Made very famous by REM’s use of it in one of their great, great,  songs from Monster – an album that I waited in line at midnight to buy as soon as possible-  But also not noted is that one of my other favorite bands, Game Theory, used it in the proper phrasing “Kenneth, What’s the frequency?”

It was a slight amazing bit of sound and intro to one of the best of the albums from the 80s, and one of the best bands I had ever seen.  Saw them in a dive on the south side of Milwaukee, in the middle of winter, which seemed to shock the women in the band, because they wore completely inappropriate skimpy tops.

I saw Dan Rather interview the Two Mikes from REM the other night, and of course the phrase came up.  They had a clip of Dan Rather trying to sing the song during a sound check which was not amusing, it was painful.

So, let’s talk about the frequency of eye lengths.

Do you guys remember being in grade school?  Do you remember being asked to read the text on film strips?

Well, it was Second grade, I was seven, you know?  And when the teacher was going through the class asking for students to read the film strip, and got to me, I was not able to respond.  Not because I couldn’t read, but because I couldn’t SEE. After she spent a little time trying to help me because she thought I couldn’t read, she eventually understood it was an eyeball thing….How would I know?  My eyes were what I had, and what I could see was the way things were.  Had no idea I should be seeing better, because I had no comparison.

So after my teacher stopped embarrassing me, she told my parents that it was time to get an eye test.  And after that, I got some glasses for the first time in my life.  And I saw things I had never seen before.  IN fact, when I had glasses, I was weirded out by the depth perceptions.  It made walking weird, at best for a short tome of acclimatization, until i got used to the way everything seemed a bit….closer.

I have worn glasses since then.  Or contacts. For a few years, as a kid, I needed new glasses pretty much every year, because my eyes kept going south. I much prefer contacts, but it is hard because I have a weird diagonal astigmatism.  I haven’t seen my eye doctor in some time, And I need new contacts and new glasses.

I had my glasses fall apart tonight, one of the lenses fell right the hell out, and I was forced to use a bent paper clip to put them back together.  Believe me, as a guy who has worn glasses for WAY more than half my life, I have worked out any number of ways to do emergency and field repair.

And it was curious, in that I was forced to use my backup last version glasses, and that those glasses seem to serve better than the ones that lost the screw.

See now here.  As a diabetic, I am supposed to expect my eyes to go weird and degrade.  Which, I guess, is not going to be any weirder than any year before; my eyes have degraded all  my life.

Since I have been wearing glasses all my life, and my prescription is weird and changing and I have the diabetic multiplier, I have long been sensitive to the quality of the eye care I seek out, and I have a very clear preference for a for-real Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist versus an optician, and when providing lenses, I have never had a satisfactory experience from the mall shops or places like Mall-Wart.  Fortunately, one of my neighbors is an Optometrist, and a good one; and in a fine example of work going both ways, I designed his new office on the south side:

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What we found is that my right eye has decided to make a run for it, getting much worse over the past couple of years.  So I need new contacts, and we’ll be trying a couple of different treatment options, and my existing frames get new lenses.  There doesn’t seem to be any other degradation of my eyeballs, so other than just getting older and worser,  we seem to be in good shape.

Over the Cliff

Posted: October 8, 2019 in Uncategorized

well, before I get off into the Tall Grass,  a bit of followup.  R came back to the living after a short detox.  I am keeping in touch, trying to be more in contact for support availability.  It’s a tough road;  he has relapsed several times.

And sometimes, I have to confess I might not be the best person to rely on, especially in October. I already did not answer a couple of his calls in the lead up, and that was before October set in.

(play this loud while you listen)

yesterday started poorly, by any standard but for October?  Well, no, not typical, it still fucking sucked.  Checks had been promised last week and did not show, and then the furnace in my office was AWOL.  Admittedly, this is not the absolute worst time for it, as the weather is kind of pleasant for fall.  but the Office is a big thermal mass of air, and when it gets cold, it takes a while to reverse that. But I had promised certain things, so I had to get those accomplished, and I did.  By mid-afternoon, heat repair nor checks still had not been delivered, and while it was not terribly cold, it still had me chilled and the combination of cold and disappointment had me in a state where I couldn’t work.  So I bailed, looking for one of the two doors hinged in opposition….

and when I got home, and tried to warm up a bit, I was met by someone playing a chiding message on a phone about car insurance and demanding answers I did not have about the car (another story, maybe when I am stronger).  And the cat was demanding to be scratched, and the dog wanted walks and I still couldn’t warm up and bailed yet again and went to bed to get some quiet time and maybe a nap.  Fortunately, the bedroom was very sun-warmed and helped; was not aware how deeply the chill had penetrated over the day.

I think that might be the part that makes October the most difficult for me; that relatively mild weather still creates a chill that permeates so thoroughly.  Especially when I have all kinds of lovely pharmaceuticals making my blood thin and such as.  I miss the hotter climes at these times, and dammit if getting old makes me want to retire to hot places…

I spent the rest of the day in bed, watching the light wane.  I think I slept.  I peed a couple of times.  And I stayed there and watched some horror movies on the iPad, and then watched a couple of Star Wars movies to try and jumpstart something internal.  the Bed Time even made me miss my evening meds, which I rarely do.

I wanted to sleep late, I really did; and I had no reason to get up.  But I couldn’t get back to sleep so I still got up, there was coffee to be had.  So I split the difference and didn’t bother with a shower.  THAT’LL show ’em!  Too bad that cup of coffee was so watery….

should be noted that young Zombie gave me a subscription to a coffee roaster for Christmas, and every month I get a pound of beans.  I like strong black coffee, but the ones so far have been from Zambia, Congo and Honduras, and these are some straight up ninja coffees.  I found it best to cut them with some beans from a Chicago roaster, called Over The Cliff (name after a Jon Lsngford song). (this is also probably the best time to reveal that my wife gets wilty when she watches Rhett Miller, and I don’t think I can blame her)

 

I have said, on more than one occasion, that October is difficult for me.  Stephen King once tried to describe how it feels in a passage from the Dead Zone, and if anyone knows how it feels to watch the everything become closed and shut down for the oncoming storm, it has to be a horror writer that lives in Maine.  But it feels cold, and since my medical events,  the cold seems colder, and it penetrates deeper.

In the second season of American Horror Story, Frances Conroy did a stellar turn as the Angel of Death (augmented by the SFX of the wings at the moment of passing) and she never tried to be scary, but was always comforting and the people who she was touching welcomed the grace.

Mostly I approach October by going full gonzo on horror movies and such, and embracing the month of Samhain, because, zombie here.  But there aren’t that many stomp down good horror movies anymore (Get Out, It Follows, Let the Right One in) and the you kind of say, give me some splatter…

October has always been very difficult for me, and I am not sure why.  It was way before I had blood thinners and that crap.  But it sure does seem to happen every damn year, and it does fuck down like rain on my people.  i wish it didn’t.  But I have to do it myself first, and then it can be more soft….

But at least it’s not November.

Let There Be Peace

Posted: October 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

How much longer can all this go on?
How many more chances can one person have?
And all of the questions with no proper answers
Continue continue have to go on have to go on
Should I bend down and worship the ground
of the beautiful people who live without flaws?
Success is a virtue to share with the world
but failure’s a lesson that’s best learned alone
Respect is a virtue that strong men command
but when words become weapons
There’ll be peace in the valley of death when I rise
Peace in the valley of death when I rise

When i looked at my phone this afternoon, I saw I had missed several calls from friend R, who I mentioned in a prior post.

And when I looked at the most recent message, the VM algorithm was unable to parse his message, which was halting, mumbling and relatively incoherent.  It was pretty obvious he was drunk as fuck.  I knew he was not doing so well, but this was the worst I had heard him in some time.

He said he was checking himself in – somewhere.  He didn’t say where.  He said he had arranged for care of his animals, although he incoherently said maybe I was going to send up homing his greenwing macaw, Biko (a magnificent and violent bird, full of shit and happy to scar you up, you bastard).  The message was long and had lots of pauses.  The message made me hurt, in that I missed his previous phone calls.

As I said in the previous post, I have no idea where this story ends.  But I am concerned that it ends nowhere good.  I hope the place he checked himself into allows visitation.

As an aside, the two times I had my Exciting! encounters with Modern Medicine, and spent some time in an adjustable bed, (one time peeing into a painful tube), R did not visit.  At a recent time, he admitted how badly he felt about not visiting, because it reminded him of his parents decline and passing, and I told him I held nothing against him.  I know how people in hospital beds make people feel squicky.

R is one of my best friends ever.  I really don’t want him to go.  He has lots of health problems, most of which went undiagnosed until the ACA went into effect (He pays like 60 bucks a month.  Thanks, Obama!) but now he is behind the clock, and doesn’t help because he continues to drink and vape and whatever else.

Checking in every morning
To the sound of steam and caffeine
The sludge in the bottom of the cup
Just like the sludge in the stream
Slag heap keep growing higher
Every morning the sky, it’s on fire
And it’s only 9 AM again

Is there an upside to every downside?
Keep it inside, it’s a downward slide of broken glass
Keeps building in piles

And I don’t know
I don’t know if the sun ever smiles

It’s the black sheets of rain
Following me again
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I’ve been
Following me again

I feel the toxins fill my blood stream as I’m walking through the parking lot
Over and over and over and over and over and over
The clouds hanging over
Choking the life out of me
The motto seems to be
“We work in order to be free”

It’s the black sheets of rain
Following me again
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I’ve been
Following me again

Over and over and over and over and over and over again

Where were you in my hour of need
(I never see the sun stop shining)
The clouds roll over the sunlight
(Someone stopped the sun from shining)
And I stand here, ready to bleed
(I never see the sun stop shining)
A little rain is all we need
(Someone stopped the sun from shining)
Where will you be in my darkest hour of need?
(I never see the sun stop shining)
Where will you be in my darkest hour of need?
(Someone stopped the sun)
Here it comes again

Sons and Fascination

Posted: September 24, 2019 in it's the humanity

Doing a binge-re-watch of Scrubs, ( DO NOT JUDGE ME)  and there is an episode where one of the doctors decides he will not kiss his son.

I used to put my son to bed for any number of years.  Eventually, he said I shouldn’t kiss him goodnight anymore.  I have a grizzly face, why would I argue?

It was, of course, his decision, and I didn’t bother to argue or force.  I mean, personal autonomy starts at home, right?  We all grow up, and the arc of children launching involves disconnecting.  Circle of life and that little shit has to support me when I go insane.

But I miss it.

 

on the last post, I mentioned that today, I had a building walk-through in review for an RFP that is upcoming.  Keep in mind that I do not often respond to Requests for Proposals, which are often sent out in shotgun fashion to any architect that shows up in the first 20, or 30, or 40 Google search results.  The last couple that came in through the mojo wire I read and passed, and the last one I started considering, I abandoned when the structural engineer I called had already heard (and passed) on two other architects who had already called him.  So really, the only reason I went further on this one is that it’s in my neighborhood and Young Zombie attended a preschool that was in the building previously.  Also, it’s a progressive Episcopalian church, so I figured they wouldn’t set me on fire.

One of the things about my practice is that I get very little work from marketing kind of avenues; most of my projects come from referrals or repeat clients.  In fact, I have one client that I have designed a residence for three times (one small colonial house on the East Side, an extensive and exotic rooftop penthouse condo downtown, and a suburban estate, FWIW).

I once read that Frank Lloyd Wright sometimes said he was never the committee choice, he was usually too risky and committees are notoriously risk-averse.

So I gathered with six other groups in this complex of buildings to review the existing.  In no particular order, and with an approximate employee number:  ZDG (100); UWRS (40); Groth (30); MSI (150); PRA (75); QA (10); and me.  It is a relatively small community in the city, and I had met several of the professionals there and knew all of the companies by reputation (and interviewed at most of them at one time or another!).  And, in a turn that I fully expected, my former partner also turned up.  Am I a bad zombie for having kind of perverse satisfaction in seeing her on crutches due to a fall from her bike?

The big difference between my practice and all of theirs is that they have a marketing plan and spend some amount of money and effort on pursuing these type of cattle-call long shot proposals.  I spend my time and effort into my work and design, and my reputation is based on that, not on glad-handing.  Oh, I am perfectly congenial and can handle a professional gathering with complete equanimity, and I made small talk as appropriate and made other professional small talk during the 3 hours or so we were on site.

And I have made contact with other professionals to team up with on the project:  a structural engineer, HVAC engineer, Plumbing engineer, and Electrical engineer.  Ostensibly, the proposals are due on 9/27, which is no problem at all, at least conceptually.

But the gathering and walk through went pretty much as I expected.  The building is an older worship building, with a couple of additions and remodeling over time.  The staff involved in the building were a bit negative on it, but having been through these rodeos many times, the building’s basic elements are predominantly intact and there is nothing that amounts to a deal breaker that makes any part of the building unusable.  If anything, their biggest problem is that there is far more space than they need, and it should be reduced or sourced out to tenants.  Actually, it’s a very handsome building and I would be gratified to help the parish move into a new era and fresh life for the structure.

aerial

But that’s really neither here nor there.  As I walked home – it was a truly gorgeous fall day in Milwaukee, and like I said I live in the neighborhood, I live 6 blocks away- I thought further about the walk-through and the other people who participated.  And I started to consider Wright’s words; what is the value of the work I will need to do to compile a responsive proposal?  When there are bigger name heavy hitters in the mix?  Does it matter that I am a neighbor?  (probably not).  By the time I got home, I was ready to skip it altogether, but there was a message from the mechanical engineer….

So here’s one where I am not hoping for help from you helpful 3 or 4 faithful readers.  Mind you, I won’t mind feedback or opinions, but you lot are an opinionated bunch of fuckers. 

Because I have decided, for any number of reasons, to follow this one through.  I’ll go against these bigger more corporate firms who have ‘name recognition’ and ‘connections’.  I won’t say ‘more established’, because one of the attendees was my former partner whose firm I was a founding partner of.  Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition here’s your fucking refund.

But I will go in because this is a step up and forward, and I can use it.  Plus, I need these bigger firms to KNOW WHO I AM.  Last night, my concert going buddy asked me if I wasn’t well known by the quality of my work and I had to give him the knowledge that that is hardly ever considered in consideration for hiring of architects.

So I am in.  I am drafting, in my mind, the rudiments of the proposal and I am working out some ways of throwing shade in a backhanded way at the larger firms (for instance, with my ex-partner in the mix, my resume instantly changed to say I was a Founding Partner in Charge of Design at the firm she took control of).  My references will be stellar, because they are all personal and direct connections with people of high stature in the community.  My track list of similar projects will be impressive, but won’t be the most impressive; however based on the walk through, I can directly relate parts of them to portions of the building they would like to address; and a Marketing Person in one of these firms will not be able to see that.  I did that on site in one instance, asking a question of the rector about the character of window leaks because I had experienced similar problems with a steel lintel that leaked into the windows in a particular way.

I am in.  I would, indeed, like to expand my practice.  I think I have learned some good and bad things in my history, and think I could grow it better and be a much better leader and administrator going forward.  And even if that isn’t in the cards, being a believable competitor among the Big Boys of the local community will be worthwhile in itself; I have proven myself from a practical standpoint as well as having received several design awards.

I second guessed myself on this, and then reconsidered, then shot it down again and then talked myself back into it.  Yes, I have a very active internal life, and AT LEAST a dozen voices that will chime in to argue at a moment’s notice.  But, for now, I AM IN.

SHUT UP VOICE  # 5.

Recycler

Posted: September 5, 2019 in Body Count, Fridge Note, Music nobody listens to

Nearly forty years ago, I was on the home stretch of high school and thinking about college (not sure I was going yet, but thinking about it.  Mainly because my father insisted, and Dad, I Thank You).  And there was a song on the radio, a sound I had never really heard before and lyrics about sunglasses.  So when the band in question played the Madison Coliseum (hereafter called the Great Clamshell because: Original-Coliseum-1030x660

I decided I would roll the dice and go solo to check it out, as Joe Bob Briggs will eventually say.

Since I was flying solo, I didn’t bother drinking anything and after the opening bands I was sitting on the main floor, when two absolutely shitfaced girls came stumbling by, tripping over me, kind-of-apologizing then one of them barfed on the floor next to me.  I found it kind of inconceivable they paid to get in then got completely blotto before the main act even started.

ZZTop changed most of my thoughts on what a live show would be.  They had almost nothing on stage, other than a drum kit, two mike stands, and ranks upon ranks of Marshall 4×4 cabinets.  And then only three guys come out, with ridiculous beards.  But when they started playing, all ridiculousness stopped, and complete no-nonsense rock and roll commenced, with a Texas twang.  I knew hardly any of the songs, but I loved it all.  It was loud, and the synchronized shuffle and on-stage communication was entrancing.

I was not aware of the backstory, that after their run of their first albums, they all decided at the same time to go incommunicado, independently.  Nobody knew if they were coming back, not even them; but eventually they did, and started making a dent on radio with Deguello, containing songs like “I Thank You”, “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide”, and, of course, “Cheap Sunglasses”.  But here they were, and they rocked me hard.

Since then, I’ve had the chance to see the “Texas House Band” (as Molly Ivins referred to them) several times, never disappointed.

So.  Tonight.  My concert buddy had asked if I wanted to go to the 50th anniversary (!) show, with Cheap Trick opening, and I figured, well, I’ve seen both of them multiple times, so felt no huge compulsion.

But things being what they are, and things going as they will, Concert Buddy’s date fell through, so I said I would go, nothing to lose.  Except I have been in the middle of trying to catch up on work after vacation, and I have a building walk-through for an RFP tomorrow morning.  The show was at the BMO Pavilion, easily the prettiest open air venue in the State. summerfest_bmo_2019_wp-620x400

So, after 40 years or so, I found myself in a similar situation. Watching ZZTop kicking ass, staying sober while the people around me were getting well lubricated (although way older than before) and more-or-less behaving myself.  They, and Cheap Trick were good as ever, and produced a pretty effective greatest hits overview of my high school and parts of my college years.

Although when I got home I poured a couple of bourbons and sent out about $15,000 in invoices.

 

so, tonight we had a party.  It’s one we do every year, really ever since we bought a house.  It’s a combination house warming/anniversary party, and friends and family always get invited.  We drink and talk smart, eat food that would cause our many doctors to look at us with the hairy eyeball, and tire the dog right the fuck out.

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It is often the only time we see many of these folks, and we all have a grand old time.  But the friends become scarce and family starts to fade.  Mortality takes its toll, and where once we would party like college students, now we are old people.  Hell, even most of our kids have aged out, and now don’t really want to spend a night with the parent’s old clueless friends.

Oh!  Hey!  I have to mention the kewl gift I got from one of my bestest friends.  This takes a bit of backstory; we got to be friends while playing league darts for a local dive bar (steel tips, not those namby-pamby machine darts) and competitive drinking.  At one point, his father wanted to get a computer, and he asked me if I could help set up the old man, which of course I was happy to do.  Well, his dad and I hit it off, and in addition to becoming his IT department, also became good friends.  Sadly, a few years back R’s dad had to enter a nursing home and then passed, leaving R with a shitload of debris and belongings.  And amongst those, was a certain item.

R knew that his dad meant it for something, since it was published well before we ever did the Macintosh stuff together, and it must have took work to track down.

R knew that his father would love that I now have it, R was happy that I would have it, and I am tickled fucking pink to have it.  It is a pristine copy of the inaugural, number one issue of Macworld, from 1984:

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Now, here’s the thing about this that makes it something I will put in a safe place and treasure:

I am not entirely sure about R’s future, and I fear that it may not be long before this is what I have to remember him by.

When I first knew him, he just was an ebullient drinker.  But as time went by, he lost several jobs because he would drink at lunchtime and become inconsistent and unreliable.  Eventually he became a cab driver (and a good one!  at one year’s Milwaukee Film Festival, there was a short film about him!)  and all the while, we remained good good friends.

But at the same time, other friends were fading and ghosting, not wanting to be seen as ‘enablers’.  While I was seeing R being abandoned and becoming more isolated; I have since learned that is often the result.

R eventually ended up in Hazelden, and worked to become sober for quite a long time.  But again, as is often the case, the addictions snuck back in; yes, addictions both smoking AND drinking; the classics!

R has been off and on, sober or sober-ish, and then backsliding.  Tonight, he was abjectly apologetic that he was too drunk to visit me in the hospital on my Events (which I assured him I never held against him and instantly accepted his apology, trying to assuage his feeling of guilt).

But things got worse.  He had a doctor diagnose him with cirrhosis of the liver (which may have been erroneous, but nonetheless alarming) and had throat cancer discovered.

Thankfully, we once had a President and government that actually gives two squeaky shits about the normal fucking people, and expanded the range of health care coverage; R was able to obtain health insurance on the ACA markets, and went to the doctors for the first time in years.  Not only the alarming things up above, but started getting his diabetes under treatment. Thanks Obama (not sarcastically) and fuck you Republicans (in complete earnestness).

he had the throat cancer successfully treated and removed, hurting like a motherfuck.

R and I are not only good friends, but also concert buddies of the first order.  I recently sent him a text, remarking on the upcoming concert schedule, that I had seen all that I cared, and nothing was coming up.  Recently, we saw the Outlaw Music Festival at Summerfest, Jason Isbell at the BMO Amphitheater, and the incomparable Figgs at the tiniest East Side bar, Circle A.

So I spent the late evening, dialing up our favorite songs to give him hope and courage; Jason Isbell, Trapper Schoepp, Okkervill River, Sally Timms, Trampled by Turtles, Mountain Goats, Gaslight Anthem….basically anything visceral and affirming, that might give him the feeling that there is value in staying around.  We talked late into the night, and I sent him off to spend the night with his fuzz bucket dogs and aggressive greenwing macaw named Biko and telling him he could be strong enough to get through.

Rory is the kind of guy that everybody loves.  He admitted tonight, that his happy-go-lucky life of the party persona is a front – it kind of had to be, I think – he was not only an instant lover of our first dog Mieshka, he also came up with a hilarious drunken backstory at at the first party we had her, identifying her as a ‘Kalaka’ a fictitious Russian attack breed.  Check it; this dog is only lethal if you are allergic to dog licking;

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But….yeah.  I don’t know how this ends, except like that line from the Mountain Goats song “this scene ends badly, as you might imagine….”

But it is a one time I wish I wasn’t joking about this zombie thing, so I could bring R back in the worst case.  Because he would, undoubtedly, be an AWESOME zombie.