Monday, April 27, 2009

Band on the Run

Can you handle it?

Let me colorize teh sexy for you. The pants were red. The shirt? White satin with a red stripe. The dangly thing with the 'K' on it (which stood for the school and not my first initial, though I did secretly think it was cool that it was both) was black satin. The hat was 'white', that is, it started out white, taking on the aspect of a wad of dryer lint after a while, except where the red plume was nestled. There, it was pink. A good pounding of rain quickly made the hat look like a sodden bright red squirrel was taking liberties with it. At least the hat is clamped firmly on my head with a snazzy bead-tightened nylon strap.

Mr D. approached me during at-school band camp in the scorched dregs of August to ask me if I would like to learn to play bass guitar. In two weeks. Uh, sure. That might be more interesting than standing at attention holding one end of our school banner for the interminable duration of our 'field show'. I dutifully practiced.
And sometimes faked it a little. (Hey, I always LOOKED like I was playing. And I mastered the opening riff of the Barney Miller theme, not that I got to exhibit that particular talent much.)

It was someone's particularly sadistic notion that the bass player in our band should also be allowed to participate in parades. A large cart was constructed out of black-painted plywood that would hold an amp and a Kawasaki generator. This could be pushed by one of the 'runners', I would walk along beside it, and play.

There were a few logistics issues that seemed to escape the notice of virtually all of this brainchild's parents. First, the cart was large enough for human smuggling. A Kawasaki generator with a full gas tank weighs around 75 pounds. The amp, about 50. If we put the cart itself at around 50 pounds you have roughly 175 pounds on wheels being pushed by an 85-pound seventh grader who has to turn her head to one side at all times to minimize hearing loss from the roar of the engine and to avoid inhaling gas fumes.

Even if you turn it up to 11, there is really no drowning out what sounds like a push mower in a box with a bass guitar.

Christmas, 1986. Our band is marching down Main Street in our hometown. The streetlamps are decked out with tinseled candles, lights festoon the four blocks of downtown. They even adorn the small pine tree in a concrete pot on a wee concrete island at the convergence of two streets. A wee concrete island surrounded by potholes.

My cheerful plonk-faking through numerous Christmas carols is suddenly interrupted by a very definite tug on my power cord. I glance back toward my Flotilla of Sound and note the disconcerting absence of my cart pusher, my aide de camp, my tiny sherpa of soul. I step up on the concrete island. She's there, all right, frantically trying to dislodge the cart from a fissure in the street that has firmly claimed one of the wheels. I swing my guitar out of the way and help her. A distressing gap is widening between us and the last of the bass drums. The VFW is bearing down on us with grim and surprising speed and their banner bearers begin to wave at us, peevish expressions on their faces indicating their displeasure with our wanton disregard of their uniform and timely appearance before the review stand.

I back the cart up and with a desperate yank, its freed from the miry pit. There's just one problem.

A Fender bass has two things that make it hard to walk around with. One is the quite long neck. The other is the four giant keys at the top. I've never seen Adam Clayton or John Paul Jones have a problem with this. Though I would imagine neither of them ever stuck their guitar in a fully decorated Christmas tree.

I'm forever grateful to one of the Vietnam vets, who, being among the more sprightly of the VFW, jumped out of formation and helped disentangle the keys from the string of lights, freeing me but effectively rendering the bass out of tune and unplayable for the duration of the parade. We marched on, grim and silent, treating the audience to the throaty growl of gas-generated power.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Infrequent Lover Returns

Ah, spring. So you're back. After a series of teasing drive-bys, abbreviated calls, you think you can just cruise back in here, drop some flowers on us, put your muddy boots on my table, and I'll just give you a big sloppy kiss and all is forgiven, eh? Do you think the red tulips in front of the post office make me forget how late you are? You have some trees to get to work on, so get busy. Maybe I'll drag out the grill for you. We'll see how you behave.

Yes, so it seems that appropriately seasonable weather has finally found its way to the Outpost. Hard on its heels came The Tourists. The incidence of bright yellow license plates increases around 3pm on a Friday and you know They are coming. They are easy to spot; strolling slowly down Main Street arm in arm, gazing intently at everything. They say things like "Its SO PRETTY here." Or, "Where's the Diner?" (Answer, smack in the MIDDLE OF TOWN but you don't want to eat there. Go to Harland's on Pearl.)

I resent them, a little. Oh, I'm glad they are here. They are the bigger part of our economy, especially these days. But I feel like I just hiked up a giant mountain of suck known as Winter, clawing my way hand over hand with the promise of soft green grass and 70 degree afternoons at the top, only to be met by a carload of looky-loos who drove up the other side and stand gawping at the vista and complaining about the lack of a Starbucks. Where were you in the iron grip of February, when everything was brown and gray and the cold was a lingering torment even under layers of fleece? Where were you when the wind strafed the canyon with relentless daggers of ice and the snow fell up? Enjoy our town, but understand that we don't just enjoy this weather; we earned it.

I'm making an effort to be less crabby. This lingering malaise of non-specific anxiety is getting tiresome and I think its time to spend my energies in more worthwhile pursuits. Apparently there is some need for a person to work on the 'comedy' portions of our upcoming women's chorus anniversary concert. Some have intimated I should do this. Frankly, its terrifying. I much prefer being funny to distract or irritate and not on cue and for others. People say I should do standup. What I hear them say is 'You should go about naked, and see what kind of response you get.' It couldn't be any more stressful or potentially humiliating. Maybe stress and humiliation is the better part of comedy, but its always better when its someone else's comedy. So we'll see. Since the better part of both my employed and social life of late seems to be observing humans in the act of mistreating each other, the well of funny is running a little shallow and silty.

Well, its 81 degrees and I suppose I should get out and mingle with the off-worlders, bless their turnpike-driving hearts. Hope your day is splendid!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Welcome to Monday. Please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.

I woke up this morning to my cat pressing a bottlecap against my forehead.

Good morning, frisky little bastard. Yes, 06:11 is a fantastic time to play chase-the-Smirnoff-Ice-cap and a bagless furry teabagging. Thank you.


Its one of those days where I wish I could fake cramps or something and beg off school and spend the rest of the day curled up on the couch watching the stories and eating artfully extruded cheese out of a can. I walked a whole bunch this weekend and the general opinion of my joints this morning was that I'm a hateful bitch who must be punished. I glossed them with so much ActivOn that I could have slid noiselessly into a wetsuit. (While the suit wearing doesn't appeal overmuch, the speargun as an accessory does indeed.) My attitude can best be described, in the words of another distinguished cat, as 'crabilated'. But never fear; I'll be taking to the highways of the Twin Tiers this week and I am almost certain my visits to cities far and wide will yield some amusement. In the meantime, I have posted new adventures From the Back of the Bus....

Psych Transport

Well I’ve had this damn sinus infection for three weeks now and I was downtown and thought I’d go to the hospital but I couldn’t hardly stand up and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get out of the car at the hospital so I drove home and came back up the ramp and I was just sitting here and all of a sudden I couldn’t hold my head up (dog barks) SHUT THE F**K UP! (dog stops) so right I should give him any more cigarettes? F**k him. He smokes his and mine too and I have to buy him more and he never pays me back, that rotten son of a bitch. I should quit smoking? F**k you! Okay so I guess I can go with you but I’m not getting on that damn stretcher that’s how they get you, you know, so we can walk down the ramp hold me up now, hey you are nice and warm I’ll hold on to you okay oops be careful I don’t know if I can make the steps I’ll just sit here on the bench no, okay, I had better lay on the stretcher because now I feel sick to my stomach -- do you have a bucket? Well you’d better get one because as soon as this thing starts moving I’ll be making a mess of this place.I’ll tell ya, it never gets any better, the patches was what they give me and the damn stuff makes me throw up the first thing the doctor did was try to take away my cigarettes but Jesus Christ, I’m bi-polar already, can you imagine what I’d be like if I couldn’t smoke? I only smoke a little, maybe three or four a day, and some pot, that’s it, then I stopped, they give me a prescription for the patches but how do you get the stuff? You’d think they’d give a person a disability check on time for Chrissakes. I was down to see Fred, and I told him, I can’t deal with your shit anymore, I had the nurse talk to him, I don’t know what she said but he was bawlin’ when she got done. It’s a hell of a thing living on social security, but my car runs on air, so at least I don’t have to worry about that.

Note: This call was dispatched as a 'near syncopal episode'. This post is, to the best of my memory, a transcript of the breathless, pauseless, unbroken monologue of our patient.