Friday, June 29, 2007

While I've Got You On the Line...

Won't you please let me introduce you to the newest addition to my Blogroll -- a superbly thoughtful blogger, Stoic's Delight, who also happens to be a Close Personal Friend of Mine?

I had worried that he'd throw the blogging thing into a cocked hat after a few tries, but he seems to have caught the bug and now seems to post fairly regularly.

Stoic's Delight, everyone! Post some comments! Encourage the man! He thrives on attention!

I Come From the Land of Ice and Snow

I find rather ineffably hilarious my most recent Pop-Culture Discovery -- namely, that Robert Planet's wordless howl at the outset of "The Immigrant Song" is exactly the same melodic phrase that adorns the theme-song of "Get Smart." The thought puts me in such a fabulous mood that I can fortitudinously bear your schadenfreude-laden giggles at my tale of woe with the Triumph....

I haven't yet named the thing yet, but I'm willing to entertain suggestions. Think of a capricious person who constantly squirts oil onto the floor and won't rise to a vigorous kicking....

I took the Oily Beast (© John Morrish) down to the local gas station, a distance of some five or six miles, to tank up in preparation for a practice run around Short Hill. Having filled the tank, I kicked to start (her?) up again.

And kicked.

And kicked.

Nothing would bring (her?) to life. Absolutely nothing. My right leg was absolutely knackered from the effort.

The headlamp wasn't shining, and the ammeter on (her?) headlamp showed an alarming nothingness. Quite clearly, something was desperately wrong with the electrical system. I asked the gas-station owner if it was OK to leave (her?) there for the night; luckily, our daughters are coevals at the local school, and we knew each other noddingly.

I went home and spent a very uncomfortable night, tossing and turning and wondering what kind of pig in a poke I'd just bought. The next morning, Wonder Woman and I drove my truck to the station with a stout length of rope. She towed me home -- an absolutely terr-o-fying bit of driving, if I may confess it.

I called the fellow who'd sold me the bike, Randy Creel, of Randy's Cycle Service and Restoration, who was superbly helpful in walking me through a set of diagnostics that isolated the problem to the battery, which was, simply, old. I bought a new battery, installed it -- a quite thrillingly dangerous procedure involving pouring extremely dangerous chemicals into a box and hooking a 2-amp trickle charger to it -- and now it starts like a sex kitten on roofies (JC? Any hints for a name?).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Twenty Flight Rock

Took the newly street-legal Triumph out on its shakedown cruise in the early evening yesterday. The length of Mountain Road and back, about 20 miles overall. Trepidacious and tentative at first, by about Mile 4 I was whooping with glee. Everything I'd been afraid of -- our dirt road, the bike's weight and power, cornering and handling -- was an absolute piece of cake. Today is too damned hot to ride, but maybe this evening I'll take another training run.

Apparently, and somewhat unwittingly, I have acquired an Identity with this '64 Triumph. I've been looking around the Net for info on it, and the most salient thing I'd found was that Steve McQueen rode the previous year's model in The Great Escape. Now I've discovered that this bike was popular with café racers in Britain, who chopped it for speed and handling. What I truly didn't know is that these guys were the Rockers, of Mods-and-Rockers fame. Teds. Quiffs. Sidies. Drainies. Leather.

They had a practice called "record racing." Gather at the transport caf'. Somebody puts Eddie Cochrane's "Twenty Flight Rock" on the juke. The instant the needle hits, you go. You have to complete a circuit and be back in the parking lot before the record is over.

Clearly, I have some Hairstyle Issues to deal with. And I suddenly find myself desperately in need to find a copy of The Girl Can't Help It...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The Time: 1999 or so.

The Place: Somewhere in the desolation of the Northern Virginia suburbs.

I was returning with Freddie from a Cub Scout camping trip. Bone-tired from not having slept at all in a miserable pup-tent on the torturous forest floor, disgusted with the company I'd been forced into for two days -- let's face it; I wouldn't have befriended most of the dullards who made up the Cub Scout troop parents if the choice had been up to me, and the kind of nitwit who enjoys leading a bunch of eight-year-olds through "On Top of Old Smokey" while toasting marshmallows can only be characterized as a complete twat -- I needed something Seriously Transgressive to chase away the anomie.

Freddie, who'd slept as little as me, was dossed in the back seat. I searched the CD carrier and found it: "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" by the Mothers of Invention. The perfect record! Take this, you boozhy cocksuckers!

Didja Get Any Onya... Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask... Toads of the Short Forest... Yes... yes...! This is doing the trick! I am not some goddamned Cub Scout Dad in khaki Dockers driving a fucking minivan through the 'burbs! No! I am a Zappa Fan!

I heard a stirring in the back seat. Freddie had been awake and listening.


"Yes, my son? How may I help you?"

"Why's his guitar want to kill her mommy?"

Ah, life.

My first attempt at a GarageBand recording, back in, what, 2003? was My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama. I was experimenting with the loops that came with that marvelous program, found this neat-o N'Awlins kind of drum thing, and it just grew organically out of that. I sequenced the bass using an acoustic bass patch, laid down a rhythm guitar vamp, and then just played the shit out my Strat. Sometime when I'm at a loose end I may feed the original file into Logic to see if I can't give the recording a little more testicular fortitude, but I kinda like it the way it is.

My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Cat and the Chorus Pedal

I know this is more than a week out of date, but here goes anyway...

A plot point in the last episode of "The Sopranos" revolved around a rather spooky cat, who gives Paulie dyspepsia by staring at a photo of the departed Christopher -- even after it's been moved to another place. "The abstract shapes, or something," Tony says unconvincingly.

Tell you, cats do bizarre stuff.

Our Paco, long departed now, had a truly weird affection for a piece of guitar equipment I owned. I didn't have a dedicated room for music in our old Takoma Park place, back in the Eighties, and I used to park my Strat in the dining room. My little Fender Eighty-Eight amp was there, and I had a Boss Stereo Chorus stompbox on the floor.

I'd come home to find the cat curled up around the chorus pedal. Sleeping right on top of it, huddled around it like it was a teddy bear. It couldn't possibly have been a comfortable thing -- it was a metal box, an inch-and-a-half high and maybe five inches by three. Twiddly-dials sticking out of the top surface.

This wasn't even close to a unique, one-time-only thing. The cat loved the goddamned chorus pedal. Every day I'd come home, and there'd be Paco, curled up around this thing, purring gently and probably dreaming about catching and devouring Andy Summers.

It ran on a nine-volt battery; it wasn't as it it was warm or anything. I can't imagine it was emitting any kind of pleasurable vibration -- it felt like a cold little steel box to me.

I'll never be able to explain it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm Off Again

Up to Noo Yawk for an evening of fun & frolic with the NudeCritics crowd. In order to justify the trip to my employers, and blag a ride on the company shuttle plane, I have to do some (ecch!) work tomorrow, but until then it's Breakfast at Tiffany's on some rooftop on the Yupper West Side.

Meantime, try to talk me out of this thing, Go ahead: Try.

Just looking at it, a thin line of drool forms on my chin.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Buck Fees

While I was returning our lawn to bourgeois respectability yesterday, my mower annoyed some stinging insect, which manifested its displeasure by drilling me just over my left eyebrow. As it didn't hurt very much, I suspect the offending creature to have been a yellowjacket wasp, whose stings aren't particularly painful unless you piss off a whole hiveful of them and they attack en masse. (Personal experience talking, here.)

I didn't think any more of it until I began to notice some difficulty seeing out of my left eye. Taking a shower after the hot work, I glimpsed my face in the bathroom mirror to find that the eyelid was quite alarmingly swollen. As the day progressed, the swelling around the whole eye increased to the point where I couldn't see out of it at all.

Not a terribly vain man, I was nonetheless rather disturbed at my new Elephant-Man look. As common sense dictates, I took some of the antihistamine Benadryl, which had little effect save to put me in the absolute vilest mood. The constant pressure on my eyeball gave me a
blinder of a headache, too.

I woke up this morning to find that the eyelid was even more swollen than when I'd gone to bed. The swelling's gone down a bit now, mid-morning, but co-workers are still looking at me slantendicular and asking if I've been in a fight. And the headache's returned.

OK, you little yellow cocksucker: You win. I was wrong and you were right. I do not belong in your world, and I was trespassing with my big, loud, carbon-belching mower. I'm sorry! Uncle!

Can we call it quits now?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

No Sandwiches, Now

I find the atmosphere just right to ask the following question, one that has bugged me for years:

If offered a Perfect Ideal World, where Tony would never find out and consign you to slumber with the finny denizens of the deep, and where your own spousal unit would be equally uninclined to vengeful wrath, who would you do?

Carmela Soprano, or Meadow Soprano?

Me: Carm. As long as she asked nicely. I have my own reasons.

But I'd love to hear your own rationale.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Paul Is Not Dead

(Crossposted at Nude Critics)

Memory Almost Full Cover
Well that was me
Royal Iris
On the river
With the band
That was me
There will come a time -- distressingly soon, I have a feeling -- that the only Beatle who isn't dead is Paul McCartney. I don't say this because I have some inside track on the state of Ringo Starr's health -- I fondly wish him a long and happy existence -- but because the Gods of Irony work that way.

June 18th will be Sir Paul's 65th birthday -- meaning (among other things) that his new solo album, Memory Almost Full, will have been written and recorded at that once unimaginably far-off age of 64. Far from having rented a cottage in the Isle of Wight (if it's not too dear), McCartney's last decade has been noteworthy for tumult and chaos. Of the record's title, he says,
The album title came after I had finished everything. For me, that’s when they normally come, with the exception of maybe Sgt. Peppers, otherwise I don’t think I have ever made an album with The Beatles, Wings or solo where I have thought of a title and a concept. I was thinking about what would sum the whole thing up and ‘Memory Almost Full’ sprung to mind. It’s a phrase that seemed to embrace modern life; in modern life our brains can get a bit overloaded.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I Am Not Now, Nor Have I Ever Been, Farmer MacGregor

It would take a cold heart indeed not to melt upon finding these li'l guys in the lawn:

Here's Flopsy:

An' here's Mopsy:

Wonder Woman wouldn't let the dogs out after she found these two this afternoon. She kept hoping that Mrs. Cottontail would come along, scold her charges for running off, and chivvy them back home for chamomile tea and biscuits. By my arrival home, she had not appeared, so I gathered them up gently in a tea-towel and carried them one by one into the rather overgrown blueberry patch and laid them carefully out of sight behind the milkweed. By the time I'd brought Mopsy up, Flopsy had already hippity-hopped off into the bushes, so I think they'll be safe.

Do You Need Anybody?

In Which I Forgive Kenyon College for Making a Man of Me

On the drive out to central Ohio for my 25th college reunion, it became rather urgent that I obtain a copy of Sergeant Pepper to play very loudly in my car -- my copy seemed to have taken a bunk from my CD shelves. The day of the drive was the fortieth anniversary of the release of that earthshaking album, and since the weekend was to be dedicated to wallowing in nostalgia, the proper musical accompaniment seemed incumbent.

On the way to a record store in a shopping mall in Martinsburg, West Virginia, I walked past a shop that catered to the fashion needs of the Urban Gentleman -- oversized baseball caps meant to be worn sideways, enormous throwback basketball jerseys -- you know the thing. In the window a rather raffish porkpie hat stopped me in my tracks. I must have that hat!

And have it I did. It occurred to me that the thing might occasion a nice little joke: I imagined my classmates whispering behind my back, Oh Jesus, look at poor Jingo -- he's gone bald as a billiard ball on top and he's wearing that ridiculous hat to disguise his shame; that's just pathetic! Cue me removing the thing to reveal my Crowning Glory, a full thatch of luxurious hair without a single streak of gray.

Old Kenyon, scene of most of my social and sexual humiliations

Arrived at Gambier, I ankled into the old bank, now the registration office for the returning alumni. I announced my name to an assistant at the desk, and was immediately floored when Rory Mach, registering at the next table over, cackled, "Neddie who?"

Rory is absolutely one of my favorite human beings in all of the world of space and time, with a marvelous, ever-ready great booming laugh that makes you feel glad to be alive. I had no idea he was coming -- and he likewise had no clue I was to be there. We were once so close that it's quite possible that our first children were conceived on the same night, after a bibulous dinner at a nice restaurant outside Washington. The kids were born within hours of each other. Time and distance and natural laziness on both our parts have drawn us apart, but after this weekend I will move heaven and earth to make sure that's no longer true.

Rory Mach and Offspring. No -- seriously. Her name is Offspring.

Rory and I got to yacking, and I mentioned my blog. He asked the name, and when I told him, he said, "You're Neddie Jingo?" Turns out the sumbitch was lurking at NewCritics, with no idea who I was. Now he's posting there as well, and has recently started a blog of his own. In a world of -- what are we up to now? eight billion people? -- and even given the self-selecting and self-referential nature of the Blogosphere, I'm calling this coincidence nothing short of a miracle.


People. A congenital misanthrope, I don't like a lot of people. But Matt's comment on a recent post of mine was a perfect description of the weekend: "the connections I invariably make with people whom I hardly knew when we were in school together." While in the Old Days I knew most of the folks in that little kaffeeklatsch above (actually, it should probably be referred to as a wasserklatsch), it's really only been since graduation that I've come to know and feel affection for them as friends rather than classmates. I also met many new friends, and filled in some blanks with people I'd only ever met online -- Will Divide, for example, is as charming in person as he is in email, as is Axiomatic Apricot from the Chumps.

Ascension Hall, scene of most of my academic humiliations

My fraternity, the Peeps o' Kenyon (motto: "Purity and Accuracy" -- which should give you some idea) survives, if all its mural artwork does not. Some absolute gooberhead painted over the mural reproduction of the Grateful Dead Steal Your Face album cover that greeted visitors in the foyer of Old Kenyon. I really enjoyed the little two-inch-high graffito that replaced it, though:

Two nights of fairly hearty partying did take a bit of an emotional toll on your correspondent. Sunday morning, a twinge of melancholia already setting in, I regretfully packed up the effects and motored off homeward. Again, I thought it incumbent to leave campus with Sergeant Pepper blasting at top volume out of the windows of the car. I grinned a grinny grin and set my porkpie at a jaunty angle as the windshield rattled: "It was twenty years ago today..."

But wouldn't you know it -- I'd forgotten about the second song. That damned second song!
Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I just need someone to love...

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Oh, I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends...
I'm afraid I blubbed a bit.

Rory, Nick, Abby Abigail, Chris, Tor, DeeDee, Chucker, Joe G., Kyle H., Elise B., and everybody else I forgot to mention -- next time, let's all do this:

Steve Gilliard

I've been out of the loop all weekend -- post on the Reunion is in the making -- so I hadn't heard the dreadful news that Steve Gilliard had died.

That's a terrible blow. He was one of the great ones. I really enjoyed his righteous passion; The News Blog was absolutely a daily must-read for me.

My condolences to Jen and the News Blog team.

"We Fight Back" indeed.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Before I set off on my eight-hour drive to Gambier, I just wanted to say a couple of things:

1. Eugene Robinson has the thing well in hand; and

2. It was forty years ago today.