Sunday, November 30, 2008

Actually, I'll have a Diet Coke

As you may know, if you know me, the phrase heading this post became, in my mind, a most-despised phrase while I waited tables at the late, great Dressel's Pub in the Central West End Neighborhood of St. Louis. Don't worry, the pub is still there, but the vibe that the place housed during the 80s and 90s is mostly gone.
Nevertheless, it was there that I ran circles around a miraculous bar of liquor and beer selections only to completely halt all writing efforts. It wasn't that I had no inspiration. It was only that I was confounded by the culture shock of waiting on the privileged and pseudo-intellects while trying to figure out what I really wanted to do amongst such culture-laden surroundings.
I cast that last statement as a guess.
It could be that I was working and drinking too much.
It could be that I was simply floundering from the loss of a lover.
It could be that I was slumming...just a little bit.
It could be that I was swimming, perhaps wading, into deeper waters of a different St. Louis than I cared to be accustomed to at such a late age.
I started waiting tables there after having quite a crazy, five-year stint on Laclede's Landing during which I learned much about the seedier side of St. Louis. I met many scumbags; befriended many who were fierce, intelligent and able; layed a few beauties and a couple unfortunate souls; and beat the rest off with the proverbial stick as I earned a living as a barback, doorman and occasional bartender at Lucius Boomer's.
There, on Clamorgan Alley, a couple blocks west of the banks of the Mississippi, I tore through the remainder of my later 20s and the earlier part of my 3os, not to mention a good part of my tendons, ligaments and brain cells. If you think it was HELL, well, yes, it was. If you think it was fun, well, yes, it was, if you could put your mind on hold, mute your hearing to the clammer of debauchery and the dreaded cover bands and set your being at a particular speed and determination to a setting that could only end in WHATEVER with WHOMEVER and a Jagermeister hangover.
Luckily, I shunned more offers than I accepted in favor of reflection and observation. I fully admit to accepting a majority of the drinks offered, but firmly claim that I passed by a full 90 percent of the sexual advances that were insinuated in those underground environs and the places I ventured after hours. I claim no virtue in these denials. In most cases, I simply gave the stiff-arm to such advances by drinking beyond their realization. In others, I craftily maneuvered end-arounds and performed the exact opposite of the "cock block", sending the vampiric subjects off in another direction towards a more willing victim...or, as some may see it, to some other fellow who was better able to "lay the pipe where it was wiling to be laid".
I submit once again that there was little of virtue in these actions. I was, more than once, enticed and subdued by such offers and am not ashamed by such outcomes. Though I was raised a Christian, I have long ago discarded such restraints in the interest of meeting others in a more intimate settting. Many a time have I felt the need to please or be pleased if only to feel the company of another or satisfy a curiosity. At the same time, I have shunned the idiocy of such a moment if there was no apparent need or feeling of intimacy. In other words, I don't always need the BANG BANG!
You might see me as an odd sort of fellow, especially because I might refer to myself as a fellow. Yuck yuck, hardy har.
You might think me a fool to engage in such work and spend time having to deal with such situations, perhaps. Perhaps? Now that is a word that isn't used in everyday contemporary conversations, so you might think me odd in that such usage, eh?
Well, let me go on to say that it is only to explain that I do not condone the laziness of mind that goes into ordering a Diet Coke, when one has not even been offered another beverage...and this was my original thought.
Do you see the error?
A perfectly good wait person approaches a table and asks those seated on the chairs around said table and asks, "Hello. Would you like something to drink?" He would not ask, "Hello. Would you like to toss about in the sand?" or "How about we rape a kitten just about now?"
No, he simply is approaching the table at this point and attempting to proceed with a restaurant transaction and this sophomore from who-knows-where says, "Actually, I'll have a Diet Coke."

Where does that come from?

I know, I know!
She was uncomfortable in a pub and being approached by a waiter who (may or may have not have laid her cousin after a quick exchange down on Laclede's Landing back in the wild 90s) has just asked her if she wanted something to drink probably sounded like, "Yo, you wanna start with a bottle of Turkey?"
But really, isn't it more likely that the waiter is only interested in whether or not the customer wants a glass of Chardonnay or a Bud Light or a lemonade or a Perrier or a white wine spritzer?

Here's what I think, and I want answers and comments if you think I'm wrong!
I think that there is a species of people that go to restaurants when they're not hungry or thirsty and perhaps, when they're not ready to be presented in public, and they don't know what they want! (...and I don't know if that exclamation point is warranted, but so be it...not like FUCKING amen or something...don't get upset, but it is there and I'm going to leave it there until you demand that it be removed by the FUCKING FDA, the thought police or some such blah, blah, blah...)
I submit to you, my readers, that said subjects do not know what they want.
They are at a restaurant and they do not know exactly where they are and they are not exactly hungry or thirsty and they do not know what they want and they feel a bit uncomfortable being questioned about it and their mind is racing and they are pouring over the options and inside they have settled on some rather fun options and finally they just blurt out,
"Actually, I'll have a Diet Coke."

That really used to piss me off.
It used to make me want to open a dialogue right there at the table side.
But then again, lots of things used to make me want to open up a dialogue right there at the table side. Being employed in a busy pub and being personally prone to and proud of my expedient abilities, I did not take the time for such interchanges. I was waiting on eight or nine tables at a time and I didn't take the time to stop and prevent nightmares of the future by asking what-the-fuck every customer meant when they said what they said. So, I advanced, got the Diet Coke, the Shirley Temple, the Long Island Iced Tea and the four Double Dragon Extra Bitters and got the vessels back to the table.
It was, really, the only reasonble thing to do. There was always time to relive my thoughts over a dozen drinks with co-workers later and that was good fun, but it was probably best that I did not dawdle over every indecisive customer.

I'm sorry to even bring it up, really.
I'm not at the table right now, though. I am sipping whiskey and enjoying an Oatmeal Stout and type-type-typing at my little computer keyboard and you are wondering where this is all going.
Well, Sirs and Madams, just beware that you may be the one who doesn't know what they want and you may be in a place of commerce where someone is waiting to serve you, be it a bank, a 7-11 (Freedom's Waiting for You!), a sausage shack or coffee kiosk. There are moments of decisiveness and those in which surety is lacking...and I know it is difficult. You, the busy American must decide what to consume when you have been ripped away from your computer, your car, your cubicle, your iPod, your comfortable rut, your life...

...and I feel for you...and it is you I love most dearly. It is you I cherish, my fellows and damsels in distress of indecision, for it is a dangerous road you travel and on it you may carry many other victims.
...and for you, my loves, my many loves and darlings, I will go to bed hungry. I will go to bed starving, but thinking of all the many things I'd like to eat tonight, but can't decide upon.
...for when I wake tomorrow, my body will tell me what I want!
...I will shiver under threadbare covers and know what my body craves!
....My life's vessel will crave nourishment and will envision colors.
...It may scream, "I need GREEN!"
...It may scream, "I need YELLOW!"
...It may scream, "I need BROWN!" (...but, I hope not)

When the body is in need of food and drink it tells us what we want!
Oh, I'm working up to a finish here and it ain't a feller from Helsinki, it's gonna be a doozy!

My fellow consumers, it is simple: get what you want...or atleast what you need.
I understand you're rushed and uncomfortable sometime and I don't get upset anymore when you don't know what you want.
I guess it is just human nature to feel uncomfortable when you feel like a dork!
Only a joke, there for a minute...not to demean, only to chuckle myself into the next thought.

Well, pardon if there are any mispellings in this improvisation.
I knew what I wanted and I drank it.
See you tomorrow at the bar and I'll know sort-of-what-you're-thinkin'.

I live for you.
I love you.

...and for the record, I no longer get upset as I did in the past. I've got rubber mats holding me up off the ground and am no longer subjected to the many pains of waiting tables. I will trot to keep you and your friends in food and drink.

There is a better synopsis to all this, but I haven't thought of it just yet. When I continue this train of thought, it will follow that the word "actually" is misused. Perhaps, perhaps that is where I'll take it all. We might wander off into meditations on the use of the word "just" by folks being interviewed for television. "We just wanted to give thanks that Sparky is alive, so we made this 700 pound corndog to offer up to Jesus," a frumpy lass says. "He was just a happy little chipmunk," another suburbanite will utter. "I just can't stress how much he was just a little happy chipmunk. I just can't understand why he set himself on fire amidst our Beanie Baby renaissance festival sculpture. It just puzzles the mind," she'll continue.

That is indeed something I'll need to chew on a bit.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Wanna Give You the Turkeyneck

So, I need to get you in the mood a couple days early by explaining, that I like holidays about as much as I like getting woken up in the middle-of-the-night to avoid being burned up in flames. To me, they welcome falsity, mad rushes of insincere crowds and a waste of time, energy and resources.

They rob me of sleep, solitude and elbow room.
All in all, I'd rather we had more holidays that meant time for leisure and true celebration when everything would shut down, yes, even the bars and restaurants. When the streets are shut off to traffic and beings clamber along highways and avenues on the way to parks and forests and underground lairs or attic-space speakeasys, I will enjoy holidays in these "United" States of America.
Until that time, I'll continue to look at them in a similar light as my dear Uncle Bill.
...and I still love you, Mom.

William S. Burroughs
"The Thanksgiving Prayer"

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind his own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the memories-- all right let's see your arms!

You always were a headache and you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Friday, November 21, 2008

When You're Sick of the Lies

Forget about words and listen to these incredible women: Sheila Chandra and Meredith Monk.

...and this is only the first of an eight-part documentary:

The Diagnosis Begins

I post this not because I wrote it recently, but because I wrote it sometime ago, may have read it once or twice at a Get Born reading and have been meaning to continue on with more "symptoms".

Symptom #1

Fear wrote the book

had it published

Did promotional

Ignorance did legwork

Swallowed it

Wore for a wrap

As love flew last birdsy

Look see

Choking on life’s pesticide

Daddy likes children

Poison invites poison

Cancer throws party

all cum

Wallowing in noise

Mickey Mouse gives a reach around

see average

Going about day

Blowing leaves

Not content

that breeze

would do it

more peacefully

That will kill

Be the death of leisure.

The deconomics of introspection


confuses spirit

everyday confusion

lathers dead souls

keeps remote control sales up.

Put faith in lazy ballot system.

three-hour commute and

microwaved dinner

feed dog horse

melt together

Yummy churchstate toast!



drowned in task

dig grave, lover

Scratch at the lid

of coffin


dust into gasping lungs


There’s brilliance

a blazing inferno


gathering to see end.

Enamored with results

too lazy to ask why

Seek easy answer


Dream of brighter tomesterday

Happy sorrow yesmorrow mustard gas

Blossoms and wafts sweetly

Clickle tit

Tickle clit

Smile child

While spitting

Pay to swallow

A most fascinating subject

Still a glimmering

Hope a fuzzed-out


a muted and distorted signal

Sure answer there

Sit distracted

Eat popcorn cheese whiz

Pray first down…

capture villain…

release hostage…

prayers be heard

From damsel with nice onions

Answered in multi-vitamin

Fear evil

But promote

Swallow facsimile

Sprinkle granulated nothing

On false hope regurgitates

Building idols of illusion

scorning the


who step aside.

Asking forgiveness while

Strangling squeezing

Last bones in

white gloves clenched

whores open minds

And there are always happy endings.

Daddy likes feculence

Makes deal

Snorkels with lemmings.

Brett Lars Underwood, 2006

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I like the New Music Circle

See below for the article I wrote about the NMC for St. Louis Magazine.
See the website for an up-to-date calendar:
This is their latest missive about the upcoming Morton Subotnick show!!!

To New Music Circle Friends and Patrons:

We were thrilled by the turnout at Sunday's Circle-Cinema 22 event
featuring S.A.N.E. Thanks again to everyone who attended, and to
Cinema St. Louis and St. Louis Art Museum for welcoming New Music
Circle into their world again.

As our 50th season rolls on, we have another very special concert
coming up this Saturday, Nov. 22 featuring analog synth pioneer Morton
Subotnick. More than 40 years ago, New Music Circle presented a
concert of one of Subotnick's first credited compositions, "Serenade
No. 1."

Today, Subotnick is known internationally for his contribution to the
development of electronic music. Don't miss the opportunity to see
him live in St. Louis! For more info, visit,

Morton Subotnick
"Until Spring Revisited"
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008 – 7:30 p.m.
Co-sponsored by Forest Park Community College
Mildred Bastian Theater
5600 Oakland Ave.
Tickets: $15, $7 for students

The internationally acclaimed Morton Subotnick is an undisputed
pioneer in the development of electronic music and an innovator in
works involving instruments and other media. Subotnick’s work "Silver
Apples of the Moon," commissioned by Nonesuch Records in 1967 and
performed on a Buchla modular synthesizer (which had been designed in
part based on Subotnick’s suggestions), became an American best-seller
in the classical music category; extremely unusual for an electronic

A highly decorated talent, Subotnick has received multiple Rockefeller
Grants, the Guggenheim Grant, the Meet the Composer award, and ASCAP’s
John Cage Award among many others.

Subotnick will perform his work "Until Spring Revisited," a remaking
of an electronic music/video composition created for solo synthesizer
in 1975. Originally, “changes in settings which Subotnick made in
real time on the synthesizer were stored as control voltages on a
separate tape, enabling him to duplicate any of his performance
controls, and to subsequently modify them if he felt the desire to do
so. While the use of control voltages was nothing new, it suggested to
Subotnick a means to gain exact control over real-time electronic
processing equipment” (

Co-sponsored by Forest Park Community College, Morton Subotnick makes
a rare St. Louis visit as part of New Music Circle’s landmark 50th


We also wanted to make you aware of a percussion concert sponsored by
our friends at UMSL coming up this Thursday, Nov. 20...

UMSL University Percussion Ensemble and Afro-Cuban Ensemble
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008 - 7:30 p.m.
Touhill Performing Arts Center - Lee Theatre
Admission: Free

Please join UMSL for a night of percussion music from Africa, Cuba,
Japan and the United States. The concert is free and open to the
public. Adam Rugo will be our very special guest performer on Bata.

Touhill Performing Arts Center-Lee Theater

...and here is my piece for St. Louis Magazine which is not online, but you can check out the publication at:

Occasionally, amidst the ho-hum seconds counting down on our digital doohickys or apparent moments of nothingness, there appear glimpses of imagination and creation. A glimmer of light pierces our consciousness.

The New Music Circle knows about such light and creation and has been furthering its standing as the longest-running organization of its kind by bringing innovative purveyors of “new music” and other spontaneous and improvised expression to St. Louis audiences since 1959. Now, the group presents a 50th season as they continue to welcome accomplished, out-of-town artists combined with a fresh initiative introduced last year, “Collaborating Artists Manifest Adventure” or CAMA, centering on an effort to fund the performance of local artists and composers in varying performance media.

The season kicked off in September with a 27-piece ensemble of national and local musicians led by the acclaimed composer, performer and bandleader, Vinny Golia. It continued in October with a multimedia CAMA event and collaboration between longtime NMC member, composer and performer, Rich O’Donnell, poet Anna Lum and other artists. Another accomplished local composer and CAMA member, James Hegarty, will display his talents in digital electronic music with two performances on November 7th at the Three Sinks Gallery in Webster Groves.

NMC and Cinema St. Louis continue their partnership with its 22nd Circle/Cinema, another live accompaniment of a silent film, during the St. Louis Film Festival on November 21st.

The legendary electronic composer Morton Subotnick appears on November 22nd. A pioneer in the analog synth field and founder of the San Francisco Tape Center who is most famous for his 1967 best-selling composition-for-recording Silver Apples of the Moon (named from a line in a W.B. Yeats poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus”), is not only remarkable for his innovative works and performances, but for his reach into the minds and tastes of those not appreciative of electronic music. He will be performing Until Spring Revisited, initially composed in 1975 for solo synthesizer on record instead of public performance. His current performances are carried out with the use of multiple laptop computers and his own software that interprets the movements, speed and “gestural quality” of the mouse movements and are accompanied by video projection.

Another San Francisco artist brings his work to an NMC stage in March in the form of percussionist and composer Gino Robair’s opera, “I, Norton”, based on the life of Joshua Norton, who on September 17, 1859 proclaimed, “at the request of the citizens of these United States, I…declare myself Emperor.”

“The opera consists of improvisational cues, graphic scores, game pieces and traditional notation,” Robair commented.

“All of the text is from Emporor Norton’s own proclamations, as well as false decrees that were published during his lifetime by newspapers trying to cash in on his fame. For me, a successful performance is one where several layers of music and text are happening simultaneously and things begin to make sense.”

The rest of the season is highlighted by performances, compositions, installations and productions of Hegarty, O’Donnell and the other three CAMA artists Tom Hamilton, Van McElwee and Kelsey LaPoint.

Call 314-567-5384 or visit for more information and a complete and updated schedule of New Music Circle events.

Strange World Posting on a Spring Morning

Here is one from the coffers...

This world:

In which I have health insurance, two savings accounts and a checking account that will never reach zero (it seems), a CD which is accruing interest, and now a 401K plan...that, the result of staying put at the same factory for almost a decade.
Yet I ride my bike home from work in the dark...breathing Pilsner and half-interesting thoughts about good cigarettes under a moon that pulls me down streets towards home...stops me to see the folks on South Grand who hope for better days amidst even more smoke and fumes...until I return home to find that I book nationally known juke-joint bands out of nowhere...and that someone has left me a message on my answering machine...a message that causes me to think they have become unhinged.
I eat a cheese sandwich in the dim light and read a book by an amateur economist published in 1934 and wonder what it is all about. How is it that we can waste so much much much life...trying to get where we're never meant to be?
I know that I'll probably sit in the sun tomorrow listening to experimental "music" in a circle with the same hopeful saints that I left down the street on thousands of nights...they, wondering what will come and not as concerned or maybe terrified behind their gazes and thoughts about tomorrow as that star shines through the spring leaves causing light to dance on the concrete of a junior college amphitheatre...and later, I'll have a relaxed meal until it is time to see some youngsters play a show in a university the dark, behind drawn curtains where I used to rush stolen pitchers of swill, lace up my Chuck Taylors and run off towards some nothingness called energy.
I'll know that I'm not "happy". I'll know that I don't know what that means to most, if I'm lucky...I can only hope that it doesn't seem like a waste of might even carry me back to my youth, when I thought it was all worth the waste of time.
Dashed hopes will follow most home them by their name, perhaps.
Dashed hopes will shovel soil on my coffin one day...if that's the way you wanna look at it.
I prefer to take it as it comes.
There were so many that thought I'd be something else...and now I am.
Damn, I kind of like it! this time at night...alone...when there's nothing but thisness and thatness and another breath under the sky...and you can gargle all the philosophy and theocracy you want...not caring whether the politicians are in charge...or the Earth might shake you to some other reality in a an unbalanced hammock seating slamming you to the ground when you were expecting an easy swing.



It wasn’t always like this: your mind: scrambled eggs with ketchup.

At times when you were alive and sure of it, you’re senses were on fire.

You pulled off the highway just as they were dulled and found the perfect place to do what humans do.


And you did.

The booths were empty and you took your pick.

There was time to settle in and take a sip of that first cup of coffee. It was the first you’d allowed yourself in 900 miles, since an incident with a deer under your rig and then a bored game warden who kept ogling your teenage hitchhiker.

Hey, I’m gonna eat this apple and let you tell the story.


So I’m in this cheeseball diner somewhere in the western part of Mississippi.

Fuckin’ Eightball Soup, Mississippi.

There is enough clucking going on in this fucking henhouse that you can sense a symphony in the sound of this commune off-the-road, and just when you are about to set it to a beat of your Kenworth crossing the struts in the highway, an exchange takes your fancy.

“You won’t break the rules”, this bitch with his back to my booth says, when the buck-toothed carrot-top waiter approached him. I mean this fucker was skinny and orange and had fucking green hair. I heard his sleeve rip a bit as his sneakers screeched to a halt and coffee cups clacked together.

”I’m sorry,” the gopher apologized in mock defense as he mentally mounted an offense against his urge to quell an assault before barking, “What?”

“Food”, this stinky fucker behind me said, “You promised food.”

At this point, imagine it is a 1970s radio spot from someone like the fatman, Charles Kuralt. The voice that buttered your pancakes and made it O.K. that you didn’t finish your oatmeal while the VC mounted sinewy attacks and your Mom plopped around the kitchen in a stupid fucking perm.

“The sign says “food”, the cat says, sounding like the fat man.

Get the warmth of the voices, though this may seem like an odd repartee. But the exchanges will lose all of their hostility if they are imagined in such a tone. They drip down over your blueberry waffles like hot Aunt Jemima as if you’ve blotted out that part of your brain that responds to the fight-or-flight instinct.

“Yes,” the waiter said, taking a step back and like this, releasing his sleeve from the clutches of the stranger and shining a cute glimpse at the wackjob.


“Reformed milksops clamber for cous cous and Emmy Hennings craves kelp, Sir.

I shall return to fill your needs”, this booger-topped Q-tip says, though I admit that he skillfully donned a smirk and was off.

Shit, Man! Take it easy on that apple. I’m tryin’ to tell a story over here.

So I can hear this freak behind me steaming.

“Give me what the cannibals are having,” he’s thinking and fuming, his fingers now digging for a cheap smoke or perhaps the fabric clinging at the space between his buttocks as he fidgets, causing the silverware to clatter against my water glass.

Anyway, motherfucker finally settles down and I was able to do so myself.

Now, were it not for my hunger and curiosity, you might, at this point, think that I turned to the gentleman and asked if he’d like a bite of my Twinky, but instead I asked myself which film of the 99 that they shot about Glenn Gould this enchilada most reminded me of, and while I’m wondering, the billboard shining above my truck changed to indicate that rice was at a dangerously low level…and I really was wondering whether the menu offered Moo Goo Gai Pan, that gentle chicken dish that tends to ease my gastrointestinal woes on many a trip like that one…and besides, I had eaten that Twinky in my dreams east of Fresno yesterday morning. So, my hunger and the coffee are in mad communion and all I see on the menu is grease.

Another face is in mine now and I hear myself order, “Jello with whipped cream, I guess.”

“Green or red?” the face asked.

“Green”, I muttered while remembering your mother’s garden…and all those cucumbers. Geez dude! What the fuck?

Man, this is a good apple

Man, shut the fuck up, I’m tellin’ a story. You said so.

All right, all right. Go ahead.

Aw, fuck it. I’m hungry. You wanna go to Sloppy’s?

Oh yeah! Let’s chow!

Brett Lars Underwood, 2008
This is also online as part of the current edition of