please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Monday, February 28, 2005

Anatomy of a mix tape

"The Long Walk Out", a ninety-minute mix tape, was in production late fall 2003 to late winter 2004. Like all of them somewhat do, it provides a sharp insight into the mind of the mixmaster.
Not long before I began the arrangement and started thinking about thematic elements, the considerations were: how do I arrange all the undifferentiated great shit I was hearing, largely piano-based, into a cohesive whole, and not something K-Tel-esque? And of course, whenever I make a break-up mix, I know that I bear a strong chance of reliving every shitty event of the time period every time I play the damn thing. Nonetheless, it's always cleansing to do these things, and like I told myself at the time, Gotta Find A Place To Put All This Great Music!
Not long before, Gringa Alta Prima and I had split up, well...I felt at the time that I was sort of being casually brushed aside, shortly after a ruinously expensive cross country trip to see her. Then-nothing. No contact, and when it came, it was incredibly weird and contrived-feeling. The worst part was that I knew she was right, and was probably handling it the way I would have handled it...Provided I didn't care very much myself...
We start with Cat Power's "I Don't Blame You". It has nothing to do with romance as such, but is both somber and hopeful, and the sentiment of the chorus was something I was just starting to feel. I'm pretty sure that this song is addressed to someone who is no longer alive, and that's how I felt. Someone had ceased to be, in my life.
The next one, Cat Stevens' "Maybe You're Right", is one of the greatest break-up songs of all time, and also expresses exactly how I felt-no fault more predominantly on one side or the other, and at this point, we're all tired of talking about it.
"Sweet Adeline" by Elliot Smith comes next. What's to say here? All his songs tend to be about the themes I was in the mood to explore...
"Long Long Long" by the Beatles is next. It too, I swear, is addressing someone who is not so much gone as they are Dead. "How could I ever...misplace you..."; creeepy. Not only is she dead, it kind of sounds like George Harrison killed her.
Shortly after this, I read the lyrics, and realized that I was overcome with the somber-ness of the music. This actually is a relatively cheerful song; you just wouldn't know it.
"We're An American Band" by Yo La Tengo is next. The twin vocals of Georgia and Ira; "Driving in the sand...The world is on fire..." It's a beginning that is near-hopeful, starting to see over the top. The destruction is all around you, but you know that you'll make it, at least. But you're still angry, and you need a purgative. It comes in the form of a lengthy noise guitar jam, much longer than the vocal part.
Then comes "Red" by the Dirty 3 . It is entirely instrumental; drums, guitar, viola. And angry, angry, angry: it just gets faster and faster, more reckless and sloppy, finally crashing at the end into a squall of feedback.
I don't know the name of the next song. It's by the High Llamas from their album "Cold and Bouncy", track ten. It sort of sounds like it's underwater. It's calming, and resolves, with each cycle, into something clearer and less submerged. Like you're emerging from anger and confusion.
The next one is "Baby Lulu" by Stereolab. I can't really tell what it's about, and only included it because it's so beautiful, and was constantly on my mind at the time. The horn section comforted me.
Then, the real wild card: "Textuell" by Oval. It's so shapeless, and formless, it's hard to know how to feel about it. It journeys through the fog, one light blinking dimly on the pier behind it, as it goes gawd-knows-where. Something is about to change.
And in real life, something did change. I met Gringa Alta Segunda. She had often been randomly mistaken for Gringa Alta Prima, walking down the street, and we fell into it very deeply, almost immediately.
Nonetheless, the tape has not quite begun to reflect this yet. "Tiny Decision" by The Aluminum Group is still in dazed, I-still-don't-know-what-just-happened mode. It is this odd little meditation of lost love, viewed through the metaphor of Adam and Eve leaving the Garden. Cheesy, yet somehow it works. "The World and the Delicate Pair/pulled the wool over the Great Surveyor/for the World had taken its time/for the Pair to make up their mind/and the way they made it up/made it time for them to go."
"Sally's Tomato", from the 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' soundtrack by Henry Mancini, follows. It is sexy and quiet. It is followed by "Hold Me", by Fleetwood Mac. A new beginning; "Can't you understand me? Baby don't you hand me no lies. Although it doesn't matter; you 'n me got plenty of time. There's nobody in the future, so baby I bid you my love. Step for you to dance to: stick your hand inside of my glove..." On our first date, Gringa Alta Segunda confessed her love for this song, shortly before we decided to wait in bed for the salmon I was baking her.
The next side begins with "Gently Waves" by Takako Minekawa. It is everything the title suggests, and is indicative of how content I am now feeling.
Following this is "Over The River" by the High Llamas. An instrumental, growing more lush and gorgeous with each passing second, almost ridiculous, never cloying. She liked that one, too. I said, "Doesn't it just kill you with its beauty?"
"Wear Your Love Like Heaven" by Donovan is next. It's just something to put after the previous song that might just approach it in terms of beauty, which is difficult.
And then we're at "Olivia Lost" by Joan of Arc. This is a playful and weird song by that most p&w of bands. "Some people are just lucky I guess, and they're born lookin' tired...But weren't we always in a hurry, and an hour late for everything?" And here is the beginning of the trouble, as well. There is too much confusion inherent in the good thing. "Half asleep, everyone looks funny..." Y'just know it isn't gonna last, but there goes the couple on the screen, insisting on making plans for the future.
"Such Great Heights" by Postal Service: another song about fooling yourself. It's so cheerful, you wanna box the guy's ears and just say, 'Wake the fuck up!'.
"Up the Junction" by Squeeze: "I never thought it would happen, with me and the girl from Clapham...I said, 'You are a lady'. Perhaps she said, 'I may be'..." It's sort of relevant, but really I just wanted a song by Squeeze in here; they excel at this sort of song. It's also sort of a song that knows it's been wrong, "I'd beg for some forgiveness, but beggin's not my business..."
Another High Llamas song that I don't know the name of follows. It's a pretty instrumental, but there is a feeling of furtiveness and potential loss around the corner. The overall effect is that of the sun setting on a beautiful day, darkness falling.
"Excuse me please as I wipe a tear away from an eye that sees there's nothing there to trust..." So begins, with a crash, the next song. It is "Trust" by The Pretty Things, and records how, just before, I 'd had a bad feeling one Friday evening, after being blown off for too long, and entered into Gringa Alta Segunda's room to find her in bed with The Colonel, who'd introduced us. I'm mad, but casual. I ask him if he'd mind leaving, so she and I could talk. No problem, says he, putting on his shorts. He pauses. "Hey, you've never seen my cock before!" he says, perhaps trying to lighten the situation.
"Still haven't," I say, staring at her.
The song that follows is "The Porpoise Song", which begins the movie 'Head', in which the Monkees bid farewell to show-biz. "My my, the clock in the sky is pounding away; there's so much to say"...What's to say? I drank up an entire paycheck in a weekend. I wasn't there. I was going away. I had never been there. People ain't worth it. "The porpoise is laughing, 'goodbye, goodbye'."
Then it's "Flowers of Memory" by Lambchop. A beautiful song, it is nonetheless recorded in some coffeeshop in Louisville, and you can only sort of hear what the guy is saying. Something along the lines of "Oh forgive me...I ain't kiddin' you, oh no..." I'm never not seeing my own fault in disasters. I've caused several, been around for many, and can't help thinking that maybe I even was responsible for more than I've noticed. At one point, as an aside, he sings, "My God, I'm an idiot..."
"Gasoline Alley" by Rod Stewart follows. My roommate had been playing it constantly, and I'd always been enthralled by its melody line. It comforted me. It too is a song about going away, or going back. "Just let it be known that my intentions were good, I'd be singin' in my alley if I could...Just one favor I'll be asking you; don't bury me here, it's too cold."
Lastly but not leastly, the first song off of 'Requiem For An Almost Lady', which Lee Hazlewood recorded after Nancy Sinatra dumped him. Perhaps the ultimate break-up album. She had liked it, too...Second only to The Ladybug Transistor's 'Beverly Atonale' on her list of great albums for laying around enjoying each other.
The song is called, "I'm glad I Never", and I quote it here in its entirety:
"(Spoken) In the beginning there was nothing. But it was kinda fun watching Nothing grow.
(Sung) You came walking into my life
carrying your own dreams
You coulda been...Yeah, you coulda been good
So why were you so goddamn mean?
But 'til you, I never had any fun.
But I sure am glad I never
Ain't you glad I never?
Be glad I never owned a gun."
Perfect. There's a lot more to the entire story than I've said here, but I feel I've crossed enough lines by writing this here at all. Sitting around staring at the ocean for a week, later that summer, I concluded once and for all that I was done with women both skinnier and taller than I am (which is a shame, because now I find them incredibly attractive), and as far as Segunda goes, I was sort of thinking of a moratorium on Scorpios, too. I nevertheless went and broke that one a few months later, to my utter misfortune (I'm looking at you, Wrong Again Evans).
What can I tell ya'? Music; it'll kill ya'.


Sunday, February 27, 2005


It should be noted that my email isn't working. I try to send something, and the screen just goes all deadly white, and at the bottom of the page, the word 'Done' appears, in some interesting use of the word "Done" that I'm clearly not familiar with.
So, to friends and family, I'll make up a new account here with some other provider here real soon, and I'll let you know.
I'm going to an Oscar watching party at Bobby Massage's swinging bachelor pad tonight. Or I might just watch them with The Flake. Details to follow.
The original posting last evening was going to be called 'An Evening With the Chief', and had nothing whatsoever to do with SNL. May return to that one.
Ah, sorry about the botched name check, baby bulldog (odd; I'm listening to "Baby Britain", by Mr. E. Smith right now: "For someone half as smart/you'd be a work of art..."). Alderpark, forgive me brusqueness: it was four in the morning or something when I wrote that. It is true that I have little use for poetry, tho'.
What else? More to come, as is always the case.


A brief rundown, of historical interest

On the first Saturday Night Live, which was called "NBC's Saturday Night" in those days, 1974, the format ran as such:
the legendary first sketch, in which John Belushi plays a foreign man of some sort learning English from Michael O'Donoghue-"We are out of badgers; will you accept a wolverine?"-Then the monologue from George Carlin, the first guest. He doesn't make "topical" jokes about his latest movie or teevee show, since in those days, he wasn't allowed anywhere near either of those.
They dive over to a fake commercial, just like they do now.
They come back, and one of the two (!) musical guests, Billy Preston, does a number.
Then, another sketch, measuring in at under three minutes, I'd wager.
Andy Kaufman does that thing where most of the audience clearly doesn't get it, but they'd like to think so.
Then, another monologue from Carlin; observational comedy that would later give rise to people like Jerry Seinfeld, however you feel about that. He gives it over to a lesbian Canadian folk singer (Janis Ian). The close-up camera is hand-held, shaky. You can hear someone open and close a door. Feedback. It feels so much more real than it does now, where they put on any old shithead that has a hit on top 40 radio.
They go to another fake commercial, in which Chevy Chase has Mr. Mike by his side, doing a parody of the old Geritol "My Wife; I think I'll keep her" commercial, suggesting that they are gay.
Weekend Update follows: Chevy Chase pioneers the line, "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not." During this, there is an inexplicable news item about a series of deadly slashings at the Blaine Hotel. They go to yet another fake commercial, in which they point out that all guests of NBC's Saturday Night stay at the fabulous Blaine Hotel.
They go to another really short sketch, and then Jim Henson's Muppets, not seen on TV since the late '60's, and two years before they have their own show, perform. Frank Oz's voice saying, "Cheer up, things could be worse." A film by Albert Brooks follows.
Things definitely got worse, to be sure. Now, the show is built almost entirely around bad return characters and genuinely unfunny catch-phrases, ran giddily into the ground, ad infinitum. I mean, George Carlin starting a joke with, "Did you ever dial a number and forget who you're calling?"(he also pioneers the oft-pirated joke about both "jumbo shrimp" and "military intelligence" being oxymorons) isn't anything revolutionary per se, but at least it isn't some incredibly senile shit that someone told them to say, to forward somebody's marketing or political agenda. It was before political humor went entirely to the joke (always simplistic, rarely funny), without any thought of making a point.
On a somewhat larger level, you're not gonna see non-mainstream musical artists (Billy Preston would have been a star of some recognition, Janis Ian a near-unknown), or indy film anymore. I suppose that that's not really SNL's job, but mind you, who said that they have to be stupid, either?
On the first one, they also introduced the Killer Bees.
George Carlin makes the joke that "they're only searching you at airports now; soon enough it'll be a lot more places". A comedienne I've never heard of named Valri Brumsfeld does stand up, late in the show. She's not especially funny, but could be Amy Poehler's mom, easily.
They engage in a lot more absurdist humor (the segment in which they hit the street in a flatbed truck, with a sign that says, "Show Us Your Guns", and everybody from Granny to an entire wedding party brandishes firearms). People like Al Franken and Richard Belzer show their faces on TV for the first time.
I'm gonna try to do a posting after my teevee gig on Wednesday, but I ain't makin' any promises. I'm usually just in the mood to drink myself into a damn puddle after that thing, though I no longer have the will or the strength to do so.
George Carlin comes back out, towards the end, and makes fun of organized religion at length, which would never happen now, since we're all so much nicer to each other and wouldn't want to hurt anybody's feelings. Billy Preston follows.
I sat in on a production bitch fest the other day for the teevee show. Discussions about things that had gone wrong-largely the fault of digital compression done at network level, not ours, I thought-quickly degenerated into a great deal of silly chest-thumping by these silly asses who comprise the talent on the show. They're all funny guys; just don't get them going about their many years in the business, and how they know what they're doing, and don't want to work with a bunch of amateurs. After it is revealed to them that the audio on the first episode has been erased from a hard drive with no backup, we all start quickly getting into legal shit. Beyond here, it gets irretrievably ugly.
I ask the main actor on the show afterward whether or not he has copyrighted his character. He is under the impression that he has been doing it so long that he has rights to it, no matter what. I said, "So there's such thing as common-law copyright?"
A few moments before, he and the production company I sort of work for had been talking about who had rights to what royalties in case Comedy Central (say) bought the rights. I felt like I was watching a negotiation session conducted by ants, discussing their current plans to terra-form the planet Mars.
On the first Saturday Night, there is a cast member named George Coe, who does all the voice-over work on the fake commercials (of which there are four). "Triple-Track. Because you'll believe anything." Don Pardo still does the intro and outro, though. There's a really funny one in which Coe talks about "the growing market for late-night fake trade school ads has led to an enormous job market for people who want to answer phones." Prophetic.
Watching Janis Ian back then is really strange. It would have been clear as day to me at the time that any Caucasian woman in the mid-'70's sporting that suit and afro was a lesbian. She neglected to make any public statement on the subject until the late '90's, when it was rather after the fact. Watching her raw honesty and obvious shyness, it's like watching Chan Marshall fall apart, by design or otherwise, now.
At the end, Carlin pimps his new album, shyly (if it were now, he would have spent the entire show doing so), then gives the freedom fist salute.
Everyone in the credits is listed as 'Bud'. Lorne 'Bud' Michaels, Anne 'Bud' Beatts, Al 'Bud' Franken (and his largely forgotten partner Tom 'Bud' Davis), etc.
Good Lord, look at the time. Why did you let me stay up so late?


Friday, February 25, 2005

what a shocking bad steez!

One of my favorite books is "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", by one Doctor Harvey Mackay. The publishing date was sometime late 1800's, and furthermore, I seem to have mislaid my copy. Or sold it. Whatever. Anyway, as the title suggests, it's a study and overview of all the stupid things the human race has entered into, over the course of years. I think he is wrong about some of them (there really are Freemasons), but his passage on the Crusades is remarkable, maybe only for the fact that I don't think anyone had viewed the Crusades as mass insanity, at least not in print, before. For all its acerbic eye toward everything that Ape Born Wrong does when in a crowd, it puts itself neatly alongside the best of Mencken, Vidal, Hitchens, Bertrand Russell...
So there's a great chapter in there about trends. Oh, my. He discourses at length about the popular catch phrases in London, circa the 1840's or so. One of them was, "What a shocking bad hat!" I'm not sure if one was supposed to be looking at a hatted person whilst saying this, or if it was okay to just randomly blurt it out, any old time. Yeah, silly, but y'know, it makes about as much sense as white kids now dressing up their everyday speech with hip-hop-isms, randomly throwing in something like 'crunk' or 'steez' just to beef up their cultural style points ( and along the way sounding like they have briefly been occupied by demons, or are receiving transmissions from another planet). Matter of fact, almost every time I have the shit taste to notice someone doing it out loud, they have no idea that they're pirating hip-hop-ese, usually if it has whiskers on it. (Por ejemplo: I was dining one evening at this local get-me-drunk place, and the cocktail server was one of the flirtiest people in Creation, and I knew that, being one of her regular custies. After she left, the lady I was sitting with said, "She's so sweatsuit."
"She's so sweatsuit?" I said. I was fascinated. I thought that I was on the ground floor of a brand new thing: we describe overly forth-coming ladies of the larger sort as 'sweatsuit'! Genius! How often do you get to see someone making up their very own slang, and not just repeating their fave bumper sticker?
"No, I said, 'She so sweats you'." The lady continued.
Ah. So the weird tall one who looks basically albino busts out hip-hop-isms from the '80's. I pointed out that it was so weird to hear that coming out of her, and she of course had no idea that originally that was the province of others. But-mind you-she was younger than me, and everything black eventually becomes white, culturally speaking.
I had a girlfriend once with whom I was discussing the faux-pas of indaequately grinding up one's rosemary sprigs before adding them to a dish. "To me, that's a texture violation," she said, and I liked her even more for having the gift of a turn of phrase. She also introduced the word 'insinuendo' to our language.
Thing is, I could talk about this shit all night. I had another girlfriend who was fond of cautioning me, "Don't incite riot," when letting me know that I was about to make an ass of myself. She also introduced the phrase, "Don't borrow trouble" to my life. She thought it was hers; its provenance is actually far, far older. It means, of course, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it,' or more aptly, don't start shit where there isn't an issue. I could go on and on about the amount of people borrowing trouble from me, of late. Not gonna. Wouldn't be prudent.
I think too, of all the cultural signifiers that get lost in the basic swirl of a news cycle. We mourned the death of one Ronald Wilson Reagan for about a week, and not once did anyone say that, over being merely a person, he neatly summed up the fact that Americans enjoy being lied to. We were supposed to celebrate his life, when I couldn't help but think of how all his lies (okay, the lies of his administration) set us down the awful, geno- and sui-cidal course we are now on. It was nice to see the old fuck go, finally. Say hi to Hitler and Pol Pot for me, buddy.
Workshop: go through this piece and find all of the catch-words, phrases and cultural memes inbedded in this piece. As of this writing, I am sick as a dog; racked by aches and pains, as baby bachelor knows. I feel contagious, though never stupid. Life here in the neighborhood is odd, and trying to sleep in the middle of the day vouchsafed me many fine little sound-bites from the street below my window. Gawd bless th' Central Eastside Industrial District.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

"Hear it? Hell, I can see the motherfucker!"

I have been makin' a mix (checkin' it twice!) this afternoon. I was reminded yet again how Yo La Tengo's album, "I can hear the heart beating as one" is a weirdly bold proclamation, in as cynical a milieu as modern music, of how the artists involved still believe in love. This is bold stuff, indeed. The album nicely encapsulates how it is full of wonder, yet also full of lies, and hesitation, and even the hostage/hostage taker dynamic. I agree, oh gawd how I agree. But also (in the most beautiful song on the album, the instrumental "Green Arrow"), there are moments of pure transcendance. Nothing else matters except for that moment, and it's the entire world, and yet it's just something happening inside your brain (amongst other places).
As I have said elsewhere; love is an abstract concept-a fiction, even-that nonetheless ruins lives left and right. It's all that's worth continuing on for, but it's a lie, or at very least a misinterpretation of basic biological urges. It makes the world go round, to hear a lot of people tell it, unlike sublimated anger or misuse of allocated funds, both of which strike me as more likely candidates. But I believe in it too, and oddly, this explains why I have been such a pain in the ass to so many that have cared about me.
Hmm...May be too large a topic to engage in at this moment. Portland is too damn small a town, as has been said way too many times before, and I want to be able to explain the above clearly. Ahem. For my feat of cookery this eve, I believe that I shall take the various parmesans, reggianatos and cave-aged gouda cheeses that I have been aging further (as an experiment), grate them, then take somewhere in the neighborhood of six egg whites, whip 'em up with dill and a bit of Pico Pica sauce, add the salmon I baked off last night, and some onion caramelized in bacon grease, and create a fucking masterpiece. The capper is that the resultant mix will go in the microwave. Yes: just like McDonald's does it. This is to give it that infusion of oxygen, as the cellular structure of the dish oscillates, that will cause it to puff up beyond all belief. I might add some tomato or asparagus, too.
Whazzat? Okay. The fact that I have always allowed my romantic entanglements to be the primary focus of my life has made me a functionally insane person for most of it. It makes me oblivious to all else when it works, and a basket case when it does not. It has caused me to be excessively distant when I thought that that was what she wanted (and was incorrect), and too damn lovey-dovey when they were just looking for someone to fuck, for a little while. It has caused me, on too many historically recorded occasions, to shit where I emotionally eat, and be every bit the spoiled child that I hate to see other people being, and when I get mad at the whole thing, I destroy worlds.
Is there a way to make this thing-that-doesn't-exist-but-we-all-need work? Well, it doesn't help that everyone else is just as irrational on this subject as I am. Even if it does work, it's not the right time, or they're just too damaged, and know better than to let anyone else into their particular zoo at this moment, or they are just batshit crazy, but you don't get to be privy to that knowledge until you've spent a representative amount of time with them. Or you love each other, but the sex is crap. Or the sex is back-breakingly good, but you don't have any interest in each other as people whatsoever, but you want it to continue, so you stick around and wait for the trainwreck.
Ahh...Look, here's where I stop. I gotta eat something. Discuss.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005


One day I was sitting around my house on Decatur Street, in Olympia, when I was still pretending to go to college. It was afternoon.
In my kitchen sat the dysfunctional freezer/refrigerator combo. Things in the fridge had a nasty tendency to freeze, and the freezer-I swear-was almost warm. So, if I wanted to keep my ice cream (only thing I wanted frozen anyway) cold, I had to put it on a nice, cold brick that had been in the freezer since I had moved in. Room enough for a pint of Ben and Jerry's, that's all.
Next to the brick was another brick, in a Ziploc bag. Next to that; a giant spoon that had also been there when I moved in, and did not belong to my housemate (who shared my first name, incidentally). The motor for the freezer must have been nearby, because as I say, it was irritatingly warm in there.
So, on this afternoon, there was a knock at the door. It's the guy from the next house over, who is forever peering through his blinds at us. He has some sort of relationship with the owner of the house I live in, which makes me like him even less, and feel a bit cheated that I have to live next door to his snoopy ass. He would occasionally get in his car, drive around the block (through the alley behind my home), park and go back inside.
His relationship with the owner-"Actually, I used to be married to her," he eventually said-belies the fact that he is not the landlord. That honor belongs to a nervous young lady at a property management outfit. But at the same time, I de facto had two landlords, and...Knock knock. Here he is on this afternoon, at my front door.
"Uh," he said, "do you have a brick in your freezer?"
For a minute, I just looked at him. Then I said, "Ah, yup. Are you talking about the one in the plastic bag, or the other one?"
"The other one?"
"Yeah. The one with no bag?"
"I don't know anything about that, but the one in the plastic bag is from Hoffman middle school, which burnt down. My daughter attended school there. Can I have it?"
"Uh, sure."
So I went and retrieved it. I said, "All this time I've been wondering about this thing...Every time I've thought about throwing it out, actually. So why was it in my freezer?"
He didn't really have an answer. More little comments about how the house really belonged to him followed.
Not long after this, my housemate, one of the biggest liars I've ever known, male division, was accused by a houseguest of ours (the other biggest liar I've ever known, female division) of trying to rape her. This had happened while I was out of town. She had initially moved in while sleeping with me, since she was inadequately bisexual for the house she lived in. It was a casual thing, and she told fantastic bedtime stories.
His story didn't hold much water with me, and besides, when he found out about the accusation, his first words should have been, "But I didn't do anything." His words instead were, "I'm ruined."
In the hyper-emotional gender politics of the early 'Nineties, in that most hyper-politicized of towns, this was tantamount to ruin, certainly. A Chinese foreign exchange student had been accused of date rape, the year before, and had basically been run out of town. Accusation amounted to conviction, and at a rally held on campus, the accusor took the stage as the emcee said, "This is not an accusor, this is a survivor!" Our erstwhile houseguest had waited until she found lodgings of her own, and had levied this complaint, not with the police, but with his band. Shrewd move.
Most people in that town at that time really hated me. During the summer of 1994, I had broken up four couples, as I had decided that nothing mattered any more, amongst other stupid reasons. The only person who believed me when I said that the accusor was every bit as bad of a liar as the accusee was my ex-girlfriend, who had become ex-ed when I admitted that I had cheated on her. With erstwhile houseguest.
Erstwhile Houseguest was still ostensibly friends with me, and I called her. I asked if I could come over, and hear her side of the story. What she told me he had said just didn't sound like him, and what she told me had happened sounded frankly fictional. I gave her a hug, and walked out of her life forever.
All this left was the flood of threatening phone calls I then had to field. Buncha meek little geek-boys, happy to have a chance at being a hero through the anonymous medium of the telephone. I answered one day to hear the voice of a guy I couldn't stand, and couldn't stand me, since I had dated one of his ex-girlfriends (the terror of tiny town, I tellya') that he had expected to reconcile with, upon his return to town several years down the road. He had clearly wanted to leave a threatening message without having the inconvenience of having to talk to an actual person.
"So Mark; you calling to threaten my housemate, too?"I quickly confronted him with the news that his behavior was illegal, and that I had taken to recording all incoming calls. He was used to being the moral judge of us all, so he had to work pretty hard to get back on his high horse. But get back up he did.
"Well...Um, I'm just calling to say that I disapprove of his behavior...And yours, too."
"Well, that just breaks my fucking heart, coming from a keen observer such as yourself. Make sure to tell all the rest of those cowards that if anything happens to my housemates, all of you have been recorded threatening him. Take care, now."
My housemate then fled north, to Sedro Wooley, where he lived in a nasty little trailer. I had no job, and no way to make rent, no friends to move in and help out financially. His mom had co-signed on the lease, and I received an angry phone call one morning from erstwhile housemate. I reminded him that he, rather than stay and fight these (he said) untrue allegations, had grabbed his nuts and ran. I was in no way financially beholden to him. I hung up, and never spoke to him again.
Nonetheless, my half of the rent was due, and I had no idea how to pay it. Sitting around in a greater slough of despond than I had been on the brick afternoon, on another afternoon, the mail came.
In my box, I found a check for exactly the amount that I needed for rent. It had been issued by an employer that I had ceased working for, some months previous. It was made out to me, but clearly was not mine, as whoever's check it was had made less, hourly, than I had. That particular company specialized in underpaying the mentally challenged to do janitorial work, around town, and had hired a bunch of us (the "normal" ones) when they got a large contract to do cleanup on a demolition site. In any case, they'd screwed me, and I left when they did.
So, I don't need to tell you, I cashed that check without another thought, paid my rent, and got the hell out.


Monday, February 21, 2005

The Hellion

The thing is, what I'd really like to do is just link this to a bunch of other sites, and maybe not tell my friends about it at all. Because now, the hole I'm in is described already by the possibility that someone is going to read this, and know that I am discussing them. There's no shame in that; I always tell the more squeamish in our crowd that the cheapest way to never having to feel ashamed of your secrets is not to have secrets. All the same, my thoughts are my own and I feel like sharing the stupidest, even-I-feel-silly-to-consider-them stuff that belongs in a journal that has paper, and is not available in a semi-public context is something my posthumously published memoirs should do, not this.
Man, complex sentence. This reminds me of the crafting of my first full-length novel, in sixth grade. I had just read the book "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", by Cameron Crowe. If you recall, a rather well-liked movie was based on it. What the movie lacked was a rather important editorial aspect that you only get in the foreword: Mr. Crowe had actually gone back to high school as a twenty-two year old, to get the juicy story. As people who saw the movie "Almost Famous" will recall, he began in journalism at a ridiculously young age, so by the time he was in his teeny twennies, he could write his own checks; say things like, 'hey, let's see what high school is like in 1981.'
Or whatever year that was. In the book, the joke is made that there are two seperate guys at school who are trying to look exactly like Robin Zander of Cheap Trick. In the movie, it's two seperate girls trying to look like Pat Benatar. Such is the difference two or so years can make, and now it's ridiculous to consider that anyone ever would have had any desire to look like either of them, except that for their day, they were sexy (well, Mr. Zander was. I always thought Patty looked ridiculous, like somebody's mom trying too hard to look young).
So, getting back to me, I read the damn thing repeatedly. I liked the fact that Cameron Crowe had not felt the need to inject himself into the story; he just took the stories he heard and made very believable fiction out of them. It was journalism with everybody's names changed, and the only people who would know that that was them making an ass out of themselves were a very small group indeed. And a few years after high school, who cares? I decided that I needed to do a gritty expose on what life in sixth grade was like.
The difference was that it was told from the first person, which Crowe didn't do. It begins with me listening to some music. Excuse me. Let me go find the original.
Ah, here we go. It should be noted that I haven't looked at this notebook since the early '80's, and note with some surprise that I was going to call this potential best-seller "The Kids Are Alright". Chances are, even then, I was attempting irony. Here we go:
" I was lost in Judas Priest. As red and blue lights flashed around me, "The Hellion" burst into auditory. They call me Shades, for my trademark, which I was wearing at this moment." That crap grammar is so fucking cute, but let's read on: "I was slightly ripped on Jack Daniel's and orange juice, my favorite alcoholic refreshment. I was aware that my body wouldn't respect me in the morning, but it felt good now." It now seems clear that I wanted to write yet more of that "Great Gatsby" type thang, and never having read that book, had no idea how done to death the whole 'oh how tragic that we're all such a bunch of decadent wastrels' novel was.
"I was the average sixth grader, except for my weekend drinking binges. I was obsessed with heavy metal, the opposite sex, etc." This is completely true. I was under the impression at the time that every kid circa age twelve is heavy into drinking, and should have already had sex. I do blame Hollywood. For the bizarre combination of orange juice and whiskey, I blame my brother, who in turn probably just grabbed whatever had been available.
As the paragraphs go on, I see that at that age, I was under the impression that 'orgasm' and 'erection' were the same thing. We were indordinately concerned with which of our female classmates had menstruated, and having more AC/DC albums than other people was an important status symbol. Brief note is made of the brand new phenomenon of music videos. We mercilessly tease the already deeply unpopular boy with the speech impediment who really honestly did smell like shit by inferring that he is having sex with his only friend. I describe my teacher as "a balding, black haired, middle-aged, liphaired, goateed, idiotic looking man", which was pretty much true.
Now, the trouble is, about five pages into this, one starts to see the editorial adjustments made not only by me but by others. I actually let the rest of these fucking children look at what I was writing about them. This takes on a strange aspect, since I was still writing it, and it was still a journalistic work in progress, with all names clearly spelled out. By 10:00 A.M. on the first day, we get into this bizarre controversy about whether or not the most popular boy in the class masturbated. Now, considering what we know now, he almost certainly did, but for some reason at that age, such a thing was considered deeply shameful. The girls had planned this out: "I went straight to my contact into the female life..." Already I realized that you must listen to the women, if you're ever going to get the whole picture. The next few lines have been crossed out, by Ian, the boy in question.
A few pages later, at 3:00: "School was over. (My friends and I) had been invited, or at least we thought, to Missy's house...We ate her out of house and home. We asked them why they started the rumor about Ian. They said: 'It's true!'
"Jason said, 'I saw him the other day!'
"Adam and I admitted that it was true." And then, in someone else's handwriting: "We believed Ian." And then after that, "'Bullshit' Ian said you fucking cocksuckers". A weird interlude followed involving a number of balloons with various potential couples' names on them. But note what had happened. For the first time, I had been censored by a higher power. I was a high-ranking officer in the popular kids. On at least one other occasion, policing the younger kids, I heard myself say, "You heard the man!", after Ian had laid down the law. I wasn't as good at sports, which would have made me perfect in their eyes, but I was funny, and I was smart in the acceptable way, which was to say: it is not desirable to be a dumb shit, but being too smart is clearly not good...Except for those guys who are so smart that they intimidate the most powerful kids. They are okay, as long as they are funny.
I've sort of come the long way around to make my point, but I'm not even willing to censor myself as far as most of this shit goes, and all I know is, discussing the present is not off the table, but only sometimes will I bother. We never really grow up, as I have often said, and I've lost too many friends for stupid reasons, of late.
In seventh grade, I wrote a novel of a hundred pages, titled "The Acid Bath". It takes place in a fictional New Jersey suburb that strongly resembles the few suburb-like additions to the small Eastern Oregon town I grew up in. It is even more over the top: the lies we all told each other were treated entirely as being true. It was during this time period that I was accused of being the leader of a satanic cult. In retrospect, it's laughable, except for the fact that this particular cult actually existed, and had killed someone. In this book, I portrayed your average suburban junior high as being rampant with murder, drugs, the kind of sexual privilege system that I suspect is only available to the very famous...This is due to the fact that I was reading well over my age level. When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a horrible novel called "The Liar's Cafe", which, despite its fantastic title, is the fallout from a seventeen year old reading too much Kerouac: I tried to act like I was a world traveler, which I was not. But I knew what I knew from reading things...
Or so I thought. Vast cauldron of shadows. I'm tellin' ya'.


Sunday, February 20, 2005

stoned on the convention floor

Well, it finally happened, but not in the way I figured that it would. Hunter Stockton Thompson is dead. At age 30, he realized (literally; it's recorded in his letters) that either he would become a writer or starve. He was never going to be good at anything else, and even though he had already married someone and started making babies, he was a fucking loser. Mind you, that's most people.
They say that he shot himself. It's certainly possible; his lifelong love was firearms, and he loved to get so totally backwards on drugs and booze, that I am vaguely surprised that the most serious charge ever brought against him in his lifetime was grabbing an interviewer's boob. He was always a valuable voice against The Bullshit Engine, but he marginalized himself through his increasingly shitty writing, making himself sound like an idiot. When portrayed in movies (by Bill Murray and Johnny Depp), it was easy at first to think that the actors in question were overacting. Then you'd see actual interviews with Thompson, and realize that they'd gone easy. He was a living charicature, and was as fond, in his last years, of being The Doctor as he was of writing.
The 1972 presidential race was thick with good books being written about it. Timothy Crouse's "The Boys on the Bus", Norman Mailer's "Saint George and the Godfather", and better than any of them, Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" showed the whole sick mess for what it was. Perhaps more ominous than anything was the picture at the end (by a young David Kennerly, who would go on to be the offical photographer of the Ford administration, and would later be the loving documentor of many government figures, largely Republican), showing John and Martha Mitchell, going in to testify at the hearings that would eventually become Watergate. The caption is a quote from the book, as Martha, insane as always, screams at you: "This country is going so far to the right, you won't even recognize it."
And it did. With the exception of a few largely forgettable years in the '70's, we were already well on the way to the hideous simulacra of an empire that we are now. Arguably, a Democrat started it: Lyndon Johnson. He believed the lies that were told to him by a largely scattered and devious intelligence apparatus, and overruled the Senate War Powers Act, in the Gulf of Tonkin resolution (the only two senators to argue against it were Ernest Gruening, of Alaska, and Wayne Morse of Oregon, who filibustered for at least twenty-four hours). Ever since then, our president has basically been a king, and when they go to congress to ask for the right to go to war, they do so largely as a formality, a way of being nice. "Hey hey LBJ, how many Iraqis y' kill today?"
When I met David Kennerly, years later, he said that he had no idea that his picture provided the coda for a book that he almost certainly wouldn't have approved of. He loved Nixon. I suppose that there's room here for some comment as to what happens to you when you work for some photo archive outlet; that is, you sell your content. But I digress.
Yeah, everything they used to just joke about back in the days of The Revolution have since come sickenly true. We're well on the way to embarrassing ourselves somewhere to the tune of the Fall of the Empire. And Hunter won't be here to see it. It's his fault. Mind you, it's not impossible that some bunch of black ops idiots from the Gubment did him in. He had, as I say, seen to it that no one had taken him seriously since "The Curse of Lono", ca.1982. But I have also noticed that the present administration isn't especially shy about offing people who disagree with them (Paul Wellstone? Anyone?). Thompson wasn't going to be leading any revolts against the present Nazi regime running the show, but he did write a really incoherent book making fun of it, and a bunch of really un-funny articles in Rolling Stone, too. Sigh.
I was drinking with a lady this evening who was trying to outline the difference between Alzheimer's disease and yer basic garden variety dementia. It would seem that Alzheimer's is a bit more gradual, but the point was how she described her grandmother's reaction to (whichever one of the two she had): how she hopped from reality to reality. It's not-'oh, this is real, and this is clearly a hallucination'. It is all happening to you, and therefore is happening. During the very brief blurb on the local Fox news affiliate here tonight, they pointed out that the Doctor's writing was "hallucinatory". But the world was suffering a case of creeping surrealism, and it continues to metastasize. It is also worth noting that he described his writings as 'fictional accounts of actual events'. How else can you do it? We're all just basically describing our hallucinations; what happens in that thirtieth of a second between what actually occurs and how your sensory apparatus chooses to interpret it.
I wouldn't be entirely surprised if he viewed the last four years as I do: that the pinnacle of Western civilization had finally fucked up so badly that it was all over for the species. Looked around, easily found a gun, and just did it. Or, as always, the incredibly inept intelligence apparatus hereabouts overreacted, and killed an old drunk man nobody paid any attention to, up on Woody Creek in Colorado.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Get your adverbs here

I have a friend who works at a lonesome barbecue joint in the daytimes, when he is not the karaoke jockey at night. He often asks me to come down and visit him, when things are slow. We talked about a lot of things, yesterday, including the rarely used positive form of a lot of commonly spoken words ('evitably', anyone? 'Couth'?). We then somehow got onto the topic of imaginary friends. My sister, jealous about my rich inner life, which I often talked about, once looked at me and said, "Well, I've got an imaginary friend, too."
What's her name?, I wanted to know. "Lolly," she said, and elaborated no further. I then noted that the newspaper on the table had been open to the comics page, which in those faraway days featured a comic by the same name. It was sort of like if she had looked at me and said, "Shirt. I dunno. Leave me alone." I was kind enough not to ask any follow up questions about Lolly.
Then I crack open the Harper's magazine today, only to find all these case studies of actual six and seven year olds, and their imaginary friends ('Skateboard Guy: invisible eleven year old boy who lives in child's pocket...', 'Fake Rachel: lives under child's bed...', 'Simpy: blue skin and black eyes, wears funny clothes...', 'The Good Indian, a.k.a Don Vont: appeared when child spent a lot of time in the woods...', 'Sergeant Savage: G.I. Joe doll who is sometimes an invisible person, 100 years old...Child likes his shotgun, dislikes his face...', 'Elephant: invisible five-year-old female elephant, seven inches tall, gray color, black eyes, wears tank top and shorts. Child likes that she plays with child, dislikes that sometimes she is mean."). When we get that specific, I start to recall the outlines of my own phantom friends. Sometimes they were transmutations of favorite toys, or more specifically, the odd items (interestingly shaped sticks, pieces of engines, melted bits of plastic) that I would drag home, name and give characteristics to. But frankly, I've always been a writer (first novel; "The Exorcist Omen", age five), and I never really had imaginary friends (my actual friends are enough, and have always been, thanks); I made up characters.
My daughter used to have this sort of weird worship thing going on with these two water bottles when she was four. The bottles apparently represented two imaginary fish named Thlith and Glichh. I liked them so damn much, I put them in one of my novels. Can you see the scenario?
"To get through the mountain pass, we're gonna have to make a deal with Thlith and Glichh."
"Who's that?"
"They're two imaginary fish..." But the two characters in question are in a realm only somewhat like our own, and despite the fact that they know that the people they are about to parley with, to escape serious peril, are strictly speaking, 'imaginary', they have been manifested by the belief of a small being in another realm, and they'd better take this one seriously.
I grew up next to a family of evangelical Christians. They weren't the most liberal sorts in the world, but their son was my age, and we were natural friends. (I'll tell you the story of how they forced me to accept Jesus into my heart, causing me to miss the reruns of "M.A.S.H." I really wanted to watch, some other time.) I spent a lot of time over there, and though I thought their house smelled icky (too clean. I associate that smell with religion to this day), I became immersed in some aspects of their culture. And again, liberal they weren't, but this was the '70's, and liberal the world largely was. They had an album called "The Music Machine" for the kids. It's a fantastic piece of your ecumenical Jesus hippie material-I own a copy of it now, in fact, and see nothing at all shitty about it. It pushes such controversial concepts as Tolerance and Patience.
The song "Patience", in fact, is where this one gets weird. Its chorus goes as follows:
"Have pa-tience
have pa-tience
Don't be in su-uch a hurry..."
But I heard the song in the background of conversation so many times, I only resolved the chorus into this wordless rhythmic humping:
"Nk nk nk.
nk nk nk.
Nk nk nk Niiik nuh nk nk..."
Which eventually resolved itself into a name:
"Lloyd Ink-strom
Lloyd Ink-strom..."
Strange, but I was a kid, you know? Why question it? Perfectly good name. I developed him into a character. He was the richest man in Bubble City (don't ask); sometimes a bad man, as the richest man often becomes, but generally a thoroughgoing good egg, ready to lend a hand. The strangeness of how I acquired the name did come to sort of haunt me, a bit, and I took to looking through phone books for the nearest Lloyd Inkstrom. Never found one. By the time Lloyd found his way into my earliest sexual fantasies, it became clear that his days were numbered.
Now, flash forward to my seventeenth birthday. I receive a birthday card in the mail. The text, poorly penned, addressed me in the diminutive form of my name, and assured me that though the author of the missive had been 'away in the merchant marines', he had been keeping track of my progress, and thought that I was doing just fine. "Best regards...Lloyd Inkstrom".
Oh. Well, lessee...My mind struggled to find any sort of rational answer. The crap handwriting did, in fact, look like something I might have written to myself in the single digits...But I have no recollection of doing so, and I remember things pretty damn clearly all the way back to my first year of life. I asked everyone who would have known about Lloyd if they had done this (and how weird would that have been, ten years hence?), and to a person, they all denied it. To this day, it remains a mystery.
If someone sent that to me, just when the pudding started to get a little too thick, they had tremendous insight into how I really work: my best friends have always lived up there in my head, and I hardly think that I'm the only one for whom that is true. And it also brings up another angle. Does it mean then, if no one I know was truly responsible for this, doesn't that suggest that maybe the act of creating a character means something a great deal more concrete than we 're willing to credit? That maybe I actually brought Something into the world, and he's out there wandering around?
This opens the door to all kinds of shit, if so.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Other people are stupid

When I was an exhibit design preparator at the local art museum, one of my co-workers had a nice one. We were sitting around talking about the basically awful situation we were in, i.e. in between the always epic battle between Curatorial and Operations, which is to say, between the Art side of the business, and the Business side of the business. What my co-worker said was reminiscent of something that had been said, so resonantly and somewhat recently in cultural/trivia history by an obviously brain-damaged black man, seeking to quell riots in a city that no longer had time to listen to him, and in a bold display of cynicism perhaps more blatant than any I've seen (and I don't shock easy), the po-lice made him ask that people rioting over the obscene verdict in the case where he was clearly caught being beaten to shit by the police Just Because They Could, and on tape, stop rioting. What he said is a matter of cultural/trivial record. What my friend and co-worker said was, "Can't we all just...Leave?"
He had a point. I was wondering that one this evening, where the person who had clearly been my benefactor, handsomely outfitting me with several pints of good, thick stout, went all sideways on me and started declaiming on gender politics in a manner that she even would have found indefensible, were she sober, and though committed to the ideal of women being more nurturing and better communicators, was not letting other people speak at all, as she generalized horribly. She even disagreed with my thesis, which was just that regardless of race or gender, the richest one has better access to a forum in our society, and will always get what they want, provided that they are crafty about it.
I was interrupted in the middle of this by an ex-girlfriend of mine, who recently told me (for the second time in both our lives) that she would never speak to me again. I saw her last evening, as I walked into that stoopid bar after the teevee show, to hang out with the teevee people. I thought, well; there's no reason why this has to be stupid. I mean, yes her table is adjacent to the one I ostensibly will be sitting at, but she said we are no longer talking. Yes, she is sitting with two women who I consider to be friends of mine, but why fuck up a perfectly beautiful evening for her and for me? Except that it ain't beautiful. And I don't really care about these drama geeks who act on the stoopid show, and why don't I just throw down a shot and slink out the back, like the shameful, cowardly dog I am?
So, she called me. My Son Timmy, as I most cruelly called her, back in those confusing days of the middle 'Nineties. I immediately answered, as I do care about her in a big-brotherly way (which was always part of the attraction, and always part of the problem, as she could take care of her own damn self just fine), and that I just can't take someone I love being mad at me, especially when I know that I had been a jackass, and could perhaps be afforded something in the way of forgiveness, if the person who had been wronged was enough of an adult about it.
(The thing was, back in the day; she could take care of herself just fine, but maybe not so much in the highly judgmental atmosphere of Olympia in the middle Nineties, where, regardless of what the ladies said, it was still all about appearance. This person needed someone to remind her that she had worth, and even an international playboy such as myself could love her, and laugh openly in the face of those who scoffed at her. They were fools: she was one of the good ones. They were highly privileged whiners: she was for realsies. They were white, educated and rich, and wanted the rest of us to feel sorry for them. She was white, yes, but that was about it.)
In any case, we are friends again now, and I have no regrets about leaving that other table, as we had been the loudest table in there for hours; the kind of table that I am always sneering at, and wanting to say, "Who asked for your input, in this goddamn universe? You think that you're unique? No. Yer just more immature, and therefore don't consider that there are other people, y' fuckin' cattle."


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Fire Fire! Big Black Smoke! Fire Fire! Ain't No Joke!

I was at work on the teevee show that I am a real honest Production Assistant on today, and I was wearing my fire department teeshirt. I was asked whether or not I had been a fireman with the small Eastern Oregon town advertised thereof. Oh hell no, went my response: I dated the fire chief's daughter.
Thus hitting upon another uncomfortable theme in my life: my unquenchable desire for fire chief's daughters. Well, not quite, but I have dated two of them in my life. Both of them had long, blonde hair, and basically judged all men by the template of their daddies. Eeersh.
Mind you, I understand. Daddy's an astronaut? You better be the Earthly equivalent of that, too. Or, for the menfolk in the crowd-My Mother Was A Saint! And She'd better be, too. Still though, eersh. Gross.
In any case, the one who gave me the teeshirt was the daughter of Dick Hopper (that's his name; I didn't make it up), who is also the mother of my two children. He is probably not the only fire chief ever who burnt down his own house while fire chief, but I bet that he's the only one who retained his job thereafter. (Oh, how'd he do it? The way they always tell me is the most easily avoidable: leaving a smoldering pile of leaves in his backyard.) She gave it to me with the warning that I must never wear it on the streets of that town, lest I be mistakenly pulled into a fire truck, were there to be an emergency, and then have to relate the embarrassing details of how I got the shirt, as I try to negotiate my way out of the situation.
The next one was the daughter of the ex-fire chief of Olympia, Washington. He had carton upon carton of light cigarettes in his freezer. This was his version of following doctor's orders after his heart attack, a few years before I entered the picture. I am told that he was lecturing the EMTs on the proper administration of CPR, as they dragged his ass away on a gurney.
What have I learned from this? Absolutely nothing. I just think that it's weird that two of these so strongly similar types (long blonde haired, daughter of fire chief-ed, manipulative and awful) would just happen to enter my life...Unless that's not weird at all, and you can basically set your damn watch by it. Every few years, I'll date one or another basically recognizable type of woman, and she'll both look and act like any, say four of the previous ones. I think for the moment that I'm over the ones that are skinnier than me, taller than me and are vegetarians...I'll never touch another Scorpio in my fucking life (short of giving my brother a hug), and...I sorta have my eye on this girl who runs a camera on the show. Then again, for all I know, she's a lesbian, another mistake I've made at least once.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Taxiland memories

Today, I was interrupted in the telling of a story by an edgy, talky guy who owes me money. He had just been grievously misquoted in the Portland Tribune, and I countered with a story of my own in which I was misquoted by the Olympian, while I was a taxi driver.
"You drove cab up there?" he asked. Yeah, I said. "You lived in Olympia?" he asked. Yes, I had, and he and I were no doubt living up there at the same time, a conversation we've already had once. But the point of the story was...
But no. "I always wondered how you guys made any money. The boss of the place pretty much lived in his office, and..."
He was referring to Elvis Pruitt, a 300-plus pound man who occupied nearly the entire front seat of his cab, and had a small fleet of poorly maintained vehicles piloted by poorly conceived south county roustabouts. His vehicles had no CB radios in them; a consequence of his wife. The FCC maintains a watch on citizen's band radio the same way they do commercial radio: you can't use profanity. She'd sit in the office all night long, cursing at him endlessly, until finally they lost the privilege of using CBs. They also didn't employ meters to calculate the fares, which I think was a personal choice. The driver would just charge whatever they felt was appropriate.
But I didn't work for them. I worked for the other cab company in town, which was also owned by thieves, but far more subtle ones who presented a far more convincing face to the public. Until the day they absconded with all their employee's insurance money, and left town.
Elvis's boss, until he died and Elvis bought the company, was Red Isom, who once hijacked a Trailways bus while drunk. The driver was in the depot, and it sounds like Red just hopped on in, closed the doors and made it twenty-five miles south, to Centralia, before the cops overtook the bus, and explained to the confused passengers that it would be a few minutes while they found the real driver.
But the point of the story was..."Hey did you ever pick up anybody from The Brotherhood?"
The other people had no idea what that was, and I know that it sounded like he and I were sharing warm remembrances of our days in the white supremacy movement. But no: The Brotherhood was an old man beer bar, just adjacent to the labor temple. It was known also as the Bobblehead, the Botherhood, the Bubblehead...As The Spar magically became The Scar, King Soloman's Reef became The Grief, the China Clipper rendered to The Crippler, and the Eastside Club became the Beast, the Meatslide, the Slip 'n Slide...
So one night, I'm sitting in my cab at the Greyhound station, waiting for something to happen. I am nervously approached by two ninnies from the local paper, who are doing some story on how violent downtown Olympia has become. This was patently bullshit; aside from the usual drunks who have been populating Oly's drunk tanks for years, this is another one of your quiet little West Coast capitol cities, where the crime exists just quietly enough. It was a little town, and pretty damn tame.
I went on at length about that and a lot of things, including the tendency of local news outlets everywhere to exaggerate silly problems, to raise prurient interest and circulation, and ignore the really malignant ones, and...I said that Olympia probably was about as violent as it had ever been, which wasn't to say very much.
"Hey, what're you reading?" The awful woman of the pair said.
"Uh, Suetonius' 'The Twelve Caesars'." I said.
They took a moment to celebrate at length how weird it was that I wasn't reading "some trashy novel or something". For my part, I was wondering if I should look at their simple asses and asked them how much they enjoyed reading the classics. I mean, yeah I know folks; I'm just a shit heel who drives a cab, not highly respected journalists from the very least of the Gannett family of newspapers, but that doesn't mean that I'm not sitting right here listening to you, and am not deserving of the same respect accorded to, oh say some pedophile little league coach.
I was quoted the next day in the paper, by name. I went on record, it would appear, as saying that I felt that things don't really change. That was it. Just the one line. Sigh. Whatever.
Bi-weekly dinner party tonight. The menu will be chili, ribs, potato salad, corn fritters and apple pie. When our hostess mentioned the apple pie, I said, "Wow, you're going that far down the road?" She had been commenting on how it had been a while since we'd done an American meal.
As the only one who usually cooks at these events, I can tell you, baby: even when I'm making Tom Yung Goong it's an American meal. Even when it's Mjadra. Because they're just my own instinctual graspings in the dark of a cauldron of shadows that we 'murcans live in, culturally, culinarily (word?) and otherwise. I'm just improvising, as only the greatest of non-compensated personal chefs do.
Aw, why am I tellin' you? You don't caaaaare...


Monday, February 14, 2005

godspeed, ya' fuckin' moron

Once, I was quoted in an article by The Human Chihuahua. I was quoted without my knowledge, and indeed, even though I was being savagely parodied, I was the only one privy to the knowledge that it was me, doing the silly rant about being the first one in my high school to have a proper ponytail, "...I mean, this was like 1987, same summer Bono grew his..." etc. Funny thing was, this was a monthly article written from Olympia, Washington to readers of a li'l mag in Portland, Oregon, purporting to have the lowdown on the world-famous Oly scene. Thing was, the Chihuahua spoke almost exclusively about fictional bands playing equally fictional venues. "I saw Bitch Filter last night at the Chunder Blow. It rocked..." This made me feel even stranger, seeing my own (badly chosen) words being spoken by Mr. Freakishly Short Arms there, in a forum almost entirely concerned with non-existent things. It gave me the headache you get from a long night of sweaty sleep in a small closet.
I was kind of thinking of doing something like that here, once I get out of this meta-meta phase I'm in here (blogging about blogging). I don't know, though. I do intend to refer to people I've known by weird little code titles, but I haven't determined whether or not that means that I can't talk about the album I was listening to, earlier.
It was ...godspeed, you black emperor's "f#a#@" album, and it dovetailed nicely with what I read later on; a thing in the new Popular Mechanics seeking to scientifically debunk several conspiracy theories about the events of September Eleventh, four years ago. It made pretty good hash of most of them, but I must say that there was still a sharp smell of someone with a political agenda trying, yet again, to make other people simply stop asking questions.
Okay, so it was planes, not missles, that hit the WTC, without the aid of explosives in the buildings. A plane, not a missle, that hit the Pentagon, and the reason that the hole is so small is that when planes do that, their wings tend to shear off. It wasn't an air force jet that shot down that plane over Pennsylvania. It just crashed. Well, I still think that I'm being lied to, but all that to one side...
Though this is beyond the topic material normally covered by Popular Mechanics, how about the other, far more troubling aspects, like the fact that we're all very used to being lied to around here, and if you ever happen to ask any questions, you'll spend all your time responding to crybabies who call you a "conspiracy theorist", and assume that that means you clearly are wrong. For most people, it does. Truthfully, if you accept the official version of events, you have to have some sort of functional schizophrenia going on...Even the administration is happy enough to admit when they misstated things, in the interest of acheiving some of their goals. They lie; they joke about it. Any worthwhile study of history includes the debunking and dissection of the accepted truths of the day, later found to be untrue. So that sort of thing happened in the past...Not this time, though. That would be too monstrous to countenance, or, as our ambassador to the United Nations at the time put it, "I won't even dignify that disgusting assertion with an answer."
Of course you won't, chief. Anyway, I'd still like this mostly to be a metaphorical account of my life on the high seas, sprinkled happily with names-changed-to-protect like Bobby Massage and The Loose Cannon. Still though, I'm a politics junkie, and it's been an interesting four years to be one. And one more thing:
'Twas Saudis on those planes, not Iraqis, and the only person who actually profited from the deaths of circa three-thousand people on that day is currently jokingly referred to as The President.
"The Car is on fire, and there is no one at the wheel...
The Government is corrupt, and we're all so many drunks with the radio on and the curtains closed. We're trapped inside the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death...
The Sun has fallen down, and the Billboards are all leering, and the Flags are all dead, at the top of their poles
The Skyline was beautiful on fire; all twisted metal stretching upwards, everything washed in a thin orange haze...
We woke up one morning, and fell a little further down. For sure as the valley of death, I open up my wallet, and it's full of blood."
-...godspeed, you black emperor!, circa late nineties
The Human Chihuahua? I believe he stopped liking me when he discovered that we were calling him The Human Chihuahua behind his back.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

this is why we should have hid the whiskey

I wandered down to the Troika this morning in my slippers, pajama bottoms and smoking jacket. I was dangerously hung over and wanted to keep the freaks at bay. This is the sort of thing that, as an adolescent, I would have done with some sort of intent. Now, it's just another day in a quiet little town called Me, where under the seemingly placid exterior, lies a deep, dark secret.
Hm? Oh, yes; "intent". Well, I mean, I wasn't trying to be unique or quirky or some brain-damaged thing like that. Find myself? I've been living with myself for several years now.
After the receipt of my americano ("Bob"...Lumber...executive...), I was padding toward the door outside, and passing a young father and his two larvae, he instinctually seized them both by the shoulders and pulled them to him, nestling their little faces protectively in his crotch. Fool. What's a guy in pajamas gonna do? Oh, right. Sleep.
Then, I'm sitting around up here, Googlin'. Google me the following: sleep milk, slit wrench, skookumchuck and slurp cat. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Then I found out there's this thing here that enables even a very hungover ticking time bomb like myself to create a blog. So I done it...Went 'n did it.
Please excuse my joke about receiving an American.