Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Damn The Torpedoes!

Southern Accents
Finally Fall, possibly my favorite time of year. At the very least, my favorite time of change. The temperature gets a bit cooler, the leaves alter their color before they dance to the ground, and our town's newest collegians start to wear thin of that "fresh from the vine" scent. Since we last met; we've celebrated birthdays and weddings, endured road trips and absences, witnessed the dalliances and break-ups of folks we care about, and spent too much attention on those folks that we don't. We can't actually rest, of course, as Christmas is waiting to clobber us around the next corner - but I'm definitely in the mood for a bit of "Ahhhh-Tumn."

I hate to sound like an old man -that's an old man's job- but I first came to St. Augustine some 20 Autumns ago. In the intervening years - a lot of changes have come about, although some things about this town (infinite road construction, local govt. ethic stance) forever remain the same. Of course, this is a Ghost town we live in - they are everywhere. After two decades, I have a few of my own following me around.

I am awash in memories every time I take a stroll. Some good ("That's where I found a hundred bucks!"), and some not so good ("That's where SoAndSo Silverton puked on my shoes.") I have, over time, managed to replace a few of the not so good with much better ones (i.e. turning "At this corner I was told by a classmate crush that 'We'd be better off as friends.'" into "That's the intersection where I had a really smokin' makeout session with my wife!").

Ghosts and change walk hand in hand, however, and often the latter begats the former. We recently saw the closing of our favorite local social spot. 'Twas a place where many of those aforementioned ghosts came to life. The first place the Wobbly Toms played a gig, a place where friendships were made and broken, as well as where Bess and I danced on the night we first kissed and the New Year's Eve we got engaged. The place developed it's own little community, where folks came in times of love, loss, and gossip. Many in that community are just ghosts now, some even literally - but change brings a new day, new places, and as always, a few new ghosts for future memories.

Long After Dark
I searched in vain for nearly an hour the other night, trying to find that well known antique- a pencil. Unfortunately, the office at my night job is slightly "modern," dating back to at least the mid 1990s. Therefore, there are no pencils to be found. I didn't need to write per se, but I did need a pencil for the one thing it contains which modern pens do not - an eraser.

Y'see, I had made a sketch earlier in the day and needed to clean it up before having it reproduced. Thus, I needed an eraser.

Alas, no one uses pencils anymore - which poses a number of questions; what happens to the overgrown supply of the worlds lead? If we have no more pencils, why don't we have more trees? And, what new-fangled pokey device are those CSI folks gonna use when they have to move stuff around crime scene evidence?

This is a shameful thing, America. Pencils made this country!
Or at least made it easier to correct.

Full Moon Fever
I don't ever expect much adventure from my night job, it's not too exciting. Heck, we don't even have pencils. We do get odd, bewildering folk or strange instances, once in a while (we're a hotel, not a Motel - those places creep me out). Such is the following:

It's a slow season (if you want to call 2009 a "season"), so we don't expect much on a Sunday night. I got a call at around 2AM, however, asking general questions about the lobby, and the computer we keep there. Standard guest queries, certainly, but odd coming at 2AM - when the lobby is closed.

I was then informed, without my asking, exactly why our guest was in the hotel and how he had come to his current lot in life. It's amazing how much information some people will provide, even unprovoked, isn't it? After 10 minutes of listening to his history of familial and physical troubles (oh, and throw in the terms "PTSD" and "ex-wife" every seventh word)- I began to think he may have some mental troubles as well. I did my best to quickly, graciously get off the phone - assuming that I'd heard the last of him that evening.
What a fool I am.

Four AM. A pounding on the door, locked since my earlier telephone conversation. As I open it, in stumbles a man in a swimsuit with what I perceive to be the glaze of concern over his eyes:

"Dude, you gotta call the cops!"
"What is going on sir?", I asked as I headed back behind the counter.
"Dude, there's a guy out here threatening my friends with a knife and he says he has some guns, and he's freaking us out"
"Has anyone been hurt?" I inquire, heading to the phone while looking for a phone book.
"Uh, no. But he's freaking us out and talking dangerous."

O.K. , I think. It's not a full alert emergency, but I can call the general police line and get someone over to check it out. I start looking for the number to the police station.
Regretfully, I tried to explain this to my panicked lobby guest.

"Dude, don't you know the number to 911?" his voice staggered "It's (loudly now) Nine- One-(pause)One."

Feeling a bit pestered, I picked up the front desk phone and dialed, but no answer. Having forgotten that you need to dial 9 to get out, I ended up using my cell phone out of frustration.
I got the dispatcher and explained that I had a situation at my hotel that needed investigation, or at least an officer to calm down my visitor and figure out the root of the trouble. I then gave my location.

"Oh" said the dispatcher, "You'll need the city department, hold please."

You got that right, I was put on hold by the 911 operator.

A second operator on line, I attempted to explain the situation - as I did so, I was approached by the man who had reported the incident to me. He asked if he could speak the the police dispatcher, and I asked the dispatcher if they would like to speak to him - which they agreed to. Yet another mistake.

It was in the midst of his explanation to the officer on the other end of the line that I realized this man was not exactly bewildered and upset - but drunk. This was displayed by his belligerent phone behavior with the police department. After a quick minute of blathering to the dispatcher - he handed my phone back to me:
"They hung up, dude."

Convinced that we'd just pissed off the police department, and that no officer was coming to check out the situation, I headed to the pool area, with nerves of steel. (ha!)
By this point, one of the other swimsuited guests had taken a seat next to our suspect and appeared to be chatting fairly amicably with him.

I approached and asked the man at the table if there was anything I could do for him, or offer any assistance. As soon as he spoke, I could tell that he was my caller from earlier. I then made a plan to diffuse the situation if I could - as I thought that I could do this peacefully and appease everyone involved.

I began to speak as a police cruiser (in the form of a jacked up SUV) pulled into the parking lot. It was immediately followed by a second. Then a third. As well as a fourth. Four police SUVs, each of which contained exactly 1 police officer.

I attempted to explain the situation to the officers - who were already in the pool area and questioning the suspect. After a few moments of confusion, the officers come to find out that the three reporters were actually interlopers from a hotel next door to the one at which I am employed. The cops themselves were not impressed with this situation in the least. They questioned the man with the knife (which had been sheathed and attached to a belt the entire time, apparently our friends were frightened of the fact that it was merely present).

While I verified that the man at the table was in fact a guest of our hotel, we confirmed that the three others were not and the police instructed them to leave. It was at this point that our actual guest began to exert his inner crazy. He inquired about bizarre legal facts with the officers,
verified the difference between a concealed and an unconcealed weapon, bragged about his extensive home gun collection that he acquired while a member of special forces - you know, the usual. The police began to leave, leaving behind one officer to finish the questioning.

He verified that this man had no ID available, yet, confirmed to me that he was "O.K."

The officer then climbed into his SUV and left.

I attempted to apologize to our guest for any inconvenience - and to explain why the police had been called, due to the other mens "concerns." The man at the pool wasn't having any of it.
He had almost been arrested - and if he had been arrested: he would have had to go to jail and pay a lawyer 5000 dollars and would have certainly been kicked out of his parents house and that it would have been my fault and that the bible says that I should ask for his forgiveness for what I'd done.

Keeping in mind that he still had his knife, I stated that I would like to be forgiven if he felt I had made an error in judgment.
Forgiveness granted, the man headed back to his room.

I headed back into the front desk area, and had been there no longer than 10 minutes when the phone began to ring. Guess who?

He would call me thrice on the front office phone - twice to berate me, yell again about the trouble I could have caused him, and -one final time to apologize for the whole thing and ask if I though it would be O.K. for him to take a walk around the neighborhood. He ended the call stating that the only weapon he would carry on his walk would be a little bit of wire - "in case I get attacked by a pit bull."

I must say that the police officers themselves seemed rather calm and unruffled throughout this ordeal. As they were leaving, I noted the full moon and asked if they had been busy that evening. As one officer simply rolled his eyes - another got back into his vehicle stating "Aw, this guy is nothing - earlier tonight a lady put me under a voodoo curse."

Highway Companion
I was walking down a road the other day and was passed by a station wagon. The car had a number of republican party and "red state" issue bumper stickers slathered across its backside (Cool with me, this is America- please support whichever cause you wish, so long as you respect everyone else who does same).

I caught up to the car at the next stop sign, spotting a glimpse at the inside. The vehicle was of European manufacture, the drivers operative devices being on the opposite side of the standard American models. My general tolerance toward political neutrality was pushed aside by my first thought, which was: "My goodness, is this woman so conservative, that even her gas pedal is to the far right?"

Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
6 pairs of Converse Sneakers that I have owned (thanks to Bess for suggesting this one - originally posted over on the bookspace):

1-Candy Cane Striped - (Thanks, Dad! These are ultra cool in that, not only are they Christmas themed, but the stripes are actually made from crushed red velvet).

2-Super High Tops - These were created by Converse in the mid-80's, featured extra top length and an inside material so that you could flip down the tops to have a hybrid looking shoe. I had two different pairs at one point. One pair was gray on the outside with pink on the inside, but my favorite were the Denim outer/Flannel inner pair that I wore all the frikkin time.

3-Doubles - I am currently wearing a pair that looks like another pair tried to swallow them. The inside is hunter green, outside is black (with green star logo) - and there's enough lace holes to feed an army, if you were to feed an army with lace holes.

4-Pure Black- Black rubber, black canvas, and black embossed/raised rubber logo. First fashioned to be a semi-retro looking version -about 20 years ago, I think- now kind of a staple in the Converse canon.

5-The Standard - Black canvass with white rubber and logo. When comic strip artists actually have the opportunity to draw the clothed feet of their characters; 8 out of 10 times - they draw a variation on this particular shoe.

6-Christmas Cons - The second pair of Christmas themed Converse I ever had is in a tie with my #1 as a favorite Converse design. Green and red canvas, with a pair of jingle bells attached to the top spine of each - I drove people in my high school crazy with those things, until somewhere around April when - due to wear and tear, the bells popped off.

Hard Promises
There's a house in my neighborhood that has one of those supposedly threatening signs, stating "I can make it to the fence in 3 seconds, can you?" with a picture of a dog above it. The only problem is, the dog that lives at that particular house, is a chihuahua. I've seen it - and I don't care how fast it can get to that fence, it ain't stopping nobody.

I'm going to go and stand out in front of that dog one day wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm 100 times your weight, and could punt you across the bay." Just to taunt that miniscule monster.

Into The Great Wide Open
So, I think we're gonna be doing some changes around Escalatorville as well. You'll start to see postings more often, probably shorter and more direct pieces, with the usual claptrap occasionally thrown in. Then again, as always, time could prove me a liar.
Of course, you can always keep Escalatorville informed of any interesting tidbits, advice, or places that still have double coupon days by writing to!

Thanks for reading, take your Escalator "TO THE EXTREME!" every now and then,
Z.F. Lively, Wildflower
Escalatorville Ink.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Low Down and Draggin' Edition

Greetings from Escalatorville. We begin this edition with this sentence of the day (taken from one of them interweb "news" services):
"Scientists don't know why a closely sniffed Ponderosa smells like baking cookies."
Now, since that's out of the way...

Vroom Vroom
The lovely Bess and I have taken to scootering as our main (read: only) method of vehicular transportation. Generally, this works just fine - we don't really need to go too far, and we save a bundle on gasoline. Also, Bess looks pretty cute on the damn thing.
I, on the other hand, must look fairly ridiculous - at least that's the idea I get based on the number of hoots, hollers, at outright guffaws that launch in my direction every time I ride the thing.

Consider the visual - I am six foot three inches tall, bespectacled, and have a robust red and white beard.
The scooter itself is small and pink.

I have also learned a little bit of scooter etiquette in my riding experience;on more major thoroughfares - be sure to stay toward the right side of your lane (it's a bit safer, allows passing space, and eliminates the direct inhalation of exhaust fumes); second, use the less squeaky brakes when tooling around the neighborhood in the early morning hours; and third, if you plan to compliment a fellow rider as you pass by (especially if they are cute and female), it's best to make sure you enunciate the space between the words "Nice Scooter."

Just like she was?
Dear Random SUV Driver; I am sure that your "Dearest Momma" appreciates the mobile memorial that you've turned your car into. She'd probably like it a bit more if the stickers admonishing your love for her departed soul weren't tilted, warped, and off center.

Benefactors Wanted
It’s been said that a million dollars doesn't really go too far these days. Tell you what, if anyone wants to fund the experiment - I’ll happily test that theory…

We see a lot of politicians stating how shameful and unfair it is that the current economic situation will eventually have to be reconciled by future generations. Yet, we don't see any of them opening up their own checkbooks, do we? I did some research.

As of 2006- the U..S. Census Bureau says, the median annual household income was $48,201 (yeah, I laughed openly at that too). However, the current salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is about $174,000 per year. Three and a half times the average - and in 2009, they have about 140 days of work.

Well, I think we just figured out how to solve a bit of this countries money troubles, didn’t we? Of course we’ll have to hide their pay cut within the back pages of an amendment to declare a ‘Celebration of Reality TV Day’ or something equally vapid. The plan won’t work if they actually read what they’re voting on.

Also, any uses of the term ‘Dawg’ in the familiar…
It's come to my realization, and hopefully yours, that the English language is in trouble. Some of our most worthy terms and phrases have been obfuscated to a point beyond recognition.. Yes, obfuscated (you have the internet, look it up). Three examples of terms we need to take back from the brink, or lose forever:

-"Hero" - I'm sick of everyone being a hero all of the sudden. In the wake of 9/11 (another phrase that we need to remove from the discourse, but don't get me started....), it seems that anyone can be a hero for nearly anything. Give money to a charitable cause - "you're a hero." Wear a flag pin on your lapel - "you're a hero." Show up on time and be photographed doing it? "Congratulations, you're a photogenic hero."

I may be a bit antiquated, but I recall when the term would only be applied to someone who committed an actual act of heroism.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am a fan of our police and firefighters, as well as the folks that sign up for our armed forces. However, just putting on a uniform doesn't make you a hero. If Superman never saved people, he’d just be a freak in a cape.

Drowning while attempting to save another from the same fate - That's a hero. Jumping in front of an assassin's bullet to save a child or dignitary - That's heroic. An Army recruit who shoots themselves in the face while goofing off with his/her gun? Sorry, not a hero, just a badluckian.

-"Role Model" - Shouldn't this distinction be determined by ones actions and intelligent decisions instead of notoriety or paycheck? Sports stars are not role models, they are simply good athletes with the skills required to be part of a successful corporation (and sometimes, not even that successful). A father who has to raise two kids on minimum wage and gets them to do homework without joining a gang or wasting too much time on television - that man is a freaking role model. Getting rich just for playing a game? Nice fantasy for most, but no role model status in that.

-"Celebrity" - used to be that you had to have a list of achievements in your field in order to qualify as a celebrity. Now anyone who happens to make it into a television frame or in an internet video thinks they deserve to be let beyond the velvet rope. You should have done enough work to be celebrated for your achievements - thus that 'celeb' portion of the word.
If you are famous just for being famous - that don't count.

You ever notice the hubbub that arises whenever one of those 'entertainment' programs promises to show a celebrities first interview in an extended period of time? If the appearance is a true rarity, then it's probably someone who actually deserved to be called 'celebrity' at one point in time. There should be a distinct line between actual celebrities and attention whores.

A former Beatle, Rolling Stone, or multiple Oscar winner = Celebrity. Nearly anyone who has embraced being on a 'reality TV show' = Fame Gobbler.

Flavoring the melting pot with arsenic
Just a thought, and I don't mean to cast any aspersions, but then again, maybe I do. Would all of those in the "Birther" movement be raising such a fuss if John McCain had been elected? I doubt it.

Even though McCain was born in Panama during a time when that region was still an oligarchy. Now that I think of it, why don't you show me your "long-form" birth certificate...

Some things should stay invisible
News reports indicate that Steven Spielberg is set to do a remake of the classic Jimmy Stewart film 'Harvey,' one of my personal favorites. If that's how you feel about cinematic legends Steven, then I guess you've given up all rights to complain if, 30 years from now, the world is presented with 'Quentin Tarantinos A Color Purple' or 'Schindlers List - A Spike Lee Joint'.

Nothing Up My Sleeve Dept.
Since I was younger, I've been a bit enthralled by Magic acts. I've been intrigued by the art of deception, and how the workings of simple devices can create grand illusion. I always enjoy the 'figuring it out' part - even when I have no clue as to how a trick was done. I also enjoy the element of 'cheese' that envelopes most of the performances in that genre which have come along within the past few decades.

Two self evident truths, however, have altered my thinking, and may make it difficult for me to watch those specials in the future. Truth Number One - Magic Acts are inherently mysterious and/or sexy. Truth Number Two - Magic itself (in the manner expressed herein) is Fake. Thus, Magic acts themselves are simply fake sex. Not exactly a substitute for pornography, mind you, but bearing similar specifics.

Think on it. You have a Magician, impeccably dressed, who can be any age, shape, or size. The magician almost always has two or three partners or assistants who are invariably younger, attractive, and flexible.

At some point in the act a "Magic box" makes its way onto the stage. Once an assistant has assumed a position relevant to the workings of the "magic box" - they are subject to being penetrated by the magicians blade, sword, or set of spikes. If not subject to the magicians dangerous points, an assistant might be contorted or transported to a new position.

The magician provides plenty of show, flourish, and grandeur while the assistant/partner usually gives an expression of either:
A) annoyed bemusement and concern
B) thrill, joy, and amazement
or C )utter boredom or despair

A side note for emphasis - no matter how intense, difficult, or impressive the magician makes it look, those in the know realize that most often, it's the assistant doing most of the work in that trick.

You Can't Spell Roulette without URL:
Now, a collection of random websites that you may wish to check out, or not:

For Your Sunny Day...
And finally - I've included it before, and may again - possibly the best 7 minutes ever committed to videotape(dedicated to the Lovely Bess on the occasion of her 27th birthday):

Have as good a time as you can, and thanks for visiting Escalatorvile.
Z.F. Lively

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Mama Say Mama Sa Ma Ma Cu Sa Edition

Add "In Bed" At The End.
There's an old wish/curse, oft credited to the Chinese, that states "May you live in interesting times". I think we've arrived. Have ya looked around lately?

Andy Warhol must be somewhere laughing, for he blessed us with a prophetic curse as well: "In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."

If only someone were keeping a better eye on that clock - it's seems most current celebrities have been hovering over 14:59 for far too long.

Adventures In Channel Flippery
I don't turn to the Weather Channel on a regular basis - but I have noticed that they employ a wide swath of humanity as'WeatherCasters'.

Now, despite what your local news program would indicate, I refuse to believe that half of all TV personalities are degree certified meteorological experts. Heck, I only know one in real life, and I doubt he gives a flying fig about being on the tube.

Back to the Weather Channel. Doesn't it seem that, at any given time, at least one of the personalities on that channel is pregnant? It's got to be a tough gig for any Mom-To-Be to act seriously about upcoming tropical depressions, all the while trying to maneuver your own emerging front.

And Candy Bars Cost A Nickel...
Call me old fashioned, but I liked it better when newscasters simply gave us the news. Here's a message for all those talking heads resting on their swivel pods: give us the info we need, stop pontificating, stop opinionating, stop being snarky, stop emoting like I am supposed to value your insignificant detritus of thought about miniscule and unimportant subjects.

Your job is to read the frikkn' news - if you want to distort the facts of teh story to suit your personal opinion or make yourself a star, then go somewhere else and get off the, supposedly impartial, "News" program.

Also, is it entirely necessary to have 17 different broadcasts throughout the day?. Our parents and grandparents had only 30 minutes per day of televised news (even less in the golden age of radio) - and they lived through much worse times than these.

I still trust Walter Cronkite more than any current teleprompted biscuit head.

From The 'And Take Your Lipstick With You' Dept.
Confidential to S.P. in Anchorage: I looked this up in a Dictionary:
Resign: verb. 1: to give up one's office or position : quit.

So, resigning -by definition- is "quitting". If you don't finish the job you took - that makes you a fucking quitter. My goodness, you've tainted the reputation of your office, your state, your gender, AND the Republican Party. Shut up and go away already.

Before you go, however, let's clarify your sports analogy. As Governor, you would be the teams Coach, not the point guard - and no self respecting coach abandons the team halfway through the second quarter - despite the score, or pending book deal. Stop winking at me.

Specific Solutions For The General Motorist.
I don't know if anyone has thought of this yet, but here's a suggestion:

Lets get all the car manufacturing employees to switch from building new cars to retrofitting all current models with green technology (whether that be bio-fuel or hybrid engines). Then everyone can bring their vehicles to local dealerships for a change over. It couldn't be that difficult to train the workers how to repair and retro-fit any car with more efficient fuel cells.

Next, lets open up trade relations between the United States and Cuba.

Y'see, Cubans have been using the same model cars for close to 50 years now - they obviously have found ways to keep these now vintage vehicles running through the years. Why not organize a swap?

We could simply trade our later model cars (now fitted with green engines) for the vehicles that have been clunking around that island since Fidel took over. We'll bring all those autos back to the factories where the newly trained workers can retro-fit them as well.

What true, road loving American wouldn't want to buy an antique car that runs on new, modern energy?

Tell ya what, as an incentive - for every re-modified classic "renewed" vehicle purchased, we'll throw in a box of authentic Cuban cigars.

The Cubans get new energy efficient cars, Americans get classic and newly energy efficient cars (plus the worlds 2nd best recreational smoke), and the earth gets to keep spinning without us wasting more oil or emitting harmful auto fumes into the ozone. Use the old engines to supplement ocean reefs where the coral is withering. Voila, we just saved the economy, global relations, and the environment. Everybody wins.

More Exciting Than That Pregnant Chick On The Weather Channel
There's a reason I'm not a television executive, yet... However, I bet the following idea would be a huge ratings hit. We will call our program "I Am The Best" - and everyone whom auditions will be selected as a contestant.

The lucky throngs will be flown to Guantanamo (there's got to be a big empty building down there somewhere) and forced to live in the facilities "Recreation Room" with all other contestants.

Every 36 hours the floor will drop out, plunging each and every contestant into a pool of acid.

A pool of acid that is also ON FIRE.

The winner: all of us whom detest the unbiased fame wagon that television has become.

The show could air between ratings champions 'Monkey Ferrets In Bumper Cars' and 'The Man Who Never Stopped Spitting.'
Hold on a sec - I have to take this call from NBC...

'A Single White Glove' Is An Anagram For 'He Lives On Til We Gag'
Some in the media seemed bewildered at the outpouring of emotion toward Michael Jacksons recent death and the way the world kind of slowed down for the days surrounding the memorial.

Well, I don't care what music you listen to now, or what you claim now to have listened to back then - but if you were, as I, between the ages of 10 and 17 when the album was released, you owned a copy of 'Thriller'.

I bought my 'Thriller' on cassette tape at a Sears store a couple weeks after it came out. I used $4.98 of my paper route money to do it - and proceeded to go home and play the hell out of that thing. I dug all the tracks, but I think 'P.Y.T.' and 'Beat It' were my favorites.

At the time, my sister and I lived in a section of town wherein we were the minority. Nowadays, you might hear our neighborhood referred to as 'mid-scale Urban' or something more sell-able in real estate terms. We just knew it as our neighborhood -in the midst of a fully integrated southern city in the early 1980's. I still listened to Top 40 and the local Classic Rock station - but I also got the vibe of what my neighbors, my friends, down the street were picking up on.

Whether it was the opening 'ooh-hoo's of 'Billie Jean' or - a couple years later, Slick Rick's 'La-di-Da-Di' - our musical taste was informed just as much by hearing what the Byrd Park crews were listening too while washing their parents cars on the weekends - as it was by commercial radio and whatever Dick Clark and Casey Kasem were pushing.

However, despite how much I may have enjoyed Frankie Goes To Hollywood or Cyndi Lauper - I wasn't aping their video moves in my bedroom at night. Y'see, that's what influence Michael had.

We didn't have cable television, so no MTV. The only video programs we had access to were Friday Night Videos (on whatever network that was) and a local, only semi-regular, half hour music video jukebox program. Lucky for us, Michael's videos made it everywhere.

Everything the man did back then was something to view in awe - it was beyond "pop music". Hell, my middle school shut down entirely for 5 minutes one day so that they could play 'We Are The World' over the sound system, in compliance with the simultaneous airing of the song on many of the nations radio stations that day.

This was and is the power of Michael Jackson to those of us now staring down our 4th decade and welling up when we fill in the vocal line to John Mayers interpretation of 'Human Nature'. He's not just a music star to us - he in ingrained in our lives.

We missed out on Elvis and the British Invasion - but Jackson's moonwalk on the 'Motown 25' special is our version of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

Sure, we may have turned to other musical genres as we got older, and we watched as Michaels achievements seemed to become more tabloid than Billboard. We saw MJ eaten alive by an increasingly vicious and voracious media machine;
-He sleeps in a tube they said (actually a rumor said to be fabricated by Mike himself to throw off the press)
-He wants to buy the elephant man (another rumor, spoofed by Michael in his video for 'Leave Me Alone')
-He wants to be Peter Pan (a kid who can fly, defeat pirates, and retain his youthful exuberance - who wouldn't?).

Yes, there was the trial. Charges of Child Molestation. A serious blow to the man-child that we had become obsessed with when we were kids. However, what the critics keep failing to mention is that, in a court of law - Jackson was ACQUITTED of all charges. An innocent man, in the eyes of our justice system, forever persecuted by the hangers on who made (and still make) their living by reporting on his behaviour.

Whether you trust his innocence or not is a personal belief, but some facts we cannot deny - Michael was a great humanitarian who, despite his odd behaviour, gave away millions to help others and founded organizations to assist humanity. Probably a lot more than you have.

Was the memorial a bit much? Of course. For me, it was a bit jarring to see all the Christ-like poses in the images his family chose to project behind those giving tribute (the most eerie being a photo from rehearsals for the new tour just a few days before he passed - Jackson, in mid dance, arms outstretched, in front of a giant neon sign reading 'This Is It'). Yes, I agree, the near sermons from those reading and giving blessings were somewhat over-dramatic( I half expect some merchants to be selling WWMJD? bracelets in the near future).

However, the man does deserve tribute and thanks. Especially if you were one of those kids, like me, who caught the wave at its largest crest. He made you want to dance, he made you want to smile. And I for one, hope he is able to finally Rest In Peace because of it.

That's Escalatorville for now. Be swell.
-Z.F. Lively

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Like Waiting For A Sequel To 'Waiting For Godot'

Welcome to the latest installment of Escalatorville. You doin' all right? No worries. Relax. Exhale. Inhale. Hold It (no, no, in your lungs - not in your throat, that'll just make you cough). Exhale. Repeat As Needed.

The Circumstance Of Pomp

Now's the time of year for college and high school graduation ceremonies. Throughout the land, millions of enrobed (until the after party) seniors sit in awkward folding chairs and, with a collective glance toward their watches, wonder about their future.

Mainly, "When is this speaker going to shut up?"

I have not been offered the chance to speak at any of this years commencement ceremonies (still available for certain dates -, I also do weddings).

I have, however, composed a brief and general address for any procrastinator looking to plagiarize an educational touchstone:

'Good [Evening/Morning/Gravy!] - Graduates, Faculty, Staff, and the group of boys and girls roaming the aisles selling popcorn and beer;

I thank you again for the Honorary Degree in [Arts/Sciences/Animal Psycho-pharmacology] you've bestowed upon me. It shall be displayed with pride in my [Home/Office/Band Room], adjacent to my [Nobel Prize/Presidential Citation/Woodstock '94 Poster].

Now, most speakers will try to burden you with overwhelming goals and indifferent expectations. I say "nay" to all that. You have relatives whom have driven many miles to be here, sweating out the whole ceremony in this stuffy auditorium - and they're about ready for a goddamn drink!

Therefore, I offer some simple advice to the youth of America:

-Buy more masking tape than you think you might need. Mistakes will happen, trust me on this. Also trust that as time wears on, you'll feel less and less like correcting mistakes than you will in preventing them.

-Stop living your life through soundbites. Stop living your life through soundbites. Stop living your life through soundbites.

And, most importantly;
-Pull up your damn pants, you look ridiculous.

There, that'll get ya through to yer next identity crisis. Oh yeah, expect one of those every 5 to 7 years - chill out, you'll get over it. Try to be kind - and pay attention.

Now, since you'll forget everything I've said the moment you leave the building, we move onward, upward, over, under, sideways, down.'

There's a reason they're called "Previews"
Recently, at a cinema nowhere near near me - I saw trailers for three separate, upcoming, fictional films. A portion of each films plot line revolves around the future possibility that the human race will be forced to go to war against armies of machines.

The special effects in each looked most impressive. It's amazing what super intelligent computers can do - ain't it?

Then Kettle Gave Pot A Mirror
I think anyone still using the phrase "Think outside the box," really needs to take their own advice.

Am I the only one that's noticed the rapid de-evolution of communication?

Once upon a time, we wrote letters to one another (and used phrases like "once upon a time"). Then we had the quaint, yet artistically inviting, post card. We enjoyed both quite well for many years.

Alas, someone invented the Fax machine, which begat Email and - ahem- Blogs.

In the modern era, much of our citizenry has reduced contact to texting and Tweets. Ever minimizing the amount of actual communicating. I predict that in short time, we will revert back to grunting.

With that in mind, I'd like to unveil my latest invention - just in time for the holidays. It's a device you can download to your computer or phone. A picture of your face responds to each query by either bobbing up and down, or shaking from side to side. It's called the iNod.

Insert Numerous Inappropriate Headlines Here (No Fights)
The two continuing rumors I keep hearing about our new Commander In Chief:
A) He is a fan and proponent of "Pork."
B) He is a Secret Muslim

I just want the theorists to make up their minds - by definition, he CANNOT be both.

Notes on Notes Dept.
If you are reading this, then you partake in the interwebs. Do you ever log-up to the SpaceBook? Well, I do - and a number of folks have tried to convince me to create one of those "25 Albums Of Your Life" lists.

Certainly, I could engage in a Nick Hornsby style list-off with the cast of 'High Fidelity' any day of the week. My life has been inundated with music since day one. Luckily for me, my parents appreciation for music was equally proportionate to the variety of their tastes in it. Oh, I'm a music snob to be sure, but I've always enjoyed a bit of sound from every stop on your radio dial - and many points off the dial as well. Therein lies the trouble, for as I told my good friend (and former band mate) Ross about such a list;

"It's been rattling in my head. I'll have a good rundown of 5, maybe 6 in there, and then I'll walk in while Bess is exploring the iTunes list - end up relating some story from when I first copied someones cassette and photocopied the j-card, even though I didn't really know anything about The Cure. Then 'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me' makes the list, which leads to 'The Head On The Door' and that 'Rubaiyat' compilation where The Cure covered The Doors. The Doors inevitably make me think of the Cult, and how can I make a life list without 'Electric'?"

With music, new stuff to love could be attached to the next email you read, hidden in the middle of a mix-tape you found at a garage sale, or wafting through the speakers at your local music emporium. So ya see, I would feel ill at ease simply throwing together my "25 Favorites" or "25 Best" because it's not fair to you or me. There's too much.

That said, in no particular order -

25 Albums That Changed How I Listen To Music

1) The Kingsmen - In Person: It's a live album by one of the first full time party bands. Their version of 'Twist and Shout' matches any that you've heard, and the original numbers pack a punch too. this album makes me want to play a gig every time I hear it.

2) Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - I Love Rock N' Roll: Flat out - the album is solid through and through. Catchy, great production, and polished yet raw. I, however, first heard the LP as I was entering puberty - and have had a crush on Joan Jett ever since. I bet you have too.

3) The Platters - Remember When?: Only one of the greatest vocal groups ever. You can pick this one up instead of any "hits" package, it's got most of them anyway. Pure 1959 wonderment embodied by 'Twilight Time,' 'Only You,' 'Good Night, Sweetheart' among many others. I'm not even going to mention 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.'

4) Walt Disney's Fantasia - Original Soundtrack: A near perfect introduction to the classical genre. You know every tune, even if you do sing "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" during 'Waltz Of The Flowers.'

5) Yardbirds - For Your Love: Pop music by craftsmen who listened to everything but. The entire collection is great, but there's a reason that I've covered the title song in nearly every single live show I've played for two decades. Staying Power.

6) Toots & The Maytalls - Funky Kingston: If you love reggae, you already own it. If you like reggae, you should own it. If you hate reggae, you need to own it. Not only for the title track and 'Pressure Drop,' but exquisite versions of 'Louie Louie' and 'Take Me Home Country Roads' that define the term "Re-make."

7) Derek & The Dominoes - Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: Forget about 'Layla' - you've already heard it too much (Hell, you've been hearing Clapton's own re-do for almost 20 years already). Concentrate on the rest of the set. That's what separates this 'supergroup' from the rest of that era. The entirety of the album is really, really good. Think I'm joking? Check 'Bell Bottom Blues' or, one of the better Hendrix covers (and there have been plenty) in 'Little Wing.'

8) Hank Williams - 24 of Hank Williams' Greatest Hits: I wouldn't say this about most recordings, but, track down a re-issue of this one if you can. Y'see, the first pressing of the LP had Hank doing overdubs (essentially cover versions) of his own songs. Latter editions use the original recordings. Either way, you'll get an education in song-craft with lessons that have been learned by folks in Country, Rock, Rap, and nearly every other style of Pop music.

9) The Four Amigos - Live At The Hungry i: I know, you've never even heard of these guys. Don't fret, I hadn't either. I did know a little about the Hungry i and own a couple other albums recorded at that nightspot. Although the LP itself is not too remarkable, it is a lot of fun. The group dynamic is quite friendly (as their name would suggest) and quite obvious. It's clear that the performers here really enjoy what they do.

10) Tom Lehrer - An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer: There's a lot of folks who do musical 'parody' numbers. Lehrer was/is one of the smartest - and this album shows how a solitary performer can enrapture an entire audience with wit. In his jocular manner, Lehrer seems to both enjoy and disdain his pieces. Yet his work is quite evident, and thorough. The smartness of the writing should be enough to enthrall you with the album. Even when a song seems simple enough, listening to the lyrics illuminates the songwriters intelligence and dedication to the craft of parody.

11) Billy Squier - Don't Say No: My favorite Billy Squier song is not even on this album - that would be "Christmas Is The Time To Say 'I Love You'" (quite possibly the greatest Rock N' Roll Yuletide tune - and I would know). Whether you realize it or not, there is a "Classic Rock" radio station in or near your hometown that depends on this album daily. 'Lonely Is The Night?' Check. 'My Kinda Lover?' Check. Then there's track #3 - the immortal 'Stroke' - a song everyone you know has giggled about for 30 years...
"You say you're a winner, but man, you're just a sinner now."

12) Rocky Horror Picture Show - Soundtrack: I didn't see the film until well into high school, but thanks to a couple of cool caretakers, I knew all the songs by age 10. I also learned as much as one can/should learn about transvestites, science fiction, and Meatloaf at that age. Richard O'Brien certainly knew how to craft a memorable tune, but I knew them just as well from ad hoc sing-alongs in the living room after doing my homework. To Jo and Timmi - thank you for being great sitters, and for sharing a then - eclectic taste in music and culture which awakened my aesthetic senses.

13) Single Bullet Theory - Single Bullet Theory: This is an example of a band releasing the perfect album for it's time - and I'll bet dollars to donuts that you've never heard of it. This recording bleeds 1982 and bridges the gap between the new wave synth sounds and guitar pop which featured so prominently on the Top 40 of the day. Great hooks, and songs guaranteed to stick in your head. Also, the band is from my hometown, Richmond, Virginia. My dad knew a couple guys in the group, and as a kid, I got to see them play a few times. Now, nothing is cooler to a pre-teen than watching a band you have a (tenuous at best) personal connection to win the 'Rate A Record' segment of American Bandstand - so perhaps my opinion is slightly biased. The dice rolls and coin flips of record label marketing divisions wreak havoc on the futures of too many great bands. Unfortunately, such was the case with S.B.T. The album never got the promotion it needed, yet so aptly deserved.

14) Radiohead - The Bends: Often overlooked, the 2nd set by music's most innovative group in decades is what began their trek from merely interesting to downright intriguing. With 'Fake Plastic Trees,' 'Just,' 'Street Spirit,'- what more do you need? Oh yeah, 'High and Dry' is on there too.

15) R.E.M. - Automatic For The People: I bought this album as soon as it came out - and immediately recorded it to cassette. A year later, when my mom died, I listened to that cassette more than a dozen times on the bus ride from St. Augustine to Richmond. The songs were recognized touchstones that guided me through unfamiliar territory. It's a fantastic album even if you're not going through a period of sudden mourning - which I hope you aren't (but if you are, pick it up).

16) Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat: Yeah, it's the easy choice for music snobs like myself. We'll point out the innovative use of sonic dissonance, feedback, and sparse instrumentation. Then we'll toss around terms like "influential," "groundbreaking," or "before it's time" to relay this LPs importance in the scope of modern, and post-modern, "rock" music. Really though, it's simply a unique and cool record.

17) Country Joe & The Fish - Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die: What exactly is this type of music? Rock? Folk? Vaudeville? A bit of each actually, while mixing some goofy fun with a bit of political messaging. It's got the original version of the the "Fish Cheer" immortalized at Woodstock - plus the album included it's own board game and features a drummer named "Chicken."

18) Prince & The Revolution - Purple Rain: This is one soundtrack that is tainted only by the movie it represents. You know most of the songs by heart - and despite whatever peaks or valleys Prince has traversed since then, there is no more perfect blend of rock, funk, and R&B. Parliament fans, don't hate me for that statement - it's much funner to play air guitar to 'Let's Go Crazy' than it is to, say, 'Night Of The Thumposaurus Peoples.'

19) John Mayall's Blues Breakers Featuring Eric Clapton: B.B. King said "the Blues had a baby, and they called it Rock N' Roll." John Mayall has been introducing mother and child for decades - this album is a springboard for many future meetings. The originals, like 'Key to Love,' are fantastic - but check out Clapton's interpolation of the riff from 'Day Tripper' into Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say.' The entire album opens a window overlooking the vast meadow of the blues.

20) Beatles - A Hard Day's Night Soundtrack: Truthfully, any or all Beatles albums would make this list, but this is one that merits a story. On the day after John Lennon was murdered, our baby sitter Timmi (also a writer - check out or, sat with us in our living room and played all of my parents' Beatle albums. I remember that day distinctly. That afternoon sparked my interest in music. It's why I have shelves full of vinyl records and CDs, it's why I have weeks of tunes on the computer. The page of that day holds a bookmark in the story of Me. This is the first album that I can really recall "getting into." The juxtaposition of the Fab 4's pop tracks interspersed with George Martin's instrumental and orchestral versions drew me into the world of possibilities offered by music.

21) The Who - Tommy: At first listen, this was just a collection of songs to me. Some I had heard on the radio, most I had not. Then, after a couple listens, I got it. I picked up on the story - and found that an 'opera' could actually be unstuffy, enjoyable, and easy to hum along to.

22) Fred Waring And His Pennsylvanians - Twas The Night Before Christmas: Waring's unique re-tooling with the structure and vocal arrangements of typical Yuletide fare are key to understanding how malleable a song can be. Side two features more traditional religious themed holiday pieces - quite well done - but it's the secular side one that will give your next Christmas party a kick in the pants.

23) Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed: I dug the sound of 'Monkey Man' long before I knew what the song was about. This album has that affect. For those whom make the claim that Mick, Keith, and company are indeed the 'world's greatest rock band," this collection should be your main evidence. Skipping over the realms of Rock, Blues, and even Country - the album manages to stay cohesive despite it's varied influences.

24) Love Sculpture - Forms & Feelings: The year is 1970 - on their second LP; the trio of Dave Edmunds, John Williams, and Rob 'Congo' Jones throw together some standard - dipped in the era - original tunes. What really sells the collection for me, though, is the relatively obscure cover of 'Mars' from Holst's 'The Planets'. Even more intriguing is how 'Mars' segues directly into the blistering ear candy comprising a 12 minute rendition of Khachaturian's 'Sabre Dance.' You'll totally dig it.

25) Various Artists - The 1969 Warner Reprise Record Show: In the late 1960's and early 1970's, record companies would circulate inexpensively priced promotional sets containing samples of new recordings by their popular (or poised-to-be popular) artists. Variations of this practice still exist, albeit with less creativity, and lesser artists. This particular compilation happens to be one of the best. The selection of tunes runs the gamut of musical choices available in 1969. Songs by Joni Mitchell or Pentangle can be found canoodling with tracks by Theo Bikel and Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention. I'd like to salute the programmer behind this particular collection. All 4 sides flow extremely well, and besides, who could resist closing an album with Fats Domino's rollicking version of 'Everybody's Got Something to Hide (Except Me And My Monkey)?"

Well, that's the list. Some folks out there might be scratching their heads, expecting a bit more variety or more obscure recordings.

"What about the Residents, Soul Coughing, They Might Be Giants?" I hear you cry,"Where is Eno/Byrne's 'My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts?"

Your concerns are warranted, but the above list are titles taken strictly from my vinyl collection - records only.

Oh, I could easily compile another 25 from across all mediums - or get creepily specific (Yes, I do have a Top 25 Christmas Albums list in the works). This is just an introduction to the musical world of Escalatorville. I started on 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records - and that's where my collector's passion lies. I only hope my selections can give a little insight, and perhaps a bit of inspiration for your collection.

Listen. Enjoy. See ya 'round Escalatorville again, let's hope.

Sonically yours,
Z.F. Lively
Concerns always welcome, answers always hazy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The 'About Damn Time' Edition

The History Books And Me
Despite my recidivist absenteeism, I would like to wish one and all a Happy New Year (I used to wish a happy "and prosperous" new year - but the suicide hot line is way too busy right now).

Time does indeed fly, albeit in coach. My goodness, it's already been two months since we attended the inauguration.

I did say WE. Meaning, us.

Even if, like me, you were nowhere near the District of Columbia on that day; didn't it feel, just for a moment, that we were all part of the same neighborhood? Together, we shared not only hope. Collectively, we felt the relief of survival. For an instant, we had climbed back into the sunlight after years of crawling in darkness.

On this occasion, I ambled toward our town square where a swarm of humanity embraced a communal gazebo. As the throng executed a diplomatic pivot toward a large projection screen - I headed toward another area of the plaza.

Feeling more solitary than pretentious (as I was sole occupant of the structure) - I stood in the remains of the old slave market.

In that globally shared snippet of time - I stood proud, relinquishing a tear to those history stained bricks, as Barack Obama placed a hand on Abraham Lincolns bible, and became President of the United States.

Never a country of quitters, we soon went back to blaming each other for everything. God Bless America, please hurry.

And that goes double for 'Axel F'
Have you ever been "followed" by a particular song? Y'know - sometimes it seems that a specific tune always seems to be on the radio in the car, or on a satellite system when you go out for a bite to eat. For a week or so, you might hear that song a couple/few times a day. I'm certain it's happened to you. It must have.

Usually, I'm one to take pleasure in these instances. I celebrate the organizational question marks that the universe lays upon us every now and then. When I am a music target, as pre-described, I'm generally pleased to get re-acquainted with a familiar tune.

However, this months pick is 'Walking In Memphis', which is beginning to make me a little nuts. Because, I fucking hate that song.

Thoughts on change
The state quarter of Montana features, on it's non-George side, a cow skull. Honestly, A Cow Skull. Tough state, that one. It's kind of a threatening declaration, dontcha think? "In God We Trust, but you ain't him, sucker."

Tales from the Homeland, part 657
"Recently, I was at the bank..." is how a number of my tales begin. I wonder why the type of situation I am about to express always happens to me at the bank. Also, why do I always seem to be at the bank? Comparatively, me going to the bank is akin to motoring by the greenhouse to drop off a twig.

So, uh, I was at in line at the bank - it was a Saturday morning - I felt a tug on my arm.

"Well, will you look at that?!?" The middle aged woman spoke, in a husky, non-hushed tone. The wispy tendrils of her free hand pointed out the dread locked hairdo of a gentleman ten foot ahead.

She continued, still clutching, and louder.

"Can you believe it?," she cawed "Lookit that hair!"

It was my chuckle which caused her to release my arm, and to cackle with mis-guided satisfaction; "Looks like he put peanut butter up there!"

I use the term "mis-guided" because, my sleeve stretching friend - that chuckle was not derived from the sight of that doting dad - teaching his child about how a bank works. No ma'am. I chuckled when the aroma of your exhalations forced me to realize what you'd enjoyed for breakfast, rummy.

I detest the future, always have. Don't even mention now to me, ask me later.
Ever since ole Ben Franklin declared taxes and death as life's dual unavoidables - it certainly seems we've spent the most effort trying to dodge both.

Old man reflects on times past
I've staggered around this burg for the better part of 20 years. during one of my inaugural strolls about town, getting acquainted with new friends, I found a bit of the absurdity which continues to enthrall me about this little city.

Window shopping in a retail district one evening, my pals and I had gathered in a storefront, when a figure emerged from the shadows. what direction this ominous creature descended from we had no idea. We did catch a glimpse of moonlight in his palm. Realizing the size of the blade headed toward us, we prepared for the inevitable handing over of wallets, purses, et cetera.

It was then that they mystery of this tiny tourist trap spoke out - in the tired, yet forceful voice of our presumed mugger:

"Uh, any o' you wanna buy a knife?"

Stunned, we offered a stuttered variation of "No, thank you.," but I have no idea what was actually spoken - or by whom.

Our visitor turned slowly. With a shrug and an "O.K., then" - he ambled up the block.

Now, DO NOT get me wrong. Oft times in this city Danger IS Danger. Once in a while, though, "Danger" is just an awkward salesman.

Thanks for tuning in to Escalatorville,
Z.F. Lively

The opposite of hate is tolerance. the opposite of love is unthinkable.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lag Time

"I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them" E.V. Lucas

"Tardiness in literature can make me nervous." - Manuel Puig

"Good counsel never comes too late." - German Proverb

"There is, by God's grace, an imeasurable difference between late and too late." - Mme. Swetchine

"Life is a race, where some succeed,While others are beginning;
'Tis luck, at times, at others, speed,That gives an early winning.
But, if you chance to fall behind,Ne'er slacken your endeavor;
Just keep this wholesome truth in mind: 'Tis better late than never!" - John Dyer

new dispatch coming soon,
Z.F. Lively