Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not standing by

I meant to write about this last weekend when it was still fresher in the news, but what the hell? The man's still around. He's going to run his mouth again. I guess I feel compelled to write about Phil Robertson's (the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch's) latest rant because I have to express how sick it made me feel.

You probably heard. He went on a disgusting diatribe about an atheist family getting raped, mutilated and murdered to make his point that only people who believe in God (and I'm sure he means the white evangelical Christian god) have any sense of right or wrong. There was a fire and brimstone-like cruelty to what he was saying, the way he was saying it, almost like he was hoping hell would rain down on this imaginary atheist family.

I do believe in God, not the cruel, wrathful, genocidal god Phil does, but I do believe He exists in the universe. I just decided, after years of personal torment and struggle, that God is love. But that's my belief. I'm not going to deny the dignity or humanity of someone who doesn't believe. I'm not going to say anyone who is an atheist or agnostic is devoid of a moral compass or a sense of right or wrong.

When I hear this hate rant, I think of all those people on Facebook who liked the "I stand with Phil" page after he caught backlash for saying disparaging things about gays in an interview with GQ. (Oh, no gays in that magazine, I'm sure.) Something about the way people - many of whom I went to church with - liked that page stuck in my craw.

I could never like something that makes a bigot out to be a martyr. It would be like condoning the mean things he said, like saying I agree with him. And I don't. I don't want to be anything like that guy and I'm damn sure not raising my kids to be that way.

Did all those people standing with good ol' Christian Phil approve of the way he talked about blacks too?

"We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Like blacks in pre-Civil Rights Louisiana would've uttered a word of complaint to a white person. That was enough to get a black person lynched. Not like the racists needed much reason. But yeah, all their negroes were happy. Ol' Pastor Phil said blacks were better off before they had Civil Rights, that welfare is a worse form of slavery than the real slavery they endured -- you know, where they were kidnapped, beaten, whipped, chained up, separated from family forever, raped, tortured, dismembered and burned alive. Oh, but that wasn't as bad as having to accept public assistance to get some food.

I figure if a person is prejudiced against one group, he'll probably be prejudiced against another. Christian Phil doesn't like gays, is condescending toward African-Americans and now we hear him speak violently of atheists. Phil has a habit of demonizing anyone who doesn't share his views.  A few days after unleashing his blood-splatter fantasy (at a prayer breakfast nonetheless), he made news for saying liberals are worse than Nazis.

Pastor Phil thinks people who feel strongly about civil liberties, education, equal rights for everybody, social safety nets to raise all ships and achieving peace over war are worse than the murderous perpetrators of the most horrific tragedy the world has ever known. 

Phil isn't the only one. Not even the only to resort to gruesome imagery. Not by a mile. There's the Colorado state legislator who said a woman's rape was part of God's curse on America for legalizing abortion. Phil's grotesque hate-rant just got to me. 

I remembered all those people and their "I stand with Phil" pages. Well I don't stand with Phil. I no longer go to church with any of them. Many of them are good people and I wish only good things for them and no ill will. I didn't give up on God or Christianity. I just couldn't abide belonging to an organization in which people promoted hatred.

I'd just had enough.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Here in my pants

Five years ago when I started this thing I didn’t know what it would be. Just knew I wanted to write some shit. I read other blogs.

I saw an educational blog called “My vag.” Every one of this woman’s blogs had to do with her vagina. There’s a lot to say about the orifice, which Wikipedia describes as “a fibromuscular tubular sex organ that is part of the female genital tract.” 

There’s all these parts you learned about in ninth grade Health class – labia majora (inner part), labia minora  (outer part), which I guess was shown in Bernardo Bertolucci’s final film, The Dreamers. Roger Ebert gave it a rave review.

It was quite personal, this gal writing about her vagina and all, but a blog can have that kind of intimacy. I’m reminded of a 2008 episode of House where Laura Prepon played a patient who blogged everything about her life except her bowel movements. Now Prepon, who I’ll always know as Donna from That 70s Show, plays a prisoner on Orange is the New Black. Her character is a lesbian. “Haven’t you ever gone down on a girl before?” she says in one episode.

Which leads back to the vagina.

For my readers, I try to be honest and real about my life. If terrorists kidnapped me, stripped me nude and poured hot liquid lead down my keister – in effect, giving me a hot lead enema – I’d tell you about it.

Ball sack blues

We were at Fratelli’s Pizza at the corner of Fifth and Main – me and my co-orkers Hank and Jace.

“I have jock itch,” I said.

 “You poor thing,” Jace said.

She’s a kind, nurturing, sensitive type.

That’s what I assumed the incessant itching down below was. Maria told me it was probably jock itch and gave me cream to apply to my balls.

I’m susceptible to sweat rashes when I work out. For two days after being at the YMCA, I had this constant itching on my scrotum. Maria gave me different creams, but nothing worked. It became a familiar scene around the house. The family would be in the living room, watching TV, playing on DSs and phones and there I’d be with my hand in my pants, furiously scratching the never ending itch.

“Did you wash your hands?” they’d ask.

The Masturbating Bear
At work, when no one was around, I would sneak my hand under the desk, into my pants and scratch the evil itch, hoping nobody would catch me and report me as a weirdo. When I went to pee, if nobody else was in the restroom, I’d stand at the urinal, and as soon as I undid my pants, before I peed, I would rapaciously scratch. I looked like the masturbating bear from The Conan O’Brien Show.

I’d be with my family in Wal-Mart or Target.  I’d look for an isolated spot with no people or cameras – perhaps a place by the bread aisle where I could secretly bring myself relief. I was always afraid someone would catch me, that I’d get arrested and it would in the papers and social media about how I was a pervert. Such a thing happened to a well-to-do business man in Wichita three years ago. Said he was just adjusting himself.

I finally made a doctor’s appointment. “What are we here for today?” she asked.
“I have this rash on my scrotum. It’s migrated down to my inner thighs and to my anus. I’m in agony, itching all the time.”

“I think I know what it is,” she said, then looked at it and told me it was a fungal thing. She prescribed this gel to put on the area twice a day. Said I should be okay in a month. She was so sweet about the whole thing. I picked up my medicine at Cooper Drug, here in my hometown of Jett, Kan., (pop. 4,000 in the ‘70s).

It’s like a burden’s been lifted, telling you about my personal pain.  It’ll soon be over.
I value the loyal readers of this blog – all five of you. I hope none of you ever have a fungal, itching thing in the crotch area.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Adam Knapp's Top 10 musical influences, Pt. 4

Editor's note: Well, this is the final blog in Adam Knapp's "musical influences" series. Kind of sad to see it go, but I'll be glad to get back the use of my own blog. He picked an interesting topic to write about. Hearing certain songs for the first time -- music that can alter your perceptions - can be an experience right up there with reading a life-changing book, losing your virginity or getting high for the first time. We all have our own high fidelity-esque mixed tape in our heads. Speaking of changing one's worldview, Adam also picked a compelling and timely subject for the documentary film he's been working on. Coming soon. Look for it.
--J. Guy


2. The Next-Door Neighbor
There was an older girl who lived down the road from us who was really nice to me. She took me to the skating rink. We went swimming in her pond. She tried to be a musical influence on me, playing records for me in her bedroom … but when you’re a boy in the fifth grade, I don’t care how big your breasts are, “Sad Eyes” isn’t going to cut it.

Her older brother was a different story.

Had there been more people out in the country, Les Finstad probably wouldn’t have had much use for me. But I was young, I was impressionable and I was … well, there. Les introduced me to Red Man chewing tobacco. We played tackle football in my basement, just the two of us, and I’m pretty sure that’s where I grasped the concept of four downs – to say nothing of knocking heads.

But mostly, Les made me realize what kind of music I loved. Within days of meeting him, my then-favorite song, “Good Times Roll” by The Cars, had been replaced by “More Than a Feeling.” That was the first song from Boston's first album. Strangely, I haven't liked another Boston song since. But that's inconsequential because of the other group Les introduced me to.


Now … you have to understand the era in which I grew up. If someone my age tells you their favorite band is the Beatles – well, that’s cool. Nobody’s better than the Beatles. But they’re too young to have experienced the Beatles. For me, AC/DC came along at perfect time.

So pretend you’re a new kid in the middle of the country, sitting in a teenager’s truck on a hot summer day.

                           "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap -- AC/DC!!!!

Look at that album cover. Now listen to “Dirty Deeds” for a minute or so. Tell me some part of your body isn’t moving right now.

This felt like doing something bad - and I don’t care who you are, there is no way you don’t like that song. The rest of the album was more of the same: “Problem Child,” “Squealer,” “Jailbreak” – all of them just gritty, raw, balls-to-the-wall rock n’ roll straight out Australia. No ballads with these guys. (Unless you count “Big Balls,” an anthem in its own right. And you wouldn’t.)

Sometime during my fifth-grade year, AC/DC’s lead singer drank himself to death. I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew is that the very same year, AC/DC came out with a new album with a new lead singer, and they became bigger than ever.

I ask you, who has ever done that? It’s unheard of. And one of the songs on Back in Black was “Have a Drink on Me.” Who the hell would do that?

Clearly, the guys in AC/DC had no conscience. Was that part of their appeal? For a kid with a heavy conscience, probably.

I don’t know how much you know about AC/DC, but I promise you I know more. Somewhere on YouTube you can find their VH1 Behind the Music special. It’s 15 years old now. They’ve had a few hits since then and, all right, maybe there’s been a murder plot or two, but it still holds up.

1. The Master

I don’t remember my parents actually listening to them, but they owned several Beatles LPs: Meet The Beatles, Help, A Hard Day’s Night and Rubber Soul. Until I met Frank Walker, I thought the last Beatles album was Revolver.

But Frank took me to the Augusta Public Library, and introduced me to a whole new chapter of the … well, “trippy” Beatles. Magical Mystery Tour, Sgt. Pepper’s and Yellow Submarine became my new Fab Four favorites.

When I was the new kid at Haverhill Elementary, Frank asked what radio station I listened to. I told him KEYN. He informed me there was a new station that was better: T-95. (Several years later, I would have my own weekly guest spot on T-95. I was supposed to be talking sports, but usually tried to steer the conversation to rock music.)

If the story ended right there, Frank would still be in my top 10 music influences. But he’s No. 1, and I think you’ll agree it’s not even close.

Frank’s home wasn’t big, but it opened up a big new world. It was in that house when I first heard Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” which remains my favorite song.

It was where I first remembered hearing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who I came to love and finally saw in 2008.

It was where I first heard Queen’s epic theme song to Flash Gordon. (“Flash! Ah ah! King of the Impossible!”)

It was where I first learned about Led Zeppelin (that was Frank’s kid brother) … and later, Dread Zeppelin (that was all Frank).

His mom was (and is) a huge fan of the Rolling Stones, a band I knew little about but quickly appreciated, and finally got to see in 2006. Frank adored Pink Floyd, and talked his father into taking us to see The Wall when were 13. Far out.

When we were 14, his parents took Frank and me to my first concert, ZZ Top (warm-up act: Night Ranger). Three months later they took me to my second concert, Huey Lewis and News (warm-up act: Stevie Ray Vaughn).

And so on, and so on. By the time I finished college, Frank and I had raised the bar by seeing rock heavyweights like AC/DC, Van Halen, KISS and Metallica (warm-up act: The Cult.)

Oh right – Metallica. Frank was way ahead of the curve on them. Kids, listening to Metallica in the 1980s was considered more scary than cool. But there Frank was, rocking in his Pinto (and later, his bitchin’ Camaro) to “Whiplash,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Master of Puppets.”
(Note: Frank’s nickname, “The Master,” is because of his reputation of being the go-to source of information for most things, not because of that song. But it is a happy coincidence.)

The list goes on. Ozzy. Megadeth. And yes, it was Frank who introduced me to the infamous 2 Live Crew, at least a year before most of the country knew who they were. Same with Sir Mix-A-Lot. And LL Cool J.

Frank once returned from a vacation in California and gave me a couple of bootleg cassettes – one of them was a Van Halen concert in Germany that ended the 1984 tour. I’m telling you, this guy is just the best.
Public Enemy

OK, so all that stuff happened by the time were 21. And then Frank and I became roommates.
That opened up a big new world again.

Frank was playing stuff like Public Enemy, Living Color, Primus and a then-mostly unknown group out of Seattle called Soundgarden. Yes, he was kind of responsible for getting me into grunge, too. I mean, I was aware of Alice in Chains, but until Frank insisted listen to “Dirt,” I wasn’t in love with them.

I’m pretty sure Frank also introduced to me to Tenacious D and a few other bands, but I think you get the point. And I won’t elaborate about the time I caught him listening to Air Supply. 

That might have just been a crazy dream. 

                                    "Whiskey in a Jar" -- Metallica

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Adam Knapp's Top 10 musical influences, Pt. 3

Editor's note: Here is the third of four guest blogs written by my good friend Adam Knapp. He's counting down his top 10 musical influences and we're down to 3 and 4 now. By the way, Adam has his own blog. Its focus is a documentary film he's directing. Yes, the talented Mr. Knapp is a filmmaker too. If you ever visit his home, you'll see books like "The Screenwriter's Bible" on his shelf. The film is not complete yet, but Adam and his crew are hosting a party in Wichita's historic Old Town district this Friday to publicize it. Read details on his blog.

                                                                         "Unchained" -- Van Halen

4. The old goat
Did I listen to Van Halen because I was friends with Andy Hawkins? Or was I friends with Andy Hawkins because I listened to Van Halen?

Andy is my oldest friendship, going back to the third grade at Garfield Elementary. Every once in a while I’ll call him “you old goat,” a nod to a 1992 grunge valentine Singles. (And in case you didn’t catch it, the first paragraph of this segment references 2000’s High Fidelity, another movie that loves music but isn’t a musical. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that is perverse. Do not tell anybody you haven’t seen these movies. Just watch them immediately. It’s gonna be OK.)

But back to Van Halen. Now, everyone knows who Van Halen is. But Andy taught me Van Halen was so much more than what they were playing on the radio.  I learned “Fair Warning” was the best Van Halen album, even if it wasn’t a huge commercial hit, and it wasn’t cool to listen to Diver Down because it’s just a bunch of cover songs.

When we were 17, Andy drove me down to Dallas in his Camaro so we see our first Cowboys game. The only thing – and I mean the only thing – we listened to was Van Halen and the Cowboys pregame show.

The White Stripes
Andy was even able to play a few Van Halen riffs on his electric guitar. I’m told this made him popular at parties when he went to college at Kansas State. (Of course, it was Andy himself who told me this, but that's neither here nor there.)

By then, Van Halen had become Van Hagar.  It wasn’t quite the same; we got a little more lukewarm with each album released. Over the next several years Andy had introduced me to a bunch of other music like The White Stripes, The Hives, Special Ed and Jay Z.

In 2007 Andy and I drove to Kansas City to see David Lee Roth’s triumphant return to Van Halen. Good concert, but we both agreed it was too … sterile. Dave had grown up and was behaving himself. His wide-eyed, slack jawed persona was of an era that had passed.

Then Andy got married and started a family. Now he wants to argue about politics and his right-wing values. But I know there’s a rock-n-roll soul that still burns in there somewhere.

3. The Dad
Well, of course my dad is on the list. If you’d spent as much time in a vehicle with my dad at the wheel as I have, he’d be on our list, too.

My dad used to to a lot of country and western. Now, I’ve never called myself a country fan.

                              "Louisiana Man" -- Doug Kerchaw

Particularly in the 1980s, this was not a cool thing to listen to, at least not with the friends I hung around with. Besides, it doesn’t seem to me groups like the Gatlin Brothers, the Mandrell Sisters and the Oak Ridge Boys have really stood the test of time.

But dad was more of an old-school country fan, and that stuff will live forever. Now when I say old school, I’m talking more about Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr. than Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams Sr. But when I listen to any of those artists now, I appreciate them. I really do. When I fell into a couple of free tickets for a Loretta Lynn concert last year, I decided to take my 14-year-old daughter. She enjoyed it, as I suspected she would.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
But the biggest thing I’m thankful for is that dad was a huge Creedence Clearwater Revival fan. My little sister and I would always perk up when dad reached for the Creedence cassette. Nobody, but nobody, had energy had Creedence.

Here we come again on a Saturday night
With your fussin’ and a-fightin’ won’t you get me to the rhyme
I wanna move, playin’ in a travelin’ band, yeah
Well I’m flying cross the land
Tryin’ to get a hand
Playin’ in a travelin’ band – ah WAAAAAAAA!

We loved it. We still love it. And it wasn’t just one song – Creedence would slow it down with something like “Have You Even Seen the Rain,” pick it up again with “Fortunate Son,” and would just hit it out of the park with every hit on that cassette. Beautiful chords on one track, great big screams on the next.

Have you noticed bands like Journey and Alice in Chains lost their lead singers and were able to replace them with somebody who almost sounds like them, even if you can’t tell me their name? Yeah, that’s not the case with Creedence. God only made one John Fogerty.

Dad drove my brother and I down to cut some firewood recently, and was playing some CD with Cajun music. That’s the thing with dad – you really never know what he’s going to be listening to. (This actually reminded me of another one of his traveling music staples, “Louisiana Man.” Listen to this for a minute or two and tell me you aren’t a better person for it.)

Without even trying, Dad also introduced me to blues, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of other stuff. Even though I didn’t always approve of dad’s musical selection on those road trips, it’s clear to me now he really does have great taste in everything from rock and roll to musicals like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

And you know what really makes so high on this list? He likes Joe Walsh … but not the Eagles. ‘Nuff said.

Next: 2-1

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Adam Knapp's Top 10 musical influences, Pt. 2

Editor's note: Here is the second guest blog Adam Knapp has written for me -- part of a four-part series counting down the people in his life who have inspired the music he listens to. Some of the music he mentions here is not to my liking -- Not so with KISS -- we both love old KISS - 1970s Gene, Paul, Ace & Peter. Well I'll just step back and let him tell it all. I give you -- Adam Knapp.
--J. Guy

                                               Nicki Minaj -- "Starships"

7. The Kid
About a half hour ago, I asked my teenage daughter what her favorite song was.

“You wouldn’t know it,” she replied.

Maroon 5
“Well what is it?” I asked.

“I’m not telling you,” she said.

But a seconds later she played it for me and … well, I’ve already forgotten what it was. But it’s always funny to see her get excited over music. “Just wait ‘til the beat drops!”

You wouldn’t think someone who isn’t even old enough to get her driver’s license would have much a musical influence on me. But she’s pretty much taken charge of my vehicle’s radio, and I’m astounded by how many of “her” songs I’ve downloaded for myself.

Maroon Five, Nicki Minaj, Izzy Azalea, 21 Pilots – would I even know who these groups were if it weren’t for Stellar Knapp? No, I’d probably just listen to some podcast when I’m at the gym – and trust me, that won’t give you the same energy as a song like “Starships.”

She’s even gotten me to listen to some of the “new” country. The ones she likes aren’t bad.

Stellar often surprises me by knowing and appreciating older music, too. Her favorite song last week was that pina colada song by Rupert Holmes. Snort.

                                        Candlebox -- "Cover Me"​
6. The Crush
Angi Clinton. Oh, Angi Clinton … why did you break my heart?

I was living in Missouri, fresh out of college. Angi worked in a pharmacy at Cub Foods. Single mom, a couple years older than me and … wow. I fell for Angi before I even talked to her.

Once I got to know Angi, she was even cooler than I thought. We were definitely into a lot of the same kind of music – Offspring, Bush, a lot of grunge. She didn’t just pretend to like that stuff; she knew it cold. I remember coming home with the new Alice in Chains “Tripod” CD (actually unnamed, but that’s what I call it) and playing it for her – loud – over the phone. Smooth move, no?
Scruffy & the Janitors
Angi’s favorite group was Candlebox. I didn’t know a lot about Candlebox, but you’d better believe I started listening to them after she told me that. I think she actually invited me to a Candlebox concert in Kansas City. Or maybe she just told she was going. Probably the latter, now that I think about. She was flirty, but she always held me at arm’s length.

So … fast forward a decade or two. Angi not only searched and found me on Facebook, she went on and one about how she never forgot about me.  She even still had a Christmas card I sent her. She really made me feel good.

I called her, and we never lost a beat. She lives in K.C. and really hasn’t changed. She’s constantly going out to check out new bands and hear live music, which is more than I can say. Then I started to follow her on Spotify, and was blown away by how much great new stuff she likes - stuff you would never hear on the radio. (At least in Wichita.)

Some of the band names will make you laugh. (“Scruffy and the Janitors” come to mind.) But trust me: If you want to stay young, pay attention to what Angi Clinton listens to.

A few months ago, Angi called me all excited. I knew she going to see Candlebox (yes, they’re still around.) Well, after the concert, she went to a bar and hung out with Candlebox.

I told you Angi was cool.


5. The cousin
When you have an older cousin who got to go to a KISS concert … well, if you were a child in the 1970s, one doesn’t carry much more weight than that.

That cousin was Billy Warstler, and he made sure I knew most of KISS’s entire catalog, much to my mother’s disapproval. But we loved them. Oh, did we love them. We bought KISS trading cards and KISS comic books. I don’t know how many hours we spent in my bedroom lip-synching KISS songs, but I do remember the band members we claimed. He was Paul Stanley and I was Gene Simmons. Then we’d switch; he’d be Peter Criss and I’d be Ace Frehley.
(I actually still own the ill-fated solo albums of my “guys” Gene and Ace. 

Incidentally, how egotistical were the members of KISS to each come out with solo albums on the same day? Not even the Beatles had the balls to try that.)
                                "S.O.S." -- Resurrection Band

Anyway … when Cousin Bill entered his teens, he became a born-again Christian. And what do you know – even with that 180, he was still a huge influence on me. Mailing me tapes from his home in Phoenix, Bill turned me on to groups like Petra and Stryper. “S.O.S.” by the Rez Band remains one of my favorite songs ever. (Listen to this dude’s voice and tell me it doesn’t move you a little bit.)

On one of the last tapes he made me, Bill gave me some news that still makes me laugh.

“There’s this new Christian band out there that’s really going to change things,” cousin Bill told me sometime in the early ‘80s. “They’re called U2.”

Next: 4-3

The American Way of Dying

                                              "Vehicle" -- The Ides of March My Nissan sitting in the parking lot of Fairview...