Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas from Escalatorville (2008)

Greetings Escalatorians and Escalatrixes, we hope this dispatch finds you in the best of spirits at this time of the year.

I would love to be able to shower you all with gifts (lord knows some of you just need to be showered). However, I have to save all my strength so that I can make a 24-hour, round the world trip to see that every child awakens with a present on Christmas morning (well, almost every child - sorry Korea).

Since I cannot personally drop down your chimney this year, I would like to present a few of my recent holiday observations (click the links for interesting stuff):

-Tickets for the Santa Train should come with a warning (at least the hospital was appropriate).

-Apparently, The Grinch does exist (Fa-Who-Foray, my eye!).

-I've never seen a Dentist crying at the holidays.

-I realize that Scrooge was most enamored of the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Now, there are 700 Million people on Earth who will tell you exactly why they celebrate this season (that's a full 10th of the planet) - something about a magic baby who grew up to be a magic philosopher. His accomplishments are well documented in a couple books, ask at your local library.

However, there are a few feats which have been otherwise ignored. As a final Christmas Present to you, dear reader - we are pleased to present

"Jesus' Other Miracles(No Guarantees)":

-Took 1 Peanut & 1 Cocoa Bean. Poof. Snickers Bar.

-First to water ski with no skis. No boat.

-Once brought Ringo out of a really deep sleep (Wrong place, wrong time, wrong Beatle).

-"Christmas in July" on QVC!


Thank you. Thank you. I'll be here all week.

Escalatorville will return with a vengeance in the New Year. Until then, may your days be merry and bright!

-Z.F. Lively, Grand Marshall, Escalatorville Holiday Parade

p.s. This year, I'm giving everyone I know a tiny bag - each containing 44 cents and a sticker which reads "Change has come to America"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Politics or Parlour Tricks Edition

My friends,
It is an interesting time at which I write this. A smidge past 3AM, that is. Bess and I have just returned from a couple of rousing Halloween parties (my great gear put together by the ever wonderful Bess), my folks happen to be visiting from out of town, and in a matter of mere days - we will select a new leader of the free world. There are no pollsters in Escalatorville, but we do think of politics from time to time. Welcome...

Stop Acting Like You're in Electoral High School
In counting all the candidate yard signs in and around our street - I can say safely that I believe our neighborhood is voting in favor of 'For Sale'.

Ready on Day 2922?
The scene: On his last day in office, George W. Bush heads down a long hallway to the White House exit, Laura follows 20 yards behind. As he approaches the door, he notices a sign attached. Reading the sign, W turns around quickly, sees Laura, and turns back toward the door. Again seeing the sign, he quickly spins around, and just as quickly spins back. Confused and angry, George pushes through the exit, and angrily struts to his waiting Limo.

Laura reaches the exit, and starts to cry as she reads the sign aloud:
"Please Close The Door Behind You"

Scenes From The Homeland, Part 1
Overheard conversation at the bank-
Customer: "How's your boy doing?"
Teller: "Good. Real good - he's batting a hundred!"

(I think I know why the economy is failing)

My Definition of Technology Means I Have No Logic of Tech.
Don't you hate it when the microwave starts harassing you, simply because it's been 30 seconds since your food was done? I hear those accusatory beeps, pal - it's not like I'm having a party with the washer and dryer over here - we're doing work!
Get off my case, microwave, it's just potatoes.

Bon Appetit, Sucker.
Ol' Dubya got one thing right. Early on, in his initial White House run, he stated that he'd run the country like a CEO. As we can see during his run from the White House (which seems like it's taking forever, doesn't it?) - the CEO's he had in mind are the ones that have come to be the examples of modern American Corporate Capitalists.

You know, the ones who profit outrageously before, during, and after driving their companies into ruin - leaving employees to face the withering cost of the boss man's failures.

What folks never paid attention to was that, when Junior actually was a CEO - every business he ran failed.

Way to go, Georgie boy. You told us outright that you were tempting us with frosting - and no one noticed the shit cake beneath.

Scenes from the Homeland, Pt 2
I would love to buy coffee from a small, independent, nouveau cafe. Unfortunately, the only true caffeine disbursement center in my office park is a name brand purveyor of slow roasted mudwater.

As I was egressing recently, a spherical woman entered and lurched toward the food case. After a quick glance at the choices laid out, she asked - in furious, sweaty anticipation - "Where's them Krispy Treats?"

I'm guessing I walked out the door just in time, as I swear I heard the hiss of a boiling kettle begin to emerge from her gullet as she was told:
"Oh, we don't carry those anymore."

A Falling Soldier
To Escalatorvillians of every political stripe: I hope that you'll continue to read this in it's entirety, despite the admission I am about to make.

You see, I've been "in the tank" for Barack Obama for a while. I've got the sticker, the button, even had a lawn sign until it got stolen. [Full disclosure: I keep myself registered as Without Party Affiliation - so that I'm not beholden to a single group, nor do I feel the need to declare that I follow the specific credentials of any organized political affiliation. I believe in choosing the right person for the job, no matter their party - I guess I'm a maverick like that.] Simply put, I became an Obama fan because I've been paying attention to the world of politics over the past few years - and I believe he has a better, more definitive plan for the country I call home.

Also, I'm quite concerned for John McCain.

A once strong and vibrant veteran, who sacrificed so much - I'm concerned that he's become a bit unhinged, and a victim of the Republican party. Yes, a victim.

Being a conspiracy dweeb, I have a theory. Here goes: I believe McCain was meant to be the Republican choice eight years ago - and is now trying to reclaim what was once viewed as rightfully his. Hell, I was pulling for him to get the GOP nod in 2000 - at least then, I would have felt a bit better about Gore throwing the thing away.

But, something happened. I think someone in the party screwed up, thinking McCain would be difficult to manipulate - and got Bush the top spot on the Republican ticket that year. Perhaps the Republicans needed a patsy/puppet to go along with the Cheney Agenda, perhaps McCain was a bit too testy, even too logical at that time to guarantee a victory (when the GOP was gleefully misinterpreting Malcom X's mantra of "By Any Means Necessary"). Bushy "won" and began the reign of decline that America has been facing for the better part of a decade.

Enter Republican guilt. The forces behind the Republican party (which, honestly, for any political party should be the citizens - but is definitely not) in the past couple of years have had to live with their harmful decision, and probably felt that they needed to make up for screwing McCain out of his run eight years ago. So, in order to save face, they bring McCain to the forefront after realizing that neither Huckabee nor Romney would have the credibility or cojones to go after the most coveted job on the planet (perhaps "coveted" isn't the best word, but think of it - based on the the current Presidents record, the job consists of doing whatever the hell you want, pissing on those who disagree, and taking as much vacation time as you could possibly need).

Here's where things take a turn for the worse. McCain begins to worry more about his Presidential Image, rather than his policies - and is deceived into letting someone else take charge of his campaign. The John McCain that should be running for the White House is that tough as nails soldier, not the cancer-ridden old man reaching for a last gasp at glory with tirades and false policies.

It seems obvious to me that he's become just a figurehead of his party, being manipulated by a force greater than himself (kinda like, yup, G.W.B.) and it has led him to betray what I think he once believed in - honesty and integrity.

Every presidential-style decision he has made in the past few months; the pick of Palin - "suspending" his campaign to fix the economy (only to make things worse) - even McCain's retort that "I don't care about an old, washed-up terrorist" - despite the fact that it's that same terrorist his campaign is shoving down our throats, has been an abject failure.

If John McCain cannot control his own campaign, I don't see how we can trust him to pull together this country.

John McCain suffered for over 5 years in a foreign prison during an unjust war for his country, my country, our country. Sadly, the tenacity and fortitude he showed throughout that situation has deteriorated over the past 35 years. His "straight talk" of late seems restricted to attacks on his opponent, with no current glories to back him up - dependent on his past imprisonment to bring the gravitas that's needed to plot the course for 350 million Americans. This is a man who is relying on his 'hero' status while simultaneously allowing the actions of his party superiors to obliterate it. It's sad, quite sad.

When given the choice between two candidates, wouldn't you rather choose the one who believes that he owes it to America, and not the one whose stance is such that America owes him?

No matter what - on the day after this election - we all need to come together. Not as Republicans. Not as Democrats. Not as Libertarians, Whigs, Bull Moose, or representatives of any party. We need to get together as Americans - and work to restore the reputation and strength of our great nation.

All of the Escalatorville staff has already voted. Do your duty and cast your ballot.
In hope,
Z.F. Lively

p.s. In previous missives, i have related my affection for 'The Big Lebowski'. We now take a brief moment to salute a real life Donnie. Good Night Sweet Prince.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dispatch From Escalatorville: PALINdrome ABSURDity

So, travelogues are in hiding and my jet pack is busted. For now, the E'ville Media Elite has issued the following :

Never Odd, Or Even

"I hope I didn't catch anything from my friend in the hospital," the cashier stated - as she coughed over my groceries. This is, of course, the same store that has on it's "storm preparedness" shelf - a 3 pack of wine coolers and a 15-year old novelty snorkel set.

So Many Dynamos
There's an old joke about the oxymoronicality of the phrase "Military Intelligence." In the recent past, it's humor has been put to the test, as I witnessed members of our Armed Forces (and bless them all) whom could not operate an Automated Teller Machine.

In the interest of National Security, I am eliminating the phrases "Military Intelligence" and "Exception Proves The Rule" from all future editions of the Dispatch.

Satire : Veritas
Reality Television Shows that I predict will air in the next decade:
-Celebrity Janitor
-America's Got Syphilis!
-Survivor: Central Park Zoo
-Pimp My Fish
-American Gladiators vs. 5th Graders
-No, You Shut Up!
-I Married A Drunken Orangutan
-So, You Think You Can Fart?

Flee To Me, Remote Elf
Oh, what hath Pop Culture wrought? In covering the recent stock downfalls, financial takeovers, and bank failures - the onscreen headline of a major network news program declared "Nightmare On Wall Street."

I slightly cackled at the thought of Freddy Krueger in a business suit.

Pull Up If I Pull Up
I believe I may have mentioned my good friend Dave to you at some point in the past. I bring this up because Dave plays a key role in the following tale. However, as my memory fades with age (and, being self-centered as I am means I am apt to dis-include any element of a story that doesn't directly pertain to ME) - I have invited Dave to corroborate and fill-in some details.

Dave and I used to have a band, called Powhite Trash. We pronounced it "Pow-Hite" as an inside joke that only residents of Richmond, Virginia might get. A fact that, I realize, makes even less sense to my current international readership, but there you go.

The two of us, as a band, decided to work on/record some tunes up at a cabin that Dave's folk owned about 90 miles north of Richmond. For the trip Dave offered to drive, and his family had a choice of vehicles.

Dave: My parents had such a crazy assemblage of cars, didn't they? At that time, there were seven of them (there are now just a scant four, and only one of those original seven is also in the four). The stable included:

-a shit-brown Audi which was sold to my mom by some Russian mob-types for cold hard cash
-a 1965 VW Karman-Ghia (which could, occasionally, squeeze my lanky frame into the back seat, albeit painfully - for a trip to Kings Dominion, or a ride home from Richmond Community High School - Z.F.)
-a mid-80s Honda Civic (very depressing to think that this car got 45 MPG even then)
-a 1969 Cutlass Olds with absurdly little rust for its age
-a mid-80s Buick Century with very bad steering problems
-an indestructible Datsun (before they became Nissan) 1981 hatchback that managed 195K miles before it was sold to a very happy woman for $100 in 1991.

But you came here to hear about the Impala. The army-green, widest-car-ever, 356cc engine block 1976 Chevrolet Impala, with its truly awful/incredible 9 MPG city, 15 MPG hwy (yes, rilly).

Now, Dave thinks this story takes place in the Winter, while I believe it was Spring. Nonetheless, due to either a dousing of rain or a semi-frost, the roads were slick - and the earth was muddy. We took no notice of this on the way to the cabin, but after a few hours of Rockin' Out - we needed a break, so we hopped back in the Impala.

Dave: The feeling of driving a 1976 Impala is the feeling of driving a boat, truly. The seats are so sproingy that you glide around on a surface of hovercraft-like cushion. And because of the severe weight of the car, they had to equip it with the most responsive power steering I have ever seen anywhere. Turn the wheel a degree, and the tires moved 10-15 degrees, it seemed. God help you if the power steering failed. (Yes, at some point this did happen to me, and I will tell you that wrestling a kangaroo to the ground would be easier than changing lanes.)
We managed to find, as I recall, a Chinese place called (no lie) Fuking Gourmet. I don't recall the food, but I do recall being fairly glad we found it, since we were running out of places to look for food, and we'd nearly died five minutes earlier.

Ah yes, those of you waiting for the story to get interesting have arrived at your destination (and I'm not strictly speaking of the Fuking Gourmet). I refer to the 'near-death' part - oh, had we not mentioned that yet? As I'm pretty certain that it was Dave's driving that keeps this as a "near" death experience, I'll allow him to continue -

Dave: Well, the road back out to Route 17 is still very narrow, not designed for vehicles traveling more than 45 miles an hour. Of course, this means that locals travel a bit faster than that, on the average, which tends not to be a problem until you actually meet someone or something going the other direction. In those days, you had only a scant probability of that happening.

But you want to hear about the dump truck.

We were headed north on the road, back to Route 17, so that we could head south (Yeah, that makes no sense, but that's how you had to get back to the interstate). The truck was headed back toward our little street in one of the turns where there is a pretty good hill. We were going a normalish speed of maybe 45 when this truck came over the crest, going at a similar pace. So - two vehicles maxing out the safe speed, both very wide characters.

The Impala just fits in the lane, and a dump truck only fits if you take a kind of "tennis approach" whereby "fitting in the lane" includes being on the center line. It does NOT help matters when said truck decides to travel the turn without regard to lanes at all, making the generally-safe assumption that you can drive half in the other lane. That would be MY lane.

With nowhere to go, we went off the shoulder. Now, this would be messy anyway, but the particular spot we went off was a steep drop from pavement to grass. That would only have been a concern for the paint job and suspension if it had not been for the fact of the ditch.

The "ditch" he says. The Impala had stopped, certainly, we were unhurt and safe, I assumed (I'll state this for the record - as this was a pre-airbag vehicle, it is a credit to Dave's driving/swerving skills that we had no bruises or abrasions - there were many occasions in our youth wherein Dave saved my neck in different respects, but none so literal as this day). It was then we looked straight out the windshield and into what Dave calls a ditch. I would call it a massive ravine.

Reverse. The one gear we desperately needed was the one that didn't want to work. I feared that if we spun the wheels backward too much, that we'd alter the cars center of gravity and send the Impala -and us- over the edge. Slowly, carefully, we scrambled out of the vehicle. Once we were a couple yards away, and calmed down slightly, we realized that the situation itself was sticky, but not as dangerous as the view from the Impala's front seat would imply. Treacherous, definitely, but only slightly life threatening.

"Y'all all right over there?" we heard from the road.

Momentarily, we'd all but forgotten the dump truck. Forgotten that, indeed, there was someone else on this lonesome road - and as we turned toward the pavement we saw him.

Walking towards us was a massive chunk of a man - about 6'4'' or so with the darkest five-o'clock shadow I've ever seen in the mid-day sun. He wore a grubby green jacket, with a tattered ball-cap, and hair to match.

"Y'all wait here 'bout 20 minutes, I'll go dump my load, come back, and use my chains to pull y'all out."

A nice and kindly gesture, from the man who had just nearly killed us - and one that I almost didn't hear. Sure, we were still a bit shaken up from the accident, but I couldn't concentrate because I was staring at this man's face. His words were coming from a mouth so mangled that he resembled, to me, a horror film antagonist.

I mean no disrespect to our new acquaintance, however, his face was shocking. His mouth, you see, was disfigured. It looked as if his lips had been ripped or bitten off, in pieces - and then badly rearranged and sewn back on. That description is as accurate as I can get, it could have been worse for all I know, but this is the one detail of that day that has consistently stuck in my brain these many years. He was kind enough, but extremely frightening at the same time.

I didn't have much time to process that at the site of the accident, as he was soon off to dump his load. So, by the road Dave and I sat, waiting to be rescued by our tormentor.

The entire time I wondered if maybe the accident was just the beginning of our troubles. Perhaps he wouldn't come back after all - and we'd be stuck for hours in the mud. Or worse, perhaps he would come back, and then kill or kidnap us as he was "helping" to pull the Impala back to the road. Perhaps, I was right about the lips - maybe those weren't his lips at all, maybe they were the cobbled together lip parts of his many victims - and maybe we were next.

As the truck made it's slow return down the road back to us, I silently shuddered at the thought.

I was also totally and completely wrong.

I can now assume that the driver was as shocked as we were in those moments after the incident - and that his initial terse commentary was simply his gut reaction to offer a fix to a situation he had helped to cause. Within minutes of seeing his truck heading toward us again, we had helped attach the hook and chains from his truck to the car, and managed to yank the Impala from its perch above the ravine. In a few more minutes, we had gotten back on the road, and were headed for food (although, had I been the man then that I am today, Chinese food would not have been the first thing I inhaled after the incident).

I never caught the truckers name, and neither did Dave. I would like to thank him, if he's still around, for helping us out of what could have been a long, long day slogging through mud and calling tow companies who might be willing to donate their services to two out of work musicians.

So, if you happen to be in northern Virginia, and run into our monstrous, malformed Savior - please give him my regards, but make sure your running shoes are tied, just in case.

Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
Or : Rise to vote, sir.
I wonder if you've noticed that there's an election going on. Yes? No?

Well, if you haven't, then you need to start paying some attention. If you have, then you're probably sick of it by now.

Before I get into specific political issues or endorsements, however, I do have one non-partisan concern:
You see, all the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates currently have other, kind of important, jobs.

Now, imagine that you or I walked into our employers office and stated "Hey there, bossman, keep those paychecks coming - by the way, I'm gonna ignore most of my work here for a few months while I try to apply for a much better job." What do you think would happen?
Same here (and have I mentioned that I'm announcing my 2024 candidacy?).

Most politicians that you see follow their own presumed party rhetoric, which amounts most often to "Do as I say, and pay no attention to what I do." This occurs throughout history, no matter what political campaign or party - they all do it, have done it, and will continue to do it.

However, in the past decade or so, the tone has changed to one of "Don't spit on the sidewalk, or even think of spitting on the sidewalk. In fact, don't even mention 'spitting' or 'sidewalk' in my presence. Also, please take care to walk around that huge gob of saliva I just hacked up onto your sidewalk."

Add that to the Dickensian roll call of our nation's representatives of late - and we're on the verge of turning our country into a farce. I've had a chance to recall the
onomatoepeiac-ness of the past few years. Names that are clumsily descriptive in the ways that old Charles would have written them-

There's the obvious: Bush and Cheney - but we've also had some expansive (yet ever more popular) Gore, some flavorless Rice, a A Bi-Partisan-Curious Lieberman ('Liebe' is German for 'Love' y'know), the "Don" Rumsfeld, a number of odd Johns - and an administration press secretary (whose job it is to white wash presidential statements) named Tony Snow (R.I.P.).

It seems at times as if we have walked right into a Dickens scenario - although his most appropriate titles for our current situation might be 'Hard Times' or 'Bleak House'.

Let me see if I can make my particular viewpoint outrageously simple.

Essentially, America holds the mousetrap that the remainder of the world used to envy. It was strong, sleek, and could trap a rat like nobodies business. Over the past couple decades, however, the trap has gotten rusty and weaker - it's been kicked around so long that now the rats themselves have taken control of our trap. So, we're left with the important decision of what to do.

Logic would tell us that we need to rebuild the trap, which it appears that one party want to do
(provided we can agree on a design, and get the parts made at home, please?). One party simply wants to replace the cheese - which we all know will only piss off the biggest rats even more so, no matter how "friendly" the cheese nor how fertile the family of cheese may be.

Me, I'm voting to rebuild - a busted trap can only hold cheese for so long before it snaps back on
your finger.
That's it from Escalatorville for now:
Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas,
-Z.F. Lively
( for love letters, hate mail, and palindromes like "Party Booby Trap")

p.s. one of my favorite things in the world (ever!) comes from Eivets Rednow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Stopgap Edition

We apologize that our latest flight to Escalatorville's Vacation Paradise has been delayed. Rest assured, a full travelogue of our recent Vermont excursion will surface next week. In the meanwhile, please enjoy these complimentary snacks. We realize that you have a choice in semi-humorous reading materials, and thank you for laughing with us - and at everyone else.

A Fish that is, howyousay, Belly-Up?
I recently strolled past a local real estate office, noticing the sign out front. Sure enough, the empty building was for sale.

The USA is a Cancer (Astrologically Speaking)
A flurry of friends have had birthdays of late, thus reinforcing my awareness that we are all getting old-er. However, the U.S. Mail has recently delivered some extremely pre-emptive membership applications for the AARP. Sadly, I found myself on the verge of filling one out, just to get the free pedometer.

Department of Wha? Dept.
The Escalatorville Museum Of Unique Literary Deceptions presents examples of some recently acquired pieces:
  • "I Think, now What?" -Descartes First Draft

  • "Dearest Familial Maggots,
    Well, another Holiday Season come and gone,
    and yet again, none of you ingrates thought to get me a comb. Bah humbug."
    - The final 'New Years Letter' of Mark Twain

  • Unpublished Orson Welles script entitled "Rosebud The Sled"

Also, the button marked 'Off' works.
I have just discovered the feature of our remote control that allows us to block channels. We have no children in the house yet and, as such, have nothing to worry about in terms of entertainment content, so I really hadn't noticed that this feature existed.

On a recent weekend I was flipping around, and found two separate channels airing programming so disgusting, so amoral, so unbelievable that I actually questioned the reason for such a channels existence - and then, I BLOCKED THEM.

In the weeks since, I've actually felt a relief not having those channels available to us without having to go through the rigmarole of inputting a secret code. We have been able to live our lives without them just fine, and now I don't worry so much about being offended when I turn on the television. No one in the house seems affected either by the missing channels, but then again, whose going to admit to sneaking a look at Fox News or CNN?

But there's a similar sign on the road to Eden...
I'd suggest that our local Elk's Lodge re-examine the idea of using the same roadside ad to promote both nightly entertainment as well as menu specials. Case in point, this actual and recent listing:
FRIDAY- Prime Rib
SATURDAY - Kristal and James

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack...
I have always revered Chuck Berry. I believe he is one of the greatest poets of the past 100 years, and -despite his various peccadillo's in the medium of amateur restroom photography-have always had a respect for the man who redefined what the electric guitar could mean to a pop single. Sadly, he will probably never know that we are also mortal enemies.

You see, nearly 20 years ago, I took my pal Dave to see Mr. Berry in concert at the Richmond Mosque (I took my pal Dave because the girl I asked first actually replied "Uh, who is Chuck Berry?" - thus eliminating any desire I would ever have to date her). In my high school years, I went to see a few shows at this particular venue, and had found through trial and error the artists exit from the backstage area.

After a great show, we made our way around to the rear of the theater and waited along with about two dozen other folks for the legend to make an appearance. After a few moments, a police officer cleared a path from the back door to a car waiting just in front of the assembled crowd. He then opened the trunk. A gasp and sigh simultaneously emanated from the group of us in a moment of anticipated wonder and revelation that we had no idea what was going on.

It was then that we saw him. Chuck Berry himself was descending from the stairwell behind the stage and through the pathway laid aside by the police officer. It was then we realized that Mr. Berry would be using that trunk in which to gingerly place his beloved guitar. As his female companion made her way around to the passenger side, another revelation - Chuck Berry drives himself to and from his gigs. It seemed then, as the original guitar hero climbed in and started the vehicle, that our time with the legend had passed.

Of course, this wouldn't be an interesting story without a "but..." - so here it is -

But... just as we suspected Chuck Berry would be taking off into the darkness, the driver side window opened up, and a line formed aside. Mr. Berry would now begin signing autographs, the officer announced. My sweaty hands tore into the remnants of my wallet to grab the remains of a nearly shredded ticket stub. I took my place in line, with Dave standing right behind.

"This will be the coolest thing for anyone who actually cares" I thought as my space in the line got closer to this aperture of historic opportunity. For moments, we inched forward, as I saw a variety of items reached into and then withdrawn from the space where the Chuck Berry, the man who had influenced the Beatles and Rolling Stones, the man who practically invented the Beach Boys - was sitting, about to ascribe his famous name onto my wisp of a ticket stub.

Finally, I was next in line. I saw the album cover held by the man in front of me exit the car window, it's fresh autograph ink giving off a glint in the snow-refracted light of a parking lot lamp. I eased my hand holding the remains of my ticket into the window - just as I heard the officer utter - "No more autographs."

But my hand, it was already in the Chuck Berry window of opportunity, clutching at a chance to take home a personalized piece of Rock and Roll ephemera. My hand was still in that window. A window that had started to roll up. I glanced at Dave, who was busy glancing at the police officer, and then I glanced back at my hand. The window continued to roll up. I clung to the hope that Chuck Berry would be nice enough not to slice my paw at the wrist. The window continued to roll up. A decision had to be made.

I opted not to lose my hand that evening, even if it was to an idol of mine. At the literal last second (seriously, I scraped my thumb on the glass), I removed my hand from the car, just as it lurched forward and into the streets of Richmond,Virginia.

I still love the music of Chuck Berry, many of my favorite songs have been written by his hands. However, whenever I hear his story about the autograph-seeking fan he wrote in the tune 'Sweet Little Sixteen' - I feel a tinge of vengeance and betrayal towards a man who has otherwise brought me great joy.

Well, that oughta do some of it for now, there will be more soon. And don't forget, while flying Escalatorville Airways, be sure to enjoy the scenery - let the Escalator be your friend.

Happy Landings,
Z.F. Lively
Doing things with words since 1975

Always available for comments, queries, etc.-

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Don't Drive Like My Brother" Edition

The Dispatch From Escalatorville arrives at the onset of an early spring storm, providing thoughts and observations to fuel plots and conversations the world over. Or so our editors would like to think.

Back to one set of footprints...
In my day job, I hear a variety of voicemail greetings. About one month ago, I noticed a fast spreading trend of messages concluding with a variation of the wish "...and have a blessed day." There's no umbrage to be found here - hell, I'll take as many blessings as I can get. The rising pace, however, gave me the urge to start tracking them.

I marked a corner of my notepad with a check at each occurrence. Daily, the numbers grew. Three. Five. Nine. Nine!?!

As I began this past week, I once again sectioned off an area of said notepad for "Blessed Day Scoring, " carefully organizing my papers so as not to confuse my "actual work" check marks with my "new hobby" check marks. I double click my pen - full of ink and ready to go. Then, nothing.

For the entire week, no "Blessed Day" wishes. As quickly as they had sprung up - they were gone.

I blame the media.

Best served cold, and addictive
Strange, isn't it? Engineers from Japan- y'know the country we knocked out in WWII - are slowly conquering the world with a device called the wii.

There is nothing I can say here that won't get me in trouble
In St. Uglytowne, one of my favorite neighborhoods is the historic African-American district, Lincolnville. The area's history in the struggle for civil rights is well documented, and it has recently been added to the slate of the Tour Tram attractions. It was awkward to see, on a recent drizzly afternoon, a Tram full of tourists pulling into L'ville's residential section - every passenger dressed in identical, white, hooded, rain ponchos.

Although, probably a bit more awkward for the residents...

Why I don't live in Hollywood (Part 1)
Here's a movie I'd like to see: The story of a man or woman who, due to an incident in high school 20 years prior, has lungs that - as well as circulating air - also produce Vodka. Thus our protagonist is drunk all the time. Send me a good title, and I'll send you a potato.

Fake Boob Tubing (Why I don't live in Hollywood, part 2)
Garrison Keillor beat me to the punch this week with a column on 'waiting in line,' a subject that I had planned to address in this space. Thus, we now present the Escalatorville Soap Opera Roundup:

Lustful Days of Vengeance - Chas was thrown lustfully from his horse, Chas Jr. - landing miraculously in the lap of Archduke Boris, who had vengefully pushed his lover, Patrice, over the Hoover Dam. Meanwhile, Gracie realized that by marrying Carlos, she'd become her own great Aunt.
Harlots and Hussies- Charla slept with Rudolfo, who flirted with Cecelia, whom later slept with Chance - then Rudolfo, and Charla. Chance also slept with Charla, who then slept with Pamrissa - while flirting with Cecelia. All were then poisoned by Wilbur, whom announced he was now reclaiming his virginity.
Pechos Con Acentos - Que la mujer con los pechos del levantamiento consiguió en una lucha caliente del gato con la muchacha tomboy linda pero trabajaron todo hacia fuera para el momento en que tuvieran que exprimir en sus uniformes de la escuela católica.

It stands for Need Pledged Revenue
Recently, its been Public Radio pledge time again. Now, I'm a big fan of Public Radio, and I do give it my support. granted it's mostly moral support, but support nonetheless. In any case, it's been my experience that the national personalities are far more persuasive than the shills for your local affiliate. In fact, local pledge break broadcasters, while fiercely necessary, are annoying enough to make me want to throw up a transistor. As Guy Grand is wont to say: "Sometimes, it's not merely enough to teach. One must punish as well."

So, I've made another game out of the experience-

At the start of the pledge drive, obtain the amount of money you would normally donate - in the form of $2 bills. Lay them aside (you can put them in a pile of arrange a pretty pattern on the floor, however you'd like - it's your money). Then make note every time a local correspondent:

A) Makes a comment which clearly indicates that they weren't really paying attention to what was just on the air.

B) Tells a joke that is either stupid, unfunny, or too "inside" for the general audience.

or C) Uncomfortably tries to relate a story that has little or no relevance to the pledge drive.

Every time you witness one of the above, take away one $2 bill from the pile. At the end of the pledge drive, send in what's left. If you happen to be a detail-driven person, include a list with your cash.

Spend the rest on tickets, when your favorite touring radio program comes to town.

With apologies to Robert Bly
A few weeks ago, some of my best friends and I embarked on an adventure described singularly in the Encyclopedia of Testosterone as "MANCAMPING." (yes, the caps are necessary, it aids in proper enunciation of the term)

This was my first MANCAMPING experience, and I was a bit hesitant, as I had heard tales from the last MANCAMPING excursion a year prior. I had envisioned contests involving feats of strength, being randomly wrestled to the ground in the midnight hour for fighting, and perhaps a bit of light hunting - with just our fists and teeth as weaponry.

To be quite honest, however - after loading and unloading gear into and out of a boat, having travelled in that boat upriver to set up camp on a small island, then gathered up firewood (and the dog)- we were satisfied just to get quite inebriated and relaxed.

Yes, while there were the occasional conversations of the "What have you done/who would you do" variety, we were content in not having to fully express our "manliness" - collectively acknowledging that it was manly enough just to know we could.

The new 2% solution
Have you ever noticed in nighttime photos of our national monuments, just how bright they are? There must be a thousand lights around the White House alone. Now imagine, if we took away 20 lights. Just 20 lights out of one thousand.

Then, imagine if we turned off just 2% of the lights at all of the national monuments and government buildings.

These beacons of democracy will lose no noticeable shine, and yet would shave a considerable sum from the nations electric bill. Cash that could be spent say, eradicating the Homeless problem.

Also, we all know that we have the greatest military, probably ever. With a team so efficient, it stands to reason that any mission that requires 50 new $200, 000, 000.00 planes, could be done just as well with 49. We could then use that extra 200 Million dollars for our nations schools, perhaps? That's a bunch of computers/books/teachers for a measly 2%.

If we're willing to give a little in the accumulatory sense, we stand to gain a lot in a communal sense. Call it the "trickle up" theory.

No membership required in Escalatorville,
Z.F. Lively
Escalatorville Chamber of Commerce

p.s. if you know anyone looking to pay,oh, me- on a regular basis to write things akin to the above, let me know. Better yet, let THEM know.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Persona Au Gratin Edition

"I Don't Feel Tardy" - D.L. Roth, Esq.
Believe it or not ( to coin a copyrighted phrase), my New Years Resolution was to write more often. Well, that and to listen to more Otis Redding. So, my brain awakens today determined to stop the word "failure" from riding in on the first breath of Spring.

Vacating the Premises
The lovely Bess and I began the year under starry skies and amongst friends - a good kick off to any endeavor. Utterly exhausted by a New Years Eve spent lighting fireworks and engaging in decent conversation, we took a vacation to my hometown of Richmond, Virginia (I was born a Confederate Episcopalian - God knows what I am now). We had a grand time celebrating a belated Christmas with my family, and got the chance to really hang out with my sister, Stopsign.

I also got the spend some quality time with my dad, while our respective spouses compared notes. their non- scientific observational study concluded that my father and I are essentially the same person. Of course, I realize this fact every time I start to tell a story about the paper route I had as a kid...

Bess and I followed up the 700 mile drive back to St. Uglytowne with a nice, relaxing weekend - in which we moved everything we own into our new house. By the time we got around to having our house-warming party, my parents had decided that they liked our 'vacation' idea enough to steal it, and came down to our neck of the woods. Not that Florida really has any "woods" anymore, but it's a popular expression.

Art imitates life, which imitates art, which imitates life again, etc, etc.
Our recent parental visitations were bookended by two examples of cinematic artistry. In Richmond, the four of us took in the most recent version of Sweeney Todd ("Too bloody," critiques J, my step-mom, and also "too musical"). In St. Uglytowne, the same set of couples spent an afternoon at home watching The Man Who Wasn't There.

I think the choice of films seemed to represent our respective relationships. One is an older story, but one still vibrant, colorful, exciting, and - while not very bloody - still quite musical. The other - a more recent and quirky tale, albeit one that resembled a classic from the day it was made.

Of course, both films center around the exploits of murderous barbers. I don't see what that has to do with my family, however. Then again, I cut my own hair.

Re-evaluating the Fruits/Labor Equation
A recent visit to the physician brought the diagnosis that easing my stress would aid my stomach troubles - coupled with a change in diet, of course. Now, I don't know about you, but eliminating lifelong favorite foods from my daily eating habits? Pretty damned stressful! Eventually, however, I envision myself being completely stress-free, while consuming only saltine crackers.

What the Vroom was that?
As I drove home from the day job last week, the following site had me convinced for a brief moment that I had entered a post- apocalyptic themed film-

A quarter mile ahead of our truck, the bewildering vision of a 10-foot tall horned beast, with a giant rounded head and only dirt where the creatures feet would have been It quickly scampered across all four lanes of US1 and down one of its many crossroads.

As I got closer, the creature became clearer to the point of being recognizable. Once I got to the crossroad, I glanced in the creatures direction - only to see clouds of smoke and dust in its wake. I can't begin to think of where he was headed, but I bet that kid broke a local record riding a motorbike wheelie.

Support your Local Joke-Tellers Union
I have a reputation for being funny. Oftentimes, I will say or write something humorous (although not necessarily in this particular Dispatch), and someone will comment that I should be a comedian, a stand-up comic.

While flattering, I'd like to proffer that I am not comedian material, i am a humorist. trust me, there's a difference.

You can spot the comedian at a party. He or she is the one maybe half a beer ahead of everyone else, and can be heard throughout the room, constantly coming up with lines and/or impressions that get out-loud laughter about 50% of the time. Whereas a humorist will silently observe for most of the party - occasionally dropping in a witty comment that requires one to think for a moment before the joke sets in.

Y'see, a comedian wants to make you laugh all the time, and so they force their humor upon you. Humorists? While we do like to see you smile every now and again, we're happy enough if you just pay attention.

If the phone doesn't ring, it's probably me.
At my day job, I work the phones. As you'd expect, I hear many voicemail greetings imploring for messages to be left. I've taken he first parts of some of the most common messages to create the following "pastiche" which you may or may not want to use as your new greeting:

"Hello, no one. I'm sorry. We missed. The party. We can't come. Please leave."

Meanwhile, in my own Private Idaho...
I recently paid $120.00 for a pair of concert tickets. I should have balked at that. Normally, I would have.
However, this was a benefit for the humane society, plus, how many chances will anyone really get to see 'Rock Lobster' performed live by the gang that wrote it?
Also, if you knew how spiffy my wife gets when she knows I'm sporting two $60 tickets for anything in my pocket, then you'd understand why this was no problem.

Like a car alarm, only more annoying.
I have to admit it. I am not a fan of Nelly Furtado. Not only has she sold most of her hits to commercials (hey, if you want to be a pop star, be a pop star; if you want to be a jingle writer, be a jingle writer) - but, a fraction of one of her jingle-pop hybrids keeps repeating itself in my head [Editors note: Due to the message of a few keen readers, it has come to my attention that the song mentioned herein is actually by Natasha Beddingfield. Although I offer no apologies to Ms. Furtado, she knows her crimes].

That overly repetitive second and a half of madness is not an interesting drum break or sound effect either, just the part that implores one to "Feel the rain on your skin."

Yep, just that one phrase, in a constant loop repeating in my head: Feel the rain on your skin. feel the rain on your skin, feel the rain on your skin feeltherainonyourskinfeeltherain...

You get the picture.

I keep trying to think of something else to knock that refrain out of there, something that I could stand hearing 50 or 60 times in a row. Sadly, here is where more trouble begins.

The piece of my brain desiring decent music keeps flashing the sign that reads:
"Rachmaninoff? Please. Rachmaninoff?"

Unfortunately, the piece of my brain that retrieves snippets of song from my cerebral jukebox must be reading the sign backwards - somehow translating the message as:
"Billy Ray Cyrus. Billy Ray Cyrus."

You can't afford to park there anyway.
This is the type of town that we live in - Near our house is a byway whose street sign reads: Old Beach Road.

Directly beneath is another, larger sign, stating: No Beach Access.

Remember, being nice never killed anyone.
Wait, did it? I think it might have.
Eh, you should be nice anyway,

Z.F. Lively
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