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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mixwatch '08: In Which We Finally Come To Grips With It All

Starting last summer, my "Summer Fun Mix" series ground to an abrupt halt. What last summer produced, in fact, was one made in late Spring, and promptly forgotten. It was ultimately titled "That Time Forgot", and the track list is available here.

So this summer, with the near-constant work and having to move, yet again, led to a weird one. Since I am still an analog kid, I needed first to build shelves on which to put my records, and get my stereo set up for the recording onto magnetic tape. At various points, the inclined plane, the pulley and the wheel were involved.

Then of course, there begins the endless debates with oneself about the themes involved, and how much to be that way about it, as opposed to just putting a bunch of songs together that I like. I sort of told Bee about this inner debate, and I am almost certain that what I did there was make her over-analyze lyrics in songs that I included simply because I liked them.

But if there was a theme, what was it, as far as this one goes? A traveler, sensing his travels are done for the time being; that's in there, but also the idea that maybe you -oneself- are not so good a judge anymore of what is rational and what is not.
And above all else, don't violate the ultimate law of mixmaking: do not end on a dark note. I nearly did, just 'cause I was having a hard time juggling. Let's look.

"Dismal Dan"- Jack Purvis & His Orchestra. This 1930 recording sums up what I love so much about that particular period in jazz: people couldn't afford big bands anymore, and what small combos that were left had to economize to a tremendous degree. What they did instead was make a noise so damn big, you hardly noticed the lack of a Tommy Dorsey-sized outfit. They played the hell out of it.

"Blow Wind Blow"- Wilmouth Houdini. This is also from some point in the late '20's, early '30's. It's from a compilation album released last year called I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, on some record label too cool to bother telling you what its name is, or what the provenance of any of the recordings is. They're all recent transplants to America, the people on that album, and it shows. Beautiful Ukranian weirdness sitting alongside Hawaiian music.
This particular song is your basic Cajun shit-talking song, but the direness of the violin bespeaks something terrible about to happen. Tom Waits stole from it twice, by the way: the melody became "Jockey Full of Bourbon", and his own version of "Blow Wind Blow", from Frank's Wild Years, is decidedly his own, but every bit as chilling.

"Alabamy Bound"- Santo & Johnny. From the boys who brought you "Daydream". A weird attempt at Space Age Pop, Bachelor Pad Music. Too surreal to not be good.

"Deal"-Tom T. Hall. I think it is only his matter-of-fact delivery that causes people to view this man as a joke act, rather than a songwriter every bit as good as say, Willie Nelson.
Oh, and the song: life considered as a game of poker. Not like we've never heard that one before, but in Tom T's hands, it's like you're hearing it from an old friend.

"Vivando"- Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks. I've got a serious soft spot in my heart for these guys. It's sort of song about being bored, but also realizing that life isn't going to be exciting all the damn time, what with the dishes to be done and all. The instrumentation is beautiful.

"Jesus Christ Was An Only Child"- Modest Mouse. The pride of Issaquah. Not a lot to say here, except that this band always did need a fiddle, and this is from one of the ten greatest albums of the '90's.

"Cool Water"- Fleetwood Mac. This is from Revenge of the Killer B's, which was the second of two compilation albums of b-sides to hit singles. Here, it's Lyndsay Buckingham leading the kids through this Sons of the Pioneers favorite. Turns out, this song is creepy as hell, and I'd never had a chance to notice it before.

"Easier (alternate version)"- Grizzly Bear. This one is from last summer's Music Issue of 'The Believer' magazine, with its accompanying CD. This song is pretty damn effecting anyway, but here, the Exceedingly Creepy Beach Boys thing they've got going on is in service of a parenthetical, understated story line, which may or may not be the lead singer channeling his dead grandfather.

"The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf Castle"- Thin Lizzy. This song, and the one before it, have always belonged together, in my mind. This is the first song they ever recorded, from 1971. It begins with a Moody Blues-esque spoken-word intro that I elide from the mixtape final cut.
I'll let Phil Lynott's haiku-like poetry do the talking:

To feel the goodness glowing inside
to walk down the street with my arm about your hips
side by side

To play with a sad-eyed child 'til it smiles
to look upon a starry sky at night
realize the miles

To see the sun set behind the steeple
Clontarf castle, no kings or queens
or knightly people

A cold mile, and it's pourin' rain
to wave goodbye to a very good friend
never meet again

Little thoughts
little memories
of you to me

Shit makes me cry, man.

"Ventura Highway"- America. The one good song by what may very well have been the 1970's least talented American band. But it's so damn good, it makes up for it all. Along with some truly great lines, it also features a refrain that casually mentions 'alligator lizards in the air', and a verse that includes 'purple rain' (!).

"My Tears Dry On Their Own"- Amy Winehouse. This might be the best damn pop song I've heard in ten years. Also, I don't view it -for my own needs- as a breakup song; I always saw it as a song about self-reliance in the world.

"Look Thru Any Window"- The Hollies. Might very well have been the best damn pop song of the '60's.

"Box of Rain"- The Grateful Dead. I think a lot of people forget that both American Beauty and Workingman's Dead weren't psychedelic albums so much as they were country pop of the highest order.

The last song on this side was going to be Blondie's "Union City Blue", but my vinyl of that one is too warped to play. Sitting in lieu is the magnificent, Badfinger-esque Emmit Rhodes song, "With My Face On the Floor", just 'cause I like it.

Side Two commences with the Talking Heads' immortal "Crosseyed and Painless". The magnificent paranoia at work in those kids during that period of their career is simply fuckin' piquant.

"Raisin In The Sun"- Self Fulfilling Prophecies. A wonderful, vaguely-Clash like (but not really) song from some local boys. Bee and I saw them on their last night in town before a national tour, and I've not heard from them since.

"7th Time"- Xymox. From that first, murky, weird, uncomfortable album, Clan of Xymox, in which they sort of seemed like an actual tribe of synth-playing aliens from some rainy place in the Low Countries. This is the one vaguely peppy song.

"Wolf Like Me"- TV On the Radio. I'm not even sure how to sum this one up, except that "howlin'...for-ever..." refrain at the end of this one is so nicely chilling, and absolutely right for the metaphor that I suspect is at work here.

"Born on the Floor"- The Make Up. Like pretty much everything they did, this is a song that is both deadly serious and completely satirical. It takes the lyrical conceit that the narrator was present at all the most revolutionary moments in western civilization, but was only an embryo or fetus while all of them were happening. Oddly, I could see this song being done entirely straight-faced by any number of less clever bands.

"My Posession"- The Rolling Stones. A nice one, and an odd one. It possesses one of the meaner bass lines in rock history.

"The Door Into Summer"- The Monkees. Another one that is both nice and odd. Lyrically, it's really just one of the many songs by '60's pop bands that tried to be hard hitting and critical of those who went to work in a suit, and stuff. But, this is also more or less a lyrical transcription of one of my favorite 'Twilight Zone' episodes, of the same name.

"7 and 7 is..."-Love. It just kicks ass, this song. No idea what the fairly silly-sounding lyrics are about. Doesn't matter.

"Cold Duck"- Zen Guerrilla. See directly above, although in this case, I can't even tell what the lyrics are.

"Model Worker"- Magazine. This recording is taken from the soundtrack to "Urgh! A Music War". Howard Devoto opens it by saying, "And this song is...Full of moral fiber..." I love this under-appreciated band, and this song just goes so nicely after the overwhelming power of "Cold Duck", while also changing the mood, the 'subject'.

"Polk Salad Annie"- Tom Jones. Thanks to Junk Thief for this one, as I'd never heard of it before. Mind you, Tony Joe White still does it better.

Oh hell, let's watch that again:

Okay. Well shit; more than okay.

"Somebody Like You"
-Marshall Crenshaw. Another one from Revenge of the Killer B's. A fantastic, climbing guitar line with a very nice twist on the chorus: "Somebody, somebody like you/I shouldn't be expectin' too much/ from somebody like you".

"Absolute Beginners"- The Jam. One of the cutest damn songs from one of the cutest damn bands. I can't find enough space for this one, without shaving seconds from other songs. I will make it work.

Ah, enjoy that summahtime shit, y'all.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Great Thoughts of a Journalistic Titan

So, The Merc clued me into this one. You get used to ignoring the piles of free literature laying around in the corners of bars, but never ever do that: they will provide you with hours of entertainment, and maybe just maybe you will read the thoughts of a genius. A genius named Craig Marquardo.

Music Spectator magazine is a glossy. It describes itself as 'The Magazine for the Portland Music Scene', and "2nd largest magazine in Portland," which is great because we didn't ask you what your circulation was, and, oh -here's some numbers thoughtfully provided in an entirely undefensive manner:

Numbers don't lie:
1) Portland Monthly - 56,000 copies
2) Music Spectator - 50,000 copies
3) PDX Magazine - 40,000 copies "

In the above, he is pitting his free publication alongside two other free publications. Below this, there is a comparison between his rag and all other newspapers and weeklies. He comes in fifth on that one.
And who cares? Craig Marquardo, that's who! I suppose somebody was making fun of Craig somewhere, and he felt the need to clear the air. It's why he thought that anyone else would care about the circulation numbers of a free magazine that's the tough part.

The magazine itself is largely a bunch of information about dates and venues for various acts. Plenty of other mags do this, of course -well, they all do- but other mags lack the vibrant presence of Craig Marquardo.
He does it all himself, and it shows. Dude needs to hire a fucking copy editor, but we'll get to that.

On the first page, there's a picture of Craig and someone with a hatchet mouth named 'Stacie'. In between them is Lily Tomlin, who was here a few months back. The look on her face says, "Who the fuck are these people? Whatever. Just part of the biz." The look on Craig's face says, "This is my good friend, Famous Person. Don't ever suggest that I do not know any Famouses."
The look on Stacie's face? "EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!," if I had to guess.

Then Craig shares his summertime plans with you. "I am headed to Curacao to spend ten days at the all-inclusive Superclubs." Y'know, for someone who clearly already thinks he's pretty damn special, one would suspect that he would enjoy an ex-clusive club. However, I think he means like 'mini-bar!' and 'free towels!', or something. Then:
"Just me, a hammock, a hot girl, and the Atlantic Ocean (being originally an east coast guy, this is a big deal)."

Okay, for starters, fuckin' yuck. But also, here is where the madness truly begins. As this article/comment thread nicely exemplifies, Craig's many dubious claims have already made him famous.
Like his warm, long-term friendship with Sting:

"I start to feel incredibly old thinking that it has been 20 years. Forget his music, ignore his public persona, I assure you that he is nothing like you would expect-good or bad-and is my oldest friend. Can't wait..."

According to other things I've read, his basis for this claim of friendship is that he sang backup for Sting when he was fifteen (Craig, not Sting). Several people claim that this is untrue, as is his claim that he was in the army (he later changed that to 'navy'), that he played major league baseball (later amended to 'minor league'), and worked for Warner Bros. This last item, which came out while he was running for office in Hood River, got him an injunction from Warner to stop claiming this (though he phrases it as "Well, see, but no, that’s the problem. I got indicted for that…I don’t have [proof of] everything.").
I'm pretty sure that one doesn't get indicted for that sort of bullshit, but one may very well get sued for it.

He also helmed a Portland Music Awards debacle that gets him a fair amount of negative acclaim (as well as an aborted attempt at bringing major league baseball to Portland), but we're here to discuss the magazine itself in all its glossy, oft-misspelled and mis-punctuated wonder.

"James Taylor, ticket giveaways are always good when you get to give people the chance to see a legend. These are burning a hole in my desk, so who wants them?"

First off, he sounds like he's admonishing James Taylor to please give away some tickets, but then it becomes clear that he's just thrown you into the middle of a run-on, semi-backward-running sentence. And that "who wants them?" actually sounds like a rhetorical question suggesting that no one does.

This is followed by live music listings, which comprise much of the magazine. Exactly what the demand is for this, I couldn't tell you, and the fact that it's a glossy means that it's pretty expensive to put out. So he's probably not making any sort of living off of it, and for all the effort, it's still crying out for some damn editing by someone other than Craig Marquardo.

Just using spell check would have eliminated problem sentences like
"With that pedigree we were eager to hear this new cantation."
"Just because they CAN break off into a brilliant and rockingly eclectic version of Mozartm..."
"You are acutely aware on first listen to the efforts made to envelop a mood..."

Uh, that was 'develop' you wanted there, wasn't it? And 'incarnation'? Who's "Mozartm"?

There are only seven ads in here, so I'm guessing that isn't much of a revenue source. One of them is from the army. It's possible that each of the major venues he lists are paying him to do so...I don't know.

There are two articles, one by a guy from KMHD on the subject of benefit shows, and one on the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Or, as Craig notes on the first page:
"We finally did it. No, not that. I decided to end the nonsense and do a story on the OLCC and either nail them good or clear some things up. You'll have to read to find out which, but it was extremely enlightening. Nice to brush up on my investigative reporting chops."

Many of his paragraphs start off with something that is clearly meant to be a joke, but just fails, somehow. Then; he's ending the nonsense! Put paid to for all time is this...Notion you have about the thing under discussion! I did read and '(found) out which', and the answer was neither, really. Investigative journalism that is a series of generic quotes from some state employees (that kind of sounded like someone reading a pamphlet, actually) mixed with random opining.
Or, as he puts it in the opening summation, "Being a government agency in this day and age though comes with a heavy dose of skepticism and assumed incompetence."
(Writing sentences is hard.)

He does take the hard stance that signage proscribing underage drinking is hardly a solution to the problem...Which doesn't really have to do with this at all, but okay. He notes how 'strangely autonomous' the OLCC is, and how that's kind of the problem...
But also notes that they're nowhere near to being the hardasses that they're generally viewed as, which is my experience, too.

He opens up a profile of a club owner by writing, "The owner of a 'certain' all ages venue in Southeast Portland..."
There's plenty of ways to have achieved his aim in that composition without sounding coy and awkward. Losing the quotes around the "certain", losing "certain" altogether, not giving the neighborhood while trying to preserve anonymity...Just using "a source who wishes not to be named"...

"Some teenagers would love to go to strip clubs, drink at bars, and smoke cigarettes. As long as they are against the law, there will be rules that venue owners will have to abide by."
(As long as teenagers are against the law? As long as the rules are against the law? As long as venue owners are against the law?)
And then:
"My guess is...many of them are parents too."
My guess is that you could lose that ellipsis. And hell, why are you trying to tug my heartstrings in an article of this kind? Ohhh. Pa-rents. I get it now...

The problem ultimately lies in the strangely autonomous personality that crafted this magazine. He's a Scorpio, according to his MySpace page (actually, it's the magazine's page. The magazine is single, by the way), and I've repeatedly found that when scorps aren't sitting at home crying about how mean everyone is to them, they're out actively being mean to people. This is some sort of awful spiral that occurs in people who perpetually think that they've been victimized: they then quickly decide that they have no reason to consider the feelings of other people, who are just gonna turn around and fuck them over anyway. Tangent. Sorry.

But yes; if he just let someone else look at his writing before throwing it out there, maybe he'd enjoy a bit less embarrassment. And of course, by writing this post I am being mean -even though when you put text out in public with your name on it, people will judge your work, sorry to say- and will no doubt be found out, since I suspect he spends a lot of time Googling his own name.
Otherwise, he wouldn't show up on so many comment threads, defending himself against all those mean people who feel that he just might be a douchebag.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Trampling Out the Vintage Where the Grapes of Wrath are Stored

The Sci Fi channel is fond of running a "Twilight Zone" marathon, every Fourth of July. I appreciate this immensely, as I love that show and think it more than apropos that here, parenthetically, is what someone in programming has to say about America.
We laid here on the couch and watched it all day. After a while, it gets to you, and you start to see all things through a Twilight Zone lens. Outside, buncha fuckin' people blowin' shit up, and wandering around seeming to be contemplating violence. I have always held that the Fourth is a perfect day to commit a crime in America.

So, you could probably just get up on the roof of our house and see the fireworks at Fort Vancouver from here. They claim to be the largest fireworks display west of the Mississippi, for anyone who's counting. I don't know if this is true (I'd be very surprised if Vegas, say, didn't do it bigger), but I know from experience that one may see the damn thing from quite a ways away.

But I wanted to be in the middle of something big and weird, which is what you're supposed to do on the Fourth of July. There's that Red Lion on MLK that I've spoken of before that has a bar on its roof. Strangely, whenever I bring it up, nobody seems to have heard of it, which is too bad; it has a great view. From there, one may see not only the fireworks in Vancouver, but Oaks Park in Sellwood as well as the ones going on by the Blues Fest, downtown.
When I first encountered this particular bar, it was the Seventies and atop a hotel named The Cosmopolitan. The restaurant was then named Top O' The Cosmo, and was the first place I ever encountered the not-exactly-magical dish known as 'aspic'. Why the fuck anyone would eat clear, tasteless Jell-O and then assign it an enigmatic name like 'aspect', immediately confused me (and to a certain extent, still does).

Anyway, now it's a Red Lion, and the locals don't seem to know that it's there. Convention-goers staying at the hotel don't seem to register that there's a rooftop bar up there, either, and generally the place is empty.
The hyper-enthusiastic little guy at the front desk assured me, as of July Third, that although there was some sort of function in one of the banquet halls, the bar would be open to the public. This was not the case.

We found ourselves (with Riley and Miss Kitty in tow) amidst a crowd of people who only referred to themselves as Baby Boomers. There didn't seem to be any further descriptor attached to this designation ala "...Cat Fanciers", or "...Weight Watchers". Just a basic note about what general age category they fell into, and from there, you're on your own.
Just to add further savor to this already wonderful scenario, we (being from the wrong generation, and all) had to pay ten dollars a head to get in. It seemed to be some sort of dating event (and by that, I mean the romantic kind, not the chronological thing that they'd already done to themselves with their name), and the olds were a-shakin' it.

The ladies, we noted, did okay on the dance floor, and we further noted that men -of any age- just don't seem to know how to dance. Miss Kitty got asked to dance almost immediately, and later was told by a random gentleman that she was "constructed" well.
Looking around, I came to wonder if what we were really in the middle of was a grouping of Baby Boomer swingers. I dunno; knowing what I know of you folks, someone in this mob certainly has a sling hanging from a beam in their basement, or a "fun room" somewhere. "Who's got the coke, d'ya think?" I asked out loud, at one point.

When the fireworks finally began in Downtown, the bad novelty dance songs of recent decades theme came to a halt, and out comes the Sousa. But then...Lee Greenwood, and...Aw, fuckin' no!
"FUCK TOBY KEITH!" I was yelling toward the deejay. Thinking further about it, I yelled, "FUCK YOU, AND FUCK TOBY KEITH!" I'm sorry, but 'The Angry American' is just poison, and just has no place among the Boomers.
Well, or does it? I mean, these actually kind of struck me as Reagan Democrats, really; the kind of people who spook easy and will believe all manner of lies. In any case, for some reason, the next patriotic anthem selected by the audio technician was "Billie Jean".

And then today, on the Mercury's blog, there's a story in which this girl goes to the rodeo. There's a lot of that 'gee, there's people other than hipsters in Oregon' type generalization going on, and for the most part, it's pretty stupid. I always recommend getting out of the bubble that is Portland, and I guess that other people somehow manage to be surprised by the differences, when they do.
But things get fun in the comment section, when some guy who calls himself 'Which Way Did He Blow?' shows up and randomly starts harassing the author on what is completely another topic:

"It's good to see some of you guys getting out side of Portland so you can at least ‘check in’ with a few basic realities that are missing from your day to day “Multnomah County Marxist Utopia”. You know the globally warming world you exist in, where everyone rides bikes, marries whoever and whatever they want, all absolutes are blurred (yeah no more personal accountability or right or wrong!! Wahoo! ) and nothing anyone but President Bush does is ever wrong...they are simply misunderstood victims of intolerance and hate."

Well, good. And here I thought that we were gonna go all day without something really important being said. I've often heard gentlemen like this one say that it's the rest of us (people like me, say) who ostensibly won't shut up about sexuality. But in my experience, they seem to be the ones who are constantly bringing it up.
Also- I love how after all these years, you're still very likely to hear the word "Marxist" come out of the mouth of a conservative. No one else ever says it, but these guys can't get enough of it.

"If you could step away from your mind numbing tunnel vision on any issue that would tend to support absolutes in people’s daily lives, and you yourselves were able to be ‘tolerant’ of the majority’s views and if you had more ‘respect’ for the results handed down by the overwhelming majority of American’s, and were more ‘accepting’ of the fact that as American’s we have the right to NOT accept a lifestyle that the majority of us are repulsed by. Then your views would have more credibility and you would be better positioned to enact the changes you seek. Until you can live up to your own high ideals of tolerance and acceptance then it’s really very difficult to take any sermon (can I say that …) you are preaching week to week here seriously."

As the late Peter Jennings once said, "I mean, it's impolite to laugh, but..." If one just sat around critiquing the language alone (sentence structure, grammar, spelling) of every one of these that you find on the internet alone, you'd have fun to last you a lifetime. But that, of course, will make you one of those elitists who thinks you are better than others, and therefore not to be listened to.
So hey; I'll just deal with his retarded assertion here. Hey fucker: when you are disgusted by there being queers in the world, you are not being harmed in any tangible way. However, the passing of discriminatory laws and indeed, public beatings do harm said queers in a very tangible way. So you can stop implying that you are being discriminated against because a number of us fail to share your viewpoint. Lots of stupid people believe lots of stupid things.

Matter of fact, the founding fathers of this country seemed to have greatly mistrusted "the tyranny of the majority", so it seems they noticed that, too. So having lots of other people on your side is no defense, either.
Liberal pieties? Yeah, we got 'em. But just like on your side, we tend to dislike our deluded visionaries and zealots, too. It's just that there seems to be no room for rational debate anymore between those who see only black n' white and those who see nothin' but gray.

I think this is the way our country's always been, too: the absolutists versus those who actually examine things. And even better, the debate will always rage between those who feel that the asking of any questions whatsoever concerning this country is immediately wrong and those who feel that even the greatest society in the world will have problems, and why not fix them and thus be even greater, which implies the need for questions to be asked in the first place so you may identify the problem.
If you're anti-question, you're automatically an idiot in my book, but what do I know? I'm firmly in the minority on that one.

Oh, by the way, dude then goes down to the gay pride parade for some reason, and is shocked to see some guy fellating a blow up doll. He is duly shocked.
He actually put it like this:

"If that’s too frightening a prospect for you, then let me ask you this: I ran into the parade of homosexuals a few weekends ago and I was hoping you could tell me how I should interpret something I witnessed during the parade and how it can be viewed as a positive thing for furthering the “agenda” and bringing over new foot soldiers in your war against America. Here is what I saw:"

And then he talks about the dude with the doll. Are there just people in the world who enjoy rage? Moreover, should I also adopt the run-on sentence as my chosen form of communication? Would that change the minds of the sacrosanct (and stop using words like that one) majority?
Let's try it. It would have to begin with an assertion, like People like you who always hate everything, moving on to ...Fuck, I can't even do it.

Anyway, he was, as I say, responding to a pretty boring post about going to a rodeo. Not that he's like most people I've met which is to say dumb, loud and proud of it and feel at all times like they're under attack and therefore must ruin even the slightest of good times with ill-placed blather about something that matters to them only because they were told to feel that way by some money-grubbing shitbag who manipulates stupid people for a living.
Hmmm. Maybe I can construct a decent run-on sentence.

And of course, plenty of people said this, but..So why did you go to the pride parade? I think they're annoying, so I don't attend them. Hell; there's lots of gay people who do not attend pride parades, so what's your excuse?
He concludes by saying:

"Before you declare that I am a right wing religious whack job …please note that I am just a normal person, a father, a husband with no specific affiliation …just a working moral barometer and a good sense of right and wrong."

Gee, why would I think that you're a whack job? Maybe it's your showing up in a comment thread about a rodeo, blabbering about some guy blowing a doll?

In any case, generally I celebrate the Fourth by gobbling a bunch of hallucinogens and looking at the lights in the sky. Nowadays, you may find me watching a bunch of people in their fifties hitting on each other, then writing a screed against dumb shits. Happy birthday, baby America.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Old Things

Since we're still pretty brand new in a brand new house, there's a lot of going through storage containers going on.

When not gazing lovingly on old photos and postcards, I have done the first overview of my rock poster archive in years. There's three decades worth of stuff in there. The same is true of my show-biz archive: no doubt my backstage passes alone will keep me fat n' sassy in retirement.

But best of all, out comes the old notebooks. Up on top, stuff from more recent years, including the manifesto I keep referencing, titled...

Toward A New Theory of Customer Service (ca. 2002 or 3)

The fact of the matter is, all you ever heard on this subject (in print, anyway) is from a managerial perspective. I have my own take, as do all servers.

For instance, as I've told more than one novice server, you're not paid enough to lick asses. If you were being paid asslicker's wages, that'd be one thing. What I mean is, of course you should be friendly -even charming- but never feel like you should let yourself be abused by a custy. Nine times out of ten, the shit attitudes displayed by the Served comes from nothing more remarkable than the novelty of Being Served, and feeling like part of the dynamic is abusing the Server. If you have actually screwed up, that's another thing.

But even there, you're still human, and all you must do is apologize, and right the wrong. Some people like a little sass with their sauce, as it were, and those that don't are cry babies, and won't tip anyway.

My serving guru told me most of what I needed to know, ever. For one- "First thing right off, acknowledge them. Let 'em know that you know that they're there." Sure. And then: "Get 'em menus and water as fast as you can. In the first thirty seconds they're sitting there, say. All the rest is garnish."

(I'm not really happy about how well this piece has aged. I skip forward here...)

Above all else, remember that sometimes you're really, truly running someone else's tax write-off. And that their ideas about what is a professional attitude is informed by information that can be flawed, at best. The same people will pull all sorts of unprofessional shit like questioning your judgment in front of customers, threatening your job in private conversation as a matter of course, and in general acting like a hyperactive twelve-year-old who really ought to seek a real life, in lieu of employing "friends".

(I'm all too aware of exactly who I'm talking about, here. It's a little too on the nose. Here's what a colleague had to say about him, in fact.)

It behooves you to remind them (without actually saying it, natch) that the fact that they own your ass is not a plus in their column. That they really, truly need to treat you well, or suffer the consequences.

(Actually, a far better way of saying that is: "You employ me, you don't own me.")

Hm. What else do we find in this notebook?

Let's hear it for the meek, always going around, inheriting everything.

Had a dream the other night in which I was walking around with Phil Hartman. In keeping with the apocalyptic nature of dreams of late, I'm walking with a dead person; nattily attired, smoking.
We're walking around the warehouse district of inner Southeast, and people who remember me -but I do not remember- keep approaching and hugging me.

After I am mauled by a huge blonde woman in some sort of meat-packing uniform, I look over downtown Portland and see two oily mushroom clouds rising.
"Well, I guess we'd better go
that way," I tell Phil, indicating the opposite direction.

Oh, and some more adages about the service industry:

"Sometimes the customer gets what they want, and sometimes they get what they deserve."

"I don't go down to the plasma center and tell you how to relax and accept the needle, so don't tell me how to do
my job."

"Take away every element of danger in most people's lives, and they'll just sharpen a spoon and plunge it in their eye."

Jesus. Cynical much, Me of five or six years ago?

God forbid we admit that a lot of what we've loved in the past has been complete crap. Popular culture examining its own asshole should be just that, but it's not. Item: the only book of poetry to actually make money in twenty-some-odd years is currently climbing the charts. It's by a seven (?) year old with muscular dystrophy, and is largely oriented around the idea of 'courage'.
(It's Cancer Boy from the Kids In The Hall movie, "Brain Candy", but nobody has admitted it yet: celebrity based on bathos.)

Some thoughts on my profession at the time:
I am actively promulgating evil at my job. Delivering auto parts (using an automobile, no less) to repair shops, to power the unnecessarily large passenger carriers with compulsory American flags that I curse so. I'm not a bank or anything, but nonetheless I am helping to drive the slave boat that is the engine of progress. This leads to genocide in my name on the other side of the world. Just a job? Yeah, sure; at the Baby Shooting Farm.

And, one of my favorite quotes, from Apuleius' The Golden Ass:
"The same fancy haunted us all the way home, that the Goddess of Honesty must have left this upper world, distressed at her bad treatment, and gone to live among ghosts and corpses. However- here we are, and there's the loot."

Followed by a quote from the great animator Chuck Jones:
"You can have a lot of fun with Silly Putty, but no one will ever love it or care what happens to it."

True dat, Mistah Jones.