Thursday, July 27, 2006


For some time I've been trying to figure out how my memory works, how come I forget some stuff immediately and other stuff sticks with me forever. It's not just importance, there's some inconsequential memories that I just can't shake. My mom's theory is that eventually your brain gets full, and every time you learn something after that you have to throw away some other bit of knowledge to make room.
Interesting, but it doesn't explain how I can get to the control switch and decide what to remember and what to jettison.
So, I've been cataloguing things that I cannot forget, looking for a pattern. I'm writing them down in a book called SIRF (which stands for Something I Remember Forever.)
This first one has to do with baseball and food.

SIRF: When I played little league baseball, we always got 10 cents credit at the snack bar after the game was over. Doesn't sound like much, I realize, but you could buy anything you wanted at the snack bar, nothing was over a dime. My teammates usually got a hot dog and/or a Pepsi or potato chips, but I always opted for 10 pieces of grape bubble gum. When you're eight or nine years old and your taste buds haven't been burnt out by coffee and cayenne and beer and years, that burst of chemically-manufactured grapeness can only be described as intense and that flavor rush as addictive. I can still taste it in my mind, I can remember sometimes stuffing all ten pieces into my mouth -- which is probably why I have TMJ and a couple of AWOL molars now, but that's neither here nor there. Occasionally I will see that gum in the store and pick up a couple pieces. But the magic is gone, it's just annoyingly sweet and becomes rubbery and a task, not a joy, to chew within seconds.

There was a kid on my team whose father worked at 7-11, which I thought was absolutely the coolest job imaginable -- who wouldn't love working surrounded by Slurpees, comic books and grape bubble gum? Once he gave me a free Slurpee just because I was on his kid's team -- or maybe it was because I played so crappy that I made his kid look good.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Travel Tips

We are on the road in Wisconsin, but thanks to the ubiquity of wi-fi on the road, I can offer these travel tips.
1.) Teetee when you have the chance whether you have to go or not. (This first tip is from my grandmother -- and I hope I spelled teetee right). I think she created this rule the 90th time I refused to pee at a trip stop or maybe before we left the house cuz I didn't have to go yet -- but after about another mile or two I'd be screaming that my bladder was about to bust.
2. Always bring your own Charmin Ultra, cuz I don't care whether you're staying at KOA or the Ritz-Carlton, they all have scratchy toilet paper.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My favorite John Steinbeck quotes

Man is the only kind of varmint who sets his own trap, baits it, then steps in it.

It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world.

If you're in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones.

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Truer Words were ne'er spake

There is a theory that states that bands named after places invariably suck, and the bigger the place they’re named after the worse they suck. Which would explain why Boston is better than Kansas, why Nazareth is better than Alabama, and why the Ohio Players and Styx and Chicago are all better than Asia – who will have to live with the shame of being the biggest (and hence worst) place-named band until someone starts a group called Milky Way or Line at the DMV.

America (the country) is pretty big and America (the band) was pretty mediocre. They had a string of hits in the 70’s, starting with “Horse With No Name”, which was all over the radio back in those days despite having lyrics like “The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz” “heart made of ground” and my favorite: “the heat was hot.” After nine days (or what seems like nine days to the listener) the singer lets that horse he was too lazy to name go free “because the desert had turned to sea.”

Obviously the fly had the right idea, you’re going to have a pretty good buzz to make any sense out of this. And most of America’s song’s were just as lucid. In “Sandman” the titular character is described as “(flying) the sky like an eagle in the eye of a hurricane that’s abandoned.” Now, c’mon guys, if y’all know how to abandon a hurricane you should have shared that information with people along the Gulf Coast.

And even when their lyrics make sense they’re morally questionable. I don’t understand how come Ozzy Osbourne used to get in trouble for allegedly encouraging suicide, but nobody said a word when America told all the Lonely People that they should “drink from the silver cup and ride that highway in the sky.”

I heard an America song the other day – “Tin Man” – and while most of it consisted of their usual lyrical coherence (”Smoke glass stain bright color; Image going down, down, down, down; Soapsuds green like bubbles”) – there was one line in the song that struck me as not only meaningful but true and profound (if grammatically indefensible.) The line is “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn’t already have.” I’ll write more about the metal man from Munchkinland later, but for now I’ll just say that Nick Chopper, the Tin Man, is one of my favorite fictional creations ever, one heck of a good role model, and America was right – he didn’t need anything that Oz had to offer.