Empty Glasses, but a Tear-Filled Eye

I'm giddy today. I can't begin to tell you why but I'm just all sorts of smiles. Everything seems so jolly that I just want to laugh out loud. If I were to go to the movies I would have to see a comedy because I might laugh in a serious drama and make everyone think that I was a nutball and ruin their night out. If I'm out in public I need to have a book or the funny papers in front of me in case I chuckle then the folks around me won't assume I'm insane and laughing at nothing.

In truth, I am laughing at nothing. I'm laughing just because today seems like a good day to laugh.
There's no real reason for this. There's been no particular windfall that would make me feel this way it's just one of those days when it seems like everything is going to be okay.

I can only hope that I'll have more such days and that everyone else will as well.

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Got my Vaccination from a Phonograph Needle

I like what I like and I don't feel the need to justify myself to others.

I recently had some friends over for an evening of Full Contact Drinking Trivial Pursuit[TM]. Not content with the sounds of banter, question&answer and the aggressive guzzling of Miller Highlife, the Cham-pag-nay of beers, I plugged my MP3 player into the stereo and let the music play.

Now, I have eclectic taste in music. I don't mean that the way most college radio DJ's mean it: music so obscure and so unlistenable that, though varied in it's sonic stylings, only other college radio DJ's will acknowledge as music at all. I mean that I listen to a bit of just about everything from Boston Punk to German Industrial to American Classic Rock to Hair Metal. I even listen to a bit of those three most reviled genres, Country, Rap and Top 40.

While several of the gathered friends complimented me on the depth and range of my aural offerings, one or two were so profoundly offended by my choice of songs that they could not help but repudiate me for having, "the most abysmal taste in music" they'd ever heard. They weren't even college DJ's.

Now, I'm not going to besmirch my friends' taste, though one listens exclusively to 80's era punk and classic metal and the other prefers experimental trance, but "most abysmal taste in music"? Really?

The people who champion their own tastes as superior to another's are generally either cutting-edge early adopters of tomorrow's fashions or self-styled experts on the fashions of yesteryear. One group tends to be wrong more often then they are right but lack the memory or self-conciousness to ever admit it and the other has the benefit of history to inform them.

Sure, Disco was probably a bad idea but without it we wouldn't have modern club music. Hair Metal was pretty ridiculous even in it's own time but remember that it was the dominant template in American rock for more than a decade. Folk music gets popularly reinvented every decade or so only to be trashed in the interim lulls but that style and form keeps coming back, generation after generation. What so many aspiring taste makers never seem to realize is that whatever traits make a song or an artist popular, enjoyable or historically important are probably unrelated. Put another way, more people bought Ratt's Out of the Cellar than ever bought a Ramones' album. If they were to realize, they'd probably be pretty pissed.

But, what's it to them? We've only decided in the last generation that pop music is anything other than entertainment and then only because B'Boomers have pushed to historicize the music of their coming of age above others forms. While it's okay to say, "I hate this song, can we skip it?", it's quite another to say, "My largely arbitrary and generally fickle ascriptions of artistic value are superior to yours such that I question your judgment and moral capacity."

So, that said, I'm going to listen to Flogging Molly, Johnny Cash, VNV Nation, Aerosmith, Queen, TMBG, Dresden Dolls, Big&Rich, Depeche Mode, Carol King, Tupac, Patti Griffin and Kelly Klarkson in succession if it pleases me and I'm going to listen to them loudly and all the self-styled shepherds of acoustic propriety be damned.

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I Came Here for Forgiveness; I Came to Raise the Dead

My coffee shop closed.

I'm told that the owners had a drag-out with the landlord and decided to part ways. They're remodeling a space a few doors down with plans to reopen in the winter but that's not for months yet. So, the squat brick building where I've read, written and regaled so much these past five years sits dormant and I go elsewhere.

The new digs are okay. It doesn't have the art-house feel, the sense of careless disregard, the essence of happenstance that the other place had. The other spot was for the young and disaffected and for people who pretend so. It was staffed by tattoo'd twenty somethings that all had other plans. It had a wide facade and they often left the windows open so the air and the sounds of the thoroughfare could waft through. None of the shelves matched and they were constantly being rearranged in a vain attempt to make the place feel symmetrical. The food was terrible. The internet was slow and the whole place was strangely loud of spirit, even when it was completely silent.

This place, by comparison, has an air of responsibility to it. It feels every bit as deliberate as the old spot felt accidental. Everything is more closely planned. Everyone's tone is more hushed. Nobody smokes on the patio. The space is long and narrow, presenting only a sliver to the street. The doors seal tight to preserve the air conditioning. Everything is stacked neatly and even the chairs at the high-bar seem mis-matched on purpose. The staff is more presentable and much cheerier. It certainly feels cleaner in here.

Just as the other spot was full of artists aspiring to despondence, young floaters who spent more time eagerly expounding on their current projects than they ever spent working on them, this room is full of dutiful professionals and determined students, pecking at laptops, reading reports, studying textbooks in practiced silence. The customers around me at the old place all seemed, regardless of their numerical age, to all be younger than I. Here, they all seem older.

Are these two different places or are they two different life eras manifested in brick and mortar, in steamed milk and pastries, in roasted beans and flavored syrups? Is it only a city block that separates these two establishments or is it the divide between youth's dreams and adulthood's duties?

When I first started going to that, now vacant, coffee shop, I was different. I was still in college. I was eager, mean, expectant and terrified of the unknown future. I worked long hours at a job I hated because I didn't know what else to do with myself, because I'd not yet carved out a career. I dallied long hours at that coffee shop in impassioned discourse with other eager, mean, expectant and terrified twenty-somethings about all the books we'd yet to write, the movies we'd yet to shoot, the worlds we'd yet to conquer.

Five years on, I find that I'm one of those dutiful professionals pecking away on a laptop, just as eager and expectant but not quite as mean. I find that I'm still terrified of the future though not for the unknown of it but because I have witnessed the consequences of capricious and fickle fate. My words are softer and fewer and I find that I talk as much about things I am doing and things I have done as those that I am going to do.

It is perhaps best that that place closed and left me caffeine-homeless. Such transitions force introspection and punctuate the chapters of one's life. I don't quite know when I changed but I know that I did and it took the shuttering of that business to make me realize. When the old place reopens, I will go. But, will I stay? I find I've come to like this new place, the orderliness of it, the age, the practiced silence. Five years ago I would have hated it but that was five years ago.

Also, this place serves beer.

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It's Just the Way the Medication Makes Me.

Here's to crazy.

Here's to the Midtown Majorette. Here's to that lone lunatic who's idea of fun is to dress up in a hybrid tutu/drum major's uniform, hoist a baton and prance about piedmont park tooting his whistle and marching in time to a beat no one else takes the time to hear.

Here's to the old guy on Ponce with the bicycle shorts and the massive schlong.

Here's to New York's Naked Cowboy.

Here's to street preachers and guys on cartoon bicycles. Here's to the end is nigh types and buskers and the cross dressers that don't shave their legs.

Here's to all of you that make life that bit more colorful, even if you are all a bunch of nutters.


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The Fundamental Lessons of Skydiving pt 5

Bad things will happen and you must be ready for them.

A cutaway is inevitable. While there are a number of things you can do to minimize the likelihood of a malfunction, it cannot be avoided altogether. No matter how good your packing technique or how flawless your body position, one day you will experience a major malfunction and you will have to ride your reserve. It is only by internalizing this unavoidable eventuality and by learning to tell a nuisance from an outright equipment failure that you can ensure your survival.

Moreover, understanding that bad things will happen also means preparing for the consequences. Cutting away usually means losing your main canopy and the hundreds or thousands of dollars you've invested in it. Cutting away also has a set of risks that must be evaluated whilst dangling from a malfunctioning parachute: altitude, decent speed, possible canopy entanglement, landing pattern, RSL or no RSL*? These are all factors that have to be considered and rehearsed in detail before you get on the plane.

Wise, measured preparation and swift action under pressure are all that separate a reminder of your mortality from a demonstration of it.

* A Reserve Static Line and it's sibling, the SkyHook, are safety devices built into some parachutes that automatically deploy the reserve canopy in the event that the main canopy is jettisoned. There are good reasons to have them and good reasons not to.

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A Suicide Rap - We've Gotta Get out While We're Young

This is a strange day.

It seems that I've said this on each of my last several shows but this gig isn't closing out as usual.

I've gotten used to being that last man out, that single soul left to shut down the facility, to send back the office rentals and to walk through with the landlord. There's something cathartic about it, about walking the ghostly halls once so abuzz with the clatter and cacophony of movie making. I like the spiritual punctuation of locking the door behind me, ending the project with the loose ends all tied, knowing that that chapter of my professional life has been proofread and sent to the archives of my career.

Times are good for film makers in Atlanta, though, and a new project from the same studio is moving into this space directly on our heels. Thus, I've not sent back the copiers or the furniture. I've not cleaned out the kitchen. I'm not going to lock the door behind me. All I'm doing is closing the vendor accounts, tidying the office and changing the sign on the door. On Monday a new Production department strolls in, takes over the vacated desks and resets the clock.

I'm left to float in the void of idleness, without a gig and bereft of the neat coda that normally concludes a job.

No complaints, though. The next job will come soon enough and I will be redeployed to the front lines of the celluloid campaign. I should enjoy the R&R while I have it.

Good gate. Moving on.

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