Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The haunting

I stopped off on my way to work for a cup of coffee and an Egg McMuffin and Ron's place and was perplexed for a bit by the young woman who handed me my Caffeine McCholesterol.

I instantly recognized the item hanging around her neck as a stethoscope. My brain was not so quick to figure out why the woman in drivethru might also potentially ask me to turn my head and cough. I just figured that maybe she was working two jobs and forgot to leave the medical instrument in the car after working graveyard at the hospital before working the breakfast shift at McDonalds.

It wasn't until I was driving away that I realized that today was Halloween and the woman in the drivethru window was wearing a costume.

Later in the day I ended up staying late at work, which was fine with me because it might mean I could miss the trick-or-treat rush. As I told someone today, I don't shop for myself, I sure as hell ain't buying stuff to give away to other people's kids. Unfortunately, when I got home, a small squad of costumed candy bandits was knocking at the door in the apartment before mine. I made sure to take my sweet time getting out of the car until the little letches walked well away from the entrance to my abode before I made my break for it.

I didn't even bother to turn on the light when I got inside, but headed for the back room furthest away from the front door. And that's where I found myself for the rest of the evening, hiding out in a back room of my apartment, cowering in a corner. My annual Halloween haunting vexed me yet again. Now it's the midnight hour and the incessant knocking has finally stopped.

Suddenly I have a craving for a Snickers bar.

And the blues play on

I don't visit bars as much as I did back in my 20s, or even my 30s, but there is something unbeatable about just the right bar.

Sometime I have a craving for a neighborhood hangout, a little hole in the wall spot where the bartenders and waitresses know your order and have your drink waiting for you by the time you reach your bar stool.

Other times, I have a craving for a sports bar, a place to hang out and grab a burger and a beer while watching a game.

But on some occasions, I really want a place with some high energy, a place that buzzes with electricity from the patrons and a band playing life music. In the months after I moved to Salem, whenever I would ask people I met where was the best place to go for nightlife in town, one of the names that inevitably cropped up was Lefty's Pizzeria and Blues Club.

It was my kind of joint, fitting many of my favorite tastes for food (pizza), beer (microbrews) and music -- in this case, blues.

Blues as been a favorite musical genre since college. Anyone with a taste for blues will tell you, there is nothing like hearing blues live, because like the music it inspired, jazz, musicians improvise during a performance, giving even classic blues songs their own fingerprint.

Unfortunately, I have not had listened to a lot of live blues. But now, living back in the Pacific Northwest, it seemed like I would get more opportunities to do so. Portland has a vibrant and respected blues scene and plays hose every year to the Waterfront Blues Festival. As I came to learn, Lefty's was considered by many one of the best blues venues for live music in the Northwest.

In my early explorations as an iPod owner, I discovered a podcast based out of Portland that talked about the Portland and Northwest blues scene and featured music from artists based here, or who have some connection to Portland and the Pacific Northwest. The podcast, PDX Bluescast, became an immediate favorite.

Sadly, the PDX Bluescast has not had a new episode in over a year now. And now this month came word that Lefty's had closed.

But the blues itself does not die. Just as the legends of the genre eventually pass on, the music itself is passed down to new generations of musicians. And fortunately, I have found a new place to satisfy my thirst for blues, but this one's based a little farther south -- south of the equator and across the Pacific to be precise. My new home for the blues, and the new podcast I turn to for a mix of classic blues and emerging voices is the Salty Dog Blues N Roots Podcast from Melbourne, Australia.

So thanks, Salty, for satisfying that craving, both salty and sweet, tangy and twangy, like a slice of pizza with pepperoni and pineapple and a liberal dose of Tabasco.

RIP Lefty's and the PDX Bluescast. You are missed, but we can all take comfort in the fact that the blues plays on.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Getting hosed

I noticed the change on my way home from work. The sign on the Shell gas station reader board spelled out the bad news. Gas is over $3 a gallon.

The reason it jumped out at me is because when I drove to work this morning I made note of the price on the same sign at the same gas station. The price, on the day the price of a barrel of oil closed at a record high over $93.50, also went up about 7 cents a gallon at one local gas station.

It was a telling sign, just one of many illustrating that ordinary Americans are pretty well screwed. I don't expect a return to economic giddiness anytime soon. Wall Street may be waiting for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates this week so they can go on pretending a recession can be avoided, but ordinary Americans won't benefit from a little rate cut from the fed. The costs of too many of the things we need to get through our daily lives are going higher, not lower. Gas prices are up. Energy prices are up. Credit card interest rates are up. And God help anyone who is the the same boat so many of my family and friends who are first-time home buyers with an adjustable rate mortgage, which has also gone through the roof. I don't think the failed mortgage/credit/housing crisis is nearing its end, I fear it is only getting warmed up.

Bend over Americans a big financial dildo is taking aim at your backsides. And if you think anyone brought the lube, you are in for a painful surprise.

I'll show you mine if you show me yours

I'm nothing if not a follower. I've followed the crowd onto the poker craze bandwagon. I haven't become a fanatic about it, but I do occasionally enjoy watching television coverage of professional poker tournaments and play poker now and again online. I even checked out one of the local poker leagues in town once, but haven't made it back to play anymore live games. I like to play the game but am not willing, or able, to put real money where my cards are. At least not yet.

I am among the most amateur of amateurs. But I have won a couple of qualifying tournaments on Bravo TVs Celebrity Poker site. But when you when a qualifying tournament, like I did recently, you are prohibited from playing in their tournament again until the championship tournament, which is in January or something.

So, I signed up with a free online poker website,, to play there. I signed up earlier today to play in a qualifying tournament for a tournament in the Bahamas. I didn't really expect much out of it, but a way to spend some time and perhaps learn a little more about the game from competing against other people -- across the web if not across the table.

The top 200 finishers qualify for the next round, but the tournament allowed 10,000 to register. So I didn't have any delusions of qualifying, but I hoped to finish "in the money," which required a finish of 1,250th or higher.

After a few hours of playing, I found myself still "sitting" at a virtual table with a stack of digital chips. And I made it into the money. Then I revised my goals to finish higher in the money. And then, eventually the top 200 was within reach. Then, there I was. In the top 200. And still playing.

I eventually made it to the final table of 10. Then the top 5.

I did not, however, win the tournament. But I did finish second. Second out of 10,000. Pretty fucking cool, if I say so myself!

So who else do you tell about an amazing finish in a virtual tournament, but your virtual friends on a blog.

In honor of the finish, here are 10 songs about (sort of about) poker/gambling/cards from my iPod.

Ride Gambler Ride -- Randy Newman
Viva Las Vegas -- ZZ Top
Ace in the Hole -- George Strait
From a Jack to a King -- Ricky Van Shelton
Aces -- Suzy Bogguss
Luck of the Draw -- Bonnie Raitt
Ace Up Your Pretty Sleeve -- Vince Gill
Desperado -- The Eagles
Good Run of Bad Luck -- Clint Black
Viva Las Vegas -- Elvis Presley

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Burning moonlight

The insomnia is back.

For several nights now I've found myself still awake well after 3 or 4 in the morning. It's been damn hard to fall asleep and even more difficult to get up when the alarm goes off in the morning.

I got comfortable on the couch this evening after work, the exhaustion taking over. Sleep came easy enough then, but it didn't last long. I got maybe a half our of rest before I was wide awake again, my mind racing like a car sitting in neutral with the engine running and the gas pedal pressed to the floor. We ain't goin' anywhere, but we are getting there in one hell of a hurry.

The insomnia is like a barometer, but instead of signalling a change in weather the sleeplessness signals the need for some sort of life change.

A few months back there were a couple of options in the works that looked like they might prompt some major life changes. But those options have new fallen through. The desire for a life changes is no less strong now, but the options to make that happen are far less clear.

How do I get our of this rut? How do a move forward? To what purpose will this next phase of my life be dedicated?

The answers are still elusive. As is sleep.

I'm going to try to see if I can get a few more hours of sleep tonight and go to bed "early." It's only a little after 1 a.m. It would be my earliest bedtime of the week if successful.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sold my soul for a sawbuck

My morals are slipping.

Money has been tight lately. Very tight. Extremely tight. So tight that this week I found myself with my bank balances at zero. I've been raiding the coin jar to pay for food all week. Fortunately there was a stockpile of quarters in the jar from the days I was collecting them to use the coin-operated machine in the laundry room. The next option was to collect cans for the recycling deposit. One day this weekend my entire diet, lunch and dinner consisted of tortilla chips and salsa. Another day I ate one meal. I've skipped several meals in recent days because I have no food in the house and no funds to acquire any.

Yep, I'm broke.

I finally got some folding money back in my pocket last night after meeting a friend for dinner. We were each paying for our own meals. I paid with plastic and he used cash, so I picked up the tab and pocketed the cash.

I stopped off for dinner at a local fast-food place on my way home from work and handed the $10 I had left to the cashier. Obviously her head wasn't in the game because she handed me $15 back in change.

I thought for a spit second about whether to do the right thing and telling her that I had paid with a 10 and not a 20.

Then I remembered the zero balances on my bank statements and the fact that I still have a few meals to buy before I get paid and did the selfish thing. I pocked the money and drove off.

I know I should feel guilty. But Lord help me, I can't. The lack of cash -- and meals -- is affecting my judgment. My waistline can certainly afford for me to skip an occasional meal, but this has been ridiculous. I didn't want to hurt anyone. I just wanted to eat and survive until payday.


On the theme of money, here are 10 songs about money from my iPod.

M-O-N-E-Y -- Lyle Lovett
What Do You Do For Money Honey -- AC/DC
Workin' Man's Dollar -- Chris LeDoux
Money for Nothing -- Dire Straits
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is -- JET
You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire -- Queens of the Stone Age
I Need Some Money -- John Lee Hooker

Life Is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back -- Meat Loaf
Can't Buy You Money -- Toby Keith
Last Dollar (Fly Away) -- Tim McGraw

Bonus track
Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash -- Huey Lewis & The News

Warp engines are down and drifting on impulse

So, I know Einstein had a theory about how time moves slower or something if you are hauling ass at the speed of light. I can't say I really understand it. But I do know that time does some pretty freaky shit even when you are sitting on your ass on the couch.

When I was in college, young and impatient, a few weeks or months without any dating life seemed like an eternity. There were different classes every day, there was tons of stuff going on, it was hard to keep track of where I needed to be when, yet it seemed like school would never end and my real life would never get started.

Now that real life is sometimes all too real, time whizzes by in a numbing blur of sameness. Years pass far too quickly. In fact it's been more than 3 years since there has been a relationship involving any physical intimacy. Often if feels like the drought will never end.

Maybe I just have too much time to think about time. I just marked another birthday. My 42nd. For many people, the prospect of turning 40 is daunting. I didn't experience much mental trauma from reaching the Big Four-O. But 42, that's been a bit rougher to deal with. The reason is that my life just doesn't seem to have progressed in the last two-plus years. It's not just the relationship situation. It's finances. It's work. It's personal relationships with friends. It's everything.

It's nothing.

It's 42.

When I was younger I was impatient, impertinent and anxious. I had to learn to be patient. I had to learn to bite my tongue. Maybe I learned those things too well. I've been waiting for something. Waiting too long. spending too much time with my ass on a couch looking at TV and computer screens, monitoring others' lives instead of living my own. It's time to get something moving again.

It's time to shove this couch, this life, this ass, into warp speed. Time's a waisting. I need to speed up the motion and slow down the clock.

10 songs with time in the title from my iPod

The Longest Time -- Billy Joel
Wiser Time -- The Black Crowes
Dirty Life & Times -- Warren Zevon

Angry All the Time -- Tim McGraw
Roll Me Back In Time -- Sara Evans
Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I) -- Ray Charles
Time Flies -- Puddle of Mudd
Time Stood Still -- Madonna
Good Times, Bad Times -- Led Zeppelin
Times Like These -- Foo Fighters
(Bonus track)
Wasted Time -- The Eagles

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I think I am missing a step

Well, I'm getting nearer to my long-time goal of becoming a professional blogger. I finally have a PayPal account, which would allow me to accept donations from the legions of fans that happen across my blog.

I also recently signed up for a Skype account, which seemed to be the online communication software of choice for international bloggers, podcasters and vloggers.

It would be ideal. I've been needing a part-time job to help cover some bills, so this would work out perfectly.

There's only one flaw to my plan.

The piece to the puzzle that I'm missing is that I only seem to make a new post about once every blue moon, this no one come here and there is no one to donate to my new "profession."

It's always something.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Who'll stop the rain?

The weather has turned chilly and gray, and it's put me in a bit of a funk. I'm not ready for the dreary, wet winter weather that will predominate the months between now and, um, June.

When I got home from work and running an errand, the heavy cloud cover made it look as if the sun was already setting for the day. That made me realize that daylight saving time would be ending soon, which has the double whammy effect of making the sun set earlier, plunging all the after-work hours into darkness and forcing a reset of the body clock to get up even an hour earlier in the morning.

It's damn hard to drag my ass out of bed when it's dark outside and cold inside at ungodly early hours of the morning. Fortunately, the time change won't kick in until November this year, but that's getting way too close for comfort. And I've actually been turning on the heat in the bathroom the last few morning to help fight off the chill and the urge to plunge back into bed underneath the covers and go into hibernation for the winter.

Perhaps the funk is made worse by the fact that I'll soon be marking another birthday. It doesn't feel like I've made much, if any, progress with my life in the last couple of years, so I could do without that milestone as a reminder.

Some people in this part of the country actually claim to like the winter weather here west of the Cascade Mountains, with all it's rain. Someone today even told me they enjoyed listening to the heavy rain that fell the other night. I did enjoy those occasional showers we would get when I was living in the desert. I loved the electric smell of rain after a long dry spell. Those showers were refreshing, rejuvenating and mercifully brief. But I honestly can't see how people can like the unrelenting rains -- the "liquid sunshine" -- for which this area is known. Maybe that's just something longtime residents here have to tell themselves in order to keep themselves from slitting their wrists every winter.

It may be time to warm up the old "songs about rain" 40-song playlist on the iPod.

Speaking of that, here's the top 5 most frequently play songs from my iPod from the rain playlist.

5. Rain on the Scarecrow -- John Mellencamp
4. Over the Rainbow -- Ray Charles and Johnny Mathis
3. If It's Gonna Rain -- George Strait
1 (tied) Rhythm of the Pourin' Rain -- Vince Gill w/ Bekka Bramlett
1. Something Sexy About the Rain -- Kenny Chesney

The End Debt Daily