Saturday, October 31, 2009


I don't know if I'm in the right frame of mind to be writing anything. But I just saw a commercial for Jim Beam, wherein all the "guys" in the ad were renting frickin' puppies for the sake of landing ass. The tagline of the commercial is "Guys never change".


Not real different from the Coors Light spots a few years back showing adult men acting like freshly pubescent pervs rolling around in the snow with 3/4 naked women, shoving chicken wings down their gullets, and masticating in hot tubs.

These are guys.

What about those of us, who believe in monogamy, who do our best to instill intelligent decision making, unique thought, and solid, (albeit controversial in my family) values in raising our children. Am I in the minority.

How about Kid Rock. Homeboy has his own whiskey line, and preaches about drinking and living responsibly. Sorry, Kid, not gonna turn big profits if people buy your whiskey, down one shot and put it away. You're suspect. And how can a person who has been putting it to Pamela Anderson give discretionary advice?

Maybe I'm crabby and taking all this too seriously, maybe I'm a bitch. But I sit here on my warm couch alone, petting my dogs, wishing my kid was home instead of staying at a friend's, and being nowhere in the friggin' zip code of a chicken wing.

And I'm stone cold sober.

Go Figure.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I grew up watching martial arts movies. Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack to the uninitiated), James Ryan, Lo Lieh, et al, ad infinitum. There was a certain angst in my pre-teen life that created a void, bullying primarily, that was filled by these classic "revenge scenario" movies.

As time went on, and I grew older, the athletic nature of the movies is still amazing, as even most of the older ones hold up, especially those with Lee and Jackie Chan. Modern day bad-asses Tony jaa, and the "free runners" of movies like "District B13" have me shaking my head in disbelief. Having spent 2 years in the toe-breaking and knee twisting regimens of tae-kwon-do, I respect their accomplishments all the more.

But these movies, ones of my childhood, like "Fists of Fury", "Good Guys Wear Black", "Kill or Be Killed", and even the more modern and slick flicks like the ones of the current Chan regime, or Jaa out of Thailand, seem to lack a cerebral element.

I found it.


Now, a lot of martial arts enthusiasts may think of this movie as "slow" or even boring, but a movie buff with a respect for martial arts films, as I consider myself, will truly find it revelatory. The acting is way above the bar. Especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor whose face will be familiar to many, carries this movie despite a strong supporting cast.
He plays a prideful, and truly restrained martial artist who understands the art for what it is. An art, not a goddamn sport. So, in that respect, it is a mild slap in the face to the trendy UFC and MMA comps that dominate the current scene in televised one on one sport. But I digress.
This is about the movie. And a great one it is. Ejiofor's character is a heartbreak and a thrill to watch as the people and circumstances that become a whirlwind around him force him to make a decision that he has to hope is the right one. It becomes one that tests his character's motto, and may be an answer to all of life's swooping nets.

Mike doesn't teach people to "fight", he teaches them to prevail. To preserve the peace.

There's always an escape.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Ever since I was a kid of 10 or 12, I could remember the only phone calls I ever received were from my older sister and her friends.

One of the phone calls was recorded. Using modern day digital sound enhancement techniques I've been able to provide you a transcript of one of those phone calls.

My mom starts by telling Robby he's call a phone call. Robby being me.

Mom: Robby, phone's for you.
Me: I got a phone call?
Mom: They asked for you. Damn it, take it, "Ryan's Hope" is on.
Me: Hello?
My sister: Robby, it's me.
Me: Hi, me, you need bail money?
My sister: Piss off, We need to know who the original bass player for Dokken was.
Me: Oh, it was Juan Croucier, he's with Ratt now. I gotta go. Molitor's up.

I've always been good with remembering and famously so, things like:
1. Who was with what band and when
2. What label they recorded on.
3. Who directed and starred in what movie.
4. How many yards rushed and passed for by Packers past and present.
5. How many Milwaukee Brewers home runs have been hit.
6. Various information of a historical variety: shipwrecks, war maneuvers, personnel--ad infinitum.

Why is that though?

The human brain has been described as a thinking device infinitely more complex and organized than any computer ever developed. This is true for anybody. Most brains are equally strong, they just work in different ways, that is my belief anyway. So am I a really smart guy like my mother always told me, or am I just another idiot savant like Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man", taking notes on "Jeopardy" and demanding my underpants be purchased at K-Mart.

I guess it remains to be seen.

However, if the brain is like a computer, then that theory would hold true with my own theory on thinking. Now, everybody knows that the more stuff you've uploaded into your computer, whether it be game information, drivers for hardware, manipulation software, or just the main operational gear on your PC or Mac, the less space you have for other things; pictures, mp3s, files, documents, on and on.

One day it dawned on me.

I remember statistical horsehockey more than most people I know. I'm not braggin, because really when it boils down to it, it ain't anything to brag about. Case in point: One day I was bringing up an answer to some obscure trivial bullshit questionwe were discussing at work about 10 years ago. I had the answer without having to look it up. The guy I worked with, in front of everybody, rather embarassingly stated, "Boy, you're just an encyclopedia of "who gives a shit."

Oddly, something my ex-wife also called me before that.

In all actuality, outside of being partnered with someone in a game of Trivial Pursuit or something like Scene It, my wellspring of triviality is really of no good use to anyone. So you see, I'm not bragging, quite the opposite actually. It's no fun being called a "faggot" because you know that Bernie Taupin is Elton John's writing partner.

Back to my point, though. Why do I remember so much Malarkey? I'M NOT RUNNING ANY BIG PROGRAMS!!! My hard drive is only 30% occupied. Herein lies a serious argument for all my dumbassitude.


When I was but a wee sprite, I remember slightly older kids tormenting me with stories of masked serial killers, neighbor kids who died of fright, and of course the menacing classic, "Bloody Mary". Who hasn't been kept awake at night by remembering the histrionics of some asshole in the backyard making you defecate in your unmentionables with fear over what kinds of horrible thing you could conjure up with a mirror and a pitch black room.

It seems "Bloody Mary" has some origins in reality. It appears Mary I of England achieved that somewhat dubious moniker during her rule of England circa 1553-1558. She acquired it by having some protestants put to death during that time period. But over the years, legends developed about her having virgins killed, and bathing in their blood to try and retain a youthful look.

Although another legendary queen, Mary, Queen of Scots, was allegedly involved in the murder of her husband, there is no confirmed link between her and the urban legend, much less involving claret.

But why do children purport to torture themselves with these horror stories that they can virtually participate in? Apparently Psychology has posited some semblance of an answer. A stage in childhood development named the Robinson Stage. These kinds of children want to feed and urge for danger and excitement by participating in ritual games and playing in the dark. This according to psych expert, Gail De Vos:

Apparently, I suppressed this particular stage because I couldn't even think the phrase "I believe in Bloody Mary" in the dark, let alone say it.

Can You?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


In the movie, "Finding Neverland", Johnny Depp's character JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, and his wife are in a hallway seperating for the evening. She goes through her bedroom door, behind it elaborate bedding and furniture. Barrie goes into his, and you briefly see a sunny sky, trees, and birds in a beautiful, fantastical glimpse of scenery.

Barrie's imagination, yes?

I identified with that scene more than any other movie scene in my life. I know that feeling. I see children, and people who roll their eyes at those "silly" kids. They are allowed to be silly, though. Because they're smaller and haven't grown up yet. I never understood that logic.

As an adult, if you take care of your responsibilities, are you not allowed to be as a child? Are you not allowed to be "silly"?

Obviously not.

I don't fit in at work. In 18 years of production work, I never have. I'm from the damn moon with these people. I've always felt what we were looking at in the factory environment was being taken way too seriously. Do I do my job? Yes. Does it consume me? No.

Therefore, I'm the outcast, oddball, and I've been told so. I need to grow up. I need to "deal with anxiety" better. I'm "chatty".

Make no mistake, I've had my depressed and crabby moments in my life. Always have. But I'd always been able to see an ember in that dying pile of coals that was my life, one glowing hard enough to spark an interest in something, anything that would bring out, albeit maybe temporarily, my boyish glee.

I've always been obsessed with laughter. Feeling it, drawing it out from others. Laughter is the closest thing to love without actually being it.

These factors were all part of what I called my "Peter Pan Element".

The shadows are all catching up with me, the monstrosity known as "maturity" is hunting me down like something out of "Jumanji".

The Element is dying. It's Dying fast.

Monday, October 19, 2009


FALL 1987

My parents had decided that for the third time in 2 and a half years it was once again time to make a major move. In that short period, I had gone from southern Wisconsin to Waco, Texas, back to southern Wisconsin. In June of 87, a parental administrative decision for transfer was requested and accepted. Stakes were pulled up and this time the move was to north central Wisconsin.

The thriving metropolis of Wausau, Wisconsin.

At 15, I was starting at a new High School for the third time. It was wearing on me. Hard.

I had spent the bulk of my time as a young music fan appreciating the hand-me-downs (which I still enjoy) of my older brothers and sisters. I had been given the golden key that opened the doors to vaults that included Queen's "News of the World", Aerosmith's "Rocks", Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Who's "Who's Next", April Wine, Scorpions, all the way through to the hair metal hayday of 1987.

My entire tape and record collection was culled from exposition to my elder siblings and their oeuvre of music and listening to classic rock and AOR radio.

Something was missing.

When my family moved to Wausau, I was working a high school job at my sister's restaurant when I began to pal around a little with a chap, John, about 7 years my senior.
One day he handed me a tape.

"Check this out, man," he chortled while scratching his neck, "it's got some spooky guitar".

"Hootenanny", it was. The pre-mentioned guitar belonged to "Within Your Reach".

I was sold from the opening bars. After a dozen listens on my Walkman, of which the accompanying headphones were perennially glued to the side of my head, I asked John if he had any more.

 "Oh, buddy..." was all he said, as he looked to his shoes and shook his head at my foolish lack of refinement.

John began to take me under his wing, much like a professorial instructor explaining music to an eager and naive student. Oh, he had more, alright.

Rob, welcome to the world of Husker Du, Flipper, Die Kreuzen, Couch Flambeau, Iggy and the Stooges, and a mindblowing SST compilation platter I proudly still wield today, "The Blasting Concept".

But it was the Replacements that really stuck.

After borrowing "Hootenanny" and "Sorry, Ma", he loaned me "Stink", which had me riding my ten-speed at full bore to the strains of "Stuck in the Middle". "Pleased to Meet Me" came next, and I swallowed that LP whole. I did a little research and saw that there was an LP in and amongst all this, "Let it Be", which I had yet to hear. I had to order it on backlog from Wausau's pot-reeking dark-caverned hall of iniquity, Inner Sleeve.  After waiting three weeks for the out of print cassette, it finally arrived.

I eagerly opened the tape, briefly drawn to a pause looking at the ultimate midwest frozen moment cover of the band members sitting on a rooftop.  An image that was a carbon copy of the thousand rooftops around   it. They were doing nothing, just like me, because there was nothing else to do.

Fighting through the cellophane, and cracking the plastic as I opened the case, the elusive tape went into my pocket deck.

It's true that the album has it's "throwaway" comic moments, like "Gary's Got a Boner" and "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out." Yes, a KISS cover is there, yet "Black Diamond" by the Mats is 30 times better than the original.

But I didn't just hear the other songs on that record that had people talking. I felt them.

"Unsatisfied"...... Damn. A great expression of being completely unhappy with your situation. Being a 16 year old teenager sucks, and "Sixteen Blue" explains how.
Lonely? I dare you to put on "Answering Machine" and not react. "I Will Dare"?   Fuck.

This is the record that made me realize there was more out there than the Led Zeppelin impressionists. I was excited about music again (as much as I could be). There was something different than the glam rock knobs being enjoyed by the football factory jocks, and ditty-bop shit their superficial girlfriends that wouldn't look my way seemed to be enamored with.

And for better or worse, something that felt like my life. Isolation. Central Wisconsin.



Fuckin' "Let it Be".

The Replacements, or Placemats, or Mats, as the fans like to call them, primed the musical pump for me. Showed me that there were not only people out there that felt the way I did, but could express it poetically and if necessarily, violently. Two years later I discovered the same of The Buck Pets out of Dallas, who seemed to join the Mats in being my personal soundtrack. To a different degree and with a sense of humor, Too Much Joy did the same. They expressed pain, rejection, and frustration, but with a layer of sarcasm and harmonic joviality that you had to be in a reasonably decent mood to meld with. However, they were alone in their uniqueness.  There was never a TMJ before them or after.

I'm digressing, as "Let it Be" laid the groundwork for me to seek out those voices that I could use to speak for me.

For further reading on my further musical introspection check out:

Sunday, October 18, 2009



At particularly dark times in my life I've noticed that, all too often, I will walk past a radio, a TV, a CD player, etc. and the song "Paint it, Black" by the Stones is following me like an aural wraith.

Either the Stones version, or the cover, it doesn't matter, it's damn creepy either way.

Saturday morning, the entire 35 minute drive to work was consumed by my incessant mulling over of a particularly distressing nightmare I had the previous night.

Once I got to work, I shook off the cold, went inside, strode stiffly to my locker, kicked off my shoes and put my work boots on. Once I emerged from the changing room and took the corner to my press, there it was.

Those fucking all too familiar opening sitar strains from "Paint it,Black" coming from the press' radio.

I was shaking.


Robert Johnson and I are strolling through a dank, dirty area of Mississippi, circa 1920's. Just minding our own business, we encounter an approximately 4 ft. wide by 8 ft. long structure, constructed of two by fours. It stood about 3 feet high and was topped by a slight shingled roof.

This wooden "box", as it were, was acting as the top level of a fairly deep hole in the dusty soil that was filled with blood, mud, and other viscera which I do not wish to know the specifics of.

And there were about 5 or 6 people standing in it.

Robert Johnson tells me that to "get where we need to be", we have to climb in there.
For some reason I oblige him.

As we're standing waist deep in this muck with these complete strangers, out of nowhere Johnson is pulled under, not to return. I mutter to myself, "Fuck this" and begin climbing out in some kind of hurry.

Until Robert Johnson's hand re-emerges, latches onto my ankle and pulls me down with him.
I can't breathe, I'm submerged in blood, guts, and God knows what else, being dragged who knows where.

Until I come through a filthy hotel room's wall. A room inhabited by 70's style stereotypical mobsters wearing polyester and white belts.

Then something tried to follow me through. I slammed myself back up against what now appears to be a heavy oak door, pushing with everything I have to keep whatever that is from coming through. Claws, blood, and the screams of children ooze through the spaces between the door and the frame as it slams further and further open.

Then I wake up.

Come on, man.