Saturday, August 30, 2008

I Love This Town

Posted this week on craigslist...

chicago craigslist > city of chicago > talent gigs

Seeking Adult Drunk Clown for 30th Birthday party
Reply to: [?]
Date: 2008-08-26, 3:23PM CDT

We need an Adult Drunk Clown who is good at getting drunk and stupid. No need to do any clown tricks, just hang out and drink a shit load. We will be hopping around to different bars and want a clown to tag a long and drink heavely. He doesn't even need to socialize with anyone, just drink.

the birthday is on Friday, Sept. 5th in Bucktown. Oh, did I mention that the clown needs to get shitfaced. Don't worry, we will purchase all the drinks.

PostingID: 814181712

Drunk Clown

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Parent Orientation

I attended my son's high school parent orientation tonight. I was required to follow his schedule in fifteen minute intervals and listen to all of his teachers tell me about their classes. It was very informative. Although I went to the same high school, he has none of the teachers I had. All of the teachers I had are dead. Their bodies are still in the lockers I stuffed them into.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Resume Objective

I think it would be pretty cool to work for a company that either produces anvils or uses them in the normal course of operations.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Not For Microwave Use Only

I was very excited. I bought myself a brand new microwave oven. It has buttons and a door and a clock, and when you press the buttons other numbers take over the space where the clock is, and when you are done pressing the numbers and hit the button called Stop/Clear, the clock comes back, which doesn’t make much sense since “Clear” would seem to indicate that the screen would be clear and not have clock numbers in it. Maybe that button should be called Stop/Bring The Clock Back. I think I will write a letter to the manufacturer concerning their button naming conventions. I went to a button naming convention once. My team came up with a button named Belly.

As I was examining my new spaced-aged cooking machine, I discovered that it had a glass turntable inside. The glass was mystically frosted and had a bumpy texture to ensure food safety. There is nothing worse than a pile of pudding sliding out of the microwave oven while you are trying to cook it. I also noticed some lettering formed into the glass turntable. It read, “Not for microwave use.” WHAT THE!? Not for microwave use! Where the heck else was I going to use it, in the toaster? What kind of shenanigans were they trying to pull with this “Not for microwave use” glass turntable in the very microwave it was placed? I decided to write a letter to the manufacturer.

I’m putting you on. The glass turntable didn’t really say “Not for microwave use”. That would be crazy. But, just imagine if it did for real. What the!? What a ruse that would be! I would definitely write a letter in that case.

Dear Microwave Oven Manufacturer,

I bought one of your fine microwave ovens, and the glass turntable said it was “Not for microwave use.” WHAT THE!?


Moist Rub

Then I would spend a few weeks waiting for their reply, burning my delicate microwavables all along because I had no microwavable glass turntable to help cook them evenly, and trying to fit the glass turntable into the toaster. But the day would come when I would receive their response.

Dear Moist Rub,

We do not manufacture microwave ovens. We manufacture phase shifters, switches and drivers. How did you get our address? WHAT THE?!


Microwave Applications Group

Sometimes I have to slather the mundane with whimsy just to make it through the day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Year of the Rat or How I Caught Olympic Fever

Maybe it was the dead rat in my bike lane this morning, but while preparing my breakfast at work I thought that the bottle my nutrition shake comes in seems like the type of bottle in which one might find a mouse some day. You don’t hear much about that anymore, do you?

Who the hell invented synchronized diving? That has to be the dumbest sport outside of panda wrangling. My question is why the US doesn’t just send conjoined twins as our representatives? How can they lose? I’m guessing nowadays docs just pull them apart as soon as possible, but maybe we need to keep a set together every four years or so, or at least until the IOC realizes how stupid the whole thing is. In fact, I already did the work for the USOC....

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Pot Luck

Okay, time to knock out some quick-hitters that have been sitting around on my desk too long….

Recently I went to a restaurant and ordered the ostrich dog. I offered a bite to the Mrs. but she declined because she didn’t know how to classify it. She’s not a strict vegetarian since I’ve talked her into eating fish and poultry (as long as it’s boneless), but still avoids beef and pork. And apparently ostrich. So picky.

One of my favorite actresses recently decided she was a singer – Zooey Deschanel. Unlike Juliette, I’d prefer Zooey stick to acting. Unless she plans to serenade me to sleep in person every night with her songs, it’s just not working for me. Sorry, babe.

Although Juliette pissed me off – some dates with The Donnas and the Licks were recently announced and I could hardly sleep for a week. And then they quickly and mysteriously canceled. I was so depressed I didn’t get out of bed for a week. In fact, they were supposed to be in Chicago tonight. In protest, I’m not wearing my spandex pants, legwarmers, and Indian headdress today. Just jeans and a t-shirt. Well, okay, and the legwarmers. I had an aerobics class at lunch. Let’s get physical, babe, physical.

I don’t know how long this has been around and maybe I’m the last to see it (no, I’m not talking about the Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson sex tape), but I was flipping around the television and found a concert called something like The Rolling Stones at the Circus. It was the craziest shit I’ve ever seen (except for that polar bear skipping rope at Arby’s). Keith’s pants and the crowd, including John Lennon, all stoned out of their minds and dancing around in yellow and red cloaks. It also made me sad knowing that something like this could never bust out today. Try to picture the same scene in the day of corporate sponsorships and digital cameras.

I was recently stuck in a small airport waiting for a flight. As if I’d be sitting there waiting for a stagecoach. I ended up at the bar at Friday’s with an angry twenty-something bartender who seemed to get pissed off whenever a server would bring him a drink order for anything other than beer.

Bartender: A whiskey sour??!!
Server: Yes.
Bartender: How old is this person?
Server: I don’t know, maybe late twenties…
Bartender: Hrmph. Nobody drinks that shit anymore.

Misheard Phrases: I’ve been familiar with the phrase “for all intents and purposes” but for a long time I had thought people were saying “for all intensive purposes”. I don’t know if my hearing sucks or people's diction sucks or if I’m just a moron, but thankfully I don’t use words and phrase like that when I write so I never embarrassed myself. Until now. Oh, and don't worry, I know I'm a moron.

Finally, shortly after we moved into our new place a friend of the Mrs. came over to hang out and was righteous enough to bring us flowers and her own beer. But even better was the story of how she came to acquire those items. She had stopped at a small food store and was in line behind a guy who she described as follows: Slighty gruff, wearing moccasins, and the type that does his shopping only by buying what he can carry in his arms – that particular night featuring a large bottle of gin and some Gatorade. He seemed somewhat lubed already and decided to start up a conversation with her, including a discussion of her freshly painted blue toenails. This all led up to his parting comment, “And if tonight goes as planned, I’ll be sucking on those toes later.” I thought I had mastered the obnoxious or horrifying pick up line at my prime, but I must pass on the title to the new king.

Misheard Lyrics: My most embarrassing entry –
I want to rock and roll all night…
And probably every day.

Have a swell weekend. I’ll probably rock and roll and suggest you consider doing the same.

Sid's Shit List

Skip this post. There are no attempts at humor and I’m just using this blog as a forum to rant for a day.

I’m normally a pretty mellow dude, even without the use of prescription, over-the-counter or street drugs. So if Subway forgets to put the banana peppers on my sandwich, I’m not prone to call 911 or throw a brick through the window. If McDonald’s screws up my order, I’m not going to kick their door in or steal one of their garbage can lids. If my flight is delayed because a monsoon is passing through town, I try not to break any kneecaps and instead use the time to write more ballads dedicated to Crystal Bernard. You get the idea. But sometimes a business will be so utterly contemptible that I even I can’t let it slide. It doesn’t happen often, but unfortunately I had three such instances in the last two months. Since I usually travel under the pseudonym Sid Mexico, these unfortunate businesses were unaware that they were dealing with the Sid F’er, who would bring irreparable harm to their businesses through his world-renowned blog. And with that, I present my Wall of Shame:

3. Red Roof Inn

I recently traveled to Columbus, Ohio and wanted to save a few bucks so I took a chance with Red Roof Inn. They branded this particular location with their “Redesigned, Rededicated” logo and I fell for it. I checked in and was assigned my non-smoking, king, all-inclusive room. The all-inclusive didn’t include any food, drink or hookers, but was supposed to get me free Internet through their T-Mobile Hotspot along with an ergonomic workstation.

When I walked in it smelled like a dirty ashtray. In fact, there was an ashtray on the desk. There were two dead flies on the windowsill. They were sitting just under the window that was covered with slime, as if Jerry Lewis had just eaten a giant bag of Lay’s potato chips and then wiped his hands and pressed his greasy hair all over it. I’ve stayed in some crappy places when I was younger – The Biltmore Inn in La Jolla, The Admiral Benbow Inn in Memphis, and The Ramada Inn in Jasper, Texas stand out – but I heard someone once say that the older you get, the more stars you require from your hotel. I was hoping that a national brand like Red Roof might meet minimum standards, but it wasn’t going to happen. I decided to log on to see if there were any other options in town. Most hotels offering Internet access just have you check a box on a welcome screen saying you accept their terms and conditions and then you can have at it. At most a password might have to be entered. But Red Roof decided it would be much more guest focused to have to go through a lengthy registration process with their provider T-Mobile. After which one finds out that the wireless signal is so week that it would have taken a fortnight to load Google. And I was not staying in that room for that long. I packed up my stuff and politely asked the front desk to cancel my reservation. They insisted it was a non-smoking room, apologized for the Internet, and offered to move me to a smaller room. I declined, and they earned a little respect for honoring their Satisfaction Guarantee and getting me the hell out of there without much of a hassle.

I sent an email to their guest relations and got a nice form letter reply from a GM apologizing and thanking me for my feedback. She signed it “Sincerely” but I’m not sure she was all that sincere. Here’s a tip to the Guest Relations department if you really want people to believe the “sincere” thing: Don’t send a generic email from a tech support address with a copy of the email to the GM from whom the email is supposed to be sent. I’ll be over at a Marriott or Hilton property if you need to reach me.

2. Ed Napleton Honda

Always start out by saying something nice, right? Okay, they made me a great deal on the car I bought. So what’s the problem? I would have gladly paid a premium over the sticker price to avoid the clusterfuck that the transaction turned out to be.

They either lie more than your average dealership or they are the most operationally incompetent organization I’ve dealt with in a long time. I’m not sure which one is worse, but neither one should be high on your list of people with whom to do business.

Furthermore, I think I would have preferred a form letter from the GM since every time we spoke with him he only managed to make the situation worse. Obviously a graduate of the Barry Bonds Institute of Customer Service.

We love the car – Honda rocks! Just don’t buy one here.

And the winner is…..

1. Continental Airlines

They had the pleasure of taking me to Costa Rica since I like monkeys more than people. Even though they occasionally toss some poop at you, I’ve never had a monkey try to run me over on my bike, make me work overtime, or spill a drink on me. I’ve learned to set my standards pretty low for the airlines, so if they get me to my destination without crashing I consider it a success. I asked Continental to return me to Chicago on Sunday after my week was up. But there was a change of plans so I called them up a couple weeks before the trip and asked if they would return me to Las Vegas instead. It wasn’t my choice because Vegas frightens and confuses me, but work insisted I go there. The agent said that would be cool as long as I paid the fare difference of a couple hundred dollars. No problemo. And there would be a $100 change fee. Understood. Put it all on my Where’s Waldo Visa card. They sent me a confirmation in email, I checked it out and it said Vegas, Baby, so I stashed it in my fanny pack and carried on.

So after a week of taunting monkeys and licking poison dart frogs I returned to the airport on Sunday. The Mrs. checked in for her flight to Chicago, but I was told that my reservation was not until the following day. Oh, those nutty Ticos and their crazy sense of humor! Unfortunately she wasn’t joking. I whipped my confirmation from my fanny pack and discovered that in addition to changing my destination to Vegas, the agent also inexplicably changed my return date to Monday. Oh, those nutty reservation agents and their little practical jokes. But again it wasn’t a joke. There was a seat left on that day’s flight, but I would lose my upgrade and have to pay another $100 change fee. Unfortunately, unless I wanted to miss my flight and two days of meetings for work, I had to pony up another $100 to correct their error. The agent said I could have it resolved later. Right.

I emailed the ironically named Customer Care group with all my details. I didn’t even digress. Stuck to facts. They ignored the part of my story about the change being made to correct their error and said the change fee was valid.

I politely explained that it didn’t seem nice of them to charge me $100 to fix their error. The politely explained that they don’t care about being nice... they’re an airline. And they needed my money to pay for fuel. Haven’t I been watching the news? And they don’t have time to be processing refunds for their mistakes because employees need to be making sure they’re collecting all the new fees from people that have the nerve to bring luggage with them when they travel.

I tried to remind them that it was their mistake that caused this fee to be charged. They reminded me that they don’t give a shit and that it was my fault for not catching their mistake on the confirmation they sent. Technically, I did, when I tried to check in for my flight. I had no reason to believe or check that the agent would randomly change my departure date when all I asked was to change my destination.

I asked them one last time to consider doing the right thing. They told me one last time to go fuck myself. But since I was being a pain in the ass, they’d offer me a travel voucher for $100 even though it was really my fault. I rarely fly Continental and now had even less reason to do so, so a travel voucher would hold the same value to me as that KC & the Sunshine Band 8-track that I can’t seem to get rid of. I declined and insisted on a refund of the fee.

I had a slow day at work, so I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. This prompted a real live “Customer Care” associate to call me and tell me that she didn’t have any way of knowing whether it was my mistake or the agent’s mistake, so she further supports Continental’s position to go fuck myself. And how about a $50 travel voucher. Right, I wouldn’t accept a $100 voucher, so how about $50?

I had another slow day at work, so I tracked down the Continental executive in charge of “customer experience”. Really. Like a flight is supposed to be a day at fucking Disney World. I sent a letter, explaining my position and also recognizing that the time and expense I was spending trying to resolve this by now exceeded any possible benefit. He forwarded my letter to a lackey in charge of making pests like me go away, and again I was told that it was my fault, that I need to quit being a pest, and that the corporate department in charge of customer experience supports the decision of customer care. At this point, I really wasn’t having a good experience and wasn’t really getting the impression they cared.

I’m guessing they probably sent me about eight emails, two letters, and made two phone calls, plus all the time of their employees to get out of refunding me $100 for their mistake. They had already collected approximately $800 on my original ticket, fare difference, and the first legitimate change fee.

Now, in case you didn’t get it, they really didn’t tell me to “go fuck myself” or that they didn’t “give a shit”. But that accurately describes what it felt like after reading the minimally customized form letter responses that I received at every stage of my quest.

I suppose if you did read this far despite my attempt to discourage you, I should provide something of use, so here are the lessons I learned:

Take your age, double it, and add twenty. If you’re paying less than that per night at a hotel, you’re just asking for trouble. This just a rule of thumb… you might have to multiply further for certain cities… like a factor of 2.5 for Manhattan.

There really is truth to the joke, “How do you know a salesman is lying?” His lips are moving. Get everything in writing and hold them to it. Don’t forget you’re the customer. He needs your sale more than you need whatever crap he’s trying to sell you. Unless you’re a drug addict. Then just go steal something, pawn it and pay what he’s asking.

When you do get stuff in writing, actually read it. Don’t assume that they wrote down what was actually agreed upon.

You’d think I’d have learned all this by now. After all, I’m at that point in life where I shouldn’t be paying less than $170 a night for a hotel.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Toadies @ The Annex, Madison, WI 7/31/08

People, in general, are annoying. Sometimes I let that stop me from doing some pretty cool stuff if I know the crowd will exceed my maximum tolerable annoyance quotient. An especially common scenario is the world of music. There are a plethora of bands I’d like to see live, but I don’t automatically fork over my paycheck to Ticketmaster before running the event though a sophisticated Bat-Computer program that takes into account my level of desire to see the artist, venue size and location, cost, expected attendance, and possibly most important, the expected percentage of tools, douchebags, kids, drunkards, and women between the ages of 18 and 25. Drunkards used to get a free pass when I was one of them, and women used to slide by until I got married and old and didn’t have a shot with them anymore.

The Toadies show in Madison showed up on my calendar, and the Bat-Computer gave it a thumbs up. It just barely edged out the Black Keys show a few miles down the street from me on the same night. So I went. I might not have if I had known that the entire state of Illinois is down to one lane. A two-hour trip took over three hours. Since the Black Keys would have only required a 20 minute train ride, the Toadies had better made it worth the trip or I was going to kick some Todd Lewis ass now that he doesn’t have Taz around to protect him. But I digress. Remind me that I need to add traffic and construction into the Bat-Computer logarithm. I skipped the lame jingle jangle local campus band that opened the night, but caught the last two songs for The Whigs. I was hoping to catch a little more, but there was that whole traffic thing and then I had to eat the cold potato skin that Moist Rub had saved for me at the Big Ten Pub where we met. If I didn’t eat it then he would pout all night and then I’d have to kick his ass, too. I’m very angry when I get stuck in traffic, especially since I don’t drive much anymore. The check came and after both of us pretending to ignore it for 75 minutes he finally caved and picked up the tab. So back to The Whigs. The first song we heard seemed decent, but we only saw it on closed circuit television while trying to get our drinks. Our bartender’s cleavage was not good enough to warrant the inefficient service. Pick it up, sweetie… we’re not poor students and will actually tip you if you put a little effort into getting some libations in our hands. The last song of The Whigs set rocked it. It might have been Need You, Need You, but I’m not sure. I think I was distracted by the left-handed drummer. Any Whigs fans out there care to help out? Or are you going to be dicks about it like all those Men At Work fans that wouldn’t help me re-tie my bandana after it got knocked off in the mosh pit? I wish I had caught more of their set, but give them the thumbs up and they’re on the list next time I hit iTunes. I might even vote a straight Whig ticket this November.

It was a good sized crowd - pretty full house, but room to get in main showroom and move around a bit without getting any Axe Body Spray rubbed off on me. I was afraid most of the college crowd were there for The Whigs and might have scattered a bit, but crowd grew stronger. Big-time Toadies fans. All singing along, dancing, pogo-ing, and moshing from the start. It was beautiful. Maybe there is hope for this country after all.

So the Toadies vocalist is Todd Lewis. But he looks exactly like the Burden Brothers vocalist Vaden Lewis. Sounds like him, too. It’s like they’re Siamese cats or something. Actually he’s the same person. I guess he was doing the whole Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines bit. But I’ll just call him VTL. So VTL called the crowd "fucking awesome". Really, he said he meant that. At the end of the show he changed it to "fucking nuts", so now I'm not really sure if we were fucking awesome or fucking nuts. But it was one of the best crowds I've seen at a club in a long time. I'm fucking serious. And awesome. And nuts.

While studying for the show (what? doesn’t everybody?) I checked out the set lists from the last couple shows and it seems they really switched it up on me for this show, but I rolled with the changes and liked what they put together. Opened with Backslider and had the crowd from the beginning and never lost them. Closed with Tyler, after an audience vote on what they wanted to hear and in what order. He also did the first-timers poll and again had a big virgin contingent. But "the poll isn't official because some of you voted twice." It appears he's bucking for a position with the Gallup folks after the music thing is over.

I really regret not seeing them when I was in Texas despite the ridiculous crowds and douchebag element. Sometimes the music can wash some of the odiousness from the gutter. The tunes translate perfectly to a live setting and flourish outside of a studio setting. Sure, seeing a grizzly bear in a zoo is pretty cool, but it’s even more amazing catching sight of one in the wild. You know, as long as you don’t get mauled or anything. I almost considered dropping $80 to catch them at Lollapalooza two days later. I enjoyed the show that much. But the Bat Computer would never allow it.

After a band has moved on, you wonder why they would get back together a decade past their prime. So I was also observing each of the band members. The way I observe the seals in the zoo, wondering if they’re sad to be captive or kind of grateful they aren’t getting eaten by the polar bears. Clark often appears that he's in the rehearsal studio working out a song, then catches the audience out of the corner of his eye, and a smile slowly overtakes his face when he realizes people are actually watching the band and totally rocking out. Mark looks like a guy who has taken a sabbatical from his day job, but is hiding behind the drum kit so his day job co-workers won't find out what he's really up to. But he flashes the occasional smile to VTL to let him know where his allegiances lie. Or lay. I never figured that one out. And VTL just seems at home. Like someone who has found his calling. You know those bastards that piss you off because they found exactly what they should be doing in this lifetime and can’t imagine doing anything else in good times or bad, while the gods will laugh when the rest of us think we’ve found our lot and take it all away. Thanks to Juliette Lewis for helping wrap up that last sentence. Finally, you know I have a fetish for female bass players so I miss not having Lisa there, but the new bass player dude understands his place. Just lay it down, enjoy the gig and stay out of the way.

VTL encouraged everybody after the show to come on down, because he wanted to meet them, and a lot of people did. So I took a pass. You know, the “people” thing. However on my way out, I yelled at him, "HR sent us," a shout out to one of his finest grassroots promoters. He looked confused and then I remembered that he was probably darn near deaf from years of touring, so I used American Sign Language. He looked further confused, probably because I don’t know ASL and looked like I was trying to put on a shadow puppet show for him. So I yelled louder. He seemed to pick up on it this time, looked confused, had the aha moment, smiled and gave the thumbs up.

Right on.

It was only 2-1/2 hours to get home and I was in bed by 3:30 for a few hours sleep before heading off to work again. But it was worth the trip. The Toadies just announced more dates in support of No Deliverance (release date Aug 19). So go. Speaking of which, the new material went over pretty well. You know when the Stones come to town everybody wants to hear Sympathy for the Devil and Gimme Shelter and as soon as they hear Mick introduce one from their latest release they take off to drain the lizard or refill their $7 cup o’ beer? Didn’t happen here – the fans stuck out the new ones and the tunes even seemed more warmly welcomed than Barack Obama at a Birkenstock outlet. I look forward to the new CD, and look forward to seeing you at the next show. Just be sure to give me a little space. And don’t talk to me. I mean it.