Well, there it is.
3892 words

Every 'ting

This was no Stand by Me, as coming of age stories go. There were no train tracks. There was no dead body. There was, however, the rumor of a bootleg 2 Live Crew album.

It was summer, but my neighbor AA heard from a friend of a friend that W_ had a dubbed copy of As Nasty As They Wanna Be - the first album in history to be deemed legally obscene (!). And he got it from an older brother who’d copied it from... and so on. For some convoluted reason I had to call a kid who was on my Spring baseball team to get W’s number. I had to make chitchat with him about Fall-ball and whatever and I honestly couldn’t stand that kid and so really how can I check out what 2 Live Crew is all about? I called W_ and asked him if he had the goods. Check. Could we come over? Sure thing!

AA and I lived at the "edge" of our subdivision. Through the patch of woods just past the dead end barrier of our street lay a brand new neighborhood, just not yet developed. New roads were there, good roads for bicycling. There were small orange flags around the marked-off lots. The new subdivision in the works gave me bad vibes. These were poltergeist plots. Removing the headstones, leaving the bodies. We moved quickly past on the excellent blacktop.

At the edge of the new subdivision was another barrier, with another tiny forest just beyond. I don’t remember where we’d gotten a map, and it didn’t have the new development on it for sure. We made our calculations based on pure gut. So, when presented with a dirt road running perpendicular to our exit from the trees and a field straight ahead, we turned left. Our guts told us that we might get in trouble crossing the field.

We hoped this road would take us to a paved one. Dirt roads suck for crappy bicycles. It was both hard to ride or walk our bikes on the red dirt.

We hit pavement.

W_’s house wasn’t in a subdivision. He just lived on a road. We were on the road.

Now, we could have gone the long way around to get to W_’s house. That would have taken us onto the "big road" and outside of our subdivision, skipping the hidden new development. We would’ve needed to walk, too, as we’d have to keep to the worn footpath on the side of the big road. (There were no sidewalks here.) And what if AA’s dad happened to be driving by? He’d maybe pull over and ask us What’s up? And we’d say, Oh nothing, just going to check out some 2 Live Crew. You know, Uncle Luke and the rest?

So, we took the road less travelled.

We pulled up on our bikes to W_’s house. We dismounted and started walking towards the house. He came out to meet us before we reached the door and said, "Hey, I made y’all a copy. I gotta go to my grandma’s now, but I got her to wait till y’all came by." He handed us the cassette. He’d even written out a track listing for us. "Shit, man, thanks!" AA’s curse was not much preparation for the barrage of foul language we would soon encounter, but I’ll give him props for dropping it.

We waved. Saddled up. Went back the way we’d come. And went straight to AA’s house to get his Walkman.

"What'll we get for 10 dollars?"
"Every 'ting you want"
"Everything?"
"Every 'ting..."

The Astronaut

I’m not sure if the guy ever went into space, but he was purportedly an astronaut. When we moved into a new house when I was about 13 or 14, I inherited the room of that guy, one of the sons of the previous occupants.

The old owners had left behind some weird and/or tacky furniture, some of which I think my dad actually bought from them, like the living room and dining room sets. They had no need of furniture where they were going - on the road on their fancy long-distance motorcycle houses. Those things were huge. And a little hoity-toity. These big boys were Winnebagos on two wheels.

They’d left some random stuff too. Bonus throw-ins. Like the narrow green dresser in my new room. Four of the six drawers were empty, but the top and bottom ones were full. Mostly random PR photos and bios of astronauts and folders containing descriptions of NASA rockets and space programs. You’d think at least some of that stuff would’ve been interesting. It wasn’t. It was boring as shit. Even for a teenage boy. What interested me was the blank cassette tape kind of hidden near the back of the top drawer, under the space propaganda.

The audio cassette was in a little cardboard box with a mailing label pre-printed on it, ready for mailing. Whose name would I put on the label? What would I record? What I would record!

FYI

This is the short and the long of it.

Mistress Quickly: The Merry Wives of Windsor, 2.2

Put a lid on it

The radio in the station wagon I had as a teenager didn’t really work as the antenna had long ago broken off. God forbid I try fixing it - any real fixes to the wagon tended to make things worse. While I tend to have no qualms about jury rigging most things, I didn’t want to be one of those people with a clothes hanger stuck in the antenna hole, so I made do without. I made do with the tape player.

I had bought myself three cassettes as presents when I got my car:

Fiona Apple - Tidal
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot
Curtis Mayfield - The Very Best Of

... and they are really the only things I listened to (in the car) until a friend bought me the Beastie Boys double cassette Hello Nasty over a year later.

I know the lyrics of all the songs on all three albums, and I realized (or at least believed) that my singing range is pretty much the same as the lead male singer in Squirrel Nut Zippers (Jimbo Mathus) & Curtis Mayfield and one octave lower than Fiona Apple & the female singer in Squirrel Nut Zippers (Katharine Whalen). I realized this when I belted out the songs riding by myself. I had air conditioning, so, good or bad, I didn't have the windows down to let the world hear me singing:

When I was a lad I was a little bit shy.
Something came along and caught my eye.
When I heard the jazz band strike up
I swear I had my mind made up.

- Got My Own Thing Now (Squirrel Nut Zippers)

and...

Heaven help me for the way I am
Save me from these evil deeds before I get them done
I know tomorrow brings the consequence at hand
But I keep livin' this day like the next will never come

- Criminal (Fiona Apple)

and...

Ain't I clean
Bad machine
Super cool
Super mean
Dealin' good
For The Man
Superfly
Here I stand

- Pusherman (Curtis Mayfield)

I listened to Fiona Apple during my 5 am commute to work as a stocker at Macy's. I know it may seem odd to listen to slow music in the morning to get you going, but it's always been helpful to me. I would listen to SNZ and Curtis Mayfield on the way home or in the evening. If a friend was riding along and brought a tape to play, that was great. Otherwise it was Curtis Mayfield with Pusherman and Superfly. For some reason I kept SNZ and Fiona for myself.

It's now 2020 and there are new albums out from Squirrel Nut Zippers (Lost Songs Of Doc Souchon) and Fiona Apple (Fetch the Bolt Cutters); it's the 50th anniversary of "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go."

There's a flu bug getting passed around
And it's Spreading like fire through the town
There's a virus holding up inside us
Everyone that I know is coming down

- La Grippe (Squirrel Nut Zippers)

And everybody saying don't worry
They say don't worry
They say don't worry
They say don't worry

But they don't know
There can be no show
And if there's a hell below
We're all gonna go

- (Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go (Curtis Mayfield)

Fetch the bolt cutters, I've been in here too long

- Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Fiona Apple)

Playlist #24

Change - Killing Joke

Spirals (MGMT Remix) - Django Django

Mama Got the Blues - C.W. Stoneking

Election Day - Blaze Foley

Independence Day - Elliott Smith

Hard Times - Baby Huey & The Babysitters

Daftendirekt - Daft Punk

Wendy's Yard - Ekkah

So We Can F**k - !!!

Calentita - The Limiñanas

King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown - King Tubby

Time Tough - Toots & The Maytals

Pusherman - Curtis Mayfield

Ferryboat of the Mind - Clinic

On the Corner (Take 4) - Miles Davis

I Love You Mary Jane - Sonic Youth, Cypress Hill

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - DEVO

Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) - Talking Heads

Welcome To The Pleasuredome - Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Hurricane Tiger

I was going to be a tiger. And no hurricane was going to stop my trick or treating.

My aunt liked painting, so I thought it would be a good idea to ask her to paint me up to be a tiger. I don’t remember that I had any tiger attire, but I knew that all I really needed was the face. All else, actions, emotions, would come from this painted mask of confidence. I’d gone as a Smurf the previous Halloween. Plastic mask, plastic sheet over my regular clothes to look like Smurf overalls. Would I have wanted to be painted blue? Maybe. But I really wanted this tiger face paint.

I always went over to my aunt’s house for Halloween because she lived in a neighborhood with a lot of kids. Lots of kids meant lots of houses giving out candy. Otherwise, it would’ve been kinda slim, maybe 4 or 5 houses for my street? Her neighborhood was a goldmine.

My aunt did some basic watercolors and she also painted wooden home knickknacks that said things like Welcome and Good Morning, Sunshine and God Bless This House. She also sewed a lot. I don’t know that she made clothes for anyone but for her many dolls. He collection was vast. You walked into the house past her Welcome sign and the main room was full of dolls. On chairs, on shelves, on the floor. She rotated the dolls out from her front room with those in a spare bedroom, which I did not like to go in. I skipped through the main room as quickly as possible on most visits and went straight to the kitchen. It was a small nook just past the dolls, but it was safe for me.

And I was sitting on the kitchen counter, getting painted up with the yellow and black face paint from the Halloween section at the drug store, when my uncle came in and said that my aunt should stop because I wasn’t going to be going outside. We’d been under a hurricane watch all day, but the weather forecasters had just upgraded it to a warning.

No. I was going to trick or treat.

I don’t remember some of the back and forth arguments around this by the adults, but my dad said that he would take me around he neighborhood for 30 minutes.

Good enough. Sure. At least I could show off. So, perfect.

Most of the lights were off, no kids were out, wind was picking up. My dad drove me around to the few houses with lights on. The folks said What are you supposed to be? I said A tiger! They said Oooh, scary! They dumped loads of candy into my bucket. Since no one else was going around for candy, I hit jackpot on almost every house. So even though I couldn’t go to as many houses, I made 10x Halloween haul. All except for that one house that gave out peppermints every year. They gave me two mints and told me to go home because the hurricane was going to be the scariest thing of the night. They didn’t even ask me what I was. Tigers can be scary. I thought those people were creepy. Who gives out peppermints? Really.

The Hitchhiker

I was a kid when The Hitchhiker came out on HBO in 1983. The theme song scared the shit out of me. I knew it was time for the show when the ridiculously creepy intro came on. I hid under the coffee table with a pillow over my head, went to my room, or, if at all possible, went next door to my grandma's apartment (she and my dad lived on either side of a duplex during these years).

Two things:

1) My dad wired my grandma with our cable through the wall. She never watched The Hitchhiker.

2) I was a hitchhiker myself, twice, but unwittingly. Neither time was that series theme song playing in my head. Instead, my brain was singing that scarier song: "I want to survive the ride with this actual nice person who picked me up because my car was broken down and I'm sure they're not going to kill me but are they?" That song sucks.

Re-listening to The Hitchhiker theme and rewatching the intro, it seems maybe interesting? I don't know anything about it. Here's the Wikipedia entry about the show for reference, but I'm not going to read through it. I'll just keep it scary as hell, good or bad, as it is in my memory.

Skeletor

Castle Grayskull was a wooden bench swing just on the edge of the Evergreen Forest behind my grandparents’ trailer in Wewa, Florida. My grandma was Skeletor and sat on the swing.

I was He-Man and my dog was Battle Cat. I had a sword, but to the untrained eye it just looked like a red plastic Star Wars light saber. I had the power of Grayskull, I didn’t need the Force, whatever that was.

Grandma was happy to play with me from her swing. I fed her Skeletor’s lines and we acted out the eternal battle between good and evil. She had no weapon other than her smile. But a strong force that was! I couldn’t use the Power Sword against grandma. So, after running lines with her, I went to fight battles in the outer world of the exactly 1-acre property my grandparents had retired to.

In this world were the rows of collards and turnips that my family would pick in the fall. There were the rows of gourds that my grandfather would hollow out and dry and make birdhouses out of. Grandpa tried growing watermelons, but I don’t think they ever turned out. His tomatoes were excellent. And the scuppernong vines were the only ones I’ve ever seen. Skeletor called them “scuplin’s.”

Pontiac vs Deer

I honestly don’t know how fast I was going when I hit the deer. My speedometer didn’t work.

The deer jumped out at me about a half-hour before dusk as I was driving down Hwy-98 between Hattiesburg, MS and Mobile, AL in my 1981 Pontiac Bonneville Safari station wagon. The car was brown-ish. I am pretty certain the deer must have been, too, but I never went to check on it. I knew it was dead. Nothing could've survived the blow, my car was a tank. Plus, some guy who apparently saw the whole thing from the other side of the highway made a u-turn just after. Ostensibly he turned around to check on me. But once I said I was fine, he asked if I was going to keep the deer. I politely said he could take it along with him.

The car's paint had faded on the hood some and sides, faded into a non-brown brown. It wasn't a wood-paneled station wagon like you think it might have been, like the "typical" station wagon, it was just brown / -ish. It was all mine. I'd saved up some money working for my dad and he advanced me the rest of the $800 for that fine specimen of a car. I paid him back. I wanted it free and clear.

Man, though, it really was a good car. The guy I bought it from was a mechanic and had kept it up. He said he bought it in 1988, saying it was almost brand new. This guy had put a ton of miles on it, but station wagons are meant to hit a lot of road! He'd changed the engine from diesel to unleaded gasoline, which made it a bit easier at the gas station. Thing is, it only got about 11-12 mpg, which was tough to work with on the little amount of money that I had/made as a teenager. But if I ever heard "I'll get you a fill-up," from my father or maybe even a friend, I took them up on the offer. God, I think it probably held about 25-30 gallons of gas.

There was a tape deck, air conditioning, rear-facing seats in the very back of the car, and a roof rack. I'd added some red fuzzy dice and a black sherpa steering wheel cover. I also put lots of goofy, dumb, and/or cool bumper stickers on it like "Visualize Whirled Peas."

It had pretty loose power steering. A friend who tried driving it said it handled "like a boat," although I don't think he meant that in a good way. I thought the power steering made the Pontiac drive really smoothly. Moving the wheel just a few degrees in either direction took you from one lane to the next with ease. A few more degrees turned you all the way around. On a dime.

The brakes were pretty crappy though. And it overheated sometimes, so I kept a jug of water and a jug of anti-freeze/coolant inside a box in the trunk on one of the rear-facing seats. It seemed fast! But there was that issue with the speedometer.

The front of the car got a little banged up when I hit the deer. A smaller, more practical car would've been totaled. But this tank got away with a 3-4-inch buckle in the front of the 70-foot hood, and a small area of the grill got knocked out.

I never really felt as comfortable driving the car after the incident. I think the combination of poor gas mileage and bad brakes was the overarching reason for getting rid of my first car, but I've always felt bad about hitting the deer. Bad mojo on that. I still have good memories of the car, and I still think it was pretty great.

I re-sold it for $800 to a step-uncle who drove back and forth between Alabama and Mexico with his wife, ostensibly doing missionary work. I never knew the real scam. He never knew about the deer.

1360 AM

My dad used to broadcast a sermon every week on an AM radio station in Mobile, AL. He recorded the weekly 30-minute message in a little setup he'd put together at our house. He took the cassette up to the station and would sit there while it played. After it was over, he gave the guy who ran the station a small check.

I went with him a few times, but it was a little boring to just hang out in the on-air room, silent for a half-hour. I would look around at the buttons and knobs and dials. And I would tiptoe around the room to check out the clipboards and other programming tapes.

Before and after the sermon, the engineer at the station would play a couple of 4-tracks with local commercials and promos for other shows. (There was actually only this one person who worked there. He may have lived there.) I was kind of more interested in the 4-track tapes the commercials were loaded on than the sermons.

The station's small, white cement building was out off of I-10 on a little road that ran parallel to the interstate just next to Mobile Bay. It was so near the bay, it was built up on stilts in case there was flooding. The very large antenna coming out of the top of the building seemed a little too big for it. Or maybe the antenna was just not big enough. I am honestly not quite sure the range of the station, but I have a feeling it was not very far. Maybe it should've been more powerful so my dad could've been a star AM-radio pastor. Or perhaps this was for the best.

He only did his program for a few months, but not long after he stopped broadcasting he got a letter. It was from an inmate at a local penitentiary who said that he'd come to Jesus after listening to my dad's show. This guy hoped that he would hear another sermon one day, but until then, he was just going to keep reading his bible.

Playlist #23

Between the Buttons - Klaus Johann Grobe

I do what I do: Exist & Pass - Cotton Jones

Enlightment - Sun Ra

Loran's Dance - Idris Muhammad

Combing my Hair in a Brand New Style - Jim White, Aimee Mann

Stay Away from Me - The Sylvers

Cherrystones - Eugene McDaniels

Please Don't Step on My Rainbow - The Cleaners from Venus

Bird and Flag - The Sea and Cake

Mugen - In the Morning - Major Force West E.M.S. Orchestra

Be a Man - Sacha Rudy

New Love Cassette - Angel Olsen, Mark Ronson

Ghetto Movies - Slum Village

Metal Banshee (Mad Prof Mix) - Massive Attack

Like It Is - Yusef Lateef

Sophisticated Lady - Charles Mingus

Lions Walk - Doug Carn

Patricia - Bof Le Piège - Alain Goraguer

How like a dream is this

How like a dream is this! I see, and hear:
Love, lend me patience to forbear a while.

Valentine: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 5.4

Chomp

Chomp, chomp, chomp, pa-chewy chomp.

Chomp, chomp, chomp, pa-domp-a-domp,

Chomp, chomp, chomp, pa-chewy chomp.

Chompa dompa dompa, chomp chomp chomp.