Wednesday, January 4, 2012


A few nights ago my family was watching “Spy Kids” for the first time. One of my favorite character actors, Danny Trejo, is in it. I’d never seen the movie and didn’t love it until I saw him. In the movie he was known as “Machete”.

A quick lesson: The “Spy Kids” movie franchise is written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, who has also written and directed “Desperado”, “From Dusk ‘til Dawn”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, “Sin City”, and the “Planet Terror” half of “Grindhouse”, among others. I’ve always kind of thought of him as a wanna-be Quentin Tarantino (whom he’s good friends with). He’s “like” Tarantino in many ways, just not nearly as good.

The “Grindhouse” movie experiment that Rodriguez did alongside Tarantino involved two separate movies – one written and directed by each of them – along with several trailers for fake movies, each of which was directed by friends of Rodriguez & Tarantino. One trailer (directed by Rodriguez) was for a fake movie called “Machete”, which supposedly starred Danny Trejo. Response to the fake trailer was so huge that a couple of years later, Rodriguez wrote and directed a full-length version of “Machete”, starring Danny Trejo.

I love when filmmakers have their own alternate universes like that. Where they weave characters in and out of all of the movies they make. Quentin Tarantino – my favorite movie maker of all time – does this in many unique ways. He hates product placement, so he has invented his own line of products; Red Apple cigarettes, Big Kahuna Burger fast food joints, etc. Characters are connected in unique ways in the off-camera Tarantino universe. For instance, Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction is the brother of Vic Vega...a/k/a Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs.

I say all this to give an example of how my brain works. I love this stuff!

When I made the “Machete” connection, I mentioned it on Facebook. No big deal…I just thought it was cool how Rodriguez connected one of my favorite movies to a movie my daughter enjoyed…movies that were made ten years apart and in completely different genres.

I had to explain the connection in much more depth to make it make sense to an online friend and another cyber pal commented, “Good grief, Miff. You’re a machine!”

When I’d first met one of my music-head friends we did the typical “geek dance” with one another. You see, folks like me learn pretty quickly that the average Joe has no interest in most of what we have stored between the ears. So we learn to keep it under wraps in most social settings. As my new buddy and I started realizing we could trust the other one enough to begin spewing our geek-hood, at one point he said, “Man…I used to try to take it easy around you…didn’t want to wear you out talking about this stuff. Now I don’t think it can even be done.”

Nope. I’m an unquenchable sponge. If I don’t already know it…I wanna know it. Teach me.

This is just who I am. No one will play Trivial Pursuit with me. I’m not even aware of everything I know. Sometimes I surprise myself with answers I can come up with by stringing together random information I somehow know. I don’t generally remember how I know stuff. I can just retain it.

Of course, I don’t retain any information pertaining to algebra or science or anything that could benefit me academically or professionally. Just obscure stuff I find really interesting.

Which brings me to my point…

I have a few buddies who are really good at fixing things. One of them installed a ceiling light/vent in our bathroom. Two have done some work on our cars. Others put sheetrock up in my basement. One fixed a few plumbing issues. I can’t do any of these things.

My walls are full of marks where I’ve tried to do various home repair/d├ęcor projects. I have installed a couple of light fixtures, but I’m quite certain I narrowly missed electrocution by just a hair’s breadth. Quite in fact, the first time I put up one of those lights, the screw I used to attach it to the ceiling was resting on one of the wires inside…and POP. After a day or so of use, the wire got hot, the insulation melted, and the screw touched the metal of the wiring.

Our car needed new wheel coverings recently, so I got some and thought I could surely handle such a simple project. They’re all four on, but I cracked one and broke one of the connector tabs off during installation.

I’ve eventually just accepted the fact that I’m pretty much Cliff Huxtable when it comes to home and car projects.

I have basic tools…but I don’t really use them much. I’m not the guy you go to when you need an obscure tool or gizmo. A buddy recently needed a two-wheeled dolly to move some kitchen appliances. I happened to have one of those. I was stoked because I’d never been able to loan anyone a tool before.

Never mind the fact that the tool was basically just something that allowed you to move heavy stuff easier. And that it was called a “dolly”.

What I’m getting at is that I have friends I can call when I need car work done. I have friends I can call when I have something wrong in the house. I have friends who can handle computer issues for me.

But, I’m not the guy you call for anything. Yeah, on one hand that’s nice….I certainly never have to worry about being interrupted during dinner or being awoken in the middle of the night to deal with an unexpected plumbing catastrophe at a friend’s house.

Sometimes it bugs me…I have people I can call for tasks I can’t do. But I can’t ever return the favor.

Do I have skills that other people can’t do? Sure, I do. I enjoy talking in front of huge crowds, making them laugh, coaxing a response from them; usually without a script or notes, and the bigger the crowd, the better. I’m good at hosting my little radio show. I enjoy interviewing musicians and authors and folks I find interesting, and think I do a pretty good job of it. I love writing. And, of course, I have that ridiculous amount of completely useless and mostly-pop-culture-related knowledge. Those other guys don’t have those.

But, really…when are those guys gonna need those services? I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ll need another couple of light/vent things installed in my bathroom before those dudes are gonna need to know the back story of the Machete character in “Spy Kids”.

I don’t get down on myself about not being handy anymore. I wish I was better at that stuff, but I’m simply not. And I’m not ashamed of being an unquenchable obscure pop culture knowledge sponge.

To thine own self be true, I like to say. I know who I am.

If you believe in a creator, then you probably believe that God created you with a specific purpose in mind and gave you certain traits, interests, and skills to fulfill that purpose. Even if you don’t believe in a creator, I’m sure you can still see the value in all of us being different and totally unique; how it would benefit us all as a whole for each individual to have their own “thing”.

But what’s my thing? I know what I like. And I know what I’m good at.

But, what do I have to contribute?

I mean, I feel like we all contribute something to the greater good by being our true selves and doing our own “thang”.

But what do you do when your true self isn’t something you can make a living at?

And how do I contribute when my “thang” doesn’t include skills that anyone really needs?


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