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.