Category Archives: Posts

The Poop Emoji Storm (Del Norris 4.4)

Today, there be curveballs.

Here you are on a Thursday night and…what’s this?  A new D2D Podcast!?

Yes.  I’ll be unable to get anything together for the weekend so…here I sit with a lovely tulip of bourbon preparing this little gem for you.

And looking at the podcast…it’s over an hour?  WHAT?!

Indeed.  Now that we’re all caught up with the iTunes and the WordPress and the Libsyn and the Driven2Drink funding (…more like defunding.  I kid. […I don’t kid…]…) I can, for the most part, release the podcasts just about how long I want them to be.

Which is somewhere in the vicinity of an hour.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Are there outtakes again?  I sure like them!”

There are.

Or, “What bumper music is he going to use?”

Rostam.  The guy is amazing.  I heard him first on the Song Exploder podcast.  Also amazing.

Don’t let anyone tell you, “They don’t make good music anymore.”

This is a lie.  Lots of theys are making incredible aural art, particularly in 2017.  So go find it, and consume it, and expand your brain.  Which is a necessary thing, particularly in 2017.

Here you go, “The Poop Emoji Storm (Del Norris 4.4).”

*Remember, that’s a link up there ^^, click on it to get to the podcast if you’re not already using iTunes.  Or the Libsyn site.

 

BTW, this is my goddaughter, Eden’s, work.  Here’s what she had to say about it during an epic text conversation:

anyway for this piece i wanted to mesh like a japanese traditional koi fish paining with a kind of 70s psychedelic vibe so i thought it would b funny if he was talking so i used google translate (which i knew going into this was an unreliable source)

so the top one was supposed to say “help i have fallen” like the life alert commercial bc i was working with the idea that he was in a waterfall

but of course google translate jacked that up so now it says “help me collapse” which is almost haunting but i think it’s like 10x funnier

the whole point of adding the words was to look poetic and make ppl think like wow i wonder what that fish is saying but rly the whole thing is a big beautiful shitpost

the bottom left one was supposed to say “the water burns” and it surprising still does

and the bottom right one was supposed to say “i will die a hero” but the translation from google took a dark turn and now it says “i hope the hero will die”

i also have to add the text and speech bubbles were all done in cheap glitter gel pens from 5 below

i tried to make it identifiable to my brand

Found In Translation

I am not a poet.

Generally, I’ve envied those who are able to capture such depth of Truth with so few, carefully chosen, pristinely placed words.  Evoking sensory memories so strong it’s as if we are seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, touching, absolutely experiencing a thing.

A poet…I am not.

But a story-teller?  I accept that title.

A teacher? Assuredly, and I think a damn good one.

A weaver of tales taken from life then intentionally embellished to highlight the most salient insights, details, and emotions?  Well, I hope.

See, I don’t only want to tell you truth as facts.  I want to communicate, as precisely and entertainingly as possible, truth as experience.

On a related note, I take close-up photographs of the world around me using my phone.  I generally call these collections, “Along the way.”  The camera is very good, but no camera, not even the most exquisitely hand-made optics connected to a fine-tuned mechanical masterpiece in the hands of a master developer can capture the experience of taking in, with one’s eyes, an actual bit of beauty.

So…I tweak the saturation, the contrast, perhaps the brightness, chop off a little bit here and enhance a little bit there.  Why?  So you have the thing…not as the device recorded it and certainly NOT as my nervous system processed it, but as close as I can manage to make the thing, 1. appear as it appeared to me, and 2. feel as it felt to me, in the moment.

Here are a few from today:

 

I want you, cognitively and emotionally, to experience what I experienced.

In photos, podcasts, essays, and stories.

I run the experience through whatever filters and enhancers are at my disposal and I give you…my truth.

When you read a quoted person, I want you to “hear” a voice.

When you process a description, I want you to “see” a thing.

When you take in a paragraph, I want you to almost experience what I experienced.

I want you to FEEL something.

I like to think that an interested consumer (that’s you) of my output experiences very similar brain activity to MY brain activity while I’m both experiencing the thing and then preparing it for your eyes, ears, and/or fingers.  This means I need to be quite good at translating the experience.

Maybe that’s what I fancy myself.  What I strive to be.

A translator…of insight, of wonder, of emotion, and when I’m at my very best, of transcendental everyday human experience.

No, I’m not a poet.

I’m not a lot of things I previously envisioned for myself.

But maybe it’s time to let go of my insecurities, my attachments to what I’m not and what I might become…and just be what I am.

Thanks for hanging out.

I hope you felt something positive, as I did.

-G

What Would I Do Without Social Media? (Humor)

Welcome to my personal social experiment.

I’m trying to keep my social media interactions to just one self-generated post per platform per day.

So far, so okay.

But…what would I do without a constant, unending mainline of social media?

I would, it turns out, utilize my notebook more, write down all of the insightful, philosophical, and/or amusing thoughts that occur, then occasionally consolidate them here.

(So is that what you’re doing?)

Yes.

  1. My current fame ceiling is: Scott Adams blocked me on Twitter.
  2. On many levels this fact, and the fact that I care about this fact enough to share it, brings me pervasive existential sadness.
  3. What’s a college Republican’s favorite Flock of Seagull’s Song?
  4. And Ayn Ra-aa-aand.  Ayn Rand so far a-way-ay-ay.
  5. What’s the word describing a person so single mindedly contemplating the number between 3 and 5 that they become the number?
  6. Metaphor.
  7. Claus is a Freudian slip come to life.
  8. (If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll likely understand #7.  However, just replace “Claus” with whomever you believe to be a human Freudian slip come to life.  Believe me, you know a few.  You might be one.  Shit.  Maybe we all are.)
  9. I would love to perform the Chicago song, “25 or 6 to 4” interpreted as a dark, acoustic song.  Like a Trent Reznor vibe, a la Johnny Cash singing, “Hurt.”  Like minor as fuck.  Raw.  And on the line, “Twen-ty-five-or-six-to-foh-oh-ohhhhh,” I’d sing a falling run rather than the bright, cheery rising run from the original.  It would scare the shit out of someone.
  10. I would also love to perform the Chicago song, “25 or 6 to 4” like an 80’s emo tune, a la The Smiths or The Cure.  Actually, I’ve got the tune, “Under the Milky Way Tonight” by The Church very clearly in the forefront of my mind thinking about THIS cover.  It would, like the dark, raw, acoustic version, be sung down an octave.  Moody.  Synths, a heavy atmospheric guitar wah-wah vibe, and the stench of clove cigarettes hovering about like a ghost of my undergraduate years.
  11. Instagram should do mammogram filters.  Like, make your tits into fun things.  Mess with the shape and size.  Razzle dazzle areola and whatnot.  I think it should happen.
  12. What happens when you mate Joe Cocker with Bob Dylan and play doo-wop for the incubating baby?
  13. Bruce Springsteen happens.

I anticipate the following additional “What Would I Do Without Social Media?” sub-genres: Philosophy, Politics, Professional.

Stay tuned.

-G

There Is No Great and Powerful Oz

Do you approach your patients, clients, students, and/or children primarily from a perspective of rigid expertise…or empathetic relationship?  Are you willing to expose your vulnerabilities, hopes, dreams, mistakes, and insecurities or do you strive to present a picture of professional omnipotence?

Are you attempting to be the Great and Powerful Oz?

Because, and I realize I’m both flaunting my biases and deflecting attention from the thing I fear most in myself here, nobody is Oz.

Those of us who present as experts are all, to some extent, the man behind the curtain.  We’re all conflating ourselves, projecting our personalities, standing firmly on a foundation of pedagogical intimidation and bluster.  We are trained to show an infallible face, to know it all or at least present it as such.

By the way, those of us we serve…they are generally fine-tuned to our bullshit.  You know that, right?  They see through us and know if we’re listening, or not; if we genuinely care and like them, or not; if we want to support and serve them, or judge and fix them.

Nobody wants, or needs, to be fixed.  Not really.  Many, though, seek peace and healing.

In relationship.

As communion.

With mutual understanding.

Not as an object, medical curiosity, or human behavioral atypicality.

This is not to imply that I don’t have unique and specific knowledge, training, and experience that can support and serve others in healing ways even as they provide me with lessons and insights in return.

I do.

However, I chose very specific verbs to describe that expertise.

Support.  And serve.

Not fix.

Not even help.

(Not help?!)

Not help.

Even a helping relationship, which seems otherwise humane and desirable, sets up an uneven power dynamic.  It creates the scenario where I am the Great and Powerful Oz and you believe I can fix you, or vice versa.

No…the key is service.

Service relationships place individuals on an even human plane because each of us is fully and equally human.  Again, I may have a skill set or knowledge base that you want or need so that I may serve you.  But assuredly you have insights and access to behaviors which will boost and support yourself…AND me.  A service relationship allows for natural bi-directionality (or multi-directionality) in a relationship between two (or more) people.

Empathy is critical, the mutual understanding which allows for deeper connection so that I can utilize and share, not force, expertise while at the same time opening myself to grow from your expertise and experience.

Remember, at the end of The Wizard of Oz, when the man behind the curtain is exposed, his Great and Powerful Oz revealed as an actually amplified and projected sham?  Only then can he face the people seeking his support.  And there, in relationship, having empathy for each of the pilgrim’s plights, the artist formerly known as Oz is able to reveal that each of them has the potential to heal.  And Dorothy, in return, illuminates for the man that he, too, has the power to grow and find happiness and healing.

So I’ll ask again, do you approach your patients, clients, students, and/or children primarily from a perspective of rigid expertise…or empathetic relationship?  Are you willing to expose your vulnerabilities, hopes, dreams, mistakes, and insecurities or do you strive to present a picture of professional omnipotence?

Are you attempting to be the Great and Powerful Oz?

Because, nobody is Oz.

There is only the person behind the curtain.

And the only pilgrimage worth the toil and time is one of service, community, and relationship.

The journey, not the destination.

The means, not the ends.

-G

In the Bell Curve Weeds (Del Norris 4.2)

You may have noticed there was no D2D post this past week.

Actually, if feedback is any indicator, you didn’t notice.

In fact, I’d put money on you, just then, thinking, “Oh yeah.  There wasn’t a post this week.”

And if the stats programs attached to this are accurate and valid, countably few people even care.

I would argue that if we looked at the population of humans who’ve laid eyes on the site, not a representative sample but the actual full population, and considered, as a theoretically quantifiable and measurable emotional variable, “giving a shit,” they would fall WAYYY left. Left being giving fewer shits than theoretically average if all behaviors actually fell on a nice & tidy symmetrical bell curve, right being giving greater shits than average.

See, here’s what that theoretical bell curve is supposed to look like:

And, here’s the population of people who’ve been exposed to Driven2Drink and how much of a shit they give about the actual content:

It’s called “positive skewness,” counter-intuitively enough if you’re just thinking about how it appears.  But skew direction doesn’t match with…

No,  I will not dive too deeply into the bell curve weeds again.

You’ll be there shortly enough as you listen to this second of the four point Del Norris series.

I actually had a point here.

Yessirma’m I did.

You may have noticed there was no D2D post this week.

I’ve decided that I’m just going to post the most polished pieces I can manage whenever they are complete.  If that’s once per week, great.  Once per month, fine.  Three on a singularly epic Monday, sure.  It’s the internet, and you know where they’ll be when you want them.

Podcasts I’ll try to keep on a consistent schedule.  At the very least continuing forward with once per week.  And now that I’m very close to having the Libsyn/iTunes site synced with this, I’ll be able to release episodes that are as long as I want them to be.  Here, I’m limited to 50MB for any upload.  There, the only thing getting in the way of a Truman Showesque Driven2Drink Pod is the amount of money we have in the coffers (…currently precisely zero…) to pay for storage.

Don’t worry, I’ll never do that.  My life, and wife, wouldn’t permit it.

Have fun with this.

“In the Bell Curve Weeds (Del Norris 4.2)”

Oh, and I feel compelled to shine a bright spotlight on the musicians that you’ll hear at the beginning and end.  They’re called, “Band Geeks.”

I’m using this video.  And I’m using this video.  And really, you should just travel on down the Band Geeks rabbit hole.  Kazoo hole.  Whatever.

-G&J

Tangents (Del Norris 4.1)

I have a distinct memory of the very first time I placed a pair of prescription glasses on my face.

I was about 10 years old, and had needed glasses for some time.  With the prompting of a decent and observant educator, my Mom took me to Sears optical. (“Sears’s,” as my grandmother used to call it.  We Pittsburghers tend to make possessive any store name, as if there is an actual Giant Eagle at the helm of the grocery store, or a dude named K-Mart at the ready when one cannot find whatever cheap shit needs to be found.)

I needed glasses.

After the requisite time for creating said glasses, we returned and I put the glasses on my face in the dimmed, tranquil office of the optometrist.  Sure, there was a difference, but nothing amazing.

We walked out of the office and into a fluorescent, light drenched, color-saturated, maximally contrasted retail maze filled with other active humans with shiny, four-wheeled carts full of distractingly diverse items.

I know I tend toward hyperbole, but this is was the first moment in my life that I experienced hyperbole as an actual thing.  People of a certain age will remember the first time they watched “The Wizard of Oz,” and the scene where Dorothy, along with the entire freaking world, saw Technicolor for the first time.  People of a younger generation might recall watching “The Matrix,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” or perhaps “Inception,” which blasted open some untouched portion of the visual cortex and delivered a thing never before seen or even conceptually possible.

Imagine that…but like YOU actually are Dorothy or Neo, like a dream in which you become that character experiencing the thing that is currently cracking open brains on the other side of the screen…and you can then understand my first moments with those prescription glasses staring at richness, depth, and clarity like I had NEVER experienced.

I ran into things.  I over-reached with my right hand for my left hand. My heart rate rose, pupils dilated…which didn’t help, sweat formed in cracks and crevices.  My brain, in the process of acclimating, was awash with whatever neuro-chemicals cause panic, astonishment, worry, and epiphany.

What does that have to do with this podcast?

Quite a bit actually.

Have a listen.

Of tangents and venn diagrams

So Many People Know Precisely What They Are

So many people know precisely what they are.

Who they are.

I don’t.

I know the numerical demographic markers that apply to me given the myriad surveys I’ve completed in my life.  I know my age group, my income bracket, and I know that I’m “male” as well.  But the other stuff? I struggle.

Religion?  I don’t know.  Even my spiritual proclivities are tough to nab.  It’s an eclectic amalgamation of literature and people who say things that ring deeply true to me.  So…there is a very clear faith present.  I don’t need incontrovertible and observable data to prove everything I believe.  I know that there are things…most things, I think…that I will NEVER understand or even superficially grasp because they are simply outside of my ability to sense, perceive, and even conceive as a human with a human brain. So, “I don’t know” is the only thing that makes sense, but that gives me NOTHING to hold on to.

Race? I don’t know.  And yes, I know I’m “white,” and I indicate “white” whenever I’m asked, but I’m deeply skeptical of the entire social construct of race.  Actually, I disown it.  I know it seems pedantic, but I subscribe to the larger fact that humans are one race, and as we gained access to tools and language, growing our frontal lobe and corpus callosum and other brain structures that make us social, intelligent, seemingly civilized beings…we began demarcating based on superficial features and geographical origins.  And it seems to me we’ve done almost only horrible, unconscionable shit based upon the invented construct of races.  So, “human” is the only thing that makes sense, but that also leaves me dissatisfied.

Political affiliation?  None.  Really.  None.  I get so overwhelmed and feel utterly under-informed and inadequate when I hear a person tell me something like, “I’m a fiscal conservative in the vein of Reagan but a social libertarian,” or “I’m a Social Democrat with deep Christian values,” or whatever.  Hawk/Dove. Republican/Democrat. Pragmatist/Humanist. Conservative/Liberal/Neo-Liberal.  Socialist/Capitalist.  I’m a little of everything sometimes and a lot of some things most of the time and vice versa always.  So…independent is the only thing that makes sense, but wtf does that actually mean?!

Do you know what the flag atop the mile high pole of “independent, agnostic, human” shows?   A big, bold, black, teasing, taunting question mark in the middle of a same-colored field.  Every known visual wavelength absorbed and spat out opaque.  You can’t see it.  But you know it’s there.

A question.  (Sometimes it feels like an emphatically stated: Fuck you!)

If I can cut out all of the emotional overlay, all of the experiential bias layering, all of the limitations of this human body…what is the core temperamental value that guides everything for me?  We have to be able to boil it down to one thing, right?   I know, I know…I’m compartmentalizing and fragmenting the holistic Greg.  But even my stated angnosticism, the spirit of “I don’t know” to which I cling so desperately, is really a defense mechanism protecting my reflexive righteousness tendency.  Every time I claim, “agnostic,” I’m standing firmly, straining actually, on the neck of an inner voice that wants to scream, “Fuck you!  I know it all.  I know.  The truth.  All of it.  Not you.  ME!  I’m perfect or I’m nothing!!”   If I let off even an iota the voice inhabits my entire being and becomes me.

Okay.  Do me a favor.  Look back up at the title of this.  See that.  I wanted, badly, to write it as, “So many people claim to know what they are?”  Thus allowing me that mainline of pure, unadulterated, Walter White quality righteousness.

And I don’t want it.

(But sometimes, goddamit, I need it.  I needs my precious.)

So I let it up.  Intentionally.  Calmly.  Patiently.  Like Harvey Keitel’s Wolf from Pulp Fiction.  It can’t be healthy to hide and hate a part of myself.  I try to embrace it.  I write and podcast and make my entire brain public domain, thus tearing off the shroud and exhibiting my whole self.

Human.  Agnostic.  Independent.

Yet…utterly interdependent, faith-filled, and such a product of my upbringing, socio-economic status, racial birthright, gender, income bracket, and experience set that I’m literally every box the census records.

Maybe I do know precisely what I am, and I just don’t love it.

And that’s a topic for another day.

Every day, really.

-G

Here Is Always Here

Over the past several months, this has been my morning routine:

  1. Feed animals
  2. Make breakfast
  3. Prepare coffee
  4. Write morning papers

A barista who became an acquaintance who became a friend suggested this to me after I’d mentioned feeling exceptionally stuck, unable to tap into novel, interesting ideas or ways to creatively communicate otherwise mundane occurrences.  Morning papers, he called them.  “Yeah, man.  Just sit down and write whatever comes to your head for as long as you’re able.”  I’m paraphrasing, but not taking many liberties beyond my inability to remember his exact words.  If he comes off as anything but genuine and wise, blame me.  Anyway, I began writing morning papers.  Many of these morning papers became inspirations for expanded posts, but until now nothing had emerged untouched that I felt comfortable sharing.

Until now.

Here’s that passage, polished only for grammatical cohesion.  My post production?  Punctuation, spelling, abbreviations, sentence fragments, and carroted additions all snipped, snapped, and razzamatazzed to make it at least legible.  I’m not being facetious here.  No humble brag.  I don’t know why you’re here reading this and who the f*ck told me I should even lean in the direction of believing my cobbled drivel is worth anything but a shelf full of juvenile journals containing, at best, laughable philosophy.  I guess I did.  And maybe you.  Thank you, really.

Have at it:

Sitting here, attempting to write out my morning papers, the words that spill from my brain just minutes after waking, and the brain fills with distractions which I, meaning it, chases for a while.

Crazy that… the fact that the brain both fills with distractions and then chases them.  Or, quells them.  Or, does anything…rather, everything.  It’s all brain.  There’s no “I” separate from “my brain,” yet the struggle is absolutely real.  So how have I come to believe, as if faith, that there is some authentic cleaving and separateness of my brain, my emotions, my biology, then some constantly present I/me to whom I (ha!) refer as if it’s not the brain/emotions/biology?  It’s all one and the same.  But the thoughts…they do seem to run on auto pilot…and the emotions connected to them seem to be caused by them.

Another question…do thoughts cause emotions, or emotions cause thoughts?  Both? Perhaps something altogether different?!

But then, a portion of consciousness can recognize all of that and the functioning of the brain can be fairly easily altered back to present…to processing only that which is inputting right here.  Right now.

Perhaps it’s that simple.

Either I’m here.

Or I’m not here.

And if the goal is to align the brain with the body (which is always here) then I must only focus on here.

Mind goes there.

(Come back here.)

Emotions go there?

(Nope!…Here.)

There.

(Here.)

Of course, many would ask me, “But what of the soul?  What of God?”  Many would claim, “God is the difference.  The answer.”

And I ask, “What is God?”

Really.  Try to separate yourself from the religious texts you’ve integrated and ceremonies in which you’ve participated.  Try not to describe a Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or Hindu or Norse or Pagan God, or gods.

Just.  What is God?

Think about it.

Think.

Because the answer?

Still all coming from our brains.  We’ve each got one biocomputer with which to process the entire universe.  That’s the brain.

God.

Consciousness.

Emotion.

Thought.

Communication.

All…brain.

Or.

Not.

But rest assured, here is always…

Here.

-G

Friends

How many of us have them?

Friends.

Ones we can depend on.

Friends.

How many of us have them?

Friends.

Before we go any further, let’s be…

==========

Milford, Connecticut.

Winter, 1985.

My best friend from Pittsburgh, Jeff, sent me a cassette for Christmas.

Whodini.  Escape.

Released October 17th, 1984, just a month or so before I moved from Pittsburgh to Milford but right in the spot where I didn’t hear it because I was more focused on shifting states, schools, and friends mid-year.

Five Minutes of Funk.  Freaks Come Out at Night.  Big Mouth.  Escape.  Friends.  Out of Control.  We are Whodini.

“Jam On It” may have been the song that cracked open my brain and caused me to fall in love with rap, but “Escape” was the album that dropped me to my knee and engaged me to hip hop.  I wore that cassette out.  Literally.  It broke within a year, played, rewound, and fast forwarded countless times on a cheap stereo system.  You remember the ones, a huge lightweight plastic box made to look like the following components: Record player, radio, cassette deck.  Eventually an integrated CD player.  I’m getting ahead of myself, though.  Long ass thin wires leading to exceptionally large speakers that put out exceptionally small, distorted sound.  Unless you could afford a good one, like a Sony.  Which I couldn’t.

 

Shit. I couldn’t even afford this one. I think mine was from K-mart or some such nonsense.

Additionally, it wasn’t until 1985 that I saw the movies “Breakin’” and “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” both released the previous year.

I wanted, so badly, to be Turbo (Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers), popping, locking, sliding, moonwalking before moonwalking was a thing.  Those smooth, seamless movements.  As you know, I was a chubby kid, so stunts, acrobatics, and athletic moves were never on the plate.  However, all of the smaller stuff, the smoother stuff?  I was totally hooked.  I practiced in front of a mirror and became…not horrible…at it.  Not great.  Not even good.  But…mediocre and competent for  chubby white kid with big glasses and discount sneakers.

And finally, from my small bedroom in Milford, late at night on Saturdays, if I nailed the fm antenna wire (…’member those?!…) in the perfect spot and if the clouds were aligned correctly, I would pick up a station from NYC that played only hip hop.  Later in life I’d seek out Rap City on BET, Yo MTV Raps, and any place, one, or thing that bumped hip hop.  But in my room, alone, seated on the edge of my bed ready to shift the nail and the wire if the signal fuzzed out, there I heard it.  And recorded it.  (Remember mix tapes?  Like for real mix tapes, recorded from the radio, praying that the DJ didn’t talk through the intro or the outro?)

The Beastie Boys, “Hold it now, hit it.”

Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, “The Show” and “La-Di-Da-Di.”

Run DMC, LL Cool J, eventually Kool Mo Dee, BDP, Rakim, EPMD, Marly Marl, Special Ed.

And the early novelty stuff.

The Rappin’ Duke, The Fat Boys, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.

Native tongue?  Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, ATCQ, Monie Love, Queen Latifah, Black Sheep.

Poor Righteous Teachers, Das EFX, Busta Rhymes on the Arsenio Hall show with ATCQ for the first time…exploding out of his verses in “Scenario.”  Public EnemyNWAIce-T.

That additional stuff?  That’s what married me to hip hop.

There are 5 – 7 years of my life through which I listened to almost nothing but hip hop or anything hip hop adjacent.

The only distinct additions I can remember were INXS and Guns ‘n’ Roses, which sort of opened the doors to both hair metal and grunge…but that’s another conversation for another day.

How is it that hip hop, and in particular the grittier, more honest, afrocentric, gangsta ass, Black power inspired, and counter cultural endeavors within the culture spoke so deeply to me?

I honestly don’t know.

I don’t think we can predict which music will plant itself in our souls and grow, nor when it will happen, nor how it will morph, expand, contract, and change.

Black art and culture are not, for me, the fetishistic pursuit of a poor white kid seeking exotic novelty.  I’ve explored that possibility across my conscious life.

No.  But I’ve always felt connected.

It certainly relates to my early experience with a Black step-Mother and her family who protected me from my emotionally toxic and abusive biological father.  But that can’t explain everything.  I still grew up po’ white, among po’ white folks with po’ white folk values and perspectives.

But maybe it was enough.  Perhaps the combination of my personality, the social justice Jesus tendencies of my Mom, and that pivotal experience with Angie and her family in the projects of Alequippa, PA explains everything.

I don’t know.

But what I do know is…

==========

Friends is a word we use everyday.
But most the time we use it in the wrong way.
Now you can look the word up, again and again,
but the dictionary doesn’t know the meaning of friends.
And if you ask me, you know, I couldn’t be much help,
because a friend is somebody you judge for yourself.
Some are okay and they treat you real cool.
But some mistake kindness for bein’ a fool.
We like to be with some because they’re funny.
Others come around when they need some money.
Some you grew up with around the way,
and you’re still real close to this very day.
Homeboys through the Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall.
And then there’s some we wish we never knew at all.
And this list goes on, again and again,
but these are the people that we call friends.

Jam On It

I was 10 years old, likely in the Spring of 1985, when I became a hip hop head for life.

However, back in 1984, I got hooked when I heard that bass line for the first time:

Dum………………..Dum…………………Dum…………………Dum………………..

…………………………………………….Dum………Dah.dum..Dum.dum……….

Dum………………..Dum…………………Dum…………………Dum………………..

…………………………………………….Dum………Dah.dum..Dum.dum……….

I heard it on my K-mart boom box.

Ah, the boom box.  It’s a piece of symmetrical engineering using only primary shapes that could easily serve as the emoji signifying the generation of people born in the mid-1970s who, like me, loved music and needed to have it loud and portable.  The classic matte silver tone with two large circles for speakers, black metal screen protecting those fragile speaker cones, symmetrically placed to the sides for a cassette shaped rectangle in the middle, radio dial at the top looking like an elementary school ruler, plastic pop up handle and non-swiveling (…that would come later…) telescopic antenna.

I heard it while on the Pittsburgh toilet in my Grandmother’s unfinished basement.

I should probably unpack that sentence for you.

Visit any house in Pittsburgh built during the steel era and, if the owners didn’t mess around with the underground, you’ll find an unfinished basement.  Floors painted grey and walls perhaps white, perhaps also grey, brick so rough you are destined to get regular brush burns on your arms or, if you’re particularly clumsy, cheeks.  Washer and dryer.  Or no dryer.  And, in either case, clotheslines strung across the low-ceilings (…always low ceilings.  It’s as if early Scotch-Irish Yinzers were hobbit-like in stature…), sure to nearly decapitate unsuspecting children and drunk husbands.  And somewhere in a corner, a toilet.  Just…there.  The porcelain throne, usually up on a tiny little concrete stage of sorts, toilet paper sitting atop the tank’s lid, entirely exposed.   And nearby?  A shower head…also just out in the open.  Why?  From what I understand, guys would come home from the mill “filthy dirty,” as my Grandmother would say, and would head straight into the basement, wash up (…a Pittsburgh term, more properly pronounced “warsh up”…), then head up for dinner.  My grandparents had a fancy Pittsburgh toilet.  They put a little money in it.  It had…actual walls around the toilet, and a sink and mirror.  Might have even been a medicine cabinet.  The shower was one of those enclosed metal boxes a few feet away.  And here the proverbial “shit, shave, and a shower” was born.

Visit any house in which I’ve spent considerable time and my ass has spent time on the most remote, least presentable seat.   I’ve always been a person who spent lots of time in and on the toilet.  Like, I have opinions on toilet seats.  (Oh, we all do, Greg.)  I don’t think you understand.   Or maybe you do.  I’ve heard it’s a dude thing…and in that way (…and not many others…) I am all dude.

These days reading and social media diving are my favorite privy past times.  In my early years, I’d grab the plunger, my boom box, tune in to B-94 (…think of whatever the big pop station was for you if you’re not a Pittsburgher…) and, well, Jam On It.

Oh yeah…that was the song.  It now strikes me that maybe you didn’t make the connection from the title, or the thumbnail, and most likely my interpretation of the bass line made little sense to you.  Go ahead back up, now that you know the song.  I did leave you a lot of clues, though.

Who cares? (Wikki-Wikki-Wikki-Wikki-Wikki-Wikki)

When Robert Crafton III dropped that bass line in my ear I was absolutely hooked.

After that point, I’d listen to the radio ONLY to hear that song.  I’d shift around stations until I heard it.  The Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Steve Miller, John Couger (…no Mellencamp yet…), Toto, Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, and .38 Special that had shaped my early 1980’s music sensibilities were all obliterated with Jam On It.

The song cracked my brain open.  I’d heard nothing like it to that point.  The drum machine, the keyboards, the rapping, the voice modulation, the Superman verse, background singers, the outro, and that unforgettable bass line.  All of it.  I mean, I’d heard and liked Blondie’s “Rapture” before this, but it didn’t blow my mind.

Newcleus did, like a nuclear bomb.

-G

 

P.S. My goal is to continue exploring my experience with and exposure to music and, in particular, hip hop through the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Newcleus was first.

Who came next?

Come back next week…friends.