Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Old Things in an Old Light

Anyone who reads "Basementing" (Anyone? Anyone?) knows the decor is pre-contemporary. A feverish night stumble to the bathroom could easily result in a Serlingesque breakdown: I'm in Don Draper's apartment via The Twilight Zone. Picture if you can a trembling man flipping through a May 1953 issue of Woman's Home Companion in dire need of a home remedy for possible malaria. Deep breaths, Mike. How about a round of Winner Spinner to take your mind off your musty-triggered psychotic episode?

With the lights on (and a good night's sleep), the mid-fifties mirage is betrayed by... well, sonofagun, not much. Oh, wait! The microwave. And the TV, which, true, is the same size as Ozzy & Harriet's, except it's all screen. The decor is pretty seamless. But through the filters of Instagram (a name that recalls that era), the authenticity of the basement's design (life's work of Adam) could fool Mrs. Cleaver (did she ever leave that goddamn house?).

I present you with "The Instagram Basement" (one of the few examples of the camera app free from inappropriate expanses of flesh).

Thanks to Adam and Josh, I think our next residence will have to be a Googie structure, or Luna Schlosser's pad. (Erin glares at me from 2012.)

I feel dizzy. I hear breaking glass. I see a giant unrealistic floating eye! Open that door, Rod, I'm coming through!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

No Bother: A Basementing Birthday

This is an open letter to my wife, meaning devoid of my true feelings, which, frankly, are none of your g.d. business:

So, now you're IN your thirties. That's fine. I'm like, what, 50? You'll always be referred to as "his young wife."

So, you live in a basement. So did Laverne & Shirley. That's fine. They were like, what, 50?

People will take you seriously now. When you're in your twenties, everyone smiles a lot and says, 'Hey, that's good initiative," and then, behind your back, they gather with their thirty-and-up associates and chuckle over what idiots twenty-somethings are. And teenagers? Good god, are they still around?

You are thirty-something today and should begin getting my Timothy Busfield references. Oh, and Peter Berg (he made a few appearances on "Entourage").

Look who else is 31! Bitsie Tulloch, the girlfriend with the weird face on "Grimm"; Rapper Pitbull (he don't play football, but he's touched down everywhere. Everywhere? Everywhere!); Bryce Howard ("Two Slice Hilly"); and Megan Hilty, aka "Marilyn Nomore."

You're in good company. I don't mean with them. I mean with me.

All right, the rest of you, back to your Facebooks!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on Portland

I used to say, "No, it doesn't really rain that much, but let the bozos in the rest of the country think so, to keep them away." Of course, I used to be one of them bozos and I'm here. And I'm soaking wet, because it really does rain that much.

I think the rain's a necessity for the people of the Pacific Northwest. The mind of a Portlander, affected as it is by copious amounts of coffee, tofu, sushi, Thai dishes I can't pronounce, and quinoa, functions clearest in the rain (or at least the near-rain). I reach this notion based on my observations of the opposite. When the sun peeks its white-hot head out of a deep-gray cloud (our state mascot), people lose their minds.

Friend and author Sarah Royal remarked on the propensity for all sun-lit conversations to turn to the sun, no matter the current topic nor the gravitas of the moment. For example:

Skinny Jeans: I was kayaking yesterday in the Willamette and, long story short, my thumb is infected.

Skirt w/Leggings: I know! God, the sun feels so good!

Me: The Shins? Meh.

That sort of thing. In Portland, the Cloud is the Warden and the Sun is the ACLU nudging him, saying, "C'mon, how 'bout a little yard time?"

It's "Blade Runner" all the time here, and then...a few frames of "Blame it on Rio."

I love the rain. I moved here daydreaming of the dark wet woods, poncho'd on the waterfall trails. And I've loved it. But when my emotional poncho springs a leak, I'm as peppy as Thornton Wilder's Stage Manager.

Yes, it really does rain that much, but we've got the biggest used book store in the country, a blessing of independent record stores, and the Reggie Deluxe, for starters.

You want the sun? Move to California.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Two Billy Joel Eras and How I Met His Mother in the Second Era

"Time is a funny thing. Time is a very peculiar item." - Benny (Rumble Fish, 1983) 

So I'm in the basement, alone but for the animals, listening to Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volumes I & II. For me, there are two Billy Joel eras: Before I could buy his albums and after. Meaning, I didn't have any money or nothin' when his first few albums came out. I was just a dumb kid. I wasn't buying ANY albums. Just listening to my parents' collection (something I still do today: John Denver, Clancy Brothers...) But once I hit 5th Grade and found myself surrounded by music fans (most with older brothers & sisters), I began to buy my own albums (I had a small cassette collection that started with a birthday gift of a tape recorder in probably 3rd or 4th grade -- Donny & Marie, Kenny Rogers, the "Grease" soundtrack). Funny that I was buying cassettes before records (meaning vinyl), but cassette was king at that time (late 70s, Hicksville Sears).

Speaking of the Hicksville Sears, that's where I purchased my first Billy Joel lp, "Innocent Man." That was the first purchase of second-era Billy Joel (we had "The Stranger" on 8-track). So "Innocent Man" has always figured in my musical timeline as "late-era" Billy Joel, which it wasn't (I guess it's mid-era).

Listening to it tonight, I was struck (as I often am), by its release date - the release date of this perceived "late-era" Billy Joel music. 1983. Nice. Here I am still following the advice he offers in "Tell Her About It" and applying it to my wife. Who was two years old. In 1983. As I purchased the record with, I don't know, lawn-mowing money, from some shlep on Rte. 107, while my mother buys me slim Toughskins in the Boy's department.

None of this would matter, except everything matters.

Coda: So I'm at Sears thumbing through the Billy Joel's looking for his new album and an older woman asks me, "So you like Billy Joel?" "Yeah," I croak, terrified (I'm certain). "I'm his mother," she offers. I'm not sure what or if I replied.

Was that Mrs. Joel? I've always assumed so. She did live in Hicksville at some point. Unless she was a real nut. What's the angle pretending to be Billy Joel's mother to a 13-year old? No angle. So yeah, I met Billy Joel's mom at the Hicksville Sears.

(For all you non-Long Islanders, Hicksville is a town in Nassau County, home to malls and strip malls and a small movie theater where I tried to sneak into "Day of the Dead" after watching "Troll" but got caught and had to pay, but also felt so guilty I bought a "Day of the Dead" t-shirt from the concession stand.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

From His Phone, He's Blogging

The keyboard's tiny, but I only type with two fingers anyway. Usually not my thumbs, though.

So, the boys are back from the gym, Erin's done jazzercising, and I long-abandoned recording my bass track on the Pink Lights songs my brothers and I recorded today (we're kind of a big thing: So I'm listening to some Vince Guaraldi before dinner. I prefer the record player to CDs, which works out nice since I don't even have a CD player anymore (except in the car). I'm not anti-digital music -- in fact, I'm enamored with the accessibility of it (I'm slowly uploading 20,000 songs to Google Music). Don't know when I'm gonna listen to it, but I like that I can. The vinyl's best, though. You're kinda forced to be attentive: it can skip at any moment and you have to flip sides. And all those liner notes! The great confluence of music and words!

Well, time for tofu and then to cast my wind to the mate!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hair! (Sing 7x)

Nature abhors a vacuum. So does this basement. A dandrous coat blankets the couch, rug, coffee table, chachkas (the list, like the hair, covers everything down here). In a day's time, the basement can become dustier and more hirsute than any number of hipsters milling about outside a bike shop.

The vacuum had seemed hesitant lately, picking up dirt with the reluctance of a four-year old ordered to clear his plate of peas (worst thing ever...when I was 4). But, you know, if you move the vacuum over the rug enough, the combing of fibers will give the impression of a cleaner rug. Satisfied, the dirt, if not vanquished, at least dispersed, I turned the kitchen lights low and returned the machine to its closet. Out of sight, out of mind. But out of sight does not mean out of lungs. Nope, it was still filthy down here.

Now, most of the dust and hair down here are of canine/feline origin. In direct sunlight, in slow-motion, I'm certain the human eye would see a blizzard of fur pummeling the metaphorical Mid-West of our lives. On each clump of orange fur, each blanched bristle of hound dog hair, under electron microscope, a serene portrait of a family of mites reveals one of the many disgusting layers of life in harmony with we all must live.

Serendipitously, before our insides looked like the outside of a chalk eraser, the vacuum stopped working, then started working, the stopped again. A curious tinkerer, I scratched my itch to dismantle, and took it apart. What I found I have since referred to as a "ferret of hair" clogging a tube. Fishing it out with a screwdriver, I couldn't help thinking of how, when you're throwing up, you're like, "Where is this all coming from?". The vacuum, thus exorcised, regained its original suction and I set off to bust dust with extreme prejudice.

Hey, look at that! The rug is a deep cocoa brown, not a mottled mess that looked closer to stained press board!

Ahh. I sat down to a cup of tea. Even took my slippers off without fear of them developing a hobbit-like sole.

I closed my eyes for just a moment Two cats ran past me. Two dogs barreled down the stairs. Oh, well, I thought, and closed my mouth as well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jumping (Off) Someone Else's Train

There aren't enough songs about trains.

Sure, I bet there's hundreds or thousands of songs about trains, but still, I don't think there are enough. The metaphor of the train as it pertains to music is at once too compelling, too fitting, too satisfying. Toot.

A train takes us from one place to another, the way a song carries us from one emotion to another, or circumnavigates the brim of a feeling.

Garibaldi, on the Oregon coast, is home, or graveyard, to a great-looking train. With a nice caboose (though it wasn't the only one).

Erin and I love westerns, especially one with trains and folks jumping on or off them. Like this:

Train songs are often sad. Folks leave on the train. Take "Train Song" by Tom Waits:

It was a train that took me away from here
but a train can't bring me home

Yet there's the cheery train song as well. Crosby, Stills & Nash are having a helluva time on the "Marrakesh Express," and Sheena Easton can hardly wait for her's to arrive:

My baby takes the morning train / He works from nine till five and then
He takes another home again / To find me waitin' for him

Apparently, John Peel was a big fan of that one.

My favorite train song might be "Dixie Flyer" by Randy Newman. A most evocative outro.

Erin and I don't only jump on and off trains -- we also delicately alight. Erin, in Tinkerbell fashion...

and I, sort of, like Magneto.

Choo, choo, baby!

For more songs about trains, visit here or here.