Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flashback: Carlton Williams, Tallahassee's Local Badass

Here is an article I wrote for the FSView & Florida Flambeau in February 2003. Quick backstory: when I was doing research into the local goth scene I met this interesting gentleman who was dressed like a desert biker version of Willie Nelson. Needless to say, I had to tell this guy's story.

Tallahassee’s Local Badass

Tallahassee’s bar and club scene is ever changing. Names and locations come and go seemingly as often as the students that frequent them. Just in the last year, for example, clubs such as Chubby’s and Skyline opened, adding to the wide array of establishments. For the last five decades, there has been one constant in the scene, however, no matter what bar or club comes or goes. His name is Carlton Williams and he is a local Tallahassee legend.

Contrary to any rumors of him “crawling out from under a beer stein,” Williams was born fifty-five years ago right here in Tallahassee.

“I was born on Orange Ave.,” Williams said. “I was impatient. It’s a good thing my grandmother was a nurse.”

During his youth in Tallahassee, Williams saw the integration of Rickard’s High School and later partied at the same places as Jim Morrison, who would later become famous as head of the 60’s rock band The Doors.

“As a human being he [Morrison] didn’t need to exist,” Williams said. “His poetry was good. I liked some of his music. But at a party he always had to be the center of attention and he always Bogarted.”

Afterwards Williams joined the US Army. His Army career was cut short after his training when he was told he was “too crazy” to stay in.

“It didn’t make no sense to me because that was 1967 and I was just a body count basically,” Williams said.

After his time in the military was abruptly over, Williams used his Army training to become a bounty hunter.

“I was working at the Piggly Wiggly and split out of there. I figured I’d go and have a good time,” he said. “[Bounty hunting] was different then then it is now. You didn’t have to be certified.”

Although bounty hunting didn’t pay very much- a lot of the money went to paying informants- it gave Williams a rush. For over 25 years, he strapped on his familiar military utility vest, body armor, mask and hood and hunted down people who skipped bail.

“I was doing it off and on,” Williams said. “When you do something like that, you get to where you think you can break the law. You have to know when to walk away.”

In the meanwhile, Williams worked in construction, carpentry, laid vinyl, and sold handmade leather goods. In 1970, he met Judy, his future wife. They married in 1971 and have been together since.

“I told her I was going to marry her and she said ‘no way’,” Williams said.

The couple claims to have been the first merchants to sell their goods in the FSU Student Union.

“We were just some old hippies,” he said. “We would just throw a blanket down and sell our stuff there. Now they charge an arm and a leg.”

Still Williams bounty hunted, rounding up a vast collection of bail jumpers.

“Me and my boss would just sit in the neighborhoods and watch for these people,” he said. “There was one guy- mean old guy, strong as an ox- he wore me around for like three or four months. We finally got him. I waited at the backend of the guy’s house when I could hear my boss beating on that man’s house. I could see the guy running out. My boss pulled his car right in his way and grabbed him, sticking his gun in his stomach. I came out the passenger side and pulled out my gun and pointed it up against his skull. We put the handcuffs on him and gave him to a deputy. It was exciting. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night.”

After bounty hunting, Williams went on to do security at the Cow Haus. There he said he saw a situation there where bouncers weren’t acting as well as he thought they should. He worked there for several years, “cleaning up the place.”

Recently, Williams has been stricken with several health conditions. He has suffered a stroke, had a major heart attack, and just weeks ago, his doctors thought he might have cancer.

“The night of my heart attack, I kept saying ‘Something ain’t right. Something ain’t right,’” Williams said. “The doctor told me I might have had several smaller heart attacks when I worked at the Cow Haus but I whenever felt tightness I would just jump in the mosh pit and get the blood flowing.”

The heart attack made him eventually leave the security job at the Cow Haus and resume selling homemade leather goods at the flea market.

“I would sell leather bikini tops to the college girls in exchange for a picture them wearing it- that was the deal,” he said.

Currently, because there “isn’t much work for someone who has had their chest opened up,” Williams works overnight security at car lots.

Throughout it all, Carlton Williams continues to do what he does best- visit the bar scene. Whether it be a bar on the Strip or Club Jade on Tuesday night “Goth Night,” Williams feels at home.

“I’ve been in bars so long, even if I didn’t smoke, I would probably still be sick,” he said. “It [a bar] is the only building I can be in and be comfortable.”

Epilogue: A quick Google search doesn't find much for a follow-up on Carlton Williams, although I think he may have created a twitter account. Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated since September 2009.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Big Brother: A Poem about Google and Facebook



Here is a poem about Google and Facebook.

Facebook and Google like to know where you are
Facebook and Google see you driving your car

Facebook and Google know where you were born
Facebook and Google know when you're lookin at porn

Facebook and Google know when I have mail
Facebook and Google know when I post bail

Facebook and Google can track what you send
Facebook and Google found your 9th grade girlfriend

Facebook and Google want to know what I think
Facebook and Google want to know what I drink

Facebook and Google want to know when I pee
Facebook and Google you are scaring me

Facebook and Google please leave me alone
Facebook and Google please get out of my phone

Facebook and Google oh can't you see
That my P-R-I-V-A-C-Y is priceless to me

That last line is a shout-out to Pearl Jam, by the way.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The day I met a Wookie



Star Wars has always been a big part of my life. I've been a huge fan since I was a wee lad and from what I was told, Empire Strikes Back was one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater - at a drive-in as well if I am not mistaken. Growing up, I had dozens of figures, a bevy of vehicles, and a plethora of other miscellaneous platforms and playsets. I had the posters, the paperbacks, and the Marvel comics. And four of the six movies I've seen on their respective opening nights were Star Wars-related.

(The other two were Waterworld and Eyes Wide Shut. Don't ask why.)

As an adult however, my Star Wars fandom had been weening a bit. Especially after seeing Episode 3. Sure, I saw the Clone Wars movie (yuck) and read the book where Chewbacca dies (WTF?), but other than that, I hadn't paid much attention to the Star Wars Universe.

Somewhere along the way, however, one of my co-workers must have picked up that I was a fan because last Tuesday she asked if I was going to Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando. To be honest, I had no idea what a Star Wars Celebration was. They explained to me that it was a convention of Star Wars fans, vendors, and special guests who all had a love for the fictional universe and that it was supposed to be a great time.

My co-worker was right.

Star Wars Celebration V was impressive.

Most impressive.

Although I was only able to go to the convention one day of its scheduled four, and although I barely missed the "main event" of Daily Show host Jon Stewart interviewing Star Wars mastermind George Lucas, I still had a phenomenal time. Right as I walked in, I saw numerous people dressed as jedi and sith, bounty hunters, ewoks, and of course every type of stormtrooper possible. Eventually, I learned many of the costumed fans were part of a fan-costume organization called the 501st Legion, an organization
"...formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work..."

And they are good at their job. Whether part of the 501st or independent costume wearers, there were no amateur costumes at Star Wars Celebration V. No garbage pail R2D2s, no people wrapped in a rug claiming they are Chewbacca, and no one trying to pass muster in a mask cut from an old cereal box. All of the costumes were extremely well done. Of course, besides the typical costumes, there were also many people in variants on Star Wars themes. I saw several pink stormtroopers, a pink jawa, a pimpin' disco themed Darth Vader and Boba Fett, and even Barf from Spaceballs.

Besides costume gazing - and not just at the slave girl Princess Leias, I promise - I checked out the enormous vendor area. There were vendors from all over the world peddling Star Wars wares, from toys to books to everything and anything in between.

After perusing the merchandise (where the real money from the movie is made), I took a gander at some of the exhibits, to include a display of some very interestingly designed stormtrooper helmets, some of the artwork of famed Star Wars illustrator Ralph McQuarrie, and a showcase of individually designed, completely operational astromech droids.

(Of course, thanks to the Internet, droid builders also have their own organization, complete with magazine, website, and local chapters.)

After seeing the exhibits, I finished my day with a few shows. The first was the critically acclaimed "One Man Star Wars Show", performed by comic performer Charles Ross. Ross was amazing and his show was absolutely hysterical. Click the link to see part of his show or look him up on YouTube.



Shortly after Ross's comic depiction, I got in line for the real thing, a viewing of both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in one of the many convention center theaters. The showing of Empire was especially exciting for everyone in attendance as 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of the celebrated Star Wars sequel. And of course, those movies never disappoint.

Watching Empire and Jedi with hundreds of other diehard Star Wars fans was perhaps the highlight of my visit. Although I was at first taken back by the constant comments and cheering by many of the other viewers during the movie, I quickly learned that getting into the movie is part of the experience. People hooped and hollered when they saw Darth Vader, chanted "Yoda" when the character attempts to levitate Luke Skywalker's X-wing fighter, and moaned sounds of disgust whenever Luke and Leia kissed in a non-sibling way.

Of all the reactions, however, one stood out more than the others. As the night was ending and Return of the Jedi was coming to a close, during the scene when ghostly Anakin Skywalker joins Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, a young fan, probably no older than seven, stood up in his seat and yelled "It's Anakin!". I like to think that maybe at that moment he connected the dots and put the Star Wars story together for the first time.

Perhaps at that moment he also became a life-long fan, eager to devour all things Star Wars, from the figures to the vehicles to any miscellaneous platform or playset. Maybe he will also acquire the posters, the paperbacks, and any other literature or art he can get his hands on. Then, maybe after 30 years or so, as he finds his fandom weening, he will go to a Star Wars Celebration convention and have a great time.

May the Force be with him, always.

(Click to see all 118 of my Star Wars Celebration V pictures.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Review of Metallica's St. Anger



(Here is another old article I originally wrote for the FSView and Florida Flambeau. This was my only album review for the paper and was originally published in June of 2003, shortly after I graduated.)

In the years since Metallica’s latest album, 1997’s “Reload,” the band has fought the evils of Napster, said good-bye to bassist Jason Newsted and survived lead singer James Hetfield’s trip to alcohol rehabilitation. Despite these obstacles, the band vowed to “take it to the next level” on their next album.

Sadly, the only level Metallica’s newest release “St. Anger,” reaches is average at best.

St. Anger falls short of being a quality Metallica album in three key categories: originality, quality production and memorable lyrics or guitar riffs.

While St. Anger is indeed an album made to be played loud, its in-step riffs and repetitive double bass drum call to mind current bands such as Slipknot or Mudvayne. Added to the confusion are frequent time-changes and melodic intervals similar to Korn or System of a Down.

St. Anger also marks the possible “nail in the coffin” of a long-standing heavy metal standard: the guitar solo. Surprisingly, there are no solos on the entire album, a musical first for Metallica. The high-flying guitar mastery of previous albums such as “Kill ‘em All,” “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets” has been replaced by the same chug-chug-chug guitar riffs of “nu-metal” bands such as Disturbed or Staind.

These bands, along with the many others who have tried in vain to capture Metallica’s sound over the years, now have Metallica sounding like them. The question now is if Metallica no longer solos, who will?

Production on St. Anger is also less than stellar. Producer Bob Rock, who doubled as the band’s bass player, apparently felt the album need to be very bottom-heavy, emphasizing the rhythm section to an almost annoying level. Besides making the guitars sound as if they are an afterthought, Rock’s work on the drums make them sound as if they were recorded by hitting garbage pails in an empty basement.

This poor production gives St. Anger a very raw local-band-like sound, as if Metallica could not afford better.

Deficiencies in overall originality and production could be excused if St. Anger had at least one song that stood above the rest, either musically or lyrically. A classic, per se.

This is not the case. The album sounds long and drawn out. The only possibly memorable guitar riff is in the third song, “Some Kind of Monster,” an eight minute long odyssey that should have been cut in half.

Lyrically, many previous Metallica albums contained songs that told stories, songs such as “One,” “Nothing Else Matters,” “Unforgiven” or “Unforgiven II.” These songs had strong messages many listeners were able to relate to. St. Anger comes up short in this category as well.

Although many of the lyrics of St. Anger deal with Hetfield’s battle with alcoholism, the opening lines of the song “Frantic” – “If I could have my wasted days back/ Would I use them to get back on track?” – could also be directed at the band’s feeble attempt to recapture its past glory.

While St. Anger is not the most disappointing album ever (that distinction is reserved for the first Slash-less Guns’n’Roses album), it is definitely a deity of disappointment. Any more albums like this and Metallica’s reign as heavy metal gods could be over. Sad but true.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hatin' Through the Ages



(Here is an editorial I wrote that was originally published in the FSView and Florida Flambeau in late 2002. I still think it is funny.)

People need to stop hatin’. For those who may not be hip to hatin’, let me explain. Hatin’ is not so much the vile dislike of someone or something, it is four of the seven deadly sins rolled into one. Hatin’ is anger, envy, lust, and greed. It occurs when an individual or groups of individuals attempt to prevent the success of another because of jealousy or dislike. Hatin’ on someone is the desire to see that person fail.

Hatin’ has been around since the beginning of time. According to the Biblical story, Cain may have been the first ever hater. Cain, jealous that God accepted his brother Abel’s sacrifice and not his, killed Abel in cold blood. So began a long line of haters that has continued to today.

Oddly enough, religion and hatin’ seem to go hand and hand. Whenever a martyr has been killed, it was probably because of haters- haters who prevented the martyr from doing his or her thing. In history’s most infamous display of hatin’, Pilate had Christ crucified because Christ said he was the “King of the Jews.” Greek mythology is also full of hatin’, with jealous and angry gods holding down mankind and other less powerful gods out of spite.

Hatin’ is not confined to ancient times and religious stories. In the 1800s, John Wilkes Booth was definitely guilty of hatin’ when he shot Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents, wrote the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, and saved the nation after the Civil War. Still Booth showed no love by putting a bullet in the back of Lincoln’s head.

Also on the list of historical haters is Adolf Hitler. Hitler and the Nazis hated on anyone who did not have blond hair and blue eyes. Their quest to wipe out all non-Aryans and impose their will on the entire world was the most blatant case of hatin’ ever.

Currently, three decades removed from Woodstock and the Summer of Love, we again have a world full of haters. Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist cronies are an excellent example of modern day international haters. Even our own president, George W. Bush, displays hatin’ tendencies. Bush and his administration have made Saddam Hussein the victim of pure hatin’. Almost daily, Bush discusses war and removing Hussein from power. As a display of his own power, Bush threatens to bomb Iraq back to the Stone Age every time Hussein strives to achieve something Bush doesn’t like. That’s hatin’ if it ever was.

Although there is hatin’ in politics and other serious aspects of the world, it is most prevalent in entertainment. Hatin’ has become a favorite pastime of many who are not in the spotlight. How long this hatin’ has gone on is a question that may never be answered. Were there jealous playwrights in Shakespeare’s day? Did other composers hate on Mozart or Bach- “Why does his majesty always have Beethoven play in his chamber? My symphonies are much better.”

Speaking of music, there is a recent trend that hatin’ be discussed in song. One of the earliest documented examples of lyrical hate is Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” Lynyrd Skynyrd responded to Young’s hatin’ on the South in their classic “Sweet Home Alabama.” These lyrical tit-for-tats have continued through to today (see Nas vs. Jay-Z, Eminem vs. The World). Sadly, as shown in the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., there are instances where lyrical hatin’ has lead to unfortunate real-life tragedy.

So as the calendar turns towards this holiday season, maybe people worldwide need to make a conscious effort to reduce hatin’. Anyone found hatin’ should be rounded up, forced to hold hands with those they are hatin’ on, and made to sing Kumbaya until their hate disappears. Maybe then can there be a chance of peace on earth.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Trying to be funny at Comedy School



I am doing something I never thought I would do. No, not be a road manager for Cher. That's close, but not quite.

I am going to comedy school.

Under the tutelage of self-proclaimed "New York City Bad Boy" Artie Fletcher, I've been learning the tricks of the trade, putting together my first jokes, and gathering the gumption to get some guffaws. I've never done anything in the entertainment field before, so I'm definitely excited.