Archive for the Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) Category

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Freak Show Has Now Closed: Michael Jackson

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) on June 27, 2009 by tigereye

It’s not unfair, I think, to say Michael Jackson died as he lived: in the middle of a circus.

Not only was this literal – Bubbles, Neverland, toys, fawning and slightly unbalanced fans – but he caused a circus in death, too, and like that last rube out of the freak tent, I couldn’t quit watching. I was glued to NBC when I should have been working, watching a chubby-cheeked, talented black kid grow up into that rare creature in the ’80s — a star who actually had talent — and then that star as he turned into something whiter than me, with a wig a drag queen would have envied and pajama pants and enough money to buy himself out of being a pedophile.

I’m not mourning Jackson, in case you’re wondering. I gave up on him while I was still in my teens, when he released the substandard “Bad” on the heels of the truly phenomenal “Thriller.” If it was possible to give up even more, I did this too, in the ’90s, when he started fondling kids. My old boyfriend, N.J. (Not John), and I used to tell the kids who worked for him that Michael Jackson used to be just eccentric. They joked back that we were making it up.

But I have to say I miss something, and I’ve missed it for a while: the rare and few good moments of my childhood.

I miss the kid who got the “Off the Wall” album for Christmas and played it ’til the grooves wore down, dancing spastically in front of my parents’ stereo to “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” when they were safely two rooms away. I miss the 12-year-old who saved her allowance to buy “Thriller,” which was, no kidding, the only redeeming feature of seventh grade, when I was thrown into a school where it was wrong to be poor and smart and ugly. “Thriller” sort of saved my life, which is pathetic. I fell into that album the way a lot of kids fell into Goth. It was a brilliant distraction.

I loved that album, and I guess I loved the Michael Jackson 2.0 who released it. It was hard to argue with him back then. Even my mom, who doesn’t own a freak flag and wouldn’t fly it if she did, watched that Motown special where he glittered and moonwalked, and said, “He’s really talented, I have to give him that.” (I also recall her adding, thoughtfully, “But he seems kind of weird.”)

I played the living daylights out of “Thriller” like I’d never played a non-Elvis album before. There wasn’t really anything you could criticize about it. Michael Jackson lucked into Quincy Jones and produced what I still have to say is a work of art. Speaking of Jones, let me clear something up: anyone who’s out there comparing Jackson to Elvis should shut up right now, because you can’t compare them. Elvis changed the world. Elvis made Michael Jackson possible. And Elvis stopped at “eccentric” and didn’t wander on down the freak show to climb into the “lunatic” cage. Michael Jackson, without Quincy Jones’ brilliance added to his talent, might never have been more than “good.”

My dinky town didn’t get cable ’til 1989, so I missed the premiere of the massive “Making of Thriller” video and had to wait, itching with impatience, for my favorite uncle to tape it for me. Of course I loved it. I watched it until my parents complained and then I got up late at night when they were in bed and watched it again.

I didn’t know it, but that was the height of Jackson for me; the roller coaster went straight downhill after that. He got weird. He got white. He got plastic surgery and Brooke Shields and a chimp and, God help her, Lisa Marie Presley, whose daddy would have warned her off him if he could. I was done with him before he started inviting kids to Neverland, kids who always seemed to be from marginal, troubled, kind-of-trashy homes. This wasn’t out of sympathy for their circumstances but, as it turned out, because those kids’ parents didn’t mind putting them in harm’s way for a million or two… kind of like Jackson’s own father, with his own ruined, troubled kids. In the end, not only did he prey upon children, he preyed upon the poor, and if one hadn’t been enough to finish him off for me, the combination was fail-safe.

I don’t miss Michael Jackson, who died at 50 of cardiac arrest brought on by God only knows what combination of pharmaceuticals. I feel weird about anybody who does. But I wish I had known, 25 years ago when my uncle gave me the “Thriller” video on tape, that it was the last thing I’d ever see by the guy who made two brilliant albums. I would have mourned him then, just as surely as if he’d dropped dead while walking down the midway, where his seat onstage in the freak show awaited him.

I would have mourned this: Michael Jackson, star of “Thriller” and “Off the Wall” and the Apollo Theater, died yesterday. He was 25. The cause of death is believed to be fatal, irreversible changes that occurred in his heart.

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Pegasus

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) on May 16, 2009 by tigereye

All the great ones are freaks, after all.

They’re bigger than other colts their age sometimes: Man o’War was massive. His jockeys almost never let him run as freely as he wanted to, and he fought them, straining against the bit all the way as he won and won and won. Ruffian, fifty years later, danced in the paddock to get back to the track and run again. She, too, towered over fillies and colts alike. Secretariat, who shared Man o’War’s nickname of “Big Red,” was often the biggest colt in the field, and would languish at the back of the pack for a few strides before springing to the front and staying there.

Some of the greatest, though, don’t look like winners. Seabiscuit was small and barrel-shaped, the size of a saddle horse… until you put him on a track, when his spirit and drive made him into a champion. Kelso, the great gelding, was often described as “deerlike,” but he won carrying astonishing weights, claiming five Jockey Club Gold Cups in five years. They weren’t larger than life until they started to run, and then they became something else, something greater, before our eyes.

Sometimes we don’t get them for long. If you’ve watched Ruffian or Barbaro, you won’t forget it, the way they wanted to fly, and nearly did, right up until the end. Sometimes they run for years, like Seabiscuit and Kelso, winning and winning at ages that seem advanced in comparison to the three-year-olds we watch every year, and live a long time. Man o’War made such a mark after two years, his name is still mentioned today when he’s in a horse’s bloodline, even though he raced in 1919 and 1920. Secretariat, caught on film in many of his victories, looks like a special effect – no horse could really do that, could he? Is it possible to win by 31 lengths?

They were all freaks. But what’s the difference, really, between a miracle and a freak? They were like steps forward in the evolution of the animal, so much faster that the others could only catch up. Sometimes nature allows us to see what’s coming next, a faster horse, a more competitive horse, a little more beauty and amazement than we think is possible. We get a closer look at perfection.

Watch them, coming down the stretch. Watch them pulling away – see how easy it is for them. They’re trying to take flight. You can see the beginnings of their wings.

Goodbye, Butch Cassidy

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) on September 28, 2008 by tigereye

Say hi to Elvis for me. You are missed.

Downhill From Here

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , on September 8, 2008 by tigereye

First, you admit that you really did notice how short the days have become. You didn’t want to say anything, but you’d glance at the clock sometimes when you switched on the lamp, and watched the numbers roll slowly back until suddenly it seems dark by the time Brian Williams arrives at your house in the evening.

You notice the flowers in the neighborhood are still in bloom, but they’re not thriving anymore.

You watch football replace baseball and tennis and golf on TV and the news. You like football, but you could have waited a little longer for it.

You notice the cat isn’t shedding as spectacularly as he was just a few weeks ago.

You see college students in town again, and start thinking about what it was like to be one. You always loved it. You start digging through the shelves for authors you read when you were in college, like you do this time every year. Anne Tyler. Roddy Doyle. Anne Rivers Siddons. Herman Melville, for God’s sake. You remember curling up in a beanbag chair in the dorm, reading them, Walkman perched atop your head; now you curl in a rocking chair with the same books, pretending you don’t remember how they ended, iPod plugged directly into your brain.

Reading the same books makes you want to listen to the same music. You put the Arc Angels and Tom Petty and Bruce Hornsby aside, and you find John Hiatt and Paul Simon and Prince. You remember you could never study listening to their songs. You didn’t care then and you don’t now.

You remember the year you fell in love with Shakespeare, and crawl on the floor retrieving mass-market copies of Hamlet and Richard III with the same slightly nerdy shame you had at 19. You read them again, looking up once in a while to make sure no one is watching.

You listen to football games and want to be there, shelling peanuts and squinting into the sun and drinking watery Coke from an overpriced souvenir cup. You would sit in the stands for hours, scorching your shoulders and face and hands, before you learned to slather on sunscreen. You would scream yourself hoarse when you sat in the student section, while now you’re with the other thirtyfortysomethings and sometimes you’re the only one really screaming. You still bring home the free souvenir pompoms and foam number-one fingers, tucked into your pocket or under your arm since you no longer have a dorm room to hang them in. They will live with you in your car until the last game has been played.

You wake up to run one morning and feel no early pulse of heat in the air. Then you wake up a few weeks later and feel the first chill, like a foot dipped in a creek. You think of running in college, playing loud music, and you dial up Prince on the iPod, which is easy, because he was already there — you were listening to him when you reread Saint Maybe the other night. It’s comforting to think you will always have Prince. And Anne Tyler. Although they might not be comforted to find themselves together.

The afternoon sunlight becomes yellow instead of white.

You look at the date one morning and remember one of your favorite cities, underwater, and the people left to suffer there. This used to only happen in other countries.

You look at the date one morning and remember a clear bright Tuesday that became one of the worst days anyone can remember. This used to only happen in other countries.

You think about how terrible things seem to happen this time of year, and it makes you go back to the rocking chair with Anne Tyler and Prince.

You start wearing jeans during the day. Then socks. Then gradually the Birkenstocks get kicked farther and farther up under the bed until the day you can’t find them easily and slip on the boots instead.

The first yellow leaf lands on your car like a sign from God, except you already knew what He was telling you, weeks ago when you switched on the lamp a few minutes earlier.

Nothing That Hasn’t Been Said Already

Posted in Rants & Rages, Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , on August 9, 2008 by tigereye

I will admit up front I’m not terribly conversant in the plight of Tibet, or the day-to-day lives of the Chinese people we’ll never see on the nightly news, or even the treatment of political dissidents. I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about those issues. Although I know enough to be troubled by them, I’d just make a fool of myself if I tried to post about them.

Also, the opening ceremonies were lovely. I didn’t get the full experience, and here’s the tacky reason why: the public radio show World Cafe was interviewing Coldplay about their new album and I wanted to hear it, so I listened to the whole show while watching the opening ceremonies with the sound off. This allowed me to hear a lot of good music I wouldn’t have heard otherwise, and also let me escape the voice of Bob Costas, whom I utterly despise. (Is there no sport this pompous bastard can’t try to ruin for me? Wasn’t the Kentucky Derby enough this year?)

My problem is this.

Dead tigers.

I’m Tigereye for several reasons. I think tigers are as close to divine as any earthly entity can get. Looking into the yellow gaze of a tiger is very much like what I imagine looking at the face of God to be: implacable, otherworldly, immensely strong and wise, fierce, possessed of a nature we can only think we understand.

They’re also the most beautiful creature on earth, and my college mascot, and as close to perfect a lone predator as can be found.

They’re killed by poachers so their bones can be ground up for “traditional Chinese medicine.” They were, and perhaps still are — I can’t bring myself to read much about this, to be honest — raised on farms in China for slaughter, so there would be less need for poaching.

They’re also killed so various nations of cowards and idiots can have tiger skins as status symbols. Or shot in canned hunts by rich scumbags right here at home. Or so menus in China can boast of serving tiger penis.

I can’t even begin to properly express my hatred of anyone who would kill a tiger or profit from its death. I’ve seen a photograph of carcasses on a “tiger farm” and hope I never see anything like it again. And I wish the most dreadful things upon everyone involved, in as many lives or incarnations as they may have, because it’s the kind of callous, greedy sin that should follow someone forever.

I also see dead dogs and cats, who were fed poisonous food so some plant-owning prick in the U.S. could save fifty cents a ton on wheat gluten from China. One of the things that upset me the most about last year’s pet food-related deaths was how much of the food was store-brand or inexpensive: for some of those people it was all they could afford, and they fed it to their pets out of love and responsibility, and the dogs and cats died. Organ failure is as horrible a death for animals as it is for people, and those people had to watch their pets suffer and die because of the naked greed of businessmen in two countries. Veterinarians had to euthanize hundreds of animals, some of which they’d known and treated all their lives. It’s a hard process for everyone at the vet’s office, just like it is for a family who fed their dog what they’d always given him and watched him die from it.

I see black pools of farm-raised shrimp while the shrimpers in my state, who have pulled fresh sea critters out of the water for us all their lives, go broke with a better, safer product. To put it eloquently, this sucks. They’re not commercial farmers with government subsidies at their disposal — they’re guys who can’t pay their mortgages if morons all over America keep saving ten cents a ton and buying antibiotic (and God only knows what else) -ridden shrimp from China, frozen and gray by the time it gets here.

Lest anyone think I’m concentrating too much on wildlife, pets, and seafood, I also see that one guy in Tienanmen Square, standing in front of a tank.

That’s what played on the screen in my head while I watched a spectacular opening show and watched my President enjoy it.

Piles of slaughtered tigers, old women and children weeping over dead pets, guys 200 miles away from me getting up at 3 a.m. to get on the shrimp boat, and one unspeakably brave man with a flag.

I wish I was a different person and could put all this out of my head and watch Tyson Gay outrun the world, but I can’t.

I’m going to be watching as much of Animal Planet’s “Puppy Games” as I can find.

TigerEye for the Straight Guy

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , on August 5, 2008 by tigereye

We can’t save them from themselves.

All we can do is tweak, and politely suggest, and then strongly recommend, and if these means of communication don’t work, steal.

As an example, I offer the Muumuu.

The only men who should be allowed to wear those oversized sleeveless shirts — the ones that expose vast savannas of armpit hair, and the occasional male nipple — are athletes. College and professional athletes. At one point I limited this kind of shirt to Michael Jordan only, and there are days when I think I should have stuck to my guns, because while this look is borderline acceptable on, say, Vince Young, it would be a mistake on one of those truck-sized linebackers. On any other guy who earns a regular old living, they look less like t-shirts than muumuus, puddling around the shoulders and hanging, usually, somewhere between the knees and the crotch.

John has one of these shirts.

He would have two or three, because his dad bought him a package of them a few years ago. These gradually came home with me. I considered this salvage an act of mercy, not of theft. Someone might see him in the yard, after all, wearing one, and then they might see me leaving his house and perform simple addition: guy + muumuu + girl = woman that just doesn’t give a damn about her man.

Besides, I couldn’t steal my dad’s sandals, so I had to take action somewhere.

Muumuu #1, which was red but had faded to an unsettling pink, became an all-purpose cleaning cloth, which I soaked in Tilex and used to scrub the hell out of the shower and sink. The pink turned gradually white and then the Tilex disintegrated the cloth altogether within two months. (I love Tilex. Try killing a spider with it sometime and you’ll see why. It disintegrates EVERYTHING.)

Muumuu #2, which was electric blue and hadn’t faded at all, became a kitty bed for one of my mom’s outdoor strays. I think it’s still at her house, tucked around a hot water bottle in an old doghouse she outfitted on the back porch.

Now there’s Muumuu #3, which is t-shirt gray. I’d become almost immune to Muumuu #3 until last weekend, when John went to get a paper and stayed to chitchat with the gas station attendant, who must have been thinking “He’s wearing a muumuu. Poor guy. He can’t possibly have a girlfriend, but why doesn’t his sister or mother say something?”

Bear in mind, I don’t steal the muumuus and leave him shirtless. I buy him t-shirts all the time. I think the muumuus are the only t-shirts he owns that I don’t provide, and eventually I’m going to have to have a serious talk with his dad, unless of course I learn his dad has a muumuu around the house too.

I think Muumuu #3 would make a good all-purpose dustcloth, unless anybody out there’s got a better idea.

Postcards From the Road

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2008 by tigereye

I just had a FANTASTIC time visiting friends. Lots of them are known around WordPress World, though, so I’ll leave them — and myself — their/our privacy and focus today on another aspect of the trip, which is Road Trip World.

I love road trips, personally. I have an immense collection of CDs, not just the bought-at-the-store kind, but many homemade discs. I play around on iTunes and create theme CDs. Hey, some people knit, some smoke, some watch TV: I make theme CDs. And I haul ’em all with me, so I never have a moment of silence on a road trip. Silence = death, especially when you’ve been driving for 8 hours straight and might doze off going 80 around a West Virginia curve.

Here are a few observations:

West Virginia, to my complete and utter shock, has the best drivers in the world. The only place that comes close to it is California. I was astonished to see people riding in the correct lanes for their speed, truckers staying where they’re told (the far right lane, thank God), drivers using turn signals and moving over to let others merge… I didn’t expect this from West Virgina, which previously only existed, in my mind, so we crackers from SC could make fun of somebody. I only experienced ONE asshole driver with a WV tag. I have no idea how this is accomplished, but I don’t care. As far as I know, the WV highway patrol could be pulling over lousy drivers and shooting them, then dumping their cars down the mountainside. If this is the case, someone please let me know, because it means there’s work for me in West Virginia.

Along with West Virginia, Virginia is the most beautiful place I’ve seen on the East Coast. Rolling hills, untouched mountains, towns few and far between… It was like looking at the U.S. the way it should have been left, before we came along and paved/electrified/billboarded/tunneled through it all. It was beautiful, but at the same time very sad.

If anyone had told me there was more farmland in Ohio than in SC, I’d’ve said they were smoking something. But it’s true. Instead of our ubiquitous tobacco and hay and peaches, there were acres and acres of corn. I felt right at home, like any minute now I’d see a sign that said “Tigereye’s Hometown, 17 miles.” And the Amish country is lovely.

Back in the Carolinas: Ludacris is right. MOVE, BITCH, GET OUT’ THE WAY. Jeeeeezus H. tap-dancin’ Christ, why does my state produce such total morons? The worst drivers in the U.S. are from Florida, Georgia, and, unfortunately, SC. There were assholes driving the speed limit in the left lane, assholes tailgating me when I’m speeding 20 miles faster than I should be, assholes who drive slowly until you try to pass them… I understand road rage. It’s why I don’t keep a weapon in the car: I’d be overly tempted to use it. Well, a real weapon, anyway — there’s always the tire iron. But really, I’m tired of being embarrassed for my home state. CAN’T YOU IDIOTS DO ANYTHING RIGHT? You vote red and you drive badly and you fly a goddamn Confederate flag — I belong here like flour in a torte.

I am the palest person alive. I saw five states’ worth of people to prove it. In a photo y’all won’t see, I’m posed beside a mannequin that’s only slightly paler than me. This hair sure does show up vividly, though.

In a hotel room in West Virginia, I stepped out of the shower to find a wolf spider crouched in the corner of my bathroom like a tumor set free. For those of you who don’t know, wolf spiders are black or gray, hairy, and they JUMP. He stayed still a while, and I dried off and went away. I returned to the bathroom twice and there he was, still in his corner. (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t kill him because I didn’t have any bullets, Malathion, or hydrochloric acid.) Then I discovered, on my third return, that the only thing worse than having a wolf spider in your bathroom is coming back to the bathroom and not knowing where the wolf spider went.

I brought two lovely pairs of shoes and schlepped around all weekend in my ratty Birks.

Virginia and North Carolina have the cleanest rest stops I’ve ever seen. These things are important. I only encountered one stop, on the Ohio turnpike, that was actually worse than a single man’s bathroom.

MapQuest’s new slogan should be: Close Enough. It took me off the highways and into Amish country, and while it was a scenic route, I prefer an all-70-mph course, thankyouverymuch. I then discovered MapQuest doesn’t allow you to select “mostly highways” as a planning option, although you can opt out of highways altogether. To which I say, WHAT THE FUCK?! I’m supposed to get from SC to Ohio using all back roads? How does one do this without taking a hot air balloon, pray tell? Also, MapQuest gave me a few key wrong directions, solved by my own sense of place (I know Columbia is south of Charlotte, for one thing) and the assistance of one of my hosts, about whom I will say Kevin No Last Name Officially Kicked MapQuest’s Ass. He got me onto the turnpike and knocked at least an hour off my trip.

A hotel drink machine stole a $5 bill from me and I was so incapacitated with a leftover migraine I didn’t feel like doing more than glaring when the manager told me to piss off. It’s a chain hotel, though, which means it has a website. Dude, all you had to do was be nice to me and give me five bucks — I did it all the time in retail. Now I’m home, healthy, and havin’ a grudge. Just wait.

 I came home to 6 work assignments, 135 emails (about 40 of which I didn’t delete), a cat pissed off at me for boarding him, and a thermostat on 77. You know you’re back in the Carolinas when the temperature is over 101 and the gas is under $3.90.

I miss my friends, though. I’m ready to do the whole trip again, this time without the spider.