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PJ Newman | The Hand of Dog.

Look At The Time!

Dearest Darlingest __________________________ (your name here),

Verily, I cannot believe how long it’s been since I wrote. I meant to. Seriously! It’s just that….well, I had a lot to say….but I didn’t think anybody was listening….still not 100% convinced…..even 50%…..no, ok, yeah…50%. You are or you aren’t.
Someone recently told me that they were, so here we are again.
So much to say/rant/plead/pontificate upon….whatever…(OK, I’ve used my ration of ampersands)….(shit, sorry), so to prime the pump as it were, unfortunately have to start with this. After the cathartic effect sets in, I’ll start the debriefing.

(From May 20, 2015)


It is from the deep black hole where my heart should be that I have the painful task to inform of the passing of my 2 best quadrupedal friends, Kaiju and Mifune.

Kaiju was born August 1, 2001 and gifted to then pal Jazz on Boxing Day (December 26), 2001 by our dear friends Jon and Lisa Stone.
She was taken by coyotes on March 8, 2015. I hope that either she went quickly or fought like hell and made them pay.

Mifune (Research Assistant Mifune Valentine Damnit Newman) came home on February 13, 2005 about 3 weeks after Jazz went to Doggy Heaven. He spent about 6 months prior in and out of clinics and foster homes. Dog Bless the couple that brought him to me. They were allergic to dogs yet still found room in their hearts and home to give him a place to stay until our stars aligned.
His passing was due to kidney failure on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 3:20 pm. We were listening to David Torn’s “only sky.” Just seemed like right thing to listen to.

Mifune was lovingly cared for by Dr. Matt Didlake, DVM and his wonderful staff at Nehalem Animal Healing (Nehalem, Oregon, email hidden; JavaScript is required), Dr Patricia Saras DVM (Animal Healing Center, Boise, Idaho), Dr. Gene Bodily DVM (Bodily Veterinary Hospital, Bellevue, Washington), Dr. Richard Panzer DVM , Veterinary Acupucturist ( Kenmore, Washington) and the Staff at Back On Track Animal Rehab (Portland, Oregon).

I have stories for days about the 2 of them as I’m sure everyone who looked after them does, but those are for later.
Of which, my deepest thanks to Don and Billie McDaniel, Robert and Carol Sawyer, Jon and Lisa Stone. Leila Shearer and John Bishop, Garey and Cheryl Shelton, Brian Hines at the Sand Dune Inn (Manzanita, Oregon, our initial landing site on the Oregon Coast), Jim and Jean McKee, Stephanie and Terry Lewis, Andra Newman, Richard Donin and Tone Noelle, Becca and Devon Gattey, Debbie Amara, Corey and Meadow Ayers Davis, the Amazing Panzer, Nicole and Cynthia and Simone von Suhr, Dr. Addison Bulosan, Kelli Hamlow, Steve Midkiff, Brian Podgorny, Ed Beeson and my parents, Beatrice and Richard Kopp for putting us up and/or putting up with us if even for a night or two. If I forgot to mention you here, a million apologies and I will be happy to repost with my omissions.
In lieu of cards or calls and except for the one or two of you who will pony up for 1 roundtrip and 1 one way ticket to New Zealand (First Class if you can), I would ask that, if you can, please donate to your local no-kill animal shelter, a Pit Bull rescue organization or Best Friends (bestfriends.org), an amazing sanctuary for animals who have no where else to go.

One interesting thing about Mifune towards the end….x-rays could not find his kidneys as they were so small but we did find a BB where some son of a bitch had shot him, most likely at the abandoned construction site where he was tied up when rescued.

2 last wishes: First that Dog and Cat Heaven are one and the same
Although I doubt I will be able to rejoin them in the above-mentioned Dog and Cat Heaven, I know in my heart that there is a special place in Hell for people who abuse animals, small children and the elderly and those who steal musical instruments. I would love an HR gig there.

Please take no offense if I do not pick up the phone or return messages quickly. It’s been 23 years since I have been in a house alone. Briefly, I mean for maybe 3 hours while Mifune was getting subcutaneous fluid infusions, it was just me in the house. I did not like it. I am not going to like it.

Sorry to break the news. I hope all of you who had the opportunity to spend any amount of time with either and/or both of them will remember something that makes you smile.

Peace on Earth




Happy Independence Day to those who have and enjoy it and to those who still fight and die for it.
What with what’s been going on in Egypt recently.
And Syria.
And Texas.

I’ll make this short as I need to get back to the Australian version of Wilfred and the American version (Mifune). I spent time trying to explain independence, the struggle for and the price paid to Mifune a short while ago. I found I had to speak in general terms and then Mifune-specific terms. I don’t think he appreciated and/or understood the concepts. I mean, how do you describe purple to a person blind from birth? Or Mozart to one always deaf? Or flavor to someone who eats at McDonald’s?
I mean, of all people (sic), Mifune should appreciate the concept and realization of freedom. For those of you not familiar with his back-story, Research Assistant Mifune Valentine Damn It Newman (nee Alston) was found chained to an abandoned construction site, where presumably he was left to die. He was malnourished, had parasites, multiple wounds from fights, bad punctuation skills. Six months of hospital, shelter and foster care landed him at the Ham Shack. Jazz was gone. I needed a dog (?). Mifune needed a home.
The rest, as they say, is comedy.
From Day One, Mifune has resisted…..fought….complacency? He escaped our yard at least 4 times the first day and will run off the very second you take your eyes off of him.
Maybe I have this wrong? Maybe he’s happy with his life at home and he’s simply curious/adventurous? He will never replace Jazz and is grossly libeled when compared to his predecessor. Apples and motor oil. I try to provide a loving, nurturing environment for he and Kaiju (the Cat), but being bipedal without the benefit of a tail and/or taste for kibble, I’m dogpaddling blindly. Is that akin to the birthing pains of a nation? Not knowing when or how or even IF to let go? Pack it a lunch and wish for success? Chase it while calling its name while offering a biscuit in one hand and leash in the other?

Been listening to (in no particular order, chronologically or quantitively): Syd Straw (first 2 records), Nicole Campbell, Shaun Tozer, David Torn (duh!), Bruford-Levin Upper Extremities (w/ Torn), Levin-Torn-White, John Tropea, John Klemmer (with John Abercrombie, Steve Gadd, Tony Levin and Bob James), Thomas Newman, Ronnie Lane, John Fahey and KMUN/KTCB (coastradio.org).
Watching: Star Trek (TOS and first 6 movies), Wilfred (both foreign and domestic), Dark Shadows (a Dan Curtis Production), lots of Chinese fantasy/kung fu, Three Stooges, documentaries, Thomas the Tank and YouTube.
Reading List: Explain Pain, On Some Faraway Beach, The Starch Solution, Tape Op, The Films of Akira Kurosawa, Music Theory for Modern Guitar, liner notes and owners manuals.

Day 7 of Summer. Got to spend some quality time with Super Friend Nicole, who spent a week at Arch Cape with family and friends. She and Simone came by Mole End, ate donuts, wondered at bamboo and maybe, just maybe, were able to connect a few more dots. This coming Labor Day weekend will mark 25 years of our friendship. I’d ask for another 25, but I’m not that cruel.

Bad cycle for quadrupeds. My brother Spud bought Harry, his 18-year-old Manx, a first class ticket to Kitty Heaven. The next day or next day, the Mom sent Katey, her 18-year-old skinny skitty kitty, to join Harry. And if not the next day but the next or next day, the Dad unit graced Dog Heaven with Shayna Madl, his beloved Golden Lab of 18 years. Last week, I bought Mifune a pig’s ear (pig was done with it and no amount purse making would make it anything but a pig’s ear). The next day I thought he was dying. Took me a while to associate the two events. Needless to say I wouldn’t have been surprised. Devastated, yes. Surprised…..? Parts isn’t parts.

Thanks for: Guam Bob, Garey Shelton, Bamboo Guy, Wendy Davis, BCAC And Otherness.

Time to let the steam pressure build on the VCR and have Mifune watch Independence Day. Maybe in Spanish.



I’ll Take What’s In The Box


Greetings from the Oregon Coast where Spring is more a state of mind than an actual calendar event.

What’s new? What have you been up to? The family? Stuff?

Am I the only person on the planet whose favorite Pink Floyd album is “Animals?”

All kinds of things to report, none of which are the least bit important. As part of my campaign to ignore linear-based time narratives, I reserve the right (or have no choice) to go off on tangents seemingly random and based on prime numbers when applicable.

Spring. Been there, done that, wish it were here. Did manage to mow the yard and moved the maples and bamboo into patterns only discernable from satellites. Overfed the compost can/tank/bucket/barrel/brown thing.

Had a lovely visit with the parental and other family and friend units in Idaho. Folks bought a new house, downsizing from their lovely greenish house to something smaller with more neighbors. Toyed with the idea of moving back to be closer to them, as they continue to age with somewhat reckless abandon. Got home, yelled at Mifune for no good reason whatsoever and felt like Dorothy when she wakes up from Oz. Nice place to visit, but I have everything I need here except for parents, nice weather, a fully functional nervous system and…shit, I forgot what else. I’ll get back to that.
Considered moving to Manzanita (much closer to here and the beach). Probably not going to happen. I think I get to see the house next week. It had better be spectacular or we’re staying put.

Long time compadre Jon Stone came to Mole End for a short face to face. Jon first graced the digs not long after we moved in. It was a dark and stormy night (it is Oregon) and Mr. Stone was coming to Seaside for a gathering of festival organizers or maybe not. He brought down a couple of boxes of my vinyl which I had left at his house for safe keeping or scratch posts for his collection of Manx cats. One or the other. I seem to remember that I was still living out of boxes and that my wood stove had yet to find its way home (as in the rat bastard who lived here before me stole it along with the stove and refrigerator, but was kind enough to leave 3 tons of decomposing garbage).
This time is was neither dark nor stormy, with the exception of nights and parts of Saturday. Jon brought (this time) at least a dozen boxes of Chinese Dog Girls ‘Live from the Theatre of Vampires’ cd which my attorney has been holding onto for 20 years. I can only guess that he was bootlegging them, as I don’t remember making that many to begin with. Boxes of cassettes, too (remember cassettes?)! Also these bizarre press releases for the record written like a menu. What was I thinking? What am I ever thinking?

Damnit! The waitress didn’t put the leftover broccoli with garlic sauce in the to go container. She must’ve taken my rant against MSG personally.

Oh yeah while we were in Boise I took Mifune to the vet for some reason. The good doctor felt his driver’s side rear leg and felt a clicking on the knee joint. This is probably not a good thing, but Research Assistant Mifune hasn’t said anything yet.

Oh look. The broccoli is under the rice. Sorry.

The hand thing is deteriorating nicely. Been losing function in the left hand more frequently and the pain has morphed into a constant reminder why the Eskimos revere Killer Whales. Now think ‘Logan’s Run.’ The doctors are baffled and bill accordingly. Last idea was to implant a micro-current generator inside of me. Like a pacemaker, but the leads are attached to my spine. I’ll stick with the portable unit for the time being.

Unlike you, I missed Record Store Day (April 20th) as I was attending the 11th Ballard Jazz Festival. In Ballard.
Highlights were an incendiary set by Gary Bartz, George Colligan, Matt Jorgensen and Phil Sparks. Made my all time Top 5 concert list. Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom also made me very happy. Allison played drums on numerous records by my old friend Jessica Lurie whom I worked with on her “Motorbison Serenade” record as well as the Tiptons Sax Quartet “Sunshine Bundtcake.” Can’t find it? Look under “The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet” instead. It’s yellow. Jessica played all over ‘The Hand of Dog’ for me.
Low point was the Cornish College ensemble. Students. Not too late for most of them to change majors.

By now, you’ve figured out that I bought the Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ Immersion Box Sets. No ‘Animals.’
As an engineer/producer/musician (well…)/music historian (amateur), these boxes are indispensable. Remastered, 5.1 Surround, Quad, concert footage, rare live audio, Concert Screen Movies (RIP Storm), marbles….
I have not been able to stop listening to these. Luckily, someone thought to include some live tracks that later showed up on ‘Animals’ or they’d better check their garbage cans closely.
I mean for dog turds. Nothing more sinister.

Boston..…Go pick on someone your own retarded mentality.

Things don’t happen for a reason. They just happen.

Anyway, so when Jon was here we watched a bunch of live David Gilmour concerts and listened to some of the surround mixes of the Floyd box. After he left, I listened to some more and, lo and behold, came upon the ‘Animals’ stuff. I texted Jon unceasingly blah blah blah. At one point, he replies,
“Ran into a young female version of you in Seaside. I stopped at this huge candy store to get some stuff for the kids. Checkout girl asks me how I am. I say fine. I ask “how are you?” She stops, gives me a stare like I’m the dumbest fuck in the world. I say “what!?” She says, “I’m a kid. I work in a candy store. How do you think I am?”
(Transcribed faithfully. Please excuse typos and grammatical irregularities.)(Used by permission)
At first, I’m thinking, “Poor fat balding broken girl…”
Then I get the analogy about me listening to the Holy Grail of live Pink Floyd recordings.
Then I reply, “Too much candy and your teeth will corrode.” (Andy Krikun, “Cheap Thrills” (Fellaheen Music, BMI)
Then I say, “What’s the worst that could happen if you listen to “too much” Pink Floyd?”

OK, I’m through. Feel like crap. Listening to a live concert of DSOTM from 1974, I think, but I don’t want to take it out to confirm. I hope you’ll understand.
Rambling. Got to get out the light.





“Those who know history are doomed to repeat it!”
-Henry Kaiser
-Maybe somebody else whom said something maybe only slightly different…

Dearest Darlingest Readers,

If you recall from my last* report from the front lines, I ran a contest for you to send in an event in history which you would change if you could. Well, since I found my Science Boy Time Machine in the shed (in a box labeled Cat Toys), I went zigzagging back and forth on the perfidious waves of Chronos Beach to see what could be done (and/or undone!).
Einstein said time is curved. Truth be told, he actually said time is shaped like a matzoh ball, but I set him straight on that. Maybe he said light was curved. He also said “the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once. “
Zimmerman said “Time is a jet plane, “ but I couldn’t convince him otherwise.
Armed with your lists, a pocket full of AA batteries and some dehydrated banana chips, I set out.

Not surprisingly, many of you asked for Hitler not to have been born or some other variation on the WWII scenario. Sorry, but if it wasn’t Hitler, it was always someone else. Besides, the Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin got some great mileage off of him. Same for asking that Christ not be crucified. Not to worry, it wasn’t him. The Romans couldn’t find him, so they hoisted a mannequin instead and called it a day. Jesus actually never existed; it was just a story that ancient mothers told their children so they’d eat their spinach.
Almost every one of you DEMANDED that 9/11 not take place. I tried and I tried, but it kept happening. There are too many pieces to that tragedy to put right. Sorry.
Besides, you were only given one event in time to change, not your fucking Costco list!

Some of you asked that you had purchased Apple stock when it was cheap or not to have worn platform shoes. How many of you asked not to have married him or her? That “experimental” period of your wild youth still leaves a bad taste in your mouth?

For the more altruistic of you, I actually got Roger Moore the 007 gig! It was originally going to be Benny Hill and you have NO IDEA how hard it was to get them to consider Daniel Craig instead of Bon Jovi!!! Everybody owes me for that!

Many suggested that I avoid the drum shield that I tripped over that put me where I am today. I did and to celebrate, I moonwalked right into a 30-foot high pile of Ampeg SVT’s. DOH!

I tried to get Frank Zappa to have his prostate checked, but he misunderstood and thought I called him an asshole. I called Lenny Kravitz an asshole and he got his prostate checked….

Some time later….

When I began writing this, I thought it would be a nice little exercise in short fiction humor and then it did what all writers quietly ask for from their readers: Deep thought.
No, not the kind when you’re stoned and you think you’ve deciphered the true meaning to the lyrics of “Stairway To Heaven,” or hear a love or love-lost song and swear that it was written for/about you.
No, dear readers, it made me think about what I was writing and what I really meant to say, although it didn’t hit me for a few months.

What I meant to say was…

What I meant to say was that you can’t change the past. We rarely get mulligans or do-overs. Were that the case, I would’ve tried to prevent my friend Rob from getting murdered in his bed from his deranged roommate looking for cocaine. Or I would’ve tried to keep my friend’s teenage son from driving alone that night. Or would’ve tackled the nurse before she shot up my father with a 10x overdose of chemo.

Just doesn’t work like that.

What I meant to say was that every choice we make has its own consequences, its own roadmap. It does what it does. I can’t untell lies I told, undo all of the bad choices I made. But I can try to make the best of it. Learn from my mistakes. Apologize until I turn blue. Make amends. When I say “I” or “me”, I’m talking about/to you as well.
Each decision, for good or bad, sets off a string of events, some apples falling on heads and saying “Eureka” or “Gravity” or some such shit. Some accepting that the new/old girlfriend is better than the old/new girlfriend and looking to a brave new future instead of remaining in a rut and perhaps doing 30 to life.

I say this now, not actually recanting my original intention, but being swept upon a new wave of the time space thingy. I’ve been volunteering for the local Meals for Seniors outfit, picking up food from local stores and making deliveries to shut-ins. I have yet to burst into flames when I enter the church buildings and people appreciate me for the little time it takes each week. I don’t bore them with my sad story nor do I ask why they’re there. As bad as I feel, physically and emotionally for the life that has been taken away from me (metaphoric, not literal), I have nothing to complain about when I visit these people. Even in my pain group (kind of fight club, but not really), my injuries are like a paper cut compared to others and they seem to be able to make the best of it. Hell, we’re all still walking (some of us) and talking (too many of us).


Make the best of the short time we all have. If you’re going to be an asshole and submit a letter to the paper for all to read, sign your name to it. Don’t hide behind the anonymity of the same password you use for everything on your computer. Better yet, just imagine that you have so many words that you get to use in your entire life. Think hard before you hit the enter button. Is this what you want to be remembered for? Try to make good for bad things you’ve done. People will generally understand and maybe even forgive you. Except for people like Michael Vicks, who shall burn in hell, what have you got to lose?

I’ve been learning about Tibetan Buddhism lately. One of the main tenets is “Life is Suffering.” Just ask the Dalai Lama. Talk about a man who got the shit end of the stick. But rarely do you see him without a smile.
Why? Because he’s told the joke so many times that his delivery is perfect and timing impeccable.

In closing, forgive me for things I’ve said, things I’ve done. Believe me, I feel badly about them.
Be nice, tip well for good service. It’s ok not to tip for bad food or lousy service, or better yet, leave a penny.
Treat animals well. They depend on you for everything. Support people who help others. Beware of false idols. Brush, floss, rinse. Repeat.



*If you read the earlier posts and cant find the contest, well, I went back in time and changed it to something else…

Lose Something?


Dear Sir, Madame, Head of Household, To Whom It May Concern,

Are you missing something? Cold? Wet?
No, not beer. Keep guessing. Here’s another hint….
Please come get your rain and take it home with you. I’ll wrap it up for you. I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “Self, He lives in Oregon. Birthplace of Rain!”
Yeah…not so much, no. As in, Yeah, it does rain. A lot. Too much for my taste. And yes, we need the rain because, at the end of the day, when you’re done fighting off the Zombie Hordes, scraping the brains off (remember, head shots only) and into the 3rd or 4th beer, you remember that it hasn’t rained in like 3 months. This I can guarantee as my lawn….well, I was going to say brown, but because of YOUR DELUGE, it’s…what color is soggy?


I just need a month, OK? A sprinkle here and there is fine. I like rainbows, but only with a pot of gold at the end, not mud. The bamboo(s) and Japanese Maples (thanks for asking) like rain. “LIKE,” not “LOVE.” I was repotting them and decided to buy topsoil and compost in bulk. Bought six yards. Good stuff. Can’t even begin to guess how many bags that would be, but I’ve got a pile of dirt in my yard the size of a huge pile of dirt for the price of 10 bags of dirt. Managed to repot 29 plants before your rain came. Still have a large pile of dirt. Wet, soggy dirt. I used all of my tarps under the soil. Borrowed a big tarp from Bamboo Guy, but it only covered half of the pile. By the time my friend Henry came over with a few more and after his trunk lock froze and he had to drive 30 miles roundtrip to get it replaced and come back, well friends, lets remember that ‘dirt’ and ‘ooze’ have the same number of letters.


I still have more plants coming and they will need to be repotted with DIRT, not MUD. After that, there’s a BIG HOLE that I made whilst preparing for more bamboo that will need to be filled it with DIRT, not MUD. After that, hell, bring it on. I bough 2 new rain jackets today. In a perfect world, of course, they would just stay in the car DRY. But I can’t afford the rent in a perfect world, so wet they’ll get.

The parental units were in town last week. Had five DRY days. The dad says that it’s because of him. To whit, every vacation on the coast for the last dozen years has been dry. Three days after they went home, RAIN. I asked my mom to send him back, but she can’t afford the postage.

Speaking of Bamboo Guy, the nursery is almost empty. A couple from Portland have threatened to buy his remaining stock, so if you want any, let me know STAT and I’ll grab some. Less than 30 maples left. I’m getting a few for Leila tomorrow.

My neck is feeling better. My hand is not. I hope this doesn’t bring the surgeon’s batting average down. It’s only been 3.5 months since surgery, so maybe there’s hope yet. Been using micro current, mirror box therapy, medicines from the East and the West, ice, heat, positive thinking, curses under my breath. Did I miss anything?

I’ll be back in a while. Things to do, places……you know the drill.



Too Much of a Good Thing?



Finally finished my Godzilla Marathon. All 27 REAL Godzilla movies in like 2 weeks.
If you’ve been keeping up to date (and dog knows I haven’t), you’ll remember that Nicole was concerned about permanent brain damage, as was my mother, caused by viewing all of the movies non-stop. Even I’m not that stupid…

Aside 1: You’ll recall that one of the theories surrounding the Flaming Carrot’s origin was that he read 1000 comic books in a single sitting and became the Carrot. I could only be so lucky!

My mom was at the receiving end of a Godzilla lecture yesterday. She said she was taking notes so as to stupefy her friends with her encyclopedic knowledge of the King of the Monsters. Mayhaps she was, mayhaps she weren’t. My guess is that she didn’t need note taking, that my presentation was enough to permanently and indelibly engrave itself in her aging yet still vital brain pan.

Just a few more comments and we’ll leave Godzilla on Monster Island in peace…
You knew, of course, that many actors in Godzilla’s films were also regulars in Akira Kurosawa’s great cinematic accomplishments. Kurosawa and Godzilla director Ishiro Honda were friends and colleagues at Toho Studio. Just imagining if Kurosawa had directed Godzilla instead of Honda sends the senses reeling!
The central theme running throughout the series was always anti-nuclear. The H-Bomb created Godzilla, so what good would nukes be to combat him? In one film, the Prime Minister has to lecture the United States and Russia about the dangers and stupidities of nukes. Perhaps they forgot a little known fact that Japan had been the recipient of 2 bombs of the atomic nature in 1945 and, yeah sure, go ahead and destroy Japan yet again so you won’t have Godzilla moving into your guest bedroom.
Last but certainly not least, expect a new Godzilla film within the next 2 years. With any luck, the brains behind the 1998 piece of shit had restraining orders served and cannot even whisper about going near the set.

There is an amazing local radio station that I listen to daily that responds to KMUN (91.9 fm) in Astoria, Oregon or KTCB (89.5 fm) in Tillamook. For those of you with flush toilets, you can listen online at www.coastradio.org. This station reminds me of the best of KCRW in Santa Monica in its heyday. Sometimes the programmers forget to turn their microphones off (and who among us hasn’t?), often the cd players misfire, but they play what they want to, no play lists, no formats. I have heard some of the most mind boggling music on this station. You should give it a whirl and you must donate to free radio. “Oxymoron,” you shout. Nope, sometimes you have to pay to keep it free of ads and influence.

Jill (ex-girlfriend and current…) is coming up for a week of hiking and camping. Please sacrifice small animals and missionaries of all sizes to the weather gods for sun and temperatures in the low to mid 70’s. Even leaving the weather gods out of the equation, the missionaries have to go. I’d rather have moles tearing up my lawn than these spreaders of lies and disease darkening my door. Note of caution: If you choose to burn them, missionaries can be very toxic. Be sure to stand upwind. Make certain that all pieces are burnt, as they can reanimate much like Zombies.

It’s been fun. Like to stay, but things to do, places to be, people to annoy.





Community Service? Paying it forward? Listening to too much Pink Floyd? As if!!!

So, long time readers (or those of you whom navigated back 6 or 7 years worth of this) will recall when I came home with Type 2 Diabetes. It’s gone, thank Dog, but the ramifications are not.

As in

When the good doctor confirmed the disease, he gave me some pills, said lose weight and ushered me out of the exam room. He didn’t tell me a thing about my newly acquired polysyllabic shadow. As in how I got it, what it does, what it can do in the short and long runs, how to get rid of it and will I have to buy it its own ticket when I fly?

So, here’s a quick run down to and fro and then the reason for all of this and then we’ll return you to the regularly scheduled blog….

Genetics played a bit part, somewhere between a walk-on and a regular support player. Dad’s side of the family threw that in the gene pool, but packing around extra weight and eating SAD (Standard American Diet) made me a shoe in (shoo in?). Watching my uncle lose a few body parts then his life rather quickly, recording Isaac Scott in is wheelchair shortly before he died. Enough, said I. Problem is/was, the big mistake I mistook thinking that once I started (a life sentence) these MIRACLE PILLS I could go on eating the crap that brought me there in the first place. They don’t tell you this. The doctor knew all he had to know about it, the drug companies conveniently omit certain pieces to the puzzle.

Long and short of this, I took control and sent this life threatening accessory back to think about what it had done. I learned about, owned the disease. Found out what it took to make me healthier. I promised not to preach and point fingers at people and their bad choices. I have mentioned to a few friends what I did and, if they so chose (choose?) to, where to get the information.

Now, FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY, I am extending the courtesy to you. Write and I’ll point you in the direction. It’s all free. It worked for me and my family. May or may not be your thing.

Aside 1: A neighbor recently had a couple of stents installed. Two, I think. A few weeks after the upgrade, we were talking about health issues and the stents came up (conversationally. Hopefully they are still in place!). I mentioned a couple of complications associated with the procedure that I had heard about from a very respected doctor.* My neighbor was eating an ice cream cone. When he/she saw me looking at it, half jokingly he/she said, “Don’t tell my doctor!”
I won’t have to. Next time they cut him/her open, the doctors should be able tell what was on the menu.
This person is also overweight, obese, maybe even morbidly obese. Not sure. I used to have a friend who was morbidly obese. Made me sad. I had to cut my ties with this person because I couldn’t fight excuses with facts.


If you’re interested, I’ll tell you what I know. It’s been an eye opening learning experience filled with laughter, the thing that’s not laughter, amazement and the ever present threat of a Zombie Apocalypse.



*Doctor…I remember reading a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. During a conversation, one person asks the doctor to whom he is speaking with what sort of doctor he is. His reply is Real Estate.
Ask questions. If you don’t like the answers, get another opinion. Then another. No one person has all of the answers.

Same Place, Same Language


Of course I’m talking about Monster Island. It’s also been referred to as Infant Island, Mothra Island, Farro Island, Fantasy Island, Manhattan Island and a few more that don’t come to mind readily.
Why yes, Virginia, I did finally complete my Godzilla Movie collection. *
To a degree.
As in nobody, I MEAN NOBODY in their right fucking mind would consider the abomination released in 1998 to be a Godzilla movie, just as nobody considers any beverage with the words ‘Light,’ ‘Lite,’ ‘Diet,’ ‘New’ and/or ‘Improved’ to be BEER, or even drinkable for that matter.
So, yes and no. Obviously, the original ‘Gojira” and “Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Beer)’ are 2 totally different movies, even though they share a lot of the same footage. But as Gojira was a warning of the ‘New and Improved” Atomic Age which we found ourselves going to without an invitation, ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Beer)’ was a warning of us fucking up everything we touched.**
Aside 1: In 2007 I needed a new passport because I thought I was going somewhere, anywhere. I don’t remember where my mom said we were going that we needed passports and I’m assuming I had recently watched a Godzilla movie where they refer to Monster Island as Farro Island.
The Faroe Islands, of course, are off the coast of Scotland where adolescent Danish (Doughnut) boys frolic with long knives and dolphins. That would certainly apply as Monster Island, but since we were going to Hawaii and Hawaii is closer to Japan than Scotland and Monster (nee Farro) Island is closer to Japan than Detroit, I wrote Farro Island on the passport application, not knowing if I meant Monster Island, Faroe Island (I assume not) or some other Island near the Hawaiian chain (Cuba?).
Turns out wherever we were going to: 1) didn’t need a passport, 2) nobody who should’ve been paying attention was and 3) we didn’t go anywhere anyway.
Obviously, the best movies are in the original Japanese with subtitles and you have the choice between the Japanese and English language versions. It’s amazing how radically different, say, Invasion of the Astro-Monster is from Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, which is how I knew it growing up and watching 9 times a week on Channel 5 in Los Angeles (their idea of Movie of the Week was to play it Monday-Friday at 7:00 pm, then twice back to back on weekends). The Japanese versions are much deeper and thought provoking than the dummied down versions in English.
Just saying
Nicole was under the impression that, when I said Godzilla Marathon, I was actually going to watch them in a single sitting, in order, in Tohoscope. Maybe if Fat Dog Pizza in Tillamook delivered. Maybe if I still drank. Maybe if I quit sleeping. No, not yet. Hell, I’d still be watching, not writing. Of course, would I just watch the original if I had the option? I have 7 films on VHS where it’s dubbed or nothing. Then there’s the other kaiju eiga (sp): Rodan, Mothra, War of the Gargantuas, H-Man, Warning From Space, Attack of the Mushroom People. It would be like the time I watched seasons 1-5 of LOST in one session.
As interesting as that was, you’ve got to be asking yourself, “Self, as interesting as that was, why didn’t he lead off with late breaking medical news?”
Do you really want to hear me play guitar again? Really? I mean, I do, but I have an obvious bias here. I truly cannot wait to get back into the studio and start working, but we’re looking at next year at the earliest. The neck is feeling better, the hand is feeling worse. Fair exchange? Hmmm…..
Aside 2: I was telling Research Assistant Mifune about the surgery and hospital stay, etc. At least he appears to pay attention. I know he’s waiting for the biscuit. Anyway, I was telling him about the cool space age thermometer wherein they just pass this little orb across your forehead and there’s your temperature. Mifune chose not to believe me. I almost told him that you could also stick it under your tongue or armpit, but then thought better of it. He knows one way and one way only.
For the time being, I’m on Injured Reserve. Trying incredibly hard to take things slow and easy.

The family was out for a week just now. Hadn’t seen my cousin David since 1977 or met his wife, although their oldest son (whom I didn’t know existed until 3 weeks ago) stayed at Mole End for a couple of nights on his way up the coast. The weather put on its Summer face and I ate a lot of grapes, although I have something in my eye.
Partial Aside: The last 2 sentences were written late last night/early this morning. I’ve been out of grapes for a few days now and the thing in my (left) eye is gone.

Cousin Dan(ny) was there, too. Haven’t seen him since 1998 or 97. He looks like our grandfather, so chances of him being adopted drop below the safe betting line.

As reported earlier in these pages, my buddy Stemi Root sent me my first release, “Standing Is Stupid,” circa 1984. I transferred it to HDR, tried to clean it up and made its CD debut yesterday. If what Matt Jorgensen (sp) says is true, I will be able to paste the cover here….


For those of you whom have been down to Mole End recently have seen the explosion of Bamboo and Japanese Maples in the yard (well, 8….). It’s something to do. My neighbor mentioned that there was going to be a BIG SALE at the Bamboo Guy in Beaver. I tried stopping by a few times, but nobody home. They (he) are (is) having a Going Out Of Business Blowout. Everything $20. Everything. So my yard has a whole bunch more today and will have even more tomorrow. Problem is, sure, the plants are $20, but the ceramic pots are still $50-80 if you can find them on sale. Let’s just say that there will be more plastic planters in the yard for the time being, or is 2 months worth of rent worth something that only a handful of people will see for the foreseeable future?
And why is the theme song for F Troop looped in my brainpan?
Speaking of birds, we are hosting a pod of Asian Pigeons or Asian Doves. Whatever (whom) they are, as I was outside trying to find the perfect spots for my newly acquired Asian greens, the dovepigeons were lining up on the power lines……just staring at me! As if they’re going to go all Hitchcock on me or worse.

I’d love to stay and chat some more, but I’ve been invited to a crab feed down the street. I hope they caught some vegan crabs.

Hey, it’s been fun. Let’s do this again. No, really…



* I spoke too soon. I was, in fact, missing Godzilla Against Mechagodilla (or Godzilla x Mechagodzilla for those of you playing at home). Come on, with Mechagodzilla in the title of 5 movies, I’m allowed one mulligan. Consider it rectified.

** Actually, I guess that applies to everything…

Me Again

Hey, It’s Me Again

Boy, this is becoming a habit. Oh, did I catch you In the middle of anything? Sorry, I’ll make this brief.

First, no, I did not find your sunglasses. I’ll look again in the morning.

Next, believe it or not, I’ve heard from 2 faithful readers out there in like a day or maybe 2. The first was a reply looking for a referral for Prolotherapy for her dog. She was impressed by Research Assistant Mifune’s miraculous recovery and wanted to know where we went. I’m pretty sure I mentioned the clinic, but for those of you who need a reminder, it’s called Back On Track Veterinary Rehab in Portland, Oregon. The other 2 practitioners that I know of are Dr. Michael Lemmon in Burien, Washington. Panzer said this guy pretty much wrote the book on Vet Prolotherapy and he teaches and lectures.
I think.
I may be wrong.
The other is in Boise, Idaho where my folks take their quadrupeds. Her name is Dr. Patricia Saras at Animal Healing Center. She pulled my dad’s dog through cancer using a naturopathic chemotherapy with none of the typical nasty side effects that usually accompany chemo.
If you can’t find their numbers, let me know and I’ll forward them along.

Next, I heard from old Steve Young, Youngblood to those in the know. I’ve known Steve since I had all of my hair and he is one damned fine guitarist. Don’t think I ever saw him not smile, either. Long time reader, first time heckler. Great hearing from you Steve.

Did I mention that my buddy Stemi Root sent me a copy of my first release? Think so. Finally popped it in the old Nakamichi.
Geez, what a blast. Seriously, I haven’t listened to some of that stuff in over 20 years. I think Standing Is Stupid is coming up on 30 years now. Maybe not as newsworthy as when Born To Run or Darkness On The Edge Of Town hit that mark, but then again, I didn’t record those fine, fine albums.
It sort of comes back now. I recall recording most of it armed with just a guitar, synthesizer, 4-track cassette and either a pair of headphones or some really cheap and tiny speakers. I remember borrowing Rob Rio’s bass and his amazing Fender Jazzmaster as well.
There was also another tape of unreleased and rough demo stuff of pieces that came out on later projects. Some tone poems I don’t remember at all. Now I get to go through about 30 4-track tapes.
Hey Eddie Nevins, are you out there? Last I knew he went back to New York (?) to join FDNY with most of his family. Haven’t talked to him/you since, what 1983 or 84. Man, I’m really sorry that I let you down. Really sorry. I hope you’re doing well and didn’t get caught up in all of that nastiness 10 years ago. Knowing you, you would’ve been the first one in. If you see this, please get in touch with me.
Anyway, I plan to re-mix and master the first record (the title came from a Shel Silverstein poem) and maybe release it.

After listening, I called Tim McGovern, my old mentor and boss from the Burning Sensation days. He played on a few pieces and was quite an inspiration back then. I’ll always be indebted to him for letting me tag along for the ride. Same goes for Andy Krikun of Andy & The Rattlesnakes fame and Dave Jerden, world famous engineer and producer.

Sorry, I’m babbling. Go back to sleep.


Surgery 2, Week 2


Friends, Oregonians, Quadrupeds,

You’re reading this (?), so apparently the operation was somewhat successful. As in I lived through it. The objective remains to be seen and/or felt. The good doctor said we have to wait 3-6 months to know if the surgery succeeded. Let it be known that, 17 days and 21 hours post first incision, it still hurts like hell. Hell being what I feel right now, apocalyptic Zombie ripping flesh from my neck while listening to Michael Bolton what I felt up until and including last Sunday. As in finally turning the corner on serious pain, like when I came home the day after and decided that I needed to sleep. Like when I did not set my alarm for every 3 hours as directed and take pain meds. Although I do not recommend this in practice, there are still a few ‘people’ out there wasting vital human foodstuffs, breathing passable air and making too much noise in theatres that should experience this as a character building exercise. That, and when they beg for someone to put them out of their misery, their wishes are granted.
Man, where did that come from? Who am I still that pissed off at? Just a few deserving souls. You know whom you are and you are definitely not reading this.


So roll credits. Enormous thanks to Dr. Kim Burchiel, his ultra-lovely PAc Jennifer, Amy, Erin, Megan, Claudia, Wally, Stacy and everyone whose names were lost in the high octane pain killers and anesthesia. I apologize to Erin and Amy for doing everything in my limited power to score a cup of coffee pre-surgery. All of the surgical team and floor staff were and continue to be amazing. Even the food was good, although spine surgery is probably not the best way to get a decent vegetarian sausage patty. Just saying…

So, home sweet home. I’m dying to mow the lawn and stack the new firewood. Reverse order. I would probably wish to die if I attempted these chores right now.

In sports news, my great friend Stemi Root, whom I shall have known 40 years this September was kind enough to send Search and Rescue into his garage and unearth a couple of tapes (remember cassettes?) for me. One was my very first release, “Standing Is Stupid” from 1984. The other simply says “Dog Girls Roughs,” and lists some long forgotten gems. One of my tasks whilst recuperating is to go through and catalog all of my recordings to date. Unfortunately, I no longer have or have access to (or the tapes for that matter) the AKAI MG 1212 nor ADATs. Strike that, Garey has ADATs, but I believe I made a huge bonfire out of all of my tapes a few years back. What was I thinking? Self-preservation, a gift to humanity? Dunno, but gone is gone. I do, for whatever reason, still have my old TEAC Portastudio 4 track cassette and 30-40 tapes. I’m almost afraid to listen. Musical (sic) Aversion therapy or intervention. We’ll see what we see.

The family invades our Normandy-like shores next month, including some cousins whom I have not laid eyes upon since 1977. I went to my niece Madison Zuzu’s high school graduation in Boise at the end of May. All family units vertical and for the most part 100% functional.

Summer came by to say hello last week and had to go home for a bit. We fully expect it to return and stay for the summer. You, too. Well, maybe not for the whole summer, but, please, do drop by. It’s quite lovely (or will be by the time you read this) and you can have ALL THE CHEESE YOU WANT!

Great to be back among the living, even though sneezing hurts like a motherfucker.



How Dare I?


How dare I call myself your friend? There are people and/or corporations that I don’t like and/or owe money to that I stay in touch more often than I do with you. Bad Bad pj…..

I mean, it’s been 2.5 years since I’ve smeared these pages with my ramblings. Well, not true, kinda really. I have written 2 or 3 times since, but my self-editing app scrapped those efforts. Legal Beagle can stand down now.


Anyway, since last catching you up, I had indeed gone under the knife and left 2 discs of my spinal neck in the trash. Say goodbye to C5-C7 for good and say hello to Zombie bone and a cute little Titanium plate (for all of the good they’ve done). Well, they might do some good, but it’s really hard to tell anymore. The surgeon swore that I would awake from surgery and do cartwheels across the operating room. Not so much, no. Then he guaranteed me that after 18 months I would never know that I had ever had surgery. Even the scar would be gone.
He was correct in saying that I couldn’t tell I was operated upon (except for the garish scar across my throat) as the pain is still there. Not as bad as the day it woke me up 3 years ago, but enough so that its got my attention. And the attention of the new surgeon who will poking around my central nervous system tomorrow morning. This one said he could fix what he saw and made no promises after that. Good Surgeon. Have a swimming pool.

I’ve been living on the Oregon Coast for a wee bit over 2 years now. We used to come to the coast as kids and I started dreaming about retiring here. I hope I’m not retiring just yet. Way too many records to make and people’s careers to obfuscate. Or maybe not obfuscate. I went to Costco yesterday, so that explains, as they say, that.

Research Assistant Mifune had his minute in the medical sun as well. He developed CCL disease in his left rear leg. That’s going lame for those of you who couldn’t guess. Instead of the rather invasive, painful and expensive surgery option (TPLO), our pal Panzer recommended a procedure called Prolotherapy, wherein they (veterinary professionals) inject an irritating solution directly into the joint, causing scar tissue and regeneration of things that need regeneration, like Time Lords and stuff.
After only 3 treatments, he was fired from therapy because he’s good as gold! That, and he lost 35 pounds (or 35% of his body mass) since moving down here. I attribute that to a major change in his diet and between 2.3 and 4.6 miles of forced marches on the beach (who in their right fucking mind needs to be forced to walk on the beach?). He bounces like Tigger and chicks dig him! My thanks to Dr. Bianca Shaw, DVM and her staff at Back On Track Veterinary Rehab (in Portland, Oregon) for all they did. And thanks again to Panzer for the information.

The cat remains indifferent. She will turn 11 on August 1, so get your cards in the mail soon.

Back to my surgery, I really hope it helps. I need to get back to work. I could go on for a bit about Washington State L&I (dog bless them for keeping me going all this while) and how they think I should maybe write greeting cards and stuff. Thanks, but no thanks. I want to go back to recording. I love it and may actually be good at it (modesty chip kicked in). As much as I hate people in general (especially missionaries who cannot read the verbally abusive sign on my front door), I rather enjoy helping people create music, to fill a blank musical canvas. Sometimes it’s Da Vinci, sometimes Jackson Pollock. Not for me to decide. It is up to me to do my absolute best to facilitate the process. Not to mention 2 albums worth (so far) of unfinished pieces that my pal J Todd Dunnigan and I began (begun? begone?) before I hit the wall (floor).
OK, gotta go. If you see another post, well, things went according to plan A, wherein I lived. Plan B means you who found the Golden Ticket will receive a call from Jon Stone with what you’ve won and won’t have to read this anymore. Nobody forced you to read this, is all I’m saying….



Review: KZSU Radio

by Craig Matsumoto, KZSU

Jazzy sax solos over odd synth soundscapes. Newman starts with sampled sounds and synth washes, overlaying a concretely jazzy soloist — often Jessica Lurie, a saxophonist with an adventurous but accessible style (check out her pop/fusion band, Living Daylights). A mix of thoughtfulness and fun jamming.

This doesn’t apply to Track 5 (see below).

1- Slow, pretty sax tones
2- Bright sax wanderings over synthy soundscape. Cool hand drums join in later.
3- Spare guitar over water droplets. Slow and meditative.
4- Like “danger” music from a movie soundtrack. Small synth piece
5- Eh? It’s a ROCK SONG, bluesy, even rollicking, with lyrics and a horn section. With a slow bar-band jam, packed with solos, that stretches the time to 18 minutes! Totally out of left field. I love it.
6- A lonely jam, slow. Like #2 but with two saxes and a darker, more experimental feel.
7- Reprise of #1, ends after 1:35. Then a pause and the “hidden track” at -3:15: An upbeat synth number, recalling the closing credits of “Buckaroo Banzai.”

….. Not that it’s related, but Graham Connah as a CD with a similar pun title: My Dog Has Fleas. It’s a fun jazz romp, similar in attitude to this one (but more “directly” jazz, no soundscape work). Jessica Lurie doesn’t appear on that one but she’s probably acquainted with Connah.

Review: All Music Guide

By Adam Greenberg

On The Hand of Dog, Seattle-based artist PJ Newman puts himself to work creating a series of innovative sets. At times reminiscent of Zappa, and at times simply playing with the sounds of his samples, Newman puts together a nice collection of works. His guitar is the centerpiece of the majority of the pieces, often in interplay with a pair of saxes, courtesy of the highly able Jessica Lurie and Sue Orfield. Ben Smith provides a solid drum backing on the necessary tracks, and fiddle star Martin Hayes and bluegrasser Danny Barnes each provide their talents for a track or two. It’s avant-garde music on the side of jazz, with notes of the Doors, synth rock, and Ornette Coleman thrown in for good measure. Tread with caution as it’s somewhat uncharted territory, but there are rewards to be reaped in this album for the curious listener.

Time Flies …

Long Time, No …

Gadzooks! It’s been over 2 years since we last spoke and you didn’t say anything! Sorry sorry sorry. I got sidetracked and between watching 5 seasons of LOST in a week and a half and facebook, well, we lost each other.

So, where do I begin? When last we spoke, I was Sleepless in Annapolis on tour with Peter Himmelman. That ended up being nothing if not unique (and eerie…as we speak, one of his songs just popped up on my iTunes!)

Aside #1: The “a” key on this computer is sick. I see I’ll have to come back when done and replace many. So, I’m going to try to use as few a’s as possible.

Aside #2: I cannot type a capital “z” Dunno. Just dunno. Marty Mac, my Mac guy, can’t figure it out. Says it’s software? Dunno

OK, so Himmelman…yeah….we’ll have to get back to him later. I just found my 2007 date book, so I’ll write about each incredible adventure as they resurface from my brainpan, like an aquarium air hose as it unkinks and the memories, as air, flow forth.

The studio finally got built and opened in December of 2007 and promptly closed down in December 2009. Apparently, there’s this thing called an “economy” and this “economy” is bad and it’s got it out for me.

And because I toured with Peter and because I was building my studio, I got fired from my job doing sound at the Tr•ct•r T•v•rn. I used to be in charge of sound scheduling and the such, but because I didn’t drink with the boss, I lost Most Favorite Nation Status. It got to the point where I was working maybe 3 or 4 shifts a month, down from 15 or more. So, one day I called the owner and asked for maybe 1 or 2 more shifts a month.
His reaction follows along these lines…”Well, I’m getting divorced and I can’t get this printer to work, so it’s time you don’t work here anymore!”
In hindsight, it makes perfect sense in the same way dancing for algebra does. Needless to say, I haven’t been there since. Probably blacklisted from Ballard Avenue anyway, me not being hip enough and all.

Oh, and by the way, you’ll recall from past entries here when I fell and whiplashed my entire musculoskeletal system at work a few years ago. So, 2.5 years later, I’m minding my own business (hell, I was asleep) and woke up (from said sleep) with an INCREDIBLE PAIN IN MY NECK. Think that maybe I slept badly (I mean slept well, because I know how to sleep, maybe not, but the point being that the act of sleeping was done properly, eyes shut, rhythmic breathing, dreaming of a Cuban woman, but maybe I slept incorrectly as in where my head was, angle-wise and the such). I asked my sister-in-law (whom I think is a massage therapist) to try to work the kink out. This was during the annual family pilgrimage to the Oregon Coast (Jo, do I need to capitalize the “c” in coast?). Everything she did was probably correct but it only made things worse. By midafternoon, I was in so much pain that chasing Vicodin with Vodka ended up being a waste of Vicodin and Vodka. I texted my friend Nicole (emergency room doctor supreme) and she replied “C6-C7.” I’m thinking, what the fuck do 2 different models of Yamaha Grand pianos have to do with this?
Partial Aside #3: We had a Yamaha C7 at the studio. It was built in the early 70’s so it was 7’4” not 7’6” as we know and love them today.
Right, so what she meant was that the C6-C7 disc in my neck blew ruptured herniated bulged and it was pressing on the nerve root that ran down my entire left arm, terminating at the index finger. I mentioned pain, right? OK, like on a scale of 1-10, 10 being hurts like hell and all, I was hitting mid 20’s. Didn’t sleep for 3 days. The drive home took twice as long because I had to stop t every rest stop in Oregon and Washington to try to stop the pain. The plus side of this was that Mifune got plenty of walks.
Longer story short, after x-rays, MRI, CT Scan, EMG (painful waste of 4 hours. When the doctor was done shooting electrical current through me and I asked him what he thought, he says “C6-C7.” Thanks…) a cortisone shot and much acupuncture, it looks like your intrepid reporter is due to go under the knife.
Film at 11.

Xmas looms it’s cheery head next week I’m doing sound in a shopping center for my friend Terry Morgan and then blasting down to the Oregon Coast yet again with Mifune for a few days to try to sandblast holiday music out of my psyche. Working at the Seattle Center New Years Eve. Something to do with fireworks and the rewriting of the constitution.

Don’t be a stranger.


Nutcracker Review

Having sat through Dog knows how many performances of the Nutcracker the past 3 years, it’s no surprise that I never caught the nuances, nay, the heart and essence of this timeless (2 hours plus) ballet and philosophical treatise. Why it is only performed during the holiday season is beyond me. What better way to fill a beautiful spring day, a stifling and balmy summer afternoon, the turning of fall leaves, a Black Sabbath?

I usually begin heavily sedated and self medicated, leaving nothing to chance and everything within arms reach.
Why then, oh dear reader, have I suddenly became self aware, cracked the bottle of consciousness and inhaled a pungent whiff of understanding?


I run the risk of repeating myself when I exclaim for all to hear:


Who could foresee that filthy rodent, that layer of droppings carrier of pestilence and plague could make an ardent love of the dance masterpiece out of me?

No, not the white variety which cause explorers of science and industry to drool in their cloned sheep-filled dreams, nor the white gloved star of the big screen. But gray mice. With tails and whiskers.
And BIG!
Really BIG!
The size of children. Human children at that. That’s what caught my attention and caused me to delve into the magic and mystery of the Nutcracker.

Originally written by Madame Curie because fishmongers didn’t like to wrap their wares in plain paper and then re-written by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Nutcracker conveys the eternal struggle between Vampires and their familiars the Mice. Charles Darwin, who wrote the original lyrics before his banishment to Helena, Montana, noted that while Vampires are more commonly associated with bats, the frequency range of sound emitted by bats is above the normal range of human hearing and gambled that rodents, mice especially, would gain the ability of human speech much sooner than their flying cousins. Although he was correct, he never lived to see his final victory in court when he sued Walt Disney over Mickey Mouse’s speech aboard the USS Missouri at the end of World War 2.
The version of the Nutcracker we typically see is done in Mime, due to the over spicing and subsequent fusing of vocal chords of the original cast during opening night in Canberra, Australia, in 1906 and again in 1973.

The ballet begins with guests filing across the stage. After they have seated themselves, the dancers appear and file across the stage. The curtain lifts and dancing begins. This part was boring, so I turned my attention to the pastrami sandwich I brought from home. Having forgotten to bring chips and a pickle, I return my focus to the stage, where a Vampire is now prancing and scaring the bejeezus out of the children dancers. He is a Vampire because he is wearing a tuxedo and a cape. He is tall and blonde and handsome in a totally non-Slavic way. The Vampire either brings several inanimate objects to life and they dance, or else he mesmerizes the other dancers and audience members into believing that he has. The undead dancer now spies what he hopes to be his soup course, a small blonde girl with curls, ribbons and Type B Negative flowing through her veins. After much swooping, swaying and general goofiness, he hands her what looks to be a doll, which the girl dubiously accepts and tries to leave behind. The Vampire has coated the doll with Super Glue so the little girl, whose name is Clara or Sara or Sierra, cannot drop it. Instead, a small boy emerges from the wings and tries to relieve the girl of it. AHA! The Super Glue adheres to him as well. He manages to pry the doll from the girl (along with the top 2 layers of skin from her palms) and casts the now bloody figurine onto the floor and destroys it by jumping repeatedly on it.
Two things (well, maybe 3…) happen at once. The Vampire grabs the boy and heads Stage Right, all the while ripping the limbs from him. The girls walks over to the destroyed doll and cries from the pain in her hands, not, as the Vampire assumes, from the destruction of the skin-covered toy. I try to get backstage to see if one of the dancers is single, or if not, morally bankrupt. Shot down, I return to my seat and find that the Vampire, thinking Clara mourns for the doll, runs offstage, selects a babe in arms from a stage mother and drains it’s blood, turning it into a Nosferatu. He hands the demon baby to Sara, who is horrified but still dancing. A blow dart hits her mid-thigh and she collapses on a chair, which somehow appears Downstage Right. She curls fetally and foams lightly from her mouth.

At this point, the ballet begins with the arrival of the MICE. Scores of them scurry onstage, shuffling to and fro.
In Darwin’s original notes, the Mice come to the Vampire with a list of demands for better working conditions.
A long scene of arbitration was cut from the libretto when the election of union officials dance called for the firing of live weapons into the audience and proved too expensive. The Vampire calls forth an army of child-sized child soldiers, armed only with their innocence and paper-mache short swords. These can be turned upside down and used as crucifixes against the Vampire if a coffee break cannot be written into the second act. A prolonged battle between the soldiers and MICE ensues, neither side asking for nor giving quarter, although quite a few cigarettes are passed between the armies. MICE Stage Left, Soldiers Stage Right, Vampire Downstage Center, Sierra on the floor, having fallen from the chair.

With the MICE offstage, I quickly lose interest in the remaining scene and the entire second act. I was able to coax the dancer in question into a quick-change booth, only to discover she didn’t accept personal checks or debit cards. A defeated but enriched man, I leave the theatre with a new appreciation of the Dancing Arts and somebody else’s jacket.

The next day, the stage crew called me. They had read my much-heralded review of the Nutcracker and wanted me to see it from their Point Of View…ONSTAGE! By onstage, of course, they meant backstage, where it’s all guts and no glory, half finished crossword puzzles and the finest of the pastry arts.


Arriving fashionably early, I helped myself to the dancers’ deli tray, not wanting them to get grease on their costumes or cramp up onstage from a hastily eaten snack before curtain time. (REMEMBER: DANCING IS LIKE SWIMMING. NO EATING AT LEAST 45 MINUTES BEFORE DANCING. 30 minutes is fine for light stretching and pectoral flexing, but nothing too strenuous.)

The Stage Crew is the unsung hero of the ballet. Without their strength, courage and more than enough bodies for the job at hand, these hard working men, women and undocumented aliens force the show to go on regardless of international exchange rates. I am introduced all around and given carte blanche backstage. “J” (names abbreviated to make it more difficult to find them in the phone directory) is working the “rail,” a preposterous series of ropes, weights and pulleys that make curtains and scenery appear on stage as if by magic. I now know better. He shows me the ropes, as it were. From his vantage point, he commands a view of the stage and the large television showing the Raiders losing to their cheerleaders.
“S,” or Steve as he is called, is the L.D., or Lighting Director. His job is to light up the stage from a booth far enough from the stage that any mistakes can be easily blamed on the architect or Stage Manager, today being a friendly if not incompetent Siamese Twin whose brother is the lead dancer.

Having free rein backstage, I mingle with the cast who are preparing themselves for today’s performance. They adjust their stage makeup and tighten their Kevlar dancing togs. Butterflies are not uncommon before the curtain rises. They battle this by going over their routines in place and by spitting large phlegm balls at understudies. I offer my hip flask to the dancer from yesterday. She accepts it and offers me her tonic for pre-show jitters, a “Tussintini,” equal parts gin, vodka, cough syrup, purified water and chocolate Pop Tarts. Shaken not stirred. A bit chunky, but after 3 pitchers, I don’t seem to mind.
The Vampire lurks about. He makes suggestions to the stage manager about his personal lighting, to the rail operator about how the curtains should part just so for his entrances and exits and to the custodian to see if he has found another cache of wooden stakes in the wings.
As I presumed, most of the dancers are kept in cages backstage. These cages are large, well ventilated affairs with slots in the bars to allow food to be passed in with metal sticks without worrying about getting too close. Many a catering staffer has found him or herself minus a finger trying to feed and water dancers. To my surprise, another cage houses the DANCING MICE. I assumed that they used MICE found in the basement and alley of the theatre and herded them onstage with fire hoses and electric prods, but delighted in knowing the ballet used more “humane” methods. Thinking back, this makes sense, as there are numerous performances of the Nutcracker during the Holiday Season and no way to ensure the proper number needed for each matinee. It is also very green, this recycling of MICE. I am told that the MICE who survive the run of the ballet are served to cast and crew at the Wrap Party, a belt loosening and top-secret soiree after the final performance but before sentencing.
At this point, the “Orchestra” is lead in single file in chains and handcuffs. Those without hands get the day off, but are fined a day’s pay for not showing up. While claims for the score’s authorship in continually in doubt, it is nevertheless played with gusto and air guitar. The “Musicians” look criminally familiar; almost as if the kitchen staff from the Cambodian restaurant behind the theatre was rounded up (at gunpoint) and frog marched into the orchestra pit. My spider sense tingles when I see crates of live chickens, portable gas fires and 3 waiters following the ensemble. The conductor, though recently deceased, makes a splendid entrance in drag and a bronze urn. The musicians take no notice and continue to prep appetizers. The tympanis have become large woks and deep fryers. The double bass starts to smolder until the reeds douse it with soy and fish sauce.
As the audience is wheeled in, a scuffle breaks out between the musicians and the MICE. A P.A. (or Production Assistant) allowed a few musicians to take some of the smaller and more succulent MICE for a walk and they, in turn, went for a wok! The remaining MICE complain that they must still pay full price for food.

The house lights go down. The only sound from the audience is the regular whispers from ventilators and iron lungs. The conductor sits on his podium, not moving until the orchestra tunes up. After 30 minutes, “J” sneaks into the pit and pushes play on the iPod on top of a large walk-in freezer now between the violins and the salad station. The music rumbles to life and then abruptly stops when a trombonist/busboy plugs in a coffee maker and shorts out the pit. Batteries are found and the music comes back to life. Not so the conductor, who remains immobile and most probably still dead.
The dancers coolly await their entrance while standing in troughs of cold water 9 inches deep. Failure to move on cue results in a stagehand tossing an electric extension cord in the trough.
Act 1 begins and the dancers stumble onstage. The first scene has the characters crossing from Downstage Right to Left as if they’re entering the DMV or tipping cows. The iPod skips and goes back and forth between Milli Vanilli and Metallica. The dancers, having never really paid attention to the music anyway, trip over each other somewhat in time. The scrim (somewhat curtainy, somewhat not) raises (rises?) and we’re in what seems to be the food court in a shopping mall.
The Vampire is just about to prance on stage when I whisper loudly, “DUDE! YOUR HAIR!” His eyes widen and he reaches up to his head to investigate. I see a small mirror and hold it up to his face. He hisses and falls backward over 2 orders of Fisherman’s Favorite (#12), Black Squid and Pork Crispies (appetizer #3) and enough rice for a Moonie wedding. He recovers quickly, knocking over only 8 or 9 dancers to get to his spot, constantly feeling his hair between leaps and bounds.
I notice that many of the dancers have switched roles, either because of rotation, injuries or restraining orders. The dancer playing Clara (or Sarah or Larry) has been replaced by a small pale girl with dark hair and several crucifixes and garlic wreaths dangling from her neck. The boy who grabbed the doll from Clara (sic) is the same. I walk up to him and mention that it is rude to grab, that he should ask politely if he might see the doll. He haughtily spins away and is about to utter a curse when I taze him on the neck. He twitches for a moment before I stuff him into the cannon. I grab his hat, clamp it on the head of a passing waiter and shove him onstage. The Vampire swoops down on him, briefly considering the Randomly Fried Yum Yums (appetizer #8), then snaps his neck and tosses the body on the chair Downstage Right. Sierra, whose next routine was a lap dance with a soldier on the very same chair, improvises a pole dance on the tree, not realizing that it is merely a painted canvas drop (and attached to the scene behind it), A loud ripping sound fills the stage, causing every dancer to look down. Bumping, grinding and general hilarity ensues. Meanwhile, the injured iPod settles on Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady” and half of the dancers nervously look back and forth.
At this point, the MICE are uncaged and swarm to the waiter instead of Sarah, who has untangled herself from the backdrop and searching the floor for dollar bills and her right contact lens. She then attempts to wake the soldier who has passed out in the chair. Unable to revive him, she grabs four of the MICE and fashion them into a settee upon which she climbs on and lashes out at the other MICE. They, in turn, ignore the soldiers who have amassed onstage for the battle sequence and make polite catcalls at Sarah, who is considering returning to secretarial school and/or another line of work, parole notwithstanding. Insulted by the MICE’s seemingly newfound pacifism, the soldiers roll the cannon onstage and light the fuse. Shredded boy whizzes from the cannon’s breach and covers anything in a 2 block radius.
I find my dancer who is e-mailing her resume to Norway and we exit Stage Left.

As much as I have fallen in love with the Nutcracker, I feel that some updating must occur in order for this masterpiece to reach a wider market. With that in mind, I am currently adapting the ballet for all audiences and all tastes.
Coming soon: The Nutcracker as performed by Transformers, Debbie Does Nutcracker, Rocky Versus Nutcracker, Rambo Versus Nutcracker, Night of the Living Nutcracker, Slum Dog Nutcracker, Full Contact Nutcracker, Crouching Tiger Hidden Nutcracker, a Roller Derby Nutcracker and my personal favorite, a Samurai version of SEVEN Nutcracker.

Happy Happy Joy Joy