Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Every Mother's Child Is Gonna Spy...

Later on, we'll conspire -as we dream by the fire...
It's been a bit chillier in the Nation's Oldest City of late. We're not immune to low temperatures here, but it always seems to come as a shock to most residents, and especially visitors. The complaints start as soon as the wind chill brings us down to the mid-50s - as if the Tourism Board advertised that Florida would have its own privatized weather system. C'mon people, not all of Florida has Disney money...

The chill does serve to remind us once again what time of year it is. The blast of cold bringing to mind the winds and snows of Christmases past, thoughts of fireplaces, Santa Claus, and lengthy journeys devised to bring gifts to kids. The cold air and our frigid fingers should also serve to remind us that it's the time of year to warm our hearts as well.

No matter what celebration you espouse at this time of the year, chances are - its roots are in kindness and joy. It's a time to share a smile with a stranger, to share grade-school jokes with co-workers, and time to remember that- yes, if you are able to read the words I've posted here - you are more privileged than the majority of humanity.

In hard times, so called, we tend to be a bit more selfish - especially in the financial department. Yet, we should hold fast to the memory that this is not the season of getting. It is indeed the season of giving. Remember, please, that the notion of giving highlights the advent of, and crowning moments within, our existence - and it's a notion far far older than money.

Deck The Halls, Hit The Decks
I went to the local Christmas Parade this year, it's always an odd juxtaposition of the segments of this little burg's community. This year, the Pirates Ship immediately preceded a unit comprised of WW2 veterans. I wonder if the planning committee thought that out. Did it occur to them that parade spectators would get to see overly made up drama geeks firing cannons directly at the few remainders of the greatest generation that still exist in our town?

And Caroling out in the Snow...
Anyone who has known me for more than ten minutes knows that I am a fiend for Christmas Music. Yet another reason why this is my favorite time of year. Whether it's a 1950's "novelty" record from Augie Rios to Mannheim Steamroller, I have a special place in my heart for Yuletide themed musical wonders (with the exception of that damned "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" drek.)

In my mental cataloging of Christmas hits and ephemera, I have noted something similar in all of the following "Christmas" songs:

Jingle Bells
Jingle Bell Rock
Winter Wonderland
Baby, It's Cold Outside
Let It Snow
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
Sleigh Ride

Y'see, these rumored "Christmas" Songs have no mention whatsoever of anything specifically related to Christmas. No Jesus, No Santa, No Rudolph, No Shopping. Nada. (Check Out Lyrics if you don't believe me).
Bewildering, huh? Well, you know what this means.

We can now sing them all year long.

Holidays In The Video Age: Betamaxmas.com and Beyond
It wouldn't be the holiday's without another list, so here is some noteworthy entertainment for you. Click on the links and enjoy:

One of the best of the Rock N' Roll Christmas Songs, especially of the 1980's, was a gem from the always underrated Billy Squier. See how many early MTV Veejays you can find in the video for Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You

Also a favorite is the Royal Guardsman's Snoopy's Christmas, someone put together some footage from a Charles Schultz show, and it looks like this

It's Christmas all over the world, although I'm not sure I know what anyone in Japan is actually doing.

In other parts of the world however, Christmas goes way beyond what we know of it here. Mr. Steve's is always very informative.

Finally, a Christmas rarity - it's a Pink Floyd Christmas, no really - a Christmas Song By Pink Floyd

I hope that brings some Yuletide Cheer, have a great holiday and a happy new year!
-The Gang At Escalatorville
"De-Humbugging Since 1971"
escalatorville@yahoo.com for letters to/from Santa

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Dispatch From Escalatorville; Turn On The Positron

A Louse-y Start
In every touristy, beach adjacent area, you are likely to find a store that may sell tiny crustaceans as pets. My daylight employer used to be one of those stores, but stopped this practice for a variety of reasons long before I started working there.

We do, however, get return customers eager to view or purchase from our "pets" section. However, no matter how many times we deny that we sell them, and as routine as the response has become, I was caught unawares the other day.

A young girl ran in, jogged up to the counter - and in a voice loud enough to cause everyone in the store to turn and look in my direction asked:

"Do You Still Have Crabs?!?"

In the seconds it took for me to comprehend the actual intent of this question, I turned beet red. Then, I answered in a slightly raised and perfectly clear voice - so that I too could be heard by the entirety of our customer populous:

"No. We No Longer Sell Those Creatures Here."

Having realized that he has now begun two separate, yet sequential Dispatch's with obtuse references to the order Brachyura - our author attempts to change the subject:

Me, Myself, and I-95 (Volume 1)
In my 24th year, I purchased my very first car. I bought it mainly out of convenience, and for a fairly lengthy Christmastime road trip that I would be taking a couple months after its purchase. However, if this experience wasn't humorously anomalous, I probably wouldn't be telling it. The tale of my first owned vehicle - and it's brief history in my universe - is one that left me weary and wary of vehicle ownership. In the 15 years since the advent of this story, my history of travel has improved a bit, yet to this day - each adventure arrives with a hint of trepidation.

At the time of this tale, I was employed by a local museum - where a co-worker hipped me to his friend the mechanic, who happened to be letting go of a car. After a couple meetings with said "friend," I checked out the car and test drove it. $1300 later, it was mine.

The 1983 Honda Accord Hatchback was imported from Japan - as Honda's production facility in Ohio wasn't running at 100% capacity yet. It featured a four-speed automatic transmission, as opposed to the three-speed which had been standard until then. What it did not include was an Idiot Trigger -a fictional light/sound device I just made up that would begin to glow/buzz with increasing frequency as one begins making bad automotive decisions. 'Coulda used one of those.

A month to go before the trip, I began to get the car updated, upgraded, and generally combed over by a fix-it shop in my neighborhood. I took it in for an overall inspection and to see if there were any other peccadilloes that I may have overlooked.

After having the car in the shop for a couple days, I called to check on it's progress. Like every decent automotive inspector/repairman would, they had found quite a few things that needed to get fixed. I asked;

"What would be the best things to do for the car?"

Then the mechanic said (and this is an exact quote, folks):

"The best thing you could do for this car is to drive it into the river and then piss on it."

Instead of taking him up on this advice (which, in retrospect, would probably have been more entertaining), I authorized his team to make the repairs necessary. All tolled, the amount I spent on fixes and repairs for this vehicle in the first two and a half months of ownership equaled the amount I had paid for the car in the first place, $1300.

In the meantime, the guy whom sold me the car had split town with his girlfriend, and left no forwarding address.

Again, where was that Idiot Trigger?

After depleting the bank account for repairs, the day of the trip came into focus. I had been lucky enough to attend the wedding of two good friends a few days earlier, and the night before my journey, I joined them for dinner along with some other close friends of the bride and groom.

We finished our meals, then said our goodbyes around 10PM. I drove home, took a quick nap, and made preparations to leave. I gassed up the Honda at around 3AM, and headed off for the adventure.

Driving from St. Augustine to Richmond isn't really that difficult. You simply turn onto Interstate 95, drive north for about ten hours, then turn off interstate 95. Simple. I thought I might make it home in time for lunch.

The first trip to the filling station went fine, I even checked all the cars fluids just to be safe. "Hunky Dory," I thought, and I was on my way again.

My plan to head out early worked, I was making great time, as there was almost no traffic. Then, about 730AM - the car made a sound. A discomforting sound. A sound which resembled a coughing competition between a room of octogenarian smokers and a German Shepherd.

As we are taught in Drivers Ed, I did what anyone in this position should rightly do: I cursed. Loudly.

Next, I noticed the smoke. Pouring out from under the hood, thick and Grey - puffing up into my face to laugh at me for buying the joke of a car from whence it came. I managed to pull over safely to the side of the road and let the car come to a complete stop.

Then I cursed some more.

Moments later, as I paced beside the billowing, belching vehicle, I tried to put ideas together in my head as to how this situation could be resolved (hopefully, before lunch). Still fairly early, the traffic wasn't heavy - but there were a few rubberneckers straining to see where the plumes of smoke were escaping from - yet no one willing to stop and help.

That is, until an odd little camper van type vehicle slowed down, and pulled up behind the Accord. A man and his young son emerged, carrying two bottles full of water. As they approached, I recognized them. The day before, they had been visitors to the museum at which I worked. Austrian, I remembered, as we had had a bit of language difficulty at the ticket counter.

The man spoke very little. His son spoke less. The man offered water to cool things off, and I opened the hood to spill the H2O in whatever way would have been the most helpful. Alas, the water, though a very polite gesture, didn't cure anything.

The man and son went back to their camper van after indicating to me that they would try to alert any police or sheriff that might be patrolling. They hopped back in their vehicle and puttered off, vanishing like ghosts into the off-ramps and exits that laid before us on the highway.

10 minutes later, a proud member of the South Carolina Sheriff's department stood at the side of my car. This being the days before everyone was was constantly telephonic, the officer indicated the pay phone was available one exit away. Looking toward an upcoming highway mile marker - I was just outside the towns of Turbeville and Florence, South Carolina - about half way through my journey home.

The officer offered to drive up to the next exit for me, as he knew of the only garage open in town on Saturday morning. Desperate and thankful, (although in retrospect, this seemed like sketchy behavior on behalf of the cop - didn't it?) I watched the officer drive off - and return 15 minutes later, tow truck close behind.

Apparently the only garage in town open on a Saturday morning was, as it turns out, a one truck establishment which I can only remember as being named something similar to "Old Man and Sons." It was run by one Old Man, a very nice but tired and quickly aging gent; and his two sons, both in their mid-30s, still acting as though they were in their mid-teens - the type of fellows who only string together a sentence or two at a time, half of which are sex or fart jokes..

We all piled into the cab of the tow truck and drove my sorrowful vehicle back to their garage. Now when I say "garage" here, what I'm actually talking about is the barn located behind their double-wide trailer - in the suburbs of Outskirt Village. I sat on a doorstep made from a railroad tie, in front of an AstroTurf welcome mat, while the Old Man inspected the damage.

After a few moments, the Old Man's wife (herewith called "Old Lady") came out and asked me if I wanted some water or to use the phone. Both please, I requested, and I was let into the house to make a collect call, letting my folks know what was going on at this point, and also to let them know that they would be expecting more collect calls from me throughout the day.

In the mean time, the Old Man had inspected the car - and determined the damage. A split engine block, cracked head gasket - major damage. That car would not be running again that day. After he made numerous phone calls to parts reps/dealers/service centers, etc - the man came back with a few answers. It would take at least 7 days to get everything - and the cost, you guessed it: $1300.

I took this as an omen, and really wanted to get to something that resembled "home" at this point in time - so I struck up a deal with the man. Take me to the nearest airport, let me get back to Virginia. Then, I would call him within two days - if I wanted him to fix the vehicle, I'd figure out how to get the money to him, and pick it up on my way back through. Or, I would mail him the cars title, allowing him to do with the car as he pleased, with a promise to send me a bit of the profits should he see an monetary benefit.

He agreed, and then offered his sons services in escorting me to the Florence airport, 40 miles away- via their own pickup truck.
"Thank you," I said, and started grabbing my things.

It was no problem, they replied, and it would only cost me 40 bucks!
(Strange as it is; sometimes, when your caught between a rock and a hard place - it actually helps to be kind to the rock.)

Grabbing the belated Christmas presents I had loaded the car with, I made space within my luggage and said goodbye to a favorite blanket which remained in the hatchback of the Accord (not to mention a glove box full of totally awesome cassettes, damn!).

We clambered into the cab of the brothers pickup truck, and I knew immediately that I was in for a "fun" ride. I sat in between the two brothers, and could see a couple freshly opened beer bottles sitting in the floorboards - which would be emptied and replaced by the time of our airport arrival. I glanced at the dashboard clock, it was 10 AM.

Now, I will veer off-topic here for just a moment to say this: I have always enjoyed the music of AC/DC - however, I much prefer their earlier works, as opposed to the stuff they've been cranking out since, say, the "Thunderstruck" era. That's may own personal opinion, make of it what you will.

That said, the only music these brothers had on hand, was the cassingle (yup, another "C" word from the land of the '80s) of AC/DC's "Ball Breaker" - which was played in its entirety, repeatedly, for the entire 30 minute drive. Yes - we drove the 40 miles in 30 minutes. [Just for the record, I am against this type of offensive or reckless driving. As the lovely Bess can attest, I drive like the really old people in public safety films of the post WW2 era (however, in this particular case; I felt that asking them to slow down was akin to a man faced with a firing squad asking for sunblock).]

Nonetheless, we arrived safely - and I stumbled out of the truck, head still rumbling with the sound of Angus Young's guitar.

I had asked to be taken to an airport - not because I love to fly - but I figured that's where one could rent a car. It would be cheaper, and - since I may be returning to this very town in a matter of days to retrieve my soon to be miraculously fixed vehicle, why not rent a car that I could return to this very place? A simple plan, which worked marvelously - until I got to the rental counter. I produced my ID when I was asked, only to be rebuffed by the clerk:

"We can't rent to you." the voice (whose face may or may not have been an actual blur) stated.

In my head, I went through a litany of reasons why I should be allowed to rent a car; no traffic violations, no criminal record, finances relatively secure (I had one paid-up, until that point, credit card), and was having a not great day. So why shouldn't they rent me a car?

Alas, at 24, I was told, for probably the last time, something that I have only wished I could hear more often in the intervening years: "You're Too Young."

Too young to rent a car, eh? I looked into my wallet and grabbed the credit card. I went up to the nearest ticket agent, and asked for a seat on the next, cheapest flight from Florence, South Carolina to Richmond, Virginia - a distance of 343 miles.

At approximately 1040 AM, after being awake all night, leaving a trashed car 40 miles away on a lonesome morning highway, and having to endure a ride from hell with the brothers goof-nut; I was told that I could easily make the next flight- in 7 hours.

I bought the ticket, and made the calls to folks back home, letting them know the new plan for my arrival . My Dad would meet me at the Richmond airport later that night. Everything was worked out. Now, there was time to kill.

A lot of time to kill.

The Florence, South Carolina airport is about as big as a kittens paw and had, at that time, more Christmas bows on the walls than paying customers in the halls. There were a couple of televisions, playing local news, followed by whatever the Saturday Matinee B-Movie may have been that week. There were a few benches, and I believe a food/coffee cart - which sold three magazines, 'People,' Newsweek,' and 'People En Espanol'.

I wanted out.

Coming onto the airport property, I had noticed a sign for a museum near the airport grounds. After I had stepped outside for a breath of slightly different air, I saw another sign leading from the airport parking lot .

The museum was a couple hundred yards away - I could easily walk to it, lose myself inside a museum for a while and make it back to the airport proper with plenty of time to make my flight. So, I started walking. The museum wasn't that far at all, but had plenty of advertising on the short distance along the dirt road leading from the airport to the museum. I filled my head with the many time-wasting and interesting exhibits that lay ahead, hoping I could spend at least a couple hours filling my brain with things that didn't involve expenses, cars, or any combination of the two. I got to the the museum grounds, turned a corner and headed directly toward the front door, where was posted the following:

'Closed On Saturdays'

Dejected, I turned around - and since there were no windows low enough to peak into, I started the walk back to the airport. Slowly.

I made it back in time to watch the end of the Saturday Matinee from a bench next to my departure gate. I started doing a crossword puzzle - and then must have either succumbed to the demons of slumber, or just faded into oblivion, for the next thing I knew, I was within an hour of flight time.

Excited, I was finally headed homeward. I had neglected to check the details of my ticket. I was indeed traveling toward Richmond - however, I'd be taking three separate flights.

At this point, I simply didn't care. I hate to fly, but I desperately wanted out of Florence.

I boarded the plane - a simple 60 seater, which transported 15 of us from Florence, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia - where I had a brief layover before boarding a 24 seater which flew me to Raleigh, North Carolina - there, I boarded a 12 seater, which carried me from Raleigh to Richmond . If you want to compare mileage flown to the amount I paid for the ticket, I suppose I got a bargain.

Finally, somewhere around 11PM, I stepped into the final airport I would see for quite a while - and sat enjoying the ride as my father drove me to his house, where I knew a meal and sleep were finally going to make their appearance.

As it turns out, I chose to rid myself of the car. Upon returning to Florida, I sent Old Man & Sons the title to the Accord, and wished them well. I hold no grudge against the town of Florence, however - I do get more anxious any time I have to travel through that area. There's a strange vibe in the air, I guess, and it causes things to happen. In the years since, I've had radio stations change themselves, cars suddenly backfire, momentary gas pedal failure, but no more breakdowns. I call it the "Florence Shudder" - and sure enough, it's there nearly every time I am.

Perhaps, however, it's my old vehicle calling out to me across the woods and back roads of South Carolina - trying to draw my attention once more. I wouldn't doubt it's carcass is still there, somewhere, slowly rusting it's way to the netherworld.

Plus, it's been a decade and a half now, that Old Man hasn't sent me a dime.

A Not-So-Secret Recipe
On a trudge to find material goods, I saw a man ambling along the sidewalk in my direction. The gentleman stopped in his tracks and flared his nostrils, taking a whiff of the mid-day air. His eyes then scoured the street. After a couple seconds, I saw him point, and call out:

"Hey man! Hey! How you doing?"

Targeting an assumed friend riding a bike on the opposite side of the street, the man darted across the road. I could see where his attention lay - a fast food To-Go container in hispals right hand.

"Hey Man, lemme get some of that!" He cried out.

"Some of What?" I heard his friend reply - before tuning them out...

I had allowed myself to become distracted. At the moment that fellow pedestrian with the healthy sniffer hopped over the curb, my attention was grabbed by a sight in a recently opened confectionery. Through the shop window I could see the cashier standing, bored, dejected at a counter in the empty room. In the window itself, just below the level of her slumped shoulders, was posted a sign with the exuberant exultation:

"Shop With Us Online!"

Half a block later, I was passed by a man on a bicycle, a rigid grip still holding his lunch.

Ah, Escalatorville - it's like a sandwich made of words.

Z.F. "My hands have two left feet."Lively,
Man Of Letters
escalatorville@yahoo.com (it's for email)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dispatch From Escalatorville: Grieving, Reprieving, Pet Peeving

About mid-August, during one of my evening walks, I was approached by a drunken bicyclist who stopped to offer me a warning:

"Those College Girls are making it rough tonight, man - but you don't want them anyway, don't go get crabs from one of them (Insert Name Of Local College Here) girls!"

After acknowledging that I had no intent of such a thing, I walked on.

However, as an Alumni ["Class of Blah-blah-Four" - I think (give me a break, I drank A LOT that summer)] - I felt for a second that perhaps I should report the incident to my Alma Mater. Goodness knows what might happen to the good name of the college if it became a habitat for those parasitic poachers of pedantic privates.

Less Steam, More Punk.
Folks that see me on a regular basis can attest to the fact that I am not exactly up to date on modern gadget trends and popular devices. I'm what you'd call a retro techie. I still play records on a near daily basis, and the only electronic gaming system in the house is an Atari 2600 (circa the year my wife was born).

However, the lovely Bess and I do have cellular telephonic communicators, which we will soon have to get upgraded. As a technophobe, of course I am wary of this. I do like having the ability to text and to talk to friends/family/government agency switchboard operators - but that's really all I desire in such a unit. I don't need to access the net from elevators or parking lots. Nor have I the urge to "update my status" constantly or broadcast when I've just walked into Schmengies House of Big and Tall Falafel*. I'm just not programmed for that type of living. I needmore apps in my normal life before I get them on my phone.

*On a side note about modern tech - Spell Check thinks this word should be either "Falwell," " Falstaff," or" Faulkner"

Eaves Dropped
Working in tourism retail, as I do, I get to listen in on snippets of conversations that occur between family members. Most often, what I hear are folks arguing whether Uncle BoBo deserves the three dollar or seven dollar charm bracelet. However, the ones I enjoy the most are the disjointed rejoinders spoken by folks, such as grandmothers or friends of parents, whom have volunteered to journey into the store with youngsters - while giving "a break" to the childs progenitors.

"Oh, you wanna find Mommy? I'll. Take. You. To. Mommy..." I heard one woman state, creeping me out more than the kid - after the childs relatively subdued (yet still loud) objection to their company.

However, I recently heard possibly the most disturbing phrase uttered from the lips of a woman stating to her baby, in that baby-talk that we all adopt when confronting anyone under the age of four:

"Ooh, you could take that apart, eat the pieces, and it would choke you, yes it would."

At least we're teaching our children honesty at an early age.

Alternate Tune-ings
Sometimes songs have to be played at the right time - after all, don't you too think it's a bit odd when you're listening to The Who's "5:15" and you realize that its only 4:42?

Also, I'm all for the occasional "re-interpretation" of classic songs, but I think we need to police ourselves a bit better. It's only a matter of time before someone comes up with a Drum N Bass remix of "Abraham, Martin, and John."

I always enjoy when the radio announcer reads that a highway report is sponsored by a fast food entity or donut shop, then has to begrudgingly tell us that traffic is indeed HEAVY.

"The idea is to die young as late as possible." ~Ashley Montagu
The house we rent is located directly beside a baptist church. On Sundays (and on Wednesday nights when they rehearse) we love to hear the church band. Since the church itself is literally 10 feet from where I write this, the sounds of their services carry quite well. Joyful and boisterous gospel accompanies the Fire and Brimstone preaching during typical weekly services, among other events.

Of course, there is also an occasional funeral. On crowded church days, it's not unusual for overflow parking to occur directly in front of our house. It's a bit unsettling on funeral days however, as I've opened the front door to greet a hearse just sitting there, waiting. Quite an ominous message, if I do say so myself.

I don't mind the funerals so much, as they are generally a celebration of life and are imbued with the jolly spirit that flows during the churches regular service. A few months ago, however, there was a funeral for a younger parishioner. the funeral was proceeding as they usually do, until suddenly, a heart-stopping wail came from inside the church. I believe that it also came from deep within this poor woman's soul - for days I could not unhear her cries of "My Child! My Baby! Why, Jesus Lord God, Why?!?"

The memory still haunts me. The sounds of her anguish and loss has made me reluctant to ever attend another memorial service. Not if I ever have to witness this in person, instead of simply being an ear-stretching neighbor.

Thus, I offer this precursory request to my friends and family: stay healthy. My heart nearly breaks at the mere telling of this story, and brings back memories of those I have already lost. I cannot imagine how I will survive should this occur to any more people I actually know and love. Now, I expect you to all outlive me - and I plan on making it to at least 98 or so.

Go to B-Deck immediately! I repeat: Go to C-Deck immediately!
It's well known that Abraham Lincoln was loved by everyone [Not everyone. He was assassinated, remember? Ed.], thus, he remains the source of great party quotes. For example, in his Gettysburg Address, he decreed that government should be "of the people, by the people and for the people."

I wonder if Congress and the Senate have a smudged copy. A lot of them seem to be reading it as "F the People, Buy the people, Abhor the people."

Watching all the infighting and playground bullying in Washington D.C., I think we might take heed of another ripper from Honest Abe: "Can we all just get along?"

Very Interesting, Your Papers, Please.
I think a lot of folks would agree with me that there seems to be decline in traditional, respectful, honest journalism. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any reporters willing to write about it. Then again, I live in a city where the local paper is printed 40 miles outside of town. A paper which advertised itself as "Not your average mullet wrapper." At least they admit to being a mullet wrapper.

However, the mindset is such that the paper will still mark any female citizens accomplishments by emphasizing that the achievement was made by a woman. Then again, this is a city in which the tour-tram drivers speed up a little as they pass through the historic African-American neighborhoods where M.L.K. walked and spoke - all the while touting the towns importance in the struggle for equal rights, as if it were actually over.

Also, A nice place to visit.
Despite my consistent criticism, however, I do love living in this coastal burg (i.e. I love to go camping, knowing there's a great chance of snakes and/or poison oak). I'll leave you this time with a couple more snapshots of my adopted hometown:

Seen on the street, through a monster truck window, around 9PM on a recent weeknight - a clearly exhausted middle aged man handing over a fistful of cash to a half naked woman. Of course, I assume he was reimbursing her for Surfing lessons, but why take care of that payment so far from the actual beach?

Also seen on the street, at 1045AM on a Sunday- a college age bicyclist heading back into the neighborhood balancing an 18 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon on his handlebars. That's a definite Augustinian weekend.

Escalatorville loves you, hang in there.

Z.F. Lively,
Linguistic Recidivist
(we write back)

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: There Ain't No Cure For The Summertime

Howdy, thanks for coming back. We've been away for longer than we had hoped, due to various reasons other than whimsical slackery (honest). I'll tell ya a bit about the Tar Ball Jamboree towards the end, but there's also been an overwhelming heat this summer which has slowed everyone I know at least slightly.

Yes, although we Floridians can handle the annual sweltering piss-hewn mugginess of these robust months that makes lingering fingers of steam and stench grasp upward from crackled pavement in praise to their devilish master-the sun; this year it's been hot. We like our weather to stay "average" here, a variation of five degrees in any direction is far too extreme (a definition which kinda suits the well-staked political vibe here as well). Thus, this year the papers will report that we experienced a "chilling" winter followed by a "blistering" summer - and folks in Vermont or Baja can laugh accordingly.

Another in the long line of excuses? I was almost demolished by a car on my way to bring this Dispatch to you...

It was an average evening following an average day - and I was headed to my night job (a term I can now use in earnest, having obtained daylight employ as well ). I crossed May street with the light; a light that I had just waited 5 minutes for, constantly pressing the "Cross Street" button in the hopes that I may trick the button itself into thinking that there are indeed 79 people waiting, and not just me..

As I wandered through the crosswalk, I saw a vehicle out of the corner of my eye. I'm not sure that I've ever 'hurtled', or seen anything 'hurtled' for that matter - but that car was hurtling toward me, I'm fairly certain. In as many moments as a split second can handle, I watched in cliched slow motion as the car continued it's turn and through the very lane I was currently crossing.

It was obvious that the driver didn't see me until the last second, what could have been THE last second. However, at that second (the almost last one, remember?), I spewed forth an utterance that for what my ears can tell came out as the great and resounding "HarHeaaeaeaeaeaiyyauaugh!!"

Apparently, my less than onomatopoeiac chortle is also universally understood through some hidden translator in automobile windshields and driver doors - as the pilot of the hurtling car screeched to a halt. I only saw his passengers agape face in blur, however. During my yawp, I had jumped to my destination curb - allowing the driver to see that I was physically unharmed before he sped off into the dark.

It's Summertime, U.S.A.
Based upon what's been making the "charts" lately, I've decided that we need at least one new aural description. "Newsic" - sound made by pop artists of the modern era which, although apparently popular to listen to, doesn't showcase any musical talent whatsoever. Now you have a place to file all your Ke$ha LPs.

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer
About 6:45 A.M. a recent morning, I was in the hotel lobby at the end of my shift chatting with my follow-up shifter when a little old lady (of the stereotypical little old lady club) came in with a query.

"Do you know if there's any jewelry stores in town?" she asked. Well, of course, there are a plethora of them in and around town. In a retiree rich community, they are a near necessity. I have friends that work for them, and the lovely Bess has also done time in the jewelry market. Unremarkably, there are none open at 7 AM, holiday sale days notwithstanding. This woman was urgent, however, and when we told her that there were none open that early on a Tuesday - she became slightly confused and concerned.

Then came her admission. It seems her friend had hurt a ring finger the previous day, and had gone to the hospital to get it fixed. Having bandaged up the finger, the woman had put back on her rings. Overnight, here had been a bit of swelling, now complicated by the rings tightness on the woman's finger - causing the finger itself to turn colors, and meaning that the ring could no longer be removed by traditional methods.

What bewildered me slightly was the concern about the ring seemed to outweigh the concern over the woman's finger. I can understand not wanting to damage a pricey ring, but didn't they realize that once teh woman's finger falls off, there's no place left to put it?

Another trip to the hospital was simply out of the question, as we were so indignantly told. So, we dialed the local firehouse - the man who answered my co-workers call stated that they could, in fact, cut through the ring in order to remove it.

After giving the old woman directions to the firehouse, she exited the lobby. A few moments later, we saw their car leave the parking lot, presumably on it's way to the fire station. I left work about the same time, and as I watched them down the road a piece, I hoped that after the ring situation was under control, our fair ladies wouldn't hassle the firemen with any of their other troubles - like turning off their cars blinker.

Daydream Believer
I mentioned that I had recently begun a day job to compliment my night job (hey, bills gotta be paid, and since when is sleep ever important on a Monday?). As our section of the state is a pathway towards both beaches and theme parks, I found fiscal refuge in a souvenir shop. Observing the world that passes through the spectrum of retail, I get to view quite an array of humanity, and more hilariously the outfits that folks think they can get away with in public. I saw one tourista [I assume she was a tourist because she spoke in broken English and was spending money (it was the spending money part that convinced me)] wearing a T-shirt which read in all it's glittered glory:
"Ghetto Fabulous"
This is ironic because she was neither.

Summer in the City
On the most recent Fourth of July, I headed over to a friends casa after work, along with the bourgeoisie and banalities that cover our little cities streets. As I turned a street corner, I noticed the following site; A family, headed to stake their claim at a firework viewing area, no doubt - emerged a dozen or so strong from an illegally parked RV - with hands full of lawn chairs and packed plates still steaming with their meal. How American is that?

California Sun
Some folks have asked for an update on a recent Escalatorville character: Everyone, the Fish is still good, still alive, and thoroughly enjoying his 9 cubic feet of space all to himself. The lack of rain has kept his hidden among the depths, but I saw him while replenishing his home with water the other day. I fed him the remainder of some tortilla chips - then he disappeared. Perhaps I should have included some salsa?

I also want to bring your attention to the Tar Ball Jamboree. If you live in the St. Augustine area - or can visit between August 6th and 7th, be sure to join me at the Fraternal Order of Orioles Nest. we're hosting a benefit for workers affected by the Gulf Oil Spill that won't be getting money from BP. Efforts will support two different organizations: The Greater New Orleans Foundation and Pensacola's 399 South Project. The performance schedule looks like this:

Friday, August 6th:
8:15 PM
-Joe Moody
9:15 PM-Jeremy Rogers
10:15 PM-Z.F. Lively

Saturday, August 7th:
8:15 PM
-Amy Hendrickson
9:15 PM-Chelsea Saddler
10:15 PM-Z.F. Lively's Open Jam

Yup, I realize I'm on there twice. I'm an egocentric bastard, so what? Show up anyway, and you'll hear some fun music and support a good cause.

Until then, even when life throws you a curve, take the escalator anyway,
Z.F. Lively
CAOO(Chief and Only Officer), Escalatorville Studios
Christmas is coming, send recipes!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Dispatch from Escalatorville: Shaman, Showman, or Sham,man?

I really need to mow the lawn. Honestly, I do. Alas, it is that time of the year when the heat outside makes one want to stay in the kitchen, or bedroom - or wherever there's a couple of fans and an A/C unit. The grass, though, will be mowed - if I don't do it, then we will be overtaken by nature, and human beings just don't allow that to happen.

I fantasize that somehow, these blades of grass will bloom into marvelously whimsical flowers - emerging as if in an old cartoon; beautiful frolicking blooms, splayed with wonderful colors, singing show tunes from the 1920's - only to collectively commit suicide in about three weeks - never to be seen again. Unfortunately, my reality doesn't have a special effects department.

Writing is a beast of a slightly different nature. Occasionally, there are blades of wit that need time to grow roots, expand, and blossom. There are others that need to be put down before they fester and become ugly, unrecognizable, and eventually ossify into banality (because let's face it, Z.F., no one will ever look forward to a screenplay based on the lyrics of "A Tisket A Tasket").

So, here are a few small, furiously cut weeds of ideas, put out to pasture while we allow the more ornate and lavish ones to germinate for a bit longer.

Zip it.
Even with the surge in electronic communication the past few years, we still get junk mail through the door slot every week. Of course, all of it is advertising of some sort, no matter how official it look (thanks for the confusion, Bank Of YouKnowWho). Stuff addressed directly to us is usually read and recycled, however we also get a lot of mail addressed simply to "occupant." I deal with this detritus simply by writing "not at this address" or "deceased" on the mail itself and then dropping it right back into the postal system. I think I may switch to "return to sender," however, if only to put more of a burden on the jerks that sent it in the first place.

Recently, we've gotten some junk mail for a former resident - promoting rebates for pre-paid cremation services. Now, I know it's been at least 10 and probably 20 years since this particular person lived in our house. I'm sure they don't want to hear about that service now - hell, they may have already used it.

On Luck: Tails
Side note to the scratch off lottery players in line at the corner convenience station - one win after 10 tickets does not, in fact, mean that you are now "on a roll..."

On Luck: Heads
I walked by a man the other day as he was taking out his garbage. When he opened the curb can, he looked down in amazement, reached in, and - having retrieved his treasure - exuberantly turned to me stating: "Dude, I just found a dollar in the trash!"

My immediate response was that we should start checking every receptacle in town.

In retrospect, I wish I had told him to spend the dollar on something recyclable.

Cute met Creepy, and they created this...
New Candidate for the Oddest Conversation Starter Ever: walking past an octogenarian just before a slight smattering of rain, the old man looked me in the eye and asked-
"Are you in the mood for a little sprinkle?"

Since local government is usually a freak show anyway...
I'm a firm believer that theme park technology should be employed throughout our cities as a means to not only increase tourism, but also to add more excitement in our everyday lives. Consider the Roller Coaster as an efficient, fun, and speedy form of mass transportation. Or, how about animatronic "jumpers" placed on drawbridge railings to give the tourists schooning below a bit of a thrill?

I'm just spitballin' here, but I think if it's dollars and civic enjoyment that your town is after, this is the way to go.

Here we are, now entertain us.
I wonder if all the folks upset about privacy issues on social network sites would be as aflutter if you could convince them that they're info was actually being sent to various talent and modeling agencies instead.
Are you paying attention, Friendster? This could be your 'comeback" plan.

I feel stupid AND contagious.
We must be headed to the end times. I keep finding proof. Such as Paul Anka's interpretation of Nirvana.

It's really a shame that Sinatra didn't live long enough to cover Lady Ga Ga, isn't it?

There's a reason Garrison doesn't return my calls...
No matter where you are, within a few months it will be pledge time for your local public radio station. Herewith, I propose slight modifications to current programs that will all but guarantee new donations:

"This American Afterlife"
"All Thongs Considered"
"The World Of Oprah"
"Diane Rehm's 'Glee'"
"Fresh Air and Cheeseburgers"
"Las Vegas Home Companion"
"Fart of The Nation" (to be broadcast directly before "Wait Wait, Don't Smell Me!")

No Life Guard on Duty.
In the middle of my overnight shift, I usually patrol the hotel grounds, just to make sure all is safe and well in the world of overpriced comfort. One night recently, as I walked past the pool area; I noticed a man sleeping, possibly just passed out, with his feet in the jacuzzi - a beer can and small plastic container at his side. Now, we've had guests pass out in that section before, St. Augustine's boats wouldn't float if not for streams of alcohol. However, this man was NOT a guest - and he was completely unclothed. So, how does one approach a naked trespasser?

The obvious answer is - cautiously. Having encountered various characters in my hotel tenure, I was uncertain if the man might be concealing any type of weaponry or agenda. It seemed that all his cards were on the table, so to speak, but I didn't want to risk it.

I raised my voice slightly, as it was 4:30 AM, and I didn't want to wake any of our actual guests, nor alert them to the presence of our drunken nudist.

"Excuse me, sir.." I began from across the pool grounds. Apparently that was all it took to rouse the fellow back to consciousness. He awoke, apparently still inebriated, yet also unashamed. I told him that as he was not a guest that he'd have to leave the property immediately.

He seemed startled, but began to gather his accouterments. Holding up the plastic container, he told me "I have my toothbrush" - twice - then he grabbed the beer can, along with the pants and shirt he had left crumpled in a corner. After asking him to put on his clothing, I repeated that he would have to leave the property, and to please take his belongings with him. He started to put his shirt back on, and walk toward the exit. I let him know that it would be advisable for him to also put on his pants, and he did so. Still, he was ridiculously slow about vacating the property. As quietly threatening as I can muster at that time of morning; I gave him 30 seconds to get off the property and started a vocal countdown, "Thirty...Twenty-Nine..." thinking that might expedite his egress.

The pool area is literally 20 paces from the street - a ten second jaunt at most. Our obstinate exhibitionist wanted to head out the long way, through the parking lot and out the back exit of the hotel property. As such, my countdown got down to "...Three..." before he was gone. As he left however, he wanted me to remember one thing - holding up his toothbrush and beer can he continued to remind me that, no matter what transgressions he may have committed (public intoxication, public nudity, trespassing), "I am not a litterbug."

And this...
I'm sure someone other than me has said it, but I think it always seems darkest while you're looking for the light switch. It's also good to remember that in life, we do need some time of quiet, so that we might further appreciate the noise.

Now, off to make the lawn a little shorter...

Z.F. Lively, Grass Monkey
Contact us: Escalatorville@yahoo.com, It gives a keyboard something to hope for.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Lost Victims Of Her Hellcat Parade

I spent part of a recent Sunday enjoying the soon to be oily sands of a local beach with a few of my best pals and their kids. The lovely Bess and I took the opportunity to ride bicycles the few miles to the park where we all met up. As Bess and I are the palest people on the planet, we opted to buy sunblock on our way to the sunny shore. In order to obtain the most optimum sunblockage (damn you, paleness!), we decided on the surf store near the beach itself. I have to say, the sunblock worked great (it better have - it cost the equivalent of a down payment on a cabana). However, I was on a borrowed bike with a poorly adjusted seat and wearing shorts; this meant that the area directly above my knees was exposed to intense tentacles of heat with every pedal rotation. As such, for about three days after, the tops of my legs were two glowing vermilion patches which ached every time I moved. Their blatant and belligerent redness resembled the shell of a lobster. I took it in stride, albeit a painful stride; I've had that coloring before...

Cooking Failures of the Pacific Northwest, Part Two (AKA The Lobster Boy Chronicles; Part One)
In my early Seattle days, my then roommate and I welcomed a visit from two friends from back east. To celebrate their visit, we had planned a weekend jaunt up to Vancouver, Canada. It's a quick car trip and we thought it might be neat to explore another country for a couple of days. On the morning before we were to leave, I was scheduled to work. Thus, as my pals left to experience the culinary thrills of breakfast in the Emerald City, I opted to stay at home and cook my own. In retrospect, I should have gone out to eat.

As I finished prepping my bacon and eggs, I did the environmentally conscious thing and pulled out the canister in which we kept the remaining fatty oils left over by our kitchen experiments. I began to pour the excess bacon grease from the frying pan directly into the canister. My aim was stellar, although I absentmindedly let a drop spill onto the still hot burner. The resulting flame was slightly startling - causing me to jump back with a fright.

It was this jump-back that provides the impetus for the remainder of our tale. I remember this part in slow motion - during my awkward regress, I managed to spill the remaining, boiling, bacon grease across the entire back of my left hand. While I cannot recall the exact sound I made as I felt the searing of flesh, I remember losing my mind a little bit as I headed to the bathroom in an attempt to rinse the evil from my skin. I watched in terror as the epidermic layering of my hand literally flopped around, falling from the hand itself, some of it hurtfully grafting onto other parts of the same appendage.

Instantly, I knew I would never write or play guitar ever again. I can't accurately describe my brains backflip as it juggled my deformed future with the agony of destruction enveloping what was quickly becoming the throbbing stump of a forelimb. I "washed" the hand a best I could and - after making sure fires were out and all kitchen knobs turned to 'off' - flitted with a quickness out the apartment door.

Luckily, this occurred in Seattle, where there are decent hospitals in every neighborhood. I recall counting backwards the 7 blocks I hastily walked up Capitol Hill to the nearest medical center. I didn't have much of a wait in the reception area - it could be that the center wasn't busy that morning, or perhaps the staff decided to rush me through once I removed the washcloth covering my hand to reveal why I had come to visit.

I must report; this was also a time when I had decent insurance coverage and made a fair wage, so my attitude was one of "Damn the expense, just save my friggin hand!"

A medical assistant arrived and, with a surprising calm, noted the severity of my situation. I won't get into more graphic details, but suffice it to say, there was trouble deciphering where in fact the back of my hand stopped and where fingers began. In a flash of time, the medical personnel applied soothing ointment to the hand itself, and began to remove the bits of charred and faltering flesh. This miracle ointment caused some of the swelling to go down - after a time, my hand began to at least resemble a hand again.

I knew I'd live, but the day and upcoming trip to Vancouver were in jeopardy. Given a lesson in how to change the bandages and apply a salve everyday - with a dash of confidence thrown in for good measure, the staff sent me on my way - my hand wrapped in a massive bandage to cover the grotesquerie beneath.

I was late for work at this point, but I had to let my supervisors know that I wasn't coming in. This being the early years of the cell phone era, I didn't have one, so I strolled the short distance to my ofice downtown. Finding my "team leader," I explained that because of my deformed stump, I wouldn't be able to either answer phones or type for the next few days ("but since I'm going out of town this weekend, could I pick up my paycheck?").

In the meantime, my roommate and friends arrived back at the apartment to a very strange scene.

Apartment door - unlocked. Television - still on. A frying pan lay in the bathroom sink while a full plate of breakfast remained on the kitchen counter, tantalizing yet untouched.

They had assumed that perhaps I had been abducted. I would have thought the same thing.

I was, however, able to phone home before I left the office - we decided to go forth with the planned excursion. When I did arrive home, it was with the query "Y'all wanna see my hand?"

As I unwrapped the bandages, the pulsating mass of gore made itself - and its relative safety at that point - known. At that moment, I was given the nickname I would hold throughout our entire trip throughout Vancouver, from GasTown to the aquarium. Whenever anyone needed to get my attention in all of lower west Canada, one only had to shout "Hey, Lobster Boy" and I knew they were talking to me.

Spoiler Alert
If there's anything that watching television for uncountable decades (o.k., about 3 and half) has taught me, it's this:

When you're watching any of those procedural crime dramas or forensic shows - if there's an Oscar recipient or other high profile, big name, actor listed as a 'special guest' in the opening credits; 9 times out of 10, they're the one who did it. You can almost count on the final shot of the show consisting of their character, led off in handcuffs, showing an award baiting scowl toward the camera and the programs central character. Bet on it.

You could always vacation in Hookersville, West Virginia
Let us now play a fun game with words! Which of the following are venereal diseases, and which are merely towns in New England?
-Candida Albicans
-Treponema Pallidum

Merely insensitive, or just hamming it up?
Recently, a City Councilman in Jacksonville got himself into the news when he requested that a Muslim nominee to the towns Human Rights Council "say a prayer to your god" during a public discussion of the man's nomination. Now, why would this elected official (who has already announced his intent to run for re-election in 2011) corner this man, a board member of a respected interfaith organization, with such a religiously divisive and seemingly intolerant query? Knowing Jacksonville, I'm guessing Job Security.

Victory Dances/Concession Stands
Every election night during speeches from the winners AND also-rans, the news programs always frame the participants in front of giant pennants and posters plastered with the names and slogans of candidates. I think we should buy stock in banner manufacturing, because no matter the elections outcome, that's gotta be a win win.

Stamp = 'Like' button
You know, if we spent half as much time writing/addressing/sending actual cards and letters as we all do on facebook, we might be able to save the Postal Service.

Then again, Apollo was an Ancient Greek...
So, we're all used to hearing the Iggy Pop song 'Lust For Life' used to advertise Cruise Ships, despite the fact that song itself contains lyrics such as:

"Here comes Johnny Yen again,
With the liquor and drugs,
And the flesh machine."

I have no problem with this. When pondering a vacation on the high seas - thoughts of booze, pharmaceuticals, and miscreant sex with men named after currency often spring to mind.

Even so, I recently heard that NASA was using the Rolling Stones 'Start Me Up' to awaken the astronauts on the International Space Station. As we're now upon the final missions of the Space Shuttle fleet that made the station possible, I wonder if anyone gave thought to the creepish irony in the lyric

"If you start me up I'll never stop.
I've been running hot. You got me ticking gonna blow my top."

Or, perhaps they just fast forwarded to the end of the song -
"You make a grown man cry.
You make a dead man come."

Who knew NASA was really an acronym for Negatively Aberrant Sound Alerts?

I Loves Me Some Interwebs
Funny. I typed the word 'anagram' into a Google search, it came back with the response 'Did you mean 'Nag A Ram'
Nice one, 'Ego Log,' nice one.

Remember kids, Escalators don't stop, even if you do.
-Z.F. Lively, Spaced out, beach-y keen.
Escalatorville@yahoo.com, now with E-mail!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dispatch From Escalatorville: Pogo Possum Wuz Right!

At the founding of Escalatorville, the lovely Bess and I lived in Seattle. During my stroll to and from work, during lunch breaks, or simply on a walk around town, I would inhabit the many escalators in the downtown area.

Thoughts and ideas would come to me as I rode, and I compared the process to what transpired in my noggin during brainstorms and such - ideas go up, come down, occasionally resting or moving to some other level.

Eventually, we moved back to St. Augustine - a town with only a few buildings over one or two stories - and, in the ironiest of ironies - no escalators. At least not to my knowledge, and I've been through about all the public buildings this city has to offer.

Nowadays I take daily walks around neighborhoods, and spend more time avoiding those public buildings than I do meandering about in them. However, I couldn't just rename the blog - because calling it "The Dispatch from The Nation's Oldest dusty, litter covered streets" just doesn't have that familiar ring to it.

So here we are, three and a half years along, still tossing ideas up and down throughout my brain, crawling up the creaky staircase of imagination, one ancient step at a time.

In tribute to the origins of Escalatorville, however, we start with a tale from the bank of Jet City memories...

Cooking Failures of the Pacific Northwest
Once, my wife and I owned a toaster oven. It served us well, reheating meals, crafting crescent rolls alongside other breakfast and dessert snackables.

Then, with one teeny little kitchen experiment, I murdered it.

Sitting in our shoebox of an apartment, I decided I'd fix a treat for us as a reward for a hard days work. I took what we had on hand; some little round crackers with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on each one - gently placed them in the toaster oven, heated at the "Low" setting, and awaited deliciousness.

Three minutes into cooking, the faint smell of smoke crept into the living room. Figuring the crackers cooked a bit quicker than expected, I sauntered into the kitchen, thinking that maybe a little burning at the edges might enhance the taste.

I glanced through the window/door (windoor?) of our beloved toaster oven to see that not only were the cracker edges crispy, but they'd burst into flame.

Before my eyes, havoc spread - within seconds the entire inside of the oven was scorched. I yanked the electrical cord out of it's socket, and threw our overheated friend into the sink, blue fire still running round its innards. Water was no help, the fatal damage had been done.

Smoke wafted throughout the entire apartment. Then, the entire apartment building. It was strong. Strong enough that we felt the need to contact the maintenance supervisor, letting him know of my idiocy - should he have to field calls or queries from other tenants.

Bess and I began to air out the apartment, but the scent lingered for hours. Later that evening, with my head hung low; I carried the cooled defunct device through the basement, into the garage, saying sorry and goodbye before depositing the spent fella into the dumpster.

The next time I attempted to make a snack at home, I did so using the actual oven, at a temperature slightly above frigid - and it took forever. I enjoyed every bite, however, knowing that at least this time, I had not killed anything in my quest for tasty treats.

Golden Slumbers
Given the state of the economy, combined with how those thieves of Wall Street are running that game lately - I wonder if any moderately wealthy folks are in need of someone to stuff their money into mattresses? I have my resume at the ready...

Garbage In, Garbage Out (or 'Why do they call it an "office" if they never do any work?')
I keep seeing these new campaign ads which start with some candidate declaring "I'm not a Politician, but..."

They go on to describe how electing them will make all of our lives grander and more fulfilling, because they aren't a politician and don't do that "politician" stuff.

Well, here's a news flash - if you're running for political office, yer a damned politician. Merriam Webster even concludes that a Politician is "a person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow, usually short-sighted reasons." If only the Politicians themselves would be as honest as the dictionary.

It's funny isn't it? The way that politicians, when seeking to get into office, will stop at nothing to prove themselves to be the most upstanding and responsible men and women - only to get the job and behave like absolute children.

Take a lesson, politicos; the guys who so nobly haul away my refuse twice a week - they call themselves trash men - and frankly, they seem a lot more dedicated to getting junk out of our lives than you ever have.

It's coming right for us!
Call me old fashioned if you will, but I prefer my reality to be in 3D, and my movies to be on a screen. In actual life, I can put on or take off my glasses anytime I like, and I don't have to pay double to do it.

If you can peel yourself away from the booktube...
Every so often (an by "so often," I mean "day"), I peruse the WorldNetInterHighway, like everyone else.
Here's a recent batch of coolness;
-Ruminations and other ephemera by one of my multi-instrumentalist/recording engineer pals, featuring a picture of Dr. Fleischman's office.
-A blog belonging to the coolest mom I know in Atlanta.
-And, a memory hole that will steal hours of your life away.

What the Folk?
Our town recently held the 15th annual Gamble Rogers Folk Festival. Walking past a local parking lot on the Saturday afternoon of this nationally known event, I overheard a man ask a parking lot attendant:

"Do y'all have any reserved spots for performers at the Gamble Rogers Festival?"

To which the parking attendant replied: "Um, the what? I don't know what that is."

As happens too often in our mini-burg; half the town is always excited about something, while the other half has no clue what's going on.

Rules of Consumerism
A)If the spokesperson can't pronounce the name of the business or product correctly, its probably best not to trust that business. I'm looking at you, 1-800-"Axe"-Smitty.

B)In adverts for medicine, when the warnings about side effects take longer to explain than what the medicine actually does, you probably don't need that either. You shouldn't have to get a doctors permission just to take a pill for indigestion.

How To Be A Player
I'm the resident harmonicist for my band, The Wobbly Toms (no charge for that plug, fellas). I'm getting better, but the great lesson of Harmonica is this:
No matter how good you become, the pre-requisites of that instrument require one to both suck AND blow.

Escalatorally yours,
Z.F. Lively, Taste Tester
escalatorville@yahoo.com - Concerns Addressed, Fan Letters Accepted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dispatch From Escalatorville: Gimcrack and Snicklefritz

Tall Drip To Go? That’s Me.

Recently, we lost a treasured member of our family. I refer, of course, to our dear, beloved coffee maker. After 3 1/2 years, the old brewer has given up the ghost; sputtering, hiccuping, and belching out it’s last drops within the past couple weeks. As we did with it's brother, Toaster Oven (2005-2007, now buried somewhere outside Seattle – perhaps), we will observe an appropriate time of mourning before finding a replacement.

This means that, while I’ve not been able to drink my usual tub of coffee each day - I have had the opportunity to visit a few of downtown’s java purveyors:

I entered one establishment and asked for a "regular" - after waiting a moment for the brew to, well, brew - I was given a cup and a total, to which I replied-

"Oh, that's probably the cheapest deal in town."

Having enjoyed that particular beverage, I went back to that shop the very next day and, Ta-Da; they’d raised the price.

I was at another shop, when one of my audiological pet peeves come to life. I dislike when quirky and modern idioms/phrases suddenly blast their way into the everyday language before time, poet, or playwright has tested them. The situation becomes slightly depressing for snarky English majors; by which I refer to those of us who believe in the rule of
"If it ain't broke, don't… oh damn, you just broke it, didn't you?"

Anyhow, the exchange was as follows:

TeenUnit1: "I thought you were bringing me the bread and the ice?"

TeenUnit2; "I brought up the bread..."

TeenUnit1: "Well, yeah, but - Total FAIL on the ice."

Then again, I still use terms like “gewgaws” and “strumpet,” so what do I know?

A while ago, I bought a book of those stamps that you can use anytime, regardless of rate increases. They are non-denominational. I laughed when I noticed the stamps edge, next to a picture of the Liberty Bell (“With it’s crack hanging out, for all to see!”), it reads "USA. First-Class. Forever."

Profiles In Circumference
The staff of Escalatorville would like to note the recent passing of Fred Morrison
, the inventor of the Frisbee. While I have enjoyed this product for the majority of my life, I do have to acknowledge that I hold Morrison personally responsible for half of the beach sunburns I ever got.

Giving Indexes The Finger
Every now and again, I take delight in thumbing through the phone book to find those odd headers at the top of the page. You know, the ones that give the alphabetical span of that section according to names or business description. Funny couplings often show up, such as:

Abortion - Accountants

Handicapped - Hats

Truck - Uniform

I haven't checked in a while, but luckily, Escalatorville has eyes everywhere.

The following came from an associate we shall refer to only as El Capitan:

"On page 398 of the current ATT "Real Yellow Pages"

(as opposed to the 'Unreal' ones), you will find "Septic - Sex". I think that to be just a tad too Yellow for my tastes."

I agree sir; no one should ever have to read that.

Tales Of The Nagged, Part 4 (in a seemingly never ending series)

Occasionally, when I work at the hotel, the batteries in a rooms TV clicker will expire. We have a few extra’s available at the front desk - instead of handing out single batteries left and right. What surprises me, however, is the amount of people whom are too lazy to get up and simply change the channel on the machine itself - but will frantically send their spouse down a flight of stairs, across the parking lot, and into the lobby to request a new remote.

Or Maybe The Spinning Lights Remind Them Of Disco…

Previously, I commented on the abundance of sirens caused by emergency vehicles racing around this old (and aging) town daily. On a recent morning, I hit upon a theory:

I walked through town, noticing ambient sounds; the buzz-hum of scooter motors, the “WHA-PAP! WHA-PAP!” of a nail gun signifying "home improvement" on every block, air tour helicopters hovering low, and the constant “Rat-A-Tat-Chung! Rat-A-Tat-Chung!” of giant jackhammers ripping up the old bridge.

Imagine a combat veteran - having witnessed the worst of humanity – now retired, and relaxing in this old beach town. Then, during scrambled eggs it starts…

Choppers flutter overhead, motor transports whizz past, and just yards away - that consistent, ear-shattering

“WHA-PAP! WHA-PAP!” “Rat-A-Tat-Chung! Rat-A-Tat-Chung!” “WHA-PAP! WHA-PAP!” “Rat-A-Tat-Chung! Rat-A-Tat-Chung!”

I wouldn't be surprised if half the retirees in town awoke to flashbacks and heart attacks every morning. Sometimes it makes my pacemaker skip a beat, and I don’t even have one.

This Isn’t Anything. Although, 30 Seconds After We Passed, I Was Swatting Like Crazy.
Oddest conversation starter I've heard from a stranger this week:
"You got a lot of flies attackin' yer head?"

Notes From A Long Pig
Let me state this first and foremost: I have a lot of vegetarian and vegan friends. I whole-heartedly respect their decisions and reasoning for choosing the diets they have. I've even been known to go that route once in a while myself.

However, I don't really have any qualms about the eating of meat.

Boars and Hogs have been said, like Dolphin, to be fairly intelligent beings – and I have no doubt that if Swine had thought of bacon first, they'd have done it to us.

Of course, pigs have also been known to experience a 30-minute orgasm - and jealousy does wonders for the appetite of the carnivore.

Deck The Hall Or Hit The Deck
It’s only 8 months until Christmas, folks. Now, thanks to thorough research by the lovely Bess - we have footage of Santa keeping in shape during the off months, using the patented “Blitzen Workout."

Profiles In Circus Tents
We at Escalatorville would also like to recognize the recent passing of Joe Rollino. From the late 1920's to his last day - Joe performed amazing fitness tests on Coney Island as the "worlds strongest man"- exhibiting an amazing physical prowess into his 11th decade on the planet. He once lifted over 3200 pounds, he bent nails with his teeth, swam every day for 8 years straight, and died at 104 years old while on his daily 5-mile morning walk - after being hit by a van. Too much exercise will kill you.

Even Death Is Not To Be Feared By One Who Has Lived Wisely.”
We have a fishpond in our back yard, with exactly one fish. This big ole goldfish, however, is not afraid of anything - having withstood attacks from cats, hawks, raccoons and vicious thunderstorms.

Sitting at the edge of the pond, a statue of Buddha. That doesn't faze him either. I think Fishy is a Protestant.

A while ago, I placed a naked fishing pole in the vicinity (no line, no hook, etc.) at an angle, so it looks like Buddha has gone fishing in the pond.

Fish is still un-scared. Of course, I think he probably should be. It seems quite Buddhist to me that one could catch fish with no bait.

Thanks for tuning in, see ya on the flip side!

Z.F. Lively

Proprietor, with cream and sugar

We respond to things: Escalatorville@yahoo.com

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dispatch From Escalatorville: "So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."

I've been thinking a lot about the "follow through" lately. Y'see, while a stagnant pond might be easy and warm to sink into, if you don't start yourself moving, you will drown. You wanna cross that pond? You can't wait in the middle, you have to follow through to the other side. It's a common rule, but one that can be often ignored. One gets to a certain point where you look back at all the ideas that course around your brain within that early part of life, and start to rethink which ones you still should follow through. You also start to understand certain aspects of life: you can appreciate Jazz music more - realizing that most of the best stuff was recorded by musicians who died before they reached the age you are now; you start to actually interpret maps, planning possible future trips based on how soon you can get from Memphis to Detroit if you make a pit stop in Louisville; you start to understand the easygoing coalition of serenity and agitation from whence we get the game of Golf.

Here is where we mark the rejection of stagnation - and start to begin the follow through. A new Dispatch From Escalatorville, which doesn't exactly come out swinging, but brings with it a renewed desire to provide more of what we originally intended with this occasional missive. Like the slow motion limbs of a Tai Chi master or the swing of a club at tee-off, the best results come when you follow through...

Tales Of The Nagged, Volume 1
So, I work the Night Desk at a local hotel a few times a week (when I'm not looking for other avenues of employ). As per the strenuous tenets of my job, we strive to appease every customer, regardless of complaint. At 1:30AM on a recent night, a woman came to the desk a bit flustered, and with her elderly mother in tow.

"My mother has, uh, I mean WE, uh, there is a problem with our room."

I was told the thermostat was broken - and it needed to be fixed. I saw the small gleam of hope on the customers face turn to a look of desperation when I told the women (with verbal expulsions of the "oh my" and "well I'll be" variety from "Mom") that, alas, we don't keep a maintenance man on call at 1:30 on a Tuesday morning.

A relatively slow night, as it was, I simply moved them to another room just a few doors down. I made up a key for them, and sent them on their way. Huzzah, for problem-solver me.

10 minutes later, the woman again arrives at the desk - without Mom - and proceeds to explain how, since her frail and aged mother cannot shut the door properly, that I will have to find them yet another room - on the ground floor please, Mom can't take the stairs.

I explained to her with an empathic semi-frown on my face (and a silent giggle running around my brain), that both of the open rooms on the first floor were currently assigned to her and her mother. Reluctantly, the customer agreed to their original room, handing me the newer key to inspect the faults of room #2.

"I am sorry that WE have been so difficult," she stated, and turned to leave. Within two minutes, I had inspected the perfectly functional door - but as I passed the women's room again, I could feel a certain heat coming through the wall, and it wasn't from the thermostat.

TV Turnoff Week is April 19th - 25th
The local cable company just did some restructuring in the programming it allows in the Nations Oldest City. Ironically, the one network they eliminated - was the History Channel.

I was actually watching the television one day when a lady appeared onscreen extolling the virtues of new digital technology. She described how science was advancing the art of television and the cable system that she was a shill for. In the middle of her pitch, however, her face froze. It then pixilated itself as her voice shorted out and the screen went blank. I laughed. Out Loud.

In the midst of the flabbergasting "News" cycle that we've been through in the past few months, I was delighted when the lovely Bess managed to find this video - it might be a good thing if all the the news makers of the world paid attention.

Tales Of The Nagged, Volume 2
In the back of a downtown pastry shop, I was pouring cream and sugar into my to-go cup when I heard a man in the coffee line get told by the counter clerk:

"I'm sorry Sir, we're not an actual Starbucks - we just serve their regular coffee."

I turned around just in time to hear the man call his wife to confirm a new order, "no, they DON'T have the frappuccino mocha latte. I told you it wasn't a real one..."

Old Town Trudging
I like to take long walks through the neighborhoods of my town. Sometimes for the sights, and sometimes for the sounds. I overhear a lot of conversations, most of which I ignore, but occasionally I will hear something that illustrates the nature of our little town. Recently, I was walking passed a lady and heard the following half of a phone conversation (picture me saying this in the voice of a middle-aged skinny woman from the urban south):

"Hey, you still have that car? Yeah, you should come get me. Pick me up by the Shell station where you got arrested for stealing..."

This is, of course, the convenience station that is located directly across from the police department.

When one walks the streets of my neighborhood in the old town, one can usually see a number of fire engines about. If you can't see them, you certainly hear the sirens, tremendous, overwhelming sirens. This is a direct result of the fact that the average age of the residents/visitors in St. Augustine hovers slightly above 107.

As such, there are a lot of fire squads and emergency teams racing through the city any number of times a day due to an older tourist falling, misstepping, or having a heart attack at the cost of a meal for four in the downtown area.

I, however, am a paranoid sort. I usually hear the sirens as I head out to take my daily walks.

Thus, as an antsy individual, I always imagine that the sirens are headed. directly. toward. my. house.

Sure enough, If I'm only a couple blocks away when I hear one, I'll usually head back to the house just to check. If I'm further away, I figure that the fire will have already gutted our tiny house by the time I could return, so I shelve my worry and walk on...

On a recent sojourn I was a neighborhood or two over, when I believe I saw a frat house in the making (funny since the local Advanced Edutarium in town doesn't officially allow sororities or fraternities). Either that, or these college kids are just trying to scare the residents around them.

I saw a small bundle of collegians cleaning out the garage space between two rental houses on the same lot. I peeked in, as much peeking as you can do from across the street, and saw that they already had a "bar" set up - seats in place, tap at the ready.

Oh, but they weren't done. The coup de grace; a restaurant size grill/broiler - lay in the bed of a pick up truck in the driveway. Kids, once that starts heating up, maybe slide a few burgers to the folks at the houses around you. Nothing mends fences like the delicious warmth of a dead cow.

Just A Few Of The Many Many Ways To Fall Down (circle ones you've completed successfully):
-straight backward
-face forward
-like a baby
-in a heap
-like a train on a mountaintop in the middle of summer - or a cup of pencils from a teachers desk.

Caligraphy Of The Complacent
In the past few months, there have been a lot of sign writers and sign holders coming out of the woodwork to grace the street corners of our town. Sometimes they work individually, sometimes in groups. I'm sure you've seen the signs before.

Now, when it comes to panhandling, I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground (and no one's ever told me that I was talking out of my ground hole) - however, there are rumors that say some of these folks can pull in $200 or more per day.

If this is so, you'd think they could afford to get a better sign maker. Shoot, I bet if all the sign holders got together and formed a union, they might actually get a better rate.

Tales Of The Nagged, Volume 3
A man checks into the hotel, gives his full credit card info, signs receipt, and takes keys to go to the room. 20 minutes later, he returns to the front desk...

"Um, I'm gonna need to check out and have that not charged to my card please?!?"

I apologize and ask if there's anything wrong with the room.

"No, uh, my wife just wants to meet me at a hotel that's not this one"

Maurice Chevalier, Eat Your Heart Out.
For all the Dirty Old Men In Training (D.O.M.I.T.) like myself,
springtime in the Nations Oldest City is one of the favorite seasons of the year. The scenery turns very pretty, and very retro. The greens, yellows, and light browns that color the flora of the old town directly after a great storm are beautiful and; for those of us that aren't actually perverts, whom can acknowledge the beauty of the female form without becoming too ribald about it - living in the city is like living on one those great southern folk rock album covers. Those post-hippie, pre-valley, simply dressed yet ornately gilded, devilishly innocent girls that you found so crushworthy on those LPs of the late 60's and 70's, they live here. They thrive here. They create here. They cruise here. They are one of the many aspects that beautify the place we sometimes call "St. Uglytowne" - and they make living here all the better.

I should know, I married one of 'em. She's a beaut'!

Thanks for reading, we'll be back later this week. In the meantime, don't do this without a license.

Escalate and follow through,
Z.F. Lively
Proprietor, Fancy Dancer