Wednesday, April 16, 2014

VINYL ROCKS!

Okay...whether it's better than CD...I'll leave that up to the more vociferous and engaged in that debate.

Got a turntable lately. Fun stuff. It's great to sit down at the end of the day and devote all my time and energy to listening to records. Yep...how long has it been since you've heard that word? Albums, yes. But records? That's different. Haven't realistically considered owning records since the 1980s. Yipes. I'm so retro. And so hipster.

Except, well, not.

I don't have any Mumford and Sons. Or whatever y'all hipsters listen to. Not sure I'd know...y'all love your obscure bands, right? In fact, I'll go the opposite way. First two records bought: Rubber Soul and Revolver. About as un-hip as you can get. And about as awesome as you can get. I've owned Rubber Soul in the past, so no musical revelations there. But I've only owned a smattering of songs from Revolver, so songs like "For No One," "Got To Get You Into My Life" and "Taxman," are completely new to me. It's cool to hear them, mostly, for the first time. The individual songs are excellent, but to hear them all together, strung out in the sequence the Beatles wanted, just brings everything to a more awesome level.

Mr. Man brought out his long-lost (and slightly warped) copy of Thriller, and people, I'm a happy kid. Again, if you want to hear the majority of the album, just turn on your local '80s station and wait a few hours for at least one of the songs to appear. But stuff like "Baby Be Mine" and "The Lady In My Life," (which is actually kinda drecky) are great to return to.

I know, I can get all this on CD, rip it to my iPod, and listen at my leisure, whenever I want. So whither the turntable? I guess it's a desire to make listening to music more of an event, more deliberate. It takes time and adds anticipation to pull a record out of its cover, then out of its sleeve, and put it onto a turntable. Then you turn it on, see the stylus move to the edge of the record, drop down oh-so-gently, then hear the pop and some static that announces the imminent experience of some great music about to hit you in t-minus-5 seconds. And you feel compelled to sit down and listen to the thing in its entirety. It's not so easy to skip songs in a fraction of a second, or to return to that cool bit you just heard. Not impossible, but it's a bit of an effort, and kind of annoying to do so. And you know? I like it that way. I have enough distractions and multitasking going on nowadays. I like the idea of sitting down and devoting my energy purely to listening to music. Some music demands that kind of attention. So I'm going about building my collection accordingly.

I got Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme last night, too. The former I've heard a million times...and will never get tired of it. The latter I listened to for the first time last night. Fucking brilliant. I'm usually not a fan of jazz (makes me think of old nasty-smelling smoky clubs, plaid suits, and urbane '70s pastiches like "The Rockford Files" and "Kojak"), but this was pretty awesome. I nearly felt compelled to make a Manhattan and sip it to make the experience complete, but John Coltrane's spiritual liner notes (remember those, kids?) and the feeling he and his band put into the music even made me hesitate to indulge.

So there's my excitement over the past week or so. Next on the list: Random Access Memories. Maybe some vintage Elton John. More classic jazz. Who knows?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Okay. You know bad is bad when...

  • This is the first night in over 10 years that I've had two mai tais in one night. (Peruse the New York Bartender's Guide for the liver-crushing recipe. Or just look here.) Somehow (and fifty pounds later), I can handle them. But just barely.
  • I had to improvise with blue curacao with one of them. So the drink turned out to be the color of fungified cement. Yum.
  • I tell Quinn that she is SO hopelessly a fashion don't while she's wearing a kerchief with her matchy-match two-piece bikini while she's poolside with her friends. The only members of the Fashion Club.
  • Yep. It's a olive drab and kelly green PLAID. Even I wouldn't be caught dead wearing such clashing patterns in the local man's man gay bar, even under low lights, even with drunk guys who wouldn't know better. Did I say gay men? Yeah. Not all of them are fashion mavens, but some of them wear fabulous scarves with their impeccable leather coats.
  • Oh, and yeah...Quinn is a fucking CARTOON.
  • I'm spewing advice to said cartoon.
  • This cartoon, despite catering to college-age kids, stopped being relevant around, oh, 1997.
  • Not a mathematician, but let's do the math here. SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO? Oh God...
  • God, I'm old.
  • I'm trying to persuade myself that my predecessors of decades and decades past regressed into their younger years to...well, for one night, to numb themselves into forgetting an annoying day. Despite the lack of said cartoons.
  • La la LA la la...
I should stop now. Before I embarrass myself beyond the hope of recovery.

It's apparently the year of 25 year anniversaries. Three days and twenty-five years ago began one of the most difficult days of my life. In just over a month and a half will commence the 25th anniversary of the most amazing day of my life.

Okay. I really should stop right now. Mark the time. And note the beverages consumed. Also note that it has been over ten years.

God, I'm pathetic right about now. Don't expect this post to last more than a week.

Okay. One more thing. GOD, right now I wish I knew who my birth parents were. Maybe one day.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

No, I should never, ever write erotica or porn. But that won't stop me.

The DJ told me he was turned on to industrial by a Swiss guy who recommended Skinny Puppy, Ministry, NIN, and KMFDM. He turned to leave as he told me he was spinning in ten. We'd met years ago, and he was wild, big, with an unhinged look to his eyes. I told him to spin something hot, hard, loud, and above all, sinister. He slammed his thick lips onto mine and I reached around to grab his ass. A shower of needles went off everywhere. Goddamn.

Then I said, "Make my ears bleed. Make them feel like they've been violated."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

But what in the world is a pantaloon, anyway?

My grandfather was one of my heroes. We did not see eye to eye politically (most of the time), but he was indisputably a great man. Brigadier general in the army when he retired in the early 1970s. But retirement slowed him down but nuthin'. He stayed busy, involving himself in Afghanistan and Pakistan from that point through the late 1980s...literally, sometimes. I think he spent more time abroad than he did stateside in the '80s. His military expertise was boundless. He co-penned a book back in the day called Nuclear Tactics, which amusingly enough, is actually available still. He became a political consultant, spending more time in DC than in his home in Southern Pines, NC. I found it amusing that he chose to live right next door to Pinehurst, a big golf (read: retirement sport) resort town in the nation, until I realized it was also right next door to Fort Bragg, a big army base. Grandpa never wanted to "retire." He stayed as busy as he could, and his energy seemed limitless.

But he and his wife decided to move back to Denver years ago, so she could be near her favorite daughter (my mom). He went into it, knowing that he would no longer be around what sustained him so powerfully. But he figured that Grandma had suffered his travels, being the equivalent of a single mom, then a solitary wife for so long, that he should do what she wanted now.

And cut off from his military links, he began to wither. For such a great man, having lived through three wars and being so successful, his death was sadly unworthy of his life; he slowly wasted away, turning despondent and suicidal before our eyes, until he finally died of natural causes one morning in a nursing home in his wife's arms. He had a proper military funeral back at Fort Bragg, but one of the saddest things I ever saw was his casket being driven away in a small open-framed pickup truck, bouncing around and not tied down. It was so undignified, so unworthy of him.

One of the most profound things he taught me was his view of being a man, based on Shakespeare's famous soliloquy, "All the world's a stage." There were seven stages, Shakespeare wrote, to being a full man: the infant, the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, the pantaloon, and finally, the old, doddering man. So drawn into this view, my grandfather was, that he took a picture of a stained glass representation of this, had it framed, and gave it to me as a present. I thought it was nice at the time, and it's packed away in our voluminous basement full of crap right now, but the more I think of it, the more I believe it's true.

What makes me think this? The soldier. I have fulfilled every role up to this point just fine (currently acting as the justice, so to speak), and I have no question of what lies ahead of me. Every role except for the soldier: "jealous in honor, sudden, and quick in quarrel/Seeking the bubble reputation/Even in the cannon's mouth." I never was a soldier, literal or figurative. I recently wrote about the symbolic solider (or as I put it at the time, warrior) I left abandoned on the side of the road in the wilderness, in his armor and brandishing his sword, waiting for his time to come. I picture him kicking the gravel, walking around, waiting as if for Godot. And I feel a great sense of guilt, of abdicating responsibility to myself. I feel like I should somehow make it up to him. I feel very much an incomplete man without him.

It makes me wonder if it's not too late to rectify this, to somehow turn back and channel that soldier energy somehow. I've done some of it, getting into weightlifting and such over the past few years, and people have noticed that I've gotten beefier, but to what end? Vanity? I think my newfound strength should be put to good use somehow...but how?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"I don't know what it is, but you gotta do it."

Ten and a half years ago, I graduated naturopathic school. Great job, congratulations, here's your diploma, now get back to work and study your ass off for boards. Five weeks later, I had successfully filled in approximately 900 little circles on papers that would determine whether or not I would be eligible to get a license to practice or not. A few weeks after that, I found out that, yes, I had passed my board exams. Thrilled, to say the least.

But now what? You have your diploma, you now have your license, you have the title...what are you gonna do with it? And suddenly I became fearful for the future. I could complete medical school...but what of it? My bluff was called, and I blinked. Big time.

As it happened, Mr. Man and I had moved from Puddletown to the Chicago area after I completed my board exams. I'd unwittingly landed in the backyard of a chiropractic school that offered an accelerated program for health care pros like myself. It looked interesting. I visited the school on one of their "be a student for a day" programs. The day of the program was gray, rainy, cold, and dismal. The closer I got to the school, the drearier it seemed to get...used car lots, potholed roads, and nothing inviting. The entire day felt wrong. I felt magnetically repelled from the school, as if some huge force were trying to push me away. I came home and told Mr. Man that I couldn't see myself making that drive and going to school there at all.

But apparently I couldn't see myself using my degree right off, either. Despite what so much of my body, mind, and psyche was telling me (and there was no mistaking how wrong I felt about it), I decided to avoid the future, and retreated back into school.

And ten years ago today, on the first day of school, began the worst and most painful year of my life. I drove to school, singing a song that echoed my uncertainty but hope that this was perhaps the best path forward. Then I felt that hope collapse like the industrial dissonance and clamor at the end of the song, just as I pulled into the school parking lot for this first day of school. 2004 was a year that drove me to drink (but only on weekends), that contributed to some major adrenal fatigue (that I overcame years later, though not without effort), and that I would gladly erase from my life if given the option. I learned how cruel some instructors and fellow students can be. I learned how awful it feels to be devoting all your time and energy to a program you don't really believe in, yet one that will be significantly determining your identity, income, reputation, and mindset for the rest of your life. I learned how painful it can be to push forward when it seems that everyone has you in their crosshairs, to eliminate, to ridicule, or to shun. I learned the constant static that you feel when you had a vision for your life, but you chose a path that runs counter to it in many ways. And ever since, I've been trying to push the negative aspects of 2004 out of my brain and take what good I could from it. I've been mostly successful at winnowing the bad from the good, and I am definitely excellent at what I do, but my expertise came at a tremendous psychic and physical cost.

And 2005 wasn't much better.
 


 
 
So here's to having no year worse than 2004, and having every year being exponentially better and more fulfilling somehow. Because I've put in my time in hell...and it's time to turn my back on it. (Despite the fact that, yes, I did just commemorate it very unsubtly.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

So what is it?

Is it "in vino veritas," or is it that alcohol overly amplifies emotions? Because at this moment, I'm leaning toward the latter. And believe me, at this late hour on the first day of 2014, it ain't purty. Fights between me and Mr. Man never are. Then again, we don't really fight. A few bon mots, some insinuations, some passive-aggressive acquiescence, and some stomping off to another bar while the other stays behind. (I'll leave you to guess who stays behind, in a very passive-aggressive manner.) God, but relationships are agonizing.

Oh yeah. And happy 2014. Don't send me any pity. I'm over it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"And we liked it! We LOVED IT!"

A FB friend I met in Provincetown this summer just griped about how, for the millionth time, he and his husband were accused of being twins, let alone brothers. And it was all I could do to bite my tongue and not say something snarky in reply.

Gay men are narcissists. And I mean that in more than the obvious way. For many guys, it comes through in who they are attracted to. These guys both have a heavyset, almost fireplug build, with narrow eyes and dark, short hair. They both wear the same type of eyeglasses - narrow and rectangular. They both are slightly above average height. Other facial characteristics are similar, including a slightly forced smile. IMO, both are quite handsome. It's not a leap to suggest they are both attracted to themselves. (From what I know of them, they are not emotionally narcissistic.) But it is a potentially friendship-killing leap. So I keep my mouth shut. Oh well.

I'm seriously considering starting a FB profile so I can masquerade as a grumpy old man who just can't keep his mouth shut about stupid shit he sees on the world wide webiverse and the world around him. Just to have an outlet for my opinion...until FB shuts it down for some reason or other. I'm not quite ready to be such an asshat from my own profile. Give me a few years and a few more gray hairs.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Music of 1989

A glimpse into the music-obsessed world of mine. I, riddled with ADHD (not diagnosed, not really ADHD...just sayin') read music reviews obsessively. Like tiny packets of dopamine to my system, these wastes of time and energy are. But I just can't stay away.

Since 1989 was far and away the most pivotal year of my young life (best and nearly worst, for a variety of reasons), I decided to look at the top 100 pop songs of that year. Yeesh...what a wasteland. Put thusly: if Milli Vanilli 1) has a firm hold on this list, and 2) I actually find MV's contributions among the better songs in this list, you know something is wrong. No wonder I soon found my way out of the mainstream.

So here's a fun little exercise: commentary on various of the top 100 alternative albums (back when the term actually meant something, you spoiled little upstarts!) in 1989, as proposed by the biased-but-still-awesome blog Slicing Up Eyeballs.

The Cure - Disintegration: Meh...didn't grab me so much, but you can't deny it's an awesome album. Maybe I'm not as goth as I'd like to pretend. I did get it years later, figuring it'd be a great breakup album to have as my relationship with Mr. Man was seriously on the skids. Fortunately, we stayed together, and I got to keep Disintegration. Huzzah all around.

Pixies - Doolittle: Discovered this a few years after the fact. And again, for some reason, the album as a whole didn't grab me, but individual songs stuck in my cerebral sulci, and to this day, they're on reliable rotation. Nirvana, and by extension virtually all of 1990s rock would've been DOA without this one. "La La Love You" has to be one of the coolest surf-punk songs ever committed to tape. (Bonus: "Debaser" inspired the referenced blog's title.)

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine: Good GOD, but this informed my high school experience. M. Reznor fuckin' FELT my pain, man! And the music felt so edgy and skittish. It was my entry point into industrial, for which I am forever grateful.

The Stone Roses: How the fuck did I miss this one? Only got it last year, and my conclusion: damn, I missed out on a whole lot of something back in the day. I'd have worn this one the fuck OUT. As it is, it's consigned to an occasional song on my "top rated" list. It deserves better. Mea culpa. (When I got a drum set around 15, a friend offered to teach me some tricks. Quote: "I'll have you playing the Stone Roses in no time." Would've been nice. Instead, I was stuck playing R.E.M., which wasn't exactly drummer heaven.)

Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique: I'm seeing a miserable trend here. I'm consistently decades late to the party. But hella fun, right? "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" is pretty frightening, though...belongs in some warped Tarantino vehicle.

B-52's - Cosmic Thing: Phoenician rebirth, y'all. Fun, for the most part, aside from a few throwaways. I blast "Dry County" during the first real scorcher of the summer, and it feels like home. I've also sung "Love Shack" at the weddings for my brother and my sister. *hangs head in embarrassment*

The Replacements - Don't Tell a Soul: Uh, no. I meant to order "Pleased to Meet Me," but I got this drearfest instead. (This was back in the day of music clubs, kids, where you could actually buy EIGHT CDs for the price of one!) Professional, so it sounds good, but the Replacements should be anything but professional. Keepers: "I'll Be You," "Achin' to Be."

Bob Mould - Workbook: Yet another "just got this last year." I suck. Anyhow...the production here is clean and bright as a sanitized chrome kitchen. Some awfully beautiful songs here, too. And a bit of noodling that sounds...well, cool mountain stream comes to mind ("Sunspots"). Wait...all this from one of the big names in corrosive and angst-ridden punk? Yes. A major left turn from the noise that was Hüsker Dü, but a really awesome left turn.

10,000 Maniacs - Blind Man's Zoo: My entry point into this band. (Bragging rights: met them backstage at the Tonight Show during my 15 minutes of fame in 1989.) Loved 'em at the time, but this one is now about my least favorite of their albums; I can't remember when I last gave this one a spin. Someone once said that it's easy to listen to 10,000 Maniacs while you're doing household chores. I'd concur. Not exactly the most ringing endorsement.

Indigo Girls: This one hit me but HARD. While enjoying a beautiful mountain summer, I stumbled upon this album, courtesy of my sister, and "Closer to Fine" became one of my anthems that summer (I think it must have been 1990). Clean, green, sweet harmonies and simple guitar melodies throughout ensured this would be one of my favorite albums throughout high school. Heck, I even performed "Closer to Fine" with a friend during our spring concert my senior year.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits

Some albums you just don't need to own, because...well, everyone out there seems to own it, and you can just listen to their copy. At least, that was how the logic went circa 1990, when CDs and tapes were all the rage. In this case, my sister, who left a fair bit of her music collection behind when she went to college, was my unknowing benefactor whenever I snuck to her room and borrowed her copy of Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits.

My music collection back in 1990 left a fair bit of testosterone to be desired, and this album certainly didn't contribute to the cause. What it did do, though, was to allow me to work on my voice on some of the most poignant and beautiful songs from the 1960s. Anoretic ol' me couldn't rumble down low quite yet, and for some reason, I idealized a high tenor, so I did what I could to nurture said tenor. (It certainly came in handy a year later when I began my choral career.) And I tried to ape Simon and Garfunkel's straight, unobtrusive, simply declarative singing. Any high notes sounded effortless, and that was my goal...regardless of how much my neck muscles and jugular veins would pop out, I would make those high Fs perfect, and not in falsetto, either!

I still point to Art Garfunkel's "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her" as a crystalline example of how tender and touching singing can be. (I don't care that Paul Simon wrote the song...Art owns that damned thing.) The imagery is beautiful, and virtually every phrase is an impressionistic reverie ("I heard cathedral bells/Tripping down the alleyways"; "What a dream I had, dressed in organdy, clothed in crinoline of smoky burgundy"; "We walked on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight"). Say what you will about Simon's precious poesy elsewhere...here, he gets it perfect. The delicate and pointillistic accompaniment is gorgeous and perfectly suits the mood.

I also jibed with "I Am A Rock," Simon's declaration of emotional independence from all around him. Friends and lovers be damned, he was going it alone...and as an alienated teenager who found little of emotional sustenance to be had around me, so would I. Again, his fascination with poetry came to the forefront, where he intentionally contradicted John Donne's famous poem "No Man Is An Island."

Such was my resonance with this album and its melancholy that by mid-high school, I could sing anything on it, with memorized lyrics and the correct key, at a moment's notice. But as I grew older, so did this album, and we began to part ways during the latter years of high school. By mid-college, I had little use of it. The only reason I returned to it now was based on the 50th anniversary of JFK's death. I had mistakenly thought that "Mrs. Robinson" was the #1 song at the time of his death (actually, it was some song about a flying nun or something), when actually it was around RFK's death. Either way, I had remembered reading about how the lyrics seemed to echo America's sentiment at the time. ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.") So I decided to revisit the album...and on the recommendation of many others, ended up getting its more expansive and sonically-updated relative, The Best of Simon and Garfunkel. It's nice to have more songs here, particularly from Bookends, an album I never had. But much like people sometimes complained about the sterility of CD sound vs. the warmth of vinyl, I feel like something has been lost in the upgrade somehow, and I miss the familiarity of the original audio. Oh well. It still is good to have these guys back again.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"What's that I smell?" "Burning nun, darling. Cheers."

Random comments about last night:

  • When a new gayby (young, either newly-out or new to the scene gay man) says he has not seen The Sound of Music after 21 years on this plane, what do you do? Of course. You devirginize him. With said movie. And lots of friends. And lots of drinks and nibbly things.
  • Don't be too bummed if he decides he really won't go out of his way to see the movie again, despite allowing as how he liked it.
  • The St. Germain gin and tonic is utterly delightful. I wish I had begun drinking it about six months ago. It makes the perfect summer drink. (Don't belabor it. One gin and tonic, a half shot of St. Germain.)
  • Forgive me, for I have sinned. Of all the gawdawful, socially, politically, environmentally, and hygienically repugnant things I could have done last night, this takes the cake: ordering Papa John's.
  • Superman: Man of Steel - (Spoilers, natch.) Not a bad movie. I appreciated the story behind why General Zod was so hell-bent on taking over Earth. Not that it particularly made me like him, but it certainly made me understand his impulses better; I could almost sympathize with him. (Compare it with Superman II, where Zod just plain wanted to rule the planet and subject its peons to cruel dictatorship because...well, you know...just because.) But GOD...how many buildings did those two lovers need to throw each other into? And in the end, all it took was a good old-fashioned neck-wrench to send Zod hurtling into the void? What a disappointment.
  • Combine the gin and tonics, the pizza, and the hyperkinesis of MOS, and you have yourself one soon-to-be-sick puppy on your hands. Cold sweat, that sudden sense of impending doom if you don't do something NOW...you know the feeling. And so:
  • Enter my favorite herb of all time: gentian. Insanely bitter - and insanely awesome. I keep a tincture of it on hand at all times. It has often made the difference between puking my guts out and feeling miserable for hours afterward and feeling clean, cool, and calm. Three squirts of this in a cup of water, sipped over a few minutes, and here was the progression. Five minutes after starting: something is happening. Ten minutes after that: I'm definitely on the mend. Not sweating, stomach is moving, and this noxious brick in my stomach feels like it's dissolving. Within a half hour: completely out of the woods. Not just that, but I feel like I could SOAR, I'm feeling so great. I normally don't have quite that dramatic a response to gentian, but I was in a world of hurt last night.
  • Want an aural approximation of this progression? Listen. Start at about 7:30 (just before feeling sick), and go until the vocals kick in at about 13:40. Thank God for prime Floyd.