338. Bloggerazis

The kid asked to be in my blog, like it’s Broadway for the weird. Actually, I have to ponder this analogy further. I do have a lot of weirdos, village idiots, wildmen, and perverts in my cyber pages. No one consciously auditions for my blog space, however. In fact, they often threaten me with civil suits, bow ties, and tweed jackets if I do not cease and desist my slanderous blathering. Okay, just Joel. Others simply do not know they have been featured. And how would they unless through the Ethernet of internet connectivity and global shrink?  [I don’t know what that last sentence means, but I like how it sounds informed and cutting edge intriguing.]

Unbeknownst to me, a friend from my old neighborhood days found my blog and faithfully read every post from the start right up to this point. For legal purposes we’ll just call him by his nickname, The Weasel. Weasel has been sporadically contacting me and bathing in the nostalgic bubble baths I have transcribed onto blank screens across the world and into the dimly lit living rooms of my three devoted followers on Haldol. I find some strange comforting validation in his faithful following. And an odd accountability since he knows many of the characters and landscapes I’ve written about. Oh the Humanity! Blogging is not as easy and simple minded as I make it appear, my people. Will you drink from my cup? I didn’t think so.

So here we are. Dorothy is the newbie barrista at the coffee shop and the daughter of fellow Sunday School members, Karlina and Eduardo. Mom is Austrian and Dad is Bolivian, if  you a’ bolievian me.  Dorothy was the lead in The Wizard of Oz  just recently in our local community theater. Besides being very talented and pretty and 18, she can realistically pass for 13 with braided pigtails and a plaid blouse. (Judy Garland pulled it off in the movie, but she was 16.) Now I had voiced my intention to see her perform. However, I failed to fulfill my intention due to other lame obligations. As I apologized for my absence yesterday, she said, “That’s okay. You can write about it in the blog.”  Redemption? Or redaction? Dunno yet, but I’ve written with less direction and less likelihood of success. I will boldly go where three blind mice fear to tread.  “Onward men, toward the Farmer’s Wife and her butcher knife.”

Wow!! I don’t know if she knows what she has asked. Like a toddler who wants a sip of Uncle Billy’s beer, the unacquired taste is immediately revolting so the toddler spits out the very thing she had just longed for. It looked pretty and seemed to be valued by valuable adults, so the child’s reasoning goes. Opening the hallucinogenic world of Burritospecial to someone who was a minor just last year… that’s dicey. I wrestled with the slippery, wormlike ethics for just a moment and then hung it on the hook for blog fishing. Ethics shmethics!! I’m not selling crack here, am I?

Well, Dorothy, in this adult world we struggle to make sense out of nonsense. We don’t always get our needs met in a timely manner. Folks fail and let us down, and sometimes we are the folks.  Let me  quote the philosopher Mick Jagger…

 

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she would meet her connection
At her feet was a footloose man
No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you needAnd I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need
 
I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need
You get what you need–yeah, oh baby
 
I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need
I don’t have much to add. Life is short and often full of peril. Suck the juice out of every minute just like you reportedly did on stage, Dearie. Be prepared and yet never get so rigid that you can’t flexibly come on back to Kansas.  “Oh no, Toto come back.” Truly, as weird as it may be, there is no place like home.
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261. New Year Yanging

The morning ice is melting, kids are off school and sauntering about town as Outside becomes more bearable than the Inside of their breathless grimy abodes. It feels like Russia, and I like an overly dramatic Dostoevsky in my wretched office hovel.  Tom Waits is wistfully singing a dreadful song about a murdered woman on Pandora. Crime and Punishment comes to mind. And I’m here (Raskolnikov) looking for inspiration or redemption or both. A bad version of Elvis comes on next.  “I can’t help falling in love with you”, live with an orchestra and 27 backup singers.  Sad work, Elvis. Someone sold you Vegas and stole your Memphis mojo. Tragic. I keep trolling for the right feel…Over the Rhine, yes, an old melancholy sound like treated paint being spatulaed off gorgeous ancient wood. A woman’s velvet skirt voice swooshes low near the floor. That’s it. Deep swirling grain embedded with lacquer and pale green lead paint from the 50’s is revealed. Yeah, now it’s  right. The wood beneath must be superb to bother with the stripping away, but it’s an itch that must be scratched with a wire brush on this dismal and forgettable day. Penndot trucks memorialize the moment with burial mounds of dirty snow and ice. Modern yellow overtakers. I feel like spray painting palm trees against the snow banks just for the irony of it. It’s good that I don’t drink liquor. I can imagine guzzling a two finger tumbler of scotch right now. But I need to clear my own snow covered neural pathways.

But I don’t so I won’t, drink that is. Instead I need to find a warm dry nest to settle into as winter consolidates its gains. Pull the extremities in closer to conserve body heat– finger to finger, hand to armpit, foot to thigh like some energy efficient yoga master. Snuggle with other mammals too. Maybe a bear. Layers of fat help. Then again dancing with my wife in our living room raises the temperature and blood pressure to alarming levels. But that’s too up tempo and hopefully yinny. I am in a yanging mood here. Let me explain.

“Yang 陽 or 阳 Bound morpheme ① [Chinese philosophy] positive/active/male principle in nature ②the sun ③ male genitals ④ in relief ⑤ open; overt ⑥ belonging to this world ⑦ [linguistics] masculine ⑧ south side of a hill ⑨ north bank of a river”  Wikipedia, the foremost authority on everything.

I hope that clears it up. To yang is to be bright (unyinny) but male and overtly worldly while acting like a north bound relief penis in a river below a south facing hillside. Picture that, a cargoless but macho canoe adrift on a sun speckled river.  “Don’t use the binoculars, Claire! Just take my word for it.” Wait a minute, I hear Vin Scully’s voice, “It’s the bottom of the ninth, with the tying run on first and the winner at the plate. Time to go to the bullpen for that new Korean reliever, Lee Yang.”

It’s a complex palette of emotions and sensations that can only be explained by clever use of metaphors and symbols. Straight forward language fails to capture the yangness of the word and its world. It’s the difference between beef and Angus beef for the unenlightened.

Sometimes it’s considered vulgar or crude to yang about.

In the Orient, I have this from good sources, NO YANGING signs are not uncommon in Bejing and Hong Kong. In Laundromats in Saigon, I am told, “No Loitering, Littering or Yanging” signs are everywhere. The exception in Asia is, of course, North Korea, where yanging is punishable by death. Public yanging often results in whole families being executed and their ancestors being exhumed, shot, and neatly reburied. It is never allowed to yang in Pyongyang. They will not hesitate to pyong you if you are so bold to pyang in front of one of their militarized pyungs.

“Read the charges, comrade bailiff Sung.”

“American spy was pyanging forbiddenly in public near our most revered militarized pying. Law say he must be pyonged right away, honorable Comrade Judge.”

“Let it be written. Let it be pyonged.” The bailiff paddles American spy with ping pong paddle until he cry.

They have a saying in North Korea that is punishable by hanging if uttered aloud… “better to be pyonged off than pyanged on”.  Shhhhhh. Their soldiers wear hats that are made from repurposed Chrysler Imperial hubcaps. Huge saucers held in place by subcutaneous magnets. Look at how the magnetic field actually pulls this soldier’s lips into a scowl. He’s never yanged in public in his short miserable life. Not allowed. He chomps at his inner lips as if they are Imperialist Yangers.

 Here is where literary skill comes in, my two faithful blog readers. I’ve written myself into an exitless corner. I’ve typed myself into Oblivion’s oblivion. My spell checker is cursing at me with the pulsing cursor. And I bravely peck on, undaunted, bloviating about nothing.
 What to do, what to do? I must pull this together in the next 100 words, yang it all! I need a reason to finish so that you don’t feel deceived and get all yanged off.
So here’s what we’re gonna do. You are going to walk out backwards, my friend, close the laptop and forget we ever came here. Got it?
Cause I know what you’re thinking: Did he fire six yangs or only five?  Well, to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a twisted up blog entry that could blow your head clean off, you gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, Pyunk?

 

 

 

248. Unrequited Political Ear Sex

I know. I know. It’s not what you’re thinking. Elections are next week and the awful, biased, insulting political ads are going full bore on television and radio. It’s all slick talk like a slimy pick up artist at a slimy bar hitting on easy but slimy marks somewhere between happy hour and closing time. All the voters get prettier at closing time, dontcha know?  Heavy humid words are being delivered with great passion to waxed and unwaxed ears alike throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Even tired nail technicians watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” are being selectively hit on….

Click. Channel 08.

Slimy Slim, in a low sultry voice: “Hi there, Gorgeous. You don’t know me or who paid for this commercial, but Tom Wolf wants to take your guns away and raise your  taxes, Honey Bun.”

Bimbo: “Who’s Tom Wolf?”

Slimy Slim: “He’s the Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, you sexy thing. You’re like a voluptuous hoot owl when you say Who.”

Bimbo: “I don’t know what that V word means, but do we got a Governor?”

Slimy Slim: “Oh yeah. He’s my best friend and boss, Tom Corbett. You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania with Tom Corbett. You bet, Corbett.  Like a Corvette. He’s our man. If Tom Corbett can’t do it, no one can do it, you better believe it. He’s like a Chevy truck in a Viagra commercial… unstoppable old horsepower with a hemi.”

Bimbo: “That’s so cute how you turned around like a cheerleader. Ya know, I was a cheerleader back in the day in middle school. I never made it through high school, though. That New Math did me in.”

Slimy Slim: “That’s what I’m talking about, Pretty Eyes. Tom Wolf wants to bring in educational strategies that were used in Godless communist countries like New Math for a New World Order. In his geography book Iran and North Korea are tinted blue, like a subliminal message that they are trust worthy, ya know, like true blue? It’s nothing less than a left wing liberal conspiracy for one world Democrat demagogue domination.”

Bimbo: “Uh huh… I could eat some wings about now. Maybe I’ll get some subliminal cheese sauce with my regular ranch dip. Is it kinda tangy like a lime?”

Slimy Slim:  ” No, Bims. But Tom Corbett has a plan. He’s gonna remove all bad countries from his geography book and shrink the world back to pre World War II borders, return us to the gold standard, leave the U.N., and repeal all unnecessary taxes while eliminating the government deficit of 19  trillion dollars.”

Bimbo: “Oh, wow!! That’s like a lot of money. I wish I had some money. Wanna buy me a drink, Handsome?”

Slimy Slim: “Sure. Bartender!  Two margaritas, separate bills. Thanks.”

Bimbo: “Uh, that’s no way to treat a lady, Slim! You were supposta pay for mine too. Don’t you know nuthin’?”

Slimy Slim: “But Bims, it’s a cruel world and everyone must pull her own weight. Now I’m not saying I need to know how much you weigh, but Tom Corbett will cut corporate taxes and regulations that keep us all overly safe. He thinks all Pennsylvanians need to buck up and eat venison, support Penn State, marry only humans, put prayer back in school, and arm our underfunded school students with NRA approved high capacity handguns.”

Bimbo: ” I had a couple of kids once. The county took’m from me for barhopping too much while they were supposta be sleeping. I’ll never understand that. Ya think Tom can get me my kids back? The one was a girl named Kitty. The other one was a boy named Tiger. Oh we had us some good times, we did.”

Slimy Slim: “Well, Sure, Bims. With your dedicated vote, just mark the straight Republican line, I can guarantee Tom will apply the full force of the state government to your case like a hurricane whoopin’ Jim Cantore’s butt. He won’t rest until your kittens are returned to the mother cat and their litter box. No more welfare or useless things like social services and needless over-education of the electorate will stand in his way. ”

Bimbo: “Oh that’s so sweet, Slim. Um, how do you vote?”

Slimy Slim:”What do you mean? You, you just go to the designated polling place and sign the book and then mark a ballot.”

Bimbo: “Well, sure. You make it sound all easy and everythin’, but I aint never done it. Plus I lost my license for my fifth DUI, for which I still owe a pile of fines and lawyers fees. So I’ll need a ride. Do I got to bring my own pencil?”

Slimy Slim: “You mean you’re not registered?”

Bimbo: “That’s right. I’m whatcha call a political virgin, Slim. Zat make your motor rev up,huh?”

Slimy Slim: “No, this can’t be. I-I-I can’t believe I spent the last five minutes with a nonvoter cretin who can’t even bother to register. It’s too late to register because we wanted to weed out your kind from voting at the last minute. Oh the Horror!”

Bimbo: “Oh, so you’re not really interested in me as a person, huh? You just want a uptown voter chick for a girlfriend. I see. Any old slutty cretin voter will do for you. Zat it? I thought we had something goin’ on here, Mr. Cheapskate political windbag. Ya’ll ought to be votin’ for wind power farms cuz you got one right here when you open your pie hole.”

Slimy Slim: “Oh sure, talk your trailer park trash talk, Bims. You know what you are?  A loser. We don’t need stupid dyed blonde bimbos like you in Harrisburg.”

Bimbo:”Cuz ya’ll got that market covered, right?” Click.

Channel 27.

Bozo Bob: “Hi Beautiful. Heaven must be missin’ an angel… Tom Wolf wants you to have free cable t.v. and green energy made from kale grown in Pennsylvania’s abandoned coal mines,  but Tom Corbett won’t poop or get off the pot.”

Bimbo: “No, not another slime ball!!”

Bozo Bob: “Wait, don’t make me pay for another man’s sins. I’ll buy you a drink. This could be love. I’m for gay marriage, medical marijuana, and the Equal Rights Amend… ”

Click.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

230. Magical Mystery Tour

Okay, this post has nothing to do with the Beatles album of the same name, I just thought you might peek in if I baited you with art and then switched you into madness. I am currently under the influence of Pink Floyd and Cream at this very intense moment and my thoughts seem to be erupting slowly like methane bubbles rising out of the decaying detritus from the floor of an intellectual swamp and then popping onto this blank canvas you are reading. Visual flatulence… could be the name of a band from Toronto that never quite made it, like Spinal Tap. Anyway, at this morning’s Coffee Nation Summit things turned and twisted uglily (yes, I’m sayin’ that) as they normally do… five wet shower curtains in the wind on a drizzly day. Each very limited man put in his unlimited input, like PGA putters put in their putts or putzes, depending on your personal preference and people group. But put or putt or putz, no one was disputin’ Rasputin or Vladimir Putin due to Article I of the Nation’s Constipation:  no politics or religion will be broached or tolerated in Summit. Failure to comply will result in a slow, painful death by pun firing squad, which may take up to six months. [Most victims of the pun firing squad actually die of dehydration since they only drink coffee during the painful firing of the puns. They often beg for a quicker death near the end. It’s a cruel and inhumane way to die and must be carried out beyond the outer limits of the Geneva Convention in caves on the north beach of Aruba, aka Pun Island, where the pun is truly mightier than the sword.]

Joel our jovial attorney was in no hurry to get to work printing counterfeit money. He stayed quite a bit longer than normal. (I hesitate to use the word normal, since that has mental health implications that we cannot justify. We are abnormal putzes. If we had an alma mater, that would be our cheer: “We are… abnormal putzes. We are…”) He had shared his thimble of wisdom for the morning and invited us all to his summer tendonitis attorneyment. You’ve probably already guessed its name:  Thimbledon. It’s a fortnight of blindfolded barristers yelling legal citations back and forth over ankle high badminton nets followed by a round of icy mojitos on the  croquet lawn. Instead of golf carts they have summer interns push them around in wheelbarrows to avoid any possible DUI’s. This year’s theme is “Liability and Libation, A Study of Contrasts”. Most attendees will never forget last year’s rousing rendition of Pete Seeger’s “If I had a margarita, I’d hammer out justice, I’d hammer out freedom all over this land” by a young member of the local bar who chooses to remain anonymous. (It was Eddie Fickle, but you didn’t hear this from me.)

As Lance arrives, Joel says, “When I see you, I have to go.” The table reassured him that there are medications that can help with his random urinary urges. He did not protest as we offered various homeopathic remedies such as corn starch and fiber supplements to balance and help him control his aging bladder. My favorite suggestion was for him to sleep with a penny under his pillow each night to pay off the bladder fairy. With a sheepish grin he thanked us.

Big Steve regaled us with his pool maintenance tips and warned us of using outdated hoses on updated pumps. Someone could be violently hosed if the couplings did not get along. (There’s a Lady Gaga joke in their somewhere.)  And isn’t that a universal truth?  This was a natural segue into the topic of war. D.J. shared his near death experience in Iraq when a nursing mother attacked him with a squirting breast. His soldier buddy collapsed at the absurdity of it all, laughing himself into a helpless state as D.J. had a tense standoff with the milk bomber. Later he wrote it up as an encounter with an IEBD, Improvised Explosive Breast Device. “She was deadly accurate with that thing. I mean it, man. I was ready  to shoot back!” Imagine his PTSD flashbacks and nightmares. Huge zeppelins spraying laser streams of 2 % milk on him as he fights against his high count Egyptian cotton sheets and shudders, “Don’t milk taze me, bro!” It’s not funny. A simple trigger of a pool pump could throw a man back into his struggle for life in a godforsaken land of booby traps… something his recruiter completely failed to inform him about. Maybe one of the Thimbledon lawyers will take his case and together they can push wheelbarrows filled with young interns around Aruba. “Mojitos for everyone.”

Meanwhile Gene sits like a disgruntled Buddha with hemorrhoids who occasionally shouts, “Shut your face!” He gives his shots at the Nation, knowing that when he leaves he’ll be subservient to Lance’s razor at the barber shop tomorrow. ” N-N-Not to be smart, but I can’t argue with a man who’s got a razor at m-m-my neck.” He’s as meek outside of the coffee shop as he is cantankerous inside it. The Nation functions as a catalyzing poop magnet for Gene, keeping him emotionally regular from week to week.  Lance sat across from Gene and was not content until he got a blast, “Shut your pie hole, you!” This outburst led to bent over contortions of laughing.

And that leaves me. The nice thing about being a blogger or the Dictator for Life of Coffee Nation Summit is that you answer to no one except your wife. So I am under no legal or moral obligation to say what I did or did not contribute to the group… unless my wife jacks me up and makes me confess. Anyway, I remember others’ silliness far better than mine. So let it be written. Let it be sung.              The magical mystery tour is coming to take you away. Dying to take you away, take you today.

 

 

224. My personal belated Anti-disco movement

Photo of Bee Gees 1977  Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb and Andy Gibb ay Billboard Music Awards<br>

In the 1970’s disco music took over the airwaves and clubs, even though most folks knew it had no substance or meaning, no long term significance. Ephemeral fly poop, nothing more.  Disco had a danceable beat and that was what the majority culture craved– touch dancing at clubs. It was a vehicle for flea brained extroverts to flirt and seduce one another in their new overblown bell bottoms or high heels. It was exactly what I dreaded. I did not want to dance to begin with, but to do the Hustle or similarly choreographed dances seemed like devolution to me, a betrayal of the 1960’s ethos and a return to conformity. For me music had always been something to listen to in private or in a concert hall or club scene. Dancing? No. It was too commercial or shallow. Then again, I may have been depressed as I listened to my Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Clapton, Leonard Cohen, Tom Rush, Hendrix, the Dead, singer songwriter types with deep lyrics and moods that were not celebratory. But, on the other hand, they were not fluffy and sacharrin cotton candy odes to self indulgence. Just a disco beat like mindlessly chewing gum. Something about disco added up to corporate profits somewhere. It was synthetic, poly-ethical and thus poly-esterical, relying on studio overdubs and overproduction. Live disco did not make sense, so I believed. No more live shows, just dancing in shiny clothes and platform shoes to a d.j.’s canned musical taste. Gag.

I grew resentful and contemptuous of the ubiquitous disco sound. Saturday Night Fever’s soundtrack went viral before the term was conceptualized in the non-medical world. “Stayin’ Alive, ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ aliiiiiiiiiiiive.” I could not conceive of purchasing any of that crap, that crinkly wrapping paper music. It just seemed like music made for selling things, jingly and hollow, audio junk food scientifically altered to appeal to your ears and impulses. Mall music for a recessionary economy.

I researched a bit on Wikipedia for disco’s origins.

Origins of disco as a term and type of nightclub

By the early 1940s, the terms DJ and Disc Jockey were in use to describe radio presenters.[11] Because of restrictions, jazz dance halls in Occupied France played records instead of using live music. Eventually more than one of these venues had the proper name discothèque.[11] By 1959, the term was used in Paris to describe any of these type of nightclubs.[11] That year a young reporter Klaus Quirini spontaneously started to select and introduce records at the Scotch-Club in Aachen, West Germany.[11] By the following year the term was being used in the United States to describe that type of club, and a type of dancing in those clubs.[11] By 1964, discotheque and the shorthand disco were used to describe a type of sleeveless dress used when going out to nightclubs.[11] In September 1964, Playboy Magazine used the word disco as a shorthand for a discothèque-styled nightclub.[11]

So disco was born from a deficit of genuine live music during the Nazi occupation. Ahh, that seems so correct to me. It’s the d.j. when you can’t afford a full band at a wedding. So be it. The problem was that in the 1970’s this substitute became the preferred medium. Imagine if restaurants stopped serving real sugar and only provided sweetener substitutes. I suppose many folks would celebrate the artificial sweetener’s dominance. Not me, there is that chemical after taste which your brain detects as foreign and carcinogenic. Oh, but I may be getting carried away with hyperbole. Let’s cut right to the chase— ladies and gentlemen, Miss Donna Summer.

 Hot Stuff, Love to Love You Baby, Last Dance, and She Works Hard for the Money, are some of her hit songs. Danceable and forgettable, even though their hook lines would get in your brain and cycle like upbeat Abba injections of euphoria. And she was pretty. There you go– disco in a nutshell. Once you get started, Lord it’s hard to stop.
But all that was all so 40 years ago. Why bother with it now? Let sleeping Jack Russell Terriers lie, right? No. Like all fashion statements, this one will be back again, if it is not already woven into the media culture the same way that biologically altered food is in our food supply. Divas continue to pop up on the airwaves, crashing into whatever cultural barriers are left. And in this sense the term divas goes for men, women, and the undecided entertainers among us. Whether it’s sex or drugs or a combination of pleasure seeking hedonistic behaviors and attitudes, it’s here to stay. Disco dis and disco dat. Disco here and disco dere.
A movement must be for something and not just against something, however. In this light I suggest a pursuit of organic music, real stuff made by real people on real instruments for real audiences. Really. I don’t think warning labels for disco are necessary, though I am not totally against a helpful statement: “Warning: prolonged exposure to this synthetic cacophony has caused hysteria, lasciviousness and madness in lab rats and Bee Gees. Listen at your own risk.” Where is the FDA when you really need them?  At a convention in Vegas listening to disco under a strobed ball on the government’s dime.
Okay, I am sounding like Mr. Grumpypants, I know. I’m almost finished with this rant, so please humor me a bit longer. When your life is nearly over and you look back on what you did and didn’t do, will disco be one of those heartbeat moments that shine across the decades and generations? If your answer is yes, then I want you to listen to Love to Love You Baby alone on an elevator for 12 straight hours with only bathroom and water breaks until you say no.

 

 

 

 

214. Coffee Nation Noodles

I like the serendipity of my life. This  morning I could not remember where my scheduled  counselor meeting was supposed to be, so I wound up unscheduled at the coffee shop on Dustin’s birthday, a provisional nonvoting member of coffee nation. I did not know this little piece of info since I was not current with Facebook at that moment. I just ordered my medium coffee and was walking toward the door when Big Bald Vinnie came walking in. We greeted one another and I started to explain that we weren’t meeting since it was the second Thursday of the month.

“Well, Steve and Gene said they were coming.”

“Oh, an unofficial meeting of the nation.” I suspected a coup brewing in insulated coffee cups. “I’ll stick around.”

Vinnie and I chatted about his family and the end of his Great Dane puppy experiment.  “My wife didn’t see that coming. And we don’t even have papers on the dog.”

“I’m not following you. Would it be better to have a defective Great Dane puppy with papers?”

“No, I guess not.”

“There’s the fence and the toys and the food and the vet bills and the…I could have sent a kid to a semester of college with what we spent on the dog.”

“Well, your marriage is better than ever. So you have that.”

“True… could take another cruise with the wife for what I have in that dog.”

Ronnie from Jersey strutted in. Greetings. He joined us at the impromptu gathering. Vince was on his way to work in Hershey, PA but had time to burn with us. Ronnie is recovering from surgery and a life of construction work.

“Yeah, I’m from Jersey. Ya know, it seems like there’s a lot more murders around here lately,” said Ronnie.

“I’ve noticed that since you moved here, Ronnie. Are the landfills full of bodies in Jersey?” I added in.

“No, well, the Mafia has reserved lots for future appointments, ya know, like pre paid burial vaults.”

“Good to know.”

We got on to the usual nothing talk that marks a group of guys who are comfortable with one another. Historic storms, the Jersey Shore, shootings, and noisy Harleys. Before we even paused to look up, Big Steve rolled in sporting his new 5–0 look. He was without Gene but confirmed that it was Dustin’s birthday and that the young man of 38 would soon be joining us.

Steve has a unique mind. Somehow we got on to field sobriety tests and Steve amazed us by reciting the alphabet backwards while also turning around to face the wall. It was a double reverse verbal gainer. The Judges gave him 9.4, 9.6 and an 8.1 from the Jersey judge who was envious, I think, of this uncanny skill. Steve also drinks frozen mochas which will freeze mammal brains; however, since I believe he has a reptile’s brain, he drank deeply without even a hint of a brain freeze. Over this mysterious brain is an ear muff hair style with a wide landing strip down the middle. But sitting across from Razor Bald Vinnie, Steve looked like Bon Jovi. (This is a bone for the Jersey Judge in case there is a round 2 of amazing stupid human tricks later.)

As Ronnie doctored his hot coffee, the legendary Lance entered and nearly sat in Ronnie’s just vacated seat. However, being the king of pilates, he moved as if on a hinge and did not touch butt to chair. Instead he dragged over an ownerless chair to our shrinking round table. Introductions were made all around for Sir Ronnie’s sake, who is not usually at the Round Table. The skillet of wit was now hot and sizzling since Lance is both a barbershop raconteur and a template of fashionable haberdashery, according to him.

Critical mass was achieved and the jokes, tricks, references and silly words came often and easily. In a group of five guys it is possible to have three or four concurrent inconsequential conversations, which we did.

The topics were interwoven…

“And what’s with you?”

“Which U? Miami? The U?”

“No.”

“Oh, you mean U-Conn? Yeah amazing, men and women’s national champs…”

“Like Wooden”

“You mean the coach, Gino…”

“Nine titles.”

“Well Bill had a reference from him…”

“Who?”

“Wooden?”

“NO, Gino, the women’s coach.”

“Not good enough for our local high school, though.”

“No men’s retreat this year. Too much shaking up at church.”

“I’m appointing you, Vinnie, to investigate this.”

“What?”

“The retreat.”

“What’s my budget?”

“Just save all your receipts.”

“Did you say receipts or retreats?”

“Yes, save them. Like the whales.”

Dustin walked in and saluted us as is his habit as a former military member. Now it got dangerously goofy like an overheated nuclear reactor with too many loose electrons smashing into one another. The caffeine effect was sending verbal pulses across an eighteen inch round table at warp 9 speeds. An unidentified guy in a ball cap said hello to Steve.

“Who’s that?”

“Oh, you asked me too fast. Bob… uh.”

“You know, from church. His wife is that lady…”

“Oh yeah, they sit behind me.”

“Wasn’t their son, the guy who…”

“Uh huh, but he got fired for…”

“No, that’s not the same guy, you’re thinking of what’s his name.”

“With the big nose?”

“Yeah, Brian. His wife was the one who told me about setting up shop downtown.”

“Alright, I still have no idea. But it’s all good.”

Lance, “This reminds me of an episode of Cops where they’re busting a dude and he don’t know nothing. The cop says, ‘What are you doing?’ and the dude says, ‘Well, I was over there with them dudes but then what’s his name came along and they started into it and I got outta there when I seen you guys show up. And I don’t know nothing.'”

Dustin, “That’s just like a conversation at your barbershop, Lance.”

“That’s the truth.”

“Who?”

“What was that guy’s name, you know ‘the Truth’?”

“You know, the wrestler who was a governor?”

“Oh, Schwarzenegger…”

“No, he’s the one with his nanny and the wife on t.v. A Kennedy lady.”

“Ventura. Jesse, right?”

And those are the Real Lives of The Husbands of Franklin County.

 

 

 

 

171. Adolessons 2

I recall a night in mid-May of 1975. I had just gotten home from my first year of college. My buddies came by and we drank some beer and perhaps smoked some pot. It was a long time ago. All these things were legal then if you were under the influence of adolescence. There was Craver, Tim Gulley, Gerard Windt, my older brother Steve, and me. Craver and Gulley were big boys– 250 each; “G” was like a piece of shoelace licorice; and my brother and I were average size 20 and 19 year olds. Anyhow, we wound up at Craver’s kitchen table, blathering and joking, and we were looking for some adventure. Gulley was blathering on about his father and how he worked at the White House. I challenged his b.s. He called the White House and handed me the phone. “Good evening, this is the White House. How may I help you?” said the very adult voice on the other end. I hung up. “I hope they don’t trace prank calls”, was my lame reply to Gulley. I wouldn’t want Mark’s dad, Colonel Craver, to get that follow up phone call.

Image result for vietnam era army ranger pictures

 

“Uh huh, they did what? Why that’s un-American. I’ll take care of it with my Ranger-trained hands.” He served much too long in Vietnam, and the country changed on him while he was deployed. That’s another blog post.

I suppose the conversation moved on to our girlfriends. Somehow I mentioned that mine was stuck at college in Richmond till her mother could drive down and fetch her on the weekend. Gulley, ever grandiose and seeking universal approval, offered that we all pile in his Volkswagen and drive to Richmond and bring her back immediately. “Gulley, there are five of us going down in a VW Beetle. One of us would have to get out and hitchhike back.”

“No, we’ll squeeze in on the way back.”

The funny thing about substances is how they can make what is clearly impossible seem viable. We piled into his Beetle. It was tight. Gulley was over-excited and did a very Gulley thing: he punched his windshield and made a fist-sized spider web appear. Now usually such a bad omen would make an audience reconsider what’s up. Nope. We just headed down the road in the dark. Luminescence became pleasantly kaleidoscopic as we passed streetlights and other vehicles.

Now a careful reader might ask at this juncture, “Don’t you ever learn?” I mean there was the broken foot while skipping school; the mangled deer with the headlights out; the somnambulance ride to Ocean City; not to mention the ticket Sam got when three of us rode on the hood of his Falcon to keep it from bottoming out on a back road in Fauquier County, and a local sheriff couldn’t see the wisdom of that move.( Another pile of guys had decided to go camping in the middle of another bored summer night.) And the answer is an unequivocal “NO”.

Our first destination was the 7-11 store for more beer. Strangely, we thought, they stopped selling beer at 2:00 a.m. We could not figure that one out. Again, another bad omen, but we forged onward, down 95 to Richmond.

It must have been 4:00 a.m. when we arrived, unannounced and strolled right into Johnson Hall, the dorm I lived in as well as my girlfriend Sara. I think after brief introductions we all slept on the floor of her dorm room, or maybe it was mine. In any event the sun came up soon after and the alcohol’s effects were worn off. What seemed gloriously fun and cool and inimitable the night before looked like a dirty Volkswagen with a broken windshield in the pale morning light. Reality was like a flea in our sleeping bag. How to squeeze six people into an overcrowded VW? Sara had to go in the back seat, and though her weight was welcome at first, after an hour it was painful and then numbing over the final hour as the sun heated up and the engine whined under the strain of 1,000 pounds of human cargo. If nothing else, my respect for clown car passengers in the circus grew immensely on that morning. It was wisdom born from pain.

Back at my house, where the saga had begun twelve hours earlier, the VW disgorged its occupants. Normalcy returned in the daylight. And here’s the odd thing: normalcy is forgettable. The mundane is not memorable. Just ask a tollbooth worker what moments were memorable in his/her career. Was it the 12 millionth suit and briefcase or the nude woman with a pet zebra in the back seat who whispered ala Marilyn Monroe, “This is my birthday zoot suit” ? That’s not a fair question, I realize this.

Those days were thirty eight years ago. Gerard lives in San Francisco now and has an awesome life according to his Christmas card letters. The last time I saw Gulley he picked me up hitchhiking on the way to California in 1978. Craver died in 2004. In 1979 I married the only girl in the VW, and my brother Steve is still her brother-in-law.

What to make of these adolescent lessons, because logical outcomes and life altering wisdom are not the only lessons we gather in life. Life rushes out of us, even on boring summer nights that seem to lack meaning and purpose. Some heavily potentiated moments gel into little gemstones that we bury in the subsoil of our consciousness. Somehow these stem cell moments achieve critical mass and arc into the idealized timelessness of nostalgia. And that has to count for something despite the mixing of metaphors.

9. summitmultaneously

At the Coffee Summit Nation things were slow but nice. Steve came in first. He buys frozen coffee drinks all year round. Yesterday was his birthday, 48. We talked with Joel about age, hair that is gray, and Joel’s spinning class. He is surrounded by 20- and 30-something women. He’s 63 and not complaining about the view. (Joel is our Coffee Nation’s unofficial attorney, so any further revelations would violate attorney/client privilege.)

Chuckles sauntered in to join us. Tired and played out from working late last night. Still, he has a gentle spirit and always laughs despite pain and burdens. We once spent an entire hour trying to link Chuckles to the Abominable Snowman/Yeti of Tibet. He has huge feet and makes a gurgling purring sound that is disturbing at first. If you heard it on a dark night around a campfire, you could become incontinent. Chuckles is an entire book to be written later. For now I just enjoy his company.

Over the winter I gave him my old 1992 Honda Accord. His 1984 Civic was about shot with 250,000 miles on the original speedometer. He wouldn’t take my car until he could give his Civic to this Haitian fellow he knows. So there we were one day in the notary’s office swapping vehicles out. The three of us stood in line and signed and passed papers to the right on the counter. Some money was paid in fees, tags were traded, and the haves gave to the have nots what they did not want any longer. This worked out well for all of us. Chuckles said the Accord felt like a Cadillac after living with the Civic all those years. It was a nice little car that I loved to drive. It wouldn’t have been a gift if it had no value to the giver.

The Egginator arrived later than usual. He is my daughter’s boyfriend. He has chickens and chickens lay eggs. He keeps a number of folks stocked with eggs, thus the moniker “Egginator”.  Once, he had two dozen fresh eggs for one of the fully vetted Coffee Summitteers. Another Summit wannabe, Mark, the local hobo/rock star, asked him if those were his eggs. Egginator cracked us up with his reply, “No, I’m holding them for a friend.” Like it was two dozen ounces of pot. “Are those your eggs?”  “No, I ‘m just holding them for a  friend.”

Steve had been to a NASCAR race and told us all about it. Sarah Palin had waved to the crowd from the back of a pickup truck. Seems fitting for a former vice presidential candidate. It was Steve’s brush with FAME…less  ness. She waved right at him. After the race he told us about a drunk woman fan who kept leaning into him and  touching his butt. It was the perfect bookend to the Sarah Palin episode. It was his brush with SHAME…Less ness.

One of our church’s pastors was leaning into his laptop and eavesdropping on the Nation’s conversation. He occasionally chimes in or breaks with pastor protocol and sits with us. Kyle is his name. When he rolled in he said, “You’re always here!” like it was a bad thing. I replied, “Well, for you to say that, you must always be here!”  He laughed a little, just a little. He’s young. Once when one of our other  pastors came in the coffee shop, I uttered aloud, “What’s better than one King STreet pastor in a coffee shop?” Kyle anwered first and a bit tentatively, “Two King Street pastors?” BK, the other pastor who looks like a young Groucho Marx, replied, “No King Street pastors!”  I laughed and recognized BK’s answer as the best answer to the puzzler.

One thing led to another as single things do, (that’s a completely useless string of words pretending to be a transition) and we moved to the chess board. The Egginator played white and had me in a pickle, when out of nowhere my wife sits down next to me. It was a collision of two worlds and I squirmed a bit. First of all, the Coffee Summit Nation is a male bastion of submediocrity. And secondly, what was she doing downtown with time to order and drink a frozen coffee fru-fru drink? And why was she so pretty after all these years of living with me? (That was not my third thought; it sort of floated above the other lame cognitions firing across my neo-cortex at the speed of a capsizing cruise ship.)

She messed up my game with her mere presence, and the Egginator knew it. He smelled blood or some odor from the bathrooms behind him. He knew he had me on the checkered ropes of my vinyl tournament chess board. (Does that sound as lame to you as it does to me?) Anyway, one bad move led to another as bad moves do, and I saw my chess obituary written in front of me. I had told the Egginator that is was impossible for me to win the game, but only a few moves away from checkmate he realized that he had to leave for class. As he had done the week before, he asked Chuckles to finish the embalming. I knew then that I had a good chance.

My wife had left minutes before and I could regain my singular focus. She was cheering on the Egginator the entire time. However, after a series of lousy moves, Chuckles snatched defeat out of the whale-sized mouth of victory. It was funny like  breaking your arm after doing a foolish trick on a rope swing, standing on the bottom knot and reaching for an apple hanging off the tree across the dry creek gulch below. Okay, maybe knot that funny when motion overrides balance and common sense loses to  derring do. [PARENTS:  Little boys should not be left unsupervised.]

And that was a good place to leave the Summit. Lance had arrived late and had his riddle game going. Steve was answering them left and right. The circle grew smaller as I left for my haircut.