Thursday, January 31, 2008

The International Sand Registry

Just in time for Valentine’s Day and all of the other made up holidays and the non-made up ones, like Elephant Appreciation Day (Sept 22) that are sure to follow, and then follow again year after glorious gift buying year. Leper Pop imperiously announces our next ground breaking endeavor:

The International Sand Registry

You may already be familiar with the International Star Registry, where unsuspecting consumers are duped into paying hard earned cash for some pipe dream of immortality by having a star named after them. Our revolutionary International Sand Registry is similar to that, only loads better.

When you give the gift of sand grain naming, I will personally pick a grain of sand from the pile of sand left over from where my pool used to be, digitally photograph it and post it on the Internet for the world to see and enjoy. The loved one who is lucky enough to know you and receive such a wonderful gift can choose to name the grain of sand after xeself or make up a new name for it, which will also be posted on the Internet for the world to see. It is very important that the world sees. I don’t have to tell YOU that.

While having a star named after you seems like a romantic and momentous honor, there are some drawbacks to it that only naming a piece of sand instead can overcome. The Star Registry people claim that they will provide you coordinates to your star so you can view it with a telescope. Have you ever tried finding a specific star with a telescope? I have, and it sucks. The thing shakes all over the place. You move it a hair and you end up over shooting your star by a billion light years. When you try to focus in on the star you accidentally bump the telescope, sending it off another billion light years in some other direction. At best, you end up looking at some blurry piece of light that you hope is your star, but you are never sure it is yours. It’s not like they put a giant sign on it. And then your neck starts hurting and you just want to sit down. Do you even own a telescope? Yeah, maybe it’s up in the attic. Right.

Also, they don’t even let you pick which star you want. When I tried registering a star in my name, I asked them if I could have the Sun.
Moist Rubshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Moist Rubshine in my eyes can make me cry
Moist Rubshine on the water looks so lovely
Moist Rubshine almost always makes me high

They wouldn’t give it to me, even after I sang them the song. Apparently, Russia has already made a claim for it, just like they are doing with the North Pole for when the ice cap eventually melts.

Another thing to think about is that stars sometimes explode. What kind of a person gives you a gift that explodes? A psychopath, that’s what kind. Sand doesn’t explode. In fact, depending on the exact value of the Hubble constant, we don’t even know if the universe is going to continue to expand or come crashing down all around us in the big crunch. That will wipe out all of the stars. Using stars to immortalize somebody in gift form is quite a capricious gesture. This is why we post the named sand grains on the Internet, for all the world to see. The Internet will be around forever because it is on computers.

Finally, naming a star after somebody costs around fifty bucks. That’s a lot of cabbage to be throwing away into space. Wouldn’t you rather pay ten bucks to name a piece of sand? But if you act now, or act later or eventually, the important thing is that you act, we’ll name and immortalize the sand for a mere five dollars. That’s right, we here at Leper Pop are crazy. That is not a typo. Five bucks. Here is what we will deliver for the low, low, excruciatingly low price of ten bucks. What? Oh, that’s right, we said five. OK, we’ll make it five. We’ll never make any money at that price, but the important thing is helping people share love with one another. Here is what you get:
- a hand picked grain of sand, digitally recoded in pixilated brilliance

- an image of that grain of sand displayed on the Internet for all the world to see

- your loved one immortalized by the grain of sand, forever sharing
xe’s name or the name of your loved one’s choosing. Shit, we’ll even change the name later if your loved one wants us to.

- the security of knowing that that grain of sand is stored securely in my backyard protected by my two dogs and a fence.

- the peace of mind knowing that your loved one can always turn on the computer and visit their grain of sand whenever they feel like it, especially on those cold, lonely nights at the cyber café.

- our personal guarantee that the grain of sand is unique and special just like the person it is named after

- we’ll even send the grain of sand to your loved one for an additional delivery and handling fee.
That’s a lot of giving for ten bucks. I mean five bucks.

Here are testimonials and their grains of sand from some of our delighted potential customers:

I simply adore my grain of sand. It is on the Internet for all the world to see!
Carlos Barger
I stare at my grain of sand all day long and think about how much my family loves me. I named mine “Kidney Stone”.
Missy Krakzyztic
I spend all day hugging my computer monitor while it displays my grain of sand.
Bob Hondo
My parents always told me I’d amount to nothing. Too bad I killed them before they could see my grain of sand.
Yarnell Bucksworth

Uhhh, fellas, um, I think you gave me an acorn instead of a piece of sand.
Ursula Hampenstance

My grain of sand, which I have named Barney, short for Barnacle, is the love of my life. I have taped rubber lips to my computer screen and kiss
it for hours before bed each night.
Tina Fey
My sand looks kind of like a miniature bunny turd.
Greg Gregory

Only ten bucks! I would have paid at least $11.38!
A. Job Viniscule

So, what are you waiting for? Start spreading the sand! This offer is good only while supplies last. We only have about 18 billion of them. If those run out, we may have to go to the beach.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Paint It Black

Today was possibly the most difficult day of my professional career. The bossman has been out of town and delegated an assignment to me, and I knew I was clearly in over my head. The email said I was the man and told me to contact Michelle as soon as possible. Not only was this task unimaginably daunting but the deadline was imminent, with the results of my work being highly visible for at least the next five years. I broke into a sweat as my stomach churned and I came down with a case of acute irritable bowel syndrome. I guess it was time to earn my salary, and I reached for the phone.

“Michelle, this is Sid with that very important firm that signed a lease with you recently. We’re currently sharing some temporary space with a maintenance guy that keeps trying to sell us Amway and a cleaning woman that keeps yelling at us in Polish, but I hear our new space is going to be ready soon.”

“Yes, I’ll just need you to come by and pick out the finishes.”

“That’s what I heard. Can’t you just do it for us? Please?”


“But if I do it, I know it’s going to end up being orange shag carpet and faux wood paneling. Last time I went to Einstein’s I panicked and ended up with a blueberry bagel with smoked salmon cream cheese. Please don’t make me do this.”

“I’ll see you in five minutes.”

Other than the multi-level marketing maintenance man and the petulant Polish housekeeper, the only other person in the office was a female staffer. Perfect.

“Yo, want to help me pick out paint and carpet for the new office?” I asked excitedly.

“Hell, no,” she replied defiantly.

I stood there and gave her a look that said, “Hey, I’m pathetic. If I didn’t have a wife to dress me I’d be at work every day in a potato sack and moccasins.” It wasn’t working. So I changed to the “Hey, I can make your life a living hell – I sure hope you like making copies of my Marmaduke comic archive” look. She knew I was bluffing.


“You just want me to go so you have somebody to blame if it looks like crap.”

“I promise that’s not it. I just want someone to make sure I don’t end up with a blueberry bagel and smoked salmon cream cheese.”

She seemed to understand and tried to reason with me. “The last time I chose a paint color was for my bedroom at my mom’s house. It was so bad I had to move out.”

“Put on your coat.”

With my overgrown goatee and jeans I was tackled by security upon trying to enter the building. After I identified myself, he brushed me off and said, “Go right ahead, we’ve been expecting you.”

We went up to the leasing office and my theory that leasing and property management attracts by far the hottest women was further confirmed. I think they fall back on modeling if the leasing career doesn’t work out. But I digress.

There was a conference room with a table filled with all that crap you normally see couples pouring over in Home Depot on a Saturday afternoon – books of carpet squares, boxes with miniature tiles, rings with baseboard samples, and a slab of paint strips with ten times the colors in that box of 64 Crayolas with the built-in sharpener. If it weren't for our lovely host I might have thought I had walked into hell.

I started with the carpet and spread the four books she picked out for us across the table. They all looked like Bill Cosby sweaters to me. We were both paralyzed and about as useful as a couple of piñatas at a polka festival. I don’t know what that means, but I eventually narrowed it down to two books and then regressed back to the potato sack and moccasins look. Michelle took my hint and narrowed it down to three “groups” for us. I narrowed it to two. And my trusty sidekick finally pointed to one, probably just to get it over with, and we would soon be the proud owners of 2,500 sf of Indian Corn carpet from Bigelow.

Once that was done, our confidence increased exponentially and it was only a matter of minutes before we ended up with a couple hundred square feet of some Fortress White vinyl flooring from Armstrong and some Bisqueware base to tie it all together. Hoping to take advantage of our momentum, Michelle whipped out a few strips of color samples and I commandeered several gallons of aptly named Natural Choice from Sherwin Williams.

I think it will be fine. If not, I can over it up with some faux wood paneling leftover from my living room. Or blame it on the staff.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Boiled Grapes

I’ve been feeling somewhat melancholy lately. I don’t know, maybe it’s the weather. It’s been awfully wintery around here – cold, snowy, cloudy, rubbery, full spittoons all over the place, bouncy mailmen scratching at the window. You know, wintery. I’ve never been one to suffer SAD. For those who do not know, SAD is an acronym for Sad Anno Domini, or Sad in the year of our lord. I have no idea what that has to do with winter, but people tend to get it during this season. I don’t think I have it, since I'm agnostic.

Regardless of the reason for my mopes, when I get to feeling this way, there is only one cure. Boiling grapes. I think Paul McCartney said it best:

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary dances with apes,
speaking words of wisdom, boil some grapes.

So that’s what I did.

I always boil green grapes because green grapes are grapes of diminished hopes, as portrayed in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Diminshed Hopes. It’s the lesser known companion novel to Grapes of Wrath, which refers to the evil purple grapes, the kind used to make Goofy Grape soft drink. Just add water and you have a pitcher full of wrath.

Can you feel the evil?????

As you can see the boiling has robbed the grapes of their glorius natural muted emerald pigment. The grapes’ brilliance has been reduced to the luster of pickled orbs of flavorless gelatin. If you could feel these grapes you would sense mushiness, not unlike that of the breasts of a long retired wet nurse. Not that I’ve felt up any long retired wet nurses. Not recently, anyway. Ahhh, memories. The smell of these grapes elicits thoughts of rancid green beans, dragged across a pewter tray coated in turnip marmalade. Smell for yourself using the miracle of cyber scratch ‘n sniff. Keep scratching and smelling your monitor on the graphic below until you smell something. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t smell something right away. Keep scratching. And sniffing.

You gave up, didn’t you? I knew it. Quitter. It’s not your fault. That one may be broken. Here. Try this one.

At this point you may be wondering, sure the condition of these boiled grapes is dire, to be sure, but how does that mend an anguished soul? Surely the boiling of grapes does not exude an elixir of ecstasy, does it? No, it does not. But with introspection and a lucid focus on those boiling grapes, tumbling in the torrents of the sauce pan, and later to lie embarrassingly exposed, mutilated and ruptured, on a forlorn paper plate, one sardonically realizes, at least I am not a boiled grape.

I feel so good now.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Little Less Conversation, Sid

The conversation at work turned to the recent ban on smoking in all public places that went into effect in Illinois on January 1st.

Sid: I went to a bar to see a band last week, and I have to say that it was nice not having to take a shower when I got home since I didn’t smell like smoke.
Smoker: Yeah, but you probably reeked of beer.
Sid: No, my friends don’t spit beer on me when they’re drinking.

OK, so I lied.

The conversation at the dinner table with the Mrs. then went as follows:

Sid: So what’s your next test?
Mrs: We have a pathology test that’s going to be tough.
Sid: Why?
Mrs: It’s on the liver.
Sid: That’s one organ, how hard can it be?
Mrs: A lot of stuff happens in the liver.
Sid: Maybe it’s a good thing you aren’t going to be a liver-ologist then.
Mrs: You mean a hepatologist?
Sid: No, what does this have to do with snakes?
Mrs: You mean a herpetologist?
Sid: No, why are you bringing herpes into this? I think you need to stop thinking about snakes and herpes and just focus on the liver.
Mrs: Hrmph.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dumb Ass Parenting

Many people think I am an anthropologist. I’m not sure why. It could be the Australopithecus africanus skeleton I carry around with me on my back. Or maybe it’s my dirty knees that causes the confusion. Then again, it could be because of the I’m an anthropologist. Wanna feel my bone? t-shirt I wear almost everyday. Whatever the reason, I can assure you, I am not an anthropologist. Please stop asking me to dig up your dead relatives.

Even though I am not an anthropologist, it does not stop me from coming up with anthropologistic theories. I recently developed a theory about a certain aspect of human behavior while reading a book about Bonobos. Bonobos are primates similar to chimpanzees. Some may go so far as to refer to them as the forgotten ape. The most interesting characteristic of Bonobos is that they love to have sex. They are the Charlie Sheen of the animal kingdom (not including humans, which I believe Charlie Sheen is a part of. If I included humans into that metaphor it would set off an infinite loop and we’d be here forever and never get to view the next installment of Dr. Phil’s video blog), only without the popular sitcom (Men with Two Dads, Monday nights at 8:00 on the WB). If only Bonobos had a famous actor dad so they could get the same break. Which brings me to my theory, as it is related to Bonobo dads. But first, to learn more about Bonobos, and you really SHOULD learn more about them, go here, but make sure you come back here. You don’t want to miss the rest of this. They do more than just have sex, like eat, shit, walk around, live in trees, roller derby and have more sex.

I have not actually come up with a new theory. I only said that so you think I’m cool and have it together. Rather, I have found evidence to support an existing theory, one that human mothers choose not to accept. That theory is that dads don’t understand children, really don’t know how to handle them and are incapable of dealing with them to motherly standards. Sure, we all try and some of us are better at it than others, but when you come right down to it, none of us has a clue about what is going on with them. The unfortunate part for you mothers out there is that no matter how much teaching, reassuring, nagging, withholding sex until we learn, whining, instructing, demanding and pleading you do, we will never understand children. On the surface this seems illogical since most of us act like children ourselves, and that may be a clue as to why we are unable to figure out kids. But that is a theory for another day. The reason all of your efforts to change/enhance dads’ (since the plural of man is men, shouldn’t the plural of dad be ded? I think so.) outlooks towards children is that we are genetically incapable of comprehending why they all act like such little dunderheads most of the time. And I have proof. I’ll get to it in a minute.

Half the time, we dads try to ignore the deranged behavior of children, which is why we spend most of our time in the garage, in the bar or sleeping on the couch. The other half of the time, when we are forced to deal with it, we stare in aggravated bewilderment and shout preposterous directives and invectives, because we have no idea what causes children to do what they do and have even less of an idea what to do about it. Consequently, we berate them out of frustration. A classic example of this paternal bafflement is illustrated by Red Foreman, the father from That 70’s Show (Monday nights at 8:00 on the WB), and his Dumb Ass” and other ass related scolding of his son, Eric. And there is nothing we can do to change that because it is an innate response, solidified by trillions of years of evolution.

Here is proof of my claim:

Take a gander at the look on the Bonobo dad’s face. Obviously, the Bonobo tike must have just punched his sister in the face, taunted a hungry leopard with a rusty slice of terrestrial herbaceous vegetation, or penis fenced with that weird kid in the Bonobo community down the forest path. You know, the one whose hair is parted on the side of his head with the excessively prominent eyebrow ridge. The Bonobo father’s expression elicits thoughts of “What is wrong with you, boy!”, “There is no way you came from my loins!” and, of course, “Dumb ass!” Basically, our only defense as fathers against our offspring is to tell them, in a variety of ways, “don’t do that” in the hopes that they’ll eventually figure out what they should be doing by eliminating all of the insane shit they are inclined to do, ultimately becoming adults in some capacity as a result. This process is validated by the successful breeding and raising of trillions of punks of trillions of species over trillions of years of evolution, with a little bit of help from the maternal side. The picture proves the “You’re a dumb ass!” parenting trait is embedded in all of malehood and cannot be denied. We are helpless against it.

I <3 Oprah

While in the train station trying to get around two women waddling to work this morning I overheard the following conversation:

Waddle 1: Did you see Oprah yesterday?
Waddle 2: Yeah…
Waddle 1: So powerful… I was in tears.
Waddle 2: I know... I had to call my chiropractor and tell them I couldn’t come in until the show was over.

I have no idea what Oprah was about yesterday. I have no desire to know what Oprah was about yesterday. I hope that the next time Waddle 2 needs medical care that her doctor tells her that he can't treat her until the football game is over. And maybe you wouldn't need a chiropractor if you put down the bon-bons, got off the couch and walked around the block instead of watching Oprah. Oh, and the stroll you take to work directly in front of me during rush hour while yapping about daytime television does not qualify as exercise.

Perhaps I should consider some meditation on the train ride in each morning....

Monday, January 21, 2008

Exculpatory Excitement

Warning! Balls, pucks and other objects may fly into the spectator area, despite spectator shielding. Injury can occur. Stay alert at all times before, during, and after play or performance. If struck, immediately ask usher for directions to medical station. By use of this ticket, ticket holder agrees to the terms on this ticket on behalf of the holder and any accompanying minor. Holder assumes all risks incidental to the event for which this ticket is issued. Whether before, during, or after play or performance, including without limitation, dangers described above, injuries caused by spectators, players or entering a mosh pit, holder agrees that the management, facility, league, participants, teams, Ticketmaster, and all their repective affiliates, agents, officers, directors, owners and employees are released by holder from any claims arising from such causes.

I found a ticket on top of the trash with that disclaimer on the back and had to check it out since the event described above sounded truly wicked with all the crap flying into the stands and the prospect of serious injury. And since I hadn’t been invited to any such events lately it was also obvious that my wife was leading a stylish, mysterious and dangerous double life. On the other hand, it did reference a mosh pit so perhaps it was a ticket to a Hannah Montana show that I could sell to a silly tween for lots of money so that her family can make fun of her and embarrass her five years from now about her Hannah Montana phase. Or, given the great diversity of inherent dangers, perhaps it was a ticket to a taping of the new American Gladiators. Powerball is kind of like a moshpit and there always seems to be balls and pucks and stuff being shot out of cannons so it didn’t seem far-fetched to think a projectile or ‘roided out gladiator could go astray. The suspense was delightful, so I carried the ticket carefully to the living room and placed it face down on the coffee table while I poured a tumbler of cheap scotch and readied myself for the unveiling. Like a grizzled cowboy at the poker table in a classic western, I stared down the imaginary nemesis across the table, and without looking down I turned the ticket over. I let my gaze drift downward to find that I discovered a ticket to….
The John G. Shedd Aquarium.

Now I know recently there has been a gorilla attack at the Dallas Zoo and the tiger attack at the San Fran Zoo, but is there really a concern that the Shedd has an undiscovered land shark in their ranks? Do they expect a dolphin to shoot an errant puck into the crowd before, during or after a performance? Have the sea-otters been bitch-slapping unsuspecting ticketholders? Have unruly penguins been throwing elbows in the moshpit whenever Sepultura gets played in the Oceanarium? “Excuse me, usher, despite spectator shielding, an adolescent squid seems to have flown into the spectator area and attached himself to my face. I confess, I was not staying alert as directed by the fine print on the back of my admission ticket since the squid field hockey exhibition appeared to be over, but will you kindly direct me to the medical station?”

Damn lawyers.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Broad Tosser, et al - Abbey Pub

It was a dark and stormy night as I drove the concrete byways to the lonesome pub on the city’s north side last Thursday. Honestly, it wasn’t stormy. But it was dark and pretty fucking cold. Like single digit cold. That means it’s so fucking cold all your fingers shatter and fall off except one. But you don’t even care if it’s only the middle finger that remains because there isn’t anybody else on the road to flip off because it’s so cold. I’m sure you didn’t come here for a weather report, so allow me to start over.

Dominique Trixx. Fanny Tastic. Vivian Velvet. Mistress Topaz. Those were the women that opened the evening at the Abbey Pub last Thursday night as part of the Star and Garter Burlesque show. Perhaps you didn’t even come here for a burlesque review, either. In fact, why the hell are you here? It’s the free donuts, isn’t it? Speaking of donuts, it was evident that some of the burlesque performers weren’t averse to having one once in a while. Now before you start lecturing me about the media and Hollywood and the fashion industry and all that other body image crap and force me to make a tearful apology and donate 10% of the profits from this post to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, let me add that every time I see Keira Knightley I want to feed her a cheeseburger. Well, not exactly feed her, but maybe give her a few bucks and a ride to the nearest In-N-Out Burger. The performers were by no means unattractive or fat, but they weren’t going to get a gig opening cases on Deal or No Deal. I know they’re probably heartbroken over that. And until I personally look like a Calvin Klein underwear model, I really don’t expect women to look like Jessica Simpson. However, I do expect them to be at least slightly more intelligent. Really freakin’ smart isn’t bad, either, so I don’t have to think as much. I’m all about outsourcing. But I digress. Did you know Swing Out Sister is still together? Who’d have thought? Back to my review of the Broad Tosser show.

I believe we left off with the vixens of burlesque who opened that night. The show consisted of an entirely annoying emcee introducing each girl, who would come out in an enticing outfit and perform a well-choreographed striptease routine eventually ending in a g-string and pasties. I haven’t seen pasties since that strip club in Memphis. How do pasties stay on? I’m guessing from their name, it’s some sort of paste. If it were me, I’d use toothpaste. For minty fresh nipples. Just don’t use the whitening formula or they might disappear right off your chest. Most girls probably use the good old fashioned grade school Elmer’s paste with the brush built right into the cap. Seems practical. Although I’m sure more than one relationship has ended when a stripper or performer had to miss a night of work after she had found that her boyfriend ate all her paste. I’d imagine whatever it is they use, it must hurt taking them off. Probably just need to hold your breath and rip them off on the count of three just like a band aid. Pasties is an odd word – don’t think about it too much or you’ll go crazy and start ironing your socks. But to save you the research, please note the that singular form is “pastie”. I know you were wondering. Can you believe Wikipedia has an entry devoted to pasties, including a reference to case law? People have too much time on their hands. (Guilty as charged.) But I digress.

Okay. So you’ve got the nearly naked girl on stage and you’re probably wondering, “Hey, Sid, so was it like totally hot and you started humping Moist Rub’s leg while doing a poor impression of Robert DeNiro?” Not exactly.

First of all, it isn’t totally titillating since I can see the same level of undress on an airbrushed model in the Victoria’s Secret catalog under my mattress. Or I can find a totally nude teenage girl from a broken home with a few clicks of my mouse.

Second, I spent many years in Dallas, which is home to a large number of strip clubs. [Ed. Note: I was doing some research on strip clubs in Dallas just now, and an earlier Leper Pop post came up as the 16th result on Google. I’m so proud.] [Ed. Note: I don’t really have an editor, I just use these little bracketed diversions for asides – I’d probably have too many asides to the audience if I were a playwright but I think a youthful audience might appreciate them.] I was never a regular, but I did make a handful of visits to several clubs over my term. In those clubs, the format is the same – an annoying emcee introduces a girl, usually named after a birthstone, who comes out and does a striptease to a song. Now the differences. This might come to a shock to the uninitiated, but the strip club “entertainer”, 99 times out of 100, is there for the cash. The other girl is there because she loves ZZ Top and Joe Cocker songs, but doesn’t own an iPod. To earn cash, you don’t need elaborate costumes or a choreographer. A killer body or a giant rack doesn’t hurt. Well, it might give you back pain, but it won’t hurt your earnings potential. You need to get your clothes off as soon as possible and convince the losers sitting in the crowd that you are going to be worth the $25 lap dance you’re going to try and sell them as soon as you get off the stage. Get a dozen customers to spring for a couple dances in a night and you’ve paid for that boob job in no time and are well on your way to a lucrative escort career. Or that college degree you said you’re working on. Here’s an extra $20 – I hear law school is expensive. I’d recommend a good 529 plan to start saving. I’d also recommend one to any readers that have kids that they’re going to force to go to college. But I digress.

The burlesque show was kind of cool in contrast to all that. It wasn’t about just getting naked and trying to sell something or make money. First, it was an art form to these performers. Each move was clearly well-thought out, well-rehearsed and executed in a manner that would put Britney Spears to shame. Well, more shame, if that’s even possible at this juncture. The costumes were also hand-picked, some self-designed, and probably under appreciated by much of the pub crowd that night. I can’t believe I just wrote that, and now I’m wondering if I might be gay. They weren’t doing it for money, but because they seemed to enjoy it. It wasn’t about starving themselves or how many crunches they could do, but by being honest and confident in who they are and challenging the often overwhelming blitz of mainstream sexuality that bitch-slaps us every day. I have no idea what the hell that last sentence means, but I hope it sounds important enough to make whatever point I’m trying to make.

It’s like Olive Garden. You get bombarded with their ad campaigns. A teen aged server brings you an all-you-can-eat salad. Shiny menus display a plethora of entrees that were perfected in the corporate test kitchens, using ingredients delivered under heavily negotiated contracts from suppliers. And honestly, you probably won’t have a bad meal.

But there’s still something way more special when you find that hole-in-the-wall Italian joint run by a woman with her great-grandmother’s recipes and some friends and family to help keep the dream alive, even if the menu doesn't have fancy pictures and the table might be a little rickety.

If that doesn’t explain it, then sorry for wasting your time. Oh, by the way, this isn’t a review of a Lovehammers show, either.

So, Star and Garter Burlesque – bottom line is that I probably wouldn’t plan a night out around one of their shows, but I thought it was probably more entertaining than whatever other crappy opening band that might have played in their place. However, I might have enjoyed it a bit more had the atmosphere been more "right". Not sure the Abbey Pub was the best locale - maybe something more consistent with a burlesque room (whatever that might be), and a live band instead of recorded music might add a nice dimension to it.

Which brings us to Broad Tosser. I thought Broad Tosser was going to be another crappy opening band when I saw them last month with the Von Ehrics, but now I’m probably like their 16th biggest fan. At least while they were around. This was their farewell show, for reasons of which we can only surmise. I like to think that their small, yet deceptively unassuming drummer liz ele assaulted some cops after a beer brawl at a gig and was going to serve out her term since she had already been on probation after the bowling alley incident. Or maybe the bass player viv e was a grade school science teacher and lost her job after making up naughty mnemonic devices to help the kids remember the planets of the solar system and now she’s hard up for cash and had to sell her bass to pay rent. Or maybe guitarist/vocalist sara jean was just getting creeped out when old guys like me started showing up at their gigs. Whatever the reason, it sucks. It was only my second time to see them and they just plain rock. To see a girl in high heels and dress set down three bottles of PBR, plug a vintage Ibanez into her amp and crank up the distortion is a thing of beauty. Add some catchy tunes delivered with sweet but powerful vocals. A rhythm section that lays down an insidious groove and can keep things together through all the tempo and volume changes that make the songs even more interesting. I’m going to miss them. At least they brought some CD’s to remember them by. I only hope they keep us all updated on any future projects.

The feature band was B1gt1me. Think 80’s covers delivered in the style of Tom Waits. I was kind of looking forward to seeing them, but remember the annoying burlesque emcee? Yep, the singer for B1gt1me. The whole skid row chic costume and gravelly Tom Waits voice and hep cat banter was just too contrived and I couldn’t get past that. Sorry, man. The music didn’t suck and was actually pretty interesting.

P.S. Hey, Broad Tosser, we're digging the CD's but we miss you already. We can change, baby, really, take us back. Just one more gig.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Unwrinkled Socks

If I think about anything long enough, it seems weird to
me, as if it is inconsistent with what I think I know. Eventually, everything becomes weird, which makes weird the norm. Yet, I am still able to iron my socks without burning my feet.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Monte Montgomery - Fitzgerald's

Self-discipline is not one of my strengths. Or maybe it’s just a lack of a particular sense of purpose. It probably sounds like I’m sitting on my couch right now eating an entire sleeve of Girl Scout thin mints that I stockpiled during the last sale and watching a Full House marathon. It’s not quite that bad, but I do find myself squandering valuable time. Unless I write stuff down or share it with others. Somehow that motivates me to action more than the threat of Tony Robbins’ banana hands yanking me from whatever wasteful or shameful activity in which I’m wasting time and re-directing me into something more productive. Here, watch how it works. Hey, everyone, I’m going for a bike ride today. Great. Now I committed. If I don’t ride I’m going to sound like a blowhard asshole. So excuse me while I go get my bike ready. [Ed. Note: the time is 1:03 p.m.]

[Ed. Note: The time now is 3:08] I’m back. The first 15 miles of the year versus my goal of 2,000. See, I did it again. Now every time I feel like making an excuse not to ride, I’ll remember that all four of you readers will lose all respect for me and call me hurtful names if I fall short of my goal this year.

This also applies to leisure time activities. I used to see a lot of live music and plays and other semi-cultural events, but I’m not sure how I became so averse to putting on clothes and actually leaving my home for entertainment. So now I actually post my calendar of events in which I’m interested and when other people commit, then I cannot bail out or else they will lose all respect for me and call me hurtful names.

Here, watch how it works. I sent an email out casually mentioning that guitar hero Monte Montgomery was coming to town. I’ve seen him several times before during my time in Texas and was always floored by his shows, even if they were packed with 500 generic frat boys with their fitted baseball caps and their yappy sorority girlfriends.

Of course, it was a Friday show and I would have likely claimed I was too tired to put on clothes and drive 25 minutes to Berwyn on a Friday night after a long work week. But this time Stiv_OO and Senor Cojones wanted to go. Moist Rub also wanted to go but sent me the following note earlier in the week:

Hey, were we supposed to go see somebody at Fitzgerald’s this Friday? I have on my calendar written "Fitzgerald’s". Is that the guitar dude?

Anyway, I can't go. Apparently, I told the ex I would take the kids for her on Friday. You know, I think she knows that I don't remember shit like that and so she just tells me I agreed to it a few months ago.

I couldn’t risk getting a reputation as a bagger, so I came home from work and took some diet pills with a gigante extra sugar double expresso frappacino latte and got my jittery ass to Fitzgerald’s. Fifteen bucks later I was past the doorman, though insulted that he didn’t card me. The joint has always booked quality acts and is a great place to see a show, but scored extra points by having some cold bottles of Beck’s NA on hand.

About 15 minutes before the show, I secured my spot about 20 feet back from the stage. No opening act and they came out firing. At the end of the second song my only reaction was “holy fuck” – sorry about the language – I’m typically not the cursing sailor type but that was all I could manage to say to Stiv_OO. Monte could have said, “Thank you, good night, drive safe” at that point and I would have felt I got my money’s worth. Fortunately, they played about an hour, took about a 30 minute break and then busted out about another hour and a half of rock-ity goodness. At their worst, they’re an excellent bar band. At their best, you wonder if that’s what early Double Trouble gigs were like before Stevie got discovered. Not the same style music at all – Monte plays an electrified acoustic and has an extremely unique playing style and sound. He’s a technician with the guitar, but without being robotic about it. He knows every inch of that instrument as well as a chronic masturbator knows his own penis. The set was a good mix of just plain out guitar hero shredding, a couple cheesy ballads (sorry, Monte), just plain down and dirty rockers, a couple fun forays into comedy, but impressive all the way. Monte, of course, is the attraction, but his drummer and bass player lay down a tight driving rhythm that keep it from becoming merely a guitar clinic. It’s a band and a damn good one. He’s a renowned guitarist, but has a better show because of them.

I’ve always said a good guitar player inspires me to want to learn to play. A great one makes me want to not even try, knowing that I could not even come close to that level. I might have to put my guitar on craigslist after that show.

One final note to the inevitable asswipes at the show: The bass and drummer did not leave for the solo numbers in order to give you the opportunity to yap it up with your friends. I can recommend several other bars in the area where you may drink and make your inane conversation without paying a $15 cover charge. And to the girls flitting about the floor like fleas on a mangy dog - I only hope someone with less self-control than myself takes the opportunity to clothesline you next time you push your way around the floor with a sense of entitlement, Princess. By the way, none of you were nearly cute enough to get away with it.

Bottom line – Monte and his band rock. Add him to your myspace friends and catch him when he comes to your town.

Audience Member (shouting): When are you coming back?
Monte: Well, first we need to leave, then we’ll pick a date to come back and let you know.

Sounds like a plan.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Squirrel Maimer

I am living with a cold blooded murderer. She has a hairy face, and a hairy ass, and hairy feet and a hairy belly and a hairy back and can lick her own ass. She has milky brown eyes, pointy teeth, a cold wet nose and eight nipples. I am referring, of course, to my wife. I’m kidding. I don’t have a wife. But, if I did, she would have to be able to lick her own ass, and be limited to two nipples. OK, maybe three.

I’m talking about my dog, Cammie, who is twenty-eight pounds of muttish killing machine. That is, if you are a small rodent. I’ve known for a long time that she is a schooled mouser. One time, she and I caught a mouse together. She herded the mouse into a corner, batted it around a few times with paws of fury, and then paralyzed it in fear with a vicious snarl (vicious from the mouse's perspective. I thought it was kind of cute). I moved in and stepped on the incapacitated fur ball. Have you ever stepped on a mouse? It is not as fun as it looks. As soon as your foot makes contact with it and you start applying pressure, you can tell you are stepping on a living thing. It’s not like stepping on a jelly doughnut like they portray it in the movies. Then, when you feel the bones start cracking under your foot (note: you feel the bones cracking before you hear them crack because the speed of feel is faster than the speed of sound. Just like when you get hit in the head with a baseball bat, you feel the pain before you hear your skull crack. It’s a scientific fact – look it up. Jeez, this is the most violent essay I’ve ever written. I think it’s because I recently started lifting weights, and the eight molecules of testosterone I have left are raging through my body right now. It feels like they split up into two teams of four and are having a relay race. And, I am unbelievably sore from the weight lifting. I think I ruptured some of my back fat. I don’t know how ruptured back fat causes you to write violently. I’m not a doctor. Don’t let the smell of my fingers fool you. Also, I’ve been eating a lot of steak tartare.) you start to feel bad, which is what I did. So I quickly removed my pending foot of death from the cute little thing. The mouse was still alive. Cammie took over, and with a faster than feel nip, she broke its neck. She glanced up at me and called me a pussy with her eyes. I stood there in shock. How do you even aim for a mouse neck? It would have taken me at least six times to hit the mouse’s neck with one of my bites. No wonder DeVry’s School of Vampire Technology keeps rejecting me. The mouse would have been mutilated, not to mention embarrassed. Death by multiple badly aimed human bites is not a dignified way to go, even for a mouse.

Often I’ve come home from work to find a dead mouse on the floor with an invoice from Cammie for hitdog services rendered stapled to its forehead. Cammie never eats the mice she kills. She kills for sport. She will play with her prey before she kills it, smacking it around like a bushel of corrugated spoons before doling the death blow. That is what she did with the Elmo doll I gave her for Christmas a few years ago. She played with it for a while until one day I came home and found it hanging from a noose woven out of dog hair.

Recently, Cammie has moved on to big game hunting – squirrels. So far it’s only one squirrel, but she wrote “squirrels” on her resume’. Everybody lies on their resume’. Both of my dogs were in the backyard patrolling the neighborhood from behind my fence. An adventurous squirrel decided to search for nuts in the yard, which was an easily avoidable mistake since I have a sticker on my front door, right under the Solicitors Go To Hell sticker that clearly reads All Nuts On Premises Are In My Pants (which will soon be on a t-shirt).

I’m not sure what the squirrel did or said to Cammie to set her off, but before long, the squirrel was thrashing for its life under the gription of Cammie’s paws. I watched the tussle through the patio door window, while my other dog, Cailey, who is more than twice the size of Cammie and ten times the wimp, stood on the side barking, “Get him a body bag – YEEAAHHH!!!” like that jerk in Karate Kid. She tossed that squirrel around like it was an Elmo doll. Right before I sensed Cammie was going in for the kill, I stepped out on the patio and called off the dogs. I literally called off the dogs! I’ve never done that before. I felt so powerful. Cammie dropped the squirrel and came running to me. The squirrel was still alive, but hobbled. Once it got its bearings, the squirrel scampered, hobbledly scampered, into the brick wall of the house, rolled over and hid behind the hose. Eventually, it crawled, hobbledly crawled, up the brick wall, to safety, where it remained like Spidersquirrel for about five minutes. Once it determined I wasn’t joking about calling off the dogs, the squirrel hopped in a cab and got the hell out of there.

I was very proud of Cammie – protecting our homestead from evil squirrels and all. But, ever since then, she’s adopted an unconscionable arrogant attitude the likes of which I haven’t seen since George W. boasted “mission accomplished”. She walks around the house with a permanent snarl on her face, as if she’s the canine Billy Idol. Here is a picture of me trying to wipe that snarl off her face:

I was unsuccessful. In fact, she tried dressing up my hand like a squirrel and having her way with it.

One night the kids and I were watching a lion take down a wildebeest on Animal Planet. Cammie started barking at the television set. When I translated the barks, we found out she had said, “That lion is lucky that wildebeest wasn’t me. I would have kicked its ass.” On another night we were enjoying a nice steak dinner. Cammie walked by the dinner table and, again, started barking. Again, I translated the barks: “Eating steak, huh? That cow is lucky I’m not a cattle farmer. I would have kicked its ass.” Finally, we were watching Jurassic Park. Again, she started barking at the television set. Again, I translated: “That T-Rex is lucky I’m not in that movie, I would have kicked her ass.” OK, Cammie, that’s about enough. I went online and ordered the A Clockwork Orange For Dogs training video. It comes with eyelid clamps, eye drops and an eggy weggs squeeze toy. Eventually, we were able to re-condition her to be her old, lying on the couch, getting hair all over the place, barking at noises, rubbing her ass on the carpet mutt.

I haven’t seen any mice in the house or squirrels in the yard since the incident. Word must have gotten out about her. Cammie: a dog so mean, she hobbled a squirrel just to watch it limp up a brick wall.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Dollar Menu & The Hail Mary

The convenience of the golden arches won out again at yesterday. I try to bring my lunch two days a week, go out with my co-workers two days a week, and on Friday we order pizza.

“Two nights a week I cook. Two nights a week he cooks. Two nights we go out. And then there's sandwich night.”

“I bet your sex life is a real thrill.”

So unless somebody has a craving for haggis, we usually just hit the streets and end up at either Jimmy John’s, Chipotle or McDonald’s, depending upon which way the wind is blowing. The winds were out of the SSW at 9 mph, so we obviously ended up at McDonald’s, where I exhibited my Zen-like discipline and merely ordered a single grilled chicken snack wrap. Maybe Zen-like isn’t the right word there, but I like to pretend I’m enlightened even when I’m giving my money to Ronald McDonald. However, I did fall prey to one of their latest marketing ploys and ordered the new large sweet tea for the special price of $1.

You see, I require a lot of fluids. More fluids than something that’s liquid-cooled somewhere where it’s like really hot. I love unnecessarily awkward and simple-minded analogies. They amuse me. But I digress. Water is the primary drink of choice, but servers can rarely keep up as I suck it down faster than a hungover beagle in the Mojave Desert, so I usually order a side beverage so I have something to drink between refills. I used to prefer Wild Turkey on the side, but that had several side effects that made it difficult to perform simple feats like standing after a couple rounds. Besides, McDonald’s stopped serving Wild Turkey sometime in the 90’s when everyone started getting politically correct. Or maybe that’s when they started enforcing the “no flasks during lunchtime” rule.

“My favorite gift I’ve ever received is a flask. I think giving someone a flask is a nice way of saying: ‘Hey you seem like a drunk on the go. You strike me as needing hard liquor at all times… This would be good for you in your car.’” Jim Gaffigan

After giving up Wild Turkey I went on a diet cola kick, but then I read something about laboratory studies indicating a higher incidence of herpes in fruit flies that drank Tab. So I quit that and switched to iced tea, in which I might drop an artificial sweetener if I’m bored or trying to impress an artificial sweetener distributor. But when I saw that sign at McDonald’s, it said to me, “Dude. Your time is too valuable to waste trying to figure out whether to use processed sugar or an artificial sweetener. Don’t fool yourself – you don’t know the difference between saccharin, aspartame and sucralose, and even if you did you’d never use the right amount. We’re in the taste business, we do this shit for a living – let us do it for you. You’ll be lovin’ it.” How could I refuse?

And now for my review… good lord, that stuff sucked. I have a major sweet tooth so intense that it requires magnum floss. I drink straight up maple syrup for breakfast and eat marshmallow fluff for lunch, but this was disgustingly sweet. Only after the ice melted did it become somewhat tolerable, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a monkey on a rock. Nor to you, gentle reader. Let’s boycott the joint until it’s time for shamrock shakes.

Of Evolution, Laundry and Stubbing

As we all know, the most dangerous part of doing laundry is stubbing a toe. When trucking a full laundry basket through the house it is impossible to make sure your toes veer safely from marauding table and chair legs, bedposts, anvils and flag poles. As a result, Americans stub millions of toes each year while doing laundry. This is a scourge not talked about much in the media because it is too late to do anything about it. It didn't have to be this way.

Don’t get me wrong, I love doing laundry as much as the next guy. My intent is not to vilify the one activity that separates us from the animals and the hippies. In fact, I blame animals that stubbing our toes is even possible. Not that I blame all animals, only the predatory variety whose ancestors had the opportunity to take down our pre-human ancestors.

Crocodiles belong to an ancient species. They have been around forever. I’ll use them as an example of a predator that, with a little thought and foresight, could have helped us out a little bit as we evolved to take over the world and could easily wipe their species off the map right now if we opted thusly, and don’t you forget that Mr. Worm of the Stones. Nice shoes, by the way; are those alligator? I’m sure they had plenty of opportunities to snack on some of our pre-primate ancestors, such as the saber-toothed tree shrew back in the Paleocene epoch, for example. So, there we were, just a bunch of harmless saber-toothed tree shrews, minding our own business, dedicating our lives to the feeding of crocodiles as they launched themselves off the now extinct trampoline ferns, into our arboreal abodes, picking us off one by one, or maybe four by four if it was Bridge night, with a single chomp of their mighty mandibles. Did it ever occur to them to, instead of rudely engulfing us into their greedy mouths, maybe go after our toes? It does to me, but I guess I’m a little bit more of a creative killer than crocodiles. A sturdy poke from one of their teeth onto one of our cute little tree shrew toes, emulating a stubbing, would have rendered us defenseless, causing us to fall to the ground writhing in agony for a good minute and a half where we could be scooped easily and digested. Instead, many of us scurried away as soon as we heard the “booooiiiiinnngggg” of the trampoline fern. Doesn’t it make sense to you, crocodiles of the world, to incapacitate us first before attacking? Sure it does, now, after I’ve given you the gift of 20/20 hindsight. You just don’t THINK!

Not only would the crocs have had a more successful kill rate, they would have kept us in their good graces, making us less likely to look their way the next time we have a purse, shoe and belt shortage. Symbiosis is not just a word you read in a science book, you know. By having their adorable tootsies stubbed by crocodile teeth, those saber-toothed tree shrews with the hardier phalanges would have been able to endure the initial stubbing blow and been able to scamper away. Over time, only the stout-toed ones would survive to pass along their genes. Each generation would have had increasingly protective toes. Zippity-Zappity-Doo, by the time we humans evolved, we would have been fully equipped with toe hooves, which would have protected us from not only stubbing of toes, but he nips of kittens, dropped hammers, bad dance partners and asshole friends who like to step on your toes for absolutely no reason (what the hell is their problem - GOD!?) (Note: “zippity-zappity-doo” is a technical term used by Darwin to represent lapses in evolutionary development until he figured out how to describe in more detail what actually happened in a given species.) One simple concession by blood thirsty, moronic carnivores, who, as alluded, we, in our fabulously evolved state, could now turn into an exhausted resourse of stylish fashion accessories, if we opted thusly, could have bettered the lives of billions of human beings.

Instead, due to the lack of initiative of early crocodiles and other unimaginative predators of their ilk, we are left to fend for ourselves wielding only a decorative toe nail in this dangerous world of furniture and floor placed structures. Sure, the toe nail does provide some protection against dropping feathers and bug landings, or maybe a medium sized soap bubble, but it is no match for a table leg. Consequently, our rich people are forced to do laundry wearing steel toed boots, while the middle class and below must tough it out and live with the painful torment of ravaging stubs. It didn't have to be this way.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Awww Nuts...

All I was missing was the yellow shirt with that wacky black zig zag stripe. Like Charlie Brown, I literally had a storm cloud following me around all day. I walked out the front door today into a downpour. Normally, you don’t think of taking an umbrella with you when you leave for work on a January morning in Chicago, but because of Al Gore I had to go back to my apartment and dig it out of the closet where it was stored with my Speedo and lawn darts. It also meant I would miss my express train and have to catch the next one, which painstakingly makes every stop along the way. However, it did give me the opportunity to check out a new crowd of fellow commuters, instead of the same tired lineup of faces I see every day including the old dude that reads the Bible until he falls asleep with his mouth hanging wide open, drooling into the book of Salivacus, and the bar manager that wears jeans and a bar t-shirt in contrast to the corporate lackey majority tapping away into their fucking Blackberries.

Then two stops after mine, continuing with the Peanuts theme, the little red-haired girl got on the train and caught my attention. Probably in her early 20’s, so old enough to not make me feel like a pedophile, but young enough to make me feel like your lecherous Uncle Tom with the outdated eyeglasses and the moustache. I wasn’t lovesick like Charlie Brown, but her girl next door look was a nice contrast to the commuters I was used to seeing. And then, like Lucy pulling the football out from under Charlie, she pulled out her makeup bag. First of all, take care of that shit at home if you’re going to do it. Second, she’s probably too young to remember Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but she could take a lesson from Charlie Sheen:

You wear too much eye make-up.

My sister wears too much.

People think she's a whore.

In ten minutes she transformed herself from a nice girl next door into an annoying harlot.

After completing the last of 156 stops, the train pulled into downtown, and the cloud greeted me at the station and followed me to work making sure I was properly moistened for the day ahead. Its work was complete and it disappeared around the corner, probably for a drink, while the city started to dry out. Until it was time to go home. The revolving door alerted my faithful storm cloud of my presence and I was correspondingly soaked for the train ride and the walk home from the train station. I nodded at Schroeder practicing his piano in the lobby of my building and went upstairs and changed into my yellow and black Speedo. Good grief.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Lovehammers: New Year's Eve Rock N' Roll Ball

New Year’s Eve. My earliest memories consist of being left in the car in the parking lot of a swanky restaurant while my parents partied it up inside. It’s okay – they paid the valet guy to check on me every 20 minutes and sent a busboy out with a couple peel n’ eat shrimp shortly after midnight. I made that up, so put down the phone – no need to call The Department of Child and Family Services to have me placed in foster care. Kids my age never get taken in, and I’ll end up in an orphanage – one of those mean ones where I’ll be forced to sell newspapers on the corner every night to earn my bowl of cold porridge. Actually, I usually got dropped off at Grandma’s where we would make popcorn on the stovetop, watch Dick Clark, countdown to midnight, go on the back porch and shoot AK47’s into the air, and then fall asleep on the sofa bed with a transistor radio under my pillow. The next morning, Pops would pick me up and we’d hit the diner that my other Grandma managed so he could get some Bloody Marys while I got some cookies from the bakery case. Win win.

Eventually, I was old enough to partake and would show my gratitude for those earlier years by taking Grandma to the corner tavern where we would drink blackberry brandy, eat pickled hard boiled eggs, countdown to midnight, go out in the parking lot and shoot AK47’s into the air, and then pass out on the front lawn. Win win.

Lately, my New Year’s Eves have been pretty mellow – a bubblebath with some apple cinnamon scented candles and a hot stone massage from a Romanian prostitute and I’m ready to face a new year.

But this year we had a houseguest from out of town and I felt the pressure to entertain and pretend my life is not as lame as a Josh Groban video. So I bought us tickets to the special New Year’s Eve show of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind at the Neo-Futurists’ Theater located above the Nelson Funeral Home. For anyone that isn’t a hipster in the know like I am, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (TMLMTBGB) is a show consisting of 30 plays presented in 60 minutes. On regular nights, no reservations are taken so you need to be one of the first 150 in line to get in. If you make the cut, you roll a die and pay the amount of your roll plus $7. Instead of a ticket you get a “Hello, My Name Is…..” tag with a randomly assigned name. I was Betsy Ross for the evening, the Mrs. was Likes To Dance, and our visitor was Former Star. Since it was NYE, they did accept reservations and also provided a pre-show buffet and beverages from Whole Foods. I loaded up on the spinach feta patties and the crab cakes with a side of artichoke dip and chased it with a can of Squirt, and I was ready for showtime. Eleven minutes before 11 p.m. we were hastily corralled into the sparse and raw performance area, given a one-page program listing the “menu” of plays, and selected our seats. First rule was “when we sell out, we order out” so they called the pizza joint around the corner to buy pizza for audience for after the show. One pizza for 150 people so make sure your voice is heard when it’s time to yell out toppings. Next they explain how it works – the numbers 1 through 30 hang from a clothesline above the stage. When they say “curtain” to end a scene (or start the show) you yell out the number you want to see next and they grab whatever number they hear first. The show starts at the top of the hour with a countdown – kind of. You count down from 10 by even numbers, back up by odd numbers, and then back down to zero by prime numbers. They then spend roughly ten frantic seconds setting up the scene, yell “Go!” and any of the one to five cast members perform that play. It’s ends with “curtain” and the process repeats. Some are hilarious, some are political, some are absurd, some are offensive, some are emotional. It’s like a box of chocolates left out in the sun and you’re trying to eat as many as you can before they totally melt and then you’re left with gooey fingers and trying to decide whether to lick them or wipe them on an unsuspecting friend. Our guest spent about 75% of the evening with her mouth hanging open in shock, and about 50% of that time with her hand covering said mouth in horror. Some highlights:

The Dance of Death: The first play consisted of two cast members facing off with bags on their heads and pointing large shiny knives at each other. The next two minutes was an absurd but interesting negotiation and reconcilation between the two.

Strip Rock-Paper-Scissors: Just what it sounds like. A cast member squares off against a volunteer audience member. Pun intended - there was a loser in this fast-paced match.

How To Remain Friends With A Box: A touching story about trying to keep the memory of deceased friend alive through a box of their possessions.

Why Can People Still Make Fun of Gypsies and Not Be Considered Politically Correct? Also, We Are Stealing From You: The cast comes out dancing and performing as stereotypical gypsies, bringing an audience member onstage to dance with them while they steal her purse and sweater.

Crazy Bitch: Totally unexpected – a monologue not about a psycho ex-girlfriend, but about the experience of being totally swept away emotionally by a person or a piece of music or art. I was transfixed. Swept away in the moment myself.

Boys Gone Wild!: Sure, one male cast member spent most of the play suckling the nipple of another male cast member, but the narrator presented an amazingly effective social commentary on the issue of breastfeeding in public.

And that was only 20% of the show I just described. I could continue, but cannot give it justice. It can be frantic, hilarious, tense, thought provoking, offensive but most of all, fun. There is cursing and occasional nudity, so leave any holier than thou attitudes or kids at home. Otherwise, get your ass to a future performance. They also expanded into New York in case the terms of your probation don’t allow you to visit Illinois.

Each week they also roll a pair of dice to determine the number of new plays that will be performed the following week, resulting in ever-evolving show that is now in its nineteenth year. It’s a great concept – I want to go back to see another performance but I’m saddened that many of the plays will be “retired”, until I remember that the ones that I saw on NYE once replaced old favorites from a previous show. What a great metaphor for life – change may be uncomfortable, but if you embrace it you open yourself up to even greater experiences and success. In that respect, maybe we should all strive to be Neo-Futurists. I suppose that made it quite an appropriate show to bring in the new year.

Happy New Year, all y’all.

(Oh, and The Lovehammers performed in some hotel ballroom, I'm sure to the delight of all fans that showed up. They rock and put on an awesome live show, so I expect NYE was no different. Please support them in the upcoming year. And show some love to The Von Ehrics, too. And Broad Tosser. Hell, any local artists of your choosing. Just turn off the damn TV!)