Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Disappearance of Stagger Lee

My wifes cat is gone.

It was here, and then it wasn’t. It was here as late as Thursday, as best as we can reconstruct the timeline of events.

It was here, and then there was a period of time – perhaps as long as 12 hours – when everyone assumed it was here, but it probably wasn’t.

Then the time came when it was gone and we knew it was gone.

He was gone.

Stagger Lee is gone.

An advertisement for pet GPS I have seen on my television informs me that this means the chances are overwhelming – 4 in 5, they state in the commercial, and in a very matter-of-fact way, so I am inclined to believe them – that Stagger Lee will never be found.

At least never found by me. Nor by my wife. Nor by our kids. Nor by anyone who is likely to return Stagger Lee to me. To us.

But he’s grown so fat and so sleepy and so mean! How did he even manage to get out and away from the house?

Perhaps Stagger Lee decided – whilst lounging on his favorite recliner during one of his famous 20-hour lounging marathons – that life is too short to be spent inside of houses. Perhaps he heard me say it and he agreed!

I am inclined to doubt this theory, however.

Stagger Lee was not a very philosophical feline...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Addiction Auditions

I will never know the wonders to be found fiending for Smack.

DT’s will never find me in an unknown stranger’s bed. I’ll never sell my ass for Bath Salts on the wrong side of the tracks nor burgle houses in some desperate search for Xanax.

Mine is the curse of the stupidest addiction. An embarrassing dependency, really. Not this sort of grist for the mill of a legend of a slow, self-destructive death – you know, Burroughs in Tangiers, Hemingway in Cuba, Hendrix… wherever the hell Hendrix was when he did all that Acid.

I feel as though we have reached a point, you and I, where I really ought to say a few words about the Addiction Auditions. My words (understandably) might not carry much weight. But at least you’ll learn you don’t want to end up like me, so consider it a cautionary tale.

I am addicted to Benadryl & Cheap Wine, always taken together, always late in the evening. How is that for street? Hmm? How is that for glamorous? Does that make me a scary-scary, bad-bad girl?

But I’m stuck with it, you see. And it’s all on account of the Addiction Auditions.

So you can go ahead and laugh now. I can wait.

*           *           *

There are a number of simple things I’d do differently, if I had it to do over again. To do the Addiction Auditions over again, I mean. 

I would dress well, but not too well. This is serious: You do not want to give off a false impression of wealth. You could wind up being chosen by Money. There are few things in life worse than a poor man – or even a man of moderate means – being saddled with a great Money Addiction. Oh, you see them often enough: Floundering about, foolishly boastful, doomed to forever fritter away even the smallest pocket lint on pie-in-the-sky hopes for the Big Payday which never comes.On the other hand, if you should happen to arrive to the Auditions looking as though you’ve only just now come rolling out of your bed, you could have the misfortune of catching the eye of Hydrocodone. Or Percocet. Or – may heaven help us all! – Purple Drank (a Houston-area delicacy, I am told).

So, you know… comb your hair a bit. Brush your teeth, if you have them. Brush them well, but not too well. Flossing is optional, although a little mouthwash never hurt anyone.

*           *           *

Arrive at the Hall of the Addictions early – but not too early.

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom. More specifically, it flies in the face of Doctor Tyrone Slothrop, preeminent Addiction Auditions scholar and jack-of-all-frauds. As documented ad nauseum in my appendices, Doctor Slothrop is wrong, and here, in a nutshell (no pun intended, Doctor) is why:

Number One, arrive too early, and you could find yourself standing eye to bloodshot eye with Addictions still up from the night before. I’ve seen it happen, friend, and forewarned is forearmed! The All-Nighter Addictions are the ugliest, the cruelest, the most unrelenting of all Addictions there ever was or ever shall be.

Number Two (and this is just between you and me, you understand), the good Doctor Slothrop is a notorious Diethyl Ether Addict, and a Diethyl Ether Addict is not to be trusted.

No, you really ought to arrive not too early and not too late, just as you ought to dress not too well but not too shabbily. When it comes to Addictions, you see, the Middle Path is the best path.

*           *           *

Next, they take you to a room and they set you on a stage, and the Addictions are told to alright, come on in. Some will limp in, and some will crawl – some won’t make it in at all – but the bulk will storm on in in one great swirl. Like a tornado, they’re roaring and they’re roiling ‘round and ‘round to face you down. They test your mettle. They see what you are made of. One thumps you here while another slaps you there.

You start to feel like cows at auction. And in a sense, that is exactly what you are.

Coffee Addiction belches in your nose.  He does it every time, so there’s no need to act surprised. Be ready, friend, and don’t look him in the eyes. He’s a nasty habit – you don’t want him choosing you.  

Young Miss Sex Addiction, she sort of looks tempting at the start. But look closer – not too close now! – and cracks will start to show. She is rubbed raw and she’s rubbed bloody and that sort of looks infected, and by then Old Crack Addiction’s blocked your view.  

Whisky holds back at first, and he glares at you from back of the pack with his One Big Eye. And he glares and he pouts and if he’s interested, will sneak up and punch you squarely in the face – right there at that spot at the top of your nose that makes your eyes water. You see, Whisky’s an old fighter. And I really thought he’d choose me. But Whisky and his One Big Eye, they said, “No.”

*           *           *

And this, I am afraid, is the part at which, during my own Auditions, I committed the act which did become my great mistake.

I laughed.

More specifically, I laughed at an Addiction. I laughed in an Addiction’s addictive face.

Oh, but you would have agreed, it was the funniest-looking of Addictions! Cheap Wine & Benadryl? That’s an Addiction? And this pair was conjoined at the back of the head so that when Cheap Wine tried to go this way, well, Benadryl always wanted to go that way, and they wandered around in circles, neither gaining any ground.

They looked so foolish, there at the back of the Addiction line.

So I laughed. I did! Well, I snortled. And I guess they saw me do it.

I was dancing with Mary Juana and I tried to play it off as though what happened might have only been a sneeze. Who is there in this world who can really tell apart a stranger’s chuckle from a stranger’s sneeze?

Well, Cheap Wine & Benadryl can, for starters. That is who. Let this be a warning, friend, addictions are deceptive, and if someone seems too stupid, they might not be as awfully stupid as they might seem. Cheap Wine & Benadryl got pissed at me, and then they held me down right there and now they hold me right to now, down  to this very day.

I can’t admit it, normally. It’s just Cheap Wine & Benadryl! And I always get up for work so no one knows and no one cares. And I pay my taxes and I wash behind my ears (well but not too well!), so no one ever notices and those who do don’t care.

But I care... 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Things You Can Learn from a Kwik-E-Mart Clerk

So I’m here. I’m in my shop again. I am sitting on my stool again. And I’m typing on my blog again. Hello!

Today, I thought that we might play a game of Show & Tell so I could show and I could tell you just a pinch of what I know about from working here. You see, there are many things that a body tends to learn when it sits for long enough within one space. Things that soak into the brain like floor cleaner into bread. And there’s rarely been a person and there’s rarely been a space who has sat and which is sat in like me here.

I don’t know what you have heard, but if you heard, then it is true, that I have learned a thing or two – increased my prior knowing tenfold, I would guess – about a full range of human behaviors that I see every day. Like how long can one person – just your average breed of person, one who seeks a cup of coffee for yet another day of drudgery at the office – yes, how long can such a person stand in a line that goes to nowhere, that goes absolutely nowhere, before frustration overwhelms him and he leaves without his precious daily fix?

I know the answer to this.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shakespeare Can Haz Cheezburger?

I read a book by Nabokov recently and reading a book by Nabokov recently made me realize that I am not a writer. Or I am not a “real writer”, anyway.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Top Ten Albums of 2011

You should listen.

You should listen to astonishing, impossible musics. You should listen to sounds that no-one-but-no-one could ever possibly enjoy, and listen to these sounds often and engage them deeply so they become genetically infused into your synapses.

You should listen to black metal, to rantings of mad men, to rabid chimpanzees beating on a log with a still-bloody long bone. You should inflict upon your unwilling cochlea the wheezings of a phlegmatic old man with a collapsed lung and a sucking chest wound and by God, you should find the secret of life in there!

Music isn’t like other extreme manifestations of the sublime. It’s unlike taking drugs or racing motorcycles, not like mountain climbing or bullfighting. With music, there is no edge to fall off of to a painful doom if you venture too far out…

Albums are little aural puzzles. I work them out over a period of days and weeks and months. Maybe years. All that time, I’m subconsciously feeling around for connecting fabric between the songs. I’m listening for diamonds chiming deep in the mine. Remapping my brain in surprising ways.  And eventually – hopefully – when I’ve been at it with a particular album for long enough, I’m scaring the primordial shit out of myself.

In 2011, much of this scaring and primordial shitting was spent in the various metals: the black, the death, the heavy, the doom (and do try a bit of that folky post-metal over there, won’t you, dear?). Metal is great for a puzzle solver like me because it takes about ten thousand listens to transform it from white noise into unadulterated magick in my head. At least it ought to take that long if it’s worth a damn.

So I struck upon a lot of aural magick in 2011, and with no permanent injuries.

Here’s the best of what I found:

10.       The Ocean – Anthropocentric
Anthropocentric is the conceptual prog-metal masterpiece that Mastodon would be recording right now if they’d studied in school instead of staying up all night watching cartoons.  It’s Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Mastodon’s Hanna-Barbera. Is that a compliment or an insult? Probably both. But if you wanted to hear ruminations on Richard Dawkins, Epicurus, and Dostoyevsky set to a bi-polar metal beat, you could not do any better in 2011 than Anthropocentric.

09.       Tom Waits – Bad As Me
Tom Waits is a wad of old bubblegum stuck in the tread of a burned-out ’57 Buick. Just ask him; he’ll tell you. And he’s got some gravel squished into the soft parts, and a rusted nail, and maybe some hairs from a stray dog. Miracle is, if you’re willing to clean him off and give him a try, there’s a lot of flavor left after all these years. Still good for a bubble or two! Sure, Bad As Me is not as gloriously weird as 1993’s The Black Rider or as sinister as 2002’s Blood Money or as fresh as 2004’s Real Gone, but that’s because Bad As Me isn’t Tom’s best. It’s merely better than anyone else’s best.

08.       Disma – Towards the Megalith
I know there exists a reasonably good chance that Towards the Megalith is a straight rock record played at one-third the speed at which it was recorded. One day I might even test out this theory. But for the past four months now, I’ve had this old school death metal beast on repeat on my iPod. I’ve had it on repeat even though I know its only redeeming value is that I feel compelled to keep listening to it. And that’s enough.

07.       Joseph Arthur – The Graduation Ceremony
The less ambitious these Joseph Arthur albums get, the more I like them. The Graduation Ceremony is as close to a generic solo record as we’re ever likely to get out of Joe, and I think it’s my favorite one of his 15-year recording career. If he cut this album up and sold the songs for scrap, some real singers could get some hits out of it. Cruise control never sounded so troubled.

06.       Drudkh – Estrangement
Drudkh might be the best Nazi black metal band spouting 18th century Ukrainian poetry that’s out there right now. In fact, forget the “might”. I’m going to throw caution to the wind and say it: Drudkh is the best Nazi black metal band spouting 18th century Ukrainian poetry. Ever.

05.       Nick Cave & the Black Seeds – Henry’s Dream
Why aren’t you listening to Nick Cave already? I mean, right now, instead of reading this blog of mine, which isn’t half as delicious as a Nick Cave album. Any Nick Cave album. Look, if you’re intimidated and don’t know where to start on his discography – and you probably should be intimidated – might I humbly recommend Henry’s Dream from 1992? It’s a great collection of story-songs that leaves an impression of Cave as some sleazy bard cohort of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, just tagging along for the ride. 

04.       Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit
Agalloch is atmospheric nature-worshipping black metal from the Pacific Northwest. It creates this chilling little movie inside my head every time I hear it. And even my wife can dig it, except for that one track where she says the “singer” sounds like Bobcat Goldthwait. If she hadn’t pointed that out to me, this album would probably have been higher on my list.

03.       Drudkh – Microcosmos
Imagine that there was a zombie attack during the recording sessions for My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless but the producer kept the tape running anyway. I like to pretend Microcosmos is the result of that massacre, except this is even better than Loveless, because it’s uglier and more beautiful at the same time. If listening to this doesn’t get you stoned, then buddy, you are a hopeless case indeed.

02.       Arrington de Dionyso – Suara Naga
A couple years back, Arrington de Dionyso broke up his band, Old Time Relijun, to focus on Tuvan throat singing and Indonesian lyrics. It turned out to be a grand move because blues riffs and English lyrics were the last two ropes holding this genius earthbound. This new alien mutant funk thing appeared this year, fully-formed, with no apparent precursor or context to help explain how the hell he came up with it. There is no description I can come up with – primitive, psilocybin-soaked, shamanic dance music, anyone? – that could do Suara Naga justice. Just try it, dude. Just a little taste won’t hurt you…

01.       Deathspell Omega – Paracletus 
The first couple times through Paracletus, I knew how little Regan must have felt in The Exorcist when the demons took hold and tossed her around the bed and twisted her head all the way around. There are patterns in the chaos here, though. You start to make out sonic fractals all around you. It’s a brutal apocalypse told in English, French and Latin, and – SPOILER ALERT! – the forces of heaven get creamed. Nothing else this year even came close.

So there. That’s it. That’s what I listened to in the year 2011. It’s what twisted my head into funny, funny shapes.

Now it’s your turn. What twisted your head into funny, funny shapes?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lost: Something. REWARD!!

craigslist, 11/05/2011
Lost & found

A curious ask: assistance requested for identification/location of unknown item of great subjective value. Substantial financial incentive!