Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ball-breaker

Dear frozen friends,

The fire is starting to catch and crackle, the California Cabernet is open and breathing, Neil Young's plaintive falsetto is shimmering, and my synapses are simmering. The fourth and final Nutcracker is behind me and I survived. Chops intact. That wasn't a foregone conclusion. I've never done the ballet, and this was a reduced winds version which has some history of injuring players. Because of this I played it as safe as possible, 8-va-basso-ing and dropping out entirely here and there. It also certainly helped that this was a ballet school production. Not exactly the same pressure as the touring Joffrey version but ya still gotta play the notes.

In between the pages of face smashing syncopation one thing struck me. Ballet dancers have amazing bodies. (I'm talkin' about the ladies now. The guys are all identical. Even their junk. It must be a union thing: “And if the dancer is male he is allowed not more than two socks stuffage...” so on and so forth.) Most women dancers are lithe and willowy but a few are just ripped. Each individual back muscle popping and quads and calves of steel. On one dancer I could see that main artery on the inside of her upper arm between the biceps and the triceps. I think the last time I saw that bit of circulatory anatomy was on Stallone in Rambo II. But she could do a brisé. My goodness gracious!

Most precious Nutcracker moment: During the second show on Saturday immediately after the nutcracker is dropped and broken the stunned silence in the hall is punctured by a little girl's voice in the audience uttering worriedly, “Uh-oh.”

Winter has finally come to Iowa and it looks like it's here to stay. I know this because I tried to remove a solid inch of it from my front walk earlier this week with minor success and major carpal tunnel trauma. The whole task became a sort of zen thing. The focus was not on the ice but on my chipping technique. The preparation ceremony involved in raising, aiming and orienting the implement for a precise downward blow. Then the release and thrust. Allowing yourself to work with gravity for maximum effect. Many small, attainable goals over time leading to success and, ultimately, rapture. If not rapture then at least a front walk clear of litigation inducing ice.

Now let me be. I have five holiday shows in three days starting this afternoon. Fair thee well.

UWAUP

P.S. This is all. There is no more.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Dance, Dance Revulsion

So I was dancing at a club until two in the morning the other weekend, which I don't usually do (read: never have in my life) because it's so stupid. But the girl-whose-laugh-is-as-lovely-as-she-is and her friend wanted to go which immediately makes it not stupid but really super cool. So I was dancing at a club until two in the morning and this is what I learned.

Guys at clubs don't dance. They hold a beer and maybe move a little to the beat. This is true for almost every guy. Oh they may be out on the dance floor alright but they're not doing much. I didn't let that inhibit me, however, and got jiggy as best I could. There is an exception to this when certain songs are played of course but I couldn't tell which songs those are these days.

Which brings me to the next thing I learned: I'm really square. Okay I pretty much knew this already but last Friday night the degree of my square-ness was once again accurately determined. I'm 90 degrees square plus or minus 30 arcminutes. During two hours of virtually non-stop head-bobbing, pelvic-thrusting, fist-pumping, shoulder-shimmying and lip-scrunching (all the moves I know, incidentally) I heard just three songs I recognized, and that includes the post-last-call, club-clearing country tune, “All My Ex's Live in Texas.” The other two included a remixed Madonna tune (or maybe it was Cyndi Lauper but I'm still counting it as recognized) and one that we played in the car on the way to the club to get in the mood. Sure. I had to be reminded that I had heard it before but once it was pointed out to me that it should sound familiar I agreed that, in fact, it did. Some song about “apologies” or whatever.

Remember how I said guys don't dance? Well here is what they do do in clubs.

The stalker. This guy finds one girl and lurks nearby all night occasionally attempting to get her attention but never really making eye contact. Girls seem to be able to spot these guys in a heart beat and constantly keep their backs to them which is an amazing skill and impressive to behold in action. It reminded me of the tidal synchronization of the rotation and orbital periods of some planetary bodies. One side always facing away. (We've already established how square I am, right?)

The gawker. This moron stands completely immobile, often with mouth agape, ogling some girl up and down for an uncomfortably long time from no more than a few feet away. I'm not sure, but I think some gawkees must like this attention, depending on the attractiveness of the gawker I imagine. (Most of whom seem to be from the troglodytic end of the gene pool if you ask me.) I have to admit that if some girl was gawking at me like that I'd probably be feeling pretty alpha good. I'd probably also find out later that my fly was down and that I'd accidentally spilled beer on my crotch. Welcome to my world.

The snake. A borderline pervert, this hump is constantly slithering his way through the most crowded parts of the dance floor with the intention of touching and rubbing as many ladies as possible. Sick as it sounds he usually has his favorites he meanders towards time and again. There is no pretense of close dancing either. The snake just walks on through as if he's simply trying to get from A to B while his reptilian hands do their thing. I did notice that women don't put up with much from snakes. A grope often elicits a disgusted glance which is usually followed by a hands-in-the-air apology from the offender. I have a theory some stalkers morph into snakes above a blood-alcohol level of 0.1.

The standers. These chivalrous dudes are out on the dance floor for their girls. Usually with a beer in one hand slightly moving their heads to the music. Stalkers, gawkers and snakes are less likely to focus on girls who are dancing next to standers. Some standers constantly look around and take in the whole scene while others just watch Sports Center.

One thing I just don't understand is how everyone communicates above the club cacophony. I know they do because I saw it happening all the time. People having actual conversations and seemingly conveying meaningful information by shouting into one another's ears. Maybe it's just an evolutionary inhibition that I've yet to suppress but if I'm going to yell at the top of my lungs I feel it'd better be about something important, such as “FIRE!!!” or “HE'S GOT A GUN!!!” or “I THOUGHT I ORDERED THE CHUTNEY WITHOUT THE WASABI/HABANERO PURÉE!!!” The only conversation I could come up with at the time was “HOW LONG DO WE DO THIS FOR?!!!” and “MY QUADS ARE STARTING TO HURT!!!” and my seemingly constant query: “IS THIS STILL THE SAME SONG?!!!”

This isn't really a matter of age. I felt pretty much the same way when I was in my twenties. It's more a matter of temperament, I suppose. Hopping up and down to music is stupid if you think about it. But it's also fun for some reason. Next time out I think I'll add the alternating-chicken-wing and the saddle-stance to my repertoire. I know what you're thinking but don't worry. I avoid the lower-lip-bite like the plague. I'm not that square.

Friday, November 16, 2007

“Love is blind and cannot find me.”

Dear Mouth Breathers,

I've nothing to say so read no further. Well you persistent little gerbils... If you insist then I guess I'll oblige.

Actually I've had nothing to say for about a month. I just sit, slack-jawed, over my laptop timing my blinking with that of the cursor so as to alternately make it vanish or appear constant until spittle strands onto the space bar, at which point I take a nap on the couch or read Hemingway, usually both, in the reverse order of course. Maybe I need to start attending more bull fights. It worked for him. Of course he did off himself. But then again I'd have another three decades or so. Perhaps a bit more if I avoid Idaho altogether. It's a tough call. I think I'll nap on it later.

In other news I've got a brand new cell phone. Okay, calm down, not really. I've just changed the background on my old phone to “Comet Blue” and the contrast to “Highest” so now it feels new to me. I wonder if this is a subconscious sign that the two-year affair with my current phone is waning? Like when a woman changes her hair style - say, cuts it really short - because she isn't happy with her relationship. Let's explore it, shall we?

I think I'm still in love with my phone. Well, I mean I still love it but maybe I'm not in love with it any more. Our communication really hasn't been as clear as it used to be. Not for a long time, actually. We don't really even talk anymore. I mean, we've got more than 200 peak minutes leftover each month. I thought I'd learned how to push your buttons but my fingers just don't seem to affect you the way they used to. And... to be honest... your pocket vibrate hasn't worked on me in a long time. I know. I should have said something sooner. I'm sorry. But I'm telling you now. Maybe we've grown apart and should just go our separate ways. After all, it's not like our Sprint contract was “until death do us part.” It just feels that way.

The iPhone sure is sexy. All curvy and smooth. And that touch-sensitive screen. I hear you can use it in several positions, too. Ooo baby... Pricey though. One thing is for sure, it's gonna be expensive to be “out there” again isn't it? I don't know. Maybe I should stick. I'll nap on it. (Increased bull fight attendance, iPhone)

The Silver Screen
Item: I just saw the actor Stella Adler for the first time (completely by accident in one of the “Thin Man” movies). Since she was famous for all the method actors she trained I've always been curious about what kind of actor she was herself. She gave a cliche murder mystery character (the gold-digging, alias-sporting ex-con who was, surprise! surprise!, not the killer) depth you don't usually see in those movies. Some of her line deliveries were rewindingly intriguing. Though I wonder if I would have noticed anything special had I not caught her name in the opening credits and been on the lookout. Probably not.

In other Golden Era Hollywood Hottie news, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Myrna Loy and Donna Reed were all smokin'. Curse you Hays Code! (I know. I need a girlfriend. Okay, a date.)

New idol: Steve McQueen in “Bullitt.” I'm gonna do all my own stunt horn playing from now on starting with Strauss' D&T this weekend. I know. It could get dangerous. But I'll sacrifice my safety for the sake of musical realism.

Time for a couple paragraphs from "For Whom the Bell Tolls" on the couch (best sleep aid since Kafka's “The Trial”). If I'm not at rehearsal tonight assume either that I've been torn limbless on the way to my car by a pack of wild dogs and am lying in several pints of my own cool, semi-coagulated blood... or that I've overslept. Either way, a courtesy call would be appreciated. If I don't pick up, again it's either because I lack contiguous arms, and hence hands, or the ringer is set too soft, depending on the respective scenario detailed previously. Though sometimes you can sleep on your arm wrong and it'll be non-functional for several moments. Usually not both arms, though. But I suppose it could happen. Especially if you have a hefty mate. And if that were the reason I didn't answer I wouldn't want you to needlessly worry. So on second thought, maybe you'd better not bother calling at all. I'll sleep on it.

Yours,
Me

Note to Self: Now that Mailer's matter has once again become an inanimate, unconscious constituent of the universe check out his literary soporiferousness. I have a feeling it'll be a zinc mine of Zzzzzz...

Note to Reader: Linda Thompson could sing the Newark, NJ white pages and make my eyes wistfully dewy. But that voice combined with the poignancy of her lyrics... well all I've got to say is give her a sad song and she's in a class of her own.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Is that a hypodermic needle sticking out of my gums or are you just glad to see me?

Dear Dew-doers,

So I was lying there while these two masked women wearing latex put their fingers in my mouth. No, it wasn't a hedonistic Halloween party. I was at the dentist you gutter brain. I was at the dentist for the first time in nearly fifteen years and it's my new favorite thing to do. Luckily I have good, strong teeth and passed with flying colors much to the bewilderment of the hygienist who had a hard time finding any tenacious calculus to chip away.

Okay, okay. So the actual dentist, in her two minute pick-and-poke tour of my heretofore delinquent dentine, did manage to “find” the tiniest of “cavities” that somehow the hygienist had “missed” in her own half hour scrape-polish-and-floss-fest but I chalk that up to an impending Lexus payment. Besides, I was willing to humor everyone with a “cavity” filling just to have the full dental experience after such a long hiatus.

To be honest, I was mostly curious about what might have changed since my last visit. What technological advances had taken place in the interim? Would lasers be involved at any time during the cleaning process? 3-D holographic X-ray images? A GPS guided enamel drill? A virtual reality uplink to an out-sourced oral surgeon in Mumbai?!

Much to my disappointment, very few tools and gadgets seemed different. In fact the only one of which I was aware was the digital X-ray camera that now allowed nearly instantaneous viewing of images of my teeth's innards and nether regions. Instead of biting down on some X-ray sensitive film, a CCD chip was placed in my mouth with a small cable leading back to a computer. The hygienist can then turn away to make notes right on the image about her dental discoveries concerning gumline recession rates or enamel wear patterns or popcorn husk counts or whatever while your tongue gets a spittle suction pump hickey.

Speaking of the drool, while I waited for half my face to go numb I overheard an enlightening if mildly gruesome conversation between a patient and another dentist in the adjacent examination cubicle. This guy's tooth pain had become so severe and wide spread that even his eye brow had started to throb. Well, we all have our thresholds. That, apparently, was when he decided it was time to visit the dentist, who promptly found the culprit molar massively decayed and darn near busted in half. She also found a substantial list of other potential periodontal pain perpetrators just for good measure.

Apparently this fellow had already been chastised on previous visits for his unquenchable soda thirst. In fact, much to the patient's surprise, the doctor was able to determine specifically his beverage of choice (he does the Dew) either by the his piss-colored canines or that sweet stench of limon on his breadth. She advised him pointedly that bottomless refills of sugar sodas all day long would thwart even the most rigorous dental hygiene routine. Sweet toothed readers beware: Pop, like cigarettes, television and ornithology, is a superficially pleasurable delivery mechanism for an insidiously evil and covertly destructive force. You've been warned. But I digress...

So where was I? Ah yes. Tooth-related technology doesn't seem to have changed much in the last decade and a half since my previous examination. Oh I suppose maybe the drills are quieter and they have raspberry flavored polish now in addition to the traditional mint, cinnamon and bubblegum offerings (I'm lobbying for cumin to be the next addition) and everyone wears gloves and masks and protective eyewear like they're working in a government bioweapons lab. But no lasers. No holographs. No VR goggles. Just plain old metal picks, drill bits and alloy filling #15. Same as when I was a kid.

I must say, though, that it was a remarkably pleasant experience. I had my teeth poked, prodded, drilled and filled yet felt very little if any discomfort physically or psychologically. Even the Novocaine shot was delivered with the tenderness and sensitivity of a caring spouse, from the moment the hygienist first applied a generous topical anesthetic to my gums to the way the dentist brought her needle in just below my field of vision. I mean, I've had haircuts that were more traumatic.

You know what? As stupid as it sounds I think the reason I'd rather go see the dentist than go get a haircut might have something to do with making small talk. At the barber or salon you're almost expected to talk to the person cutting your hair. There's this pressure to have an extended conversation with a perfect stranger who likely has little in common with you (“Cosmetology, you say? Hmm, that's interesting. I took a course in cosmology once.”) and who never looks you in the eye but is constantly evaluating your physical appearance. It's almost like a blind date only she's wielding a scissors near your face and you have to tip her when it's over. Oh who am I kidding? It's exactly like a blind date.

But at the dentist your mouth is chock full 90% of the time so you aren't even expected to make conversation much beyond your name, profession and brushing habits. Okay so you are likely to be stabbed in the gums and drugged but it's done with love. And besides, you should expect that sort of behavior on a blind date any way.

That settles it. From now on my remarkable new blind date strategy is to keep shoveling food in so the conversation is necessarily stunted. And a shot of Novocaine at the very beginning might not be a bad idea either.

Numbly,
Marathon Man

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Smell my feet

Dear masked children,

Boo! Sorry no candy for you but help yourselves to a can of chunky goodness from my wide selection of three-year-old, generic-brand, cream-of-[insert vegetable/tuber/fungi here] soups which I forgot to set out for the Cub Scouts food drive last week, the poor bastards. Sorry there is a one can limit boys and girls. Don't get greedy.

Yes, that gruesome holiday is almost upon us again. No not the one when we give thanks that all the continent's indigenous peoples had such finicky immune systems, fought like cavemen and would've made lousy realtors. I'm talking about Halloween, silly. I mean who doesn't like being scared shitless? Well you can leave the room then. Those remaining go ahead and strap on the adult undergarment of your choice or take that laptop into the can and read on...

I lived alone in a century-old farmhouse in rural Iowa for two years. It goes without saying, so I'll say it, that there were more than a few nights when I feared being murdered by blood-thirsty rural farmhouse invaders. It was irrational, I admit. But that's what's so troubling about cold-blooded, axe-wielding killers: They're likely not rational. This is probably a good thing in the end since a rational homicidal maniac, assuming he or she (Oh who're we kidding? They're always “he's.”) wanted to get away with it, would clearly choose country victims over city victims because of the former's relative isolation.

A country victim's guard would be down (except mine!), their screams would be in vain and their mutilated body would likely lie unfound for a considerably longer time than had they been hacked to death on the corner of, say, 14th Street and Grand Avenue. (Well maybe not 14th and Grand downtown Baghdad but those bodies aren't a result of maniacs so much as extremists. Extremists aren't feared in rural Iowa. Except the ones on the campaign trail during caucus season, that is. But I digress.) Perhaps the only rational arguments against random farmhouse murder are country dogs and the fact that most farm folk do not live alone, but rather in hearty familial groups with deep tendencies toward preservation of kith and kin or whatever. I, however, did live alone making me a prime candidate for a rational-thinking, chef's-knife-brandishing, crazed lunatic. And my devoted pet was not Kujo the deathly loyal, blood-lusting Mastiff but rather, Barney the easily startled, sleep-lusting turtle.

A turtle's one basic defense trait, a trait which has kept it virtually unchanged as a life form for millions of years, is not the maniacal aggression in the face of danger which I would so dearly long for in my supreme moment of savage-rural-farmhouse-invasion-induced need. No. Rather it is fear. Turtles are the most scaredy-shit animal on the planet and probably have been for eons.

I've lived around Barney for 13 years and yet still, tomorrow morning when I walk up to him and say “Hellooooo little green Barn-barn! Oh your such a good witto totto, aren't you?! Yes you are! Yes you are!!” he'll immediately retract all appendages as if I were a violent nut case. Imagine if he actually ever encountered a real violent nut case. He would probably turn himself inside out.

Generally my nocturnal panic sessions would start, I imagine, after being awakened from the midst of some freaky dream by a 'coon or the like on my roof or a mouse in my walls. Then I would lie awake. Listening for the intruders. Perhaps they were already in the house. Maybe they've been in the basement for days waiting for me to drop my guard before they creep upstairs and bludgeon me with a log while I sleep.

One thing is for sure. There is no way any killer could walk up the stairs in that creaky old house without being heard. So if I were him I'd... already be upstairs! This is why I kept golf clubs leaning against the walls in ever room of my house. Yes I know. An intruder could just as easily use my own clubs against me but at least it could be a fair fight. “Let's see? A lofted iron against a belly putter... Okay, you gotta give me two strokes cold-blooded killer dude. Wait. I think I'm gonna go with the dual wedge after all.”

In the end, the primal pull of exhaustion would always win out over my feeble fight to stay alert. And since I was never, in fact, murdered I guess I should thank our distant ancestors who found it more evolutionarily successful to get a good night's sleep than to stay awake fretting over possible stalking predators. It could easily have been the opposite. Then I suppose we'd all be walking around like zombies during the day.

One night, recently, I was awakened by neighbors noisily arriving home from a night of carousing or whatever. In my first semiconscious moments I was again back in the isolated old farmhouse which was suddenly besieged by a pack of wilding teenagers. Quickly enough lucidity set in and I returned my racing-but-slowing heart to its cleaved chest and that chest to my bed. A bed warmed in the reality that, no I was not about to be assaulted by rapacious, conscience-free youths, doused in gasoline and burned alive into a Pompeiiesque cinder statue but rather had only been awakened by my asshole neighbors, bless their sweet, inconsiderate, non-murderous hearts.

Living, again, amongst others has brought an end to these foolishly fearful fits. Should I someday fall prey to a sociopathic, black-hearted ripper I will be comforted, ensconced as I am in my new urbanhood, by the thought of having dozens of people within earshot willing to ignore my blood curdling midnight screams and subsequently explaining away the vaguely fusty corpse smell twinging their nostrils every time they walk past my perpetually darkened house. These are the twin pillars upon which community is built, Or whatever.

Sincerely,
“Halloween Hobo” to you

p.s. Right now I'm lying in bed playing eyeball parallax. “Right eye... left eye... right eye... left eye... right eye... lef right eye... left eye.” Beat that Nintendo Wii!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Coffee table to nowhere

I've never owned a coffee table. Let me restate that. I never owned a coffee table until recently. My thrift-gifted uncle found me a second-hand one a few weeks ago which cost $4.88. It's worth every dime. But not a penny more.

Now, I know what you're thinking: “An essay about a coffee table must mean the writer is talking about more than just a coffee table.” Okay so maybe I didn't know what you were thinking but you bring up a good point. Perhaps my new coffee table is more than just a coffee table. Maybe it's a metaphorical expression of a new elevated sense of self-worth. A concretion of the abstract feeling of loftiness I've been experiencing of late. A sign that I've begun to rise above my once cold, dusty existence. If only 15 inches. After all, I've finally got a coffee table, arguably the most frivolous of home furnishings, so I must be doing something right. Right? Don't answer that.

Now before you start to think of me as some highfalutin dandy you should know that my coffee table is what most would call low-rent. (And everyone else would call kindling.) It's sturdy and functional and serves its purpose. It's also able to go above and beyond the call of coffee table duty just like any self-respecting coffee table should. Not only will it support a mug of piping french roast and the odd selection of periodicals, but one could sit on it for a spell or even step up momentarily to, say, change a light bulb or pile-drive your little brother. But it's low-rent so that's about the limit. I mean, I'm not going to be having intercourse on this coffee table. It's much too spindly for that. Again, I know what your thinking: “It isn't the coffee table's fault you're not going to be having intercourse on it. You're pretty spindly yourself, ya know,” so let me cut you off right there before this gets personal.

As I was saying, my coffee table is low-rent. If it were a bridge, it would be a causeway. It's more than a ford, though. A ford coffee table would just be a board lying on the floor in front of the sofa that you would trip over when you got up to go to the bathroom during every commercial break. (Note to reader: You should really have that over active bladder thing checked out by the way.) And it's no poetic suspension span linking my couch to my fireplace, that's for sure. No. If my coffee table were a bridge it would be a causeway. Ably transporting traffic over a shallow obstacle while also providing open water access for local anglers and breeding niches for sea birds (or vice versa), yet easily wiped out by even a modest hurricane/earthquake/alien invasion (all hail Supreme Commander Zark). Like I said, worth ever dime. But not a penny more.

Now, I don't want to get into a tussle over definitions with all the civil engineers out there. I could take one or two of you but in a gang I've heard you fight dirty. Let's just face it. My coffee table is nothing but that. Four secure, if skinny, brass tipped legs under 900 square inches of pressboard topped with a cheap faux veneer which goes particularly poorly with all the other various wood grains around the room. It's nothing but a place to put a colorful array of magazines, only one of which I actually subscribe to and none of which I really read, whose sole purpose I can only imagine is to be excitedly swept aside in a moment of unbridled amorous passion before the whole thing collapse, Icarus-like, back to the cold, dusty hardwood floor below.

And if you believe that'll ever happen, I've got a coffee table to sell you... for $4.88 and not a penny more.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pompousness and Circumferencestance

Dear students, faculty, President Andrews, Provost Schluter, Dean Nielsen, Dean Mpherhr, Dean Ghrerfrgr, other Dean Ghrerfrgr, distinguished guests, parents both birth and other kinds, various family members and relatives, real uncles and “uncles”, loved ones and merely tolerated ones, as yet unborn offspring unnoticed and noticed alike,

It is my great pleasure and a sincere honor to be well-paid to address you today on this, the most momentous day of your young lives. For today youth and hope and promise eternally springs eternal and the promise of eternal springtime is hopefully not promised today so much as it is hoped for eternally. But if you'll allow me to begin again...

As I was saying. Hope is not eternally promised to the youthful, I promise you that. I also promise you this: There may come a day, surely, maybe, when the young youth of today are not so hopeful and full of promise as they were in their younger youth. I hope your hopeful youth promises to last an eternity for you. But hopeless promises are made to be broken... If you'll allow me to begin once more...

Young ladies and gentlemen, you are the promise of, or rather the hoped for, or further rather the hope of today. I stand before you as the hope of yesterday and I promise you this: hope is not all it's cracked up to be. Yes I stand before you today, well-paid and full of yesterday's promises and its hope too. By that I mean the hope which was promised me yesterday is with me eternally today. Not really yesterday but rather quite a while ago really.

Yes, yesterday's hope was not what it was cracked up to be. I stand before you as testament to that statement of testimony. Yes, I am well-paid, but, no, not as well-paid as was promised me yesterday. Again, not really yesterday but further back than that. The promised pay which I eternally hoped for was not all it was cracked up to be, I assure you of that. And of this: I hope your promises today are all they are cracked up to be and hopefully well-paid for, too, by tomorrow. By that I mean rather a long time past tomorrow actually. But not an eternity.

Today, the real today, is the most momentous day of your young youth, I can assure you of that. Hopefully it is all it was cracked up to be for you. For me today's today has not been what was promised but that is hopefully why I'm rather well-paid for it.

Young ladies and gentlemen, promise to promise me this one thing: Promise me that tomorrow will be an even more momentous day than today was, rather is.

And promise me these other things.

Promise me that tomorrow, rather the further tomorrow from the real tomorrow, will spring as full of promise as today is, rather has, sprung full of promise or hope.

Promise me that, and this: That this spring day today will, rather is, hopefully as cracked up as tomorrow's day is, rather will be, be it a spring day or be it not.

And in conjunction, promise me one more thing young ladies and gentlemen. Promise me that rather than hoping for being well-paid-for for tomorrow that your promises will, rather are, being paid well for it today! And eternally!

Students and faculties and their parents, President Schleicher, Provost Anderson, Dean Nelsen, Dean Mghrphr, Dean Ghrarfrgher, other Dean Ghrarfrgher, guests, indistinguished and the other kind,

Thank you all sincerely and rather heartfeltedly for well-paying me to address you on this mostly momentous of your young days!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Will it make me sweat? Will it make me wet?

Dear Lovers, Dreamers,

Triple cereal mix: Oatmeal, Grape-nuts and Raisin Bran (all low-rent store brands) with a drenching of vegan half and half (one part soy milk, one part water). That's what was for dinner tonight in case you'd like to know. Of course I just found out that the gum I'm chewing has milk derived ingredients in it. So now veal calves must suffer because I want whiter teeth. Way to go Trident. Dumb asses.

Boy was that ever a crappy start to a blog post. Anyone still even reading? Let's try a different tact. How 'bout romance?

I'm one small step closer to saving the life of the girl-whose-laugh-is-as-lovely-as-she-is from Supreme Commander Zark's apocalyptic wrath (casual readers, late-comers, and others not yet indoctrinated check the archives here and here). Lucky for her she chose to not hang up on me when I asked her out, otherwise she'd be sorry. Apocalyptic alien wraths have a tendency to sting a bit.

On the subject of stinging, rejection can feel downright wrath-ish from time to time as well. So here was my strategy for the aforementioned phone proposition. (Feel free to pinch it, hopeful lovers-to-be.) The call is placed during the last few minutes of a break between rehearsal segments. That way, in the event of a negative response the option of a quick termination of the inevitable ensuing awkward conversation is afforded when the oboe's A is heard sounding in the background.

Sure. Such a scenario could be affected quite readily through the use of a tuner held at arm's length but who wants to not start a potential relationship with a dishonest post-rejection awkwardness avoidance excuse? Not me. That's not who. Besides, in case you haven't been paying attention it doesn't matter anyway cuz I wasn't rejected for some reason which I don't pretend to understand.

Which brings to light the only flaw in my strategy: If there is no rejection, by definition there will not be any post-rejection awkwardness. Thus you're left with mere moments to express your pleasure and thanks at not being rejected and to generally wrap things up including making future meeting plans if need be. This is not much time to beam and bask and can lead to a hurried and confusing post-acceptance conversation. Score one for the shady tuner method which offers more in the way of flexibility.

In other news, my third and final orchestra is up and running for the season. We played Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis, Rachi 2 and Elgar's Enigma Variations in QC last weekend. The Saturday night show was exciting and not just because I had the Elgar open on my stand at the beginning of the concert instead of the Hindemith. (I thought the conductor's prep seemed rather more vigorous than the Enigma theme warranted. And it was aimed right at the principal and me (2nd) as if the two of us started the whole piece fortissimo or somethi... OH SHIT!)

The Sunday matinee felt exactly the opposite of exciting due solely to my own foul and frustrated mood. A state of mind which stemmed from a weekend of restaurant socializing in table-clumping-sized groups with everyone except the only person I wanted to be talking to at all who happened to be sitting right next to me for most meals: the-girl-whose-laugh-is-as-lovely-as-she-is.

Okay, maybe my Sunday grumpiness was also due a little bit to a Saturday night hot tub party that fell through just like all the other grandiose post-concert plans we make during QC sets even though I did push-ups before the concert and wore a swimming suit under my tux just because of it. I mean, jeez! But it's all good now.

Oh, I guess there is one more flaw in my post-rejection awkwardness avoidance strategy. In the event of either rejection or acceptance you've got to get through the rest of rehearsal in a very distracted state. You're either cursing her AND the key change you just missed or dreamily wondering what she's doing that very second before wondering somewhat less dreamily what the fuck the count is.

And,
Me

p.s. What is the count, anyway?
5? (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
12?! (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Letter what?!!
OH SHIT!!

Be like water my friend...

I found this noble looking predator tucked in the weedy bushes in front of my farm house sometime during the Summer of 2006. October's BOTM, the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera aridifolia), was amongst a plethora of fat juicy grass hoppers that summer but unfortunately I wasn't able to shoot a kill. She must have just eaten.

An inspiration to Asian martial arts, the mantis is
one of the fastest striking insects on earth and can catch flies and bees out of mid-flight. The intricate details on her exoskeleton and wing covers are evocative of a samurai warrior's armor.

The Chinese mantis was introduced here in the late 19th century for insect pest control (though they've been known to prey on small birds and mice as well) and they are wide-spread today. They are the largest type of mantis and my friend here spanned about 5 or 6 inches. She also kept the two most flexible and complex of her five eyes fixed on me the entire time!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A cafeteria-style ramble

Dear Peeps,

Marshmallows are not vegan. Remember that the next time you're camping cuz that s'more between your sticky little fingers is contributing to not only the slaughter, dismemberment and rendering of our highly sociable, fairly large-brained, fellow mammals, but also their idyllic, grazing-on-endless-rolling-green-pasture, pastoral pre-death existence. Well, okay. I'll give you that such a life doesn't sound all together bad but if you'll just allow me a moment to quickly google “peta beef talking points”

...

Ah yes! The crowded feed lots. You must not forget the feed lots! Remember how crappy the cafeteria lunch was in high school? Recall being herded to the chow trough where we were only offered food which we could not digest properly for apparently the sole reason of fattening us up on the cheap? Remember the crowded, stressful and volatile conditions, being forced into close quarters with countless others from disparate social groups, left to fend for ourselves within a suddenly unfamiliar and unknowable pecking order. Remember how it felt for you?

Okay so the chicken patties and pizza rectangles were pretty tasty and you didn't have to wallow in a communal mix of feces and mud, at least not literally (unless you were public schooled you poor bastard) and the fetid stench of death didn't waft through your nostrils when the wind blew wrong (except for that one time Ms Bigowsky's ferret some how got stuck in the oven vent over homecoming weekend... and I s'pose during fetal pig dissection week in freshman bio... or, again, unless you were public schooled you poor bastard). But no analogy rings true on all levels.

What the hell was my point anyway? Ah yes. Next time you're camping try substituting a nice juicy cube of tofu for the marshmallow in your s'more and enjoy your treat with a clean conscience, of course conveniently ignoring the fact that millions of field-dwelling animals are massacred during each soybean harvest. But I mean, c'mon. It's not like you were drivin' the tractor. (Gourmet hint: Non-silken tofu which has been frozen, thawed, microwaved and pressed dry is the most easily toastable. Extra chocolate is strongly encouraged. Enjoy!)

If you'll permit me to switch gears without engaging the clutch, a new acquaintance of mine (whose laugh is as lovely as she is, sigh...) recently paid both a parking ticket and a speeding ticket at the same time. I think that about covers the spectrum of vehicular penalties, doesn't it? You're fined when your car is sitting perfectly still while you're no where near it and you're fined when your car is going as fast as possible while you're gripping the wheel for dear life. They gotcha comin' and they gotcha goin', or not goin' as the case maybe.

Grind-grind-grind ka-chunk! Ya know the BNL song that goes, “if I had a million dollars I'd buy you a green dress but not a real green dress cuz that's cruel”? Well, if I had a million dollars I'd probably buy you that used green fan boat sitting for sale beside the I-80 westbound lanes near mile-marker 266 (Iowa).

Okay if it was only a million I probably wouldn't spend a dime on you unless you had a great sob story or gorgeous, cascading hair. I mean let's face it. We really hardly know each other. If I gave you a used green fan boat how do I know you wouldn't go right out and use it to run meth across state lines for Carlos from Burlington (cuz fan boats are sooo stealthy).

Granted there is a good buck in that racket, especially since Iowa meth is primo. So I've heard. It must be all that high quality ammonia fertilizer we have sitting around here. Let's see. What's worse: Spraying it on all the “fields of dreams” so it can leach into the ground water or run off into tributaries of the Ol' Miss eventually settling in the “as seen from space!” dead-zone of that great river's silt-bed delta? -OR- Covertly and dangerously manufacturing an intensely addictive illegal drug which results in, yeah sure okay, risk of prison or death by DUI, highly questionable sexual decisions, a sunken, leathery complexion coupled with patchy hair loss and ultimately destroyed youth, but also some real fun times?! My dear reader, the answer's obvious if you've ever eaten really good blackened Cajun river catfish. It's to die for!

I'll say no more, since my chunk o' Ciabatta and mug of double-brewed French roast (home-baked and home-brewed respectively lest you think I'm posting from some sickeningly pretentious coffee house) are about gone. But let me leave you with this admonition: Beware the impending alien invasion for I have it on good authority that only “hardcore meth/tofu addicts currently in drug/soy induced coma-like states and their pretty, new, oft-ticketed girlfriends will be spared Supreme Commander Zark's rath [sic]!”

Take good care heathens,
Parochial school prig

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Apple a day

Reader Warning: BAP (Boring-Ass Post)

Dear Homo sapiens sapiens,

We started our season in Des Moines last night with JB. Sadly the house was far from packed (2700+ seats) but we wise musicians speculated that the somewhat sparse audience had less to do with the week-night show, potential TV competition or any lack of draw from our sexy soloist than it had to do with the $85 ticket price. You pay $85 to hear Madonna for two hours in the Metrodome, not the Bruck Violin Concerto plus a couple of encores in the Des Moines Civic Center.

Aside from the numerous empty seats the show was arguably the best we've played in a while (well, since I've been a member any way). Lots of good comments about the horns in Don Juan and Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien was good, clean, vivacious fun. Bell was marvelous and easily won over those who grumbled about his pedestrian choice of rep. The guy can play.

On the topic of grumbling, our double service yesterday induced the usual gratis “catered” bag-dinner which included a heretofore unavailable vegetarian option. Usually I swap my ham or turkey for an extra brownie or bag of chips. Yesterday the new vegetarian bag was the best choice in my opinion. A delightful papillae potpourri of lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, onions and sprouts with a dash of vinegar and oil on soft earthy marble rye and a knee-buckling brownie so rich its dark chocolatey-ness osmosizes straight through your mouth's mucous membrane entering the blood stream directly for a short trip to the brain's pleasure center.

My only meal complaint concerns the little sealed plastic bag of apple slices. An apple is one of the most perfect foods on the planet. It comes with it's own water proof, disease resistant wrapper which is edible. You can throw it in a backpack as is, leave it for days at just about any temperature and then eat nearly the entire thing (and plant the rest if your so inclined). Are there really able bodied people older than the age of 4 who need someone to separate the seeds and stem from the rest of an apple, then slice it up perfectly evenly and place it in a hermetically sealed package? Aren't we the same species which attained top-predator status using stone tool technology? Give us a credit card sized chunk obsidian and we used to be able to skin a still-breathing mastodon. Yet now we must have defenseless fruit prepared for our unencumbered consumption. Well that's not entirely true because that little bag was a real bitch to open. Still, it's enough to make one ashamed to be a homo. Next time, lunch dude, just drop a damn apple in the damn bag! (But make sure it's not a damn Red Delicious cuz they suck royally.)

Yours,
Monkey Man

p.s. Possible rejected pilot: The Neolithic Vegetarian.

GORK: Why Urk no eat mammoth meat?
URK: Urk no think mammoth need to suffer just so Urk can enjoy good burger.
GORK: But Urk's brain stay small then.
URK: No. Urk's brain swells because of too much soy in diet, studies show.
...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Freudian Sleep?

Dear dearest,

Oh what a dream! Wanna hear about? Well, if you insist. It was a two parter. In both parts I was being introduced all around some campus by a friend of mine from my physics days as his new boyfriend. Thankfully there was no sex involved in the sleepy script. In real-land, of course, I am not gay. In fact in dream-land I wasn't gay either but merely getting caught up in everyone else's happiness for us.

This friend of mine, who in fact also isn't gay, is the slightest apostrophe of a man, not topping 5 foot 5 and 100 lbs soaking wet with pockets fulla pennies. He's Indian and speaks the Queen's English with the diction of a machine gun but rarely much above a whisper and his language is so bloody perfectly that I had a hard time understanding a word that came out of his mouth.

In fact, if I were to invent a beginning to this dream I'd say that's how I got roped into the whole gay confusion in the first place; he said something I didn't understand but readily and heartily agreed to nevertheless. This happened often in real-land since one can only utter, “Pardon?” some many times.

Anyway, by Act II he had mercifully morphed into various women. For a brief, but glorious car trip she was the gorgeous woman with the cascading coffee hair (whom I want, whom I really, really want). In the dream she was sitting shotgun and I was sitting behind her, which incidentally used to be my most common view of her in real-land. Not in a car mind you, just the back of her head, hence the emphasis on her hair I suppose. Which is gorgeous, by the way. And cascading.

The short of it is that we were picking her up after a time away (my sister was driving). I was in back eating candy for some reason and my conversation with Gorgeous Hair devolved into her commenting on how unusual it was for me to be eating candy, which is true, and me insinuating back at her that she has hardly known me long enough to establish whether it is unusual for me to be eating candy or not, which as I said she was right about. Apparently I'm a great big asshole in dream-land. In fact I wonder what my little Indian boyfriend even saw in me?

Anyway, the resultant argument would have been a doozy because not only did Gorgeous Hair turn all the way around in her seat to look me in the eyes while she spoke, but she removed the headrest from the top of the seat-back in order to get an unobstructed view of me! Or maybe an unobstructed swing at me! I'm can't remember which. And I don't even care. My dreams are the only chance I get to see her these days so I always wake up happy after them regardless of the character of their content.

Long story short, by the end “she” was back to a “he” after assuming the visage of a number of real-land hotties and the alarm clock ripped the record needle just after I was realizing that this whole relationship was doomed from the start because I, in fact, am not gay.

So if I believed dreams were anything but useless garbage, which I don't, this one could definitely be tied in some way to anxiety over being set up, I guess. Maybe.

It was really, really nice that Gorgeous Hair made a dream-land appearance though. I'd toss and turn my way through any number of cold-sweat inducing gay relationship dreams to see her again.

Sleepily,
Zzzzzz

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Now take your time 'cause this is your P-I-G shot

Dear people,

If you had tracked me around today, like in one of those boring-ass Family Circus comics, this morning you would have found me in the recording studio (i.e. my basement) pounding out takes of All-State audition etudes for highschoolers who apparently cannot read music and thus only play by ear.

In the afternoon, had you been able to track me down 80 miles westward of my basement you would have needed to look for me in the bucket of a front-end-loader 12 feet in the air, chainsaw in hand, pruning fence-line trees. It might not seem like it but this is the kind of dirty job that requires you to not only shower afterwards but floss, too. Thankfully I only almost fell twice but severed just $2400 worth of appendages which, coincidentally and unfortunately, happens to be my new per-occurrence-per-person insurance deductible to the dollar. Gosh that's such rotten luck! One more toe and MEGA would have been losing money right outta the blocks.

Since you brought it up, I wonder what the details and small print say about that species of deductible. I mean, if I lost three fingers in an onion-mincing mishap does that count as three separate occurrences? Do I have to cut them off simultaneously to get them considered a single occurrence? If not, how much time must elapse between each severage? Are a few minutes enough or would 24 hours be necessary? Or is it more a question of context? Do I need to loose each finger on consecutive onions to accrue fresh new deductibles? I'll bet it's per doctor visit. If that is indeed the case then the next time I find myself heading to the ER wearing a hand towel as a tourniquet I may as well add the odd day-to-day afflictions into the mix as well.

“What's that doctor? You say I'll need 1,400 stitches and a blood transfusion? How 'bout throwin' in a little something for the cold sores, ingrown toenail, profuse rectal bleeding and periodic asymmetric medial numbness while you're on the clock?”

But that's another post. Honestly, it probably isn't another post. I'm done with that topic for good. In fact I'm pissed you even mentioned it! God!

Now where on earth was I? Let's see, recording, chainsawing, oh yes: ping-pong with 8-year-olds. Again in a basement. But I don't think it can really be considered ping-pong when there are 8-year-olds involved. Paraplegic garden gnomes could have returned my shots better. And don't get me started on serving technique. The ball contacted the table in only the most incidental manner imaginable as if it were just another obstacle in the room.

“Oh look. The ball landed in the litter box. Oh, it ricocheted off the weight bench. Oh, your serve managed to nick the edge of the table. On your side.”

But give 'em credit. Eight-year-olds are the only ones on the planet who willingly turn a game of p-i-g into an aerobic activity. P-i-g! The basketball game you play when you're too tired or lazy to even just shoot around so you decide to intersperse the shooting around part with standing around watching everyone else shoot around. Eight-year-olds are breathing hard by the end of p-i-g for two reasons: 1) Endless half court drives resulting in missed layups and 2) retrieving the ball not only for themselves when it's their turn to shoot but for me as well when it's my turn to shoot. Hey, I said they turned it into an aerobic activity. I didn't say I joined in the madness.

Besides, this pre-adolescent gopher behavior lasts for only a brief period. A couple-three years at the most. After that it's all, “get yer own ball, dork.” This is definitely fodder for another post since I remember my younger brother's gopher phase fondly. Make it a competition and he would do just about anything for anyone. It was Xanadu. But I digress. And regress.

Back to absurd aerobic activities, I may be getting set up this weekend. Well it's more accurate to say I may be getting checked out this weekend. The sister of a friend of a friend (sounds reliable already, don'it?) lives near me and is apparently as adept at hooking up on her own as am I. Machinations behind the scenes include a comp ticket to the CRSO season opener for said sister of a friend of a friend which she can then use to appraise the merchandise. And, speaking as the merchandise, that may be where things end.

I don't even have her name. And only the vaguest of physical descriptions: tall and blond. (Hmm... maybe it's Bridgette Nielsen.) These are adjectives for womanly qualities about which I never find myself caring: height and hair color. Whatever? I have requirements on width but not height. And my only capelli concerns are that a woman should have hair of some sort.

...

Okay so I just spent several minutes completely adrift in thought about a woman whom I want, whom I really-really want, who has gorgeous hair, like a cascade of dark rich coffee... without the penchant for mold growth after sitting in a mug for a week, or the insomniatic effects when enjoyed in the evening. Actually she has insomniatic effects on me but not entirely due to her gorgeous hair. Maybe I'm more hair-centric than I thought. So sue me.

What a day! What a life. To paraphrase one of my favorite stand-ups, T, “This is really quite a life I've made for myself. No one can take it away from me. And no one's trying.”

Yours,
Me

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Supreme Commander Zark uh... commands you to bear his younguns

pre script: Oh my head! Migraine, migraine this is your final warning. Come back again some other morning. Preferably one when you're duly and justly deserved such as after a debauched night of boozing and whoring or whatever. To paraphrase John Houseman, “I want a headache the old fashioned way: I want to earrrrrrn it.”

Dear fellow earth fellows,

Two posts in one day! To what do you owe this pleasure, you don't ask? I bleepin care about you, that's what. Now go bleepin get me a bleepity-bleep beer you bleep. Bleep!

Speaking of trash talk, I put the garbage and recycling out this morning for the first time in my city-house-renting life. When I was all rural I stored up whatever I couldn't burn or compost. Then on the day of my move one big trip to the county landfill and seven measly bucks took care of two years worth of horded debris. The gratis dump stench was an added bonus and is not to be missed. (Humorous dad-quote from that day which doesn't seem so humorous out of context: ”Well? Let's go haul some garbage!”) Oh, but don't haul garbage to the county landfill in flip-flops. For if you do, may God have mercy upon your soles.

But that's another post. I'm not going to live in the past anymore. I'm going to live in the present. The moment. The now. Omm. That is, at least until it stops being so g.d. exciting around here with all the garbage and recycling and yard-waste trucks rumbling by or whatever. Then I'll live in the future in a shiny metallic jumpsuit and riding boots waiting for our post-alien-invasion existence when human men will become the bearers of extrasolar mutant half-breeds and human women will be forced to do godknowswhat to preserve the species. You go girls!

Actually that doesn't sound all bad so long as a human guy hooks up with the right alien. One with influence or whatever.

So long alien fodder,
The future Mrs. Zark
(Hey a post-apocalyptic human guy can dream can't he?)

Cancer, TV, and Impending Doom (in no particular order)

Dear losers,

Ever chew gum long after it becomes tasteless and your jaw starts to ache? That's what I'm doing now. I used to be a big gum swallower but not any more. I don't know why I changed. I don't think it had anything to do with cancer or the like. I mean I'm not one of these morons who thinks swallowed gum festers in the small intestines for 7 years or anything. Though, come to think of it, that might explain a lot.

I am pissed about just now finding out that reused plastic water bottles can leach bad things. When did this little detail come out? Did the scare-you-shitless news media drop the ball on that one or am I just outta the loop? Do I need to get my tv back out of my parent's basement where I put it so it can't hurt anyone anymore? (Actually it's there 'cause of a girl but who's counting? And no. I, myself, am not also in said basement. Sure, I am a freelance musician but, I mean, give me some credit.)

Now where was I. Oh yes. Carcinogens. I reused water bottles (some for up to two years!) while living in the boonies. Practically every ounce of well-water I drank was meticulously filtered and stored for a time in a reused plastic water bottle. I thought I was saving the environment. Turns out I may have been polluting my spleen instead or whatever. If I get cancer somewhere down the road that's probably why, and you heard it here first losers.

Speaking of catastrophic illness I got me some catastrophic insurance yesterday from a bagpipe playing insurance agent. You can't go wrong with a piper in my book. (Fun fact: a kilt is not cool in the summer. It's just 40 lbs of sweaty wool. Who knew?) He seemed rather shocked that I hadn't seen a doctor since the late 80's, and rightly so. I wouldn't trust any insurance man who wasn't shocked by that. And he kindly advised me to change my story concerning blackmarket asthma medication, which I dutifully did. I lied about recent tobacco use, though. I smoked a pipe not one week ago and he didn't need to know it. In fact no one needs to know it so forget I said anything. I don't think that counts anyway because cigarettes are cool but a pipe just makes you feel stupid. And nauseous.

In other sickening news: Do you wanna cry? Do you really wanna cry or are you just sayin you wanna cry? Okay then ya big baby. Watch the complete first 3 seasons of “Ballykissangel” and put up with the Irish accents and corny subplots. (But don't watch the dvd extras on disc one, season one because they contain major spoilers with no warning, courtesy of those heartless BBC bastards!) You will weep unless you're a heartless bastard too. Or a protestant one.

Of course maybe I'm subconsciously just still mourning the 2006 cancellation of “Deadwood” which I only recently found out about through creator David Milch's commentary on that show's season 3 finale. “Deadwood” was Shakespeare with swearing, sixguns and saloons and it was too good for this world. If I'd still had my tv back then (and premium cable rather than a roof antenna) maybe I could have joined the fan effort to keep it on the air. Maybe I could've made a difference. Instead I found out that it'd been canceled about the same time the alien troops amassing at the solar system's heliopause did. Strike one Netflix! To paraphrase the great Jerome Seinfeld, “I gotta get on that cable! I'm late on everything!”

Time to spit stale gum.

May Supreme Commander Overlord Zark have mercy upon your souls you alien attack losers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ironman Wisconsin

Last weekend the fine city of Madison, WI was besieged by thousands of people with way too much time on their hands and even more fire in their bellies. No, the city didn't host the World Series of Poker or the Antique Road Show. These people were playing against the odds and knew what it was that lay before them. These people were athletes. Their race? The Ironman Wisconsin. A struggle of stamina along a trio of epic distances lasting from sun-up to well past sun-down.

I watched two of my sisters compete amongst the 3000 other crazies and, just as with other Iron-siblings before them, they became my new endurance heroes. With their successful completion of the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run they join the burgeoning pantheon of Ironmen* in my family which now includes two in-laws, a brother, and two sisters.

As with the solitary marathon years earlier we mere family-fans feel the push of our genetic peers to compete in this all-consuming race. The interesting thing about watching an Ironman, however, is that it wears down the observer too. The Ironman triathlon is the only race I've watched in which the initial inspiration felt while spectating ebbs considerably before the race itself actually concludes.

While watching all those swimmers, neoprened from ankle to wrist, emerging from Lake Monona I was imagining myself doing laps at the local aquatic center two blocks from my house (in which I've never set foot), and even signing up for private swim lessons!

During the bike stage I wondered how it would feel to bike over a century on my sturdy, hand-me-down, loose chained mountain bike. Then, while watching the teardrop-helmeted elites lap up amateurs on their spokeless carbon composites (which would pass us sightseers sounding like something out of War of the Worlds) I wondered how much it would cost not to feel that way.

But by the end of the marathon I found myself simply wishing my hero sisters would run faster and just finish already because my feet were sore. And if my dogs were barking from all the walking, standing and waiting, just try and imagine what theirs felt like.

*I was ambivalent about the use of 'Ironwomen' versus 'Ironman' but one of my Ironsisters suitably persuaded me that 'Ironman' need not be gender specific. So stick that in your p.c. pipe and spin.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Cute as a... well? Bug! But watch your acorns!

No that isn't a euphemism in the title. September's BOTM is the Acorn Weevil (Curculio glandium) and she will do a number on your actual acorns. Her obvious stand-out feature is her snout or "rostrum" which is longer on females than males. Since this one seems to have a shnoz from Oz I am assuming femininity but I've been wrong with this before (and not just with bugs!).

The rostrum has jaws at the end which the female uses to gnaw through the tough outer shell of an acorn. Once gaining access to the soft nutty insides she deposits a fertilized egg which promptly hatches, consumes the nut's inner goodness and drops to the soil below to pupate or what not.

I found this girl strolling clownishly on the window sill in my living room. She stopped for a drink at a glass's water ring, posing politely while I snapped away. Check out more images of this funny little bug here, including a heart stopping run in with a spider!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shhhhhh! and Brrrrrrrr!

I've been having trouble with my internet connection for the past few days (meaning the neighbor from whom I was stealing it moved out). So I took a one block walk down to the local library and to my delight found wireless access and meatlocker-style air conditioning. Local income taxes hard at work keeping the poor stiff-nippled and online. And I didn't even need to sign up for a library card! I also found a fair share of screaming babies, whining toddlers and various other rambunctious kids roaming unchecked. Apparently public libraries double as free daycare centers in the summer. But I brought headphones and so am in my own world oblivious to all the mayhem (right now that world is Bach's Goldberg Variations being played by SD).

My latest obsession: the Crackpot Comedy Tour. They're starting their second tour and have video updates and blog entries. I think they're shorts-soilingly funny. Well this taxpayer funded AC is beginning to make my teeth chatter and lunch is calling. A delicate wheatchex/miniwheats mix in water, a plum and maybe some baked beans. Buon pranzo!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Exfoliant or luffa... or both?!

I'm a freelance musician... and that means two things: poverty and a lot of time on the road, in hotels or at other people's houses. Hotels are great but I like staying at other people's houses because no matter who they are they always have better shit than me. Their bathroom is like a spa, man! I've got two things in my shower: shampoo and soap. And the cheapest kind of each, too. The shampoo is always that generic head 'n shoulders. That blue crap. Maybe if I'm feeling rich when I'm at the WalMart I get the shampoo plus conditioner in one.

But when I stay at other people's houses it's like a spa, man. There's separate shampoo and conditioner in there! And body wash and special soap for your face and exfoliants and luffas! And sometimes there's a whole shelf of shampoos. Then they have fancier shower heads than me, too. Mine's always caked with that mineral build-up and the water comes out of one hole like a syringe. Their's is a police riot hose with a half dozen massage settings to try out! I go to take a shower and suddenly I've got all these decisions to make!

I never know the etiquette about using someone else's toiletries. I mean, I've always got my little bag with my own soap and shampoo, that cheap ass blue shit. But that's really more for emergencies, like if you end up having to shower backstage or something. I don't know the etiquette. Should I not be using the soap in other people's showers? I've got a brother who can't stand other people using his soap. As if a disease could be passed from one bather to another on a bar of soap. It's antibacterial! Says so right on the label! What? Is your soap made from that brown petri dish culture medium crap from eighth grade biology class? Are you lathering up with a six week old block of blue cheese in there? Please! Soap is clean, by definition. I think his phobia probably has more to do with stray hairs, actually, but that's just a matter of courtesy. Clean those hairs off when your done people.

But I never know the etiquette. Never know the protocol. Sometimes I'll be staying at someone's place and they'll have that squeegee in the shower. Am I supposed to use this thing when I'm done? Wipe off all the condensation from the shower door, the walls? You can really get into it. You gotta work around that wash cloth rack and the faucet knobs. It takes forever! Adds like five minutes to the whole routine. That combined with sampling all the massage settings and deciding on a shampoo/conditioner combination in conjunction with the normal bathing schedule and you're pushing twenty minutes of hygiene. And you can't spend longer than twenty minutes in someone else's bathroom. They might think you're masturbating.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We-Make-Holesinteeth! We-Make-Holesinteeth!

<prebrush rinsing>
My oral hygiene routine is becoming increasingly expansive. It now involves four fluids (a prebrush rinse, a paste, a post floss rinse, and water) and two tools (a brush and floss) at least twice a day. The obvious next step is a waterpic or electric toothbrush or both! I think this is a compensation for the nearly decade and a half since my last visit to a dentist. "No pain, no worry" was always my mantra. That streak will come to an end next week sometime and should be blog-worthy.

<gone to spit>

<brushing>
I've always been told I have strong teeth. Only a couple cavities and I'm no stranger to sugar. Two-pound bags of Twizzlers are no match for me. A sister of mine on the other hand had a cavity in just about every tooth before highschool I think. And she always had zealously religious brushing habits. A flossing fundamentalist. Like the Taliban of tooth care! So ya never know. I'm tentatively curious about what they'll find going on in there. Plaque buildup? Tartar? Periodontal disease?

<gone to spit>

<flossing (can't type. checking email and weather)>

<post floss rinsing>
Really, what's the worst case scenario?

The hygienist calls to the rest of the office, "Hey guys! Get in here! You gotta see this!"

or,

"I'm sorry. There's nothing more we can do. We're going to have to refer you to a vet."

OR!

"You're gonna need some of these pulled. What do I mean by a 'some'? Well... Do you enjoy soup and pudding?"

<gone to spit>

<gone to bed>

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Does its web not also imprison the spider, Grasshopper?

Here's a great website for you budding entomologists and arachnologists. I could spend hours there. I took lots of photographs of bugs when I lived in the country. Now I can start classifying them and posting a Bug of the Month.

August's bug is the impressive Golden Orb Weaver (Argiope aurantia). I caught this one feasting on a large, and unlucky, grasshopper. The hoppers were so numerous last summer the field grass at times seemed animate, which may explain this spider's plump size (it was a little larger than my fist!). Actually I nearly walked face first into its web as I scrambled back up a hill through the brush. The females are about four times the size of the males so I hope this was a female! More pictures of her here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It is not logical.

Okay. Cereal three times today? I think I'm ready to unpack the pots and pans. Now what box were they in?... Ah, what's the rush? I like cereal. And is there some sort of banana embargo I don't know about? The banana island at the grocery store was completely barren this afternoon! Plenty of plums, loads of limes, acres of apples, gobs of grapefruit, millions of mangoes, billions of berries, piles of papayas, mountains of melons, an overflow of oranges, cases of kiwi... alright that's enough. But not one banana? And me wan go home. Maybe I just caught them on the cusp of a delivery cycle.

On another note I am enjoying having wireless internet at my house. No more delis or coffee shops just to check blogs or google something. And I can now easily discover interesting factoids on the spur of the moment. Such as: Did you know Quadre is 50% UW alumni at the moment? Two downsides I've noticed so far however:
(1) Netflix + horny/single + 24 internet access + privacy of own home = Bikini Squad showing up in mailbox three days later. I'm not proud. A review may be forth coming.
(2) Endless hours of The Daily Show and Colbert to catch up on! Good thing I'm (mostly) still on summer vacation.

Good luck with Dean CdeC! Stay hunkered down somewhere inland. I've never gone through a hurricane but I know someone who went through Frances and Charley in 1994. That was a bad season! Frances sat right over her city and spun for 24 hours barely drifting a few miles. She was safe but said the wind noise was so terrifyingly loud and constant that it became quite exhausting to endure. I hope you have a safe place to go and lots of cereal!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Go Cyclone-twisted-cardinal-thingies!!!


I'm sitting in my office with my feet up on my desk in my new house in my new city. Boxes are scattered about every room waiting to be emptied. I moved weeks ago but once I got the place livable details like books, pictures, curtains and clothes stayed packed away. I don't anticipate that changing too soon. I can walk from the bathroom to the kitchen relatively unimpeded. What else does a guy need?

Fall is in the air! Sure it's still 85 degrees and 90 percent humidity but music for the first sets of the season are beginning to arrive in the mail and calls for sub work are coming in. It's nice to finally wind down this barren summer and get regular gigs on the calendar (and regular checks rolling in!).

Next week I start a new job which is exciting. I'm looking forward to teaching these students but it's the horn seminar that has really got me thinking. I've never done anything like that before. If I'm doing it right, I should learn a lot preparing for this weekly lecture/discussion/chamber music/masterclass hour. I might troll for ideas sometime so beware.

I am conflicted about one thing: Most of my students are MusEd or non-majors but there is one freshman music performance major in the studio. I've yet to hear the student play but the fact remains, serious performance majors should be studying with professional musicians who have “made it”. I've cobbled together a nice freelance/adjunct existence but until I win some sort of full-time gig I'm not qualified to teach anyone else how to do the same. I've decided to devise a set of rules:

So you want to be a performance major?
(1) You must regularly seek out lessons with working, full-time, professional horn players. I know more than a few. I'll give you their numbers.
(2) You must attend summer festivals and learn where you rank among your peers.
(3) You must seriously consider a second major. Hey if athletes gotta learn something actually useful in order to play, why shouldn't you?
(4) You must seriously consider transferring to a reputable horn performance institution during your undergrad or, at the very least, attending one as a Master's student. (This rule may get me in trouble with my new boss so it will probably exist as “unwritten” but certainly not unstated.)

And just one rule for me, the teacher: Blow no smoke. Sure. Give the kid encouragement. Time to grow. Time to see how he or she develops as a player. See what kind of worker they are. See how bad they want it. But ultimately confront them with your opinion of their chances of success early enough in their academic career that they can change course.

Any other rules you all can think of?

Actually I think this sort of thing is often much less dramatic than it is played up to be. There are lot's of people, not just musicians, who graduate into competitive job markets without the requisite skills or talent to seriously contend for their dream job. And you know what? By and large they survive and find a place to call home and do just fine. There are lots of ways to make a living as a musician that don't require winning an audition against Curtis graduates. I just don't want to lead someone down a primrose path. I won't do that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my Bonnie Rait playlist is almost up and I need to find the box with the tortilla chips in it so I can enjoy some of my brother's new wife's family's homemade salsa. (Follow that?)

Oh and by the way, I'll be posting every night for the next month as an experiment. I hope it doesn't start getting all stream-of-consciousness and shit by the end of the week!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Scrapped Dreams?











Just a passing thought for those of us who've had limited audition success of recent. (Perhaps the previous owner wouldn't have felt the need to scrap the instrument had the slides been in the correct places!)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rocky Mountain Rejection/Honolulu Hook

0 for 3
I got back from Denver earlier this week and auditioned for Honolulu (in Chicago) yesterday. Won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say few people were being advanced at either site and I was among the many.

Notes:
(1) Driving and walking around downtown Chicago is always a blast (coming from rural Zwingle). There are so many people that I go into social-sensory overload. And the cab drivers'll run you up on the sidewalk as sure as look at you!

(2) Thanks to Pops for splitting the roadtrip/audition tour with me. The highpoint was seeing my great aunt and uncle and meeting my first cousin once removed and second cousins in Colorado (I think I've got that right). It reminds me that I come from good stock all around.

(3) Tomorrow is the Madison Marathon. I'm going to cheer on my younger brother and my sister in-law who are both trying to qualify for Boston. I'm not bummed at all about having to drop out of the race. It was the right thing to do and I'll get a better chance at it down the road. Hi-dee-ho!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

One down. Five to go.

(pisser)
You know the saying about New York?

"If you can make it there you can make it anywhere!"

Well might there be an inverse one about Sioux Falls, South Dakota?

"If you can't make it here, quit trying!"

No luck for me in the city which is mostly remembered by people, if it is remembered at all, for simultaneous floods and fires. It was a nice surprise to see Spot in the middle of nowhere (would you really give up a nice "cushy" opera gig in Europe to play in South Dakota?!) and my friend SM, both of whom advanced (Yeah!! Who won guys?).

I did not advance (pisser). Generally speaking, when the first note out of the horn is fracked, that's a bad sign. Other things were going well but just too many chips here and there and everywhere. I was waiting for the proctor to ask the committee if they needed more salsa!

I am glad my friends got to stick around a bit longer. I just wish I was able to as well. In part because I know they are good horn players and so, by association, if I were among them in the later rounds I must be a good horn player too.

Instead I sit sulking somewhere in the middle of Nebraska en route to Denver for stop #2 on Spring Audition Tour '07. To paraphrase Sinatra, "Ya can't cheat the notes. Ya gotta sing um." Here's hoping I hit a few more of those notes next Tuesday. (pisser)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Small Sad World

I was just checking some other horn player blogs for the week and came upon the sad news of KM's tragic death, along with that of his fiance and the other plane crash victims. I spent a summer in Austria with K and can attest to his gregarious spirit, generous and warm manner, and wonderful musicianship. I remember his method for auditioning. He would play every excerpt from memory while closing his eyes and visualizing being conducted through it. I ran into him once more since then in Ann Arbor, MI for an audition for the symphony there a few years back. We caught up in a very friendly manner even though I called him 'Chris' upon first seeing him again. He then proceeded to kick mine and everyone else's butt and win the position.

Season Ending Stock-Taking

The seasons have all ended. In a great way, too, with back to back Tchaikovsky symphonies. And if you ever get a chance to see and hear this group do not hesitate. They were the real highpoint of our last concert in my opinion. The bass player can also be heard here. And, of course, with the close of each performance season comes the expected ruminations on where you've been and where you're going. That's the point, after all.

I remember a particular run around my block in rural Zwingle (about 9 miles) when the weather was warming considerably. Grass was straightening and greening, trees were budding, birds were flitting and flirting. But, in addition to the Spring rejuvenation going on all around, the newly vanished highway ditch-snow revealed Winter's carnage and debris. Freeze dried deer carcasses. Deep skid ruts from careening SUVs and the odd jackknifed semi. All manner of refuse collected, suspended inanimately for months and deposited like a glacier garbage moraine after the thaw. Notable among this refuse: Piss bombs. I even remember trying to compose a poem about it on the run.

Still Life with Piss Bombs

Matted carcass sleeps,
Eternally withering,
Amongst golden vessels of relief
And a rusted riveter.
Five syllables here.

The warm rains of Spring bring with them the potential for new growth but they also wash away the cold cover for Winter's accumulated detritus. All to say, sometimes personal growth reveals some of the less pretty things about your life more clearly. Or some shit like that.

This season I won several minor-league auditions firming up a nice freelance “career” but have failed thus far in my attempts at a full-time gig. I fell hard for a wonderful woman but ultimately, in the fantastically apt words of my friend AS, got kicked to the curb. I ran some good races and got in a lot of nice training runs but bonked in the preparation for a sub-3:00 marathon (knees, schedule, weather... excuses!). I have more summer playing lined up than I did last season but don't have a real summer gig.

Sooooo...

This summer, in some order of priority:

(1) Audition preparation. While I did get to play on stage at Symphony Hall in Boston, and did well (until the Schönberg! ugh.) the only unqualified audition successes this season were local. I need to start advancing at auditions for full-time gigs. This probably means playing excerpts for everyone and anyone who'll listen critically and give candid advice. Aw hell! Anyone who'll listen, period!

(2) Get up off the curb. Raleigh's change of heart was just a thorn on a great big, beautiful rose... which was ripped from my hand. At least I know the old ticker still works like it used to. In the immortal words of George Costanza, “I'm back baby! I'm back!” Of course George also pontificated, “Every woman on the face of the Earth has complete control over my life, yet I want them all. Is that irony?”

(3) Start planning for next summer this summer! Summer gigs are few in number to be sure (paying ones, anyway) but if I get going on it sooner I'll give myself a much better shot. Help me out here. I will form a summer gig list in a subsequent post and examine the options in detail. Please submit your favorites, reader!

(4) S-l-o-w-l-y get ready for a nice fall marathon. Maybe Chicago. I'll definitely put together a little racing season this summer. I didn't run all last Winter just to sit around in the Summer.


In the mean time I'm heading off on a little audition tour (South Dakota on Saturday, then on to Denver and Chicago next week) and will update from the road if possible. I know I'm on the right route. Just gotta keep on truckin'. No time for a rest stop so just let the piss bombs fly!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wireless Ramble

I'm taking a practice break here at Drake University, watching the goldfinches dart between the trees in the quad like little yellow torpedoes. The semester must have wound to a close this week as all the rooms save one are unoccupied. Just a lone class piano student hammering away at Chopin's E-minor Prelude. It's the same one I memorized for one of my class piano juries.

The practice rooms here have these great big back-sloping windows which look out over the campus. They make me feel like I'm on the bridge of a destroyer or in an air traffic control tower or something. The rooms have a good sound but are very leaky. If someone is practicing next door it is like they are playing right into your ear. Still, aside from the sound proofing and the distracting view, I would rate them among the best I've used.

This evening I've booked myself so tight that after finishing a concert at the Hotel Fort Des Moines I'll just have time to stuff my horn in my gig bag, bell sticking out, and race 7 blocks to the civic center for a Tchaik 4 rehearsal. For some reason I love when things like that happen. Running from one downtown venue to another. I wish every day could be that packed with communal music making. And usually it isn't 7 blocks but 7 counties between gigs. I swear I'm paid much more to chauffeur myself around than to play horn.

To give you some idea of how much driving is entailed in freelancing in the Midwest (outside of Chicago, that is), yesterday I put new tires on my car. This is the second set in 16 months and I ran them near bald. They will be paid for by part of my tax refund which itself is largely due to 30,000 deducted business miles last year. And keep in mind I don't do much work related driving in the summer so that comes to about 10k miles every three months or about 100 miles a day. If you want to do this kind of work you had better enjoy your car... a lot! That's enough stream of consciousness for today.