So I went to the woods this weekend, just for a day, with both parents and one nephew (the teenaged one), and while it wasn’t exactly roughing it, it was relaxing in a major way to get to where there are so damn many trees it looks like dusk in the middle of the afternoon, and also to hang out where we used to spent a lot of time in the summer when I was growing up. The part where we went a spot along the river where there was flat enough access that my dad could get close enough to fish and it turned out to be a canoe launching spot (and apparently a canine park?) notwithstanding, the whole of the time was excellent. The nephew and I climed the famed Cook Forest fire tower (at Seneca Point, where Gary Cooper filmed The Unconquered in 1949 and they’re still talking about it to this day) and I honestly felt a fear of heights much greater than that I remember feeling at, say, age 11. It may have had to do with me being the older, more in-charge person. It may have been because the kids going back down the steps were BOUNDING, such as to shake the top of the tower, where we were. It may simply have been because I’m fast becoming a Major League Wusstastic Gentleman.

Being at the fire tower reminded me of a time several years ago, when I was probably 15 or so, when I went hiking with my brother-in-law from the bottom of that hill to the fire tower at about 6:30 am, as the sun was rising and before we were officially allowed to be in the park, and seeing all the early-morning wildlife action, and trying to be really quiet, then climbing the tower and, as we were high above a river valley at 7:00 am, not being able to see a damn thing for the fog. It was still a pretty fantastic time, getting lost on the trails and all, regardless of the dearth of view.

Part two of the weekend review tomorrow, wherein I pontificate about the uncomfortable factor at a show I was at and, if you’re lucky, a great deal more.

Yesterday, I forgot my lunch.

It was no surprise. This summer I’ve been working four days a week. Of those four days, I’d say on average I’m not prepared enough to pack a lunch at all on about two. Of the other two, on average I forget to actually take my lunch, which is packed already, to work half the time. So I actually succeed in taking my lunch to work about once a week.

But I didn’t realize that I had fogotten my sandwich yesterday until I had actually left my office and walked down across the construction zone no man’s land to my occasional lunchtime solitary sitting spot in front of the fountain. I sat, opened my bag, pulled out my lunchtime reading and my Cheez-itsĀ®, then rummaged about in my bag a bit, convinced that my sandwich must just be smashed underneath my walkman or something. I was incorrect.

To compound the problem, I was in the midst of one of the more serious low blood sugar attacks I’ve experienced lately, and it was about 1:00pm on what was probably the hottest day of the year. So, rather than stress about where to get a significant piece of eating, I stayed right the hell where I was, set out to finish up Burn Collector 13 (finally), ate my Cheez-itsĀ® and ended up thinking about a few things:

1. Why am I feeling the manifestations of my hypoglycemia so strongly right now? Oh yes, because I had barely anything for breakfast, then at about 11:00 decided to get a honeyed-up iced chai (the bonus being that this drink also contains caffeine, another no-no.) Why do I do stupid things like that? I know exactly what sets off my pancreas. I’ve studied this a lot. I spent a good several months in 2003 as a hardcore sugar-free dude. Why haven’t I been able to go back? Why do I cave to the pressure? (To be fair, there wasn’t even any pressure involved this particular morning; I got up of my own volition and walked a few blocks to get this drink. I put forth a good bit of energy getting to this state.)

Sometimes my friends tell me things that they do that they and I both know they shouldn’t. I sometimes feel like I’m hitting my head off a brick wall with said friends. But I guess I do the same thing sometimes. But instead of putting myself into dangerous social situations or bad relationships or drug habits, I tear down my body with sweet shit. It’s not that different, I guess. I can relate.

2. I recognize that girl on the bench across from me. I’ve seen her right here in this same place at lunchtime, reading her book. This is a revelatory moment in that I don’t come here all the time, just now and then, and I hadn’t until this moment thought of this spot as somewhere where I see “regulars.” The point of lunch at the fountain is to go somewhere, all of 200 feet from my workplace, where I don’t really know anyone. There are days when I get lunch with my friends and hang out, but honestly these days when I slip away and read for a bit on lunch break are the ones that are most satisfying to me. There’s a rotating cast of unusual people–the group of older folks with binoculars, presumably watching the falcons that nest on the Cathedral of Learning, the people with dogs, the homeless bench sleeper dude, the man in pajama pants (on this fine day) splashing himself in the fountain then crouching over a bench to write in his notebook.

But now there’s one girl who comes, presumably from an excruciatingly boring office job like my own, and reads in the early afternoon for a bit, sometimes takes a short nap in the sun. Same as me. There’s a distance between us, and though I recognize her I don’t–and don’t want to–talk to her. Recognizing her itself is a bit unnerving. Talking to her, or even acknowledging her, would be like that day when I become friendly with the coffeeshop worker and, while I appreciate gaining her or his conversation, I also realize that I’m sacrificing my anonymity in this place, and I can’t treat it the same way again. Much of the mystery is gone.

By the time these ruminations were in full swing, I realized my break time was getting on and I needed to scrounge up some real food and head back to the office. So I left it at that and returned to the mind-numbing task of wrapping yellow paper bands around books and creating item records in the circulation sytem (skills that could prove useful if you’re considering, say, hiring me for a library job sometime soon!) I bagged myself a burrito and returned to work, not much further along in Burn Collector, with a sandwich in a baggie in my refrigerator at home, and feeling particularly fulfilled.

taking stock

July 26, 2005

When I was a young one, the majority of the young-one injuries I sustained were silly cuts and bruises from playing hockey in the basement(!) with my sister, or getting caught up in the rose bush while sliding into “home plate” in the backyard. And that one time, I twisted my ankle falling from about halfway up to the top bunk. But I never broke any bones as a child, which honestly kind of bummed me out. In a sick sort of way, I was jealous of my friends with their casts to sign, and my sister, with her physical therapy appointments following her shoulder dislocation.

Jealous no more. In the past two years or so, here in my Second Childhood, I’ve seriously injured myself more times than I did in my First Childhood, which, if I had to quantify it, was a good six or seven times as long as this one has been. And I’m developing the little physical signs that write the narrative of my life, or at least the injurious parts thereof. A quick inventory:

– The little creak in my jaw when I chew sometimes.

A reminder of October 2003, when I fell face-first from my bike, going seriously about 4 miles an hour, and broke my jaw on either side. The tedious six hours in the emergency room was a great deal more painful in nature than the injury itself. They didn’t believe me when I said it was broken; I clamped down with my teeth on the little popsicle stick thing and held it in place when they tugged at it, and that, they explained, meant it probably couldn’t be broken. They did x-rays anyway, JUST IN CASE, and it turned out it was hairline fractured on either side. I didn’t eat anything solid for many weeks, and in exchange I didn’t have to get it wired up. It all worked out.

– The recurring pain in my right wrist.

A reminder of the spring of 2004, when, on same bike (no longer in service, thank goodness), I was accelerating up Pearl Street, my chain jumped gears and I went down on my right side. I guess I sprained it but didn’t realize it at the time, but a few days later it began to hurt a bit, and it didn’t help that this was at the point in history when I was just starting to play drums. Other features of this accident: The big scars on my right shoulder and right elbow.

– The weird shape of my pinky finger.

I know this just happened, and it’s not even fully healed yet, but the segment of my right pinky between the knuckle where it meets the hand and the knuckle that’s sort of in the middle of the finger is kind of concave anymore. I’m hoping that’s not a problem in the future. Time will tell.

Runners-up in this contest include:

– The gaps in my teeth on either side of my mouth.

This actually occured freshman year of college, not within the last two years. There are two tooth-spots where I don’t have adult teeth, and my baby teeth were still hangin out there when I was 18, and we all knew it would become a problem eventually. It became a problem in mid-April, actually the same day I bought my green Doc Martens at Bovvers and Q and Not U and El Guapo played in Shawn Brackbill’s basement on Parkview, and the day before I was to leave for some protest in D.C. Probably for the better, considering what happened the next fall when I actually DID manage to get to D.C. for some protest . . .

– The scars all about my hands and arms.

Mostly from playing drums with great intensity and little formal training, and one from operating the hot glue gun at the arts festival.

a few small reports

July 24, 2005

Quickly!

Please listen to The Scala Choir covering the Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself.”

Also, apparently Scribus, an open-source desktop publishing software, will at some point be releasing a version of its current build that’s compatible with Windows, which will be an amazing thing for me, as I’m not tough enough to be running Linux. There’s already a Mac-compatible version available, you lucky Mac bastard you.

And, last but not least, look at this, regarding the purchase of the parent company of myspace by the parent company of Fox News.

That is all, thank you.

Every time I pick up this mixtape it gets better. Actually I can’t find the tape itself right now, but I picked up the packaging and it got better anyway. It deserves a tribute of some sort. I hope this will get you thinking about the best mixtape anyone has ever given you, or the best mixtape you’ve given someone else, or the gaping chasm in your psyche created by the fact that you never trade mixtapes with your friends. Write about it in your blog, or make a thread about it on your message board, or write to someone (ME) about it. And email me if you wanna trade with me. I don’t guarantee I’ll be timely, but I’ll get to it, I swear.

This mixtape was given me by my awesome amazing friend Emily in early 2002. Shortly after we met, we traded mixtapes in a punkrock version of that thing dogs do where they sniff each other to figure out who’s cool and who’s not. At the time, I had some punk cred, but didn’t know all that much about kind of indie rock she was much more familiar with. Plus she’s five-or-so years older than me, and in music years, that’s like EONS, so there was stuff included that she took for granted that I had heard OF but never HEARD. Yknow. Regardless, it turned me on to a lot of stuff that makes up the basic meat of what I listen to anymore.

The tape, for whatever reason, is titled “MTV Presents Jock Rock Vol. 1” and features as art clipped pictures of some sprinters and a toddler running with a football. The track listing is as follows.

Side A
The Clash: Guns of Brixton
Althea and Donna: Uptown Top Ranking
X-ray Spex: I Live Off You
Iggy & the Stooges: Gimme Danger
Julie Ruin: Stay Monkey
Tom Tom Club: Genius of Love
The Ramones: Havana Affair
Stereolab: K-stars
The Velvet Underground: I Can’t Stand It
The Sea & Cake: The World is Against You
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Some Candy Talking
The Gossip: Lily White Hands
The Buzzcocks: Noise Annoys
Galaxie 500: Tugboat Captain

Side B
The Fugs: I Saw the Best Minds of My Generation Rock
Mekons: Chivalry
Beat Happening: Teenage Caveman
Le Tigre: My My Metrocard
The Vaselines: Son of a Gun
Richard Hell & The Voidoids: Who Says? (It’s Good to be Alive)
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Miles Away
T-Rex: Planet Queen
Joy Division: Transmission
13th Floor Elevators: Levitation
John Cale: Hanky Panky No How
Lou Reed: Satellite of Love
Guided by Voices: Blimps Go 90
Jad Fair & Daniel Johnston: What the World Needs Now

(I’ll admit that the placement of the Ramones song on Side A is a bit questionable, and also that I’m not that into the 13th Floor Elevators in general, but these things matter little in the greater context of this master work. Soon I must undertake to make this young lady the most perfect tape I can muster in mid-2005 before she leaves for grad school . . .)

Fair warning:

August 5, the sea, like lead plays with Kim Phuc, (((microwaves))), and Athletic Automaton at Howler’s, Liberty Ave in Bloomfield. Shows there usually start around 10:00 (more like 10:30 or 11:00 really) and are $5 or so.

THE VERY NEXT DAY, August 6, the sea, like lead plays with Nakano (from Morgantown, pretty stuff that sounds like Explosions in the Sky tempered with some more poppy stuff), Southpaw and one more possibly? This show is at Roboto, which means 7 pm start, $5, etc. I think Oneida is playing at Gooski’s this same night? If that’s true, there will be plenty of time to get to this show THEN that show, if you want.

I had intended to bring you some short reviews of records I’ve gotten lately, some new and some just new to me, but I left my headphones at home when I went to the coffeeshop so I did other shit instead. Next time maybe.

i’m a cult hero, baby

July 20, 2005

Today I got in a fight with a LaRouchey.

I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with cult or semi-cult folks in my day, not the least of which being that time a few summers ago when the Krishna dude on the South Side tried to “give” me a copy of the Gita, which he signed himself but which was, of course, written by the greatest writer of all, God, only to rip it from my paws when I admitted that I couldn’t give him much of a donation. But I don’t think I’ve ever actually gotten, y’know, PISSED at someone trying to convert me to her/his belief system. This young man, however, got my goat.

Emma and I were sitting on the wall, munching on our respective lunches, waiting for Laura and Josher to show, when said brainwashed individual approached, after having had an animated conversation with some others down the way a bit (in which he contended loudly that “ANYONE can be a genius, it’s not hereditary!”) and descended upon us, noting that we looked political, or at least smart. We entertained his questions and contentions for a bit, for lack of anything better to do, and because he didn’t give us much of a chance to get out of the situation. Emma argued with him for a bit, I got slightly annoyed when I talked about my media activism and he marginalized it by basically telling me that economics on the international scale is a more important place to focus one’s efforts. I took over arguing when Josh showed up and Emma started talking to him. I let on that I was familiar with LaRouche, and he asked me what I thought of him, and I said he was a dude with a couple decent ideas and a personality cult, and that he wasn’t ever going to get anything accomplished, which I guess was offensive to him, so he started the smoke-and-mirrors game, telling me about how I didn’t know that my philosophy was The Truth, but he investigated his ideas physically and metaphysically and knew them to be The Truth. (RULE OF THUMB: If some dude on the street starts talking about metaphysics to you in order to make a political point, he 1. Probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about and 2. Is definitely trying to pull something over on you.)

SO, he started spewing about how LaRouche was The Truth because his thinking is in line with Bach and Beethoven, and the great composers’ music is mathematically congruent to the arrangement of the planets (I’m not making this up), and Emma finally told him that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with us (ten minutes have elapsed since he first rolled up) and he might as well go talk to someone else. AT WHICH POINT, he said “Well, if you’re not willing to challenge yourself . . .” and we both basically lost it and told him not to say shit like that to us, and he said that he didn’t mean to be rude, and we said well buddy you’re being rude, and he then REPEATED his line about us not wanting to challenge ourselves. I was seriously pissed at him in a way that I haven’t been pissed directly at another person in a very long time, I guess because he was interrupting my lunch in a public place to insult me. I put on my game face, pointed leeward down the wall and told him he better get moving. His eyes became little slits and he said to me,

“Don’t get assy with me.”

He then turned heel and retreated to the LaRouche station at the corner, where he conferred with his fellow proselytizers and sulked alone for a bit.

We continued with our lunch and discussed important things like amplifier placement and Laura’s harrowing Chicago airport story.

I will get assy with whomever I please, young man. Don’t let it slip your mind.

(For a little information about the Cult of Larouche, read this.)