Sunday, February 26, 2006

Wooly Sid

Before I get started on a very important post about my personal grooming, if you came here for Lovehammer concert and CD reviews then just scroll down. Then come back and learn all about my beard. Then swing by the message board - it's the link over on the right that says "Leper House" - I got rid of the pop up ads and you don't have to register, either. Good times.

I'm not a hairy guy. On the Saffir-Simpson scale, I'd probably be a Category 2. I know Saffir-Simpson is for hurricanes, but I don't think Saffir would mind if I applied it to body hair. Saffir is the one that invented the scale and Simpson just added some crap about storm surge so that he could put his name on it, so I don't care what he thinks.
But I digress. I'm not nearly as manic or hairy as Robin Williams (a Cat 5), but when it comes to facial hair I can compete with the best. I tend to keep the face clean-shaven with a mere two blades instead of the five that Gillette would lead you to believe are necessary. However, every 8 years, I feel the need to grow a beard. My recent trip to the mountains both inspired and provided this opportunity, and I haven't used a razor in 30 days. At least not for shaving. And that's a very important point.

I usually go for the full beard, not one of those silly boy band or Johnny Depp beards where you make a little design or maze on your face. Besides being silly, that would also be entirely too much work - the point of growing a beard is to enjoy freedom from the daily chore of shaving. I considered life as a professional cyclist or female impersonator, but the leg shaving seemed like entirely too much work so I chose accounting. Regular bikini waxes are a good career move, but the leg shaving is optional. But I digress. All I'm really just trying to say is that I look more like Wooly Willy rather than K-Fed. With one exception..

This is the first beard where I have detected gray. In fact it would be hard to miss since it covers about 50% of my chinny chin chin and is an ever present reminder that I will be dead soon. Of course, there are products out there that I could use to "get the gray out," but even though one is called Just for Men I still think it's just still gay. So I'm considering going with the Chester Arthur look. For all you chicks out there that spent history class doodling your name as the Mrs. of your little high school crush, Chester Arthur was our 21st president (1881-1885) after Jimmy Garfield done got shot up. For many, I'm sure his name brings to mind important legislation such as the Pendleton Act or the Tariff Act of 1883, but I remember him as a key transitional executive in facial hair styling. You see, for the first eighty years or so, our chief executives were for the most part clean-shaven. Sure, Marty Van Buren and JQ (Adams) sported some heavy-duty sideburns, but never ventured beyond that. Then Ulysses Grant, being the Civil War badass that he was, reminded his fellow Republicans that he just kicked the South's ass and they could kiss his lily white ass if they thought he was going to shave just for a damn election, thus becoming our first fully bearded prez. Rutherford Hayes and Jimmy Garfield continued this dozen-year run of bearded leadership. However, while serving as VP for Jimmy Garfield, Chester Arthur came home rather lit from an evening out drinking mead and eating pot pies and passed out on the White House lawn. To teach him a lesson, Garfield had the secret service shave a patch of whiskers from his chin, but Arthur pretended nothing was amiss and sported his new style with pride through the remainder of his term and during his own presidency. Four years later, Grover Cleveland took office with merely a moustache in an attempt to reverse the trend. Benjamin Harrison brought the beard back to office in 1889, but when a sickly speechwriter named Hack coughed on him during a meeting, poor Ben went to bed with TB all over his beard and infected his innocent wife Caroline who died from the affliction while he was still in office. The American people freaked and re-elected Grover Cleveland in a landslide. Harrison went on to marry his wife's niece, which creeped a lot of people out, and we haven't had a bearded president since. But I digress.

Before anyone freaks out, Mrs. F'er's TB vaccination is current and she doesn't have any nieces, but I'm still in a quandary about this beard. So I asked myself, what would Jim Morrison do? Some people ask "What would Jesus do?" but in the words of Andy Prieboy, "God got his ass kicked the first time He came down here slumming." Now, normally I don't turn to Jim Morrison for direction in my life because it didn't turn out that great for him, but I just read an extremely cool interview with Jim's old bodyguard (the author is a Lovehammer and Leper Pop fan, so check it out). I'm not a big Doors fan, mainly because there was a Doors CD on the jukebox at the bar I used to hang out at and somebody always used to play The End which usually made me want to break my beer bottle on the bar and use its jagged edges to slice my veins open. I showed restraint as a courtesy to our dedicated barkeeps, but it left me with an undeserved distaste for the Doors. But in reading the interview I grew intrigued with insights it offered into Morrison trying to live as a regular guy while having to deal with all the crap around him. Way more insightful than that Val Kilmer movie. For example, the interview confirmed that Morrison alternately grew a beard and shaved it and quite possibly required the assistance of a professional barber in its removal, but since he died at the age of 27 I didn't get any insights on how to handle the gray.

Honestly, I get kind of bored with it after about a month. I'll spontaneously shave it off one day after deciding I look too much like Al Borland on Home Improvement. Or maybe I'll keep it this time and take a shot at hosting Family Feud. Between the Richard Dawson haircut and the Al Borland beard, I think I have what it takes.

Let's play the Feud!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Marty Casey & Lovehammers - CD Review by Moist Rub

Many of the reviews for the Marty Casey and Lovehammers cd were published shortly after the cd was released. I question the validity and the effort behind those reviews. It seems to me one must listen to a cd over and over and over and over, reflecting upon it in various moods, pretending it is the soundtrack to one’s life movie and imagining how it would change the plot, and inventing unique dance moves to the songs to get a true sense of the episode the band has provided to music history. Unlike those other hacks, I took my sweet time experiencing this cd, so I could provide a review that is engrained in my soul, rather than offering a translucent first impression overview of the material.

I don’t find first impressions, in general, very reliable. I usually make an indistinct first impression on people – horrible impressions at times. I find that this technique weeds out the contemptible folk that aren’t worth knowing me, and it also explains why I have only two friends. Accordingly, I don’t judge people or art or news or zoo animals or restaurants or hardcore facts based on fleeting first impressions. I’ll give them four or five subsequent impressions to prove their quality (about a hundred if they’re hot and/or rich). If I had reviewed the cd on the day it was released, when I had just eaten a rhubarb pie, I would have given it a horrible review since rhubarb makes my ears wilt, and I may have attributed that to the quality of this cd. As it turns out, wilted ears actually makes boy bands sound like zither orchestras. That knowledge may be useful to you someday.

Because most of the songs on this cd were available in prior recordings by the band, my first impression of was, “What the hell is this crap, I already know all these songs!” In fact, that is the review I submitted to Spin magazine. They sent it back to me smeared with used kitty litter (and I think it was used by something bigger than a house cat). Honestly, it did take me about a week of listening to the cd just to accept the changes they made to the old versions of the songs. I rejected them at first, just like my body rejected the butt cheek transplant I tried performing on myself, except this was not as painful or as bloody, nor did it affect my ability to sit on a toilet. Contrarily, listening to this cd makes sitting on the toilet very enjoyable. The acoustics are magnificent in there. I’ve never been so regular my whole life. Once I was able to overcome my preconceptions of these songs that were programmed into my brain, which involved some self-inflicted amnesia techniques, I was able to listen to them with a clear and bruised head.

Marty Casey and Lovehammers serves us, the gentle rockers, a sampler platter of what they’ve been about all these years while most of the country mistakenly ignored them, thanks to the weasel record companies not knowing what the public likes because they are too worried about selling acetonic apparitions rather than good music. Listening to this cd is like sampling a banquet hall’s entrees and appetizers when deciding where to have a wedding reception. I find this sampling exquisitely acceptable, garcon. I, Moist Rub, take thee, Lovehammers, to be my unlawfully amplified rock band, in sobriety and in drunk, for head banger, for ballad, for main set and for encore, in a club or in a concert hall, to rock and to roll until death do us part, at which time we will rock with Jimi and Janis and Duane and Bon and Randy and Bonzo and Elvis and Kurt and the rest.

Others have tried to categorize the Lovehammers as Neo-Grunge or some vapid term like that. That may be true, since I have no idea what Neo-Grunge means. Well, I understand that “neo” means “new” which would indicate that those people believe that the Lovehammers music is a new kind of Grunge, along with Nickelback and Puddle of Mud and others (from what I’ve read). But what does THAT mean? I don’t think they know, otherwise they would have coined a new term or applied an existing one instead of modifying an old one. The big difference I can tell is that, where Grunge was serious, despondent, reactionary and pessimistic, the Lovehammers remind us that rock and roll can be fun, while encompassing a larger range of emotions than Grunge did not do. Although, I enjoyed Grunge (and still do), it pissed me off that I was pissed off all the time. And that pissed me off. I thought I was pissed off during the nineties because my kids were babies, and I had no idea how to handle them. I still don’t know how to handle them, but I don’t let it bother me anymore, because I’ve grown emotionally, thanks, in part, to the Lovehammers. As it turns out, it was Grunge all along telling me to be pissed off. Angst can be a great diversion sometimes, especially when life is all rainbows and lollypops (and who wants that - certainly not Eddie Vedder). Eventually, you have to hop off the drudgery train and lick some roses. The Lovehammers use angst as a sauce, instead of a meat like Grunge did. Given this information, I guess Neo-Grunge means Grunge on Prozac, or maybe Rock Con Grunge Sauce. I think it was Dave Groehl who told Grunge to lighten up.

If any song on the cd is neo-grungish, it would be Casualty, the only new song. Initially, I thought it was a Nickelback cover, and I didn’t like it. After listening to it fifty-six times or so, I began to feel the Lovehammer vibe resonate to the surface. It may have been influenced by Nickelback, but Marty’s voice brings it to a different plane. This song has inspired me to make a difference in this world. From now on, I vow not to cut down any more rain forests, unless, of course, they hinder my real estate development projects.

The only other song that may fit into this nebulous neo-grunge category would be Clinic. Here is an example where mood comes into my review. Sometimes, I don’t want to listen to this song, because I may be feeling melancholy and vulnerable, like after a trip to the gynecologist. It hurts my feelings when they kick me out of there. On those days, this song scares me, especially Marty’s disturbed voicing of “coma”. Oooooh, somebody hold me. Other days, like when I just finished mowing the lawn and have inadvertently decapitated six bunnies with the mower, I want to crank up this song. Had I limited my review to my experience on gynecology day, I would not have given Clinic a second chance.

Call of Distress may have fit into the Neo-Grunge category if they had not modified it from its original recording. They “popped” it up, and I like it better that way. The song is about a suicide, which is a bad vibe. But the arrangement implies hope, or at least acceptance and contentment. Why does suicide have to be such a sad event? The Lovehammers tell us it doesn’t. This dichotomy works. If you’re going to bring everybody down by killing yourself, you may as well accompany it with some upbeat music. I especially like the emulation of sirens at the bridge. Everybody likes sirens.

The rest of the cd departs from this fascist neo-grunge label. It is chock full of variety, all within the rock realm, touching different parts of my brain. Songs like Hold On and The Riddle and Trees are up beat with important messages about love and life and loving life and living love and living to love and loving to live. Speaking of Trees, this song was inspired by Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, when he climbed the trees in Mirkwood to give the dwarves a sense of where they were in the forest. He was then molested by butterflies. If that’s not an allegory for finding one’s soul mate and fighting for him/her, I don’t know what is. The Tunnel and Eyes Can’t See crank it up a little to remind us that sometimes you need to knock down some walls with a driving guitar and pounding rhythm section to figure out what the hell is going on in life. Then they tender it up with Rain on the Brain and Clouds to give us a break to reflect on the important things in life, like irritating precipitation inside the skull and metaphorical free falling. What makes Lovehammers’ mellow songs stand up is that they are not pussified. They have substance and are not merely wishy-washy, empty lamentations of passion in an insipid attempt to get flood gates flowing. They have guts, and I respect that. I’m sure the record company encouraged them to pussify those songs. That is what happened to REO Speedwagon and Journey. They used to rock in the seventies until they discovered eunuch love songs sell, and they gave us crap like Can’t Fight This Feeling and Open Arms (sorry, Karen). That’s when their careers peaked and the record companies rejoiced. That’s also when I left their work at the record store.

And then there's Maude, I mean, Straight as an Arrow - the best song on the cd. Simply put, this song is an ass kicker. The phallic implications of this song are obvious. You can read about them in entirety in my next book, Oedipus Lovehammer. My favorite line is “kiss is like a handshake”, which is a blatant reference to the human male’s attitude that sex means nothing. Add to that the line “What about me, so what, so what” and we learn how the Lovehammers feel about the women they’ve known who questioned their own lack of orgasms with the Lovehammers responding accordingly, “so what”. Not all of us men feel that way, ladies. Some of us would love to help you out with your orgasms, but I really don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to that, and frankly, I’m a little tired.

The cd successfully conveys how versatile the Lovehammers are. Sure, there are songs missing I had hoped they would include. But, like the tortuous water slide that is one of their shows, the cd provides the same emotional and rockin’ contortions. Having said that, there is one point of contention I must bring up. I understand that Epic tried to get LH to dumb down some songs to make them more pop friendly. I don’t mind that. Even with Epic’s influence, the Lovehammers were able to rock through unscathed. I’ve come to accept both versions of each duplicated song, and enjoy them both. But, the producers went over the line in one particular manipulation on Hold On, which didn’t destroy the song, luckily. They employed a pitch corrector to modify Marty’s voice in the first verse, when repeating “in one year”. For those of you not familiar with the pitch corrector, it is that effect Cher used in Life after Love, or whatever that horrible song was called, where it makes the voice sound computerized if employed to a maximum level. This effect was quite popular a few years ago. Cher’s producers were pretty liberal with the use of the pitch corrector, probably since they were already using it to fix her voice, in general. It is a cheap, boneheaded, parlor trick used by Epic to attract the lowest common denominators who wallow in pop fizz. I doubt that one instance of it is enough to attract the attention of pop radio lemmings, so why use it at all?

Marty Casey and Lovehammers cd cranks, consoles, inspires, caresses, harasses, cajoles, pokes, provokes, soothes and, most importantly, rocks. It is this flexibility that should allow the Lovehammers to remain in the public ear for years to come, while successfully overcoming the delusive Neo-Grunge label that has been impaled upon them. I don’t know if they’ll be able to achieve a unique term for their music, but what is wrong with plain old rock ‘n roll? I do know that in my own life’s movie, this cd has changed the plot dramatically. OK, not dramatically. OK, not at all, but it has given it a fabulous new soundtrack to aggrandize my major life events, like when I turn over my couch cushions to redecorate my living room. Look for that in a theater near you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lovehammers at Joe's, Feb 2, 2006. Recap by Moist Rub

I spent most of my workday the other Thursday checking my personal email box for a message from StivOO with the hopes of reading something like, “We’re blowing off Improv class tonight, I got us tickets to the show.” These were pretty high hopes, as StivOO has never been known to blow off his responsibilities. In college, he had the ability to attend class, actually do AND hand in his homework and study on his way to straight A’s, all the while being shitfaced with the best of them. The “best of them” being me, Sid and Captain Break-it, among others. I, on the other hand, had a reputation of being somewhat of a slacker. Classes, for me, were just somewhere to go to find some peace and quiet to work off a hangover. I wasn’t able to achieve the academic/drunken Karma that StivOO was able to do. The chances of him actually sending me a “blow off” email were slim, but since I was busy blowing off work, I had nothing better to do than check my email frequently.

The email never came, so I loaded up my shrunken Bill Murray head and made my way to class. Class proceeded as usual, but I could tell by the way StivOO spent the first half of it trying to figure out how to use his wife’s cell phone that he was a bit distracted. Eventually, after he had asked everybody in class what they thought his wife’s favorite color is and what bra size she wears (nobody in the class knows her), he figured out her voice mail password. There was a message from his brother that he had dropped off some Lovehammers tickets for us at the Second City front desk. Reminiscent of Dewey Finn at the end of his first day of substitute teaching in School of Rock, StivOO bolted out of Improv class as if the bell had just rung, telling us all he’d see us on the flip flop. I grabbed his coat and mine and politely excused myself to our instructor. She told me to get the hell out of there.

Joe’s is a mere two-minute cab ride down the street from The Second City, so we were able to get there in time to miss the first four songs.

The Lovehammers are notorious for starting out slow and boring, so we didn’t miss much. That is a lie, of course. I’m just trying to make myself feel better about it. Luckily, we got there in time to see the Lovehammers do their 90-minute xylophonic Peter, Paul and Mary medley. I fear that with their newfound fame, they may never perform it again. At the same time, I feel lucky to have seen it one last time.

Not surprisingly, the Lovehammers rocked the snot out of that place. StivOO and I had to stand in the back, because the place was packed to the rafters. And because every time we tried moving up, the mean Hammerheads pushed us down and kicked us in the head. As a favor to me, Marty talked the band into playing I'm Only Happy When It Rains by Garbage. Either that or he saw me standing in the back sweating my bag off and, from the looks of me, he thought it was raining outside which reminded him that they knew that song. (It was a little hot

inside Joe’s, and I’m an old lard ass.) For me, that was the highlight of the show, since that is my favorite cover they perform. They also played Here Comes the Rain Again, Rain (by Dragon), The Rain Song, Fool in the Rain, Purple Rain, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Fire and Rain, Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Rainy Days and Mondays, Love Reign O’er Me, Rain Rain Go Away, Singing in the Rain, Rain It Black and Big Booty Hoes by Notorious B.I.G. It was a fabulous “rain” set.

They also played their standard songs off the new album, but let loose a little bit, since they were at Joe’s instead of warming up OBINXS fans and JDidiots. As expected, Marty took a tour of the ceiling to get a better view of the crowd. He baptized a few of us with his sweat as he hung by his legs from the rafters. Those people who received the sacrament were granted a continuous loop of the song Trees playing in their head until the day they die. And those standing next to those people received a voucher for a free crotch rub from one of the roadies.

As the main set diminished, StivOO suggested we try to get into the VIP section for the encore. The bouncer had other ideas. For some reason, he did not believe StivOO was the brother of the lead singer, so he pushed StivOO down the stairs. Even with the confirmation from Brandon, Jessica Robinson’s (from RockStar:INXS) husband, who was exiting when we were attempting to enter, he could not get in. So the bouncer pushed him down the stairs, again. He suggested StivOO check at the front counter to see if he was on “the list”. The bouncer looked at me and said, “Good evening, Mr. Rub,” and he let me in after I agreed to have dinner with him and his family next Sunday. We’re having a rib roast.

StivOO made his way to the front counter only to find that his name was nowhere near “the list”. Note to my brothers: if you ever become rock stars, put my damn name on any list for any show you do anywhere, just in case I show up. With Brandon’s help, and after spending about thirty minutes in Joe’s special pillow room with the bar manager, StivOO was given access to the VIP section. His hair was a little messed up and his glasses were crooked.

I waited for StivOO with the bouncer. He wanted to hear all about the magic of blogging. When we got upstairs, StivOO bee-lined to Jessica, who seemed genuinely happy to see him. And why wouldn’t she, he’s a great guy. It’s not his fault his rock star brother doesn’t want him at his shows. After standing there like a dumbshit watching StivOO and Jessica talk for about ten minutes, without StivOO introducing me (I think he thought the pillow room was my fault), I introduced myself to Jessica. She was very gracious and friendly. And she is much cuter in person than she is on that nasty television. She touched my left boob. We talked for a good twenty minutes. StivOO and I gave Jessica and Brandon parenting advice, although Jessica is not quite ready for a family. Brandon is, or maybe he’s just horny. Or both. Jessica made me promise that I’ll come out to one of her band’s shows (Covergurl). She agreed to send a limo for me. I agreed to pretend like we never met and to bring some young people with me, because potential record companies don’t like seeing codgers at their shows unless they’re dads of the real fans. That seems fair.

The Lovehammers finally finished up and made their way to their special room in the VIP section. Bobby tweaked my nipple. Yes, my left nipple, on the same boob Jessica touched. It was quite a night for my left breast. I haven’t washed it since (or prior to then, for that matter). StivOO scolded Bob for starting on time and causing us to miss the first four songs. In the past, the Lovehammers always started late. Bob claimed that they are no longer in charge and have to do what they’re told. So, I told him to get me a beer. I’m still waiting for it.

Marty turned invisible and slipped by us into the magic room. He never came out. Fearing that he was dead, and it probably was our fault, we returned to the main floor and tormented ourselves with the braying, heinous rap music that was playing loudly throughout Joe’s, while we talked to our friends Karen and Lisa. They eventually got bored with us and started doing that, “Okayyyyyy, it was nice to see you….” stuff, but I hadn’t yet finished my story of my recent pancreatic discomfort, and StivOO had just started spinning things on his elbow. They went to buy us beers and never came back.

Upon leaving, we met up with StivOO’s eldest brother, John, who was outside parking cars. He instructed us to go around the back to the tour bus and talk with Marty. Since he’s the oldest brother, we had to do what he said, even though we really wanted to go grab some soup.

As we approached the bus, we saw Marty surrounded by a few well wishers. Before we could interfere with his fans, StivOO’s aunt and cousin intercepted us. I stood there and watched them talk for a while. And then it happened. Out of the blue, who do you think grabbed my attention? That’s right, Heather Locklear, Pamela Anderson and Brooke Burke. They smothered me with kisses and hugs and apologies (just from Brooke for the way she had her bodyguards mutilate me out in LA). As it turns out, they can actually read and are big fans of Leper Pop. As they were rubbing parts of themselves on me, I could hear the faint sound of somebody say, “I’m one of the Snark girls” to StivOO’s aunt. I heard sounds of angelic horns as a white light blinded me. I threw the three hussies to the ground and slicked back my hair with some of their spit I scraped from my face. I approached the young woman that made the remark. I said, “Pleased to meet me, I am Moist Rub,” as I extended my hand. Then the girl screamed, “BLASPHEMER!” and jabbed me in the gut with her crutch and cracked me on the head with her elbow. After I showed her my ID, fingerprints and credit card, she believed me. So, we restarted the introduction, which was accompanied by screams of joy and hugs abound. That young lady was none other than Fabiansparkle. She now holds my Moist Rub introductory cherry, as I had never introduced myself as Moist Rub to anybody before. It was strange referring to myself by that name. But she hugged me and made me feel safe.

Fabiansparkle had a few Snark friends with her, and we had a very nice conversation as she showed me some pictures of her with INXS back in the eighties. I never realized Tim Farriss had such hair issues back then. Maybe it was because I was preoccupied measuring my own mullet at the time. Don’t worry, Fabian, I won’t bring up those huge eighties glasses and that chromatic threatening long sweater you were wearing in that one picture.

I learned something very important in my brief encounter with the Snark Girls. Something that will help remind me that, no matter how crazy and horrible the world can be at times, life is all good. And that is because Snark Girls like to rock and are cool, fun chicks. It’s one of those experiences I wish I could share with everybody I know, and I hope my loved ones can have the same opportunity someday.

Like I said, we had a nice, heart-felt chat, albeit shorter than expected. As we shared our thoughts, hopes and dreams, StivOO and I were accosted by a brazen hand on each of our shoulders, as we heard a rock star voice singing, “Alan, what has happened to Alan…”. It was Marty, of course. This is how StivOO and I had instructed Marty to approach us in public – singing our hit single, Alan. One time, at Cannes, he failed to do so while we were swapping gravy recipes with Roger Ebert. Marty is still ruing that day. He is a smart boy and has learned from that mistake.

I let Marty catch up with StivOO while I went back to being dazzled by the Snark girls. Before too long, Marty demanded, “Let’s go on the bus”. So, StivOO and I went on the bus. Although, I wouldn’t jump off a cliff if Marty told me to, or play chicken with him, I will accept his invitation to go on a tour bus. I excused myself from the lovely and boobalicious Snark girls, dreaming of the day we can meet again, and I got on the bus.

The tour bus was more than I imagined it ever could be. As I walked up the stairs, I could hear the sweet sounds of Christopher Cross playing at a conservative level in the background. I was met by a group of rock and roll enthusiasts, including Jessica and her husband, who were sitting around on the bus having a civilized discussion about education fiscal issues. They welcomed StivOO and me into their conversation. Marty disappeared into the back of the bus. While we waited for his return, we enjoyed some lemonade and fresh baked cookies made by one of the roadies. Before too long, Marty returned shouting, “It’s Parcheesi time!” After our third game, of which I won one, and took second in another, I was pretty wiped out. I can’t imagine how those boys can manage this kind of partying every night. Marty pleaded with me to stay for the rest of the Parcheesi tournament. I declined. The entire group understood and sang For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow to me. I bowed to them all and exited the bus.

What a night. I chose to walk back to The Second City to pick up my car, instead of taking a cab. It was more like drifting in a dream than walking, as I reflected on the events of that night. As if brought about by the Lovehammers’ “rain” set, it began to drizzle, and I felt reborn as I floated to my car nestled safely in the parking garage. Those Lovehammers. What a show. What a group of Snark girls. What a bus. What a challenging Parcheesi match. What a crock of shit, fourteen dollars for parking!?!?! Reverie time is over, back to life in the real world.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Winter Wonder-Sid, Part II

From the title of the post you will see that this is Part II. If you missed Part I, just scroll down and read that first. Or don't. But don't come crying to me when you get all confused half way through this post when I pull the duck-billed platypus out of my pants...

I didn’t find any fried cheese sticks at the breakfast buffet, so I settled for some oatmeal and an elk McMuffin. I suited up for the day, buttoned the flap on my longjohns and followed Mrs. F’er to the foot of the bunny slope where we waited for our instructor, who was easy to spot in his required blue jacket and soul patch. I thought it might be just a private lesson for the F’ers but we were joined by Young Nick. Many travelers enjoy the opportunity to meet interesting people from all over the world while on vacation, so I decided to put aside my anti-social side and see what Nick’s story was. Turns out that he was from a faraway place called Fort Worth, Texas and was even on the same flight as us the day before. Little did he know how close he was to being eaten in the tragic plane crash that never happened.

So we started the lesson and did drills with mystical far eastern names like “The Falling Leaf,” which might imply some sort of meditative state that allows one to be one with the board. However, it was more a method for me to demonstrate my young grasshopper ability to alternatively fall violently on my face and my ass and learn firsthand why helmets are recommended for snowboarding. All while Young Nick applied his skateboard skills and gracefully “falling leafed” down the slope, picking up young lasses along the way. Mrs. F’er, who was a natural on skis, struggled with the new concepts only to be saved by Soul Patch Scott the instructor, who patiently took her by the hands and gracefully led her in a fluid ice dance down the slope which was freshly groomed by my chin.

We eventually achieved a level of competence for which Soul Patch Scott determined would allow us to take the chair lift to the green runs with a minimal risk of required medical attention. Anyone that has learned to ski or ride will know that one of the more intimidating exercises as a beginner is getting off the chair lift. It’s not exactly like a cab that stops at your destination and you step off onto the curb. It’s more as if the cab were just to slow down a bit and have you jump out while trying to simultaneously get your wallet back in your pocket or purse. With a piece of plywood stapled to one of your shoes. It’s not too bad – when starting out you just try to keep your balance long enough to clear the ramp down from the lift and then roll out of the way when you fall down. If you make it farther than your wife, she will blame you for pushing her or cutting her off. If she makes it farther, then it’s because she pushed you or cut you off. Fortunately, it wasn’t crowded and there were no lift lines, so we were able to get our own chairs and avoid divorce court until we better mastered those skills. But I digress.

This part of the lesson involved more falling leaf stuff, except on a steeper slope as 4 year-olds blow by on skis while laughing at you. All while Young Nick stopped to build his own terrain park to practice on while we caught up.

I was soaked in sweat and breathing like an obscene caller after spending three hours lifting my entire body weight off the ground and chasing down Young Nick, when Soul Patch Scott mercifully announced it was time for lunch. I dragged my ass to the cafeteria and sat in quiet reflection wondering if golf was really as bad as I made it out to be. Mrs. F’er, recognizing the importance of food and drink, forced us to eat despite the feeling that my body might reject anything other than euthanasia. As soon as I finished my last bite and was starting to feel a little better, it was time for Part Deux of our session.

This time we took the high speed quad lift a little further up the mountain, which would provide the opportunity for more face plants per run on the way down. Actually, we started to get the hang of it and spent the afternoon transitioning from the falling leaf pattern to linking our turns and not looking like winter wonderland stunt doubles. However, the longer runs were taking their toll and I found myself purposefully crashing into snow banks at various points just to rest my fatigued muscles. I eventually slid into the base area, landing at Soul Patch Scott’s feet, ready to beg for mercy when he announced the end of our lesson. I hugged his leg and felt a tear run down my cheek…

We walked the quarter mile back to the inn and I used my remaining energy to extract my feet from the snowboard boots which was on par with trying to get the plastic off a new CD. I donned my swimsuit, not for the swimwear competition, but for the hot tub. Luckily we had the hot tub to ourselves that day since I was surely making pornographic noises as the jets hit each seized muscle. I eventually withdrew from the hot tub and ventured back to the room where Mrs. F’er led a stretching session that proved me limber as tree trunk. But I played along and after a shower, I felt ready to attempt a trip to dinner.

I shuffled to the town shuttle and ended up at Donita’s for some Mexican food. The cheddar jalapeno soup was stellar, the burrito was filling, and I highly recommend the spinach enchiladas in which Mrs. F’er partook. Shortly thereafter, I overdosed on Advil and fell unconscious.

Next morning I woke up paralyzed with pain. I felt like I had been run over my a Sherman tank and then hogtied and placed on some train tracks by Snidely Whiplash. The bastard. The Advil had worn off and I demanded a morphine drip. Mrs. F’er denied my request and brought me more Advil and insisted I stretch again. I began my ascent to the floor and approximately 30 minutes later I was ready to begin. It wasn’t stretching as much as it was learning to regain a semblance of motor skills. She doubted my ability to continue, but after a shower I was ready to give it a shot. We got a late start and took a leisurely lunch, but we spent most of the day on the slopes and actually made some progress. I wasn’t exactly ready for the Olympic snowboard team, but the crashes were less severe and not as painful. Except for the last run of the day when I landed so hard I swear at least four inches of my large intestine shot out my ass and would need to be repacked. But it did reinforce that whole downhill edge lesson pretty well.

After more obscenely gratifying non-sexual hot tub action, some stretching and a shower it was pizza time. We made our way to the Secret Stash and found one of the coolest restaurants I’ve been to in a long time. Lots couches, loveseats, and cushions for floor seating which looked cool but from which I might not have been able to get up from after the meal. Fortunately we were seated at a standard table that night and met our server Melanie when she sat down with us, asked us excitedly how we’ve been, wanted to know what we did that day, and instantly became our best friend forever. Even though she seemed like she was developing a character for SNL, we loved her and she gave us some killer recommendations, including the stuffed mushrooms which are served out of the oven in a dish so hot it will burn you and give you a scar. Which we know because she showed us hers. Nonetheless, I burned my finger, too. Great pizza – Melanie and the F’ers both recommend “Me n’ My Uncle’s Pie” with chipotle sauce, cheddar, chicken, black beans, corn and red peppers. Be forewarned – the pizzas are all hand-tossed and made to order so they can take a while, but in another stroke of good fortune, a couple and their child were seated next to us shortly after we ordered. Now Sid doesn’t like kids too much, but their child wasn’t a kid as much as he was a pirate. Wearing his Buzz Lightyear pajamas, a black bandana on his head, and an eye patch, he was an entertaining, yet well-behaved little pirate, and was rewarded with some pirate dipping sauce from Melanie for his cheese bread. Soon after finishing dinner, I overdosed on Advil again and lost consciousness.

Wednesday, I woke up just as sore and was encouraged by Mrs. F’er to take a day off. A day off? On vacation? What is she, nuts? There was a mountain out there waiting to be conquered. You think Admiral Byrd took a day off as he marched to the South Pole? Hell, no, and neither would I. She reminded me that I really wasn’t Admiral Byrd, so we compromised and spent the morning doing a few runs to stay loose and practice some more turns. Besides, a storm was brewing and I wanted to be well-rested for the fresh powder on Thursday. That afternoon we went to town for lunch at Pitas in Paradise (“big on taste, little on seating”) so Mrs. F’er could get her coveted falafel and while I munched on a gyro. We stopped by the youth hostel to do a load of laundry then mosied back for our hot tub ritual. Dinner that night at the Last Steep was enjoyable despite the group of generic businessmen at the adjacent table who were so important that they spent most of the meal on their cell phones and checking email on their Blackberries. If the town could only jam the signals for all that stuff, it would be the perfect destination.

We awoke Thursday to mounds of fresh powder – “Have you any idea of what the street value of this mountain is?” This was a good thing as it greatly softened the impact of my crashes. It was like going from that fine grit they call toilet paper at work to a fresh roll of Angel Soft. This did wonders for my confidence and I was soon carving turns like someone that carves turns really good, chasing Mrs. F’er down the steepest of green runs. It was a good day. Except for that hour when the winds kicked up and created some near whiteout conditions at the top of the Painter Boy lift.
Mrs. F’er cursed me for suggesting that one last run before lunch prior to quickly disappearing down the slope. I decided to ride out the storm, and befriended a Siberian girl who showed me how to build a shelter from the worsening conditions. We sat safely in our makeshift camp and I shared the slice of pumpkin bread I had stashed in my pocket at breakfast. We spoke the international language of love before the skies cleared and we went our separate ways. Or that might have been a delusion resulting from a crash caused by the snowblindness.

We finished off dinner that night at a nice Italian joint called Marchitelli's, but Mrs. F’er cringed when I suggested the bread pudding for dessert. I developed a liking for bread pudding during my stints in New Orleans and had tried to re-create the experience back home. It wasn’t pretty. I appealed to her sense of adventure and assured her that they could do a much better job than I. She agreed, they delivered, and there was much rejoicing.

By Friday we were exhausted but spent more than half the day showing off our newfound skills to the batch of newbies that had arrived in town that day. We watched knowingly as the new students went down hard, and then crashed ourselves since we weren’t paying attention. Reluctantly we turned in our equipment and were off to Pitas in Paradise for a late lunch. In town we noticed that the main street was shut down – apparently the townfolk build a giant ski jump in the middle of the street downtown each year for the Winter Carnival. They seem to have a lot of wacky ideas there, but instead of laughing them off they actually implement them. Sadly, we didn’t get to stick around to see the exhibition the next day, but we did get back to the Secret Stash that night to celebrate the greatness of that little town.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Winter Wonder-Sid

I know I said I would review Skating with Celebrities in my next post, but I lied. Apparently I’m not the only one that got sucked into that show and I was reassured it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I still feel shame, but at least I realize I don’t have to complete my penance. At least as long as I stop having dirty thoughts about Jillian Barberie. Let's all keep dear Jillian in our prayers as she struggles with those bruised ribs.

If you’ve been visiting the Leper House Message Board (and you really should), you might have noticed that the F’ers recently took a well-deserved vacation. After I spent a week last year tumbling awkwardly down the snow strewn slopes of Taos with skis twisting and levering my limbs into positions normally reserved for experienced contortionists, Mrs F’er decided that it wasn’t sufficiently challenging and rather than build upon the limited skill set I managed last year she decided that snowboarding would be a bitchin’ idea.

Why did she decide this? I have a theory. First, her best friend used to be a snowboarder. Right… used to be. As far as I can discern she now spends free time remodeling her home, scrapbooking, knitting and reproducing. Second, the guys she works with at the bike shop apparently spend all their free time in the half pipe throwing down triple lindys and inverted aerials on their bicycles or snowboards, depending on the season and the amount of leftover money after stocking up on beer, Red Bull, and nachos. She forgets that these motherfuckers were still in diapers when I was already off at college learning to appreciate the subtle nuances of quarter beer night.

On the other hand, I’d rather repeatedly slam my fingers in the car door rather than spend a week chasing a golf ball across an overpriced resort with a bunch of generic businessmen, so I got out the ski pants and made sure they still fit. They were a little snug, but it wouldn’t be a problem if I just cut back on deep fried cheese sticks at breakfast for a couple weeks.

Taos is a cool, unpretentious place but is still old school when it comes to their mountain and bans those punk-ass snowboarders. So I booked a trip to Crested Butte, one of the more remote resorts in Colorado. Since I’m anti-social and base my life around not being seen and minimizing contact with the outside world, it has hence earned my business. Vail, Aspen and Tahoe can kiss my snowy white ass.

As our flight progressed, the dusty, dry terrain of Texas yielded to the mountainous Rockies and I began eyeing other passengers, trying to determine who I would eat first in the event of a crash while waiting for rescuers. That would prove to be a needless exercise as we soon landed safely in Gunnison, Colorado, whose airport is about one quarter the size of my local Wal-Mart SuperCenter. A heavily bearded guy named Woody in a flannel shirt and down vest unloads the baggage, arranges ground transportation, de-ices the departing aircraft, cleans the toilets, makes the coffee, runs security, and still has time for several games of solitaire on the airport computer.

I carefully avoided eye contact with the other two couples as we boarded our shuttle and began the 45 minute ride to Mt. Crested Butte. By the time we arrived, the snow was coming down pretty good and I perused the landscape for the location of the nearest emergency clinic. Meanwhile, I had to catch up to Mrs. F’er who was already half way to the rental shop to get our equipment so we could get an early start the next day.

At the rental shop, I filled out a rental form which included a waiver that released them from liability in the likely event that I seriously injure myself trying to get back down to the bottom of a snowy mountain while tightly bound to one of their sleek, waxed boards. I also had to certify my age, which they politely overlooked seeing that I exceeded the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recommended age by approximately 47 years. To prevent a concussion from prematurely, yet mercifully, ending our activities, Mrs. F’er added a couple helmets to the tab. This added to my anxiety as she didn’t require us to wear the brain buckets last year.

I would find out later that before we left for Colorado, her buddy Gabe at the bike shop gave her the following advice:
"Wear a helmet and don't die."

Next stop was the ski school where they promised that I’d be on my way to landing my own triple lindys, but had me sign a waiver similar to the rental shop’s just in case I had some sort of Nordic learning disability.

With those details handled, we reviewed the chow house selections and decided on some Thai food. We hopped the free shuttle to town 3 miles away and walked around town which was refreshingly devoid of Fortune 500 companies and strip malls. Before dinner, Mrs. F’er bought a pair of snow boots from a girl and her dog at a small shop. The girl was extremely helpful, but the dog appeared rather disinterested. She also gave a thumbs up to our Thai food decision and we made tracks to the Ginger CafĂ©.

We didn’t have reservations (and didn’t know we needed them), but were early enough to get one of the seven or eight tables in the joint. We both dig Thai food, but I’m allergic to peanuts and, though a mild allergy, it still freaks out Mrs. F’er to the point that she thinks I will swell up and die if I even get a glimpse of Mr. Peanut. Little does she know that in Leper House they used to do immunology research by attempting to sneak peanuts into my food just to watch me puke. But I digress. Our server didn’t seem to have a good working knowledge of the menu, but assured us she would try to have them keep any peanuts to a minimum. Despite the concern, it turned out to be some the best Thai food we’ve ever had and I didn’t puke, swell or die.

But that also meant I didn’t have an excuse to avoid a snowy demise the next day…

(to be continued)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Salon de la Moist Rub

I never had a Barbie Head when growing up. My sisters had a Barbie Head. They used to play with it. If you consider brushing its hair and putting make up on it “playing”, then they played with it. I didn’t consider that “playing”. It seemed more like work, which is why I never wanted one. Although, I did want a jackhammer, and some consider using one of those as work, which I guess it is if you’re using it to accomplish something. I wanted one so I could break stuff, like my sisters’ Barbie Head.

As it turns out, they weren’t really playing with the Barbie Head. They were in training. Training to be full fledged, self-grooming women. And, through this training, they became not only self-grooming. They are able to groom others, as well. I’ve further come to learn that most women have this amazing, community grooming ability. Ex-Mrs. Rub can do it, too. I, on the other hand, having spent my youth dreaming of jackhammer demolitions, do not have that ability. Or, I didn’t used to. That Barbie Head training would have come in handy nowadays, now that I’m a father of a daughter.

Recently, my daughter has adopted a rad new hairstyle called, “Knot-Ridden Get Dad In Trouble Mess”. She never used to have problems with knots. Or maybe she had, but I never paid attention. In the past, if she had a knot here and there, I would brush her hair in a way so that the outside strands covered the knots, and it looked smooth until she actually moved. Hence, the iron lung I bought and made her go to school in on the problem days. This strategy worked fine until, I guess, it got out of hand, as determined by ex-Mrs. Rub.

This is actually fun for them, until they expect a guy to do it.

Somehow, it became my fault that my daughter’s hair had become a knot farm. Although I swear she’s come to my house after a few days at ex-Mrs. Rub’s home with a rat’s nest on her head. After I took the rat’s nest off her head, I noticed thousands of knots in her hair. Not being able to prove it (and I didn’t even question why my daughter was wearing a rat’s nest), I chose not to even bring up the argument with ex-Mrs. Rub.

She had the gall to question my daughter-grooming ability. My retort was clear. I never had a Barbie Head, nor have I ever had long hair (relatively), nor have I ever, personally, had a knot in my hair. I did get gum stuck in my hair in seventh grade during a pep rally, once. I couldn’t get it out with my comb, so I chose to rip out the entire clump from my skull. The bleeding stopped by seventh period. I brought that up to confuse ex-Mrs. Rub, but it didn’t work. My diversionary tactics haven’t worked since the day after our honeymoon. Still, they make arguing more fun (for me, at least). My point was, how the hell would I know how to get a knot out of my hair, let alone, my daughter’s hair? She’s seen my daughter’s Barbie Head. It’s bald. It’s bald because one day my daughter was crying because she had trouble brushing the ratty fake hair on the Barbie Head, so I shaved it. That probably wasn’t the optimal solution to the problem, and it didn’t stop my daughter from crying, but it was a solution. That Barbie Head hasn’t had a knot since. It all worked out. She and I make fun of the bald Barbie Head sometimes, and it’s a wonderful father/daughter bonding experience.

My defense was stricken from the record and overruled by the emotional agony ex-Mrs. Rub endured while extricating the knots from my daughter’s head. She claimed that she was brought to tears with the sight of bales of my daughter’s hair being meshed in the comb, as if she was being plucked to death. I did some research on this. You can’t kill somebody by plucking them unless you do it all at once and pull at least 39.4 percent of the skin with it. Ex-Mrs. Rub did not use the global pluck technique, so I considered her testimony immaterial. That made no difference to ex-Mrs Rub.

I was losing the argument. It’s hard to beat an emotional opponent when all I have are bullets made out of logic and responsibility avoidance. I had one more bomb in my arsenal. I proposed that maybe, just maybe, our daughter was not mature enough to take care of such long hair by herself. Ex-Mrs. Rub agreed, and before she could get her “but” out there, I suggested we cut my daughter’s hair short until she learns to knot-proof it herself. Or, at least until the Barbie Head grows her fake hair back so my daughter can practice. Then, the “but” came out. Ex-Mrs. Rub said something about me being lazy and not willing to sacrifice some effort to keep my daughter’s hair the way she likes it. I’m not sure of her exact words. There was a game on. Then, I may have accused her of not being a good enough mom to teach our daughter how to self-groom. OK, I’m not an idiot, I didn’t actually say that, but the thought did cross my mind. Not the part of her being a bad mom - she’s a wonderful mom. It was just the part about her not having taught our daughter the self-grooming. It’s only fair since I have taught our son everything he has to know about being a guy, which is nothing since he’s a guy. I was going to say it, but I couldn’t think of a way to phrase it without getting a brush jammed in a part of my body that brushes usually don’t go.

Finally, I succumbed to the pressure and agreed to make more of an effort to the follicle fostering of our daughter. After giving my daughter a bath, (a bath that rendered her hair knotless, I’ll have you know) I asked her to get her pajamas on and report to me for some beauty parlor time. Somewhere between her bedroom and the family room and during the three minutes, twenty-six seconds it took her to don her pj’s, no less than forty-five hundred knots infiltrated her hair.

Immediately, I wondered how my daughter would look with a Dorothy Hamill haircut.
No, not too good. Not even back in the seventies. So I armed myself with a brush, a fine-toothed comb and a fifty-five gallon drum of that Knot-Be-Gone fluid, which should be called, Knot-Be-Wet-But-Still-In-Your-Daughter’s-Hair. The stuff doesn’t work. I attacked the knots with the brush. The brush was able to smooth out the top layer of her hair, which almost tricked me, but I was now too wise in the ways of tuft teasing. I looked underneath the calm sea of hair to find the looming tumbleweed graveyard. So, I pumped some more knot-buster sauce and went after it with the comb. After I traumatized my daughter with whiplash from the massive comb stroke being thwarted by the knots, I considered that maybe going after all of the knots at once was not the best approach.

I began carefully taking each knot at a time. Some of them consisted of only two or three strands of hair. Before I knew it, I was half finished. Thinking that was better than I usually did, I almost sent her to bed to let her mother figure out the rest in a couple of days. But, I carried on, and finished the job. Sure, I ripped a few strands out of my daughter’s head, eliciting shrieks of pain. But, I didn’t let that bother me. I don’t know what ex-Mrs. Rub’s issue was with seeing the amputated hair in the comb. Those are tokens of learning. Me learning how to de-knot, and my daughter learning that she needs to figure this task out herself so that I don’t resort back to my clump yanking gum extracting technique of my youth on her.

I now consider myself pretty good at grooming my daughter’s hair. Pretty good in relation to other non-gay fathers, that is. I have long ago conquered the ponytail, braid, bun and beehive. I still can’t compete with the Barbie Head trained women of the world. That doesn’t bother me, since I have other mountains to eventually climb being the father of a daughter. Mountains such as puberty and the “monthly visitor” I can see coming over the horizon toward our house. I wonder if Mattel has a Barbie part to help me out with that.