Issue 7 Contents

Commuter's Notebook

As I may have mentioned Lizzy and I bought I house. It makes her commute shorter and mine longer. Now I drive one hour + on good old route 95 from Providence to Boston. The first 20 minutes of my drive to work is getting to Route 95 from 195 through downtown Providence. I leave home each morning around 6:45 to beat the rush through Providence, then pray that there aren't any accidents.

Road rage is much ballyhooed about as of late and I get to see and participate in it for like 15 hours a week. I won't try to lie and say that I don't occasionally pull some move to get around slow drivers, but I don't flash the finger, my headlights, or even tailgate. I will push up a bit to let somebody know I want to get by, but if they don't move I ride a car length back and coast.

Since its summer the Mass construction folks are working the shit out of repairs, the whole road is full of medians that move from lane to lane. One day there is a median between the far left and second lane, the next day it might be between the far right and middle- you never know.

Over the past few months it has become necessary to learn to handle driving in a hostile, ever-changing, freak show without getting killed, or killing anybody. One day some guy was giving the finger to everybody and slamming on his breaks to fuck with them. I watched him screw with two other people before I was behind him. He was driving a convertible Honda Del Something with the top off and a Lassie type dog in the passenger seat. He was going 60 in the right lane on a road where thousands of people were going home on a lovely summer evening. 80 was the mean speed, but I would have settled for 67.

Before I got two car lengths behind him he turned around, slammed on his breaks, and gave me the finger. He glared and flipped that finger out like I had tried to run him off the road. Since I was pretty far back I slowed down and kept away. He watched me and I waited until there was space in the middle lane to get in and move past him like everybody else.

I had seen him swerve at two other people before I made my way up. Sure enough he swerved. I was ready and countered. While I was waiting for this opportunity to tempt death I had lit a Marlboro to keep calm and wait patiently to merge over. Well, he had pushed me far enough so as he was recovering from his swerve I moved over and dropped that butt right on to the dog. I yelled, "Fire in the hole!" as I did it and punched my Honda into overdrive. The lane in front of him was open for at least a half mile and as I burned it up I saw him slam on his breaks and come to a screeching halt in the breakdown lane. It was the worst highway crime I had ever committed and I felt bad, but I hadn't done anything and I had been pushed too far.

I'm not proud of what I did, but I'm not sorry either. I did absolutely nothing to that fucking guy. I didn't even see what his beef with the two cars in front of me was. I came up behind them after one of the median merges in a construction zone, and it was him that started fucking with me for no reason. I never got closer to him than a car length, and that was only when he slammed on his breaks. Anyway, the whole thing freaked me out because I hadn't planned to chuck the butt at his dog, but his actions caused me to flip. I was no longer in control of my emotions or actions. I think that's a problem. If he had a gun I'd be dead. I'm lucky not to be dead anyway. I needed to find a way to keep calm.

In the last commuters notebook we did I encouraged everybody to carry "The Club," since it is legal to own and makes a great weapon if you have to defend yourself; also a pen to write down license plate numbers of people fucking with you and good-bye notes; and encouraged everybody to use their brain on the road as well as their blinkers to make it a nice experience for all. I don't know if that was enough. I've now decided that what you listen to on the way to work can really make a difference in how you act on the highway.

For the past three months I've done a little experiment in environment and adrenaline. I've structured my drives with specific genres of music over a week's period of time. Each week I try a different genera of music and listen to only that for the week. This way I get a good mix of days with 2 hour long accidents, and days where there is nothing but clear blacktop in front of me and sun in my windows.

The genres I've experimented with were punk, alternative rock, ska, swing, funk, old-time country, guitar rock, surf, and electronica & techno. I'll present titles from each genre as well as my overall stress and adrenaline for the week. Remember, the purpose of this experiment is not to get to work/ home quicker, but with less stress and anxiety and therefore less danger.

You'll notice that I didn't mention listening to morning drive time radio. I could listen to either Howard Stern, Man Cow, NPR, ABC television, Imus, or any number of other radio programs. I've tried all that I mentioned and found that Stern, Man Cow and Imus are always bitchy about something and that makes me bitchy, NPR gets too boring listening to produced stories that include the footsteps and sounds of Honduran orphans daily life, and listening to ABC television without the picture is like taking a shit without a toilet. I get plenty of CD's to review and therefore don't listen to much music radio because of the commercials and weather updates. If I'm going to listen to music it might as well be on the portable CD player.

I started the experiment with guitar rock. Specifically, The Allman Brothers "Live at the Fillmore," and "Decade of Hits"; Frank Zappa's 12 CD set of "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore"; Bob Dylan and The Band "Before the Flood"; and Jethro Tull's "Aqualung."

I quickly grew bored of Jethro Tull. It mad driving seem like it was taking forever. Time was very slow and so I got antsy and nervous. The Allman Brothers on the other hand, made time cruise by the long jams didn't bother me until some stupid fuck rolled a Ryder Truck on to a car and held traffic up for two hours. Things got boring them- I flipped through the longer songs and played shit like "Statesboro Blues" and "One Way Out" a few times for the party vibe. It meant switching CD's too much to be considered safe. Even the "Hits" CD grew boring in the traffic jam. It wasn't bad for cruising though, so maybe keep it under the seat or something for late nights and long distances- that's what it seems best for.

The Zappa stuff was also a mixed bag- the jazz style stuff didn't do to well since it again made time pass slow, but the comedy and guitar jams were great. Of course since I bought this stuff I like it, so non-Zappa fans might want to be careful. CD's #1,3, and 6 stood up the best. Number 4 also did really well since it has some of the funniest stuff, but it also has some longer stuff that drags a bit in traffic unless you are die-hard Zappa.

I think I tried playing the Dylan/ Band CD once- it drained me too much. Its one of these CD's that just appeared on day and nobody knows who left it around. It's ok, but passe. Sorry. I love Dylan but he's not for commuting.

Since I'd tried the old I decided to try the new next. Maybe it was the summer releases I was getting at the time, or just dumb luck, but some of the new punk releases are awesome for driving.

I started with the new Social Distortion, "Live at the Roxy" which blew me away. Mike Ness still sounds kind of pissed off, but the musicianship has taken over, and while the band is 17 years out they are rocking better than ever. The CD was done over three nights and covers the bands whole career. "Mommies Little Monster" follows "Prison Bound" and they even throw in covers of Johnny Cash and the Rolling Stones. If you like Social D at all you should go get this, there's something for everybody, and it rocks so good new Social Distortion fans will probably sprout up all over the place. As far as how it effected my driving and stress it did well- even though its fast and rowdy I didn't want to kill anybody who was being an ass hole, or honk for no reason during a construction back up. Mike Ness tells these stories about being punk and those calmed me down- even remembering all the times I got my ass kicked back in high school in '82 like he did.

Face To Face also has a new live CD out, "Live." It rocks faster and leaner than the Social D CD, so it made me a little more apt to want to throw full or empty Coke cans at some broken down farm truck in the lane I was hoping to exit in, and causing a 45 minute back up. When I approached this vehicle something came over me- Trevor Keith was singing the shit out of "It's Not Over," and I just chucked a half-full Coke at the truck. Nobody was in it, it was just sitting in the right lane abandoned in the middle of a huge jam. They were hellicoptering some guy who probably had a heart attack in his car off to the hospital and the farm truck was an aside. 45 minutes is how long it took to get to the farm truck, it took another 45 to get to my exit two miles up. Sorry. The CD is pretty good- but best for weekends.

Lookout! Records continue to put out some truly awesome shit. I also test drove The Donnas first full release "American Teenage Rock 'n' Roll Machine. Oh-my-god!! 17 year old female Ramones-playing punk. It's so simple you can almost hear Donna C counting her drum beats in her head. Not to mention they all look like they just ditched science class for a cigarette and a chance to blow some pot dealer in his van. They play fine- I give them major credit- the vocals aren't real forceful, but this CD is perfect. I'm 31 now, but listening to these young ladies sing "You Make Me Hot," 'come on/ come on/ I just wanna tell you, come on/ come on/ I just wanna touch you, come on/ come on/ I'm talking to you/ you make me hot' is really fun. If anybody remembers the Runaways go get this. It will take five to ten years off of anybody over drinking age, depending on of course how far from 21 you are. Lookout! Just reissued a compilation of 23 'early' Donna's songs that "sounds like it was recorded in a garbage can instead of a garage' according to some guy at the Village Voice, but who cares these young ladies could save punk now that Joey has started hosting every web-casted event that will give him free liquor for the night. Long live the Donna's! No offense to Kim Shattuck, L7, Ashley, or any other female punk out there- sometimes youth is enough to overcome age and wisdom.

I also went and bought the new Rancid CD, since I had to miss the Warped Tour this summer to go to my brothers wedding. Its pretty good- not to punky, but still sounding like the 90's Clash. Plenty of class struggle and gravely vocals from Tim Armstrong and LarsFrederiksen. It's decent to drive to. I like Rancid and this is a good release- plenty of different Styles, and some great sing alongs like "Warsaw."

For some reason I also listened to "Peculiar World" by the Australian female band Litany. It's a little melodic for punk week, but the title track rocks and it is mostly about females standing up for themselves and shit, so that seemed kinda punk. As far as the driving test went it made me space out and almost slide into a construction cone, but that's fairly non-violent so no points off. "Peculiar World" is actually a good CD, I suggest picking it up- its musically sound rock and roll. These women have been trained at some "Fame" high school in Australia so it ain't sloppy hardcore punk, more punk in its diversity and voice.

The weather had been nice, and George Clinton is coming to town soon, so I decided to give funk a shot. I don't own much real funk- only George Clinton/ Parliament's "Tear the Roof Off 1974-1980" and a four CD Live Japanese release of George and the P-Funk called "Live Greatest Hits 1972-1993." It was going to be a P-funking week in the Honda and actually it went well.

First the Japanese Live thing- live P-Funk getting it on makes you want to sit in traffic all day. If I had me my sunglasses on and enough space to get my groove thang movin' I could sit in the car for days. Granted some of these jams go on forever and you get things like 10 minute trombone solos on "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," but this kind of funk compilation rules. We get P-Funk in all their incarnations- there were so many band members in and out of the band you can never tell who'se playing, but throughout it all they be funkin it up! The quality on this is great, so its like being on stage with good ole Uncle George. The downside is that you look like a complete moron bouncing back and forth in your car with the windows down yelling about how "When you're taking every kind of pill, nothing seems to ever cure your ill," or even worge getting caught getting up for the down stroke.

The more studio oriented "Tear the Roof Off" was equally drive-a-dellic baby! I was getting funked up all over the place. This CD didn't have all the whamma jamma live solos and chants, but it had all the hits one after the other- doing it to ya is 3D and taking it all back to the mothership. Funk had so far kicked the shit out of all other genres, I wasn't sure if it was even worth going on with the experimentm but science has its price and I had to buck up.

Next on the list was Old Country. Can't stand Garth Brooks and all the other pretty boys and girls of modern Country music. Give me Johnny Cash "Live at Folsom '69," Patsy Cline, and any of the other old timers over them lousy Stetson wearing fools of today. I had the Johnny Cash "Folsom '69" CD as well as Patsy's "Greatest Hits," "The Platnium Collection" a Live Merle Haggard, and some Brenda Lee, who wasn't really country more than pop, but still makes me cry. Johnny Cash made me want to hurt folks. He's playing in Folsom Prison and talks about how the cops have fucked with him the whole time. It's a great CD, but again a weekend thing. Merle made me feel lucky to work at a corporation, but made me want a drink as well. I went to lunch one day listening to him and had a vodka/ coke just to take the edge off. Brenda Lee was too hard to handle. She does sing so pretty that it takes you away, but it made me want to skip work each day and take Lizzy on a picnic or something….Patsy Cline holds up well after all these years. Her voice and songs are really something amazing. Its tough to drive hearing all the heartache and pain, but its so lovely that you can't help but feel good. Its weird, if you listen to Patsy the whole way to work your brain almost believes it might be 1945, when people had respect for each other and things (war aside) were pretty hopeful. The second you get off the highway and see all the see all the strip malls and McDonalds you're crushed. The little church is gone, the honkytonk is a Walmart, and the good doctor is dead. Patsy is lucky she didn't live to see what we did to America. Listening to her might be able to help road rage though- I let everybody that wanted pass me and was almost smiling and waving hello as people went by.

The melancholy of Country needed some fixing, so I moved it back to Swing to pick the beat up again. I'd just gotten Dem Brooklyn Bums Big Band's "There Goes the Neighborhood," and Candye Kane's "Swango," so I fugured it was a good time to try it out.

Dem Brooklyn Bums Big Band CD is only 5 songs and some chatter long, but it really does swing. They got flat out swing, bebopping swing, a smutty tango, and some ganster attitude throughout. These guys are slick and swinging. I met them at Swing Night at Club Hell and they we're rockin. The CD got played over and over since it made driving fun. If I'd had my lady and a sweet suit on I'd be happy to sit in traffic for a while. Minus the lady it was tollerable.

Candye Kane on the other hand wasn't really swing, but more retro. She does old time standards on "Swango" that were handpicked for her excellent voice by some record exceutive. She's got a bio for a boner too. She's 200+ lbs, size 52 knockers and its all real. She's big and not afraid of it either. Her songs are sultry, sexy, and all Candye. She used to be a Juggs model, did some movies I hear, and is now one of the fastest rising blues/ standard singers around. The Cd had a great big band sound to it, and some real slick production. Listening to it in the car was like being in a club minus the shitty red plastic chairs. Candye Kane is coming to Providence soon and you can bet I'll be there. I got to see this big momma (who'se bisexual) strut her stuff. I'll be wearing clonge and packing bon bons.

As far as the experiment went Swing did well ,not as good as funk but close. Keep it light and watch your bopping feet- you might start tapping the break and pissing people off.

Next up was ska and surf. I combined the two since I don't have much surf type shit at all. The Ziggens sent me an awesome copy of their new " Pomona Lisa" that has some great surf jams on it, and so I added it to the week of Goldfinger, Save Ferris, Reel Big Fish, and Less Than Jake's latest releases.

Ska week was ok. The energy and good feeling music makes driving fun, but if you hit a jam you're bumming because you've set the stage by pumping all the beats through your speakers. I got really impatient when ska and traffic problems got combined. Ska seems best to listen to while doing yard work or cleaning the house- you get energy from it and things get done quicker.

I gotta admit Alternative seemed sorta dumb to test, I could have guessed that Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Hole, Bush, Everclear, and Porno for Pyros wouldn't do to well for stress. Grunge in particular I guess is what I tested and it did ok since so many of the songs had been killed by radio and I know them well enough to sing along and have mini-Mike concerts in the car, but man did I get pissed off in traffic. I also spent the week cruising a little faster than normal and even went and passed a bus in the breakdown lane on a hill.

Porno for Pyros was the most conducive to driving in peace, but that's probably because Perry was there with me man…..Space aliens and surfing…..I find Porno for Pyros is like getting stoned for free, maybe its just me flashing back to their concert and all the dope that was smoked, or maybe it's a personal problem, but it worked best in the Alternative and drive test.

Last up was techno/ electronica. Once again I had enough record company freebies to have a decent selection. I went with: The Lords of Acid, "Our Little Secret," Ana Voog, "," Prodigy's, "Smack My Bitch Up" EP, and Rammstein's "Sehnsucht." The Lords of Acid Rule. Listening to their sexno music wasn't a problem. Fat beats, lots of moaning samples and some surreal soundscapes to drive with. "Fingerlickin' Good" ain't a Kentucky Fried Chicken motto and its cool to drive to. Even the 145 beats per minute doesn't make you want to drive up some jerks back bumper. "Pussy" is destined to become another classic Lords tune- its dirty if you let it be and she screams "I wanna see your pussy/ Show me your pussy like a million times. (There are some meow samples throughout, so take it anyway you want.) During traffic jams I like to pull up to people with those Jesus fish on their cars and blare it. What a look that lady gave me- man it made commuting worth while- she got into the left lane and probably called the cops or the 700 Club when she got home . Ana Voog and "" was up next. Ana got lots of attention I guess because she put video cameras up in her house and lets them fly day and night. I guess sometimes it can get smutty, but all I saw from the office when I checked was her sleeping and then reading. Yippie. I felt about the same about her CD. It was ok- Prince of the dude formally known as him produced it and I guess and its not bad. Its not as fast and cranking as the Lords CD, but has the same slutty reverb female vocals that entice your penis into convincing your brain to go on another day. It didn't do too much for me driving wise- it was kinda blah- nothing either way. It is a good CD for playing Nintendo 64 golf to though, so it's a keeper. "Smack my Bitch Up" by Prodigy is a cool tune. The EP has two good mixes on it, and a song with Tom Morello, but its too short. I liked the overall vibe- it made driving seem like I was on the Mad Max road to Hell and I better keep an eye out for bad guys. I could have used some estacy and some space to dance, but since it clocks in around 24 minutes it would have to be a short trip. Rammstein didn't make driving fun at all. Its not really techno or electronica- more like metal electronica. Oh, its in German too. It made me want to pull every ugly Massachusettes bastard from his car and beat him to a bloody stinking mess for the vultures to pick at. I dug trying to figure out what the hell the vacalist Till Lindermann was going on about, but that got boring. These guys are a live deal from what I read- they light themselves on fire and have more pyrotechnics that a Kiss reunion concert and it supposedly kicks ass. Somebody get me a lyric sheet, but I'd check out the concert to see the fire.

So at the end of my experiment it seemed that Funk was the clear winner for dirving stress free. Ska came in well, as did some of the new pop punk releases. What does this tell us? Well since personal preference definitely matters, nothing. That is unless more of you are willing to take the Mike Music challenge and do the experiment. Take a week per genre, and see what you react like. Keep a notebook in the car as well as a record of how bad traffic and weather conditions are to make sure things are fair.

If you need help I'll be putting on my sunglasses and tearing the roof off the sucker back and forth to work. Look for the guy bouncing around like a moron and doing the cabbage patch in his car.