Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Unawares

Sometimes things happen that shouldn't be explained.  I'm not saying these things can't be explained, because heck, if scientists have determined that we exist on one of an infinite number of parallel universes, then what I'm about to tell you is a can of corn.

As I emerged from the depths of the Metro station this morning I crossed 15th Street over to McPherson Square and walked to work.  The homeless man who I pass every morning said to me, as he does every morning, "Good morning, Chicago!"  I gave him a nod of my head and returned the pleasantry.  But then as I was passing him he started making whistly kissing noises as if he were calling a dog.  (Spontaneous behavior... Unexpected break from the day's regimented routine...  This was not in the rehearsed script for "Walking to Work on a Wednesday Morning."  I stopped walking and paid attention.)

There was no dog.  There was a squirrel.  And the homeless man called the squirrel over to him and gave him a bite of food.  And the squirrel happily ate, rewarded for his obedience.  

 A different man might attach some schmaltzy, symbolic meaning to what I saw.  Feel free to interpret the scene however you want.  If it were a Hollywood movie I'm sure the squirrel's name is Ben or Rascal, and the homeless man will end up conquering some form of conflict with the help of his furry friend.  But for me it was just a man feeding a squirrel.  (A squirrel who comes running when called.)

I live in a world that puts a lot of emphasis on explanation.  As I read recently is a book I'm reading by a very good author, "Explanation is such poor poetry."  It seems like we've lost the art of shutting the fuck up and appreciating events and occurrences as they happen.  I don't know why the Autumn leaf fell onto the sidewalk and not the lawn - can't we just admire the beauty of the falling?  (Yes, I know it was probably wind related, but you're missing my point!)  We don't go to art museums to admire the frames - we go to admire the paintings within the frames.  (Unless you're into woodworking and the craftsmanship of the frames is the art (I digress.))

Look at what I've done.  I killed it with explanation.  See what you made me do?  This is why we can't have anything nice.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Music Appreciation: Trampled by Turtles

Banjo Lesson

I've had my new banjo for one week.  When it comes to banjo playing, I've learned, it's all about the rolls.  And "gettin' good" at playing the banjo means playing rolls very, very fast.  The roll is simply a pattern of strings plucked by the right hand over and over again.  The best comparison I can come up with is typing on a keyboard.  A fast typist rarely thinks about or looks at the keyboard as he is typing.  Playing the banjo is like typing without looking down.  (Shit, this could take years...)

Also, as I've been practicing rolls on the banjo (hopefully not to the chagrin of Lovely Lynette) I realized the calming meditative power of playing the banjo.  Maybe this is why bumpkins are so laid back.  Wearing overalls prolly don't hurt either - those things look hella comfortable.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jaybird Carlock and the True Believers

Ever want to be able to do something, but just can't?  The desire and passion is there, but the skill and talent are not.  For me, it's a few things.  Now, many people will say that we can do whatever we want to do in this life, that anyone can learn, blah blah blah.  I always wanted to be able to draw.  Granted, anyone can "draw."  But I wanted to draw like my favorite comic book artists.  In the end, I never became that kind of artist.  I did start drawing seriously a few years ago in a series of scetchbooks - none of it spectacular, but still a fulfilling endeavor.  I created a few neat images.  In the true spirit of the word, it is "art."  Whatever that means.  But I never felt like I could call myself an artist.  I tried.  I really did.  I may even try again someday.

The same goes for music.  I have always wanted to be able to play a musical instrument.  If I could criticize my parents I would say that they should have pushed me to play something.  Anything.  But that is the past, and as we all know, the past is one stubborn son of a bitch.

In my defense, I did play hand bells for several years at the church I was raised in.  I can read sheet music.  But I'm also lazy, hence I never motivated myself to pick up a guitar like my friend down the street, who I think is now in some heavy metal band.  In the fifth grade I joined the school band, but was relegated to playing the clarinet ... because we had a clarinet in the house...  because my older brother played the clarinet.  For my parents, it was an economical choice.  Unfortunately, I hated playing the clarinet (even though I was second chair in the band. Boom!) 

In college, I bought an old guitar from a friend who said I could get my money back if I ever played it in front of an audience.  That's $25 I'll never see again.  Though I still have that guitar and was able to teach myself two chords.  (One more chord and I can write a song!) 

Four years ago I bought a violin and actually took lessons for a few years.  Expensive lessons.  I still love it, but we live in a small condo and the violin is too loud. 

Last year, I bought Lynette a ukulele and have been playing around with it.  I just learned how to play Happy Birthday on it!

Last week I bought a banjo.  A real, made in the USA banjo.  Last night was the first night I had a chance to sit down with it and start picking.  The fingerpicks are uncomfortable and will take some getting used to.  I had to stick a wadded up shirt in the "pot" to muffle the sound a bit, because James was trying to sleep.  A couple times I said to myself, "I can't believe I own a banjo."  Then again I'm also still saying, "I can't believe I have a son."

So maybe a banjo is like an infant son.   Y'all seen pictures, but don't fully appreciate its glory until you hold one. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Driving the Boat

Had an epiphany the other day.  Was thinking back to the 90's and remembering how much healthier my mind felt back then.  Physically, I was more fit, too, but what I yearn for the most is the way I (we?) moved through each day concerning myself with only a few basic tenants of happiness.  Have you ever driven or steered a motorboat?  The idea seems elementary or trivial, but once you position yourself at the back of that small vessel you realize how dreamy that feeling of gliding across smooth water can be, like entering a different plane of  travel.  I drove a boat in the early 90's at Six Mile Lake in northern Minnesota.  I'm not talking about being a mere passenger on a boat.  I'm talking about being in complete control of it, from the slow push off as to not leave a wake near the pre-dawn shore to the subtle denouement of easing it back to the pier after being across the lake in what felt like a trip  to outer space.

That's what life was like for me in the 90's.  I wasn't obligated to feign interest in what someone 900 miles away had for lunch.  I didn't feel compelled to upload a photograph of my cat wearing a hat.  And I certainly didn't have room in my schedule for the constant checking-checking-checking of my phone for Twitter feeds and Facebook updates.  Not like I do now.  Not like I do now...

The obvious cure for my blues is to eliminate my Facebook account and delete Twitter from my iPhone.  But I'm afraid it ain't that easy.  Not for someone like me.  Because I consider myself a bit of a tech nerd.  I like staying in touch with new things.  I like playing with new toys and experiment with new ways to explore the internet.  I love being entertained.  Trust me, I'll spare no expense for good entertainment.

So I guess my problem is the way socialization has evolved in light of these technological advances.  I've always been shy and somewhat introverted in social settings.  I grew up with minimal self-confidence and most of the time preferred to keep to myself.  I'm good with people, but am repelled and disgusted with fake, flaky, plastic affection.  I never had the stomach for insincere niceties.  And so now when I check-check-check the status updates, et al, it's all I see.  And when the meaningless barrage of so many clicks on the Like button become too much for me to endure all I want to do is jump in a boat and go fishing.  Except this time I'll probably take my phone. 

I'll always feel that itchy urge to broadcast to the world everything that I do.  I'm not going to fight it.  I'm just a little weary about what it's doing to our world.  But more importantly, what it's doing to our senses of adventure and intimacy.

So anyway, you guys check out Pinterest yet?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Banjo for Dummies

Feeding the Trolls

I recently got trolled by someone who thinks my political viewpoint is a "political retardation."  Fair enough.  It is the internet after all.  We all have the right to broadcast our opinions and beliefs and nonsense to the world of whoever might be listening (myself included, obviously).  It's not like I can shoo this person out of my yard with a garden hose (or a semi-automatic rifle if I were a "conservative" right winger).  And although I disagree with most "conservative" ploys to under mind the free-thinking, intellectualism in this country, I will always wholeheartedly defend their right to do it.  Troll on, mystery troll!

I grew up in a small, manure scented farm town with a population of 1,600 people about 45 miles northwest of Chicago.  We had no fast food restaurants, no movie theaters, and no communication with the outside world.  To say my hometown was all white would be an understatement.  And yet somehow my best friend throughout my entire childhood was a kid from Korea who moved in next door when I was in the fifth grade.  I witnessed racism and intolerance on unimaginable levels, all from the mouths of so called "conservative" children and adults alike. 

When I got to college, I somehow ended up living with two homosexual women.  Initially an odd trio due to my heterosexuality, we became very close and I was welcomed into the lesbian/bisexual/gay community.  Although I was straight, I observed first hand the amount of hate and judgmental vitriol my gay friends had to endure, all from the "godly," hateful mouths of "conservatives."

Since 1996, I have been working with people with developmental/intellectual disabilities, and continue to do so today.  The word "retard" offends me greatly.  No other group of people in this country have been pushed aside and swept under the rug more than people with developmental disabilities.  There are institutions that still exist today, mostly due to "conservative," right wing politicians who refuse to believe that ALL citizens in this country have the same rights.  Even the ones who cannot speak for themselves.  Even the gay ones. Even the ones who don't appear to have pale, white skin. 

In my experiences on this planet, I have learned that the most judgmental, intolerant, racist, homophobic people are the ones who claim to be "conservative."  Beware their poisonous, hateful, infectious words.  But respect their right to say them. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

V-Day Plus One

Y'all get laid last night?  My Twitter feed seemed awfully quiet shortly after dinner... I was amused by the high amounts of traffic on my way to pick up James from day care.  And frantic, too.  It felt like some sordid reality game show where the men had to get home by a certain time to get their annual blowjobs.  (Actually, I'd watch that shit!) 

So here I am at work and everyone seems a bit subdued.  I'm curious how this mass afterglow will affect my day.  I'm guessing people will be less rude to one another.  Or maybe drive a little slower and calmer.  I like the smiles.  There seems to be plenty of those.  And there were a lot of women who chose to stand on the train this morning even though they were offered seats.  I wonder what that's all about... ;-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Science

Today is Valentine's Day, dummy.  Sorry for the name calling, but if you think you can get through this day without buying something for your lover I got news for you - you're wrong.

"But, Jason, she told me she doesn't want anything."

Yeah, I know, all the "cool," "with it" chicks have that same front: Valentine's Day is below me, Valentine's Day is a greeting card holiday, Valentine's Day is for morons.  Guess what, she still wants flowers.

"But, Jason, she told me flowers are silly because they die."

I don't care what she said.  She still wants them.  And she wants to get them at work.  (Note: Women secretly hate each other and will grab any opportunity to belittle their fellow female competitors.  Your contribution is greatly appreciated.)

I know y'all think you're smarter than the average citizen and that you're too cool for school, but some things never change.  In my time on this planet as a cock wielding student of the ladies, certain truths remain constant:

  1. Women want a big wedding, preferably with a Def Leppard cover band as the wedding band.
  2. Women want to have seven babies.
  3. Women yearn for frequent requests from their husbands for alternative sex acts.
  4. Women want god dammed flowers on Valentine's Day.
I've got more Constant Truth of the Ladies, but I'll save them for a different post.  Look, it's not difficult.  Open your eyes and grab your wallet.  Flowers.  Even the cheap ass flowers wrapped in crinkly plastic from the grocery store will work.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Funny Dads

I asked Lynette if she thought James would grow up to say the funniest person he ever met was his dad.  (I don't do this many dancing jigs and kooky sound effects for just any one!)  It's an unusual day when I can't get a laugh out of my son.  Sadly, it makes me think of my late father, Jerry Carlock.  My feelings for Jerry are complex, complicated, and confusing.  It's an old, tired story shared by gobs of people on this planet: My parents divorced before I was born and my father was hardly a part of my life.  However, on the rare occasions I spent time with him I can say with 100% confidence that Jerry was the funniest man I ever knew.   Jerry was loved and admired by everyone.  For obvious reasons, this saddens me and scares me, because I want to be just like him and nothing like him.  Excuse the harsh language, but divorce is a motherfucker. 

That's all I want to say about that.

Anyway, I don't want to get too over-dramatic about my daddy issues. In 2003, my father got cancer and I made a special journey to his home in the backwoods of southeastern Pennsylvania to see him one last time.  We sat on a porch listening to bugs and critters in the night when I forgave my father (as we all should) and a few weeks later he died.  But even when Jerry was but a shell of man he was still making me laugh. 

I've posted this before because it's very powerful for me:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Monkeys Vs. JFK

I made two purchases yesterday.  An album and a book.  I bought Sharon Van Etten's new album Tramp, and Stephen King's new book 11/22/63

Tramp suddenly became one of those albums that got heavy rotation on my iPod.  It speaks to me.  Maybe it'll speak to you.  Only one way to find out... (This is when you click over to iTunes and buy the entire album for a measly $7.99, no foolin', mister.)

And King's book, well, cliched or not, the man can and has and continues to write like a fucking champion.  Not every at-bat leads to a home run, but this one seems different.  So far the first few chapters hooked me and I'm in it to win it.  Other people who have reviewed this book are calling it one of his best.  The premise, as described on an Amazon blurb, is this dude goes back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination.  Stop! Take my money!

One more thing, since we're talking about entertainment media and whatnot, I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes last week and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.  It's a simple film with a simple premise, but it had just the right amount of humanity and action to make me nod in approval.  Oh, and speaking of James Franco, holy shit have you seen 127 Hours yet?  Amazing.  Franco was astounding.  I highly recommend adding that one to your James Franco movie marathon. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Germ Warfare

These last few days have been hardening on my soul.  James has been sick and his pain is my pain.  His cries chip away at my heart.  He went an entire day without smiling and it crushed me.  So, I've been constructing a bubble for my son to live in so that he doesn't get sick again.  For going out into the community, we'll use a giant hamster ball, and all shopping carts will be handled with robotic pincers. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Recent Discoveries

Two things,

When I was in college, I don't remember ever caring as much about politics as I regrettably do now.  Perhaps we had more important/interesting things to talk about in my circle of friends.  Boobs and beer prolly.

And I don't have much of a memory of getting as angry while driving as I do now.  Seriously, I have a problem.  Thankfully I don't drive much, but when I do I wish so much ill will toward my fellow man.

There's only one contributing factor I can attach to these two recent discoveries about myself: Living on the East coast.  We're all assholes over here.  We're self-righteous and impatient. Also, I've been calling it soda, not pop.  Shoot me.


On the other hand, these mild winters are wonderful.  If not having a decent pizza means not having my face freeze off when I walk to work so be it.  Sacrifices. 

Turnabout

This morning I was the guy on public transportation who couldn't stop coughing.  I'm not sick (anymore), but you wouldn't have been able to convince the guy sitting near me of that.  But then I had a wonderful feeling: I finally got to be the guy on the train who won't stop coughing!  So many times have I been stuck in a train with sick people.  My turn, assholes!  Boom! Liberation.