Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Damn Useless Pieces of Plastic

Damn kids and their Legos.

I've just stepped, for the 1069th time, on a damn four-pegger lego piece that one of the cats has kidnapped out of the kid's room and played hockey down the hall with.

You walk down the hall in the dark night hours and feel the stab of some small piece of plastic-ass bullshit driving into the soft meat of your arch--and you immediatly pull your foot up wondering if you've stepped on some piece of cat vomit/cat shit/rusty nail, or one of the young buck's play things.

I usually have a 50% success rate of it being one of the kid's pieces of plastic bullshit. The other half of the time I end up with my foot in the hall bathroom sink washing something foul from between my toes.

This evening it was another Lego piece. The night before it was an Anakin Skywalker (Volcano Damage Version--Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith) that caused me to jump 3 feet into the air.

It takes at least 30 minutes to clean out the hall bathroom's bathtub when guests show up, as it houses a cornucopia of 'action figures' and their various accessories. The kid is 2 degrees past spoiled.

I blame his grandparents. Between my family and my wife's there was one family unit separation, which has resulted in, at the end of the day, 3 grandmothers for this kid. And the kid's the ONLY grandchild between the three blended families. My sis never had kids, nor did my wife's brother. He's the SOLE LONE GRANDCHILD. And you know how Grandmothers are, and you know how Aunts can be, too (my sister). Kid's spoiled more than a gallon of milk with last week's date.

This kid's nickname is "The Boy King" - He wants for nothing.

His Kingdom is the damn bathtub.

He knows not what toys he owns, as they number the thousands.

I was lucky to have a single GI Joe, a Major Matt Mason, and a half-dozen Hot Wheels.

But still, growing up has its advantages.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Rumble of the Ages

Halloween's over.

My eight year old son made the big candy haul last night, whoofed down a few chocolate nuggets of some tooth-decaying matter, and crashed like a big dog around 8:15.

I remember well acting the same way 36 years ago, and it got me thinking about the 'memories of youth' that are framed in golden-hued nostalgia that probably isn't real, but that's the difference between memories and film.

The place:
My old home town- Kings Mountain, North Carolina.

The memory:
1973. There I was, age 12, exiting the 50 year-old Joy Theater after a Saturday matinee movie.

The Rat Palace, we called it, where fifty cents would gain you admittance to the latest badly dubbed Godzilla flick or Clint Eastwood spaghetti western.

Where your feet stuck to the seldom-cleaned floor; sticky with the Sprite of Ages- and the popcorn was the only fresh thing you could depend on for a cinematic munchy.

Where the padlocked door on the right side of the main entrance was a vague reminder of a time when it was the only portal the black folks of this town had for gaining entry to the theater. The doorway led to a separate stairway that offered them seating in the balcony of the theater.

But that was six years earlier and now I'm twelve, everyone uses the same set of doors no matter what color they are, and we're going to the theater without a parental watchdog (those were the safe days). Just my friends and I, our feet raised up on the seat backs in front of us, throwing Milk Duds at the screen until Mac, the big, tall, gruff manager, made his rounds and slapped our feet down. Mac's office, just to the right of the lobby, had a huge, stuffed albatrose that hung from the ceiling. It was pretty damn creepy.

After the movies would end we’d wait across the street where the Southern Railroad Line ran straight through the middle of town. The National Guard Armory had a monument set up there-a small cannon from World War II. I have no idea of the caliber. It was large in my preteen eyes. It was mounted on a big concrete platform with chains around it. Of course the chains never stopped us. We’d climb around on it and play GI Joe, feigning gunshot wounds to the chest and legs and throwing ourselves off the cannon’s base onto the ground.

Playtime stopped at the sound of an approaching train.
Quick! Get you pennies out! Hurry!

We’d place our remaining coins on the rails and then lie on the ground some five or six feet away from the track. We’d focus on the location of our coins and wait.

The rumble and crunch of the approaching locomotive would shake our prone bodies and the always-excitable minds housed in our small skulls would race with thoughts of the train jumping the tracks if it didn’t hit the pennies just so. The freight whistle would blast loud enough to make us squint our eyes shut and grip the grassy bank with tight fists as the train thundered ever closer.

A hundred feet, twenty, then with a deafening roar and thunderous shake it would pass us, and we’d catch a brief glimpse of our coins flying hither and yon.

After a mile of boxcars and the caboose passed we’d rush up and search the gravel between the rails for our coins. Sometimes we’d not find a single one and then there were times when one of us would raise our hand in triumph.

We’d all gather round and examine it as if it were found treasure from an uncharted island. No longer resembling a penny, it was now an inch and a half-long ellipse of smooth copper, slightly curved like a crescent.

The brotherhood would then be broken up by one of the mothers showing up to shuttle us back to our homes.

The trains still run through the middle of my hometown. The cannon is now gone, and the old Joy Theater has at times been an evangelical church, and most recently refurbished as the new Little Theater for our local thespians. And as sure as the tracks still carry the thundering trains of my youth through the middle of that small town, there’s still roughly a buck fifty in stretched-out pennies lying amidst the gravel of the early 70s.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Death of our Culture. Or, Shopping at WallyWorld

The mosquitoes had been pretty bad this year.
Big ones that actually cast a shadow upon you before they strike.
I’d spent Saturday trimming the shrubbery around the house with the hand clippers, and I wanted to enjoy a nice early fall evening on my back deck, playing a little music, but the little blood sucking vampires wouldn’t leave me alone. They zoned in on me with deadly blood-sensing accuracy and I was nearly eaten alive.

I figured I needed some of those stinky green mosquito coils—the ones that look like the burner eye on your grandma’s stove. The local grocery store didn’t have any, so I was forced to make the 17-mile drive into Asheville, NC. My destination—the place where you can find anything you want—the new Super Wal-Mart. And this trip taught me something that still makes me shake my head in disgust:

The Saturday night highlight in Asheville is not the Mall, not one of the blues/alternative/folk bars and nightclubs, not one of our cool, trendy restaurants. It’s the Super Wal-Mart.

Man, this place was rockin’.
The parking lot was packed. I spent more time in the queue at the stoplight leading into the parking lot than I did getting into the Paul Simon concert down in Charlotte North Carolina during the summer of ’92.

Hell, if this place wasn’t doing business 24 hours a day there would be people tailgating with boom boxes and grilled chicken just waiting for the store to open on Saturday mornings.

I bounded in to get the mosquito coils, fueled by the anxious rush of adrenalin at watching their fumigated little parasitic bodies falling towards ground zero. Hit-Hard, run fast is my shopping motto.

Immediately, the shopping center’s gravity pulled me in further. Whoa. Look at the four aisles of snacks—Geeze! Macadamia Nuts! Guacamole Doritos! I grabbed one of each.

The Tim Allen gleam hit my eye when I passed the saws, drills, shelves, screws, nails, nuts, bolts, brackets, sockets, sledge hammers, hand axes, extension cords, ceiling fans. But I was strong. I kept to my course. Kill The Mosquitoes.

Finally I made it to the camping/outdoor equipment section. Two big guys are standing in front of the mosquito coils discussing which type of aerosol bug repellent smelled sweatiest, so to kill a few minutes I bounced over a couple of rows and I struck oil.
Motor oil, that is.

Well, I’d been telling myself to change the oil for the last few weeks and by golly, when that spur of the moment bug hits ya….

So at this point I was carrying around five quarts of oil, an oil filter, a bottle of slick 50, the nuts and Doritos, and I was trying, for the love of Pete, to balance it on top of an air filter that I picked up as another spur of the moment non-decision.

This proved to be very tricky. I didn’t get a cart or basket at the front of the store because I only thought I was picking up a 4.4 ounce package of noxious mosquito coils.
Now I had six pounds of little boxes and containers doing a Weeble impersonation on an air filter stage and—Whoa! I saw all the videos on sale. I’m a sucker for a bargain video, let’s see…buns of steel, thighmaster, Jessica Simpson’s workout video, Jane Fonda’s, Donald Sutherland’s—Oh— that was a copy of Klute.

I scanned the rack hoping to find a Monty Python comedy or an old sci-fi movie. This guy with bad breath stood beside me slowly chanting to no one: “Lethal…Weapon…3, Lethal…Weapon…3, Lethal…Weapon…3.” His wife comes up the aisle holding a copy of Thelma & Louise.
“You’ve already got that, you id-jeet!” he snipped.
“No I Ain’t.” she sassed back.
“I was right thar when your sister gave it to ya at the barbecue two months ago!
“That was Milo & Otis Mr. smart mouth!” she said. I moved on and kept browsing. Not only were they smelly and crass, but they were looking for bad-to-OK movies that were 15 years old.

A minute later I was out of the electronics department with a $5.98 copy of “Tin Cup.”

I made a mental count of my merchandise as I closed in on the checkout quadrant. two, three, four…eleven items! I headed for the express line. Two people in front of me, not bad. I figured I’d be out of there in three minutes.

I scanned the last minute, spur-of-the-moment rack. Shoelaces, double A Batteries, horoscope mini-books, Bicycle playing cards…

The clerk called in for a price check on the person in front of me, my second biggest shopping pet peeve. I’m starting to get hungry. I guess all that hedge trimming I’d done that afternoon was catching up with me and my blood sugar had dropped. I gaze back to the rack: Blank cassettes, Lip Balm, twin packs of disposable razors-hey that’s not a bad looking flashlight. Hmmm. What’s this? Yu-Gi-Oh toothpaste—Oh No! The Lady In Front Of Me Is Writing A Check In The Express Line!! Agggggh! If only crucifixion was back in style. And what kills me about check writers is that they have all this time to ‘pre-fill-out’ the darn thing. You KNOW what store you’re in, You KNOW the date, and You KNOW how to sign your name. All that should be done and you should just be waiting on the total to fill in. I send her death rays with my eyes.

Man, I was hungry. I was starting to feel weak. And as luck would have it the candy bars are on the next isle.

So I jumped over to the next line, which had just opened, grabbed a Snickers bar (they satisfy!) and I got through faster. Looking over to the check-writing lady, with an evil glint in my eye, I whipped out my debit card, slide it, slam it, bang it, and I’m out of there.

Ah the excitement of a Saturday night. I headed for home with a smile on my face. Then about a hundred feet from my drive I suddenly remembered the damn Mosquito coils…the ones I never picked up.

They make things for times like these. It’s called bourbon.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Music on the Airwaves blows

I'm talking Binford Leaf Blower. Lots of horsepower.
I've had enough of the oldies that play the 'safe' 269 focus-group approved songs ad-nauseum. Feel-good oldies, lite oldies, flacid rock, classic rock (If you're under 25 did you know The Who actually wrote more songs than 'Won't Get Fooled Again' and 'Baba O'Riley'? And no, there's not a song called 'Teenage Wasteland.') And any station playing new, current music plays the worst corporate candy schlock with a shelf life shorter than my ADHD son's attention span while doing his math homework.

Here in my hometown we finally got a new station that promised the best new music of the 90s and the 00s. And for about a week it was really good. Coldplay, Keane, Dave Matthews, etc., but soon I realized they were going to keep a revolving list of about 200 songs and play them over and over and over. Got stale like a 2 liter coke with the lid left off all night. So screw them.

But there is hope, the podcast music available here, Sirrus and XM satellite radio (over a hundred commercial free stations), and internet radio stations. The latter of which I'm a big fan. The deal? Nothing's free anymore and you get what you pay for. I gotta pay for my internet connection so why not enjoy the music available there? I hope the commercial stations all get run over by a bus and taste their own blood. Indie stations get bought up and force fed playlists that bears little resmeblance to my musical thirst.

But Looovvvve that internet radio. 3WK Underground, Live 365 Radio, Aural Moon, and Radio Paradise. gets me through my day. I've been turned onto so many new (and old) groups I never knew existed. What a mix, and I love that even familiar artists get played, but it's usually not the standard 'classic cuts' you've heard until your ears bleed. For example, here's a list of stuff I heard today:

Beck - Broken Drum (Boards of Canada Remix)
Van Morrison - The Way Young Lovers Do
Anna Ternheim - To Be Gone
Santana - Incident At Neshabur
The BoDeans - Fadeaway
16 Horsepower - Cinder Alley
The Wailin' Jennys - Take it Down
Colin Hay - Beautiful World
Matson Belle - Float
Devlins - Strangest Things
Concrete Blonde - Mexican Moon
Toots & The Maytals - Pomp & Pride
G. Love & Special Sauce - Honor and Harmony
Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On
Jem - Finally Woken
Smashing Pumpkins - Crush
Beth Orton - Anywhere (Two Lone Swordsman Remix)

Give'em a try if you haven't already. And support them!

I leave you now with the prophetic lyrics of an old King Crimson song, from the Starless and Bible Black album. Sums up the death of the creative artist and the rise of commercial radio.


(Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James)

I guess I tried to show you how
I'd take the crowd with my guitar
And business men would clap their hands
And clip another fat cigar
And publishers would spread the news
And print my music far and wide
And all the kids who played the blues
Would learn my licks with a bottle neck slide

But now it seems the bubble's burst
Although you know there was a time
When love songs gathered in my head
With poetry in every line
And strong men strove to hold the doors
While with my friends I passed the age
When people stomped on dirty floors
Before I trod the rock'n'roll stage

I'll thank the man who's on the 'phone
And if he has the time to spend
The problem I'll explain once more
And indicate a sum to lend
That ten percent is now a joke
Maybe thirty, even thirty-five
I'll say my daddy's had a stroke
He'd have one now, if he only was alive

I like the way you look at me
You're laughing too down there inside
I took my chance and you took yours
You crewed my ship, we missed the tide
I like the way the music goes
There's a few good guys who can play it right
I like the way it moves my toes
Just say when you want to go and dance all night...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cheese Whiz, Have I been asleep?

OK, I'll admit. I don't know what I'm doing. Been hearing about blogs, followed other peoples links to specific blog entries for a couple of years, but never thought about starting one of these rat bastige things. So, consider this my 'under construction' post until I can find my rear with both hands and a flashlight.

I don't want to just use this as a place to complain about the stuff that drives me nuts, but ranting on about life's curveballs is one of the things that makes me feel good. I'd like for this to be free and creative and all over the map (as I am in my carbon-based life form). I might raise cain at the gas prices, considering my hometown has tied for third-highest prices in the United States (behind Hawaii and Washington DC), but not today.

Tune in again soon, and I hope to have something to talk about...or at least I may have learned a bit about navigating around this corksucker.