David Bowie

Monday, 4 November 2013

I used to play a pirated copy of “Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?” on my DTK 386 back in, say, 1994. This was when “pirated” meant you just copied the files onto one of those 3.5″ floppies that AOL sent in the mail every two days. Since it was a pirated copy, I didn’t have the Fodor’s Travel Guide that you were supposed to use to answer the final question to move on to the next level. It was always “What State is on page {foo} of the travel guide? Me being me, I made a list of all 50 States, and slowly worked my way through via guesswork until I had most of them down.

Now if you remember this game, you had to track down criminals based on contextual clues left behind as to who they are, and where they are going. It assumes some level of geographical and pop culture knowledge. Geography I had down. Proud winner of the 8th grade geography bee, here. Pop culture… not so much. One of the contextual clues was a David Bowie cassette tape. You had to know what kind of music he made. I never could remember. (it was “rock”).

A year or so later and I start getting mail from Columbia House and BMG. Notice I didn’t say junk mail, because for me, Columbia House and BMG were pretty much my sole method of obtaining music that was new to me. I got into Led Zeppelin, Stone Temple Pilots, 311, and, on a whim, decided to find out who this David Bowie person was. You could say I was sheltered. That would be very tactful of you. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars sounded like a good start, because I was and am still a huge science fiction nerd. It arrived, and, just a bit through the half way point of the opening track “Five Years” my mind was blown.

The album itself was nearly 25 years old at that point, and there’s little young me, poleaxed. I couldn’t tell you how many times I listened to it. And every month, when my BMG or Columbia House mail would arrive, I’d get more Bowie. This was a good time for it, even though I wasn’t aware, I was getting the remastered Rykodisc versions that were chock full of outtakes with different lyrics, or rare live performances. I still have them all: Diamond Dogs, The Man Who Sold the World, Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups. Those albums all received mad play time. Low, Lodger, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, and Let’s Dance significantly less so, though now I have a more mature appreciation for what’s going on in those albums.

Earthling came out in 1997. The first album of his that I had the opportunity to purchase in its natural milieu. I have to admit I had basically no idea what was going on with that electronica drum & bass madness. I still don’t. I’m okay with that. It’s a great album for zoning out on a road trip. 1997 is, incidentally, the year I went to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Minneapolis. I got a chance to do a little shopping at a big city record store. On that trip, I picked up Bowie’s Outside. Certainly his most macabre, grotesque, baroque work. The least appropriate Bowie album to pick up while in town with a ton of Catholic teenagers. Incidentally, on that trip I also learned that Tolkien calendars exist.

I managed to see him in concert, on the Area 2 tour with Moby, when he was touring for his album Heathen (in my opinion, his best work in these later years). I eagerly picked up Reality in 2003 when I was working in New York, and I remember playing it on the Bang & Olufsen sound system owned by the family I was staying with at the time. The first song immediately called up memories of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, and the whole album it an amalgam of songs sifted from Bowie’s long career and new work.

For years I’ve been unable to decide which album I like best between Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs, but I’ve finally decided that Diamond Dogs is my favorite album. The 8 – 9 minutes of Sweet Thing/​Candidate/​Sweet Thing Reprise is my favorite chunk of music.

The version from David Live is amazing:

And I really like the alternate lyrics to Candidate (released on the aforementioned remastered Rykodisc release):

Bowie has been a constant intrigue and challenge to me as I’ve grown older, and he’ll continue to be as long as he keeps putting out albums. I learned about Jean-​Michel Basquiat by seeking out the movie made about him merely because Bowie played Andy Warhol. I discovered the horrible sack-​swinging fascination of his role in Labyrinth, and developed a little crush on Jennifer Connelly. I became a fan of Nicolas Roeg after watching The Man Who Fell to Earth. I’ve become a fan of just about every band he’s ever covered.

David Bowie was my gateway from small town Indiana to the rest of the world. This young dude carried the news, so hey, man. Thanks.

Farewell Fayette County & Environs

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

I’m helping my mother move from my ancestral demesne this week. I feel little sorrow regarding the move from this particular home, the third of three I lived in when I lived in Fayette County; but a much deeper sense of loss regarding certain other places that have sentimental value to me. Of course, me being I, they almost all revolve around food.

For lunch today, Abraham and I stopped at J’s Dairy Inn, located in Liberty, IN. Since the prevailing wind is from the west, if you’re in Connersville and you spit, it’ll land in Union County. In addition to being the location of J’s, it is also home to Whitewater Memorial State Park (the only lake I’ve ever swum across), and the prettiest girls per capita of anywhere I’ve ever been. I used to stop in at J’s semi-​regularly during my high school days, and quite regularly when I worked as summer help doing warehousing/​teamster work for E.W. Brockman Company. When they’d place an order I’d basically deliver any and every paper good they’d use. The most delicious greasy-​spoon burgers, crispest crinkle-​cut fries, and most gigantic milkshakes around. You could drive from Connersville to Liberty, eat at J’s and get back to work in just barely under an hour.

Dinner was from Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken. Just a regular fast food joint. Can’t hold a candle to the St. Gabriel’s Fried Chicken dinner at the Fayette County Free Fair, but it was the best fried chicken in town otherwise, and to my taste-​memory, no other fast food fried chicken will ever be the same. We ate our chicken dinner at Robert’s Park, home to the aforementioned fair, demolition derbies, harness racing (and illegal gambling), classic car shows, and frequent cross-​country practice destination. In the pre-​season, we’d run past the dirt track, into the woods and go swimming in the Whitewater River.

Tomorrow will be Kunkel’s Drive-​in for lunch. Tenderloin basket with heavy mustard and a vanilla coke. The cute girls always worked at Dairy Queen, K-​mart, or Kunkel’s in high school. I remember sitting in the back of my dad’s van as a little kid and unwrapping the smell of deep fried pork, the later taste of mustard crusted in the corner of my mouth. Pizza King for dinner. Holiest of holies. St. Louis-​style pie. Do you prefer westside or southside? It matters. I’m a southside feller, the oversized gooey chocolate chip cookies and tabletop arcade games as a boy, and its liquor license as an adult. I spent more time at westside though, where the teens hung out in my day. Dairy Twist for dessert, even if Abraham doesn’t eat his dinner. I went there every evening one summer for a large cherry milkshake, trying to put on some weight, and never had the confidence to ask out the girl who handed them to me night after night. Didn’t put on any weight either. Fencing in college finally did that. Now, the fight is to keep it off. Just not this week.

I’ll still have the memories of being perched on the hill at 514 Franklin Street, overlooking the whole city and feeling like a trip-​step would send me sprawling onto St. Gabriel’s steeple. But I won’t be driving past that house anymore. I’ll still have memories of the house on Stoneybrook Lane, the entire days spent in William’s Creek, swinging on grape vines, socks covered in burdocks, being forced to strip outside and be cold-​hosed off before even being allowed near the house. But I won’t be near that creek again. I’ll still have memories of rolling up toward Richmond with the boys, 45 minutes to the nearest movie theater, the backroad route, Pennville to Pottershop, late night truck stop stop for the Night Owl Special: a platter of biscuits and gravy for $2.00. Now just a 10 minute stretch on I-​70 as I barrel toward Indianapolis.

I’ve hated on Connersville in my day. Even wrote a letter to the editor once upon a time. But it’s a great place to raise a kid, and the growing-​up-​to-​hate-​it-​and-​leaving is kind of necessary; if we didn’t drift away like dandelion fluff, Connersville wouldn’t be Connersville. Water flows away from the spring to nourish other areas.

How Becoming a Parent Changed Me

Friday, 1 October 2010

Becoming a parent does change things. I’ve heard that nearly my entire life, but no one has been able to successfully explain what the hell the statement means. It just rings a bit hollow as an unexplained truism. However! I think I’ve figured out a couple of ways to explain things; or, at least, explain how becoming a parent changed me.


Watching Bram discover the world allows me to discover it again. I used to boast that I’d never lose a childlike sense of wonder, but watching the little bear wig out over a train or an orange car shows me just how much I’d lost of that amazement. One of the completely unexpected and undeserved benefits of being a parent is the ability to relive those first moments of wonder vicariously. This vicarious feeling is sweetened and enhanced by a nostalgia born of remembering things you’d forgotten you’d known. Being with Bram when he saw a freighter leave the mouth of the Cuyahoga from the Coast Guard Station at Whiskey Island provided me with layers and layers of emotion stretching from my own childhood: nostalgia at that level of enthusiasm, the joy of remembering some moments of my own toddler experiences; and into the present: vicariously experiencing that emotion again, gratitude at being present for your own child’s moment of satori, and pride that you in some way facilitated the process.

Extrapolating from here, I imagine that grandparents feel much of the same; a third chance to experience childhood with the added bonus of a second chance to experience parenting.

Reference Manual

I’ve gained a whole new perspective of appreciation for the parenting examples of my parents. When I find myself in a situation where I’m unsure of how to proceed, I can think back to what worked and didn’t work on me, and adapt those lessons to whatever I’m trying to figure out with little bear. If I find myself second-​guessing or unsure of my decisions, I know I’m just a phone call away from a total pro.

So, parenting has changed my life by the addition of context; vicarious nostalgia by allowing me to compare my childhood to my son’s & a whole new reference manual of behaviors coming from what I observed about parenting before I became one myself. I understand that some folks don’t get why others would want to be parents, and that’s cool. For me, it’s already provided a wealth of new and old experiences that I never would have expected, and that I expect will never end.

Senior Year

Tuesday, 20 May 2003

Senior Year was by far my best year of college. My grades were superb, I had a room all to myself, the football team under the new tutelage of Tyrone Willingham, was 10 – 2, and to crown it all off, the fencing team won the national championship, and I get a ring out of it!

It started out innocently enough, fall semester is always ridiculously busy, and mine was more so than usual since I was taking an Intermediate Film Production class, a class my professor described more as about stress management than making an actual film. The football season was spectacular, and rejuvenated the withering ND spirit. The last home game as a senior was against Rutgers, the same team we played at my first ND game, when I was 16. I cried afterward.

I also got to travel with the fencing team, something I would have done the previous year, apart from my dislocated knee incident. This was quite enjoyable, though it did eat into my weekends considerably. Most of the rides were by bus, but the flight to the Duke Duals in North Carolina was great. And then I have the honor of being named the Knute-​Rockne Scholar Athlete, and receiving the DeCicco/​Langford Inspiration award. Not only that, but a picture of me, and a little blurb accompanying [sp?] it was put on the wall between the Football Office and the Basketball Office.

Graduation was a bit of a disappointment, the ceremonies were a drag, the Baccalaureate Mass, and the homily that went with it, seemed focused on trying to convince us to donate money to the University, and the speech by Sen. Richard Lugar, was completely inappropriate. He did not address the graduates except in passing, and focused on a pro-​war foreign policy speech better suited to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee than a notably anti-​war Catholic campus.

It was, however, quite nice to have my family show up at the ceremonies.

This is what I learned in college:

  1. How to make banana bombs.
  2. That the breezeway always smells like wet dog
  3. Once you find out a girl likes you, it is already too late to do anything about it.
  4. It is quite possible to climb the walls of the dorm, provided your shoes have enough traction, you have strong wrists, and ample leverage.
  5. The only time the Grotto is empty is when the weather is too intense for even the townies.
  6. Quarter Dogs are like very cheap crack, and much more dangerous.
  7. While you might be able to drink 12 oz of Cuervo, polishing it off with a shot of Everclear is not intelligent.
  8. No one cares about fencing, even the friends of fencers.
  9. It is only acceptable for women to write poems about rape.
  10. How to think