Saturday, April 28, 2007

Things of Consequence Large and Small

Thirty winters of neglect left him as rusty as the abandoned metal automobile shells currently occupying the outer reaches of the large hillock behind his shack. A quick glance out the kitchen window revealed the cancerous advances of corrosion upon their surfaces. Although the thick translucent plastic he’d duct-taped to the window’s exterior to serve as insulation against the cold tended to obscure his view, Thurmond Ledbetter learned to accept the distortions as the necessary result of economy and failing eyesight. Besides, the cars served as rabbit burrows and impediments to hillside erosion, so he figured they served a purpose, even if the county regarded them as an eyesore. He made mental note to remove them just as soon as he received notification that the county was now paying his property taxes… and he smiled broadly, his teeth resembling an octave of piano keys, with a-sharp and b-flat right in the middle.

His new string had arrived yesterday along with John Barnes and his mail sack. John hadn’t cared to step inside, he was a little strapped for time given the fact that his car would never have made the trip up Thurmond’s hill and he was forced to walk. Still, Thurman figured, it would have been neighborly of him to set a spell, but it would have been rude to insist, so he accepted the small parcel with a nod and a smile and shut the front door, although he did watch the diminutive postman walk back down the hill, stepping around and over the mud puddles that formed in the road ruts due to last night’s deluge. This particular part of Kentucky got lots of rain and with the county’s current attitude toward neglect of the less-used gravel roads, it was a small miracle that the route still existed at all, not that Thurmond gave a shit either way; past cousin Purdy’s semi-annual pilgrimage from Elizabethtown and Nellie Freeman’s occasional bouts with Satan and his demon rum, he got very few visitors. And he considered that to be okay, too, even if his songs did have to wait awhile before reaching the ears of anyone except Spottie’s.

Now that he had the sixth string back on his guitar, maybe he’d be able to spot the key change that was screwing up the refrain in his new song and properly figure out if he needed to capo that D-flat diminished to make the lament resound in proper fashion without giving the impression that someone had just castrated Spottie without the benefit of anesthesia. Quietly, he flipped open the aged case that held his glasses and with all the precision his long fingers could muster grasped the thin wire frames and lovingly placed them behind his ears, flicking the tops of his earlobes down to allow their passage. Once in place, he tapped the nosepiece to ensure that they didn’t slip off his face and picked up the copy of his song that he’d labored to write down. Thurmond didn’t really read music, although he understood what to play if he saw the chords written down, so he’d taken the time to write ‘a-flat’ and ‘C-minor-diminished’ and whatever notes were called for atop the words. Most musicians would have laughed at him if they’d ever seen his ‘music’, but Thurmond filed their derision in the long mental list he’d already compiled for anyone who didn’t like what he did, his list of people who could go straight to hell, never once stopping to pass ‘Go’.

With patience derived from years spent in practice of lethargy, Thurmond worked the new string into its assigned position alongside the others, carefully and meticulously tightening the tuners on his guitar’s neck with a strum on the appropriate string. After satisfying himself that his instrument was properly tuned, he stopped to once again familiarize himself with the song:

Loser’s Blues

Ain’t nothin’ in the world for me,
I don’t fit in, as you can see,
I couldn’t even steal
some piece of mind…

I’ve got glass cuts ‘round my mouth
from something layin’ ‘round my house,
I’m a lightheaded loser
burned out from all that booze.

So please don’t bury me
down in that cold, dark ground
while hairy spiders check me out,
they’re crawlin’ all around…

I don’t care what they said,
I just may not be dead,
appearances can be deceivin’,
liquored up from Shayna’s news.

Ol’ Black Jack’s my only friend,
the only one I don’t offend,
he don’t talk back or
leave me for another’s arms.

He won’t walk out on me,
and as you can plainly see,
ain’t much left to imagination
or, for that matter— charm.

So please don’t bury me
down in that cold, dark ground
while hairy spiders check me out,
they’re crawlin’ all around…

I don’t care what they said,
I just may not be dead,
appearances can be deceivin’,
liquored up from Shayna’s news.

Now there ain’t a day goes by,
I don’t get by just gettin’ high,
Eatin’ tater chips and
Sleepin’ in my clothes.

While it certainly may be true
I’d take a bullet just for you,
It also could be argued
You also took a few for me.

So please don’t throw my clothes
out on that cold, wet ground,
you know I love you just as much
as we pass the bottle 'round…

I don’t care what they said
Shayna’s love just isn't dead,
Appearances can be deceivin’,
When you sing the Loser’s Blues.

There’d be no supper tonight. Song followed song like summer follows spring as Thurmond Ledbetter did the only thing he really enjoyed doing, oblivious to time and space, ignorant of all things outside his shack and blessedly so. Spottie didn’t care one way or the other.
Bob Church©4/27/07

Friday, April 27, 2007

It'll Never Stop...

Have you noticed that you’re starting to get telemarketing calls on your cell phone now? I am now convinced that telemarketers are no longer paid by the number of sales they achieve from their efforts, but by the amount of time they can keep a prospective customer on the line. In fact, I don’t think they’re really representing specific companies at all, I think they’re all shills for the phone company—the longer they can keep you on the line, the more the phone company charges you.

I got a call last night that went something like this:


“Hey, how are you tonight? This is Larry, down at Merle’s Hardware, and I see that you recently bought some merchandise from us. I’m calling to follow up and make sure that you’re satisfied with your purchases. Would you mind answering a few questions for me, it’ll help us determine customer satisfaction levels and ultimately keep our prices low. Plus, as your reward for helping us out, we’ll be sending you a nice gift.”

“I’ve never stepped foot in a Merle’s Hardware store.”

“I see here that you used your MasterCard for your purchase. Could you please confirm your number and expiration date for me so I can make sure that it’s really you? I wouldn’t want to inconvenience the wrong Bob Church.”

“I don’t have a MasterCard, and even if I did I’d sooner allow you to strap me down and pull all my teeth out with a pair of Channel Lock pliers without the benefit of anesthetic before I gave you the number.”

“Wait… oh, I’m sorry, I was looking at the wrong line on my monitor, I’ll need your Visa card number.”

(After a short pause to recompose myself) “I’m not giving you my Visa card number.”

“It wouldn’t have been an American Express card, would it?”

“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear… there isn’t a Merle’s Hardware store within a hundred miles of my house, and I certainly wouldn’t drive that far to buy hardware.”

“Well, Mr. Church—do you mind if I call you ‘Mr. Church’, I assure you I respect you and your time— let me ask you this, if there were a Merle’s Hardware store close to you, what credit card would you be using for your purchases and what is its number, including the four number identifier code on the back?”

“Please don’t force me to be rude, I don’t want to descend to your level, but I’m not giving you any credit card numbers.”

“Uh-huh… I understand totally, many people feel that way until they know that tonight only, I am authorized to offer you $5,000 worth of building materials for only $500 if you’re willing to put it on a nationally accepted credit card such as MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover or major department store. That’s a tremendous bargain, Bob, one that you’d kick yourself for tomorrow if you fail to act tonight.”

“I’m going to dress up like a drunken doctor in a Superman costume with a burrito stuffed into the crotch of his tights and give you a proctology exam.”

“Let’s assume for a minute that there was a Merle’s Hardware store close by, what card would you be using?”

“I fully intend to hunt you down and kill you.”

“From our conversation, I’m guessing MasterCard, am I correct?”

“I’m going to rape you, your wife, your kids and set your house on fire.”

“Say, that’s swell, Mr. Church, I understand, but you can’t claim the fabulous prize I’m about to offer you without a credit ca—”


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Canis Juris

The large dog sat quietly, watching. His posture mirrored the state of semi-awareness he showed the world, his weight primarily resting on his butt, with long front legs extended so that he could move quickly if necessary. Were he able to don a black robe, he might be mistaken for a judge overseeing a trial. Of course, he’d have needed considerable attention to his unkempt appearance, but his eyes reflected his equanimity and demeanor of fairness. After all, he had no interest in the proceedings past the overall concerns common to his species, those special loyalty traits bred into him that made him man’s best friend in the first place.

His head tilted slightly when one man struck the other with the stick, in recognition of the thud and muted groan, but the arena lacked any immediacy of threat and his human was not present, so it clearly was none of his business. A quick scan of the area revealed no other dogs coming to the human’s rescue, so, in keeping with his judicial bearing he minded his own business and merely watched as the victim lay bleeding in the street. Besides, the other human already left the scene.

Now, no stimuli other than the far-off city sounds transpired within his sight. His human had commanded him to sit and stay, so that’s exactly what he’d do. Hopefully, he’d be back soon and they could go find his bowl. Watching didn’t create the appetite of more physical activity, but it was long past sundown and he was, nevertheless, a little hungry. Still, it was easier to merely wait. If his human didn’t show up by morning, he’d go find some food, but for now, he was content to lick his balls and wait for something else to happen. Court stood in recess.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Psychic Brown-Out

I had a very strange dream last night. I dreamed that I was married and living on a farm and my wife and I were so happy that we could barely keep from smiling even in the face of tragedy. And it was a good thing, too, because during our evening walk, my wife was attacked and mauled by a savage pack of wolves. (Yes, I realize that it's a little far-fetched, but it was a dream... work with me here, will you?) As I held her close to me and her life poured out onto the earth, I’ll never forget her last words, “Darling, I shall wait for you in Heaven”.

Well… time passes slowly when you’ve experienced such a loss, but a few months later I met a wonderful young girl about half my age and we were married. The years flew like days and one day I made the unwise choice of trying to harvest my wheat crop while gorked on tequila. I slipped off the back of my combine and got caught in the thresher… it wasn’t pretty, but as my life ebbed, I looked up into the eyes of my faithful wife and told her, “Honey, I’ll be waiting for you in Heaven”.

As it turned out, I wouldn’t have too long to wait. Actually, it was something less than a minute since this was a dream and occurring very rapidly inside my head, but that’s beside the point and adds nothing to the story. Be that as it may, she, too, succumbed to a terrible accident. As she mucked the stalls, she was butted by a cow and fell face first into a large pile of manure, the stench of which invaded her nostrils and suffocated her.

There we were in Heaven, both my wives and I. Needless to say, I had some explaining to do, but eventually my first wife forgave me and accepted my second wife, but it wasn’t the sort of relationship I’d hoped for. After a period of time (it’s pretty tough to measure time in heaven, every day is pretty much like the last) I worked up the courage to ask them for a threesome.

Well… suffice to say that apparently God is less than accepting of shenanigans up in Heaven, because I’d no more than voiced my request than I found myself instantaneously transported into an ugly, muggy, humid, hot landscape filled with grotesque people getting stuck by hot pokers and taunted by hideous, impish beasts. I think I was in Hell, although I admit that I could have been inside a nightclub in downtown Miami.

I guess the moral of the story might be ‘Watch what you wish for’— either that or, 'Watch what you eat right before you go to bed... you might want to avoid the three-alarm-chili'. Morals are hard to interpret at four A.M... when you're hung over.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My friends now figure that my life is so utterly meaningless that I would care that rubber bands last longer if only I’ll keep them in the refrigerator (presumably right next to the half-eaten container of blueberry yogurt I can’t manage to force down), Winston Churchill was born in a ladies’ room during a dance, and Leonardo DaVinci invented the scissors.

Actually, I’m not sure what this says about them (or me), but the very fact that I’m reporting it is troubling. We live in a world where pissed-off ‘martyrs’ blow up innocent shoppers and whacked-out foreign exchange students emulating sad, miscreant killers take their blood lust to our campuses, yet I feel compelled to inform you that in the last 4,000 years, not a single new animal has been domesticated.

Now, while I occasionally pick up a scissors and I vaguely recall reading about a rather droll confrontation Winston Churchill once had with Lady Astor, but beyond these two instances, I rarely give either a solitary thought. But just now, I Googled both key words just to see what would show up. I can only assume that the activity temporarily forestalls thinking about the events unfolding in Baghdad and Blacksburg, and the dull, nagging, seemingly never-ending pain associated with both.

I don't know if any answers to the problems exist, but if they do, apparently no one has the balls or the influence necessary to implement them.

So, I’ll tell you that scissors are often confused with shears and that Winston Churchill once, when reminded by Lady Astor that he was drunk, purportedly quipped “I may be drunk, Madam, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”

If you’re looking for answers or rationale for the world, I fear you’ve come to the wrong place. I haven't made any decisions, as yet, about the rubber bands.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Just a little blues

I don’t think white people get ‘soul’, but if we did, I think I’d be experiencing it right now. I’m listening to Albert King hit his blues licks and I feel like most of my skeletal structure just melted and I want to play handsies and stare deeply into the eyes of a woman who is also feeling the music. Occasionally, I hear the lament of his harmonica and an off-chord fret on his guitar, and I wonder if it’s intentional. Somehow, blues shouldn’t be perfect; it should be like us… flawed and hungry, depraved and searching for understanding, with a thread of divinity not quite lost amid a discordant melody. It’s like being high without the drugs, it’s your head bobbing with closed eyes, hoping your partner is feeling it, too, and can respond with a squeeze. It’s a taxi hauling you around the city with the meter off and an unlimited supply of gas and leather upholstery that makes you sweat in rhythm to the chords, and it blends you until you no longer care if you laugh or cry or just sit and stare, your smile trying to dance out. It’s careless anarchy… it’s disorganized chaos without the urgency, and it's just too good and you hope it never stops.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bubba's Top Ten List For The New Reality

In the past week, I have learned much I never knew. In the spirit of disclosure, I have decided to share my new education, and do my penance for once being a proponent of the Constitution.

1. While I have long recognized John Elway as Jesus I was unaware that Don Imus (obscure as he is) is actually God. Yes, with two words most people would have never heard but for the efforts of the National Association of Black Journalists and their beautifully packaged and orchestrated campaign, Don Imus forever changed the entire lives of the women of the Rutgers basketball team. Now, this is power and this is Almighty!!! To me, it is deliciously divine (just not in the religious sense).

2. Being raised in the bosom of Catholicism, I am woefully out of touch with what Reverends now preach: "It is human to err, but it is divine to blame." I say bravo... and I blame all of those Reverends whose pulpit is the camera and photo opportunity; with a special shout-out to the preacher now speaking on behalf of the Rutgers women who has pointed out that an insult can be forgiven but an injury must be compensated.

3. Words, contrary to the old 'sticks and stones' rhyme, can cause great injury, and thus are the proper weapon of choice for WAR (and all this time I thought it was planes, tanks, bombs, etc). Forget the loss of those arms and legs, or those brain injuries, or the blindness... it is the hurt feelings that truly damage our lives. (Of course I have long thought that Al Queda and Bin Laden would surrender if we would only play rap music over loud-speakers 24/7 and broadcast rap videos each and every night in the skies over about brutality).

4. As it turns out, "free speech" is not a constitutional issue, it is an advertising issue. Those courageous corporations who decided to pull their sponsorships clearly had only our best interests in mind. They realize we can no longer think for ourselves, and, as good citizens, have recognized their responsibility to make our choices for us. I say Bravo! I am just lazy enough to do no thinking of my own.

5. I am now similarly dissuaded from my incorrect opinion that giant media corporations are ruled by the bottom line. Turns out they are ruled by their "employees" (who now, not only get a pay check, but dictate corporate policy) and by those professional malcontents who can rally their troops most effectively.

6. It is no longer a requirement to be possessed of fact or good information before speaking. We can jettison the American "work ethic" that has gotten us so far, and replace it with the new creed, irresponsibility. It's about time, don't you think? It's so much more fun just to sit back and let some group determine absolutely everything for us. It's what we're entitled to, don't you know?

7. Similarly, we no longer have to take a joke but now have to ascribe perfect seriousness and weight to even the most mundane moment. I am certain the police who patrol our dangerous streets will be much happier to be sent to apprehend comedian criminals than pursue traditionally violent criminals. (Although I do worry that they might get their feelings hurt and suffer life-changing injury.)

8. We no longer have to make any entertainment choice, or resort to that old-fashioned methodology and change the channel, all we have to do is scream "I am offended" to the right party. In keeping with such change, I have now put Al and Jessie, and the NABJ on my speed dial. I suggest you do the same.

9. I am thrilled to recognize the return of the "double-standard" and "reverse discrimination." (How did we ever do without them for so long?)

10. Most importantly, I am happy to be indoctrinated with the new politically-correct manifesto that 'shock jocks' may not shock us and that equal-opportunity offenders can now enjoy no opportunity whatsoever. It is clear to me that we will all be much better off if we burn the books, shut down free speech, turn off our brains and make certain that we are all united by fighting the wrong fight. We will no longer need to know or suffer any difference between reality and perception. I admit it-- I'm worried, folks. I never thought I would find myself standing up for a man who was rude, crude, and truly mean-spirited. But I find myself unwilling to turn a blind eye as he is punished by the powers-that-be, because I am certain this is only the beginning of the end for those of us who do not mind our mouths as they might dictate.

As my own personal protest, I pledge to all of you to attempt to become as completely offensive as humanly possible. I am certain you all realize by now how incredibly easy this will be for me.

Left Bank Purveyor of Bargains

I have no stars to sell tonight,
my wares tend to lack their sparkle.
No streaming comets, either,
although, should you be inclined,
I might offer a lingering trail—
just for your amusement.

Perhaps a lilting dirge or two?
The requiem laments still sing—
though certainly not fresh nor sweet.
I assure you the terms are negotiable
and cheap at twice the price,
sold ‘as is’, of course.

Wait—I just thought of a sweet deal
on a fireworks display I took in trade,
shot by a news crew on the roof of a Baghdad hotel—
vintage 2002 complete with sound;
a real beauty, a one-owner cream puff
that you can drive away tonight.

I have no stars to sell tonight,
the clouds abound on every front,
but should you want to make the trip,
rumor has that Bushco brilliance
still releases stellar brightness—
at selected times along the Beltway.

Bob Church©4/12/07

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sunday Morning Musings

I'm at peace this morning, or at least I'm experiencing a lull in the battle currently being waged inside my head, the non-stop hatred I possess for the executive branch of our government. I'm listening to a little soft jazz, the '60s genre genius of John Coltrane that I found while surfing blogs in quest of something a little different. Check it out while you're reading: C&L’s Late Nite Music Club with John Coltrane

As I listen, I'm reminded of other times. Coltrane's genius transports me through his multi-dimensional nattering, syncopated rhythms, his absolute 'thinking outside the box' representation of complex themes. In the background I feel the Manhattan taxi lurch forward, change lanes, then come to a complete stop before starting all over again. Meanwhile, I smell the curry lingering from the driver's lunch and the unmistakable acrid invasion of odor from the front seat, the sharp jabbing ambience of his armpits. But as I roll down the window, I'm coddled with the unintended symphony of beeping taxi horns and the occasional warning of a trash truck backing up, all layered on top of the drone produced by traffic's internal combustion engines. It's city sound... it's vox populi.

It changes, migrates-- even morphs-- and at times, you might suspect that one or more of the players listens to only his own muse; but it is genius, the tension it builds is released in a feeling of true peace which must be what some religious people apparently sometimes get.