Wednesday, April 23, 2014

And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure...*

I am a parade fan, I suppose. I've seen quite a few of 'em in my time - and been in many as well.  As it stands, the place of my current employ resides smack dab in the center of St. Augustine’s promenade route - so I was able to get a pretty good view of the most recent Easter Parade.

Lets start with preliminaries; my place of work is located about a block north of this years judge/review stand, complete with announcers who knew nothing more about the parades participants than what they tried to read off of what I'll assume were some badly printed notecards - more on that later.

At said review spot, an assortment of tunes played on a rickety sound system before the big show hit the street. The music started 'Eastery' enough with 'Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail" (apparently the only Easter song the "DJ" had in their library) followed by a little Crystal Gayle, and then - strictly symphonic patriotic tunes - "Battle Hymn Of The Republic," "Star-Spangled Banner," and the like.  Jesus himself would probably have been in awe of this - having never set foot in America. I'd like to assume someone misread a memo which read "Parade to be preceded by Aramaic Songs" - but I know better.

The show began innocently enough with the arrival of a Sheriffs Motorcycle Guard unit, practicing it's figure 8 maneuvers as it wound it's way down the route. Right before they reached the review stand, we heard a loud "skreeounch" as one of the bikes turned too close to the ground and scraped its pipes on the pavement - causing that officer to pull over and become more observer than participant for a portion of the event.

I'll add that this regiment leading the parade was the first sight of law enforcement seen on that strip of road. Indeed, there was no officer present, to my knowledge, prior to the festivities to clear the streets and keep order for the folks scrambling to get the best curbside view.

Yup. The street was full of actual factual normal Sunday tourist town traffic until about 15 minutes before that first unit came into view.  The police and color guard were followed in quick succession by The Grand Marshall, who rode in a lovely horse carriage, followed by St. Augustine's "Royal Family" - all in similar carriages or on horseback.

These are the same horses that trod the streets daily carting overweight gangs of touristas through the city streets despite the weather, be it a downpour or heatwave. They were tired, and it showed.

Some horses are probably past the age of retirement - and nearly all of them are extremely jittery when followed consecutively by groups firing cannons and muskets into the air. The horses admirably did their job, but could be seen shaking, startled, and having to be held tight by their handlers every few moments when the sounds of explosions and gunfire shook their brittle bones. Their "clean-up" man, shovel at the ready, had nearly filled his wheelbarrow of droppings from nervous equines by the time they reached my location, roughly one-third through the exhibitions course.

This served as an early indicator that perhaps the parades organization committee had given up event planning for Lent.

The most vigorous crowd reaction came when a team of 'Star Wars' costumed Stormtroopers and their retinue made the scene. The most innovative costume of the day was a trooper whose helmet was adorned with bunny ears as he/she carried a "blaster" made of carrots.

Aside from being a crowd favorite, they were also the most bewildering to the parade announcer who stuttered "From The Star Tr, Star WARS, it's the, uh, storm, Stormtroopers. Yes. LET the Force Be With You."

[O.K., let me pause here to reflect on this cinematic malfeasance by referencing that other Holy Trinity - Episodes 4, 5, and 6 of George Lucas' 'Star Wars' saga; First of all, buddy, it's 'May The Force Be With You'  - and, anyone who has any remote knowledge of the film series knows that the Stormtroopers are mainly clones fighting for the 'bad guys' and are not privy to the 'Force' used by Jedi (both good and evil). Send that announcer to the Sarlacc pit, I say.]

Most of the other units in the parade were full of well meaning well wishers, tons of good local folks imploring the crowd to have a "Happy Easter!" in between noise-bursts from either piratical cannons or that van from an out-of-town sports franchise with its stereo full-blasting death metal crunch music. Seriously. It was deafening, and unconscionable why that unit was even in the parade. Perhaps they got lost in the traffic mix at the outset, and just made do with what they had?

I did mention the pirates, didn't I? There were three different pirate divisions in the parade, each with its own "ship" and cannon-fire. I get that St. Augustine is now a "Pirate" haven (indeed, some of them help pay my rent) - but can you imagine watching, say, the Macy's Parade on Thanksgiving morning and seeing three different 'Underdog' balloons over the course of an hour?

One unit had a pirate absentmindedly tossing Mardi Gras style beads to the crowd - the disinterested look on his face gave the idea that he was upset he didn't get the reaction those beads generally spark during Mardi Gras festivities. "No candy for you kids this year - but maybe yer mama will give us a show for these cheap plastic trinkets."

Having participated in the towns Christmas Parade in the past, I distinctly remember a clause in the rules stating that there should be no other 'Santa' in that particular parade aside from a grand entrance by the big guy at its finale. There were, however, at least 10 different Easter Bunnies either walking or riding in this processional - including a dressed-up Ford Maverick in the classic car constituency.

This brings to mind another observation. This was the Ancient City's Easter Parade. We are a town full of churches which, since the ole city's inception, has prided itself on a close association with a variety of Christian orders. Yet, in the damn celebration of the resurrection of the Son Of God - there was nary a mention of Jesus throughout the entire production. I saw two (count em, two) parade units that even mentioned Mr. Holiest of Holy.

I'm not a very religious man myself, but doesn’t that seem a bit odd?

I did note that one float, from the Church located in our predominantly vacated excuse for a "shopping mall," did feature the only band in the entire parade.
(Yes, one band, in the ENTIRE parade.)

The trio of musicians played a rousing rendition of the tune "Jesus' Blood Makes Me White As Snow" - which in and of itself is not such a bad thing. However - when closely followed by the float from the Sons Of The Confederacy, waving about 5 'rebel' flags for each of the three aged white men on that flat bed trailer - didn’t generate a happy reaction from the multicultural crowd gathered around.

It's not the parade I would have planned to celebrate that day. Despite itself, however, it was an entertaining spectacle, even with a voyeuristic "Oh Lord what next?" tone. I got a few laughs out of the deal.

I did wonder what may have occurred if Jesus himself had chosen that particular point in time to make his long awaited reappearance. I think he would have run screaming back to Nazareth - lamenting what had become of his memorial day.

Unless, maybe he was hiding out in a Stormtrooper costume...

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Reluctant Peep Ingester for hate mail and root beer float recipes

*from the song 'Easter Parade' - by the man known to a close acquaintance as "Uncle Irv"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Dispatch From Escalatorville - Ruptured Antique Postcards (Mean Nothing To The Coast Guard)

i have lost my notes...

A Vehicular Man's Laughter
On Easter Sunday, I witnessed a jubilant gent driving a convertible Mini-Cooper, speeding his way toward a local roundabout. With precision and adept handling of the vehicle, he rode around the otherwise empty traffic circle a full three times before heading off in a different direction. On his face - the look of a cartoon come to life, a man who had released himself for a moment of high speed fun and frolic, a laughing and carefree frivolity - a wild eyed and wonderful look that he shared with the world at large.

But, shared by the clearly concerned and semi-frightened elderly woman in the passenger seat? Most certainly NOT.

Meanwhile on an internet invented by Al Gore...
At some video site the other day, I was trying to load a recent interview with George W. Bush, but it wouldn't play.

"Timed Out while trying to connect" read the monitor.

"How appropriately descriptive!" thought I, realizing I now had no need to finish watching.

Ah, the humanity(A scene from retail):
One by one, in spaced-out intervals, the family of eight adults entered the shop - each one of them progressing toward one gewgaw or another. It was only upon the last of the family's entrance that they collectively realized they'd left their carriage in the middle of the street - with the baby still inside.

They proceeded to blame each other for a good four seconds before one of them left to retrieve the little bundle of joy.

I believe the faces of the growing and concerned crowd outside was enough to hasten the family's retreat to their own hometown.
As Yet Untitled
The past year has been an interesting one to say the least. Most folks I know, including myself of course - have experienced a personal upheaval in some fashion or another. As such, I've taken to giving myself a little bit of indulgence/extravagance every now and again to simply escape/enjoy various particles of this organism called life.I recently rented a car and took an out-of town excursion to the itsy bitsy swamp village of Welaka, Florida. The visit in and of itself was wonderful - the journey to and from the journey - were their own exercises in wonderment.

I got out of work early on a Friday intending to walk to the Consumerist Megalopolis in which the rent-a-car counter was located. Halfway there, I realized the error of my tired ways and opted to call a taxi. As I stood, oddly enough, at auto parts store - the cab company operator informed me that a vehicle would pick me up "in about 8 to 10 minutes, Sir."

So I stood and waited, and stood, and waited, and stood.
Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes. Twenty Five minutes.

O.K. 27 minutes was the extent of my patience. With no answer from the cab company,I started walking again.

As I was now going to be late for my pick up time, I wanted to call the rent-a-car agent inside the Consumerist Megalopolis to inform them of my tardy arrival. Calling information, I asked the number for "StungbidyBoo Rental."

"StungbidyBoo Rental" the voice on the other end of 411 responded, before handing the line over to Sally Robotica and her too-soothing autovoice;"we will now automatically connect you..."

5 seconds and three rings later-

"Smoochykabobs Rental!"

Me: "This isn't StungbidyBoo Rental?"

"Not StungbidyBoo - No sir, this is Smoochykabobs..."

I tried information again. The exact same thing. Two more times.

I'm a large man and I take big steps - so I wasn't too far from Consumerist Megalopolis by the end of my calls. "If the counter's closed by the time I get there," I figured, "I'll take it as a sign, call a different cab,ride home, find something else to do for the weekend."

Nonetheless, I was going to try my damnedest to get to the rental place, I had my sights on being elsewhere, if only for a night.

I cut across parking lots, walked around fence posts, hopped over culverts, darted between trees - and then, attempting to mount a small wall between two parking lots:


The Pants were mortally wounded. One entire section of the 'crotchal' region of the pant itself, torn asunder as if by wolves - revealing the lovely yuletide themed boxer shorts beneath.

Walking normally, jacket pulled slightly down, I easily covered the affected area for the block or two remaining until I reached Consumerist Megalopolis. I didn't expect to see so many people that I knew once I entered the main gate, however. Funny how so many people tend to congregate at the same place simultaneously, ain't it?

I pressed on to the rental counter.

"Name's Z.Lively, I have a reservation, my apologies for being late."

"No problem sir, you're all set."

Two initials and a signature later, and I was ready to go. I casually hid myself again as I lumbered across the parking lot of the Megalopolis and found the rental car. I opened the door and sat down - feeling relief for the first time in 45 minutes, and pleased that I didn’t have to parade around in crotchless jeans in public.

One has to be in the mood for that sort of thing, and I wasn't.

Once home, I did some light packing and thought of scores of stores and restaurants which I could visit, now that I had a car at my disposal. The convenience of car equals a greater chance to succumb to temptation. I went nuts on the food thing - for the entirety of the weekend, really. Suffice it to say that I eat much healthier when I walk everywhere.

The trip itself went great. I picked up a couple of good friends and headed west to the town of Welaka, to meet up with two other friends who live there. Welaka is a bump on a swamp by the edge of the St. Johns River, and a great day trip escape. It is exactly 65 minutes and a world away from where I reside.

In my short time there, I saw a roadside market with used motorbikes and used baby strollers, got to shoot a bb gun at a bow and arrow, scour the ground for gators and moccasins, ran the town's only red light while en route to the the Putnam county speedway to see youngsters driving way faster than I ever will, and ate enough fried food to fuel a jet pack. I saw a country-rock cover band at a restaurant that I swear was full of people yet didn't have an indoors section, anywhere. We plucked strings later by a campfire and slept in enough to still have a home cooked breakfast and zip home before the afternoon had fully set in. I dropped off my pals and ran a few errands before calling it a day.

I awoke early the day I was to return the car. My tiny experiment in vehicle responsibility near an end, I pondered the idea of getting an actual vehicle of my own again. A thought I still ponder as I walk around each day(and yet I still walk around each day...).

I got to the rental counter early, handed in the paper work and that was it (it is surprisingly easy to rent a car in this burgeoning metrocentre). As I exited the Consumerist Megalopolis, I rang for a cab to my 'hood.

Within 7 minutes, a taxi arrived on scene, a different cab company than the one I'd called - but I got in anyway.

"Good morning," I stated to the driver; a frail looking woman in her early 60's, perhaps - wearing what I guess she assumed a cabbie is supposed to wear, based on film and television depictions from the 1970's and early 1980's. This seemed to be the era she had arrived from.

She greeted me very quietly and asked where I was headed, after which she gave me a price quote. But, it was a price quote in the form of a question - which made me believe that she either hadn't been doing this for long, or thought I may be the type that couldn't afford it (and no, I was not wearing the crotchless jeans).

I got an eerie kinda vibe from that point out, as if I was riding in a sort of ghost cab. From the back seat, I could see that the driver had no personal effects- usually, most cabbies keep their car as their office, so the front seat should have a little bit of junk in it - this cab didn't, and it spooked me.

At the first traffic light we encountered, I noticed the driver take a picture from her coat pocket, look at it adoringly, and sigh. The photo was of a black Labrador retriever...

"Ah, sad - a missed dog" I thought. T'was then I realized it wasn't an actual photo, just a picture clipped from a magazine.
She placed it back in her pocket as the light turned green.

"You have exact change, don't you?" she asked.

"I'm not certain," I lied, knowing that I did not have exact change(but shouldn't a cab driver have at least some?).

"I suppose I could try to figure out your change, or if you wouldn't mind, we could stop at 'Convenienstaurant,' and you could get some change. You mind if we do that?"

I told her that I didn't mind, but did I have any choice? I was in the back of her spooky taxi after all, she still had control of the wheel. Or something did.

I really thought of heading out the back door of 'Convenienstaurant,' but most often I'm too paranoid to be a jerk. I got change, got back into the cab, directed the driver the four blocks to my street. Turning down the "soon to be finished" portion of my homeroad, I pointed to a nearby corner, stating:
"You can just let me off here, there's a bunch of construction further on down."

She didn't stop, instead noting the construction signs a block ahead, and took a detour to the left.

"Um, you can just let me out anywhere around here and I'll be fine. This next corner is great."

"I just wanna move around those construction signs" she mumbled, and continued onto another side street, rumbling slowly in the direction of my house, but now on a completely separate road, three blocks too far.

As she made yet another turn I loudened my voice slightly.
"Just let me out here, please."

We were at a corner, directly in front of a friends house, a perfect place to suit my request, yet she continued to ignore me and slowly rolled on.

She stopped entirely when I then stated, evenly and perfectly calm - but loud enough for even the dog in the picture to hear;

"Right here is just fine,
I'd-like-to-get-out-of-this-car, IKnowForAFactThereAreConstructionVehiclesDirectlyInFrontOfMyHouse-

"Are you suuuure?" she pestered.

I said nothing but "thank you" as I exited, placing an extra dollar on top of the fare+tip I was already giving. I then cut through a field and an abandoned yard so that my eerie chauffer couldn't see where I was headed.

I usually have good experiences with cabs in this city, but I think I'm turned off of 'em for a while. Besides, the rental experience all but convinced me of needing to get a vehicle of my own. Nothing too big or fancy just yet - maybe I'll check out that motorbike/stroller stand on my next trip to Welaka.

Selections from the What's Wrong With This Planet files:
Exhibit A - I gazed a family walking down the road on a lovely Saturday afternoon, two kids leading mom and dad, who were holding hands as they strolled. Something seemed weird, however.

I'm thinking it was the dad's shirt, which read: "I'm not a Gynecologist, but I'll take a look!"

Exhibit B - Less than ten minutes later I passed a woman walking away from a corner with her companion. She was complaining how stupid it was that the one way street had just been blocked off...
by those troublesome cop cars making an arrest at a traffic accident.

Passing Fancy in a Downtown Alley
I overheard a conversation between a few ladies of the septuagenarian persuasion. One of whom lightly badgered her friend...

"Tell the story about when you saw the Queen."

Without hesitation, her friend launched into a ten minute epic which centered around her writing for and getting a pair of tickets to see the Queens processional at a gala for General Norman Schwarzkopf many years ago in a town halfway across the state.

Throughout the tale, however, she kept informing her audience- much in the manner of a character played by talk show host in a filler sketch on late night TV- that she was "so endeared of the royal family." She must have used that exact phrase a half a dozen times within the story itself - a story which culminated in our subject being flummoxed at the moment of actually meeting Her Royal Highness, while clumsily handing her a bouquet of flowers. Despite flubbing her own greeting, our storyteller also bemoaned the fact that her husband was too nervous to get a picture.

Nonetheless, the Queen herself had personally said "thank you" - and that was the proudest moment in her House of Windsor loving life. For, she was, y'know "so endeared of the royal family."

"A great story," chimed in another friend, "and how do you like William and Kate?"

To which she replied; "Who?"

Slips of the tongue
A friendly reminder kids - when talking to a lovely and effervescent customer make sure you ask

"Miss, can I help you out with anything?"

- as opposed to

"Miss, can I help you out of anything?"

Also, it bears repeating; when complimenting a lass on her choice of vintage moped or similar transport, be sure to add an extra pause between the words "Nice Scooter."

"Got to be good looking cause he's so hard to see"
I didn't realize that I was such a hipster. If you didn't notice either, then surely it must be true. Yes?
thank you for reading

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively; Proprietor/Gadflyer/BadLiar - we write soundbites.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Dispatch From Escalatorville - Confessions; Seattle Years Part 1

Walking past a gaggle of young adults headed to a neighbourhood party, I overheard one of the girls - you know this girl; the one who always has an obstinate yet undeservedly parental air about her and is prone to be the sore thumb except when she's inebriated ('cause then she's just normal) - that girl. I overheard her say aloud, as an alert to the other party goers she had been cavorting robustly down the street with: "You guys? O.K. there is one rule, you guys. We all have to be quiet once we're inside. It's a rule."

That type of behaviour would, at this point in time, kinda kill my wanting to hang out with that person for the remainder of the evening. However, It's that type of person that can also drive you to a different corner of a party - and I treasure those excursions...
Lets say it's the late 1990's and you're new to a bigger city in the Pacific Northwest; you don’t know too many people outside the ones you and your room-mate have met at the new job, which you've literally just started a couple weeks ago. You are going to a party in a section of town in which you are not familiar but do not care because you have just gotten your first real paycheck in a number of years and are still slightly tipsy from dinner.

You enter the party and while your room-mate and work friends are indeed grand and inviting people, there is that one girl (or was it a guy?) - one of those types who had randomly stumbled upon  your groups familiar faces while on the bus ride and then because of a tangential friendship coupled with a collective act of sympathy for a loner in the city on a Saturday night, that loner is now part of your entourage.

At the outset of your party arrival, you feel the need to simply get away from that one person - which drives you across the room to stand next to a gal you caught giving you the eye, as you were giving her the eye, when you entered through the doorway moments earlier.

The ease with which you both slid into conversation reminded you slightly of the camaraderie you’d had with your, at that point in time, favourite ex-girlfriend. This girl had a universe of her own, however. You shared a beer, then another, and yet another - you talk music, politics, pop culture and 'what happened to it?'

A flurry of conversation - until soon enough, your room-mate grabs your attention..

"Hey man, it' s like 2:00 - we're gonna catch the next bus over to our place, you coming?"

And you respond that - No, you'll catch a cab or something in a little bit - knowing full well that you have no more cash on you and only a now expired bus transfer in your pocket. You figure it's not that big a city, you can hoof it a bit, and who knows - maybe you won't have to.

You sit and stare and laugh and talk and debate -  and continue to sit and stare and laugh and talk...until you realize that the dawn is nigh and you both have previous plans for the approaching day.

Meeting again is a mutual grand idea - alas, she has bummed a ride to this party, and like you has no personal transportation - but wouldn't it be great if you can ever make it out to Olympia, where she resides.

Seattle to Olympia is not a terribly long journey, if one has the means - but it is a world away without a reliable vehicle. She may as well have said Bellingham, Spokane, Walla Walla, or Valhalla. Each it's own planet in the solar system of the Pacific Northwest.

Wary yet still hopeful, you exchange email addresses and a hastily scribbled phone number. Within a week and half, you've realized that a short, yet witty, email and a probably too polite voice-message are to prove fruitless. No harm no foul - it was a great night, with great conversation and a great gal simply on the wrong side of convenience.

This story could sum up my relationships with a lot of the folks I acquaintanced there (I say acquaintanced because my friends know whom they are, and are still golden), and is quite possibly a metaphor for my ongoing relationship with Jet City itself.

Seattle; I like you.  I am drawn to your charms, your dialogues, your awareness...yet we connect only through strange circumstance.

Otherwise, and sadly, you are mostly unreachable and on the completely opposite side of my galaxy.
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Cross-Country Cynic, for long distance electronic communications

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Dispatch From Escalatorville - Eat My Shorts.

Every now and again, I'll take up the challenge of trying to write a short story. Sometimes, I'll have an idea that won't escape until I put it down in full detail - other times, I write for the sport of it. What follows are two pieces of the latter, written according to specific contest guidelines (i.e. a given subject matter, a word-count requirement, etc.) - for contests that I did not win.

However, the losses (if one can really call them that) give me the chance to show off these stories on my own. Eventually, these may become longer and more thorough stories, or screenplays, or simply forgotten altogether. I'm presenting them now in their "submitted" form with the hope that the ideas behind them will provide a bit of enjoyment; possibly put a few images in your own head-space, and give a different glimpse into mine.

The Power Of Persuasion

(Written for the short fiction series which is part of a Nationally known Public Radio program)

Anton Mesmer sat in the room of his Presidential Library, reading headlines from his inauguration 28 years prior; reminiscing on slow days when business wasn't exactly busy.

He'd been the first Independent victor of the race for the Presidency, although he'd had otherworldly help. Unknown to the public, he was the first President with supernatural powers.

A child in Iowa, he'd stopped a bully's violence - willed it gone by stating “You don't need to do this.” - thus becoming aware of his  ability to convince others to do his bidding. He'd inherited the trait – coercive persuasion/mass hypnosis- from his father, who warned Anton at age 11;

“Strange? Wonderful? Yes.” Dad cautioned,
“But, NO ONE can know of this – use it sparingly – for it could vanish in an instant. Use this wisely, only for good.”

Anton stood strong. Smart, passionate - he used intelligence and fortitude to get ahead – resisting the use of his phenomenal skill. That is, until he personally witnessed suffering that self-absorbed actions of die-hard politicos brought his fellow citizens.

At 37, he ran for President. With grand ideas, he beguiled media interviewers. A common sense platform plus subtle mind control equaled landslide victory.

A photo from inauguration day shows Mesmer after taking the oath, proud father leaning to whisper in his ear. In reality, 'twas a plea- “I know how you did this; please be careful.”

Soon after, Anton faced opposition from D.C. bigwigs used to ingrained benefits gained from lifetimes of being on government payrolls. At a joint session of Congress – Anton made his grandest suggestion:

“Inspire the country,“ he stated, casting a spell over the throng, ”Take personal responsibility.”

An audible gasp filled the room, the Judicial and Legislative branches hadn't considered “responsibility” in ages.

He proposed the only bill ever passed unanimously: Federal Employees Reduced Entitlement Plan – cutting ornate pensions afforded to  Senators, Representatives, and the Executive Branch.

“Why,” he asked the entranced, “should taxpayers continue to pay for services that WE have retired from?”

The people so admired Anton for his honesty and integrity that, via a write-in campaign coupled with the citizens blitzkrieg on media outlets, an amendment was passed to change the face on the $100 bill. So long Franklin, make way for Mesmer.

Then, March Third, Mesmer's fourth year in office, it happened.

Anton called the kitchen, requesting his favorite breakfast – peanut butter waffles with hot chocolate. Hortense, the official chef, declined – offering a healthier alternative.

“Really?” he pressed, trying hard to use the power which had  propelled the country toward greater days.

“Today's menu:” clarified Hortense, “Cereal, Fruit, Orange Juice.”

As warned, the power had vanished. Anton's confidence remained high, but his diminished persuasiveness made Washington revert to it's old ways. There'd be no second term. Policies were overturned, save one - Commander's in Chief would pay their own way upon leaving office.

Decades on, Anton stood by this decision.

“At least,” he pondered, “I used that power to good ends, some folks had their burden eased for a while.”

His thoughts were interrupted by a rumbling truck on the pavement outside. Anton ambled out the front door.

“Can I help you?” he stated, diplomatically.

“Fill it up with regular,” the driver said as she popped out of her seat, stiletto heels clicking on the fluorescent-lit floor of the station bay, “I'mma use the restroom.”

She then skipped across the lot to a door marked “Women.”

Mesmer -gracefully still serving the people- took the gas pump, topped off the tank.

The gal returned,  “Whadda I owe yuh?”

“$92.78, Miss.” the former President uttered.

She pulled a bill from her wallet, never glimpsing the face of the once prominent man she'd read about in school not so very long ago, and handed it over -
“Keep the change, buddy.”

Ignoring the small museum on the grounds, the truck rushed back to the highways that lay beyond that tiny Iowan town.

Anton returned to the register on his desk and quietly slipped his portrait into the till.

Creep City
(My entry into the County Library System's recent murder/mystery challenge.)

There are plenty of places to dispose of a body in The Nation's Oldest City.

Heck, in this towns vast and voluminous history, there's no part of town that hasn't served as a graveyard or burial ground. Hidden crevices in ancient buildings, marshes and ditches galore, loose cobblestones in the wee hours on dark streets... 

The very elements of the city itself, mixed with a few of the right chemical compounds, of course - and a person can disappear into the realm of the ghostly in fairly quick time.

"Thirty-seven vanishings from downtown last year," my pal Ralston stated, "This year alone, we're already up to 13, and barely into March!"

Ralston, a reporter for a local radio station and noted gadfly - albeit a very smart fellow - had invited me to get my thoughts, as a native of the area and one of his close friends.

Close friends who've known each other for years, so knowledgeable of  routines and habits that even though we can go months without a deep thoughtful conversation- I can still walk into his kitchen, grab a glass from the cupboard and juice from the fridge any day of the week. He'd do the same in mine. Sometimes what seems like diminished courtesy simply indicates a friendly familiarity.

The circumstances of mysterious disappearances in the old town were never really looked into. It was generally tourists that vanished and the local police nearly always determined - with nary an investigation - that the missing had just grown tired of their situation (or companion) and decided to up and leave without notice. 

The cops did have a bit of a point in their favor; this is what the locals call a “boomerang” town, meaning that one can always "leave," yet will always come back to visit, or live, or die.

Ralston was a determined fuss-budget, however.

He'd invited me to a brunch babble at a bistro in the “Old Town” section of the, ahem, old town. Since I'd been born here, and he'd only been around a dozen years, he thought I might have some more "native" insight.

"Have you ever witnessed another showcase for abandonment such as this?" he prodded.

"Well, not really," I stammered, "but keep in mind that I hardly pay attention to that type of stuff. I'm just a townie, and us townies get it that strange things happen in this place. It's a trait inbred in anyone that's lived here forever. The city's been living up to curse after curse put upon it since the Catholic Spaniards killed all the French Protestants and threw 'em in the Matanzas Bay four hundred years ago."

What I meant to say to Ralston was this; peculiarities that seem odd and random to most folks who visit, are relatively passé to the "born-ins." We live with ghosts all around us. We've all heard, told, experienced, or simply made-up stories of our own that share the tales of this old burg. I myself was born on the day that Athalia Lindsey was killed. My folks drove past that horrific scene on the way to the hospital on Marine street. ("So bloody. A gruesome, jarring memory I'll not forget," my mother so royally stated once . “After seeing the mess the devil made of that woman's flesh, I shuddered all the way to the delivery room.")

"Ralsie," I pestered, "so what - it's a higher than usual number. You're a reporter, you know that crime rates, traffic accidents, births, deaths - they fluctuate every few years, right? Right?" 

I asked twice because I could see he was distracted.

"Zinetta Farussa hasn't been home in 4 days," was his next turn of headline induced phrase. 

"She left work at the Historic Society the other night - and her boyfriend, Dean, hasn't seen her since. The Historic Society's missing a 150 year old black onyx ring, belonged to the wife of the guy that read the Emancipation Proclamation here when Lincoln was President.  Nobody's seen Chad Rettier since Church last Sunday either."

"Chad Rettier's a flake and a pompous ass." I retorted "probably split to some music rave-up downstate, or maybe just up in Savannah on a bender - you know how he gets."

"Well yeah," offered Ralston "But what about Zinetta?"

Zinetta Farussa had been a cheerleader and class president at the local high school 15 years back, and was still a fairly well regarded member of society. A fixture at art walks and local festivals - she remained a smart and admirable, if whimsically wanton, woman.

"I dunno," I replied "I haven't seen her since our falling out at that folk festival, and I don't think she really forgives me for my drunken tirade that night..."

"She's over you." Ralston dryly noted. "Besides, she and Rettier both had failed business ventures with "Old Man" Altemann over on the island.

"You think Der Krautmeister's gotten 'em into some trouble or something?" I haphazardly replied, anticipating a raft of explanation, as Ralsie is wont to extrapolate.

"I dunno," he replied in brief- "but I'm looking into it. Altemann's a sketchy guy, and there's a bunch of folks who think he's up to no good."
We ended brunch and walked back toward our neighborhood. We stopped at his place and I cautioned my bud.

"Look, I don't know if there’s any credit to be given to your theories," I warned, "but don't get yourself into trouble over this - there’s just some juju in this place you don't want to mess with. Trust me."
"You got it, Jakey LaBeau." He said as he shrugged (I hated it when he called me Jakey), "but you'll be the first to know when I figure it all out."

"You bet." I laughed at his dedication, but I think he knew he was running a dead horse up the wrong tree.

Perhaps he didn't? I never thought to ask that.
At 3:30 yesterday morning, I heard the doorknob turn simultaneously with the sound of Ralston's quivering voice.

"Hey man...I hope you're up, I just found some weird stuff..." he stated with nervous excitement as he entered the house to find me, yes, still awake at 3:30 AM.

Still awake at 3:30 AM, cursing myself that I'd left the damn door unlocked. 
Still awake, and caught at the kitchen sink – blood and chemical soaked, peeling the remaining flesh from the bones of Miss Zinetta Farussa.

Ralston's face turned as white as her exposed and freshly scrubbed collarbone.
He forced a mumble. "I suppose you have the ring too..." 
There are plenty of places to dispose of a body in the Nation's Oldest City. Ralston now knows this to be incredibly true.


Now, I don't know why I wrote key events in both stories to take place in March - neither was written during that specific lunar cycle - but it seems as good as any month to release them to the world. Read 'em twice, that last one's kinda ghoulish. More new stuff to be foisted upon ya soon.

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively; Proprietor/Pulp Rioteer for threats and love letters.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Dispatch From Escalatorville- Vignettes & Banalities in Ancient Municipalities

I'm almost certain that something more ambitious or generous is coming down the pike in the nearest of the meanwhile, these rambling thoughts on things -
Like 'Zelig' but less colorful...
I grabbed a backpack that had been haphazardly stuffed with clipboards, paper and writing implements, then headed out for a random meander. At one turn I found myself headed through the local campus of my Alma Mater, as I frequently do - however, not quite so much during the changing of classes (as I was doing at the exact same instant the notion for this very paragraph hit my noggin).

As I sauntered through my old stomping grounds; backpack hung in a faux-hipster like fashion over one shoulder, pens and pencils askew and nearly escaping, awkwardly checking the time - I passed by professors whom I'd never had class with, yet always walked by in hallways (some of them obviously thinking "why hasn't that guy graduated yet?") and got quizzical looks from freshman and juniors alike wondering what class the new old-guy-student is in.

Some may, at first deceived by my glasses, believe that I am an instructor - then they see that old backpack (...hung in a faux-hipster like fashion over one shoulder, pens and pencils askew and nearly escaping...) - and my nonexistent cover is blown.

I am neither student nor teacher - I am merely an observer with obvious tools.

I'm guessing a major in 'Theater Arts'?
(Editor's Note: It takes one to know one)

As I ambled once again through the campus recently, I noticed a  young woman awkwardly walking her dog. Leashing hand outstretched in front of her, she stumbled forward a few steps, got yanked to one side, tried to right herself, and got pulled to the other.

A quick back step, another slight forward stumble - and after a brief moment of true 'who is walking whom?' peculiarity - she straightened everything out and headed down the side-walk with carefree ease.

That's when I noticed - there was no leash at all, and no dog, either.

Where are the Animals for the Ethical Treatment Of People?
Don't get me wrong, or write letters, animal lovers: I completely understand the meaning behind that "Who Rescued Who" paw-shaped sticker on the back of your vehicle. But, let's face facts - given what your dog knows about you, they may just have left you at the pound, or would have failed to get you all of your shots. It's not that they're uncaring, they just don’t carry around that much cash.

The Spollies Of Felling:
A PATRIOT is only one leg away from being the anagram of A TRAITOR. Nothing implied or intended there, just an observation regarding our quirky language (or, our 'Quaking Yule Rag'- if you'd prefer).

I thought it was ear wax, apparently it was just words.
About two days after we learned of the resignation of Pope Benedict, I was alerted to this already digested news from acquaintance. An acquaintance whom I've noted before is elderly, senile, and set in the mindset of the South in the 1930's.

As she pointed directly towards the down-town Cathedral - "Did you hear, now they gotta get a new bishop (meaning The POPE)over there, I guess."

Then, under her breath, for all to hear - "I bet this time they probably pick the black one."

User Errors
I'm not the most savvy when it comes to the interwebs, or whatever the kids are calling their computery things nowadays - but I do have a general "style vs. discretion" issue with the facebook. Everything has become equally important in the FB world, thus producing some seeming inconsistencies when it comes to what we post.

I cite the following example:
 - a friend posted two notices nearly simultaneously, so that the they appeared in my "feed" one atop the other.

As I scroll down the page I read first an old witticism wherein the joke teller paints himself as an apex of insultery by indicating that he has had carnal relations with the mother of the intended recipient of a nonexistent insult.

This was followed immediately by a sincere and heartfelt plea to help forward a message regarding a missing child. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for helping kids, and especially helping to find ones that are missing (we really need to do more as a society than we're doing about that) - but to hit me with that plea right after relating some ribald punditry?

It's like giving someone marshmallow ice cream while stabbing their tongue with a fork.

He's A Desecrated Follower Of Fashion
I have noticed a recent clothing trend which I do not despise. Women of a certain youngish age have taken to wearing dresses that while elegant and flowing against the back of the leg, tend to cut the hem upward a bit toward the fore, coming to rest slightly above the knee. Thus the outfit is shorter in the front than it is in the rear, I've taken to calling it the "Mullet Dress."

Granted it is probably quite a bit comfortable for the wearer; when a lovely young lass headed in my direction found herself wearing one in a slight breeze, however, it also prompted the older gentleman about three steps ahead of me to grumble in a low, yet increasingly excited tone - "uh, oh, whooooooooooah."

I simply smiled as she passed by, but I'm sure she was flattered by both of us, Sir.
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/I have a theory about 'The Walking Dead' even though I've only seen the first 5 minutes of the series. for Murder Ballads and Burdened Mallards

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: HollowDays and Wasted Nights.

As he often does, Mister Universal Truth rode by me on his bag and box laden two wheeler  the other day, offering the following kernel of wisdom:
"Man, people here LOVE it when it's warm, but the minute it gets cold -
they biiiiiitch."

Days of Yersteryule

Our recent cold snap has done a little to extend the holiday season here in Florida - mainly because it's been too cold to think about taking down the decorations. It's also helped to hold tight those long past and semi-current holiday memories.

This most recent Christmas Eve, I found myself as one member of the four generations of my family that gathered for Mass with my 92 year old Grandmother. Nearly a dozen of us took up an entire pew of The Holy Comforter, Episcopal in my home town of Richmond, Virginia.

We sang hymns together, enjoying the readings, and scanned our fellow attendees for familiar faces from times when we were regulars. The last act a more difficult one for your truly, having not been a practicing parishioner for nearly three decades.

(Confidential to the youngish, modern female church-goer: that peek-a-boo style blouse and thong-revealing jeans - more appropriate for sun worship than, y'know, Son worship. Just sayin'...)

To be completely honest, I can't recall the words spoken from the Christmas Eve pulpit, yet I could feel a sense of warmth as the preachers prose coated all in the sanctuary with a momentarily unified sense of belief.

The belief that there just may be a higher force guiding parts of this universe, the belief that there still exists a sense of common good in the world, the belief that justice exists, the belief that your check won't bounce if you write it to charity, the belief that cooler heads will eventually prevail, the belief that this coming week will be free of car trouble, the belief that the cute gal you've been eyeing will indeed call you back, the belief that manipulating 'pressure points' will make a headache vanish, the belief that the perfect pizza is waiting for you somewhere, the belief that my sister still has possibly the best singing voice of that entire congregation.

Of course, only the latter is close to verifiable - but for just a moment in the Holidays, it's nice to embrace the warmth of infinite possibility.

Yet, nobody has any fruitcake left, wha?

One thing I enjoy about these post-holiday weeks is the abundance of Holiday themed goodies that linger in the convenience stores. They're not going bad, not completely out of place, yet no longer seasonally trendy - and sometimes, they're on sale.

Such is the case with Eggnog.

I don't know when I first began to enjoy eggnog, but I have found it to be a near perfect apres-yule beverage. It mixes so well with so much, and turns any drink into an instant "Christmas" drink.

Normally, I shouldn't even go near the stuff. It's two main ingredients are things that, as separate entities, I despise wholeheartedly in their natural form.

Milk and eggs.

I'm not a milk drinker by any circumstance, no sir. Oh, I'll pour some of it into java if the creamers unavailable, and I adore Ice Cream, for certain. Yet, milk, standing alone in a glass - never gonna happen.

And Eggs; either simply yolks, or the whole damn embryo - slightly stirred to avoid separation. Ewww. For me to even eat eggs -much less drink them- they have to be prepared as to be nearly unrecognizable. Forget 'over easy or 'runny' - mine have to stop dead in their tracks. I cook them so harshly, it automatically raises the reputation of tofu.

Yet, when blended together - that milk and egg concoction just mixes so perfectly, with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg to cap off whatever tasty beverage you may prefer - it goes real well in coffee, so I've heard...

Tales From The Retail Rodeo, part X in a seemingly never ending series (in which X = # of Years in Customer Service multiplied by the square root of Wages Earned/Wages Deserved +  Amount of Force used in "Choke Resistance" Per Day)

* A middle aged patron eyes the selection of cheapo slingshots available at the front of the store. Upon picking one up, she gleefully recalled,

"Oh, we had these when I was a kid..."

"But,..." she stated while dropping the item haphazardly to it's container "...they're weapons now."

*Near the cash register (the "Point Of Sale" for those in the game, also affectionately referred to as "P.O.S."- for all that abbreviation implies), we have a few similar tchotchkes that come in two very distinct sizes.

Our display sign indicates prices for "small" and "large."

More than once, I have been asked:
"Which are the small ones?"

*Simply a point of observation - any customer facing a situation in which they feel compelled to alert you to the antiquated dictum "The Customer Is Always Right" - is usually dead wrong.

I have  a degree in English as well as Theatre - in these situations, I combine my knowledge of both to create something we call "Tact."

The Worst Tinsel
On my morning walk, I noticed that a neighbor a few block overs had been a victim of a prank that I had long thought had it's heyday. A house, yard, and trees, all covered in streams of toilet paper. Floorboards to chimneys,  roots to bird nests - toilet paper everywhere - blowing ever so gently in the morning wind. Unspooled rivulets of bleached, processed  pulp draped lazily over branches and power lines.

I would have taken a picture - was about to - but I realized how un-amused I might be if it were my place that had been rolled in comfortably soft and fluffilly absorbent "papier hygiénique."

For a moment, I even thought that maybe, just maybe, I was looking at a half-hearted holiday display that had grown haggard and worn with time and weather.

Nope. They definitely got pranked.

The little kid part of my brain thinks it's hilarious. The old man part wonders if anyone is going to help them clean up. Yeah, it would be an oddly tedious job  - but hey, free toilet paper.

Because "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta" hadn't been written yet.
Cruising the Intertube video feeds at random, as I am wont to do - I happened upon a 1980's commercial that used as it's background music, an instrumental version of the '60's song 'Georgy Girl.'

Yup, 'Georgy Girl' - that pop tune which includes lines such as:

"Hey there, Georgy girl
Why do all the boys just pass you by?
Could it be you just don't try - or is it the clothes you wear?


Life is a reality, you can't always run away
Don't be so scared of changing and rearranging yourself

And what, pray tell, was this ode to near anti-feminism used to hawk, you ask?
Why, Barbie Dolls, of course...

Ermagherd, The Derspertch Ferm Erscalerterverlle!

Z.F.Lively, Proprietor/Mistletoe-Stubber
for platitude, gratitude, quotes from The Dude. (link NSFW)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Wonky McRuthless And The "Happy" New Year...

Sometimes, I step outside myself - look at circumstances surrounding my life and think "Gee. What's the deal with THAT guy?"
Then it hits me.

I assume everyone goes through this every once in a while. After all, a little identity crisis (No. "Crisis" is the wrong term - think less startling, more reflective...) - identity "reconciliation" (that's more like it) never hurt.

Also, it occurs to me that any of our lives, in and of themselves- each with it's own peccadilloes, secrets, shames, pains, and private jokes - could indeed be a heck of a lot worse.

To be who we are and where we are at this point in time is a blessing that tends to get overlooked. Troubles, trifles, mysteries and muses we all have, and oft times focus on; yet, there are so many other possibilities that escape us, paths un-taken, lives we could have lead - that we forget to be thankful for the place we are.

The fact that you are reading this right now means that you are more privileged than over half of the people on the planet. And yet, we can so easily devolve...

Head Check
Every town has it's share of what we once called "Crazies" - the folks that, due to various and sundry circumstances find themselves on the mental edge, and thus the fringes of society. The people that need, but seem not to find, help to improve the health of their noggin. Sometimes, there's a bona fide, physician classified disorder; sometimes the disorder is caused by random or methodical chemical ingestion. Nonetheless, each little burg in our world has those that roam the streets, hurtling through the intersection of 'Insanity Road' and 'Low Meds Boulevard.' Heck, this town has it's allotment, and probably a few other towns portions as well.

In the recent past, I've encountered a local woman on random occasions as she darted about the street, spouting obscure and nonsensical phrases to tourists and residents alike. Almost always - a transparent plastic cup in hand, itself holding the remains of a clear mystery liquid.
(Attn.: burgeoning rock stars, this weeks free band name is 'Mystery Liquid') 

Every now and again, this woman pauses to yell at a sign or a lamppost. Once not too long ago, she poked her head into my place of employ, rolling her eyes half-back in her skull while stating to no one in particular - "I'mNotEvenGonnaSayOHNOMisterBill!" - before popping back out onto the thoroughfare.

Then, one day during the holiday season, she nonchalantly entered the store and proceeded to browse around, eyeing our gewgaws, knick-knacks, and jewellery. Cautiously, I watched as she made her way around the shop. A sketchy situation at best, my co-workers and I awaited her imminent breakdown and departure.

She lingered at a jewellery case for a few moments before I rallied up the courage to walk over and ask:

"Is there anything I can help you with?"

I held my breath and braced myself for a litany of lunacy...

Instead, we had a fully logical and comprehensive conversation revolving around her search for a holiday gift to give to her out of town daughter. A polite and pleasant talk in which she compiled a list of items in the store as potential holiday presents. Gifts in mind, if not in hand, she thanked me for my time, stating she'd be back soon, and gracefully headed out the front door with a pep in her step and a smile on her face.

Three days later, I caught sight of her - barking at a picket fence.

Brain Fart
Random thought: how 'bout we start up a take-out only restaurant, serving the tastiest in portable food - then confuse folks by naming it "Where Zis From?"
Imagine the fun party conversation when you bring in a few trays of our enigmatic delectables!

Or: I'm opening a bakery that makes only erotic breads from exotic sources;
"50 Shades Of Grain"

(p.s. The Enigmatic Delectables will be the opening act on
The 2013 World Tour of Escalatorville Recording Superstars: Mystery Liquid

This Neck O' The Woods
Recently Acquired Malaprops (gathered exclusively in St. Augustine, Florida - The Nation's Oldest City, Y'all!:

-From a man on cellphone reporting to his satellitic friend at the other side of that call, the tale of how another pal had just received a raw deal somewhere in The Ancient City Shop-o-Rama:
"Man, he sure got the short end of the stack."

-From a stroller-bound child (the best kind), as he reminisced to his parents of their moments ago visit to Castillo De San Marcos, tourist mecca and historic fortress/battleground:
"Fire The Canyons, Mommy - Fire The Canyons!"

As one may have guessed, I tend to overhear customers conversations as they come in through the front door of the shop.  Within the recent political season, I was privy to some interesting tete a tetes in regards to many of the political parties and their respective candidates for office.

A couple of regulars entered the store discussing those nefarious and greedy folks of "the entitlement culture" - "...always trying to get something for nothing..."

Moments later, as they were checking out - I made a mental note of their shock when they realized I hadn’t automatically given them a "Locals Discount."

Gut Wrench
I admire folks who are proud of their beliefs. I can even understand the wearing of symbolic imagery to show ones faith. What I don't get, however, is why anyone would chose to wear skin tight jeans with embroidered cubic zirconia crucifixes on the -for lack of a better term- "ass pockets" of said skin tight jeans.
I wonder what the higher powers think of those pants, and I kind of feel like a sinner just for knowing they exist.

End Notes
I cannot tell you enough how much I dig the sound of Booker T and the MGs - always have. The fact that they not only had major hit records of their own ('Green Onions,' 'Hip Hug Her', and on and on) - BUT, played as the backing band for "virtually every recording made at Stax from 1962 through about 1970*" as well as providing the core of the Blues Brothers Band = nothing but praise in my book.

However, there's one thing that always get me. Everytime I hear the band's version of 'Hang Em High' - I always end up singing both 'House of The Rising Sun' and 'Theme to Gilligans Island'.

Based on the overall awesomeness of the group, I'm going to assume this was intentional.

Here - try it yourself:
*Thank you Wikipedia
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/PrettyPrettyPrincess (Did I mention that my house has a mischievous ghost?) for Eventualities/AvengedDualities