I Have Too Much To Write

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There’s just too darn much going on right now. So let’s resort to a bullet point post, as much as I dread it.

Writing: I’m still working around the edges, trying to anchor some parts of the backstory before I can get back to expanding the book into the doorstop version I want it to be. There’s been lots of staring into space, trying to figure out the powers and limitations of the gods, the depths of various conspiracies, and whose stories will grow in the expansion. It’s fun, maddening, and a bit overwhelming. I am anxious to get writing and I’m slowly getting to that point of just saying to hell with it and start pounding away.

Work: I am dragging my feet on a marketing project. Part of it is computer issues, part of it is physical concerns, and part is just goddamn procrastination/distraction/ADHD bullshit. Sigh.

Guitar: Ugh. I need something with a smaller neck. Ten minutes of playing and my left hand is throbbing.

My Hands: The carpal tunnel ogre has reared its head this summer and I’m trying to work around it. It affects my work, affects my attempts at writing, and even affects how I hold the guitar. So the plan is this. I need a vertical grip mouse. I’ll probably get one in a few weeks. And then maybe, just maybe, I can do some of the things I want to without pain and torture.

Tires & Tech: Oh don’t get me started. They’re all giving me trouble. We could use a small lottery win just to sweep out the old and bring in new replacements. Which is as likely as Trump growing up to act like a real man.

Baseball: Now this is where the post gets positive. The Twins aren’t playing their best baseball but damn, they’re pulling away from everyone in the wild card except for the Angels. They’ll never catch NYY but that’s not important. They just need to outlast the Angels. And I think/hope/pray they can pull it off.

The Bus: Little kids constantly test you. I think I’m beating most of them. “The old bus driver used to take us all to Cenex (our enormous convenience store)”. Not buying that one. On hot days I would bring extra water bottles. But a couple little rats just take the bottles to either splash around or not drink at all. So they’re cut off. Two little sisters want to sit together but they fight like cats and dogs. They no longer sit anywhere near each other. And the bus is a real pig on wet gravel roads, slipping and sliding on its rear wheels if there’s more mud than gravel. This will be a real treat in snow and ice. But it’s only a couple hours a day and that’s not a big sacrifice. I’m sixty. I can suck it up.

Later

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Having a Somewhat Good Time

 

It was my birthday a few days ago. My wife got me a few sweaters for my new “career”, my SiL sent a Trump cat toy, and I bought myself a few new CDs and the last couple of Expanse book. Carjo made lasagna and sour cream raisin pie and late in the evening I sipped a fifteen-year-old Balvenie while chilling watching the Vikings game.

I’m kind of ambivalent about this birthday. I have now turned the big 6-0 and I feel like it. I’ve picked up a cold from the little minions on the bus and while it’s in the end stages now I’ve had a crippling headache for days and my stamina is shot. It’s been hot (drought is still here) and I feel like every morning and at the end of my route. Maybe when this cold fades I’ll be back to feeling 5-5. And I can start working out again so I feel 5-0. That would be great. Then I could have a good time.

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So Long and Thanks for All the Snark

Thank you Walter

Walter Becker (on the right) died this weekend at the young age of 67. If you’re not one who follows band whose origins/hey days were in the 60s and 70s, there’s a chance you don’t know who Walter is. But it’s highly likely you’ve heard the name of the band he co-founded, co-wrote all the material, and played guitar/bass in: Steely Dan.

Walter Becker met Donald Fagen while in college. They shared the same snarky and sardonic outlook on life and a similar taste in music (jazz, the American songbook, classic R&B). Except for about a decade (1980-92) they worked together, first as songwriters in the famous Brill building, then in the backing band for Jay and the Americans, and finally in the group that became Steely Dan.

It’s hard to explain Steely Dan. Many tend to pigeonhole them into that nebulous genre of soft rock/yacht rock. That’s unfortunate. There was nothing soft or complacent about Steely Dan. Lyrically they were incomparable, writing catchy and complex songs about drug dealers, pederasts, losers, deadbeats, stock market crashes, and a nuclear holocaust. Their lyrics were hilarious, obtuse, pointed and wicked. They loved the loser who was hoping for one last shot, one last chance at redemption, any world that he’s welcome to.

Take the song “Don’t Take Me Alive”. There’s a lot of “criminal on the run” songs in pop culture but nothing like this, where a desperate man is all too self-aware:

Agents of the law
Luckless pedestrian
I know you’re out there
With rage in your eyes and your megaphones
Saying all is forgiven
Mad dog surrender
How can I answer
A man of my mind can do anything

I’m a bookkeeper’s son
I don’t want to shoot no one
Well I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don’t take me alive
Got a case of dynamite
I could hold out here all night
Yes I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don’t take me alive

Can you hear the evil crowd
The lies and the laughter
I hear my inside
The mechanized hum of another world
Where no sun is shining
No red light flashing
Here in this darkness
I know what I’ve done
I know all at once who I am

I’m a bookkeeper’s son
I don’t want to shoot no one
Well I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don’t take me alive
Got a case of dynamite
I could hold out here all night
Yes I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don’t take me alive

Musically the Dan were a force unparalleled. They often get characterized as slick perfectionists and there’s merit in that. Becker and Fagen’s obsessiveness drove many a sideman freaking nuts. But there was a method to the madness. The drums found their pulse and swagger in R&B and rock, the chords never went anywhere even accomplished musicians expected, and the melodies in these twisted masterpieces would hang in your head for days. Then there were the solos.

Studio musicians loved to play for them despite their perfectionism. The challenge of getting it right for Becker and Fagen was far more exhilarating than playing something simple. And the guitar/sax solos were jaw-dropping. Becker played some of them. Right now my obsession is the opening tracks on the Katy Lied album, “Black Friday” and “Bad Sneakers” with Walter picking up the lead on both. He soars and dives on the first, always playing within the song and then defining it. Then on the second he solos in conjunction with a grand piano riffing underneath, finding a concise perfection.

 

So farewell Walter, and thanks for all the great music. I’ve listened to the man’s music since my college days, obsessively trying to crack the genius simmering beneath the gleaming surface. Not to mention I distinctly remember a long-legged girl in my room in the frat house, wearing little more than one of my dress shirts, swaying to “My Old School” on a weekend morning (she just walked down the hall with one of the dogs).

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The Wheels of the Bus Go Round n’ Round

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Yesterday, while I was approaching the bus, I noticed the door was wide open. The morning driver never does that so I was a little suspicious. I climbed in and noticed a canister of disinfectant wipes on the driver’s seat. The driver’s window was also open and there was a definite miasma of disinfectant and vomit in the air. It wasn’t over-powering but boy, it was there.

I found out a fifth grade boy had blown out his breakfast as the bus came over the viaduct driving into town. Damn, he just about made it. I got the details from the bus manager and the morning route driver, who ended up cleaning the mess out. They were pretty nonchalant about it. Apparently this just goes with the territory. The little grade school kids were another story when they got on:

Where was he sitting?
IT SMELLS LIKE PUKE!
It was in this seat, I saw it.
No, he was further to the back
IT SMELLS LIKE PUKE!
Can you help me open this window?
I need my window opened
IT SMELLS LIKE PUKE!
His mom came to get him
I’m not gonna sit there
No, you sit there
IT SMELLS LIKE PUKE!

Every day is an adventure.

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OK Kids, Just Call Me Otto

stay calm kids

OK, it’s official now so I feel free to write about it. I’m now driving a school bus in the afternoon. It started in July when my cousin, who drives a bus route during the school year, mentioned in July that they were looking for a new driver. Now there was no way in holy hell I could get up at 5:00 am on a regular basis. My issues with sleep have been well documented here. The last thing a school district wants it a driver with severe sleep deprivation. But the opening was for an afternoon run and that is something I can do.

So since late July I’ve been getting ready for this and it’s taken a LOT of my time. The “knowledge test” required me to take and pass a commercial driving general knowledge test, a passenger bus test, and a school bus test. I do well on tests but on the passenger bus test they kept asking stuff I knew wasn’t in the book. Some nonsense about transporting migrant farm workers and the amount of hazardous materials allowed on a bus. Yep, because you know second graders like to bring corrosives in their little lunch kits. So I took that fucking thing three times. I had to get a complete physical exam of which I will be reimbursed only two-thirds of the cost and then, because the two idjits giving the eye exam had all the competence of Trump administration people, I had to take a complete eye exam I didn’t need. And then hours upon hours of training.

The driving test is two parts. You have to do a physical inspection of the bus, listing every damn important part of the interior, exterior, and engine compartment detailed what these things are examined for. It’s a lot of goddamn parts but I did get it. Then the driving test where you have to do things like a student stop, railroad crossing, a convoluted backing up test and all of it is done in a city. I drive a country route, nearly all gravel roads and every single stop is inside a farm/ranch yard.

So this has taken up almost a third of my summer, which is a little more time than I expected even for a job with this damn much responsibility. My frustration level has been through the goddamn stratosphere. But it’s done, the tests are all passed and I’ve driven kids home solo two nights in a row (school started on Tuesday). Last night we had a little kindergarten girl going into complete meltdown and tonight I was driving in the rain while my little kids wound themselves up. So I’m having a well deserved IPA right now and if I didn’t have a fucking headache I’d have another.

Oy vey, what have I done?

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RIP Jay Thomas

Actor/DJ/raconteur Jay Thomas has passed away. He was best known as Eddie Lebec on the TV series Cheers. He was also a regular guest on David Letterman, where this epic tale became a Christmas tradition

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Caturday – Girls Just Want to Take Naps

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Amy Feral Fowler and Sansa (Queen of the North) take an afternoon nap. That is all. Carry on.

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