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.