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Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

Excitement Is ‘High’ for This Year’s Big Game

27 Jan

by Roger White

Excitement is building to a fever pitch as sporting enthusiasts everywhere gear themselves up for the biggest event of the season—I’m talking, of course, about National Read in the Bathtub Day set for February 9. Seriously, there is a National Read in the Bathtub Day; you can check it out on Facebook. According to the event’s NRIBDonline site, as many as 66 people all across our fair land are planning to attend NRIBD festivities. Mind you, I’m not at all certain whether all 66 of them are going to read in the same bathtub. If so, however, I want photos.

Just joshing. As pumped as I am about NRIBD, I’m referring to the big daddy—ye olde Super Bowl. Or as it’s officially called these days: the Super Nokia AT&T Citibank Anheuser Busch Cadillac Dorito’s Coca-Cola GoDaddy Bowl®TM©(all rights reserved, patent pending). Best I can determine, televised pre-game activities begin at 6:30 a.m. February 2, but actual kickoff of the actual game is actually about 8:30 that night. Or maybe the next night, who knows?

The most fascinating aspect of this year’s big game is the intrigue surrounding the teams involved—the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Sure, it’s a matchup of the league’s Number 1 offense versus the Number 1 defense; and, yeah, it’s seasoned veteran Peyton Manning versus young sensation Russell Wilson. But that ain’t what I’m harping about. It’s Denver and Seattle, man. Think about it—teams from two of the vanguard states pushing the envelope for the legalization of marijuana. Talk about a hawks hookahSuper “Bowl.” See what I did there?

Although fans will surely be as high as so many kites for this clash of titans, I would imagine the stadium will be only partially filled—not because some lamebrain decided they should play outdoors in New Jersey in the dead of winter. No, I’m thinking many of the Colorado and Washington faithful will forget where they put their tickets. Or they’ll get lost between their hotels and MetLife Stadium. Here’s hoping they have a crowd cam constantly surveying the stands. I predict many spontaneous Bob Marley sing-alongs, beachball-tossing contests involving bikini-clad girls riding on the shoulders of thin bearded men, and impromptu tantric yoga sessions. Fans will likely attempt “the wave” at some point, but they will get confused when they stand up, and many will simply leave, trying to remember why they stood up in the first place.

I would also lay money on the prospect of hot dog, nacho, and candy bar concessions running dry before halftime. Pizza delivery shops and Chinese takeout places throughout the greater East Rutherford metropolitan area will all be on call for emergency delivery to the stadium.

Rumor has it that the originally scheduled halftime show, which was set to feature Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, has been scrapped to cater more to the cherrygarciatastes of these unique fan bases. That’s right, halftime will consist of the Grateful Dead, Puff Daddy, and a reading of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, as performed by Cheech Marin.

In a related development, a whole host of companies went into a mad scramble to buy television advertising spots when they realized this unprecedented opportunity. Yep, you’ll be seeing ads for Lay’s Baked Dorito’s, Mr. Natural Toasted English Muffins, Billabong Surfwear, the new Chevy Blazer, and, of course, Stoned Wheat Thins.

I’ve heard that the governors of the respective states even lobbied the NFL to have the timing of the kickoff moved to precisely 4:20. If you have to look that one up, then you’re just real square, daddy-o.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

How to Unclog the Duodenum of Texas

8 May

by Roger White

Guess from whence I’m writing this installment, my kaleidoscopic cohort. In my car. That is correct. I haven’t touched the accelerator or the steering wheel in the last six minutes and nineteen seconds—traffic is this clogged—so I figured I might as well put the time to good use. Or silly use, anyway. I can now see a spider web forming from my front left hubcap down to the highway pavement. And I swear that little fuzzy monster is grinning at me. One should not be able to see spider webs and smiling arachnids on the highway.

puttputtSuch is life in Austin. I read the other day that traffic here in the duodenum of Texas ranks fourth-worst in the nation. The entire nation! Only LA, Honolulu, and San Francisco are worse. We’re more cars-trophobic than New York, Boston, and D.C. even. Get it? Cars-trophobic? I made that up, so no copying. I mean, cripes, Forbes magazine recently named our little—correction—NOT little burg as the fastest-growing city in America. It’s gotten to the point where I, your most genteel of scribes, have sunk to the point of using crude, contemporary slang that I vowed I would never employ. Alas, here goes: Trying to get from Point A to Point B in this town now officially … cough, “sucks.” Ew. I said it. I hate that verb. Kids today do not have the verbal alacrity to describe any experience, flavor, relationship, teacher, concert, class, ex-friend, or social exchange with any nuance at all because all they can say is that this or that “sucked.” This is why I hate the word. It bashes creativity. That being said, however, I again acquiesce because I, too, can conjure no other description of living in this town today. Other than it sucks. Like, man.

where am iWhy doth it sucketh, you ask? I’ll tell you. There are too many of us here. Come on, already. Stop moving here. Get this, and I quote from a local news source: “The Austin metro area added 67,230 people during the last 15-month period—4,482 people a month.” Cheese and crackers, folks, that’s 149.4 people glomming onto the city per day. I’m not sure where the .4 comes from, but for the love of Mike, somebody shut the gate.

It’s our own fault, really. Austin is so artsy-craftsy. Everybody and their therapist is an oh-so-sincere musician with a new folk song coming out about riding the backroads to Babylon or somesuch; we have organic food fairs every weekend that feature gluten-free honey-caressed love veggies that have been hand-raised by Buddhist hippies who live in a house made of dirt; everyone young and old runs and bikes by the lake—even the fat people; Robert Plant shops for groceries south of downtown, even though nobody recognizes him anymore because he apparently looks like Marty Feldmanmarty er robert now. Plus there’s a god-forsaken concert or charity run or awareness walk or some civic-minded, hug-inducing love-in wherein they block off every street in or around downtown—every goddamn week! It, uh… well, it sucks.

So, my clarion call to you, my fellow dwellers of the duodenum, is to, um, suckify the city its own self. If people are coming here by the droves because we’re so weird and wonderful, then the only way to reverse the trend is to unweird ourselves. You, over there in the hipster jeans with holes in just the right places, put down the guitar. That’s it, don that gray shirt and apply for that assembly line job at the pliers factory. You there, the lazily grinning hippies selling arugula out of your van. Take a shower—separately, please—put on some real underwear, and drive to Phoenix. You see, we have to tone down the originality and show some real, authentic normalness. Drabness even.

While researching the absolute worst cities in America, I read on more than a few sites that Stockton, California, ranks as a shining example of, er, genuine suckitude. Take a look (and I quote from the internet, so it’s gotta be legit): “In July 2012, Stockton became the largest city ever to file for protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Also in 2012, the city was ranked one of the most dangerous cities in America. In 2013, Stockton was ranked as the third-most illiterate city in the U.S., with less than 17 percent of adults holding a college degree.”

Ah ha! Citizens of Duodenum-ville, rise up! And dumb down! Engage in some petty thievery. Kick a tourist or two in the groin. City planners, dabble in a little malfeasance. Cook a book yea stocktonor three. Mr. Mayor, get caught with a city secretary in a Bangkok hotel. Then, and only then, will we stem the tide of people crowding into our fair hamlet. In short, to prevent this city from sucking so badly, we must make it suck somewhat. I think.

In the meantime, I’ll sit here, watching that little smirking spider make a home in my hubcap. Man, this sucks.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Austin, I Love Ya–But Enough with the Festivals Already

12 Mar

by Roger White

 

Enough. I’m festivaled out. I can’t muster the strength to attach one more day-glo wristband to my tired, old wrist.

 

Don’t get me wrong—I love Austin. I really do. I love the laid-back jeans-and-sneakers milieu; I love the true Tex-Mex food and killer margaritas; I love the endless live-music yummmselections; I love the weather (except for the kiln-like days of July and August); and I do relish the fact that li’l ol’ Austin is the one blue-tinted bastion of rational thought and human compassion amid a red sea of fear mongering and “I got mine—git yers, dammit” mentality.

 

But Austin, enough with the festivals already. As I write this, we’re deep in the throes of South by Southwest (SXSW to you hipsters), an extended music party that runs pretty much all of March. It used to be mainly a music thing, but now SXSW includes films, speeches, hipster nerd gatherings, and all sorts of interactive events, whatever that really means. Seriously, what constitutes an “interactive event”? If I get up from my desk to get coffee, and I bump into Larry at the coffee machine, and Larry says “Hi, Rog, how ’bout them Cowboys? Ha, ha, ha,” and I tell Larry to clam up, doesn’t that qualify as an interactive event? Didn’t we just interact back there? I hate Larry.

 

Anyway, this here SXSIXWI thing sucks in about 18 million people from all over the planet, and it makes getting around town a royal pain in my interactive regions. There is no place to park; every downtown bar suddenly charges ten bucks for a beer; and there are some mighty weird-looking people roaming around. Lots of them. I’m talking weird for Austin. That, my friends, is nuclear weird.

 

The one thing I do enjoy about mega-fests such as XXSWXSIW is perusing the band names. Here are a few of the outfits performing this year, I kiddeth you not: The Airborne Death by Death or somethingToxic Event, BadBadNotGood, Bass Drum of Death, Bloody Knives, Bombay Show Pig, The Creepy Creeps, Diarrhea Planet, Flosstradamus, Gringo Star, Idiot Glee, Marijuana Deathsquads, Mutilation Rites, Thousand Foot Whale Claw, Two Cow Garage, Warm Soda, The Wet Nuns, and, of course, Zorch.

 

Somehow I envision Two Cow Garage and Diarrhea Planet on the same bill, don’t ask me why.

 

However, my gentle flock, I’m not here to rail merely against SXSKXIW, but the perplexing proliferation of all these pagan parties all over my picturesque place. Man, Austin is averaging almost a festival a week, I’m telling ya. In addition to SXSW, we have the Austin City Limits Festival, the Annual Kite Festival, Star of Texas Rodeo, Circuit of ACL Dudethe Americas Formula 1 Race, the Annual Bun Run, Austin Marathon, Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Pecan Street Festival, that X-rated Carnaval Skin Thing, the Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin Film Festival, Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, and a ton of others I’m forgetting at the moment.

 

Call me old, call me fuddy, call me duddy even, but enough with the glow sticks and the turkey legs and roasted corn and too much cleavage all over the place and waiting in line for an hour to use a porta-potty that smells like a Two Cow Garage. Sheesh. Now, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Well, if you don’t like the festivals, you don’t have to go, you old coot.” Right you are, but wifey and I have two teenage daughters—two teenage daughters who feel it is their duty to attend every single cotton-pickin’ happening that happens through town.

 

So guess who’s driving in the middle of all this mess, so these daughters don’t suffer the gobbler leglife-altering trauma of missing out on Diarrhea Planet or The Airborne Toxic Event, hmm? That’s right, my wife. Hey, honey, can you pick up a turkey leg while you’re there?

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Are We Fiddling Around Like Nero?

25 Sep

by Roger White

“The decline . . . was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. . . .”

—Historian Edward Gibbon on the decay and fall of Rome

“Why Bieber’s mom won’t have sex”

—CNN web site headline dated September 19, 2012

At first blush it may appear that these two quotes have about as much to do with each other as atomic theory and bacon grease, but to the keen observer inhabiting the proper frame of mind and sipping the necessary amount of espresso, the connection is readily apparent. The former is an explanation of one of an interconnected tangle of reasons for the decline of a great civilization. The latter is a symptom of same.

Ancient Rome didn’t have the internet, but you can be sure that at the height of the empire’s power, with little to challenge Romans but their own idleness, the scuttlebutt among the average corpulent, indolent citizens lounging about their atriums had much to do with which senator’s wife had been seen with a certain centurion after hours near the Pantheon. Or perhaps who would be featured next weekend at the Colosseum in “Gladiating with the Stars.”

Throughout America’s rise to power, particularly after World War II and again with the fall of the Soviet Union, many casual historians likened the U.S. to ancient Rome, both as a comparative study and a cautionary tale. From many of these same armchair history buffs came the postulate-cum-warning that Rome fell from within. Both statements are greatly oversimplified—America is certainly not the Roman Empire; and the decline of Rome occurred for many complex reasons—however, the tantalizing prospect of a circumstantial connection between the two is too intriguing to ignore.

By the time the Huns and Vandals were threatening the very walls of Rome herself in the 5th century A.D., the empire had been degraded through years and years of decay, corruption, internal strife, and general malaise. The culture that had built the world’s mightiest civilization had stagnated. In other words, Rome had grown lazy and fat. Its armies were so far-flung across the known globe that the once invincible legions could not defend even the capital city.

I’m not holding forth that the descendants of Attila will come rampaging up Pennsylvania Avenue anytime soon, but you must admit that events and trends from within and without our great country give any thinking person pause. We, as a nation, are fat and lazy. Most Americans don’t do much physical labor on a daily basis anymore. We are at our most overweight and short of breath than we’ve ever been. We don’t save anymore; the average American family carries about $5,000 in credit card debt—at a time when job security is at its worst in decades. We used to buy only when we had the money. Our national economy, anchored by financial institutions with questionable lending practices and regulated by insiders with personal interests at stake, teeters like a house of cards. Our arts—literature, music, film and television—are in a state of upheaval as publishers, producers, and purveyors of entertainment chart confused courses in their attempts to grasp new media, often leading to drastic actions such bookstore and music outlet closings, the demise of longtime news and publishing houses, and frustration and despair for many promising artists and writers. With more channels to choose from than ever before, TV now offers arguably the worst product in its history. Ironically, the great many cable choices chopped up major advertising dollars, which has prompted producers to grind out lower- and lower-budget shows in a pathetic race to the bottom. And perhaps most telling, news isn’t news anymore. It’s gossip. With an unlimited number of outlets, through practically boundless media technology, the goal is not to inform anymore—the bottom line is to attract the most viewers with the most lurid headlines; thus, to nab the precious advertising dollars. Hence, you have an intrepid reporter telling you why Bieber’s mom won’t have sex.

Last but least, our self-seeking politicians have abandoned any semblance of civil discourse to rabidly defend their respective party lines to the complete detriment of any action toward the advance of our society. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, yet no one among them stands to say so. And nothing gets done.

There are those historians who argue that Rome never really fell. It simply degenerated into irrelevance. Sure sounds like a cautionary tale to me.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Spread A Little Love

9 Feb

by Roger White

Seeing as how it’s Valentine’s season, let’s talk about love.

Love’s a funny thing, isn’t it? No matter how much of it you give away, love remains full and strong, always. If you chop love in half, each half will grow again to full measure, into whole complete love—because true love survives. Take my wife, for example. You thought I was going to say, “Take my wife, please.” Nah, that’s Henny Youngman’s line. The love I hold for my lovely wife, Sue, has matured and shaped itself into this wondrous, long-lasting deep and mellow love that will burn on like a mammoth firelog. Ya know, those giant firelog pits that you gather ’round at Zilker Park during Christmas season? It burns like that. The love I share with Sue is battle-hardened, scarred, weathered – and true. I never thought love could look so beat up and still be so amazingly beautiful. Our love looks like it’s been through a Hoboken subway tunnel, but it’s still there.

We’ve been through a lot, my wife and I, but we know that our love is a firelog love, always burning, keeping us safe and warm. I will love Sue always, and she knows that in her heart. We’re a firelog.

Now, my love for my daughters is a whole other can of love. Yes, it’s still love, but it’s the brand of love that makes me catch my breath with pride, clench my fists in stark fear, and weep quietly in the night over broken hearts. When I watch my daughter Lindsey play guitar or my daughter Jamie run like the wind, I want to jump and shout and tell the world about their talents, but I’m Dad so I just smile and say “all right!” To your kids, there’s nothing worse than embarrassing them in front of their friends, so you have to play it cool. But, man, I love those girls. Did I tell you that Lindsey makes her own jewelry and that Jamie can play volleyball like a manic octopus? Oh, I did already. Sorry. I have some pictures! Oh, you’ve seen those, too. OK.

Anyway, it’s funny how we bandy the word “love” about, when it is such a powerful and elusive thing. Love can curl itself into a ball and hide from you, run long and hard down the road with you chasing after it, or it can gob you right in the face like a melted marshmallow. You don’t have the controls. It does. But you must treat love with great respect and care, for if you lose it, your world will be corrupt and bitter and cold.

It sounds cliché, I know, but you must be careful with love. It’s the best thing we’ve got. Love is the power of the universe, but you have to use it wisely. You must nurture it, and stay faithful. It’s like a basketball filled with truffles. Bounce it lightly, or you’ll have a big mess. You can say you love your car or your job or your new tie, but that’s the Cliff’s Notes rendition of love. No, when we’re talking about real love, we’re talking about the engine that runs your very soul. If you are really in love with something or someone, it becomes a better part of you.

 So. Spread some love with a gentle butter knife. Wield it skillfully. I think that’s what we’re here for. That, and to render good music. Love, friends, music, and a little wine. That should be all you need. Yah?

…a basketball filled with truffles? whooo.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Follow Your Dreams? Well, OK, But Have a Backup Plan

23 Jan

by Roger White

Author’s note: For you dedicated, sort of dedicated, and even not-so-dedicated followers of TOS, I feel I must warn you in advance. This particular installment lacks any juvenile silliness, nonsensical babble, slice-of-life inanity, random wordplay, serpentine stream of consciousness, thinly veiled parody, and/or incomprehensible doublespeak. I’m actually taking a stab at being serious this time. This likely won’t last long, as most of my prescriptions seem to have run out.

As I watch my daughters grow into young womanhood—Lindsey now a thoughtful, creative high school sophomore so marvelously free-spirited yet touchingly conscientious in every facet, and Jamie, our firebrand eighth-grader so fiercely strong-willed and stubborn but so tender-hearted and self-conscious—I struggle to keep them optimistic and open to the great vista of opportunities and adventures that is theirs in their youth while ensuring that they truly understand the many gambles attendant with life’s every turn.

How do you convey to your children that life is to be thoroughly enjoyed yet doggedly pursued with utmost seriousness, that the world around them is not a vile place to be feared but that wariness and caution are also fundamental?

How do you keep those most precious to you warm-hearted and open to the world when, while you’re teaching your oldest how to drive a car, a man pulls up next to her and flips her the finger because she’s driving too slow for his taste? What course do you take when your youngest tells you that some anonymous degenerate claiming to be an online friend wrote such depraved and loathsome things on her web page that the words don’t even bear repeating?

Beyond these random acts of unkindness, how do you also instill in your children the passion to “follow your dreams”—a catchphrase heard so often in movies, media, books, commercials, speeches, campaign promises, and valedictory addresses today that it has become hackneyed and meaningless—when the cold reality is that the vast majority of us grinding out our day-to-day existences have come nowhere near the lofty dreams of our youth?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that anyone should settle for something less than what one earnestly wants to do with one’s career and life. I’m merely advocating, in this reality-TV culture that falsely suggests that everyone can be a star, for a healthy dose of practicality. I fear that many kids growing up today, buffeted from all sides by messages insinuating that instant fame or fortune will be theirs for the taking when some magic day arrives, will be in for a terribly rude awakening when it comes time to settle into that desk job in the corporate cubicle farm.

A glimpse at one episode of “American Idol” confirms this unsettling notion. When the judges break the bitter truth to so many young would-be superstars who can’t carry a tune in a large fruit bowl, the contestants’ reaction of utter disbelief and heartbreak may make for a sort of Schadenfreudean entertainment for the masses, but it also exposes symptoms of delusional expectations held by today’s youth. Yeah, you’re going to win the 750-million-to-1-shot lottery with one ticket. Right.

Ah, hell, I guess it’s not just today’s youth. I’ll fess up. When I was 11, and I caught my first touchdown pass of the season for the Burleson Boys Club Panthers, I was immediately convinced I would be an NFL wide receiver. That touchdown was the only pass I ever caught that season—and for the rest of my football career (which lasted until eighth grade when I broke my collarbone). A high schooler who weighs all of 130 pounds sopping wet stands little chance at football glory outside of his back yard.

When I was 14, I was going to be a drummer in a rock band that would be discovered by a West Coast record label and shoot straight to international stardom. Talent seemed to be the snag here (see “American Idol” above). When I was 19, I was going to own my own legion of vending machines, which held the promise of easy riches and an unending supply of M&Ms, but no one seemed to want to lend a teenage entrepreneur the mere six figures for start-up.

And when I was 30-something and finished my first attempt at the Mediocre American Novel, I was sure I was destined to be the next John Irving. Alas, that dream is still on the runway, desperately awaiting clearance in the thickening fog. So I soldier on, in the cube farm, telling myself that John Irving just might not have it as good as I think he does.

And I also tell my girls, yes, follow your dreams—but have a solid backup plan. If you truly want to be the next Lady Gaga, give it a shot. But stay on course for your MBA, as well. Please.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Lenticular Haiku, by Sir Archie Ferndoodle

9 Jan

by Roger White

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a duffel bag full of marsupials to announce the return of my dear friend, front porch sartorial mentor, and fellow breakfast-nook philologist, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has been gently coaxed out of quasi-retirement to once again bless us with phrasings, words, syllables, parts of syllables, and renderings of nocturnal animal sounds from the Ulan Bator region as only Sir Archie can. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get 10 percent off a five-ounce jar of Sue’s Coconut Heel Scrub with the purchase of at least $20, not including her patented Tomato-Lye Jamboree Hair Tonic.)     

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “A Stitch, a Horse, and a Can of Pearl,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

The more astute of you may have seen Fernie’s hand in the Christmas edition of “This Old Mouse.” Raise your hand if you had the notion that Sir Archie was the ghostpen behind“The Nitrous Before Christmas.” Well, you’re dead wrong; I wrote that while flying low in my dentist’s office, but I did have ol’ Fernie in mind. In fact, he may have actually inhabited my body during that whole experience, but we digress again.

So anyway, without further magoo, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle, who has just returned from a five-month sojourn at the Tao Sendaha Haiku Sweat Lodge, just north of Pittsburgh.

 

Lenticular Haiku

by Archie Ferndoodle

 

Hand old, withered

Extended to young happy boy who

Smiles and

Coughs up a small border town near

Flagstaff.

 

Deposit slip with no meaning flutters

In brown surge of empty day. I find Julia at

Home making love to the Buick

Again.

Better judgment whispered

Toyota, Toyota.

Toyota. Smash hindsight with

Bitter hammer of stoli rocks. Ah.

 

Three grateful invertebrates argue

On who passed

Wind while each ascends

The assistant professor’s

Mortgage.

 

 

 

Trees and earth know much more

Than they sing

To man accused of listening of listening

Of listening to Alex

Trebek and his minions. Only refuse

And then hear again, the daily

Double. Oh! Bodies of

Water for Four

Hundred.

 

Heat. No heat. Heat. No heat.

Damn toaster. Fling the

Shiny monster down the hillock to

CRASH waves of filament element

Parchment and wire. No heat toast is mere

bread and

Sorrow.

Dear Julia. I’m trading it

In.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Let’s Talk about Keith. And Teeth. And Sir Edward Heath.

2 Jan

by Roger White

My reading list of late, aside from the requisite comics and sports sections, has included Life, the autobiography of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, or Keef, as most of you know him. It is a fascinating read, I must say, not simply because you get to peek behind the heroin- and cocaine-caked curtain of Sir Keef’s life and gain a foothold of understanding of how this supremely talented Brit bluesman/rock icon with the biological resilience of a mutant cockroach has managed to stay alive lo these many years, but you also get a marvelously witty insight into the keen and strangely aloof mind of a songwriter — what makes him tick, the amazingly broad array of cues he picks up on as inspiration for his songs, the unbelievably rich life he’s led (from stealing and reselling used bottles to scrape enough money together to eat to jetting from Morocco to the south of France with the world’s most beautiful and exotic people), and his wonderfully unique take on life and how he’s riffed through it plucking those nasty, jangly rhythms with nary a scratch despite spending more than 50 years on the hard edge of a lifestyle that has taken down many a talented man and woman long before their time.

Some have called the Stones “the world’s most dangerous rock and roll band” in their prime, and if they were, then Sir Keef was the man wielding the blade. A dear friend of mine lent me the book, and going in I thought, yah, another ghostwritten alcohol-slopped tell-all with some deftly dropped names and a few juicy “gotcha” moments with just enough backstory on some of the Stones’ most famous numbers and people and hangers-on to keep me reading. Man, was I wrong. Richards can tell tales. And his insight into musical concepts, history, and how circumstance, events, and people being in certain places at certain times caused modern popular music to evolve as it has is quite remarkable. So, do I recommend picking up this book? Hell, yes. And there are many photos. Later on we’ll get ice cream.

Anyway, all this to say, wow, I far underestimated Sir Keef’s literary acumen; however, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I have always stood (sometimes sat, depending on the subject and my current blood pressure) in slight awe of most things British. I mean, Richards may or may not be smarter than your average rock guitarist, but a little voice inside me tells me his British upbringing brings a little to bear. Think about it. British musicians basically took American rock and stepped it up to a higher, thinking man’s level, didn’t they? Most of the best, most progressive rock outfits in history come from our tiny mother country: The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Yes, The Moody Blues, The Zombies, The Who, The Yardbirds, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, ELP — need I go on?

The same goes for comedy. The Brit sense of humor has always struck me as two beats faster, more subtle, and exquisitely more wry than that of the comics on this side of the pond. Don’t get me wrong; I love Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Stephen Wright, and all the others as much as the next guy, but when it comes to writing, content, delivery, and timing, no one tops the Brits in my book. Monty Python, Faulty Towers, Dudley Moore with Sir John Gielgud in “Arthur” – to me, that’s comedic nirvana. I know that some of you don’t get Monty Python. I also know that you are the people who faithfully attend NASCAR events, wear camouflage vests to restaurants, and worship at the altar of Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy. That’s OK. I have no problem with that. (I can just hear the crayons hitting the paper now: “If’n yew love them faggoty Brits so much then why don’t yew git on outta here and move over thar then. That’s rite, jus take the bus on over thar, ya dam trater.”)

Anyway, where were we? Ah, humor, music, insight. All that. I guess the only thing I can’t understand about our dear British comrades, being that they are so refined and intelligent and talented, is the thing with their teeth. With everything the mighty British Empire has achieved through the ages, you would think they would have caught on to the whole dental hygiene kick by now. I mean, gads. I guess the followers of Larry the Cable Guy and our Union Jack cousins do have something in common: a somewhat laissez-faire attitude on ye olde oral health.

Criminy. How I got off on teeth and NASCAR is beyond me, but if you do happen upon Keith Richards’ book, by all means…. Now, where’d I leave my floss?

 Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

I Played Drums for Frank Zappa — Didn’t I?

8 Jun

by Roger White

One of the few nice things about growing old is that the more ancient you become, the less you can be blamed for how quirky and oddly selective your memory is. We boomers (aka flower children, hippies, yippies, Owsley’s owls, hepcats, heads, groks, hipsters, space cadets, longhairs, psychedelic cosmonauts, merry pranksters, etc.) are also able to bask in the added bonus of being able to point the flying fickle finger of forgetfulness at all that, um, consciousness-expanding experimentation of our salad days as yet another source of our cumulus-dotted craniums. Or is that cranii? Craniundum. Whatever.

As one sage and far out philosopher once pined: “If you remember the ’60s, then you weren’t there.” At times, I regard this statement as the deepest of the deep—an epistle of the era; other times, not so much. “Let’s see, so if I remember being at Woodstock, then I wasn’t really? But Santana was there, so does that mean he actually wasn’t? It sure looked like him. Could have been a body double. Hmmm, what’s Wavy Gravy’s phone number?…”

Regardless, what I’m chirping about isn’t just the occasional fortuitous forgetting, such as conveniently deciding to help a buddy configure the surround sound in his far, far West Texas cabin on the very weekend your wife’s sister’s extended family was slated to hit town.

And it’s not just about ungraciously unremembering, like hiding comfy in your cube while your coworkers render the fourth “Happy Birthday to You” of the week in yet another forced bonding ceremony in the breakroom, complete with dry cake and strained smiles and laughing hard at all the boss’s jokes, ha ha ha, oh, God.

And it’s even more than just a nice, fat case of what I call the “lazily laying asides.” You know what I’m talking about here: cleverly delaying emptying the dishwasher, mowing the lawn, putting your dirty clothes away, or cleaning up the dog’s indiscretions on the carpet until somebody else takes care of it—all in the name of thick fog in the old noodle. “I didn’t see it, I swear. Without my glasses, it looked like a dark, skinny chew toy.”

No, as satisfying as these little geriatric perks are, I’m referring to good old (are you ready for this alliterative ace?) narcissistic nostalgia. Witty words, eh? Just call me an emperor of expression, a duke of declaration, a guru of, uh, some word that begins with “g.”

Friends, narcissistic nostalgia is that endearing trait we old-timers display now and again that involves taking a mental bicycle pump to a personal brush with greatness from long ago and puffing up that memory into a full-blown, if somewhat fraudulent, fat tire of genuine stardom. These episodes generally occur in social settings, such as parties, class reunions, corporate happy hours, or waiting in the endless line for the john at the most recent Stones concert. (I hear they’re on the road again, by the way. Rumor has it this tour’s going to be called either “Steel Wheelchairs” or “A Bigger Bed Pan.”)

Narcissistic nostalgia, or NN as it’s known by those who study this sort of thing, is nothing new. Folks rustling through the autumn leaves of their years have been exhibiting traits of NN since Biblical times, when a graying David kept rehashing to his tribe about how he beaned the 30-foot-tall Goliath with a single tiny pebble. David’s peers actually recall that Goliath stood only about 5’ 8” and that David was packing heat—but by the time David was a doddering old king, his buddies figured it was better to let him tell the story his way.

Thus it is with us geezers today. I had my own NN experience recently, and it took my wife to gently sweep my cobwebs (thankfully out of earshot of my rapt audience).

Now, as I recalled it, it was about mid to late ’70s. I was living in Dallas-Fort Worth with some musician pals of mine. Frank Zappa was tooling through town when his drummer got hold of some bad herbs just before the Mothers were scheduled to play the Tarrant County Convention Center. One of Zap’s bandmates had swung by our place with the news and asked if anybody could sit in on the skins for the evening’s gig. “I’m your man,” I said—and the rest is history.

Well, NN history. My dear wife knew me then, and here’s what really happened: It was 1985. Jimmy Carl Black, Zappa’s drummer from the Mothers of Invention days, dropped in to see a mutual friend I was living with in Arlington. Jimmy Carl scored an impromptu gig at a place called The Hop in Fort Worth but didn’t have his drum kit with him. So he played on my little old set that night, and those babies never sounded cleaner.

And that, dear compadres, is the closest I came to playing drums for Frank Zappa. I still say the NN version is better.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Oak Hill with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.