Monday, May 31, 2010

NBC4 Follows the AIDS Story With Some Funny Monkeys

I did this song years and years ago when Spookshow was in the clunky drum machine phase and I forget what I originally called it. I re-named it after a friend started working for a local network affiliate and became aware of just what whores local TV stations really are. They try to present themselves as "Ooh, we care so much about the community" when in fact the only thing they really give a shit about is ratings. They just want you to suck the glass tit and pretend they actually care about your health, your children and your neighborhood when, in fact, if you die in a public place, your kids get raped or your block gets firebombed they will be there with cameras to intrude on your most private, horrible moments.

So the same friend once set this music to video of monkeys at the zoo and it struck me as being absolutely the sort of thing any TV news outlet would do for filler shit. "Woman bashed in the head with bolt cutters; coming up next: Kitties!"

So around that time I changed the name of the music. It's not a great song but it sounds absolutely like what your local news outlet would put behind stock footage in order to suggest they give a crap about you and your neighborhood. Click on the title and pretend I care as well.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Apparently, Sly Is An Asshole

Just got off the phone with my very own oldest brother, who from 1969 to 1972 was the stage manager at Convention Hall in Wildwood, New Jersey.

This was the premiere hangout for all the hippies who never made it to Oregon or San Francisco.

I continually pump him (ok, just because we were born in West Virginia doesn't mean in THAT way) for information about this time of his life because it just seems fascinating. He was setting up for and hanging out with the most recognized musicians of the day and I'm forever pressing him to spill the details because I'm such a fame whore.

"Who were the coolest bands, in terms of just being people, you met?," I ask.

"Jethro Tull. Would hang out and talk to anyone, no matter who you were."

"Who else?"

"Alice Cooper. As a person. But in his stage show he set off these cannons that blew feathers all over the audience. We were picking feathers out of the carpet three years later."

"Who were the assholes? Prima Donnas?"

"Sly Stone. The biggest prick of them all."


"Well first of all he didn't show up until hours later after he was supposed to be there. We had a crowd of thousands of black people expecting what we promised and Sly was a no-show."

"What did you do?"

"I went out on-stage with my guitar."

(Hysterical laughter on my part) "Right. ***** ******* (real name omitted by request,) the most obvious replacement for Sly Stone. What did you play?"

"Neil Young's Heart of Gold"

Me: "If that's not funk I don't know what is."

Brother: "It didn't go over. But he finally showed up. At ten minutes to twelve. The town had an ordinance that no concert could go on after midnight."

"So you had a ten minute show on your hands?"

"Yeah, and he was drunk and took to the microphone and instead of playing music started cussing out his wife, his manager, all of New Jersey and anyone he could see at the moment."

"That's not good."

"Oh, it only got worse. The sheriff of Wildwood suddenly walked onstage and informed Sly Stone he only had one minute to play before midnight fell down and he was no longer legally allowed to appear before an audience. Meanwhile, other police were appearing backstage with the rest of us. They told us we'd best take off our shirts embroidered with the Convention Hall logo if we wanted to live. Cause people paying big-ticket prices for a one-minute concert would probably not be interested in our continued good health."

"So what did he do?

"He started playing and he was so drunk he sucked."

"How did the crowd react?"

"They reacted like he sucked. But my friend Glen, a part time cop who worked security, pulled the sheriff off-stage and let him know that if the concert wasn't allowed to go on past the legal time limit he'd have a full-scale race riot on his hands."

"What happened?"

"Wildwood, New Jersey got to see the most horrible, drunken, illegal concert they were ever treated to."

Things I Say To My Cat

I was talking to a friend at work the other day and let it slip that my evening plans included the wildly adventurous, madcap way to pass the time of downing some beers and talking to my cat. She gave me that look which instantly communicates that I had strayed past the point of romantic, arty isolation and into the realm of the truly pathetic.

“Mmm,” she grunted, “How does that usually go?”
“Kinda one-sided,” I had to admit.

Because, yes, while Kitty is pretty vocal, sometimes to the point of annoyance; she’s not the best of conversationalists. If she’s in the mood she will purr and rub her head against me but, aside from that, there’s not all that much give and take. Thinking about it, I realized she can only offer what she’s been taught by example and it dawned on me that I, myself, had not exactly been keeping up my end of the dialogue either.

Here, then, is the entire list of things I have said to my cat for nearly a decade and a half:

“Good Kitty.”
“Sweet Kitty.”
“I love you Kitty.”
“Shut the fuck up! You have food in your bowl! Walk the five feet and take a look!”

Of course, the one thing I’ve told her most often is, “Jesus Christ, it’s not a goddamn race!” This one is reserved for every single time I try to go downstairs to pee. The cat insists on getting there first, usually by darting between my legs in such a way I am someday bound to wind up at the bottom of the stairs with a splintered neck. Her fascination with watching me urinate is only trumped by the way that my taking a crap—call me crazy for considering this the ultimate private moment—has for her become a bonding experience on par with a father and son going fishing. I plant myself on the throne and she’s right there, swishing back and forth on the tub ledge and attempting to rub her every body part on my bare thighs while purring loud enough to rival a riding lawnmower. I know. It’s a cat. It doesn’t get the same social boundaries when it comes to pooping as, say, a roommate. But when I’m straining to expel half a log that’s hung up like a breach pregnancy and some animal chooses THAT moment to become most affectionate, I get a little twitchy. Mostly because I imagine that if I allow it I am part and parcel to some strange, inter-species scat scene you can’t even find on the internet. So I pick her up and throw her out and slam the bathroom door. Always, she starts scratching on it and howling like she’s starving and I’m in there shitting Meow Mix.

That’s mostly it, but there’s a few more:

“What the hell’s the matter with you?”
“Git! Git! Git!” (This is when I am trying to touch myself and she’s staring at me like Kinsey with a clipboard.)

I do vary the wording, just to make it seem like I have more to say:

“Pretty cat.”
“Sweet cat.”
“I love you cat.”
“Shut the fuck up! It’s a goddamn bird!”

There is one recent development. After years of cuddling the cat has taken to instead crawling out from under the covers and sleeping on top of my legs. I wake in the middle of the night, unable to move them, and start screaming that I am paralyzed and need help. Technically, this one is directed at the neighbors. Thus far they have reacted in the same fashion as my cat to everything I’ve ever told her: complete and utter indifference.

Final Destination 2: Car Crash Scene

I've watched this movie bunches of times and the car crash always freaks me out way more than the supernatural hijinx to follow. I hydroplaned all the way down an off ramp once, repeatedly smashing the guard rail as the car uncontrollably spun in circles. The car was totaled but I walked away without a scratch. This might have something to do with why the clip gets on my nerves. Or it might be the graphic depiction of teenagers who can afford a vehicle costing more than I make in a year.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Music Is Magic

Troy Palmer is a fake internet friend I've never met in real life. But we share a common bond in that we often enjoy the same type of music, movies and art. Plus dude is fond of wearing makeup and who can't love that? (Oh, I remember, my entire family when I went through my goth phase.)

But Troy wrote the most amazing rant. He pretty much explained how one's musical appreciation defined one's self. I gotta agree. The songs who shaped who I am, laid out in chronological order, tell the tale way better than I can in words.

Okay, I'm four years old and I'm listening to the radio. Tommy Roe's 'Dizzy' speaks to me so much that I beg my older brother to go and buy me the 45. (Yes, I am that fucking old.) He does and I am forever thankful. Jump cut eons later; someone has taken this very song and fused it with Disney cartoons on the Internet:

Call me crazy, but when a four-year-old relates to lyrics: "My head is spinning/it's like a whirlpool/it never ends" this might be a big, red flag.

My next music memory was the theme song to The Banana Splits. I enjoyed the music but even moreso I enjoyed life-sized puppet costumes. Why I am not a Furrie remains a mystery. Here are The Dickies doing the song I loved so much:

Life progressed and so did Saturday morning TV. I was a kid eating cereal in front of the television,watching Lidsville. While, again, the life-size puppets caught my fancy there was something, something about the bridge to the theme song that made sense to me in a pure audio format. My older brothers played Steppenwolf and Jesus Christ, Superstar but somehow this middle section, featuring maniacal laughter and total psychedelia clamped onto my soul and made me more a hippie than they ever were (aside from my lack of recreational drugs.) When Butch Patrick fell into the hat, the sonic onslaught showed me music didn't have to be what was on the radio.

Music was pretty boring compared to that. But some years later I discovered ELO's 'Fire on High' which wasn't like the shit on the radio but more like the middle bridge to the Lidsville theme:

I'd discovered sypmphonic rock. Three chords and the truth just didn't do it for me. I wanted bombastic, out there, larger than life spectacle. Which of course led me to Queen:

There was something about that Freddie that was damn appealing I just couldn't put my finger on.

A couple years rolled on and I found this cat named Gary Numan:

Wow. Some straight guy playing the part of an android queer helped me get my shit together.

So after that I suppose in order to seem cool and all I'm not supposed to mention this chapter of my life. But I liked it and, god help me, I still do:

So really, if you were this really strange band but were able to sell out because of your pretty boy looks and reinvent yourself as a teen sensation and make millions, wouldn't you do it? I would. Marketing savvy made them seem lame but the music was always ok. Least I think so. But in addition to the top-40 stuff I'd also discovered the import bin at the local mall record store and was starting to find some really cool stuff:

What was strange was that stuff that was absolutely American, red white and blue music ended up in the "import" bin just because it wasn't played on the radio.
This was where I discovered The Meatmen. Here they are doing a Gary Glitter cover:

The Meatmen used to play Columbus then go hang out at the local gay bar. They weren't gay; I think it was their way of being able to go out after a show and get shitfaced without people bugging them. Well, except for me. But they were all funny and decent and very friendly to the one guy who knew who they were. Of course, Tesco walking around shirtless got them more attention than they bargained for and it had nothing to do with fame.

So I looked like a punk at the time but actually enjoyed many types of music. I discovered Orchestral Manouvres In The Dark and quickly became a huge fan, at least before John Hughes convinced them they should be pop stars.

I became a fan of what at the time was called "progressive music", yet another term
for what young people are listening to in order to distance themselves from what
their parents and older brothers like. The terminology changes every five years or
so but always serves the same purpose. My favorite band to fill this need at the time was Xymox:

Then Skinny Puppy came along and took me and everyone to a whole other world.

Industrial music was the name of the game. So many good bands and tunes:

But Industrial wasn't my everything. I just liked anyone doing music who did their own strange thing. Pop music could be damned strange, too, I noticed.

Right around this time I discovered Edward Kaspel and the Legendary Pink Dots. They never fit into any category because they're always changing. I imagine this is a big part of the whole appeal.

I listened to old CDs and music for me got kind of stale. Then a short-lived scene called shoegazing came around and sounded like the inside of my head:

Right about this time I started making my own music. I read an interview with
someone, I forget who, in a magazine and they said if you want to find out what
someone's music sounds like, ask them their five favorite bands. I hope more than
anything this sounds like Gary Numan, Chapterhouse, Pink Floyd, The Meatmen and LPD were stuffed in a studio together and forced to play nice:

Spookshow In Your Pants--Warm Feelings

Music started to accelerate, though, thanks to the internet. Some Japanese kid doing stuff in his bedroom is better than anything on the radio or for sale. Everyone who's always taken pride in loving music has become an instant idiot just because there's too much out there for any one person to keep track of. You can't know it all and contrast and compare anymore. Sure, you can do this with stuff on the radio and supposedly obscure indie magazines...but if it's in a magazine it's hardly obscure, since no doubt some guitar geek on YouTube you've never heard of has racked up half a million hits.

Living in the here and now, I still like what I'm told is pop culture, even though I don't buy it.

It just goes on. The music reflects me. I don't find it. It finds me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Honeypot Christian Cagigal clued me into this one.

I love movies from this era, but Hellzapoppin is something way beyond stupid puns and slapstick. I mean, it's that, but it's also Stanley Elkin put onscreen some thirty years before he exploited metafiction. This 1941 movie self-referenced itself so much that South Park seems a pale imitation in terms of making fun of making fun of pop culture. Just watch the opening few minutes:

The rest of the movie just collapses upon itself and has less to do with storyline than a pointed statement that dumb people will line up to watch anything. If, like me, you just like stupid comedy jokes this movie is hilarious. But if you think we live in an idiot world where we're sucking on the tit of the entertainment industry to keep us distracted from what those in power don't want us to see you'll really find it funny--and of course more sad than you can bear. You weren't allowed to say this outright back when this was filmed but Hellzapoppin absolutely gets this point across in subtle, at-the-time subversive ways and points out that society will watch goddamn anything at the expense of thinking, some fifty years before American Idol.

You can find this on Amazon. Buy it, laugh your ass off and learn we really haven't come that far.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chrithmath Memory

After posting the Spookshow In Your Pants holiday album, I still like the idea of having Christmas in May. So I think
I'll share one of my favorite (and by that I mean completely mortifying) Christmas memories.

This happened probably a decade or so ago. I'd realized that mall shopping made me absolutely batshit and decided to do
that year's holiday obligation by trolling up and down High Street, near where I live. Unique, weirdo gift shops were far easier to deal with than chain stores that had "JUST HEAR THOSE SLEIGH BELLS JINGLING, JING JING JINGLING, OOOH"
blaring over loudspeakers to the point I wanted to shove a potato peeler through my eardrums to make it stop.

It ended up being a nice night. It was cold, but not horribly freezing, and the fat snowflakes drifting down were pretty to look at. I found some stuff I thought was cool to give as gifts. Would my family appreciate them? Whatever. I don't know them and they don't know me. But once a year we fake like we're on the same page and pretend that commercialism brings us closer. But this particular year I kinda felt like, maybe, I'd gotten it, if not right, at least close.

I had bags full of stuff. I settled in at the bus stop waiting for the ride to take me home.

Some kid was there, probably eighteen or nineteen and was obviously gay as the Easter Parade. I love gay kids, given that they get to be what I was but never could express without being killed, most likely by a family member.

"Merry Chrithmas!" he shouted.

"Merry Christmas to you, too," I said. We started talking. The moonlight flashing on the new-fallen snow was nothing compared to the way it glinted off the silver stud through his tongue.

"Have you been doing thome thopping?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, doing my best to not make it sound like yeth.

"Chrithmath is awethome!" he said. I could not disagree more, but sometimes cuteness gets to win.

I am still a bastard at heart, though, and no matter how endearing his Drew Barrymore in E.T schtick happened to be, I was determined to call him on his affectations and resulting peculiar speech.

"New tongue piercing?" I asked.

"No, I've had this for two years. But I've always had a lithp."


It's Tricky

Man, this takes me back. Just re-watched the video for the first time in years and found myself grinning like a loon all the way through.

In 2006 The Knack filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement, claiming Run-DMC stole the riff from 'My Sharona.' Seriously. It took them that long to notice?

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Christopher Hoffman put out a gospel album entitled 'The Road'. On it, he explores his faith and his relationship with Jesus Christ. There's just one problem, at least as where Evangelicals are concerned: He's gay as a picnic basket.

I love the idea of anybody who feels no need to thump their chest and proclaim how their brand of faith is The One True Message in order to make them feel superior in the here and now. Christopher simply details the road he's traveled, spiritually, and isn't out to convert anyone. But were his sexuality not enough to piss off the people who think they hold a copyright on the words of Jesus Christ, he also strongly identifies with the Wiccan faith. Myself, I'll quote from The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra: "I'm a scientist. I don't believe in anything." But Chris is a Christian Wiccan, or a Wiccan Christian, depending. I recently told him, "Hey, if you're going to be a person of faith, why settle for just one?"

After a years-long struggle, he and his partner, Jake, have finally adopted two kids (again, a major difference of opinion in that I think NOT breeding is the major perk of homosexuality) and are, finally a real family. He's ready to record again.

And he's asked me to produce. My first return to audio in years and I'm working on a fucking gospel album. Okay, granted, a queer, witchy gospel album from a guy with sleeve tats featuring tarot cards and Harry Potter characters, but still. What's next? I get a call from Alan Jackson?

If you click on Christopher's name at the beginning of this post you can hear samples from his last album. This is not at all the sort of thing I generally listen to, but because of our shared love of penises and Italian horror movies we ended up friends.

There's one song on the album, Eclipse, that has nothing to do with faith but rather his struggle with bi-polar disorder. It's sheer hell to suddenly find yourself miserable for no real reason. You know it's biochemical, but that does nothing to relieve the sheer physical and mental torture you're going through. Chris wrote a song comparing this to planetary motion and I thought the analogy was brilliant. Again, click on his name to hear a sample from it. Even though I'm not a fan of the arrangements on the album, there's no disputing the boy has pipes and can belt them out. Just for fun and just for him, I did a remix of this song:

Christopher Hoffman--Eclipse (Spookshow In Your Pants Prozac Remix)

So now he wants to do something true to his beliefs but sounding freaky and weird. The ancient Chinese had a curse: May you live in interesting times.

Second Guessing

This is how I learned about abortion:

I attended a private, Christian school and when I was in 7th grade our teacher passed out sealed manilia envelopes with the edict we were NOT to open them until further instructed. He carried on about how the less wholesome segment of society were planning to murder babies, detailing in very specific ways just how it was done, then let us open our packets containing color photos of teency dismembered arms and legs and crushed skulls swimming in a sea of gore. At that point we were dismissed for lunch.

Naturally, the cafeteria served spaghetti.

At thirteen I found this ludicrous, obvious propoganda. It didn't slow me down in the slightest when it came to my appetite; no more than when they served ravioli after making us watch 'Red Asphalt', the gory safe-driving movie. I like food. Just because I'd recently seen pictures of chopped up babies was not going to deter me from a zesty tomato sauce.

They had a point. The stuff in the photos were easily recognized body parts and putting the 'fetus' spin on things didn't detract from the fact that what was going on was no less brutal than putting a premie in a blender. It wasn't a zygote, or some other clinically detatched term for shoving the surgical equivalent of a weed-whacker up a woman's womb and chopping her kid into bits. Abortion is, absolutely, murder.

But so is sending teenage kids into another part of the wold to die in the name of patriotism. That is murder as well. And if you're going to see one as a-ok then you better see the other as kosher as well. Oh sure, trot out your blah-blah-blah "innocent" life schtick. Call me crazy, but a kid at nineteen is no more prepared to be dropped in another part of the world where people want to kill he or she than a crack-whore's baby being aborted instead of plopped out in a toilet bowl. You call war "neccessary" murder? That's what I call abortion in some cases. Okay, most cases, given that children in general are vile to be around.

At last, both sides of this highly volitale argument can come together in the shared hatred of a common enemy: me. 'Cause I think you're both nuts.

Friday, May 14, 2010


This is an old, throwaway Spookshow In Your Pants tune I did when I was living in a warehouse with bare insulation for walls and exposed electrical conduit hanging everywhere. The sound is much as the title implies. Click on it to have a listen.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Floating Fish

I had the weirdest kindergarten experience ever.

I started at age four, a year younger than most of my classmates. I guess it made sense; I could already read on my own at the time whereas the older students had yet to completely learn their ABCs. People saw this as a sign of genius. But people are idiots. I could do this one thing well and that was it. My oldest brother believes this happened because my mother started reading to me the day I came home from the hospital after being born and never let up. He might be right. I don't remember being taught anything; I just remember picking up books and somehow knowing what the arrangement of letters was supposed to mean. Mom read the same books over and over, I watched and followed along and through repetition got that certain funny shapes related to specific words and it all kind of sank in through osmosis. Somehow my four-year-old mind was able to break it down so that this combination of letters resulted in this sound, and that another, and somehow I learned to read. The more I read, the better spoken I became. In other words, as a toddler, I interviewed well. So I got to attend kindergarten a year early.

This was hardly a state-supported entity, but rather a self defined institution some woman ran in a garage-like structure in back of her house. It was West Virginia in the sixties, so this sort of shit could fly.

The kindergarten teacher had no idea I could read. I would spring that one on her later. Her primary concern was the fact that when it came to Art time, all I would do was scribble. Other kids were doing stick figures and block houses but I only seemed interested in grabbing a handful of crayons and running them across the page. One of the few sense memories I retain of the time is that I liked the way it looked. I remember how much fun I thought it was to see six different-colored lines streaking across the page at the same time. But no, the teacher wanted to see me draw Mommy and Daddy and Me, so when I kept scribbling she sent home a strongly-worded note, in the language of the time, voicing her suspicion that I might be retarded.

Hell, in the art world everyone's a critic.

But my Mom went to bat for me and essentially said, "Oh yeah? Why don't you give him a candy bar wrapper and ask him to read the ingredients?"

The next day the kindergarten teacher thrust a wrapper in my hands and asked me what it said.

"Sugar, Corn Syrup, Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Cocoa Butter Chocolate, Milk, Dextrose, Emulsifiers (Lecithin), Butter Fat, Salt, with Vanillin and Ethyl Vanillin, Artificial Flavorings), Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk (Sugar, Skim Milk)
CONTAINS LESS THAN .05% OF THE FOLLOWING: Partially Hydrogenated Blend of Vegetable Oils, (CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLWING: Cottonseed, Peanut, Soybean), Soy Protein, Artificial and Natural Flavors, Maple Syrup, Delactosed Whey, Invertase, Tapioca, Flour, Salt, Citric Acid, Artificial Color (Blue #1, Red #3)"

She nearly fainted before I reached Milk Chocolate. But she revived enough to realize that I could be her kindergarten star and recreate the turn of events so that it was SHE who taught me how to read ahead of my time. What fucking wonderful advertising! A four-year-old attends Miss Hick's backyard babysitting and comes away a prodigy! Good luck backing that one up when Ma and Pa Toothless finds their kid still can't count to three.

Thing was, before she hit on the fact that my advanced reading skills could mean advertising gold, something really creepy went down. By total accident I opened the bathroom door and walked in on a female kindergarten classmate, being assisted by the student intern who was probably all of 17 or 18. But the woman who ran the kindergarten got wind of this and decided to go for an eye for an eye approach to punishment.

Here is where things get sketchy, fragmented and perhaps hidden under a few layers of denial. But this definitely happened: I was made to stand on top of a table and pull my pants down in full view of my kindergarten class, so that they could all see me in a vulnerable state, to atone for the unconscionable sin of opening an unlocked restroom door.

Was it just pulling down my pants and seeing me in my underwear, or was my four-year-old peen exposed before everyone? I don't know. I remember the ordeal, just not the details. And really, if you're a supposed "teacher" making a kid do this does it make a fucking difference?

It has taken years to piece one part of the puzzle with another. I did something shortly later, that perhaps began a lifetime of passive-agression. Now, I'm grown up enough to prefer outright aggression, calling things the way you see them, to this, but still: I'm very proud of my four-year-old, kindergarten self for having the balls to react instead of just sucking it up.

My kindergarten teacher had a fish tank full of what she called her "prize" fish.

I dumped half a can of Ajax into it and killed them all.

Ten years ago I set this experience to music as a Spookshow In Your Pants song. Click on the title if you want to listen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Hold Of Me

I put this up on FB and realized for once how honest I was being so I figured I'd repeat it here. This is what I said there:

"So tonight has been Boomtown Rats night here at Der Spookhaus. And I found this video from the 6th annual Dia De Los Muretos Celebtration exhibition; a zillion ways to paint skulls, attached to my personal theme song from 1984. Weird thing, listening to the lyrics tonight, I think it's still my personal theme song from 2010. Yeah, parts of me have grown and become much more human than then...but still...the words pretty much reflect how much of me there is I want to hide."

Over The Rhine And Through The Woods To Grandgansta's House We Go

I lived in Cincinnati and needed to get a job, pronto, before my boyfriend bludgeoned me in the head to death with a plastic thing he'd bought initially to shove up
his ass. I found employment in a blood plasma center in the middle of Over-The-Rhine, Cincinatti's well-publicised answer to the ghetto. I was a small, skinny white boy, and signing up for this was tantamount to saying that active-duty in Afghanistan gives me tittie hard-ons.

Because blood-plasma centers are not known for drawing the future standouts of the local board of education.
Becuause blood-plasma centers are not generally a gathering place for lively discussions of post-modern approaches to music and literature.
Because blood-plasma centers have yet to be considered a haven for the concept of free thought.

And because I was tiny and white.

This was a slight few years before the Cincinnati riots of 2001 broke out, and although the reslults were less than honorable, not that they were without
good reason. Some fucking cop shot a kid just because he had 14 outstanding warrants, not getting that, duh, all of them were non-violent. But this was simply
the straw that broke the camel's black. This kind of shit had been happening for years and the people who lived in the neighborhood had gotten sicker and sicker
and sicker of this shit until one day it fucking broke and Helter Skelter came raining down. The mood was there, in '87, when I arrived, and years of white
cops getting away with killing black kids for no real reason was uppermost in the minds of the community. It hadn't reached the point of crazy looting and kicking
in windows and screaming "Fuck this!" But it was getting closer and closer. White motherfuckers were coming into a historically black neighborhood and killing people, including children. This is when I landed my job in the middle of Over-The Rhine as an intake clerk.

"Hi," I said to the people gathered in the lobby, "I'm new here!" I waved cheerily like a faggy white boy. Not the best plan.

My co-workers were mostly black, educated and gave me the low-down. "You gotta prove yourself as something different than the cops. This neighborhood can
be cool with white people as long as they distance themselves from the people who are killing their kids."

Sadly, 'Fuck tha Police' wouldn't come out for another few years, so I had nothing to go on. I would have thought that as a freaky punkazoid, sporting
hair down to my shoulders on one side, buzzed off on the other and sporting eyeliner; while wearing a white lab coat to denote me as an employee of
the place that would give them cash money for the malt-liqour infused stuff from out of their veins, would have distanced me enough from the five-oh.

But no. You have to prove yourself in a place like this. Appearances count for nothing. Much as it should in the real world.

This was about the time I took up smoking. I did it so I could learn some really cool magic tricks involving cigarettes. Not that if anyone knew this it would boost my street cred. This was back in the day whereyou could smoke pretty much anywhere, and I thought perhaps my newfound fondness for coffin nails would make me seem just a little cooler and therefore less like an opressor. Unfortunately, my job consisted of having to stab anyone who came through the line in the finger with a pointy thing that drew enough blood to smear on a little card for processing. If someone does this to you, most likely you are not going to consider them on your side, even if you get a teeny-tiny check at the end of the maze.

But I lit up, just to show the inner toughness of the guy wearing Maybelline. But I'd just started and I was no good at it so right after I stabbed a
local gang leader in the finger I coughed loud, hacking sobs and blew most of the contents of my nose on his specifically-colored shirt.

You would think of course that I'd be instantly dead but instead the hoodlum showed a remarkable instinct for subtle sarcasm (my favorite kind) and said,
"Been smoking long?"

I thought this was hilarious, but the woman working alongside me wanted me to live to see another day. "He been smoking forever!" she shouted,
"Don't you know asthma when you see it?"

This is what saved my life. Not her version of cunning strategy but the fact that me and the guy who now had my phlegm across his shirt looked at one another and cracked up together. We both thought it was the stupidest thing to say ever, as if, "Oh yeah, that's gonna work" and shared a moment. And THAT is what turned the tables and made my being there no longer an onslaught of fear.

He spread the word that I was ok. If that woman hadn't said that completly dumb thing it could have been oh so horrible. But because we laughed together, my life in the plasma center got a whole lot better by the very next day. The cold crowd of stare-you-down thugs became warm, personable and funny. They would insult me and I would insult them back and we'd laugh together. I loved it. Me, the whitest man
in America, connecting with the most dangerous part of town. I don't know this for a fact, but I'd like to think that some of them saw the beauty in the very same thing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


The Odd Gathering is much as the name implies. It's a collection of really peculiar magicians who get together at a hotel in California and just get crazy. I was supposed to be there this year but I dicked myself out of vacation time so I'm stuck here in Cowtown. But I get to appear virtually, so here's my online turn for those nutjobs.