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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Monday, January 28, 2008

AC/DC Bag



















I was hanging out at the convenience store that my friend runs. He is the franchisee. It is a nice location, in a good, old, neighborhood which was, and remains, predominantly Irish. There is a bar nearby which has a jukebox containing many old Irish ballads such as Danny Boy, Molly Malone, Galaway Bay, plus a nice handful of reels and jigs. There is a faded and yellowed picture of Bobby Sands MP, the famous IRA martyr who died as a result of a hunger strike in Long Kesh Prison in 1981. This neighborhood is strictly working class.

Down the road a piece is an exclusive neighborhood which is home to Judges, Congressmen and CEOs. This neighborhood trails down the hill to a medical campus which more or less declines into the poverty stricken "block" inhabited mainly by Latinos. So you get a pretty good cross section of the inhabitants of the city coming into the place.

The scene last night was typical of that of any other night. There were four or five Gangsters near the condiment area. And I use the term gangsters with utmost respect. They are not the facsimile of the yahoos you see on MTV or BET, these guys are the real deal. They were having their nightly "sales" meeting. Nobody messes with my buddy when they are in there. And if they do, they are taken outside and explained in a non-violent way, the errors of their ways. Still, I avoid eye contact and would definitely not cross them.

Near the cash register, there is the Arab contingent. Those whom you would expect to see running the show. But they are leftovers from the previous franchisee's Dynasty. Hamoudi, Riad and Ahmad. They are funny and enjoy a good camel joke. Tonight they are engaged in a conversation with an Egyptian named, Essam or E-money.

E-money is always checking out the jackpots for the Mass Millions drawing. "63 million dollars, where does the money go? Somebody has to win, but you never see the money." He laments that in a more civilized society such as Egypt, where he can't return because he avoided military service, there is no lottery. But he plays anyway. He speaks seven languages about as poorly as he speaks English, but his dialect is hilarious. Instead of saying he wants to kill someone he will wish that "they are graved in the cemetarian."

All this is taking place while Geoff, the franchisee, is very proficiently mind you, playing a Thelonious Monk tune on an electronic piano set up near the register. There is an endless stream of customers. Mostly buying milk, cigarettes, candy and lottery. There are the ones who come in looking for wraps. By wraps I mean blunts, flavored Phillies and other cheap or flavored cigars. Green Garcia Vegas, commonly called "Garshas," are the most sought after.

But Geoff, limits his inventory for two reasons. Since I am using his first name only I don't feel I'm breaking his anonymity. He is, just as I am, a 12-stepper. A lot of his custies are in the same fellowship or otherwise. So he doesn't like to promote drug use, but realizes it is a necessary evil of owning the type of business he does. He doesn't sell beer and wine. Reason two, and I don't blame him, He doesn't like sweeping up tobacco from the parking lot. So when Paco, Flaco and Lateesha can't get their wraps there, they will go elsewhere and dump the cigar filling in the parking lot of another convenience store.

A custie with braids and SF 49ers Gear lopes in and looks around confused.

"Yo, dawg, you got Vanilla Dutchies?" Geoff grabs a Brown Garcia Vega and holding it like a pointer in a visual demonstration, goes into his schpiel.

"We've got Brown Garsha's..." And he points with the cigar to the EZ Wider rack behind him, "And rolling papers."

The confused look continues, "You don't got no Dutchies?"

He displays the Brown Garcia Vega in his hand pointing to it with the finger of his other hand. "We have Brown Garshas..." he turns and points, again with the cigar, "and rolling papers."

I think he's getting through. The custie reaches down to his ankles and pulls his pants back up to his knees. I can hear the two brain cells in his intricately coiffed head rubbing together and causing a little friction burn...

"You don't got no other Garshas?"

"well, we have the Brown Garsha's (again pointing)...and we have Cherry Garsha ice cream in the freezer."

Custie frowns his best urban scowl and mutters something about the situation being effed up...but he leaves to soil someone else's parking lot. Geoff goes back to Thelonious Monk ignoring the next custie, allowing the chick who thinks she is his girlfriend to take him. After the sale is completed, she passive aggressively delivers, "Why are you so mean to me all the time?" (He is not mean, I would tell you if he was)

He chit chats on this question for a little while explaining in recovery speak that he is not mean but she is needy and high maintenance. What he is saying eludes her. She is determined that he is being mean. He goes on playing while he speaks.

Then a couple of anonymous alcoholics come in and he engages them in conversation. She harrumphs and sits on a couple of milk crates. I can see that she feels that he is now "Ignoring her." They leave and I wander to avoid the "you were just ignoring me" conversation.

I walk over to one of the shelves...Mmmm Oreo Cakesters...too much sugar. Chips? too many carbs, but boy do they look appealing. Hmmm...Firecracker Red Hot pickled sausage. Okay. I look at the nutritional content, as if I was actually expecting there to be a nutritional content. Too much sodium. But wait...my culinary background kicks in. What is this? Mechanically separated chicken?! What on earth is mechanically separated chicken?

I let my mind wander and meander into the darkest recesses of what is left of that drug addled lump in my skull. I've been clean and sober for some time, but the remnants of all that LSD and other mind bending consumables is trapped down in there. Occasionally the right situation will present itself and I can dust off those lysergic trap doors and have a peek in, drawing upon the creative residue left over from all of those experiences. I bounced back to a Phish show where I was imagining what the AC/DC Bag might look like.

The AC/DC Bag, for those of you not in the know, was a contraption from the Gamehendge Saga. The tale of "The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday." Colonel Forbin stepped through a door into Gamehendge, A mystical land inhabited by the Lizards, a peaceful people who are under the rule of the Evil King Wilson. Colonel Forbin meets Rutherford the Brave a knight whose liege, Errand Wolfe has charged him to retrieve the Helping Friendly Book. The knowledge contained within the Helping Friendly Book was stolen from the Lizards by Wilson who used the book to enslave the Lizards. One of the tools Wilson used to ensure obedience was a mechanical robotic hangman called the AC/DC Bag. I took the little flashes of the hallucination from that Phish show and totally perverted it by envisioning the AC/DC Bag, in a factory somewhere in West Virginia plucking chickens off of a conveyor belt, biting off their heads before clawing at their carcasses and removing the bones from the flesh. Hmmm...mechanically separated chicken.

I was doing a good job amusing myself, who said you can't have fun in recovery? So I began to pick up other packages of food. Slim Jims...mechanically separated chicken (MSC), Armour Potted meat product - MSC. I bought a Slim Jim. I could feel the fat coating my toungue as I noshed on the fibrous mystery meat. that is it...those reddish rat hair looking strands must be the MSC. Mmm...Oh boy, is that good.

So, this was a job for Google. My hallucination centered on the AC/DC Bag wasn't that far off the mark, actually. I saw one picture of a mechanical separator. The bones go into a hopper where they are crushed and the small amounts of flesh and albumin are pressed through a fine mesh sieve which is then stabilized and emulsified. There was one hilarious picture. It was photo with beef spines, chicken necks (the best part according to Moe Sizzlak), fish spines, asses, heads and other parts a butcher may "throw away". Then they had examples of the many types of machines available to produce this culinary delight. This product could be pressed through and on the other end, I kid you not, a picture of hot dogs and baloney and other fine forced meat products.

And let's not even cover the subject of "desinewers" pardon, moi...a Francais? "denerveuses" Sinew. What we put into our bodies...and to think I enjoyed that Slim Jim as the novelty it was intended to be. You can eat it quickly without thinking about it because it has already been digested for you, once. And it has been desinewed so the sinew can be later replaced in a more orderly and structurally sound manner than nature intended. To think I have been eating this tripe, yes it includes tripe, all of my life. The USDA approved this barbaric form of food production in 1969.

No wonder when Americans travel to other countries there is such culture shock when we encounter real food. In France, dejuener is unrecognizable to the average American palate as breakfast. Hand formed croissants glistening with an egg washed glaze. Not produced and frozen in a factory two months ago. The dough was made yesterday and baked this morning. I've made croissants from scratch it is not difficult, but it is time consuming requiring patience. The yogurt in little glass jars. That milk was inside of a cow three days ago. It is not hermetically sealed with a three month shelf life. Those glass jars are going back to the farmer when they drop off more as well as some hand crafted cheeses, tomorrow morning. Eggs with hard firm shells that do not disintegrate in your hands, containing sun yellow yolks standing in a firm pool of albumin the way a fresh egg should. You dip your croissant into that liquid gold yolk and it is unlike any thing you have ever tasted. Certainly not like liquid eggs stabilized and de-lipified and ascorbic acidified that pass over our tongues as we exit the drive-through window lane at the local fast food eatery.

Now I regret having that Slim Jim. I feel a need to continue to rediscover my culinary roots as I have been doing for the last 18 months. Fresh organic products whenever possible, farm raised local produce. Milk and cream from the local dairy sold in glass bottles. Perhaps some good down home fried chicken would call me back to my culinary roots.

I'm running out of steam it is late and I'm tired, perhaps it is poor nutrition which is a contributing factor. I think I'll have an apple.

As Always You will find me...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

Pablo

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Calm Before The Storm

* Garden Gate featured as song of the day on Garageband.com.

* Back to Back Review in January issue of No Depression magazine.

* The Drunk Stuntmen’s 5th studio album State Fair has been mastered and will be made available to the virtual fan club members prior to the March 1 release date.

Greetings Stuntfans - We hope you are enjoying Winter in New England. Although there are no tour dates on the schedule, the band has been busy. We are taking advantage of this down time to put our best foot forward as the release date and upcoming tour for the album State Fair approaches.

Prior to the release of the album, the band has been making a buzz. Due to favorable reviews from members of Garageband.com, the song Garden Gate will be the featured song of the day on the Indie Bands front page on Saturday January 26. The address of the page, so you can check it out is http://www.GarageBand.com/go/9NS42IE75B

You, the fan, can join in the fun by simply going to Garageband.com., registering. Then you can check out some cool music and review it. Garden Gate is currently running #75 in it’s category. You can help by putting in your two cents worth regarding all of our tracks including our recent addition to the site, 6:29.

The DVD Back To Back, featuring a performance by the Drunk Stuntmen with the Young at Heart Chorus, was reviewed in the January-February edition of No Depression magazine. No Depression is dedicated to “surveying the past, present, and future of American Music. The DVD documents a historic performance of the two groups at Northampton’s Academy of Music in 2004. Barry Mazor said of the combination of these two groups, “The match up, which includes soulful duets between of the two bands, jumping revival like anthems and sly wise-cracks from performers older and younger, is glued together by the addition of a hot horn section.”

Mazor continues, “It is startling to see how much any sense of indie posturing or striving for the cool just peels away when the stage is shared with amazingly hip grandmas and grandpas.”

No Depression is available locally at Barnes and Noble in Holyoke. You can get a subscription online at www.nodepression.net.

The Back to Back DVD is available at drunkstuntmen.com/catalog/html

The DVD is also available at Filmbaby.com.

Be on the lookout for the Fox Searchlight film Young at Heart coming to a major motion picture theater, near you, in April 2008.

Many of you downloaded our Christmas gift to you, Mitch Easter's Six Pack. The Album State Fair, which was recently mastered by Kitchen Sink Mastering will be available online prior to the release date of March 1, 2008. To take advantage of this situation take one of the previous three Drunk Stuntmen albums, More Bad News, Iron Hip or Trailer Life, put it in your computer and click on the file for the "enhanced" portion of the CD. This will direct you to the virtual fan club. Steve Sanderson says, "Take that old CD, brush it off, put it in your computer and figure it out. We are going to release the music to our fan club first."

We encourage you to contact us. We are scheduling our upcoming tour to support State Fair. If you want us to come to your town, or reasonably close, give us a shout. Get on our mailing list. Click on the email drunkstuntmen link at the bottom of the page at drunkstuntmen.com, or you can check us out at www.myspace.com/drunkstuntmen. Check out our message board. where you can find out when and where Charms is posting live performances for free download. Leave a message it has been quiet lately.

That's all for now we will continue to do our part by keeping you updated of our progress with the album, the DVD and the upcoming tour. Until next time...

Do Your Own Stunts

Hungry Angry Lonely and Tired

HALT! That is when they say you are in danger of relapsing or more so...picking up. I know in my case I have relapsed for days, even weeks before I picked up and got high. What I am referring to are the four conditions which put in a danger. When you are Hungry Angry Lonely and Tired.

I woke up on the wrong side of the earth this morning. I probably should have just pulled the covers over my head and stayed in bed until the morning sun roused me. Instead I woke to a full moon. A full, barking mad, moon. It was 5:10 AM and 19 degrees when my day began. Before I ventured out in to the frozen tundra of East Springfield, I made my bed. This is a habit I had gotten into in the halfway house, where I was a resident for 8 months, last year. I had never given making my bed much thought. I was the only one who would see it so I really didn't give a shit. But, now it is important to me to do so every morning.

It is nice to come home to a relatively clean house with a made bed. It gives the impression that crack heads and junkies don't live here anymore. That they have been shipped out to the countryside with all of the other undesirables so the tourists can enjoy a peaceful vacation void of panhandling, hustling and other forms of chicanery designed to relive them of their money.

Another good thing about making my bed is that it puts me on my knees where I take advantage of the humbling posture to ask my higher power, including but not limited to God, Jerry Garcia and that wonderful floating Purple Neon Orb. The Orb and I had an extended conversation at 4 in the morning, in downtown Providence, RI, back in 1986 after a Max Creek show. It asked me if I wanted to see the mother ship, but I declined citing the Sauce and Skills test I was destined to endure in less than three hours, at Johnson and Wales College, as the reason I couldn't partake of what would most assuredly have been a very interesting sojourn. Being a loving and Caring Orb, it under stood. I guess the Orb does qualify as a Higher power. So does Jerry. And God of course. The prerequisites for achieving this status are entity in question is a power greater than myself and it is loving and caring.

This morning I did pray. I even prostrated myself, face down on my bed (the floor was too cold), as I asked to continue to have the obsession to use drugs lifted for just one more day. I prayed for my family, my daughter and ex-wife. I prayed for the sick and suffering I left behind when I surrendered asking God to talk to them as he had spoken to me the day my journey to recovery began.


I read my inspirational passage from "Just For Today" which ironically described the type of day which lay ahead of me. It outlined how I must get back to the nuts and bolts of my recovery and not lose ground, not let a bad day turn into a bad week or month.

As if it were some sick perverted joke, my day began with me eyeballing the bright shining full moon. I knew right then and there that I would have been better off had I been consumed by a werewolf who didn't subscribe to the early bird gets the worm adage. A cunning and calculating wolf that scoured the neighborhood looking for someone like me, a docile half conscious, plump, juicy morsel caught unawares, which would satisfy his cursed but discriminating palate.

I stopped by my folks and had a coffee with my mom. That was good, but I couldn't shake the feeling I had. I must have been acting weird because she seemed a little concerned. Perhaps it was an incident which happened the previous night with my new cell phone.

My other phone 86ed itself by having the display screen go blank. This was noted by the kid who sold me my new phone. "Are all of your contacts saved to you Sim card?...cause I can't load them onto the Sim card with the screen blank." I assured him that I had saved the contacts recently.

Now I'm a pretty technically savvy guy. I can dope fiend any piece of information technology to cover my tracks...no evidence of impropriety, no incriminating web pages to be found in my history. With my old phone I had overlooked the Sim card.

When I looked through the address book which was loaded loaded into the new phone, I was horrified to find a bunch of numbers I thought I had deleted. Ali, Sharon, Nikki and bunch of other numbers for various dealers and hustlers and active addicts I had no business holding onto, and thought I had discarded.

I erased all of them until I came to one, the last one. I hesitated. Just for a few seconds. long enough to consider the consequences. It should have been a no brainer, but I did hesitate. How could that conversation possibly have gone?

"Hi, Iris, It's Paul. You are out of Jail I see. Yeah I was wondering, would like to go to a meeting?...No? Okay...What you need a ride? And you'll hook me up? DELETE.

I did the right thing, but that moment of hesitation jarred me. It made me realize that I had not been to a meeting in almost a week. Sure...I was busy with my daughter. And now, that Mom was back from her trip, she picked up our kid and took her home. I went home and went to sleep. B ut i was only destined to get about 6 hours before my alarm went off.

So, I woke up, I was already tired, and lonely for my baby. I was angry at myself for my hesitation with dealing with the phone numbers in my directory. And, I was getting hungry. When I got to work things just got more stressful, for no other reason than I was having a bad day and stupid shit, which would normally roll off my back was getting on my nerves.

I peaked at about 10 AM. It got to be too much and I needed to step outside of the situation before I REALLY lost my cool. I asked the dishwasher If I could have a cigarette. I haven't smoked in 6 months, but i asked anyway. I needed to do something, this was the last straw.

He handed me a yellow pouch of Tops. These roll your owns were what I was smoking when I was strung out. The days where I was caught up in the insanity and all the money I would spend on anything other than drugs was the 1.75 for the package of Tops along with a $1.25 milk and some buy one get one free honey buns for 50 cents. Seeing that yellow pouch brought me right back to a time where I was stumbling down Ft. Pleasant Ave with Miss Right Now, high and lonesome. This was not good. I was smoking a cigarette. Something had to change. I summoned up the couraqge to confront the situation.

At that point I began to talk myself down. To identify what was bothering me, I contacted another addict, just briefly to get things off my chest. I revisited with my higher power asking for the strength I needed at that moment. I simply prayed an abbreviated version of the serenity prayer by repeating to myself "accept the difference." Powerless but not helpless, as my sponsor has told me many times before.

I got through the rest of the day. I had something to eat. I began to joke lighten up and partake of the fun to be had at work. I went home got changed and sought out a friend in recovery hanging out with him until it was time to go to my meeting. I had a very good meeting with my home group. Then I came here, to my studio, where my glass making apparatus lies idle, while I tell on my self and outline the struggles of the day.

And guess what. It is now, once again, today. I made it through those 24, 60 minute intervals, some were rockier than others, but I made it. At least I get to sleep tonight, and I don't have to get high...for that simple pleasure I am grateful, Just For Today...



As always, you will find me "Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats"

Pablo

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Needle Exchange


The Needle Exchange

It was a warm summer day. A little too warm for the likes of Patrick as he drove down Main St. He had the window of his Land Cruiser open so he figured it be best to play some music as to not arouse attention. He spied some shady looking characters hovering together on the corner talking to a woman who looked like she was drunk or high. She seemed to be negotiating something with the others. Pat just looked and shook his head, wondering how drugs are still a problem with the low income folks when the rest of the country can’t even fart without the government knowing it. He knew the answer, of course. These people weren’t in the system. They had no computers to tell the main frame with whom they were talking and what the content of their web browsers contained. Even worse what they were listening to…but that wasn’t a problem anymore, at least not in computer land. Most of the music heard these days, as well as what was being read and published was strictly scrutinized and approved by the government. Emails and blogs had to be totally void any political, anti-religious or scandalous content otherwise you would be removed from the network and the bloggers would be formally charged in criminal court.

Patrick took another glance at the chick and the three men as he fiddled with the volume control on his digital receiver. He looked at the display and noticed that “Footprints in the Sand” had just been played. The tune “Trust in Him” was playing. What tripe! But he played it at a louder volume than was necessary, as he passed another group of folks, this one being neatly dressed and standing in a circle hand in hand as they prayed. They all seemed so fake to him. But a majority of the country was aligned with them. They ran the government, they were the lobbyists, They owned all of the successful businesses big and small. They decided what you could read and what you could hear, what your children learn in school. Who were they? You could see them everywhere. But it didn’t seem like they were the majority. No it didn’t seem like it at all. The internet had been cleaned up, no foul language, no more pornography, no more pirating banned movies or banned music. The computers were working against their owners at this point. Any questionable activity on your PC and a bot was immediately deployed to the Department of Homeland Security. Patrick spied another well dressed smiling automaton leaning into a public computer kiosk to have her retina scanned before using the terminal. The way she did a double take side to side made Patrick think she may have been wearing a retinator, a complex computerized contact lens which utilized nano-technology. These could be used to set up an illicit internet account and “subvert” the system.

His cell phone rang. He looked at the caller ID…”Shameless.” He picked up the call.

“Hey”

“Oy, what’s going on laddie?” It was Shameless Seamus Adams.

“Where are you, do have those vinyl samples, my wife wanted to look at?

“I’ve got you covered lad. A fine doorful of woman, ya wife is…I wouldn’t want to disappoint.”

“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.” Patrick replied.

“Ya feckin’ better, cos it was meant to be exactly that.

“Where are you?”

“Where um supposed to be laddie.”

“I see your truck….” He hung up the phone. Behind the donut shop on Main St. was a brand new Evangelical Church, the New Church of the Trinity. It was built in 2021 and dedicated Jerry Falwell. The neighborhood it was in was bordering the not so savory part of town, but 20 years ago it was like a jungle. He used to play music in a bar across the street which was a den of miscreants, hustlers and thieves, back then.

Patrick didn’t mind meeting Seamus in the Church parking lot. “If ya gonna hide, might as well do it just as plain as day,” Seamus would say. As Patrick pulled into the parking lot, Shameless Seamus was stepping out of his vehicle. It was a ancient looking truck. There were ladders and scaffolding fastened to the side and some kind of apparatus which he deduced would be used for either cutting or shaping vinyl siding. In bold Kelly green letters, adorned with shamrocks were the words. “The Vinyl Frontier” - Construction, Remodeling and all of your Vinyl Needs. MA Lic. 245596830.

Seamus was a stout but lean man about a head shorter than Patrick. They had met as they were both key players in the local music scene about two decades ago. Patrick was a guitar player in a straight up roots rock band. Seamus was the deliriously charismatic lead singer and piper in a raucous hardcore Irish band, Shameless Seamus and the Brassers. He had a set of mutton chops and was often seen on stage wearing a kilt with combat boots and a faded Free Press t-shirt. He and his wife Rachael, later formed a hardcore klezemer band called the Hook Nosed Satans. He had a thing about “in your face” names. Although Rachael’s father, the Rabbi, didn’t necessarily agree with their choice of name, he realized it was appropriate for the genre they were playing. With his blessing, she played the fiddle in the band. They did a number of national tours. And actually had a semi hit with the tune “Manic Manischewitz” But those were the days when you were free to put whatever you wanted on either Myspace or your own web site. Seamus and Patrick hugged.

“It’s been a while lad, two weeks is a long time for ya.” Seamus noted.

“Yes, it has been too, long. Bu these days you have to be careful…” he trailed off, a sadness detected in his voice.

“Aye, you can only hear so much of that digital tripe they force upon ya. It’s sad how many talented musicians picked up on that genre and stopped playing REAL music.”

Patrick nodded in agreement. He looked around. It seemed like the coast was clear. Seamus put out his cigarette. “Damn fags, er gonna kill me.”

“Homos?!”

“Nah, fags, the cigarettes, ‘ats what me granwan, used to call ‘em.” Patrick laughed. “Let’s see what we got…”

Seamus walked around to the back of the van. Did another visual check of the scenery moving his head left to right then opened the door. He flipped on the light and pulled out a large ring of color vinyl samples and handed them to Patrick who began to flip through them. To an outsider it would look like he was trying to sell Patrick on a color for his house. Patrick looked inside the truck. Seamus reached up and flipped a latch. A false wall was folded down flush with the floor. Then he did the same on the other side, and began pulling out milk crates, about ten in all. It was a wonderland of nostalgia. On one side of the truck was a cabinet containing about 35 turntables. There were also cords with RCA jacks, brushes and cleaning kits. In the milk crates were the coveted contraband. Vinyl records, 33s, 45s and some 78s. Seamus even had a stack of the centering rings for the 45s. He began to flip through the LPs. AC/DC, Grateful Dead, Traffic, George Harrison, Dylan live at Budokon were the ones which caught Patrick’s eye.

“How much?”

“The Vinyls are $10 each per week. I don’t have any for sale, right now. There was a raid in Easthampton, a fortnight, ago. Lost ‘alf of me inventory.”

“Anyone get busted?”

“Nah. It wasn’t a total loss. I’m spectin’ a shipment from the UK in a coupla days.”

“Remember when we thought the internet would revolutionize the way we heard music?”

“It did, lad, it did. But after the bloody feckin’ war, things just weren’t the same. I have hope for the future, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“We played a gig in Canada a coupla weeks ago, the night of the raid, in fact. I’d say there were about 2 ta 300 of “them” in the crowd. Drinking, dancing, partying like they were about to lose their arses.”

“REALLY?!”

“One of them was talking to me about new legislation. There being a global backlash concerning censorship in the land of the free and home of the brave.”

“Wow, that’s good. It would put you out of business, though.”

“Huh, business, me arse. I’d rather play music than this, and I’d rather not have to leave the country to do it, I tell ya tha’. This is a community service, I am doing, lad, nuthin’ more nuthin’ less. You can only listen to “Footprints in the Sand” and “He was your Carpenter, but He is My King.” So many times before you wanna whip somebody and nail them to a cross.”

“Oooh, dude, that’s harsh.”

“Aye, me pot of gold ain’t in a milk crate full of scratched LPs. It is under a rainbow, playing on stage in a Leprechaun Colony.”

“Leprechaun Colony, you are Shameless.”

“That I am, That I am.” He said, with a sly grin.

Patrick looked around and reached into his pocket. “Put those away, “ He said, referring to the records and turntables. Seamus quickly folded up the fake walls and the truck once again resembled that of a contractor’s. Patrick continued to feign interest in the vinyl color samples.

“I have this, can you do anything with it?” He handed Seamus a small oddly shaped object. It was a needle from a phonograph.”

“Careful, lad, you don’t want to give someone the wrong impression…walking around with a needle in your pocket.” He pulled a magnifying glass out of his pocket. Patrick looked around again. He didn’t see anything other than the regular day to day activities on Main St. Seamus peered intently at the stylus.

“There’s ya problem. Diamond is worn down a bit, forever me arse.”

“Do you have another one? No I don’t but I can let you a loaner. I got one with an emerald. No guarantees, but it will get you music for the three weeks it would take to get another one, which might not work. Bloody feckin’ hell. It’s just music, for chrissake. This country’s blacker than the inside of a cow with its eyes closed and its tail down. Pog ma thon!”

“Yeah, this country is a laughing stock, to the rest of the musical world. I haven’t sung one of my lyrics out loud for five years. Seamus pocketed the needle and fished the appropriate replacement out of his bag of tricks in the back of the truck. Patrick noticed someone walking in his direction from the church. He nodded to Seamus and spoke up.

“Uhh…yeah I think my wife would like this color can I take these samples home?” He noticed the guy from the church definitely walking in their direction. Seamus slammed the door shut and was startled by a familiar face.

“Hello, Seamus.”

“Ahh…officer O’Malley…they ‘ave you on bicycle detail these days, eh?!” He dropped the two needles on the ground.

“Yes, they do, Seamus…Who’s your friend?” The stranger from the church kept approaching walking at a brisk clip, now.

“Look…O’Malley I’m showing him some vinyl samples that’s all.” The officer looked around the truck and looked at Patrick.

“Siding a house, eh?”

“Yes, sir.” Patrick said calmly.

The deacon from the church approached. “Thank you for coming so quickly officer, I was getting nervous about how much time these Gentlemen were spending in the parking lot.” The sarcasm in the way he said gentlemen did not go unnoticed. As the Deacon surveyed their heavily tattooed arms. “The look like musicians to me…”

“Don’t worry, Sir. I’ve got it under control,” O’Malley said. A bit annoyed that this little bible thumper was interfering.

“Wait, what are those?” He shrilled pointing at the needles on the freshly laid asphalt.

“Those ARE contraband!” O’Malley, annoyed that he did not survey the ground as he approached, saw the needles. He stepped on them lightly obscuring them from the Holy roller’s view. “I said, I have the situation under control, SIR.”

The Deacon looked at Officer O’Malley with fire in his eyes and said, “Okay, I see how it is Officer…976.”

“Oy, why ‘aven’t they put you in a straightjacket,yet, ya Bollix?”

“Now see here!” The Deacon shouted. O”Malley stepped between them.

“Okay, now that you have my Shield Number, why don’t you go call my supervisor? But, for now, I suggest you let me do my job.”

With a grunt of disapproval, the Deacon stomped off, back to the church. O’Malley bent down and picked up the needles. Seamus was fumbling for a cigarette and Patrick was resisting the urge to run.

“I take it these are yours, Seamus?”

“I can’t say I know what you are talking about, Officer O’Malley.” He looked at Patrick who was still fumbling with the vinyl samples. “If I decided to look in the back of your truck, what other kind of vinyl would I find? Perhaps, even a retinator in your pocket? A friend of mine in vice told me someone in Springfield has been ordering LPs and 45s from the UK with a bogus internet identity. It would be a shame if you were there when we set up a sting at the UPS distribution center, next week. ”

“I’m a legitimate businessman…ya know that. I did your sister’s ruddy house, din’ I?” O’Malley Smiled.

“Shameless,” This caught Patrick by surprise. “You know, at the end of the day, I’m on your side. You think I want to drive up to Canada every time I want to hear you play pipes and sing Bugger off?” He handed Seamus the needles. O’Malley continued. Seamus pulled out the magnifier, and quickly determined that the emerald needle was still viable. “Do you think I want to be busting guys like you…Because THEY are in charge? The political winds are changing but you won’t catch any wind in your sails if you are in prison by the time I can go down to the local pub and see you play.

“Aye, I hear ya, boyo.”

Seamus handed Patrick the needle. Patrick thanked O’Malley. O’Malley got back on his bike and left. The Deacon stopped reading his Bible to look out the window in disgust as the two musicians got into their vehicles and left the parking lot. “Shield Number 976, he repeated…

The End.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Good Vibes Bad Vibes Thought I Had My Share

I was talking about the past with with a friend. Back in the day we spent a lot of time together in a kitchen in a restaurant which turned the Valley on it's side. He worked for me.
I could write a book about that place, but unfortunately, I don't think my former business partner would consent to being included in the thing, at least not without a price, which I would be unwilling to pay. You see, a necessary ingredient in most good stories, anecdotes or tomes is an antagonist. A sympathetic, misunderstood character.

I had a business partner who was a real piece of work. He and my buddy had developed an adversarial relationship which ended when I fired him, releasing him from our employ and removing him from the cross hairs of my business partner, who always seemed to be on the look out for things to bitch about regarding our long time employee.

It was all about ego with this guy. The final straw for him was that he refused to pay this perfectly capable employee more money than he paid himself. I didn't have a problem with giving him a raise. He brought in business, people came in to see him, he was a local character who broadcast the weekly "4:20 report" on a local radio station, from our kitchen. The guy was a draw...a valuable commodity to keep around. But my partner could not see that. He just saw the usual...dollar signs, why pay someone more than he took home to get more recognition than himself in his own place of business. What a fool! And when partner didn't get his way or perceived that you were being insubordinate he would shoot daggers at you with his eyes, and throw a temper tantrum. I mean, nobody is perfect, I lost my cool plenty of times in that place but I never took out on the staff like he did. It was an example of holding others up to a higher standard than he had set for himself and he thought he could get away with it. If I was having a bad day, I didn't make sure everyone else was having a bad day as well.

Where am I going with this? Just laying down some exposition on how things could be in that little Oasis of Hippie Noodledom. The outward face of my partner was the happy go lucky outgoing cool hippie dude who was every body's friend. To everyone on the staff he was petty, insecure, and basically uncomfortable in his own skin. He wasn't an ogre, he had his good points, but when he was acting up, I wanted to run and hide. And whoever you were, you did not want to be singled out by him. I can't imagine how the staff must have felt. Well, I can because I was the one who would get to hear the complaints. I really wish I had said very early on, exactly what was on my mind. Perhaps we would not have continued to grow as a dysfunctional unit. I added to this part of the relationship by being high much of the time. Which probably made me more submissive than I should have been. But the fact remains, he couldn't take criticism positively. It would wound him too deeply.

SAJ and I spent much of the time in our working relationship commiserating and sharing our feelings with each other about various rants, fights, idiosyncrasies and other poor behavior directed at us and others by this guy. It was therapy. In fact it became somewhat of a joke amongst the staff. But in retrospect it was wrong. It was a disservice to him. I still look back and think that sharing my thoughts on the way things were with my partner with an employee/friend may have been wrong, but it was a survival mechanism.

We still bring up some instances to this day. Now we just laugh about it. I deserved to be called a "cunt" when I fired him. Instead of falling on my sword, I should have made my partner do the deed. But that is not what happened is it? The positive outcome of this awful situation is that SAJ and I remained friends.

I wonder why people are put into each others lives. I identified a spark, that uniqueness and flashes of brilliance SAJ had way back when. He is a phenomenal guitar player, a good writer, funny, sort of organized, at least organized enough...all the tools necessary for success in his chosen profession, Music.

But, in the past, I never quite understood how I could be standing next to SAJ, behind the scenes in a bowling alley, while the mechanic's are whirring, pins are setting and he is explaining to me how cool it would be to film a video for the band with this unique view, watching all of the bowlers approach their marks in rhythm. Then one drink later, the lucid funny guy I was talking to five minutes ago was gone and this other guy is staring me down saying, "You think I'm drunk? WELL, FUCK YOU, YA CUNT!" I mean it was scary. I didn't understand then as I do now.

We always had kept in touch, but somewhere along the line, he was becoming more and more successful with his career and I was sinking, allowing my mid-life crisis to get the better of me. Sinking into the seedy world of the street, where depressing and defeating circumstances in my life caused me to decide to allow my disease to progress. My life was beginning to become less and less manageable as my drug paraphernalia morphed from ornate and colorful glass smoking devices to cheap glass tubes containing copper chore boy screens and hypodermic needles. Fortunately I bottomed out and surrendered to the notion that I was powerless over my addiction. Powerless over the people I was hanging around with and powerless over everything in which I had submerged my self.

I caught a lot of pain, I caused a lot of pain, but fortunately I didn't expose SAJ to my lifestyle choices out of fear that he would not understand what I was doing and reject me or worse, want to join me. We had a little taste of that scenario. A situation we agreed today, I was no longer entitled to feel guilty about, It happened. As I began to recover, his life began to unravel and personal event in his life were the catalyst for his progression and descent.

Part of this 12 step recovery situation is acknowledgment of a higher power. Some call their HP God, others call their HP Jesus. For one of my friends it is Buddhist philosophy. It can be anything as long as it is loving and caring. Mine is private but works for me. Once in a detox, the group was discussing this concept of Higher Power when the counselor asked the guy in the couple who was detoxing together what he considers to be his higher power. There always seems to be one couple in every detox getting clean together. He was confrontational and didn't want to answer the question. He finally said, "My higher power is my girlfriend." I started laughing but covered it by pretending to cough. I was thinking, "your higher power is that dope sick chick next to you who is drooling on the table? You are fucked, dude!" Funny thing is the counselor basically said the same thing in a more clinical and less adversarial way. I have never used this phrase writing, EVER! But it is about to happen. Ah I can't do it I refuse. It is a phrase that is overused and annoying. But I have gone too far off the subject. I may have no choice other than to start hitting the delete button and organizing my thoughts a little better...ah fuck it, here is goes. But I DIGRESS! Oh why, oh why, did i have to do it? I said I digress. Growing pains I guess. I guess...digress. Wah!


Alright, where were we? I'm in recovery, SAJ is fucking up, I have a higher power and am forced to digress. Harrumph!

I had to go through what I did, to get to where I am today. In a position to help dearly loved friend get out of a hole he had dug for himself, just as I had. If my experience hanging around with hustlers, prostitutes, and other sick and suffering addicts, smoking crack and shooting heroin put me into a position where I can save the life of another addict who is so near and dear to me, it was all worth it. The financial instability, the sleepless nights. the morning sickness. scheming, scamming, the diseased liver, the lost trust, the strained relationships, all of it. If I had to go through all of that to help save SAJ, it was worth it. I have tools, I have fellowship, I have the kind encouraging words which can make a difference. I have the experience to tell him what he has done is not all that different than what I, or anyone else has done who is in his situation.

He is on the road to recovery. A long road we had walked together when we used together getting drunk and high. we approached that stage where we began to contemplate that maybe there was a better way to live, freely admitting to each other that we had demons and we needed to stop, but neither of us knew how. At the crucial times when being together could have been disastrous, we weren't. For whatever reason we had little face to face contact during this time period, although we did stay connected electronically. That was my higher power working in both of our lives. Now I can lend him some tools and do my part by giving him the language of recovery. And the funny thing is, he is beginning to do it for the folks who are coming in after him. Anyone can make a difference. This is a good thing, and this is how it works.


As Always...I'm running hard out of Muskrat Flats.

Pablo

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Please don't be surprised when you find me dreaming too...

In case you haven't noticed by the title of my little online oasis, Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats, I am into Phil Lesh. Phil is the bass player for the Grateful Dead. Some may argue he was the bass player, since the band doesn't exist anymore. Phil "is" because he is still playing the music. And the music is just as vibrant and alive, some times more so, as it was when Jerry was still with us.

It was raining the other day. I was feeling blue. I don't want to say depressed, because in my mind, depression is a chronic ongoing ordeal which can only be dealt a crippling blow with a good unhealthy dose of self-medication. Funny thing is, since I cut out the insanity in my life and began to apply certain spiritual principles in my daily living, I have noticed that I am NOT depressed and haven't been for some time. Even during this darkest time of year, winter.

As the rain pounded on the roof of my vehicle, the song "Box of Rain" began to play on the stereo. This song has always had an emotional impact on me. Perhaps it is because of the reason the song was written in the first place. Phil Wrote if for his father who was dying of cancer while the album American Beauty was being recorded. Phil would sing the song to himself as he was driving to the hospital for a visit. This led to me remembering, the next day, a very dear friend was about experience the one year anniversary of his mother's passing to similar circumstances. I began to think about my parents and how moved they were when they saw Phil sing Box of Rain at the Dead show we attended together at the Boston Garden in the early 90s.

I flashed to the scene from Freaks and Geeks where Linda Cardellini's character repeatedly cued up the song Box of Rain on her record player as she joyously whirled around her room dancing to the music. I began to think of the joy my wife and I shared listening to amazing beautiful music at countless Dead shows and how I erroneously held onto the notion that the bond between us would never be broken, as we began to grow apart. Gladly the common bond between us is continued as a deep friendship involving a bright, beautiful 10 year old girl, who is enamored with both of us unconditionally, despite our faults.

So, on that rainy afternoon as I was driving to pick up my kid, I was primed for an emotional event. They say, in recovery, part of the process is to walk through the hard times without picking up, even though you will catch some pain. The pain is a necessary ingredient in healing the soul.

I picked up my daughter and she began to go down the list of the days events. She was talking about a friend of hers who seemed to have some type of elaborate and expensive toy, of which I couldn't quite grasp the concept. She was excited and her thoughts were jumping around. Then she offered the information, "Her father is a contractor, she can afford it. By the way, her father is building Mommy's house."

"What, mommy is building a house?"

"Yeah, it is gonna be on the mountain, and it's gonna have a master bedroom, and guess what...?"

Not waiting for a guess she said, "It is going to have a billiards (yes she said billiards) table that works on pounds." A coin-op British billiards table in a game room. My ex's fiancee is from the UK. In fact he still resides there. He wasn't the reason we split, but he sure as shit didn't help the situation in our struggling relationship.

As my wife decided to pursue her romantic Cinderella fantasy with the mysterious lover across the pond, I let my addictive tendencies progress to the point where I was stripped of every positive personality trait I had ever possessed. I blame no one but myself.

As my daughter kept describing this house, I became progressively angrier and angrier. I kept it to myself. Jealousy. Rage, What was so bad about our relationship that it had come to the ends that it did? All of these old emotions were coming back to the surface. It was a very unhealthy situation. And being a good addict, It made me want to use. As soon as that feeling rose to the surface, I once again surrendered. My daughter was still chattering away oblivious to what was going on in my head. She didn't see the invisible monkey that hopped from the back seat onto my shoulder whispering in my ear.

"Come on, Pablo! Just one bag won't hurt, you can get away with it. I'll help you find Sharon - you know she wants to fuck you. Things aren't working out with her boyfriend, Pete, these days, she wants you. She NEEDS YOU."

NO, NOT TODAY!

I was in a foul mood. As we arrived at my Mom's house, she picked up on my angst right away, I told her I couldn't talk about it and she respected my wishes. She didn't pry into what could have become an ugly situation.

I sat down and watched TV with my kid. Dirty Jobs was on. I began to use some of the tools in my box to get through the anger and resentment. I prayed. I identified that my anger was justified. Then I realized that this house that my ex is building is just another example if more insanity in her life. I'm not taking her inventory, we simply have different priorities. She has been always been about materialism, getting ahead and financial security, which are not bad traits, in general. But she has always taken the hard road which constantly causes her to live beyond her means financially. Frequent trips to England, buying a house at a higher interest rate because of a recent bankruptcy, constantly shuffling funds which are at her disposal. Our first house was old and tattered. I'm not a fixer-upper kind of guy. A situation which always bothered her. We forfeited that residence as our relationship began to sour and I closed a failing business. Then she bought another older house which didn't quite cut it for similar reasons, but she is building her credit back. She is a monthly subscriber to Experian, watching that credit score like a hawk. Now, she is going to build her dream house. I hope it works for her, but I suspect that once the house is completed, she will still feel the emptiness she has been working all of her life eradicate.

I began to pursue thoughts regarding my life and where I am today. Even though I am living check to check with a small financial cushion, I lead a very rich life. There are situations in my life I would not trade for anything. My daughter being first and foremost. She is a bright shining beacon in my life, and I am there and I am available. She knows what the score is. She comes to meetings with me and shares in my struggle to stay clean and grow in mind, spirit and body. I have a good job in a healthy environment which does pay my basic bills. I have my glass studio, which is going to sustain itself sooner than later as my skills and clientele grow. I value my association with the Drunk Stuntmen. I believe that theirs is some of the best music I have ever experienced. I will gladly continue to donate my time until their efforts come to fruition or they throw in the towel. It is kind of like working for a political candidate. If they win the election, I and others will benefit from their success. If nothing else, at least I can put on a resume that I did online publishing for a band's website.

I know it is cliche, but my life is one that IS second to none. And it continues gets richer. I did something last night that I thought I would never do again. I got High. Not high in the sense that I have to pick up a white key tag and start counting days, again. I played my music at an open mic. It was my first public performance. It went great. I got applause, I got some compliments from a musician whom I admire. That meant so much to me. I was floating. And it was all natural. Who would have thought? This is further proof that I don't need drugs and alcohol to calm myself down, to relieve stress, to wake up in the morning and to quiet my thoughts enough to allow me to sleep.

As I worked through my little situation regarding my ex and her new house. My daughter and I had a couple of good laughs. She is such a great kid. My ex showed up to pick her up and when she walked in the room she was white as a ghost. I asked her what was up? She went down the list of being stressed out regarding work, she has another trip to the UK next week and has all of this stuff to catch up on before she goes, one of the cats is dying and crapping all over the house, She's so stressed that her hair is falling out...etc."

I could only suggest that she try to reduce the insanity in her life. Hopefully, when her boy moves here, things will settle down for her, but my opinion remains that building a house is a material solution to a spiritual problem. I really hope she can work through this one. It is painful to watch her struggle. I still care for her deeply (I you are reading this, D, I really do mean it and please don't get upset)

Too bad she doesn't have time to just look out the window and watch the soothing rhythm of the falling rain. "A box of rain will ease the pain..."


I'm not looking over my shoulder as I am "Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats."

Pablo

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Customers suck

Ok, maybe all customers don't suck, but something happens to some people when they are put into a position of dealing with someone who is behind a counter. The most common problem manifests itself in a general lack of respect toward the person taking your order. It is believed that he/she is a lowly plebe who, for reasons which are irrelevant, didn't pay attention in high school and is now stuck in a job making about 30,000 less a year than you do. In other words, mind your station, you untouchable fool and git me what I deserve. Finger snapping. whistling. "Hey You!" Crass and shameful behavior. But we have something you don't have. We have, your time to kill. We can avoid your eye contact and not honor your request to cut your sandwich on an angle like your mommy used to. And You deserve what you get. We have have information. And we have the answers to your idiotic questions causing us to wonder where your brain was in high school. Most of our customers are nice and love us, but some of the others, Yikes!

These are real instances stated by real customers.

1) "Hello?"

"Is this the meat department?"

"Yes."

"Good, I'd like to order a strawberry rhubarb pie."

2) Asked of someone who is cleaning a meat slicer with all of the deli products displayed in front of the customer. "Do You slice meat here?"

3) A customer was about to finger a pie, cooling on a rolling rack.

"Be careful ma'am, don't touch that, that pie is still hot!"
"Is it fresh?"

4)"Sir is that cauliflower?"
"No, ma'am, it is stuffed cabbage."

5) Same lady as number 4...one week later.

Pointing in the deli case...

"What's this?"
"That is baked haddock."
"What's that?"
"It's fish."

6) "Is the shrimp in the seafood salad peeled?"

7) In the parking lot in front of the main doors ..."Excuse me, where is the entrance?"

8) "Is there curry in the curried chicken salad?"

9) We have a mechanical donut machine which drops batter into hot oil with a conveyor belt sending them down the line to the attendant who takes them out of the sugar hopper and bags them for sale....

"Do you make the donuts here or do you get them somewhere else?"

As the conveyor belt is dumping the donuts out of the grease onto a mound of cinnamon sugar....

"Are those donuts still warm?

"Are there apples in the apple cider donuts?....cuz I'm allergic to apples."

"Are those donuts fresh?"

Again the donuts are right in front of this guy in a business suit.

"Are there anymore cedar (sic) donuts?

10) October 14..."When do the Christmas trees come out?"

11) At the sandwich board.....

"You don't have sandwiches here, do you?"

Green apple is an ingredient in one of the sandwiches.

"What kind of meat is green apple?"

12) Is that coconut on top of the baked ziti or grated cheese?

13) "Is there potatoes (poor grammar) in the chicken salad?"

14) and the winner...."Can I have a pound of the store baked cheese?"

My Precious

It's been an interesting 1440 minutes. It seems like it should be a lazy day. But I have been productive. I did get the "afternoon sleepies" as an artist friend of mine describes them. That period in the middle of the day when your body wants to shut down. I rarely succumb to the call. I do feel my eyes shifting and minute zaps of REM trying to take hold of the rest of the body. I resist. Afternoon cups of coffee or "energy" drinks seem to be where people turn to avoid shutting down and taking what your body often deserves. The "afternoon sleepies" must be eradicated in my world. They don't often happen and I don't often resist, but today I had to, too much stuff to do...The rent isn't going to pay itself.

The afternoon sleepies frighten me. That is why I often do take that nap even if it is for forty five minutes. Why do they frighten me? A couple of reasons that are all inter-connected.

When I was caught up in the insanity of active addiction, the afternoon was my time to refuel, to get off E. This meant that during the last hour or two of work, I was progressively getting sicker, aka withdrawing. Nodding off while I was writing the menu descriptions, sniffling, aching back, stomach and joints. I punched the clock and I was out of there. All I had to do was make it 7 miles, which would take me about 20 minutes in the heaviest of traffic. The window would be open, I would light a cigarette and inhale deeply hoping to benefit from the stimulation the nicotine had to offer and the music would be blaring. Anything to stay awake. I would stop at traffic lights and nod, only to be startled back to my dope sick haze by the roar of an impatient commuter's horn. I would slap myself to stay awake, often catching myself sliding into that haze between sleep and consciousness. I am amazed that I never went off the road, killed myself or someone else. I managed to make to the most recent residence which my connection had commandeered. She had my shit waiting for me. And there I was like I had just landed on the sandy beaches of Club Med, a quick shot with a sharp set of works and I was all better. For all intents and purposes...normal. That was on a good day. On a day where she had "other business" meaning circumstances dictated that I could not come in and fix myself. This is the situation where I had to find a quiet private place such as the public restroom in a local coffee house, or a secluded corner of a supermarket parking lot or a handicapped accessible port-o-san in a playground. High and Lonesome ain't no place to be. And it sure as shit is a lot of work. Definitely much more work than staying clean.

The afternoon sleepies feel uncomfortably like the progression of the sickness. To this day I am startled when I get that feeling. The old timers in the rooms tell me to just tell myself, this too shall pass. I still think it is better to take a nap. These days the worst of it is a punch drunk kind of feeling where I begin to conjugate and pluralize words in a way that are reminiscent of Gollum's speak.

Tolkien pretty much hit it on the head as far as taking a tour through the mind of an addict with Gollum. His addiction to The Ring of Power stripped him of everything. He murdered to get it. It's allure and beauty consumed him with obsessive and compulsive thinking and actions. Once a Hobbit like creature, Smeagol regressed to the most basic animal level living in the dark, dank caverns of Mordor slithering around isolated, existing on the the least amount nourishment possible. Changed in mind, body and spirit. Stripped of everything by" his precious" And what would he do, how did he prostitute himself to be put into a position where he could take that last chance to reclaim what he needed? I know what I used to do to get what I needed.

Things are progressing in a positive way today. That feeling did, indeed, pass. Now I am as alert and lucid as if i just got my eight hours. I saw the blackbirds heading toward East Springfield as I was driving to my studio-space. I have seen where they congregate at night. Dusk is the time of day when they flock and claim that perch for the evening. Some flock to the bare oak and maple trees along interstate 291 near the Armory Street exit, to the trees which have dropped their leaves for the winter. As the birds fill the branches of the trees, they become dark, Gothic leaves and begin to dot and contrast against the pink and gray Maxfield Parrish winter sky. The slumbering trees are lush and queerly defined by the black birds. It is refreshing when the earth awakens from the winter and the leaves grow. Do the blackbirds flock to that spot in the summertime? Perhaps. But they are shielded by the lush green leaves and remain unseen. But As I have learned over the course of the years just because you don't see something, it doesn't necessarily mean it is not there.

I think I will take that nap. I am going to a meeting tonight where I am going to get up and pick up a Blue 6 month Key Tag. Clean and Serene for 6 months, it will say. I used to scoff at the serene part. I may have been clean but I was still pretty messed up inside. I was still in the grips of the disease putting myself in harm's way by associating with the wrong people. I have joked that I was being pursued by a shape shifting succubus named McCormick. Oddly the two active addicts I hooked up with in the last two years were both named McCormick. They were both beautiful in their own way. One of them was stunningly so, perhaps the most beautiful woman I have ever met. Today, I can tell myself that I am incapable of saying NO to either one of them and worse, I am incapable of saying NO to myself in their presence. I think about, and pray for them, often. They both know where to find me. I dodge an occasional phone call. One of them called my house on Christmas Eve looking for me. Ali identified herself to my sister, who took the call. My sister, unbeknownst to me, told her she didn't know where I was. Bless her. Like, I said, If they really want to find me they know where to look. When they finally do arrive, I will hug them, tell them I love them and clap for them when they get up to get that white key tag symbolizing their surrender.


As always you will find me...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.

Pablo

Friday, January 4, 2008

Mobid Morty's Discount Caskets -

Lee Coggins is the Lead guitar player, singer songwriter for the hippie Jam Band, PRY. PRY is commercially successful band who has a solid touring fan base. They are about to go on tour opening for the Black Crowes. Hopefully their living the rock and roll lifestyle will not interfere with their future success. Morty Berstein is a former business partner of Lee's father who has been instrumental in loaning the band money over the course of the years. He has a rough exterior but a good heart.




Lee strode back into the room and Morty was, once again buttoning his shirt. It was a nice shirt, but it was just a bit snug.

“Can you believe this shit?” He asked Lee.

“What’s that, Morbid Morty?”

“Cut the Morbid, shit.”

“Cutting shit, would be morbid.” That was one of Mikhial's phrases, Lee remembered, having been told many “go cut shit” by his youthful nemesis.

“What are we playing $10,000 Pyramid? Are you listening? I got a guy…..he sold me this shirt, Nice shirt it was 10 bucks. Now I know why It was ten bucks.”

“Why is that Morty?” He was again fiddling with buttons on the Blue Hawaiian Printed garment.
“Isn’t it obvious, It’s defective, the buttons are too small for the holes and it won’t stay buttoned.”

“Did you ever think it was the size of your stomach that is defective. That’s kind of a small shirt for you, Buddy.”

“I’ve been wearing the same size since I was 20.”

“Yeah but you weren’t carrying the twins when you were 20.”

“It’s the buttons. So this guy….”

“You’ve got a guy for everything, don’t you.”

“I got this guy…” And Morty’s cell phone rings. He looks at the display grimaces and rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, what do you want?” He asks impatiently. He listens for a minute, then responds.”
“No.” He listens for another minute.

“NO, what did I just say No No NO, It’s their goddamn fault for printing the wrong date on the work order. You know how those people are. How many times do I ask them?

Huhhhh!?” He listens some more, his patience draining as quickly as his anger swells.

NO, Goddammit, no. They did that to my T-shirt Guy…’ He looked up at Lee who was giggling at the fact that Morty had a T-shirt Guy. Morty took a breath and continued.

“Listen listen, They…how many funerals..they have a year?” He waited for an answer. “Uh Huh, Am I right or what?” He asked. Then he continued.

“Listen, I am a fair man,” Burleigh thought, “No you aren’t.” Morty drones “They did this to my T-shirt Guy last time. He asked the bereaved, When did the deceased pass? Did they give him the date when he died, No, they gave him the date when he was brought to the emergency room. Too bad for them that he was brought in at 8 PM and died at 1AM. They wanted him to reprint the shirts for free.”

“How is it different?” Morty listens and then explodes one more time.
“LISTEN YOU YOU LITTLE SHIT, I DON’T CARE IF IT ONLY COST FIFTEEN BUCKS, I’m not doing it again…What?!!…Are you gonna pay for it?” He pauses. “I didn’t think so.” Lee was watching this scene with amusement. Morty hangs up.

“My son, he’s a genius but he’s crazy.” Burleigh muses that apple never falls very far from the tree.

“Some people you do business with them once or twice and you are a friend for life. Can you do this, can you give us a break on that, we’re good customers. Yeah yeah, good customers. Finally someone cheaper than me, Thank you, thank you make me feel like Malcolm Forbes.”

“What was that all ‘bout”

“A funeral. This gang banger kids gets it. So his brothahs and sistahs in the gang get the do it yourself kit, nice particle board with faux veneer finish, Real silk pillows nice lining…It comes with a static vinyl RIP banner with the Name of the deceased and the D.O.D printed on it. It comes off the casket and can go on the back window of your car. So they give me the wrong date, now it’s my fault that the date is wrong and I have to do it over?”

“Dude the guy is dead.”

“All of my customers are dead, you putz.”

“You’re a real fucking piece of work. Stereotypes just don’t concern you do they?”

“I’m the way I am, they’re the way they are, fuck them, fuck me, fuck you!”

“Well they, the customers who pay, are still alive. How much is it? Fifteen Bucks? How much for 20 of them, I’ll pay.”

“Are you paying cash, I’ll give you a deal….” Lee just exhales deeply and leaves the room. Morty calls back to place the order, so his son can let his GUY know that he reconsidered. Lee walks back into the room.

“Why do I smell pot?” Morty asks.

“Because you have a nose.” So he looks at Lee for a few seconds. Then as if the last couple of minutes didn’t exist he starts back in about the shirt.

“So this guy…he sells me this shirt. It’s defective the buttons don’t fit, right? I’ll bring it to the Polish lady at the X that does the shirts.” Lee smirks and asks,

“Have you tried that new Polish Bakery near Dymski’s”

“Naahhh, I got a thing a bout Polacks and ovens…not a good combination if you know what I mean….” Lee laughed.
Morty raised his eyes like Groucho would. “You’re a funny guy Morty.”

“Now stop interrupting me….I got this guy,” Morty rolled his eyes at Lee’s reaction. “and he sells me this shirt. He asks about my wife. So what does wanna know about my wife for, you know? How’s your wife how’s your sister that kind of thing? No. So told him the story…didn’t believe that I was boning the blonde in the commercial. Well my wife believed it, 50% of the profits from my business going to her believed it.” Lee is just stoned and giggling at this point.

“So this guy, he’s a religious nut. You know white shirt, name tag they knock on your door at 8 in the morning. See You Next Tuesday, you know what I mean?”

“No, I never do…”

“He hands me this book…”

“What was it? A book on how to properly tip in restaurants?”

“This guy…hands me a book and says, I 100% guarantee that If you and your wife sit down together and read this book, you will not be separating and get back together.”

Morty starts laughing. “I’m gonna hide the book and make SURE she doesn’t read it…”

“You better, 100 percent is a pretty good guarantee.”

“Ah, what’s a guarantee, anyway?”

“So speaking of books, you are doing good with your book, eh? You were on the radio, on"Fresh Air" - I heard it.”

“I got it published that is all that matters.” Lee Said.

“What about the music, the records, They matter. Am I right, or what?"

“Yeah of course they matter. Dude, I would be lost without my music. But with writing…books are important, they evolved from the most basic form of communication, drawing something in the dirt with a stick or a drawing on a wall is one thing, but a book is tangible…a part of your mind which can be held in someone’s hands." He continued, "You hear music, I can play music but a lot of people can’t. I can feel the music when I play it that is tangible…for me. But for others…not the case. A book can be held. It is important. That tangibility is what is important for me. Holding a disc isn’t the same. Even though it is shiny and may have a mirror finish, a book is more like a mirror any day. Anyone can look inside it and see themselves.”

“You can say that about anything” Morty replied.

“Gee, thanks! And I think it was you who asked for my opinion.”

“And who cares what I think?”

“So you really boned that Blonde? What’s her name?”

“Cassie.” Morty said fiddling with his cell phone.”

“She’s cute, she has that PJ Soles look. How does a disturbed little man like you end up with her?"

“Truth is stranger that fiction Judgey wudgey. PJ who? Am I supposed to know her.”

“Omigod, PJ Soles was every girl I ever wanted to date in High School. Did you ever see Rock and Roll High School with the Ramones? Stripes?”

“Yeah Stripes, With Bill Murray and Harold Ramis.”

“Yeah, PJ Soles is the hot MP that gets the Aunt Jemimah treatment.”

“Oh yeah the Aunt Jemimah treatment…Yep, that’s Cassie alright.”

“So are you guys a thing?”

“What’s a thing?! Ehhh, we get together. I don’t want another relationship.”

“Dirty old man. I bet her funeral is already paid for.”

“And what’s wrong with Barter?” Lee laughs.

Morty gets another phone call and screams at his son a little more. Lee actually got to get both sides of the story on the days that Morty’s son would corner him in the Real Estate office and tell him how he was a “genius and an artist and Dad, just doesn’t appreciate that. And he always calls me a cocksucker.” It was also troublesome when he would give Lee pictures for cover art for the next album or worse song lyrics. His usual disclaimer was that he only has a 25% voice in what happens with the band. Not to mention if he actually wrote a song based on some of his depressing lyrics, a good number of the audience would probably commit suicide. Morty finished with the phone call.

“You know, there’s a reason I go to probate court every Thursday.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“I love real estate, you know why?…Because you make money while you sleep. But you gotta go to probate every Thursday, eviction day.”

“One more time, what does Cassie see in you?”

“Same thing my ex-wife does dollar signs. She sees that I make money when she is hopping on top of me and she sees that I make money when people die.”

“Oh Morty….” Lee just shakes his head.

“Okay Mr. rock and roll star, what can I do for you?”

Lee tossed an envelope over to Morty and said, “here is the Vig”

Morty Shot him another evil eye as Lee chortled. He reached for the envelope.

Seriously, Morty. Thanks for funding the DVD. It all there plus the 10%.

“You’re a good boy Lee, your parents should be proud of you.”

“Everyone’s parents should be proud of their children.” Lee couldn’t resist the dig.

Are you ready?”

“Hey man, Remember what Eisenhower said about the Judeo Industrial Apartment Complex.”

“Whaaat?! You think you’re funny but you’re not.”

“We’re two peas in a pod, you think you’re serious.”

I got something to show you. It’s a new commercial. Different from the old one it was stale…boring. Ready!”

“Sure, Morty, fire away.”

Morty fiddles with the remote looking from the hand held device to the TV and back. He continues going back and forth for a few uncomfortable seconds until finally he presses a button. He fiddles with his shirt one more time, reinserting the button in the hole. The machine clicks. He hisses to himself and mutters as the tape pops out and the screen goes blank. He is looking at the remote again and pushing buttons. He turns to look. Noticing his guests’ patience waning as he quickly turns his body back. He truly intended to turn back around and nudge the tape back into the carriage, with his hand, causing the VCR to automatically swallow the tape, power up and begin playing. However, his fat “Guatemalan purple” covered ass clumsily made contact with the tape sticking out of the VCR and did the job for him
Rubbing his eyes having seen Morty start the tape with his ass, Burleigh Coggins tries not to laugh and then winces as he sees the title of the trailer “Morbid Morty’s Discount Caskets’

As the tape rolls you see the visual shot of a funeral parlor with a couple weeping at the casket paying their last respects. An announcer says with a soothing voice.

“He marched to the beat of a different drummer. He loved life and broke the mold every chance he got. Why would you want to remember him like this? Burleigh coughed a single laugh at the image of a nerdy looking corpse in a bad suit.

Morty’s eyebrows rose smiling to himself as he noted Lee’s reaction. The scene cuts to Morbid Morty dressed as death and holding a scythe. He is standing next to Cassie with her fourteen hundred dollar pair of tits. He rips off his mask and starts shouting his schpiel.

“COME ON DOWN TO MORBID MORTY MAUDLIN’S DISCOUNT CASKET SALES AND BEREAVEMENT SERVICES.

EVEN IF YOU DON’T WANT US TO PLAN YOUR SERVICE CHECK OUT OUR CASKET PRICES. WE HAVE TOP OF THE LINE CASKETS BELOW WHOLESALE.”

The blonde with big tits asks, “HOW DO YOU DO IT MORTY?”

MORTY SHOUTS as the Video cuts to a scene of the Casket Warehouse, where a sales man is showing some of the merchandise to a potential client. In the background a forklift is removing a casket from the top shelf.

“HOW DO I DO IT? WE BUY DIRECTLY FROM THE MANUFACTURER. AND WHAT THEY DON’T MAKE , WE CAN GET. He sliced through the air with the scythe. WE SLASH THE PRICES YOU WILL SEE OFFERED BY MY NATIONAL COMPETITORS. The blonde checks out a vaudeville sized price tag on a casket and demonstrates her approval of the casket by squeezing her tits together with her arms and giving a little shake. Morty shouts again,
“WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? MY PRICES ARE SO LOW PEOPLE ARE DYING TO PAY THEM.”

The blonde squeezes her tits together Then she asks?

WHAT ABOUT THE SERVICES, MORTY?

HE SHOUTS Cut to scene of Poolside service as steam from jacuzzi rises up next to casket.
“WE ARE A DISCOUNT CASKET WAREHOUSE WITH A LOW OVERHEAD, WE DON’T HAVE A FLASHY VIEWING PARLOR. THAT’S WHY AT MORBID MORTY’S WE BRING THE FUNERAL TO YOU. Cut to a scene of Morty wearing the Death Costume as he drives up in a hearse that has a flatbed trailer attached with a brightly painted coffin sitting in the middle. He stops and rips off the mask again.

CHECK OUT THE DEATH ROCKS SERIES OF CUSTOM AIRBRUSHED CASKETS – WE HAVE LED ZEP, OZZY, BEATLES, AEROSMITH, AND THE EVER POPULAR GRATEFUL DEAD. FOR A SHORT TIME ONLY WE WILL PROVIDE, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST A TRIBUTE BAND TO PERFORM AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE, WITH A PURCHASE FORM THE DEATH ROCKS SERIES.

FOR THOSE ON A BUDGET WE HAVE THE DO IT YOURSELF MODEL. IT IS MADE WITH STURDY PARTICLE BOARD. WITH A FAUX WOOD VENEER FINISH. ASSEMBLES QUICKLY WITH A SCREWDRIVER AND AN ALLEN WRENCH. ACT NOW AND WE WILL INCLUDE A 5 FOOT STATIC VINYL CUSTOMIZED R.I.P> BANNER WITH THE NAME OF THE DECEASED, AND THE DATE OF THEIR DEPARTURE. THE BANNER CAN EASILY BE TRANSFERRED FROM THE CASKET TO THE BACK WINDSHIELD OF YOUR CAR.
Cut to video of two ganstahs with a sobbing shorty placing a sign the says RIP Pito 4/20/2005 on the windshield of a pimped out Toyota.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? CALL MORBID MORTY’S TODAY. WE PUT THE “FUN” BACK INTO FUNERAL.”

There was silence, Burleigh sat motionless digesting what he had just witnessed.
“They are going to hang you by your balls for this”

“Eehhh…ask a guitar player for an opinion.”

Thursday, January 3, 2008

It seems like 2007 was a great year of transition for very many people in our little karrass. We have endured the loss of loved ones, personnel changes, heartache, disappointment. About every personal issue there is has been thrown in our faces, sometimes repeatedly. But we persevered. And the band...the Drunk Stuntmen, they did their part to keep things on an even keel, delivering an honest spirit filled set of music 99% of the time....We're no ready to speak of that one percent just yet.

We heard some great music at the 63 Roadhouse, especially New Years Eve. We heard some great music in the Tap Room at the Hyland Brewery and again during that very odd weather event during the tune "6:29" at the well attended Oktoberfest show. Sports seemed to interfere with attendance at some Drunk Stuntmen Shows in 2007. Who could forget the Halloween Show at the Iron Horse. I know I was following the World Series game pitch by pitch on my cell phone, coming dangerously close to depleting my battery before the game ended....oh yeah the Stuntmen's version of "Thriller" , that night, Rocked! And then there was the recent show at Piccolo's restaurant in Westfield, MA, which Scott Hall had so eloquently described in the message board on Drunkstuntmen.com. The band opted to play in front of the stage while the Patriots completed their undefeated season on a Movie Screen behind the band..And the music was incredible. Freddy was experiencing his new acoustic guitar "as fresh as the grass above plot number 5," exuding an energy he brought along to the New Year's Show at the Roadhouse two days later....We love you Freddy...fight the good....never mind. I swear there were points in the show when Steve and Scott stopped playing just to watch what was happening in lead guitar land. At one point Steve was trying to suppress a shit eating grin.

Stuntman Steve and Freddy Freedom did a bunch of traveling with the Young at Heart Chorus, a strong and eclectic bond which will benefit everyone in the long run. Perhaps with the release of State Fair, by far the most energetic and passion filled Drunk Stuntmen album yet. This, followed closely by the release of the major motion picture documentary, Young @ Heart, by Fox Searchlight, could be the catalyst which will spark the event where everyone involved with the band can all do some traveling, in style.

Personally 2007 was the year that I truly began my ascent from the depths of the shame, degradation and pain of physical addiction. I started the New Year living in a halfway house, where my main focus was to get a solid foundation in recovery from the disease of addiction. Living in that house was a very trying period of my life. I was grateful that I was there and had the opportunity presented to me to reclaim my life. A life which was about all I had left to lose when I entered that program.

But living in an environment with 29 other alcoholics and addicts who are there for various reasons can be challenging enough to make you want to pick up. The reasons ranging from being court ordered, looking for shelter for the winter, or simply taking a break so they can pick up where they left off, hoping they would have a little better luck this time around and that things would be different this time.

I had almost 9 months clean when I began to relapse. I stopped going to meetings, stopped praying and was associating with people who were active in their addictions. The day I made a decision to pick up, I was arrested. Ha Ha! I'm telling you jail was a damn good motivator for me to reflect upon how really good those previous nine months had been....I haven't picked up since and have a new perspective on my recovery.

Since then really good things have happened in my life. I'm doing the right things for the right reasons. I still have errant thoughts, but who doesn't? I just choose not to act upon my impulses today. A friend in the program, Rebbecca, proved to me that If you pick up you can die. Fortunately her toddler was just young enough that she will not remember that her mother was an addict and could not seem to find a reason to live. It is a tragic thing when parents have to bury a child. I will not let that happen to my family. That situation may occur but it will not be because I picked up my drug of choice.


The good things in my life are the fact that I, the struggling one in recovery, am the parent my child looks to for love comfort and support. Mom is a good provider, but just as she was in our relationship, she is unavailable to our child. Everything in her life includes long distances. Whether it be the job which involves 4 hours of commuting per day, the Boyfriend in England which she travels to see often, or her regularly scheduled work related traveling all add up to time lost with our precious child. A child who during these absences has to endure 30 second phone conversations, 15 of which are harping on her about whether she has practiced her saxophone or done her homework. My kid and I spend a lot of quality time together I really don't resent her mother for doing what she is doing. She is a kind decent person. But her upbringing turned her into an individual who has always put herself first in any situation. I do still love her, but am much happier now that we are not together. I'm sure my daughter would have preferred a quiet Christmas vacation at home snuggled on the couch with mom and the cats and a couple of mugs of hot cocoa. a gift which would be equal to 10 versions of Guitar Hero 3. Hopefully most of the insanity in my ex's life will change when her boy, who has left his wife and family for her, moves here from England.

My kid loves me unconditionally. Such a rare treat for anyone to experience, for that I am eternally grateful. Yes, things are good. I have reasonably good job with little stress. I write for whom I consider the best band to come down the Pike, in a long time. a shining beacon of light in a swarming sea of electronic, stale, uninspired lip synced tripe. I recently opened a glass working studio, you can see photos of my glass work on this blog and on myspace.com/muskratflats.


I have hopes and dreams for the new Year. As much hopes and dreams as I have gratitude for the fact that I am here to enjoy those visions for the future. I hope that the Drunk Stuntmen and the Young at Heart Chorus continue with their momentum to continue their journey and follow it to where ever it takes them...Hopefully Radio City Music Hall. I hope to continue with my glass work further improving my skill and artistic vision. I hope to continue with my writing and finally finish that feckin book I've been writing for close to ten years now. I hope to see my daughter succeed academically, physically and spiritually. She is truly a gifted child possessing wisdom and compassion beyond her years. I hope to continue my journey one day at a time. An easy thing to do if you are doing the right things for the right reasons. I want to travel with my daughter to Minnesota to see my sister and hopefully catch a performance of the Prairie Home Companion at the Fitzgerald Theater. I just hope that I can do all of this with grace and style. Living and enjoying life...

You will always find me.....


Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.

Pablo