Sunday, July 31, 2005

for those about to shop

“Back to school” commercials still have the same ability to slowly gnaw a hole in my stomach as they did when I was a student or a teacher. Back then it was easy to diagnose, as the barrage clearly meant the end of summer and freedom. That was simple enough. Now it is a bit more complicated and may have more to do with marking the distance from childhood. Then again, maybe it is just a well-engrained Pavlovian reaction that can never be shaken.

At any rate, the onslaught is in full effect and even prompted me to get out and do a bit of shopping this weekend. One must be prepared for the likelihood of job interviews or court appearances.

After a day of shopping I am left with one tormenting question: When the hell did AC/DC become a clichéd clothing logo?

It seems like everywhere I went they were selling AC/DC memorabilia, and I found it hard to believe that they were referring to the very same AC/DC of my youth. I know that kids aren’t listening to my AC/DC these days, because I have been around them and I know full well that they are listening to Green Day, Blink 182, and other assorted crap. Were these teenagers of today not so full of PCP and likely to be packing heat, I would randomly kick their asses.

Back in my day we actually listened to bands and then bought their T-shirts. We listened to bands like AC/DC and Sabbath because they brought the rock and because we were pretty sure that they were into some evil shit. It was like eating from the forbidden tree. Our parents might hear from other parents that these bands worshipped Satan and bring it up in an unconvincingly casual manner on the way to school. We would laugh it off, even though we were pretty sure that it was true. That was part of the alure. Zeppelin, like Robert Johnson before them, had “sold their souls to the devil”. AC/DC stood for “antichrist devil child”, or something to that effect. Neil Diamond ate babies.
The music scared us all a bit, and then it motivated us to purchase the secondary merchandise. That is the natural order of things.

Now there are AC/DC t-shirts, hats, flip-flops, and other assorted whatnot for a generation of kids who may very well have never heard them. Bon Scott choked to death on his own vomit in the back seat of a car, and now some little cheerleader is wearing his band’s t-shirt while listening to Blink 182 on her iPod.

Is nothing sacred? Is nothing free from commercialization? Is there any way to erase the image of the “for those about to FA/RT, we salute you” shirt they were selling along side it?

Sweet coasting Jesus on a Segway, people.

Look, if I wear a Zeppelin shirt it is because they kick much ass, and I would like to offer my services as a billboard. If I wear an AC/DC t-shirt it is because they still make me feel like I could put my head through a brick wall. If I wear an Al Green shirt it is because I get the chills every time I hear Al Green.
And if I wear my Grateful Dead shirt it must be laundry day.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

and a porkpie hat

Don't think that I wouldn't want one of those pencil thin moustaches, because I certainly would. I can grow one, mind you, but it is the maintenance of intricate facial hair that is the problem. One needs a steady hand and good sense of symmetry.
I'm afraid that my hands posses the resolve of a fruit bat in a wind tunnel, and my symmetrical detection is perhaps too keen. I am the sort who will sit there all day after shaving and constantly measure my sideburns to see that they are even. They never are, and I am coming to accept that. Life is simply unfair unfair to some.

another musical purchase

Yesterday was not a bad day. It may have been the last day of my current project and thus the last day of employment for the foreseeable future, but at least I had the morning off and a rare chance to listen to “Nashville Jumps” on WRVU, unquestionably the best two hours of radio in this market. Radio would still be great if more of it was like this. Yesterday’s installment was a full four hours, as if some higher power wanted to make up in advance for sending me on the employment trail yet again.

It made a great soundtrack as I drove around the greater Nashville shopping for a new acoustic. I’ve been slowly and almost reluctantly getting back into songwriting lately, and my old acoustic—the very same guitar I learned to play on some sixteen years ago—is about ready for retirement. She was just a cheap little Fender that I bought for a hundred bucks back in junior high, and she has gone beyond any and all expectations. Kudos to you, nameless acoustic that sat with me all those many hours back in high school while trying to learn the entire Zeppelin catalogue and then again in the mid-nineties during my brief but regrettable Dave Matthews phase. I am certainly glad that you cannot tell stories.

I started off at Gruhn. I’ve always wanted to buy a guitar from there just because it sits next to the Ryman and is one of the meccas of guitar shops. I even found a cheap Martin within my budget that I might have gladly forked over the cash for, had I been allowed to play it without adult supervision. Look, I understand they spend all day having to deal with Ed and Gladys Sixpack who just had to swing through Nashville on their way home from Branson, but I am not to be confused with a tourist. I’m not in there to gawk at the pictures of prefabricated country stars or ask the staff if they’ve met Garth fucking Brooks. I am just there to buy a guitar. I teach guitar as a side job and have been known to pick them up on occasion. I will only pick up the ones I can afford. I will not even breathe on, look at, point to, or in any way invade the space of your overpriced shit. Don’t hassle me. I’m local.

Still, it was good to walk around downtown for a while. I actually like watching the tourists from time to time, as I can still remember driving up from Alabama back in high school and walking around a bit slack jawed and wide-eyed at downtown Nashville. I think about that when someone in a just purchased cowboy hat stops me to ask directions. I happily give them and even make something up if I have no idea what the hell they’re talking about.

The next stop was Guitar Center. I hate buying from chains and generally get most my equipment second-hand from Nashville Used Music, but I wound up pulling the trigger on an
Epiphone EJ-200
while there. Mine is black. I like the Epiphone acoustics and hollow bodies, as they get pretty close and are sometimes even preferable to their Gibson counterparts at only a fraction of the cost. Also, it did not deplete my meager music fund.
Which is a good thing when you are soon to be unemployed.

Friday, July 29, 2005

rex l. camino's summer fashion tips

The good thing about a closet full of Hawaiian shirts is that you can never tell when they are stained. That is also the bad thing. One is left to rely on a keen olfactory sense to know when it is time for a Hawaiian shirt to go into the wash, and I am unfortunately bereft of such a gift. I was instead blessed with bat-like hearing, the ability to cross one eye at a time, and the ability to read the mind of Tucker Carlson.
True story: Tucker for some reason has the theme song to Matlock constantly playing in his head. It does not mix well with the constant playing of Night Ranger's Sister Christian that I am sometimes afflicted with, and it has become my cross to bear.
But the Hawaiian shirt is truly a godsend for oafish individuals like myself who invariably leave a part of each meal on their attire. You don't get that with the bowling shirt or seersucker suit. You need palm trees, hibiscus flowers, surf boards, hula girls, and and a number unidentifiable island icons to camouflage the ketchup or apple butter stains that are the battle scars that day's meals. They are also roomy enough to allow for the most obscene of buffets.
The Hawaiin shirt also gives one a festive appearance that not even the winningest beauty pageant smile can match. It overcomes my often dour or confused facial expressions and gives me the air of one who is glad to be in the company of all those I happen to be around. In an ironic twist, utter strangers feel free to comment on my Hawaiian shirt, and I am tempted to punch them. They would never expect it from one so festive. My shirts give me the element of surprise. We should clad entire armies in them.
Too bad they are all in the laundry this morning.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

abba ghraib

I think it’s time to come clean with you people. I know that many of you see me and think you’ve seen me before but just can’t place where it was exactly. Take another look at this famous photo from last year.

rex & lynndie

Yes, it is perfectly understandable that you didn’t notice me with a hot chick like Lynndie England in the same shot.

I won’t go into all the sordid details of how I wound up in the little known Abbas Martyrs Brigade, as I believe Steve Earle did a fine job of laying out my case in his less controversial song “Rex L. Camino’s Blues”, but I can say that it was no more than just an honest mistake that any one of us could make. I thought I was signing up for the Iraqi chapter of Abba fan club.

bjorn again
I should’ve realized my error when I got to the cave and found they had no Abba memorabilia or sound system on which to listen to Abba at our gatherings. The cave and constant “death to America” speeches probably should’ve tipped me off, but perhaps I was in denial. I was there for the camaraderie and spreading of Abba appreciation and could put up with resentment and a lack of personal grooming habits among my roommates, so long as I had my martinis and a couple of smokes to get me through the evenings. But, sadly, none of my vices was allowed. It was the hashish or nothing.

No hashish for me, thank you very much, Abdul. I came here to make one helluva chapter of the Abba fan club, and that’s just what I’m going to do. I may not be able to teach you mangy bastards the benefits of soap and water, but I swear by Allah I’ll make dancing queens outta the ragtag lot of you.

It was a tall order, I admit, but I was not afraid. The Middle East was driving me insane, and I had no other choice. The previous night I had made sweet love to a black bed sheet caught on a fence post after mistaking it for a burqa. It was time to do something.

I traded in a dozen of Yusef’s finest goats for a portable CD player and copy of Abba Gold and then went immediately back to the cave. They met the Swedish super group with stunned silence and a lot of angry squinting through their dark little eyes, but I did not care. Screw them. I may not have been graceful or the least bit coordinated, but I was quite the Kevin Bacon in a room full of disapproving Lithgows. I was even winning them over—or so I thought until the music came to a screeching halt.

The first thing I noticed was that I was the only one dancing. The second thing I noticed was that I was the only one not pointing a gun, sword, flaming torch, or petrified cat in my direction.

I blacked out and later awoke at Abu Ghraib where I was to spend few harrowing months with nothing but my copy of Abba Gold and the black bed sheet that I was now, according to Islamic law, married to. I got to watch Lynndie commit a number of unspeakable acts and occasionally received a bit of the shock treatment, but I had seen and been through worse.
It was really not much different from my time teaching in middle school.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

show and tell

I was going through some photos on the computer recently when I came across this:
It was created by the very lovely and talented Mrs. Camino, and I am quite proud of it. She christened it "sexy lamp" upon its completion, but I have since come to know it as "Holly Golightly".
It was originally an oddly shaped two and a half foot lamp with powder blue and cream colored stripes that not even a mother would love. I doubt that any style movement, thrift shop, or factory worker in China would've claimed it in its original condition, and I believe that I even gave a literal cringe when she brought it in. She had found it by a dumpster, I believe, and saw the potential in its odd shape where others only saw a hideous lighting implement that made them yearn for the dark. But two coats of paint, some mosaic work, and a new lampshade has rendered it a piece of art.
It now sits in her office area downstairs, but I hope to someday claim it for the Rexroom. I now sit among furniture that my mother-in-law could not give away at the last yard sale. Yes, now take the furniture that you have just imagined and distill anything redeeming about it and you'll have the current incarnation of the Rexroom. There are palm trees and there are stains, and I cannot tell into which camp some of the large color spots fall. There is a poster of Jack Kerouac, another of John Coletrain, a map of the Appalachian trail, a framed page of Bear Bryant postage stamps, an artist's rendition of soldiers at Shiloh, and some of my own meager artwork adorning the walls. There is bamboo and wicker and piles of CDs on particle board shelves. There is a milkcrate of records but no working record player, aside from my grandfather's antique hand cranked player from the thirties that is cool as hell but serves no practical purpose. It is a mismatch of things that probably deserve to be placed next to dumpsters with various musical instruments and memorabilia scattered about. I pray daily to be the subject of one of those TLC (or whatever channel they are on) make-over shows.
Anyway, I thought you should see the lamp.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I cannot help you with the discounted swimsuits

Nor can I help you find greeting cards, a toaster, baby food, an ironing board, the plus size lingerie, a flat screen TV, or a bean bag chair. I cannot even help you find the coffee filters, but I assume it will be near the coffee. It will do no good to complain to me that the meager food court is out of funnel cake or that the photo department has lost your prints. You must summon the strength to overcome these problems on your own, for I'm afraid that I am merely one of you--only without the cell phone and string of children adorned in Dale Earnhardt memorabilia running like savages behind me. Godspeed you in your quest, but here is where we must part.
Note to self: From now on always check to make sure that you are not wearing a red polo shirt before going into Target.
Also, you should probably stop wearing that damnable name tag. It made you appear more friendly and sociable at first, but the little bastard has attracted too much of the riff-raff that made you unsociable in the first place.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

rex in antiquity

It was too hot for yard work or helping the brother-in-law paint on Saturday. It was too hot for decent people to function, and I had to drag the dog into the yard to relieve himself. He is a Brittany and his folk were not made for this shit, and he lets me know it with the same eyes he gave me when we put him in that sweater long ago. The wife was out shopping with her mother and I, for once in a great long while, had a Saturday to waste on anything I wanted—provided it was an indoor activity, as I am prone to adhere to the advices of local meteorologists.

I spent most of the day hitting guitar stores and antique malls around Rutherford County. The guitar stores were all crawling with teenagers. Many were pierced and in clothes five sizes too big, and they all smelled strangely like goats. They were copying all the unnecessary lead parts from their favorite corporate “punk” and castrated “metal” bands on small pointy guitars. I wanted to take a nice large hollow body jazz guitar and play tee ball with their little dreadlocked heads until I remembered that I was once one of them, I suppose—only without any permanent alterations to my body and much better taste in guitars. Even the quite large and generally amiable owner of a certain local chain seemed to have grown tired of them. He walked into the acoustic room and scolded one for playing on a cheap little banjo. I thought that I would bestow kudos on such an action, but I didn’t. It seemed a bit out of character and made me feel even older, as I was not scolded for toying around with a mandolin. Maybe it was the heat.

The antique malls attract a different crowd. I am generally the only straight man under sixty in my more frequent visits to theses places. The wife has never had to drag me into any of them. Perusing the antique trade is a great way to spend a free weekend in those aimless weeks between football seasons, and I am not embarrassed to admit it. I don’t foresee a use for any of these, but it is good to know that there is a place where I can go and purchase a genuine German Nazi flag from World War II, anything ever written by Rudyard Kipling, Bull Durham tobacco ads of the extremely politically incorrect nature, a life size statue of Yoda, and a shitload of Victorian furniture.

I mainly go to find old musical instruments, musty old books, vintage advertisements, postcards, and photographs. But there is something troubling about hanging up a hundred year old photograph of total strangers as art, as it leaves me with the fear that someone in the year 2100 will have my acned and mullet adorned middle school picture on their wall. People who are not even born yet might someday mock my awkward phase and look upon it with the same eye we cast upon those poor old cross-eyed cowboys in vintage Daguerreotypes. The horror.

The day’s only purchase was a set of Kitching’s Melody Bells built by B. F. Kitching and Company in Brookfield, Illinois around 1960. It is essentially a beginner xylophone. The company has long since passed, but they appear to have been in the business of making vibraphones, marimbas, xylophones, and an assortment of beginner instruments like the one I purchased yesterday, complete with its original 2 page manual/songbook. Here is a pic.

kitching's melody bells (1960)

Anyone can play the damn thing. The notes are clearly engraved into the pieces, and the accompanying booklet will give one the knowledge and confidence to perform such classics as “Merrily We Roll Along”, “Lightly Row”, and the always crowd pleasing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. This last number is no doubt the single in the bunch, and one must be careful as to where to they place it in the set list. If you make it last you might lose them, and if you play it first the part of the crowd that was just there for the radio hit will begin to filter out.
I bought it to accentuate some of my meager recordings done here in the Rexroom. I have yet to record it, but I think it will go well with the other instruments and assorted kitchen items used as percussion devices. I assume it will work out, though the pets might disagree. The cat has already taken a disliking to it and will immediately leave the Rexroom when I launch into an impromptu performance. To the dog this is not an option. It is his nature to follow me like a shadow from room to room and endure any noises I might make. During these performances Carl Weathers will lay there beside me trying to ignore the high pitch tones and giving me that same look as if to say that this, too, is shit that he was not made for.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

i am not charlie neese

Another wayward reader has contacted me through the Rexmail with a question. Here is my answer.

No, I am not Charlie Neese, meteorological child genius for Nashville’s CBS affiliate. Now you’re just being silly. Being mistaken for Neil Orne was a high compliment, as he spends his nights roaming the streets of Nashville fighting crime in a slightly used ninja outfit and armed only with his winning smile and a set of nunchucks fashioned from his dual Emmys before slipping behind WKRN’s morning news desk. Also, he gets to spend a great deal of time with Heather Orne.

Ah, Heather Orne. Indeed.

Sorry, Victoria Hanson, but you knew our love wouldn’t last…Now don’t make a scene. Shhhh. Let it go. Be strong, my little Vickles. Cherish what we had.

Anyway, if I was indeed Charlie Neese I am sure I would have a great deal to say to my ungrateful public. Here are the first ten things I could think of:

1. Stop calling me “man-boy”. Chuckie Neese is all man, bitches.

2. Stop calling me Herve Villachaize. I don’t know who that is, but it can’t be nice when you say it with that shit-eating grin on your face, Bubba. I am neither Ralph Macchio nor the kid from The Never Ending Story. Don’t you have a meth lab to tend to?

3. No, I don’t have to sit on phone books at the desk. I have my own special chair. I am a professional.

4. It isn’t funny when Neil Orne kicks my ass and says, “Now you’re getting’ schooled in some Orne-othology”.

5. Back in juvie they called me Charlie Noose.

6. I didn’t waste half my childhood in meteorology school just so I can broadcast from a damn car show or the renaissance fair. This is science, people! Get that freaking turkey leg out of my face and take your nasty ass facial hair back to your parents’ basement or a Star Trek convention or wherever the hell you people go the rest of the year.

7. Mark Howard has a sock puppet that he talks to during the commercial break. Sometimes he fills that very same sock with complimentary cocktail sausages and beats me with it after the show. He is a bastard among bastards.

8. Chris Clark stopped wearing pants to work in 1983.

9. I just looked up Herve Villachaize, and now I get all of those “The plane! The plane!” jokes. Ha, ha. Very funny. We’ll see who’s laughing the next time the twisters hit your trailer park.

10. You really need to let it go, Vickles. What we had was special, but this bird you cannot change.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

one small thought from rex

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the moon landing, if you believe that sort of thing. I personally do. I am not one for conspiracy theories, but something about the moon landing has always bothered me:
If the whole point of the race to the moon between the US and the Soviet Union was to see who could get there first, then why not fake it? In that context it would've been incredibly stupid not to just save millions of dollars and do it on a stage somewhere in Hollywood. We had much better special effects than the Ruskies, and it isn't like anyone was going to be up there with a stopwatch at the finish line.
Just a thought.

the unsolved case of the androgynous drone

I was at one of my countless temp jobs a couple of years back when I overheard the following line: If that is a girl, she’s hot.

I was on my lunch break at the time and it came from the table behind me. I did a fake yawn or something equally cartoonish to give myself an excuse to turn and see three guys staring back at me. I quickly went back to my book. They had been talking about their wives and kids, then the weather, then weed-eaters, then people in their office, and eventually some new androgynous employee who may or may not be hot. Whoever said it said it with the same unashamed confidence that he had used to declare that Ryobi makes a shitty weed-eater. The other two nodded with the same confidence.

This was at a large financial company on West End. I was able to garner that they worked on the sixth floor where an endless sea of drones at their cubicles sat and browbeat customers over the phone about missed payments. I worked in a file room on the eighth floor but spent most of my breaks after that just wandering around the sixth floor to see this manly hot chick or feminine pretty boy. I saw many attractive women and many women who looked like they could possibly have been men, but none that I would put in both camps. Not a Hilary Swank in the bunch.

There is no moral to this story, and I don't know what made me think of it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

emily, dennis, and me

The good thing about having residual rain from a hurricane all last week is that we had a name for it. For instance, Dennis really helped out Mrs. Camino’s meager tomato and bell pepper crop and thus allowed us to enjoy some homemade pizza the other night while watching the DVD of the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple. Kudos to you, Dennis. Then again, that very same rat bastard Dennis made me late to work last Wednesday.

Why don’t we name all storms? We can generally see them coming from the west for days before they reach us, spurning tornadoes across Oklahoma and Nebraska as the jet stream ushers them along to the Atlantic. Sometimes they really screw us, and such relationships deserve participants on a first name basis.

I spent quite a bit of time in Gulf Shores while growing up, and she was beautiful for a touristy beach town until Ivan had his way with her. But for some strange reason I think the name helps get over the disturbing sight of all these familiar structures dispersed like piñata parts at a fiesta. I don’t think Emily would have the same effect. Emily was that bitchy blonde girl in second grade that didn’t invite you to her roller-skating birthday party. Naming a storm for her will only increase the rage and despair in her aftermath. You expect get your ass kicked by an Ivan, and it somehow doesn’t hurt as much.

I suppose you wouldn’t want an ass kicking from a Dennis either, as the name really is better suited for one who helps with produce. Be sure and check the nametags next time you’re in the organic market. You may very well find a Dennis, and you will be able to take him in a fight.

Naming significant weather systems will also give us something new to talk about when we have our meaningless weather conversations. Total strangers might see that you are soaking wet and say something like, “Looks like you’re covered in Gertrude from head to toe, son” or, “That Gertrude is a bitch, but she ain’t no Filbert.”

You will eventually punch them, but at first it will bring communities together.

We could even go so far as to have naming rights for storms and use the money to pay for the aftermath clean-up. I imagine that the Gaylord Opryland ice storm of 2006 will be an ungodly bastard, but it will almost pay for itself.

Then again, I doubt it will erase the shame in getting your ass kicked by a "Gaylord".

Sunday, July 17, 2005

proper mantis etiquette

My weekend of painting the brother in law's place wasn't so bad. I had loaded the Bad Plus' These are the Vistas and Give into the old MP3 player, as instrumental music tends to ward off the negative effects of the dreaded Manuel Labor, and otherwise listened to the oldies station when working in the same room with Mrs. Camino. It is cute when she sings along. It is even cuter when Cat Stevens comes on and I call him Osama Bin Peacetrain, though the wife will disagree.
My only other companion was this mantis who occupied the "not a step" step on the other side of the ladder. It was female, we assume. We found the headless corpse of a male underneath the ladder itself and deducted that Zorak--as she was christened when we thought her to be a him--was actually a recently impregnated mantisette. Yes, I know that isn't a word.
Though she was only an inch long, see if this sequence does not give you the chills.
A female mantis is really only harmful is you make love to it, and I was careful to avoid that. I did not even flirt with her or offer her a drink. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
The other remakable thing about the weekend was the heat. The house has no electricity or air conditioning yet, and the only solace is to open every window and pray for a breeze. The only problem with that is that the house is surrounded by cow pastures. All breezes coming into the house bring the smell of cattle and cattle fields with it. I hadn't been exposed to that much bullshit since I spent that semester as a journalism major.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

return of the dreaded manuel labor

The dreaded Manuel Labor, like any good B-movie villain, is never completely dead. Just when you think it is safe to claim your rightful place on the couch for a weekend of sporting activities or John Wayne films, he is back. Just when you are all geared up to hike with the dog or administer an ass kicking to neighborhood kids in an unfriendly game of tackle football, you get that call from your brother-in-law. Family, as you can well imagine, is the greatest enabler of the dreaded Manuel Labor.
He is indeed back this weekend. This weekend is my sequel to this, and I fear it will be a series to rival the Friday the 13th franchise. Then again, I suppose I do need the exercise.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

a minor setback

Becoming a freemason is much harder than I expected. I was told that all the presidents have been freemasons and assumed it to be a necessary step towards this, but Rex will not beg for your love. Screw you guys. I'll start my own secret society and accompanying shadow government, and then we'll see who's too drunk to ascend the "winding stairs" to the middle chamber and lay in the ceremonial coffin.
You squirrelly bastards can also keep your damn fez and go-cart.

celebrity birthday

Happy birthday to Harry Dean Stanton. This often overlooked actor and singer-songwriter turns 79 today at a bar somewhere in California. I've always thought of him as a Robert Mitchum that wouldn't kick my ass if I ever met him. You should drink to him today.
ladies and gentlemen, harry dean stanton

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

i am not neil orne.

Some wayward individual recently emailed to ask if I am actually Neil Orne. I am not.

But if I were Neil I would tell that Bob Mueller to stop strutting around the newsroom with his shirt off and shouting things like “I am the Magnum P.I. of news, Bitch!” just before a series of grunts and karate kicks. I would then tell him to stop parking his rusted firebird with tinted windows and “No Fat Chicks” decal in my parking place. I would also ask that he sweep the pile of crushed and empty Colt .45 cans from underneath the desk before he leaves at night. That shit isn’t funny at five every morning, or so I am told. And if he didn’t stop I would threaten to tell Nashville that the moustache is actually a hallucinogenic toxin-producing Ecuadorian caterpillar that Mr. Mueller glues to his upper lip just before going on air, and that Mr. Mueller, in reality, has no more capacity for facial hair than Charlie Neese, teenage meteorologist for a competing network. I am sure that if I were Neil I would miss my early days here at WKRN when Turko ran the social order of the newsroom, and Bobby was kept in check.
That is just what I think I would say if I was Neil, but I am not.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

technosaurus rex

I have never had a cell phone. I know they are a necessary evil, and I do not blame the phones themselves when I find an oblivious soccer mom blocking my aisle at the grocery store with her cart of sugary cereals and bastard children while saying something brilliant into the phone like, “I’m at the grocery store. What are you doing?”

I can tell you what they are doing. They are on the next aisle blocking my access to the martini olives with their larger and more ugly brood of offspring drooling into an already opened bag of Oreos. Yes, they really are precious.

I am always the last person aboard any technological bandwagon. You will find me at the outermost part of the wagon, sitting quietly by that strange looking foreign guy and trying to look like I know where I’m going. Not because I am a Luddite of any sort, mind you, but because I am lazy. I am also cheap. The back of the technology line is the place for my sort.

True story: I made it all the way through college without once ever writing a paper, essay, short story, or threatening letter on a computer. I graduated in December of 1998 and probably have not touched a typewriter since, but I much preferred to write in my computerless apartment than to brave the crowded computer labs back then. That was my original reason. I eventually wanted to do it just so I could say that I made it all the way through college without really needing a computer. Also, there was something much nicer about the clicking of the tiny metal letters, the little beeps for the margin, the words pounded onto the thin white paper and thick squares of whiteout here and there on the finished product. You don’t get that with your plastic computer keyboards.

There’s no way in hell I would ever go back, but I will cling to my recollections from the dark ages with more pride than embarrassment for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the cell phone thing is just another of my antisocial traits. I rarely answer my phone at home and have no desire to ignore a cell phone in the privacy of my own car. I know that I will some day capitulate if someone is unwise enough to put me in a position of high responsibility or a Higher Power is unwise enough to present me with my own offspring to see to, but I won’t like it.

When I borrow a friend’s cell phone they hand it over like I will know how to operate the damn thing. I fruitlessly punch at the buttons, become confused and agitated, accidentally speed dial their grandmother and then hang up on her, and then hand the cell phone back like a toddler needing help to get his shoe back on. Sometimes they help me. Sometimes they get their toddlers to help me.

I then wipe the drool from the phone and have a meaningless conversation with someone blocking the aisle at your grocery store or swerving in the lane ahead of you.

Monday, July 11, 2005

when batmen go bad

This may just be an urban legend, but I recall this story from a few years back:

A woman pulled into her driveway and heard bloodcurdling screams from the house next door. She immediately ran to her neighbor’s house and checked the doors until she found one of them unlocked. Once inside, she followed the screams to the master bedroom in the back of the house. The wife of the house was the one screaming. She was naked, tied to the bedposts, and hysterical about her husband on the floor be side of the bed. He was unconscious and naked except for a Batman mask, cape, and utility belt.

What had happened—as the paramedics later gathered—was that husband had been attempting to leap from the dresser to the bed when he made contact with the ceiling fan. His wife thought that he had broken his neck and immediately began screaming for any and all in the neighborhood. The husband had only a mild concussion, but he may have preferred a broken neck when he awoke in the back of the ambulance.

I thought of this when I heard about the recent series of video store robberies in Nashville committed by a man in a Batman mask and cape. The thing that bothers me about this is that I can’t figure out what purpose the cape serves. I only mention it because the news reports make them sound like two separate items. One would think that the mask is enough to conceal his identity, and that the cape would just be cumbersome and unnecessary. He is otherwise clothed in fatigues and a black sweater (in this weather?), and has opted to go without the utility belt. Anyway, read what little there is to read about it here. Where are you on this, WKRN?

I also think of the urban legend every time a new Batman movie comes out. I thought about Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise recently when she was out promoting the hell out of her courtship and then mentioning Batman Begins as an afterthought. I pictured Tom in a Batman mask and cape making contact with a ceiling fan and then falling to the Earth muttering something about L. Ron Hubbard. The paramedics would show up and Tom would tell them how to do their jobs because he had read something one time about how to deal with this sort of thing.

They would no doubt try to help anyway—those glib bastards.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

live 8 revisited

You've done it, Sir Paul. You have finally driven me to hate "Hey Jude". You probably did it at the Superbowl, but last week's celebrity sing along to the "na na na" part was the first time to test my gag reflex since then, and it was not pretty. You have officially dug up and beat that dead horse one time too many. John never would've put up with that shit, and you know it. I expect this kind of thing from U2, Paulie, but you are better than that. Just stop it. Seriously.
Pink Floyd, please take that shit on tour. It was a bit rough around the edges and Roger was obviously nervous, but it was genuine. I don't mind telling you that old Rex got a little choked up. You were the only reason I kept flipping over to VH1's rebroadcast all morning, and your performance rendered the morning unwasted. Please bring that shit to Nashville. I promise to feed all the starving kids, sign the Kyoto thingy, elect John Kerry, send personal grooming products to Ireland, or do whatever it was that I was supposed to do after watching Live 8.

welcome back

It's back to the old Blog of Doom, kittens and cats. My sincere apologies to those of you who googled your way to the Blog in the Invisible Bikini in a fruitless search for invisible bikini, Tennessee bikini, bikini camino, Rex L. Camino in a bikini, invisible Seany O'Kane, Carl Weathers in a bikini, the World's Largest Cedar Bucket in a bikini, and other assorted deviant interests. You no doubt left my little page disappointed.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

wilson lake

I got to spend some time on the water last weekend. We went out late Saturday afternoon, just after some clouds rolled in and cooled things off a bit.

wilson lake
This is Wilson Lake, to be specific. It is the portion of the Tennessee River that sits between Wheeler and Wilson Dams and serves as the border to the counties of Lauderdale and Colbert in north Alabama. It was much smaller before TVA came through in the thirties. Before that is would flood every few years and wreak havoc on cities like Knoxville and Chattanooga before dipping down across the top of Alabama and swinging back up through Tennessee. It still runs the same course, only bigger and a bit tamer now.

There are trains, old house sites, and probably a few other signs of pre-dam civilization still under water. Thinking of that creeps me out for some reason. There are also said to be catfish the size of Volkswagons along the dams themselves. I have heard the same said about dams everywhere, though no one has ever caught one of the bastards. They seem to have the same elusive power of the Sasquatch.

They just built a swanky new Marriott on the other side of the dam and named the biggest suites after famous people from the area. There is one for Sam Phillips, one for W.C. Handy, and the largest goes to Helen Keller. It has the best view. You can imagine the jokes.

Here is my favorite Helen Keller joke from childhood, as best I can remember:

Question: What did Helen’s family do when they wanted to be cruel?
Answer: They left the plunger in the toilet.

Ah, childhood.

Back in high school there was always someone with keys to their family’s bass boat, and we would spend the summer weekends exploring the creeks or just floating out on the main lake shirtless and sunburned. We would blast tapes of Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak or Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog that someone’s older brother had left in the boat’s glove box. At night we would take it back out under the moonlight with cigarettes, beer, and our own tapes, mostly REM, the Stones, or any number of forgotten bands from the early nineties. We would play drinking games for the next couple of hours before heading back for more of the same on a stable pier, as there is no worse self-inflicted state that being high school drunk on a boat in choppy waters.

Ah, teenage years.

There was none of that last weekend. It was just my family, my dog, and a number of threatening clouds that turned out to be all rumble and no rain. Carl Weathers did his impersonation of a fat little river otter all weekend, and there is nothing like the smell of a wet dog fresh from these waters. He likes to hang his head over the side of the boats when it gets up to a good speed, is fascinated by the buzzing jet-skis across the water, and spends most of his time sniffing the air and taking in the fish smell when the boat has stopped. Someday I will catch him a catfish the size of a Volkswagon.
carl weathers on boat
This is the face of happiness.

rex at sun

sun studio

When in Memphis be sure to take the Sun Studios tour. Your tour guide may very well be some asshole who dramatically huffs each time someone in the crowd whispers, makes horribly unfunny jokes delivered without a trace of enthusiasm, reminds everyone that tips are allowed, and then spends the last couple of minutes talking about his shitty band, but it is worth it. He may even so far as to tell you which unlucky coffeehouse in west Tennessee will be graced with his solo acoustic performance that very night and then trying to sell you a CD of his “look at me, I have feelings just like Elliott Smith had feelings” originals, but it will still be worth it. He will play some of his CD and you will find it a course in setting regrettable high school poetry to cliché music, but you will live. The prick will even list himself among the roll of legendary musicians who have recorded in that very room in a manner obviously less than half-joking, yet it will be bearable. It will be worth it and you will have the added benefit of having just officially met the least important person to have ever recorded at Sun.

I don’t like to have tourists milling about in my vacation photos. However, this was inevitable in such a small space, so I took a shot of the studio ceiling just above the crowd and directly over the spot where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Howlin Wolf, and many others stood while recording their vocals.
ceiling @ sun studio
This is just your Uncle Rex’s opinion, but I didn’t mind braving the sweaty tourists, the Memphis heat, and being led around by some bastard with the most unnatural and unbearable combination of being both arrogant and a candy-assed little emo-rock bitch so long as it ended with a few minutes of standing in that musty little room where so many great records were made. Sam Phillips spent ten years here, leasing it only from the mid fifties to mid sixties before moving on to another, less legendary location on Beale Street where he could have more space. This original spot was reopened in the mid-eighties and has since recorded Def Leppard, Matchbox 20, Tom Petty, and U2, but is still worth seeing. That musty smell could’ve very easily just been the lasting remnants of Bono.
I didn’t have time to take the Stax tour on this trip but plan to hit it the next time I’m in Memphis. I would think it more significant than Graceland, as the museum features Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, The Jackson Five, James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner, Isaac Hayes, and Booker T and the MGs. I will then finish things up with a trip to the Rev. Al Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle on a Sunday morning, and I guarangoddamntee that it will be worth it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

melrose place cancellation

I never bowled at Melrose Lanes. I suppose that makes me compliant in it's demise and gives me little justification to mourn, but I do love old bowling alleys.
Maybe I just loved the sign. I snapped this with my primitive digital camera while pacing around before a poorly attended gig at the nearby Sutler on a Wednesday night last fall.
Yes, I think it is the sign. Something trendy will no doubt assume this location and my opinion of it will be based on what happens to the sign. A pox on them if they dispose of it and the blessing of Rex L. Camino if they find a way to incorporate it into their endeavors. I fear I am drawn more to style than substance these days--a cheap and shallow hack of a man enticed by shiny objects and a good gimmick.
The bowling alley itself will reopen in another location, but I doubt that I will visit it there any more than I did on Franklin Road. Bowling was one of my favorite courses in college and I fear I have wasted that education. I should have been more dedicated to a sport that allows beer drinking and provides an indoor atmosphere welcoming of comb-overs.
It is not too late, I suppose, but the bowling alley here in Murfreesboro is the only place in town with nastier draft beer than The Boro. A man cannot hone his craft with such adversity. This is not some humorless Stallonian Hollywood fairy tale for the feeble-minded and easily swayed. I will not go from common truck driver and bad father to the man who arm wrestles "Bull" Hurley for that sport's recognized title and overcomes Robert Loggia's financial advantage to earn my son's love. Kenny Loggins will not croon a ballad while my credits role. This is real life, kittens and cats.
I will instead continue my regiment of bowling once a year, finding surprise at how well I scored for being out of practice, promising myself to put more time and effort into it, and then eventually forgetting the whole thing until next year.
That is what domestic beer does to a man.

rex on presley

rex and elvis
I have a connection to Elvis. Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Studios and the man credited for discovering Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Presley, is my third cousin. I never met the guy, but I have seen him in enough family photos to believe the relatives who talk about him. If you’ve seen him you will notice that he always had a batshit crazy look in his eye. All interviews I’ve seen back up this assumption. There are many on that side of the family like him, but few have played pivotal roles in music history.

Everybody knows cousin Sam for his role in early rock music, but I would prefer that a bigger deal be made out of his being the first white southern studio owner to record Howlin Wolf, B.B. King, Little Walter, and other blues notables who briefly made Memphis their home before moving on to Chicago. This was a big deal in the 1950s, and it would seem a more fitting legacy than being known as the man who sold Elvis. Make a note of it.

Now, let it be known that Rex L. Camino has nothing but love for the Elvis. I think he had a great voice, great taste in song selection, and that he even held his own on screen with the great Walter Matthau in King Creole. I always stop at the Elvis flicks when channel-surfing and stop the radio on “Suspicious Minds” when scanning the dial. He seemed like a great guy and I have nothing against him.

That having been said, I consider him obscenely overrated. I would much rather hear Big Momma Thornton belt out “Hound Dog”, Bill Monroe do “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, and Ray Charles’ version of “I got a Woman”. I think I would rather hear the original version of any song Elvis recorded. I think that Louis Armstrong and any number of other artists are more deserving of the “Artist of the 20th Century” moniker. I also think that Ray Charles did a far better job of combining rock, gospel, and country. I would prefer to hear the voice of Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett any day. I would have rather gone to the house of Al Green.

Editor’s Note: If you do not currently listen to Al Green on a regular basis your life is unfulfilled. You are not living up to your full potential and I pity you. Make that change today, friends. Leave your computers, forsake your employment, and go forth this very moment to purchase anything by Al Green. That is what’s important. I’ll still be here rambling when you get back.

I found that Graceland reminded me of a tombstone I saw once at a cemetery back in Alabama. It marked the grave of a high school student who died in a car wreck and it featured a huge marble engraving of the monster truck “Bigfoot”. A picture of the deceased was posted beneath. He sported a mullet and a pair of large-framed eyeglasses, as was the fashion at the time and place of his demise in mid-eighties smalltown Alabama. I felt sorry for the guy because I knew countless passersby would think him a goofy redneck bastard. He could’ve been the coolest kid in school at the time, but he would never be able to outgrow an awkward phase for both him and the state of fashion.

Elvis was the coolest kid in school, but his house is the domicile of a goofy redneck bastard. It has been left just as the archaeologists discovered it in 1977 and I think that the king would’ve hated this. You are told on the tour that he was constantly redecorating and that many of the rooms had their final redecorations just before his death, making the current Graceland the house of the fat, lethargic, and jumpsuit clad karate kicking Elvis that belted out “In the Ghetto” with a straight face. This is the same guy who wore a cape into the Oval Office to accept an ironic special commission into the DEA and shake hands with Nixon. This was a man going through a bad phase, not a timeless cultural icon. This was a man who tragically died on the toilet at a low point in America’s fashion and design history.

Which reminds me of my second gripe about Graceland: the fact that the upstairs—the very place where he spent his final days in a very Howard Hughes-like existence—is off limits. All I wanted to see was the toilet; it wasn’t too much to ask. The rumor goes that he was reading Tom Robbins’ Another Roadside Attraction at the very moment of expiration. I brought along my paperback copy and got all geared up for a good sitting. There could be no greater Elvis experience, and it would certainly be worth ten times the twenty-seven bucks one shells out to tour the house. Until Elvis Presley Enterprises remedies this grave error I cannot recommend the tour.

This is just one man’s opinion. Go to Graceland if you love Elvis or have a fascination with his celebrity. My dad has a friend who actually goes every two weeks to take the tour and has probably spent more time in the house than Elvis. I have been to his house to see the panorama of velvet paintings in his den. I can guarantee you that he was not laughing when he put them up. Not even he has been near the toilet. Graceland exists for him, and I hope he does not stumble upon this and come to kick my ass.

When he dies, please be kind when passing his tombstone.

Friday, July 01, 2005

happy 4th

You want your fireworks merchant to have his full compliment of digits. You don’t want a man in a stained t-shirt with a mentholated cigarette hanging from his mouth and three to four fingers left on each hand to be your connection to the world of explosiontainment. Your purposes may not be scientific, Chief, yet you are above turning to second rate carnie folk this holiday season. Go that extra mile to the sturdy wooden stand on the outskirts of that shantytown of dingy white tents off the interstate. Find yourself someone with all their original parts and a good sulfuric smell ground into their skin. Frequent not the gypsies and whores with unlabeled Mexican contraband in truckstop parking lots. Be safe, kittens and cats.

Or at least be unsafe in a kickass manner.

I haven’t been shot with a good bottle rocket in quite some time and I must admit to missing the burn a little. Of course I dealt it out more than took it, as I recall. I could nail a bastard running at a good forty yards. The key is to anticipate, to know when your prey will zig and when he will zag. You also need something loud and primal over the truck speakers. Yes, some AC/DC will do nicely. Make it Back in Black and make it blow a speaker or two. Wear a schoolboy uniform if you want—just wear it proudly and let me hear you from the neighboring state. And when you are too far-gone to handle the subtle quarterback-like nuances of minor rocketry, just throw a lighted match into a box full of the little banshees and let a higher power sort them out. We will salute you.

I myself will have no part in such activities this year, as I am off to Alabama. Yes, in Alabama they do enjoy firework craziness and all manner of dangerous mayhem, and do not require government-sanctioned holidays for either; but I am, in truth, too old and aware of my own mortality now. I instead plan to get out on the river and work on the beergut a while. I then plan to either head to either Tunica or Graceland on Saturday because that is what America is all about. I will then end things with my grandfather’s annual birthday bash because a man who was born on the fourth of July, lived through the depression, spent time in the WPA, and was there on the beaches of Normandy is really what America is all about. Drink to him on his 85th, if you don’t mind.
Whether you spend your fourth standing shirtless over a grill with Toby on the speakers and enough domestic beer in the cooler to drown a small horse, or you spend it giving your much-practiced rant about US foreign policy to a table full of heavily pierced comrades at the coffeehouse of your choosing, have a happy and independent Independence Day.