Saturday, August 23, 2008

That Awful Sound

I used to do a lot of 4-tracking, home recordings where I pretty much played everything. In the early days it was pretty rough, because I could barely play the guitar, even though I had been doing it for over a decade, let alone bass or drums or keyboards. Four tracking uses cassette tapes in one direction. Rather than side A and side B, it uses tracks tracks 1 through 4, two tracks out of the right channel, and two from the left.

When I first recorded the drums I had to do it in two tracks: The kickdrum and snare in one, the cymbals in the other. It was pretty bad. I titled my first record (and I use that term loosely)"Foray Into Incompetence," and that's exactly what it was. But it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed making the album artwork, dubbing copies and giving them to my friends.

One of the greatest moments of my life occured in Paris in 1998, when some of my music found its way onto a soundtrack for a Mens Week fashion show. I had never heard it played SO LOUD in my life. It could be heard, no lie, from over a hundred yards away. It was awesome.

Today I found a couple masters from those days, and as I'm listening I've got a huge grin plastered over my face. From a critical standpoint, it's pretty bad, but it was a blast to make, and I can remember what was going through my head during each one, what time of day it was, what the weather was like, if not how to play any of it.

I was picked up a few times for my friend Darryl's Black Apple compilations, which was pretty cool, as I was rubbing elbows with a bunch of the people that I had looked up to when I started recording, people who were infinitely more talented than I was.

A couple weeks ago at work I dozed off during my lunch break and had a dream that one of my records had been selected as one of Rolling Stone's Top 10 Albums Of All Time. And when I woke up I swear I had a huge erection.

Those days are gone now. I finally realized I wasn't very good at it, and that my focus was better off directed elsewhere. But I'm glad I've still got these tapes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Not So Bright

This past sunday morning I popped in to see my lovely friend Renee at the cafe in which she works. I won't link to what that place is, because she hooked me up with a bagel and an iced tea, but nevertheless, she's there at 5am most mornings. I thought I had it bad, getting up at the ungodly hour of 5:30 everyday.

I sat down to savor my sesame bagel and cream cheese, and she soon joined me:

"I just had to explain to the new girl what a dumpster is," she says.

Intrigued, I ask for more info. Renee explains that this girl didn't know what a dumpster was, or how it functioned. "Earlier," she says, "I ask her to rotate the dairy, and she looks at me with this wide-eyed affectation and asks, 'you mean, like, the sugar, and stuff?'" Wow. By this time my brow is furrowed with concern for my poor friend who, while not inclined toward violence, just might head-butt this dainty naive.

She went on, "So I asked her what she does, and she says 'I smoke pot,' So... Do you have any hobbies? 'Just pot,' Do you go to school? Just pot? Ok."

I left Renee with a hearty hug, insisting that she was valuable and loved, and it wasn't she who was wrong. At one point she tells me, "I smoke pot too, but I can still function like a mammal!"

With a beautiful, full, sunny day ahead of me, I decide to squander it by spending part of it in the laundromat. I took a good whack at the new Sedaris novel while I was at it, so it wasn't a total loss. As I was loading my wet clothes into the top dryer, I noticed a girl next to me at what I call the Dryer Wall. She seemed distressed, and kept punching buttons on the dryer, shaking her head, adding more quarters.

Confounded, she asked me, "Are these dryers?"

"Yeah," my eloquent response.

"Even this one?" she asks, pointing.
"They're all dryers," I say, loading my unmentionables.
"Isn't it supposed to... spin?"

I assess the situation for a moment. "Yeah. You're feeding quarters into the top dryer" Her clothes were in the bottom.

I told this series of stories to Black Eyed Susan, and she came to the rescue of said girls, positing that they are not necessarily dumb, but perhaps they were just brought up so pampered and cared for that these day-to-day goings on of us mere mortals escape them.

Perhaps. Who am I to say? I just know that as soon as I was of legal age to work (14) I did so. And yes, as a college freshman, I did a load of laundry that turned all my whites pink (possibly while high, I don't remember), but I knew how to run the frigging dryer, and I've never since dyed my whites pink.

Is blissful youth something to be celebrated? I guess when you're as old and cranky as me, it's all too easy to shake your head and say "When I was your age..."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Exciting news!

I've been away for a while, and the fan club is all up in arms, but I promise new posts soon. Some things in blog form in the works:

My hijacked bike plot has found an audience with the mayor. I hope whatever ordinance gets passed is called "Brandon's Law".

I'm formulating a post about my collection of offensive t-shirts.

I received anecdotal tales of really dumb girls today, followed shortly by my own personal run-in with a really dumb girl.

Pictures and a short video from the Flight of The Angel at the Fisherman's Feast tonight in the North End.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cat Fartz

I guess you could call me a cat person. It's not that I dislike dogs. I really like dogs. Dogs have awesome personalities, dogs are loyal almost to a fault, dogs are hilarious, and dogs do tricks and execute tasks.

What keeps me from owning dogs are the following:

-I'm not allowed to own a dog in my building. Fair enough. I signed a lease agreeing to these terms.

-Dogs need walks. It's not that I'm against walks, it's that my life doesn't have the consistency to walk a dog every day at both 5am and 7pm. And furthermore:

-Picking up warm poop does not appeal to me. Period. In this sense I would make a horrible dog owner as well as potential threat to public health.

-Dogs smell. It's true, dog-people. Your beloved animals, regardless of how sweet, well-behaved and obedient they are, do, in fact, smell. Anytime I touch a dog I feel the need to wash my hands. Not because of some weird OCD quirk, but because that smelly dog smell is now living on my hand, and it grosses me out. I can't eat a sandwich with that smell on my hands.

So I own cats. I've lived with/cared for dogs, and I love them all. I've owned two cats by myself, and this is a story about my present cat, the love of my life, Ocho. I love Ocho-Cheecho more than life itself. She's beautiful, and in my eyes can do no wrong.

Until last night.

(isn't she cute?)

I was sitting on the couch with my roommate, watching Generation Kill, with Ocho between us, when suddenly, she (ocho) jumped up and began licking herself in a place not fit for mixed company.

Like a baton from a New York City cop, it hit us at once: Ocho had farted.

Holy crap! I didn't know cats had the ability to fart. I knew dogs could. I used to have a job where the boss brought her black lab along, and he ripped on a fairly regular basis. I had never experienced a cat fart, and let me tell you, it was horrifying. They may be small, those cats, but it only serves to compact the anal vapor that much more.

I know it wasn't a fluke, because she ripped two more before the night was done, and licked herself in the same spot each time. A diet change is in order...

Maybe it's not too late to own a goldfish.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I'm Not From Here

This weekend Black-Eyed Susan and I rented a car and named him Bjorn. We pointed the prow of that ivory beauty north and spent the weekend seasoned by salt air, playing games, and eating all the foods we both know we ought not.

We left the city at about 2 o'clock on friday and landed shortly after 3 at Perkin's Cove in Ogunquit, Maine, to take a stroll along one of my favorite places, the Marginal Way. For years growing up around here I used to enjoy walking along this path, occasionally venturing out among the tidepools on the craggy rocks, poking around among starfish, anenomes, snails and crabs as they waited for the tide to come back in and rescue them from their temporary prisons. This day we were not so fortunate, as it seems the extent of the wildlife available was numerous snails and small, bluish little blobs that, despite their active movements, I was unable to identify.

From there we took Bjorn to York Beach, a place where I have spent many a summer and many countless brain cells. For B.E. Susan's benefit, who hadn't been around these parts since she was just a wee pup, I swallowed my local pride and consented to do some very touristy things, but which I enjoyed nevertheless. First stop was the York Beach institution the Fun-O-Rama, where we rolled some skee-ball and played a few rounds of air-hockey. Ask B.E. Susan who it is that rules at air-hockey. Hint: Me.

I was a bit disappointed by my lack of skee-ball finesse. The last time I came here was a few years ago. I had some time to kill and decided to throw a few wooden balls to pass the time. I got bored pretty quickly at the straight forward rolling of the balls, which usually only resulted in 10 points, so I got creative with my rolling and tried putting a spin on the ball. Then I tried banking them off the side rails, and what do you know about that, 50, 50, 50, 50. I had cracked the skee-ball code! I kept rolling, and the points kept scoring. The flashing light on this machine was spinning so fast and for so long, people were dropping left and right, induced into epileptic seizures by the pulsating glow. I heard a young man behind me whisper to his friend: "check this guy out, he's awesome!". Prize tickets were rolling out so fast that smoke actually began billowing from beneath the quarter slot. For a few salty moments, there amidst the lights and the din, I was a god among men.

But not this time... I fairly sucked at skee-ball, which meant that not only did B.E. not believe the above story, but now she had proof that I was full of shit. Alas.

Broken and defeated by my humiliating attempts at a game which excites 9 year-olds, we then visited a few tacky souvenir shops, where B.E. bought a coffee mug for her dad, an avid coffee enthusiast. I picked up a miniature keychain license plate with my roommates name on it, as a small thank-you for watching my cat Ocho while I was away. And then we were off to my folks' place, where we supped upon lasagna and listened, oh-so-patiently, to my Dad's long-winded gripes about our next-door neighbor, with whom a dispute has recently arisen regarding the property lines. Yawn.

We later went out to visit with some friends of mine, but it was not an easy task. Susan, born and raised in Brooklyn, is used to the occasional streetlight. They ain't got none o them fancy-shmancy streetlights in Maine. Them's for city-folk and queers. (Whoa, sorry about that! A couple hours back Down East, and I pick the accent up pretty easily. Just ask me how to say "ayuh" and you'll understand). Regardless, Susan was a little stressed out about the lack of light on dark, twisty, narrow roads. Having cut my driving teeth along them, I hadn't seen a problem with it, but that just shows how unconcerned for others I am. After numerous detours, several miles spent driving in circles, and white-knuckle angst from B.E., we arrived at the Dover Brickhouse, a classy little joint in downtown Dover, New Hampshire.

It was Monique's birthday, and it was great to see her and her husband Thor. Matty was working the door, and later Kate The Great showed up fresh from another birthday shindig with her Dojo Bros. Gazpacho, an 80's cover band, was playing upstairs, something we didn't much care for. Until, that is, we heard strains of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" coming through the ceiling. We hustled upstairs and had quite a hoot watching these guys. They did a pretty good job of the song, and at this point had been playing for hours, an impressive feat in and of itself. Susan and I were less impressed, however, by their cover of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy". You really can't half-ass that one. You gotta sell it, and it seems Gazpacho was phoning it in. In the end, a good time had by all.


After a night "sleeping" on an "air mattress," I was eager to get on the road and continue our adventure. We started out heading to Rick's All Season, another York institution. This place caters to all clientelle. The staff wears t-shirts that say "Bikers Welcome" on the back. But they also welcome tourists, locals, fishermen (that's why they open at 5am), high school truants (totally not speaking from experience here), hung-over partiers (ditto), those still coming down (double ditto), and anyone else looking for a decent no frills breakfast. The kid manning the register could not have been older than 15, and he doubled, nay, tripled duty as host, busser, and server. The service took a while, but it wasn't an impatient wait. BE Susan ordered decaff with milk, and got the unleaded, but without cow juice. Once our waitress realized what was wrong she apologized, saying "I have no excuse". I found this incredibly endearing, and it earned her and the crew at least an extra 10% tip. As far as the food, I had the "Fisherman's Special" and got all the goodies that breakfast should entail, for a good price, and coffee refills are gratis. I highly recommend this one.

Once we put me as an eligible driver on Bjorn's list, I spent a good hour and a half adjusting all his fancy gadgets just how I liked them, and we were on our way north to our destination of Portland, Maine.

Once we were settled in our yet-to-be-named motel, Susan and I headed to Portland's Old Port, where we were to catch the Ferry to Peaks Island. We found some municipal parking, secured all that we thought we wouldn't need, packed all we thought we would, and headed toward the Casco Bay Lines terminal to purchase tickets. At one point, looking down an alley, we spotted a very drunk, possibly homeless man hugging another human dressed in a full sized, furry lobster costume. It was then that we both realized we had forgotten our cameras at the car.

Fast forward to the ferry ride, each with our cameras, but without our lobster/homeless photos. We connect with a bunch of our (meaning: BE Susan's) peeps. We're all here for not a wedding, but a post-elopement celebration. I've never been to Peaks Island, so I'm grateful for the opportunity. The shindig is taking place at the Fifth Maine Regiment Memorial Building 1888, what I later learn is a summertime retreat for troops during the civil war. It's a beautiful building right on the water.

Inside is a "museum" dedicated to the men who had valiantly served the Union during the Civil War, with a fascinating array of souvenirs from the war and ephemera from the era. It was great, as I like to learn about these things. I took ample photos, including this one:

I took a lot more photos, and admittedly got a little crazy with it. Housed in this former R+R locale were portraits of heroes of the Civil War, one of which was named Horatio Bumpus. It was only later, when I used the men's room located at the front of the building that I saw the sign: "Absolutely No Photography Or Videotaping Without Express Written Consent..."

Whoops. I'm really sorry, American Heroes. You should post a sign at the back as well telling us not to pop shots. So instead of heroic military legends, here are some pics I took on the grounds of flowers: