Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

31 May, 2004

Palmer and His Money Are Soon Parted

I have to make a confession: I spent a lot of money today. And I feel a bit guilty about it.

At least a chunk of it went for groceries. The majority of it, though, was spent at a bookstore. Walking in, I intended only to get a copy of Bill Malone's Don't Get Above Your Raising: Country Music and the Southern Working Class but I walked out $275 poorer. My first mistake was to walk into the CD/DVD section. Surveying the area, I immediately got a bug up my ass to bolster my meager classical music collection. While I love classical music, I don't have an in-depth knowledge of it nor as broad a taste as I would like. I did know that my Shostakovich CD had a scratch and the knowledge that I had only 1 piece by Beethoven in my collection would have driven Karlos Moser, my music appreciation professor in college, into fits of hysteria. So I bought a few CDs.

Being rather uncultured and, as I said, quite ignorant about classical music, I enlisted the aid of The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection: The 350 Essential Works. Theoretically, I could get the "better" recordings - whatever that means. Something about fidelity and performance and interpretation. With the tome firmly in hand, I made my way to the racks.

I have to admit that I prefer newer stuff. By this, I don't mean that I'm a big John Adams fan, though Fearful Symmetries is good, but classical music really got interesting, for me at any rate, around 150 years ago. The first thing I grabbed was a 3-disc set of Stravinsky featuring a complete performance of The Firebird along with The Rite of Spring and Persephone. Le Sacre du printemps is not only of historical significance, ushering in modern Western art music, but it's also a fucking great piece of music. Whenever those guys starting bashing the tympanis in the "Mystic Circles of the Young Girls" section, it sends chills up & down my spine. I think I have a soft spot for Stravinsky because he died in 1971, a year before my birth. I think that many people have this weird conception about classical composers - like all of them lived contemporaneously with Beethoven and that it was all written at least 150 years ago. So I think that, when I was a child and heard Stravinsky's name for the first time, I just assumed that he and Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and the gang all hung out in taverns together or something. Finding out that he died just a year before I was born somehow endeared him to me. It's like my mind made him an honorary Generation Xer or something. Still, another great, Aaron Copeland, died within the past 10 years yet, despite enjoying his music, he doesn't match-up to Igor for some reason in my head.

Next I found that they had a recommended recording of another favorite of mine, Carmina Burana. (Orff died in 1982, by the way.) It's epic and has like a chorus of like a million people and it's sung in Latin! I don't care what anyone thinks - the opening "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi" bit rocks as hard as anything Metallica has ever done. In an odd way, it reminds me of "Creeping Death".

As I said above, my Shostakovich CD somehow got scratched and this has rendered his 5th Symphony unlistenable which is a travesty. So I picked up a nice recording of it along with Dmitri's 9th. I love the 5th! It's so melodic and tuneful. Several years ago, I read a book by a guy whose goal was to get people who like rock music into classical. So he took a rock standard and gave a classic equivalent. Well, sort of. I can't recall anything specific but it would go something like this: "When you think of sappy rock ballads, you think of 'Yesterday' by The Beatles. The equivalent in the realm of classical music is..." It was really a bad book but I'm gonna take a page out of it here. Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" is, to my mind, one of the most blatantly catchy pop songs ever and Shostakovich's 5th is a bit like he wrote several Let My Love Open the Door's and squished them together to form a symphony. I'll quit before the analogy gets any thinner.

Completing my trifecta of Russian composers, I acquired Leonard Bernstein conducting Pictures at an Exhibition and Night On Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky. I'd first encountered Pictures via Emerson, Lake, and Palmer who transferred the piece to the rock domain and added words. (I should note here that I got a performance of Ravel's orchestral adaptation - the original was for piano.) I dunno - I just love these pieces. A certain sense of...majestic darkness. Come on! They're Russian so what can you expect. I have no idea why I find Russian composers so appealing. Maybe I have a bit of that darkness inside of me.

Before heading to the checkout counter, I needed Beethoven. Why? It's Beethoven. I began to wonder if it was my copy of the glorious 9th that was scratched instead of Dmitri's 5th. Or was it both? I threw caution to the wind and figured I'd just get both. But which version of the 9th? They had a Deutsche Grammophone version which initially caught my eye. If you're going to listen to a piece of German musik, who better than to perform than Germans? Then I found a recording of the 9th done with period instruments.

There is a camp of classical music cognoscenti who believe that the listener can really connect with composers and get as close as possible to feeling what they felt when composing by listening to pieces performed with original scores and period instruments. While I don't think a listener can ever feel exactly what a composer felt by listening to a piece of music, I am sympathetic to their cause. If there ever was any pure or raw emotion that Beethoven wanted to impart to his listeners, we'll never feel it as intended. Ludwig van is long dead and instruments have changed. But I suppose certain measures can be taken to approximate Beethoven's wishes.

Finding a blurb about the recording in the book, I read about the conductor's hardon for period instrumentation. Then I thought, why pussyfoot? So I bought all of Beethoven's symphonies recorded by this guy. I mean, it is Beethoven. Some of the finest music ever created by a human being. Having only 1 of his symphonies is like having a dictionary which only covers a few letters of the alphabet.

And so my music collection grew today. Still lots of classical to be added in addition to the jazz, folk, rock, world, etc. Oh, and I got some books too. After having read a couple of Julie's entries, I spent a lot of time poking around the aisle with all the books on Christianity...
|| Palmer, 9:40 AM || link || (0) comments |

30 May, 2004

Ark 2

I swear to Christ, if it keeps raining, I’m going to have to turn the pontoon boat into an ark. But I’ll be taking with me only human animals of the female species. Two of each flavor: black, white, Indian, Native American, Pacific Rim, Oriental, Hispanic. And once the rains have cleansed Southern Wisconsin of sinners, the ladies and I can procreate away.

Pete, Stevie, and I went out on Friday afternoon. The sun was shining, the temperature was moderate, and we had 2 coolers of refreshment. After cruising around Lake Mendota for a while, we headed back to Skipper Bud’s to pick up Stevie’s brother, sister-in-law, niece, and a friend of hers. This took a while as Becky (sister-in-law) had given her full attention to the sales guy there and was attempting to figure out how best to spend $20,000. When everyone was aboard we took off for Bourbon Street, a bar on the Yahara River where we would meet Andy, Amy, and Becca. We headed for the locks where Stevie and I had to convince the pulchritudinous maiden there that we had a pass but that it was with our companion whom we were going to get. She apparently didn’t give a rat’s ass and let us through. Pete took over sailing duties and got us across Lake Monona and over to Bourbon Street. There, Stevie’s family bailed for dinner while we took on 3 new passengers and proceeded to Lake Waubesa where Christy’s Landing lay. We hooked up to the dock and cozied up to the outdoor bar where Tanqueray & tonics were waiting for us. It was somewhere around this time that I began to speak only in pirate. I answered every question with an “Arr!”

”Tim – you need a beer?”


I just gotta get me a peg leg, eye patch, and a parrot.

By this time, it was dark out and we were pleasantly surprised that the running lights worked. Back to Bourbon Street where Andy, Amy, and Becca disembarked and we took on Pete’s sister, Claire, and her girlfriend, Tiffany. They came bearing gifts: Taco Hell for us drunk and hungry sailors. Despite cavitation problems, we made our way back to Mendota and snuck through the locks just before they were to close. Although it began to get chilly and windy, we took our time getting back to the slip. We got back onto land around midnight and headed home. On our way there, Stevie developed a case of the munchies so we stopped at Wendy’s. As we waited, I remarked that we weren’t asked if we wanted our orders to be Super-Sized. Stevie replied, “They made Super-Sizing illegal.” Pete then said, “If they make Super-Sizing illegal….”
Pause. 5 seconds of pause.

”Then only outlaws will have Super-Sizes.”

I laughed so fucking hard. OK, ya had to be there.

Some of you have left notes inquiring as to where the hell I am – thank you. I’ve been around reading your diaries. I think I’ve left the occasional comment as well. While I have a lot to write about, the words just never seem to flow. I’m a bit afraid to write much lest any of it become gospel. Virtually everything I think about has a penumbra of ambivalence cast upon it and no matter how much I cogitate, no definitive answers emerge. It’s getting to that time when I’ll just have to say “Fuck it!” and throw caution to the wind. The committees in my head have examined the problems yet come up with no definitive conclusions. So I’ll just have to flip a coin.

My business had picked up quite a bit, especially via word of mouth. I made nearly $300 one day last week. In addition, I received a rather handsome check yesterday. While it came to me only because of my father’s death, I am thankful for it. My credit card and car loan are going to be paid off on Tuesday and I will be almost debt-free. And I suppose being in a better financial position, I’ll feel more comfortable hitting on the frauleins. Not that I accuse all wimmin of being gold-diggers or any such thing but a man in a bar with a large wad of cash gets more attention that a guy with only a few bills. Just a piece of ass is all I require. The past couple Mondays I’ve hit on a couple baristas at CZ: Jolene and one whose name I don’t know. I stop in there infrequently but have had cause to go downtown a lot lately so I have been stopping in for refills. It’s not easy to chat with 2 hotties at the same time. The Unknown Barista is very extroverted and will start chattin’ me up. Jolene, on the other hand, lays low but she plays with her hair the whole time and it drives me crazy. She’ll twirl her locks around one of her forefingers while I’m standing there trying to come up with twice the normal quota of witticisms as my mind’s eye pictures me bending her over the counter and rogering her from behind. I just know that one of these times I’m going to let loose a Freudian slip of biblical proportions which will get me permanently banned from CZ.
My 2 favorite baristas are not faring so well. JimmyD is coping but The Caffeinatrix is beginning to crack. She owns the joint, after all, so she shoulders an even greater burden than Downtown. A couple weeks ago when I was there, I asked her how her day off went and she replied that she spent it alternately sleeping and crying. I felt incredibly bad for her. It was just a horrible week for her – I lent her my ear for many hours. Yesterday she informed me that she and Henry are the last couple in her circle of friends that is not pregnant or doesn’t have children so she made me take a blood oath that I would remain childless with them.

I suppose that, despite all of the stress and sadness, I’m just extremely grateful that I have them as friends. The past year has had more downs than ups for me but acquiring JimmyD and The Caffeinatrix as friends is certainly one of the highest highs.
Well, I have to get ready to head over to Dogger’s to game. Miss Regan is getting big. And she’s learning to crawl. Last weekend she hung out with us. Pete put on down on the table on her belly and her little legs started kickin’ but her arms just aren’t strong enough yet so she started going in circles. She’s funny.
|| Palmer, 9:40 AM || link || (0) comments |

19 May, 2004

Fungicidal Tendencies

It was a nice day out but has since become gray and cloudy. Ah well, I enjoy the cool air.

I went over to Anders' place last night to reinstall Windows. I got there at 8:30 and left at 3:30 this morning. I hate computers - they are all forged by Lucifer himself! But it's done. And he gave me all the food and beer I could stomach. I think he gets a thrill out of grilling dead animal flesh as his wife is a vegetarian. So we had brats and pork chops. He too understands just what a perfect food pork is. In typical male fashion, we sat around with our bellies full extolling the virtues of the pig and all the delicious bits of it. And I finally got to meet his wife, Wendy. She was a purdy as The Caffeintrix had said and was really friendly. And while waiting for the install, I spent time with Archie and Maggie, their hounds. Archie is still a pup so he's jumping and crawling all over people still. I wanna get me a hound...

Since I was out late, I didn't arise til 9:30 or so and my perception of the day has been off ever since. I mailed a couple things and returned The Bell to the library. I feel bad about the latter as, while I enjoyed what I had read, my mind is too cloudy right now to actually concentrate on it. But I will go back to it in the future. I have actually fairly productive today. My computer is nearing normality, I've caught up on email - for the most part - and I've read some faves here. In a couple hours, I'm off to the home of one Lisette Kielson to fix her 'puter. I've worked on it before but it's been over a year since my last visit. She teaches music - woodwinds - and plays in an ensemble here that performs medieval and Renaissance music. She also knows Anders and is friends with The Caffeinatrix's father-in-law. A small world.

Weekend. I've gotta figure out what the hell I'm doing this weekend. I've gotten a few offers for fun but wanna try to visit friends whom I haven't seen in a while. Miss Regan's baptism is Sunday so I'm going to video tape it and hang out at Dogger and Mel's afterwards. Opus will be there so we will, no doubt, be eating really fucking spicy foods since he and I can't get enough of it. Saturday I think I'm going to chill with The Pollack on his boat. Weather permitting, of course. He's got a virgin bottle of Basil Hayden and he wants to do a PollackFest. I am waiting to hear back from him.

Tonight I'm going to see Southern Culture on the Skids at the new High Noon Saloon. I am hoping they'll play "8 Piece Box" so they throw fried chicken into the audience. But I'm having reservations. Pete bought the tickets but I'm just not in the mood to hang out with him. I sometimes find myself getting really pissed off at him - just out of the blue. He's really been getting on my nerves. Eating my food, smoking my smokey treats, using my soap...little things, I know, but they're part of this larger attitude. I shelled out $1100 to cover a debt of his which would have landed me in the shitter yet he constantly uses my stuff and asks to be repaid for everything. So if, for example, he orders a sandwich for me, then he wants me to buy him dinner the next night. I just wanna tell him, "Take it off what you owe me." It's not that we can't be social - we went to Claire's party Saturday - but I am just not in the mood. Maybe that will change, though.

In other news, that goop is working on the fungus between my toes. It's quite noticeably better.
|| Palmer, 9:27 AM || link || (0) comments |

17 May, 2004

The Company I Keep

Well, I got an update from Kias and it's a doozy:

"On May Day the Zupans played in the UW Atheletic Department trivia contest and won! As with all things there is a but...

They just so happened to have an open bar. Of which I began to drink myself into a full blown "May Day Gin Drunk". From what I've been told I was cursing like Chris Rock and offending numerous luminaries within ear shot. I also goosed this gal with a firm Finnish spring time love grip. News to me, although I'm not surprised. It just wasn't my crowd and I didn't see anyone giving May Day it's proper recognition.

I ended-up leaving the contest about half way and going down to Miffland. I got there just in time to have the cops attempting to clear the street and was given a citation for obstructing traffic ($71.00). So when you read the statistics, I'm one of them.

You are the company you keep?
|| Palmer, 9:27 AM || link || (0) comments |

It is telling that I don't post as frequently as I used to but I'm not quite sure what it says.

I spent much of yesterday over at Dogger's playing D&D. Our party made it to Everlund and we kinda went our separate ways. My character, Severus, spent time at a temple to his god reading and learning. Then he got a bug up his ass to learn potion brewing which led to yesterday's little adventure. A magic pestle went missing and some sleuthing ensued. It was a good time and I was all proud of myself for having killed an air elemental hoolie.

Saturday night was spent in DeForest at Claire's birthday party. Claire is Pete's sister and, just to make things interesting, she is a lesbian. For whatever reason, Pete takes offense to this but, to me, Claire is a hoot. I've gotten along with her since we first met some 13 or 14 years ago. It's not that Pete doesn't love his sister or that he hates gay people or anything like that, he's just not totally comfortable around them. His parents are way better about this issue than he. Sure, they had proabably hoped that Claire would be straight and marry a nice guy and have kids'n'all, but they accept her and get along with her girlfriends exceptionally well. Claire's latest squeeze, Tiffany, is really cool. The two of them are a lot alike. They both like to indulge is some brewskis, have a good sense of humor, and don't take shit from Pete. Pete's buddy, Lee, was there as well with his wife and son, Joseph.

The party was at a bowling alley so we rolled a couple lines. Of course I kicked Pete's ass as he's a horrendous kegeler. Joseph is only 6 so he's got much to learn about the art of bowling but he gives it the old college try and it's great to see the big smile appear on his face when he knocks down some pins.

Everyone gave me shit about my new shoes but I personally thought that I was highly fashionable. At least my feet were. When I asked for a pair of bowling shoes, I was surprised to find that they were florescent pink and yellow - even more gaudy than my Chuck Taylors. One of the highlights of the night was when Lee forced Pete to sing karoke - Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue". While it was amusing, I've heard Pete to it better. He was clearly not drunk enough. Another highlight was when he gave an account of how he got laid at work. He came home a few days ago with this big shit-eating grin on his face. "You'll never guess what happened to me at work."

"You listened to progressive rock?"


"A UFO landed?"

"Nope. Even stranger."

"I give up - what?"

"I got laid at work!"

Truth is stranger than fiction. He was just standing on a ladder when someone starts unzipping his pants. It turned out to be one of the bartenders at the site he's working at. Why can't I get a job like that?

Claire works at WPS and I had me a job interview there on Friday. It went OK, I guess. I'm a horrible judge of such things so I won't make any predictions. But I dropped a couple names and hopefully that HR recruiter will call them. Miss Rosie was one and she's been there 20+ years. Speaking of Miss Rosie, I went out to her house for Thirsty Thursday. Gina was there as well. We ate some fried chicken coated in a batter mix that I had brought back with me from Louisiana. Quite tasty, I assure you. And we drank. While my newest nickname, Stiffy, was bestowed upon me almost in error, I did my best to earn it that night. Ten High & sours had some kick to them and they flowed generously.

Honestly, I had a good time but I also felt sorry for Miss Rosie. When she gets lubed up, she tends to say and do certain things which reveal the pain inside. Talk about her weight, her fake breast, and about how she can't find a man because of these things. Put some bourbon into her and the tough-as-nails fascade crumbles to reveal scars on the inside to go along with those on the outside. She has a mental block which makes it extremely difficult for her to be intimate with a man - her breast. Starting right after she overcame the cancer, sex with her husband was done only in the dark - she can't stand to be seen naked by anyone. There's this feeling inside her that she is deformed. Her last husband sure exacerbated things with his bullshit. He felt that way and told her on more than one occasion. Rosie should have dumped his ass a fuck of a lot sooner than she did.

Along these same lines, she told me that The Pollack's last wife, Christina, is in some deep fecal matter: a couple counts of child abuse. That woman needs some serious help. But the worst thing was that she used to push Jason, The Pollack's son from his first marriage, around and, in some minor ways, be abusive towards him. That really pissed me off. Sure, I feel horrible for the kids that she's hurt most recently but I know Jason. When Rosie told me this, I was merely incredulous on the outside but seething with anger on the inside. And then Rosie says that Christina had asked The Pollack to appear as a character witness at her trial! "The nerve," I thought. But what does he do? He tells her that he'll think about doing something in writing. He can't be fucking serious. There's gotta be something else, he must have some ulterior motive because there's just no way that he'd actually do anything for her out of the goodness of his heart. Not after the cheating, the divorce, and the shit she did to Jason. I don't want to be forced to pull an intervention on his ass. No fucking way is he going to do anyting for that bitch after all the crap that's happened the past 3 years. He absolutely cannot have anything to do with her. Whenever he has contact with that woman, he gets all pissed off and it trickles down to the rest of us, including Jason. Not that The Pollack hits Jason or anything, he just puts his ass to work when he visits on weekends. He rarely lets the kid just be a kid. Sure, Jason is 16 but he's got a fucked up situation in Milwaukee and then he goes to Edgerton on weekends to work. Let him relax, let him go out and have fun. He's not a fucking indentured servant.
What's going on this week? Anders and Lisette needs computers fixed. Anders is a jazz musician whilte Lisette plays woodwind in an ensemble that performs medieval and Renaissance music. I am the fucking tech support guy to the Madison music community. Doing jobs for these folk is fun as I get to hear and learn about music. Speaking of music, it's all I can think about. Yeah, that's usually the case but I've got a few articles in mind that I want to write about music and musicians. My Tull essay begs to be completed but my mind just isn't in the right frame. If I can get my editor to agree, I want to interview Bill Malone. He is a professor of Southern culture and the author of the definitive history of country music, Country Music USA. And he hosts the Wednesday morning country show on Madison's WORT. Also, I discovered a group called the Steam Engine Preservation Society which is dedicated to preserving America's folk/bluegrass heritage and music. They just raised nearly $15,000 to buy Tut Taylor's collection of recordings. The music will be archived and then released free to the public via the Net.

Such essays deal with two topics dear to my heart: sweet music and an exploration of how people communicate with each other, how they bond with each other via tradition. There's a book in there somewhere. Something about the music industry, Napster, and how the Internet has changed the relationship between fans & musicians.

I had this weird dream last night. While I can't remember much of it, I do recall that it involved me being at a joint in Cambridge, where I have a few friends. An ex-girlfriend of mine, The Tetragrammaton, was there carousing with people and this made me jealous, like she had the audacity to tread on my turf. In another scene, I am in a room where a Filipino boy is sitting in a small bathtub kind of thing. He is naked and then he starts masturbating while I just stand there in a daze. He ejaculates at some point and then leaves the room. The last thing I can remember before waking up was looking in the tub and seeing this huge cloud of semen at the bottom. All I could think was how much more it was than I could ever produce in one sitting. Now, what the hell was that about? I await all the comments about sexual inadequacy...

I woke up knowing that it was early. Why the hell was I getting up a half hour earlier than I normally do? It's a pretty lousy day outside - cloudy and grey - and it's supposed to rain. All I've been thinking about this morning is the fact that I don't have a girlfriend and about children. I got to play with Miss Regan yesterday - maybe that's what made this mess in my cranium. She is getting big and is learning to crawl slowly but surely. Soon she'll be off to college and won't want anything to do with her honorary uncle.

I had the chance to "read" the new Playboy yesterday. Some chickie named Charisma something-or-other from a TV show with "angel" in the title is on the cover. She was pretty cute. There was also an essay by Gore Vidal on church/state separation which piqued my interest as I had seen an interview with Susan Jacoby, the author of a book tracing the history of American secularism on Friday night and watched the Frontline episode about Dubya's born-again experience and how his religious beliefs influence his policy. I find that I'm becoming less and less tolerant of the religious right's intolerance. It's getting to the point where I'm becoming fearful. Fearful of the Supreme Court becoming filled with a bunch of Antonin Scalia clones and an executive branch teeming with warmongers convinced that they're doing God's work and this has all-too often historically meant killing those who don't share those same beliefs. The atmosphere here in this country just seems to be slowly getting worse for non-Xtians. Bush once stated in a speech for his faith-based initiatives that the government cannot legislate morality. That it's up to the people themselves to live the right way and to do the right things. Then he turns around and does what he can to appease the religious right who want to do exactly what he said could not be done. I've been thinking about charities to which I will give money when I get my inheritence and I've that the Freedom From religion Foundation is definitely getting a new member.

Another bit in that Playboy was enlightening - I found out that I have a fetish. There was an article which featured two pictures of a blonde woman naked - from the front and back. There were lines pointing to various parts of her anatomy with little blurbs about the fetishes for the anatomical delights. In the vulva section, I was told that there are some men out there who like women to actually have pubic hair and apparently this is now considered a fetish. Since I am among them, I, therefore, am a fetishist or whatever we're called. I never knew.

Something must be wrong with me and my brain
if I'm so patently unrewarding.
But my dreams are for dreaming and best left that way
and my zero to your power of ten equals nothing at all.

There's no double-lock defense; there's no chain on my door.
I'm available for consultation,
But remember your way in is also my way out
and love's four-letter word is no compensation
|| Palmer, 9:25 AM || link || (0) comments |

11 May, 2004

Beat the Retreat

I've been meaning to write more but the words just don't seem to flow. I have, however, tried to catch up on notes.

I've got a CD from one of my readers playing right now. I am really beginning to get into Mazzy Star. And Hole's version of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" is good too. And I'm downloading more music right now. Some Genesis from '75, Bob Marley '78 from Madison, Metallica's Madison show from a week ago...Christ! Anyone want more music? I've got so fucking much that I can't listen to it all so I must share it.

I spent this weekend in Chicago. I got to meet an ODer - Vitafelice! We met at a tavern on Saturday night. An absolutely wonderful woman! For some reason, I thought she would be blonde but, instead she was endowed with long, black hair. I made the mistake of telling her about my misconception and I think she's gonna hold it against me the rest of my life. We had a couple brews and then found a Thai place for some dinner. Pad Thai is so tasty! (A little dirt on VF - she can really put down the curry.) From there, we went to her apartment briefly so she could put leftovers away and call her new beau. I was endeared to her upon seeing the box of chocolates on her nightstand. From there, it was off to another bar in the West Loop area where Oprah lives called Blyss. Her newest man-interest was to meet us there. When he did show up, I found him to be a really nice, funny guy. VF was totally smitten. The only thing curious about this fellow was how he was constantly looking around the bar. I got the impression that he was a bit nervous - as if he was afraid that he'd be seen by someone whose gaze he wanted to avoid. I don't know - maybe it was just his way of dealing with being on a date, of sorts. Or perhaps it was merely the Red Bull that he was drinking. When VF would go powder her nose, he'd try to glean some dirt on her from me. But I was pretty tight-lipped. However, I did give him some pointers: basically, she's a beautiful person, loves chocolate, and you're in so be good to her and don't blow it. For the cab ride home, I took the front seat so the 2 lovebirds could have some privacy. VF's entries don't do justice to the transformation she underwent from smart, confident woman to mushy little schoolgirl. I hope that things work out well for them.

She let me crash on her floor that night. I could be the only ODer to have seen VF in her pajamas. Got up at some point and we watched Beverly Hills 90125 for a while as we chatted. I called my brother but never got an answer. Around 11:30 I took off thinking that he'd be up. But I was wrong. I rang the buzzer but never got an answer. Luckily, a neighbor was coming home and I got in. I festered for a while before waking his ass up and showering. From there, it was off to my grandmother's place where we'd meet up with my mom, aunt, and cousin. We had lunch and talked afterwards, catching up on each other's lives. My grandmother recently had a new battery put in her pacemaker but she was as lively as ever. For an 89 year-old woman, she hasn't slowed down much. Her mind is perfectly fine, she gets around without any problems, and she looks like she's in her mid 70s. I swear. Of course, she complains about photographs showing her wrinkles but, fuck, she looks great. She's old. That happens to all of us human beings. But she has some miracle genes that retard the signs of aging and I am hoping that I have inherited them. If not, my mother is going to get a piece of my mind.

Not 2 minutes after walking in the door, my aunt approaches me with a problem she's having with her computer. Turned out to be a minor glitch with the BIOS. Usually she'll bait me with chocolate but she was unable to find the bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that she had procured for this. I'm such a fucking pushover. I'm like an alcoholic but for chocolate. I'll do anything for it. I feel like such a whore. People wave the stuff around like Scooby snacks because they know I'll instantly agree to do anything they want for a taste of that luscious brown goodness. Luckily there was chocolate cake for dessert.

After lunch, my cousin told me that she was being laid off by the state. She works at a juvy detention center west of Chicago. She also informed me that my bi-color Chuck Taylors had the same colors as those used by the Disciples. (They're a gang.) I think I knew a Disciple when I lived there. Definitely a Gaylord or 2. No Latin Kings, though. So I thought that I could perhaps be the Disciples' tech support specialist. Keep those databases of crack deals and killings running smoothly.

Afterwards, I went back to my brother's place and hung out for a while and, besides, my backpack was still there. His roommate Andy was back and their friend Jim stopped by. We watched the end of the Cubs game and shot the shit. Before I left, I snagged the DVD of The Horror Express. It's a classic Hammer film starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Telly Savalas. Lee is an archeologist who finds a 2 million year-old human ancestor and is shipping it back to England on the Trans-Siberian Express. Unbeknownst to him, it is home to an alien life force which goes around killing everyone. Evnetually, it inhabits one of the bodies of another passenger and they're trying to figure out whose. A police chief asks Cushing how should he know if it's not in him or Lee to which Cushing replies, "A creature in us? We're English." Fucking classic!

I spent yesterday morning at Toad Hill with The Caffeinatrix. I should probably stop spending so much time there because she never gets any work done - just crossword puzzles. I've gotten on good terms with most of the morning regulars and have begun bestowing nicknames on them. I found out that Decaf Guy is an artist and his real name is Mike. From him effeminate mannerisms, it has always been apparent to me that he's gay but The Caffeinatrix revealed that he finds me "charming" and is really attracted to her beau, Henry. Why couldn't the hottie from Coney Island Studios and whom I hitted on find me charming? Still, Decaf Guy is nice and funny too.

I can't remember what else I did yesterday. Read a bit, ran errands and lined up a 'puter fix-it job. Oh! I went down to Mad City Music as I needed to buy a blank tape so I could make a mix for my car. How I deluded myself that I could only spend $2 in a music store is beyond me. So I ended up buying a couple new discs - Tull's Minstrel in the Gallery remastered and an album by a local band called His & Her Vanities. Gotta support your local music shops and bands, ya know. I also chatted with Dave, the owner. He's a cool guy as well as a big Hawkwind and King Crimson fan. And he's the guitarist in a local band called The Waterdogs. They play 50s/60s rock'n'roll, surf music, and the like. Dave agreed to let me bring in my old tapes of bootlegs to give away as I just can't bring myself to throw them away. He also agreed to let me burn some shows for him. In exchange, I expect him to give me first dibs on a few discs should he come across them, especially The Bear's first album.

On my way home, I stopped in at CZ as it was on my way. Miss Jolene was there and I chatted with her a bit. There was also a new hottie behind the counter. When Jolene was busy whipping up my mocha, she'd come up and talk to me. Then Jolene was come back and hog my attention. I didn't know which one to talk with. I know they weren't vying for my attention but I can delude myself if I want to.

I am such a lazyass. I want to finish the rough draft of my Jethro Tull essay and start on another one about how the band Marillion have benefitted from the Internet and how they take a direct approach with their fans. Yeah, it's all stupid, inane stuff but I can ramble on about such things for hours or pages. Especially if it's related to music. For now, I'm going to shower and go pick up my new and improved business cards.
|| Palmer, 9:25 AM || link || (0) comments |

07 May, 2004

The Sight Of No One Writing

It's Friday night and I'll be heading over to Dogger's in a little while to play some D&D. Last night a bit before 7, I got a call from Missy. She was in town from Milwaukee for the night and, since she had been unable to get a hold of her boyfriend, wanted to have some beers together until she could get a hold of him. So we met down at the Caribou.

We drank some tasty Wisconsin Amber and chewed the fat. She's moving this weekend into a house with a friend of hers, Laura. I've met Laura on a few occasions and she's a blast to party with so my visits shall, no doubt, be a hoot. In addition to the move, we also talked about her classes. Melissa's semester is coming to a close slowly but surely. Soon a Master's in child counseling will be hers and a new gig at a school should start in the fall. So, in theory, at least, a major career change is coming her way soon. she really seemed to enjoy the beer quite a bit as school has been stressing her out. We also got onto the subject of a friend of hers, Paul, with I worked for a while. Paul lives in Florida and is gay. His partner died a little over a year ago and he is not doing very well. Not that I expected him to be happy or any such thing but, as Melissa told me, he's not particularly gregarious so he's spending a lot of time alone, a lot of time wallowing in pity. Her descriptions really hit home as it sounded like Paul was doing and feeling the exact same way as my father did after Joni died. While I was never friends with Paul, I did feel for him. Missy then brought up the fact that I had run into her ex-boyfriend, Paul, while I was in Milwaukee. Apparently they keep in touch. She lamented that all of her friends loved Paul and remain in contact with him. In fact, oen of them recently had passed on a chance to help her move as he'd made plans with Paul.

Around 8:30, Melissa's new beau, Nick, called. She needed to pick up some beer before heading over and 9 was the deadline. So we finished up our taps and went to the Cork'n'Bottle which was just down the street. Nick lived nearby so it only took us a minute to get to his place.

I had met him about 3 weeks ago briefly and he seemed to be a nice guy. This time was no different. His two daughters were there and I got to meet them before they had to go to bed. And so the three of us sat out on the front steps enjoying the nice night and barley pop. It was a great time as we talked about whatever it was that came to mind. Melissa threatened to set me up with another one of her friends and Nick and I traded thoughts on buying a house. I took off after only 3 beers so the two of them could have some time alone.

I spent my requisite time this morning at Toad Hill supping coffee and doing crossword puzzles. I watched 21 Grams. It was good. Naomi Watts is a little hottie! Aside from any cheap thrills I got from seeing her breasts, the film made me really pensive. I didn't really feel overly sad or depressed but rather it just made me think of my relationships with my friends and family. I really don't have time to go into detail right now but I will say that I found it to be a very moving story with great performances all-around.

Alright, I've gotta bust outta Dodge. I really do have much to say but, besides little time, I'm not really sure how to say what needs to be said...
|| Palmer, 9:24 AM || link || (0) comments |

05 May, 2004

Feeding My Addiction

This week has been fairly productive. At least on the crossword front. I did 3 puzzles yesterday and a couple more today. That New York Times crossword isn't so hard.

On Monday I went crazy and blew a lot of money shopping. Some of the items were necessary while others were highly unnecessary but most welcome. The first canoe trip of the year is on Memorial Day weekend and my backpack had become unusable. So I got a new one that is quite a big larger than the old. More pockets and a nice aluminum frame for extra support. To go along with it, I bought a ton of miscellaneous gear such as a metal plate & bowl, skeeter repellent, biodegradable soap, waterproof matches, a first aid kit, a small dry bag - just the usual stuff for camping. Next up I'll buy a sleeping bag and a one-person tent. I like being able to have most, if not all, of my gear on my back. That leaves my hands free to carry the cooler, you see.

After outfitting myself, I went and bought a new pair of tennis shoes - Chuck Taylor classics. They're red with black trim. But they cost nearly $40! Damn inflation! The clerk was a woman in her early 20s and very cute. She wore this very tight sky blue shirt and was constantly pulling it down. She seemed a bit embarrassed. If you know you're going to spend half your time adjusting it, why wear it? I don't pretend to understand such things. What else did I buy? Oh, I got a new briefcase-like hoolie. Ya know, it's plastic and has a shoulder strap - not boxy like a traditional briefcase. A new-fangled casual thingy. It's nice as it has plenty of space for carrying stuff I use when fixing computers as well as space for my role-playing books. And, if I ever get a laptop, it will fit nicely. I also bought a new coffeemug as my old one had 2 problems: 1) the lid did not have a hoolie to slide over the drink hole so, if it tilted or received a blow, my java would spray everywhere and 2) the foam insulation had melted into a small puddle at the bottom so it didn't keep my precious coffee hot for shite. I had to search high and low for it. Someone recommended WalMart but I refuse to shop there so I was prepared to buy one online. Fortunately, ShopKo had the type I was seeking: stainless steel, handle, and closable lid. It will occasionally be strapped to my backpack and must be durable enough so survive being thrown around a canoe, campsites, and potentially against being thrust against rocks should be douche the canoe.

On the necessary end of the spectrum, I bought some anti-fungal goop. I feel so impure, so dirty. I've got fungus seeminly all over my body - between my toes and between my legs. I've got a spray bottle for the gook between my toes and another one for the stuff on my crotch. Walking into Walgreens, I hoped that I could find the jock-itch salve or whatever form it come in on my own. Who wants to approach a woman and ask where they stock it? "Excuse me, ma'am, but I've got this fungus growing on my nutsack. Where is your jock-itch medication?" Wandering around a bit and looking at the signs above the aisles, I found nothing denoting what I sought. Back and forth I walked, carefully eyeing the shelves and passing by clerks who could, in a matter of seconds, direct me to where I needed to go. But no, I had to find it on my own. I don't want my neighbors to know that I'm infected with tinea cruris. I had already traipsed through the Walgreens Hall of Shame when I had pubic lice and needed to get some of that special shampoo that comes with that super-fine comb so I could brush my pubic hair which was laced with the eggs of those pesky lice. From my experience, the space between the hoolies on the comb were about a picometer - I think they're trick combs meant to actually pull the hair out.

Moving away from my hygienic problems, I bought me a book today - The Rough Guide to Classical Music. On Sunday, I heard a bit of a really cool radio program on the university's station. I think it was called "Bach'n'Rock" or some such thing. Goofy name aside, the music was awesome. Tuning in, I found myself in the middle of "O Fortuna" from Orff's Carmina Burana - a killer piece. Then came a death metal song that I didn't know but which was good. This was followed by a brass version of Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor. Really good stuff. And so I'm in a classical music mood. This is unfortunate because I've got this teetering stack of CDs on my desk and there's nary a classical note to be found. In addition to the albums I have to review, a most generous OD reader sent me 9 or 10 discs. Add in all the music I've been downloading and I've got literally days of tunes for my ears. Today I listened to bits of a few of the discs my reader sent me. I wasn't familiar with most of the music but liked the majority of it. More listening is required, obviously, but I will say that I've fallen in love with Hope Sandoval's voice. Just beautiful!

Tomorrow, a professor from the university here will be giving a reading from his new book about American soul music and I plan on going.

Do I watch 21 Grams or read...?
|| Palmer, 9:23 AM || link || (0) comments |

04 May, 2004

A Weekend With Family

I am beginning to regret having had that bowl of split pea soup...

A fair amount has happened since I last wrote. Friday I did a whole lotta nuthin'. I can't even recall what I did so it musn't have been memorable. Early on Saturday morning, I hit the road for Eau Claire. It felt a bit odd as it was the first time I'd ever driven up there without the intention of seeing my father. while they were always pensive times (indeed, you can go back in my archives here and read some entries conceived on such journeys) and this one was no different but it was not laced with the normal apprehension I'd become used to over the past 13 out of 14 years. I wasn't going to have to deal with an alcoholic nor a man sunken into perdition. Relationships with one's parents are similar to quantum physics in that they both have that spooky action at a distance. In the world of quantum mechanics, it involves being able to change the state of a particular particle which would, in turn, produce a change in the state of another particle vast distances away which is entagled with the first. On the human scale, this means that, even though our parents may not be in close proximity, we still tend to judge ourselves and our actions but how well they'd go over with those that gave us life. Up until 1999, the two and a half hour drives were spent building mental defenses as I would have to ward off my father's constant barrage of questions which barely concealed his incredulity that my life did not mirror his. After my stepmother became ill and passed away, my time spent driving was used to marshall all the strength I could to deal with a broken man drinking himself to death.

But this last time was most refreshingly different. No father to deal with, just step-relatives to Visit and spend time with. About 60 miles north of Madison, the traffic thinned and the sun appeared from behind the clouds. The appearance of the refulgent orb was quite a surprise as the forecast had called for clouds and possible rain all weekend.

While I had directions to my stepbrother Freddy's house, Mapquest was fucked but I remembered enough Eau Claire geography to find it just fine. As I pulled up, my stepsister Kelly, Freddy's wife Marnie, and their daughter Tiny were pulling out to make a quick run to the shoe store. Kelly noticed it was me and greeted me with a hug as I got out of my car. They took off and I went inside where Freddy was cleaning the house up a bit. We shot the shit for a while and he showed me pictures of the family vacation to Disneyland. Or was it Disneyworld? The one in Florida. Anyway, we caught up and, after a short while, the ladies got had returned. Kayla, Marnie's daughter from a previous marriage had really grown up since I last saw her. She was this tall beanpole and in the third grade. And Tiny - last time I saw here she was just a fetus waiting to be born and now she was about 2. We gathered ourselves together and headed to Fritz's house.

Fritz is my stepmom's brother. A really nice guy - and funny too. His wife, Mo, is just a doll. Friendly and cordial and she's been putting up with Fritz for decades.At the house dozens of relatives and friends had gathered for a memorial to my stepgrandmother who passed away in February. I was surprised that I recognized many of them. They had been out to my dad's place when I was there for one of the many dinner parties he and Joni threw or had stopped by there for a visit. More surprisingly, several of them remembered me. And Jeff was there. Jeff is another one of my stepbrothers and he lives in Los Angeles whereas Kelly, Freddy, and Frankie live in Eau Claire. Joni had Jeff with her first husband while everyone else was fathered by her 2nd husband. Jeff and I get along really well. He's the most cosmopolitan of my stepsiblings and we have a lot in common. For instance, we both are into computers and have pretty mellow dispositions. We just seem to have the most in common and clicked the first time we met.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to pause and explain something. Technically, none of these people are my step-anything. My dad and Joni never married but they were together for about 14 years and lived together for 11 of them. But I consider them step-relatives anyway. If nothing else, it's shorter and easier than saying "My dad's girlfriend's blah blah blah." This came up actually, as I was walking over to the cemetary. Zoe, a woman who, 15 years ago, had been a foreign exchange student that lived with Fritz and Mo, asked how I fitted into the picture and, since Jeff was walking in front of me, I just said that he was my stepbrother. Mo nodded approvingly and explained the technicalities but agreed that, for all intents and purposes, he and I were stepbrothers. It must also be said that I really didn't see these people very much so it's not like we're really close. But, unlike my dad, I am the gregarious type and easy-going so I tend to get along with people quickly. And so it was with Joni's family. Every one of them I've ever met has been friendly and cordial to me and so I to them. Thusly we've all gotten along great. As I said, I never saw much of them since I live in Madison so we're not particularly close but we all enjoy one another's company quite a bit.

Having said all of this, it was great to see everyone again. I mingled and took pictures for a while before everyone wandered over to the cemetary where Irene's ashes were to be buried. It was a short memorial - just a few people making speeches, a prayer, and a song played on a wooden flute hoolie not unlike a recorder. The song was played by a black man who really stood out but this didn't seem to be a problem. I never did find out his name but I think he was married to one of Joni's neices. The piece he played was traditionally played at such ceremonies in his native land of wherever he's from originally. An African country that I cannot recall. I learned a few things about Irene. She was high school valedictorian and was beloved by a particular teacher of her because she took multiple years of Latin. (This really endeared me to her memory!) She had gone to college and - I feel stupid for not recalling this bit - was the first woman in Eau Claire to do something. Something that had been heretofore been the exclusive domain of men. I'd known her to be smart and funny but had no idea that she was basically the Mother Jones of west-central Wisconsin. After everyone had their say, the urn with the ashes was placed in the ground and a few people threw dirt on it. We then wandered back to Fritz's house.

The first order of business was to take a group picture with my funky camera. It would probably be the last time that all of these people would be gathered in one place so it had to be taken and Jeff volunteered to have it blown up and have prints made since he works at a graphics place in LA. So he and I got a board which we balanced very precariously on the handles at the top of the pool slide. A vigorous shake and the camera would tumble into the pool itself. We got the timer set and voila! We took 4 or 5 for coverage. It seems odd to be in the family portrait of a family that isn't technically mine but, hey - like I said before, they are in spirit. We ate and talked. Oddly enough, there was no alcohol and this made Kelly ansy. So, under the guise of going to get Frank, who was moving that day, we headed to the Ten Pin Tap.

The Ten Pin is the bar that Joni used to tend at and was where she and my father met. Kelly has been hanging out there for years now. So we had a beer and waited for Freddy and Marnie to show up before heading back to Fritz's. She and I talked about what was going on in Eau Claire and about my dad. About how he had hit on her and made many an off-color remark after Joni's death. In general, about lots of dumb crap that happened but stuff that we could now laugh at as time had passed as well as Joni and my father. When Freddy and Marnie showed up, the conversation continued. Freddy and my dad did not get along and they even came to blows one time. But I felt comfortable talking about these things. I felt no irritation about any of it, no embarrassment at my father. It was reminiscing - it was in the past and done.

We moseyed back to Fritz's and hung out for a while longer. Then I went back to Freddy's with Kelly. There we chilled in the backyard with some beer and Marnie lit the grill to cook up some steaks. Tiny then became interested in me. First she had me push her around in her car. After that, I returned to the table and sat drinking and talking. Then she came up to me and asked me to swing. So I went over to one of the pine trees in the yard where Freddy had put up a swing. I put Tiny on it and pushed her. She went higher and higher with each push until her tiny feet would hit one of the branches. As she swung forward, she would yell, "Whee!" and start laughing. And I had a blast with her. When Tiny had had enough of that, she made me play in one of the horseshoe pits, er, sandboxes. We filled a bucket and placed toys on top of it. Tiny then dumped it on one of her legs so we buried it completely. Ah, the simple joys of life - burying the leg of a two year-old in sand.

I went inside to use the bathroom and found Freddy pulling bong hits and playing a game on his computer. He lured me in and gave me his woeful story about how he had networked his computers together but the game, Battlefield 1942, wouldn't work on the 2nd PC. Being a PC tech and never one to step down from a challenge, I set out to fix it. And I did. So we played the game for a few hours and drank beer. It is a really neat game and I think I liked the Omaha Beach module the best. Charging up this hill behind a Sherman tank while Panzers gathered up yonder. Freddy and I were yelling and asking where the other was. Just a blast!

While we were playing, Tiny would come up to me and snuggle onto my lap. Both of my arms were outstretched to man the controls so she'd just curl up with her head resting on one of them. I was able to brush up on my multitasking skills. It's no mean feat to hold a conversation with a two year-old that's wiggling around in your lap while trying to kill Nazis, I can tell you. Tiny wandered off for a while but soon came back and asked me to take her to the bathroom. Freddy told her to get mommy and she disappeared. A short while later, I had to take a leak from having drank several Rolling Rocks. Wandering into the bathroom, I found Tiny standing there naked while hovering over the toilet. She pointed into the bowl and exclaimed, "I took poo by myself!!" I laughed. At this point, she started running around the house naked with poop smeared on her little behind. I didn't let her get on my lap again.

Around midnight, we hit the sack.

I woke up early but managed to fall back asleep before getting up permanently at 8:30 or so. I watched a spot of TV before Frankie started knocking on the door. I let him in and Freddy wandered downstairs. They eventually took off to finish up Frank's move. No one else stirred so I went over to Fritz and Mo's. There were a few people there having breakfast and talking so I joined them. Zoe, the ex-foreign exchange student was among them. She was gorgeous. And, being from the UK, had a sexy accent. I'm sorry but women with accents other than that of the Midwestern US just have something extra about them. Especially non-Americans. She also wore a v-neck t-shirt so, whenever she'd bend over to feed her infant son, I'd take a gander at her breasts. Anatomy aside, Zoe was a wonderful person. Very friendly and funny. Unfortunately, Jeff wasn't around but, rather, was out golfing with an old high school buddy of his. So I chatted with everyone for a while before taking a shower. After that, I helped Fritz clean the garage and put away all the tables and such from the day before. Two thirty rolled around and I decided to hit the high road. I had really hoped to have a chance to hang with Jeff for a while before leaving but he was still gone. Our paths will cross again even if I have to fly out to Los Angeles.

The drive home was pretty hectic. Being a Sunday afternoon, the interstate was packed with people returning home after a weekend of traveling. It had been really great to see everyone again and I couldn't understand why my dad had spent so much time avoiding these people or fretting over having to spend time with them. I had a good time and was able to talk about my father with people who knew him, people who could tell their own stories and fill in the picture of the man.

On the one hand, it reinforced a certain sense of regret that I've begun to get to know or get back in contact with certain people becuase of my father's death. But, on the other hand, I'm grateful to have these people in my life at all.
|| Palmer, 9:23 AM || link || (0) comments |