It's WHAT outside?

Ivory Tickler

Van Cliburn died today. He was 78.

There's really no reason you should know who he is. Really no reason I should know who he is.

He was a famous classical piano player, but hadn't performed with any seriousness since the mid seventies.

Van Cliburn is most known for winning a Tchaikovsky competition in Soviet Russia in 1958 when he was only 23 years old. He was loved by the Russian people for his genius and celebrated at home like a hero. In the first few years after his triumph he became wealthy playing his winning routine, but was later harshly criticized whenever he tried to slip a little Mozart onto the setlist.

Kind of imagine Jimmy Buffet trying to play a Beatles tune at a margarita festival.

I know all this stuff cause I read an article on in when I heard the news.

As I said there's no real reason I should know who he was.

Except that he wrote a book.

An autobiography.

And like Mozart on the set list, Van Cliburn's autobiography must not have been highly praised because there used to be twenty copies of it gathering dust in a bookstore I managed in the mid-nineties.

The store only sold remainder books. It bought them by the pound.

Van Cliburn's book must have been very light.

We were selling it for $6.00.

And then for $5.00.

And then for $3.00.

I remember seeing it every day. And telling myself to at least read the stupid thing, cause, and this is true, I imagined that I would be the only person in the world aside from Van Cliburn himself, who had read the book cover to cover.

The would make us in some way connected.

I knew he was a famous musician, cause I read the inside cover, but I never read the book.

Nobody did.

At least nobody bought it.

After three years of moving his autobiography from one shelf to the other, there were still twenty copies gathering dust.

Could be they still are.

I'll bet that if they are still sitting in that bookstore, there's a good chance there's a seventeen year old clerk who has been waiting since September to see if he could sell just one of those copies.

And I'll bet that he listens to NPR and heard the news about Van Cliburn's death at the same time I did.

And I'll bet that he races to work and buys all twenty copies for $13.50 and puts nineteen of them up on ebay as fast as he can.

The tenth he keeps for himself.

The tenth he reads.

Little Old Testament

Had lamp chops tonight.

Made a "sacrificial lamb"joke while my mother in law was cutting up the meat.

"At least we saved Isaac!" :)

That's funny cause God wanted to test Abraham's devotion so he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Just before Abraham slit his son's throat an angel put a stop to the nonsense and let Abraham sacrifice a goat instead.

Hence: Sacrificial Lamb.

Hence Monday night deliciousness.

But instead of laughter I got a stern look and an hour's silent treatment.

And while I was prepping the lamb chops I was told not to add too much salt.

"Quit turning back to look."

Which is what I would have said if my wife would've have found that funny. Its funny because is a reference to Lot's wife who was told not to look back while the angels burned Sodom to the ground, but she did anyway and was turned into a pillar of salt for her effort. It was not funny because no one was in the mood for Old Testament humor.

I got a parking ticket on Saturday.

A $43 parking ticket.

It was completely my fault. I parked in a two hour zone for over three hours. I was teaching a class and during the break, I called my wife and totally forgot to move my car to another spot.

It was a $43 brain-fart.

Brain farts are expensive when you are a motorist in down town Davis.

If you're a bicyclist in Davis, then a brain fart could possibly lead you and your overindulgence to an early grave.

It will, however, not cost you $43.

For there are laws of the road.

Like "You cannot park on this block for longer than two hours"

And there are the laws of physics:

Like "If you try to cut off a Toyota Echo on your Trek road bike, you're gonna die."

But Davis is a very special place. Its where money, extreme liberalism, and over education has collided into this amazing toilet bowl of anti-social ineptitude.

I say this because I have lived and worked in Davis for many years. I have many many friends who live in and around Davis, I have many many friends who have graduated from its University, and I have even sent my own son there to become a college graduate.

But I can't stand it.

Davis is the only place I ever been where you can smile at a stranger and receive scorn in return. You can't see a movie without having to move your car half way through. You can't teach a three hour class and make a phone call to your wife. Bicycles everywhere. Undergrads hungover and stopping the Chipotle line to see if they have enough change to add guacamole. Post Grads wandering around like zombies because they've spent the last four years in a dark laboratory only to discover that in the real world nobody cares about them and won't hire anyone who looks like a meth addict and doesn't have an indoor voice. Tenure professors so disheveled that the only distinction between themselves and the homeless is that the homeless know how to tune their guitars. And pray my friends for the servant class, who have had their good intentions and kind souls chewed and spit out like Appalachian tobacco.

Then there are meter maids.

Thousands of effing meter maids.

Tickets for jay walking. Riding on the wrong side, riding on the sidewalk. Tickets for being on the line and running two minutes late.

The system is set up for you to fail.

Fail and be ticketed.

Reminds me of a story of a friend of mine who was driving through Texas. Nice looking kid in a well kept mini van and California plates. The sun was setting and in the distance he could see the faint lights of a little town just a few miles ahead. He thinks this might be a good place and time to stop, get a bite to eat and stay for the night. Suddenly he see police lights behind him and he pulls over. He rolls down the window just as the cop reaches his door.

"License and registration." and the whole shebang. My friend wasn't speeding and all his papers were in order. The cop asks him how much gas he has in the tank.

"Little less than a quarter tank, officer." says my friend who is starting to panic.

"Son, you see that little town in the distance?"

"Yes, officer."

"Well, when you get to that town, stop off at the first gas station that you see. Fill up your tank and then keep on driving. You hear me son?"

"Sure do." and he sure did.

Cause for whatever reason, my friend was not welcome in that town, and the officer wanted to make that clear.

See, I don't mind paying for parking.

Because I'm a motorist.

And because my destination and times are variable.

Give me a well lit parking space that is within reasonable walking distance to the place I am going and you can have my money.

And Davis wants my money.

But like the angel entering Sodom, I am not welcome.

Which is fine.

Because when Davis burns, I won't be looking back.

Bigger, Better, Faster, More Five

Self worth is a puzzling thing.

Just a little can give you the strength to move mountains, but a cold breeze from a cruel word can zap you of all your momentum and push you back into your cave.

But there are places where you are invincible. Times when you are bigger, better, faster, more, and nothing can stop you.

1. The Shower
In the hall you may be a 70 year old Bob Dylan, but when the curtain draws back you are Neil Diamond with an audience of twenty somethings.

2. Airport Walkalator
I've seen old women in wheel chairs push themselves just a little bit faster, just to be bionic. Nananana - Nananana

3. The I5/I80 interchange.
Its a downhill clover leaf on-ramp. Even in my Volkswagon Vanagan I am a NASCAR racer going through turn three.

4. The first five minutes playing video games with my son.
I am a Halo 4 god until he learns twenty years worth of tricks in a little over 300 seconds.

5. Carrying the sleeping boy to bed.
This one's got an expiration date, and every time may be the last, but forever is a silly notion anyway.

Happy Weekends to you all

Well, well, well

Thanks to parenthood,

Kaiser Permanente,


I learned something new today.

And then there are good days.

Slept in late.

Big breakfast

Got a massage.

Two hour nap.

Chicken dinner.

Glass of wine and a John Irving novel

Forgot all about being a sour puss.

Happy Monday y'all.

Five, Oh PETA, its Friday

Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.

So says PETA.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Or PFTETOA, if we're gonna respect the rights of acronyms to be allowed to fully incorporate all of the words.

Animals are not ours to Eat, Wear, Experiment on, or Use for entertainment.

Or EWEU for short.

There is a PETA ad that has been pulled from broadcast during the Oscars for being too controversial. Which means that the add will be the focus of some serious media attention not to mention countless YouTube videos over the next two weeks, which plays to the final belief of PETA, which is to be total "Press Sluts" (Their words, not mine)

Five of PETA's core beliefs. Eating, Wearing, Experimenting, Using, and Slutting it up.

Honestly they make it too easy sometimes.

1. Animals are not ours to eat.
Completely true. I don't own the steak I'm about to knife into, I'm only renting it for 24 hours or so.

2. Animals are not ours to wear.
Absolutely. Cotton is brought to you through slavery and synthetic fibers made from petroleum products guarantees that the terrorists will win. Way to go Pleather, looks like we're all getting silk for christmas.

3. Animals are not ours to experiment on.
Monkeys can be easily replaced by MySpace users. No one will even notice.

4. Animals are not ours to use for entertainment.
Frisbees and sticks will have to fetch themselves, Dentists will have to invest in Lava Lamps and from here on out, Cats are banned from the internet. Unless they can play the piano. That shit is priceless.

5. PETA members have to be Press Sluts.
Hmmm? Yes, they do in fact have to be press sluts, for the media has the attention span of a fifteen year old virgin."Slut" is such an incredibly descriptive word. It implies promiscuity coupled with powerlessness and banality. It implies that the merchandise is too cheap to marry, too dull for an affair, and not good enough to whore out. The sad part is that sluts don't leave an indelible mark upon us. We don't reminisce about the sluts in our lives, we may not even ever think upon them again unless we run into them at the grocery store or scanning our high school year books.

We should take some time to think about all the sluts that have passed us in the halls or slinked their way to the back seat of our cars. How do you think they are doing now? Do they have enough to eat, are they warm, did they ever learn to apply makeup, do they ever laugh?

Let us take a moment to remember the sluts.

Let us take a moment to remember the sluts, so that we may go back to forgetting them.

Play Time

Joey spit on Calvin.

We can all agree that Joey is a bit of a dick.

Joann told Calvin to stop playing with Joey forever. I told Calvin to punch Joey in the nose.

We're both pretty wrong.

Running to mommy every time some dick does something dickish is an inadequate and unsustainable response, but worse would be teaching your child diplomacy through violence. My response is a bit more viscerally pleasing especially when I imagine how smug I would sound trying to explain to Joey's dad that boys will be boys, while secretly beaming with pride that some boys are better than other boys, but in all honesty, Calvin would never throw a punch in Joey's dick face, so the idea is moot.

Joey bothers Joann because he's mean.

Joey bothers me because he brags about his dad all the time.

Joey says his dad is a genius.

Joey says his dad has a million dollars.

Joey says his dad travels the world and speaks five languages.

Joey has a very high opinion of his father and by extension, a rather low opinion of everyone else's.

Once, not too long ago, Joey and Calvin were interested in playing an old game on the Nintendo 64, but the game wouldn't work.

Calvin wanted to buy the game for his Nintendo DS, but it was $40, and the minute it was brought up I could see my little mastermind trying to figure out how he could get us to fork over the cash before the sun went down.

Now I'm no scrooge, but I will not now, nor ever, fork over $40 for something that is already in my living room.

So I told them I would fix it.

Which I did.

For I am a child of the 80's and 90's and there is no video game cartridge that I cannot fix with a Q-Tip and some rubbing alcohol.

But while I was donning my regal awesome dad can do anything cape, Joey piped up and said that if I can't fix it, his dad could, because his dad was a computer engineer when he was younger.

At first, I was shocked.

Then I wanted to punch little Joey in his dick face.

Then I wanted to tell him that when I was younger, I was an award winning actor, and by extension, had lots more sex than his father.

But I held my tongue, swabbed the connecting pins on the cartridge, held my breath, and flipped the "On" button.

They say there are no atheists in foxholes, which may be true, but mostly because atheists value life too much to go to war. But the sentiment is true that when we face our greatest fears, even if we reject the ephemeral with every atom in our bones, our hearts will evoke the name of god, and this was my little prayer:

Dear Jesus,
I haven't always been kind. I haven't always been good. And I never have nor will I ever have faith in you, but please, please Jesus, don't let Calvin watch his dad fail in front of his douche bag friend.



And the game loaded up.

And I crawled out of my fox hole with the sun at my back, secure in the fact that I will live to fight another day.

But even as I write this, it occurs to me now that there is in fact something much worse than watching your father fail in front of your douche bag friend, and that can only be raising a douche bag kid.

I'm not sure how Joey's father feels about his progeny. I'm sure there is a mountain of pride that every father lays at his son's feet, but even if he's oblivious to his son's spitting and hitting and calling names, I do know for a fact that his mother knows.

And it breaks her heart.

The legend of jerk face Joey ran like wild fire through the cul de sac gang and there were very few children who wouldn't run in the opposite direction.

But boys wanna play.

And though Calvin's arsenal was quite extensive, you can't sword fight with a tree for very long, so when Joey came calling, there was clearly no reason to keep him at arms length.

That evening, I walked over to the Joey stronghold and knocked. The door was opened and I introduced myself to Joey's mom. She was very nice, but at the same time looked very weary as if she hadn't been sleeping well. I told her it was time for Calvin to come home and have dinner. She looked slightly alarmed.

"But they're playing so nicely together." she said.

I understood immediately. You don't wanna break that magic. I let her know he could stay until she feels like kicking him out or it gets too dark. She smiled appreciably and closed the door.

"She knows." I thought.

She knows her son is the neighborhood bully who spits at kids and calls them names and tells all kinds of white little lies to make himself sound more impressive. And she knows the lonely sadness gets deeper and darker as the boy putters around the house with nothing but his video games and low self esteem, and there's nothing more important to her that her son find a friend, a boy his age, to break stuff and share adventures. Otherwise . . . otherwise . . . the consequence is unthinkable. Otherwise, he'll grow up, and she won't like him very much.

The worst tragedy of all is for your children to become sick, but a close second is to watch your children grow up to be douche bags.

Calvin will never spit back or punch a kid in his dick face, but its not because he's a coward, its because he knows right from wrong and he wants to make sure he has someone to play with.

Even if it's Joey.

Five Nice Things

Some days are just terrible. I'm not talking about tragic days. Days when you lose a loved one, or your house burns down or someone has taken your parking space, I 'm talking about the kind of days where all kinds of little things go wrong. The things that Alannis Morrisette would call "Ironic" but aren't in fact "Ironic" and are in fact just irrationally annoying. And each thing that goes wrong compounds upon another until you can't imagine anything going right. Your heart races at the sound of the phone, you panic when someone calls your name, you break out into sweat when you here a noise coming from somewhere that you have never heard before. You might even find yourself driving home fully prepared to run red lights cause you just don't want to sit still for ninety seconds.

I had that day today.

A terrible day.

And I'm not gonna write about it because, emotionally, I'm still pretty upset.

And I'm not gonna write about beautiful miracles. Cause that's too saccharine.

Does saccharine even exist now as a sweetener now that we have Splenda, and Equal, and Agave Nectar?

So I think I'm just gonna list five nice things that happened today. Not spectacular, not life affirming. Just nice.

1. Had coffee and breakfast before going to work, which was nice.

2. Fixed a grinder, a cabinet door, a broken drawer, and a 18 year old Nintendo 64 Game cartridge (Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time if you must know), which will make my son very happy, which is nice.

3. Organized my tools, they're greasy, but nice.

4. Joann's cooking dinner, which makes the house smell nice.

5.  Webb came in today. I hadn't seen him in six months, and the cancer has whittled him down to a shadow of the majestic man he once was, but he's not dead.

And I think we can all agree, that even during the terrible days, not being dead is nice.

Triple Self Portrait

Yesterday I saw this picture of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was titled "Triple Self Portrait"

The subject matter was pretty racy for a Norman Rockwell painting, so I decided to look it up. Turns out that the picture I had first seen was a parody of an actual Normal Rockwell painting.

"Whew!" I thought.

I may have been that guy at a party and when the conversation turns to Norman Rockwell and I make an ass of myself.

Then I felt a little sad that the racier version wasn't true. I like a little hot sauce in my oatmeal.

The actual painting is a view of the back of Norman's head as he looks into the mirror and paints his self portrait. On the canvas are other famous self portraits for inspiration (Van Gogh, Picasso, etc).

You see the reflection of the artist, the creation of the artist, and the act of the artist creating.

Kinda neat.

This morning as I was reading a book about The Beatles, I discovered that one of Mark Chapman's prized possessions was a lithograph of Norman Rockwell's "Triple Self Portrait"

Funny how one can never come across something and then come across it twice in a few hours.

The Beatle's book I was reading was a book I had been looking for for almost 20 years. I had borrowed it from my guitar teacher for a history report on the 1960's and I remembered having been very fond of it, and meaning to find a copy of my own.

I'm sure I could have found it on the web, but it never crossed my mind to do so, although every time I found my self in a book store, I would pass by the music section just to see if it might be there.

I found it a few weeks ago in a used book store hiding behind a stack of Elvis biographies for a few dollars and held it close to my chest until I could get to the checkout counter.

The book was written by a journalist and one of the Beatles' business managers.

The early stuff was pretty good, the stuff I remembered, but the rest of it, from "Love Me Do." to the five gunshots in front of the Dakota, was all about sex, drugs and the skirmishes between.

Not a lot about the music. In fact, more is spent on Mark Chapman's taste in lithography than the recording of The White Album.

The sixteen year old me was justifiably fascinated by sex, drugs and skirmishes so there is no reason why I shouldn't have loved the book.

But now it just feels cautionary and flat.

As I've grown older, and most of my Gen-Xer brethren might agree, I've grown accustomed not only to experiencing the artists work, but learning how the artist did it and what the artist meant and reconciling that with what the piece meant to us.

VH1 has a lot to answer for.

My album's just about done.

I hesitate to call it my new album because I've been working on it since the Bush Administration.

A few more weeks, a few more tweaks, a few more sleepless nights of "What can I live with?"

But the album itself is only 39 minutes of music.

It's a good listen and I'm proud of it.

and it's almost done.

It's a good listen, but I don't know if it's a great listen.

I do know that the story behind it, the intention behind the creation and the choices made along the way will make it a better listen, so I'm hesitant to release the music without the story.

I want to do what Norman Rockwell did and give you a three dimensional experience.

I want you to listen to it.


And then share with your friends. And I want them to share it with theirs.

Blah Blah Blah Blah.

Actually, I'm just a bit gloomy today because I just finished reading about John Lennon's death. And because the Niner's lost. And because I have ton of stuff to do at work and not enough time to do it in. And because my Martin Jaguar Take Down 40lb Recurve Bow hasn't shown up yet even though the tracking number shows that its being delivered.

And because a piece of art this big and this important can only be finished when hopes and dreams are abandoned . . .

. . . and I have to begin the process of letting go.

Somebody tell a joke.

Five Questions

So Joann and I received a handwritten letter in the mail from Heather **** made out to "The Macrea Family".

No, I did not just misspell my own last name, Heather did.

In it was a handwritten note. There is apparently some information that Heather would like to share with us, and it also came with a pamphlet.

Heather has decent enough penmanship even if her grammar is a little off. I can't tell if she is sweet mother of two, or an 11 year old doing a little Sunday school penance for hogging the X Box and making her little brother wear a dress.

The pamphlet has seven questions.

Two of the questions are about God, which is way out of my jurisdiction, but the other questions I think I can answer quite reasonably:

1. Would you like to know the truth?

Yes . . . but not really. 
Knowledge is power, 
ignorance is bliss, 
black is beautiful. 
The cake is a lie.

2. Will war and suffering ever end?

Only when we are dead.

3. What happens to us when we die?

There are only two things that can happen. Either something or nothing.

4. Is there any hope for the dead?

Good question. 
In reference to the previous, if one dies believing that something will happen, then I hope it does. 
If one dies believing that nothing will happen, then I hope it doesn't.
(that part's real funny there, read it again)

5. How can I find happiness in life?

Candy. Bacon. Scotch. Cigarettes. Laughter.
 Hot dogs that snap when you bite into them. 
Cool Ranch Doritos.
The squishy parts of a consenting adult.
Or any combination of those things.

Happy Friday everybody,

you too, Heather.