The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Friday, December 29, 2006

2006:Your Pal in Review

I started writing a year end post, until I realized that there all way to many of those already. with my end picks for music especially echoed too many other people's (Hold Steady, TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs).
The other things I wanted to write about have been done to death by people who get paid to write(You Tube, DVR, MySpace).
So I just wanted to thank my readers for their time. Having the immediate feedback of blogging has helped me immeasurably with my writing. I'm a little more than halfway done with my book "Surviving Retail" and most of that has been since I started blogging, after six years of stops and starts. Thanks a lot for everything.
My Favorite Posts.
Episode VII:Salad Days of the jedi
Things I've Never Understood About Men
How I stopped worrying and learn to love going bald
Part 2
I Need Coffee!!
Things I've never understood about women
Lonnie Bruner vs. the Catfish
Nice Guy's Burden
My Fifth Anniversary 9/11 post
Mid term elections and the Trix Rabbit
The Real Santa
Have a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Future weeps for itself

I was writing my last post on my day off, watching "T-Minus Rock" on MTV2 to catch up with what "the Kids" are into and let me tell you people, they are depressed!
Most of the songs were like melodramatic cries for help set to the same kind dropped tone riffing. They don't scream as much now, but they do yell a lot and almost all dress in black. The main diferences seem to be mainly cosmetic, some bands have long hair, some short, some have Jared Leto as a singer. It all seems as formulaic as 80's hair metal; they've traded songs of hedonism for ones of aggressive depression and hair spray for black eyeliner. They both have break downs in their songs designed to have concertgoers sing along:
Poison: "Don't need nothin' but a good time!"
Fallout Boy:"This isn't a scene, it's a goddamn arms race!"
What the fuck does that mean, more importantly, do I care?
It makes me think about when I see kids throwing tantrums at the store, I think, "Kid, you don't know the half of it." I think that's why people yearn for their younger day, when they had the luxury of thinking not getting a toy or getting grounded was the worst thing that could ever happened until wisdom or fate widened the possibility of how bad things can really get. I don't believe that life gets better when you get older because it gets easier, it's gets better because you can deal with it a lot better (hopefully).
The font of teenaged angst begins flowing when a child becomes aware enough to realize that enough things that their parents or other adults tell them are either lies or baldly hypocritical to not believe anything they say. This have been going on through out history.
This cross-generational truth played itself out on "T-Minus Rock " in Distubed's cover of Genesis's "Land of Confusion." The Singer of Disturbed is one of the many bald celebrities that people say I resemble.

Quién tiene el sexy? Disturbed Dude y Your Pal?
Your Pal by a back hair!
I'm sure Disturbed did the song mainly to grasp at their last bit of relevance but the lyrics were hard to ignore. "I won't be coming home tonight/my generation will put it right/ we're not just making promises/ we know we'll never keep" Did Phil Collins's generation put it right? Will Disturbed's generation? Will Rise Against bring about fair trade because their song says so. The cliché goes, "easier said than done", because almost everything is. It's easier sung than done, and can be more profitable too.

I watched the beginning of the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards to catch My Chemical Romance play a new song, "Welcome to the Black Parade." I like MCR o.k. , but I could never bring myself to buy anything by them for the same basic reason I didn't buy "Appetite for Destruction" when that came out; it had too many trappings of genres I don't care for overcoming my admiration of the music.
When Gideon whats-his-nuts introduced them he said that,"The scope of this band's vision is exceeded only by the depth of their sorrow!" With a straight face! If Kurt Loder (who's 5 years older than my dad) or John Norris (11 years older than me) had delivered that line without at least an conspicuous smirk, I'd believe they had been replaced by robots. At least that would explain John's hair.Robo Norris and his hair
I don't have to weep for the future, The future weeps enough for itself.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday Memories 2006

Another Christmas in retail gone by. It might have passed on the calendar, but this marks the beginning of my least favorite part of the holiday: the returns. Starting off a conversation with," We have a problem," or "You're gonna hate me but...", does not point to a peaceful resolution. Pavlovian conditioning instantly raises my defensive shields.
Anyhow, this isn't about now.

Overall, things went a lot smoother than the memories of Xmas past, But the long hours were a stone bitch. Doing anything, even things you like, for 12 to 15 hours a day will drive you fuck nutty. It's obvious that not that many people read my holiday shopping tip posts, but sitemeter already told me that already. But still, people were surprised we were busy and shopped for their kids with their kids.

Do a lot of stores close Christmas eve? It seems like an economically retarded thing to do, since at that point boiling desperation will make anyone buy ANYTHING. But, every year, I always have tons of people ask me if we're open on the 24th.

Anyway, this is the one story I have from this season.

As I mentioned in the tips, the only time you should get in line to go to the register is when you're truly ready to pay. Any questions will be far better answered by one of our top flight salespeople, not by the busiest, least mobile person. On top of that my self imposed register exile has also left me as one of the least knowledgeable people there.
It was Saturday the 16th and we were at the craziest moment of the busiest day of the year. All registers blazing we were rocking not unlike a hurricane. A lady came up with about $350 worth of stuff and had a question about one of her purchases.
"What is the age and weight limit on the Wobble Deck?"
"I don't know.", I answered, and I honestly didn't. I knew it was a deck that you wobbled on and for some reason needed 2 C batteries, and that was IT.
This wasn't good enough for her, "Can't I ask a question at the register?"
I repeated myself, admittedly a lot more tersely,"I Don't Know!"
My boss finally got her attention (he'd been standing there the whole time); before she turned to him she said, "You don't have to bark at me!"
She had a lot of shit and couldn't carry it all, so I helped her take it out across Treacherous Connecticut Ave.since we normally had people drive around to the back to take stuff out. It was my way of silently apologizing for my "barking," but she wasn't staying very silent.
"You know, if it wasn't for your boss, I would never shop here again; you were really rude to me. I know you guys are stressing out, but that's no excuse."
"Well you asked me a question that I didn't know, and you thought I was trying not to answer you."
"There are nicer ways of doing it." It never occured to her that if she just believed when I answered her question originally, none of this unpleasantness would have occured.
I explained," thought I might have upset you, that's why I'm taking this out to your car instead of having you drive around like we have everyone else do, to make it up to you."

She softened up a bit, talking about how people lose the christmas spirit and it's zen or something; the filter of my seething anger wouldn't let much into my memory.
In response, I said, "I guess working 15 hour days, six days a week has kind of made me lose that." as I loaded up her Mercedes Benz SUV.

I wanted to walk home right then and there, but there were hundreds more people waiting for me.
Post script: That lady's check bounced. It was the first time my boss ever laughed getting a bum check, because he knew this story.
He asked me, "Do you want to call her about this?", with a broad smile.
If I thought I would get any satisfaction out of it I would have.

Monday, December 25, 2006

RIP, James Brown: A Pop Quiz

I'm sure by now you've heard about the death of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
I believe his musical innovations will echo though out future generations of popular music for hundreds of years. His level of showmanship I've created a multiple choice quiz to test your knowledge of the legacy of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. The prize if you get all of them right is that you know some of the greatest music ever made, in my opinion.

1. In the mind of JB, what kind of world is this?

A. A Man's
B. A Man's, Man's
C. A Man's, Man's, Man's

2. What is the acceptable level of mess that Papa will take?

A. Not much, that is certain!
B. Changes on a mess by mess basis.
C. No

3. JB my not know Karate, but what other effective method of self defense does he employ?

A. Judo
B. Fung Shui
C. Ka-Razor

4. To maintain the status of "Sex Machine", what must one do?

A. Have a partner (or partners)
B. Have a tube of Ben-Gay handy
C. Stay on the scene

5. What's the proper JB exclamation when you "Got That Feeling"?

B. "Baby!"
C. "Ow!"
D. All of the Above

6. True/False: Ain't it Funky Now?
Here's a video of the concert James did in Boston that is widely credited with saving the city from the kind of rioting that happened in other cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Holiday Shopping Tips from a Retail Perpective:Part 2

1. Coordinate babysitting swaps.
People add the cherry to their shit sundae that is holiday shopping by bringing the kids while they shop for their gifts. Admittedly, it adds A LOT of stress to me when a mom wants me to hide the biggest thing in the store when I have had no formal training as a magician. If you have friends with kids, offer to babysit their kids while they shop if they return the favor.

2. Make another list.
Almost everyone had a gift list of who to buy for, but there are other things they need. One of the things people always forget are things like cards, gift bags, batteries and gift wrap until they're in line and people aren't always willing to be understanding if you're holding up the line. If you put all those other accouterments on your shopping list, it'll save at least one headache.

3.Don't get in line until you are done shopping.
Busy cashiers make shitty salespeople. They will give you the shortest and broad answer possible to keep the line moving. If you have an exchange, a return or are picking up something, it's usually best to ask a salesperson about it. Speaking of which....

4. If you send somebody in for something, tell them what it is they're getting.
It'll make the person doing you a favor's life simpler. Names are written on tiny slips of paper the items themselves are much easier to spot.

5.Don't buy video games or computer software.
Unless you know exactly what the person you're buying for owns. I can't count how many times grandparents have been sent in to buy video games (which I think is tantamount to elder abuse) and say they need games for "the Nintendo" which now can mean the DS, the Wii, the Game Cube or the Game Boy Advance.
This is especially true of computer software. There's little writing on every piece of software that has the system requirements for it. People go, "They have Windows XP," and expect it to work; that is merely one of as many of a half dozen things that have to be met or exceeded for it to work. Also, if it's marked "expansion pack" it needs another piece to work. And because of copyright laws opened software is not returnable, as disappointing as it is to not get what you want, it's worse when you do and can't use it.
6. Line navigation can be done.
Social conditioning makes us instinctively line up directly behind the person we think is in front of us in line. The line could evolve based on how that person choses to stand. This is very rarely how the line is moving. I recently asked the line of people I was ringing up to from along the counter so that any coming into the line would know how to queue up. Someone said, "I think people are smart enough to figure it out." I countered, "Trust me, they don't."
If you take a second to figure out the layout, you can even do it when you first enter the store, it'll save a lot of trouble. The only kind of store line I have seen in the past few years is when I buy groceries. Every other place has one line, so that the next person that is ready gets the next available register. This system works best when you wait until you're called to the register. People try to be efficient and make their way to the register before their called, but trust me waiting until your called will save you more time than those couple steps.

7. If someone's letting you go in front of them, thank them and go ahead of them.
This will save a back and forth of "No, you go", "No, you go","I've got a lot of stuff" on and on. They're not ready and you are. Please don't forget to thank them. Also, regardless of what it might seem, if I cashier looks at you and tells you to go to them, go. You're next, trust me. If for some reason somebody else is actually in front of you(mistakes happen) you can always say, "I'm sorry, (he or she) said I was next."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday Shopping Tips from a Retail Perpective:Part 1

A lot of these tips might seem to be a tad too obvious, but trust me; it's not. As Voltare said, "There is nothing common about common sense," and that was during the Age of Enlightenment. Some of will only help you if other people do it, but aren't we in this together? Don't we just want to survive? No? oh well...
This season has has been kicking my ass so hard, I might need a butt cheek transplant after it's all over. In fact, this post wouldn't exist if me boss didn't call me as I was leaving for work and tell me to come in later. If he had called me when I was still in bed, I would have stayed there. I'm too tired after work to do anything but watch The Daily Show and (maybe) take a shower. Still, time is short and I can only give you a couple tips now. I know it's a bit late in the season, but hopefully they'll still help.
1. Rule of thumb: ALL bets are off.
During the holidays, you can't count on anything. Anything. If you see it, and know you're going to need it, buy it. It might not be there tomorrow. The first crazy Christmas season I worked was at the Sharper Image. For all the things they pushed in their Holiday catalog and prepared us to sell hundreds of, the biggest in demand item BY FAR was a handheld bass fishing game. All the excitement of bass fishing in a portable package; I didn't see the appeal (although it was fun), but the Sharper Image and I ruined many holiday wish list with our shortsightedness.

2.There are going to be lines, get over it. Eaither give yourself enough time to wait, or don't bother (you're likely to leave empty handed, anyway).
Regardless of how many newspaper stories there are about Holiday shopping mob scenes, People are still suprised when the store is packed with people. "Why are you guys so busy?" The first couple times I heard this I laughed, until their reactions suggested that they were serious. I have taken to answering, "This Christmas thing is REALLY catching on!" or "Well, 2000 years ago a baby was born that many believe was the son of God."
Everybody is buying presents for everyone else and Christmas and Chanukah are on everyone's calender on the same day.

Safer (not safe) bets are shopping when store extend their hours. When I worked at the mall, they had it open until 11 and the place was dead most of that time, but the Rule of Thumb still applies.

3.Don't write checks. Use a check card.
Believe it or not, a lot of people think a lot of places don't take them or they'll get a bill if it's not processed a certain way. The commercials are right, you can use them anywhere that takes Visa or Mastercard and it goes directly out of your checking account. Check processing services like Tele Check kick back a lot of people's checks, because a lot of people who don't normally write checks write a lot of them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

VH1 Classic=Video Crack!

In a way, VH1 Classic is worse because you can't DVR crack to smoke it later.
With all my recent pop culture shenanagans I've come to a realization that as much as I know about movies and TV, it pales beneath the absolute white hot geekery of my knowledge about music. Like anyone suffering a terminal desease, I've taken it upon mysef to learn much about what's taken any semblance of a real life from me.

The original recipe of VH1 was bad enough, with it's Pop Up Videos, Behind the Musics and it's "I love the..." series. VH1 Classic is basically all trivial killer and little trivial filler. It's got all that kinda stuff plus the shit I used to stay up late to watch on "Nite Flight", it's a rock geeks dream.

The thing that's been kinning me lately is "the Alternative", showing the videos that I used to tape off of "120 Minutes" back in the day. A lot of people that I've come across in my adult life (especially those who grew up with free form WHFS) find it easy to dismiss anything MTV related, but in rural Delaware it was the only way to hear anything other than Bon Jovi or Janet Jackson.

The absolute biggest recent televised coup was ..Urgh! A Music War... been wanting to see it forever and hadn..t been able to find it. Unfortunately, they had cut out The Cramps but there was plenty of gold to be found like The Police meer moments before they started sucking and a pre fame Go-Gos having their shit together but my favorite was Devo doing "Uncontrollable Urge":
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Klaus Nomi also makes an appearance. If you've never heard of him he's a German who sang new wave versions of operatic arias, he was the visual embodiment of the 80's esthetic; like the earliest synthesizers and drum machines at the time they seemed futuristic, but now seem cutely quaint.:
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Monday, December 11, 2006


When I was 22, I worked at a Pawn shop. Not blessed with the relative abundance of self awareness that I have now, I didn't realize I was too sensitive for that kind of work. People at their most desperate, readily exchanging their valuables for pennies on the dollar and a paper pawn ticket to forever remember their trip to rock bottom.

When Christmas time rolled around my boss asked me to be Santa and wave at passing cars, and I immediately said yes. Other than a similar twinkle of the eye, I had no physical resemblance to St. Nick, but a mid priced santa suit and some carefully placed pillows were going to take me the rest of the way.

After a couple weeks of brain melting boredom in front of the store, my boss had a favor to ask of me; a woman he knew needed a Santa for her daughter's Brownie troops holiday party. I agreed pretty quickly, but I should have thought about it a little. I had only had direct interaction with one child, a two and a half year old girl that had convinced her father to pull over to visit me. I had had enough of my own visits with Kris Kringle to be able to wing my own decent Santa cliche setlist. I started off with an earnest "Ho Ho Ho" followed by the standard "have you been a good girl?" right into" ..what would you like for Christmas?" capping off with a "well, so long Merry Christmas" with a surprise reprise of "Ho Ho HO!" If her expression was any indication, my performance was top notch. She radiated nothing but glowing adoration the whole time she was in my presence. So I thought I was golden. My boss's friend (I'll call her Debbie, though I have forgotten her real name) gave me a couple of items of advice. "The younger girls will think anyone in a Santa suit is the real deal, but the older ones will be more cynical..". In the occasionally unreliable note taking section of my mind, I should have highlighted that older girl=cynical bit, I say foreshadowingly.

The evening of the party started less than promising. I was running late anyway, but the rural road maze had added a few more minutes to my arrival time. The brownie lodge was at the end of a long, dirt driveway that led to a car choked parking lot. Thankfully, I had enough foresight to dress in the entire outfit, except the above neck accouterments. I bolted out of my car adjusting my beard when I saw Debbie frantically searching for me in front of the main entrance. She greeted me with obvious relief and told me everyone is SO EXCITED that 'm here. And as soon as I was ready I was pushed though the front door into the bright lights of the lodge. The 3 dozen or so young girls shuffling around the room simultaneously stopped and turned their heads towards me upon my entrance and began running, as a group, towards me, all excited looks and fulfilled anticipation.

And I felt like a total and complete fraud. To them I was the greatest man that wasn't their daddy, but I knew I was just a 22-year-old man playing said Saint Nicholas. No amount of fake white beards was going to change that. I felt just like a man holding a lit match while a wave of gasoline quickly approached. I knew once the kids got close enough to feel that I had pillows instead of paunch and that my beard wasn't attached to my face, but to a cheap elastic band, it would all be over. Their hugs would turn to tiny fists of fury, punching too fast and from too many directions to defend myself. I braced for impact, but they stopped. Their Santa reverence stopped them at a safe distance, like an invisible fence. Debbie let me to the stool where I was going to give presents to the kids. What, I'm giving them presents? I don't remember exactly what I thought would happen when I did this. Maybe just another stellar version of my Santa set that killed em in front of the pawnshop. I certainly didn't mentally prepare for this!
Such direct contact gave a taste of what a crappy mall santa I would have been. At least I didn't have children sitting on my trembling lap telling me their deepest X-Mas wish while in the background, one or both of their parents give me an expression that says, "Don't get the kid's hopes up, OK?!"

They got into a long, orderly line to get a sit-down with St. Nick, the toy pimp himself.
It was like the beginning of The Godfather. Debbie played Robert Duval to my Marlon Brando, feeding names into my ears and presents into my grip. I greeted them with a "Have you been a good girl?" and sending them off with a "Ho, Ho, Ho!" at an increasing efficient pace. The faithful mixed with the doubtful in a way that never made me comfortable with either. But let me tell you the young ones were believers! They were bursting with excitement, occasionally greeting me with tiny sweet hugs that were much too quick to give me away. But cynical was a massive understatement in describing the older girls. They might believe in Santa Claus, but they knew I wasn't him. They'd shoot me a look that they would later perfect on boyfriends, auto mechanics or anyone else stupid enough to try to fool them. The look that says, "I. Don't. Think. So." After they took their presents they'd say things like, "Thanks, Santa" coated with a sticky coat of sarcasm. The only thing missing was that they didn't do the air quote gesture when they said "Santa". I was just hoping they would keep my secret at least until I left.

After I waved my last goodbyes, I ran into my car, whipped off my wig and beard and inhaled like I had been trapped underwater. And in a way I was, stuck under my own deceit and I just wanted to breath freely. I didn't have much time to relax though, as a 4 year old came out the front door with her parents to go home. I froze, what was I going to do? I didn't want her to see Santa without a beard and hat, but if I put that stuff back on even a 4 year old knows that trading a team of flying reindeer for a beat up '82 Mustang is a crappy deal. So I ducked under my dash and waited for their headlights to pass. I knew I had to get the hell out of there. All the youngsters would be going home soon, my tardiness had made Santa the headliner and the show was over. I threw my car into reverse and headed out of the driveway pointed in the opposite direction. I noticed a fork off to the right that I hadn..t noticed during my first trip. I backed up a short way down it to point me in the right direction and I was free!

But I wasn't quite done with the Father Christmas. My boss thought it would be a good attention getter to have a Santa in front of the store in February, so there I was, about to learn that the average person has no sense of irony. I stood in front of the store dodging nuggets of the obvious shouted from passing cars. "Christmas is over!" Yes, thank you, I do have a calendar. One guy stretched himself out of back seat window of a car to give me some criticism. "Santa, you son of a bitch, ya didn't get me what I wanted for Christmas!" he screamed. I answered,"Well then you should have been a good boy, asshole!", HO, HO, HO! Ya Bastard!

After that day I gave the outfit back, and haven't worn a Santa suit since. Debbie wrote me a very sweet note a short time after the party thanking me. At the end of it she wrote, "You are the REAL Santa!" Would she have still felt this way if I had told her that I had originally thought I was going to get paid for making the appearance? No, Probably not.

But writing this story did make me think about the power of Santa. By this time, both the loyal and the cynical little girls are now young women, way too smart to believe in Santa. But hopefully they'll enjoy their children's acceptance, while they still have an imagination big enough to believe a wonderful man can visit every house on earth in one night and that he can look something like me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Song that make me cry.

Be it the beauty or sadness of the melodies or the memories I attach to them, these tunes almost never fail to turn me into a sobbing, colossal (but unapologetic) wuss.
When compiling this list, I didn't expect it to be so long and some of them might betray my true lack of cred, but as I often say, "There's no future in fronting."

"Walk Away Renee" by The Left Banke
Whenever this song comes up on my Ipod, I sing and weep almost involuntarily no matter where I am. I must look like I'm insane to the people I pass by, but I couldn't care less.

"Evil Will Prevail" by The Flaming Lips.
Lately, the evidence is overwhelming that this is true.

"Mass Pike" by The Get Up Kids.
This is the rare song that makes me think of two different relationships.

"God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys.
I've known a lot of people that would agree that this song has otherworldly tear-inducing properties.

"Dragon lady" by the Geraldine Fibbers
This song is like the prom scene in Carrie, with Carrie with scraped knees and torn dress instead of pig's blood; killing everyone with her actual anger and hate instead of a telekinetic manifestation of it.

"I Am A Scientist" by Guided By Voices.
The song itself doesn't do it, the lyric "I am a lost soul/I shoot myself with rock and roll/ the hole I dig is bottomless/ but nothing else can set me free" does.

"Helena" by My Chemical Romance
If I was too self conscious to include MCR in this list, I would have been too self conscious to make it to begin with.

"Birds" by Neil Young.
It's just a beautiful song.

"The Beautiful Ones" by Prince.
This doesn't have as much effect as it used to, when the musical question, "Do you want him/or do you want me/ cause I want you" was answered "him" a lot.

"Love Can Destroy" by The Ravonettes.
Destroy, disintegrate, obliterate, whatever.

"Couldn..t You Wait" by Silkworm.
I don't have any idea why this opens up the ole eye faucet, but baby, they're open.

"One More Hour" by Sleater Kinney.
This brings me back to a specific morning when I realized that no matter how safe or loved somebody feels in your arms, sometimes that's not enough.

"Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens.
I've only listened to this song once all the way through, it's weepy power is so strong.

"Maps" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I don't think any explanation is needed, unless you haven't heard this song.