Thursday, May 31, 2007

There is no normal life. There's just life.

Yeah, so I haven't written anything in a while. I'd love to say it's because I've been monumentally busy*, but that's just not true. The truth is that once the weather breaks, I spend as much time as possible outside - I stop watching TV, stop goofing off on the computer (for the most part), and just bask in sunny goodness as much as I can. Fortunately, I even have a job that demands I spend a fair amount of time outside. But my weekends are now devoted to barbecues, baseball games, and mowing the lawn.

But I've been thinking about something for a while. It struck me a few days ago... I was sitting on my back porch, sipping the first of a few beers, watching the dogs wrestle on the lawn and listening to the Red Sox on the radio, with the sounds of suburbia in the background. It was a picture of tranquility. It was almost heavenly. And something popped into my head...

"How the hell did my life come to this?"

It's really sort of bizarre. I mean, I spent a good deal of my life growing up in a suburb just outside of Boston, wishing to get out of there, wanting desperately to live in the city. I went to college in Madison, Wisconsin. Not a bustling urban mecca exactly, but not a corn field in Iowa either. I lived in Boston, in Cambridge, in Philadelphia. I loved the city. From the age of 15 to 22 my life consisted of school, punk rock shows and extensive and varied drug use. For god's sake I used to have purple hair, four piercings and buy my clothes exclusively at the Army-Navy store. I went to grungy bars and drank myself senseless on a regular basis, while sporting Misfits t-shirts and Minor Threat posters on my walls.

Now? I live on a street so quiet that it's almost eerie. I turn the radio in my car down when I turn onto my street because I don't want to bother the neighbors. I fret over my lawn. I get annoyed at my neighbor when he doesn't do something about his dandelion problem. My idea of a great night is a barbecue with my wife, followed by a quiet drink on the porch while listening to a baseball game. I avoid loud bars like the plague, and I've been to 2 concerts in the last ten years. For fuck's sake, the kids down the street come over routinely so they can play in my back yard with my dogs. What the hell? Ten years ago, I'd have said that letting your kids come to my house was a surefire way to begin their descent into hell. I have a garage full of equipment for maintaining my yard. I chat with the neighbors about schools and property values. I have a career. Jesus, I have employees. Don't these people know that I'm basically a completely irresponsible fuckup masquerading as a grown-up?

I mean seriously... what the fuck?

Because here's the thing. I was sitting there that night, all this stuff clanging around in my head, thinking that I was on the verge of a pre-mid-life crisis, wherein I'd freak out and quit my job and drive across country or end up flying to Singapore and dying in a haze of opium and transvestites (oops... sorry Matt).

I feel like I should have been pacing the cage like a wild animal. But instead, I simply took another sip of my beer, put my feet up, and listened to the final innings with a big grin on my face.

*quick, name the movie!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Good Music is Good For You, Part VI

So I'm in kind of a weird mood today. I've been sick all week, which has been miserable. I missed a day and a half of work, mainly due to the one-two punch of my wife and my boss both berating me into staying home. It's been kind of a crappy week, it's rained a lot. Not much going well except for the Red Sox winning (note: I have been doing everything in my power not to write about the Sox because I know it annoys the hell out of some people, but sometimes shit slips through).

Anyway, that was a pointless introduction, especially since this is a music post. But I just wanted to set the mood a little, since this is one of those music posts where the two artists are radically different from each other.

First is a recent discovery, William Elliott Whitmore. Part blues, part country, this guy has a remarkable voice and some serious guitar and banjo skills. The banjo is an instrument I never really appreciated until a guitar playing friend of mine explained just how damn hard it is to play. He's an Iowa boy who's got the kind of whiskey-and-cigarettes voice that, when used properly, can really move you (very reminiscent of Tom Waits). What's perhaps the most surprising is that he's pretty young - I couldn't track down a birth date, but he's definitely still in his 20's, I'd guess. This is a live track (he doesn't have any videos), and it's sometimes dark and hard to make out... but hopefully you'll get the point. The song is called "Lift My Jug (Song for Hub Cale)", from his album Ashes to Dust.

Next is Lovage. Now, I've already spoken about my man-crush on Mike Patton, possibly one of the weirdest, and most talented, musicians alive today. Lovage is one in a long line of projects he's worked with, including but not limited to Faith No More, Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, and The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Lovage is a trio of talents made up of Patton, singer Jennifer Charles, and Japanese-American hip-hop producer/DJ Dan the Automator. It is a singularly bizarre combination of talents, and what comes out is fascinating stuff - a weird, noir-ish mix of sultry vocals and scratchy, yet smooth beats and music. This is "Book of the Month", off the brilliantly titled album, Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Still crazy after all these years...

Since I seem to be unable to write unless I'm stealing other people's ideas recently, let's continue the trend. Meg, over at Hobocamp, recently wrote about how she recently had her bag searched on the NYC subway. Fortunately, she had no contraband on her person, so she ended up fine (sigh of relief). But continuing in that vein, I figured I'd talk about one of the two times I was almost arrested by Homeland Security. Note: this story is going to seem pretty crazy, but I swear every word is true.

The time: December, 2001, 3 scant months after 9/11.
The place: LaGuardia International Airport, New York, New York.

Three months after September 11th, my sister and I were flying to Cape Town to visit our parents. It was, as you can somewhat expect, a pretty tense scene. In addition to the fact that the entire country was still pretty shaken up after the terrorist attacks on the WTC, airports were just a complete nightmare.

Now, I've talked before about how, due to the number of random ethnicities running around in my family, it's hard to pin down what ethnic group I belong to if you don't know me. Let's just say that being a somewhat dark-skinned person walking through LaGuardia three months after 9/11 was something of an adventure. I knew it was going to happen, and decided in advance that I was just gonna suck it up and accept that I was going to get searched. I made my peace with it, and began my journey.

When our taxi pulled up the airport, I was searched before I even got into the terminal. Then I was searched in the ticket line. Still, I was pleasant, non-confrontational and simply kept my mouth shut and took my medicine. I was searched when I went through the security line. Finally, bags checked, ticket in hand, we were in the terminal. My sister was a little shocked at both the level of security and the number of times I got searched. Of those three times, one of them was just a bag search, and two of them were a bag search coupled with a pat-down. Between leaving the security lines and getting to our gate, I was searched two more times - one pat-down, one bag search.

OK. So, yes, it was getting a little old. I felt that I had pretty much fulfilled my civic duty about two searches ago. But still, I answered the questions, succumbed to the searches, and was pleasant, patient and cooperative. Finally, we're at the gate. We're getting a little antsy because a) we're about to embark on a 22 hour plane ride, b) we're excited to see our parents, and c) I'd just finished being searched FIVE TIMES in two hours. But we're ok. A little goofy, but OK.

Let's interrupt for a second and briefly discuss my sister and I. I'm a little weird, perhaps a little crazy. My sister, being a theater major and now an actor and director in NYC theater, is verrry dramatic, and probably crazier than I am. When we're together (which is not very often)... we get a little nutty. OK, fine, a LOT nutty. We goof off a lot, we get kind of hysterical. We've been holding it in, reining in our inner whacko for a good few hours now. We're reaching critical mass. Imagine a six-foot-two, 200 pound dork and his six-foot, slightly smaller lunatic sister doing everything they can not to burst at the seams in craziness. If we don't get to act silly soon, someone's gonna get hurt. But for now, we're keeping it together.

Finally, they announce that our plane is boarding. We're getting antsier. We're in the little tunnel leading to the plane door. And... I get stopped again. For the sixth time. I take a deep breath, and hand over my carry-on bag. And we go through the drill with the little security man:
Security Man: Excuse me, may I see your bag?
TK's Sister: Oh, Jesus.
TK: It's fine. Certainly, sir.
He begins rummaging through it, asking questions.
SM: Do you have any knives?
TK: No, sir.
SM: Any nail clippers?
TK: No, sir.
SM: Any corkscrews?
TK: No.
SM: Any nail files?
SM: Any batteries?
TK: N0... wait, what?
SM: Any batteries?
TK: Oh. Um... yes.
SM (getting serious): I see. Will you show them to me?
TK: Really? OK. They're in the front pocket.
Note - this was before Ipods, so I had only my crappy discman, which used two AA batteries in about 3 hours. Bear in mind, this is, counting flight time, layovers, etc., a roughly 30 hour trip. I had a shit-ton of batteries.
SM finds the batteries, looks at them intently.
SM: I'm going to have to confiscate them.
TK: What?
TKS: Why?
SM: For security reasons.

And here is where the dam starts to break...

TKS: That doesn't make any sense.
SM: Ma'am...
TK: Yeah, why can't I have batteries?
SM: Sir...
TKS: They're for his discman - what's he supposed to do without them?
SM: Ma'am...

Now we start crossing the street to Crazytown...

TK: Yeah, what am I supposed to do? How are they a security risk? What am I gonna do, THROW THEM AT THE PILOT?

At this time, all the people streaming past us are starting to notice. We're officially making a scene.

SM: Sir! Ma'am! Um...
TKS: See all these people walking by? See that guy? And that guy? And that woman right there? ALL OF THEM HAVE BATTERIES! WHY ARE YOU TAKING OURS?! WHAT IS THIS BULLSHIT!

We're now the mayors of Crazytown. We're closing in on this little security man, who is easily 7 inches shorter than us, and realizing he has a couple of mentals on his hands.

SM: OK! OK! Fine! You can keep them! Please, just keep them and go!
TKS: *panting, gasping*

So there you go. Somehow, despite throwing a complete crazy-fit in front of a security person, three months after 9/11, we avoided sharing a cell in Gitmo.

But wait! The story ain't over. So we get to the plane, and we are still living in Crazytown. I, in particular, am freaking out. I'm shaking after the encounter in the tunnel. We sit down, and I'm trying to get my shit together. And failing. My sister is starting to come down, so she tries to get me to calm down.
TK: Christ, I'm wigging out here.
TKS: Honey, just relax. Here, I brought these pills, they're supposed to help you calm down.
She shakes one out, gives it to me, shakes one out for herself.
TK: What?! JUST ONE?! Fuck, look at me!
I take the pill, glug down some water, pass her the water.
TK: I'm fucked up here, sis. I'm seriously losing my shit. Look, I'm shaking, I'm fucking sweating. I'M - I'M HAVING NIGHT TERRORS!!!!!!

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is where the wheels really come off. My sister is halfway into swallowing her water, and after hearing me screech about "night terrors" (night terrors?), she cracks up, and promptly sprays water out of her mouth, and right. onto. the. bald. head. of. the. man. in. front. of. her. Which blasts off his head, and showers the people next to, and in front of, him. I swear I am not making this up.

Bedlam. Absolute fucking bedlam on the plane. People start yelling, the guy in front of us is in a rage, and my sister and I are now on our knees in front of our seats, clutching our stomachs, crying, because we are laughing so hard, it's physically painful. We have lost all capacity for rational thought. All the craziness that's been bubbling up inside of us for the last four hours just exploded out of her mouth, and we are off the goddamn chains. We're dying. And we somehow think that ducking behind the seats will save us. We cannot. stop. laughing. And crying.

The plane starts to move. People settle down. We slowly get our shit back together. And for the entire 22 hour flight, no one speaks to us. No one looks at us. We're like two lepers on the flight. It's brutal.

Believe it or not, there is more to this story. 10 days later, we're at a shopping mall with my parents (in Cape Town). My sister and I are goofing off, wandering through the halls, when my sister freezes. Paralyzed. I stop, ask her what's wrong... and look in the direction she is staring.

It's the bald guy. From the plane. The guy she spat water on. He turns, sees us, does a double take, and then points at us and roars: "YOU WERE ON THE PLANE!!!!"

My sister? She just turns and fucking bolts. She runs faster than I've ever seen her run. As for me? What choice do I have? I turn and just hightail it after her, and don't slow down until we're outside.

Yeah. Like I said, my sister and I don't see each other very often. Perhaps now you can understand why.

Friday, May 11, 2007

No thanks to the treadmill, no thanks to the grindstone

First of all, run over and read this. Then, we'll talk.

Litelysalted inspired me - let's talk about all the shit jobs we've worked. No one out there has made it through their lives without working a couple of absolutely awful jobs. So I'm issuing a challenge. Write a post about your worst jobs, and link it in either of our comments sections for all to see. And we can see who's had it the worst (though LS will be tough to beat - cleaning gas station bathrooms using toilet water? Using rotten chicken for chicken salad? I mean... seriously?).

So here we go:

1. When I was 16 I worked at a coffee shop. A really ritzy, fancy coffee shop in a really ritzy, fancy shopping mall. It was the ideal job for a bitter, constantly-high kid with purple hair and a disaffected attitude who wanted nothing more than to just go home, eat a pile of mescalin and listen to The Clash's Combat Rock on repeat. Constant abuse from the snobby rich, as well as constant criticism about my appearance from my boss. The highlight was this exchange with a customer.
TK: Welcome to Beans. Can I help you?
Dickhead: COD?
TK:? What?
DH: C - O - D! (in a "god, you're stupid" voice)
TK: Cod? Fish? What?
DH: C.O.D.!! Coffee Of the Day! You do work here, don't you? Guess you don't need to be smart, huh?
(Let's pause for a moment. If there was ever a way to guarantee that the staff will spit in your coffee, this is absolutely it. Just a word of advice.)
TK: Sorry, sir.
**makes coffee, spits in it**
TK: Have a nice day.

Yeah, I got fired eventually.

2. In college, I worked at a small machine parts assembly line. Basically, imagine a small piece of metal with a tiny hole in it. And imagine there is a tiny wooden peg, that kind of fits in that hole. Now imagine 200,000 pieces of metal, and 200,000 wooden pegs. Imagine sitting in a poorly lit room with a DEAFENINGLY LOUD air conditioner that neither cooled, nor conditioned, the air. And putting the peg in the hole. TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND FUCKING TIMES. I lasted five weeks, and I'm positive it did more damage to my brain than all the alcohol, marijuana and hallucinogens I've ever done, combined.

3. Ah, the oft-mentioned college construction job. Every summer during college I worked for the Department of Public Works. This should actually be it's own post some day, because there are waaaaaay too many stories. This is also where the bulk of my scary work stories come from. But here are the highlights:

*I worked on a garbage truck. You wanna talk about smelly? Well, that's not the worst one.

*Because I also spent two weeks working on the sewer truck, aka "the shit truck". This is the truck that drives around fixing busted septic tanks and sewer pipes. It's... well, it's hell. It's a true, unblemished hell. My first day, we're driving around, we get a call. Mikey, the driver, looks at George, the other guy and says:
We got a call. Get the kid the glove.

The glove? Well, I already have gloves.

No. Not "a glove". "THE glove".

"The glove" is a thick rubber glove that goes up to your shoulder. In the interest of not driving you away screaming, I'll spare you further details. But I spent an afternoon in hip-waders and "the glove", swallowing my vomit back repeatedly. Use your imagination for the rest. And trust me when I tell you, whatever you're imagining? It was far, far worse than that.

*I also worked an asphalt paving crew. Because nothing is more fun that shoveling burning hot asphalt on a 90 degree day when you're hungover (what? I was 19. I was always hungover). Nothing beats blowing your nose and having it come out black. Nothing beats not caring about what you eat for lunch, because it all tastes like blacktop anyway.

*Oh, and - jackhammering? It's exactly as fun as it looks. Which is to say, you feel like a badass for the first 30 minutes. Then you feel like you're having a seizure. Then you feel numb. And deaf. And angry at your father.

4. And, of course, there was one professional job that sucked. It was a few years ago, when I lived in Philly. It had it's ups and downs. More downs, though. A few highlights:
*Arriving on my first day, asking for Miranda, my supervisor, and having the gum-cracking attitude beotch at the desk simply say: "she quit". Yes, my boss quit the week before. I asked what should I do? The answer? "I dunno. How should I know", and then she want back to reading the paper. Great way to start your first day in a new city.
*After being transferred to a new office in a less... desirable... part of town, I showed up for work one day to see a van come screeching to the curb and a full-blown S.W.A.T. team explode out the back door, spread out, and storm the house across the street. I mean, flak jackets, MP-5's, goggles, the whole bit.
*Finding yourself saying, on more than one occasion in the same week: "man, these motherfucking crackheads are really starting to piss me off", and having every. single. word be true.
*Having a supervisor who can't talk coherently or spell. Seriously. One time she sent me an email. It was one paragraph. I read it, then re-read it slowly. Then I printed it out and re-read it again. I had no idea what she was trying to say. I can't even tell you if she was asking me a question, or giving me a directive. It could have been a recipe for barbecued platypus, I have no idea.

I still think Litelysalted wins. But I've got some choice ones. So bring 'em out, kids. And Matt, despite it being a shit job, you're not allowed to list "attorney". Too obvious.

Mining is the most dangerous work
In our land today
Plenty of dirty, slaving work
For very little pay
Coalminers, won't you wake up,
And open your eyes and see
What this dirty capitalist system
Has done to you and me
From "Coalminers", by Uncle Tupelo, written by Sarah Ogan Gunning

UPDATE: Here are the other tales of woe in response to the Shitty Job Challenge:
Hispanic! At The Disco
My Taste in Wine Leans Towards Vodka
Girl With Curious Hair
Que Barbara Sera

Monday, May 07, 2007

Taste the pain

All I wanted was a sandwich.

But, me being me, nothing is quite so simple. I won't bore you with a recap of my weekend, suffice it to say that I did a lot of barbecuing. As a result, I have a pile of leftover barbeque in the fridge, which thrills me to no end. So tonight, home alone as Mrs. TK is working late, I decide "hey, let's have a sandwich using some of the wonderful pork loin". Mmm, sandwiches.

So I get some bread, some mayo, some cheese, and while innocently slicing the pork (and simultaneously completely spacing out), I basically saw off the tip of my left thumb. Yeah. Blood everywhere.

So now, since I'm a little bored, I figured I'd talk about something I've alluded to in the past. Namely, the fact that I am incredibly clumsy. I know, you're thinking, "oh TK, you exaggerate", because you're like my mother and begin all your sentences with "oh!". But believe me when I tell you that I am absolutely not exaggerating. I'm not clumsy because I severed off the tip of my thumb.

I'm clumsy because this is the third time I've done this. In the last five years.

So join me, friends, for a little journey down TK's Memory Lane of Pain. Here are some of the amazing feats of awkwardness and ineptitude that I have achieved in my 32 years:
  • When I was five, I was spinning around in circles to make myself dizzy. As a result, I hit my head on a table, resulting in a gash above my eyebrow, stitches, and a scar that I bear to this day.
  • When I was 10, I got so angry at my Nintendo that I slammed my fist into it, breaking the cover and tearing up my knuckles. Resulting in stitches.
  • When I was 13, I was riding my bike to school. While going downhill, I hit the brakes too hard, went flying over the handlebars, slammed into a stop sign (and I mean the actual sign part), and broke my left wrist.
  • 9 months later, I was running out of history class. I lost my balance, put my hand down to steady myself, but since my thumb was sticking out, I snapped my thumb. It was bent literally at a 90 degree angle. Yes, I broke my thumb in history class.
  • When I was 14, three days before high school started, I was riding my bike to a friends house. My front breaks were a little too tight. So I, being the fucking Rhodes Scholar that I am, tried to kick the brake pads to loosen them. Instead, I got my foot stuck in the spokes and went flying over the handlebars (again). This time, I broke both the bones in my left forearm, broke my right shoulder blade, shredded the skin off both elbows and knees, and lost two teeth. Let's just say the first day of 9th grade was a little awkward.
  • When I was 15, I tore up my knee taking out the trash. Apparently, there was some sort of sharp thing in the bag, it brushed up against my knee and next thing you know I'm in the hospital getting stitches.
  • Again at 15 - one of my best friends had a fairly low ceiling in their stairwell. Not incredibly low - in fact, they've told me that no one else has ever hit their head on it. Not only did I once hit my head so hard that I almost blacked out, but they eventually had to re-plaster that section of ceiling because it was so badly damaged. From my forehead.
  • Another time in high school, I was tapping on a window to shoo off a bug. I ended up putting my hand through the glass. Yep, more stitches.
  • When I was a senior in high school, I went camping with some friends. Since all of them knew my reputation for damaging my own person, they gave me all the easy jobs, like gathering firewood. Right. While stomping on a branch to try to break it, it shot up and went right in my ear. Again, blood everywhere.
  • During my college years, I worked construction over the summers. One such summer I was using a hammer and chisel, apparently a bit too vigorously. A piece of the hammer cracked off and shot into my arm, resulting in a tiny little hole and a stunning amount of blood. Again with the stitches.
  • Before we moved to this house, I was in the basement of our apartment, doing the laundry. I hit my head on a pipe so hard that I just... landed on my ass. And briefly blacked out. It's hard to describe... imagine seeing someone just... violently sit down, then pass out. Oh, and it's because they hit their head so hard that they bit their tongue hard enough to draw blood.
  • Last winter, I tried snowboarding. Without taking lessons. Result? Completely lose control (on the little kiddie hill), go flying ass over teakettle, and in an effort to break the fall, I put my hands out in front of me. I know, your thinking another broken arm, right? WRONG. Instead, I landed on my fists and cracked a rib. That's right, I broke my rib with my own fist. Which resulted in this conversation with my with my wife:
Me: Oh... God... it... hurts...
Her: laughing, she's having a great time
Me: Stop... laughing... not... kidding...
Her: laughter dying down... are you ok? Does it hurt?
Me: Only... when I... laugh... or talk... or... breathe...
  • Last summer, while digging up the flagstones in my yard, I dropped one on my toe. Thankfully, no hospital trip was necessary.
  • Also last summer, I slammed my car door on my own thumb. No reason. No distractions around. Just slammed the door shut, without thinking "hm, maybe I should move that big damn monkey-thumb out of the way". Tore the nail right the fuck off.
So there you go. Sadly, that's not even the complete list, but I figured I'd try to make you all feel better by showing you this little piece of my story. I hope you've enjoyed it. And sorry ladies, but I am off the market. You'll have to find the clumsy baboon of your dreams elsewhere. Sadly, I've now reached the point where unless I am in danger of actually dying, I skip going to the hospital. I'm just tired of going, you know?

Also, for those of you keeping score, yes. Yes, between the ages of 13 and 15, I broke five bones, lost two teeth and needed stitches twice. I used to think I was clumsy because I grew so quickly (in those same two years I went from 5'0" to 5'11"). But sadly, the future would prove this to be untrue. Basically, I think I should just wear a helmet and body armor full-time. Or wear one of these:

Yeah. Enjoy your day. And be careful out there.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Are you crazy? Is that your problem?

Martita Goshen, Interpretive Dancer - on Barbaro*:
"Barbaro was in many dimensions," she says. "He looked at the whole picture. That's why he had that stumble at the Derby. He was ahead of the moment. The Zen of that. That's dancing. For the rest of my life, I'll be working to move with that innocence." Many years ago on a voyage off the coast of San Diego, she came face to face with the eye of a whale. She saw all of humanity in that eye, the rise and fall of civilizations, love, hate, power, glory, ugliness, beauty, lies, truth. This realization has taken her all over the planet, trying to help save the creatures she holds dear by raising environmental awareness. ... "[Barbaro] a great messenger," she said. "He's the greatest dancer I've seen since Baryshnikov or Nureyev."

"I was just as terrified when I met Barbaro as when I met the Dalai Lama," she says.
I hope I speak for us all when I say:


Sweet merciful crap, these people really need some goddamn perspective. Don't get me wrong - I love animals. I truly do. God knows I have enough of them wandering around the ole' Meat Factory (that may have come out wrong). But the level of anthropomorphism that has come about regarding Barbaro is absolutely insane. Much as Ms. Goshen is completely off her nut. Thousands starve and suffer and die across the globe, and you're comparing a horse to the Dalai Lama. I'm not saying that people need to dedicate their lives to helping the world, but there are certainly better fucking ways to spend your time than deifying a goddamn horse. For more Barbaro related lunacy, check out this video. I'm not embedding it because... well, because it's a Michael Bolton song and just saying his name makes me nauseous. But do me a favor and just read the comments on it. It's a terrifying glimpse into the minds of the seriously creepy.

*courtesy of ESPN, via Deadspin

That's more like it.