The Ghost of Bruce Lee

May 31, 2006 at 9:53 PM | Posted in Journal | 2 Comments
I was perusing my archives the other day, looking for an glimmer of hope that there might be a publishable gem among the disorganized horde of essays.
I came across my New Years’ Resolutions essays. There might be more than one. And also, the one where I had the lump on my testicle, and figured I better get it checked out, and in the meantime, make some life-altering goals, blah-blah-blah. .. .
And I don’t remember it exactly right now–perhaps one thing I promised to do was pay more attention? In any event, I left a few blanks, because there were some things that I figured I dont know what I want to do yet, but when I do, they go on the list.
Well, if this isn’t on the list already, then this is one of the things I want to add. I want to get my black belt.

I have a long history with karate-or more precisely, tae kwon do–so therefore, here is my story. This may seem long for a blog article, but the whole point is, this is my journal, and this is a part of my life. A big part.
My friend growing up, Lee, was a big Bruce Lee fan. Because of this, my dad had an asian name for Lee: Just Lee. Who’s at the door? It’s Just Lee. But since he was a big fan, and we lived in this small town, he rubbed it off on me. He made nunchuks, and was self-taught. Then he taught me. This was about age 12. We didn’t know any other martial arts moves, or weapons, or anything. Just the chuks. I actually did a demonstration in high school with them, which, looking back now, I should have been embarrassed. It was horrible. I even hit myself in the head with them.
But ever the showman, I had a line prepared, in the very likely event. I stepped back up to the microphone, in the middle of the gymnasium floor. A hundred or so onlookers, parents, students, faculty. It was some kind of "extra-curricular activity demonstration day." I had convinced the principle that I knew what I was doing.
And I did. For the most part. I mean, honestly, I see some people spinning chuks, and you can see it in their face and in their eyes, they’re scared of them. If you work with them long enough (years) in the privacy of your room, listening to music, for hours on end everyday, your social skills may be retarded, but you will be damn good with the nunchuku.
So I had a routine planned out, and a little presentation on the history of, and some more moves. I was giving it hell, these were my speed chuks, medium weight, hard wood, string connector. When I hit myself in the back of the head, there was no hiding it. Everyone heard it. I was several feet from the mike, and everyone heard it. I had never used the padded ones; those are for pussies. Plus, they don’t teach you the all-important lesson of holding your elbows in. It hurt like a son of a bitch. I was dazed, I wobbled a bit, then stepped up to the mike. It was quiet, for probably the first time since I started, I had their full attention. I said:
"No matter how many times you hit yourself in the back of the head, you never get used to it."
Laughter and applause. Fucking psychos, enjoying a person’s pain and suffering. No wonder "Jackass: The Movie" did so well. Christ.

Later I was 17, and soft. We had bully in the small town, and he was going out with Lee’s ex-girlfriend. It was shitty for both of us. The dude was banging his chick (and there was mighty slim pickins in our burg) and he was picking on me. It was the summer before I went to college, and I vowed to take karate and learn to kick me some redneck white trash angry drunk wife beater wearin ass.
I get to college, SIU-Carbondale, a big party school, and actually find what I’m looking for. Not a class, but a club. A Tae Kwon Do club. They gave a demonstration the first week of school, to rope some people in. I was hooked. 25 bucks a sememster–A SEMESTER!–and that included the uniform.
This was my first experience with martial arts. I loved it. The leaders of the club, these two 4th or 5th degree black belts, were both American. But they were art majors, art instructors, and so embraced the asian philosophy in their teaching style.
We actually saw them very litte, we were instead taught by some lower belts. A green belt, this tall thin dude with long hair, and a red belt, a seriously hot chick with dark skin and a mysterious accent. I was in love. I was 18. I was in love with every woman. And also instructing us was a brown belt, a Chinese dude named Sami. Funny, he’s the only one I remember the name of.
This was my first taste of the weeding out process as well. Classes were three nights a week, M-W-F, for two hours. We started with–I’m not exaggerating, I counted–over 100 students. After two weeks, 80. After two more weeks, thirty. It eventually dwindled down to about 20. Long gone were the three guys on my floor were all gung-ho about taking it. They kind of avoided me for the first couple of weeks after they quit, but after that, it was all forgotten.
Plus they looked down on me ’cause I was a stoner, whereas they were wanna-be frat boy drinkers. Whatever. It made us even, in their eyes. They may be quitters, but at least they weren’t stoners.
That first semester, I did quit. About 3 weeks till the end of the semester, and my belt test. My knees were hurting me alot, my first experience with this, and something that would haunt me to this day. The odd thing was, my knees didn’t hurt when I was moving or kicking, but when I was forced to stand still in certain stances. I went to the campus medical station–for what, I don’t know, they could do less than nothing for me–but they refered me to a physical therapist on campus.
This guy was great. Over 60, in great shape, exercised, worked out, and played every day. I told him what was wrong, he took some exrays, and explained my situation to me, gave me some exercises to do to strengthen my leg muscles, to give my knee cap better support. He was a great guy. I heard a year or two later he died on the racketball court, heart attack. Almost 70 years old.
So I was back again the next semester. Everyone that stayed that had been a white belt was now a yellow, and I was white again. I stuck it out, got my yellow belt. Then we moved.
We moved to St Louis. I wanted to take Karate again, and my sister now wanted to. We found a place, and my mom signed us up and paid for it. This was World Tae Kwon Do, with offices in St Louis, Springfield, Decauter, and another town no one ever heard of. These were true Koreans, and eventually the two partners would have a parting of philosophy, which would erupt into a local martial arts school feud of insignicant proportions. But when I was there, it was okay. Participated in some tournaments, won some trophies for showing up, things like that. Broke my toe sparring.
This was the mid-eighties, which you might normally think of as semi-modern, but really–they didnt even have cell phones back then. We sparred with no protective gear. Meanwhile, today, it is required. Foot pads, shin pads, gloves, chest, cup, head gear, mouth protector. All of it, I have a bag full. But not during this era. So I go for a round kick to the guy’s head, and he blocks it. Hard. Pop! goes my pinky toe. I didn’t know till later, but I suspected. The stupid thing was, they did the sparring first, and then the forms. How the hell am I going to do my form with a broken toe?
Second place is how I’m going to do it. Not bad for a gimp. I had to drive home with that broken toe, and it was on my clutch foot. When I called the doctor, they explained how little they could do for it. "Well, if you come in, we can tape it to the toe next to it." Well, hell, I can do that. So I did. The toe stopped hurting after two days. It was then that I felt all the other pain. The broken toe had crowded everything else out: Twisted ankle, bruised legs, shins that were banged all to shit. Sparring with no gear will fuck your world up.
While taking it there, at World TKD, I had to start as a white again, then got my yellow, yellow with an orange stripe, orange, orange with a green stripe, green, green with a blue stripe.
Then I started working alot of hours at my warehouse job. How many? Let’s see. . . Monday was a 16 hour day, I ran the warehouse by myself. Tuesday was a regular 8 hours, 3p-to 11p. Wednesday became 12 hours, 3p to 3a. Thursday another 8. I was actually off on Friday. Not a lot of trucks to load on Friday, it was the end of the week. Saturday, we worked from 3 pm until all the trucks were loaded. This was a 12 hour shift, but gradually became an 18-to 20 hour shift. We would come in at 3p and leave at noon the next day.
But the whole thing was, mistakes were being made, things that had my signature. Never made any mistakes on Monday, when I worked my myself.  Odd.  So I went from 70 hours a week to getting fired. Got fired on a Monday. Well, I went to karate class that night.
While at the warehouse, we had occassion to goof a little. I practiced boxing with one guy, and I was also practicing this kick, the spinning heel. Try tossing a can and kicking it that way. Well, I tried a lot, but I hardly ever kicked the can. But I did get a lot of practice, and that was the kick that was oh so important for the next belt test. After missing for four months, and then going to the one class, the instructor said I would be ready to test, that Saturday, if I came to class every night.
I did. And I tested, and I got my blue belt.
I didn’t stay long after, so I didn’t go any higher than blue belt. This was about the time I started to work at Domino’s, and the classes were always in the evening, and so was work.
Many years later–92, 93? I was married and had a son. Mitchell was about 5 or six maybe. We signed him up, and about six months later I signed up as well. We both stayed with it for several years with this instructor. An American, strictly interested in fighting. The unique thing was, we sparred the last fifteen minutes of every class. It was great. Mitchell got up to brown belt by the time he was about 9 or 10. His only problem, which he doesnt seem to have now, at 17, is that he was too sensitive, and knew he was big, and didn’t want to hurt anyone sparring. They were all wearing gear, nevertheless, he caused a few bloody noses and it made him timid. In that same time I made it to blue belt. Again.
Are you keeping track? Good, cause it’s not over. This instructor eventually closed shop and got a regular job with benefits. He had a wife (a very few fucking hot wife) and a new baby, so manhood really bore down on him, shattered his dreams of competing. He had been, in the past, sparring partners with a guy from the US Olympic team. I am really glad TKD is in the Olympics now.
So, by this time, Mitchell is ten or so, and about tired of it. I thought he wanted to keep going, I did. We found a new school that I liked but Mitch was ready to quit. Then I hurt my leg–badly–and we did quit. I was hounded by a collector to collect on the "Contract" we had signed, but I explained to them what happened and told them to piss off, I wasn’t paying. A few months later, they laid off. So that was, uhm, 1997 or 1998.
I had hopes of getting my blackbelt before I was 40, but that won’t happen now. But could I still get it? Maybe. I toyed with the idea of going back about a year ago, and checked out some schools here in town. One of them, a guy I work with goes to. We sat in on a class and watched.
I didnt want to tell him that I had higher standards than that, after I watched. Their technique was just sloppy, and I can’t stand that. I have shit for flexibility, but my form and technique were always great. I’m not bragging, it’s what I do.
But someone was talking about it the other day, another manager in another dept, and she said a friend of hers just got his blackbelt, at age 43. I could do it now, I’m done with school. I got a heavy workout bag earlier this year too, and put it up. I have the makings of a workout room. It’s a matter of discipline, and I wonder if I have it. Or, if i can develop it.
I would love to do the work on my own, and then join a school when I am up to speed, back up to my blue belt skill level. After blue (and this has changed a few times) is brown, then red, then black. Actually, blue with brown stripe, brown, brown with red stripe, red, then half red half black, which is called candidate for black belt.
Just to make it above blue would be a feat, something I’ve never done. I have all my trophies (such as they are) all my belts, my uniforms, my equipment. I finished my degree, and that was 23 years in the making. I guess. . .
I guess it’s time to tackle this mountain.

PS–if you were paying attention all the way through this–and I don’t blame you if you weren’t–you’d ask: But what about the bully? Never saw him again. Don’t even remember his name. I came back from college and we moved. Yes, I know, he’s partly responsible for me taking karate so I should be grateful, and I say bullshit. He is on the very short list of people whom I hate. There’s only four or five on the list. I love everyone else. Okay, I tolerate them.
Barely.

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To a “T”

May 31, 2006 at 8:53 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
Ten words, starting with the same letter, and what they mean to me.  My
letter is "T."
Temptation:  Why is this on my mind?
 
Twisted:  I might be.  We all might be.  Who’s to say who is, and who
isn’t.  If I used to be, but aren’t anymore, does that make me
untwisted?
 
Today:  Live for today?  Today is the last day of the rest of your life?
 I mean the first.  Freudian slip?  Hard to say, exactly.  I do know,
that for all the promise the present holds, it is not as precious as the
past or the future.  The past holds great memories, the future holds
great promise, and the now is just there, waiting to become one or the
other.  "Jam yesterday, and jam tomorrow, but NEVER Jam today."
 
Travel:  For the most part, I like to stay where I am.  But when I get
the urge to travel, it’s a strong urge.  I just need to go.  Then, I
need to come back, because only at home, I’ve learned, is where I can
lay around in my underwear.  That’s why it’s called home, I guess.
 
Time:  Is on my side?  Used to be, but now time is slippin, slippin,
slippin on into the future.
 
Torn:  Some things are carved in stone.  Others, scribbled in eraseable
marker.  How I feel about some things, how I feel about others.  I’m
torn, I suppose, over the permanence of my feelings.
 
Trivial:  My problems, in the big scheme of things.
 
Trials:  Nevertheless, I occassionally still feel like Job.
 
Truly:  Truly, madly, deeply.
 
Togetherness:  Something I used to have, just not right now.  "Jam
yesterday–"
 
What now?  You have to comment, and then I give you a letter?  Sounds like freakin communism to me.
First person to comment gets the letter "C."

Morning Traffic Soliliquy

May 30, 2006 at 9:11 AM | Posted in Personal | 5 Comments
I awake to my alarm
My body is sore and it aches
A hard night’s sleep, just barely
Contained within this sheet
I utter not a word of complaint
For I know it falls on deaf ears
For thusly I have been trained
 
Meanwhile the Storm awakens
"Fuck!" is generally the first word said
And the second, and the third, and so
It goes as we go about our routine
I brush my teeth and hear it again
Should I answer?  Is it directed at me?
What did I do, or not do, or lose,
Or put away wrong, or not take care of,
Have knowledge of, or should have known,
Or leave out, or not finish, or not finish
good enough, or, honestly, in God’s name, what the
Fucking living hell did I not do to your
Goddamn satisfaction this time, honey?
 
The miracles that I perform, on a daily basis
Are not enough to appease her
And yet if I want something, a small thing,
Anything, it’s a tremendous inconvenience to her
It makes me feel as though I am as well
 
Her car is still not running–my fault, I know
Because she tells me so.  Never mind
That I worked on it, with what little time I had
All the holiday weekend
So we played Musical cars for yet another day,
 
…………..And I drive her to work once more
 
We sit in silence in the car, as The Storm winds down
Some follow up questions: did I put the trash out,
Did I lock the door, did I turn off the lights–
Yes dear, yes dear (but weren’t you the last one out?)
I say nothing, I am mute.  My mind goes thousands
of miles per minute, in every direction, but
It is useless to talk at all
 
No radio, no music, because we can’t agree.  Anything
I like she can’t stand, and wonders aloud how I can even–
My tastes and what I like are stupid and inconsequential
So I will give her no satisfaction of choice.
Am I stubborn?  I suppose.  Who made me this way?
The never-ending Storm
 
We ride in silence, nary a word
She asks me a question, I answer with a nod
Traffic flows like my mind, and I have difficulty
Keeping track of where I am, on the road and
In my mind.  But we are close, and then
I let her out and she blows me a half-hearted kiss
"Love you" passes our lips
Just passes-
Just.
 
I turn the radio to where I want, and I drive how
Want and where I want.  I mean, I go to work
But I am in my world now, where I rule what I do,
And make reasonable decisions that aren’t second-guessed
And where people I talk to value what I say, and
Appreciate my input and my friendship, and look to
Me for support and guidance and a laugh to brighten
Their day
Everyone I know looks to me as someone of perpetual good
Cheer, of happy disposition, of pleasant demeanor
And good company
Everyone I know sees that I am always happy, always smiling
Always good natured
And why shouldn’t I be? 
 
Once more, I made it through The Storm

Sultry

May 28, 2006 at 1:29 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 9 Comments
  I was hot.  Hot and wet.  My face was flush, and my heart raced.  My chest heaved as I breathed heavily, in anticipation of the excitement I was soon to participate in.
  The phone rang, and rang again.  I couldn’t get to it, my hands were busy.  My mind was on a hundred things at once.  I hoped no one could see me.
  But they could.  Onlookers, gawkers, stood and watched me, intently, waiting for me to take care of them.  The want in their eyes, the hunger, the obvious desire they had for me to take care of their needs. . . .

  Yeah, it completely sucked.  I worked Saturday night, it was hot as fuck, and although I had anticipated a slow night (Holiday weekend, everybody gone to "the Lake," last years’ reports showed a slow night), I was getting my ass handed to me in chunks.  Fuck me running.  We did twice the sales as last year, and all but 100 dollars of it since 4 o’clock, when I got there.  Summer is officially here in St Louis.  I know every place has interesting weather.  Good for you.  It’s 90 degrees outside, about 125% humidity (that’s right, we have more moisture in the air than it is actually capable of holding), and I am inside a restaurant with two air conditioners, big ones, and it is over 100 degrees in the kitchen where I am cooking.  We have a grill, a pizza oven, a convection oven, a bun toaster, a potato warmer, and a steam table.
  The thermometer on the wall is pegged.  PEGGED.  The sweat is keeping my face clean by allowing the soot from the smoke from the grill to run down my face and into my eyes.  My underwear are completely wet, like I had been swimming in them.  And indeed I had. 
  It’s not this hot in the rest of the store.  The rest of the store is only 85 degrees.  Customers come in and make exceptionally witty remarks about the heat, ask why I dont turn the A/C on, et cetera.  I am in a heat induced fog, which keeps me from killing them and throwing their sorry carcass on the grill.
  "Hot enough for ya?"  Thanks, yeah, I haven’t heard that in over 17 minutes.  You’re a fucking comedian.  Who writes your shit for you, Shakespeare?  Got any more cliches while you’re at it, fuck-face?  If I hear that one more time, I’m going to stab someone in the face with a fucking butterknife.

  When I worked at one particular Domino’s, it was hot like that, but most of them were decent.  You know how shitty it is to handle dough that temp?  It turns to mush.  Cheese fills with water from condensation, and becomes soup.  Pepperoni become slimy little–
  You live through it.  You do what it takes to survive.  Water, ice, ice water, shut off everything you can get away with, bring fans in, wait for the sun to go down.
  But it never does.
  I imagined when I was there that in their high-level meetings, they decided instead of fixing the A/C, it would actually be cheaper to hypnotize everyone into believing it was cool.  Or hypnotize them into believing they were in the Artic Circle.  This could backfire on them, though, because the anger would still be there.  If the supervisor would come in during this to see how it was working, he would see everyone dressed in coats and parkas and gloves, and not sweating.  But angry.  They would harpoon his ass.

  Ever touch anything metal when you are indoors, like a table, or a handle?  It’s cool to the touch, because it’s at room temperature, which is cooler than your body.   I would touch the table, and it would be warm to the touch.  Warm.  Warmer than my body.  It’s not like this yet, but it will be soon.  There are some hit or miss days in June, But July and August I will be working in an oven.  At least I don’t do this full time any more.  This is just part time now. 
  The only thing that keeps me going back in day after day is my extremely short memory.  I had to write this as soon as I got home.  Tomorrow, I will have completely forgotten, and I’ll drive to work completely unaware, happy as a clam with a hard-on, and not until I walk in the door and feel the wall of heat press into me like a large, body-sized pair of tits will it all come back to me, and it’ll start all fucking over again.

I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Music

May 26, 2006 at 8:23 AM | Posted in Journal | 2 Comments
Not sure how interesting this is to anyone, but here are my thoughts on music. . .
 
  Someone here in the Blogsphere, someone special, asked once, in passing, about my taste in music.  It will take more than a passing comment to answer that.  Music is very important, very special to me.  Tragically, I have no musical ability of my own.  I have no rhythm.  I am painfully tone deaf.
  Meanwhile, my wife is a singer.  My daughter just won an award as best singer in her little 3rd grade class.  My son is self-taught on the guitar, and pretty good, after only playing for a year and a half. Both of the kids play the Wurlitzer organ I bought at an estate sale.  My son played an instrument in the 8th grade, and although he gave it up, he can read music, which is a good thing, and most self-taught teenage guitar players can’t.
  But back to me. . .
  I discovered an appreciation for music when I was about 11 or twelve–pretty late, I suppose.  I listened to the oldies, and adult contemporary.  This was the mid-seventies.  I stayed with this type of music for many years.  My single foray out of this realm was Billy Joel.  He was my bridge from oldies and soft music into rock.  My first album was 52nd Street, still a great album.  Grammy winner, too.  Remember?  Jeez, when was that, 1978?
  My friend Chaz, a couple of years older than me, tried to ween me from the soft rock into real rock.  He worked patiently, played lots of Rush, and he also liked Loverboy, which I find hilarious now.  But he had a plan.  It was 1981.  He wanted to go to a concert, and didn’t want to go alone.  (We lived in a very rural area, and choice of friends and babes was limited.)
  I made a list of the concerts I’ve been to, and I wanted to write a brief review, or essay, about the concerts and my experiences.  So, I will save that story for a later time.  I have been to roughly–30 concerts, in about 25 years.  A wide range of sounds, from Peter Paul and Mary, to The Who, to the Violent Femmes.  So right now, this is just about music in general.
  I like it, I like it alot.  I really like live music, especially a small band in a bar.  Styles of music that aren’t particularly my thing I can still appreciate live.  Jazz and blues, for instance, are best served live.  I can even handle some country.  I like the older country best.  Much of the new stuff just seems to me to be pop with a country flavor.
  So most pop I avoid as well.  Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson–these are three individuals, I learned recently, not the same person.  Boy bands–Christ in sidecar.  Rap and Hip-hop…
  Well, what about rap and hip hop?  Urban contemporary.  Everyone tries to dance around this subject, but I’m going to lay it flat out.  Most of it I can’t stand.  It’s completely not my thing.  And why should it be?  I’m not the target audience.  I’m not a young, angry black male.  I’m an old, bitter white male.  Completely different music appeals to us.  They don’t market for me, so why should I pretend that I get it?  But I do get it, I just don’t like the shit.  Nothing wrong with that.  Young black males don’t like my music. 
  I won’t go so far as to say it’s not even music, which I have in the past.  But it’s made to be offensive, and so instead of being offended, I dismiss it.  It’s my retaliation.  I like a little bit of Eminem even, and some Beastie Boys.  The white rappers.  Not Vanilla Ice, though, which should be obvious, because I appreciate talent.
  Classical?  Well, how about classic rock?  Seriously, I can take some classical, but by and large it makes my head hurt, because I try to pay attention to it, and it’s very complex.  It’s suppose to be.  I can appreciate the music and the artistry.   It is great, and it has it’s place.  Generally, that place is not near me.
  So is it hypocritical to say I love music, when I don’t love all of it?  Basically, I love rock, and all music associated with.  Classic, oldies, alternative, hard.  I like the music that speaks to me, I guess.  My daughter is into music, and her stuff is what 9-year-olds listen to these days:  Disney stars, Cheetah Girls, Hannah Montana, Lizzie- who is Lizzie McGuire?  Hilary Duff.  And that annoying Lindsay Lohan.  God, the overengineered crap they do to make that girl sound like she is not screeching.  Maybe I’m just used to it, but Hilary Duff sounds okay.  At least she can actually sing, I think.
  But it’s all bubblegum pop and drivel, at it’s best.
  My music?  Mine is deep and soulful, and has meaning, and is made by talented, hard-working, drug-addicted artists.
  I love alot of the old rock, but here is my problem with new rock.  The new rock should be made my the new artists and new groups.  I have a station here I listen to that has alternative and college-rock, that plays shit that is so new no one has heard of them yet.  If they play an oldie it’s from a year ago.  I love the new rock, and I know that they have been influenced by the older artists, and then took it in a new direction.
  The new direction of rock is not being led by Sammy Hagar, or the Rolling Stones, or Areosmith, or any number of dinosaurs who have miraculously survived their own fame.  The most painful thing I’ve heard, musically, is Sammy Hagar trying to recapture his Montrose-era glory days.  Dude, I’m sorry, but you have nothing new to say.  Your well is tapped.
  One of the few that manage it well is David Bowie.  I don’t always get his music, and that’s cool.  He is not rehashing old shit.  He is not rewriting "Space Oddity."  He has moved on, musically, and that is hard to do when you are an AARP member.  Hagar can’t do it.  Mick Jagger can’t. 
  My one concert regret is that I never got to see Led Zeppelin.  I was just a bit young, and not into it.  My wife saw them, and she said they sucked.  I was originally disheartened by this, but now I know how my wife is.  But Zep had a reputation that would make Guns and Roses cringe in fear, and they did it all, and they did it first.  Recommended reading:  "Hammer of the Gods."  The story of Led Zeppelin. 
  Post-Zeppelin, Robert Plant did some likeable stuff, Honeydrippers was cool and different.  The Page/Plant album, NO Quarter, where they reworked some Zeppeling tunes, in addition to doing some Indian music and what-not, was very different and good.  I had a few missed opportunities in recent years to see Robert Plant, and now I don’t think I would if I could.  The golden era is definitely passed.  The myth of old is best left untainted by the sour reality of the now.
  I have a Zeppelin bootleg, called "Destroyer."  I originally heard it back in college, when one of my roommates had it, on four LP’s.  He made me a copy on two long cassettes, one of which I still have somewhere.  I know a guy who runs a record store (Cd store, music store) who had to get out of the bootleg business, but for a friend (me) he was able to find it on CD.  It is from their concert tour in 1977, recorded in Cleveland.  It must have been the last year they toured, because they played stuff from "Presence," their second-to-the-last studio album.  Nothing live exists that I have heard from the last one, "In Through The Out Door."  So this live album runs the gammut of their career.
  Some of the side talking and comments between songs on the album are priceless.  For instance, occassionally, Robert Plant would say cryptically, "The Doctor was played by Larry Badgley."  But the best, and I know it by heart, was at the beginning of their "accoustical set":
  "We now await with baited breath the arrival of John Paul Jones’ upright.. . . bass.  It was purchased in Newcastle-Upon-Thames on a tour in 1969 for about eighteen dollars.  And it serves its purpose.  The Doctor was played by Larry Badgley."
  
  I received an email, with a list to fill out about myself, basically four things in each category.  There was no category for music, so I edited the list and added it.  Basically this:  Stranded on a deserted island, walkman, lots of batteries.  Four CD’s.  Four.  Pick four that you would bring with you.
  So it took me a couple of days, but I got my list down to four.  It was, in a word, heartbreaking.  Makes me want an iPod so I can have more music than that with me, just in case.
  Here they are:
1.  Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin.  My roommates in college turned me on to Zeppelin, and I was saddened to learn that the band was alread gone, John Bonham, the greatest drummer that ever lived, had died a few years previous.  This album I had on tape in the 80’s, and wore it out several times.  Once I had to replace the stereo as well as the tape, because the tape would not come out.  The header for my tombstone is on this album, on the song "In My Time of Dying," the greatest song ever.
2.  Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads.  A live best of, this album is way too short.  Another ill-fated CD, this one burned up when my car caught on fire.  I guess I need to tell that story someday.
3.  Violent Femmes self titled first album.  This album epitomized my college days.  The emotions these songs evoked, this was my life, from ages 18-23.  When I got to see them in concert, it was over 20 years after the fact.  It was still a great show.  In fact, it was simoultaneously one of the best and one of the worst concerts I had ever been to.  This will be explained in the future.
4.  The mix disc of Paul Westerberg I have in my truck right now.  This might be cheating, but I made the rule.  I had a musical revelation recently, which I owe to my friend Karl.  He turned me on to Morrissey, and Paul Westerberg.  I don’t want to sit on a deserted island and listen to Morrissey and weep because I would eventually slit my wrists.  I would rather be a little happy.  Based on one song–one song, called "Attitude"–which was, by the way, recorded poorly on the disc that Karl gave me, I agreed to ride with him over 100 miles and see him in concert.  It was pretty amazing, and I’ll talk about the concert separately.  But I did not know a single song, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  Now I am a big Westerberg fan, and I encourage you all to pick up a disc, any disc, and give it a spin.  If you haven’t heard of him, perhaps you have heard of his band, the Replacements?  I never thought I would say that I can’t live without a song, but that was before I heard "Portland."  I was surprised to hear myself say that.
 
  It was hard to make this list and leave Billy Joel off of it.  But I can hear his music in my head anytime I want.  If I could add more, I would add either "Songs in the Attic" or "52nd Street."  I may like "Glass Houses" more, but for nostalgia and clarity of thought, it would have to be 52nd Street.  In fact, all of it I could play in my head, as well as a vast catalogue of all the other music I have ever heard.  There is alot of music in my head.  I have seven fillings, so I get pretty good FM reception.
  Funny, we have a board game called "SongBurst."  Heard of it?  You get the name of the song, year and artist, and a single line of lyric.  you have to complete a stanza of the lyrics.  We have a 50’s and 60’s version, and a 70’s and 80’s version.  My older daughter has a country version.  We would play as a family, in teams.  The teams eventually became everyone else versus me.  We would have my wife’s family over, her older brothers and sisters who grew up on the 50’s and 60’s music.  Seven people on one side, versus me.  
  I would beat them.  They accused me of cheating, of reading all the cards.  We played the country version.  My daughter listens to country, and I don’t.  I beat her.
  I know all the lyrics to all the songs from all the artists which were ever recorded?  Maybe.  I had to put a question mark there, instead of a period.  You may know your particular favorite artist better, but unless you know the tracks and in what order on what albums by your favorite artist, you can’t really be considered a fan.  I know this about Zeppelin, and of course Billy Joel. 
  When I was growing up in a rural community, I was a bit of a homebody.  There was not a lot to do.  I stayed in a lot, most of my teen years, and drew, and wrote, and listened to music.  Music fills my head, it  plays constantly, like an infinite jukebox.  Chances are really good that if you mention a song, I will know the words.  I won’t know them all, case in point, re: the pop drivel I mentioned earlier.  But anything rock, and anything before 1980, and much of what came after, is on my internal hard drive (this me, tapping on my skull).
  It drowns out all the voices in my head, so I am grateful.

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Cheese

May 25, 2006 at 8:47 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
  I had a dream the other night.  One of a theme, that I have had pretty often.  Haven’t had one in a while, so this one caught me by surprise. 
  I used to always dream about Domino’s Pizza.  I worked there for 16 years, so it would seem only natural, you think?  Well I don’t know.  Truth be told, I’ve been married for eighteen years, I can count on one hand the number of times my wife has appeared in a dream.  That I can remember.  It may be more, but not much more.  Is that strange?  Am I a sociopath?
  My dreams involving Domino’s are generally nightmares.  When I became a manager, well, the stress was incredible.  And I managed back in the old days, when we had a 30 minute guarantee.  By and large, people are starting to forget that.  Lord, I hope so.
  Some of my dreams in the past would generally involve getting my ass kicked on a biblical scale.  I would come into the store, and there would be not one makeline and oven, but twenty, and pies woere coming out of all of them.  And it was just me.  Things like that.  In this dream I had last night, I agreed, for some reason, to become manager of the store that I had actually started at, back in 19 and 86.  Now, since then, the store has been moved and rebuilt, but in my dream, it was the original one, built into a crumbling strip mall, with a fading grocery store on one end and a bar at the other.
  I walk in to take the place over, and its a disaster.  Food, equipment, supplies, everywhere.  employees walking around doing whatever they want, which is mostly leaving with free pizzas.  I remember one of my famous lines that I would use when I would get repeated requests for free pizza:  "This is not the Domino’s Pizza Unlimited Salad Bar and Buffet!"
  I go to the walkin, to check it out.  It is huge.  Cavernous.  Bigger than the store, actually.  All of the food, instead of being in boxes and containers on shelves, is in piles on the floor.  Piles of sausage, piles of mushrooms, piles of cheese.  Everywhere.  Cheese.  People are coming in and out of the back door of the walkin, which leads to the outside.  Generally, this does not exist in real life.
  As I come out of the walkin, I see a driver leaving with a stack of pizzas.  On a run?  No.
  He says to me as leaves, "I quit.  Pies are up."  That last is what you say when pizzas come out of the oven.    I look, and the pizzas are falling off the conveyor onto the floor.  The phone starts ringing, more orders.
  And then I wake up.  That is typical.  Having said that, maybe it’s a good thing I don’t dream about my wife much, yes?
  I would, as I’m about to go to sleep, or worse, wake up with, the nagging feeling that I had pizzas to make.  In the kitchen.  My kitchen.  I would have to manually talk myself down.  I’m at home.  Domino’s is closed.  No pizzas in the kitchen.  No pizzas to make.  No drivers on runs.  It’s six am.  Put the pizza cutter down and go back to sleep.
  Generally I would wake up hungry for pizza. . .

Pondering the InPonderables

May 24, 2006 at 9:17 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
Is it inponderable, or unponderable, or is either one even a word?
 
That’s not the question, though.  The question is, if I have Chex Snack Mix, can I add milk to it and have it for breakfast?  It’s the Sweet and Salty, hard to pass up.
 
disponderable.. . . .imponderable–
non-ponderable
 
ponderless
.
..
….
 
As you can see, I have pondered this for a while

Living On The Edge

May 22, 2006 at 3:44 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
As the Powers that Be–the ones that control my fate and the
utilites–begin to shut things off, it alit a new fire with in
me.  With renewed gusto and a pioneering spirit, I decided to
dedicate my life to helping the downtrodden.
Since I am currently downtrodden, I figured I should start with
me.  Makes sense, no?  I will fight the evil corporate powers
that yearn to take away my rights, my liberties, my pursuit of
internet connectivity.
I did have to pay my phone bill to get my DSL back up, but that
is only temporary.  They have fallen victim to my nefarious plot.
 I did a google search on "living off the grid," and there is a
lot of great information out there.  You would think that it
couldnt be done in a quasi-suburban area, but you’d be wrong.  It
just requires a little more ingenuity.
  First things first:  I ran an extenstion cord to my neighbors
house.  It’s green, and hides well in the grass.
  To my other neighbor, I ran a hose for water.  Ditto on the
color.  And this is where some people make their mistake.  I
diversified, so I’m not dependent on any one neighbor for my
resources.  This is the mistake the US made with the mideast and
oil.  I’m not falling for that.
  The neighbor two houses down has a satellite dish.  Splicing is
easy, merely requiring a trip to Radio Shack.  But I thought they
might suspect what I am up to.  Maybe I was paranoid.  They asked
for my address, and I tell them, "Number 1 Happy St."  I make up
a zip code, mumble off some digits for a telephone number, and
I’m on my way, confident that the Radio Shack Black Ops people
will have a difficult time finding me.
  Just to be sure, I make three right turns to make sure no one
is following me, go through a car wash, and get a rental car
before coming home.
  We switched all the phone service to the cell phones, and then
I will go to the library daily to get on the internet.  Let’s
see. . .cooking and hot water.. . .hmmm…
  Well, we have all electrical, but I don’t want to arise
suspicion in my generous but unsuspecting voltage supplier.  We
go to propane and charcoal.  My plan is starting to come
together.
  My last obstacle is the city utilities.  Water, trash, sewer. 
If I’m not using any water, in theory I should not be billed for
either that or the sewer.  Right?  Right?  Well, they’ll have to
find me to bring me in for that.
  The trash is simple.  I just throw it in the dumpster where I
work.  With that taken care of, I believe I have severed all ties
to the outside world.  I can live in peace and harmony with
nature.  In my house. I’m trying to build a windmill.  I’m
growing potatoes in my yard.  I hunt at night for game.  I forage
for fruits, nuts, berries, and spare batteries that might be
lying about.
  I am–The Suburban Jungle Lord.  Fear me.  I should wear a cape.

Words of Depth and Wisdom, Taken Completely Out of Context

May 22, 2006 at 8:09 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
If you think your life is difficult, imagine how worse it would be, if, on top of everything else, you were being chased by giant robots.
 
Age is just a number. . ..that determines whether or not you can be arrested for statutory rape.
 
If the moon is hollow, as some people say, and the Earth is flat, as I vigorously maintain, then together, they are much like a huge ping pong ball and paddle.
 
Arguing is not a skill.  For some, it’s a lifestyle.
 
People say, "My life is complete now,because I’ve done–"  blah blah blah.  My life is not complete.  Not yet.  If it was, I would be dead.

Finis–

May 21, 2006 at 3:20 PM | Posted in Journal | 2 Comments
And I might still have to come back and right more about school, to give the full picture.  I have two or three entries, and I want to make sure I fill in the holes.  And I’ll also write about the graduation. ..  .
I think I did well on the final the other night.  Funny thing, and if you remember "Grape Nuts," you’ll know what I mean.  I’m in a group.  I do most of the project and hand out the parts for them, just ask them for one last thing.  Finally someone gives it to me.  Then we have this last project, that, because of the one guy, the entire class and the instructor is behind in terms of the material he has to cover.  But he shows us what for, and says that we can finish this and turn it in during finals week, which is usually a no-no.
  So I get everything done on the project (on my own; I abandoned the group like a crack house on fire) except this one part.  I ask the others, none of them have it.  We even have a brain in the group, a guy who does programming, he didn’t get it.  I leave work a little early the day of the final and go to school, and literally sweat it out in the computer lab.  Sweat it out because it’s about 85 goddamn degrees in there.  What the fuck?
  But I am in there for about two hours, and puzzle through it.  The part was a formula I had to program.  When I finally got through it, it wasn’t hard, just complicated and detailed.  But I had it.  I print out two copies, one to turn in and one to keep, because the test is open-book-open-note.
  I get to class and ask them all, none of them got that last part.  They should still get about 80% credit if they got the rest of it right. . . Maybe
  The instructor, Bob, hands out the final.  It is much like the project I just turned in, but simpler.  A lot of writing, but the part I already puzzled out how to do was actually there, on the test.  All I had to do was rewrite it, change some variable names, and I’m in.
  Some people left the final a little early–I dont think they got that part.  Cause I did, I breezed right through it, and it was a lot of writing.  I was initially concerned about whether I would pass the classes.  Mostly because I need them to graduate, and because of stress.  But by the time I got doen with this one, it’ll be whether I get an A or a B.
  The class the next night, that final, is open book also.  (At the junior college level, they make things easy.  Plus, I think, as we convinced this instructor, in the real world you generally have access to reference material.  He gave us the test, and said if when we finish, if we wait he will grade it.  So I hung back, I was about the fourth one done (in a class of eight), and he graded it.  116 points out of 120.
  I don’t understand the material all that well, but I sure as shit know how to use an index.  He gave us our grades for the semester, as well.  Out of 500, I got 475, which is 95%.  One test was a 100, two others where 120, homework was 80, and attendance was 80.  I was there for every class, but I sure don’t remember any homework.
  In my opinion, the instructor was lazy.  I liked him, but yeah, lazy.  He would lecture the first hour, and say, "That’s all I got," and thought that we would stay and tinker with our servers.  Unless you specifically assign us something to do, I got no direction on where to go.  Give me something.  Fuck.  If I really needed the knowledge in the class, I might have pursued it.  But at this point, it was much like prison sex.  I just wanted it to be over.
  So I am good to go on graduation, glad it’s over.  Now I can work the overtime at job A and extra hours and job B to pay all the bills I couldnt pay to finish this degree.
  But what about the degree?  Information systems-Computer networking.  Well, I believed all the hype from the TV commercials about the unlimited opportunities in this field, even as corporate America was downsizing and outsourcing.  But my whole purpose in going to school was to get a new job.  I got a new job.  I finished the degree anyway.
  Will I ever work in the field?  Hard to say.  I would rather use the computer knowledge and management experierence to move up that way.  My company does promote from within, and while I’m not in IT, I have a reputation as someone to come to when you have a computer problem.  If I can’t fix it, because of admin rights or whatever, I know how to communicate with IT to get it solved.  Communicating with them is not as easy as talking to a regular person.  This is a good niche to be in, I feel.
 
 I think I’m more of an artist, though. . . .
 
 
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