Friday, August 9, 2019

Nurse the Hate: How This Hillbilly Casino Thing Came Together




We are playing a show with Hillbilly Casino next Sunday August 18th at the Beachland at 7pm.  We have played gigs with those guys for a long time.  The first time we played with Hillbilly Casino was in Cincinnati at Top Cats.  Well, that’s not completely true.  That was the first time Leo and I played with Nic from Hillbilly Casino.  We were in The Cowslingers and Nic was in the Blue Moon Boys.  We played last, and the Blue Moon Boys played second.  We had some crappy little band play first that we threw a bone to because we knew their booking agent from Athens OH.  They were called the Drive By Truckers.  Yes, I shit you not.  That was the bill.  It was $5 to get in.  It was about a third full. 

I have a few memories from this show.  I remember the Greenhornes came out.  They were these young guys that played cool garage rock that had played with us a couple times.  I have a distinct image in my head of a few of those guys standing by the doorway in very skinny pants they either got from 1966 or the best thrift store on earth.  They were hanging out with that “we’re kind of the shit, but you don’t know it yet”, which in retrospect was totally accurate.  One of the guys smoked a cigarette Euro style as if he was taking a break from a Swedish Magazine modeling session.  I gave him the old head nod in my ill-fitting polyester cowboy shirt. 

The Drive By Truckers had written most of Southern Rock Opera by this time, and were in the midst of recording it.  I spoke with the bass player at length about it after their set as he was engineering as well as recording the bass parts on it.  I wasn’t that familiar with their music yet, but I definitely remember them playing “Uncle Frank” and “Nine Bullets” in their set and thinking “Fuck, those songs are really good.  That band is really good.”.  The bass player told me in a self depreciating Southern way that the record was “coming out pretty good”.  Um, yeah it did. 

I had not seen the Blue Moon Boys play before, but we had heard about them.  In cities where we overlapped at that point like Detroit, Columbus and Chicago people would come up to us at shows and say “Have you played with the Blue Moon Boys before?  They are great!  They’re a rockabilly band and…”.  Now normally when I heard “they are a rockabilly band” I would take that to mean “they all wear vintage clothes and are going to play “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll” before at some point the guitar player would stand on the upright bass as they played an Eddie Cochran song to close the show”.  Yawn. 

The Blue Moon Boys started, and this was different.  It was rockabilly.  I guess it was…  But it was modern with really great original songs.  The guitar player was terrific and had his own distinctive style.  Meanwhile Nic was out front jumping around like a spazzy kid that had just mainlined a pixie stick.  On top of that, he could sing.  They were great performers and the crowd ate them up.  Our closing set was going to be a lot of work.  If we didn’t bring it, we would look like a bunch of assholes. 

I think we did OK that night.  I can’t remember anything about our performance except how much the guys in the Blue Moon Boys liked us, which was a nice surprise.  A lot of times bands can get needlessly competitive.  This wasn’t the case here, where we competed, but in a good way, pushing each other to be better.  We had an immediate Bromance between the bands and started to play together as much as we could.  The picture up top is when they brought us to Wolfy's in Ft Wayne.  The bill was a great fit.  I think we both sort of ignored those Drive By Trucker guys at that point.  Hey, who cares.  They weren’t going to amount to anything anyway!

The last thing I remember about that night was speaking with a creepy overweight middle-aged couple in the doorway to the club.  The guy was proudly telling us how their German Shepard liked to fuck the woman and how much they both got turned on by it.  One time the dog was unable or unwilling to pull out of her, so they had to all go outside to spray the dog with a hose in the back yard.  I remember Bobby and I slowly backing away from the conversation in a manner you would a junkyard dog, facing them while slowly backpedaling.  “Hey…  that’s really great…  that’s really something…  we have to go back in the club and…  get some stuff… and… but you two have a great weekend…”.  That’s southern Ohio for you…

So here we are all these years later.  Nic fell in with these great guys from Nashville and got Hillbilly Casino going.  Leo and I were lucky enough to trick Sugar and Hector into the fold.  We all kept writing songs, recording and touring.  We are either to be celebrated for keeping the flame alive or pitied for being in such a rut.  I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, or even could have if I wanted to have done so.  I do know I am looking forward to Sunday.  It’s going to be good.  It always is.         

Monday, August 5, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Two More Acceptable Mass Shootings




I have not written about the need for effective gun control lately.  It isn’t an issue of debate any longer.  It is self-evident.  However, I felt that when nothing happened after the Las Vegas machine gun slaughter, there was no reason to think that the nation would ever do anything about this issue.  As a people, we have decided that the chance of a fucked up young white male with a military grade weapon blasting away into a crowd is an acceptable part of our lives. 

The Republican members of Congress, who can be argued are devoid of any soul, are willing to embrace white nationalism to stay in power.  You think that a few murders of strangers at a Wal Mart or nightclub will sway them into action?  They will not, under any conceivable circumstance, vote against the gun industry for fear of being taken out of office in a primary election.  I don’t know how great it is to be a member of Congress.  It must be awesome, because these people will do ANYTHING to stay there.  A strong majority of American citizens favor stricter gun laws, but these elected officials, tasked with enacting the will of the people, will do nothing.  This is fact.

I did find it galling to receive a social media post from Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a reliable lackey for the gun lobby.  “I went to bed with a heavy heart because of El Paso and woke up to the tragic news from Dayton. These senseless acts of violence must stop.  While we are still learning more about the details of this tragedy in Montgomery County, we are praying for the victims and their families and thank the officers who responded so quickly and bravely.  I am talking to local leaders and law enforcement officials this morning. First and foremost, let’s get all the facts and help the community heal.”

This goes right to the playbook of the gun manufacturers.  Slow everything down, let the moment pass, allow people to move on, get back to selling guns.  Portman today went to the old reliable talking points of “it’s not guns, it’s people”.  I will admit that I feel a little badly for him having to shovel this load of horseshit behind a podium as even he can't believe the nonsense he is trying to sell.  "Are there more things that could be done? I'm sure there are," Portman said. "But I will say there's something deeper going on here. If you look at the suicide rates, if you look at the addiction rates -- this community's done a good job in responding to it but it's been ground zero in terms of the opioid crisis."

That was a nice shift to suggest that opioids are the issue, even though neither shooter had anything to do with opioids.  Sure, the El Paso shooter did echo Trump’s aggressive inflammatory racial and immigration white power stance, but why get into that?  Portman then came back strong and suggested that since the issue is complicated, the best course of action is apparently complete inaction.  "There aren't enough laws, and in fact is no law can correct some of the more fundamental cultural problems we face today as a country and the shooting last night is an indication of that. I look forward to working together with my colleagues to try to respond in the most effective way possible. But we also must look deep into our hearts and figure out how could someone point a gun at someone who he had never seen or known and pull the trigger." 

Bravo Rob.  Way to tackle the responsibilities with which you have been entrusted.  Then again, the over $3 million dollars gun lobbyists have spent on Portman since 1990 should buy them something.  In this case, it’s our collective well-being.  Rob has a good thing going, and he is not going to rock the boat.  

Here’s a quick prediction.  This week will be spent with the same public discourse.  We need to outlaw assault weapons.  No, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  They will find a way to kill soneone if they really want to.  Yes, but 30 people don’t get killed in two minutes by a knife wielding maniac!  Well, it’s really a mental health issue.  It's all very complex.  Let's not rush into anything.  Two weeks pass.  The enthusiasm around the issue wears off.  We wait for the next mass shooting.  Repeat. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Woman In The Uniform


Sylvia has two unusual qualities that make her a bit of an outcast.  First, she likes to dress in uniforms which she purchases at thrift stores and then carefully modifies them to remove any organizational tie.  At first glance, she appears to be a park ranger or scout leader of some kind.  For example, yesterday she wore lovingly shined vintage brown leather boots that came to her mid-calf.  Khaki pants billowed from her thighs like she was a lion tamer.  Tucked into the pants was a neutral tan button down shirt with amulets.  The look was topped off with a neckerchief and a flat-topped kepi style cap like worn by Charles de Gaulle.  This is not a look shared by many women in their late 20s and tends to make others nervous.  Young boys scatter when they see her, assuming she is an authority figure of some type.  Sylvia never seems to notice her effect on others and maintains a slight smile like she has just remembered a private amusing story.

Sylvia has a proclivity to spend hours upon hours wandering graveyards.  She can be seen tramping around any cemetery of historical interest, usually carrying a cloth satchel where she keeps her supplies to make her etchings.  On a good day, she must be able to make dozens of etchings.  She appears to be particularly interested in gothic tablet stone designs, but this only my opinion based on casual observation and not one she ever shared with me.  I often notice her walking great distances around town in her various uniforms, almost always alone.  It appeared she had a friend from the Art Institute that liked to accompany her from time to time and take photographs, but she must have graduated as I can’t recall seeing her in the last couple of years.

I met Sylvia when she sat next to me at a restaurant with an extensive vegan menu.  She placed her satchel on the stool next to me and was slightly humming as she glanced at the menu.  I thought she was in some type of youth corps based on her outfit until it hit me she had no insignia of any kind.  When the waiter came over she asked a series of very deliberate questions about many of the vegan options on the menu.  She finally ordered a cheeseburger eliciting a frown from the guy behind the counter.  I couldn’t help but ask, “You didn’t care for the vegan options?”.  She turned towards me with the slight bemused smile and said, “I don’t like vegan food very much.”  Well, why did you ask about the menu options in such great detail?  “I like to know stuff.” she answered. 

That would have been my opportunity to ask about why she was wearing a uniform, but her food arrived before I could get into it.  She happily dug into the burger, swaying her head back and forth slightly as she continued the almost imperceptible humming.  She almost radiated joy.  It made me recall a conversation I heard once between a doctor and patient in a movie.  The patient said "Doctor, I just haven't been happy lately.".  The doctor looked at the patient for a moment's pause and said "You know, there's a large section of the population that is never happy.  Maybe you need to enjoy the periods in which you are happy a little more and try to better get through the periods where you aren't."  It's a grim diagnosis but probably realistic.  Yet somehow this young woman in her costume clothes had figured it out.  She always appears happy and with purpose.

Maybe there is something to the idea of wearing a modified costume every day.  In the beginning, every day would seem like Halloween.  I think you couldn't help but feel self-conscious.  Then you would slowly forget you were wearing a 1920s looking Mexican Federales uniform and it would transition into "your look".  The risk is that one day you wake up and find yourself to be working as an aging clerk in a store while looking like a pirate in comfortable trainers, sort of like Keith Richards on a budget.

There was a man I met in Stuttgart once that went to a Daredevils show, Frau Schmutz.  He lived a very meager life in a small apartment.  He would save his money to attend two or three live events a month adorned in special clothes he made himself.  It was noteworthy that his clothes in this case were assless chaps and a sparkly gold skin tight t-shirt.  It wasn't festish wear so much as his own idea of a personal style.  He was completely ambivalent about other people remarking on his skinny pale exposed ass and mocking his appearance.  He liked what he liked and could not care less about expectation or social norms.  When we played, he danced right up front, 100% focused on the music.  He gave himself totally to the experience.

I had heard Frau Schmutz died earlier this year alone in his apartment, surrounded by the racks of clothes he had made himself.  He had attended a live music event just days earlier, and by all accounts, had a great time.  He lived on his terms, regardless of how out of step they were with the prevailing trends.  In a way, he might have been one of the most "punk rock" people I have ever met.  It takes a special person to walk their own path, especially when that path is controversial. 

Today I will keep an eye out for Sylvia.  The weather is favorable to make some nice etchings.  I suspect she will have a small secret smile as she steps out the door today, resplendent in whatever homemade uniform she has chosen.  People dismiss her as "weird" or at best "a character", but it seems like she might have something figured out.       

  


Monday, July 15, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Employment Dilemma



There was a friend of mine that recently sent me a photo from inside the White House that he took while at work.  His job carries across into doing work associated with the current administration along the lines of PR and Event Planning.  While he is a bit more ambivalent about politics than I am, I would think the extreme racist views taken by this administration would at least dampen the normally exciting experience of being at the White House.  Then again, I am sure there were all kinds of worker bees that were excited to be doing gigs for Hitler.  Think about all those banners hanging at the Nuremberg Rallies.  There had to be a company that produced and hung them.  Too bad there wasn’t social media back then of a photo of Otto the banner sales guy taking a selfie with Hitler in the distance.  “Say what you want about his views, but Uncle Adolf knows how to throw a rally!  #Nuremberg #rallytime #greattobehere”

At a certain point, financial success often leads to the hexing crossroad of personal beliefs versus money.  Would I work on the Hitler re-election campaign?  No, but then again, no one has asked me and dangled out a hefty paycheck.  I like to think I am a man with a firm moral compass, but then again, I have demonstrated a certain moral flexibility when times got a little murky.  “Hey, I know Hitler has some problems with the Jews and gypsies, but that’s all just talk to get his base riled up.  Plus, if I don’t sell him these banners, someone else will anyway.  You should have seen all the shrimp they had in the VIP lounge!  They gave me preferred parking too!”

I just finished a great novel yesterday, “Leaving the Atocha Station” by Ben Lerner.  The novel is about a poet that feels like a fraud that is doing a fellowship in Spain.  I have to say, being a poet on a fellowship in Spain sounds like a much better job than clapping politely while the highest elected official in our nation spews racism.  I can visualize myself writing questionable poetry and trying to provide oblique answers to thoughtful questions about my art.  In a way, it’s a natural lateral move from my rock singer/sales current lifestyle.   How hard can it be to write a passable poem? 

Seven green bottles
The relief of sunset
The aching hours
Devour to the husk
The rusty lightning rod
The shivering pain
And again

I wrote that in 14 seconds.  That at least looks like a poem.  All I need is one person to suggest, “this guy needs a fellowship” and I am on my way.  Sure, I will know I am a fraud, but I already think that anyway.  The last thing anyone needs is another poet with too much confidence.  First, no one reads poetry.  No one.  Second, a poet that believes they are important while their art form is elusive and unpopular is a dangerous combination.  When the overconfident poet fails to make any impact, the poet believes that he is already elevated into a stratosphere above the common man who cannot understand his complexity and therefore all criticism is unwarranted.  It’s like when a bunch of horrible metal bands hang out together and convince themselves they are awesome despite plain evidence to the contrary.

As a result, as a poet with a fellowship in Spain, I could saunter around immune to criticism and hang out with a small group of aficionados that think I am a big deal because I am on the fellowship in the first place.  “Is he good?”  He must be!  He’s on a fellowship!  This is infinitely better than smiling politely while the leader in our supposed democracy talks about “round ups” and “sending them back where they came from”, though the money is not good in poetry as I understand it.  It’s a bit of a quandary. 

Ultimately, I will start on a new book today and “Leaving the Atocha Station” will slowly fade from memory.  The bad news is that the new book is a translated French novel from Michel Houellebecq, so I will probably morph into some kind of half-assed provocateur smoking Gauloises and talking at length about the Vichy as I offer up dismissive arguments about nothing.  It shouldn’t be a far swing from my poetry fellowship dreams and is certainly much better than working for an Authoritarian Goon, though once again the pay will be subpar.  Eh?  Que pouvez-vous faire?  

Friday, July 12, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Flat Stanley




I was in North Carolina for about 17 hours last weekend.  I was called “Sweet Pea” and “Darlin” by strangers, which is one of the main indicators that you are in The South.  (The other is being served sweet tea without being asked.)  I am not sure why I find this good cheer off putting somehow.  The foreign concept of random kindness makes me uneasy.  It is probably my East Coast Irish Catholic upbringing.  While I am being met with that sugary smile, I immediately flash to the idea of the surprisingly affordable Remington Model 870 Express Hardwood Pump-Action shotgun with Federal LE Tactical Flite Control 12-Gauge 2 ¾ Buck 9 Pellet shells, allegedly the most effective form of suicide possible with the least “agony factor” as per lostallhope.com, a leading online voice on efficiently ending your life.  I think in North Carolina you can walk almost anywhere with such a weapon but using it indoors in a folksy coffee shop is likely frowned upon, so I ordered coffee instead. 

Everyone around me in the oh-so-cutely named “Busy Bean” coffee shop was smiling and happy.  I don’t know their secret.  I was struggling with the after effects of too many Pabst.  The following exchange happened.  “What can I get for YOU sweet pea?”  How about a double espresso?  “Let me fix you right up there Darlin’!”  She rang up the total on the register.  I handed her my credit card.  “Let me get this done and hand it right back to you!  I’m not going to keep it… I’m not your wife!”  Caught up in the runaway train of good cheer, I countered.  “Not yet you’re not Darlin!”  We shared a big fake laugh.

I felt like I had done my part in this play.  The woman behind the counter seemed pleased and smiled as she prepped my coffee.  It made me feel hollow though, like a cheap Hollywood set.  Out of the blue, I recalled a story from my second-grade reading book, “How It Is Nowadays”.  I don’t remember much from second grade except the title of my reader and that my friend Michael Schultz shit his pants during art class in what can be described as “an unfortunate incident”.  The reader was pure 1970s with a flamingo on the cover that in retrospect might have been an homage to the music and lifestyle of Pablo Cruise.  There were no stories about flamingos in that book that I can recall.  I do remember one story vividly though.  That story was called “Flat Stanley”, a tale of a boy that was run over by a steam roller and not only survived but thrived.

Flat Stanley, at first ostracized due to being essentially a cardboard cutout, later was not only accepted but celebrated.  Once Flat Stanley demonstrated how he could slip underneath doors and do things the other children could not, he was popular and filled with self esteem.  Even as a seven-year-old, I recognized this as a riff on the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer theme of “differences in appearance should not separate us, so be nice to kids of different ethnicities and social class”.  It also reinforced the idea presented in Looney Toons cartoons that steamrollers were harmless beyond altering your basic form.  Sure, you were flattened, but otherwise tip-top.

That story stuck with me for some reason.  Is it really as simple as it appears?  Could the children’s author also be suggesting that to thrive in modern times one needed to be two-dimensional, that to be a rounded individual was dangerous to the group?  I wonder if there was an intentional idea to suggest that Stanley did not fit in as a normal boy, so he needed the present to the world a simplified persona.  By becoming smaller, Stanley was able to gain acceptance with his peers.  This can be looked at as subversively trying to control children’s minds by limiting their drive to becoming unique individuals that might ask dangerous questions.  Maybe the author's intention is not that dark and authoritarian.  Perhaps it is more of a warning.  The idea could be that Stanley thrived by presenting to the world a simple two-dimensional persona but underneath it still maintained his true identity by keeping it hidden behind his appearance.  The message of the story could be argued that limited individuality is possible but needs to be carefully concealed from the others, despite the broad stroke theme of the story appearing to be the opposite.  Not just a simple children’s story, Flat Stanley can be argued to be a work of depth.  This is especially true in that it was presented to a group of seven year old readers that still potentially shit themselves without warning.  I certainly took more from Flat Stanley than I did from my later slog in high school through Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd”.

The coffee was briskly served to me on the counter.  “Are you sure there’s nothing else I can do for you Honey Pie?”  You’ve already done too much.  “Hahahaha!  You have a super day, OK now?”  I took my coffee and walked outside, the screen door shutting behind me, effectively rescuing me from further theater.  I waited for my Uber and thought about Flat Stanley.              

Monday, July 8, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Thoughts On The All-Star Game



The MLB All Star Game hoopla is in Cleveland this week.  Yesterday a stadium full of people watched a “celebrity” softball game that included such luminaries as actress Stephanie Beatriz, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, Colton Underwood, Jerry Lorenzo, Priah Ferguson, and Annual AA.  (No, I don’t know who any of those people are either…)  I suppose it would have been a pleasant day to drink $10.50 Bud Lights in the sunshine, but it might have been even nicer if you weren’t at a baseball stadium being pummeled by corporate sponsor messages.

Tonight, is the Home Run Derby where MLB stars crush batting practice pitch home runs and the announcers struggle to make it seem like something is really happening.  This is a wildly popular event, though I have no idea why.  It’s much worse on TV having to suffer through Chris Berman saying “Back! Back! Back!  Back!  Back!” over and over again as MLB players do what they do and crush bunny pitches.  Chris Berman might not even do the announcing any longer as I haven’t watched it in years.  I imagine that the rest of the country got sick of his schtick at some point too, but then again people love “America’s Got Talent”, super hero movies, and nacho fries, so that’s not a given. 

The game itself is on Tuesday.  From my memory the player introductions and pre-game festivities last longer than the actual game, which is a feat unto itself as most baseball games now routinely last 4.5 hours each.  There will be a maximum of nationalistic rituals of various war horse songs like “America the Beautiful” sung by tired former stars with tenuous ties to Cleveland (is Gerald LaVert still alive?) and probably a corporate placement of an artist baseball fans have never heard of singing the National Anthem.  “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome current chart-topping artists Marshmello and Bastille as they sing the National Anthem!”  Cut to video of a guy in a marshmallow costume head dancing around a couple turntables while some asshole raps over it as confused middle-aged white-collar corporate ticket holders ask each other “who is that?”.  Then a bunch of air force jets roar over and fireworks explode into the American Flag.  The disinterested Latin American players will try not to have their hamstrings tighten up from standing as they wait the ceremonies out.  USA!  USA!  USA!

Meanwhile all the local media coverage will reveal the true identity of NE Ohio.  Only in Cleveland is an event like this covered with the tone of “we don’t really deserve this, and I can’t believe it is happening!”.  No one seems to understand that it is imperative to act like you have been there before and belong.  It’s not in anyone’s best interest to say things like “Can you believe all the stars are HERE in Cleveland this week?” while practically jumping up and down at a Stephanie Beatriz sighting (whoever that is).  After the smoke clears, the talking heads will move onto statements like “We talked to many fans here and they all said they were pleasantly surprised by how nice it was here and how friendly the people are on the North Coast!”.  Do you think if this event was in Boston, or San Francisco, the local media would be excitedly telling viewers “People liked it here!  See!  We hoped they would, and they said they did!  Oh boy!”?  No way.  This tone makes the city come off like losers.  I just hope they work in the ubiquitous mentions of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Metroparks to solidify how wonderful life is here in NE Ohio.  Cleveland should take the Daredevils tongue in cheek motto and run with it; “Cleveland: Slightly Better Than You Expected”.

By Wednesday morning all the corporate carpet baggers, players and agents will have jetted off to their respective lairs.  The All-Star Game, completely meaningless, will have already been forgotten.  The City will pathetically await national praise that will not come.  The City Fathers will then gear up for the next corporate driven logofest and think, “This next one is The One!  After that, they will love us for sure!”.  Meanwhile, I will think about when I was a kid and went to the 1980 All Star game at the old Municipal Stadium with all my friends.  We bought tickets for under $20 and cheered on our favorite players.  I can’t remember if anyone sang the anthem and sure as hell there wasn’t a guy in a costume doing it or any military flyovers.  There wasn’t a sponsored activity area or sea of merchandise tents.  There was a pretty good baseball game though.  It’s a truism of baseball.  As the sport continues to gray, it reveals the most important fact of all.  Baseball was always better in the past and your memories are always sweeter than the present.       
       


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Story About The Bag



I used to work with a woman at a radio station that was involved in some sort of doomed off shoot department.  Within moments of her employment, it must have stunk of failure.  She must have known this was a short term job.  The radio station, like all corporate concerns, had become enamored with the idea of getting their hands into more "revenue streams".  It was decided we would put on events instead of just promoting those put on by actual professionals.  For example, instead of just taking advertising money from Belkin Productions and let them put on the show (because that's what they did for a living), we would instead hire three people on the cheap and then have them put on a major concert while the sales staff was saddled with selling sponsorships.  The low paid employees shoved into cubicles had no real idea of what the fuck they were doing, and the sales staff had little understanding of the world and currency of sponsorship sales.  It would be like if a car wash started to offer transmission repairs because they dealt loosely with "automobiles".  "Well, we wash 'em.  We know cars!  What can be so hard about dropping in a tranny?  The cars are already here!  Let's go buy some tools!"  Like I mentioned, this enterprise was doomed to failure.

During this brief working relationship with this woman, two things became evident.  1.  She was a self professed pagan, or at least that's what her mangy old car bumper sticker proclaimed.  An otherwise quiet young woman, I don't know why she felt it was important to proclaim her pagan beliefs to all, but perhaps that's what she felt was special about herself and made her stand out from others.  A theory floated around that she might just have bought a used car with the sticker already on it, but one day her boyfriend came to pick her up in his car which gave no doubt to his intense interest in fantasy books and gaming as well as renaissance fairs.  He had a beard before beards were fashionable, and frankly that chunky little fella had well out kicked his coverage in ensnaring the mousy female companion.  My guess is that he was an absolute beast at video games and could likely dominate a delivery pizza.

2.  This woman always carried and fiercely guarded a backpack, never letting it drift from her sight.  Now I will grant you that most of the radio station employees seated around her were assholes, but none of us were thieves.  She must not have felt this way and would move the backpack at times to a more strategic location near her feet to ward off potential snatch and grab thefts.  I picked up on this behavior and was soon fixated on this backpack.  What could possibly be in there that was so important?  Reflecting back, maybe she was guarding some magic runes or enchanted relics of some kind that were of great importance at the Great Lakes Renaissance Fair and her no doubt active social life therein.  It was hard to imagine though as even now I can't recall ever hearing her speak.  Maybe she really shone in a group of trusted friends.  I became so focused on this backpack that I wrote the song "What You Got In That Bag?" on the "West Virginia Dog Track Boogie" record about this situation.

For no real reason, I thought about that backpack today.  I wondered about her mental state, going to work daily in a place where she felt threatened and unsafe, and likely open to ridicule from the others about her esoteric interests and beliefs.  That is a tough way to spend five days a week.  People are much more fragile than they appear.  I regret not being more genuinely inquisitive in this woman and finding out whatever odd yet interesting things she was up to.  Life is hard enough without feeling you can't reveal your true self to others for fear of being torn open.  She and her ill-fated department were only there a few months before being quietly ushered out shrouded in inevitable failure.  It's too bad I never took the time to find out more about her.  More importantly, I could have found out what was in that goddamn bag.  That's probably the biggest tragedy of all.