The Freelance Mentalists.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
  Summer Samba
"There was this huge poster of a kid squeezing his bloody zit into a drink! We realized it was a new slushy called the 'Bloody Zit!' We had to try it! What's twisted is that you can sprinkle 'Oily Blackheads' and 'Scabs' into the drink! They're like sour candy! Mmmm but at the same time it's kind of gross!"--Skye Sweetnam, from her blog
(spotted by Frank Kogan)
 
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
  July 27, 2005
the smell of cow shit
wafting over the highway
as I'm driving home


My best friend's cousin is a country singer. Before she went to Nashville and had a couple of minor hits, we used to go see her perform at the county fair, which was held in our hometown. There was country music all over that fair, but it was ultimately a rock and roll thing, because our town had more dirtbags and burnouts and hot dirty girls in baseball shirts than we did real cowboys or cowgirls.

(Many of these awesome gentlemen wanted to beat me up, and some of them tried to catch me without witnesses. I would have skipped the fair, but my family was all into baseball and the fundraising concession was a dunk tank, so sometimes I would have to go work there, taking money and getting into the tank, etc. This meant that I'd often have to negotiate the minefield of getting from one end, where the dunk tank was, to the arcade, without getting my tiny ass kicked. This only changed when my big tough cousin moved up from Mississippi, and changed back when he graduated a year later.)

She had a lovely voice, and still does -- she's a big light of the western-music circuit now, and doing some very good work in that mode. But I was a Clash kid in an Aerosmith town, and so had little appreciation for lovely country voices. Shame. But that's the life, kids.

Maybe it was the fair and the FFA booths there and the hot dirty girls who played softball all summer and had boyfriends with knives and psychosis problems, or maybe it's just when you have to take long drives down rural roads to go see girlfriends...but I guess it's like this. I was at a party at this girl's place (her dad was an assistant principal at the high school, so hands off, which was the opposite of her attitude) and I accidentally cornered her in the barn and she didn't run away, and we looked at each other in the fading light, surrounded by probably literally tons of cow shit. Nothing much happened, but it's a great erotic memory for me.

Man, I need therapy. But I doubt I'm the only one who thinks cow shit is kind of sexy. And THAT, my friends, is what country music is all about.

twilight, as we kiss,
someone plays a mean fiddle
on the radio
 
Monday, July 25, 2005
  July 25, 2005
weeding the garden
kids get bored and run around
then, soon, so do I
 
  July 24, 2005
there's a kind of hush
all over the world and it's
called humidity
 
  July 23, 2005
walking this morning
saw a funky little ghost
talked to her a while
 
Saturday, July 16, 2005
  Way Across 110th Street
Special Guest Mentalist---John Wojtowicz(our man in Vienna):
I recently discovered a Nigerian-owned restaurant about a half mile down the street from me, called FEED.

On my first visit there, various patrons glowered at me and the waiter treated me with caution. It's quite likely they thought I was a narc. Among Austrians, Africans have the reputation of being all drug-dealers. In a recent major drug-bust campaign, well over a hundred bars and cafes in Vienna that dealt in cannabis (and generally run by the Yugo mafia and young Turks) were closed down. This in turn meant that the Africans now do proportionally even more of the dealing here (adding cannabis to the white stuff that was already their market niche), esp. since their business is all on the street and therefore wasn't affected by the crackdown. And they don't need a crackdown, they get hassled enough by the cops as it is.

So the waiter was polite but on his guard, until I asked him what music was playing. He came back and said that it was a mix CD with things from Mali, Ivory Coast, Senegal. Since the track in question had that giddyap-giddyap rhythm guitar thing going and also sounded a bit like Youssou N'Dour, I announced to him that it must be from Senegal.

Well I was right, and that broke the ice for the rest of the meal. btw I've found that this is typical when I talk to Africans: they often withold a certain amount of information until you've shown them that you know what you're talking about, and then all is cool.

As I write this, I'm covering the phones & office for an out-of-town colleague who translates a lot of documents for African immigrants. Just about an hour ago, a Nigerian guy dropped off a document and I asked him about other African restaurants in town. He was less than forthcoming until I mentioned one specific neighborhood where I'd been recently--in the 2nd District, not more than a stone's throw from the Ferris wheel that figures in Orson Welles' "The Third Man"--where there's not only an African restaurant and a bar, but a beauty parlor and a late-hours grocery store and probably other joints that escaped my notice. And if you go there on a warm summer evening, Africans are going to & from all of the above and generally just hangin' out. If the Austrians (utter, putrid racists, cela va sans dire) didn't already consider the 2nd District to be a pit, they'd be shitting in their pants at the sight. Anyway, the Nigerian guy told me to give him a call some Saturday night, and he'd take me round to one of the restaurants there.

btw in view of the fact that the 2nd District also has a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood not so far away, when I'm there I start feeling like I'm in Crown Heights or something.

Until a half-hour ago, I was under the impression that among the Africans, the Nigerians are at the top of the heap. Well, with their country being a member of OPEC and high-profile for other reasons, yes, the Nigerians see it that way, but unfortunately, the other Africans do not. Coincidentally, a (Polish!) woman just came by with documents that her husband needs translated: he's from Burkina Faso, and she tells me that the people there and in other countries (Ivory, Mali, etc.) don't particularly like the Nigerians, who have a reputation for crooked business dealings. The joke in Burkina Faso is that if you buy a car in Nigeria, it'll break down even before you get to the border, even if you had a mechanic check it beforehand! Similarly, the Africans in Austria are bugged because they see the Nigerian drug-dealers are creating a bad reputation for the rest of them--esp, since the Austrians are incapable of making distinctions between different African countries and/or peoples.

So back to FEED: The first time I ordered beef with black-eyed peas and fried plantain. On my second visit I had fish with chopped spinach & okra and a mound of manioc and here's the revelation: substitute a heap o' rice for the manioc and change the spices a wee bit, and this is EXACTLY the kind of stuff that my GF from Oakland used to make for herself all the time. For the first time since I left the West Coast, I was nostalgic for my ex's cooking!

When I'm talking with the Africans about their food, I always point out the similarities between that and Southern and Caribbean cooking--esp. since they're almost never aware of this and they seem to appreciate hearing it.

But regardless of how relaxed things get when I talk to the guys who run FEED, I still haven't been seated in the big room, which is an all-Black domain. In fact, in each visit, until I've struck up a conversation with the people there, when I walk by I can_just_feel_Major Attitude being projected outward from the big room. In any case I won't be living in that neighborhood much longer, and will probably soon investigate the joints in the 2nd District.

greetings, bon appetit, etc.,
john
((also see John's previous Presenting "The Uncanny"(Andy's Robot Mix), in the 08/2004 archive))
 

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