3-10-05, 8:51 PM -
Senses of humor are like muscles. You're never quite sure how dangerous one is until you test it.
I haven't talked much here about the crew I work with for 40 hours a week, mostly because there's not much to tell. Regular working stiffs, lower incomes like me, but with the added inconvenience of being minorities, which is tough even in a city this diverse. Ramon's our boss, a Puerto Rican fireplug of a guy, straight as an arrow and not a malicious bone in his body. He just wants to come in, do his work, go home and watch the game, no drama. I can respect that.
Still, Ramon's one of these guys who don't question a whole lot. He votes Republican because the guys he hangs out with do, cheers for the Yankees because he grew up in the Bronx, and eats pork and rice for lunch because that's what Puerto Ricans do. Upon hearing that a San Juan-born girl in our office didn't like pork, he was astounded. "What kinda Puerto Rican are you?" Ramon likes things simple, and not too edgy.
But Ramon will quietly laugh along with the racy humor that often gets aired in our bulletproof glass fishbowl at the ass end of the floor where the checks get handled. The ladies in the department are Harlem girls who don't mince a lot of words on topics where mincing is the office-culture standard. At times, it gets a bit like a biker bar, with tales of length, strength, and vaporous emanation ricocheting off the glass walls, unbeknownst to old, bald honky management just outside.
It's because of this atmosphere that I sometimes forget that on certain topics, Ramon is a bit...well, delicate.
On one recent occasion, it came to my attention that Edwina in the cube next to mine was reading a book that looked pretty much like all the other books she reads, except that this one bore the rather noteworthy title Homo Thug. I must admit I'm a bit dubious about entire genres of books with pretty much the same covers covering pretty much the same situations, but then, you should see my neatly piled stacks of mass-market sci-fi. Glaven.
Anyway, in discussion of this classic title, the inevitable subject came up, which can be a bit dicey around many Harlem folk. I know this from quite a bit of experience, particularly an incident a few months ago in which I disparaged homophobes, saying that someone wouldn't need to protest so loudly if they were comfortable in their sexuality. My hair was immediately blown back by a burst of rage from Terrafina, Edwina's cubemate: "My husband is ALL man, and there ain't no suspicion from NOBODY about that, and anyone sayin' there is is gonna have a foot up his ass!!"
But as often happens, I forgot myself again as we entered the discussion born from Homo Thug. The general opinion seemed to be that being gay was okay, so long as everybody kept themselves to themselves.
Ramon even chipped in: "Yeah, you know, I watch that Queer Eye. Those guys seem all right. You know, they seem to love life."
Encouraged, I added, "Of course. See, you could have that too if you just took it in the cornhole."
That, um...well, that didn't go over well.
Suddenly Ramon was silent. I'd put him in an uncomfortable place, one where he had to imagine himself as a gay man. The girls were just as alarmed. You don't suggest that a perfectly straight man might ever consider crossing the line for any reason whatsoever. That's not a joke, it's a knife right in the back.
Why did I have to do that? Why couldn't I just leave his nice comment be and let him go home to his wife and football game? What the hell's the matter with me?
See, the problem is that I think people need to quit being so goddamned paranoid. You're not gay. Fine. You don't want to be gay. Fine. I don't either, but if someone thinks I do, I'm not gonna break their nose.
I mean, it takes a LOT of money for me to bend over...
"Oh, imp of the perverse! Why do I let you speak for me?" - Timothy Cavendish in Cloud Atlas
9:35 PM -
I've got the all-classical-movie-soundtrack going on the internet radio here. Kinda hit-n-miss, jumping around from Ennio Morricone's Untouchables to James Newton Howard's Waterworld, with a few stops in John Williams territory now & then.
I gotta change this. It's making me feel far too dramatic. I'll be painting myself blue, putting on a kilt and shouting "Freedom!!" in a minute. Maybe obscure Celtic tunes on WMNR...
Hmm, sorta. It'll work for the moment. Though I still feel an urge to buy a kilt.
Speaking of strange urges, I've been feeling the pull towards the old hometown lately. It's been over a year since last I set foot in my native Texas, and I've been suffering from an uncharacteristic bout of homesickness. But I mean, really, nobody up here has any idea what I mean when I say, "Holy shit, Dr. Gene Scott is dead!" And you just can't have that.
So I bought myself a plane ticket, as one can do nowadays on that Al Gore Information Superturnpikeway, and my first stop upon arrival in the Friendship State will be a show at the Panther City Coffee Company in Fort Worth on March 18th at 7PM. It's right there in the heart of the West Berry/University nexus, and they're fine people for letting me play on such short notice.
I'll be doing an acoustic set, just me and the guitar, debuting some new material along with the old, and just having a grand old time, so I encourage everyone to come on out. You'll get to hear some fine tunes and drink some fine coffee, although if anyone offers me anything with the word "ristretto" in it, they're likely to get a poke in the eye, or else a big shaky honky to keep entertained until 5AM when I finally go to sleep.
Anyhoo, I look forward to seeing you. I perform a little less often than Willie, but I'm just as friendly. And I haven't started the pigtail thing yet.
10:18 PM -
Got some regular classical music going now. Beethoven, I think, who to my knowledge never wore a kilt.
With my trip coming up, I've been in a Texas frame of mind, and I thought it might be a good time to mention something my dad's been working on. Since his retirement from the lumber industry a few years ago, Dad's become Weatherford's chief ecological watchdog, going so far as to obtain the presidency of the Texas Master Naturalists' Cross Timbers chapter.
As usual, there's been some nasty business afoot in the halls of state government, and one of the nastiest bits is the Trans-Texas Corridor. This crafty piece of work proposes to cut quarter-mile-wide swaths of highway, rail, and oil pipeline through vast expanses of the state, slicing up communities and ecosystems in its path, and of course, costing billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars. This website explains it better than I can, but suffice it to say that if you live in Texas, you should pay some pretty close attention to what's about to happen to your state, and possibly your property.
Dad's been going to meetings and raising hell about this for a few months now, & he's made some interesting discoveries, one of which cracks me the hell up.
Upon walking out of a smoke-n-mirrors session on the topic held by state officials in Mineral Wells, he was accosted in the parking lot by three men from the John Frickin' Birch Society. For those unfamiliar, the Birchers are waaay old-guard ultraconservatives dating back to the McCarthy era. And when I mean ultraconservative, I mean that they make Newt Gingrich look like Ted Goddamn Kennedy. Society founder Robert Welch, Jr. went so far as to label President Eisenhower a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy," for the love of Pete.
Needless to say, Dad was a bit alarmed to bump into these clowns. Firstly, he didn't know the Birchers still existed, since they largely fell off the map after their pal Barry Goldwater lost the Presidential race to LBJ in '64. Running into a gang of these guys in a rural Texas parking lot was kind of like being arrested by the Spanish Inquisition in a Tijuana titty bar.
But secondly, and more alarming, they supported his position! Not for any environmental, economic, or social reasons, but because it was part of NAFTA, which we all know is part of the New World Order. See, the vast Freemason/Communist conspiracy wants to divide the United States up and provide a transportation system for their agents to better destroy our sovereignty. What, you didn't know?
Unnerved, Dad hopped into his truck and beat a hasty retreat from the nutjob brigade. I know how he feels. In October of '02, I was a bit dumbfounded to find myself marching in Washington alongside hooded lunatics shouting "anarchy now!" even though ostensibly they were protesting the same war I was. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, I reckon.
However, after telling you that horrifying story, I still encourage those of you in Lone Star land to check out these corridor shenanigans and those who are perpetrating them, and see if you might want to lend my old man a hand in fighting them. Never let it be said that Texans aren't feisty when it comes to people monkeying around with their land.
3-12-05, 4:48 PM -
Ah, the sounds of Shabbas. Or rather, the complete silence of Borough Park on Shabbas. That is, outside of grandma cranking Cream's live Crossroads next door. Still haven't figured out what's up with that. I'm escalating the war with Seal's second album, so as to try and out-bass Jack Bruce. Tough job, that.
After a letter full of Texcentricity, I have some news for the NYC contingent: I'll be playing my first-ever trio show at the 169 Bar on Monday, April 4th at 6PM. I know Monday gigs can be kinda rough to stay out for, so I grabbed the early slot. the matthew show makes a great after-work beverage, particularly at this fine Lower East Side institution.
Plus, it's the first time I've attempted to perform matthew show material with a live band. Those of you who've either seen my theatrical show with the backing tracks or my acoustic shows have only experienced one or two possible representations of the matthew show. The trio thing should create an interesting sound, as well as providing something besides me to look at. Also, like my Fort Worth show, it'll be chock full of new tunes that have thus far not been to committed to recorded media. This gives you a chance to hear them now before they get codified. Hell, bring your recorder so you'll have the bootleg of me singing the original lyrics before I put in all the stuff about cutting Dubya's head off with a sharpened Social Security card.
3-13-05, 5:16 PM -
Okay, I have to send this thing out now. Got Cake's newest album cranking, the blood's pumping, and I just drank half a Diet Coke. Bam, productivity.
The stupid D train is only running Manhattan-bound today at our local stop, so I had to walk the opposite direction a good ways to go to the grocery store earlier. Turned out to be a good opportunity for walking on a fine 47-degree day. The sun was out, warming my old leather jacket and giving me thoughts of venturing out to Coney Island, but that's jumping the gun just a bit. Even in early Summer, there's a fairly chilly breeze coming off of the Atlantic, so the beaches up here are generally best appreciated in July and August. I can wait.
The corner where our non-kosher grocery store is located is a regular cornucopia of cultural melt-banana. I stopped at the Peruvian pizza joint for lunch, which serves pizza that's about as Peruvian as James Gandolfini, but where I nonetheless stick out like Dick Cheney at a Greenpeace convention. I fit in no better at the Thai bakery across the street, whose chocolate chip cookies are no more Thai than Aunt Jemima, but that doesn't stop me from trying to figure out the headlines on the newspapers by looking at the pictures. For instance, apparently Michael Jackson just started a line of formal pajama wear. That's the kind of news you have to go to Brooklyn to get.
We went and saw Robots at the Times Square movie theater on Friday, and quite enjoyed ourselves. However, the most interesting thing was the art installation on the way out of the theater. It featured a little character named Scrapworm in various states of what appeared to be mental anguish. I find this piece noteworthy not because it's necessarily any good, but because the little artist statement cards next to the exhibit contain probably the best example I've ever seen of using as many words as possible to say absolutely nothing.
"The passing playhead of the present develops worlds of this filtered intake that become individualized refuge to our subconscious, conscious, and -in this scrapworm's case- spaces and surfaces to physically experience and think about all the layered force dynamics that keep this massive strangeness of a progressed reality from spinning out."
Utter bollocks. But I have to tip my hat to the author for coming up with such a lengthy statement that is nonetheless completely devoid of any information. You really should contact the White House press office, I think they have a job for you.
Okay, gotta go now. See you all soon.