Friday, December 9, 2011

What, Me Worry?

This might come as a surprise to those of you who know me now, but I worried a lot as a kid.

I worried about everything. Grades, scary older kids, angry dogs, you name it. This time of year was especially tough. I was never sure if I had been good enough for Santa. I thought I was pretty good, but good enough for presents good? Good all year? And who knows what exaggerations and lies my parents told him if they talked? Consequently, I was such a ball of nerves that I ended up throwing up every Christmas Eve night. This probably forced my parents to tell me the truth about Santa much earlier than they wanted to, but it was either that or clean up puke every December 24th.

I remember having some Star Wars science book where publishers tricked little kids into learning by having C3PO and R2D2 explain scientific facts. At some point C3PO describes how the sun will eventually burn out, taking out the earth and everyone you love with it.

Well, I'm sure it was phrased differently, but that's what I got out of it. I was a nerdy kid (again, I'm sure that surprised you), so I had already heard this fact and knew that it would take billions of years for the sun to explode. Still, having C3PO relay this fact made it seem much more real. I mean, if you can't trust a fussy golden robot, who can you trust?

My parents were teachers, so to calm me down they explained that a billion years was a very, very long time, and by that time I would be long dead and forgotten, along with all my friends, family and pets.

I'm sure they explained it much better than that, but that's what I took away from our talk.

I worried about the sun all summer long. What if C3P0's calculations were wrong? What if it burned out next month? Or tomorrow? It seems pretty hot today, you don't think the sun is getting ready to explode today, do you? And this whole dying thing opened up a whole new avenue of worry.

I was smart enough to realize this stuff was actually pretty stupid to worry about, so I kept my thoughts to myself, which is a strategy I would continue to employ up to the present day.

I continued to worry about stuff, but not as much after I found a medication that suited me (a combination of gin and tonics and ignoring problems until I blew up once a year), and am now the cool, calm reasonable person you know and love.

In conclusion,

Thanks for ruining my childhood, dick.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Smashing Pumpkins

"Now hold on there just a second, boy."

"Why, it looks like that one's tryin' to get away."

"Oh, don't worry. I got him."

The late night silence of the suburbs was shattered with a sickening THWACK and the sound of two corrupt law enforcement officers descending into hysterics.
Except the two officers were me and my friend Curt. And we were in high school.

I should back up.

The night hadn't started well. My mom and I got in a fight. A huge fight that escalated quickly into probably the biggest we had ever gotten into. She grounded me, and I just picked up my keys, walked out the door and left. I had never done anything like that before.

But Curt and I had tickets to see Love and Rockets that night, and I wasn't going to miss out on that.

I vaguely remember all sorts of ridiculous plans on the way to St. Pete. I was going to run away and...well, I'd make money somehow, and I wasn't going to come back home until I had my first million. My parents would change their tune then, especially when they had some time to reflect on how shabbily they treated their now rich son.
Love and Rockets were great. Maybe not as awesome as the tour we had seen previously, but still, seeing the music that I played in my bedroom or car stereo actually coming out of three people on a stage about two feet away was incredible. Opening act Jane's Addiction were mind-blowing. All in all it was a great night of music that helped forget my problems for a little while.

Of course, I had the 35 minute drive home to worry about what was going to happen when I got home. Luckily, Curt had been saving something for just such an occasion.
He told me to drive about a half mile past his house. At the time this area was full of sandspurs, scrub brush and pine and Cyprus trees.

“Keep going…further…further. OK. Stop.”

“Open the trunk.”

I parked the car on the side of the road. Curt took the tire iron out of the trunk and led the way. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but I really didn’t want to go home, and Curt had never steered me wrong, so why not take a midnight hike with a tire iron?

He walked to a little wooded area and stopped.

“Check it out,” he said, motioning with the tire iron.

He was pointing to a field of wild melons, all about the size of bowling balls, just hanging out in the moonlight.

“I’ve seen these from the bus for months,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to come out and smash them.”

As a grown man, I realize how silly this sounds (unless you are the beloved comedian Gallagher), but as teenagers, you have all this extra energy and aggression, and few ways to channel it. Sometimes massacring a bunch of fruit is exactly what you need.

And it was. The first melon smashed with a satisfying sound. We started talking in comical Southern sheriff voices, just to sort of set the scene a bit, and give the whole thing a little more flavor.

Soon our shoes were covered in melon guts, our hands ached from the vibrations off the tire iron, and I thought I was going to pass out.

Have you ever laughed so hard you actually thought you were going to die? Where your stomach hurts and you can’t breathe, but you can’t stop laughing at something that in retrospect, isn’t really that funny? It happens to me fairly regularly, probably because I’m easily amused, but this was the first time, and it still feels like last week rather than…jeez, over 20 years ago.

After we had destroyed all the melons, helping nature by distributing seeds for future growth, we probably had a 7-11 meal and skated for a while up at the middle school. Things were certainly looking better.

Mom and I eventually made up, and I have yet to make dazzle my parents with my first million. Or thousand, actually.

Now I’m not suggesting smashing up a bunch of fruit will solve all your problems, but…hey, you know what? Screw it. You’ve got problems? You’re stressed out? Go smash up some melons. Talk like Jackie Gleason in Smokey and the Bandit while you’re doing it. Seriously, you’ll feel so much better.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving kind of gets the shaft. Stuck in there between Halloween and Christmas, most people look at it as the lull between the two big holidays. Me, I love it. It's one of those holidays that all Americans celebrate, and nobody's gonna get all weirded out because they have a different religion or came here from England or India or whatever. I'm not sure how Native Americans feel about it, but I'd like to think that they look at it as the good old days, you know, before the whole genocide thing.

I don't remember too many Thanksgivings as a kid, but I do remember what might be one of my favorite Thanksgivings as an adult. Hell, it might be one of my favorite holiday memories as an adult.

My ex-wife was doing an art show in Gainesville the day after Thanksgiving and left the day before, so Thanksgiving morning I was going to drive to my grandmother's in Georgia, eat, drive back home, then wake up the next morning and drive to Gainesville for Thanksgiving #2. This is a little-known advantage to being married. You can frequently get two Thanksgivings.

It was about a three hour drive to my Grandma's. While I hate day-to-day driving, I love trips. Especially solo trips. No bathroom breaks, no fights over the stereo, leaving whenever I get the urge; just me driving all caffiened up and alone with my thoughts and singing.

Although my dad is an only child, my grandma has a lot of ... well, I'm not really sure if they are actually blood relatives or friends or what. I think there is some sort of family connection way, way off there, like 3rd cousins once removed or whatever. Anyway, they all love me and make a fuss over me, which is one of the few times that attention like that doesn't make me feel awkward and weird.

And damn, can they cook! Along with the usual turkey and stuff, there was chicken and dumplings, about a gazillion vegetables, the most tender ribs I have ever had in my life, and like 5 different kinds of cake. I mean, seriously, can you even name more than 3 kinds of cake?

My plate looked like John Belushi's in Animal House, and every time I'd stop to take a breath or pause to savor another bite, they'd be all over me.

"Do you need something else? Anything we can get you?"

I usually hate being the center of attention, but having all these old Southern ladies baby me was pretty damn comforting and sweet. I was also drinking a ton of sweet tea. Not sweet tea like you get at the store or McDonald's or whatever, this was genuine Old Southern Lady Sweet Tea, the stuff that turns you diabetic after a glass or two. Of course, as soon as my glass was about 1/4 empty, it was filled to the rim by my old lady protectors.

I ate and drank so much I was dizzy. They made me massive plates for Christie (which of course she never got) and the ride home, and hugged my neck and I was on my way back to Jacksonville.

I managed to hit that golden hour, right when the sun starts to set. I've loved that hour since I was a teenager because it meant that my work was done and I was on the road with my friends to a punk show or a skate trip. This time I was almost alone on the road, I was listening to NPR, Fugazi's The Argument, one of those later Man or Astroman albums and feeling completely contented, if still a little dizzy.

I got home to a completely empty apartment complex. Actually, most of the neighborhood was dark. I might have been the only one on our street at the time. I started in on one of my plates, opened a Guinness and started playing 7"s at a volume I wasn't usually allowed to, what with the paper thin walls and all.

It's not too often that I feel completely at peace, but after getting babied all day, eating a ton of food, knowing that I was going to see my wife and her family the next day, but that I had tonight to play the stereo loud, get drunk and eat even more combined with the drive home gave me the most peaceful feeling I had felt in a long time. I still feel good thinking about it today. I hope both of my loyal readers are able to get a piece of that this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

I'm standing in the doctor's reception area after my appointment.

"OK Mr. Adams, you're all done."

"Actually, he wanted me to schedule a physical."

"OK, when was the last time you had a full physical? Last year?"


"Two years ago?"


"Five? Ten?"

"More like over 20 when I had to get one to run track in high school."

"Oh. That has been a while."

"Yeah. Hey, he said something about me getting a chest X-Ray. Is that like a regular service? Do I have to pay extra or anything?"

"That's all part of the physical."

The last time I went to the doctor's they waterboarded me in an attempt to clean out some wax from my ear. I didn't pass out, but things were pretty iffy there for a couple of minutes. Today wasn't too bad since I didn't have to take my clothes off or get touched, but using my Nostradamus-like powers of prediction, I'm already seeing me hitting the floor at some point during this physical thing next month. I decided not to ask if they have any butt stuff planned. That would probably work better as a surprise.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Drivin' and Cryin'

I used to be someone. I had promise. I had a Porsche. No, seriously, I owned a Porsche for about a year. Actually, I guess technically my ex-wife did.

My dad had a hobby of buying old cars and restoring them. He'd be driving around and see a wreck with a for sale sign on it or start talking to a guy at a yard sale and end up buying a car and then spending months fixing it up. How he did this on a teacher's salary, I have no idea. All the way from a Model A to an MG like the one he used to have as a swinging single to a 1981 Porsche 924, he'd be obsessed for a while, then move on to another car.

About the time my ex-wife and I were first married, he had finished restoring the Porsche enough that he could drive it to work occasionally or drive it around the neighborhood now and then. We were down in Bradenton for something and he offered it to her as sort of an extra wedding present.

Well hell, who were we to turn down a free Porsche? I think we had just gotten rid of her car, a Geo that was on its last legs, or maybe we got rid of it after the Porsche offer. Who cares! We had one reliable car and a piece of German engineering, something that was befitting of our new life as one of Jacksonville's power couples. And it was a convertible, too!

I soon discovered there was a big difference between driving the car two or three miles every other day and depending on it to safely transport your wife to her job about a half hour away, especially in the days before cell phones. Well, at least before we had cell phones.

Here is a transcription from memory of about 87 calls I would get pretty frequently:

"Hey, I'm at Publix. The car just stopped. I can't get it started. I hate this car."

I can't even remember all the mechanical problems that car had. We were brand new in Jacksonville with no friends and had no idea which mechanic to trust. We called around but the only place that would take it was an import place, and because of the age of the car, they couldn't find parts half the time.

I did like the smell of the car's interior, though. It had the same smell those old VW convertibles used to give off - a mix of plastic that suggested the action figures I had as a kid, as well as a fresh bag of plastic fishing worms or brand new cassette tapes, mixed with just a hint of gasoline fumes.

Oh yeah, those gasoline fumes were probably bad.

That car was a major source of friction in the early days of our marriage. It didn't help my relationship with my parents, either. If I mentioned the problems we were having with it, I could feel my dad getting more and more upset. I mean, shit, he gave us a free car, you know? And his ungrateful son was complaining about it all the damn time.

I had (and still have) a tendency to grasp onto the smallest pebble of a problem and through a combination of worrying and anxiety, transform it into a house-sized boulder that crushes me down until I can't sleep or do anything but worry about the most ridiculous possible outcome. So when there's a real problem, say a car that we've dumped over $3000 into that we didn't really have, I've already planned my future in the poor people's nursing home, where I'm mistreated by hateful minimum-wage immigrants while my friends are enjoying their mansions and yachts, while they mention every once in a while between bites of caviar, "Hey, I wonder whatever happened to Scott? Eh. I'm sure he's alright. More champagne, Jeeves."

I don't remember when we finally decided to cut our losses. It might have been after we figured out how much we had spent on repairs. It might have been after we finally couldn't afford to fix it any more. I remember it sat in our apartment's driveway for a long time. I'd look down at it occasionally, sitting down there mocking me.

We finally ended up donating it to some charity, something I only though rich people did. Like I said, we ended up paying over 3 grand in repairs over the life of the car. Sure, it would have been smarter to take that money and use it as a down payment for another car, but it's not like we ever had all that money at one time.

We were a one-car family for a long time after that. That had its own set of problems and stresses, but at least I didn't think my wife was going to die every time she went to work, and even waiting for the bus for over an hour was much less stressful than waiting to hear from another mechanic as our checking account took another hit.

So if anyone ever offers you a free sports car, run far, far away.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Billion Dollar Babies

My sister and I were all set up to be billionaires. Back when she was in middle/high school I'd come home from a date or whatever and she'd be in the living room watching TV. I'd get in the other easy chair (I don't know what my parents had against couches) and watch with her for a while. I believe it was usually "Love Connection." You know, like the lyric in that Beastie Boys song - "dating women on TV with the help of Chuck Woolery?" No? Well, maybe it was before your time.

We'd both end up getting sleepier and sleepier, with longer pauses between our comments about whatever we were watching. Turning off the TV and walking to our bedrooms seemed impossible. Not only that, but before going to bed we'd both have to brush our teeth.

Then the idea hit us. What if there was a pill you could chew that would brush your teeth for you? Say you come home late or you're out in the woods or just too lazy to go to the bathroom to brush your teeth, you'd chew up this pill, spit it out and have all the benefits of brushing your teeth without any of that effort.

We talked about this pill constantly. We were going to make a fortune. Do you know how many lazy people were looking for just such a time saver? Well, we didn't either, but it had to be a lot.

Of course, we had no idea how to actually make such a pill, or what would be in it. Would it foam up like Alka-Seltzer? Would it just automatically brush your teeth just by being in your mouth? These were the questions that we could never find satisfactory answers to. Plus, I'm pretty sure the toothbrush lobby was on to us and starting to ramp up their pressure.

In the end, we abandoned our toothbrushing pill plans, leaving behind untold riches and fame so we could better fit in with the common people. I have not noticed anyone picking up the gauntlet since, but a little-known patent law states that once a vague idea is written about on the internet, it acts as a sort of patent. So scientists, once you perfect that stuff, start sending that sweet cash to me and my sister.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Call Me

I first heard Naked Raygun in my friend Curt's parent's car. I remember him slaloming around the curves on Riverview Boulevard as he played "Throb Throb." I can't remember if it was the end of high school or early college, but I do remember being blown away by the tape. We both had extensive punk music collections, but Raygun were something different. A super catchy band with a singer who could actually, you know, sing, with songs that stayed away from the simplistic politics most of our favorites were screaming about, instead focusing on post-apocalyptic comic book ...stuff with a sense of humor.

Naked Raygun were never that big, and when you found another fan, you generally found a friend. This was music for wise-ass nerds, people who were willing to dig just a little deeper, and who generally shared your same outlook and interests. I'm sure they had meathead fans as well, but living in Florida we never ran into them.

Curt and I remained Naked Raygun fans throughout the years, finally getting to see them about 4 years ago at a reunion show in Chicago. It was awesome. I figured that was the pinnacle of our Raygun experience.

Then in Gainesville this weekend (don't worry, I'll have a full story soon), I saw The Bomb, singer Jeff Pezatti's post-Raygun band bust out "Soldier's Requiem," one of my favorite songs of all time and one they didn't play at the reunion. That was pretty awesome.

And then Jeff Pezatti walked into the bar where I was with a big group of my friends. A lot of them have met him before (hell, he stays at my friend Shane's house when he's in Gainesville), but this was a first for me. He was super nice, even after having to hear loud drunken explanations of his own songs. They say you should never meet your heroes, but you know, maybe most people have shitty heroes.

Then he started prank calling his friends. Naked Raygun members, Steve Albini, I can't remember who all right now, but they all got a rendition of a group of us singing "Vanilla Blue" to them.

If you had told me in 1988 that I would be in a bar singing "Vanilla Blue" with the singer of Naked Raygun to his friends, I probably would have been able to get through some of my shitty years easier. "Just a few more years," I'd think. "Then I'll be singing Naked Raygun songs with Jeff Pezatti in a bar on a futuristic telephone machine with a bunch of drunks I haven't met yet."

Speaking of telephone machines, I had a SIM card replaced on mine a week ago. Since I didn't save all my addresses and numbers to the card, a lot of people got wiped out and I was only left with their email address, something I didn't discover until this weekend. This is the only downside to the whole experience, because through the whole thing, all I was thinking was, "I have to let Curt hear this."

So Curt, I'm sorry technology beat me again. I promise to save your info on the card ASAP, just in case I run into someone else famous.

Here's some proof. I call this one "Three Men and a Little Lady." And no, my neck is not that fat in real life.

The Power of Positive Drinking

It's been a bad month. For a variety of reasons I've been feeling like a failure both professionally and personally. I sleep like I'm on watch - sleep two hours and stay awake two, all through the night. The hours I'm awake I catalog a litany of mistakes and missteps and future problems that snowball until I either fall back asleep or wake up and trudge through another day.

So I've been getting out of town on the weekends, which has been pretty great. Went to Chapel Hill two weekends ago, which was amazing. Lots of beer drinking, man talk and pork eating in one of the greatest little cities I've ever been in. I don't understand why all of America isn't trying to move up there.

Gainesville, Florida was up next in my tour of our nation's finest college towns for this big music festival thing. I didn't really care too much about seeing the bands, I was mostly in it for another big Gainesville group meet up.

As both of my readers might remember, these tend to happen once a year or so, when a group of about 20 or so ex-Gainesvillians gather for a wedding or music festival or whatever. A few have them have also magically lined up when I've been in the middle of some tough times, and have managed to pick me up and recharge my batteries for at least a little while.

I'm not really comfortable around a lot of people. I tend to hide different aspects of my revolting personality around different groups, and I generally stay quiet, feeling that people wouldn't want to hear whatever I would say, so it was nice to be around a group where I could be completely comfortable. Judging from the memories that flash through, perhaps I was a little too comfortable.

And the weekend seems to have worked its magic. Three days and nights surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world, full of eating, drinking, music and laffs, which naturally, I didn't get a single photo of. Official photographer Leila Campisi did get some pretty awesome photos, including this one of me eating some money. It made sense at the time.

How am I still single?

You could say that this is all a bunch of middle-aged Big Chill-type nostalgia, and I might agree, except that none of us were really bringing up the past at all - we were focusing on what we were doing now, catching up with each other, that sort of thing. I don't mean to make this sound like some therapy session or something, I was frequently laughing so hard at some nonsense that I felt I had ruptured my appendix or something.

As loaded as I was through the weekend I still had trouble sleeping until Saturday night. I slept like a log and woke up at 7:30 feeling more refreshed than I had in a long time. I went ahead and packed up and drove back to Jacksonville, feeling...I dunno, peaceful somehow, knowing that all my problems (which would be ridiculous to 90 percent of the world) can be dealt with or ignored. The sun was still rising and looked beautiful, every song that came up on the ipod sounded amazing, and I was on the road.

Sure, I might be a single middle aged guy who is frequently broke and has a lack of both marketable talents and social skills, but I've able to pick some goddamn amazing friends, and I'll be able to take whatever life dishes out, as long as I can keep in touch with them to remind me that I'm not as weird and out of place as I sometimes think I am.

And I can still eat the hell out of some money.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rate the Vampires

I read "Dracula" for the first time for a book club I'm doing at work. Strangely enough, I never read it before. I've read a hundred different abridged versions of it and seen even more of the movies, so I thought I knew the basic story.

Except the basic story is pretty different from the original. First of all, Dracula drops out after page 50 or so and it shifts to Lucy and Mina and their suitors, like someone snuck a copy of "Pride and Prejudice" into my vampire book. Dracula's death is strange, too. It's the last page and they just behead him and that's pretty much it. And Dracula has a mustache? Come on.

So I decided to rate the movie vampires. I was going to just rate the Draculas, but I expanded it a bit to create a completely arbitrary guide to movie vampires, just what the world has been crying out for.

Some of these I've seen recently in my run up to Halloween watching, some I haven't seen in years, but since this is the internet, I still feel that my halfway remembered version of a movie is absolutely correct.

Nosferatu (1922) and (1972)
The first time I saw the original I was at my Great Uncle Norwood and Aunt Tiny's house. Uncle Norwood was watching it on the TV in the Florida Room. I was about 7 and wasn't allowed to see it, which made me want to watch all the more. I read all sorts of books on monsters and ghosts and whatnot, so I figured I was old enough to watch some ancient black and white movie. I caught a glimpse of Nosferatu creeping up the stairs with his long claws and rat face and immediately started bawling. Sometimes the adults are right. Rewatched recently as a grown up, Nosferatu is still creepy and manages to create an overall sense of fear and unease. Sure, other German stuff at the time was more visually arresting with all those crazy angles, but man, that makeup job on Nosferatu is still aces.
Rating: 5 bats

Warner Herzog's remake with Klaus Kinski already has 3 points to recommend it. Klaus Kinski, Warner Herzog, and Nosferatu. From what I remember, this Nosferatu is more closely linked with the plague, but Kinski's Nosferatu is strangely able to become a sympathetic character.
Rating: 5 bats

Dracula (1931)
Dracula has it's problems. It's really stagey and you can see how movies were still trying to work out a style away from the florid silent tropes. There's a couple characters who either don't register at all or who spend way too much time on the screen. But when Bela Lugosi gets a scene, you're riveted. With his Hungarian accent and courtly manners that seem just a touch off, you can totally see how the Count was droppin' panties and stabbin' jugulars all across Europe. While nowhere near as scary as Nosferatu, Lugosi so completely owned the role that to this day if you grab someone at random and ask them to give a vampire, they're gonna do Bela Lugosi.
Rating: 4 bats as a whole, 5 bats for Lugosi

Christopher Lee's Hammer Draculas (1958 - 1974)

Christopher Lee's Dracula combined both the earlier approaches. In the beginning he could be smooth, but once he saw an unprotected neck or someone finally figured out he was a vampire, he'd become a feral, hissing fiend with the strength to toss people around his castle. You know what you're getting into in each movie; there's gonna be a visitor going to Draculaland who gets warned off by the natives, Van Helsing shows up, a bunch of pretty ladies in low cut gowns vampire around, there are some debates about science and religion where someone says, "Vampires? Why it's the 19th (or 20th) century," Dracula is eventually killed and then resurrected in the next movie. That's not to say that's a bad thing, even the ones where Dracula is running around in mod London are worth watching, and with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, the Dracula movies finally have someone equal to the Count on screen.
Rating: oh what the hell. 4 bats

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
I remembered not liking this one when I saw it in the theater, but I've warmed to it a bit more from constant rotation on TV. The Vlad the Impaler stuff is pretty cool, and Dracula as an old man is interesting, but seeing him walking around London with long hair and Lennon glasses and a wispy beard and mustache just doesn't jibe with my idea of a Dracula. Plus, this started the trend of vampires who whine about how terrible it is to be a vampire. Or maybe that was Lost Boys. It also loses a bat for there being no gratuitous Winona Ryder nudity.
Rating: 3 bats

Interview with a Vampire (1994)
This started the transformation of vampires from courtly Europeans or hissing beasts into college sophomores after a bad breakup, only with more frilly clothes and an urge to theatrically exclaim every emotion they are feeling. Really, how terrible is it to be a vampire? You get to sleep in cool old castles, turn into a bat, seduce ladies and you even get a cool-ass cape. If I were a vampire, you'd never hear me complaining about it.
Rating: 2 bats

Twilight (2008)
Obviously, I'm completely the wrong market for this, but come on. Vampires that don't turn into bats? That hang out in the daytime and don't drink blood? That go to school?
Rating: 1 bat, and that's generous.

The winner, and still champion

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Never Kissed a Bear, I Never Kissed a Goon, But I Can Shake a Chicken in the Middle of the Room

I remember the first time I heard Wanda Jackson. I was living in Atlanta, delivering food, walking out each night with at least 30-40 bucks in cash on top of my regular paycheck. Most of this cash went with me to Wax n Facts every Wednesday where I would exchange it for stacks of vinyl. One day I found a couple of the Born Bad bootlegs. These were full of songs that the Cramps either covered, were inspired by or borrowed pieces from. Jackson's "Funnel of Love" was the last song on Volume One.

As you could imagine, these comps were full of weird, unhinged music, but Jackson's song was something else. A catchy, tuneful song with a singer who had a voice like a wildcat. I played that song over and over.

Flash forward to 2011. After a particularly bad couple of weeks, I decided to go see her perform to lift my spirits.

Things did not start promisingly. My friend Matthew and I have some of the worst directional skills known to man and were stuck with a non-working GPS. He was navigating directions from my phone, which worked about as well as you would imagine. The concert was in Ponte Vedra, which we later discovered was about 30 minutes away. We took about an hour and a half, full of conversations like this:

"I think we're going in the wrong direction."

"Are you sure?"

"Not really. Hey. Those barricades up there? Does that mean the road is closed?"

This also required a lot of U turns in the dark, as well as turning and merging on to roads where I wasn't quite sure what was road and what was median. I should probably get my eyes checked again.

Jackson was playing at a place that looked like a church from the '80s, and it was full of ...well, it wasn't actually full, and there was a strange group there. A couple rockabilly revivalists, some middle aged parents (wait, I guess I'm middle aged now. Well, older-than-me parents) and some people that looked like they donated to the place so had season tickets.

It is also the only event where I've had an usher tell me, "You know, it's not full, so if you want you can get up closer."

Despite all that, she was amazing. She had a good backing band who had the sense not to get in the way or fill the music up with a bunch of unnecessary fills and showboating. Her voice still has that weird, otherworldly quality, but it's aged a bit. She told stories from the stage about her life, which avoided sounding corny or showbizzy.

And she has a right to be showbizzy - she toured and went out with Elvis. She played some covers, some songs from her new album which sounded great, and played every song I wanted to hear, even "Fujiyama Mama," which was a hit in Japan, even with the lyrics, "I've been to Nagasaki/ Hiroshima too/ The same I did to them, baby I can do to you."

Altogether a great night, and another example of how you should really get out and see the old-timers while you can. And call your grandma this weekend too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A New Record!

Went to a record show down in Gainesville yesterday, mostly just for something to do. I only have a few records left. My turntable has lived in the top of my closet for about 6 years now. I am a terrible hipster.

Years ago I was faced with the problem of how to save 6 crates of vinyl from Mother Nature during a hurricane evacuation. Realizing they wouldn't all fit in the Civic with two cats, a wife, a computer and several essential bins of fabric and beads, I realized that maybe I didn't really need all that stuff after all, and started replacing most of my collection on CD, which took up a hell of a lot less space.

But it was still fun digging through the crates on a Sunday on the grounds of the old Hardback Cafe, even if I had to endure what my friend Pat dubbed scenester smell. "It's all full of sweated out cheap beer and cigarettes and unwashed armpits," was pretty close to his exact quote. I should have written it down.

I hit up the dollar and 2 dollar records for some wall decoration for my still barely furnished bachelor pad and managed to score a nice looking For A Few Dollars More soundtrack, The Impressions' Gone Away, which I might actually have to try to listen to, and some some exotica record with an evil nekkid Hawiian lady throwing bowls of fire at you:

Pretty boss, huh?

Cynics might wonder why I expended precious fossil fuels and my free time to spend a handful of money on stuff that I don't really have a use for. Well, if I hadn't, you never would have seen this:

Poor sad clown. I know the feeling.

I have no idea what this is, other than the possible inspiration for Fishbone's awesome Christmas carol "Slick Nick, You Devil, You," but I expect it will remain an integral part of my Christmas displays for years to come.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Got me a new car this week. My old Civic was closing in on 240,000 miles and had a number of small problems that I had adjusted to over the years. The air conditioner made a noise like a lawn mower plowing through a field of rocks if you put it on the two settings that (sort of) worked. It had started to leak oil. If I didn't put water in it every week, it would come close to overheating when idling for over a minute or two. This weird indoor snow was coming off the sun-destroyed visor.

Still, we had a past, and it took me much longer than I should have to let it go. Mostly because I am cheap, lazy, afraid of change and have an intense hatred of people trying to sell me things.

I got the car back in 1998 as a signing bonus for getting married and finishing grad school. It was the first new car I have ever owned, and probably ever will own. It survived 6 months of daily commuting back and forth from Gainesville to Jacksonville, a whole bunch of long trips, a failed theft attempt, a couple of moves, a hurricane evacuation, and dozens of neighborhood cats sleeping and peeing on it. All the dings and problems with it were all mine. This new car, who knows what the pervert who owned it before me was doing in there?

I actually found maps from my honeymoon in the glove compartment, which was pretty sad, both as a reminder that I have a failed marriage to my name, and as a reminder that I haven't been bothered to clean out the glove compartment since owning the car.

The new car is pretty nice, another Civic I can run into the ground (I'm not giving out too many details. I don't want you internet freaks tracking me down). It's very strange to be driving something so quiet; something where I'm not constantly looking out for the next smell or sound or light telling me something's gone wrong.

The buying experience went much better than I feared since the salesman was brand-new and hadn't been fully indoctrinated into salesman mode. I was able to knock close to 2 grand off the price, which is funny, since I'm a worse negotiator than President Obama. Usually halfway through I realize I'm playing a game, the salesperson is playing a game, we both know it, and it just seems sort of stupid, so tell me what to pay and let me leave. But I was able to channel my dad and it worked. My dad could get deals on like, stereos and stuff just by asking, "So how much is this really?" Whenever I tried that, I'd just get embarrassed and write a check for an extra 50 bucks just to apologize for taking up the salesperson's time and subjecting him to my pathetic bargaining attempts.

I also liked when the salesman asked me to pick a radio station and I turned it to NPR, then switched over to Jones College Radio. I could feel him getting all flummoxed next to me but not wanting to say anything that would possibly blow the sale.

So I'm pretty happy, I suppose, and this new car will slowly take on a character. This new car also means I can't use my unreliable transportation as an excuse not to get out of Jacksonville any more, but luckily cheapness, laziness and comfort of being stuck in a rut will work just fine.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mighty Big Shoes to Fill

I went Bigfoot crazy a few weeks ago. It started when I caught an interview with an author plugging his latest book on NPR about the legendary creature (his shocking conclusion: Bigfoot probably doesn't exist, the 'bigfoot community' is sort of nuts). That sounded pretty cool. Then, within a week, two or three people mentioned Bigfoot or sent me a Sasquatch-related link.

Realizing this was a plate of shrimp moment like the movie Repo Man told us all about, I was powerless to fight fate so I loaded up my Netflix queue with whatever Bigfoot movies they had, checked out the NPR guy's book from work, and would have listened to Bigfoot music, if I could figure out what that was. I have a hunch he would listen to Fu Manchu.

Bigfoot was everywhere when I was a kid. Exploitation filmmakers cranked out films about him, he was on TV, he even had his own line of shoes, which I remember pitching a fit for in Buster Brown. I do not recall if my shitiness was rewarded.

I do, however, remember lots of time spent in the woods looking for the beast. This was back in the late '70s/early '80s when parents didn't really care what their kids did, just as long as they did it somewhere else, or at least did it quietly.

And man, did I love hanging out in the woods. My friends and I used our Bigfoot hunts as an excuse to follow trails for what seemed like miles and to freak each other out with outrageous lies as we got deeper and deeper into the woods. You could also fairly regularly find piles of waterlogged and moldy Penthouse and Playboy magazines out there which was an added bonus and safer than running into Bigfoot.*

There are adults who still do the same thing, although they are completely serious, which is funny, because even as kids we knew we were wasting our time. If you have cable you might have seen those ghost hunters who walk through haunted houses in green light challenging ghosts to fights. I'm serious. Half the running time is guys in Ed Hardy shirts yelling stuff like, "'SUP GHOST?! WHY DON'T YOU SHOW YOURSELF? YOU LIKE SCARING LITTLE KIDS AND WOMEN? WHY DON'T YOU MATERIALIZE RIGHT NOW, GHOST?"

The ghosts never show up.

As with many things I loved as a kid or teenager, Bigfoot tracking is probably the next ridiculous thing to hit the mainstream. Next time you're out on a relaxing walk in the woods looking for old dirty magazines, don't be surprised if you interrupt a camera crew shouting "C'MON, BIGFOOT! WHY YOU GOTTA HIDE, BRA?! I'M RIGHT HERE IN YOUR WOODS, DUDE!"

*Do you remember the thrill of spotting the back cover of a magazine somewhere as a kid, seeing a cigarette ad, getting excited thinking you had found some forest porn only to realize it was just a Newsweek or something? If I could bottle that euphoria and exhilaration I'd put 5 Hour Energy out of business.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cunning Stunts

For nerdy kids, there were few greater feelings than successfully pulling a prank over on someone. Not only did it get you laughs, strengthening your sense of theatricality, but it reinforced a vague sense that you were smarter than the adults.

Of course, looking back, the adults were probably just playing along to not crush your self-esteem. I mean, kids aren't really known for their self-control or patience, so when you suddenly started spouting,
"Hey mom, why don't you sit down? Like, right here? On this cushion? Aren't you tired, huh? Why don't you sit down," they probably knew what was up.

At least my parents played along with my practical jokes, my friends were once chased around the table by their murderous dad after he found a fake fly ice cube in his drink.

The company S.S. Adams (sadly, no relation) made it easy for kids with cheap practical jokes in just about every supermarket. This one-stop shopping area could get you joy buzzers, fake soap, snapping gum, whatever your heart desired.

While the packaging was amazing, the actual mechanics of the toys usually left something to be desired. That joy buzzer looked awesome, with that 1950s businessman jumping out of his shoes with lighting bolts all around him. When you actually used it on someone, it made a pathetic little 'bzzzz' sound as your victim just sort of stared at you. Of course, the joke was pretty much over when a ten year old you offered to shake hands with someone. What kid shakes people's hands? It also didn't help that it looked like you were a little kid wearing a wedding band.

S.S. Adams inspired a brand loyalty that would rival that of the guy at work that's always yapping about the newest Apple whatever, mostly because they were cheap and readily available. They also seemed a bit more realistic than the stuff advertised in comic books.

Although I really, really wanted my own personal 7 foot Frankenstein, my dad explained that it was just a cardboard picture and he couldn't really be used to settle neighborhood scores. Besides, all that stuff had to be mailed away for, which seemed a long, confusing and boring process, possibly involving checks.

Also, who had the patience to wait 4-6 weeks to wait for your X-Ray Specs or Sea Monkeys or...holy crap! The guy who invented X-Ray Specs and Sea Monkeys was a member of the Klan and the Aryan Nations? Shit, I'm glad I didn't unknowingly finance Hitler by buying those X-Ray Specs I really wanted.
Jesus, I wonder where the money for that 7 foot Frankenstein would have gone? NAMBLA?

Anyway, S.S. Adams is still going strong, and not affiliated with any creepy causes that I could find. Next time you're at the store you should pick up a can of those jumping snake mixed nuts. Looking at the packaging, they haven't changed since like 1962, but that's not the point. Everyone knows that you have to play along with that sort of stuff.

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Celebrity Sightings

Security Guard: "I've been thinking all night about who you look like."

Me: "Aw, crap."

Security Guard: "No, no, you look like that dude in The Hangover."

Not sure which one he's talking about, but I guess it's better than Nathan Lane.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Power of Bollywood

I was in the back of a cab in D.C., while my friend Julie navigated.

"This music is beautiful," said Julie.

The cabbie made some sort of affirmative sound.

"Yeah, it's nice," I said. "Hey, I know this. Is this from a movie?" I asked the cabbie.

"Yes, yes," he said.

"Is this from Don?"

"Yes, it is," the cabbie exclaimed, a bit more excited.

"That movie's awesome!" I exclaimed. And I wasn't lying. Don is awesome. Here, read this review. If you're looking to an introduction to '70s Bollywood action cinema, this would be the one.


We talked for a few minutes about Don, Bollywood soundtracks, and Amitabh Bachchan's gazillion movies, and just like that, a gap was bridged, a gap between races, between cultures and ages, at least until we found that we didn't have enough money to leave a tip.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Even Jack Chick is Feeling the Recsssion

Because of the rain, I've had to drive to work the past two Saturdays. This always sort of throws me off my game, as my daily bike ride to work depletes my dangerously full reserves of crazy.

On both of these Saturdays I get out of work, ready for some maxin' and relaxin.' As I'm walking to my car I notice something tucked under my windshield wiper.

"Sonofabitch! There's no way I can get a ticket! Weekends are free downtown! That's the one perk city employees still get!"

Oh wait. They weren't tickets after all. Looks like some sort of note. Crap. I'll bet someone hit my car and drove off. Then again, what if somehow Lynda Carter and Debbie Harry left a note telling me how sexy I was and how they were waiting for me at my house? This would require them having access to a time machine, as I'm strictly thinking of both of them circa 1977 or so. I'm not sure where they would get a time machine, but you know, they're famous and everything, and they seem nice enough that they'd want to use this new technology to help out a creepy middle-aged man explore his pre-pubescent fantasies.

Wait, what were we talking about?

Praying always in your Most Holy Faith

Then you open it up and there's a little picture of an American flag/Bible, while explosions light up the words. Not bad. I'm thinking this was inspired by the local 4th of July festivities.

The next week's was on cardboard, and simply has the American flag/Bible with "The Lord" in big ol' script.

While this anonymous artist has a bright, airy style, I feel they still need a little work. I suggest a study of mid-period Jack Chick.

I Have a Signature Sound

The boss was talking to someone close to my little cubicle.

Boss: "Scotty's around,* right?"

Me: "Yeah, why, were you guys gonna talk about some lady stuff again?"

Boss: "No, I just knew you were there because I could hear your sound."

Me: "My sound?"

Boss: "Yeah, you have this weird sound you make. Sort of a combination between a sigh and a sniff."

Me: "Really? I never noticed."

Boss: "Yeah, you might want to see an allergist about that."

So now I'm the guy who creeps around work sniffing and sighing. I think I'm only days away from being the dude in Office Space who is obsessed with his stapler.

*Again, I have no idea how I got the nickname Scotty at work.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011


For about two years I was a stock boy at Ben Franklin, a store named after one of our nation's most kick-ass founding fathers. I have no idea what Mr. Franklin had to do with selling arts and craft supplies, but I suppose he needed something to do when he wasn't perfecting his electricity shooting kite or helping Paul Bunyan build the Grand Canyon.

One day I was told to stock the googly eyes, STAT. To those of you not in the craft business, googly eyes are...well, they're googly eyes. Little plastic moving eyes that you glue on stuff. Say you've got a pet rock or a sock puppet. You've painted, glued, crafted the hell out of it, and it looks pretty cool, but there's something missing, some spark of life, some vital essence not there. Glue some googly eyes on that sucker, and the Frankenstein feeling of creating life out of previously inert materials flows through your hands. And they all laughed at you at the university! The fools! They called you mad? You'll show them all! Arise, my sock puppet! Arise and taste the sweet breath of life!

So the things were not without their uses, but they weren't really a hot item. People would buy a pair when they needed them for a project, then the rest of the eyes would sit on the pegboard shelf, gathering dust and staring at you as you walked down the aisle.

"Make sure you bring everything out from the back," my manager said. "There's a sale in tomorrow's paper."

"Oh yeah?" I tried to give my question just the right amount of interested inflection, letting my boss know that I genuinely cared about the inner workings of Ben Franklin and the craft business in general. Meanwhile, I was trying to remember the lyrics from "Ace of Spades" and imagining what various cashiers would look like naked.

"Oh yeah," she said. "They're gonna be buying them up like crazy tomorrow. Look."

She showed me the advertisement. Googly eyes 50 cents.

"Wait. These eyes have been 50 cents since I started working here. And anybody that would care about our ads would know how much they are. These people are in here all the time."

"Just wait," she said.

Sure enough, the next morning the old folks came stampeding in at 10 on the dot, heading straight for the googly eyes(It was always exactly 10, because they'd start gathering outside the doors about 15 minutes earlier, their agitation increasing every minute they were locked away from their poly-fil, silk flowers and precious googly eyes. At 9:59 they'd start making exaggerated gestures towards their watches and at the digital bank sign across the street. These are the people, you would think, that won World War II and beat the Great Depression.).

I was up at the counter pretending to sweep and asked a lady why she bought 4 pairs of googly eyes.

"They're on sale," she exclaimed. "They're only 50 cents!"

"What are you gonna do with them?"

"I don't know...But they're on sale!"

Figuring this was one of those Spinal Tap "This one goes up to 11," moments, I wisely kept quiet and pondered the power of advertising.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Late Night Bonding

Nobody thought their parents understood them growing up. I was sure mine didn't. I'm still pretty sure of it. I often wonder what my parents thought of me, now that I'm probably the age they were when I was a teenager.

In return for free food and a place to stay (and a rather large assortment of Star Wars paraphernalia), I would act like doing yardwork was the equivalent of getting shipped to the Gulag, and the stuff I thought was cool (rock and roll, monsters, videogames, skateboarding, dirty movies on cable) must have seemed ridiculous at best, and at worst, a path to a life of laziness and loserdom.*

On my side, my parent's square habits like waking up early and doing yardwork and their extreme thriftiness was just as alien to me. I mean, who would want to do that crap when HBO is showing Emannuelle at 3:30 in the morning?

Naturally, I am now obsessed with yardwork, cheaper than Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve and generally wake up around 7 in the morning.

Things got better once I was in community college and still living at home. I was making close to straight As (with the exception of my math classes, which I had to retake like 30 times), had steady employment, and was generally fairly responsible.

I was on the newspaper staff, which was a pretty sweet gig. There were about 8 of us, and our advisor would stop in maybe three times a semester. We would hang out for hours in the newspaper office, eating food from the cafeteria, listening to the Pixies and Descendents, and bonding the way you do over old-school wax and X-Acto layout.

A friend on the staff had a crush on me which I was oblivious to, as I had the social skills of a circus bear and was fairly ugly, so the thought of someone of the opposite sex actually liking liking me after the end of my lengthy high school romance seemed about as likely as my flapping my arms and flying to the moon.

At one point, the two of us were driving around Siesta Key after blowing off our night biology class, something we did fairly often. We parked and walked on the beach in the dark. The water was glowing yellow-green with phosphorescence. Every crashed wave would leave a glowing, otherworldly hue. Naturally, we had to get out in there.

I can't remember what time of year it was, I just remember we were freezing, making out while hundreds of thousands of glowing algae turned the ocean around us into our personal light show.

Well, with nature turning on the romance like that, we had to go back to her house. After messing around for a while, I figured I needed to get home, as it was approaching 4 in the morning. I didn't actually have a curfew at the time, but this would probably be pushing it, and I still had a 20 minute drive home.

My clothes were wet, so I borrowed a pink sweatshirt with a beaver on it and wrapped up in a towel. I figured everyone would be long asleep at home, so who cared what I looked like?

I turn the key in the door and see my dad sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by a pile of bills, probably trying to figure out how he was going to manage to pay for all the food I was consuming.

"Where the hell have you been? Do you know what time it is?

"I ..."

Dad was taking in my getup. No shoes, feet and legs still glowing green from the ocean, and a yellow towel topped off with a pink beaver sweatshirt.

"Just...just go to bed," he said, laughing.

Strangely enough, "To Everything, Turn Turn" by the Byrds came on. My voice got whinier and I said, "And at that moment, I realized my dad and I weren't that different after all."

And that was the best episode of The Wonder Years ever.

* Guess I showed them, huh?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dumb

I had quite a few unofficial jobs before actually getting real employment bagging groceries. I'd do yardwork, clean gutters, paint, whatever the old folks in my neighborhood needed and were willing to pay for.

Lots of people hate that stuff, but I found it relaxing. I could be out there alone with nobody bothering me and I didn't have to talk to anyone, two things I've looked for in jobs and relationships ever since. Plus, I'd have to do the same stuff at home anyway, but I was getting actual money for my work, as opposed to the free room and board and love or whatever my parents paid me with. I also noticed that working for other people had an actual stopping time, which I found a welcome change from my parent's managerial style.

At some point my neighbors across the street recruited me for a babysitting gig which I snatched right up. I wouldn't be sweating in the sun, I'd get to watch cable and eat junk food for a few hours, and as a bonus I knew that these neighbors had a stack of vintage Playboys in the garage.

I show up, having memorized the night's pay channel's lineup, paying special attention to the words "strong sexual content," "nudity," "violence" or the wild card, "adult situations."

I should mention that the kid I was going to babysit was sort of weird. He grew up to be a weird teenager. He's probably a weird man right now.

At some point we're playing a Sesame Street board game. I let the kid win.

"Yay! I win!"

"Yep, you won."

"Now we have to play until you win."

This round I make short work of the kid, since he's like 4 and I was in a gifted class. I'm actually fairly distracted, thinking of that pizza in the kitchen I heated up that the kid only ate like three bites of which is calling my name. Those Playboys in the garage are also calling to me. Vintage or not, they still had naked ladies in them, and I figured I could check those out as an appetizer before exploring the night's cable offerings.

As I navigate Oscar into Gumdrop Mountain, the kid realizes I won and starts bawling. Like, turning red and getting that hyperventilating thing when kids are really going off.

"Hey, look," I say. "I was supposed to lose a turn! Looks like you won after all!"

"Jesus," I'm thinking. "Did his parents never allow him to lose? This kid's gonna be all sorts of screwed up. I don't remember pissing my pants when my dad won at Monopoly."

"Uh uh uh uh O O O OK. N..N..Now we have to play until you win."

I beat the kid again and he starts crying. I discover another loophole in the rules which meant he actually won, then we have to play until I win. This goes on for a while, all while I'm thinking about cold pizza, Playboys and all the nudity on cable TV that is going on without me.

After about 14 hours of this, the kid finally gets sleepy and is ready for bed. Awesome! As I'm stuffing cold pizza in my mouth, he comes into the kitchen and picks out a mop from the closet.

"My mom said I could sleep with this."

I didn't really think that was true, but screw it, the kid wants to sleep with a mop, who was I to judge? I'd wait til he fell asleep and return it to the closet with nobody being the wiser. The important thing is that the kid is finally heading for bed, meaning I could check out some Playboys and prime '80s pay cable in the hour or so I had before the parents came back.

I'm sitting on the couch eating warmed up pizza watching a particularly exciting Cinemax offering (I had given up on going out to the Playboy garage) when the kid wanders in dragging his mop.

"I can't sleep. Are my parents home yet?"

"No, they're not back yet. Hey, let's go back to bed, huh? Wouldn't that be fun?"

This goes on for the rest of the night, throwing me off my Cinemax viewing, and impeding my mop return.

The parents finally show up, and although they thought the mop thing was pretty funny, I was never called to babysit again, which was fine by me. Mowing was much less stressful.

Friday, June 3, 2011

So He's All Like, Practice, And I'm All Like, Whatever

We had a big jazz festival thing here last weekend. While not as exciting as Nerdfest, it had its moments. Plus, it was just nice to have food for sale out on the streets and to see people walking around Jacksonville’s usually deserted downtown.Seriously, walk around downtown on a weekend and you'll think you're the last person on Earth.

Even though I had to work, I managed to catch about 30 minutes of McCoy Tyner’s set. Tyner was about the only person I really didn’t want to miss, and from what I saw (only about 3 songs), he’s still in fine form.

Tyner played piano with John Coltrane from 1960 til 1965, meaning he played from "My Favorite Things" all the way up through “A Love Supreme,” leaving when Coltrane got too out there. According to the press release sent out by the festival, Tyner started his stint with Coltrane when he was 17 years old. 17. *Could you imagine that?

When I was 17 my only talent was the ability to fix the TV to get in the Playboy channel after my parents had gone to sleep and the ability to be a self-absorbed, creepy asshole.

That started me thinking about how I would have behaved, had I been in a world famous band that strove to challenge musical boundaries back when I was 17 (presuming I had somehow been granted musical ability by a radioactive spider bite or something).

I would imagine lots of blown off practices. Also, if you were to listen to the in studio excerpts from the box set, they'd sound like this:

"God, get off my back, I'll practice when I can, OK, Mr. Music Nazi!":

"I know we've got a show next weekend, but I already promised my friends we'd drive up to Tampa."

"I hate it here, and I hate your stupid band."

"Pfft. Yeah, that's real cool."

Luckily, not all people were as terrible as I was in my youth, and music was allowed to progress and flourish, all by keeping me far, far away from it.

*A quick jaunt over to Wikipedia and some basic arithmetic reveals that Tyner was actually in his early 20s when he joined Coltrane’s band, but the major point, that I was a terrible teenager still remains a matter of public record.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weekend Warrior

Occasionally the gods of leisure will smile upon you. Maybe it's fate, maybe they just tire of seeing you trudge through your same routine every week, but for whatever reason they decide to throw a whole bunch of fun at you just to see you happy.

Although knowing that mythological gods could be dicks, they might just want to see if you die of a heart attack from fun overload.

For whatever reason, the gods decided to reward me by scheduling the Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championships and something called the Cult Movie Drive-in on the same weekend, one of the weekends I was actually off work and could attend a smorgasboard of awesomeness.

There's not too much you can really say about the BBQ Championships, other than it's a good excuse to eat a whole bunch of food and ...I dunno, I guess the ticket goes to charity or something?

I had gone to last year's championship, and while it was pretty fun, it was also sort of unorganized. So there would be long stretches of no food, then a group would gather in front of some booth after somebody said, "They've got ribs" in the same tone you'd use if you had found a kid in a well who needed help. If you were in the back of the group, you might get some ribs, or you might get a big ol' helping of nothing.

This year, there were a lot more people cooking, so much so that I was so loaded up on samples that I felt sort of sick after we left. This is the feeling of accomplishment.

BBQ even makes hipsters smile!

They have this really progressive work release thing where inmates from the local prisons and asylums learn valuable life skills through cooking. Here, a local inmate displays his favorite cleaver.

From there we went to the Cult Drive-in thing. It was pretty dead, which might have had something to do with there being no advertising. I only knew about it because my friend Pat happened to stumble onto their webpage which he forwarded on to me, after having HIS MIND BLOWN. Seriously, the email he sent said something like "abaadabab this just broke my brain."

All sorts of famous-to-nerds people were there, and since they weren't bothered by pesky customers, they were captive to the nerds who showed up who would regale these poor actors with recaps of their favorite lines and how their roles in action movies back in the '70s were totally inspirational at their sad IT or library jobs.

Mink Stole from the John Waters movies was the first person we saw. She was awesome, sort of like a cool aunt. She totally wanted to steal my friend Matthew. Oh yeah, he was visibly freaked out by like 95 percent of the stuff there. He almost fainted when Ms. Stole suggested he talk to Ilsa (you know, the She Wolf of the SS). Ilsa's there by Matthew's shoulder. Poor Ilsa, no nerds at her table yet.

If you pay them for autographs, famous people will pretend to be friends with you.

Pam Grier offered to take me away with her, but I have too much to do here.

Jim Kelly no longer has his amazing afro (where I think many of his powers came from), but was still pretty awesome.

There were all sorts of movies of dubious quality being sold there. They had deals where you could buy 3 for like 30 bucks. I ended up with Moonshine County Express, Killer Fish, Three Tough Guys, The Legend of Lizzie Borden, some animated Dracula thing and ...I can feel your eyes glazing over from here, so I'll stop. Suffice it to say, I loaded up on treats, even though I have the feeling they're all gonna be released next week in five dollar Criterion reissues.

For the next few days I thought of all the stuff I left behind - some Bigfoot movie, a couple Italian Jaws ripoffs, some spaghetti western where Robert Mitchum plays a priest with a machine gun. Man, I really needed some of that stuff.

I noticed how everybody thought it was awesome that I was spending a ton of money on foolishness. I hope all these people remember that when I hit them up for loans when I'm 76 and headed to my third job.

Fred Williamson did a Q&A, which was just amazing. He looked almost the same as he did in the '70s, even though he said he was 73. He came in drinking a margarita and just started calling on people. He had a long list of people who's asses he should have or will or could kick.

I asked what his favorite role was.

"My favorite role? You've seen my movies, right? They're all the same. I look good, kick someone's ass, get the girl if I want her, then leave."

Someone asked if he'd accomplished his goals. He said he didn't have any, and said something like, "I never thought I'd play football professionally, or act in movies, or direct. Or be in this room answering all these dumbass questions."

After that, we went home and I fully intended to come back at 8 to watch Coffy on the big screen, but after my day's adventures, I stayed home and looked at all my treats.

When will the gods smile on me again? Who knows, the ways of gods are unknown to mortal men. I'd like to think they helped me out during Sunday's adventures, when I teamed up with Pam Grier, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly and we uncovered a wide-ranging conspiracy based at the BBQ Championships. I'd tell you more, but a lot of that information is classified at the moment.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Is there any greater feeling than getting out of work early? Just running errands, watching TV or whatever, you can catch a little wisp of a feeling, like a spring breeze that whispers, “Hey, you could be at work right now.” From that first step out of the door, where it feels like you’ve pulled off a successful jewel heist, to the little flashbacks during the day where you’re wondering what the poor saps at work are doing at the moment, man, there’s nothing like not being at work.

Calling in sick is a whole other beast. If you made up your illness, which you probably did, there’s always an element of paranoia if you leave the house. “Is someone from work going to see me somehow? What if someone takes a picture of me on this waterslide and posts it to Facebook?” Plus, you have to cover up your original lie the next day you come in to work.

“Oh yeah, it was just a touch of food poisoning, I guess. I was fine after that first night.”

By the way, food poisoning has been proven scientifically to be the laziest, yet most effective excuse to use when calling in to work.

By the time we’re in our late twenties, most of us have sensibly given up on our dreams. We realize we’re not going to be elected president or have a TV show or cure cancer. The best we can hope for is to grab whatever little bunches of happiness we can find here and there along the way. And when I was walking out of work at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, I felt like Jessie James, Dolemite and Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name all rolled into one*.

*I would like to stress that I was legally entitled to my early day, which did nothing to make me feel like less of a badass. I had worked overtime on a program last week, and …hey, what do you care? What are you, my boss all of a sudden?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign

Saw a well-dressed but odd looking guy leaving the library this morning holding a cardboard sign, the kind that usually say "Will work for food" or "Homeless vet, please help."

This guy's said (in all caps, naturally):


Don't know if it was court appointed or his, or if he was just borrowing it from a friend.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Don't Leave Home Without It

Overheard on the way to work:

30ish man getting into car with kid. 30ish woman in doorway of house says,

"Honey, are you taking the bong?"

OK, she could have said "bomb," either one is pretty funny

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Skateboard Madness

There was a skatepark built in Bradenton the year I moved away. It was sort of like how my parents replaced the thousand pound beast of a lawnmower I had to push around through middle and high school with a sleek, easy-to-maneuver model as soon as I was out the door.

At the time I was driving down to Bradenton fairly frequently but I never went to the skatepark. I think I was never around when it was open, or when I was around I didn't want to be shown up by a bunch of little kids. Plus, I was spending less and less time skating. My skating friends had either moved away or moved on to other pasttimes, and, like with running, I was beginning to feel...not sure really, sort of like I was feeling my limitations, I guess. And with a lack of people around to push me to get better, I just sort of slowly stopped.

I had a newish Alva John Gibson board which I liked, although it was nowhere as smooth as my old Eddie Reatgui with the Conan/He-Man graphics, which was my favorite board ever. Check it out:

Hey, I wonder what happened to those two boards? Both of my faithful readers could chip in and buy them for me for my birthday, making a middle-aged man very proud.

Hey, at least I'm not asking for a Harley, like most middle-agers.

One evening I was in town for what was becoming a long, protracted break-up. The skatepark was out of business and soon to be destroyed. On the way out of town I pulled up next to the abandoned skatepark. I turned the motor off, leaving only the tape deck and the headlights on. I was playing a tape of the Volcano Suns' "The Bright Orange Years" along with some Gainesville bands. I pulled my deck out of the car and shimmyed under the chainlink fence.

I didn't care that I was trespassing right in front of a major road.

"I'm a grown man now," I thought. "I'd like to see some rent-a-cop tell me to leave."

Then I started skating.

When I remember that night, I picture me carving all over the snake run, pulling off impressive grinds and slides illuminated by the full moon and the headlights of a late '70s Pontiac Bonneville.

I also imagine that the joyousness of Peter Prescott's howls through "The Bright Orange Years" mixed with my skating helped me realize that there was no reason to be miserable any more, that a new life was about to open up for me.

In actuality, I wasn't able to pull anything off, which I blamed on the dirt and pebbles in the bottom of the run. The breakup would continue for much longer than it should, resulting in much embarassment on my part, as well as a lot of letters which are hopefully burned or slowly rotting in a landfill somewhere.

But still, the image I have of myself skating that abandoned skatepark is pretty powerful, one that has almost supplanted the truth by now. When I'm lying in my poor person's old people home, wracked by the alzheimers while being ignored by my helper robots, I'd like to think that that's the one that will stick.

Because man, those little kids really would have shown me up.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bustin' the Block

Like most Americans I haven't been inside a Blockbuster in years, but the one near my house was closing and selling off their movies so I figured I should look for treats.

I put off going until the last day, which was probably a mistake. The place was pretty well picked through, with scavenger families buying up stacks of movies, seemingly not knowing or caring what they were, as long as they got a good deal. I walked out without buying anything.

As I drove away, I remembered how many times I had driven out of that same Blockbusters without any movies.

I remember asking for American Movie years ago.

"Uh, all our movies are American," said the clerk, rolling his eyes.

Then there was the week that Enter the Dragon, The Great Escape and The Searchers had all been reissued in fancy new editions. I didn't see them on the shelf and made the mistake of asking about them. I was met with a blank stare and treated like I was the retard for wanting to rent an actual movie instead of one of the thousand copies of whatever movie based on a video game based on a toy commercial they had in stock.

I discovered Netflix soon after that.

I realize that space is limited, and I don't expect a video store to sacrifice proven profits from recent crap over ... I dunno, Fleurs du Clown de Guerre*, but man, is there anyone in America that will really miss Blockbuster going out of business?

* I totally made that movie up to sound smart.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Driving Miss Daisy

I'm riding home from work Monday night. It's dark. I'm coming up to the Publix on Riverside, meaning I've got to be on my guard for cars pulling out in front of me or backing out of parking spaces along the street. It has already been a bad night. Cars have been giving me about an inch to ride on. I've had to stop at stop lights on Riverside. Nobody uses turn signals before they turn in front of me.

A car pulls out of the parking lot and is going parallel with me. I'm far enough on the right side that it doesn't affect me. The window rolls down. It's an old black lady.

"I do beg your pardon, sir. I surely didn't see you there."

I was in a good mood after that.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Never Get Brad Pitt

Guy walking by desk: Did anyone ever tell you you look like Nathan Lane?

Me: No.

Guy: Well, you do. You really do.

Here's a picture of me on the hit TV show "Modern Family."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

World Music

It was weird hearing so much American music in London. We heard the Cars, that New York song with Jimmy Z and ...I dunno, one of those Kardashian girls?, and a bunch of other U.S. stuff while we were over there. And it's not like we were hanging out at Cowboy Bob's Big American Down Home Feedbag Diner or anything. We did hear Morrissey and "My Generation" in a pub, but I sort of expected that stuff to be piped through the streets over there.

I guess every country views every other country's music and culture as exotic - like the British guy I saw on the tube wearing an Atlanta Braves cap, or when some friends of mine were over there a decade ago at some big music festival. After watching, I dunno, Blur or Radiohead or whoever was big at the time, they got up to leave. The Brits they were sitting next to said something like, "You're not gonna stay for Sheryl Crow?" They were also drinking Miller Lite instead of tasty British people beer.

This isn't a bad thing at all (except for the Miller Lite). If we could only listen to our own country or race's music it would be a terrible world, and I'm pretty sure there would have been a couple more world wars, just out of boredom.

We went to a club on our last Saturday night in London. It was fairly small and there weren't that many people there at first. There were some girls having a birthday party. A couple people still wearing shirts from the budget cuts protest. An old skinhead and his young friend or kid. Some people who looked like they just got out of school or work. Other than the old skinhead guy, they all looked about mid-20s, maybe early 30s. One guy was wearing a Ghostbusters T-shirt.

But the DJ at this place was something else. He was playing actual vinyl, 7" records, and they were all obscure American soul and funk from the '60s and '70s with the occasional latin jam and a couple old ska tunes. It was awesome. How obscure were they? I only knew one song ("Readings in Astrology," by Curtis Mayfield which wasn't even an album cut), and I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about such things.

And these people knew all these songs, or most of them, anyway, and were dancing and singing along and generally having a great time. And why wouldn't they? The DJ was playing the jams. Is there a place somewhere in America where people dance to obscure English music from 40 years ago? I'd like to think there is. Hell, I know there is.

So what did I learn from this? Nothing I didn't already know. That there's still tons of unexplored music and media and art out there in the world just waiting to be unearthed and bring people together in shared experiences of awesomeness. There is never a stopping point. There will always be more amazing finds just around the corner.

That, and that first Curtis Mayfield album has an awesome cover. Just look at it:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Streets of London

Since everyone loves looking at other people's vacation photos, here's a few from London. I could have sworn there were more, and I also thought mine were better than they came out. I thought I was photojournalismin' all over the place.

Believe it or not, this is how most people get around in England. It costs a bit more than a cab, but it's totally worth it.

Henry VIII used this golden Tommy Gun when he teamed up with Al Capone and Admiral Nelson in World War 1. I think. There was a lot of history being thrown around.

This is from the British Museum, all full of awesomeness. I wanted to live there.

This is British people's idea of a chicken quesadilla. It is made with vegetable soup.

Step One: Find picture of pretty lady on the internet. Step Two: Find picture of self. Cut and paste over stock photo of Big Ben. Convince people you really went to London. Step Three: Profit.

This is a bank that got all smashed up. It also features one of Jackson Pollock's only murals.

If that girl would get out of the way, I could have an awesome album cover.

We figured we should get a photo in one of these little red phone booths. We didn't know they'd smell like a port-a-potty at the state fair. Taken right before gagging.


Where the King goes to church.

Aw, look, dedicated to animals in war. What's that say? "They had no choice." Geez, thanks for bumming me out, statue.


While they fall behind in Mexican food technology, the Brits are amazingly good at stocking rooms full of awesomeness.

Aftermath of riots on a statue of ...I dunno, Hercules? On the other side it says "punk's not dead." I'd like to apologize to the country of England, my parents and the rest of the world in general for being a punk rocker.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

White Riot

I don't have the greatest vacation track record. Whether going off on a Hunter Thompson-esque drunken tirade and public spectacle in front of 7,000 people in Chicago(warning - link takes you to my ancient myspace page) or nearly assassinating a poor old French woman in New York, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to just be a normal person and just see some sights and buy some trinkets, you know?

So in London we ended up in a huge anarchist riot. No shit. Check it out.

We went out shopping Saturday with about a gazillion other people. At the same time, a huge protest was going on a few miles away. From what I was able to gather from the helpful British people on the TV, banks and financiers made a bunch of risky deals, bankrupted the country, and now cuts are being made on public services mostly used by the poor and middle class. What a crazy country they have over there, huh?

While the little lady (or Bird, as they say over there) was looking through some store or another, I hear all sorts of chanting and commotion. I go outside to check it out and there's a group of a couple hundred people marching down the street. Well, that's sort of cool. They looked like the people that are at every protest, although there were a few older people and a couple English Nigels that looked like they were riding their bikes and just decided to follow the crowd for a while.

Fellas, if you ever need a diversion from shopping, watching a march that might turn into a riot will hit the spot.

This splinter group of anarchists ended up smashing up banks, occupying department stores, battling charming-looking English cops, and setting a big fire in the middle of ... Geez, I've already forgotten. A really major intersection in London.

The funny thing is, we would be walking around looking at stuff and come across a bank with their windows smashed and alarms ringing while cops formed a guard around it. Or we'd walk by a McDonalds smashed and paint splattered the next few blocks over. Somehow we kept following the destruction whichever way we went.

At one point in the night most of the streets were blocked and there were hundreds of anarchists, regular old shoppers and cops decked out in riot gear. Some people were trying to tip over a cop car (or Lorry, as they say over there). I took a few pictures, which I will be selling to punk bands for album covers over the next few years.

I never really felt in danger, mostly because we were Americans on vacation, so nothing bad could happen to us. Also, you'd see a line of riot cops (or Bobbies as they say over there)holding back protesters while a guy at the end helped a tourist read a map.

The riots lasted most of the night, and they caused all sorts of damage. I'll have some funnily captioned photos soon.

Don't know where the next vacation is. I hear Libya is nice this time of year.