Monday, December 28, 2009

Drawing Sharks

It was the best shark I'd ever drawn. Not perfect, mind you, but it had some three dimensional qualities, noticeable roundness in the right parts. The gills looked like gills instead of inverse letter Cs. The tail appeared to be, in a less than overbearing way, pointing out at the viewer of the picture.

Drawn by a 9 year old, on college ruled paper with an old Ticonderoga number 2 pencil.
As good as that shark, (which I had been trying to draw since my interest in the Great White had been peaked by movies like "Jaws" and "The Deep"), appeared on the paper, my mind wasn't on it.

I was thinking about the strange place my parents had taken me to early in the day. A foggy memory today, I still remember it enough for it to disturb me. I sat in a room with my mother and a strange guy. In a fold up chair, scrunched down, I face him as he leaned forward, elbows on knees and asked me that question.

"Are you afraid your father is going to die?"

I felt a cold raindrop roll down my spine, and lied through my heavy metal teeth.


This chap, who I now assume was a child psychologist, looked over his right shoulder at my mother, and told her we could leave. She nodded back, and that's exactly what we did.

As I was penciling this Great White, trying to model it after a shark drawn by Neal Adams in a pocket Batman compendium I owned and treasured, this day's event was what I thought about. The shark, as good as it looked, was a secondary value.

I had to do this now, before my balls backed up any further into my anatomy than they already were. Mockingly, a picture of "The Last Supper", a mirror painting I would steadily lose faith in over the next few years, hung over the entryway to the kitchen, the same influx my Mother would have to go through to answer the question I was now aching to ask, before I couldn't hold the guts to do it anymore.

I called her into the room. She sat across from me as I added unnecessary touches to the Great White, never looking up at her.

"Yes, Honey"
I cleared my throat. It was getting hard to breathe.

"Today, when we went to see that guy and he asked if I thought Dad was gonna die? I lied to him. Is he?"

Mom looked at me long and hard, and the eyes started to glisten with wetness. I didn't need to hear the answer for I now knew it. Finally, she nodded. As much as I expected that response, it was like a 2X4 to the testicles. Breathing became rushed. My dear mother was only 3 feet away, but getting there took an eternity. I stood, and instantly my knees locked, my calves tingled and became weak as I stumbled that horrible distance, huffing breath, finally falling into her arms.

I was crying that awful cry, that indescribable weeping, where breathing is not an option, where your chest feels like an anvil is resting on it. Screaming feels like the only way out. Crying so hard your body is as sore as your soul.

Even at nine, I still knew this was mile marker number one, in what would be many landmarks, that would act as chapter number pages in my life. How I knew that at nine is beyond me.

This was, and still is the most painful moment of my life. Going to Dad to answer his question of whether or not I understood, was not worse. Watching Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles" on TV while absorbing this disease of a piece of information was not worse.

I cried that awful cry off and on for several hours. Mom did what she could to soften the blow, made me a strawberry shake in a big Superman glass, told me I could stay home from school tomorrow, even called my dear aunt over to try to talk me through this. This was wisdom, my first experience with awful, acidic wisdom. Not the death of a pet, not a fish that gets flushed down the toilet, this was the fucking crash course in black knowledge.

Later that night, at the table, suffering with a bout of insomnia, I found that shark still sitting in the kitchen, swimming in what appearing to be puckered paper from my tears. In the same room as the mirror/picture of "The Last Supper", I took my last look at that excellent Great White.

I would never cry that hard, or for this reason again.

I stood in the dark slowly ripping it to shreds. I wafted the confetti into the trash can and closed the lid. It was late, and I would try sleep again. Switching off the light in the kitchen, I walked back through the entryway to the hallway that led to my bedroom, completely ignoring "The Last Supper"

For Jesus held no comfort.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I read a lot. A lot of non-fiction. Over the last few years, I've banged through a ton of memoirs, recent stuff, older material looking way back. Everybody's got their moments, the ones they recollect whether completely accurate or not. There's a lot of honesty in a joke, that kind of thing.

I'm afraid to write a memoir on my life.

I see the stuff about growing up, particularly in the Midwest. "My father broke his back, but he always came home.", "I'll never forget when I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan", ""Let it Be" changed my life, they were talking to ME."

That's just reactionary. That's all I'm doing.

It's the "we's" that scare me. "We played in front of 500 people that night, and left 'em wantin' more.", "When we lit Redford's face for that scene, he couldn't have been nicer", "We were 9 runs down and came back to win it."

That's where I wanted to go. Not necessarily the fields of endeavor those quotes may entail, but the vibe of "being a part of something." I encourage my son to continue with his metal band, not because I want him to be the next Metallica or Black Sabbath, because I want him to be a part of something. He doesn't see it that way now, but it's creating memories. Good or bad, they will be INTERESTING and thoughtful tidbits to look back on and share years later. It doesn't have to be his career, he's 15, it's building a back catalog of "look-backs".

I know of what I speak, because I don't have many, if any. When people I have known have these great stories to share, I love to hear them, but on another level, I can't relate, and there's a great distance there.

Maybe a distance that is too far to bridge.

A distance I've had with everybody that I've ever met, and every last one of them, I don't know any more. We lost common bonds as well as touch. It's rooted in a lot of reasons, moving too damn much, teenage awkwardness, inability to steadily "get involved" in unique endeavors, fear.

I've been telling myself, subconsciously or not for 38 years that no matter how good something is, or may seem to be, sooner or later, it's gonna break. The bottom's going to fall out and it will be over.

Now if I can self-analyze this way, one would think that correcting that problem wouldn't necessarily be all that far behind.

I hope that's true. But time moves on and I'm still having a difficult time deciding where I wanna go, what dream to pursue, not to mention the after-effects of possibly leaving a job, a position that others need me to have, to chase it down. I'm not blaming those others, for their support and love keeps me sane. I blame myself for missteps in my youth.

Unfortunately those missteps aren't even the variety that one can laugh at after looking back, because quite frankly, they're fucking boring. They're administrative fuck-ups, not the fun kind.

I want to move on. The fork in the road is here. It's a dusty, dirty wishbone in the middle of the woods, smell of pine and rain in the air.

I may have to bed down for a while, before taking that first step.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Soulful punk, or punkful soul?

Ah, God. I hate labels, and critics for that matter.

Here's the deal, MTT's got some of their songs available for purchase on their website, just click on the Mic the Tiger link on the right panel of my blog.

This is good stuff, people. Remember, a long time ago, at the top there where I was writing the beginning of a pretentious review? Well, this is NON-pretentious rock and roll. Straight forward, very memorable, ass-kicking songs from 1-10. Guitar, bass, drums, top notch songwriting. You know, stuff you don't hear on the radio anymore?

Digital downloads available, and tangible cd right there for to the rite-
While you're there, buy a shirt!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This leads to a fantastic moment, though. My best friend at the time, Richie, his aunt Rosala (old school Sicilian woman) and I were walking to the grocery store to get the ingredients to make Rose's famous 3-inch thick Sicilian pizza. I spied behind us the busrider lunatic and his goons quickly trailing up behind us. I leaned over and told Richie the situation. He quickly turned and said, "Auntie, those guys bothering Rob are following us." Don't laugh at the word Auntie. She like being called that and even demanded I did. Now Rose was very diminutive, jet-black hair always under a bandana and coke-bottle glasses that made her dark brown Italian eyes all the more intimidating.

Auntie Rose whipped around, stood her ground and said, "What do you mooks want, a kick in the head?"
Richie and I had a great laugh and we went our way. The busrider hooligan gang theirs. I had a bigger laugh later on that weekend as I visualized tiny Rose throwing spinkicks and hurricanes into the heads of bus-boy and his boys until they ran home screaming like Scut Farcus in "A Christmas Story". It made the rest of the weekend enjoyable. Alas, Monday was fast approaching.

Later, that summer, there was a punk a couple grades ahead of me, who decided it was his turn to give me shit. That he did all school year long. With the changing of the seasons, it was like these assholes passed the Prick Torch to one another. One hot summer afternoon, pre mentioned Richie, his brother and I were playing a 3-way game of catch when this pre-mentioned punk, let's call him Brad and a friend starting in on me before even getting off their bikes. Brad had pretty substantial burn scars on his face that were very prominent. I guess he felt that gave him the right to step on everyone like they were dog shit.

Not to be crass, this is bitterness talking, but just because you look like Quasimodo doesn't give you the right to act like him, even if you are just as intelligent. Brad started in on me, trying to get me to say self-embarassing things, which I refused, then his buddy be brought with him told him to get into the "crane" position. Now the "Crane" position is the incredibly useless martial arts stance taught to Daniel LaRusso by Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid". Once firmly established in this most ancient of stances, he told me in his best Eastwood, to "make a move". Which I didn't. Unless you count picking up my Dudley baseball glove and going home, leaving behind everybody including my friends. I decided to watch a Kung-Fu movie supplanting the faces of the bad guys with Brad's face, that was "making my move" that day.

That was damn embarassing, and right in front of my best friend. Pride cracked stings like a bitch. I needed plenty of Gorilla Glue.

Eventually during the school year, Brad continued the same act until a couple guys in his grade leaned on him to make better size decisions on who you pick on. Volunteering themselves. Sometimes it's good to have friends in slightly higher places. Brad backed off. Slight relief set in. I often still fantasized about a leaping Chuck Norris spin kick to the right side of his face blowing him through the bus window and out into the street. Not necessary, as I had mentioned, he backed off, but therapeutic nonetheless.



I find myself at that cold spot in my life. The one somewhere between that "young enough to party" stage and "true" adulthood, whatever the fuck that means. The stage where I kinda find myself missing some of the material shit I grew up with as a kid.

My mother sold them, you know.

I used to have this killer Wile E. Coyote drinking glass. It would greet me with a grin and 6 ounces of Orange Juice every morning. Gone to some stranger with a 10 cent sticker on it. She unloaded comic books, electric guitars, sports memorabilia, all kinds of things, sacrificed at the altar of thrift. Some of these things were sold with or without my permission, mind you, but it doesn't necessarily make it any easier to deal with.

The woman unloaded my youth, god love her.

You see, as I approached my late 30's, I've developed a disease I like to call Retritis. Its an horrible affliction of the explicitly nostalgic that includes, but is not limited to these symptoms: Overgrown collections, irritated family members, and a growing interest in damn near all things retro. This disease is hearkening me back to the era of those god-forsaken rummage-o-ramas that decimated the items of my childhood. And since I've developed this condition, I am starting to fervently wish I had back the trinkets of my golden years.

Why does a woman sell my shit? To what end? $1.25? There has to be an answer of some sort. I mean what motivation does a lady that nags a person about cleaning their room, when she only goes in there to clean it in the first place, have to bargain-bin my most treasured belongings? It's a quandary haunting me to this very moment. Of course it is, or I wouldn't be writing this drivel.

Actually, I think it would be unfair to say that she sold my ENTIRE childhood. Just large portions of my memories. To my own credit, I've gone to some lengths to re-acquire them. For example my 1978 Daredevil #154 featuring Paladin. (A victim of a 1985 yard sale). At the very least I've gotten some nice pics off of the internet of several long lost items. Being that retro items of the 70's and 80's could easily cost me the deed to my house if I wanted to repurchase the real deal, the photos will have to do. I've even retrieved a nice grab of my favorite cereal, Crazy Cow (and started a devoted facebook following of the long lost breakfast treat). Although I can hardly blame my mother for throwing away cereal boxes, they are garbage after all. Of course, in today's collector/buyer society, an original Crazy Cow box could probably fetch a couple hundred smackaroos from the right person.

Against my will though, on a dark day, she did sell my rather expansive (and expensive) Star Wars action figure collection. Who knows how many thousands of dollars that would be worth now? I don't care, really. I'm past the sting of lost-dollar-value items. I once gave away a box of basketball cards to a dear nephew, not knowing that the holy grail of NBA cards was in there, the Fleer Michael Jordan rookie. Mmmph. At least he thanks me for that when he sees me. Good on him.
I'm no Indian giver, so with him it remains.

I am sure, however, on the Star Wars front, those action figures would be more properly passed on to my sons, young men who are the members of yet another generation of memorabilia collectors of George Lucas ever-fattening franchise. They'd probably be upset, unfortunately, upon realization that they are no longer in their original packaging, or "carded" as the nerdlingers phrase it. That seems to be some sort of prerequisite among collectors these days when looking at old toys. The buyer gives you that "you smell like fermented cow intestines" look as he handles a 4 inch Han Solo figure with a pair of tweezers and a jeweler's loupe. Meanwhile, you're rolling your eyes and wishing you were elsewhere.
Shit, me, I'd just be happy if my Luke Skywalker still had his dog-chewed lightsaber.

(To Be continued)


Last night at the chasm serving my penance, right towards the end of my shift, the local "rock" station being listened to (not my choice) was playing Def Leppard's "Bringing on the Heartbreak". Not that that is groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, (although it is rare to hear anything off "High and Dry" these days) but at the end of the song instead of fading out, I was shocked to hear it roll directly into "Switch 625", as it does on the album.

I was stunned. I called it a small victory for the d.j., although it's probably likely he was out of the room and didn't catch it.

Actually scratch that, everything is on touchscreens at the bulk of radio stations, and knowing that this was Milwaukee's "big one"......

Wait, that term is perfect, I should probably take off those quotes. Ha Ha.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. It seems like the jock probably let the song run. As I said, it's small victory in every sense of the word. What I dream about is hearing a station launch into "Unsatisfied", "Rise Above", or "Fearless Vampire Killers", but I know that will not happen.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

There's another popular radio station here, one that professes itself to be "independent and alternative", although all I ever hear on there are bands like Shinedown, Kings of Leon, and a bunch of stuff that was huge on the rock charts in the 90's. I don't think playing "The Man Who Shot the World" followed by "Possum Kingdom" as cool as those songs are, is "independent". A lot of stations play those particular tracks, but I digress.

Every once in a while this station will toss in a Ramones song, or one of two Violent Femmes tunes. Maybe once a week, one of the Beastie Boys tunes. When I say once in a while, I mean every 12 hours or so. This is not "edgy". This is not "independent". Come on, man. The rotation is every bit as canned as any AOR station in any town I've ever lived in. You can tell it was put together by some firm or consultant somewhere, and "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "So Watcha Want" are part of that "record library".

Don't be fooled.

When I worked at an oldies station in Wausau, Wisconsin, they had a liner that belched into your ears, "WE'RE OPENING THE DOORS TO THE LARGEST RECORD LIBRARY IN WISCONSIN!!", and I had to choke back laughter before turning on the mic after playing it. This record library was a small rack consisting of about 36 cds, each disc's jewel case contained a plain white liner sheet with the names of the 12 songs contained within. That's it. That's your "record library", some prepackaged, copyright-licensed monstrosity put together by a hired non-descript consulting firm somewhere. Nondescript as those damn liner sheets. Harmless as a baby with a marshmallow teddy bear.

Oh, yeah. "Don't break format". Stay with the rotation sheets. Wouldn't want to give false information by a song or two to ASCAP/BMI, now would we? I remember pulling a 10 to 5 all night new year's eve shift, playing an upbeat "HAPPY NEW YEAR" countdown bit at the top of midnight and then launching into.....................wait for it......................"You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers.


Now I would have preferred something that would make the crowds of people listening and partying and kissing strangers and spilling champagne and having elated regrettable sex on the first day of the year dance, damn it. Something like oh, say, "Hanky Panky", "C'mon Everybody", or "Twist and Shout". Tunes you could really get down to.



Mind you, I was fearful to even try, 6 months out of broadcasting school. But that was, although not my fault, one of my darkest moments in radio.

I steadily became more disillusioned in the lack of spontaneity in the business, the machinization of it all. As a kid, I dreamed of "laying some serious shit on you", bringing something new to the world, because being in that business you have access to music most people never hear. And never will hear.

Goddamn it. That wasn't even an option by the time I walked in the door.

Ah, fuck it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I am still here, scattered high in the wind
Not nearly part of the pages I wished I'd been in
Seeking out voices to speak for me with force
Thinking I'm alone like a child of divorce

I never found that group
That I sought in the faces
that passed me in the halls
without social graces

I look down, a leaf blowing on high
scraping the glass ceiling, my back to the sky
landing in places I wish not to go
mingling with people I don't wish to know

I am still here, scattered, as I travel
bouncing and twisting through blacktop and gravel
Decisions to be made soon, at a place not too far
Before the rain starts in, ever binding me to the tar

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Many film buffs, historians, and even critics regard the film "Tombstone" as a cartoonish, fairy-tale-esque take on the story of what happened in that Arizona town in the era of Wyatt Earp. That may be so, but it doesn't change the fact that it's still a damn fine, underrated movie with some slick dialogue and rich characterizations.

I'm fond of the dynamic between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in this movie. Midway through, when Earp's deputized crew are picking apart "The Cowboys" criminal syndicate one by one, things are looking dark for a while. People question why Holliday is putting his already tuberculosis ridden body through this, when he's clearly hardly up to it. During a break in the action near a river bed, an exchange takes place between Jack Johnson and Holliday.

Jack Johnson: Why do you do it?
Doc Holliday: Wyatt Earp is my friend.
Jack Johnson: Friend? Hell, I got lots of friends.
Doc Holliday: I don't.

I get that.

In my travels, I've made and lost many friends, due mostly to distance, and an inability for some to return phone calls or letters. That's neither here nor there. As it stands now, I have few. The ones I do have know what they got.

I'm loyal as a German Shepherd, If I got it, I'll give it to you, and if you need me, I'll try to be there.

If you hurt, I hurt.

And just like Doc Holliday, if Johnny Ringo is too fast for you, I'll put that bullet in his forehead for ya.


I'm not gonna name any names. Just thought I'd preface this piece with that.

There are many, and I mean many, people I know personally, people very close to me that just like to watch. They lurk behind the curtains, if it's evening, with the lights off, just studying.


They leer, filing information away for later use, cerebral bits of data on what they've seen, in-mind documentation of movements, habits, communiques, and acquaintances. It's a borderline obsession, as they jump at the sound of slammed car doors, scurry to the windows, yanking the drapes up to nose level.

Who's there? Who's visiting? What do they do for a living?

Are they dating someone, and if so, is sex involved?

Yes, we all know these compulsive oglers. Neighbor watchers.

I personally don't understand it and find it a little creepy. I've met and shaken hands with my neighbors, introducing myself and even (gasp) sharing my name and trade, as nauseating as that fact may be. I know their names, guess how I got that? No, no reconnaissance missions, no trips to the town hall, and God, no under the table cash exchanges with private detectives.

I asked.

Yes, I find neighbor watching creepy. For a few reasons which I will proselytize for you right now.

1. They are human beings not characters on a television show. If they want to realize how foolish they are being, Neighbor Watchers must be forced, (if Alex from "A Clockwork Orange" against the will viewing is necessary so be it), to watch "The Truman Show". That ought to sum it up. If it doesn't, they have no conscience.

2. I don't care. I mean, outside of the generalities I've exchanged with the ones I've met, I don't really worry too much about my suburban mates coming and goings. It's just not a high priority. I don't care if a vehicle in their driveway is from another state, really. Unless they are leaking oil on my front lawn (which has happened), or their useless brats are tossing garbage into my front ditch (which has happened) I don't want to get involved. See: No contacty, no involvy.

3. It's none of my goddamn business. I have absolutely no right to try to pursue information about people who are not coming right out and sharing it with me. If the info is achieved by, oh, say asking, actually communicating with the folks, fine. But otherwise, leave 'em alone! Just because they live within my visual plane, does not give me the right to try to understand them.

My neighbors have been trying to figure me out for 18 years.

Not happening. I live in the suburbs, have hair 8 inches past my shoulders, wear horror movie tee shirts, listen to Minor Threat and The Buck Pets at top volume with the windows open, and have two very large dogs. I see the looks the neighbors give, and reversing the topic into my direction as one of the viewed: I don't give a shit.

I just don't get it. What is the allure of staring at the neighbors? I would ask, but I get snippy over it, and it would start arguments. So I guess I'll just leave well enough alone.

The gossiping about others they don't know however, is another story.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Last night, Conan O'Brien had Rod Stewart as an interview guest.

"Rod the Mod" himself as a guest wasn't all that exciting as I've never been a huge fan with the possible exception of the song I had a brief infatuation with in the 5th grade, "Maggie May".

It was something he said.

In the midst of telling a story, Stewart said to Conan, and I'm paraphrasing, something about not knowing if O'Brien's audience was old enough to remember a group he was in, The Faces.....

Conan was visibly shocked as was I. At least I think I was. Seems I did not have a camera available to photograph myself at the moment.

Now the Faces were a touch ahead of my time, but if you listened to any sort of radio at the time of late grade school years and my early teens, their songs were in no way in short supply.

As a matter of fact while serving my 2 year sentence in Waco, Texas, KRZI played "I'm Missing You" at least once a day.

Rod Stewart's statement reminded me of the stories that my Mom would tell, not so much the tales, but the phrase they were predicated with; "Years ago....." This made her seem older than she really was.
Rod Stewart made himself seem old in this way, in turn suddenly bringing me face to face with awareness of my advancing age.

It made me kinda sad.

I can easily remember Stewart in the days of "Young Turks" and "Infatuation", flopping around on stage in Spandex treating his mic stand like the sword of Excalibur, spouting lyrics of both romance and misogyny.

Now, he's doing standards with a big jazz band. Not that that's a bad thing, but methinks he's getting a little ahead of himself perhaps?

Other rockers of his era are still jamming it up. The question is "Do they look good doing it?". I don't know. The Stones, not so much. The Who still sound, if not look, sharp as hell.

Maybe Rod is more observant than some of us may think...
Maybe he's just keenly aware of his limitations than the rest of us. Only he would know, but it still makes me sad nonetheless. There's nothing more melancholy than the changing of an era.

I'm not ready to move on.....yet.


When I was in High School, I was fortunate enough to attend a facility whose library had a periodicals section that reached way the hell back. Regardless of the topic I was researching, I could dig up a wealth of articles on the subject.

I told you that story, to tell you this one...

During the winter of 1987 I had, out of curiosity, purchased a cassette copy of Steve Martin's "Wild and Crazy Guy". It was one of those bargain copies where a hole was punched in the plastic side of the case, usually resulting in cracking and pesky residue falling in too near the tape.

$1.99. Where could I go wrong?

Before I listened to it, I checked out an ancient dead-sea scroll copy of Rolling Stone (back when they were completely oversized and printed on newspaper substrates, thusly with age, damaged and frequently repaired by the vehement librarians) in an effort to read a review of Mr. Martin's record.

This issue, needless to explain, was from the era when "Wild" was fresh and Steve Martin was all the stand-up comedy rage in the U.S. Back then I was a little too quick to take critical exposition seriously, naivete at it's finest indeed.

Rolling Stone had accused the album of being rambling and nearly incoherent with no real material, apparently as if Martin had no pre-rehearsed routine, but was just up there spouting off improvised non-sequitirs.

I myself thought the conversational nature of the record was it's charm, actually. Weird jokes about intellectualism , while displaying a staged obvious lack of articulation. I found that bit funny myself. Not Rolling Stone.

He shared a story about a vocal instructor who told a friend that was a student to "sing from her diaphragm", and then claimed to think the guy a pervert for proposing such a thing.

Where else can you hear someone shout to a massed audience, "Grandpa bought a rubber!!!"

He goes on to state that bad news is more easily absorbed when given whilst playing a banjo, and you know what? He's kinda right.

Let's not forget "King Tut".

Screw the critics, Steve Martin's "Wild and Crazy Guy" is a time capsule stand up comedy classic. A fond reminder of my early discoveries of live taped stand up performances.

Alright. "Enough--comedy--Jokes!!!"