Unnoticed in Clever Worlds

The clearest description I have managed so far about my blog is that it is not about cats. In general, I find predators pretty predictable while prey on the other-hand, because they live in universes of anxiety, develop more textured personalities. I also have as a writer a deft hand when it comes to making matters worse, so of course , the already panicky are ready made for me. I will try to grow this blog into an assortment of laughs, because that is what my life has mostly taught me to do. I will use the famous people I have known to get your attention and then tell you small but many times wonderful things about them. I will never name the ones I say ugly things about but I hope you will guess who they are.

Month: October, 2012

Pig Joke

Pigs are convincing evidence that humans do not care about the feelings of food if it tastes good.
What follows is a joke which is more than what is seems. In the grand scheme of things generosity is a time waster.
I first heard this joke when I was very young , guessing now, maybe nine or ten years old. I have never heard it told again by anyone but me for fifty years. Johnny Carson told it on, “The Tonight Show,” when first I heard it so long ago.
This joke has a sibling coursing around but I will not tell it right now. So now, here is the joke.
This guy is walking on a country road and comes to a farm house and on it’s porch sits a farmer on the front steps. Next to him, is this big pig and the farmer has his arm over the pig’s shoulder and they are both looking at a book . The pig sits snuggled tightly next to him with his snout in the farmer’s lap intent on the book.
The traveler comes up to the stoop in a neighborly way to say hello. That done, he takes a closer look at this animal and realizes he has a wooden leg. Unable to control his interest, he asks the farmer how this pig came by such a leg. The farmer tells him this pig is like a member of his family and that the pig saved he and his wife on two separate occasions. He goes on in his slow country way, “ my wife and I were asleep upstairs in this house when the entire downstairs caught fire trapping us. The farmer paused for effect, “ suddenly this pig”, he drew the pig closer to him, “races through the flames, runs upstairs, grabs my wife and carries her outside then turns back into the flames and does the same for me.” The traveler, let it be safely said, was astonished, and wanted to understand “how this pig was able to carry you with such a mangled leg?” “No, no, the farmer insisted, “ he didn’t hurt his leg at all.”
The farmer, warming to his story, continued, “ But you know the damnedest thing happened after that. I was out fishing in my boat and this terrible rain and wind knocked me right off and into the water. I ain’t never been much a swimmer and I was making a ruckus but I figured it was over for me, when suddenly this pig arrived at the shore, jumped into the water, and swam back with me, my collar in his mouth, saving my life”.
The farmer sat quietly for a minute or two after that and just stared ahead of him like country people will do. The traveler respected the quiet but soon could not contain his curiosity and said to the farmer, “You know you never told me how this pig got that wooden leg.” The farmer looked at him with kind of an odd condescension and said to him, “ you know son, you just can’t eat a pig like this all at once.”

Rock’s Most Embarrassing Moment

I was the tour manager for Genesis during the years that Peter Gabriel was with them. I was also largely responsible for what was arguably rock’s most embarrassing moment.
This was how it had been planned and rehearsed so long ago. Peter Gabriel, showman that he was, would be dressed in his “Gods of Magog” outfit , consisting of a long, velvet black cape and a giant triangular headpiece . Through this helmut, only his green iridescent eyes could be seen because of the black light. At the very climax of the set, he was to be made invisible to the audience by a combination of controlled explosions coming from pods on the front lip of the stage. This would temporarily blind the audience. These canisters were filled with a martini of flash and gun powder, which would be criminally outlawed today, whereas back then they were simply banned. This was a working example of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. We never told anyone we were going to do it. One of our roadies , Jeff Banks, filled them a couple of hours before the show and would set them off electrically.
Peter was to be further camouflaged by smoke machines ( they looked like leaf blowers) and an intense fog that bubbled up by dumping blocks of dry ice, by hand (gloved), into huge buckets of water by the crew. They would explode with vapor, filling, if the prevailing winds permitted, the entire stage. Synchronous with this, Peter was to throw off his hat and cape while keeping a grip on his microphone, as he was “shot,” (hoisted) fifteen feet into the air by nearly invisible thin metal wires, “ called flying” in those days. He would finish the song, in a silver jump suit, as the curtain closed. End of show.
This incident took place somewhere between 1973 and 1975 either in Cleveland, Ohio or in Berlin, Germany. Believe me, in my world, this is terrific accuracy. I think had Genesis attempted to do more shows than they did during my years it would have required time travel. I can pin it with such exactness because at that time we would only play proscenium arch stages which allowed for curtains and flash pods, as well as the overhead latticework necessary to hang wires for the flying equipment.
Here’s how the “flying” was to work. I had brought in an “expert” who had flown Elton John and his piano into the air a few months earlier. This guy was harnessed to the wires which were connected to Gabriel and he climbed to the top of a tall ladder on stage left, out of sight and waited. On my cue, he would leap off the ladder and because he was the counter balance, up our artist would go. I did the cueing only because I had no other real job, having finished my very important job of literally running around hallways closing doors so no breeze would alter the course of our stage fog.
I sweated the cue because if I got it wrong, Peter would be mid-song and everything else would fall to shit. Well, I thought I nailed the fucker, but I was maybe a second too soon and all hell broke loose. Peter went up fast and sadly, crookedly. His left shoulder was at least a foot and a half higher than his right. In his surprise, he launched his live microphone forward, onto the stage and into the preternaturally loud explosions of the gunpowder pods, sending the blast sound through the mic and into the giant audience speakers deafening Lord knows how many of the punters. Meanwhile some asshole had clearly opened a door so all my smoke was blowing backward towards the dressing rooms leaving the mayhem clearly visible. The flash pods ( we were later to learn from the fire dept.) had been way over loaded becoming perhaps the first incident of real canon fire ever, during a show, in the history of rock. Peter’s mic sound , as my luck would have it, also went through the band’s stage speakers. Tony Banks, the keyboardist, I saw out of the corner of my now tearing eyes, was hitting Jeff, the explosion roadie, over the head with a tambourine, (of all things) screaming “I am deaf, you made me deaf”. Now all this was happening within a nightmare zone of about ten seconds.
So let me recap, seeing as we both have come this far. I have Gabriel nearly horizontal, fifteen feet in the air, with no microphone and a black cape dangling from his foot. I have the keyboardist in the middle of the stage pounding a roadie as the roadie is desperately trying to extinguish the residue flames pouring from the canisters. I have an audience in a state of mass shock and I have smoke filling up the dressing rooms. So what was the absolute last thing this God could think of to do with me? The front curtain would not close.
In my mind’s eye, even today, this was not a tidy episode. To their credit and my forever resentment, most of the audience hung around to watch us try to get Peter down. It took such a long time.

Science is God’s Second Son

Science is God’s second son. It is the prodigal art, that will return us all to Him, after we have truly exhausted ourselves in the effort to deny Him.

Tired Wardrobes of Ancient Manhood

The Republicans make it virtually unthinkable to like them. The party is so scared witless of disclaiming the tired wardrobes of their ancient manhood that they are impossibly loathsome to most modern human beings. They clutch and kiss the knees of their dogma while deliberately recalling only that the Lord hates abortion. They have long redacted the biblical lines covering charity and forgiveness. They covet their guns but never realize that this embarrassing pining is only masking their own constant cowardices.
They despise homosexuals because their own Gods have made sex repellant and unsatisfactory for them so they feel compelled to intimidate others who might enjoy it in ways that petrify them. They live in a nether world where women have their tongues removed and their wombs anchored to their husband’s fear of infidelity. They are no more racist than any one else in this intolerant country but unlike the Democrats, they have stopped trying to amend themselves. They see a black man in the Presidency as the beginning of the end instead of an end to the old.
We need the Republicans to help right our sinking financial ship. This is what they do well, but we will never again need their appalling baggage of irrational doctrinal feces, so they should purge themselves of it and the sooner the better.

Had They Known They were Stepping on Dead Kids

They would have stopped pushing had they known they were stepping on dead kids. I am mostly sure of that. On December 3, 1979 eleven children were killed and scores of others were hurt in Cincinnati at a Who concert. I was backstage just after the band began their show, when the hurt and the dead began to be passed through the area next to the stage to board accumulating ambulances just outside.
We argued quietly amongst ourselves about whether to tell the band while they were still on stage and risk having them stop playing, perhaps causing a second riot inside the hall by angry fans. We argued about whether to leave Cincinnati that night or to return to the hotel and be trapped there maybe for days by the press and crowds. We argued about whether to cancel the rest of tour completely or to just book one special small show to see if we could continue at all. We argued this way even before the parents had found out that their children were dead and before the show was over. I felt calm and ruthlessly protective.
We did do that one show in Buffalo, completely depending on a man named Harvey Weinstein to arrange the show successfully. He was the promoter we trusted most. He later made a name for himself in movie producing. Had that show had a problem, The Who may never again have played live, such would have been the outraged backlash. These were gruesome deaths and unfathomable tragedies. These were just kids who desperately wanted an experience that this band could offer them. This counts for much when trying understand what happened that night .

The Beet Woman and Diversity

I was bunching up the line for homemade rhubarb and cumin pies at the Farmers Market Wednesday, while explaining to two friends that I was making real headway on this “diversity” thing. My tactic, I told them, was to invite people of “difference” over to my house for dinner, so we would grow to be more like one another and not so “diverse” anymore.
Well, nothing, it seems, empties little minds like jealousy. They said I had “diversity” all wrong, and without missing a beat, my first friend meanly offered that I should go on her new diet, which had done wonders for her. This hurt me and made my diversity dinners seem small. My other friend, now hobbled by her own resentment of me and her friend’s new diet, briskly offered that she has eaten nothing but beets for four years and was down twenty pounds. I snidely assured her that I hardly noticed the red stains around her mouth, I paid and left feeling good and childish.
          This was unsettling, I had figured that a winning strategy for this diversity riddle was at hand. I asked my friend P., who is incapable of being mean, what I was missing here. She softly explained that, “diversity” means allowing everyone to be unalike without interference or pressure to change, and that my dinners might be construed as urging people to be like you and this just might be against the law. “ So the aim is to keep people different?” I questioned now crestfallen “Why yes, because different is better.” She said, nailing it like an edict on a tree.
   Well , knock me over with a feather! Then I remembered a line I never really could figure out, until this moment, “ Let no man’s light be so bright that it casts a shadow on another man’s day.”
I have gone back to the market the last couple of weeks looking for the “beet” woman to apologize for what I said, hoping she was still recognizable after all the hard soap scrubbing, she surely has endured because of me. Fortunately, the people I had invited to dinner called and canceled. Out of respect, we never rescheduled.

How I tried to Hurt Good Looking Girls in High School

I grew up with dour, scaly, old men relaying world events to me as though the news demanded unappealing but venerable newscasters to dampen our population’s suspected tendencies to giggle at the world’s misfortunes. We are drawn to the news because we don’t like to miss stuff and because we, each of us, are deluded enough to think we are vital in shaping our nation’s direction.
Cable networks revealed that all news is far more enjoyable if it is brazenly biased. Every American is appalled by the slant of television reporting, so we each pick news people we think are telling the truth and if our goal has been a bisected, persistently testy country it seems to be going well. I am the only person I know who watches the news with a genuine disregard for his own beliefs. I accomplish this by first screening the newswomen who are delivering it for their beauty alone. Then I put together the prettiest into a viewing time line and presto, the news!
When I was in high school, me and my friends always made sure good-looking girls felt insecure about how smart they were. I know now this sabotage was horribly mean but we who were plain were jealous of how unearned physical attractiveness opened all doors for them. We believed that being smart would make us the successful ones, the ones who would be on TV.
I get my news, my weather, my traffic and broker’s advise, even my political commentary only from the most alluring women in the world. I refuse to a take a pill unless I have been warned of its side effects by a preternaturally exquisite woman ( and, I confess, sometimes a drop dead gorgeous man) I would love to date.
I have warned the media that I am fickle, that I am immune to truth, facts and intellect, and that I am as shallow as they. They have nervously responded by shoving ever increasingly more breathtaking women onto the air.

My Dad and Entropy

My father taught me very few things. Our relationship, coupled to my own observations of what was really available around me assured me that he wasn’t withholding anything on purpose. I grew up in a time and place before wisdom. I did glean a few things from his repeated general behavior though. The earliest axiom was that my father invented entropy. Of course, I did not call it entropy and nor did he but he did lay the foundational and groundbreaking legwork that eventually broke the whole idea wide open in the scientific marketplace. He explained to me that a light bulb, in much the same way, as the universe, has only so many on/off’s in it and when it has reached it’s predetermined limit it will burn out. He said that only God knew the limits for the universe, and he was clear that God did not give a crap about our light bulbs and their points of burnout. My father explained that our light bulbs and their sidekick, electricity, fell within his financial jurisdiction and that turning them off was not an option for me. My dad is dead and God has yet to make His final decision about the universe, and I am still turning off lights and yelling at my son to do so.

Being Blind was Not Enough

I became a very big deal in Country Music for a short period of time, maybe six years. Coming out of Rock, and a huge technical show environment I applied this to Country in a way it had never been done before. I also had tons of money from corporate sponsors to grab the artists by their nose greed and drag them along with me. I am an expert with other people’s money because I never forget it is not mine. It is a rarified kind of modesty that I have about money. I love it but believe it is sinful to talk openly about your own. My family never, ever mentioned money. This was no doubt due to them not having any, so like any subject you want to avoid it is a good plan never to bring it up.
I made a point of never dealing with the artists directly unless I had to. I always put someone else between me and the target. This was more problematic in country music because many of them do their own deals and even more deal eye to eye. This flummoxed me for the first year or so because I had forgotten, I think, that I am by nature honest and they were easier to deal with than agents and managers.
Anyway, there was one artist I came to loathe. He was also blind. He was surrounded by and managed by his friends who were ethically decaying rats. They would book a show with me and call up at the last minute threatening to pull out, which would put me in serious jeopardy. They would then blackmail me until I paid them more. They did this one too many times and I got the artist on the phone just as my coldness was setting in. I told him it was a good job that he was blind so he could never see himself as I saw him. He lost a small fortune by never being on my shows again. I wished I could have hurt him more.

At Play on the Oil Fields in Pittsburgh

Every other spring in Pittsburgh Pa in the early sixties the heavy dump trucks would come with fresh dirt and heave it onto the cement floor of our football field. The field was enclosed by sixteen foot high black cyclone fencing. The caravan of heavy loaders would enter up a ramp and through a special gate that was theirs. Spectators would be outside this fence sitting on stands connected directly to our field like giant cement stair-step Legos . People always treated this event like a real game and sat in the stands to witness it because this was something very different for them. We would watch and listen to the truck’s progression from our classrooms and steal peeks from our windows inhaling as much of the dust dirt wind as we could. Mind you, we did not get this new dirt every year as erosion was nearly impossible, it being jailed as it was, within this concrete terrarium. I think the field must have lost some of its volume over time from the unavoidable but everyday adhesiveness of our uniforms, cleats, eyes and ears. 
We would start to practice for the football season in the hot and dry late strands of August before the school year got into full swing. The oil trucks would come a week before football practice was to start to spray the dirt to dampen down it’s dust. The first few weeks of practice after it’s application we would come home much stained with this oil and I commonly developed what the coach called “carbuncles” which I remember as sort of elephantine pimples, mostly on my back, I think from the oil. I still remember him telling me to tape a raw slice of potato over these to draw out the puss. I did and it worked.
My teeth were not naturally very straight and my family has an annoying genetic scourge of three sets of teeth in one front tooth making our closed mouths appear like someone had built scaffolding under our lips. As luck would have it my football team was the first in Pittsburgh to be fitted for mouthpieces collapsing my secret ambition of getting my front teeth knocked out requiring free new teeth for me, paid for by the school.
We were rarely given water because it was a sign of weakness. I think our coaches were preparing us for the unlikely scenario of a surprise game in the Sahara Dessert.
I played three sports in high school and continued two into college. My parents never once saw me play. My father missed me being handed my high school diploma because he had to leave to pee.

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