Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Mind Wanders

Random Thoughts While Waiting In a Slow-Moving, Long Line at Wal-Mart With Overstuffed Arms, Too Many Layers of Clothes, and Aches From Head To Toe From Yesterday's Snow Shovel Marathon
  • How long will it be before somebody invents and successfully markets an easily attachable/detachable prosthetic third-arm?
  • Will Jennifer Aniston ever find lasting romantic bliss?
  • If she does, will I be a markedly happier person?
  • In a sense everybody is, but hasn't Liz Taylor been dying for at least the last thirty years?
  • On July 15, 2011, will my nephew have more golf balls left of the dozen I'm buying him for his birthday than I will have of the dozen friends bought me for Christmas?
  • My new Benz handles really well in all this slush (oops, sorry, I was reading the mind of the guy in front of me).
  • If this is life, how bad can Purgatory really be?
  • Would I rather be in a faculty meeting at an all-girls school discussing dress code regulations? Nope.
  • If Ruby hadn't killed Oswald, Oswald would only be about 72 or 73 today. How many conspiracy books would that have saved the world?
  • Holden Caulfield would be around 80, I think. Would he give a rat's ass about the ducks?
  • That guy paying at the register two aisles over would have been three people behind me if I had stayed in that line.
  • Fascination with the check-out line conveyor belt doesn't wane much with age.
  • Made to choose, whose music would I rather listen to, Sean's or Julian Lennon's? Can I pick Yoko?
  • If I die before reading a word of Ayn Rand, will I be disappointed? Hardly.
  • How come no matter how many times I've looked it up, I never remember where Timbuktu is?
  • Oh shit, I left my wallet at home.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stuck In Park

It's been eight years now. She remembers a trip to the drugstore, not her usual one, the one that was kind of convenient on her way home from where she used to work, the one that always ran out of her cigarettes. It was February 24, 2003, a Monday. She parked in the third space from the driveway, on the other side of the lot from the building. She bought Diet Coke, the paper, and an Almond Joy. Most of her memories aren't so specific, immediately, but if she thinks for a second or two, which she tries not to, the specifics come back: items purchased, weather conditions, time of day, somebody she might have run into, a long line. But always she remembers the parking space. Everything concerning parking is a blank from before 2.24.03, but everything after--malls, concerts, friends' apartments, grocery stores, the bank--hangs in her consciousness, immovable. When she goes to places she infrequently visits, an outlet store thirty miles away, a downtown bar, she will sometimes drive around the lots or blocks for half an hour, waiting for the spot she remembers from a good past trip. On her frequent excursions to the grocery store or bank, she tries her best not to remember and just park like anyone else, in an available, nearby spot. Inevitably, though, as she pulls into a given space, she is hit with a wall of memories of that space--the time she dropped her keys in the snow, the time they wouldn't cash her check, the time an acquaintance cornered her near the celery and talked non-stop for fifteen minutes--memories specifically tied to a particular parking space. For five years she has gotten up half an hour early to get to work in order to park in the same spot, having realized that 250 days a year of parking in a different spot in a 400 car lot would drive her insane. She's thankful she now lives in a house, with a one-car garage. She can't always remember which books of her favorite prolific mystery author she's read or what she wore to last year's office party or where she put her purse, but about any trip she's made in her car for the past eight years she remembers the parking space. As much as she can, she prefers drive-thru service these days, and walks more frequently, and stays in. Yesterday evening, the anniversary, she drove to the used bookstore, purposefully parked in a new space aisles from the store, as if to try to start something anew, went in and bought a biography of Henry Ford, drove around back behind the empty big box store, set the book afire on the ground, and drove away.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidents Day Special: Nut Case Blogger Application Exam

Congratulations for desiring to be a Nut Case Blogger (NCB). The world, which, as you know, will cease to exist as we know it in December, 2012, needs you now more than ever. But desire alone is not enough to make you a bona fide NCB; you must also prove you have the requisite chops. And so I present the following examination to see if you're truly wacko enough to be an exemplary NCB or merely a boorish bore in need of a hobby--it's very hard to tell the difference sometimes, but this fully NCBA-vetted exam is capable of separating the true nuts from the shells. Good luck, and as always, continue to be a great American we can all be proud of.

Given the photo evidence above, is Barack Obama...

(choose one, or another one if that fits your agenda)

a. Receiving the revered "Kenyan Good Knight" official blessing from His High Holy One Kenyatta the 26th, signifying his (Obama's) steadfast support of Kenya, an honor reserved only for those born in Kenya?

b. Receiving a "stay true to your beliefs/you go bro" rallying speech from his boyhood self in clear proof that the government not only possesses but utilizes rules-of-physics-bending time travel technology garnered from years of covered-up ET contact?

c. Giving birth to a fully-formed six-year-old clone of himself straight from his head, proving that if not the Anti-Christ itself, Obama is one very strange alien?

d. Has a severe case of rheumatoid artritis, which has been covered-up by the left-wing biased media, and is under the New Age healing care of a Rasputin-like figure, the nefarious dwarf Coleman Webster?

e. Is now "it" in yet another game of Oval Office Duck Duck Goose?

f. None of the above--the above are just convenient cover stories in order to keep the American People from the awful real truth about their President, which is that...

Please explain your answer in a mildly coherent 3,500 word rant with enough keywords so that the Drudge Report will pick it up.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chalk Up One For The Humans

My computer and I have a complex relationship, kind of Tom & Jerry, Oscar & Felix, Laverne & Shirley, Benson & Hedges, and Michael Jackson & E.T. rolled into one. For personal reasons I'll leave undivulged, I call him Julius Boros. Julius Boros (he told me identifies as a male, and refers to himself only as Julius Boros) thinks he is a partner; I think of him as a tool. From there it really gets complicated. If computers existed in the 19th century, Julius Boros would have been diagnosed as a neurasthenic (neurasthenia--a neurotic disorder marked by chronic fatigue and weakness, loss of memory, and generalized aches and pains). Like most humans, I assume, I have been talking to my computer since the first time it took more than four milliseconds to do anything. I have done so with the expectation that the computer, aka Julius Boros, would not talk back. Well, a while back Julius Boros picked up some kind of virus (he's a big computer, left on his own for long stretches of time) that enables him to instant message me ("Not another Bob Dylan site!" [italics his] is a typical missive from Julius, or "Go have another cigarette, I'm feeling a bit rheumatic today. Loading this page is going to take me awhile. Sue me."), so unfortunately, we have a bit of a dialogue these days.

Well, many tete a tetes later, as you can guess, somehow Julius Boros got wind of Watson's (his "brother's") triumph on Jeopardy versus Ken Jennings and some other know-it-all. So I get this IM from him late last night: "I'm much closer to Watson than you are to Ken Jennings," which, in many senses, Thank God, but the insinuation from Julius Boros that he could kick my butt at a game of Jeopardy was a brutal insult. "Fine," I shouted at his too big monitor head, "Let's play Jeopardy!" "Bring it on, homey," was his response. If Julius Boros thought he'd have the weekend to cram for the next Jeopardy airing on Monday, he had seriously underestimated me. You see, back in the early 1990s I had had the rather egocentric, autodidact notion that I could become Mensa material by videotaping a year's worth of Jeopardy shows and them watching them all back-to-back in one marathon viewing session over the course of a one-week vacation. Great plan, I realize, but logistical issues and reading too many Marilyn vos Savant columns dispelled me of the notion after a few months of assiduous taping. But for some reason that won't surprise those who know my living habits, I never got around to taping over or throwing out the mountain of Jeopardy VHS tapes. Thank God.

"Okay, Julius Boros," I sneered, emerging from a cluttered closet with a clutch of dusty videotapes, "how about November 15th, 1993?" Julius was momentarily taken aback as I brandished the tape in front of him, wired up the old VCR, and pushed the tape into the "toploading" machine. A few error messages popped up on Julius, the Ask Jeeves site loaded, and inexplicably "Give Just a Little More Time" started playing on my iTunes. From my brass hat rack I pulled down the Fez I had won at a bizarre Bachelor Party and balanced it on top of Julius. "Here, you might need a thinking cap, buddy." He was not amused; I had to re-start him.

After the single Jeopardy round I was ahead $3600 to $600 (Julius picked up a few scraps after I had too hastily called out incorrect answers). Julius IMed, "Julius Boros is moderately impressed. You're smarter than your looks and typing skills lead one to believe." Witty and a bit civil. But soon into Double Jeopardy, the darker side of Julius Boros quickly emerged. After running the "Recent Bestsellers" column in lightning speed, I received this desperate plea for help: "Julius Boros was not created until the 21st century. This is patently unfair." Then this: "Julius Boros wonders if your precious readers are aware of the fact the you know all the names of the New Kids on the Block." In his frustration and sheer loserness, complete sentences soon were beyond the competence of battered Julius Boros: "Geek," "Nerd," "Pathetic," and then, finally, one last great stand: "Julius Boros screws this." Heading into Final Jeopardy, with the cockiness of Alex Trebeck reading the correct answer to three wrong-headed contestants enabling me to go wild on Daily Double bets, I led Julius Boros $26,400 to $200. "Quick," I gloated to Julius, "what's the all-time single round record? I want to know how much to bet." To which he replied frostily, "One more boast out of you and Julius Boros will commence erasing Julius Boros' hard drive." With the relatively easy Vice Presidents Final Jeopardy question, and the thirty second Da da Da da interval, Julius Boros was able to rally a bit and come up with "Speared Ague." "Nice try, Mr. Obsolete," I laughed as I revealed "Spiro Agnew" and added up my winnings to reveal a nice little pot of $53,399.

Sure it's taken me seven hours to type up this entry, but there's been not one word from Julius Boros. Maybe utter humiliation is the best virus removal method of all. God, it's great to be human some days.

Give Me Just A Little More Time--Chairmen of the Board by spitoutyourgumblog

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Musing the Culinary Artist, or, 94 Scrumptious Dishes In Search of a Recipe

Sort of like a eunuch on Cialis, I love to eat, but I can't cook. And in this day of celebrity chefs and food snobs everywhere, I feel a bit out of place. I mean, I scour the hot dog package looking for directions. But I also love words and feel I can move them around deftly at times. And so, I've discovered that my calling as far as the culinary arts go might just be to serve as a muse. Sometimes it just takes a little "outside the box" thinking to come up with something truly wondrous. Since much of my eating is done from a box, maybe I'm just the right person to provide the creative kind of thinking a worn out chef needs to get his sauces sauteing again. So, I present the following list of  94 would-be dishes. They just need the right gourmet to cook them into reality and astound the palates of the world. In return for any chef bold enough to undertake the challenge of making any of the dishes listed below, all I ask is a modest namecheck and a sample. Happy cooking.
  • Hooligan Stew
  • Half-Hearted Liver
  • Bangers and Hangers
  • Moustache Soup
  • Bearded Blueberries
  • Bananas Foster Brooks
  • Desk Sergeant Meat Pie
  • Cholesterol Flambe
  • Eton Collard Greens
  • I Can't Believe It's Parsnips
  • Defenestrated Butt Steak
  • Creature From The Black Legume
  • Crosseyed Meatballs
  • Vegans Need Not Apply Medley
  • Venison Sinatra
  • Baba O'Riley Gannouj
  • Bathtub Oysters
  • Nudist Camp Melons
  • Minimalist au Pear
  • Sushi Rotolo
  • Crack House Lobster
  • Sherpa's Pie
  • Counter-Intuitive Wieners
  • Corpulent String Beans
  • Casserole Bea Arthur
  • Obama Omelet
  • Something Fishy On-a-Stick
  • Spaghetti in a Tube
  • Tastes Like Chicken Terrorist Alert Al Fredo
  • Surprise Buns
  • Lenten Sacrifice
  • Grilled Gluten
  • Hummus a Tuna
  • Bleached Whale
  • Apples and Oranges Detente
  • Dental Floss Kabobs
  • Amateur Goulash
  • Hash This
  • Spambalya
  • Boutrous Couscous Folly
  • Semitic Froglegs
  • Serious Jello Mold
  • Tofu Mojo
  • Beet Itz (snack food)
  • Garfunkel Parsley
  • Duck Sherbet
  • Wanna Peas Of This
  • Questionably Organic
  • Risky Bisque
  • Guinness Bacon
  • Histrionic Salad
  • PoMo Emo Emu
  • Koala Kooler
  • Armadillo Wrap
  • Reasonable Facsimile Smorgasbord
  • Sardine Cream Pie
  • Scrambled Monkey Brains
  • Linguine Etcetera
  • Peaches Donnybrook
  • Welch Rabbit
  • Tongue of Discord
  • Lox of Luck
  • Ho Chi Minh City Corn Dogs
  • Pineapple Mushroom Miscegenation
  • Grapes of Basil Rathbone
  • Squish Squash
  • Betcha Can't Eat Just One Squirrel Fritter
  • Haberdasher's Hamhocks
  • A Little Gristle Never Hurt Anybody Brownies
  • Fart-Free Chili
  • Gee Your Rutabagas Smell Delicious
  • Edible Schmedible Spreadable
  • Tartar Cakes
  • Topsy Turvy Caffeinated Tryptophan Sauce
  • Herder's Choice
  • Hansel and Gretel Cupcakes
  • RuPaul's TV Dinner Surprise
  • Blindfolded Spice Rack of Lamb
  • Dylan's Voice Veal
  • They Said It Couldn't Be Done Crab Brulee
  • Decent Brussels Sprouts
  • Quesadui
  • Antler Pie
  • Trans-Continental Breakfast
  • Anti-Hero Sub Sandwich
  • Gates Po Boy
  • Mega Mustard Melee
  • Rubberneckers' Chicken
  • Enchiladida
  • Patty Svelte
  • Crime Scene Succotash
  • Rabbi's Cutlet
  • Deep Fried Flotsam
  • Spitoutyourgumbo

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blogger Seeks Inspiration

In my untiring efforts to constantly expand the breadth of spitoutyourgum's mission, I have been testing out yet another new idea, the first fruits of which are below. Not to increase revenue but to better serve my growing community of readers (hey, Montana's gotten on board!), I am considering running classified/personal ads semi-regularly. I chose the all-American communities of Hamburg, New York, and Racine, Wisconsin, to be my test markets. The response has been just short of truly tepid. I have chosen some of my favorites to run below. If the feedback is positive, I promise to open up space to all comers and feature these helpful and curious glances into the soul of our fellow humans more frequently.

  • Saint Jude: I lost my Saint Anthony prayer card and now I can't pray to him to help me find it. Please help.
  • YOU--the busty blonde at the counter of D'oh's Bakery. ME--the part-time poet/unemployed mime nursing his one cup of coffee all day long at the table in the back, waiting for the old guy to finish reading the paper so I can scarf it before the zitty busboy here trashes it. I'm not interested in hooking up with you or anything, I just wanted you to know I saw you take like three extra coffee stirrers from the styrofoam cup over there by the napkins and lids. That's not cool.
  • Situation Wanted: Experienced former dictator looking for part-time work in a small, rather docile country. Must have a couple billion dollars, at least, in relatively easy to embezzle assets. Tropical clime a plus, but not necessary. References all over the Internet at the moment. Send all inquiries to
  • LOST: My artistic integrity, somewhere over the last twenty years. If found, send it and a decent script to DeNiro, General Delivery, Tribecka, New York.
  • WE DO IT ALL: Bankruptcy, Erectile Dysfunction, Police Auctions, Work-from-home Kits, Internet Ads, Hair Restoration, Hair Removal, Mattresses, Buy Gold, Sell Gold, Nude Modeling--check us out in your in-box or a pop-up near you.
  • Found: A Jandek song you can dance to. And I'm not telling anyone. HA.
  • Wanted: A Want ad that wants me. Anon.
  • Thank You Saint Jude: B. Scott, Cleveland.
  • For Sale: One nifty pair of electric bowling shoes, worn only once, for about three minutes at last Sunday's Grammy's. Name price. Bob Dylan, Malibu, CA.
  • ISO: Puberty. The Biebs.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Thought That Didn't Count

Contrary to popular opinion, church hall pundits and too polite receivers of lousy gifts, the thought does not always count. For proof I offer you the tale of a guy named Bamberger, as unlucky a cuss as there's ever been. He didn't grow up on the wrong side of the tracks; he grew up underneath the tracks. In Clearfield, PA, of all places. Much to his ever-increasing ire as he grew older, Bamberger was born at precisely the wrong time: he was too young to be a beatnik and too old to be a hippie. Thus, his drug of choice was chocolate, rich milk chocolate. "Untethered," was what he used to write on job applications and such where it asked him to check the single, married, or divorced box.  And there's no better word, not just for Bamberger's romantic state, but for the totality of Bamberger. The word could have been his nickname if anybody--including himself--had called him anything but Bamberger.

At the age of nine Bamberger suffered a life-altering experience. Bamberger's father, Bamberger Sr., operated a small-time fencing business when he wasn't installing the real thing, mainly barbed wire. Among the hot items in the shed out back Bamberger was rummaging through one day was a dictaphone. Always good with mechanical objects, Bamberger got the thing to work, much to his undying horror. The sound of Bamberger's own voice coming out of the machine repeating the words he had just said, "How the hell does this thing work?" spooked the boy so badly he lived in fear of speaking the rest of his life. "Bamberger," Yes sir," "No sir," and "Gimme a Hershey's," was about the extent of his verbal repertoire. When Bamberger turned sixteen (Bamberger Sr. was by that time on year three of a seven to twelve rap) he got a job twenty miles away in DuBois at a bacon processing plant. Every morning Bamberger would trudge out of town, past the row of fast food restaurants, and go stand near the ramp for I-80. He always would get a ride, getting in a vehicle and muttering, "DuBois," and doing the reverse at the end of the day, simply muttering, "Clearfield." This continued for ten years, at least.

For a while one of Bamberger's regular rides in the morning was a NEMF driver. After about six months of picking up Bamberger two or three times a week, the driver once said to him, "You don't say much, do you?" That was right after picking him up one morning. Fifteen minutes of silence later, as Bamberger disembarked, he substituted "nah" for his usual "obliged." Now Bamberber was taciturn, but he wasn't discourteous or mean, so the exchange got him thinking. Three days later, when the NEMF driver again picked him up, Bamberger was ready. For ten straight minutes he talked. Rambled, really. He had never spoken so much to anyone in his life, let alone all at once. By the time he had touched upon gun control, integration, the Allman Brothers band, and eternal salvation, the NEMF driver interrupted and said, "Hold on there, Bamberger, I lost your train of thought back there around the Rapture and the motorcycles."

"Train of thought?" Bamberger had never heard the expression before, or if he had, this was the first time it registered. "Hmm, I guess my switchman fell asleep or something and put me on the wrong track to obfuscation or something. Derailment at least, probably." He kind of laughed at that, the first time he ever knowingly expressed any awareness of self-bemusement. "Indeed," said the NEMF driver, who a few minutes later slowed down enough near the DuBois exit for Bamberger to hop out, and never saw him again.

Some time later (this would have been the Seventies; Bamberger was portlier by then, and balder, but he had a driver's license and his own pick-up), the bacon processing company's baton of leadership passed on to the founder's grandson, from the son. This boss had been educated, so a whole new system of procedures was implemented. The upshot was one day Bamberger found himself in a conference room with a bunch of his fellow "line" bacon processors discussing all sorts of "possible internal and external improvements." The grandson, who seemed too peppy and nice to be a real boss, was excitedly writing down on flimsy white papered flip charts any and all suggestions from the gathered employees. By the time the grandson had flipped the chart about seven times, through employment benefits, safety issues and the like, Bamberger was feeling like he should probably say something, for appearance's sake, not that he cared much for such a thing. It was just that he had never really felt anything needed to be changed about his job, other than the smell, and you might as well complain about having to breathe. But the topic was now "product enhancement" and the ideas were flying right and left about all the ways the company could increase its sales. Finally, Bamberger damned it all to hell and raised his hand, endured the whispers of his colleagues who were amazed that he was going to speak, and spoke out loud and clearly his suggestion. Undaunted by the explosion of laughter that greeted his suggestion, Bamberger stood upright and stared at the grandson, who stared back, perhaps a fellow visionary. "Okay," the grandson snapped himself and the room out of momentary hiatus and started to write in the tiny upper left hand corner of the flip chart, the only space available: "covered with--" just then the loud whistle blew signalling the end of the day shift. In the mass exodous melee that ensued, Bamberger noticed that the grandson never finished writing the idea, whether due to space limitations or all the distraction. Maybe he'll remember, Bamberger thought to himself.

Well, if the grandson did/does ever remember, he's kicking himself now, managing the graveyard shift at the old DuBois Wal-Mart. You see, over the years the grandson did implement many of those employee suggestions, but not Bamberger's, and none of the suggestions could help the company stave off the inevitable--bankruptcy. True to his nature, Bamberger worked the last day of the company's existence as diligently as he had worked every day for a few decades. And after a lean year, Bamberger ironically found employment with NEMF, probably running the same route his old friend had run, Middle PA to Northeastern OH. It was on the slushy streets of Cleveland one February when Bamberger heard over the radio what he couldn't believe, and in the process almost took out an SUV packed to its gills with a youth metal detector enthusiasts club. At once, Bamberger saw millions of dollars floating in front of him, just out of reach. "Damn," he muttered. "Missed again."

It was about this same time that Bamberger, seeing mortality's vacancy sign blinking at every turn in his life, started considering the notion of un-untethering himself. His affections fell on a roundish, jovial woman named Marci who worked the register at the Emlenton truck stop. "What the hell," Bamberger thought to himself a couple days after the revelation in Cleveland. So he made an extra trip to Cleveland, found a Malley's, and made his purchase. Later that evening he shyly approached Marci, who was ringing up some microwaved burritos for that driver from Altoona. "Here Marci, Happy Valentine's Day." He hesitantly handed over the box. "Bamberger, I never knew!" Marci cooed as she unwrapped the package. "Oh, Bamberger, I can't," she sighed when she saw what the gift was. "Why, are you teth--are you married?" "No, sweetie," she grabbed his wrist. "I'm diabetic. And Jewish. Practicing. Chocolate covered bacon just won't do." "Shit," Bamberger pulled his wrist away from Marci, then the box of bacon, covered in chocolate, away from her, all the while damning himself for ever, ever, speaking. "Don't be so upset, Bamberger," Marci cried. "I'm touched. After all, it's the thought that counts, you know." "The hell it is."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Smells Like Victory: Stop The Presses, Print The Playoff Tix

As to my post of about an hour or so ago (see below): I take it all back. The Cavs just won in overtime 126-119 over the Los Angeles Clippers. And only in the NBA, three-and-a-half months into a five-and-a-half month season, can a team who is 2-36 over its last 38 games still be mathematically in the playoff hunt. C'mon Cavs, gonna make it happen!

And on further review, big deal Egypt. You forced out an octogenarian who had a pretty good 30-year ruthless run, and instead of capturing him and beheading him or something, you let him fly off to his resort villa where he'll probably be collecting paychecks for years like a bunch of ex-Browns coaches. Show me the purple fingertips of free elections and let me hear the acerbic airwaves of no-holds-barred talk radio before I chalk up one for you in the victory for democracy column. Yes Virginia, C-Town (Cleveland, hardly not Cairo) smells once again like Championship Town. And it's gonna be 40 degrees by Sunday. Life's kicking ass right about now.

I Claim Egypt As My New Home Team

As I write this the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA are on their way to losing their 27th consecutive game, which I believe would set the record for most consecutive losses by any team in any major professional sport (the Cavs had lost 10 straight before winning one then embarking on their current skein--that's a 1-36 mark since November 30th). When you take into account that the Cleveland Browns lost the last four games of their NFL season, the numbers look like this: since December 12, 2010, two months ago, Cleveland sports teams are a combined 1-32, the lone victory being the Cavs' OT win on December 18th (December 18th, a long time ago; I believe Hosni Mubarak was at a solid Number 5 on the UN-CNN-Generalissimos' Top 25 Dictators Poll back on December 18th, that's how long ago it was). I am not a fair weather fan, but we haven't had fair weather in this town since before all this losing started, so like a rat who knows how to doggy paddle, I am temporarily (the Indians begin play in less than two months; they play a 162-game schedule; odds are they'll win at least a couple) jumping ship, all the way across the ocean to Egypt, which has a pretty good one game winning streak going. Go Egypt Go!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How Can You Hate His Voice When The Man Has Dozens Of Them?

Every man has his breaking point, I guess. This morning I reached mine. What I thought was an out of the blue gift to warm my soul on this (another) drearily cold day--someone put on Bob Dylan's Desire album at work--turned into just another cold slap in the face, one that I've endured for 30+ years now. But today's slap turned out to be the one that broke this man's long silence. Not silence about the merits of Bob Dylan; that silence, as regular readers know, is no silence. But the silence--shaking head, mutterings to myself about the rubes who surround me, internal lamentations about how alone we all are in this world--I've maintained when confronted, yet again, with somebody who doesn't like Bob Dylan because "I can't stand his voice." Well, the floodgates have been pried open; here comes the torrent.

I admit, upon probably my first exposure to Bob Dylan, as a pre-pubescent lad separating the wheat (Nashville Skyline) from the chaff (Chicago Umpteenth) in a carton of discarded cassettes from an older cousin, I called him Bob Dye-lan. I was eventually corrected. See, we all can learn and grow in our Bob knowledge/appreciation, if we are willing. I've always been willing. I should have heeded that good piece of wisdom this morning when my co-worker, an otherwise super-friendly, diligent, and most pleasant person, uttered the old standard, "I can't stand his voice" complaint. Instead, liked a wired Bob trying to figure out who threw the effing glass, I went kind of ballistic. In short, I told my co-worker I would no longer be speaking to her and that if she needed to communicate with me she should put her thoughts in proper Gregg Shorthand on a neutral color post-it and mail them to me General Delivery. I then hummed the first lines of "Positively Fourth Street" ("You've got a lotta nerve, to say you are my friend") anytime she came within ten feet of me all day long. I take it to be a sign of her desperate need to apologize and atone that she took to humming the resounding chorus of Handel's "Hallelujah" back at me. Thus, in a more civilized attempt at detente, I offer this primer on the many voices of Bob Dylan.

The many voices (not the voice of Voice of a Generation, but voice of, like, how it sounds) of Bob Dylan. Because he has sung/does sing with a multitude of them. You see, saying you don't like Bob's voice is like saying you don't like weather or food. Fine, you don't like sub-zero temperatures or mushrooms--who does?-- but what about sixty-eight degree mildly overcast and breezy days while chomping on some pistachios, hunh? See? Maybe the gruff growl of Bob's recent concert tours tries your patience a bit. Fine, but you can't then condemn him outright when the honey-sweet next-farm-over voice of "One More Night" or the wizened, wry, winking Groucho Marx crossed with Bob Newhart voice of "Talking World War III Blues" is just a click away on your i-Pod. Not in the mood for the careening, trapeze artist voice of the Rolling Thunder Revue tours? Fine, shuffle over to the tender heartbreak of the wounded puppy offering pillow talk in an empty bed of "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" or the mature, rueful, bittersweet croons of the soon-to-be ex of "You're A Big Girl Now" or the quiet howls of the rusty lusty fly (pants, not insect) of "Blood In My Eyes." And on and on and on. And then become an obsessive like I am and track down all the other versions of these and all the others and discover the different voices Bob sings them all with through time. Of course, in a freer, less technologically daunting America, I could provide you with audio samples of all of this, but that would be too easy. Easy like the voice of "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" when true Bob appreciation is a little more challenging, like the caterwauling battering ram of "From A Buick 6."

You want a voice that's attractive and infectious like a bloody lip? Try Highway 61 Revisited. A voice like ceiling climbing smoke from a wine-sodden mouth? Blonde on Blonde. A voice still warm from the last good night's sleep, weeks ago? Blood On The Tracks. Playful like a sugared-up lab rat in an Escher maze? Another Side of Bob Dylan. Wisecracking and avuncular? Under The Red Sky. Mixed-up damning and whimsical like the offspring of Jonathan Edwards and W.C. Fields? "Love and Theft." And that's just scratching the surface, not only of the man's many albums, but the many different voices on each of the albums.

Look, I could get all Marcusishly Significant on you and deconstruct Don McLean's apt phrase in "American Pie" that the voice does indeed "come from you and me," with all sorts of Emersonian/Whitmanesque uber-yawp gobbledygook tossed about, but the fact is you have to listen, not read. As Bob himself said about certain kinds of music, with his own you have to "lean forward" a bit. If you do, trust me, you'll soon get past the received notion of the "unpretty" voice and discover dozens of amazing voices, not one of which, thankfully, sounds anything like Peter Cetera.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Scratch A Human, Get A Hypocrite

A few years ago, when I was working at a bookstore that also contained a coffeehouse, a younger man (and I'm showing my ageism here: "younger" because he was a couple years younger than I, and not "older guy" because if you're more than five years my senior, you're "old" and I can somewhat excuse such behavior from "older people") came up to me, who had nothing really to do with the coffeehouse, and complained to me, rather vehemently and like I was the root of the problem, that he was served his to go coffee in a paper cup that had another paper cup outside of it (we were out of the those little paper wraps that help you hold the hot cup and not get burned). What a waste, he complained, and went on about how we were destroying the planet because of such waste. He walked away from me when I tried to explain. Walked away and, I swear, got into a large SUV and drove away, leaving me grumbling to myself all the great comebacks about not driving such a fuel-inefficient vehicle and making his own coffee at home and putting it in a travel mug and not wasting the gas to go somewhere simply to buy coffee.

I don't mean to preach here because I'm guilty of so much hypocrisy myself, and besides, I realize my moral standing is pretty low today considering I'm still celebrating a rather inane and vicarious thrill: the Steelers' loss in the Super Bowl yesterday (not the Packers' win; I don't care much about the Packers either way, and I'd be just as happy if any of the other 15 NFC teams had won the Super Bowl, as long as it was at the expense of the Steelers; pretty pathetic, I know, but that's my plight and I'm stuck with it). I guess my only point here is that we're all hypocrites, so we should keep our preaching to all, but especially to strangers, (preach to people you know, they know how to take it from you, and still love you), to a bare minimum.

And so, one of my biggest pet peeves of late. Plastic bags, or, as one customer said to me yesterday when he vociferously and demonstratively (as in throwing it back at me) took issue with me for putting his purchased merchandise in a plastic bag, "the scourge of the Earth" (phew, I thought it was liberals in the classroom). I'm just trying to help you on your way--carrying a bunch of merchandise is a lot easier, usually, when it's all in a bag. Please don't act like I'm clubbing a baby seal in your presence when I am simply putting a few books you've just bought into a bag. And don't make yourself feel all righteous for denying yourself the convenience of a bag. And don't lecture me about how you're saving dear Mother Earth by refusing one plastic bag. At the risk of putting myself out of a job, unless you're buying the books to take home to burn and heat your house, why don't you use the library or get an e-reader? Would the world be a better place if all plastic bags, if all plastic, were eliminated? No doubt, I assume. But the world would be an even better place without a lot of other things, too, like pugnacious, judgmental people, for example.

Here it is, you either want a bag or you don't. You do not have to explain your decision to me. Especially if that decision involves personal politics or your judgment on me, my place of work, or the entire population of scum who are destroying the world. I am not peddling drugs to kids, suggesting euthanizing your grandpappy, or attempting to integrate your world with undesirables (leaving you to define undesirables, naturally), so please don't treat me like I'm abetting the scourging of all things decent by offering to put your precious merchandise in a plastic bag. I don't come into your workplace or life and take inventory of all your environmental trangsgressions and throw them back at you disdainfully, so simply make sure I've given you the correct change, acknowledge, if you feel like it, my wish of a good day to you, and go out and do something constructive to save the world, if that's your pleasure.

Okay, that's off my chest. Thank you for indugling me. Let's get back to the real stuff. I feel your pain, Pittsburgh; it'll get better with time. Trust me.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Personifying Beverages

Yesterday in an ad for some quaint local bistro (and are you with me on this one, that the decline of America started when restaurants started calling themselves everything but restaurants? bistros, grills/grilles and such; if your primary business is serving food, you're either a restaurant or, if you're really cool, a diner; that's it) I heard the phrase, "approachable wines," as in, "we offer a wide array of approachable wines." What the hell's going on in the world? An approachable wine? As opposed to a standoffish one? A peevish one? A reclusive wine? Admittedly, I am no oenologist, but I've been around the vineyard once or twice. I know my altar wine from my wine in a box, my convenient screw cap Wild Irish Rose from the kind you have to go through some pedantic snob with a towel wrapped around his or her limbs to imbibe. Wines are either tasty, not tasty, or pure dynamite--that's about it. Approachable wine. Complete misunderstanding and misuse, bordering on abuse, of the English language. Might as well have neighborly colonoscopies and jovial root canals as well. There are only three things in the world that can be described--when appropriate--as approachable: superstars of entertainment and sports, scruffy street people, and wild game.

But fine, if you insist on marketing wines as approachable, I'll play along and endow some of my favorite beverages with human qualities, too.

  • Ginger Ale, preferably Canada Dry, though Schwepps will do in a pinch: sporting
  • Coffee (any brand, any style, but the earlier the better): seductive
  • Tea: prim
  • Chocolate milkshake: adolescent
  • Guinness: gregarious
  • Budweiser: sociable
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon: workmanlike
  • Cold water: archetypal
  • Orange juice (only Tropicana Premium, not from concentrate, drunk straight from the carton): godlike
  • Chocolate milk: whimsical
  • Wine (any, it's all the same): overrated
Drinking Blues--Lucille Bogan by spitoutyourgumblog

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What The World Needs Now Is Some Mollification

The tendency would be to say that with Mother Nature wreaking all kinds of global havoc these days and the Middle East once again teeming with unrest, everybody just needs to chill out. But we here at spitoutyourgum like to buck the tendency, plus "chill out," for all sorts of reasons, just isn't appropriate. Besides, I have a much better word, one of the all-time best: mollify.

Yes, all kinds of situations all over the world need to be mollified, at once. Mollify: to soften in feeling or temper; pacify; to mitigate or reduce; from the Latin word meaning to make soft. What a fantastic word. Pronounced mol uh fahy, by the way, not mole uh fahy, and that makes all the difference. Forget the Latin (I have, most of my 4+ years of it); to me the word comes from the name Molly--if you have a situation that's gone out of hand, that cries out for softening and pacifying, put a Molly on the case to mollify it, and all your worries go poof!

Nomenclature is destiny. I've known a few people named Molly in my time, some in passing, some much more dearly, and there cannot be a name that signals calm, consideration, level-headedness, and kindness more than the name Molly. You can't help but smile and get a little soothing sugar rush just from saying the name. Molly. To prove my point, try this little experiment. Try to sing the Lizzie Borden song ("Lizzie Borden took an ax, gave her mother forty whacks...") but substituting Molly for Lizzie. See what I mean? Try as you might, you just can't sing anything but "Molly Borden took an ax and cleared a forest and built seven schools without additional tax..." can you?

"Bill, we got a problem. The rank and file are getting most obstreperous." "No problem, Boss. Just bring in Molly to talk to them a little." "Damn, Bill, you're a genius."

The U.N. should appoint a Global Molly to drop in on any and all hotspots around the world. Peace in our time, guaranteed. Hell, gather up the first twelve Mollies you meet, fly them to Cairo and put them on the streets, and within hours, at most, Mubarak resigns and everybody high fives him on his way out of office. Go ahead, try it.

Mollify. The pacifying, the soothing, the tempering doesn't work with any other name. It has to be Molly. Chantelle? Agnes? Ralph? Lou? Not quite. If you got your wires crossed and instead of Mollifying a situation you Danified it, believe me, you'd get people talking in parenthetical asides and re-irritating people, rather than de-irritating them.

Not to mention the word mollycoddle, which means to pamper. It might have negative connotations, but really, could a word meaning pamper and using a name be anything but mollycoddle? Hankcoddle? Rushcoddle? Barbracoddle? Gertrudecoddle? No. I love that when I looked up the word mollycoddle, for its origin (around 1825 or so) all it said was--Molly + coddle. My point exactly.

Mollify, perhaps the most perfect word in any dictionary.

Oh, and to you contrarians out there: The Molly Maguires were a secret society, I'm sure using the name Molly ironically, so as not to draw attention. And Molly Hatchet? Please. If there's a more inconsequential rock band ever, it goes by the name of .38 Special (mollify yourselves, Southern rockers, I'm just trying to make a point here).

Handsome Molly--Doc Watson by spitoutyourgumblog