Wednesday, March 26, 2003

I'm listening to some Incubus in my attempt to prepare for Wings tonight at LT's. The DJ there plays a lot of Incubus, and the lead singer of that band reminds me of Starmite, my Kazhakstan-dwelling Peace Corps hiker buddy who thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail last year. It's 12:40 p.m. on a bright, sunny 60-degree Wednesday afternoon and I'm thinking, whoa, dude, you haven't written in this thing since before America went to war. Everything's different now. Not really. I'm still married to the same wonderful woman, still living in the same cozy apartment, still have the same gut (though not growing, hopefully), same parents, same job (though not at the same location; my long-term sub assignment at Kishwaukee Elementary School ended 12 days ago), same fears, dreams, hopes, style....

Choir practice is going well. I've also got two more new songs in the works on the guitar, which will bring to five the total number of new compositions in the last year. Seven more and I'll have an album. Coming into my own soulfulness, and lesson to be learned as a writer from song crafting, to not take it so seriously, be full of hubris and doubt, just roll, it's all nihilistic existential waste paper heap scrap on tomorrow-ness, layer and layer and we're all organic sludge destined to the fate of the dinosaurs while the stars and blue sky laugh at our transitory ennui.... In choir, I sit next to one of these holy roller type dudes who wears a cross around his neck and a die-cast American flag pin on his lapel. He lives in Ridott, Ill., where is located the first bar I ever drank at, the name I forget, all I know is Andy and I hung out in a back room sucking back Millers and playing pool of a Friday night on a slanted table. And I remember thinking what's the big deal about bars? And still do. The tables at LT's are level, and I only go to the cheapy dollar drafts after I've had a couple Hacker-Pschorr's or Guinness. And die-cast American Flag cross wearing crew-cutted single man in his 40's I guess has a degree in music composition from some Chicago university and a couple of his compositions have been performed by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. He's got copies of the performance and gave me one. He can also hit a low-C, a good two notes below where I bottom out on the register, unless I belch....

Let's see, life highlights 101 (in no particular odor, hmmm... bacon scent first)

March 14 -- Had Shawn Robinson and Susie Hofer over for dinner and had such a good time hanging and drinking and getting silly and watching "Life Is To Whistle" that they ended up staying all night...

March 15 -- Went to a dinner party at Ron and Sue Cincinnati's house hosted by brother Ken, theme was Ides of March and after Coq au vin main course and Pears Belle Helene dessert we played out scenes from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" complete with togas and crowns of laurel.

March ?? --- Many warm days lead to outdoors and exercise, especially bike riding...

22-- Had a dream come true and saw Rockford's very own Ript perform at LTs. I wrote about Ript in a previous entry. The set list is a column of words 18-point size: Waltz, Mission, Blitz, Brain, Skull, Nicole, Elvis, Highway, Sedated, Vomit, Loud, Spit, Can't Take and Don't Like. Sedated and Blitz are shortened for Blitzkrieg Bop and I Want To Be Sedated, two Ramones songs. Ironically, I was introduced to the Ramones at age 17 when I stole their greatest hits tape out of a car during one of my many crime sprees with Larry Eckmann.Ahhh... lawlessness. If I ever become super-rich the cloak of civility will be shed. Decency will always prevail, but getting a little bit of the booyah on again would be cool... Must... Break.... Stuff.....

Lots of living and breathing and loving and writing and reading and all that stuff in the interim... Gotta go.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Saturday Sisu and I were driving across town when a guy zooms up and rides the ass of the car next to us. I made eye contact with the driver and said "asshole." This infuriated him and he slowed down and zoomed behind me, then passed using a left turn lane. After he passed I pushed on the brakes and got in front of me and drove slow. Each time I tried to pass he ssssssssssssswerved to hit me. He then slammed on the brakes and stopped. He got out ready to fight, but once he got a look at me it became a yelling match.

I feel guilty inviting this troubled man's wrath because I did something truly hateful calling him an asshole. I can't remember the last time, if ever, I made eye contact with somebody and said that. But it felt good, telling it like it truly is with venomous and spiteful honesty. I'm glad he was smaller than me and didn't have a gun!

My dad's in the hospital. He just had two more stents put into his heart, and the first stent he had put in five years ago. He's 67, has bad eating habits, and doesn't exercise except for two days a week at when he pushes people around in wheelchairs at Swedish American Hospital. He's something of a hypochondriac, and can afford to be because he's got free medical care through his military pension plan. So he's never had a heart attack. Any slight twinge and he's off to the clinic just up the street.

I've been doing a lot of my work on the trail stories in the library at Kishwaukee Elementary School. If not there, then the Rockford Public Library. Did you know I am editing the first ever guidebook for the Ice Age Trail and writing its introduction? The project is spearheaded by Sharon Dzjiengel, who has thru-hiked the AT, CDT, Long Trail, Superior Hiking Trail, and is the first woman to solo thru-hike the Ice Age Trail. She compiled all the town and road walk information (which is a lot, considering all the gaps in the Ice Age Trail). Each of the individual chapters provide descriptions of the trail. It has been my job to edit the amateur writing of Sharon and 20+ chapter coordinators. I don't know what the print run will be, but it will be distributed all over Wisconsin and available on Amazon.com and/or the Ice Age Trail website. It will be the first "book" I've had my name associated with and my first editing credit. I feel little pressure from this first-time experience because it's a slower pace than a daily newspaper.

I watched my first spring training game Saturday as the Cubs beat the White Sox, 3-2. I kept score, and it was a challenge with all the substitutions, but an exciting finish as a bunch of no-name Cubs tied and then won the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Seeing baseball invigorated me for the coming season and, as always, I'm hopeful for the Cubs.

I've decided to keep score for every game I follow this summer. I kept score for 26 games in 2001, but only 5 last year. This year I'm getting back into form because I took the time to look through the 2001 book recently and had many good baseball memories revived.


Thursday, March 06, 2003

I just got off the net after bidding for an acoustic guitar pickup on E-bay. I’ve never bid for anything on E-bay. I’ve lurked often, but this is my first foray into online auction bidding. I used to buy a lot of books from Amazon, especially when I lived in Arizona and did not have access to a large library. Today I tried out a Dean Markley pickup at a guitar shop in DeKalb. The proprietor wanted to sell one for $80. I’m not willing to pay more than $50. I could buy one immediately off E-bay for $35, but bid $26. We’ll see how this experience plays out. I’ll certainly save money versus music store prices. I thanked Don (who wore a shiny black nylon wind jacket with his name spelled in cursive on the right breast) the music store owner with ferocious bad breath I could smell across the room, by spending $17 on a strap, picks, a chord chart and chord book. The guitar I tested the pickup on has a warped neck at around the 12th fret, and when I told Ron he said, cheap Washburns, they’re made in China now, whaddaya expect, and put it back on the rack. Such a contrast to the old man at Pegasus Music on Charles Street who sold me my Washburn acoustic. His shop was neat, clean and efficient. And he knew each instrument. But when I had him replace the nut bridge on my brother’s electric Fender Telecaster, he did a shoddy homemade job.

Esther’s Scandinavian intuition paid off. It snowed over the last two days, about 7 inches total, the first significant snowfall we’ve gotten this winter, two weeks before spring. Last night I got pretty tipsy off draft beers at LTs, but took the hangover precaution -- plenty of water and ibuprofen – and got up at 5:40 a.m. with Esther, still a little sluggo-headed. We drove about 15 minutes north to the Atwood Forest Preserve and watched the sun rise as we cross country skied across a golf course. It snowed about an inch more last night, and the cover this morning was all powdery and light. Today the afternoon temperature rose to the upper 30s, and now the top layer is all crusty and will be more difficult to ski through.

I’m such a man’s man, though, tough enough to break trail and watch the sun rise after slamming brewskis the night before. Esther was surprised I joined her. But I stirred when she awoke and went to the bathroom. Eric, our upstairs neighbor, had a weird movie or music playing, with this weird high pitched screaming. My head pounded and cheeks felt puffy, and know the only way I could exorcise the hangover beast was to exercise it into extinction. Plus, it was cool to see the ends of Esther’s hair collect frost and turn white.

The rest of the day included errands and busyness. I replaced a headlight bulb in the car, went to the bank and picked up my debit card, which I left in their machine, drove to DeKalb to pick up some CD’s from Ron, ate at Mandarin Chinese Restaurant, where the indoor décor is rummage saley kitsch (tacky, but in a clever way). Certainly a feast for the eyes, like the four-feet tall plaster cast lamp of a shirtless turbaned hero (he holds the lamp light aloft in his right hand), a Precious Moments clock, and a Joy of Painting nature scene of cattails in a lake. It was the waitress’ second day and she was there all alone. Ron wanted to know what vegetables were in the Mongolian Beef, and she said she didn’t know. The cook returned from an errand and came to our table. He was tan, Asian, with silver caps over his front teeth, and spoke broken English. But thereafter he catered to us personally, asking, “you like?” when we finished our egg rolls, as if to make up for his absence when we arrived.
I used to go to the Mandarin with Todd back in 1996 and 97, college days. We’d stop there every once in a while after playing tennis. In the meantime they’ve added more items to the interior décor, but is otherwise blissfully the same as it was then, including the menu and prices.

Today was a good, productive day. I sailed through it in an amused, detached, melancholy mood, which at first glance could appear to be depression, because I feel more mellow and less happy than normal. I’m not unhappy, just feeling mellow and reflective.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

You've got to check out www.snopes.com. It is this web site that tries to prove or disclaim urban myths that are passed around, mainly on the Internet. I've just spent the last 45 minutes checking out all the photographs, including one where I laughed my bootie off at this photo of a cat with a "lion" cut. There are also pictures of a deer through the windshield of a car, weirdo plastic surgery altered Michael Jackson in court and a woman trying to hide in the dashboard of a truck. And these are the ones proven authentic. There are fake pics of an iceberg underwater, Dubya holding a book upside down, and a shark trying to attack a sea diver.