Saturday, November 25, 2006

Picture book / Pictures of yourself / Taken by yourself / A short time ago . . .

I have to do this self-portrait project for an art class I'm taking. I'm supposed to take a bunch of photos of myself, make a collage out of 'em, then draw the whole damn thing. After fooling around with the camera all day, I'm beginning to suspect that I'll be wearing Depends before I finish this project.

Ever tried taking a picture of yourself? Well, don't, because it's damn near impossible and you'll waste half your damn day.

Besides that, you'll wind up looking like a sociopath.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

One day you turn around and it's summer
Next day you turn around and it's fall
And the springs and the winters of a lifetime
Whatever happened to them all?

-- from “September of My Years” by Frank Sinatra


There’s this blue sundress I’ve had for over ten years now. I think I was around 24 when I bought it. I’d say it’s the oldest article of clothing I own, were it not for the fact that there’s probably a ratty pair of underpants in the back of a drawer somewhere that’s been waiting around for twenty years just to prove me wrong. Ratty underpants have nothing better to do, after all, and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned over the past 36 years, it’s that one should never allow underpants to gain the upper hand in life.

So anyway, at the risk of sounding all girly and crap, I really dig this sundress. But as I turn another year older today, I can’t help but suspect that sometime during the upcoming year (or maybe the next), I’ll put on this dress and discover to my horror that it makes me look like this . . .

Guess I’ll have to keep you posted.


The man in the looking glass, who can he be?
The man in the looking glass, can he possibly be me?
Where's our young Romeo, the lad who used to sigh?
Who's the middle-aged lothario with a twinkle in his eye?
He seems so much wiser now, less lonely but then
Could be he's only pretending again
Man in the looking glass, smiling away, how's your sacroiliac today?

--from “The Man in the Looking Glass” by Frank Sinatra

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Public Notice to All Dogs in My House

It is unacceptable to wake the Master at 6 AM by snorting and chuffing in a vexatious manner.

When snorting and chuffing fail to wake the Master, it is equally unacceptable to attempt to raise the Master by licking the floor covering until gagging ensues. The Master knows that you are just being a devious little bastard and are not really choking on carpet fuzz.

When the Little Dog’s snorting, chuffing and gagging fail to wake the Master, it is unacceptable for the Big Dog to dance around the bed whimpering and pounding her tail on the box spring like a Taiko drummer on Bennies.

Upon raising the Master with your desperate snorting, chuffing, gagging and drumming, it is unnecessary to follow the Master into the bathroom and sit two inches away while wearing the hard stare of a prison warden. The Master has never forgotten to take you outside or feed you. The Master has no logical motivation to climb out a second-story window in effort to avoid taking you outside or feeding you. Furthermore, the Master is a little pee-shy.

Upon leading the Master outside into the freezing cold, it is unacceptable to ignore the business at hand in favor of staring intently down the street as if anticipating an Apache ambush. This is not a John Ford film. It is a time when you are robbing the Master of precious sleep with your Rin Tin Tin tomfoolery. To expedite matters, I suggest that dogs imagine themselves in a John Waters film. By performing bodily functions on cue, dogs will earn top billing and a breakfast befitting of such artistes.

After breakfast, it is unnecessary to express your appreciation by jumping up on the bed and sneezing kibble bits onto the Master’s face.

While preparing to settle in with the Master for another few hours’ sleep, frantic digging on the Master’s belly should be avoided. The Master’s abdomen is not made of such materials as can be burrowed into or shifted about.

Upon settling in with the Master, it is undesirable for dogs to compete to see who can get the largest square footage of dog-on-human body contact on either side of the Master. This makes it impossible for the Master to move or breathe. The Master is not a cocktail sausage and does not wish to be tied up in the bedclothes like a Pig in a Blanket.

Friday, November 03, 2006

W. Daniel Furst, DDS

Some of you may recall a blog installment I posted a month ago in which I described my first root canal appointment. In that installment I introduced the fortuitously-named Dr. Furst, who is the first dentist I’ve liked since I’ve been living in North Carolina. This is no small matter to me, as I have harbored the big daddy of dentistry phobias since I was a wee lass and had several of my baby teeth pulled in one visit without being as anesthetized as I might have liked.

Three weeks ago, I had to go back in for another 2-hour appointment during which Dr. Furst did the build-up for my crown. Having survived my first appointment under the good doctor’s care, I was considerably more relaxed. While I may have been tense and trembling a tad, I at least wasn’t making the floor vibrate this time around. During the two hours of my second appointment, more unpleasant drilling, grinding, and scraping occurred. This time, however, I felt fully confident that Dr. Furst was giving the matter his full attention, and that he would not allow the drill to slip off the tooth and pierce my cerebellum. Best of all, there was more humming. This time it was the Beach Boys’ song, All Summer Long, which solidified my opinion that Dr. Furst was, in fact, a true genius of dentistry.

So yesterday was the final phase of the process. No drilling or scraping this time. All Dr. Furst had to do was to pop in the crown and send me on my way. As this would be the first time I’d seen him without my face full of Novocaine and slobber running down my neck, I looked forward to interacting with him like a normal human being instead of like a patient at a state mental institution. I’d planned to thank him for getting me through the experience in one piece. Of course, there’d be some fond reminiscing as well. “Remember that one time when I was all scared of the needles and drills? HA! Good times . . .” I’d say. Then we would laugh and laugh.

But what really happened was this. I arrived at the office and was ushered to the chair by Thelma, my favorite dental assistant. Just before she pulled my temporary crown off, she said, “You heard about Dr. Furst, right?”

Well, I hadn’t heard about Dr. Furst. Did he get in a fender bender? Did he win the lottery? Was he conked on the dome by an errant golf ball?

“No, what happened?” I said.

“He died.”

Ah, shit.

That’s right. Dr. Furst, genius of dentistry, died in his home at the age of 60, apparently of heart failure. I’d only met him a few times, but after having his hands in my mouth for four hours I’d grown pretty attached to the guy.

But what did I truly know about Dr. Furst? Well, not a whole hell of a lot, but let’s see what I can piece together.

1.) He loved to play golf, but probably would never have qualified for the Senior Tour.

2.) He liked a lot of elbow room when he worked, and preferred a workspace that was uncluttered by patients’ spectacles.

3.) He was liberal with the Novacaine, but was a real hard-ass about Percocet. I don’t know what procedures would warrant a Perc prescription, but a root canal, in Dr. Furst’s opinion, was not one of them. (To his credit, I didn’t actually need them. Not even a little bit.)

4.) He liked to wear a sombrero on occasion, as shown in a photograph behind the reception desk.

5.) He had a nice little hum. Over the course of my visits, I heard a wide range of Dr. Furst’s tuneless avant-garde humming, along with his chipper renditions of Speak Softly Love (The Theme from the Godfather), and the aforementioned Beach Boys song, All Summer Long. Oh, and let’s not forget this one . . . .

Oh when the saints go marching in
When the saints go marching in
Oh lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

And when the sun refuse to shine
And when the sun refuse to shine
Oh lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in . . . .

Oh when the trumpet sounds the call
Oh when the trumpet sounds the call
Oh lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

Hmm hmm hmm hmmmm, Hmm hmm hmm hmmmm,
Hmm hmm hmm hmmm, Hmm hmm hmm hmmm,
Hmm-hmm hmm hmmmm hmm hmm hmm-hmm hmm hmm
Hmm hmm hmm hmmmm hmm hmm hmm hmm. . . .

Thanks for the root canal, Doc. I hope you’re up there kicking Sam Snead’s ass.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What the Hell?!

Behold the first loaf of bread that I have ever baked . . .

Clearly I have been replaced by some evil alternate universe me. I don't bake bread. I don't bake, period. Not much for cooking in general, although I did successfully prepare a meal of Spaghetti-O's the other day that I was rather proud of -- not too chemically, with just a hint of aluminum.

I may be hooked on this bread thing. It was kind of fun, and I'm a sucker for good bread, which is somewhat scarce here in North Carolina. From what I can tell, many southerners have a mysterious aversion to any bread with a crunchy crust. This is just one more reason why I keep my door locked at night.

This particular bread recipe hooked me with phrases like "knead the prosciutto into the dough," "brush the crust with bacon fat before baking," and "brush the crust with bacon fat and allow to cool." I strongly believe that if all food were prepared like this, the world would be a much happier place.

Incidentally, if any of you other folks feel similarly overcome with the urge to bake bread all sudden-like, I highly recommend The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. It is extremely rube-friendly.

While you're at it, check out Breadbasketcase, a highly entertaining blog in which Marie Wolf describes her experiences as she attempts to bake all 82 bread recipes in The Bread Bible in one year. Go, Marie, go!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Due to a drawing project snafu I needed to buy a small light box today. I arrived home with my new purchase and tore open the box. I nearly tossed the instructions right into the trash but stopped short, remembering that my last failure to read instructions involved the melting of a large piece of aluminum foil to the bottom of my electric oven. Did you know that aluminum foil could melt? Neither did I, but page 17 of the oven manual sure did, and in great big letters, too.

Anyway, let us take a walk through my new Artograph Lightracer’s instructions together, shall we?


1.) Read and understand all instructions before operating.

You’d think that if the Artograph Company was truly concerned about this, it would have stamped this instruction all over the product itself. Instead, it was printed in 10-point Times New Roman, and positioned one-quarter of a page down on the very document that the Artograph Company suspected I wouldn’t read in the first place.

2.) Supervision is necessary when used by or near children. Do not leave unattended while in use.

If I’m using my Artograph Lightracer near children, does that mean that I need to be supervised? And, man, if I were a pot smoker, “Do not leave unattended while in use” would’ve messed with my head for hours. Don’t bogart that instruction manual, m’friend.

3.) Do not operate this equipment with a damaged cord, or if it has been dropped or otherwise damaged, until it has been examined by a qualified electrician.

So, after the qualified electrician has examined it and confirmed that it is indeed damaged, I can go ahead and operate it, right? Fair enough.

4.) If an extension cord is necessary, be sure it has a suitable current rating. Cords rated for less amperage than this equipment may overheat. Be careful to arrange the cord so that it will not be tripped over or pulled.

A sticker on the bottom of the light box warns that there’s a whole .2 Amps
surging through my Artograph Lightracer. What kind of extension cord wouldn’t be able to handle that? Perhaps a wee extension cord replica that was snagged from the parlor of a Victorian dollhouse.

5.) Always unplug from the electrical outlet when not in use. Disconnect by grasping and pulling the plug from the outlet; never yank the cord to disconnect the plug.

Sound advice, this. The wiring inside those cords is fragile. To be extra cautious, I will avoid touching the cord altogether and instead use a butter knife to pry the plug from the socket. Now, that’s using the old melon!

6.) Do not immerse in water. If the unit receives water damage, do not use until inspected by a qualified electrician.

Again with the qualified electrician. I’m beginning to suspect that these instructions were written by a qualified electrician with a weakness for the dog track.

Here’s another warning that you’d think would’ve been plastered all over the place. I mean, if the Artograph Company made a point to include this bit of common sense in its list of IMPORTANT SAFEGUARDS, the company must have fielded complaints related to it at some point. You’ve got to figure that at least one Poindexter thought it wise to run his Artograph Lightracer through the rinse cycle before using it for the first time in order to get rid of the scratchiness. You know -- like sheets. Otherwise, why include it at all?

And for that matter, why not include other common sense warnings like these just to make it an even 10?

7.) Avoid contact with bandsaw. Contact with bandsaw may cause the equipment to become cloven in two or more parts, which may affect the usefulness of the tracing surface.

8.) Do not spread with hummus and attempt to ingest. This equipment is not tasty or edible.

9.) This equipment is not a suitable substitute for a parachute or other aviation safety device.

10.) Do not affix to forehead with glue gun. Doing so may impair vision and make passing through low doorways difficult or impossible.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I Don't Have a Single Original Thought In My Head

It's true. All work and no play makes me a complete lump of crap as a blogger. I did manage to avoid work long enough today to snap this photo of Number One Dog, Lebowski. (Number Two Dog, Daisy, declined to be photographed.)

I'm no Evenstar, but I do know a handsome beast when I see one. As a photo editor I stink out loud, but I did at least manage to clone out some stray fuzz and dog goobers.

Believe it or not, digital fuzz removal was one of my great triumphs today, the other being the devisement and execution of a plan (Plan A) to remove my sweatpants and put on proper trousers. Now, three hours later, I am in the midst of devising a second plan (Plan A Sub-1)that will reverse the outcome of my previous plan, Plan A. Plan A Sub-1 is far more complicated than Plan A, however, as it includes the addition of a shower and change of underpants. In fact, it is becoming clearer to me by the second that the success of Plan A Sub-1 hinges on the creation of a detailed diagram, drawn to scale.

I'd best get on it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ann Taylor Joins Dark Forces, Commands Minions to Spread Evil

Among the pile of crap that disguised itself as e-mail today, I found a message from Ann Taylor, designer of affordable and practical ladies’ fashions. While I can’t say I’m much of a dress horse, I admit to having a weakness for Ann Taylor’s tantalizingly roomy size sixes (which, if I understand my UK sizing correctly, is the equivalent of 23 shaftments and a King’s knuckle).

I was just about to open Ann Taylor’s e-mail, when I noticed its subject heading:

Support Breast Cancer and Reward Yourself

To say that I was shocked by this endorsement of nefarious hedonism would be an understatement. Needless to say, I trashed the message without viewing its full contents, as I did not wish to be tainted by its Mephistophelian funk.

Hear me, Ann Taylor, you wicked Betty Crocker of the fashion world . . . . I will not join your evil campaign to support breast cancer for my own personal fun and profit. It is not right, and I will not stand for it.

Good day, madam.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

There is Nothing Funny About a Root Canal

Guess who had a root canal today. Go on, guess.

Already, I am tired of this game. It was I, Storchy, who had a root canal today. Probably lots of other folks had root canals today, too, but I don’t care about any of those bozos. This installment is about me and my root canal, and if any of you chuckleheads out there want to cry like whiny little sissy-babies about your root canals, you can go and get your own goddamn blog. Now, get outta here. Go on, beat it.

Due to my keenly developed ability to maintain my composure under even the most trying of circumstances, you probably haven’t noticed that today’s ordeal has made me a bit peevish. Though my time in the chair today was not the reenactment of Marathon Man's dental torture scene that I imagined it would be, neither was it the equivalent of an herbal facial. Unless herbal facials involve needles, and drills, and unpleasant grinding noises. Which they well might. As I have never had an herbal facial, I probably wouldn’t know one if it poked me in the eye. Eye-poking, come to think of it, might well be an integral part of the herbal facial and I wouldn’t know it. Really, the whole herbal facial thing was a just crappy analogy, and I wish you’d all just stop harping on it. I have never claimed to be an expert in flowery wordsmithery, nor am I a clown for your amusement.

While the peevishness dissipates even as I type, I feel that today’s root canal experience has permanently and drastically altered my worldview in countless ways, not the least of which include the following:

1. I would NOT rather get a root canal than sit through the Broadway musical, Cats.

2. I would NOT rather get a root canal than listen to a Joan Baez record.

3. I would NOT rather get a root canal than watch an episode of Third Rock.

4. A root canal is NOT more pleasant than a poison ivy rash on my ass.

5. A root canal is NOT more fun or interesting than Statistics 151.

My shifts of position on some other matters were not as extreme. For instance, I used to think that having a root canal would be far more pleasant than listening to small children singing or playing wind instruments. Now feel that it’s six of one, and a half-dozen of the other.

Much to my surprise, there was relatively little pain involved in the root canal process. They shoot you up full of Novacaine so all you feel is a fat numbness in your face that makes you wonder idly whether you’d have a chance at being cast as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man.

What gets you is the noise.


The dentistry noises suck ass. I tried all manner of tricks to block them out. Initially I attempted to focus on Dr. Furst’s humming. He has a nice little hum. He started by humming When the Saints Go Marching In. That was swell. Then he began humming Speak Softly Love (the Theme From The Godfather). This, I found disturbing. Later, as he got more into his work, he started combining the two songs into one, which was both disturbing and confusing and left me focusing on the familiar drill noise for comfort. This would not do.

So, as the drilling progressed, I retreated into my head. I searched for a comfort song. Unfortunately, the first one I thought of was The House of Love, a song by Squeeze, which features an electric carving knife sound effect between verses. You’d be surprised by how much an electric carving knife can sound like a dentist drill under the right circumstances.

After considering and rejecting several songs by the rocque-and-rolle noblemen, The Upper Crust, I settled on Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Taxi. It’s an innocuous song just pleasant enough to be distracting, while allowing the dental tool noises to work with it, rather than against it, in the background. Once I’d settled into Tijuana Taxi, my toes were a-tappin’ while my fists were a-clenchin’.

Still, I feel strongly that the dental tool noise issue is one in serious need of attention. I know that all sorts of dentists out there are putting headphones on their patients in effort to drown out the drill noises with music. I actually tried this once, and found it quite stressful. I fretted that the dentist would say something like, “Whatever you do, don’t swallow right now,” but then I wouldn’t hear him because I was getting down to Loose Booty by Funkadelic, and I’d end up with one of those bendy mirrors and a latex glove in my gullet.

If it were up to me (which it seldom is for reasons that I cannot fathom), I’d change the noises that the tools themselves make. And I’m not talking about wimpy little tweaks, such as making their foul noises quieter. What I have in mind is something more along the lines of a Total Noise Overhaul.

I came up with the concept of the Total Noise Overhaul right after I’d realized that I could calculate the square footage of the root canal room by counting the 2-foot ceiling tiles and doing a little multiplication. The size of the room is neither here nor there, but I was just proud that I’d found an unexpected practical application for math.

After I’d determined that the root canal room measured 110 square feet, I thought of an idea that would revolutionize modern dentistry. I mean, what if root canals could be funny?

I started trying to think of things that make me laugh. You know what makes me laugh? People getting hit on the head with a plank. That’s a friggin’ laugh-riot. But I dismissed this idea once I realized that a few folks might associate pain with getting hit on the head, and associate that pain with dentistry, which would be bad. I am not a sadistic monster, after all.

Back to the drawing board. After a bit more ruminating, I said to myself, “Self? You know what else is funny? Farts are funny.”

It’s true. Farts are like the comedy Esperanto of bodily functions. I’ve seen enough foreign films to know that everyone in the whole world thinks that farts are HI-larious. In fact, it would not surprise me if Mel Gibson were to switch it up with a comedy next time that was done all in Fart, with subtitles.

So, that would be one option. Instead of the dental drill going, “ZZZZzzzzZZZZZTTT! SQWEEEEEEEEEEEE! SCRONCH! SCRT! SCRT! SCRT! VVVVZZZZZRRRrrrREET!” it could instead make rude fart noises. This would help patients to keep their mouths open wide, what with the laughing and all. It would also discourage them from swallowing at inappropriate times, thereby preventing the ingestion of bendy mirrors and latex gloves. That idea is a keeper.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I have another idea that I think is absolutely brilliant. Instead of trying to mask the foul drill noise with music played through headphones, why not design a drill that makes a pleasing musical sound as it’s working? After much consideration, I’ve decided that the instrumental intro to Georgy Girl, by The Seekers, would be ideal for this purpose. I mean, who could possibly be annoyed by the sound of those first few, perky measures being played over and over and over again as their teeth were getting bored out? No one that I can think of. Certainly not I.

Well, there you have it. I, Storchy, went to the dentist and took one for the team. But I did not sit passively in the chair while a complete stranger drilled holes in my head. Instead, I made the most of my time, devising a plan that will make the world a better place for Everyman. I encourage all of you potential root canal candidates out there to do the same, because nobody likes a whiny little sissy-baby.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Eight Wonders of the Ancient World

Thousands of years from now, I believe the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" list will have been revised thusly:

The Eight Wonders of the Ancient World

1. The Great Pyramid of Giza
2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
3. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
4. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
6. The Colossus of Rhodes
7. The Lighthouse of Alexandria
8. The Abandoned-Refrigerator-With-the-Door-Off of Butner

Somewhere in Butner, there’s a refrigerator lying on the side of the road. Some dumbasses needed to unload the thing and were too lazy to take it to the dump, so they just said “This-here’s a good spot” and they flung it into the ditch for the deer to bang their shins on, and to fake out any possums looking for large metal objects to flatten themselves with.

Now, this in itself is unremarkable. Dumbasses do stupid crap like this all the time. The “wondrous” part of this particular choice in dumbass ditch design is that these dumbasses had the presence of mind to take the door off, so that little tow-headed Billy-Jimbo, skipping along the highway in his knee-breeches, wouldn’t climb into it, shut the door, and smother to death while dreaming of sugarplums and fatback biscuits.

The abandoned-fridge-with-the-door-off phenomenon presents something of a conundrum, as it displays equal parts imbecility and intelligence on the part of the Goobers what left it in the ditch. If it never occurred to them that there might possibly be something wrong with flinging an appliance into a ditch and leaving it there, what made them go all publicly-aware and do-goodery on the fridge door issue?

I have a theory, and that theory is . . . television. Think about it. Where do dumbasses learn literary quotes such as “git-r-done” and philosophical puzzlers like “Where’s the beef?” Why, television, of course. Television.

Remember Bert the Duck-and-Cover Turtle? I don’t, but I can sing the whole damned “Duck and Cover” song for you.

There was a turtle by the name of Bert
And Bert the turtle was very alert
When danger threatened him he never got hurt
He knew just what to do!

He’d duck. . . *Fwooshhhht!* . . . and cover!
Duck . . .
*Fwooshhhht!* . . . and cover!

He did what we all must learn to do
You and you and you and you

Duck . . .
*Fwooshhhht!* . . . and cover!

That there’s an effective ad campaign for you. Why, I’d like to crawl under a desk right now. So, here’s what I figure. Somewhere in the deep recesses of Goober A and Goober B’s collective brain, lay the residual teachings of an old TV public service campaign reminding folks to remove fridge doors before abandoning them on the side of the road. I believe it went something like this:

If you’ve got a fridge to ditch
and you like kids
and you don’t want them to smother

Then pay some attention to this good advice
and you’ll help out someone’s mother!

Before-you-take-off . . . *Vvvvvvrrroooom!* . . . take the door off!
Before-you-take-off. . .
*Vvvvvvrrroooom!* . . . take the door off!

A Norge can look like a lot of fun
To a tyke who’s too young to own a gun

Before-you-take-off . . .
*Vvvvvvrrroooom!* . . . take the door off!

Alas, “Take-The-Door-Off”’s follow-up campaign, “Don’t-Leave-Your-Crap-On-the-Side-of-the-Road”, didn’t generate the financial backing it needed, and therefore ended up with an inferior jingle that did not win the hearts and minds of all the Goober Q. Smiths out there.

Don’t leave your crap on the side of the road
on the side of the road-ode-ode!

Don’t leave your crap on the side of the road
on the side of the road-ode-ode!

Don’t leave your crap on the side of the road
on the side of the road-ode-ode!

What a flaming turd of a campaign that was. It actually prompted folks to leave junk on the side of the road just to spite the irreparably jaded writers.

Now that I’ve worked out this little mystery, it’s my duty to perform a public service of my own. In the distant future, a team of archaeologists tramping through the forests of Butner will trip over an abandoned fridge with the door off. They, as I once did, will scratch their heads in befuddlement until they find a printed copy of this blog installment taped inside the left-hand drawer of the vegetable crisper. After unanimously agreeing to revise the Seven Wonders of the World list, they will likely feel overcome with the urge to crawl under a desk. They might even feel compelled to leave some crap on the side of the road. But they will never, ever abandon a fridge in a ditch without first removing the door.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rock and Roll is Sometimes Quite Possibly Noise Pollution

So, the other day I'm driving to school and listening to this great '60s pop compilation that my friend Jeff Hart (Hi, Jeff!) let me borrow. First I'm breezing along to the "Theme from 'The Avengers'". Then the Kingsmen's raw, garage-y version of "Little Latin Lupe Lu" comes on and I'm digging that, too. So, when "Ridin' on the L & N" kicks in, I'm feeling giddy as all get-out. I'd never heard this one before. It's a gritty, rockin' little blues shuffle, sung by a guy who's doing a spot-on imitation of Mick Jagger. Think "Let It Bleed", but peppier and not as polished. When I get to the next stoplight, I check the track listing to be sure that I'm not listening to some great lost Stones' track.

"Bintangs?" says I. "Never heard of 'em."

At this point I'm about a third of the way through the song and realize I haven't been giving it my full attention. I bounce back to the beginning so I can wallow in the muddy rockin'ness without distraction.

It starts off strong with a couple of quick snare-and-cymbal crashes and some harmonica blasts over the top of it. Oh yeahhhh. In my mind's eye, my new Toyota Matrix has just morphed into a 1967 Pontiac GTO convertible. I slouch back in the driver's seat with one hand draped casually across the 12 o'clock position on the steering wheel. Then Pseudo Mick Jagger Guy starts a-snarlin':

Round the bend came the L & N
Loaded down with a lotta men . . .

Then there's a couple of lines that are more or less unintelligible except for the phrase "throw the switch", and now it's time for the chorus. . .

Ridin' . . . ridin' on the L & N
Hitchhikin' . . . I'll be ridin' on the L & N . . .

Aaaah! It's a tribute to the grand old hobo tradition of train-hopping. This song just keeps getting better and better. I'd been feeling a little uneasy about those lyrics I couldn't make out, but I can now assume that they related to highly technical aspects of the freight train's inner cogs that I'd never have been able to wrap my tiny pea brain around anyhow. I am relieved, and resume grooving to the rock and roll music with an unclouded brain. It is good.

Just then, someone cuts me off without signaling. "Ha-HA! Bully for you and your devil-may-care approach to driving!" I cry. "Carry on, my good fellow, and Godspeed!" This is how much the rock and roll music affects me.

I've missed a few lines, which (I will learn later) introduce Quinn, the train's engineer, whose ability to stretch his forename into a rhyme with "L & N" and "bend" obviously made him a shoe-in for the job. With that bit of exposition out of the way, it's back to the chorus. . .

Ridin' . . . ridin' on the L & N
Hitchhikin' . . . I'll be ridin' on the L & N . . .

We've reached the part of the song that's a natural breaking point for a solo. I have a two-handed white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel while the harp player pipes in for a couple of measures. He is no doubt warming up for what is about to be a crankin', testosterone-drenched, nut-busting, ass-shakin', balls-out thrill-ride of a --

flute solo? Christ on Acme springs.

My tires catch the outer edge of the asphalt. I drop into the shoulder and kick up gravel for about 30 feet, until I get a grip and yank the car (a Toyota Matrix once again) back onto the road.

Meanwhile, Flute Guy is still blowing on his friggin' pipe. You can hear the spit flying everywhere. He's gasping and wheezing like an asthmatic Trekkie after an extended swirlie. Through the smoky haze of my brain, I can just make out Flute Guy's band-mates behind him, jamming and chin-jutting to the blues groove. A hairy fellow with sweat rings under his man-boobs shoots them a confident thumbs-up through the sound-proof window of a mixing booth. Everyone is feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, thinking that the rock-and-roll flute solo is a pretty swell idea. Yeah. All riiight.

But it wasn't a good idea. It is never a good idea. You know that Ian Anderson guy from the Jethro Tull band? It wasn't a good idea when he did it either. It was a terrible idea, with the flute, and the tall boots, and the Pan stance, and those wretched plum smugglers. A terrible, terrible, awful idea.

Well, after the flute solo, the rest of the song is kind of a blur. There's some guy who's sleeping on a pile of clothes, and a doctor, and some more words that rhyme and blah-blah-blah. Whatever. I am numb. I sleepwalk through my classes. On the way home I turn to the right side of the FM radio dial for comfort. I sing along. "I've got a peacefuuuuul, easy feeeeelin'. . . ."

But that is a lie. I am tormented by the rock-and-roll flute solo. I feel compelled to learn more about The Bintangs, these men who lifted my spirits to staggering heights only to dump them onto a concrete slab and send a 500-lb. safe screaming down after.

I do a quick Internet search when I get home. The All-Music Guide is a dead end. I search Google and hit pay-dirt:

"The Bintangs Website. . . Bintangs, the leading Rhythm and blues band of the Netherlands."

I click on the link and prepare to learn all there is to know about The Bintangs, these men whose rock-and-roll flute stylings nearly ran me off the road. The next thing I see is this:

"Welkom op de Bintangs website

Ontdek de wereld van de Bintangs

Hartelijk welkom bij de Bintangs, we hebben meer dan 85 pagina's met informatie uit heden en verleden voor u samengesteld over Frank Kraaijeveld, Jan Wijte, Maarten Ibelings, Gerben Ibelings en Dagomar Jansen. En natuurlijk ook info over oud Bintangs. . . ."

Darned if these rock-and-roll flautists aren't crafty little buggers. It's in code! But in the bottom left-hand corner of the page is a photo of a fellow with his lips puckered over a flute. It appears as if he might once have been a young guy in the '60s. Oh, I'm on the right track all right.

So, I find a Bintangs page that is written in English. I learn that The Bintangs were very popular in the Netherlands in the '60s. The band had a revolving door of guitarists, drummers and keyboardists, all of whom were no doubt driven mad by the adjacent revolving door of rock-and-roll flautists. They recorded songs by Muddy Waters, Brownie McGhee, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Bo Diddley.

Frankly, that's a lot more than I ever expected to learn about the Bintangs, but there's still one nagging question to be answered. Just how in the hell high do you have to be to take a classic blues song, stick a flute solo in it, and decide that it sounds pretty damn good to you?

As I ponder this question, I put in another disc of that '60s collection. It starts with a poppy little Kaleidoscope song. . .

Jenny Artichoke lived in a boat
Down by the sea with a baby
And she didn't know much about anything
But she was oh so nice to me . . .

Now that's a song. I'm feeling better already. . . .

Jenny Artichoke lived in a boat dressed like a queen
You should have seen
And she didn't care much about anyone
But she was oh so nice to me. . .

You know . . . maybe the Bintangs aren't such bad guys after all. Maybe the rock-and-roll flute is just a cultural thing I'll never understand, like mint sauce or ladies' armpit hair.

Jenny! Climbing up her flagpole!
Jenny! Looking through her porthole!

Yeah, that's probably it. I mean, who am I to get down on folks who are just trying to express their culture and originality through song? Man, I'm kind of an asshole. So, bully for you, Bintangs, and your devil-may-care approach to blues music! Carry on, my good fellows, and Godspeed!

Jenny! With her hair on fire!
How could anyone ever pass by her?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My New Cyber-Buddies

I am a creature of habit. Every morning I peel myself out of bed around 10 or so, shuffle downstairs to get coffee, and drag my tired ass back upstairs to check my email. As I am resistant to any change that upsets my morning routine, it is always a relief to find that my inbox contains messages from yet another batch of folks who are eager to make my acquaintance. I love making new friends. So much so, in fact, that I have made a list to honor the nice new cyber-buddies I've made over the past few weeks:

Constable L. Kitchen
Designation S. Hooker
Dinette B. Compress
Foxhounds E. Convention
Godly E. Constipating
Hellenistic U. Scarabs
Pelvis L. Porter
Remington R. Dysfunctions
Roommate H. Lighters

I apologize if I've left anyone out. I have been quite touched by the outpouring of support and advice these kind people have given me.

For example, my friend Dinette B. Compress has just explained how I can increase my sperm volume by 500%. While it is certainly nice to have this option open to me, it is one that I have chosen not to pursue. I am not particularly coordinated or athletic, and I doubt that I could handle such an unwieldy load without putting innocent bystanders at risk. My life is complicated enough without having a bunch of one-eyed victims of my ineptitude weighing heavily on my conscience. But thanks just the same to Dinette (is that a family name?), whose unshakable faith in my abilities never fails to bring a joyful tear to my eye.

One of my other new friends, Remington R. Dysfunctions, has slipped me an insider tip about a "Sen'sationall revoolution in m'edic'ine" that would enable me to "E'n'l'a'r'g'e [my] p"enis up to 10 cm or up to 4 in'ches!" It took me a little while to get used to Remington's thick, Eastern European accent, but once I'd absorbed the gist of his message I was quite excited by the news. I'd previously thought that an appendage enlargement this dramatic could only occur as the result of a poisonous reptile bite or scorpion sting. I'm pretty happy with the plumbing I have now, but if I ever acquire a penis that I'd like enlarged another 4 inches or so, it'll be nice to know that I can do this without the intervention of Poison Control. Thanks, Remy!

Looking back at my list of new friends, I've just noticed how fashionable the middle initial has become. It also appears that there exists a whole generation of parents who took a rather unconventional approach to baby naming. Assuming that my new cyber-buddies are chips-off-the-old-block, it seems likely that their elders had insider access to some cutting-edge research about baby names and their effect on the psychological development of individuals. Well, bully for good ol' Mom and Dad, I say! If my future son, Shoehorn K. Hairclog, turns out to be half the man that Godly E. Constipating is, I will be one damn proud parent indeed.