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     My parsley has been growing all winter. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying.

     This is a test post, really. A lot has happened to me technologically speaking since I took a break from blogging. The hard drive on my laptop crashed and I lost a lot of stuff, like Windows Live, which is a free blogging software program I’ve used ever since Little Miss, aka Claire from Cadence of Life introduced me to it way back in the day. I just downloaded it again this morning and wanted to test it out. I lost a lot of other stuff when my hard drive crashed, so my son-in-law, Paul, introduced me to Mozy, which backs up my computer throughout the day so I never lose anything again. He also introduced me to Skype Recorder. Now when I’m interviewing people for my articles I use a headset and call them from my computer, which is way cheaper than any land line phone plan (it’s $2.99 a month), and the free Skype Recorder automatically records everything in crystal clear sound. Plus, with Mozy backing everything up, I don’t have to worry about losing my interview. Basically, Paul has made my job a lot less stressful. Maybe my hard drive crashing wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

     And in weather news, although the winters in El Paso are mild compared to most parts of the country we do get snow. Nothing much, a dusting really, and certainly not enough to shovel. We don’t own a snow shovel, but I think we should buy a window scraper. We got some snow a few weeks ago so I took these photos of it on the truck

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and on the rosemary bush out front.

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Swap-Bot

Unpacked music. We have about ten or more boxes of music just like this one, which I’ve spent the past few days going through.

Some people (not many, one maybe, or perhaps two) may have been wondering where I’ve been for the past three days. For those one or two people I’ll say that no, I have not dropped off the face of the earth. I have been fulfilling my moral obligation to Swap-Bot. Because I am, if nothing else, moral. According to my own Top Secret standards, of course.

Not having nearly enough on my plate, i.e. crap on my to-do list, I signed up for Swap-Bot. Swap-Bot is a hip little community of snail-mail  swappers. At any given time there are 400 different swap themes going on, strangers swapping items related to whatever particular theme they’ve chosen to sign up for. The swaps run the gamut from the Chocolate Swap (participants send 2-3 pieces of quality chocolate and chocolate-related items) to the Cheap Jewelry Swap (participants swap goody bags of inexpensive jewelry). Some are really bizarre but interesting, like the Bubble Swap. That’s where you send bubble-packaged prizes from your local bubble gum machines. And some are geared towards collectors, like the Angel Swap, which is, of course, a swap of items that are angel related. The list goes on and on because, as I said, there are about 400 swap themes to choose from.

Swappers have a deadline that must be met and if they don’t meet it, or God-forbid they don’t sent the promised stuff at all, they receive a poor rating and are then torn apart by the Internet community which, as we all know, is a fate worse than death.

This being my first swap I chose a theme that I am particularly interested in: Cover Songs. Swappers were randomly assigned two people with whom to swap a mix CD of at least 15 cover songs, and for extra points you could send along another CD of the original version of the songs. I love cover songs and have a large collection, plus I’m old enough that I already had all the original versions and if I don’t have them, Buck does. I figured this swap is perfect for me and I could probably do it in my sleep.

But I was so very wrong.

I was rather late in joining this swap, having stumbled on it while surfing around the Internet one night, so I had only a few days to pull it together. That first night, I spent the entire evening thinking back to my own collection and doing research online until I came up with a list of all the cover songs I felt worthy of consideration, a total of about 30 songs.

The next day, I narrowed it down to songs I owned both the cover version as well as the original. I had the 15 I needed, and three more songs as backups in case something went wrong. But hunting for the music was another story. This took me an entire day … seriously, it took me about eight or nine hours to go hunting through our music collection. We have an enormous collection of music that spans every category there is. While some parents organize “family nights” where they play board games or mini-golf, our family nights consisted of eating Chinese food and then cruising used music and book stores to load up on CDs and reading material. With three kids in tow, we moved like a Hoover vacuum cleaner, sucking up anything that even mildly interested us. Because when you’re shopping used, the sky’s the limit.

But like I said, putting my hands on the exact songs I was looking for now was a task I hadn’t thought of when I signed up for Swap-Bot. Some of our music is stacked in little piles on our desks. Some has been tossed in drawers for temporary storage. Some is in the truck. Buck has begun unpacking some of it and putting it on shelves in his office. But much of our music is still in packing boxes. And yet even more of it is scattered throughout other packing boxes that aren’t just unmarked and unattainable, but also contain unrelated items that we’re not ready to unpack. Like my grandmother’s sterling silver tea set, or Buck’s high school football uniform, and myriad boxes containing stuff that I haven’t a clue about because certain members of our packing crew didn’t realize that listing the contents on the boxes was “a big deal.”

But even the music that I could find (and reach) still proved to be challenging, because I’d find the CD I was looking for, only to open it and discover its jewel case was in fact empty. That required further probing, opening every jewel case in the vicinity to see if it had been  haphazardly stored in the wrong case. Many were indeed stored in the wrong case, but a good number of CDs were just gone. And some music wasn’t stored in a jewel case at all, it was just  tossed, naked and loose, into the packing box. Which meant that some CDs, I discovered, were badly scratched and unusable. I’d then go to Buck and say, “Remember we had two copies of Goldrush? Where’s the other copy?”

“Which other copy?” he wanted to know.

“The one that isn’t missing or damaged,” I told him.

“Did you look in the packing boxes?” he said. Which of course led nowhere.

By Sunday I finally had assembled in front of me all the music I needed to make this goddamned mix CD. All that was left to do was rip it, sort it into a playlist, and then burn it. Two copies of each: a total of four CDs. Not so hard, right? Wrong. I haven’t burned any CDs in awhile, and my burning program had since updated itself to a version that now wouldn’t recognize half the songs. I keep clicking on Burn CD and receiving this message: The track you are trying to burn is unavailable.

UNAVAILABLE? It’s right there! I’m looking at it on the screen! I’m looking at it, for cry eye!

Cody: Hello?

Me: Cody, it’s Mum. What the hell is wrong with my computer? It won’t burn my playlist for this Swap-Bot thing …. Where are you?

Cody: I’m at the Burlington Mall. Did you do that Iron and Wine cover of the Postal Service’ Such Great Heights?

Me: Yes, BUT NOTHING WILL BURN! Help me. The Internet will kill me if I can’t get this thing to work —

Cody: I’m in Bath and Body Works. Do you want me to call you when I’m home?

Me: No. I want you to do this now. Fix it!

Cody: Try iTunes. It’s better than whatever you’re using.

Me: You don’t even know what I’m using.

Cody: No, but I’m sure it’s stupid. Try iTunes.

Well, iTunes worked. I burned the CDs. But THEN, just as I was packing up and getting ready to turn off my computer, I saw that I had burned the Cowboy Junkies cover of Sweet Jane TWICE! Back to back.

So, at 11 PM Sunday, I had to re-do the CDs. The CDs of the originals, thank Jesus, came out fine the first time. This is what I ended up with on the cover mix:

1. Don’t Let It Bring You Down – Annie Lennox (Neil Young)  2. Such Great Heights – Iron and Wine (Postal Service)  3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart -Saint Etienne (Neil Young)  4. Fell In Love – Joss Stone (White Stripes)  5. Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You – Lauryn Hill (Frankie Vallie)  6. Paint It Black – (Rolling Stones)  7. California Dreaming – Queen Latifah (Mamas and the Papas)  8. Mad World – Gary Jules (Tears for Fears)  9. Bohemian Rhapsody – The Braids (Queen) 10. Come On Eileen – Save Ferris (Dexy’s Midnight Runners)  11. Wonderwall – Cat Power (Oasis)  12. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Sheryl Crowe (Guns ‘N Roses)  13. Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies (Velvet Underground)  14. Money, That’s What I Want – The Flying Lizards (The Beatles)  15. Karma Police – John Vanderslice (Radiohead)  16. Tonight, Tonight – Panic At The Disco (Smashing Pumpkins) 

And of course, I did the corresponding CD of the originals. THEN … this morning I had to make labels for the actual CDs AND the jewel cases, listing all these songs and with some sort of acceptable art work. You don’t think about buying cheap ink for your printer until you see it through a stranger’s eyes. In essence, the artwork for the CDs came out crummy, in my opinion. The colors weren’t true.

But of course the deadline is tomorrow, so they had to go in the mail today. Which they did, thank God. They’re gone. Done. Off the list. As soon as I got home from the post office I ran to my computer and my Swap-Bot account and gleefully clicked on “sent” before collapsing in exhaustion. I was hungry and wanted to make some breakfast, but then I saw the clock and it was 1:30 in the afternoon. So I had lunch instead. And that’s it, that’s what I’ve been doing for three long days.

Of course, I couldn’t resist signing up for another one while I was eating my lunch. I signed up for the Frida Kahlo Swap. This one requires two 4″X4″ items relating to anything Frida. But at least I have till February to do it.

 

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Links: swap-bot

 

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Court TV, that bastardized hybrid of our judicial system that has the power to simultaneously repel me even while drawing me in like a moth to a flame, is tossing aside its familiar name and adopting truTV as its new label. It’s also canning its longtime “Seriously Entertaining” motto in favor of the younger, hipper “Not Reality. Actuality.”

    This was all announced in a press release that said “We are not the Judge Judy Channel!” or something to that effect. Now they want to prove their dedication to being not boring by re-naming themselves.

     truTV (test audiences, it was learned, preferred “tru” over “true” for reasons that I can’t begin to guess) will continue the as-it-unfolds trial coverage that Court TV is famous for, but in a bid to attract a testosterone-fueled demographic it will be buying more reality shows like Speeders, and Beach Patrol, and cranking the volume up to 11 with some new racier material.

Whether or not Spring Break Cavity Search will get picked up remains to be seen.( I kid, I kid.) Anyway. The network announced that its focus will be on a targeted audience of males in the 35-45 age group, and it will offer new shows such as something called Sky Racers, and The Real Hustle.

I tell you this here not to torture you, but because, quite frankly, I Am Pissed.

I don’t fall into what should, apparently, be my demographic. I don’t watch Oprah or Dr. Phil, I hate the Lifetime network (even if it does keep Judith Light and Dana Delaney off regular TV and, probably, meth), and I don’t even think to watch the Home Shopping Network. No. What I want to see is a channel that runs only those cool movies like the ones Mystery Science Theater 3000 used to review, and nothing else

And I don’t wanna see Mystery Science Theater 3000, I just want the movies they saw. I want to watch them for myself without those annoying puppets insipidly talking over all that wonderfully horrendous dialogue that some deranged screenwriter took the time to write and got paid about $25 for. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die; The Dead Talk Back; The Beatniks; Girls Town; Killer Shrews; The Horrors of Spider Island. Sweet Jesus H. Christ, you could fill the programming schedule for 24-hours a day into infinity and never run out of movies! So how come no one ever shows them? Why isn’t there a channel  dedicated to these freaky-bad masterpieces? Where the hell are these freaking movies? And who gives a rat’s ass about Court TV?

 I can’t stand Court TV anymore, I call it “The Baby News” because every time I turn it on it’s a trial about a murdered baby, or a missing baby, or a molested baby, or … you know what I’m saying here. They’re calling stomach-churning tragedies entertainment. These days I get everything I need to know about Court TV from The Soup, because watching host Joel McHale lick a screen with Nancy Grace’s still-shot on it is more entertaining than watching Nancy Grace herself, and far less disturbing. Court TV can go to hell. If it weren’t for the press release I received about the “new and improved” truTV, I’d probably NEVER know Court TV wasn’t there anymore. Nor would I care.

But reading that it’s being made over into a supersized version of itself while really entertaining stuff like The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is going unwatched? Well that’s so wrong I don’t even know where to begin.

Why-oh-why can’t someone devote an entire channel to the cool movies? It’s crazy is what it is. Turner Classic Movies makes an attempt to fill this GIANT NEED with TCM Underground, in which they devote a portion of their Friday programming to very hip, very hard to find oddities of the cinema. It’s practically the only way discerning film buffs can see such time honored flicks as Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Electra Glide in Blue, and Wild Guitar. It’s a very cool thing for TCM to do and I do appreciate it, but it’s not on till 2 AM EST (Midnight Mountain Time) and it’s only that one night.

     That’s not nearly enough for people who are looking to be entertained, diverted, or otherwise occupy their minds with something other than baby killers, or spin-offs connected in some way to Flava Flav. Of course I like watching Public Enemy’s most repulsive member be drunk on TV and dry hump crack whores who are competing for his good lovin’, but that gets old quickly. I’d much rather watch three go-go dancers race hotrods in the desert while murder and madness ensues. Faster Pussycat!

     In an incredibly thoughtful and generous gesture, blogger Moonbeam McQueen sent me a DVD of a wonderful movie that combines my love of Lucha Libre with cult movies. Samson vs. The Vampire Women was in fact featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The film stars El Santo, which was the professional name of Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, one of the most famous luchadores of all time, fighting hostile vampire women who just happen to be beautiful. This movie is nothing short of wonderful if you’re into this stuff. And I am. The movie opens in truly the creepiest castle ever created for the screen, and one-by-one evil vampire women wake from the dead to wreak havoc until El Santo can stop them. Made in Mexico in the early 1960s, the movie is dubbed in English and it’s surprisingly well done. A lot of effort was made to try and synchronize the English voice actors with the Mexican actors. This movie goes by many different names, and is one of several in a series.

Movies like Samson vs. The Vampire Women and thousands of other cult classics shouldn’t be so hard to come by and almost impossible to find on TV. I think there’s a big enough audience to support a dedicated channel; certainly as big an audience as the one that enjoys watching baby killers and celebrity murder trials. 

     Gone are the days when weird movies would play on TV every Saturday afternoon, hosted by local newscasters dressed up as vampires and I-don’t-know-what they were supposed to be. And what about all those great movies that depicted teens in the 1940s and 50s as thugs running amok? Vampires fighting American outlaws, and go-go dancers drag racing in the desert? Where’s the ridiculous fun?

     That’s the problem, I feel. TV just isn’t fun anymore. Everything’s too real. Yet even reality isn’t good enough now, they want to make it actuality.

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Tomorrow: Buck explains why he refuses to help himself.

 

Links: TCM Underground        

 

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Giraffe Fight Club

El Paso

74-degrees on the patio

Humidity 46%

 

Me: What are you cutting?

Buck: It’s a piece for the bathroom cabinet. I have to brace something.

Me: Yourself?

Buck: Yeah, I have to brace myself for it. Much like this interview. Brace yourself old man, she’s coming at you with a tape recorder.

Me: Aren’t you afraid your bathrobe will get in the way?

Buck: Only the tassels. Who’s bathrobe is this?

Me: Yours. How do you like it? Is it comfortable?

Buck: It’s a little heavy for this weather. Although, I don’t mind if I get paint on it.

Me: It’s a lovely robe, and it was astoundingly nice of Charlotte to send it to you.

Buck: I don’t know who Charlotte is.

Me: Neither do I.

Buck: It’s very thick, very luxurious, though. It’s like it’s got its own lanolin dispenser built into it.

Me: How do you feel about a reader having sent it to you?

Buck: Scared.

Me: Why?

Buck: I’ve got a feeling someone was in it naked before me. I believe in cooties.

Me: Well, if it makes you feel any better, I washed it.

Buck: No you didn’t!

Me: I did.

Buck: No! I was there. You made me open the box because you were afraid it would explode or send up a puff of anthrax, and you’re telling me you washed it? You think I’m so stupid. [laughing]

Me: Well, I would have washed it but we were all out of detergent.

Buck: Would’ve, could’ve. What was the reasoning behind telling me you washed it.

Me: To make you feel better.

Buck: Oh yeah, now I really feel better. I feel like I’ve not only got cooties but I’m stupid with cooties. Why would you lie about washing it?

Me: Because 99.9% of life is all about feeling better.

Buck: I don’t feel better when you lie to me.

Me: Are you lying about my giraffe video? Have you actually deleted it and aren’t telling me? Why haven’t you watched the freaking giraffe video?

Buck: You know how I’m against giraffe violence.

Me: Everybody else that I’ve asked to watch it, has watched it. Yet you’ve had it for days and refuse to watch it. What do you think you’re going to see?

Buck: It’s like when people send the videos of the lions killing things.

Me: Who the hell does that? I’d never watch that either. The giraffe video is not what you think it is. You’ve got it stuck in your head that this video is something that it isn’t. You watch pigeon fights all the time, and those take place live, right in front of you.

Buck: Pigeon fights are nuthin’. They slap each other with their wings.

Me: That’s what this is. It’s the giraffe version of a pigeon fight. It’s a slap fight.

Buck: What are they slapping with?

Me: Their necks.

Buck: Yeah. So you got a big long neck with a lot of leverage, and a big head with pointy round horns on top. Would you like to be hit by that?

Me: If I was another giraffe, yes, I’d welcome it.

Buck: Really.

Me: It’s not a neck fight to the death for crying out loud. And they’re doing it by choice, just like pigeons.

Buck: Let’s get something straight. They’re not pigeons, they’re doves.

Me: I want to call them doves and I used to call them doves —

Buck: I know you did, but lately you’ve been on this pigeon thing —

Me: — but ever since they started walking through the house as if they owned it, I’ve been rather perturbed at them. Plus, they’re gray. But the giraffe thing baffles me. It’s almost as if you’re afraid.

Buck: I am. I don’t want to watch something I don’t like. It’s in the same class as those videos of bum fights. This is unusual for you, to get stuck on a video that’s violent.

Me: Exactly. And that should tell you something. Because I’m not into violence unless I’m the cause of it.

Buck: Teenage fight videos, hobo fight videos, hobo giraffes fighting, they’re all just terrible and I don’t wanna see it. What the hell are the giraffes fighting over?

Me: It looks like a bush. They’re fighting over rights to a checkerberry bush or something.

Buck: [laughs]

Me: ‘Cuz there are no other giraffes around, no female giraffes, so they must be fighting over berries.

Buck: Oh, so it’s a Fight Club. Which one is Brad Pitt?

Me: The one on the left is the Tyler Durden one. And you’re spot on, it’s a giraffe Fight Club. And the thing about Fight Club, and bum fights, and the giraffe video, is that everybody participating is doing so by choice.

Buck: And it’s my choice not to be there watching them.

Me: Even my sister watched it, and she won’t even watch most R-rated movies because of the violence.

Buck: If a giraffe made this movie, what would it be rated?

Me: It would be rated G for general audiences because in the giraffe world this is just run-of-the mill stuff. Speaking of giraffes, I should send Max this video. He used to love giraffes. Remember his giraffe? That was adorable.

 Buck: Don’t send it to Max. You’ll ruin his childhood memories. He always thought giraffes were nice. He loved that giraffe. You’ll destroy whatever crazy ideas he has about giraffes being nice.

 Me: Too late, I just sent it. Max will understand that it’s interesting. Can you eat giraffes?

 Buck: Ask a lion.

 Me: Not that I ever would eat a giraffe, but I know some people eat ostrich. There’s a restaurant over by the Juarez border that serves ostrich burgers, which I think is quite sad . . . WHERE ARE YOU GOING?

 ***

 Buck: Well I just watched part of your giraffe video, goddammit.

 Me: Did you love it?

 Buck: NO. I couldn’t watch the whole thing.

Me: Why?

Buck: That looked like it hurt, you could hear the smacks and watch their heads —

Me: Listen, I —

Buck: The necks not withstanding, their heads alone —

Me: I have broken up thousands of dog fights, stuck my hands right in the middle and torn German Shepherds apart. I’ve probably broken up a dog fight every day since I was three-years-old and I can honestly say with authority that animals do not hurt each other. Not really. It’s all bravado, it’s just for show. Animals do not really hurt each other, I can tell when they’re hurting each other, and those giraffes —

Buck: You are sooo wrong. Those thuds! And watching their heads . . . that just hurt like hell. If they clanged heads together, they’d both die.

Me: They did it by choice.

Buck: They were not doing it by choice, they had some problem

Me: I maintain that the giraffes were playing.

Buck: — that’s why the people filming the video were upset.

Me: It’s true, someone did scream.

Buck: Scream? They were so upset THEY WERE SPEAKING IN TONGUES!

Me: My God, remember when we watched Pat Boone speaking in tongues years ago on PBS? I’ve looked everywhere on the Internet for video of that and I can’t fucking find it. But I don’t think the people filming the giraffes were speaking in tongues. I think it was African.

Buck: I heard some Chinese in there. They were probably with guides. Anyway, I thought that video was just —

Me: Interesting. It was interesting. I was able to watch it, and you know I don’t watch animal videos, I can’t even watch Animal Planet anymore because I don’t like some of the stuff they sneak in, stuff that is just too hard for me to take —

Buck: I don’t believe you. You’re lying to me again.

Me: And you’re espousing bullshit. Those giraffes were just fine. They both walked away alive.

Buck: I never got that far.

Me: That’s too bad, because they scampered away happily at the end.  Actually. . . that’s a lie. The film ended before they scampered away just fine. The film just ends.

Buck: Gee, I wonder why?

Me: They probably . . . ran out of film.

Buck: [laughing] Yeah. Let’s go out into the jungle with two minutes worth of film in the camera. Got your two minutes worth of film loaded up? Excellent, let’s go —

Me: Oh, you’re just too sensitive.

Buck: Man. Jesus. That was horrific. I can’t get the sound of those thuds out of my head. It would be like if you had a twenty-foot arm and you punched somebody with it.

Me: Like Stretch Armstrong.

Buck: Yeah, like him. I’m going back to work on the bathroom. You’re sick. 

 

 TOMORROW: bUCK RECALLS WHEN HE RAN ROUNDUP STEAKHOUSE IN THE MID-1970S WITH AN ASSISTANT MANAGER WHO SPOKE IN TONGUES.

LINKS: Giraffe Video as found on the blog Our Descent Into Madness.

 TIME magazine article: Pat Boone excommunicated for speaking in tongues. 

 Ricky Martin always cancels in El Paso due to poor ticket sales; blames it on health.

 

 

Buck Runs Away

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Buck, appalled by cactus graffiti. This photo has nothing to do with anything, I just liked it.

 

 

Buck: Why aren’t you here fixing this for me? Fix this.

Me: I can’t fix it from here. I’ll try and talk you through it. What did you do to it? Unplug it. Unplug the router and let it reset.

Buck: Okay . . . I did it . . . Windows is coming back up . . . Okay. . . Seems to be working.

Me: [silence]

Buck: What are you doing?

Me: I’m reading The Boston Globe. It’s tiny now, it’s about seven inches wide and I’m not kidding. It’s like the Newspaper of Record for Alice in Wonderland, only instead of saying Drink Me it says Read Me.

Buck: It wants to be smaller than The Herald. It was successful for The Herald, so The Globe wants to do it, too. Pretty soon they’ll both be like those tiny novelty Bibles people give away.

Me: The mini Bibles,  they hide them in bushes and stuff so you can find them.

Buck: I just found one of those little mini Bibles here in our house. It was in my desk drawer.

Me: I know, it’s mine. I got it from a sagebrush at a rest area, it was tucked in the branches.

Buck: What?

Me: You know the place. The big ladies room with no roof? It’s perfectly huge and normal, except they didn’t put a roof on it. It’s right as you come into El Paso County from the direction of that dusty speck of a town Tommy Lee Jones lives in. The one I said we should live in too, so we wouldn’t have to have glass in the windows, we could just hang rags? You said no because we’d probably wake up some morning to find Tommy Lee Jones passed out in our horse trough, or whatever those things are in people’s yards —

Buck: Van Horn.

Me: Yes. I love Van Horn. I found it at the rest area between Van Horn and El Paso. I thought it was cute. That’s why the Bible people put them there, so you’ll take them.  I took it and put it with my miniature copy of The MooseWood Cookbook I keep in your desk.

Buck: You’ve got these weird little piles of your treasure crap hidden in my desk, you’re like a field mouse —

Me: That’s because my desk doesn’t have any drawers —

Buck: You didn’t want any drawers. You said you wanted a big glass table desk like somebody on Wall Street in the year 2525. 

Me: And that’s exactly what I have and I love it so much, thank you again. Anyways, it’s Sunday and even though I can’t get to freaking WiFi connection till morning, I still want to do the Sunday Q&A for my blog.

Buck: Yeah?

Me: I read in The Boston Globe that Ken Burns? The PBS guy?

Buck: Yeah?

Me: He lives in New Hampshire. Were you aware of that?

Buck: Hardly.

Me: Well anyway, I read in The Boston Globe that he’s advertising his new documentary on oranges.

Buck: He’s WHAT?

Me: He’s advertising his new documentary about World War II, it’s called The War, on oranges. Orange, citrus, fruit. Oranges.

Buck: Ken Burns is losing it. What will his next food ad be for the Korean War?  Hey, these breakfast sausages are telling me to watch Ken Burns’ Korean War documentary, so I guess I better be sure and set the Tivo —

Me: Is he doing the Korean War too now? Because he’s eating up all the wars, what if I wanted to do something on the Kor —

Buck: No, but it would make sense for that to be his next one if he’s already doing World War II. That orange thing . . . What a weird . . . Jesus. For someone like me who can’t eat citrus, I’d never even know this thing is going to be on. 

Me: Well, he’s also advertising it on Bank of America bank statements, but that wouldn’t work for you either, because that’s not your bank.

Buck: No. I think he’s trying to keep me from seeing it. [in falsetto voice meant to be Ken Burns’] I only want citrus eaters to watch my new documentary.

Me: Your imitation of Ken Burns sounds suspiciously like your imitation of me, and also the dogs. I think your range of voice imitations is limited —

Buck: Are you supposed to keep that orange and save it to eat during the show? So that all of a sudden there are two-million oranges being bitten into at the same time all over America?

Me: Well, The Globe says it’s twenty-five million oranges that have the ad on them —

Buck: That is insane. It’s like that guy who wrote us a letter and wanted us to pay him to tattoo the magazine logo on his forehead.

Me: We would never do that. Because they’re already doing it at Go Daddy dot com.

Buck: He wasn’t even asking for much money. Actually, it was pretty cheap. I was gonna come up with something for him to get tattooed on his head, but after he got it what would we do with him? We’d own him, and we didn’t want him.

Me: NO. WAY.

Buck: I was in two supermarkets yesterday and I didn’t see a single Ken Burns’ War orange. Geez, I would have bought a bunch of them. This must be all about the press he’s getting for doing it, that’s all I can figure.

Me: Cuz it’s stupid, right? What is our stance on this? I vote that we think it’s stupid.

Buck: Yeah. Our official policy on this will be that it’s stupid, but we will definitely buy them if we can find them. Now I gotta go fish through the trash for The El Paso Times and see if it’s in there and I somehow missed it. That’s just insane . . .

Me: Man, Ken Burns is fifty-four? He looks like he’s nineteen, maybe twenty. He could be a college kid.  I’d expect Ken Burns to live in a dorm with a Reservoir Dogs poster on his wall and a bong hidden under his  mattress. How does he arrest the aging process? 

Buck: He’s part of that new subgroup of humans, like that Harry Potter kid. Oh my God. I just Googled it and here it is. It’s not just on oranges . . . IT’S ON  623,000 DOZEN EGGS! Because both were rationed during World War II . . . and it’s advertised on Bud beer cans distributed in military bases world wide. Wha . . . what the hell is PBS coming to? AND WE’RE PAYING FOR THIS? We’re paying for this!

Me: Not me, pal. I NEVER give money to PBS anymore because they stopped giving away the umbrellas and the passes to New England Aquarium. Now they make you choose one or the other, which is a rip off because you can get the passes for free at any public library. PBS is the Mafia.

Buck: NO. It’s coming out of our taxes.  We’re paying ten-million dollars for Ken Burns to advertise on eggs and oranges. It’s also kind of insulting that regular people get oranges and eggs, breakfast foods, while the military personnel are only getting the ads on beer. Apparently they think the military people just get up and start drinking —

Me: I wonder if it will work.

Buck: Probably, because for one thing people will go and look for Ken Burns food. I’m gonna have to start going to the grocery store every day and demanding the Ken Burns oranges. I wonder, since Ken Burns food is subsidized, will the stuff be slightly cheaper?

Me: That would be good.

Buck: I wonder how long it will be before all our fruit and produce has advertising on it? Heinz Ketchup advertising for blood drives. Eggs will be advertising birth control, there’ll be a Trojan ad on the side of every egg.

Me: Elijah Wood.

Buck: What about him? What the hell as he done now?  I had a nightmare when they showed him in that  children’s dance video on The Soup. I know he was the reason I slept so bad.

Me: He’s done nothing. That I know of.  But he’s part of that new subgroup of humans that Ken Burns is in. Speaking of subgroups. Were you listening to Coast to Coast last night?

Buck: I did, but I don’t remember what I heard before I started drooling like Homer Simpson and fell asleep.

Me: I didn’t hear it either. I don’t have a radio. But I meant to download an older show, from a Friday Night Bizarre Stories Hotline. Keith in San Antonio got things started by recalling the time a mysterious stranger with a bloody open head wound followed him around the mall.

Buck: Are you reading that off something?

Me: Yeah, the note I printed out for myself from the Coast to Coast website.

Buck: We already heard that show with the head wound ghost, or Shadow Person or whatever. 

Me I didn’t hear it, but I’m really looking forward to it. I love Shadow People.

Buck: You did hear it. We discussed it the next morning, and we were laughing.

Me: What you’re saying to me right now, it’s all clicks and whistles. I don’t recall ever hearing that head wound ghost show or laughing about it afterwards.

Buck: We were laughing . . . you said it sounded like American Werewolf in London when Dominic Dunn’s son was decomposing in a movie theater while he sat next to the guy from the Dr. Pepper commercials.

Me: Griffin Dunn was rotting away while sitting next to David Dr. Pepper Naughton to warn him he was going to turn into a werewolf. Cuz Griffin was already dead from the werewolf, so he knew.

Buck: You remember now?

Me: No.  I just remember  American Werewolf  because I’ve seen it a hundred times. But inside my own head right now is the first I’ve heard of this. I hate to admit it, but sometimes even though I’m talking to you I don’t really listen to what either of us are saying. It’s a bad habit, I know, but I can’t help it. It’s probably a form of A.D.D.

Buck: You live in Shadowville.

Me: It’s called Shadow World. But mostly they say  World of the Shadow People.

Buck:  [sound of disgust] Sorry I got the name wrong. [laughing] Of your hometown. Are you the new mayor?

Me: [laughing] Ville sounds so flippant and cavalier. Like squaresville, or Keeblerville where those poorly-drawn elves make Keebler Tollhouse Cookies. Which I never understood because the Tollhouse was right over here in Whitman. It used to be so expensive there. I only remember going once, with my family when I was little, for dinner on my birthday, and they gave us a bag of Tollhouse cookies, the real ones —

Buck: I don’t understand how I talked to you about Coast to Coast for ten years before you’d listen to it. You were a blank wall, I couldn’t get through.

Me: Whatever. We change as we get older. Unlike that new subgroup of humans, our appearance changes —

 

Buck: Yes, thank you for reminding me. I might have forgotten about the aging process for five or ten seconds.

Me: — and we change the stuff we like.  I used to hate tomatoes.

Buck: That’s your standard answer for everything. It’s The Tomato Defense.

Me: Well it’s the best analogy I have to illustrate change. I used to hate tomatoes. Now I love them.

Buck: Yeah, but it’s your standard answer for everything.

Me: I can’t think of anything else I like now that I didn’t like when I was younger. I hated Coast to Coast and tomatoes. Now I love them both. What do you want from me? Oh wait . . . eggs on hash. When I was kid, the very idea of that would have made me puke. Now I like it, although I don’t order it. If you made it for me, I’d eat it, though. We should have that when I get back to El Paso —

Buck: Eggs and hash is the quickest way I know to an upset stomach.

Me: Is it? Is it really?

Buck: Well, probably not with the Ken Burns’ eggs. I tell you what, you get me some Ken Burns’ eggs and I’ll make you eggs on hash.

Me: If I get the Ken Burns’ oranges will you make my beverage a Ken Burns’ screwdriver with Absolute?

Buck: Absolutely. It’s a deal.

____________________________________

Elijah Wood dance video that gave Buck nightmares. 

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El Paso

80- degrees on the patio

    I play with graphics programs the way other people play golf. Weekend golfers know they’ll never go pro, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying the game. I know I’ll never get heavily into graphic design, but it’s fun and I enjoy it. And in the same way amateur golfers will go out and buy expensive golf clubs they have no business owning, I will buy pricey graphic programs I’ll probably never master. However, some of the easiest programs that are the most fun are free on the interweb. One of my favorites is MyTheme Animator. 

     You can do a lot with this thing, but my first attempt at it is still the most controversial. I was going for an old-fashioned horror movie feel, so I combined a photo of myself with a photo of some guy from an old movie, and I posted it on my MySpace page. (Yes, I have a MySpace page, which I use as a tool to stalk our children online. The kids are all in their twenties now and stalking them is the only way I know what’s really going on in their lives, and the only way I can stay in touch with their friends, most of whom I’ve known since they were in kindergarten.)

     So I post this thing on MySpace (because I’m basically very juvenile  and was so wicked proud that I was able to make it in the first place —  the adult version of a macaroni necklace at camp — and within like, two hours of having it on MySpace, I start getting emails from people asking, “Is that Buck standing behind you?” One email simply said, “Max’s dad looks like he’s tripping,” and from that I understood that in this kid’s psychedelic mind there was no question it was indeed Buck in the photo.

     My immediate response to all this was, and still is, what the fuck? Look at this thing. Just look at it and tell me how the hell anyone could mistake that guy for Buck:

           I’m not saying it would be out of character for Buck to do something like that, put on a swami hat and go into a trance just to see my reaction. But cheese-n-crackers man, that guy doesn’t look anything like him.

      In contemplating this mass reaction, I can’t even be disgusted with people for assuming it’s Buck in the photo. He has after all spent a lifetime inserting himself into people’s photos. It would not be unusual to invite us to a dinner party, only to discover after we’ve left that Buck has drawn himself over any framed baby pictures you have on display.

     Sometimes I’m really taken aback over our hosts’ reaction, and I admit to being surprised when they’re  incensed over Buck “doing his thing.” They react as if he were maliciously defacing their memories. Buck says it’s why we’re never invited back to anyone’s house a second time. (Sandra and Jim if you’re reading this, it’s okay, everything’s cool. I really do understand. But my God, you’ve gotta admit  that some people would’ve laughed. But not me!  I totally like you guys!  And I have no doubt Jim’s grandma was a lovely lady and meeting President Roosevelt was an honor. Nobody would dream of mocking her life! Please take into account that at least Roosevelt already had the glasses and mustache long before you invited us to dinner. Everybody knows this. Listen, can’t we just forget this whole stupid thing and start over? Studies have shown it’s physically dangerous to harbor resentment; you could get cancer.)  But people needn’t  take it so personally. He does it at home, too. Take this eighth-grade photo of our son for example, keeping in mind Buck had a beard that year:

     I think I paid $40 for that thing, simply because my own parents always bought my school photo no matter how horrid it came out:

I never looked like this and I had black hair, never red. I don’t know what was wrong with the school camera — or why my parents bought this. I keep it in a photo album titled, The Worst Photos Ever Taken of Me. My friends love that album. They’re always asking me to bring it out. They like it way too much, actually. You guys are total bitches.

     But the point is, Buck did what we in the family refer to as “Dad’s usual thing,” and I didn’t get mad, I didn’t take it as a personal affront. People who know Buck know that he rarely signs his name to anything. And I mean anything. A letter from Buck arrives not with a return address, but with his drawing in the upper left-hand corner.The guest book at a funeral, the sign-in sheet at the doctor’s office, birthday cards, a UPS invoice, an inter-office memo, the kids’ report cards, all bear his face in place of a signature. 

     He’s a generous guy and it’s not out-of-character for him to stuff a few bucks into a kid’s pocket, but the dead president’s face has without-fail been replaced with his own. One time he wrote me a check for a hundred dollars and signed it with his drawing (a check the bank wouldn’t honor, by the way) .

     For Christmas one year he stuck a National Enquirer in my stocking, which was my favorite publication at the time, but he had gone over every single photograph in the 50-page tabloid with a black magic marker so that everyone, even Bat Boy, bore the unmistakable likeness of Buck. For our anniversary one year he gift wrapped a used copy of Love Story, but instead of Ryan O’Neill holding Ally McGraw in his arms, it was Buck holding me (he had glued the headshot from my newspaper column over Ally’s face).

     Before we moved to El Paso, Buck was in the feature color photo on the front page of the Boston Sunday Globe every week. Sometimes he’d be sitting on a beat up couch in a tenement building, holding a photo of a lost loved one and weeping. Other times he’d be the coxswain of Harvard’s rowing crew on the Charles. One Fourth of July it wasn’t John Williams conducting the BSO at the Hatch Shell, it was Buck.

     Nothing is sacred, not really, and if you know Buck you know not to leave “naked” images carelessly lying around unattended or this will happen:

     Oh man, it was a dark day in pre-teen girldom when Tiger Beat arrived in the mail with New Kids On The Block on its cover. I no longer have access to that particular issue but as a photo journalist  I do have documentation of the end result:   

there are tears in these eyes

     Speaking of kids. Any kid who came visiting at our house after school with their heavy knapsack still with them, would open their Algebra book later that evening and find Buck on the pages of that night’s assignment. “Dude, your dad fucked up school property last month when I came over to watch Ninja Turtles. Now they won’t let me move up to eighth grade unless I give them $46.95.”

     So yeah, I can totally see why people might assume that any photograph originating from my house might have Buck somewhere in the picture. But mistaking him for that swami guy in an old movie? That’s just fucked up.

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