Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I thought I should say something, lest you all worry overmuch.

I am getting better now. The hospital I mentioned called me last night, and offered me the prescription I had begged for a week ago, and admitted their mistake. I told them I already had been given one from a competent doctor.

It's boring being sick and boring hearing about it I'm sure. I have friends on these here intarnets who have much more serious troubles than I do, many that have no end. My thoughts turn to them.

I love and adore my wife. She cared for me while I was ill, as she does always. It is a marvelous thing, to find a person who says the words at the church and means them. It seems rarer than it used to be. Find yourself such a person, and cleave to them, and return the volley they send every day over your net.

What a cool hand she has on my fevered brow.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The River

The fever was on him again.

It was his old friend, now, and he knew it best just to give yourself over to it. He laid like a dead thing on the litter in the bottom of the canoe, face gone white. Paler even than his lobster back coat, worn to a sort of cheesecloth here and there, and faded from the sun and rain to a kind of translucent pink that reminded him of the scales of a fish.

Everything that drifted by was a marvel. The British Army thinks everyone is good for everything. He boxed the compass of mediocrity. He didn’t even like the killing much. He did it like the others when it was required, and shrugged and stopped when it wasn’t. No enthusiasm, his officers said. But he cooperated, in his fashion, and they decided his fine fist made him just the man to collect the samples of every damn thing they came across in the Americas that looked like you wouldn’t see it out the window of a coach going from Newcastle to London. After a while he gave it up and simply gaped at it all like an idiot. Pressing a cornflower in a folio and writing some half believable prevarication about where the hell you were when you found it was like sitting next to beautiful woman at a dance and staring at her ear all night, and only asking her about her motions. He was looking down the front of the dress and dancing with a whole continent now. Or he had been, anyway.

First it was the heat of the kettle when you forgot the rag mother kept by the hod for the handle. Then it was shivering like the snow from the kirk roof sliding down the slick grey slates on the roof and down your collar after Christmas Mass. It was the shivering he hated. It made you look silly, or worse, like the drunks in the lane, sleeping off the night’s gin in a pile of straw and offal and a puddle of their own functions gone crazy. His comrades carried him and cursed him, until they were no more. Who did they curse, really?

No, he wanted the heat. It surged through you and enervated you so completely you could just lie there and sweat and not care if you lived or died. You weren’t a sick man any more. You were a baby again, given over wholly to the care of another, unable to do more than sigh and gesture. He embraced it. Everybody else was always searching for something. He just roamed along with them, cataloging or killing as required, and looked for something to look for. It had found him.

The savages were his mother now. He lay on a sort of matt woven from supple branches of some sort, like the wattle of a sty at home. His hands brushed the gossamer sides of their boat, made like sorcery from the bark of a tree, and as thin as paper. He could feel the river pass by him through it. Sometimes the sun would come low on the horizon and the banks of the river would temper their angle and the trees would open up and the sun would light up the boat like a lantern, and you inside it. The copper backs worked the paddles deliberately in front of him, one magnificent looking brute behind him, and never wearied or paused. They sang the song of death, the song he heard them sing before they waded into the last of his mates like a plague and killed them without mercy. And with weapons he couldn’t kill a barnyard fowl with. Then they had stood over him, talking in their fashion. They didn’t look anything like the Hottentots or Arabs, but like how he pictured his own brethren, centuries before—Picts; Jutes; Angles; Celts; grim and powerful men painted for battle and living among the beasts they covet. They opened the box and looked at the crazy whorls of his writing and fingered all the little talismans of their home he had collected before he had become bored of it. That, and the Sergeant had begun worrying too much about seeing home ever again to bother him about it. They spared him in his sickness. Or perhaps for the remains of their life’s objects he carried and blessed with his runes.

There is no understanding them. But they sing their song of death for him now, for he cannot, as they search for the place where he must go; where they would go if they were him.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

***insert blogpost here***

(I am grateful for the expressions of concern about my health from one and all. Thank you all, and I hope you all have your inhaler at all times.)

***funny opening line***

***obligatory reference to hectic nature of blogger's jetset lifestyle***

***insert excuse for meager writing input here by tangentially referring to obligatory reference to hectic nature of blogger's jetset lifestyle illness***

***if dire emergency, post pictures of adorable children or pets here***

***childless bloggers with dead pets insert random cameraphone shots of surroundings in the manner of Japanese tourist in Disneyland parking lot***

***utilize hardy perennial reference to received knowledge about political figure to cadge 600 words from autotext***

***mock Microsoft/Blogger/Opposing Political Party/French here***

***describe quotidian activities in excruciating detail here***

***best to edit out throne/magazine/candle details from previous item- not funny***

***post YouTube video your brother sent you of Ray Charles and Van Morrison for no apparent reason except it's terrific***

***mock Billy Joel in front row--you are so not Van Morrison, dude***


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Paging Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Kafka

I shouldn't write today because I'm sick, and I'm tired. In every sense of the words. And ranting isn't really going to help anybody, you included. But I got a glimpse, as I do from time to time, of the world gone mad that the average person inhabits, and I don't like it.

I spent the night in the hospital. You can't have a fever for 30 days with a few precious breaks in it and not go. My son was still in school the last time I felt well. So I went.

Everybody yelled at me. They talked endlessly about Health Insurance. The laws of supply, demand, arithmetic, physics, chemistry, and several other disciplines have been not only suspended, but have entered a sort of Bizarro Universe where no one cares about anything except we all sit there clutching a scrap of paper with mystical healing powers. It must be the insurance card that does it. There's not a lot of medicine going on.

The doctor, who I recognize from a trip to the ER with my wife, is younger than I. And yet he feels comfortable berating me about how foolish I was not to immediately go to a doctor if I was ill. I drank water and took aspirin. That's it. He assumed that since I wouldn't go to a doctor, it must be because it wasn't paid for by others. In his bizarre universe you go to the doctor whether he can help you or not, or never go if you have to pay for it yourself. Doctor, most people used to be like me. You've all flown off into the ether.

I am a criminal in the hospital now. The former governor made Health Insurance mandatory, and then the legislature made catastrophic insurance illegal in this state five minutes later. It's over a thousand dollars a month if I got it, and it covers nothing, so I'd pay, the same as I'm doing anyway. I will have to pay a fine on my state taxes of $1000 dollars for being uninsured. That should make it easier to afford taking my children to the pediatricians, starting a G spot in the hole. And I cannot seem to make these people understand that the problem is that I'm sick and cannot work properly and there is no magic bag of money. If I don't work, my children starve. Help me you bastards.

He ordered tests for dozens of maladies I assured him I could not have. He ordered a chest x-ray I manifestly did not need. I entered feverish and exhausted, and I was made as uncomfortable as Torquemada could devise for the convenience of the staff. I cannot grok how imperious they will become when they all work for the government.

The hospital seems to think I wish to watch disturbing loud things on television while freezing externally and boiling internally in a waiting room wearing a dwarf's nightdress, backwards. I don't watch TV, so I see it with fresh eyes. I watched an immensely obese person of indeterminate sex, waiting also for an x-ray, watch some sort of show that consisted of hiring dullards for menial jobs, setting up a camera, and pretending to horribly maim their co-workers. The idea was that this was somehow "spooky" or amusing or something. The dirigible person watched it like it was Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men. Sick or not, I could have killed the host and everyone involved with my hands, but they were not handy. Perhaps tomorrow they'll strap a hunchback down and have Paris Hilton throw vegetables at him for sport. It's all that's left.

The doctor would ask me questions, over and over, trying to determine some great secret I was hiding. He could not ken the existence of a person that generally cares for themselves, or is cared for by their family, has no medical problems, eats properly, does not smoke at all or drink more than one beer at a time. He kept asking me if I was a junkie or I had sat next to an A-hole lawyer that coughed a lot on a plane and so forth. The truth wasn't good enough for him. If I was normal, I'd have the precious card; I saw the wheels turning in his head. He didn't want to find anything mundane, and help me; he wanted me to be exotically sick, to amuse him.

And after six hours of this misery, the doctor turned into a jailhouse lawyer for the bugs that manifestly are hiding in my body, but he couldn't prove it with his off-topic tests, so there would be no course of treatment offered. He who had literally raised his voice to me to berate me for not visiting him sooner, told me to go home and drink water and take Advil.

I was too tired to strike him.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Usetabee Enters The Lexicon

I've been ill. It's pointless to talk about it because no matter what, I'd get better. Some people have things from which they do not recover.

I'm getting older now. Old enough to report from time to time that I usetabee things.

I usetabee a musician. By that, I mean I did it in a substantial way, often,and made money from it. I guess I'm still a musician. I mean, I still own the things. But I was never any good, just fairly succesful as those things go, and the time for me to do it has passed. Almost.

I am required to play a couple of times a year. The dates are cemented on the calendar from years --or decades-- past and must be met. And last weekend was such a date.

We play in midsummer at Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire, in a little community called Far Echo Harbor. And it doesn't matter if you're sick or busy or an adult, or what, you go because a lot of people depend upon you to go.

I get the use of a house a few hundred feet from the lake for the whole week. Of course I don't live in the world of a week off, so two days it is and then the spiders have it the other five. It was enough.

They plant us on a big deck with the benches removed, right on the sand, have an enormous barbecue right there, and then 250 people or so dance in the sand as the sun goes down, and boats from across the enormous lake tie up just outside the swimming ropes, and the people make their own fun. We are just their prop, and willing to give them what they want. They are the nicest people in the world.

My little boy, just four and very quiet, got up on the stage and sang into the microphone. My older boy, eleven, danced with teenage girls so achingly beautiful that men as old as me are not allowed to look directly at them. My wife sat in a beach chair and was beautiful and happy and... away from home for a day. Big, that.

The guitarist's son and his mates played, and they are better than us now. They were just children having an amusing go of it in front of their friends just a few short years ago. And then the old men got up and showed why they used to be something.

They all come up and thank me and shake my hand after. I don't know why. It's me that owes them something, for allowing me to put usetabee away for a day. I can never repay it. It has to be enough, to show up.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Wanna Go To Las Vegas

Actually, I don't. This person does. There isn't room in the whole town for both of us. Besides, I'm self-employed, and that's all the gambling any soul could ever need.

I offer this as a window into my soul; no offense, but this is exactly how I picture every commenter and author on every page on the internet until they prove otherwise.

I don't know what they pay policemen. It ain't enough.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Unemployed Man's House, Morgantown, West Virginia, During The Depression

(click the picture to enlarge)
At least he didn't have to sit on IKEA furniture and look at concrete block walls and trod on nasty vinyl tile or tatty cheap plastic-feeling wall-to-wall carpeting, while looking at milky gray sunlight through a lexan window.

I know that man's mind, I bet. Self-employed people wake up fired and go to bed unemployed every day. Some contagion put me right where he was for a moment: willing but unable to work. It is a terrible thing. Do not go there, children.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

10 Things You Should Be Able To Do If You're a Handy Homeowner

I'm not sure I can take much more of this.

I'm enthusiastic about people becoming interested in what I've always been interested in: making things with your hands. It's not the people hungry for knowledge I'm disappointed with; it's the people who are telling you what it means to be "handy."

Part of this appeal is that people that work in the mines of intellect long for the touch of a lump of real handwork coal from time to time. In a world where division of labor has become so incrementally small that many never see any one thing through from start to completion, the appeal of making a thing out of raw materials as a balm for the soul is growing. But man, the people peddling this stuff have no idea what they're talking about.

Remember Norm and Bob? They once stood on a scaffolding hanging off a decrepit Second Empire dump in the city of my birth and banged on the thing until it was livable. Fantastic. Norm is still banging away, but only at furniture, and still worth looking at. But his old, original haunt has degenerated into advice on how to interview consultants you can hire to hire designers to assist you in finding feng shui necromancers who will aid you in finding a personal shopper to help you pick out fourteen gold faucets for the powder room off your conservatory turret. Jaysus, make something, will you?

Our internet friend the Instapundit champions this cause, and good on him for it. But he linked yesterday to Popular Mechanics' advice on how to "be handy," and I didn't know whether to laugh, or cry, or what. It reminded me of so many customers I'd seen in construction, desperately trying to convince their wives they were good with their hands, too, after their wives looked out the window at the addition being built on their house, and saw the sidewaller with his shirt off.

Popular Mechanics telling you you'll be "handy" if you change the handle on your shovel, or learn to solder a circuit board. Priceless.

By the way; the "shovel" pictured by PM would never be called that by anybody that wielded one. It's a spade. And if you worked for a living you'd buy another one because a new one is cheaper than a handle. The handy part is digging with it properly, and knowing how to sharpen the nose with a file, and what kind of linseed oil to put on it in the fall so it doesn't rust.

OK, enough carping. Here's what you need to be able to do to be handy.

Ten things you should be able to do if you're a handy homeowner

10. Crosscut and rip a board
Think of the board as Anne Boleyn. If you want another, skinnier wife, that's ripping. If you want the same wife, only shorter and suitable for replacement by Jane Seymour, that's crosscutting. They are two different things in cutting wood, and it used to make a great deal of difference which of them you were doing. Old fashioned dudes had one hand saw for each. You likely need to know how to rip on a table saw, and crosscut on a sliding miter saw. You also need to figure out how to make enough money to purchase those tools.
9. Order a piece of lumber at a real lumberyard
Note to my new handy friends: Home Depot is not a lumberyard. It is where you pick out window treatments if you don't mind a concrete floor. A lumberyard is that place where there's a mysterious chainlink yard behind a steel building with a grumpy man behind a counter in it that says: What do you want? and then stares at you. You need to know the species, grade, nominal and actual sizes, and shortcut nomenclature for raw wood components. Hint: a 2x4 isn't.
8.Paint a straight line
It's the most important skill any person can have in your home, and you stink at it. If you're using tape or any gadget, you're doing it wrong. You need a good brush, the proper paint pot, and a lot of rooms with bad lighting to try it enough times to get the knack of it. Also, the reason the painter has paint all over him is that he's worn the same clothes every day for fourteen years. He never gets paint on him, really. If you're making any kind of mess, you're doing it wrong. You can make a mess of the rolling later. Learn the "cutting in" first.
7.Wire a convenience outlet
Spare me the danger thing. You work with electrical outlets all day, every day. If you can't learn how to wire a 15 amp branch circuit to a box and install an outlet in it, I don't see what good it'll do you to learn to solder things that you've got no place to plug in. Learn how the electrons flow, handy dude or dudette.
6.Plant a shrub
I don't mean dig a hole with your... hee hee... "shovel," and water the rhody 'til it's dead. Watch a real landscaper prepare a hole for a shrub and plant something, and you'll know how to go outside and be handy. If you can do that, you can grow pretty much anything.
5.Hammer time
There's actual advice on nailing technique in that PM article. Trust me: Nobody nails nothing no more. At least not with a hammer. You break metal strapping off bundles with the claw end when you're not mashing things flat, but you need to know how to safely use a pneumatic nailer and compressor to nail things now. They're as cheap as dirt, and safer. I know people who have lost an eye hand-nailing spikes way back when. Hand nailing is fine. It just never comes up.
4.Fell a tree
It's hard to do safely, and unwise to try on anything you can't get your arms around easily, but you really should know how to cut a pie-shaped notch on the side where you want it to fall, and a slice slightly lower on the opposite side to get things moving. You need to know where to stand, which is generally: somewhere other than where you are. Chainsaws are a blast. They're safer than imported Chinese food, too, so never fear. I cut down a tree every Earth Day, to keep in practice.
3.Plumb a sink and toilet
If you don't know how to make the finless brown trout go away, you've got no business calling yourself handy. And if you can't make water come out of a sink to wash your hands after, just call the plumbers and go back to flower arranging or crossword puzzles or whatever.
2.Lay some ceramic tile
It's easy, really. It's as close to a truly permanent installation as anything you'll ever do in your house; which is why you'll always pick out the worst tile to install. At least you'll know you can replace it yourself. Rent a wet saw like a pro has. You can cadge backrubs from your significant others real easy off this one.
1.Build a piece of furniture
Look, a table is just four vertical poles, four little pieces of wood connecting them, and a cutting board on top. You need to make some sort of this thing. It will be hideous, misshapen, poorly proportioned, rickety, and you're bound to paint it a color you'll tire of in a year or stain it with the color and uniformity of the contents of a sick baby's diaper. So what?

What are you waiting for? If you ask nice, I'll send you a plan for a table if you need one. A handy man will answer any request, generally, unless you're foolish enough to refer to them as " a handy man." That's generally when you discover they're good in a fight, too.

The Tools Of Ignorance

[Editor's Note: Other than houses, I doubt I've written about any topic as much as about baseball, and now I'm just known on the internet as the guy that's "Giving Up On Baseball." It's accurate, but I'm not like the kid that solemnly vows to give up broccoli for Lent; there's a lot to give up on there. I wrote this two years ago:]

{Author's Note: There is no editor}

The Large Child, who is nine, had a baseball game last evening. Unwilling to settle for embarrassing ourselves amongst ourselves, out little hamlet now invites the surrounding burgs to visit our fair town and bring veritable giants, children whose birth certificates have obviously been smudged and whose parents are forgetful about dates, to trounce our tykes.

It is a lovely scene. The town field is behind the Victorian town hall, bounded by fieldstone walls, with massive and ancient oaks reaching their gnarled limbs out to catch the errant foul ball. Come to think of it, some of the other team's kids seemed pretty massive, and reached out their gnarled limbs to snare errant foul balls...

Perhaps I exaggerate. When I was young, I was considered a beanpole. I played center at pick-up basketball. I loomed liked Ichabod Crane over many of my classmates, and had a couple inches on my old man by the time I was fifteen. The occasional magazine article would explain that ours was that generation that, because of the food pyramid, chewable vitamins, fluoride, vitamin D milk, and polio shots would reach the limits, finally, of the potential of human development.

Well, the nine year old kid pitching for the opposing team could look me straight in the eye.

But this story isn't about me. My boy. By god I was proud of him yesterday.

Catchers are in short supply when you're nine. Catching is hard. The roster consists of 10 children who wish to play first base, and 3 who wouldn't mind sitting on the bench to chat with their peers, thank you for asking anyway. The coach eyed my boy, and pronounced him suitable for catching, inasmuch as he did not make himself scarce when it was offered. This is because my boy is not wise in the ways of the sporting world. He donned the armor and went into battle.

Now understand, The Boy is not athletic. He spells better than you, and talks like a diplomat, and tells a humorous anecdote like a trained music hall actor, but he'll never round the bases at Fenway unless he eventually hears the siren song of the landscaping arts and ends up on the grounds crew.

No matter. He gave it a go. And he was... well ...good at it. Not real good or anything, but good enough to make the coaches realize: we can rope this kid into this. He was good enough to allow the umpire, who was endless fun, to rib him when he didn't catch a pitch he had called a strike. You're making me look bad, he intoned in his best stage whisper, and the boy apologized and we all laughed.

And then it came. The game was... well, closer than the usual trouncing. The bases were full. There were two outs. And My Boy strides to the plate.

In many ways, baseball, even when played properly, is a dreary sport. Long periods of time pass where not much happens. The spectator's, and even the player's mind, tend to wander. The umpire also occasionally has to wander- out to the second baseman to gently remind him not to face out into centerfield, hatless, while dancing around to inaudible music. But baseball's drudgery leads up to moments. Something might happen.

Anyway, as I was saying, your attention can wander at a baseba... Hey! how did he get two strikes on him so fast?!

Now the moment might be different. The touching scene, as the doting father consoles his son as he walks dejected back to the bench...

One in the dirt. One over his head. One more in the dirt. The count is full. The moment returns.

Now because The Boy is unwise in the ways of sports, he is uncommonly unaffected in his appearance and demeanor while playing. The other kids ape the professionals to a "T," dressed to the nines in vaguely metrosexual sports gear and afflicted with every bad habit and unsportsmanlike behavior that plagues the major leagues of every sport. Until you have seen a nine year old boy, wearing All Nike Everything, including two batting gloves, arguing balls and strikes with the umpire, trying unsuccessfully to spit between pitches, and throwing his bat in disgust after striking out, you wouldn't believe it could be true. Well it is. Big time.

The Boy wears his batting helmet tilted a little too far forward, where it can actually shield his eyes from the sun, and protect his face, but doesn't have the requisite insouciance neccessary for devotees of The Perfessionals. He wears plain grey sweatpants, not Official, Aerodynamic, Logo emblazoned, Microfiber baseball pants. He wears cheap sneakers. And he randomly chooses his bat, walks to the plate, taps the bat once in the center of the plate to measure his location in the batter's box, and assumes a stance that would make Ted Williams smile. And he holds that stance, come what may, without any affectation whatsoever. And he concentrates, and he tries hard to hit it.

Oh yes- full count, bases loaded, "Goliath" rears and offers to my "David," and the improbable happens.

The hit is the first from our team to make it on the fly to the outfield grass. The Boy motors to first, straight as a ruler, and stops there while two of his compatriots score. His teammates hoot from the bench.

After the game, (We lost. Again.) and the handshakes, and the gathering of scattered belongings, The Boy walks up to his coach and says:

Thank you coach for allowing me to be the catcher for the whole game.

And I considered on the short ride home the difference between pride and happiness. When The Boy got that hit, I think I was expected to be proud of him. But I wasn't. I was happy for him, and knew he must have glowed with satisfaction, standing on first with the little cheers raining down on him. But even if he had struck out, but still behaved as he did, and expressed his simple heartfelt gratitude as he did, how could I not be proud of him?

In the car, on the way home, he asked:

Dad, what's a ribby?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Choosing Your Lumber

Baseball was the game when I was young.

I played it; watched it on television; listened to it on the radio. I read about it in the paper every day, and in magazines every week, and in books every year. And it's dead to me now.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like hockey or basketball, both deader than a pharaoh and literally totally out of my world in any form. I mean that baseball has ceased to have any meaning for me.

Baseball is an exhibition, like a sort of Harlem Globetrotters game or a carnival sideshow exhibit. The fix is in. The idea that you're seeing a tussle between mighty warriors encapsulating great themes is long gone. What you're watching is the collusion between grasping, grabby freaks and cheaters, and their employers, to part you from your money. That's it.

I like to listen to the sports talk radio station all day. Music gets boring, and the tempest in a teapot nature of crackpot callers about lineup cards is charming. It's nasty to listen to people yell at each other over politics on the radio. Too much is at stake to make it entertaining. I like when people get insane over nothing. That's fun.

99% of callers to sports radio regarding all sports consist of men who cannot dress and wash themselves properly, who emit an audible gasp of exertion just by sitting down, and can't perform third grade long division, calling the billionaire owners of teams and their MBA executives stupid, then calling players so strong and well conditioned that they could pull a lion inside out lazy. It's kind of a hoot, and I must admit I never tire of it, but I get my entertainment from it in a sort of nasty way. I'm not laughing with you... sorry.

They all say the same thing. If I was the owner, I'd just trade all our bad players to the other teams for all their good players.


If they are referring to the players, they point out that it would be preferable for them to hit a home run every time, unless you are a pitcher, who is supposed to strike out 27 batters a game. That's what they would do, after all.

But that's amusing, but not the reason why baseball is a joke. It's a joke because the best players aren't playing.

If you're a baseball player, you get paid. You can loaf down to first base, have fistfights with your teammates, beat up your wife if you ever bother to marry her, fake injury, whatever; all you have to do is try hard enough at first to get the ink on the paper and then you can't be fired. You can't be benched. You can't be traded. you can't be disciplined in any meaningful way. The team is stuck with you and your contract, and that's that.

The Boston Red Sox won the world series after 86 years. The most valuable player of the World Series is a player the team tried to give away before the season began, and no one would take him, his insane contract, and his bizarre behavior and ambivalent attitude. Why would that victory have any meaning to me?

In a way, he's the only player I like. Crazy Manny Ramirez. He couldn't care less about what town he's playing in. He doesn't know how many outs there are. He loafs. When he feels like it, he hits. He's been playing in this town for the better part of a decade and still lives in a hotel. There's no pretense.

At least I don't have to listen to any drivel about giving 110 percent from him. He knows it's a joke, that league, and that a guy that can turn on a 95 mile per hour fastball in a fraction of a second can't be found by thumbing through the phone book. He knows that the kid that hustles, that tries, that exhibits the character traits that would make his sport into something meaningful is never going to take his job.

If you wanted to watch people cash checks, they'd put up bleachers at the drive through teller. What in the hell are you doing at the ballpark?

Monday, July 09, 2007

This Is Sippican's Place

It's hard to be Floyd.

I'm Internet Floyd.

It's hard to explain a Floyd to a non-Floyd. A non-Floyd thinks you're certifiable if you explain there is no vacation, no Sunday, no insurance subsidized by others, no corporate umbrella to shield you from liability. You're at the mercy of events so far beyond your control that they might as well be lightning bolts. You could be made penniless overnight by the stroke of a pen in a legislature or a smoldering cigarette butt. It's not generally a situation where you might fail; you wake up every morning and you've already failed --it's the default setting-- and you work all day with your mind and your back and your hands and your prayers to get back to zero so you can go to sleep again.

Why would you be a Floyd, you ask?

So you can hang a sign out front that says: This is Floyd's Place. It's really no more complicated than that.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Provincetown Sunday 1940

When we were young, we'd vacation on Cape Cod for a week sometimes. Sunday would roll around, and our parents would want to take us to church.

But Mom, it's vacation.

We'd go to the church named after some Saint we never heard of, filled with strangers. There wasn't even any stained glass. There were no elderly Italian women in the last pew, dressed all in black because they were widows. It was like a whole different religion. It was fun to stand on the step after, and feel a different sun in a different sky beaming on your face. A Cape Cod sun.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

You Play The Fills

There is a big difference between saying it's alright to feel bad sometimes, and that it's fun to be miserable. Rock musicians, yeah, I'm looking at you.

Life is a big serious thing, and it's not always a party. Sometimes it is a party, but it's a wake. Sometimes you feel like sharing what's weighing on your heart with others. You can make something nebulous to carry your feelings, if you know what you're doing. Any artist knows the give and go. A used car salesman knows only the bait and switch.

Life is not a phone book you read. It's a fuzzy image projected on a crumbly wall with a guttering candle. People with my name, people with my face, people with my mind call out to me from the heavens and the grave alike. Their images flicker and dance. You play the fills.

Friday, July 06, 2007

It's Friday, Somewhere

I visited my friend Steve last night. A handful of my friends were there.

We talked of business, as we do some together. Steve has grown children, who are at home from college for the summer. They work. Like men, not boys. In addition to daytime work, the oldest and his friends are performing at a nightspot near here tonight. I've written about them here before. They're really good now. They invited me to come.

It seemed like a kind of dreamworld they inhabited. I knew if from the past, but it's grown indistinct with the passage of time. It was Friday night, and their labors were done, and my friends were going out to a nightspot in a gang. For fun.

I don't do that. I was a musician, for money, for a long time. I don't really know how to enjoy myself in a nightclub anymore. I never know how to act "facing the opposite way," as we used to call it. And besides, I am married with children, one small, and my wife and me rarely do anything without at least one child in tow.

But there's more. My business is not like most others. I don't commute. There is no cubicle. No timeclock. There are no stacks of forms outside the HR department. There is no quitting time. I don't own a watch. What difference does it make what time it is? I'll be called to meals. That's it.

If you examine my situation, it's very much like a traditional wife's life. There are large exertions necessary from time to time, but also a kind of minimum level on duty at all times. You are never done. My wife never even sleeps, really. If the children murmur down the hall she hears it and goes. It is what it is.

I've had more than one regular job. I know what it's like to be done on Friday and look only for amusements. It's a dim memory.

I can't, or won't, go tonight. Not sure which.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

That's Me, Only On The Internet

But sometimes I'm the lady, toiling out in the landscape, far from the centers of commerce and culture, hungry for a hint of the world at large; not the door to door salesman.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Nothing So Scarce As A Polite Trombone Player

My boy plays the trombone in the school band. He was offered private lessons for the summer, with an eye towards getting him into the junior high bands that require an audition. They cost too much, so we passed. A sort of scholarship appeared, and he was selected to receive it. My wife suspects that they were afraid he'd lose interest over the summer, and they realized their loss if the polite, cooperative trombone player disappeared. If he played the usual instruments, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, he'd never have had a sniff of it. Trombone players are scarce.

None so scarce as these, though.

Or perhaps you'd like something a little more sedate. Chet Atkins:

Happy Fourth of July to you all.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Priceless Antique

While we were out walking on Sunday in Bristol, Rhode Island, this jarring tableaux caught my eye. That is my childhood toy. It is in an antique shop.

It's unlikely that it's the actual article, of course; but even that's not impossible. I grew up a few dozen miles from there. But I hadn't thought about that thing for forty years, and then there it was in all its glory.

We didn't have a lot of money. Then again, people with a lot of money didn't have a lot of stuff forty years ago, either. So any toy like that seemed precious. But its precious nature is different than today's. Being precious meant that you used it all the time, not that you kept it in the box and displayed it like people do with so many things now. I put baseball cards that would pay the mortgage on my house into the spokes of my bicycle to make that satisfying brrrrrrt sound. I don't regret it one bit. Since everyone collects everything now, it's all worthless. There's next to nothing in 99% of antiques shops I'd call an antique. It's just stuff old enough to be left on the curb once.

I spent countless hours in the little patch of dirt outside my door, assembling my own cogent universe out of a riot of disparate objects. That thing there, the little enameled mild steel truck, is invested with the anima of a million boisterous pushes and gentle touches.

If I was rich, I'd buy it. If I was really rich, I'd play with it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Doorways In Bristol

Bristol, Rhode Island is having its moment this week. It has the oldest running string of Fourth of July parades in the country; or claims to, anyway. We walked there on Sunday in the afternoon, and we saw a lot of people preparing for the parade already. It's pleasant there, with pleasant people in it.

There's a kind of pall over that town. I had met some people who were struggling to be merchants there, who have recently given up. They explained that the local business climate had improved enough after a long fallow period to tempt the local government to milk it, hard, for revenue. They were way ahead of themselves. There are a lot more empty storefronts now. And there were plenty of empty ones before.

It's interesting to walk through the ruins of previous civilizations. I wondered if that's what I was doing in Bristol, Rhode Island. July 4th is nothing. The parade is everything. But it's useful to remember that no-one went to the drive-in theater in the daytime. It's not the screen they came to see, but what was projected on it.

Me? It occurred to me that I'm looking at the blank, rusty screen among the weeds and the broken speaker poles now.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sales 101

Advertising has got to shift.

If you wish to advertise now, you have only one mission. People have got to want to look at the advertisement itself. Nothing else answers. Super Bowl ads are fantastically expensive not because so many people tune in, but because it's common that many, if not most of the audience, is going to watch the commercials for the entertainment value that's in them.

I don't have an opinion one way or another about Evian water. I rarely drink water out of a bottle. When I do, only its temperature and the shape of the spout would matter. There is no important difference from one bottled water to the next unless it is carbonated. Even then it's pretty much all the same.

All that being said, I can't imagine that Evian is produced by soulless rapacious oligarchs after watching the following. Even if management had nothing to do with the production of the commercial, if they were heartless people they would have watched the video as a pitch from the ad company and said: That's sappy. Can't we have Chuck Norris or Britney Spears or something?

The most creative people in the world work in advertising. Always have. After all, Michelangelo Simoni Buonarroti's statue of Moses is just an advertisement for the dead Pope Julius, isn't it?

I imagine the reason why all the greatest visual work you're ever going to see is advertising of one sort or another is because a person that wants many others to like them or be interested in them hires the most talented persons in the visual and audio arts to make sure it happens. And artists go there to yoke their horses to a cart that's going somewhere, and has hay for the horse, too. All the frauds are in the art gallery.

I'm pretty sure it happens about the opposite of the common image of advertising for the most part. It's not the callow businessman ordering the nice artist to fool the public with pleasantries. Really callow businessmen always appear in their own ads and bark at you to come on down. No, I imagine that the immensely talented artist that wishes he was doing something else sorta edgy brings the businessman his idea for the campaign: "How about a dystopian future, where global warming has desertified the planet and a few tribes of Neo-cavemen battle it out with cudgels in a bone-strewn desert trying to kill one another for the last bottle of Evian?"

There is a short silence and some polite eye-rolling.

"I don't know..." says the executive. "How about some nice babies?"