Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

A Terrible Poem About A Manger

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Do you have a place for us?
A clean dry place
(We’ll settle for dry)
And maybe somewhere to charge our phones

It’s not too many
Just the bass players
And unpublished poets
And the hitchhikers and the drivers that stop for them
Insomniacs and failed astronauts
Obsessives with poor short-term memory
And lapsed romantics in between heartbreaks
People who used to be junkies
And junkies who used to be people
They’re with me
They’re cool
Is there a place for us?

What about just me?
And my wife
She is with child
Do you have a place for us?

Plans And Schemes And American Dreams

bobby-jm-xmas-2016

“Josh, how are my eyes?”

“Good, Bob. Not red at all. Mine?”

“They’ll never know.”

“Cheese.”

“Cheese.”

CAMERA PHONE NOISE

“You’re, uh, not doing it any more?”

“Hand on chin?”

“Yeah. You were doing it last year with me.”

“I know, Bob.”

“You said you had a good time.”

“I did! But I like to keep it loose.”

“Little too loose.”

“Bob!”

“Well, you know, Josh: you put no effort into the picture at all. I did hand on chin, and this is my bad shoulder.”

“I thought it was the other one.”

“That’s not the point.”

“Bob, I don’t wanna fight. Let’s have dinner.”

“Will you be able to get the food to your mouth? Seem to have a problem with that movement.”

“You’re obsessed.”

“I thought we had a thing.”

“You think people will notice–”

“Your little checkered bandana, yeah.”

“–my checkered…okay, cool.”

Are Jews White?

To black people, yes.

To white people, no.

This has been: Are Jews White? Join us in a few months for our next fun game: Are Jews Human?

Catechism

When you opened the door to the bookstore with no title in Little Aleppo, the bell went TINKadink, but if you didn’t, then it didn’t. The bell hadn’t gone TINKadink in several hours; it was midday and the air in the shop hovered, stationary, like it was stalking prey. From the stacks, a smell of off-brand bug killer wafted out. The bookworms had massed, been met in battle, repulsed. Nothing Mr. Venable hadn’t dealt with before.

Owning any business is hard work, a million little chores begging to be ignored so they can avalanche on top of you, but a magical bookstore presents its own peculiarities. There was a good deal of the stock that couldn’t be displayed, or needed looking after: some books couldn’t be read from aloud, some shouldn’t be near pregnant ladies, others would straight up chase you down the aisle and eat your dick.

Mr. Venable didn’t know precisely how many books he had back there. Hell, he didn’t even know how much “back there” he had back there. There was the main room’s three long aisles of books, and then the backroom which doglegged to the left, and there was a second level you needed to climb a ladder to get to, and at least one basement. At least. And the annex, and the warehouse. Lewis and Clark, Mr. Venable thought. Place doesn’t need a librarian, it needs explorers.

One time, some monks came in looking for a book by Aristotle, and they were never heard from again.

Maybe the cat had seen the end of the bookstore with no title, but she wasn’t saying. Or maybe she was: she was a tortoiseshell, and an unstoppable chatterbox. The cat meowed at customers, and went “CHHHHH!” at the mailman for some reason; when no one was around, she would prowl the stacks for mice, burbling and blipping and saying, “Plep,” and making one unique noise that went like “MlaaaAAAAhmph.” Mr. Venable knew that cats couldn’t talk to themselves, but he also knew that cat was talking to herself.

They got along fine, he and the cat, which was a tortoiseshell and not a calico, which meant she had no white fur at all, just black and rust. Mr. Venable might have enjoyed the conversations he had with the cat more than with any human, and they would chat on and off all day: he would say something in English, and then she would answer in Cat, and that would continue until one of them got bored or distracted.

He had asked what her name was a million times.

“Tell me your name, damn you.”

“MlaaaAAAAhmph.”

“Identify yourself! I insist!”

“Plep.”

“Espanol? Como se llama?”

“MlaaaAAAAhmph.”

“Then you get no kibble!”

“Plep.”

“Fine, you get kibble.”

And then Mr. Venable would feed the cat. This happened every day. (The conversation and the feeding.) Whenever a foreigner came into the shop, Mr. Venable would make them ask the cat her name in their foreigner’s language. So far, nothing.

Other than that disagreement, they got along, mostly through respecting each others’ territories. Mr. Venable had his desk, and the cat had everything else, including Mr. Venable’s desk if she felt like it. She was particularly fond of his recently-abandoned chair; the dark green leather, still tushee-warm, was irresistible. She could hear the springs and creaky back of his old chair from, well, anywhere (cats have very good hearing) and she would zip under the desk silently, waiting for him to rise with a groan for more coffee, and occupy the seat the instant he got up.

The cat was hesitant to give up her new perch when he returned, usually; it would turn into an argument.

“That is my chair! How dare you?”

“CHHHHHHH!”

“Don’t speak to me like I’m the mailman.”

“MlaaaAAAAhmph!”

And so on. Sometimes, Mr. Venable would find a task to do; sometimes, he would get the squirt bottle. Depended on how his day was going.

Occasionally, if Mr. Venable had not risen for a while, then the cat would pad behind him: she would retract her claws–she was missing one on her right paw–and glide with no sound, and her back straight and parallel to the wooden floor until she got right behind his chair. Then she’d leap on his shoulder and scream, “MROWF!” right into his ear; scared the shit out of him every time. Mr. Venable knew that cats couldn’t laugh, but Mr. Venable also knew that the cat was laughing at him.

Always, he would get the squirt bottle after that routine. Certain aggressions cannot stand. Passers-by on the Main Drag could see him fighting with the cat, he knew this, but he didn’t care.

“Face your nemesis: water!”

“CHHHHHHH!”

And then the cat would punch the air, like six or seven times real fast, in Mr. Venable’s direction. One more squirt and the cat was off; back into the bookstore with no title, her paws making a tiny sound like “pamp” on the floors, which were made of long plain maple boards: blonde with lines of dark tan cutting horizontally, rising and falling like an afternoon of stock market returns. At irregular intervals, the floorboards had knots in them the same shape and color, but not size, of a potato. Down each aisle, the varnish had worn off the floorboards in two stripes, one on each side, nearest the books: the browsers had carved their own paths.

The cat doglegged at the backroom, which had high church windows overlooking the shelves, which were of uneven height, and from the second floor–which was an open loft which surrounded the backroom on three sides, and was accessed by one of two ladders on the east and west of the room–the view was one of an open mouth with jagged teeth made out of stories, and lies, and pictures of birds. The bookstore with no title has an overwhelming amount of books containing pictures of birds.

All of them harshly categorized and sub-categorized by Mr. Venable: he believed that there was a place for everything, and that place was where he said it should be. Not the alphabet, not good sense, and certainly not John fucking Dewey. It wasn’t a library, first of all, and Dewey advocated for simplified spelling.

(Simplified spelling! Declawing was what it was, Mr. Venable thought. Words come from places, they have history–words have names, Mr. Venable thought–and those words brought their history to the present. The English language is good at taking. The English are good at taking. A goose and a goose are geese, but a moose and a moose are moose, and that’s because one is fucking Germanic, and the other is fucking Iroquois. Words spelled this way are Greek, and that way are Latin. Bad enough we stole the words: leave them their dignity. A language should be messy, Mr. Venable thought. Sign of character. Fuck Dewey.)

There was the section: Birds, which was a subsection itself, of Animals Neither Human Nor Imagined. Under the heading of Birds, there were many sub-heads: Birds, Talking; Birds, Threatening and Smelly; Birds, Larry; Birds, Delicious; and Birds, Actually Not Birds But Pterodactyls. A whole shelf was for books with drawings of thrushes and woodpeckers, made by white guys on vacation, and several shelves of birdwatching memoirs, also written by white guys. Down in the basement, of which there is at least one, there was a long shelf dedicated to a language that thought “bird” was a letter. That language also thought “cat” was a letter, and sometimes there were mice in the basement, and then the tortoiseshell cat would go down there and remind the mice why she was worshipped.

The cat was a fierce mouser. She was rusty on the top of her head, and all down her back and paws; the rest of her was dull black, and she used this to her advantage to blend into the ceiling and deliver what can only be described as death from above. She would perch half-off the third ledge of the bookshelf, pupils perfect circles and tail still, waiting for the mouse and when the doomed little fucker scurried across the aisle she would SPRING down, slam the mouse into the maple floorboard; its back would break instantly.

Other cats liked to play with their prey, but the cat that lives in the bookstore with no title is from Little Aleppo. Little Aleppians believe that if you’re going to kill someone, do it quick. Nothing draws more boos in The Tahitian than the part at the end of the movie when the hero throws away his weapon so he can have a fair fight. Little Aleppians thought a fair fight was finding out where your enemy slept and calling in an airstrike the night before the fight.

Anthropomorphization is as difficult to avoid as it is to pronounce: a cat isn’t a cat-shaped person. A cat is a cat-shaped cat. They aren’t offended by the mice encroaching in their kingdom without so much as a by-your-leave. The cat isn’t punishing the mice for their rudeness, and the cat surely doesn’t see his home as sacred.

She eats a little of the mice–she likes her kibble better, if she’s honest–and then leaves the corpse there, and goes upstairs and makes a noise at Mr. Venable, “GLAAAAH-mrph,” and he gets up and picks up a spray bottle, but not the one with water: the one with industrial-strength wood cleaner, the toxic and powerful stuff that’ll get blood out, and he also grabs a brush. When she had killed a mouse in the basement was the only time she made that noise, and Mr. Venable noticed that the blood never had any paw prints leading in or out, as if the cat were careful to be tidy and make as little work as possible.

Mr. Venable knew that cats couldn’t be polite, but he knew the cat was being polite, and he headed down to the basement, of which there was at least one, to scrub up the blood on the floorboards, which were blonde maple with dark-brown and wavy lines bisecting them. If someone came in, the cat would start yowling. It was quiet today, anyway, and the door to the bookstore with no title had not gone TINKadink for many hours, and no one had stamped their feet on the mat coming in from the weather out on the Main Drag, which is in Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.

The Importantest People

DEAD TOUR! (Kinda!) There’s gonna be another Dead tour, or what passes for one these odd days, and it’s coming to a venue near you, as long as you don’t live in South Florida. (Then, it’s coming nowhere at all near you. Second year in a row. Thanks, fuckheads.) Citi Field, and Fenway, and the Hollywood Bowl this year–very glamorous–and once again CID Entertainment Guest Services will be there to take care of you, the fan, and to take really good care of you, the rich fan.

As always, the highest-end guest experience is not detailed on the website: you have to know a secret URL, and get a password; otherwise, poor people could look at the site, and that would make it dirty. There’s the “Scarlet>Fire” Seamless Experience™, and then there’s the “Steal Your Face” VIP Experience™, topped off by the “Golden Road” Super VIP Experience™.

But TotD’s here to tell you: there’s something else. The Praetor’s Suite.

A Praetor’s Suite package includes the following:

  • One (1) GA ticket OR premium reserved ticket in the first five (5) rows OR you can sit anywhere you want and we’ll tell the asshole sitting there to move.
  • Door-to-door concierge to fetch snacks for you, hold your drugs if you meet a cop, and agree with you when you complain about the songs being too slow.
    • Praetor’s Suite guests may have sex with (or keep) their concierge at the end of the show.
  • Access to Bertha’s, the exclusive lounge we are not even telling the regular VIPs about.
    • Open bar.
    • Open kitchen, which makes the place look so much bigger.
    • Complimentary hors d’oeuvres
    • Complementary hors d’oeuvres. (The pigs in a blanket and the egg rolls just go well together.)
  • One (1) digital copy–1080pi and HD sound– of the show you attend, loaded onto a MacBook Pro. (Shipped directly to your home.)
  • One (1) limited-edition, collector’s item, screen-printed, hand-signed and numbered poster that probably has those fuciking bears on it. (Shipped directly to your home.)
  • One (1) box of shit laced with super-ebola that explodes when you open it. (Shipped directly to your enemy’s home.)
  • One (1) thoroughbred horse. (Shipped directly to your home after the show, or you could eat it at set break.)
  • Access to Praetor’s Parking Lot for 72 hours before and after show.
  • Access to monster truck with which to drive through regular parking lot, crushing poor people’s cars.
  • Meet-and-Greet with the band.
  • Fuck-and-Suck with Billy. (PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP ONLY! Call for pricing. Not available at Fenway Park show.)
  • One (1) foreign person to marry. (CID Entertainment Guest Services realizes that these are frightening times, so if any of our Praetor’s Suite guests wish to assume residency in another country through marriage, then we can facilitate the nuptials through our Travel Packages. WARNING! While CID has vetted our foreigners carefully for wealth and education, laws prevent us from hiring based on gender. CID can guarantee that your foreigner will be landholding, and a skilled lover. We cannot guarantee the specific kind of love.)
  • One (1) piece of rebar to swing at the impoverished urchins standing between you and the merch table.

Spare The Godzilla, Spoil The Drummer

mickey-looking-bridge

You can’t be Mickzilla.

“Why not?”

I don’t know why exactly. You just can’t.

“Godzilla’s a Jew!”

He’s not.

“Kai Jew.”

Kaiju, Mickey. It’s a Japanese word.

“Godzilla doesn’t have a foreskin.”

He doesn’t have a dick! He’s a giant reptile, and he’s not even that: it’s a sweaty guy in a rubber suit.

“Regardless. I’ve already bought the Japanese girls.”

That’s Mothra.

“No.”

Yeah.

“All those movies kinda blend into one another.”

I agree, but you still need to stop what you’re doing.

“Can I still dose the Japanese girls?”

I assumed you already had.

“Oh, I have. I wasn’t asking permission. Legal question.”

Neither purchasing nor dosing humans is legal, Mickey. Stop doing both.

“Maybe. Gotta fill the hours somehow.”

Sure. Hey, Mick?

“Uh-huh?”

What’s that little wire on the underside of the bridge? Right by your head, the striped one?

“That?”

Yeah, that. The thing that looks like detonation cord.

“You’re observant.”

Goddammit, Mickey.

A Tale Of Two Stories

A book is the closest we’ve gotten to telepathy. That’s what a book is: take the thoughts in one brain and put them in another. Doesn’t work all the time, and not for some thoughts. For example: “You’re about to walk into a door,” is a thought poorly handled by literature, as the process is too slow; that thought should be yelled out loud.

And they’re not a user-friendly technology, not compared to–say–refrigerators. Open door, insert perishable, close door; open door, remove perishable, close door; clean semi-regularly. And, sure, it takes children a while to fully grasp the “close door” part, but by and large a fridge is an intuitive device.

Not a book. That’s why you have to ease a human into them: first, they get read to you; and then big and colorful picture books to teach you that thoughts go from left to right; and then chapter books and the wild journey of the narrative; and then you lie about reading Tolstoy; and then you notice that Barnes & Noble is selling adult coloring books and you set fire to the mall. The circle of literary life.

It takes years of training just to learn to read, and decades after that to make any real sense of the suckers. Most books assume you’ve read other books, and some require that you have. There are several volumes in Fillmore South’s library that are completely incomprehensible unless you have a second book to explain the one you’re reading. (And what is a bibliography but a genealogy? Just a list of books that the book in your hands has been made out of.)

And they bounce off each other, sometimes, if you make them.

I just finished two books–this is not a review; don’t worry about that, though I recommend them both–Sinatra: The Voice & The Chairman by James Kaplan and The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. (The Sinatra book is two volumes; I liked the second one better, when Frank was rich and crazy and could only communicate through punching, fucking, or singing.) And, you know: one’s better than the other. Let’s not fuck around with equivalences.

They’re both stories about a guy who leaves home. Other than that, they’re different.

Dry recitation of fact sticks in the craw, gets loogied out when no one’s looking, so from now on when we’re trying to explain the 20th Century to the Younger Enthusiasts, we should just give ’em these two books; take away their phones and lock the door. They can have a smoothie every three hours; teens love smoothies, because teens are too lazy to chew.

That was the 20th Century: the Lubyanka vs. Las Vegas. And these two stories–both about a guy who leaves home; other than that, they’re different–sum it up like no textbook could, or at least like no textbook did for me when I was a terrible student.

But the 20th Century died this year–it had hung around like a bruise–and now we have a new century, and there will be two stories written about it.

I wonder which story we will be in.

Mickbusters

mickey-looking-bridge-6

What is this?

“I’m having a midlife crisis.”

You’re planning on living to 140?

“You’re not?”

I repeat: what is this?

“Y’know how Neil Young likes model trains?”

Yeah.

“Fuck him. I’m going bigger.”

So this is a model? Of what?

“San Francisco. 1:32 scale.”

The whole thing?

“Every bit of it.”

That means it’ll be…1.5 square miles.

“Yeah, but only temporarily.”

Goddammit, Mickey, don’t destroy Mini-Francisco with the Little Big One.

“Too late not to. Already wired the explosive charges.”

You haven’t finished building the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Oh, we wired the explosive charges years ago.”

Ah.

“It’s an experiment! I want to see what will happen.”

Everyone’ll die.

“You weren’t listening to me: I want to see it.”

You’re bored, huh?

“Summer tour cannot come fast enough.”

A Fear I’m Loathing

I have a fear, Enthusiasts. I need some help. Perhaps you can help me: I think this dumb motherfucker is going to crash the U.S. Dollar.

Some of you are professors, and others were officers in the service, and big shot writers and thinkers and people with impressive Twitter bios, too. Couple of you actually know how to build things, or keep large systems working. Folks that have grown businesses, folks that grow food. Most of you are smarter than me: I spent fifteen minutes the other night staring into space trying to think up something to say about Michael Anthony’s hair.

So, you maybe know more about the world than I do. More about economics, certainly. I could ask my dad, but he had the good sense to die several years ago.

Here’s what I need, here’s the help I seek: tell me I’m wrong, and silly, and a flighty, shaky-kneed twitch. Tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Tell me that money is still going to be money this time next year, and I should go back to my little jokes about littler subjects in this littlest back alley of the internet.

Because I think he could kill the money.

 

 

A Dance Against Time

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“Good morning, Little Aleppo, or is it? Frankie Nickels with you, just like every day, no surprises here. Turn on KHAY–Hey!–and you know the score. I got you. I got you.

“Who’s got me, though? Guess you do. Just us chickens and no one’s coming to help. Not the farmer!

“Farmers and chickens got different agendas. Haaaha.

“You getting out of bed or into it, Little Aleppo? I know there’s a healthy ratio. You starting the day, or are you just getting started? You throwing open those curtains, or nailing bedsheets over the windows? There’s a party I know that’s still going in the loft all the way on the Downside, I heard it on my walk in, it’s been going for a while now. They ain’t listening to me; they got their own DJ. You know where I’m talking about.

“Not tough to find. You’ve probably been.

“Speakers and sweat. That’s what I remember, I used to stop in two or three times a week, but I only left once or twice, understand me? Haaaha. And the walls. Oh, yeah. The walls.

“Me and my girlfriends liked the place, but after a while I got to know some folks in there. Just turn up, you’d find your friends, they were there. Where else would they be?

“Taffy worked the door, big as the building and just as solid. Marti Martini was one of the go-go dancers, yeah, right. Lola and Tony were the back, arguing. They could dress, man. Fantastic Barbara would be there, and she was the first bald lady I knew. Alopecia. That thing where you can’t grow any hair? She had a life, y’know, a job and a life, she put on a wig. But she would come to the party just like God made her.

“She told me once, ‘Frankie Nickels, you can lie or you can dance. Can’t do both.’

“One night, I’ll never forget this, one night, and I’ll take this image to my grave, one night, and I swear this is whole truth, Fantastic Barbara glued little bits of mirror to her head, all the way around when no one was looking. And she had set it up with the deejay, right, I suppose, and the music built up to the big climax and they hit the lights, all of ’em, pitch-black and all the dancers start whooping HALLELUJAH and then they hit her with the spotlights. Four of ’em, one from each corner.

“And Fantastic Barbara spun round just as smooth as your favorite record.

“Lemme get all high-falutin’ on ya, Little Aleppo: the glory was in the ephemerality. Temporary art, you get me? Real temporary: by the time you realized that art had happened, it didn’t exist anymore. Haaaha. I remember always getting mad when someone told me the time. ‘I left that taskmaster outside’ I would tell ’em.

“Marti Martini, the go-go dancer I was telling you about, she had a whole rap about time. Said it was governed by quantum mechanics, not classical. Said it didn’t exist until we paid attention to it. You know what she said to me?

“She said, ‘Frankie Nickels, time is a drama queen.’

“And I will not lie to you when I tell you that it made a hell of a lot of sense at the time.

“Kids, don’t do drugs. Leave ’em for the grown-ups who need ’em. Haaaha. Lot of the people at the party weren’t okay to drive. They could dance, though. You’d get your nose open and the music would crawl in. Careful with too much. Goes straight to your hips. Haaaha. Alexander Pearl. That sonofabitch. What a party. What a sonofabitch.

“It was his party. You remember Alexander, Little Aleppo? You remember Alexander. How could you forget? Alexander. Not Alex, God help you if you called him Alex, Alexander. It was his party. He liked to be thanked.

“The walls, right? I was talking about the walls. Well, Alexander Pearl figured something out, right? Some things, some paint, they glow under blacklights, right? Well, they call ’em blacklights, but they just radiate a little more specifically than your standard bulb is what Alexander figured. He commenced to experimenting.

“What he discovered was that certain color frequencies complement certain light frequencies. They spun together, disco dancing on the floor all alone while everyone watched, and if he shut off all the lights except for this one certain frequency, then one paint would show up, and when he switched lights, another would appear.

“So Alexander Pearl painted those walls, in that big empty box with the lowish ceiling, and he painted that lowish ceiling, too, and when it got good in there, when it got hot and the music had crawled in through your noise, and your own seat was hugging you close, he would jam the lights close BANG and it would be pitch black, the blackest cause there weren’t any windows, and then he’d flick his secret light, that science light he’d whipped up to dance with magic paint on the wall, and then the next light, and then the next and we were all everywhere, all at once.

“Oh, it was a good trick. Alexander knew lots of good tricks.

“Still going on, y’know. That party. Both full bloom and swing. It is a swingin’ party, Little Aleppo. I haven’t been a while. Dunno if I’ll be back. Last time I slid through, I didn’t recognize anyone. I heard Marti Martini married a professor, lives in Ann Arbor now.

“I hope Fantastic Barbara is still there, and hope she’s still beautiful and all the lights are shining on her. I also kinda hope she’s not.

“You need to know when to leave the party.

“Party’s just getting started here on the Frankie Nickels show on KHAY–Hey!–107.7 all the way up top your radio dial, where you know I got you. Time has you. Oh, does time have you. But I got you. We can dance together, if you want.

“We’ll be right back.”

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