Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Told You Never To Call Me Here

When I first transferred out to Henderson, NV, 10 years ago now (!), this was the fastest growing city in the United States. Not that Las Vegas had run out of room, but there was definitely more undeveloped area in Henderson that was very quickly BECOMING developed. Builders couldn’t put up houses fast enough. Everything was sold for months before it had even had a foundation poured. And if you had an existing home for sale, most of the time you couldn’t plant the “For Sale” sign in the ground, because it was already sold before you ever got that far. New streets were being opened every day, and the mapmakers were in a tizzy with the incredibly rapid change in the topography.

This made for interesting times as a mailman. You had no idea how long a route would take you, because each day you came to work, another dozen or so deliveries were suddenly on your route, because a new section had been finished, and people were already moving in. Often, mail would start showing up to addresses that didn’t even exist yet, but sooner or later would. Since every day was a journey of address discovery, it was difficult to gauge how late you’d be working. With this being a desert and all, and it tending to go over 110 degrees on a regular basis for most of June, July and August, many people weren’t interested in working beyond 8 hours in a day, and so opted not to be on the overtime desired list in the summer months.

As a new transfer, you go to the bottom of the seniority list, as far as within that office. You keep your Post Office time, you’re just at the bottom of the barrel where you are now. Consequently, you don’t have a choice as far as wanting to work OT or not. So there were a dozen or so people at any given time who were Part Time Flexible (PTF) employees whose hours were pretty much limited by Federal laws that say you can’t work over 60 hours in a week. Very often, I’d be carrying until 6PM after starting at 7AM, then coming back to the office and doing some clean-up work on mail that needed to be forwarded, returned as attempted unknown, insufficient address, etc.

The office I work out of is huge, as it currently houses nearly 100 different routes in it. When it was late at night in the office, and there were maybe 8 PTF’s and a supervisor left in the building , you could easily hear the doors open signaling the return of another weary carrier. Especially on this one night…

Having only been there a few months at the time, I was working late one night when the doors burst open and in came a carrier screaming at the top of his lungs. Many of the carriers in my office are of Filipino descent. This one in particular had a very thick accent. I, along with anyone else remaining in the office, looked up to see what was going on. The man continued walking into the office, and he was yelling into his phone, “I told you NEVER to call me here, Goddammit! You fu@$%ng bitch, I going to KILL you! You stupid woman…”

We collectively stopped breathing, let alone working. Slack-jawed and wide-eyed, we all sat there stunned as the raving and ranting continued for a few more seconds. He walked further into the office, continuing to yell into his phone, until…

…his phone RANG…

…because he hadn’t actually been ON it…

…and before anyone could even figure out what had happened, let alone have time to say anything, in mid-stride he instantly slipped into a lovey-dovey voice, complete with thick Filipino accent, and sweetly said “Hi Honeeeeeyyy…”

As soon as we realized we’d all been reeled in like a bunch of fish in Lake Mead, our respect level for him went thru the roof.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Soulfly, The White Stripes, The Doors, Minutemen, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Corrosion Of Conformity, Fear Factory, Tricky, Little Richard, Booker T. & The Mg’s, Bjork, Nick Oliveri, Foo Fighters, Metallica vs. Britney Spears, Dead Milkmen, Beastie Boys, Fugazi

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm The Easter Bunny

As a mailman, I have to wear a uniform every day. Not exactly the height of fashion, but it seems to serve it's purpose as far as letting people know just who I am and what I do. Well, most people...

I was delivering a part of town that I hadn't been to in at least 5 years. I was carrying part of someone else's route in addition to my own route this particular day. It was a residential area, so it has one of those cluster boxes for every 10 or so houses. I pulled up to the box driving my rather conspicuously marked postal vehicle, and got out wearing my rather blatantly marked uniform. I then proceeded to spend 4 or 5 minutes delivering mail at the box. Seems dull and drab so far, right?

The entire time this was going on, right across the street sat an older woman. Her garage door was open, it was a nice sunny day, and I just figured she was watching the world go by and enjoying life. As I finished locking up the box and walking around the truck to get back in and drive off to the next one, she walked halfway down her drive and got my attention. She looked at me, and in all seriousness, asked, "Are you the mailman?"

I stopped dead in my tracks. I can be a little forgetful at times, so, just to be sure, I looked down and, lo and behold, I had indeed remembered to put my uniform on that day...both shirt AND as I looked back up at her, with numerous responses running thru my head, I went with what seemed the safest (i.e., least offensive), which was, "I sure hope so!" There was a bit of a hesitation on her part, which I took as my cue to get in the truck and drive off to the next box. I figured if that was how the conversation began, it wasn't going to get any better...

One of the things I DIDN'T say to her was, "No lady, I'm the fu%@#n' Easter Bunny!"

Blog Post Soundtrack; Cheech & Chong, Pearl Jam, Zeke, Bow Wow Wow, Iron Maiden

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dave McKean & Steve

Another of the artists that I admire for sheer talent and vision is Dave McKean. He's one of those people who sees things a little differently than the average human, and is then able to translate what he sees into several different mediums, so the rest of us can get some glimpse of his perspective. I find his work fascinating, and have for about 20 years now.

The only time I ever met him was a brief encounter at a comic book convention in New York City back in 1990. He had a room to himself filled with many of his works on display, and his beautiful graphic novel, Batman: Arkhan Asylum, done with writer Grant Morrison had been published not long prior to the show. I was all of 18, and was just starting to branch out with my artistic tastes, and hadn't really gotten to know his work yet. I'd bought the Batman book because I was already a fan of Morrison's writing from Animal Man and Doom Patrol, but I hadn't had a chance to read it yet.

Being in that cramped room with far too many other people, I was only able to get McKean to sign my copy, without any chance for discussion, other than a quick "Cheers" from Dave and exchanged smiles. I was, however, able to look at many of the pieces on display, and I do remember realizing right away there was something very different about this work, and that I was pretty sure that while I didn't completely understand it, I really liked it. (As a quick aside, I was finally able to get Morrison to sign my copy of that book 18 years later...but that's a story for another day...)

One of the main reasons why I signed up on Twitter was because I'd seen that McKean was on it. I knew people like Neil Gaiman (a frequent McKean collaborator) and Stephen Fry were on there, but when I saw that McKean was there as well, I think that's what pushed me over the edge of deciding and made me join. I enjoy seeing what artistic types have to randomly say here and there. Dave recently described himself on Twitter to someone as "I illustrate books, cd covers, advertising, design and direct films, write and draw comics, paint and draw for exhibition."

Well, as it turns out, because McKean doesn't have the 1.5 million followers that Gaiman has (not sure how or why, but...), I've been able to have a few "conversations" with him on Twitter. 20 years after "meeting" him (I really don't count it...), I'm finally able to actually have a few words here and there with him. He tends to post about what movie he watched the nite before, and seeing as how his perspective is thankfully askew from what most of society perceives as quality entertainment, he's not watching the latest drivel from Hollywood.

Now, my friend Steve, I've known for almost 20 years at this point. We met working at a Barnes & Noble in Long Island, and still talk regularly. I see him whenever I go back to NY, as he lives a mile from my parents. Granted, by the time I get back this year, it'll have been two and a half years, but still...

Steve has interesting taste in film. He'll watch ANYTHING. Doesn't matter who made it, when, what budget, cast, whatever. If it's been filmed, chances are, he's seen it. He does this so that he can stumble across the occasional nugget of gold, which is usually buried deep within a very large pile of manure. He owns some of the worst films ever made, simply because they were cheap, and because sometimes you can find a goodie in the bargain bin. He also, however, owns many of the original films that Mystery Science Theater 3000 made an entire career out of making fun of. Just so you know.

Anyway, Steve and Dave seem to have similar tastes in what's good in film, and Steve is also a fan of McKean's art, so I started e-mailing Steve Dave's Twitter film reviews. Steve is too busy watching crappy movies to have time for something like Twitter, so I seem to serve as a go-between here. Well, Steve, in New York, would comment back to me, in Las Vegas, what he thought of the film Dave, in England, had just watched, and I would then tweet it on to Dave. Much to my surprise, seeing as how Dave has over 11,500 followers as of this writing, I started getting responses. I've even gotten Dave to read Steve's journal entries concerning film, particularly his "Best Of 2009" entry (

Recently Steve watched a film called Hitler - ein Film aus Deutschland (, which he realized reminded him of McKean's films in some ways. I passed this on to Dave, who then read some of the reviews on IMDB, and got back to me with this; ""A test of physical and mental endurance". Hmmm, not sure what to make of that comparison..." Seeing as how that could be taken as less than complimentary, I told Dave I'd get further clarification from Steve. Steve, now firmly convinced I'm trying to get him in trouble, sent me an e-mail that I'd promised both I'd blog so Dave could read it. It's taken me about a week to find the time to actually sit at the computer and write a blog entry (I tend to work a lot of hours, and then watching the New York Rangers lose while eating dinner kills most of what's left of the evening). So here's what Steve had to say as far as explaining why a film like that made him think of McKean's films;

"I meant it more as the melding of theatrical and film techniques to create a work that breaks the bounds of what a film should be. Not that his films were a mental or physical endurence like to get me into trouble don't you. I mean you have the various characters in McKean's films using masks and other theatrical conventions that are kind of anti-film. If you look at McKean's films pre-affordable-visual-effects-programs, it seems he used some similar techniques to get the effects that you can now do with a push of a button. McKean transcends the so-called limits of one "medium" to create something that is more. When you watch a McKean film, as when you watch "Hitler", one has a sense that one is watching someone who refuses to play by the rules and creates the art that the filmmaker wants, instead of the art that is expected...."

I figured it was something along those lines, as I know that both Steve and I have nothing but the highest respect for Dave's artistic talents. Steve's follow up to that far-too-long-for-Twitter response was "I dare you to try and compress the previous email to 140 characters"! Hence the impetus for the blog entry...

Update; it's now 5:15PM still on the 25th, and I got a tweet back from Dave a couple hours ago which read: "Thanks, I read it. Amazing how many people I met in NY 1990 I'm still running into. Turns out Chip Kidd was one of them as well." See, only with something like Twitter can there be this kind of interaction with people who understandably don't have e-mail addresses publicly available. I just appreciate the fact that Dave takes the time to read my blog and Steve's journal, and comments back. And in re-reading this entry, I realize that I was a little harsh on Steve and his film tastes. He does watch a ton of crap, but he's searching for the good stuff, which he then can really appreciate when he does find it. While I do goof on him for what he has, I really do greatly respect his artistic tastes. He's been the one to get me into many wonderful artists in all mediums, due to taking the time to wade thru the ocean of shit that is out there. I wouldn't be a fan of Eddie Izzard if not for Steve telling me about him before Dress To Kill had even come out. He tried to drag me to see him in NY at the time, but for whatever stupid reason, I didn't go. Then, when Eddie was touring with Circle, and I was now a full fledged fan, I was going to go to a show in NYC in April 2000...until I moved out to Las Vegas in February 2000. I still have the unused ticket. There's more to this story, but I'll save that for another day too...

And Steve says; "I said compress it to 140 characters not expand it to 140 paragraphs...."

Blog Post Soundtrack; Black Sabbath, Bad Radio, Public Enemy, The Simpsons, Yawning Man, Faith No More, Metallica (several songs from that show in upstate New York in 1994 that I was at that I'd blogged about previously), Brant Bjork, Booker T. & The MG's, The White Stripes (several songs from their shows in Blackpool in January 2004), the first few songs of Tool's stunning Aenima album, Fu Manchu, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam (covering Driven To Tears by The Police), Queens Of The Stone Age

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Old Friends

Just got off the phone with a guy I've known since, well, maybe even as early as first grade. I haven't talked to him in probably something like 2 years. We went thru grammar school together, and seeing as how he only lived about a mile away, I spent parts of many an evening at his house. All thru high school and even up until my late 20's, I would be over his house about once a week. Even after he'd been married and moved away to upstate NY, I would still be at the house he grew up in, because his parents were always there, along with his 2 younger brothers. I ate more meals there then my own home some months.

How does so much time go by so quickly? How do people manage to drift so far apart? I mean, I understand it, people get lives, wives, husbands, kids, families, etc., but still, how do things get so far gone that years can go by between conversations? This was the first time I'd talked to him since his father had died. I'm normally not exactly what one would refer to as a sentimental person, but towards the end of the conversation, I mentioned this to him, and we both sort of stopped and thought about it. We'd been having a silly, goofy chat like nothing had changed since we were kids, but the fact is, things have. I'm not sure this whole growing up thing is really all it's cracked up to be.

Blog Post Soundtrack; a portion of Brant Bjork's Saved By Magic album

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Smiley Sam, Ross Noble, And Twitter

I find myself taking full advantage of Twitter as a place to put down all those wacky random thoughts I have as the day goes on. Some of them have had many occasions to be repeated over the years, and I'm finally having a place to put them. Having an iPhone with me at all times makes it easier to save these little "gems", and I use that word wrongly, for posterity. No longer will these nuggets of insanity be blurted out and instantly lost in the ether, now they can be saved so historians can analyze them to see just how insane I really was. Por ejemplo, one of my favorites over the years has been, "Why do they call it common sense when it's so UNcommon?" Working for the Post Office, I usually have several occasions on a daily basis to utter this, either aloud or internally. Now, thru the magic of the iPhone and Twitter, I just posted it the other day. Wasn't long after that an artist whose work I've enjoyed over the years, Jill Thompson, retweeted my post, as she must have found it amusing. Always nice to have that sort of validation from someone whose talents you admire. Seeing as how she has illustrated works from the likes of Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Grant Morrison (The Invisibles), as well as dozens of others over the years, yeah, it made my New Year's Eve pretty nice. Thanks Jill!

Fast not-too-far-forward to New Year's Day, and comedian Ross Noble, who I had mostly known for years from Just A Minute until recently, was encouraging people to make interesting pictures with his Smiley Sam The Smiling Ham (the explanation would take too about it on his Twitter page --I'd give you an actual link, but for some reason I can't seem to do that on Blogger, and I've been trying for the last 10 minutes to figure it out; it just won't let me do it, despite following their instructions). So I printed out a pic of Sam, cut out the face, and taped it to the head of a really cool hand made clown my Mom had given me for X-Mas. She makes these herself, and they get sold in the gift shop of the local hospital she volunteers at. For some reason, the orange one hadn't moved (all the others come and go pretty quick), so I had mentioned to her she should send it to me for X-Mas (she still lives in New York, while I'm coming up on 10 years out here in Las Vegas). The funny thing is, even though she makes these herself, she's a little creeped out by them. I think it's terrific, and it sits proudly on an entertainment center/bookshelf here in my home office. She knew I really liked it based on the fact that it sits next to a picture I took of deceased race car driver Greg Moore and his still alive father Ric, that both had signed for me many years ago. I even presented both with their own copies of the photo, just because I thought it was a nice shot of the close pair.

After taping Smiley Sam's ham-face to the clown's head, I snapped a picture of it (again, using the iPhone; damn thing does everything...), and sent it to Ross via Twitter. This is another thing I enjoy about Twitter. People I admire that I normally would have no other means of ever having any contact with are suddenly reasonably accessible. Ross lives in the UK, but spends a large amount of time travelling the Eastern Hemishpere, be it the rest of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and so on. He's got various travel programs available, as well as tour documentaries on his stand-up comedy DVD's (of which I have a few now, thanks to Steve!).

Maybe an hour after tweeting the picture, I see a post from Ross that says, "This Is no question the most scary thing I have ever seen." That was followed by a link, which I clicked, seeing as how I was curious as to what could have a mind as brillantly unstable as his running scared. The link caught me completely by surprise, as it led to this;

Needless to say, seeing that it was my own picture that had scared him made me laugh quite hard. I was quite pleased that I'd apparently made an impression on him. Not really sure how my Mom is going to react when she reads this, though...

When Ross does shows, at the intermission, people often leave objects on the stage, so that when he comes back on, he just starts commenting on whatever interests him. His shows are filled more with off the cuff stream of consciousness than actual material, which is his true genius. The man is just funny, with nothing prepared. He HAS very funny material, it just gets relegated behind the tangents he goes off on, which are also extremely funny, and that's why he's so good on Just A Minute. So, if he ever does any shows in the United States (and I'm not sure if scaring him like this will help...), I'm bringing the clown with me to leave on stage in the interval. Not sure if I should re-tape Smiley Sam's face on or not...

Thanks Ross, and thanks/sorry Mom! (BTW, as of this writing, Ross' posting of my pic has had nearly 4,000 hits, in less than 24 hours...lotta weirdos out there...)

Update; it's now about 5:45 AM on Sun the 3rd of Jan, and it seems Ross is still enjoying Smiley Sam The Clown Ham. A comedian friend of his, Jason Manford, was apparently distressed about gaining some weight. Ross, in an effort to make him feel better, started tweeting him pics of Smiley Sam, including mine... @Jason_Manford how about this

Twitter is so much fun...

Blog Post Soundtrack; Allman Brothers, The New York Dolls, The Doors, The Smiths, Fear Factory, Faith No More, Fu Manchu, Orange 9MM, Pantera, Black Sabbath, Son House, Corrosion Of Conformity, Prong, a track from Mel Brooks' 1968 movie The Producers, Les Claypool Frog Brigade, Clutch, Public Image Ltd.