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.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Werewolves of London

I'm taking off for London soon. Real soon. I don't want to tell you exactly when because I don't want the international brigade of internet thieves and perverts to rush to my empty house.

So I've been brushing up on my English English, thanks to the many resources available to you at your local library. I don't want to embarass anyone over there with my crude American speech, so I took home some CDs to teach me to speak good.

"Lesson One. Are you 'avin' a laff?"

"Are you havin' a laff?"

"Fancy a shag, guv'ner?"

"Fancy a shag, governor? Wait. What?"

"Wot's all this, now?"

"What's all...hey, that's what the stuffy policemen say, right? When am I going to have to use that?"

"The telly is off in the lift and me loo is flooded."

"OK, now you're just making stuff up."

Anyway, I'm getting pretty excited. I figure I'll have to eat at least one funny sounding dish (leaning towards Spotted Dick, obviously), hit a bunch of museums and culture and what-not, have a whole pub turn quiet and inhospitable when we walk in like in those old Hammer movies (or American Werewolf in London, take your pick) and generally packing a whole lot into less than a week.

I know that college students and annoying travel people always tell you to pretend to be Canadian, but I figure that ain't gonna fool anyone, especially since this is the only shirt that I remembered to pack.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lend Me Your Ears

What are you doing next Monday night? Probably not much. You should fix that and go to Underbelly (yes, I know it's a terrible name) in Five Points in Jacksonville for the Popnihil Zine Release Extravaganza. It's at 8:30, so you won't have to stay up late, it's free, so you can't complain about that, and I'm gonna read a short piece that, upon reflection is sort of cringe-inducing, but it's too late for me to back out now. Folio Weekly did a nice story on it, only getting one thing wrong - the date. So don't show up on the 31st, show up Monday. Or don't. You'll probably just make me nervous.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Straight as Arrows

Some night back in the late '90s I was walking with my friend Pat back to his apartment after buying a bunch of beer at Gator Beverage to get the evening started. Many nights started like this - drinking beer and listening to records, then heading out to find adventure at the Hardback or at a party or whatever.

We walked behind Checkers, probably discussing the merits of the Effigies or why there was a Surf 2 when there was never a Surf 1, and why didn't someone release Surf 2 on VHS yet, anyway (I told you it was the late '90s)?

At some point during our conversation 2 or 3 big gangsta guys approached us.

"Are you straight?"

This took us by surprise.


"Are you straight? Do you like women?"



Question answered, we walked the remaining way to Pat's apartment where I drooled over his record collection and we drank our beer.

Later I wondered what that was all about. No follow-up questions? They just took our word? What would have happened if we said no? Would we have had dates for the evening? If we were gay, couldn't we have just lied? These were all worthy questions, but ones I have never successfully come up with answers to.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Working Men are Pissed

I can't believe I wrote a whole story on crappy jobs and neglected my Kash & Karry experience.

My roommate Todd and I were in our late 20s. I had just moved back from Atlanta and was writing press releases for UF in the morning, then delivering campus mail in the afternoon. Neither job would hire me full-time, which is understandable, since my job habits were fairly relaxed at the time. As long as I turned in a story a week for my first job, I was good, and I could usually do that with little or no problem. As for the campus mail job, I had a 3 hour shift, and could usually complete my deliveries in 20 minutes. The rest of the time I generally held court in my friend Pat's record store, or drove around in the minivan running errands or listening to tapes. I helped a lot of people move in that minivan.

Todd and I were always on the lookout for extra money to finance our record buying habit and had somehow heard there were opportunities awaiting us at the Kash & Karry deli. Not only would this job enable us to buy our hold bags currently being held at the record stores throughout Gainesville, but we'd also be able to indulge in our passion for free food.

Visions of Scooby-Doo sandwiches in our head, we applied and heard back within days.

A manager lady took us upstairs and made us watch training videos. I'm almost certain one had a clown who fell down a lot to teach us about safety. I thought it was weird that all her comments were about bagging groceries and not quizzes on delicious deli meats and cheeses, but I assumed someone else would teach us about that later.

We were told to always take customers' "buggies" out to their cars unless they strongly objected. As an example, Manager Lady adopted a gruff tone and said, "I'll take 'em out myself, what do you think I am, some kinda queer." We quoted this for years.

After we passed our training, we were dumped by the registers and told to start bagging groceries.

"But we were promised the deli," I wanted to squeak.

Bagging. That was the first real job I ever had, and over 10 years later I was back to asking people for their paper or plastic preference while my college degree sat at home in a cardboard mailing tube. Taking the buggies out to the parking lot, I was sure I would run into a professor I had interviewed earlier in the week.

"Well, he said he was writing for the press services, but I'm almost positive I saw him at Kash & Karry."

My next shift was Halloween night. I would work from 11 PM til 7 AM. At least I'd be spared the embarassment of running into anyone.

We went to a party where we were dressed, rather awesomely, I'd like to think, as Devo. I had to leave early, change out of my cool-looking Devo suit and start my 11shift.

When I got to the store, I was given a razor blade on a 5 foot pole. My task was to walk up and down every isle and scrape the gum and ground in crap off the floor so they could be mopped later on that week.

I scraped throughout the night, a mixture of self-pity and hatred fueling me. Every few hours costumed college students would come through buying beer to keep their fun times going.

"Oh look. There's a sexy nurse, a slutty Dracula and a hot kitty cat. I wonder if they need a guy with an apron and razor blade pole to complete their gang."

By 1:30 my mood had soured considerably.

"More beer. Yeah, that's just what you need. What sort of half-assed costume is that anyway? Better have all your fun now, because you'll be joining me on the night shift in a few years."

Walking out to my car at 7AM, the birds were singing, the sun was shining, my hands were withered into arthritic stumps after scraping and mopping, and I knew I had to quit.

Todd was fine with quitting, and we returned our aprons to Manager Lady that afternoon, who wouldn't even look at us.

We kept our nametags with the names "Shits McCray" and "Balls" ...something or other on a privileged spot on the refrigerator for the rest of the year. Later we would add our second checks from Kash & Karry Co, two checks for 65 cents and 78 cents.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

They Call Me the Working Man

I'm not sure how many jobs I've had since joining the world of work as a teenager. Quite a few. I think I have a pretty steady stream of unbroken employment since I was 15 or 16.

I didn't really mind most of my crappy jobs, they got me out of the house and they were usually easier and less frustrating than the jobs I'd be doing there, plus there were always weirdo co-workers, work crushes and overbearing mustached assistant bosses that continue to serve as meat for stories to this day. Plus, I could always quit and get a new crappy job within a week.

I was always a pretty good employee; even though I remain fundamentally lazy, my poor self-esteem, fear of authority figures and puppy-like desire to do a good job ensured that bosses knew they had a sucker that would do whatever crap they needed to be done without a lot of the sass and backtalk the younger generation is known for.

My friend Curt was pretty much the same, work-wise. We had a number of crappy jobs growing up, but we took them for what they were, vehicles for providing gasoline, skateboard decks and records, so we did whatever Mr. Mustache told us to, then had our fun.

That didn't seem to be good enough for our parents. Although both sets of parents grew up in the '50s, they seemed to have a 1920s idea of employment.

"Why don't you just go to a store and start cleaning for them," my parents would suggest during my few lulls in employment. "Or tell them you'll work for free for a while until they hire you."

I didn't think that employment in the 1980s and '90s worked that way. I didn't think think employment in the 1950s and '60s worked that way either.

My parents were much better than Curt's, though. On the morning of his first day of Christmas break back home from college he was awoken by his dad throwing the classified ads on his bed. He had helped by circling the advertisements he thought his son should apply to: Plumber's assistant, union electrician, airplane mechanic, things that a 19 year old with no previous experience would ever qualify for.

My parents sort of kept out of my work, except for the few times they thought I was being wronged. At one point the terrible photo processing job I had laid me off after I got a hernia. This was probably illegal, but I didn't really care. I wanted out of that place anyway. Dad erupted with Southern dad indignation. Like me, he instinctively sided against management (Now that I am management, I stay non-hypocritical by hating myself) and was gonna bring some teacher's union rage down on CPI Photo Finish.

"That's some sorry bidness, there, now," he'd thunder. "They're going to lay you off even though you can still do the job? I'm gonna go down there."

Somehow I was able to convince him not to head down to DeSoto Square Mall and union agitate the place up.

I'm not sure if my many years of crappy jobs actually taught me anything. I'd like to say that observing so many terrible management styles, I realized what not to do, but I think they just taught me to always beware of people with mustaches in positions of authority. They also made me sort of suspicious of people who didn't have a lot of crappy jobs.

"You mean you didn't work sweeping beets in a factory or selling socks at a flea market?*Well, hello Mr. Fancy Pants."

*These were actual jobs held by my friends. My roommate Scott's first job was sweeping beets in a factory when he was like 12 years old. Really. I think Oliver Twist was his work buddy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Advice My Parents Gave Me

"You should write a best seller. You know, like that John Grisham."