Sunday, August 31, 2003

there were three bands last night. they played in the dining room while people sat in the living room proper or ambled around the yard. it was a friend of a friend's house. i liked the rockabilly band best, but there was also a ben folds-ripoff and a way-too-emo guy who closed the night. the house reached stifling fairly quickly, even with the windows and doors open, so most of the folks gathered in the backyard where the adult beverages were stored. outside wasn't too much better because it's august in north carolina after all. plus, nighttime is when the two-lane blacktop radiates the accumulated heat of the day.

being southerners, we are used to mopping our brows at 11:30pm though. we just ignore the heat and try to enjoy our conversations, the periodic lulls filled with the songs of cicadas. there were close to forty people wandering around the backyard and everyone had a good time.

our small group departed around one and decided to grab another round at the usual spot. by this time it was a little after two, so mark and i dropped our friends off and went to athens restaurant. the food isn't great, but many late nights end there because we like to go watch the drunks. last night didn't disappoint as a bachelorette party staggered into the corner booth just as my pancakes arrived. they were, naturally, very obnoxious girls slurring into cell phones and treating the waitress rudely. the one quiet girl in the group was concentrating very hard, harnessing all of her mental powers in an attempt to eat the candy necklace she was wearing. instead of taking it off to more easily enjoy the candy goodness, she would contort her jaw into strange and funny positions, a skill she no doubt picked up at frat parties of yore. they unknowingly provided the entertainment during our meal and, for that, i salute them.

last heard: langley schools music project 'desperado'
last read: let me put a hold on that for you right now = right after I put one on for myself because I didn't realize that item was available

Friday, August 29, 2003

i try to walk around my neighborhood in the evenings. even though at this time of year, the sun is still high and the air feels thick when i breathe it. i took a different path today, adding a few blocks to my normal route. there was a cop standing guard in front of the hospital when i passed. we waved at each other. the new route took me by a long chainlink fence. i can never resist running my fingers along them. they drum against each link at different intervals. i walk along holding them there until the tips start to feel novocainey.

last seen: the original kings of comedy
last heard: langley schools music project 'band on the run'
last read: steve zissou is the main character of the story. he is a middle-aged french oceanographer with an estranged son. [thanks michael]

Thursday, August 28, 2003

when miss sarah opens the door, she leans forward, grabs the handle, and leans back. after she gets the door opened about two feet, she hooks a leg around the front of the door, then slides her hip between the two doors. wedged between them now, she pushes the door out with both hands. this gives her just enough time to run through to safety. she is four.

her mom and dad run the diner/ice cream shop right next door to my new library. sarah comes in by herself about twenty-eight times per day. kids under eight are not supposed to be in the library unattended but, it seems, this rule doesn’t apply to sarah. she knows all the ladies who work here by their first names. so far i am, simply, library man, because she can’t remember my name. but it’s only been three days and, like i said, she’s only four.

i can usually hear her squeaky, little girl voice even if I’m back in the office. when she isn’t asking questions or telling us that she has infinity of something at her house, she is usually laying down in the middle of an aisle in the children’s department, a picture book open on the floor in front of her. oh, and she can name each of the powerpuff girls. i know because that’s what she talked about yesterday.

last heard: gillian welch ‘winter’s come and gone’
last read: belle and sebastian have set a date of October 7th for Dear Catastrophe Waitress

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

i couldn't be sure, but i thought i heard this guy singing a kenny rogers song under his breath when he walked by my table at starbucks today. it sounded like the words to a tune that i was familiar with. hey, fancy pants, don't try to pretend like you don't know the words to at least a few kenny rogers songs. the only thing is this guy was kind of mumbling the words to himself, like a penitent. this perked me up, since i was dozing off, book in my lap, after a big pasta dinner.

he gets to the counter and must have still been repeating the line because i hear the counter guy ask him: hey, man, isn't that from a kenny rogers song? without answering yes or no, he takes a deep breath, his chest swelling with air, and belts out the line like he was auditioning for a big part in the high school play.

AND SHE BELIEEEEVES IN ME!!!

everyone looks at the singer who is, by now, calmly counting out change into the hand of the speechless counter guy. the singer stares up at him and says, yeah, that's kenny rogers. he couldn't sing worth a damn. total housewife music.

that was my favorite thing that happened today.

last seen: girl crazy
last heard: belle and sebastian dog on wheels
last read: He came into the world with an extra little finger on his left hand (that was easily removed), a mop of black gypsy hair (never tamed), and the name André Friedmann. [via arts and letters]

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

people finish their business quickly then linger, leaning on the counter and chatting up the staff. in that way, smaller libraries are a lot like rural post offices. the talk is familiar; books and weather and families and health. somebody's daddy was sick. heat stroke, they thought. he came inside at sundown yesterday; his overalls soaked through, heavy and gray. the room is small, conversations find the ears of everyone. no one seems to mind, least of all those speaking.

i met a lady today who has worked in that community branch for seventeen years. that's yours, she said, crooking her head in the direction of a large brown desk in our shared office. i kept a poker face, maybe try to half-hide my giddiness, having spent the last two years with only a drawer to call my own. the keys she placed in my hand were very light. the fat parts of each one rubbed smooth by other thumbs. in the afternoon, i sat at my desk, putting papers and supplies at right angles to give the illusion of order. in the quieter moments, i could hear patterns through the open door to our office, books being turned over and the hushed slap they made on the counter. the heavy, red-handled, metal stamper KROT-CHONK-ing each item with a due date.

last heard: the pixies surfer rosa
last read: Staff collected over 600 badly damaged books. The torn and slashed books were deemed beyond repair and withdrawn from the Library’s collection. The offender was eventually caught and charged with a hate crime. The San Francisco Public Library held onto these books and is turning a destructive act into a creative platform for artistic expression and a lesson in tolerance. [via jessamyn]

Monday, August 25, 2003

i'll apologize in advance for the pedestrian nature of this post. it won't be about getting my head caught in a tree or anything exciting like that. no, much of the past week has been occupied by actual work. you see, tomorrow, i'm starting a new job. it's a temporary thing, but it means two months in a different library, so i've been tying up loose ends at my normal place of employment.

you know how, at work, you have the day-to-day things and then you have about six larger projects that are in various states of completion? you can usually slack on those and do a little bit of work on them whenever you aren't busy. well, the last seven days were spent trying to finish those six projects. i've even been doing some of the work at home (gasp!).

the weekend wasn't all work though. i spent some time floating in michael's pool. the waterline just covered my ears and the only thing that i could hear was the sound of my own breathing. that silence was exactly what i needed. the rest of the weekend was a blur of coconut donuts, fruity pebbles, marathon conversations, very little sleep, homestar runner, dinners with family, and good music. the soundtrack to sunday afternoon was further salvation after a draining week. lots of songs that give me goosebumps, like 'colours' by donovan and 'easy' by the commodores.

last heard: the aislers set 'the walk'
last read: I mean, we're not talking callbacks for Police Officer Made of Liquid Metal or Box Of Money Found. But at least it's something

Friday, August 22, 2003

helen stickler was interviewed on fresh air yesterday. i say that like i'd heard of her before, but i hadn't. she just completed a documentary called stoked: the rise and fall of gator. for the uninitiated, mark 'gator' rogowski is a skateboarding legend and current folsom prison resident doing a bid for murder (that part, i did know). to hear his name after so long brought back memories from my teen years.

i went through a succession of decks as a kid, but the last board i ever owned was a gator. most of the gator decks had weird color combinations; many were florescent, which is why mine was special. the wood had simply been lacquered, instead of painted, so that the grain still showed and the gator graphic, a jagged descending spiral, had been printed on it in black. wood-colored with black lines. how cool is that? i put gullwing trucks on it and fat powell peralta wheels. i probably spent days sitting on the living room floor cutting intricate designs from gritty sheets of grip tape, wearing out my mom's good scissors because i was too lazy to go look for an exacto knife.

my parents still have the board in their basement. the last time i visited them, i stood on it for a little while. shifting my weight forward and back, sure that after years on solid ground, i was going to crack my skull open.

last seen: lost in la mancha
last heard: yo la tengo 'today is the day'
last read: But maybe you don't even need my advice. Perhaps you can use the late hours to work on your novel, your quilt, or your Battle of Shiloh diorama

Thursday, August 21, 2003

dear 98% of alabama,

i read the news today, oh boy. i bet you're sitting there feeling pretty sorry for yourself. you probably think that everyone will point and laugh; maybe pennsylvania and nevada will see each other later on the bus and whisper about you. take heart, 98% of alabama. the rest of us are bigger than that. we know that it's the loudest, fringe kooks who get all the press.

i was a kansan for a brief spell, a couple of years ago. like you, i worried that the other states would laugh at me. it's true. some folks wanted evolution de-emphasized in the science curriculum. the issue never completely died, but the one thing i learned is that the other states are very nice. they won't pick on you that much.

so, 98% of alabama, don't worry. you'll still find a date to the prom, then you'll go off to college and forget this ever happened.

love, your pal,
james

last heard: DNSS w/Lois 'Rougher'
last read: Truth, he believed, was the preserve of an elite few who might have to tell 'noble lies' -an idea he lifted from Plato- to the uncomprehending masses. Are political entities, asked the charismatic Strauss, "not compelled to use force and fraud...if they are to prosper?"

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

tonight after book club, i watched all the real girls. it was beautiful and honest and true. it was also filmed in western north carolina which is another good reason you should see it. the small crush you developed on zooey deschanel when you saw the good girl will have an opportunity to bloom. at least that's what happened to me. i am going to sleep now.

last seen: all the real girls
last heard: cat power 'he war'
last read: Did you know, if your rubber snake falls off the back of the chair onto the floor, and you step on it with your bare feet in the dark, it will scare the shit out of you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

make sure you don't say mahn-ee-kah, because that's wrong. when you say the instructor's name, it should sound like this...moan-EE-kah. that's right. and she is from bologna, the city northeast of florence. so make sure you don't pronounce it with an E-sound at the end, like the luncheon meat.

mi chiamo james. however, i learned that the italian alphabet only has 21 letters; they don't have a J, K, W, X, or Y. i don't know if that means my name is really ames ell in italian. if so, i got gypped. i mean, both of my grandmothers are italian, but i don't even get a whole name over there. what up with that? it was the first night of class and, not wanting to rock the boat, i didn't ask about it.

moan-EE-kah prefers the immersion method which meant that, even though it was our first day, almost 95% of the two-hour session was in italian. she would converse with us in italian and then write words on the board in both languages. it was difficult, but my pronunciation is way better than most of the students. listening to my classmates struggle through foreign words with their southern accents fully intact was quite enjoyable. it was almost like it was something she was threatening to take away from them. they were obstinate, drawl-ing even on buona sera and grazie. still, i found it endearing.

twenty-two of us met in a shiny, new high school classroom last night. moan-EE-kah explained that we will cover the first seven chapters of the textbook this semester. we won't even move to the past tense until the final week. so, i'll probably learn a lot of vocabolario over the next 4 months, but i won't be able to tell you what happened to me five seconds ago.

last heard: stereolab 'people do it all the time'
last read: If you could meet a famous person and tell them exactly what you thought of them, who would it be, and what would you say?
It would be Katie Holmes, and I would say "Cut the crap."


Monday, August 18, 2003

these seats are nice. real cushiony. see those exit doors down by the front row, right near the screen? don't go out that way. because they open right into the alley, that's why. plus, the sun is blinding. you'd be shielding your eyes with your right hand, feeling your pupils contract which they can't do fast enough. all the while, you have to negotiate the sweaty crowd in that tight space, and, when you get to the end of the alley, you have to merge with the fast-moving midday foot traffic of a city sidewalk. just go out through the lobby. it gives your eyes a chance to adjust.

what do you mean that's neurotic? i'm just saying you could get to end of the alleyway and end up running into a couple of guys robbing a bank. it is not crazy. it happened to me. i never told you this story?

i was a young boy. my parents took me and my sister to see goonies, i think it was. the movie ends and we stumble out into the alley. yes, all four of us were holding our right hands to our foreheads while our pupils were contracting. we could hear an alarm bell but didn't think anything of it. the alley traffic was slow. people on the sidewalk head of us were moving like trout. a few rows from left to right and, beyond them, a few rows from right to left.

we were walking four abreast when it happened. we got out onto the sidewalk and two men came tearing by. one ran right into me. paint-splattered money burst like a cloud from his black bag. people scattered in all directions like there'd been gunfire. some ran out into traffic. the alarm bell made sense now and it was the only thing i heard. the sidewalk seemed empty all of a sudden. the thieves, two dots quickly receding in the distance. bills finally coming to rest on the cement. i stood there alone, frantic in the way that only a seventh grader who can't locate his mom and dad in the middle of an armed robbery could be. i finally spot them across the street. when the melee broke out, they grabbed my sister (and not me) and fled. we thought you were right behind us, they would later say. i wasn't. i'm not kidding. ask my mom.

so, you see those exit doors down by the front row, right near the screen? don't go out that way.

last seen: salaam bombay!
last heard: the roots 'the next movement'
last read: Watching a story line like that is always a relief. Of course the British must be expelled, just as the Confederates must surrender, Hitler must be crushed and yee-haw when the Red Sea swallows those slave-mongering Egyptians.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

the champagne of beers was only a buck fifty. that would have been reason enough to stick around last night, but we also got to watch a group of young indie girls spontaneously break into an arm-wrestling contest around midnight. there was something vaguely erotic about the gritted teeth, the tendons standing taut on their wrists, the occasional grunts and laughter that emanated from their table. the penguin ought to consider using it in their advertising: you'll come for the cheap beer, but you'll stay for the indie girls who spontaneously break into arm-wrestling contests around midnight. if i moved to a new town and someone came into the library with that airbrushed on their shirt, i would surely drop by.

a few of the guys challenged each other to similar tests of strength, inspired partly by the girls and partly by a desire to show off for the rest of the bar. they all knew better than to ask for a taste of the big guns; so, i sat back, content to sip my beer and watch the spectacle unfold. the men's contest degenerated into paper-rock-scissors battles and, over time, women were allowed to join in these contests. that's probably why the penguin is my favorite place to hang out. not only do they have the best jukebox and the nicest staff, but where else in charlotte can you see heavily-tattooed people playing paper-rock-scissors? it gets me right here. [pounding chest]

last seen: american graffiti, he loves me, he loves me not, scarface, northfork, bringing down the house
last heard: mos def & talib kweli 'K.O.S.'
last read: Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets...social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay [link via sara]

Thursday, August 14, 2003

i always wanted to call her nicole. that was her first name. i had to call her miss r. she taught english to the lower grades at my high school. administration let miss r try out a new class-- creative writing/public speaking-- which older students could take as an elective. there were fifteen of us that met, during the last period of every day, in miss r's room, most were friends of mine from AP english.

it quickly became clear that creative writing and public speaking were incongruous. at least it seemed that way in our northern new york hamlet. most of the creative writers were shy about public speaking and many of the gifted orators couldn't really write. still, everyone had fun. to us, miss r was practically a revolutionary. she did things like put our chairs in a circle (a first for us neophytes), sometimes had class outside (another first), and let us watch pump up the volume on video.

there was also the time that we were invited to bring our favorite music to class. for five days, we listened to records and talked about why we liked them. we learned a lot about each other. i learned that a lot of people in upstate new york liked whitesnake and damn yankees and not in a kitschy, sarcastic kind of way either, more in a my-brother-won-this-mirror-with-whitesnake-stencilled-on-it-at-the-state-fair-and-my-dad-let-us-hang-it-in-the-den kind of way.

my memories of miss r are starting to blur along the edges. it's been over ten years. i'll blame it on the ten years. really she's probably blurred because i romanticized her all out of proportion until she was no longer the person i knew, but this thing that i made. i do that with everyone. i think her hair was cut in a pixie-style, or a bob, or maybe it was longish. i know, for certain, it turned reddish-brown in the light. she was a few years older than me, but they were the most important ones, the ones that meant she was a grown up and i was not. she had a fondness for dark-colored dresses. one day, a blue sundress with thousands of tiny white flowers. the next, a deep red with tan dots, each one the size of a dime.

last seen: full frame documentary shorts
last heard: sleater-kinney 'step aside'
last read: "I have a Frederick Douglass philosophy," said Mr. Smith, who voted for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential race and remains a registered Democrat. "I believe African-Americans have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests."

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

call to order. five of us met in a small conference room yesterday, the first meeting of the library's graphic novel selection team. i know what i like, but it is a very tiny, specialized slice of the graphic novel world, so i listened and took notes a whole lot more than i shared. it was great getting paid to sit in a room and talk about that stuff for two hours.

babyface was conducting the whole operation on his own up to this point. reviewing, ordering, dealing with publishers. after testing the waters with a small collection posted at a few of our branches, the library discovered that circulation is great. therefore, the honchos uptown have decided to let babyface lead his own collection development team. now the lunatics are running the asylum and he is our randle patrick mcmurphy.

thankfully, they allowed him to handpick his own (two tone-? kiss-? jodie foster's-?) army and that small group of six includes me and mark. coincidence: i wrote about blankets yesterday morning and then babyface walked into our afternoon meeting with a personal copy under his arm which he lent to me. i sat down at 8pm yesterday and two hours later finished the 550+ page book. it was certainly worthy of all the press.

last heard: 10,000 maniacs 'katrina's fair'
last read: craig thompson blankets
bonus: Oh, thank God, there's the American flag. Whew, that's a load off my mind. Now I can drive eleven miles across the metroplex and pick up the kids at Soccer World. [link via jenn]

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

the two rented movies i have sat on top of the tv last night, unwatched for the third day in a row. i decided instead to stay up finishing kitchen confidential. if you have any interest in cooking or the secret lives of chefs or the sex and drug habits of kitchen staff, i highly recommend this memoir. after i finished, i wanted to go pull larousse gastronomique from our reference shelf and just read, letting the french words, all full and warm-sounding, roll around in my mouth. the only other bourdain book that i've read was a really short biography on typhoid mary; she was also a chef. did you know that?

the mineral palace, our september book club selection, is my next reading adventure. in the last few weeks, i've developed quite a list of things to read. between picking up titles from articles that i've read and people giving me recommendations, this hastily-scribbled-on-the-back-of-a-postcard list is bursting with over 20 books. highlights? looking for something to read?

there are two new palahniuk books coming out- one fiction and one non-fiction. a library regular came up to the desk and told me that i should read craig thompson's blankets. a co-worker recommended freedom song by amit chaudhuri. a friend sent me an advance copy of the rabbit factory, larry brown's latest. then there's the souls of black folk which i have to read for an october book talk at the library. october seems so far off but it's creepin' up.

so, um, i'll be over here in the corner, reading.

last heard: nick drake 'which will'
last read: anthony bourdain kitchen confidential
reading: heidi julavits the mineral palace

Monday, August 11, 2003

a rusty chain link fence bordered our middle school. it looped around the grassy fields, winding for what seemed like a mile. most days, we were training for the rigors of the presidential physical fitness test, a series of pointless draconian exercises that, by my estimation, were only devised to give the twenty odd kids in my class an opportunity to laugh at my chubby, lumbering bulk.

on the days when we were spared presidential physical fitness test training, we were told to run the fence. the teacher stationed himself on a wooden bench near the locker room. many of us would run the fifty yards it took to turn the corner and get out of his line of sight, then we’d walk the fence. we broke into a sprint as we rounded the corner that headed back toward him. i'm sure it never fooled him, but he didn't say anything. one day he told us that two volunteers could get out of running laps by washing his car. i didn’t volunteer, but two other kids did. i saw them each time i passed by on my laps. they were laughing with the coach.

this was the same year that many of the local kids would soap up their naked bodies, get a running start, and slide a good fifty feet across the floor of the showers after gym class. i never did it because i could only envision my boy parts getting hooked on a drain or in some other metal aperture.

last seen: the bad news bears
last heard: dean martin 'return to me (ritorna-me)'
last read: Democrats who counsel compromise going into the 2004 contest are likely to find themselves disregarded in much the same way that Republican compromisers were in 1980. And rightly so.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

what better day than sunday for a collection of rambling incoherent thoughts peppered with many links to wander through?

to quote jack, babies don't sleep this well. that is the final word on my new bed. --there is a part in raging bull where scorsese focuses on cathy moriarty's legs splashing in a pool. i always thought that was beautiful. --all were in agreement that the sound editing in raging bull was amazing. --i bought a very nice set of dominoes and a rule book over six months ago, but i still haven't taken the time to learn how to trow dem bones.--when couples come into the library on a very busy day, and act all sappy, and request internet computers right next to each other, and they can see that we have a full house, i really want to punch them, hard, in the stomach. especially, when they smell very smokey and are wearing shirts with fraternity and sorority letters on them. --if you worked a five hour day and got paid for eight, you'd be this happy, too. --i think i'm going to start collecting old photographs of contestants from crop beauty pageants like miss tobacco days or the corn and apple queens. --note to self: i don't care that you just got off of work, if you tuck in your shirt, you won't look so troll-y.

last seen: raging bull
last heard: nico chelsea girl
last read: I have to wonder why the couples in your photos look as if they've been eating powdered donuts while gazing into an atomic explosion.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

this homesick ache for new orleans started on monday when i spoke to erin on the phone. i started thinking about the last time i was there. looking at a calendar, i can see that it was one year ago next week. it was a very short trip but erin and i were able to hang out for an evening, going to molly's and the shim sham, and closing the night at clover grill.

as a few days passed and this homesickness was beginning to wane, i accidentally slipped back into the ache by watching down by law, one of the few jarmusch films i'd never seen. it is largely set in new orleans and opens with a series of long sweeping black and white shots of shotgun houses and thin alleyways. i kept hoping to see my old apartment. at one point, the camera even passes a playground where derrick and i used to help with an afterschool outreach program. i would have mixed feelings about moving back. a lot happened in the five years that i spent there, both good and bad. i'll always visit though. maybe soon, because i like that city in the fall.

last seen: intacto, the royal tenenbaums, the jazz singer
last heard: the meters 'stormy'
last read: ...because, at bottom, what most stands out about Dean to Washington insiders is that he's not an insider himself. That threatens their sense of superiority-not just of the insider candidates in the field, but also of the press corps that follows and anoints them.

Friday, August 08, 2003

a computer left me a voice mail message on wednesday. it said that the furniture company would deliver my mattress BE...tween...two...O'CLOCK...and...six...O'CLOCK...on...FRIDAY. the voice reminded me of speak and spell. when i was a boy, i would push the letters in rapid succession so that it would say dirty things like P-P or F-U. why yes, i was a very clever child. sadly, those are the only two sayings i can remember right now.

so i'm sitting here in my echo-ey, bedless room, on my only day off this week, eating coffee ice cream and waiting for the delivery truck to arrive. i tipped the guys who came last week to deliver and assemble my platform bed, but i don't think i'll tip the mattress folks. they only have to take the plastic wrapping off and set the mattress down in my room. i hope they arrive closer to two, but that's probably wishful thinking.

michael will be here in a few hours for dinner and intacto. tom is coming down from raleigh to spend the weekend and should arrive around 8.

speaking of red ants (thanks, kathleen), i'll leave you with a mulitple choice that i was pondering this morning.

what is your favorite holy?
a. holy moley
b. holy smokes
c. holy toledo
d. holy mackerel

[email your answer. mahalo.]

last seen: down by law
last heard: the sound of carter stanley turning over in his grave
last read: The place and time of the Offutt meeting is infused with apparently unintended historical irony. The visitors arrived on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing and the last will be leaving on Saturday, the anniversary of the attack on Nagasaki.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

there's this one part when you're heading west on harris blvd. you crest a hill and then, immediately, there's a stop light. i think it's at sugar creek. i knew it was coming, so when i got to the top of the hill this afternoon and saw that the light was just turning yellow, i knew that a little leadfoot would put me safely through the intersection.

out of the corner of my eye, i could see a red coupe in the lane to my left, gently fall behind me as the driver let off the gas. he was going to wait for the light. instinctively, i looked in my rearview mirror, as i do whenever i go through a yellow light, to see if the guy right behind me had been foolish enough to try to make it. he stopped, too, right alongside the red coupe. not a second later, i heard loud screeching and watched in my rearview mirror as a huge white beer truck crested the hill and slammed into the red coupe. it was thrown, spinning, into the intersection and, as it went around, i could see that the trunk was hanging on to the rest of the car by a thin piece of metal. the traffic on all sides seemed to freeze.

my stomach turned and i instantly got a headache. i grabbed my phone and, just before calling 911, i saw a firetruck coming toward me on the opposite side of the road. it was a strange and lucky coincidence. i hope no one got killed. as i continued to work, all i could think about were the people in the red coupe and the driver of the beer truck. how today started as just a typical thursday for them, but their lives would be completely different now.

last seen: frankenstein
last heard: a tribe called quest 'check the rhime'
last read: Where does this leave the Third World artist-activist-intellectual? This oppressor-oppressed paradigm, while reductive, is illuminating. Roy and Devi are floating in a manifold identity limbo. Are they storytellers or truth-tellers? Grassroots activists or elites?

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

if you subscribe to any magazines, then chances are you've experienced the occasional late or missing issue. you call customer service and they ship you a new one right away. no blood, no foul. the same thing happens when you move and forget to file the change of address form wit da quickness, as the kids say. the postal service unsuccessfully tries to find you, so that you can get the august cat fancy because, heaven knows, you like your cat fancy. my guess is they do this half-heartedly because, after all, it's not a bill, it's just a magazine.

do you ever wonder what happens to the issues that never made it to you? well, if you live in my town, the postal service passes them to the main library after several cycles of the undeliverable/wrong address game. i don't know if this is a big secret, so don't tell anyone. ok, internet? the volume of orphaned magazines that we receive on a monthly basis is impressive and it is a pretty good system. last i heard, the library was passing these magazines on to nursing homes, prisons, and group homes. they probably would have just ended up in a landfill if we didn't.

while this tiny bit of philanthropy warms the cockles and makes for great PR, i must confess it isn't my favorite part. no, my favorite part is that employees are occasionally permitted to go harvest them for their own leisure reading enjoyment. when i worked at the main library, magazine day was looked forward to by staff members one and all. it was like a one-day window of socialist utopia. you mean, i can take whatever i want? for no money? as much as i want? i don't work at main anymore, i'm out in one of the neighborhood branches now, but i still have an inside contact. he keeps me in esquires and interviews and men's healths and, because he is the jokester, he sometimes slips an advocate near the bottom of the pile.

last seen: the poseidon adventure [editor's note: ernest borgnine! red buttons! grandpa joe from willie wonka!]
last heard: the clientele 'five day morning'
last read: Or, if you like to smell your hand after pumping gas, look no further than Thunderbird. [link via beth]

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

when jean wrote about flash mobs awhile back, it was the first that i'd heard of them. i was curious despite the fact that the likelihood of such a thing happening in my town is extremely low. there are many reasons why charlotte, north carolina is on the low-end of the flash mob bell curve: it is a small city, we are not saturated by technology in the same ways that other places are, and, most importantly, charlotte just doesn't seem to attract the sort of folks who would do something that fun, spontaneous, or interesting. well, not in large numbers anyway.

i discovered a site this morning that chronicles flash mob events around the world; it is called cheesebikini and makes for quite interesting reading. in the middle of all of this, i got to thinking.

there was a book that came out a few years ago called bowling alone. it focused on a growing isolationism in american society and outlined a few underlying causes. even if you didn't read the book, the point was easy to see in your everyday life. how often do we really interact with our neighbors, and i mean more than in just the annette-bening-cutting-roses-and-waving-kind-of-way? how many of us feel like we know people online through their weblogs better than people we pass everyday on the street?

so, what then of flash mobs? is it a backlash against isolationism? the pendulum swinging back the other way? is it our overpowering need for social interaction even if it is fleeting and foolish? i don't know...i just think it would be fun to stand in the crosswalk with a few hundred people and wave my arms in the air.

last heard: belle and sebastian 'if you're feeling sinister'
last read: My early take on Kerry was that he has gravitas--sumbitch about bent over double with gravitas--but that he has no Elvis. Minus-zero on the Elvis Scale was my first read. No point in nominating some good and worthy candidate, like Fritz Mondale or Michael Dukakis, if they got no Elvis.
reading: anthony bourdain kitchen confidential

Monday, August 04, 2003

small branches littered the sidewalk, jarred loose by a brief, but windy downpour. i stepped over them and around the green leaves which were pressed flat against the concrete. i was strolling to visart to return a few things when my phone rang. incoming calls on these short walks are always welcomed, because the reception inside of my apartment is terrible. erin was calling from new orleans to catch up; we hadn't spoken in months. i arrived at the video store and stationed myself on the curb out front. we ended up talking for about 45 minutes. during this time, a few people in cars waved at me and i played with the shards of broken glass around my feet.

erin reported on the normal stuff like her new job and her man troubles, but her stories are always much funnier than mine. i got to hear about her date with a man who ran a barge-towing company; they went to a lesbian club for drinks. another story saw her and a friend climbing on top of a piano to sing summer wind at gennifer flowers' nightclub. my favorite story, however, was when erin met a very nice african-american man while out with friends. he was dressed in a white suit with a black shirt and a white tie and a white hat. he turned out to be the world's only pimp with a heart of gold. upon discovering said heart, it took erin only two hours to break it.

see, her stories are much more interesting and funny than mine.

last seen: close encounters of the third kind, all that heaven allows
last heard: the polyphonic spree 'soldier girl'
last read: As for Jesus being a socialist, I take it back. He was actually a little to the left of that, judging from his instruction to the rich man to sell all that he had and give to the poor. If that's what it takes to be a true Christian, believe me, it's a hell of a lot easier to be a socialist.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

several online news outlets are publishing computer-enhanced photographs of what saddam might look like now. in some photos he sports a headdress and in others he looks very american grandpa-ish with his white hair and neatly-trimmed mustache. they actually look like amateur photoshop projects. i almost expected to see one with him wearing a beret, a long black cigarette holder clenched between his teeth, there he is in france, or one with a ten-gallon hat, citizens of dallas beware!

while this morning's saddam galleries do border on farce, it got me to thinking about computer-enhanced photos in general and age-progressions in particular. those really creep me out and they used to use them all the time when searching for abducted kids.

you couldn't throw a rock in the late seventies/early eighties without hitting some news story about a missing kid. the newscaster would inevitably cut away to an age-progression that looked vaguely like the long-gone person. for days afterward, i would have nightmares and daymares of seeing that slightly off-center face. i was convinced that if i strayed from my mother's side for even ten minutes, i would wind up chained to the wall in a detroit basement or sold into white slavery. repeated viewings of without a trace didn't help matters either.

last seen: solaris [editor's note: even if you are a movie snob like me, soderbergh's version is worth checking out. despite its mixed critical reviews, i found it more accessible and at least as enjoyable as the original.]
last heard: cat power 'baby doll'
last read: Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was so angered by John Wayne's anti-communism that he plotted to have him murdered.

Friday, August 01, 2003

[editor's note: this entry got away from me. it is long and i'm not editing it. sorry.]

sam phillips just passed. you probably heard that already. i didn't know until late this evening when they were airing an old interview with him on terry gross. my favorite elvis recordings are the handful that he did for sun, so phillips' death is cause for reflection. yes, i know he sold elvis' contract of his own free will, but somehow that doesn't matter to me. he still had the foresight to record all kinds of people like howlin' wolf, johnny cash, jerry lee lewis, roy orbison, b.b. king, carl perkins, etc.

even if you don't like the man himself, you have to homage him for the simple fact that under his watch, the tributaries of country, bluegrass, r&b, gospel, and blues converged in his tiny studio to become the torrent that is contemporary rock music. if that wasn't enough, phillips still had time to coddle a little tot named rockabilly.

a few years ago, i went to memphis to visit graceland and see the ducks march at the peabody, but also to walk through sun studios. the actual studio is very small. i shuffled around apprehensively, scared to touch anything but, at the same time, wanting to touch everything, like it was my first time in church or something. in a way, it was.

if any of this history is news to you, don't worry. it was news to me once, too. if you want to catch up, your first homework assignment is to get your hands on the million dollar quartet. one day in december of '56, carl perkins was recording at sun. phillips had a new piano player sit in with perkins, a kid trying to earn some extra money, a boy by the name of jerry lee lewis. elvis wanders into the studio and listens to the playback. phillips calls johnny cash who also comes down. he wisely lets the tape roll and, for an hour, they play old church songs, some bill monroe tunes, whatever anyone from the group throws into the middle. when i heard this album, it was the first time that i was conscious of the fact that rock music didn't just appear by miraculous conception.

i don't know what else to say. sam phillips is gone.