Why Dogs Love Snow

ZakAnyone who owns a dog has witnessed their reaction to snow and has probably wondered why they get so get excited.

The recent blizzard that rolled through the Northeast U.S. last night, leaving behind several inches of the stuff, has the dogs in my neighborhood in a special type of euphoria.

Here is a simple villanelle that I think does a good job of explaining why all the fuss.

Why Dogs Love Snow

This is why all dogs love snow
They were once angels like Gabriel
Dog reversed spells God, you know

Who will protect man if we go?
They have no claws, teeth or sense of smell
This is why all dogs love snow

Man’s wits its true are keen, although
They’re often led astray to Hell
Dog reversed spells God, you know

Winter sky; lonely howls come from below
Send news divine in an epistle
This is why all dogs love snow

On every crystal flake words flow
From quills dipped in seraphim’s inkwell
Dog reversed spells God, you know

Frozen to his fur, dog plucks a folio
And reads aloud to man this sacred mail
This is why all dogs love snow
Dog reversed spells God, you know

The L.A. Office Party

“This is a story about an office worker who questions the value of his new job after relating a humiliating experience he endured in order to be eligible for the position.”

 The L.A. Office Party

Preparations for the L.A. Office Party began in the morning and included collecting proceeds from the entire office staff to fund the event. It was intended as a celebratory sendoff for two people I’d never met, much less ever worked with, yet before me stood the soiree’s two organizers holding a child’s trick-or-treat bucket made from orange plastic and molded into the shape of a smiling jack-o-lantern. By the time the pair of young women had worked their way through the labyrinth of cubicles to my desk, the garish, fake pumpkin head was lined with wrinkled bills. I tossed in the requested cover charge and they shuffled on to the next desk where one of the girls picked through the Halloween gourd to make change for a twenty. Going desk-to-desk was a popular strategy here whenever a barrage of e-mail invitations to a corporate function was met with little enthusiasm. I had witnessed the same tactic employed during the holiday season after a string of e-mails, decorated with holly and candy-cane clip art, had failed to generate enough interest in the office’s Secret Santa. No one could refuse two beaming young ladies with hat in hand and a wholesome, company sanctioned purpose and so I watched everyone in my row, even the people who would never attend, ante up.

I had no desire to spend an additional hour with co-workers after the whistle blew, drinking cheap beer while nibbling on corn chips in the vain hope that the explosive crunching noises in my head would drown out the banal small talk. I was already spending a full nine hours sitting in a small cubicle, lit only by the light emanating from my computer monitor. On the day I started, the fluorescent tube overhead had buzzed for a brief period, sputtered, and gone dark. It had remained that way ever since. I should have taken that as a portent, packed up my stuff and gone home, but instead I dutifully reported the malfunction to the office manager who assured me an electrician would be hired to make the repair. A full six months later and I was still spending my day in a cramped, dark pen and drawing parallels between my life and that of a veal calf. It was hard to imagine, in the difficult economic times of the day, that it would be such a challenge to find someone with a pair of wire cutters and a roll of electrical tape who needed a little work. But I reasoned that any electrician worth his salt was too busy making real money helping desperate landlords rewire their buildings to burn down for the insurance money.

I rode the elevator two floors up to another department where people would migrate as the working day lumbered to an end. The spread was laid out on the table of a conference room beneath a skylight that framed the bleak, winter heavens. I took a quick inventory to see what my money had bought me and decided I’d seen more promising fare at high school keg parties. Party-sized bags of junk food had been opened and their contents shaken out into a matching set of four plastic bowls ordered from an office supply catalog. The large containers formed a semi-circle around two smaller vessels. One was nearly overflowing with artificially red salsa that had come from a jar with a label sporting the bright national colors of Mexico. The other held an unctuous, chartreuse blob that I figured was somebody’s version of guacamole dip. The empty chip bags were crumpled in the waste basket, but for some reason the jar remained on the table with a few globs of glistening salsa clinging to the inside of the glass and around the rim. Its top, however, was nowhere in sight. A board with an imitation wood-grain finish was piled high with rubbery cubes of yellow and white cheese. Some of these had been speared with toothpicks as if to suggest the proper etiquette for eating this particular savory. A few bottles of red and white wine towered over neat rows of domestic and imported beers. By the look of the condensation beading on the brown and green glass, they had almost come to room temperature in time for the arrival of the first guests. I chose what I thought was the most expensive brew and wasted no time getting the coldest part inside me.

People began to filter into the board room in groups of three or more. Formal organizational charts be damned; the real structure of the corporation was comprised of these tight-knit units: tiny confederacies and alliances forged from common interests, departmental membership, or out of office political necessity. They circled the table like gastro-aficionados carefully mulling over the generous choices set before them, but in fact this was simply the ritual dance people perform when overly self-conscious about displaying their gluttony in front of one another. Two people joked about the vintage of a certain Shiraz while another attempted to extract the cork. A man I recognized from a desk near my own dipped a large corn chip into the bowl of salsa. His scooping action sent a wave of chunky sauce over the edge of the bowl leaving what might have been enough for another chip on the table. Like blood being spilled, it was a sign to the others to descend upon the kill.

I took another beer while there was still an opening and got to work on making an exit before I got boxed in by the swelling numbers. Quite a crowd had gathered already, so I had to flatten myself against the wall and inch along toward the door like a man on a narrow ledge. Outside, a few people were standing in a circle, looking at pictures of a newborn on a proud parent’s cell phone. According to one of them, she had her father’s eyes. Music was playing from a set of computer speakers in a cubicle that was abandoned except for Levi whose attention was focused on reading the insert of the CD that was presumably the thing providing the party’s background music.

“We have it on good authority that the baby has her father’s eyes.”

“Huh?” Levi glanced up from the little booklet at the circle and resumed his study of the CD credits. “Oh, that. Shit, people are full of it, all babies look alike.”

Leviticus Johnson, Levi for short, was our receptionist and general office factotum. He was ordered around by nearly everyone but never more unreasonably so than by the office manager, Ms. Selena Hooper, whose diurnal harassment he endured with the serene composure of a Buddhist monk. I liked Levi and we got along nicely. Having been a receptionist once myself, I empathized with his situation and never bothered him with inane requests or complaints. When I first shared this information with him, we connected in the same way that two soldiers might after surviving combat together. We were also the same age in an office with two predominate populations. The first: recent college graduates who used the word “like” in every sentence – it was the “uh and um” of a new generation. The second was a population of professionals. Well into their careers, they too had developed their own esoteric tongue by combining business speak and the dialects of domesticated suburbanites.

When I reported for my first day of work, Levi was the only person that knew I was starting, aside from the human resources department that operated out of corporate headquarters in another state. Nonetheless, he had a building ID, surrendered by my predecessor, ready for me. He had carved out a temporary space and even convinced the bitter, exasperated desktop support specialist to loan me a laptop to use in the interim until a new computer arrived. By the end of business, all of the necessary paperwork ensuring I would receive a bi-weekly check, had been faxed off to payroll due to Levi’s efforts, alone.

Levi Johnson was a longtime denizen of our alienating metropolis. Many years ago, the promise of fame and fortune had drifted from the big city to Johnson’s tiny hamlet in the South East and, like thousands of young people before him – and since – he’d boarded a Greyhound with little more than a change of clothes and the dream of becoming an actor. He had held down a series of menial jobs to support his passion and, while he had gained a wealth of experience and insight into the ugly gears and guts of the business world, he’d met with very little success as a thespian. So, with his mid-thirties fading, he had scrapped what was left of his dream and enrolled in an MBA program.

I pointed over my shoulder with a half empty bottle towards the conference room. “Have you joined the party, yet?”

“You have got to be joking. I’d lose a finger if I stuck them into that feeding frenzy. You’d think these people hadn’t eaten in days the way they pounce on free food. It’s chips, for Christ sakes.”

The low rumble of unintelligible voices vibrated through the walls of the conference room like a massive engine in endless, groaning toil. Occasionally, a louder voice would rise above the drone before sinking back into the cacophonous throb.

A heavy set man with a shining, bald head and a ridiculous, salt and pepper Van Dyke emerged from the party shouting into a cell phone. He pressed a pudgy index finger into his other ear to block the sounds of celebration and surveyed his immediate surroundings for a quiet corner. He squinted at Levi and me as if the music that hummed around us was of a blinding volume and took off down the hall in the opposite direction.

Levi threaded the CD’s liner notes back into the case and slid the package along the smooth desktop like a hockey puck. “Come on man, let’s grab a smoke.”

(to be continued)

X Spells Christmas

window-sale

Christmas day is nearly upon us and it is with no small amount of pride, relief and astonishment that I can shout from the roof top: I am ready!

Shopping – check.

Decorations – done.

Cards, RSVPs, Gifts – mailed.

Christmas song – Christmas song? Yes, that has also been written, recorded and posted here for the public.

I hope you all have your holiday ditties in the can by now because musicians are hard to book on such short notice this close to December 25th.

Regretfully, I waited too late to produce one of my more bizarre Christmas videos. So, fans of the King Truelove Festive Film Festival® may be disappointed at having to watch reruns. But I hope you will enjoy this addition to my Christmas Oeuvre.

or Download the MP3

A note about this song. There is usually some hubbub around the more secular spelling of Christmas, Xmas. It makes more than a few Christians uncomfortable when Christ is dropped from one of their holiest holidays. There is more on this here Xmas Reading.

If you are devout please keep in mind that in this song X spells Christmas because two lovers have parted.

The guitar was played by country music superstar John Carini.

Archives of the King Truelove Festive Film Festival®.

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2011

And of course some heavy metal

Iron Maiden Christmas

9 Word Football

“Dynamism of a Soccer Player” by Umberto Boccioni

I have always enjoyed “Dynamism of a Soccer Player” by Umberto Boccioni. I have visited it many times at the MoMA here in New York.

In the painting Boccioni breaks down the form of a soccer player into pure energy that moves out into the surrounding atmosphere.

I have never been very good with a paint brush, as many an art teacher and the dingy walls of my apartment can attest. I did, however, attempt to deconstruct a soccer game I saw recently. Here’s to all you strikers out there who like to keep your game simple.

9 Word Football
Kick, Kick, Kick
Head…Head
Kick, Kick…Foul…Card
Throw…Head…
Kick, Kick, Kick…
Miss!
Frustration.
Exultation!
Kick, Head…Kick
Score!
Exultation!
Frustration.
Kick, Kick, Kick

African 12 Gauge Trance Music

My 12 Gauge

I love shotguns. Handguns are sexy, rifles, efficient but nothing says you mean business like a shotgun. Just the word alone has power. Go ahead, say it out loud and listen to those hard consonants and feel that dark aftertaste it leaves on your tongue.

I am not allowed to own a shotgun where I live. Even if I could possess such a thing it would fall into disuse here in the city. It would collect dust much like the balafons, ngonis, and djembes that have been collecting dust around your own house.

Instead, I have  bass guitars. Singers make the money, guitarists take the glory but bass players are the dark horse, we know a visceral secret. And we get the girls.

I have a 12 string bass who I call 12 Gauge. If it were to play in an ensemble with your dusty African instruments it would sound something like this bit of music by Nhoj Serya.

Download Free MP3 (right click to Save As…)

Algiers Louisiana

I love New Orleans even when it rains. There are plenty of places to take shelter if you get caught without an umbrella. You are never too far away from a good bar,  for instance. However, in this picture a sudden thunderstorm caught me between establishments and I had to make do with a balcony. If I had been close enough to duck into one of my favorite places I might have played this little 45 on the jukebox. It is an on old single  from an artist named Jimmy “Ghost” White called Algiers.
John Truelove in New Orleans

Morrissey Plays Bass in a Country Band

John Truelove channels Morrissey on Bass

I must play the one and fifth only
And listen to myths troubling and lonely
Of cheatin’ and lyin’ and blue eyes a’cryin’
In the rain where farms burn to the ground

The whisky and smoky refrains
The rumbling rhythm of trains
The drawl and the twang and Good Old Boy slang
The Nashville and Bakersfield sound

Long roads, hard times and good people
Faith and the little white steeple
Captured in verse for better or worse
Troubles and joys are entwined

With four-string and passport in hand
I am leaving this old country band
For England’s bleak shores and her moldy old bores
Where sorrow is much more refined

Violence

Violence is a terrible thing for a child to carry around

When I was young I often saw my parents fight

My father would tell my mother he would kill her

Then he would threaten us kids

My mother would threaten to leave

And he would threaten to kill himself

 

Mrs Wilson lived two houses down the street

She would come over for coffee

Sometimes her face was puffy and discolored

We would be sent outside to play

Once I hid in the laundry room beside the kitchen and watched them

Through the wooden louvers of the door

My mother comforted our sobbing neighbor

Like she would one of us after falling off a bicycle

 

Violence is a terrible thing for a child to carry around

Like receiving a shining silver dollar

From the moldy purse of a distant relative who smells of mothballs

They don’t understand what it is or its purpose

Until one day a playground bully turns them upside down

And shakes the coin from their pocket

Other children scramble to pick it up screaming

“Money, get the money.”

Their circle tightens around the gleaming profile of Eisenhower

Little fingers with dirty nails claw desperately

To be the new owner of this hypnotizing treasure

Sayounara, Mr. Coffey

I am reminded nearly every day how much the world has changed in the short time that separates my childhood from the present. My wife recently sent me a text message from London announcing her safe arrival. Not long ago she would have been faced with the complications of an international call hoping that I would be home to pick up the phone. One might not think that a simple haircut would cause a person to reflect upon the capricious nature of our modern age. After all, the mechanics of blades slicing off hair has remained fairly constant throughout history. But each time I visit my hair salon one of my earliest memories returns to be measured against its present day scenario.

I look forward to haircuts nowadays. Not only because they leave me looking younger and more handsome but I enjoy the whole experience of pampering and personalized service. I also enjoy being in the company of the salon’s intelligent, beautiful, staff of Japanese women.

There weren’t any girls in Mr. Coffey’s barber shop when I was a boy. The closest thing to a girl in that establishment was a little sissy like me who had been pulled by the locks of his flaxen towhead by his grandfather. He sported the proper buzz cut of a man’s man and I was to be transformed into his masculine image by the angry sneer of a pulsating trimmer. The closest thing to Japanese in small town North Carolina would have been a bottle of Kikkoman if, indeed, it was available.

“Well, hello Mr. White. I see you brought your granddaughters,” Mr. Coffey, owner and operator would joke, referring to my older brother and me above the glassy tinkle of a tiny bell dancing above the door to announce our entrance. My brother got the worst of the barber’s all-in-good-fun derisions because he was also on the chubby side. So, besides comments about his mama letting his hair get long he endured digs about his mama “feedin’ him good, too.”

The staff at the salon I patronize today does not indulge in this type of playful ridicule no matter how innocent or how easily my appearance makes it for a person with a predilection for acerbic observations. Instead, I am greeted at the reception area with bright smiles and cheery hellos. In the colder months they offer to hang my coat and remain patient and pleasant as I fumble around blindly behind the fogged lenses of my glasses threatening to upset the neat piles of magazines. These are glossy fashion and design periodicals from Tokyo, Berlin and New York spread out for waiting clientele to idly thumb through.

No such reading materials were provided at Mr. Coffey’s. The best a literate customer might have hoped for was a well-read and wrinkled daily paper left behind by a freshly shaved banker. For the most part, however, anyone in for a trim sat silently or passed the time participating in the mindless palaver of middle-aged men. The topics varied but I remember them mostly focusing on the hair length and possible gender Mr. White’s grandsons. Every now and again, amid the chuckles produced by one of Mr. Coffey’s nasty bon mots, someone might feel comfortable enough to join in the fun and add their own chiding two cents. Once a gaunt shadow of a man in overalls offered that “he had a son-in-law with hair down to his shoulders if it was a inch.”

There is plenty of long hair at my salon, on both men and women alike, and it all gets treated to a luxurious wash by one of the junior staff members working her way through cosmetology school. With the same care used to handle an infant, this young woman gently lowers my head backwards into a basin of black porcelain where her soothing fingers work up a rich lather of mild, fragrant shampoo. I am then rinsed squeaky clean with warm water the smells and feels like summer rain. Towel-dried, I am lead with overly cordial gestures to the swiveling thrown of my stylist who begins to comb down the saturated strands while asking my reflection in the mirror how much of it should be removed.

If you had a wet head while seated in  Coffey’s massive iron barber chair it meant you’d been caught in a sudden downpour on your way to the shop. My hair was always as dry as the scratchy paper collar fastened around my neck and there were certainly never any questions about desired style or length. Once I’d climbed into a special seat designed to elevate kids to the average height of an adult, I was wrapped securely in a smothering white smock and at the total mercy of this heavy set stranger who smelled of talcum and a stale cigar smoke.

A thick slab of ominous leather hung heavily from a hook on the back of the chair. I recognized it as the razor strop from the nightmare stories my grandfather told of a not too distant generation that brandished such sinister weapons for use upon the tender hides of naughty children and undisciplined, recalcitrant youth. As the clippers began harvesting the crop of my scalp, I focused every bit of energy a five-year-old could muster on being a good boy that didn’t fidget.

I don’t fidget now; there is nothing to make me feel uncomfortable as my stylist’s begins deftly snipping away at my dead ends. Photos ring the mirror like a wreath hung as a journal of her world travels and in each snapshot she poses in front of some famous landmark or natural wonder or at a table set with dishes of exotic food. Vacations and cuisine are generous topics for casual and enlightening conversation and in no time my head is beautifully manicured. The tiny debris left behind is rinsed away and during the application of invigorating peppermint conditioner, my temples and forehead are softly kneaded. I am given a hot towel for my face and after my new cut is shaped with pomade, my neck and shoulders receive a relaxing massage. I hit the New York streets ready for action, feeling and looking like a new man.

Mr. Coffey concluded his business by sweeping you with a few brusque and desultory strokes of a stiff bristled brush. Despite this treatment and the protective intentions of the collar and suffocating smock I always itched until my next bath. And, even for a kid, I looked terrible. I felt even worse riding home in the nauseating backseat of my grandfather’s Buick rubbing the stubble of my unimaginative Dachau trim.

Mr. Coffey and his shop are long gone now. So is my grandfather. A lot has changed since then, too. However, had they lived long enough to understand that I get my hair cut by a woman at a hair salon in New York there is little doubt that my status as a sissy among these men would endure all time.