National Treasure Bret Michaels

Bret Michaels

Shiny-suited Bret Michaels wins Celebrity Apprentice...and our hearts.

When did this happen? Seriously, I’m asking you. And don’t say the brain hemorrhage, because it had already occurred by that point. Had Bret Michaels not already become a national treasure, we really wouldn’t have cared. I mean, Gary Coleman just died, and as a nation, we were like, “mmm… yeah… bummer.” But Bret Michaels has a brain hemorrhage and it’s like, “screw coverage of the oil spill in the Gulf, NATIONAL TREASURE BRET MICHAELS is in peril!”

I am not immune from this phenomenon. It seems like yesterday I was turning my nose up with much judginess at Rock of Love (a show I still find abhorrent) and then somehow I magically started watching Celebrity Apprentice, ostensibly to see Cyndi Lauper, and then, all of a sudden, I’m rooting for Bret Michaels and then I AM VERY CONCERNED about his health and before I know it, I am actually caring about whether Bret Michaels wins a completely and totally bogus promo package disguised as a reality show and helmed by Donald Trump. I ACTUALLY CARED.

All of this led me to a most disturbing point yesterday afternoon, wherein I posted a comment on People.com saying that if Bret Michaels was the new Idol judge, I’d watch the show again.

What has happened to me? Seriously, I’m asking you. What happened to my pride? To my elitist disdain of Bret Michaels, let alone American Idol and People.com? When did I buy stock in National Treasure Bret Michaels? I can’t be certain, but I think it was around episode 5 of Celebrity Apprentice. To begin with, he annoyed the bejeezus out of me. I’ve worked with people like that, who talk and talk and talk, who use buzzwords ad nauseum, who never met a point they couldn’t belabor. Then two things happened. Firstly, I realized that nobody on the show treated others with more respect than Bret Michaels. He was gracious to the graphic designers, the editors, the guy holding the boom mic. Secondly, I think he improved. He became more effectual and less talky. He offered an appealing package of work ethic, self-deprecation, enthusiasm, and decency. Plus, he seemed so happy to be on Celebrity Apprentice. God bless ’em, you know?

Then there were the photos of him in the hospital bed WEARING THE BANDANA. That’s a dude who lives the dream, right there. And I have no doubt he is a very tough guy. I couldn’t live on the road the way he does. I couldn’t maintain such a good attitude after how many weeks of promoting random products through oddly painful tasks on the Apprentice. I would be surprised if his toughness didn’t help him through the brain hemorrhage.  I suffer no illusions – Bret Michaels’ life would have broken me many times over, and maybe even killed me. I can’t help but respect him.

And finally, there was his duet with Casey on Idol. I didn’t watch the finale, but I saw a highlight reel. All the big stars had their moments alone, but Bret shared the spotlight with the blonde guy from Texas, the guy with the goat voice, who, mysteriously, was presented to me as though I should find him attractive. I didn’t, but I am sure he’s a very nice fellow. Seems to play the guitar well. Anyway, that moment summed up Bret Michaels for me, the National Treasure Bret Michaels I’ve come to know and respect – enthusiastic, tough, and generous.

I’m not going to lie. What I wrote on People.com is true. If Bret Michaels replaces Simon Cowell, I will totally watch American Idol again.

A Lot Can Happen in Three Days. Apparently.

Firstly, and apropos of nothing, I would like to form a band called The Suicide Squirrels. Maybe not as much as I want a band named The Notorious They, though. The Notorious They is the best band name I’ve ever come up with.

Moving on…

Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow

No joke - this picture triggers my gag reflex.

There is a song that has been simultaneously entertaining and annoying me for eight long years. Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock’s “romantic” ballad/duet, “Picture.”

Let’s start by drinking in the following series of words: “Kid Rock’s romantic ballad/duet.” That right there is worth the price of admission, provided “admission” is listening to the song for free in your car. Because I mean, hey, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say Kid Rock personally defines my romantic ideal. Am I right, ladies, or am I right?

So there’s that. And the song, on the surface, is an inoffensive enough little ditty, so uncomplicated it wouldn’t strain even Britney’s vocals. It’s the kind of song that slips by unnoticed, unless you make the mistake of listening to the words. Let me give you a condensed version of Kid Rock’s side of the story: 

Livin’ my life in a slow hell
Different girl every night at the hotel
Been fuelin’ up on cocaine and whisky
Wish I had a good girl to miss me
I put your picture away
Sat down and cried today
I can’t look at you while I’m lyin’ next to her

Fair enough, Mr. Rock. You’ve obviously suffered a bad break-up and are now engaging in a downward spiral of self-destruction wrought of heartache and loss. And now for the lady’s take: 

Somethin’ just ain’t right
I been waitin’ on you for a long time
Fuelin’ up on heartaches and cheap wine
I put your picture away
I wonder where you been
I can’t look at you while I’m lyin’ next to him

Pretty much the same story. Makes sense. After the break-up, she longingly wonders where he has wandered off to and what he is doing. She, too, finding false comfort in some random person. Fine.

Here’s my issue: THEY’VE BEEN SEPARATED FOR THREE DAYS.  1,2,3. THREE DAYS. THAT’S IT. Here’s how the song closes.

Both: Since you been gone my worlds been dark & grey (72 hours of dark and grey, ladies and gentlemen.)
Kid Rock: You reminded me of brighter days (Was it that hard to remember? IT WAS THREE DAYS AGO.)
Crow: I was headed to church
Rock: I was off to drink you away!

I just included that last little bit ’cause it’s hilarious. Anyway, back to business:

Both: I thought about you for a long time (THREE DAYS, PEOPLE.)
Can’t seem to get you off my mind (NOT SURPRISING.)
I can’t understand why we’re living life this way (Well, based on how you handle the passage of three days, perhaps because you’re RETARDED.)
I found your picture today (You FOUND it? You put it away the day before YESTERDAY. Do you have short term memory loss?)

In case you doubt my timeline, here’s what I cut out:

Rock: I ain’t seen the sun shine in 3 damn days

Crow: I called you last night in the hotel
Everyone knows but they wont tell
But their half hearted smiles tell me
Somethin’ just ain’t right
I ain’t heard from you in 3 damn nights

I submit this as evidence that we are, in fact, talking about the transpiring of no more than 72 hours. So what I want to know is, who are the people this song speaks to? Who out there lives life with the drama dial turned all the way to eleven, such that they can cram more histrionics into three days than I’ll put into ten years? I mean, by day two these people have reached an emotion it would take me two months (or more) to get to. SO FOREIGN TO ME. SERIOUSLY. I mean, I’m not trying to be Judgy McJudgalot. Diff’ent strokes for diff’ent folks, and all that. I’m just saying, FOREIGN. Also, I would submit the word, EXHAUSTING.

A Killer Named Skinny

***SPOILER ALERT*** Anybody who is reading my book and doesn’t want to know the ending, don’t read this post.

I’ve always been weirded out by writers writing about writing. Obviously, it can be done well. I was once given a book on writing by Joyce Carol Oates and I enjoyed it immensely. Everyone says Stephen King’s On Writing is exceptional. It is something that can be done well, and I can understand why a JCO or a Stephen King would want to tackle the subject. But as a subject of casual conversation, I don’t get writers writing about, or talking about, writing. It’s not something I feel comfortable with, probably for the same reason you don’t see too many paintings of people painting. Why paint a picture of someone painting a picture when there is an entire world out there of subjects to be put on canvas? Why turn inward when there’s so much more outward? These are my thoughts, anyway. And they are thoughts long held. As a teen I was a huge King fan, until he hit roughly the sixth book in a row about a writer whose imagination actually brings to life some monster. You know when a 16 year old thinks you’re self-indulgent, it’s a bad sign. All of that said – I am a wicked hypocrite, because this post is going to be all about a.) my writing and b.) my own very King-like experience.

The shoot

Axel Gimenez, Fred Adams and Officer Richard Gooch.

As most of you know, this last week has been muy ocupado. My friend Axel came down to South Carolina from NYC in order to shoot a book trailer for Truth Be Told. I’m not sure who came up with idea first, but I know my thought was Axel would put some of his flash talents to bear and he’d make a little graphics and still shot trailer. Except he told me he was “writing it.” And I was like, “how the hell does it take you this long to write a little flash animation book trailer?” Then I got the trailer that Axel wrote. Holy Awesome, Batman! Axel had done a fantastic job, but I was blown away by how ambitious it was. I wasn’t sure if I could swing it. And then he called me to say he’d bought his plane ticket. It was go time.

Thanks to the generous nature of Southeners, locations and cast quickly came together. In the process, a lot of things changed from the book to the trailer. For example, Deputy Young is described as follows: “From the passenger side a deputy unfolded his long limbs. He was blonde and painfully thin, his body nothing but flat planes and points. The only round thing about him were his eyes, which were overly large and opalescent.” Playing Deputy Young was Officer Richard Gooch. Gooch is essentially the exact opposite of that description, but what he brought to the table was a whole other kind of scary, and it was awesome. 

For me it was a fantastic experience. I watched as this thing, which had previously lived inside my head, came to life in the outside world. As it came alive, it morphed and changed. Axel, the actors, and the locations stretched the scenes, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and I loved it all.

As I hustled my bustle, pulling together eight locations, a cop car, a hearse, and a diverse cast, some things didn’t come together as easily as others. We quickly found our main character, the absolutely stunningly awesome Mary-Margaret Coble, as well as most of the other speaking roles. But we hadn’t found Paul. One night, about a week before the shoot, I sat in my tiny kitchen with Evan and our friend Dan Dinger. Dinger knows everyone. Literally. Dinger knows every man, woman, and child in a three county radius. I was fussing about not being able to find someone to play Paul, and Dinger said, “describe him to me.” And so I did. Dinger goes, “I know that guy. His name is Skinny.” Dinger picked up his phone, dialed, and said to the unknown man on other side, “My friend Carrie needs you to be in a movie. Here she is.” I told Skinny that Dinger was a trip and Skinny agreed. Right away I thought, the voice is right, but will he look the part?

Skinny

Skinny rolls in the dirt.

The next day Skinny and Dinger came over to our house before we all headed out to dinner. As Skinny got out of his truck, it was as creepy an experience as I’ve ever had, and suddenly I knew why Stephen King became so enamored with this notion of one’s imagination coming to life. Skinny looked EXACTLY like the character I had written. He sounded EXACTLY like the character I’d written. And he behaved EXACTLY like the character I had written. This was unnerving, because the character I’d written was a serial killer.

During dinner I felt compelled to ask Skinny if he actually was a serial killer. I think he answered with, “maybe.” Or something else equally disturbing. Honestly, it took me a few days of being around Skinny to separate the real person from the character. I eventually learned Skinny has a pet squirrel and a cat named Charlie, he’s an extremely hard worker, super competent, and an all around decent person. In other words, he’s nothing like Paul. Except for the fact that, on the outside, HE IS EXACTLY LIKE HIM. SERIOUSLY, IT’S WEIRD.

Derby Recap

Kids! It has been, like, forever! I’d promised more Derby Delights, but unfortunately nothing sufficiently delightful came along. Plus, I’ve been busy. (More on that later.)

All that said, it is still the Kentucky Derby, the high holy of all holies, and it would be wrong to leave it unmentioned. So, here is my recap of everything delightful about this Kentucky Derby.

  • Calvin Borel wins yet another edition, making it three out of the last four
  • The Todd got the monkey off his back (I was so over that story line)
  • Toupee guy won $900,000+ dollars on a $100,000 win bet provided by Churchill Downs.

And that’s it! Super Saver himself? Meh. He’s a nice horse, clearly. Is he going to win the Triple Crown? Well, Calvin says he will. And who knows, maybe he will. If he does, I’ll celebrate like I’ve been on his bandwagon since the day his dam foaled him. But it’s hard for me to imagine a Triple Crown winner named Super Saver. Triple Crown winners are named things like Affirmed, Assault, Count Fleet, War Admiral, Secretariat, Citation. Super Saver doesn’t really feel of a piece with that list.

But he is a lovely horse. Let us close this post with a photo of him galloping:

Super Saver

Super Saver works.

I Ain’t Gonna Push. Except that I Totally Am.

Lyrics.  They come in all shapes and sizes. Beautiful and poetic, unintentionally hilarious, and poorly written. Yes, those are the only three categories they come in. You want to add fluffy and fun? Okay, I might give you that fourth category. But no more.  And for our purposes today, we shall only concern ourselves with bad lyrics. Specifically, the sort of bad lyric which somehow turns into a little nugget of memorable badness my brain insists on carting around at all times, such that when a song comes on containing one of those nuggets I’m obligated to listen to it.

Marvin Gaye

One order of Special Sincere Seventies Lovin', comin' right up

You wouldn’t think there’d be a bad lyric nugget in a Marvin Gaye song. I love Marvin Gaye. He gave us “What’s Going On’ and “Mercy, Mercy Me” and seemingly hundreds of other timeless classics. He also gave us “Let’s Get it On.” Now, don’t get me wrong. I think “Let’s Get it On” is pretty fanglorious. It’s just this little nugget right here:

I ain’t gonna worry, I ain’t gonna push
Won’t push you, baby

Followed immediately by:

So come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, baby
Stop beatin’ ’round the bush, hey

Here’s the thing. Maybe I’m missing something in the delivery, but to my ears Marvin Gaye delivers these back-to-back couplets without the nariest hint of irony. Is he trying to be funny? Maybe the joke’s on me. I don’t know. To me, the song is nothing so much as a paean to the special sort of sincere seventies lovin’ that went extinct in the early 80’s. There is no room for irony in special sincere seventies lovin’. It is too sincere.

On the other end of the pop music spectrum from Marvin Gaye one finds Britney Spears. Now, I’m sure her songs are chock-full of unintentionally hilarious lyrics, but there’s only one my brain has put into its special collection. It’s from the song “Circus.” By the way, am I the only person who liked “Circus?” It’s probably my favorite Britney song, and based on an informal poll amongst friends it appears I stand alone in this. In any case, halfway through “Circus” Britney treats us to this gem:

So baby, I hope that you came prepared
I run a tight ship, so beware

Britney Spears

Britney, gearing up to deliver some world class crazy eye.

Oh, Brit-Brit. Usually people who run a tight ship don’t have the courts take their estate away from them and put their father in charge of it. Making this line even better/worse is the corresponding moment in the video. Check out her eyes at the 1:54 mark. To quote my dear friend Hilary Ellis, she looks as crazy as a sh*thouse rat right there. If you will remember, Circus was Britney’s first big moment back from being bald and beating up cars with umbrellas. Why include such a mockable line complete with crazy eyes? Another one I collected from the same song:

I’m like a performer,
The dance floor is my stage

 You’re “like” a performer? Well, considering how lackluster your dancing is in the video and the fact you don’t actually sing, perhaps the line is perfectly apt.

Alligator Babies!

Look at how cute this is! It's a She-Gator protectin' her young! And look how proud she is! ADORABLE!

Now for something completely different. While Marvin’s lyrics puzzle me and Britney’s make me laugh, this next song has a special magic for unleashing waves of wrath. “Free Bird,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lynyrd Skynyrd. I know every word to “All I Can Do is Write About It.” It was on the radio yesterday, a rare occurrence even here in the Deep South. I was filled with glee as I sang along to, “did you ever see a she-gator protect her young?” and “do you like to see a youngin’ with his dog?” I mean, are those not the BEST LINES EVER? I challenge anyone to find a better lyric than, “did you ever see a she-gator protect her young?” It’s an impossible challenge, because there IS NO better lyric than, “did you ever see a she-gator protect her young?” If you are unfamiliar with this song, enlighten yourself to the awesome. Don’t say I never did nuthin’ fer ya.

Anyway, awesomeness of Lynyrd Skynyrd aside, there is the unawesomeness of Lynyrd Skynyrd to consider. This unawesomeness is wholly contained within the karaoke classic known as Free Bird. Or Freebird. However you spell it, it still contains this:

But please don’t take it badly,
‘Cause Lord knows I’m to blame.
But, if I stayed here with you girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you’ll never change.
 

In case you’ve been living under a rock, and don’t know the beginning of Free Bird, he’s just told her he must be traveling on now, because there are too many places he needs to see. If he stayed there with her, it just wouldn’t be the same, because, essentially, he is over her and is ready to score some new, fresh chick that he will then similarly leave, once it is again time for him to be traveling on now, so that he might yet again see new places and score yet another new chick. He then offers the ameliorating statement that it has been a sweet love, but he can’t change his feelings about wanting to be traveling on now, seeing new places and scorning new chicks. (Ha! That was supposed to be “scoring” but some typos are too perfect to fix.)

As you can see, he is basically making an announcement of his douchebaggeryness, an announcement I hope would be greeted by the girl in question with the following: Although I am sorry I have wasted X amount of my life on you, thanks for the heads up. I will waste no further time, but I’ll be happy to pack your things into a cardboard box I found in the garage that reeks of something unidentifiable. Perhaps the neighborhood tomcat has been marking his territory. In any case, you will find all of your things in said cardboard box located on my front porch. Good luck with your traveling on now. I hope you don’t die in a fiery plane crash or anything.

But before the girl gets a chance to say any of these things, he says this:

But please don’t take it badly,
‘Cause Lord knows I’m to blame.

At which point the girl must abandon her planned, tactful response and go with a more forceful retort, stating that she is not, in fact, taking it badly, rather, the look on her face he has confused for taking it badly is the face she makes when she is trying to be nice to a guy who has just made an announcement of his douchebaggeryness, and while she was going to wish him good luck with his traveling on now, she has changed her mind and hopes he will die in a fiery plane crash.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Lynyrd Skynyrd accumulated the negative karma that resulted in their deaths in a fiery plane crash.