I was at the gym again this morning. I’ve had to make some adjustments to my training, as I gradually get back up to strength after almost two weeks away. I am not just fighting the effects of the time off, however. I’m also up against serious weight loss. Unintentional weight loss. Inches have been coming off me like dust. It is not fun. I’m left with, well nothing to wear that fits me. I have the six pack of abs that I never wanted. I always knew that if I looked down and saw that shit, it would mean I was too skinny, too weak. A 500 lb squat just up and jumped months further away on my calendar.
This weight drop is a product of a cold, some travel, a viral infection, and of course – the blues. Check out the weight graph from my FitDay account. Looks like Jim Bunning’s approval chart or the south face at Corbet’s Couloir.
But that’s not what I came here to write about.
I came to share a new installment of Public Gym WTF.
I was in the cage, doing set after set of standing shoulder press: three warmup sets, three work sets of 65%, 75%, and 85% of my max, and then I stayed in for three more sets at 50%.
Just outside the cage, or power rack, was my stuff. My backpack, a sweatshirt, a towel, some Jumpstretch bands, a powerlifting belt, a quart of water, a pouch full of gym chalk, a notebook, a pen. Also there was the foam roller I used pre-workout. Between sets, I crouch down next to the heap of gear and write my rep/set/weight numbers in the notebook, take a drink, or whatever.
After the SSPs, I did some shrugs because – sue me – I have an ego and want a big yoke.
I slid the plates off the bar after the shrugs, and consulted the notebook as to what was next. A cleaning guy comes over with a vacuum and pokes the sucker-nozzle thing around the cage and around my stuff. No problem. I see this guy all the time. He is a danger to everyone around him. He plugs the vacuum cleaner in at one end of the large room, then navigates the place while his 700-foot extension cord coils around equipment, dumbbells, benches, human ankles, yoga instructors, entire Senior-cise classes. As long as I can see him, we’re fine. I can tolerate him and watch my step around his cable.
Standing next to the King of Vacuum Rodeo is another guy. He looks like one of the cast members from Jersey Shore. He’s big, but all biceps and pecs. He’s got a tank top on the torso and gel on the head. He’s just standing around there looking like a tool: one hand caressing his abdominals, both eyes flirting with the mirror.
I can’t do anything until the vacuum is out of the way, so I take a minute to return the foam roller to the corner of the room I got it from. When I get back the Jersey Shore guy, The Bitchuation, is sliding plates onto the bar in the cage.
I hate that shit. Not a fucking nerve inside him to just ask if I was through. And this guy has, well now, about twenty pounds on me, stands about three inches taller, and has probably been shooting equine-grade testosterone into his ass since his first junior year at Queens College.
But you know what? I have been in a bad mood for weeks. I don’t feel like being nice. I don’t feel like filtering what I tell him, and I don’t care how he reacts. So…
“What are you doing? You somehow assumed I was finished here?”
His response was a dead giveaway that he was more rude than stupid. “Oh, I didn’t see anything.”
I asked him how it was that he didn’t see any of my things piled up next to the cage. I even gave an open-palm wave of the hand, game-show style, so he knew what “things” of which I spoke.
He’d tried ignorance; now he’d try arrogance. At least, I think it was arrogance. It started with “Well, what the fuck…”
I cut him off mid-sentiment and said, “Listen, before you get your clit in a twist about it, just know that what you did was bullshit, and I should move you out myself.”
Wow. I don’t know how I assembled that one, but it sounded pretty fucking good. And it effectively adjusted his attitude, as I suddenly became his “bro” and was looking at his right paw offered for a handshake.
I stared at the hand for a few seconds. I don’t know why. Dramatic effect, maybe. “What’s your name?”
“Alright, Manny. Well… I’m Tommy.”
His handshake was weak. It was like he only wanted to shake with his fingers, like a woman from the Victorian era might offer her four gloved fingers to a gentleman suitor. And worse, there was something on his hand. It felt… buttery.
My hand slid off his, and I wiped it on my pants. I think it was hair gel.
I told him I was done, gave him the cage. When I peeked over at him a minute later, of course! – he was doing curls in the power rack. Dumbass.
Still in a bad mood.
* * *
I’ll have another post here tomorrow. It’ll be music-related and include a download for you. I don’t know if it’ll be a Pointcast, because I don’t know if I’ll have the time. Someone wrote and told me to bring back the Friday 10. That’s a good idea, but tomorrow’s thing will probably land somewhere in between, with a lot of music to hear and a lot of notes to read.
In the meantime, here's a song for now. "Horse Pills" by the Dandy Warhols, from the must-have Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia.
I've updated the posts for all the Pointcasts. The download links are available indefinitely now, via MediaFire. The entries are:
July 4, 2008: "Dry Mouth, Lip Smack and More!"
August 15, 2008: "The Second Time Usually Lasts a Little Longer, Too"
January 9, 2009: "Do Not Trust The Horse, Trojans"
March 13, 2009: "Collaborate and Listen!"
I hope you think these are getting better. The music is bulletproof for sure, so as I go on I'll work harder to be sure my voice (and what it's saying) is not the lamest part of the recordings. It's been decades since I've been on the radio and I need to shake loose the dust and rust. Hang in with me, because the music is going to get better and better and more worthy of your download-and-listening time.
I'm planning to record another this week and look to get it here on Friday. No theme, just a scalding set of songs. Hope you're back here for it at the end of the week.
A few weeks ago, SNL aired a best-of compilation episode instead of a live show. The cowbell sketch was on it. I hadn't seen that one since the first time it aired, live, years ago. I didn't "get" the funny then, and I didn't get it recently either. Am I missing something? Or maybe: Is that cowbell sketch my generation's "No soap, radio"?
[posted with ecto]
"What the fuck?!"
Here's the heart of the matter...
Freedom of expression is a powerful American right. But our freedom of choice wields every bit as much heft. The current economy is too porous, too fragile to put money in this guy's cash register while on every New York City block is a bakery/coffee shop without overtly racist management and inventory. This pus-oozing, putrescent man-mountain of clotted cream and human waste can be put out of business before Mother's Day '09. Freedom of choice has an amazing way of regulating the right and the dead wrong.
I'm a white guy, I don't deny that. In fact, I'm pretty up-front about it. When a co-worker IMs to say we'll meet for lunch in 15 minutes, I type "Okie dokie." And when the double-protein smoothie costs four dollars and twenty-six cents, I put down a five and then say, "Wait, I have a penny." I'm embarrassed to tell you that when the customer in that story says the baker told her Obama's "following in the same path of Abraham Lincoln; he will get his," it went right over my head. Missed the point completely. I watched the clip a second time before I realized what not even the reporter wants to give voice to: the baker affirms Obama will be assassinated.
Tough first week, Mr. President, huh? The guy who held the job before you left with blood on his hands and the scent of our money in his farts, and not a whisper was heard about even, say... indictments. No one told him, "Hey, don't leave town." Instead, he got a free flight to Texas and a victor's welcome in Waco.
But I digress. (And with a project deadline looming at 1800 hours, I can't fucking digress.)
Progressive, liberal, non-racist, fair, honest, decent people like you and me and the children we raise were in the passenger seat for too long. Now we have a chance to drive this thing. We can't nod off at the wheel.
I should say it more: Thanks for coming here and reading this stuff I write. I appreciate all your comments and emails. Have a good weekend. Take care.
[posted with ecto]
Hi. It feels like January in New York. I don't know what else to tell you.
Actually I do.
• I'm going to try to post something special this Friday. Not quite a Pointcast, but more than just a playlist, it's a bundle of songs inspired by 01.20.09. Let's call it the Obama Sutra.
• Find, Friend me: Search for Tommy Himself on Facebook.
• If you've been reading The Sticking Point long enough, you know I've got issues with the useless, inadequate Forest Hills P.D. Briefly, I live in a neighborhood where drivers race through red lights and stop signs, speed the wrong way down one-way streets, and create a warzone for any pedestrian who ventures past the curb. The local police enforce only those infractions that result in Zero Confrontation: past-due inspection stickers and expired meter parking. When you are lazy, useless, and out-of-shape it is far easier to slip a summons under a windshield wiper than to pull over Live Human Strangers and confront them on their infractions.
Here's a short story. The beginning is true. The ending, however, is creative license -- a writer's embellishment.
Walking back home this morning after some errands, I stopped at a curb and waited for the WALK light. A few feet to my right, a driver approached the intersection and stopped. She had the RED, I got my WALK, and I went. I was a few steps shy of the other curb when I could see in my peripheral vision that the driver began creeping forward and then just pulled right out into the intersection. I turned around and watched her make a left turn against the light... crossing directly in front of a squad car! It took me just five seconds to realized the cops weren't going to do, well, their jobs, so I raised my palms in the air and opened my mouth a bit -- the internationally recognized "What The Fuck?!" gesture. Passenger Cop saw it and we made eye contact. He formed his own "Wuddamye Gonna Do?" expression with fat cheeks and lazy eyes as Driver Cop stepped on the gas and continued their "patrol."
When the cops drove past me I flipped two middle fingers at them. Sure enough, they pull over to address this personal issue. As I'm refusing to show them my identification, I ask them why they thought my fingers were more of a public threat than the car running the red light. While they struggle for a wiseass response I say, "I have no more time to waste with you fucktards, I have to go." Then I give them the fingers again and moonwalk three entire blocks home.
[posted with ecto]
I was eager to read Jon Pareles's New York Times review of Van Halen's show in Philly this week. Unfortunately, Pareles includes practically nothing about... Van Halen's show in Philly this week. This is not a review, Jon, it's a long-winded caption. It could have been written while looking at some photos from the concert.
With my pal SO'C, I brainstormed some questions left unanswered by the "review." It took us less than a minute.
How did the band sound?
Did they play any songs you have heard of?
Was Michael Anthony's background vocal -- a key element of the VH sound -- missed at all?
How did Wolfgang Van Halen fare as Anthony's replacement?
Did David Lee Roth say anything on stage? [smirk] And, if so, what?
After all these years apart, with which song song did they choose to open the show?
What song closed the show?
Has Eddie lost anything off his skills?
Were any Van Hagar songs in the setlist?
How did fans react at various points of the concert?
The last line, "Van Halen still hurls zinger after zinger" ... what does that mean?
Was there an opening act?
[posted with ecto]
We've all seen video of 21-year old Andrew Meyer getting Tasered by campus police at a John Kerry event in Florida this week. Everyone's got an opinion on this one, obviously. To be fair, Meyer cut the line then refused to get off the mic. He's possessed of a damn annoying voice and comes off more cheeky than serious. Really, he seems the kind of irritating asscock we all avoided in college. He did have a legitimate question, though, even if it was delivered in a manner more reminiscent of Gus, the unhinged vagrant living under the FDR Drive.
Then the police on that campus did what panicked, angry, poorly trained cops do all the time: they violently overreacted.
(Does anyone else find it ironic that he demanded to know why Kerry didn't stand up and question the results of the 2004 election, only to painfully learn what happens when you stand up and ask uncomfortable questions?)
As I watch the video, which is on YouTube in a variety of angles and running lengths, the most appalling thing of all is the audience of college students which does nothing to stop the cops or help Meyer in any way. In all the versions I’ve seen, I've heard only one voice of dissent: that of an off-camera woman asking, “Hey, what did he do?” A few audience members actually laugh at what they’re watching and, of course, there's the obligatory handful of ignorant fuckmonkeys who get out of their seats to get a better shot on their camera phones.
This is unbelievable to me. What was wrong with those kids down there? Have they been so brainwashed, so mind-fucked by the slow erosion of their rights in the last six years that they’ve got no sense when they’re being abused? Probably.
College students are pathetic. Apathetic. They're feeding like suckbirds on cynicism's bloated carcass. What does it take for a little righteous indignation to stir their Myspace-deadened hearts into action? Maybe their wireless connectivity needs to be embargoed first. Tom Hayden was quoted somewhere saying that if this had happened in his SDS days, it would have sparked an all-out riot. My own college days weren’t nearly as incendiary as his, but I sincerely believe -- even in the Reagan 80s -- there'd have been an angry scrum in my lecture hall if a fellow student took 300kV to the central nervous system just for being an outspoken douchebag.
Stupid fucking kids. I saw that the next day they held a “protest” on campus. Ah, good... lip service. Protests are so fucking easy. You can yell a little, stand around a lot, and then shoot a lot of video of each other yelling and standing around. Protests even fit conveniently into your already frantic collegiate schedule. You can fit one in between cramming for the Sociology exam and updating your blog. You might even leave early to beat the lines for custom Wiimote faceplates. Protesting is easy. Getting off your ass to intercede is hard. It requires getting… off… your… ass.
[posted with ecto]
Alberto Gonzales wrote the 1/25/02 memo to the President stating that prisoners and detainees in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't protected by the rights of the Geneva Convention (even outlining many reasons why this was so), a decision that led directly to the physical abuses in Abu Ghraib and Constitutional abuses in Guantanamo, and indirectly fueled the insurgency. Every American military death since the so-called "Mission Accomplished" has been a result of the insurgency.
He lied to Congress about the Bush Administration's secret policy of eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without warrants.
Alberto Gonzales authorized the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys whose actions were perceived as damaging to the Republican Party, so they may be replaced with "loyal Bushies."
He has stated that "there is no express grant of habeas [corpus] in the Constitution."
Yesterday, he resigned.
Here's Bush's response:
"After months of unfair treatment that has created a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, Judge Gonzales decided to resign his position, and I accept his decision. It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeding [sic] from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."
Ah, yes. The sad, unfair treatment of checks and balances. The trauma of due process.
[posted with ecto]
I was taking my 3-year old, H, to a Cape Cod League baseball game last month. I love that league. I can go on and on about how great it is, but I won't. (You can "read more about it" starting here, if you wish.) I wrote "taking," because we never actually made it to the game. We never found a parking space. This is small town baseball, where folks get to the parks mid-afternoon, put out chairs and blankets, and have picnic meals while waiting for the first pitch.
I drove all around looking for a spot, while H sat in his car seat and named all the sea creatures he spotted at the beach that day. "Shark... hammerhead shark... octopus... whale... bull shark... sea turtle... pufferfish...." He's a good boy, but he lies like a rug. We were playing in the shin-high shallows and tide pools of Skaket Beach; my personal ledger listed only hermit crabs, minnows, and algae.
I pulled into the parking lot of the local middle school, which is situated on a hill overlooking the ball field. I circled the oval driveway and found no available spaces. In fact, cars were up on grass and squeezed between trees. Just as I was about to drive out of the oval, a car pulled up and blocked my exit. (Well, I don't know if it's officially a car. It was one of these things.) I was confused.
The Element driver gestured to me that I was going the wrong way in the parking lot, and vigorously motioned that I should hit reverse and back all the way around the lot. I looked in my mirror. I saw at least two cars lined up behind me, and H in his car seat communicating intently with his Buzz Lightyear toy. Facing forward again, I kind of shrugged -- I couldn't go anywhere, the other driver could -- so motioned for him to back up the approximately 36 inches necessary for me to get past. Out of the parking lot and out of his way.
No, he gesticulated. I must go back. But I had nowhere to go. I checked the rear view again and threw up my hands.
He said something to his buddy in the passenger seat, and I saw a young boy lean forward from the back seat. Then Mr. Element got out of his car and approached my window. In a mind-bending display of overreaction, he actually leaned into my personal space and yelled at me.
"You're going the wrong way! Turn around right now and go back! Get your car out of my way!!" Arrrgh grrr raaaaahhhr!
Snuck a peek at H in the rear view. Oblivious. Good. In a forceful whisper, I said, "Come on, what are you doing? There are cars behind me. Get back in your fucking car and back the fuck up."
He took a few steps away from my car door and screamed, "You're a fucking piece of shit, do you know that?! A fucking piece of shit!" He grumbled his way back to his driver's seat and I thought our little duel was finally over. Behind me, drivers were attempting broken U-turns to escape the logjam.
Just then, the sky got brighter; a chorus of angels rang out; and the air was suddenly saturated with the divine scents of buttered popcorn, clean laundry, and your first puppy. Time stopped. I felt light as air. The absolute most soul-satisfying moment in my life was unfolding as I sat at the wheel.
Mr. Element had come back. Only this time, he was waving his car keys in his hand and clanking them against my (now shut) driver's side window. But that's not the good part. His very next move was to elbow his way up the hood of my car and -- CLINK! -- drop the keys there.
As he turned back to his vehicle, my eyeballs widened to devour this beautiful scene in its entirety. Other driver: in his car. Other driver's keys: on my hood, not four feet from my reach. There is a distinct possibility that I ejaculated, just a little bit, in my pants. I wouldn't have noticed because my brain was too busy choosing the best of many options.
Here's what the scorecard allowed:
a) Grab the keys. Throw them as deep into the nearby woods as I could manage. Ask Mr. Element, "How do you feel now? Like a dick?"
b) Grab the keys. Throw my car in reverse (by now no one was behind me). Drive away, screaming "How ya like me now!?"
c) Grab the keys. Pop over a curb. Drive past Mr. Element while smugly rattling keys out my window. Wiseass retort unnecessary.
Those are the primary three. Any variations derive from these fundamental choices.
I know what you're thinking right now.
"Boy, it's a damn good thing he didn't go 'on and on' about that baseball league."
Picking up where we left off, I am about 25-30 feet closer to his keys than he is. I checked H, reached for my door handle...
And my cell phone rang.
My dad was calling. He and my mother were planning to join us at the baseball game, so I knew they were somewhere nearby. I had to get it. "Hi, buddy, listen. We can't find any parking, I think we're just gonna pass for tonight."
I spoke in quick, fractured sentences, trying to rush off the phone, but unfortunately Mr. Element realized he almost made the mistake of his life and had already collected his keys from my hood. Oh well. But seeing me on the cell phone changed his mind about things, because he started his car up and rolled back to let me past. Maybe he thought I had the cops on the line. Whatever. I pulled out of the lot, finally.
At first, I was seething. I missed a great chance sprinkle some crap onto that a-hole's week (or month). I started imagining all the fun stuff, like what if I had gotten out of the car calmly, quietly; pulled the aluminum bat out of my cargo bin and took that douchewad out at the knees? Ha! Or just silently battered his Element into bent tin. Ha ha! Or... or....
But as H and I drove back to the house, my mood changed entirely. My awesome son sang "Beyond the Sea," which he knows from the Nemo DVD. He told me about Derek Jeter, Rocket Clemens, and A-Rod. I got happier.
I became totally soothed by the realization that, after decades of hard-won lessons, I'd finally learned something. I stayed in the car. Stayed safe. First order of business FOREVER is keeping my children out of harm's way. Second order of business is teaching them that power is not force.
I didn't get out of the car. I'm all growed up. Absolutely goddamn right.
Today's Friday 10 knows you don't fuck with a dead man.
01 Why'd You Want Me - Jesus and Mary Chain: I'm a big fan. I have all their albums, EPs, and comps and I saw them a few times. They didn't disappoint, not even when their New York City debut show at the Ritz lasted only 25 minutes. They walked off stage, and I said my pal Lisa, "That was fucking awesome" while everyone around us gave the empty stage the middle finger. I've heard that JMC is releasing a 4-disk box of B-sides and rarities through Rhino later this year. I've got to have that. "Why'd You Want Me" is from the Sound of Speed singles/B-sides comp from 1993. A lot of times a band pops up on a Friday 10 that prompts me to listen to them all weekend. I'll be feasting on some Jesus and Mary Chain for a few days.
02 Plug Tunin' - De La Soul: In the summer of 1989, I was on a road trip with my brother from another mother, NXB. We were tooling around the country in a late-70s Cadillac Fleetwood V8 with leather seats, electric windows, and sassy fender skirts, but no cassette player. For several weeks and a few thousand miles, our "entertainment center" was a battery-operated boombox cassette deck laying face-up between driver and passenger. (And it wasn't even stereo -- it had a single 6" speaker.) That wasn't a problem. The 3 Feet High and Rising record had been out for a few months and N was a fan. I wasn't. We didn't have many tapes with us, because the "entertainment center" wasn't even "obtained" until around Maryland way. But we did have this De La Soul. It drove me crazy. Three good songs and about 40 tracks of nonsense. To break the monotony we bought a box of TDK-D60s (those are blanks, kids) and on those occasions when someone was kind enough to put us up for the night somewhere, we'd make one mixed tape each from our host's record collection. Sometimes we really scraped the bottom of the barrel from their crappy, haphazard collections. We'd end up with 60-minute doses of sub-ironic eclectica. (i.e. Huntsville, AL: Cougar-Mellencamp, Chili Peppers, Hall & Oates, James Brown, The Nazz, Creedence, Tone Loc, and more!)
I heard the 12" version of "Plug Tunin'" today. I have a couple De La songs on the iPod, but I still don't much like them. I've never really got what they were aiming for.
...And Then Some Dept.: That Caddie did alright. Apart from a couple shredded belts (Houston, Council Bluffs) and the time the rear-view mirror melted off the windshield and burned N's thigh (Coral Springs), it served us well. On the day we arrived back in New York, we stopped for pizza then went to the Wiz for new music. When we came out of the store, the Caddie wouldn't start. We waited for a tow. The car handled thousands of miles, then died in our neighborhood. I took a bus the last nine miles to my apartment.
03 One Track Mind - The Heartbreakers: From Live at Max's Kansas City '79. The recording history of this record is pretty convoluted. There were many attempts to capture the reunited Heartbreakers at MKC. The bottom line is that Walter Lure and Billy Rath remixed the original recordings (with Ty Stix on drums) as well as tracks recorded later (with Jerry Nolan back on drums). The 1995 CD release on Beggar's Banquet sounds better than the ROIR versions. What is at the Max's Kansas City site today? A deli/sushi place.
04 Little Boy - Honey Brothers: This is not a bad song, all things considered. Sounds a little like late 60s British folk pop, or the kind of song that would be sandwiched between Nico and the Kinks on the soundtrack of a Wes Anderson film. The only thing at all that I know about the Honey Brothers is that one of the members is the guy who plays "Vince" on Entourage.
I Have To Ask Dept.: Does anyone buy into the Vince guy being the stud leading man the show would like us to believe he is? He seems pretty lightweight to me, but in the show's version of Hollywood, he's been cast as Aquaman and has some measure of deal-making power. Nah. The producers are trying to portray him as a Vince Vaughn-type, but I see more of a Jon Cryer-ishness.
05 I Am Damo Suzuki - The Fall: In interviews, Fall singer Mark E. Smith has said that Can is his favorite (or rather favourite) band. Damo Suzuki is the Can vocalist. And so, we get this, from the exceptional This Nation's Saving Grace disk. Every Fall record gouges big chunks out of what once passed for great music.
06 I'm The One - Black Flag: "Walking through a world of lies / With a heart made out of stone / I looked deep into my eyes / And I knew I was alone." One of the many great things about the mighty Black Flag is this: they had so many lineup changes and such an ever-evolving sound that it's not impossible to call several of their albums your favorite. Damaged (Greg, Rollins, Dez, Chuck, Robo; 1981) is my favorite. And the one that this song comes from, Loose Nut (Greg, Rollins, Kira, Bill; 1985) is my favorite, too. It is track after track of unrelenting musical PSYOPs. Some of Ginn's best guitar work is featured on Loose Nut; I listen to it every week.
07 Caught With the Meat in Your Mouth - Dead Boys: From the 1977 Young, Loud and Snotty record. I've always kept the Dead Boys at arms length. Can't say why. The songs (especially this one) are good, if a little too polished. I liked Stiv Bators a lot. Maybe I could never got past my dislike for that album title.
08 This Gun Says - U.K. Subs: This band released many great singles. Here's one. It was a U.K.-only single, released in 1985 on Fall Out Records. The double b-sides are "Speak For Myself" and "Wanted." My picture sleeve is blue and white, but I've read that it was also issued with a red and white sleeve. You can find the song pretty easily on Subs CD comps and the great Punk Archives collection.
09 All Your Way - Morphine: I was writing reviews for a music magazine in 1995 when Morphine's Yes got assigned to me. All I knew about the band at the time was the singer/bassist was from Treat Her Right. I knew I was a Morphine fan on my first listen. This is great stuff: saxophone and rhythm section, and that amazing baritone voice of Mark Sandman, delivering the lyrics somewhere in the space between talking blues and a beat poetry reading. These guys land on it like a ton of bricks, and they're another band I'm sure to revisit this weekend.
Sandman shares the same date of death as Brian Jones, Jim Morrison and, now, Boots Randolph.
I tracked down the exact words of one of my favorite Sandman quotes: "As a child, people told me they thought I'd grow up to be a poet. You have to wonder what kind of kid someone would say that to."
10 Song of Joy - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Since this comes from the masterpiece Murder Ballads album, when you hear Nick sing "Ten years ago I met a girl named Joy / She was a sweet and happy thing / Her eyes were bright blue jewels / And we were married in the spring," you know it's all going to a bad place. And you're right. This one plays out like a twisted Dateline NBC storyline. Murder Ballads is a special record, done very well. It's a treat you deserve to own. (Also: I dig how "Song of Joy" references lyrics from two other Cave songs, "Red Right Hand" and "God is in the House.") I can sit through the entire Cave and the Bad Seeds catalog from beginning to end and never get bored.
Readers are doin' it for themselves: Set your mp3 player, digital jukebox, or acetyl-butane flamethrower to "shuffle all songs." Hear 10 songs randomly selected for you by the machinery. Share them with us in the comments section below.
[posted with ecto]
Yesterday, a friend told me he was spit on while sitting in a cab with his girlfriend last week. Their driver had just pissed off a guy trying to cross the street on a DON'T WALK, so the guy crossing fired a lung-nugget at the vehicle. Unfortunately for my friend, poor aim and a slight westerly breeze brought the phlegm through the open rear window and onto his chest. He told me it had heft to it, he felt it.
As the taxi drove off, he did what any of us would do; he sat there stunned and silently listing all of the violent, self-righteous ways he could respond to this attack. He so badly wanted to get out and run back to the guy for a confrontation. Of course I knew the feeling. It's that part of your brain which demands that wrongs be righted, and even for a second, the a-holes of the world contemplate their stupidity. When they see the crazed dude running at them, we want to see the look of terror and "Oh, shit. What did I just do?"
Never happens, though, does it? Forget about that. It's all another reason to stay in the car and suck up the rage into something more productive.
My friend didn't get out of the car, and I'm happy for that.*
His story got me thinking of the times in my life that I've been spat upon, and how I responded.
1) Age 7. At Tibbetts Pool in Yonkers, NY. My mom, my friend Suzanne, and me were on a blanket against a wall. Spit landed on my head and neck. A cheer and teenage laughter erupted from the top of the wall above.
Response: I ran into the pool and scrubbed and scrubbed. When I was back at the blanket, after I'd ranted so hard tears came from my eyes, and after the rage-tears dried off, Suzanne deadpanned, "I knew they were gonna do that." Might have told me!
2) Age 10. On Altamont Place in Yonkers, NY. I was playing punchball or kickball with my neighborhood friends, Jimmy, Chris, Debbie, Brian, and Sal. Joey LaValle rode over on his bike. Joey was my best friend in grade school, but now that we went to different middle schools we were like strangers. He kept riding his bike through our ballgame. I ran at him as he figure-eighted between third base and home plate. His spit hit me in the cheek and eye. Joey rode off.
Response: I lamely wiped off the mess with a tissue I had to borrow from my crush, 17-year old Valerie.
3) Age 19. At Nathan's arcade in Yonkers, NY. JCC and I were there to feed not our hunger, but our addiction to 720. Some guys were playing it when we got there. I don't know if anything was said between us and them, but I doubt it. Me and JCC parked ourselves at a nearby pinball machine to wait. Three or four guys approached. One of them took a long sip from his cup and straw and spat a mouthful of fruit punch onto my shirt. The crew walked out the arcade door.
Response: I wasted at least 20 seconds trying to answer who and why. JCC and I ran out after them. (Through the restaurant door -- we'd seen too many ambushes start this way.) We did recon on the entire parking lot, inside and between every car. They were gone.
Yonkers is a real shithole, isn't it?
*Which reminds me of something I wanted to tell you all: remember last week's Friday 10 preamble/tirade, titled "Big Knowledge, Part One"? I've got the second installment percolating in my brain, and it will probably kick off this week's F10.
When It Rains, It Sucks Dept.: Our car, flooded out in the Great 60-Minute Storm of 8-8-07, was declared a "total" today by the insurance adjuster. I'm bummed. A car's a car to me, but I bought that car with my wife; it's the one I drove my family, my sons around in. I am too sentimental, too nostalgic for my own good.
[posted with ecto]
I can't remember when it was, but a long time ago I started keeping a separate journal of books I've read. To start it off, I scanned all my shelves and wracked my brain to get down the titles and authors of everything I'd finished to that point. From that day forward, I kept it up religiously. By the early 90s, the entries grew to include one paragraph reviews of each book, plus personal info like why I chose each book or who recommended it, what was going on in my life at the time, as well as the date it was finished and where I was at the time.
Why? I don't know. I like lists. I like archives. I like compiling things into neat histories. I might have some trace strands of OCD in my genetics. One thing I like to do is occasionally look back through the thing and see what I was reading on this date in... whatever year.
I did this today. I went back as far as when I started noting the dates of when I finished the books, and jotted down my reading material on the fifteen previous August 14ths. Peaks and valleys, for sure. I'd like to say that some of the throwaway books are there because they merely summer reading, but I never really did kind of thing. Here they are, no pride and no shame.
Today The Defining Moment - Jonathan Alter.
Last year Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash - Pat Gilbert.
2005 We Got the Neutron Bomb - Marc Spitz & Brendan Mullen.
2004 Plan of Attack - Bob Woodward.
2003 Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder - Samuel Wilson Fussell.
2002 The Ruined Map - Kobo Abe.
2001 Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris.
2000 Dynasty - Peter Golenbock.
1999 The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky.
1998 Dubliners - James Joyce.
1997 The Waves - Virginia Woolf.
1996 Nexus - Henry Miller.
1995 Inferno - Dante Alighieri.
1994 World of Wonders - Robertson Davies.
1993 On Liberty - John Stuart Mill.
And, because you've been kind enough to read this down to the bottom, here's a snack: From Ashland, Kentucky, the birthplace of Chuck Woolery, Abu Ghraib beauty Lynndie England, and Charles Manson's mom & dad... comes the story of the "duct tape bandit." He didn't steal the tape. It was his disguise.
[posted with ecto]
In 1994, I was dating a girl who worked night shifts; sometimes the midnight to 0800, and sometimes 1600 to midnight. Usually I'd pick her up after work and drive her to her place in Brooklyn or mine in Yonkers. One night, we stopped for takeout at the Raceway Diner on Yonkers Avenue. It was around 1 AM, and we were walking back to my car when we passed a guy standing in the middle of the parking lot taking a piss. We glanced at him long enough to notice what he was up to, then looked away and kept walking. Then the pisser guy called out to me, "Hey, dude, sorry to disrespect your woman like this."
Here was a man with honor and great consideration for his fellow human being. Obviously.
After I let girlfriend K in the car and walked around to the driver's side door, I shouted a friendly reminder to the guy that there was a bathroom right inside the diner, not 50 yards away. I got in the car and before I'd even turned the ignition, pissboy arrived at my car door. Of course you know what he said.
"What the fuck did you just say?! Are you a fucking wiseass?!" I noticed that a girl he was with had stepped out of his Camaro and was telling him to come back and get in the car. He stayed where he was, right outside my car door.
What did I do? I got out of the car. Stupid, right? You have no idea.
Did I at least open the door real fast and hard, and knock him on his ass like they do in the movies? No. I stood up and immediately took two steps at him. I made a mental note that he flinched and moved back. I saw this as a good sign. I was exhibiting what some call "command presence," and maybe I could get out of this without a punch thrown.
He repeated his first question, so I reiterated: "I said there's a bathroom right inside. Hot and cold running water. A toilet that flushes. Everything you'd want." I was sizing him up, and I saw he was doing the same. I tried to watch his eyes while keeping his hands in my peripheral vision.
And then his friend (what?!) appears from nowhere. He's on my left side and wants to know what's going on. I never got a good look at this friend, because the very nanosecond I moved eyes left to look at him, pissboy clocked me in the center of my face. Nose shattered. At first, everything got really bright and then things went dark. My knees went out from under me and I tried to recover my eyesight, which was coated with warm blood.
I couldn't see a thing, I was down on the cement, trying to get up, and taking kicks to the head, face, and chest. I was completely at their mercy, and they didn't have any. One of them jumped on my chest and started hammering me in the face. I didn't feel anything anymore, couldn't tell up from down. I heard a girl yell, but it wasn't K. It was probably Miss Piss from the Camaro. Then I heard footsteps running toward us and hoped it was someone who could get these guys off me fast, because they didn't seem ready to quit.
The footsteps got closer and, without a single word spoken, the force and frequency of kicks and punches increased. Fresh troops had joined the fight against the poor, bleeding fuck on the parking lot cement. It got ridiculous. I was rolling from one foot to another like a soccer ball. I bounced off of parked cars, setting off all their alarms, and back into the hands and feet of the mob. I could only try to shield my face and groin.
But hold on.
I am going to share something with you now that I wish I didn't have to write. Not because it's painful or embarrassing, but rather stupid. When you read this, you will think, "Oh, come on; you had me believing the story until that part!" Trust me. This next part happened. As stupid as it sounds. As pathetically reminiscent of bad 1960s action films as it seems, it happened in real life. Mine.
One of the attackers said, "Let's finish him."
I know, I know. But remember what I said above. It happened. This was Yonkers, after all, and Rambo theatrics like that were the coin of the realm.
I don't really dwell on how close (or not) I came to being "finished." I just never wanted to go there. I just let it sit in a little place in my brain where I can pretend that a-holes like those guys weren't going to finish shit. It's better to leave it there.
Finally they went away. K came to peel me off of the ground. I was at least 50 feet from the spot where that first sucker punch dropped me. (Hey, you know what? I shouldn't weasel out like that. It wasn't a sucker punch, per se. No, I was not looking at the guy when it was thrown, but I did have some sense that a fight could happen; so I'll redact that description.) Annnywaaay, when I could finally wipe the blood out of my eyes, I could see that I was way away from where the thing started. I could also see all the diners at the window booths watching my tragedy unfold. I'm sure they saw it all. They might have heard all the yelling, but six or seven car alarms shrieking at once surely got their attention. To them, it was dinner theater. Thanks for the assistance, homies.
I remember K helping me into my car. She was trembling. Then and now, I think of how terrifying that must have been for her. I would rather take the pummeling every time rather than be the girlfriend in the car watching it all. God damn. I asked her what happened, how many guys was that? She told me there was the original two, then another of their friends came out from the back seat of the Camaro. And then four guys ran over from across the street, near the racetrack. They said, "Get him!" and joined in on the winning side of the battle. (Thanks for the assistance, homies.) Seven guys.
We went to the Lawrence Hospital ER, and hey -- they took me right away. Thinking back now, I wonder why I wasn't questioned by a cop. Maybe I was, and just can't remember. It just seems some sort of report should have been filled out or something. They would never catch the dudes, of course, but I would at least be able to read the account of it in the Police Blotter section of the Herald Statesman newspaper. That'd be a gas.
Good people in that hospital. They took great care of me. Cleaned me up, gave me pills, ice packs, heating pads, and a dark room to sleep in until the maxillary orthopedist arrived to fix my nose. I slept soundly.
Around 0900, the bone doctor walked in with my X-Rays and gave me a poke and pinch examination. He said, "Wow... someone was really trying to hurt you." (Oh? You think?) "Your nose is broken... up... and cracked back," he said, demonstrating both of these directions with the palm of his hand.
In the days of recuperation that followed, I felt less pain and more stupid. What did I do? I stepped up to a guy over nothing and got myself smeared all over a diner parking lot while my girlfriend cried, my face got broken, and my takeout got cold. Stupid. And not just because I got the snot beat out of me. On the flipside, if I'd have thrown that guy a beating instead, what would that have been for? Because he was pissing? Because he threatened me? Because he was an asshole? Jack Henry Abbott said, in short: "You are what you kill." If you waste the asshole, you're nothing but an asshole yourself.
I was a loser whichever way the blood flowed. I was a loser the instant I got out of my car. As I lay there in bed, waiting for cuts to close, bruises to fade, nasal bones to re-fuse, hospital bills to arrive, and my self-respect to return, I obsessed over my getting out of that car. A scene in one of my all-time favorite movies kept resonating in my mind.
In Apocalypse Now, Captain Willard has just listened to E2C "Chef" Hicks rant about the dangers of leaving the "safety" of their patrol boat, and he seconds the notion in a classic internal monologue: "Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right."
Today's Friday 10 loves the smell of napalm in the morning.
01 Speedy Marie - Frank Black: This is off the Teenager of the Year album, and if you don't have it, you are missing out on an amazing batch of music. It gets me every time -- how a near-perfect record like this one can be so largely unknown. This is Frank freakin' Black for god's sake! He can do no wrong and you know it. He goes in the studio and hammers everything out live with a live mix.
02 Smash It Up (Parts 1 & 2) - The Damned: There aren't many songs I listen to more than Smash It Up. In fact, if you look at my iScrobbler tracks chart, there are NO songs I've listened to more in the last two years. I've been playing this album, Machine Gun Etiquette, since I was in high school with Teddy Roosevelt. It's their third album, and marks the point where Captain Sensible took over lead guitar (after Brian James bailed) and handled a lot more of the songwriting. With MGE, the Damned made a shift in style from a dangerous-sounding, almost Stooges-like band to one that was more rowdy, kick-out-the-jams rock n' roll. This is raucous material, and this album was a big part of my teenage Friday nights.
03 The Perfect Me - Deerhoof: One of the best musical discoveries I made this year was Deerhoof's Friend Opportunity album, which this is song came off of. I have that one, and The Runners Four (from 2005) and there's not a bad track on either. Their work is hard to define and won't fit neatly into any typical genres, it's simply a treat to listen to what they do. Find them here.
04 Slow Motion - Blondie: From one of my two favorite Blondie records, Eat to the Beat. It was released in October 1979, right at the height of my pre-pubescent crush on Debbie Harry. She does things with her voice on this album that made me horny before I even knew that feeling had a name. The CDR copy I have is burned off my vinyl, like a lot my old stuff is. It's probably time to get one of the remasters on CD.
05 You're Not Blank - The Dils: The Dils were Chip and Tony Kinman from Carlsbad, CA. They released just three singles from 1977-79, and that was it. The brothers went on to form Rank and File. I like these Dils singles. I don't have the original vinyl releases, but between the Dangerhouse Records comps (1, 2) and assorted post-breakup releases I have a good handful of their output. Good left wing punk rock from SoCal.
06 The Way You Walk - Papas Fritas: Thoughtful pop music written under mostly sunny skies. I need that sometimes, and Papas Fritas is the band I turn to. The first I'd heard of them was somewhere online, when I read that Dean Wareham was a fan. So I checked into Buildings and Grounds, and was hooked. Hooked by the hooks. That one came out seven years ago. There's been nothing since, but they aren't broken up. Here's the PF website.
07 No Money - The Evens: Just the other night, I had a dream where I was allowed to be a sort of "guest DJ" in a reading lounge-type place in my apartment building. The first record cued up was a 45 by The Evens. "No Money" is on their sophomore release, last year's Get Evens. (Wow, I think I just channeled a music critic with that last sentence! <shudder>) I like them both, but I connected with The Evens a lot when it came out in 2005, and it remains my favorite. You know the backstory by now, I'm sure. The combined résumés of the two members of this band, Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina, include Minor Threat, Teen Idles, Fugazi, Embrace, Pailhead, Egg Hunt, Skewbald, The Warmers, Lois, and The All Scars. A lot of punk and indie rock history from two people.
Dept. of Sidebars: I don't know if the band name has anything to do with the people of the Russian Far East.
08 Hip Priest - The Fall: From one of the best records any music fan can own, The Fall's 1982 Hex Induction Hour. It contains some of Mark E. Smith's best, most vicious lyrics, and the band really cuts loose. The record's been all spiffed up with a remaster recently and a second disk of bonus tracks including some Peel stuff, single mixes, and live versions. If you don't order it with Amazon's 1-Click, you're taking too much time. Hurry up and get one!
09 Bloody Jack - Serge Gainsbourg: From the Initials B.B disk, a collection of duets Gainsbourg recorded with his then-girlfriend Brigitte Bardot. She's the B.B. A couple weeks ago, with a lot of other things to do, I was ambushed by my A.D.D. and found myself typing "infamous" into the YouTube search box. One of the cool things I found was this 1986 clip of Serge Gainsbourg on live French TV with Whitney Houston.
"No. I said I want to fuck her."
10 Blue Spark - X: Great song from the great ones. That riff just blows by like a freight train. I have my Selachimorpha-obsessed three-year-old son convinced that the lyric is actually, "Blu-u-u-e sha-arrrk... shark!" So now we listen to it together all the time. It is from, of course, the got-to-have-it-in-your-collection, Under The Big Black Sun.
I give and I give and I give to you people... Now give back: Put your mp3 player or digital jukebox on "shuffle all songs" and let us know (in the comments section) the first ten random songs out the chute.
[posted with ecto]
Our old pal StereoMic was up early yesterday, documenting what our neighborhood looked like when the rains came.
Here's the view from his balcony. Those cars across the street weren't sideways when the drivers parked them.
And also? When I walked past that white car later in the day, it had a parking violation ticket on the windshield. Must be illegal to have your car swept away by a flood. Know what that is? One of Forest Hills' weak-ass parking cops thinking, "what the fuck? I'll be one ticket closer to my quota, and this will be a bitch for this poor sucker to defend in court."
On that note, I want to mention what I saw out my own living room window this morning. A car pulled out of the parking garage underneath the apartment building across the street, and the driver drove against the one way and jetted through the intersection. My blood boiled. Anyone crossing at that corner would have had no chance. Nobody would have looked in that direction for a car. But this fucker, this sack of rotting shit, whose time is so important to him that he can't follow the most basic rules of the road, puts everyone else's safety in jeopardy to shave 45 seconds off his commute.
I will not forget that car. I live right across the street. I'll see it again. And when I do, I will calmly tell the driver what I've seen him do, and if I ever see him do it again I'll pull him out of that vehicle by his throat.
[posted with ecto]
I was at the supermarket today to buy diapers for the one son who still uses them, and I was a little surprised to see that diapers and "pull-ups" not only share an aisle with, but are indeed on display right next to, tampons and pads. This disturbed me. Is such placement offensive to women, or am I just being an overly sensitive wuss? (Again.)
I have always believed that if MEN were the ones who shed a bloody lining for five days a month, things would be plenty different. For starters, tampons, pads, or whatever anatomically suitable products necessary to stanch our flow would not be sold in stores. Nope. They would be delivered right to our homes in government-issued packages, on time and free of charge. The fed would have an entire bureau set up in the Executive branch tasked with administering to the menstrual needs of male Americans. And there's no doubt in my mind this would be the most efficient department in all of government. Our leaders would put the men in menses, for sure.
This is all I came to do. I wanted to mention that a Friday 10 is highly likely to occur this week. So, please -- strap on your iPods a couple days from now, then double back to The Sticking Point to share your results.
[posted with ecto]