Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve: 2012

7:45 a.m.- My Volvo is Emma Thompson from the movie Wit; confident, invulnerable, and then something else. At one time she rested less than 25 feet from my bedroom window like a dark blue lioness, indifferently perusing the local environment with all of the certainty that the top of the food chain is accorded. Like Emma, there was no part of her that I would not happily lick. But now she is excreting various rainbow inducing fluids, dry-heaving sluggish billows of blotchy smoke, and seeming to be looking to me for answers; answers that we are both certain do not exist.

8:05 a.m.-  I vaguely feel as though I am embarking upon a tremendous adventure, carefully tying the shoes that I almost never wear and meticulously arranging, the way a Spec Op surely would, the necessary tools- iPod/headphones/wallet/do I need the Leatherman?- but catch myself and immediately feel ridiculous. I head out wondering if there might be some chemical explanation for all of this.

9:15 a.m.- Walking sucks. I feel as though I should somehow be above this. When we are young we are often puzzled by the fact that each person we admire seems to have a different version of what life ought to be, what a good man is, how to live, and so on. The two drunken teenagers who seem to have established permanent residence somewhere within my consciousness and who have clearly been designated to debate 'important matters' are going at each other over whether or not I should have chosen The Denial of Death as my early morning walking soundtrack. Both of them are wrong.

10:23 a.m.- Is it possible that someone has poisoned my feet? Can you do that? I feel as though I am walking upon Belladonna infused pillows of calculated revenge. Who have I wronged to such an extent? Clearly a frustrated botanist of some sort; someone with access to my teas.

10:37 a.m.- I pretend to not heavingly lunge into the Convention Center light rail station, at once overjoyed by the fact that I will soon be off of my poisoned feet but dismayed by the fact that I will still have a 30 minute walk, after the final stop, to my trumpet lesson. Non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere.

11:13 a.m.-  I smugly walk through the doors of Music-Go-Round, a local music store, fairly certain that I have accomplished something remarkable. No one seems to notice and I am too much of a gentleman to bring it up. 

11:45 a.m.- I have a great lesson with an awesome nine year old who is going to be far better at the trumpet than I ever was.

12:47 p.m.- The fact that I am nearly out of cigarettes makes me want one in an almost sexual fashion. There is a liquor store down the street from the music store. I decide to switch to music for the walk home. Hey, I guess you're lonely, when I gave, you only took. So then it's stranger than its ever been. I guess it's what you wanted. If it was cloudier I would be happy. Still, I am something close to happy.

1:05 p.m.- For a guy who is legitimately misanthropic I have a great rapport with local shop owners. The guys who run the 7-11 by my house are virtually kin, and the dude at this place smiles at me as though he has been waiting months for the opportunity. It is the summer of my smiles - flee from me Keepers of the Gloom. I grab a bottle of grapefruit juice, a pack of American Spirit Menthol (for no sociological reason whatsoever, although I sometimes feel as though it may help) and a small bottle of Vikingfjord Vodka, which I would never have bought if not for Joe Rizzi; fucking marketing.

1:25 p.m.- It's not easy to fill a bottle of grapefruit juice on a busy public road in the middle of the day without drawing attention. Yeah, in tight bursts is the lyric I use to muster the courage. Once again the teenagers in my brain are restless. 

1:45 p.m.- Stalactites, stalagmites, shut me in, lock me tight... it seems early, but it's on. Oh yeah, I forgot to eat. Something about the blood barrier in the stomach. My feet no longer hurt. Neither do my perennially chaffing thighs. Damn good thighs. If my Volvo was my thighs then this story would not exist. No knock on you, Emma.

1:58 p.m.-  Last week fucked around and got a triple double. This lyric has suddenly made me acutely aware of the discrepancy between how I am viewing myself  (prowling the streets with an intentionally reserved bad ass menace) and how I am viewed by others  (he doesn't appear to be homeless, but something's up.)

2:15 p.m.- When you make a mistake walking it takes much more time than could be usefully utilized in a blog piece. Mine involved a psuedo-court and several diligent locals. They were pleasant, but I was nearly in tears when I realized the amount of backtracking that would be involved. I did have a plan. I was going to go to the bowling alley near Union Ave. There I would order a double vodka grapefruit and casually ask for a pen, as though I didn't have a care in the world, and sign my lesson check so that I could take it to the bank in the complex. I don't feel the way I ever felt: well, not quite true, but the song kills and made my questions seem irrelevant. 

2:20 p.m.- I wrote my bro and Palladino what I thought was a penetratingly meaningful text regarding the futility of existence. It wasn't.

2:37 p.m.- Honestly. I'm not sure the bus is even coming. Do they run on Christmas Eve at this time? What the fuck are these people... oh, here it is. She seems uncertain. I don't know how long she has been a bus driver, but she clearly lacks the wound. Give it up to me, give it up to me, do you want to be my angel? I don't let her know. 

3:12 p.m.- She turned out to be very helpful. Now I am waiting for the #60 bus, that she recommended, to take off. The new driver is clearly horrible. I ask him when we will leave. He says four minutes. I tell him I'm going to take a quick smoke. He says that's OK, just as long as you don"t exhale near his bus. Dick! He looks like Pruitt Taylor Vince's stunt double. I get back on the bus and sulk into a far away seat. Turns out he is an awesome dude. Lots of cool info about unions- paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me- and the general obligations of a VTA bus driver. I am in fine form. Am I? I could be worse.

3:45 p.m.- Home. Every part of me hurts. The interior of my right elbow; many unfortunate things taking place on a cellular level; my xiphoid process, disastrously. But it is obvious that I have won. Irony leaves no residue. I lurch down the hallway in mock celebration clutching at framed photos of people who are not my family: And I'll find strength in pain, and I will change my ways, I'll know my name as it's called again.

4:45 p.m.- Christmas(ish.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Power Pose

From the $3200 ostrich-lined mesh unitards to the boyish good looks of Kate Moss, the world of high fashion has always been an impenetrable enigma. It is a world populated by exotically mute Vikingettes who distantly tower over you from every magazine cover and who seem, somehow, to lack bodily fluids of any kind. They exude a mixture of allure and decay that can only be explained by years of dietary heroin suppositories and three day weekends with 'funny uncles.' And they cast no shadows; they are the perfect Tabula Rasa. Advertising executives bank on the fact that we will project our many unreachable masturbatory fantasies onto these glossy black-and-whites as we deliberate the relative merits of Old Navy and The Gap.

This, of course, is precisely what we do. But why? If a nation as intelligent, sophisticated, self-aware, grounded, subtle, profound, disciplined, keenly observant, and self-actualized as ours can be so easily manipulated, then surely a force with uncanny power must be at work. Fashion Moguls and Demiurges are notoriously reluctant to discuss such things. But in an effort to find answers, I came across a genuine rarity. A model, an insider, who was willing, and had the capacity, to speak.

Sitting across the table from me, at Sunnyvale's impossibly posh Fibbar MaGees, he looked almost normal. You would never have guessed that he was modeling's "Next Big Thing." He was clearly nervous, as evidenced by the fact that he had barely touched his free-range salmon cubes that were marinated in mango chutney and placed atop a bed of pine-nut infused mixed greens, candied olives and pan-seared marshmallows and that had a cloud of whipped cream, raisins, and corn floating a full three inches above it, (which reminds me of another article I'll have to write for this fucking thing.) He had also insisted on taking a seat that faced the entrance and I knew I would have to be extremely gentle with him.

"It's the hands."

His voice was barely audible and had a furtive, resigned quality. For reasons that should be obvious I will not use his real name. "Mark Schnittker" was introduced into modeling, through the Boy Scouts, at the relatively advanced age of thirty-seven. But his lack of experience was easily overcome by a kind of vulnerable innocence and a tremendous shock of thick red hair. He quickly moved from Sears catalogs to the cover of Seventeen and this is when he had his first encounter with the Fashion Cabal.

While on location in the Cayman Islands, "Mark" was asked to strike a pose that suggested power and confidence. He opted for the traditional arms crossed over the chest, feet slightly apart, method. An ominous hush fell over the set and children could be heard crying in the distance. He realized that something had gone horribly wrong but was unable to place it. It was then that several helicopters swooped down onto the beach. From one of them, a small old man, dressed in black and covered in blankets, was wheeled through the set by a gigantic Filipino woman and placed directly at "Mark's" back.

At first, he could hear a single voice speaking angrily in a language he couldn't understand. This was followed by a deeper resonant voice and a hand that came to rest upon his shoulder. "You have made a grave error. This shoot is finished." Startled, "Mark" moved to turn around, but the hand on his shoulder tightened its grip and he collapsed to the ground in pain and lost consciousness.

He came to, several hours later, and found himself alone on the deserted beach. Struggling to regain his bearings, he noticed what appeared to be writing in the sand near the water. He moved over to take a look and was barely able to read it before a rogue wave crashed onto the shore and obliterated every word.

Most of the crowd had left Fibbars and "Mark" was visibly shaken by the re-telling of this terrible story. His famous red hair was matted against the sweat on his forehead. He reached out and downed his pomegranate martini in one desperate gulp. Looking again at the clock, he said, "It was a rookie mistake; one that I'll never be able to get over."

He looked me in the eyes for the first time that night. He was nearly weeping. "When I struck that pose, I had covered my hands with my arms. You must show your hands." Abruptly, and without warning, he shot up from the table and ran from the bar, shrieking, "You couldn't see them! YOU COULDN'T SEE THEM!"

I have since done a great deal of research. The world of fashion is as tight-lipped as Scientology, and precisely as meaningful, but, through the Freedom of Information Act, and a couple of well placed indulgences, I was able to get my hands on their charter.

It is an ugly and severe document of more than 2000 pages and is not fit reading for any person who hopes to retain even a modest portion of their humanity. I made it one third of the way through the introduction before buying an incinerator, assembling it, and then throwing the damned thing into it. But it was too late. Right there, on page four, was this:

Sec. 2-973.134
Regarding the assumption of, or request thereof, a physical gesture indicating power, confidence, or any related sub-virtue (cf. pp138), the subject must, in lieu of contradicting features, attendant to, but not limited by, said gesture, will, in accordance with addendum 9 to sec 3J-209.3, and in good faith, make visible, and in reasonable (as defined by subjugate protocol) time, said subject's posterior ancillary extremities, or "hands", the withholding of which will result in the de facto forfeiture of said subject's elan or vital fluids.

It is a sad and beautiful world. I have been unalterably changed. How does one maintain hope in the face of such obvious malevolence? As my philosophy professor, Joe Steinke, once said: Knowledge makes a bloody entrance. And it is easy, now, to understand why I have a closet full of Prada bags and Vera Wang shoes.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cinco: The Human Condition

Jet Magazine; Issue 376; December 2012.

Early Thanksgiving morning I received a call from Jet magazine's long time entertainment editor, Dastephen "Drizz" Broadus, who was nearly in tears as he described an album he had come across and the immediate effect it had upon him. The album that produced such a reaction was 'Cinco' from a San Jose band by the name of Corduroy Jim. 'Drizz' wanted me to not just review the album, but to find out how such a work could possibly have human origins. I was solemnly informed that I would receive an unlimited budget and unprecedented access, and that the future of Jet magazine, and perhaps that of music, was now in my hands. 

   Raymond St. Martin had a vision; a serenely tactile sensation that started at the base of his spine and moved up, in soft metallic tendrils, through his heart and lungs where it gathered momentum, spiraling through his neck and finally exploding with inhuman light into his brain: "Cinco."

   I first met Raymond on a rainy Tuesday morning as he was kneeling on a handwoven mat in front of his teepee, deep in the Santa Cruz mountains. He looked up at me with large knowing eyes and motioned for me to sit beside him. I had spoken with him earlier, over the phone, at great length about his process and the genesis of 'Cinco' and I was eager to hear more.

   I had listened to the album several times on the drive up and was struck by the variety of euphoric sensations that it produced in me. From the sylvan rumble of  "Home" to the plaintive lament of "Little Child" to the effervescence of "Purple Light" I found myself navigating unfamiliar waters of emotion and sound that were at once frightening and alluring.

   "I was not always a child of this Earth," Raymond breathlessly said, describing his first conception of the album. The rain had stopped and two more of the band members, Richard "Richie" Thomas and Martin Rodriguez, had arrived with a twelve pack of Sierra Nevada IPA and what appeared to be a crystal goblet filled with verdant foliage.

   Richie, who is apparently Australian, wrote the song "Little Child," which one reviewer described as '... an anthem, in 3/3, that is littered with 'prog-rock'." It starts off with Raymond's trademark Juno stylings and quickly moves into a syncopated Bacchanal, thrusting and churning with dark insinuation as a cloud of ethereal synth-nuances floats over a sophisticated, but not pretentious, guitar ostinato. Richie sings this tune with a worldly voice, as though acknowledging the inherent limitations of human striving while, at the same time, extolling the virtues of responsible parenting.

   Raymond went on about his efforts to get his message out to the world through music, saying more than once and with great emphasis that he was much more than a "luxury" for this band, when a figure clad entirely in white emerged from the woods and silently sat down beside us.

   Michael Palladino has been Corduroy Jim's drummer for twenty-three years and is universally considered the spiritual center of the band. I was informed that Michael had taken a vow of silence while he was continuing his studies at the Unitarian seminary. Looking over the group he lightly tapped his fingers over his freshly pressed white tunic and the rest of the guys laughed at what was clearly some kind of inside-joke.

   "Home" is a Martin Rodriguez composition that clearly reflects his Appalachian roots. It is clean, forthright, and of the soil. Home is not a concept Martin takes lightly, and you can hear it in his subtle approach to the acoustic guitar. "I don't play the guitar," he has often said. "I let the guitar play me." And play him it does! This tune has been seen on the iPods of such luminaries as Griffen Dunne and Doris Kearns Goodwin, and now, thankfully, this very author's as well.

   "Thief-The Ballad of Johnny Cat" is a Martin Rodriguez composition that clearly reflects his metropolitan roots. It is powerful, moving, and of the street. The song, as such, is clearly an interior journey through the vibrating unconscious self, speaking to you in the galvanizing tones of an, as yet, unwritten language as it guides you to an understanding that exceeds the human capacity for wonder. It also has a guitar solo.

   Nick "Mooshie" Chargin drove up in a sort of orange-ish boxy thing and parked next to one of the many outdoor kilns. He is the band's long time keyboardist and vocalist and he looks as though he could be Paul Newman's less glamorous but equally charming second cousin. He is also responsible for the tune "Purple Light."

   As a Dungeons and Dragons aficionado myself, I immediately recognized that the tune was about the Arch-Palladin Quentinal's treacherous odyssey into the underworld to retrieve the Violet Crystal of Wandering from the mad half-orc, Phino, who had stolen it from its rightful heir, the Prophet Esmerelda. Mooshie subtly references the ritual mythology of the Valyrician Society with the line, "Dancing in the purple light," and it is so refreshing to see this topic finally represented, in a serious work of art, the way it was meant to be. Bravo, Mr. Chargin!

   The sun was beginning to disappear behind the redwood canopy and I knew this would be my last opportunity to find out what I could about this band's monumental achievement. As if anticipating my question Michael began to hover, ever so slightly, off of the ground and Raymond leaned in to whisper: The total is greater than the sum of its parts. A wolf bayed in the distance and the smell of vegan flat bread began to emanate from the warmly glowing teepee. I made my way to my car and was about to get in when I remembered something.

   "Oh yeah, don't you guys have a bass player."

   "Yeah, he's in my car over there," Nick said, pointing to the orange-ish boxy thing. "He hates this kind of shit."

   "Didn't he write one of the songs?" I asked. "I haven't gotten to it yet."

   "Eeets cowled beelowe," Richie said.



   "What's it about?"

   "I think it's about boating," Marty said. "Or maybe some kind of fishing, like net-fishing or something."

   "I'm pretty sure it is about fly-fishing," said Raymond as he swung his arms in a mock fisherman's style.

   "He likes fishing, a lot," said Nick.

   And with that I left them to the night.

   Back at my house I listened to the album again a couple of times. Not bad. Four and a half stars out of five and two thirds.

                                       Mort S.Veets
                                       Oroville, Ca.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celebrity Profile: Nancy Grace

In an effort at journalistic integrity I should disclose at the outset that Nancy Grace and I have a personal history. We lived together for several months in a small apartment on the outskirts of Atlanta. This was after her two run ins with the Supreme Court of Georgia and prior to the terrible business with CNN. Of this time I can only say she still owes me $645 in unpaid phone bills to various psychic hot lines, and that she once, after a night of box wine and miserable sex, tried to cut off my left ear with a butterfly knife.

In her more sober moments, Nancy often described her childhood as a whirlwind of Lil' Miss Beauty Pageants, Junior Klan bake sales, and awkward Girl Scout outings (many a night ended with her crying herself to sleep, unable to explain exactly what transpired in those lonely humid Quonset huts.) But it was bible camp that gave her the greatest joy. I can still see the little flecks of foam that would form at the sides of her mouth as she regaled me with tales of "outing" sinful classmates and protesting evolution.

"We almost got the entire high school Biology department shut down my junior year but some pinko freak made a stink and it didn't happen. I'll tell you, though, I made darn well sure I didn't learn a thing in that class."

Nancy grew up and went to college where she was going to study Shakespearean Literature, "or something like that", but her fiance was tragically murdered and she found herself compelled to study law. Her time at Mercer University was not filled with drunken revelry or sorority parties or late night pow-wows or quick lunches with her roomie or the occasional movie or friendships of any kind, but was instead devoted to the grim business of getting a degree.

After that it was a string of near successes that propelled Nancy into the American consciousness. She became a prosecuting attorney who won all of her cases. Some of these were later overturned on appeal for reasons as varied as lying on subpoenas, illegal searches, and a generic air of evil. Even the pointlessly conservative Supreme Court of Georgia has said of her: "...the conduct of the prosecuting attorney in this case demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness, and was inexcusable."

After a brief stint on Court TV, she made her way to CNN and The Nancy Grace Program. It is one of those talking head programs where an articulate, gloomy moron spouts platitudes and shrieks at her guests. This is a job that attracts a certain type of humorless Troglodyte who has designs on getting back at the world; and Nancy's shrill, unknowing voice would be the perfect tool.

Yes, she had finally made it. Among her notable successes was her vilification of the Duke lacrosse team. Without bothering herself with the tedious work of investigating the actual case, Nancy proclaimed them guilty and had many shows devoted to her wisdom on the matter. The day after they were acquitted, Nancy, in a genuinely classy move, had a substitute reporter announce the removal of the charges. And she never brought it up again.

Of course there is more. Berating a distraught woman to the point of suicide. Assigning guilt, in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping ordeal, to a man who was later found to be entirely innocent. Her well known passion for, and advocacy of, cock fighting. Her willful ignorance of the details of the FLDS raid; accusing them of child molestation even after they found out that the thirteen year old pregnant girl was really a twenty-two year old pregnant woman. If H.L. Mencken were alive today he would gouge her eye out with a fork.

You see, I know her. I know her type. Her eyes are small and hard. She is quick to judgment, inaccurate, and ultimately unrepentant. She is the journalistic equivalent of a psychic in that she makes all sorts of grand pronouncements and counts on the fact that the people will forget the misses and revel in the hits. She is, in all fairness, a loud mouthed hillbilly cunt who somehow found herself on TV and who will do anything to stay there. She reeks of malice and frigidity and countless generations of inbreeding. And I want my fucking money, bitch!

Still, when I reflect upon our time together, the cute way she used to blush when she talked about the purity of the race; her gritty determination to never make love with the lights on; the way she would hide ice cream cartons in the clothes hamper, carton after carton, just to keep me from worrying about her gargantuan ass; I have to say they weren't all bad times. She smelled weird but the woman could really cook a steak.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Car Go Fast

I am pleased to inform you that yet another blow has been struck against terrorism and godlessness and that it is, once again, NASCAR that is leading the way. Next year there will be mandatory drug testing of all drivers and pit crews, and I, for one, say it's about time. This most emblematic of American sports has lain in tatters for far too long. With the help of our Savior and by "working the steps" we can right this ship, and once again hold our heads high.

Because these are a proud people, these devotees of the stock car, with their gargantuan sticker-laden RV's, their American flags saturated with Budweiser and countless patriotic tears, and their courageous attempts to bring the philosophy and techniques of horse breeding into the human realm. So you can imagine how these Daughters/Sisters/Daughters of the American Revolution felt when they found out that their beloved NASCAR had turned into a breeding ground for ketamine freaks, meth-heads, pillbillys, go-go boys, blacks, and communists; God, Home, and Country indeed.

A little background might be useful here. Dr. Winston Sinclair III ("Please, call me Cooter") is the dean of History at Duke University, and the foremost authority on NASCAR's murky beginnings. Cooter's den is a veritable shrine to all things stock car, from the Dale Earnhardt memorial plates to the gentle hum of the copper whiskey still; and it is whiskey that played the predominant role in NASCAR's early stages, much the same way it did for organized crime.

To hear Cooter's heroic tales of bootlegging (high-speed drunken car chases through residential neighborhoods) which eventually worked its way from the backstreets of South Carolina to the magnificent stadiums of North Carolina, was nothing short of inspiring.

"Well, in the beginning, there was Billy-Ray (Billiam) Dixon, and he drove a Ford. And there was William (Billy) R. Horton, and he also drove a Ford. And, of course, Willy (Big Willy) Williams, who was cousin to Billiam, and he drove a Ford as well. But it was the Kennedy's who came and fouled things all up. They drove Packards."

With this historical perspective firmly in place I thought it best to check out a NASCAR show myself. I contacted Del Minkin, of the Atlanta branch of the John Birch Society, and set up a meet. Much to my delight he chose the Mecca of stock car racing, the Daytona Speedway; an improbably massive metallic mosque of a stadium that practically shrieks: "Submit to the will of NASCAR."

Del met me in the parking lot with his daughter May. She was fifteen; had, at least, thirty-eight double D's; and her cut-off jeans shorts were so tight that I could just make out her fallopian tubes. Del shook my hand, tossed May onto his shoulders, and led us into to the stadium.

"I knew there was a problem back in the sixties when some of the drivers stopped getting drunk and started getting high."

Del stared off into the distance as he said this, clearly moved by the tragic state of affairs. We had worked our way to the inner area and were now completely surrounded by the track. May jumped off her dad and onto the shoulders of a passing stranger and disappeared into the crowd. I handed Del a Bud-Light and asked him to continue.

"Well, it was that damn LSD. It made it god awful difficult to drive those cars at such high speeds," Del said, as he continued to tell me stories of those dark days. Stories like the one where A.J Foyt was found on his knees, naked and crying, in front of a Woolworth's store, in Lexington, Kentucky, at three in the afternoon. It took several doctors, a priest, and a frantic call to Ken Kesey, to get A.J. back into his truck. "We finally got him home, but all the whiskey in the world couldn't bring him back down that night."

And so you might wonder why it has taken NASCAR so long to deal with this problem. From the sixties through the nineties there had been 135 official complaints; most of them from local churches, all of them drug related, all of them terrible. Tony Stewart's obvious track marks and Jeff Gordon's public dalliance with PCP are just the most well known instances. But the nightmare is over.

As Del went off in search of his daughter, I took a last good look around. A permanent haze of gray exhaust hung over a sea of shirtless fans, lumbering clods of flesh grown pink with alcohol and indifference to the sun, as engines, pushed to the high pitched point of collapse, whirled around and around to the thunderstruck awe of everyone involved.

"Yes," I thought. "This is worth saving."