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, October 30, 2006

Fear of Hell

"The world has always rewarded its romance makers richly, and with sound reason. They are extremely valuable men. They take away the sting of life, and make it expansive and charming. They make the forlorn brigades of God's images forget the miseries that issue out of hard work, mounting debts, disintegrating kidneys and the fear of Hell."- H.L. Mencken

It's All Hallow's Eve, and the dead are roaming the Earth again. And I personally am going to keep calling here and harrassing you until something is done about it.
This is nicely in line with the continued creeping surrealism of my life. I was conversing the other morning with this young lady who works in the bar downstairs, and was having a hard time keeping it together because I was having this conversation, and knowing full well that I was, but also completely feeling like I was dreaming the whole thing. Like it was happening, but only sort of.

It doesn't help that my conversations on their own merits happen to often be with folks who find it hard to string together a proper sentence, and have no sense of irony. Lessee...Where to begin with that one...
Ah yes: well, Nike, like any clothing company, has the big fall roll-out that includes a lot of sales seminars and fashion shows. So, the other night I get asked to go out there and basically build a runway, and in general make this (I gotta say it was probably a) break room into someplace you'd want to do a fashion shoot.
And that's fine, but I was working with this tool (named 'Jeff') who keeps using the phrase, "Know what I mean?" at the end of pretty much any sentence, especially ones where it would be impossible not to know what he means.
And many of his stories involve his warm friendship with Axl Rose, which doesn't help his case any, but he is a dumb shit in his early forties who is not only annoying but unsafe. At some point, he breaks out of whatever we're actually concerned with to tell me this little story about his mom, and his gramma, and loop de loop around it goes forever, with me caring less and less until he pauses dramatically.
"Know what I mean?"
"Huh?" I respond, having not really been listening.
"I'm sayin' that my mom, she fucks with my head."
I just look at him.
"And I gotta move outta her house." As I say, no sense of irony, unless he was posessing a way-drier humor than I was giving him credit for. Well, and about that, this wasn't really his fault, but I saw him out there a couple nights later, and he says, "My gramma got in a car accident."
"When?" I ask.
"The bank."
Like I say, not his fault. But what was his fault was the difficulty we were having toward the end of the night, where I was tired, hungry, missing a date and sick and tired of his simple ass.
We were erecting these walls of black drape on poles that were sixteen feet tall, and he decided that the best way of doing that was to drag the big heavy thing up a very tall, unstable ladder.
Now, I'm not a friend of Axl Rose or anything, but I know a thing or two. I knew, for instance, that there was both and easier and safer way of doing that, but he's older, and doesn't listen, and after maybe a half hour of dangerous, annoying bullshit, I actually yell up at him:
"You know what I mean?" He finally looks at me with a glow of understanding. We do it my way, and it gets done in five minutes, easy.
We're standing around right after this, and he delivers another strange, loping, directionless soliloquy about something or the other, and asks if I know...If I comprehended him. No; I just looked at him.
"I'm saying that idea you had all along: you were right."
"Fuckin' shame they're not givin' out trophies for noticing the obvious anymore," I said, and stormed off.

The Saturday before Halloween, of course, is where the real action is. That's when the adults get it on; shake their asses a bit. Like the DK's said in that last post.
Well, I don't really go downtown so much anymore, but I was being dragged around by an aging sex advice columnist (and I'll just leave that right there, okay?) who had adopted me for the evening, so we went to the Ash Tray. Feels stupid to say so-well, is stupid to say so-but: My, there's a lot of people in Portland. They just keep moving here, or something, and weirdoes like myself who rarely leave a twenty block radius in the Central Eastside Industrial District are always in for a treat when we see it.
While at the Ash, we got talking to a skinny lady who was wearing orange and black striped tights, under an orange mini-dress that had a hoop in its bottom so it flared out in a parabola. She also had a smear of black makeup all the way across her eyes.
"Daryl Hannah in 'Blade Runner'?" I asked.
"A Fembot from 'Austin Powers'?" Mz asked.
"No." she said, looking a bit confused. "I'm a pumpkin."

Well, of course you are...I wasn't wearing a costume (well, I looked like a redneck from the Seventies, but that's me on most occasions), but pretty much every other whitey on the street was.
Not so much at the next place we went. Clyde's Prime Rib (just down the street from Clyde's Failing Kidneys, I'd wager) has been a Portland institution for as long as I can remember. And of late, it seems to have become a place where black people go to hang out, dance, have a wonderful time and not wear costumes.
I'm not sure whether or not to make any larger demographic point about that. (Oooh! or better yet, Weepy Sociological Generalization: 'Because each day, white society asks them to wear maaaasssks...') But everybody wasn't entertaining some frat boy shit about dressing up like a pirate. No: everybody looked good. Slick as shit, and ready to party.
Funny thing, too, because I know for a fact that in the '30's and '40's, maybe even until the '50's, that property was called the Coon Chicken Inn, and to go inside, you needed to walk into the mouth of this giant, winking, Nigger Head replete with one of those li'l red caps favored by bellhops and dancing chimps. At some point, they ripped that offa there, but otherwise the building is what it would have been fifty years ago.
So it's especially nice that it's favored by so many black people anyway, historical irony of ironies, but also in that way that the Tulsa Kid was talking about when he said, "It's just nice to be reminded that there are black people in Portland."
In any case, one guy there walked in and immediately established himself as a gentleman of respect. He was wearing a suit that had previously belonged to a reptile of some sort.
No really: It was black, had scales, was shimmery and opalescent. And I gotta say, he sorta looked like the sorta fella who offers up women for purposes of Commerce.
Maybe he was the only person there in costume, and he decided to go as A Pimp. Or maybe not. Whatever. In any case, I just couldn't help myself. "Is that snake?" I asked him.
Without even looking at me, he shook my hand. Then said nothing at all.
I understood this for what it was. Dear Sir, thank you for your kind inquiry concerning my attire. Now fuck off and don't talk to me anymore.

Then the dancing, and the Spanish Coffees. They serve them well there, and most of the bar staff is middle-aged white people. I nearly ran afoul of the chief mixologist.
He was slammed, and I ordered two of the more time-intensive cocktails a person can order. While he was lighting shit on fire and making the sparkly sparkly with the nutmeg and cinnamon, I took a cocktail olive outta his tray, and ate it.
He stopped, pointed at me with two fingers: one indicating me, the other indicating the garnishes.
"Sorry 'bout that," I said.
"No you're not," he said shortly, "and that ain't a salad bar." Like he'd said that two thousand times already that week.
"Well, then, just couldn't help myself, I guess..." And he smiled.

Later, I sang "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" by ZZ Top to the crowd at Yen Ha, who was far too drunk to notice any damn fool with a microphone. Damn shame. I own that song. It had been a long, strange evening, and wasn't over yet (the tiny Iranian beauty dressed as a kittycat at the 24-hour cigarette drive thru was still in my future)...One of many, of late.
The wonder of internet dating, again. Here's a joke: me and an aging sex advice columnist walk into a bar. (Or a shy bartender who is obsessed with 'Dune', or an urban planner who likes bourbon and country music, or an ecologist who looks me right in the sternum.) All nice folks in their own way-fantastic, even-but just not adding up in some way...It's confusing. I gots lady problems.

And I think I may have been called an idiot by a Frenchman at the Cirque d' Soliel load-out a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure though. True to form, the minute the show was over, they all lit up cigarettes, even though that sort of thing has been illegal in American basketball arenas since god-knows-when. It was classic.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Some views on Samhain

So it's Halloween
And you feel like dancin'
And you feel like shinin'
And you feel like letting loose

Whatcha gonna be
Babe, you better know
And you better plan

Better plan all day
Better plan all week
Better plan all month
Better plan all year

You're dressed up like a clown
Putting on your act
It's the only time all year
You'll ever admit that

I can see your eyes
I can see your brain
Baby nothing's changed

You're still hiding in a mask
You take your fun seriously
No, don't blow this year's chance
Tomorrow your mold goes back on

After Halloween

You go to work today
You'll go to work tomorrow
Shitfaced tonight
You'll brag about it for months

Remember what I did
Remember what I was
Back on Halloween

But what's in between
Where are your ideas
You sit around and dream
For next Halloween

Why not everyday
Are you so afraid
What will people say

After Halloween

Because your role is planned for you
There's nothing you can do
But stop and see it through
But what will your boss say to you

And what will your girlfriend say to you
And what will people out on the street they might glare at you
And whadya know, you're pretty self-conscious too

So you run back and stuff yourselves in rigid business costumes
Only at night to score is your leather uniform exhumed
Why don't you take your social regulations
shove 'em up your ass!
Why don't you take your social regulations
shove 'em up your ass!
Why don't you take your social regulations and shove em

---"Halloween", The Dead Kennedys

A fine entry from perhaps the most intelligent of all the early West Coast punk bands. I love to sing the final line as loud as I can, at random moments.

Well I live with snakes and lizards
And other things that go bump in the night
Cos to me everyday is halloween
I have given up hiding and started to fight
I have started to fight

Well any time, any place, anywhere that I go
All the people seem to stop and stare
They say 'why are you dressed like it's halloween?
You look so absurd, you look so obscene!'

O, why can't I live a life for me?
Why should I take the abuse that's served?
Why can't they see they're just like me
It's the same, it's the same in the whole wide world

Well I let their teeny minds think
That they're dealing with someone who is over the brink
And I dress this way just to keep them at bay
Cos halloween is everyday
It's everyday

O, why can't I live a life for me?
Why should I take the abuse that's served?
Why can't they see they're just like me
It's the same, it's the same in the whole wide world

O, why can't I live a life for me?
Why should i take the abuse that's served?
Why can't they see they're just like me
I'm not the one that's so absurd

Why hide it?
Why fight it?
Hurt feelings
Best to stop feeling hurt
From denials, reprisals
It's the same it's the same in the whole wide world

---"Everyday Is Halloween", Ministry

An anthem of my teenage-hood. We liked it because it had that snotty, self-righteous, I-am-the-0nly-person-in-history-who-deals-with-assholes vibe, and besides, the dub remix was fantastic to listen to whilst stoned.

Everybody go out and have fun now. Or y'know: don't.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I, yi yi

I used to live with six other guys in this house. One of them was a martial arts enthusiast. He brought home a weapon one evening: a long chain with a handle, and sharp thing at one end.
"What is that?" someone asked.
"Whip chain!" he said.
"Whip chain?"
"Yeah, whip chain!", and he gave a little abbreviated swing with it, just to show us the desired action.
"It looks like a plumb bob..." said Lonesome Joe.
"Plumb bob?" I said, having no idea what a plumb bob was.
"Yeah, you use it to...Uh, it kind of looks like one of those..."
"You mean like a whip chain?"
"Well yeah. Plumb bob and whip chain are..."
"Wait a minute..."
"Hey, is that a whip chain?" someone else, walking in, asked.
"Or is it a plumb bob?", wondered Joe, again.
"Like 'car truck'," thought Flake, aloud.
"Car truck?"
"You guys, I'm really going to have to ask you to stop this..." I said.

I recently received a care package from GNP. Its contents were an autobiography of Lyndon Johnson, and a large bag of cranberries. No note.
Easily the strangest package I've received in a while, though nice. Must be cranberry harvesting season in Massachusetts. I don't care for cranberry sauce, so I'm probably going to juice them.

I have received many calls from the union, of late. They've been keeping me busy with many gigs, all of which have I yet to receive a check from. Today was a thing out at Nike headquarters, in which we took down a bunch of lights inside an enormous tent, right near the Tiger Woods Pavilion. Along the sides of the tent, the Nike credo, point by point:
Point two: Nike is a Company.
Point three: Nike is a Brand.
These people are geniuses, I thought, and then considered the other points:
Point six: Be a Sponge. (I assume they mean that one should soak up knowledge, not live off the welfare state.
Point eleven: Remember the Man. (a picture of Bill Bowerman, looking pensive, as opposed to a picture of Phil Knight, looking freakish.)
Point five: Simplify and Go. (ok.)
Point ten: We are always on the Offense. (Now you're threatening me, Nike?)

I have been sharpening a lot of rudimentary skills, as my job demands: knot tying, coiling of cables...I've been amused at the secondary fashion among stagehands: black shirt, black Carhartt's. Laminated passes, c-wrench, ratchet (9/16ths!), box wrench, SpiderCo knife and/or Leatherman tool. It's what the cool kids do. Make sure to wear a shirt from some other show you've worked on, so we know who you are...

I recently spent a week in which I:
Played a man dressed in a corn suit for a small local film.
Faced down a man who was stalking a friend of mine (with the Tulsa Kid).
Took back a stolen bike (also with the Tulsa Kid: the neighborhood has lots of parking lots filled with people sleeping in tents, working on stolen bikes. We recognized one belonging to a friend of ours, and told the guy we were taking it. He wanted a receipt. I didn't have my book on me, y'know...).
Attended an awful wedding. My pal Victoria the Queen married up with this police detective she met on, and though he seems nice enough, I've never been alone with him in a camera-less room, you know? And most of the other men there were the same: huge thyroidal cases who beat people up for a living. The maid of honor went way beyond good-natured ribbing of the bride on her special day into shit that was just plain mean. The serving staff was a bunch of old ladies who barked at the guests. Like I say; awful, even for weddings.
One funny moment during the vows though, when Vic referred to her husband-to-be as 'my Wife'.

I had a recent visit from Disco Boy and his lady. Like all good audio geeks, I showed him my vinyl collection. He picked up War's The World is a Ghetto, in particular, and expressed his love of that album. I'm now thinking that the song "City, Country, City" needs to be the centerpiece of my next mix. That, and the Dirty 3's "I Really Should've Gone Out Last Night".

I still haven't seen an actual mouse, or mouse dropping, though I still hallucinate them darting, out of the corner of my eye.

I am about to lose Bachelor Pad Two, the coastal edition. After owning that house for over thirty years, my evil aunt and insane uncle are sick of administrating the damn thing, and are selling it. Mind you, the house across the street is selling for 3.2 million dollars.
But this house is a place where I've been going my entire life, and has memory upon memory upon history upon psychohistory for me, and is one of the few places I ever feel entirely rested, or at home. The same is true of my Dad.
There's nothing I can do about it, though, and it just plain sucks. When Dad told me this one, over lunch, I said to him and his wife, "Fuckin' Bachelors. They ruin everything."
Bachelor to Bachelor: they agreed.

I am now living over a bar, since my landlady and her husband wanted to finally make some money offa that space. It's nicely done, construction wise, but still stinks like bad fry-oil, and still feels like a dive bar. The service, too, isn't all that hot, considering that the most people they've ever had in there at one time is ten, tops. The bar staff is all friends of mine, so that's something.

I am reminded of another passing: The Rest and Relaxation is going to be shutting its doors at the end of the year. It's been a bar for at least thirty years, though poorly managed and finally run into the ground in the last two. It was the subject of a short documentary that Bobby Massage and I did, earlier this year, for cable access, and is also where I held my birthday last year.
And this year too, I guess, since I'll never have a chance to do so again.

I don't want to end on a down note. Ah yes: my friends went to a comic book signing last weekend on Sleater-Kinney road in Lacey, Washington. Present were the author Garth Ennis, and the illustrator Derick Robertson. I've been an admirer of Mr. Ennis for years, but had to work, and couldn't go.
I got my copy of the issue of 'Hellblazer' where John Constantine turns 35 years old signed. The Cult Baby handed it to Garth. She couldn't think of anything to say, except, "CouldyousignthisformyfriendRich?Helovesyou!"
Star-struck over a comic book author. Cute. And also: I don't love the guy, but you know...Well, and she could have said, "My friend is a fire hydrant who is a long-term admirer of your work!", and he would have written, "Best wishes, M. Hydrant; good luck being a civil servant..."

I couldn't attend this function since I was taking down the Women of Faith (Trademarked) conference. They, whoever they are, like the pyramid scheme weirdoes who'd had the hall before them, had their own brand of bottled water.
Tiny, dainty, lady-like water bottles that read "Women of Faith (TM) Natural Springs". I'm told that Dr. Phil's wife was there.
The pyramid scheme weirdoes who'd had the Rose Garden (where the Blazers play. whoo.) previous to this were named Get Motivated! (TM), and had normal-sized, blue-tinted water bottles that probably had speed in them, based on the ugly, mendacious energy in the air.

I...Aw bloggin': why's it always gotta be about Me Me Me, huh?


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Restless Ghosts

The worst of it, quite honestly, approximated war. I still have weird perceptual twitches that come from a couple months worth of starting at every shift of the light in my periphery. Weird brownish greyish ghosts; and fast enough that you can't tell whether or not they were really there. A furry gust of wind.
And the sounds. Those tiny, skittering claws, and things being disturbed by Someone in the next room. It'll drive ya' crazy. That, and never wanting to reach for anything in the dark, or open a cupboard.
Right about the time they started renovating the bar downstairs, the mice were set free from a long rest in the walls, and came up here. Sa'kcul and I don't keep the cleanest kitchen, it's true, but we try, and at first I was just sorta hoping they'd go away.
I also tend toward Preparedness as a strategy: all my grains are stored in jars, mothafuckah, not boxes or bags. Keeps out the weevils in any case, and if Gawd forbid you get the rodentia...

Well, so I notice the unmistakable mass of rat shit accompanied by a formerly full cereal box on the other man's shelf (but let's be clear buddy: I don't blame you. This was probably coming, no matter what), and I begin scheming.
(Awright. Glue traps are for suckers. Snap traps doubly so. They don't kill enough of them, and they're a damn mess. Poison though...I know what that does: it literally turns their insides to liquid, and though they don't die out in plain sight as a general rule...There's still the Smell.)
In any case, I chose poison. I had already figured out the places where they were most likely coming from, and most likely to hang out. I also assessed the likelihood of human contact with the damn poison: worse than contact with the shit, actually, and far more likely than actually getting bit by one of the damn things.
In the meanwhile, a deep cleaning. This apartment has been passed between friends and acquaintances for many years now, and most of us have been inveterate slobs. The people who lived here right before I moved in (including two girls, mind you) kept a kitchen that was both the only common area in the joint and well nigh unusable. There are cabinets in here that scare me to this day. I don't use 'em, and they don't use me, y'know? That's the deal.
So I cleaned as best as I could, only to see most of my work undone the next day: the shit was everywhere, leading me to not want to cook, certainly, and quickly sliding into a sort of bunker mentality. I withdrew my cooking implements into a pantry that I'd previously been using as a library/bar.

The poison packs I was using were small bags that wisely kept human fingers from touching whatever the hell they make the deadly shit out of, and also allowed one to toss them, like satchel charges, into holes in the wall.
And man do I have holes. This building is from, I believe, 1902, and has been the property of a real estate concern that I don't ask many questions about since the Eighties at least.
The directions advised me not to bother opening the packets, as "the mice will take care of that". It also said that noticeable effects would be...Noticed in three to four days.
A month later, there was less trouble, but...I knew that the ugliest part was still on its way.

Besides, if anything, it seemed that the nightmare we'd darkly suspected (thanks a lot, comic books and movies) might come true: The Poison Was Making Them Stronger and Smarter.
Not actually true, but it did become evident that as the major part of the population died horrible deaths in darkness, the smarter and stronger ones amongst them were heading out for the territories. My bedroom. Sa'kcul's, too.
It was around then that my shell shock was starting to kick in. No where in the house was safe, and as I tried to be unshocked by the sudden movement of tiny interlopers, I became instead that sort of person that sees nothing but threats around every corner. I knew damn well that even those smarter mice who managed to make it a certain way from the food supply still were dying inside, and I didn't care. If I was going to potentially be awakened by some little plague bringer in the night, I...Might be even more of a wreck than I am now.

And again: nowhere in the house was safe, like I said. In the kitchen, both mice and pigeons coming in. The pigeons were roosting in a hole in the eave above my window. Downstairs, junkies living on the front stoop and back by the loading dock. One day, the police came and told all the junkies something that took less than five minutes to tell. They left quickly, walking fast, and they haven't come back.
I wonder what it was that the cops said to them. I imagine it might be something along the lines of We are going to kill you, dispose of your corpses in a way that you will never be found, and the worst part of all is that no one will give a shit what happened to you. Something like that, maybe, I suppose.
Then some guys from the army of drunks that my landlady employs fixed the broken eave, finally. No more listening to that strangely poignant strangled cry of the Columbidae and wondering what sort of diseases they might be dragging in.

All that was left, finally, was the final generation of the doomed mice. Their parents, bigger, faster and more clever, were all dead or elsewhere. Now I found myself dealing with the slower, smaller and dumber ones. As they died, they became less shy.
One evening in the dark, we're watching some teevee, and I feel a muscle spasm in my right armpit. It goes on for a little too long, and I realize that it's a mouse, looking around for something in the way of a place to hide, or food that doesn't produce plague. I jump up and start ransacking the living room.
This is to say nothing, of course, of those weird, squirming, blackish things that may well have been mouse fetuses on my kitchen floor. I stomped them like bugs, since that's what size they were. I still don't know, and I don't care, but it's the kind of thing that makes a person who really enjoys cooking have nightmares for the rest of his life.

I kept on seeing the same mouse on Sunday. He was moving slow, tottering. He had a giant wound on his side, and his guts spilled as he walked. He went back to the place where they lived that I couldn't get to (the stove), and tried his damnedest to pull himself inside. I could have killed him right then, but just couldn't do it. I waited for him to get inside, and turned on the broiler to five hundred degrees, and all the burners to 'high'.
For about a week, I'd been smelling the putrefaction in the stove every time I'd cook, and hadn't found any way to get into the guts of the thing without ruining the mechanism. Still haven't. There will be skulls and spines greeting whoever figures it out.
The same one who seemed so poignant in the afternoon was the same one who tried to find food in my armpit, later. Shortly thereafter, I went into the kitchen, and there he was again, stumbling around, drunk on poison.
I turned to the Cult Baby. "Leave the room. I'm about to do something horrible."
The baseball bat in the hall has been there, right by the front door, ever since I moved in, maybe before. I seized it and cornered that poor fucker in the corner, first immobilizing him by crushing his spine, and then his head. The whole time doing that Joe Pesci "WHY! WON'T! YOU! STAY! DEAD!" number.
Then he was dead, and I dragged him off the counter with a broom, into the garbage. It left a long blood trail. I left it, for a few days, as a warning to further mice, who never appeared. I haven't seen another, or evidence of its having been there, since.

Only idiots declare wars to be over before they have all the facts. I'm not exactly ready to let my guard down anyway. I think at very least that when the bar opens below, in the next couple of weeks, what mice there are will be happier there. All the same, the damage has been done, and now this place is filled with angry ghosts.