Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In the Riverside

This is when I realized the US was doomed…

Maybe six years ago I found myself in the Riverside in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was late. I was tired. Not sleepy tired. Worn out tired. I was doing something that night that I facetiously called, putting the gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Exchanging one pain for another. I thought I’d hit bottom, but the funny thing about life is just when you think you’ve hit your low point, you suddenly feel your stomach in your throat and you’re taking another free fall. There’s never a real bottom, only a series of lows that get deeper and deeper.

But sitting in that bar that night I didn’t know how low I’d gotten…only time would tell me that.

The band was made up of Thais belting out American pop tunes. I can’t remember a single one, though through the haze I do believe I remember something by The Doors. If it wasn’t The Doors, then it should have been. And as they played and sang those Western songs with such energy, not quite nailing the songs and not giving a damn one way or another that they weren’t but putting their own twist on them, I realized that the whole world that I knew was just a sitting duck for Asia. The whole Asian world was young and hot and charged, and the Western world, run by a bunch of old white men in suits, didn’t stand a chance. Young and quick over there, old and stupid over here. It’s only a matter of time.

Daddy's Junky Music

Man, there is a dearth of music stores here in Boston. Except for Daddy's Junky Music Store up on Mass. Avenue by Berklee (five T stops from where I work) there isn't one place where a poor boy can walk to at lunchtime to clear his head and get to know a few guitars and be back at his desk for bed check.

And that's kinda sad. Kind of means there isn't a whole lot going on 'round here, doesn't it?

Trying to get to heaven

There are aspects of my job, or maybe it's my mind, that lets me listen to music while I work.

Sometimes I get so jealous. God, I wish I could write like a lot of people, and Bob Dylan's one of them. How does he come up with stuff like this? Great lyrics. Simple melody.

Something just resonates. Maybe I've lived too hard, but I get it...I definitely get it. I get it like my buddy, Scott, and I finish each other's sentences.

Trying to Get to Heaven

The air is getting hotter
There's a rumbling in the skies
I've been wading through the high muddy water
With the heat rising in my eyes
Every day your memory grows dimmer
It doesn't haunt me like it did before
I've been walking through the middle of nowhere
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

When I was in Missouri
They would not let me be
I had to leave there in a hurry
I only saw what they let me see
You broke a heart that loved you
Now you can seal up the book and not write anymore
I've been walking that lonesome valley
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

People on the platforms
Waiting for the trains
I can hear their hearts a-beatin'
Like pendulums swinging on chains
When you think that you lost everything
You find out you can always lose a little more
I'm just going down the road feeling bad
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

I'm going down the river
Down to New Orleans
They tell me everything is gonna be all right
But I don't know what "all right" even means
I was riding in a buggy with Miss Mary-Jane
Miss Mary-Jane got a house in Baltimore
I been all around the world, boys
Now I'm trying to get to heaven before they close the door

Gonna sleep down in the parlor
And relive my dreams
I'll close my eyes and I wonder
If everything is as hollow as it seems
Some trains don't pull no gamblers
No midnight ramblers, like they did before
I been to Sugar Town, I shook the sugar down
Now I'm trying to get to heaven before they close the door

$1 or a smile

A man held up a sign this morning asking for either a smile or a dollar. I grinned, and I'm not sure at what--either the sheer delight of someone, anyone, trying desperately to spread some cheer to the people in this city who can be so fashionably cold and aloof, or his bravado for asking for a buck. Forget spare change, this guy is looking for hard cash. Good for him, I thought. He's thinking big. If you don't ask you won't get it. You could hear in his volume and see in his grandiose motions that he was pushing up against something really big, something big he was fighting. Something told me Fellowship. Something about his overly optimistic view of his fellow creatures, something that I've been struggling with lately.

"You got the idea," he yelled at me. I walked over to him, knowing I did have a couple of dollar bills in my pocket. I knew that because I have to collect them for the parking lot at the train station. I value those pieces of scrap paper. But I could give up one for this guy.

"Here ya go," I said, "what are you up to?"

"Well," he replied, "hopefully by the end of the day I'll have a job."

"What do you do?" this copywriter for Buick asked. Hell, maybe we have something in common, I thought, but please don't tell me you're an out-of-work writer.

"I'm a dishwasher," he answered. He said he was trying to get train fare to Dedham.

Dollars to donuts he won't get the job even if he does get to Dedham. But...and this is a really big but...he might have helped me out more today that I helped him, so I sincerely wish him all the luck in the world.

Welcome to Boston

Heading to the office from South Station today I passed a woman on a cell phone who was walking from the direction in which I was going. Did I really hear her say the words, bomb squad? Funny, I thought, how your ears can play tricks like that. But rounding a corner, what do I see, but the bomb squad with the street taped off. Officers were already beginning to take off another officer's body armor, signaling to me at least that all was clear.

Since I couldn't cross the street I ducked down a little alley where I found a Dunkin' Donuts that was no more than a carry-out window, and lo and behold, little bronze plaques stuck in various places on the ground, like the bronzed garbage stuck in the street in Haymarket. Only, this wasn't garbage, but little plaques commemorating different places in Boston. There was the BPL, I remember, plus a lot more that I don't remember.

That's why I love the city so much: a bit of excitement that then leads you to a new discovery, one more little delightful little corner of the urban world.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This ain't no disco, this ain't no prison either

Ever been in an office and someone mentions that it’s like prison, the way we’re all stuck here? Can’t go anyway. Have to do what we’re told. Sit in little cubes—prison cells—all day and can’t come out.

Once I made that comparison to this guy I knew, and he said, Nah. See, he was a former bank robber. Drugs and all that caused him to do some really bad things. So he did quite a bit of time in federal prisons. (They moved him around a lot, for some reason.) Nah, an office is nothing like prison. No one is trying to kill you. No one beats you up. You’re not surrounded by crazy people who have done crazy things and more than likely will do crazy things again if give half a chance.

It’s like actors saying they work hard. Nah, my father worked hard. He came home tired and dirty every night. Remembering lines and blocking isn’t work. Work is spending cold winters and hot summers on a loading dock.

Both the bank robber and my father are both dead, by the way. The bank robber died from complications from his days as a druggie. He died as clean and sober as a judge. My dad died of a heart attack. He was a smoker.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A cup of Joe

I like coffee. I like coffee with just a little bit of milk. Not cream. Not half-and-half. And not skim milk, either. Milk, the way it comes out of a cow.

I don’t like double decaffeinated latte’s with jimmies, either. I feel stupid drinking them, so you’ll rarely find me in a Starbucks unless a certain buddy of mine pulls me in so the snob can get his ground roast from Kenya or Chile or wherever the heck it is it comes from. I don’t like Starbucks (and a lot of this trendy c**p that seems to come out of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in general) because frankly I don’t like being made to feel like I’m something on the bottom of somebody’s Cole Haan’s. Nor do I like being forced to order in a foreign language just to appear continental, particularly when they don’t use the foreign language correctly to begin with. If I’m ordering a grande, I want an effing grande, and not a piccolo. Compris?

If I want some fancy coffee drink, and sometimes I do, I’ll go to Dunkin’ Donuts, a nice blue-collar establishment that doesn’t ask you where you went to school.

If I had my druthers, though, I’d prefer some greasy spoon where they serve the coffee in a heavy railroad mug and a waitress named Alice or Gladys or Madge calls me Hon and asks me if I want my coffee "heated up” and knows I like my eggs over-easy with wheat toast.


Sue and I got our ears pierced this weekend. I’ve been meaning to get another earring just below the one I had. The one, alone, was more than discrete, which is what I wanted; but it was just plain unnoticeable unless you were standing next to me in a crowded subway.

Why would I want a couple of earrings? That’s one of those questions that if you have to ask, you’ll probably never understand. There are those of us who just never fit in, no matter how hard we try. And after awhile you just get tired of trying…we can still play the game, we just don’t have to join the team.

See, I told you you wouldn't get it.

Oh no, not another effing lawyer

Getting off the train this morning I saw a book lying on the seat next to kind of a scuzzy- looking student type: Constitutional Law. Great, I thought, just what we need — another lawyer.

We have way too many laws in this country, and the reason being is most of our legislators are lawyers. Need something fixed? Let's pass a law. That's just how lawyers think. They get elected and the first thing they do is brag about how much legislation they’ve proposed. When will someone come along and instead brag about how many laws they’ve abolished?

A good example is the business about driving with a cell phone. There are already laws about driving to endanger, but people want to make it illegal to drive while using a cell phone. But you can shave, read a paper, and put on makeup when you drive, and while these things probably are even more distracting than talking on a cell, they’re legal. This doesn’t make sense. And don’t say let’s make all that other stuff illegal, too. The idea is make less laws. Do we really need more laws to tell us how to drive safely?

It’s how lawyers think, and it seems to me they’ve set up the system to feather their own nests. It seems you can’t do anything of marginal consequence in this country without a paper signed by a lawyer.

You certainly can’t take a person’s word on anything anymore. And I think we have lawyers to blame for that. I think lawyers have caused us all to distrust each other, afraid that one person is going to sue the bejesus out of the other, when a handshake is really all you need.

Another manic Monday

Woke to snow. Just in time for the commute. And because it is so nasty and sloppy out, what I should have done was this: Poured a cup of coffee (because the coffeemaker is set to have a pot ready and waiting for me at 5:30), called in sick, picked up the apartment a little bit, kissed my daughter on the head and let her sleep some more, picked up Alice (and for the washer/dryer, who is Alice?) and run through the scales for a half hour, then put some music on and read some scripts. Then, later Kathryn and I could have put on some skis and played over on the conservation land with Bob, the Wonder Aussie, then come home and snuggled on the couch with a movie--something stupid on the lines of Dumb and Dumber.

That's what I should have done.

Instead, this is what I did: poured a cup of coffee, turned up the heat to warm the water for a shower, washed the dishes from last night (Sue, Kathryn, and I made homemade pizza,) checked email (nothing,) replied to some email from over the weekend from someone from my acting class, freaked at hearing the heat come on because I just paid $200.00 to the oil company, made my lunch, made Kathryn's lunch, took a shower, turned the heat off, kissed Kathryn on the head and woke her up, took Bob out and turned on the truck and cleaned the snow off, went back upstairs, took Kathryn to school, drove to the train station, stood in the cold and wet for ten minutes, sat on a train for 45 minutes, finished The Glass Menagerie, having read it so long ago I forgot about the ending and how painful that must have been for Laura, sat and thought about how nice it is to just sit on a train and rock back and forth, thought about how later in the week Sue is leaving for New York and we'll take the 8:00 to Boston so we can sit together, got off the train at South Station, bought a paper, stopped at the ATM and allotted myself only twenty bucks for the week, walked five minutes to the office (stopping to get a bagel at Finagle Bagel,) rode the elevator to the 12th floor wondering if I actually did hear this woman say something under her breath about me and crowding her with my backpack (if I did, darling, I'm sorry, but stop being so damn angry at the world--it's not all about you, you know,) stopped off in the men's room to clean up, shrugged off my coat and scarf at my cube, got a cup of coffee...

That's what I did.

Looking out the window where I can see the traffic on Tremont moving past The Granary Burying Ground and the sleet still pelting down, I should have just stayed at home.

What we do to make a living.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The State of Music

O.A.R. tix at UMass supposedly went on sale today at 10:00. I say supposedly because the links at the UMass and O.A.R. sites seem to be dead. My youngest is a huge O.A.R. fan, and wants to go. She asked me last night if I thought they’d sell out, mentioning a Justin Timberlake concert that sold out in some ridiculous amount of time of fifteen minutes or so. I first assured her that I don’t think O.A.R. would sell out like JT II. Then I mentioned that the good seats are probably grabbed anyway by radio stations and corporations and all that. You know how it works: the concert’s sold out, and the day before a radio station gives out tickets in the first row to the nth caller.

Power to the people, I say.

Spin has a decent special issue on the State of Music. Well, Spin has maybe three good pages laying out what’s been going on in the music world, and frankly, anyone with half a brain can sum it up in one word: digital. And it’s not just in music it’s in film, software, news outlets, everything. In music, though, the rich guys in suits were so busy counting their money they never saw it coming. Proves you don’t have to be smart to be rich. Now they’re screaming foul but the world changed underneath them. The old business model is long gone. Long…gone. The money’s not in selling CDs or even digital downloads. I don’t even want to say the money’s in concerts, although right now it is, but even that’s gonna change. Let’s say the money is going towards events. Wanna make your mark and your cash, get your song played on Grey’s Anatomy.

Anyway, what got me on this tear is my daughter wanting to go to a concert, and you got to figure the next step music execs will take is to recoup their losses in concert tickets. That’s how they think. Again, that’s the old business model. When one revenue channel dries up, try to get it back through another existing one. But they’ll do what Major League Baseball is in the middle of doing, namely, pricing themselves right out of the market and losing their base forever.

They gotta make music cheap and accessible, if they want to keep the young fan base.

When I was even younger than my daughter this was the state of the music industry: I was growing up poor in working-class Cincinnati. (I could never understand people who said when they were young they were poor but didn’t know it. What? Were you stupid? How could you not know? Didn’t you see the beat-to-s**t car your family drove, then look at your friends’ cars and see the difference?) We’d hitchhike to Cincinnati Gardens, a brick box that, when it wasn’t hosting concerts, was the home to Oscar Robertson and the Royals basketball team, some hockey farm team of the Buffalo Sabres, and the circus when it came to town. We’d panhandle for ticket money (spare change, man, got any spare change?) Can you imagine having to beg for ticket money today? With the cost of a ticket today you’d have to start months ahead to raise the cash. I don’t remember but I wouldn’t be surprised if tickets cost maybe eight or ten bucks tops. Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt, the Who, Ten Years After, John Mayall, Alice Cooper, Emerson Lake and Palmer left their mark forever.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wide Open Spaces

Got my daughter’s Valentine today. Opened it up and my heart caught in my throat. I’m not going to reveal what she wrote—that’s personal between her and me—but it sure is nice when your kid doesn’t think you’re a s**t after everything you’ve done to her in your life. (Is there a parent alive who doesn’t think that they’ve failed their children in some way?)

So…as I was driving away I popped in the Dixie Chicks and played Wide Open Spaces in her honor off the CD of the same name. I was playing that CD back in August when her mom and I were dropping her off for her freshman year in college. I turned my daughter on to it on the drive out there, and all of the emotion of day just came out in that song.

That’s the thing about country music: how it can just nail an emotion. It’s also the one criticism I have of popular country music, that a lot of it nails the emotion and then you just wallow in it. I mean, just how long can we pick that sore? The thing that I like about the blues is how it can nail an emotion and then it takes you somewhere else. And then of course, there’s really bad country, songs along the caliber of Kenny Chesney’s She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.

But the Dixie Chicks do have those nice harmonies going.

So, for Allison’s and everyone else who has ever struck out on their own, here are the lyrics to Wide Open Spaces:

Who doesn't know what I'm talking about 

Who's never left home, who's never struck out 

To find a dream and a life of their own 

A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone 

Many precede and many will follow 

A young girl's dream no longer hollow 

It takes the shape of a place out west 

But what it holds for her, she hasn't yet guessed 


She needs wide open spaces 

Room to make her big mistakes 

She needs new faces 

She knows the high stakes 

She traveled this road as a child 

Wide eyed and grinning, she never tired 

But now she won't be coming back with the rest 

If these are life's lessons, she'll take this test 

[Repeat Chorus]

She knows the high stakes 

As her folks drive away, her dad yells, "Check the oil!" 

Mom stares out the window and says, "I'm leaving my girl" 

She said, "It didn't seem like that long ago" 

When she stood there and let her own folks know 

[Repeat Chorus] 

She knows the highest stakes 

She knows the highest stakes 

She knows the highest stakes 

She knows the highest stakes

It's not that I'm old...

…your music really does suck.

That’s taken from a sticker I have plastered on the side of my amp.

Listening to Neil Young and Crazy Horse from a 1970 concert at the Filmore East at From the liner notes:

“Two words for Crosby, Stills and Nash - Crazy Horse. This is rock 'n' roll as it was meant to be played: barely in tune and teetering on the brink of oblivion. No wonder Neil Young preferred rockin’ in the free world with these guys over CSN’s cuddle-folk round-up (Joni Mitchell covers?!... Pleeze!). You can hear the blood and sweat in every stuttering guitar jab, Danny Whitten’s raspy tenor the perfect counterpoint to Neil’s wavering holler.”

The thing is, there is great music being written today. Despite what that sticker says, I don’t want to be one of those guys sitting on a bar stool bemoaning the good old days and complaining about “these kids today.” Eff that. Living in the past. That’s death, or just sitting around waiting for death. No difference. What’s cool is this great long stream of music that extends so far back and how musicians built on other artists. I’m talking all the way back, Gregorian chants and all that, so far you have to be tight with Mr. Peabody and his way-back machine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Today’s Ash Wednesday. The first day of Lent. I wish it meant something to me, but it doesn’t, anymore. I really wish that believing and living in an established religion, that the mere act of walking into a church, gave me the peace that it seems to give some people. But it doesn’t. I wish it were that simple. I’ve tried. Walked in so many churches, opened myself up and almost yelled out, here I am, Lord, I'm yours, and tried to feel something, but…nothing. I’d be faking if I said it did. The quiet is nice. The people, well, a little loopy. They see meaning where I just don’t. God is controlling all. God is taking care of them. (God takes care of the little birds in the field, what makes you think He won’t take care of you? Well, the quick answer is either God thinks more of the effing birds than He does of me, or He doesn’t exist in the first place, at least not in the form that the believers imagine.)

Not that I don’t believe in some sort of greater power. I just think I’m not smart enough to figure it out. I think turning the supreme force in the universe into some God (now why did I capitalize that word? Tell me my Catholic upbringing isn’t ingrained.) made up of three persons, or whatever, is kind of dumbing down whatever it is that controls the universe. Dumbing it down so we humans can understand it. Can’t we just stand back and just marvel? Why do we have to understand everything? Explain it all?

I grew up in an extremely Catholic home. Taught by the Sisters of Mercy (what a misnomer that was!—they had no mercy), a picture of Pope John XXIII hung in the hallway with the palm branch from Palm Sunday tucked behind it, a picture of DaVinci’s Last Supper hung in the kitchen. I don’t know how many crucifixes and statues of the Madonna were around. Let’s just say enough. The home, my life, revolved around the church. It wasn’t that bad, really. I didn’t even think about it. I got up at seven when the church bells rang, went home for lunch at noon when the Angelus rang, and quit playing with my friends at five when the church bells rang again. Fish, or mac and cheese on Friday. That’s what I was, a fish-on-Friday Catholic, and that was fine with me. It was comfortable and was simply a part of my life, like my grandfather’s smelly pipe, and my annoying sister.

When I pray, and I do pray, this is the God I pray to. Old habits. Also, there are no atheists in foxholes.

But once you leave, there’s no going back. The teen years are hard on faith, and the Catholic Church doesn’t like questions, and teens question everything. Just do it. I’ve tried to go back a few times, and each time I would just get hammered by something in the church and think, oh, right, I forgot about that.

Once I went back to Mass on a perfectly normal Sunday and instead of giving a sermon after the Gospel the priest read a letter from the bishop to the congregation. Or cardinal. Somebody. And I remembered how the Church treats you like a child. Why couldn’t you have given me the letter and let me read it myself, and maybe, Father, you could have taken this time in the Mass to give me some spiritual guidance, in the form of a sermon? But you know, the Gospel that day was the same Gospel as the year before, and it will be the same a year to that day. That’s the way the Mass is set up: repetition day in and day out. The priest would have run out of interpretations of the spiritual message long ago…

At least the letter was something new, I suppose.

And you can’t receive Communion unless you’ve repented or gone to Confession or something. You gotta be in the club. And now, when I find myself at a Mass, this is the part of the Mass I’ve learned to relish, at Communion when everyone gets up to receive, and I have to stay in the pew. Once or twice I thought to myself, maybe they’ll just think I’m Jewish. Or Presbyterian. But in the subsequent times I’ve been at a Catholic Mass, I’ve learned to gloat in my sinfulness. Yeah, you bet, I’m a sinner. All of you God-fearing people, if you really want to fear something, fear me, because me, a sinner, is sitting right here in your midst. I’m on a first-name basis with the devil, and as acquainted to sin and sinning as you are to your ritual Mass.

And there’s a really good chance that I’ll see a lot of you sanctimonious hypocrites in the afterlife.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Going legit: The price of stability

I’ve gone legit, and it’s still taking me some time to get used to it.

Legit. A “real” job. One where you get up in the morning and have to go to and sit at a desk even if you don’t have anything to do, and go to meetings that for the most part are pretty pointless. Just the other day I was sitting in a meeting where there seemed to be a lot of extra people. It seemed to me all we needed were the account person, the designer, and me, the writer. But we had a few marketing people in there, and even some people from strategy and analysis. I like to count up the people and multiply that number by what I estimate their salaries to be to figure out exactly what a one-hour meeting costs the company, and therefore the client. When you’ve been in business for yourself, it’s not easy to stop equating everything to either what it’s costing you, or what you’re making. You’re either making money or spending it. There’s no in-between.

There are people, nice people, called bosses who tell me what to do. When I freelanced no one told me what to do. I did whatever I wanted. I looked for work and sometimes I’d find work with people who I didn’t like or the work wasn’t so much fun, so I’d charge a little more for the bother, and I knew the project would soon be over. I figured I could put up with just about anything for the duration of the project.

People say I now have a full-time job, but freelancing was full-time. And people assume because I was freelancing that I wasn’t making any money, although now I make only a little bit more at the “real” job than I did freelancing. But now the money’s steady. The hardest part about freelance writing is getting paid for the work. The next hardest thing is finding the work. But getting paid is definitely the hardest. Putting words together is the easiest thing in the world, for a writer. But sometimes I’d be floating thousands of dollars. It’s not that people stiffed me. I actually had really good clients, good people. It’s just that some corporations have policies about billing. It has to do with the IRS and the government’s definition of freelance and contract. When you’re in business for yourself you quickly learn the IRS is not your friend. On paper, it looked like I had money, but another thing you learn real fast when you’re in business for yourself is that cash in hand is all that matters. I started charging advances on large projects, and I began billing some clients weekly, telling them other clients liked the flexibility it offered and how it gave them a more up-to-date idea of what they were spending. Businesspeople like flexibility, and having information up-to-date, so they believed me, but all I was just trying to do is keep a steady flow of money coming in.

A legitimate job makes some things in life a little easier. When you’re freelancing, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Now I get paid for holidays, so I’m getting paid along with the rest of the world that isn’t working, too. And I get paid for a vacation, but only two weeks accrued at the end of a year. Two weeks out of a whole year isn't a lot. And your bosses have to approve when you can take your two weeks. It's like being in kindergarten and having to raise your hand to go to the bathroom. I also get a few personal days in case I have to get a filling or my truck worked on, I guess.

When I was freelancing, I could take time off whenever I needed it—in the middle of the day to do something with one of my kids; I could take time to run errands, and I could spend Sunday nights at Sue’s on the Cape so we had three nights in a row together, and I could drive home Monday morning without it affecting business. What I really miss is stopping in the middle of the day and playing the guitar, just for about twenty minutes or so. I love playing, and it was a reward I’d give myself for accomplishing something. It also clears my mind, so I’d go back to work refreshed.

Sometimes I’d get kind of lonely working by myself. I’d work at keeping in touch with people, like instigating email strings. And I’d call people. You can get a little squirrelly working by yourself. I really like the people I work with now. Creative, talented people — the kind that work at this agency — motivate and inspire you to be creative yourself. I suppose I do that for them, too. I don’t know.

And I like riding the train everyday to work. Riding trains is fun. It’s like riding a bike; if you’re open to it, it makes you feel like a little kid. And riding the train gives me time to read. I love to read, but before didn’t have a lot of time to read. Now I do. I also like working in the city. There’s more to do, and more to see that stimulates my mind. There’s also more to spend money on, and I have to watch that.

The thing I don’t like is the loss of freedom that I had. I’m not a man who does well when he’s feeling he’s being told what to do. Ask me to do anything, and I’ll do it for you in a heartbeat. Just don’t tell me. I guess I wouldn’t have done very well in the army. But I’ve put myself in a position in life where I have certain responsibilities for other people. I’m talking about my kids. But it’s a double-edged sword, because I gave up a lot of time with my kids — and Sue — to make sure things are more stable. I guess the big question is: What price is stability?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Feeding my habit

It is really dangerous for me to work so close to a Borders, or any bookstore/music store, for that matter.

Went out looking of scripts for my acting class and came back to work with two CDs: Songlines by The Derek Trucks Band, and In Session: Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

If you haven't picked it up by now, I'm a pretty big fan of that mix of Southern and blues.

Derek Trucks is featured in the current issue of Rolling Stone as one of the top 20 guitarists. He's on the cover with John Mayer and John Frusciante, of the Chili Peppers, another big favorite of mine. He's the nephew of Butch Trucks, the drummer in the Allman Brothers, and married to guitarist Susan Tedeschi, another favorite. (Of RS top 20, there's only one woman, Kaki King.)

And just when I thought I had everything by SRV that I wanted, I was starin' ahead listening to Trucks' CD and saw the SRV CD in the rack under gospel. I didn't even have to listen to it first. I know I'm going to like it.

Hey, I'm not spending my rent money on crack cocaine, although the addiction factor is a bit scary.

Taking little itty bitty baby steps

John Mayer one of the top guitarists in the world? Well, yeah, I guess. But I can’t get past what a tweaker he seems to be in person. But…in the Rolling Stone interview, he said, “I’m attracted to what I don’t know. Everyone else I knew said things like, ‘I watched him play, and it made me want to quit.’ I never wanted to put the guitar down. I watched guys who made me want to pick it up. That’s when you have the disease…”

Years ago, before I started acting again, I would sit in the audience of a community theater production and watch the actors and say to myself, I can do better than that. Twelve years later and I’ve found myself so dissatisfied with my acting that I haven’t done anything for over a year, and what I did a year ago was pure crap. I looked back and felt embarrassed for the stage work I’ve done. God, I must have looked like such an idiot up there.

Then a few months back I saw a production of The Pillowman at the New Rep in Watertown, Mass. and thought to myself, I want to do that. I can’t yet, but I want to. I’ve found a really good teacher who is helping me tear a lot of things down. Well, she’s trying, anyway. I’m trying to lay a new foundation so I can build something that I can use to talk to audiences again, if I ever did before.

Last night I was driving home from Sue’s on the Cape, heading back to an empty apartment, knowing I wouldn’t see her for a week because of our work, and sometimes it hurts so much, I can’t explain it. Something real inside hurts. She says it’s because I’m a Libra, and the worst thing you can do to a Libra is leave them. Abandon them. I think it’s more than that.

I drove into the driveway and my truck was the only vehicle there. I knew it was going to be a long night. I just felt it, and on other nights in the past I knew the bottle of Port in the kitchen would have been my best friend. But being all alone in that house, I picked up Lulu, turned the amp up with full reverb, did the same on the guitar, and just hammered. Played Angel Mine by the Junkies in a way I don’t think they meant it played. It’s a sweet song about keeping your promise, but I played it by ripping the scab off the hurt and letting it bleed. But I’ll never betray your trust, Angel Mine. Riiiip. Nice breakthrough. Because I'm just a beginning musician, and really the greatest thrill is just getting through a song and making it sound (sort of) the way it's supposed to sound. But if you can means you're feeling, and it means there is a glimmer of hope that you'll win the wrestling match between you and the guitar, or even better, you two can turn into collaborators.

The sole reason I act is so I can learn about this world we live in, this reality we call life. I don't care about being in the spotlight, about the glamour (ha! what glamour?) the attention that so many actors--theater-types--seem to not only desire but need. I couldn't care less if the audience likes me or not. All I want from them is for them to hold up their part of our implicit agreement: That they stay engaged throughout the performance, and I will live as truthfully as I can in the contrived setting we've established. They give me energy, and I give them truth. That's what I'd like to do anyway.

And now I'm learning a new language called music, that is showing me a new way of seeing, of experiencing and understanding this world. It's so exciting to learn something new. To travel to new parts, whether geographically on the globe or throughout the human experience.

Feeling like a baby, taking tiny steps. Wobbly steps. Can’t even talk yet.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cut the DSS caseworker some slack

Here in Massachusetts, DSS, the Department of Social Services, is the state organization that protects children from abuse. There was a high profile case in December where a 4-year-old girl died from an overdose given to her by her parents. Sad.

The caseworkers for DSS are like the lineman in a football game. They go about their day, toiling in the trenches and you don’t notice them until they make a mistake. And usually, like linemen, their mistakes are really big and visible. An opposing player gets through, maybe only one time during the game, sacks the quarterback, and does a victory dance over the fallen player. In the case of DSS, it usually means a child is dead and a politician is grandstanding for votes, or someone in the paper calling for someone’s head.

What you don’t ever see are the daily struggles the typically overworked caseworker has to manage. Carrying a caseload way over the recommended 18 cases. Having three or four major cases explode in a day, all that would have serious repercussions (like the death of a child) if not handled correctly and immediately. There's the normal work with clients, just keeping them going forward day by day. DSS, despite what people think, isn’t in the business of taking kids away from their parents. It’s in the business of protecting kids, and trying to get parents to the point where they can have their kids back.

The simple fact in our country is this: You need a license to own a dog, but anyone can have a kid. All it takes is one drunken night with a sailor some night, and a woman is pregnant and two people who never gave taking care of another human being a second thought now are going to carry one of the biggest responsibilities on their shoulders. The child isn’t born out of love, but instead of selfish lust. Many of these people can’t even take care of themselves, much less a kid. Many never felt the love of their own parents, so how are they expected to give the love they never felt. And at best the child is taken care of not out of love, but out of sense of obligation. They are clothed, fed, sent to school, all the bases are covered except the one that makes the child know at the end of the day that they are loved and wanted.

The Junkies are comin' to Boston

One of my all-time favorite bands, the Cowboy Junkies, is coming to the Boston area, and I had a yellow post-it note tacked to my monitor to remind me that tickets went on sale today at 10:00. By 10:11 I had third row center seats.

This is an excerpt from an IM I had with my daughter today. Both posts are mine:

(12:47:49 PM): That's right...things are okay when I'm with Sue or I have a guitar in my hand...
(12:48:01 PM): Funny, you discovered that about music before I did

I was talking to her about a personal problem I was dealing with. Funny, I never would have discussed my personal life with my parents, but I talk with my kids about just about everything. Today, it was about the woman who broke up our family, and how I might have to see her at a party.

This woman stole everything from my soul, and she gave nothing in return. She lied about the way she felt about me, so convincingly that I actually left my family for her. It turns out it was just a lark for her. She tried on me and my life the same way she would have tried on a coat at Macy's, looking at herself this way and that in a mirror, and not liking what she saw so she just shrugged me off onto the floor to try on something else. I can't think of one thing she gave me except a ton of grief and bad memories. Every memory starts out good, and just turns rotten. I shared with her everything I was passionate about, including the Junkies. And I know some people think it's just music, what's the big deal? She's like that, too, not understanding the real meaning of the things we hold close to our heart.

This is the sort of thing the Junkies sing about. About broken love and hearts and remorse. And the ironic thing is I know this woman listens to their music, commiserating, not understanding that she is the other side of what they are singing about. Poor thing, she feels so sorry for herself, not realizing or caring she's one who causes the hurt and pain, too selfish to understand and that if she'd just make some changes in her life a lot of pain would stop, both in her life and others. But all she can think about is herself.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy VD Allison

I'm such a lousy dad sometimes. Here it is Valentine's Day, and I didn't send anything to one of the sweetest Valentine's in my life, my oldest daughter. I was just on the phone with her and apologized, and it's so funny how much alike she and I are. She was going to send me a card, but didn't get around to it, and she didn't have any stamps, and well, you know. So I told her I'd tell the world how much I love her. And that's what I'm doing now. Happy VD, Allison.


I'll try to get rolling here, but the view outside my window, 12 stories up in Boston, is bleak. Driving snow and rain.

It's Valentine's Day, and all I really want to be doing right this very minute is sitting home, playing Alice, with Sue nearby, her nose in a book, a cup of coffee at my elbow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm a Lotus Elise

I'm a Lotus Elise!

I believe in maximum performance and minimum baggage. I like to travel light and fast, hit the corners hard, and dance like there's no tomorrow.

"Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Cingular steals from its customers

That's what it looks like to me and tell me if you don't think so, too, after reading this. The company that advertises itself as "having the fewest dropped calls"--marketing students, pay attention, that's how you turn a negative into a "selling point," ranking that tag line right up there with the one that says, "we're no worse than the others"--takes away rollover minutes when you reduce your plan.

Rollover minutes used to be something that differentiated Cingular from its competitors. It's not just a nice concept, it's an honest one. Say my wireless plan gives me 1,300 minutes a month, but I only use 1,250. Then Cingular would let me keep the 50 minutes I didn't use. Of course, that's only fair since I did already pay for them, making them mine. Over time, you can accumulate a nice little balance. In my case, I collected approximately 2,600 minutes.

But then say your circumstances change where you don't need 1,300 minutes a month anymore and you want to reduce the number of minutes of your plan to say 900 and tap into your rollover minutes account. Cingular used to let you do that, but then changed its policy. If you reduce your plan like I wanted to do from 1,300 to 900, Cingular would have taken 700 of my rollover minutes to start my new plan at 900, even though I've already paid for those minutes.

And they can do that just because no one stops them.

It just keeps getting better...*

It's officially Lucinda Williams Day.

Borders had her new CD on sale for $12.99. I'm listening to it now. "Are you alright?" is such a sweet song. God, is this woman living a parallel life in another universe? No, she writes truthfully about the things we all go through. Just tell the truth in this life, and people will be amazed.

Then I got the last two seats at her March 24 concert at the Orpheum in Boston. They're front row obstructed, so they were only twenty-nine bucks. I called Sue from the box office and told her the sit. "What the heck, honey, for twenty-nine bucks, go for it." Did I die and go to heaven or what?

*IJKGB is something I said to Sue as a joke when we were just getting to know each other.


Sometimes there does seem to be a God in heaven.

Opened the paper today to see that Lucinda Williams has a new CD out today, named West. Lucinda writes right to the bone, and sings in a nasally twang that speaks truthfully about pain, love, despair; to those who think she's depressing, she even writes about hope and laughter. You just have to be able to see it. Or maybe live the kind of life she has.

And tell me the woman's not hot.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Was drawn to... Was called... How do you buy something like a guitar? They call to you. You are drawn to one and you don't even know it.

Every one is different. Acoustics are organic, made out of wood that changes, will change some more. Pick up one, it just doesn't feel right. Pick up another one and it feels great. You hold it like a woman. Plays great. The sound resonating in your chest. You not only hear the sound, but you feel it, too. But my wallet says no.

I've been wanting an acoustic to play around on for awhile now. Different sound, different experience from LuLu. Yesterday I looked hard at price tags first. Picked up a used something, Epiphone maybe, for $99. No. The first string around the seventh fret actually would not play. No sound except for this screek. Another, an Olympia. Whoa. Is this what I'm feeling? I played it awhile. Put it down. Picked up another one. Another one. Went back to the Olympia. Who are you, little darling? Solid spruce top made for a rich sound. Set up nice so it was easy for me to play. Omigod. You're the one. You're really the one. Ninety-nine bucks used. It wasn't the Martin I was hoping for, but I've learned you gotta be careful what you hope for.

I brought her home. I was playing her when Sue walked in. She didn't even notice at first that it was a different guitar. Maybe 'cause we look so good together? Sue named her Alice. Good name. It was my mother's name, though Sue didn't realize it at the time.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Reverse snobbery

It’s funny, but bigotry cuts both ways.

I live in one of the wealthier towns in Massachusetts. And when I tell people where I live, I can usually sense when they’re passing judgment on me. Some people, and these people tend to be poorer people, hear where I live and they see a person who they just naturally assume is wealthy and has all of the accompanying attributes of the wealthy, whatever that may be, from a horse to a big house to a big bank account to a clueless outlook on the world. And then they treat me accordingly, either with respect or disdain, depending on their mood.

The truth is I’m a divorced dad who rents one of the few apartments in the town. I live there because it gives me close proximity to my youngest kid who lives in the next town over with her mother. I drive a (very) late model, beat up Ford F-150 pickup truck because it’s paid for and frankly I can’t imagine any bank that would be stupid enough to loan me any money for a smaller one that sucked less gas. I work as a writer, to some a very elitist and perhaps snobbish occupation, but I don’t make enough to pay my monthly bills. Frankly, writing to me is no different from plumbing. It’s a job, no better or different from any other.

I belong in that town like a stray dog belongs at a debutante ball but you can’t tell some people that.

Mitt Romney not for president redux

I massaged the post from a few days ago hopefully making it make more sense:

So, it’s official. Mitt Romney is running for president. Or rather, it was announced that he would announce next week that he’s running for the office. This is like some corporate dweeb who insists on having a meeting about having a meeting. Is this really what we want in the White House? Someone who complicates the simple process of telling us something we already know? Haven’t we had enough of political double-speak and public relations shenanigans?

Anyway, it doesn’t matter because the Mitt-man will never even come close to making it to Pennsylvania Avenue for four very interesting reasons.

First, American voters will never again elect into the White house someone from Massachusetts. Middle America thinks Massachusetts is the hot bed for the “L” word which stands for liberal. It also stands for loony as in loony bin which is how the rest of America sees Massachusetts. Romney, whether he likes it or not, whether it’s true or not, will be associated with the likes of Ted Kennedy (who, by the way, makes a terrific senator and should never have even considered being a candidate for the Peter Principle), John Kerry, and Mike Dukakis.

Second, Massachusetts is the state that gave the country gay marriages, and no matter that Romney opposed gay marriage the way the rest of us oppose the 10 Plagues of Egypt, he’s going to be associated with that, too. The big question he’ll be asked is, if he was so against it, why didn’t he stop it? There are some tough old eggs out in the center of the country who will ask him point blank how and why he let a bunch of liberals push him around like that, and if he couldn’t push back on them, how the heck his he going to push back on Korea?

Third, he is going to get ripped over the Big Dig, from its enormous cost overrides to shoddy workmanship to people dying from pieces of concrete the size of a tennis court falling on them. Never mind that he inherited the project. If elected, he’d inherit Iraq, too, and if he couldn’t manage a public works project, how is he going to manage that mess?

Finally, he’s too squeaky clean. Americans like their politicians a bit tarnished, then redeemed. George Jr. had his partying at Yale then found Christ. Clinton didn’t inhale, among other things, but kept apologizing like mad. Reagan was divorced, but then married Nancy. Romney is too far up on his moral high horse.

It’s clear he’s just going to be a footnote in the 2008 election. But with luck maybe in true Massachusetts’ tradition he’ll even be the source of some humorous diversions. Remember Dukakis riding around in that tank with the goofy-looking helmet?

Drunken Angel

Why'd you let go of your guitar
Why'd you ever let it go that far
Drunken Angel

How do we get so far from where we’re supposed to be? Maybe only by making wrong turns will we figure out where the right place is.

I’ve been learning to play the guitar for less than a year. But already when things aren’t going right, when things are unsettled, one of the best places for me to be is clinging to the neck of my guitar. Holding the body close.

My good buddy, Baxter, who fights more demons on a daily basis than any of us could imagine, found me drifting, more dead than alive, face down in the water. What he was doing that far from shore is a good question. He handed me a vintage Burns six-string guitar, saying she was meant for me. Keep it, he said. And I clung to her just like I was, a drowning man, a man thrown overboard and left for dead, who clings to a piece of flotsam in the big empty ocean and just prays.

After awhile, I named her Lulu, in honor of the singer/songwriter who wails the words that opens this blog. Lucinda Williams.

As you can see, Lulu is missing some parts. I guess you could say the same thing about me. She’s missing the plate that covers the bridge. And her twang bar. I don’t know what I’m missing, but I can feel their absence. Despite her flaws, I think Lulu is beautiful. Thankfully, there are some people who think the same about me.

There are nights when heaven is sitting trying to figure out the smoothest way for the fingers on my left hand to go from D to A to G and back to D. Now I’m leaving Normal and heading for Who Knows Where. Still haven’t figured it out yet.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The love-struck astronaut

Okay, something’s not right here.

Navy Captain and astronaut Lisa Nowak, a married woman with a kid, is in love with fellow astronaut William Oefelein, although she says they don’t have a romantic relationship. She somehow suspects that Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman and Oefelein are love interests, and also knows that Shipman is landing in Orlando on a commercial aircraft that originated at an Air Force base in Florida. So, using her astronaut training, she puts on a diaper so she doesn’t have to stop to relieve herself, and drives 900 miles from Houston to Orlando in time to meet Shipman’s plane. She gets arrested with a Buck knife, pepper spray, a loaded BB gun that looked like a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, and a steel mallet and is charged with attempted murder.

We’re not hearing the whole story. And for some reason, my heart is going out to Nowak.

Have you ever been so in love you thought you were going crazy? Or maybe you were a little crazy. And you were so vulnerable. I’ll bet money that Oefelien led Nowak along. I’ll bet there were some promises made. Big promises. I’ll bet they’re lovers and Nowak is lying to protect her family, but still wants a divorce. I’ll bet Shipman knows all about Nowak. I’ll bet Oefelein turns out to have a heart as cold and unfeeling as a lump of lead.

And maybe in a twisted way she still loves him, but I’ll bet in a year or two, Nowak will wish she’d never met Oefelein.

The Low Anthem

A few weeks ago I was in All Asia on Mass. Avenue in Cambridge to see my buddy, Jason's, band Bean. Bean played its usual fun set, and just when I was leaving another band was just starting to play. Three guys with a whole bunch of instruments including one guy playing the standup base. What the…? The band was The Low Anthem, out of Providence, Rhode Island. The first song sounded like some serious Robert Johnson stuff. So I stuck around and listened. Nice melodic songs looking at life through country eyes. This morning for some reason, a couple of lyrics stuck in my head from their song, Country Wine:

“cause I’ve been drinking city whiskey
chased with country wine.

Hmm…sometimes lyrics just resonate. Kind of the story of my life. Kinda.

Anyway, you might want to check them out.

Mitt Romney, not for president

So, it’s official. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is running for president. Or rather, it was announced that he would announce next week. Reminds me of times in the corporate world when we’d have meetings about meetings. Is this really what we want in the White House?

Anyway, I’ll bet he never makes it. Not even close. American voters will never again elect someone from Massachusetts into the White House. That’s because Middle America thinks Massachusetts is the loony bin of the country. Mass has gay marriages. Mass has all of these liberals running around. Romney is just one more to add to the list made up of Ted Kennedy (who, by the way, makes a terrific senator and should never have even considered being a candidate for the Peter Principle), John Kerry, and Mike Dukakis wearing that goofy helmet in the tank.

Romney is going to get ripped over the Big Dig, from its enormous cost overrides to shoddy workmanship. Never mind that he inherited the project. All the screw ups came on his watch, and if he can’t manage a road project, how’s he going to run a country? And while he is so against gay marriages, again, they came on his watch. Those tough farmers out in the heartland are gonna ask him how’d he let a bunch of gay liberals push him around like that.

And is it me, or does the man look like an undertaker?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Beavers of the world unite

I like all things natural.

The road to my daughter’s school at one point runs along a swamp. And, probably as part of legislation the good citizens of Massachusetts passed a few years ago that banned the use of leg hold traps throughout the state, there is some serious beaver activity going on right along the road. You can see sharpened stumps, the height of a beaver standing on its back legs, sticking up everywhere. And for the longest time there was this good-size tree standing with gnaw marks all around the perimeter of its base. This morning I noticed the tree was down, the crown of the tree laying in the water.

A sight like this gives me all the hope in the world. Because there is something going on in the brain of that little rodent that told it just how to drop that tree right where it wanted. Not across the road. Not anywhere but in the water. A rodent did this.

My dog knows words and continues to learn new ones well into his nine years. He knows truck and walk and mommy and cookie and kibble and dinner and out. He knows a whole lot more, too. People think this is amazing, but if you’ve spent any time around animals, the non-human kind I’m referring to because apologies to all the fundamentalists of the world, but we are animals, if you’ve spent any time around animals you’ll find they have so much more on the ball than most people can ever imagine. Seeing that tree dropped just so told me that if we humans somehow destroy ourselves, which we seem hell-bent on doing, there’s other life around that can rebuild the world that we destroyed, and can probably do a better job than we did in the first place. One tree at a time.

We gotta get out of this place

My dad used to always say to me, Stay in school so you don’t have to do what I do for a living. And funny, now that’s what I say to my kids despite the fact that my father, if he were alive today, would look at the work I do and be so impressed. Dad, don’t be impressed. There is nothing impressive about what I do. It is, as they say, a living. To which the easy retort is, you call this living?

Dad came home tired and dirty every night from unloading trucks all day long. He wasn’t like all the other dads who drove nice cars and worked in offices and dressed “nice.” He wore derivations of his work clothes even on the weekend: blue work pants and a white t-shirt. T-shirt? Here I’m getting uppity. It was an undershirt. He wore underwear. He would have gotten a kick out of the fact that I could use the word, derivation, in a sentence.

Watch my daddy in bed a-dyin'
Watched his hair been turnin' grey, yeah
He's been workin' and slavin' his life away
I know he's been workin' so hard

I work as a writer. I joke and say I’m a word whore. I’ll write anything for money. Right now I have a full-time, steady job as a copywriter at a hoity-toity marketing agency in downtown Boston. I work on the Buick account. Lots of good-looking people here. Lots of people who dress hip and have straight teeth. And then I write other stuff on the side just to make ends meet. Business stuff. Columns. Articles. If someone will pay me, I’ll write it. The steady job still doesn’t pay for the steady stream of bills I find in my mailbox. Dad would understand that. Never making enough.

My daughter wants to be a writer, too. She wants to write screenplays. I tell her, if you really want to write for a living, stay in school so you don’t have to write what I write to make a living. My other daughter doesn’t know what she wants to do. I tell her to stay in school anyway.

I don’t come home from work filthy dirty like my dad did. But I do go home just as tired as he did. And sometimes I climb the stairs to my apartment with such a feeling of loss and defeat. Of dreams lost. Of a sense of life slipping away, and that there’s more to life than getting up, going to work, and coming home. Of taking what you make and handing it back over to bill collectors, and then there still are more with their hands out.

We gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
'cause girl, there's a better life for me and you.

Monday, February 5, 2007

What's the big deal about downloading music?

Today's big find:

This was in today’s Globe’s Sidekick. Great site with lots of archived concerts. Right now I’m listening to a Stevie Ray Vaughan concert from April 15, 1984 in Austin, Texas. I also did some impulse buying this morning when I first logged on to the site. Bought a poster from a concert on June 5, 1989 with the Cowboy Junkies and Lucinda Williams. Now if you scroll down just a bit and glance just to your left, you will see a partial list of some of my favorite music, and while it’s in no particular order, you will notice the first two artists are those very same that played together 17 years ago or so. The poster’s gonna look nice, framed and all, hung here in my cube on the 12th floor overlooking Cosi’s.

It’s the new paradigm for music. Everybody’s downloading and taking it for free, or so people who have been living off the music industry cash cow are complaining. That would be the fat cats in the suits at Sony and BMG and wherever, and the musicians, too, although the musicians still aren't making out like the execs. There’s money to be made, it’s just that the business model changed. Sorry, it changed for all of us. You just gotta deal with it, or die.

I see nothing wrong with downloading music for free. Here’s why. It’s been the way of the world for writers for all time. Say I wrote a book, and let’s say you actually bought the hardback for full price. And you read it and thought it was great. What would you do? You would tell your friends. But they wouldn’t go out and buy my book and read it. They’d borrow yours. Or Xerox it. It’s just like downloading for free, right? Or your friend would go to the library. Either way, I still wouldn’t make any money on sales. Those are my words and my thoughts. My talent and artistic ability is being showcased. But you don’t have any problem not compensating me.

The Internet was a long time coming and music execs should have seen this day sneaking up on them. But they didn’t. They were too busy counting their money instead of keeping their eyes on the business. They were rich, not smart. There’s a difference, although some people don’t get that. They figure if someone is rich that that person is smart, too. Rich and smart don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Greedy and rich do. But rich and smart? No.

So, now all the rich folks are crying foul, instead of figuring out that the way to make money is off the one-offs: ticket sales (if they keep them reasonable, instead of gouging prices to make up for the loss in CD sales), t-shirts, DVDs, posters, and all that.

The world changes. Get over. Change or die.

The Mother of All Tweakers

The word for today is Tweaker. It’s Sue’s word. A tweaker is oatmeal. A tweaker doesn’t rock the boat. A tweaker wears Dockers. A tweaker not only fits in, but wants to fit in. Get ready for the Mother of All Tweakers. Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Ask Christine

My moon is in Pisces, that’s why some people have, let’s call it accused me, of thinking too much. I’m conscious of it, and have started to pull back when I feel it’s necessary. I try to relax more, and take things less seriously.

With Mars in my Virgo, you’re going to get that verbal jousting that I love to do, and that intimidates so many people. I make lousy first impressions because of it. Consider it part of my charm.

Venus in Libra, my Sun sign. Explains the romanticism and sensuality that is so much a part of who I am.

Christine is a friend and an astrologer who just got her license in horary astrology. Don’t ask me how it works, but you can ask her a simple question, and she’ll give you an insightful answer. I tried her out by asking her a question that I knew the answer to: Over a year ago I asked her what the deal was between me and a certain Sagittarius, and was very impressed by her answer. Since then I’ve asked her a number of questions about relationships and work, always learning more about them than I thought.

Check her out:

The little guy getting the shaft

You know, it’s always the little guy that gets the shaft, isn’t it?

Turner Broadcasting hires some company in NYC called Interference (gee, I wonder what business they’re in? Why didn’t they just name their firm, Annoyance and get it over with?) who pays a couple of artist types 300 bucks to make some battery-operated signs promoting a cartoon show and plant them around Boston. It seems these signs were hanging around for three weeks—there were reports in the paper that joggers and the like saw them and just ignored the stupid things—until a T worker spotted these gizmos with lights and wires and batteries hanging out of them and called the bomb squad.

Pandemonium ensued.

The city spent a million dollars (double the $500,000 reported yesterday) calling out SWAT teams and water cannons and helicopters and a bunch of common folk just minding their own business had one more irritation thrown into their day making them late for work or maybe something even more serious.

So, who’s on the front page of the Globe today? Not any of the marketing types in Atlanta or NYC who came up with and approved this boneheaded idea. Not anyone from the NYC agency who pulled a Watergate and told the artists to be quiet even when their conscience kicked in and started freaking out when they realized the results of their actions. Nope, it’s the artists who are in court today.

Lawyers and liberals have ruined this country, throwing common sense clean out the window and defending the people who we know should just be slapped. I want to see the suits in court. Sure these two techno-savvy (as they’re described in the press) hippies should have thought a bit more about what they’re doing. But the real people responsible are the high-powered marketers who should have known better.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The shirt off my back

It gives new meaning to the phrase, he’d give you the shirt off his back.

I’d never pay 50 bucks for a shirt, but that’s what I found myself facing as I went out to look for some new ones. Now, you have to remember that the last shirt I bought was for one dollar at a church thrift shop on Cape Cod. And I got that one for 50 percent off; it was originally marked two dollars. It’s a nice shirt. I wear it to work all the time.

Shirts, at least the ones you would be caught dead in, start around fifty bucks. And I needed more because most of my shirts spend most of their time in a pile on the floor of my closet because I never have to time to either a) take them to the cleaners; (or if I actually get them to the cleaners) b) pick them up. I leave for work before the cleaners open and return after they close. My weekends? I get so sick of people telling me weekends are for getting ready for the next week. Get an effing life, people.

So, you can imagine how happy I was last night when Sue showed up with three shirts that she bought for $6.97 at the Gap. Two of them I really liked; the third was a plaid that we both agreed would have made me look like Opie Taylor. And here’s the real kicker: They originally sold for $49.00. Then they were marked down to $24.99. Then $12.99 to finally the $6.97 Sue paid.

I know what you’re thinking. They must be pretty nasty-looking shirts if no one wanted them. But no, they’re good-lookin’ fifty-dollar shirts. That’s more than you could say about a lot of hookers.

And no, I’m not giving you one off my back, either.

Thinking like a terrorist

Yesterday the city of Boston went into a panic because of some viral advertising that was placed around the city. They were little LCD signs with batteries plugged in the back that advertised a cartoon show on TBS. Someone found one and thought it was a bomb. More were found and helicopters and bomb squads were flying all over the city. The mayor is incensed, mostly it seems because he was ignored by TBS until 7:00 p.m. and then he was called by a low level PR minion. Responsible people decried the stunt, and younger, hipper people thought it was funny because they recognized the image and knew and understood viral marketing. If the stunt did anything, it underscored a generation gap, that’s for sure.


Did the city overreact? Yes. Was it a stupid stunt by irresponsible, greedy marketing hucksters? Again, yes. They should have known better.

A few years ago I was floating around in Boston Harbor in a sailboat when a natural gas tanker came into port. NG tankers are basically floating bombs, and in the aftermath of 9/11 their security takes on the highest priority. They are ushered into the harbor by armed boats, and all traffic must stop and stay clear, which is why I was floating and not sailing.

One of the guys I was floating around with told the story about someone who had been arrested in New Jersey for buying an ambulance. I’ll pause now so you can scratch your head in bewilderment. Or maybe you know the upshot of this story. The person was arrested for being a terrorist because you can pack an ambulance with explosives, turn on the siren, and get pretty much wherever you want to go. People will even pull over to let you get where you’re going.

“Wow, I said, I just don’t think like that.” To which my crewmate said, “You make it sound like that’s a bad thing.”

But you know, it is a bad thing. We do have to think like terrorists. We can’t leave our luggage unattended or risk the bomb squad blowing it up with water cannons, which is what they did to the little signs in Boston. We do have to be alert for suspicious behavior when we’re on the subway or on a train, or when we’re in crowded public places.

9/11 shocked me, but it didn’t surprise me. I had been waiting for something like that to happen for years, because it had been happening all over the world for years. We Americans are so insular. So protected. So unaware of what is going on in the world. We think we’re different, and it’s only a matter of time before something to the extent of 9/11 happens again.
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