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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rob Thomas is the next Bob Dylan

Just when the weather starts to get hot in Upstate South Carolina, just when cotton candy starts to wither in the humidity and Tilt-a-Whirls can make youngsters puke in one spin, just when you think, "Damn, it's time for the stupid summer festivals to start...," well, that's when the commercials for Freedom Weekend Aloft start playing on the TV and Radio.

Stick with me here. On Memorial Day Weekend, we South Carolinians (or, at least the South Carolinians without something else to do--I will be giving the dog a bath, organizing my iTunes, and talking to Mormon door-knockers) celebrate Freedom Weekend Aloft. You got it right, folks. Aloft. This is an entire weekend of bad carnival rides, hot air balloons (hence, aloft), and b-list rock bands. If you're trying to make a decision about whether to go, I would ask if you wouldn't rather get your tongue tattooed or go to a Danielle Steele book festival.

The highlight of my week thus far was the promo for this year's concert line-up. Collective Soul (Heaven, if you have the chance, let your light shine down, and if not, let me sing through a distorted microphone and let people believe I have a lot of talent) will be one of the bands on stage. But headlining...gawd, I feel like Santa here...is Rob Thomas.

That's right. Former frontman for the much-ballyhooed Matchbox 20 is going to be headlining a hot air balloon festival. It's perhaps so embarassing that the show isn't even listed on his Ticketmaster page.

Don't get me wrong. Anyone who can make a lifetime career out of music is certainly someone worthy of some respect and admiration. My point is this: The mighty can fall so quickly these days, it's barely worth considering anyone mighty until they have been around for five or six years without being the main attraction at an event that has a Tilt-a-Whirl.

For the past five or six years, I've developed a reputation among my friends for my 1990s rock band singer voice. To do this voice, think Eddie Vedder singing the chorus to "Alive," sing from the back of your throat, and say "Ehhhhhhhh, Ahhhhhhh" a lot. This started as a parody of how every band to come out of the 1990s could have had the same lead singer and nobody would've noticed. I consider Rob Thomas to be among the chief examples of this phenomenon, which is why I'm so happy he's headlining a balloon exhibition

In recent years, I've noticed a couple of other phenomenon's in pop music culture. The first was the "Dave Matthews Syndrome." To do this voice and become the next hot frontman, work on your falsetto voice and reference Five For Fighting to make sure you have the tone down correctly. Perhaps the most blatant recent singer tend is the "John Mayer Experience." This one is not as easy to do, but once Mayer gave us his sensitive, arsty, suburban white boy, picking guitar and signing with an airy half-rasp, music producers tripped over their stacks of money to find as many people like him before America ran out of arsty white boys and pubescent girls who love them. If you need any indication this is true, witness the Teddy Geiger
CD in my wife's car.

(As I reached the end of this paragraph, my wife laughed, smiled condescendingly, and said, "Too bad honey. You were just a little too old to be the artsy, suburban, guitar-picking guy. You could've gotten so much pussy with that.")

Back in the 1990s, a folk-satire artist (someone once called him post-punk) named Wally Pleasant sang a song called "Sons of Bob Dylan." The basic premise is that Bob Dylan kicked off a few generations of new Bob Dylans, including Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty. I suppose the concept is that there is rarely any true originality (funny, I think I've just penned any entire post about the lack of originality that was based on earlier works about the rarity of originality...).

Here are some of the lyrics:

Bob Dylan was the first Bob Dylan
Who was billed as "the next Woody Guthrie"
He travelled this land with pen in hand
And wrote about what a mess it was in
Bob Dylan was the first Bob Dylan

Lou Reed was the next Bob Dylan
And he was ready able and willin'
To study the urban landscape with a cynical grin
He wrote about S&M and heroin
Lou Reed was the next Bob Dylan


Bruce Springsteen was the next Bob Dylan
A working-class blue-collar spokesman
Columbia Records found him on the Jersey shore
Rolling Stone says "the future of rock and roll"
Bruce Springsteen was the next Bob Dylan

Tom Petty was the next Bob Dylan
A late-nineteen-seventies Bob Dylan fill-in
He could really rock and roll with his Heartbreakers
Now he's got season tickets to the Lakers
Tom Petty was the next Bob Dylan

And I wanna be the next Bob Dylan
Yeah I'll make my imitation calculated and cheap
I'll sing songs with a raspy attitude and voice
And people will think that I'm deep (let's think about it)

Neil Young and Donovan, Billy Bragg
John Wesley Harding, Jackson Browne
Even the lead singer from Motley Crue
Has a little Bob Dylan in him


Rob Thomas is, in fact, not the next Bob Dylan, but you see my point. I mean, if we re-wrote Wally Pleasant's song, Eddie Vedder was the first Eddie Vedder, who was billed as the next Jim Morrison... Rob Thomas was the next Eddie Vedder... You see my point.

To be fair, fans of the 1990s rock singer voice, the Dave Matthews Voice, the John Mayer Voice...all of them can say that a lot of my hippy jam-band, bluegrass, jam-grass, alt-country, folk music sounds the same. And, I'd be hardpressed to disagree.

But that won't stop me from making fun of the Rob Thomas Balloon Exhibition for the next couple of weeks. Because, again to be fair, that shit is funny.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mastercard ain't got nothing on me

Neither does King King, for that matter. That, however, is another story all together.

Rather than mimic the entire Mastercard "Priceless" campaign, I'd ask that you just keep it in mind as I relate this morning's wake-up call.

"Daddy," says Mrs. Otis, "It's time to wake up and take Mommy's car to the shop."

Mrs. Otis often speaks to me through the child. I only find it annoying when I'm waking up. It's only fair, though. I speak to her through the dog, which in my opinion is even more funny.

L'il Otis is not so much concerned with Daddy's wake-up call. He's started rummaging through my underwear drawer.

I'm still groggy and internally bitching about about my wake-up call. I've grown quite used to not having an alarm clock and waking up on my own.

"Ball? Catch?"

I hear the kid's voice before I see the object in his hand.

"It's not time to play catch, buddy."


It's too adorable to ignore, so I look. And my son is holding an athletic protective cup in his hands.


I'd forgotten I had the thing, but I had not forgotten what the cup could be used for. I took it from the kid.

"Striker Ace! Striker Ace! We've been hit! We're going down!"

Yeah, I put my own cup over my face like a fighter pilot's oxygen mask. And yeah, I'm 32 years old.

Seconds later, L'il Otis was parroting me as I wandered toward the bathroom to get ready to get molested at the car dealership. Gotta be clean, you know.

As I left the room, Mrs. Otis took off the kid's pant to change his diaper. By God, if the little one didn't slap the cup over his boys. Kid's smarter than his daddy, after all.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Did I say that?

Gentlemen's Clubs have long been more a "special occasion" venue for me than a frequent hangout. In fact, until Monday night, the last strip club I'd visited was an ugly downtown Vegas joint...with my wife. A curisoity for her quickly turned into a "we must run from here as fast as we can" event. The last thing I wanted was Mrs. Otis thinking the scary girls on the stage there were indicative of normal exotic club fare. She agreed and we ran back out to the Fremont Street Experience, which, frankly, is just about as scary.

Monday night, however, I was invited to a backroom poker game in Dallas that just happened to be held in one of the nicer strip clubs I'd ever seen. The joint had a walk-in humidor, a walk-in wine room, drinks served in nice glasses, and near-gourmet food. True to its name, the entire place looked like a giant hunting or ski lodge.

Opposite of what you might expect, I didn't spend any time around the multiple stages in the building. Nearly 100% of my time was spent in a private room, playing cards, and joshing with some of my buddies and newfound friends. Dan introduced me to some odd Italian liqueur called Tuaca and I blame the drink for the following conversation.

The Scene:

Interior of a dimly lit strip club. I am on my fifth trip to the john and notice the same overweight and homely man with the same two strippers he's been with for the past two hours. I have to imagine he's tipping like a madman, but the girls have never taken off their clothes. On this particular trip, the man is drawing squiggly lines on a piece of white paper with a Sharpie. Unable to help myself, I stop at the table and ask what the hell he is doing.

Otis: "What in the hell are you doing?"
Fat guy: (Blank stare)
Stripper: "We're playing Hangman."
Otis: (Blank stare)
Stripper: "Wanna get hung?"
Otis: (without missing a beat) "But, I'm already hung."

I walked away without waiting for a reaction. By the time I made it to the bathroom, I said out loud, "I'm already hung? No, I'm not."

To be sure I remembered this when I fall back into self-depricating humor, I later dictated the event into Dan's voice recorder. That surely won't came back to haunt me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Meme Otis (California)

Pauly continues the Meme Otis effort, with much appreciation from your humble editor. This one comes from a roadtrip that took him trough Santa Cruz.

In the meantime, I'm less than 24 hours from making it back to Mt. Willis after spending a few days in the 102 degree temperatures in the Big D.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Going through the Big D

...and no, I don't mean divorce.

Although, there was a point this weekend that one might have wondered if that might happen. Not really, of course, but one has to raise an eyebrow when I wake up in the morning to find a faux diamond earring on the bedroom floor.

"Is this yours?" I asked the wife.

Her eyebrows, in fact, went up a little as she said, "No."

I'm not sure what brought me to the next words out of my mouth (wishful thinking?): "Are you having a lesbian affair?"

True to form with my wife, she was more worried about the fact that a "cheap, one-earring-having skank" had been invading our home--and, apparently, rolling about on our floors while we were out--than the possibility that I might be having an affair of my own.

As I had ruled out the possibility that some one-eared bimbo had been snooping through my collection of underwear and t-shirts and the wife had ruled out the possiblity that she had been taking part in the love that dare not speak its name, I settled on the next most likely scenario.

It must be my mom's.

Indeed, no, there was nothing Oedipal in my thoughts. In fact, a few months before, my parents had stayed at my house while we were out of town. So, I called up Mom.

"Are you missing an earring?" I asked.

Mom, always one to wonder if she's walking into a loaded question, answered, "No?"

I explained the situation and Mom immediately began backpedaling. She, I think, has less faith in my fidelity than my wife does. Worse yet, I think she fears that infidelity on my part would mess up her life with her grandson.

A day passed before Mom called to ask about the earring, this time offering that maybe she "lost it and just didn't realize it yet." Sure, Mom.

With all scenarios exhausted, I set in to figure out where the earring came from. Only two possibilities remained: Either my wife was indulging in some hot girl on girl action or she actually owned the earring and didn't know it.

So, today, as I set out for the Big D (no, not divorce--keep up, people), I reached into Mrs. Otis' jewelry box. This particular trip required something of my own that I keep inside the container. As I reached in for my booty, I spotted something that looked very familiar.

The other earring.

It seems my wife (despite her protestations that it was not hers, that she doesn't even wear earrings like that, that her ear holes had long since grown over, and that she would never buy earrings like that--DANGLY!) actually owned a set of dangly, faux-diamond hook earrings.

As I displayed them proudly--a detective until the end!--she just muttered, "Well, I didn't buy them."

So, now, as I spend the night in the Lone Star State, I'll wonder a couple of things. First, how bad is my wife's memory? And second, when did my wife start dating women?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Entertaining Otis

I've been longwinded enough about my, er, maturation that I don't think I need to prattle on about how I spend less time in bars these days. Now that I'm trying to spend less time at poker tables (I think my pancreas just twinged a bit), I'm desperately seeking healthy forms of alternate entertainment.

So, how have I entertained myself in the past few months?


  • James McManus-- Just finished McManus' "Physical." As with any McManus read and despite the subject, it's a page-turner. McManus gives the American healthcare system a check-up and does so in the same style with which he wrote "Positively Fifth Street." McManus' style makes the short book a very easy and entertaining read and offers several laugh-out-loud moments (my favorite being a S&M fantasy during a routine stress test). My only complaint about the book is that it spends a helluva lotta time on tobacco and stem cell research. While both are important subjects, I found myself thinking...alright, move along, already. However, I give McManus a pass on this one, because he was a lifelong smoker and his daughter has juvenile diabetes, so both subjects are very close to his heart. As it is, I also happen to agree with McManus on both topics.

  • Lighter fare-- Here are some other books that have made trips with me or helped me to relax after a long day in the past few of months:

    -- Carl Hiassen's "Tourist Season" and "Basket Case."

    -- Christopher Moore's "The Stupidest Angel"

    -- Jesse May's "Shut Up and Deal" (third reading)

    -- Stephen King's "Cell" (As an unashamed life-long King reader, I sort of wanted to hate this book just on principle. Once again, I read every page and didn't hate it).

    -- Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink"

  • Music

  • 56 Hope Road--Maybe you Chicago folk know this band. I didn't hook up with them until last week at a downtown street festival. I bought their live disc on the spot and have listened to it about ten times already. Think Blues Traveler meets Dave Matthews meets Mighty Mighty Bosstones meets your favorite hippie jam band. I sorely wish these guys were the house band at a local club.

  • Pandora.com--Sometimes even I get bored with my iTunes and iPod selections. For a long time I was an advocate of Yahoo! Launchcast. Recently, I've been tooling around with Pandora.com, a web-based music player that lets you design your own station by entering favorite bands or favorite songs. Once you have typed in a band name or song name, the player searches its database and plays songs and bands with similar attributes. As I type, I'm listening to a live version of "Little Rabbit" by the Yonder Mountain String Band. My stations include: Yonder Mountain String Band, Allman Brothers, Hot Tuna, Dave Grusin, Dave Brubeck, Jamgrass 741, The Black Crowes, Donna the Buffalo, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, John Gorka, Sam Bush, Uncle Tupelo, and Eddie from Ohio. Overall, I've been pleased with Pandora. I'll admit, if you're listening all day long, as I do, you'll eventually find the database is not HUGE. However, it's free, so I can't complain.

    On the screen

    While most TV and Hollywood film sucks, I still watch some. Some of it is good, some of it is just entertainment laxative, and, yeah, I watch the bad sometimes, too. This is the part of this post that shames me the most.

  • The Good: The Sopranos (not as good as previous seasons, but still watchable) -- Big Love -- A History of Violence -- The Loop -- Sons and Daughters -- The Office -- My Name is Earl -- CBS' 48 Hours

  • The Entertainment Laxative: Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, American Idol, CSI (all three), The First 48

  • The Bad: Deal or No Deal, Flight Plan (Jodie Foster), Two For the Money (Al Pacino), cable news


    The wife and I went out to dinner without the kid for the first time in ages. We went to the Bonefish Grill. I enjoyed a guilty (and embarassing, I think) little pleasure in two Grey Goose dirty martinis and had a filet with a really good Oscar topping with a side of vegetables. The wife had some sort of tillapia.


    So, for lack of something inspirational, that's how I've been spending my spare time recently.

    Any suggestions on how to improve?

  • Friday, April 07, 2006


    A friend of mine got caught up in the latest fiction craze It's been a few months since this friend gave me a mix-disc with a song on it that he knew I liked. Now, he's challenged me to write a story based on the song At first, I didn't want to do it, a little fearful of putting my own spin on someone else's art. After a couple of days, though, I couldn't get this little story out of my head. So, hereya go. It's based on the song "Home" by Marc Broussard.

    Cope didn't say much. If we asked him a question, he'd answer, always with a "yessir" or a "nossir." Beyond that, he sat silent in the back seat, staring out the window and wiping runners of sweat from his neck.

    "Okay back there, Cope?" I asked. My hands were wet on the steering wheel. If the car had been going any faster than three miles per hour, I would've been worried about holding on. As it was, there was a greater chance I'd dehydrate and die before I ran the car into one of the pine trees on the side of the interstate.

    "Yessir," the kid said. "One-one-one."

    Papa had been quiet, too, but Cope's unusual elaboration pulled the old man out of his daydream. "What's that, son?"

    "One-one-one," Cope repeated, pointing at the mile marker sign. It was faded green with white letters, bent on the top right corner, and tilting slightly toward the grove of tress on the east side of the road.

    Papa nodded. "That's right son. Took us half an hour to get from one-one-zero to one-one-one."

    "Twenty-eight minutes," Cope said and turned back to the window.

    Cope was no more Papa's son than Papa was my father. Papa was actually PawPaw, my grandfather. Ten years ago I changed the way I said it--not the way I thought it, though.

    I watched the thermometer on the dash as it teased the red line on the far right. I figured we didn't have much longer before the old Monte Carlo would give up. At the speed limit, the breeze--even at 90 degrees outside--cooled the engine block. At a standstill, we could've grilled our peanut butter sandwiches on the manifold.

    "We're going nowhere fast," I said, if only to see if I could pull Cope back into conversation. He'd been with us for about eleven months. He was polite, helpful, and never lazy. He helped clean, he always folded his sleeping blankets on the couch in the morning, and he only cried at night when he thought I was asleep.

    "Rollin' down the road, goin' nowhere," Papa hummed. His voice was deep, smooth, and darkened by 40 years of Camels.

    It was a game we'd been playing since I was old enough to talk. I'd say something and Papa would sing it. He always kept his head turned when he sang the first line. He waited for me to give him something else to sing. This day, I was hot, worried, and not much in the mood.

    "Cope, you put the guitar in the trunk, yeah?"

    "Yessir," he said, a little brighter this time. Cope loved when I played. He'd tap his foot and clap quietly with the beat. "One-one-two."

    I looked to the roadside. That mile had gone a little faster, but now traffic had stopped. I could feel the engine's heat trying to push through the dashboard.

    "Rollin' down the road, going nowhere, guitar packed in the trunk," Papa sang. Cope leaned up and put his chin on the back of the seat.

    The last time traffic had been like this had been the last time Cope had seen his mother. It was the last time a lot of kid's had seen their mothers, in fact. The guys on TV had called it a Cat 5. Papa just called it, "The Big One."

    I craned my head out the window and saw nothing but stopped cars. Thousands of them shimmering in the heat, half of them with heads looking out the window to see why we weren't moving. Five more minutes and I knew the Monte Carlo would be dead. I killed the engine and prayed it would start again. As the idle went silent, people started to get out of their cars. Some looked at the sun, some looked their cars, but none of them looked back South.

    Last time, a lot of people tried to stay home. No one--not Papa, not me, and certainly not Cope's mama--believed the Big One. Now, the TV men were talking about a Cat 2. It wasn't the Big One, but the people on the road were acting just as scared.

    "Will you play, Jimmy?" Two weeks before, we had cut Cope's hair down to nearly nothing with some clippers Papa kept in the bathroom. Now, I could see the sweat beads on shimmering against Cope's brown scalp. Would I play?

    "Cope, now's not the best time."

    "Rollin' down the road, goin' nowhere," Papa hummed.

    He was right. Something had happened up the road and the line of cars was stopped, ten thousand cars long, and nature chasing us all away. It's hard to be chased when you're facing a wall, though.

    There was a young family in an SUV in front of us. Dad had turned off his engine and was pulling Sprites out of a cooler. I was getting a little worried about Cope and Papa. It was Mississippi July hot.

    The roadside rose up on our right to a square patch of pine tree shade.

    "Cope, you think you could carry my guitar up that hill?"

    Instead of answering, he held out his hand and waited for me to give him the keys. I looked at Papa who merely sung, "guitar packed in the trunk."

    I had a jug of tepid water in the back floorboard. I helped Papa with one hand and held the jug in the other as Cope ran over the pine needles and up into the shade. Above, a television news helicopter hovered, its hemispherical camera shifting from right to left, panning the immobile cars.

    Papa and I weren't planning on leaving. It was sheer luck our little house survived the Big One. Together, over a cold beer on the front porch, we had decided if the structure could make it through a Cat 5, it would scare the hell out of a Cat 2.

    The next morning, though, we found Cope in front of the TV watching a storm swirling off the south Florida coast. His shaking hands and empty eyes meant Papa and I didn't have to talk about it any more. We were leaving.

    Papa and I never discussed how Cope came to live with us. We never talked about whether it was a good idea, about how it might look for two white men to be living with a little black boy. We didn't talk about how my mama was gone or how Papa had lost his only child. No, we didn't talk about that either.

    At the top of the hill, I handed the jug of water to Papa. He took a pull and handed the jug back.

    "You thirsty, Cope?" I asked.

    A small black hand pushed the guitar into mine and reached for the bottle. Cope took a sip and looked at me over the top of the water.

    "Take a seat," I said to no one in particular and planted my behind on the pine needles. "How did that go, Papa?"

    Papa's mouth curled into a smile. "Rollin' down the road, goin' nowhere, guitar packed in the trunk."

    My fingertips were sweating, even in the shade. They slid across the steel strings, tinny, bluesy. I could hear the song in my head. "Sing it again."

    "Rollin' down the road, goin' nowhere, guitar packed in the trunk." Papa was patting his knee with the beat. Cope's hands were clapping silently. The line hit me in time with the music.

    "Somewhere around mile marker one-twelve," I sang, "Papa started humming the funk."

    The SUV family, all with Sprites in their hand, had walked to the side of the road. They stood listening as Papa and I sang, trading lines, and driving Cope to make more noise with his hands.

    The cars still weren't moving and the far-away whipping of the new helicopter suggested nobody was going anywhere for a while. It seemed many drivers had come to the same conclusion. Engines went silent and faces appeared through the heat. Families, old and young, and come in search of the shade we'd found. Some sat, some stood, but they all were listening.

    Papa and I had run out of spontaneous lines and had taken to humming along with the steady blues beat. I watched the faces. A captive audience, I thought, but kept playing.

    Papa told me once that he had played guitar for my mama. He said she smiled and pretended to play an imaginary guitar on her lap. He said she had loved me more than he could ever say. Papa hadn't said much after that.

    "Take me home."

    The "o" on "home" was drawn out, a note across eight beats. It was a high voice, perfectly in tune. "Take me ho, oh, oh, home."

    Cope was still clapping quietly, but now his lips were in a circle, as he sang it again, the chorus to a song none of us had ever heard. "Take me ho-oh-oh-home."

    A 12-year-old SUV kid was next. His voice sounded like it was about to change and it made for a roadside harmony that I couldn't help but enjoy. "Take me ho-oh-oh-home."

    I played two more bars before half the assembled audience was singing along with Cope and the SUV kid, 20-part harmony at mile marker 112.

    It was over before I had a chance to paint the memory picture in my head, but I can still hear the sound. I can still hear Cope's voice.

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    Clown redux

    I'm trying to work the word "potentate" into everyday conversation.

    "It sounds dirty," Mrs. Otis said.

    We were looking down on the Potentate and the Past Potentate (there was also a potential Potentate in the mix).

    "It sounds really dirty," she said, to herself this time. I found myself wondering if she was taking a shine to the paunchy men in the third ring. The fez is a sexy chapeau, no doubt.

    We were back at the circus, this time a low-rent Shriner event held in the auditorium of a local liberal arts school. It was the kind of circus where the pony-ride vendors doubled as trapeze artists and the high-wire girl sold blow-up versions of Spongebob.

    Recently, I've been making a greater effort to be more of a family man and less a degenerate gambler. So, when the local TV advertised yet another circus was in town, I knew what was going to happen before Mrs. Otis even spoke.

    In fact, the first person to speak was L'il Otis. Ever since the last trip to the high-rent circus, he's thumbed through the photo album and proclaimed, "Clowns!" every time he saw a picture of the big-nezed funnymen. What's more, he would come up to me with something--anything--attached to his nose and ask, "Clown?"

    And, yes, when the commercial for the Shrine Circus came on TV, the little one went loopy for the clowns.

    The casual reader here (one of the hundreds and hundred Wil sent in recent days) may not know it, but my 19-month-old kid has a visceral, pee-in-the-neighbor's-yard fear of clowns. The last circus experience for him was much like an experience I had in college in which I sobered up from a bender listening to the Moody Blues with a moustachioed woman swaying above me.

    A before and after clown experience at the last circus

    And, so, yes, we went to the Shrine Circus. I was actually a little excited. If my kid had conquered a major fear in less than two months, I'd be pretty proud. Upon finding a parking space, I jumped from Emilio the SUV, grabbed the kid, and bolted for the first clown I could find. I think the dude might've been smoking a cigarette two seconds before I jumped him, shoved L'il Otis in his face and screamed, "Clown!"

    Both the kid and the clown looked at me like I was the girl from the Moody Blues coitus interuptus experience. If the kid could or the clown was allowed, I'm sure both of them would've looked at me and said, "You motherfucker."

    Duly reprimanded, I slouched inside, paid for the tickets, and set off in search of a clown that didn't look like he might have come straight from a police lineup. Within seconds, I had found an old clown with a coat hanger seemingly poked through his head.

    "When they're done with me," he said, "they just hang me in a closet."

    As the kid clawed at my collar bone, I decided I, too, was scared and bolted for the three rings on the floor.

    For the next 20 minutes, the wife and I tried in vain to find a clown that wasn't scary. At this circus, however, everything was scary. The ring master was surely a former con man. The lead female acrobat had Stephen King-character-teeth and thighs that could crush coconuts. The tiger guy looked like a combination of Rick Flair and Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown.

    Hell, even the audience was scary. Two rows ahead of us, two women sat wrangling kids and counting out quarters to buy cottn candy. Their hair was painfully bleached and their eyes were certainly the tired products of too many meth-nights and not enough melatonin.

    "You think they're strippers?" my wife asked.

    "Honey," I said, "I'm no expert, but those girls don't look like any strippers I've ever seen." Upon further thought, I decided the girls looked exactly like a bacherlor party stripper I saw one night, but that's a story that attorneys and public relations operatives made sure that none of the party-goers would ever tell.

    And, so, clowns are still personas non grata around Mt. Willis.

    But, it wasn't a wasted day. It gave me an idea.

    I'm thinking about buying a fez and declaring myself a Potentate.

    Now that I think about it, it does sound a little dirty.

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    Nickerblog's Mystery Hotel

    For an explanation of what's happening here, visit Shane Nickerson's Nickerblog

    It was awkward, the photographer’s entrance.

    Father knew. I had told him just seconds before. Father knew I'd made the mistake again. He knew, although I promised it would never happen again, that I had broken the agreement. It happened on the very day our little town was going to become famous. We had just opened the front doors to the hotel. The night's guests had not stirred for the morning and the mountain travelers and insurance men wouldn’t be coming through the doors for another hour or better.

    No sooner had I said, "Father, it happened again," did the man with the camera walk through the door. He asked for our time, for us to pose. "For posterity," he said.

    I know Father steeled his face for the picture. I know he wanted to cry. Every time it happened before, Father had taken on the job of fixing my mistake. No one would ever know, he promised me, as long as I never did it again. And yet. And yet, I had done it again.

    The photographer took just three minutes to set his camera on a tripod and burn a hard flash into our eyes. For a moment, I was blind. I couldn't see the calendars on the wall. I couldn’t see how my father was reacting. I couldn't see if anyone else was walking in the doors. I only knew that when I could see again, I would have to look my father in the eye and tell him in which room he would find the body.

    It was awkward, the photographer's entrance. But it was the only moment all day that I was at peace.

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