Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The movie Arachnophobia was on some channel the other nite, stopped and watched a couple minutes between periods of some hockey game I was watching. While not anything I'm ever going to own on DVD, I do remember liking it. I had gone to see it in the theaters with some friends, which reminded me of the following story.

There was quite the marketing push for this film in the summer of 1990. A quick check of IMDB reveals it came out almost exactly on my 19th birthday. For weeks we kept seeing commercials for this 'comedy' film about a bunch of spiders and the people who were freaked out by them. Seeing as how it starred Jeff Daniels, who I like as an actor (except for Dumb & Dumber; how could he stoop so low?), it seemed like something good to go see.

Either late the nite before the official opening, or one-nite-only a week before the actual opening weekend, there was a sneak preview showing of the film. This is important only from the standpoint of up until the actual release weekend of the film, it was constantly being billed as a comedy. The commercials were edited in a way as to make this look alomst like a goofy 50's horror flick, with that edge of silliness to it that would make the horror aspect seem quaint.

Upon actually seeing the film, in a very dark theater, turns out the comedy aspect was extremely minimal compared to the creepy-crawly horror aspect. I'm not afraid of spiders, but I don't particularly enjoy them either. My friend who had driven us to the movie that nite, however, apparently had an extreme dislike of the creepy little guys, so much so that he was a little tense upon exiting the theater.

We had all enjoyed the movie, we just felt that we might have enjoyed it more had it been properly billed as the horror-first film that it really was. As we get into the car, with me in the seat directly behind the driver, I happen to look down and see a little G.I. Joe type action figure on the floor, and the brain spots an opportunity for comedy. Well, comedy for me, anyway...

While conversation continues about the film as we prepare to drive off, I carefully position the arms and legs of the figure so as to be as outstretched as possible, roughly resembling the size of the angry oversized spiders of the film we'd just seen. Just as my friend is about to start the car, I subtly placed the figure on his shoulder right at the nape of his neck, so that some of it was actually touching his skin. As for his reaction, let's just say it's a good thing I didn't do this while we were moving along on the road. Upon further reflection, it's possible the car might have jerked LESS violently had we actually been moving...

Oddly enough, immediately after the official Friday opening nite, the marketing campaign was switched to emphasize the fact that this was more of a straight-up horror flick. I like to think my little escapde in the parking lot had something to do with this.

Blog Post Soundtrack; The White Stripes, Metallica, Brant Bjork, Prong, Faith No More, Deftones, Rage Against The Machine (love that they got the X-Mas #1 in the UK, BTW)

Monday, December 14, 2009

More Death At The Post Office

So for a number of years out here, my job was to fill in for five specific carriers on their rotating days off. Each carrier had one day off a week (in addition to Sunday), so I would wind up doing a different route every day, within that group of five. One of the carriers, at the time I was doing this, was pushing 70, but we've always joked about him being a million years old. We frequently ask him about his days in the Pony Express, and he shoots back that when he started, they rode dinosaurs! Every once in a while during the mornings in the office, if he happens to stroll down the aisle where my case is, I'll shout "Dead Man Walking", or yell out "Lazarus!". Gotta have some fun.

This man is very popular on his route, so much so that when I would be out there, old ladies would come up to me and ask, "What happened to that nice old man who used to do this route?" Remember, the carriers are only off one day a week other than Sunday. These ladies had just seen the guy yesterday. "Used to do this route?" I finally got so sick of this ridiculous query, that one day, without picking my head up from the box I was putting mail in, I told a woman who had asked me that, "Oh, I'm sorry ma'am, he died". As I continued to casually put mail into the box, I could see out of the corner of my eye the look of shock take over her face, and her jaw drop down to about her waistline. I honestly can't remember if I let her off the hook and told her it was just his day off, or if I let her just think the worst, knowing full well she'd see him again the next day.

So the carrier came back the following day, and did his route as usual. When I saw him the next morning, he yells, "You been tellin' people on my route I'm dead?!?" "Yup". "Oh, okay".

These same women would also tell me, because I wasn't getting there at the times they were used to from him, "You must be new". An attitude of you-don't-know-what-you're-doing was dripping off every word. I'd been doing this job for 6 or 7 years at the time, so it kind of offended me, so when they would tell me I was new, I'd tell them, "No, I'm 31 years old!". They seemed to stop with the smarmy comments after that...

The funny thing is, every fall, he would take 6 weeks off to go back to the Illinois area on vacation. I never had to say a word to anyone on his route after the first week. They just started taking up a collection for his next of kin.

As I write this, the man is about two months from his 76th birthday, still carrying his route five times a week. We make fun of him because we all can only hope to be half as spry and full of energy as him. His sense of humor is also bigger than the fire that would be started were we to give him a birthday cake with the number of candles that we claim his age is.

Blog Post Soundtrack; The latter portion of The Roots Come Alive!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brant Bjork

Got my color vinyl copy of the 10th Anniversary re-issue of Brant Bjork's first solo effort, Jalamanta, in the mail today. Quick history lesson, Brant was the drummer for most of the all-too-brief career of the amazingly stunning stoner rock band, Kyuss. He, along with Josh Homme, was also the main songwriter of Kyuss. Josh went on to found Queens Of The Stone Age after the amicable demise of Kyuss, and went on to huge success in the music industry. Brant has been a little more low profile, but has put out better music, IMHO. I do love the first 2 or 3 QOTSA albums, especially the self-titled debut, but they've drifted kinda aimlessly into some weird experimental thing that I'm not so crazy about with the more recent albums.

Brant, on the other hand, has continued to put out albums, either on his own, or in collaboration with other bands and friends, that have been consistently fantastic. He drummed for Fu Manchu when they were putting out the best music of their still ongoing (and great) career, he was drumming with Nick Oliveri (another former Kyuss member) in his amazing Mondo Generator project, and has managed to put out over a half-dozen solo albums. And, while all of it has been terrific stuff, Jalamanta is the one album by Brant that is truly stunning in it's musical achievements. The places it takes the listener are third-eye opening, as Bill Hicks would say. I've never smoked, but listening to much of the stoner rock genre, along with the comedy/preachings/teachings of George Carlin and Bill Hicks, I'm pretty sure I've picked up a great deal of what I would've gotten out of that anyway.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Brant Bjork's Jalamanta album

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Appreciation

It's amazing the number of artists and writers and musicians and comedians whose work has enhanced my life. I have to have something playing at all times around me, often when there ARE other people around. The only time I don't have some sort of music or DVD going is when I'm reading, or talking with someone, either on the phone or with someone in the same room. I spend a lot of time during my work day by myself, so my iPhone gets a healthy workout. When I'm home and I'm at the computer (which happens often when I'm home), my iTunes library gets used frequently. Hence the Blog Post Soundtrack listings at the end of these little ditties. Whenever I drive anywhere, be it the 10 minutes to work, or the multi-day driving vacations involving upwards of 1500 miles in a scant few days, some form of entertainment is always playing (probably a little too loudly) to occupy my brain.

My point is, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of people who have helped make my life a richer experience. Listening to, watching, reading, sometimes just studying (some pieces of art I have can be stared at for hours and still not have all their details and meanings revealed) the work of a large number of creative human beings has made the life of a fairly ordinary, regular Joe, working stiff a lot more interesting. There is an unspeakable amount of gratitude that I try to express whenever I have the chance to meet any of these people in person, or via their own websites, or things like Twitter. It is also one of the things that makes me fairly certain there is something more to existence than this mere mortal coil.

The perfect next plane of existence for me would involve the equivalent of an interactive DVR of the universe, in which any moment in the history of time could be accessed, and entered if so desired. Or any soul that has ever existed could be accessed for a discussion, and it wouldn't be tedious or boring for them, and there wouldn't be a long line to wait on, or their soul wouldn't already be checked out of the library. And language barriers wouldn't be an issue either (just thought I'd better throw that in, as I'm an arrogant American, where we feel one language is more than enough to get by. I really wish I could speak several languages, as most Europeans seem to be able to do with no problems whatsoever. The only languages I've got any sort of command of are English, New Yorkese, Canadian, and a few accents here and there).

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of "ordinary citizens", whose lives have somehow affected mine as well, starting with the parental units, and going right on up thru the current crop of co-workers and people I see on my route nearly every day, who have also managed to entertain me in one way or another. Some of them are funnier than they think, and some just make me think.

But sitting here at my computer desk in my home office, I can look around and see artwork by Michael Golden, Rick Leonardi, Brian Bolland, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Steve Rude, Mike Zeck, Bernie Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Dave McKean, Paul Chadwick, Bill Sienkiewicz, pictures of Bill Hicks, Greg Moore, Graig Nettles, Jacques Villeneuve, art representing Kyuss, Metallica, Megadeth, The Misfits, and that's just from sitting in this chair. I could spend the rest of my life thanking people who have helped enhance the time I've already spent here. But I think I'll go back to enjoying some more of their work now.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Eric Clapton, Bill Hicks, Band Of Horses, ZZ Top, The Police, The White Stripes, Rollins Band, The Buzzcocks, Clutch, Ross Noble, Public Enemy, Son House, Queens Of The Stone Age, Django Reinhardt

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Much like Christmas, the spirit of Thanksgiving isn't something that should be boiled down to just one day. However, I will take the opportunity this day to say that I try to be appreciative on a daily basis of all the good things in life. Things as simple as the sun being out in a clear blue sky, enjoying the colors of trees and flowers, listening to music, reading books, admiring artwork, these are things that I'm thankful for. My parents, my friends (some at my job, some on my route, some in New York, some spread around the country, and online ones around the world), and many people whom I've never met but who have produced some sort of art or entertainment that I enjoy are more things to be thankful for. And the fact that I'm still here to enjoy all of this stuff, and seemingly have the mental and physical wherewithal to fully do so, doesn't go unnoticed either.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rise And Shine

I love getting up at the same time on my days off as I do when I'm supposed to go to work. It's nice being up that early and knowing that I don't have to go out, that all of that time that I normally have to be at work is now completely mine, free to do whatever chores or things have to be done, at a nice relaxing pace. Obviously things that are fun are mixed in too (there will be some NHL 10 on the XBox 360 played today!). I prefer this to sleeping in, waking up and realizing that half of the day off is already gone. I've always been a morning person, I tend to get more done earlier anyway. Usually, if I haven't accomplished something by noon, it's probably not gonna happen until tomorrow. Remember those old US Army commercials, with the tagline, "We get more done by 9AM than most people do all day"? For lots of reasons, I'm very proud of the fact that I'm not most people.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Judas Priest, Beastie Boys, The Doors, Voivod

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Winter's A Nice Place To Visit

So the new background image above was from a trip I took to Alberta, Canada in October, 2004. I grew up in New York City, but I've lived out here in the desert for nearly 10 years now. I tend to take trips to places that have an actual winter. Pretty sure I wouldn't want to LIVE with winter anymore, but it's nice to visit. As you can see, it can look real pretty.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Leadbelly (singing a song called "Alberta"); Rollins Band

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Eric Drooker

So, being a mailman, I get to see a lot of magazine covers, whether I want to or not. See way too much of People and other celeb-worship trash like that. One of the ones I look forward to seeing, and actually stop to take a minute to enjoy the cover art, is The New Yorker. In addition to being a native, and appreciating it on that level (born in Queens, one of New York City's 5 boroughs, and didn't come out here to Vegas until I was 28), they just have excellent artwork by excellent artists gracing their covers on a consistent basis.

The newest issue has a wonderful painting by Eric Drooker, entitled "Autumn In Central Park". It's a shot looking up Poet's Alley, a wonderful tree-lined wide walkway in the heart of the park, just south of Bethesda Fountain. The colors are stunningly vibrant, trees aflame and aglow in amazing reds and oranges that leapt off of the cover. Absolutely beautiful.

I went to show it to my "adopted Mom" in the office, a fellow carrier. I played tour guide to her and her husband when we 3 went to NYC for their first ever trip there about 6 years ago. Her and I had some time to kill on the first day, as he was flying in from somewhere in the midwest to meet us there, so one of the things we did was walk thru Central Park. We still have a NYC-bond, and this cover in particular brought back vivid memories of 2 weary travelers enjoying their first day in New York.

In further poking thru Eric Drooker's website, it turns out I've been familiar with his work for about 15 years now, without knowing it. I found a piece he did (he does many NY themed paintings and drawings) that had been used by a favorite band of mine, Faith No More, for their album "King For A Day...Fool For A Lifetime". The album was released in 1995, and some of the European import singles also had Drooker drawn covers. Very different style to The New Yorker cover paintings, but still recognizible as his terrific work.

Do yourself a favor and check out his website, you're sure to find something of interest.

Blog Post Soundtrack; The Police, TV On The Radio, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, AC/DC

Friday, October 30, 2009

You Are Soooo Good Looking...

Recently a friend of mine at the office told me that her daughter had accidently grabbed her glasses that morning, so that she was now wearing her daughter's glasses. They both have similar frames, hence the mistake. The perscriptions are slightly different, however. I asked her if this was going to screw up her vision at all that day. She said it would probably mess with it a little. She then turned, looked up at me, and said, "Oh, Ken, you look good!"

I have friends everywhere...

Blog Post Soundtrack; Montreal Canadiens at Chicago Blackhawks

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Greg Moore

The photo that is currently up on the blog here is one I took of race car driver Greg Moore at a race in Nazareth, PA, in April, 1999. I was living in New York at the time, and the CART Series (Championship Auto Racing Teams, what everyone knows as IndyCars) came to Nazareth once a year. Even though it was only a couple hours drive away, I got a hotel the first time I went in 1998. When I went again in 1999, I just drove back and forth each day over the race weekend.

I'd been a fan of CART since the early 90's, and got more heavily into it starting in 1996, which was Greg's first year in the series. He came off the most successful season ever in Indy Lights, the top junior series for racing at the time, winning 10 of 12 races that year, and running away with the championship. He immediately made an impact in his first season in CART. While not winning his first race until mid-1997, he was a consistent top-5 finisher, often challenging for the lead, and running well in the season championship. He only managed 5 race victories in his career, and never did win a championship at the CART level, but he was definitely a success.

He was also a very friendly and approachable person. One of the more popular drivers in the series, he was liked by fans and competitors alike. Since CART never approached NASCAR-like success in this country, the drivers were accessible at races. I was able to meet Greg at several races over the late 90's, taking many pictures of him both in and out of the car. The above photo was of him getting his gear on as he prepared to go out for a practice session. I eventually had this shot blown up to 9 X 12", and had him sign it when I met him again at a race in Cleveland in July of 1999. Matted and framed, it's on the wall over the fireplace in my home, underneath a favorite painting by my father.

I think because he was a rookie in 1996, plus that was the first year I followed the series from opener to closer, and the car he drove was sponsored by Player's (a Canadian tobacco brand) and decked out in the coolest shade of blue, made him my favorite. While I enjoyed watching races, and did like some of the other drivers, Greg was always the one I really pulled for, and really wanted to see win. I remember being so thrilled when he pulled out an amazing victory in Detroit in 1997, coming from a very close third to win on the last lap, when both cars of the PacWest team ran out of fuel in front of him! They had gambled big, and lost big, but Greg had been right there all thru the race, and it was fantastic to see him win.

The first time I met him, at Nazareth in April 1998, I got one of my favorite photographs ever. Greg came out to meet the fans for a few minutes, chatted with people, signed autographs, and posed for photos. His father, who was his manager as well, came out to let him know he was needed back at work. As the two of them turned to walk back into their tent, I snapped one last picture on the crappy camera I had at the time. It wasn't until I got the film developed (you see, in the old days, cameras had film...) about a week later that I realized I'd gotten a gem. The picture has Greg on the left, with his father to his right, walking in lockstep away from the camera back into the tent. The two of them were always very close, with Ric being Greg's coach, guide, agent, mentor, manager, and friend all thru his career. I had 8 X 10"s made of that, and separately presented each of them with a copy when I saw them in Nazareth in 1999. I also had them both sign one for me, which is framed and on top of a bookcase here in my home office.

This Halloween will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Greg Moore, who was killed in the final race of the 1999 CART season, doing what he loved to do. He was 24.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Slipknot, Tom Lehrer, Danzig, The Runaways, The Coasters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bo Diddley, The English Beat, Queen, Queens Of The Stone Age, Alice In Chains, Anthrax, and the Vancouver Canucks visiting the Chicago Blackhawks in the background

Monday, October 19, 2009

We Actually Deliver The Dead As Well

Yeah, yeah, another Postal anecdote. What can I say, I've had a few interesting stories accumulate over the past 14 years on the job...

Back in Roslyn Heights, a fairly affluent suburb on Long Island, New York, I never had my own route. My job was to cover 5 different routes on their rotating days off. Consequently, I would only see each route once a week. Even so, I would start to pick up little nuances about each route here and there.

One particular house had a fairly decent sized dog that would always bark loudly as I walked his cul de sac. His house happened to be the last one on that relay, so I would hear him barking at me, over the noise from my Walkman (remember those, kids? Told you I've been doing this a long time), for quite a few minutes before I got to his house. He would run up and down the yard alongside the house, happily barking away, I think somewhat upset that he was trapped behind this fence while I was outside able to roam free and have fun.

So one week, I must've made it about halfway thru that cul de sac before I realized that I hadn't heard "Cujo" (I never did know the dog's name) barking. While I did think that was unusual, I just figured they were out for the day, or he'd been taken to the vet for a check-up, or a trip to the park, something innocuous like that.

Fast forward to the next week when I was on that route again, and this time I had a Registered parcel for that house. A Registered item is one that needs a signature from the recipient. The box was slightly smaller than one that could hold a football helmet, so I could fit it in my bag.

Again, as I walked the cul de sac, I noticed the lack of annoying, but happy, barking. As I approached their house, I reached into my bag to get the parcel out. As I stood at their door, I started to write up the parcel, and this was the first time I'd noticed who the sender was.

As the woman of the house opened the door, I asked her if this box that needed to be signed for contained what, or who, I thought it did, as it was from a local pet mortuary. She wistfully confirmed my suspicions. You see, the Registered parcel I was delivering to her contained the ashes of the recently deceased "Cujo". I offered my condolences, and as I walked back to my truck, I turned the volume down a little on my Walkman.

Blog Post Soundtrack: watching/listening to the Rangers lose to the Sharks

Friday, October 16, 2009

We Deliver To The Dead

Really, other things do happen in my life, but I get reminded here and there about these Postal episodes that have happened that are just so funny or unusual that I tend to write mostly about them. Case in point...

I first transferred to Henderson in March of 2000. When you transfer, you go to the bottom of the seniority list within that particular office, but you keep your overall seniority in the Post Office. So, as low man on the totem pole within the office, you have to do some things that the others no longer have to.

About once every 3 or 4 weeks or so, it became my turn to work on a Sunday delivering Express Mail. Two people from my office would work each Sunday and holiday doing this. The nite before, you would park a Postal vehicle out in front of the office, and take the keys home with you. Then you'd go back to the office Sunday morning, pick up the truck, and drive to the Postal hangar at the airport to get the Express Mail for your area of town.

My office covered a large section of Henderson, and also incorporated the areas where all of the rapid growth and expansion was going on. There was a lot of territory to cover, and only 2 people to do it, so it involved a lot of driving. It was common to put 60 miles on the truck in one Sunday. I enjoyed it though, because it afforded me an opportunity to see areas of Henderson I didn't get to see during the week, and as I was looking to buy a house at the time, that worked out nicely.

On this one particular summer Sunday, after having done a few pieces of Express Mail, I pulled up at another house. I went to the door, delivered this piece to a pleasant older woman, and went back out to the truck. I then sat there doing paperwork and lining out where I'd be driving for my next few Express pieces. After a few minutes, the woman came out to the truck, and very nicely asked me when this piece had been mailed out. I told her that it was probably the day before, but that you could see it right here on the label...

...which showed a date roughly TWO MONTHS prior to that particular day. My jaw hit the floor, and I turned to the woman, apologized to her, and explained that it had probably been left in a piece of equipment that had been thought empty. I told her the sender could call the number on the label to get a refund that they were obviously due, at which point she very matter-of-factly said to me, "Oh, that's okay, this was for my husband, and he's dead now..."

At this point, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. I know that may sound cruel, but the situation was so absurd, it was the only reaction I had. The woman was amazingly cool about the entire situation, and wasn't visibly upset, didn't raise her voice, nothing to hint any dismay. I really did feel bad about it, I apologized for the loss of her husband, and I seem to recall chatting with her for a couple more minutes. I have no idea what was in that envelope, but I can only hope it wasn't a release form from an insurance company that was going to allow him to take some medication that would have kept him alive.

Blog Post Soundtrack: Slipknot, The Runaways, Prong, Hermano, Madness, Clutch

Sunday, October 4, 2009

You Do What You Gotta Do

Here's another Post Office story. It may be in slightly-off taste, so it's remotely possible that this may bother someone, in which case, I suggest doing two things. 1.) Don't read any further, and 2.) take a look at the world around you and realize that life's too short to be offended by petty stuff. Now then, on with our show!

I've been a mailman for quite a while now (14 years this month, matter of fact...happy anniversary to me!), so I've encountered many different situations. In talking with a gentleman a couple days ago at one of the apartment complexes (complecies?) I deliver to, I was reminded of this incident.

I started out carrying mail in Roslyn Heights, which is on Long Island, a fairly affluent suburb of New York City. It's a predominantly upper middle class residential area, with each house being kinda large, and a little bit of property as well. While my office only had about 15 routes in it, it covered a decent amount of territory geographically speaking.

Since this was an area of New York, we were subject to the phenomenon known as winter (something basically unheard of out here in the greater Las Vegas area). With a 7AM start time, you were generally leaving the office to go to the street at 9:30 or so, on average. With an 8 hour day ending at 3:30PM, this meant roughly 5 and change hours out in the cold, damp, NY winter weather. Sounds like fun so far, right?

And don't think the vehicle offered any solace from the elements. While you may have been shielded from any falling rain or snow, the little tin LLV's (Long Life Vehicles, as the small boxey-shaped Postal Vehicles are known) are practically incapable of generating any heat. You needed to have the vehicle running for a good 10 minutes before the engine (and I use that word loosely) started to produce anything remotely resembling warmth in the cabin. But you never had to drive for more than a few seconds at a time to get from a parking spot to your next delivery section's parking spot. Only the trips to and from the routes in the mornings and afternoons involved a journey of a few minutes or so.

Now, with this being a mostly residential area, and really no business section anywhere within range of the routes, finding a place to go to the bathroom during the day, if necessary, could be interesting. You couldn't just drive for a minute and pop in the local Target to use their restroom. And it was even more of a challenge for someone with my particular assignment. I didn't have one permanent route, I had a set of 5 that I filled in for on those carrier's days off. And if that person came in on their day off to work overtime, I got bumped to a different route. Consequently, doing a route at most once a week, it was difficult to get to know anyone on the routes well enough to be comfortable with asking to be able to use the bathroom in their home.

Basically, you had to just do your best to make sure you weren't going to have to do anything over the course of the day. Or, you had to be somewhat resourceful if you did need to do anything. Most of the "male" carriers (yes, we've all done that joke a thousand times...) would just carry a bottle around in the truck, for the occasional time that it was necessary. The women were pretty much forced to go to someone's house, I guess. I'll have to ask in my current office if any females are from cold weather regions, and what they did in those situations. 95% of our office is from somewhere else. Very few Vegas-area carriers started here. We're all from somewhere else.

Anyway, in filling in for one of the guys, one day I got in the truck in his route, and found the bottle he kept in it, with a small sample of liquid in it, that he must have just forgotten to take out of the truck the day before. I just smiled, tucked it under the seat, and spotted an opportunity for comedy.

Upon this carrier's return to work the following day, I told him, across the workroom floor, with a very serious and straight face, that I hoped he didn't mind, but I'd gotten real thirsty at some point yesterday, and I had some of that lemonade he kept in that bottle in the truck. In the midst of everyone else laughing, shaking their heads, and/or having disgusted looks on their faces, this carrier's eyes got very wide, as he knew immediately what bottle I was referring to, and was very afraid I'd actually done this! I kept that straight face for a few seconds, as he stood there open-mouthed, then let him off the hook, informing him that while I may look stupid, that's only because I am...wait, that's not right...

Blog Post Soundtrack: Probot, The Dandy Warhols, Pink Floyd, Kyuss, The Minutemen, The Doors, Queens Of The Stone Age, Monty Python, Led Zeppelin, Zeke, Fu Manchu

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Like Some Noise While I'm Sleeping

Over the course of my working day I get to see many cool people, and in talking briefly here and there, I get reminded of stories. Don't ask me how this one came up, but here's a good one...

Back in the summer of 1994, I was working at Barnes & Noble in the stockroom. I unloaded trucks, entered inventory into the system, did some light maintenance work too. Two of my favorite bands were touring concurrently, and of course both were going to be in the vicinity on consecutive nights.

Soundgarden was playing in Manhattan on a Thursday evening. I worked that day, then went home, changed, picked up my friends, and we drove into the city for the show. I was living in Queens at the time, so although it was geographically close to Manhattan, NYC traffic is, well, NYC traffic.

So we get to the show, which of course we were looking forward to. They were playing at The NY State Armory, which none of us had ever seen a show at before. No one could remember a show ever being there at all. Turns out, there was a reason for that.

When you go see shows in clubs, it typically is hot. Lots of bodies jumping around in a small, dark, confined, not-very-well ventilated space, usually produces an excess of warmth that tends to be uncomfortable, but not unbearable. Of course, that same description applies to any summer day in NYC as well, so just imagine it that much more uncomfortable, but still tolerable. It's easier to put up with when there's a good band onstage.

As to the reason no one could remember a show ever having been done there by anyone; there wasn't. Why? Because part-way thru this Soundgarden show, it was becoming increasingly apparent that this venue was not designed to hold this many bodies in it at one time. After the initial burst of energy from the band hitting the stage, the crowd became rather subdued, due to the oppressiveness of the heat. There really wasn't much movement from anyone on the floor, because it was kind of exhausting just standing there. I'm pretty sure there was even a cloud forming above us in the venue due to all the heat and humidity. At one point, even Chris Cornell, Soundgarden's singer, thanked the crowd for being at the show, remarking something to the effect of they knew it was ridiculously hot, even for a concert.

Having seen Soundgarden a couple years earlier with some of the same friends, we knew that when Kim Thayil, their guitarist, propped his guitar onto the backdrop, feedback reverberating loudly and repeatedly throughout the venue, it was our cue to go. Last time they did that, the lights stayed out, so everyone expected the band to come back onstage for more. A good 5 to 10 feedback-filled minutes later, the house lights came up, and we let out a collective groan as we now knew the show was over. Having learned our lesson, as soon as he propped up the guitar and left the stage this time, we left the sauna we were in and bolted for the (relatively) cool air of a NYC summer night, leaving behind most of the crowd who, like us the previous concert, were hoping for more. Never had we been so happy to get into 85 degree air with 85 percent humidity, because it was an Arctic breeze compared to the interior of the NY State Armory. Drained and dehydrated, we made our way back to the car for the journey home. I must have made it to bed sometime after midnight, maybe closer to 1AM. The only problem was, this was Thursday night, and I still had to go to work on Friday.

Now, having been at work since 8AM (maybe earlier, I can't remember) Friday, I left around 3PM to go get a different friend. Him and I, along with 2 of his buddies, were going to see Metallica in Middletown, NY, that night. Suicidal Tendencies and Danzig were opening, so we kinda wanted to see the whole bill, as we liked all of them. Getting to Middletown involved a drive of between 90 minutes and 2 hours, and if I'm sitting still for that long, especially having worked and been up half the previous night at a physically exhausting concert, I'm gonna fall asleep. Even if I'm the one driving.

Somewhere along the gently winding, soothing, calmingly flat road that is the Taconic State Parkway, I know I woke up at about 60 MPH, and was quickly startled to full alertness when I realized I was not driving in the same lane as I had been prior to falling asleep at the wheel. Since all 3 of my passengers were completely passed out, no one but me noticed this, so I was the only one who had a heartbeat racing at breakneck speed. While I was still very tired, the rush of adrenalin from this incident was enough to keep me awake for the rest of the journey.

We weren't in time to catch Suicidal Tendencies from the beginning. In fact, I think we walked into the Orange County Fairgrounds near the end of their set. It was time to decide where we wanted to be for the show. As this is a horse racing track, the stage was set up on the infield of the track, the home stretch was the floor for the crowd, and the seats lining the home stretch were also available for those who wanted to sit. Say, me, for instance.

Even though this was an outdoor, open-air concert, and we were sitting about 20 rows up, plus had the width of the track between us and the stage, the noise level was still plenty high. Danzig came onstage, and gave a great show, performing all songs that I really liked, including a couple of fairly obscure ones from his catalog. I was eventually able to get a recording of this show later on, so I can still enjoy it today on my iPod.

After Danzig left the stage, I was still feeling pretty good all in all, and was fairly psyched to be seeing Metallica. We were having a good time, enjoying the show, the weather was nice, our seats were pretty good, things were fine. Metallica were 3 years on from their self-titled radio-friendly megahit album, which I personally found extremely disappointing. At the time it came out, I nearly chucked the tape I made off the CD out the window of my car upon first listen. I gave it more of a chance, but to this day, there's really only 3 or 4 songs from that album I can listen to, and those rank at the very bottom of a "songs I like the most from Metallica" list, were such a list to be made. However, in their live shows, they've always been very good about mixing in a healthy dose of things from every album, both in an effort to keep the old fans happy, and to show the new fans they've got some other cool stuff too, and those newbies should run right out and buy those CD's right now, so the incredibly greedy members of Metallica can make even more money (a subject I will leave for another post someday, for it will require even more space than this one...).

I can't exactly remember when during the show it was (probably when they were playing some of the drippy new stuff that I didn't like), but I finally had to just sit down. As the song went on, I felt myself starting to drift off, and as loud as they were, I started to feel myself going to sleep. My eyes were closed, and I didn't even try to fight it at this point. I could still hear everything, I knew where I was, and I knew what was happening, but I was definitely getting some much needed sleep. Since I was now asleep, I can't remember for sure, but I think I woke up sometime in the middle of the following song, feeling a little groggy and out of it, but relieved at the same time. I slowly got back into the swing of things, and by the end of whatever song it was that I woke up during, I was pretty much back in the real world. The rest of the Metallica show passed by without further incident, and when they were finishing Enter Sandman, their big single from that self-titled album, we made our way out back to the car, figuring this was the last song...only to hear them, from the parking lot, kick into So What, a cover song by The Anti-Nowhere League that was probably the best thing to come out of Metallica's Black Album sessions, and a song I had yet to see them perform live. I looked at my buddy, who understood the significance of what was going on, shrugged, got in my car, and started on the long drive home.

Amazingly, by this time (again, post 11PM as we left the Fairgrounds), I was actually feeling quite good. My 5-10 minute power nap thru 100+ decibels must have been enough to recharge the batteries, for I actually enjoyed the drive home thru the misty late-nite wilderness of upstate New York. And upon reaching New York City, there isn't any time to be sleeping while driving. Driving in NYC is too much of an extreme sporting event to be doing anything other than paying 100% full-on attention. I must've gotten into the house around 1AM or so, and thankfully it was now early Saturday morning, and I didn't have to be at work until Monday morning. And I took full advantage of that, going promptly to bed, waking up sometime after 2PM Saturday afternoon. I'm fairly certain I didn't wake up once during that 12+ hour block of time. Ah, to be young and stupid...

I've since acquired both video and audio copies of the Metallica portion of that show, so I have both seen and heard anything I may have missed while dozing during their performance.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Led Zeppelin, P.J. Harvey, Eagles Of Death Metal, Iron Maiden, Shootyz Groove, The White Stripes, The Misfits, Clutch, Portishead, A Perfect Circle, The 5, 6, 7, 8's, Metallica, Nirvana, The Doors, The International Noise Conspiracy, Ike & Tina Turner, Tricky, Apocalypse Now Soundtrack, John Lee Hooker, Pearl Jam, and probably other stuff that I'm not sure if I was writing or not when it played...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Photo Explanation

So the photo currently at the top of the blog here is one taken by me in late January 2009. I did a driving vacation of iconic southwestern locations, encompassing Zion National Park in Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park, also in Southern Utah, and Monument Valley, home of all those John Wayne/John Ford westerns, in Northern Arizona. I stayed at a hotel in Page, Arizona, right near the Glen Canyon Dam & Bridge, and Horseshoe Bend, beautiful sights themselves. It was centrally located to each of the aforementioned locations, albeit a good 2 to 3 hours of driving one way to get to any of them. I had a fantastic time driving thru much of the American Southwest (I think I put something like 1400 miles on my car in about 4 days), taking hundreds of photos, and losing a cell phone on a hike thru the snow in the process. You can see more photos from this vacation, and tons of other pictures I've taken, at

The drives themselves were much of the fun for me, as I enjoy driving thru territory I've never seen before. The above photo was taken about 15 or 20 miles east of Zion, on a terrificly foggy morning. This picture seems to represent my feelings about life; you can't quite see what's up ahead, but the view is really cool, and the interest in knowing what's up there keeps you going.

Blog Post Soundtrack; The album Slow Hole To China by the band Clutch

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Philosophy Of Life

This is something I posted in J.M. DeMatteis's blog, where he was talking about not limiting the limitless, and that "The impossible isn't a limitation, it's an invitation" (copyright 2009, J.M. DeMatteis). Philosophy has always held some sort of interest for me, so I put my 2 cents in, and even as I was posting it, I thought, gee, this is actually pretty good. So here's what I said...

I try to actively enjoy things that often get taken for granted. I try to make sure that several times a day, even if just for a few seconds at a time, I enjoy the beautiful blue sky above me, or the brilliant colors of some nearby flowers, or other things like that. In this world where people with agendas spend all their time trying to tell you about what's important to them (supervisors at jobs, for instance), it's good to remind oneself what truly matters is closer to just enjoying "mere" existence. I love watching a nice sunrise, and contemplating the miracle that is the universe, regardless of what religious dogma you do (or don't) subscribe to.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Mike Patton, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Open Letter Of Admiration About Paul Merton

I started watching Whose Line Is It Anyway some time in the mid-90's when Comedy Central was running it here in the US. This was the original UK version, hosted by Clive Anderson. I really enjoy the US version hosted by Drew Carey, but it's an entirely different show, catering to a different level of humor. The UK version aspired to a higher level of cleverness, and the audience didn't applaud each and every little thing like it was the funniest moment in the history of the universe. They just laughed at things that were funny.

So I've been recently moving all of my VHS tapes (remember VCRs, kids?) of those old UK shows over to DVD, and seeing things I haven't watched for quite a while. I forgot just how much I prefer the UK version of the show, excepting of course for most of the first 2 seasons. It's actually a miracle the show lasted, because the first 2 seasons really don't have much to offer in the way of humor. Thankfully, they have more patience in Britain, and the show was given time to develop, and it turned into something wonderful starting with series 3. Had it started in the instant gratification capital of the world that is the US, it would have been cancelled halfway thru filming the pilot.

Perhaps the brightest bit of the show for me was Paul Merton, which is an ironic statement considering his somewhat dour demeanor. I don't mean that as a bad thing, that is just his way. Regardless, he always had the quickest wit, and the most unique way of perceiving situations. His ability to understand and play with language is on a par with George Carlin, except that Paul was usually doing it on the spot. Not to downplay George's ability with words, but his wordplay was carefully crafted in scripts that he prepared before he would go and perform, and he would hone the bits over repeated performances. I would have loved to have seen a mind as brilliant as Geroge Carlin's in a Whose Line improv situation, I think it would have produced some interesting results.

My enjoyment of Whose Line led me to a British radio program called Just A Minute, which started back in 1967, and is still going strong today. Paul first came on the show in 1989, and is pretty much the reason the show is still on the air today. In JAM, one of 4 contestants is given a random subject, and 60 seconds in which to speak on that subject without hesitating, repeating any words (other than those in the subject), or deviating from the subject. Of course, this is nearly impossible, so if anyone spots a JAM sin, they buzz in, and can take over the subject. And this is where the comedy begins. Listening to the arguments over whether or not what was just said was deviation is quite enjoyable, and often hilarious. Following the thought process, particularly Paul's, is a thing of beauty. Some of the challenges border on sheer genius. And the bizarre stories he will come up with off the top of his head when he has the subject are astonishing in their surrealness, as well as tremendously high in humor value.

Many an hour has been spent listening to JAM, especially when I'm working. While delivering mail at the large apartment complex on my route (my final stop of the day), I'm often in the mailroom for an hour and a half at a time. While putting mail in hundreds of mailboxes for 90 minutes or so may sound exciting, it can actually become quite tedious. I know, sounds far-fetched, but it's true. Having Paul Merton, especially when teamed with the recently deceased Clement Freud, is like having some very witty friends around having conversations and trying to top each other in the "Cleverest Boy In The Room" competition. Other favorites include Graham Norton, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry (possibly the most educated and well-read human I've ever encountered), Linda Smith, Tony Hawks, Peter Jones, Tony Slattery, and Steve Frost. There have been dozens of performers over the 40 something years the show has been on the air, but Paul Merton is my absolute favorite of all of them. The amount of enjoyment I've derived from listening to his "flights of fantasy", as chairman Nicholas Parsons would put it, is immeasurable. I think I've even learned a thing or 2 from listening to Paul and the others over the last decade or so.

Basically, I just wanted to thank Paul Merton for making me laugh and think at the same time. While simple, broad humor has its place, I feel I get so much more out of humor that challenges you to keep up with it, and isn't going to stop and pick you up if you fall behind. Seeing as my chances of actually meeting Paul in this stage of existence are slim, I'll just take this opportunity here to say "Thank you, Paul".

Blog Post Soundtrack; The Doors live in Pittsburgh, May, 1970, Queens Of The Stone Age self-titled first album.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Man Bites Dog

Okay, so I'm a mailman. I enjoy it, I've got a lot of cool people on my route, including fellow blogger Mollie. But it is a government agency, meaning no one in power has any clue as to what they're doing. Case in point, today's adventures.

Roughly once a year, this private company, whose name I won't mention to avoid completely embarrassing them, is hired by the Post Office to give the carriers a training talk/demonstration on how to avoid dog bites. A team of about a half-dozen people and 3 dogs come in their Winnebago. The dogs are trained to attack for demonstration purposes (the fact that they're wearing electric shock collars doesn't help either). The main trainers/speakers spend plenty of time throughout the demo telling us that dogs in general, while somewhat predictable, can never really be trusted, because this could be the time that the dog goes from barking only to maybe this time finally biting. Except, of course, for their dogs, who are completely under their control, and only bite when they're told to (they were very insistent about this point, being sure to repeat it several times over the course of the demo).

So they asked for 3 volunteers amongst the 100 or so carriers in my office (I work out of the largest office in Henderson). The 3 volunteers were brought into the Winnebago to, one at a time, put on the protective dog bite suit. It's the kinda big, puffy, multi-layered thing that makes the person wearing it look like Ralphie's little brother Randy in his snowsuit in A Christmas Story, except they're also wearing a full cage helmet like college hockey players wear. The sort of thing you'd love to be wearing in the middle of the desert in late summer.

The first victim...sorry, vlounteer, has a German Shepherd released from about 10 yards away. It comes bearing down on him, makes a flying leap, and bites the suit as it's supposed to. Pretty scary if you're in the suit, I imagine. I say "I imagine" because I'm not one of the volunteers. I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid...

Now we move on to the next person. We have a similar attack, except he was told to stand with his arm extended. A different dog again covers the same 10 yard distance in the blink of an eye, and built up enough speed and momentum to actually knock this carrier over. There was a trainer-guy standing behind the suited-up carrier, and he did his best to keep him from completely falling over upon being mauled. So as he helps the carrier back to his feet, the main trainer comes over, puts a doggie toy in front of the dog to attract its attention, and starts to walk him back towards the Winnebago, showing and telling us that this is really a friendly dog, and again, will only attack and bite when told to...

...or when the dog can get a look at, or smell, exposed fingers. You see, the suit has long sleeves on it, long enough that you can retract your hands within the sleeves. But as the dog was being walked around the carrier on its way back, it turned its head away from the doggie toy and started to look at the sleeve. And then he stuck his snout into the sleeve. And then he bit down on what he was able to get a hold of in the sleeve, which turned out to be the carrier's hand. He was quickly yanked away, so no one was quite sure if anything had happened. And then this dog was given 2 more runs at this same carrier in the suit. Now the carrier is brought over to the Winnebago to remove the suit while the trainers continue talking to us. It's only when the sleeves were removed, and the carrier's right hand was exposed, completely covered in blood, that anyone realized just how serious this was.

After a couple minutes, with frantic Postal managers running around getting paper towels and things, the third volunteer to be brought before the firing squad emerges from the Winnebago, all suited up for his impending demise ("I regret that I have but one life to give for my Post Office..."). But I noticed something interesting, in that this time, the carrier was wearing what looked like boxing glove mittens that completely covered his hands, which I thought was odd, seeing as how neither of the first 2 volunteers had these on when they were presented as raw meat for the dogs. I asked the bite victim about this later, and he told me that the trainer guy who dressed him for the slaughter was fairly new, and had forgotten to put the gloves on him. Can you say, "lawsuit"?

So what have we learned at todays' dog bite class, children? Well, we learned how to get bit by dogs and have blood drawn, that the Post Office only works with the best, and that you should never trust anyone, no matter how many legs they stand on.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Brant Bjork, P.J. Harvey, The Police, Anthrax, Megadeth, S.O.D., Infectious Grooves (covering David Bowie), Jimi Hendrix, Rollins Band, Clutch, Blondie, The New York Dolls, The White Stripes, The Misfits, Louis Jordan, The Bakerton Group

Monday, September 14, 2009

Consecutive days off...

...are a wonderful thing, not to be taken for granted. As much as I enjoy my split days off schedule, the downside is that by the end of the single day off, when I'm just starting to really get into the being-off mood, and starting to accomplish things, it's almost time to get ready to go back to work the next day. Having 2 (or more) days off in a row allows me to be so much more productive. I can get so many stupid little things done around the house, while at the same time not neglect the meaningless activites that make life so much fun (NHL '09 for the XBox 360, for example). I think the fact that I know it's meaningless gives me a leg up. I may get all into it at the time, but even as I'm cursing the referee for making such a stupid call (I did NOT trip that guy...), I'm aware of the fact that this isn't actually important. The fact that I'm enjoying life and having fun, that has some intrinsic value.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So I'm finally here...

I've had a number of people asking me recently to join either Facebook, Blogger, or things like that. When I saw that J.M. DeMatteis, a favorite writer of mine, had moved his Amazon ramblings over to here, that kinda pushed me over the edge, so, for what it's worth, I'm here. Hopefully this will see me writing on some sort of regular basis, even if it's just about nothing other than utter stuff & nonsense (alternate blog title, BTW).

As much time as I spend sitting in front of the computer, plus now with daytime access due to the iPhone (a wonderous invention), I suppose I should have had more of an online presence sooner. The social interaction aspect of the internet has always appealed to me as much as repulsed me. I see lots of people all day long, I'm often quite content to have no further human contact upon arriving home. But you can control the amount of interaction much easier, and it's possible to make contact with people you'd never have a chance to otherwise. As usual, I'm doing a wonderful job of seeing both sides of an argument, and failing to choose one over the other. But I've started this blog, so I guess I finally did make a decision, right?

Bands I've listened to while writing this (which I imagine will be something I'll do every post); Down, TV On The Radio, Mondo Generator, and Tool.

Looking forward to doing more of this, and now I can follow more closely the adventures of J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Nowlan, and Mollie Sekikawa, amongst others!