Monday, January 25, 2010

Record Albums I Will Never Own dept.

Maybe it's the gold watch and bracelet... Perhaps it's the cummerbund vinyl pants... It could be the haircut this dude stole from Elvis... Or maybe it's the fact that the name of the album is REBORN. Could it be that creepy smile, or... THAT MASK?

I know better than to judge a book by it's cover, but when I came across this in the discount bin at the CD Warehouse, I immediately put it back. I can only imagine the sounds that would come from this album... hypnotic serenades that entrance you... Then the next thing you know you are re-enacting a scenario similar to the one in the movie Jumanji.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Super Bowl Hyperbole

Tomorrow is Championship Sunday, the final day of NFL football season.

Sure there is still the Super Bowl to be played, but with it's Mardi Gras-style sideshow, the ridiculous hype it generates, and the overly tired second week of exaggerated reporting it brings, it is more of a carnival than a championship game. It's a far cry from what it was in 1967 when Super Bowl I was played, and it is a far cry from what it was meant to be... A simple game played to determine the greatest team of the NFL season. Luckily for me, NBC has announced that it will nationally televise the Capitals/Penguins game during the Super Bowl. There is no doubt what I will be watching.

First of all, two weeks is one week too long to space between the championship games and the Super Bowl. The NFL is aware of this but refuses to change it. Instead this year, in a feeble attempt to keep our interest, the NFL is having the Pro-Bowl played in Florida on the Sunday between. It could be an attempt to boost ratings for the Pro-Bowl, which generally is a dud as far as television ratings go, or is possibly meant to ease some of the pain that the second week of Super Bowl coverage conjures... (Suddenly the pundits are talking about the Pro-Bowl and not asking ridiculous questions of the Super Bowl participants. Trust me the world really does not want to know what color of socks Bernard Berrian is wearing during the week of practice leading up to the big game.) But this is a disater in the sense that now several of the games greatest players will be ommitted from the Pro-Bowl, because who in their right mind would take a chance of an injury in the week before the biggest game of the year and possibly the biggest game of their career? So now we have a Pro-Bowl which is meant to showcase the games greatest players without the likes of Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, or Brett Favre...

Secondly, get rid of the Super Bowl halftime show. I know that The Who are playing this year, but who really gives a fuck? I saw The Who a couple of years ago and it was a great concert... But goddamn. If I want to watch The Who, I can go to YouTube or catch them on the Ovation channel. I don't need them upstaging the biggest sporting event of the year. Half time should be about strategy and weakness, game scenarios and statistics; it shouldn't be extended because it is the Super Bowl, and it sure as hell shouldn't take away from the game itself by featuring a concert in a circus style atmosphere.

The system is broken. How can the NFL not see how easily this could be fixed, by merely having one week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl and keeping the halftime show pertinent to the game itself... How are they missing this?

Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell has created a story book scenario for his match up against the Jets tomorrow. He arguably allowed the Jets to enter the playoffs by sitting Manning and several other starters in week 16 of the regular season. The Jets beat the Colts that day, which built momentum and steamrolled New York's improbable run through the final regular season game and throughout the play-offs. Now as only destiny would have it, these two teams are meeting in the championship game tomorrow, and in an epic display of irony, Caldwell is facing perhaps the greatest coaching backfire in the history of NFL.

On the other side, the Vikings travel to New Orleans for what could be the matchup of the year. There are so many storylines with this game, I don't even know where to begin. There's the Brett Favre situation, who joined the Vikings at the end of pre-season exclusively for this purpose, to win the Super Bowl. Of course it won't be easy for Favre as he faces another gun slinger in Drew Brees, who arm for arm might be the greatest quarterback in the history of the game. (Yes I said it.) The Saints are explosive. With Marques Colston and Robert Meachum in the receiving corps, and Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas in the backfield, with the addition of Brees at quarterback, the Saints are a hard team to keep out of the end zone. They seem to be able to score at will... And like a fine-tuned machine when all the parts are working, it seems like nothing is capable of stopping them.

However they haven't faced a defense playing as hot as the Minnesota Vikings' defense is for a long time. Jared Allen is a monster on the line who is capable of racking up 4-5 sacks during any given game. You also have Kevin and Pat Williams to contend with on the line, and the likes of Chad Greenway, Benny Sapp, and Antoine Winfield in the back field. This defense is fast, mean, and relentless. It is designed to win championships, and the Saints will have their hands full during the entire game.

Unlike in the AFC, the NFC Championship game matches the two best teams in the conference against each other, if not the two best teams in the league. Never mind that the Saints lost their last three regular season games... They just had the machine set to idle. They came out last week (when it mattered) against the Cardinals and made a statement on both sides of the ball. Obviously against the Vikings it won't be as easy for them because Minnesota with Favre,  has the offensive weapons needed to win big games plus a stronger and better defense than the Saints do to back it up. Minnesota is a far better team than the Cardinals are and will definitely prove to be a more formidable opponent as well.

Yeah I'm pumped. I am looking forward to tomorrow... The final day of the NFL season.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

CB Radios and the NHL

In a perfect world I would be watching the Capitals/Penguins game right now. But alas, I did not opt for the NHL Package, so I am left to catch updates on this world wide web gadget, or while casually channel surfing, stopping briefly at ESPN to read the ticker for the latest.

Which brings me to this post... On Dish Network, channel 56 is showing the movie Convoy.

You all know the song... Breaker breaker one-nine, this here's the Rubber Duck... You copy that Pig Pen... Come on?

Yep, ensuing a strange trend that seemed to start in the '70s, Hollywood started making movies based off of songs that were played on the radio. In this case it was C.W. McCall who had written what later became the subject and soundtrack for this ridiculous movie. I mean come on, Pig Pen... Why ARE there 1000 screaming trucks breaking for the Jersey shore, smashing toll gates, and taking on the Illinois National Guard?

That part of the story was never made clear to me, in the song or the movie.

But then again this was 1978, when the citizens band radio was the coolest thing a feller could have. A good movie didn't have to have a reason for conflict, as long as it had semi-trucks smashing into police cars, a bar fight or two, and some smooth talking rednecks conversing back and forth on the ol' CB radio... And an old renegade cop who makes this pursuit the duty of his lifetime.

It's kind of like the Dukes of Hazzard meets Smokey and the Bandit meets The Cannonball Run. In fact, all of these movies, including Convoy are exactly the same. Each one features inept law enforcement, cunning trickery, beautiful women used as a distraction, and all of the other features I mentioned in the paragraph above. Each one was a blockbuster, and with the exception of the Dukes of Hazzard, which was a television show, all brought the entire family together in Dad's station wagon for an night at the drive-in theater.

I doubt if NHL hockey has ever done that. Still though, good buddy... I would rather be watching the game.

You copy?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Imperial Dogs and an Interview With Don Waller (Part 1)

This Ain't the Summer of Love.

Nor is it the mellow of winter. I received a copy of The Imperial Dogs Live! In Long Beach (October 30, 1974) in the mail a few days ago, and upon watching it three times now let me describe it to you in one word: BLISTERING.

If you don't like smack you in the face with a two-by-four, teeth-shattering music... Do not purchase this DVD. Don't even think about it... In fact, cease from reading this post, and forget that it even exists. Live your pseudo-hippie existence within the feeble walls of your peace loving comfort zone... Whatever you need to do... But don't tempt this tainted canine, because while his bark is loud, his bite will bleed you to death.

We are not talking about death metal here... far from it. Instead I am referring to the childhood days of loud electric rock and roll when the genre' was still in its teenage years... Before corporate America turned music into the money factory that would become the mockery of all that was once sacred... Before Disco wielded its ugly sword. I am referring to the early '70s... When the scene was just getting over the groovy trip of the '60s and the flower children were starting to realize that there was quite a bit to be pissed about, and were evolving into raging and angry teens... Or at least their big brothers were... And those who knew better.

It was the birth of the atomic age of rock and roll, cliched as the pre-punk era. In this concert The Imperial Dogs blast away with their own unique sound, even incorporating a few covers from the likes of The Kinks, Mott the Hoople, and The Velvet Undergound. The audience stands still like a robot army for the most part, as if they are unsure what they are witnessing is pure unadulterated genius, or just filthy mayhem. I would tend to venture that it is both.

Sure, the MC5 and the Stooges were doing their thing in Detroit, and Television and The Velvets were integrating New York City, but nobody was doing it in L.A. in 1974 except for The Imperial Dogs.

It was a time for primitive guitar riffs, fat and heavy bass lines, bull in a China store-style drumming and incoherent but yet wonderfully audible vocals. It was a time for the Imperial Dogs, who incidentally (and unbeknownst to them) were way ahead of their time.

This DVD is a must buy for anyone who considers themselves a fan of raw unfiltered music. Never mind the ancient quality of the video itself, with its primal footage and incurable VHS style tracking, the music on this DVD is... Let me think of it again... Oh yeah... BLISTERING.


That stinky uncooked loaf of hamburger in your fridge that you threw away yesterday because it was turning green isn't as raw as this concert footage is. What Don Waller and the boys were serving up that fateful October night in 1974 wasn't your mama's meatloaf... Just a heaping helping of soul bending, trash kicking, guitar infused, spine knuckling music. The fact that it was recorded in mono (directly into the microphone on the video camera) is the only indication you need to know to turn it up as loud as possible.

And to think that you could have been there too, for only a dollar...

I contacted Don Waller, the front man for the group and he was gracious enough to take the time to let me ask him a few questions. This is unwarranted... Currently as a professional writer he has his own deadlines to meet, so for him to take the time to converse with an amateur such as myself, it says quite a lot about Don Waller the man, and the spirit he brings to his passion, which is music.

This will be a two part series, if not forever ongoing. Through our correspondence, Don and I have covered a lot of ground... Not just in music, but in a number of various topics, and each time I would get an email from him responding with his answers, I would marvel at his knowledge of not just music, but the other fine things in life. Most of all... And perhaps best, I feel like I have a gained a new friend throughout this entire process.

What follows are some excerpts of our conversations regarding the Imperial Dogs DVD. I HIGHLY suggest you buy it...

(BD:) Don... Seriously... When is the last time you went streaking? Based off of the DVD, during the intro to Lizard Love it seems that your trousers are having a hard time staying at the waist level... Furthermore, you didn't seem to mind at all, even appeasing the crowd by bending over and giving them a shot of a full moon. Was that "shock factor" you were going for, or were you just too blitzed to notice, or did you just not care?

(DW:) Never been streaking in my life. Although a pal of ours used to throw parties where everyone had to get naked when you came in the door ...

Truth is, I was sweating like a toad 'cause every got-damn light in the room had to be burning as brightly as possible so the primitive (pre-Betamax) video camera could record anything, which made the stage hotter than the proverbial seventh circle of Hell. Plus, leather trousers tend to s-t-r-e-t-c-h when you're jumping around like a baboon in heat. This combination results the the "wardrobe malfunction" that you see on the DVD, which was entirely accidental.

It was also extremely distracting, annoying, and inhibiting -- in that it kept me from doing all the moves that I would've normally done onstage. This is one of the things that I personally hated about watching the videotape when we saw it for the first time (and made me throw it in a box where it sat for 35 years ... )

So, it had nothing to do with any "shock factor." (And, for what it's worth, neither myself nor anyone else in the Imperial Dogs were high on anything when we were on stage that fateful night. You'll notice that none of us are drinking so much as a glass of water between songs.) We're simply trapped on stage, in the middle of a gig that's being videotaped, and everything is going wrong (constantly battling feedback, the audience's non-reaction), so we're just fighting our way through the problems.

I had no idea that I was mooning the audience, but then I didn't care either. We were just trying to do the best show we could under some very difficult circumstances.

For example, when we took the stage we were stunned to learn the lights were going to have to stay on and that there were so few people there. (Actually, there were 250-plus, but we'd put out at least two thousand flyers, covering every high school and record/music store within 20 miles of the college, so we were ... disappointed to say the least.) And ... right after I chain Tim the bass player to his amp, my chain belt breaks, which requires everything to halt until I can hammer it back together (this is why there's an abrupt stop in the filming here), which -- in my mind, at least -- wrecks all the momentum we're trying to create right from the start ...

(BD:) Tell to me about the space of time that led up to this Imperial Dogs gig, or any other for that matter... From about an hour before you hit the stage, walk me through your typical 1974 pre-gig ritual.

(DW:) We didn't really have a pre-gig ritual. If you weren't a Top 40 cover band, gigs were almost impossible to get. In fact, this was only our second gig as the Imperial Dogs (and the first since we'd made our debut under that moniker at Gazzari's seven months earlier). We'd spent the interim finding a place to live (where we could also practice),soundproofing the garage with fiberglass insulation and carpet remnants, writing songs, and practicing -- 90 minutes a night, four or five nights a week. We all had day jobs.

Basically, we put on our stage clothes, drove to the gig, set up our equipment ourselves -- although we had some help from Danny Bruch, who was Bill's best friend and a fellow drummer (and who can be seen climbing down from the stage at the top of the tape) and Tom Gardner, who stood out in the middle of an empty room and helped us balance the sound before the audience was allowed to enter. We then went into a tiny room across the hall from the "multi-purpose room" where the gig was going to take place until the people who coughed up the one whole dollar to see this insanity (and got a free "Imperial Dogs barf bag") had been admitted, tuned up, and hit the stage.

That's how we did it when we played Rodney's English Disco in Hollywood two weeks later, too. 'Cept there we didn't even have a "dressing room" ...

Before we were the Imperial Dogs, we were Sugar Boy (1972), then White Light (the first half of 1973). We did about 15 gigs as Sugar Boy and about five as White Light. They were all the same. We showed up, set up, "soundchecked," and tried to rock whoever was there as hard as we could -- given that they had never heard 90% of the songs we were playing ('cause they were either our original material or obscure covers). We did our partying after the gigs ...

(BD:) While watching the DVD I noticed several influential aspects of your live show that seemed to be cutting edge in 1974, that evolved into what is now condidered mainstream live rock and roll, both musically and visually... For instance on the DVD after Loud Hard and Fast you seem to be spitting into the crowd. I have seen this several times through out the years at concerts perhaps most notably by Greg Steele of L.A.'s Sleeze Metal act Faster Pussycat... I know this is a lame example, but I can't imagine it was being done in 1974 by too many performing bands. I guess my question is this... What other influences would you attribute to The Imperial Dogs, and in 1974 and before, who was influencing The Imperial Dogs?

(DW:) Spitting into the crowd? No way. I never did that. Spitting onstage to clear the phlegm outta my throat, yeah. (Hey, we all were -- and still are -- smokers.) I used to chew up a bunch of blood and foaming capsules during the instrumental break in "This Ain't The Summer Of Love" and simulate a puking O.D. -- and I'm spitting the residue out of my mouth as I'm trying to sing the next verse, but again, I'm spitting onstage.

As for influences, have you got three or four hours? Or days? I started playing piano when I was five and the next year was forced to pick a band instrument (on the theory that if I got drafted I could carry a horn instead of a rifle), so I played trumpet all the way though high school, which is where I met then-fellow trumpet player Tim Hilger and then-alto saxophonist Paul Therrio, who was two years younger than Tim and was already a sort of child prodigy, playing in a local big band that performed at Elks Lodges, etc. After high school, we all went to various colleges (UCLA for me, El Camino JC for Tim, UC Irvine for Paul) to avoid Vietnam and fulfill our parents' dreams of us being doctors, lawyers, whatever.

None of us enjoyed our college experience. Paul dropped out almost immediately;

Tim and I stuck it out -- Tim had transferred to UCLA after two years. But we all kept in touch.

Now, to rewind several years ... Beyond the music that I was exposed to in band, I started hearing things on the radio (the Beach Boys, surf music, etc.), but it wasn't until the British Invasion that I got really interested in this other kind of music. Seeing the Rolling Stones and, especially, James Brown on "The T.A.M.I. Show" at a local movie theatre in 1964 was a life-changing experience. Same goes for seeing the Who on TV's "Shindig," playing live at the Richmond Jazz & Blues Festival in England and breaking up their equipment. It just made me want to be up there with them wrecking everything ...

The Stones -- as I quickly learned from reading the backs of their records in the bins at the local grocery store ('cause I couldn't afford to buy records) as well as this "Their Own Story" paperback biography -- were doing all these songs by "R&B" performers that I'd mostly never heard on the radio. And I found that the music on the radio that I really liked was done by self-contained bands who were mostly drawing from this R&B tradition (the Animals, Them, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, etc.). The blues boom of the late-'60s (everybody from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Blues Project to Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and the Jeff Beck Group to Albert and B.B. King) intensified this. Same for the soul music of the times (Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, the Temptations, James Brown -- again-- and a hundred other similar acts.) A lot of blues-oriented jazz, too.

I started going to concerts in 1969 -- I didn't have a car or even friends with access to a car -- before then -- and I saw Jimi Hendrix, the Doors with Jerry Lee Lewis and Sweetwater opening, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (with Mick Taylor in the band), and the Stones with Ike & Tina Turner, B.B. King, and Terry Reid opening that year. (Before that, all I saw were bands on TV or local acts playing custom car shows or high school dances, etc.) But after that, I started going to as many concerts/club shows that I could afford -- and was really interested in seeing.

One night, I went to see what was then still called the Small Faces (Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood had just joined the band) on what was their first U.S. tour. After that, I never went back to my Spanish class again.

Since Tim and Paul and I all liked the same sort of stuff -- and Paul had started playing guitar -- we decided to form a rock 'n' roll band. Tim somehow got hornswoggled into playing bass and I volunteered to jump around and do the shouty bits. Paul's surf buddy, Ron Vaselenko (he went to high school with us, too) was playing a little guitar, so he came in on rhythm. Our original drummer was another ex-trumpet player from our high school, but he wanted to play more Grand Funk Railroad-type material, so we put up ads at local music stores. Bill Willett, who was a year younger than Paul and came from neighboring Carson -- we were all from north Torrance -- answered. He came over to Vaselenko's garage, where we practiced, and we started playing the Faces' "Had Me A Real Good Time" -- which is a shuffle -- and he just played it perfectly! We couldn't believe it. None of the other drummers that we auditioned had a clue as to how to play that groove. We asked him if he wanted to join on the spot. Thankfully, he did.

This was 1972. We called ourselves Sugar Boy, after the redneck chauffeur character in Robert Penn Warren's "All The King's Men" novel. Good blues name. And we played -- besides the songs that Paul and I wrote ourselves (and we always did original material from Day One) -- a lot of blues-oriented material: Muddy Waters's "Don't Go No Further," Chuck Berry's "Down The Road Apiece," Earl King's "Come On," Free's "I'll Be Creepin'," Z.Z. Top's "Bedroom Thang," Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman," Savoy Brown's "Tell Mama" and "Flood In Houston," the Climax Blues Band's "Reap What I've Sowed," Black Pearl's cover of the Sandpebbles' "Forget It," the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," and the Faces' "Had Me A Real Good Time." Paul could play harp and slide, so we took advantage of that.

But we also played Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody," the Move's "Hello Suzie," the Blue Oyster Cult's "Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll," the Who's "Baba O' Riley," the Yardbirds' "For Your Love," Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" and "As I Went Out One Morning," Them's "Mystic Eyes," Randy Newman's "Gone Dead Train," and the Small Faces' "Afterglow."

We wore a lot of velvet and scarves, dressed "flash," and did stuff with bullwhips and a nasty straw hat 'n' cane routine on "Hello Suzie" ...

At the beginning of 1973, we got tired of the "Stones clones" comparisons and jettisoned the rhythm guitarist as well as most of the blues-oriented material. We started doing things like the MC5's "Sister Anne," Detroit's version of the Velvet Underground's "Rock And Roll," David Bowie's "Suffragette City," Fleetwood Mac's "Station Man" and "This Is The Rock," and the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat." (The Move, BOC, and Who tunes stayed in the setlist).

Part of this was just playing music that we liked. Part of this was just figuring out what we were good at. Hey, I WISH I could sing like Stevie Marriott ...

During this time (1969-73), I can remember seeing Z.Z. Top, the J. Geils Band, Mott The Hoople, the Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper, Slade, Black Oak Arkansas, Free, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Lou Reed, the Who, the Jeff Beck Group (the second version), Sparks (with the Mankey brothers), Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead, Ry Cooder, Elton John, Van Morrison, Derek & The Dominos, the Kinks, Aerosmith, and the New York Dolls.

But the act that really turned our heads around was seeing the "Raw Power" incarnation of Iggy Pop & The Stooges. I personally saw them play the Whisky a Go Go nine times!

After that, we got more stripped-down and darker and came on more like a street gang, although when we played Gazarri's were still doin' stuff like the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" and the Angels' "My Boyfriend's Back" as well as the Kinks' "Till The End Of The Day."

I realize I've kinda digressed myself into the ozone here ... The short version of who/what were the Imperial Dogs' influences is this: mid-'60s British bands -- the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Them, the Who, the Yardbirds, the Pretty Things, and, especially, the Kinks ('cause Paul's a huge Kinks fan) -- and all the things that influenced them (blues, R&B, soul, '50s rock) ... All the "garage-rock" bands that're on Lenny Kaye's original "Nuggets" compilation ... All the Detroit rock bands (the Stooges, the MC5, Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, Alice Cooper, etc.) ... the Blue Oyster Cult (for their thinking-man's approach to metal) ... the Doors and the Velvet Underground (the darkness) ... the New York Dolls ... girl groups ... the British "glam-rock" (T. Rex, Slade, Mott The Hoople, all the Chinn & Chapman stuff).

To me, our influences seem kinda obvious. We were way into the pure sound vs. notes of the Yardbirds, the sophisticated metal of the BOC, the Kinks and "Shazam" -"Looking On"-"Split Ends" era-Move, the darkness of the Velvets & the Doors, the pure energy of the MC5, the song structure of the New York Dolls, etc. and a whole lot more "R&B" -- in terms of groove as well as the sock-it-to-ya showmanship that, say, James Brown or Tina Turner had goin' on. Very physical, muscle and sweat SHOWS. We saw ourselves as part of one long chain that stretched back to the '50s. We were just trying to take it further. And, of course, we believed in SONGS.

Well, we were also into being outrageous, giving people something to talk about. Showing people we were different as well as sounding different. Hence the chains, riding crops, and the blood/foaming capsules. Showmanship. We also got more aggressive to combat the combination of apathy and antipathy that we faced from clueless audiences ... We didn't try to create a "good time" vibe. We wanted to smack people upside the head and shock them into reconsidering their musical and social values.

Towards the end, we realized we'd painted ourselves into a bit a of a corner musically, and we started trying to figure out a way to get back to our roots by playing things like Earl Vince & The Valiants' "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite," Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown," and the Leaves' version of "Hey Joe." 'Tis a shame we couldn't have held it together ...


As you can see, Don Waller has a lot to say, and isn't afraid to take the long route to make his point. I tried to stay away from typical questions, but my fascination with this band is so much that I found myself having a hard time not coming across as a typical fan at times. Thus, my question about influences, which actually based on his answers, seems pretty obvious to me for the most part. Still I'm glad I asked it, because there is so much more in his answer than what was obvious... Which is the beauty of talking to Don who has such a vast knowledge of the subject-at-hand based off of his own experiences.

There are more questions and more answers, and I will post them soon, hopefully within a few days. There was so much material to read through to piece it together as one glorious piece, but I don't want to over-do it and lose the potency of some of Don's answers...

So stay tuned to the Bigfoot Diaries for Part Two. Meanwhile go to The Imperial Dogs' site and buy this DVD... I assure you that it will be one of your favorite purchases of 2010.

(Unless of course you are that pseudo-hippie I spoke about above... 'Cause this ain't the summer of love.)

Rat Shenanigans: The Update

I had some time this afternoon to get down into the cellar to do some investigating. I was at a point where I could not stand the smell any longer... The headaches were so intense, and Essie seemed to be at the end of her rope as far as tolerance of that awful unyielding stench. I knew that if I could get some stuff pulled out away from the wall, I could find either the source of the smell, such as a physical dead rat, or perhaps the hole that lead to the rat cemetery. As luck would have it today, I found both.

The rat was in a box of shoes and boots that Essie and I have been keeping in storage. I knew it right away as I picked the box up off the shelf... The fragrance of decomposition was overwhelming... I immediately took the box outside and dumped it onto the icy snow. Amongst the leather shoes and boots, there it was: The biggest gnarliest looking beast I have ever seen... A rat equally as big as the boots it lay next to, despite its putrid degenerated body. Green gel seeped from its underbelly making an interesting stain on the snow. I noticed that it was melting the ice...

I stepped back into the cellar and began to pull everything away from the walls. I found two cavities, one on the floor behind the washing machine, and one up on a cement ledge torn into the paneled plywood wall. Insulation had fallen out of the hole, and it, with the combination of dryer lint and rat shit made an unpleasant pile on the ledge next to the opening.

I went into town, back to the Farm and Home store and bought some of that spray foam that you shoot out of an aerosol can through a provided little tube. I hurried back home and then proceeded to fill the hole in the wall with the foam, and watched as it expanded to triple its size. It oozed out like pus on a zit, which incidentally was kind of cool to watch. Then I poured about a half gallon of bleach down the hole in the floor, and then filled it in with the rest of the contents of the spray foam can. Then I stepped outside, beat my fisted hands against my chest and let out the loudest and longest Tarzan yell I could muster...

I knew I had finally defeated the lice infested recreant.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rat Shenanigans

Yeah. I've been absent. But I have a pretty good excuse. My house smells like 200 dead rats.

Ever tried doing anything that requires any amount of concentration while inhaling the fumes of dead rodents? It's not easy... The headaches alone are enough to push one into the throngs of insanity. Writing... Which for me requires extreme concentration, is almost impossible, especially after dark when we are forced to shut and lock the cellar door to keep the pipes from freezing.

(During the day the temperatures rise up to the mid 30's range, enough to keep the plumbing working correctly. Keeping the cellar door open creates an alternative and more accesible route for the odor to take, as opposed to up through the cracks and holes under our floor into our house... However at night, the temperature drops below freezing and the door must be closed to keep the cellar room heated to a maintainable level. Of course as soon as the door is latched, the odor starts to drift upward...)

So yeah. Our sweet little cabin in the woods smells like 200 dead rodents, and it has now for about a week.

I knew I had a problem when I would go down to do laundry and open the cellar door. Rodents... First it was mice... Would scatter like marbles dropped on a tile floor as I turned on the light. It was only slightly un-nerving, but I would wash the dirty clothes, and make sure that only a limited amount of laundry was in the cellar at one time. We had that incident last fall when Essie found a nest and 5 pink baby mice curled up together in her top drawer... In the cup of one of her bras. That didn't go over so well with Essie, especially when I boot-stomped the squeaky little fuckers. So I knew that keeping just a pile of clothes in the basement was probably the smart thing to do, to avoid any similar incidents.

I set some traps and caught several mice. I do not mind dealing with dead mice, and got pretty efficient about releasing the spring and "freeing" the mouse carcass from the trap, applying another wad of peanut butter, and resetting the snare.

Then one day, I opened the door and saw a rat.

It sprinted across the floor into my small pile of laundry. I stepped backward, latched the door and drove into town to the Farm and Home store. I bought the biggest bag of Combat Blocks I could find, and proceeded back to my cellar. The door was wide open. Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to me, Essie had gone down to change the laundry while I was gone, and when she opened the washing machine door, a big gray rat greeted her. It was standing on top of our "clean" laundry, and was more than willing to have a 10 second stare down with her before it jumped out and ran behind the appliance. Essie "let out a scream that should have alerted the police", and ran out of there, not bothering to mess with the cellar door. I went in and spread the poison around, not realizing the severity of the problem we had, nor knowing about Essie's recent experience that just happened a few moments before. I placed a few blocks in each corner of the room, and on a couple of cement ledges that looked like what I envisioned as little rat highways. I set the remaining bait on a table behind me, and came upstairs, where Essie, in hysterics, told me her story.

"Don't worry, baby." I said to her comfortingly. " I saw one too, and bought some poison. We will get them."

Well I wasn't exaggerating. The next day during my lunch hour I went down to the cellar to see if any of the blocks had been nibbled. I peeked into the corners, and there were none... The entire supply was gone, without a mere trace. Wow. I thought. Must be a few of 'em.

I turned around to retrieve the bag I had left there that was still almost full of Combat Blocks. It wasn't there. The bag, like the blocks I had already dispersed was completely gone. What the hell... I thought. I took a step back, and there on the floor under the table was the bag. It was completely empty, with six or seven holes gnawed through it. Every single Combat Block was gone, as were ALL the Combat Blocks, even the ones on the cement ledges. I think the hair stood up on the back of my neck at this point, because having once been a pest control technician, I knew a thing or two about the behavior of rats. The first thing is that if you see a rat in the day time, you should know there is a problem, which is why I went to the Farm and Home store right away. Rats are mainly nocturnal, and do not make themselves visible during the light of day. The fact that I saw one during the day told me that there was a bunch of them, and they were sending out hunters early to feed the massive population. The second thing that I thought of was the fact that rats are very cautious animals. Any change to their environment is viewed with extreme caution, and rats will avoid something for up to a week or two, if it seems out of place or is new to their environment. So when I saw the empty bag that had been gnawed full of holes, I got a little spell of the Willies.

The rest of the story is pretty evident... Since that fateful day two weeks ago, Essie and I haven't seen any activity, and have even celebrated our "rodent cleansing". The one thing I did forget about however, was the smell that goes along with the death of a mouse or a rat. It's horrible. Now, with a cabin that sits on top of a cellar that sits on tiop of a rat den that is full of dead rats, it is only inevitible that the smell would drift upward into our living area. Especially, it seems when the furnace fires up, which it does quite often being that this is the dead of winter.

So on days when it's not freezing, I have been leaving the cellar door open, so that the laundry room can breathe. Obviously during this time I am usually at work, and not available to add input to this blog. But at night when the door has to be closed, it get's quite rancid in here... And there we are back to the first paragraph of this post which explains why I have been absent for so long.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Record Albums I Will Never Own dept.

While shopping for music in the past, I have purchased a record album or a CD simply because of it's cover. I may have never heard of the band or known little about them, but took a chance on the music based on the art on the cover. My assumption was, that if a band could produce such an intriguing piece of art for their album cover, then they were probably equally capable of producing cool music.

However, the opposite works with THIS album.

While the hit "I Want A Walmart Girl" is in itself mildly intriguing, I just wouldn't be able to get past these two dudes on the cover. They look like a couple of exiled Raider fans on the don't ask-don't tell program...

Not exactly what I am looking for in a rock and roll album.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hawks Beat Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl!!

As we say here in Iowa... Proud to be a HAWKEYE!

Orange Bowl: 1st Quarter Live Blogging

I have gotten a late start due to a hearty but enjoyable plate of chipped beef on toast, but I am going to attempt to Live Blog the Orange Bowl. But just the 1st quarter... Anybody can live blog the entire game, but over here we do things a bit differently. If you want the entire game, tune into your TV.

Iowa faces heavily favored Georgia Tech. Lets get this going...

Better late than never...

7:34 Stanzi hits McNutt in the end zone to cap an 80 yard, 7 play drive on Iowa's 2nd possession.

7:45 For a team that doesn't punt much, Georgia Tech sure is punting alot. I would liked to have seen them actually go for it on 4th and one... Not just try to pull Iowa offsides. Their spread offense doesn't seem to be phasing the Hawks, who's front line is causing problems for Tech's offensive line.

7:48 Defensive holding on Tech... Iowa seems to have all the momentum.

7:49 Just opened my first beer of the night, a Windmer Bros. Drop Top Amber Ale. Iowa RB Robinson gets a 15 yard gain around the left side.

7:51 Stanzi hit Sanderman for a 21 yard touchdown... Things are almost happening too fast for live blogging. Hawks up 14-0.

7:52 I take the first long chug out of my freshly opened bottle... Ahhh!

7:53 Georgia Tech receives the kickoff and prepares for another three and out.

7:55 Tech seems to be moving backward. 15 yard penalty on the right guard... Next play also goes backward... 3rd and 22.

7:57 Tech is punting AGAIN. Before facing the Hawks, Tech hadn't punted on 22 consecutive possessions.

7:59 Stanzi throws an interception on 2nd down... And it's a touchdown for Tech... Time for another beer.

8:02 Holy crap... Live blogging sucks... Everything is happening so fast.

8:03 End of 1st Quarter. Hawks lead 14-0.

Best commercial during the game so far...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Facebook, Widgets, and the Baseball Hall of Fame

For what it's worth I have built a fan page for The Bigfoot Diaries on Facebook. It's too early to tell if this is going to solve all the world's problems, but maybe it's a start, at least from my standpoint. It's part of my diabolical plan to build this site into a world-wide phenonomen, stock it full of nuclear energy, and use it to take over the Earth. Then I'm going to turn it into a propaganda machine, infiltrate the curriculums of the schools and force your children to read my daily meanderings. Sound cool to you? You should be able to become a Facebook fan of the Bigfoot Diaries here.

Charley has dedicated an entire blog to support Andre Dawson's bid to be enshrined into MLB's Hall of Fame. The votes will be counted Wednesday and we will know if The Hawk's fate places him with the best of all time. Of course I think that Dawson deserves it, and if he does get in, I hope it will pave the way for Ronny Santo to get in next year. These two players, who've played through so much pain and adversity, meant so much to the game and their teammates. Pile that on top of the outstanding career numbers that they put up, and It's a no-brainer that they be enshrined. Charley has a nifty little widget on his site featuring a countdown to the HoF announcement... And I can't help but wonder what will happen to Charley's blog after the widget reaches ZERO and the announcement is made that Dawson gets in.

Hopefully he does get in, and Charley finds another worthwhile cause to keep a blog about... Shouldn't Mark Grace be HoF eligible soon? What about Ronny Santo's bid... Assuming the veterans committee doesn't vote him in this year? I promise when I am big enough to take over the world, getting Santo into the Hall will be part of my diabolical-propaganda-infested plan... Perhaps another reason to join my fan page on Facebook...

I do not feature any widgets on this blog. This is in part due to the fact that I am terrified of widgets, or at least the little people behind the scenes who run them... Such things don't run on their own... To me, getting a widget is the equivilent of giving somebody the keys to your soul. The Wizard of Oz was a little man behind the curtain pulling the strings, and I can't believe that widgets don't operate much the same way. I don't need any little men having access to my blog page... There are already enough little men (They're called management) pulling the strings in my life.

...And unfortunately, I'm afraid, too many little men on the election committee pulling the strings on baseball's Hall of Fame... But maybe this time they will get it right. Good luck Andre!

2010: An Ice Odyssey

I haven't been much up for writing lately... A little bit of reading... But not much for writing. Here it is the 4th day of the new year, and I haven't even wished my wonderful readers a Happy New Year yet.

2010 came in pretty much as I had planned... Intoxicated with friends. This was the first New Years Eve in several years where I wasn't hanging out with my daughter, and Essie and I took full advantage of it by inviting some friends over for a beer-soaked good time. I remained sober for most of the past 5 or 6 New Years' Eves, but after a heavy work load during the week leading up to this one, and because of long work hours during and after the holiday season, I was ready to let it everything out. Beer was tasting mighty delicious, and when I get that taste, albeit rare in this ripe old age of 42... Watch out.

I think I speak for Essie and our friends when I say that we all definitely had fun bringing in the New Year. It was great until I fell asleep at about 2:30, and even a few hours after that. Since then it's been pretty much downhill.

I was rudely awakened at 6:15 on New Years Day by my alarm to be at work by 7:00. What a horrible feeling that was. I am so happy to be at that age where I am beyond living that lifestyle... I was beyond tired all of Friday, and for most of the weekend. Thank goodness I had today off... The first day in the new year that I woke up with a sense of normalcy to my waking life. All weekend long I dealt with pitfalls... Frozen pipes (luckily no breaks)... A dead car battery, and the driest winter air since the freezing of Niagra Falls during the Ice Age.

Seriously... How can there be 10 feet of snow and ice on the ground and yet the air be so dry? It's like the water in the air has turned into vermouth, and the mountains of snow have sucked up all of the humidity. Shouldn't there be some kind of natural law that states that when there is 10 feet of snow (water) on the ground, there has to be some humidity in the air also? Obviously, as in the desert heat, a dry temperature means EXTREME temperature... Whether it's hot or cold.

I love Iowa (I really do), but Holy Jesus I would give anything to be in the Florida Keys right now.

Happy New Year everybody.