The Gentle News

Invalidating people's opinions and personal sentiments since 1981.

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Saturday Night’s Alright

April 2nd, 2011 · Daily, Potpourri

I am typing these words into Windows Notepad.exe on a PC that normally sits atop my spinet piano in case I feel the urge to query the nets for lyrics or chords to the song I am attempting to recall or create. Presumably, I will later copy them and paste them into some other bit of software that will illuminate some of my more glaring typographical errors and misspellings. I will likely correct some of these mistakes, decide to leave a few in for fun, and completely miss a handful more.

I have no plans today. I know I have all day to accomplish some of the domestic goals I have let pile up over the last few months. I also know that at some point in the late afternoon or early evening I will receive an invite, directly or indirectly, to some social event, formal or informal, that will entice me to ignore the fact that I’ve allowed those domestic goals to pile up in favor of consuming various audiovisual and textual trivia all day.

The incredulity that will not permit me to believe the truck emblazoned with the “if you’re not right with God, you’re doing it wrong” (or some other such cute verbiage) back-window sign was strategically slated to pull in front of me on the freeway at the very moment I was having a semi-humorous, tongue-in-gums conversation with Christ is the same boring realism that prevents me from doing anything productive with the following actual memory from this week’s whirlwind trek from DFW to NYC to Austin and back:

I’m in an elevator ascending to the fourth floor after walking around the building for some at-this-point forgotten and unfinished purpose. I had received a phonecall eliciting an abrupt return to the office before reaching my intended external destination. The sharply dressed black gentleman who pressed the button for me after politely inquiring “Which floor?” exits on the second floor.

As the elevator door beings to close, I hear the receptionist at the second-floor real estate office ask him, “Victor?”

As the door is nearly shut, I hear the well-tailored man respond, “Who the fuck is Victor?” Both the question and the response are repeated, with heightened insecurity from the receptionist and near-violent defensiveness from the visitor.

As I reach my office, my phone rings again. It’s the previous caller, a VP who needs help with a customer. His phone signal is so poor that after three attempts to convey the specifics of the problem to me, he decides to hang up and call me from a land line. Between the end of the mobile call and the subsequent terrestrial one, I had remembered the reason for originally leaving the building: I was hungry and needed some lunch.

After giving the VP all the information I had about the problem, and several well-developed possible solutions, I am certain my services will not be needed for at least long enough to run down to the ATM, buy a gyro from a very nice Palestinian food cart vendor, and bring it back upstairs to sit and get cold while I entertain further confused distress signals from the same caller.

As I place my ATM card into the slot beside the external door to gain access to the ATM alcove (Have you seen these things? They’re pretty cool. Kinda like checkpoints to semi-secure areas of some civilian, capitalist space vessel.), I hear a mobile phone inside chirp out a semi-recognizable polyphonic muzak rendition of some Coldplay tune I can’t be bothered to recall the name of. While I wait for the previous patron, already finished with her ATM activities, to finish her obviously unimportant phone call so that she will move out of the way and allow me to get some cash, only one sentence from her typically-NewYorker, diarrheic mouth piques my attention enough to remain forever in my memory: “I don’t know anybody named Farris.”

She moves slightly to the left of the ATM screen, and I position myself to the right so she knows for certain that I, though completely respectful of her freedom to take her own sweet goddamn time, semi-urgently require the use of this functionally unoccupied, semi-public device. With a brief, “who-the-fuck-do-you-think-you-are” bit of eye contact, she puts the phone between her ear and shoulder and shuffles to the courtesy table a few feet away, all while continuing her wastefully cynical phone call and fishing out some shade of asshole-brown lipstick from her overpriced purse.

Gyro in hand, I walk to my temporary desk on the fourth floor and wittily dismiss my Hebraic cohorts’ semi-jovial accusations of supporting “the enemy” by purchasing and consuming “terrorist food.”

The preceding collage of empirically unrelated moments in time represent a miniscule glimpse into my internally well-reasoned (“good enough for me”) contentment with my inability to do (and disinterest in doing) the following things with any measure of aptitude:

⁃ Hold a sufficiently succinct telephone conversation with strangers or loved ones without either upsetting the other party or allowing myself to become uncomfortably annoyed that I have not yet hung up the phone.
⁃ Find a job that doesn’t frustrate me so much even if it means adjusting to a smaller paycheck.
⁃ Understand why some writers feel they are incapable of practicing their craft without access to specific tools upon which they have become sentimentally dependent.
⁃ Employ an adequately balanced mixture of adjectives, adverbs, parentheticals, and appositives.
⁃ Curb my addiction to sitting outside doing nothing but read, think, drink coffee, and watch my awesome dog enjoy the sunshine of her backyard.
⁃ Overcome my counterproductive tendency to write too much about writing.
⁃ Find something nutritious to eat when it’s 2PM and I’ve had nothing but too much coffee all day.
⁃ Over-edit while in the process of writing.
⁃ Finally, actually record that really kick-ass guitar lick I’ve been farting around with for months.
⁃ Remember what the hell it was I initially intended to convey when I began writing.

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Clean

January 21st, 2011 · Potpourri

This January I have lived about 18 years. It has been wonderful, awful, devastating, eye-opening, and enough. I will be thirty in June. That is supposed to mean something, and I intend to see that it does.

My stomach hurts in the way that it’s supposed to ache when you’re coming clean from a ton of shit you shouldn’t have done but will always be thankful you did.

It’s no secret that I don’t handle secrets well. After three decades I’ve decided to finally embrace that for what it’s worth to me. In that slow and sloppy manner I’ve accidentally perfected, the lies and unnecessary shadows of wasted youth are peeling away like sun-poisoned skin to reveal something old and neglected that has long deserved to meet the good people who created it.

Mr. 2011, I offer my usual apology for being so predictably late to your party. If it’s any consolation, I’ll probably stay later than most and help clean up like I always do. Except this time I’ll be doing it because I want to.

Not because I feel bad for trashing the place.

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Lay your weary head to rest

July 25th, 2010 · Potpourri, Video

On July 24, 2010, three mostly-unrelated things occurred:

1) I borrowed a friend’s video camera to capture some footage from our band’s recent tour to California.
2) Our orange boy cat, Mandy, who’d had a year-long fight with chronic renal failure, was having a good enough day that we decided to give him his final rest.
3) I discovered the sneaky “Life In A Day” marketing campaign to sucker people into providing a bunch of footage for an upcoming documentary produced by one of my favorite filmmakers.

I spent my weekend gorging on junk food, choking back tears, and putting together what ended up being this video/slideshow. Most of it probably isn’t usable in the documentary, though all of the live-action parts were indeed shot on July 24, 2010.

This video contains numerous sufficient answers to each of the questions posed by the Life in A Day project.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter to me whether I get a request for the footage to be used. Nor does it matter to me if people think my wife and I care about our animals too much or take them too seriously. Of all the losses I’ve had to endure in my life, this one is no less important to me.

I also cheated and used “This Year” by the Mountain Goats as the music, since I had no time or energy to come up with my own audio, and the song fit my mood perfectly.

Rest in peace, Colonel Mandarin Mango Spock Cecil Harley Best Orange Kitty.

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This Holiday Inn used to be a Radisson

July 13th, 2010 · Potpourri, Stories

This hotel is in the final stages of renovation after being purchased from Radisson. The marquee on the side of the building just below the roof looks as if it has been there for years, but I know based on the SSID of the Wireless LAN (and the gregarious installer who warned me that he would be shutting it down for 24 hours on Thursday to finish the transition and whatever technology upgrades the new management squeezed their couch-cushions to pay for) that only a few weeks ago it read “Radisson” instead of “Holiday Inn.”

Which hotel is better? The Radisson, or the Holiday Inn?

Which one has better filters on its building-wide plumbing? Better filters on the plumbing for its ice machines? Is any of the water in this building filtered at all? If so, what exactly is filtered out, and when did they last replace the charcoal through which the water is filtered?

Why and how the hell is charcoal, that nasty black shit you burn to cook your pounds and pounds of dubiously-packaged meat products at your family reunion, used to filter out other nasty black shit from water intended for ingestion by intelligent human beings?

How old is whatever plumbing that lies between whatever filters may or may not exist here and the faucet in the bathroom (where you defecate) that is the only place I can currently acquire the most important substance on this planet without either paying an ATM fee to get 20 dollars I’ll need to break at the front desk in order to use the vending machine or getting in my car and driving to a convenience store to buy a bottle of stuff from the same local supply as said faucet?

Would it be safer to just fill my ice bucket from the machine and let it melt, or forget the ice and just choke down the room-temperature tap?

The bottom line is that I’m not a pansy and I drink tap water. But I like it cold. And the ice that came out of that ice maker on the third floor of the Midtown Austin Holiday Inn (Please pardon our mess, we’re making our hotel even more awesome so that you’ll press “9” when you get that automated telephone survey call asking you how awesome was your stay at the Midtown Austin Radisson, er, Holiday Inn.) has pepper flakes all up in every 4th cube.

At least I’m telling myself they are pepper flakes. If I weren’t still on antibiotics for a recent strep throat infection, I might be less inclined to buy into that assumption.

I’m tired, I’m thirsty, and I’m about to use the wall-mounted hair-dryer to fix myself a nice, delicious glass of life-enabling beverage.

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The thermally activated philosophy mug

June 8th, 2010 · Potpourri, Stories

The cute text on the coffee mug was designed to change from “Half-full” to “Half-empty” when the coffee fell below the median line in the ceramic (or when the coffee cooled to an undrinkable temperature). Unfortunately, the misanthropic manufacturing manager did not see eye to eye with the designer from marketing. He reversed the order of things. The marketing hotshot resigned, feeling the spirit of his message had been tarnished by pointless nihilism. The product was a huge success. The company made a fortune in revenue from his idea thanks to their intellectual property agreement, and the manufacturing manager lost his job when the board moved production to an off-shore contract facility.

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