Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bath Time for Castro

I did not pick that fountain at random, or because I thought you’d be able to easily recognize it. I did not pick it because I knew I’d have several angles of approach where I’d be able to see you before you saw me, which meant that I wouldn't look silly if I didn't recognize you. I did not pick it because I was thinking that, if we didn’t hit it off, I’d use it as my meeting place for all of my future dates, too. All of those things are true, but that isn't why I decided on that spot. I picked it because of a dream I had eight years ago.

The sculpture is an inverted, rounded ziggurat with alternating layers of yellow and black, like a child’s drawing of a bumblebee. The water flows down from a pool at the top, forming a sheet that partially obscures the body of the fountain, and creates a rat-a-tat sound as it hits the lower pool. Everything else at the mall is Italianate cast concrete. This bright, modern piece stands out, even though it is tucked in behind the Starbucks and the California Pizza Kitchen. I’ve always loved it.

In my dream, the fountain had been elongated into a tub in a gorgeous bathroom suite. I was one of several personal advisers to the owner of said suite, and we were all standing around patiently, clipboards and notepads clasped to our chests, while he enjoyed an afternoon soak. His name was Fidel Castro.

He was sitting in the bathtub, wearing an olive green cap and a pair of swim trunks. He had a rubber frog in one hand and a loaded revolver in the other, and he was happily playing with both, splashing them through the water and covering them with bubbles. We watched with amusement as he had a sing-song dialogue with the frog while pressing the gun muzzle to its bulging eye. He must have then decided that they’d reached a truce, his amphibian captive and he, because he made a beard and bushy eyebrows for it out of the suds. “¡Viva la rana Castro!” He was having a ball.

We’d let him stay in there for as long as we could, but time was running short. “Fidel, you have an appearance in a few minutes, and your fingers are going to prune. C’mon, jefe. Time to get out.”

The shot startled us all, but none more than Castro himself. We all jumped, then froze in place for several seconds, nobody sure who had fired or who had been hit. Castro had many enemies, but there was no sight line from outside the palace into his bathroom.

His advisers stared wide-eyed at him, and he stared back at us, suds clinging to his eyelashes and the end of his nose. He looked comical, but we were all too shocked to laugh.

The ringing in my ears went away after a few seconds, allowing me to hear the steady stream of bath water hitting the floor. I looked from Castro’s blank, stunned face to the small, round hole in the lower left corner of the tub wall. I looked back at Castro and saw that the gun was still in his hand, pointing down between his shriveled feet.

“What did you do, Fidel? What have I told you about guns in the bathtub?!”

I don’t know how the gun - steeped in a warm froth of Calgon and scoured by bath salts – was able to fire. I don’t know how he didn’t shoot one of us, or shoot himself in the foot. We all knew that we had quite literally dodged a bullet. The tub had not been so lucky.

For a brief moment, I thought that it would be possible to plug the hole with a towel, just to hold the water in long enough to drain the basin. Before I could even move to reach for the towel bar, the crazing around the hole spread wider, and the structure failed under the pressure. The stream turned into a deluge as the tub wall gave way. A wave of soapy water surged across the slate grey floor, breaking over our feet and flowing out of the doorway behind us to flood the Turkish rug in the hallway. Bits of black and gold ceramic littered the ground like broken shells on a beach at low tide. I was wearing a pair of leather and suede pumps, and I was furious that they were now ruined.

Castro was still seated in what remained of the bathtub, clutching his revolver. He hunched his shoulders and looked up at us sheepishly from under the brim of his cap, runnels of water flowing off of his scraggly beard onto his round belly.

“Dammit, Fidel!” I yelled. “Who’s going to clean this mess up? This was a custom-made tub. Do you know how much it’s going to cost to get a mason in here to rebuild it? Do you?! Dammit!”

Huge tears welled up in his dark eyes and rolled down his broad, flat cheeks. His toy frog let out a long, pathetic squeak as he squeezed it, its soapy beard dissolving into a stream that ran down his forearm.


Exasperated, one of the other aids sighed deeply. “Oh, Fidel…

And then I woke up.

I was chuckling to myself about this dream as we were strolling down the sidewalk. I was debating telling you about it, wondering if it would make me seem too strange for you to like, if you’d take your hand from mine and wish me goodbye and good luck now that we were back at the place where we’d started. I was afraid that you, too, would think that you’d dodged a bullet. “Weird girl. At least she didn’t eat much, so I’m not out a ton of money for lunch.”

Then you said, “I want to kiss you, but not here.” All I could think of was how very perfect it would be to kiss you right there, in front of that fountain.

“Why not here?” I turned toward you, and you leaned into me and kissed me, and then I wasn’t thinking about the dream at all anymore, lost as I was in the feel and the taste of you, and hearing only the staccato rhythm of the water hitting the tiles in the shallow pool behind us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Friday the 13th: The Miniseries

Well, here it is, readers. This is the official start of the end of my marriage. In this envelope, on less than ten sheets of paper, are Peter’s petition for divorce, my response, and two copies of the process server receipt. It was mailed out on Friday the 13th. I don't know why, but I find that hilariously appropriate. We went on our first date on Halloween, after all.

You might think I’d be sad about this. You might be thinking, “Aww, Suzanne, I’m so sorry! You must be crushed!” It might surprise you to know that this is not the case. I’ve got a lot of good going on, and I’ve never felt better. Let’s take a quick break from me falling behind A-to-Z challenge for an update, shall we?

I’ve dropped fifteen pounds since Thanksgiving. All of those sweaters that I knit that were just a little tight? They all fit now. It’s all been through exercise. I haven’t changed my diet at all. What magical new exercise could do this? Why, running, of course.

The Start Training team is coming up on week 12 of our program. We’re doing twelve miles this Saturday, then the half marathon in two weeks. This program deserves a post of its own, which I’m going to give it sometime very, very soon. It has changed my life.

My hand is almost healed enough for me to stop wearing The Immobilizer, which is a good thing, since The Immobilizer is a little the worse for wear after being in Winston’s mouth. Knitting resumes!

Alive, healthy, and relatively uninjured at the moment, I figured it was time to start dating. After what has to be a record-settingly short time online - a mere three days - I met someone amazing. This also deserves a post of its own, which I’m also going to give it sometime very, very soon. As soon as I can break away from kissing him. Readers, he's hotter than the sun.

Feeling fit, feeling strong, and feeling an unbridled happiness for the first time in years, I opened the manila envelope and filled out my part. It’s the end of something good. It’s the start of something else good. It’s all good.

Monday, April 16, 2012

F: Fair Warning

Fair Warning

Van Halen

I’ve had this recording in one form or another since I was a kid, probably way back to when I was thirteen. I had a Maxell tape of it, recorded from The Engineer’s vinyl album. When that got stolen from my beloved Pontiac J2000, I bought the official tape. When CDs started replacing tapes in my collection, this was one of the first ones on my shelf.

Best Lyric
This is not a complicated album. There won’t be anything profound about the lyrics. They’re just fun. Let’s go with this one.

Well, my baby’s on the corner and she’s lookin’ so fine
Put one and one together and it blow my mind
Man needs love to live, I’m livin’ proof
Catch that smile and I hit the roof

Big double-take but you keep on walkin'
I'm in love
One summer
I'm overdone
- So This is Love

Why it Won
It’s thirty-two minutes long, this record. Thirty-two minutes of perfectly crafted summertime music. I’d listen to the tape when I was washing my car, getting ready to head over to Bird’s house to pick her up for an afternoon of aimless driving. I’d listen to it over at Big Guy’s house while he drank beer and cleaned his tools. I’d sit in the passenger seat of The Engineer’s Trans Am while it played at top volume, pouring out of the open windows as we cruised around town. Today, probably twenty-eight years after I first heard it, ‘Fair Warning’ brings all of those memories flooding back over me. It's a good-time record.

Runner(s) Up
Facelift – Alice in Chains - I decided to leave Cal Poly SLO after hearing this album. Long story.

Finn – Finn Brothers - Tim and Neil Finn, of Split Enz and Crowded House fame, stopped bickering and breaking each other’s bands up long enough to put out an amazing record together back in 1995. The standout track for me is 'Where is My Soul', one of my favorite songs in my entire catalogue. This was a close tie with ‘Fair Warning’, but Van Halen won based on sentimentality.

Friday, April 13, 2012

E: The End of Silence

The End of Silence

The Rollins Band

Purchased in 1992 at Wherehouse Records in Tulare, California. I was dating one of the other sales associates, a kid named Jim. We had the same hair – shoulder-length strawberry blonde pageboys. He was young, a couple of years younger than I was, and in that in-between phase where he hadn’t quite shed his boyishness for manhood. In our baggy work vests, kneeling in front of a rack of videocassettes, we were indistinguishable.

Jim was a skater, in the way that well-off suburban boys are when they want to feel rebellious. He didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything, and he couldn’t wait to get out of his whitebread town and get tattoos on his pale, freckled skin, and he hated his parents, and he…”Jim? I left a Pop Tart out for you, honey.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

Jim introduced me to skate punk that year, bands I’d never heard of before – Nomeansno, Swervedriver, Superchunk, Fugazi, so many others – and it changed my musical life. I’d been a metalhead for years, and I was resistant to any other musical genre. The few weeks of dating Jim opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I veered hard toward alternative just as the grunge wave broke, early enough that I could tell customers, with smugness in my voice, that I’d been listening to Soundgarden since before they were cool.

We didn’t last long as a couple, if we ever were one to begin with. He seemed to be too concerned with his image to stay with someone as non-indie as I was, and I grew tired of being his “establishment” lay. I never was his girlfriend. I never met his parents, and he never met mine. We just casually stopped being together.

Weeks later, I’d learn that he hadn’t seen things quite that way. More on that when we get to the letter “M”.

One of the albums – vinyl albums – that we’d lie on his bed and listen to was ‘Hard Volume’. I bought ‘The End of Silence’ on CD a few months later, because I didn’t want to track down the older disc. I didn’t care about being that indie.

Best Lyric

Wasted time spent thinking about you
You know I’ve come to hate myself
Smashing my hands against the wall
Trying to forget the foolish way I felt
You’re so kind when it serves you well
Your cruelty
- Almost Real

Why it Won
This is one of the few recordings we’ll see this month that doesn’t see start-to-finish play. I start at ‘Tearing’, listen to ‘You Didn’t Need’ and ‘Almost Real’, and end with ‘Obscene’. I never listen to the songs before or after those four. This subset forms the perfect breakup EP. Like most of Rollins’ work, you can’t sing along to it when you’re driving down the road unless you want to rupture a vessel in your throat. But if you’re feeling the need for a rage-fueled, hyperarticulate angstfest, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Runner(s) Up
Electric – The Cult - This tape was playing in my cousin’s dad’s car the first time I ever tasted alcohol. Listening to the CD takes me right back to Buena Park, 1985.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

D: Dusk


The The

I can’t remember why I bought this CD. It might have been my occasional craving for melodrama, which was being fulfilled at the time by a stolen MP3 of ‘Love Is Stronger than Death’ that someone had ripped for me from the ‘Romeo + Juliet’ soundtrack. I don’t know how long I’ve had this disc. Maybe ten years? I remember ordering it from a record club because it only cost a penny, and “maybe I’ll like more than one of the tracks, but who cares? I’m paying a penny for it.”

I also remember the first time I put it in the CD player and listened to it all the way through. I was hooked from the opening salvo of ‘True Happiness This Way Lies.’ ‘Love Is Stronger…' followed it, and then I was surprised and delighted to hear ‘Dogs of Lust’, which I didn’t realize was by the same artist. Three good songs on an album was about my average back then for putting it in rotation, but ‘Dusk’ kept going beyond that.

It hasn’t gone unplayed for more than a couple of weeks in more than ten years.

Best Lyric

’Coz I ain’t never found peace upon the breast of a girl.
I ain’t never found peace with the religion of the world.
I ain’t never found peace at the bottom of a glass.

Sometimes it seems, the more I’ve asked for, the less I’ve received.
Sometimes it seems, the more I’ve asked for, the less I’ve received.

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart’s desires.
And the only true happiness this way lies.

Why it Won
I love Matt Johnson’s voice. I love his writing. I love Johnny Marr’s guitar and harmonica work here. It’s subtle, with less of the bright, almost irreverent jangling he had with The Smiths.

My favorite song, although I love all of them, is the organ-driven, hypnotic, almost sinister ‘Lung Shadows’. “I close my eyes, and you are with me. I can feel your breath upon my body. Come closer to me. Come closer to me…”

‘Dusk’ is an album you play as night falls, as you are getting ready to head out into the noise and lights of the city, or as you sit alone in your room and watch the darkness spread across your walls. The feeling it gives me reminds me a bit of the paragraph near the end of this story. “…and by then that sad between feeling would have passed. It always passed, but then, it always came, too, and it still does, that quiet, each of us in his room, fixing himself, straightening away, before going into the evening, thinking about things that happened and things that would happen.” (By the way, this is as good a time as any to throw an unabashedly enthusiastic suggestion for everyone to go over to Tomato Nation and read every one of the Famous Ghost Monologues. Some of my favorite short stories.)

This is another completely perfect record.

Runner(s) Up
Dragline - Paw - A southern rock opus. “I snuck in your bedroom to steal some change for booze. But all I found were love notes from another boy...”

Dry – PJ Harvey - Polly Harvey will make an appearance later in the month with an award-winning disc, but ‘Dry’ shouldn’t go without mention. This is an angry, bad-ass chick album. My college roommate, Pigboy, stuck his head into my room when I was playing it one night. “Huh. I don’t get it.”

“She’s not singing to you, dick.” Polly Harvey and I have both grown up, but back then I was an angry young woman with a chip on her shoulder, and this was my favorite album.

C: Cure for Pain

Cure for Pain


Much of Cure for Pain serves as the soundtrack behind David O. Russell’s ‘Spanking the Monkey’. I became entranced by ‘Let’s Take a Trip Together’ and the scene it plays under. If you’ve seen it, then you know that it’s a compelling, dark moment. I watched the last few minutes of that movie every time it was on. This was back before DVRs, so that meant hunting it down every time it played on IFC in 1997-1998. That tells you something about how it grabbed me. It wasn’t long before I was down at Rasputin buying the CD.

Best Lyric
Ooh, this is a hard one. I don’t think I can pick just one verse of one song. In lieu of reprinting the lyrics for the whole album, here are three of my favorites.

She had a smile that swerved
She had a smile that curved
She had a smile that swerved all over the road
- All Wrong

Hide your daughters in the snow and watch out for the undertow.
Hold both hands against the door and dig your feet into the floor.
I tell you there’s no map and there’s no clue
Of where to go and what to do.
Who to dog and who to ride and who to hold
forever by your side.
- Mary Won’t You Call My Name

Let’s take a trip together
Headlong into the irresistible orbit
Breathe in the cold, black space
With the glistening edges.

Let’s take a trip, me and you.
Let’s go the scenic route –
Get to finally
Get to finally
Get to finally
Get to know each other.
- Let’s Take a Trip Together

Why it Won
Cure for Pain is pure, slinky lust in music form. It’s all darkened bars and bodies pressed close, a seductive look and a whisper in your ear just before you feel the soft, tentative bite on your neck.

For the uninitiated, Morphine was a three-piece band at this point. Drums, bass and vocals, and sax, and what you heard on the album wasn’t too far from what you’d hear live. I like some of their later work, but none of it is as intimate and sultry as ‘Cure for Pain.’ The late Mark Sandman purrs out his lyrics, and the sax throbs under his vocals like an ardent lover, sometimes matching him note for note, sometimes wailing out on its own in response to the caress of his velvety voice.

Look, it’s a sexy, sexy recording, is what I’m saying. I’m listening to it and typing this on my lunch hour at work, and it’s making me want to jump the next person who walks by my desk and drag them into the broom closet.

It’s also listenable from beginning to end with no clunkers to skip. Few recordings in my collection can boast of that kind of quality.

Runner(s) Up
Copper Blue – Sugar. – Another fantastic album from around that time. I listen to this one all the way through, too, but the mixing on it is rough. After one or two times through, especially in a car, the midrange starts to hurt my ears

Core – Stone Temple Pilots – Classic hard rock, full of testosterone and swagger. This was my favorite music to drive to in the early 90s. I owned a Pontiac J2000, so ‘driving’ might be a liberal term for what I was doing.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Running, Running, Falling Behind

A-to-Z friends! Please don't give up on me. I know I'm falling behind, but I've got good plans for the next few days of posts, and I'm going to sprint to catch up.

Why so far behind, you ask? It's a time management issue. By the time I get home, get in a run, give the dogs some much-deserved love and attention, and eat dinner, it's usually too late for me to think clearly enough to write the way that I want to. And these albums I'm picking? They deserve my best writing. Music is a great passion of mine, and I don't want to short-change it for the sake of squeezing a post in by midnight every day. I just have to rejigger some things in my schedule, and we'll be back on track.

I've got a lot of good stuff going on right now. My running team is going out for ten miles this Saturday. My seedlings are getting large enough to move outdoors. My beer fridge now holds a fresh keg of pilsner. Spring is in the air, and it is glorious.

And, yes, I still knit. I can hold needles and work with worsted weight yarn while wearing The Immobilizer. Look for new projects to come off of the needles soon. I've really missed it. It's good to have yarn in my hands again. Yarn without dog slobber on it, I mean.

Monday, April 02, 2012

B: Bong


New Fast Automatic Daffodils

I picked this up in 1992 at Wherehouse Records. It was a sample disc we had playing several times a day, even though most of our customers wanted to hear Garth Brooks or Dr. Dre. We'd all wait impatiently for Ropin' the Wind to end, and then someone would "accidentally" brush against the CD changer too forcefully in the middle of "In Lonesome Dove". We'd pretend that we didn't know what was going wrong with the hated Brooks disc. "It's just not playing! We'd better move on to the next one."

Of course, we'd already done that, but nobody else knew that "Bong" opens with ten seconds of silence, allowing us to pretend that we were fixing something instead of kneeling behind the counter with the office keys, trying to scratch the shit out of "What She's Doing Now". It was as though New FADS were conspiring with us to be played. When it finally came out of the rotation, bound for the used CD bin, I snapped it up.

Best Lyric

This summer's price is the best one yet
Last winter I was the new range in, but
Fashions change to rearrange my space
And I...I bring home the bacon for you
- It's Not What You Know

Why it Won

It's only a five-song EP, but they're five really good songs, perfect for speeding down the freeway on a blindingly sunny day. (Not that I've tried it or anything.) There's a driving energy behind each song, fueled by the tight, strong drum track and the galloping bass. I've always been a sucker for a Manchester accent, so it's saying something that my favorite song is the instrumental "Beautiful."

This is one of those recordings that I'd be heartbroken to lose. I've backed it up in several locations, and I have at least two physical copies of it. I won't carry the original in my car, which is the true test of the worth of any of my CDs.

Runner(s) Up
Becoming X - The Sneaker Pimps - I realized that I start skipping songs after Post-Modern Sleaze, which means I only like about half of the recording. If I cut the album down to seven songs, it would be a strong contender.

Body Count - Body Count
- A brilliant, sarcastic protest record that few people would have noticed, had it not originally been released with the controversial "Cop Killer" as its closing track. It was rereleased with a different track a few months later. We heard about it ahead of the recall of the first pressing, and fought each other to buy what we had left in stock. Bong beat it out for the spot, because I listen to it more, but BC was a close second.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A: Angel Dust

Angel Dust

Faith No More

Purchased at Wherehouse Records, Visalia, California, June 1992. I worked there at the time. I've had this same CD since then, never had to replace it.

Best Lyrics
You have a winning way, so keep it
Your future, your future, your future
You are an angel heading for a land of sunshine
And fortune is smiling upon you

- The Land of Sunshine

Why It Won
When this album ends up in my CD changer, I listen to it all the way through every day, sometimes for weeks. I never get tired of it. The wear on the case shows how much I love it.

The songs are an eclectic mix of approachable and catchy, with a smattering of intolerable screaming. I skip two songs of the thirteen - Malpractice and Jizzlobber - because they literally make my ears hurt. If I were to make my own copy of Angel Dust, it would have the remaining eleven songs in the order they appear on the CD, and I'd consider it perfect.

I'll confess that, until a few minutes ago, I'd never read the lyrics, and I've happily sung/hummed along without knowing what Mike Patton was saying about 70% of the time. The complex, swirling composition and Patton's odd phrasing make the songs compelling anyway. The most intelligible song, the waltz-timed RV, paints such a vivid picture that you can practically smell the funk and hear the oily squeak of vinyl under the ass of the narrator.

I'm guessing that The Real Thing was more popular, but I still consider this the pinnacle of FNM's catalog.

Runner(s) Up
Appetite for Destruction - Guns N' Roses - a classic, and another all-the-way-through album. It was a close second. The bookends of Welcome to the Jungle and Rocket Queen weren't enough to overcome the overplaying of Paradise City and Sweet Child o' Mine, however. I'd stab myself in the ear before I'd say, "Hey, you know what? I haven't heard SCoM in a while. That's a great song!" For this reason, I almost never pull Appetite off the shelf.

A to Z April

After a mostly successful NaBloPoMo in March, it's time to move on to the next challenge. It's time for A to Z April!

I've been thinking about an A-to-Z theme since signing up for this in early February. I wanted to have some structure to it, because I knew I'd end up cheating by the end. "X is for...I almost read a book about Xerxes a few weeks ago. But I didn't."

I decided my theme would be compact discs in my collection, which is pretty hefty. The last time I cataloged physical, store-bought CDs, the count was up around nine hundred. Some of them were massive hits, but more of them are obscure recordings by virtually unknown artists who couldn't capitalize on their one semi-major label contract. I hope it will be fun, and maybe one or two recordings might gain one or two more fans.


1. I'm picking by album title. No switching to artist name just because I want to squeeze them into a slot.

2. I will be using mass-produced CDs only, not albums that I've downloaded or compilations I've made.

3. "The" doesn't count toward the title.

Onward into April!