Texas is for Perverts

In retrospect, the reasoning behind the year I spent in Dallas is a little fuzzy. But so is most everything else about Dallas, so that’s no news.

While I was there I was cast as Tomazo de Piracquo in a production of Thomas Middleton & William Rowley’s The Changeling at the Deep Ellum Theatre Garage, which is the kind of place a guy goes to pay his theatrical dues. Mostly, this is great fun.

Our Beatrice-Joanna was played by one Melissa S. as a bayou cocktail of lovestruck swooner, brazen hussy, and wanton Belle jar. On stage as in life, Melissa embodied both raging ends of the Madonna/whore spectrum, leaving the safe middle ground for lesser spirits. She was the kind of girl … let’s put it this way. When Melissa needed to move a sofa up the stairs to her apartment she asked around for a day or two, and could have put together a competitive football franchise from the guys who finally showed up. For all I know, maybe she did. Or maybe they already were a football franchise, out on a field trip.

Dress rehearsal night. We know our lines mostly, we have no idea about the blocking, and the set, insofar as there is one, is a crazed razor-edged work-in-progress junkyard. I’m in leather and there’s a Bowie knife strapped to my boot. My buddy Vince and I are hanging by the door backstage, which doubles as Carla and Matt’s apartment when we’re not in it. Melissa approaches, a raptor in crinoline and lace.

Melissa, eyes large and moist, lips pleading: What’s the best thing you ever said in bed?
Linus and Vince: What??
A flounce. You have to be from the South to do this correctly.
Melissa: Come on, boys. What’s the best thing you ever said in bed? You know, sexy. I’ll tell you mine.
Linus and Vince: What are you —
Melissa: Mine was “Fuck me like you own me.”
Linus and Vince:
Melissa: Well HE seemed to like it.

Some weeks later, Vince and I are out getting tattoos. I want a circle on my shoulder blade, a quiet echo of the moon. Vince is getting an A&M longhorn on his butt. In brown. Whatever. The first tattoo place we find is ’round back of Maldonado’s Tire Repair. We pass on that one. The second choice is a biker joint. Guy who runs it is in jail, but his buddy across the way will do the tats for us, if that’s all right; we go for it.

At the end of this day, I have a curious circle on my shoulder blade and Vince has a longhorn on his butt. He already regrets it. We head out to celebrate and bemoan, and after a few rounds Vince waxes nostalgic.

Vince: You know the sexiest thing I ever heard?
Linus: Fuck me like you own me?
Vince: No, no. I was in school, and we had this party. I was talking to this girl, a real petite blonde girl, and she was just so pretty. I sort of knew her and we were talking. I thought I was doing all right, but at the end of the party she was leaving with this football player guy, a friend of my roommate. So she was getting her stuff out of the bedroom and I go up to talk to her before she leaves, you know, and the guy is getting his stuff too, and as I walk up she’s saying to him, “But there’s one thing you should know. I’m … abnormally small.”
Linus: … There is not enough liquor on this table to encompass that story.
Vince: Got that right.

Posted in General Musings |

Mutter Mutter, Gnash Gnash

Stormy Weather - Hurricane Frances , aka the Wrath of God (NASA photo)I don’t know why it’s the end of summer, but it is, and after a long temperate quiet sunny weekend here in the Yapple we pelted in the new season with fine overnight style. The long outskirts of Hurricane Frances didn’t bring us the tappity-tappity of whispering rain, they say: something about a cold Canadian mass, which sounds like an unfortunate breakfast I had once.

Whoever done done it, though, done kept me up all night. It was too hot or too dry or too sticky or too drippy or too giggly, all rolled up together into the long stretch to dawn. The night buzzed, and hummed, and spattered. Now my eyes feel like they’re squinchy raisins stuck into my face. Tired squinchy raisins. Grrr.

Posted in General Musings |

Caller ID

New Scientist magazine has the news that a radio signal from the deep sky between Pisces and Aries might, just might, be something that we don’t know just what it is. And one of those things might be a beacon call from space, a sign of intelligent life, something we’ve been looking for so long we’ve gotten used to its lack.

The weak and intermittent signal is named SHGb02+14a, and it’s on a good frequency for that sort of thing — 1420 MHz, which is one spot where hydrogen emits and absorbs energy. It’s from an odd place, with no clear star systems around. And it could be anything from hacker fraud to the astronomical equivalent of a bit of undigested beef in the system. But still, but still. On a gorgeous workaday Thursday toward the trembling end of a week filled with gibbering political ninnies, a guy can dream.

Update: Per Pierre, it is debunked by the BBC, which quotes Dr. Dan Wertheimer: “It’s all hype and noise.” Thursdays. I never did get the hang of Thursdays.

Posted in General Musings |

March o’ the Times

Sunday was a fine day for an outpour, and so we did: the United for Peace and Justice march against George Bush was a staggering success. And you’d be staggering too, after all those hours in all that heat.

NYPD takes everyone who ever wore blue, yanks them out of bed, and puts them on the streets with a badge, even commandeering the Fuji blimp for lazy looping air surveillance duty. For their trouble there are a handful of busts early on, mostly part of the police brush-war against bike riders this week. (Mike of Satan’s Laundromat has a harrowing account of his bike arrest, and his pictures of the RNC from the inside are wonderful — so much for the vaunted security of the G.O.P., right? Couldn’t keep Mike out of the Garden once the party started.)

For those of us on feet, the day is hot and sweaty, long and stirring, a tough, slow-moving blend of grit and purpose. I’m on a text-message cell phone bulletin list, so intelligence trickles in.

> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /Counter-demonstrators marching south on 6th @ 27St, Aprox 200 with PD
> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /At 34 St, a strong police line blocking people from heading north to the park.

I’m at the staging area in my new Lick Bush shirt around noon, just after the protest starts. At 1:20, when the head of the march has reached 34th Street, turned back downtown, and dispersed in Union Square, we have inched only a few blocks forward; side streets are packed solid, and the 14th Street area has been sealed off for 20 minutes already. I’m at 19th Street or so when the flood of 1,000 coffins, some in black and some draped with flags, comes streaming from the East.

> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /Aprox 20 to 25 Bike Bloc-ers have been arrested, Bike Bloc is calling on cyclists to regroup at Union Sq South
> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /Front of UFPJ March has reached the end point, Union Sq: most people haven't left assembly area.

For a while I’m packed in with Glamerica, a bouncy group sporting fur-fringed signs (Fashion Tip: Bush Doesn’t Go with Anything; Fashion Forecast: Bush is Out in 2004; Cancel W, Just Give Me Vogue). A splinter of Code Pink flows past. My friend Nancy, who just finished a great run on the Fringe with her musical Mankynde, waves from behind a rambling drum band, and we walk together for a few blocks. A bubbly breathtaking girl in a Metrocard “Unwelcome” cut-off tee teases her girlfriend, pulling the shirt up over her breasts. “Pull it down,” she breathes, “pull it down, people will see.” I try not to look, really I do.

> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /There is a 30' dragon float on fire on 7 Ave @ 34. Protesters can only get past on sidewalk.
> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /Over 1000 protesters have gathered in Central Park, seems calm at this time.

Communists and Naderites and Falan Dafa freaks are everywhere, ignored by all. For a time I’m with the No-Bush bouncy-ball sheet, for a while I pace the pink balloon G.O.P. pig. For several streets I swim a long current of marchers on the far end of 65, and older. They are grim and attentive, helping each other with a touch, a gesture, an arm on an elbow and a sympathetic nod, moving together or not at all in the petulant heat. Singer Richard Julian trucks by, guitar in hand. All along the route people wave and hoot and instigate from roofs and fire escapes; a Make Up Not War sign flutters from a balcony holding what looks like a touring production of The Mikado. From a rooftop a woman waves a sign that reads Go Team, to roars from below.

> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /Update: police have closed 6 Ave and all streets west of 6ave from 34 St to 59 St to bicycles
> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /standoff between police and protesters at 46th and Broadway. also many people in central park- things are calm

NYPD, which doesn’t estimate crowd sizes, hisses to the press that there are 100,000 people marching. Don’t believe it. New York Times coverage makes us half a million strong, and they’re about right. I’m passing Madison Square Garden at last, more than four hours after I started just a mile down the road, and there are still throngs surging along behind; the protest heads back downtown from there, but Central Park is on my agenda. In my world, when the Mayor tells me I can’t take my case to the Park, that’s where I’m bound to be found. Mama Gelber didn’t raise no sheep.

Some signs, painted from memory:

  • My Other President Isn’t a Liar
  • My Other President Wasn’t an AWOL Drunk
  • 2004 Diet – No CARB = Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Bush … and definitely no Rice!
  • George, George, Give it Up
  • Separate Church and State: Get SATAN Out of the White House
  • Re-Defeat Bush
  • Maybe Bush Should Try Going Vegan
  • Our City, Not Your Stage
  • Bush/Cheney: Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them
  • Somewhere in Texas a Village has Lost its Idiot. I Found Him.

In the 30′s, hours into the day, we pass a rhythm rave camped by the side of the road. The drummers dervish-whirl and dance, passing a bullhorn back and forth. “Show them what America looks like!” they chant, in all their shapes and colors and hairstyles and motley. “THIS is what America looks like!” we roar back, white and black and all the rest, straight and gay, old and young, lean and chubby, short and tall, kempt and weedy, and all points between. “THIS is what America looks like!” I find tears on my cheeks, burning as they streak sweaty paths down my face.

> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /Police are cracking down on bikes west of 6 Ave from 34st to 57st...bike ban in effect

Central Park is peaceful and gently full. The press is out in force, and I’m photographed twice and interviewed once before I find a soft spot to sit. (By request I describe my shirt for WBAI, but I’m too tired to be clever.) No screaming rioters here; the reporters are disappointed, but at least they have Billionaires for Bush to chase — in top hats and tuxes and gowns, waving cigars and mixing martinis, the Billionaires are a funny, photogenic bunch. Three young women are pointedly topless, which is legal in New York, but since no outlet can use the pictures the media mob reluctantly stays clear.

> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /Police are using a net to detain a group of aprox 50 protesters in Times Sq.

I wake from my nap next to radical rebel comedienne Reno, who is holding forth among friends. Via text message I track the progress of Queer Fist’s Times Square Kiss-In, the theatre actions of Mouse Bloc, and the further uglier skirmishes with the wheeled wings of Bike Bloc as the police chase them into the evening.

> comms_dispatch@txtmob.com /46th and broadway netted off, arresets likely.

Word of arrests comes in from Times Square and I head down to observe, but 46th Street is pretty much clear by the time I arrive; one last protestor is hustled into a cruiser, and NYPD looks tired and angry. The police glare me over and I stare back at them. You can spot delegates by their tags and by their clothes; they’re dressed like the last time they saw fashion it was on Jason Robards. Faces flushed, they are excited and nervous. They are not leaders; they are sheep, running among wolves.

Posted in General Musings |

It’s All Double Plus Good

Linux Insider reports:

Microsoft portrayed its Longhorn decision as a necessary winnowing to hit the 2006 timetable. The announcement on Friday, Microsoft executives insisted, did not point to a setback in software development but showed that the company had a surplus of innovation and that not all of it could make it into Windows for 2006. [emphasis mine.]

And would you like a bridge with your order, Ma’am?

Posted in General Musings |

Walking it Off

I’m heading out to march against Bush and the Republican convention. It’s my first political demonstration in many years. Once I did protest politics more often; ultimately I became disenchanted, not with the causes but with the organizations (or, given the state of the anti-nuke movement in the 80′s, the disorganizations). It feels good to be joining up again.

This time I will carry no sign. My message is simple enough: Look out your window, George Bush. Look at us.

Water — check. Cloth bandana — check. TxtMob cell-messaging bulletin list — check. National Lawyers Guild contact number programmed into cell phone — check. Fingers crossed for a peaceful day — yep.

Posted in General Musings |

The Bee’s the Thing

Do bee

Once upon a time I was a pale thin sixth grader with soft wire-rim glasses. The glasses bent hangdog to the curves of my face, and in the discount undercurrent of the times I favored shirts in slicky plastic blends of unfortunate shade. Making glib use of the power to Cloud Men’s Minds, my best sport was Dodgeball. This worked out great as long as I didn’t actually touch the ball.

At the height of my dodgeball prowess, one day the boys on both sides managed to eliminate themselves one by one, Little Indians all, leaving just me and the fearsome Robert facing off alone, the game in the balance. I had dodged often, and thrown not at all.

My subtle mental mask drifted away, and I ended up with the accidental ball in my hands. It might have been a scoop of octopus, for all I wanted it. Robert, a terrible flat-faced Republican-in-training bull of a kid, leaned forward across the line dividing the sides in the gym. (That’s Terrible as in Ivan.)

“Gimme the ball, you dick,” he warned, “or I fuck you up.”

I did the honorable thing. I gave him the ball. It was dodgeball, gentle Reader. Who cared?

About the only other thing I remember from sixth grade, apart from when Edward kissed Regan in Riverside Park (whoo!) and ate too much soup (not the same day), is the district spelling bee. I don’t remember winning the school bee, but I do remember losing the district. My word was “chronological,” which I rendered without the H, and I came in second. (One of our substitute teachers was Gene Simmons, but I’m sorry to say I have no memory of the man in mufti.)

Late last June Pierre and I headed out to Freddy’s Back Room for a barroom spelling bee, an idea whose time is clearly now. The inaugural bee doesn’t quite happen that night, because of this and that; there were other shenanigans in its place, and summer is nothing if not a parade of distraction.

But this past Wednesday night it does happen. I’m not entirely in the mood — it’s one of those WORK = FRAZZLE days — but I answer the call.

It’s harrowing to stand up in front of friends and strangers and spell words. There’s an overbearing dread that you’re about to flash the beans of your utter incompetence at life, that you’re going to expose yourself as a complete fraud. Worse yet, you won’t see it coming. “Fish,” you will say confidently. “F-I-T-S-H. Fish.” And the room will go silent, stricken. Everyone will look at you and think, Fitsh? Geez Louise, wotta maroon. Plus, you know, lose some weight, Brainiac. Sheesh.

Storytelling comedian Josh Reynolds thunk the thing up, and he’s an affable host. Nineteen of us sign up, and the rules are simple:

(1) Pony up a buck to play
(2) Spell your words right, and
(3) Winner takes the pot.

Some of us are funny, some of us are tremulous, some of us are confident, and some of us think the better of the whole escapade just as we get in front of the microphone. It’s a good vibe, in an I-hate-the-dentist way, and we’re all clutching our beers hard, leaving little dents in the pint glasses. I’m beaten to the recounting by other bloggers in the house, and there are pictures that capture the mood over at Jimmy Legs. The words roll on, and as the first round ends for a shake break we’re whittled down from the initial 19 to 3 still standing: Jonathan, Alison, and me.

When we’re back in play Jonathan bites the dictionary on cachinnate, a word that would have taken any of us down. Or me, at least. Alison and I spar back and forth with a series of jab words, tricky to recognize but not all that hard to get right (eclat, moiety, lamasery). Finally Josh, who is running out of words, broadsides her with “eleemosynary,” one of those words you just have to know in order to spell. And I don’t know why I know it, or how, but know it I do. Use it in a sentence? Sure: “Eleemosynary, my dear Watson.”

My words: barbiturate, onomatopoeia, eczema, sanitarium, surveillance, diocese, potpourri, augur, moiety, autochthonous, and the sloppy second on eleemosynary. Pierre thought potpourri was popery, and I wondered if Josh would have accepted auger the tool for augur the omen, which is what he intended. But it didn’t come up.

And for a night I’m top spelling dawg, nineteen clams the richer. Note to self: the spelling bee thing is not a chick-magnet activity, per se. Next time maybe I’ll wear elbow guards, that might help. Black shiny ones.

Posted in General Musings |

Amsterdam: Now Museum, now Huguenot

While our mission for last week’s trip to Amsterdam was to disencumber a friend’s beer cellar, doing the job right was thirsty work. Silent Seth and I shirked our scheduled vices one day and snuck off for a long full day of hooky at the Rijksmuseum and the van Gogh Museum — and I can prove it. Here’s video of me in the lobby of the van Gogh Museum, right outside the gift shop. So whatever else might have happened that day, I had nothing to do with it. You’ll never pin it on me, copper. I was doing kulcha. In Amsterdam.

It’s lucky that most of the Rijksmuseum collection is closed for renovations; what little we saw of it was enchanting (love the dollhouses), and took a long time to absorb. I dandled my sore feet in the plaza fountain outside to get in the mood for the van Gogh Museum, where the most remarkable aspect of the special Manet exhibition was the selection of Monet paintings. (I didn’t understand that either, but hey.)

A funny thing about Vincent van Gogh. If you know his work from American museum collections, exhibits that pass through town, and the occasional art history course, you are probably amazed at the power and depth of his vision. It’s a different story at the Amsterdam van Gogh Museum. We’ve got some of his finest work hanging here in New York, and very little apart from pure masterworks. In Amsterdam some of the collection is murky, abrupt, flat, unkempt. Here Starry Night and Cypresses truly do cast spells from the MOMA walls, and Vincent can soar into legend. It’s different over there.

Elvis Costello once noted that snapshots are usually only upper-body portraits; if you look at enough of them, you start to wonder, “where are the feet?” He wrote a new set of lyrics to one of his songs, explaining that this new version was the feet. That’s the difference at the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They’ve got the legend, as well as the feet.

Speaking of which, today is Elvis Costello’s 50th birthday. Happy birthday, Little Hands of Concrete.

Posted in General Musings |

Amsterdam: No Hash, Please, We’re Skittish

The truth of it is that late in college, pot just got boring. Somewhere around 1986 the fumes wore off the rose. I remember the moment precisely, probably because I wasn’t smoking at the time.

Mom, you can just stop reading, right now.

We finished striking our Lowell House production of The Rainmaker, by N. Richard Nash (1913 – 2000), and as one will after a college show we pelted to someone’s room for the cast party. Beer was opened — something awful like Meister Brau I’m sure, since it wormed its watery way into dorm cockles everywhere by costing $4.99 a case. Kajagoogoo had broken up the year before, so the music was probably good. Rainmaker had been a friendly and stressless show, for the most part, and we were happy and tired.

Soon everyone sat in a circle in the living room, and joints passed hand to hand. My Girl At The Time was abstaining in the wake of cocaine problems a few years earlier, and I gallantly declined as well. Not a biggie. So, you know that bit in the zombie movie when the Guy Who Was Bitten or the Girl Who Had Sex or the Sickly Child Who Does Not Speak keels over in a glaze, soon to leap up and commence to chomping on the rest of the gang? It was like that: inside of 10 minutes the room was silent with glassy disoriented folks nodding their heads and saying “Yeaaaah, totally” a lot. And with the rare exception, that pretty much put an end to the whole marijuana business for me. I mean, we had been having fun.

Mom can start reading again now.

Lo these years later we’re off to Amsterdam, and Mary Elizabeth Williams puts it beautifully in a 1997 article in Salon:

You reach a certain age, and spending three days with your head in a bong just isn’t that appealing an option anymore. Yet tell people you’re going to Amsterdam for the weekend and suddenly they start hooting like you’re opening for Cypress Hill on the NORML tour. Your friends no longer see you as a mature adult who enjoys museums and fine wine. No, with that one word, “Amsterdam,” you’re transformed into a wound-up college student out for the spring break of a lifetime, the kind of person who uses the word “party” as a verb. (Read the excellent rest of Toke of the Town at Salon.)

The Bass Goddess sent an email: “Amsterdam? Whoo-Hoo!” Waltress sent one: “… Anyway, you will soon have forgotten it as you partake of the legal illicit substances in Amsterdam. Have fun.” At work they snicker. At the bar they roar.

In fact, I just don’t smoke. Being around weed — I’m in the music business, and I live in New York fafucksake — doesn’t make a difference. I don’t eat Froot Loops either, and being in the vicinity of Kellogg’s products doesn’t change that. (“Hey, you! Get away from the cereal aisle!” “Aw, man, I was just looking, I wasn’t eating it!”) The whole hoopla makes me wonder just how much the average American Joe really, really, really wants to get stoned. It’s a bit worrying.

But next time, who knows. I’m thinking I’ll visit a coffeehouse. Just to sit in one. For a minnit. Just to, you know, check it out.

Posted in General Musings |

404 God Not Found

Gromble, the Lego God of TreasureTo the questionable index of Sorta Great Ideas we must add the Godchecker site, a Holy database (or d@tabase, as they would have it) of all known gods. Make that all the gods they’ve gotten to, rather — no entries for Ganesh or Kali grace the pages, yet. But if you’re after the African, Australian, Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, Egyptian, Finnish, Greek, Incan, Lego, Mayan, Native American or Norse pantheons, now you know where to look. Be sure to Consult the Oracle while you’re surfing through.

I mean, there you are ambling down St. Marks Place when a dark-haired waif with a silver ring pierced in a spot you’d really like to lick taps you on the shoulder.

Dark-Haired Waif: Excuse me. You know, I — this is embarrassing — I totally forget the name of the Mayan God of Floods. Do you remember it?
You: Of course. That would be Buluk-Kab, if I recall right. Hey, want to get some coffee?

I don’t know about you, but this happens to me all the time.

No listings for Cthulhu or Shuma-Gorath, though. Man, are they going to be pissed.

Speaking of Cthulhu, everyone’s favorite cyclopean elder god. I have links.

We’ll get back to Amsterdam stories soon enough; in the meantime, I don’t know, I didn’t catch it all. Something about a salary and getting work done and blog on your own time was the gist of it. Hmph. Day jobs. Hmph.

Posted in General Musings |