Monday, September 26, 2005

Maybe there is a God

Maybe there is a God, and maybe he really is a vengeful God.
The hurricanes are just too damn convenient, their effects so rich in metaphor, that a hidden hand cannot be counted out.

They potentially cripple the oil and natural gas that enable our ability to make war in the Middle East to secure our access to oil.

The administration that mocked conservation is now explicitly urging people to drive less, as they preside over a lifestyle that is predicated precisely on driving everywhere: witness suburban sprawl as far as the eye can see, witness tax breaks to buy Hummers.

Update, 9/30/05 And now Frist is under investigation and DeLay has been indicted.
There's more I could write on this, but I'm tired.

Cindy Sheehan Got Arrested Today

Watching Cindy Sheehan get arrested was one of the most inspiring things I've seen all day.

The movement to end this thing is growing. We're gonna be paying for a long time.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hard at Rock

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Note from the Proprieter

Howdy friends,

You may have noticed that the three or four posts after this message are repeats, and very OLD repeats at that.

When I first started this site, I ran it as a multitude of embedded blogs. I think my old man came up with that suggestion: I had one page for stories, one page for letters, one page for New York Times related stuff.

I'm not using any of those pages anymore, so I have included that work here.

If you do not have either a strong stomach or a brutally dirty sense of humor, please do not read "Filth". Just scroll on by. Otherwise, enjoy....



I am on my way to a gig in New York City when the driver’s side rear tire blows out, sending me hurtling with the hazards blinking into the breakdown lane, just before exit 11 on the New Jersey Turnpike, near the Hess building, where the Turnpike meets the Garden State Parkway. There is a deep gash in the sidewall. It is early March, about 6:00 PM on a Thursday, cold, dark, and REALLY busy in the northbound mixed traffic lane. I scuttle to the back of the car, and get the spare, the jack, and the pry bar out of the trunk.

Remember when cars used to come with a REAL jack? It was three solid pieces of metal: a base plate, a rectangular pole about a yard long with notches on the side, and a pry bar to make it go up and down. It was, I remember, the kind of thing you could use standing up like a dignified human being. What happened to those things? It’s as if sometime around 1980, some CEO got the big idea to make jacks as small and difficult to use as possible. "Hey, I've got a great idea! Let's make the jack so that the user has to roll around on the tarmac trying to get it into position. Then we'll make it so you can only use it if you're hunched over with your ass sticking out in the air like a target for a Mack truck to plough into." “Excellent idea, JP, and it’ll do wonders for the “new pants” industry too...”

WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH. That's the sound of 18-wheelers speeding by me trying to jack up this car, hunched over like a mushroom. My ass is indeed sticking out into traffic. The trucks whiz by so closely that it feels like I'm getting sucked out into the highway. I can actually feel the air get shoved aside by these behemoths, as I’m rolling around on my back trying to get this damn jack into place.

After about twenty minutes of bending and cursing, the car is jacked up and I am struggling to remove the lug nuts. Ever change a flat? You have to take the lugs off in a certain order; otherwise one or more will get stuck. My father, who has a degree in physics, would be happy to explain why this is so. I cannot, but suffice it to say, this is exactly what happened: one stubborn lug just refused to budge. So, hunched over like a chimp, gravel driving itself into my knee, the bolts go back on, I jack the thing back down and start over. This time, all 5 bolts come off, including one that simply BREAKS off with a sudden snap. Well, that's just fucking great, I mutter.

Luckily, I am near the exit where the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway meet, and across the median separating the two highways, I can see payphones near the tollbooths. So I start trudging through the median to the phones. First, I have to jump over a moat of sorts, filled with shit-colored water, and then make my way across a no-man's land of beer bottles and trash to the phones. There are potholes 6 inches deep hidden in the grass, and I almost twist my ankle 3 or 4 times. I jump over another drainage ditch on the other side, and run down the parkway to the phones.

I get on the phone with AAA, and they tell me "We're not allowed to tow from the Turnpike, it's a weird Jersey law. Get towed to a local road, and then we can help you," and they transfer me to a dispatcher from the NJ Turnpike Authority. "Wait right at the payphone," the dispatcher says. "We'll have a truck there ASAP." "Sure thing," I say. And I proceed to wait. And wait. And wait. During this interlude, I call my old man; it's his car after all. After hearing the story thus far, he assures me that it's OK to drive on 4 lug bolts. It's now about 7:30.

Finally, I see the tow truck pull up: on the highway, next to my car, across the median. "Shit," I mutter, "He must have misunderstood the dispatcher," and I take off running up the Parkway, leaping the shit-filled ditch, across the no man's land, over the other shit-filled ditch... and get there just as the guy's pulling away. What's that movie that ends with the protagonist helplessly watches everything go up in smoke around him and yells "Nooooooooooooooooooooo"? That's what I was doing, waving my arms as the truck drove off into the night.

WOOSH! WOOSH! WOOSH! I've decided to make the best of a bad situation, and I’m trying to change the flat again. I am back to being hunched over. My knees and back are aching; I feel like an old man, where's my sweat-stained back brace and pack of unflitered Pall Malls? Again, I'm maybe 10 feet away from those tractor trailers, and convinced I'm going to die. The car is jacked up for the third time this evening, the bolts are off, and now... the wheel won't budge. The damn thing refuses to come off! I'm kicking the tire, pulling on it, and it is stuck fast. I’m also scared to kick too hard because I might end up falling backwards into oncoming traffic. WHOOSH!

See the monkey man run, what a funny monkey! Watch him jump back over the drainage ditch, make his way across the median filled with broken glass and sharp rusty metal and treacherous ankle-twisting holes, jump the second drainage ditch filled with shitty dirt water and dial the dispatcher again. Now it's about 9:00 PM.
"Yeah, we sent that truck! Where the hell were you?" the guy on the other end barks. "You don't understand," I say, "I was waiting here and he pulled up at my car! I thought there was a mix-up, so I ran over as fast as I could and he was driving aw---" As the words came out of my mouth, I looked up and saw the tow truck was back by my car, AGAIN. "Fuck! He's there now. TELL HIM NOT TO LEAVE, TELL HIM NOT TO LEAVE, I'M RUNNIN’ OVER THERE NOW," I yell, as I drop the phone, and start running up the Parkway, wind in my hair like Heathcliff on the moors. Heathcliff of the polluted plains of Perth Amboy, vaulting the ditch, dashing through the field of trash and holes, back over the other ditch, booking down the Turnpike, WOOOSH WOOSH WOOSH go the 18-wheelers, I get to the car, gasping for air. "I'm I'm I'm suh... suh.. sorry you had to [cough wheeze] come out a [cough] second time."

The tow guy is a dumpy old man with bifocals and a smoke permanently lodged in the corner of his mouth. He looks at me with a scowl that he's probably worn since he got home from Korea and grunts, "I went to that phone booth. Youse wasn't there." He had a deep South Jersey accent. Ay wenna det foon boot. Yuz wudden dere. I try to explain the mix-up with the dispatcher and he grunts (it soon becomes apparent the man speaks only in grunts) "Yeah well, I'm not the one paying twice..." So we get the car hoisted up onto the tow truck and head off to Perth Amboy. $67.00 for the tow, I can deal with this. On the way to the garage, Grumbles the Towman kind of gets the idea that I'm just a normal schlub, and doesn't charge me twice. He may be grumbly, but he's alright. He knows I'm pretty well fucked.

At the tow yard, I call AAA for tire service. Turns out that even though my parents have AAA, and I'm using their car, if i want roadside assistance, I have to become a AAA member. To the tune of $65.00. The commercial rate for roadside is even more expensive, so now even though I don't own a car, even though I drive maybe twice a month, I am now a AAA member. While I'm waiting for their roadside assistance team to show up, I have my first meal since noon. It’s a shitty piece of pizza that costs too much and is served to me by a morbidly obese man with hair as greasy as his skin who perspires plentifully. "Dallah twenny-five" he snarls at me. As I raise the slab to my lips, I notice the dirty grey pizza flour all over his shirt and hands.

At about 10:30, the AAA guy who shows up is about 6'5", and has the craziest bowl cut I have ever seen. How crazy? I shit you not, the space between his hairline and the top of his ears is about 2 inches. He looks like Kramer from Seinfeld, if Kramer was a refugee from Mayberry. Nice guy, with a thicker New Jersey accent than the tow operator. I don’t think I ever got his name. Every other word out of his mouth is "fuck" or a variation therof.
"Yeah so what the fuck's wrong with your fuckin' car?" Yih, sew woth th’ fawk’s wrong with yer fawking cor? "Oh yeah, the fucking tire, huh, fuck that's a fucking bitch. Yeah those fuckin' bolts get all fuckin' hot and then they just snap right the fuck off. Aww yeah, the fuckin' hub'll fuckin' rust right the fuck onto the fuckin' wheel, that's why you couldn't get it the fuck off. Here, I'll get it," and the guy basically does a flying karate kick at the tire. Ka-ping! The wheel pops right off. Spare gets put on, and the guy leads me to a less used highway so I won't get creamed puttering along with this little donut spare. (Along with the good jacks, that same CEO back in 1980 decided it would be best to get rid of full-size spares as well. That man needs to be shot.)

I got home at about 12:30, and immediately began drinking beers. Called up my job, told them I'd be late in the morning. Went to bed. So no, there's no moral to this story that I can think about. When it rains it pours I guess? I'm just glad the shit didn't hit the fan when I was in the Lincoln tunnel.

Hello, I Must Be Going

Hello, I Must Be Going

I have long considered myself a "recovering Catholic", but upon reading this I have decided that tonight, before I lay my head down to sleep, I will return to the faith and work the shine off a set of rosary beads in the hope of providing my poor, dear friend with the holy eternal reward he so richly deserves for enduring such extremes of humanity. I know I will need to re-read this at least two more times to fully process this. Holy fuck, man!
Tim Kelly

-----Original Message-----

I just got back from Bluegrass in the Catskills, or as it should have been called, Bluegrass in a Weird David Lynch Movie. The event was sort of sparsely attended; it took place at the Nevele Grande hotel in the Catskills, once the premier Jewish resort, taken over by the mob in the 70s and now a low-level money laundering operation. The whole event drew maybe 200 people tops, and most were twice my age.

The food: disgusting. As a 60-year old man in an oversized baseball cap put it to me (in a deep Texas drawl that was nearly unintelligible) after a disgusting piece of fish was served, "That fish tasted like they took it out of the freezer, thawed it out till it was room tem-ture through n through, then re-froze it and re-thawed it 'fore servin it. Ah though ah's gonna get sick I et that." The prime rib was not prime at all; a mere 1/4" thick, it was more brown than pink and was definitely not tender enough to cut with a fork. It was probably British beef too; mobsters are always good about saving a buck even if it DOES mean giving their guests a healthy dose of Mad Cow Disease. In some ways I was lucky; I'm vegetarian by choice but can eat
meat if I have to (like this weekend). My bandmate Jennie Benford, who can't digest any form of meat, was forced tolive on the "vegetable of the day," which was invariably canned peas/carrots/green beans mixture.

The staff: frightening low-level mobsters. The maitre d' stood about 6' 5" at least and looked like a lowland gorilla dressed up like a 50-year old man: same posture, same gait as Mighty Joe Young. I watched two waiters come to the blody verge of a fistfight when another ran out yelling in heavily accented English, "Nut in frrront of zee guests, nut in frrront of zee guests!" I'm convinced the entire waitstaff had served time at Rikers at one point or another; for all I know that prime rib was really someone they wacked. Surely at least one was carrying a shiv, probably the guy that looked like the bastard offspring of Ricardo Montablan and Scarface.

Our debut show at the Nevele began around 8 PM for a crowd of maybe 10 geriatrics who acted as if death were a step away. the room was the "Harlequin Lounge," done up in deep synthetic maroon velvet that hadn't been updated since probably the late 60s. The tables in the lounge were a deep pink, and on each table there was a print of a court jester sitting Ghandhi-style playing with festive candy-striped ribbons. Each court jester print had a face remarkably similar to that of Richard Nixon. The walls of the room were lined with decaying harlequin statues ranging in size from 2' tall to about my height, 5' 7". Made of plaster of paris, most were missing noses or fingers, and the finger that seemed most like to remain was the middle finger. Everywhere I looked, I was being flipped the bird by court jesters with chalky white faces and painted-on eyes that were chipping off. I couldn't help but fantasize that they came to life late at night and quietly murdered guests.

The rest of the time, we played in the Fantasy Nightclub, which would have been more aptly titled the "Addressing a U. N. Committee Nightclub" since that seemed to be the architect's vision for the seating layout.

The pool was filled with a mix of 90% chlorine bleach, 10% water, and after a lap across, thought I had permanently damaged my eyes because all the liquid under my corneas had dried up. At one point I looked at the kid who was the lifeguard (of sorts, although I doubt he was certified by anyone other than his Uncle Tony) and said "Jesus, is the pool chlorinated enough," to which he responded by getting out of the pool, pointing at his brown shorts and saying "I'm not exagerating. These were black YESTERDAY."

The overall decor at the Nevele was cheesy 60's nouveau riche; once luxurious shag carpets with stains all over them, ugly brass and fake crystal chandeliers, bad impresionisst paintings of the great outdoors that would have made Bob Ross (the late pot-smoking afro-ed PBS painter who would say things like "Here's a happy little tree") cringe with embarassment. The room numbering was completely INSANE: 101, 102, 103, 405, 769, 8. It all seemed so random, until one of the other performers told me that when the place was an active mob hangout, the room numbers were deliberately disordered so the police would be hard pressed to break up gambling parties or find illegally gotten goods stashed away. And the rooms themselves were also tweaked: for instance, the hot and cold water were on the wrong sides of the faucet. The heat had been off for so long that when the room finally warmed up, long dormant flies and ladybugs began buzzing around.

We met a truly great band: if you hear they are playing in your area, go see The Karl Shiflett and Big Country Show (sorry, no link yet). They are probably the best bluegrass band I have ever seen in the past 5 years. In comparison to Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops, who I was playing with at the time, Shifflett and co outdressed us, outplayed us, and put on the best show ever. They're the kind of band that makes abluegrass fan go f-ing nuts and makes a nonbluegrass fan into a bluegrass fan. And they are even bigger bluegrass nazis than I am, if you can believe that.

A man of about 50 cornered me at our sales table; he hadn't yet bought new clothes to fit his pudgy middle-aged frame, and his buttons were about to burst. The conversation that ensued began with bluegrass, and then he made an abrupt exit onto the "Doesn't Have Anything to Do with Anything Highway."

"Y'know, this coffee is terrible. It wasn't hard for me to quit coffee because the Chockful of Nuts store downstairs from my office closed years ago and that's where i used to get all my coffee because they were the only ones who didn't make it too strong or too light but just right and they knew how much cream and sugar I liked and everyone used to go down there at least 3 times a day but not me, I'd only go down once a day because they knew how to make my coffee right, not too dark or too heavy but then when they closed it was easy to quit because I really didn't drink too much to begin with." At first I thought he was just lonely, but during another band's set, I watched him talking to his wife incessantly while she actively ignored him.

Then there were the Grillbillies, a unique Northeast phenomenon. The Grillbillies are basically 40s-ish hippies, and their kids. they go to bluegrass festivals year round, and seem to spend most of their time going to bluegrass festivals, getting drunk and eating. [In the interest of disclosure: I am counted as a Grillbilly myself, and regardless of the insanity, they are wonderful people. My first experience with them was actually at a festival 2 years before, when I wandered into their campsite at 3:00 AM as drunk as I have ever been. I heard a voice from the darkness that said, "Buddy, you look drunk. Some food'll sober you up. If you look in that pot on the table, you'll find fresh crab legs." "Crvaaaaabbbb," I gurgled and shuffled over and began gorging on crustacean.] The head Grillbilly at the Nevele was a stocky and gregarious guy named Matty, who had a beautifully cared for jet black mullet and was getting by on about 3 hours of sleep a night. "I'm one of those 'crazy partiers'," he told us (which made us all cringe initially; there is nothing worse than someone who titles themselves "kooky" or "crazy." To Matty's credit, his self-proclaimed kookiness is an accurate description. Matty knows how to party). "I've been getting by on so little sleep by taking a cold shower every 3-4 hours and constantly changing my clothes."

At one point, I watched the Grillbillies host a thong-race in the Nevelle's abandoned gymnasium which was also unheated. There were 4 contestants: a morbidly obese woman, her very-hot 19 year old daughter, her very-hot 34 year old daughter, and a man about the size and weight of Hulk Hogan, also sporting a beautiful mullet. The general idea was to race across the gym with your pants around your ankles in a thong. As Hulk Hogan dropped trou (yes he was wearing a thong), the 19 year old pointed out that
you couldn't see the bit of underwear, and tried to tuck in his shirt. "Fuck that," grumbled the Hulkster, and removed his shirt. That's when one of the onlookers (not me, unfortunately) shouted out "Hey, even-stevens. If he's gonna take off his shirt you ladies should too," at which point the 34-year-old let out a whoop and then she was naked, and racing across the gym, boobies jiggling in the frigid air. At som point during the weekend, the Grillbillies have decided we were their new best friends, which is actually a good thing; they may be insane but they're really loyal fans. And they get you really drunk.

Yes, there was something for everyone, from milquetoasty New England bands that would put a speed freak in the middle of a week-long Dexedrine binge to sleep, to super traditional bands that kicked ass, to The Carters, a family band made up of a Dad and his 5 children, who ranged in age from 9 to 19. Ever since we had seen their flyers at a festival Kentucky the previous November, we'd wanted to play with them, mainly because as you can see, in their photo one band member is of indeterminate gender sporting the most beautiful mullet haircut i have EVER seen in my life, waving nobly like a lion's mane in a brisk desert scirocco. We had taped their photo to the wall of our RV and labeled the kid "It Carter". The photo was hypnotic; I traveled many miles silently staring at the promo shot. For a while I though it was just me, until I noticed both Jim and Jennie at various times, staring silently, rapt by the curious face of It Carter.

The 9 year old was like a little Jon Benet Ramsey, running around the stage, dancing, singing, playing fiddle and piano. The
fiddle playing was actually really good, but I couldn't watch-- the idea of trained performing children disturbs me in the same way trained chimps riding bicycles disturb me. Jim told me late they dragged out an electric piano so she could play "The Entertainer" (you know, the theme from The Sting), which she did badly.

The 11 year old daughter looked like Jabba the Hutt, clad in tight leggings, a leather jacket and a hairstyle straight out of 1987. Think Big Hair, then multiply by powers of 10. The photo doesn't do her justice. Her mother later told me her daughter's nickname is "The Pitbull" because of her difficult temperament. They did a bluegrass version of the Smokey Robinson hit "Something Tells Me I'm Into
Something Good." My ears told me I was hearing something bad.

IT turned out to be a 13 year old boy named Frank, and he'd apparently been offered a 2 million dollar deal (I can't remember the exact amount) because of his guitar playing, and he'd turned it down because "he didn't want to go that
route." By the time we met him, he'd gotten a much better haircut.

Nonetheless, i made friends with the 19-year-old and the 17 year-old daughters who were obviously bored and itching to get away from their old man (also they were nice to look at, but that's gettng into scary pedo-territory, so I'll leave that be. They're of age now, so i don't ned to feel like a "Barely Legal" reader anymore). Their music was terrible; their sense of fashion was awesome. The daughters wore matching scarlet bellbottom jeans, leather jackets, and chunk heel boots. If you have seen my former band, than you probably know the all-purpose "fuck you" pout Jennie gets on her face on stage sometimes when she's playing mandolin. The mando-playing daughter wore that expression THE WHOLE SET. She actually turned out to be really cool for a teenager, and her facial expression really did kinda sum up her whole attitude.
The Shifletts wanted to kill them for being so lame. So I brought them up to the Shiflett's room to pick with the rest of us. The result was not pretty, but was very funny; let's just say the Shiflett's mandolin player was less than impressed with a 13 year old guitar player who felt he he had to play EVERY SINGLE NOTE HE KNEW AS FAST AS HE COULD PLAY 'EM. Bluegrass fans, think Tony Rice on amphetamines with the attendant bad taste. Eventually the Carters packed up their instruments and left the Shifflett's suiter for bed, and no sooner had the door shut when the Shifflett's mandolin player piped up "Mah God, Ah'm glad they left when they did. Ah don't think I coulda stood another second of that awful TONY RICE BULLSHIT.
I could go on, and probably will sometime in the future; these paragraphs
simply can't do justice to the freakshow that took up 5 days of my life.
Despite all the weirdness (or perhaps because of it) I had a simply
wonderful, if exhausting, time. A few of you all have experienced the
unique subculture of the bluegrass festival before (Claiborne); for the rest

of you, I hope I have provided a little window into a hitherto unexplored



Back in November 1998, I was in an awful way; in May, my girlfriend of 5 years fucked me over as cruelly as can be; I walked in and caught her with another guy; it’s a story that’s been repeated more times than I can count in country songs from Chattanooga to California.
It’s November in one of those tiny New England towns where everyone knows each other, a town so small that I can’t round a corner without seeing my ex flouncing around with her new man, making me feel like the sort of sad sack you hear about in a George Jones or Merle Haggard song. I’d gone to a local dive called the Bay State Hotel to see the band my housemate Jennie’s then-boyfriend played in. The minute we entered, this really animated gal walked up to Jennie and started talking a mile-a-minute. From across the room, I could see that she was kinda cute, but maybe a little chunky. Besides, I was more interested in bellying up to the bar and getting some beer and a bourbon. It's wintertime in northwestern New England and the snow gets pretty bad there, so you bundle up in layer after layer. Chunky means nothing. The hottest girl in town is chunky. Everyone looks chunky, even me.
At some point, the girl notices me and comes over. Beginning with a “Hi, I’m Rachel,” she starts laying the same rapid-fire conversation on me, and a couple of things come to mind: #1, Wow this chick's really funny and completely out of her mind; #2, This chick wants to get laid; and most ominously #3, I’m missing something here; something's not right. I don’t have too much time to ponder these considerations because the show is starting, and I go into the back room to hear some music and shoot the shit with my friends.
An hour or so later, the show’s over, and as I’m leaving the bar to go home, Rachel’s waiting there for me.
"Hey man,” she says, “me and Dave (pointing at a mutual friend, who incidentally is covered with a thick mat of black hair) are going to my house for an after hours party! Wanna come drink some beers?"
"I dunno," I say, "Do you have cats? Because I'm really allergic to cats."
"Yeah I do, 3 of ‘em" she says, shrugging.
"Oh yeah, then that’s kind of out of the question. Besides,” I yawned, “I have work tomorrow.”
"Well," she says with a sly grin, and nudges me really hard in the ribs, “here’s an idea. Why don't YOU and ME got to YOUR house and have a party of our own. Get my drift?" Nudge nudge, wink wink. She was actually nudging AND winking. What the fuck was this, Candid Camera?
Immediately, a few conflicting messages jumped into my brain. The left side, which Biology 101 tells us takes care of logic, began muttering, "Dude, something's wrong here. Don't do it." The other side countered with, “Dude! This broad obviously wants you to take her home, and you haven't had any play AT ALL since your ass got dumped back in May! You're all heartbroken and shit, but getting laid might be the ticket out of this mess!" The debate went on, until the left lobe eventually shrugged its shoulders and said, “If you do this, I'm abdicating ALL responsibility. Something's not kosher here, and DAMNED if it’s gonna be my fault." So I look at the gal and say "OK, let's go to my house.
We start trudging through the snow and ice to my place, and I start thinking about work in the morning, and that I don't want to be screwing all night, so I say something like "Look, I've just gotten out of a relationship blah blah whatever happens afterwards, I'm driving you home. I don't wanna share the bed." She's cool with this... We get to my place, and start making out and groping, the whole thing. Sucking face like a couple of lampreys on the staircase, pressed against the wall, falling on the bed, and the buckles clanking as they unbuckle and buttons and snaps on all those winter layers coming open and then her shirt comes out and then off, and the left lobe screams like a goddamn air raid siren, "See I TOLD you something was wrong!!"

She was wearing that stretchy underwear that really obese women wear to hold back a huge nasty gut. Let loose, her skin was the color and texture of lumpy oatmeal, and it wasn’t improved in the stark light of the naked 75 watt bulb that hung from the ceiling. Her belly flopped over the waist of her pants. “Ugggh,” I thought, “leave the apron for the butcher...” It got worse: her breasts were twin bags of flab, sloppily dangling like two great grey pillows, topped by two distended and putty-colored nipples as thick as crayons. In her passion, she pushed my face between these two heaving bags, and the smell of her sweat was nearly overpowering. My erection was rapidly dwindling. I could only imagine the horror between those two jiggling and mealy tree trunk thighs, which is about when she plunged her face in my lap and started sucking my dick, and all the while I'm thinking "Fuck, she's gonna want me to eat her pussy and I DON'T wanna put my head down there, I DON'T wanna put my head down there, I DON'T wanna put my head down there..." On the other hand, what could I do? I had already jumped off the metaphorical cliff, and I was going to either smash into the jagged rocks on the shore, or I was going to pull off some sort of awkward dive into the water. No triple back flips or half-gainers here, we’re talking survival.

Now please keep in mind that I had just gotten my first real job. I was doing advertising, writing "buy this" and “buy that” copy for a variety of clients. And also, please keep in mind that 1998 was one of the glory years for “irony advertising”: the whole atmosphere at the office was a bunch of wiseasses, pushing the limits. It was a never-ending game of the dozens, who could make the most outrageous comment to the boss and get away with it. It was a great job for a person like me: anything anyone said was game for some kind of putdown or wisecrack.

So by this time, I’m panicking, trying to figure out how I'm gonna get out of putting this broad's engorged vagina in my mouth. I can already smell her rapidly-dampening hole, and my bowels are liquifying in terror. Meanwhile she's bobbing and slurping away between my legs, then proceeds to mount me and starts rubbing her crotch on mine, playing with her tits and moaning in a voice just like a dentist’s drill (or if you need a pop culture reference, like Edith Massey from “Pink Flamingos”), "OOOOHH BAAYYYYBEEEE! I'm ready for AAAAANNNYYYTHING!!!!
"Yeah?” I say, "Anything?"
And it just popped out of my mouth, fully-formed, spontaneously: "Oh yeah? Well how about up the ass?"
Rachel lets out a whoop like she won a million bucks at the track, "OOOOHHH YEEEEEAAAAHHHHH! OH YEAH OH YEAH! OH YEAHHHH,” and rolls off me, sticks her face in the pillow and her ass in the air. I rolled my eyes, then grabbed a rubber, wrapped the baloney, and went to town.
Now, I'd never had anal sex before but I had seen my share of it in porno films. Combined with my basic knowledge of human biology, I knew than an anus is a much smaller and less elastic hole than a vagina. I'm no Ron Jeremy, but the girls I've dated tell me I have a decent sized dick. Maybe it’s no full-sized Polska Kielbasa swinging down there, but it’s certainly no Vienna Sausage either. But what I experienced on this cold night in November was as easy as throwing a gherkin in a coffee cup, and this was without lubricant. Either this girl’s asshole was more worn out than an old radiator hose, I thought, or I’ve aimed wrong and I’m just sloshing away in her twat. Either was preferable to cunnilingus.

So there I am, fucking away like a jackrabbit, desperate to get this atrocity over with, and this broad’s moaning and groaning and carrying on, writhing and squirming and thrusting her butt against my pelvis, and finally, FINALLY, I bust a nut, pull out and throw the rubber in the trash. Silence. We laid there in the bed staring at the cracks in the ceiling, and it was quiet for a minute or two except for the sound of our breathing. Then she leans over, gives me a kiss on the cheek and says, in the same dentist drill voice, "We're the two sleaziest people in the WHOLE WORLD!"
"What? Why?" I ask.
"Because you just picked me up at a bar, brought me home and fucked me, and now you're gonna drive me home!"
"Yupper!" I said, and we get dressed, hop into the minivan, and head to her place. Obligatory insincere kiss goodnight, "sure I'll call" etc, and I pull away in the minivan.
By this time it’s about 4 AM and I have to be up at 8:00, and as I drive home, all I can think is “No way did I get her in the ass, no fuckin' way...
And I get home...
And I walk up the stairs to my room...
And I pull the condom out of the trash...
And there...
On the end of the condom...
still wet and glistening...

Post Script: Two weeks later I bumped into Patty, one of my former colleagues from the restaurant I’d last worked at before getting into the ad business. She seemed green and queasy.
“What’s up,” I said, “you look a bit hungover.”
“Oh yeah, and worse,” she said. “You know your friend Dave... with the hairy chest?”
“Uh... yeah?”
“Well, I went to an after hours at his house, except it was just me, him, and that girl Rachel. I’ve just come from the UGLIEST threesome I’ve EVER been in...”

What's New Pussycat

What's New, Pussycat?

I went to a strip bar this weekend in New York called the Pussycat Lounge. It was the first strip bar I've been in since I went to one in Coco Beach Florida, which until Saturday was also the only strip bar I have ever been in.

I forget the name of the one on Coco Beach. It was 1991 and my family had driven down to Florida to hang out during New Year's Eve and to escape the cold in New Haven, where we had just moved and didn't know anybody.

The line between sleazy and low-brow cool in Coco beach is kind of blurry. Once while driving around the backroads, we came upon an all-you-can eat BBQ joint populated only by bikers and other not-so-well-to-do whites. A sign announced that there was a country band inside (this period, by the way, was well before I began to like country or bluegrass), and promised cheap cold beer. All the proceeds went to a little girl in the neighborhood who had cancer. Dad pulled a quick U-turn, and we piled out of the car. My brother missed out on this particular adventure: at 12 he was a classist sonuvabitch and refused to enter the bar saying, "These aren't our kind of people." While he sulked in the car, I walked out to the back where a couple of whole pigs were sizzling away on oil drum cookers. "Where'd ya get the pork?" I asked one of the fellas that was watching the pig. "Shot 'em down by the crik t'other day," mumbled one of them. "There's some already done up inside." So I went in and for $5.00 I got enormous helpings of BBQ pork, macaroni salad, coleslaw, baked beans, corn on the cob and a biscuit. Beer provided, no questions or IDs. This was low-brow cool.

My sister's boyfriend Gordon had come down on this trip as well. Gordon would later end up serving time in the ACI for stabbing someone in a bar fight. When he and my sister broke up, I began referring to him as Stabby the Clown. Gordon was a big blonde guy, about 6'5" and an ex-marine. He liked to drink and, besides the stabbing incident, was in general an OK guy, if a bit dense. One night he suggested we hit the strip bar down the road. I wasn't sure I liked the idea, but figured, why not and went along anyway.
I'm the kind of guy who likes a good bar: a bar with a unique group of people, with a decent selection of beer. The perfect bar is more than just a room to get drunk in: any asshole can do this in the living room. The perfect bar has a certain spirit to it, a certain coziness that makes it like an extension of your home. Perhaps it is a bartender you know, or perhaps it is the way the bar is lit, or perhaps it is the beer they have on tap or the books they have to read. All I know is this place in Coco Beach had none of these things. A tall skinny broad with no clothes on and floppy tits danced around a pole, to loud but dull dance music. I ordered an overpriced Budweiser from the standard BudBudLiteMillerMillerLiteCoorsCoorsLite list of beers. There was no one I wanted to talk to, and nothing to read. So far, this wasn't fun.
Then, a girl with big eyes and a sweet smile came up to me wearing a thong and a satiny teddy thing. I could see the shape of her breasts pushing up underneath the scrap of satin and the thiong was embedded way into the crack of a pretty fuckable ass. I got that familiar stirring in my groin. "Would you like to dance?" she said, looking me in the eye.
"Huh? Oh.. I uh.. I've never been to one of these places before. What do you mean, "dance"?"
The girl pointed across the room. "You know, like them." I looked over, and saw a man about the size of a walrus (a manatee?) wearing a flannel shirt and overalls. His face was bright red and he was wheezing loudly and grunting as he ran his palms over the gyrating ass of a stripper, whose jiggling breasts looked as bored as the rest of her. The man's ample hips were gyrating too, as he masturbated himself against the inside of his coveralls.
"Ummm... no, I think I'm all set," I said. I was embarassed for her and for me. "Gordo, let's get out of here."

Since then, I have had a number of friends tell me how great strip bars are, and how I would enjoy them. I disagree.
It is not that I am a prude. God knows I download more than my share of hardcore pornography. I have been known on occasion to visit a 25-cent video booth. The last four years of singlehood were not spent in a monastery. I have been in any number of weird sex situations. In other words, I have a penis and it gets a lot of use! My problem is more than just that I find the whole endeavor to be an exercise in sexism (and patriarchy if you really want to start calling up the ghosts of a liberal arts education): I think I would be more comfortable at a live sex show, where both man and woman are degraded and objectified equally. No, it's that... well, there's something a bit too gay for me about sitting in a room with a bunch of other men having a communal hardon, that I can do nothing to relieve.
Which brings me at long last to the Pussycat Lounge. I was in New York because I had band practice, and after practice, our drummer was headed off to his other gig. "Let's go see Jamie's band," said my friend/ guitar player Izzy. "You're gonna love this place. It's a strip bar!"
"I don't know," I said. "I'm not really into that whole lap-dance thing. And that whole communal boner thing kind of freaks me out."
"No, no, this is different," Izzy assured me. "It's more like an old-fashioned cabaret, I guess. There's no touching or anything like that, and the girls dance behind the bar on a stage. Guaranteed, you'll have a good time." So, despite warnings that I would almost certainly be leaving the Pussycat Lounge before he was ready to, Izzy insisted that I drive us into Manhattan, and we threaded our way into the financial district.
The Pussycat is a large room with mirrored ceilings and walls, done up with red Christmas lights that give it that "carnal" atmosphere. On stage behind the bar, a half dozen young gals were dancing topless. Some of them were pretty hot, with nice breasts bouncing and swinging around lazily through the cigarette smoke. I ordered a beer: it was a 12 ounce bottle of Heineken and it cost $7.00. "How long until you play?" I asked Jamie, who had appeared behind me. I like to drink, and at $7.00 a pop for sour imported beer, this was an expensive bar.
"Probably another 2 hours or so," Jamie said. "Dude, I gotta tellya, this bar isn't as good as one in Montreal. This one I went to in Montreal, you could actually have sex, in the bar with the dancers! Isn't that insane? Or what, you don't like strip bars or something?" he added, as I made a face.
"Nah.. I'm not into the whole strip scene. And the idea of paying for sex.. that just doesn't do it for me."
I took another sip from my $7.00 heineken. Every 20 minutes or so, a girl would climb down from the stage and mingle with the customers,while a new one took her place and commenced wiggling. I watched a new girl climbed up and as she got naked, I realized that she was practically a dead ringer for my girlfriend and I started laughing. "Now look at this chick," I said to Izzy, pointing. "What am I wasting time here for, all this makes me want to do is go home and have sex with my girl."
"Don't look, don't look," Izzy said. "It'll only rile you up. The worst thing you can do is look at these girls, it'll drive you nuts."
That was about the last straw. I tipped my bottle at my friends. "Guys, I'm outta here."
"But you've only been here 20 minutes," complained Izzy. "Jamie's not playing for a couple of hours."
"Yeah, leaving me paying exorbitant prices for beer as part of the privilege of ogling a bunch of half-naked women that you're telling me not to look at anyway. No thanks."
A half hour later, I was back in Brooklyn, at a little joint called Hank's, listening to a clumsy and half-drunk band play old time country songs. I took a long swallow off my $4.00 pint of the pride of San Francisco, Anchor Steam, and absorbed the music, the cigarette smoke, the stink, and the guys making time with real girls who, with a little luck, they'd take home and screw. This is real life. This is a real bar. These are my kind of people.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Benefit for Katrina Survivors, North Star Bar, Philadelphia 9/20/05

As announced by Somegirl and Frenchy L'Amour on the All Spin Zone

Real Guitar Pickers Hold Benefit for Katrina in Philly

Like Nero with his fiddle, Bush pretended to play guitar while New Orleans drowned.

Here in Philadelphia, REAL guitar pickers joined with promoters and club-owners by putting together a citywide benefit to benefit the victims.

The one venue I've been hearing about most is the North Star Bar, 28th and Poplar (mainly cus Frenchy L'Amour keeps nagging at me). But guess what, it's a really kick ass line-up: Adam Brodsky, Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, Frog Holler, Marah, and Paul Edelman & the Jangling Sparrows. It's only 12 bucks, and all of the money goes to Katrina relief, with beneficiaries you can feel good about, including Noah's Wish, Habitat for Humanity and MusicCares.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

George Bush is No Dale Carnegie

Call me a dumbass, call me a simpleton, but when your country is dependent on foreign oil, is it really a good idea antagonize the country that's the number 3 supplier of oil? The country that's donating 300,000 barrels of gasoline in the wake of Hurrican Katrina?

I don't think so. And that's why I get worried when I read transcripts like this:

The only time that I have said where Venezuela would not supply oil to the United States, it was no threat. It's rather to respond to a threat, the threat of invasion. We have obtained evidence of something which would be absolutely foolhardy, the invasion of Venezuela. That's where we said that under those circumstances…

KOPPEL: Let me stop you.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):… there would be no oil.

KOPPEL: Are you saying you have discovered evidence of an invasion plan against Venezuela or are you saying "if" you discovered a plan?

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):I'm telling you that I have evidence that there are plans to invade Venezuela. Furthermore, we have documentation: how many bombers to overfly Venezuela on the day of the invasion, how many trans-Atlantic carriers, how many aircraft carriers need to be sent to (inaudible) even during (inaudible).

Recently, an aircraft carrier went to Curacao (inaudible) the fact that the soldiers were on leave.

That's a lie. They were doing movements. They were doing maneuvers. All on documentation. The plan is called Balboa, where Venezuela is indicated as an objective.

And in the face of that scenario, I said that if that actually happens, the United States should just forget the million and a half barrels of oil. Because everyday since I've been in power for seven years, we haven't missed it even one single day — just one day, when we were overthrown. We were overthrown by that coup — oil sabotage — which was supported by Washington…

KOPPEL: If I may, Mr. President, you say you have documentation of this plan. Can I ask you now, on camera, will you make that documentation available to me?

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):I can send to you — I can't send it all, but I can make sure I can send part of it to you. I can send it to you.

KOPPEL: Please.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):I can send you maps and everything, and you can show it to the United States citizens. What I can't tell you his how we got it, to protect the sources, how we got it through military intelligence.

But nobody can deny it, because (inaudible) the Balboa plan. We are coming up with the counter-Balboa plan. That is to say if the government of the United States attempts to commit the foolhardy enterprise of attacking us, it would be embarked on a 100-year war. We are prepared.

They would not manage to control Venezuela, the same way they haven't been able to control Iraq. (inaudible) Venezuela, my impression is that there would be a movement of a resistance in other parts of this continent. Oil could reach $100 or $120 a barrel, among other things.
(boldface emphases mine)

Read the full transcript here.

This is why I say, "George Bush, you are no Dale Carnegie."

Friday, September 16, 2005

LTE, 9/16, Philadelphia Daily News

While the President acknowledged that "[T]he system, at every level of government, was not well coordinated and was overwhelmed in the first few days" two important words were left out.

When the president referred to "citizens left stunned and uprooted, searching for loved ones, and grieving for the dead and looking for meaning in a tragedy that seems so blind and random", he never once mentioned his own failure to lead. He spoke of "fellow Americans calling out for food and water, vulnerable people left at the mercy of criminals who had no mercy, and the bodies of the dead lying uncovered and untended in the street", but never once said who it was that left them there.

In short, this President never said the two most important words of all: "I'm sorry."

Brendan Skwire

LTE, 9/16/2005, Philadelphia Inquirer

To the Editor:

On Thursday night, President Bush said "This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We are going to review every action and make necessary changes."

Can anyone take Mr. Bush's promise seriously? One of the characteristics of this administration has been to fill key positions with political cronies, exemplified by the incompetent Michael Brown. Who did he choose to lead the New Orleans reconstruction? None other than Karl Rove, who has no experience at all in the field of reconstruction, but plenty in the art media manipulation and political whitewash. Who got the no-bid contract to rebuild the city? The usual suspects who shortchanged our troops in Iraq: Halliburton and Bechtel.

How will all of this be paid for? Typically, Bush didn't say.

Maybe the administration will "learn the lessons", but I'm not holding my breath. Bush's speech was too little, too late, and more of the same old platitudes we've been hearing for the past four years.

Brendan Skwire
More good stuff at Philly Bits

Thursday, September 15, 2005


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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mr. Snarky Pants

My brother, sent me an email to alert me to the fact that the pig who publishes Blonde Sagacity called me a liar. I hesitate to respond, considering how many other things require my attention and concentration, but this can't go unanswered. No one calls me a liar without justification.

ALa, you ignorant slut:

Over the weekend, a post from a lefty Philly blog was brought to my attention. The author is a snarky little man that has emailed me crappy letters in the past, and because of that I really didn't put much thought into the post (it's actually flattering as I seem to be the main fodder for his blog). Last night I thought about what he wrote and it began to bother me because it was DEAD WRONG. We'll call the author Mr. Snarky Pants.
Here is what he wrote:

"[ALa's] site is a miasma of what can only be described as military porn, photos of soldiers with enormous guns, each labeled "In the Sandbox" as if the War in Iraq, responsible thus far for over 1700 US deaths (possibly more), untold US casualties, and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis who were guilty of nothing, was nothing more than children at play."

Do you see the problem? At first I was annoyed thinking that he loved misleading his readers into thinking that I am some war-mongering Republican that thinks war is some big, fun game and doesn't take death seriously.

Then something hit me. Philly isn't a military town. I am sure that the majority of people that live here don't personally know anyone that was deployed or is currently deployed. They get all their news about the war from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the NYT and CNN, not from those that are fighting it. They think the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen are carrying out an unjust war and murdering how would this guy know that I was not the originator of the word "Sandbox" and this is a nickname given by the troops he claims I don't care about? How would he have any idea that "The Sandbox" is Iraq and "The Stan" is Afghanistan? He is most likely confused at abbreviations too, so for his benefit: OIF is Operation Iraqi Freedom. OEF is Operation Enduring Freedom. MSM is mainstream media.

So, I guess Mr. Snarky pants isn't really a liar. He is just a VERY uninformed blogger.

...Ok, I feel better now.

Before I issue my rebuttal, I would like to point out that this cow didn't even have the class to tell me she was going to write about me. She just put it up on her blog, slandering me and misrepresenting my writing. I learned about this second hand. Bitch, you want to talk shit say it to my fucking face.

Point by point rebuttal for the skank:

it's actually flattering as I seem to be the main fodder for his blog

Umm, sadly no. The stupid cunt hasn't been featured on this blog since the initial altercation back on July 20, which I will remind you she started by invading Richard Cranium's allspinzone and starting fights with regular posters. My posts since then have dealt with: the Bags; my kid; the Fleshtones; reprints of letters to the editor; personal depression; Cindy Sheehan; Gene Stoneman; Hal Rugg; country music; Vasser Clements; Clint Black; Katherine Harris's bodacious tatas; my breakup with my girlfriend; tattoos; the Jangling Sparrows; Kenn Kweder; more on my kid; falafel-induced farting; New orleans; the deathof Gilligan, which made me sad, and the death of Rehnquist, which made me happy; and my parents. The stupid cunt hasn't been brought up because... well, because I don't visit her stupid site. "Flattering"? HAH! Don't flatter yourself, toots.

At first I was annoyed thinking that he loved misleading his readers into thinking that I am some war-mongering Republican that thinks war is some big, fun game and doesn't take death seriously.

When you refer to a war theatre as a "sandbox", one could get that impression.

so how would this guy know that I was not the originator of the word "Sandbox" and this is a nickname given by the troops he claims I don't care about?

Nowhere in anything I wrote in my exchanges with Piggy do I make any such claim: I have never once said she doesn't care about the troops. So don't call ME a liar, LIAR.

If "the sandbox" is how our troops overseas refer to the battleground in the desert, that is certainly their right, and I'm not one to question it. What I DO question is the integrity of someone of sound mind and body, who is military age and supports the war, but doesn't sign up to fight it. Especially when the military is having trouble recruiting. "There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend."

So sure, if it makes you feel like a real soldier when you call the war in Iraq "the sandbox", or the war in Afghanistan "the stan" be my guest. For that matter, you can call pizza "za" if you'd like; it still doesn't trump the fact that you personally haven't signed up, nor does it trump the fact that you actually get offended when someone suggests you do, cus you're sending Tasty-Kakes. Oooh, there's a contribution. You support the war? Prove it, you fucking coward.

OIF is Operation Iraqi Freedom. OEF is Operation Enduring Freedom. MSM is mainstream media.

GFY is "Go Fuck Yourself". STFU is "Shut The Fuck Up". I know some other acronyms too.

To recap:

You are not "the main fodder" for my blog. Your bullshit was the topic of one email post three months ago. I don't even KNOW you, you stupid cunt.

I am not "misleading" my readers into believing anything about you: the article, 3 months old at this point, that you are complaining about DIDN'T EVEN LINK TO YOUR STUPID, POORLY WRITTEN BLOG. AND NEITHER DOES THIS ONE.

I never claimed that you, or anyone else, doesn't care about the troops. It is YOU that is the LIAR, not me.

Finally, you STILL need to get a copy of Strunk and White's "Elements of Style." It is a fantastic resource for all writers, and I do not know anyone who doesn't have a copy on their bookshelf. My brother picked up a used copy for $8.00, and his writing has improved vastly.

Now go fuck off, you stupid stupid bitch. And if your stupid friends come here to leave nasty comments, I'll just delete them unread anyway, so please don't bother.

Monday, September 12, 2005


so tired.
just damn tired.

More Sam

I'll be doing some writing sometime today.
For now, here are some more pictures of Sam. He's gonna kick my ass when he get to age 13 and sees all the naked baby pictures I've put up here, but c'est la vie...

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sam Has a Bath

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Giant Sam in Summer

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Friday, September 09, 2005

"Would Monsieur like some more bullshit? Of course he would..."

One of the sticking points between Melissa and me are the holidays. We are trying to arrange it so we split the holidays so I can have Sam for some of them, and she can have him for others. This year it is my turn top have Sam for Christmas, but the scheduling is not so hot. Melissa is reluctant to ask her folks to drive him halfway to Philadelphia on the December 23rd, when she is going to be on a layover here on her way to track training camp on the 26th. I was worried that my mom was going to be upset about this: she doesn't care about baby Jesus or anything like that, but she loves opening presents and the whole family thing. So I was arguing with Melissa all last week about this. "It's our turn. We've agreed on that." "Yes, but it's inconvenient for my folks and a waste of money when I'll just be there the day after." And so on and so forth.

Personally, I could give a shit whether he's here on the 23rd or the 26th. I literally do not give a fuck when Sam comes down, I'll be happy either way. And so I was heartened when my father mentioned to me yesterday that Christmas wasn't as important to Mom anymore as it was in the past, and if it was easier for Melissa to bring Sam on the 26th, that would probably be OK.

Well, he was wrong.

When I called my mother, not an hour ago, she flipped out about Christmas. The whole fucking 9 yards. The first time I hung up on her, it was after a series of vindictive comments about Melissa's selfishness, how selfish her parents were, they get everything and we get nothing. The second time it was because of the bitter crying. I am normally sympathetic to my mom crying, but right now I'm just pissed off. This kind of behavior is just not helpful to me, especially when Melissa and I are working so hard to come up with a schedule for Sam that we can both live with, and to be a team for Sam even if we're not a couple anymore. It is incredibly difficult.

Melissa, I stand amazed: you and I are the ones who should be at each other's throats and we're acting like sane, rational adults I'd say 90% of the time, if not more than that.

If you want to know why I get so upset about things sometimes, it is because I get it from both ends. "Both ends", HAH: at this point, I'm getting it in every orifice I have, especially my ear. If it's not disagreements with you, it's worry about Sam. If I'm not worrying about Sam, I'm missing him. You're mad at me, I'm mad at you, my parents are behaving like hysterics, and your parents hate my guts. I swear to God, it makes me want to sell my house and move to Gilligan's frikkin' Island. "No phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury/ Like Robinson Crusoe, as primitive as can be." Too bad Gilligan's dead.

Frankly, I give up. The only reason I wanted him down before Christmas was to make my mom happy. I told my dad if they want him so bad for the holiday, then
THEY should take it up with Melissa's parents, preferably a discussion between the two grandfathers. They're both level-headed and rational, and maybe they can forge a compromise. The Grandmas seem to be incapable of taking the high road.

My plate is too full of bullshit to carry water for anyone else's agenda other than my own anymore. Why should Melissa and I have to suffer because of our parents' intractibility?

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Two Poems for Falafel

I wrote a poem about the falafel sandwich I ate for dinner last night at a place call Maoz Vegetarian before the bad gig:

Last night I ate falafel,
This morning I feel awful:
My guts are tied in knots,
you can bet I've got the trots.

If you are eating breakfast,
I hope this does not spoil it,
But it's just 11:30
And I've made 4 trips to the toilet.

Up and down, up and down
nothing getting done.
I would write a little more,
but now I have to run.

Amy sent me one in response:

I too am taut with bloating!
This broad's no more promoting
Maoz falafel. Why? It's gassy.
It's not fit, nor pert, nor sassy!

I have hid mine gas
beneath the sheets upon my lover's bed.
But when he gets in, oh what a wind!
descends upon his head.

Oh, poo.

Society Hill Play Outhouse

Last night, I played one of the lamest gigs ever, at the Society Hill Playhouse in Philadelphia.

Last year, Paul played an open mic that turned out to be a contest, which he unexpectedly won. The prize was a gig at the Playhouse: any night he wanted, promotions would be taken care of.

Originally, the gig was planned as a solo acoustic night, just Paul and his guitar, but as the date approached (and was put off, and rescheduled) the booker decided he wanted the whole band. As of last week, I knew we had to be there by 8:30 to load in our equipment.

I will not go into great detail about the typical clusterfuck that surrounds getting The Jangling Sparrows to where we're supposed to be at the time we're supposed to be there. Let's just leave it at this: nobody in this band has any sense of time, and half the band doesn't know how to read a map.

Amy, who sings harmony, plays rhythm guitar, and drives a pickup truck, arrived at my house on time, and together we loaded out about 300 pounds of amplifier and guitars. For once we got to the venue on time, but when we arrived the Playhouse told us we were too early and to come back later.

This is how the night wound up: the Jangling Sparrows were promised free publicity and promotion: there was none, and therefore there was no audience. AT ALL. The venue refused to comp us any beer. We had to pay $4.00 a bottle for our choice of Rolling Rock, Coors Light, Yuengling, and Yuengling Light.

The show was The Jangling Sparrows were supposed to start at 9:30; instead, the first band went on at 10:30. We went on at 11:30. Ten minutes into the first band's set, they closed the bar. Then, halfway through the first band's 45 minute-set, the management locked the front doors.

"No one's coming in anyway," the manager told me. "If you step outside, make sure someone watches the door, because you'll be locked out." This was irritating enough, but worse was that the first band SUCKED. Sucked like a Shop-vac: it was a girl who sand and played electric guitar backed by a guy on a djembe. Every sing song sounded like a variation on Stevie Wonder's "Too High" from Inner Visions. Nothing against Stevie, but when all your songs sound like that, I'm heading for the door. Except in this case I couldn't.

So here we were, trapped in an empty theatre, forced to listen to endure a lousy band, so we could have our opportunity to play for nobody, with no beer. Oh, and we didn't get paid. On the other hand, Menopause, The Musical ("Men Love It Too!") was playing upstairs. Who can argue with that?

Society Hill Shithouse, I will never walk through your doors again.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


The oddest coincidence happened last night earlier this week last month at Drinking Liberally at Tangiers, 18th and Lombard, Philadelphia.

I was sitting at outside with Susie Madrak the Suburban Guerilla, Wendy from The All Spin Zone and a few others when Kenn Kweder came up in the conversation.

For those of you who don't know, Kenn is a living legend here in Philadelphia, a folk/rock singer songwriter without parallel. Like so many other musicians, his star never rose as high as it should have, but in my book Kenn is a performer and writer on a par with Bruce Springsteen or Leonard Cohen. Songs like "Pandemonium Scare", "What Am I Talking About", "Heroin," "January/February", and "Suicide" are some of the most powerful songs I have ever heard. On balance, the man writes some of the funniest singalongs I have ever heard as well, reflected in the favorites like "Speed Freak" and "The Ballad of Manute Bol," which ESPN used recently in a special presentation about the basketball star.

Who’s that man over there who’s so incredibly tall?
Who’s that man who can block the shots as high as city hall?
Who’s that man when he enters a game the other team goes outta control?
Who’s the greatest basketball player in the game of basketball?

Manute, Manute J. Bol
Oh, Manute! Manute J. Bol
Oh, Manute! Manute J. Bol
Oh, Manute! Manute J. Bol

Seven foot one? No
Seven foot two? No
Seven foot three? No
Seven foot four? No
Seven foot five? No
Seven foot six? Almost
Seven foot seven? Yeah!

Aww, fuck it, I'm just going to post another whole lyric and encourage any of you reading this to go buy the Kwederology 3 cd retrospective. These are songs going back at least 20 years, probably more. One of the best non-bluegrass or metal albums I've ever bought, and it comes with a 2-volume songbook.


The way that he laughed
Made you want to toss his coins
Flip his coins
Hold his coins
The way that he threw
His life at you
Made you want to join
You want to join?
It's for free.
So why don't we ask him,
Yeah why don't we ask him?
Why don't we all do a song,
An old melody that I learned
Off the telephone?
I heard he drives
On cop car courses,
Testing against legitimate
Surrounding forces.
Forcing the good.
Right out of the bad
And collecting all the resources.
Madonnas are standing in line
In the vestibules
Hoping, waiting, cursing
For a little glimpse.
Lieutenants are shackled
To the schools in Brooklyn
But none of it amounts
To that much sense.
The state of affairs
Is really lousy
Can't you tell?
Take a peek at the moon
As we side-step our way
Through this one-way sideshow saloon.

He's shaking the shit
Right off of his face
Your face, that face.
He's taking pandemonium
And slammed her back in her place,
This place, that place.
But she will come a little closer
Closer from her point of view.
And she will scream out
That you are the winner
To the loser, if it's autumn
If it's you
But nobody really understands
Why lovers choose to love
So much more at night.
It must be another way of saying
It's gonna be all right.

But the state of affairs
Is really lousy
Can't you tell?
Take a peek at the moon.
Tonight this place oughta be shaking
As we do our best
Just to remain in tune,
As we break into a brand new pair
Of them old old old rhythm and blues
The pandemonium
And the scare

I was introduced to Kenn through my former housemate, Chris Dennstadt, the legendary Ennui Malaise, who knows him from back in the day. Until recently, Kenn bartended in my neighborhood, and I would drop by Mondays and Wednesdays for a few drinks, some bullshitting, and some good conversation. He's in his early 50s, but looks at least a decade younger. There's a whole crew of people that go down to the bar, most of them about 10 to 15 years older than me, good folks who've been Kweder fans since before they were my age.

This restaurant, by the way, is the same one that I got fired from back in November. The one I described as "a joy to work in" back in December 2004. Boy oh boy did THAT job turn out to be a a rusty ginsu down the dickhole.

I'll digress for a moment, but I promise I'll get back to Kenn and the coincidence.

As referred to in an earlier post, I spent a lot of time working in kitchens: 17 years to be precise, 17 years of progressively more boring work, dreading the rigid schedules and anal personalities, and despairing at the consistently low salaries. I hadn't worked in a kitchen since 1998, and going back to work in one was a sign that I had pretty much hit rock. fucking. bottom. But I needed work, and Kenn got me on the day shift.

The cook at Amore is a little guy named Bibi from the Guam or someplace like that: I never learned whether that was his first or last name. He has been working for the owners, three gay men named Randall, Steve, and Wayne, for the better part of 20 years according to a friend who still works there. Before opening Amore, the three had operated a restaurant on 47th Street, and eventually opened a long-standing restaurant/ bar on the university campus, which is where I was first introduced to Kenn to begin with. Speaking as a former employee, I would not be surprised if it was Amore's continued relationship with the university that keeps it afloat.

I am almost at a loss to describe what goes on at Amore. Where to begin?

Amore was built from scratch (not by remodeling an existing building), on a vacant lot, way over budget by these three owners (or at least two of them), who also happen to have a long and complicated history of romantic involvement. Randy and Wayne were partners for a long time, but split up at some point, after which Randy and Steve coupled up. The three of them live together in a large Victorian on 48th Street, which has one of the most brilliant displays of Christmas lights I've ever seen. I do not believe Wayne is an investor in Amore.

While business finally seems to be picking up a little after a two years, the fact remains that the restaurant is way too large for the number of clientele it serves. There is a small bar in front: if you look to your left, you see the main dining room, with seats for at least 60. Next to that is the "Fireside Room", which seats another 40. If you look to your right, a hallway leads to the "Family Room", with two booths, and seating for another 30. The sheer size of the rooms makes the restaurant look empty on a slow nights; empty rooms scare away potential diners. The rooms are devoid of intimacy.

And not to stereotype, but who would have thought gay guys would have such bad taste in decor? The outside of the building looks like it's modeled on the Olive Garden; as for the interior, for the first year it was nearly devoid of artwork, just blank walls painted a bright pastel yellow. This was, at the time explained as deliberate, but I can't remember exactly why: something about "airiness" which translates more into "cavernous". The rooms are devoid of intimacy. I remember going there for dinner with my ex-girlfriend and her parents, before I worked there: the atmosphere, like the bolognese was a joke.

After some criticism, the owners began to showcase some local artists, but the decisions they made were GHASTLY. For instance, in the Fireside Room, they hung a collection of portraits of people from around the world: the Third World. Imagine eating dinner with the dried apple, wrinkled faces of desperately poor families staring down at you hungrily. You dig into your crate-raised veal medallions, and slurp down overpriced wine, guiltily glancing at underweight children who seem to beg, Feed us, please. We're hungry too, and you have SO much. Please feed us, please...

The owners themselves are quite a crew of characters.

Randy reminds me of an imitation my old friend Shane, who was as hilarious as he was queer, used to do of The Stepford Wives. We were prep cooks at Cha Cha Cha, a now-defunct Mexican restaurant, chopping onions and tomatoes as fast as we could in an unheated room, when out of the blue Shane would purse his lips and pipe up with "I really shouldn't say this... but I DO love my brownies" in the closest imitation of Nanette Newman he could muster. Randy embodies my old friend's imitation: a twittering little man who putters around the restaurant, making sure the flowers and tableclothes are just so, all the while driving the cooks and waitstaff crazy with the worst expediting job I have ever witnessed, making promises to customers that the kitchen can't possibly keep. The result is that the customers sat at beautifully arranged tables, some receiving their entrees before their appetizers, while others got either the wrong order or nothing at all.

Steve on the other hand looks like my dad, if my dad was a muppet. His chin disappears under a beard that covers up an enormous wattle, a dewlap that would make a wild turkey blue with envy. Steve talks through his nose, to the point of incoherence when he's really mad. He's the shrieker of the bunch, not so much 50-year old gay male as 15-year old girl having a tantrum; when he gets angry he stamps his feet like a three year old and flaps his hands like a penguin in a pastel polo shirt. Steve's temper is legendary, and he spends a lot of time screaming at Randy for being such a Stepford wife. Rumor has it that he has attacked Randy on more than one occasion.

"You wouldn't believe what I saw," a waitress told me. "Randy was expediting something, and Steve actually grabbed Randy's lower jaw and put his whole fucking hand in his mouth to wag it around, and started repeating over and over 'You keep talking but you never say anything! Shut up! Shut up!' And just last week," she continued, "He threw a fucking plate at Randy! Just like a Frisbee, he hucked a plate at Randy's frikkin' head.

"I'll tell you what man, I'm scared of Steve. Randy's an asshole, but Steve's a NUT.

"By the way," she added in a whisper, "they skim from the waitress's tips. ALL the time."

Wayne was the only one of the partners I had any real respect for. He's one of the most erudite peoople I know, a man who would sit on an overturned empty pickle bucket between shifts and read novels about economics in German.

My first encounters with Wayne had been when they were operating the university establishment, and had been incredibly negative. Now that I know him, I know that's not so. Rather, Wayne's an incredibly shy person, even among people he knows. His aloof attitude, combined with his 90 degree hunched posture (whether by accident or birth I cannot say), and his intense stare and suspicious eye made Wayne appear to be terrifying in an Ebenezer Scrooge manner, when he was a deeply interesting, clever, and bitterly funny and catty man. He was also the only one of the three who knew how to cook. While Bibi handled most of the catered business for the university, Wayne put out the entrees and appetizers for the small lunch crowd. He had no love for Steve or Randy since the betrayal, and would augment Steve's shrieks of rage with the well-placed snide rapier of a bon mot.

A typical afternoon:

Randy runs into the kitchen. "Wayne, I need that chicken parmigiana out right now. Steve, how're the salads coming."

"THEY'LL BE DONE WHEN THEY'RE DONE! OK"?" Steve screams. "Honestly it's your own fault for saying I could make caesars when you KNOW we're out of dressing."

Adding in a mutter, "Bitch."

"Roger, maybe if you took more time to learn how to expedite instead of acting like a pompous twit," Wayne submits, "we wouldn't waste so much food. How much money did you lose this week, sweetie?"

And so on...

And then there was Bibi, my immediate supervisor. Not only did I never learn his full name, I had no idea how old the guy was, though I suspect he was a few years older than me. He was about 5'3", and as demanding as one could expect from a chef. He had high standards, which I respected and enjoyed at first. But Bibi's demands were not only high, they were unreasonable: he was like Mr. Miyagi if Mr. Miyagi was both gay and evil, a stone faced guru of the line with a vicious passive-aggressive streak, who could not be bothered to offer one positive comment toward anyone, or even a "good morning" for that matter. When I told him I couldn't work early Friday nights because of a standing Thursday night gig, he began to schedule me for 5:00 AM breakfast catering for Penn every Friday. He asked me if I could work evenings, and when I answered "Sometimes, maybe" he scheduled me for a week of double shifts, on a week he knew I had gigs.

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On top of this, his standards of perfection changed from week to week. After spending a week haranguing me to set up a fruit-and-cheese platter one way, he would harangue me to set it up a different way a week, sometimes even a day, later. His obsession with how to properly cut and present pineapple bordered on the psychotic. He made a fetish of calculating the ratio of bagel halves to croissants on our breakfast trays. If it was Monday, the honey dew and prosciutto were to be sliced paper thin; by Tuesday, the exact same order by the exact same people should be hearty slabs of fruit and meat. One week, each sandwich we put out would be required to have 4 slices of meat, while the next week it would be 6 ounces of meat. Of course, he would never actually tell anyone that the standard had changed, opting to criticize and complain that things weren't as they should be, all in the flat tones of a Zen master.

"I told you, it is 6 ounces of salami, 6 ounces of provolone," he would say.

"What? But just Friday, you told me not to use more than 4 slices of anything on a sandwich."

"That does not matter: it is 6 ounces, and you should know that."

"But you never.. you never told me that. You never told anyone!" I protested. I looked to the end of the kitchen, where Ken the guy who worked with me was cutting pineapple incorrectly. "Hey Ken," I hollered. "What's the deal with meat for the sandwiches?"

"Last I heard it was 4 slices per sandwich," he yelled back.

Bibi sighed. "It does not matter what it was last week. It is 6 ounces. You will have to do all of these over," he said gesturing at a tray of 50 sandwiches. "It is a waste of product." And with that he would stomp off to the other side of the kitchen.

It was sometime in January when I hit the wall. I had been gigging all week, desperately trying to make plan for my girlfriend and son to come visit me, and was getting up every day at 5:00 AM or earlier to prepare and deliver breakfast trays to the university.

Randy and I had set up most of the coffee brewing equipment and pre-wrapped the breakfast trays the night before. All I had to do was come in and flip the switches on the giant urns, allowing them 45 minutes to brew the coffee, and slice melon. The food didn't have to go out until 6:30 AM, but waiting on the coffee always took forever.

I'll tell you, I was exhausted: I didn't so much have bags under my eyes as I had big purple steamer trunks. My temper got shorter every day, and my head throbbed constantly from stress, worry, and too much work. I was training a new day cook, and he was lousy. Bibi blamed me for every mistake the new guy made, even when I wasn't around to supervise. The restaurant knew I had a tour coming up, and seemed determined ot wring as much work out of me before I left as possible. The atmosphere was oppressive by this point: I would arrive at work at 5:00 AM, and work sometimes until 6:00 PM. They didn't pay me time-and-a-half for my overtime, opting instead to pay my OT under the table, in cash. This is illegal, but I needed the job. I was desperately seeking for new work when I would arrive home after my 13 hour days.

6:00 AM came, and I began loading the breakfast trays into the van, making sure not to drop anything. Then I began loading the coffee urns, which weighed about 10 sloshing pounds each. This is when disaster struck. The cement floor was still wet in spots from the night before, and I slipped on a puddle while hoisting an urn. My feet flew out from under me, and 10 gallons of boiling hot coffee went everywhere, including down the front of my shirt, as I landed hard on my tailbone and twisted my ankle.

I popped. I picked up the now empty urn, and pitched it as hard as I could across the length of the kitchen screaming, "YOU FUCKING FAGGOTS! YOU FUCKING FUCKING FUCKING SHITBAG MOTHERFUCKERS, I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU ALL," while tearing off my burning, coffee-soaked shirt.

Now I was going have to start the coffee over. I was going to be late on the delivery. The people at the university would be upset and would complain. I would hear of their complaints from Randy and Bibi, and then hear of Randy and Bibi's complaints secondhand from the waitstaff. Bibi would threaten to dock my pay for the wasted product.

I rushed as fast as I could to get a new batch of coffee made, and I don't know how i managed to get everything there on time, but I did, just squeaking by.

When I returned, Bibi had arrived. In his quiet monotone, he asked me "Why is there coffee on the floor? Why have the sandwiches for the 10:00 AM delivery not been made? Why are the cold cuts not sliced? Why--"


Or something like that. I was fired a few days later, after Bibi had a long talk with me. "At me" is probably a better way to put it: I wasn't listening to anything he said.

Which brings me to back to Kenn, who left a few months after I did.

There we were, the Drinking Liberally contingent at Tangiers, hammered and and yammering at one of the tables on the sidewalk in front of the bar. Wendy mentioned Kenn in the course of conversation, because she thinks he's cute.

"Kenn Kweder?" Susie said. "I know that guy from back in high school! We used to play shows at this cafe; I would do my Joni Mitchell material and he would do his.. well, his Kenn stuff. Do you know 'Heroin'?"

"Oh yeah," I said, and Susie and I led the table in a round of one of Kenn's best songs. "I got mixed up, mixed up, mixed up, with all the other babies," beating on the table in rhythm. A glass toppled and rolled off, shattering on the sidewalk

"Hey Brendan, call Kenny on the phone, lemme talk to him," Susie said.

"Sure," I said, dialing his number on the cell. "Hello... hey Kenn, it's Brendan, I have someone who wants to talk to you," and I handed the phone to Susie.

"Kenny! It's Susie Madrak! Yeah, Susie! I didn't know you knew..." After an exchange or two, she handed the phone to me.

"Someone's on the other line for you," she said. I picked up. It was my parents, who were on the first stop of their vacation in the south.

"Hey Mom, what's up?" I said.

"Brendan, you know that guy you're always talking about? Kenn Kweder?"


"Well, tell him he has two new fans. You must have left one of your CDs in our car stereo, and on the drive down to the hotel, this crazy song about a crackhead on the lawn suddenly started playing. Your father almost had an accident he was laughing so hard. And then there was this other song, 'Heroin' which we both thought was fantastic. What a writer! We gotta get on his list! You're friends with him, right?"

Kwederama. It's everywhere you want to be.

New Sam Photos

Well finally.

The last time I got photos of Sam was in January. Here is the latest batch:

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Everyone says I'm a buckethead, and I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree...

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Hope you enjoy them. Sam is visiting later this month.

Gonna Be A Bright Sunshiney Day


Suicide’s gonna get me on a sunny day
Some people say it’s September, it might be closer to May
No matter what you said before, no matter what you say
Suicide’s gonna meet me on a sunny day

Suicide’s been a friend of mine from way, way back when
Whenever things got really bad, like they do now and again

She always, always shows up with her big sun-shiny face
Sayin’ ’if you can’t take it anymore, I can take you away’

On a sunny day, sunny day
Sunny day, sunny day
Suicide’s gonna meet me on a sunny day

A senile situation’s, don’t really need a pill to be
Well, they’re feeble bones in nursing homes and the voodoo therapy

Well, I’d like to go when I’m going
And I like to leave when I want to leave
And I like to be the one who controls my destiny

On a sunny day, sunny day
Sunny day, sunny day
Suicide’s gonna meet me on a sunny day

On a sunny day, sunny day
Sunny day, sunny day
Suicide’s gonna meet me on a sunny day

(bridge/instrumental solo)

On a sunny day, sunny day
Sunny day, sunny day
Oh, suicide’s gonna meet me on a sunny day

On a sunny day, sunny day
Sunny day, sunny day
Suicide’s gonna meet me on a sunny day

On a sunny day, sunny day
Sunny day, sunny day
Suicide’s gonna meet me on a sunny day
On a sunny day, on a sunny day, on a sunny (repeat and fade)

Words and music by Kenn Kweder © 1991 Pandemonium Music (BMI)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tom Friedman is shrill

An administration whose tax policy has been dominated by the toweringly selfish Grover Norquist - who has been quoted as saying: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub" - doesn't have the instincts for this moment. Mr. Norquist is the only person about whom I would say this: I hope he owns property around the New Orleans levee that was never properly finished because of a lack of tax dollars. I hope his basement got flooded. And I hope that he was busy drowning government in his bathtub when the levee broke and that he had to wait for a U.S. Army helicopter to get out of town.

Sunday Night Snap

On Sunday night September 4, I totally snapped.

It's a combination of things really. I'm having some serious issues as a result of being separated from my little boy, and the ensuing break up with my girlfriend.

People's suggestions to me about the situation are well-meaning but usually misguided or completely out-of-whack. My dad, for instance, suggested that I prorate my child support payment this month "because you'll have Sam for a week to yourself, so why send up the full amount?" My mother suggested I get involved with fathers' rights groups; she has no idea that most of these fathers' rights groups are total fucking lunatics, a bunch of angry losers who made out poorly in the divorce settlement and think all women are evil. My ex the other night told me that we'll have to hang out together when she comes to the US later this month with Sam, because "he probably doesn't know you anymore," and then got mad at me when I said "whose fault is that," a reference to her abrupt, last-minute decision to stay in canada. "It's all about you" she said, and well yeah it is: because my fucking heart is fucking broken maybe, and you're holding all the cards??

And no one seems to understand anything. Musicians wonder why I don't want to play for free until 2:30 in the morning and then make fun of me when I tell them "I have to get up at 7:30 AM for work." Emotionally needy people who don't seem to grasp that for once in my life, I don't have the energy or time to deal with their neediness, say things like "Yeah, I'm feeling down too. I just broke up with this guy Ive been seeing for two weeks." Or another friend who told me that he felt exactly like I did when his girlfriend walked out on him, saying "And man, she took the DOG. I loved that dog..." Well hey now, I guess that's the equivalent of being an involuntarily absent parent. And I hate to criticize these people, especially the last guy who is my oldest and one of my dearest friends; besides, i know they mean well.

None of these people mean to be cruel or insensitive or stupid. And I don't take it that way. But it adds up, the not understanding. Only one guy here in Philly, who I'm not even really friends with, understands because he's in the middle of a similar situation.

And I've taken it, I've taken it as best I could, and kept my mouth shut when I could, and sucked it up and sucked it up some more. I've eaten so much shit in the past month, nevermind the past year, that my eyes have turned brown. And I'm sure my ex feels the same way: she's not an evil person and none of this is easy on her. As I've said before: her decision to stay in Montreal was a good one. Both of her options were good. The cognitive dissonance is simply just too much for me to handle sometimes.

Yet, it is the sheer human carnage of Katrina that has really, finally thrown me; the failure to provide for these people and the craven response by the government and its apologists has been the tipping point at which I have turned into Howard Beale.

I was at the White Dog happy hour here in Philly with my friend Ken. We were talking about the toll of Katrina, the political/economic/social ramifications, etc.

This older fella who must have been in his late 40s, dressed like Tom Wolfe in seersucker, interjected in our conversation.

He started making these overly academic points about all sorts of stuff, about how it's not Bush's fault (which is parsing the meaning of "fault" to a degree that can only be described as immoral), how this couldn't have been expected, how no one's to blame, how it's not as bad as it seems, the whole "you're living in the reality based community" attitude. Each academic hair he split brought a smirk to his face.

And guess what? I just had it. I started to get a bit sharp at him. Some guy on the other side of me told me to calm down, and I just got up and left. "I am not going to sit here and listen to this kind of garbage," I said and I walked out of the bar, seething.

Ken came running up the street. "That guy was an asshole," he said. "Just calm down."

The thing is that really, I was fine. I just couldn't take it anymore. I have had it up to here with this administration and its apologists, and I will not break bread with them, I will not drink beer or wine or water with them, and I will not be in the presence of their disgusting stink. Call me self-righteous, but I would rather be self-righteous than an immoral, wheezing gasbag of an apologist for a political party that has no saving graces whatsoever.

We walked past the White Dog on the way to the car, and i just had to have one more word.

"Ken," I said, "I am going back in there to throw a beer in that man's face."

"No you're not," he said, but it was too late. i was already running up the steps to the bar.

The beers had already been cleared away, so I went in and got directly in that man's smirking face. My nose was inches from his nose.

My voice was ragged from a weekend of singing at a bluegrass festival. "If I ever see you on the street, I'm gonna kick your motherfucking ass," I croaked. "You goddamn son of a bitch, there are people dying down there, it's a complete failure of government, of leadership, and you have the nerve, the sheer nerve, to make lousy little academic arguments? What the hell is wrong with you?"

I turned and walked to the door, turning around pointing to yell at him, "People like you make me sick. There are people dying down there and all you can think about is the political fallout and the damage control." The whole restaurant was staring at me. I was apoplectic, my face must have been purple with rage and my whole body was shaking.

Then I left. I doubt I'll be welcome at the White Dog anymore, but I am just sick of it. I am so sick sick sick of it. The aftermath of Katrina is a complete failure of leadership, in so many ways. And everybody's rushing to clean up after the Boy King's latest failure.
What in god's name is wrong with people?

In closing, I have to report that my bullshit meter can take no more. I have no patience with anyone anymore.

Richard Cranium's Manifesto

I am going to copy this whole piece written by my friend Richard Cranium at the all spin zone. You'll have to pardon my wholesale cut-n-paste here, and to make me less of a burglar, please go visit Richard's site. All Spin Zone is a great blog.

Without further ado, Richard:

Makin' the Nut

If I've seemed a bit off of my game recently, it's probably because I need to get back on the meds. I was doing quite well for awhile, but in the past couple of weeks, I've noticed one of those “black hole” changes. Those of you who've been where I've been know what I'm talking about.

I've been struggling for days with writing a comprehensive post on the Katrina debacle, and the failure of government at all levels to do its most basic function - protect its citizens - and particularly, those who are least able to fend for themselves. There are no excuses for the deaths and destruction in New Orleans. None. Federal, state, and local governments all have an equal share of the blame for this disaster of preventable proportions.

I wish I could bind my anger, but I can't right now. I wish I could bind my despair right now, but I can't. I wish, I just wish, that I could feel better about anything in this country, the country my kids are going to inherit.

Before I drove my daughter back to school last night, I told her, “I envy you”. She's got so much in front of her, and she's got a fighting spirit that would make a true warrior proud. Even at the tender age of 18, she doesn't suffer fools lightly. She doesn't know it yet, but she's a leader.

My 25 year old son is the apple who didn't fall far from the tree. We're in constant conflict because we're so much alike. And I envy him, too - because I see a budding Chomsky in him that is continuously outraged at how the proletariat is steamrolled by the capitalist machine that thinks no further than the next stock option.

And they are both livid about those who were “left behind” in New Orleans.

Those that were “left behind” don't fit Tim LaHaye's mold of the White Christian Rapture™. But they were as surely left behind by their government as heathens that God left on the planet in LaHaye's series. Maybe LaHaye and his fundamentalist ilk missed the rapture last week. Maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses got it right and the thousands of bloated black corpses floating in the fetid water of the Mississippi delta made the cut? That would be an incredibly scary thought for the religious right wingers, wouldn't it?

I want to write (and I've written and backspaced over it 5 times now) that there are better days ahead. Being in the frame of mind I'm in right now, I'm not so sure. Honestly, I don't think I'll see those days in my own lifetime.

What I'm hoping for is that my children, and those of their generation, can make the difference that I no longer have the ability or mental clarity or strength to accomplish. The war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina both drive home the point that the government which is chartered to protect us no longer does so. The three independent branches of our government (and the fourth estate) have become wholy owned subsidiaries of corporate America. A coup d'tat was held, and not a shot was fired.

Because not enough people cared to be inconvenienced.

I've talked about this before, and I actually spent some time over this past weekend thinking about it. Given what's happened on the Gulf Coast this past week, and the morbid turn in Iraq prior to that (hey, who doesn't love a good U.S. government-sponsored Islamic theocracy after $300 billion and thousands of lives?), you would have thought there would be pitchforks and torches at the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. And you would be wrong.

You would be wrong because you've gotta pay the electric bill, right? And if you don't go to work today, how you gonna put dinner on the table this evening, right? And if someone else, well ok, a lot of someone elses, would get the ball rolling, you'd be right there behind them, right?

You're a fucking liar.

You wouldn't be there. You might be cheering from your keyboards, but you wouldn't be there. If I mounted the tallest soapbox, and called for a general work stoppage in the U.S. tomorrow (assuming anyone would listen to me), as much as you know how powerful such a statement would be, you'd still be at work so you could make the mortgage nut at the end of the month. You know it and I know it. You know why I know it? Because I would be, too.

We're slaves. We're just living in better accommodations than the brothers and sisters 150 years ago.

Most of us have no, or limited, social mobility. Most of us have no, or limited, economic mobility. Nobody wants a stake in our collective future because we've been conditioned to believe that this is as good as it gets. We're all souless, selfish bitches in that regard because we're resigned to our collective fate, not future. We forget the words (or more importantly, the concept) that the poet was trying to impart:

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

The sad fact of the matter is, there's no real “movement” these days, nor will there likely be in the near future, because everyone's waiting for someone else to move first. It's also no small matter that a movement requires a leader, and I don't see any budding Lech Walesa's capturing the imagination of the country. Even if there was one, the three branches and the fourth estate wouldn't let him/her emerge.

In reality, none of us are much better off than those souls who were left behind in New Orleans last week. Our government has stranded us, too. Yet we continue to support the system that caused the New Orleans disaster to happen. Doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or Republican. We 'tut-tut' as the disaster unfolds, and thank God that we don't have to walk a mile in those shoes.

The strange thing is that we do.

Every day.

Every single, stinkin', waking day. To make the nut.

The only difference is that the water might not be as deep where you live.

That's how Richard sees it, and you know what? I think I might agree with him