Weather Rapport (or, Whichever Way the Wild Wind Blows)

weathergraphic

LIZA: … and that’s how little Penny Lattimer got her DUCKS … in a row.

(Fellow newscasters chuckle over residual quacking.)

DERRYL: Adorable, Liza. Speaking of ducks, I hear we’re getting some wild weather this weekend. Meteorologist Tom Lumbago has the latest in StormProbe Alley. Tom?

TOM: Thanks, Derryl. And yes, while our duck friends may enjoy the ride, especially if they love being torn apart by a vengeful God and plummeting earthward to their own shrieks of terror, we hairless apes might find it problematic. Our latest reports suggest a not-so-scrumptious gumbo of doom from a super-aggro typhoon rerouting its hissy to the Northwest and Northern California sometime Saturday afternoon, because why should Florida have all the fun.

This means potentially high, vicious winds, rain and showers sharp as nails, and scalping gusts from the point of landfall through the valley, followed by soapbox squalls across social media from people who either find predictions of the storm’s severity exaggerated — like, “Hey, MAAAAN, if it’s so NASTY, why haven’t y’all NAMED it yet?” — or who chastise such individuals for their trivialization of disasters in the making. Distracted from their bickering over the election, they’ll come to the online equivalent of blows, inflicting minor damage with copy-paste links and toppled-lawnchair-STORMAGEDDON-WE-WILL-REBUILD memes that stopped being clever nine years ago but generate LOLs anyway.

Some 200 Oregonians are scheduled to record themselves wandering outside on Facebook Live. Sources confirm that 76 will be teenaged boys removing their shirts at various locations and screaming, “WOOOOOOO! WORLDSTARRRRRR!” while their girlfriends roll their eyes and sip from rum-laced Wild Cherry Pepsi Big Gulps. We’ve been told that three are named Tami with two “e”s, but only one is stuck-up about it. At least six videos will go viral, but the only one to appear on “Ellen” will have been produced by a 62-year-old divorcee who set an emotional montage of sepia-toned aftermath photos to Phil Collins’ 1990 hit, “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” complete with lyrics in a light purple Helvetica.

Additionally, there’s a 70 percent chance that my profession will be maligned by viewers who assume meteorology is not a field of study but blind voodoo guesswork, that I’m sensationalizing for viewership to appease the Illuminati and not actually performing a public service, saying, “Hey, things might get funky here, so please be careful.” Meanwhile, they’ll fecklessly post hoax forecasts written by nobodies just because they sound awesome — 700-mph cyclones spitting cow blood and Datsuns!

The furor is expected to subside Sunday morning, when everyone returns to their usual gibberish about the best places in town to Martinize doughnuts, having conveniently forgotten their bile and posturing amidst genuine expressions of concern the day before, once again proving that Mother Nature may be unpredictable, but human nature is not. For KOAN News, I’m Tom Lumbago. Hashtag peaceoutaight.

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Gimme the Prize: Reflections on the RNC

RNC Cleveland

“I am the one, the only one,

I am the god of Kingdom Come

Gimme the prize!

Just gimme the prize!”

— Queen

Who wants to talk about the Republican National Convention? I wanna talk about the Republican National Convention. But I don’t wanna talk about the Republican National Convention, because to talk about the Republican National Convention is to acknowledge that the Republican National Convention actually happened: four days of preschool bugout, each vituperative highlight scribbled and shot for embarrassing posterity. It was like a high school reunion where everyone grew up to be, uh, embittered Republicans mired in midlife crises: This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife! Well, how did we get here?!

Ah, but we know how that happened, don’t we? The GOP’s pretended to wear such personae for years. It’s the ultimate conservative fantasy: the angry populist magnate. All Trump did was swipe the template and crank it to a Nigel Tufnel 11. He’s faking it, too, but resonating with the rabble.

His party’s only pandered to that base; Trump, however, empowered it. His central message: “Cluelessness is conviction. Believe what you want, for belief is superior to truth.” And he continues to be its living embodiment. Fact-checkers dog him — in fact, they tore his convention harangue to pieces — but his apostles care not, because his statistics sound right. And besides, they might luck out and get to shoot somebody.

As a spectacle of lunacy, the RNC barely registered as a sideshow. It was more of a toilet-sale blowout at an El Segundo junkyard. Commandeering the dais was a ceaseless procession of “Murder, She Wrote” guest stars, quacking imbeciles, sports-world zeroes, cover bands, one-shtick jabronis, ring-kissers, ankle-suckers, withered emperors, jowly groupies and future Brutuses.

This is your Republican party, folks, flown in from a 1970 Grayline bus to Reno, spiffed in newer, toothsome Solo-cup-soccer-mom skin and christened, in homage to apprentice saint Nixon, the Silent Majority. (Though if you spend any time online, you know they’re anything but silent.)

But it’s a lost, divided party, as evidenced by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who formally endorsed Trump for the nomination in words that must have tasted like an ancient Zima crawling back up his throat. During his speech, party chairman Reince Preibus spat the usual sawdust, but his eyes seemed to beg for a Flavor-Aid dunk tank.

Momentary hero Ted Cruz performed his equivalent of Sid Vicious’ “My Way” by refusing to acknowledge his ex-tormentor as future king. Unfortunately, it was just a premature salvo in his 2020 bid and not a principled stance, although he managed to steal the night’s momentum from Trump’s official benediction and up-yer-bummed it back to the cheap seats, where he’ll continue to live forever.

So the convention was less a celebration of unity than a dysfunctional family reunion, where everyone hates Uncle Donnie, but he’s rich and mean and might cut them from his will. So they endured a lot over four useless days.

Its only relief was Ivanka Trump, given the on-deck spot that final night and for once countering the convention’s madness with love. Hopefully, she escapes her father’s shadow. The candidate was less benevolent with his third wife, Melania, banishing her to Night 1 with a cribbed Michelle Obama speech and throwing her to the press. (His other kids were sprayed haphazardly into the lineup.)

Trump also invoked the wrath of Queen for swaggering out to “We Are the Champions” when “Gimme the Prize” would have been more appropriate to the event’s tenor, followed by a group singalong to “Who Wants to Live Forever,” led by the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln and John Kasich, as the Quicken Loans Arena fainted toward the Cuyahoga. It may as well have done just that after Trump’s concluding Thursday night speech: a botched litany of apocalyptic booga-booga that gave liberals hives, fact-checkers whiplash and Orwell a cheap thrill.

And then, for once, I felt for the Republican party. Because like me, all it could do for now was watch. Bye, Jumbo.

The Beginning of the End (Seattle, 1990)

Whirlwind staff box, 1989-90.

Whirlwind staff box, 1989-90.

I’ve told this story before: It takes place in a metropolitan neutrality called SeaTac, shortly before spring break 1990. I was a high school senior with a quietly mischievous keystroke and a travel bag plump with cassettes and clothes.

We’d left Friday morning by activity bus from the West Albany High School parking lot. Street lamps yielded to daylight as we crossed from Queen to Pacific, slashed by waves of telephone lines. Depeche Mode had released “Violator” that week, and I cracked open the case, absorbed that minty new-album bouquet, and packed the tape into my Walkman, watching the town shrink beneath Dave Gahan’s lugubrious nocturne: Let me take you on a trip / around the world and back / and you won’t have to move / you just sit still …

If you knew me then, music and writing were my raison d’etre. I was the dude that found your tastes pedestrian and actively sought to refine them, stopping by your locker with unsolicited mixtapes, you’re welcome. You could also read me in the school paper, The Whirlwind, where I served that year as self-appointed critic, waxing preciously on everything from Bonham’s “The Disregard of Timekeeping” and the “Born on the Fourth of July” soundtrack to “Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop” and the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Groovies’ Greatest Grooves,” the latter of which I highly recommend even today (the others, not so much).

What I couldn’t have known then was how this role would define me for the next quarter-century, damn near trap and choke me. This was still the beginning. I was 17 years old, with a security one only knows in youth. I’d already plotted my course: After graduation, I’d move on, forgoing college for Rolling Stone, then a flurry of bestselling books, perhaps write for “Saturday Night Live” or work in radio. Nail a primo beachhouse in Southern California and hang with my buds on the lanai, drinks in hand, toasting the fortune that had blessed our lives. Journalism and Albany were never part of the equation; both were larks, stepping stones, necessary springboards into the prolific adventure of Me.

And here I was, on a pill-colored bus, headed with the Whirlwind staff to our Waterloo: a two-day national journalism conference at the Red Lion Inn between Seattle and Tacoma. It was an honor to be invited. Apparently. We arrived to swarms of school colors and clashing conversations, marveling at the scope of the event. The organizers booked some marquee talent, too: According to the program, CBS’ Harry Smith was the keynote speaker; we helpfully scribbled some hair onto his bald pate and skimmed a list of seminars none of us planned to attend. Then Harry himself, sans Bic-wig, commandeered a podium, lavished us with hosannas, yammered a spell, and became as one with the cream-colored walls. I don’t think we ever saw him again, and we didn’t care. We were THIS CLOSE to SEATTLE!

But before our carousals, we checked into our rooms: boys on one side, girls on the other, though we never stayed put for long. The Whirlwind’s editor and I introduced ourselves to the girl upstairs by grabbing the tanned legs she’d dangled over the balcony and yanking them until she began screaming. The stems then disappeared and a blonde head peeked over. “Who are YOU?” it asked with a smile. Although she didn’t join our tour of the city, she’d call our room to say hello and, later, goodbye. (Only in high school is such behavior endearing.)

Now, Seattle 1990 is a far cry from Seattle ’15. At some point during that stretch, God took a hose to the place, gutted whole blocks and swapped its more colorful denizens for guerrilla theater troupes. That night, for the very first time, I watched steam seep from sewer lids (a phenomenon I didn’t know existed beyond the “Night Court” opening credits) and saw two tall cops with batons, walking, and tapping the occasional foot: “Hey. Wake up.” We devoured these experiences, hopping over bodies onto buses and connecting with sad-eyed commuters, some of whom lit up quite expectantly at the sight of teenage girls. Seats were jammed with them, fresh, young faces from all over the country. I happened to sit behind two who were subsequently joined by a pair of curious older men. “Where’re YOU from? Wyoming? Hell, me and my buddy here were just thinking about going to Wyoming this summer. What are your names? How old are you?” Others were just pleased to have a captive audience: “You’re too young to know this, see, but it’s all politics, and the game is rigged.”

Our journey ended at the Seattle Fun Center, then a Jurassic shadow of an amusement park whose showcase was “Flight to Mars,” a combination horror/space-themed ride that was the thrill o’ ’62 but an ancient-if-popular curio by 1990. We tooled around that a bit, yelping at the rusted freaks, but my favorite remains the roller coaster.

While standing in line, I confided to my colleague and dear friend Katina Rothleutner that I hated roller coasters. I’d hated them since the betrayal of ’77, when my parents conned me onto Disneyland’s Space Mountain by connecting it to “Star Wars.” “You’ll see Darth Vader at the end,” my evil mother promised. Of course, I saw nothing but the end of days while physics throttled my guts. All that dipping, twisting and spinning made me sick. I didn’t throw up, but I wanted nothing more than to spackle my makers in buckets of evacuation. Katina — sainted Katina — listened sympathetically, then beamed under sparkling eyes and said, “I’m riding with YOU!” She grabbed my arm and maneuvered us to a car, and I’ll take the malevolence on her face to my grave. “Throw up that way,” she advised, pointing to my left.

So there we were, guy and girl, one working overtime to keep his cool as the beast moaned to life and our car began to stir. I could feel Katina watching me, but I couldn’t turn to look; instead I studied the protective bar that would surely impale us later. Then we lurched forward. “Uhhh,” I implored. Silence from my right as we began climbing, to “touch the face of God,” as former president Ronald Reagan said of the Challenger crew. At the top I felt a hand clutch my arm and my eyes instantly fused shut as the track ceased clicking beneath us, holding us momentarily, curiously, as if contemplating our fate. My knuckles flashed white and threatened to explode. I sucked all the air in Seattle past my gritted teeth. The grip on arm pressed tighter at the last possible second when we were pushed, shoved, kicked, coaxed, propelled into oblivion, no longer in control, at the hellish mercy of masochists long dead, banged, punched, thrashed at corners then pulled free, whipped toward impossible turns, yanked into pits then booted to the stars, Katina still hanging on and screaming with delight as the rest of me burned like a thousand needles exploding in my bones, and oh, my God, did I feel ALIVE.

Twenty-five years later, it’s my favorite memory of journalism. I have favorite STORIES, absolutely. But it’s the people around me who’ve mattered. The stolen moments beyond the office that made me feel less alone.

I ain’t a smart dude. You wouldn’t ask me to plan a party or fix your sink. I became a writer because I had no choice. The desire, then as now, was too overwhelming, too vital to my existence. Without writing, I’d have no voice whatsoever. And that’s the thing: For many of us, this was never a career. I wouldn’t even be so pretentious as to call it a “calling.” It was just nature. If you’re a writer, you go where the writers are.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with journalism. As a practice, I didn’t like it much. I never understood the point of churning guff for immediate publication, pile after pile in manic rolls, feeding something insatiable and hateful, though I always admired it as a talent. Three stories a week were enough for me. Since I became an editor, that output’s dropped to an even more insignificant number. Cutlines, headlines and dropheads are my primary currency, a miserable fate for a word guy. I’ve produced a single story over the last year, and after emerging from under an avalanche of research, it took me about that long to write.

It can be a thankless job. We strive for audience connection, yet it’s hard to imagine a relationship more adversarial. You think we’re arrogant, with our audacity to determine what constitutes “news” and our delusions of self-importance. We think you’re stuck-up, too, with your revenge-porn theories regarding our struggles and your unflagging belief in your own perfection, or, at the very least, your linguistic, intellectual and cultural superiority to anyone with a byline. Dig the futility: You’re trying to please people who will always hate you.

One of the first cruel lessons you learn in this biz is the Inconsistency of Humankind. An audience will tell us what it wants, but its actual reading habits, which we can measure, tell us it’s LYING. An audience will accuse you of sensationalism, yet never acknowledge its own complicity and appetite for same. It’ll demand compassion for acquaintances, yet deny it of strangers in similar straits. The general public, of which we’re all a part, can be nakedly duplicitous, and we all have to pretend it isn’t.

So as journalists, we develop both a thick skin — gallows humor — and an equally dense layer of bitterness. Socially, I dance past questions about my job, because when people find out, they tend to get hostile. At last they can tell off a much-loathed institution by berating a stranger. It’s about as civil as dragging the Domino’s guy out of his car, kicking him to the ground and shouting, “Your pizzas are shit, and fuck you for contributing to obesity and heart disease.”

But sometimes even I need a break from this highly narcotic anger. So I return to that weekend, when youth ran wild in brief resistance to adulthood, when two kids shared a thrill on the exhilarating ride of a lifetime. It’s a reminder that things were good. Pure and new. Before passion became an albatross. Before aspiration became a career. Before a career became a sentence with an execution date, all but assuring that your life’s work becomes yellowed newsprint growing cold from neglect. And everyone will say you deserved it, by succeeding at something you loved until it stopped loving you back.

I was a writer then. By the graces of whatever, I’m a writer now. That kid is still here, hungry and hopeful. Maybe it’s time we met again.

See? It really happened!

See? It really happened!

F!: An Exclusive Interview

Cory Frye stands behind a -- well, he was here a second ago.

In a multimedia press conference earlier this week, author/rake/journalist Cory Frye announced his retirement from writing, calling it a “prehistoric means of expression.”

With that change came his decision to condense his full birth name, Cory Justin Frye, into the letter “F” and an exclamation point. “I felt it was necessary to make a clean break from my shameful past as a scribe making an honest living,” he told the New York Times. “‘Cory Frye,’ as prolific as that name has been, was a necessary casualty.” F! is now pursuing his latest obsession, the “Culture of the Moment.”

We recently caught up with the former Cory Frye to discuss this abrupt re-brand.

So what comprises this “Culture of the Moment”?

Nothing. The Culture of the Moment is momentary. It’s already passed. Who cares, honestly. Adieu to that ancient rubbish. I do not watch the news, read books or blogs, or listen to music, for uttered phrases and freshly struck notes or characters are nothing but apprentice artifacts, preludes to the distant past. Even the real-time chasm between a page or a speaker and my much-coveted attention is a distance I can no longer abide. Live performance is nostalgic necrophilia, and I vomit upon its tragicomic decrepitude. I live solely for the present and the future. Now I live solely for a more urgent present and a closer future.

So are you disowning your past work?

I will not discuss my previous work. I have pissed upon it all. It’s the puerile yelp of a jackanape.

Well, but some of it is quite good. For instance, your 1999 art film, Man Drinks Coke, Does Not Die, is considered a cornerstone of pretentious independent cinema.

The 1999 Cory Frye was a potato-faced Luddite. He had no cell phone. He did not text. He enjoyed recorded music. He read books, wrote words, completed sentences. He did not tweet. He did not have a Gmail account. He made films using film, for Christ’s sake. He was backward in every respect, and I have thrust a poisoned dagger through his Neanderthal obsolescence. I will speak of him no more.

At what point did Cory Frye become F!?

I have been F! since birth. My parents meant well, but they did not understand. They wept like snot-webbed bitches when I informed them privately at the age of three that I was not to be addressed as Cory, Cory Justin, or Cory Justin Frye, that I was finished deferring to oppressive customs. I could not in good conscience acknowledge that slavish form of address. Of course, I played along at school and at work, out of a sense of convention, but now I am wholly, completely — and publicly — F!

I selected the majuscule because I find lower-case displays so boorish and self-consciously modest: “Oooo, I’m not more important than you, but I’m different anyway!” I have to laugh at poor danah boyd; does she not realize how tiny she seems, how easily she’s lost in a wild brush of sentences? The “F” helped me stand apart while also establishing my masculinity, which I stamped with an exclamation point. It is a statement of dominance, confidence, and dynamism. danah could learn much from my colleague “Wh–” — her em dash neatly gives pause. So jarring, so abrupt. So mysterious.

Cory Justin Frye was a 20th century albatross. Once free of its shackles, I was able to pursue my art.

What is your art, exactly?

You’re sitting in it.

The couch?

Not the couch, you salamander-menstruation. Incidentally, I purchased that couch for your comfort, as F! cannot sit, for F! is forever in forward motion. Which is why he is on foot during this interview and moving away from the reach of your recording device.

(shouting) This begs the question: If you’re so dismissive of recording as promotion of the past or — as you called it in OK! magazine — the “amplification of dinosaurs,” why did you consent to be recorded for this interview?

(louder) Hello?

You still in here?

(sounds of grumbling, sprinting, panting, doors opening, birds chirping, cars passing. F! is located; the question is repeated)

F! is sympathetic to your creative limitations and deficiencies. You are a word serf confined to print and digital, exhibiting static syllabic cadavers to deviants — “readers,” you call them. Therefore, you require an accurate transcript of my raw brilliance.

Personally, I would never record myself now. I’m contemptuous of words once they’ve passed my lips. I feel them fester as they tumble from cerebrum to tongue, bless their suicidal hearts.

Just out of curiosity, how would F! conduct an interview?

For a start, F! need not interview anyone but F! And F! would simply shout into the wind and let the exuberance of his words come back to him, then drain into the valley below.

Earlier I asked you to explain your art. You replied, “You’re sitting in it.” Care to elaborate?

I cannot elaborate, for your question is now a relic. To answer would be to dwell in the past.

I think you’re being evasive.

Art is evasion.

That’s a pat answer.

Art is a pat answer.

No, it’s not.

Art is negative and argumentative.

Now you’re being a pseudo-clever prick.

Art is the vessel of pseudo-clever pricks.

And now you’re just mocking me.

Pish-posh. I am transforming your banal observations into something more sublime. You’ve supplied the basic strokes; I am taking those strokes and expanding them into an auditory Matisse that would have fetched $20 million in auction. Connoisseurs would hail it as three-dimensional post-millennial vaudeville, praising my ability to wring divinity from your wretched mediocrity. However, I have let the moment pass without exploiting your handicap for profit. I am an artist. I piss on my genius with genius.

Will this “Culture of the Moment” produce anything lasting?

Culture of the what?

“Culture of the Moment.” It’s your new religion, remember?

Since when?

You announced it Tuesday.

Can’t be bothered with Tuesday. F! has moved on.

So what’s F! moved on to?

Macrame.

Cory Frye Is Not 37

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I'm at that age where you look best sideways.

That was the initial headline for this, my triumphant return to the blogorrhea. (Alert what remains of the press!) Sorry for the hiatus, but things ’n’ stuff surfaced, and honestly, I’ve been gettin’ it regular elsewhere — for a spot of copper, too, which is nice. There is an entry sitting in my drafts folder, resplendent in September’s cobwebs, but right now I’m satisfied with its silence, unless one of you tight-lipped shitbricks sends me a lucrative contract for a “Wrare Wrazz” collection, for which the market clamors.

Last Wednesday I turned 37. Thanks, but <lie>no gifts are necessary.</lie> What I had in mind for this was a quasi-earnest This American Life-ish rumination on the passing of another year and my continuing descent into biological autumn (Halp! Someone greased my back 30s!), but instead I merely gallivanted, noshed some cake, stripped a present or two (part of being an adult in the post-bop Millennium is receiving gift certificates instead of tangible goods), swallowed some cold gold, and let the nonexistent milestone pass with nary a hint of hoopla.

Turns out I didn’t have much to say about 37, except that it feels like a wearier 27. The main difference, I s’pose, is that I’m no longer compelled to skulk about hamlets bellerin’ my snockered flytrap loose, but that welcome development came with turning 30, an age at which you magically calm down. I know, I know — in your teens and twenties you make a big show out of Not Caring by proclaiming it all the time to anyone who might listen or straddle your unclad lap, but in your 30s you stop saying it and actually live it. At least, that’s been my experience: tithing for all the bullshit I swung in my younger, self-conscious skin. Yeah, I do like heavy metal, actually, and I was only pretending to laugh at Air Supply. I’d never been to paradise, but I’d finally booked a trip to Me. (Still hate that one, though.)

So as I get older, I become more and more amused at how much importance we as a culture fearfully place on youth. It’s been ridiculous for eons (though I don’t recall anyone caring much about my generation’s perspective on anything), but in the last ten years we’ve become dangerously obsessed with and almost servile to this notion, like if we don’t stroke some teenage ego, we’ll be Left Behind. What a frightening prospect, right? If we don’t slip yet another demographic under the microscope and respond favorably to its every whim, we as a civilization are doomed, because only they know how to operate the Internet, which, as I’m sure you’ll recall, was developed in 2002 by a group of Denver ninth-graders for a science fair. That it came just three months after seven-year-old Davey Poobah built the first computer will confound historians until historians are finally christened New Pimps of the Old School. So maybe if we kowtow to our overlords now and kiss their high-heeled Chucks, they’ll remember us when it’s time to anoint the With Its. Meanwhile, they could teach us how to activate this black contraption that goes whirrrrrrrrr so we can finally log on to the cybersuperexpressway and send one of them electric-mail thingamajigs we read so much about in the newspaper.

It’s a big deal somehow that the target-pocket squirrels have abandoned Facebook for Myspace or whatever fleeting social network has captured their fancy until it captures ours and that Twitter so hella bores them now and that they spend oodles of their leisure time texting, chatting, downloading, surfing, slanging, Googling, consulting Wikipedia/Wookieepedia/Wackadoopedia for term papers on Hollywood Undead [NOTE TO SELF: Verify that Hollywood Undead still matter] and, uh, why the fuck is any of this important again?

Oh, that’s right: being young makes you relevant! And if we can successfully communicate with you on some skewed semblance of your level, why, that makes us relevant too! We’re totally on your side, dudes! Look at those It-Not-Getters over there at the mall-skater-shop coffeebar, dawg; ohshit, OMG, they’re all, like, “Whaaaaaat?” We’re Team Jacob, motherfuckers! (LMAO…I’m a grown man with graying drapes saying “motherfuckers.” I am so not your dad’s blogger, homes. [NOTE TO SELF: Ask a 12-year-old if his/her peeps still say “homes.” Or “peeps.” “Motherfucker” is timeless, a vernacular perennial.)

Let’s face it: it’s the folly and prerogative of every generation in its tight-fleshed flower to assume that youth has never truly been lived until Them. But why should we fading fools validate that horseshit with such groveling, pandering acquiescence? Aren’t we old enough to know better?