Archive for October, 2007

Reality vs Tabloidia: Separate Worlds

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 30, 2007 by tom

Puddin' and I were sitting at a table this afternoon, laughing about the absurdity of "chicken- fried chicken."

"What else could it be? Fish-fried chicken?"

She was snorting, positing that perhaps the chicken could be formed into a steak of some kind, when I noticed the old man looking at me. I typically try to ignore people as much as possible, especially when embroiled in such an important intellectual exercise as this, but the man was in my peripheral vision, and he definitely stopped, looked at me, did a double-take, and leaned closer.

It was Grandpa, or Big Jim–a friend of mine. He's 80, and he looks like Barry Goldwater, if Barry Goldwater had been really cool and taller. His grandson, Joey, was there too, and he came up and clapped my back and grinned. I always called Big Jim Grandpa because Joey was a good friend of mine. Grandpa was having trouble talking to me. He shook my hand a couple times, mentioned that he was going back up north for a couple months, and that it was good to see me. It was awkward. He walked to a table outside with his sister.

The awkward part was because Corporal Jim, Big Jim's son, died three weeks ago. Out of the blue.

I turned to Joey.

"I was so sorry about your dad. I…I mean, when Puddin' called and told me, I didn't–"
"Yeah, it was a shock. He'd gone to Borders to have a cup of coffee and read, then he came home and ate dinner with my mom. He took a shower and said he was going to bed early. He fell asleep. She heard the gurgling about 4:30. Anyeurism. They run in the family. Grandpa and Aunt D out there both have them. They just haven't blown yet. It goes to show you, when God says it's your time…"
"Roger that."

He went out to join Grandpa and Aunt D, and Puddin said, "No damn way I'd be that together this soon after."

I doubt I would be either.

We had a great lunch. She was drooling over the dessert menu picture of some pie or another, and I told her it was like porno for fat people. She laughed and smacked me. I always love that, sort of like when it rains with the sun still shining.

The reason Joe's so together is that he has to be. He has to keep it together for his mother, who just lost her highschool sweetheart, and for his own wife and baby. He has to be strong, too, for Grandpa and Aunt D. This is what people do here in the real world.

The rules are different in Tabloidia, that rarified world where people who really shouldn't matter somehow become interesting to the huddled masses.

In the Tabloidia city of Nassau, Bahamas, today, a large, trailery looking woman with bleach-blond hair was on hand to witness the "start of justice." The process she champions is a Coroner's Court inquest to determine the cause of death in the death of her grandson.

Of course, two separate autopsies already determined that he OD'd on methadone and a variety of antidepressants.

BUT! You see, the same man was around when her grandson died, and then a few months later when her DAUGHTER died! Her cause of death? She OD'd on Klonopin, Topamax, Valium, Soma, Robaxin, Ativan, and chloral hydrate.

Of course I'm talking about Anna Nicole Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur. I feel bad for her, I suppose, because she did lose her daughter and grandson. Truth is, though, her daughter ran away from her as soon as she could and never looked back–Vickie Lynn Hogan got left along the dusty roadside along with Virgie, while Anna Nicole moved on for the bright lights and fame. "But she was my daughter!"

Well, some parts were. She changed her face, dyed her hair, had breast implants and liposuction, glued on gigantic fiberglass whore-talons–there was no visible trace of Vickie Lynn Hogan. Gone.

And don't get me wrong. I never thought Anna Nicole was at all attractive. I'm not really into blondes in the first place, and the first time she spoke I'd have lost any attraction whatsoever.

The foul play involved in both of these Tabloidia deaths was they occurred in a world where nobody is told "no." They didn't have doctors tell them things like, "take an Advil for your sore back."
"But it REALLY hurts!"
"Okay, take TWO Advil!"

These geniuses took Methadone for back pain. And if one antidepressant makes you feel better, then two should make you feel twice as good, right? Certainly that's why Anna Nicole had five different anti-anxiety meds in her system.

Maria Shriver resigned from NBC News because of the excessive coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death. Tabloidia won't care, unless Ms Shriver runs over a paparazzo's foot or gets caught without underwear.

Tabloidia didn't note Corporal Jim's passing. Corporal Jim worked hard all his life. He never married a billionaire or was the subject of a reality show or walked a Hollywood red carpet. In the weeks since he died, there have been no retrospectives on his military service in Vietnam, no profiles of how he married his high school sweetheart, no interviews with Grandpa calling for an inquest.

Virgie Arthur's link to fame is gone–Anna Nicole's buried, and once this case is dismissed Virgie will go back to anonymity in Texas, where (rightly) nobody gives a crap about what she says. In Tabloidia, losing your link to fame can turn your life upside down. Here in the real world, losing a loved one is the real tragedy.

I guess both are sad in their own way.

Puddin' and I will miss you Corporal Jim.

P.S.: If you get a chance, ask God what's up with "chicken-fried chicken," will you? Thanks!

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*Aegrescit medendo

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2007 by tom

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Colorado Rockies 4-3 tonight to sweep the 2007 World Series. Well done. I like the Red Sox just fine.

But some of the things I saw during this Series saddened me. First off, I saw a few players sitting on the bench chewing bubble gum. Okay, bubble gum has long been a part of baseball. A few players were chewing sunflower seeds, too, but nobody was chewing tobacco.

Back in the day, baseball players chewed tobacco constantly. The dugouts ran with rivers of brown spit. Who could forget Rod Carew, with his cheek puffed out like Dizzy Gillespie, stroking a single to right, or Carlton Fisk, lifting his mask to spit Copenhagen from behind home plate? I got to visit the Kansas City Royals clubhouse one spring training, and there were cases of Red Man, Levi Garrett, Beech-Nut, Skoal, Copenhagen–you name it.

And the players only chewed and dipped during games because they were discouraged from smoking on the field. Joe DiMaggio used to huff cigarettes during the game, and Babe Ruth–the greatest player ever–smoked black Cuban cigars bigger than the bats most players use today.

"But tobacco use is bad for you," the health nazis decry. Fair point, but you never saw the Babe shooting human growth hormone and beef steroids into his own ass. If his head grew, it was from eating hot dogs and drinking beer, the way the Good Lord intended. And the Babe still managed to waddle his way to 136 triples (the scientifically enhanced Barry Bonds only has 77 (and in 483 more career games)).

The lovely thing about baseball versus any other sport is that you can analyze the crap out of the statistics; and there are statistics on everything (batting average with a .15 blood-alcohol level or higher against left-handed pitchers the day after being with a left-handed prostitute, eg). You'd think the sport was invented by a bunch of actuaries or calculus professors. You could argue whether players today are better or just a bunch of overpaid coddled babies, and you could quote glorious statistics to support either viewpoint.

But there's one thing I saw tonight that made me want to weep like a…well, a whatever weeps the most horribly–a little kid sitting near me in a restaurant, typically.

Both the Red Sox and the Rockies played some great baseball. They both played hard and fair, and they did the game proud, even if the results will go down as being very lopsided. But what I saw… (sfx: shivers)

After every World Series clincher, the networks always show the obligatory champagne spraying orgy in the winning clubhouse. It's as traditional as spitting, scratching yourself, or not stepping on the baseline while taking the field. When you win the Series, you scream and yell and pour champagne on each other's heads. Then you shake up bottles and spray the person being interviewed, taking care to douse the interviewer as much as possible. Sometimes, you actually manage to drink some of this champagne, but that's irrelevant: the important thing is in the presentation. (You can always get drunk on the flight home, for crying out loud)

Anyway, it always does my heart good to see this celebration, for the players show the exuberance of Little Leaguers. So the cameras were in their large baggies, and there were Man-Ram and Big Papi and Tek and Yook and the boys hootin' and hollerin' and shakin' and sprayin' and–

HOLY SHIT, THEY WERE WEARING SAFETY GOGGLES! Every last one of them was wearing a pair of blue safety goggles! SAFETY GOGGLES!

Oh, come on! In Babe Ruth's day, they wouldn't have even opened the bottles: they'd have just thrown them at each other, then swallowed them whole. Hell, after the Cubs won the 1908 World Series, Ty Cobb shot four of his teammates during the post-game celebration.

(note: Cobb played for the defeated Tigers, not the celebrating Cubs)

How sad.

Then again, if I'd been at the game and ordered a bag of peanuts, they'd have come emblazoned with a skull and crossbones: WARNING! CONTAINS PEANUTS!

I'd certainly hope this would be obvious, but the peanut vendor has to cover his/her peanut vending ass. God forbid they sell a bag of peanuts to somebody who's allergic to peanuts without warning them that the aforementioned bag of peanuts contains peanuts.

Wednesday is Halloween. Little kids don't need to buy costumes. They simply need to dress to go skateboarding or bicycling. Today, they call it "safety equipment." A few years ago, it was called "SWAT Team body armor." A couple decades ago, only RoboCop would walk around looking like that.

Well, or Barry Bonds. Bonds has this giganto Kevlar bionic protective thing he wears on his right elbow, because him don't wanna get bwuised if the mean pitcher fwows over the inside part of the pwate and hits one of hims ham-sized arms. Waaaah!

Babe Ruth didn't even wear a batting helmet. If you hit him with a pitch, he'd razz you all the way down to first base, then hit one 500 feet the next time he faced you. Then he'd razz you some more, take you and your wife out after the game, get you drunk, buy you dinner, toss a screw into your old lady after you passed out, take her to early Mass at St Mike's, buy her breakfast, screw her again, sleep an hour on the trainer's table, take a giant dump, wash three hot dogs down with four ice-cold draft Rheingold's, then go 3 for 4 before catching the train back to New York. Along the way, he'd tip the bartender, the maitre'd, the waiters, your wife, Father Joseph, the waitresses, your wife again, the trainer, the plumber who unclogged the toilet, the clubhouse boy who got the hot dogs and beers, even the opposing pitcher. Everybody gets a Jackson from the Bambino. Everybody has a good time, and if you don't want champagne to get in your eyes, stay out of your wife's closet, the end stall, and the last three pews at St Michael's.

I'm sitting here tonight writing these words while listening to a loud jet engine off to my left. The jet engine is not really there. It is not the result of any sort of auditory disease or cancer–I had thousands of dollars worth of expert tests done over the summer, and there's nothing causing this annoying jet engine…

…Except for self-inflicted hearing damage. I could show you the charts detailing my hearing loss, and how it's much worse in my left ear. Why would I have hearing damage?

The audiologist asked me whether I'd ever been exposed to loud noises. "You mean like shooting firearms without hearing protection, going to loud rock concerts without hearing protection, listening to loud music at home, and–oh!–do you think 23 years of wearing headphones at work might have something to do with it?"

He just shook his head ruefully.

For the last 18 of those 23 years, my headphones of choice have been Sony MDR-7506's. I've plugged them into production studio equipment, broadcast consoles, computers, home stereos, guitar amps, you name it. The MDR-7506's are lightweight, comfortable, have perfect frequency response, and amazing power-handling capability. No matter how loud I've needed to play them, I haven't heard any distortion.

Yep, I'd recommend these headphones to anyone. Take it from somebody who's blown out part of his hearing–they're awesome!

My hearing is shot because I played them too loud. My left ear is worse, because I frequently had to have one ear uncovered, and it was always my right. It's not Sony's fault. I take responsibility for the big jet engine that's been bugging me all day.

I never wore a bicycle helmet or knee-pads or elbow pads or chaps or whatever else today's kid has to strap on before biking. My bikes were probably covered with lead paint. I know my school buses burned leaded gasoline, and I think our tuna and vegetables came in lead-soldered cans. In fact, when I was a kid and I rode my lead-painted bike out in the middle of the leaded gas-burning car-filled street, and I scraped one of my unprotected knees, my grandmother would set down her can of Carling Black Label and, with a lit filtertip Kent between her lips, solder my boo-boo with lead. Then she'd deep-fry some three-eyed catfish caught in Love Canal, and we'd eat them with lead forks.

Sorry. The lead has warped my fragile little mind.

It's good to be careful, of course, but there are points of diminishing returns. A recent study showed that all things being equal, kids who grew up in exceedingly clean homes grew up with WEAKER immune systems, and GREATER incidences of asthma than kids who grew up in normal homes.

Similarly, I could've made choices over the past 23 years that would've protected my hearing and prevented the jet engine noise that's plagued me especially badly today.

That would've prevented me from having had a career in radio, though. There is no way I could've avoided hearing damage. None. I've had a hell of a ride, and I've loved it. No way I'd make that trade.

My doctor said, "You'll always have the ringing. It'll probably get better and worse from time to time, but there's nothing we can do about it."
"Nothing?"
"Well, stress and caffeine will probably make it worse."
"Anything else?"
"For the love of God, if you're going to drink champagne, wear protective goggles!"

I would've smacked him, but he was wearing a helmet.


*Aegrescit medendo
= "The cure is worse than the disease."

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Nice Turns of Phrase

Posted in Uncategorized on October 25, 2007 by tom

Ali said she wasn't sure whether she was premenstrual or had cancer. I doubt she really wanted either, but I'm sure–given the choice–PMS would be her selection.

Uncle Pete had a hangover one time, and said he felt like a sack of smashed assholes. Of all the hangover descriptions I've heard, that one seems most fitting. I remember college, those days before I got used to being hungover. That was it: the morning after, I felt like somebody had broken into wherever it was that I passed out, filled my skull with heavy sharp industrial parts, eviscerated me, replaced my organs with a bunch of assholes, then smashed them with a ballbat. Amazing how I never awoke during this period. Amazing, too, how I didn't get hangovers when I didn't drink.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "In the real dark night of the soul, it's always three o'clock in the morning."

On many mornings after dark nights of the soul, I've felt like a sack of smashed assholes, although I'm unsure whether Uncle Pete ever read Fitzgerald.

T.S. Elliot: "I have heard the mermaids singing each to each; I do not think that they will sing for me."

I have heard my neighbors screaming each to each; I really hope that they don't scream at me.

Ever since Chynna died across the hall, I pay a bit more attention to screams. She was depressed and she told her boyfriend on the phone that she was sick of living. She hung up, turned her ringer off, removed the hidden key over her door, then od'd on heroin. Her boyfriend came over and pounded on the door, screaming her name. I didn't hear him. I was having my own true dark night of the soul. I, too, was sick of life. I drank a bunch of whiskey, smoked myself hoarse, and blasted something loud and guitar-intensive through my headphones. Dark night of the soul or not, it was 3 o'clock in the morning. If I hadn't had my headphones on, maybe I'd have heard the boyfriend screaming. Maybe I would've done something heroic and life-saving, like crash through her door and resuscitate her.

Probably, I'd have done nothing. Probably, I'd have put my headphones on and played something guitar-intensive really loud to drown out the screaming.

For awhile, I was afraid she'd haunt me. I wasn't really worried that she'd go all poltergeist on me–I'd always gotten along with her quite nicely. Nonetheless, she did die really young across the hall from me, so maybe her soul would get trapped here in Building 33, destined only to walk up and down the concrete steps, watch the rather boring antics we the still-living perpetrated, and swat the ghosts of the mosquitoes and cone-nosed assassin bugs that also died.

That was like five years ago. Chynna was a 20 year-old club kid who worked at some chain fern-bar type restaurant. I'm supposedly well educated, well-read, intelligent, ad nauseam, but she knows the answers to the biggest questions there are: immortality, God, who wrote the book of love, etc.

Chris the Shrink calls suicide, "A permanent solution to a temporary problem." He's pretty sharp, in that shrink sort of way.

Whatever Chynna's problems were in this world, they ended there, on the beige carpet of her living room. Along with those problems (PMS or cancer, eg) went all the opportunities for happiness. All the orgasms and cheesecake and giggles and hugs and sunsets and Thanksgiving Night leftover turkey sandwiches and meteor showers and hand-holding and hearing your favorite song on the radio while driving.

Maybe in the next world, the clock hands finally moved off of 3 o'clock in the morning. Maybe the mermaids sang for Chynna. Maybe, too, they'll one day sing for me.

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