The brickwahl.com universe so far also includes brickpicks.com (culture), bricksbrain.com (cognition, perception and my epilepsy), and brickspolitics.com, brickshistory.com and bricksscience.com.
People think you’re a little crazy if you really like going in for surgery because it’s like Disneyland and you’re in Tomorrowland. It’s an E ticket ride, as the geezers say, and you’re on the ride and the last thing you’ll remember is the anesthesiologist telling you he’s giving something to relax you and you wake up all groggy and the nurse says hi, it’s all done now. Oh yeah, it is. After a few more visits, nurses, the surgeon, some somebody somethings, all smiling beneath their masks, they tell you it went great, and within and hour or two you’re dressed and they’re putting you in a wheelchair with a plastic hospital bag full of instructions and pills for pain, but it never even hurt so no need for the pills. That was fun, I say, and my buddy who’s driving me home looks at me like I’m nuts.
This kitty litter was a game changer, the cat litter guy said. A game changer, cat litter? I sighed and switched channels. Hockey news. Guy scores one, two, three times, flipped the lead, a blow out. The commentator calls him a dynamite player, a game changer. I sighed and switched the channel, and then I realized he actually was a game changer, and I was thinking of cat litter. I switched back to the hockey news in time for a commercial. The toilet paper was a game changer.
I blame Elvis
In 1957 a Philadelphia teenager in black top, black jeans and black boots howls like a wild animal at an Elvis Presley concert. Rock’n’roll had been unleashed. Elvis did a few quick tours that year and they were apparently frenzied affairs, Elvis and his band getting down, the audiences getting crazy. In one city the audience stormed the stage after the the last song and dismantled it, tore it apart. Ha. The problem with going to an Elvis concert is you can get killed, a reporter wrote. This chick had the right idea. And a few years later a twenty something me would have been drawn to the twenty something her like a moth to flame, of course. Must be the Irish in me.
I was born in Long Branch, New Jersey the day before this photo was snapped. I had newborn baby long black sideburns. My rock’n’roll crazed uncle—leather jacket, ducktail, the whole seventeen year old greaser look—brought all his similarly attired hoodlum buddies down to the maternity ward to see his nephew Elvis. They raised hell singing Elvis songs and making Elvis moves until the nurses scooted them out and they drove off in their fifties cars to raise hell along the Jersey Shore. I suppose it was an omen. When I was twenty I picked up a newly released copy of Elvis’s Sun Sessions, his first recordings and singles from 1954-55. It was so raw, basic, rocking and real. My life was changed, seriously. It led me straight to punk rock. The Sex Pistols album came out later that year. Two years later I’m playing drums in an incredibly crazy band, writing, partying like mad and screwing my brains out. Ha. Whatever life plans I’d had in 1977 were forgotten. I blame Elvis.
About twenty years ago Fyl was working in the oncology dept at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and they put on a picnic for all the oncology kids in Travel Town in Griffith Park and I was volunteered as a 6’5” draft animal, hauling and carrying and loading and unloading. I must have set up 500 folding chairs and then folded them up loaded them back on the truck again. Stuff like that. Eats were from In and Out, so that was breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cool thing was meeting all the strange train freaks that collect at Travel Town. They even had a Pullman car converted into an office and library. A zillion books about trains. Reams of locomotive blueprints. They argued a lot about trains, and knew about every train ever. They all had a train or two or three that they’d pull out of the engine house and go around the tracks on. Sometimes they carried the kids. Sometimes they went by themselves. I got to ride three or four different trains, giant me on a little train. It was a ball. Those tracks go much further into the brush than you can tell from driving by, and they’ve put incredible effort into the tracks and decor. Train freaks. Sort of like HO model train freaks, but more intense. And oil stained.
The kids were having a helluva good time, the trains, clowns, the hamburgers and ice cream. You’d almost forget they were cancer patients. Fyl said you see all those kids in the front row? The quiet ones? None of them will be here next year.
That was a lesson in stoicism I’ve never forgotten. I stopped whining much about being sick after that day, after that moment. Stop minding pain so much. I think about those kids all the time. I’d hand one an ice cream and he’d smile and say thank you. I handed a little girl and ice cream and she said she couldn’t eat ice cream and smiled and thanked me.
New car long ago
Us in front of our brand new car way, way long ago.
That was our second Chevy Celebrity, the undercover police car of choice. No one ever fucked with that car. Crackheads would scatter into the shadows when we passed, no one broke into our car no matter how dingy the neighborhood the club was in. Vatos pulled to the curb figuring they’d had it, and even cops thought I was a cop behind the wheel of that thing. The perfect wheels to cruise stoned in. Big and roomy, pure Gemütlichkeit, even had a cassette deck for all the groovy noisy mix tapes I’d assembled in those analog 80’s. That car spun us all through our late 30’s in the crazy rocking 90’s. Loved that car. Of course we fucked in it, need you ask? You didn’t? Well, we did.
(2019, I think)
Went to Canters after the Paul Grant Afternoon Experience. Yes I know that’s the name of your next band. Had the Buck Benny sandwich because I’ve been listening to hours and hours of the Jack Benny Radio Program because I am retired and seem to be reliving someone else’s life. I couldn’t stop talking like Andy Devine and they asked me to stop bothering the customers. Fyl ate her club sandwich. Tourists walked by in crazy colored sneakers and rectangles carefully precut from prefaded jeans. Bare thigh in perfectly geometric spaces. I wondered about the little rectangles of cold as the evening grew chilly. Uber home.
It’s a Saturday and we’ve got brand new technology up the wazoo. First came the guy from JC Penney’s with the air fryer oven (soon to be pronounced li’l oven, just like all its predecessors). Fyl had gone shopping a few days earlier. She’d gotten an air fryer oven, a sapphire ring and some underwear. I tried to see a pattern there but couldn’t. Anyway, they delivered the oven. Cool. I got to manfully remove it from the box—amazing the places they can find to cover with tape—and busted up the styrofoam and voila, we had English muffins. There’s a mess of instructions, but I know how to make English muffins. It’s a start. Then there was a knock on the door and there stood a cute young thing with a strip light. Alas, she was from PetSmart and the strip light goes on top of the fish tank. But at least I almost got a joke out of it. Finally there was a knock on the door and when I opened it there were no humans to be seen, just the cutest little food scraps bucket you ever saw. It came with a mess of instructions, in English and Spanish, the air fryer oven came with way more instructions. I didn’t need instructions for the strip light, you turn it on, turn it off. I can manage that. They had them, though, in English and French. You never know when you might need to say strip light in French. In Mexico, though, if you need a strip light you’re on your own. Probably best not to ask.
To be honest, Fyl toasted the English muffins. I got to play with the box. Have to. We don’t have a cat.
OK, another little essay about nothing.
Greg Romero, aka The Pope
Fyl and I had so many great times with Pope. Probably the most fun times I’ve ever had were those hundreds of times we picked Pope up—imagine trying to get him out of the house each time—and took his endlessly babbling self out to some spot or another. Then, hours later, it took forever getting him back into the car and he’d babble endlessly home, and then there was the titanic struggle getting him to give us a final good night so we could get home. Sometimes we’d repeat the process the next day….
We knew this was coming. We’d been ready for a couple years. I imagine it was organ failure, the innards finally giving up the ghost. I remember the last time he made one of our Xmas parties, after his cancer diagnosis that began the end, just before the pandemic changed everything, he took me aside and said he didn’t think he’d make another, but was here to party one last time. He fired up a joint, we each took a long drag, coughed and hugged. Remember the good times, he said.
So as part of our winter cleaning and destuffication campaign, I went through my remaining records, pulled half of them and a friend, thrilled, took them home. Probably 300 or 400 albums worth. (Ever behind the trends, I’m all about CDs and YouTube rather than vinyl). I used to have thousands of records. Anyway, our friend, who we’ve known for decades, works for a place that does the plants in office buildings and traditionally shows up at our tree trimming party with gobs of reject ornaments. As we haven’t had a party in a while, he had a big pile of undelivered ornaments, like six big bags full. Each ornament was individually wrapped for their protection, and being a total stoner, he’d apparently smoked a joint (or joints) and, armed with rolls of glass tape and acres of bubble wrap, had wrapped each in layers of protection that would not only keep them intact until the next party but through any nuclear holocausts that happened in the interim. Indeed, I could have buried these secure in the knowledge that thousands of years from now they would utterly mystify an archeologist. Instead, though, I decided they had to be unwrapped. So, armed with a couple pair of scissors, a fading alpha male’s finger strength and sheer determination, I spilled the dozens of weird looking Christmas cocoons onto the living room floor and began the process slicing, tearing, pulling, yanking and cursing them open.
All the ornaments emerged unscathed but one, a longest thing that I thought I’d pulled apart from it layers of wrapping but alas its pointy Yuletide tip was still held by glass tape and as I tugged the tip exploded like a mortar shell, spraying hard plastic like jagged plastic shrapnel. I sharp piece caught me just below the eye—a fraction of an inch higher and I would have one of the more novel cases in the emergency room that night—but when I realized what had happened (it took me several seconds to realize that a Christmas ornament had exploded, as Christmas ornaments don’t generally explode), I carefully searched for the fragments, which were surprisingly jagged and sharp as a razor. The scene cleared, I stretched out again on the floor and proceeded to dissect the packages with various degrees of skill and violence. After a half hour I sat up and felt wetness on my hand. You’re bleeding everywhere, Fyl said. It certainly looked like that, big broadbrushed smears of blood running up and down from my elbow, my shirt and pants soaked and splattered like a particularly nasty murder had occurred. You’re still bleeding, she said, and after trying to wipe some of the blood off me, retrieved a few bandaids. That stemmed the flow. I found a shard of plastic on the floor, especially sharp, that had caused the wound. I’d never felt it, just obliviously bled all over everything. Ha. Anyway, bleeding stemmed, I got back down on the floor to go at the rest of the ornaments, pausing only to brew up a steaming cup of coffee and then returned prone to the floor, where I managed to knock over the cup which spilled its entirety all over my back and the seat of my pants. Ha again. I swabbed the floor with a handy kerchief but let the remainder thoroughly soak my backside, I mean why not?
At last, all the ornaments freed of their mummification, I got them all into two bags which I got into the space I’d just made available in my closet. All the wrappings I got into a single large outdoor garbage bag. Thus went Christmas in January. Or almost. While prepping for bed, after flossing and brushing, I took my traditional elixir of mint oil and water, very handy for the digestion. The oil comes in a little dropper bottle with a cheery mint green label, and I always drop about half a dozen of the intensely minty drops into a little bright red plastic dixie cup where they float, shimmering, on the surface of the water. It was all very Christmasy. One has to be careful with mint oil, though, it burns like the juice of a canned jalapeño, and as I raised the cup to my lips as I’ve done without incident thousands of times before my hand slipped somehow and I spilled it all with perfect precision onto my unprotected scrotum. That was an erotic experience that was new to me, sort of like the opposite of a very strong orgasm. I mean it rendered me just as speechless, and with the same urge to shriek, but instead I just gritted my teeth and thought of baseball. Several minutes passed and the sensation passed from paralyzing to merely stinging, from agony to annoying. It all seemed too perfect, the blood, the coffee, the mint oil on the scrotum. Merry Christmas, I said.
Actually when the since thrown out bathroom contour rug sent me flying and left in a crumpled heap on the floor where the contour rug had been (clothed, so don’t ask) I managed to take out the antique towel rod with my elbow. Snapped it clean in half. It looked ancient when we moved in thirty years ago so the thing could be sixty years old. Maybe older. The wood was actually worn down in the middle from a zillion damp towels like the wheel ruts in an old Roman road. I destroyed an artefact.
So I bought a plastic replacement and have to saw it down to fit into the fixed ceramic (or whatever it is) tile rod holder things which are 22” inches apart instead of the accepted 24” because back in 1932 The US was still on a base p-11 number system. Or maybe the builder fucked up. Whatever.
So yeah, a saw. Our old saw (like as ancient as the towel rod) was no longer sawable. So I got to be manly for a minute and look at all the tools to find saws on Amazon. Bought one. That’s it, the whole story.
You know, there are essays about nothing and then there are essays about nothing, and this was an essay about nothing.