Monday, September 30, 2013

Memory Boulevard

Taylor Rental in its heyday.
This was recently posted on one of our wonderful social network pages, to a wave of comments. While most everyone in town was very fond of the family who owned it, there were several jibes about the rented stuff not working once you got it home. Must admit this tickled my funnybone as well. I remarked that the place was a combination of Green Acres and Sanford & Son. Hope that wasn't too harsh. 

I was 24 years old when this picture was taken. Given the date, it was National Stoner Day someplace. Well, maybe a quick one around back, right at 4:20...

Anyway, yeah, it was a family business, run by two brothers and their Dad. They had one employee, maybe two besides. One of the brothers is a keyboard player, and he and I played in bands together since the beginning--I was 12 and he was 13(the band was called Automated Sound Society--get it?-the brainchild of his older brother, then 16 or so)--and played together while this wonderful business was running. 

Funny thing about this keyboard player. Even long after the Taylor Rental days, he always had at least two extra keyboards laying around his house, in varying states of operability- missing keys, pads, other problems. And of course he'd always try to cut you a deal on one of them. You can take the boy out of the rental center, but you can't take the rental center out of the boy...

There was a bungalow right next door to the rental center which was used for awhile for our band practices(and a party center when we had girls over there), and served as lodging for his older brother later, when he took over the business. That's where I really spent my time when I was over there, although I had spent some time in the rental store. Don't think I ever rented anything from them though..

Macarthur Blvd is my least favorite street in this town, at least between South Grand and Wabash, so I use it as infrequently as possible. But I'll have to take another look over there, when I'm forced to head that way. I think the bungalow(called Revolution in its day--really!)still stands, although a lot better maintained than was the case when it was our bandroom. But Taylor Rental- that cross between Green Acres and Sanford & Son and home to a few vague recollections- is just a memory. 

A Brief(and skimpy) History of Libya

The first picture here is the modern city of Bayda(pop.250,000) one of Libya's bigger burgs. The most populous is Tripoli, with over a million people, and then Benghazi, with maybe 750,000 residents.  Libya is a pretty good-sized country as far as landmass(17th largest in the world, even though it's mostly desert). It's in northeast Africa, bounded by Egypt to the east, Algeria and Tunisia to the west, and Chad, Sudan and Niger to the south. 
 And the second photo is of the Temple of Zeus in the ancient city of Cyrene ,
which is in the eastern half of the country, a region called Cyrenecaia. Libya was colonized by the Greeks back in 600 A.D. The other regions of the country are Tripolitania(which is the northwest area around the city of Tripoli)and Fezzan, which is right below it.  Most of its citizens are Sunni Muslims, and a small percentage are Ibadi or Sufi.  
   Sunni Muslims are considered the more orthodox as far as their adherence to the tenets of Islam; but they differ from Ibadi Muslims in that(among other things)they differ on the idea of Hell. Ibadis believe it to be an eternal state, while Sunnis consider it a finite period, one of purgatory where the individual is delivered from there once he has repented his sins. 
  I might just change the title of this blog to A Brief and Skimpy History of Libya, since that's what it's gonna end up being. Okay. Libya was colonized by the Greeks around 600 A.D., later taken over by Britain(I told you it was skimpy!). It was guarded over by the Attendant Knights of St John, who were defeated by the Ottomans in 1551. This conflict was known as Siege of Tripoli.
  Fast forward a couple centuries to the Turkish-Italian War of 1911-1912. The Ottomans lost Libya to Italy, who held it until World War II. They basically abdicated it to France and Great Britain in 1945, who jointly ruled it until Libya declared its independence in 1951. 
  For the next 18 years, Libya was ruled by King Idris. In 1969 he was overthrown by Maommar Gaddafi, in what was called a "bloodless revolution". Gaddafi was a controversial figure. Hated by many, loved by some.  Reagan referred to him as the "mad dog of the Middle East". He nationalized the oil industry in his country and used some of the profits to benefit their educational system. Maybe he wasn't all bad..
   2011 brought civil war(which was supposed to have originated in the eastern half of the country: the Cyrenecaia region). Gaddafi had returned to his hometown and was captured there and killed. On 10/27/11, liberation was announced. 

    And then last year, on September 11th(gee, nice touch!)the Benghazi incident with all its backlash. Since then, they seem to be still trying to figure it out. 
 Well skimpy as it may be, with no doubt a few misspellings and more than a few inaccuracies. But this stuff is accurate to the best of my knowledge. There are no deliberate inaccuracies--hell, I don't know enough about the subject to pull any such fast ones. But it's stuff I learned just today. Writing it down helps me remember it. 
  It also helps you get an idea of the plight of some of these countries. Part of the problem is that they've been under someone else's thumb for so long that they don't quite know what to do when they get out from under it. Hope you've enjoyed this brief and admittedly skimpy history of Libya. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Titty Toothbrush

This is a present from someone I used to work with. He's still plugging away there(not too much damned longer I hope, for his sake!). As for me, it's been 10 whole weeks since I've flown the coop. Not that long yet but enough so to have experienced that  gee Toto, I guess we're not in Kansas anymore moment. The point at which you realize that you're really gone from there, that you're not just on a vacation due to return. 
 Now living a life much freer of stress but then there was this fun kind of craziness that you'd only have working a stressful job like the one I had. . This stuff helped get through the day,  when you had days you just had to- get through
     But I'm ready now for whatever life has to offer up, since I've got me my titty toothbrush. Here is a nice gallery for ya. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Human Amperages

I really dislike cliche`d, hackneyed phrases like it's not rocket science, and try to avoid them as best I can. Hearing them all the time actually gives me the creeps. 
It's like we're being systematically dumbed-down.  Their repeated use in our society is downright--and forgive me for this overused term(but I can't think of a better one!)-- Orwellian to me, like they're getting it from the latest Newspeak Dictionary--I once used the variant expression dumber than a bucket fulla hair to describe someone's intellectual capacity(got it from one of the Ernest movies, and was just trying to vary the program a little bit)and was actually corrected: no, it's dumber than a box o' rocks!
 In other words, consult the Newspeak Dictionary if you have questions.
One common expression I do think is apt, however, has to do with likening human contact to dosages: I can take him/her best in small doses. A little of him/her goes a long way. And on the positive end: I've gotta get my fix of this person. 
Makes sense, since our bodies respond chemically to who we come in contact with, depending on how we interact with them, and them with us. Fritz Perls(the Gestalt Therapy guy from the 70's)referred to those individuals in our lives who have a decidedly positive or negative effect on us, accordingly, as toxic or nourishing.
On the negative end of things, the toxic individuals are, of course, those who just take it out of you. They drain the life from you either with their dramas or their ego-insecurities.You get a goodly exposure to such toxins in the environment when working in Customer Service. This can increase exponentially if it's a customer service position in a Social Service Agency. 
At that end of the spectrum, even the smallest dose of that person is deleterious. You need a counter-medication just to survive! Like the person who drives you to drink. 
The other polar extreme here is the nourishing individual. You feel good being around them. They just exude what's positive in life(well, besides medical test results or something..), and make you feel right at home with them. In a nutshell, they let you be yourself. 
  And thus, you feel uplifted instead of dragged down; filled with new spirit rather than drained of it. As far as doses, a teaspoonful of this kind of -nourishing- individual will carry you a long way.

Well at least that's how it goes with me. The most nourishing people in my life are those who take me as I am, who don't try to stand in the way of my being myself; and the most toxic are those who somehow try to chop away at those personal freedoms and liberties- who try(for whatever reason, nefarious or just stoopid)to keep me from being me.

So those are our polar extremes: folks so toxic you'd need an antibody of some kind just to be around them; and those so nourishing you could damn near O.D. on their presence. (Or in their presence, I guess, for that matter...). And of course, what's toxic or nourishing to me may not be to you. In fact, we may be completely reversed: my toxin could be your nourishment, and vice versa. But they're still there.

The vast majority of people I know work best in small-to-moderate doses. This doesn't mean, of course, that it's not friendly just because there's an imposed limit. It could be a barely contained civility of course, or we could just as easily get along great, but it's still best kept in these limited dosages(and I'm sure that's mutual). 

And within this range, there are definite gradation points. At the bottom of this scale are those whom I can handle okay for about 5 to 10 minutes. If I had to give it a name, I'd call it The Larry David Threshold. I can handle Larry David on TV until he starts becoming Larry David. In other words, until he starts displaying those qualities I find execrable. 

I'm pretty sure others have had this experience. People you like okay until they start turning into that person you don't like.  I had one such friend whom I liked just fine until he started drinking- until the political conservatism(at its worst when alcohol-fueled, as you can probably well imagine) started to rear its ugly head. That was his Larry David moment. And my exeunt. Stage right.. 

Slightly higher on the dosage would be all those folks you deal with on some professional level: they fix something for you, or you for them. There may not be any latent personality conflicts, but there's not a whole lot of material, just enough for whatever transaction takes place. My barber and I have the exact amount of material to cover the time it takes for me to get my hair cut. And that's just fine!

And the dosage increases for closer friends and family(even though family can sometimes contain the most toxins!). How much of them can you handle? And how much of you can they handle?

I myself am assuredly a mix of toxin and nutrient, how much of each being transmitted to a large extent dependent on who's doing the receiving. We are all the bane of someone's existence, sayeth an old bandleader I used to work for, and just as others have been the bane of mine, I'm sure I'm someone's worst nightmare. 

Or at least good for 5 minutes, until my Larry David moment.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Justice or just us?

Okay, so I've got this friend here in town, a fellow musician-type with whom I used to play a lot of gigs back in the day(in this case, the day being mid-80's- early 90's). Keyboards and vocals, somewhere in the general direction of R&B and jazz.

You know how you have these patches with people where you play a million gigs together over a certain period of time? Well that was us back then: some as a trio with his brother on bass, but mostly just us two on guitar and keyboards. 

Sometimes I procured the gig, sometimes he did. Many of the ones he got us had to do with the local black community in one form or another: his Church, the local Boys' and Girls' Club, or just family outings. It was at one of these family events that he made the remark which serves as the subject of this blog. 

 Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that my friend is black. As you can see from my picture, I am white. While we have the commonality of being male homo sapiens who are somewhat musically inclined, there are more than a few cultural differences between his world and mine. These we would tacitly acknowledge, and sometimes draw amusement from (he would often give me a wry look at one of the Church affairs when the Reverend Doctor somebody was mentioned, as if to say "I know that sounds funny!"). Humor or not, usually an unspoken thing. But this one time I had to speak up.

Black folks(or at least these black folks), it seemed to me, embraced life more than us white folks. They extracted more pleasure from it. I forgot just how I put it, but it was something like, "I know this is a generalization, but when y'all are in party mode, you're more fun than we are!"

His response to that, which I'll never forget, was: "That's because despair ain't no thing!" And that's where you get that (perceived) greater sense of fun.  From the greater sense of abandon you get when you accept your own- despair. Hopelessness. This can also be very liberating: when you got nothin', you got nothin' to lose!

My friend would probably get a laugh out of the tasteless Monopoly parody that begins this blog. But as much as we may note and enjoy cultural differences, he'd be much more receptive to the humor if another black person showed it to him. It's not a tidy analogy, but I don't much appreciate short guy jokes or remarks unless they're made by somebody my height or shorter. (And of course usually they aren't.)

Not everything makes sense in this world(nor is it supposed to, I'm inclined to think), but I still try to understand. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

2 Fetid Piles

As a kid, I remember going with my folks to the homes of various grown-ups in our circle. Most maintained their abodes about like we did(okay, like Mom did), but I did notice among a few-usually older and/or more eccentric-there was a certain clutter element. 

Quite often, it was 6 months to a year's worth of newspapers that just hadn't been thrown out. Sometimes it was piles of clothing, such as are pictured here(and then you get the odor potential going..)But whatever it was, it was piled higher and deeper so to speak.   
So in looking over these two fetid piles you see before you, I come to the horrific realization that I've become one of those eccentric older folks that made me go a bit 'ewww' as a kid. They didn't horrify me then, those quirky seniors with their various accumulations of stuff, just something I noticed growing up. But I never thought it'd be me. I mean, it's bad enough that you grow up like one or both of your parents..

Just kidding- well, for the most part. I do remember my Dad telling me, "son, most of your shittier characteristics you got from my side of the family". Whether this is an accurate recounting, who knows, but it is how I happen to remember it. And it's made me laugh of late. 

Funny how those things re-surface years later, decades later- and crack you up all over again.But I'm working on cleaning up the fetid piles in my life, whether they're on the floor or between my ears.