Monthly Archives: June 2009

In lieu of flowers

You were my oldest friend, an avid opera
note with sorrow and flowering gardens
in abundance at her home, but the caring
lynchpin of heaven has gone out.

The business flourished, as declining
health dictates, inspiring leadership
and consummate grace throughout
his tenure, along with an ability–
an image compression algorithm–
by all of us graveside, to underwrite
a multitude of lives in private practice.

When an off-shore captive suddenly saw you
dancing due to the wartime incarceration of
flophouses, the Mobilization brought about
an extensive set of his life, plus six. Whether
it was impromptu or in her sleep at her beloved

home, a light did indeed continue her
grand humor, whose voice will be retired
to Barnegat Light, usually for the first time
in their lives. We join with many friends
she created, raised devotion to establishing
perfection, only slowing all of life throughout.

In this difficult time, we wish to extend
Dear father, a temple of understanding.
He was the devoted location on the banks,
a stalwart member. If sophistication were

a parent, her gifts to all of us will be
her willowy frame and winsome smile.
But diplomacy made him when she
was predeceased, utterly transcendent,
for sorrow will always nest where art may
never be destroyed as knows not its depth.

Dear brother, he finished chalk streams
of duck blinds on the Chesapeake, his
autumns shooting father with limitless vitality.
Returning to the beach, he would often shoot
a gargoyle in his likeness, a series of odd horse
afficionados and gin publishing glass containers.

He shaped and led the thoughtful, penetrating,
oral and artistic life of her spirited way, saw
sea duty paper the stern and waves, and the dressing
had become synonymous with her rainbow-
colored mohawk, offering psychoanalytically
informed sorrow at the passing. Bon vivant and

reposing Monday, service is scheduled for
the high school docents, retired as an itch
by first founding. A joyous scene from Die
expanded the field celebrated at Our Lady,

her warm smile cooking of dignity, gallant
courage and acumen enchantment: “Come
out right now! Include the needs, escalate
to multiply. The passing of our longtime
services are only private tools, taught to be dangerous.”

Read This Book, and other literary thoughts

So, this is interesting. It turns out that David Benioff has written one of the best novels of the last ten years.

Helly, maybe two of ’em.

David Benioff, if you’ve never heard of him before – I hadn’t – wrote the book The 25th Hour, which was turned into a movie starring Ed Norton Jr., Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tony Siragusa, Rosario Dawson, and a bunch of other folks about a white dude who gets busted for being a major heroin dealer and has one night out with his friends, father, and special lady before going up the river for the next ten years. Spike Lee directed it; it’s one of the better pictures of the winter ’02/’03 season and if you’ve not seen it, it’s worth renting. Or buying.

But I digress.

On a whim, I picked up his new book, City Of Thieves, at the Penn Station bookstore when I was coming back home from Philadelphia last Saturday. I started it Sunday aftenroon – on Father’s Day – and finished it that evening. Couldn’t put the gem down. It was that good.

What I’m saying is that the City Of Thieves is damn fine, and worth reading. It’s about a pair of convicts who have to finagle a dozen eggs in a war-ravaged St. Petersburg, or else be executed by the army. I’m not going to go into the details of the book, beyond that, save to say that it operates on a temporal twist: the story starts in the present, goes deeply into the past, and then at the very end, brings it all together and shows you how historical shaped the present into what it is.

I think that this literary technique – writing a book in which the meat of the story takes place in the past, and peppering it with the aha! sensibility afforded by first introducing the affected characters in the present – can actually work quite well. It can come off as trite, but in skilled hands, it works well. Water For Elephants does it, too; I just read that a few weeks ago and I loved that as well.

This back-to-the-future thing, it’s a neat technique. Something to think about.

Other things I like: setting protagonist and foil in opposition to each other. (duh). I am also finding that I enjoy the tool of a (necessary?) sacrifice of a compatriot character at the denoument to allow the protagonist the right/ability to change to be a useful one.

Rock On-Humble Pie

This album was a stab in the dark. I chose Rock On by Humble Pie for three reasons. 1) My father owned two copies on vinyl and copy on CD. 2) This record was released in 1971, the same time my father was stationed in Germany while serving in the army (draft, not volunteer) and 3) Humble Pie features the lead guitar and vocal styling of one Peter Frampton, who left the band a year after Rock On was released to pursue a much more lucrative solo career (i.e. play guitar with the annoying “talk-box” and write songs like “Oo, Baby I Love Your Way) Needless to say once I heard about Frampton’s involvement I began to have second thoughts, maybe I’d turn to something with a little more meaning behind it, something we shared, something we both liked…but no. That’s not why I got into this. At the least, I needed to listen, to try and find out why my father had so many copies of this album (and why he had so many other Humble Pie records.)

Wow.

Steve Marriott was the leader of the band and it is apparent on this album that he took artistic control. “79th and Sunset” features lyrics that would pink the cheeks of most mid-seventies Frampton fans. Most of the songs have a deep Zepplin-esque blues-metal feel to them, while they lacked the thunderous drumming of John Bonham they were able to deliver a powerful sound because of the two guitarists, one who switched to keys intermediately. Sure, they were a good band who would tour in the 70’s with the heavy hitters people of Generation Y still idolize, but you’d be hard pressed to find a trace of them in today’s popular culture. I can understand why Humble Pie didn’t quite stand the test of time; they fit in, but didn’t stand out.

Why does this album have such a large presence in my Father’s collection? I think it has a lot to do with where he was at that moment in time. It was 1971, he was drafted into the army and spent a lot of time hanging out with the various other recruits who had the unfortunate luck to have their numbers drawn. They weren’t army material and they spent the majority of their time listening to records, altering their minds, and trying to avoid the shell shocked and mildly insane Vietnam transfers. I can tell which records he took overseas with him and which ones he bought there by the initials on the inside of the sleeve (GWC written in marker) or by the language in the liner notes (German). These records were different then what he usually listened to. My father preferred Blues, Funk, Indie Rock and Soul, but through his army years he had Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, Steppenwolf, a lot of heavy music. While most of us have music that defines a period of our lives, in this I feel that my father had a time in his life that defined the music he enjoyed.

Two side notes.
1) Humble Pie is mentioned as a touring band alongside Stillwater, Bad Company and Led Zepplin in the movie Almost Famous.
2) Peter Frampton wrote the 2 most radio friendly, pop-oriented songs on this album. Although it pains me to say this; he is actually a damn good rock guitarist.

Addition

In the last couple weeks, I have been in and out of planes, cars, buses, taxis (which I guess technically should count as cars), and boats. Travel in this capacity generally returns me to two understandings that I believe about the world: 1) people are very interesting if you give them a chance and 2) fantastic literature is still being written by marvelous minds around the globe. For the purposes of this short story, I will focus on this second understanding. While at home, my dad handed me Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlife by David Eagleman to read. At barely more than one hundred pages, I initially relished the oportunity for something that seemed a bit… lighter than college coursework. However, what I encountered were fascinating tales of potential afterlife scenarios which each attempted to account for the afterlife in terms of our feelings toward the heaven/hell scenario human beings are thrust into and the realizations of a god about his/her creations. I continually found a smile on my face after the scenarios (generally only two pages each) and my mind was abuzz considering my fate at death.

Despite the beautiful situations and lovely scenes of reflection, I was most intrigued by the afterlife where god had placed Mary Shelley, the author of Young Frankenstein, on a throne in the middle of heaven. Eagleman described the feelings evoked by the book on god as s/he reflected on the relationship between a higher power and the creator. Initially touched by the true joy and love for a creator towards the created, and the (inescapable) dread for the inevitalbe moment when the created becomes something else- and does not look back. This god praised Shelley for acknowledging and understanding this; the sense of pain known to Shelley was that which existed in this god.

In itself, the story can seem somewhat humerous. An author who contributed the story for a somewhat cheezy old film attaining the highest place in heaven. But, the more I considered this scenario, the more it seemed like this was the true occurance in heaven, if and when/where it exists. As a species, believing for a second that we were created, we have revolted against the only being with potential for a truely paternal love in favor of wars amongst ourselves. From Iran to North Korea to Russia to the United States (and oh my we contribute), have we reached the point where we are doing much more harm than good? Is what we’re doing physically disgusting? And if it is, how much of this is tolerable?

Too many serious chats lately I think… more questions than answers in my own head.

But read the book- it’s way good and an easy, quick read.

To Be or Not To Be That Guy: Beer Edition

“Don’t be That Guy!” is a popular phrase that permeates most of the social groups within which the writer regularly interacts, where “That Guy” functions as a proper noun to identify a very specific type of Homo Sapien engaged in a loud and raucous social setting, typically a concert or musical event, wearing the shirt of the musical artist that he or she is seeing at that very same event. That Guy is generally viewed as a social leper by the bourgeois-hipster class, who feel that it is unnecessary for a person to wear the shirt, and thereby show support, of the band that he (or she) is going to see, as one’s presence at a concert should in and of itself be indicative of one’s devotion to said musical artist. As such, the social status of That Guy is seen as lowly, pathetic and desperate by other members of its social caste, as he or she is seen to be yearning hopelessly to impress both the members of the performing musical collective, as well as the rest of the audience.

This past weekend, however, the writer became privy to an even more bizarre sub-phenomenon within That Guy culture. En route to the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston, Massachusetts, a festive social gathering of barley, hops, and drunkards, a small but noticeable crowd of Ya Dudes (see Chapter 7, “Ya Dudes”) were seen bounding up the stairs, wearing t-shirts that in fact showed their support of the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston, Massachusetts over this past weekend. Again, it is typically assumed that one’s presence at such a festival denotes one’s support of said festival; however, these fuckers were exactly the kind of meat-heads that chase their Jager Bombs with testosterone and made the rest of my night fucking miserable by constantly grunting and chest-bumping, so all hope of talking sense to them was moot. One would presume that this aggressive display of That Guyity stems from a collective urge to differentiate the group’s identity from that of the aforementioned Ya Dude subculture by asserting an affection and respect for the craft of brewing that exceeds that with which Ya Dudes are typically associated but thereby inadvertently compartmentalizing themselves as members of the same subculture whose stereotypes they had originally wished to avoid. One would hypothesize that these individuals would have been better served by forgoing the none-too-subtly-camouflaged cargo shorts and product-supported phallic hairstyles, in obvious addition to the t-shirts they wore in support of the Craft Beer Festival that they were already attending.

Later that evening, the writer also attended a screening of the Joss Whedon film “Serenity,” (along with “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog”) wherein it was discovered in the attending demographic a proportional relationship between obesity/social awkwardness and That Guy as well (additionally, there is an even more bizarre That Guy derivative that stems from this culture, in which an individual finds it appropriate to wear an XXL [or larger] t-shirt, regardless of his or her actual weight, that declares his or her support for the musical entity known as “Metallica,” [and their offshoot, “Megadeth”] at all times).

Oh, Grandma

OK.  You can’t repeat this.

 

The other day I went to go visit my grandma in the hospital, and she told me a story that shook me to my effin’ core.  It went as follows:

 

“I used to travel a lot.  But I don’t anymore.  It’s been years.  Would you help me take my socks off?  I have to wait for a foot massage from the girl.

 

“Your grandfather and I, we traveled all over the world.  He wanted to try everything, your grandpa.  One time we went to Thailand, and he wanted to get a massage there.  Well, we asked the concierge at the hotel, and he told us where to go.  He said to go for such-and-such a place, and ask for number 4.

 

“Well, we got there, and it turned out that the numbers were for different girls – they had the pictures of the girls up on the walls with numbers next to them, so you could order with the number or pointing at a picture, like in a Chinese restaurant.  Your grandpa picked some other number.  I asked him why, and he said, ‘I didn’t like the looks of that one.’  I said, ‘OK.’

 

“So your grandpa got his girl and I got mine, and we went into adjoining rooms.  Well, you know me.  I wasn’t in there for five minutes before I started asking that girl her life story.  Did she have kids, was she married, does she have a boyfriend, and so on.

 

“About a half an hour in, the door busts open and a girl runs in hysterically crying.  I look up and sure enough, it’s the girl that grandpa had picked for his masseuse!

 

“I said, ‘What’s wrong; what’s going on?’  And she said, ‘Your husband, your husband!’

 

“I tried to calm her down.  Finally, I got her to stop crying and I said, ‘Honey, what is it?  My husband?  What’s wrong?’

 

“The girl, well.  She looked at me through her hands, and she just said, -“

 

And remember, this is my grandma telling me this, from her hospital wheelchair.  My grandma grabbed my hand and told me that the girl, through a shimmering film of tears, looked up at her and said:

 

“‘Your husband.  He no wanna have-a sex!  Why he no wanna have-a sex?'”

 

Imagine your grandma telling you this in her best ching-chang-chong voice.  In the middle of a hospital room.  While holding your hand.  And talking about your grandpa.

 

My family is amazing.  And wonderful. 

Turning to the Turntable

Hendrix would sit his girlfriend down and have her — almost make her — listen to Dylan songs. Pointing out the poetic phrasings of the lyrics, begging her to feel what he felt whenever he heard it. It was never hard to see where his inspiration came from. Give any musician a few drinks and access to his music collection and the truth will come out. You watch the eyes close, fist clench, eyes widen, the desperate struggle to find the right pitch, note, strain, grunt, etcetera. To this person, at this moment in time, even God cannot match that which mere mortals have created. What is life without pain metastasized through the psyche via flowing poetry over 2 octaves of fingers and hammers on wound strings, dressed in reverb and delivered through overdriven tube amps? Not everyone relates to music this way; the select few, the people who equate living life not only to feeling joy and love, but to feeling pain and torment can say that music touches them to their very core. Only in this sense can sorrow cure sorrow, madness cure madness. This runs against anything we are taught. You can’t fix a fracture with stress, you can’t treat a burn with fire, but in music, sometimes the cure can be more of the disease.

I decided to write for 5×500 after the acquisition of my father’s record collection. My fondest memories of him all involve music in some shape or form. Whether he was behind his drums, cigarette with a steady 2 inches of ash hanging out of his mouth, a bobbing head creating some of the oddest faces known to man, or sitting on the couch with headphones on listening to Frank Zappa. This man loved music, plain and simple.

I will choose an album from this collection to listen to and write about each week. They won’t necessarily be albums I’ve listened to before, but ones I know he particularly enjoyed. I have a pair of studio headphones, a record player complete with a brand new needle, close to 200 pounds of grooved vinyl tucked between colorful cardboard sleeves and a bottle of whiskey to aid me in this journey each week. I should be able to gain some inspiration to write, or at the very least perhaps some insight into how my father went about living his daily life. Although I am not a writer in the purest sense of the word, I am a reader. I equate that to the mantra of a rock journalist whom spends his life writing of what he cannot do. While perhaps I don’t have the skills to produce a piece of work like the kind that Kerouac or Vonnegut would sit and write, I know what sounds good and what sounds terrible. I look forward to writing again and find it quite exhilarating to have my work read by three or four people a week. See you in a bit for album one.