Friday, April 25

You've Come a Long Way, Skanky


                                                                                (Centerfolds, 3/24/08)


                                                                                (Studs Pub, 4/24/08)
Actually, if my calculations are correct you've really only gone about 20 miles, but still --
You've got to hand it to her for not giving up on it, eh?
[Listening to:  Skrape"The Ocean" ]


Wednesday, April 23

The Bridge

When I was a little kid growing up in Colorado, one of my favorite things was whenever we would drive out to visit my great-grandparents on their farm. I was only 4-5 years old at the time, but I always looked forward to these trips. We lived in a small suburban town, so everything on that extremely old-style ranch always seemed otherworldly and fascinating.

From the fields of alfalfa that you could run through and leave trails of flattened grass behind you, to the cornstalks that seemed to loom miles over the heads of me and my younger brother, to the family of jackrabbits that hung around the place (our Uncle Carl would sometimes tell us if we ran fast enough we could catch one -- sending the two of us on pointless chases again and again), to Uncle John, who was deaf -- which was endlessly fascinating and weird to me -- probably because I'd never encountered anyone like that before, and it didn't make a lot of sense to me why he talked the way he did.

Perhaps that sounds a bit cruel to read now, but it honestly was one of the things I really looked forward to whenever we traveled out there.
But by far, the best thing of all about the place was The Bridge.
It was a big farm. I remember that much (although being so young, it makes me wonder if my childhood recollections are ever to scale). There were different areas for different crops. Of course, I know now that the real income for the place came from the single oil well that the government paid the family a fee to operate on their land, but at the time I was continually amazed by the fact that no matter how many fields you walked through on the place, there was always one more waiting to be explored behind it.

Somewhere along that line a makeshift bridge had been built over the irrigation channels to get people from one acre to another. It was more like an overpass than anything, but they had handrails up for safety -- so to me it looked like a bridge over a little river.
And my great-grandfather would let us pee off it.
I have no idea how this particular tradition started. Being the parent of a little boy myself, I am well aware that the timing of nature's call at that age can be a sudden and virtually unavoidable thing, regardless of how recently you've been in the bathroom beforehand -- so I can only assume that there was a fateful decision made to walk around the farm one day where either me or my brother suddenly realized that we had to go really bad at some point where we could have easily been miles away from any sort of bathroom fixtures. The solution was probably an obvious one in my great-grandfather's mind -- but for two suburban kids, the concept of whipping it out and whizzing into the first available body of water was nothing short of revolutionary thinking.

So much so that it became the single thing that we actually looked forward to doing the most every time we visited them.

I mean, it wasn't like we went up to my parents and said "Hey, I've gotta take a leak, lets go visit Grandpa" But rest assured, any time we were at the farm we would beg and plead to "go see the bridge" which would always end up with an unprompted need to go when we got there.

It's strange sometimes how memories work. I mean, as many years back as this was -- I clearly remember this. But I also know that it's a remembrance built partially from my own experiences, yet partially built from my parent's stories about it.
Or more specifically, my parent's arguments about it
Because as silly as it sounds, pre-teen public urination was a concept that my mother simply wouldn't abide.

Equal parts disgust and embarrassment probably played into this -- but as I think on it now with an adults perspective it seems pretty clear that there was a lot more going on here than just a mother's horror that her children enjoyed acting like dirty farm kids and dropping trou in public. It seems more obvious to me now than ever that a huge part of this stemmed from an unspoken power struggle of sorts that was going on at the time between my great-grandfather and the woman who married the boy he had essentially raised.

The first time it happened there probably wasn't a problem. It was most-likely an issue of logistics and necessity. Of wanting to avoid the incredible hassle that is pants-wetting without the benefit of adequate amounts of extra pants on hand.

But looking back now it's hard not to think that all the times after that were a line in the sand that my grandfather wouldn't budge on, if not an open challenge not only her authority and capacity as a parent, but perhaps more importantly her overall level of cool as a person.

As amazing a woman as my mother was during her life, she was always really uptight as a parent. I suppose all moms are like that sometimes, but mine always seemed aggressively (read: annoyingly) so. My dad was always a lot more laid back, which to me always translated to mean that when it came to fun things like riding my tricycle beyond the edge of the driveway or crossing the street in our neighborhood my dad seemed to trust me a lot more than my mom ever did.

Not that my dad was blind to the possible dangers that the outside world presented to his sons, but more that he was more willing to let us walk on the edge than she ever was (or at the very least a lot better at fooling us into thinking that he wasn't two steps away and watching our every step while we believed we were tempting the fates).

Dad let you sit in his lap and steer the car while he worked the pedals. Dad put the dogs leash on the handlebars of your big wheel so the family pet could pull you around. Dad let you hit nails with a hammer, or stand over a hot pan so you could help him flip pancakes.
Mom always freaked out about these things.
They'd argue about it. Disagree. Out-and-out fight. Maybe it was short-sighted of me, but it always made her seem bossy. Uncool. Afraid.

Looking back I guess I can sort of understand her logic now, but knowing the kind of fearless "try anything once" kind of woman she was in almost every other situation -- it's almost more annoying to me now to realize just how much of a buzzkill she could be when I was growing up.

I mean, it wasn't like I was actually driving the car. It wasn't like dad ever left me alone with a hammer in my hands (or let me hit a nail that wasn't already securely pounded into the wood) -- but I didn't know that. All I knew was that he gladly let me do the same things he did and seemed to understand my need to want to prove to him that I could do those things -- and perhaps more importantly, never really got mad if I messed up once or twice along the way.
My dad was the one in my life who always made me feel like anything was possible.
The odd thing is that when it comes to actual personalities, my father is actually the reserved one. My mother was the brash talker, the one who told the rude jokes and liked to sing in public. Mom protested causes. Mom fought with her bosses. She was the one who liked roller coasters and silly hats, the one who would put molted beetle shells on her nose and scare the other kids.
I always felt like she wanted me to be famous (and was always sorta disappointed that I wasn't).
I mean, my dad has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever known -- but he's a quiet man. He stands on his principles, and has his own ways of rebelling against things that he doesn't like, but he's never been the one to make the big leaps or take the big risks.
He's always just wanted me to find a way to be happy.
But he was the one who let me drive the car. And she hated it when I peed off the bridge.

Not surprisingly, I find myself more often than not parenting like him. But as my years go by, I realize more and more just how much certain facets of her personality live in me.

You don't get to choose your parents. And there's really no way to know how their presence (or lack thereof) will affect who you are when you grow up. I know guys whose father's were never there who are probably ten times the dad I'll ever be. I know women who never really knew their dad who seem better adjusted and more willing to take on the world than many of the people I've known whose families were lucky enough to stay intact and be supportive their entire lives.
Hell, I know a man who was raised by the same two parents
I was who has turned out to be half the mess I am sometimes.
But what I find strange is that in a lot of cases we don't always really know who these people who raise us are. Not the way we know or understand our friends. The difference between my endearment for the strong-minded, well-read, independent and above all fearless person that my mother was -- and the feelings of stifling confinement that I usually associate with growing up under that same person's frequently overbearing and occasionally oblivious wing is something that continually puzzles me.

But the realization that my great-grandfather allowed, hell sometimes even encouraged us to pee of that bridge with what now seems like the specific intention of pissing her off a little by calling bullshit on some of her holier-than-thou sensibilities is something that (despite the people involved) makes a lot more sense to me every day I'm alive.
Not to mention the fact that if you were quick enough, you could write your name on the water.

[Listening to:  Lifer"No Need" ]


Friday, April 18

Enrico Pallazzo

I'm not really much of a baseball guy. Never played as a kid, didn't grow up around it -- just never really been my thing. I can appreciate the game, but my interest in it is passing at best. Drinking yourself stupid, on the other hand is something I can completely get behind. So when I got a call from Uncle Ralph the other day looking to see if I wanted to head out to the Baseball Grounds to watch the local minor league team you'd probably think I'd take a pass on it.
But you'd be wrong.
Because the game in question was scheduled on a Thursday, which in this town means one thing: Dollar Beer Night.

The team has recently decided to change the name of this now infamous local event and call it "Thursday Throwdown," but you'll never get anyone else to say that -- because the locals all know it by it's original name:
Thirsty Thursday
I guess the team is trying to figure out ways to clean up the image of the thing, which started out as a desperate attempt to get people out to the yard on a weeknight but has slowly mutated into being an all-out boozefest that apparently has a baseball game going on somewhere in the middle of it -- but it's not like they don't really know what's happening in the stands, or enjoy banking all the money that comes in from it.

Of course, being the south -- you can't really have an open invitation to drink cheap beer without some lugnut eventually deciding what the seventh inning stretch really needs to make it memorable is a fistfight, which is probably why the Sherriff's office was out in total force when we rolled up on the yard. Apparently over the last few years the cops have had to drag all sorts of degenerates out of there on a weekly basis (making it sort of a continual footnote on the evening newscasts), but despite all of this bad press it's not like the owners of the team have any desire to kill off their big cash cow just because one night a week it's not the best place to bring the kids.

So instead of maybe, oh I don't know -- cutting back on the liquor sales a bit, maybe putting a time limit on sales where they cut people off after the seventh inning, or some form of cautionary control over the thing, the suits behind the Jacksonville Suns simply decided to change the name of the thing -- possibly in the hopes that the people who didn't care about the traditions of baseball and only wanted to swill watered-down Budweiser would get confused and stop coming out.
Wait, It's not Thirsty Thursday anymore? Damn, I wanted to get arrested.
Guess it's back to the Mardi Gras room at Bourbon Street Station for me.
In reality the whole thing is all sort of a smokescreen, because from where I was standing it looked like there were more liquor booths and beer tents set up than ever, which was probably a good thing because the word apparently got out to the colleges -- meaning basically every beer hungry undergrad in town descended on the place at once.

The crowds were thick, the lines were insane, and it was basically impossible to move two steps without bumping into someone else. Add to this the fact that the majority of the people there were from the tramp-stamped-heiress-wannabe/khaki-shorts-and-popped-collar-polo-shirt-with-baseball-cap-turned-at-some-specific-angle-to-the-left set, and you've got an instant recipe for people-watching fun.

And not for nothing, but if I can just talk to the guys in the crowd for a moment -- what the hell is up with the designer name supermodel sunglasses trend? Who told you that was a good look? Seriously, if you're a dude trying to pull off that whole Abercrombie and Fitch thing and you decide that it's a good idea to top it all off with an oversized pair of Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, I've got three words for you: Clang, Clang, Clang goes the trolley.

Look, I don't care who your dad is or how much money you've got -- you're a guy. And no self-respecting dude should ever buy anything that could possibly match a purse.
You know what it says on the side of my sunglasses?
Walgreens, motherfucker.
Of course when you're in a crowd of thousands and it seems like half the guys there are sporting that same look you might think that would make it okay, but then you'd be wrong again. And apparently I wasn't the only one who thought so, either -- because in the middle of the 5th inning, somewhere around purchasing my third or fourth double-fisted round just as I was getting back to the spot where the crew were all standing the visiting team's cleanup man cranked a shot up towards the center field bleachers, which seemed to hang in the air forever until it finally decided to fall back down to earth --
Where it bounced clean off the head of some frat boy who was standing about fifty feet away from us.
Knocked his overpriced shades to the floor, and put his ass down for the count. Funniest thing I saw all night.
Or at least it was until we all decided it would be a
good idea to ride the mechanical bull at Mavericks.
[Listening to:  Sevendust"Broken Down" ]


Thursday, April 17

Snarf

Apparently the folks over at Warner Home Video had a big to-do recently in London's Trafalgar Square to celebrate the release of the Season Two DVD set of the beyond awful (yet utterly awesome) 80's animated TV series The Thundercats.
But that's not really important right now.
The article I saw about the DVD release party also claimed that the season one set holds the record for the biggest selling retro animation title on DVD, which is pretty wild when you think about it, considering that the show wasn't really on that long when it originally came out.
But that's not really important right now either.
This picture of the two girls who participated in the DVD kickoff party festivities (not to mention countless dirty teenage fantasies of mine) is important.
And now it's mine.
Thanks Internet!
[Listening to:  (Hed)pe"P.O.S." ]


Wednesday, April 16

Regulators

Here is my list of the 10 best actors you've probably never heard of who when they show up in a film, you immediately know that some serious shit is fixin' to go down.

1. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
2. Tiny Lister
3. Clancy Brown
4. Billy Zabka
5. Michael Biehn
6. Brian Thompson
7. Al Leong
8. Jonathan Banks
9. Brion James
10. Colin Salmon
I'm not talking about heroes or villains. I'm not talking about famous kickboxers or martial artists. I'm talking about the guys directors call when they need someone to look like "that guy." I'm talking about the dudes who show up in a movie playing a good guy and you immediately start shouting out to the screen for the hero to watch his back, because you just know he's playing for the other team.
Seriously, if I was in a cop movie and someone told me they were assigning one
of these guys to be my new partner I'd shoot them right there just to save time.
I know that there are more of these out there -- so if I forgot your favorite, feel free to drop their name in the comments.

[Listening to:  Dry Kill Logic"One-Handed Knife Fight" ]


Monday, April 14

Wedge

I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between shyness and self-consciousness. Because I do think they're different things. One can certainly fuel the other, so it's not like they're mutually exclusive -- but it's been my experience that there are lots of outgoing people who use their personalities to hide their insecurities, just as much as there are quiet types who actually prefer to be in the background of the pictures that other people would normally primp and pose for.
What's that old saying -- actions speak louder than words?
I don't know -- maybe I'm trying to make things too black and white here. The fact is that I know a lot of people who talk out of their ass all the time, but never really seem to do anything. I also know a lot of people who I can always count on to get things done whom I really don't know all that much about outside of the things we collaborate on.

It doesn't make them any less capable in my eyes. But it does leave the picture I have of them somewhat incomplete -- which means that any conclusions I try to draw about them as people can only really come from the fragments that I'm offered, which is dangerous ground to walk on, because all you can do at that point is make assumptions. Generalize.
Can first impressions be trusted?
I guess it depends a lot on your personality. The sociologists always break it down to questions like "Are you the type of person who is more comfortable in large crowds of strangers, or with small groups of close friends?" But I think a lot of times life takes us beyond that model – which makes me wonder how many answers we’re missing by not examining what happens when you mix those streams.

For example -- if you are with a group of friends, are you then more likely to be social with strangers? Or are you the kind of person who hangs with friends, but then separates from that group if you want to introduce yourself to someone new?

Are you different in private than you are in public? Do your friends bring out the worst in you?
Does the reality of who you are disappoint people when
it’s different than what they thought you were going to be?
Classic wingman theory tells us that if you want to talk to someone that's attached to some sort of group, it's in your best interest to try to get them alone if you want to really make an impression on them -- which leads to all the silly moves you see when you're sitting at the bar on a busy Saturday night.

When you think about things that way it suggests that connections between people can only really happen one-on-one.
But how often do you actually see people out by themselves?
And even when you do, what’s the first thing that comes to
mind when you realize they haven’t got anyone to hang out with?
You always hear women talking about how it sucks to go to bars alone, because once it's clear they're single it's like there's a target on their backs that draws every dude in the place like a magnet to try their lines and run their game. Beyond that there are a lot of cases where it's just unsafe for a girl to go to a club (or perhaps more specifically try to walk out of a club back to her car) on her own. Not that I think women shouldn't go to places by themselves -- but that a lot of times doing so comes with a lot of extra baggage that you wouldn't encounter if you were part of a group.

On the other side of that coin though are the guys who are free to go to places like that by themselves without worry of such hassles, even if that’s sort of the reason they went out in the first place. It reminds me of a short comment discussion I was having with so@24 a while back where we were talking about how it seems like a guy at a bar by himself probably sends up more red flags to the other people in the room than the group of a-holes in the corner who won't stop high-fiving each other every time an attractive woman comes out of the bathroom.

And it's not just bars either. Whenever I go to restaurants by myself (which I like to do) I've generally accepted the fact that the cute girl behind the hostess podium is always going to look at me like I'm a leper when I tell her that I only need a table for one. It's the same look I get sometimes when I go to movies by myself, except when I go to the movies I get to choose my own seat, while the girl at the restaurant gets the extra privilege of using her little grease pencil to cross a line through the crappiest table in the place.
Because what does he care? He's just one guy. It's not like he
needs a view, or extra chairs. It's not like he's expecting anyone.
Just give him a stool in front of that little shelf by the bathroom.
Here's your free bread, loser.
And no doubt, places like that would be a lot more fun with friends along -- but it's not like I'm gonna get on the phone and say "Hey Joe, I'm going out for Italian tonight, wanna split an entree?"

At the same time, sometimes I do like being by myself. Sometimes I don't want other people hassling me when I'm trying to watch a movie. Sometimes I just don't want to cook. Sometimes I just don't want to sit at home by myself anymore.
Sometimes I’m just.. lonely.
But then when I decide to exercise that freedom of choice go somewhere -- all too often it's like other people find ways to remind me that I'm alone. A lot of times it's unintentional -- like a waiter removing extra silverware from the table or asking you if he can borrow the other chair for a group that just came in, but a lot of times it's in the eyes. You can just see that sorta change in the weather behind people's smiles.
And it sucks.
I mean I get it. It's an ugly world. If you don't know me from Adam and I'm sitting at a bar alone brooding over a drink, there are statistical odds and tons of Hollywood movie plots that suggest that the 30-35 year old white male loner is the one more likely to be the freaky serial killer than the 5 frat guys next to him.
Except that I’m not.
The answer I suppose would be to turn the tables. Take the initiative. Turn to the person next to me and say something like "I know I look the type, but there really aren't jars full of cut up body parts in my freezer. How 'bout them Yankees?"

I guess what it comes down to is that sometimes it really bothers me how bad I seem to be when it comes to meeting new people. I mean -- I'm a friendly, interesting person, but I know that occasionally I project "keep away" vibes to other people with my body language or whatever. But that's probably because I've lived long enough in this world to know that a lot of the other people out there in this world are incredibly stupid, and that actually talking to them is sometimes more of a chore than just sitting nearby with my drink and imagining what they look like naked.
But have I really reached that point where I more or less expect other people’s personalities to be disappointing?
Or am I really just worried that anybody who tries to talk to me might end up feeling disappointed themselves?
I mean, I think we all have standards when it comes to other people -- yardsticks that we hold others up to. But I find it interesting how we go about making those determinations in different situations. I mean think about it -- there are a lot of people in your life (relatives, coworkers, classmates) that you simply can't avoid. If you work with someone, you have to see them everyday -- even if they don't really match up to your standards at all.

But to get your work done you play nice. Do what you have to accomplish your tasks, act civil, even cordial -- but avoid deep conversations. It's not like it's a social situation, or you're being graded on how nice you are, so if you don't always ask the guy who delivers the mail how his weekend was (or appear overwhelmingly interested when he decides to tell you anyways) it’s not like you're being patently evil in some way.

Did you ever know that one person in high school who seemed like a total jerk in 9th grade, but by junior year was the best friend you ever had? Did you know the girls who used to always have lunch together in elementary school, but then one got pretty and popular and more or less ended up forgetting that the other one actually existed?
Can first impressions be trusted?
The picture you put up on MySpace or Facebook is not who you are. But you put it there for a reason. And people click on it for a reason. The world is like that. It’s always been, but perhaps in this day and age it’s even more pronounced than ever. Even if we all know inside that the best part of making friends is discovering all the things that the people we meet have to offer, and how those connections grow over time – it’s still so much about what you look like from across the room. What song plays when you open the page. What you sound like when you blog.
When I look in the mirror, I know who the person staring back at me is.
But if I could see him through someone else’s eyes, would he still look the same?

[Listening to:  Lifer"Breathless" ]


Wednesday, April 9

No Alderaan

You come out of hyperspace into a meteor shower. Some kind of asteroid collision. It's not on any of the charts.
Your position is correct, except..
I don't know what's up with me lately. I mean, there are some obvious things -- this cold that won't go away, money issues, whatever -- but I've just been kinda off lately. Some days are better than others, but lately overall it's just been sort of the sound of one cloud raining, and I just haven't been able to figure out the way to get out from underneath it.

Not that I'm foreseeing doom and gloom forever, or that I'm thinking about ending this blog or fading away or whatever -- but right now it's just not there.
What do you mean? Where is it?
That's what I'm trying to tell you, kid. It ain't there. It's been totally blown away.

[Listening to:  Skrape"In The End" ]


Wednesday, April 2

This Be My Bad Chariot


                                   (Men's Room Wall, Fly's Tie Pub, Atlantic Beach, FL)

[Listening to:  Adema"Everyone" ]


Tuesday, April 1

Perfect Song

Time is water. We are the ripples. Each a tiny wave rising and falling through our days. The highs and low you experience create a cycle, which in turn build up the frequencies at which we resonate. Individually these things can all be mapped. Graphed along conflicting axis lines to create patterns that can be quantified and studied. Shapes so repetitive that it becomes relatively easy to predict their behavior.
Until they come into contact with something else.
Music is all about this contact. The distances between notes and the tensions that result when you play them together. Each combination a different waveform, colliding and reacting in space -- creating something new that propagates outward from a source in ever-widening arcs -- remaining in motion until acted upon by something else.
It all seems so simple when you read it in a book.
Lately I've been feeling like my whole world is out of phase. Like the combination of lost time and the distances (both figurative and literal) that have been created by it have put me in a place where I feel like I'm out of step with who and where I really want to be.

People see me. They can hear my voice. They can read my words. But at the same time I can't help but feel like I'm somehow separated from it all. Like everything's happening in front of me on some stage, or behind an electronic screen, with the words only coming through a tiny phone speaker held up against my ear.

Theory tells me that when something is out of phase, it means that the waveforms have shifted to the point where they start to cancel each other out. But I've seen enough in this world to know that we all to certain degrees exist in situations (whether they be emotional, financial, geographical or otherwise) that mathematically should be enough to shut us down -- yet we all still find ways to endure. To hope for more.
I think a lot of times that sense of perseverance comes from the connections we build.
The things we hold close, the people we cherish, even our confidence in our own abilities.
Perhaps that's why all of these perceived disconnections in my life lately have felt so frustrating. Because somewhere underneath it all is a sense of worry -- not so much that I've lost those connections in my life, or that the people and ideas that I cherish are sliding away from me and disappearing -- but more that somehow my own missteps have put me somehow out of step with the ways that these lines intersect and correspond with each other.
I don't know -- maybe none of this is making any sense at all.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes I feel isolated. Like I'm making music all by myself. Music that's worth hearing, but somehow is not reaching out anywhere beyond my own ears. Not just in the sense that there's no one around to listen, but that even when that opportunity arises -- the sound isn't completely coming out, or somewhere in-between the notes I'm playing and the sound you're hearing things are getting lost in translation.

But I promise you -- once I figure out how to play it the right way. Once you get a chance to hear it for real -- it's going to be worth it. Because it's an amazing song.
A perfect song.
[Listening to:  From Zero"Free Without a Struggle" ]


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