Saturday, February 28, 2009

Weak from Work

As workweeks go, some fly by(until Friday afternoon-which, in breathless anticipation of that 4:30 whistle, drags like a drummer on Darvon)and others, like this past one, crawl through incrementally, excrementally, crunching your ass at every turn.

A week of meetings, moves and counter-moves, some executed and some merely extrapolated, their possible outcomes bouncing off the walls as we tried to formulate a plan. And then waiting to see what came of it all. Waiting to find out our fate. Not unlike, of course, being at a Hospital waiting for lab results. Despite our staunch efforts to remain calm, it gave us some jittery moments. C'mon, Doc. Give it to me straight.

Without getting into any gory details(at least those specific in fact), I can say that my working unit has gone from 2 and a half to 3 back to 2 then to 1 then back to 2 and now back to 1. Some zigzagging in there, but a basic degeneration, a dismantlement not unlike that in the swordfight from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life". Currently hopping about on my one leg, but hoping for a medical miracle as far as regenerating another limb.

Well actually we've gone not from 2 to 1 but rather 2 to 1(1). That is to say, there are still two of us working my job, just in different locations. 1(1) as it were. To once again analogize from the world of entertainment(hm, why does the word 'anal' suddenly seem so prominent in that word?), this time from TV, it's sorta like when Krissy had her scenes done separately from Jack and Janet.

Only unlike the actors on Three's Company, we're not mad at each other. Quite the contrary. I could even say on some days, particularly with a certain green sweater involved, that I was mad about her. In a platonic, co-worker kinda way, you understand. These schisms always involve some kind of feud, some kind of pissing contest, but it certainly isn't between us.

So we've tied tin cans between our respective locations and hope to maintain communication, to keep a pulse going in the program. Or maybe we'll use walkie-talkies. Speaking of walkie-talkies and the world of entertainment, highly recommended viewing, if you ever come across it, is the episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Opie and his friend Arnold hide a walkie-talkie in their dog's fur and have Goober convinced the dog can talk!

I don't know how I got there, from point A to point B to point L. But suffice it to say a rough week. It's funny that a rough week is still a rough week as far as its basic wear and tear on the body, but how it takes it out of you can vary in quality- that is, the flavor of asskicking you get.

For some years I worked in a noisy office filled with clients and their problems, which could of course come after you through the office's other orifices(i.e. the phones, et al)as well as in person. A bad day would chew your ass off like a wild animal on a liquid diet. I now work in a quiet office in which problems still have the same intensity, just not(usually)the same decibel level, thus more implosions than explosions. A bad day here instead grinds my ass into a fine powder. You see, it's a qualitative difference ..

So here I sit on what's left of an ass that wasn't all that substantial to begin with(though not all that bony either, to defend it), still trying to catch my breath. Rough week. Yeah, I did say that, didn't I?

At this point, I'm on vacation. My 37.5 hours this coming week. Between my ears, I'm not yet there, still hashing out what was and what may be. Still sort of working my way here as far as that goes. But I'll get there. Or here, as it were.

I make the joke sometimes(maybe more often, in which case sorry!)about getting through the workweek unscathed. About not getting any on me. In terms of damage, albeit minor, kind of like-to again borrow from entertainment-the scene from Animal House where they're trying to leave the Dexter Lake Club(after hearing Otis Day and the Knights)and Flounder's car hits every car in the parking lot on the way out.

That's what my chassis feels like on this Friday evening. But a bit of lubrication in the form of Corona(what did you think I was going to say?)and I'm feeling on the mend. Did I mention that this was a rough week?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My (Ig)noble Genes

There are, among other things, three basic hereditary strands in my family, three prominent traits : shortness, intelligence and alcoholism. Shortness is probably more prevalent in Mom's side, but the intelligence and alcoholism run down both sides of the genetic fence.

So how does this trickle down to me? Well, at 5'4", I definitely got the short end of that DNA stick(thanks so much for that, Mom!), so that's one. As far as alcohol, I was a prodigious beer-drinker in my 20's and early 30's, but then so was everybody else. Much as I hate the whole idea of genetic determinism, I may well have inherited a tendency toward alcoholism, but haven't ever had a real problem with it.( I am drinking a beer while writing this, but that shouldn't be a factor here..).

As to intelligence, we do have some truly smart folk among my kith and kin. The highest IQ in the family that I know of belonged to my Uncle Phil, who had a score of 164, which is of course up there in the cognitive stratosphere, in the 99.9th percentile or thereabouts. Two of my cousins are members of Mensa, and thus themselves probably in at least the 140's-150's range. One of them teaches at Oxford, for what that's worth.. Their sister is also smart as hell.

Likewise my brother, Mom, Dad and other cousins et al. It's a humbling experience being in this family. I guess I inherited some intelligence in the deal(along with the shortness and perhaps a latent alcoholism), though perhaps not in such measure as a few others. My IQ is 29 points lower than my Uncle Phil's, which puts me in the 98th percentile. Not a genius, but not a dummy either. I have my perspicacious moments- along with, by my own admission, a lot of stoopid ones!

I suppose it's a nice thing to have, but the only time my IQ score ever really helped me in this life was once as a freshman in College. There was this kid- Dennis - who was your basic schmuck, at least towards moi. Not evil, mind you- not a "terrible person" by any means, but still, at times, an abrasively insecure one . The sort who makes flippant, insulting remarks to others just to boost his own shaky self-esteem. "Rog- you're dumb!" was said to me on several occasions, just out of the blue with no provocation on my part.

So one day a group of people, including Dennis, are sitting around a table in the cafeteria. Dennis was holding forth about his various accomplishments and personal honors. I was tuning most of it out, but I remember hearing, "..and an IQ of 128".

"My IQ is 135", I said. He got this sort of HUMPH expression on his face, and then the table enjoyed a moment of silence. Man that was fun. A small personal victory. At least he never called me dumb after that..

If he hadn't insulted me on those occasions, I would have kept my lousy 7 extra IQ points to myself and just let him ramble on. I'm not into one-upsmanship, and besides, I come from a family wherein several people could wipe the floor with me in that regard. So humility has been hammered into my ass. Still, there are those times when you need to win one by whatever means necessary. And this was one of them.

So that was the one time my not-great-but-not-shabby IQ came in handy. Even though I'd love to have an astronomical number like my Uncle Phil's(and of course the brain to go with it!)it was probably more effective that mine was just a little bit higher rather than several stadium steps above good ol' Dennis. Just enough to make the point--and to stop his sonata of self-praise, if only for a moment..

Well that's me I guess. A short smart drunk. I'm fine with what I've been given. Well okay I would like to be taller, but I've more or less accepted my height--my feet reach the ground anyway. And alcohol is not a problem- even if I am drinking a second beer while writing this. And even though it's not way up there, I'm okay with the IQ I have, even semi-proud of it--although I don't think it makes me better than anyone else. Or even necessarily more intelligent. I've met folks who didn't do quite as well - Dennis, for one- whom I felt were just as bright as I. And conversely, I've met folks with higher scores than mine whom I felt didn't really have anything on me in that area.

Just like drinking , one's self-image needs to be kept in check . Keep your perspective. Easy to run away with oneself as far as one's "worth" and all, one's "sense of entitlement" in this world. I suppose I could just as easily be the pompous individual sitting in the cafeteria going on about his accomplishments, and then have someone I'd blithely insulted on a few occasions cut in, "My IQ is 142".

And then I'd be the one with the HUMPH expression, all pissed off to their delight and vindication..

* As a sort of post-script to this piece, I wanted to mention that I did share it with one of my cousins. She wrote back to say that she enjoyed it, and shared some of my sentiments in there. Also mentioned her brother's kids, who were "super-smart. And short. And one is in AA. " Nice to see that family traditions continue...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Djbipitod and Horrencchia

Like many folks in their 50's, I've lost both my parents. Dad died back in 1993(lung cancer) and Mom in 2007(complications from Alzheimer's). They're both still sorely missed.

Dad's passing was at least relatively quick and painless. He was diagnosed in July and died the following March. Mom's was more of a gradual degeneration, her condition worsening over the years, finally reaching the point where there was no communication of any kind. Just hanging on by a thread until Death, at long last, came to get her. In that sense, it was a blessing that she would be the one to hang on. Dad would've been much harder to take care of if he'd been the 'survivor'.

But however they left this Earth, they're both gone. They've completed their respective assignments on this plane of existence and moved on. When people close to you pass away, I do think they stop in on you from time to time to see how you're doing. I've felt them hanging around. No great profound message from beyond the grave, just a presence--their presence. And of course I have had this sensation with both parents, especially Dad.

I suppose it's much like when you make a change such as change of residence or employment, that part of you is still tied to that old home or job. You check back in at that old location for a while, but there comes a point when you've got both feet planted in your new situation and you just don't look back so much. No time for it.

Now I have no idea what goes on beyond the grave of course. I do have a pretty good idea that we live on past our physical death, and that that realm of experience is tied to this one. And I do think that you repeat this earthly experience in various forms.

That said, my parents--that is, the souls who took on the roles of my parents--have each completed one in a series of earthly existences. And thus, upon death, they've shed their temporal identities as John Benard and Jacqueline Hicks Roundly. Their names now might as well be Djbipitod and Horrencchia.

I don't know Djbipitod or Horrencchia. At least not yet. The identities I knew were John and Jacqueline- sorry, Mom and Dad *. So that's how they appear to me. They put on the Mom n' Dad suits for their occasional visits, so I'll recognize them. (Yes I was thinking of the movie Cocoon, wherein the aliens could assume human form but were in reality glowing bands of light).

I miss my folks. They're right here with me but they're a million miles away. It's a paradox that you have to experience yourself to truly understand. Well for me, my earthly assignment is still going. So I'll continue my identity as Roger U Roundy until such time as I've completed whatever it is I'm here to do. And at that point I'll shed my earthly trappings, my Roger U Roundliness.

Until such time as someone close to me here needs me to come back and be Roger U Roundly for them..

* As a kid I once addressed my folks by their first names and was stopped in my tracks. Kindly but firmly. Years later I had a similar experience in Japan in which I walked across a hardwood floor with my shoes on. Stopped in my tracks after just two steps..

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Livin' the dream, dreamin' the life

Our boss at work, when asked how he's doing, has a stock reply. "Livin' the dream!"

Nice work if you can get it. Few of us(even him, probably) can actually say we're living our dreams. Well if we're not already there, at least we can imagine our lives just as we'd like them to be, doing and living all the things that make us happiest. Actually I think it's a healthy exercise, however chimerical, however ridiculously improbable in reality, to put yourself in those shoes. Imagine you're really living your dream. At least you come out of it refreshed, feeling like maybe you could bridge that gap just a little bit--the gap between what is and what one would prefer it to be.

My ideal scene could be just about anywhere, so long as it's not too hot or too cold. It has to do more with the community and its acceptance of me as a musician, that sort of climate rather than relative distance from the Equator. For the sake of argument, let's just say my hometown, since this way I wouldn't have to move.

In my dream existence, I make enough money from gigs and lessons and CD sales so as not to have to work a dayjob. Actually there's enough money--I guess from the CD sales-- so that if I want to I can take a break from the gigs and lessons and not feel any kind of pinch. But I love to play and enjoy teaching, so I'm usually in there pitching.

Every day there are at least a few messages on the machine from clubowners wanting me to play in their establishments. Of course all the local spots are included(despite the fact that I'm from here!)but also venues from other cities and even other states. And the out-of-town places always offer lodging and travel expenses, sometimes even backup musicians.

The gigs themselves are always packed with people, but they're always quiet once the music begins. Of course the people love what we're doing, and every evening's performance ends with at least one encore tune. There are 'biz' people there who want to talk business with me on my breaks- but I've got a manager for that stuff, who handles it and gets back with me later. And there is always at least one beautiful girl who wants to meet me.

Flattering(and tempting) as it may be having all this attention from beautiful women, I have to be faithful to my girlfriend. She usually comes with me to the gigs anyway- and is a very pretty thing herself: very short(5'0" or even an inch or so shorter)with long straight hair and very large breasts. Being a musician herself(flute/saxophone or piano)she is sometimes in the group with me, but is usually there anyway and I have her sit in if possible. She always comes with me to my New Year's Eve gigs and is there to give me a big smooch at the stroke of midnight- and a big something else when we get home..

My CDs, once released, always get reviewed in the local newspaper as well as the local indie weekly without my even asking. In fact, they read the News page on my website and request advance copies of them once they find out about it. And there is a CD Release Party every time out, usually in one of the ballrooms of one of the local hotels, with a capacity crowd. Hundreds of CDs get sold that night.

Okay, then I wake up from the dream. I'm in Springfield fucking Illinois, the same town I made into a Utopia. I've overslept and have 5 minutes to get to my dayjob. No messages from clubowners, local or non-local. I have to call them and bug them, and usually get the runaround when I do get them on the phone. On the rare occasions when I get a gig from them, it's sparsely attended and quite often they sit in front of us and talk the whole time. And there are never any women who want to meet me, beautiful or not.

My CDs don't get reviewed by either local rag, even after dropping them off to the proper parties.. I did get a feature article in the newspaper some years back, but only because I called and bitched about the weekly paper ignoring my new CD.( The guy who used to write music reviews had it since March of that year and come New Year's Eve hadn't even touched it, just stuffed it in a drawer someplace and forgot about it, so I got miffed, to say the least- and this still pisses me off just a little.) Otherwise they just go unnoticed, just like me.

Well okay, there's the dream and there's the ugly reality. And then there's the actual situation, which is still far short of the dream but maybe not quite as desolate as the ugly reality, or at least my depiction thereof .In actual fact, I do get musical solicitations on my answering machine, not from clubowners(that aspect of life really does suck but I don't care anymore)but from other musicians wanting to hire me for gigs or people looking for a band. Not every day, but often enough.

I don't get a lot of ink from the local rags, and have had to push to get what I get. But I did forge a nice professional friendship with the guy who wrote the feature article- he would ask me questions about music or musicians, for which I was always glad to provide info on whatever he needed, and in turn he was very supportive of my musical efforts. And the guy who now writes for the weekly I think doesn't relate to what I do musically but at least tries when I ask him to put some words in there for me. And he has given me the "recommended listening" icon on occasion when I've had a gig listed.

Likewise, I've had to push for gigs, but have been called upon to play the Great Local Events from time to time. And there are the people who sit in front of you and talk- sometimes they sit in front of you and talk about you- but there are a few folks who are genuinely supportive of what I do, who enjoy my playing and so forth.

And though I don't meet nearly the women I'd like to--actually just one really good one would do, and if possible roughly the description above, in "Utopia"--it does happen. So not never. Just hardly ever. But it has happened. And of course I hope it happens again..

I guess I was doing what the late great psychologist Albert Ellis would call "awfulizing" in describing the ugly reality that is my existence, horrifying myself about everything that's happening- or NOT happening in any event. And then I tried describing it without the "awfulization". It still sucks, but at least I can continue to try and bridge that gap between what I have and what I'd like to have. I think I'll start with that short chick with the long straight hair and other attributes...