Sunday, February 25

Foster Grant

About a week ago as I was stumbling out of Mark's, I came across a pair of fake eyeglasses on the ground near my parking spot. There was no one else around that might have dropped or lost them, so it only made sense (in my slightly-inebriated state) to claim them for myself.

Soon after, bespectacled me headed home quoting lines from Shakespeare, old James Bond movies, and various Monty Python sketches -- all which seemed to be sound a lot more authentic coming from someone wearing glasses. The fun only lasted so long though as I soon arrived at home, dropped them off on the bathroom counter, and then passed out for the night.

But ever since then I've found myself putting them on from time to time and mugging for mirrors. Not that I'm mocking those of you who actually have to wear glasses, or trying to belittle any periods of awkwardness you might have had to endure while having to wear them during various high-schoolish points in your life -- but simply because there are a number of dramatic poses and postures that only people who wear glasses can really pull off (and those of us who don't secretly feel that we're missing out on).

Eventually this hobby turned a bit obsessive, and with the help of the webcam and a listless Sunday afternoon became something of an theatrical production complete with various members of my family, occasional helpings of booze, and various crap I found laying around the apartment.
Needless to say the results are somewhat embarrasing and as such -- must be shared.
[Listening to: Tones on Tail, "Go"]

Saturday, February 24

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

"I'm not hatin' the playa -- just his choice of hats."
[Listening to: Earl Greyhound, "Monkey"]

Friday, February 23

Tad Allagash

For better or worse, it seems like I've spent almost every night since last week at one bar or another with a drink in my hand. Whether I'm running away from something or trying to get somewhere new is a thought I'm not overly concerned with at the moment -- because the simple fact of the matter is that I'm lonely and enjoy being around other people. Not that there's always tons of folks to be found on a Tuesday (or Wednesday, or Thursday..) night, but that sometimes sitting at home is too much of a reminder of what is or isn't happening in my world, and this is the way I'm choosing to try and deal with it.

It's not like I'm on some sort of extended bender or anything, I just like having a cocktail or two after a long day of work. Of course for most people this constitutes some sort of stop on the way home or regular place to unwind -- so I guess I'm not really doing it right, but this is what works for me right now, so I'm running with it until a better idea comes along.

Besides, even if might look from the outside like I'm trying to insert myself into an Edward Hopper painting -- I'm having a good time with it right now. I know my limits, and these forays into the darkness aren't about trying to test or stretch them. Regardless of what happens after the sun goes down there's still somewhere I have to be when 8am rolls back around, and no amount of explanations about searches for satori or Desolation Angels is gonna change that.

At the same time, I think there's something to be said about the effect all of this is having on me. There was a point I think where it was about drinking away sorrows, but as time has moved on it's become something more akin to getting back to being myself. Not the myself that's capable of downing multiple shots of jager when they're offered to me -- but more the self that seems interesting enough to include in a round of shots when they're being bought. It's about having the confidence inside to wear myself on the outside, instead of holding back and hoping someone will be interested enough to chip through all the layers of rock on the outside without prompting.

Because in a lot of ways I'm that guy. I'm a social creature, but really only when I feel comfortable in my surroundings. If I was an animal out on the veldt, I'd be the one who have to know at least one of the other antelope hanging out before I felt ok starting up a conversation on my own. I don't really know where that comes from, but I do know that's what makes me prefer having a regular place I can go to. Of course the same would be true for hopping bar to bar if I had a regular crew to hang out with.

The thing about it though is that I hate the way that feels. I can dress it up any way I want to with language and words, but when you get right down to it the name for this is herd mentality. For whatever reason, I normally prefer the comfort zone that comes from having numbers, or at least foraging around the same caves every Thursday night when Aerial Tribe is on the back deck and ladies drink free until midnight.

I'd much rather be the predator, moving from place to place and having all the herbivores clear a space for me to drink. But in the end you start to realize that even that thought doesn't happen all that often -- most predators travel in packs themselves, and are only feared once they've hunted the same grounds long enough to be remembered.

And even so, what's that get you -- a spot in some badly animated commercial where all you do is say carne asada over and over?
      I'm not in this to end up forgotten like some talking dog.
It's just that I find myself sometimes floating between different sides of myself, struggling with the image that I'd like to see in the mirror and the one that's actually there. Almost like I'm searching to find some sort of balance between maintining my sense of personal authenticity and being the type of person other people want to gravitate towards.

It's something I think we all go through to certain extents, a process that's frequently easier when you have other people around you to help reflect off.
Which is what I'm looking for when I'm out, drink in my hand, night after night.
[Listening to: Earl Greyhound, "SOS"]

Thursday, February 22

Business in The Front

I'm driving home from work today, bumper to bumper traffic, one hand on the steering wheel and the other lazily draped over the gearshift (the way it always is) when I look out the passenger window into the car next to me and catch sight of the most jaw dropping example of mullet-itude I may have ever seen in my life.

This wasn't just about business in the front and party in the back. This wasn't some hockey player trying to stay rock and roll without upsetting the way his helmet fit on his head. This wasn't some homage to Ziggy Stardust or Joan Jett.
It was the Ultramullet.
Almost immediately I was reaching for my cell phone, trying like hell to kick in the camera so that I wouldn't be the only one forced to suffer the squidbilly that had attached itself to this guy's skull. But I guess I was too dumbstruck by the sheer apedrape-ness of the thing to make my phone do what it was supposed to, and by the time I got it working the light had changed and people were honking at me to move.

Which sucks because now all I can do is try to tell you about it, rendering it about as believable as that fish I almost caught, how big my band is in Europe, or my girlfriend who lives in Canada (I met her at Niagara Falls -- you wouldn't know her).

But I swear, this thing was legendary. It was like a supermullet, a Jesus among mullets -- a Jullet, sitting right there in traffic next to me. It was so filled with mullet-y goodness that when other hairstyles go to sleep at night, they dream about coming back as this mullet. It was ridiculously spiked on top in a way that made you feel like it was going to be the subject of some sort of "mullet idol" celebrity judging panel -- and believe me, this one was going straight to Hollywood.

I mean, I'm a normal human being who like you wouldn't be caught dead sporting a hairstyle like this, but even so it was impossible to escape the enormity of this thing. It was like that magical half-hour after seeing that ESPN highlight of Tiger Woods sinking a putt where I wondered if golf could actually be something other than mind-numbing bullshit.

Unfortunately as I wasn't really expecting to come into contact with this living and breathing tribute to the power of your second cousin's can of Aqua Net, I didn't have time to prepare an appropriate response. Surely there's got to be a catchphrase or something the mullet people use -- but if you're not up on the lingo, what's the best thing to say?
Weeeee Doggies?
Who lawnmowers your head?
Just get back from the rink, Lemieux?
In the end he drove off so fast that I never really got the chance to say anything, which was probably for the best because you never really know when something meant to be complimentary might be taken the wrong way.
But I do know one thing:
If I ever see that hair again, I'll be sure to let it know that Chuck Norris admits
he was wrong and just wants it to come home so they can be a family again.
[Listening to: Social Distortion, "Bad Luck"]

Wednesday, February 21

Ride Captain Ride

Last night after getting off work I called up an old friend of mine to see if he was doing anything interesting for Fat Tuesday. A former resident of New Orleans, it was a day that he usually made sure to celebrate in some fashion or another every year, regardless of where he was living at the time.

But instead of planning on some sort of homespun beads and zydeco party, what Armond was excited about was his latest score -- a nearly mint condition Rhodes Mark I Stage Piano that he'd gotten for a steal of a price from a local music store. They don't really make these anymore -- so just finding one is a big deal, but it was clear from the excitement in his voice that this one was not only in fantastic shape, but almost identical to the one he played while playing with various touring bands over the years.

The decision was made to break the instrument in the best way possible, by having a jam session that night. As with any night at the Cafe Beat -- wine and food would be available for all, and if nothing else it was a chance to hang with dear friends I haven't seen as much as I should have in the past few months.

Unfortunately I headed into this adventure knowing full well I hadn't played guitar much at all lately, which made me worry that I might not make a good showing. But the best thing about a jam session is that it's more about the spirit of what you're doing than getting every single note perfect.

So I headed out, drank some wine, traded a few stories, and had a good time catching up. Regardless of periods of time when we don't get many chances to hang out, Armonds house is in a lot of ways a home away from home for me. A couple of years back I spent almost an entire summer in that room mastering tracks for a blues album we were producing at the time -- but even if I hadn't it's just one of those places where everything feels comfortable and right.
Every time I go back there it makes me wonder why I ever let
myself fall out of the habit of stopping by on a regular basis.
As night moved on and the wine began kicking in, people began gravitating towards the musical instruments in the living room. At first it was just messing around, but soon after more people started showing up -- and the need to find out what the Rhodes sounded like became imperative.

So as Armond set things up I plugged my guitar straight into the mixing console, not really overly concerned with effects or anything as much as I just wanted to play some chords and see what might happen. This was about the time Rick Arcusa showed up. Rick's a local musician Armond's been working with a lot lately -- producing and promoting his band and just hanging out with the way musicians sometimes do. Rick's one of those guys who can play just about any instrument he picks up, which works out nicely when you're in a studio that has everything from trumpets to theremins close at hand.

Eventually though we settled into an easy setup with Armond at the Rhodes, me on guitar, and Rick working the bass. It's always interesting when you jam with people you've only just met because there's always a desire to let someone else take the lead. Even if you have an alpha dog personality, you don't want to overpower the session and kill the vibe early. So there was a lot of meandering around trying to decide what to play until Armond almost absently played one of the signature keyboard fills from "Riders on the Storm."

Within minutes we kicked into the tune as much as we could without preparation, occasionally tripping over ourselves in the process -- but eventually finding a nice pocket where we traded a few solos and generally got the few people sitting around to bob their heads with the beat.

This went on for a little while with a few tunes, but it became quickly clear that while we were all easygoing and open-minded as players, our backgrounds and styles were different enough that it was kinda hard to settle on material.

There are generally two types of jam sessions you can be in as a musician. Free-form improvisational things that offer few boundaries or restrictions, where stretching and experimentation are encouraged and help build the momentum of the thing, or (like in this case) trying to find songs that everyone either knows or could easily figure out. Jams like this are more about building bridges between players, trying to find the kind of common grounds that other things can be built from. But mainly, it's just about having fun without having to worry so much about where the next riff is going to come from.

The problem was, we all knew our share of songs -- but our tastes seemed to span three completely different generations of music. Not that this was a bad thing, but more that it left a lot of roads closed to us that might have been open otherwise. Luckily we had an equalizer, because the star of the jam wasn't really any of us so much as it was the new keyboard Armond had bought. So instead of just throwing out song names hoping to come across something everybody knew how to play, the mantra became "What songs do we know that have great Rhodes parts in them?"

As unique as the instrument is, this question is a lot harder to answer than you might think.

It was at this point that I decided to trade Rick out for the bass. Being the youngest one there, it was a pretty easy choice to make. I like to consider myself pretty versatile as a player, but the simple fact is that the songs I knew by heart weren't by and large the types of things we were going to be playing tonight. Nothing to get bummed out about, of course -- but it just seemed like it would have been counterproductive for me to sit there and say
"How can anyone not know how to play California Uber Alles?"
Rick is the lead singer in a working cover band -- so it just made sense to let him have a melody instrument. Besides, bass guitar is a fun instrument to play -- it's boomy and loud, and offers a lot of chances to experiment with the spaces in-between the notes than a keyboard or guitar does.

Once the switch was made, it was easier to get things moving -- because as he mentally clicked through his mental library of songs Rick would pick out a chord or two, which usually was enough for the rest of us to fill in the blanks. It turned into more of a classic pop tunes night than the blues jam Armond might have originally envisioned, but sometimes when you take a song that everybody knows and spice them up with your own style and flair it becomes a whole new animal -- which sparks everyone's creativity.

So as that spirit sort of filled the room tunes by Bill Withers, Blues Image, The Hollies, Three Dog Night, and even Buck Owens opened up into new territories -- while songs that we were more familiar with ("Wish You Were Here," by Pink Floyd, "Stormy" by Santana) fell into comfortable pockets that made it easy to groove with.

We even took at stab at the Monkees - which was weird at first but ended up sounding really good by the time we were done with it.

What really made the songs work for this jam though was something that couldn't have existed if we'd opted for more experimental territory - and that was the lyrics. We didn't know every word to every tune, but having to work around the vocal melody kept us from playing too much outside of the songs themselves. Having not played in a long time, and certainly not in these sorts of stylistic confines made this facet an extra challenge for me, especially because in a lot of cases despite having heard these songs for years and years on end, a lot of these tunes I'd never even tried to play before in my life.

I mean, it was a great time and all - and we're hoping to do it again, but I think there actually was a point where I kind of stepped outside of myself and thought,
"Holy crap, did I really just say Jeremiah was a Bullfrog?"
[Listening to: Gene Pitney, "Town Without Pity"]

Tuesday, February 20

Skills to Make Mils

I've come up with a new, can't miss scheme to get rich:
Somewhere in the next two weeks I'm going to write, record,
and sell a new album of original songs entitled "Chinese Democracy"
And when/if Axl Rose and Guns n' Roses ever get around to releasing their album of the same name I'm gonna sue their asses for copyright infringement.
Who's with me?
[Listening to: We Are Royalty, "Three Steps"]

Saturday, February 17

Just Admit It

You wish you had it this good.
[Listening to: David Bowie, "Suffragette City"]

Friday, February 16

An Open Letter to the CRX Nation

I'm a pretty easy-going guy when it comes to accepting differences in people. What works for some isn't going to work for others, and that's fine. Far too many problems in this world start when one person decides that their way of looking at things is the only possible solution -- and then condemns anyone who thinks differently without first understanding why.

So it's with a careful tongue that I speak to you here, because what I'm about to say could easily be construed as me trying to tell you how I think you should live your life, and really -- nothing could be further from the truth. The choices you make are yours to decide, and even if they aren't the way I would do things that doesn't give me the right to deny you that power.

It's just that I've reached a point where I feel like my opinion needs to be heard. Not because I know everything, not because I'm always right (because I'm not), but because what I'm about to say to you comes from an individual perspective outside of your own. I offer this thought to you as something to consider, perhaps evaluate and compare to your own perspectives, in the hope that after taking some time to think about it, you'll understand not only the meaning that I'm trying to convey, but also the spirit in which I'm offering it.
So with all that in mind -- here's the thing:
I don't think if the opportunity ever presented itself that Bob Marley would actualy want to smoke pot with you.
Really now, enough is enough. Bob Marley was a lot of things -- songwriter, activist, father, survivor, hero, icon; but the more you push this issue the more I fear those thoughts are in danger of becoming more and more lost every time one of you losers puts a bumper sticker on your car telling me it's "4:20 somewhere."

This is a man who at times risked his own life to promote messages of peace, love, and equality. Besides working to calm political tensions in his native Jamaica, he was one of the most visible and stringent supporters of independence efforts across Africa in the 60's and late 70's. His faith in his religious beliefs was so pronounced that he is considered by many to be a prophet of Rastafarianism. In fact, his unwavering adherence to the tenants of his faith may have even played a role in accelerating his own demise.
And ok, yeah -- he smoked a lot of weed too.
But every time I see a sticker on the back of a car featuring Marley mid-toke in front of some psychedelic tie dyed background and whatever slogan it is this time written in that wretchedly overplayed 60's hippie font, it's like you're trying to tell me that this was all he was ever really about.

The fact of the matter is that cannabis is considered a sacred sacrament in the Rastafarian faith, and if there's anything we know for sure about Bob Marley it was just how devoted he was to his religion. Not that I'm sure he didn't enjoy it for it's own sake -- but it wasn't the only thing he stood for, understand?

Taking this one facet of his lifestyle and creating this entire marketing persona around it makes about as much sense as telling people they should convert to Catholicism based solely on the fact that they give out free wine.

I'm not saying don't smoke pot. If that's what you're into, then by all means knock yourself out. I've said it many times -- just because I don't do it doesn't mean I have a problem with the habit itself. I don't even really have that much of a problem with some of the other seemingly disingenuous facets that seem to follow along with the lifestyle. So go ahead and grow your smelly white-kid dreads, wear all the red, black, and green woven hats you want -- because really, despite the fact that these things have origins in a country you couldn't possibly have been born in -- they've been largely co-opted (at least in image) into being almost trademark accents of stoner culture. Which is fine (annoying perhaps, but it's not like I can't claim to have never played in a drum circle or two over the course of my life).

I'm not even saying not to celebrate Bob Marley. The man wrote some amazing songs. But more than that he was an incredibly positive person with dedicated beliefs who tackled issues and causes far beyond what anyone might have ever expected of him -- and yet he always wore that mantle with pride and grace. By all means, take the time to listen, appreciate, and enjoy his music to the fullest

But for god's sake, leave the man alone.
Just because you share a habit doesn't mean he deserves to be turned into Ronald McDonald.
I swear it's like you think he's your best bro or something. Like if Bob Marley was alive today -- in a world filled with hate, terror, and war (not to mention untold tragedies going on in Rwanda and other parts of the African continent that was so close to his heart) he would really have time for you. Besides, the guy had like 13 kids -- do you really think come Friday night he's gonna stand in front of them and say
"Sorry Imani, Sharon, Ziggy, Stephen, Robbie, Rohan, Karen, Stephanie, Julian, Ky-Mani, Belnavis, Damian, and Makeda -- I know you'd probably love it if I could stay around here to give you guidance and be a part of your lives, but it's almost time for South Park, and I kinda promised Topher and Korndog I'd do some bong hits with them tonight."
I mean lets face it -- it's too late for Che Guevara. Once they start selling your face on a t-shirt at Target, it doesn't really matter what you stood for. But there's still time for Bob. Every year at a thousand college campuses across the country kids shake off whatever shackles they believe they have, go to the student union, buy a copy of Legend and spend the next month or so pretending to like patchouli. It's a rite of passage. But even so -- what it really offers is a chance for generation after generation to get exposed to some truly great music. Music that transcends whatever thoughts of rebellion might have brought you to it.

But you've gotta stop buying bongs shaped like his head, or with a picture of him fastened to the side, ok? That's really a step too far. That's taking it from being two things that might go well together to being one idea that only exists for the sake of another - and if that's all he is to you, then you really need to rethink your whole outlook.

The real problem with all of this though is that Bob Marley is unable to speak for himself on these matters. Someone out there is driving this whole "licensing away his image for income" scheme, and while they may have once been married to the guy, it isn't the dude himself.

What we really need is for something drastic to happen. For the message to be spelled out loud and clear in a way that no one could possibly misunderstand. What we need more than ever is Zombie Marley.

I swear to god I would give every dime I could ever make in this life if I could just once see his half-decayed corpse shuffle into the crowds at Bonnaroo or Coachella and shout
"What the hell are you people listening to, this sucks!!"
[Listening to: Peter Tosh, "Steppin' Razor"]

Wednesday, February 14

The Truth About Valentines Day

Today at lunch I headed out of the office to run a few errands. It’s been one of those days where it seems like all I’ve been doing since I’ve got here is putting out little fires – so it was nice to get away from it for a bit, but at the same time what I really wanted was an escape from all the Valentines Day festivities that were happening all around me.

E-mails for people to come pick up flower deliveries, everyone wearing red, wives and family members surprising people in their cubicles... all very sweet things -- but when you’re not in on the fun there’s only so much you can take, you know?

So I snuck out at lunchtime, took care of my stuff, and then started thinking about maybe getting something to eat. I wasn’t really hungry per se, but because of all the things happening at the office my energy was really low – so eventually I decided to drop in on this nearby smoothie place to snag something that could at least help me get through the afternoon.

But as I’m walking towards the door of the place I catch sight of this other guy walking towards the same door with a hopeful smile on his face
Carrying a vase full of red and white roses.
Part of me starts to consider bailing on this whole smoothie shop idea right then and there, because suddenly it’s pretty clear that there’s no way my order is going to be the central focus of the girl behind the counter’s attention. Plus this dude’s clearly amped up about this "surprise her at work with flowers" gambit -- and my being there kinda interferes with his game. I mean, I really don’t know this guy from Adam, but it’s pretty set dude law to let a guy have his moment if you can possibly help it.

But by this time in the day I was pretty 'effin sick of the whole thing and above everything else -- really in a hurry to get back and finish up all my work. Eventually I decided to slow down and stall a second to let him make the delivery, but if he wanted to bask in the afterglow he’d just have to wait the extra two minutes.

He stepped in the place and made his delivery. I made sure to kinda stray outside the door for a second, but it was hard not to notice through the glass her surprised smile when she saw the vase. I guess I looked too long though, because she pointed me out to him, and shrugged as if to say "Sorry, I’ve got a customer."

Sensing my cue I stepped in the door -- but it was kinda hard not to feel like a heel as I watched the guy head back to his car. I even apologized to the girl after I placed my order, saying "I guess I picked the worst possible time I could have to show up like this, eh?"

Only to have her roll her eyes and respond,
"Are you kidding? I should be thanking you -- I can’t stand that guy."
[Listening to: Ice-T, "GLGBNAF"]

Tuesday, February 13

Monday, February 12

Shags Like a Minx

I talk to myself.
It's an old habit, occasionally embarrassing -- but probably too far set in to break. I think everyone does it to a tiny extent, reminding themselves of tasks to take care of, or saying something enough times to emboss it into our short term memories.

Not that I'm always sitting around having full-blown conversations with myself (although that has been known to happen), but that sometimes I have a comment that I feel needs to be made, and just thinking it doesn't seem to be enough.
I don't exactly know where this habit comes from -- but I have a theory.
See, I have this grandmother (I should preface this by saying she has done some wonderful things for me and my family in the past) who is completely unbearable to be around. A big part of this is that she has reached that magical age where she feels no need to censor any thoughts that should cross her mind, regardless of how ludicrous, ill-timed, or insensitive they might be. Which would be fine I suppose (that’s just how old people are sometimes) if she weren’t such an insensitive, bitter, and caustic person to start with.

It’s weird to say that about my own grandmother – who like I said has been sweet to me in the past. But the unfortunate fact remains that I simply have far too many other memories of her belittling people who want to care about her, hurting the ones those people care about, and never being able to see past her own front yard at the expense of any and everyone close enough to be affected.

And yet, above it all – she’s still family, and even though sometimes it’s literally like walking through a minefield, I (and a surprising number of my relatives) seem to come up with some excuse or another in order to convince themselves that putting up with her shit is still somehow the right thing to do.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t all find ways to try and make the experience more bearable.
I’ve never known my grandmother without a hearing aid. I’m sure at some point she didn’t need one, but as long as I’ve been alive it’s been there -– peeking out from her ear like some plastic, flesh-colored sentry keeping watch day and night over the flow of ideas and information seeping into her brain.

So if you ever meet my grandmother you’ll learn one thing really quick. If you need her to hear something, you kind of have to shout it at her. But what you realize equally as fast is that if you don’t shout, you can say just about anything you want and she’ll never know it.

When we were little kids there was nothing my brother and I loved doing more than playing "guess which ear works" – a game where we would do our best to speak words like "booger" and "fartknocker" louder and louder to see who could string the most words together before she noticed what we were doing.
I know it sounds cruel, but it was guaranteed giggles in the backseat on those long trips to Tree Hill in the Summertime.
Now before you start looking at me like I’m some sort of villain, you need to understand something -- I’ve spent a the better part of my life watching people engage in two-volume conversations with this woman. Most people start out with a normal tone, patiently repeating themselves while simplifying their messages each time in hopes of reaching an understanding – only to find a few weeks later (after putting up with endless attacks to their body image, lifestyle, political affiliations, spouses, and career choices) that they end up talking to her just like the rest of us do –- deftly mixing personal barbs and profanity with overly loud small talk and agreeable platitudes designed to find out what she wants without somehow inspiring her to once again tell the story of how her tour group went to a restaurant in Germany and the band played Dixie for them.

My poor dad has to deal with her so much that his skills have reached jedi-inspiring levels. It’s not everyone who can make the sentence "Give me a second so I can get a rope and keel-haul you from the back of my bumper" sound so much like "OF COURSE I’LL DRIVE YOU TO WALGREENS, LET ME GET MY COAT" that even you’re not sure you heard it right.

The simple fact is after some of the things she’s said to us over the years – this is the least we can do to pay her back.

The problem is that once you get the hang of it it’s kinda hard to shake the habit. From fast food employees to disrespectful coworkers who believe they have some sort of authority over your free time, two-volume talking is far too tempting a retaliation to leave for family reunions or while you’re helping carry someone’s tray for the fifty-billionth time at Piccadilly.

For example, despite the fact that I have no way to prove their bloodlines are connected, I’ve worked for a number of people in several different states who I’ve referred to openly (albeit quietly) as "Your Royal Assholiness." (come to think of it, you’ve probably worked for one of them too).

Unfortunately, because there are so many motards out there in the world today, simply slinging profanity at them tends to get old. This is especially true when a) You don’t really know who they are and b) you’re only really annoyed at the way they’re dressed, how slow they drive, or just how many gallons of Tag body spray they decided to put on this morning before driving to the DMV.

So what I find developing in myself more than anything these days is sort of a low-decibel running commentary consisting of quotes from old horror movies, golden era cartoons, song lyrics, miscellaneous episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and commercial advertising slogan references that only I and like three other people get.

It’s not that I planned or developed this particular style of kung fu after many years of meditation and study, it’s just that when I’m standing on the escalator next to a guy wearing an OJ Simpson football jersey, the first thing that pops into my head is usually something ridiculous and arcane, like
"Hell of a birthmark, Hal"
"TK-421, why aren't you at your post?"
I mean, for all I know the guy could be a huge Buffalo Bills fan. Or hell, it could have been OJ himself – tracking down Nicole’s killers – at a mall in Jacksonville, ..wearing his own jersey, ...drinking an Orange Julius. The point here is, whatever his reason for wearing OJ’s jersey, I felt it deserved, nay demanded commentary.

The problem is that out of the three people who might get these jokes -- I’m the only one really close enough to hear me say it. And despite what TV sitcoms try to tell you, no one-liner has the shelf life to survive long enough for me to make a long distance call to Brooklyn just to say "So when I saw her eating her french fries with a fork of course I had to say it’s wafer thin!"

Still, if you're ever out and about and want to entertain yourself for 20 minutes or so – try to find out where I’m walking in a crowd of people and stand close enough so you can listen in on the fun. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll hear me say things like

"I’d Buy That for a Dollar!"
"Just Like Beggar’s Canyon Back Home.."
"Did Anyone Think to Dredge the Lake?"
"Like Eight Bitches on a Bitch Boat!"
"Flawless Victory"
"Look Who’s Doing the Walk of Shame!”
"Boy You Mu’s Sure Know How to Party!”
"Who throws a shoe? Honestly --You fight like a woman!"
"Don’t Be Stingy With Your Love!"
    (and these were all from the last time I was at a Starbucks)
I was the kid who used to make up entire stories surrounding the matchbox cars and plastic army men I played with during recess. Those stories involved voice-overs, car crash noises, and of course the inevitable Wilhelm screams that would come when the matchbox cars transformed into robots and slaughtered the pinecone that had somehow been drafted to act as the supervillain halfway through the scene.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only kid who played that way, but I sometimes worry that I’m the only 34-year old who never stopped.
...And I wonder why I don’t have any friends.
[Listening to: Bad Brains, "Sheba"]

Sunday, February 11


So I rented the rest of the DVD's for the first season of How I Met Your Mother.
What can I say -- I'm kinda hooked.
It's an interesting show -- engaging in a surprising way. There’s this running theme that seems to permeate all of the storylines thats represented by separate characters at different times. It’s this idea about the value and difference between being impulsive and going for what you want versus taking the time to consider what a given decision might mean, weighing the consequences, and being sure about yourself before taking a stand.

But what makes it interesting is the way that each decision making process seems to offer equal chances for failure and success.

For example, the careful decision maker -- the guy who over-thinks everything keeps screwing his own world up by thinking too much, and yet he’s clearly the protagonist of the show (and if the title is any indication will come out on top when all is said and done). But on the other hand the impulsive character is the one who seems to have his life the most under control, which in turn leads to him being the one who appears to be the one having the most fun (although it’s hinted a lot that despite all of this there’s a basic hollowness to that lifestyle that might eventually catch up with him).

It’s like I find myself half the time saying, "Stop thinking about it and just go! " only to turn around a second later and catch myself yelling at a completely different character to "Don’t do it man, don’t do it!"

In other words - both approaches are shown to be equally effective and disastrous at different times.

I mean lets face it, no matter how different the spin might be -- this is still prime time TV. The formula is always there, and it's not really going away. The hero will eventually get the girl of his dreams and everything will work out ok. But what I find interesting is that inside that foregone conclusion seems to be episode after episode suggesting that even when that victory is won, there will be a string of missed opportunities and what if's left in it's wake that you can either dive in and take for what they're worth or regret passing on forever.

I don’t know. I’m notoriously bad when it comes to making big decisions -- and in a lot of ways this show seems to speak directly to that process. Maybe that’s what fascinates me about it -- because to me it's not so much a collection of stories dating and relationships as much as it is one long story suggesting that how we choose things is almost as important as the choices themselves.

At the same time it’s weird because I continually catch myself returning to the surface -- connecting not so much with the characters, but with the situations portrayed. Finding places where the instances on the screen take me back (or perhaps forward in speculation) to events in my own life. Decisions made too quickly, choices missed because of hesitation, the times where I mistook being selfish for being happy,
... people that got hurt along the way.
Unfortunately as the night went along, the stories started hitting close to home, and it became a really different sort of experience.

I like the spirit behind the humor. I think the writing's really smart.
But it took me a long time to watch certain parts of it.
And some of it I couldn't really watch at all.
[Listening to: Chevelle, "Get Some"]

Friday, February 9

Guess Girl

What's this collective gasp? What's with all these surprised phone calls and blog entries? Could it be that we all suddenly feel bad now? Are we all really so self-righteous enough to think that somehow this was society's fault?
Grow the fuck up.
Life doesn't play fair. Shit happens, and it happens hard. Just because somebody danced around in Kanye’s video doesn't mean you get to feel guilty and somehow take credit for it.

Veterinarians tell you not to give chocolate to dogs, but people still try to do it. The thing about it though is that most of the time the animal won't actually eat it, or they'll force it back up a little later. But there's always that one. That one that will. That one who is so happy for any attention you want to give it that they'd rather die than say no.

Her child died. Probably the only pure thing she had, and it was taken away from her. But you know what -- things like that happen every day. Gunshots go through walls, brakes lock up, swimming pool gates aren't shut all the way. A million different diseases in a million different cities all across the world. Every one of these things a butterfly flapping its wings only to become a hurricane somewhere else.

Remember that one kid in school -- the one who didn't really know how to handle himself in social situations, the one who didn't have the coordination for sports, the one who had to wear those glasses? The girl who's body developed early? The kid who was a little heavier than all the others?

You don't think they wanted to be beautiful, graceful, or athletic? You think people wanted that extra weight on their shoulders, around their waist, or strapped to their eyes?

But we didn't care. We didn't see them as people. They were tools, ways to divert the spotlight away from our own flaws and insecurities. So we pushed, we cut, and we learned the hard way about the darkness that hides inside each and every one of us.

So don't come to me with your after the fact guilt. Don't sit there in your TV studio and point fingers at something that happened and try to convince me that this is what's wrong with the world's morals today, that somehow this wouldn't have happened if she'd just stayed in that trailer park and hadn't tried to be something more.

Yeah she was a train wreck. Yes she lived her life off her looks, her body, and the bad decisions she couldn't seem to keep from making. And I fully admit it -- I looked. I watched. I pointed, and I laughed. We all did. Sure she could have done a lot of things differently, and maybe taken the opportunities and success she was given to rise above the image and become something better.
..But she didn't.
And you know what?
Sometimes you don't either.
Sometimes all you or I can manage is a grudging acceptance of the frames our pictures sit inside while we try to find comfort inside the reality show we live in every day. So go home tonight and hug your kids. Call up your friends and go somewhere fun. Relish every moment you have, and be thankful that there aren't cameras in your face every time the clouds in your life turn to rain.

Just promise me one thing:
If Elton John even tries to write a song about this
you'll be right there with me when I kick his ass.
[Listening to: NonPoint, "Rabia"]

Wednesday, February 7

Slutty Pumpkin

Just in time for Black History Month, I've found myself sort of unintentionally reconnecting with my honky heritage. Not so much in an "eat more Velveeta" way, but along the lines of something far more sinister:
Prime-time Network Sitcoms
It's embarrassing to admit it, but every now and then I find myself drawn to formulaic comedy shows that other people watch and talk about. It's like some natural urge that shows up like once or twice a year where I find myself looking for something to watch and get like fifteen minutes into the story before I realize in horror that I'm actually watching M*A*S*H.

I love to laugh, and I like TV. What I hate (and normally avoid) is taking part in the sort of TV show crazes that normally affect my honky brethren. As such, I've never really seen an episode of The Office, and I only really know Friends, Seinfeld, and American Idol from the occasional rerun, or the constant morning recaps that happen in the cubicles adjacent to mine in the office.

Generally, my TV tastes run somewhere farther south -- consisting mainly of cartoons, monster movies, and reality shows featuring Flava Flav. But during the week preceding the Superbowl my television was literally assaulted by ads for a new show called The Rules of Engagementthat featured David Spade, Patrick Warburton, and some other schmoe in the latest spin on the "dating and marriage are thankless suck-fests that drain the soul out of normal guys while empowering their domineering yet waaay to hot to be with them anyways girlfriend/wife who is always right regardless of what the argument about (featuring an assortment of funny neighbors and at least one nagging relative)" brand of sitcom humor.

The problem was, even though I knew deep in my heart that this show would have nothing really new to offer I was still curious about it. Maybe it was the fact that I'm a big fan of Patrick Warburton's work (he was The Tick, for Chrissakes), and even when he's not trying to -- David Spade makes me laugh. They've worked together on a lot of things, but (and this probably makes me sound really lame) when my son was really young one of his absolute favorite movies was The Emperor’s New Groove (featuring both Spade and Warburton), which may be one of the funniest Disney animations I've ever seen.
Or maybe it was simply the fact that they played the ad for it eleventy billion times during the Superbowl and it seemed funnier than the way Rex Grossman was playing at the time.
Whatever the case, Monday night rolled around, I Love New York wasn't on -- and I figured what the hell, lets see what it's like.
..It sucked.
I suppose there's potential for something there, but all too often it was the same thing over and over -- Husbands are prisoners, Engaged guys are doomed, and single people are actually tragic heroes who go to great lengths hide their inner pain while secretly wishing they too had someone special just like the friends they hang out with on the show. There were far too many moments where the writers wanted me to guess the punch lines to the jokes followed inevitably by the moment where I could be proud of myself when I found out that I was right (yay, he baked the cake!)

Plus, just in case I wasn't sure where the jokes were -- they had a laugh track or some studio audience letting me know when laughter was the appropriate response. I wanted to follow it all the way through, but they never got away from "the formula" and eventually I just gave up on it.

The worst part about it though was the fact that halfway through I stopped seeing it as a bad television show and began to sorta analyze it as a failed writing experience. I began sort of turning the script over in my head, thinking about how I could have changed it around to make the story seem more interesting.
Armchair Scriptwriting
Normally I would chalk something like this up to "taking a chance on something and having it fall short" -- but for whatever reason this time I found myself sorta wishing for closure. Like I needed too see a funny show to act as some sort of palette cleanser for this unbelievably crappy one.

Or at least that was the though process running through my head when I was standing at Blockbuster the other night trying to decide what to spend my free movie coupon on. I browsed through all the movies and couldn't find anything that really caught my eye until I came to the TV on DVD section and saw the box for season 1 disc 1 of a show called How I Met Your Mother.

Despite the fact that on first glance it comes off looking like a Friends rip-off, I had to admit being kinda curious about it. Add the fact that Whatigotsofar is always talking it up and that I wasn't going to be paying a dime for the rental, it seemed like a decent choice.

Here’s the thing: It’s funny in places. Formulaic and schmaltzy at times, but quirky enough to where there were a few actual surprises. Neil Patrick Harris’ character is a scream, but what I realized watching the last few episodes was that it wouldn’t really matter what lines he was reading – the difference with this show was that you could tell the actors were actually having fun doing it.

And that’s when it hit me. Rules of Engagement didn’t die on the vine because it wasn’t funny – it stunk because you couldn’t help but be aware that the people in the story were actors pretending to be real people. It’s like they going through the motions, reading the lines because that’s what they get paid to do.

Not that How I Met Your Mother doesn’t have it’s flaws (like the whole concept of the married man talking to his kids 30 years in the future about every experience, including the meaningless sex and failed relationships he endured while slogging through the New York dating scene– which any kid will tell you are the stories you always want to hear from your dad), or that it didn’t fall into predictable patterns now and then – because it did, but that there was something appealing about the chemistry between the cast and the extras. It looks like a fun show to be on. But more than that, the New York that acts as the shows backdrop looks like a fun New York to live in (regardless of the fact that the real New York probably isn't anything like that at all).

Still, it was really hard not to notice just how lily-white the whole thing was. It’s weird, because there are plenty of ethnic characters on the show (not in the main cast, mind you – but all around them) but that the settings feel undeniably preppy – which might be the theme the show’s creator’s are going for, but always leads to trouble later in the series when the writers start to get conscious about it. You can almost sense the plot line coming where the lonely-guy lead character is like "I’m dating a black girl -- what do I do?" or "I’m meeting her Asian parents, and I don’t know when to bow!"
Hopefully they won’t stoop to that level,
but somehow you know they’re just gonna..
In the end, though – what I think really struck me about the show was the way it echoed the thoughts that have been swirling around my head lately about needing more friends/running buddies/things to do that don’t involve staying home alone and wishing I had something do to. Even if it was a TV version of things, the characters on the show were undeniably connected in a way that I would like to emulate to some extent in my life.

I want people to tell my stories to. I want people to make inside jokes with. I want people who will laugh when I’m stupid, or to tell me that it’s gonna be ok when things turn to crap.The problem is that I need them more than just 30 minutes a night, once a week after a new episode of The Class.
And I need them to be here.
[Listening to: Whole Wheat Bread, "206"]

Thursday, February 1

Cognitive Dissonance

The sand falls from the top before it can build at the bottom.
You're there and then you fade.
The disappear is seamless, edge dissolved and clean -- like some Hollywood special effect, some manufactured trick of the eye. One minute you're in the picture and the next you're gone. A faded afterimage, burned chemically into the cellulose, only to be digitally removed as the world grows up all around.

Sometimes I find myself fading. Raising the opacity of the work layer of my life's picture above all the others, letting myslef get lost in what I'm doing and not thinking about anything else. But even sometimes that in itself is an effort to not face things that are hard to resolve.

It's like my whole deal lately (although the theme seems to be a recurring one) is this utter sense of loneliness that I've been dealing with. Not just because of personal distances, but also in terms of a realization that I had recently:
I don't have any running buddies.
I know a handful of people here in town, but most of them are either married with kids (which makes finding free time hard), locked into some social habit I really can't get behind, or just too tied into their own thing that there's no room for something else.

At the same time I fully admit to being a friend snob. Over the years I've had the good fortune to connect with some seriously cool people. Some of them I grew up with, while others have come into my life through jobs, other friends, or across the wires of this superhighway. Unfortunately the majority of these either live or have moved to different places - following the winds in their sails to whatever ends that they might take them too.

And while I'll always be grateful for the friends I've made in my life, one fact remains clear. Having all of you in my life has utterly spoiled me, a fact proven time and time again as other people routinely fail to pass muster. And while I mean that as a compliment to those I know and love, the simple fact is that it leaves me with very few devices. I need to meet people, I want to find friends I can hang with, but I end up searching for these things all alone, and it gets frustrating.

Plus I'm not always the big social butterfly even when I need to be. Like for example, this past weekend was mine to spend with my son. There's this HUGE playground near the Ponte Vedra suburbs that I sometimes bring the boy to because it's by far the biggest and best maintained public playground I know of. It's always crammed with kids and parents hanging out -- but it is a hoidy-toidy part of town so most of the parents have those cel phone earpieces going and are carrying on business conversations as they push their children on the swings. Still, it's always comfortable place to go.

Anyways, when I have my weekends with my son or I'm out doing something with him my ex-wife will occasionally call up and ask if she can "tag along." She says she gets lonely when the boy's not around, and depsite all that's happened it's good for the three of us to get out togther once in a while. There are probably other currents running in that stream -- but sometimes you just have to let it all go and climb on a few jungle gyms as a family, you know?

So we’re playing and doing our thing when this other kid taps my son on the shoulder and says that they go to the same school. Almost immediately my ex seeks out this kid's parents, and within moments is laughing and chatting away; getting phone numbers and setting up play dates, networking, whatever -- Which is like the LAST thing I would have ever done. If somebody came up to me and said "hey our kids are playing together" my first response would probably be something like "Oh crap, what happened - how much do I owe you?"

I mean, who knows if my ex will ever actually call these people, but at the very least she made the effort. I don't really have much interest in flitting around parent to parent and making that sort of contact, but at the same time it's kind of exactly what I need to be doing if I want to solve this whole "running buddy" dilemma.

I think having all this in my head put extra motivation on me to make sure my kid was at the birthday party for the son of one of my oldest friends, Chris. He doesn't live that far from me, but his job is pretty involving and he spends most of his off time with his wife and 2 kids. We trade emails now and then, but even that fell off when I went through my recent unemployment jag, mainly because ..there just wasn’t that much to talk about outside of that fact.

I thought it would give our kids a chance to play and maybe allow for some time to hang with Chris myself -- seeing as it had been far too long since we'd had a chance to hang out, but there was always that chance that perhaps being in a group of people like that might offer the chance for meeting people worth meeting. But when I got there it was a totally different scene. Sure there were a bunch of kids I'd never seen before (classmates at the preschool, apparently) being doted on by upper-middle class types complaining about the price of private schools, but what I immediately noticed was that almost all of the old gang I used to hang out with when Chris and I were back in school were there. From Tiffany and Jason (who I hadn't seen in ages), to Chris' father Bailey (who lives most of the year in Detroit as a part of his job), his mother, sister, and even his grandparents were there.

And that's when it struck me -- these were almost exactly the same people who were always at Chris' house all the time when I was there. Even all these years later this same core group had found a way to come together (without really trying to do so).

But the weird thing that started turning over in my mind was the fact that they're all still here. Most of these people had stayed here after graduation, or (like me) had moved back after venturing away.

As I talked to them it became clear that just like the old days they still mainly hang out with each other. Everyone has their work friends or whatever -- but when you get right down to it this group of people that were inseparable as kids are in a lot of ways still tied to each other as adults. I probably shouldn't really be referring to them as some sort of separate group, because even though I've been probably the most absent of all of them from hanging out -- you'd never know it from the party.

That's what it's supposed to be like with friends, of course - instant comfort without posturing or any other BS to speak of, but it was still kind of weird. I mean, in a lot of ways it felt almost exactly like a scene from those days -- talking music with Jason, half-flirting with Tiffany, horseplay with Kelly, laughing with Chris, getting hassled about my piercings from Bailey (only to have him offer me a beer a few minutes later), and Chris mother and grandparents alternately asking when my dad was going to come by again.
Save for the fact that we all have kids and look older, it
could have been any old weekend at the MacEwan's house.
But later that afternoon as we said our goodbyes and exchanged numbers I found myself digging into the experience, thinking probably way too much about the whole thing. I mean, on one hand these people sort of already are running buddies (or at least they used to be) and if I wanted to, I could probably easily fall right back in the fold. But at the same time, there is something quietly bothersome about the fact that these are the ones who didn't leave Jacksonville, the people who (at least from outward appearances) wanted to stay here, wanted to get married and start a family (which is cool, more power to ya) - but it was the sort of mindset that probably created the space that eventually developed between us in the first place.

For my part, I moved (not far enough, obviously) away from Jacksonville to avoid that very sort of thing, and try to make my own mark on the world. I didn't want to stay here -- like so many hometowns there was a time when I simply felt that I had outgrown the place.

Which is why I sometimes quietly view the fact that all these years later I'm back here, hanging out in a lot of the same places I did when I was a teenager as a failure of sorts.

In short, There are reasons it happened, and I'm making the best of it -- but this isn't the life I wanted. This isn't where I wanted to be. But there I was on that windy Sunday afternoon thick as thieves with people I love and adore who in many ways achieved those exact things they wanted, and are happy as clams to have them.
There's a connection, and yet I feel utterly separate.
What’s worse, there’s always a chance that it’s a division I'm creating myself..
I don't know exactly when or why , but somewhere in the last six months my self-confidence took an enormous hit that I'm still trying to recover from. As a result (despite the fact that I hate when I get like this) -- I've been doing the whole mopey thing more than I really want to be lately -- which has led me to all sorts of extremes in terms of trying to either relish the emotional well I've been sitting in or claw my way out of it.

I mean, I'm not actively trying to cultivate some Neal Pollack-ian sense of cool in a hopeless attempt to deny the fact that I'm almost 35 years old, but it's not that hard to accuse me of still trying to live like it's 1992 or something

I mean sure I have the corporate job, bald spot, and spare tire -- but deep down I still maintain this feeling that I'm a writer/musician who's taken a day job to pay the bills. Almost like some flatbed truck will drive by the office with a rock band playing on the back when suddenly their guitarist slips and falls off the truck to his death, at which point I spring from my cubicle, rip off my security badge/name tag and shout "Here I come to save the day!"

A lot of it probably stems from this sense I have sometimes that makes me feel like I "lost part of myself" during the time my marriage was failing, leaving me a chance now to be more like that person. I don't think that thought process is a bad one, but it occasionally resembles an attempt to live as if I were in my 20's, which sometimes seems like I'm trying to be the square peg in a round hole.

But I can't help who I am -- I mean, I think I'm supposed be really excited about it, but honestly I would prefer The Police to stay broken up and not reform into some old-folks Aerosmith version of themselves that can't play their own songs fast enough or hate each other in the proper manner that gave the original band the edge that made them so appealing to me in the first place (seriously, the only thing I want to see on the Grammy's when the Police re-unite is an unplanned mid-song fist fight between Steward Copeland and Sting).

Maybe that's why I didn't go see the Lemonheads play last week. I'm sure it was a good show and all (I saw Even Dando on his solo tour a year ago, and he was fantastic) but I just didn't feel like I needed to see it, you know? Something about it smells too much like that Pixies reunion that happened recently, or even worse the Sex Pistols fiasco before that.

At the same time I still crave live music. Or perhaps better said I crave being around the atmosphere, the people, and the energy that comes with a good show. That being said, when you're the oldest guy in the mosh pit, everyone knows it.

I guess I'm just in a weird place. I like this job, they seem to like me, the money's good and as long as I don't do something monumentally stupid it seems like I could really find a niche here for as long as I want -- and considering where I was just a few months ago that's a huge step back in the right direction, but now that I have a job I'm finding myself concerned with improving that whole "quality of life" side of the equation, and I guess I'm having troubles figuring out which direction to go in.

One thing does seem clear though -- I shouldn't be sailing this latest pirate adventure alone, so running buddies of some sort seems like a must.
Well that, and the fact that I still think Tiffany is cute.
[Listening to: NonPoint, "Done it Anyway"]

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