Monday, September 17, 2007

Here Comes The Union Pacific

every day brings me a little
further from the
promised land

more an animal and
less a man

the lizard eyes
the drooping jowls

a little further


here comes the union pacific

the greatest regret lies in having
done everything I was
expected to

I got eagerly in line
retracing the steps I thought
were so original

but I merely did my master’s bidding

it depresses me
about us as a

so little progress
so much regress

and now my flesh trembles
and turns black in the
face of the

as I am scraped skeleton

a flower turned

the lifelong erosion completed
at last as I slowly make
my way back to
the stars

every day brings me a little
further from the
promised land

although I could still be surprised

here comes the union pacific

the world has no right to
ask such strength
from us

as we are shepherded
from field to

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bobby Byrd: 1934 - 2007

Washington Post:

Bobby Byrd, 73, a singer, pianist and songwriter credited with discovering James Brown and who was one of his most important collaborators for two decades, died Sept. 12 at his home in Loganville, Ga. He had lung cancer.

Without Mr. Byrd, it has been asserted by some music scholars, Brown might not have become famous beyond the walls of a Georgia youth detention facility, much less become the "godfather of soul." Mr. Byrd was dubbed by some "the godfather's godfather."

In the early 1950s, Mr. Byrd's family helped secure Brown's early release from a juvenile detention facility in Georgia. The Byrds provided a home for Brown, who hitched himself to Mr. Byrd's gospel group, which morphed into a much more secular vocal band. The Famous Flames were led by Brown, who strutted his way to international funk stardom as the "hardest-working man in show business."

Mr. Byrd remained with the Famous Flames, and subsequently the JBs, for 20 years. During that time, he energized crowds before the cape-sporting superstar appeared. He participated with Brown on million-selling records such as Brown's "Live at the Apollo" on several TV appearances.

As a composer, Mr. Byrd received co-authorship billing on songs including "Talkin' Loud & Sayin' Nothin', " "Licking Stick," "Get Up, Get into It and Get Involved" and "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine." For the last, he was heard on the recording shouting the famous refrain, "Get on up!"

More here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Hardest Part Is The Eyes

Simpsons Collectible Of The Week.

And you can order them here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rum And Kook

There is a strange bug in the human system that seems determined to test our limitations. In our youth, it manifests itself in a kind of self-destructive behavior akin to slamming oneself against a brick wall and the stronger we feel we are, the more we want to see just what the market will bear, so to speak.

For all of the bad habits I actually do have, there are many I have failed to cultivate.

For instance, as I began to approach my majority, it seemed to me that it was time to investigate the pleasures of smoking.

I went through every variation with the possible exception of actual tobacco chaw. I tried cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, this last even leading me to contemplate the purchase of an expensive Meershaum pipe, the better to create the studious, Holmesian air to which I aspired.

The problem was that, like our greatest President, I simply could not bring myself to take the smoke into my lungs. Some sort of gag reflex kicked in, leaving me merely able to sadly puff out futile and impotent clouds of smoke.

Of course, this last also meant that any dalliance with marijuana would have been a waste of time, so I passed on that completely. It was also, so far as I could see, an awful lot of work when you considered you actually had to create the cigarettes yourself.

So for me, it was the lazy man’s drug, which is to say, alcohol.

Was it not the unofficial libation of the writer? Did it not encourage convivial and chummy relationships among the proletariat? Was it not a versatile and colorful thing, bottles of bright and amber liquids lined up like so many magic potions, promising an endless variety of tastes and experiences?

Yes, and it got you a little tipsy into the bargain.

And so the imbibing of alcohol was one of the few bad habits I became successful at and the further I explored its effects, the more I wanted to see how far I could take it.

It was during this same general timeframe that I and my friend M., a good-looking man who enjoyed some popularity with the ladies and for whom the initial could have variously stood in for Masculine, Magnetic, and Master of Menstrual Relief, drove up to a nearby college town in the middle of nowhere, led on by the promise of some bacchanalian festivities that would surely make the trip worthwhile, perhaps resulting in my being crowned Queen of the May.

I should have learned to bring a crossword puzzle book on these trips, as the fairer sex’s fascination with my friend usually ruled out the possibility of their noticing that I was there. And so it fell to me to create my own amusements.

In this unfortunate instance, my eye was caught by a large jug of rum and the possibilities it might afford me.

Now at first I took a couple of swigs and put it down again.

Then I would return to it, hang onto it for the purpose of upcoming swigs (no point in putting it down then) and then replacing it a few minutes later, having slaked my thirst.

Eventually I didn’t put it down at all and started walking around with it, taking long draughts from the jug as I began to introduce myself to various strangers in private rooms.

After this, things start to become a little muddled. I can recall playing a tenor saxophone at one point in a style that recalled Albert Ayler and following that with an acapella version of St. James Infirmary, though, if I’m not mistaken, I think there were some complaints.

A merciful blanket of amnesia then descends upon the proceedings, with the exception of a gleaming white toilet bowl that seemed awfully important at the time. I had fallen asleep on the rim of its porcelain mercy, awaiting the next challenge to my center of gravity.

Then someone helped me into bed while I informed them that I was absolutely positive that I would not last the night, so if they had anything important to say, they’d best say it now.

I was shocked to find myself awake the next morning, and equally shocked to find that my body was completely paralyzed. Standing up or walking was not even on the menu. This was no mere hangover. I could literally not move a muscle and it took several hours to move myself into an upright position. The day’s biggest achievement was eating a piece of toast, slowly and quietly.

And so the alcohol went the way of the cigarettes that day, as I realized that I had reached the limits of what fermentation could teach me. The yellow brick road of childhood had ended and the great, wide world of adulthood beckoned.

It was time to challenge the all-you-can-eat buffet, a wrestling match that continues even to this day and one which, if I may say, I am winning quite handily.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

I was channel surfing the other weekend when I came upon one of those wrestling programs – you know, the ones that don’t seem to have as much in common with wrestling as they do with soap operas or improvisational comedy troupes.

The announcer, famed for the popular catch-phrase he intoned each week like a wounded water buffalo, was in the midst of some emotional turmoil. It seems that he had determined that one of the show’s wrestlers was his illegitimate son, and he was having some difficulty figuring out which of the show’s steroid addicts he had actually sired.

On cue, a contorted mass of flesh with a head appeared, to the wild applause of the audience. The wrestler, whose nickname appeared to be Bitchslap or Asswipe or some such, confronted the announcer who began to mug for the camera as if he were making a silent film.

I wasn’t exactly sure about what all of this had to do with wrestling, but I hung in.

Asswipe played to the crowd, striking poses and making faces. He then walked up to the announcer and kneed him in the groin. Apparently Asswipe had not forgiven the announcer for all of those years when they should have been playing catch, tying knots, etc.

He then picked up the announcer, apologized to him, and kneed him in the groin again.

The show still had a good hour and 15 minutes to go.

It was a show with sponsors, an enthusiastic audience, and 90 minutes of network airtime. I couldn’t figure it out. Who watched it? Who made a living with it? Whose mind had evolved it?

What was this sick miasma at the heart of America?

As we walked back to the car in the parking lot, the wife and I began to feel extremely self-conscious, as if the Toby Keith crowd could tell who we were at a glance. The Union Jack on the wife’s Who t-shirt seemed to clash with the American flag shirts that seemed to be everywhere.

More and more we began to notice the messages on the shirts, the bumper stickers, and even the tattoos, messages about the war, guns, Jesus, Nascar, and George W. Bush. They were very supportive.

There were six-packs and small grills everywhere, football games being played by guys with crew cuts in between the rows of parked cars, many of which had Marine insignias visible in the rear windows.

We stared straight ahead as much as possible and tried not to make eye contact.

This parking lot must contain the last remaining pool of citizens that still support George W. Bush, I thought. Where had they come from? Where did they live?

But they were real, they were here, and they had come to hear Toby Keith’s anthems of defiance like The Taliban Song, She Ran Away With A Rodeo Clown, and Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue:

And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A
Cause we'll put in a boot in your ass
It's the American way

The woman who had let us in told us that the only way out was forward, so we pulled the car out slowly and looked for the emptiest aisle.

It didn’t seem to matter what aisle we went down – we’d either run smack into someone’s makeshift barbeque or into a dead end cordoned off by cars.

I tried to follow the fence looking for the exit, but it just seemed to go on forever. Each dead end seemed more conclusive than the one before, offering fewer and fewer places to go. Each aisle seemed to get narrower and filled with more people, many of whom seemed surprised to see a car trying to negotiate its way out. I did what I could to not paint us into a corner and kept hoping I had picked the right exit strategy. Because all it would have taken was one confrontation...

I didn’t want a boot in my ass.

Finally, we could see the exit just ahead. Creeping nonchalantly towards the hole in the fence, we crossed gratefully back into the world we knew, confident and happy in the knowledge that we would soon be providing aid and comfort to the enemy once again.

“My god, that was close,” I said, turning on the air conditioner.

“Go like hell,” said the wife.

I gunned the Honda like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. trying to get to the Wal-Mart before closing and was over the bridge into Philadelphia in no time flat.

It could have been worse, though.

It could have been Ted Nugent.