NVDT Totally Random – And Then After I Tried To Cut My Thumb Off…

I have read a number of blogs where people complain of stasis, not getting anything done, couch potato syndrome, Covid Fatigue. I hear ya. Me too. But I decided to get off my ass, dust off my tools and shine my DIY Merit Badge for January ’21 if for no other reason than to prove 2020 was over. I can’t change career politicians, the price of gas, the stock market or bad behavior, but I can change what I complain about the most…

Scene 1 – On one wall of my kitchen I had a dark broom closet / pantry that was beyond useless. The door opened into a wall, no light, no way to build slide outs because of the door frame. A fridge in the middle and another tall useless random cabinet. When I was finished I had twice the storage that matched my other cabinets and 61 inches of granite countertop.

Next came my cluster fuck of an office, music room. I couldn’t move, everything was an arm’s reach away, computer off axis with keyboard, cables a spaghetti infestation. What was I thinking, piling shit on I couldn’t get to or use? So I fixed it. Because I know better.

Next was the BIG DEAL – To make the original side of the kitchen match the new side. Let’s talk countertops to backsplash gotta go. From the old cabs to the microwave hole. (The microwave isn’t returning but going in with a single oven.) I even learned enough about cutting granite I made a window sill out a slab of leftover. Since the last picture I’ve installed a new vent hood and re-done the switches and receptacles, waiting on oversize wall plates. Also waiting on oven replacements at the end.

Had another wall going to waste, the one next to the door that leads to the garage. Never been room for a “breakfast nook” so it was dead air. Got out the speed load hex keys, hit up IKEA and then the hardware store for matching pulls. Instant furniture that almost looks like real furniture. After all this I have more than doubled the storage in the kitchen. In fact I have more storage than I have shit to put in it, which is a good thing.

Last but not least I got up one morning to go somewhere and the damn garage door flashed the “I’m Done” code, so I replaced the logic board. Which of course required a drive across Dallas because the usual suspects couldn’t get me one inside of a week. The only available one came in a faceplate that wasn’t a direct replacement. No biggie, board swaps are screwdriver work. But it got me to wondering. How much logic does a garage door need, anyway?

Throwaway Thursdays 2 / SepSceneWrimo

 Sunday, 6:30 PM, The Wyndham Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles, CA.

Jackson had completed his run to stop by an old friend from home’s room, drop off the car wax posters full of cheesecake bikini girls he’d collected at the Custom Auto Accessories convention and returned to the Wyndham lobby where he parked himself against a thick, round concrete support column. She’d said she’d meet him in the lobby to “further discuss” a comment he’d made in the elevator about those rolled-up posters when she’d asked what they were. Whoever she was she was stupid fine and seemed to be a lot on the smart, hot-girl bitchy side, so he’d hung around. Just in case she’d meant it. A hand snaked through behind his elbow.

“The word was bimbo?” She kept the elbow, slid around in front of him.

“That… Yeah. Mayyyy-be I–”

“Mayyyy-be you what? Lost your head? Lost your manners? Lost your excuse?” She was about five-two, short anyway, heels wrecked his height guesstimator, professionally turned out, thoroughly pissed off and not consciously aware of trying to crush his left forearm with her right hand.

“Bimbos I mean. That was…”

“Uncalled for? It certainly was. You know they’re bimbos how? Is there some test we should know about? You pick up some vibe you can verbalize for me? A lady looks good in a bikini, bingo, she’s a bimbo? What?!?

“No, no. Look, ‘bimbo poster’ is a type of, of…It’s a merchandising and marketing genre. That’s what I meant. How I meant it, I mean.”

“What does that make the ladies in the poster, then? Parttime bimbos? And ‘genre?’ That was a deep reach semantic smokescreen, Jackson.” She flipped his ID badge he’d forgotten to remove. “What a cop-out artist you are. It’s the poster’s fault, not yours, that they’re branded as airhead whores simply by their appearance on a twenty-four by thirty-six-inch man-drool advertisement? Are they all magically not bimbos when they step out of the poster? Is that how your little ‘genre’ pigeonhole works? If you met them at the gas station, they’re just some cute, hopefully screwable chicks from Riverside in short shorts, not bimbos? Bulllll-shit, buddy. Every one of the ladies in those bimbo posters of yours is a bimbo by extension in every other part of their lives because assholes like you use sexist language without even thinking. It’s part of an entire vocabulary of subliminal abuse. And they’re bimbos for what, exactly? Glittery paint? Magic oil?”

“Wax. And that’s pretty Aristotelian to go from one poster to all women in posters… I didn’t…” He unpinned the badge and sailed it between a pair of conventioneers into a tall, thin stainless trash can. “Okay. Fuck it. Here it is. Wax. Hot, melty wax,and those girls? Your ‘ladies’? It’s locker room business, alright? The butt-floss bikinis and hot wax. There’s twenty, thirty minutes’ worth of guy speculation and bullshit in that.”

“Oh, more insight, please.” She ramped up the squeeze. “Do share.”

Wax the beav, chicken skin, is there aftershave for pussy, making faces pulling imaginary nip hair wax strips, all that kind of shit.”

Her eyes got huge. “I cannot be-lieve,” she lifted her chin, looked at the three-story-high ceiling of the Wyndham lobby. “I simply cannot believe you actually said that. To me. You know who I am, right? And you said that? God almighty…”

“All I know about you is that your name is Cynthia Olmartin, and I got that off your badge in the elevator. And you asked.  If you really want to thrash this out, we can get it on because I had this discussion more than a couple of times when I was sixteen. Before we start, though, I know I shouldn’t have used bimbo in a conversation with a female marketing rep, or whatever you are.”

“Hold it. You don’t recognize me?”


“Never seen me before?” She pouted, stagey, for effect.

“The Penthouse pout was good, but still a no.”

“Do you read Penthouse?”

“Nobody reads those rags.”

“That wasn’t an answer.”

“When I was twelve, thirteen. Before I discovered I liked girls who were breathing better than in a magazine on the floor of the bathroom.”

“Okay.” She studied his face, relaxed hers. “You were saying?”

“I was apologizing for bimbo, but now, well, fuck that. I should have said it, and all the rest because that’s man-mind business I just gave you. I could have kissed your ass, said I was sorry but that’d been bullshit. A spade’s a spade and a bimbo poster is a bimbo poster and y’all do that shit to yourselves.”

“We do what? Ourselves? ‘Y’all’ demand that ‘shit’. ‘Y’all’ pay us to be prettier than we are, spray-tanned where the sun doesn’t shine and made up like ‘butt floss’ circus clowns.”

“Sisters selling out sisters. That’s down to y’all.”

“Sisters… Selling out?” She faltered as if he’d hit her, glared. “‘Y’all?’ God. What is that, Texas? No, you’re no redneck. It’s not gooey enough for ‘Jaw-juh.’ This is L.A. You’ve worked on it, I know you have.” She checked the ceiling again, sighed. “That was much too big and unexpected to digest all at once. Usually, by now, I’ve… Never mind. I give for a minute. Would you like a margarita? I would. Large. No, huge. And frozen.”

“Yeah, I would. But…” Jackson nodded across the thinning mob at the lobby bar, ten or twelve bodies deep and forty wide, almost all-male custom auto parts and accessory buyers and sellers. “No way.”

“I know this one.” She released the death grip on his arm and as she walked through the crowded lobby towards the way more crowded bar she morphed from well-dressed angry feminist to perfect social seductress. She got a light, sinuous rhythm from her shoulders to her hips all the way through to her feet. Her arms got into it like a hula dancer in slow motion, hands brushing shoulders, her hair swinging lightly when she turned her head and smiled as she parted the testosterone sea. At first, surprised by the light touch, men looked down to check out the female package who’d brushed their shoulders. Expensive, ubiquitous California “sun” streaked hair, yellow leather blazer, silk blouse, gray leather skirt and light yellow heels. They stepped all over the men around them to let her pass, untouched, straight to the bar. The same happened in reverse. She offered them a nod of acknowledgment, a mouthed “thank you” as she passed with two exceptionally large frozen margaritas. Jackson logged the looks that followed her and landed on him.

“You’re still here. I was afraid I’d run you off.” She tossed her hair, smiled like Mona Lisa. “That didn’t take too long, did it?”

“You hoped you’d run me off. Gotta say you work girl business smoother and sexier than a late-night session with the Fifties incarnation of Miles Davis.”

“You will explain that to me as a very sophisticated compliment when we finish our bimbo conversation. One of these is for you.” She held a margarita out for him, touched her drink with her lips, closed her eyes. “Mmm. Salvation,” her eyes fluttered open, “I’m on the concierge floor. You?”

“Second floor of the Jackson Arms in Long Beach. I’m semi-local.”

“So am I, but I have to be here every day for the show and the hotel is part of my contract. My floor has a private lobby that’s cozy and quiet with a view of the Hollywood Hills where we might possibly talk this out without raising our voices.” She glanced over her shoulder towards the bar. “Or be ogled.” She worked the little hair shake and demure, Mona Lisa smile again. “Coming? You might have to be a chivalrous chauvinist and push the ‘UP’ button for us. Can ‘y’all’ handle that?”

“I gots me all kindsa manners, ma’am.” He took her drink and napkin, pushed the button with his elbow, kept up the theatrical drawl. “I read me a book ‘bout ‘em, once-tuh ‘pon a time. Right edge-you-cayshunal.”

“Don’t start lying. More than one book, and more than once, I ‘gawr-own-tee.’” She stirred her drink he was holding, pulled the thin, plastic bar straw, cleaned frozen margarita off it with her lips. “Tell me, do you need to return to the Jackson Arms at any particular time this evening?”

“When I get there, that’s where I’ll be.”

“Wonderful. If you would be willing to stay, say, at least until after the sun is down for the Hollywood Hills light show? I’ll have the concierge order us some nibbles before I let her know she’s free to leave.”

“Your tab and your floor kinda make it your sunset.” He looked up at the elevator numbers dropping, shot her a quick smile with his eyebrows. “I’m partial to those greasy little hotel eggrolls, but it’s ‘y’all’s’ call on the ‘nibbles.’”

She moved closer, tossed her hair that smelled like an angel’s rose garden and took his arm when the elevator dinged, recreated the forearm crush. “Were ‘y’all’ born full of shit, or do ‘y’all’ practice?”

Who Will Sing Me a Lullaby?

I’m a big fan of the lullaby. The beauty is that they lurk in a song that wasn’t written to be one. Except to me a number of the early innocent songs before my time were looking out the window with longing lullabies. A favorite of mine – “Count Every Star”. I’ve heard it done from Doo Wop to Vegas lounge lizard. Treated properly kicked down to acoustic guitar or deep space piano it will knock the volume out of a loud room and turn adults into children, if only for a moment. I have no idea why. I do know it as fact.

I also have no idea why Kate Rusby isn’t a household word. If you don’t know of her music, you might think of getting acquainted. Most everything she writes and sings is in that magical land where beautifully executed simple from the heart storytelling meets the air between the notes. Everyone needs a lullaby once in a while. Who will sing you a lullabye? Kate Rusby. Don’t know if she’ll share the cheese.

Throwaway Thursdays

So this guy inherits a mostly female celebrity softball team, their stated purpose to fundraise for charity. The problem being no one is willing to sponsor them. They all possess a zero softball skillset and blame their morning show leader, Randi Navarro, for dumping them all on “Coach Cowboy”, a stranger who means to find out what makes them tick so he can turn a bunch of temperamental A-list females into a women’s crisis centers fundraising machine. A stranger whose saving grace is he’s okay to look at and fun to be around, has a Golden Globe and a check-stand gossip-newspaper-worthy lawsuit under his belt.

Thursday. Day four of Jackson’s brief lunch meetings with his core female softball team members. He was curious how all the Seven in the Morning broadcast girls found the unhealthiest looking shit-hole places to eat “healthy” food. He’d eaten more saffron, rosemary, balsamic, ginger, thyme, curry, teriyaki, or combo/other infused steamed or wok veggies in the last four days than he’d eaten in a year. Two or three years. Ever, maybe. All of it from questionable looking remodeled and brightly painted old gas stations or little square cinder block huts in strip center parking lots.

In another strip center parking lot outside Psylla’s Garden Delites he looked across another welded-pipe-chained-to-a-light-pole-picnic-table-with-an-umbrella at today’s lunch date, Cicily Warren, Seven in the Morning’s Weather Seven girl. Unlike her pedal-to-the-metal cohorts, Cicily was quiet, almost shy. And pretty, in a classic, wholesome, Miss Iowa Asparagus Queen way. She was also a degreed meteorologist, not another talking head. What she did have in common with the rest of the morning crew was her presentation to him of a little fear, a touch of pissed off, and a whole lot of distrust. They sat, surrounded by traffic noise for a few minutes until she said “perfect” about a crunchy chunk of broccoli dripping with lemon coconut butter. Jackson took it as an opener.

“That wasn’t meant for me, so I guess I’m gonna have to start. The other ladies you work with jumped right in.”

“I can hear it. Who the hell are you? What do you want? They can be like that.”

“And you’re a wait and see?”

“I learned when I was a teenager that there are more important things in the world than my opinion and now it’s hard for me to validate them, even to myself, much less share them with other people. Except for guessing what the weather’s going to do.” She laughed a small, insecure laugh. “They pay me for that.” She dunked more broccoli and gave him a momentary eye lock. “Particularly share them with someone I hardly know who practically demanded a lunch date to discuss topic or topics undisclosed.”

“Point taken. Here it is. My feeling was that you were seriously bummed about the game on Saturday, took you most of dinner to lighten up. That’s why we’re here. I need to know why.”

“It won’t do any good.”

“Maybe not. Try me.” He held up three fingers. “I got a merit badge for listening. Only had to do it once to prove I could. Twice won’t kill me.”

She snarked on some veg. “Randi said you were a natural ice breaker.” She pulled a paper napkin from under his tray, “It won’t do any good because I’m not any good, that’s why.”

“I know this woman, she’s a VP at a big land development company back where I come from. She says ‘Holy Shit’ all the time. So Holy Shit, Cicily. You’re a meteorologist. A for-real scientist. All the city polls rate you number one for accuracy. That looks ‘good’ from over here.”

“Those polls are all Randi and the others and nothing to do with the weather or softball.”

He took a big bite of water chestnut with something limp and green clinging to it to buy time. He’d done this same meeting on Monday, different veggie stand, with Randi Navarro. She’d said their success was all down to Cicily’s perfectly desirable apple pie looks and accuracy because she knew what she was doing, not just smiling and being perky and saying dumb shit about the news.

“Last I looked Randi doesn’t call the weather.”

“No, but she’s why we’re so popular. All big smile and straight hair and that perky cheerleader shake-the-pom-poms-about-everything way she has. I could say sunshine every day it rains and those polls —”

“Sorry, but that song won’t chart. The polls for you are about you, Cicily. Not Navarro. Did you ask the other ladies what we talked about?”

“I asked. They said you wanted us to wait until we’d all done this meeting to talk to each other about them, so we’re being good girls.”

“Cool. I’m gonna tell you something I didn’t tell them. You all say it’s down to somebody else. Every one of you. That’s modest and polite but the truth is it’s all of you, and I can tell by the way you talk about the show and each other that you’re all proud of the job you’ve done. But you’re all missing it. You’re successful and number one in the morning because you’re a team, not because one of you is a standout. So…” he hesitated, stabbed, decided against a lump of orange-ish something in his bucket.

“So?” She checked her watch.

“So, if Cicily Warren can play on a team with the big girls, in the big league, what is there about a goofy little softball team that pushes some button of yours so hard even I can see it hurts?”

She waited. Didn’t eat, didn’t look away. Looked at him like he was a fresh fish being held up in a market. “I’m sure you’ve heard this all week long but I’ll reiterate. We’re terrible. The two guys always say it’s our fault, that we’re beyond pitiful. That we play like girls. We used to say they could help more and stop yelling at us, but they won’t and don’t. And I’m absolutely the worst of all of us, because…Well, because my mom didn’t have the time and we had some problems. No dad, no brothers, and my sister and I never played on a team or learned how to do any of the sports things.”

She’d had her fingers on something in the paperboard bucket she was holding up with her other hand, needed to commit or quit on it. He could see her deciding how much Miss Manners to put into a picnic table lunch with a questionable, just met him softball coach.

He held out another napkin for her, saying “Eat it, whatever it is. You’re killing me and a good story.”

She dropped whatever it was in her mouth, not a messy drop of weird butter to be seen, and took the napkin. “I had a boyfriend in college. He made me play basketball with him for a while. That was almost fun.”

He raised his eyebrows and popped what might have been yellow cauliflower soaked in coconut butter in his mouth, tried not to make a face, waited for her.

“Well, I got okay with throwing it through the hoop but all that ball bouncing and butt bumping and being competitive? I didn’t care for that. We broke up, I went back to the weather and gave up on team sports. Then, last year, Randi said ‘Softball.’ It sounded like fun because it was supposed to be for a good cause and there’s not all that bumping and jumping, but I don’t know anything else about it. Other than I stand out there and wait for the ball and screw up when it comes. And forget swinging that bat thing. I close my eyes.”

“So do a lot of people.” Straight back to third grade. When the pitchers had picked up velocity but not accuracy. To stay in box he’d closed his eyes, swung so hard he broke a bat the first time he’d connected.

They sat in the noise from the One and the sidewalk Muzak for a few, Jackson impressed with how she ate most of the plastic bowl full of coconut buttery veg with her fingers, didn’t make a mess and only needed the napkins for the fingers she used. He stopped stirring his congealing bucket of veg, dropped his spork and a balled-up napkin in it.

“Look, Cis,” he waited for her to drop her spork in her own bucket. “I asked you to do this lunch because the last thing I need is to inherit a fundraising softball team that everyone dreads playing on. And I can tell a couple of you are already looking to book. Truth? I, we really need you to stay. The guys’ll have new manners by Saturday, that’s a promise. And I have a plan to make you and everyone else feel more comfortable playing. I can’t promise sunshine on every cloudy day, but the rainy day blues are over as far as softball and you are concerned. Can we be square on that?”

“We all told Randi you were her problem if you started to stink.” She stirred her thickening goo absently, pushed it away. “We’re okay. For now.”

“Good.” Based on what he’d learned from the other lunches, ‘For God’s sake don’t ask Cis anything real about the weather or you’ll be there all day’, he put on his best curious face. “So, Ms. Weather Seven, do you know how the clouds and the sky get all those colors in the morning? The pinks and weird yellows and grays and blues?”

“What’s in the atmosphere acts like color frequency filters.” She eyed him to see if he was paying attention, lit up like he’d flipped a switch. “It all depends on where you’re standing, you know, and what’s between you and…Since you asked, and this might take a minute,” she handed him her empty veg bucket stuffed with napkins. “May I have another, please? Coach? I’m starving.”

He wanted to ask why they all ate funked-up veg instead of real food, wanted to take her to Trini’s in Long Beach, feed her a burrito the size of his forearm. But he walked to the window, leaned on the worn wooden sill under the walkup window, and waited for the elderly Asian woman to look up from a thick, coverless paperback. She nodded at her book, turned down the page set it on the stool when she stood.

“Hep yeww?”

“I need one more of whatever she ordered before I got here.”

She tilted her head to look past him. “Her?” The woman produced a laminated sheet with fluorescent color thumbnails of all the culinary marvels available at Psylla’s, each with Han characters and brief English descriptions, dropped her index finger on one called ‘Weather Lady’. “She eat here all time. Nobody bother her. She the best. She say ‘rain’, I save money, stay home.” She flipped the laminated menu. Taped to the back was Cicily’s Channel Seven headshot, autographed to Sue. “She sign special. For me.”

“Shoulda known.” He turned the menu over, studied it looking for something he might want to eat, the fluorescent globs on tiny plates not registering as edible, regardless of what they were called.

“I tell her,” she wagged her finger in his face for emphasis. ‘Yeww no truss young man eats healthy food’. I truss yeww, yeww not type for here so no waste time.” She yanked the colorful menu out from under his hand, made it disappear. “For yeww I have fried egg row. Chicken, beef, vegable…”

“Chicken. You have anything back there besides soy sauce? Tabasco, hot saw –”

“Green Dragon,” she deposited a squeeze bottle full of green liquid on the sill. “Carefow, boyfren. Set ass on fire.”

Jackson delivered Cicily’s bucket, set his wrapped up eggrolls, and the bottle of sauce on the metal tabletop before he dropped on the iron bench. Cicily lifted the bottle of green sauce, studied it.

“You do know what this is?”

“Green Dragon’s what she said. You wanna slide it back this way? Please?”

She watched him smother an eggroll with the sauce, stab it with one spork and rip off a bite with another. Her expression started with mild curiosity and morphed into borderline horror when he stuck the chunk in his mouth. “Oh. My. God.”

“Not too bad,” he said through a mouthful. “There’s a habanero sauce at this Mexican dive in Santa Monica, La Reyna. The owner, Trey, makes up small batches of it in the back. You gotta ask for it. Ever been there?”

“Santa Monica, yes. The Reyna place, no.”

“We’ll go sometime after a game. The whole team.” He sporked off another bite. “So. You were telling me all about the clouds and the colors?” He caught her staring at her bucket of gooey veg. “Relax, Cis. You can talk and eat. Nobody here’s gonna call our moms or narc you out to the public decorum police at Channel Seven.”

By the time she was done with her veg bucket, frequency filtering, and smog and chemistry and physics, he was damn glad they’d met at Psylla’s Garden Delites in their own rides and she had a meeting later in the afternoon because the girl could talk some science. Forever. Big, capital S Science. Big Science being his big ouch. He acted interested, smiled, nodded, hoped he said “wow” and “cool” in the right places. He didn’t even understand what the hell the H and L meant on the weather map, all he knew was that a smart, pretty girl on TV who was on his softball team did know, and cared enough to tell him and a couple million other people if they needed a jacket or an umbrella before he left his apartment.

Happy to have relaxed, unloaded science and educated a curious, polite, seasoned listener Cicily smiled and waved before she climbed in her car. He waved back, his other hand lingering on the Impala’s door handle while he watched her roll away. It was gonna be okay. He’d listen to Cicily’s big love for science and nutrition, and to all the rest of them and their big ideas, big hurts, big anger if they’d just hang in a little longer.

He unlocked his car, fired it up, sat back, cut a Carefow, boyfren sonic boom fart before he checked the big wall calendar from Peaches Garage sitting in his passenger seat. Tomorrow. Zane Rialta, the hard-ass syndicated gossip show host with the sun-shade boob job. Her husband was a professional jock, so maybe she ate real food. Please. Any more buttery broccoli or Green Dragon sauce and he was going to fart himself right past the weekend.

Happy 808 Day!

1980 to 83. That’s it. Three years. Easily the most used, abused, sampled, looped, and heard by all drum machines in history.

Why? The thing sounded like the cheezy beatbox in home organs. Boom chikka chikka. Little filtered analog noise bursts crammed into audio envelopes. Tish tish tish clack boom. I mean Kraftwerk made of it by sampling their own voices and using them as a beat track on Boing Boom Tshack from Electric Cafe

Except…unlike the CR78 and other drum machines of the presampling era, the 808 had  variable tuning. No, not the city in China, but actual pitch up and down on the klacks and booms. If a car has ever pulled up beside you and rattled your windows with low-frequency Boooooooom…. Boooooooom that’s the 808. Stretch and distress and compress that low kick until it never fades and rattles your windows when it goes down the street. A sound, we learned, that keeps an amplifier buried on the power supply rails until it burns up.

People will complain about all the kinds of music that sound brings to mind but be advised, plenty of pop and rock songs were demoed with the 808. And more million-selling R&B than you can shake your booty to, jazz, acid jazz, smooth jazz…everybody incorporated the sounds of the 808. In fact I’ve used 808s widely myself in everything from cover tunes to electronica to synth space fart tracks.

Gain access to a state of chill and some headphones, here’s some 808 in a hippie redux context

Why again? Because I was inspired by the old 60s synth instrumentals and hearing a Muzak version of Jethro Tull (?!) in an HEB Grocery store in Austin, TX and figured, you know, I do that &*^% for a living.

Happy 808 day, even if you’re not all that happy about how it’s found its way into everything music-wise.




Deanna – With Two Ns

Roosevelt Junior High, February 11th, 1972

Everyone at Roosevelt Jr. High had been “encouraged” to bring their Valentine’s cards to exchange in homeroom on the Friday before Valentine’s Day because the Pep Club dance was set for Friday evening. Jackson was quietly celebrating the usual embarassment of his Friday laundry bag duty for coach Stephens. The blue bag would get him out of all the card swapping and conversation fumbling. He wouldn’t have to participate or watch guys with their “special for you” Valentine’s cards stand in line and wait to clear on the Hot Girl, Deanna Collings. Word was she’d already dropped on Matt for the dance so she was, as his mom said, “just being polite” letting those guys wait in line to hand off their dollar-fifty Hallmark’s for a poised “Thank you so-o much!” Accompanied by a chance to dream for a split second about being the lip gloss that rubbed off on her teeth.

Jackson’s “date” to the dance was already set with Mary, his across the street neighbor who’d found a way to use him to get to every party since sixth grade by enlisting both their mothers in a charade of “If Jax would only ask me…”  His mother would send him to ask and she’d say yes and go call whoever it was that might not be as convenient or mom sellable to meet her. Sitting next to Mary in the backseat of his Mom’s Oldsmobile was like sitting next to a cement garden statue in white gloves and Mary Janes. Once at the dance, like every time he’d gone to a party with her since sixth grade, she dumped him immediately to go make out with somebody else. He studied the dance floor, the band’s gear, the clutching, blushing or just dance crazy couples until he’d seen enough to describe it in detail to his mother. He turned, climbed high enough up in the gym bleachers to be out of the band’s strobe light, but not far enough into the darkened upper tier to bother the making-out instead of dancing couples, and sat by himself.

A blonde girl with a figure like a tongue depressor stepped down onto his row, sat far enough away to look disinterested for fifteen seconds before she scooted over.

“Hey, Jax.”

“Hey, Ellen.” He couldn’t miss the snuffle in her voice. “Where’s, uh…Whatsis —”

“Jim. Cooke.” She pointed her thumb over her shoulder toward the slurp and slobber zone. “Jim. Horndog. Cooke.”

“Sorry.” He checked her puffy eyes, red nose.

“What is it, Jax?” She blew her nose on a Kleenex she stuffed into a small silver patent purse she snapped shut with a flourish and some force. “What do you guys want?”

“A lot of guys just want to make out.”

“Why aren’t you?”

“Making out is cool, I guess.” He wished he was, or even had the option. “But sitting by a girl, just talking to her, that’s okay too. You can’t make out forever.” He hoped she didn’t call bullshit on him for being a guy who hardly made out at all and didn’t know what to say to a girl, ever. He did love to look at girls, though. How they wore their hair, how their dresses fit, girls with freckles and suntans, girls without either one. Girls with sideburns kind of creeped him out, but mostly all girls were fine with him. Sometimes he’d follow a girl with the right perfume down the hall past where he was supposed to go.

A tall girl wearing coke bottle glasses, white gloves and a new, “you’ll grow into it” blue shift with wrinkled pleats materialized on his left side. “Have you two seen Deanna anywhere?”

“I’d kinda have to be looking for her, huh Alice?” Jesus. Yeah, he’d seen the Hot Girl, earlier. Hard to miss the pink sweater, but —

“Don’t be a snot, Jax. Matt was asking ’cause he, uh, lost her.” Alice pointed discretely at the makeout section. “He’s up there, but she’s not. I know ‘cause I just…uh…Had to leave.” She sat, knees wide and unladylike, dropped her gloved hands into the fold of her skirt and sighed. “I swear to God, Jim Cooke is the horniest guy in this school. I mean the tongue is one thing, but…”

Ellen honked a big snuffle, Jackson thought he’d be better off out the middle of whatever was coming. He rattled down out of the bleachers past a few more kindred lost and lonely, wondered what sort of supreme loser could misplace the Hot Girl. He hit the gym floor, scanned the room and couldn’t spot a chaperon anywhere on the dance floor or posted at the doors. It was now or never bail time. He slipped behind the band and through the un-monitored cafeteria kitchen doors. He crossed through the cafeteria and eased out, had to raise up on the balls of his feet to keep his heels from echoing against the metal lockers and marble floors that lined the dark and empty hallways of Roosevelt. He let go of the breath he’d been holding when he’d stepped down the half flight of stairs and grabbed the south exit door’s cold brass arm.

He leaned the door open slow, caught himself before he kicked someone in the back.  Alone, on the old, cold concrete steps of Roosevelt Junior High sat Deanna Collings. Jesus!

“Hey, um…Collings.” He had the urge to pee, but found his nerve. “What’re you doing out here?”

“Waiting for my brother. He’s coming to get me.” She shivered, shoved her hands further up the sleeves of her sweater.

“Are you cold?” Shit. Way to go, Captain Obvious.

“A little, I guess.”

“Here.” He draped his jacket over her shoulders. Now he was cold. They never mentioned that when guys handed off their jackets in the movies.

“Thank you.” She snuggled into his jacket, stopped shivering. After he’d seen her rescued by his jacket, it could have been thirty below and he wouldn’t have cared.

“You got it nice and warm, too.” She looked up in his direction, had the telltale puffy eyes like the other dumped girls. Only an idiot would dump the Hot Girl.

“I heard Matt was looking for you.” He finally sat. “I thought you guys were —”

“Were what? Were what, Jackson?” Her face full of defiance. “Huh? What were we?”

“I, uh…dunno…” Shit wow. She was pissed at Matt and she’d remembered his name. “Having a good time? Maybe?”

“No! Not a good time. At all. At first, I guess, but then he got, well, he got…” She stopped glaring at him and stared straight ahead. “Never mind. I should have stayed home, that’s all. I just need… to go… home.”

He knew he wasn’t supposed to say “that sucks” to the Hot Girl, or insult her by saying he thought Matt was a serious wuss poser with his Summer Blonde hair and surfer’s cross he had to keep tucked away or a teacher would yank it, so they sat in silence for a while. She drew invisible somethings with her fingers on the concrete by her feet, stopped and snuffled pretty big. He knew it was a leftover from how crying sometimes got your nose all into it. He tried to find something sympathetic to say, thought about telling her how his dad had called his little brother a “screaming snot machine” when he cried, pulled it at the last second and went to the bank of manners his mother had hammered into him.

“If you need it there’s one of the Pep Club napkins, you know, from the snacks and stuff table, in my jacket pocket. Half a cookie, too. If you want. Can I tell you something funny? About Matt?”

“No.” She wiped her eyes, blew her nose, balled up the napkin and put it back in his jacket pocket. “Well, okay. If it’s about him and it’s funny.” She pulled out the half a dry chocolate chip cookie and took a bite and looked at him. He’d never really looked at her eyes before, but…

“When his sister dyed his hair with the blonde streaks she screwed it all up, you know, some of his hair and the lift up sideburns are like invisible. He colors them back on, and up the side. He tried a magic marker but got squiggles on his face he had to wash off with paint thinner. Now he does it every day with some kind of makeup pencil.”

Eyebrow pencil. I know. Some came off on my hand when I slapped him.” She laughed a little through the cookie. “You don’t like him, do you?”

“Not really.”

“Tell me why?”

“Well, you know, I hate to talk sh –”

“Please?” Girls could load words with so much stuff. Especially this one.

“Okay. He’s a fake. I mean, I know girls think he’s cute and everything but you’re a beach boy surfer or you’re not. And he’s not. Not in Oklahoma in winter, anyway. It’s just kinda stupid, I think. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. My mom told me not to go. With him, I mean.” She looked at the remains of the dry as sand cookie, put it in the pocket with the used napkin. “Anyway, some guys in my homeroom didn’t ask me or even give me a Valentine. I thought you had to in homeroom.”

“I didn’t know that, about homeroom Valentine’s cards for everybody. Is that still true?”

“Yes, always. Didn’t Mr. Stephens tell you?”

“Maybe, but I might have been across the street. I’m not there all the time on Wednesday and Friday. I take his laundry to the cleaners.”


“Because it’s dirty?”

“No, I mean, out of all the guys over there, how come you get to leave?”

“He told me he knew I was smart enough to handle it and I wasn’t so stupid I’d forget to come back.” Why did looking at her in his jacket and telling her a story make him feel so strange? “Anyway, ‘cause of that he kept me in gym homeroom for both years. Sort of like I flunked homeroom.”

“That’s silly, Jackson. You can’t flunk homeroom.”

“I could be in a regular homeroom, one with girls if I hadn’t flunked.”

“You didn’t flunk and there are girls in your homeroom. But you have to walk across the gym to talk to them and you’re supposed to give them a Valentine.”

“I didn’t know. So I owe you one, I guess. A Valentine, I mean.”

“I guess, huh?” She gave him a smile that seemed to confuse her face for a second. “Deanna, with two Ns. Here’s my brother.” She stood, retrieved the last of the cookie, shrugged out of his jacket and handed it to him. “Thank you for the cookie, and sitting with me, Jax. Really. I…Didn’t like it out here, by myself.”

“Thanks for, um, letting me. You know, sit. Sorry. ‘Bout Matt. And everything.” He was so glad she hadn’t stayed home and Matt was a loser he wanted to scream. A car rumbled up directly in front of them, blinding him with the headlights. Her brother unwound from the car like a bear from a cave.

“Is this him, little sister?”

“Him?” She glanced at Jackson again. “Oh, no. Jax just waited with me. So I wasn’t outside alone.”

“Yeah?” Jackson’s hand disappeared when her brother shook it. “You know the guy that did whatever, pissed her off?”


“Think you could kick his ass for me?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Give it some thought, man. You did the right thing, hangin’ with DeeDee.”


Stop it, Doug! DeeDee? Really? Goddaa —” Her door closed with a BAM.

Her brother laughed. “Awww sorry DeeDee, I forgot –” His door slammed, the car backed away with a roar, the tires screeched, threw up burnt rubber smoke.

Deanna Collings had slapped Matt, huh? Wow. Wonder what he did? Jackson knew he’d never get close enough to get in that kind of trouble with the Hot Girl, but his jacket sure smelled good. Wait till he told his parents what a gentleman he’d…Shit! Valentine’s was Monday! He had to find Deanna with the double ‘n’ a card. Where was he supposed to get a Hot Girl Valentine card that didn’t come in a package with thirty others?


Saturday morning Jackson upended the paper delivery bag on his bike, brushed out all the funk inside, and pedaled off with enough lead time to make the twenty-four block ride to the mall when the stores opened. He guessed nobody knew about the bookstore because they had tons of righteous Valentine’s cards.

Some were what his mom would call sexist smut, so he stayed away from them. Well, he looked, because boobs were boobs, even cartoon boobs, but he didn’t buy one. He did find a funny one he was sure nobody had gotten double N Deanna. On the front was a black and white picture of a Gerber-ish baby, its face all screwed up with a finger way up in its nose. It was two bucks. He figured because of the book store and the mall and everything, but he bought it.


Jackson stood up as tall as he could with the extra boost afforded by his cowboy boots and waded through the Valentine’s Monday before school huddle around Deanna Collings. He stepped in front, handed her his card, along with an apology for forgetting in the first place. Instead of a canned smile and “Thank you so-o much!” he got a flustered “You remembered? Really?” and another one of those smiles that seemed to confuse her face. He also got glared out by her entourage.


“What’s with the big red envelope, man?” Kirk and three other guys surrounded him at his locker. “Crushing out on Collings?”

“I had to.” Jackson banged his locker door closed in the hall on his side of the gym. “I missed Stephens’ ‘Valentine’s for everyone’ announcement. She told me —”

“That never happened, dude. Stephens giving a crap about Valentine’s cards or Collings telling you anything. You’re hopeless, man.” They shoulder punched him, shoved him toward the gym door. “Lying so you can be another Collings Fan Club dork? You’re pathetic.”

Jackson cast a furtive glance across the gym where Deanna with two N’s was surrounded by girls. They were all laughing, a few looked over, checked him out. Dork? Maybe so. But unlike every other guy at Roosevelt, he’d talked to her, alone. No crowd, all by herself. She’d snotted up his napkin, eaten his cookie, even told him how to spell her name like he was the one person at Roosevelt who didn’t know. And his jacket still smelled like her. He shoulder punched back. They could all fuck off. He’d earned his Valentine card moment with the Hot Girl.


Jean Collings, Micro Biologist, was the guest of honor in the Roosevelt Junior High Principal’s office. Somewhere she hadn’t been since her son had gone on to high school. Where she was presented with her usually compliant, rule-abiding honor student, cheerleader and class president turned angry and defiant daughter who refused to give up a “note” she was accused of passing in homeroom. Along with a Girls’ Gym teacher who should wear looser sweats that weren’t almost high-water capris, and fat old Mr. Greer who remembered her well from Doug Collings’ glory days at Roosevelt.

“The card, sweetheart?” Mom Collings held out her hand. “May I see it?”

“NO. It’s mine, and, and,” Deanna clutched the card to her chest with both hands, “nobody else’s.”

“You showed it to the girls in homeroom and started a ‘disruption’ with it. That’s why I’m —”

“It’s funny. That’s why we were laughing.” She tightened her grip on the card. “And nobody else got one like it. At all.”

“Deanna? The card. Now.”

Mom Collings opened the envelope, made a small face about the baby with the finger buried in its nose.

I Sure Had to Work
She flipped it open
To Pick a Winner Like You!
Be My Valentine?
Happy V Day, Two N’s DeaNNa – J

Jean Collings laughed out loud, looked at the gym teacher and the principal with some serious adult stink eye. “This is why I’m here?” She held the card up, wedged between her fingers. “This? No M-80s in the trash cans or toilets? No math teacher’s upside-down Volkswagen? Just this?”

“The issue I believe, Mrs. Collings, is insubordination. Your daughter refused to show the, um, ‘note,’ to Miss Riordan.”

“This is not a note, Walter. This is a Valentine’s card. In a large, red envelope, addressed to my daughter on what I believe is Valentine’s Day. Where is the problem? Miss Riordan?”

“They were all almost out of control giggling and laughing and I am charged with their physical and moral safety, Mrs. Collings. Deanna is a class officer and a role model. I felt I should intervene.”

“That’s nothing but a large bucket of double talk that allowed you to use the ‘passing a note’ rule as an excuse to get my daughter in here. So you could read her dangerous and immoral Valentine’s card? A card that did nothing but make a group of young girls laugh?” Her glare bounced between the other two adults. “I am less than pleased with both of you. This card is my daughter’s business. I have read it, approve of it and, as she has said and I agree, it is none of your business. The young man on the bench outside, who is sitting there I assume because he is the one who gave this card to my daughter? He should go back to class as well. Don’t you agree?” She waited a few seconds short of getting an answer. “Good. We’re done here.” She banged the door of Walter Greer’s office closed hard enough to rattle the mottled green glass with his name stenciled on it.

“Sorry, mom. Really.”

Mom Collings laughed, pulled her daughter close in a one-armed hug. “Don’t be ridiculous, Deanna. They should be sorry. I’d like to know where he got the card, though. I haven’t bought your father one yet.”

You Kiss Like You Dance

I probably have many “better” short stories, but when it’s for fun I like to give Logan and Jackson some air. This one is for Stevie Turner’s October Short Story contest. Which, as long as it’s under 2k and not too far removed from tasteful (like me), send one.

After four days of hell in the “dressed up party dance” class, where he’d had to repeatedly pay a fine to his full-on “how stupid and clumsy can one human being be” partner every time he stepped on her feet or pinched her or twirled her wrist the wrong way, Jackson needed someplace to Zen. So he went to the one o’clock Saturday open class because when he was the idiot novice in ballet class he had to take everything else in his brain out of gear and just be there.

When class finished he assumed his sweat-drenched, bent over, hands on his thighs posture. His thighs had stopped shaking after the second week and that had been a relief. He kept telling himself one more week, just one more week of this humiliation and he was done. And there they were, ballet feet, interrupting his view of the polished wood floor. He recognized the beat-up toe shoes, one with two strips of kinesiology tape creeping out and around an ankle.

“Hey, Logan.”

“It’s Logan, Jax. Logan Bevan, um…Logan Nicole Bevan-Burns?”

“I’m not mad at you, and I’m definitely not your mom, Logan Nicole. You need help with something? I’ve got lots of —”

“No.” She pushed a greeting card envelope under his bent over nose. “Happy birthday!”

He looked up, watched her embarrassed blush go all the way to ten.
“No shit?” He raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t count if you don’t sing.” He watched her crumple a little. “Just kidding, Logan. Thanks.”

The card had a cartoon of a lady in a produce section holding a melon of some kind, her nose wrinkled.

“My mom said if I wasn’t sure how old something was,
I should sniff it or squeeze it”

He opened it, the cartoon lady still had the melon and also a devil smile.

“Consider yourself sniffed and squeezed.”
Happy birthday, Jackson. Thanks! Logan.

She had started to write ‘Love, Logan’ and caught it, he saw the combo v and g.

“Twenty-three, Logan. Love you, too.”

“I totally dorked that, didn’t I? I should have just said it. Like humongous duh me. Twenty-three? That is so okay. I’ll be twenty-two in September. Last September. I am twenty-two. Shit. Oh-ohhh, I shouldn’t swear, you’ll think I’m one of those girls.”

“What kind of girls? First, you’re another dancer with a guy’s name. Second, you’re another rehabbing real ballerina. From where, New York by way of Seattle? Third, you just gave me a really —”

“Clever.” She poked the card with her finger. “The man at the store? I told him I was totally clueless how old you were, and like I can’t just ask you, right? He said this, that, was a clever card. Clever, like smart. So I bought it. And it is. Clever. I’m not sometimes, right, because I just dance. You told me twenty-three because the card made you. I can’t really squeeze you or sniff you. Well, I could, but you’d be all like what is this ditzy spaz doing, right? Not like I wouldn’t like to squeeze you. I didn’t think you were really old, but, you know, you shaved that beard thing and that was like a major relief and…And, like for real not after class, that would be so seriously ick. I mean me, too, not just…Oh-ohhh, shit.” She turned a little, rubbed her nose with her finger. “Shit. I’m doing it, I know I am. Logan, you are totally wasting out. Stop. Shit.

“You a little nervous about something, Logan?”

“Yes, way. Kenny? She like took over with you. She takes over class all the time like queen bitch, you know? She’s gone, I think. For a while, anyway. Like thank God for another Nutcracker and an oops, preggo Snow Queen, right? We’re different, you know, Kenny and I, but um, we dance a lot alike, but not. We get off the ground the same. She’s more,” she angled her arms, robot Egyptian style. “Mechanical? Um…No. Not technique-wise, what I mean is she dances so like a gymnast sometimes, you know, all boing, boing and everything, so she completely gets all those snotty, techie choreographers with their mega urbano thing.” She rubbed her nose again while she thought. “I’m, I do the, um, she’s a…I’m more of a girl. That’s what I mean. And I get the, well, like I’m a prettier dancer, in a dancer way. Not that I’m prettier, that would be so like a total ego bitch thing to say, but I, well —”


“Like I am so sorry. I haven’t done it yet, have I?”

“I don’t know. You are a pretty dancer. She explodes into things, you bloom into them. Different girls, painting the same picture with different brushes, playing the same song with different instruments. What haven’t you done?”

The brushes had her thinking, so much so that she was painting the air with an invisible brush in her right hand, a couple of quick strokes, a couple of softer ones.

“That is so totally awesome a way to think about that! Flick, flick and swoo-oop.” She let her imaginary paintings hang in the air, admired them. Snapped herself back.

“So, um, Jackson, Jax, sorry, will you, like, um, go out to dinner with me? For your birthday? Like, you know, thanks for all the help and taping my foot and your birthday and everything dinner…No, that’s like all so monumentally a lie. Because I want us to is why.”

“When would you  –”

“Today? No. Like tonight, I mean? I need a shower yesterday. Whew. I am like sweat-ee ick. And my legs are hairy to the max,” she rolled her eyes. “It must have been days, right? Like I forget because until my tights snag or something or I have a date, right, like that ever happens. I shouldn’t have told you that, but it just like comes out. Girls do that, shave their legs, so it’s okay. It’s not like a secret, you know, that I shave them because you don’t think they don’t magically not get hairy or anything ‘cause we’re girls. Do you? Cause I knew this guy, and —”

“No, I… Jesus, Logan. Yes. I’ll go. I’m yours. Nobody has done anything for my birthday since I was nineteen.”

“Get out! No-oh way! We all knew it was your birthday. Because Madam dance Nazi? She told us two days ago but like no one brought a cake. She wanted us to do something for you, you know because you’ve been like really nice to all of us. But no cake. So, um, we totally kicked you to the curb on your birthday. I wanted to ask you before, you know when Kenny was all Queenie and everything. But she was like so possessive. But, um, you always helped me. ‘Specially after I boiled over on my tape that day and everybody said I was a total crybaby diva bitch and you said like no, I wasn’t, I just had bad advice about tape from somebody. And you like fixed my whole foot and pointe shoe drama with two pieces of tape, and —”

“Logan, even with Kenny here, all you had to do was ask.”

“No way, Hose-A. We knew Kenny would get all that way she gets and like Gack, you know? Who wants to deal with her going total postal bitch, right? Well, like Erica got all Wonder Woman that day right in front of her and asked you to hold her ankle for-ever while you walked her around en pointe. She said you checked her out deep and you didn’t miss a thing and…There I go. Shit. Sorr-eee.”

“Logan, stop apologizing and tell me how we do this tonight?”

“I have a place picked out, to like eat, but um, it’s your birthday, so like am I driving ’cause I asked?” She got flustered, stalled briefly. “I don’t know where you live.”

“Off Broadway, in Long Beach, but I’ll drive. Give me your address and phone number and clue me with a time?”

She put her hand out for him to hold, pulled up her non-taped foot, untied her pointe shoe and pulled out a sweat softened card. “I live with Lyle, she’s in modern and still at SoCal and Erica. We have a three-bedroom not far at all. I wrote it down already, you know, like in case you weren’t like old or weird and said yes. I made a reservation for seven forty-five, that’s all they had, and like it’s so small but way on some list or something. It’s about thirty minutes, maybe?”

“Seven? It can’t be a suit place.”

“No, no. Not jeans is all, and like this year gear is best. I have a way hot new dress. It’s too short. I, um, bought it in case you said yes. It’s really not too short. Yes, it is. I have others, they aren’t new, but I could wear one, you know, if…The new one is fuh-un. I was worried, you know, like about how short it is? And then you see me in tights and they’re like ‘here’s my butt’ all the time.” She pulled on her leotard. “No place to hide in here. They tell us that when we’re young so we get over being self-conscious. But you’re a guy, you know, not a dancer, but a street guy, so it’s different. Or is it?”

“Logan? Wear it. If they don’t like it we’ll go somewhere else. You and I. Your apartment at seven. I’ll be cleaned up.” He leaned into a backstretch before he straightened, threw his sweatshirt around his neck.  “Thanks, Logan. Seriously.”

She tried to get right up in front of him, like an awkward dance partner, tried an even more awkward kiss and missed it. She went to ten on the embarrassed scale again, looked at her feet, popped the sides of her thighs with her palms.

Uhh! They all said, well, if I could get all the way through and you like said ‘yes’ then I was supposed to kiss you and say ‘Happy Birthday’ and everything and tell them I had a real date and —”

He caught her hand before she could walk away embarrassed, twisted her wrist lightly, just enough, and there she was. Boobs and banana.

“Wha — Oh!”

He kissed her, let her get used to it, leaned into it a little with his hand still holding hers at the small of her back and she warmed way up.

“You kiss like you dance.”

“You don’t!” Her face lit up like she’d just won the lottery. “Like thank God, right?”


Looney Lunes #162

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Outside


Little birdie in the sky
Why’d you do that in my eye?
I’m not mad so I won’t cry
I’m just glad that cows don’t fly (or people…)

If they’d only misspelled FACES

Slow Night On Police Blotter Duty

MAN PUNCHES HIMSELF, CHARGED WITH ASSAULT Headline, Gallup Independent, New Mexico

Why? Because it felt so good when he stopped.

Looney Lunes #161

The Double-Edged Sword Episode

FORKLIFT OPERATOR – Whorehouse near Port of Tacoma is currently hiring FT forklift operators – The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington

IVORY SATAN WEDDING GOWN – strapless, back buttons, size 10. Sparkly Vail, cleaned, $85 –  Classified Ad, Canton, Ohio


I have uploaded a short video about my small organ – E-Press release and header on YouTube video by a professional organ builder

Did you hear the one about the horny lady who went to church? She chased the preacher around the sanctuary until she caught him by the organ.

The sword’s other edge – These are why self-editing is so critical. I have read more meaningless or Freudian slips or blind eye publishing in the last week or so it’s crazy. I was victimized myself last week by an autocorrect dictionary that couldn’t decide between hangar and hanger. The moral is we need to read our stuff before hitting the publish button.

RANDOM NVDT – Writerly Concerns #22

Authenticity –

“You’re telling me nobody in Washington DC has a piano you can rent?”


“Not Washington Music or Venneman or the Steinway Hall or any of the back-line places? Jesus, you’d think there’d be a shit load of pianos in DC. All the parties and weddings and receptions, hotels.”

“No, man. I’ve called them all and nobody has a grand piano I can rent. That’s why Rick told me to call you. He said you could hook me up.”


“Wakeman. He’s coming in to play a classical music concert. A live broadcast, and he needs a good piano.”

Right. Rick’s a real comedian. Here we go. “I can get you a ProMega3, from Chicago, with Rick’s programs blown into it. Have it there in three days.”

“What? A Pro…What?”

“A Generalmusic ProMega3. It’s a physically modelled digi –”

“A digital piano? No way, I can’t have that. Those sound like shit, everyone will know, Rick will hate it.”

“Rick won’t hate it, that’s why he told you to call me. It’s not a sampled piano. Yeah, those all sound like audio Polaroids. But this is a real-time physically modelled instrument, sympathetic resonance figured on the fly like a real piano, all the math done by the physics department at the University of Padua. Padua being where the piano forte was invented.”

“It’s still a digital piano, no matter how good it is. It isn’t an authentic piano. I have $5,000 microphones set up in here for a real –”

“Riddle me this. You put five of those microphones on the piano. Run them through the board –”

“A digital console with high end Prism ADA converters. Those things are –”

“Ten grand a pop. Great. What do you have at the end of that signal chain?”

“What do mean, what do I have?”

“You have a digital piano. Just like the one I’m offering you. Five high end mics, data conversion to harmonic and volume modelled envelopes, real time resonance. The sound board and wooden case is done with math, not samples. It’s as authentic as your mics and digi board. If anyone notices or complains, I’ll eat it.”

“Well, hell, we’re out of time now, I don’t have any choice. And Rick said…Shit…Are you sure you don’t have a real piano?”

“Positive, but I’ll send you a ProMega3. Tell Rick everybody loves a clown and to poke around the first bank, Herbie Hancock’s fave Fazioli tweak is in there. Sound check for Artist Not Present in Rick’s case is number 2, RW Stein. Any problems, call me.”

A week later I make the call. “Anybody complain about Rick’s piano?”

“No. Did you hear the show?”

“Sure,” I lied. “He’s crazy funny and can play his ass off.”

“Yeah. So, uh, look, how can we get two of those ProMega things for the studio?”


All you have to do is make me, or any reader, believe it. I have a WIP set in LA in the early 80s. I wasn’t there, I was in NorCal. I have friends who were. What is needed is “A studio in Silverlake.” It works because there were a lot of them. A high-rise ocean-front condo in Santa Monica. Yeah, duh. A funky old 8 plex apartment in Long Beach. L.A. is the global center of funky small apartments that could have been shotgun houses, old motels, two story office buildings. They’re in every TV show ever shot in L.A. from Dragnet to Transparent. I read Laura Levine’s fluffy mysteries, her heroine lives in an apartment in West Hollywood. Some colorful neighbors, funky houses. Traffic sucks on the 5, the 1, the Harbor Freeway, Santa Monica Blvd. Of course it does. Who am I to quibble? Fancy restaurants on the beach, Mexican places with huge burritos, everybody accepts that. More importantly, it’s enough. Robert Parker used to beat me with Boston, but not too hard. Tony Hillerman could put me in an old beat up Suburban in the New Mexico desert with few words and a few mountains. Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty in L.A. Are there any map coordinates?  No. Descriptions of big houses and restaurants and grubby offices. Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. A dumpy house, a grimy bar, a nut-case estate. For me? In and Out Burger on Beverly. A vegetarian walkup in the parking lot of a strip center, or off the 1 in Malibu. Pre-War apartment courts on the bay in Huntington. They’re there. Why not? Authentic is the story, on a believable set.

Authenticity, then, does not require 200 pages of Irvine Welsh’s phonetic Scotts, or an accurate down to the nails in the shutters description of a side street in the Bahamas or a page and a half of verdant pastures or a horticulturalist’s coffee table book version of Louisiana garden and potted plant life. Or $20k worth of mics and preamps. Authenticity is a few locations, a few props, carried by the story. All the set decoration in the world isn’t the story. If the story works, it could be next door or a far-off land. Make me believe the characters and their stories without gumming up getting them around and putting them somewhere. Authenticity is the story. 


Authenticity – When asked about Jeff Beck’s guitar rig his tech answered with all the right techy stuff. He finished by saying “But he could play an old Masonite Silvertone through a Pignose and he’s still gonna sound like Jeff Beck.”

More Authenticity – Rick’s version for an Australian magazine. Zoom to read.