Monday, March 01, 2010

Real Savage Like

Haven't you been shouting "TUSK!" at your best friends for decades?


Friday, July 10, 2009

With the Most Cake

It's a home movie, without the usual swearing.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

All She Wants To Do Is All She Wants

A long time ago, far, far away, a friend took a job in Tewksbury, MA, and from distant New Jersey, I saw this for what it was: an opportunity for a scandalous road trip.

Johnny's always been the pretty one.

Every so often, Siobhan pipes up with tales of another episode from our freewheeling life together that I've totally forgotten. Yesterday, she went a step further and produced pictures I evidently captioned by hand. That's a new twist, even if the words themselves are Johnny's longtime motto. In any case, I had totally forgotten that the unnamed, over-employed friend on a business trip used my nail polish to paint symbols on his forehead. If Siobhan has pictures of that, that might be a career-ender for our friend. Ah, youthful exuberance! You're as young as you feel until the cops show up and you hand them an AARP card.

Don't forget to floss, kids!

In point of fact, Ivan and I donned those Santa suits at the drop of a hat for years. We bought them for Santacon a bazillion years ago. Come to think of it, I should have mine bronzed. He should have his fumigated.

When Siobhan reminded me of this scurrilous excursion, the only thing I recalled was sitting outside a waffle house on a Sunday morning, all five of us blisteringly hung over and paralyzed while Ivan read us the chapter from Steve Martin's book Pure Drivel about memory loss. It was obvious to the locals we had not just come from church and our presence was suspicious. Breakfast both saved and imperiled our lives. That, I remember.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is Pack Up And Run

Johnny, Poor Impulse Control's Southwest Bureau Chief, reports from New Mexico:
You'll enjoy this. My knees are killing me. I go to the rheumatologist. She orders xrays. She says it's osteonecrosis, where blood flow has somehow been cut off and some sections of bone have died and are presumably rotting. She says I'm too young for knee replacement and cortisone shots won't help. She says the only thing she can offer is - you guessed it - painkillers. I can't win.

Dude! Did you tell her you were an addict? Wait, you've mentioned osteonecrosis before. Do you have other necrotic joints or did I dream this?
Oh, all my doctors know. I'll be in trouble if I ever get in a car wreck. They'll offer me an aspirin.

Actually, about ten years ago, my knees hurt and the MRI showed osteonecrosis. How do you remember these things? I can't remember what movie we watched last night.

Actually, last night I was playing Embudo Station, up past Espanola, which is a lot like a movie set of a cafe' by a river in the south of France, especially when we play the CanCan, which I spell the CannesCannes. We're there every Friday now, except when we're at the Lucky Bean in Rancho Viejo. I'm making about a hundred bucks a week playing music. I've always played just for the honor of playing. I can hardly believe I get given money and dinner now. The burst of pride I feel when I bring home my pay and give it to my wife to buy dog food and paper towels with is monumental, like the Great Wall of China, or at least a Very Good Wall of China. I'll never be able to repay everything I've cost this family in medical bills, but you gotta start somewhere.

Tonight we go see some friends skate in the roller derby. I love our life here. I think we know more gay people than straight, and, like the song, where she makes love to him in his Chevy van, that's all right with me.

Did I tell you that a month or so ago we were playing the Farmer's Market on a Saturday morning and about ten guys in full Star Wars stormtrooper costumes walked past us, like it was the most natural thing on the planet, going God knows where? We looked at each other, shrugged, and kept on playing. I think we were in the middle of Czardas, the Israeli national anthem. You think I'm kidding.

Actually, I think Ha Tikva is the Israeli national anthem and Czardas is Hungary's. Why do I know that when I can't remember the name of the woman who sits next to me at work? And who knew I'd feel underdressed without a roller derby?


Thursday, January 29, 2009

He Brought Home the Bacon So That

Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, is off the sauce.
I'm putting weight on. My upper body is filling back out again. I feel stronger. Despite the aches and pains, it feels good to live in a body. Quantum physics says I don't have one, that there's no such thing as matter, that I'm more of a cloud of potential dispositions of energy, that my body only really exists when I touch another object, that then the particles squeeze together into what we think of as matter only in the section of me that's touching the object, but that I don't actually touch the object, that when my particles squeeze together tight like that, that compression creates an energy field that repels the other object, so that in fact I don't ever really touch it. I wish I had known that when I got in all those car accidents. But then I'd probably still be driving that brown Volvo station wagon with no heat or air conditioning. And that wouldn't be good.

In the course of the holiday season, I heard more about substance abuse and abusers than I have at any time since I quit hanging out at that bar I don't mention anymore. But really. Half my friends were hooked on something. I think this is a symptom.
Callers reach the counselors at 800-854-7771 for free. It's the same number Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa firmly and clearly broadcasted, after the murder-suicide of seven people Tuesday in the working class neighborhood of Wilmington.

Erwin Lupoe and his wife, Ana, had been fired from their jobs a week before the Wilmington tragedy. But whether job loss stems from a firing or a layoff, the effects are traumatic.

"I don't think it's ever been this bad. Not in my tenure," [Elizabeth] Gore said. "Because the people that we're dealing with now, they have always had [money]. They went to school, they were able to get jobs. Now the jobs are not even out there."

Supervisors at the call-in center say many of these calls are not strictly about mental-health issues, but deal with lapsed medical insurance, foreclosure, bank problems and unemployment benefits.

Oh boy. This week, House Democrats sold women - particularly poor women, but really all women - down the river when they removed family planning from the stimulus package. It's health care and they removed it to get Republican votes the package was never going to get in the first place. Sad. The Democrats look like patsies. Poor women get shafted AGAIN. The Republicans look like Lucy van Pelt holding a football. Our economic situation is so serious we should really expect believers in a disastrous, failed ideology to demonstrate some humility, but no. Meanwhile, outside the Beltway, life as we know it has been falling apart for some time now.
There are 12 parking lots across Santa Barbara that have been set up to accommodate the growing middle-class homelessness. These lots are believed to be part of the first program of its kind in the United States, according to organizers.

The lots open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. and are run by New Beginnings Counseling Center, a homeless outreach organization.

It is illegal for people in California to sleep in their cars on streets. New Beginnings worked with the city to allow the parking lots as a safe place for the homeless to sleep in their vehicles without being harassed by people on the streets or ticketed by police.

Harvey stays at the city's only parking lot for women. "This is very safe, and that's why I feel very comfortable," she said.

Nancy Kapp, the New Beginnings parking lot coordinator, said the group began seeing a need for the lots in recent months as California's foreclosure crisis hit the city hard. She said a growing number of senior citizens, women and lower- and middle-class families live on the streets.

I am tired of calculation and bad faith negotiating. I'm tired of cowardice and coersion. Though I try to live peacefully, I find myself longing for the song of the guillotine and for our own Bastille Day. What does Johnny say?
Pop Tarts rock.

Heaven help us if they discover the wah wah pedal.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Too Much Heaven On Their Minds

Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, reports from the house of his father-in-law's swift decline.
Jesus! You've started to believe. The things they say of you. You really do believe. This talk of God is true!

We were sitting around, deafened, going through motions. I sat in his chair to keep it from sitting empty and becoming the ghost at the feast. We turned on the teevee, just to do something, and what was on OnDemand but Jesus Christ Superstar. Because it had Jesus in it, that's what she wanted to watch. The Crucifixion was a bit much, under the circumstances, but it comforted her to know that he was in the arms of Jesus. It struck me as it never did, of course, when I was a child and still somewhat Jesus-centric in my thinking, that the show was about Jesus only peripherally, that Jesus here is spoiled and given to tantrums, that Judas is the star and by far the more interesting character, that Christ's agony in the garden was as nothing next to his, that Judas was crucified as surely as Jesus was. It also struck me what a parody the seventies were of themselves. The show is set in the modern day of its time, but even then it seems like they're spoofing some earlier generation's excesses, like sychronized swimming movies.

What then to do about this Jesusmania? How do we deal with a carpenter king? Where do we start with a man who is bigger than John was when John did his baptism thing?

I can't get the songs out of my head now, of course. I'm going to have to get the record on and listen to it two hundred times in a row to get it out of my head, like I do with ABBA and Tony Orlando and Dawn when I fixate on them.

Did your family get into Superstar? In mine it was dynamite. We played the record and acted out the parts by the hour, wrapping a towel around our shoulders to play Pontius Pilate, whose name always confused me when I was a kid because I didn't think they had airplanes then. My mom was in love with Ted Neely. My cousin Bubba's high school put on a production, lip-synching to the record. I'll bet they couldn't believe their good luck that they had a black dude to play Judas! I didn't of course put two and two together all at once that, as the song goes, He's just a man (and I've had so many men before, in very many ways!), but it struck me even as a child that until then all the nuns and the priests ever told us about Judas was that he got up one day and sold Jesus for thirty pieces of eight. I can't claim I was so wise that I figured out then I was being had. But the bomb started to tick in the back of my brain that the greatest story ever told wasn't the whole story.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, a few seasons before Johnny and I met, a traveling theater group did Superstar at my school and we were invited to be the crowd. During the crucifixion scene, my feet grew roots and I forgot myself, there in the aisle of the auditorium. I suddenly understood why people prayed, even if I couldn't buy the to whom. Someone put arms around my shoulders and walked me through a door, which I could not have done myself. Sometimes, the light shines through me, but I don't know from where.

Ted Neely? Ian Gillan. Yes, that Ian Gillan. All other Jesuses just don't do it for me.

The play has its faults, but its treatment of Judas is what makes me love Jesus Christ Superstar. He's human and heartbroken, loved and betrayed himself. The stakes are unbelievably high for Judas; it is truly important to observe and understand: Jesus is not Jesus without Judas. Judas must love Jesus more than life itself. There can be no Christianity without Judas.

In all the commotion Johnny has forgotten I have this tattooed across my back.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And Shouting Out Rude Names

After a brief vacation, hiking in the Great Outdoors, Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief reports:
Unintended side effect of trip: work feels like an unforgivably criminal waste of human potential. I'm positive that I am the only person who has ever felt this way. Really. You betcha.

Image: Johnny, used courtesy of the artist, who has a great future ahead of him illustrating staff meetings.

Less than an hour later, Johnny wrote to say that since the hospital in which he labored was bought yesterday by a Christian healthcare conglomerate anxious to remove abortion from the list of possible services, perhaps updating the old resume was an excellent use of time.

"Don't worry," I said, "Art therapy is on the way!"

From Sharkey, who shares the Poor Impulsive's need to entertain himself with art and fast, comes Today and Tomorrow - molto interesante! - and this wild idea:

‘Passive Aggressive Anger Release Machine’ is an interactive sculpture by Yarisal and Kublitz. Experience the most satisfying feeling when a piece of China breaks into million pieces . All you have to do is insert a coin, and a piece of China will Slowly move forwards and fall into the bottom of the machine, breaking, and leaving you happy and relieved of anger.

[Sic, sic, sic.] My favorite thing about that image is the chalkboard to the right and the words Canadian food.

You see, art school is not just for dirty hippies. No, it takes real talent and insight into human nature to divine that somewhere a Christian healthcare conglomerate is buying up hospitals and women are going to die, which might create just a little stress on the staff. Inserting a coin and smashing a Chinese kitty into a million easily contained pieces might help, but I'd go for the positively tragic romantic couple figurine. Hope the condom didn't break for the little lovers! Just add money and schadenfreude and someone's going to crash.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sometimes I Act Like A Monkey

As I run around the family store during a town-wide street fair, Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, sends this report, disguised as a plea for assistance:

I don't know much about history. I don't know much trigonometry, starting with for example what it even is. And I'll tell you another thing I don't know. I do not know nor can I begin to understand why in this day and age you can open up an art magazine and see that an art critic, like my brother, has written about a painter, like my other brother, who has made a painting of some pieces of fruit. I understand that in past centuries it was a mark of class, a status symbol, to own paintings, and an equal if not superior mark of sophistication to be able to afford art lessons for your kids and to display their paintings of pieces of fruit on the wall the same way we stick them with magnets onto the refrigerator today. But it's two thousand eight. Two thousand and eight years since those guys killed that other guy. Who, I ask you, in this day and age, goes to art school, graduates, moves out of their dorm and gets an apartment, buys a bed, sleeps in it, then wakes up in the morning, brushes their teeth, possibly even with Rembrandt, the famous Dutch toothpaste, goes to the art store, buys a canvas and some paints and a brush, goes home and opens up the fridge and takes out some pieces of fruit and arranges them on the table and says yeah. There are many beautiful landscapes and cityscapes out there. There are many beautiful people and some lovely animals too. There's a world full of things I can choose to paint that will allow me to reach out and try to capture in my own small way the beauty and the grandeur of creation, the humming current of life, of love, of holiness that surges through the natural world. Furthermore, it being two thousand eight and our having abstract art now, I'm not even confined to expressing that beauty by painting images of things that actually exist. But what I'm going to choose, what I'm going to decide is going to be a really meaningful and significant experience for me to paint and for other people to subsequently look at, is this small pile of pieces of fucking fruit. Someone explain to me, please, who are these people? Somebody help me understand!

P.S. By the same token, some people look at a dog and see not a worthy subject for a portrait but an as yet uncooked entree.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

But You Don't Wear No Perfume

Blogger has been giving me trouble again. I'll figure it out. In the meantime, what is it about this painting of Johnny's that I find utterly arresting? Got me! I can't stop looking at it.

This morning, I wish I could post the scent on the breeze coming off the river and through the trees. Wait, hold your nose up really close to the monitor. No, closer! Closer! Smell it?

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

To Fall Down At Your Door

Pete and Drusy watch TV.

Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, asks an important question.
So I was at a museum in Jersey about fifteen years ago and I saw an exhibit by a guy who put together pieces of swirly formica tabletops from the fifties to create these huge flat pieces that were totally fabulous. I can't remember the artist's name. I can't remember the name of the museum. I can't remember shit any more. If I didn't have my Palm, I'd forget to put on my pants. Anyways, does any of that ring a bell? I've searched online, of course, but I can't come up with a thing.

I got bupkis. Any ideas?


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Better Learn How To Kneel

Our Southwest Bureau correspondent Johnny should write children's books.
Surgeon postpones my appointment last Friday. I am disappointed. Whether he’s going to be able to fuse my neck vertebrae and cure my headaches and make me a permanently forward-looking person or not, I can cope, I just need to know. I go to Pawn City to look for Indian bracelets to salve my soul. Murmuring cabinets quietly repeat the stories of people who came here, went native, bought the silver jewelry and the adobe houses and the pickup truck and their life looked like a photo shoot from the Sundance catalog, but the brown summers and the brown winters and the brown springs and falls wore them down and they hocked it all and went back to California and Houston and New York and Boston. That’s okay. More for the rest of us. There’s a bald eagle nesting in a bare tree over the spillway just past the dam, soaring around and picking off the unwary fish. I saw a crow the other day the size of a turkey, eating a sandwich. Meanwhile, there’s snow on the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. The Berkshires seem dreamlike on account of that frosting. At least they say so on the radio. I say good night, you moonlight ladies. Rockabye sweet baby John. Dope pills and booze is the diet I choose. Excuse me if I pass out on your lawn. And rockabye sweet baby John.

I can't write like that, but I hope someday to write near it. And have a lawn.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Voodoo Working

Johnny reports from the snack front:
I initially came out strongly against energy bars because every one I saw was some variety of chocolate. Chocolate this. Chocolate that. Chocolate the other thing. You broads with your chocolate give me a pain. If men ruled the world, there would be no chocolate. You'd be able to buy raw meat-flavored birthday cake, except birthdays would be outlawed, because you broads are the only ones who care about them. When was the last time you saw a man start to cry on his thirty-ninth birthday because he only had only one more year before he turned forty? You'll see that the day you hear a man ask if these pants make him look fat. That said, carrot cake clif bars are pretty good, and they're a godsend for busy important executives like myself, who can eat one for breakfast while sending out important executive emails like this one.

And speaking of what I eat, I decided not to eat octopus again after I saw this.

I'm almost certainly smarter than chocolate.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

See How the Black Moon Fades

Johnny, our Southwest correspondent reports.

Looking at these pictures makes me shake my head in disbelief that I am still alive. I used to say when I was young that the heart could break a thousand times, that you just got up and got back in the ring. But nothing bad had happened to me then. The worst heartbreak I'd had to face was if some punk rock girl wouldn't have sex with me.

In the death throes of my first marriage, we moved into a broken down old house in Arlington, a grimy second-rate suburb of Cambridge, a dry town where you couldn't even buy a bottle of beer to drown your sorrows. The house was creaky and sagging and an ominous wind blew across the loose clapboards from the cemetery directly behind it.

I would come home from work and walk Tano, then I'd take a six of beer upstairs, which was my territory. I'd drink and kill the time until dinner, staring out the window at the forsaken headstones, wishing one of them said my name. I dreaded my wife's hateful stare so powerfully that I wouldn't even go downstairs to the bathroom. I pissed in empty gallon jugs and lined them up in the back of the closet.

Eventually it would be time for the dinner ordeal. We'd glower at each other with barely concealed hostility until it was over. Then I'd take another six upstairs to help me kill the rest of the evening. It made me so desperately sad to walk past her sleeping on the couch that sometimes, rather than go down to the horrible little room in the corner where I slept, I'd lie down on the floor in my little office and spend the night there. Then I'd get up in the morning, stiff-necked and hung over, have a couple of beers, and go to work.

I remember the night I told her that I would be moving out in the morning. I'd gotten a lot of nasty surprises when I married her, and, to be fair, she'd gotten just as many from me, but she said something that night that I couldn't even believe I was hearing. She said 'Are you seeing someone?' Like the torture of surviving another hour of our miserable existence together wasn't enough to drive me out of that haunted house.

I blamed my first wife for a long time. Then I got over it. People will tell you that things happen for a reason. I think that's shite. I don't believe that some malevolent all-knowing entity crucified me and broke my spirit just so I could appreciate the marriage I have now. But that's the way it shook out. So who am I to complain?

It doesn’t all fit in the scanner, but you get the idea. I smeared a bunch of medium and extender on a piece of window screen, then stuck in an outline of the Captain cut from tarp canvas. I’ll take a picture of it the way it really works, stuck to a window, with the sun behind it. The medium turns opalescent and the Arabic turns luminous and unearthly. I have about nine paintings going and am in love with all of them and want to ask them to marry me. The glee, the glee, the glee of paint. Did I forget to mention the glee of paint? I don’t care what I had to crawl through to get here. God damn. Life is good.

P.S. I don't know much about history. Don't know much biology. But I do know. Mandinka.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Mixed Up Muddled Up Shook Up World

A few days ago, my erstwhile drinking buddies sobered up long enough to talk briefly about a movie. I hadn't seen it then but have now, and in the interest of spur-jingling mayhem, sometimes give even tinfoil-helmet theorists a turn holding the Talking Stick. The filmmakers could be total crackpots for all I know. I will say this: the first five-ten minutes sure are visually exciting. Pretty. The second segment of the movie is hard to watch, as planes crash over and over into the towers, and there's discussion of international banking conspiracies that devolve into RFID chip nerves, and an ending that arrives from - best I can see - nowhere.

I'm not endorsing this movie. I'm saying it's out there, you can watch it if you choose, and now I have questions about that plane crashing into the Pentagon. Who do I ask? I don't know, so I was already a little down when I read Court Rejects Case of Alleged CIA Torture Victim. Shit:
The Supreme Court today declined to hear the case of a German citizen who said he was kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by the CIA.

A federal district court judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had earlier dismissed the case brought by Khaled El-Masri, agreeing with the government that the case could not go forward without exposing state secrets. The Supreme Court denied review without comment.

Masri, who is of Lebanese descent, has said he was detained by Macedonian police on Dec. 31, 2003, and handed over to the CIA a few weeks later. He said he was taken to a secret CIA-run prison in Afghanistan and physically abused before he was flown back to the Balkans without explanation in May 2004 and dumped on a hillside in Albania.

When I read about this case awhile back, I wondered what I'd do if the CIA dropped me on a hillside in Albania. I still don't have an answer for that.
German officials said they were later informed privately by their U.S. counterparts that Masri was detained in a case of mistaken identity, apparently confused with a terrorism suspect of a similar name. U.S. officials have not publicly admitted any guilt or responsibility in the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union had taken up Masri's case. Lawyers for the group said the Bush administration was using the state secrets privilege too broadly, invoking it to stop lawsuits relating to wiretapping and whistle-blowers as well as terrorism cases.

In this case, they argued in asking the court to take the case, "the entire world already knows" the information the government said it is seeking to protect.

I wish I'd thought of the I'm Doing Something Against the Rules, Which I Can't Discuss With You Because It's A Secret From You Defense when Mom caught me climbing back in the bedroom window when I was grounded. Anyway, in the last paragraph, almost as an afterthought, we find a very distressing detail.
Masri in May was committed to a psychiatric institution after he was arrested in the southern German city of Neu-Ulm on suspicion of arson. His attorney blamed his troubles on the CIA, saying the kidnapping and detention had left Masri a "psychological wreck."

Rendition didn't kill him; he lost his mind. Obviously, I needed some good news. Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, came to my rescue. He's recently started a dog painting business called, neatly, Painted Dogs. Strangely enough, this does not involve applying paint to dogs. Nope!

Johnny says: My brother Brian the art critic said that because the rug doesn't sort of tilt back like in real life, the painting is "post-perspective." At least I think that's what he said.

I love this image. He doesn't say what size the painting is. You can see the edges of the canvas and some dayight around the edges, but I love Bert On A Persian Rug.

Johnny: Jack has a window company in Albuquerque. He did a magazine ad with a picture of himself with his dog. I did a portrait of the dog and I'm packing up the painting to mail to him. To Jack, I mean. I'd give anything to be there and see his face when he opens it. That is, if I had anything.

Who's a good boy! I love the essential dogginess of his portraits, their energy and happiness. The portraits, I mean. Our dogfriends are the Kings of Enthusiasm. They don't love us - they LOVE US! They don't scamper - they SPRINT! They're not peckish - they're STARVING! These are paintings and pencil drawings of charming indoor wild animals who could as soon sit with you at the table as wrestle for roast beast. How can you not love them back?

Howz yer mutt? Need him painted?


Friday, July 13, 2007

The Body Becomes A Constant Traitor

Johnny, our Southwest Correspondent, reports:

The college girl reading the news on the NPR station this morning said the Catholic Church is going to take some clergy who were killed during the Spanish Civil War and beautify them. Good thing. You wouldn't want ugly old dead Spanish people.

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