Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ask about family (values)-style dining!

After all this time, I'm just now finding out that the 'S' in 'S & M' stands for 'supper'? Well, geez, that was not my impression at all. Although, this does explain why certain people have never invited me over for dinner. I think I have some apologizing to do...

2010 Relay For Life

This year's Temple Terrace Relay For Life was held last Friday and Saturday and I participated once again as a member of Team Daddy-O Alley Katz. The event raised $77,640.38 of which our team raised $6,627 (so can still give) in the fight against cancer. As for me, I raised $626.83, which fell short of my goal of $1,000...however, that's after I doubled it from $250 and then doubled it again to $500, so that's okay. And like I said, you can still give.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who sent donations to me. These people are heroes:

I also want to thank my teammates, mostly for tolerating me and my bullshit and allowing me to be a part of something great.

And most of all, if your name is on our t-shirt (above), I especially want to thank you, because it's in your honor that we do what we do. Thank you for being an inspiration.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clarx not dead

It occurred to me that since someone might read the last post and think it was The Last Post, it would probably be a good idea to let people know I'm still alive. My confidence, self esteem, sense of worth and importance and any semblance of optimism are all shot, but like Rocky Balboa, against better judgment (and possibly for lack of other options), I keep getting up.
(Say, does anybody remember the result of the climactic fight in "Rocky"? Yeah, I do too.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What would this guy do?

I'd recently read in the St. Pete Times that someone known publicly as "The Jesus Guy" was traveling around the Tampa Bay area. He's been featured in Time and Newsweek magazines, on ABC television's 20/20 and was the subject of a documentary film titled "The Jesus Guy" by Sean Tracey (clip below). A few days after I read the Times article, I was driving down Dale Mabry highway and I saw him walking along the side of the road. I had to pull over and get a picture, maybe talk to him. Although, I hadn't put much thought into it so I was caught off guard when he asked "So what's going on with you, spiritually?"

"Huh? Oh...yeah...well, lots of stuff like this here that you're doing, you know. I like that. Yeah. Just lots many...different...good works and things, you know."

I might be in trouble if I ever have to answer questions from the real Jesus. Geez...I mean, gosh. We made small talk and I wished him well and headed for home.

Later I thought about it. As easy as it might be to dismiss The Jesus Guy as some attention-seeking nutcase, I wonder why we don't see more people dressing up like Jesus. After all, there are people who dress up on weekends and re-fight the Civil War, people who dress up like Elvis or Madonna or Micheal Jackson. Hell, Heck, Tampa is home to people who dress up like Peter Pan and Batman. None (well, hopefully at least very few) of those people think they really are who they're emulating and neither does The Jesus Guy, as far as I can tell from what I read on line and my own very, very brief encounter.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A short conversation about Picture Day, circa 1886

"Okay people. This is a big day for The Bank of Tampa; we are going to have our company photograph taken! This image will stand as document of our pride in this institution, as well as the fidelity and dignity it stands for itself so it's very important that we get this just right. I see you're all wearing your finest three-piece suits. Excellent! Let's all go outside then..."

"Got it, chief."

"Carl, where are you going?"

"Oh, me and Bill and some of the other fellas are going to crawl out of the windows on the second
floor and pose on the ledge."

"Why in the world would you want to do that?"

"I don't know. Inspire our customers? It says, 'Look, we're willing to go out on a limb...well, a ledge...for you'. You know, it's like a metaphor for investments and stuff."


"Plus, it's kind of bad ass out there. We go out there all the time. We want our picture taken doing that!"

"I don't see what..."

"We're not all going to do it. Nathan's a pussy and so he and some of the others are just going to lean out of the windows."

"I am not a pussy. I just think it would be a good idea to let our customers know that the windows on the second floor are fully functional. That's the kind of thing a person wants to know about their bank. 'Hey, do those windows up there actually open up?' They sure do, Miss Parsons, they most certainly do. And that means you can trust your life savings to us."

"Bill and I are going to take off our jackets, showcase the goods. Nathan, you should scream like a woman or a little girl and it will look like we're rescuing you from falling or something."

"God, I hate you so much, Carl."

"Quiet, all of you! Stop bickering! Now, while I do not see the merit in your ideas, I do trust your judgment as professionals in the fledgling fiduciary industry that is destined to set the course of world history for centuries to come, so go ahead I guess. Just tell the photographer to wait to take the picture until I've gotten all the way up on the roof and standing right next to the sign so people will know we're The Bank of Tampa and only the bank president gets to touch the sign."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bench hog

I was at my local neighborhood nation's largest chain retailer of books tonight, looking for some self-help material to deal with my latest calamitous bout with anxiety or depression or whatever it is I have (seriously, if anybody knows what it's called when you say really mean and terrible things to yourself internally over and over and over again until you reduce yourself to a crippled lump of raw nerves incapable of doing much more than lying in bed, let me know, because my efforts to figure it out have been fruitless so far) and I visited the magazine rack.
The management at the local neighborhood nation's largest chain retailer of books have thoughtfully provided benches in this area for people to sit on and peruse books and magazines, which is very thoughtful of them, considering I'll bet a lot of those people have no intention of paying for what they're reading. It was while I was reading an interview with Tina Fey in Esquire magazine that I had no intention of paying for that I noticed a guy on one of these benches. He was straddling it in the middle, leaning over and reading one magazine with a stack of others sitting on the bench behind him. Now, most of us who have ever participated in team sports at any level know how to sit on a bench correctly (it's okay, admit it).These particular benches could easily accommodate three asses quite comfortably, sitting correctly and reading something, but this guy decided to claim this bench in the name of his ass only.
What a dick.

This is exactly the kind of thing that I should not let bother me, yet I am incapable of abiding (pretty sure this would be a different disorder, requiring a different book, that I will deal with if/after I get the first thing under control).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Still sick

It's been an interesting, if not productive (I've been working and laying in bed and absolutely nothing else; I'm off today so I'm up long enough to write this and then back to bed I go), week. It started with an opportunity that may still come to fruition but which I have talked myself into believing that I can't possibly be qualified for. After all, they're talking to other people too; what are the realistic odds that if they talk to five other people, they won't find that at least four of them that are much better than me?
It ended with the implementation of a new policy at work that places new restrictions on taking vacation, and it came out the day before the following week's schedule, during which I had requested vacation time. I never actually planned on taking vacation; I put the request in to prove a point to someone who suggested that I really need to take some time off. So I did so, even though I knew the outcome before I even filled out the paperwork. After all, I'm not allowed to take bathroom breaks. I know they're not going to let me have entire days off with pay.
In between, I was "asked" to work extra hours to cover someone else's time off. Ooh! Irony!"Asked", in the same way you might "ask" someone on a rapidly sinking ship if they'd like to go for a swim. After one of those later-than-already-late shifts, I stopped on my way home to help a lady jump start her car. Based on my previous experience with karma, I believe this means the next time someone screws me, they'll be wearing a festively colored condom.
Hope is a sucker's bet and nice guys finish last, kids.
Nighty night.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A picture is worth something or other

My dear friend K found some of my old photos the other day. She enjoyed them so much that she thought they should be shared with the world. She said they offered a unique glimpse into my past and would afford my readers a better understanding of me. Sounds like a fine idea to me so I said sure. And here they are...

Look at the baby! So cute! Hard to believe that the innocent little cherub in this photo would go on to become a mild-mannered boy from the Midwest that moved to Tampa and fell in with a crowd of sexy, fast talkin' city ladies who got his poor head all a-jumbled.

Awww! Baby bath in the sink! Classic! Doesn't that make you want to just pinch my buttcheeks? Well, good news; you still can! Just send me a self addressed stamped postcard explaining why I should let you pinch my buttcheeks and if you're a lucky winner, I'll let you do it! Or just come up to me and do it whenever you want. Either way is good.

Halloween was always a special time to show off just how gosh-darned cute I was.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!

Ribbit! Ha ha! Froggy fun!
But hey, don't get the idea that my childhood was all bubble baths and cute costumes, because it wasn't, okay?
I had challenges to deal with...

...unique obstacles to overcome.

But who doesn't, right? I can't complain. Overall, it was a pretty great childhood. We had family pets...

This is Whiskers McPounce-A-Lot, my pet kitty cat. One day, men from the government showed up in a special van and asked my dad if he knew anything about a bunch of goats that had been slaughtered in the neighborhood. My dad talked to the men out in the garage where I couldn't hear them and right after that, Whiskers ran away from home. What a strange coincidence. We were sad, but dad cheered us up when he told us the government men had come to give us some money because they wanted us to go to Deer Forest on vacation that year!

This is Mr. Scribbles, our pet chimpanzee. Mr. Scribbles taught me the secret of how to throw really hard and really fast. But all the other kids in the neighborhood had a real problem with getting feces on their hands so nobody wanted me on their baseball teams.

By the time I was becoming a teenager, I had a reputation for being something of a fancy lad...

Something I carried with me into high school...

...and eventually, like many troubled teenagers, I got into some dark and disturbing occult stuff.

I grew out of it (thank goodness) but I was still subject to going along with the fads of the day...

In 1979, "10" with Bo Derek came out. My skin condition cleared up in time for 1980...

...when "Urban Cowboy" was all the rage.

High school was a formative time for me, as it is for everyone. But I didn't stop exploring new things, new ideas, new ways to express myself...
For a while, in the late '80s, I was the lead singer for a Tom Petty tribute band called "Petty Theft". We were sued out of existence on the grounds that we were (in the eyes of the law and a jury of our so-called peers, I guess) "godawful".

Then, of course you remember the year I spent defending the planet from aliens as Dynaman, right? Right? Oh, come on! Earth on the brink of being destroyed? All humans taken captive to serve as slave labor in the riboflavin mines on planet Hamnick-Yelkl? Nobody remembers any of that. Everybody remembers Mookie Wilson hitting a grounder that went between Bill Buckner's legs in game 6 of the '86 World Series but nobody ever seems to remember the whole year I spent defending the earth from aliens as Dynaman?!? Such bullshit from you people.

Anyway, here I am today, happy and relaxed in Florida with Rhonda, my personal assistant. Literally: this picture was taken today, right outside my corporate suite at Clark Brooks, LLC. Hmm, looks like Rhonda has been skipping too many meals. I think I'll tell her to whip up some pot roast and mashed potatoes for dinner tonight.

And what does the future hold?
Well, it all depends on the continuing development of my new exo-skeleton...

...but I'm pretty excited about it.

Everybody's a critic

Here's the way it usually works around here:

  • I wake up, take care of any prescient *ahem* hygiene issues, start coffee, turn on music and sit down at the computer.
  • I do on-line chores (balance check book, read email, look at Twitter, do FarmVille...I didn't say they were all real chores).
  • Then I start writing.
  • Soon, I'm joined by my little mama kitty cat (mother to three babies, who are all grown up and all still live with me), who may or may not choose to contribute by walking back and forth across the keyboard a couple of times (which has produced such brilliant prose as "jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj") before climbing on top of the monitor, getting comfortable and letting the waves of my creativity wash over her, accompanied by my mastery of the keyboard until she is in a completely blissed-out, contented, peaceful, zen trance.

That's most days.

And then, there are days like this:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's Bammer Time!

I have been waiting for years to catch Maria Bamford, one of my all-time favorite stand-up comedians, in person. She's finally coming to Tampa for the first time, appearing at The Improv in Ybor City this weekend. I got so excited when I found out that I sent her an email asking if I could interview her for this blog. Amazingly, she said yes! And here it is...

Your comedy reminds me of Richard Pryor in that it's less about delivering set-ups and punchlines and more about telling stories, often with multiple characters. And you don't do celebrity impressions like Darrell Hammond or Frank Caliendo. Yet you're frequently associated with "doing voices". Why do you think that is and does it bother you?
I "do voices", only about 5 or 6, and it doesn't bother me. I like doing them and it's fun to try new things; it helps change the jokes without rewriting them. : )

You've talked openly about dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other disorders and worked that into your material. You also furnish helpful links on your web site to resources for people seeking help with similar problems. Do you get feedback from people who see you as an advocate on their behalf?
I've gotten a few people write or tell me after shows that they have OCD or have been through a bad depression or had a friend or family member who had those problems and that it helped to hear that someone else out there had similar problems. The reason I put links up or talk about it is because it helps ME. Help me to help me, help me, help you, help me. It helps me to feel like I'm not alone (if people laugh at the material) and that I might be at all useful. The internet helped me find resources to fix this OCD problem I had for two decades and so, I figure, if it helps anybody, then, AWESOME.

Did you pick a side in Conan vs Leno?
Harrumph. I guess I picked Conan because Leno made a promise and the New York crew had all moved their families to LA and it just seemed so ridiculous, like, wouldn't you WANT to move on to a new format of show? And, Leno is less my sense of humor, though he's obviously really great at what he does. But, it's also business and business isn't personal to everyone. I like to know about numbers, but I hope that isn't everything. Oh well.

"The Maria Bamford Show" on SuperDeluxe (which is available in it's entirety in Maria's most recent album "Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome"); did you develop that concept as a web series or did it start out as someting else? I think it would have made a great movie.
It was a one-person show that I performed over a period of 3 years. Thanks for thinking about it as a movie. That's nice.

How long did it take to shoot and produce that series?
We made one a week, so, about 3 months.

How big a production was it (how many people involved?)
Two; myself and Damon (Jones) and then, we'd get notes from Superdeluxe, Dan Pasternack, who's now an executive at the Independent Film Channel.

Do you write every day?
I write these "Morning Pages" most every day, three pages of whatever is in my brain. I take a lot of days off and vacation from comedy and work, so in terms of writing jokes, I usually only write on work days, Monday through Friday or when I have shows out of town.

Do you write new material for your stand-up act exclusively or are there other projects you're developing?
Right now, yes, only for stand-up. I'd like to be a part of a greater project. I am going to be in a Sony Webbisode series with the Sklar Brothers. And I think of ideas sometimes, but haven't had the desire to go out there and PITCH.

For many comedians, the career arc to success seems to follow a path: successful stand-up --> sitcom --> book. Is that by design or does it just seem to work out that way?

After you have the career, maybe people want to hear what it was like. I read Kathy Griffin's autobiography and it is FAN-TASTIC. I really enjoy hearing about the ups and downs of other performers. Steve Martin's was wonderful too.

Do you think the stereotype of the "sad (or angry) clown" is mostly a myth or apt?
I bet everyone is sad or angry or whatever all the time, but comedians talk about themselves a lot more than non-comedians and negative feelings are probably more interesting in a bar setting than joyful, happy feelings- so, I think it's slightly mythological, but at the same time creative people are supposed to be more sensitive and comedy is an isolated, high-pressure profession where you can be yelled at by radio dj's and drunks, so you might see more of the sad, angry clown in their workplace. I know the guy who works at my corner Copper Keg Liquor Store is a Sad, Angry Clown.

A question I ask of every person I meet from Minnesota: What's Prince like?
This is all hearsay, but he is tiny. Pay it forward.

Growing up, did you have a mentor or role model who encouraged your creativity?
The Theatre teacher, Mr. Blackburn, this creative kids program in grade school and my parents always were pumped for whatever we were doing.

Did you listen to stand-up comedians when you were growing up? If so, any that you would consider influences
Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy and Prairie Home Companion were listened to regularly- and we watched Saturday Night Live every weekend. I still listen to PHC and watch SNL.

Do you still play the violin?
No! I let it go six years ago; finally accepted that I don't enjoy it.

How important do you think utilizing "social media" is for artists in general and comedians in particular?
I used to send out postcards and hand them out to people and now, people can find things out through friends more easily. I think it's important, but it also depends on what your vision or goals are. Maybe you're a steampunk comedian and you only find about about your shows through the Islamic Muezzin's call to prayer.

You gave fans a free special performance as a download for Christmas. I didn't get you anything in return. If I had, what would you have liked?
A couple of chickens.

Many comedy clubs have "wacky" names. If you owned a club, what would you call it?
The Broads-way- LA's Only Ladies Only Comedy Club!

Maria will be at The Improv in Ybor City Thursday, March 11th thru Sunday, the 14th. You can get info on specific show times by squinting really hard at the picture above or by simply clicking here (where you can also purchase tickets). You can learn much, much more about what Maria's doing, including other upcoming appearances, at her official web site.

Monday, March 08, 2010

I don't feel good

It's an old stereotype that when men get sick, they turn into little babies about it and act like they're dying. However, all stereotypes are rooted at least partially in truth and in my case, when it comes to this one, the roots run so deep that you could name a library after it. Usually, I get sick twice a year; once in the winter and once in the summer time, which really sucks, because then it's so hot, humid and disgusting that not only do I feel like I'm dying, I feel like I want to.
But I've been on a really nice streak since I had pneumonia (and almost did die, thank you) early last year and haven't been sick at all...until now. Anyway, I feel miserable and all I want to do is stay in bed, a lifestyle which doesn't lend itself to great (or even mediocre) writing so I'm going to be laying low for a day or two until this crud passes.
I do have some cool stuff I hope to share with you later this week, but until then I'm going to go sweat, freeze, hack and wheeze and visit the bathroom on my knees.
Take care and see ya when I see ya...unless you happen to have a nurse's uniform laying around and want to help me recover sooner, which would be awesome. Bring orange juice and Alka-Seltzer Plus.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Monkey as metaphor

I'll admit it right up front, I'm obsessed with this story...

Twice-tranquilized monkey remains on the lam in Pinellas - Tampa Tribune /

"...Even after being hit twice with tranquilizer darts, the rhesus macaque that has been on the loose for months in the Tampa Bay area managed to escape again Wednesday afternoon."

My reaction to this latest news: YAY!!!
Now, how about we leave him alone? After all, wildlife rehabilitator Vernon Yates says in the article that The Monkey presents no threat to humans. If he isn't hurting anyone, why are they chasing him? To protect him? "The drugs just don't seem to affect him for whatever reason," said Yates. "We've increased the dosage every time that we've shot him. What we're really doing is turning him into a drug addict." That, or dazed and weakened him so he won't be able to defend himself against other wild animals. Fantastic.
See, The Monkey has come to represent, to me anyway, something more than...well, a runaway monkey. No, to me The Monkey represents freedom. Actually, more like the individual's perpetual-yet-all-too-often-futile pursuit of freedom. Oh sure, we're all mostly free. Very few of us are confined in our homes. We can choose what and when to eat and watch on tv. We get to vote. All that stuff is great, really. And much appreciated. We're fortunate to have it and in debt to everyone who sacrificed for us to have it. But there are a lot of sourpusses out there who like to be pissed off about people who do things differently. And a lot of stuff we want to do, stuff that is utterly harmless to others, is discouraged or at least frowned upon by them. As a result, we don't all have complete freedom when it comes to things that are important to us and shouldn't really matter to other people. In some cases, basic things like expressing love for people with whom we choose to share our lives. And I know we'll never really have that. For everybody who wants to shave half their head and color what's left purple, there will be people who will go out of their way to wrinkle up their faces and call them stupid and ugly without making the slightest attempt to understand. That's part of freedom too. But as long as The Monkey remains free, or rather as long as officials acting in the interest of some sort of vaguely (if at all) defined Greater Good are unable to capture and constrain an individual who is not harming anyone else, there's hope that we can all shake off the tranquilizer darts and be truly free. And also that maybe he'll get around to biting some of those other people in the ass one day.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I blame Google for this...

Damn it, nouns used to be nouns, verbs used to be verbs and that was that! Well, sometimes they'd be adjectives. And don't get me started on gerunds and split infinitives and dangling participles or the proliferation of X's and Z's in place of the letter S. The point is I wouldn't even know how to country if I wanted to.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Just say ja!

Tampa is not exactly known for it's Teutonic heritage, but Mr. Dunderbak's restaurant has been around for over 30 years, which qualifies it as an institution. They recently moved from their long-time location inside the dying University Mall to new digs slightly north and slightly east in New Tampa. Every time I go there, it makes me nostalgic for my misspent days in Germany and it makes me regale my companions with my dusty old stories of getting tanks stuck under bridges while there. We went there last night for dinner and here are some pictures...

The extensive list of available beers.

Patrons enjoying some of those beers at the bar.

We were lucky enough to be seated at the table in the gazebo located in the center of the restaurant. This is an unusual view; looking up at the ceiling from that table. then again, maybe it's not that unusual. They do serve a lot of beer...

This is my friend, filmmaker Renee Warmack, posing with our server (I'm so sorry I didn't get his name; he was excellent!) and Mr. Dunderbak's signature menu item, the Reuben sandwich. What's particularly notable about this picture is that this is the first time Renee has consented to be photographed, or even named as an accomplice in any of my misadventures, for this blog! When a sandwich makes someone do something they normally wouldn't, that's a damn good sandwich.

One of many merchandise supplies. It looks like the entire restaurant is constructed of displays like these. Indeed, if somebody were to walk in and buy everything that's laying out for sale, the place would be pretty empty. Doing inventory has got to be a nightmare.

Here are more patrons enjoying the festive atmosphere and...Wait a minute, what is that, down and to the right...?

Gyahh! Check out that amazing 'fro! That thing is incredible! Kudos to you, sir. I am impressed and jealous!

That's a whole lotta mustard

And that's a whole lotta more beer!