Friday, February 17, 2012

The Relics of Rock

I was sitting among a gaggle of Baby Boomers around the Tiki Bar at Tarpon Point Grill last night. We were shivering around the heaters while getting belted by the chilly winds off the Manatee River. My mother was in town, and we were enjoying an alcoholic nightcap. As we sipped our drinks, we listened to the musical stylings of a jam band. I do not remember their name, but that is just another sign of their mediocrity. They were a foursome of 50 and 60 year-old gentleman who were content playing to a sparse crowd of fifteen to twenty. Their beer bellies swayed back and forth as they strummed their guitars and pounded their drums. Smiles were pasted across the faces of the entertainers and entertainees alike as they belted out covers of tunes called “Frigidaire Woman” (which contained numerous sexual innuendos about home appliances) and “Hit Her with a Brick” (which was rather literal in its interpretation). Their song choices were as suspect as everything else that occurred on stage last night.

I wondered if this was just a hobby for the entertainers, or if this was a continued pursuit of a life long dream to be a rock star. I can't imagine that this was what they pictured when they first picked up an instrument. Is it possible that a young fifteen year-old held aloft a cheap plastic pick or splintered wood drum stick and said, “Some day, I'll be playing a Bradenton tiki bar on a Thursday night in front of dozens of people. That's right... dozens!”

I continued to wonder. I have seen plenty of local bands that were made up of “kids” in their early twenties. What goes through their minds as they get ready to play a show? Are they satisfied with the crowds of fifteen to twenty? Do they hope for a packed bar of 40 to 50 half-interested and fully inebriated patrons? Or do they still dream of playing in front of sold out crowds at Madison Square Garden or the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheater?

I have seen plenty of aging rockers in their twilight years playing a multitude of local venues.
I see the bands that grew up listening to and idolizing Ronnie James Dio and Mötley Crüe. They have receding hairlines, protruding guts, and a certain air of failure exuding from their pores. They have a devout following that never exceeds fifty people, and through my brief research, the entertainers have blue collar day jobs. Once upon a time, they were skinnier and their dreams were larger. What happened? Did they get a groupie pregnant? Were they popular enough to have groupies? Or did life and their metabolism just catch up with them?

I don't actually worry too much about the current crop of dream-crushed musicians. No, I care more about the current wave of young musicians that are in that all important stage of life where they must choose to shit or get off the stage. Shitting being the figurative symbol of “making it” in the music business. I want all my friends to be able to have the opportunity to shit (once again, figuratively). My amateur ears tell me that they are talented, and just need the right opportunity to really “make it.” But that is not the reality. The odds are that opportunity will never arise, or will be missed. Life will happen, and making music will become an activity of the past or just a hobby. I just hope they don't become tomorrow's sad sights at a tiki bar on a Thursday night way into the future, playing Green Day covers to a smattering of drunken patrons.

I picture the Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers in their Emo glory, traipsing around a small stage some twenty years from now. I assume they'll still be wearing eye liner and skinny jeans just like they do today. Or the metal heads would be smearing blood on their faces just hours after finishing their TPS reports. It would be a sad set of affairs. Then again, I don't think they care. They are still doing what they love, and I doubt they see themselves in the same vain that I do.

I imagine they would still see themselves as rock Gods. Looking down on those who partake in karaoke, just to bellow into a microphone on stage. No, they are being paid (albeit in small increments) to entertain. They will most certainly picture themselves just as they looked in their twenties. They would have to do that. Dreams and positive self-image are for those who hang on to what could be. Reality is for those who have given up.

My final question is this; when is it appropriate to hang up your spurs (or more accurately, your Converse)? At some point you have to hit a figurative musical wall, and the choice has to be made. Do you heed the signs that it is time to move on, and join the ranks of the other white collar workers of the world? Or do you ignore them and continue pursuing your dream until you become the subject matter for some snarky blog writer who couldn't play a lick on a guitar? I'll leave that decision up to them. For now, I'm going to continue going to shows to cheer and support local music. God speed; you rulers of rock, you masters of Metal, you purveyors of punk.

PS- If you are in a Sublime cover band, please stop... now.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is This Racist?

Sometimes my inner thoughts turn into crude MS Paint creations. This what what occurred in my brain cake today.  My only question, is this racist?


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Richard, You're a Dick!

Dick was a dick! That being said, there is a reason why I refer to him by such a name and with such an irreverent tone. He was my neighbor when I lived at my dad's house for a bit. He was an outright son-of-a-bitch, who would one day get the comeuppance he deserved. This is the prologue to said comeuppance.

His name was actually Richard, but I called him “Dick” because I felt it was more applicable. He was a terrible neighbor. He once called Animal Control, because my dog barked at the water birds in our back yard every morning for about fifteen seconds. An annoyance, yes. But one worthy of calling animal control, I think not. I came home from work one day, only to find a notice saying my dog was being a “nuisance.” The story of how Richard became Dick starts here.

Part of the deal for me to stay in my dad's house rent free (thanks dad) was that I paid the utilities and kept the yard in immaculate shape. One of those chores was cleaning up hundreds of mangoes that fell from the tree in the backyard. It was an especially fruitful season of mango precipitation that year. It seemed like there were over a 1,000 of them strewn across the yard when I finally made the effort to collect and dispose of them. Because I had delayed the chore, they were no longer solid orbs, but more of a plasma-like substance that emitted an awful stench. I spent an entire laborious weekend scooping them up with my gloved hands and placing them into garbage bags. I had to use gloves because I am allergic to the sap and juices of the mango. The worst part of that chore was dragging the 50 pound bags of mushy mango pulp to the road.

I believe I amassed over a dozen oversized industrial strength garbage bags full of the itchy and scratchy skin and pulp during that two-day escapade. And due to my supreme exhaustion, I haphazardly piled them by the road for the disposal gentleman to sling into their chariot of waste. At that point, I thought my job was done. I would soon find out that it was not.

The next day, I came home from a long day's work, and tried to relax on the couch and watch some television. My relaxation was interrupted when I heard a light knock on the front door. I turned my head to see who was standing on the doorstep, and I saw no one. I got up and walked toward the entryway, and when I arrived, it was empty. I only saw Dick standing at the end of my driveway. I assumed he was not the perpetrator, and that my mind was just playing tricks on me. I returned to my couch perch in an attempt to continue my workday decompression.

Less than 60 seconds later, I heard the ring of the doorbell. I glanced quickly, only to see the blurry streak of Dick scurrying away like a cockroach when the kitchen light comes on. I sprang from the couch to make sure my eyes had not deceived me yet again, and caught him mid-retreat.

I opened the door and said, “Richard, what do you want?”

His only response was to turn away and wave at me to follow him. I was confused.

I shouted at him again, “Richard, what is going on?” Again, he just looked at me oddly, then continued walking away. I reluctantly followed him.

He did not turn back or say anything as he walked to his house next door and into his driveway. I wasn't sure if he thought his house was a neighborhood embassy, and that he was safe from any harm as long as his feet were touching “base.” As I approached, he looked down at his driveway and ominously pointed his finger toward a tire track stain behind his car. There was a Latino gentleman sweating bullets next to the car, with a wash bucket resting at his feet. This man was obviously under Dick's employ, and had been working hard to scrub away the tire track stain to no avail. Dick would explain the rest in great detail.

He said, “Wade, did you see that your garbage bags are leaking?”

I responded, “No, I hadn't noticed. I'll go check.” Before I could go check, Dick stopped me.

He continued as if his question were rhetorical, “Well, they are. And worse yet, whatever is in those bags is leaking into to gutter and got stuck on my tires when I drove through the gutter and into my driveway last night. I came out here this morning, and found this stain. YOU caused it, and I want to know what YOU are going to do about it.”

I muttered, “Nothing, I guess. It's your driveway.”

He grew angrier, and explained why he was in such a tizzy, “Wade, YOU let whatever this garbage is leak into the gutter, therefore it is YOUR responsibility to clean it up. I have had my friend here trying to clean it all morning. He has tried regular cleaning supplies, turpentine, bleach, and nothing has worked. YOU are going to have to get someone out here with some industrial strength supplies to clean this, and I expect YOU to pay for it! What is in those bags anyway?”

I responded quickly, “Well DICK, those bags are filled with mangoes. I can't imagine anything besides water is needed to clean up this stain. Have you tried water yet?”

Dick replied, “Wade, I already told you. We have tried everything. If bleach and turpentine won't work, what makes you think that water will miraculously wash away this toxic stain?”

I calmly exclaimed, “Because this is mango juice, not tar. Go get your hose, and I'll show you.”

He said, “I don't have a hose long enough” (laces out, Dick).

I returned to my yard, and dragged my hose over to the spot where his man-servant had been scrubbing all morning with unnecessarily strong chemicals. I unleashed a steady spray of the earth's most plentiful resource and watched it immediately chip away the sticky stain, bit by bit.

Once I was 100% positive it was working as expected, I stopped staring at the stain, and aimed my gaze right at Dick's eyes. He was blushing, and I was smiling ear to ear. I did not look away, I just kept smiling at him and washing away the nuisance stain without looking. His cheeks became flushed, and my grin expanded to the point that I felt my cheeks stretching. I had not smiled this big in ages. It was the most satisfaction I had felt in quite some time. All the while, Dick said nothing.

I told him that he should finish the job himself. I would even let him borrow my hose. I wanted to stand next to him, and bask in the glory of my immaculate win. But it felt even better to watch him from afar. He stood there in the gutter, freeing the rest of the mango juice from its dry state into a river of orange liquid. I watched out of the corner of eye as I put the leaking bags into a garbage can. He was amazed, angry and embarrassed at the same time. It was wonderful!

After he has ushered all the mango remnants along the gutters, and into the drain. He returned the hose to where it belonged. Needless to say, he did not come over after he was finished to knock on my door and apologize or offer any sort or thanks for my brilliant remedy. He just coiled up the miracle rubber tube by the water spigot, and went on his way.

I assume he went inside after that and took a long shower to wash off the shame and embarrassment. I also assume he did so after a short spell of rocking back and forth while lying in the fetal position and crying. I should have felt bad about being such a dick to him. But hey, one dick deserves another.

Sunday, February 5, 2012