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The Mercurochrome Link to White Knuckle Gaming

That does it. I’m suing everybody for everything. Nothing is my fault and I just realised it.

I thought I was over it. The Nintendo 64 had been sitting on the shelf for years, untouched.

Sure, I’d played the 64 with my son when he was a kid. You know, why not? I had the toys, the candy bars, the paregoric, the mind-numbing Loony Tunes. I had the comic books, the Matchbox cars, and the model locomotives. Shouldn’t he have had a chance to enjoy it all, too?

So his mom bought him a Nintendo 64. The games were largely innocuous and cute: Zelda, Mario 64, Rainbow Six, Mohammad Ali Championship Boxing, Madden 98 (nothing to make him want to go out and mutilate anyone like the Black Sabbath, the Judas Priest, and Blue Oyster Cult did that I used to listen to), Aerial Assault, Star Wars… Oh…..and Mario Kart.

I looked at the dust covered gaming console too long. I remembered too much. Suddenly, I was a recovering heroin addict who was having his old drug of choice proffered to him again.

God damn Mario Kart. Images of Peach and Yoshi drifted through my mind. My blood boiled anew. I slowly reached for the device, and my palms were already moist with perspiration.

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When I was a kid, we’d all be outside playing, and sometimes one of us would fall and tear part of our tender little bodies open. It was an occurrence that we all dreaded and that we would try to wish away. One day, I ripped my knee open pretty badly. All of the other kids stopped playing to assess the damage as well, and looked at me solemnly.
“Are you gonna have to go home?” they’d ask.
Another would inquire, “Do ya’ll have Merthiolate or Iodine?”
“No,” I’d answer, “all we have is Mercurochrome.” My response would send a shudder throughout the group that you could feel and see.

Mercurochrome is how I developed my four octave scream. Even today, uttering the word even makes me tingle in a way that is vaguely uncomfortable. It conjures up something dark, evil, and foreboding. Mercurochrome.

Now, any compound which has, as its root words Mercury and Chrome, can’t be too good to smear into an open wound of any organic being. But as a kid, we were all routinely dipped up to the neck in this shit.

The kid who lived across the street from me rocked incessantly and would cry when jets flew overhead.

Another who lived farther up in the neighborhood would suddenly snap and beat other children up. He’s the only twelve year old I ever knew who had the “hundred yard stare.”

Me? I had a little fling with OCD. I hid it most of the time, but I’d give it free run when I was out playing by myself. I say the same word over and over and over and over and over and over and over. I’d hold my breath and then stagger it until I got it all back in time with something that I didn’t understand. I was a slave to ADD all throughout my time in school, although I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my forties. All of my afflictions came out in the form of art or music or mailbox bashing. I got over the bat wielding, but the effects of the Mercurochrome still make themselves apparent in my music from time to time:

http://www.reverbnation.com/johnnynowhere/song/10524830-equinox

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Or…..when I play Mario Kart.

And before I know it, there I go. I’m hooking up the console…desperately seeking RCA patch cables. I can’t find them after a two hour sweep of the house, and I find myself hunkered over my project bench, soldering cables up in the sweltering heat of the halogen lamp… and I know that it already has a hold on me. By God, I’m giving it to Mario Kart. Next I’m blowing in the cartridge, washing my hands, using alcohol and then talc.. getting ready.. to win. Charlie Sheen is right. It is all about winning, and my son’s ancient Nintendo 64 has shown me the way.

I go white knuckle so fast, and want to kill Toad and that stupid little lizard. As a matter of fact, I get to where I can’t stand my own driver. I’ll crash him into walls and see if he can virtually die if he pounds the wall hard enough. I hate the controller. I want to jerk the game out of my mind by the roots because I know that I’ve blown the lid off of my self-imposed moratorium and am completely re-addicted. I won’t stop until I win every course, curse every driver to hell, or hurl the controller through the television screen in total disgust.

Or until drained, I slowly rise from the couch and turn off the set and awaken from this video induced hypnotism. My God, it’s two thirty in the morning. It seems like it was just eleven a.m.

Telling myself to just unplug the game and put it away, hide it in a closet, or take the evilness to the Goodwill outlet to bait some other poor fool, I go to bed and cry myself to sleep at night.

But the console sits in the floor still. Until the next time that I look at it, and feel that shiver of excitement… and then the uncontrollable rage.

So you see.. none of this. is.. my fault.

I’m suing everybody.

Johnny Nowhere is a songwriter who is currently undergoing therapy.

Voluntary Versus Involuntary Personal Slavery

I know this big, friendly fellow who had a severe heart attack a couple of nights ago. The prognosis isn’t good. A wife, three teen-aged children, and there he lies today, not yet forty years old, in a coma, somewhere in the middle of time itself.

As in all such instances, the fragility of life got me to thinking about my own achievements, or lack thereof, made in the time that I’ve been so far given. As I’ve aged and suffered setbacks, I’ve become a pretty reliable authority on how to do things.

Mostly on how not to do things, unfortunately. But one way or the other, we learn.

As far as my own choices go, I like to contrast my life against that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It keeps me humble.

According to Arnold, he was a poor kid from Austria who had developmental issues, and one side of his body was a good deal weaker than the other. As a result, his doctor prescribed weight training to address the problem. Arnold quickly adapted to the regimen and decided to take big, giant steps to become the best he could be. And he did.

He came to America, although he barely spoke English. He lived in his car for a while. He took lots of risks, but he believed in himself so strongly, he didn’t allow anything to stand in the way of him and his dreams.

His abilities and achievements are a direct reflection of his dedication to, and practice of, his craft.

This same thing can be said for each and every one of us as musicians and songwriters.

One can argue with this logic all day long (mostly in defense of one’s own lack of achievements), but at the end of the day, the fact will stand as testimony to the undeniable truth that can be found there.

Universal truths are glimpses of universal facts, tucked into timeless proverbs.

For instance, if one wishes to be a guitar player, yet practices drinking beer more than he practices guitar playing, he will become a better drinker than guitar player. The facts bear my words out. I know some devoted drinkers who play guitar only tolerably.

Several years ago, I quit drinking and applied myself to the craft of practicing guitar, within five years my guitar playing improved 1000%. Seriously. But I was encouraged early in life to play to my strengths, and one of my strengths was to make rational decisions. I decided that I wanted to play guitar more than I wanted to get a buzz.

A man who I much admire once said, ‘a man who wishes to become a Man cannot sit between two stools for very long without losing everything’. Now I, at fifty-eight years of age, understand the meaning of his words all too clearly.

I wasted time sitting between stools, and by the time I got good enough at my craft to write and record suitable compositions, the music industry had taken a hard turn. Within a decade, a once thriving business was going down like the proverbial Titanic. The model changed, largely on account of the digital revolution, and it caught a lot of musicians with their pants down around their ankles. Others perceived the coming cataclysm and diversified.

But the losing horse blames the rider.

I went through that phase for a while. It was bullshit, of course. Now I blame no one but myself.

I still have beautiful melodies arise from the ether in my noggin, and I, ever dutiful to the Muse, pick up my instrument and do my very best to transpose the sounds in my head onto tape. I do it for a different reason now. But I do it. And I do it the best way that I know how.

Unconscious, or Involuntary Personal Slavery is a terrible thing. It is the worst form of slavery, for it is the hardest form to release oneself from. It is so much easier to designate a scapegoat. Most people who cling to Involuntary Personal Slavery secretly love their chains. They’ll come up with every excuse under the sun to justify staying chained down, rather than rising up and leaving the plantation. Most of the time, fear is the prime motivator for remaining clapped in their imaginary irons. Fear of failure. Fear of nothing of real value in the free Man.

This type of slavery takes many forms; addictions to food and alcohol, religion, sex, fame, anger, notoriety. All such slavery is simple stupidity. Until one can break these chains, one will never truly be free. But most people do not really wish to be free, for slavery gives them the option to apply blame to an outside instigator or oppressor.

Let us use the analogy of slavery in America. Now, slavery hasn’t been practiced in America in over 100 years, but most modern Americans have been taught very little about the role of slavery in America, or of the War Between the States for that matter, which was more over money and states rights than slavery. Even free blacks owned slaves in America before the War, but that is never discussed because it cracks the mold; and although most modern American blacks wouldn’t recognise a cotton stalk from a corn stalk, they live as if they are still on the plantation.

And in one sense, they still are.

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African blacks regard American blacks with disdain. They think that they (much like the modern Jew) are big crybabies who have every opportunity to make something of themselves, yet who prefer to spend all of their time and energy making themselves out as victims, blaming past events for keeping them in their present set of ‘circumstances’.

Ask anyone who has spent time getting to know the blacks who inhabit the continent of Africa. African blacks are very tribal. If an American black is unable to trace his tribal ancestry, he is not considered a ‘long lost brother’. He is just another Black American. Neither is he referred to as an ‘African-American’. African blacks will tell you that they would gladly trade places with any American black in order to be able to take advantage of all of the opportunities available to them. However, African blacks, in spite of all of their difficulties, such as walking miles daily simply for water, are among the happiest people in the world, always smiling, always joyful.

These native Africans have every reason to wear their daily struggles like a badge, but they choose to have a bright outlook on life, unlike American blacks, whom the Africans think are a bunch of brainless fools, shooting one another up, running drugs, and rapping about how ‘hard’ life is. African blacks feel that American blacks know nothing of real struggle.

I pretty much agree with the Africans, because the so-called ‘struggles’ of the American blacks are primarily imagined. The mindset is passed down like a disease from one generation to the other. These days it is referred to as ‘white privilege’. Meanwhile the genuinely enfranchised class becomes extremely jealous of their lawfully granted privileges: Although American blacks, who in the past thirty years have been born into a society which, through all sorts of legislation, grant them more rights than most other American citizens enjoy, the majority of them still choose to blame their own failure to act on white people, primarily because it has been made too tempting to whine about some perceived inequality.

And many whites exacerbate the image. They choose to believe that they, via inheritance, are partially to blame for the black population’s imaginary suffering. This further allows the American black population to keep themselves ‘down’, while allowing many of the white population to actually defend the mindset.

Both attitudes, incidentally, insure the continuation of the Status Quo.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but once the squeaking stops, the greasing stops. Some American black ‘leaders’ have figured this out, as ‘spokesmen’ in order to keep the wheels greased, as well as their pockets.

What a sad joke. It is unfortunate that so many people buy into the whole facade, because there is no solid foundation on which to base the belief, only a lot of justification for imagined anger.

The point I am attempting to make here, is that this is just another form of Involuntary Personal Slavery.

This form of slavery almost always takes on the form of justification and false inculpation.

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If one cannot look objectively at one’s position in life, one will never be able to make the most of one’s skills and talents. Merely mimicking another person’s way of doing things is not being true to oneself.

I discovered that until one is made aware of the fact that he is indeed a slave, he never feels the need to escape. This is a fact that I did not discover this on my own.

By quite accidental and ‘miraculous’ intervention, I found the student of a teacher of a ‘school of another kind’, who tempted me to ‘look’ at myself. It was said that if I could only realise that I was enslaved, that I might, through cunning, obtain certain metals in order to devise tools which would then enable me to design and file a skeleton key which might then unlock the shackles of imagination, but nothing was guaranteed. The prescription was not an easy pill to swallow. The idea, in and of itself however, was painfully simple. It required me to sacrifice my ‘self’ to the will of another for a period of time, to sacrifice my imaginary suffering, and suspend all of my beliefs. This can be thought of as Voluntary Personal Slavery. I found that this was much easier to discuss than to put into practice. This work necessitated a great deal of inner struggle, as one of the requirements was to mercilessly destroy all of my idols. As prescribed, it took years to reach some semblance of achievement. It also caused me to become very calloused.

What I found left was nothing more than an empty shell, a raw animal, devoid of form. There was nothing of my self to be found. All of my ideals were baseless. I was an idiot in the truest sense of the word. All of my opinions were those of others. All of my ‘beliefs’ turned out to be little more than silly Jewish fables parroted to me in my earliest days, from one hyperventilating idiot to the next.

Then I was sent to ‘school’, where I was ‘educated’. Simply put, school gives us ‘vocabulary’, teaches us how to crunch numbers, and instructs us in all of the vogue sciences of the day, but gives us very little solid knowledge.

It took me far too long to shake the shackles of my musical influences, The Beatles, the Doobie Brothers, and the ‘singer songwriter’ phase that I went through. I was none of these. I was simply trying to copy someone else, but wasn’t aware of it.

This was the slavery that my so-called ‘freedom of thought’ consisted of.

It was during this extended period of ‘wandering the wilderness of my soul’, that I experienced a ‘shifting of poles’, wherein everything seemed very superficial and inverted. But then I began to practice my instrument in a certain way, and things began to take order.

Robert Fripp’s school of Guitar Craft was extremely instructive in this regard.

Robert was also a student of the same particular ‘school of thought’ which I had discovered, and there was a ‘secret language’ of sorts which I immediately recognised as school terminology. His instruction in guitar led to further ‘enlightenment’ for his approach to practice was completely different. It was only then that I began to distinguish the Muse from otherwise distracting thoughts, and gave myself over to it.

In this realm, the music has existed from the moment of the beginning of time, and the musician is merely an instrument which makes himself available to the Muse. In this respect, the music makes the musician, rather than the opposite. The feeling is much like being taken down a wooded path blindfolded. Often, the musician is only vaguely aware of what he is doing until he is done. Music is a moving and ‘religious’ experience.

Everyone already really knows what I mean: The annual television cartoon ‘Merry Christmas Charlie Brown’ is really only good because of the music. And everyone gets that fuzzy feeling inside when Linus quotes the short biblical scripture and everyone begins the a cappella ‘oooh’s to ‘Hark, The Herald Angels Sing’ around the proud little Christmas tree. You don’t have to be religious to feel religious. The secret is the music. Not the religion.

That’s precisely why all churches make use of music. Closer to God. It’s that simple. Oh, some denominations will split hairs about the use of instruments and whatnot. That’s just a lot of nonsense. God invented music. Don’t believe me? Just go to church and tell everyone that you don’t believe that music or singing have a place in the church. They’ll look at you as if you’ve lost your mind.

But you won’t do that, will you?

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Since finding my Muse, I have developed into an instrumentalist which I would have never imagined myself, and have ‘ghost written’ many tunes which It has presented to me. Fame and fortune were not to be mine, but I would not trade my task for anything in the world.

My achievements are mine alone, and the rewards are likewise.

Due to illness, there are many activities that I have been forced to discontinue, but my guitars and my Muse will be the last things that I will surrender when I follow the others into that timeless void that John is edging ever closer toward tonight.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Primer for the Unafflicted

I generally don’t write about my ‘self’ in my blogs. Most of my readers don’t even know who the hell I really am anyway…not that it matters. I mostly stick to the peripheral stuff, that most often being music, and less often the insanity of politics.

Today, however, I want to discuss a physical malady that a lot of people, including my ‘self’, seem to be suffering from, which, in my opinion, is a wholly misunderstood and misrepresented affliction: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis in Great Britain and Australia), is a physical affliction which is poorly understood by most medical professionals, family members, defense attorneys, judges, and…well, anyone who doesn’t suffer from it.

Moreover, I’m primarily writing this article in defense of those individuals who are being forced to live with the frustration, the humiliation, and the downright anger that results from having to live with this ‘disease’.

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My beloved Trek 1000 road bike leaned against the wall covered with a light coat of dust. I walked over to it and gently rolled it out from behind the chair where I had begrudgingly rested it years earlier. The tires were deflated. I removed the frame mounted pump, and with effort, re-inflated the tires. To the familiar, gentle clicking of the drive assembly, I wheeled my bicycle outdoors where I washed every part until again it gleamed as I once always kept it.

I stood there afterward for a while holding it steady, looking down the steep drive that I had muscled it up so many times after all of my rides, and began to cry. I knew that I had climbed the drive for the last time, and the reality of my mortality finally overcame me.

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Almost eight years ago, before CFS came a-calling on yours truly, I was a very healthy 50 year old who weighed a strapping 167 pound with a BMI of 12%. I was then an avid road cyclist who regularly took 50 mile rides, and who sometimes would ride another 25 just because I felt like it. I worked eight hour days as a carpenter, or more accurately, a self-employed Jackass-of-all-trades. The point being made here is that I was, and always had been, abundantly energized. I loved physical exertion. I relished sweating. Conquer and overcome, that was my credo.

Then, one November morning, while working at my craft, I observed that I didn’t feel quite ‘myself’. A day or two earlier, I’d noticed that I had a swollen lymph gland in the fold of my upper leg and my lower abdominal area. The client that I’d been working for dropped by, telling me about his morning, and mentioned that he’d just been to get his influenza shot, and that I should take advantage of the deal he’d received.

“I may have already waited until too late,” I replied, “I feel as if I’m already coming down with it.”

“Not to worry,” he assured, “Since you’re about to wrap up here we can start on our new project any time next week you feel like it.”

After completing the job, I went home and prepared for the week of misery. All of the signs of the influenza were there: eye pressure, raised body temperature, dull headache, lethargy, and that uneasy feeling that it usually brings.

Days passed. The flu never came, yet the feeling of impending illness hadn’t left. In addition, I was beginning to feel extremely exhausted. I could hardly vacuum the studio, or clean the ashes from the fireplace without having to sit and rest. Naturally, this was cause for concern, after all, I NEVER got freaking tired.

The next week I was sitting in front of a physician, explaining my symptoms. Copious notes were taken, blood work and x-rays were ordered. All results turned up negative. Next came the MRI, the stress test, another MRI, more blood tests, more this, and more that.

Five weeks later, I felt no better, and still there was no prognosis. Each time I went back to the clinic to get my results, I was prepared for the worst. I knew they were bound to finally find something that was going to be bad, and terminal. Still, nothing.

Eventually, I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. “Piss on it,” I declared. “I’ll train this crap out of me.” After all, that is what I’d always done, just push through it. And with that I donned my riding attire, hauled my rollers out onto the veranda, and pushed my bike outside. I hopped into the saddle and started riding.

After a few short sessions throughout the following days, which left me consumed, I was really irritated, and was intent on knocking this stuff out of me. I was at least going to train for an hour, come hell or high water. I finally did.

That was the longest, most grueling hour of my life. After I’d finished, I virtually fell off of the bike. I actually nearly collapsed. My muscles felt as if they were made of lead, and my muscles were burning badly. My head was pounding. I was gasping for breath.

This left me exasperated; my resting pulse rate was still 52 beats per minute. My blood pressure was 112/60…but I felt like I was 101 years old.

That was the last time that I attempted to ride my bicycle. I was convinced that I was dying.

And I was going through hell trying to explain to doctors and others how I was feeling. I told one, “After staying awake all night, you know how disoriented you feel by noon the next day? That’s how messed up I feel all of the time.”

To another I explained, “When you were a kid, did you wonder how Superman must’ve felt when he was weakened with Kryptonite? Well, now I know.”

To yet another I said, “Imagine waking up with a hangover, only to discover you are coming down with the flu. That’s how I physically feel all of the time.”

They kept telling me that they could find nothing wrong with me. To add insult to injury, I was asked on multiple occasions if I thought that I might be suffering from depression. I was appalled that a self-diagnosis was even suggested.

“Hell no”, I assured one physician, “but I certainly am suffering from a bad case of frustration, in that my condition is being written off as mental illness. I’m suffering from a physical affliction, I tell you.”

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And that was only the beginning. I had to put myself through the humiliation of deciding that I was a broken individual. I had to shatter my self-esteem and start the process of filing for disability. That took over a year.

In the end, I was denied my benefits. It was determined that I wasn’t ‘disabled according to law’. I was furious. It was only much later that I discovered precisely what ‘according to law’ implied.

In every case trial, the defense of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has been presented, argued, and won by these jackass disability attorneys, as a mental condition. In order to win cases and thereby receive their fees, the attorneys choose the failsafe argument, because they know that an emotional illness cannot be disproven.

The winning argument, revolving around a false premise, sets an precedent, and every other case argument is based on the last determination. Every case takes ‘law’ farther and farther from the truth, but the lie obviously satisfies the Social Security Administration. The disability attorneys that you see on television promising that they’ll win your case are, in effect, authoring these erroneous laws.

Therefore, if you, or anyone you know, suffers from CFS, it is only in their mind, according to law.

It has become a wicked doubled edged sword for me. Bad Karma.

You see, I was once one of those who believed that people only suffered from imagined illnesses, and that all they needed to do was get up off their asses and get a job.

I once wished I could retire and devote all of my time to my craft.

Now however, nature having forced my retirement, stripped me of my energy to carry out the work of my primary occupation, constraining me to draw on my resources in order to make ends meet, and faced with a dreary life of struggling to maintain any semblance of a daily routine…

I swear I’d take a good days work and a long bicycle ride over a million dollars, because all of the money in the world can’t buy back what I want most.

Spots, The Forever Cat

Spots was quietly absent Sunday evening. I looked for her, but she was not on the roof. She was not lying in the seat of the truck. She was not in any of the resting places that I could normally find her.

This mildly disturbed me, for Spots had been lame for the past week or so, her right hind leg slipping out from under her as she made her way along. Taking notice of this, I’d resolved to moving her about, first to one place and the other, that she would telegraph to me where she wanted to be, in order to keep her from having to use the leg. I figured that over time, the leg would heal, and that she would resume her normal activities. But upon finding her missing, I was filled with an unsettling emptiness.

Now I believe that Spots has left home, for what will be the last time.

It isn’t as if she hadn’t done it all before. Yes, she’d done it several times, and each time, after two or three weeks, after I’d convinced myself that I’d never see her again, she would invariably, and when it was least expected, appear, sashaying up the driveway, much to my incredulity. But did she arrive emaciated and haggard? To the contrary, she looked as if she’d been living in the lap of luxury: coat gleaming, and every whisker in place.

Of course, I’d charge out with equal portions of joy and disbelief, and embrace her in my arms. I’d make a big fuss and scold her for making me worry, while she ignored me with the detached nature that cats are generally hated for.

Spots is a yellow tabby who elected to spend a portion of her life in close proximity with me. Mostly at my prompting and tempting. Cats have no emotion. None. This seems to be the source of the distaste that many people hold for these animals.

Most folks seem to want an animal that, in contrast, is wholly dependent on them. They enjoy ‘owning’ an animal which they can exercise a certain level of control over.

Cats are among the most persecuted animals in the history of man. They’ve been tried as witches, exterminated on account of idiotic superstitions (with dire results) and accused of killing babies by, ‘stealing their breath’. The primary reason, I think, that cats are despised, is because they cannot be controlled, manipulated, nor tamed practically. We cannot ‘own’ cats. We can lock them up in our homes, we can attempt to regulate their feedings in order to feel more ‘in control’, but cats eat when, and what they want to. Cats choose to become domesticated, and only when it suits their needs.

If a cat becomes ‘homeless’ and left to his or her own devices, it will not only survive, but thrive. Cats can easily swing from domesticated to feral living. The poor dog however, having the common sense of its brother the wolf bred completely out of it over millennia, will generally starve without intervention of human compassion.

I hold a quiet, yet firm, respect for cats for the very reason that most people hate them.

I wonder how many times the same scenario plays out; we, for some reason or another, and with misgivings, take on some stray animal that doesn’t necessarily appeal to us, but out of the aforesaid compassion that many others seem to be completely devoid of, take the hapless creature home, only to fall helplessly in love with it over the period of time that we are blessed to be in company of it.

This is precisely how Spots came into my life to eventually become my favorite companion.

While working for a client during the summer of 2006, he asked if I might be kind enough to ‘eliminate’ a certain supposedly feral cat, which he had surreptitiously observed meandering around one of the dumpsters on his property.
I’d seen the cat before.

Spots Doin' Her Thang Feb

The first time was when I observed her moving stealthily through the forest behind the complex. Five minutes later, I had witnessed three dogs, hot on her trail. Ten minutes afterward, I saw the same cat negotiating her way in the opposite direction. I had to hand it to the cat. She was cool.

Engaging in discussion with those living in the vicinity, I ascertained that, although many people had taken to feeding the cat irregularly (thereby negating my client’s claim of the animal’s being feral), she seemed to belong to no one . However, this cat had it made. I thereby resolved that I would have nothing to do with the ‘disposal’ of the feline, but rather directed my son, who happens to be very good with animals in general, to try and lure the cat to him, which he did in short order.

Bringing her into where we had been performing work, and were presently breaking for lunch, the cat nonchalantly walked over to where I was sitting, and took a bite of my blueberry bagel. I decided there and then that nothing else would do but to take the poor thing back to my home, where two other cats were currently residing along with us.

I eventually settled on calling her ‘Spots’, on account of the unusual looking darker circular stripes which formed a sort of target pattern on either side of her body.

As is the custom of cats, she displayed a penchant for the outdoors, which is where she has lived out the remainder of her, eternally mysterious, life.

Spots, not particularly caring for the company of other cats, preferred instead to live a life of solitude. Wishing to avoid the others, who also went outdoors during the day, she finally settled on the following routine: Quite early in the morning, she would be waiting at the door for me to feed her, after which time she would wind her way down the long and steep drive, spending the remainder of the day in various places down the hill. In the evening around six, I’d round up the others, whistling the tune of Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’. After they’d been recalled and safely indoors, Spots could be seen making her way idly up the hill where, eating her evening meal, she would stay outside on ‘guard duty’ until the next morning.

Years later, I began to refer to Spots as the ‘The Forever Cat’ because during a time that the coyotes were especially problematic for me, and losing three other cats to them, Spots continued negotiating the long, steep drive, lined with kudzu on either side, unscathed.

Spots and I spent countless nights sitting in front of the fireplace on cold nights, over the course of many a winter. We would talk about all kinds of things together, although I must admit that she did most of the listening.

She never appeared to age. Eight years on, she looked exactly the same, and I have the photos to prove it. I’d finally convinced myself that she was immortal. I’d decided that Spots was indeed the forever cat, neither being born nor dying.

Today is day three, and she still has not shown up, but you can bet that I have been looking for her, but to no avail. If poor Spots felt that the end was near, she would have nothing of being catered to any longer. And by no means would she lower herself to having someone watch her die. She was fiercely independent in life, and I can only imagine her as such in death.

There will be no grave for the one I so revere.

Spots the Forever Cat 2011 copy

I look out through the forest, continuing to call her name in my signature sharp, strident tone, but I fear that my poor forever cat has disappeared into the same setting from which I first saw her creeping so long ago.

Farewell, old girl.

When Life Calls, The Best Thing to Do, Is To Answer

 

Sometimes, in very rare instances, it becomes very quiet where I live.

Not often, mind you. Usually the din of cats, chickens, raccoons, dogs, and sirens make it impossible to imagine that anyone who writes and records music for a ‘living’ could ever get anything done.

Yet on occasion, it all dies down at the same time, as if some exceptional form of solitude falls upon all of the beings in the area, and a wonderful silence is all that remains.

This Sunday morning occurred one such case, just before sunrise.

The hush was an especially enlightening one. From the East there came the only remaining sound that I could detect, that being one of a freight train running along an old Southern Railway track which lies about four miles away.

I like trains. They make me think of people like Jimmie Rogers, Brook Benton, Red Skelton, and Roger Miller. The distant, residual rumble of the cars, coupled with the echo of the whistle reminds me of days gone by when I, stripped down to the bare essentials of surf shorts and Adidas, would take prolonged excursions down those very tracks. The exposed portions of my body would bake beneath the glaring Sun, and I would wear the resulting tan with detached pride. (This was before all of the bad press that the Sun received from those in the medical field, the government, and Doonesbury.) I would sometimes walk for miles, deftly balanced on the left rail, dismounting only long enough for any approaching engine that I might encounter.

Diesel trains require particular grades in order to haul their heavy loads with expedience and resourcefulness, so most railways generally span the path of least resistance. Here in the South, that means that they meander along through valleys, gorges, and at the ‘backsides’ of where two properties, usually pastures, conjoin. I used to walk for hours, never seeing another human being, except for where the rail would intersect a road. Motorists would always stare at me from the ‘air-conditioned comfort’ of their cars, as if I were some sort of idiot. Perhaps to them I was, but the feeling was mutual.

Sometimes these railway jaunts would last an entire day, so I always had a contingency plan: Before heading out, I would call a trustworthy, albeit less adventuresome, friend named Eddy Woods, who preferred driving to walking. I’d inform him of my plan and ask if I might call on him to come extract me from wherever I might end up. With this bit of ‘one-way insurance’, I would, at times, walk all day long. Later in the evening, I’d give him a ring from a payphone, sometimes from as far as twenty miles away, admitting to him that I was beaten for the day, and he’d come and retrieve me.

Eddy mostly thought that I was crazy as hell, but I was having the time of my life, and quite naturally enjoying life, on the road to Nowhere.

On this quiet morning, however, as I stood in all of my CFSing glory, listening to the distant sounds of the engine rolling along the rails that I have walked so many times, I closed my eyes, and once again answered the call of life.

Recording Mythology, Pt. 50 / The Aphorisms

This post will be the last of my Recording Mythology articles. I did not begin this series to teach anyone anything, only to perhaps ‘unteach’ certain preconceived notions, and primarily in the realm of true sound recording and engineering.

I firmly believe that there is only so much that begs to be said in respect to a given subject before one resorts to redundancy, and I have said all that I feel is required of me, that is to say, I have reached the limits of my knowledge on the subject.

As I recently opined to a long-time musical colleague, the new generation does not understand the meaning of the word production in relation to music. If the truth were to be laid completely open, one could go as far as saying that ‘cut & paste’ production has a great deal in common with ‘point and shoot’ photography, in that both have little to do with producing anything close to what may resemble Art.

Any rebuttal would simply be an exercise in semantics, as the facts would quickly manifest in a true recording studio, where ‘virtual’ ends and ‘reality’ begins.

However, I was contacted by one clearly annoyed yet mysteriously anonymous digital ‘producer’ who informed me that I was an idiot. (as best I could tell, amidst the mishmash of misspelt words). I am left to assume that punctuation is considered an academic option these days, as the author had used none. If his or her literary prowess gave any indication as to their production ‘skilz’, I regret to inform the reader that we risk being overrun by a master race.

————————————————————————

As a kid beginning in music, I had no idea where to start, or what to do. There seemed to be no one around who was interested in teaching me the way in which I required learning.

I persevered nonetheless, learning music in every way accessible to me, and what did become apparent to me after many years, was that although there are many paths to music, there is only one language, constructed of seven whole tones, five semitones, and innumerable intervals.

How one utilises it makes all the difference.

It is my sincerest hope that if you too choose this journey, with the best of intentions, we will both eventually find our way to wherever it is we endedavour to be going.

———————————————————————-

The following is an alphebetical listing of the Aphorisms which Mr. Fripp promoted throughout his Guitar Craft series. I have not acquired permission to reprint them, but I think that Robert had higher goals in mind when he originally distributed them. The goal in studying the Aphorisms is much as one might study a Zen koan; but to first understand and apply them in relation to one’s music. Attempt to apply them throughout life. Expect nothing.

Best of luck to you all. Captain out.

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A beginning is invisible.
Accept nothing less than what is right.
A completion is a new beginning.
Act always in accordance with conscience.
Act from principle. Move from intention.
Act with courtesy. Otherwise, be polite.
A decision changes the world.
A function of language is to disclose. An effect is to reveal.
A mistake is always forgivable, rarely excusable and never acceptable.
An artist acts with the assumption of innocence within a field of experience.
An end may be a finish, a conclusion or a completion.
Answers will come through the guitar.
Any fool can play something difficult.
Anything within a performance is significant, whether intentional or not.
A principle is an instruction in qualitative endeavour.
A principle is universal. A rule is specific. A law is invariable.
Artistry repeats the unrepeatable.
Assume the virtue.
Before we do something, we do nothing.
Before we move from A to B, better to know we’re at A.
Begin with the possible and move gradually towards the impossible.
Being a slob is hard labour.
Being is a measure of our coherence.
Better to be present with a bad note than absent from a good note.
Be very careful about the beginning. Then, be very careful about the end. Then, be very careful about the middle.
Change one small part and the whole is changed.
Commitments are to be honoured.
Comparison with others is a mark of the fool.
Conscience is utterly impersonal.
Craft is a universal language.
Craft maintains skill. Discipline maintains craft. Craft follows the tradition. Discipline maintains the tradition. Music creates the tradition.
Creative work is serious play.
Define the aim simply, clearly, briefly, positively. Discard the superfluous.
Discharge one small task superbly.
Discipline is a vehicle for joy.
Discipline is not an end in itself, only a means to an end.
Distrust those who profess altruism.
Distrust anyone who wants to teach you something.
Don’t be helpful: be available.
Each part does the work of that part, and no other.
Establish the principle.
Even genius requires a competent technique.
Everything we are is revealed in our playing.
Expectation is a prison.
Expect nothing.
Good habit is necessary, bad habit is inevitable.
Health is a measure of our wholeness.
Hearing transforms sound into music.
Helpful people are a nuisance.
Honour necessity. Honour sufficiency.
How we hold our pick is how we organise our life.
If a quality is present, it is clearly recognisable and may be named.
If in doubt, consult tradition. If still in doubt, consult your experience. If still in doubt, consult your body.
If we can ask our body to do nothing for half an hour, perhaps we can ask our body to do something for half an hour.
If we can define our aim, we are halfway to achieving it.
If we don’t know where we’re going, we’ll probably get there.
In popular culture, the musician calls on the highest part in all of us.
In mass culture, the musician addresses the lower parts of what we are.
In popular culture, our musicians sing to us in our own voice.
In mass culture they shout what we want to hear.
Intentional action generates intentional results and unforeseeable repercussions. Unintentional action generates unintended consequences and inevitable repercussions.
Intentional poverty is fine. Unintentional poverty is wretched.
In the creative act, the Creation continues.
In the creative leap, history waits outside.
In tuning a note we are tuning ourselves.
It is difficult to exaggerate the power of habit.
It is not necessary to be cheerful. It is not necessary to feel cheerful. But look cheerful.
Just below the surface of our everyday world lie riches.
Let us find clean and cheerful friends.
Life is often desperate, but never hopeless.
Life is too short to take on the unnecessary.
Listening changes what we are listening to. Listening is a craft. Hearing is an art.
Listening is how we eat music. Hearing is how we digest it.
Mastery acts on what is below. Artistry submits to what is above.
May we have the clarity to see our work, the courage to embrace it, and the capacity to discharge it.
May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.
Money is not a problem, only a difficulty.
Music changes when people hear it.
Music is a benevolent presence constantly and readily available to all.
Music is a quality, organised in sound and in time.
Music is silence, singing.
Music is the architecture of silence.
Music is the cup which holds the wine of silence. Sound is that cup, but empty. Noise is that cup, but broken.
Music so wishes to be heard that it calls on some to give it voice and some to give it ears.
Necessary repercussions are possible. Inevitable repercussions are expensive. Unnecessary repercussions are dangerous.
Necessity is a measure of aim.
Necessity is never far from what is real.
Nothing is compulsory, but some things are necessary.
Nothing worthwhile is achieved suddenly.
Offer no violence.
Perfection is impossible. But I may choose to serve perfection.
Performance is impersonal yet intimate.
Performance is inherently unlikely.
Playing fast is easier than playing slow.
Quiet is the absence of sound, silence the presence of silence.
Relaxation is necessary tension. Tension is unnecessary tension. Relaxation is never accidental.
Rely on what someone does, not what they claim to do.
Remain in hell without despair.
Right action moves from principle.
Rightness is its own necessity.
Signposts are useful when you know where you’re going.
Silence is a bridge between worlds.
Silence is a distant echo of the approach of the Muse.
Silence is an invisible glue.
Silence is not silent.
Silence is the field of creative musical intelligence that dwells in the space between the notes, and holds them in place.
Small additional increments are transformative.
Sometimes God hides.
Suffer cheerfully.
Suffering is necessary, unnecessary or voluntary.
Suffering is our experience of the distance between what we are and who we wish to become.
Suffering of quality is invisible to others.
The act of music is the music.
The audience is mother to the music.
The concern of the musician is music. The concern of the professional musician is business.
The creative impulse animates whatever instrument is placed at its disposal.
The end is a finish, a conclusion or a completion.
The future is what the present can bear.
The highest quality of attention we may give is love.
The mind leads the hands.
The musician and audience are parents to the music.
The musician has three disciplines: the disciplines of the hands, the head and the heart.
The necessary is possible. The optional is expensive. The unnecessary is unlikely.
The only contribution we make is the quality of our work.
The performer can hide nothing, even the attempt to hide.
The presence of absence is an entry into loss.
The problem with knowing what we want is we just might get it.
The quality of a person is revealed in their conduct in front of sex, money and the use of time.
The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer. The question is its answer.
There are few things as convincing as death to remind us of the quality with which we live our life.
There are no mistakes, save one: the failure to learn from a mistake.
There are three kinds of repercussions: the necessary, the unnecessary and the inevitable.
There is only one musician, in many bodies.
There’s more to hearing than meets the ear.
The science is in knowing, the art in perceiving.
The simplest is the most difficult to discharge superbly.
The way we describe our world shows how we think of our world. How we think of our world governs how we interpret our world.
How we interpret our world directs how we participate in the world.
How we participate in the world shapes the world.
The work of one supports the work of all.
Things are not as bad as they seem. They are worse than that. They are also better than that.
Trust music.
Turn a seeming disadvantage to your advantage.
The greater the seeming disadvantage, the greater the possible advantage.
Understanding changes what we understand.

 

Recording Mythology, Pt. 49 / Being a Slob Is Hard Labour

I might ask that I be forgiven, for the following article is a lengthy thesis concerning the creation and playing of Music, although it may not seem as such, or inasmuch, at least as as one may expect. Presented in two parts, and in a roundabout way (out of necessity), it will draw on several other subjects, all interconnected, that I shall ellucidate on along the way. Because of the somewhat arcane nature of the proceeding, I may lose many readers. This is a calculated risk that I am prepared to take for a purpose greater than my own.

I have borrowed the title for today’s article from one of the many aphorisms used in Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft courses which were held during the late eighties. Robert turned out some ground-breaking material with Brian Eno and others over a period of three decades, but he is undoubtedly best known as guitarist for the band King Crimson, who turned out some astounding (and what some would call bombastic) record albums during the seventies.

I discovered Mr. Fripp’s Guitar Craft through happenstance in 1989. I firmly contend that I would not have realised what it was that his instruction had to reveal, had I not become a seeker through the study of a particular system known as the School of the Fourth Way, only two years prior.

As it is demonstrated in the School, Luck cannot be wholly discounted.

Upon perusal of Mr. Fripp’s technique, it quickly became apparent to me that Robert had also submitted himself as a student to the School, and that his approach to music was centred around the application of the studies. In due course I was a ‘card-carrying member’ of Mr. Fripp’s league of practitioners.

A short sidebar is necessary at this point.

As a member of the School of the Fourth Way, students are shown that:
1) there are many Universal Laws which man must live under as a condition of life, and
2) there are likewise many unnecessary laws which man normally lives under, of which an individual may possibly free himself, granted a general knowledge of these laws has been acquired.

One of the irrefutable Universal Laws is one of scale. That is to say that all things follow an embedded pattern. Thusly known, all things become, to a great degree, predictable, except that only their scale differs. This has been demonstrated to my satisfaction in more than music and mathematics.

For instance, absolutely nothing within the known Universe shares any particular balance. In actuality, the existence of imbalance accounts for the movement of all things, seen and unseen. If any sort of ‘equality’ existed, movement would cease, and everything would come to a halt, except unless to immediately change direction. Consider the pendulum.

In every respect, ‘Equality’ is an imagined value around which many of man’s ‘laws’ are based, but such are the follies of mankind. An objective observation of nature is all that is required to see that nothing will ever be ‘just’ nor ‘equal’ in life nor in death, and that the entire facade of ‘fairness’ is an unachievable ideal. No amount of dreaming can change this reality, as this law is omnipotent within universal physics.

Likewise, any time a member of the School recognises another member, it readily becomes apparent which associate is the more advanced in their study by application of a ‘special language’. I do not mean to imply that a different language is spoken, only that in the School, certain key words are given particular meaning, through which a great deal more information is transmitted than would normally be possible. Usage of these words, and subsequent construct of phrases, thus communicated, and received by the aware pupil, establishes a status among individuals, admitting free exchange of knowledge.

It was in this way that I realised Mr. Fripp’s superior School knowledge, much of which he explicated through his Guitar Craft series.

In the School, I larned that most people rarely ever acquire any knowledge of genuine value for one of two reasons:
1) because their ego cannot bear to allow that someone else might actually be in possession of some bit of knowledge that they themselves are not already in possession of. Thus, a man who imagines himself to already be in possession of something is less likely to really ever have it, nor attain the ability to recognise the genuine article should he ever happen to stumble across it.
2) because they imagine that there is some special reward for their inactivity, and that if they simply believe long enough, wishing very hard, they will suddenly be endowed with knowledge in some miraculous manner. These are the sort of people who believe in sorcery, magic chants, free government health care, and manna from heaven.

Knowledge is a possession of true value, and cannot be stolen, nor had through any sort of deviation. There are no ‘short cuts’ in acquiring skill or knowledge. It may only be achieved through difficult work, applied over a long period of time. Even then, nothing is guaranteed. A lazy student will learn nothing, and soon the opportunity to learn will be removed.

Another shortcoming of man is his imagined ability to teach himself. This is another artifact of ego’s design. As he is, man possesses no true will, and is therefore incapable of committing himself to anything, in addition he hasn’t the tools nor the knowledge to teach himself. Therefore, in order to be taught, a man must become sincere with himself and the ego must be humbled.

As soon as the ego is sufficiently broken, a man may realise the need for a teacher. The teacher will be one to whom the so-called ‘will’ of the student must be surrendered for a period of time. This period of access allows the teacher to create veridical will within the student, after which time the student may be capable of directing his self-will, bringing about the possibility of further development.

Our developmental goal in Music is to become a ‘musician’ with a capital M and without quotation marks. This development is likely to take many years. If we are to become this type of being, we are to answer to a higher calling than that of ego which dictates trendy styles, or strange and unconventional behaviour. These are typical distinctions of guitar slamming morons.

Morons are of no use to Music. It normally takes them more time to get properly dressed and made-up for a performance than they ever commit to the practice of Craft. Getting all decorated to play guitar is unnecessarily hard work. Striking artfully masculine or feminine postures, and flailing the instrument with energetic flourishes may be entertaining, but are all uncalled for when they are merely part of a calculated act. Worse yet, the quality of the music generally suffers.

But as Mr. Fripp stated, being a slob is hard labour.

Let us return to our example involving the idea of equality, or as I refer to it, man’s ‘mirage of perfection’.

With equality, there would be no struggle, and without struggle, there would be no friction, and without friction there would be no tension; without tension there would be no movement, and without movement, there would be no development. Consider the tuned and plucked string in contrast to the slack, resting string. The taut string ‘neutralises’ a specific quantity of tension, struggle, and friction, through the development of the sounded note, full of possibilities. The string at rest exhibits none of these properties. Without movement, neither time nor music exists. But as artists we are in luck, for we have an universal supply of tension, struggle, friction, and unrest.

Our purpose in Music is to become the messenger which the aforesaid qualities may resolve themselves through. Alchemising the raw articles of discord, chaos, and disarray, we convert them into their polar opposites. The resulting sounds should sooth the soul, for this is the true purpose of music. Our job in Music is to make ourselves available.

Morons, having been given precedence over the musical landscape by money hungry ‘producers’, and due to their musical obfuscation, have caused great harm to the soul of music. They have disoriented the consumer, and they have assaulted Music, much as a leech might attach itself to its host, and drained it of a great deal of its medicinal properties.

It is always easy to identify these musical imposters. The music that they make is always of a coarser texture than the raw materials used in making it. The subject matter is generally inflamatory, espousing anger, and radiating negative energy. Individual pieces rarely seem to resolve musically, and the favoured frequencies tend toward the extremes with very little utilisation of the midrange frequencies.

The flourishing genres of darkwave, gangsta rap, techno-industrial, noise, porn groove, and death metal are the most common carriers. Coincidentally, this type of anti-music is most often created by those individuals who arrogate peace and ‘equality’, but whose works often share their hatred, betray their underlying disdain for women or anyone who disagrees with them, and their nazi-like proclivities.

Another of Mr. Fripp’s aphorisms applied here might be: Everything we are is revealed in our playing.

Music can assist us in finding ourselves, but only if we go forward with the expectations of finding ourselves. If we pursue music in a foolish attempt to ‘become someone else’, we will never find anything of lasting value.

One individual who said it best was also a member in an extremely successful tribute band. “It was like being a drag-queen man,” he said. “After playing for half my life, pretending to be [someone else], I realised one day that I’d allowed him to make a failure out of the musician that I should have been.”

The argument has been put forward that those driven to produce music typically suffer some emotional instability or trauma inflicted during childhood, and therefore seek out music to deal with the affect of the scars. Whereas this myth may sound a ring of truth, it is a canard on the whole. Many musicians have been known to suffer from nothing more than normality, but it seems that those with the aforementioned formatory defects end up receiving the bulk of the attention, if only because they appear more exciting.

Let this account serve as proof of another fact: Music has the ability to provide a theraputic counter-effect, but only when approached in a proper and respectful manner. When used as a vehicle to promote, or reinforce emotional instability rather than quell it, nothing but explosions can result. Consider Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix.

After having seen both sides of the veil, I can assure the reader that neither drugs nor alcohol have a positive effect on music nor the musician. If the above examples are not enough, they bring to mind dozens of others. Artists from Billie Holliday to Eric Clapton have attempted to wage their internal wars using various substances as allies. Billie lost her war when her perceived ally turned out to be her foe. Eric won his fight when he realised what his enemy was. In neither case did the substances in question provide any of the aforementioned artists access to a ‘supernatural music portal’.

One cannot be dosed or maddened into becoming a musician. A musician is merely one who is drawn to play music, and one is, or is not. If, however, one is drawn into it, there is risk that the individual become consumed, that is to say that the individual may come to seem ‘single dimensional’ to some, perhaps eclectic to others. This may not always bode well for the musician if he allows himself to become obsessive in his development.

A humourous account will drive my point.

I once happened to become acquainted with Robert, a classical guitar teacher whose obsession gave rise to a most unpleasant key feature. His fixation on his musical discipline was such that it spilled over into his daily affairs, apparently making normal hygenic functions seem unnecessary. Although his speech was eloquent, and his teeth pristine; his hair was stringy and oily, his beard unkempt, and his clothing unwashed. He wore these sandals that appeared to be taken from the corpse of Moses, and all of his nails were in need of attention. He was generally accompained by a very pungent aroma. I felt he looked out of place without military fatigues and a cigar.

One day, he came into the music store in which I worked. ‘Sven, I’m in need of several good metronomes, and I am hoping that your establishment might be capable of satisfying my needs.’ (For those who may wonder, my name is not Sven, but that was the name which I’d chosen for my name tags during my ten-plus year tenure in retail.)

‘What sort of fire do you require, Squire?’ I asked with typical Cyrano de Bergerac bent. (Everybody who knows me would have known what I really meant.)

‘Well, it mustn’t be one of the analogue sort, ‘ he said (if only to irritate me), ‘only the digital ones will do; I attempt to impart perfect timing in my students, and I expect no less from the time-pieces that I provide them with.’

I looked him over. ‘For pause, the pendulum served Segovia satisfactorily. Now what once befitted the boss bumbles the bookmen?’ I touched a finger to my cheek, cutting my eyes skyward for effect.

‘I can tell the difference!’ he huffed and puffed. ‘Neither my students nor I are bumbled, as you put it. With all respect to the maestro, digital precisions have made the pendulum obsolete.’

‘So your skills, Castro, deals killing blows to those of the Maestro?’

He protested with the demur of a lemur, to such extent that Dennis, the owner of the store, made a rare emergence from his official retreat. ‘What’s going on out here? What’s wrong?’

‘The sun is on fire! He says we’ll expire!’ I told him, pointing at Robert.

The look of indignity on Robert’s face became one of bewilderment. ‘This asshole won’t sell me a metronome without giving me the third degree in verse,’ he explained to Dennis the Penis.

‘Everyone learns from third degree burns.’ I interposed.

The owner began to make excuses for me and told Robert that he’d fired me over a month ago, but that I continued to show up to work.

I returned to the task I’d been attempting all morning, with Dennis tending to Robert’s needs and putting his feelings right. ‘Have a good morning, Your Weirdness,’ he shot at me upon departing.

‘Bye-bye, Fry Guy.’ I was heard to reply.

Dennis turned, pointing toward the door with his hand held close to his torso, whisper-hissing,’You know that guy?’

‘Something inside has soured and died?’ I anticipated.

Dennis lowered his voice, ‘He fuckin’ stinks!’ he winced, heading back to his office. ‘Oh, by the way, you’re fired.’ he called out before re-entering.

Dennis was a horn-hating trumpet player. But then, everybody has their hang-ups, right?

Just don’t allow it to become an obsession.