Sunday, August 29, 2010


I don't want to shock anyone, but I've spent some time in comic book stores. I was always more of a tourist than a resident, but I went enough to have a familiarity with the clientele and workers there. I would always have the same reaction after being in there for a while:

"Look at all these fucking nerds."

But wait, I'd think. I'm in here, too. So am I one of them? Well, no, I mean, they probably thought James Bond just walked in here. Hell, yeah. Nerds better recognize.

Then I'd go to Target or somewhere where normal people congregated and realize I was a hideous, socially retarded nerd myself, only my subset of nerddom, record store guy/movie nerd was a step or two more socially acceptable. But my musings about how I'd give my firstborn to get a copy of the complete Big Boys discography or how a full stack of Rudy Ray Moore party records on vinyl was the only thing stopping me from having a full, complete life were equally as incomprehensible to normal people.

There was a comic book store a couple blocks away from our first apartment in Jacksonville. I'd get bored on a Sunday and walk down there to play Golden Axe, a pretty boss '80s video game that I think only got played when I walked up there. The guy who worked there was always cool to me, especially since I was basically taking up space and not buying anything.

Others were not so lucky. A friend of mine would go in there weekly, dropping some serious coin. You'd think that as a regular, he'd get some special treatment. One day he walks in and the guy's watching TV.
"Oh cool, Arrested Development," my friend exclaims.
The guy turns the TV off immediately and goes back to looking at pictures of She-Hulk.

My ex-wife would go there every once in a while to buy old kids comic books to use in projects. You'd think the guy would be happy to unload of all his old Archie and Casper books dusty-ing up the place, but he'd always drop her change into her hand from like two feet up with a sneer on his face.

You know, I'm always instinctively going to side with the nerds, the freaks and the misfits, but do they have to make it so hard all the time?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

If the Van's A-Rockin,' Don't Come Knockin'

I hate driving. Actually, that's not exactly true. Long drives are awesome. Driving alone through the sunset or late at night all caffeined up, eating boiled peanuts and listening to the Minutemen, or Thin Lizzy, or Naked Raygun, or Ted Leo, or any number of CDs I have to have on a long drive, or just half-paying attention to NPR? Man, that's some fun tymes.

But daily driving to go to work or the store or whatever? That shit's for the birds. This could be because I'm a terrible driver. I get lost easily, even in areas I've driven through thousands of times. I'm prone to road rage. I inspire road rage in others. There's a reason I ride my bike to work.

But if I had a van I'd be a much better driver, as well as a whole lot cooler. I had the chance to watch Supervan recently, a van/car chase/CB exploitation flick. While it didn't have the same effect on me as King Frat or The Greatest Movie Never Made, it was definitely worth watching.

There's this guy on his way to compete in this big van contest, see? His original van gets smashed up, so he gets Vandora, an experimental solar powered van this big company is trying to keep under wraps so they can keep selling gas guzzlers. He picks up a young woman along the way and they eventually fall in love. The CEO of the company is trying to stop him from entering Vandora. You can tell the CEO is bad because he looks like Ted Knight and doesn't like rock and roll. They all make it to the big van contest and see noted American author Charles Bukowski hosing down girls at a wet T-shirt contest. That's right, Charles Bukowski is in a '70s van movie hosing down girls in a wet T-shirt contest. You don't see Thomas Pynchon doing stuff like that.

All that plot stuff is OK, but what really makes Supervan worth watching is the footage of vans on display. While a lot of them just look like regular family trucksters or windowless molestermobiles, the few that don't are shining monuments to '70s awesomeness. Shag carpeting, fantasy airbrushing, chandeliers, pretty much everything you'd ever want in or on a van. The only thing bringing down the visuals is the lame country rock being played over it. Just imagine how awesome a bitchin' Fu Manchu track would be over all this. Here, you don't have to think too hard.

I love how exploitation movies act as time capsules for their eras. Churning movies out on the cheap, most used real people and sets, giving the movies a life and spark not seen in generic, sterile modern blockbusters. Watching the stuff filmed at the van contest brought me back to hundreds of flea markets, auctions and fairs my parents took me to at the time. I also learned that women were not allowed to wear bras in the '70s, which I guess I didn't pick up on as a kid.

Riding to work this morning I was thinking about vans, and their distant, snootier cousins, the Hummer and the SUV. A van is always inviting (except for those windowless ones). It says, "Hey, man, come on in. Ladies, check out the shag carpeting and waterbed. I don't know exactly where we're going, but dig this picture of Dr. Strange on the side. Let's get some beer and hang. You like Cheap Trick?"

SUVs and Hummers say, "I got mine. Fuck you. Out of my way, I'm on my way to a neighborhood association meeting."

I know which one I feel more comfortable with. As soon as the Honda dies (which probably won't be long, I'm close to 300,000 miles), I'm getting a van. Screw the fuel economy. I don't drive that much anyway. I just have to find someone who can airbrush a Conan the Barbarian mural on the side.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roast Fish, Collie Weed and Cornbread

My favorite lunch place was packed today, so I wandered downtown in a haze of hunger pains. Hey! Da Real Ting is open again for lunch buffet! They might have been open for a while and just didn't have a snazzy sign.

I went there a few years ago and it was awesome. I went today and it was awesome. Jerk chicken, some sort of spicy broiled fish, plantains, man, it was amazing. They even had peach cobbler for dessert, even though I'm not sure that's really Jamaican. They were playing a Toots and the Maytals best of CD, which I believe they were playing the last time I was there. Had to knock them down a grade however, because while the new waitresses are better looking than the older women that worked there before, I liked thinking that the previous women could be my Jamaican lunch lady grandmas.

As I was leaving, I was told that the security cameras captured my meal for posterity. You can see a clip of it here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Another Favorite Customer

There's this older guy who comes in occasionally and wants us to look up song lyrics. Like many of my favorite customers, initially I didn't like him, but his persistence won me over and I kinda love the guy now.

He's missing a leg, and looks sort of like a skinnier, less kept-up version of old school Barry White. You know, like this:

Well, it's sort of a stretch, but work with me, babe. You know, I know that people been talking about me all over town, but girl, don't pay them no mind. You know we got a stone groove together. And baby, you know that we got it together, and nobody can --

Sorry, got caught up in the Barry White vibe there for a moment. Anyway, this guy is in a band and is constantly looking for lyrics to old soul and R&B songs. Usually a line will form behind him while I'm looking up lyrics, since he usually doesn't know the title, just a few words from the chorus. He's a pleasant, cheerful guy and is always happy when you find lyrics for him, or let on that you've heard of Mandrill or the Isley Brothers. He'll say hello to whoever is in line and usually ask them a question.

"Excuse me ma'am, he's looking up a song for me. Do you know that one? Goes like, (and here he'll start to sing a bit)'baby, I'm so in love with you?' That's a jam, there."

He's not crazy or drunk or smelly, like a large portion of the public, but I always love seeing people shy away uncomfortably as he croons at them.

Couple months ago he wanted some Curtis Mayfield song lyrics. I hipped him to a documentary we have, "Movin' On Up," which is all kinds of awesome and you should check it out now. We got to talking about just how awesome "Curtis," Mayfield's first solo album is. Any album with both "Move On Up" and "(Don't Worry) If There's Hell Below We're All Gonna Go" on it is just one of the best things in the world. Plus, that cover of him chillin' in his bright yellow flares should be hanging in the National Gallery.

He started talking about "(Don't Worry) If There's Hell Below We're All Gonna Go."

"That's a jam, there."

"Oh yeah," I replied.

"I've wanted to do that one for a long time, but people might have a problem with the opening."

If you don't recall the opening, there's an awesome fuzzy bassline, a woman talks about reading the Bible, then Curtis shouts out what adults now refer to as 'the N-word.'

"Yeah, I guess those were different times, huh?"

"Oh yeah. You know, I might get away with that," he laughed. "But I don't think you could."

"Heh. Yeah, you're right. I'm not going to even try that one."

Then he thanked me and went on down the line to sing to some uncomfortable soccer moms.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Get Out of My Head

I've had the chorus of a song stuck in my head for about 2 or 3 weeks now. I finally looked it up. Apparently the song is "Never Been Any Reason" by Head East. You know this song. You might not think so, but if you've ever listened to a classic rock station, you know this song.

The chorus goes like this:

"Save my life I'm going down for the last time/Woman with the sweet love better than a white line."

I'm hoping that by passing this on, it will leave my head and find a home in both of my faithful readers' heads.

Lord of the Flies

I'm not fanatical or anything, but I'd like to think that I keep a fairly clean house. I don't keep food out, and yeah, the dishes might linger a while in the sink before their trip to the dishwasher (what, like I'm going to hand wash that stuff? It's the 21st century!), but I'd like to think that I keep up at least minimum standards of cleanliness.

So why do I have swarms of flies in my kitchen?

Couple mornings ago I noticed a few flies on the window. "How dare you invade the sanctity of my home," I thundered, as I swatted the offenders to their death. I came home from work that afternoon and had a new gang of flies buzzing around the window. I have just enough of the OCD that I can't let that stand, and would swat flies until they were all dead, their nasty little insect carcasses littering my windowsill. Then the next day I'd start all over again.

I'm familiar with plagues, having dealt with both fleas and swarms of locusts before, but these flies are really freaking me out. A co-worker told me he had the same problem years ago, only in the bathroom, which is of course a thousand times worse than my problem, but it still feels like I'm living in an unclean house. I've been told to pour bleach down the sink and also to cover the drains with dishes, ensuring that when I move the dishes, I'll unleash swarms of bleached, angry flies all over me.

Plan B is bringing in an army of spiders which would not only eat all the flies, but would also give me an early start on my Halloween decorating.