Saturday, December 22, 2007
Lyrics by Menomena
What if all my enemies were dead
and i could forget everything they said
could I be then who I really am?
What if I sold everything I own
And ran away from everyone I know
could I make another place my home?
And if I let go all of my ghosts
who would I dump over the months?
What if everyone is right?
Should've taken their advice
But I can't change my mind
And if I let go all of my ghosts
who would I dump over the months?
(What if everybody else is right?
should've taken more of their advice)
Gabcast! "My My" by Menomena
From: Friend And Foe (Barsuk, 2007)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
That's the name of the game as we age.
Red Light, Green Light.
A game we played in youth to test boundaries and to demonstrate how to control power, and exercise judgment, within our circle of companions.
Green Light! (eyes closed)
Go! Menacing, amiable, horde of our peers fast approaching from behind but without question with us from the start.
Red Light! (eyes open)
Stop! We spiiiin around darned-quick. Players all remaining. Standing still some. Moving others...
Back to the starting line!
Back turned again.
Green Light! (eyes closed)
Go! But this time. Some mysteriously run off in another direction.
With our backs turned, and our eyes closed, we might argue having not even noticed them slip away ... right?
Red Light! (eyes open)
Spinning around once more.
Stop! Yes, confirmed. Some have, indeed, disappeared out-right . A few, maybe even most, are still playing, though.
Take a deep breath, now ...
... and follow my lead - if you dare:
Turn your back around. One. More. Time.
Green Light! (eyes closed)
Go! Wait. What's this? Some of those numbers that had strangely disappeared ...
Red Light! (eyes open)
... are catching up again. How is that?
Stop ... hey! when did you start playing again?
Time-travelers! No fair!
We all make choices as we're playing along: Do we wish to remain in the game or is it our curtain call for this day, this decade, this lifetime?
As we age... it becomes an insidiously loaded question.
While we're wondering just what happened to the "run-offs", the now future 'Him or Her' of a former life, or the ones that didn't exactly jump right back in, if at all (ed. - guilty as charged...), something can occur that throws you for a complete loop.
They pull the ole 'rabbit out of a hat trick' and make things oh-so-very interesting. Without so much as a clarion they suddenly reappear.
It's a lot to allow in when the Fates fortuitously indulge 'Today, its just gonna happen ... meet so-and-so again', isn't it?
So much Newness spanning (and spinning from!) so many years (Who goes there!?).
"How have you been?"
So much to digest.
So much to contemplate.
"You are? You do?"
So much to consider.
"That's great! So..."
(Or, conversely, "Woah. Really? They did? When? That's ... that's tragic.")
We will, for the most part, happily welcome them back regardless of consequence; it's our sincerest will and desire after all...
"So, are you here for the long haul? Or, just stopping by for a quick visit?"
(Yellow Light... eyes wide open)
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Snow started falling early in the afternoon, and accumulations were expected to reach as much as 1 foot in some areas of western Masssachusetts to as little as 2 to 4 inches on Cape Cod."
Enjoy your 'White Christmas', New England!
Save some of that white stuff for our visit in about a week or so... (we'll actually get to wear winter clothing again ... Well, I'll be!)
These are things that persist ... all the doo-dah-life-long-
These are things that loom up and stretch out from the Past.
These are the things that I reflect upon about this time of every New Year dawning ...
They're not all bad.
But, still, they typically have shades of gray.
Even when they might have had a relatively positive influence in our lives. A set of principles derived, a lesson learned, something gained.
They can even have a smell to them.
Fading, or wilted and rotted, roses.
They are beautiful ... if delicately pressed.
They are coarse dust if pressed too hard.
They shimmy and skitter up and down walls in back corners.
They disappear when you turn on bright lights ... or when you shut those lights off completely.
I prefer a dim gloaming, myself.
Showing just a little Shadow.
It'll be fine.
It's what makes you interesting. If anyone's paying attention...
It's Your Past speaking up on your behalf. Why you are what you are. Why things turned out the way they did.
In essence ... it's your 'Essence'.
I had no "Dad" ... most of the time. Occasionally he would prove otherwise, but mostly...
I definitely had a 'father', though.
He co-existed, for the most part, alongside an old classical guitar, in a perpetual self medicating ritual of alcohol consumption and nurturing one very courageous, oxygen-depleting, pack-a-day cigarette habit. He hid himself away in a back room most days. Sunlight may have had it out for him we gathered. We'd hear from him occasionally if we got too loud.
There is more.
But at the risk of writing a novel(!) or accidentally making the man sound evil or that I loathed him (he was not, and I did not) you'll have to take my word on the complexity of the situation for the moment.
In short he could be brash when he was upset and prone to stupid outbursts (physical and verbal) when he was really on a tear. But these were just that: outbursts.
(n.b. - perhaps, in another post, I'll recollect the kinder, gentler moments, too...)
Consistently, though, he was distant ... let's just make that understood.
He is a Shadow now much like all those exhaled clouds of smoke that yellowed the 'TV den' walls. Those vapors that did Museum-of- Science-Display-Case-Of-Horrors type things to his breathing apparatus.
A Shadow, too, in some wrecked cobalt-blue colored automobile.
"Rescuing" himself one night, no doubt. Long divorced. Long unemployed. But not retired. With a failing heart and apparently not enough common sense to call 911.
The result? A once sturdy engine-block hood crumpled into a fifty-five mile-per-hour front-end redesign. A near perfect letter 'U' shape gave the car a bull-horned look.
American automotive prowess blended into a forced osmosis with an even sturdier Oak along Route 119 in Littleton, Massachusetts.
Died behind the wheel probably before actually making contact. Cardiac arrest. Swerved off the road. Met Fate. Proved, or Disproved, Catholicism in one masterful, fell swoop.
Damn near lucky he didn't take someone else with him.
At some automobile accident graveyard.
A blue tarpalin sheet covers the entire car, shroud-like, it is so bloodied and damaged. The same shroud covers this memory.
"You may not want to look. Hasn't been cleaned up yet. It's still pretty bad inside.", warns the Massachusetts Towing Authority man.
'But I have to.'
Brother Mike is there, too.
The steering wheel practically faces the driver side door and is nearly pushed up against the seat-back.
No one lives through this.
'I need to get his wallet on the passenger-side floor. Someone, something, took it from his shirt coat pocket and callously launched it onto the carpet in front of him.'
The stench of gasoline permeates everything. The passenger seat saturated in an earthy, dirt-red colored fuel of a human kind. Something lacerated his throat. He leaned to one side to drain himself out.
Sparkly-green glass shrapnel litters the soaked-through fabric everywhere.
Now mine to own.
Until another generation needs to know.
"Dennis, for God's Sake, answer the phone! It's your Mother! You need to call me! Right away..."
New York City.
Uptown Manhattan, more specifically.
A phone message. Left on my home answering machine.
Another Shadow now, too.
('Damnit, Mom, I'm at work! Why didn't you call me there or just leave a message!? What can be so important!?' thinks aloud in best 'Monday Morning Quarter Backing-style'...)
"Hello, my name is Dennis. I'm calling to follow up on your advertisement placed in our magazine, The Review: Latin American Arts & Literature. I understand you had placed the ad in last June's edition of The Review. I'm wondering whether your advertising needs are being thoroughly met? We want to hear your feedback. Please give me a call back at your earliest convenience at..."
"Dennis. It's your Mother again. Why haven't you called me? Didn't you get my message from earlier? Call me. Please! PLEASE! It's very important."
Tick. Tick. Tick.
"Hi, this is Jo Anne from the So & So Art Gallery returning your call. We're very disappointed in your service. The printer's ink in your last edition? It's all blurred. You can hardly read the copy! Utterly undecipherable! Nobody can read this! Now, I'm trying to keep my composure but it's inexcusable! It's bloody terrible! We want our money back. We won't be using you again."
Must check my messages.
Dial home phone #.
Punch personal code #.
Press check messages #.
"Y.O.U. H.A.V.E. S.I.X. N.E.W. M.E.S.S.A.G.E.S..."
"OK. I understand if you can't answer your phone right now ... but it's about your father. He was killed today. In an accident. A car accident. Your father is dead. Please, Dennis, call me..."
Why didn't you call me at work?
Why were there a half dozen messages on my answering machine when I called home tonight? I told you my WORK number! Call that in an emergency! Call that! Goddamnit!'
All day long: Messages left to the ether.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
"Hello? Is this Jo Anne? Hi, it's Dennis from The Review again. You know what? Go fuck yourself. My Father is dead. Did you get that, Sweetheart? Fuck you and fuck everything about your pretentious Upper West Side art gallery. How's that for composure, you miserable sow?"
Dignity (or, the perceived execution of it at the time): 1
New York City.
Park Slope, Brooklyn, more specifically.
Later that evening.
In my bedroom.
You didn't even hear your roommate on her side of the apartment while you were shouting at the walls.
"Die. My Father is dead. I'm in agony. And this was a man I hardly knew. Please, just leave me alone... so I can figure this all out."
'Why is this so important?', I ask this over and over again, 'If he wasn't there, if you hardly knew this hidden man, why is this act worth so many damned-ably draining troughs of tears?'
Foundations are usually born from these.
The things we reference as guide posts in our time of need as "Adults".
'What would my Father do? How should I respond to this or that situation? How will I ever make it out of here unscathed, unbeaten, un-phased, or simply alive and in one piece? A father would know, wouldn't he?'
I'm still waiting.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
They're asking their listeners to vote for their favorite music from this year, 2007.
So, I did.
And, you can play along, too - go ahead and click the "I Voted" icon and it will jettison you off to their website - you could even win an Apple iPod Touch if you're lucky...
By no means is this a complete list of my favorite albums of 2007 (there was so much good music this year!) but the rules allow you only 20 picks out of nearly 600 choices ... their selection is fairly comprehensive to boot so it was a bit rough for me ... but here's what it came down to this year - these are not in any particular order:
Don't take my word for it ... go ahead and give some of these fine bands a listen if you haven't heard them already!
Also, I am very curious as to what some of your favorites are this year, too, so if there's anything you think I should know about please leave it in the COMMENTS section; I am a new music hound...!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Monday, December 3, 2007
Thousands of people flock to The Trail of Lights Festival each December to walk around the mile long path and 'ooo' and 'ahh' over the millions of lights hanging from the trees, fencing and lamp posts. It's quite a show.
They really, really, really must like Christmas around these parts. Come see for yourself. Visit sometime and behold the spectacle of exactly how festivity can be done up to the X(mas)th degree ... just don't move here (says the hypocrite) because with any more people...
Viewing North from Zilker Park toward Downtown Austin, Texas (December 2007).
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Just you try it!
Just try and compare your Christmas music collection to mine!
I dare you! Even if you have me beat by one CD, LP or cassette tape (which you don't...) do you have an entire iPod solely dedicated to Christmas music? Huh? With over 6,000 Christmas related songs on it?? Well, do ya, bub!?! Huh!?
Not just the typical mundane trappings either but rare, obscure, underground, way off the charts type of stuff...
Audio ornaments such as aliens singing Christmas carols, preachers imploring little kids to abandon Santa Claus and accept Jesus into their hearts or find themselves in hell on Christmas morn (cheery!), pornographic Christmas carols (e.g. "I Want A Blow Up Doll for Christmas" by Arnie Aardvark <--- yikes!), a CD dedicated entirely to every single song ever written and performed about Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (don't even get me started about the Auld Lang Syne compilation somewhere in my ill in the head gotten booty...), canticles strummed on rubber bands, a complete album about Santa Claus getting high on reefer, jingles produced by electric energy companies branding themselves as merry power providing Christmas elves!?!
Hey, did you know that Jesus Presley has a Christmas album out? Well, hell yeah, he does! "Christmas With Jesus Presley", of course. Duh!
Every spoof, mockery and re-imagining of just about any traditional Christmas tune possible can be found somewhere in my Christ-Massive collection! And the madness won't just end one day soon either I assure you; the music labels capitalize on lunatics like me and put out new and more bizarre compilations every year that I simply MUST have in my possession!
You wouldn't believe what they'll do to innocent holiday verse now-a-days! Punk it out, Hip-Hop it up, Rock'N'Rollify it, Outsider it to death, Steel Drum Caribbeanize it, Indian Trans-Raga-morgrify it, belch it, spank it, laugh it, yodel it, tap-dance to it! Some even get R2-D2ed, remixed, reconfigured, lounge-cored, melted, warped, mash-upped, H-Bombed, acid-dropped, and on and on it goes!
Somebody, please ... spike my eggnog with Zoloft!
Yep, it is my annual end of the year addiction.
This is my Christmas crack(er).
My sugarplum wine.
My candy co-caine.
My Holiday Seasonal Affective Disorder! H.S.A.D?
Santa has his milk-and-cookies, I have an entire CD rack collection given totally over to Christmas music (my "O-CDs"...)! That's close to 500 holiday CDs, folks (and that doesn't include MP3 downloads, fyi...).
Ho, Ho, Hooowwwhat the Fudge du Noel!?!?!
Indeed, I am a Christmas Music-aholic-agist. A bon-bon-afide musical Noelaphile!
Oh, go ahead - laugh! You wouldn't be the first...
My wife thinks I must have been Santa Claus in a past-life - no, really, she tells her friends and co-workers this... "Oh, hey. So, you're, ummm, you're Heather's, ahhh ... you're Mr. Kringle, eh?"
My neighbors must think I'm Satan's Claws in the present-life; I start playing my music amped-up around early November.
And the happy white-coat wearing people will tell me whatever I want to think in my future-life, "Yes, Supreme Elf Commander, Santa sends his sincerest regards and once again regrets he won't be needing your services this year. He thinks you should stay right here - with us ... at 'Santa's Southern-Based Mass General Office' - where it's warmer and ... safer."
But, I am not alone in my affliction.
Hear me loud and midnight clear on this fact: There. Are. Others!
A Cult of Christmas Carol Connoisseurs!
A former colleague of mine actually piqued my curiosity about this whole sordid holiday affair many jingle-belled seasons ago. Several years back when I worked at Monitor Radio in Boston a fellow named Mike W. used to make Christmas themed CDs for everyone as gifts. Wonderful idea (he still does it to this day, too, by the way)! He has a huuuge Xmas CD collection, apparently, although I haven't seen it personally. But you know what the real scary thing is? He now comes to ME to find out what's making the latest Xmas music rounds! He's, in essence, passing the garlanded torch off to old Den Kringle and saying, "Here, bud, all yours. But, as I do still enjoy making these CDs every year, I'll tell you what ... would you mind being my official Christmas Music Archivist? Can we work something out? Do we have a deal?"
Oh, Holy Night, how did I ever find myself as lead magi in this Christmas Pageant?
Since that time, way back when, I have converted at least one other person to my secret double-life as one of Santa's Little Helpers. Admit it, Troy L.! You are shepherd-hooked! You have been sacked by Santa's bag, my friend, and are now being specially delivered to The Island of Misfit Boys!
Real funny story, too, this one...
After introducing Troy to the wondrous, and non-stop escapades, of Christmas music hunting I caught him absolutely red-handed (red-suited?) one day inside of Somerville, Mass.'s 'Disc Diggers' used-music shop ... and get this ... with a ceiling-high stack of Christmas CDs! And here's the real elf-kicker: he was accumulating this over-stuffed stocking of goodies ... in the middle of July.
Man, were you sheepish that day! Don't deny it, "Tiny Tim", you've been officially crippled. I remember how you turned beat-red and could barely look me in the eye after that. Why, I know not... no need for shame! This is a terrific hobby! Albeit, not the most sanity inducing sport, per se, but it's still relatively harmless for the most part (most harmful to the wallet...).
And, hey there, guy ... you know what I was there looking for that day ...?
Ahem, onward 'Ho'.
So, what gives? Why this humdinger of a holiday hang-up? Just what exactly are its elvishly evil origins, pray tell?
Okay, ready for your, "Awww, that is just ssssooooo cute!" moment?
I, like many of you, grew up watching the classic Rankin/Bass, et al. animated Christmas TV staples every year: "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", "The Year Without A Santa Claus", "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town", "Frosty, The Snowman", "A Charlie Brown Christmas", and my all time favorite, "The Little Drummer Boy".
"The Little Drummer Boy"?
Now, that's odd. 'That was your favorite?', you may ask.
Usually the other shows qualify as the favorites!
Especially with the likes of Snow Miser and Heat Miser having at it all Christmas Cabaret-style (why the Evangelicals never went after these two like they did, Tinky Winky, the wee Purple Teletubby, I'll never know), or the Winter Warlock's revelatory song-and-dance number, "One Foot In Front Of The Other", also with the nasty Burgermeister Meisterburger lording over Sombertown denying toys to all the sad little tots!
Or, Rudolph, of course, with his dentistry obsessed pal, Herbie The Elf! Those were the favorites!
Nope, not for me. Drummer Boy. Hands down.
And here's why...
The Harry Simeone Chorale's devastatingly beautiful score to that particular animated classic brought me to tears every time I heard it. It certainly didn't hurt that I totally identified with that poor moppet of a kid having only his talent to offer as a gift to the New Boy King... it was a no-brainer.
I became so enamored with the The Little Drummer Boy's main theme song that I had my mother sing it to me in order to fall asleep at night, or while driving around in the car while looking at Christmas lights in my old home town, and, yes, even one day in 90 degree heat sitting outside of a bank in the middle of summer, "Mom! Sing me the drummer boy song!" And when she did my eyes glazed over like I had just been hooked up with some wickedly potent sedative.
I was simply in, well ... heaven.
Now at this juncture some might want to argue that I'm just another foolhardy shill, some idiot foot soldier, for the Christian Right's Brigade against the supposed "War On Christmas".
Not quite. If anything a spy in their House, maybe, as I wouldn't mind winning the fun back in Christmas from those moribund bastards.
First of all, let it be known, I am a total Recovering Catholic. Yeah, yeah, yeah the whole guilty Mary Mother of God thing in overdrive now settling to a lowered, less noisy drone. Currently that translates into 'God' and I fist fighting more often than actually caring to find peaceful common ground in acceptance of one another's existence.
The Christians, as a rule of thumb, would probably just assume write me off as a ... as a Democrat, I suppose. Please!
I used to know a kind and loving dude named Jesus Christ while growing up.
Sadly, the perversity of adulthood's more reality-based trials, and American politics in general, has all but drove a stake into those youthful and tender belief systems.
(BTW, thanks a lot, you self righteous deplorable toss-offs! Sometimes trying to cram doctrine down throats has an equal and opposite effect...go figure.)
Nah. Christmas music to me is merely an affable reverberation, a cordial echo, now making its rounds from a past manifesting itself in equal parts joyful and pleasant reminisces, and cynical and sinister revoking.
Case in point: When I used to host a radio show a number of years back at M.I.T.'s WMBR-FM community station my annual Holiday Music Show would get more than a few irate listeners calling in with the usual, "Yeah, my kids were listening to your holiday special when FEAR's "Fuck Christmas" came on ... do you really think that's necessary?"
Oh, but surely I did.
Making sense of what became of a formerly religious holiday now gone terribly commercial, and politically awry, was never more important to me and, arguably, the very mission of that particular show. I did warn my audience, in fact, it was an adult-themed special from the beginning. I was merely utilizing a formidable musical arsenal awash in as much sardonic wit I could find to get the message out to anyone listening in ... kids or no kids (perhaps, importantly, that they were ... except for the whole swearing thing).
Ho-Ho-Ho! Lumps of Rock-N-Coal anyone?
So, let me reiterate - there are seemingly endless legions of Xmas Tune Obsessives out there like me scouring record store bins, listservs, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and other obscure, cranberry-and-popcorn strung corners of the internet looking for the latest musical fiXmas offerings. I have found any number of websites specifically designed to humor this very pursuit that pretty much prove my theory. As far as I can tell most of these resources do not subscribe to any cause deus celebre either. It's purely for the warped fun of it all.
A reliable enough explanation as to why may still elude me for the rest of the initiated, but allow me one other speculation on my own behalf...
Yes, there was my mother's rumpa-bump-bumping all along the way, but I think what drives me to dig through all of this Christmas music rubble is, indeed, something more profound than a mere drummer boy and the beat of his humble drum.
I am no doubt searching for something.
Searching for something substantial that has a long time ago gone astray. Not entirely the absence of the Divine, but more of an absence of the Innocence left behind in childhood. The whole notion beaten to a sad cliche at this stage but resonant to me (and many others, I'm sure...) none-the-less.
Perhaps, too, found in that sickly-sweet marzipan-ed pile of compact discs, tucked away some place in this manger of fading vinyl LP records, or wrapped up some how in my tinselly tangle of now obsolete cassette tape, is a twinkly lit path leading back to some long abandoned Salvation.
Could it be through this one very eccentric obsession an Epiphany awaits?
One that may even lean towards finding a reason to Believe again?
(And now for your very special holiday treat just for making it all the way down to the bottom of this post ... Christmas music!! Did you really think I was going to let you off that easily?)
Below a personal favorite amongst all of the thousands of odd musical Christmas gems I've collected over the years! Originally discovered on 'The 365 Days Project' website - a service dedicated to turning out one rare (free!) song per day culminating in several eclectic holiday tracks around the month of December:
Song: "Merry Christmas, Elvis"
Singer: Michele Cody
Album: The 365 Days Project
Happy Holidays, Everyone!
Thursday, November 29, 2007
And, as is my wont, I am observing, too. I am on the way to downtown Austin, our town, to meet Heather.
Characters from all sorts of stories, plays, and even the motion pictures, appear on almost every street corner.
No animated screen-crawls nor any rolling film credits appear before them so it is left up to my own devices to tell their tales.
Here is what I have found out so far...
North Lamar Boulevard & 29th Street:
You are both standing on the corner next to the traffic light waiting for the WALK sign to grant safe passage.
One of you, a twenty-something woman, wears a blue overcoat. Your wickedly fluid brown tresses nearly cover up your entire shoe-gazing stare. I can just barely see your face but one feature stands out: a frown so cartoonishly curled downward it would make for a fine inverted Dali's mustache.
When you finally reveal that you do, indeed, have eyes they are opaque and haunted.
Your partner: a wildly gesticulating young man in a black pea coat and kafia scarf wrapped around his neck. He holds a heavy looking book bag in his left hand and empty night air in his right. He gestures like he's a balancing scale, mockingly teetering back and forth with a fierce expression. You shrink into yourself because there is cold and then there is being frozen to death. His lips recede back into one last open mawed, bare-fanged snarl.
As I pull away he is holding the heavy bag up high and his now clenched, empty hand down low.
The scales have been absurdly tipped.
I am wondering... is that her heart you imagine gripping so heavily in your right hand?
Frankly, Scarlett, Rhett doesn't give a damn.
Colorado Street & 7th Avenue:
You are alone.
A long, red, dirtied winter coat has chosen you, not vice-versa. Perhaps you have somehow picked the silver-haired wig that is carefully propped on top of your head, though. You're being fussy with it as both your rickety hands constantly brush its uncooperative locks back behind your ears. You do not want to hide your face, your identity. Everyone must know it's you, it's you ... the one and only!
You hold out your hand and stare into something. It must be a mirror - I cannot see it - but I know you can. You are looking right at You, and You is looking back and straightening her hair. And You is smoothing something into her grooved and weather worn mask. Beauty reflects back from a very distant past. You once had all the good looks that God's Good Earth could grant you. It was most likely your undoing; it made you carelessly forget about Time.
Time would not forget about you.
You walk by the front of my car tip-toeing and elegant in high heels. You are not wearing high heels; you are wearing human feet.
There's no business like show business, Ms. Monroe.
South Lamar Boulevard & Barton Springs Avenue:
I have never seen a person strike a cellphone onto the side of his skull so forcibly and then kiss it like he were kissing a lover for the first time in many ages. I can see your lips move as you shout into the receiver, "I love you! I love you! I love you!"
You are smiling through your tears as if the clouds, in some act of farcical improbability, just burst Rose petals.
Tonight there is Forgiveness in the Universe.
Because somehow, Jack Dawson, the Titanic just missed that iceberg.
West 5th Street & Baylor Street:
OK Go. No, wait. Stop. Hold on a sec. OKOKOKOK! Gogogogogogogogogogo! But hurry up; traffic's coming!
That's a pretty cool lookin' contraption you got there, fella! And, speedy, too! But what happened? Something denied you movement in your lower half. Now you're reliant on this motor-driven, four wheeled, road warrior's chair to get you around in. Your big belly is pushed up against its handle bars making steering tough. A river of mutinying white hair abandoned your head awhile back to take on new life as a grizzled, unruly beard. Gravity makes for a great punchline, doesn't it?
You're aged but, strangely, ageless.
A Christmas wreath is hung on the back of your chair! Hey, you are celebrating the holidays with somebody this year, right? Right?! Please, tell me that you're not alone in this world, on these nights, in that chair?
Zoooom! (eeeeerrrt!) "Wait for me before you go again, okay?" She gently admonishes you as she pulls up alongside on her own four-wheeler, hair tied up in a proud little, gray bun.
How you found each other is a miracle.
Kris Kringle and Mrs. Claus on their modern-day sleighs bringing good cheer and hope this holiday season.
Duval Street & 53rd Street:
You have just finished reading what sounds like a very inspiring book, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. You describe a chapter wherein the writer discovers that every city has its own Word. A friend tells her about this curiosity. For example, the city of Rome's Word is "Sex".
Gilbert gets to wondering about what her Word might be.
Now, so do you.
You can't find it at first and this is frustrating. But for whatever enigmatic reason you recall the last scene in the third and final act of Thornton Wilder's classic play, Our Town.
The now deceased, Emily Webb, is in the Graveyard waxing nostalgia over her 12th birthday. The theatrically symbolic "Stage Manager" is by her side.
She is overcome by tears because she realizes now just how much she took for granted in youth and how fast life goes by, "We don't even have time to look at one another." She observes aloud to the Stage Manager.
Resigned Emily eventually declares that she is ready to go back to the grave but not before asking, "Doesn't anyone ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?"
The Stage Manager responds. "No. Saints and poets, maybe; they do some."
Then you suddenly find your Word.
"Well, maybe I'm not a saint but I do remember when I used to write poetry all the time back when I was younger. Maybe not so much anymore but it's still how I see the world everyday: through poet's eyes."
Well done, Heather, and on this particular evening how poignant the serendipity of it all!
Not even Hollywood could come up with a better ending than this...
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
A long dirty cement drain pipe, just perfect for single filed troopers to crawl up and clog their noses with moldy dust, and god knows what else, snaked itself down from the road a few hundred yards up a weed and vine entangled hill. It emptied its effluence after rainstorms into a small pool at the mouth of the conduit. That pool would often harbor crayfish and other pincered and antenna'ed alien life forms put there undoubtedly for our amusement.
'Check for ticks!' was a common exclamation upon exiting this mysterious and murky land of skunk cabbage, shoe sucking quick-mud, curly prehistoric fiddlehead ferns and voracious sock clinging burrs. The more bloodthirsty parasitic denizens of 'The Swamp' would contentedly start consuming you alive if you sat in one place for more than a few minutes time.
One of youth's most poignant and impressive lessons: sit still too long and the world will begin to devour you!
'The Shed' was used to store wood - it was a woodshed.
Every summer the woodshed would inevitably get infested with mice. The tiny gray and black rodents would hide under the heavy cord of dried cut logs stacked there in preparation for the long New England winter months. These unwelcomed pests were nesting inside the wood and making a mess of it to the point of ruination so the argument went.
In that event, Douglas D. would dutifully go out to the Shed by order of his parents with a flat iron shovel and 'slam' mice. He did this without so much as a twitch as he struck each rodent square on its back, crushing its spine and then watching it convulse until it finally broke its lease on life. Perhaps another blow was delivered to end any unnecessary suffering.
Though his tactics were severe Doug was neither cruel nor sadistic; he was merely professional in his demeanor. I think he may have even been paid a small allowance to partake in this gruesome undertaking. A quarter per mouse maybe? Decent wages for the time.
One early Fall evening my brother, and I went with Doug out to the Shed (purely as observers mind you!) to hunt for the wilier mice: the ones that would only come out after dark. Doug had a large lensed plastic flashlight with him to illuminate the way down the grassy path to the Shed. Once inside we would all sit quietly in the corners of the structure in total darkness. At the first instance of any scurrying sound the light would dilate the gloom and the slaughter would commence. A good night would normally harvest him between three and five kills. His practiced accuracy made him extremely lethal. He usually met that quota easily.
When that evening's run of mice were finally done away with and disposed of we entertained ourselves by reading the penciled prose offerings left on the old shack's inner walls. There were several years of limericks, initialed hearts with arrows piercing them and crass iambic pentameter to leave young boys in stitches for a very long amount of time.
There was one particularly memorable piece of foolish poetry scrawled on one side of the wall closest to the Shed's sliding door. It was written in a crooked penmanship and given the title One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night.
It went something like this (and there are several variations but the following verses are considered the most common):
One fine day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
One was blind and the other couldn't see,
So they chose a dummy for a referee.
A blind man went to see fair play,
A dumb man went to shout "hooray!"
A paralysed donkey passing by,
Kicked the blind man in the eye.
Knocked him through a nine inch wall,
Into a dry ditch and drowned them all.
And came to arrest the two dead boys.
If you don't believe this story's true,
Ask the blind man he saw it too!"
Scholars have since dissected this doggerel and given it credence as a legitimate folk poem. Those same scholars have described it as a "Ballad of Impossibilities" as it follows no reason in its rhyme. Nonsense poems such as One Fine Day... date as far back as the mid-19th Century and were originally collected from children's playgrounds and schoolyards on the British Isles.
Whatever the academic merits it was mostly just a form of wild entertainment for us lads.
In fact, after invoking each stanza aloud we would play-act out how these actions might transpire in spite of their defiant opposition to one another. Our lofty imaginations failed us time and again as we could never quite muster decent enough visualizations that would do any adequate justice for the poem.
But Doug was so humored by this contradictory brain-teaser that he laughed himself pink.
It was a deliciously devilish riddle that could never be divined! No solving this one any time soon...
What a hilarious hoot we had!
Of course, I simply had to memorize this subversive in~verse for myself in order to enlighten the elementary school masses of its outlandish nature. Once my ability at recall was proficient enough I recited it to friends at recess time, in the cafeteria lunch lines and during gym class. The Two Dead Boys Town Crier! Gleeful bemusement would surely follow each performance. Soon afterwards many of the schoolyard rank-and-file were all merrily repeating its phrases. Subsequently the boys' bathroom stalls were eventually vandalized with its various black inked interpretations ... only the word fight was replaced with fuck and the word swords replaced by dicks... you get the picture.
It was a small victory of sorts for me, though; to think I was aiding in the propagation of a cultural phenomenon! Hoo-Wah! Score one for the viral nature of human language!
But then something really frightening happened that changed everything.
One fine summer day several months later, in what would become Doug D.'s darkest middle of the night, he was in a terrible motorcycle accident.
The front wheel of his bike sideways'ed on a patch of "Caterpillar Grease" (a mash of road- crossing gypsy moth caterpillars crushed into a dangerous and slippery pulp by passing cars) while speeding up Route 2 on the way home from high school one day. He tumbled several terrifying times down a long stretch of highway pavement before finally coming to rest in a busted heap.
He broke his arms.
He broke his legs.
He broke his back...
But he was still alive.
However, the operating surgeons added a painful *asterisk to that state of being alive by inauspiciously declaring that he would never be able to walk again.
After several weeks in the hospital Doug was brought home. He lay immobile on his back for what must have felt like an Eternity to him. He was supported by a pulley-and-rope contraption for a bed that a team of medical specialists had designed for just such a god-awful occasion.
His parents grimly looked after him. They would provide sporadic news to the neighborhood of any improvement in cautionary spurts.
After a while even his closest friends became afraid to visit him because he had been such a strong and athletic kid. Now everyone had to pose themselves some fairly dreadful questions: How could this happen? What could one possibly say to a young man who had so much going in his favor, so much life to live? How was anyone supposed to process meaning through this unholy perversion of youth on display; a broken teenage body simply defies all comprehension. This was supposed to be the prime of your life!
Doug... how will you ever 'slam' mice again? Was this payback from the animal kingdom's belligerent rodent deity?
What's going to happen to you now?
We beseech thee, Powers That Be, bring us your Virgin Mary's Face In A Piece of Toast moment! Reveal to us your small, but Faith restoring wonder.
We beg of you.
And then something really amazing happened that changed everything.
It wasn't long before Doug would prove to all of those nervy doctors with their sanctimonious prognostications just how completely and totally off base they had been.
One fine day after a year and some odd middle of the nights later ... I was riding my bike up the street. As I passed the D.'s house my eyes played a dirty little trick on me...
Because right there in front of me ... was Doug D.
In his driveway.
All by himself - standing - in his driveway.
Yes, albeit in a bulky and clumsy looking back brace but he was standing! On his own! With a goddamn broom in his hands! The son of a gun was sweeping his driveway! Sweeping his driveway like some animatronic theme park character in stilted robotic movements - but sweeping as sweepers will do when they sweep with fully operational spines.
One fine day...
"Doug, you did it!"
...in the middle of the night...
"You solved it!"
...one dead boy, at least, did get up to fight.
"YOU SOLVED THE RIDDLE!"
Saturday, November 17, 2007
They fall from the branches as if the trees were playing "War" with you.
Here comes another one!
The squirrels aren't fat here in town because there is plenty of food to go around for them. The ground is littered with nuts!
Enough nuts to bust a nut over!
They could eat until they exploded if they chose to ... but they don't.
They are not gluttonous because they know there will always be enough to eat.
Yes very sad.
Don't know who it was.
Don't know why it happened.
Don't know where or when it occurred.
It is a complete and total mystery to me.
Maybe outside our yard.
Maybe outside of Hyde Park.
Maybe it happened outside of Austin.
Maybe it happened outside of Travis County.
Maybe it happened outside of the State of Texas.
Maybe outside of here.
Maybe outside of the Midwest.
Maybe outside of the United States.
Maybe outside of all of Northern America.
Maybe it happened in a different country all together.
But it happened.
On this planet.
And that will always remain a mystery to me.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The writer could come up with the setting, characters, dialogue (regional dialects encouraged), etc. on their own but had to follow those two simple guidelines (along with the proper formatting of a screenplay, too, of course. That part probably doesn't translate too well on this blogsite but it won't take away from the storyline...).
The scene I chose to develop is based on a short story I've been working on called "Floorboards". It might be described as a dark comic "horror" fable. Easy enough genre to write for film anyway (horror, that is) so I decided to give a whirl at translating one of the "Floorboards" backdrops into a screen act.
Below, in screenplay format, is the result.
First a little background to establish some context: The story takes place in the present day. Through the process of "mountain top removal" a West Virginian coal mining company has blasted a local hillside apart to begin extracting its precious mineral ore contents. While leveling these particular mountains something ancient and unpleasant is unearthed in the process.
Millicent Dubreaux is a young farmer's daughter who has lost her parents several weeks back in a slurry flood disaster brought on by one of the removal operations. She has been taken in by her aunt, uncle and cousin, the Beckette's, who live nearby but have not decided what to do with the Dubreaux family house yet.
While on a walk one late afternoon near to one of the former peaks Millicent stumbles upon a certain infant something and decides to keep it as a "pet". Somewhat containable as a 'pup' at first it has since grown to, let's say, a rather disproportionate size.
She has taken it back home and hidden it in the basement of her parent's old farm house under the floorboards.
You might say the story is an "eco-terror" of sorts, I suppose...
The actual short story's version of the scene happens much later in the tale but for the class assignment the instructor recommended the writer use an opening sequence that would normally begin a film.
A quick screenplay reference key follows for the uninitiated:
EXT./INT. = Exterior/Interior (location in which a scene takes place),
CONTINUOUS = event is happening at the same moment in time as the previous action,
OS = Off Screen (a character who cannot be seen but may be heard),
POV = Point Of View (a camera direction that signifies a character's perspective),
ALL CAPS usage signifies a SOUND EFFECT insertion, a CHARACTER introduction or dialogue heading ID, or a scene SLUGLINE.
Final note: a well written screenplay never employs the TO BE verb in any form during its scene descriptions (its okay in dialogue, naturally; wouldn't get very far without it otherwise now would we?).
No worries; it'll all make sense once you start reading...
The scene is titled: " "TUG OF WAR"
INT. DUBREAUX FAMILY'S KITCHEN - EARLY MORNING
MILLICENT DUBREAUX, 12, a pretty brown haired girl in a dirtied white floral sundress stands near the sink of an old country house’s kitchen. A battered coal miner’s hat hangs on a door peg. She skins a large rabbit and empties its entrails into the sink. She merrily hums an OLD TIME COUNTRY SONG as she guts the hare.
INT. BASEMENT UNDERNEATH KITCHEN FLOORBOARDS – CONTINUOUS
POV something large, hairy and bulbous in the dark stares up from under the slats in the kitchen floor at Millicent and emits several HIGH PITCHED CHITTERING SOUNDS.
INT. KITCHEN – CONTINUOUS
Millicent drops the skinned rabbit and its innards into a bowl then places it into a bucket with a rope attached.
Just you hold on one minute, ya hear? Patience, patience. You’re in such a fuss!
The shape shuffles agitatedly as it SNORTS and WHINES. It knocks over a shelf of metal tools with a LOUD CLATTER. Millicent gets on her hands and knees and stares down through the floor slats. Her hair dangles below the boards.
Hey, now what did I jus’ tell you, Apple Pie! Be! Patient! It’s gonna be ready in one minute. I’s removin’ the skin like you likes it. Gosh, I hope you didn’t break anything too valuable down there.EXT. COUNTRY HOUSE – CONTINUOUS
A light blue 1950’s era pick up truck drives up a dirt road driveway. The truck pulls up to the country house and stops. ABIGAIL BECKETTE, 21, an attractive strawberry-blonde haired woman grabs hold of a bag of groceries inside the truck’s cab and exits.
INT. KITCHEN – CONTINUOUS
Millicent walks over to a trap door set flush in the kitchen floor near a back corner. As she makes her way toward the door strands of white silky threads begin to float up from between the floorboard slats. The silk strands brush Millicent’s legs as she walks.
Goose bumps rise on Millicent’s legs.
Millicent giggles while she walks towards the trap door.
Stop that! You know how that tickles! Silly!Millicent slides back two large bolt-latch mechanisms on the trap door and slowly opens the hatch. The hatch CREAKS open revealing a long, dark, dusty hole.
Breakfast time!A HIGH PITCHED SQUEAL echoes from the hatch opening’s darkness below. Millicent lowers the bucket with the skinned rabbit into the hole.
The country house’s FRONT DOOR OPENS and CLOSES.
Millie! It’s just me. I’m back already! I think I got everything. Milk. Eggs. Butter. Flour. Sugar. Lordy! Everything is getting so expensive now.
Aw, shoot! Shhhh, you have to be quiet now, Mister Floorboards, do you hear me! Shush, now! I mean it.A long, simpering MOAN comes out from the dark shaft.
Abbie, is that you?The rope in Millicent’s hands suddenly goes taut and the bucket violenty yanks from below the hatch. Millicent almost topples into the opening. VORACIOUS CHEWING SOUNDS emanate from the hole as Millicent struggles with the rope.
Miss Millie! What in the Sam Hill are you doin’ over there, young lady?Abigail stands in the kitchen doorway holding the bag of groceries with a look of deep concern on her face.
Uh, hi, Abbie. I’s tryin’ to pull the laundry bucket up from the basement. It seems to be stuck on something’ down there but I’s OK! I think I got it all right.Abigail places the grocery bag on an old pastel green colored kitchen table next to the doorway. She starts to walk toward Millicent.
What? Girl, now why you tryin’ and bring up laundry like that for? My goodness that’s jus’ plain foolish. Here now, let me help you.
Nooooo! I mean, I’s OK Abbie! Everythin’s fine. Sometimes a girl’s gots to do things by herself. Please! This ole cat climbed this tree and she’s gonna get herself down.Abigail stops and shakes her head. She turns back to the grocery bag.
Alright, jus’ don’t go hurtin’ yourself and breakin’ everythin’ then.Abigail puts the groceries into a bulky old icebox refrigerator. A large, black, spindly insect’s leg arches itself from up out of the hatch door and gently caresses Millicent’s hair. Millicent grabs hold of the spiky limb and frantically pushes it back down the trap door.
Abigail turns back to Millicent as she continues to grip the now slackened rope.
You know I’m going out tonight with Raymond, right, Millie? With you’re Ma and Pa gone and no one to baby sit you’ll be on your own again tonight. I won’t be long. I can promise you that. Ray’s folks gotta telephone, too, should you need to reach me. Do you think you’ll be all right?
Oh, heavens, yes, Abbie. I ain’t no baby! I’ll be jus’ fine. Lots to watch on that TV.The rope goes taut again with a sudden pull and Millicent nearly falls over and into the opening once more.
Millicent! What is going on over there?
Almost fell, silly me! I tried an’ pull too hard again! Heheh! Abbie, you just go on and have yourself some fun tonight. I’ll be jus’ fine. But can you do me a big favor, though, like right away? I believe I left the laundry soap out by the linen lines in the back. Would you be so kind as to go and fetch it for me? I done dirtied my favorite dress and it needs cleanin’ now, too.
You sure you’ll be all right then tonight, Millie? I just feel so terrible having left you alone most of the week already.Millicent nods adamantly.
Yes, Miss Abbie. Very. Very sure.
OK, Sweetie. You’re a little doll you know that? Where are those soap flakes now? By the linen line you said?Abigail exits the kitchen through a back doorway.
INT. BASEMENT UNDER FLOORBOARDS – CONTINUOUS
FLOORBOARDS, a mammoth pony-sized black spider looks up through the wooden floor slats at Abigail as she leaves. The creature makes SLAVERING NOISES as she passes directly overhead and then exits outside.
INT. KITCHEN – CONTINUOUS
Millicent peers down into the slats rope tightly wound in hand.
You in big trouble, Mister! Let go of that bucket right now!The rope immediately goes slack and the bucket hurtles out of the trap door opening. Millicent falls on her backside.
Oof! Watch it, ya Big Oaf! Don’t you get no stupid ideas down there neither ya hear? I heard you slobberin’ up a storm!Millicent kicks the hatch of the trap door shut and then crawls over to draw the bolt-latches closed.
People are off limits! Especially my cousin Abigail!
FADE TO BLACK
The screenplay class instructor gave fairly glowing kudos to this particular scene so I decided it was worth a posting.
Happy New Year,
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
No need to dust for prints; the evidence is strewn all over our bedroom bookshelves: powdery paper silt. Pulpy yellow shavings. Droppings in the shape of all the letters of the alphabet... written as some sort of ransom note perhaps?
Whatever they may be they're having one hell of a book club meeting and literally clubbing our books while their at it!
They're eating our words!
And just look at all of these empty little cocoon sacks weaved to the bottom of each binder! Leaving behind your brood to finish off the next chapter are we?
So, after a bit of on-line research (the bestseller buggers have already eaten the hard copy sources I'm afraid...) we've discovered our culprits!
Seems the volume of our slightly more than satisfactory library is being periodically checked-out by a horde of super slavering cigarette beetles!
"The cigarette beetle (Lasioderma serricorne) is a small, light-brown flying beetle that commonly infests books. The beetle's larvae are one of the types popularly known as bookworms, with eggs laid on the spine of a book and along the edges. Immediately upon hatching, the larvae tunnel under the binding cover, especially down the spine area. The insect then proceeds to tunnel up to 10 centimeters into the paper text, where it pupates into an adult beetle. The adult leaves a round exit hole, as well as powdered paper on the shelf. One of this beetle's favorite foods is dried flowers and spices; these should not be brought into the library."
Massachusetts had it's material munching moths to meddle with now Texas has its book brunching beetles to battle! Irony? Not in our beloved Austin! We're educated here. We are devotees of knowledge! Unless, maybe ... it's a right-winged plot!?
Literally, literature lunching larvae.
Who woulda thunk? Bookworms! Mother Nature has a sentence of humor! And, it'll take more than a bit of manual labor to undo this problem we think.
And, worst of all...
The wicked little weEvils are carnivorous to boot! That's right: Flesh consuming. They have been feasting every night on my apparently woody tasting softcover sheath! I know because I'll find one or two browsing into my skin when I wake up in the morning. Y'ouch! Kind of stings.
It's a mystery as to why.
Maybe I've been reading too much lately and these tiny gnawing nasties are now nipping at all of my tome anointed knowledge? Will I, too, break out in a fuzzy bookworm pupae parade and watch my own spine collapse in on itself as the pages of my life flutter to the floor? Themes there's a possibility...
But hold on just one minute! They don't seem to pester Heather at all! Or, at least she claims she hasn't had a run on with them ... and she reads far more than I do! Period!
Clause and affect: I must be text by some cursive!!
Now, I'll admit I've been called bookish before but never ... wooden!
Well, maybe... just maybe.
I am made of wood! There's a novel thought in the abstract for you! (Essay, chap, do you copy me?) <-- cheap shot... A modern day Pinocchio perhaps? Neo-Gepetto's puppet-boy fashioned from some hybrid tree stalk of lore?
And if so ... what type of wood am I made of exactly?
Wood of...? Alder? Apple? Ash?
Wood of...? Balsa? Beech? Birch?
Wood of...? Cedar? Cherry? Could?
Wood of... Could?
Wood of Could?!?
Would of...? Could have?
Would have, could have ... should?
WOULD HAVE, COULD HAVE, SHOULD HAVE?!?
Damnit. Lost my tract of thought! Guess I shouldn't have written off these bugs so easily; they've gotten deeper inside my head more than I opused for.
I think I'll go outside and roll around in a pile of celebrity gossip magazines.
No doubt that pulp oughtta throw the little bastards off my tale! Or, I'll be fiction to eat my own words...
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Like a woman in blue with her leprosy skin
Awoke in my room by her visits some morns
Through the bars in my crib this image was born.
S.S.Watertown Faces of Ghost Crewmen at Sea - December 5th, 1924
A "cat" once appeared in my bedroom with me
As I fought off a fever of a hundred and three
She squirmed and she spun by the corner in dark
One flick of the light then she'd disembark.
B-29 Bombers over Korea with Face of Christ in Clouds - June 15th, 1950
A family of trolls made of sticks from a tree
Lived by the side of our house's chimney
Though the curtains were drawn I saw what they did
Making shapes out of branches to scare little kids.
Viking 1 Orbiter Photograph of the "Face On Mars" - July 25th, 1976
Bouncing and bouncing on a mattress I'd leap
'Til the springs on that bed grabbed hold of my feet
I screamed and I screamed but it wouldn't let go
But loosened its grip when my Mother came home.
World Trade Center's Face of the Devil in Smoke - September 11th, 2001
A teacher once queried in class at my school,
"Volunteer for reports on goblins and ghouls?"
Later that night after assigning myself
A toy came to life and walked off my shelf.
Piece of Toast with the Face of the Virgin Mary - November 23rd, 2004
My brother was neither denied nor immune
A Man in White suit appeared in his room
Held by the feet at the foot of his bed
White sir would declare, "You scream and you're dead."
Mallard Duck with Ingested Face of Space Alien - May 21st, 2006
No longer a boy, old spooks left behind
Still one spectre lurks from the hand of mankind
A mushroom of sorts keeps me up through the night
The only true shadow that's kept on my light.
Trinity, New Mexico's Face of Mankind - 5:29:45 a.m. July 16th, 1945