Saturday, February 28, 2009

Banish February

Citizens of this hemisphere should take to the streets, bang pots and pans, shout and speak in tongues to banish the spirit of February from our lives. Maybe it sounds mean, but February is the month I truly hate. Every year I stock up on fish oil and SAM-E supplements in January because I think, this time, I'm going to beat February. It's the shortest month; this'll be a breeze.

But every year I get sucked in to the spirit-killing vortex of February. I wake up one morning a few days in and find that overnight, my head somehow got wedged up my ass. Gloom and lethargy prevail. A tractor beam in the house comes on and it won't let me go to the gym or anywhere else, really. I even get too lazy to drown my sorrows in gin.

Sometimes it snows in February, and that can provide some sorely needed novelty. But most of the time it seems to wait until sometime in March to do that, when you're over winter and ready to get on with spring. It becomes sickening to see the daffodils blooming in the snow. It's like getting the Etch-A-Sketch you wanted for you sixth birthday on your sixteenth instead, when you were really hoping for a car.

And sometimes the spirit of February oversteps its bounds and lasts until about March 15.

So those who can, participate in some revelry today, and be loud about it. Drive this wet blanket of a month from our midst!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Comparison Of Fun Things

This weekend Wyatt and I had occasion to take in some musical events, and today I will compare them.

Saturday night we went to see Willie Nelson at War Memorial Auditorium. He was backed by a superb band, Asleep At The Wheel, which had a smokin' horn section and was just all-around world class.

Loved the music, but alas, big shows like that are such a pain in the ass. We got there a half hour before the show but we still got caught in a traffic clusterfuck on High Point Road. Having to part with $10 to park was a real downer, too. And we realized that we'd have the leave the show early in order to escape the nightmare the parking lot would become at the end of the show.

Inside we had seats on the first row of the balcony, which was nice enough. Wyatt was happy because he could stretch his legs out over the railing. But it was still like being penned up like a veal calf. After a while it became downright uncomfortable. It's not a situation where you can stand up and stretch because the people behind you will complain, and you can't just get up and stand in the aisle for a break because the people between you and the end of the row all have to stand to let you by.

It's ironic that you pay big money to see a musician you enjoy, but you have to sit still and behave yourself during the performance, let your legs go to sleep and feel your back start to hurt, until you get the point where you're looking forward to it being over. Hell no, dancing is out of the question. What the hell kind of culture do we live in that puts people in this kind of position?

Sunday afternoon we went to see the Raving Knaves at Rider's in the Country in Randleman. That is a nice place - plenty of room to allow people to enjoy themselves. It has a dance floor, tables and chairs, a side room with video games and pool tables, and an enclosed porch. There was a hot dog buffet complete with chili, sauerkraut, and slaw. We had great seats, the kind that aren't attached to the floor. I would have gotten on the dance floor, but couldn't talk anybody into going with me. They put on a great show - I really like their new drummer, who played the harmonica too and stood on his seat to hit the cymbals for dramatic effect. They play rockin' blue collar theme song music, have great original tunes, and I know them.

I have to say I liked the Raving Knaves show more.

A couple of notable things related to dancing happened after the Knaves show. You know how between bands at a performance there will sometimes be filler music from the radio or a mix CD. During a break while the Knaves were taking their stuff down, some women got up to line dance to a Nelly song. Now, as far as I know, Rider's is normally a country bar, very sort of Urban Cowboy, lots of pointy-toed boots and cowboy hats. But hip hop seemed to get these folks rolling. A few minutes after the Nelly song I noticed a fat man dressed in a studded biker jacket and leather cowboy hat grinding his hips to another hip hop song. He just stood up from the table where he was sitting with his friends and started shakin' that thang, and he was very good at it. Hypnotic, it was. I salute that.

After we left Rider's, Wyatt and I stopped at a gas station on Wendover. He was filling up the Blazer and squeegeeing the windows when a dirty white pickup stopped nearby and the 50-something guys inside started yelling at me. Oh shit, they're going to ask me for directions, I thought, and I was filled with dread - I can't tell left from right without holding up the thumb and forefingers on my hands to see which one makes an L (that one's left). On top of that the driver looked like he was likely a recent transplant from one of the nations south of here, and I prepared to open the door to the dusty Spanish files in my brain.

But when I approached the passenger said "Lissenna this song here - less daince!" They were both grinning and bobbing madly in their seats to Irene Cara singing "Flashdance (What A Feeling)" so I spent a minute or so dancing too. "Whooo!" they shouted.

That was the most fun thing of the weekend.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Robins, Real Estate, and Jared Diamond's Collapse

Here lately in the park it's been kind of like Hitchcock's The Birds only with just robins. They're all angling for nesting real estate, I guess. Last year a robin nested in a Crepe Myrtle here next to the rear fire escape, so you could look down into it from the upper floor. That was kind of fun, but then a hellacious hailstorm blew in and smashed the eggs and toppled the nest. That was a real downer - we'd all grown emotionally attached to that little family. I hope Mrs. Robin finds a safer home this year.

I've been reading about real estate in a roundabout way in Collapse. It's about how civilizations rise and fall, and how some of them have risen and sustained themselves. I'm not finished with the book, but so far it looks to me like civilizations which lasted a long time in a relatively stable fashion practiced abortion and/or infanticide. Jared Diamon cites the New Guinea Highlands and Tikopia, cultures which hadn't developed effective birth control methods, and thus had to come up with more brutal methods of population control to keep from depleting resources on the islands where they lived. Oh, that's fucking awful, I thought at first. But then I thought, how is abortion/infanticide really any different from warfare? All of the soldiers killed in battle on both sides are somebody's babies, though they no longer have the cute and cuddly factor working for them. And warfare is the inevitable result of populations outstripping the resources that support them.
Either the overgrown population has to go conquer somebody else's civilization for the raw materials to sustain itself, or it has a civil war/ethnic cleansing episode to thin itself out. (Daimond cites Rwanda as a good example of that.) Both of these things have long-term effects on the quality of life within a society, and it seems like there should be more skillful ways to manage population.

When you look at human history from such a broad perspective and see what an issue birth control has been for almost the entire time, it makes you wonder why religion tends to preach against it. Even though we've got hundreds if not thousands of years of evidence that abstinence doesn't work, we still get pissed off about birth control being discussed as part of sex education. And the Catholic Church is still against the most effective forms of birth control. I think that means they don't care about the bloodshed and cannibalism that can come about as a result of overpopulation; as long as those left standing are practicing Catholics, they've won. That, in my mind, is promoting a natural selection process that favors bloodthirsty assholes.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Best V-Day Song Ever

This is TV On The Radio's "Lover's Day".

Lyrics here.

Have a happy one everybody!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

(Pre) Spring Cleaning

I've been reading a lot online lately about people who said Fuck It All, sold their big houses in the cities where they had good jobs, and moved out to the country to live in a tent while they constructed a 300 or 400 or 500 square foot home, where they proceeded to live a low-stress, off-grid life. As a result, I've decided to take stock of all my stuff. What stuff could I get rid of and not miss? What stuff is essential?

One thing I have to admit to myself right away is that I have a big book problem. Up until I got married, I still had books that were my favorites in middle school. I've moved a lot, and I have to take the time out now to say Thank You and I'm sorry to those who've at any time helped me move. Not much sucks worse than hauling around boxes of books (or LP records) in endless succession. You don't really appreciate how many books you have until you take them off the shelf. Once you do, it's like the books expand, and you think "Holy Shit how can I possibly own so much stuff?"

I did a big book purge when I moved in with Wyatt, and I'm in the middle of another one. The other day I racked up $90 in credit with what I turned in at the used book store. I was so pleased with that it dissolved the earlier fury I'd worked up when I asked a RUDEASS employee a question and got an absolutely TWATTY response.

Enough of that. I like trading in books for credit because even if you use the credit for more book purchases, it translates into fewer books. About $30 of my credit went to the purchase of Collapse, Feast of the Goat, and When You Are Engulfed In Flames. Now I've got plenty to read for a few days and won't be tempted to watch TV. Or go to the library. The library's great, but I don't always feel like getting books back in on time, mostly because library parking is such a pain in the ass. Those bastards turned me over to a collection agency for $30 in overdue fees a couple of years ago. And I hate it when you check out a book and you realize you're going to want to keep for years and refer back to key passages. Because it's a library book, you're not supposed to underline in it, and you have to give it back. It puts you in a bad position because now you're going to have to buy the book from somewhere, probably a different edition, and re-read it to underline those passages. Um, how 'bout hell no?

I like to try things before I commit to keeping them. That's why I shop at Goodwill. You can never tell in the store if a piece of clothing is going to wear well or not, but if it only costs $3.75 you don't mind spending that to try it out. New clothes, on the other hand, are a bigger commitment. If you spend $50 on something, you'll feel bad about getting rid of it even if over time you find it makes you look like a bag lady or gives you blisters.

I also took a big load of stuff to Goodwill this week. I bought a linen jacket while I was there.

I wish I could put all my belongings in one pile so I could judge its size and get a true idea of how much stuff I own. Some of the stuff in the pile might start to look a lot less attractive.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Things You Miss

I miss Verona Disco Hour. I haven't observed this weekly holiday in several years. It was something that might last 20 minutes or it might last 90, but I called it an hour so it'd sound snappier. I'd get out the songs on all the 45s, LPs, and CDs I wanted to dance to that week and pile them up for easy access. This was important preparation if I planned to drink beer or do shots in observance of Disco Hour.

Disco Hour usually only included me, and I'd dance to some songs or pretend to be the singers of others, sometimes singing along. Disco Hour was my Zoloft or Prozac. It allowed me to punch holes in the jar lid of my life and love it, despite whatever else might be going on that was less than fun or glamorous.

I celebrated Disco Hour regularly up until a few years ago. I'm not sure why I stopped. I guess it's like Bob Seger sings about in Rock and Roll Never Forgets: "Say you used to shake 'em down but now you stop to worry about your dignity." Mainly I worry I'll disturb the neighbors, but I've always had neighbors. I gave away my disco globe a couple of years ago.

During my brief career as a barmaid in London, I had access to a stage for Verona Disco Hour. It cost money to play the jukebox but that was okay, it was worth it. One of our regulars, on his way home from the store, was astounded to look in and see me onstage during Verona Disco Hour one afternoon. "You were just carrying on and there was no one else in there," he said. Today that might embarrass me but back then I was proud. I didn't need an audience to support my rockstar lifestyle.

Clubs are too smoky and full of people trying to dance on you instead of with you, and they open too late, and they don't necessarily play what you want to hear. You might not be able to find anybody else who wants to go. And clubs cost money. Why not simplify things and just party in your living room?

I might try Verona Disco Hour again soon. Here's a sample of things that will be on the playlist: Old School, Dark and Nasty, Nina Simone retooled,two good things at once,and fairly recent poppy.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Community Gardens

I was glad to see this story about community gardens in the paper today. The whole reason I'm obsessed with moving out of this condo is because I want a yard to garden in. At the same time, this is one of the best places in town to live and I'd hate to give it up. There's a big empty lot a few blocks away that would make a sweet community garden, though right now it's full of dog shit. That's a big problem with growing things in the city that I've written about before.

A couple of years ago my neighbor helped me build a planter I put on my balcony, and Wyatt and I grew salad greens and herbs in it. It was a pain in the ass to keep watered - we had to lug watering cans from the kitchen and drip all the way through the house to get to it, and in the peak summer it needs water twice a day. But it was nice being able to just step out with some scissors and clip a salad for dinner. However the following season some exterior work was done on the building, pressure washing and whatnot, and the planter got inundated with bleach and chips of old paint. I'm not sure about the concentration of bleach but I saw several empty gallon jugs of it out in the yard near the pressure washer, and decided maybe we shouldn't eat greens out of the planter anymore.

My friend Sr. Bedford has an allotment in that community garden in Glenwood, and he grows Kale that's probably genetically modified with DNA from Godzilla. I swear one year it's going to uproot itself and start knocking over buildings downtown.

This is my favorite place to buy seeds from, though with my limited gardening options I haven't done much shopping from them. I'm going to try elderberry in the planter this year.