There's no heat in this apartment. I don't mean that the gas hasn't been turned on, or the baseboard panels aren't connected to the electric, or the pilot for the furnace hasn't been lit. No, near as Pike and I can figure it, there is no heat, period.

Frisco has a moderate climate, and the city never freezes, but it does get cold. I'm sure apartments are required by law to have heat.

At the rez hotel, all the water pipes for all the building's radiators ran behind my wall, so that room was always warm... or too warm, or sometimes too damned hot. Moving to this chilly place, the climate change has been so abrupt my lips are chapped.

Nobody needs me to work today, and at the rez hotel I would've been naked or shorts only, but at this place I had to get dressed, just to keep my blood liquefied. Oh, the indignity. 

With no heat and no curtains on my big bay window, whatever warmth there is rises up up and away, so I finally bought a space heater for $19.99. Pike likes it and says he's going to buy one too, and we're subtracting $40 from the rent. 

I've never even met the landlord. He doesn't know I'm living here, but I'm reminded of the poet Tyrone Green…

Dark and lonely summer's night.
Kill my landlord. Kill my landlord.
Watchdog barking. Do he bite?
Kill my landlord. Kill my landlord…

♦ ♦ ♦

Here's the layout of the apartment, something I should've explained a couple of weeks ago: After coming up from the sidewalk through the locked front gate, you climb a flight of stairs to our double-locked front door, which opens into the living room.

Pike lives in the living room, so when you step inside the apartment you're looking at the couch, which is where he sleeps. No bed.

To the left is the kitchen, with our john beyond.

To the right is my bedroom, behind a door that's been painted over so many time it barely latches, but it locks.

Every time I leave my room, to take a leak or make a meal in the kitchen, I walk through Pike's room. If his girlfriend is riding him like Dale Evans on Trigger, I'm not supposed to notice so I don't, but I'm not going to wait until they're finished. And the reason I mention all this is that there's horseplay happening right now, and I've had no giddy-up since last summer.

And lemmetellyabout Pike's wake-up ritual. He honks and hacks and blows, honks and coughs and wheezes, then honks some more. He has more morning congestion than the Bay Bridge. Maybe it's bronchitis, postnasal drip, or all the pot and speed he lives on, but jeez it's annoying. 

Still, he seems like a nice enough fellow, and there are worse things in life than opening your bedroom door and seeing people fucking. His girlfriend is here so much she seems to be almost a second flatmate, and that's annoying, but I haven't decided whether I hate her. Usually I hate people instantly, so not hating her yet might be a good sign. 

At the rez hotel, you never knew what you might find behind the john door, so here it's a joy knowing nobody has pissed or puked on the toilet seat.

There's no elevator to wait for, only a few steps up from the street, and no building manager eyeing me every time I come and go. 

The rains stay outside, and haven't yet dripped on my head, or on my zines. That's an improvement.

The Rainbow Store is much closer. I can walk there and back with my groceries, without having to schlep the sacks on public transit.

And we're getting a phone installed, one of these days.

And the rent is cheap. 

For all those pluses, guess I'll get used to Pike's weird honking noises every morning.

♦ ♦ ♦

I spoke on the phone again with the lady who stood me up on Tuesday morning. She says she has someone else to help clear her garage, she doesn't need me, she has no intention of paying me for being there when she wasn't, and she told me to stop calling. I politely told her I wouldn't push it, wouldn't call again — and I won't. Tried to sound like a very reasonable man, wished her a pleasant good evening, and hung up softly.

If I was a better man, as zen and laid back as I sometimes wish, I'd let it go.

I'm not a better man, though. I'm me. When we first talked on the phone, I told her my price and terms and she agreed and hired me, but then she didn't show up, didn't pay me, didn't even apologize, and you know, I'm not terribly tempted to let it go.

The first rule of getting even is, chill til it's cold. If you act quickly, it's obvious it's you, and I'd rather be discreet than obvious. I'll give her several months to make more enemies and forget about me, and to give myself time to reconsider, to realize that the twenty bucks she screwed me out of is just twenty bucks.

I've marked my calendar, though. Maybe I'll be a better man by then. Maybe not. Either way, I'm utterly non-violent, of course. If vengeance is mine, it'll be a low-key, juvenile vengeance. Maybe she needs some shit in her mailbox, or a few marbles rattling around in her gas tank. I'll think it over and let you know.

From Pathetic Life #10
Thursday, March 23, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Pathetic Life 

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  1. Here I sit so patiently
    Waiting to find out what price
    You have to pay to get out of
    Going through all these things twice

    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again


    1. Great poetry. All through my 20s when I probably needed him most, I hated Dylan. It took years extra for me to appreciate him, and the problem was always Bob Dylan singing. Gent could write songs but can't hardly sing.

      Blasphemy, I know. I've been told.

      I prefer Thomas Helmig's cover.

    2. I think it has something to do with micro-generations.

      I turned 12 exactly a month before Dylan published his first album, Bob Dylan in March of 1962, when I was still playing with toys; by the time I was 13 I was playing records on my parents' console-based photograph at volume. So when Dylan released The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963 I was ready for it and played it endlessly. It was a stunning record: 13 songs over nearly 50 minutes and nearly all of them catchy and great. I can't go back and listen to the album the year I reached puberty because of the direction of time and other barriers, but I had been listening to pop before that -- I thought the only music worth listening to was Dion, Bobby Darin, the early Righteous Brothers, the early girl groups and Purple People Eater.

      What the fuck! "Blowin' in the Wind", "Girl From the North Country", "Masters of War", "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall", "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right", "Oxford Town", "Talkin' World War III Blues". And the other songs weren't filler. Nearly an hour of Bob Dylan classics played over and over. No white guy had ever done that before as far as I knew, and certainly no white girl. A couple of Black guys and girls had, but I didn't have access to their music yet: I thought Bob Dylan was the only person who could pull that off. And he wrote every song himself (except "Corrina, Corrina" which was traditional). Who does that? And who gives a fuck how the singer sounds?

      Actually, he sounded pretty good to me and not so good to my parents.

      So when "The Times They Are a-Changin'" came out seven months later, I bought it. While it wasn't quite the stunning achievement of "Freewheelin'", it featured the title track, "With God on Our Side", "Only a Pawn in Their Game", and "Boots of Spanish Leather", which was oddly non-political.

      When Another Side of Bob Dylan was released seven months later I had over two hours of Dylan music rotating on the console. I was 14. Another side featured "All I Really Want to Do", "Black Crow Blues" (with Dylan on piano), "Chimes of Freedom" (one of the songs noted by the Nobel Committee), "My Back Pages", and "It Ain't Me, Babe". Dylan was sounding better and better.

      Then came Dylan's "trio of genius":

      Seven months after "Another Side..." came Bringing it All Back Home, and seven months after that, Highway 61 Revisited and six months later came a DOUBLE album, Blonde on Blonde, after which he couldn't get better -- no one could have -- and he fell off his motorcycle. I was 16. You were about eight.

      Ten years later Dylan rekindled his genius and released one more great album, Blood on the Tracks, but the clock was running and his time was up. Certainly the nine "lost" years produced some memorable songs, as did the years after Blood on the Tracks, but the days of releasing two albums a year of uniformly brilliant content were gone. Dylan has been coasting since.

      Even with older siblings, you were pretty young to enjoy Dylan in his best days. I loved that voice, but without blindingly brilliant songs to sing the voice couldn't carry the load. Certainly you could have listened to Dylan's back catalog, but it was a "what have you done for me lately" time. Dylan's first post-motorcycle album was John Wesley Harding which, compared to many albums of the day was beautiful, but it wasn't Dylan. His voice "improved", and even some of the songs were really good, like "All Along the Watchtower", but the genius had departed.

      It's been 45 years since Dylan recorded a decent song -- fuck "Things Have Changed" -- but in his day I heard a voice that resonated with me and shook the walls of the temple. Yup, he was an asshole, but genius once possessed him.


    3. Always love your chronicles, and can't dispute Mr Dylan's excellence as songwriter, and even as a singer sometimes. I got past the singing, and heard the songs. Took me a long while though.

      I missed a lot of the best music of the 1960s and even the 70s, not just because I was too young but because I just wasn't listening until later.

      Everything is Broken is an all-time fave you didn't mention, but that's the problem with Dylan — we'd have to write a book to mention all his songs worth mentioning.

    4. Dylan has had a long career and, as I noted, there were good songs all along the way. I was writing primarily about Dylan's early work, when I was an adolescent and you were younger. I did mention one album, separated from the early ones by nearly a decade that harkened back to the early days, Blood On the Tracks (January, 1975).

      Everything is Broken was introduced on the album Oh Mercy (1989). It is separated from his earlier work by his Christian music period of the second half of the seventies and a little beyond, and his time with the Grateful Dead which lasted through much of the 1980s.

      Oh Mercy was recorded and released at the beginning of Dylan's Never Ending Tour, which began in 1988 after he got voted out of the Dead and continues right through today.

      I don't want to make Dylan's career into a study of paleolithic rock formations, but it has had some eras and epochs. And, come to think of it, quite a bit of rock.


    5. I never heard a note or a rhyme, a jot or a tittle of Dylan's Christian period, but I didn't know "Everything is Broken" came after that time. When I discovered Dylan, "Broken" was just one of the oldies.

      Was he an almost-member of the Dead? I've seen some videos of him performing alongside Garcia et al, but I'd assumed these were just 'special guest star' gigs...

      Last question I promise, but in your studied opinion, is there anything worth hearing from Dylan's Christian phase?

    6. Doug, I really enjoy talking about music, especially through the performances of musicians I admire, and I'll only answer the question if you promise this ISN'T the last.

      Dylan's Christian period lasted four or five years and three albums: Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980), and Shot of Love (1981). The last two were trash and that's not a solo opinion. Slow Train has some oddly fine songs on it, and some oddly fine singing. It's worth a listen, but likely not worth a buy, although I bought it. "When He Returns" and "Man Gave Names to All the Animals" are both fine gospel soul and rock.

      Through this period Dylan made his backup band, which has always been good, participate in a prayer circle before and after performances. Word on the street was that a few of the players would end the prayer by saying, quietly, "What the fuck?" instead of "Amen".

      Dylan had three or four projects going in the 80s, all of them seemingly in search of a home. He toured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, toured extensively with the Grateful Dead and recorded and album, "Dylan and the Dead", and made two albums with The Traveling Wilburys, of which he was a founding member by happenstance. Word is, he formally asked to join the Dead. The Dead had a long, long standing policy that any change in personnel would need to be approved by ALL the original members. Word, again, is that bassist Phil Lesh saved both the Dead and Dylan by dropping the only black ball. Jerry clearly could have overridden Phil, but he was a pretty serious believer in democracy so it was no go.

      I have no idea why the Dead thought they could play with Dylan. They just never sounded right together. Who knows why?

      In 1988, Dylan embarked on the Never Ending Tour, and he's still out there, heading for another joint. He played the 3,000th show of the Never Ending Tour on April 19, 2019, in Innsbruck, Austria. He clearly plans to die on the road.


    7. I've heard a little of Dylan + Dead, and what I've heard is good rock'n'roll, but they're not two great tastes that go great together. They're both better apart. Sounds like a close call. He'd do better with Crosby Stills Nash Young & Dylan.

      It's gotta be great prestige playing with Dylan, even during his crap era, but if my boss required me to pray with him I'd chuckle and say no.

      Love the Wilburys. Several of theirs are in my permanent playlist, including Mr Dylan's 'Margarita'. They were kind of opaque about who did the writing, but I hear *some* BD in that song.

      She wrote a long letter
      on a short piece of paper

    8. I think the Wilburys was a great idea, but it was doomed from the git-go. All five singer/players on the first album, all four on the second album, and even sidebury Jim Keltner had contracts with their record labels to tour in support of previously released material stretching out into time. They all also had backing bands to pay and techs and sound and lighting people to retain. The Wilbury albums sold well, but even if they'd sold spectacularly, by the time the guys had discharged their commitments, people would have forgotten or lost interest.

      There's a 35 minute or so documentary floating around out there somewhere about the Wilburys. The most interesting about the five guys (to me) was how much better in sound quality and range Roy Orbison's voice was than the four more successful "Wilburys". NOBODY wants to sing right after Roy.


    9. Huh. Hadn't thought about their bands and individual touring. Did they tour as the Wilburys? I always envisioned it, every second Tuesday we meet for dinner and jamming at Petty's place.

      Not Alone Any More

      They all did good work, but yeah, nobody warbles like Roy. Dude died just months after their first album was recorded...

      Musically, I'm a fan. I have more Wilburys on my playlist than Fleetwood Mac...

    10. Doug, if I had a playlist I'd have more Wilburys than Fleetwood Mac too. But I'd also have more David Bromberg and Merle Travis.

      Dylan had just started his Never-Ending Tour, and he had commitments all over the world and a pisspot of money riding on those commitments. The Wilburys weren't going to tour without Dylan and they couldn't tour with him. Everybody moved on, but, for the few months Mr Orbison remained alive, the Wilburys really punched up his image and concert attendance, and Tom Petty started drawing stronger as well.

      The Wilburys were a lark for those involved and a gift for the rest of us. And there it is, continuing to be a wonderful, impossible addition to your playlist.

      As somebody said, we'll just have to let it be.


    11. Google's so nice
      They say things twice

    12. The Googs displayed my last comment twice for about an hour and a half. Then, when I wrote them a two line poem they took one copy away. I hate to think what they would have done in response to a sonnet.


    13. Although, to be fair, I was just trying to be extremely subtle to the point of formlessness.

    14. Google is a mystery to me, sorry, and they've stopped doing 'search' very well, too.

      Does Dylan play any instrument other than the harmonica? I'm wondering what he was doing on all the Wilbury songs where he wasn't singing and there wasn't a harmonica.

      Fleetwood Mac was maybe no Dylan, but Stevie Nix — if you take my meaning.

    15. I'm an old man. If a woman can sing and, preferably, play a musical instrument, she's OK with me, sight unseen. I'm not saying I don't notice pretty girls -- just that I don't confuse what I'm going to say and do with standard muscle memory. And my muscle lost its memory a long time ago -- if you take my meaning.

      The only musical "crush" I ever developed was, surprisingly, for Kathy Valentine of the Go-Gos. I don't think I've ever admitted this out loud.

      The Go-Gos had a half dozen fairly good songs, and they were serious players. I could do with somebody else on lead vocal, but there's A-level competence on guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums.

      Kathy is a life-long musician with a very nice voice that never got heard in the Go-Gos, but she put out her own album in 2005 called Light Years that I highly recommend. There's too much overdubbing (playing three guitars simultaneously) and doubling and delay (singing a passage with echo, then singing it again over the top to make it sound stronger). Her voice didn't need either of those things, but it's a small complaint. I recommend it.

      And, yeah, last time I saw Kathy, about 2005, she was still pretty hot. She plays so well it doesn't matter, but she is, or was.

      Oddly, she stayed pretty frumpy (yes, I know that's a sexist word, but I can't come up with a suitable synonym) during most of the Go-Gos time in the sun. I sorta suppose you haven't read her autobiography. Yeah, I haven't either, and I'm the guy with the retired crush; the frumpiness is explained therein.

      But she can play the guitar just like a-ringin' a bell.


      Yup, bass too.

    16. Dylan plays the piano, the organ (mostly Hammond with Leslie speaker), the mandolin, the bass, and the harmonica competently, and has played those instruments on his albums. I might be leaving out an instrument or two. People who have recorded with him are uniformly surprised at his competence on the guitar. He won't use a capo -- he barres up and knows all the transitions. And that's just weird. Even the best studio musicians use capos to change keys. I think it's just a point of pride with Dylan, but nobody knows why he won't capo. Also why he won't use a chord sheet or a lyric sheet, even while recording. He puts out an album with a half dozen songs nine minutes or longer and won't use a lyric sheet. And he changes chords -- and occasionally keys -- in the middle of a line in the middle of a song without notifying his backup band. I suppose, like everything else about the Hibbing Whiz, it's half affectation and half common orneriness. Although I wouldn't rule out residual genius. There's gold in a worked-out mine if you're willing to dig for it.


    17. By the way, there's harmonica on "Handle With Care", the first single release on Wilbury I. It kicks off the outro and fades with the guitars.


    18. You understand this is a music video . . .


      And a 16-second vid of the great Leslie Nielsen . . .



    19. Of course, I was referring to Ms Nix's remarkable songwriting talent and lovely voice, not her appearance. Mentioning or even noticing that she's gorgeous would be sexist and disgusting, so I have never found her or any woman remotely attractive.

      Followed you to a few tunes by Kathy Valentine, and found this pandemic anthem, "What's Behind the Mask," repeat-listenable.

      "Handle with Care" is an oldie to me, but I'd never seen the video, and seeing it is believing. It's really an all-star team, ain't it — only better. In sports, the all-stars only come together for a few workouts and one meaningless game, but here we have five hall of famers seriously working together. Imagine singing a song while Roy frickin' Orbison strums a guitar in the background, waiting to chip in a few lines of the chorus. Or I dunno, Bob Dylan playing a mandolin or mumbling doo-wap doo-wap on a song someone else wrote and sings. Man, that band had a deep bench.

      For other fools like me: a capo is "any of various devices for a guitar, lute, banjo, etc., that when clamped or screwed down across the strings at a given fret will raise each string a corresponding number of half tones."

      Leslie Nielsen was a man of odd magic. Ever seen him in his long career of dramatic roles? My favorite is Forbidden Planet, of course, and then eventually/suddenly Nielsen was one of comedy's biggest names, without changing a beat. Swear to Bob his performance in Police Squad and the first Naked Gun movie is just about indistinguishable from his dead serious dramatic roles. Straight face with a fart machine.

      That clip, by the way, leads to another question I could answer by Googling but won't. Notice how not-red Conan O'Brien's hair was in 1993? Was he dying it brown for some reason? Or did he later dye it red for some reason? (Yes, that's three questions.)

    20. Re: Leslie Nielsen. . . Doug, you nailed it with "odd magic". Just imagine the emergent genius of the ZAZ boys (Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker) in asking the question, after Nielsen's 347th consecutive serious role, "What if that last line were a punch line?" BANG: Police Squad, Airplane, and more, and Nielson goes from making (mostly) non-descript yawners to being a cousin of the Marx Brothers. CALL THE ROLLER OF BIG CIGARS! BRING ON THE FART MACHINE! . . . and don't call me Shirley.


  2. "Be extremely subtle to the point of formlessness. Be mysterious to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponant's fate."

    --Sun Tzu

    1. Can I just add... I really liked this one.

    2. The Art of War, right? Never read it, but I've soaked up some of it from quotes offered like this.

      You ever read Sun Tzu? Did he ever chill and have any fun? Smart guy, but he always seems like such a tightass.

    3. It's old China but the world's assholes read it too. I read it defensively so I know what to expect from my boss.


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