Monday, March 30, 2009

Elise - The Funeral (Part II)

Elise had married into the family business four years ago with the understanding she would move on once she found work of her own. The dental office she had worked in for the past eight years had closed, and she had agreed to help out around her husband's funeral home while she searched the web for a new place to land. After a few months though, Elise found herself spending less time checking the new postings, and instead working around the office freeing up her husband Chris to focus his attention to family consultations and the restoration work taking place in the basement.

In those first few weeks she spent time down in the basement with Chris learning about the restorative process, and the steps taken to preserve the appearance of life long enough for the family to say good-bye. Very little of what she saw bothered her at first, but she quickly came to learn that in order to do her job, she couldn't see the process. On the table, the deceased lost their histories and personality and became projects. They were a series of fluids, stitches, realignments and positionings. They stopped being human, and in order to work with the families she needed to do everything in her power to remember the role these bodies had in the lives of the people who knew and loved them.

During viewings and services, Elise would stand out in the foyer and direct people to the bathrooms and water fountain. She would replace boxes of tissue, show distraught families to one of the private grieving rooms, and assist when Chris needed. Mostly though, she stood close to the wall, or sat on a stool just outside the office door, and watched the family members and friends come and go while listening to their conversations and cliched sentiment. People would tell each other that the man or woman in the casket looked good, or that they had lived a full life. People said the flowers were beautiful and took turns reminding each other that funerals are for the living.

For Elise though, funerals were only for the dead. She idealized their lives, making them all moral fun-loving people. They made mistakes, but atoned for them. They raised families who may be too selfish to see yet everything that was given to them. They loved hard, and forgave quickly. They stayed up with sick children, and lay down faithfully with their spouses. The indulged in kindnesses and had a genuine interest in the well being of strangers. They left the world a better place than it was when they first arrived.

Each and every funeral she worked, Elise purposefully created these histories for the deceased because she believed firmly in another oft said cliche: "Funerals bring out the worst in people."

It was at the funeral that the first whispers of pain and disappointment were whispered amongst scorned family. It was during the viewings that people would arrive after lunch-time cocktails and start sharing intimate secrets a touch too loudly to be discreet while stealing glances at the open casket. The only way to combat the ugliness and create an environment where she could still have compassion was to invent a living version of the corpse before her that she could love.

It came naturally to her, and after a few months, she didn't consciously realize she was doing it. With a glance at their slack gray skin, entire lives would suddenly be visible to her. A few months after that, she would even find herself drained and saddened at the end of her day, mourning the loss of the life she had created.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday. That's My Fun Day. My I Don't Have to Run Day.

Slept in, and then stayed in bed to read for a bit. Jen heard the pages turning from the other room (seriously) and came in asking what we were going to have for breakfast. After realizing we had nothing, she left me to my book.

After I downed a a strange breakfast (a salad with strawberries and tofu), we went to go see Last House on the Left. As a kid, I watched the first one amazed and scared and disgusted. This time was different. Movies have come a long way since Wes Craven first made his grainy little exploitation movie, and that was reflected in this new version. Not much of a remake, though there are some familiar moments. The one thing I was waiting for (oral sex gone horribly wrong) was missing, but wouldn't have fit in the film. Still, having things that didn't fit didn't stop them from putting in a death by microwave. I didn't care. I liked it.

Funny thing about that microwave...Jen and I had the place completely to ourselves. No other soul shared the theater. We made it all the way through the movie until the very end when two loud older women came into the room.

"Well, the place isn't very crowded yet!"

"Where do you want to sit?"

This went of for a moment or two before Jen snapped and asked them to be quiet as we were trying to watch the last couple minutes of our film.

"Oh, sorry" they said four times each. We said "That's fine" and resisted the urge to add "Now shut the fuck up."

The ladies made their way to the row behind us and settled in with the occasional whisper. It occurred to me that they didn't seem like the key demographic for a movie like this, but was more surprised that they were willing to watch the end of the film before they had made it through the first hour and a half.

On screen, a man's head messily exploded in a microwave making Jen and I chuckle to ourselves, but it was quiet behind for the first time since the two women had made their way into their seats. The credits came up and Jen and I stepped out into the lighted hallway of our local megaplex. Walking away, I looked over my shoulder to see that the digital sign above our theater door that shows what movie is showing had changed to "Confessions of a Shopoholic".

That brought me so much joy that these two ladies were were easily 35 minutes early for their movie had their rudeness repaid by inadvertently watching some guy's head come apart in a bubbling spray.

Enjoy your movie, ladies.

We rounded out the day by getting newly purchased produce chopped and sliced and ready for the week while singing along with an old Eagles live album. I'm not a big fan of The Eagles, but Jen and I both grew up with them, and we know all the words. Sometimes, that's just what you need.

Now, we're literally sitting back to back in the den, listening to a Band of Horses record and having a drink. Soon, it'll be another salad and some bad TV. Can't wait. Really.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Funeral (Part One)

Tommy's past wasn't that interesting, so I created one for him. In my version, he did all the same mundane things he actually did, except in my version there was always the possibility of being something more. In my retelling of his past he actually had something special within him that he just hadn't managed to tap into. That is something that was sadly not in his reality.

Tommy wasn't a killer, but that didn't mean that he hadn't wished a lot of people dead. For many of the long hours he would spend behind the wheel of his semi, he would line pick out a spot on the windshield (watermark or bug remnants, no matter) like it was a gun-site, and imagine the dotted line of bullets traveling through the air, eventually finding their home in the heads and chests of passing motorists. He spent at least eight hours a day on the road, and many of them spent playing this game.

He dreamt about it other places too. Standing in line at the bank or at Wendy’s or walking the aisles in the grocery store. He could imagine the sound of bullets on bone and the rapturous roar of the gun in his hands as people ran screaming.

But Tommy had never held, much less owned a gun. He was no real threat. He was just a man bored on the road, and like most of us, wishing he were someone else.

I hadn’t seen him for eight years, but there’s nothing like a funeral to bring family around. We had never been close, so it wasn’t odd for me to stand in the corner and not make the effort to go over and greet him right away. I watched him for awhile as he spoke with the rest of the family that had gathered around upon his arrival.

His suit was a flat new blue that had most likely never even been cleaned before. I checked the wrists for hanging tags. The cut and look of the fabric made me conclude that Wal Mart had started selling suits. A thick linked gold bracelet sparkled out of the cuff of his right sleeve, and the silver of a chunky Timex poked out from under the left. He wore silver cufflinks, and the way he waved his arms about as he spoke told me that he thought they were classy.

I imagined him replaying the afternoon later that night at the hotel bar, thinking to himself that the strangers in the room must have been asking themselves who that sharp dressed fellow with the soul patch and cufflinks was. That guy had something.

When in fact, what Tommy had was a hotel bill being paid for by his sister and a 1997 International with over 900,000 miles on it; A truck that the bank was threatening to track down and take back unless some money exchanged hands quickly.

There was a lull in the conversation, and some of the family members drifted away to speak in smaller circles. I watched Tommy as he ran the palms of his hands down his face. To many, it was a sign of grief; a man wiping away sadness. I knew that it meant he had been drinking, and was not alone in my thoughts.

“Someone got started early,” someone whispered nearby.

I watched quietly as he approached the casket for the first time, crying softly to himself, looking down at his sister. For the first time since his arrival, he wasn’t making a production of his actions. I looked away and gave him privacy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mmmmmm...Full of Gnatty Goodness

Woke up late this morning. Really late for me. I rolled over and saw the clock said 9:30 and was a bit surprised. I know, some of you are thinking that's not even close to being late, but I can't help it. The older I get the more I get pissy about wasting a day in bed. Still, I managed to stay in bed for awhile longer to put a dent on "No County for Old Men". I've been wanting to read the book since I saw the film, and am not disappointed so far.

I let the dogs out to pee, and followed along to pick poop up out of the back yard. It felt so amazing outside that I went in and told Jen to get ready because there was no way in hell we were going to stay inside on a day like today. We got ready and headed to our favorite park on the North Side for a walk. After being there for a little bit, we got lazy and sat and watched ducks and geese on the lake. Not wanting to go home yet, we grabbed some Subway and went back to the park to eat (and play around on the deserted playground for a bit).

Two stops for planting supplies later, we were home to do a bit of yard work. I tried to pull as many of last year's leaves from under our bushes in front as possible while Jen planted some little pots with flowers. I get the feeling we'll be dragging those things in and out for the next several weeks until it's warm enough to leave them out all night.

Then, I finally got to go for a bike ride. It's my first this year, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a bit painful. I felt every little hill, and I was pretty fucking far away from being fast, but I made it to my office and back in one piece, so I can't complain too much. Well, except for when it comes to the bugs. The gnats were everywhere and I swallowed more than my share with my out-of-shape-mouth-breathing. I even had one lodge itself into the corner of my eye and refused to get out for half a mile. Good times.

I should be able to start bike commuting some this week, though I doubt my legs will want to tomorrow. Maybe Tuesday and Wednesday though. After that it's supposed to rain.

(Behold the beauty that is my commuter bike. Equipped with water bottle and rear tire rack to hold all my work stuff. Yeah, I'm that cool.)

Jen and I finished the night by hanging out here in the den. She played around on Facebook while I listened to some records (Jesus & Mary Chain, Wilco, etc.) and had a glass of wine.

It wasn't exciting, but if I could live every day of my life like this, I would.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blessed Urinal

If the key to salvation is left on the top of a disgusting truck stop urinal, I'm pretty sure I'm fucked. I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Funeral By Numbers

2 Days.
1150 miles.
6 dirty public bathrooms
1 awesome iPod Playlist.
2 breaks to walk dogs, feed dogs, pet dogs, and pee.
1 small cooler filled with
-6 cans Coke Zero (fuelled by diet colas)
-1 ham sandwich
-2 pieces Light String Cheese
-2 Light Yogurt cups

2 boxes Jelly Belly assorted jelly beans.
2 funeral viewings.
7 pairs of wax lips from Farm & Fleet.
8-10 beers.
1 Butt Sex "shooter".
1 crying, laughing, happy, and sad wife.
1 hangover.
17 hours in the driver's seat.
1 numb ass.
1 funeral.
1 graveside service.
1 family luncheon.
1 mother crying as she says good-bye.
1 return home.
4 hours sleep.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wisconsin Bound

Good news waits until the morning. It's a fact. So, when the phone rang the other night at 1:30 in the morning, I knew it was bad, even through the thick haze of sleep. Jen's grandmother wasn't doing well, and it was Jen's mom on the phone letting us know what's going on.

I'm so tired, that I decide that it's me that should tell Jen what's going on, so I talk to her mother for a bit thinking it would be best for Jen to hear it from me. I don't know why I'd be a better choice than her mother, but at the moment it made sense. Of course, it didn't occur to me until after the call was over that maybe her mom needed to talk to her too, so after I caught Jen up on what was going on, she called her mom so they could talk and cry together a bit.

The next morning, Jen's grandmother passed away. All the things you tell other people to comfort them apply here: She had a long full life, she didn't suffer, and she was a very sweet woman. She's going to be very missed by her family.

So, we head up to Wisconsin first thing Tuesday morning. There will be a viewing that evening, and then services the next morning. Seems like in order to get me to visit, someone has to die. Watch your back. I might be coming to a state near you.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Disney's War

So, we basically had a gift card for The Disney Store that we needed to spend. To be honest, there's not a whole helluva lot I'm interested in from The Disney Store. Sure, I like some of the movies, and we even own a few, but normally it's not the kind of shopping I get all excited for. So, after a quick discussion we placed our little order and a few days later came this amazingly large box.

It was huge. So much goodness must lay within.

Someone took a lot of care filling this giant box with seemingly dozens of those little air pillow thingies.

The packaging stretched from one end of the table to the other. When pulled away, we were left to behold the glory.

I kid you not. The huge box, all the pillows, and a roll of packing tape, just to ship us a Blu-ray copy of Wall-E (a movie that Jen and I are both big fans of). I started laughing when I saw the box on the porch thinking "Maybe it was buy a copy of Wall-E get a free winter coat or something." Unfortunately, no. Just a lonely Blu-ray, huddled in the bottom of its enormous home, waiting for love.

Disney 1. Mother Nature 0.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Whigs, Dead Confederate, and Trances Arc

Just got back from the show at The Basement, and it was so much fun. I really dug all three bands sets which is kind of rare. I'm not that snobby really, it's just out of three bands one of them is bound to suck. They didn't.

Even though Trances Arc have one of the worst names going in Indie Rock, they were so much better than the tracks I found on line led me to believe they would be. They were a really solid live band, and it seems like they might be more at home on the stage as opposed to the studio. The same thing could be said of Dead Confederate.

DC has been touring on their album for a while now. They've done some TV (Conan) and I think they even got mentioned as one of Rolling Stone's Ten Bands to Watch (or some shit like that). They are a throwback to so much of the music I love. Their grunge hooks and garbled lyrics would get drowned in My Bloody Valentine swells and Slowdive-like phaser walls. Lots of other comparisons to bands like Nirvana or Alt-Country outfits are out there, but to me they sounded drenched in old school shoegaze. At one point, their guitarist was making scratching noises that immediately made me think of Sonic Youth, and then they went into a cover of what I think is probably my favorite song of all time, SY's Theresa's Sound World. It wasn't as good as watching Sonic Youth do it, but if they're not in town you could do worse than Dead Confederate.

Finally, The Whigs hit the stage. The Whigs are a three piece that sound twice their size. A great deal of their sound's size has to be with their drummer Julian Dorio. There were times tonight that I saw his hands come back over his shoulders and he would twist his body to get more leverage on the stick to bring it down as hard as he could. I don't think I've ever seen anyone hit like him live. When they played "Right Hand on My Heart" a (a song I've heard a little too often) and the crescendos built to the feedback freakout ending I had chills. So damn good.

Well, that's it for me. I'm supposed to be up in less than four hours to go to work. For those of you who just check in from time to time, I'm sorry this has been so music heavy lately. I'll get back to my boring cubicle life soon.

Hugs and Kisses,


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sub Pop Saves the Day

A month or so ago, I ordered a couple of 7" singles from Sub Pop. A week later an over sized package arrived from them, with a full release of The Postal Service's Give Up along with a single for a band I had never heard of called Wooden Shjps. While I was happy to get the Postal Service record (something I was going to order anyway) and I was digging on the new Wooden Shjps disc, I had no complaints, but I still really wanted what I ordered to begin with. So, I emailed Sub Pop using the Customer Service address on the website:


Hi, I got my records in the mail today, but it wasn't what I ordered. I had ordered a Band of Horses 7" and Postal Service 7" and instead got "Give Up" and a Wooden Shjps 7". Not that I'm unhappy with what was sent, it just wasn't what I had ordered.

So, in order to get what I originally sent over in order 28140 do I need to ship back the two records you sent? I'm not trying to take advantage of the situation, just want to know how to make it right.

Hugs and Kisses,

Stephen Merryman

In response, all I received was silence. So, I broke down and reordered the records I had wanted originally. I received them, and was a happy man. I spent a little more than I had planned on, but got some cool stuff in return. Then, out of the darkness:



I just found this over a month old email from you in my junk mail. Sorry about that! Anyway, that’s a huge bummer. I’ll send you the correct records. You’ll see them soon. Please listen to the incorrect records if you haven’t already. They are yours as a token of a colossal mistake on our part.


Since I had the records they had missed the first round, I didn't want to get them again. So, I responded:


Since I knew you're all fundamentally sound folks, I decided I could wait no longer and submitted a second order for the records I had ordered the first round, so you don't have to resend them. Shit happens. It's fine. If you'd rather, you're welcome to send me a single or two of whatever you think is interesting to replace it (seriously...I'm open to suggestions), or if you send nothing, we'll still part friends. I can't help it...I'm your doormat.



Yesterday, I opened the mail to find three new records waiting for me, and they are amazing. I received limited edition colored vinyl singles for Mark Sultan (a guy I had never heard of before, but who's amazing, and No Age (which may turn out to be my new favorite band). The third was a record I already have, but I'm sure I'll get to pass it along to someone in need sooner or later.

On the invoice, Sam had quickly written "Enjoy the records. XOXO".

Never have I felt so completely loved by a company. It helps that I love so much of the music that they've released over the years (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, Low, Mudhoney, The Postal Service, Nirvana, etc.) but now I'm totally endeared to them as well. Great music and hugs and kisses? What more could a fella ask for?