Saturday, November 18, 2006

Spending Time

I had a spine-tingling revelation tonight on my walk back from the video store. It was the kind of giant, monster thought that sometimes pounces on your head, usually when you're least expecting it. I find when that happens I'm best off to simply go with the mental flow, and see where it takes me.

I'm a person who is constantly battling nostalgia. Sometimes I allow myself to simply indulge in that mental state, but more often than not I fight it; after all, I don't want to be one of those vaguely sad people who cannot have a life in the now for sake of living in the then. I always try to keep a positive anticipation of those things in my future that mean so much to me: time spent with friends, with get the idea. Tonight was a little different, though. As a person who is pretty comfortable in his own mind (I've often thought that, if the circumstance occurred, I'd be fine locked in solitary confinement), I sometimes consider what the ME of now would say to my 10-year-old self. How would I tell that kid: "Look, someday you're going to long for these summer days in 1978...enjoy them! Have more fun!" Tonight, for what I think is the first time ever, I actually reversed the process and wondered what the ME of 10 or 15 years FROM now would tell me, tonight. I actually think I got a metaphysical visit from that person, a ghost-in-the-machine Myself who came to remind me of a few things.

Myself told me that, just as I am now nostalgic about times past, I would also be nostalgic about THIS time. How, then, do I enjoy THIS tonight MORE? Understand, I've been stressed this weekend because I seem to be accomplishing about 1/10th of what I actually WANT to accomplish. I worked all day, on the premise that I'd be able to relax with the cat and watch some movies once night had fallen. (I'm in a "solo weekend" as Tess is away doing her symphony thing.) Myself reminded me that, 10 years from now, I would never remember those fucking ear training tests I hadn't graded. Myself insisted that, as time tends to turn memories golden, so MY now would one day be gilded and rosy, irritating not-gotten-dones long since flushed out of my system. Therefore, what WOULD I remember about my now? Well, I'd remember a time before family obligations kept me from solo nocturnal meanderings to the video store. I'd remember the quiet of being alone in the house, reveling in the almost-silence even as I miss Tess so much I can hardly breathe. I'd remember that part of the fun of walking to the video store at night is that you can peek into other people's lighted homes, checking out THEIR shit and comparing it to YOURS. Seeing other people sitting at a table, laughing and living, and smiling that my table is often full in the same way...and hoping that people peeking in at US would walk on with the same undefinable happiness.

I tried to defend against Myself, arguing that, "well, yeah, but what about staying up late copying my fucking Master's thesis out by hand with 3 different markers, a French curve, and a ruler? (This was before the days of reliable computer notation software.) THAT certainly isn't all golden and rosy!" Myself chided me: "Who do you think you're foolin'? You LOVED that rush of activity, of coming down to the wire...just like you loved sitting around the marching band table copying music, relying on your good friends to remind hangers-on not to bump the table!"

Damn Myself! Fucker is always right.

As I thought on, I slowed down my pace at Myself's insistence: "What's the rush? Someday you're going to remember that you could walk without your knees/hips/ankles hurting, and you'll wish you'd savored it more." As the cool air flowed over my face, bringing with it the smell of wood smoke from someone's fireplace, I realized this about time: you cannot save it. We always talk about "saving time," as if such an absurd thing is really possible. Save it for WHEN? Like, you'll save 10 years right now, in 5- and 10-minute increments, so that you can have it tacked on at the END? Bullshit: it doesn't work that way, and we all know it. No, the only thing you CAN do with time is SPEND it. Our only choice is in HOW we spend it, the QUALITY of the end result re: the time put in. (Anyone who wants to riff on Pirsig's quality vs. quantity is welcome to at this point.)

I remember the summer of 1978: riding my bike, buying comic books, listening to Kiss and moving the stereo in Eric Keidel's upstairs playroom so that I could get to the closed-off back stairway, the BEST place to be during long games of hide-&-seek. I remember the fall of 1990: living with one best friend and marching with another, drinking too much vodka (is that possible?) and fucking a drowsy freshman girl who smelled of patchouli and tried to get me to recycle long before I gave a shit. Those times are past, belonging to a person who is only dimly related to who I am now. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with adultness and nostalgia jumps on my head, I beat it back with the thought that when I'm 50 I'll remember now in the same way: Monday night dinners full of whirlwind discussion, my achingly gorgeous wife before a grey hair had touched her head, and my sneaky cat Ramona, my surrogate child all these years, probably long since buried under a nice rosebush planted for that express purpose.

Spend your time wisely. Remember that all the bullshit you think you have to deal with today will seem really unimportant to Yourself 10 years from now...if that person even remembers it. You'll never remember that you didn't put the hose away today; you'll always remember the cat curled up on your lap. Speaking of which: someone needs me on the's movie time.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Accursed lists!

Stephanie saddled me with this one...and, I simply CANNOT get any rest until I've completed it. I am, it appears, a hopeless slave to these lists. I should be doing something more constructive...

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?
"You RULE, baby!"

2. How much cash do you have on you?
Zero. I'm sitting at my desk...why would I need cash? Porn sites only take credit cards...

3. What’s a word that rhymes with “DOOR?”

4. Favorite planet?
Uh...Earth. What else?

5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?
I can receive calls on my cell phone?!?

6. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone?
There's a ring tone on my cell phone?!?

7. What shirt are you wearing?
A lovely flannel shirt, untucked with sleeves rolled up, over a comfy Eddie Bauer tee.

8. Do you “label” yourself?
OH yeah! I take a certain snide pleasure in the dichotomy of my self-labeling, though:
Metalhead and professional composer...
Famously lecherous and faithful spouse...
Fiscal conservative and social liberal...
the list goes on...

9. Name the brand of your shoes you’re currently wearing?
Before I took them off, they were black Dr. Marten's.

10. Bright or Dark Room?
Darkish, but cozy.

11. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you?
Great writer, fabulous babe, deep thinker...and insidious corrupter.

12. What does your watch look like?
Gold Bulova with a black face...very "old skool" and classy. Like me!

13. What were you doing at midnight last night?

14. What did your last text message you received on your cell say?
I can get text messages on my cell phone?!?

15. Where is your nearest 7-11?
Um...I guess the corner of Harrison and Lake Lansing Rd. in East Lansing.

16. What’s a word that you say a lot?

17. Who told you he/she loved you last?
Tess. (Awwww!)

18. Last furry thing you touched?
Tess. (Ewwww!)

19. How many drugs have you done in the last three days?
As I'm now reading "The Dirt," I am convinced that there are no drugs left...Motley Crue already did 'em all.

20. How many rolls of film do you need developed?
Film?? Hmmm...there may be a partial roll in my film camera...wherever that is.

21. Favorite age you have been so far?
The age I am tomorrow.

22. Your worst enemy?
Myself, the Great Procrastinator!

23. What is your current desktop picture?
Blue bubbles & swirls...standard Mac fare.

24. What was the last thing you said to someone?
"Hungry?" (Ramona's typical pre-chow question.)

25. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly what would it be?
The money, baby. Then, I'd fly first-class wherever I wanted to go.

26. Do you like someone?
Sure...lots of people. Tess especially. She's my "special friend." (Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.)

27. The last song you listened to?
"Rock & Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"...track 10 of AC/DC's sonic masterpiece "Back In Black."

28. What time of day were you born?
Something like 10 in the morning.

29. What’s your favorite number?
Thirteen. I swear by it. (Happens to be my birthday.)

30. Where did you live in 1987?
125 Barnes Hall, Central Michigan. In a room covered in Kiss posters. Somehow, this did not prevent me from getting laid.

31. Are you jealous of anyone?
Not especially...sometimes I'm jealous of people who achieve career goals that I would like to. They probably spend less time with dumb fucking blog lists.

32. Is anyone jealous of you?
Oh, there would HAVE to be, don't you think???

33. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
Teaching my ear-training class. I came out of the room and the marching band director told me "The towers are down." My first imagining of this was that they toppled like, in a way, the horror wasn't nearly as bad as I first thought.

34. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
Kick & shake them a lot.

35. Do you consider yourself kind?
Yes. Kind of facetious, most days. But, I try not to kill bugs, if that counts.

36. If you had to get a tattoo, where would it be?
I'm just coming into my "need a tattoo" phase. All things being equal (money, pain level, response of friends & relatives), I'd probably have something across my upper back. Big & colorful.

37. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be?

38. Would you move for the person you loved?
Absolutely. I'd move heaven & earth for the person I love.

39. Are you touchy feely?
Yeah. When my cousin had cancer, his dad told me that he learned it's really important to hug the people you love.

40. What’s your life motto?
"Get busy livin'...or get busy dyin'."

41. Name three things that you have on you at all times?
1) My wedding band (given to me by Tess). 2) A plain sterling chain (given to me by Tess). 3) Mojo (given to me by the gods of fortune...see what good company Tess shares??).

42. What’s your favorite town/city?
To visit, Washington D.C. To live...somewhere small, where the kids play outside.

43. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
Shipping charges for my best friend's birthday present. (A lovely tome entitled "The Alphabet of Manliness"...feminists, stay away!)

44. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
Does a card count? I mailed my grandparents an anniversary card a couple weeks ago.

45. Can you change the oil on a car?
Probably, since I can change it in my mower. Turn it upside down and let it run into the hard can it be?

46. Your first love: what is the last thing you heard about him/her?
That she got married.

47. How far back do you know about your ancestry?
On my mother's father's side I'm traced back to the Orkney Islands, mid-17th century. My dad's side is Dutch, same time period. (Someone on each side was fanatic about geneaology.)

48. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy?
Tess and I went to the ballet in late September...I try to look nice when I go out with her, since she normally sees me slouching around in stinky fat-pants and untucked flannel shirts.

49. Does anything hurt on your body right now?
My jaw aches a little...probably night grinding and stress.

50. Have you been burned by love?
Shamefully, yes. She was a gorgeous 19-year old bimbo who I just couldn't get enough of. Really, I was quite pathetic. (Cue Pat Benatar's "Promises in the Dark"...)

Okay, that's my list. Hmmm...who else needs to waste some time? I'd be interested to see what Mike and Mac have to say to these questions...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Idol Worship

Remember that scene in The Christmas Story when Ralphie finally gets to see Santa? He's been waiting in line a REALLY long time, ever so anxious to get up there before the store closes so that he can submit his 11th-hour request for the Red Ryder BB Gun. That scene, filmed from Ralphie's POV, is perfect: he's dragged along the route he intends to travel ANYWAY, but the gruffness of the "elf" seems to indicate that he's actually going against his will. And, when he finally reaches his destination, he's so overwhelmed at actually BEING IN SANTA'S PRESENCE!! that all his carefully chosen words escape him, and he's left to simply mutter incomprehensible gibberish while staring with a deer-in-the-headlights look at this person who figures so hugely in his life.

Great scene. For me, that's what meeting Paul Stanley is like.

Who knows why certain people take idol worship to obsessive levels? John Lennon certainly put his pants on one leg a time, same as me...but, upon his murder in NYC 26 years ago, adults who didn't even KNOW him personally wept at the loss. Why? What WAS it about Lennon (or ALL the Beatles) that just...clicked with people? Same thing with Elvis; there are TONS of anecdotes about the "gate people," folks who would just sit outside the gates at Graceland hoping to see The King...and if they didn't, they weren't necessarily disappointed. They were happy to just be there, near him.

Grown, seemingly-logical people who would appear normal under most circumstances...they suddenly are revealed as quasi-dingbats who obsess about a particular person/band/TV show. I don't get it...and I'm ONE of 'em! I honestly cannot pinpoint what it is about Kiss that just CLICKS with me. Heaven knows, I'm asked to do so routinely! My spouse is always rolling her eyes as I open up ANOTHER eBay score of Kiss swag, extolling her with the most insignificant and miniscule bit of band member trivia. I'm even slightly abashed of MYSELF that I'm able to share the trivia tidbit that Gene Simmons' son Nick is a little creeped out by the amount of trivia people know about his family.

I think...I think Kiss for me was EXACTLY the right thing to come along at EXACTLY the right time. Much like Gene Simmons himself (trivia tidbit!), I was already into comic books and fantasy. I was small, so the idea of larger-than-life characters like superheroes and Godzilla was very appealing. Musically, I was at that perfect age when I had outgrown my mom's Helen Reddy records, but so far my only foray into my "own" music was a collection of oldies with Fonzie on the cover. Then...I heard Destroyer, the first of Kiss' two albums from 1976. It was...unspeakably grandiose. This was, literally, a music I'd never heard before. And to look at the album cover...why, I wasn't even aware of these...these FIGURES as a band! There's no instrument anywhere...just the four of them, larger than life, standing over the flaming ruins of a city. Who were they? WHAT were they??? I HAD TO HAVE MORE!!

Lucky for me the mid-/late-1970s were ALL about Kiss. Not only did I have instant access to 3 previous studio LPs AND a double-live set, between 1976 and 1979 there would be 3 more band albums, another double-live set, a double set of greatest hits, and FOUR complete solo albums. The mystery, the superhero vibe, and above all the all worked together so that to ME, Kiss was as large, important and mythical as Santa Claus ever was.

I got my chance to meet them in the fall of 2003, spending a small fortune to talk briefly with three of my heroes and pose for what may be the greatest picture of all time...

It was...wonderful. (Imagine ACTUALLY being able to meet the REAL Santa!) So, when I had the chance to meet Paul again this last weekend, I figured "No big deal, I've met him before; I'll shake his hand, make some brief but startlingly clever conversation, following which he'll realize that we're kindred spirits and he'll want to write songs with me for his next album. Oh, and I'll get a kick-ass photo."

As Bill Cosby used to say: "Riiiiiigghht." What ACTUALLY happened was that I bought a $40 bottle of Kiss cologne (and I'm with you in a very perplexed "What the--?!?") and waited 2.5 hours in line with soon-to-be bro-in-law Joel. We made small talk with the people around us; you know, the kind of daft fanboy conversation you could ONLY have with other similarly obsessed people. ("Right, uh-huh! BUT: what if Black Bolt COULD speak, and the Terrigen mists had only given him the powers of his antennae??" Like that, only Kiss.) When we'd finally traversed the snaking-around-itself-like-you're-at-Cedar-Point line to the stage, my Ralphie moment commenced. It was all kind of a blur: hand the bottle to Paul's "elves" so that they could give it to him for signing, then UP the stairs for my moment of truth. He's MUCH shorter without his 7" platforms, but even so he's taller than I am. Still: look him in the eye! Shake his hand! Clever...BE CLEVER, DAMMIT! "Uh...hi, means so rule, man..." Yeah. And then, down the other side, only as he fades from sight remembering that we're kindred spirits, and that he MUST want to work with me on his new album!

Oh least Ralphie got his gun...and I got the SECOND-greatest photo ever...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Election Musings

Are you geared up to vote? Good. As my favorite election-year button reads: vote or shut up. If you don't vote, you don't get to bitch about what goes on. End of story. So...make up yer damn mind, and get to the polls on Tuesday. Meantime, here are some things I've been pondering lately. Sorry if these seem a little disjointed...sometimes, there just isn't anywhere else to go.

• I read that a sheriff in rural Henry County VA was indicted, along with 12 employees, on charges of racketeering. Seems the sheriff MIGHT just have been in charge of a ring that took drugs which were seized from dealers, and then re-sold them. Sometimes right out of a seargent's home. I tried VERY hard to find the political party this sheriff (an elected official) belongs to, but couldn't due to "high volume." Still...he's the sheriff of a little (58,000 pop.) county in rural, southern Virginia. Which party do YOU suppose he belongs to?

• In addition to 2,817 DEAD U.S. soldiers in Iraq, I saw today (for the first time) a tally of the WOUNDED. It's a big number. 33,838, to be exact. Wow. And the tempation might be to think of a healthy portion of these wounded as having suffered, say, light shrapnel in the arm, or perhaps similar to Forrest Gump, who was "shot in the buh-tocks." Maybe. I also read a lengthy article describing one soldier who lost fully ONE THIRD OF HIS FUCKING HEAD! This guy is seriously messed up...he can't speak, he can't write...that's also the kind of "wounded" we're talking about. Soldiers who lived not because their wounds weren't mind-bogglingly horrific...they lived because we've finally advanced medicine enough to keep alive people whose heads are kind of strangely flat on one side because the brains & bone that USED to be there is now carrion-food in the Iraqi desert.

• Another comment on the soldiers: I support them, okay? Enough with the ribbon magnets. You know who I DON'T support? The president, with his boner to finish daddy's war, his crooked fucking party, and his failure to even ACKNOWLEDGE the chaos he has created in the name of our country. In two years this joker will be history (which will at least give him the long-lived notoriety of being the worst U.S. president ever), but the actions he has undertaken will haunt the rest of us for years. Decades. Permanently? So, yeah...I support the troops, many of whom are not "risking their lives for us" willingly. Shit, a lot of 'em just wanted the free college tuition, you know? No, they're risking their lives because some dumbass put them in harm's way.

• As long as we're dealing with the concept of "framing the debate": being against one idea doesn't automatically mean I'm FOR someone ELSE'S description of the opposite. I support the troops...but only because I feel sorry they're there. People would like me to think that talking crap about the government is a tacit rebuttal of the troops. It isn't. I can do both...even if you don't WANT me to. Same thing with abortion: I support the availability of safe, legal, medical abortion. That does NOT make me "anti-life." You know whose life I'm concerned about? The woman who, either through a sorry mistake or lack of education, becomes pregnant with no hope of securing any sort of decent future for her child. Anti-choice advocates never talk about that part, do they? They're all about "saving the life" of the fetus, but once the baby is actually BORN? Forget it. There's very little help available for these women and their children, who are so often the poorest, least-educated people in the U.S. George Carlin summed it perfectly for me: "If you're pre-born, you're fine; if you're pre-school...YOU'RE FUCKED." Can we agree that human animals are going to have sex and just educate the hell out of everyone? Do THAT, and your abortion rate will plummet.

• If you haven't already come across it, the George Lakoff book Don't Think of an Elephant is a fantastic read. I'm tired of pollsters tweaking questions so that both the question itself AND the available answers are dictated by a single mindframe. "Pick the option that best describes you: A) I believe everyone should be able to keep the money they earn, or B) I believe in turning over large chunks of my hard-won earnings to be misspent by activist legislators." about "C) You're a dumbshit"?? Here's the poll I want to run: I want to ask people if they want A) lower taxes, or B) basic services. Because, hey, you can't BOTH lower taxes AND have a lot of nice services like police, road crews, and a rapid response to your 911 call. If you believe you can spend less money and get more stuff (i.e., services), please report to the U.S. GAO're a freakin' genius. Lakoff describes the very sneaky way politicians are railroading the citizens of this country into thinking they can eat their cake...and then still have it.

Okay, enough. The point is: take a look around. Are you happy with the way things are? Are you freaked out about the toilet the U.S.A. is being flushed down? Get out and VOTE on Tuesday...and take your neighbor with you.