Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Old Woman In The Shoe

"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread;
And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed."

You probably remember the old Mother Goose tale about the old gal in the shoe. Reading it now, its really rather disturbing. This is a tale of a woman at her wit's end...or that's how that Goose person wanted you to believe.

Let's think about this: How old was she? 40s? 50s? She probably couldn't have been older, assuming that these kids are hers. And why did she keep having so damned many kids? Why didn't she keep her legs shut? JUST SAY NO! Where was the father in this story? There are many unanswered questions.

I will put forth a possibility: The Old Woman in the Shoe was a prostitute. A Shoe-dweller of ill repute! At the time, birth control was not an option and abortions were often a death sentence. That she kept having the kids tells us a few things. She was either very stupid, or didn't care to spend the money on a back alley procedure. Her actions show some level of maternal instinct and a sense of self-preservation. She lacked, however, the ability to think ahead. Her actions were based on present needs and indicate no thought whatsoever to future outcome. This led to a shoe full of children, each needing food, clothing, love and attention.

One can only guess where the broth came from. A local soup kitchen perhaps? A handout from a benefactor of better means? The most disturbing aspect of this tale is the violence toward the children.

She "whipped them all soundly and put them to bed". Did she use an actual whip? Perhaps as part of her prostitutial duties, she enacted the role of a dominatrix. Whether the whip is literal or figurative, the violence is well indicated. Here are a brood of children, most likely her own, who are acting out due to malnutrition and abject hunger. One can surmise that there are other health issues, not mentioned, involved with their behavior. We're talking about a woman, of limited financial means, who beats her poor, starving, unhealthy children until they're unconscious. Perhaps she needs them quiet so she can go about her business of selling herself. One can only guess.

Let us now discuss the elephant in the room...the shoe. A shoe of such a size that would permit multiple humans to dwell in it, would be costly. Where would one even find such an object? It doesn't seem well-suited for a residence. A cave would be better!

Was there no local orphanage? No local church? Was the local government so uncaring that this woman, of questionable mental health, and her brood of sickly, starving, children (with behavioral issues) simply fell through the cracks? Were the local citizens also so uncaring? One would think that a woman with many children, living in a shoe, would be pretty common local knowledge. That she and her family were so treated is a testament to the cruelty of humans throughout the ages.

There are other possibilities. Perhaps, as an elderly spinster, she had gone mad and kidnapped various children to claim as her own. This is not an uncommon practice, however, the sheer number of children is alarming. At feeding time, especially, reality crept in. Did she eventually turn herself in and the authorities returned the children to their respective families? Were any of them offered counseling after?

Where was the father?

I probably just ruined this story for you. Didn't I?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Minty Fresh: The Heart Attack Story

(You can hear this HERE on my audiobook, Story Time With Memphis Mike)

Having a heart attack is highly overrated. I don't recommend it for anyone. Worst of all, it wasn't anything like you see in movies. I was expecting the whole Fred Sanford moment, clutching at my chest and calling out "I'm coming home, Lord a-mighty I'm coming home!" No such luck.

The day started pretty awful. I had been out late the night before to see a friend's band, in from California. I had been working 60-70 hour weeks and truly pushing myself to the limit.

I woke up late and seriously, I felt like shit. A gal I had been dating had a really bad cold/bug, and she kept whining that it felt like she had a brick in her chest. I figured this is all it was, and I was mentally making plans to make her life hell for passing this malady on to me.

I only had one client to see that day, but had scheduled a long day with him, so I was really dreading going in. I knew I should just stay home and get some rest, but being self-employed, that was rarely an option. I tried to call to let my client's family know I was running behind, but no answer. I was hoping to luck out and they had cancelled...but that's not how it turned out.

I made it to my client's house, and he was there with his grandfather, who spoke little English. Oh joy. I knew I wasn't going to get much data from grandpa, so I went about my usual day of checking to see if he'd taken his psych meds, and try to sense his mood. Luckily, he was in fine spirits, so it shouldn't be too tough of a day.

As the day wore on, I just felt worse and worse. I tried repeatedly to contact my client's parents to see if one of them could come home, so I could leave...but no luck. I just dragged myself through the day, hoping for a quick and painless death. Be careful what you wish for.

My client's dad finally showed up around 5pm, and I updated him on his son's condition for the day. The dad tried to get me to stick around a while, but as I just felt like total crap, I simply left.

I was home in minutes, and still feeling like death warmed over, I thought a soak in the tub might help. Every part of my body ached. I was exhausted too. There are few things in this world as miserable as feeling sick AND tired, so I dried off and dragged myself to bed.

No sooner had I laid down, when my teeth began to ache like nothing I had ever felt, and I broke out in a cold sweat. I knew, instinctively, that I was having a heart attack. Alone. This couldn't be good.

I ran downstairs, gulped a handful of aspirin, made one of my lesser brilliant ideas...and drove myself to the emergency room. (Note to the reader: DON'T DO THIS! Call an ambulance!) To make sure I didn't croak en route, I made myself chain smoke the whole way. This may sound crazy...but there was a method to my madness. This made me cough and choke a lot...thus keeping my heart in rhythm. Again, NOT a brilliant move...but I took the gamble and it worked...for me. I'm lucky I didn't die in the car.

En route to the hospital, I phoned my dad. As usual, he was busy but I told him, "Shut the fuck up and listen! I'm having a heart attack and I'm on the way to St. Margaret's Hospital." I then hung up on him, as I was doing about 80mph, chain smoking, AND having a heart attack. I didn't need to push my luck by trying to talk on the phone as well.

The ER would have been laughable had it not been for my condition. I made my way to the desk, and told the lady, before she could finish asking what I wanted, that I was "Having a goddamned heart attack". She jumped up, yelled for a nurse, and hurriedly wheeled a wheelchair under me, just as I was starting to collapse. This was the last good thing that happened at St. Margaret's.

She then wheeled me over to triage...and right into a wall. My body fell forward and my head hit the wall and all I could think was, "I'm going to die with my head against a wall"...not exactly classy, nor the way I've often pictured the end to be. If I have to go, onstage would be nice. Under a beautiful super model would also work. Slumped against a wall, in a wheelchair...not so much.

Before the nurses out there yell at me, let me say how much I love and appreciate nurses. It's a tough job. That said, the triage nurse was a fucking useless moron. The info that she needed could have been obtained just as easily while wheeling my dying carcass in through the big doors to where the doctors hide, as in her little triage room. If a person is having a heart attack, DO NOT ask them to get out of the chair and walk in. She did. She checked my blood pressure, and to her amazement, it was something like 300 over 200. I suggested, calmly, that this just might have something to do with ME HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK, and how I thought that NOW would be a good time to wheel me through the aforementioned big doors to wherever the doctors were hiding.

Luckily, she agreed.

Back into the rickety, community wheelchair I went, and BANG, right into the big swinging doors. It never occurred to her to push the button to open them. This was the point when I started laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all.

Next up were two ER nurses that I will simply call Dumb & Dumber. How these two obviously misplaced rocket scientists managed NOT to kill me, is beyond my comprehension. I could feel my life ebbing away with each weaker and weaker half-assed beat of my dying heart. I just kept laughing because it was like something out of a bad comedy.

Nurse Dumb, again, tried to take my blood pressure. I suggested she look at the chart. Her associate, Nurse Dumber, tried to stick a needle in me, and due to my elevated blood pressure, blood shot out everywhere. Nurse Dumber then decided it was in every one's best interest to stop what he was doing, and grab some paper towel to clean it up. Finally, a doctor stuck his head in the door and suggested that it might be best to leave the mess to housekeeping and tend to the patient. I suggested to Dr. Nose-in-the-door, that just maybe, since he had graduated from medical school, he might want to join our little party and actually attempt to save my life.

He seemed to take umbrage at my feeble request, and suggested that Nurse Dumb give me some nitroglycerin.

We've all seen movies or TV where a person with a heart condition pops a little pill under their tongue, whilst apparently dying, and VOILA! They're OK again. Guess what....it works! But....

Nurse Dumb tells me to open my mouth and she sprays nitro under my tongue. No tiny pill...it was a spray! And not just any spray...no sirree! It was like a blast of the greatest breath freshener ever made! Nurse Dumb asked how I felt and seriously, all I could say was, "MINTY FRESH!!!!!!! My mouth has never felt so fresh before! Give me more!!!!!!"  She laughed and asked if I was still having chest pain. I noted that, surprisingly, I was not. I did, however feel completely exhausted. Nurse Dumber had seemed to disappear...presumably to go find someone from housekeeping to clean my blood off of the walls, floor, and everything else.

Next, I and the gurney I was on, were wheeled into a hallway (apparently this is where the real medical magic happens)...to wait. It was decided that I needed to be transferred to a better hospital; one equipped with real doctors, nurses, a cardiac lab, and machines that beep and go PING!

I can only guess that the ambulance driver was moonlighting from his regular job as a taxi driver. He drove like one. And, amazingly, took me the longest route possible to the next hospital. I actually had the gall to ask him, "Where the hell are you taking me? I'm supposed to be going to Presby!"

"That's where I'm taking you", was his reply. He seemed a bit taken aback by me, an obviously delusional sick person, questioning his Pittsburgh navigational skills.

For those who don't know Pittsburgh, this trip started at St. Margaret's Hospital, which is just north of the city. The fastest route to Presby would be to take Rt 28 south, go across the 40th St. Bridge, up 40th, left on Liberty, right on to the Bloomfield Bridge, left onto Bigelow, then up behind Soldier's and Sailor's Hall to the rear ER entrance. At a high rate of speed, this should take an ambulance driver, maybe, 7 minutes. Remember....heart attack patient in the back. Time is of the essence.

But...no. Mr. Ambulance Driver opted to take the longer, less scenic route, of driving all the way down Rt 28, and catching the 579 bypass and on to the Parkway and then into Oakland, where Presby is. Had it been 4am and there was a guarantee of NO TRAFFIC, I could almost see his logic. But, as it was evening, and rush hour was still in effect, the Parkway would be, and was, a nightmare. Stop. Start. Speed up. Slow down. Change lanes. Almost 20 minutes it took. I kept messing with the driver, telling him that if I died because his dumb ass took the long route, I would come back and haunt him. He seemed to take this seriously. Perhaps he was already being haunted by a previous patient, who'd died in his ambulance, from his arrogant navigational methodology.

Finally at Presby, I was whisked to the cardiac lab. There, I was greeted with a phrase that I have loathed for decades. "Hey! Aren't you Dr. Metzger's son????", asked one of the nurses. Again, I just broke out laughing at the absurdity of it all. I told her that yes, I am, and could she please finish saving my life and then we could play 20 questions after. I then made a mistake that I paid for for months to come.

One of the nurses needed to shave me. Down there. You know what I mean. My naughty bits. Still reeling from laughter at just how bizarre this whole experience had been so far, my smart ass side answered for me. I asked if she could leave a 'landing strip'...like some gals get when they get a bikini wax. Much to my horror, she agreed and that's just what she did. I was shaved bald as a baby's butt...except for a strip of hair. For months, it was like an itchy mohawk growing down there! My OCD side was going nuts! I was having to trim things on a weekly basis to keep them even. But yes...you guessed it, it all got weirder.

This was when I met the man who seriously saved my life and has kept me alive for the past 7 years, my little Chinese doctor with the porn star name. Not only is he an excellent cardiologist (even dad thinks so, and he should know!) but he has a good sense of humor and an amazing bedside manner. He explained everything he was doing, step by step, the WHYs and HOWs, and I will never forget, as he shot the dye into me, telling me, "OK, you're going to feel a hot flash, and then it will feel like you've pissed yourself...don't worry, you're not...just DON'T MOVE!"

Damn if he wasn't right! That was EXACTLY what it felt like. And just that fast, it went away. Seriously weird.

I dozed off for a bit as they put the stent in. I figured, if they needed me, they'd wake me up.

Next thing I know, I'm being wheeled to my room, by a very nice nurse/surg tech who I'll call 'Milton' (name changed to protect his identity). Milton was a very nice, apparently homosexual man. He seemed genuinely concerned with my well-being too. We had a pleasant little chat while he wheeled me, and when he got me to my room, asked if it would be possible to see each other socially when I got out of hospital. Sweet Land O Goshen, dude was hitting on me! Apparently, the sight of me naked, and with a landing strip to boot, was more than his libido could handle! He must be what some folks call a 'chubby chaser'. Let's be honest, I'm short, heavy, and somewhat hairy. Supermodel material I ain't!

I told Milton that I was flattered, but didn't date men...but as he'd just helped save my life, I couldn't flat out say NO. I asked if it would be OK if I thought about it for a few days. Besides, I could have another heart attack and snuff it before I ever left the hospital. Milton told me he hoped that wouldn't happen, and told me he would check on me from time to time. Dammit if he didn't! He stopped by every day, and even brought me flowers and home-made cookies! Finally, my friend Linda came to visit and when Milton asked who she was, I lied and said she was my girlfriend. (Sorry Linda!) Broke poor Milton's heart.

The night's weirdness wasn't over yet! There was the matter of all of the blood thinners I was on, and the fact that my little Chinese doctor with the porn star name couldn't get my bleeding to stop. (This bleeding was in my groin, where he slid the tube up into my ticker...I don't care to be more graphic) Apparently, the doc had tried using surgical cement to close the incision, but with all of the blood thinners I was on, it was taking my blood a while to clot.

A young intern was sent in to 'handle' this. In all honesty, I felt bad for him. His job, for the next hour or so, was to hold the incision in my groin shut....with his hand. Yep...you guessed it. Smart ass time again! Oh I tortured that boy!

Intern: "Hi Mr. Metzger, I'm Dr. So & So. I need to hold this incision closed to try to stop your bleeding until your blood starts to clot on it's own"

Me: "Hi doc! Fancy meeting you here! So, I guess we're gonna be stuck like this for a while, huh?"

Intern: "Yes sir. Until your blood starts to clot on it's own."

Me: "Well then, I guess we should get to know each other, you know, especially since you have your hand on my dick."

Intern: "Um, it's not on your penis sir"

Me: "Well, close enough. I don't usually have strange men's hands in my crotch. I'm not saying you're strange...but you know what I mean..."

The intern looked really uncomfortable.

Me: "You have warm hands. Thank God for that!"

The intern was trying to ignore me now.

Me: "That's a very nice cologne you're wearing. I bet it drives the nurses wild. Don't be alarmed if I start getting an erection..."

I seriously thought the kid was going to vomit right about then.

Me: "So, do you often have your hands in another man's crotch or is this a first for you too?"

Intern: "Mr. Metzger, I'm just trying to stop the bleeding."

Me: "And I thank you for that! Uh oh...did I just feel a twitch down there?"

Intern: "Mr. Metzger, you just had a massive heart attack. I think you should be getting some rest instead of talking so much."

Me: "I guess a blow job is out of the question then...."

Intern: "Mr. Metzger, please stop talking."

He ignored me after that. Some people just have no sense of humor. Maybe he should've asked Milton to hold the incision closed. I bet HE wouldn't have minded!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hey Sherman! Don't be a d*ck!!!!!!!!

I am an American. I could shout "MERICA!!!!!! WE'RE #1!!!!!!" but....I'm still trying to sort out this whole numeric order; Who is #2? #7? What is the classification scale?

I've spent a fair bit of time in other countries. I'd like to spend more time in other places. It has less to do with any personal dislike of my homeland as personal curiosity. I like checking out different places. I like experiencing new things. I found, in my travels, that Australia is a better fit for me in many ways...but not all. Their government wasn't too thrilled about me wanting to stay permanently. I get it We have a bad reputation. I discussed it with an immigration attorney friend of a friend there...seems we have a reputation for being unnecessarily violent. Ya think? One look at recent news and I can understand that perception of us.

Many of my fellow Americans believe our own hype. We're the greatest! The best! Land of the FREE!!!! Home of the BRAVE!!!!! Many would be surprised to find that freedom and bravery and all of that fun stuff isn't necessarily unique to the U.S. of A.

One freedom that we have, possibly more than others, is the freedom to fail (unless you're a bank or large corporation). Make a few less than brilliant decisions in life and you can find yourself utterly fucked. No food. No shelter. Definitely no health care. But you were free to make those decisions.

We often believe that everyone wants to come here and be just like us. Maybe in the movies...but not so much in real life. Sure, there are folks that want to come here. But...there are people that move away from here too. I have friends who have moved to Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and a few other places. Sometimes they come back. Sometimes they don't.

Those that want to come here usually want to, thanks in large part, to our unique way of marketing our country, often through movies and television. On my first trip to the UK, there were two questions almost everyone asked...as they believed these to be truths about the US:

"How many guns do you own?"

"Do you drive a Cadillac?"

While I found these questions amusing, it almost felt cruel to answer honestly and dispel the myth. While I have owned guns in the past, I haven't for a long time. I have driven Cadillacs but have never owned one.  Not my kinda car.

When friends visit from overseas, they often find things they like...as well as things they don't like. This is common. I've experienced the same in my travels. I've witnessed people have their first root beer, their first Dr. Pepper, their first milkshake, their first REAL pizza (never order pizza in the UK. It's just sad. It's as bad as ordering it in Indiana). Among the frequently heard complaints about the US is how bad our coffee is and how awful our bread is. I have to agree for the most part. Mind you, some good sour dough or Italian-style bread is wonderful (as is a good marble rye!), our Town Talk, Wonder Bread, etc....not so much. In fact, in recent years, yet another chemical has been added and now it won't even grow mold...even after 7 weeks! (I've tested this. It's true.)

Americans, however, continue to believe that we're the greatest. A nation of Muhammad Alis.....but mostly white and without the Islamic connection. We think we're the beautiful people.

We're not.

A phrase you'll often hear outside the US is "ugly Americans". We tend to dress badly. We often visit another country dressed like we're there to clean out it's garage or trim it's hedges. We can chalk this up to our own unique cultural preference of being comfortable. I'm reminded of a former co-worker who was planning her outfit for a dinner out with her husband and his new boss. She was planning to wear her "good sweat pants".  She was serious.

It may surprise you to know that there are slurs for Americans. Just like the unfortunate epithets for our fellow humans from other countries, there are many for us. I've been called a few of these. To my face. I think it was intended as an insult (in some instances) but it takes more than that to truly insult me. I'm not as thin-skinned as some.

For the cultural adventurers out there, here's a short list of some of the more common names our fellow humans have for us Americans. I won't lie...some really are amusing.

Amerikos - Russian derogatory term for a dumb American

Flash - Fucking Lazy American Shit Head. Used by Israelis to refer to American tourists who are accustomed to an easier standard of living.

Hamburger - Used by Koreans to slur Americans.

Hot Dog Eater - Used by Canadians, referring to American tourists who eat a lot of hot dogs.

Jake - Used by Jamaicans towards white Americans. May be from "Jake and the Fat Man" TV show.

Kano - Filipino slang for Americans. Shortened from "Amerikano."

Pindos - A new word for "American" used in Russia

SCAB - Stupid Caucasian American Bitches

Scheiss-Ami - Used by Germans as derogatory reference of Americans.

Sceptic - Rhyming slang, Sceptic Tank = Yank. Both are "full of shit."
Seppo - Cockney rhyming slang for septic tank = yank, shortened.
Seppo/Zeppo - Short for Septic, see Septic, Septic Tank.
Septic - Short for Septic Tank, which is rhyming slang for "Yank." Commonly used in Ireland. May also be used in the UK.
Septic Tank - Cockney rhyming slang for "yank", often abbreviated to "Seppo"
Septic/Sherman - Cockney rhyming slang. Septic Tank/Sherman Tank = Yank

SFA - Stupid Fucking American - not very clever, but very prevalent in Europe

TAP - Typical American Prick

Yank - A more commonly used derivative of Yankee, used by pretty much every other English speaking country in the world. It is usually derogatory, but can be an endearing term.
Yankee - Slang used primarily by the British. Also used in the former Confederate states to refer to people of the Union states. Origins can be traced to the Ottowa Indians calling the English, "Yang-gees," which morphed into "Yankees" by the British who then took that home after the French and Indian war in 1763.
Yankee Doodle - Used by the British Army to make fun of the rag-tag American army in the revolutionary war.

I would probably find all of this far more humorous except for the fact that my fellow Americans are growing bolder in their public displays of hatred towards each other. The reasons for the animosity are based on sheer idiocy. They're nothing more than excuses to act like a dick than to accept responsibility for one's own life. Its easier to point a finger at someone other than yourself.

Hey Sherman! Don't be a dick!!!!!!!!


List compiled from http://www.rsdb.org/race/americans

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

We Got Kim!

While some of you are filling your unders worrying that Lord Dampnut is going to get us into a war with the North Korean Fascionisto, I've been sitting here trying to figure out what He Of The Tiny Hands is really thinking. I believe I've got it.

He was going to destroy ISIS in a matter of days. That FAILED to happen. Ban Muslims. FAILED. Build his wall and make our neighbors pay for it...FAILED. Repeal and Replace...FAILED. He's been trying everything his tiny mind can think of to undo anything and everything Obama did. Simply put, Obama really got under his skin. His perceived masculinity and self-worth are still so threatened by Barry O. & Co. that he has to find a way to at least match up.

While he could start by being a man and showing off his tax returns (the LONG FORM please...you know, the LONG FORM), we all know that isn't going to happen. He's too busy golfing, watching TV, still running for office, and declaring war on the media. While he should be busy trying to lead the country in a proud and productive manner, he's busy waiting for Putin to save his ass. (Ain't gonna happen)

So, while he HAS been busy pissing off our allies, he's also been picking a fight with one of the crazies. Kim Of The Krazy Hair Klub For Kommunists!

 In Baby Fingers' twisted little brain, he's probably thinking that if he can rid the world of THE EVIL NORTH KOREAN THREAT TO ALL MANKIND AND EVERYTHING GOOD AND SWEET AND FILLED WITH CANDY! it will historically negate Obama taking down Bin Laden ("We got him!"). In the real world...far from comparable. More akin to kicking the wheelchair-bound old lady with Alzheimer's who lives down the lane than tackling an evil mastermind.

 Back to the "long form"....I have to wonder how his wife, Melanoma, felt when Obama finally did produce his long form. I bet she thinks about that particular long form...often. Maybe she talks about it in her sleep. Maybe Donny's long form is out of it's element and just can't compare. (Sorry...couldn't resist being a tad juvenile...just so easy to do with this current SADministration)

So there we have it...the media hasn't figured it out yet. When they do, they'll have a field day with it. Lord Dampnut wants his own "We Got Him!" moment. A "We Got Kim!" moment, if you will. Another sad, pathetic attempt that will ultimately do nothing but make the once United States of America look more and more like a bad horror show. Seriously people, this clown has gotta go.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Just A Wee Bit Pissed Off

Like the title says, I'm a wee bit pissed off. Why? Good question. One could assume it's due to my latest vision-related health issue. One would be wrong.

No, it's band related. The Bessemers are no more. I shouldn't be this angry but I am.

The Bessemers were a cover band. Mind you, we, for the most part, played obscure or lesser known covers. The only reason I joined this band was to work with friends of mine who I consider to be top notch musicians (and I will NEVER call any of them anything less).

In May of 2012, I was asked to fill in on bass for a show with these guys, at the Thunderbird Cafe, opening for Danny Kay (who I later toured with as a guitarist). As I was out of work and had the time, I agreed.

One show led to two which led to three and so on. I was finally asked to join the band "officially". The funniest part - I didn't own a bass or an amp. I had been borrowing gear! (Thank you to Josh, Rob, and Mark)

Even though I was not working a "real job" at the time (read this as "Broke As Fuck") I managed to buy a bass. One of the guys in the band had a bass amp for me to use, so we were set. I eventually bought an amp and two more basses. Needless to say, this was an investment in the band (not counting my time) of roughly about a grand. (think for a moment how much time you'd work your normal job for an extra grand...then factor in that I didn't have a day job).

Long story short, we turned this into a pretty BAD ASS band! I didn't like all of the songs we played, but it was my job to play them well. AND I got to work with some great musicians!

Over the years, we played the usual crappy bar gigs, the occasional "opening act" gig, and gigs wherever we got paid. JUST LIKE ANY OTHER WORKING BAND! It all seemed to be going well.

Some of us in the band also played in other bands. This is not unusual. In fact, over the years, we've sat in with each others' bands. It's really been fun!

We had discussed recording. Odd, as we didn't do any original material....but as we did some really cool and unusual versions of some of the covers, I was intrigued at the thought of recording this stuff.

It never happened.

We gigged a decent amount. Not enough to prevent any of us from doing other gigs...maybe once or twice a month...but enough to get out there, make some noise, and keep the "brand" alive.

All of a sudden...it ended. One member decided he no longer wanted to work with another due to "artistic differences". That's all I'll call it. The reality is just too stupid to go into. As a fellow musician, I'll give this cat his due. If he's no longer comfortable playing with the same guys he's been playing with for years (who work really well together, I might add) then it's time to move on. I get it.

But really, do one last show. Say good-bye. Give it "closure".

Nope. Ain't gonna happen....even though we had shows booked.

Ideally, we'd pick one of these shows and call it the Farewell Performance. One of the shows we had booked was at a local festival. The PERFECT end to the band.

Again....ain't gonna happen.

I'm not pointing fingers. I'm not laying blame.  I'm just pissed off that it ended without an ending. 5 years and a lot of time and  money invested...I'm pissed! I even offered to take the band into the studio to record some of, what I considered, our better songs.

Well hem and haw...maybe...when blah blah blah.....fuck that. It's just done. I do not like having to be the one to say that but I'm not 20. I have other shit to do.

As a musician, I'm lucky enough to have a relatively good reputation, and after multiple decades, still get asked to do a lot of work with a number of great musicians. I've worked with some well-known names (as have my band mates). I'm still gigging and still being asked to do paying gigs.

I'm just pissed off that this quality band is ending without a proper send off.

It is, as far as I'm concerned, too late. The reasoning behind it all, from what I've been told, is just childish and unprofessional. Nothing that couldn't have been worked out. But noooooo. Typical small time petty bullshit.

In November 2007, I had a massive heart attack. 7 days later, I was back onstage. THAT is how seriously I take the art of making music.

The Bessemers essentially came into existence in 1992, under the name The Udder Cats. It was an offshoot/side project of The Rowdy Bovines. Over the years, the band has been changed to  The Daisy Cutters, Ethyl & Octane, The Bessemers, and possibly a few others. I've sat in on bass with almost each version. This last time round lasted 5 years. That's a fair bit longer than most bands last.

I'm just pissed off that it ended so poorly. It had been suggested that maybe we replace a member....but screw that. A band doesn't replace a high quality musician with one of undetermined skill. That's like replacing a Mercedes with a Hyundai.

So, its done. The Bessemers are no more. To everyone that ever came to a show, THANK YOU!
To those that didn't, and to those who might miss us...there are videos on YouTube.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Art of the Telecaster

As a professional musician with nearly 40 years experience under my belt, I can say this: There is no electric guitar in all of the instrument's history that can rival the elegance and simplicity of a Telecaster. Not a one.

Some of my 'kids'. Lots of hot-rodded Telewhackery going on here!


It's been said that a Tele can sound like anything but nothing sounds like a Tele. This is pretty much true. Tonally, it can cover any and all ground a guitarist could want. It's a totally utilitarian instrument, which given my political bent could be one of the many things that attracted me to it. It's basically a slab of wood with a neck and pickups. The bolt-on neck can be easily replaced or removed. In this day and age, that makes it perfect for the travelling musician. Take the neck off, put both pieces in your luggage and you can pretty much fly worry-free (provided the airline doesn't lose your luggage).

When Leo Fender and Doc Kauffman built a crude prototype in 1943, the demand from local country pickers told them they were on to something big. Many manufacturers had been trying to come up with an amplified guitar but the successes were few and far between. When Leo & Co. came up with the Esquire, and later the Broadcaster (which due to legal hassles had to be renamed) the legendary Telecaster was born.

I know a lot of guitarists who have issues with the Tele. I'll wager that this is due to one simple reason: They don't understand the techniques involved with getting a Tele to sound the way they want. Like I stated, it's a workhorse of an instrument. You can get out of it whatever you want...but you have to know how.

This is no slight to any picker's playing abilities. This is more a tribute to the brilliance of the Tele, both literally and figuratively. The Tele, by nature, can be an almost overwhelmingly bright/trebly instrument. It will give more twang than you'll ever need. The neck pick-up is often described as "creamy" sounding. Having been playing Teles since 1981, allow me to give you the #1 trick to a good tone on a Tele: Start with the tone knob rolled about halfway back. It wouldn't hurt to roll the volume knob back a bit as well, giving you the ability to raise your volume during a solo. Do these two things, set your amp and GO!

Great for rhythm or lead, the Tele is all ya need! The neck is designed for play-ability with ease of access to the upper frets. This is something most younger pickers will take for granted, Nowadays, even most acoustic guitars have a cutaway body. I remember when I first started playing guitar on an old Silvertone classical. Getting past the 12th fret took some real work! The design of the Tele neck makes is easy to play anywhere on the neck. Sure, one can go down the rabbit hole of which Tele neck shape, radius, etc. is 'best'...but that's up to each player.

Some of the best players on the planet have all used Teles...at least at some point. Danny Gatton, considered by those who know, to be the best there ever was, originally hated Teles. He was more into Gibsons. He started out with big ol' hollowbodies and was often seen playing a Les Paul...until he found the right Tele. Look the story up. I won't go into it here...suffice to say, few have achieved the level of mastery that Danny did with a Tele.

Not being a guitarist, Leo Fender managed to create the awesome instrument...but there are a few tweaks players may want to do to their Tele. The #1 is one shown to me by Bill Kirchen (one of the baddest Telewhackers out there!). He flips the control plate around. This puts the volume and tone knobs in closer proximity to the picking hand, making it easier to access them for on-the-spot changes as needed. Utilizing these techniques on a Tele, the player can (and often will) modify volume and tone with some frequency during a song.

I'm a fan of brass and silicon nuts on my guitars. The brass gives a little more sustain, although some may argue that. It's always worked for me. The silicon nuts (and saddles) also help reduce string breakage.

I rarely use stomp boxes but for those that like them, a Tele will respond to them as well if not better than most guitars...and still retain it's twang.

If you're a working guitarist, you should probably have a Tele in your arsenal. If you're just a bedroom picker, you just might want one simply because they're cool. The best part, you don't have to pay a fortune for a good one. I just bought yet another Tele. A Mexican-made* one. Even with Custom Shop Nocaster pickups it was under $350. Sure, you spend a grand or more on one...but you don't have to. If you like spending extra money, go for it. Just realize you don't have to.

I'll leave you with some prime Telewhacking, courtesy of The Twangbangers.



* Which would you prefer? A Telecaster made in Mexico by Mexicans or a Telecaster made in the US...by Mexicans. ;-)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Breaking Bread

Back in the 80s, I often said that I could end the Cold War. With a BBQ. The US would supply the ribs, sauce and beer. The Soviets would supply the vodka, spuds, and whatever else they wanted. All countries interested would be invited...but they had to bring food and beverages. It would've worked.

Why?

You get any people together from different areas and one of the things they're going to talk about is food. It's easy to go EWWWWWWW rather than try something different. I was the King of EWWWWW for years but in my 20s, I made a conscious effort to change that.

I'm still a picky eater. Those who know me know my avoidance of cheese and my severe issues with certain textures. But at least I try stuff. Sometimes I like it. Sometimes I don't.

For Easter this year, I decided to try to make some authentic Middle Eastern food. I can tell you this: IT WAS AWESOME!!!!! While a chore to make, it was beyond delicious.

Instead of all of this fighting and moaning all over..how about we sit down to a pot luck dinner. If something is being served that is way outside of your comfort zone, just try it. Ask the origins of the dish. Learn something new. In learning about the food, you'll learn about the culture...and probably realize that people aren't so different.

In my travels, I've tried a number of different things...some of which I will run a mile from if I ever see them again. Some I try to add my regular diet. Some are more of a treat.

See how many of these you've had and which ones you'd like to try.

Vegemite: I love it! It's an acquired taste for an American but if you use it correctly, it's awesome

Jellied Eel: Run. Just run.

Laver Bread: No thank you.

Gumbo: I liked it so much I mastered it!

Maqluba: Mercy this is good eating!

Currywurst: You're probably not worthy but try it anyway.

Fried Catfish: I don't like fish. Period. But...deep fried in beer batter with hot sauce, I can do this!

Buffalo: AWESOME!

Ostrich: See above.

Wild Boar: Again, see above.

Elk, ram, moose, rattlesnake: Yep...see above.

Kangaroo: Now that's eating!!!!

Crocodile/Alligator: Not for me. I've tried both. In future, I'll politely pass (if at all possible).

Faggots & Peas: Once you get past the name, good eating!

Shandy: Why would anyone mix beer and lemonade? Pick one or the other.

Pork Pie: Sounds odd. Tastes great. Even cold.

This is just stuff off the top of my head. There are some dishes I've had that I'm pretty sure were so traumatic that they're now repressed memories,,,but I tried them. I said Thank You and cleaned my plate. I've only ever once vomited at a table and that was as a kid when Dad and I had a stand-off over cooked spinach. He learned his lesson. I can now enjoy raw spinach, on a salad or sometimes on a sammich...but I still won't eat cooked spinach by itself. I don't care who serves it.

Think about it. Everyone eats. Everyone has their favorite foods. Discuss that instead of personal things like religion or politics.

I'll leave you with the immortal words of GK Chesterton, "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”