Thursday, October 21, 2004

10/21/04 8:42 PM Joe Coluccio

Id Id Id Id Id

One or two odd nights a year I sit down to watch the movie Forbidden Planet. It is the movie, I think, that I have seen for the most repeat times. The watching, a glass of red wine, some ersatz buttered low sodium popcorn, high resolution computer screen, has become an important ritual to me. Forbidden Planet is clearly the best science fiction film ever made.

I know that I saw the film in the theaters when it first appeared in 1956. As proof, I will now guide you back to the cafeteria slash lunch room at William Penn School. Right off Verona Road not too far from the historic log house that has since been covered with a fine white aluminum siding. Tradition dies hard in this Mid Atlantic neck of the woods.

It is a Friday evening. It is Spring. The school year is winding down. It is the night of the sixth grade dance. The hall (hitherto known as the cafeteria slash lunch room. I just could not add another slash in good conscience) is festooned with large paper cut-outs of alien life forms. On the small raised area that serves as a stage, where I myself was a Jack-in-the-Box in a Christmas Play several years prior Boinnng! I sprang up on cue and said my line, which, for lack of the proper recording equipment in those olden days of yore, is lost in the halls of my childhood audio, more science fiction props. I'll bet it was cute as hell, though. And so, more than likely, was I. If you are imagining that scene with a passel of parents raptly sitting on folding chairs watching scores of toys in Santa's Workshop animated by their little children, dancing and singing around the stage, you will have little trouble visualizing, that same stage, some years later, the night of the dance, empty and alien save for lunar craters and twinkling stars and planets with halo's pinned fetchingly on the maroon curtain. Please note with care that the name of this alien civilization on a banner that spans the middle of the room, high over the dance active 5th and 6th grade classes is, the Krell! 1956. Forbidden Planet.

Excited! You bet I was! Here was a tribute to my miraculous Krell who had literally raised with their expanded minds the energies of the planet Altair IV to the infinite power. Who had managed to forsake physical appearance for the deep realm of the mind. And contained therein was their downfall. Those noble creatures who must have had a really wide posterior if you looked at the shape of the arches that lead back to the Krell laboratories from Doctor Morbius' office. Forgive me, but the image of Giant Barneys, giant purple costumed dinosaurs with large bottoms waddling and singing I love you as they pack off to a hard day of work at the energy lab each day comes to my aged and expanded mind. No wonder the poor things wanted to leave all physical manifestation behind for the comforting geography of pure consciousness, where the people of Altair IV looked lot more like Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis in those really innocent yet sexy and revealing clothes. But I get ahead of myself.......

Luckily the Krell are left to our imagination and though I suppress the image of purple children's television drivel as I hope you will, the sixth grade dance committee has done a fine job of green and horned creatures. (Sheb Wooley for the record, one eyed and one horned was still solidly two years in the future).

But the fine and artistic depictions did not help. For the Krell were ultimately defeated by Monsters from the Id. And have been every year since. The Id! Now, this was the first time I had ever heard the term. Freud was really never mentioned in 6th grade civics class, but I caught on pretty quickly and have been intrigued by my unconscious urges ever since. It is really the superego that I have battled the most. Good thing the Krell didn't have to reckon with it. More than likely they would have become fundamentalist Christians. A fate way worse, as far as I am concerned, than being smashed to jelly by unconscious rage.

Strangely Robby the Robot was missing from the decorations and we were not served pints of "the good stuff" fashioned by the hands of Robby by the request of Cookie. Nontehless, I was drunk. I may have even danced a little. Secure with the knowledge that the universe was a vast and mysterious place just awaiting my voyage of discovery.

"Guilty, guilty", says Morbius, as his monster is burning through a door of solid Krell metal 26" thick, trying to get at his daughter, Alta and her new lover. "My evil self is at that door and I have no power to stop it!" Oh yeah, we've all been there!

Mr. Kurtz, he dead.

Monday, April 12, 2004

April 12, 2004 7:13 PM Joe Coluccio
The Beast Fed, At Last, But Not Really Tamed. AKA Comedy Heartburn!

I make this promise every week.

I will write something for the blog. (The last entry was Sunday 10/16/03 4:25 PM)

And every week something manages to catch my attention and lure me away from my keyboard and the pages of the Lackzoom Blog. Alas, sometimes it is the bed which brings me sweet temporary relief from the formidable work of the day.

I swear to you last night I sat bolt upright and thought ‘time to sleep when you’re dead!’ This, I think, you will all admit, is a sad state of affairs. I just turned over in the light of that shocking revelation and fell back asleep. Apparently my narcoleptic psyche has better sense than I do.

Here’s the deal. The Lackzoom Acidophilus Comedy Hour has been on the air since Sunday, Jan 25, 2004. Tomorrow I will FTP (File Transfer Protocol. A means of sending files via the internet) show number 12 which will air on April 25, 2004 to WURP 1550 AM. This is a milestone and I’ll tell you why, next paragraph…

For the first time we will be ahead of the game. We thought our first show would air on February 1, 2004. Show 1 aired, instead, one week early. We were really not prepared for the weefollwoing week’s show. We worked, we persevered and Show 2 became a part of our notable history.

For the next three weeks we began to look at the show as a great gaping grasping maw that would be satisfied only by more and newer comedy. We wrote, we performed, we edited, we produced music (All the musical intros and outros and interludes on Lackzoom are original. Luckily, most are composed by a piece of software called Acid and loops of music that are purchased and free of royalties. Without it we might well be sunk) we compiled shows all in the living rooms and basements of our on homes. It is truly a miracle of the digital age that we can produve a radio program without using a recording studio.

Then Show Number Five, because of a problem at the radio station, only aired for the last half an hour. We repeated the same show the next week which put us on a reasonable maintaining schedule. Essentially we gained back the week that we lost in the first place.

Show Number 8. Was viewed and reviewed in the light of the new and more nasty FCC regulations and was found lacking. It was cut and gutted. We decided to regroup and to miss the following week. We recorded new, scrapped old (and forever offensive to the palettes of our new moral leaders) and moved onward. Show 9 aired a week late.

This gaping maw of comedy ( 50 minutes each week of recorded, edited and produced comedy) is only satisfied by hard and constant work. Which is why I neglect this Blog terribly and we tend to neglect our website..

Our program, I feel, is unlike anything that has been heard on the radio. I am a great fan of what has come to be called Old Time Radio. I listen to shows frequently. I am a great fan of what is left on the raft of radio after the wreck of Clear Channel Broadcasting and Infinity Radio. I listen to everything, outside the entropy of bland gray colored popular music, frequently. I love radio and have since my parents bought me a powder blue AM only Arvin transistor set with the antenna set in the handle which revolved nicely to find the proper signal strength. So I set myself as expert as anyone here.

Lackzoom is a unique comedy group, made up of five people (Marc Simon, Phil Trafican, Foley Zelenak, Dean Mougianis, Joe Coluccio), five people with differing ideas and differing styles. And we work at it, to paraphrase the Commitments; we are the hardest working comedy group in the USA.

I guess the question is, are we funny? Listen, via the internet, go to http://www.theedge1550.com/stream and click on 'Click on this link to listen' Sunday’s at noon Eastern Daylight Time.

The answer?

You’re damn skippy, we are!

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Sunday 10/16/03 4:25 PM Joe Coluccio

The nose of a clown

For lack of anything substantial to report I want to start revealing to you all of my problems and blemishes. Don't worry it won't take long. A century perhaps two.

I belong to what we laughingly call a comedy group, Lackzoom Acidophilus, perhaps we should adopt the moniker of a comedy troupe. Then again, maybe not. The point is that I often feel inadequate in the face of the others, who yuck and chortle to distraction at our meetings, to produce comedy. Is there anything more pathetic (here is where I release a good sigh and then begin softly to weep) than a person who is part of a group of people dedicated to bringing the best, the highest class, the most intellectual..okay so that isn't Lackzoom either, let's just say a group of people who feel funny today, punk! ,and who is inadequate to the Punch. Laugh if you will at Mr.Pagliacci. Vesti la giubba indeed.

Could it be, I thought, that there is a comic viagra on the market. I looked with a rising interest. Alas, I found little comical about the drubbing my tumescence took from the search or lack of same.

There was a light at the end of the very long tunnel. But upon closer examination it turned out to be some Tibetan guy chanting lustily and casting shadows of obscure Asian animals on the wall with a flashlight whose battery was definitely not lapin. I gave up on the external perusal of the world that is and ought to be.

I looked inward and after I got passed the mess of plumbing that is my human body, after I rode the synapses of nerve to my higher facility, after I stroked my prefontal lobe and gazed longingly at the medulla of oblongata, I reached the very serious cerebrum. Here was the problem, down deep, I am an animal, a savage of prestigious appetite and here sits, like a cooked crust on a pot pie, the cap to what is a seething volcano of lust, greed and carelessness. In short the source of all comedy. The slap in the ass with a wet towel, the kick in the shin, yea and verily I say unto you even the pie in the face.

My problem then is that I am far to kind and gentle to be a comedian. I lack the thrust to the gut, the grab for the jugular that goes along with being funny. This I promise for the health of my commedia del'arte, I will work assiduously at becoming the kind of ruthless pig who can make funny. Forgive me, if I trip you in the hallway and guffaw, it is a part of my art. Don't cluck your tongue if I perform certain bodily function in the high city square at noon. I'm learning. You can't just watch this stuff on TV and laugh, you have to be a part heavy of the mayhem.

So tip up the cap and loose thy bestial nature, let the magma of unconscious desire flow to the surface and drip down over any intellect. Peer into the seering volcano of unproductive lust, inhale! It will make you more funny, honest!

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Sunday 11/19/03 3:11PM Joe Coluccio

I've been thinking about Lackzoom Acidophilus and how I have abandoned in this blogging trek items that are either light, witty or comic, for a darker dreamier side of my personality. Is it, I wonder, with a continuing vengeance, because my notions of what is comic have changed? Have I lost my notions of the comic? Worse have I worn out my sense of humor? Have I come to believe, as those who employ themselves bringing their full critical facility to bear on the arts and surrounding aesthetics, that the comic is more flawed and less serious than deadly dark drama that rents our souls?

When, I wonder, was the last time that I had a good gut wrenching laugh at someone slipping on a banana peel? I'd rather eat food, especially in these dire times when I must loose weight, than fight and smear the slimy gooey condiments of my water cress and chestnut "sammitch." The last time a saw a couple "bruisers' poke the eye out of a one hundred pound weakling, it did not leave me laughing with tears pouring out of my rolling eyes. Conservative talk radio should have me convulsing and hiccupping when the careless smug host makes fun of folks far more unfortunate than even people portrayed on soap operas. Instead it just leaves me in a cold rage. I laugh at jokes that make my bald pate the abject object of clowning, but I hardly ever understand the humor. Likewise vomiting and other liquids that squirt from the human anatomy fail to bring in me the gales of hilarity that spit from the lips of others.

I conclude that everyone should take their humor where they can find it. So, please,don't think that I think you any less of a human being because those things listed above, that leave me deflated, bring feelings of relief and laughter to you. There truly is no accounting for taste. I read books that I would swear, face red and puffed, to you on a cannon of Holmes Mysteries that I would never touch. That, my friends, remains my little secret. I really don't think any less of you if you enjoy the most puerile of humor, rather I look into myself and ask what I am missing?

I don't have any answer. I know this, each member of Lackzoom Acidophilus, there are four of us primarily involved, has a different idea of humor and what is funny. And the deal is that each of us respects the common ground of our intellect and our family-like relationships which have been growing for close to thirty years now and can accept what the others are creating. I know where the well spring of my humor lays and how it seeps to the surface. I trust Dean, Foley and Marc in whatever manner they find and tap the field of their creation.

I write this on the eve of a change that is about to happen. It is exciting and daunting. If it comes about our lives will change in a significant manner. I hope that by next week at this time I can make the announcement.

Ciao!

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Sunday 10/26/2003 8:51 AM Joe Coluccio

Ain't Walpurgisnacht a kick in the pants?

It's the end of October and, I don't know about you, but I'm looking for a good scream to clear out all that crippling dark that has accumulated since last year. Mostly I crank up the TV and gaze hopefully at the movie channels, but there is much to be wary about in modern horror settings and although I admit that Michael Myers and John Carpenter at least had the virtue of being the first and perhaps the best of the bloodletting which tediously has followed, this nouveau mythology dressed in gore is far too close to the yellow screaming nightly news. And in fantasy too unpleasant to really help me descend into the Inferno.

I was frightened more innocently as a child. When scientists open the hydroponic garden door in the movie The Thing from Another World and you get a quick view of the alien and an even more fleeting detail of two dogs, hanging from the rafters with their throats slit, imagination of the beast feeding left me weak and drained as the hanging Shepherds in my movie seat. Add to that a brisk walk to the corner following the showing to wait for a ride home in a frigid bleak black and white snowy landscape and I was close to comatose as we sped down Verona Road in the overheated Buick Roadmaster.

I could go on endlessly about movies that gave me a rippling frisson. The bleating brass when the Creature from the Black Lagoon appears, the Alien (one of the few modern era horrors that I can watch) in a weird parody of Caesarean section bursting full blown from the belly of John Hurt (I sat next to my horrified pregnant wife and heard a kid behind me whimpering to his mother that he wanted to please leave the theater), and the magnificent synoptic ending in Dead of Night, golfers dummy et al. There was something cathartic and transforming about the fear, heroism and heady rush of adrenaline. Something helpful.

There was also a smattering of dark literature that could be found in the library. My aunt would drive us after shopping every Saturday morning to the Homewood Branch of the Carnegie Library and I would roam up and down the open stacks, my right index finger leading me from title to title down the spines of the books. Somewhere along about the L's I discovered HP Lovecraft. One evening in the dark of autumn I sat in my basement bedroom, my brother and I had been displaced by the arrival of our maternal grandmother, and read, first, The Rats in the Walls and then Pickman's Model. I pulled heavy covers over my head and cowered at the clicking sounds of the furnace cooling in the other room and noticed red gleaming eyes considering me from the depth of the hallway that lead to the back room.

It is a certain restraint and a rage of imagination that is missing from modern horror tellings. The scene is set, the fire is dying in the hearth or campfire, stories are being told and then the proceedings are rendered inconsequential by a swath of blood and gore from a clumsy oaf wielding a machete. This, though possibly the stuff of nightmares, is not the stuff of catharsis and health.It is the junk that we face all the livelong day. Oafs wielding machetes. No adventure is left to follow. The irrational is abandoned and you are drawn to the surface and left strangely to ponder, why would anyone in their right mind go to that lake or woods or basement when they know that others have without any possible redemption been squashed and quartered? The answer is pretty clear, the victims are as psychopathic as the monster. This rude appeal to the rational does not allow for any hero to descend into the underworld and reappear triumphant. Instead we are stuck to wallow endlessly in the red sticky horror of daylight.

I sit here and ponder if I have just written the ravings of an old timer wishing that things can just please stay the way they were. I conclude that there is some of that in me. For the record I know that Walpurgisnacht is not celebrated on or around Halloween. I also know that I am right about these particular demons and the means of slaying them. Anybody got any wolfbane?

In the words of Casper, "BOO!" Y'all!

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Monday, September 29, 2003 6:59:38 AM Joe Coluccio

C'mon, babe, bend over, shake a tail feather.

Now I like a poetic image as much as the next person, but I was taken aback when the loud speaker in the shower room at the local spa that I attend each morning exhorted me to "scratch myself like a monkey." I tried it, rhythm pounding and water sealing my eyes shut.

The whole point of going to exercise daily on machines devised by Tomás de Torquemada is to become healthy and glowing. A secondary goal is to be able to parade my body around with a kind of grace that one finds in people who can dance. I have, as usual, succeeded minimally in the first and have managed to elude any semblance to Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. (I did once dance with my umbrella but it was during a violent rain storm and I punched a hole in the canvas back of a lawn chair.)

In my high school days a whole host of like disembodied amplitude modulated exhortations entered my consciousness. New dances would spew from the radio on a daily basis. Everyone was gaga over them. And I admit that even I fell sway, in a chair, while reading adventures, to the lush and heavy rhythms that throbbed from my blue transistor Arvin radio. Weekends when I would away to the hops, sock and brew, I was far too clumsy and embarrassed to dance. My chubby body not at all in sync with the beatific beat in my soul.

How graceful could I look while making a chuffa chuffa motion like a railroad train, now. Or trying to grind invisible softened boiled potatoes into mashed spuds. Or twisting in a jerky parody of Chubby Checker. Could I hully gully or frug, jerk or watutsi (sadly brought to our attention nowadays by those wild wacky antics of the Burundian hutus and the Rwandan tutsis . Hey hey hey , Pony, like Bony Maroni, We would neigh, like a lost mustang herd chased into a stark rocky western canyon. The maximized wonders of the funky chicken, arms back, heads down, Peck a Peck, eventually turned into an awful wedding ritual.

Dance after dance mixed finally into high glosslallia. La la la la La la la la la La dooty wop ja boop a womp bomp a lum momp. Heat and sex. It looked like such fun. My secret sin, Do Bop Shoo Bop was that all I wanted to do was grope my partner in a very slow sensual dance. Scarcely more than a sliding embrace, a soft swish across the floor. We never moved. Just inhaled.

So I spent more than half the dance watching from the benches that lined the gymnasium, longing but trying to look very sophisticated, while girls danced with girls. And daring guys who looked very cool or very silly bent over like a fluff tailed duck and clucking, danced.

Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight!

KC, I couldn’t have said it much better myself.

As for the monkey thing, the modesty curtain on the shower was pulled shut. I hope.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Dear Reader(s):

"Easy credit, easy credit,
Wilkin's is the place where you can get it!"

This rhymed cuplet was the refrain sung by the Wilkin's Jeweler's Easy Credit Gals. They were my first fantasy love. They dressed in fringed cowgirl outfits and sang sweetly on local television (was there any other kind) about the attractions of Wilkin's Jewelers, which was, I believe, located on Penn Avenue (or maybe Liberty) in the heart of East Liberty, or 'Sliberty, as it was more popularly known. Did you know that in its heyday,'Sliberty was the second largest shopping area in Western Pennsylvania next to downtown Pittsburgh? You wouldn't know it to look at it now. It makes bombed out Bagdad look like Beverly Hills.

I remember as a kid of nine or ten going to Wilkin's Jewelers one sunny Saturday afternoon when the store was having a special sale to look for the Easy Credit Gals, who were appearing in person. My dream girls! I had a severe crush on all of them. I took my autograph book (which contained signatures from Roberto Clemente, Frank Tavares, Rocky Nelson, Gino Cimoli, Don Hoak, Smokey Burgess, Joe Gibbon, Bob "Dog" Skinner, Harvey Haddix, Clem Labine, "Maz", The Deacon, Bob Moose, and who knows who else, since the book is long gone, inadvertently tossed out by my mother many years back, along with a complete set of Topps baseball cards from 1958, the only complete set I ever had, 454 cards, I think it was, but I wouldn't stake my life on that number).

There they were, the Pittsburgh C&W version of the McGuire Sisters, in front of the store, in their short cowgirl skirts and white cowgirl boots and hats, sitting on high stools, signing autographs. A little sliver of thigh showed on one of the gals. They looked a lot younger in person than they did on my family's scratchy 13-inch black and white t.v. They could have been my baby-sitters.

There was a long line for autographs, and it must have taken a half-hour to get to the front. The gal in the middle--I think her name was Dolores, but I may be making this up--said, "Who should I make it to, hon?"

I wanted to say, to your secret admirer, your future husband, to the one who thinks of you when he kisses his pillow, to the one who gets an instant chubby when he thinks of you, but all I could barely stammer out, "Marc." She signed it, "To Mark, from the E-Z Credit Gals." Then she said, "Next."

And that was it. I walked away, deflated and broken-hearted. Isn't that always the way with the pretty girls?

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Thurday, September 18
Somewhere in the Iraqi Desert

Dear Reader(s),

I can't tell you precisely where I am, for two reasons: 1) security, and 2) I don't know. Anyway, I just wanted to let you that I've captured Saddam Hussein. The old ace of spades. He's right here. I just kind of snuck up on him at this Middle Eastern restaurant last night. He was looking around for a waiter, and when he held his hand up, I slapped a pair of Chinese finger handcuffs on his index fingers, so don't worry, he won't get away.

He was eating all by himself. I kind of felt a little sorry for him, being all alone. I guess there's nothing like a violent overthrow of your government to find out who your friends really are. But he looks good. He's put on a few pounds, but that's to be expected since he's not that busy these days running the government. He says he sits around all day and watches CNN. One thing, his hair is all grey. I didn't know he colored it. I'm going to lend him a bottle of my Just For Men.

I asked him about the weapons of mass destruction. I just had to know, like everyone else. He told me we've got it all wrong. He said he never had any, not unless you count the little bit of poison gas he had back in the '90s. That incident with the Kurds was a mistake. He was just trying to get rid of it. It's all gone now anyway, he assured me. He says he wouldn't know what to do with an atomic bomb if someone gave him one as a Ramadan present.

Oh, and he says he's sorry he called George Bush the bastard step-child of the Republican party. He was just kidding. He wishes we could go back to the old days, when Iraq and America were buddy-buddy, when we used to give him millions of dollars and guns. He got kind of teary-eyed at that point. He asked me, when I turn him in, could he and George Bush could have their debate. I said, "Saddam, what can I tell you? I'd pay money to see that one myself."

I told him I was sorry about his sons, but they should have given themselves up. He said he couldn't agree more, and in fact he had told them to wave the white flag, but they wouldn't listen to him, and evidently never had. He said it's not easy raising two boys and being the head of an outlaw state. He pointed out that even George Bush had trouble with his kids. At least that was something the two of them could commiserate on..

I said well what about your ties to Osama Bin Laden. He really chuckled at that one. He said the only time he and Osama were linked was on a comedy skit he saw on Saturday Night Live. By the way, he really misses American television. He wanted to know if they have t.v. at Gitmo. I don't know if they do. Well, they probably do have the dish.

I'll be bringing him in soon. Exactly when, where, and how I cannot reveal at this time. I've got to work out the details of that reward money first.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Sunday, September 14, 2003 5:07:29 PM Joe Coluccio

It was many and many a year ago in a kingdom mid-PA called State College. I and three of my closest high school friends had been accepted as freshman at the wonder filled Universal State of Knowledge. All motivation to be any level of student stopped in the middle of my senior year when I was told that I was accepted to the Pennsylvania State University. What idiot of pedagog thought early admission would prove a good idea. Or was it perhaps financial? I was insufferable around the guidance counselor’s office. Smug. Try as they would to scare me, I had made it! At last I could truly devote my weekends and even school nights to drinking beer and carousing. We had all become masters of shirking school assignments and looking aged in bond enough to get served at local bars and the occasional State Store. A plague was loosed upon the old town.

I barely survived the declining months of spring into graduation. The day after the high and mighty ending ceremony held, on account of new construction at the new High School (Across the valley from me as I sit here writing, I hear the drums of band practicing), in the declining football field of Seneca Junior High. I stepped on a snake in the empty stone dirt and brush lot at Verona and Frankstown. My terribly shaken hung over mind convinced me it was an apparition worthy some biblical intent. A shade of alcoholic exhalation. It was not. Had a more objective reality. I continued on, shaken and reformed, somewhat. And sick. Perhaps snake bitten.

The campus at State College was truly beautiful. Autumn, dead deciduous leaves swirl and tumble through sunlit regions of light defined by shade of tall timber to a luscious green lawn that slopes a long angle to the streets of the small and commercial lit town. Blacktop paths that lead in wide and sensuous curves from building to building are everywhere ignored for the softer blanket of grass and a growing covering of brown red yellow leaves. Students lay mid clover reading, sleeping, and dreaming. The buildings, fantastic copulas and caps, bell tower and Grecian sound columns, here and there a spattering of modern unrelieved concrete and tinted glass. Even seeming an atomic explosion could not upset these aged august and venerable buildings which would in a few scant years be invaded by political unrest and the explosion of youth that would unsettle the whole country. Power to the people!

Somehow I started to college with the right attitude. I was chaste and studious. Didn't last the year. None of us did.

I enrolled in the Aerospace Engineering Program. It was a matter of no small irony that some years later, 1969 to be exact I worked for a Cleaning and Tailor Supply firm on 12th Street two scant blocks south of Broadway in Oakland California and employed via manpower laid off aerospace engineers to help me unload fifty pound sacks of diatomaceous earth off a large flat bed truck out of Lodi, CA. The head of the aerospace department had an appropriate German accent. I don't recall his name, but he may have been part of the Rocket Team that rained Vergeltungswaffe Ein (V1) Vergeltungswaffe Zwei (V2) on Great Britain.

I was Space happy as a kid. And misdirected. I translated my love for astronomy more importantly cosmology into the practical solution that Aerospace Engineering offered. It has taken me years to realize that the "Inner Reaches of Outer Space" as old Joe Campbell called them were always available to me. ...we grow old. we grow old...do we dare to eat a peach?

Anyway

The guy with the gut German akksent, not afraid of cliche, we were told, same as the day before at orientation, to look to the person to the right of us, then to look to the person to left of us. Dramatic pause in the frozen silence of our pensive gaze, "Zey will be gone by zee end of za year!" I took him serious. I was gone and looking for a job by summer vacation. And the guy next to me who stayed was out of a job about six or seven years later, save for helping me hump Dynaflo into the basement of the Rosenburg Brothers.

What, you may ask, did I do for that year. Tried to get laid. College girls are hip and the sexual revolution had not yet reared its sensual head. Tried to get served. College bars are hip and card with the diligence of a prison guard. Tried to party on weekends, fraternities were uninteresting to me and we, none of us, had any money for night life. Tried to study, what a bore. Tried to... well mostly I just visited my friends, read new and dangerous ideas, listened to Ornette Coleman, got new friends and entered into the soap opera world of trysts and affairs, and got into a lot of trouble.

Watched the Beatles on TV. Ed Sullivan for the first time. We all wore Beatles wigs and made fun of them. An ignominious start for the icons of our generation. Heard about Kennedy being assassinated while I was uselessly studying from a Chemistry book that would turn to a Calculus book. Looking out over the West Hall quadrangle from my desk.

Next week I'll turn my futile brow to a weekend in Chicago, the zoo, South Bend and a nation in deep mourning.
Ciao Bambini!

Monday, September 08, 2003

Monday, September 08, 2003 7:01:43 AM

Live fast, die young, and have a good looking corpse.
Nick Romano - Knock On Any Door. - Willard Motely

You can spot them in the morning. Like a line of arrogant ducks on the penny arcade shooting range, leaning casual, stern ever moving eyes with their backs arched and heavy pushing against the plate glass that advertises cigarettes for a hundred bucks a pack, milk - more fresh and frothy than from the udder of Elsie, slurpies, and deli sliced humps of chipped ham; displayed, chockablock next to posters of marshmallow peeps or chocolate turkeys complete with stuffing or rainbow lollipop christmas trees or sugar sweet valentine hearts or horrible halloween hostile hysteria. Egyptian Civilization was formed and guided by the predictable swelling of the Nile. Our civilization is equally served by such bright and cartooned advertisements taped as temporary decoration on the aluminum trim double glazed picture windows in a strip mall.

What is it, do you suppose, that makes freelance workers line up at the automatic sliding door and contiguous windows of the local C Store? The thrill of blocking customer traffic? What is it that makes this blacktop curb the perfect starting place for those who put roofs on houses, mow lawns by the millions, unstuff the kitchen sink and bathroom toilet, add supposed ozone depleting refrigerants to the cooling side of your air conditioner, set and install the picket fence, paint same fence and the side of a house, cover the paint with aluminum siding. Fixit handy guys, all. Does this mooring in the morning take the place of matins?

They wear bandanas made from old snot rags and tee shirts that prior to dismemberment had perfectly good sleeves. Each pick-up truck, one has the emblem of a small boy peeing on a Chevrolet, another the small boy pisses on a Ford, has a gun rack fashioned in the rear window, witness to the fact that these Minute Men are as ready as those who bedeviled the British on their long march back to Boston from Concord. Each has a cup of tepid coffee in hand, testimony that they have been in position since at least 4 AM when the twenty-four hour operation changes both staff and personality. They laugh large and swear in loud voices, hawk spittle that we can only hope is that cold coffee from their warm mouths as it lands perilously close to our newly shined brogans.

Isn't it hard enough just to get yourself to work without these local tradesmen making you run the gauntlet of rude approval because you were too lazy to fire up the coffee pot? Isn't it bad enough that the coffee you are served has, although hot, the consistency of something scrapped from tar paper and the taste of something vile and long boiled, but have to hear the following dialog.

"Can you believe that Gino's wife left him?" Bravo, you think, Mrs. Gino. "Yeah, she ran away with his girl friend Lottie!"

or

"I went, hey dude, leave me alone. He went; you can't tell me who to leave alone. I went, look buddy, just leave me alone. He went, I don't think so. I went, pal, apparently you don't know who you are messing with. He went, duh! I went, Oh yeah and clocked him cross his chin with my right. He went down..."

My old man would take me in the summers to work, with Sofis, the plasterer and Barney and Betts, painters both and we would sit at the 6 AM counter of an all night diner in East Liberty. They would talk about women and kid me with little mercy. Discuss the jobs for the week and the Pirates and stupid politicians. It was quiet chatter in a busy place that had pies in slices on stainless steel and curved glass display, succulent large donuts on a tray greasily staining a scrolled paper doily, proud rows of Cheerios and Cornflakes high above on a shelf in individual boxes that could be cut down the sides and the middle and filled with milk a banana cut in slices atop the flakes, eggs and sausage and flapjacks spitting on the iron brown grill.

In the evenings I would join my friends at the corner of Frankstown and Verona Roads and line up in front of the porthole windows of the men's room of the Eastwood Movie Theater and talk about girls and boast about fights like we full fledged members of the some mob. We formed a gauntlet that blocked paying customers from entry. The cops would come and chase us away and we would scatter like fleas and then after twenty minutes regroup with even more vicious stories.

The only places that resemble the 24 hour diner now are MacDonald’s and they are overrun by retired folk who voice their own cluck of disapproval if you invade the space. There are no breakfast counters at C-Stores. The Eastwood Theater closed over thirty years ago. I guess these guys need a place to go in the morning. My real question is: Do they ever go to work? They are still there at noon, when all you want is a fast bite to eat. A chicken skin on cardboard with paste, please.

I yam what I yam!
- Popeye to anyone who would listen.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Sunday, August 17, 2003 5:38 PM Joe Coluccio

My Divine Comedia - Canto One or so.

"What am I doing here?" a young man in dark gray striped Giorgio Armani with red power tie over bleached white shirt tapped loudly on the pure white radiant table.

A golden name plate announced Leonardo. The old guy standing behind sandboarding his fingers. Fine Firenzen eyes, face like red chalk, long white hair that curled wildly into his beard. He was wearing a white golf shirt with a koala bear emblem, tan slacks and brown shoes with high gloss tassels. "I believe you were hit by the 56C as you ill advisedly tried to cross rush hour traffic at Fourth and Grant."

"You nitwit, that wasn't me. It was the guy next to me. I just bent over to pick-up the quarter that he dropped. He ran out into the traffic!"

The old man shrugged his shoulders. "Heart attack then."

"It most certainly was not a heart attack! I just had a check up. My cholesterol is way down and my veins and arteries are, to quote Doctor Hennessey 'supple and clear as a baby's'."

"Brain tumor?"

"Impossible, just got a clean chart on a CAT scan!"

"Cancer?"

"It was none of those. I'm as healthy as a horse. Can't you just admit you made a mistake? Just send me back down the escalator."

"I invented that you know?"

"What?"

"The escalator! Before I came on board you had to climb a really long set of steps."

"Swell! What about me? I have a staff meeting at one, and a proposal due at five. Nothing'll get done if I don't get back!"

"You ever hear of a man called Miyamoto Musashi. Wrote Go Rin No Sho. The Book of Five Rings?"

"No!"

"He says that the samurai should always be ready for death."

"So?"

"Well, one of the things you do to prepare is to always have your life in order."

"Sounds great but I'm not a Samurai! Besides, you duffuses mucked everything up! You should have taken the guy next to me. A whole Port Authority Transit Bus smacked into him. What about him?"

Leonardo flips through an account book that rests on a table next to his throne. "Oh, you'll be glad to know that he's fine. Slipped under the wheels and then slid into the storm sewer. Had a terrible smell of decaying vegetation about him in the ambulance, but he's been released from the hospital with some minor contusions. Says he has a whole new lease on life." The old man looked at him beatifically.

"What? Is that supposed to make me happy?"

"No, I guess not. From the looks of things his wife isn't celebrating either."

"This isn't fair! I wasn't bothering anyone. Just a taking a quiet minute on the street for a smoke and POW, you grab the wrong guy."

Leonardo gives a look of sympathy that really says nothing.

"Look, if you don't have the authority to send me back, I want to talk to your boss?"

"Now that might be a mistake. I'd really advise against it."

"What's the matter? Afraid you'll get busted for incompetence?"

Leonardo laughs pleasantly "No, no not at all. See, my boss does the judgin'"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Did you ever read the Divine Comedy?"

"No."

"Dante?"

"What the hell are you talkin' about?"

"Hhhm must have had an American education You are a Christian?"

"Even more than that, I'm Catholic!"

Leonardo gestures with his hands in a full circle sweep, "Well? Midway twixt this life and the next? The pearly gates and all that? You finally get weighed on the scales of universal justice?"

Something akin to hidden knowledge broached appears in the knit brows of the man. "The Pearly Gates? Like in all those lawyer jokes? I thought St. Peter was at the Pearly Gates."

"And so he is, so he is, but first you get the tour from me. Kind of an orientation to your peculiar inchoate beliefs."

"Look, whatever your name is..."

"Leonardo from Vinci, a small town in what is presently called Italy."

"Sure, look, Leo, this tour…ah …do you think you could…you know…get me close to the outside…help me over the wall…let me find my way back to the bus stop?"

"Out of the question, Waldo…"

"Shhhhh! Hey…don't say my name so loud, it's embarrassing. Everyone calls me Skippy."

"Skippy, I'm afraid that death is relatively irrevocable."

"How about that going back as a newborn stuff. There's the ticket! You could reincarnate me."

"Are you sure you're Christian?"

"Hindu," pauses as tight thought lines appear on his forehead, "Moslem. I mean, if that helps."

"It would help me immensely. I'd love to have Suleiman set you up with a dozen vestal virgins but you were born in the western tradition and rules, my dear, Skip, is rules."

"Okay, but I know my rights! I have the God given duty to try to escape."

"This isn't Stalag 13. I will, however, let you pick the first stop on our voyage."

"Vegas! I always wanted to go to Vegas!"

"Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, dreary and unimaginative as they are, those are the choices."

"Is there a casino with a good floor show in Hell?"

"Senior Skippy! Andiamo!"

Monday, August 11, 2003

Monday, August 11, 2003 7:22:00 PM

De gustibus non est disputandum!

Yesterday at the company picnic, held south of Pittsburgh in Washington County in the park environs of the, as the sales brochures proclaim, largest swimming pool in the region everyone praised the hot dogs. And then! We found that not only were they not Hebrew National with the fine spices, or Nathan's redolent of turn of the century Coney Island Hype, nor Kahn's the wiener the world awaited, not fat kids skinny kids Armour, not even those stuffed by hand by a little man at the village two miles further on down Route 40 who's whole life and passion has been given to the development of the perfect dog.

Nope!

These my sweltering Ball Park Fiends were Turkey Dogs. Quelle horreur!

It did get me to thinking.

Of the fact that I, by far, prefer a caffeine free diet cola to one loaded with straight syrup. That for a time I bought wine by the box. That the first pipe tobacco that I loved was called Cherry Blend. That I started to drink Postem in a fit of health and actually began to prefer it to coffee, but most of all I thought of my old man and the water collected from the source of all the world's deep well of water, lovingly bottled from a rusted pipe hidden behind vegetation in a rock formation somewhere between Harmarville and Dorseyville.

After the laborious trip to the holy fount in our Root Beer and White, Wood Trimmed, Rambler Station Wagon he would reverently place a half gallon glass jug sweating from the coolness of the clear ichor within into the fridge. Swing the door closed and look at us in a kind of spiritual daze and explain to me and my brother, who sat at the kitchen table open to all lore and baloney, that here was the finest water in the world! Nay, the universe! Restorative and sweet! Ponce De Leon had missed this fountain by a thousand miles or more.

Thereafter, he would pour water into a glass from the sacred vessel, drink deeply, smack his lips and proclaim loudly for all the world to witness, "Man! Now that is water!" Then look sadly at the dwindling supply figuring the days until he would have to head north and west into the wild Pennsylvania forest for a refill.

I admit it. It was cruel! But one summer Sunday morning when we spotted less than an inch left in the bottle, my brother and I, with a daring born of weeks of lip smacking and water praising, emptied the small portion left and profaned the container by filling it about one eighth full with less than perfectly filtered, pumped from the Allegheny to a water tower and distributed to the whole neighborhood, tap water.

You should know that my father was not an easy man. He taught me to drive largely by swinging his fist into my meaty shoulder with every unpardonable traffic error that I committed. People wonder now why I flinch when I mistakenly make a turn without properly signaling, or run a yellow light, or back improperly into a parking space. Just the way I was trained. Pow! So although we thought that gag was a funny one, we also felt grave trepidation when the old man swung open the refrigerator door later that morning.

He grabbed the glass jug, swirled the water around until it cylcloned up the side of the bottle. Took a glass from the cupboard, poured the rapidly swirling water into the frost patterned drinking glass, lifted it to his mouth and drank long and deep. My brother and I were still as squirrels, expecting a storm, ready to flee the flailing fists. The outburst came loud and clear. There are people in Cleveland who swear they heard it.

"Man!" he sang at the top of his lungs, "Now that is water!"

And we began to howl! Tears on our faces, unable to breathe, lay down on the floor and thumped loudly and laughed for everything that we were worth. The old man, more curious than angry, was able after a time to calm us down. "What the hell is so funny?" Empty glass in his hand.

"Man," we explained, "that was tap water!"

I'll give him this. Not one dark cloud formed in his face, not one fist curled. He just began to laugh.

We filled that jug from the kitchen sink faucet for the rest of the summer.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Monday, July 28, 2003 5:48:02 PM Joe Coluccio

Things are more not now than they had even been then.
La plus ça change, la plus change seems like a lot.

I thought I had, for a guy 58 years old, weathered the fast and ever quickening pace of the electronic frontier. I do not quake at the sight of code written in almost any flavor from pre-assembler to 4GL and beyond. Can't say I understand them either, but they don't scare me a whit! No more than looking at some twisted Cyrillic or a diagrammatic Hiragana and Katakana or some squiggling Semitic Notations or High Order Partial Differentiations. I merely sigh; to me they look beautiful, unattainable and full of a promise.

I have embraced blogs and moblogs and wikis. Believed them? Hell, I've used them. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Praxis, praxis, praxis! I can watch a high res copy of a movie on any of my computers. I can turn key strikes on a piano keyboard or from the strings of my guitar through a synthesizer into instant music notation in a file residing somewhere on my high hard drive. I listen frequently to KQED San Francisco and Wisconsin Public Radio and LBC London and WGN Chicago and 2GS Sydney Australia as freely via the internet as if they were in this same region (It is all that I can do not to pound my fists on this flimsy desk at the state of radio in this city this country because of the mole like vision of the industry and its regulatory agency. Local radio is as dead as the bland formats that it tries to foist on us.). And via router and WAP I can sit in wireless glory at my backyard lawn glasstop table and stay connected.

An aside.
I gathered all this great wireless equipment only to be defeated by the rain. The amount of rain we have had for the last forty days and nights should have me mizzening the mainmast on a schooner heading for Ararat. Proof once again that the testaments old and new are more mythically drawn than accurate real. All we've gotten for the extreme amount of rain is soggy grounds, the inability to stay dry and an aching summer cold that two aspirins and an antihistamine do nothing to alleviate.

Given all my easy acceptance of what most people face with a daily horror I must admit that I was given to pause this weekend when I heard the following story on NPR.

The names are changed 'cause I can't remember them and it doesn't really matter. There is a fantasy game played on the internet 24 hours a day and forever and a year. Let's call it ElvenQuest. It might really be the name. You enter this world formed by the force and imagination of a myriad of others, create a character and have adventures with a hapless group of fellow travelers. If your character is unfortunate enough to stand in the fiery breath of a Dragon from the next zip code you and your creation expire and are no longer a part of the game. Tu es mort, mon ami! Being a mere mortal and possibly a thief or a third level sorcerer and hence not immune to the dangers of your quest, you are able through guile, robbery or just plain old fashioned bludgeonery to obtain objects with power to protect you and keep you swinging on a star. The Magic Sword of Arthur, the babushka of Babiyaga, the Tongue of a young toad or a deferred annuity. So that when, Clem, the Dragon, puffs cigarette rings toward you, you can throw up your asbestos cloak given you by someone who abates hazardous compounds, or jump through the center of the rings with a flubber powered pogo stick. Leaving you, whole and healthy and able to move on to yet another level of adventure.

Let us back to the world that we think we inhabit for a short second and watch as it crumbles. There is this new institution called EBay, an internet agora where you can find, buy and sell just about anything, less the Nazi trinkets just banned and some extreme antisocial forms of pornography.

It turns, Meine Damen und Herren, that you can buy, with real dollars, taken from your working pockets, many of the implements that will save you in the world of ElvenQuest with a mere twist of credit card on an EBay Auction! Stunned I continue!

I thought I was clever looking for the first baby that would be born during an internet tryst. Sexual liaison would be done via a hot chat session which would provide as a result some container full of male seed which would be shipped cross country or world and implanted in the woman partner and Viola (her name) nine months later a spawn of that virtual passion would be the issue. Welcome CyberInfusedBaby !

That seems downright plebeian now in the light of this new Republican Revelation. Who, I ask, will become the first entrepreneurial and very real billionaire, selling these evanescent wares to be figuratively used to save characters overwrought by imagination in a fantasy game spread across the planet into eternity?

Gives new perception to the cave doesn't it, Plato?

Monday, July 14, 2003

Dear reader (s):

Let's talk about sex.

Where did you learn how to make babies? For us, it was Howard Wiseman.

My age group (third and fourth graders) had the largest numbers of kids in the neighborhood full of identical brick side-by-side duplexes, priced at $12,500 to be affordable for WWII GIs starting out on the road to post war paradise and the American dream. There were few older kids. One was Howard, who was a sophomore in high school. The other two guys in the neighborhood his age would have nothing to do with him. They thought he was disturbed, and he was. He used to torture baby turtles in various ways (hammers, firecrackers, scissors, use your imagination) that he'd buy from the five and ten. He used to sing a variation on a song, "You're beatiful, you're 16, and your mine." He'd sing, "You're beautiful, you're 16, and you're my mother," because he claimed his mother was the best-looking one in the neighbhorhood. He had street maps of every major U.S. city, and he could tell you the shortest route to get from Bevely Hills, for example, to Pasedena.

We didn't want Howard hanging around with us, either, except he threatened to beat us up individually and collectively if we didn't let him.

One summer night, a bunch of us (Stu, Eddie, Teddy, Jack, Arthur, and me) were out in the scruffy woods behind Schenley Manor Drive (sounds fancy, but it wasn't), smoking the Salems Jack had stolen from his parents. We were coming up with various explanations as to how our parents made babies. It seemed as if everyone's mother was pregnant at the time. I was convinced that if two people got married and lived together, a part of the mother's stomach turned into a baby, but no one was buying my theory. Eddie said it had something to do with the man sticking his dick into a the woman and squirting in her. I had this image of my father peeing into my mother's ass.

Howard discovered us and gave us the lowdown. He told us the man gets his pecker hard, sticks it up the woman's twat and shoots his wad (whatever that was) into her vagina (wherever the hell that was--he later told us it was her peehole), and nine months later you had a baby. He told us it was called sex but we were just little fuckers and we weren't old enough to get our peckers hard and shoot the wad. He said he for him it was easy, he could do it whenever he wanted, and he offered to demonstrate. He unzipped his pants.

We took off. When I got home, my mother asked me what was wrong. Of course, I said "nothing." My parents never looked the same to me again. I made a vow to myself not to get married, which I have broken twice now.

The last I heard of Howard, he was still in Pittsburgh, working at a hot dog shop behind the grill. I guess if I ever need directions I could look him up.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Sunday, July 06, 2003 6:24:42 PM Joe Coluccio

I don't expectorate that you'll concede me.

When I first starting writing comedy bits for Lackzoom, I turned to all the early sources of comedy that had afflicted me so as a youngster. I created a character called Julius Waspstinger who opined mightily like Groucho. I turned years of Steve Allen over in my mind, thought about all those guy in street interviews. One of whom was Gabe Dell, a little more about that a little later. I tried writing with the sang froid of SJ Perelman and the shear intellectual mummery of Robert Benchley. Alas, I make this confession here, I was never much of a Stooge Fan. It is only recently that I have appreciated the pure poetic humor of WC Fields, with the sole shining exception of It's A Gift. My mind runs frequently over the blind Mr. Muckles, honey, exploding a table piled high with incandescent light bulbs, pop pop pop while another customer questions ceaselessly "What about my kumquats?" What ever did happen to Capital C small a small r small l Laphong? That movie I always considered great.

As I started writing I did not have to consider the one comic who most affected my writing style. I just accepted that James Joyce of caramelized comedy, that slipped stream of stratified consciousness, that model of modern malapropriate malediction, Leo Gorcey, as my mentor. I think I channeled him.

The Dead End Kids became the East Side Kids became the Bowery Boys. (For about nine features and three serials there were the Little Tough Guys, with Huntz Hall, sans Leo Gorcey).

When I was a kid I lived on Carver Street in the Larimar Avenue section of East Liberty. My family migrated to the Penn Hills suburbs (called only Penn Township in those days) when I reached the third grade. I lived in that small ethnic Italian section of Pittsburgh, that sent more men to fight in World War II than any other part of the country at the end of an era. Larimar Avenue read like a bildungsroman out of the 1930's or 1940's. My parents would take me there vicariously in almost everything we did. Sunday mornings my father would drive down to the Italian Pastry and grab a most satisfying selection of Sfogliatelle, Pasticciotti Canoli, Napoleons Eclairs Ricotta Tarts and Nut Horns. It was truly the stuff that they eat in heaven when there having a treat. Today you can still get yourself to Monroeville and buy the same quality pastries, but you may have to remortgage your house to afford them. My parent’s friends would drop in frequently and I would hear, embellished, of course, stories about the "old" neighborhood. I can still remember the parades of men dressed in red uniform slowly marching and playing brass insturments and the carnival that was held in the lot across from the Larimar School. I went to catechism at Help A Christian Church and I remember the gang of kids that hung out around Carver Street.

There was, I believe still is, an institution in that section of town called The Kingsley House. Summer evenings, the neighborhood would gather, sit as best we could in the stone playground and watch movies that started at the dark end of twilight.

More often than not they would be films of the Bowery Boys.(Or the East End Kids) The strangeness of all this cultural clash is that I felt more like I grew up in 1940 than I grew up in the "Happy Days" of the fifties and sixties. (Make no mistake about it I love Rock n Roll from Bill Haley on and still shiver when Mr. Dadier enters the classroom.)

It wasn't the dupe, the comic heart of the group, Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones (Glimpy, Dippy or just plain Goofy) played by Huntz Hall but the leader, the intellectual of the group, Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney (aka Ethelbert Muggs McGinnis and an assorted few others), played by Leo, that I adored. And the words that came out of his mouth!

Here is the rest of the Bowery line-up: Bobby Jordan as Bobby, Billy Benedict as Whitey, David Gorcey as Chuck, Bennie Bartlett as Butch, Gabriel Dell in many roles and we can never forget Bernard Gorcey as Louie Dumbrowski, proprietor of Louie's Sweet Shop (honorable mention for Billy Halop and Bernard Punsley in the original Dead End Kids)

It wasn't until years later that I discovered that the Dead End Kids had started in a series of Warner Brother’s socio serious crime films, starring with the likes of Bogart, Cagney, Pat O'Brien and John Garfield. Yikes, I thought, how appropriate, considering that all humor comes from a very deep well. Well?

So it is without a climatic bit of fondue that I represent to you a paradactyl or two from the armadilla of Slipper, mainly me, the Mahoney.

Leities and Genitalnuns,
Never have the clamatious events of the past antidiluvial pituitary given a rise to the post migrational thespis of temporal periodicals. It is with a certain post toastiness that I plot a gyration of normative congloteration that will, I think, sink to the heart of the custard. To my many fantods, I give a rotational shake of the chateau and wish you all a crepuscular crenellated crack on the a postiori.

Say g'night, Slip!

Monday, June 30, 2003

Monday, June 30, 2003 5:56:38 PM Joe Coluccio

"Just take three steps and throw the ball" Advice given me by my mother the month before she adopted a four step approach.

The guy was carrying two bowling pins. He wore a checkerboard shirt that would have made a NASCAR enthusiast glad and shorts that were cut off just above his hairy knees. He had dark gleaming hair and a look and style that would have been a lot less noticed in a Tex-Mex border town.

I was stopped ten automobiles and a delivery truck before the traffic light. The wooden pins, white lacquer gleaming with a red pheasant ring around the neck, looked like they were a part of his hands. "A bowling pin man." I thought and possibly said aloud over the din of a cassette tape of a mystery novel, strangely enough set in San Antonio and environs. I flashed on the Mariachis boisterous and joyous in the Mercado, spirit and odors that I had spent a mere couple hours exploring before touristing on to the Alamo and the River Walk. I know I shouldn't, but I take these sightings as signs or as some kind of omen, or at the very least some of God's peculiar sense of humor dealing with synchronicity and the universe that inhabits me.

By now my perverse organ of imagination was in full swing. 'What,' I wondered, 'was a this Latin Loner, his name very possibly, Jesus, doing carrying two perfect bowling pins down a street in Etna, Pennsylvania?' Could it be some sign of the apocalypse approaching? A flawed interpretation, I concluded, a herald of the apocalypse would at least include an elephant trumpeting and some of the glib glossed twisted tongue of Ernest Angely. People who are chaste and spiritually adept go around with bumper stickers that say 'When the rapture comes I will be transported straight to heaven.' Leaving me, I figure, right in the driverless path of their 1986 Crown Victoria. There is something sadly wrong with this apochrafilled Christian notion.

The light changed and the old bowling alley on the side street that leads to the Fleming Bridge came into view. Two old men were sitting at a card table in the front of the building. Playing cards, relaxing. The front door to the lanes was propped open. I suppose for easier access should someone want a souvenir of the seven-ten split that they just made. Aha! Here was another answer to this fine conundrum posited just a few minutes past. The inside of the building looked dark and cool. I imagined Don Diego, magnificent and masked, speaking Castilian Spanish with a proper lithsp, carrying ten pins, secreted in the palms of his hand two at a time to a building three short blocks away to distribute among the poor bowl deprived citizens of Etna. Tax Free!

I tried as I moved across the river to the south banks of the Allegheny to make some sense of it all. But as usual, my suspicious and synchronous God is silent. Sends a delicious image and then has me toting up all manner of interpretation until my head is spinning and my nerves are a tingle.

One late afternoon we were all sitting around the office with nothing better to do than to swap stories about the evening before. One of the younger members of the crew described the previous evening to us. He had been out at a bar and had begun a mild bender that he hoped would turn to a full and satisfying pain the next day. Soon everyone was buying everyone else drinks. The crowd grew and when it got to his turn, he explained, that the round after he clicked his soggy fingers in his spongy mind cost close to sixty dollars. One of the “revenge of the nerd’s” employees from a software company that inhabited the premises with us rounded the corner. He was moved to join us. "Wow," he said, a living monument to pocket protector and taped glasses, "Sixty Dollars!" We looked up at him. "To spend that kind of money you'd have to go bowling." He gave a twittering laugh and left.

Indeed!

Monday, June 16, 2003

Monday, June 16, 2003 7:02:28 PM Joe Coluccio

Con'd from last rock
Message from Barney to Fred on the Road to the Bronze Age.

One Thanksgiving Art and another friend took off. Live fast. Left the gripes of home and parent behind and grabbed a bus to Chicago, where a childhood friend of Art’s, Frankie, had moved the year before. I drove them to the bus stop and pledged Omerta! I would never reveal where they went to anyone for any reason.

It was cold, just a slight stick of snow on the windshield. We sat in the heat of the car with a bag of burgers between us, ten for a buck, bought at a shack mid Frankstown Road. Talked until our noses filled with the heavy smell of diesel and our ears filled with the swish of air brakes. They took a last bite, grabbed their bags out of the trunk. Left.

I lived up to that promise the next morning when the Art's father called and demanded that I tell him where his son was. "Do you know what he took with him?" Art helped himself to the stash of cash from the bottom of the dining room china closet. The roll looked round and rich, more than a few months worth of saving. "He took my gun!" Die young.

I held silence, through the onslaught dealt by my own parents who couldn’t really figure out what to make of the situation, and the glass tears of Art’s mother and the blazing indignity of Art’s father and the stern looks of the police who visited. You could see the real story in their authoritative eyes. ‘Two more juveniles we won’t have to hassle with.’

I felt that it was an unfair burden foisted on me by some imagined Italian code of honor made up from gangster novels and Mafia movies. Not only did I take the beating from all authority, but I lost my two closest friends.

Two week later they came home. One hating the other more than the other hated the other. It came out in drips in conversation in the following months. Art thought his former closest friend was a slob. “He picked up French fries that had fallen to the dirty greasy street and ate them,” in a voice that said clearly that such actions lacked dignity, honor, panache!

“We were starving!” Explained my other friend. Art and Frankie attempted armed robbery. Pleading, he stopped them from killing the victim. Somewhere along the line dreaming ideology met irrational practicality. Leopold and Loeb meet Holden Caulfield. And have a good looking corpse.

For the next year I was in one camp or the other. There would be no reconciliation. Then Art disappeared seriously. Left for New York City and did not reappear for five or more years.

We graduated from High School, failed miserably at Penn State, worked at too many poor jobs, restaurants, book stores, machinery shops, and traveled to Europe. Always gathered back in Pittsburgh.

Art reappeared as suddenly as he was gone. Relating stories of days of hustling in New York City. He had money. Taken from the suckers and the queers. As he talked I felt smaller and smaller. It was a part his hustle to grow large, laugh large, keep the world under his control. Until someone bigger and badder and one up comes along. Many people think this is a technique worth mastering. Mostly, I laugh at the foolish posturing, but catch me on a down day and you can bluster and become king of my world. For what its worth.

He finagled a position as salesmen in the phonograph record industry in the city of Pittsburgh. He got a me job with one of the many arcane companies and corporations that made up the business. I was hired to transship phonograph records, a slightly unethical practice with borders on illegal that was cross purposes with the Record Labels and Distributors. I learned how to strip shipping cartons of all but one destination label. Anonymous boxes delivered to the bus station three or four times a day. Art wore salesman well with thin ties and shining suits. He would grab me by the arm and laugh with his big laugh. 'We're still friends, Joe. We know what’s going on here' he seemed to say as he circled higher and higher with the buzzards. Flew with the mighty and high ones. I was grounded.

Winter came. I went to work at a place that made Rolling Mills for the Steel Industry.

Somewhere along the line we lost touch probably when I married and left for California. He was married with three children. Stunning beautiful wife and dissatisfied. Looking for more action. Cheating in open green pastures.

I saw his father maybe ten or fifteen years ago at a movie theatre with a pretty young woman. Said nothing.

In the night I can hear that big laugh.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Sunday, June 08, 2003 8:19:15 AM Joe Coluccio

Wait for me, Wild Bill!

Art and I were friends all the years and summers that I struggled for my PA State Driver's License. I went to the State Police Barracks at Washington Boulevard twice. Crushed by my first defeat, I managed the loops and backwards logic of parallel parking on the follow-up test a few weeks later. Freedom! As long as I could manage to talk the keys of the car out of my old man's hands.

By the tenth grade Art was gone. A runaway to New York City, heartache to his parents and sociopath to the rest of us. Live fast, we thought, die young, we fantasized and have a good looking corpse. Art came the closest to emulating Nick Romano.

He was a good looking guy, a clone of his father, his mother a clone of Barbara Billingsly caring for the Beaver, perfectly coifed, sexually repressed and suburban dressed. She tolerated me but despised the bulk of his other friends. It was a house where you left the assumption of your dirty shoes on the rug at the back door and walked in uncomfortable socks over splendid carpet that carried immaculate furniture poised on plastic leg coasters. He had a sister who was dark and voluptuous but too budding young to pay close attention.

Art's black hair swept back heavy was glued to the side of his head with the grease that passed for gel in that time. When he didn't carry it as a carrier top in the summer, it waved casually to his forehead so that he could push it back with his fat flat fingers. His nose was small straight and his lips were heavy, slightly feminine. He had a big laugh that never failed to lead us to trouble. He would start with a twisted grin, grab my arm, open his mouth and work his way up to a maniacal breaking decibel. That laugh was meant to draw me into a friendly intimacy as if to say we know, wink, a lot better than this Joe. Don’t we? Eh?

He loved to run with what passed for the rough crowd. It was in the rarefied air of Sturm und Drang and desperate scholarship that our friendship flourished. We were rebellious, outlaws, and disdained the notions of a morality being foisted upon us by the school district, the church, our parents and the President of the United States.

We imagined ourselves as a river boat gamblers, wise in the hard intentions of the world but initiates in the truly great dimensions of literate culture. He knew and quoted Annabelle Lee at the drop of a scanned meter. Was more intimidating playing pool than good. Gave hard looks at all night poker marathons and lost poorly. Our heroes were all the bad guys. But we loved the border character the best. The one that could turn terrible bad in an instant and leave all goody two shoes posturing in the dust.

Girls flocked to him with an ease that left me breathless and jealous. I drove. He made out loudly in the front passenger seat, the girl pushing passion against my legs and arms making the vehicle a lethal weapon in my inexperienced hands. Occasionally there was a double date, but the girl I was with really wanted Art and was probably as put off as I was by the loud sexual sounds that issued from often as not her sister in the rear of the car. I never made the moves. So I guess I'll never know.

One Thanksgiving Art and another friend left home. For good. This was episode one.

I remember feeling a peculiar bleakness as we walked through the cold past glowing Christmas decorations and gift displays at the then prospering East Hills Shopping Center. My friends talked of Chicago like it was the grand salvation of all their miserable existence. Come along, they said. But I never felt that I had it that bad. I would miss the warmth of my family, close and extended, during the coming vacation. The rebellion that I felt had nothing to do with the world around me. It was a heat that I carried in the center of my being that makes allowances for the imperfection of situations. I never really lost it. Carry it to this day. And I knew that Chicago could do nothing to make it better.

One night I drove them to the bus stop. Watched as they checked a bag each with the driver and stepped up on to the bus heading west dark into America. I went home, listened to the radio until I fell asleep.

Con'd on the next blog post.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Sunday, June 01, 2003 9:22:07 AM Joe Coluccio

The internet is high contact not high content.

A paraphrase of something that I heard via KQED's on air streaming internet feed. I dislike curt statements of this type that with subtle manipulations by the author create a whole all encompassing worldview that solves everything well into the next millennium, but I have to admit, often as not, there is something to them.

There is something high contact about the internet.

And content, which is, without doubt, lacking, may turn to be quite different than any we can imagine.

Web Logs (Blogs) are a cross between an internet home page and an autobiography or diary. They have grown from just a few five or so years ago to upwards of half a million. A lot of disparate souls desperate for communications in the electronic wilderness. I admit freely that I am one of them. And the contact over the couple years that I have been bloging is interesting.

I have come to be “in touch" with:
Two lost school friends, one from high school and one who lived two doors away from me in the "Larimar Avenue" section of Pittsburgh when we were in Kindergarten through the 2nd Grade. A school mate who I don't recall meeting other than passing in the hallways of Penn Senior High School (I've looked in the year book) but who was apparently touched enough by my writing to email me. My ninth grade English teacher who I wrote about in an earlier entry. One of the authors of a book about Shakespeare that I mentioned in another entry. The daughter of a friend who wondered some about her father's early years. And several more that that I will not mention here because I have not become reacquainted via this "blogging" effort, but are equally delightful to me and directly related to contact by means of the internet.

I cannot express in words and images satisfying enough the ecstasy of that high contact and what it has meant to me. What was it called in the dopey sixties and seventies, "a contact high"? Breathing in the new bytefilled "smoke" of the world wide web.

In earlier blog entries I have stated (as well as to anyone who would sit long enough to listen) that the primary use a computer is to amplify intelligence. I tackle tasks now that I would have found impossibly daunting precomputer. And have pointed out that at present I have little interest in artificial intelligence. Some AI could be a species dangling anew on the chain of survival. Our next rival for the new world order may be an enhanced wide slice bagel toaster. When it comes time to be sensitive to the cycles of, say, my washing machine, I will be there, as always, with waves of empathy, but for now I discount appliances and modes of transportation as places to spend my psychic tokens. There are those who would take issue with me and would also point out that the use of AI should not be limited to utility. I never claimed I was Nostradamus. The only seering I do is in a frying pan and I like the surprise that comes from discovery not fortune telling.

Therefore

I was taken completely unaware by the kind of linking that I would find via the world vast internetwork. As I sit here and think it takes my breath away. I get up in the morning go to work. Spend my day at something diverting that hopefully has some meaning beside earning the "greenbacka dollah". Struggle home in the funk of high drive traffic, write (in the backyard when the weather allows), drink a glass or two of some wine that was on sale at the State Store, read, and often as not am in bed by 9 or 9:30 PM. I see my extended family on holidays. Lackzoom meets once a week. I seldom see my children (except for my son who lives with me; come to think of it, I seldom see him either). It is the life of a monk, a hermit, a recluse. A Boo Radley kind of existence. Yet I feel close to all you. This blog contains the objects that I leave in the knot of the tree and the nearness I feel is a direct result of the "high contact" of the internet.

I always thought a great name for a drink would be a Tequila Mockingbird. Absinthe, wormwood and moonflowers? Contact!