cut you."

2. This last week, I learned to drive a stick for the first time in my life. I have had a couple of mild experiences before - driving 20 miles an hour to and from a rural gas station - but I've never driven in anything approximating city traffic, and at speeds of 25 and over...stopping, starting, stalling, starting again.

If you have driven an automatic your whole life, the process is maddening. Your limbs do not obey anything you tell them, the car fusses at you and, when you stall (and you will. You cannot avoid it, so give up. Your attempts at avoidance are laughable.) it's at the busiest intersections during rush hour and the cars behind you don't care if you are just learning, and they will honk their displeasure with glee. The world is against you.

The first time I drove a long stretch by myself, I emerged from the car, soaking from my own sweat, shaking from all the crying and screaming I had done back at Pulaski, and dreading the ride home. Each second I was on the road was panic stricken, and I wailed and cried out what a failure I was - not just at driving but at everything - and how was I ever going to learn how to do it when it was so hard and scary and I HATE ON THE NOSE METAPHORS.

It was truly awful.

The first time I got through a whole drive without stalling out, I nearly wept. I'm so much better, though, than when I first started. In fact, now I prefer driving the stick. As my friend T. said over the weekend, you're more like an active participant when you drive a stick.

It may seem a small thing but it's very cool to learn a new skill.

3. Words that don't sound like what they mean:

What it actually means:

1 a: having lost motion or the power of exertion or feeling b: sluggish in functioning or acting
2: lacking in energy or vigor

What I think it should mean:

Passive aggressively annoyed.

What it actually means:

1 a: existing in title only ; especially : bearing a title derived from a defunct ecclesiastical jurisdiction b: having the title and usually the honors belonging to an office or dignity without the duties, functions, or responsibilities
2: bearing a title
3: of, relating to, or constituting a title

What I think it should mean:

Finicky at the expense of other's good time.

What it actually means:

1: occurring every day
2 a: belonging to each day b: commonplace

What I think it should mean:


4. When you are crossing the frozen river of getting over something, you will eventually find yourself in apparent safety. Then, from all around, you will hear the sound of building applause, cheering your triumph.

Those aren't applause.

That's the ice cracking underneath you.

Keep moving.

5. There is something wrong with me. Something very wrong.

I'm no stranger to embarrassing musical taste, nor am I all that squeamish about letting people in on my less than hip choices. I have selections from Christina Aguilera to Ricky Martin to Highlights from the Lost Boys Soundtrack peppering my iTunes library.

But this...I'm not sure what to do or say about it.

I may have John Coltrane, XTC, Billy Bragg, Tom Waits, and Beethoven filling up most of the space on my iPod, but I'm afraid none of them can make up for the fact that I LOVE that new David Archuleta song.

You read correctly. David Archuleta. The dim but well meaning cocker spaniel also-ran from American Idol last year.

I love it. I m'er effin LOVE IT.

Want a taste? Check it.

It's not good. I should know better but can't help myself. Bring your slings and arrows! YOU DON'T KNOW ME.

God. I don't know me, either. How did I ever become such a stranger to myself?

(I want to be clear. I am not going all cougar on David Archuleta. Yee. I just LOVE THIS STUPID SONG.)

A word of warning. The video is so wholesome, you'll probably shit granola bars for a week.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The World's Favorite Italian Liqueur

...because the world just loves five pounds of Sweet N' Low dissolved in mop water from a DQ...


It happened.

When I first tossed out the idea of taking our favorite Italian Liqueur for a test drive, I thought perhaps I'd be drinking Disarrono alone, out of a paper cup while watching reruns of "Petticoat Junction". Maybe doing a little puppet theater reenactment of the commercials with my toothbrush and and a pair of tweezers, further exposing my need for human interaction.

What happy fortune, we were all saved from such humiliation by the lovely E. She heeded the call and the two of us set sail for a night of strange discovery.

We met at La Creperie, which happens to be my favorite restaurant in the city. If you are looking for a reasonably priced crepe, with a great wine selection and cozy atmosphere - even when it's packed to the gills - you can't go wrong with La Creperie on Clark.

The plan was to have a quick meal and go see an early showing of Choke, perhaps smuggling a bottle of Disarrono into the theater and taking a few swigs, if the dining establishment was too, shall we say, "low rent" to offer Disarrono.

At around 6:30, I pulled up and honked. E. had been waiting in front of the restaurant, scoping the drink selections at the bar. As soon as she settled herself, she informed me that they did not have Disaronno.


I steered the car towards the Binny's Liquor Emporium up the street (A place for which I have lingering resentments. Before its takeover in January of 2001, the Binny's on Clark used to be the Ivanhoe Theatre. I loved that theatre. It had bones in the walls.) and we went in, scouring the aisles for the familiar square bottle. Just at the moment when we both contemplated asking an employee (which neither of us wanted to do), we turned a corner and there it was, waiting for us. It was like catching a first glimpse of the woman you met over the internet.

We grabbed the smallest bottle - a cool $11.99 - and headed for the front. E. wondered what we would drink it out of, if we had any cups or anything. I hadn't thought of that. She picked up a little sack of clear plastic shot glasses.


We made our way down to the Creperie. As we waited for a table, there was some giddy discussion over whether or not we should step into the alley and take a swig. This was decided against and wisely, I think.

Dinner was lovely. E. and I have never really gotten much of a chance to talk and it was as if we had known each other for years. If you do not know E., I should tell you that she is one of the most frank and disarming people I have met - there is no hiding from her...and you don't really want to. She is refreshing, insightful and an absolute scream. My only regret is that we had not done something like this sooner.

Over a some cheese, crepes, and a couple of glasses of wine, time made a speedy getaway and before we knew it 3 hours had passed.

Sensing that the moment was nigh for our taste test, we talked over our options.

Should we sit in the car and take a sip?

Should we go to a park and hope they don't arrest two slightly inebriated chicks with a full bottle of liqueur? (The humiliation of this was more of a deterrent than the actual arrest.)

Should we go to her place? Nope. Cats.

Should we go to my place? Nope. Too far.

Just then, I spied, way in the back, peeking behind the other liquors on the bar, the small black square top I know like the back of my hand.

I leaned in, conspiracy in my whisper.

"They have it here."

E.'s eyes widened. "Really?"

"Yeah. It's in the back. That's why you didn't see."

Her jaw dropped, as if I was we were concocting a plan to rob the joint.

"Should we order some?"

I nodded. It seemed only right. We waved our young waiter over (Luckily, our server that night wasn't the usual waiter I've encountered. I like our old waiter, but he is something of a wine snob and if we ordered Disaronno from him, I don't think I could have born the shame.). He stood, patiently by as I sputtered.


I could feel the red flooding my cheeks. I stuttered, like I was asking him to the Sadie Hawkins Dance.

"I'd like-uh....

He bent over to get a better listen.

"I'd like a Disaronno on the Rocks."

He blinked twice at me, expressionless.



"Um...I'd like a Disaronno on the Rocks."

"A what? Dirrsorrotto?"

E. piped in. "DEE-SO-RO-NO."

"Oh...what's that?"

E.and I in our fervor just deteriorated into laughter. The poor thing had no idea what was happening. Christ, were we high?

"Okay..okay. Dee-so-ro-no on the Rocks. and you?" He looked at E. Through her titters, she ordered the same.

He left to inform the bartender that the "two 15-year-old-home-school-girls" want an amaretto. We craned our necks to watch as he delivered the order. There appeared to be some difficulty in communicating what we asked for. The Bartender, a woman, chuckled (who knows what he said) and in a few minutes, pulled the bottle (dusty, no doubt from years of neglect) from behind the Cutty Sark. There were too many people to see whether or not she opened the bottle with a flourish, as they do in the commercials.

Our waiter returned with tumblers full of sepia liquid. We thanked him.

At 9:52, with a ceremonious "clink" we took our first gulps of Disaronno, the word's favorite Italian Liqueur.

The World is an idiot.

Wince...swallow. HARD.

The two words I would NOT use to describe it are "Warm" and "Sensual".

The three words I WOULD use are "Maraschino" "Cherry" and "Juice".

And maybe a little "Nougaty".

If you're in the mood to drink a cup ladeled from the Candyland's Molasses Swamp, this is the beverage for you.

The two of us resolved to drink the full glasses. It took us forever. Disaronno is not something one pours down one's gullet with abandon. It is nursed, each approaching sip dragging with it the tiniest, most benign bit of dread.

We finished our tumblers in about an hour. It was close to undrinkable at the last there. I slurped the remnants and we made preparations to leave. My evening with E. was well worth the palate killer at the end. I hope we do it again soon, sans the liqueur (or maybe trying a different one?)

When I got home I had a little of that post-Christmas let down. So much energy and anticipation had gone into the evening only to have the moment fly by. In many ways it was exactly what I expected.

I still have that full bottle from Binny's. Perhaps in a year's time, I'll raise glass to commemorate the occasion.

Isn't that how holidays get started? Or does it always have to involve some kind of birth or death?


That dude in the back looks more like he's in a Disaronno commercial than we ever did.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Ungh. The Tuesday following a holiday weekend (in which the holiday lands on a Monday) is the most cruel. Especially if it's a kind of half-assed holiday tainted with the lingering scent of centuries-old small pox. Some of us had the day off, others did not, and we were all wondering why we didn't get our mail.

Oh, was Columbus Day.

And now, without the benefit of a Monday to ease in to the week, all that stuff you put off with a blithe "Tomorrow Never Comes" shrug, demands attention. It pees in your shoes like an angry cat.

Post-Holiday Tuesday, you are a pissing, farting wretch in a fanny pack. Go away.

(P-HT does not leave, but, instead, stands too close by. He keeps licking his hairy finger and holding it a mere quarter inch from my ear.)


I'll show him...

In the years between 1978 and 1984, while Punk was vandalizing music's underbelly and New Wave was edging its way onto the pop charts, a series of female power belters rushed the airwaves. These women were not the Joan Jetts or Pat Benatars - young chicks with a harder pop edge - who came to prominence on the early-mid 80's - but something in between. Not quite Streisand, not quite Debbie, pre-second wave.

Riding in my Mom's station wagon to and from school, local DJs spun their songs on a loop: Olivia Newton-John's "A Little More Love", Laura Branigan's "Gloria", Sheena Easton's "Modern Girl" and "Morning Train (9 to 5)". Even the 1982 re-release of Charlene's "Never Been to Me".

The vision of womanhood portrayed by these pop songs alternately terrified and enthralled the three marbles I had rolling around in my pre-teen imagination. Was this what being a woman was going to be like? Was I doomed to struggle, with conflicting notions of modernity, the pitfalls of sexual freedom, and a ghastly paranoia when "I think they got the alias (Gloria) that you been livin' under"? JEE-sus. Is this what have to look forward to?

(I think the answer to that would be, "Yeah, pretty much.")

Double-U. Tea. Eff.

Even so...I loved these songs. THIS was what sophistication was all about. Tracks like the mysterious "(We Are) Magic" by Newton-John or Branigan's furtive "Self Control" were enticing and more about sex than love. The life they sang of was shadowy, was all so grown up and mature. Sounded to me like a blast.

Not every song by these proto-Celine balladeers was shrouded in mystery or inner conflict. Plenty were downright exuberant, lauding the fun of meeting new people, falling in love.

Lady and Gentleman, Melissa Manchester.

In 1979, Manchester released the iconic (and later Karaoke and Drag Show favorite) "Don't Cry Out Loud." I was six when this song hit the radio, but the sentiment was not lost on me - the glory, the failure. I recall trying the phrase on for size to my friend-for-two-months-in-the-first-grade, Celena. The relationship with her best friend Shannon had gone south (as much as a relationship between two six year olds can go south. Back then a bosom friend might materialize because you both have on the same color shirt) - and I repeated the immortal words from the title. She, of course, had no idea what I was talking about, and was a little confused and offended that I would suggest such a thing.

"Don't Cry Out Loud"? What the hell does that mean?

I had no real answer and from then on kept my borrowed wisdom to myself.

In 1982, Manchester reached her Hot 100 chart peak with "You Should Hear How She Talks About You", her ode to the giddy fun of having a crush. I was in the fourth grade when it was first released. I imagined my most perfect self (dressed in a purple polo shirt, jeans, and pigtails - best dream outfit, none of which I owned.) singing this song to the crush of a lifetime - P. H. To which he would respond, naturally, that I was the coolest thing ever and we'd go together until at LEAST the end of the year.

I heard this song, of course, while driving, and shook the car, I boogied so hard.

The cherry on the top of this week's selection is that the video is culled from her Solid Gold performance. There will be dancing. Oh, yes...there will be rooty tooty fresh and frooty dancing. Using the same eight Solid Gold moves they employ in every dance.

And Rex Smith.

(I take my elbow and jam it into Post-Holiday Tuesday's thigh muscle just in time to prevent his glistening finger from ramming into my ear. He crumples into a heap on the floor)

Take THAT, P-HT!


This is too good to pass up. Below is the footage of Manchester's appearance on The Muppet Show. It is obvious that never in their wildest dreams did they envision a world in which we could revisit, re-watch and reexamine every little snippet from our collective TV memory. Mass irony was not yet en vogue.

If they had been able to foresee this world, would a children's show performance so totally awkward and stunning as this ever have come into being? Our irony kills our ability to create such authentic blossoms anymore, but it is only through our irony that we are able to see the full scope of its odd beauty. What a tragedy.

Also...doesn't Melissa seem so game for anything? Solid Gold AND the Muppet Show. Wow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I want to knee you in the Ballsticles

Language evolves. If it didn't, we'd all still be grunting and howling at one another in our pungent cave dwellings, poking at the dying embers the lightening god left behind. Since words and sentences could escape from our lips (complete with a subject and predicate), humans have wrought new and more concise ways to communicate. It is famously said that Shakespeare added 1500 words to the English language. Technologies have arrived giving us new words like "Email" and "Scuba".

It is not unheard of for our culture to take a word, break it in half, and add another word like, for instance, "Workaholic". There is no such thing as "workohol", but it communicates the idea of work addiction in a way most of us understand. The same can be said for new compound words like, Infotainment. The term for this, new words added to mainstream vocabulary, is Neologism.

For a while there, the creation of a new word from two previously unrelated terms could get a quick laugh and some even tend to stick around if they are unexpected and smart. With all these new words swimming around, like desperate sperm swarming the egg of common use, it is easy for it to get out of control. And when it falls into the wrong hands, the result is gut churning:

Shut up. SHUT THE FUCK UP. This is not going to change your life. This is not going to change how you eat for the rest of your days. It's a frosty. And that's a spoon.

When the advertising industry trolls the internet, popular comedy programs, or night clubs for new and interesting way to make us laugh (or at least open our mouths wide enough to fill with food), it's like, as one of my friends put it, your parents trying to hang out with your friends. It's embarrassing, sad, and there's no way you can stop them. They're going to do it anyway.

Unfortunately, YouTube has been holding out on commercials that feature this word smash. So below is a partial list of attempted (shudder) neologisms that the advertising industry can thrust down out guffawing gullets:

Smunchy (Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita)
Cruncheweesy (Again....Taco Bell)
Nougatocity (Snickers)
Peanutopolis (Snickers - I believe in order for this to work it should actually be "Peanopolis" but I understand why focus group returns might feature cities made of penises.)
Substantialicious (Snickers...are they even trying?)
Thrillicious (Life water)

There are plenty more out there. If you'd like to add some, please go ahead.

Just know that with every addition, a dictionary dies.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. Last night, my nephew R. noticed a giant lake of urine in the middle of the living room floor - the lighting was such that we couldn't see it right away.

"R. did you make pee-pee on the floor?" his father asked with sigh.

"No. It was J."

J. toddled by, his diaper sagging wide open.

I came from my room and said, half aloud, "It was me." This was met with some polite chuckles from the parents. At this point there wasn't much room for humor while they mopped up the puddle.

R. looked concerned but not shocked. "-J-J-? YOU made that pee-pee on the floor?"

I laughed. "No, R., I didn't make that pee-pee on the floor."

He furrowed his brow. "Then why did you say that?"

"I was making a joke."

"Oh." He contemplated this, calculating the reasons why or why not it equaled humor, and then moved on to chasing J. screaming "Happy Cuckoo Clock!"

What kind of world it would be if a grown rational adult making pee-pee on the floor was a distinct possibility? R. lives in that world.

2. From time to time, there are days when nothing is but what it is. There is no greater metaphor. There is no larger symbol. There is only a series of nouns.

There is only Duck.
There is only Cheese.
There is only Oil Slick.

I hate these days.

3. A woman sat next to me on the bus. Once she had settled, a large hand reached from behind her and swatted at her ear. She jerked her head a round to take a good look at the hooligan to whom the hand belonged.

Behind us sat a large man, with a long, bushy salt and pepper grey beard and old coke bottle glasses. He was the kind of guy who wears straw hats and red suspenders, and who might be mentally ill, or just friendly.

He could see she was angry.

When she turned, he pointed upwards, to the bee he had swatted away from her ear.

Her aggravation melted into relief and she thanked him. She let out an uncertain laugh, trying to reconcile the abrupt rage with the just as abrupt forgiveness and gratitude.

It is rare to have expectations so clearly denied for the better. I bet she had to take a nap after that.

3a. Bee Continued - The Bee on the bus knocked around on the ceiling towards the front. There wasn't a person in there that wasn't fixated on it, obsessing over how to escape should it hover towards them.

I wondered how many of them had actually been stung by a bee, and how many were merely cowering from years of hysterical warnings on how painful bee stings are. (To be sure, for those who are allergic to bees, stings are a deadly proposition.)

If bees can smell fear, this one was surely suffocated by the vapor lifting off these passengers.

4. My sister and the clan are going out of town this weekend. I have no plans for a kegger, however, one of these nights - maybe Friday - I'm going to purchase a little bottle of Disaronno and give it a test run.

I'll let you know how it goes. If you are just as curious as I am, let me know, and we can take this fantastic voyage together. If not, I'll sail this ship alone.

Expect empty, slobbery envelopes in the mail.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


It's funny how sometimes when you invoke something - call out it's name, describe a person, etc. - how that thing tends to show up.

Last night I told some folks at a writing meeting about how when I was in the 3rd grade, I developed ocular migraines.

An ocular migraine works like this: During a period of stress one of the eyes starts seeing what looks like a fuzzy test pattern. This test pattern blocks vision in that eye, essentially rendering it blind. A few minutes later, a blistering pain creeps over the one side of the head, the one opposite to the side the test pattern appeared. (I think this is less common, though. Some people just report the blindness with no headache.)

This is what I had in the 3rd grade. I was kind of a stressed out kid.

My mother took me to our family physician, Dr. W. and he asked me a few questions. Afterwards, he took my mother aside and told her that, in his opinion, I was lying.

I have never been one to make up disease. Fake it? Sure. But I have real ethical issues about claiming an illness I've never had or making one up altogether (The line is thin and grey, but it's there.). Having asthma for most of my youth pretty much dispelled any notion that sickness is a glamorous way to get attention. So, when he said this, I was crushed. Why would I make up something so totally bizarre?

At the very least, he sent me to an optometrist. I drew a picture of what I saw and handed it over.

He took one quick look. "Oh, you're having an ocular migraine."

That's right. VINDICATION.

There's really nothing you can do about it but let it pass. After a couple of weeks I quit having them on a consistent basis. The last one I can remember was about four years ago.

Regular migraines, however, are more common (And hereditary...both my Mother and my sister are laid out by them). I get one maybe once every two months. And lucky me, that was the lotto I won today. Congratulations to -j-j-, today's migraine raffle winner!

I have managed this far into the day. I know it may appear that I have all my faculties in tact, but I'm really pushing it right now. I need to lie down, and hope this wave of nausea passes. I might be begging off the Neutrino Train tonight.


In other news, Pregenius offered up a an interesting invitation:

Leave your name in my blog comments. Once you do that, this is what I'll do for you...

1. I'll respond with something random about you.
2. I'll tell you what song/movie reminds me of you.
3. I'll pick a flavor of jello to wrestle you in.
4. I'll say something that only makes sense to you and me. (if possible!)
5. I'll tell you my first memory of you.
6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I'll tell you a poem I think you'd like
8. I'll ask you something I've always wondered about you.
9. If you do this you MUST post this on yours. You MUST. It is written.

So, I simply HAD to put my name in her comments to see what she said:

For the mysterious -j-j-, whoever she is...

1. I'll respond with something random about you. Your SKALD story felt like a confession...i was waiting for you to tell us where you buried the children. (Maybe I'll retell it here...or maybe not.-j-j-)
2. I'll tell you what song/movie reminds me of you. "Canary" by Liz Phair or "I Can't Decide" by the Scissor Sisters / ...not a movie but "Clarissa Explains it All"
3. I'll pick a flavor of jello to wrestle you in. marshmallow fluff
4. I'll say something that only makes sense to you and me. (if possible!)Blarshnof MetalMan. (this may not make sense to you yet, nor me, but it will! Let's make sure of that. I don't like not knowing my own inside jokes.)
5. I'll tell you my first memory of you.Maelstrom audition?
6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of. bushbaby
7. I'll tell you a poem I think you'd like
From "The Flowering of the Rod"
by HD
Some say she slipped out and got away,
some say he followed her and found her,

some say he never found her
but sent a messenger after her

with the alabaster jar;
some say he himself was a Magician,

a Chaldean, not an Arab at all
and had seen the beginning of the end,

that he was Balthasar, Melchior,
or that other of Bethlehem;

some say he was masquerading,
was an Angel in disguise

and had really arranged this meeting
to conform to the predicted pattern

which he or Balthesar or another
had computed exactly from the stars;

some say it never happened,
some say it happens over and over;

some say he was an old lover
of Mary Magdalene and the gift of the myrrh

was in recognition of an old burnt-out

yet somehow suddenly renewed infatuation;

some say he was Abraham,
some say he was God.

8. I'll ask you something I've always wondered about you. ummm wanna hang out sometime? how do i audition for one of your shows? :P If you lost your hand, what would you want it replaced with? Where would you go in the whole world if it didn't involve evil flying (unless you like evil flying of course),
9. If you do this you MUST post this on yours. You MUST. It is written.

Thank you, Pregenius. I'm working on a response of my own.

And yes...flying is EVIL.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

I am about to commit Alt-Culture heresy. The following confession is a feeling I have harbored for years, only revealing to those closest to me for fear that my Alternative Card will be revoked. It is something so simple, and you might think it's nothing at all, but when I've admitted it to others, the reaction is usually one of suspicious disgust.

I don't like Natalie Merchant.

I like the 10,000 Maniacs just fine, if for no other reason than they have one the Top Ten best band names of all time. "Like the Weather" and "Trouble Me" are great rainy day background music singles. Nothing too hot, nothing too cold. Songs that might get a "Hey, I remember this song!" or "Wow, I like this tune...can't remember the last time I heard it." In the world of early Alternative Music (in the days when there actually WAS alternative), 10,000 Maniacs mingled nicely on a mixtape with The Smiths, Suzanne Vega, and Buzzcocks. "Like the Weather" was just a weigh station on the way to "Ever Fallen in Love."

But I don't like Natalie Merchant. Not in a house. Not with mouse. Not with Socks. Not next to Buzzcocks.

I'm sure she's a nice enough person. This is not about personality. I don't know the lady. It's her voice, her interpretation, the limited range of feeling. Its the fact that I am bored to absolute tears when any of her solo stuff comes on the radio.

As a backup singer she does great. The Billy Bragg & Wilco collaboration "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" features Merchant in the backing vocals and it's quite lovely. But, like pasta, or white bread, or rice pilaf, she is just there as a component to a larger meal.

Don't get me wrong. I don't HATE Natalie Merchant, like I think it's impossible to HATE saltine crackers. I just don't like her voice.

Part of my distaste springs from the 10,000 Maniacs cover of "Because the Night", a song originally released by the Patti Smith Group in 1978 off the album Easter. The song is the result of a collaboration between Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. He had recorded a slightly different version and, when it wasn't added to his album, she took it, reworked it and released it.

It is one of my favorite songs of all time.

Back in '93 (The years between '89-'92 gonged the death knell for "alternative" as we knew it, with the release of The Cure's "Lovesong" getting major airplay across the country. It was what we always shamefully craved and openly despised - acceptance from the mainstream. There was a Time magazine cover announcing the introduction of "alternative" to the mainstream, depicting the painting American Gothic with lopsided haircuts and earrings. And when Time magazine makes its proclamation, you know it's over.) the Maniacs cover hit the airwaves, I had not heard the original and so underwhelmed was I by the single that I changed the station whenever it came played.

A few years later, at a party, Easter was played and "Because the Night" rumbled on.


Patti Smith's version is the antithesis of Merchant's. Merchant's voice is calm and, you know, sorta "whatever".

"Because the Night" is about longing, lust, sex, and craving (the big stuff) and Smith is a force of nature, an artist who has collaborated with the likes of Springsteen and Sam Shepard. Her influence is far, wide, and deep. She's gangly, angular and a kinda scary. Her voice isn't pretty or soft or lilting. She groans and pleads through the lyrics.

This version is explosive and a major turn on.

(Terms like "sexy" and "turn-on" make me feel like I'm a taking out an singles ad in 1977, while sporting my leisure suit and totally un-ironic mustache.)

And it is today's song.

I have debated about how to present it. Since I spend so much time here kvetching about Natalie Merchant, I think it's only fair to post her version here as well.

Since this is the order in which I heard both, I will post The Maniacs's version first and Smith's second. I hope you'll listen to both.

And if it turns out you like Merchant's version better...we can still be friends. I think.

And now...(This video is a little out of sync. I think they layered studio recording over a live performance.)

Have a sexy Tuesday! ( I walk away...the jingle of my gold medallions signals my approach to all, like a cat bell.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Turning Tricks (Or Treat!)

October is here and now I can officially express my enthusiasm for Halloween.

(I refuse, REFUSE, to even look at bags of candy or Jack O'Lantern paraphernalia a day earlier than October 1st. This is not easy. As soon as August 15th hits, every outfit in the drugstore industrial complex rolls out it's seasonal offerings of candy corn and Frankenstein-head-shaped buckets.

This signals the start of the early bird holiday push towards Christmas that preys on our hopes of "just having a restful holiday for once." If we can prepare everything and and have it ALL DONE by October 31, then maybe, just maybe, we won't have a nervous breakdown trying to get all our shopping done and we can enjoy our family and friends and maybe this year we'll MAKE gifts for everyone, and won't everyone be impressed with what we've done and finally we can sit down to a meal and not snipe at one another or get drunk and exhibit untold levels of emotional cruelty, and you won't wear that awful thing in front of your grandmother and can't you at least taste the damn turkey without covering it in salt first because it might actually be GOOD, you know, and then everyone will remember that this was the best Christmas ever and won't it be perfect...PERFECT?

Christ. No wonder Americans are so twitchy. Stores trundle this stuff out and the tribe senses an imperative to stock up. Harvest season is no longer about reaping the wheat to prevent starvation and death through the bitter months. It's about bringing in the five pound bags of Snickers bars and the 25% off ornaments to forestall the winter of our failed expectations.)

For those of you who know me personally, I'm sure my love of Halloween comes as no surprise. I'm a big fan of skulls and eyeballs and I use them whenever I can in my personal decor, in the home, on my clothes. The cheap plastic stuff doesn't do it for me. Anything carved or etched, in wood or metal is great and I am especially drawn to items surrounding Day of the Dead Celebrations.

The thing I've never really gotten so much into where Halloween is concerned is dressing up. Every other seasonal activity I'm all for: Trick or Treating, Haunted Houses, Pumpkin Patches, Carving Jack O'Lanterns, Watching Scary Movies. Just not dressing up.

When I was little I dressed up every year: I was a Witch (the year in which I startled an unsuspecting pack of neighborhood dogs and they chased me all the way home), Death (I was nine), E.T., Princess Leia, and one year I kicked it old school and went as a ghost - just a white sheet with holes.

As I got older, and performed more often, the allure of dressing up for All Hallow's Eve lost its luster. When dressing up as someone or something else is a part of one's daily life, getting all gussied up for Tricks and Treats can be a real hassle. So, I don't do it so much anymore. (I will say that I accompanied my friend R. to a costume party as part of a group dressed as mormon zombies. THAT was a blast.)

As an actor-type who routinely gets the opportunity to don a costume and "conceal me what I am" - as our friend Bill says - I am afforded the luxury of experiencing a change in how others perceive me. Most people don't get this chance on a regular basis. Dressing up as someone else tantalizes as, for one night, you have freedom to try on another skin, whether that skin be Anakin Skywalker, Hermione Granger or Elvira. It is something different. Play acting.

Which brings me to this:

Is it just me, or do we seem to see a shit-ton of fetish hookers out on Halloween?

It's been gaining momentum in the past ten or fifteen years, this "Halloween is a night for the women folk to lash out of their vanilla sexuality and tramp it up like they're getting paid for it". The streets teem with "Sexy-Dorothy" or "Sexy-Wonder Woman" (who, for some reason, shows even MORE skin than her already revealing one piece from the original comic does.). Or "How about "Sexy-Nurse" or "Sexy Police-woman?" We don't care what it is as long as "sexy" is part of the title and there's the shadowy implication that she will escort you to your car for fifteen minutes and return with Twenty-Five bucks.

What about "Sexy-Linda Tripp" or "Sexy Condeleeza Rice"? Does the costume include spanky pants and thigh high boots? Hot diggity. Put it on.

I want to iterate again (that is, reiterate) that I am no prude. What people do in their bedrooms is strictly up to them as far as I'm concerned (as long as no one's an unwilling participant). And I have most certainly had the urge to throw off the trappings of my nerdy loafers and grease myself up like a Pussy Cat Doll. I think testing the boundaries in that way is natural and healthy.


With the numbers of women filling the streets dressed as "Sexy-Shirley Temple" it feels like this Hooker-chic type costume is the go to. There is a lot of talk about "taking control of my sexuality" and "I wear a thong and a bustier because it makes me feel good about myself." Really? Putting on clothes that present you like a Barbecue Sandwich to be devoured and forgotten makes you feel like you've returned to the innate power of woman kind?

I don't think a woman expressing her sexuality should be punished or made to feel less than who she is. Nor do I think men should . If I weren't hearing the the same rote justifications on why women choose this sort of Halloween gear, I'd probably chalk it up to some good clean fun. But I don't hear much thoughtful reasoning. I hear the same old..."I do this because it makes me feel good." line over and over without a second's thought.

Just think about it for two seconds. That's all I ask.



Now, If you'll excuse me, I have to make my costume for the 31st. I'm going as Chewbacca...if he were a hooker.
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