The Force Is Strong In These Underpants

When I was in the Target shopping for underpants last week, the underpants that I prefer waved their underpants hands in the air mysteriously and said “these are not the underpants you are looking for.”

That is how, I am certain, I woke up this morning to find that the box of fresh new underpants that I had brought home that day were SIZE MEDIUM, BRIEFS underpants.

I can only hope that The Force is not so strong in my receipt.

Ooh La La

At my previous job, here is how I found myself dividing my days.

After two hours, I got a 15-minute break. I would work two hours and take my fifteen minute break, at which time I would pee and then walk the halls scanning Facebook on my phone. At 12 minutes, I’d dash back on to the floor so as to guarantee I would not be late.

After another two hours, I’d go to lunch. I’d generally take my lunch pail out to my car and drive to the far end of the parking lot and eat a baloney sandwich, listening to Hardball on my satellite radio. After 50 minutes, I would return to that hot room and continue my work.

After two more hours, I got another 15-minute break, at which time I would pee and then walk the halls scanning Facebook on my phone. At 12 minutes, I’d dash back on to the floor so as to guarantee I would not be late.

Then I would work one more hour, then would come my last hour.

My last hour was a strong visualized meditation. I would create a large pounding countdown clock in the air, surrounded by all sorts of fantastic noise and beating and sparklers coming off of it. It started at 60. 60. 60 60. 60.

It wasn’t so much clock watching as it was giving me a focal point to sit through the last hour of the job, a place to direct my breathing, my nervous and my angry energy, a place to get me through to the mad last hour of that hideous job.

Today, on my seventh day of training for the new job, the trainer said, hey, you bozos, it’s 2:30 p.m., why don’t you go home.

And I was like WHHHHUUUUUT? It’s that time already?

That’s living right.

Everything Is Healing Nicely

The best Frank Zappa story of all time was offered up by his wife Gail, on the little booklet that comes with the CD release Everything Is Healing Nicely, companion piece to his final pre-humous work, The Yellow Shark. The story encapsulates what the overall meaning this final work held, especially if you’ve ever read a word about Zappa’s previous disastrous attempts to have orchestras play his music. She wrote:

Part of Frank’s overall plan was to compose on the Synclavier for the Ensemble Modern so the first order of business was to see how well this plan would work. On the night before the first day of rehearsals, he asked me reorchestrate his Synclavier composition entitled “Igor” and arrange it for the Ensemble Modern, preparing printed parts and a conductor’s score. Frank replace the title with “This Is A Test” right before printing out the parts for the next morning, just so that the musicians would know the purpose of this short piece. As so often happens, the title stuck.

This recording is a first take performance by musicians who were sight-reading music just handed to them. It illustrates not only the technical skill of this orchestra but the fact that they managed to be expressive and impart a style into what they played, even while struggling to accurately render something they had never seen before.

It’s interesting to note that one of these tests was “G-Spot Tornado.” After about an hour of rehearsing, Frank deemed it a failed experiment and put it aside. The members of the ensemble however were determined to master it and continued to practice it on their own. By the time that the Yellow Shark concerts took place, “G-Spot Tornado” served as the finale and the encore.

I love that story; that story sometimes brings me to tears. Frank Zappa had spent maybe millions of dollars and countless fruitless months and years trying to hear an orchestra make sense of those funny little dots on paper, and now, finally, nearly moments before he was to discorporate permanently, the band of musicians plucky enough, dedicated enough, and good enough to play Frank Zappa’s music came together and played it. That is the meaning of this project, and it is the story Gail tells you with her decision to let us all hear how Yellow Shark came to pass.

Gail Zappa got a lot of flak from fans for allegedly being over-litigious, for clamping down hard on the music, and for maybe not treating the original band so well, but I can tell you, friends, once I got my hot little hands on EIHN, I was a Gail fan for life. In it, she gave us one of the best information sources available for those interested in grokking the life and music of the man. I adore her for letting me have it, and I always will.

Gail Zappa today stopped refusing to die. She was 70. We will probably be talking about her a great deal during Zappadan.

The Snail

So this guy is hanging out at home and hears a knock on his door. He opens the door and looks left and right and sees nobody. He looks down and sees a snail, and he hates snails. So he picks up the snail and throws it as hard as he can.

Three years later, he heard a knock on the door. He opens the door, and there he sees the snail, who promptly asks: “What the hell was that all about?”

Today, I am the snail.

First Jacket Day

There’s no TV on I want to watch now and what’s more my brain is buzzing too much for TV. Some nice warm vinyl is just the thing for now.

This is my first jacket day of the year. There have been other days that were inviting for a jacket, but I usually need a pretty good talking to by brisk weather before I’m convinced I need a jacket. Today was the day. Rainy, chilly weather. My favorite. And I am not being ironic.

I have never given side two of the Temptations’ All Directions much of a chance. Because, well, what could possibly need heard once you’ve mucked through the sublime funky marsh of “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone?” As is often the case with ignored music, that’s where the treasure is. Side two of this album is equally sublime as its first side. Which should not surprise me. It’s the Temptations.

Now that play is done, it’s time to hear James P. Johnson, Father of the Stride Piano. My metal detector pops and riots. As it should. Johnson was largely ignored in his own time and in legacy, to the point that musicologist David Schiff has referred to him as “The Invisible Pianist.” Ouch. But listening to this I can grasp his immense influence; he was the bridge dude between ragtime and jazz, and his playing is sublime. One of my new favorite things, this old piece of vinyl I’ve been harboring for years. It is gorgeous.

Today was also the day my current managers had to acknowledge my notice. It is nice and weird to leave a job on such good terms and with good feelings overall. It is nice (and weird) to have done such a thing correctly, to have persevered, to have seen it through. Oh, says I. That’s how it’s done, then. You don’t whittle away your soul at a job you know you should have left long ago until they one morning decide to thud your neck down upon the ol’ butcher block. You put on your secret handy dandy writing’s-on-the-wall deciphering glasses, and you do it often. And meanwhile you work in the shadows to recognize an opportunity when presented, and then you take said opportunity, and you smile and curtsy on your way out. Oh, so that’s how it’s done well.

I might actually pull it off this time.

If I can get myself out of futon at 4 a.m. every business day for two weeks, of course. There’s the real challenge. Worth it, though. I get the job I want and all ya’ll don’t have to listen to me bitch and moan for a little while.

Okay now I’m in the mood for TV. I think Mysteries of Laura is on the Tivo. Bye-bye.

The Ubiquitous Slime

I was in an office this morning wearing a necktie and a jacket in addition to an Oxford shirt with a collar and pants, socks, and shoes, and the usual underthings. I had been escorted there to wait and for a few minutes was in the room alone. It was a quiet room, and I was pleased to wait. I have become good at waiting. It is one of the best accomplishments of my life considering at one time I was a miserable failure at it. But now, I can sit in a quiet room alone in an uncomfortable clown suit, clutching my fancy binder I recently repaired with carpenter’s glue when the cardboard liner came away from the fabric when the crappy rubber cement job those Chinese fellows gave into many harsh instances of dew point, and I can sit there and not bob my ankle up and down, and not fidget, and I can simply sit. I have worked long and hard at this skill and I consider it one of the finest skills a person can learn and exhibit. And were I a stealthy employer, I would train a camera on the candidate and I would let him or her sit for several minutes to sweat, and I would see how good they are at waiting, and I would include that sociopathic test of mine in my metrics.

After a few minutes of my happy waiting exercise ensued, the attractive young lady walked into the room, sighed, and said, “Jeez, the least they could have done was to turn on the TV for you.” And she took a remote control from the desk and she turned on the television that was stuck up there on the wall. Thankfully it was not tuned to Fox “News” or events might have gone much differently today. No, it was tuned to MSNBC’s coverage of the Holy Pontiff visiting these Untied States of America today.

So that young lady assumed I was miserable sitting alone in a room and perceived that the answer was to flick on a television set to ease my misery. It was quite impossible to imagine that a person could be quite content sitting in a room doing nothing for ten minutes without any noise or flickering images. It is an odd sickness of every step of our lives.

Every breakroom in my workplace has blathering TV sets going on and on. Every bar and restaurant I frequent has them, blah blah blah. Try to get away from a television set today. It’s impossible. In a way that is weird and has crept up gradually and

hey wait. Mysteries of Laura is on the tube right now. Fart fart. Fun fun.

I’ll Stand By You

Chrissie Hynde, lead singer of the band who recorded my favorite recorded song of all time in the history of recorded music, wearing the album cover of the record album that saved my life once, in Akron.


88 days until Zappadan…

(Weird for me because I don’t believe in souls, but I dig it nonetheless.)

Superman’s Fedora has Wings and a Pneis

I ducked into my favorite little joint for lunch today. I shouldn’t have. It’s not so much in the budget these days, but there are times when you simply must be surrounded by a building walled with crackling wood, seated on a barstool, and you simply must have an attractive woman serve you comforting food, and you simply must breathe all that in and enjoy the music and emulsify.

I often kid myself, that I will go in there and order a club soda and a cup of soup in order to keep la quenta to a minimum cost. Then I walk in and there’s that white board seated on that old butcher’s block, and there’s the soup listed, but there’s also the beef on weck. And it was Friday. So there’s fish.

As luck would have it, the music queue was in blues mode today, and the song that was rotating the minute I walked in was Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Crossfire.” I say as luck would have it wryly, I guess, because today is the 23rd anniversary of the day Stevie Ray Vaughn stopped refusing to die. Helicopters, man. Why not just put a rotating umbrella on a smart car and figure yer gonna be okay for flight?

I remember finding out while I was in a newsroom, my first newsroom, well really my second, but my first, the one at the Daily Kent Stater. My friend and colleague Greg, who made a persuasive argument for hating the living shit out of the Beatles, wore black for days, maybe months.

I betcha that Greg wore black today, too.

A little while ago where I work, an apparent former disgruntled employee took one day to pranking our help line. They called us maybe 40 or 50 times, I mean the weed they got hold of that day must have been freaking excellent. When I was fortunate enough to encounter this person, he asked me what I thought of an ongoing hip-hop feud between somebody named “Meek Mill” and somebody named “Drake.” I was relieved, nay, I was proud that I had no idea what in bloody hell he was talking about. But my co-workers, they are youngsters compared to me and a limited few old farts there are where I work, I am certain I can count the folks who are my contemporaries or older on one hand or maybe one of my hands and one of the hands of my middle school shop teacher. And they talk about music I have no idea exists, and they talk about it like it really matters. I think this is why when I was growing up I thought it was weird that my elders would squint so much and complain because I wanted to listen to Chicago. But that’s what happens I reckon. I mean Drake never moved my heart or made me gesture in the air spontaneously.

There’s just something utterly weird about all of that, and I can’t put my finger on it. But it makes me squint and pee a little. Maybe it’s just difficult to dig that you’re actually passing all of this on and eventually nobody’s actually going to give a care one way the other about Led Zeppelin.

Climate change is real.