alan lomax: better off dead

Linette was gone tonight. She went to Kim’s wedding shower. She thought that it would just be women, so she went alone and left me here at home to agonize over my next weblog entry. I got a call at about 10:00 PM. It was Linette saying that it wasn’t just women and that the lot of them were driving off to Hell, Michigan, to a biker bar somewhere in the woods. She wanted to know if I’d meet them there. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t feel much like leaving the house, especially not to get the shit kicked out of me by Hell’s Angles in the forest. I also felt like I was getting a lot accomplished at home. Plus I knew I’d see everyone in a few weeks anyway, at the wedding in Chicago.

Instead of “going to Hell,” I sat here and worked. I paid our absolutely enormous tax bill with tears rolling down my cheeks, and pure, black hatred in my heart, finished editing the text from the Pylon interview, sent a draft of it off to Vanessa for her comments, and then I began working on the intro to the piece, describing how I first came to learn about Pylon and what their music meant to me.

Somewhere in the midst of doing all of that, I had a marathon phone call with a friend of mine out west. She wants to move back here and start up a record label and she wants for me to be a part of it somehow. We discussed a few ideas, and I’m interested is discussing it further, but I told her that I didn’t think I could offer much in terms of either time, energy or inspiration. As sad as it is to say, I just don’t care much about music any more. I listen to old jazz, blues and gospel, peppered with the occasional Wire or Television tune. There are exceptions, but I find most of the things I listen to come from either the period of between 1920 and 1945, or that between 1969 and 1979.

I don’t know what normal people (or at least the people with money to spend on music) listen to these days and I don’t have the interest in going anywhere and finding out. I know about Britney Spears and NSYNC (note: Linette had to spell both of their names for me though) and that’s all I need to know. I guess I have a bad attitude when it comes to music in the modern era. I think that most people in bands now just want to be famous. (What happened to those idealistic days where people were just in bands for the sex and the drugs?) The people who are truly compelled to create music are few and far between. If there were more Jad Fairs and Daniel Johnstons, I might be interested. They may be out there too. I just don’t have the patience to pick through all of the other crap.

I’ve said on occasion that I have all the friends that I need and that I’m not looking for any more. I feel much the same about favorite albums, with a few exceptions. I have enough records to listen to as it is. I don’t need any more. If I was forced to pick examples of those recent exceptions, I could think of a few. I like Chan Marshall. (I think you can still read an old interview Linette and I did with her on the Matador Records website.) I like Lucinda Williams. Oh, and Linette just reminded me about the White Stripes and Weezer. They’re both pretty good too. Linette buys new records on occasion and I listen to them through the wall that separates our offices. I personally haven’t bought much since the Pixies broke up though.

I did, however, a few days ago, place my big, annual order from Amazon. One hundred and seventy-five dollars worth of CDs and DVDs. That bought me about one-tenth of what I’ve accumulated on my Amazon wish list thus far. Grandmaster Flash, The Sugarhill Gang, The Buzzcocks, Big Dipper, Wire, Magazine and some other things I can’t remember right now. They’re not here yet. I took advantage of Amazon’s free shipping deal only to find out my order would take over a month to reach me. So, I’m just waiting patiently, spending my time listening to Volume 6 of the Alan Lomax Southern Journey Series, “Sheep, Sheep, Don’tcha Know the Road.” He just died a few days ago and I’ve been trying to listen to all of his work that I’ve got. I’m thankful that he was out there, documenting the sounds of rural America in the days before television turned everything to soulless, bland mush.

Unfortunately, the opportunities to do such meaningful work now are few and far between.

(The DVDs I ordered, for those of you who are interested, are Fritz Lang’s “M” and Stanley Kubrick’s “Doctor Strangelove.”)

When I got off the phone with my friend out west, I dashed off a quick note to the young woman on Ritalin and asked her what her prescription bottles were doing in my backyard. Actually, I asked it in a much nicer way. I told her how I found her email address on-line and how I thought that she might like to know that I found the bottles. (If you were robbed, and your medication was stolen, wouldn’t you like to know, so that you could look for other missing items, or call the authorities?)

My initial guess was that her Ritalin bottles had been stolen from her apartment, emptied out and then tossed into my backyard by the perpetrator. The more I think about it though, the more questions that I have. The fact that there were four bottles altogether tells me that she saved them. And, chances are, they weren’t empty. The most recently filled prescription was filled in August ’99, so she’d saved them for a while. That would seem to indicate to me that she wasn’t taking the pills, but saving them, perhaps planning to take them at a later date. She may have mentioned to someone that she had them and they may have been taken from her.

I did some research on the street value of Ritalin and this is what I found in a National Institutes of Health report:

“Some individuals abuse it for its stimulant effects: Appetite suppression, wakefulness, increased focus/attentiveness, and euphoria. When abused, the tablets are either taken orally or crushed and snorted… The abuse of Methylphenidate has been reported in Baltimore, mostly among middle and high school students; Boston, especially among middle and upper-middle class communities; Detroit; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Phoenix; and Texas… In 1999, 165 methylphenidate-related poison calls were made in Detroit… On Chicago’s South Side, some users inject methylphenidate (this is referred to as “west coast”). Also, some mix it with heroin (a “speedball”) or in combination with both cocaine and heroin for a more potent effect.”

I’m not sure if there’s a story here or not, but I just thought it would be interesting to follow the thread and see where it led. I’ll keep you posted if anything comes of it.

And, with all of these things accomplished, I walked down the street to the Vietnamese restaurant and ordered a #15 to go. I sat down and read the paper, played with their little baby who’s now walking, and had a beer while I was waiting. It always makes me happy to go there, and not only because the #15 rocks. I just like going to a place that’s family owned and operated, especially when that family has such a great story. The owners of this restaurant fled Vietnam, making it to this country after many years and then struggling, after working many low-wage, menial jobs, to eventually open their own restaurant. Today they not only run their own restaurant, but they own the wonderful, historic building that it’s in. It’s so nice to go in and see their babies growing up, running up and down the aisles and laughing at the customers as they eat.

I bought my food and walked home. Two interesting things happened on the way home. First, I saw a group of about four suburban men and four suburban women go into the strip club. I knew that the sign above the club said that Saturdays were “couples nights,” but I didn’t believe people actually did it. These people looked like they belonged at a Chamber of Commerce function, not sitting just inches from a pole covered in fully-shaved high school dropouts. I guess Saturday really is a legitimate couples night though… I should get out more often and see what’s going on in my neighborhood after dark. It’s rare that I just walk around late at night.

The second strange thing that happened was that two women in a small, red car drove by me, waved and called out, “hey.” Not just that, but they turned around, passed me again, going in the opposite direction, slowed down and beeped. I kept facing forward, trying not to notice them. After a few seconds, they sped up and passed me, perhaps with the intention of turning around yet again and coming down my side of the street. With that frightful possibility in mind, I quickly ducked down a side and followed a more circuitous route home… Stay tuned for future episodes of “Mark Maynard, Easily Frightened Male Hustler.”

With my food safely home and the women successfully evaded, I was tempted to eat in front of the computer and write everything down, but I decided instead to pop on the TV and see what was on. There were two things on that interested me and I flipped between them for the next half hour. The first was the Bruce Dern movie. In it, he plays an insane man in outer space (not to be confused with any of the several films where he’s insane and on earth). He lives in a giant greenhouse that’s floating in space. The second was a new show on NBC that was just vile. I think it was called, “Meet My Parents.” Basically, the producers of this show have taken a somewhat attractive, innocent-looking young woman and sent her on dates with three young studs (and a camera crew), all of whom make it clear that they want to be “with” her in a biblical sense. Then the parents choose which one of the three she goes off to Hawaii with for a romantic weekend. The parents have a few tools at their disposal when making their decision. Among the ones I saw used, were videotaped interviews with friends of the aspiring Romeos, and a lie detector that they had set up in the basement, just as in the similarly named Ben Stiller/Robert Deniro vehicle, “Meet the Parents.”

The friends on video were a real highlight. They basically said in each case that the prospective date, their friend, was a drunk who would, if given a chance, fuck the daughter and perhaps even piss on her. (I’m not making this up.) One guy on video, the boss of one of the men who worked at a skateboard shop, said if he had a dollar for every skateboarder’s mother that this kid banged, he’d have a million dollars. When he heard that, the father of the girl asked the kid if he wanted to bang his wife. And, I think with that, NBC hit a new bottom.

Unfortunately, the low points got lower. In the basement, the father strapped both tentative dates (one had already been eliminated) to a polygraph machine and asked if they planned to try to sleep with his daughter. Both said no, but the lie detector apparently showed otherwise. The father put his head in his hands, showing some real concern for a moment, but then justified to himself and to his wife that, according to the machine, one was lying less than the other.

It seemed as though the man really felt as though he had no option but to sacrifice their daughter to one of these two men, like he could not just walk away from the grow of the television cameras.

I felt sick.

In the end, the father chose the less attractive of the two remaining contestants, in a desperate attempt to protect the virtue of his “prize” daughter. (His daughter had been referred to as the “prize” on a few occasions earlier in the broadcast.)

This whole thing seems to me to be about two baby steps away from the auctioning of a virgin to Japanese businessmen on live TV.

It makes me think that maybe the Taliban was right. Maybe western culture does deserve to be taken out back and shot.

You’re better off dead, Alan Lomax.

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One Comment

  1. Esther Brainpan
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    If you really want to hate America, watch this.

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