Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part XVII: 600-576

I've let a few weeks get by since I last posted an entry, but with April all but gone and my Blues having bowed out of the post-season early again, I'm now able to manage my time a bit better.

Hooray. Blessings in disguise and such.

Anyway. I've cracked the 600s and hope to rebuild a little momentum with today's post.

Thanks, as always, to you readers, both sporadic and religious. 

Six Hundred: Snoop (Dogg) Lion

      Gotta give it up for Snoop Dogg. Not him the person, nor his entire music career but the gigantic party he gave us in the ‘90s with Doggystyle.

In addition to that album, he hosted the pre-party and the pre-party blew up the music scene as the world knew it. Dr. Dre gets credit for putting the (bulk of the) raps on paper, and he did all the organizing to make The Chronic a killer album, but Snoop lit the world on fire with his contributions to “Fuck Wit Dre Day” and “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.” Without him on those tracks (and about a half dozen others) that record doesn’t have a fraction of the pop. When Dre made the calculated, genius move to drop Snoop Doggy Dogg on us in 1992 as a guest on Chronic, he had to know that the reception of his homeboy would grease the wheels for the following year’s album, and light up the runway strip to the bank.

Timeless, though, that album. The beats, the flow, the lyrics, the humor, the cold-bloodedness. Calvin Broadus done gave us a gem with his debut.

Five Hundred Ninety-Nine: free speech

      This gratitude mixes two of my favorite artists of all time: Dr. Dre and Frank Zappa.

      During the 1985 congressional-committee hearing, Zappa (along with John Denver and Dee Snider) provided testimony against a movement to label albums. The presentation(s) stood for free speech as protected by the Constitution of the United States of America. In the hearings one senator and Snider distinguished between content made available via air play and that which may be obtained by an in-store purchase. When Dr. Dre’s early-‘90s videos aired on MTV, the network blurred imagery of the merchandise worn by select stars, showing that both on-air material as well as in-store goods -- Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center swayed a number of record companies to put explicit-content stickers on albums -- would forever be subject to judgment of the once-sacred first amendment’s freedom of speech.

      For the most part Americans enjoy this liberty. Legislation’s arm can, on occasion, reach out and mess with it, but citizens of the United States tend to have greater privilege than those in many other nations. For that, I am grateful.

Five Hundred Ninety-Eight: the 1993 Sigma Phi Epsilon house at Pittsburg State University

      I pledged this house as a college freshman. They asked me first out of all of the incoming candidates and -- having attended three summer parties -- I accepted with eagerness. I also became the first (and perhaps only) of my class to return my pin, although the members of the house made that choice for me, when, in a state of inebriation, I leaked a certain element of my personality.

      The leadership of that pledge class taught me a valuable lesson: Never let what others think you are matter. Be who you are. If someone’s got a problem with something you stand for or do, then they’re not worth your time, company, or energy.

Five Hundred Ninety-Seven: Cypress Hill

      This gratitude may or may not have everything to do with the previous one. I used to love me some Cypress Hill. Still do, in fact. Don’t have a ton of opportunities to rock any of my cassette copies of their albums, but the productions of Sen Dog, B-Real, and DJ Muggs remained in my rotation through the turn of the century. In truth, I checked out on them after IV, never giving Skull & Bones much of a fair shake, and I haven’t bought or heard anything they’ve released since. For a good chunk of time, though Cypress Hill were my boys.

Five Hundred Ninety-Six: Nate Dogg

      No party’s any good without some hip hop and no hip-hop run’s legit without the dope rhymes of the dope, fly, late Nate Dogg.

Five Hundred Ninety-Five: Warren G

      Let’s be honest: Wouldn’t be no Nate Dogg without the smoothness of Warren G. “Regulators!”

Five Hundred Ninety-Four: Hector Orozco

      Since I’m talking about gangsters, I gotta give it up for the hardest, no-frills, no-bullshit line cook to ever punch my clock. This Chihuahuan influenced the way I managed kitchen staffs. Hector never clocked in late, missed maybe one shift in three years, and for 36 months held the title of most-solid, most-frustrating individual to ever cook for me. The vaquero of vaqueros, his belt buckles, snakeskin boots, cowboy hats, his Marlboro reds, and his way-high libido let me (and everyone else) know that it would be wise to pick someone else to fuck with. Dude refused to sign my write-ups, once socked me in the gut, and never hesitated to suggest a better way to do things than mine. We spent many long hours side by side in the kitchen and he -- I think -- never sent less than half of each paycheck back home. I thought he’d be in Kansas City for good, but the minute his dad got sick, the guy vanished. Haven’t seen him since. Mad props to you, pirata. Mad props.

Five Hundred Ninety-Three: white girls that don’t like white dudes

      I didn’t understand you when I first met you in Pittsburg, KS in the fall of 1993, and I don’t understand you now, but thank you for confusing the shit out of me and giving me the confidence to be content with myself.

Five Hundred Ninety-Two: the manager on duty at Hooter’s on Metcalf one fateful evening in 1990

      At the ripe old age of 16, about nine of my closest friends and I thought we’d grab a bite. My first fake ID in hand, I made the wise choice of ordering a beer after my nine pals ordered soda. That doctored document had my confidence soaring and weren’t nothin’-- to quote Matthew Wilder -- “gonna break-a my stride.”


      “Nobody’s gonna slow me down. Oh, no.”

      Except for our server. And her boss. And maybe the state of Kansas’ Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control sector.

      Long story short, the manager on duty that night could’ve gotten me in a lot of trouble since -- in fact -- and off-duty A.B.C. employee sat dining and drinking on the patio. Instead, he took me to the manager’s office and retrieved a pair of scissors from a cup (that might as well have been labeled “FOR FAKE ID DESTRUCTION”) tucked into a desktop cubicle. He snipped with intention across the last digit of my fake birth year, destroying my fresh, $25 investment.

      Dude was nice and treated me with a surprising amount of respect, even applauding my gravitas. The dining experience didn’t end there, though.

      In a display of our actual age and maturity level, my buddies and I stacked our 10 plates on the table’s edge and layered them with boatloads of ketchup, ensuring that when our server separated them at the dish dump, she covered her not-so-sexy Hooter’s white tank top in pureed tomato. I believe the next words out of her mouth (from 150 feet away and at a stadium-decibel level) went something like this:

      “Yeah! I’m real sure you’re 21!”

      Good times.

Five Hundred Ninety-One: Tupac Shakur

      Not sure what to say about Tupac other than the fact that he still holds the title of one of rap’s best. I doubt the genre will ever see a finer artist, especially since about 10 years have passed since anyone wrote any good rap.

      Idaho-potato-sized sac o’ balls on this guy, though. Content, edge, flow, delivery, complete and brash absence of fear. Whatever happened to him in his feud or feuds may forever remain undisclosed, but one truth hangs over the world of rap: If you’ve ever told yourself that Chris Wallace spit any game anywhere near the same echelon of Tupac, you’re straight kidding yourself.

      How long will they mourn you, ‘Pac?

      Can’t answer that, but you’ll forever wear the belt in my mind.

Five Hundred Ninety: Fisher Price’s Discover a World of Sounds cassette player

      This toy got me through the early ‘80s.

      For a minute I almost ceased caring about cars, Legos, models, Atari, and everything else.

      I think my mom got us this gift. By “us” I of course mean me and my sister, but I doubt I ever let Tiffany touch it for longer than seven seconds. It came into our possession in Lilburn, Georgia, circa 1982, and the light-brown (Note: At least how that's how I remember ours.) plastic cassette player came with a two-sided tape. Side one -- Discover a World of Sounds -- had novelties and skits for the kids to listen to; side two -- Record a World of Sounds -- was blank.

      I first used this device and side two of the cassette to tape songs off of the radio (at -- I’m sure -- an amazing level of audio quality). I beat the heck out of that side of the cassette tape and captured a number of tracks from the nearby top-40 station, and one cut in particular comes to mind: Van Halen’s “Panama.”

      I remember taping it, loving it, and feeling boastful enough to carry the thing around during playback. One afternoon my mom and I were goofing around and it hadn’t occurred to me that she would be within earshot of David Lee Roth’s special vocal moment on the track:

      “Reach down, between my legs, ease the sea back.”

      At the moment I realized those words would soon be cast into the room, I elevated my voice to drown out the throaty Diamond Dave. Here, now, in 2015, I’d bet my bank account’s contents on Dave’s words having to do with ejaculation, but at the time -- chronic bedwetter that I was -- I surmised that the band leader was doing his best not to pee in his pants. Regardless of Roth’s lyrical intention, the idea of a man putting his hand down his pants wasn’t something I wanted to hear him sing about in front of my mom. But, yeah.

      Fisher Price.

Five Hundred Eighty-Nine: Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge

      Not a musical guy. In fact, I didn’t care much for this movie at all because -- like all musicals -- it had too much damn singing in it. We had to watch it for a class, though, and holy shit did Nicole Kidman have me taking notes. The image of her in all of that red is forever burned on my brain. I mean, so is the fact that Ewan McGregor’s character spends most of the movie losing out to that creepy dude, but wow. Nicole Kidman never looked so good.

Five Hundred Eighty-Eight: the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues

      I think the 1986 edition of this annual treasure -- the one with Elle Macpherson thumbing her suit straps in Bora Bora -- lured me. I think I spotted the thing from 50 yards away and found myself walking, dreamlike, toward it, perhaps semi-lucid of how this might unravel. Once I had it in my hands, once its contents had been thumbed, I could never turn back. This poppy field sedated me from the second my shoe sole glanced that first flower petal. I was in. I was ill. I was gone.

      Thirty years have passed and I made it out of their alive. Wounded and scarred, but alive. I found a way to dig up previous editions. I gifted myself with a Valentine’s Day purchase every year since. I’ve drifted -- in recent years -- with new favorite models. I’ve reminisced over past talents. I’ve recognized the near-clinical obsession I once had with Kathy Ireland.

      I’ve dreamed -- both awake and asleep -- of being the object of one of these girls’ desire. I’ve fantasized about visiting all of the exotic shoot locales, and I’ve longed to be part of such a coveted project as this annual publication. Most of all, though, I formed -- twisted or otherwise -- an idea of hotness, and Sports Illustrated helped me set that bar. I still buy a copy every year -- this year and last the exceptions -- but I tend to only give it a lone glance before shelving it.

      I’m glad I stuck that needle in my vein in the ‘80s. Realizing that such an amazing level of beauty -- even if it is only skin deep -- is out there in the world really supplanted my perception. I’m glad I made it out of there alive, too, because for a time, I could’ve drowned in my fixation.

Five Hundred Eighty-Seven: South Park clip #4: “Uncle Fucker”

      Try and defend it if you like, but if you go down that road you’re probably throwing words upon deaf ears. Attempt to explain it if you must, but they won’t understand. This leaves you with but one choice: love it:

Five Hundred Eighty-Six: blogging

      As of today, I have been publishing posts on Weblogs for eight years. I have held unbridled excitement over starting new blogs. My mind has spun with how best to organize each endeavor. My brain has turned to steaming mush over the eternal lack of time to make each blog fantastic. I have gushed over these blogs. I have hated these blogs. And I have maintained the tendency of continuing to come back to them. Blogging is both the bane of my existence and my anchor for accomplishment. I’m glad I had the idea introduced to me.

Five Hundred Eighty-Five: Jeremy Rutherford

      Jeremy Rutherford writes the Blues beat for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I’ve yet to make a habit of reading his column, but I did buy his book. So far I dig it. He’s a solid follow on Twitter, and I’m going to make it a point to read more of his words.

Five Hundred Eighty-Four: Rob Haas

      Before my mom moved, Rob Hass and his family occupied the home due west of hers. Rob’s just plain good people. He’s got great energy, a good attitude, and an impressive ability to manage his time and his projects around the house. We’re both Phishheads, so that’ll always be our bond, but I give thanks for all that he did to help my mom out while they were neighbors. Awesome dude.

      (Update: Just saw Rob last weekend and he’s in a band!)

Five Hundred Eighty-Three: the Meinkes

      Our old neighbors moved out last month; in came the new ones the following day. I’m grateful they seem excited to be in the neighborhood. I just hope they’re not dicks.

Five Hundred Eighty-Two: the Truman Sports Complex

      It doesn’t bother me that city developers thought Kansas City would expand east. I’m glad we don’t have a baseball stadium downtown. I love our venues parked side by side, right out there in Raytown. While the municipality isn’t one of my favorites, the location -- I think -- fits the function like a glove. Lotta good memories inside that complex. Look forward to many more.

Five Hundred Eighty-One: the Joneses

      Cal and Faye Jones lived in the home east of my mom’s old house. I babysat for their kids Bo and Allison, who were easy and sweet kids to watch. Faye seemed nice and did my mom’s taxes once or twice, but I dug interacting with Cal. He played guitar in a band for about 10 years, and when I first took up the six-string, he played with me and for me a time or two. He showed me what shredding could look like and turned me on to a few acts, namely…

Five Hundred Eighty: Robin Trower

      I know very little about this musician. In fact, I really only know two tracks -- “Bridge of Sighs” and “Day of the Eagle” -- and that he joined post-“Whiter Shade of Pale” Procul Harum. “Eagle” gets up and moves, right from the opening note, but “Sighs” -- in all of its eeriness -- shook me with its dark mystery. And though I knew the track first, it will always make me think of…

Five Hundred Seventy-Nine: Rush

      This 1991 film featured Sam Elliott, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Gregg Allman, and Jason Patric. This film creeped me out. It scared me. It made me nervous. If memory serves it employs one of those cinematic tools wherein the opening and closing scenes resemble one another: Allman, playing the role of Will Gaines, gets in his Texas hoopty and flips on the radio. As he begins to drive in the dark Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs” plays on the radio. I believe rain fell as he drove and smoked a cigarette, winding down a rural road. When Gaines hears the clank of a glass bottle, he pulls the vehicle to an abrupt halt to discard the intoxicated vagrant sleeping it off in his back seat, and the film gets underway.

      Great watch. Glad I saw it so long ago.

Five Hundred Seventy-Eight: The Lost Boys

      Love Jason Patric. Throw in Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Starr, Laddie, a greasy-beefcake saxophone player, a killer soundtrack, some epic one-liners, and a plot filled with vampires, and you’ve got one of the best films of 1987.

Five Hundred Seventy-Seven: Jacob’s Ladder

      The Lost Boys didn’t scare me quite like Rush did, and Rush holds no candle to Jacob’s Ladder. Tim Robbins and, well, mostly just Tim Robbins knocked this piece out of the acting park with a tale of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (before it was called that, I think), the aftermath of Vietnam, government-conspiracy theories, and bad versions of acid. This flick scared the living shit out of me, but I couldn’t stop watching it. Probably why I’m so messed up in the head today.

Five Hundred Seventy-Six: Herbie Hancock

      I first discovered Herbie Hancock via the video for 1983’s “Rockit,” the lead track from his Future Shock record. Not only did I have no idea about Hancock’s talent and past songwriting, another 14 years would pass before I sniffed out my first clue. Epic, underrated talent. I could listen to his shit all day.

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