Maybe you wanna say that SHIT TO MY FACE!

Christmas eve, Fishersville, Virginia. Every year, we eat fried oysters, brown beans, corn bread, and fried taters for Christmas eve dinner. The wife and my Dad clean the table while I sniffle into Kleenex. The family has killed off a bottle of Freixenet champagne. Since my modeling debut, it?s now the family favorite. Dad has had several drinks tonight.

“Got a couple things here,” says Dad, “when your mother and I are not around anymore, I want y?all to have. Really, they all yours anyway, John.” He goes into the second bedroom, rummages around in the closet, and returns with a semiautomatic pistol. He peers at it and pulls back on the trigger.

“Look here,” he says. “Takes rifle rounds. Yer ammunition goes into the clip here.” He presses a button on the pistol and it spits out a clip, which clatters to the kitchen floor. Now the safety is?” He trails off, as he presses a few switches on the side of the gun. The barrel of the pistol waves past my wife?s head and she ducks.

“What kind of gun is that?” I ask.

“Pistol,” he says. With some effort he shoves the ammo clip back into the gun and engages the semiautomatic trigger.

“Now look. Here?s the safety. Click here, pull back the muzzle, safety?s off. Click here, safety?s on. Wait a minute, I?ll get some ammunition.” He heads back into the bedroom and returns with a box of rifle shells. “Remington bullets there. Feel how heavy that is.” He pulls a bullet out of the box and puts it into my hands. “That goes in one side of ya, no big deal, but it makes a bigger hole goin out than comin in.”

I dry-fire the pistol into the ceiling a couple times. “Come here,” he says, walking into the bedroom. “I got a couple other guns in the other closet.” I drank the rest of the Freixenet and left the pistol on the table. My wife eyed it nervously. I followed Dad into the bedroom.

“How come you keep your guns in the closet?” I ask.

“They?re not my guns, they?re yours,” he says.

“But you have a gun rack,” I say. “You should keep your guns in the gun rack.”

“This way, a burglar won?t be able to find the good ones though,” Dad says. He rummages around in the closet and pulls out several rifles, and he throws them onto my bed. Then he hands me a particular burnished blue shotgun. “Look at this one. Friend of mine offered me five hundred dollars cash for it, but I turned him down flat. Remington model twelve. Look at that patent. Must have been made around 1912. You know when this gun was made?”

I Google the serial number on the gun. “That gun was manufactured in 1927,” I tell him.

“That?s about what I thought,” he says. “That gun is worth some money. And this one, if my grandson ever wants to know more about his granddad, he can have this here gun. It’s a good gun.” He arranges the two shotguns on my bed.

“Now look here,” says Dad. “Something else to show you.” He shows me a makeup case in a dusty corner of another closet. “Lift that out,” he says. I can?t lift it. I?m only able to drag it out of the closet. Dad opens it. It?s full of wrapped coins.

“Are any of these coins special?” I ask.

“Well, some of them?s eagles and some of them?s states,” he says. I unwrap some of the coins: it?s true, some are eagle-head quarters, and some quarters have states on the back.

“Well, each one?s worth a full twenty-five cents,” I say.

“Not all of em,” says Dad. “Some of em in there are wheat pennies.”

“You know, Dad, there?s this thing called inflation,” I say. “It means that if you leave your coins in the back of your closet for a year, that five hundred dollars worth of loose change will be worth about four hundred ninety-five dollars. And next year, four hundred ninety, and so on. You need to take that money to a bank.”

“It?s not my money. It?s your mother?s. It?s her fur coat fund,” he says.

“You need to invest that in a money market account,” I say. “Or U.S. savings bonds at the worst case.”

Dad laughs and hollers at Mom. “Tena, your son thinks I don?t know how to invest your fur coat fund. He thinks I should be putting all that money in a bank,” he says.

“What!” yells Mom.

“He?s tellin me to put that money in a bank!” yells Dad. He collects the shotguns off my bed.

“That?s right!” yells Mom. He wanders back into the kitchen and sits down at the table. The pistol?s still on the table; the wife hasn?t touched it.

“Isn?t this how people get shot at family events?” I say. “Fooling around with guns and such at the dinner table? Don?t you always read about how family members always get shot around Christmas due to family stress and such?”

Dad blinks, thinks for a moment, and says. “Oh. But we’re not fighting.”

We put away all the guns. Then we all watched some college football on TV.

As soon as the smoke from the funeral clears

Orlando, Florida. Aunt Beverly died on Monday and today is her funeral. All her life, she wanted to Entertain, but she never really got the chance. Since the earliest photo of her in 1955, her photos were never completely candid: she’s grinning, or hamming, or posing, or preening, for the camera and the nonexistent audiences behind it. Aunt Beverly could sing, but not as well as some, and she couldn’t dance much, or rather not at all, and opportunities for girls and women who sing some and dance less in rural West Virginia were slim, so as a result, said Troy her boy in her funeral oratory, “she missed her calling in life.” Over her later years, she developed fibromyalgia, which I am told, is a disease that was only so named starting in 1990. Before that it was usually referred to as “it’s all in your head.”  It’s a non-specific, general, fleshy, agonizing sort of non-specific pain, that covers your entire body and eventually just makes you want to die. Several years of fibromyalgia, and she wanted to, and she did. I expected Dad Bill to be a wailing mess, like when Grandmother Byrd died, but instead his funeral oration was coherent and loving and funny. He’s a lot more fun to listen to, now that he’s off the pills and booze. The cousins, Troy and Jeff and Dean, are all aerospace engineers. Jeff and Dean have military backgrounds as well. And so when Jeff and Dean got to the podium to give their oration for their dead mother, they began in dry to-the-point NASA tones: “I won’t rehash the previous details that have been stated about her…”  The Byrd family’s not Jewish, and thus we are all entombed within fine open silver-plated caskets, bedecked in white flowing pillows. Aunt Beverly was dead, but she was beautiful nonetheless, with flowing white hair and a snapshot beside her, where she is smiling widely and beckoning toward the camera and the invisible nonexistent audience. She was sent off in an ocean of flowers, a large poofing swath of overflowing bouquets of roses and a stack of pallid white fainting wailing carnations, and a show choir of blood-red poinsettias, and we all cried a fine and decent cry. Now she is dead, all her children are without a mother, and I am down one aunt.

I have come down with a screaming head cold, probably acquired from kissing a lesbian several days ago. Lesbians are highly infectious generally. Back to MCO and through security. A Georgia peach in a miniskirt is toodling a poodle through the metal detector. “My little dawg had to wait so lawng that he ended up makin a mess, raht thair, in the security lahn,” she tells me. “An I had to clean it up with tissues, and I was gawna thow it away, but the security lady said No, you gotta run that threw the metal detector.”

“Wait a minute,” I asked. “You’re telling me, airport security required you to run your dog’s shit through the metal detector?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “They wouldn’t let me thow it away.” I sneezed.

The walk down to the gate was twenty miles. I could barely breathe. I was sweating, my heart was pounding, and snot was actively running down my face onto my shirt. Yes, this is very gross, but this blog focuses on the facts and the facts are that snot was running down my face onto my shirt. And as I was toting and snotting down the halls of Orlando International Airport and looking the least hot that I have ever looked in my life, I spotted this chick reading In Style magazine and I fleetingly thought, Damn, I?m a model in that fashionable magazine. Whereupon I sneezed on her.

And you don’t feel much like riding, you just wish the trip was through

Washington, DC, at my brother?s apartment. My brother Chris is half a head taller than me, a square-jawed, gently spoken military type. He’s deep in biochemistry exams and this is his finals week, a bad time for unexpected visitors. I called him this morning from California and asked whether he’d put me up for the evening. Aunt Beverly died two nights ago in Orlando and my father asked me to come down. The drive to central Virginia, and the corresponding Christmas vacation with my mother, will have to be delayed. My brother has been good enough to take me and the wife in on no notice. Tonight I need to figure out how to get to Orlando.

No place for me in this world of mine

San Francisco, at Jelly’s Club on Sixteenth Street. Sixty people scream happily at us. “We’re going to take a little break,” says Jett Screamer. “But we’ll be back in ten minutes.” I take the guitar off my shoulder and we all step off stage. The sound man puts on drum and bass music.

Our drummer, Mr. Fantastic, goes to the bar and gets an orange-and-pineapple juice. The drink is called the Thirsty Thirsty Hippo. After dozens of sets and empirical tests, we’ve discovered it’s the fastest way to rehydrate between sets.

A lesbian couple grins up at me. I kiss them both on the lips and they both comment on how beautiful my wife looks. One coughs a little. “Oh, I just got over a cold,” says one. “I’m fine, though.”

“Were you able to hear everybody in the last set?” I scream at Mr. Fantastic.

“What!” he screams, over the din of the drum-and-bass.

“Look, we gotta talk outside,” I scream at him. I flag down Jett Screamer and the Basspod, and they follow me out onto the patio. The air outside is crisp and fine, and the lights of the Bay Bridge glisten across the water.

“Guys,” I tell them. “It’s ten thirty-five. The owner informs me that we have to be out of the space by midnight. I figure we have twenty-five minutes to play the next set, and then an hour to break down.”

“We don’t need that much time,” says Jett Screamer. “Twenty minutes tops to get all the gear in the truck.”

“Twenty-five minutes,” says the Basspod.

I look through the glass wall into the bar. Several lesbians are marveling over my wife’s dress. They proceed to feel her up and laugh about it.

“Twenty-five minutes,” I say. We head back into the bar and we turn our instruments back on.

Saw a close up of your pretty face

The guard waved at me in a stop-now-you-fucking-idiot sort of way. I guessed off-duty police officer. His arms were ripped. I stopped the Jeep, rolled down the window and parroted the magic words. He asked me for my driver?s license and copied a bunch of data. A red light turned green and gate #4 slid up.

I parked directly at the foot of the water tower. There’s a cartoon called Animaniacs in which the principal characters were imprisoned in this water tower for eighty years. Bungalows, low offices, clean but used.

I walked past the museum and found studio number 6. The front door was locked. The side door was locked. The back door was locked. The other back door was ajar. There was a low ramp, and a table with a tray coffee and donuts and fruit. Inside I could hear the sounds of musicians tuning their instruments. A sign said: EASTWOOD SCORING STAGE.

For almost eighty years, all the best music in movies has come out of this room. The room was originally built in 1929 and rededicated to Clint in 1999. Today, it held about forty orchestral musicians: a dozen brass, a dozen strings, a dozen woodwinds, a full rock kit, two drummers in soundproof booths, with a hundred microphones swinging and pointing and angling in every direction. Musicians fingered and fretted and buzzed, with freshly-printed Finale orchestral scores.

Damn, but it felt like coming home.

When they’re recording, the red light goes ON and nobody breathes. I listened to an hour of live music on the studio floor, and then I went into the booth to listen from there. We can’t appreciate the difference between highly compressed mix-down predigested music and the live direct-to-your-ears variety until we can hear the difference side by side.

A password got me into the Blue Room, a secret, small four-star restaurant on the Warner Brothers lot. We joked a lot about blowjobs. All theater and movie people are dirty minded fucks back in San Francisco — it was reassuring to find them thus in the heart of Mecca. I got a lot of business cards of people who I really should not have access to.

Three more hours of recording. I snuck out during a flubbed take. In the space of a few hundred feet, cities fell and rose before me. I walked through River City, Iowa, but the seventy-six trombones were long gone. I also walked through Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Bugsy, Casablanca, Blade Runner, The Big Sleep, and downtown Hazzard from The Dukes of Hazzard. Ghosts, ghosts, ghosts everywhere.

I’m in!

Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land

Nowadays, the standard modern liberal joke is to call yourself a terrorist. Yeah, either you?re with Bush or you?re a terrorist, so I guess we’re terrorists, ha ha ha, aren?t we being darkly ironic. But there’s a more creative, funnier, and more honest response. Bush, and the Republican establishment, like to wrap themselves in the historical icons of US patriotism, using their semiotic power as shorthand for their own political ends. Liberals should be doing the same thing, but with more creativity… we should take back the symbols that have been borrowed from us:
















Sister’s saying in her sleep (ah, ah, ah, ah)

Two days ago I moved out from the Extended Stay, and I passed a guy with a cell phone in the hallway: “I’m on location. In Orange County. An hour away from you, if I drive fast.”  Now it’s the second day in the new house. Most of our personal items remain in boxes, but the wife has kindly set up the kitchen; we can cook. I made scrambled eggs for her last night. She said they were the best eggs she’s ever had. She is arranging all the tendrils of a sad-looking vine plant. She really wanted all the plants to travel with us from San Bruno to Costa Mesa, so we babied them along under the fluorescents in the Extended Stay hotel. But plants do not naturally enjoy sightseeing, and they are all now a bit bewildered. Now, my wife is a woman on a mission: put this house under control; decorate, decorate, decorate; all things to be placed into their proper places. “The house speaks to me,” she says. “I tried placing the Ikea cabinet flush against the wall in the kitchen but the house said no so I used it to partition the kitchen from the library. It’s much better and the house likes it.” She is in full-on nesting mode.

The Irish movers were too fucked up to come; they sent Hispanics, who unloaded everything neat as you please. I have reacquired my piano, my guitars, my violin, and my banjo.

I proposed to the wife that we should purchase a shiny metal refrigerator from Sears. It would be a gourmet refrigerator that’s made of shiny silver steel, because those refrigerators are the ones that the finer cooks use for food preparation purposes. My wife responded that a plain white refrigerator would keep our food just as cold as a fancy steel one and cost seven hundred dollars less. She asked me why I wanted a steel one. I said it would make me a better cook. Looking back, that was probably a lie. We got the white one.

The wife purchased a rosemary plant, shaped like a Christmas tree, and she decorated it with some little gold spheres. It looks just like a small Christmas tree, and smells like pasta sauce. I tentatively took a few needles and ate them. Our Christmas tree is festive, yet delicious. I plan to eat more of it when my wife is not watching.

The Collective gig is working out well. Everyone?s type A, like me. I sit down in front of the monitor and drift between tendrils of functions and variables. Hours slip away, if I’m not careful to watch them.

I?m afraid of not having any peeps or any connections down here, so I auditioned and got into a non-union production of “I Love You, You?re Perfect, Now Change” at the Chance in Anaheim. They cast me as the “older man.” I’m a tad bitter. Perhaps I’d be better off just unpacking, but it’ll get me out of my overgrown hedge-maze head for a while.

We have a lemon tree. When life hands you lemons, make salad dressing. We did, and suffered no ill effects.

On December 16, I’m playing a private show; I can’t provide more details publicly just yet, but you’re invited — just contact me off-line for the password and location.