Saturday, December 31, 2011

If I Had My Way, I Would Move To Another Lifetime

I'm showing an affirming flame as hard as I can. It's all I have to warm my hands over sometimes.

Thanks to all my readers, and commenters, and everyone that purchases things through my Amazon links, and bought my book, and of course my furniture. I'd like Sippican Cottage to be an ironic point of light, where the just exchange their messages. It seems like it to me, though it is not my place to say.

Happy New Year to all.


I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.  

W.H.Auden --September 1st, 1939

Friday, December 30, 2011

The World Is A Wonderful Place

Sue Foley. The world is a wonderful place because it produces things like female guitar gunslingers from Ottawa that perform in Sao Paolo, among other more likely things.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

100 Years In 10 Minutes


Some interesting orthography and grammar in there. Must be someone that speaks English as a second language, or was an honor student at an American public school.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Never Liked Old Beetle-Brow Much


Most popular music is designed to annoy you. Raucous, maybe, or tedious, or teased into an undynamic drone. I cannot pass the time with it for long. I often have music going in the shop, quietly, to mask the buzz of the fluorescent lights, but I'm apparently not as interested in being told that everything sucks in 4/4 time by someone that's never gotten up before noon and has their M&Ms sorted for them as I used to be. Life does suck -- or at least sucks the life out of you. Why make it worse?

My wife likes the Pastoral Symphony. I never liked old beetle-brow much myself. He was having a resurgence back in the seventies when I played an orchestra instrument, and he rubbed me the wrong way. And what was that little shite's name in Peanuts that was always sawing away at him? Linux or Schroedinger or Sloppy or something. Who cares? Peanuts always sucked, too. Discerning grade-schoolers read B.C. .

But my wife wears me down in the most pleasant ways and I find myself softening on the old, deaf, dead Napoleon bumkisser. He sounds at least 14 percent better than the fluorescent lights to me now. That's a damn sight better than Looking Glass or Sugarloaf ever was.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Rexall


They had the Rexall for this sick society. The operation was a success, but the patient died.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Open Is A Time


I WISH IT WOULD rain. No. Sleet. Sleet would finish the scene nicely. Rain is God’s mop. It washes away the dirt and corruption. I’ve got no use for snow, either; the fat flakes are too jolly. Snow makes a fire hydrant into a wedding cake. I want sleet.
    I’d rather pull my collar up and hunch my shoulders as if blows from an unseen and merciless boxer were raining down on me. I don't want a Christmas card. I want the Old Testament.
    Old or new - I knew it. Father and mother would open the Bible to a random page and place an unseeing finger anywhere and use it for their answer to whatever question was at hand. They'd torture the found scripture to fit the problem a lot, but it was uncanny how often that old musty book would burp out something at least fit for a double-take. But any Ouija board does that, doesn't it?
    It was just cold and bracing. No sleet. I didn't need to be clear-minded right now. Paul's tip of the hat to the season, a sort of syphilitic looking tree, hung over your head as you entered the bar like it was Damocle's birthday, not the Redeemer's. It was kinda funny to see it out there, because inside it was always the same day and always the same time. Open is a time.
    People yield without thinking in these situations. It had been years since I had found anyone sitting on that stool, my place. It was just understood, like the needle in the compass always pointing the same way for everyone. Paul never even greeted me anymore, just put it wordlessly down in front of me as I hit the seat. Some men understand other men.

    It was already kind of late. My foreman said for all he cared, I could bang on those machines until Satan showed up in the Ice Capades, but I didn't feel like working on Christmas Eve until the clock struck midnight. That's a bad time to be alone and sober.
    "I'm closing early tonight," Paul said, and he didn't go back to his paper or his taps. He just stood there eying me. I took the drink.
    "You've made a mess of this, Paul," I stammered out, coughing a bit, "What the hell is this?"
    "It's ginger ale. You're coming with me tonight."
    I could see it all rolled out in front of me. Pity. Kindness. Friendship.
    "No." I rose to leave.
    "You'll come, or you'll never darken the doorstep here again."
    Now a man finds himself in these spots from time to time. There are altogether too many kind souls in the world. They think they understand you. They want to help you. But what Paul will never understand is that he was helping me by taking my money and filling the glass and minding his own. It was the only help there was. A man standing in the broken shards of his life doesn't have any use for people picking up each piece and wondering aloud if this bit wasn't so bad. They never understand that the whole thing was worth something once but the pieces are nothing and you can never reassemble them again into anything.
    I went. Worse than I imagined, really. Wife. Kids. Home. Happy. I sat in the corner chair, rock-hard sober, and then masticated like a farm animal at the table.
    Paul was smarter, perhaps, than I gave him credit for. He said nothing to me, or about me. His children nattered and his wife placed the food in front of me and they talked of everything and nothing as if I wasn't there – no, as if I had always been there. As if the man with every bit of his life written right on his face had always sat in that seat.
    I wasn't prepared for it when he took out the Bible. Is he a madman like my own father was? It's too much. The children sat by the tree, and he opened the Bible and placed his finger in there. I wanted to run screaming into the street. I wanted to murder them all and wait for the police. I wanted to lay down on the carpet and die.
    "Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
    He put the children to bed, to dream of the morning. His wife kissed him, said only "good night" to me, and went upstairs. We sat for a long moment by the fire, the soft gentle sucking sound of the logs being consumed audible now that the children were gone. The fire was reflected in the ornaments on the tree. The mantel clock banged through the seconds.
    "Do you want something?" he asked.
    "Ginger ale."



(From my collection of flash fiction, The Devil's In The Cows )

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stuff And Junk I Built

A nice customer asked me to build them a game table.

I get asked all the time to build things I don't build. I take it as a compliment. People see things I do make, and like them, but need something else. They figure they'd rather give me their money than someone else. I'm grateful for the offer, but 99 times out of 100 I pass. I took a run at this one because it's a version of something I already make.

Because I make things, it doesn't follow that it doesn't matter what sort of thing I'm making. I can make most anything. I've built everything from birdhouses to football stadiums for money. But I'm not in those businesses right now. It's a bad idea for a business to take on work they're not set up to do properly, and do it simply because they want or need more money. Lots of businesses expand continually until they fail utterly. They cover the loss from the last ill-advised idea with the next ill-advised idea. All the while they're touted as good businessmen because --well, they got bigger, didn't they? Sure, until they got very small indeed. I'm a cottage furniture maker from Maine, working all alone for all intents and purposes. Who would you call a better businessman, me or the honcho of Maine Cottage Furniture, with their dozens of employees and millions in receipts and their factories and showrooms?

It's a trick question. You all answered Maine Cottage Furniture, but they went out of business. They were superior business people to me -- right up until the time the bank padlocked their door. Sippican Cottage Furniture is going on eight years old now.

People picture me as an artisan. They do not picture my business as a business in the true sense of the word, but it is. It's another kind of compliment, calling me an artisan -- they mean I don't strike them as a hack or rapacious -- but being an artisan alone could get me into trouble. I've been avoiding looking for trouble lately. Enough trouble has showed up at my door already without me looking for it. It tried jiggling the knob when I got tired of answering the door, and it climbs in my windows when I'm asleep if I'm not careful.

A business like mine is a kind of bet. It's a very big parley bet, actually. I'm making a lot of sequential bets, and all of them have to turn out perfectly, every time, or I'm dead on the spot. And there's all this stuff that goes into the process that's essentially invisible to the end user that looms like legions of Kongs over me all the time. I have to bet on a design and know how long it takes to make it and what kind of wood it will be made from and where I'll get that wood and how much it will cost and how it needs to be stored and how much waste it will have and how hard it will be on the tools and what kind of finish it will have and what kind of ambient temperature and humidity and ventilation all that will require and what sort of hardware to use and where to get it and what sort of lead time it requires and how to package it when it's done and how to ship it and how to display it online and how to find potential customers and collect their money and... 

I could go on, but you get the picture. I don't cut down the trees. That's about it. Most businessmen pay other people to cover large swathes of the business landscape for them, but I can't. I have to cover every eventuality immediately out of my own exertions and remove food from my family's mouths to cover any loss. It leads to a profound kind of caution that people with lots of resources behind them barely recognize. Businessmen read self-help books and then cobble together a PowerPoint about the hedgehog strategy they think they should try, but they disintegrate into a weepy puddle if there are no bagels in the breakroom one day or their BlackBerry has an outage. It's a clinically obese hedgehog strategy they're talking about. My hedgehog's anorectic.

I had a good friend try to pay me another compliment a while back, telling me I was a bad businessman and should quit and be a writer. They meant it as a compliment about my writing, but I've turned it over in my mind a lot since it was offered. I at least consider what intelligent and pleasant people say to me. Sometimes I even take their advice or make the table they want. But there seems to be only one way the public measures business acumen now. Are you writing this essay from your yacht? No? Then you must suck at it, whatever "it" is. I take a different view. Who could do more, with less? It's a great way to keep score. Context.

No, I'm not a bad businessman. In many ways, I'm a spectacular businessman. I place into evidence Exhibit A: I'm still in business.

(Update: The Sippican Game Table)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Read The Meteor, Or You Won't Know What It Says


It's that time of year again. The time of year between January and January when I try to pass off dusty old writing as fresh one more time. Seeing as this is the Intertunnel, I have to add a Top Ten List, too. It's like a law.

But recycling isn't enough. I need to kill at least three birds with one stone if I'm going to get a half-day off on Christmas. So since our friend Aubuchon Connery, the general factotum over to the Rumford Meteor,  has asked me to help him catapult his "News straight from the seat of Oxford County" up into the rarified air of the greater World Wide Web -- where it can explode into many interesting colors, or something -- I figure I'll recycle his stuff and knock off early. Western Maine needs the publicity in any case. If it wasn't for the paper mill, no one downwind would even know we were here.

Actually, I think Aubuchon is angling to get Clint Locke Muskie, a local swell that runs an extravagant quarter-page ad for his fill dirt, artisanal cupcake, coal hod fabrication, storm door, and amateur podiatry business in the Lewiston Sun-Urinal (every week! A one-percenter fer sure!), to give the Meteor a try instead. Aubuchon says if he gets a guy like that on account, he can get his ice auger professionally sharpened twice a year and not give a second thought to the expense.

So here's double duty, Rumfid style. The TOP TEN HEADLINES OF 2011 from The Rumford Meteor: Please disregard the fact that there are twenty five items in my top ten list. It's a habit I got into in the ten-items-or-less checkout lane when I'm buying booze at the Mexico Walmart, and I can't help myself anymore.

The Straight Dope says of the The Rumford Meteor: "It's like Lake Wobegon. On Crack."  They're obviously "from away." We're all on Bath Salts around here.

The Rumford Meteor

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. I SAID, SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN!


I SAID, SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN!

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN! 

YOU HEARD ME! 

 SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN!

SANTA! CLAUS! IS COMING. TO. TOOOWWWNNN!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How To Operate A Model T


A kindly man with a vapor trail of museums and sponsors and institutions behind him explains how to drive a Model T.

Explains it to you, I mean. I already know how to drive a Model T, of course. It involves, like so many things in this world that turn out well, being friendly first.
Drove around for a half an hour down one green allee after another, my little son under my arm in the tufted leather back seat of that car; a car just seven years short of one hundred years old, with no roof but the trees and no care in the world. It was like robbing a museum.

Is There Hay In Your Bed Today?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tango D'Amore


Sit and drink and sit and drink and sit.

If she doesn't show up soon, I swear I'm going to wear this guy's guts for suspenders. I'm going to take this place apart brick by brick. That's not much of a boast. The bricks only have a passing relationship to each other anyway. The mortar looks like it was mixed from the stuff in funeral urns and mouthwash. The spiderwebs are structural, installed in the 17th century. The spiders have long since moved to a nicer place, like a sewer or the bottom of a shoe. Columbus's dandruff is hanging in the stuff.


I grew up in the street and turned out as tough and smart as any hydrant, but around here I'm like a clockmaker. They come and go as they please, and setting a date or a time on something is like lighting candles in church. Might work; who knows? I like the churches here better, too. There's guys on the walls eating people whole and stabbing them with pitchforks and cooking them in pots. I go in there when the monk's off and sit among my own kind.

The waitress ain't half bad --more like three-quarters -- but all these dago women sure got some melons in their sacks. I swear they wear brassieres to hold them down, not up. They'd just as soon stab you as tell you to take out the garbage, but that's half the fun in it, ain't it? But sleeping with one eye on the door and one eye on the kitchen knives wears a man out after a while. I wish the Germans were still here so I could kill someone and not get yelled at.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tinkerer, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief


Les Paul is cooler than everyone that's ever played his guitar.

It's a very specific kind of cool I'm referring to. He was resolutely square, of course. I've known many men like him. Back in the day you could spot them easily. They wore short sleeve dress shirts in the winter and clip-on ties. They had boxy shoes and a bit of grit under their fingernails. They had basements full of oscilloscopes instead of screwdrivers. They were tinkerers.

A tinkerer is a visionary of a very particular kind. The world seems entirely full of "visionaries" nowadays; small H hitlers and amateur Gandhis and everything in between. Read the comments section of any major newspaper and feast your eyes on the ready-made, misspelled manifestos people have on hand for the most mundane of topics. But of course, the peasant's idea of how to be Napoleon is strictly between him and anyone that will listen to him. Napoleon's busy.

There's others thick on the ground that people mistake for visionaries. But screaming at Chinese workers through California accomplices, telling them to make it with one less screw showing, or jump off their factory trying, is not visionary. You're just a wealthy jerk. No, it takes a particular sort of visionary to see what's possible, right now, using what's lying around handy. Practical magic syncretists. Think of Hewlett and Packard in their garage. That sort of thing.

Les Paul invented nothing, or a lot of things, depending on how you look at it. The solid body electric guitar, multi-track recording, overdubbing during recording, various reverb and delay effects. He was actually an innovative and interesting performer, along with his wife, Mary, which is unusual for tinkerers. Lots of luthiers can't play a lick. He's called a pioneer, another word for a guy in there mixing it up on the edge of what's possible when few others saw the potential. I prefer the word "tinkerer." Colt, Ford, Edison, Marconi; lots of others you could name wouldn't turn up their nose at the title, no matter how successful they became as a result of their efforts. I wouldn't, while I was waiting for my sunrise, alone in my shop.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sippican Cottage. The Fine Print


*No purchase necessary. Some assembly required. Tax, title,license and dealer fees extra. Do not exceed 4 doses in a 24-hour period. You will get wet on this ride. One size fits most. Batteries not included. The white zone is for the immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no parking in the red zone. Dramatization. Proof of mailing does not constitute proof of delivery. Shake well before opening. Contains eggs. Also available left-handed. Before posting, please take a minute to review our posting rules and our legal/privacy policy. All lyrics by Hammerstein, not Rodgers. Hours may vary by location. No smoking or open flames. Professional driver. Closed course. Any similarities between the characters, locations or events depicted herein and actual persons, living or dead, locations or events is purely coincidental and unintentional. Use as directed. Must be 18 to enter. Positive identification required. Handle with care. Do not pass on right. Not responsible for lost or stolen articles. User assumes all risks. No right turn on red. If you can read this, you're too close. Ass, grass, or cash; no one rides for free. Occupancy by more than 135 persons is dangerous and unlawful but kinda fun. Interior is genuine rich, Corinthian leather. Viewer discretion is advised but not anticipated. Not available in stores. Do not feed the animals. Available for Windows, Mac, and the seven people running Linux. 70% cotton, 30% nylon. Nos falamos Portugues. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. The cake is a lie. Limit one per customer per visit. No trespassing. No loitering. No soliciting. Please don't eat the daisies. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Ensure equipment is properly grounded prior to operation. Registration required. Not recommended for women who are nursing, pregnant or may become pregnant. Ladies drink free. Apply directly to forehead. Closed Sundays and holidays. Filmed before a live studio audience. Available only for a limited time. Follow the yellow brick road. Lights on for safety. Made in China. Do not use as a flotation device. Stay off the grass. Offer void where prohibited. Installation extra. The rain in Spain should be expected to fall mainly on the plain. All sales final. Two-Year service agreement required. Non-toxic. HTML enabled. Don't try this at home. Your ad here. Tamper-resistant packaging. Expect delays. Refrigerate after opening. Restrictions apply. See store for details. No shirt, no shoes, no service. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fascinating, But Not Interesting


For all intents and purposes, I never see television. My wife and I like watching football games together, though, so we grab a stream online now and then. It's generally a feed from some far-flung, random place. Unlike watching cable TV, there is no remote control to allow you to hammer through the channels when they show commercials. You end up seeing everything. It's like a glimpse into another world for me.

I've remarked before that I appear to be the last male on earth that doesn't need a truck, and can still get an erection without a handful of pills and two bathtubs out in the landscape. I'm not in the market for diet beer, either. That means 99 percent of the commercials are lost on me. It's Christmas, so the truck commercials have morphed into "buy your wife or your metrosexual significant other a car" for a present. We're wondering if we'll have three square meals and heat on Christmas, so it's a little weird seeing everyone else agonizing over buying each other cars --when they're not commenting on MarketWatch articles they just read on their iPads that they're so poor they need Obamacare vouchers to afford their Levitra prescriptions. The whole mess just sort of rolls by, oddly, like a flood of flotsam from a tonier town wrecked upstream. The average American has grown fascinating, but not interesting.

Never mind all that. If I took an interest in other people's lunacy, I'd have precious little time for my own. There was another thing that caught my eye. It was a commercial repeated endlessly on an Arkansas local station the game was on. Other than the crazed amusement you can have watching the Swedish TV station feed, the Arkansas feed is the best for delightful incongruity. We call the Swedish feed "The Hitler Channel," because every-other commercial on there is some sort of WW II program promo. The Arkansas feed is all tree stands for deer hunting, weirdo furniture stores, and misshapen local news docents. Everyone looks exactly like Monica Lewinsky no matter what they're selling. The only nod to Hitler on the Arkansas station is Michael Jordan selling T-shirts, because he's got a Hitler moustache now. I'm from Boston, so I always thought it was Bill Laimbeer that was Hitler, but who am I to argue with Michael Jordan? 

No human is entirely immune to advertising, no matter how we like to flatter ourselves, but my antibodies are higher than the next guy's, and I had to ask my wife this morning who the hell was selling useless toy tools to useless tools right after every single fair catch time out. Ah yes; Crapsman:



Any effeminate cubicle drone that keeps a blog instead of doing his job would make a tedious point that if the gender roles were reversed, and a woman was unwrapping a vacuum cleaner by the Yule log, there's be nothing but a greasy spot where the ad agency used to stand when the feminists were finished with the place. But that's not me. That's not what's going on. Those tools are not to be useful with.

I'm surrounded by tools all day long. They hold no terrors or excitement for me. They just is, to coin a malapropism. I make furniture, but I don't have elaborate tools, really; but then again, I don't have toys from Sears, either. Most of mine are just big lumps of nondescript cast iron and noise. I use them to do things and that's that. There are no lightning bolt stickers on the side of them.

Those tools in the commercial aren't about being constructive. They are a form of flattery, the seemingly useful given to the seemingly useful to feel better about themselves. But there's something more *ahem* afoot here. There is a female equivalent to the childish man ego being massaged in that commercial, and it isn't a vacuum cleaner, or even a Lexus with a bow:




Men and women are plunged together in modern office life and they're not allowed to have overtly human lives with clear delineations between the sexes anymore. The women have to pretend they're sort-of men and the men have to pretend they're sort-of women. They all mill around in cubicle farms glaring at each other and wondering whether to ask each other out on a date or sue each other for looking at each other like that. There's laws against anything really productive (smelting only has something to do with lunch now) going on in most workplaces now, so sublimating everyone into the sexless iBorg doesn't hurt the company much. You shuffle some pixels and then you go home and watch TV no matter what sort of wedding vegetables you're packing.

But a human is a human. Girls want to feel like girls, so no matter how dowdy and sensible they feel they have to look to make partner. They can't help themselves and buy the cruel shoes over and over again like a geisha girl would. And the men, such as they are, need something to hang on the pegboard in the basement, even though an Ikea shelf is equivalent to a particle accelerator that needs assembling to them.

God bless you, kids; kick off --er, pry off -- your shoes, put down your cordless screwdriver with the battery you've forgotten to charge for four years, and hold hands while you watch the Hitler channel. Maybe you'll get lucky, the Cialis will kick in, and you'll end up with a kid. You won't know what to do with the little ankle-biter either, but you can play with their Legos and Barbies, and you'll finally be happy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Last Time On Earth I Lived A Whole World Of Sin



I'm not much better this time around, either. Still, Divine Providence sent Stevie Wonder to ease the pain.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Fairly Deep. Thanks For Asking



The Legion of Rock Stars totally rock. OK; if not totally, then they at least rock in large part. 60/40, minimum. They are the greatest thing since sliced running bread and water. They transport me to another dimension. The Fifth Dimension is already taken, so it must be like, say, the seventh or eight dimension. It's, like, the dimension around back, near the dumpster and the stack of milk crates. The LRS were put on this planet by a higher power to point to the place on the doll where the Bee Gees touched us all. And YouTube is free, which makes the whole shebang a bargain.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I Always Liked Sly Stone's Understated Fashion Sense


Dear lord that's some greezy funk for 1974.

In 1974, you could have gone to the big old movie theater with a huge screen and no one texting and seen The Godfather Part II and Chinatown, and then Thunderbolt and Lightfoot at the drive-in. When you got home, Sly and the Family Stone was on Midnight Special.

Other than that, there was nothing to do. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Something Else Happens


This is Saigon.

I'm sorta old. When I was young, I'd sit in the living room in my footie pajamas while Huntley and Brinkley counted the day's dead for us on the evening's news. It was like some insane football score from a game that never ended.

There are a lot of pundits who like to invoke the law of unintended consequences to explain everything everywhere. They are mostly mistaken about everything, because they don't understand what's going on, and they misapprehend very intended outcomes as unintended collateral damage. The flip side of this sort of thinking is just as confused -- always spotting a plan cooked up somewhere, designed by cabals if you don't like it or heroes if you do, in random, or at least widely dispersed, individual activity. It's tiresome sorting through this sort of thinking. It's an opinion onion with no center. I'm especially weary of a commentariat that tells me they are experts at everything because they can half-remember more of the misapprehensions they just read in newspapers, all written by partisan dullards, than the next guy.


I wonder (no I don't, I'm lying my ass off, I don't wonder at all) how so many people can be so very wrong about so many things, and have that wrongness demonstrated to them over and over, and in such a lapidary manner --incontrovertible-- and they still never draw any sort of sensible conclusion about their worldview and the faulty approach to analyzing things that gave it birth. The average, educated person has an internal ruler that's missing two or three numbers and they keep using it to measure time, stir their porridge, beat their dog, and set their oven temperature anyway.


I don't subscribe to the law of unintended consequences because it's like saying you obey gravity or think capitalism works. Like there's any choice in the matter. As if you're choosing not to fly off into space. Like the natural behavior of humans to barter and accumulate is something you're ambivalent about, and have a manifesto you're working on to replace it.


I subscribe to Something Else Happens. That's generally what happens. That video is a long way from black and white footage of napalm and helo extractions and Dean Rusk and Ho Chi Minh and Abbie Hoffman. There have been legions of men and women lecturing --hectoring-- me for a generation about what it was and why it was and what it meant and who was to blame and they're still rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic of their opinions and hoping no one looks at what they said last week about it. But there it is. Something Else.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Pink Sippican Cottage Tank Tops Coming Soon. In The Meantime, Listen To Matt The Electrician



Picking through the debris of the last generation's kitsch was once my job. There's a fine line you have to straddle to poke fun and entertain at the same time. You have to have an affection for the object of your depredations. If you say you hate things while obsessing about them, there's something desperately wrong with you. It might make for page hits on a blog, but its damn poor entertainment.

My Heir is picking through the flotsam and jetsam of pop culture now. I find it interesting to see what attracts his attention. His friends play a setlist that looks like ancient oldies to them, but is 90 percent of a setlist of "current" stuff my friends and I used to play back in the day. I don't find that all that interesting. I beat it to death for money already. It's the other stuff that I find interesting. What would a teenager that isn't a dullard listen to? Why, Matt the Electrician, of course.

Once upon a time, there was a youg man named Matt Sever. He lived in Austin, TX, and he worked as a journeyman electrician. Every morning, when it was still dark outside, he would go to work, and wire houses all day long in the blistering Texas heat. When he would come home, again, it was dark outside. And then, sometimes, with no time to shower or change his clothes, he would go straight to the bars and nightclubs of Austin to play his songs for whomever would listen. And he would apologize for his appearance, and explain to the audience that he was an electrician, and he found a certain nobility in this, even if no one wanted to sit too close to the stage. So they called him Matt The Electrician, and he did not mind this, for he was proud of himself, for there is no shame in a hard days work.
But eventually, he quit his job as an electrician, to spend more time writing and playing songs, and the name stuck with him, because everyone needs an electrician sometimes. And there are some who say, that when the moon is full, and Jupiter is aligned with Mars, you can often hear Matt The Electrician in the distance, wiring a house, and whistling softly to himself.


Matt the Electrician

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Buggin' Outah Vinalhaven, Maine



Mainers call them "bugs."

My uncle was a lobsterman for a while. Went out to George's Bank from Cape Cod. Imagine the hardest construction work you ever did. Now do it during an earthquake that never stops with a hose pointed at your face in a walk-in cooler.