Friday, August 27, 2010

Road To Nowhere

The sterile, bright, fluorescent lights shone down on him from the ceiling as he was wheeled down the long corridor, their narrow, semi-opaque fixtures imitating the dashed center line on the highway he’d been traveling only minutes before.

From his horizontal vantage point, he saw hanging above him a clear plastic bag, with a thin tube leading to...where?

Suddenly, the lights sped more quickly past him, and footsteps behind him quickened.

“Get him in here, stat!” shouted an important voice.

As the end of the gurney where his feet lay kicked open the swinging doors, the lights began to dim.

— • — • —

My entry in the 100 Words Challenge, with the prompt, "corridor."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Running Out of Options

“ option!!” bellowed the drill sergeant, the straight bill of his cap tapping the recruit on the forehead.

Ironic, thought the newbie. His entire life until now had been a failure.

Failed to get the grades.
Failed to get the girl.
Failed to make his parents proud.

And now he’s told it’s no longer an option?

He stood rigid, naked except for his one-size-too-big skivvies, wide awake, the rising sun’s first rays peeking through the window, while his daddy for the next 13 weeks sprayed spittle in his face as he barked orders.

Failed to make the right decision?

— • — • —

My entry in the 100 Words Challenge, with the prompt, "failed."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm An Alright Guy, Too

Back in the winter/spring of 1995, I was working for a builder...swinging a hammer, framing walls, sheeting walls, hefting walls...freely throwing around words like, "joist."

While this post is not about my brief career as a carpenter, I will forever remember the last house I framed, because it was where I was introduced to a pot-smoking, folk-singing storyteller.

Almost every day, Todd Snider's "Alright Guy" would come blaring through the speakers of the boom box. And after hearing it a handful of times, I looked forward to those four minutes every day when he'd come on and tell me how alright he was.

I purchased his debut album, "Songs For The Daily Planet," released on Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Records label (which I don't think exists today), and found that Snider was more than a one-hit wonder, although the radio stations only seemed to pick up on one other of his tunes, a quirky little ditty called, "Beer Run." (b--double e--double ruunnnn! all you need is a ten and a fiver, a car, a key and a sober driver.)

I kept up with his albums for a while, but lost touch with his newer releases. I nearly wore out the three I owned, though.

Several weeks ago, I saw in a entertainment newspaper an ad for the annual Acoustic Fest in Manitowoc, with a day-long lineup that's usually filled with local talent. I glanced down the list and saw Snider's name as the headliner. He'd been in Green Bay two nights before.

Not only would I get to see him live for the first time...I'd get to see him free!...and in my own town, within walking distance of my home. (Did I mention that ice-cold beers were only two bucks?? They were. I didn't count how many I had.)

We arrived an hour or so ahead of Snider's showtime and sat on the grass in the small park until Michael McDermott came on stage (he was a late addition to the lineup, and quite talented...check out some of his stuff), when we went and stood off to the side of the stage for a closer view. Shortly before McDermott's set was over, a long white car pulled up behind the band shell and Snider exited the vehicle, immediately attracting a crowd of about a dozen people who recognized him.

I bolted over for a chance to say hi, and when Jessica saw the direction I took, she and a buddy of ours followed.

After Snider posed for a couple of photos, he turned to walk into the door behind the band shell, and I stopped him with, "Hey, Todd, ya got time for one more? I've been a fan since your Alright Guy days."

"Oh, sure, I'll play that one tonight," was his reply.

I bet he plays that one at all of his shows, though. Duh. Whyyy didn't I reach for a more obscure title?!?

A couple of alright guys. (I'm the hatless, tieless, harmonicaless, beer-holding alright guy.)

Jessica was ready with her camera, and thus...I met the man whose stories I'd been listening to for 15 years...over and over and over.

He played for a little over an hour (can't expect much more from a free show) and was as entertaining in person as on his records. We sat on the ground in the front row, and heard "Alright Guy," and "I Spoke As A Child," and "Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican Straight White American Male." (I highly recommend looking up that last one. Aw, you go.)

I won't wait again to see him until he returns to my city. I'll go find him next time he's in Wisconsin.

Because he really is an alright guy.

"They say 3 percent of the people use 5 to 6 percent of their brain;
97 percent use 3 percent and the rest goes down the drain.
I'll never know which one I am but I'll bet you my last dime,
99 percent think we're 3 percent 100 percent of the time."
—Todd Snider, "Statistician's Blues"