Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I'm not a bad speller, but I'm a horrible typist. So, in my effort to do a little research into the wiki-leaks scandal in order to impart on the matter some of the wisdom my readers depend on so fervently, I inadvertently misspelled leaks. My what a can of worms that little faux pas opened. Who knew the world of leek farming was so riddled with iniquity? From the farmer outside of Davenport, Iowa, who brings his wares to market with a should-be criminal leer and the come hither rasp, "Anybody wanna squeeze my leeks?" to the Topeka lady who chronically shoplifts leeks from the local Whole Foods Market (suffice it to say she's an A-cup coming in through the out door and a Double D going out through the in), the leek subculture here in America is revolting. But where are the media's priorities? We're the world's Super Power--no shit we should be spying on UN flaks and telling tales out of school about European dandies. If we're charged with constantly saving the world and smacking down all the two-bit tyrants around the globe nobody else is gutsy enough to deal with, why shouldn't we have the right to talk behind all their backs? Big whoop, should be our government's one and only response to the world's outrage, I say. But when the Baxter Brothers (all four and a half of them, plus the sister-in-law who's well on her way to becoming a brother-in-law) of Pierre, South Dakota, are well-nigh on their way to cornering the market on leeks so that they can gouge us all dry post-Rapture, something must be done. Somebody haul Anderson Cooper out from under Lady Gaga's table ('tis true, read it here) and put him on the case. One little typo has made me appreciate all over again what I thought was the untainted goodness of leeks, and to put this scandal-ridden world in the proper perspective. There's nothing as overrated as a global diplomatic fracas and as underrated as a good leek.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Harmonic Convergence Of Manliness

Well, what better way to spend my last day of nearly two months of unemployment (yes, I've been hired!; start tomorrow) than reclaiming my manhood and getting to work? After nearly fifty years of experiencing it, about all I can say concerning what it means to be a man is that I stand up (for the time being) to pee and have to shave my face every thirty-six hours or so. But something tells me the periodic fits of whimpering, "What am I gonna do?" that I've endured the past several weeks do not make a man a man. And so I'm grateful that to get me back into the swing of this manhood thing, I undertook and successfully completed two very macho endeavors today: mowing the lawn and putting up Christmas lights.

Now stop, think about that for a second, all of you who live in climates where winter is truly winter. On the same day I mowed the lawn (for the last time in at least four months, I assume), I also put up Christmas lights (in season, mind you, not like some foolish people I know who light up their premises from December until, well, the next December). How many times in a man's life in a city like Cleveland is this ever possible? A post-Thanksgiving light putting up and grass mowing? I daresay it's a first for me and quite probably the last. What a day for manliness! I agree wholeheartedly with Henry Rollins who said, albeit sarcastically, but then he's from California and doesn't know about such things, "You're such a man when you're putting up the Christmas lights." And for a colorblind man who had a scary encounter with electricity when just a wee lad (plugging in a Christmas wreath, I'll have you know) so that every plugging and unplugging of cords ever since has been a seemingly near-death experience, putting up Christmas lights doesn't come easy.

But I did it all: lawn neatly trimmed and ready for four months of snow, bushes festooned with colorful (non-blinking, the only kind) lights. I feel so proud and good I'm going to go out and celebrate by doing some spitting and looking for some things to nail together. Then I can sleep like a man and wake up and (finally) go out and earn some bacon.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Elbowing Point

I voted for Barack Obama. I make no apologies for doing so and I have no regrets. But like many Obama supporters, I suspect, I wish the guy showed a little more fire at times. I want him to be more passionate (not fly-off-the-handle loco, but to exert some kind of blood-racing intensity) in being a leader, not just a manager (for a great spoof of Obama's too-measured approach to all things, see the ever-funny Onion's take on Obama's pardon of the Thanksgiving turkey).

I'm thinking not, but here's hoping the media digs up some dirt on yesterday's pick-up basketball game in which the President suffered an elbow to his upper lip requiring 12 stitches. I'd love to find out that immediately after being "accidentally" elbowed by one Rey Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Obama grabbed Decerega's t-shirt at the neck and hissed, "Hey Rey, I'm the President of the damn United States. No two-bit congressional toady messes with me on my home court, and it's all my home court, homey." For once I want to hear of the Secret Service having to intervene in order to save someone's life from the President. Hey hey, we could all rejoice, the man's got some passion, some fightback. Instead, sadly, we'll probably learn that Obama, while clutching his bloodied mouth, said, "No harm, no foul. My lip shouldn't have gotten in the way of your elbow. I owe you a beer, Rey." Another missed opportunity.

I'm sure I'm hardly the only one at this time to be dragging in that old "stiff upper lip" cliche in regard to Obama. As phrases.org.uk defines it, to have a stiff upper lip means "to remain resolute and unemotional in the face of adversity, or even tragedy." Well, after the results of the recent election, and a continued drop in his approval ratings, if anyone needs to have his stiff upper lip elbowed a bit, or, medically speaking, bled, it's Obama. If not in the heat of the moment (are there any moments for Obama that are more than tepid?) on the basketball court, I'm hoping that the man, supposedly no intellectual slouch, recognizes the metaphoric import of this incident, and comes out with stitched-upped upper lip snarled and showing some teeth now that the Tea Partiers and at-the-half rejuvenated Republicans are taking the court.

For no other reason, if indeed we can look back on Obama's presidency and say, you know, it was right after those 12 stitches that the man started to be more passionate and turn things around, then maybe we can replace or least augment that already worn out phrase, "the tipping point." Sure, some things need to be tipped, but other things need to be elbowed. In a world of TSA gropings, North Korean artillery strikes, continued unemployment, and Sarah Palin's "serious consideration" of running for President, some elbowing is required. I'm hoping that Rey Decerega truly schooled Obama, figuratively if not so literally; that Friday, November 26, 2010, will indeed be Obama's Elbowing Point. Because I'm afraid that if Obama does go the way of Jimmy Carter, the picture-worth-a-million-words defining image of his historic presidency will be this one:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kill A Tree, Save An Aging Rock Star

Time was, all a rock star had to do to avoid an untimely death and live to old age was to stay away from suspect heroin and chartered planes and to make sure he/she was conscious while throwing up. But now, with so many iconic rock stars pulling social security checks and imbibing Grecian Formula like so many whiskey bottles of yore, new menaces threaten the health of our beloved wild rockers. And before we're faced with seeing Chuck Berry scootching across the stage with the aid of a walker or Mick Jagger strutting his stuff with a four-pronged cane, it's time we all recognize, and do something about, the biggest current threat to the well being of our favorite Johnny B. Goode's: trees. Kill a tree before it kills your idol.

Did you see this story the other day? Seems that Joan Baez fell out of a tree and sustained--thankfully--only minor injuries. Coupled with Keith Richards's more celebrated, and injurious, fall from a coconut tree a few years ago, Baez's arboreal mishap signals a dangerous trend: trees are out to get rock'n'rollers. So, while you're trimming the turkey during these upcoming holidays, think of your once sexy rocker now battling the forces of nature and do your part to save this embattled species by not only trimming, but completely eradicating, a few trees.

Of course, bad things happen in threes, so it's only a matter of time before some other musical god suffers the wrath of a tree. And let's face it, we've been lucky so far: Keef and Joanie are still with us. Unless all trees are felled soon, we might not be so lucky next time. In addition to axing a few dozen trees myself lately, I've also put more sophisticated technology to use in my attempt to save rock stars from a tragic "death by flora." Employing computer programming skills much too esoteric and advanced for most of my audience's sensibilities (trust me) and housing my computer's "works" in a specially-designed cabinet made out of melted down K-Tel tecords, I was able to create an AI/Prognostication tool that came up with the most probable scenarios for various rock stars to meet injury and/or death via a tree in the near future. But technology is not perfect, as we know. So while we should all continue the arduous task of ridding the Earth of trees, we might pay closer attention to the rockers who made the list below and be sure to warn them away from trees. Thanks for doing your part.

  • By way of triangulating Keith Richards and Joan Baez, the computer says that Bob Dylan is the most natural would-be next rock star/tree victim. It foresees a scene eerily echoing, to me at least, Don Vito Corleone's last minutes in The Godfather. Romping with a grandchild on a hot summer's day on a farm in Minnesota, Bob's Frisbee gets stuck in a tree. With the kid boosting him up, Bob creakily climbs the tree, but then, what else, either a gust of wind or some hard rain causes Bob to lose his balance and fall from the tree. His first (last?) words to the grandchild: "See, I told you gravity fails."
  • Lemmy's fall from a tree elicits this mysterious remark: "Everybody knows the best tasting bark is near the top."
  • Tom Waits voluntarily falls from a tree so his son can tape the resultant sound of him hitting the ground so that they can then loop it into a "killer" percussion track.
  • John Lydon ventures too far out on a flimsy limb to reach another one with a buzzing chainsaw. While falling, the chainsaw's whining evisceration of him is drowned out by Johnny's cackling, "Oh, bloody perfect, this."
  • Aretha Franklin, sitting upright amid a mini-forest of branches and brambles, chuckles, "But that peach looked so tasty. Mmmmm."
  • Brian Wilson's last words before ascending the tree: "The sound those leaves make is love. I'm going to get me some."
  • Neil Young, tired of the barn and recording during the full moon, conceives an entire trilogy of albums not only about, but recorded in, a huge redwood. Alas, the chunk of the tree he had earlier carved out to construct the guitar to be used througout the venture weakens the tree to the point that it, the tree (dubbed Old Red by Neil himself), cannot support Neil, Crazy Horse, the Stray Gators, the Shocking Pinks, the Bluenotes, the International Harvesters, Pearl Jam, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, the ghost of Rick James, two vocoders, a '58 hearse, a 100+ member church choir, the Canadian Parliament, and three film crews. Not to be outdone, though, Neil really digs the sound of the tree splintering to pieces, mixed in with the yelps of all the assorted band members and crew, and decides to recreate the whole "sonic experience" in Nashville for a "garage opera" which will be available only on diamond-encrusted vinyl, to be released sometime between now and 2143.
  • Michael Stipe falls out of a catalpa tree but "it's nobody's business unless I make it their business."
  • Sting falls out of a tree (one of the last, mind you) in the Rain Forest while basking in a twenty-eight day tantric navel-gazing exercise. The carnivores seem delighted.
  • Pat Benatar falls out of her backyard tree while exercising, bounces right up, perky as ever, and continues doing whatever she's been doing since MTV stopped showing videos.
  • All the computer foresaw concerning Ozzy Osbourne and trees was an image of Ozzy hobbling over a hazy, flora-devoid landscape with a smoking flame-thrower. Ah, that's the spirit.
Death to Trees, Long Live Rock.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

As I Was Saying....Or, Only Pirates Have Treasure Maps

Last thing I remember it was July and hot. And I was employed, too. Computer problems (we're ambulatory, but limping), four months, one store closing resulting in unemployment, and about a fifty degree downward change in the temperature, and here we go again. My apologies for the hiatus and my thanks to those of you who've expressed your utter at-sea-ness without your regular gum spitting fix. I hope things return to normal--in more ways than one. Unemployment is horrible, of which more on that in the posts to come, I'm sure.

But did you see this storyabout the British tyke who, after manning (boying?) his father's metal detector for about two minutes, found centuries-old gold worth about $4 million? I love it, especially his claim that he wasn't using a map, because "only pirates have treasure maps." Now if I had some distance on the whole unemployment thing I'm sure I could wax poetic (nostalgic?) about how finding a job that pays 1/100 of the boy's find is like hunting treasure with a metal detector (and for that much, how maybe one needs to assume a pirate's mentalityto endure it all; unanswered e-mails, phone calls, and resume dumps--arrrgghhh!). But we'll save all that verbosity for a more reflective time. As I'm forced to live completely in the here and now these days, let's cut to the chase--what is the deal with metal detectors?

Like owning a fire truck, being a garbage man (nice work if you can get it, I assume), or being a staff photographer for Playboy, possessing a metal detector is every boy's dream. But is there anything more pathetic than the sight of a grown man trawling some park expanse with a metal detector? What are you thinking, sir? If nothing more, the Brit kid's find is the exception that proves the rule that outside of loose change, a stray earring (alas, Marcie's, not a long ago, burying-treasure-nearby pirate's), and a pull can top from 1972, you're not going to find treasure in these parts. I realize that angering the vast metal detector aficionado constituency is not the best move for business as I plunge back into the world of blogging, but somebody has to forcefully tap these guys on the shoulder and say, un-unh, try collecting Star Wars trinkets.

My one and only experience with metal detectors is, thankfully, second hand. In the glorious aftermath of the Cleveland Browns' cathartic double overtime playoff victory over the New York Jets after the 1986 season (yes, kid, there was a time when the idea of playoff football in Cleveland made more sense than buying, and actually using, a metal detector) my buddies and I ran outside into January's cold to jubilantly release about five hours of tension by having a snowball fight in our friend's front yard. Well, after the elation subsided, said friend realized that his beloved college ring was missing. Victory celebration soon turned into what-the-hell-am-I-doing kicking over patches of snow looking for a ring (I love my friends, but really, turning the ultimate male-bonding experience of football glee into a cold exercise in jewelry hunting was not my idea of fun; more like my idea of Cleveland's ingrained bi-polarness, emphasis on the polar, that day). There are certainly some youthful experiences I missed out on, but at least I can go to my grave satisfied that I've experienced the empathetic rush of telling another guy, "It's just a ring, dude, a symbol; you'll always have the memories of your time in college. No one can, um, fling that away from you."

Well, my friend was not to be swayed by such wisdom. Over the next few wintry weeks we received regular updates on his continued search for the ring, from a counter-intuitive shoveling of his front yard, to, yes, an early spring renting and utilizing of a metal detector. At least my friends are charitable, if somewhat nerdish: I have no doubt that if we were ten, he would have invited us all over for the metal detector party and we would have all regarded it as the single most exciting day in our lives, but as we were 23, he kindly told no one of his metal detection pursuits until well after the fact, and--memory is hazy--a couple beers, I assume. Of course we all could have told him that the metal detector strategy was doomed from inception, but we're good friends and we let the "duh, dude," moment lapse. Of course, had it been in the era of cell phones with easily accessed cameras, and had one of us been fortunate enough to be driving by just as our friend was metal detecting his front yard, well then, the picture would still be infamous and the source of years of extortion revenue.

Come the real thaw a few weeks later, neighbors four doors down and across the street found the ring in their yard and returned it, so the story ends happily ever after. Or as happily as it can for a man who I'm sure still lives in fear that his friends are just waiting for the appropriate time (right now that time for me would be making a speech at his daughter's wedding) to say, "You're a man who once rented a metal detector. How do you sleep at night?"