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

Saturday, December 22, 2007

jesus christ, superstar...

"After Halloween, more or less, you can't go into a shop, or across a railway-station concourse, or even an airport, without this crap. And I'm serious: To me, it does feel like living in a one-party state."- Christopher Hitchens

I'm pretty pleased to hear way less of that 'War on Christmas' shit this year. It furthered my impression that right-wingers are truly some of the biggest crybabies on Earth, and for that matter, what had spawned it was a perfectly valid argument on the part of liberals: not everyone is a Christian, there are other holidays that fall around this time of year, Christmas is inherently a religious celebration as well, so government buildings should stay out of it, with the exception of individual employee's displays at their desks, say...And there's absolutely nothing wrong with the phrase 'happy holidays'.
Okay, so the problem as usual is that the liberal argument is a fucking paragraph, and the conservative one is a bumper sticker. But even so; if their world can be ripped apart by a greeter at Wal-Mart who fails to mention Christ as you walk in the door, then are they deeply offended by the Bing Crosby classic, "Happy Holidays", as being too ecumenical?

The only people who have yet to wax seriously offended by this whole debate are the people whose holiday this originally was: pagans. I have occasionally seen the bumper sticker, "The solstice is the reason for the season", but it probably wasn't stuck on said bumper with rage in the heart. But it really is The Feast of the Unconquered Sun we're celebrating here, with some interesting Norse touches administered far later. This Jesus guy was sort of tacked on there by the early Catholic church.
And do ya' blame 'em? I mean, here they are trying for a temporal/spiritual stranglehold on the lives of all people, and the people keep on celebrating the days getting longer, for fuck's sake. I have heard at least one theologian who knew his history suggest that perhaps what we are celebrating in these latter days is the Feast of the Unconquered Son.

Meanwhile, your better church historians will often try to remind their audiences that nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus was born on December Twenty-Fifth. But no matter.
By the way, I know that modern pagans have no real connection to the ancient, animistic worshippers of sun, mud, animals, insects, sea and sky, etc. Their religion, such as it is, was crafted by a lot of folks like Crowley and others, fairly recently in history. This brings us to the Kwanzaa problem.

Kwanzaa, I needn't remind you, is perhaps fifteen years old, and created entirely by a Black Studies teacher. And from what I get, dude's a jackass, but that's not the point. The complaint, and I think it's pretty valid, is that it's a completely made up holiday, but as Bee pointed out the other day, so is Christmas. Christmas just happens to have several hundred more years under its belt.

I don't even really have all that much of a problem with the whole 'commercialization' thing, which seems to be most people's problem with it. I don't care because the thing has been about moving product for as long as there's been stores, friends, it's not something that started in the Sixties or whatever. It's also not besmirching some highly sacred thing for me, either.

I like this time of year because I like the smell of pine, and people getting together, whether they like each other or not. I enjoy feasting, and a buncha near strangers getting drunk with each other.
And if you think about it, the reason for the season-i.e. the solstice-is a pretty profound time of year. If you wanted to think about it simply in terms of light- how it affects mood, which has an overwhelming, often unmentioned effect of how the world will be on any given day- the winter solstice is you, and the entire world, hitting rock bottom. Nowhere to go but up, from here...True hope, and the perfect holiday for those of us who like a little darkness with our light.

Last couple o' days, the touring version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" was here, and I was doing some carpentry work on it. It's Ted Neely, from the movie: still doin' it thirty years on. Well, Ted wasn't Jesus in the movie, nor was he Jesus in the original Broadway production (that, you may remember, was Deep Purple's Ian Gillian), but he was there, man, and uh...
Bee pointed out that it's not exactly a Christmas show, but an Easter show.
As with any touring show, the roadies are a bunch of degenerates. The carpentry head is a big dude who screams everything he says, ala: "PEOPLE NEED TO GET OVER THIS WHOLE 'I'M A PIRATE' THING! CUZ IF YA THINK ABOUT IT, THAT MEANS YER A FAG!"
"I cannot argue this point with you," I said.

The stage set was a lot of steel, latticework and arches...And a big cross on a hydraulic pump lift that made a sinister whining noise as it painstakingly set itself upright.
I'm gonna do my usual on the 25th, which is to say that it's Ex-pat's Xmas. People who either cannot or will not be with their families can come to my house. It's the way I like it.

Have fun.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Stagehand's Christmas

Well, last time I was out at that Shoe Manufacturing Concern (or SMC) that I occasionally work for, our first task was so surreal, I wish I'd taken video of it.
Not that I could have taken video of it; those people are as paranoid as they come. Or are they? Perhaps is their legendary intolerance for people looking at, handling or certainly-photographing their product a myth we tell the first-timers, just to get a cheap, around-the-campfire laugh?

Probably not. Their closest rivals, who also have a 'campus' here in town, recently received unreleased details of Next Year's Stuff, which they promptly returned, showing good citizenship.

Well I don't know, and I don't care. All I know is, I recently entered the wonderland of disposable product, and I'm into it.
The room we entered was entirely white: walls, floor, hanging and stationary furniture in a serious mid-20th-century nightmare of Clean, Spare, Economical white. And in the center of the room, on a long series of tables, nothing but candy.
More candy than I've seen in one place in my entire life, even within the boundaries of a candy store. I have heard estimates between twelve-thousand and twenty-five thousand dollars for the cost of all that candy, and we'd been told that we could take as much as we wanted.

So the unsavory prospect of perhaps thirty stage hands chuckling delightedly to themselves while throwing massive amounts of candy into bags now presented itself to me. When we were finally told to knock it off, there was still more candy in that room than I'd ever seen.
We began dismantling the other room elements (i.e. many many modular, translucent, cubic display units that looked like they were from some sort of Ikea Bulk outlet), and almost immediately one of my fellow 'hands knelt down 'pon some broken glass, staining the brand new white marley with her blood.
(Mar-ley [mar-lee], n., origin unknown; possibly manufactor's name taken on popularly-vinyl flooring, generally gray or white in color, used in the performing arts, usually in ballet, you're welcome.)

Later, we were allowed to eat the catered food (we generally aren't supposed to even go near it), which was what it was, in the sense that that term generally is used: no one ever uses that phrase about something desirable.
All the same, it was food, and we were hungry. One of the SMC people walking toward me, as I filled up my plate with so-so pasta, was yelling, "COOL! COOL! VER-Y COOL!"

Then it was my birthday. We shot pistols, my love and I, and didn't do a hell of a lot else, but it was a good day, and exactly what I wanted.

Then, somewhere in here, I got a call from a guy who was on step-whichever-that-one-is of the Twelve Steps toward being sober. This is a guy who I suspended contact with after he threw rocks at me. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned him in the course of this blog, but I don't feel like going and looking for it.
This is the second of these calls I've received in my life, the first being from an ex-girlfriend, several years ago. When she called that evening, the first words out of my mouth weren't 'how nice to hear from you', but "Why are you calling me?"

In the case of both of these people, the best apology they could give me, which I had been enjoying to the utmost, was my not having to interact with them. I often feel that that particular Step might very well be the most selfish of them all, since here again is someone who often is primarily seeking to be the center of attention, and now we have to go through this hollow ritual with them, forgive them, etc.
Dude who threw rocks at me? Sure: forgiven! But the terms remain the same; I don't want anything to do with him. He is a person who was certainly one of the major catalysts that caused me to come out of my shell as an adolescent and truly go live the life I wanted to live, but he also is a man with extensive brain injuries (he seems to attract them), to say nothing of endless years of emotional trauma inflicted by his fucking parents...And that's without the alcohol and drug abuse, okay? So go get a therapist, friend, which I am currently not.

Well, and I also just finished writing a letter to my father that I've been composing for over a month, explaining how if he doesn't take some very particular steps in our relationship, he's pretty much dead to me, and...You know, it occurs to me that under all this domestic bliss and relatively cordial working environment, I might just be a little fucked up about things right now. Hm.

I was listening to a bunch of Egyptian bloggers on NPR yesterday, and on one hand I was overwhelmed by the stories about being imprisoned or killed for blogging, for shit's sake (Imagine if that was here? People who post endlessly about their cats and kids getting hauled off to the pokey? Well, it's not quite the same, but...), but something one guy said stuck with me.
He posited that you shouldn't trust the mainstream media, nor should you trust bloggers: no, you must trust only yourself.
But I thought; well, at any given point-depending on who 'you' are-you might be crazy, drunk, immature, stupid, hormonally imbalanced or a religious zealot, Just For Starters. In short, it's a nice piece of happy-sounding bullshit-"you can only trust yourself"-but it isn't really true.
I mean, of course other people are often wrong and of course have agendae of their own that might not necessarily coincide with your best interests. But you ain't so hot at reasoning either Slim, given what we know about you (see above).
So maybe just maybe you need to remember that you're part of a society here, and listen to as many points of view as possible, thence try to make your own judgment, for whatever that's worth.
(Closest thing to an Xmas message you'll be getting here; savor it.)

Well, that and my eternal piece of advice concerning people: fear the irrationally normal. I used to say this mostly in jest, now I mean it literally. Let's break it down to its simplest application; what do the neighbors always say about the serial killer, as they are dragged away?
And besides, the openly weird are enough of a handful. At least you know where you stand with them, though.

Outside, the latest of the gale force winds have again picked up, I have some shopping to do...And I will go see if I've ever told the whole story of the Rock Throwing Incident within the context of this blog before. I don't think I have, and it's a dooozy.


Excuse Me, But What the Fuck is This?

Um, okay. Go over to, which is supposed to be my friend George's blog.

It has instead become something called "The World of Kevin", which probably was your average blog by some guy about his life...Before whatever the fuck happened here, because now it seems to be trying to sell you something in that inept way that blogs do (i.e. semi-coherent repetition/babbling), and has been transposed into this weird quasi-Esperanto that is seemingly equal parts Italian, Latin, Vietnamese and some long-dead tribal dialect from the Eastern Seaboard.

Let's examine this. For one thing, Kevin, who lives in Florida, is somewhat unlikely to have chosen the word 'skookumchuck' for himself, unless he used to live in the Northwest. Varieties of 'skookum', from the Chinook trade dialect, turn up repeatedly in the geographic nomenclature of Oregon and Washington ('Skookumchuck', 'Skookumjack', 'Little Skookum', etc.).
For all its ubiquity, the actual meaning of the word varies greatly from user to user. For instance, I've heard it said that 'skookumchuck' translates loosely as "good luck", whereas 'skookumjack' is "bad luck". But I have no idea, because at various points I've heard the base word 'skookum' used as a synonym for "chutzpah" (or, as the Finns would say, "sisu").

I also heard a cop say it this way once; "I couldn't skookum it," meaning he couldn't figure (whatever) out. I've heard the word used in manifold other ways, and I'm gonna stop going down that road now, since we'd be here all day, and neglecting the wonderful world of Kevin.

The guy himself probably has no idea that his blog has been hijacked. It says here that his name is Kevin Pruca, he is a 34-year-old (married) male whose birthday is March 27th. He lives in Crestview, Florida and his favorite quote is "Lorem ipsum consectetuer adipiscing elit. Curabitur vel eros.consectetuer adipiscing elit. Curabitur vel eros."
Now, that above certainly looks Latin, but I'm thinking that it's not. Kevin enjoys listening to such generic-sounding song titles as: "One Funky Kat", "Back in the Day", "Rockin' Out" and one that's just called "Live in Concert".

There are some photo albums (unobtainable) that feature 'Hiking at Summit Rock' and 'The Grand Canyon with Friends'. Below, there is the Friends List. It's true: when I look at 'Mason' (odd name for a lady), I too think "
Bibendum quis, dapibus ut". (She's the Michelin tire man?)

The whole thing sort of feels like those transplanted memories one might provide a cyborg with, to make it feel a little more human. Or those soothing wallpaper images that are already on your computer the very first time you turn it on. They're beautiful in their way, but it feels wrong to enjoy them.

And that brings us to "Red Vines, the perfect super food". As you can see, these are red grapes, which grow on vines, yes it's true. Perhaps Kevin/spambot is actually telling us that the popular brand of licorice whip known as Red Vines is the most healthy food of all.
Actually, why do 'perfect' and 'super' need to do their work paired up in that way? Isn't that gilding the lily?

This "post" repeats itself five times, and there are no others. Well hell; you got me here, let's hear your pitch.

"Eliquatuero dip numsan vent lam, conum facillum init lut doloreet ullametuero od tet adit, commod tatummy feug tiam velit praese exer aute enit alit, veliqua modit dolorer commod niam onul laore praese exer aute enit alit."

After all the effort that seemingly went into this enterprise, you'd think they'd find some decent translation software. But the problem doesn't seem to be Latin-English translation; it seems to be Every-Language-In-The-World- to English translation.

Let's examine that. 'Eliquatuero', 'ullametuero' and 'praese' all look pretty Italian to me, whereas 'dip numsan vent lam' could easily be on the menu in a pho restaurant. 'Conum facillum init' is Latin, I'm pretty sure, but then 'doloreet' appears, and perhaps that's pidgin for 'dolorous' (or it's the noise a Money Bird would make).
'Od tet adit' has a Danish feel about it, while 'tatummy' frankly reminds me of Chinook (or Mohonk, or any number of dialects that no longer have many native speakers). What the fuck is this?

I don't know, and I'll probably never know. I love the interwebs there for this kind of thing: a spambot is speaking in tongues, and strangely seems to have borrowed the address of my friend's blog, and hollowed out the carcass of a complete stranger's, nestling inside like a hermit crab.
All that said, I hope George gets back up soon, perhaps with pictures of our recent trip to the spawning grounds of the mid-Columbia. Sex n' death baby! Liebestodt!

Update, and an addendum
: George's blog is back in its proper place. Apparently there was something (deeply) wrong with both his computer and the server he uses.

Also, someone named Kevin has commented and written about the 'language' I'm dissecting up there. He has a different last name than the 'Kevin' whose world we explore in this post.

And finally; it's true that what fish do this time of year can't really be described as sex as such. In human terms, it would be like a date shortly before both parties will be dying. The conversation would be something like, "I love you, honey. Now go jack off on that pile of eggs I just laid."


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Working With a Bunch of Tools

"You must go through a winter to understand. You must go through at least a year of it to have some notion."-Ken Kesey

Here is a picture of what Chehalis, Washington looked like this morning.
This is somewhat rare for the Northwest. It happened in 1996, which was the year I moved back south from that rainy vale of tears we call western Wa., and fortunately I picked summer to do so. A friend of mine tried to do it that spring, and ran into an abbreviated version of the above, at the twin "cities" of Centralia and Chehalis.

So the hurricane that hit us over the last couple of days is basically a more intense version of what happens here every winter. Those hundred-plus miles-per-hour winds that tore across the north coast (and caused my brother and his family to have to chainsaw their way out from a wall of fallen trees to escape their property), while strange and deadly, are the kind of thing we generally shrug off up here.

When the winds, strongly diminished by having to make it over the coast range, started doing their thing here, I thought- Well, there goes that tarp shelter I'd constructed. It's true; damn thing was destroyed. But that comes as no surprise.
For me, the shitty part was having toiled in the great out of doors for the days preceding the actual storm. It's bad enough to be on the ground when it's raining and blowing that hard: try being up on a ladder constructing one hundred-sixty feet of aluminum truss in the middle of a horse racing track.

Nike is a wonderful company, and to say otherwise is to invite lengthy speeches of a highly defensive nature from their employees. I'm unclear what they were doing last week at the Meadows, but it was called the 'Nike Team Nationals', and people from all over the country came to run around in the rain, wind, mud (and goose shit) of late-November Oregon.
"You'd better hope the Board of Tourism doesn't hear about this," a co-worker of mine said to one of the Nike-bots; "They'd have your head for it."

The real hell began on the last day of the National. In the insistent sleet now joining us from the east, coming down the Gorge, I was back up on a ladder. My fingers went numb within the first five minutes, and I was wearing two pairs of gloves. For some reason (misplaced comedic timing, perhaps), the man in charge of the Honey Buckets (tm) chose that moment to start vacuuming out the port-a-potties right next to us.
The stench was overwhelming, and the structure we were trying to dis-assemble was swaying dangerously about in the wind. To the west, black, angry clouds were approaching.
Past a certain point, you just make up your mind: I'm going to be wet now. And cold and miserable. And I'm just going to soldier on and keep my mouth shut about it, until this inane enterprise I'm engaged in is over.

That Kesey quote above is from Sometimes A Great Notion, which for my money might just be the best American novel ever written. And the quote itself is part of the ghostly meta-narrative that runs through the book.
The way it goes is; story line begins, confusing things happen, we start to listen in to the inner dialogue of the various characters, and there is also another narrative voice that keeps making comments about what the rain, the winter, the darkness and Oregon in general will do to you.

The storm now in full force, I went to do another gig for Nike, this time at the Hilton downtown. It was a Christmas party/benefit for survivors of hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans. As towns all over the Northwest began flooding in earnest, and people started drowning, I was assembling a bunch of foam-core graphics on a wall behind the bar that read, "New Orleans Hurricanes!"
To be fair, the bar was serving Hurricanes; that is, the cocktail known by that name. But, as I said to a guy who often works for this company, "Doesn't this thing strike you as being a little bit in poor taste?"
He responded with a lengthy, somewhat defensive screed about how all the money raised there did a lot of good for a lot of people, etc. etc., which wasn't what I'd been talking about, anyway.

So yeah, a benefit party for victims of a flood that happened two years ago, as a real-time flood-causing hurricane rages outside. I spoke to a woman who was staying in the Hilton who had fled her home on the coast, and fortunately had the money to hole up in a hotel in Portland. She had one of those intermittent English accents that annoy me and make me wonder.
I was nearly the recipient of a face full of metal. While trying to load the damn thing out yesterday, the gate on the ancient freight elevator fell out of its track, and started scraping against the wall. As we were going in a downwards direction, this caused the gate to bow back inward. I was trying to frantically fix the damn thing when it came shooting at my face with a resounding pop.
The rule, I've found of late, is: the more absurd the gig, the greater the potential for injury.

I've already made versions of the 'tool'-i.e. hand-powered implement vs. 'tool'-i.e. insult toward a human joke several times before. The last one was in a blog post from last year that I can't find, but it goes a little something like this: "I was working with a tool this evening (named 'Jeff')..."
But today, I have been working with the touring crew for the band Tool, who had to take a four-hour detour between Seattle and Portland (again, see above picture) that involved going over to Yakima. The crew is the usual mix of charming Brits and stupid American stoners, generally from the South.

They're all barky and snappy, the way people generally are when they tour for a living. Except, I feel that there's a special sort of license that rock n' roll people feel they possess that allows them to treat other people like shit. No matter. I keep on reminding myself: If they don't behave themselves, I will make the process of getting out of here take for-ev-er, and they get to pay me the entire time.
Not really, but you see what I mean. Tomorrow, back out to the Tiger Woods Pavilion at Nike.