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Leaving the House. . ..

August 22, 2009 4 comments

Avoiding the news is a preoccupation of mine. This will not be an exegesis, satirical, tedious or otherwise on that subject. But it is a quick factoid, explaining that the Internet has virtually made it impossible for me to not see the headlines in some side bar. Even when I’m only reading the @#%&*! comics! That’s how I read the news today (August 20). Oh boy. . ..

While I often allude to a boyhood in the Bronx, NY, where I was born ( the hospital a block from Manhattan—which made all the difference ), for purposes of being clear about one point in this piece, I admit I graduated high school in New Jersey. That’s why I will now tell you about Stevie Butler. I went to high school with him and his older brother Brian—Brian and I were born a few days apart in the same year. Their parents had a general store, maybe a football field’s distance away from the school. See, if it were in the Bronx, it would have been called a candy store.

Due to the vagaries of life & my incredible smarts ( mostly incredible for the fact each year I seemed to lose an IQ point ), even though Brian and I were identical in age, I was a Senior, he was a Junior & Stevie was a freshman, as was my sister. The year after I graduated, I was in a band & the times they were a changin’. Their mother was my boss for two summers I worked for the Parks & Recreation Dept. Sadly, there was no colleague the equal of Rashida Jones.

So, there was a connection. Two years after high school, Brian & I went to sign up at the US Armed Forces Draft Board in New Brunswick together. Despite the well intentioned advice from Arlo Guthrie, we did not walk in holding hands & sing a chorus of Alice’s Restaurant, and then walk out. One, because we didn’t want them to think we ” were both faggots ( sic )”. Two, I couldn’t sing harmony to save my ass. Literally. The thread which ties my life to others is so unbelievable, it’s more suited for the novel I never intend to write. I can’t do it here. Which spares us all. For now.

In that era, most guys I knew had grown their hair long, mustache and/or beard optional. For authority figures, it was believed to be a solid tipoff that person was doing some kind of drugs. It may strain credulity, but at 18 ( some of this ground covered in a previous episode ) I chose not to smoke, drink or do dope. Maybe it was the Catholic training or maybe it was I just wanted to save all my resources for girls & music. This was also the year I met another person who played a major part in my music history. His name was David Sutch–he was larger than life, and his did not end well.

I’d see Stevie at gigs & parties, he was affable, generous and blunt. He did have an annoying habit of busting me for not going out into the world & examining every possibility, in every corner. My retort was I didn’t need to, I had an imagination. The irony of my relationship with him will show up later in this. Despite what my so called other friends & acquaintances, family too, thought then, I was out doing other things. It just wasn’t with that old bunch. As a new decade opened, I jointly started a unisex clothing shop in Flemington N.J. with a college buddy, and I’d met several girls from that Hunterdon County area.

A life long habit of personal high impact-short lived jobs began with that store. About a year after leaving the store in a clash over business styles, I heard one of the girls Rita, had been hit by a car, while walking. Her injuries were extensive, but by the time I got the news, she was home and slowly mending. Rita had been a friendly and attractive girl, who came into the shop a lot and any ulterior motives aside, I went to visit her, hoping to cheer her up. She had some bad physical scars, all over. Though she was in decent spirits when I visited, one of her friends told me, she was good day, bad day. Something about her made me think Steve Butler could help bring back a healthy spark to her wounded psyche. He had a way with chicks.

I promised Rita I’d come back and I did. This time I took Stevie, he was up for it too, and because I was interested in one of her friends, Jaye, it was only natural for Steve to hang with Rita. I just knew Steve & Rita would like each other. I was right. Somehow I lost track of Steve after he got involved with her—my attachments to girls sometimes as short as my jobs. Their relationship lasted awhile, and I know he helped her recovery.

Next thing I knew about him, he was traveling with another girl, his hair down to his waist, and according to Brian, they were in Los Angeles. Everybody got excited when word was out, Stevie was going to appear on a popular television game show To Tell the Truth. The hook—lame, but tailor made for that era— He and the girl were placed, standing with their backs to the audience, the panel had to guess who was the boy or the girl. Yikes! We laughed, we cried–my pals got high, I didn’t. I was envious of Stevie being on TV. I can’t recall, but I think he & his gf made it onto the original Price Is Right that same week. It might even be on YouTube now—I don’t know and I don’t want to either.

Steve lived in a cave for a phase, on one of the Hawaiian Islands. Mostly he traveled the world. I’d get picture postcards from all over the planet, many with the same message— ” have you left the house yet?” I resented it after a while. But he wasn’t wrong. Experience had made me even more solitary, writing songs & collaborating with several others. My body lived locally—my mind traveled globally. Then I’d write a song. One made a sentimental reference to a friend like Stevie and a guy like me & a girl. I was sure it would be a hit. Just like me, it didn’t go too far. But it did leave the house, winding up no doubt in circular files from NYC to L.A. with a stop in Nashville.

In 1986 I was doing a thankless gig at a street fair in Frenchtown N.J. I’d invited an old friend, but he had not shown up. Much to my happy amazement, another, very unexpected person, did— Stevie. He’d just come back from Tibet (!), spoken with our friend Dennis ( the no-show ) & decided he’d try to sell some of the items ( no! not drugs ) he’d brought back from Asia. Doing my usual, “ I’d like to buy something, man , but I’m doing this gig free ” act, I shook his hand. Being Stevie, he said—“…just pick out a few things, they’re yours. It’ll be your pay for playing.” Chambers of Commerce could learn from guys like him. Ex-cave dwellers being more giving than say, fat white blowhards. I chose a great cap & a scarf, which I subsequently employed as gifts for two women. I’d told him I might do just that & he smiled. But the third thing, a small wooden slide whistle, resides just a foot away from this keyboard.

That was the last time I saw Steve Butler. Two years later, he boarded a plane in London for NYC. It was Pan Am Flight 103 and it blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. The story doesn’t end there. That’s why I’m stopping this one. And for the moment, I won’t be leaving the house.


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Bust A Cap in Yo Ass -The Sequel

August 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Yeah I really can’t help myself. In that way I have total empathy with the individuals I’d like to excoriate. That would be whoever approved and subsequently permits major league baseball players to wear those lame, dumb ass hip hop style caps on the field. Absolutely zero excuse for players who adopt the style either. It’s officially the New Era 5950 cap, more like New Error. This is not the original model 5950, but a pandering perversion of it. Let me think why…oh, yeah M O N E Y!

Here’s a few reasons why they shouldn’t be allowed.

1. They make you look retarded

2. They come from a thug sub-culture, one that embraces violence toward women, police & lately—animals. . ..

3. Did I mention they look fucking retarded? ( so much for a pretense of civility )

Oh I wouldn’t want to dictate how anybody should dress themselves. That is, if they are in fact doing so. Much of this sub-culture gets off on sticking it to the man. The man, who is authority, doesn’t give a shit. The man is making money off you fools. The roots ( oops ) of this styling comes from poverty. Clothing is passed down from older brothers ( oops again ) and often larger than the recipient is. Though a few boys ( oh stop!) apparently got a sister’s, maybe aunt’s? clothes ( see Tyler Perry ). So, the hat resting on ears look is organic—still looks, you know what. The pants falling off thing from a decade ago? same deal. Very tasteful choice. Yet fitting ( ! ) if you extend the image, downward.

When I was a young teaching assistant, the trend among some kids was to wear their belts unbuckled & dangling. Now what does that most evoke? here’s a clue —it’s not the result of a big meal in the cafeteria. Some actors started using their mouth to emote non-verbally. If you aren’t sure what a lolling tongue suggests, go ask Mick Jagger. Michael Jordan was a flagrant tongue abuser on the court. Maybe I’m just envious. When I played in Little League, I was ridiculed for making faces while I pitched.* It’s all pretty puerile, if not febrile. Definitely infantile. Ile ( sic ), er um I’ll say. . ..

The worst part is the fat white dummies who have adopted this look too. What man are they sticking it to? oh yeah, me. Just like wearing gold chains, while playing baseball, you look stupid ( cough—gay ). Those grotesque chin beards are a whole other story. The cast of Moby Dick phoned, they want them back. Yes, stupid. But they are also repulsive. Again, it’s athletes aping ugly musicians. You kids need a designer. Hmmm hold on, most of them are… OK, just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re only young & dumb once. But don’t try to tell me it’s ironic. Unless the irony is, you think it’s attractive. Now pull up your pants.

* I had a .786 won-lost percentage. Of course in Little League that’s meh

Michael the Vick

August 14, 2009 Leave a comment

AS predicted, jocksniffer radio hosts, listener calls, emails, texts, et al are myopically fixed on Michael Vick’s return to the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles officially announced the signing of Vick, the man who served hard time for crossing state lines to engage in illegal dog fights. The animal abuse, cruelty, torture & execution, were just incidental to going from Virginia to Georgia to do it. Though a case could be made for just going back to Virginia once you made it to Georgia, which I’ve done myself.

At the Eagles press conference Vick, whose criminal acts fit the FBI profile for serial killer, apparently memorized a list of cliches. Learned behavior is something a sociopath is very good at doing. He is being mentored by Tony Dungy, a former NFL coach & born again Bible scholar, who has his own tragic history. The etymology of both their names aside, I have never enjoyed puppet shows after age 5. The debate over whether or not Vick deserves a return to the NFL took up 99% of ESPN program content today ( August 14 ), running the gamut from the inane to the insane. Best of British luck, ya’ll. . ..

AND 99% of those people discussing Vick are not only ill equipped to do so, they can barely articulate the real issue– has he rehabilitated himself ( ty Arlo )? So, as he goes over to sit on the Group W Eagles bench, I’d like to pose a question the great unwashed can all have an opinion on, and even more to the point, it’s at their level of intellect. Here goes—

Do you think the Eagles will cut Vick if he dogs it?

Stay tuned.