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., 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 - Concerns Addressed, Fan Letters Accepted.