Self Checkout – Wang’s Express

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Skytrain to Nowhere

Available in Paperback here

and eBook (pdf) here

Skytrain to Nowhere is an imagination driven and esoteric volume of free-form poetry. The book documents the author’s experiences, thoughts and observations while riding the skytrain at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport over the period of several weeks. Since the skytrain is only designed to transport travelers between various terminals and parking facilities at the airport, someone spending nearly 50 hours riding it purely for recreation and artistic inspirational purposes is highly unusual (to put it mildly.) Aside from occasional quirky anecdotes about various passengers, the poems mostly deal with themes of motion, the passage of time, and nostalgia. The author grapples with these issues from a retro-futurist perspective. Skytrain to Nowhere celebrates the realization that our vitality hinges on our ability to always keep moving, while recognizing we are unwilling or unable to leave some things behind on the journey.

Purchase Skytrain to Nowhere on Amazon.

Running The Gauntlet

Just last week l was reading this article.
lt talked about flying.
Said we’d all become just like cattle.
Trusting our lives to people we don’t even know.
Like pilots. Said we do it all the time.
Then we get our heads bashed in. . .
. . .like cattle, for being so trusting.

A couple months ago, I picked up a DVD of Clint Eastwood’s 1977 movie, “The Gauntlet,” which was shot mostly in Phoenix. I hadn’t seen it since it was on UPN one afternoon in the summer 1996, just a few weeks after I moved here. I remember at the time being excited and feeling a sense of pride that Phoenix was my home, and that the film was set in what was now essentially my hometown. Indeed upon re-watching it, I noticed various downtown Phoenix landmarks are visible in the background. Hanny’s can actually be seen in a skyview during one driving sequence.

“The Gauntlet” is a pretty solid film up until the last couple of minutes, with it’s hyperdramatic, highly implausible ending( I find it hard to believe that hundreds of cops would just stand there silently, idly watching while the police commissioner and a supposed fugitive argue and shoot each other at point blank range.

The remark about air travel made by the waitress in Las Vegas reminded me of the nature of my own reservations about flying. It’s the fact that while it’s statistically safer, you have absolutely zero control over the outcome of the situation. It’s like buying a reverse lottery ticket with the jackpot of a horrifying death. While you’re much more likely to die behind the wheel, to some extent you can trust your own instincts and defensive driving skills, to give yourself at least some small amount of leverage to tip the balance.

I’ve always felt a similar, slightly less ambivalence toward mass transit. Though you may be in a heavy traffic, or construction environment when driving a car, you have control over the ambiance of your immediate environment(volume of the radio, level of peace and quiet, whom or what is sitting next to you.) I’ve ridden the bus several thousand times in my life, and besides the fact that it doubles or triples the travel time to any destination, the worst part about it is always the plethora of irritating and ill-mannered people you have to share it with. I sit in silence trying to avoid unsolicited talking as well as block out all of the loud and obnoxious banter from oblivious people who don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about the riding experience of anyone else. Once on a bus ride from Los Angeles, two ghetto teenage girls sat behind me discussing their multiple miscarriages the entire length of the trip. “I told my man he needs to start wearin’ cause I don’t wanna be gettin’ pregnant again.” One time on a West Hollywood city bus, the driver pulled over while a muscular Russian guy fought a drunken homeless black guy that had been harassing the other passengers. People who always talk of the great train systems in Japan and Hong Kong, don’t seem to realize that when attempting to duplicate it here, we would not have the luxury of riding it with courteous and intelligent Asian people(not even taking into account the “groping” incidents women frequently endure in these countries’ rail cars.)

I had a good experience the one or two times I used the Los Angeles subway to get to the San Fernando Valley(it was fast, and there was almost nobody on it) though one might question the wisdom of building an underground railway system in an area that is built on a famous faultline and therefore highly susceptible to potentially massive earthquakes.

Personally I would rather that cities incorporate strategies to limit or reduce the overall amount of people, rather than working to attract and accommodate large increases in uneducated people, herding everyone into cattle cars and virtually eliminating individuals’ control over their own personal space and travel experience.

In theory, I’m not really opposed to the idea of public transportation. I enjoyed the monorail at Disneyland as much as the next kid, and would gladly set aside my idiosyncratic reservations and fears if I were able to ride something remotely 1960’s/70’s futuristic to work everyday. Riding the contemporary city bus or light rail feels more like Soylent Green than 2001 A Space Odyssey, though.

The Phoenix of 1977 as depicted in The Gauntlet has been thoroughly transformed, yet like the film, it still retains much of it’s charm.

As with most change, something’s gained and something’s lost.

ask the dust

Jonathan and I were looking into getting a booth at first fridays for Phoestival to sell our cds, paintings and such…but for the last few months there has been no street vending allowed apparently due to some problems with getting street closure on Roosevelt. I got this email below which (sort of) explains the current situation.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: First Fridays Vending
Date: Fri, 1 Oct 2010 15:18:53 -0700
From: *****@rooseveltrow.org>
To: Roosevelt Neighborhood

UPDATE – FF STREET VENDING

There will still be no street vending nor street closure in October for First Friday.

We have been working very closely with the Mayor’s Office, PPD and local private property owners in Roosevelt Row through a new permitting structure that will allow us to organize Arts Market hubs (like a Farmer’s Market, but without the emphasis on fresh produce) on vacant lots in Roosevelt Row so we will have a sustainable, near future long term solution to the need for secured space for community events and activities including performance, arts installations, arts and crafts vending, local food/business/nonprofit tabling for occasions such as First Friday and hopefully many others, as well! We are meeting with potential sponsors to help us meet county dust proofing criteria, which is very costly but promising advances are being made at this time, and then we’ll move forward with the permitting and be up and running.

First of all, why did the city stop closing Roosevelt for First Fridays in the first place? It was great! It’s only one night a month for crying out loud, and who in their right mind would want to drive down that street when all those hordes of people are milling about.
So now the people at Roosevelt Row are trying to find vacant lots that can be used, but they will have to spend a bunch of money to meet “county dustproofing criteria,” an environmental regulation. I can think of almost nothing that would be less environmentally hazardous than people setting up folding tables and selling handmade arts and crafts, but whatever. I guess there could be a lot of dust and dirt kicked up from crowds of people walking around on a vacant lot, seriously though. It seems to me the easiest thing to do would be to go back to closing Roosevelt St. during First Fridays as it is just one street, and this would be better for everyone. Streets are closed off for endless, pointless, waste-of-money road construction projects all the time, and yet they can’t close Roosevelt for one night a month…just for a few blocks, when 10,000-20,000 people are roaming around?

1991/1661

I traded in my ’63 reissue Danelectro guitar for a ’91 Squier Telecaster at Musician’s Discount in Mesa. The Danelectro reissue stuff sounds all right. I mean the tone is decent, but it’s just made out of such cheapjack material,(made in china of course.) Anyhow I took the Telecaster to MusicBrokers and the guy there did a really good job setting it up for me. I highly recommend them. One music store I don’t recommend going to is Bizarre Guitar on 7th ave and Melrose. They have a sign on every guitar that says “do not touch” and basically follow you around the store and stare you down as if you’re going to break or steal something. It’s like that feeling you get walking onto a shady used car lot where the people are complete assholes. I can understand stores not wanting people to grab and manhandle expensive vintage guitars or Les Pauls….but they had a “do not touch” sign on EVERY guitar….like we’re talking Squier Strats here and stuff. After reading their reviews online, it seems most people have had a similar negative experience there.

At MusicBrokers you can grab any guitar you want off the shelf and check it out. The employees don’t even pay much attention to you, until you need their help. My kind of place!


Musician’s Discount: Highly Recommended
MusicBrokers: Highly Recommended
Bizarre Guitar and Drums: Not recommended

Why do I suddenly feel like I’m hosting one of those late eighties/early nineties HBO Consumer Reports specials? this being one of the more memorable ones….