Archive for May, 2011

The Carnival

May 31, 2011 1 comment

I took my daughter and her friend to a local carnival this weekend. They’re old enough that they don’t need a tail, so I just settled down in the shade to do some old-fashioned people watching.

It’s one of those slightly seedy carnivals where all the workers look to be either out on parole or hiding from assorted government agencies. It’s got a beer tent and food so greasy you can practically suck it into your mouth with a straw. It’s got your standard rides. Ferris Wheel and Merry-Go-Round and the Flying Swings and some of the others that always made me throw up when I was a kid. I think there’s a hall of mirrors and one of those big slides where you sit in burlap sacks to go down and if the sack manages to bunch up and your skin touches the slide itself you get third degree burns. Lots of those games that promise “everybody’s a winner” and pass out stuffed animals and goldfish in 6 oz plastic cups. I’ve never seen so many goldfish. Worst thing that can happen to a Mom and Dad is to grab Jr. and head out into the 90 degree heat, finally find a parking spot about a half-mile away, and then 5 minutes after arriving Jr. “wins” a goldfish and Dad gets stuck carrying around a terminally ill fish for the next 3 hours.

Anyway, as I was saying. I found a good spot and pulled out my trusty pocket notebook to catalog what I was seeing (Later I was told I looked like a narc).

There’s no real politically correct way to say there are lots of fat people at carnivals, so I’ll just say it. There are lots of fat people at carnivals. My eyes were overdosing on bulging skin. I realize that somebody who weighs 300 pounds would rather weigh 150 pounds, but that’s no reason to wear 150 pound people clothes. It’s not so much the girth as the willingness to accentuate every crack and crevice that does me in.

So I went on looking for things more pleasant. Pretty girls to be more precise. There were lots of them, but they all seemed so young, which made me feel creepy. The ones my age who weren’t making the ground rumble with every step all seemed to have those fake tans that make the skin look like something just peeled off a snake. I was beginning to get a wee bit depressed.

Then I met an old friend who was so stoned on something that she had lost the ability to speak complete sentences. My comprehension was dealt another blow when she choose to not stop eating the massive hamburger she was carrying around like airport luggage. She kept dropping crumbs on my shirt and saying something about the heat and how she didn’t want to be there and then as quickly as she ambled over she was gone. I did a quick check to make sure she didn’t fall on anybody and thought how lucky I was that as a kid I said no to drugs at least when people I knew and who I could dribble food particles on were around.

She didn’t look that out of place actually. The night before some guy was stabbed in the beer tent, so the place is not exactly Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. But I always felt strangely serene when bikers were around, and they were here in droves. Not sure what it is about summer carnivals that draws them in, but the place looked like a warm and fuzzy version of Altamont. The band was even playing a slightly out-of-tune version of “Brown Sugar” to complete the image. My daughter kept sending me text messages from the top of the Ferris Wheel saying how she could see me and how much of a weirdo I looked like writing in a little notebook and, oh yea, could she have more money?

I gave her $5 so she could buy a 32 oz cup of lemonade with enough sugar to keep her wide awake for 2 full days. It was a good deal though. You could get refills for $3.

I felt like an excellent parent, which I am.

The time really flew by. We were there 3 good hours. I wrote and I watched and I contemplated mortality and I witnessed my kid have a good time and I ate some sort of sticky dough covered with at least a pound of powdered sugar, chased down with a diet soda of course. Nobody got stabbed and the rain clouds overhead quickly dissipated and I did not have to hold a goldfish. When we left I had the perfect excuse to not take them shopping. They’d spent all my money. We came home and I took a nap.

It was a good day.

I’m much better at being an observer than a participant.

In a bit…


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Piano Songs

May 26, 2011 Leave a comment

As you may know if you keep up with my ramblings, I’ve been fumbling around with the piano lately. I’ve always wanted to play, but was hampered by the obvious.

I didn’t have a piano.

I do now because my 9 year old is a bit of a prodigy. At least to my ears. She got so good so fast that we broke open the piggy banks and leveraged the credit cards. All worth it. I love listening to her play. It’s just a wonderful sound she makes….and she does it so effortlessly. She can put a complex piece of music into her memory-bank in a few days and rid herself of the sheet music. And when I have questions, she’s there to answer them. Last night she gave me a quickie course on the sustaining petal. I was abusing it relentlessly and am now much less manic.

So now when the house is quiet (which happens on occasion), I have no ready excuse to not sit and tinker. I learned some chord shapes by searching google, and in a few weeks could plod along with simple things that to the untrained ear at least sounded vaguely musical.

So now I have a new batch of songs. Kind of a hodge podge of pop songs and Guthrie-esque societal rants and gentle laments and just plain weird shit. As usual I have no money. So recording them with a band is out. I usually make my records solo with an acoustic guitar. I’ve got a recording machine, set up 2 mics, and just play. I don’t overdub anything because I never had to patience to learn how to work the machine the right way. So what you hear on my records is what I sound like. If I make a (not so grievous) mistake or a car drives by and blows a horn or my dog sneezes, you hear the mistake or the car horn or the dog sneezing….sometimes all in one song but I try to keep that to a minimum if possible.

Last night I sat down at the piano with a new song called “Can You Hide Me” and searched for a melody. I found one and it sounded pretty good.


Maybe I could record the new songs… know…..on the piano.

I recently picked up a copy of Mike Scott’s latest, called “In a Special Place”. It’s piano/voice demos of the songs that eventually appeared on the Waterboy’s “This is the Sea” record.

Scott is a great songwriter. A wonderful guitarist. But nobody ever said he was Benmont Tench. There’s no “bad” notes on the record or anything like that. It’s just very rudimentary playing. You can almost feel him searching for the right keys. Sometimes his timing gets thrown off. But I thought the performances were lovely. In many cases, I prefer them over the bombastic arrangements he gave the songs on “This is the Sea”.

It made me think. Maybe I could do this.

I’m still not totally convinced. I have moved the recording machine and the mics upstairs next to the piano. And I have been playing more and more, trying to get my chops up. But I’m still a bumbler. My bad notes make my dog’s ears stick up. One time they made her bark. That’s a bit disconcerting to say the least.

But there’s something so expressive about the piano. Even if you don’t play that well, it can still sound good.

And I’d like to try something I’ve never tried before. If I’m going to fail, I’d much rather not fail at something I’ve done already.

Ok, so I’ve almost talked myself into it. But not quite.

We’ll see how it goes. Drop me a line if you’re so inclined. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

In a bit..


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The Rapture

May 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m told the world will begin to end on Saturday. Or something like that. The swell people will slip out of their clothes and float up into the clouds. The rest of us are doomed I guess……left to pick up the pieces and to await eternal damnation. This will take approximately 5 months. No idea why so long, unless it’s just a lot of paperwork and stuff. The actual end of the world is set for October 21st, 2011, which messes up Halloween for my kids….but I hate Halloween so the date is fine with me. Plus, at least I can watch half a season of college football. The Pros will be on strike. Great timing guys.

I imagine they’ll be lots of real estate available all of a sudden. There’s some nice houses I’ve got my eye on. With pools and killer landscaping and lots of privacy trees. I hope the owners don’t disappoint me by being craven sinners. My friend and frequent writing partner Mike Stevens says he wants a tractor and some root beer. Mike’s always been a modest guy.

I looked into this rapture thing and found that if you’re one of the chosen and you just happen to be driving 80 miles and hour on route 81 you’ll be lifted and your car is pretty much on its own. How much of a suck-fest would it be to get run over by a riderless car? You’ll need a helluva lawyer. At least we know they’ll be lots of them still around when it’s over.

This was supposed to happen a while back but the rapture people admitted that they miscalculated the date. A simple mathematical error. You’d think with something as important as the end of the world they’d get the formula right.

But this time they’ve nailed it. They promise. 1844. 1914. 1981. 1988. 1989. 1992. 1993. 1994. All mistakes. Sorry about the inconvenience.

It’s all supposed to start with an earthquake in New Zealand. I’m writing from memory now but I’m pretty sure it’s New Zealand. This will happen early Saturday morning (New Zealand time or EST I do not know), and trigger a chain of cataclysmic events that promise to be quite nasty. I checked Saturday’s weather and they’re calling for sun and temps in the 70s….hardly an armageddon-like forecast. But they’ve been wrong before.

My daughter has a softball game on Sunday but the coach says he’ll cancel if he doesn’t have enough players. He did say he’s got no worries about the unavailability of umpires.

Most of us I expect will sleep through this. I don’t think people floating off into the sky will make a lot of noise, unless they’re scared of heights and start screaming. I’m certainly not going to set my alarm, in any event. I don’t want to hear insufferable Bible-freaks taunting me from above on my only day to sleep in.

Sunday mass will be interesting….since anybody there by default is doomed no matter how much repenting they do. Day late and a dollar short you might say….the ultimate in wishful thinking. And lots of dirty looks for the priest. I expect a lot of looting and mayhem and fornication and boozing and people going off their diets. I’ve decided I’m not going to cut my grass anymore. One good thing is no more Fox News, since they’ll obviously all be gone to the good place. We’ll be stuck with Dan Rather to narrate it all. I’m guessing the Home Shopping Network will have t-shirts and hats to sell by the evening. They’re pretty fast off the mark.

I just hope we don’t lose our internet connection.

In a bit…


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Bin Laden

May 2, 2011 2 comments

I was half asleep in bed with the TV on. I heard a voice say Bin Laden was dead. I didn’t really wake up. It was strange. I thought I was dreaming.

I woke up early this morning and drove my daughter to school (she missed the bus, a truly unpatriotic way to start the week). I had the Ipod playing in the car. No radio.

Then off to work.  Pulled up facebook (isn’t that what you do when you get to work?) and there it was, every post I saw. Bin Laden really was dead. Crowds were piling up at the White House and in Times Square and at Ground Zero…..waving flags, chanting. Jubilant.

Obama gets the credit for being in the right place at the right time. That’s how politics work. If Reagan “freed the hostages”, then Obama “killed Bin Laden”. Some major political hay for the Democrats. That birth certificate thing suddenly seemed even more goofy than it really was. Fox News is practically dribbling on itself, not sure what to say, like they are trying to hold in an enormous shit. To gloat would make Rush and Beck mad. This was supposed to happen 10 years ago you see. With a real American in the White House. Not some non-white Kenyan socialist with the sinister middle name pretending to be Hawaiian

But still, “ding dong the witch is dead” and all that. And good fucking riddance. A lot of good men and women have died trying to bring this bastard down. Vengeance is never pretty but sometimes it feels pretty damn good. He can’t be too dead for me. Bring on the pictures. I hear he was shot in the head. I hope he knew it was coming and crapped his robe.

So now what? Not sure. Bin Laden may be more dangerous now that he’s dead. He’s an idea now, and not some living breathing thing. Dare I say, a martyr. When religion makes people batshit, as it generally does, you can’t expect rationality when you cut the head off the snake…..because rationality was never there in the first place. Those who kill because they truly believe a man in the sky wants them to are notoriously difficult to reason with. Muslims aren’t alone in thinking their deity considers them swell and everybody else suitable only for target practice. All the major religions teach this………exclusivity. The most radical of muslims just happen to do god’s work with more panache lately. It’s fucking madness.

So I don’t see militant islamists suddenly being cowed over Bin Laden getting plugged, anymore than millions of catholics suddenly realizing that canonizing a man who harbored pedophiles might not be a good idea.

But radical muslims. We’re on them, yes? Remember, they think when they die there are 100 virgins with legs spread waiting for them. So blowing themselves up and taking a bunch of heathens with them is not always un-appealing, especially when earth-living consists of dirt floors and sipping cold tea with guys who stone women to death for not covering their eyeballs. Sadly, I think the killing will continue. It may even spike for a time. People who kill for religion have always been very PR savvy. One must get the message out when the cameras are around.

I was in NYC this weekend. I’m not big on the crowds and the $7 pints and all the horn blowing, but one thing I do like about NYC is that nobody really gives a shit what you look like or what you sound like or how you dress. You walk down the street and you’re pretty much ignored unless somebody wants to rob you or convert you to Scientology. I like not being judged by weirdos. I really like anonymity in the midst of Times Square and the fact that taxi drivers will run you over regardless of your religious beliefs….or lack thereof. New Yorkers tend to stand out when they’re outside of New York, so it’s ironic that they’re invisible otherwise. This is as it should be. NYC is pretty much a judgement free zone, unless of course you drive airplanes into her buildings. Then she gets pissed and short-tempered. Sounds about right to me.

As an uber-liberal, it feels kinda squishy for me to be saying I’m glad a guy got a bullet in the brain. But I am glad. A stain has been wiped away.

I do hope we don’t go overboard with the chanting and the “god bless america” stuff though. It will be said that this will, temporarily at least, “bring the nation together”, which is horseshit of course. Our nation is way too big to be brought together by any one thing. When Bin Laden’s body is dumped into the sea, the poor will still be poor and the rich will still be rich and the ideological pin-heads will continue to drive the national discourse by driving a big wedge into smallish-minds. Boys will continue to die in Afghanistan. Fear will return and we’ll be back to Obama’s DNA and Trump’s comb-over and $4 gas prices in a few days.

But for today at least……the world feels just a tad safer. Let us revel.

In a bit..


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