Friday, October 13, 2017

May-December Continuum

One summer night I was driving home in my car, not paying much attention to the other cars driving by me. In the lane next to me was a car of about four teenage girls, listening to music and having fun. The car started driving side by side with me, not slowing down or speeding up from me.

When we stopped by the light one of the girls leaned out of her window.
"HEY!" she smiled. "What's up! D'you wanna hang out?"
I just smiled back. If she knew how old I was she wouldn't have started up, or would she?
"Hey! C'MON!" she laughed. She was probably drunk or something, but when they realized I wasn't interested, they pulled away and drove off.

This made me think of when I was younger and it wasn't unusual to see a 16-year old girl date a 22-year old guy. It was a generally accepted thing in my high school; it didn't seem like a big deal.

Around the time this carload of cooze happened I read Pamela Des Barres' memoir I'm With The Band, where she writes page after page of dating older rock stars even though she was hovering 16 to 18 years of age. Her friends in The GTOs shared similar relationships, and Frank Zappa even responded with songs like Motherly Love ("...you know it doesn't bother me at all that you're only 18 years old..").

While the male is always characterized as being a lech it's always been a fact that many younger girls are attracted to older guys, sometimes much older guys. At what point did this become viewed as some sort of dirty, sinister thing?

Altogether now...THE INTERNET. That's right, ever since social networking as dictated to one and all what's acceptable and what's not acceptable, we now have to listen to bluenoses proclaim any man dating a young lady as filthy and that immortal Internet word, CREEPY. The Internet loves that word, that and "disturbing".

Listen, if a teenage girl wants to date a rich, old crone I couldn't care less. She's getting what she wants and you know he's getting what he wants and who the fuck is anybody to judge either of them? By the way, if an older woman with stacks of cash wanted to cruise me I'd definitely let her dock in my harbor. Why not?

I fucking hate the Internet. I now have to read how Kim Fowley, a great artist, is a "rapist" (nobody said shit when he was alive...interesting), Woody Allen, another devil, etc. Every man, thanks to the Internet is now a pervert. It's boring and I don't care.

It doesn't matter that Charlie Chaplin, Steve Cochran, and countless other stars married or dating far below their age group and their women didn't give a damn, either. When do you think this whole shame circus started? You guessed it, social networking.

Look, I'm not going to hang around some high school tomorrow looking for ladies to hustle, but I'm not going to flip out over their lack of maturity. And see the average American nightclub keep an underage girl from getting in...please, everything's permitted and it's a consensual thing. Just stay off Twitter and Facebook or they'll stone you like an Islamic tribunal.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sounds Like The Turtles

In the world of Sixties pop music there have been a small handful of bands that have stood the test of time and trends, endearing themselves to people of all musical tastes, and one of those bands is undoubtedly The Turtles.

Originally a surf band called The Crossfires, they got smitten by The Byrds protest folk-rock bug and inadvertently created a bizarre hybrid of surf-folk. The band played protest songs like Let Me Be and It Ain't Me Babe with a surf-rock style that made the band stand out in a big way. It also didn't hurt that cheery Mark Volman always played a whimsical foil to Howard Kaylan's dramatic vocals. The band was a lot of fun no matter what the message was.

During their four-plus years in the Top 40 The Turtles had a long streak of hits which lasted longer then many of their contemporaries like The Monkees or Paul Revere & The Raiders. Why? Maybe it's because they didn't have a gimmick, just a very straightforward approach to producing sunny yet provocative pop records.

By 1970, The Turtles called it quits in spite of their unbroken string of hits because of signing with too many managers and getting wrangled up in an endless stream of binding contracts. There were also complaints of royalties not reaching the right people.

Three members of The Turtles – Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan and Jim Pons joined Frank Zappa & The Mothers and recorded five great albums together, some of Zappa’s best work: Chunga’s Revenge, Fillmore East June 1971, Just Another Band From LA (I attended that show!), the motion picture soundtrack to 200 Motels, and the released-much-later Playground Psychotics.

Although the music produced was terrific it was probably the worst season in The Mothers’ careers, as it was fraught with horrific episodes like a hotel fire in Montreaux, Switzerland (immortalized in Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water) and an attempted assassination of Zappa on stage at The Rainbow Theater in London, England, relegating Zappa to a wheelchair for the next 12 months.

During their tenure in The Mothers Mark and Howard recorded under the names The Phluorescent Leech and Eddie, which they used to call their new band, including Pons (drummer Johnny Barbata joined Jefferson Starship). They recorded about four albums, two for Warner Bros. and two for Columbia. The Turtles sound lives on in occasional reunion tours and the band has never lost their sense of humor in spite of a career loaded with speed bumps and brick walls.

If you're a success in music you're going to inspire a spate of imitators who are either influenced by your sound or simply want to cash in on your magic. Whatever their motives may be, this blog tracks down three records heavily influenced by The Turtles sound, largely written by the team of Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon:

Life Is Short - Billy Nicholls

Billy Nicholls was a friend of The Small Faces, and that was connection was put to good use with Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott playing and producing his album, Would You Believe? Would You Believe is an interesting album in that it's more Sunshine Pop than Freakbeat. Sunshine Pop didn't really hit England as much as Freakbeat did, so Nicholls' album is very different than the usual album coming out of the UK. Several of the tracks have a strong Turtles influence in them, especially Daytime Girl and this one, Life Is Short.

Reason To Believe - Skip Bifferty

Nobody sang a more heartfelt ballad than Howard Kaylan and you can definitely hear echoes of that in Skip Biffferty's great moody, romantic sing, Reason To Believe. Brief but touching!

You're Gonna Hurt Yourself - The Bystanders

You're Gonna Hurt Yourself was originally recorded by The Four Seasons but this version has more bounce. The harmonies recall classic Mark and Howard, too. Again, a good English tribute to the boys from Westchester, who obviously made a strong impact on the UK, especially with Marc Bolan, who used Volman and Kaylan as his backup singers on countless classic T. Rex hit singles, as well as on the Electric Warrior and Slider albums. Perhaps they were good luck charms for him, bringing him luck at every turn.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Little Hand Man

THE LITTLE HAND MAN

The Little Hand Man
swings a golf club too big for his tiny little hands
He stands on a scorched, blackened golf course
THE BALL IS ON THE TEE

SWING! He misses the ball
SWING!!! He misses the ball again
Little beads of sweat line the top of his blanched pink lips

The hair on the back of his head
flies to the front, makes a shape like an old Injun's canoe
His sturdy frame twists like a rusty turnstile

SWING! He misses the ball
SWING!!! He hits the ball...finally
The Little Hand Man curses
As the blanched pink men clap their little, pink, wrinkled hands

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gridlock

Tourists, tourists, tourists. I'm making a drop-off up in the Hollywood Hills and I'm really flustered getting the gown out of my car and all, my ass is hanging out of my pants and my clipboard is falling down, and I turn around and there's this TMZ tour bus with these apple knockers with their fucking cameras and mobile phones taking pics of me pulling out a gown with my dick falling out my pants and I got THIS close to screaming, "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?"

But I didn’t.

I threw my back out towards the rubberneckers and kept it there until the tour bus finally trotted off, disappointed that I wasn’t about to march over to some celebrity’s doorstep with their clothes.

Truth be told, the delivery wasn’t even famous. Just a barely known film producer’s wife getting her gown for the night’s festivities. People make a big fuss about nothing, even my pants sliding down my hips. Tourists are funny; so many of them behave like boobs who paid their money see a freak show at the carnival.

Sometimes I feel bad about my job and how it looks to “normal” people, and other times I tell myself “this is where I belong” and believe it. I’ve been holding down this gig for about a year and a half already but it felt much, much longer than that.

It wasn’t hard work, it was pretty easy, but it was very exhausting running around and picking things up and then sitting in traffic all day getting to the delivery and dropping it off, repeating the cycle for ten hours straight without breaks. The repetition of it all is what killed you.

When I think back on my first day on the job it all seems pretty ironic. I was heartbroken at the prospect of finally succumbing to become a delivery person. I always thought it was the last resort for dysfunctional idiots who couldn’t do anything else. I was totally broke, flat busted. I didn’t have enough money to buy a loaf of bread and Karol was getting tired of it. She still lived with me.

Whoever tells you money can’t buy you love doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The money was gone and so was her love for me. Every day she yelled at me more and more. Sick and tired of being broke, I finally caved in and answered an ad for a delivery company. I sank to the bottom of the labor food chain. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

Karol didn’t really appreciate my effort taken in relieving my sad financial state. She simply told her friends, “My boyfriend’s a delivery boy”.

Without looking like I was moping too hard I went to the office of Style Runners and filled out all the paperwork. I showed my driver’s license, proof of auto insurance and my DMV driving record of the past five years, all necessary to qualify for the job. After doing so I was told to sit and wait.

I sat there in the waiting room feeling like a total loser, hating my miserable life and the shitty hand Fate had dealt me. My eyes burning a hole down at the carpet feeling shame, it was interrupted by the manager walking up to me with a very large black man in a Style Runners uniform.

“Okay, Tracy, everything seems to be in order. This is Cabernet, one of our best drivers. He’s going to show you the ropes and give you orientation of what we do here. So, off you go and good luck!”

Cabernet shook my hand as I got up. “How you doin’, man?”
“Fine”, I lied.
“You ever driven before?”
“Yeah, I did some drug store deliveries years ago. I kind of have an idea of what I need to do”.
“Good, this shouldn’t take too long, then. Let’s bounce”.

We got in a small car and he immediately radioed in. “Driver 124, standing by in West Los Angeles”, he turned to me and said, “That’s how you tell the dispatchers you’re sitting around waiting for something to do. You never say ‘give me stuff to pick up’, you say ‘Standing by and you give them your location’”.

The dispatcher radioed back in three minutes and he quietly wrote down several locations for pickups. He put the car in gear and began driving west. I thought we were headed to a dumpy area and pick up a bunch of crummy Italian food.

He made a few turns while interjecting a few boring pleasantries.
“Got any kids? Got a girl? My Lakers are letting me down…”

The scenery changed and it changed radically. We moved into Beverly Hills and went up Rodeo Drive. What gives? I thought. Is this a joke?

“Okay, first we’re going to Burberry and then we’re heading over to Cartier to pick up a delivery”. My face lit up and forgot about my self-pity.
He pulled into the Rodeo Drive alley and swung the car into the Burberry parking lot.

We walked down a clean, well-lit staircase to the basement where an attendant stood by a bank of closed circuit cameras and a few rails of garment bags all bearing the Burberry symbol.
“Cabernet!”
“Marcel, picking up a bag and training this new guy here”. Marcel appraised me as if I were some new species let loose upon the world.
“Ah, good luck, my friend”.
“Grab the bag, dude”, Cabernet instructed. I picked it up aggressively.

We got back in the car and Cabernet told me, “Okay, now record the time you picked up the bag on your trip sheet. That’s it, now let’s head over to Cartier”.
We went over to Cartier, where we had to show ID and sign a few papers. Security was pretty tight there and after a few more hoops jumped through we were finally given the bag with the jewels.

“We’ll have to drop off the jewels first”, Cabernet said once we got back to the car.
“Get your belt on, here we go”. We headed over to Coldwater Canyon and pulled up to a high walled estate. Cabernet got out of the car and walked up to the intercom by the tall gate.

“Style Runners delivering the Cartier”, he spoke into the little talk box. A moment later the gate slid open a few feet and a big man in a suit, dark glasses and an earpiece stepped out and took the bag. He quickly jotted his initials on the trip sheet and Cabernet returned to the car.

“Okay, that’s done. Now we gotta go to Jimmy Choo’s”. On and on it went like that all day, my mood elevating from despair to elation at the romantic delivery jobs assigned to us all day in Beverly Hills.

Burberry, Cartier, Jimmy Choo continued on to Hermes, Neiman Marcus and Yves St. Laurent, picking up from glamorous designers and dropping them off at homes in Bel Air, Malibu and Benedict Canyon. Delivery work, yes, but pretty lofty delivery.

When I got home that night I tried to tell Karol about my new job, but she just goofed around on her cell phone talking to her friends. It was strange; we got along fine for years but overnight she hated me and treated me terribly. There was no explanation or reason why she decided to turn on me; she simply decided she hated me now.

I was happy that the delivery job turned out to be pretty good, but she seriously didn’t give a damn. She was non-plussed by everything I told her and communicating with her became impossible. I truly felt alone. One month later she left ne and moved back to her mother in Canada.

I continued to drive on weekends after that and it turned out pretty well. I made the rent every month and ate alright, so the poverty scene was forestalled again. Delivering cool fashion prevented me from feeling any shame at being a delivery person. I never did shame very well, anyway. I always liked myself in spite of the hate coming out of other people. It never really affected me.

I got the radio call to go to The Montclair Group, a modeling agency near the Laurel Canyon area. They were doing business out of a mid-century modern house in the rustic hills. My GPS compassed me to the house, the upper floor stuck out above a cluster of bushes. I pulled over to the side of the driveway and walked up to the entrance, hit the buzzer and identified myself.

“Come in. I have a few bags for you to deliver to a client in Laguna Beach”, a strikingly beautiful girl with big red hair in skin tight black pants ran around the room, all business, no smiles, nothing.

As I followed her to the studio I saw a dozen thin, stunning girls all dashing about every which way, buzzing around like fireflies. Some of the girls were blond, some were brunette, some black, some Asian, and they were all gorgeous. Thin. Ravishing. Like my hostess they were all very serious and stressed.

“Casey, what time is the photographer coming by with the proofs?”
“Excuse me! Are you delivering the Continental breakfast we ordered 45 minutes ago?”
Severe eyebrows pointed at me.

“No, I’m here to pick up some bags”.
“Tch!!”
“Bailey, did you call Armando?”
“No, Ashley, was I supposed to?”
“Call Armando. Like now. You were supposed to call him like a million years ago”.

As I stood around waiting for the bags more beautiful girls ran in and out of the room, making me feel like I was in a Room of Mirrors at the Fun House with ravishing women all around me. There were no men present at all.

“Are you from Geek Squad?” More severe eyebrows pointed at me. “I need to have my laptop defragged”.
“You don’t know how to defra-“
“Tch! He’s not from Geek Squad”, the Redhead heaved three bags at me. “Okay, here’s the bags. How soon can she get them?”
“Well, Laguna Beach is in Orange County so I’d say about an hour from now, at least, so-“
“GOOD ENOUGH! THANK YOOOOOUUU!”

She practically slammed the door behind me, but it was alright. As beautiful as the girls were, there was something demonically claustrophobic about being in that house. Besides, a beautiful girl that never smiles is as appealing as an ice cream cone with salt and pepper all over it.

“757, holding The Montclair order to Laguna Beach”, I radioed in.
“Ten-four, call clear, 757”, the dispatcher returned back.

I turned up the air conditioning and pulled out some gum and chewed away, slowly crawling up the ramp to the 405 Freeway. My mp3 player was playing the William Tell Overture by Wendy Carlos and I chuckled at the perky synthesizer music.

Traffic moved fairly smoothly up the 405, better than usual. As I went by I occasionally looked over at the shoulder on the freeway, noticing forgotten shirts and pants lying in a heap. A few miles later there was the torn off bumper, the decapitated fender, and the usual spray of broken glass.

As I drove further down I noticed deep, dark grooves burned into the asphalt by squealed tires, indicating sudden braking or wild last-minute swerves. At first I only noted one every few feet, but then there appeared to be more and more.

Traffic gradually slowed down more and more. The other side of the freeway was grooving at a pretty swift pace, but our side started creeping like a fly in molasses. It was hard to see what the cause of the slowdown was, but it didn’t feel right.

I heard a few sirens blasting behind me, faintly, then progressively louder and louder. Then an EMS truck ran down the shoulder I’d just stared at, followed by two police cars and a fire truck blasting its trombone horn to hell.

We crawled further and had to move two lanes to the left, but I got a good view. It was an accident, and it was a good one. There were four cars slammed into each other, radiator steam billowing out, as well as clouds of black smoke from burning oil. One had spun in the opposite direction, another had its front end completely crushed in, the third had the entire left side bashed in with a driver still stuck inside, and the fourth had its rear fender and bumper town off completely.

The fourth car’s owner was a fat, homely man sitting on the ground crying like a child over his car being destroyed. The car with the front end crushed in was a woman comforting her young daughter, a blanket thrown around the little girl’s shoulders. The man in the car spun around was unconscious behind the wheel. He may have been dead, but I didn’t care. I had a delivery to make.

We trudged further up the freeway through the smoke and steam and burned rubber odors. I hated to break it to The Beautiful Redhead, but I probably wasn’t going to deliver the fashion on time. There are times when Death trumps Beauty.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Punk Rock Retirement Home

This was a three-night engagement I played at The Whiskey A Go Go with my band Arthur J. and The Gold Cups, which was an all-star punk big band (I played saxophone), The band also featured the late Brendan Mullen on drums, Geza X on guitar, Paul Roessler on keyboards and a host of others.

Because it was a three night engagement we had a different band open the show each night, and as you can see X opened one night and The Alleycats opened another. The Avengers headlined and were absolutely amazing. I think Penelope Houston is the best punk rock singer I've ever heard, bar none.

Brendan designed the poster and organized the show.

In September of 1978 I was asked to play sax with The Screamers at The Whisky A Go Go. Pat Delaney from The Deadbeats and I joined them for their exciting encore of The Germs' Sex Boy, re-titled Sax Boy as a tribute to us.

Lead singer Tomata Du Plenty and synthesizer man Tommy Gear prowled the stage like a pair of wild leopards singing the Darby classic while Pat and I honked away. At one point I was given a short sax break and I tooted the riff to Punish Or Be Damned. Tommy winced painfully. Good times.

My friend Lisa Brenneis joined Richard Meltzer's new band Vom as the bass guitarist. Meltzer just moved to Los Angeles from New York, which was a big deal because he was one of the most idiosyncratically New York rock writers around that time. He put together a pretty interesting band, which besides Lisa also included Metal Mike Saunders and Gregg Turner. I may have missed one or two other guys; it was a long time ago.

Vom played their first show at the Whiskey A Go-Go and Lisa invited me. What I didn't count on was being recruited during sound check to act as their official "bodyguard". In order to distinguish me at this dubious job they gave me one of their custom made shirts (seen in the photo). This meant keeping the crowd from killing them, because Meltzer made a few disparaging remarks about Hollywood punks being phony and plastic. He wasn't being serious about it; in fact he was method acting like a locker room wrestler trying to rile the local kids up, and it worked. A little too well!

The club was filled with all the usual local punks ready to boo and heckle the band to death. The entire staff of Slash magazine was there heckling the band to death, as well. Vom went into all their killer numbers like I'm In Love With Your Mom, Electrocute Your Cock, and Broads Is Equal. Kids were picking up anything in sight and flinging it at the band, and it was my job to admonish these twerps from throwing things, like a stodgy old school teacher. Nobody listened to me. I hated it.

Meltzer even chided me from the stage. "Hey, do your job, Tall Guy in the Vom Shirt. You're supposed to be protecting us. By the way, the fat punk chick in the front, you look like a piece of shit with lipstick!" Try defending someone who talks like that.

Not content to merely piss off the audience, they now incurred the ire of the club itself, when they went into their intense rendition of The Doors' My Eyes Have Seen You, which featured Meltzer and Turner pulled out a pickled jar of cows' eyeballs and bursting them on stage and throwing them out into the dance floor at all the heckling punks. The floor was sticky and slippery from formaldehyde goo with crushed eyeballs all over the place.

Well, after this Vom-itous bit of show business the sound man, like the voice of Zeus, thundered over the PA, "OKAY, ASSHOLES, GET OFF MY STAGE! NOW!!!" Of course, this made all the punks cheer as if God himself stepped in and sent the band to Purgatory.

There's a happy ending to some of this, of course. Meltzer shortly after got a hot radio show on KPFK-FM where he invited every punk band he previously insulted and they all played phony kissy face with each other, and then my picture showed up in a crummy fake "New Wave" magazine. Of course, all the idiot Hollywood punks chastised for posing wearing a Vom shirt. Never mind that these were the same people that couldn't kiss Meltzer's ass hard enough to get on his show.

Come to think of it, Richard Meltzer was probably right the first time. Hollywood punks are a bunch of phony assholes, after all.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Proper Burial

I was tracing and cutting fabric in the workroom when Dovina came in and happily announced to me, "I'm back! And I've got some cool swag!"

She came back from the blacksmith's shop and he always packed her down with weird metal objects we sometimes could use and usually couldn't. The girl came back to her workroom with bags filled with metal bracelets, bizarre rings that could be used for notions, and everything else imaginable.

What caught my attention, though, was a tiny plastic shopping bag she pulled out of her handbag. A furry spotted paw stuck out of the shopping bag.
"What's that?"
"Oh, look at this. Timothy was going to throw this in the trash and I said, 'Don't you dare!', and he said, 'Do you really want this?' I figured he needed a home".

Smiling, she pulled out a pelt of a bobcat, all four paws, tail and head intact. The head exposed a snarling cat face without a lower jaw. Whatever face the cat made at the time of its death and subsequent skinning, it didn't look terribly happy, gold eyes blazing and face permanently twisted in a snarl of anger that was there for keeps.

"Now, let's see, I think I'll put it...over here!" She did an eenie-meenie-miney-moe spin around the room until she found a red plastic hook around the sewing machine to hang the pelt on.
"There!" she smiled. "What do you think?"
"Well, it'll definitely have something to look at. It already has a disapproving look on its face".

For the next few days I came in working to the spectacle of having dead bobcat with face giving me a Fuck You look all day. It wasn't a Jean Paul Gaultier moment but I simply shut up and dealt with it.

Before I go any further let me explain a thing about Dovina. The relatives on her mother's side practiced witchcraft and a few of the relatives on her father's side practiced voodoo. There was also the time someone came over with a toy voodoo doll and had a power outage the next day along with a few other technical malfunctions in the house. And then there was the time she gave me a $2 dollar bill. I got rid of it right away at the market. Needless to say, the apples I bought all had brown, rotten centers in the middle. Hmmm.

Dovina slammed down the phone after getting yelled at by Miss Prewett, one of her fussier clients.
"Oh, that bitch! I was up all night sewing that stupid dress for her and now she says it doesn't fit her and I don't know how to sew! That cunt".
Her cell phone rang a little perky jingle. "Hello? This is she! Hi, how are you. What? They told me it was good. Insufficient funds? Ughhhh..."

Another client wrote her a bounced check and now she had to get on the phone and get them to pay cash to cover the bad check. The next day she appraised my work. "No, No, NO! All wrong. Do it again!"
Dovina took the dress and threw it in my face.
"Don't throw shit in my face!"
"My clients demand a certain standard from me and you can't deliver", she snarled.
"Oh, like the way you delivered to Miss Prewett?"
"FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE!!! GET THE HELL OUT OF MY ROOM! NOW!"

We fought like crazy for the next few days, and ironically kissed and made up in the apartment we had next door.
One week later: "Hey, why don't you put away that pelt? It's freaking people out".
"I don't know", she moaned behind her sewing machine. "It's kind of cute. Puddy Tat's so lonesome".

"Please put it away. Seriously, Dovina. The customers aren't cool with it".
She finally broke down and put away the pelt.
"Well! You won't have to worry about him any more. He's gone for good".

The fighting gradually stopped, the checks were all good and the customers were a little more civilized (most of the time; you can't change that much). Things were relatively back to normal.

But then things got weird, really weird. She went back to telling me I couldn't sew or do anything useful. She began sewing with all the lights out. Nobody could work with her because the workroom was draped in darkness. She hired inexperienced women to assist her and would quietly complain about them behind their backs. And then she simply left town and abandoned me.

The workroom was gutted and a new tenant moved into the space. It was like the workroom ceased to exist. Dovina now lived abroad with her parents and had no desire to ever see me again.

Fast forward two years later and I'm in Dovina's room, going through her things, all left behind for me to sort out. There was fabric, notions, belts, sewing needles, all matter of implements. I opened up box after box, storage container after storage container.

I saw a tiny pink plastic shopping bag at the bottom of a storage container. I felt something soft in it. I pulled it out, a thin spotted tail followed by a pair of furry paws and then topped with a snarling cat face with pointy ears. The bobcat was still in the house, looking right at me, staring straight at me with nothing but hate on its face.

It was then that I decided to finally do the humanitarian thing for this poor creature. I marched it down in its pink plastic bag to the dumpster and threw it in. From there on in it would be picked up by the Los Angeles Sanitation Department, dumped in the Disposal Grounds and given a proper burial. And then maybe the sun will finally set down on the moon.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ashtray

There was this guy at work. We called him The Ashtray, and although it wasn't funny it was a better name than The Doormat. He had this talent, a dubious talent, but one that gained him notoriety from the upper echelons of management to the lower depths of the clerical pool.

He was a highly skilled, well-adjusted man who could buffer the abuse of any and all tyrannical supervisors in the office. Whenever a difficult supervisor tore through subordinates to warrant their own circus cage they'd send The Ashtray in to work for them. Every term served was practically a Master's thesis in abnormal psychology.

 

The Ashtray had dark hair, dark eyes and kind of looked like a walking shadow. He was very quiet and seemed to slip in and out of every department he was sent to. And he did all the problem ones, from corporate to casual. Dressy to messy, he was sent there if there was a difficult, dysfunctional boss to defuse any problem situation.

He won awards, citations, got fancy silver badges, the works, but especially the drama. What amazed everyone was that after all the dust had settled, he managed to walk out of the office in one piece, looking younger and happier than the rest of his co-workers. It was 100% weird.

He first gained notoriety when he served as the assistant to Miss Felice, a manager who demanded that her computer be turned on before she arrived in the morning, the air conditioning turned up to her preferred temperature and her favorite music streaming playlist set at an acceptable volume.

But that wasn’t what made her difficult; it was her disbelief in anything she was told. Her mind processed everything people said as a lie, so if someone explained a problem to her she would ask them to tell her again, and then of course again. She would then dissect what they just said and pointed out the inconsistencies in what they explained in each version. It drove her previous assistants mad, many running out crying and calling in sick too times too many.

They sent The Ashtray to her. She liked his looks; she was single and blonde and its’ been said that blondes like dark men and dark women like blonde men. Once she got over her attraction to him she went to work on cracking his marble veneer.

When he answered her questions she made sure to interrupt his answers to unnerve him. Every reply to her stern questioning would be brought down by her outraged interruptions.

One Friday afternoon The Ashtray had his nose buried in a report he had to complete by 4 pm and many co-workers had left early for the weekend. Of course the boss made him stop drafting his report to explain to her why everyone was gone. She made him explain one more time, and then again…his responses were so flat and indifferent he killed all the fun out of her sadism. Disappointed, she chastised him for not being done with his report.

But all good things must come to an end, as Del transferred to another section to find a less micro-managing boss. The next one hew as assigned to was a different kind of strange.

Mr. Boswick was an odd man. He'd report to work two hours later than Del and ignore him for most of the morning as he worked. Occasionally Del walked by Mr. Boswick's cubicle and would see him: 1) meticulously trimming his fingernails, 2) arguing on the phone with his wife, who always hung up on him, only to get him to phone her back and argue more; and, oddly 3) he would be prone to sitting in front of his desk simply staring off into space.

He trimmed his fingernails every day even if there was hardly anything left to cut. They were done so loudly you could hear the incessant snipping down the hall. Not so loud were his arguments on the phone with his wife, which were always delivered in a hissing stage whisper.

"Abby? Abby? ABBY? ABIGAIL!!!"

Mr. Boswick would fortunately gain his second wind by 3 pm in the afternoon and suddenly assault Del with an insurmountable pile of work for him to tackle, apathetically oblivious to the fact that quitting time was in two hours. It dove Del The Ashtray mad.

Co-workers would join him for a smoke on his break and the same question would arise.
"Boswick's an asshole, Del. How do you put up with his bullshit?"
"It's just part of the job, I guess".
"No, this guy goes over the line. I'd report him to the Internal Affairs Committee".
"I'll think about it. I got to go".
"Yeah! He's probably timing you with his watch! Later!"

Occasionally Mr. Boswick and Del would attend meetings and sit together at the conference table. Whenever Del got up from his seat to give handouts to the attendees he had to rise up slowly. It was peculiar, but the reason arose from an episode at previous meeting.

"Del", Mr. Boswick chastised him, "I need to speak to you about your attitude".
"Why? What's wrong?"
"The way you got up from your chair. You looked so angry, everybody stared at me. Your chair spun around a few times! That makes us look bad, Del. If that ever happens again I'll write you up for discipline".

After being admonished about the "spinning chair" incident Del did a peculiar rise from the chair to prevent it from spinning around, which only made the attendants stare at him even more. The rise was not unlike a cobra rising from its wicker basket, a sort of vertical unfolding. Mr. Boswick still looked disgusted, anyway.

The Ashtray was taken away from Mr. Boswick and handed over to a new supervisor, a Mr. Schubert. How Mr. Schubert scaled the heights of supervisory status was never known because his spelling and grammar were a modest grammar school D grade level.

The Ashtray would occasionally correct Mr. Schubert, raising his ire.
"The memo will go out AS IS!"
After the Division Chief was copied on the email, she would call Schubert into her office and ask why would he send out a message with so many errors. Schubert called Del into the room and blame him for typing up his poorly written memo.

He was then made to apologize for arguing with Mr. Schubert. The Ashtray complied, feeling bitter resentment.

Things came to a head with them when the Ashtray planned a vacation a month in advance and Mr. Schubert decided the week before to take that very week off, too.

"Coverage, Del, coverage! Someone in our section needs to be here. You can't take off when I'm going on vacation. You're already on probation for sending out those poorly written memos. I'd watch my Ps and Qs if I were you. Just a friendly word of advice".

After that admonition he'd step out for an angry smoke and run into Miss Felice, smiling at him for the first time he'd known her.
"Oh, Del, things just aren't the same without you. I feel lost without my favorite assistant".

She continued for another minute telling him that she couldn't hold on to anyone as long she did with him. He wasn't surprised but just kept smiling that strange smile of his. Funny, the smile seemed believable but you could almost detect a few cracks beneath the surface of that smile.

Standing in front of the building, having his smoke, a co-worker sidled up.
"Schubert fucked with your vacation, you know? You should look into getting a lawyer, I'm telling you".
"What's that going to do?"
"You have to document every time you get disciplined, like keep a diary for every time he gives you shit and keep copies of every time he writes you up or threatens to write you up and maybe you should go to a psychiatrist and take time off for stress time taken off and then have the psych write you a report and..."

Schubert didn't last, either. The Ashtray was reassigned to a new supervisor, Mrs. Ganigher, a divorced mother who always demanded he sit next to her while she instructed him on how to type up a report. He had over ten years experience in drafting reports, but she needed him to sit right next to her while she tediously typed away, speaking to him as if he were her child. It was maddening.

"Now this is the way we title the report and format it", she would speak slowly as if he were simple. Co-workers would walk by the cubicle and look at him, then at her and roll their eyes.

Once Del was home sick and she called him, hysterical about not being able to find a file. He was doped up on flu medication and she screamed at him.
"How could you pick an important day like today to call in sick? I need to find that file. I know you know where it is! Tell me! Are you sure you don't know??? Sure you're sure?"

 

Mrs. Ganigher rarely bathed, so when it was time to attend a meeting she'd pull out a bottle of Evening Musk and spray herself like lice spray at the local jail. She also had a bad habit of pulling at the straps of her bra while talking to people, which always put them off from her and made them prefer to speak with him, which always made her insanely jealous.

 

Even an ashtray cracks and breaks and that day finally came. Mrs. Ganigher gave him three reports to draft and loaned him out to two more supervisors to transcribe their meetings. All of this work was due by the end of the day.

While he was processing all these reports Mrs. Ganigher kept interrupting him with important questions and a few stories of her porn-addicted teenage son. Finally it was nearing the final hour of the day and he only managed to draft two out of the five reports.

"WHY? WHY NOT??"
"I'll need more time", The Ashtray patiently explained.
"NO YOU DON'T. YOU TOLD ME YOU WOULD BE DONE BY THE END OF THE DAY AND YOU'RE NOT! DEL!!!"

"I'm going to need more time to complete this work".
"I've had enough of this bad attitude from you. We're going to see Ms. Adams about your sloppy output. I'm getting really fed up with it!"

The Ashtray's eyes got real big and he said, "No we're not. I'm not putting up with this anymore. You finish this fucking work!"
The Ashtray grabbed his jacket and walked out of the building, never to return.

He didn't take anything with him and that was pretty smart. If he had the company could have nailed him for stealing, but if he walked out without taking anything they couldn't put up anything against him.

This didn't go well with his wife, of course. When The Ashtray's wife found out he quit his job there went the medical benefits and the expensive vacations and the job security.

"HOW COULD YOU DO SUCH A STUPID THING? HOW COLD YOU JUST WALK OFF A JOB???"
"I had enough", he said, stammering a little bit. "You just don't understand".
"WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? YOU'RE AN IDIOT!"
"No, I'm not, we'll be fine. I have some money saved up".
'SO WHAT?? I WANT YOU TO APOLOGIZE TO ME RIGHT NOW FOR QUITTING YOUR JOB! I DON'T GIVE A DAMN WHETHER YOU'RE HAPPY OR NOT!"

"Look,. I've supported you all this time. Now it's your turn to support me, I mean-"
"OH, FUCK YOU, DEL!"
She stormed out of the apartment, going to a Mexican restaurant where she'd meet up with some man she was seeing behind Del's back.

Del mumbled mutely to himself and looked around the empty apartment. He wanted to cry and he wanted to laugh, but he just mused on the futility of making unhappy people happy.

Instead, he picked up the phone, dialed a number and said, "Hi, this is Del Carver. I have twenty years clerical experience and have awards and citations. Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Creative Cloud and difficult supervisors a specialty. Please keep me in mind"....

 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"One Meatball"

I was going to write an essay about the first Ry Cooder album and explain why I thought it was a bizarre amalgam of country blues, acid rock (straight from the Performance soundtrack) and vintage Warner Brothers movie soundtracks. The most fully realized track combining these unlikely bedfellows was a cover of the Forties hit One Meatball. Written by Lou Singer and Hy Zaret, it's a vamp blues about a Depression-era man who only has enough money to buy himself a meatball and nothing else.

While some singers put some whimsy into the tune (see below) by interpreting the song as the tale of a sad sack who didn't have enough scratch to feed himself, Cooder and producers Ted Templeman and Van Dyke Parks delivered a Depression-era horrorshow of a man who had no future or present day dreams to get him through his stripped down meal.

The version created on the Cooder album was a dirgey nightmare featuring a wash of atonal strings providing a counterpoint to Cooder's weeping bottleneck guitar. It's a haunting track showing Cooder and Parks at their greatest strengths.

In the course of researching One Meatball I discovered that just about everyone at the time covered it, from Frank Sinatra to The Andrews Sisters to Louis Armstrong to Josh White. The song's like a mood ring; everyone put a very radical take on the song, from The Andrews Sisters doing a slightly amused version to Josh White's very somber performance.

Forties Soundies version

The video above is a Forties soundie version, a Warner Bros. cartoon vibe serving just about everything but a Mel Blanc voice over. The "waitress" singing gives a fairly standard Forties vocal. It's a fun short. but far from Ry Cooder's bleak Depression dirge.

One Meatball - Candy Candido

And now for something completely different: a supper club comedy chanteuse named Candy Candido. He's so odd it's not even funny, he's just downright creepy in a twitchy David Lynch movie way. His bizarre mannerisms are the thing of weird dreams that make you wake up at 3 am and resent eating that Pastrami sandwich with cole slaw and Russian dressing right before bedtime. Ha! As a side note, I think some of the low notes sung are dubbed in by Mel Blanc (yeah, him again). File under "Unfunny and Creepy".

One Meatball - Dave Van Ronk

Every sad story has a happy ending, though, and this one is about the discovery of Dave Van Ronk. His version of One Meatball is nothing short of amazing, Ronk doing a scatting folk singer thing decades before Tom Waits. Discovering Van Ronk was like finding a $1000 dollar bill on the street. What a demon.

Van Ronk sounds like a Robert Crumb caricature of the wild man folkie screaming and scatting while banging the crap out of his acoustic guitar. He puts so much energy into the jazzabilly blues of this song, he invigorates every word with his electric energy. There's some great blues interpretation to be found in his version of One Meatball.

Ry Cooder really hit his stride with his first album, especially the creepy One Meatball, but nothing prepared me for the widely divergent interpretations of the song. This is the sort of thing that makes music so exciting. It's the singer, not the song.

Friday, February 10, 2017

I Sing The Bookcase Electric

If you follow my blog I wrote a post in September of 2015 called Paperback Criers (http://blackhairedboy.blogspot.com/2015/09/paperback-criers.html ) about people heralding the rise in popularity of paperbound books. I can be a sentimental old man with the best of them, but this time I'm going to sit the parade out. I like my electronic books, damn it.

One of the great things about owning a Kindle is the way I can carry 100 books around in one slim volume. I can download an unlimited amount of books and go back and forth with them as often as I want to without grabbing them from a shelf and plowing through endless pages. They're all sitting there in my tablet side by side ready to be opened up any time. How can you hate that? And just think, no trees were cut down in the production of these books.

No torn pages! No torn off cover! Nothing yellows or smells! What's to hate?

Another feature I really like is the way I can get samples of books downloaded on my device, so I can sample everything without having to buy it blind. You can read the sample any time you feel like it and not be hampered with standing around in some bookstore.

A quick list of my eBooks currently living in my Kindle:

1. Lord of Garbage - Kim Fowley (he promised a second volume of memoirs - um, yeah the best laid plans of mice and men....)

2. Concrete Island - J.G. Ballard (you think electronic books are cold and alienating? Good, download some J.G. Ballard, then)

3. The Woman Aroused - Bruno Fischer (one of the most twisted noirs ever written; HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

4. The Fox - D.H. Lawrence (the movie was better but still worth a read. I think it was 99 cents)

5. Redheads Die Quickly - Gil Brewer (some of the greatest noir short stories next to Lawrence Block's sleazy stuff)

6. The Flesh of the Orchid - James Hadley Chase (crime classic about an heiress who escapes from a lunatic asylum and tears men's eyes out for kicks...and that's just for starts!)

7. Eternal Troubadour: The Improbable Life of Tiny Tim - Justin Martell (a great biography on the Sixties phenomenon)

8. Every Good Boy Dies First, Iron Curtain Baby, etc. - Andy Seven (I have four books for sale and they're all fabulous punk crime novels)

SAMPLES OF BOOKS in my Kindle: Notorious Byrd Brothers (33 1/3 album series), The Mayor of MacDougal Street - Dave Van Ronk's memoirs. The Big Bite by noir demon Charles Williams and much more Gil Brewer sleaze like The Brat and Little Tramp. And I'm pretty stoked about that Ann Dvorak biography.

The prices to most of these tomes are actually lower than the average paperbound book since it costs nothing to download these babies. Ahem, my books retail at $2.99 and $3.99, depending on their volume. What are you waiting for?

My Kindle also has an unlimited music cloud library as well as tons of movies, too. All in one slim volume. talk about a home entertainment center in the palm of your hand! By the way, did I mention I have some books for sale?

Friday, January 20, 2017

The 10th Anniversary of My Obsessions

Ten years is a long time to be doing anything, and the fact that I've spent the last ten years of my life writing a (once) weekly blog feels incredible. I got a lot of weirdness off my chest, which encompassed everything from baking ideas to clothes making to favorite obscure film directors and anything else crazy that struck my fancy. Most importantly, I published serialized installments of five novels - one still unpublished, but that's another story. There were also countless short works which found their way on my latest compilation, Iron Curtain Baby, available in eBook form on Kindle, Nook and iTunes.

When I began writing my blog in 2007 I didn't belong to MySpace, Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook, so in the beginning this behemoth was the only means of Internet self-expression for me. In a way that was good, because there was little interference in the way of public opinion in terms of what was acceptable. Without a visible audience it was a lot easier to produce installments without fear of commanding or losing the crowd. It didn't matter, I was the guy in the tiny radio station out in the middle of the desert broadcasting my madness to whomever felt like listening. Isolation can be a blessing.

If anything's changed in the past ten years it's the popularity of my fiction pieces, sometimes a mixed blessing. With the rise in internet plagiarism full chapters from previous novels have had to be pulled down, as well as any upcoming works. I'm writing two novels simultaneously and can't post them as I have in the past because the possibility of plagiarism is highly likely. Too bad. We'll just have to wait for the finished products.

Writing a blog has always been more gratifying to me than posting my work on some social network site, largely because I've always hated the message board format. Sometimes you just want to express yourself without worrying about some uninformed loudmouth attacking your ideas. I get a little bit of that here, like the idiot who refused to believe that Alice Cooper catered to the gay community in the early stages of his career, or the crazy woman who had a one-woman Trixie Merkin crusade, but for the most part there's not a whole lot of cranks screaming at my writings.

For the first seven years of my blog I wrote anonymously and loving it, but all good things must come to an end. It's very strange when you go to work and people approach you and want to discuss your latest blog post, and you never even told anyone you had one. It's a secret celebrityhood that you can't really enjoy, because now your private thoughts have gone public, but that's the internet for you.

Basically, this may very well be the final year of my blog, because: 1) I feel all talked out, written about everything under the sun that interests me; 2) People don't read blogs anymore. My numbers are lower than they've ever been; 3) Everybody wants to talk about the new President and nothing else. I'm just not a political person; 4) I want to focus on my books and nothing more.

Without further ado, let's talk about my four current books, all of which are available as mentioned previously on Amazon Kindle, iTunes and Barnes & Noble Nook:

Every Good Boy Dies First: Punk rock noir novel about Griff, the leader of Garbage Truck during the grunge era who struggles to realize and protect his artistic vision, compromised by crooked musicians, gay bashing skinheads and a dead nightclub bouncer.

Every Bitch For Himself: Crime novel about a heist at a punk rock club called Rocket USA featuring amoral thug Big Jason Gulliver and his punk rock posse. With a few borrowed riffs from The Killing and The Asphalt Jungle, there's enough late Seventies Hollywood punk memorabilia to make your head spin.

Wranglers' Canyon/Crash Walker: Two novel set about a man named Crash Walker, a shiftless cowhand in the Old West, and then a third-rate television actor in the mid-20th Century with a western cowboy show wrangling psychos on the Sunset Strip. Sound confusing? Get the book and read it. You'll figure it out and you'll be glad you did.

Iron Curtain Baby: A collection of short fiction, mostly culled from this insane blog, featuring modern Yiddish folk tales, surreal noir fiction and scrawlings about the early days of the Hollywood Glam & Punk scene as experienced by yours truly.

So there you have it: the past, present and future as experienced by Andy Seven. There will be a few blog posts here and there this year, but the regularity will slow down even more, sorry. I'll make an effort to spit out a few syllables here and there for you, but novelizations await.

P.S. As you can see, there are a few selfies posted here. While some people think it's the creation of the devil, I'm pretty certain that Andy Warhol would have approved of them. They're so Andy.