Holiday Surprise

I think, aside from the understanding nature of a few of my closest friends, part of what has gotten me through this month (so far; there is still a day and a night left) without taking H.L. Mencken’s advice is the fact that I had the forethought back when tickets first were available to plan to go to the Holiday Surprise concert at the 40-Watt Club in Athens, GA, and that I made a much-needed mini-vacation out of it at the beginning of the month.  Holiday Surprise was the incarnation chosen to represent almost all of the bands composed of members of the Elephant 6 Collective, and it was guaranteed to be an interesting show.  Aside from just the temporary escape from a huge set of temporary stressors (thankfully all related to only “first-world problems”), I was really looking forward to seeing some people I know from back in the KLPI day who have lived in Athens for a long time, and to finally seeing the city that so many people have compared to my college town of Ruston, LA.

I took that Friday off, picked up my friend AbC who seemed to also be in desperate need of a vacation, and we left Nashville past noon.  Stopping in nearby Murfreesboro for gasoline, I did something that I never ever do: I left my car while the fuel was pumping, and went into the store to do/get something.  Having learned previously not to vary from the steps in the ritual of fueling up (learned by skipping the step of removing the nozzle from my tank one day before driving away from the pump (the hoses just snap off the pump!)), I paid meticulous attention to the steps:

  • notice that the fueling has stopped,
  • top off the tank in spite of all nearby written to please not do so,
  • replace the nozzle into the quiet pump,
  • take the receipt from the machine (ignoring the fake Receipt Ready – Please See Attendant messages when they appear),
  • then return to the driver’s door.

When I got back to the driver’s door, something was different.  I looked in the window and immediately saw that AbC was gone.   I thought it seemed weird that our paths wouldn’t have crossed in that process, but assumed she had slipped out of the car and gone inside without me noticing, so I went on about the business of readying for the 5-hour drive.  I went to get my water bottle out of the back seat, and saw that there were a lot of school textbooks and teaching materials instead of my computer bag and overnight stuff.   That’s when I realized that I had returned to the grey Sentra on the far left of the fueling lot rather than the gray Sentra on the far right side of the fueling lot.  (There is a reason I write this blog in a manner that does not directly identify the author. =))  I quickly shut the car door and sprinted back to my own car, and then quickly repeated the above steps for the appropriate vehicle and got in it.  As I was driving to the exit of the gas station, I saw in my mirror the guy who owned the other Sentra exit the store and place his soda on top of his car.  I saw him notice his fuel nozzle had been replaced in the pump and his gas tank’s cap had been closed.  I saw him examine the numbers on the fuel pump, and then literally step back and put both hands on his hips, then look carefully around the fueling stations and the parking lots while scratching his head.  He was still scratching his head when I hit the on-ramp.

Then I drove a lot and played music really loud.  For being a young’n to some degree, AbC has excellent taste in music, so we swapped off iPod playlists for most of the way.  (The car-stereo AUX jack is one of man’s greatest inventions.)  Lots of pine trees in Georgia; it reminded me a lot of north Louisiana.  Immediately upon arrival in Athens, we had tacos and beer at the Taco Stand, an easy walk from anywhere in downtown Athens, and seemingly both the touristy and the local thing to do.  I had fish tacos, which were excellent, but there is no photographic evidence (that I know of).

While we were at the Normal Bar later that evening, they played Neutral Milk Hotel on the hi-fi, which was in itself a magic moment since I don’t think I have ever heard that music outside of my own home or car.  Shortly thereafter I was hit on, well, literally bumped roughly into, by a drunkardess who had a large dog on a leash with her at the bar.  She immediately apologized slurringly for bumping into me, then gave me the quizzical am-I-supposed-to-know-you expression while asking if I was eeyun the mealitayry.  I said no, and then she immediately asked if my dad was eeyun the mealitayry, to which I also answered no.  Her immediate response was “Wayell, mah huhsbuhnd is eeyun the mealitayry, and I’m pretty sherrr he could kick yerrr iyuss.”  Luckily, her friends who were babysitting her heard her proclamation, seemed like maybe they recognized it as one of the milestone lines their friend crosses while over-drinking in public, and whisked her and her dog to some backyard part of the bar.  This was about the time that we figured out that the folks who said they were going to meet us out were actually not going to, so we finished our beers and called it a night.  Aside from the interaction with the chick with the dog and the ass-kickin’ mealitayry husband, I think the Normal Bar would be a place I’d frequent if I lived in Athens (or open if I were to ever open a bar).

Next day, AbC got a peanut-butter-and-banana-and-bacon donut (called the Elvis Special, I believe) at Ike & Jane.  Even though I watched people do five jumpingjacks at the register in front of the sign that says a 10% discount is applied to your order if you do, and even though I told AbC that I was going to do them, I still forgot to do my jumpingjacks when it was my turn to shine at it.  (And I still haven’t done any.)  I got a chocolate-covered donut and a cinnamon roll, as is my custom when assessing the offerings of new-to-me purveyors of such finer things.  These hippie-made donuts were tasty, but they still paled in comparison to the hippie-made donuts I had on my Seattle trip last year with 17 Words for Yeah.  That said, the line outside the door at Ike & Jane was justified and worth it, though I am not sure the jumpingjacks would have been.

Another reason I was interested to make the trip was to see the Georgia Guidestones.  The site is a monument constructed of huge slabs of granite at one of the highest points in the region, designed to be instructions for recreating and maintaining a civil society after the one we know has collapsed as a result of whatever is going to make it collapse.

There is really no there there; there is no paved parking lot, welcome desk, nor happy docent to greet you with a glossy hand-out.  The information about the site that is available at the site is limited to a kind of map & legend (also granite) that is set into the ground adjacent to it.  (The Wired Magazine link provides way more information and background.)  It is obvious from looking at the English tablet that some folks take exception with the advice given by the guidestones, as there are visible spots where multiple attempts to deface the messages have been scrubbed away.  It is not immediately obvious that you and your car’s license plates are also on CCTV-cam upon driving up, but this is the case; I assume the vandalism attempts eventually prompted it as a kind of security measure.

We examined the Guidestones, read the English instructions, and tried to recall what we had read about the position of a hole that is drilled into the central slab.  While we were trying to recall what type of Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-type phenomenon occurs and on what interval, we were approached by a fellow in motorcycle garb who was assured by one of his buddies that something happens every day right at noon that is the result of the sun shining through that hole.  While I have forgotten most of what I learned in college astronomy, AbC and I both decided we had a firm enough grasp on planetary physics to assure each other that nothing happened every day at noon that had anything to do with that hole and the sun’s rays.  After re-reading the article (which could not be reached via smartphone from the site, since no cell signal was available that far out in the sticks), it seems we were all right.  If you plan to visit the site, print the article from Wired and take it with you!

(There is a geocache there, too, not to spoil anything for your geogeeks.)

Georgia Guidestones Diagram from Wired Magazine

Owl PurseOnce we got back to town, I took a friend’s advice who knows my taste in junky crap and went to Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother, which was like the old Spencer’s Gifts stores on steroids.  If I were a student in need of a new blacklight or hackysack, crystals or geodes, a Beatles or Misfits lunchbox, or pieces for a Captain Caveman costume, this is where I’d go.  I did not see any Bad Brains shirts, but I did see a cool owl purse.

We ate lunch at 5 & 10, which I cannot recommend strongly enough if you are looking for a traditional Deep South menu.  I had a wonderful omelet made from fresh everything with a side of cheese grits, bacon, and a biscuit and gravy.  The place is tiny; plan ahead, but wait if you have to.  I am a sucker for cheese grits.  mmm cheese grits.

We also saw the exterior walls of REM’s offices, which are above the record store that I was afraid to enter for fear of disrespecting the seriousness of my impending tax bill, not to mention blowing my music wad before Record Store Day.  I rode in the back of my friend KevEv’s truck-garden to a park with a river (and lots of dogs) running through it, then through various neighborhoods and past various sites in town, then back to the thrift store downtown whose name I have forgotten (where I actually put back 2 old Oscar Peterson records).

We got back to the car to find that you do actually have to feed the parking meters in Athens on Saturdays.  However, this also caused me to understand that it is cheaper to pay a parking ticket in downtown Athens, GA than it is to park in downtown Nashville, TN.

I can’t imagine there being a better burger joint in Athens than a place called Clocked, which happens to be next-door to the 40-Watt Club.  Mine was easily on par with some of the best cheeseburgers I have eaten.

The Holiday Surprise show at the 40-Watt Club was a real treat.  I got to see a bunch of people I haven’t seen since college, and meet some people whose names I’ve known of for years.  There were a few people I had hoped to bump into on the trip who either didn’t make it out that night or no longer live in Athens, but everyone who I truly expected to see was there.  I can’t describe the show any better than the link above (although this one is nice, too), except to say that it was more creative with regard to audience participation than any show I can recall over the past 20 years.

At one spot in the show, the band finally alluded to the huge snowman that was off-center, but pretty much in the middle of the room.  It was a construction designed to reflect a lyric in one of the songs that one incarnation of the band was performing that night.  Audience members were invited to use something that looked like a padded tennis racquet (not racket, which is a completely different word) to launch a huge puffy ball at a tissue-paper-on-wire-frame moon 25 or so feet away.  The deal was that the audience member who first was able to throw the snowball through the moon got to request the next song for the band to play — and the song couldn’t be from any record from any of the bands represented onstage.  Finally, after 6 audience members failed at 2 attempts each, the fellow in the picture above made it, and his request was the “Cantina Theme” from Star Wars.  The band members retreated backstage, made a small amount of racket (not racquet, which is a completely different word), and then came back and played it in true Elephant 6 Orchestra style.  A fun time was had by everyone I could see; there were way more truly smiling faces in the crowd than I think I have seen at a live show in years, and I thank everyone involved for making it so much fun.

Next morning, we stopped at Jittery Joe’s to take care of the coffee monkeys that AbC and I both seem to carry on our shoulders, talked about the show, ogled a fine fine antique car, completely forgot to drive by the Tree That Owns Itself (I do not think I have ever ever checked off every item on a to-do list that I tried to keep only in my head), then got in the car and hauled ass back to Nashville.  My estimation is that 20% of the tree canopy in Athens had blooming wisteria vines all throughout it.  The whole town smelled like wisteria from the time we got there til the time we left.

A Night At the Hip-hopera is highly recommend as drive-time music, by the way.

Further Definition

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My Owl Tattoo

This’ll be the quickest yet, published in less than an hour, blowing away my previous goal to publish in less than a day. (The previous post doesn’t count, since half of it came via The Time Machine (which is in itself another topic for a future post).)  After months of consideration, followed by a 2-month backlog on the artist’s schedule book, I got my color done.

I wanted to highlight that the owl‘s feet are Predator-esque (the movie kind, not the hockey or military drone kind), in that they are “solid” but project the background (which, in this case, is skin tone) instead of having their own color.  So I set an appointment with Ian, sent him an email with a couple of pictures attached, and described what I wanted to do: add definition via color to the shapes within the limb and the owl’s head, wings, and tail-feathers, maintaining a sort of stained-glass effect once inked in contrast with the walls of the individual shapes created within the linework.

Yes, it hurts.

Once my appointment date arrived, it went smoothly.  We discussed the emails, talked color palette, then got down to the nitty gritty.  We talked about tough-guy competitions (his strong suit) in comparison to metaphorically similar life challenges, discussed the history of shoulder angels, and then we moved on to the ancient Islamic tradition of only ever confronting people who you feel the need to bad-mouth only to their faces, and then only through a neutral mediator.   When we were done, it looked like this!

I have enlisted the assistance of a good friend to design my next one (it’s “simple”, but not anywhere near simple enough for me to be able to do it!), but I fear he is already too over-committed with other things to be able to turn around the idea that I know he is capable of visualizing and depicting in the time-frame that I am considering having it applied.  So, if you find yourself wanting to (freely, or in trade for beers) use your love of fonts, your understanding of musical notation, and your gift for manipulating characters with something like InDesign, along with your desire to create a line-art image that will be applied as a tattoo, please let me know.

By Request: The Story of How I Almost Blew My Hand Off

This story is being told by request.  That said, the topic is a safer one for me to write about than the post(s) I had actually already started, so I will take the request as a sign to abandon my previous blogpostular direction and instead commit to 1’s and o’s this cautionary tale of a self-inflicted wound.  As usual, I was going to over-write in the retelling of the story, but it occurred to me that the original telling of the story was likely still available in my gmail, and I was right.  Actually, this is an email that went to several friends after I wrote the original reply to my sister’s husband, who had only heard about the event via my dad.  Here it is, from late 2004, written in Franklin, TN, after having returned from rural Louisiana:

====================

date Mon, Nov 29, 2004 at 2:30 PM
subject so I won’t have to tell the full story again…
mailed-by gmail.com
11/29/04

This is the story of how I visited the Jackson Parish Hospital ER on Thanksgiving night, and followed up with an English-speaking doctor today upon my return to civilization.

Yes, I am a certified dumb-ass, and I now owe the hospital 100+ bucks to pay for the x-rays that prove it.

——————————

————————————————–
>From: my sister’s husband
>Sent: Monday, November 29, 2004 1:48 PM
>To: email address I used to have
>Subject: how’s the hand?
>
>
>Just checking to see how your hand is doing?
>It’s slightly heavier than the other, and still more painful.  The doctor here verified what the ER doc in thriving Jonesboro said: removing it would likely cause more nerve damage than was caused by putting it there in the first place.  Unless it becomes infected or causes noticeably reduced range of motion, his strong inclination is to leave it there.  He said it may be weeks, months, or years before it stops causing pain when pressure is applied (canoeing, for instance), but that his opinion was that I’d rather that than run the risk of a severed nerve during its removal.

Just to let you have some info that I was unable to find on the Internet: he said lead poisoning **in adults** over something like this is extremely unlikely unless it is in or near your cerebrospinal fluid or your brain or your lungs.  He did say that if I was a child, they’d more strongly consider its removal.

Also, just to tell the whole story since I doubt my dad told it 100%:
[My ex]’s dad gave the pellet gun to [my son] years ago, after deciding it was broken enough to be a safe toy for him to play Army with.  I have tried to make it fire several times over the years, as have [my son] and [my ex]’s dad and brother.  [My son] had already pumped it and pulled the trigger several times (once with his finger on the barrel as I walked into the room, before I could stop him) on this trip before I got to it.  All of this was proof to me that there was no way it was going to fire.  So, I decided to see if it was compressing any air at all, and when I stupidly pointed it at my (dominant) hand and pulled the trigger, a pellet fired into my hand.  I strongly recommend you don’t ever do this.

Sorry we missed you guys this time, but I hope yours was uneventful, comparatively speaking.

It is now safe to turn off your computer.
-Don’t rock, wobble.


Resolve

I resolve to do these things in the new year.  If my doing them (or failure to do them, or failure to do them to my own or to your or anyone else’s expectations/satisfaction) causes grief for myself or anyone else, please accept my sincere apologies in advance.

————————-

Embrace change.  Worry less about things I cannot control, while being mindful and more thoughtful of issues over which I do exert control.  (Likewise, recognize when an assigned (or assumed) work activity can wait til the next day, and delegate appropriate tasks more readily to those who are capable.)

Try to be a positive (or at least neutral) influence on others.

More contact with more friends.

Drink one tall glass of water immediately before each meal.

Skip way more desserts.

Eschew half-and-half in favor of skim milk (or in favor of no dairy) in my coffee.

Strongly consider tea instead of coffee after mid-day.

Cook more.

Exercise more.

Go outside more.

Feed the birds.

Return to regular camping and canoeing.  (Lose the sedan?)

More use of the neti pot; less use of Sudafed.

Update my technical skill set to include a few newer acronyms and buzzwords.  Collect evidence of my relevant expertise and experience, apply for, and obtain the technical/managerial certifications for which I am (nearly) qualified.

Get at least one more tattoo, and/or have an existing one enhanced.

Hockey, hockey, hockey.

Don’t blow off the girl/lady when so quickly they call trying to sell discount symphony tickets.

Go to the flea market more.

Call my mother more, patiently listen to all tangents about things that happened to the distant relatives of people I’ve never met and don’t know; wait longer before asking her to get to the point.

Take actions to cultivate a richer relationship with my family members.

Use fewer curse words, or at least vastly reduce the use of the few that I frequently mutter in conversation and in challenge to technical/temporal/traffic-related hurdles.  Do not cuss at the phone (desk-bound nor mobile).  Do not cuss at the computer, whether at work or out and about.  Remove more meaningless words from my regular vocabulary.  (“Y’all” is excluded, as it is meaningful.  Ask Miriam Webster.)

Talk less to inanimate objects (unless they are voice-operated).

Put things away when I am done using them — at home and at the office.

Read more fiction.  Read more non-fiction.

Listen to more music.

Remember why I moved to Nashville, and act on that.

Follow the “Words of Advice (for Young People)” as codified by W. S. Burroughs.

————————-

Another owl, stolen from the internet

In Which The Narrator Blathers About His New Tattoo

My birthday last year was abuzz with noise flowing out of a divorce attorney’s mouth (I still fantasize about putting my fist in it); this year’s was abuzz with a tattoo gun doing its thing on my arm.  I decided not to get the previous most recent idea, and also not (yet) to get the idea I’ve been carrying around on paper for years (which I may still get one day).

Here’s how it went:

Wire Sculpture of Owl, Stolen From Internet

First I settled on an idea, then I settled on Ian White @ Black 13 Tattoo Parlor to do the work.  Then I preliminarily emailed him about what I wanted to do, which was to have something very similar to this owl inked between the shoulder and elbow of my right arm.

Once I settled on Ian as the guy, I went to the shop to leave a deposit and schedule my session.  I chose Ian as the artist from looking at his work online and from asking around among the folks I have met here who have been inked, and I was glad to see there were not a lot of spooky dark symbols all over his workspace nor visible in the tattoos that are on his person.  There was a month-long waiting list to see him, so I established an appointment for my birthday and then I waited (im)patiently.

Black 13 is a very impressive tattoo shop; everything is clean, and it operates more like a doctor’s clinic than any tattoo shop I have been in previously.  (There were no wannabe-vampires hanging out in the lobby, and their flash is all in books rather than spread all over the walls.)  There is a receptionist guy up front who makes appointments and reviews after-care instructions for the recently tattooed, and the artists each have either an office or a half-walled cubicle to perform their work.  I expected a stereotypical blend of heavy heavy metal over the sound system, but was surprised to find myself signing along to The Shins for much of my appointment.

Waiver

My Tattoo, In Draft

When my appointment came up, I reminded Ian of the design we’d shared via email, and clarified my ideas about the size and about the level of detail I did and didn’t want in the design.   Ian worked with me to determine what level of control I wanted to retain over the design vs the freedom I wanted to give him as an artist, and I decided I wanted his interpreted suggestion of the wire-sculpture owl shown herein rather than an exact copy of it on my arm.  I gave him enough leeway that we determined it would be okay to make the design directly on my skin rather than bother with a very detailed transfer for him to trace.

As I have been asked by almost everyone who has seen it so far, YES, IT HURT when it was being inked.  It healed extraordinarily quickly, though, compared to my previous tattoos.  I attribute this to the sparse line-work rather than solid color.

Aftercare

Tattoo Aftercare

The finished tattoo is below.  (Yes, it is finished.  Yes, the lines that don’t connect were done that way intentionally.  No, there will be no other colors.)

My Owl Tattoo

Now that it’s all healed up, I plan to go back to have Ian fill in a few of the lines with a little more definition, but I am really satisfied with his work, and I will definitely be getting any future tattoos from Ian, Fate willing.

Dead-Cat-Swinging Distance From Starbucks

I spent the Thanksgiving holidays with my lovely girlfriend’s lovely family in Seattle, and here are the bullet points:

  • Though air travel has quickly become my least favorite mode of travel, and I think people should boycott it entirely for a few years, the Tea Essay screening process and the airplane rides were uneventful.  (I was prepared to not be subjected to the bakskattur ekksraise, but thankfully was not selected to be subjugated in that specific manner that day.)   There were a few near-panic moments in which I thought I might start yelling if I couldn’t achieve slightly more range of motion with my arms and legs (and/or a lower cabin temperature), but that must surely be normal for non-sedated humans wedged shoulder-to-shoulder into a winged machine with rockets on it, maintained and operated by people who are part of one of the world’s most expensive charades.  I did get to ride a train around in a circle across a stupidly-designed DFW, though.  At the apex of our hurry, the train we were on went out of service for the evening, so we had to wait for its replacement, which got us to our connecting return flight’s gate with exactly three minutes to spare.  And, as much as I bitch about the Tea Essay, they did help me find my belt that I accidentally left on the conveyor when trying to wrangle my luggage, shoes, computer (out of and separate from its bag, of course), carry-on bag, and 3-0z bottles of liquids.
  • It snowed and was sub-freezing for half the visit.  It prevented the doing of some things, but it also allowed some lazing-around time, which was sorely needed.  This is footage of cars, including a city bus, sliding down the hill that is literally around the corner from where we stayed in Capitol Hill.

    Frozen Dolphin in the Woodpile

  • Seattle must be one of the most walkable cities in the US.  It appears that there are several places in the city with traditional neighborhood housing mixed in with lots of independent businesses at which you can obtain pretty much anything you could need or want within about 6-8 blocks.
  • You cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a Starbucks.  This is a fact.  If you go there, try it.  And they all seem to always be packed with customers.  And really close to each Starbucks is an (at least one) independent coffee shop that is bustling just as briskly.
  • Some French café down the street has the best breakfast I have eaten lately: line an oval dish with ham, crack 2 fresh eggs into it, cover it lightly with shredded Gruyere, and broil it til the yolks are slightly less than firm.  It was good enough that we had to go back again so I could have it for breakfast on the last day.  I suspect I will soon be spending some trial-and-error kitchen time in my pursuit of this ideal.  Listening to The Walkmen is even better with café au lait.  Since my return from Nashville, I am positive that the bulk of the time I have spent talking to people about the trip has been rambling on about that egg dish.

    The "Donut" Sculpture Near the Awesome Indoor Botancal Garden

  • On the way to that cafe on the first day there, I spotted a record store, Zion’s Gate, specializing in reggae and metal.  Immediately I decided that place probably had Bad Brains t-shirts, and I was not going to leave Seattle without one.  Figuring the store would be open again before the 5-day stay was done, I made it a point to go by and call on three other occasions during the visit.  Each attempt was an opportunity to suspect that 17WfY’s assertion made on that first morning was correct: the stoner-metal guys who likely run the shop woke up to snow and ice during  Thanksgiving week, promptly said “fuck it”, and went back to sleep.
  • There are LOTS of different owl stickers on the backs of lots of speed-limit and bus-stop signs.

    One of the Owl Stickers I Saw Everywhere

  • You gotta REALLY want to go up in the Space Needle to make the cost of entry worth it.  It ends up that I prefer to spend my money on various forms of “peasant food” and café au lait (or café con leche, as the case may be).
  • Seattle is the only place I have ever eaten breakfast in a place that is a drag bar at night.
  • Elliot Bay Bookstore is my favorite so far.  It’s next door to a shop specializing in metal and band t-shirts, but they don’t have Bad Brains shirts.
  • If I ever request for you to not let me order any more Cape Cods tonight, remind me that I said that EVERY time I order another one that evening, not just the first time I try it after telling you not to let me do it any more.  Remind me that I told you to tell me it’s for my own good.
  • 1% of the cost of all Public Works projects goes to the arts in such a manner as to enhance public enjoyment of public spaces.

    Troll Under the Bridge

  • There is a huge off-road biking track that runs between the pilings under one the freeways; it’s a public project that makes good use of the space.  (I do not aspire to that kind of biking, but it’s really neat that it’s there.  Maybe a skateboard park will be next?)  There is also a huge troll under a bridge elsewhere in the city, seemingly about to eat a(n actual) Volkswagen Beetle.  There are very interesting stories of guerilla art troupes modifying and retooling (and even transplanting) existing public art so that it is even more suitable to the greater public of the region.
  • Seattle seems as if it is missing a pro hockey team, but they do have naked girls reading.  (I saw the flier.)
  • Speaking of girls, girls in Seattle coffee shops read comic books.  Normal, pretty girls.  I said comic books, out in public –not only within plain view of their friends, but actually seated at the table with their other girl friends reading comic books.  Doom Patrol, even.
  • That guy from Microsoft has LOTS of science-fiction memorabilia and LOTS of guitars.  If you like either topic, the Science Fiction Museum and the Experience Music Project are both worth seeing.  I still think it’s weird that their timeline of electric guitars doesn’t make any mention of Cheap Trick’s Rick Neilsen and his funky multi-neck electric guitars.  I think my dream job would be to curate that museum; it needs to at least double in breadth in order to begin to fulfill its name’s promise.
  • Hippies make the best donuts.  And the best coffee.
  • You can not get a Bad Brains shirt at Pike Place Market.  But you can get almost any other band’s shirt there, as well as any sort of fresh fish or vegetable, fruit, every tin lunch box you ever saw in elementary or junior high.  You may also purchase an EXTREMELY wide variety of imported glass objects of all sorts, including all sorts of devices made for smoking pot, though you apparently may not take photos of these items, not even the military-issue gas mask that’s been outfitted with a bong chamber and an electric starter.  It looked like something William S. Burroughs would have imagined into Naked Lunch.  (This is not an endorsement of illegal behavior, nor of Naked Lunch, which I hated.)  As the girl behind the counter said as I raised my camera-phone toward it, “THE CARD RIGHT NEXT TO IT SAYS NO PHOTOS.”  And, no, she has no idea where I can get a Bad Brains t-shirt, but I might want to try Hot Topic “if they’re some kind of obscure band.”  I ponder the meaning of the word “obscure” while ranting to 17WfY about the no-photos thing.  I disagree with a no-photos policy unless a flash will diminish the lifetime of the subject matter, as in certain museum situations, but that is probably another blog post entirely.
  • If you are at a(ny?) restaurant in Seattle, you will be warned that stuff on the menu might kill you in certain circumstances.  It’s true.  Anything might kill you.  Some stray wind-borne particle may spark an allergic reaction that closes your windpipe while revving your heart up to 180bpm.  An Acme safe might fall on you while you are walking down the sidewalk, too, or any other number of cartoonish events might lead to an extremely abrupt and untimely demise.  I think it’s just as chilling as it is uplifting to be reminded that each and every meal you eat might be your last.

    Pike Place Fish Market, Between Throws

  • Most of the shows I’d want to see if I lived in Seattle are at The Showbox.
  • Irene is not home. Whoever made all the signs saying that, which are all over the yard of a little corner house by the water, seems to sleep outside under a tarp because of the voices of the demons that live inside the house.  I wanted to stop and take a picture of the one hundred or so hand-written posters adorning the yard, most of which contained rants about Christians and demons, but one of the posters said NO PHOTOGRAPHS.  I should have figured that someone who sleeps outside to escape indoor demon voices probably is probably also opposed to soul theft via photography.
  • The elephants at the zoo have been trained to lift their feet in sequence and turn their bodies appropriately for trainers with spray-hoses and brushes.  The young adult gorilla, caring less about hygiene, seems just as happy to crap in its hand, sniff it, and eat it.  Which one is it that’s genetically closer to human, again?
  • There is at least one crow per person in Seattle.
  • Hot Topic in the mall downtown sells DRI shirts and Misfits and Rob Zombie and Pantera shirts, but not Bad Brains shirts.  The girl I asked replied “Bad Brain? No we don’t have that.  Is that a band?”  I had never seen a Hot Topic store before, but once I saw one, I couldn’t think of anything except the South Park episode in which the store is a vortex of evil responsible for the increase in goth kids.
  • Visiting the Museum of History and Industry reinforced a lot of themes that were touched on in my most recent favorite books, Daniel Suarez’ Daemon and Freedom(tm).  The people who struck and protested at the WTO gathering in 1999 were right, but way too late.  The people who participated in the General Strike of 1919 probably had the best example of the right idea, too, but conceded to corporate growth what could have resulted in a wholly different model for regional sustainability.  This, also, is a rant for some other post.
  • Every independent restaurant I visited in Seattle has a wider range of mushrooms available on the menu than any place I have seen in any other city.  (I did not see Scotch Eggs on the menu anywhere while I was there, but I imagine I could have found them if I wanted to make a quest of it.)
  • Ate killer Thanksgiving dinner with lots of 17WfY’s relatives, and not one of them seemed crazy.
  • While I have noticed a growing number of friends who are concerned with eating gluten-free foods, I saw something unexpected at one of the veg places we ate: “duck”, “chicken”, and “turkey” were available in faux representations made entirely of gluten.  I stuck with the organic giant mushrooms and organic spinach in organic garlic sauce.  A seemingly Jamaican man with his dreadlocks stuffed up into a huge Rastafarian hat was dining a few tables over, and I wondered if he was one of the guys who ran Zion’s Gate.  My assertion still holds that if I ever come back as a black male, I’m definitely going to have dreadlocks.
  • Cormorants can swim underwater for longer than you probably think.

In Which The Narrator Blathers About Cooler Temperatures and Hockey

I am sitting on my front porch drinking coffee (a situation in which I frequently thank aloud the Saurage family for having brought Community Coffee to the world) in Nashville, TN, on this lovely November morning; it is birthday week for me.  I am in long-sleeve jammies and wool socks and also in my robe (now it is just my fingers that are chilly), but I am trying to maximize the time I can spend on the porch before it gets too cold to comfortably sit out here.  It feels like just yesterday that merely going outside was an affront to your very being, an assault on your skin and your nervous system.  The kind of heat that makes you wonder if you are going to develop cancer on the 15-step trek from the house to the car, or dehydrate and pass out and maybe not even survive the hundred-yard dash from the car to the air-conditioned safety of Target.  (Luckily, I was able to avoid a lot of this Summer’s heat by working in an air-conditioned office from dawn til dusk for 58 days in a row to help deal with (a) flood (of) paperwork on a gubmint contract.)  The up-side of such a blisteringly hot Summer is that it enhances one’s appreciation of the cooler Fall, Winter, and Spring days.

I guess it was sometime around mid-October when I finally stopped remarking to 17WfY and my friend TJ and colleagues (and anyone within earshot, really) that it feels great to be able to exist outside again without feeling that my skin was going to actually burst into flame.  This Summer’s was a searing heat, but not the continual pressure-steamer kind of heat that I grew up with in Baton Rouge, where not only is it oppressively hot, but there is also the extreme humidity that keeps sweat from evaporating and performs so well at making sure your socks and underwear and shirt and pants are continually damp.  The differences in my descriptions are nuanced and may be lost on my friends who have come here from other climates, many of whom try and fail to convince me that Nashville is remarkably humid.

This part of TN typically experiences one of the most magnificent seasonal changes I have ever viewed, and it increases in spectacularity the further East you go.  There wasn’t enough rain (nor a prolonged period of evening-time temperature shifts) late in the Summer this year to fully stock this Fall’s color palette; instead, much like the past few years, we have gotten a representative fraction of the possible array of colors, just enough to know that Fall hasn’t forgotten how to turn green into multiple shades of purple and red and orange and yellow on the way to brown.  But many trees seem to have gone on strike against the heat and the minimal rains by just moving directly from green to brown to bare.

The shift into Fall, since sometime in 1994, also gets me excited about hockey season.  Since my friends and colleagues all know me as someone who couldn’t care less about football and baseball, and are usually reminded of that when they try to get me to discuss the latest sports news, I have been asked repeatedly how a boy who grew up in Baton Rouge gained such an affinity for hockey.  (People who ask that always seem to stress it as ice hockey, though.)  I have now been asked that enough times that I find myself wondering about the answer to the same question.

Here’s what I know:

  • The first event I recall buying my own ticket for was an exhibition ice hockey game that was being held at the Baton Rouge Centroplex in late July 1985 as part of the National Sports Festival.  (I also saw Aldo Nova there, and Van Halen, but that’s a different post for another day.)  I had pretty much no interest in sports back then (too), but hockey was unheard of that far South in that day, so it piqued my interest that it was coming to BR.  All I knew about hockey back then was that it was played on ice by guys with sticks who seemed just as likely to be hitting each other as the puck that you couldn’t see on TV, even on the rare occasion it was featured on the Wide Wide World of Sports.  Also, it was late July, and I figured if the floor was made of enough ice for hockey to be played on, it HAD to be cool in there, likely the coolest place in town.  I don’t remember trying desperately to get anyone to go with me, and I went to the game by myself.  I remember breaking the ticket price down in my mind, amortizing the expected coolness of the experience over however long it took to play a hockey game.  My memory of the game consists of these details:  The “ice” seemed slippery, but even I could tell that this ice was less icy than was customary for ice hockey.  A layer of water was visible on the ice, and it obviously hindered the movement of the players and of the puck.  The players were totally soaked, every turn and every hit spraying water off the ice on player who was part of the action.  The players seemed like they had to work their asses off just to get any speed up, and when they were gliding across the ice, their skates left rooster tails.  Refs were continually stopping and re-starting the game as rules I had no understanding of were broken and enforced.  There were no fights.  I don’t remember the score, but I think it was a tie.  (When I left there, I took myself to see Louisiana’s LeRoux, a band which I imagine I will be the only reader of this post to remember, play a gig somewhere in a hotel ballroom near the river.)
  • A dozen years later, I moved my family from Louisiana to Huntsville, Alabama.  University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH), I was told before even unpacking our stuff, had a KILLER hockey team.  As live music options were very limited, and as many of my closer colleagues were in the habit of going to the games, I started checking them out and ended up going frequently when the team played in town.  I cannot recall the team name, but they were consistently champions of whatever league they were in at the time.  It was here that I started to understand more about the rules of the game and the strategies that could be used by the different positions on the team.
  • A couple of years after moving to HSV, a semi-pro team was brought to the city: the Huntsville Channel Cats.  I started splitting my hockey-watching time between the college and the semi-pro teams, and the difference was like contrasting ballet and boxing.  The college team was much more about finesse in execution as a team, obviously setting up and finishing plays they had studied in practice; their motivation was about maintaining a a name as a team that worked together to win games.  There were never any fights, and there were rarely penalties in the college games; penalties were usually quickly capitalized on by the opposing team and spelled defeat for whichever team was most oft-offending.  The semi-pro team, however, was made of guys whose futures depended on making a name for themselves compared to other players on their team and in their league.  There was lots of showboating, lots of penalties, and lots of fights.  It soon became evident that the crowd coming to see the college team play was out to see the former, and the crowd coming out to see the semi-pros were out to see the latter.  It was at this point that I first started to question what drew me to hockey games that didn’t draw me to other types of sporting events.
  • My parents attended their first and last hockey game with me and my family on New Years Eve.  It was a Channel Cats game in Huntsville.  It was not their cup of tea to begin with, and I suppose in hindsight I was (much) more persistent/insistent about them seeing a game than I should have been (much like the Thai food outing on another visit).  As the game drew on, I could easily tell they were showing their watches their how-much-longer faces.  Throughout the game, there was a guy in the crowd who was being more obnoxious than I can convey without video and audio accompaniment, standing up and making lots of noises and taunts whenever a particular player of the opposing team took was on the ice, and particularly when that player got the puck or got sent to the penalty box.  One one of that player’s many trips to the penalty box that night, the obnoxious guy made such a racket that the player lost his cool, stood up and grabbed a sealed 1-liter bottle of water, and threw it over-handed at that guy in the stands –2 rows of seats down from the penalty box– like a pitcher throws a baseball.  The bottle hit someone else, who didn’t see it coming, barely missing that person’s geezer-age old-timer.  Our seats were just a few rows behind the penalty box that night.  As I watched the bottle fly through the air, I noticed that I was heading toward the penalty box.  When I got there, I kicked the glass at the back of the box and the player looked up.  As I saw him look up, I watched myself pour my large cup of water on the guy as I heard myself say “HEY MAN, YOU CAN’T COME IN HERE AND DO THAT SHIT!”  About half-way through my outburst was when the announcer said loudly over the PA:  “SPECTATORS SHOULD PLEASE REFRAIN FROM THROWING OBJECTS INSIDE THE ARENA AND FROM INTERFERING WITH THE PLAYERS OR OFFICIALS.  VIOLATORS WILL BE SUBJECT TO EJECTION AND POSSIBLE ARREST.”  I turned around to go back to my seat to notice that my son had missed the entire thing, and that everybody else who was with me were all busy reading their programs face-down or rummaging face-down through purses, making it look overly as if they were just randomly sitting next to my seat.  Before anybody could say anything, I was approached by uniformed securityfolk with badges and police batons who told me they had been instructed to remove me from the premises, and asked if I was going to give them any problems as they escorted me up the stadium stairs and into the concourse.  I said no problems, and the head guy told them to let me go and walk out on my own.  He followed me for a while til they were out of ear-shot, then he stopped me as I approached the doors and told me he watched the whole thing, thought my actions were highly inappropriate but well-deserved, and that his boss said I have to go.  So I walked back to my Dad’s truck and listened to the rest of the game on AM radio while everybody who had been ready to leave had to stay til the end so as to seem unrelated to the guy with the cup of water.  It was a quiet ride home, except for a few exhortations on how my hot head was going to get me into trouble.
  • I moved my family to Nashville before the start of the Predators’ 3rd season as an NHL team, and it has been interesting living in a hockey town.  I have tried to attend as many games as I can justify to myself, which is becoming less and less easy to do.  These days I usually try to attend about 10 games per season and to keep up watching other games on TV when I can.  Know that I “know” hockey, I can “see” it from a well-done radio feed, so I will sometimes listen to an important game on the internet if TV is not an option.  I have a small collection of Preds jerseys curated on the cheap through ebay (and the team wins most often when I wear the black one), and I am in my second year managing an online “fantasy hockey” team that I let consume too many of my coffee-drinking minutes throughout the day.  20 years ago, I never would have imagined that I would do nor talk about those things, and it still seems weird to me in an unexplainable way that I do.  I’d miss it if it were gone; I’ve usually had enough without having to watch every single game of the post-season playoffs, but I eagerly await hockey season from the vantage point late Summer each year.
  • Hockey games in Nashville have been the scene where several of my friendships have been strengthened, where I have seen my son smiling and laughing and looking to give me and his friends a high-five, where (I later learned) someone I used to know says a sign delivered from God heralded the eventual end of our relationship, where I anguished quietly with hockey-therapy support from my friend TJ hoping for an evening’s distraction from the heaviness of divorce-related strife, where I fell in love with a mysterious girl made of concrete and spray paint, and where I have had the best first date ever.  Hockey reinforces that it is the nuance in life that makes all the difference, and it has provided example after example on how quickly things can go from being steadfastly one way to heading in some other direction at the last possible moment.

So, in summary, I prefer my Fall to have lots of colors, but my Preds win more when I wear black.  Go Preds!

Koistenin about to make a winning shoot-out goal. 2009.

Hard-headed girl.

Alan Parsons Was Probably Right

After a meeting I attended last week, I was present at a discussion in which one of the attendees was congratulated on having been awarded a scholarship to finish the advanced degree she’s been working on in the evenings for the past few years.  During the discussion, talk turned to her wishing aloud that she had made different decisions in the past, I suppose to the effect that she would have earlier realized whatever reward she feels will now accompany the new piece of paper.  Her statement was something to this effect: “If I had it all to do over again, I would have waited to have kids, and would have focused more on my education and on career advancement.”

Another colleague in the mix added that “Yes, I’m sure we’d all do a few things differently, given the chance to go back and do it all again.”  As they then both turned to me as if it were my turn to speak on the topic, the following things ran through my head:

  • In an episode of Northern Exposure, the orphaned Ed Chegliak was communicating with his spirit guide about whether or not he should confront the man he had deduced was his father who abandoned him at birth, and what he would say to him if he did.  Ed’s spirit guide told him that he needed to decide if Time is more like a river into which you could never step into the same water twice, or a wheel onto which you could feasibly step upon some future revolution.
  • According to Gibby Haynes, the funny thing about regret is that it is better to regret something you HAVE done than to regret something you HAVEN’T done.  If I went back, would I spend more effort on undoing things that I had done, or would I do more things that I didn’t when given the opportunity the first time around?
  • If I went back to do stuff over again, would my old self(s) still be there like they were in the movie Primer?  Doesn’t it always end badly when people go backward, particularly if they change the past?
  • If I went back to do stuff over again, would I know then what I know now?  How far back should I go?  Can I catch up on what the stocks are doing before I go?  If I could go back and change things for me, wouldn’t I have a higher duty to change things for the country or mankind, too?  Can we clarify the rules of this game?
  • Alan Parsons was prolly right: Time keeps flowing like a river. It’s not a wheel, at least not one that turns on a cycle that we can understand, and the best we can do is try to enjoy ourselves and each other in the time we’ve got to play in the river.

I replied, “Don’t even get me started.  Time-travel logic is confusing, and I hate re-work.”

I was going to badly segue this post into another topic about a woman I saw wandering around downtown gesturing enthusiastically and preachin’ it (whatever it was) to some invisible presence(s) that seemed to be following just behind her left shoulder.   Instead I am going to use that river metaphor, and try to continue taking many steps into the river, with the hope each time of floating gently down the stream.  So far in this first week of my favorite month, I have taken these steps:

  • Write my 18YO SWM son’s name on the write-in ballot and vote for him to win a seat in the TN State Senate, and get a new hockey cap to replace the one I threw at a false hat trick last season.
  • Eat a killer Italian dinner with 17WfY and my son, followed by a walk through the Botanical Garden at the Cheekwood museum, which was hosting an in-situ exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s indescribable blown glass pieces, installed and dramatically lit within the garden’s various beds and ponds.
  • See a killer 3-piece band funk(y?) band, have a Guinness, and talk about hockey, crowds, Grinderman, Norwegian goth rap, and Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs with professional musicians.
  • Eat the best fish tacos ever at my favorite restaurant in Nashville between two meetings on a blustery Friday afternoon, while everyone in the restaurant bobbed their heads in time with David Bowie’s awesome multi-tracked singing about being alien.
  • Finish another of the best books I have read, and start on its sequel.
  • Hike through owl-infested woodland with 17WfY and meet some owls, learning about their asymmetrical ear placement in the process.  (A 15-year-old blue jay flirted with 17WfY while we were there, and a barn owl gave her the hairy eyeball.)  (I also decided I definitely want a hoot owl, but I don’t think that was the message that the owl sanctuary intended to deliver.)
  • Hang out with one of my oldest friends in Nashville with some the most genuinely musical people I have ever met –in their native environment, a smoke-filled bar (that seems to have an antique box with human skulls in it on display).
  • Stood for the final fitting of my custom alien/UFO bathrobe my lady friend made for me.
  • Sit with my red-dreadlocked Mennonite friend to watch the open rehearsal of a 9-piece Samba band with brief and highly creative interjections from an apparent legend in the field.
  • Sit on my porch, drinking Community Coffee’s Between Roast.

I am thankful that I am lucky enough to have these experiences, and that I am able to turn my attentions to the present more than to what ought or oughtn’t have happened in what sequence in the past.

Happy November!

Riding In with Bobcat and Taterhead

Bobcat and Taterhead were roommates.  They were both named Bob (Robert), they both worked at the same volunteer fire department as emergency responders, and they both worked as scaffold crew foremen for the same contractor at various chemical plants during the daytime.  They went by Bobcat and Taterhead everywhere they went, so as to reduce confusion when someone needed to address or discuss either of them.  I worked with them during the Summer break after my freshman year in college, back home to save money so I’d have some to spend later during the school year.

Bobcat’s name fit his demeanor (and I never got the story on who ascribed the moniker); he was short and muscular, with a buzz cut and a thick cowboyish handlebar mustache, seemingly highly animated –almost physically buzzing with energy– his entire waking hours.  Bobcat had Little-Man/Death-Wish Syndrome compounded by a severe case of Likes-To-Party and Likes-To-Fight.  Taterhead was somewhat aptly named as well, considering the size and shape of his cranium, and something gave me the impression that Bobcat was who came up with Taterhead as that Bob’s AKA.  (I have since figured it likely their wide use of those aliases was what kept some of their stories from ending with the sound of a jail door slamming shut.  It may also have helped that one or the other (or both) of them may or may not have been at least temporarily(?) deputized by the sheriff of some Louisiana parish or another as part of a posse to help catch a perp from one of their cases from the volunteer fire department.)

When I started as a Summer temp for the company that employed Bobcat and Taterhead, it was recommended that we share rides “in” each day, as we lived reasonably close to each other, and the plants we worked were typically 40-60 miles away from Baton Rouge.  All three of us sat in the bench seat of Taterhead’s pick-up, and they switched off driving duties between the two of them.  It was during these rides that I heard all manner of stories, and later got drawn into a few of them to a small degree.  Between and throughout repeat plays of the various mixes of “Bust A Move” that were on the cassingle that stayed in the deck during that Summer, I heard stories of their exploits from the weekend or night before.  Some were drinking stories, and some were stories about whatever incident they responded to the previous night.

On the morning of my first day “riding in” to the chemical plant, they were both sleepy from having been up late into the late night filing paperwork on a case involving a fellow who had injected (too much?) horse tranquilizer into his arm, and died on the toilet.  I remember them saying they looked at each other nervously when the call came over the radio because the address was for their apartment complex.  Apparently at least one part of the gay couple next-door to Bobcat and Taterhead was into needle drugs, and the not-dead one came home to find the dead one, then called 911.  Bobcat said when he and Taterhead got to the scene, the dead one still had a syringe sticking in his arm.

Another episode they told me about included Bobcat getting drunk and getting into a fight in some redneck bar with a big fellow who’d been “looking at him sideways all night.”  Words escalated into a shoulder-shoving match, which the bartender said to carry outside.  Bobcat was the first out the door, and figured he was about to get his ass kicked.  When the other guy came out of the bar door to fight, Bobcat’s back was to him.  This was because Bobcat was unscrewing the hood-mounted radio antenna off one of the trucks outside the bar.  Bobcat assured me: “If you ever need to whoop a guy’s ass who you think you’d never be able to whoop, let me tell you, the radio antenna is your friend.  I went after that bowed-up dude like I was a deranged sword-fighter.  I was swingin’ that antenna at him as fast as I could swish it, and I had him on his belly scootin’ up under his truck BEGGING me to stop whoopin’ him before he even knew what was happening.  I didn’t hurt him too bad, but I did keep him um… shall we say subdued… til Taterhead got the truck and got me the fuck out of there.”

After several weeks of riding together, late in the Summer I finally caved in to their repeated invitations to come grill out and swim with them at their apartment one evening after work.  When I got there, Taterhead and his girl had decided to go somewhere else, so it was just me and Bobcat and his extremely good-looking girlfriend grilling wings and getting in and out of the apartment complex’s pool.   They were drinking lots of beer, and I was not drinking.  I still don’t know if Bobcat thought his girlfriend was flirting with me as much as I thought she was, but she invited me to comment on her bikini –and eventually her body in different poses– each time Bobcat went back to the apartment to get more of something.  While I did find her bikini and her body extremely attractive, I wasn’t about to get into a detailed discussion about that with her (nor with both of them), so I tried awkwardly to switch subjects as soon as possible.  During Bobcat’s repeated absences, she talked about how glad she was to meet me, and how she hoped we’d get to spend more quality time together before I went back to school in a few weeks for the Fall semester.  As she rapidly escalated her showing off, turning and doing stretches and bending over and repeatedly adjusting her bikini top –all while looking me directly in the eye, I started to wonder if Bobcat was going back inside so often just to give her time to be this forward with me.  It eventually became so awkward that I excused myself somewhat abruptly upon one of Bobcat’s returns, and then drove back to my folks’ house rather than seeing what other weirdness the evening there might hold.

The next day we drove in together, I thanked Bobcat again for having me over, and told Taterhead he’d missed a good time.  “I bet”, said Taterhead, and he kind of looked at me out of the corner of his eye.  Bobcat didn’t say anything for a couple of seconds, then he said he and his girl had enjoyed it, too, and they were both sorry I had to run off so early.  Bobcat was driving, and he popped in the Bust A Move cassingle.  Between singing along and dancing while driving, he glanced at me and asked, “Do you and your girlfriend like to play games?”  Wondering what kind of trick question this was, I replied that I liked to play Spades and Gin and Pente and Othello, if that was what he was talking about.  “Well, no, I was talking about sex games.  My girlfriend and I do.”  Bobcat just kept driving, and Taterhead kept silent, but I could see Taterhead glance sideways at me in the rear-view mirror and raise his eyebrows in a don’t-go-there expression.  I finally said, “I guess I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about, but probably not, now that you bring it up in conversation on the way to work.”  Taterhead chuckled and said “You’re fuckin’-A right, there, buddy.”  Bobcat smiled widely and kept driving.

Bobcat continued by saying his girlfriend was a superfreak who liked to get it more often than he was capable of giving, and that they had come to an agreement that she’d try not to have sex with other people without his permission if he’d try some of her more risqué fantasies.  He went on to describe a plan she whispered into his ear while they were having sex one night, a plan that he was describing as if he had apparently recently carried it out.  The plan involved him, at some unannounced day after the initial discussion, “breaking in” to their apartment with a ski mask on (he broke a window latch and snuck in while she was sleeping on her day off, dressed in clothes that were not part of his wardrobe, so as to further obscure his identity), backing her into a corner and masking her eyes, violently tearing off her clothes, and “raping” her on a day that he was supposed to be working out-of-town, and then removing both of their masks to expose his face to her during the heated sex session that resulted.  He sounded really excited, and said it made her really excited.  My response was that games taken to that level sounded like a good way for someone to get killed or do some kind of really serious psychological damage.  He laughed and said she’d since been pleading for him to take it further, and we sat quietly busting moves with our shoulders as he drove along til we got to the plant for work.

As it drew closer to time for me to go back to school, I decided to quit the construction job and have some “me” time, so I wasn’t seeing the Bobs at all, and I figured that chapter had drawn to a close.  Two days before I left, I received a call at my folks’ house.  It was Bobcat’s girlfriend.  She put on a cutesy voice and told me she’d been missing me since we met, and that she’d been thinking about me a lot, and that she felt we’d both really enjoy it if we met for drinks when she got off from work that afternoon, and then we could maybe find something fun to do after that.  I made up an excuse about a previous engagement, and mentioned that I also didn’t want to run afoul of her boyfriend, Bobcat.  She kind of purred, and told me she’d be just as excited to have me come over after my other engagement, for me not to worry about the time, and we could skip straight to the fun stuff, finally mentioning that Bob wouldn’t be around and wouldn’t know anything about it.  I played the mental image of such an evening through in my mind, mentally pressing >>FFWD>> on the memory of the previous bikini-and-flirting scene past the point of no return, and then imagined Bobcat jumping out of her closet (with a camcorder? with a gun? with a radio antenna? with a ski mask?) just as I crossed the line with his scantily-clad and very eager girlfriend.  I stuck to my story about my plans for the evening, told her I was sincerely grateful for the invitation, and suggested maybe we’d see each other on my next visit home.  Days later I was back at school.

Over the holidays three months later, I was back in town, and I ran into Bobcat at the Wal-Mart closest to his apartment.  We talked about the construction job he and Taterhead were working on, and about the recent medical hardships of the guy they got their moonshine from, and conversation eventually rolled around to the subject of his girlfriend.  “Well”, Bobcat said, “I don’t hear much from her these days; don’t even know how to find her, but she calls and talks dirty to me every couple of days.  Ends up her daddy was deep into some backwoods mafia shit, and he took out expensive insurance policies on her and her momma and her sister,and then he tried to hire an FBI informant to kill them all so he could get the insurance money.  Her dad was even THERE when the guy was supposed to show up and kill ’em, just to make sure it got done.  It was in all the papers, and now the women of that family are all somewhere else in a witness protection program.”  I thought about my history with Bobcat for a second, and I came back with “Damn, Bobcat, you never told me your girl had a sister!  You been holding out on me, Dude!  Is she as hot as your girl, and did she play games with y’all, too?!”  He grinned widely and winked at me, and we switched subjects to talk about grilling out and drinking again in the Spring, but that was the last time I saw either Bobcat or Taterhead.