You Are Here



You are here.

         I am here.

I am writing this for you to read. How do you like it so far? Not too interesting, eh? Well, you see, there’s a very important theory behind this rather unorthodox way of beginning a . . . of beginning a . . . of beginning this. You see, blah blah, blah and et cetera ad infinitum. (Imagine a long-winded, deeply serious lecture, punctuated with those very special words that immediately give you the impression the speaker is indeed much more learned, articulate and insightful than you, humble reader, could ever be.)

 Excuse me for a minute, I have to get something from the attic.

          [Time passes.]

          {Back again.}

 Thanks for waiting.

          I had to go look for this book on various schools of literary criticism, because I was going to look up a suitable word to brandish in my discussion of  just what in the hell it is I’m doing here. But it seems I’ve brought down the wrong book. You see, I keep all my books on literary criticism packed in boxes up in my attic. I find the chore of writing more relaxing this way. 

Anyway, the word I was looking for was mimetic—an all-time favorite with those who would rather discuss reading than read—but I’ve got the wrong book. Please excuse me for another moment because I must take this book back to the attic, for in browsing through the index, I stumbled upon the entry: “Neo-Platonism,” and it’s making me queasy. I’ll be right back. 

[More time passes.] 

{Back again.} 

Sorry I took so long, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and because I am a bit obsessive-compulsive, I nearly got sucked into cleaning my carpets because the steam cleaner is also in the attic, near my box of books on literary theory. 

I do get distracted by the ephemera of everyday life. In fact, I’ve spent the last few years on preparations alone, laying the groundwork for some really serious and incredibly important writing. 

First, I had to buy a computer because the writing machine I purchased shortly after the age of reptiles required cranking by way of foot pedals. Then there was the moving. I had to move to a more literary city where I was less likely to have neighbors who rebuilt 55 Chevys in their garages late into the night. And you know what a time-consuming task moving can be. It was. Only last week did I finally finish decorating my den slash office. And then there were those photo albums I’d always meant to organize. And so forth. 

You get the idea. 

So anyway, I was about to explain that this rather freeform manner in which I am writing is actually based on my experiences in graduate school English department. I learned that one can invent a plausible literary theory for  anything. For example, Hamlet is really a dog afraid to bite his evil master. Bad Hamlet! Bad, bad Hamlet! 

            It’s not that I believe that traditional storytelling is passé. I love a good story, especially when it has the word “that” in it a lot. I myself have many ideas for stories, like the one about how Mozart is reincarnated into the 1970s as a slovenly piano player in a suburban steak house. He can play pretty well, but this time around he attracts more flies than attention. 

But the minute you (I) start writing a story like that, you’re just (I’m just) chained into this traditional structure of character and plot development and so on and so forth, until you just think (I just think), “Why bother?” Because in the end, it’s just another gimmicky story of the type that one sells to the movies (Make me an offer!). Where’s the fun in that? 

Huh? 

[Insert interjection here.] 

So if one (Don’t worry, I’m not going to do this anymore, after this one last time.) does not engage in storytelling, then what is the point? And there (here) we have arrived at the crux of the issue (Sorry, I could not resist one last parenthetical. But then, you had to know it was coming, didn’t you?). 

Was it not some philosopher employed by the Hallmark greeting card company who once wrote, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.”? Or is this just an excuse to demonstrate the use of punctuation outside quotation marks, since the question mark in question would alter the original intention of the quoted material if placed within the close-quote marks? (Take that you funky wagnalls.) 

        Which reminds me of a story: 

        Once upon a time, there was a little brown mouse with tiny black eyes who was very, very hungry. He was searching for something to eat in old Mr. Shimelplatzer’s house when he happened upon a bottle of Minoxidil. Old Mr. Shimelplatzer was trying to grow some new hair. The little brown mouse with the tiny black eyes pushed the plastic bottle off the bathroom counter falling to the floor cap flying contents oozing puddle. 

        The little brown mouse with the tiny black eyes scampered over to the towel rack, lowered himself paw-over-paw down the bath towel and tiptoed across the throw rug, leaping over the bathroom scale to inspect the strange-smelling pool of liquid. After the little brown mouse with the tiny black eyes licked it all up, he awakened the next morning to find himself transformed into a super-steroid, red-eyed, 23-foot monster mouse. He subsequently killed a lot of slow-moving  senior citizens before being blown up with microwave radiation by the National Guard. 

        Excuse me for just a moment.

        [A brief interlude, passes.] 

        I had to open the door of my den slash office for Inky, my swaybellied black cat who spends many long hours in the faded adobe-colored recliner where I once spent many long hours writing something I called poetry. Inky will not stop meowing at my door until I let her in, then she meows at me for a minute or two before settling in on the seat of the well-worn recliner, where I once spent many long hours writing something I called poetry. 

        Ah yes, sigh, those heady, ennui-filled days of youth. Now, I sit wearily on this adjustable office chair and type assorted letters into this computer that appear before me on this screen where they line up to become words and sentences, where they all gather together to do this funny little dance called, “Pretending To Matter.”



~ Text and artwork by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Notable People I Have Met ~ Part Seven



Ralph Humphrey ~ virtuoso drummer

While not a familiar name among the general public, drummer Ralph Humphrey is famous among musicians. He’s known for playing with a long list of musical luminaries and just about every kind of gig and recording session imaginable. But when I played a few casuals with Ralph in 1975 and 1976, for me, his crowning glory was that he’d played with Frank Zappa, most notably as the only drummer on the 1973 Zappa album “Over-nite Sensation.”



Ralph’s playing on “Over-nite Sensation” introduced a different kind of rhythmic sophistication to Zappa’s rock and jazz hybrid tunes, creating a sound of raw power precisely executed. Every musician I knew was listening to that breakthrough album.

The first gig I played with Ralph was at The Bistro in Beverly Hills, famous for its celebrity patrons. We played for a City Of Hope dinner for luminaries honored by the medical center’s foundation. I quickly realized I was in rarified air when I saw the parking lot. It was wall-to-wall Rolls Royce automobiles.



On our first break, I peppered Ralph with questions about Zappa. I especially wanted to know if Zappa was sincere when he so often publicly stated he did not use drugs. His appearance and his wild musical mind, not to mention his bizarre lyrics, often gave people the impression that he must be high on something. But Ralph confirmed that Zappa did not use drugs. He was, in fact, an anti-drug advocate, although he did smoke cigarettes.


“I think if Frank ever really got high and took a good look at himself it would really freak him out,” Ralph said.

{The above quote is approximate, from my imperfect memory.}

I was a competent guitar player, but far from the A-list level that Humphrey belonged to. I asked Ralph how he rose to such a high level of musical proficiency. If there was some secret bit of wisdom, some path to greatness I’d overlooked, he would know about it. But Ralph said his musicianship was simply a result of a lot of study, practice and dedication. I suppose he was too modest to mention talent.

Check out his superb musicianship on the recently released "Roxy ~ The Movie," a CD and video compilation of Zappa performing over four nights in Hollywood at the Roxy in 1973. I was there—in the audience!

Click Here for "Roxy ~ The Movie" at Amazon

That evening led to another encounter with a famous celebrity--Johnny Carson. Someone said the lounge at The Bistro was a favorite spot for Johnny and Jack Lemmon who would meet there on occasion. A few hours after our gig began, we heard that Johnny was in the bar.

To get to the restroom, bar patrons had to cut across a corner of the banquet room where we were playing. In the middle of a tune, we spotted Johnny making his way to the restroom. Without dropping a beat, the piano player broke into the theme song from “The Tonight Show.” Johnny looked over, pointed at us and laughed, quickly disappearing from the room.


~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Ralph Humphrey bio
© All Rights Reserved








Accumulation


When I was young I had a small wooden box, a souvenir from a family trip to the giant redwoods. We drove through a hole in one of the trees and stayed overnight in a cabin infused with the wood-sap-green perfume of the forest that surrounded us.

Inside my box I kept:

1. A polished orange agate
2. A worn Canadian quarter with a moose on one side
3. A dark red matchbook from a fancy restaurant
4. A small magnifying glass in a black plastic frame
5. A brass pocket knife
6. A 4 cent stamp with Abraham Lincoln’s picture on it
7. A fingernail trimmer

I had a portable record player and a collection of 45 rpm records with pictures of the artists on the paper sleeves. Elvis! I had picture books of nursery rhymes, jungle animals, Peter Pan, automobiles, a school book with illustrations of Columbus discovering the new world, children’s poetry and comic books. I had baseball cards of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sandy Koufax! I had a set of small rocks glued onto a cardboard mounting, each underscored with their names and geographic origins.

I had a half-dozen or so stuffed animals who shared my bed.

I had drawers full of inconsequential objects such as red rubber bands from Sunday newspapers, paperclips, a bottle of dried-up glue, spare change, pens and pencils, a ruler, a small plastic stapler and scattered staples, a Scotch tape dispenser, assorted notepads, folders, three-ring binders, old birthday cards, Christmas cards sent to my family and forgotten photographs taken when we were all dressed up for some holiday.

I had plastic guns and rifles, dozens of small metal cars with real rubber tires, and a few hastily glued model airplanes.

I had a closet full of clothing picked out by my mother and drawers of underwear, socks and pajamas. I had pairs of worn tennis shoes and rarely worn dress shoes that made blisters on my heels.

I had a red and white Schwinn bicycle with large tires. I attached playing cards to the spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle. When I attached a balloon it sounded even better, but the balloon would soon pop.

I had so much more, so many possessions for such a young boy, and yet so few when compared to this adult life where the clutter of accumulation dims the childhood wonder I had when everything was new.


~ by Russ Allison Loar

© All Rights Reserved




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved