Attacked by Kiddies!

A few of my small number of visitors may have noticed my site was down for a few hours and that a script-kiddie message appeared where the donkey used to be. It said something about “Anti-War Hackers” had “hacked” my BSD box.

Yawn. That donkey’s pretty bad, but…

Apparently, there was a minor security hole published on the website that I hadn’t updated until today.

My brave “anti-war” kiddies saw the flaw notification and hit a few blogs that hadn’t updated yet.

Gee, big brave anti-war hackers. Kill a donkey – destroy Bush!

Sorry, kids, my BSD box has always been, and always will be, invincible.

George! He’s up in his room tweaking again!

Sheesh. Can’t a donkey have a little privacy? Okay, it might be because I have that sign over my new Dell that says “No Tweaking Zone”. Or it might be because of the sign that hangs under it saying “Anyone caught putting a new hard drive in this machine will be shot on sight.”

Okay, okay, I put those signs there, but lookey here: I’ve got this P4, 2.4 Gigaherzt way over-qualified, screaming machine with 768 megs of RAM. I should be able to open a whole bunch of 20 meg photos in Photoshop without causing any slowdowns. Right? Uh, Wrong. There is indeed a *discernible* slowdown at times.

I didn’t pay for that. Okay, so I figured the problem was a lack of a scratch disk. My old computers all have scratch disks. This one just has one 80 GB disk. Okay, it’s very simple. Yes, despite all my dire premonitions of doom, I’ll add a new hard drive, but DON’T WORRY! It’ll just be a simple little slave drive to sit there and grab my Photoshop scratches. I know, I know, the last time I did this it took several months and there was some shit about upgrading the BIOS and Via chipsets that didn’t have the right drivers. Then there was the LILO boot manager and corrupted partitions…..but we won’t go there. This would be a simple slave drive for a simple scratch disk and we promise we won’t touch anything else.

That’s always how it starts….. So, I go to Newegg and take a gander (just a peek). Hmmmm. I could get a 40 gig scratch disk for about $50. Or….for a few dollars more I could get 120 gigs with an 8 meg disk cache. Hmmmm again. Yes, it’s faster and bigger than my current drive, but that won’t influence me. It’s just a slave drive, but a little bigger than usual. The 8 meg cache means nothing.

Yeah, right.

Okay, long story short and a visit to the Symantec Ghost tutorial pages, there’s no way in hell that I’d put a 120 gig WD 7200 rpm 8 meg cache hard drive as a slave and leave a puny IBM drive as master. That ain’t gonna happen.

As it turns out, Ghost 2003 and the new Western Digital arrived from Fedex at about the same time. Don’t worry, I say, if anything screws up, we’ll just make the new drive the slave and to hell with it. But reading the Ghost manual, it appears they’ve “improved” it so that you can do the whole drive cloning thing from within Windows. Sorry folks, I don’t do anything relating to hard drives from within Windows. So an email to tech support later, I find out that yes, I can do the whole thing from a DOS boot disk like the old versions of Ghost. Fine, I feel much better now.

So, feeling frisky, I stick the new hard drive in the slave position to start. I can’t believe these new Dells. They’re so freakin’ user friendly inside. They have a spankin’ new set of plastic HD rails ready and waiting in the second drive bay. Pop them out, screw them in, and pop them in again. Keep everything set to “cable select”. Put the machine together and boot to the Ghost/DOS boot disk. Ghost comes up and you (carefully) pick the source drive. Then (carefully) pick the destination drive, and hit Clone the disk or something similar. I say “carefully” on picking the source and destination drives, because after you’ve picked them, they both look the same. To put it a little simpler, successfully cloning a blank drive to your data drive because you picked the wrong ones can lead to an insane situation if there are any weapons nearby (and there usually are).

25 minutes later, an exact copy of my old disk is sitting waiting on my new disk. I pop out the old disk, put the new one in the master position, and boot. I’m sure this is where the BIOS starts flashing and the machine makes all these dreadful scratching noises and sits there with the cursor flashing. But no, surprise, surprise. The danged thing boots into XP, just like it always does. Go into Disk Management and sure enough, there’s the new 120 gig drive NTFS formatted, just as pretty as can be.

Okay, I reboot the thing a few times and check all my apps to make sure there aren’t any surprises lurking under the surface. As we all know, there always are. Two hours later, I’m absolutely sure my machine is okay, and I’m starting to feel frisky again. I turn off the machine, stick in the Ghost boot disk and pop in the old drive, this time in the slave position. This is a little nerve-wracking because Symantec has all kinds of dreaded warnings about not booting with two activated disks in the machine. I’m supposed to use GDISK, the Symantec version of FDISK, that can supposedly deal with NTFS partitions. Unfortunately, I’m used to FDISK, and GDISK is nothing like it. Hitting “?” gives me all these arcane command lines with equally arcane switches. After reading a bit, I see that it isn’t quite as bad as it looks and I type in the command that de-activates the old disk. Then, gritting my teeth, I reboot. It all seems to load normally, so I login to Windows and check the Disk Management utility. Both drives are listed correctly, so I gulp a little saliva and hit “partition and format” on the old drive. About 15 minutes later, I’ve got myself one fresh new C: drive with all my stuff on it and a spankin’ new slave drive. I immediately set up my page file (swap) to use both disks and set up Photoshop to use Drive 2 as a scratch drive. So far, so good. And I’m liking Ghost so much that I run it again on my new main drive and save it to a file on Drive 2.

So, did the 8 meg cache really speed things up? Or is it trivial? All my apps seem a bit faster, but that is hard to guage. The ones that are really fast are the graphics apps. One big for instance, I use ACDsee to manage a lot of my photos; I have literally several thousand of them and it’s very hard to find a particular file unless I can view from a bunch of thumbnails in various directories. ACDSee used to kind of scroll-load all the hundreds of thumbnails very slowly, and I figured I could do better if I had a better graphics card. As it turns out, ACDSee now loads several hundred thumbnails instantly, and since it doesn’t have a scratch-disk setting in preferences, I can only attribute it to the 8 meg cache.

It’s three weeks later, and there still haven’t been any dire repurcussions. This is new for me. Life is never this easy. I’m extra vigilant these days. There’s dread out there somewhere, I can just feel it.

Cops and Serial Killers

No, this isn’t the opus that I lost when I hit the Preview button yesterday. This is just a nightmare I had last night. Pretty much your garden variety. This time there was a serial killer stalking our neighborhood. He was impersonating a cop. When I asked around about how you’re supposed to tell the real cops from the killer, the response I got was, “it’s anybody’s guess. Stay vigilant.”

Okay, that could be easy. The serial killer is a terrorist and it’s hard to tell them from your everyday Americans. Everybody’s scared these days. On the other hand, when it’s getting harder to tell them from the cops….that’s a little different. Maybe lately it’s getting harder and harder for me to tell the difference between our government and the terrorists. I’m not a radical or a leftist. At my age, I vote pretty much middle of the road moderate. After 9/11, I’ve experienced as much fear and anger as any other American. I have fantasies of being left alone in an interrogation room with some of the terrorists, except that I’m holding a baseball bat. I never voted for George Bush, and I don’t particularly like the guy. But as far as I’m concerned, we’re all Americans standing together when it comes to an outside threat. What I’m saying is, I shouldn’t have to be asking the question. I should know the difference between our government and the terrorists.

But that ain’t happening, folks. The other night I watched the eagerly anticipated Presidential press conference. All I can really remember of it is that I kept hearing “…..9/11……Iraq…..9/11……Iraq…..9/11……Saddam…..9/11…..”

It almost seemed like I was hearing one of those subliminal marketing ads. Does this guy really think we’re that stupid? The week before it was, “….to spread democracy through the Middle East…” (you mean like we did when we liberated Kuwait?). The week before that it was the WMD mantra. This shit flat out makes me uneasy. I don’t want terrorists to get their hands on nukes and chemicals any more than the next guy. So why isn’t the press corps asking what’s gonna happen with Iran and No. Korea? North Korea’s broke, and the only product they have to sell is WMD. Am I the only idiot that’s picked up on that nuance?

Then I’m hearing that the nuclear weapons “smoking gun” papers between Iraq and the African nation were forged by someone. Can’t our leaders tell a forgery? Or, are we now forging documents to make our case? Then there’s this little gem in the
Sunday Herald. Not that I haven’t been suspecting that more and more lately.

I’m sorry. I’m more than willing to attack Iraq if that’s going to make the US safer. But I’m not sure any more. A government that is openly lying to its citizens is not a government that I’m about to trust. About anything. My own personal nightmares are enough for me to deal with.

I don’t need this shit.

This Has Just Gotten Old

Seriously. Now I’m pissed off. I have so little time that I can work on this thing, and this is the second time in 3 months that I’ve written a long article/diatribe, spent hours on it only to have it go up in smoke.

“Internet Explorer has encountered a fatal exception error and will now close. Would you like to inform Microsoft?”

You sonofabitch!

It had been so long since my last post that I’d forgotten where my last article went. I was using Windows 98 then on a creaking AMD 400 K6-III. Now I’m using XP Pro (which hasn’t crashed since I bought it) on a P-4 2.4 ghz monster with 768 megs of RAM. I just *finally* figured out which side of our wobbly Iraq fence I was on and laid it all out in a brilliant (heh) diatribe that took well over 2 hours to complete. After I restarted Internet Explorer and went into the Elburro composition area, because surely, it must have posted. Somewhere… my opus was missing.

Too bad my memory’s too short. Too bad I thought XP Pro was invincible. Ah, who knows, it may well be B-2, the blogger I’m using. But it’s killing me.

For this rant, I’m using Mozilla. And I’m actually typing it in notepad and saving the sonofabitch so that I can copy/paste the bastard on the web.

When I was a kid, a cranky neighbor had a bumper sticker on his car that said Dimmit Dammit. Not being a driver, I had no idea what it meant to dim one’s headlights when following another car. I thought it was just his cranky way of expressing his view of the world.

Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit. Dimmit Dammit……

De-SL-Volution in the ISP biz

“Christ-on-a-Crutch!!” as my grandfather used to say.

First it was my beloved Mindspring, which I signed up for in 1994 and left at the end of 2001 after they had been gulped down by Earthlink and most of my subscriber and employee friends had bailed. One of the last straws for me at Earthlink was when they forbade employees from posting in the newsgroups. Prior to that, employee help posts had been a topnotch alternative to waiting on hold for an hour to speak to a level 1 tech who was reading from a script and probably couldn’t answer your question anyway.

Then it happened to BellSouth. When I first signed up for Fast Access DSL, I was super-impressed by all the Tier 3 and above people who posted in the newsgroups and at the BellSouth Forum at Broadband Reports. How many times had my DSL connection gone south while at Earthlink and when I called Support, I was told that it was some phone company issue and they would contact the telco (BellSouth) to try and resolve it. A few days would go by, a lot of dancing around the modem making Indian noises and shaking dead chickens, and then my Earthlink DSL would miraculously work again. In the Bellsouth forum, you could *talk* to those same telco experts and get a quick solution to any problem you could imagine. Once a technician came out to my house to tell me that they had replaced a card at my remote DSLAM and the problem was resolved.

“By the way”, he said, “the head regional guy called my office and lit a fire under our butts about your problem. How’d you get friends in such high places?”
“Hey, friends and favors make the world go ’round.” I smiled slyly.
(and some of us score extra points when we know how to launch our web browsers).

A couple of weeks ago that all changed. It seems that one or two of the extremely helpful BellSouth techs that were posting in the BellSouth Forum on their own time answering questions that Help Desk Support could never have handled made an error or somesuch, causing the Suits to panic and ban them all from both the Forum and the usenet newsgroups starting Dec. 31. It was Earthlink all over again. Now they’re backtracking and saying that a new Tier 3 Support Group will be taking up the newsgroup slack (paid and assumingly filtered) by BellSouth.

I eventually left BellSouth because of disconnect problems with two different routers that just couldn’t get resolved, even by the Tier 3 guys. A line tech told me that it could be the BBG software that they use in their redbacks. Whatever, when I went to Directv DSL and a straight bridged connection with no more BBG or PPPoE software to hassle with, my connection suddenly became rock solid. After 6 months I grew to love my new ISP, even more than the old Mindspring. Support picked up the phone after a couple of minutes, and they were all over-qualified and actually listened to you, and bent over backwards to solve any problem. I had a fixed IP address, and the ability to run any servers that I wanted. I set up a mail server that I ran from my house just ’cause I *could*. But the biggest positive about my new ISP was the total lack of downtime. In fact, the connection never went down, except once when electrical power went down in my neigborhood. The people in the newsgroups were all geeky types. I was in DSL hog-heaven again.

Until today.

It seems that DirecTv DSL is closing their doors.

As my grandfather used to say Christ on a Crutch!!!

I’ve got 30 days to find a new provider. I could always go back to BellSouth or Earthlink and play with PPPoE again. I really don’t want to do that, though. I’m thinking more likely that I’ll go with a small local provider that provides a bridged connection and fixed IP address. I also have choices in Snappy DSL and another bridged provider whose name escapes me.

I’ll get it somewhere, I’m sure, but my troubles sound like ungrateful whinings compared to a lot of folks who are suddenly facing the Christmas season sans a job. The excellent employees at DirecTV DSL deserved a fate better than this Their search may take somewhat longer than mine, as the employement outlook in the Portland area is fairly grim these days. Christ on a Crutch, indeed.

Kids Ate my Mom’s Computer

Kids Ate My Mom’s Computer

Yeah, okay, it’s election night and I should be watching all the cliffhanger results coming in.

Or, keeping in mind the words of Frank Zappa, “Politics is the entertainment division of the Military Industrial Complex”, (yes, I voted though, dammit) I’m going to switch to a subject somewhat closer to my heart:

That would be Kids and Computers. The next time I go up to visit my 80 year old Mom, I’m bringing along a copy of Red Hat linux 7.3. I’m going to take Windows 98 off her computer, and set up Red Hat to run X, either Gnome or KDE and let her run with that. The only thing she uses her computer for is a word processor, Web surfing, email and printing things. She could care less if another piece of software ever gets installed on her computer. In fact, she would prefer that one didn’t.

Last week she called me in a panic because “something had taken over her computer screen” and everything had been “running very slow all last week”. I asked her to click on the Start button and she said there no longer was a start button. Instead, when she booted up, some other strange interface, a giant “click-bar” of some sort, launched itself and obliterated the rest of her screen.

“What did you do differently that might have caused this abomination?” I asked over the phone.
“Nothing! I didn’t do anything! Help me!!!!!!!
……..oh, Erin was over here yesterday….” (her 8 year old granddaughter)
“Oh? And was Erin playing on the computer per chance?”
“Oh yessss. She was putting some game on it or something…..”

About an hour and a half later, I had most of the games cleared off it, and over a hundred pieces of spyware residual. The monstrosity that had taken over her desktop was history…..I’ve got to hand it to my mother. 80 years old and barely able to point & click, and she got all that stuff off by herself, with only me on the phone long distance. We also found that for god-knows-how-long, Kazaa had been using her computer as a file sharing server, in violation of her ISP’s AUP. But Mom didn’t get caught or disconnected, so she lucked out. No, she’s not a music fiend; little Erin is.

This has been going on for the past 3 years. It’s always “Help, there’s something wrong with my computer!!” and it’s always all kinds of crap the grandkids put on there. I’m sitting here typing on an AMD K6-III 400 mz, 512 megs of ram. It’s old and yeah, I’d like a new one, but I don’t have the bucks and it works okay, so….
The grandkids had some kind of Pentium III or IV, 800 mz or so that they “filled up” according to my sister. So she bought them a 1.6 ghz Pentium IV, but that’s almost “filled up” too. When that one is in use, one of them races over to my Mom’s house to use hers. When it gets “filled up”, she calls me in a panic.

Sooooo……when I stick Red Hat Linux on my Mom’s computer, she and the kids will be able to surf the web, send email, use a word processor and print things. It will be easy for them to use, but they will have a very hard time figuring out how to compile linux versions of Kazaa and Morpheus on it. These kids have been raised by Microsoft, and I’m counting on that to keep Mom’s soon-to-be-new OS safe and functional.

Yes, I already know that I’m a mean old bastard. Thank you.

A Night to Remember?

Although according to Wavy, that meant I probably wasn’t there.

At any rate, back during that hazy seventies decade I would’ve been in a band or two or three. I think my last band was the LaLa Blues Band or some kinda name like that, and I think the last gig would’ve been that particular New Years Eve Night to Remember in question. It could’ve been in ’72 or ’73. Yeah, that would’ve been the last gig. If someone saw us during those days, they might have said, “I know, let’s make a movie called The Blues Brothers.” But then, there were a lot of bands that could have inspired that film, maybe even hundreds. Maybe even thousands.

At any rate, pickin’s had become mighty slim as fall slid into winter in upstate New York that year. Our last job had been sometime in December at a very sleazy country roadhouse. We were kind of an R&B, blues sorta band, playing old favorites for any money we could get. That particular night, it was $50 and all you could drink. (At least that was the initial offering; later we found out that the bar tab was separate, and like Hank Williams, we’d just spent $100 on a $50 show.) This is all your typical Blues Brothers stuff, which I won’t bore you with.

The slim-pickin’s-country-roadhouse is not the night in question, however. The Night to Remember?, as stated earlier, would be New Years Eve. And that gig was a Very Serious Gig. Jim Wells, our lead guitar, had some connection with a Cornell fraternity. They were going to “try us out” for “only $300”, but if we were good, we could look forward to Regular Gigs at several hundred dollars a pop where all you had to do was get drunk and play “Louie, Louie” over and over for a bunch of students while they swam around in beer and fornicated on the floor. New Years Eve, though? There wouldn’t be any students in town. Don’t worry, said Jim, these were alumni who ran the entire fraternity and hired the entertainment for the whole year. Hmmmmm…..In our minds, we had already quit our day jobs. In the early seventies, that was serious change.

Having spent most of the day at the Royal Palms on Dryden Rd. getting ready for the gig, we loaded up the van and headed over to the frat house at around 7:00 pm. It would’ve been me doing an Elvin Bishop imitation (at least in my own mind), Jim Wells on loud-lead-guitar-that-hated-to-quit, Larry Tucker, formerly of McKendree Spring on bass and Larry Paciello, a water color artist, on drums. I’m not sure we ever really had a singer, but that night I think it was Dick Glatzer, who wasn’t actually a musician, but….

When we pulled up, there were a few women there setting up food, etc. One of them, I’d have to call the Bird Lady (glasses, kind of beaky and henpecky) seemed to be in charge. She informed us that we were expected to start at 8:00 prompt and play until 1:00 am, with 3 intermissions, during which the alumni and family would be be playing games (huh, games?). They had a keg of beer, and of course, we could help ourselves during intermissions, but please don’t get carried away. (A keg? As in One keg?) And furthermore, since we were obviously hippies, she was telling us up front that marijuana would absolutely not be tolerated. If she so much as caught a slight whiff of the drug, she’d have half the Ithaca Police Department dragging us away cuffed and chained like rats before we knew what hit us. I made a tentative inquiry about the uh, check, uh, but she had abruptly turned and left us to set up before I got any response. Jim had said earlier that he thought we could bring guests, so we had put the word out that it was a big jam session at a frat house. We figured we could use all the help we could get to land the Regular Gigs Job.

Unfortunately, looking back, I’d have to say our business sense was seriously lacking. We wanted to land The Regular Gigs job, and the lady in charge had just told us adamantly that she didn’t want any hippies smoking dope, but it was New Years Eve, and there was only one keg of beer for the entire party, and we figured she couldn’t smell acid……

We did manage to start on time, most likely with some old R&B favorites people could dance to. We were concerned with getting warmed up, tuning the instruments, etc. and didn’t really notice the crowd as it gathered. We were playing in a typical big basement of a frat house. Cement floor so the beer could flow easy without damaging anything. Bar in the corner. We set up on a small carpet that we brought for basement gigs, so that the amplifiers would be insulated from the floor. We played instrumentals for about an hour and took our first break. Glatzer hadn’t started singing yet, and to be honest, we weren’t looking forward to his debut. We hadn’t heard him or practiced with him at that point and the whole thing was very tenuous. When he heard about the cash and The Regular Gig, his ears perked up, and we really did need some kind of vocalist, so we figured what the hell(?). As we set our instruments down we noticed a what appeared to be a lot of little kids in Halloween outfits appearing among the crowd of moms & dads, alumni we assumed. The acid was starting to put a slight edge on things.

When we got up for the next set, it looked like the place had become overrun with little kids. Little leopards and witches and space aliens. (Or were the hallucinations kicking in?) The Bird Lady came over and said that everybody really liked our first set, but did we have a singer so they could hear the words to the songs? Also, she said, there were some “hippie-types” at the door who said they were part of the band. Was that so? Sure, let-em in, we said. As the night progressed, there were quite a few “hippie-types” showing up at the door. Yep, big band, we said, y’all are getting a good show here. The “hippie-types” were almost all pro musicians who had the night off. I forget most of the bands they were from, but they were all excellent. As a jam session alone, this probably really was a night to remember. A guy named Wells and some other people were there from Orleans, but most of the others are very blurry. A musician would come up and sit in, and one of us would sit down for awhile. Before long we had an entire horn section and a sax; it was garage band fantasy night. By 11:00 or so, we were really cooking, literally; this was not your typical La La Blues Band, and the Bird Lady came up demanding to hear our vocalist. Uh, he’ll be here pretty soon, we said.

Glatzer, all 350 lbs. of him was kind of rolled up on the floor in between a couple of the amplifiers staring into space and counting the various insects that would’ve been common in upstate New York in the middle of winter. He was a very, very long way from “home” and we were all counting on his “getting here” in time to sing some songs for the Bird Lady.

I remember Wells K. sitting behind the drums somewhere around then and going into a fast rolling intro. Someone had set the mike up near the drums and he had pulled it over close enough to be our first vocalist of the evening. The whole room seemed to stop in time as he went through the intro; he was a master, and was putting on a drum clinic like you wouldn’t believe. As his drums beat faster and faster, he rolled into:

“Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue, pretty pretty pretty, Peggy Sue. Oh Peggy…..” Acid or not the band responded with a new energy. This was the good stuff. People and kids in the audience stopped whatever they were doing and just stared at Wells; he was that good. I got to do the lead rif, as Jim had sat down, and I was all fired up and doing my best Buddy Holly & the Crickets guitar imitation. For me, that was the highlight of the evening. (unfortunately, it was pretty much the highlight for all of us, as we’d later find out).

Another intermission and Glatzer was beginning to join the living again. He still had a very glazed look to his eyes, but he was ready to start “singing some blues”. O–kay…. We started off the next set with Mustang Sally, one of my favorite instrumental parts. Our 350 lb. Glatzer, long greasy black hair with week old stubble and a dazed expression on his face started doing his best Wilson Pickett. “Mustang Sally, girl you got ta hack hack slow dat Mustang down….”

The little kids in the Halloween outfits (yes, I swear they were really there) started coming closer to the mike as Glatzer sang. This weird funny fat guy. He could’ve looked to them like a cross between Santa Claus and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He started getting into it and singing to them with a big wide Glatzer smile on his face “Hi kiddies, this is your jolly uncle Glatzer….” As he smiled and grinned, they’d get closer and closer until he made a horrible boogey man face and turned into a mean, decrepit pirate and they’d all run back to their parents. Then he’d be grinning again and they’d creep closer. The cat & mouse game went on for quite a while. We started doing basic blues improvs and he made up whatever sick words that happened to be crawling through his strange Glatzer mind at the time, “Hey baby, I’ll see ya a little later…..after I rip your face off with a potato grater..”

At that point, the room was spinning and I started feeling like I needed a rest. Some guy named Ken had a guitar and seemed to be motioning that he’d like to come up and spell me. At about that point, I accidentally stepped off the carpet and onto the cement floor. A definite no-no. Instead of holding my Guild Starfire semi-hollowbody with its perfectly aligned 6-strings, I was tightly gripping a surging conveyer of 110 volts of electricity. The voltage hit the acid with a predictable explosion. Somehow, mercifully, the guitar flew out of my hands and landed with a crash of horrible, grating feedback. I was blown off the carpet and landed in back of one of the amplifiers. Ken jumped up and plugged his guitar in as if nothing had happened and I huddled into a quivering mass in the back of the room with electrical discharges firing and mis-firing all through my brain. I pretty much sat there and shook for the next hour or so. I couldn’t talk, but I started watching the weird scene going on around me.

It was a scene out of Kafka. The incredible tight band made up of some of the finest musicians around, headlined by a drooling filthy fat pirate hopped up on LSD. Little kids in Halloween costumes creeping closer and closer to the fat pirate until he shook his head and waved his arms, scaring them away. Adults on the sidelines talking in hushed tones gesturing toward the strange band and the weird hippie musicians sitting around it. If they had any idea who those weird hippies were who had graced their little party, things might have been a little friendlier. As it was, I could sense the tension and expected at any moment to see the Ithaca Police bursting in the door. But in my clouded acid daze, I was also really getting into the music. This was definately not a La La band. They even made Glatzer’s wild-eyed ravings at the microphone sound good.

As midnight approached everything seemed to be coming to a head. Glatzer’s improvised rants had become downright disgusting, the murmers among the alumni parents on the sidelines were sounding openly hostile and I could swear I smelled a familiar whiff of marijuana eminating from the area where the hippie musicians were sitting. My acid paranoia had set in good and it seemed like the room was ready to blow.

At that point, the large wooden door to the basement burst open. Wind and snow blew in from the darkness outside and the music stopped cold. Everything stopped cold. Little kids in halloween costumes, conservative alumni, hippies, everyone stopped dead and looked at the open door to the winter outside. A thin figure in black started to emerge from the darkness. It was a very tall, thin man dressed in faded and worn black leather with silver chains hanging from it, his skinny hands covered with tatoos and snow. His skin & bones face was mean and dry. Very long, ratty, thinning blond hair hung past his shoulders. He could’ve been thirty; he could’ve been eighty, from years of too much speed and too much heroin. He stood there like the prince of darkness; the horrid biker from hell. It was Jim DeMott. In the dead silence, except for the wind and snow, he just glared. Then he spoke, “Hey Glatzer, you got my twenty dollars?”

Then all hell broke loose. A woman in the other room started screaming. The room turned into a pandemonium of screaming kids, distraught alumni and hippies on drugs. Glatzer seemed to have vanished out the back somewhere. The next thing I knew, we were getting a serious bum’s rush. Instruments and amplifiers were being tossed out onto the snow and people were pushing us out the door. There was shouting and screaming. I remember being herded out into the new fallen snow and seeing amplifiers and drum sets in snow banks. Musicians were carefully dusting them off and loading them into several vans parked outside. I was still shaking from the effects of the acid, the cold and the electric shock and ended up walking across the street and over the snow-covered Cornell Commons toward Eddy Street on the other side of the university.

There was still time to make Last Call at the Royal Palms and the stars were shining on the new-fallen snow as the group of us trudged over the commons. Bells were ringing in the distance. It must be midnight. The new year had arrived.

The Regular Gigs Job would have to wait. Maybe next time…..

About Elburro

This is really about Frank. Yeah, I know, who the hell is Frank?
Yeah, okay, well don’t worry about that.

Back in the mid-seventies, after finishing college I ran headlong into the ’74 Recession/Arab Oil Embargo. It was a scene from a bad movie, and could’ve been the worst recession I’ve ever lived through, except that being single with no obligations, it was just bad. Gas stations were backed up for blocks selling gas for something like 700% more than it sold for the previous month and of course, it was selling like it was going out of style. As fate would have it, I had just left Ithaca, which had few jobs and few people to compete for the jobs that weren’t there, and moved to Boston, which had few jobs and a ton of people looking for work fresh out of college. I lucked out and got a job as a waiter at a hotel.

There was a food-prep guy there named Frank.

Frank spoke only Spanish. Every night after work, we’d all walk down to the basement of the hotel to go through security and out to our cars. Frank was always leaving the same time I was. Over time, I noticed that he said the word burro a hell of a lot. Boordo! (sort of). When he’d see a friend, he’d say “Burro! Como esta?” and there’d be hugging and back-slapping. When he saw someone he didn’t particularly care for, he’d lean back to me and say, “Es un burro….” in a low voice. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that in Frank’s world, just about everyone was a burro of one sort or another.

Years later, when I became much older and wiser, I realized that Frank was probably right all along. The world was pretty much full of burros. A burro is a pack animal, used to shouldering huge piles of weighty obligations. He works hard day after day, thinking about that plate of burritos waiting for him at home. Doesn’t complain much….well, it’s true, an occasional burro is a bit of a whiner, but that’s because, in Frank’s words, “es un burro”. There’s not a hell of a lot of reward in life for a burro, but sometimes you can catch them grinning, thinking about the desert and the stars and kicking up their heels with a big old rusty-bucket “eee-yawww, eee-yaww….”

And sometimes, they actually get there.

That would kinda make me a burro too. In fact, that might kinda sorta make you one as well.