Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Underground Garage Rock Extravaganza

The best bet for rock and roll lovers this coming weekend has to be the Little Steven's Underground Garage show at the City Hall club down on 12th Avenue South in Nash Vegas. It features: The Rolling Rock and Roll Show w/ THE ZOMBIES (Colin Blunstone Rod Argent), THE MOONEY SUZUKI, THE WOGGLES, THE FORTY FIVES, & THE SHAZAM. Dang and double dang what a bunch of great bands on one bill along with a couple of legendary Brits.

Dr. Shine & Dee Dee

I know I've been overdoing the Youtube bit lately. But why not when there's so much great stuff on there, like the intro to the Dr. Shine & Dee Dee program. I've been digging this religious masterpiece for some time. Dr. Shine can really get going and I love that church is run in some sort of James Brown style with Dr. Shine having his version of Booby Byrd to read out the scripture (and no, that dude is not named Dee Dee - I believe Dee Dee is Dr. Shine's wife). The intro of the show has been garnering some fame with its Top Gun style theatrics.

Great Post From Wayback By Baxter Sez

Baxter Sez namedrops Soulfish Stew in a post about the old Nashville rock and roll scene. It was written during the time I was on a hiatus so I missed it the first time around. It's a wonderfully written piece; much better than my sloppy prose so check it out. Melora Zaner has a way of getting dudes rhapsodic.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

2 Months

2 months to the day and I will turn 40. Will I be too old to enjoy the following Anti-Society primer type Youtube goodness once that day hits?

I doubt it!

Wally's World Of Work Part 4

Where Wally details the many places he’s toiled for. When last we met I had just quit Mazzio’s Pizza so I could attend a Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper concert. The concert was fantastic with Mojo laying down all sorts of lewd comments about Oprah Winfrey since she used to live and work in Nashville. But the fun was short lived since the next day I had to go see about getting a new job.

Ace’s Pizza was next on my list of jobs. I cooked pizzas and made deliveries, but mostly I just hung around playing paper football with the manager Trent. The place was owned by some guys from Knoxville and since the business was failing we never saw them. We were lucky if we even got the payroll check. I spent a few desultory months there; November 87 through February 88 sloshing through the snow to deliver the occasional pizza. When I wasn’t there I was hanging around with the Gonz worming my way into his rock and roll band.

I had a truck payment to make and Ace’s wasn’t doing me too good on that end so I started working full time at Cummings Signs in Murfreesboro in March. Cummings was a sign making factory that I was very familiar with since my father had worked as a guard there when I was junior high school age. He called up some people he knew there and I was hired. It was my first experience with factory work.

My job was to wash excess paint off the signs with some turpentine mixture that just about ruined my skin. Once we swabbed the sign down we’d put it on a shelf somewhere and grab another one. I’m not talking about little rinky dink signs. We’re talking the huge commercial strip ones, mainly car lot and gas station signs. I mainly dealt with Chrysler and Gulf. The Chrysler ones were a pain as the corners tended to crack. More than two cracked corners and you had to scrap the booger which was a lot of money going down the tubes. The Gulf ones were cool in one way and horrible in another. They were cool because they didn’t get the turpentine treatment. All I had to do with them was peel something called “spray-lat” off of them. The hard part came once this was finished since it took 3-4 people to carry a Gulf sign to the shelf.

It’s funny, but I was making more money than the guys helping me with the Gulf sign. Some of them had been there a year too. The reason: I was still under my 90 day probationary period and my union dues hadn’t kicked in yet. Cummings was a union shop; 100%. Now you didn’t have to join the union, but it was strongly encouraged by the thuggish union rep that had his own office. I signed on the dotted line for fear I’d never get to use a pen again if I didn’t. It was a good lesson in basic economics for me, especially when the rumored layoffs started happening.

I was a short timer so I knew I wouldn’t last long. This didn’t keep some of the chuckleheads that worked there from threatening me. “If I get layed off before you do I’m going to kick your ass.” Those were the exact words of some dork that I vaguely knew from my Riverdale days. He probably would have tried too. Many of the people that worked at Cummings used their 30 minute lunch breaks to get drunk across the street at Goff’s. If they weren’t doing that they were getting wasted in the company parking lot.

I’ll admit that I was into partying back then, but not while I was at work. Plus, most of the people at Cummings were more into Hank Williams Jr. while I was more into X and The Replacements during that time frame. So I wasn’t too keen on fitting in. It wasn’t like I’d have awhile to get know everyone. The ax began to fall after I had been there a mere month. It made me wonder why they had hired us. Perhaps they just needed to get a couple of big orders out; like perhaps for Chrysler dealers and Gulf stations.

Fear was in the air. There were a few dudes hired on after me. They lasted a month. I made it to the 2 month mark. When the end came I didn’t care. I had made up my mind to head back to college and let the truck go back. The only thing I would miss about the factory job was the hours. I liked getting off at 3:30 in the afternoon.

After this spell of labor I wouldn’t work a real job for a long time. It was a descent into a purgatory of sorts. I lived with my father. I didn’t have a car. He’d take me to college in the mornings and I’d hang out all day until he got off work. It was a weird era which I’ll document sometime later when I rehash college. But for now we’re talking work and I won’t hold a job for quite sometime. This made me miserable and happy at the same time.

Wally’s world of work part 5 will focus on the Wally Wastoid years where I worked sporadically if at all. Telephone book deliveryman, skateboard shop clerk, McDonalds (again), Sir Pizza, Demo’s, and beyond will all get their due

Theme Songs Entrance Music (some call it onanism)

The devoted reader of this blog knows that I have a thing for theme songs. I was in a band named Dragula. We had a song called Dragula. In that case the song came before the band name (which was Kill Whitey at the time) and of course the name itself came from The Munsters television show which happens to have a bitchin' theme song itself. My prior group was called Michael Landon's Ghost so we had to have a song titled that. The band came first.

So I've always thought it would be cool if we all had theme songs. It's not an original thought by any stretch; there was a good Seinfeld episode built around one of Elaine's boyfriends stopping everything whenever "Desperado" came on the radio. Your own personal theme song would also be used as entrance music. Imagine that every time you entered a room and perhaps "Gigantor" by The Dickies would play. It might be fairly cool the first dozen or so times.

Maybe you'd need a shifting catalogue of theme songs to use or maybe just have one big theme (your own "Desperado") along with thousands of little snippets of bumper music. You save the theme for a big entrance while the bumper music could fit your mood. My mood now would tend toward the Match Game game show bumper music.

The rise of cellphone ring tones has made such a theme song world possible to some extent. I don't hear much of it with the older crowd, but the youth are hip to it. It's like the aural equivalent to having your own Bobby Byrd with you at all times.

Let me explain: Bobby Byrd was James Brown's right hand man. When James would call out Byrd would answer. I've always thought having Bobby Byrd at a business meeting would rock. You could make a point and then Byrd could shout out a counterpoint and the whold meeting could be one funky party instead of drowsy power point presentations filled with charts. Byrd shouting out "Soul power" is the ringtone I would like.

Boombox Punk Slop For Fans Who Aren't Too Picky

I made a Michael Landon's Ghost Myspace site for the hell of it. It contains some songs recorded with a boombox at one of our rehearsals. There's "Meat Locker", "So High", and "Michael Landon's Ghost" for your displeasure. Guaranteed to attract vermin. I believe the tunes were recorded around the year 1992, but everything was kind of a blur back then.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hollywood Slick

The Soulfish wife's brother has finally got back into the rock and roll thing again with a project dubbed Hollywood Slick. So check it out and ask them to be your friend. I'm partial to "Hudu Town" myself.

Elevation Profile

Thirty mile bike ride yesterday. I averaged 18 MPH which wasn't too shabby since I wasn't too hyped up. One car honked at me, some dude from a house yelled at me, and another dude walking on the shoulder said "that's a good bike" to me. Lots of hawks were out riding on the wind. A very nice crisp autumn run with one big 35 MPH descent that's great to climb later in the ride that I'll probably do again before November arrives.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wally's World Of Work Part 3

The recap: I’m telling stories about my varied job experiences over the years. We’re up to my third job: Mazzio’s Pizza (Fall 1985 to Fall 1987). A quick summary would include “lots of beer, lots of girls, lots of cursing, and a .22 automatic on my person.” Well, those words are from “Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys but take out the .22 automatic and it’s a match. The 2 years I spent flinging dough there were tumultuous ones filled with hangovers and spite.

I’ve been grappling with what and how to write about those years and just as those years were filled with conflict I’ve been at war with myself over this entry. How best to capture those times? I fear that if I stick to narrative it would take years to properly record. I toyed with an outline format that I would later expand upon:

The people: a mix of high school and college kids. Some were cool, some were not, and some were just this side of retarded. I might have fit all three of those.

The owners: were a bit silly to say the least.

The job: making pizzas, running a register, taking delivery orders, sometimes delivering a pizza, and the usual cleaning chores.

But this would not do. That method would be too sterile and trite. So what you’re going to get is what I’m dubbing spontaneousiary – a fancy word smash that means I’m just going to jot down some memories about the place for a few thousand words and then call it a day. So this will be very incomplete and leap back and forth through time with paragraph breaks becoming arbitrary unfilled spaces just so your eyes can rest.

I felt like I could never rest at that joint. It was full time labor followed up with full time partying with my co-workers. Shotgun beers, liquor, other substances; the party never ended. I’d come to work hung over and bent. There were a few times I made it as far as the parking lot across the street where I’d crawl to the payphone to tell them I was sick and wouldn’t be in that day. I’d crawl back to my car and fall asleep.

I was listening to lots of Suicidal Tendencies and Sex Pistols at the time. Repeatedly; just one after the other all morning long when I had a night shift and all evening when I worked the day shift. The Mazzio’s uniform was a blue polo shirt with a matching trucker cap. The pizza sauce stains were almost impossible to get out. Nobody liked dealing with the sauce kettle. The sauce would splash out when you poured it in the pan. Later you’d have to clean the kettle and the sauce would burn and stick to it.

We started selling spaghetti so I promptly spilled the water in the maker on my left hand. I got 2nd degree burns, a trip to the emergency room, and a month or so on workmen’s compensation. It was a blessing in disguise because I started hanging out with the Gonz again instead of spending all of my time getting wasted. Burning my hand is probably what led me into forming The Dislocated.

I threw my shoes one night in the parking lot. It sounds stupid and mundane on paper, but it was dynamic the night it happened. I was supposed to go running around with all of old high school crew so they were waiting for me to get off the clock at 9 pm. The restaurant was packed with people ordering crap like large taco pizzas with diet cokes and the owners wouldn’t let me leave. My buds waited for me and when I emerged a good 45 minutes late I was pissed. I had bought some new Converse earlier that day so the old shoes had to go. It was a marvelous feeling slinging those old worn out shoes into the humid night air.

I wrote my first punk song about the place. It was called “Work Sucks” and the song was pure comedic genius. It was mean, puerile, and was so simple I could play it on guitar. When we played our first gig I heard that everybody really liked us except for our one original. If they’d worked at Mazzio’s they might have thought different.

If a Mazzio’s reunion was held; who would I want to see? I wouldn’t want to run into the two owners collectively known as Richbob (that’s who we really worked for: Richbob Corporation). I would like to run into Doug Camp even if he was the dude that dubbed me “Bonehead” one night. Sure I put a hot nachos plate up for a customer at the counter forgetting to put it in its carrying tray. I was probably still hung over or something. Camp was a cool dude and a helluva artist. He could draw anything. We spent many, many nights drinking, listening to heavy metal, and talking about nothing with his favorite topic being the Bell Witch since he was from Adams, Tennessee. We even got together a few times to go spelunking in nearby caves, but we never made it up to the Bell Witch cave.

Were there ladies I crushed on? There were a few, but I was too goofy to make a play on any of them. Sometimes we’d convince a few to come over after work where we’d get drunk watching The Song Remains The Same and they would just sit perplexed. There was the one girl named Tammy that I talked out of going into real estate because I thought she was too nice. I wouldn’t mind finding out what she did with her life. Then there was a girl named Wonderling that I once got to kiss. We were playing Pass Out so it didn’t really count. She was engaged to some guy I thought was a total dork. He managed the pet department of the local Wal-Mart and I despised him. I’d be curious as to how they turned out.

I think I’ve turned out okay. I know I’m very happy with my wife and kids. Would all of the Mazzio’s crew be able to say the same? Odds are good that some of them are even dead, but I hope not. No matter how much I hated going into work every day I still had some good times. They didn’t always involve the Arkanoid machine either. The years after high school and before you turn 21 are tumultuous ones where most of your free time is spent wondering just who the hell you are. By the time I hit 21 I knew enough about myself that I didn’t want to work at Mazzio’s anymore.

I felt sick one morning and told the boss I needed to leave. He told me that if I left I was quitting. Since I had a Mojo Nixon show to attend later I couldn’t risk getting any sicker so I left. Mojo Nixon put on a great show at the Cannery that night. The next day I walked into Ace’s Pizza and got a job with them. Which is where Part 4 of Wally’s World Of Work will begin.

Where's The Money?

Dragula is available at Emusic! Where's all the royalty money we should be getting? We never signed a contract or anything. It's just another case of musicians getting took by the savage and mean recording industry - in this case it's that uber maniacal Lucha Libre mask wearing Eddie Angel who's the head honcho at Spinout Records that took advantage of Dragula's sweet nature. I hear he also stiffed his own band Los Straitjackets, wink wink nudge nudge. Hell, it's pretty nifty that folks can download a couple of songs that were written in Lumpy Deluxe aka Spacefink's garage and recorded at M.T.S.U. by Drew - it's just a shame that the boy got a F for it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Heavy Metal Baby

I'm not so punk that I won't admit I love classic heavy metal. I was a metal freak before I stuck the anarchy button to my lapel. Oddly enough, I never dug the punk metal hybrid very much. I could grok the Black Flag channeling Sabbath vibe of My War, but Corrosion Of Conformity syle rock never impressed me much. What sort of metal did I like? I'm not super choosy. Give me the dark and ominous Black Sabbath. I'll take some Van Halen L.A. metal scene. Crank up the Nuge. Play some Dungeons & Dragons with Dio. Drink lots of brew whilst rocking out with Motorhead. Rock and roll all night and party all day with KISS.

I'll easily admit that the heavy metal culture can be filled with total idiots. Just watch the trailer from the legendary Heavy Metal Parking Lot than view American Hi-Fi's wonderful homage to it. Denim and leather isn't exactly my style. But the sometimes cringeworthy stupidity is part of its appeal to me. It takes just a few steps from throwing your fists into the air at an Accept concert to running around in a mosh pit to a hardcore punk act. It's all such a good soundtrack to teenage angst and pent up aggression.

I'm far removed from those days yet I still like the stuff. I even have the fun of discovering acts like Skid Row that I never listened to on their first go around because back then I was too smug and into indie rock and bossa nova. I know it may be suspect: this dude pushing 40 throwing the heavy metal sign out as he pogos across the living room to Diary Of A Madman, but it's fun. Big goofy fun. I think back to that particular Ozzy record and how I would stare at the weird runes on the cover and wonder about the secrets contained in it. I took it all so serious then. Which makes me laugh at myself all these years later. The joy I get from metal may have changed, but there's a love for the oft-maligned genre that will never dim.

If you missed out on metal back in the day or just want to expand your musical horizon beyond the latest Bright Eyes release try these albums on for size. They always do the trick for me.

Iron Fist Motorhead - Iron Fist "the devil's grip the iron fist" what rebellious kid wouldn't like lyrics like those along with songs about taking speed and scoring with American girls cruising around in their daddy's Pontiac. Iron Fist is just classic proto-thrash metal.

II Van Halen - II C'mon, it has "Light Up The Sky", "D.O.A.", "Beautiful Girls", "Somebody Get Me A Doctor", and more! It's perfect pop metal crunch.

Master Of Reality Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality That hacking cough, children and revolution, outer space, "Lord Of This World" scary, perverse, their best.

Diary Of A Madman Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman "You Can't Kill Rock And Roll" meant something to me when I was younger and it still resonates today. The flange effect by Rhoads in "Flying High Again" gives me little thrill pricks as always, "Little Dolls" get their skin pricked period, and what does "S.A.T.O." mean? Is it Sailing Across The Ocean, Ships At The Ocean, or Sharon Arden Thelma Osbourne. I lean toward the first one.

Peace Sells...But Who's Buying Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying My old band The Dislocated used to play Megadeth songs at practice. "Wake Up Dead" and the title track were our faves, but I also dig the demonic "Conjuring" and "Devil's Island" rips and roars.

Reign In Blood Slayer - Reign In Blood The ultimate slab of molten thrash metal featuring the moshpit middle of "Angel Of Death" through the hellish thump of "Raining Blood" never fails to stir the blood.

The Red Hand Gang Ruled!

Check out the skateboard action near the end of the show's intro.

Beatles Sacrilicious

Ah, let's discuss what some refer to as my Beatles problem - that problem being that they're not my favorite band of all time. This is sacrilege to many, perplexing to those who know of my love for crunchy power pop chords, and confusing to the self appointed critics out there that think I'm too judgemental when it comes to the Mop Tops.

I could go on and on about why I don't like the Beatles as much as I do other groups, but I'm all about brevity today. The tip of the iceberg: I didn't hear the Beatles until I was in 5th grade. By then they had been broken up for more than 6 years. I'm not a baby boomer so I don't attach any nostalgic memories to them. They helped spawn hippies and the wearing of granny glasses. They indulged George Harrison's love of the sitar. They thought they were more important than they were. Ever seen Magical Mystery Tour? 'Nuff said.

Before you bombard me with hate mail (and you do know how much I love to get comments telling me how stupid I am, especially when the comments are misspelled) I will say that I like the Beatles. Heck, I like them a whole lot. Their early sides were raucous joyful rock and roll. Their mid-period era was sublime and artful with Rubber Soul near the top of my best of list. I could do without much of the Sgt. Pepper's psychedelic stuff and afterwards they are truly hit and miss. Do people really like "Come Together" or they just saying they do just to please their peers.

Still I rarely reach for Beatles discs. It's their ubiquitous nature. We're constantly being bombarded with their musical and cultural legacy by the boomers. There's even a new documentary about Lennon coming out soon. So it's not like I ever need to hear them again. Their songs have been burned into my head. It makes me glad my parents weren't baby boomers or I'd have had to spend my entire life under the Beatles. I was raised on Chuck Bery, Elvis, rockabilly, and country artists like Hank Williams and Merle Haggard.

Here's an incomplete list of artists I'd take over the Beatles anyday:

Elvis Presley
Gram Parsons
The Who
Merle Haggard
Hank Williams
Dead Boys
Beastie Boys
Sex Pistols
The Clash
Big Star
Black Flag
James Brown
Run D.M.C.
Otis Redding
Jimi Hendrix
The Jam
Marvin Gaye
Rolling Stones
Van Halen
Beach Boys
Bob Marley
Jerry Lee Lewis
T. Rex
Chuck Berry
Little Richard
Guided By Voices
Black Sabbath
The Replacements
Joy Division
Husker Du
New Order
Patti Smith
The Smiths
Velvet Underground
New York Dolls
Frank Zappa
Captain Beefheart
The Monkees
Michael Hurley

So who would you take over the Beatles? Am I just a crazy, deluded fool? Let me know.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Last Big Mouth Standing

There were too many big mouths in this town. Is it a coincidence that after our war of words Keith A. Gordon is now splitting Nashville? I think not. I now declare myself the winner.

Well, to turn a Rmones quote on its head, "I hate to see you go, go , go, go, goodbye." I wish him all the best and good luck on the local musical artists history he is writing.

SST Fanboy Redux

There was a time when the record label SST towered above all the indies. If I saw SST on the spine of an album I would buy it even if I had never heard of the band. Lately, I've found myself reaching for these SST groups' records again. So here's some brief posts about Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Black Flag, Dinosaur jr., and Husker Du.

Minutemen - They could drive 55. They were "f**kin' corndogs." They were San Pedro's finest export. They liked Van Halen just like me. They jammed econo. They freakin' rule!

Minutemen - Two Beads At The End

Meat Puppets - Arizona desert "new gods" of punk rock came on like a lysergic cactus puncture to my Suicidal Tendencies sensibilities. Their second album and Up On The Sun are tranfigurative singular oddities that will fill your spirit with a dusty completeness.

Meat Puppets - Up On The Sun

Black Flag - If I ever did get a tattoo it would have to be the Black Flag "bars" logo.

Dinosaur jr. - Their SST alliance was brief, but "Freak Scene" was a zeitgeist sort of track for me.

Husker Du - Zen Arcade is one those records that should be in the pantheon of independent rock and roll - a scrapyard of moods, guitar chords, and angst. When others were blasting Ratt in the school parking lot I was blasting the Du.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Death Tripping Picnic Motorcycle Symbols (Heyzoo I'm A Duck)

It's Monday and loyal readers of Soulfish Stew know what that means: it's time for me to hit the ejecter seat button and fire
off lots of random thoughts and related gibberish. So enjoy the show and if you're not careful you just might learn something.

So how many people out there have picnics at the gravesite of a loved one? I never have, but it looks like fun. There was a family yesterday doing just that. They had the picnic blanket and a big basket of food. It looked to be a mother and her two little girls. As I passed by in my car I wondered whose grave they were visiting. Could it have been a grandparent? A brother or sister? Or perhaps their father? Maybe the woman wasn't their mother because their mother was buried there. Maybe they weren't visiting anybody and they just liked to have picnics in cemeteries. There are usually no crowds.

I also passed a funeral home on my way to where I was going. You get the rock stat treatment here as your name goes up on a big marquee. The parking lot was filled with cars. I wonder if the parking lot will be filled with cars when I go. Will the people inside be sad or happy? Perhaps it will be a combination of both. Hopefully it will be many decades before my name goes up
on the big sign. When I do go I hope my relatives play "Pet Sematary" by the Ramones. Just in case they get any weird ideas.

When I think about the Ramones I think about leather jackets. Leather jackets leads me to motorcycles. This is something that had probably just escaped my attention, but when did motorcyclists start waving to other motorcyclists. I was behind a couple of dudes riding Harleys yesterday and without fail they stuck their left hands out whenever another cyclist came in the other direction. Emily Post would be proud.

Toby, long time missing in action subversive agent, has good manners. He picked up the tip for our cold beer and pizza supper on Saturday night. It was really cool to get to see "Black Belt" Holmes again. It had been like....what....over 10 years since I last spoke with the dude. We fell into conversation as if the time had not even passed. You'd think that most of our talk was about the past, and while we did do some reminiscing most of our discussion centered on the now. Which is how it should be.

That said: one of the funniest stories I had forgotten was about jamming with Leyhew. Before Toby and I officially convened our legendary punk band Michael Landon's Ghost we got together a few times to play some tunes with old school mate T-Dog. I could barely play any real songs at this stage so I figured I could just make a little noise and learn some tunes from T-Dog. He started playing some classic rock junk using some funky chordings. I was used to power chords then and I was left clueless by what he was playing. I had never seen real chords played beyond the first couple of frets. T-Dog did make me feel good though - he just wasn't very good. He kept playing this same riff over and over and then he'd stop and ask us, "Can you help me out with that?" We helped him by playing a bunch of sludgy riffs at extra slow pace since we were then in our Melvins phase.

Squidbillies, anyone?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Toby Has Been Found!

TH Well, it's more like he found the Dragula Myspace page, but still Toby is alive and kicking. He sent me a message and "cold beers" were mentioned and I have to say I approve his message. It's good to be back in touch with a friend.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Practical Stylists Video

Youtube is truly an amazing thing. I missed out on seeing Nashville band The Practical Stylists live due to my youth, but thanks to the digital age I can now see them perform and so can you. The Practical Stylists were the most Anglo of the local New Wave acts back in the early 80's and it's a shame they didn't go on to a major label deal.

Fashionista Don't Allow Buddies Or A Wicked Mullet

It's fashion week in NYC. I know this because I heard it mentioned on Bob & Tom. I don't keep up with fashion. It can only lead to disappointment. I wear what I wear. It may be ugly, it could be cheap, it will be comfortable, it might even be in fashion, it might not, but I view clothing from a utilitarian angle most of the time. Did I ever try and be fashionable. Yes, yes, yes. I made attempts, but these either failed as in I never purchased or received the clothes I wanted or I did manage to buy fashionable clothes that either were already on the way out of fashion or cobbled together by me in a way to render them unfashionable. The outsider ethos of my life mixed with innate shyness around people could easily sabotage any look I conceived. However I can look back with fondness at my past clothing fits and wonder the what if' what if I had managed to talk my parents into buying me parachute pants my sophomore year of high school. Would it have changed my life forever? Perhaps some super cool heavy metal kid would have talked to me and we would have formed a band and changed the face of music. If that sounds stupid to you then you don't understand the power of clothes. I may value clothes primarily for utilitarian reasons, but I'm not dumb. A JFA concert shirt once got me a date with a girl which led to a several months long romance.

I was oblivious to fashion as a child which is how it should be. I wore Sears Tough Skins, lots of corduroy, tennis shoes bought from the local Pic'n'Pay, and really loud 70's pullover shirts. The tennis shoes were the one item you got the most fun buying. A pair of tennis shoes had to last a good 4-6 months so you wanted some that looked cool; the kind that made you imagine you'd run faster when you wore them. So it's no surprise that tennis shoes were the first items of clothing that became important in a fashion sense. It was in 6th grade that I learned that I wore buddies.

We were changing classes and a kid who wasn't in any of my classes started laughing at me and pointing at my shoes. When he said I was wearing buddies I didn't know what in the hell he was talking about. My comic book geek friends didn't know either, but my juvenile delinquent friends did. Once I found out, I didn't care. I was much more into comics, Hot Wheels, and television to care. It was the crushes on the girls that did me in.

I started hitting the roller rink in 7th grade and while I didn't become a slave to fashion I started to notice what the girls liked. Levi's jeans (always button fly) replaced the Tough Skins. I wore a fat comb in a back pocket even though my curly locks resisted taming. I never could get that feathered look that was all the rage for girls and boys. I got a sweatshirt with my school's name, Central Middle, emblazoned across it. I got into the corporate rock and roll marketing machine purchasing some Kiss shorts. This was all mild compared to 8th grade.

I got the greatest pair of shoes I'll ever have had: canvas Nike tennis shoes with the light blue swoop. They had the classic sole that could squeak even on dry floors. They went with everything too. I pleaded for them. I cajoled. I begged with every fiber of my being to get a pair before school began. I was in a new town. I needed all the help I could get to meet the cool kids. It worked too. The preppies and jocks accepted me right into their cliques. Being me, I promptly started hanging out with some of the rock and roll freaks. I even started wearing Keds before the school year was over which was just one step over the buddy line. You wouldn't catch any of the freaks wearing an Izod Lacoste shirt like Bucky Rice - he had Lacoste shirts for every day of the week.

But I wasn't a freak. I was just some in between kid that got along with most everybody. 9th grade saw us moving back to Murfreesboro. I would be in another new school. I wanted an Izod Lacoste shirt to help me fit in this time. They were a bit more pricey than the shoes and it took some doing to convince my mother. I nagged her enough until one day she packed me in the car and we drove across town to Harveys which was the only store in Murfreesboro that we know harbored any of those polo shirts with the alligator on them (yeah I know it's really a crocodile). So I ended up with an item that was technically in fashion, but in what would set the tone for future fashion purchases I ended up with the most godawful ugly alligator shirt ever made. It was a green and yellow striped thing. The word garish might have even been on the wash and wear tag. If it wasn't it should have been. It wasn't my choice. It was my mother's wallet's choice.

I wore the damned item for picture day and then chucked it into the closet. I couldn't make friends at Oakland High. I started wearing whatever the hell I wanted to which meant jeans and flannel. It was the era when I slept in my clothes and I'd wear the same items for days. not making any friends! I liked to wear concert t-shirts over the flannel shirts. If that was ever a trend; I'm taking responsibility for it. The only fashion trend that year I briefly rocked: ag-boy chic which fit right in with my flannel wear since all you needed was a Co-op cap with the brim made into a duck's bill and a pair of work boots. Taking agriculture didn't hurt either. I can still spot a Poland China from a mile away.

Farm life looked good from the city, but when we moved to a farm before 10th grade started I found out I wasn't much for farming. So the look I suddenly wanted included penny loafers and a striped Oxford shirt. The penny loafers part was easy. The shirt was easy to mess up. I wanted an Arrow shirt with a button down collar. So I got a pink shirt with white stripes. This was bad enough, but to make it worse it didn't have a button down collar. It had a big white collar that was kept in place by a gold pin. It was like I was Charlie Brown - heck I would have looked better dressed like Chuck.

So I went back to the old standby of Levi's, concert shirts, and freak shoes. Freak shoes are normally called wallabees, but just like it's only preppies and jocks that liked Timberland boots back then only stoners and heavy metal fans wore wallabees when I was in high school; hence freak shoes. Then it turned cold and Member's Only jackets became the thing to have. I didn't even want one and my parents didn't disappoint me there. They bought me this huge bulky black nylon thing that had zippered pockets all over it. If it had been leather people would have thought I was into S & M.

Parachute Pants
The nylon I wanted was parachute pants. Jeff Blair had a pair and Jeff was one of the coolest cats around. He drove a Trans Am, played electric guitar, and went to all of the rock concerts in Nashville. He'd wear the latest cool t-shirt with his black parachute pants which always had a bandanna or two tied around a leg. He also rocked a wicked mullet along with a penchant for camouflage pants. I never did get a pair of parachute pants, but I did get some camo pants inspired by the film The Wild Life and Jeff.

The camouflage pants were a good springboard toward my senior year wish it was punk rock but New Wave will do look. The thrift store suit jacket was the most vital component of this look. It gave a person lots of room to place rock and roll buttons and it went great with a t-shirt. My friend Bruno was a maniac about buttons covering the front of his along with rocking a fedora. I took an old denim jacket and turned it into a punk jacket with Sharpie slogans covering the back. The best fashion moment of the year was in the spring at a world history academic contest where the teacher told me I needed to take off the DIY anarchy button I had made.

I had found my look! Thrift store garb was the way to go for me. Overlayered with a suit jacket filled with buttons screamed intellectual to me. An old USMC trench coat completed the picture in winter. I thought I was something walking across the college campus smoking a clove cigarette. This look would get me through most of one semester until I dropped out. It was the era of Wally's disillusionment.

I went to work and I got drunk. That's what I did for almost two years straight. Then my life was saved by rock and roll and skateboarding. I started singing with The Dislocated and then I started skating with the Gonz and Papoose. I even got back into college. When I went back to Riverdale High to play a gig in front of the whole student body with The Dislocated I wore camouflage pants, the JFA t-shirt that would later land me a chick, Chuck Taylor's, some John Lennon granny style sunglasses, and a Cubs baseball cap. It was a dreadful look, but it was me. We filmed the show and maybe someday we'll put some of it on Youtube.

If that fashion mistake wasn't enough I spent the next few years wearing day-glo flavored shorts, Vans skate shoes, and rock and roll t-shirts to go with various hairstyles like the buzzcut, the dyed blonde, the 90210, the long and shaggy, the long and shaggy but shaved underneath aka the Jason Newsted, the shaved except for one shock of hair aka the modified Zippy, and then the dyed red trying to dye it blonde haircut. It could have been worse, the Gonz liked the Body Glove look.

By the mid-90's the skater shorts were gone, but now I was prone to wearing lots of plaid. That's how I was dressing when I met the future Soulfish wife. I had gone back to the thrift stores in earnest which at the time were stocked with Izod Lacoste shirts. I bought dark colors. I liked button up sweaters, khakis, and low top Vans. I could have passed for emo even though that musical movement was many years away from becoming a codified thing. The Soulfish wife helped to tighten up my look and it hasn't changed much since then.

My fashion sense today is primarily dictated by work: khakis and a company polo shirt. When not at work it's the casual daddy style: rock and roll, button down, or rugby shirts, shorts or jeans, tennis shoes or loafers, and perhaps a baseball cap. Add a sweater during the winter and I'm happy. Gone are the days when I might rock an African dashiki (picked up in D.C. at an African festival during the Iran-Contra era), a tie-dyed shirt with the Soviet cross and sickle (Fat Sammy told me I'd get my ass kicked wearing that shirt when visiting Ripley, Mississippi one summer - I should have been beat for pairing the shirt with a pair of pink plaid Bermuda shorts), tortoise shell Raybans, or a hooded Baja shirt.

I now get to survive my own children's fashion wants. The girls' big thing this summer was getting a pair of Crocs. They didn't mind when they got knock-offs. They're only 7 and 4 so the peer pressure isn't so great, yet. I'm sure it won't be long until we're being asked, cajoled, and begged for the latest hot item and while we won't acquiesce to all of their demands we'll try and make them happy when it's appropriate and I promise no green and yellow monstrosities allowed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Nashville Rock Post Replay

Last year I put up a 4 part series written by myself and friend DD Blank on the Nashville Rock Scene circa 1978 up to recently and there are still folks out there stumbling across it. Often, they read one part and can't find the next part or read just a couple of the entries not realizing there's more. So, in the interest of these people kind enough to waste some time visiting this blog I'm posting links to all 4 parts in this post:

Rick Champion Opened A Hot Dog Stand Part 1

Rick Champion Opened A Hot Dog Stand Part 2

Rick Champion Opened A Hot Dog Stand Part 3

Rick Champion Opened A Hot Dog Stand Part 4

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wally's Trip To NYC 1990 (My 9-11 Remembrance)

I went from Nashville to Lynchburg, Virginia one fine summer afternoon with the ultimate destination being Manhattan. I promptly developed a nose bleed somewhere around Knoxville. It must have been the higher elevation. We were to spend the evening at DD's grandmother's house. We must have left on a Sunday because we were excited about getting to see 120 Minutes in the basement of her home. Sonic Youth's "Kool Thing" debuted that night and we were sure we had seen the future of popular rock and roll. The Chickasaw Mudd Puppies made an impression on us too. We rambled around the Virginia countryside and took in Colonial Williamsburg and DD's alma mater William & Mary too. We ate fresh baked bread made by his grandmother knowing we wouldn't have it so good until we stopped for the night on our return. DD ate my salad while his grandmother's back was turned so she wouldn't be disappointed in my appetite.

Appomattox was next on our list to visit. We stopped in the early morning haze to indulge in history. I was Civil War mad as a youth and I would visit Stones River Battlefield outside of Murfreesboro often. Appomattox was such an unassuming place to have witnessed such a momentous event. Somehow it was totally fitting. We didn't stay long since we needed to get to Richmond where one of DD's college friends, Randy, had offered us a night's lodging. We also wanted to devote some quality time to record store hopping.

We hit the Fan section of Richmond including a visit to Plan 9 Records. I wondered about how GWAR could have come from the VCU environs with all of the brightly painted pretty houses. We ran into a weird record store owner in some small shop in downtown Richmond who tried to peddle us some Ramones bootlegs. He detailed how gruesome the Jersey Turnpike was when we told him where we were headed later on our trip. What makes tourists want to open up before complete strangers; especially nutty record store proprietors.

I was the Bundini Brown to DD's Ali, the Kerouac to his Neal Cassaday until it came time to play softball that night with Randy. Randy and his fiancee Karen played for her accountants' team and they were shorthanded. DD refused to play since his hand eye coordination just wasn't suited for the slow paced world of softball, but I jumped at the chance to join their team. I hadn't played in years so I figured they would stick me in right field, but instead I was placed at first. I promptly committed a boneheaded error when I let a lazy blooper fall between me and Karen.

My first at bat was almost a disaster as I hit a slow roller into the infield, but I couldn't take another blow to my fragile ball playing ego that early in the contest so I made like Ricky Henderson and beat the throw to first for an infield hit. The rest of the evening went smooth as butter flavored popcorn as I made defensive stops at first and bashed out hit after hit to help lead the accountants to a victory. Their ultra-competitive third basemen that had been angry at me earlier had changed his tune asking me if I would join the team for good. It was tempting to remain in Richmond for the summer, but DD and I had to stick to our plan. We checked out Monument Avenue and then wished goodbye to Randy and Karen. We had a big day of driving ahead.

Baltimore, Delaware, and then North Brunswick, New Jersey were on tap. We caught a big break when the backup in the harbor tunnel at Baltimore was headed south. The bridge over the Delaware River loomed massively before disappearing briefly and then we on it excited at what lay in wait on the deadly Jersey Turnpike, which turned out to be just as dull as most highway systems are with none of the carnage or crazy drivers promised to us by the wacky record store owner in Richmond. We made better time than expected and ended up with time to kill in North Brunswick waiting for DD's bud Derek The Great to get off work.

DD and I made like good dumb Southern rubes when we decided to turn into a mall to waste time. The street system there was not like it is in Nashville and while we waited to make a left hand turn irate motorists behind honked their horns and screamed epithets at us. We just thought it was typical Yankee rudeness until we later figured out how the highways worked. We'd have yelled and honked at us too.

The mall was your typical suburban wasteland of junk filled to the brim that season with Simpson's merchandising. We killed time by killing our souls and then made it to Derek The Great's home where we were shown great courtesy by his gracious parents. Derek The Great showed us around North and South Brunswick that evening bragging about the number of bars per capita and taking us to the coolest record shop in town. We drove by his old high school which was atop a great hill. "When the weather is clear you can see the World Trade Center from here," mused Derek The Great. I thought I saw their lights, but it was a hazy night and it might have just been my dreams of visiting the city the next day were interfering with my eyes. He took us to a local market where I played some pinball and then tried to chat up the girl behind the counter showing the typical boldness I had when traveling that would never happen back home. We watched Letterman since he was still funny back then and I eventually fell to a fitful sleep.

I awoke to the sounds of breakfast. I don't know if I had ever had bagel before that day, but they were delicious. We got ready and soon we were in a brown train station that looked like it stepped out of the pages of On The Road waiting for the train that would take us into Manhattan. It clacked and swayed while the industrial wasteland section of New Jersey went by like some jerky anti-pollution classroom film from the 70's. I strained to try and see glimpses of the fabled isle, but soon we were in a tunnel with our next stop Grand Central Station.

DD had been to NYC before and obviously Derek The Great spent lots of time here since he was a 30 to 40 minute trip away, but the biggest city I had visited had been Atlanta. I had been absorbing scenes of New York from television starting with Sesame Street and I was excited about being there in the flesh. Grand Central didn't disappoint with its vast square footage with all of it occupied by commuters bustling as if they were all on roller skates. A fast pace might not be what most like, but as a punk rock junkie I liked breakneck speed in my music and my life. Our time here would be limited so we joined the horde.

First we had to go meet Derek The Great's lady friend. I know we were properly introduced, but I've forgotten her name. I do remember having to be buzzed into her lobby which was something new for me. Our first destination was the Metropolitan Museum so we could get us a whole heaping bowl of high culture and art. Plus I had always wanted to visit the place after reading From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a child. It did not disappoint me. We saw a Tiffany's exhibit. We saw lots of Egyptian stuff and the Jackson Pollack paintings amazed with their size.

Next up was a visit to the comic book mecca, Forbidden Planet, where Spiderman himself was making an in-store visit. It was conveniently located by Tower Records which is where Derek's lady informed DD and I about this awesome record store in Princeton, New Jersey called the Record Exchange. DD's Spock ears went up since he was planning on us cutting through Jersey. We went to a pizza slice place for lunch where we got “soup nazi” type service. Some Southerners might have found it rude, but I thought it was very efficient. I've never been a fan of people that like to talk to clerks when there's a line behind them. I made the mistake of giving some spare change to a bum. I felt sorry for him because he was wearing a Knicks shirt, but as soon as I handed him my change a line formed behind him of beggars materializing as if from thin air.

We made a pilgrimage to the Bowery and C.B.G.B.'s naturally. Since we had done pretty much what we wanted; we let Derek's lady pick the last spot of the day. She took us down to the old seaport. It was cool to be able to see the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue Of Liberty from it, but it was ultimately just a mall in a throwback uniform. Since nightfall was upon us we took a taxi to Penn Station. The driver was Middle Eastern, the ride was super fast through chaotic streets, and I loved it.

We went by the Empire State Building and Derek's lady made a remark about our wonderful Southern accents. DD and I laughed. When we're home in Tennessee everybody thought we were Yankees. So we started laying on what accent we had super thick. It was a fun game. “Wow is that Madison Squaredance Garden?”

We got on the train for Jersey and headed back to Derek's for one more night before our trip took us towards Allentown, Pennsylvania. We crossed through the middle of Jersey making sure to stop in Princeton. We toured the university and then the most important part: the Record Exchange. We went there with subdued hopes, but were bowled over by the riches inside. If only we'd had several days and lots more money to shop there. Soon we had to press on.

My ultimate destination had been Manhattan, but DD's actual mission was to attend a wedding in Allentown. It was an afterthought to me. Heck, I figured I'd stay in the hotel while the wedding was happening. I didn't know any of DD's friends except for the few I'd met during the trip. When I found out I'd have to attend the wedding I got just a little ticked off. I refused to eat the buffet at the hotel which got DD mad. When he found out I didn't have a suit jacket packed or a tie I knew I was really getting under his skin. I hadn't expected to go to a wedding I told him as I munched my Dominos pizza I had ordered. DD had packed an extra jacket and tie and being similar in size it would do. I dreaded the next day.

Allentown was a dump. I was in a foul mood. There was no way the day would turn out well. Often when I focus on the purely negative it has a way of turning around into a positive. This was the case at the wedding of DD's pal Dan Berry. It began with a joke by the pastor about there not being so many Southerners in the area since Lee was at Gettysburg and got better as the ceremony went on. I'd never been to an Episcopal wedding and I thought all the standing up and sitting down and reciting was interesting. So I had a good time until DD informed me that next we were heading to the Pocono's for the reception.

My negative vibes started spinning around again. Then I got served chicken cordon bleu. There was a band. Even better was the wet bar. Free liquor meant one happy Wally; especially since I wasn't driving. We still wished we had drank more when the afternoon was over. We had a long slow speed limit slog down the Pennsylvania Turnpike ahead of us. You damn sure couldn't miss the hex signs on the barns or the huge signs warning of the huge fine you’d receive if you drove just 1 mile over the limit. We had been warned that the traffic cops meant business so we toed the line. It was ridiculous and it seemed like forever.

We eventually made it out, cruising through West Virginia and Maryland, before heading for the Shenandoah Valley where we were convinced it was the place where oldies format radio went to die. There are also no gas stations around. We almost ran out of gas before filling up not far from UVA. Then it was Lynchburg late at night and the welcome basement of DD's grandmother.

One more day on the road and we were home. It was the longest trip of my life at the time. Other things I remember: The amount of Kiss stuff in the Jersey record stores. Kiss was many years removed from their initial fame or their eventual comeback, but they never went away there. Meeting DD's friend Dorian at William & Mary. Buying a Secret Affair album in Richmond and then listening to at Randy's pad. Just shooting the shit with Derek The Great. Looking for Lehigh University and never really knowing if we had found it our not. But the thing I remember most is the World Trade Center.

The obvious reason why was 9-11-2001. I think back to 1990 and that day in Manhattan. The two towers were always popping into sight as we went through the city. I've got snapshots of them I took from blocks away. My pop culture obsessed mind saw them as the place that King Kong had climbed and the place where the cast of Godspell sang their final song. They were abstract even as I saw them in person.

Until that beautiful September day when they disappeared in a burst of crumbling dust and they have stood concrete and resolute in my mind ever since. Even though it’s something I don't want to summon, wishing those scumbags had never been to flight school, the anger I felt that day is quick to come. The images of people leaping from the windows and the smoke and turmoil aren't pleasant, but they'll be with me forever. I had only known NYC from television and the movies until I visited it in 1990 and how strange it was to hear people describe the events of 9-11 as being like a movie. But there were no stunt people used. The loss of innocent life is what should be remembered and lamented. The 2,996 project is devoted to remembering those that lost their life in the terrorist attacks.

I didn't know anyone that lost their life that day but Derek The Great's words haunted me that day as they still do today, "When the weather is clear you can see the World Trade Center from here," spoken at his high school atop a hill in North Brunswick. It was such a normal thing to say for a Jersey boy filled with pride entertaining a couple of good ole boys from Tennessee. It just reminds me of how normal it was for those people going about their business on 9-11. Everything since feels askew.

Wally's World Of Work part 2

Part 2

Okay so I lied. Just a little bit. There will be no short story with this post because the story was not as short as I remembered, I've been super busy, and it's ultimately just not all that good. I will post some excerpts from it and you can let me know if you want it all. Circle Of Light, for that is the title, concerned one party in the summer of 1985 and the month or so I spent at the Smyrna McDonalds. This Mickey D's short tenure is what this post is about.

To refresh your memory of where we left off: I was bound for Memphis State in September. At least that was the plan. I had even toured the dormitory I would be living in earlier that summer. So I put in my two weeks notice. I worked those last two weeks in a bit of daze. I spent the last day doing much of nothing. It was a tradition of sorts. Then right on the eve of moving to Memphis I learned my parents either didn't have enough money for it or just didn't want me to move away. I had covered my living expenses. They were supposed to have come up with tuition. So I ended up at M.T.S.U. that fall which is quite the novella of disillusionment and pseudo artistic angst that I'll post here soon.

I should have gone back to work at the McDonalds in Murfreesboro. But I didn't. I viewed such a move as a failure. So I decided to try the Smyrna Mickey D's instead. It was closer to where I lived. That was my justification. The story of that job is short and almost violent. Why you ask? Well it was because of Why. That's why.

The store manager was some dude named Mark Why - real names be proof as The Minutemen put it so nicely. He seemed cool at first, but he soon turned out to be my own personal Satan of the deep fryers. The job wasn't too bad at first. The only real difference from the Murfreesboro McDonalds was that the cooks had to wrap the food (I was terrible at it - origami is just not my thing) and they had a compulsion about parking lot cleanliness yet didn't appreciate when I took thirty minutes to do it one night. Most of the crew was still in high school though a few were college age. I even knew a couple of dudes from back when I used to live in Smyrna during 8th grade. They wanted to celebrate my return to Smyrna by going to the old Rock School site to smoke some kill. It was that kind of work environment.

It would have been complete misery except for the girl there who taught me how to sweep. Her name was Melissa Shelby. I developed a mad crush for her; the irrational youthful sort that is doomed from the start.

From Circle Of Light: McDonalds = repetitious tasks, evil customers, and a uniform of lovely brown polyester. just can't look any more suave when decked out in a McD's uniform. Flip the burgers, sear the burgers, wrap the burgers, clean the parking lot and don't let one cigarette butt escape your attention, mop the blood off the tile floor. What an exciting place to be until 1am in the morning then coming in the next day at 5am. I'd drag ass into the place in the morning in an anti-social stupor trying not to f***k up the egg mcmuffins. I avoided my fellow employees as if they were live mines.

I would recite Zen koans under my breath to help fight the deadness I felt and everybody would laugh at me and the deadness would inch closer. My co-workers were all faceless masks, dope fiends, or orphans of intelligence. Until I met Melissa Shelby.

She was mysterious and new. My job was suddenly worth going to in the afternoons. Polyester never looked better. She wore her light brown hair cut in a bob and her large eyes which she claimed gave her x-ray vision. I tried to act groovy but she saw right through me. I wasn't about to fool her with my sensitive bohemian act. I needed to prove I wasn’t just a pseudo-intellectual. So I went to the M.T.S.U. library and checked out some Nietzsche. Listened to my Richard Hell albums and wished she would murder my heart.

All of this from the story is true. Perhaps the romantic vision is idealized, but the misery wasn't. The place was a prison. When Jason And The Scorchers played the Last Chance Dance that fall I couldn't go even though I asked off for the show weeks earlier. I was the low man in a highly stratified system so I never got time off. The best I got to do was listening to a few minutes of it broadcast over the radio in the break room that day. The job sucked, but when they started in with me closing every Friday night and coming in at daybreak on Saturday repeatedly I quickly got sick of the crap.

I had a talk with Mark Why. Why? Because I was pissed. He assured me that the scheduling anomaly would be addressed and I wouldn't have to work such shifts back to back again. The schedule comes out for the next week and damn if it's the same as ever including a Friday night closing and Saturday morning opening. Mr. Why and I had some words. Mine were loud and laced with what I thought was punk rock venom, but probably would sound more like whining if I could hear a replay now, but the gist of it was that Smyrna High School was having a big dance that Friday night which is why I was on the schedule. Why threw around words like teamwork, cooperation, and promise, but I had heard those same words just a week before. I had probably made up my mind to quit during that meeting. Not only to quit, but to work my schedule through that coming Thursday and then just not come in on Friday. To hell with them. To hell with all dances but slam dances. Cats Records in the 'Boro was having a free concert and that's where I needed to be.

I jazzed all of this up in the short story: The world that had once seemed so big kept getting smaller all the time. The job bore down upon with hydraulic certainty and the grease spattered me to my bones. But I kept coming in to work as a curious blankness of feeling came over me. I detached my thoughts to focus only upon Melissa. I might have been just a fragment, but she was complete.

Late at night I would sit up writing her into myth. She was my Zelda Fitzgerald and Carolyn Cassady. I would come in for the breakfast shift and she was there biting her lip like she would do and somehow this made me think of Salinger's Franny reciting prayers under her breath. Just when it seemed like I'd make some deeper connection with her the chaotic work environment would pull her away. Our voices would be drowned out by timers and orders, but there was the one grand evening after close where she taught me the proper way to sweep. I should have told her that she had already swept me off my feet.

I started writing poems for her; each one a mess of sticky Hallmark sweet homilies. I ripped them out of notebooks and scattered them through my room in the hope they would rewrite themselves. They were my fetishes of failure. I spent hours in the college library imagining I was Kerouac after his football injury at Columbia.

One night out of the blue Bruno called me up to go out drinking. He had quit the Army reserve in a fit of madness. On The Road was our favorite book and he had decided to become Dean Moriarty. He had fallen out with his girlfriend and decided to embark on a 3 day binge of drinking & purification. If life seemed slow in arriving the least one could do while waiting was get drunk. We sat behind his house talking about the ruin of our youth seeing who could out do the other when it came to horrible predictions. Everything was tragic and sentimental and stupid including us. I went on about Melissa and the mental agony of the golden arches.

Bruno's simple advice, "Quit."

I swallowed down some more Heaven Hill whiskey and it seemed right. I would work my shift tomorrow on Thursday and that would be it. I would tell Melissa how I felt about her and see what would happen. It gave me an adrenaline rush to think about it all. I drove home that night filled with a beatific joy and it wasn't just the whiskey. I bumped into my bedroom and adjusted my eyes to the dim light. The LED from my clock/radio cast a ghostly light upon the scattered poems I had written for Melissa. A car would drive past every now and then and the room would be awash with momentary brightness until the car made the corner and the light and sound would fade until I finally fell asleep. When I awoke I wondered if the previous day had been just a dream.

Bruno called me up later to remind me that I had agreed to quit and confess my love to Melissa. Quitting would be the best thing to do because if Melissa turned me down there would be no point in ever showing up again.

I tried to look cool in my uniform that night. I sat in the break room with a cigarette dangling from my lips like Marlon Brando and James Dean forgetting that the icon of the moment was the machine gun toting Sly Stone in Rambo II. Melissa came into the break room smiling sweetly. I dreamed about kissing her, but instead I just asked her what's up. We did the chit and did the chat thing and then I told her I was quitting. She told me she hated quitters and went back to work. I felt like I was just 2 inches tall. I didn't inhabit reality. I was just a pseudo-intellectual over analyzing every moment of my life checking out books from the library and then barely glancing through them I was so wrapped up in what was going on in my head. Cigarette ash drifted to the floor. I'd have to mop it up later.

The night passed by in a shadow form. I wanted to tell the girl I loved her, but I was just a quitter. It wasn't that she really hated me; she just didn't understand why I was leaving. A thousand times that night I thought I should talk to her, but the right moment was hanging out in some other town talking to some other girl. I had finally worked up the courage as we walked out the door. The closing crew gathered in the empty parking lot for some 2am loitering. I turned my head for a second and lost track of Melissa. How can you lose track of somebody in a group of 6 people in a deserted shopping center parking lot.

I stepped out from the shadow of a lamp post and I saw her. She was walking halfway across the shopping center lot singing faintly to herself. She reached one of the lamp posts and stood beneath it in a perfect circle of light. Somebody behind me yelled and I looked back for just a second. When I turned around Melissa had vanished again. I started across the lot to where she had been. The parking lot lamps started to go out one by one; they would flare for a moment and then with an angry buzz softly fade to black until finally the only light left came from the post Melissa had stood under.

That's the end of the story. And that was the way my last night at that McDonalds went. The part about her hating quitters, the cigarette, and the parking lot is all true. I did find her at her car not too long after I had walked across the lot, but I just said goodbye to her with the intention of seeing her again. I never did. It was just a string of workplace related infatuations for me that never went anywhere. I'll probably write about some more of them in passing as we cycle through all of the places I've worked, but don't worry; I won't go into much detail and I promise no more excerpts from short stories written when I was 19. As for the Smyrna McDonalds - I hope Mark Why had fun working that Friday night of the big dance without me around to flip the burgers. I know I had a blast watching Riff Rath and Burning Hearts in the Cats Records parking lot (Bruno would get threatened by the Burning Hearts manager after he wrote a bad review about them for Sidelines in which he made lots of disparaging references to their effeminate glam metal look).

Next on the list: After a month of idleness and drinking with Bruno I end up at a brand new pizza establishment in Murfreesboro.

Who's Your Dadddy Old Mill Hill!

I did it. I rode my bicycle up Old Mill Hill without stopping to walk up a portion yesterday afternoon. I feel like I can finally say I'm a real bike rider now. Next for me to conquer: Hurricane Ridge.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Holiday Learning

Things I learned over the holiday weekend:

I'm still not a good enough climber on my bicycle to get up Old Mill Hill without stopping halfway up to catch my breath. Maybe later this week.

It should be a good year for deer hunters as I've seen lots of bucks running around in the fields.

A stingray's barbed tail can be fatal which ultimately means a world without a crocodile hunter is a little less fun.

The Jeffersons is still almost funny.

When tent caterpillars take on a cherry tree the cherry tree loses.

Our cat has developed blood lust for mice which is good since that is why we got her.

Lake Wobegon Days is surprisingly good. The backstory: I saw Keillor on Letterman way back in the day and thought he was cool in a goofy sort of way. Mainly I really liked his red socks. I was going to rush out and buy the book, but I kept putting it off until I recently snagged a copy for 50 cents at the McKays in Chattanooga. I finally started it yesterday.

Liam is really good at flipping over stuff. That's why he's now restrained at church and our couch is up against the wall.