Wednesday, August 31, 2005

not major dad

How do I feel about being on this google search?
Some of you people are just plain sick and in need of counseling. Simon and Simon was a quality television program and fun for the whole family. It taught my generation countless life lessons and demonstrated that two men could be brothers without both of them having a moustache. It showed us that Magnum, P.I. scripts didn't have to be thrown away and could be edited slightly for two lead characters and used again the next week. It highlighted all that was good about the cookie cutter detective dramas of the nineteen-eighties, and for you perverts to seek it out for your perversions is quite distasteful.
Yes, you should be ashamed.
Tom Selleck is considerably more attractive than Gerald McRaney.

love, guatemalan style

I seem to recall introducing you to my Guatemalan exchange student from high school a while back.

Wait, I’ll actually verify that. Sit tight.

Ah, yes. Here it is.

Anyway, Juan emailed this morning to see if Tennessee was spared from the wrath of Katrina. I told him that it was, but that I had spent yesterday afternoon looting the liquor store just in case. We have been assured that looters are simply desperate people in need of food, water, television sets, stereos, playground equipment, and the belongings of evacuated neighbors, and I was desperate for some gin and a nice bottle of Chianti.

Juan is a sweet guy. Even though I only spent a brief month with him over a decade ago in which we were unable to converse or exchange any other communication beyond smiling and nodding to one another, he never fails to check on me when Tennessee or the south is in the news. I don’t follow the comings and goings from Guatemala as closely, but I try to reciprocate when they garner world attention.

But the thing that really jumps out at me is the way he ends each correspondence with:

I love you,

It is strange to hear this from another man. I communicate so little with Juan, and my Spanish is poor that I fear I may be leading him on unintentionally. Then again, it is probably a cultural thing. Perhaps love is spoken of more freely around the Central and South American regions, and that is why President Chavez of Venezuela was so hurt by Pat Robertson’s playful suggestion of assassination.
Then again, perhaps it is merely one of the subtle nuances of machismo.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

funeral fat

I generally put on weight after a funeral. Everyone brings fried chicken, casseroles, and pies to the gathering back at the church basement after the graveside service, and there is no hope of restraint around such a buffet. Irish Catholics have wakes with beer and whiskey, and Southern Baptists and United Methodists will remember their departed deviled eggs, baked ham, banana pudding, and some obscenely sweet tea. There is always too much food to list, and there is always some new recipe making the funeral and family reunion circuit in Alabama and Mississippi. A few years back it was meatballs with grape jelly, and at my great aunt Ruth’s funeral this past Saturday it was this dessert casserole comprised chiefly of marshmallows, chocolate, peanuts, and chopped apples. I like each of the elements separately, but would never have thought to introduce them. The result was a strange concoction of tastes and textures that worked better than the sum of its parts would indicate, and I went back for seconds.

Then again, maybe it was the heat.

I had just spent the past half hour at the graveside sweating through my dress shirt and picking white cat hairs off my navy blue suit. There wasn’t enough room underneath the official funeral tent, and we had to gather in the shadow of an adjacent tree in a feeble attempt to hide from the Alabama heat. The cemetery groundskeepers squatted and smoked and watched us from the shadow of their bulldozer. They were clean shaven and respectful, and their uniforms were tucked in, but they were still covered in the dirt from digging the grave earlier and couldn’t help but look somewhat like vultures as they waited on us to finish.

I kept thinking that I would prefer the title “gravedigger” to “cemetery groundskeeper”, but that is just me.

I couldn’t hear much from back there beside the tree, but a number of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who I had just met for the first time took turns telling stories about Ruth and trying to get through them without breaking down. Then my grandmother briefly spoke up from the front row and everyone under the tent burst into much needed laughter.

My grandmother will be ninety-one next week, and she still lives on her own and gets up every morning to cook sausage, bacon, eggs, biscuits, gravy, and sometimes country ham. She makes a pot of coffee and eats while working the crossword puzzle. If she has someone to drive her she will then go to the nursing home to visit her younger sister and any number younger friends before heading over to the same downtown lunch counter she’s been going to her whole life. They have both been around since nineteen fourteen, and my grandmother would exist on their hotdogs and sugar free ice cream if she had a way of getting there every day.

She is probably not much over four feet and can’t weigh more than eighty pounds, but she can eat.

I am her favorite grandson, and she tells me that every time I see her. Most of our conversations didn’t go too far beyond that for the longest time, as she was too proud to accept a hearing until her eighty-ninth birthday when she seemed to stop caring about age. Before that she would just sustain a healthy monologue while the other person nodded and smiled. Now she can have actual conversations, and it is strange to see someone rejuvenated at that age.

She talked to me all day Saturday as I led her by the hand from the car into the church or from the car to the graveside. Ruth was her older sister, but she never seemed sad or depressed. I guess it was mainly religious faith that did it, but you also have to keep in mind that anyone like Ruth who lives to be ninety-four and has great-grandchildren at their bedside is leaving on terms that anyone would gladly accept.

Back in the basement they were telling more stories about Ruth and how she would walk a mile to church every Sunday. She was there every time the doors were opened and even had a premonition of the schoolhouse when it burned down back in the forties. This was one of the signs they took to classify her as “anointed”. My dad then told the story of how he and his cousin wanted to smoke cigars when they were nine and how Ruth bought cigars for the three of them. The nine years olds got sick and lost interest in tobacco, but Ruth sat on the porch and finished her cigar. That is what “anointed” people do, I suppose.

I don’t know if my grandmother has ever had a cigar, but eating her own weight in breakfast meats and working at least one crossword puzzle every morning doesn’t seem to have harmed her too much.

I doubt that I’ve ever finished a crossword puzzle, but I certainly went back for seconds on that strange dessert casserole. Then I had a cup of coffee and tried some apple pie. I seem to have sat too near the dessert selection and the buffet, as couldn’t help but go back for peach cobbler, cherry pie, and another cup of coffee after that. Grandmother, on the other hand, is diabetic and could not enjoy the dessert spread.
And it occurs to me now that I probably should’ve just stuck to trying to climb the mountain of fried chicken if I want a long and happy life.

Monday, August 29, 2005

katrina comes north

Because I could not head south for Katrina, she kindly came northward for me.
That bitch.

She is now calling herself a tropical storm and bringing with her the threat of tornados as she matriculates toward Tennessee.

On a related note: I would like to take this opportunity point out to the good Lord that I never said anything about not fearing tornados in my early post. I clearly stated my respect for the bastards and then merely insinuated that I preferred them to hurricanes, as they are the devil with which I am more familiar. Now looks like we might have a side-by-side comparison on the agenda, and I am left to wonder if Casa Camino is technically insured for tropical storms.
I am also left with a number of other matters that I would like to address with the good Lord, but I will tend to those in private, as the statute of limitations has yet to expire on the majority of them.

not some high class broad

Country singer Gretchen Wilson has capitulated to the Tennessee attorney general's request that she stop glorifying the use of smokeless tobacco at her shows.
That was quick, but I assume the decision came from the same record label handlers who made her do it in the first place. Now, I have nothing bad to say about Wilson herself, as I would certainly sell out in a heartbeat for most any price, but I also hope that this action will deprive her of her "outlaw country" status. Waylon and Willie never did it like this, and we will be listening to them long after our Big and Rich and Gretchen Wilson CD's become an embarrassment and we try in vain to unload them at the Great Escape.
Also, kudos to Paul Summers for not being afraid to overstep his bounds. It is hard to believe that all the Tennessee Waltz corruption was going on with such a keen legal mind like that on the job. There might be meth labs flourishing all over this state, but at least our little girls won't walk away from country music concerts with the aspiration to spit tobacco.

katrina watching

I am always glued to the television for these unfolding natural disasters. Back in college my roommate and I would occasionally head out with the video camera to literally chase after tornadoes. No, we never caught one, and yes, it was incredibly stupid, but the difference between toying with tornadoes and hurricanes is the difference between dealing with a giant and an invading army.

I respect tornados, but I have seen and lived through many of them—no doubt drawn to my childhood home by the trailer park that sat down the road. I agree that they sound like freight trains, but it was always difficult to hear them over the constant rapid fire of the gravel driveway against the basement garage. We would huddle there for hours with the kerosene lamp, radio, and boxes of Little Debbie oatmeal pies. The sound was oddly soothing after a while, and my sister and I always fell asleep on the palette with the dog between us.

Now I’m watching the news reporters standing out in the seventy or eighty mile an hour winds with a mike in one hand and the other keeping their hats on their heads. Metal awnings drift by like tumble weeds in the background. There are always metal awnings flying by in these situations, and there are always professional meteorologists and journalists to point at them. This time around they are talking about the possibility of floating coffins and a “witches brew” of toxins and debris filling the below sea level bowl than New Orleans sits in.

Ah, journalists.

I love New Orleans. I must have been twelve or thirteen when I went there for the first time on a family vacation. My mother rarely drank while I was growing up, but I remember her giving me a couple of sips from her hurricane as we sat in a French Quarter bar. It was the first time I drank alcohol. There is no better place for that sort of thing than New Orleans, and I will certainly miss it if the drink’s namesake takes the city from the map.
It now looks to be veering away from the Big Easy a bit, and I have to start fearing for my beloved Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area. I spent quite a bit of time there while growing up, and Ivan left it unrecognizable. Whole neighborhoods of quaint little beach houses were swept away and will no doubt be replaced by more nondescript high-rise condos.
I had always thought about settling down there someday, but I think I will stick with the tornados.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

duane & duane, episode 4 which they stumble upon a very lucrative opportunity but then get sidetracked by a disturbing biological fact.

Friday, August 26, 2005

a home for kojak

I don't know what would lead anyone to make this assertion. Neither do I know why it would then direct them to me, but it has.
(I must say that it is good to finally find myself at the end of a google search that has nothing whatsoever to do with the lovely and talented Heather Orne).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

at the sports desk with william

The storm was brief but full of atomic nature in that way that only summer can expand and make sparse all things and yet amplify them and, with just a single thunderclap like the earth itself being torn in twain along a seem line that the house of Camino might rest upon, awaken our Rex from his after lunch nap there on the futon with the heavy cat against his chest and the dog lying with his dangerous half beneath the futon itself. He thought first in those waking moments of the humor in fearing the weather, as if each person in each small and bricked house along the roadway narcissistically jumped with every boom, thinking that each bolt of lightening was meant for them, and that they would find themselves in that lonely but somehow noble category of strange deaths.

Rex thought next of his car in the driveway with its windows down and sunroof opened slightly, and this thought made him combine three different curses into a single word that was unofficial to any language, yet universally understood as blasphemous. He then removed the heavy cat and swung himself upright on the futon, kicking his half read copy of The Sound and The Fury as he did so. It slid briefly on the carpet and then hit a table leg and twisted and rolled awkwardly like some beautiful NASCAR crash that would be shown a thousand times and provide some nefarious release to the hundred thousand who came to see it in the flesh without ever admitting so.

It will do me no good to roll the windows now, he thought. He looked at the cat and at Carl Weathers and told them as much.

It then occurred to him that the cat had no blog only name to go by.

“We’ll call you Bukowski”, he told him. “And I think you know why”.

But Bukowski either did not care for this or just did not listen, or it was that he was simply a cat. He walked into the hallway and sat statue-like against the hardwood with his tail encircling his feet and his lazy eyes telling our Rex that he was dissatisfied with the allotment of cat food in his bowl.

This is not a post about my cat, Rex thought.

The he turned back to the window and tried to listen beyond the now distant thunderclaps and past the woods between Casa Camino and the high school to hear the unmistakable echoes of brass and percussion—those tribal calls of the blessed band geeks that warmed his heart so, as they promised the nearing time for football and for putting away books and just sitting before the television or in the stadium as men have done for millennia to enjoy the life affirmation found in the soft core violence of sports and to also have their indirect, though seemingly more important, celebrations for the coming cold and the dying of the stifling and oppressive heat—or to hear for the digital and heartless tolling of the school bell so that he would not have to go to the next room to see the clock or be reminded that his own watch needed to be taken to the jewelers on the square for some minor repairs.

There was no echoing band or digital bell. It was early, and there was still much of the day to waste as he saw fit.

He went first to Hastings for some free coffee and to sit reading the magazines without paying for that either. The same gaunt homeless man with his beard and flannel shirt and weathered cowboy that looked as if it had been wadded and chewed and then placed back on his head sat in his same chair drinking coffee and reading magazines, and our Rex had to wonder each time he saw him there or on the square or in the library whether it was economics or just a couple of decades or both that separated the two of them. There was a dignity in him. Rex had never seen him begging or making a nuisance of himself. He simply sat there with is complimentary coffee and borrowed magazines or on a bench in the square watching the work released inmates strip and replace paint from the courthouse columns or pick up trash outside the courthouse or just take their smoke breaks along the wall and point out the bullet holes left by Bed Forrest to one another and then put their pinky fingers into them for emphasis and pull them back as if expecting to see some of the Confederate hero’s gun powder still fresh in the wound of the courthouse itself.

Rex sat there watching them for a while. He was generally afraid of being taunted by work release inmates and held his standard don’t drop the soap reply at the ready for any battle of wits that might erupt, but that was unnecessary. He turned to the homeless cowboy on the bench beside him.

“This is not about you either, I’m afraid.”

The homeless cowboy paid him no mind. He simply occupied his half of the park bench in either a Zen-like state or what could be considered the rehearsal for a starring role in a video for Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung”, and he did not seem to notice our Rex walking past him and up Main Street to the 310 pipe shop.

Inside there was a clerk behind the counter and a jacketless lawyer on the leather sofa reading the paper and chomping on a lighted cigar, exhaling its blue smoke with promises of the Vols’ dominance for the upcoming season. Rex held his tongue.

The only things greater than his hatred for the Volunteers of Tennessee was the love for his native Crimson Tide, as sick of tragedy and full of vengeance as the red rivers prophesied by John the Revelator in the Bible’s big finale. Rex was plagued by Pavlovian disgust at even the sight of that shade of orange—the obnoxious glowing color that more resembled citrus fruit grown too near a nuclear research facility than the color a decent and respectable football club would choose for itself.

He thought sometimes that he hated them too much.

All men, though they can never admit to it, eventually love that which they love to hate in some perverse, yet natural way. A sheep will come to love the wolf if it has any love whatsoever for the shepherd, much as followers of politics would eventually lose interest in public matters and would find their politicians utterly useless and ordinary men and women if all their wishes were granted and the opposing side were to be completely defeated. They would see then that the roles of shepherd and wolf matter little, and that the sheer joy of being a sheep is the thing. The stark verisimilitude that all men must…

“Here you go,” the clerk interrupted.

Rex took the tobacco and handed her the money. While he waited he took out his pipe and filled it there on the counter.

“You were kind of rambling”, she said.

Rex gave her a puzzled look as he struck a match and put it to his pipe.

“What I mean is,” she continued, “this post isn’t that funny.”

Rex smiled and nodded as he drew on his pipe. “I know”, he said. “I had a whole bit about how Bear Bryant could kick Nathan Bedford Forrest’s ass, but it really didn’t fit. I cut the whole page,” he told her, “but not that it would’ve mattered much.”

She nodded.

“Besides”, Rex told her, “This is about football and there isn’t much to say yet. I am not one for trash talking. Gloating is more my style.”

She smiled and handed him back the change.
“But thanks for reading this far”, he said.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

the devil his due

Some of you may know Charlie Daniels. He lives around here, and you may go to church with him, shop at the same grocery store, or find yourself in the same social circles. You may have even emerged from your house early one morning to find him sleeping in the bed of your truck. He may even be there now, and you just haven't noticed him. Go and see.
At any rate, those of you who know or have access to Mr. Daniels should alert him to this piece by John Moe published earlier this month at McSweeney's. It appears that we have for too long given Charlie a free pass on the discrepancies found in "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", and Mr. Moe is unafraid to finally ask the tough questions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Until yesterday I hadn’t been to the doctor in two years. My previous visit was a meaningless one, and it just served to get me set up with a doctor shortly after we returned to Murfreesboro and had some health insurance. The doctor made small talk, discussed diet and exercise, and then sent me on my way. I hadn’t seen him since.

I am sort of a lazy hypochondriac, I think. Maybe it would be better to say that there is an irrational Rex that sits on my shoulder and tells me every headache is a brain tumor, and that there is a logical Rex on the other side to counteract him and drive him to spew obscenities, throw down his microphone, and dramatically storm off the set in frustration. They also go through this every time I get on an airplane. Illogical Rex will convince me that the plane will not return to the earth on its own terms, and that each little noise or pocket of turbulence is nothing more than him finally getting one right. He even does a little victory dance while I wave frantically at the stewardess for another drink. Logical Rex will eventually show up and quote transportation safety statistics that he had been looking up while illogical Rex was being mean to me. He has won again, yet he has no victory dance to celebrate his victories. That would be illogical.

It was an uninsured Rex who suffered from a month long-lung infection before finally visiting the cheapest doctor in Knoxville a few years back. I was working a temp job then, and I was spending all of my time hiding in the company’s warehouse reading Cormac McCarthy novels until my lungs started trying to liberate themselves from my chest. It is hard to hide in a warehouse when you have a very loud hacking cough that not even codeine can dissuade in the slightest. That part made the rest of me quite happy, and all that coughing was great abdominal exercise that may have eventually given me a nice set of abs, but it was also making sleep quite difficult for Mrs. Camino and myself.

So it was that I found myself in the office of the cheapest doctor in Knoxville.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was a small and empty waiting room comprised of six folding chairs in a narrow wood-paneled corridor, dingy curtains that were once striped an assortment of Easter egg pastels, and a basket of magazines spanning the last couple of decades. At then end of the room was a receptionist desk without a receptionist. There was only the engrained smell of cigarette smoke and a small AM radio playing bluegrass music. I had to turn the corner to see her. She was propping the emergency exit door open with her foot and holding her cigarette close enough to the opening to comply with a recent no smoking edict.

“We can’t smoke in here anymore,” she said with a big smile.

I nodded. All the coughing left me unable to deliver a sarcastic remark in sufficient time.

“You can just sign in and have a seat”, she said.

So I sat and read about the fall of the Berlin wall and then about the Packers winning the Superbowl, and eventually a nurse came to fetch me.

My “nurse” looked long past the retirement age. He reminded me of my grandfather in that he was friendly but bad to forget things—which didn’t really bother me until he took me in the x-ray room. Then I figured that I was already living close to Oak Ridge, and that a little more radiation might actually do me some good.

The doctor himself was a very nervous man. He was sweaty and humorless and had recently emigrated from Poland. He asked questions rapidly and did not wait for the full answer before moving on to the next one. He moved around nervously and had the look of a man who had been captured one too many times on hidden news cameras. He pointed at the x-rayed infection on my lung with his ballpoint pen while explaining the situation through an accent I could only half-understand. Then he wrote me a prescription for an inhaler and some penicillin, shook my hand awkwardly, looked around the room for a moment, looked back at me and said “okay”, and then lunged out the door.

The prescriptions ended up working, much to my surprise, and I was soon able to go back to my hiding place in the warehouse and finish my books without the fear of being discovered.

Having health insurance means going to real doctors now, though I’m not sure that it also translates to more effectiveness.

My visit yesterday was for a rash of dizzy spells that have been showing up about every other day. I quite enjoy them, truth be told, but I suppose it is the sort of thing that one should tell their doctor about. So I did. I even tried to do his job for him by self-diagnosing it as a sinus related problem, but he disagreed.

There are two things that I have always noticed about doctors:

1. They think they know more about the medical arts than I do.
2. They are generally well groomed.

There are always exceptions, I suppose. One of my dad’s drinking buddies is a doctor, and he is not well groomed. He always has a gin and tonic and the appearance of one who believes in other instances of self-medication. But, according to my dad, he is also a good doctor. They are always drinking and making proctology jokes, and then his friend—known in their circle simply as “Doc”—will get a serious expression and throw out some actual medical terminology when anyone brings up news of a sick relative. He seems genuine enough, I suppose, but I always remember when I first met him and he put me in a headlock and kissed me on the forehead because he had, in his drunken stupor, mistaken me for his own son.

My doctor, on the other hand, is well groomed and sober, and he humors me. He complimented my worn out flip flops yesterday as if footwear was simply on his list of fill in the blank small talk and then nodded while I went through my theory on the dizzy spells. Then he disagreed.

He told me that I was having a form of chronic headaches, and that I should first keep a journal of these occurrences for the next month and see if it is related to some other easily explainable factor. If this doesn’t work he has some other ideas. I dared not ask him if it could be alcohol related, and both logical and illogical Rex agreed with me on this point.

I still think it has something to do with my sinuses, but I will humor him.

Anyway, I figured I should pass this info along to you in case I pass out in the middle of a post.

Monday, August 22, 2005

me and mayor mccheese

This is one of my earliest memories. I’m six years old and sleeping on a palette on my grandmother’s floor. It is three in the morning, and I awake to see the distinct silhouette of Mayor McCheese against the drawn curtains. He is just outside the window with the streetlight behind him. His arms are outstretched and he is wearing his little hat. I cannot tell if he is smiling and happy, as having a cheeseburger for a head certainly limits one’s range of facial expressions, but I get the chills.

I lay there still and unblinking for a good fifteen minutes. The mayor didn’t move either, and it was like we had both noticed one another at the same time and froze in place. I tried to go back to sleep. I tried to tell myself that Mayor McCheese was just as afraid of me as I was of him, but I knew down deep that he wasn’t. He was Mayor Freaking McCheese. He presided over a commercial town full of rejected mascots and fat kids, and that clown always showed up to hog the spotlight and act like the running of the McDonald Land government had no bearing whatsoever on all that damn happiness. Who could blame him for finally having enough?

I eventually crawled across the room, woke my grandmother, and then quietly explained the situation to her. This took a while, as she was not familiar with Mayor McCheese. That was certainly understandable. He was very underutilized in all those old McDonald’s commercials and often had a single line at the end thanking Ronald for yet again nabbing the Hamburgler. Then the clown delivered some smartass punch line and everyone laughed. The mayor was virtually invisible, and we were too distracted by trying to figure out what the hell Grimace was, why the Hamburgler could only say “Rommel” over and over again, or why Ronald always ended up giving the Hamburgler a hamburger anyway—thus rewarding his criminal actions and ensuring a repeat performance.

I can’t remember how much of that I related to my grandmother, but she eventually humored me and switched on the lamp. She even went over and pulled the curtain back and showed me the pine trees and streetlight outside. She explained that it must have been the shadows, but I heard none of it. Standing there looking out that window I realized that the only thing more frightening that seeing Mayor McCheese at three in the morning is not seeing Mayor McCheese but knowing that he is somewhere nearby.

My grandmother was satisfied that I had mistaken a pine tree for a man with a cheeseburger for a head, and she closed the curtains, cut the lamp off, and went back to sleep. It took some time before I was able to glance back at the window, but when I did he was there. He was back and frozen in that same position. He was mocking me.

I eventually lost interest and fell asleep, and on all subsequent overnight trips to grandmother’s from then on I slept on the couch in the den. I never saw Mayor McCheese there or anywhere else after that, but looking back I suppose it could’ve been the angles of the shadows or a maybe even a peeping Tom in a sombrero.

Why do I mention this? Hell, I don’t know. But I did happen to stumble across this in my research. I don’t know how I could have missed it, but I haven’t seen fast food related journalism this good since Morgan Spurlock made an ass out of himself.
Then there was this very real and imminent threat. Some people must learn the hard way, I suppose. But rest assured that the perimeter of Casa Camino will be secured and well guarded, should he again be released into the general population.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

duane & duane, episode 3 which they flirt with their legal bounds.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

dream or actual movie

This happens to me sometimes: I will get a general idea of a movie stuck in my head, and I won’t be able to tell if it is something that I once saw late at night or simply dreamed. It could also be from a movie review I read, something I simply heard about, or the distinct possibility that I have the gift/curse of being able to steal thoughts from others and have yet to accept and master this trait.

Yes, I could also be crazy.

Anyway, when these torment me I will come here to lay out the plot and see if it looks familiar to anyone who happens to stumble across my humble blog. It will be a game we call Dream or Actual Movie. I thought that title up all by myself but have yet to copyright it, so it is free for anyone wanting to develop a board game version.

There will be no prizes. There will probably be no glory or fanfare from anyone other than myself. The best that you can hope for is the sense that you have a keener grasp of your useless knowledge than do I, and that is saying something, as all of my knowledge is useless. You will also have my indebted gratitude, and I will tell you as much in this public forum.

Here is the one that has tormented me the last couple of days:

It is a sort of Tarzan story with a slight twist. A plane carrying a wealthy family crashes somewhere within the deepest and darkest part of the Amazon jungle in South America sometime in the thirties or forties. The lone survivor is a young son—maybe four or five years old—who is able to salvage his beloved hand-cranked record player and sizable collection of records containing children’s stories. Don’t ask me how the records survived. They just did.

Anyway, he is raised by monkeys and lives off the land but differs from Tarzan in that he has the record collection and means to play them. However, (and this is the strange part) he grows up with the record player set at the wrong speed. He is able to maintain his knowledge of the English language through these records, but his speaking evolves into a low and slow motion-sounding style due to the slowness of the records, as these are his only source of linguistics education. He understandably has trouble communicating with the team of archaeologists who eventually stumble across him, though they speak the same language but at different speed.

Wackiness ensues, I think.

Maybe not. It seems like this was either a highbrow sort of comedy or not a comedy at all. I don’t remember, though I do seem to recall that it was low budget and not really worth watching.

Anyway, this is the point where I either dozed off or woke up. You tell me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

elvis and orion

It has been some twenty-eight years since they planted him there behind the tiny Graceland swimming pool and lighted a torch in his memory, yet Elvis remains up there Coca-Cola and Jesus as one of the top southern exports. I have spoken about my connections to the king before, both real and imagined, and will spare you a rehashing of my thoughts that he, while being extremely talented, was overrated. It isn’t a day for speaking ill of Elvis, and it should be known that I have nothing but love for him and both of the other aforementioned icons.

Each of the three also has their number of imitators, and a good Elvis impersonator, if in possession of that hip-shaking magnetism that elicited the deafening screams on all the Ed Sullivan footage, can really give you an idea of what it was all about.

Take Orion, for example.

Jimmy Ellis was shot and killed behind the register of his convenience store in Selma, Alabama in December of 1998, and you won’t find people gathered there on the anniversary. Yet he was the first big Elvis impersonator and had a voice so similar to the king’s that he was almost sued by RCA records. His voice fooled Elvis fans everywhere. His manager gave him the name “Orion” based on a novel about a very Elvis-like southerner who rises from poverty to become the biggest star in the world, grows fat and depressed, loses weight, grows a beard, fakes his own death, and then drives off into the sunset. Jimmy Ellis didn’t much like the plan, but he preferred it to moving back to Alabama and having no musical career at all. So he took the name, wore a Lone Ranger mask to fuel the mystery, and tried to pick up where the king left off. You can’t make this shit up.
All of this happened here in Nashville, and you can read a great cover story on him that the Scene ran shortly after his death here.
I got to see Orion back in 1991 at the Shoals Theater in downtown Florence, Alabama. There wasn’t much else going on, and my dad had told me the stories of what it was like when Orion first appeared. It all sounded like some sort of second coming, but the guy now ran a convenience store in Selma and played places like my hometown. I figured it would at least be amusing.
It was really more educational than anything. He had been unmasked long ago, and the unmasked face of Orion that I saw that night looked nothing like Elvis’. Yet there were women my mother’s age screaming and throwing their panties on stage—not many, mind you, but enough to keep it entertaining. They knew this wasn’t Elvis, but they were sincere and so fanatical that the cops had to remove a couple of them. Bear in mind that this venue did not serve alcohol, and that these women could’ve very easily been mothers of my friends and ladies in my mom’s Sunday school class.
It was almost like seeing people having a religious experience, and I have to wonder if people thousands of years from now will base their religions on Elvis and fight over the minor differences they have in their perceptions of him. If so, will they also remember Orion?
Also, I now wonder if women two thousand years ago screamed and threw their panties at Jesus.
I would like to think so.

Monday, August 15, 2005

my weekend with william

It was then, on that weekend when the sun bore down on the house of Camino and its mere triangle of a yard so as to drive a cautious and logical man to the inside of doors and AMC had exhausted its pool of John Wayne films and there were no other activities to be found that befitted a man seeking shelter from the elements, that our Rex happened upon his shelf of books bearing the name of Faulkner and still smelling of the must and tobacco smoke from the old library from which he failed to return them so many years ago, as was his custom to do in his regrettable and unsavory youth. But the question which now plagued him, the very same question which was to plague him this entire weekend and into the proceeding week in which many, otherwise similar men would emerge from their houses and continue about their livelihoods while Rex sat contemplating his shelf of books, was which of the works to choose for re-visiting.

It was a seemingly manageable dilemma, and our Rex took no time at all in whittling the decision down to a mere couple of books and thus distilled a majority of the uncertainty from his plight. He had taken it from a raging summer thunderstorm to a mere breeze that bore no malice nor hint of a thunderclap, and he entered the endgame with confidence and zeal, alternately holding in his sunburned hands his copy of Light in August and then Absalom, Absalom!, complete with its mark of exclamation, as if to fool the reader into believing that it could indeed be the rare example of an Islamic musical comedy, which it is not.

He could do no wrong by choosing either book, and it reminded Rex somewhat of the time he viewed an advertisement for the grand opening of a local car wash that boasted an appearance by Corey Haim for the sole purpose of signing autographs and socializing with the common fan of Corey Haim films. Yet when he attended said event he was surprised to find that Mr. Haim had sent Corey Feldman in his stead. It was no bother to Rex, as all of the Corey Haim paraphernalia that he had brought from his house to the carwash could reasonably bear the name of Mr. Feldman, save for his Betamax copy of Lucas, as Mr. Feldman bore a significant portion the acting load in many of Mr. Haim’s most revered films but the latter.

Mr. Feldman regaled the assembled dozen fans and handful of homeless individuals who had happened upon the carwash with the same brazen tales of Hollywood that one could expect from Mr. Haim, and at the end of the day he troubled Rex for a ride back to the interstate so that he could thumb his way to either Gatlinburg or Branson, both equally suited for either Corey and each being the only feasible destinations for a man who has exhausted his fame and then the subsequent irony that their fame had decomposed into. Mr. Haim would have undoubtedly petitioned Rex with the same request, and Rex thought it no bother, as he could tease either man with the same sarcastic remarks about no longer having the “license to drive”, and it is very much possible that either Corey was equally likely to strike Rex in the back of the head with that tire iron and harvest one of his kidneys to exchange on the blackmarket for monetary goods to be exchanged in turn for narcotics or for the pleasing touch of an unclean woman.

But that was in the past, and no more could be done to alter it than to alter the events that now lay before him or the events that lay further still beyond those events, much as the original Camino male stalking buffalo on the open plains and distilling gin back in the cave, the walls of which were then covered by his many lewd cave paintings, could have no bearing on the actions taken by Rex or the park ranger who eventually caught up with the original Camino and imprisoned him for stalking the buffalo and spray painting those dirty pictures on the cave walls in that state park.

Much time had elapsed, and the mind of the Camino before us, our Rex, had drifted to these many things and much more that he cannot express, and it was only the nauseating gas of his hound Carl Weathers that returned him to the brief moment in space and time that his physical self now occupied along with gaseous remnants of whatever forbidden fruits Carl Weathers had reaped in the yard.

“I cannot think under these circumstances”, he told the hound, who, as if in defiant response emitted more nauseous gas and then sat panting in the heat and giving the appearance of a hound in laughter. Rex wondered to himself whether Carl Weathers laughed immaturely and with the innocence of a domesticated beast at his own actions or at the silliness of the dilemma that now occupied his unofficial master.

“I am going out for some lunch”, Rex told Carl Weathers in a manner that was perhaps too forceful, as if to convince himself as much as the beast that this action was not a retreat, and that it was merely a mission for refueling or to gather reinforcements for the mind tricks that the two books, liberated so long ago from that small town library, seemed to be defending themselves with, as if the act of reading itself drained the essence from them little by little with each visitation until all that is left is nothing more than dead ink formed into dead letters on paper hewn from slain trees.

Rex set all of this aside in his mind as he navigated the crowded weekend roads between Casa Camino and the nearest establishment for fast food, and he did not think of it again when waiting patiently in the line of women, men, and their illegitimate spawn for his turn at the counter. He instead shuffled along with the forbearing of a blank slate, giving no mind to the shrill sirens of unanswered cellular telephones or the primal and thunderous bass notes emitting from modified Fords that crossed adjacent parking lots in the nearby out of doors with the same erratic patterns and lack of common courtesy one expects to find in a herd of feral bull moose that have happened upon a valley of fermented berries.

When his opportunity at the counter finally availed itself, the lazy voice of the cashier, pushing each syllable with only the slightest amount of air over near-dormant vocal chords as if she had rightly realized some time ago that she was paid by an allotment on the clock and not by effort, proved itself less effective in garnering the attention of our Rex than the releasing of by products from the bowels of a mischievous hound.

“Hey! Wha chu want?” the cashier then demanded with a slap of her hand against the counter, its nails coated in thick, heavy fuchsia, each being so long as to serve as a detriment to one whose position in life is too scoop coins from inside a small plastic tray and give them out as change. She pulled that same hand from the counter and quickly surveyed it with a furrowed brow as if to recheck her lifeline and make sure that this career choice was indeed her fate, though her facial reaction gave Rex the impression that she may have accidentally dispatched with a cockroach in her exaggerated action. It was neither.

“You better notta made me break a nail,” she told Rex.

“It was certainly not my intention, ma’am,” Rex said with the half smile and pleasant expression of one who intends to remain chivalrous despite the most uncivil of customer service interactions.

“Would you happen to be still serving your breakfast burrito, miss?” he inquired.

“You talk like you from England or somethin’.” She responded. “And, no, we ain’t got no breakfast burritos.”

“Well, that changes matters considerably, I’m afraid”, he told her.

“Well, they best change real quick, cause you holdin’ up the line,” she said. “And you better put that pipe out cause they ain’t no smokin’ in here.”

“Since when?” Rex asked, though he did not wait for response, as none could be satisfactory to his unregenerate and steadfast belief that no government of men could take from the one-sixteenth of him that was of Creek Indian ancestry the right to burn the red man’s tobacco freely in the white man’s establishment. That full quarter of a quarter of native blood in his veins that ran red as the dry soil of Alabama would turn black as night and cold as the emptiness of the reaches of space were he to vanquish his pipe smoke and thus turn his back on that one Camino in sixteen who he would undoubtedly see from then on in the face of every Indian mascot, with the notable exception of those Indian represented teams who made it NCAA post-season play and thus allowed a brief respite from the shallow cowardice of his action and a few short hours away from the uncomprehending and shame-filled eyes of that fraction of his ancestry, were he to simply capitulate at this moment and present his wrists for a set of shackles in exchange for the right to purchase himself a thickburger.

“Ma’am, I will not extinguish my pipe smoke,” he finally told her. “And you can choose to serve me or not, but I will not submit to further tyranny in the…”

“Hey, Big Alex!” the cashier interrupted with a yell over her shoulder and into the kitchen. “Get off them fries for a minute and take care of this crazy bastard we got up here.” She then turned her attention back to Rex for a brief moment.

“Did you draw that moustache on your face?” she inquired, leaning in so that Rex could smell her layers of discounted perfume.

“That is beside the point, ma’am”, Rex responded, emphasizing the last of these syllables with the stem of his pipe that he now pointed directly at the cashier.

It was then that Big Alex wrapped his muscular arms around Rex from behind and lifted him a full foot off the ground and then cocked his head around to view Rex’s profile and say to no one in particular, “This fool done drawed a moustache on hisself with a magic marker, looks like,” as if he had been paying no attention whatsoever to the conversation before forcefully removing one of its chief participants.

Rex was somewhat relieved, much to his surprise, as he had been hoping that Big Alex had received his nickname ironically, and that he would present himself a slight man and a small and easily defeated foe. Yet as this mammoth drenched in fry grease lumbered with its quarry toward the nearest exit and deposited him forcefully onto the sizzling pavement it occurred to our Rex that the statement was more important than the fight, and that, in the end, the losing of the fight, or odds that allowed him to graciously capitulate the actual fight itself, were all he really needed.
So he merely swore a pox on the house of Hardee and then retraced the crowded miles between himself and the warm, safe bosom of Casa Camino, still hungry in the sense that his human flesh craved nourishment beyond the pot of black coffee and bowl of generic granola cereal that had supplanted his mortal needs shortly after awaking, but no longer hungry in the sense of how to disburse with the remaining hours of the afternoon. For it was in that near concussion rendered unto him by Big Alex that Rex was finally able to appreciate that what was important was neither the choice nor the act of choosing itself, but of the blogging about the inability to choose.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

duane & duane, episode 2 which they again ponder the reason (or lack thereof) for their existence and then lash out at their creator.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

please don't kick my ass, neil.

Though you will certainly not find it here, I am somehow number one on this google search.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

breaking music news

The original bass player for the eighties Christian metal band "Stryper" is now working at the Guitar Center here in Nashville. Welcome him to music city.
And now for some related business:
Dear Stryper,
I play bass. I rock. I love me some Jesus.
Give me a call.
P.S. - I will need to be provided with a heavy metal wig.


The key to teaching banjo—or any instrument, for that matter—is to always stay one lesson ahead of the student. I will soon learn this all too well, as I now have a couple of students expecting to learn how to play some genuine bluegrass banjo from Rex. The overall lesson to be taken from this is that one should always be careful of the liberties they take with their musical resume. Then again, I can think of no better way of forcing myself to learn how to play some genuine bluegrass banjo. For example: I have spent the past day or so walking around with the instrument strapped on and trying to get the subtle timing of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” because that is what everyone wants to hear from a banjoist.

Scruggs, you are a genius, but you will someday pay for this.

I loved the actual “teaching” part of being middle school teacher and needed an outlet for sitting down with a kid or adult and passing on my meager knowledge when that was over with. Teaching music has been a little more difficult than I expected, but still rewarding. I am self-taught on most of the instruments I claim, and I suppose I could be doing it all wrong, but if I can help someone achieve the happiness of being able to recreate one of their favorite songs I have then done something.

I had a couple of guitar teachers back in middle school. There was the hillbilly farmer guy who only came into town once a week to teach lessons. He was my first and almost my last, as he insisted that I begin with the fundamentals of bluegrass, even though my sole purpose in picking up the guitar at that time was to learn “Back in Black” or anything by Zeppelin. I became disinterested and never practiced. I began using my guitar as a bow to shoot plastic tipped arrows at my sister and was about to completely give up on playing the damn thing when the hillbilly farmer guy got a job playing fiddle in a Dollywood show. I decided to give the next guy a chance. He had long hair, a handlebar moustache, and really bad posture. He always wore a denim jacket with an odd smell that I later recognized as pot, and he constantly looked and seemed a half step away from comatose. He spoke slowly and quietly, and I always expected from his expression that he could begin drooling all over his Les Paul goldtop at any given moment, though his hands were lightening fast. Surely he could mold me into the next Jimmy Page.

He at least renewed my interest in playing music. Though I only took from him for about half a year, I was eventually able to sit in my room and play “Stairway to Heaven” over and over again. I quit football, started smoking and got a garage band together. I would like to still think that we were as great as I remembered, but our assortment of Jane’s Addiction and REM covers were probably insulting to the original artists (though probably not nearly as insulting as those artists have now become to their respective legacies).

But even if we indeed sounded as horribly as the facts indicate I wouldn’t change anything. The weekend parties when a friend’s parents were out of town, the birthday parties at the rented out recreation center, and practicing in a hot basement with the mice and spiders was all worth it—even if none of it happened as I remember.

I don’t know if the younger me would be impressed at seeing the thirty year old me walking around the house strapped to a banjo. I doubt it, but I could be misjudging the kid. Would he be embarrassed by Gillian’s “Wayside/Back In Time” appropriately drifting out of the speakers as I write or by the stack of Randy Newman, Ventures, Hank Williams, and Louis Armstrong CDs sitting on the desk? Maybe. I don’t think he would mind much that I eventually switched over to bass for the availability of gigs and less stage fright.

And I’m pretty sure he would be happy that I can crank out (or at least stumble through) “Back in Black” whenever the beer is flowing and an electric guitar is handy.

I wonder if that would transfer well to bluegrass.
Wait. Yes. Yes, it would.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

popular mechanics

I am not a car person. On the rare occasion that my vehicle malfunctions I will stand in the driveway with the hood up and a wrench or screwdriver in my hand and stare into the engine. After about fifteen minutes of this (or whatever seems sufficient time to have proven my manliness by at least making an attempt) I will go back in the house and call my father or father-in-law.
But occasionally it will be something simple enough to handle on my own, like an easily recognizable disconnected battery. I can also do the simple maintenance outlined in the owner's manual that I lay the far enough under the hood so that neighbors and passers-by get the illusion that I know what I'm doing from memory. I did so just this morning, in fact.
Replacing a headlight bulb seemed easy enough on the outset. My only question after consulting the manual was this: Why the hell does the battery need to be disconnected? I suppose I could have found out by proceeding without that step, but I assumed the nice Japanese people who wrote the manual had only my best interest at heart, and would not complicate my life with unnecessary actions. Except for having to maneuver my stubbly little fingers around some tight spaces it really was an easy procedure, and I found that I even had sufficient manliness left over to mow the lawn.
The grass itself is going brown again and beginning to blend in well with the bare patches, and I probably could've just pulled the tallest weeds and spread some clippings on the driveway and no one would've known the difference. It needed mowing about as much as society needs a sequel to Deuce Bigalow, but I suppose the exercise did me some good. Also, it made it look like I had a more productive day than emailing my resume to various dead ends and then retiring to the couch to play my banjo and watch the History Channel with Carl Weathers.
I have spoken of my ancient mower many times and have probably given it more publicity than warranted, but it really was in rare form today.
I first mowed the perimeter and then attempted to make diagonal lines across the lawn. This was important, as the tracks of the mower itself are really the only indication that an effort was made. The geometry of that method really doesn't work to well on a pie-shaped lawn, but it gives me something to do.
The mower itself coughed and sputtered even more than usual. It has been suffering from impending death since it was first given to us a couple of years ago, and today it even kept cutting out for split seconds before lurching back to life. I have now christened it "Redd Foxx", as it more often seems to be clutching at its heart and telling Elizabeth that it's coming home whenever confronted by anything difficult, like the occasional patch of healthy grass or Lamont bringing home a Puerto Rican girl.
The funny thing about Redd Foxx's actual death from a heart attack was that no one believed him. He was on the set of the "The Royal Family", a sit com that had originally been titled "Chest Pains", ironically enough, and began clutching at his chest and stumbling around one day. The rest of the cast broke into laughter, thinking that he was doing the old bit from "Sanford and Son". He was not, and I imagine the he probably said something like, "Call the ambulance, you big dummy", and the other cast members laughed and shook their heads and responded with something like, "You still got it, Redd. You still got it".
I wish someone had taped that.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

how i would fix the space program

Now that the space shuttle Discovery has safely landed, can we begin the serious discussion of putting monkeys back in space? Now, I know that some of you would be more appalled by the loss of monkey life than human life, but I think that even you can be appeased with the proposal of sending only the bad monkeys.
You may remember that chain-smoking chimpanzee from a few weeks back. If not, go and familiarize yourself with him here. Monkeys may be loved, but smokers are hated. Can the hatred of a smoker outweigh the love of a monkey? I'm willing to wager that it will.
And what of all those nuisance monkeys who steal and destroy in northern India? How are those people suppose to work all our customer service telephone jobs and deal with rampant simians at the same time? You may love even the nuisance monkeys, but I will wager that you value having your technology questions answered without a lot of screeching and the throwing of feces going on in the background. I know I do.
Look, we will be careful not to send any of the good monkeys. We will not risk sending painting monkeys, acting monkeys, or Michael Nesmith.
Just a thought.

Monday, August 08, 2005

ibrahim ferrer 1927 - 2005

I was sad to hear about the passing of Ibrahim Ferrer yesterday at the age of 78. You can read the Rolling Stone obituary here.
Ferrer probably did more than anyone to promote the traditional Afro-Cuban "son" music of his native Cuba after coming out of retirement to essentially front the Buena Vista Social Club about a decade ago. He also worked with the Afro-Cuban All Stars and made some solo records.
He had a perfect voice and contagious enthusiasm for the music. If you've ever seen the Wim Wenders documentary you'll remember the scenes of Ferrer walking up and down the New York sidewalks in child-like amazement and happiness before their sold out gig at the Radio City Music Hall. That is what music is all about.

Gracias, Ibrahim.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

duane & duane

This is what I used to do with my weekly bouts of insomnia. Now I just sit around with the guitar and watch old episodes of The Twilight Zone on the Sci-Fi channel. That generally doesn’t work, and I am sometimes left sitting with the cat and watching the sunrise come up from behind our neighbor’s house. But this isn’t about that.

During last night’s insomnia I stumbled across the file containing my handful of Duane and Duane episodes. They follow the really horrible comedy team of a man and his hand puppet, and are based in part on my time as a puppeteer. Duane and Duane really do not care much for one another or understand why they are in a cartoon. They do not seem to like me either, but I find them somewhat amusing at three or four in the morning. Perhaps I will force them upon you from time to time.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

another musical recommendation

A wide variety of music falls under the category of the blues, and you may very well picture a fat white guy who knows only three chords when anyone brings the genre up. Every other line in his song will contain the word "blues", as if he needs to be constantly proving himself a genuine "bluesman", and his audience will generally be composed of men who look like Richard Jewell. Then again, you may picture Ralph Macchio battling the devil in a guitar duel (as played by Steve Vai) in the film Crossroads (not to be confused with the Brittney Spears film of the same name, though Macchio and Vai may very well show up to duel in that one as well).
At any rate, you may very well think you hate the blues because you have heard so many regrettable examples of it. That is understandable. It is easy for me to hate country music whenever I hear Tim McGraw and then love it again when I hear Hank Williams.
Williams sang the blues, and his song "Ramblin' Man" is a great example of that. It is slow, dark, and creepy as hell. Good blues music should scare you a little bit, and I am not the least bit afraid of Richard Jewell.
Due to all the folklore surrounding him, Robert Johnson is probably the best example of blues music that transcends to that level of flirting with evil. There is also something eminently more frightening about a man, his guitar, and the record scratches and hisses of nearly seventy years. This is not the fake plastic evil of Ozzy. Johnson did not go on to get his own reality show, and you can read about him and the devil here.
But a woman and her guitar can scare the hell out of you as well. Take Geechie (or Geeshie) wiley, for example. Her few recordings predate Johnson's by five or six years, and there is much less known about her. In fact, you can read it all here and be back within the minute. I'll wait.
You may have heard this somewhere before, but I wanted to recommend to you was her song "Last Kind Word Blues". It was recorded in 1930 or 31 and has lyrics that reference World War I, though there are likely versions of the song that predate this and focus on earlier wars. Geechie's recording was featured in the documentary Crumb and appears on the soundtrack. It can also be found on countless early blues compilations. You can hear it here for free.
Do yourself a favor and listen to it late at night sometime when you are all alone.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

me and the me that i am not

I share the same name with another individual here in Murfreesboro—not Rex L. Camino, mind you, but my secret identity name that the white man and his society forced upon me at birth. I have never met the guy, strangely enough, but people will sometimes leave messages for him on my answering machine. This has been going on since we were both at MTSU, and I have always been the only one of us officially recognized by the phonebook. I assume that this does not happen to him.

It wouldn’t be so bad if people were constantly sending him checks for large sums of money, and those checks just happened to find their way into my mailbox. I could live with that confusion quite nicely, and never once would I question or complain on my way to the bank. It would’ve been acceptable for him to make good grades back in college and have our transcripts swap places at the MTSU records office. It would’ve been nice to have something along the lines of a Disney movie where he went on to be a multi-millionaire brain surgeon or professional athlete, and we somehow get switched. I would live his life for a while and he would assume the daily affairs here at Casa Camino. Good, clean hilarity would ensue. Some guy, possibly played by Rob Schneider, would invariably get kicked in the groin, and the audience would laugh as if they didn’t see it coming. The other me and I would each learn something valuable about how the other half lives, and Kurt Russell would make a cameo playing one or both of our fathers.

Hell, I would be happy if the guy was a rodeo clown, but he is not.

No, he appears instead to have chosen the dark side—and not the good dark side that you might be thinking of. The phone calls I get now are no longer from drunken friends looking for a place to crash or young ladies that he met at a bar. The messages left on my machine are now more along the lines of:

Mr. (my real name), this is (his real name) of the law firm of (his real name) and (some other asshole), and we wanted to see about this money that you owe our client. Now, we think that you’ve had plenty of time to settle this matter. We don’t want to involve the law, but it looks like we’re headed in that direction. I suggest you call me back at your earliest convenience.

I don’t need to hear that. I take the greatest care to abide by every law, ordinance, and custom, no matter how ridiculous, because I know that I would not last long in prison.

Perhaps I should have my name legally changed to Rex L. Camino (by the way, Kudos to Tim Morgan for catching its double meaning).

That wouldn’t solve everything though, as people have always confused me for someone else on the basis of appearance.

I was working in the mall when I first moved to Murfreesboro and once had a customer who swore that I graduated from Gallatin High with him. When I explained that I had just moved up from Alabama he asked, “are you sure?” (One of the bad things about working retail is that customers are always setting you up for a really good smart-ass response that you can never give if you want to maintain your employment status. That might also be one of the reasons I have such a shaky employment history).

I also looked familiar before moving to Tennessee.

I was driving a delivery van for a print shop right after high school while taking a few classes at the local college. I would come in around lunchtime and load boxes of freshly printed labels into the late seventies model Chevy that was held together by duct tape and drive out to the factories in the industrial park. On the way back I would usually hit the Burger King, as it was the only fast food establishment between the two, and the same girl was always working the drive through. One day she paused and stared at me a moment before handing me my big fish combo. Her gum smacking slowed to the speed of a cow chewing cud, and her teased up bangs bounced a little when she tilted her head to get a good look at me.

“Is your name Rick?” she asked.
“No, it’s (my real name)”.
“Are you sure it’s not Rick?”
My real name sounds nothing like “Rick”, but I paused for a moment and furrowed my brow as to appear to be giving the question some thought. “Yes”, I said. “I’m pretty sure that I’m not Rick.”
“Cause you look just like Rick.”
I didn’t know what to tell her. I just shrugged awkwardly and snatched my big fish combo before sputtering off in the delivery van.

Our relationship only got worse, as she seemed to have been appointed an indefinite position at that drive through.

It turned out, as I was able to garner from our subsequent conversations, that this “Rick” guy liked to pretend that he wasn’t Rick when he saw people he knew out in public. That was his thing. That was what made him—and me, I suppose—“Rick”.

Once I learned this I admitted to being Rick in the hopes that a little reverse psychology might be a more fruitful approach than weeks of denial. It did not. She simply responded with an, “I knew you were.”

Yes, it was quite the punch line. It was not unlike a skit from Hee-Haw. I was Archie Campbell and she was Lulu Roman Smith, and the two of us faced the camera to bask in the warmth of the canned laughter for a moment before cutting over to Roy Clark, Buck Owens, or a fake cornfield full of country stars and the scantily clad female regulars.
I snatched my big fish combo and drove away.

eat a peach

Maybe I could just do a half-assed job of meeting this challenge. I find that I can accomplish quite a bit if I am not expected to employ the full ass.
What makes me happy today and on most days when there is decent weather and a long stretch of traffic light free highway is Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers' Band.
I avoided this album for the longest time. When I was a high school punk it was too jamband, and when I was into jambands early on in college it was too country or southern rock. But when I had finally matured enough to appreciate the music of my homeland, it was still there waiting for me.
The great thing about southern rock was that it recaptured everything that was great about rock in the first place. It was a mix of the black and white cultures, drew heavily from the music of the mountains and of the Mississippi delta, and was performed by poor white southerners who played their hearts out and would gladly kick your ass if you didn't like it.
Well, perhaps that isn't correct in the case of the Allmans. They always had a bit more of the hippy element than Lynyrd Skynyrd or Molly Hatchet. Also, they were one of the only interracial southern rock bands.
So go out and purchase yourself a copy today if you do not already own one. Then go out and borrow or steal steal a convertable and find a good long stretch of open road.
Whatever problems you had before will be long gone by the tiny Dickie Betts starts into "Blue Sky".

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

celebrity birthday

Happy birthday to crooner, artist, and toupee wearer Tony Bennett. He is one of the few remaining links to a time when popular music and good music could be one in the same. Let us all drink to him and wish him many more on his 79th.
Here he is with the kid who played "Short Round" in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I think.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

happiness is a worn banjo

I am not good at keeping up a regiment of any fashion (with the notable exception of the Casa Camino cocktail hour). So I can tell you now that I will fail to meet this daily challenge for the month of August. However, I do applaud Big O. Michael's idea, as it prompts the reader to offer up something positive, and I will attempt to meet the challenge as I am able. Here is one for today:

I've been digging through my old CDs and I came across my Smithsonian Folkways double CD of Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley recorded back in the sixties. Ashley had been around for quite some time at this point, and here he re-records many of the songs he first recorded in the twenties and thirties. I didn't care much for those recordings. I think that age and the addition of Watson really helped Ashley, and that he was much more at his peak by the time the Smithsonian folks recorded him. You can read all about him here.

What makes me happy today is Ashley's "Coo-Coo Bird", and I don't know why exactly. It is probably Ashley's most famous recording and, in my personal opinion, one of the best examples of the claw-hammer style of playing the banjo. This is the way the banjo sounded before Earl Scruggs came along and revolutionized the instrument.

You can sample or download the song here at the Smithsonian's site. I don't download much music, so there may very well be a better place to find it.


Monday, August 01, 2005

life and death on the west lawn

I generally spend the first day of unemployment catching up on yard work, and today was no exception. I had already mown the lawn on Saturday, but it had been quite some time since anyone had tended to the area behind the fence that runs slightly downhill for about eight feet in one direction and the length of the fence in the other. We sit on a pie shaped lot, and that length part is a killer.

It was so thick with grass and weeds back there that I had to put my shoulder into the gate to get it open. Most of it had grown to waist high, and my second-hand push mower coughed, sputtered, and complained the whole time. I was completely soaked with sweat from hat to boots and was just waiting to run across another small boulder like the one that had destroyed my last mower blade the previous week. My nerves were frayed and all my energy drained by the time I found myself in the middle of the final, yet thickest part and looked down to see that I was covered in crickets.

“Covered” may be too strong a word, but it was certainly the most crickets I could ever recall seeing on my person at one time.

Anyway, I have nothing against the little buggers and would have calmly picked a single cricket off and placed it on the fence beside me. However, looking down to see a holy host of anything would scare the initial shit out of anyone. I don’t care if you look down to see an unexpected litter of kittens crawling up your legs—you are going to curse, get a rush of adrenaline and then defend yourself in a very primal way.

Had I the energy, I would have run screaming like a little bitch along the fencerow much to the undoubted amusement of the cop and the truck driver who have houses behind me. I instead did something that looked more akin to a mountain folkdance. It was the sort of thing you see native people doing, and now I theorize that many of their traditional dances have origins in trying to remove the crickets after a long day in the field.

I finished clearing all that and then went about the grim task of checking to see if there were any baby rabbits left in the nest that Carl Weathers (my dog) had found on the west lawn on Sunday. He had killed a couple by the time Mrs. Camino stopped him, and she was understandably angry at the beast. She did not speak to him the rest of the evening.

See, our contract with the rabbits and other creatures is this: the west lawn here at Casa Camino is theirs for the summer. We will not mow the grass or in any way hassle the native creatures on that side of the house. We will watch them from the bedroom window and only venture in to kill the really nasty weeds or add to the compost heap. We have had a family of bluebirds and now one of sparrows in the birdhouse, and there has been a whole cacophony of June bugs outside the window. There have been countless nests and litters of rabbits born at Casa Camino this year, and we have only lost some from two of them, as far as I know.

The first was a litter that we found in the backyard (south lawn) and up against the house, which was clearly outside of their allotted zone. Unfortunately, a neighborhood cat also found them.

The second was Carl’s instinctive display yesterday.

When we were flipping through the channels later we happened across a nature documentary on arctic foxes. They were each as cute as Carl Weathers, and there were many shots of them wrestling as pups, being tended to by their mothers, snuggly sleeping in a pile in their burrow, and then snatching cute little baby lemmings out of a nest and breaking their necks.

Of course I was disappointed at Carl Weathers for doing it, but one has to always keep in mind that house pets, no matter how docile they appear or how many sweaters or bows you adorn them in (and I don’t, for the record), still have that primal need to tear into another creature that has been clearly identified as food. If given the option, cats and dogs would be the last to join PETA. It does not matter if you have a toy Chihuahua named Mahatma Gandhi with a big MG stitched into his small pink sweater and matching top hat—should he be placed in a situation where his instincts kick in, he will cover that sweater in the blood of another creature. He will do it even to baby rabbits, and he will do it with the same moral ambivalence that the rabbit would’ve given a blade of grass.

Anyway, I went back to check the nest after I finished with clearing the behind the fence and found one, maybe two baby rabbits still in their hole. There are probably a couple of other full nests hidden out there under the weeds on the west lawn, but I was glad to see something left of this litter. They were sleeping soundly and occasionally kicking out the same way Carl Weathers does in his sleep, and I sat there watching as the peaceful scene or approaching heatstroke lulled me into a transfixed state of sorts. It was then that a cricket the size of a Swiss army knife came flying from nowhere to thump against the side of my face.
And it was then that I discovered I had regained sufficient energy to scream like a little bitch.