Thursday, January 29, 2009

Four Rooms

And four nights. It was an impressive feat for an old guy like me who should be home watching Everybody Loves Raymond reruns or making birdhouses in my workshop. But instead I took on a series of four consecutive outings that would make Paris Hilton proud. You know, if she liked doing fun stuff instead of doing those dumbass poses on red carpets or making appearances at clubs playing crappy music.

Night One – Cheap Trick – The Vic Theater
I’ve been hassled for liking these guys before. But how can you forget the magnetism of Robin Zander or the charisma of Rick Nielsen? How 'bout the tunes? The dream police,
da-na-na-na-na-na. Your mama's all right, your daddy's all right, they just seem a little bit weird…

Okay, so when I saw them at a summer festival a year ago I’ve never seen a bigger collection of jean shorts in one place. In a rare scenario, I was like the coolest guy there. But in 8th grade everybody had a copy of Live At Budokan, except for the poor kid with the used Doris Day record, and somehow in the last 30 years they’ve managed not to screw things up too bad. Even though they’re probably sick of playing some of those songs more than a lifer at the Cook County pen is sick of the commissary oatmeal for breakfast every day, they still include every one of those hits on their set list. They add a couple deep cuts for the truly geeky fans. And then drop in a couple new ones in case anyone didn’t know they were still releasing new records. The climax of each show is the waiting to see if Robin can still hit the high note in The Flame. Yes, he can. And they do it without looking bored with it all. (Although Bun E. Carlos looks exhausted by the end of the night and thought they were just going to be playing a few bar gigs when they recruited him 30 years ago.)

Line of the night from Rick Neilsen – after a failed bit in which they brought out a little kid with a miniature guitar who wandered awkwardly around the stage before they sent him away – “Boy, that was a really dumb idea.”

Opening were The Avatars, who just happen to have a singer named Ian Zander. But I’m sure that had nothing to do with them getting the gig. Poor Ian seemed to have a very difficult time coping with his guitar problems and spent most of the set wandering between half-assed vocals and hanging out with the roadies/techs trying to fix his guitar or amp. Fortunately for the crowd, the other guitarist shares vocal duties and the Avatars were a much better act as a power trio without Ian and his silly haircut, skinny jeans and wimpy strumming. Poor Robin must feel like a professional athlete who has a kid who throws like a girl. Oh, and just so you don’t think I’m sexist, I’m not talking about those highly-skilled, empowered women athletes who could probably beat me into submission if they read this. I was only talking about the rest of you girls who throw like, well, girls.

Night Two – The Chicago Bears – Soldier Field

My co-worker has two season seats and after afflicting various friends with frostbite, he needed a new buddy to brave single digit wind chills for a few hours at a Thursday night game that nobody would see since it was being broadcast on the NFL Network. I think you can only get the NFL Network if you find the one cable or dish installer who knows the activation code and you bribe him with a bratwurst and some fried cheese curds.

I reluctantly relinquished my assless chaps and busted out my long underwear. Added some wool socks, a thermal shirt, flannel shirt, ski jacket, ski gloves, and an officially NFL licensed Chicago Bears touque, and I was ready to go.

Unfortunately I was ready too early and got there about 45 minutes before kick-off. Since I took the train, I couldn’t wait it out in my non-existent car so I just snuggled up to a nearby large woman munching a bratwurst and some fried cheese curds.

Getting there early paid off, as the Bears ran back the opening kickoff for a TD and gave me a chance to jump up and down and try to force some circulation into my toes. Midway through the game, meteorologist Amy Freeze (yes, her real name) advised the crowd via the Jumbotron that we should be free of any meteor strikes that evening. What would we do without meteorologists?

It was a great game, but the last thing my toes needed was an overtime period. So the Bears decided the wintery weather was a fine time to hibernate in the second half, letting the Falcons take the lead, and then coming back in the last minute to force the game into, yep, overtime. Thankfully they made short work of the Falcons and sent us on our way before tissue death set in, and I managed to regain some feeling in my feet during the twenty minute walk back to the train.

Night Three – Monte Montgomery – The Morse Theater

I took the festivities back inside the following night to the newly remodeled Morse Theater. It’s an awesome venue, but almost too sterile. Oh, Monte, yeah, he was incredible as usual and I can’t stress enough how you need to go to one of his shows if you appreciate guitar playing, standup comedy or even just plain old rock and roll. But back to the venue. Monte’s music is the kind that’s made to be played in a bar. An old bar with neon beer signs and a gruff doorman and a sticky floor (not the kind of sticky floor you find in a porn shop, you pervs). But there are always a handful of moron sots that pay a $15 cover to try to talk over his set. And they usually stand right behind me. So while that element was gladly removed from the Morse, so were the other roadhouse type elements. So, Monte, awesome, but I’ll defer my verdict on the Morse.

Night Four – The Supersuckers – Reggie’s

I’m embarrassed to say that until recently I was unfamiliar with the work of Eddie Spaghetti and his bandmates. Thanks to a swell bud’s recommendation I made arrangements with Moist Rub to catch their show when they rolled through town on their 20th anniversary tour. What gift do you give for 20 years? Lace? Chinese plastic?

The Supersuckers look like what you would expect from a band that has been on the road for 20 years. Except I think they skipped the whole rehab thing and haven’t wussed out like Aerosmith. They also perform a show reflecting their efforts to not bore themselves to death over the same timeframe. This means they come out and assault you with a fast and heavy sound that has the crowd flashing devil horns, banging their heads, moshing, shotgunning beers, giving each other jailhouse tats, and losing track of how many licks it’s taking to get the the centers of their Tootsie Pops. Then The Supersuckers transition to a country themed set list that has the crowd scraping the Judas Priest bumper stickers off their Chevy Novas and instead mounting gun racks on their pickup trucks while their buddies sit on the tailgate sipping moonshine from a pickle jar. Cha cha cha. Then, just as you’re longing for a trip out to the country to count telephone poles, or as you’re getting really pissed off because you hate this backward ass country crap, they turn the amps back to 11 and finish the assault they initiated at the beginning of the show. Good times.

is right on the border of a neighborhood that began sprouting expensive condos and a neighborhood that is not sprouting much of anything except general plight. It’s a cool place with two venues, a bar and grill and a great record store, but there is also a liquor store with steel bars on the windows next door and a fried chicken joint around the corner with bulletproof glass. But all things equal I’d still think I’d like to take my chances there rather than a night at the Morse.

I also stepped out of hermit mode and shared these four nights with a total of seven different people. I didn’t even think I knew seven different people. Before you know it, I’ll be joining Paris on that red carpet. I’ll be the one with the assless chaps.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Want Money (That's What I Want)

In the small claims court system, the people are not represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. They are represented by their own incompetent selves. This is my story.

F’er v. Douchebag Landlord (DL) – it kind of got buried today by the whole Blagojevich impeachment trial. Unfortunately DL showed up for our trial.

If you remember, and why wouldn’t you since you’ve been stalking me on this blog for way longer than is really acceptable, I moved last June. On a Thursday. We returned the following Saturday to finish cleaning, scrub down the kitchen, appliances, bathrooms, vacuum the floors, and I even washed the goddam patio door to really give the place a nice first impression when one walks in the front door. We’re nice like that.

With that we put our parking passes on the counter and slid the keys under the door as agreed upon. I emailed our agent the address of my new hideout so he could return our one month’s security deposit. In July I emailed him again because I wanted the money to purchase a Pocket Fisherman. In August I emailed him again because I exploring my metrosexuality and wanted the money to purchase a Finishing Touch hair trimmer. By mid-August I decided being a metrosexual was too much work and that a Flowbee would be more practical so I left him a voicemail asking where my money was. In a clearly altruistic effort to prevent me from catching a terrible case of buyer’s remorse he kindly had been holding my money and not responding. In September I felt the urge to raise my tool quotient by purchasing an Ed Hardy shirt, so I emailed him again politely requesting my money and asked if “other avenues” to collect needed to be considered. I meant small claims court, but he must have thought I meant I was going to send over a couple of thugs with a ball gag and the cast of Deliverance because he responded. He requested that I please hold off because he was totaling some bills and would be able to resolve shortly. On October 3rd, almost four months after we moved out I received in the mail a check. For $28.25. I know I’m a simple man, but I can assure you that $28.25 is considerably less than our monthly rent. And not nearly enough for that Ed Hardy shirt.

He was kind enough to include some bills for painting, carpet cleaning, and some other crap. And he was kind enough to put his own personal heading over the summary of charges called “routine painting and clean-up, normal wear and tear”. Which is clearly excluded under the lease. So that was pretty much the equivalent of pleading not guilty to murder charges because you only killed the person.

I emailed him again asking if he’d like to reconsider before I take him for an ass-whoopin’ from Judge Judy. He clearly thought I had said Judy Jetson and went back to his intial strategy of ignoring me and hoping I’d go away.

I didn’t, and today was my day in court. It was a slam-dunk case so all I had to do was avoid eating a box of Suzy-Q’s for breakfast and passing out in a diabetic coma. I brought a copy of my lease, a copy of his bills, the email thread showing what a dick he is, and a picture of him humping Baby Jesus in a nativity display just in case things started to go horribly wrong.

I watched a couple cases before mine and the judge was keen on pointing out the stupid mistakes people made that put them in the position of testifying before him. He even asked age, occupation, education and schools. I thought about telling him I had a degree in veterinary technology from that place that advertises on the matchbook covers so he’d lower the bar for me.

Eventually our case was called, I chose to be sworn in on Lincoln’s inaugural bible but they said it was unavailable and I didn’t want to cause a fuss. There were some formalities like introductions, although I was a little thrown off when he asked what ice cream would best describe my current relationship. Eventually things got rolling and I walked him through my exhibits without much problem. I, of course, got chastised for not taking pictures before and after moving, for not doing a walk-thru after we moved out, and for having too much sugar in my diet but it was otherwise smooth sailing. Next up, he passed the defendants some rope and during the questioning they fashioned a noose, placed it around their necks, paged the hangman and got lectured by the judge for being dumbasses. Turns out because he owns multiple units he is considered a “sophisticated landlord” under state statutes (although you couldn’t tell from the ugly ass sweater he was wearing) and held to higher standards, including advising the renter of any damages within something like 30 days and returning the deposit in like 45 days. Don’t quote me on that since I knew I had already won and my mind started wandering to what Crystal Bernard may have had for breakfast that morning while the judge was reading from this law book. Eventually he finished with all that legal mumbo-jumbo and asked if I had anything to add. I had plenty to add but realized that anything I said could only make things worse. If there’s one thing I learned in my decades on this planet, it’s to shut the fuck up when you’re ahead.

He entered a judgment for the full security deposit and my court costs. DL wrote a check on the spot. I drank his milkshake. I drank it up.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ant Gut Entertainment

Our society has become an entertainment consuming wasteland. Everything we do is in an effort, directly or indirectly, to be entertained. The food we eat, the clothes we buy, the home accents we pick up at garage sales, they are all about keeping us entertained. We even expect entertainment out of the jobs we have. How many times have you heard somebody complain about how boring xe’s job is? Jobs are supposed to be boring, but that doesn’t keep us from whining, because we expect to be entertained in all facets of life. The sheer volume of entertainment outlets we have created supports this claim. We wouldn’t need all of them if we were not addicted to the pleasure they provide. Nothing has expanded the number of entertainment sources at our disposal more than the Internet.

Almost anything that can amuse us in real life is available on the Internet. Card games, board games, puzzles, video games, movies, television shows, sex, music, parties, vapid communication, farm reports (the list goes on and on) are accessible on line. Even learning is fun on the Internet. I don’t NEED to learn anything new. It won’t help me in my job. What am I going to do the next time my boss gets on my back, tell him about the article I read about Ptolemaic nomenclature I found on the Internet? No. I learn (and usually forget right away) this crap for fun.

The other night, I reduced my entertainment choices to three options (I do this to avoid rupturing my hippocampus with too many choices for fun). Those options were watching Dancing With The Stars, learning something new from the information on the Internet and driving a skewer through the temples of my head. I opted for learning something new (the skewer took second). I fired up my computer and rode my mouse on a random adventure to enlightenment. The vaudeville I found was in the guts of ants.

What I learned was remarkable. The interval between defecations of an ant is controlled by the number of steps it has taken with its hind legs. It must evacuate its bowels on or before every three hundred eighty-fifth step, or its hind legs will lock and it will not be able to move, or, at least, it will not be able to move as easily. This sounds preposterous until you learn the glory behind this biological marvel of ambulation.

An ant’s body is divided into three primary segments: the head, the thorax and the gaster (which reminds me, check out a new band call Gaster Pants. They are a punk jazz band. They rock be-boppedly.). The legs are connected to the thorax. Between the hind legs there is a circular flap of exoskeleton harboring a set of three hundred eighty-five protruding non-motile cilia. Behind the legs, connecting the thorax to the gaster, is a minor segment of the ant’s body called the petiole. Underneath the petiole is a boney projection known as the sub petiolar process. It extends into the flap of non-motile cilia on the thorax. This assembly operates in a similar manner to a ratchet, where the sub petiolar process acts as the pawl and engages a sequential non-motile cilium due to the motion of each step, rotating the flap. But, since the circular flap is not medially articulated to the thorax, it is unable to rotate a full three hundred and sixty degrees. When it advances to the last cilium the sub petiolar process has nowhere else to go and locks, causing the hind legs to lock, as well. This puts the ant in quite a predicament. With hindered mobility the ant is susceptible to being eaten by prey or being trampled asunder by the other ants in the army. What is a poor ant to do? I’d tell you what I’d do - I’d shit in my gaster pants. And that’s exactly what the ant needs to do (only without the pants).

Fortunately, evolution has granted the assiduous ant an ingenious solution to this potentially perilous problem. The excretory muscles of the ant, when constricted to the degree needed for waste exhaustion, lift the gaster in the precise manner to tip the petiole which dislodges the sub petiolar process from the twisted non-motile cilia flap. The flap is free to return to its original position and the ant can move freely again. This is the only method the ant has to accomplish this task. Since there are three hundred eighty-five cilia cycling one at a time through the mechanism with each step, the ant must reset this process every three hundred eighty-five steps in order to move continuously. Consequently, the ant must also defecate within this range. Furthermore, the ant must consume enough food regularly so there is always something to expel. Otherwise, the ant is forced to make a decision between becoming aardvark fodder or anally discharging its entrails. Evolution has helped here, too. The ant is equipped with a metabolism that is perfectly synchronized with the insects walking behavior, ensuring a consistent supply of feces. This begs the question, which came first - the synchronized metabolism or the sub petiolar process/non-motile cilia flap assembly? Nobody knows, but it is sure fun to ponder.

None of this is true, of course. I made up all of it. This is part of the entertainment/learning factor provided by the Internet. There is SO much information out there, and we have grown SO accustomed to having it at our fingertips, we’ve become bored, so we place nonsense on the Internet for entertainment purposes. Of course I didn’t find anything about sub petiolar process/non-motile cilia flap assemblies on ants during my search of the Internet because it didn’t exist. But it does now, thanks to me. I smile at the thought of some hapless college student, on the night before a report about ant digestive systems is due, feverishly searching the Internet for any kind of information about it, comes across this web site, or some more reputable web site who copied my silliness, and includes it in xe’s report and subsequently receives a D minus and a “See me” note on the returned report. That would be hilarious. Even if it never happens, just knowing that the possibility is there is entertaining enough for me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Salute You

Maximizing the distance between yourself and any crazy people in the public transit system seems to be an instinctual move, so when I entered the subway to catch the Red Line and heard a guy in camo pants and an old beat up jacket ranting at louder than conversational tones I set myself up at the other end of the platform.

But in this rare instance I ended up regretting my decision.

The trains were running slow that day, so the wait pushed ten minutes. But during this time I discovered that he was not your typical maniacally ranting psychiatric candidate, but instead was just enthusiastically extolling the greatness of AC/DC. The band, not the ambiguously powered electrical system.

It seems he was listening to AC/DC tunes on his headphones, switching between air guitar, singing along, and whistling. Well enough that I could easily identify the three tunes that he performed during my wait – Highway To Hell, For Those About To Rock, and Shoot To Thrill. The commentary promoting the awesomeness of the band took place mostly between selections.

Way less annoying than the sax players that only seem to know three tunes. And he wasn’t even collecting money. Rock on, dude.

Friday, January 16, 2009

To Roderick From Maggie May

Maggie May stopped by for a visit earlier this week. I was surprised to see her, since I had no idea who she was. After I made some tea and we caught up with what each of us has been doing the past sixty years, I asked her to explain her presence in my abode (I ask the same thing of my children each day when they come home from school. The first few times they would answer something like, “I live here”, but eventually they grew tired of my interrogation and now simply give me the ignorant look and head for the snack cabinet.). Maggie told me she needed my help to contact Rod Stewart so she could tell him something about the song he wrote about her. She has not been able to regain contact with him over the years. I informed her that I was not acquainted with Rod. She explained further that Barbra Streisand had referred her to me because of Leper Pop. Apparently, Ms. Streisand is a regular reader and knows for a fact that Rod checks in a few times a week. So, Maggie asked me if I would help her and post a note for Rod on the blog. Below is her message.

This is a personal communication between two ex-lovers. I would appreciate if everyone else would respect their privacy and not read it. Thank you for your cooperation.

Hello Roderick,

It’s been quite some time since I’ve talked to you. The last time I saw your face in person, you were grimacing in ecstasy, chucking your muck on top of me. It is an image that is etched upon my mind. I’d like to say I hope you have been well, but I can’t.

I appreciate that you had written a song about me. While I do not think you depicted our relationship accurately, I understand that you were very young and confused at the time. What I do NOT understand is why you chose to make a comment about your perceived impression of the aged state of my face (in case your decrepit mind does not recall the line: “the morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age”). There was no need for it as it relates to the rest of the song, unless you felt the urge to let the world know how superficial you really are. I was only 29 years old at the time, for crikey sake! You didn’t seem to mind my aged face while I was giving your tadger a tongue bath, now did you? Besides, you went on to state in the song that my face didn’t “worry you none”, so why even bring it up?

You can’t imagine the ridicule I’ve dealt with over the years because of that lyric. Men would chide me in the street. “Maggie, could you please step into the shade so we don’t see your age?” “Maggie, would you mind wearing this burlap sack on your head until dusk?” “Maggie, can we finish this conversation at night or at least in a closet? It got to the point where I would only go outside or near a window at night. And even then, some guys would shine a torch in my face and tell me how old I looked. I know I was no Felicity Kendal, but I was no trog, either, even at the still young age of 29.

I don’t know if you have looked in a mirror recently, but it doesn’t take the brightness of the morning sun to show your age lately. Blimey, a full solar eclipse in a dense fog could do the job. Maybe I should write a song about it. Tell me, what rhymes with crag?

The song was a nice little earner for you. I wish I could say the same thing about me. There are no royalty laws on the books governing the compensation for the muses of popular, lucrative art. Otherwise, I would not have had to spend the last thirty years heaving pollocks in a Newlyn fish market and living in a caravan underneath the wharf. I know you are a very talented man and deserve your riches. Still, it would not have killed you to send some of that crust my way.

I’ve said my piece. But, before I go, I do have to question another lyric in my song. Oh, Maggie I couldn’t have tried anymore. I think you quite possibly could have. Instead of writing a song about the feelings you had about our relationship, maybe you could have, I don’t know, maybe talked to me about it. Unless your definition of “trying” is sneaking out before I woke up without saying a word or leaving a note. Heavens, if you had written, “Later, bitch!” on my mirror with your lipstick, that would have been considered trying harder than what you actually did. But, I’m not bitter. I will leave you alone now.

Good-bye, Roderick.

Maggie May

p.s. what is that thing on your face by your mouth, by the way? Is that a button you installed to make your wanker go up and down? Just wondering. But, I’m not bitter.

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by Leper Pop and the Council for Aged Faces.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Feeling Expialidocious

Sid: Man, I think I sprained my foot – my toe is killing me.

Mrs: You probably have gout.

Sid: I don’t know what they’re teaching you in medical school, but gout was eradicated in the 19th century.

Mrs: Oh, really?

Sid: Yeah, it was mostly sailors that got it, but they have supplements now.

Mrs: Do you mean scurvy?

Sid: No, that’s the abnormal curvature of the spine.

Mrs: No, that’s scoliosis.

Sid: No, that’s bad breath.

Mrs: You mean halitosis?

Sid: Are you sure you’re in medical school?

Mrs: Please leave the room.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Chris!

Today is Chris Wolak’s birthday. You may not know him. He and I attended the same schools, from first grade all the way through twelfth grade. We were decent friends. Over the years our association with each other ebbed and flowed, depending if we were in the same classroom, or, in high school, if we shared any classes. His neighborhood’s team would play baseball against my neighborhood’s team during the summers. My team was better (no thanks to me). Jim Hopper was on their team. I don’t know when his birthday is. He was kind of jerk. He thought I was a jerk. But I wasn’t. That was his jerkness bouncing off me and hitting him back in his jerk face.

I saw Chris a couple of times over the years since high school, late night, at Burritoland, after the bars had closed. We were both drunk. Well, I was. I’m not sure if he was. But, if he wasn’t, what the hell was he doing at Burritoland at three in the morning? The last time I saw him was at our high school reunion. That was about five years ago. He was shorter than I remembered. Maybe I’ve grown since those times at Burritoland. I know I have, emotionally. That’s for sure. He still had the same raspy voice I remembered, similar to Ron Santo’s voice. He probably does that on purpose since he’s a Cubs fan. Cubs fans - how silly. I enjoyed catching up with him at the reunion. It was good to see him. I don’t remember what he’s doing nowadays. Iron worker, maybe? History teacher? Tuber Technician? I do remember that double Jack and Cokes cost twelve bucks that night. What a rip off.

You may not give a crap that today is Chris Wolak’s birthday. But you should. Maybe not all of you, but those of you who care about the birthdays of big shot Hollywood actors, you should care. You don’t know those people, either, but you fuss it up for them. What makes them so different than Chris Wolak? Sure, they are fabulous. They are all better than the rest of us. They are the beautiful people. But Chris is beautiful, too, in his own way.

Chris Wolak is beautiful in his own way.
Like falling through the ice, playing hockey at Hidden Pond one day.
And Chris Wolak is beautiful in his own way.
And he’s shorter than I thought, with me that’s A-OK.

I hope you show him some love today, and every January 10th each year hence forth. If not, then turn off the damned Entertainment Tonight and get a life. Do it for Chris.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Update On My Surgery

I’d like to apologize to everyone for not keeping you updated on my pending surgery. Don’t worry, I’m fine. I’m fine. I didn’t mean to keep you in the dark. I know it can be excruciating when you don’t get regular updates concerning the stricken individuals in your lives. One tends to think the worst in those situations. I’m sorry to have put you through that.

As I discussed in a post a while back, I have a condition called Latent Epiglottial Profuius. This is a rare affliction, genetically bequeathed through the ages to only maternal descendants of Theodorus of Samos who also happen to be paternal descendants of Rowena, the Stertorous Saxon. Only J. Craig Venter knows why, for sure. And he won’t tell anybody.

Most people who suffer Latent Epiglottial Profuius lead normal lives until around their mid thirties. By this age, the epiglottis of the victim starts to sprout small nubs, which, over time, develop into streamers of flesh. This does not cause the patient discomfort, but in rare cases may cause death. In some people, the flesh streamers do not stop growing and get swallowed, still connected to the epiglottis. The stomach begins digesting them, and the stomach acids climb the flesh streamers to the epiglottis and beyond – the poor wretch essentially eats xeself alive from within. It’s a terrible, truly horrific way to die. Luckily for me, the growth of my epiglottal flesh streamers has stopped at about 5.86952 cm, which is normal.

The most apparent burden of this condition is the effect the flesh streamers have on the subject’s voice and speech quality. The strain the weight of the flesh streamers puts on the throat causes the epiglottis to take on a conical shape. That, coupled with the wheezing characteristics inherent in the streamers (of any kind, not only the flesh variety), causes the voice to take on a quality not unlike that of a New Year’s Eve party horn. Although, the tonality varies among patients. My flesh streamer affected voice, for example, because of its jaunty tenor range, and the unique concaving structure of the combination of the inside of my cheeks and my palate, sounds more like the muted trumpet heard in Cab Calloway’s Blues Brothers version of Minnie the Moocher. It’s gotten to the point where people can barely understand what I’m saying, mostly due to the “wah” distortion caused by the muting influence. To offset this muting “wah”, I added another level of muting, manually, using the toilet plunger from my bathroom, in a “wah” pattern inverse to the natural one caused by my cheeks/palate/streamer configuration. This has worked famously, but the rash that soon developed around my lips demonstrated that I should have used a new plunger. It’s not easy living like this, but I survive, especially with the help of friends who have pitched in and bought me a leather plunger holster hand made by a blind, retired plumber named Yasni.

As nurturing as the plunger has been toward my handicapableness, I don’t want to live this way for the rest of my life. Hence, the need for surgery. Since this is such an unbelievably rare condition, no standard medical procedures exist to relieve those in my state. So I must resort to experimental operations conceived by medical school dropouts, who write varnish awareness manifestos and carve tongue depressors out of salt licks, and live in back rooms of frappe’ houses. I met one of these unwanted healers at a crowded dry dock, and she enthralled me with tales of her method of de-tentacling squid. She assured me the same technique would work to rid me of my fleshy streamers. But, she did warn me that most of the squid she worked on had died, and then asked me if I was afraid of death. I replied, “Sort of.” To which she acquiesced, “Alright, you’re in!”

I am currently waiting for her to fit me into her schedule.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Heathen, the Snowman, Judy and the Christmas Spirit

It’s not easy for a heathen. Putting up with the Christmas season, that is. Every year it gets more and more difficult to participate in the festivities in good conscience, without feeling like a hypocrite. Growing up, I had been brainwashed with all the season associated myths: Santa Claus, good will toward men, the birth of a savior and the importance of over-spending to maintain a strong economy. When the root myth fell apart for me, the business about birth of a savior, the other more fun ones slowly became tarnished to a point where they weren’t real anymore, either, and Christmas Day began to seem like just another day to me.

Consequently, I have been going through the motions each year for the benefit of the children – all of the children of the world, but mostly for my daughter. While she no longer believes in Santa Claus, and I’m not sure what her official stance is on the Jesus matter (I’ve been doing some of my own brainwashing on her to combat the brainwashing from her mother and CCD . I lost religion in the divorce, but it doesn’t mean I can’t talk some sense into the kids on the side. I converted my son, but I think that had more to do with church being a boring drag than anything else.) she’s still into Christmas because of the presents (both giving and receiving), the decorations, the merry making and the good will toward men. Even the good will toward men gets to me every now and then. I try to appreciate it but, I have two issues that get in the way. First, why can’t there be good will toward men all year long? Why do we have to amp it up around Christmas and then piss on each other the rest of the year? Second, why can’t we have good will toward women, too? It’s almost as if women are treated as second class citizens in the Christian belief. I don’t know how you ladies put up with it. I wouldn’t. Somebody may need to slug the pope right in his dangling rosary beads. Just a suggestion.

As I was saying, I did feel a little bit of Christmas spirit this year because of the good will toward men, I mean, toward EVERYBODY notion. It started after I watched Meet Me In St. Louis when Judy Garland demanded in song that I have a merry little Christmas. It was magical. Oh baby, my heart strings, they were a-zinging. What a voice! What a star! What a cutie! Too bad she ended up becoming a horrible, pill-popping, drunk skank. But I did what she sang. From there it slowly built each day as I was pushed around by mean shoppers, honked at by harried drivers and trampled upon by the dire state of our economy. The more negative vibes I endured, the more I heard Judy sing in my head and the more the spirit grew. For a time I was able to cloak my disdain for the mythical pillars that created the season with the very feeling of warmth only this time of year could muster. It was almost as if I was falling in love with nobody in particular. Or maybe I was merely a necrophilic pool boy for the dusty corpse of Judy Garland. What’s the difference, really? I would find out later it was just gas from eating too many holiday burritos. But I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Bemused amidst a billow of holiday glee, I nabbed the daughter and braved the winter warlock to purchase new holiday decorations. We went to Menards, the most Christmassy place on Earth. Each year I buy at least two new pieces of decoration – one for inside the house and one for outside the house. We became the proud owners of a mischievous plastic light-up snowman for the front yard and a nineteen inch, fiber optic holiday moose to help guard the Christmas tree in the family room. This was going to be the best Christmas of the year!

The new trimmings’ acclimation into our team of decorations started out well. The sleeping holiday-talking Homer Simpson and holiday-decked-out My Size Barbie appreciated the help the moose gave them while guarding the tree (this is the fourth year in a row we’ve had no attacking incidents on the tree, by the way), and our plastic light-up Santa Claus seemed happy to have somebody his own size to stare down. But then, something strange began to happen. Each morning we found the snowman lying on the ground in a different spot in the yard. I had secured him to the ground the same way I secured the others. It hadn’t been windy. None of the other pieces were out of place. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, until one morning when I leaned over to pick up the snowman, I slipped in the snow and landed face to face with the him. His breath smelled like an old boot full of whiskey sitting in the sun for six hours and Slim Jims. Our snowman was a drunk!

I did not tell the kids, fearing it may ruin Christmas. But I couldn’t have a drunken snowman desecrating my lawn. Plus, I could tell my plastic Santa wasn’t too happy with him. I couldn’t lose my Santa. He pulls the whole front lawn decoration motif together. The last straw was when the snowman began trying to corrupt our cute little plastic light-up Christmas penguin. What would the cast of Happy Feet think? So, I sat the snowman down and gave him a stern talking to. I wasn’t sure it helped because all he did was stare at me with a mocking grin the entire time I scolded him. To my surprise, he remained standing in his spot the next couple of nights. It looked like I got through to him. Owning a drunken snowman is no different than raising children. You just need to love them and show them the way. And sometimes buy them stuff so they shut the hell up and leave you alone.

I thought all was well, so one night I planned some time for myself and headed out to a local pub. I was having a grand ole time whooping it up with the fellas and enjoying the holiday cheer. Later in the evening I happened to be wooing a fine lady at the bar. As we talked we moved closer and closer to each other. Right when I was about to move in for some sugar plums, I made the mistake of looking to my left. I don’t know why I did it – I just sensed something. There was the snowman standing on a bar stool staring at me. The sugar plum moment was destroyed. I could tell by the glazed over look in his eyes and by that maniacal smile that he was shit-faced again. I asked him what he was doing there. He said nothing. He just stared. Couldn’t he see I was with a fine lady? After a few moments of silence, I turned my back on him to try to pick up where we left off. The fine lady looked at me and said, “Your friend seems pretty drunk. You better take him home.” FOR THE LOVE OF JUDY!!! Realizing the sugar plums had gone stale, I closed my tab, which I noticed had eleven shots of whiskey on it that I had not ordered, grabbed the snowman by his radiating nose and dragged him out to the car. We didn’t speak a word to each other all the way home.

A few days later when my daughter came home from school, after being at her mom’s house for a few days, she asked me why the snowman was duct taped to the bush. “It’s an ancient Armenian tradition to bring good luck in the new year.” “Are we Armenian?” “We are now.”

Fortunately, my Christmas spirit survived the drunken snowman’s follies, but has faded since I stopped eating the holiday burritos. The important thing is that I had a loving holiday season with my family. And I now have a fiber optic moose, who has become a pretty good pal. And we will always have Judy.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Von Is The New Meat

Thought I'd challenge you to start off the new year with a rather lengthy post. Pace yourself and it may last you through all of 2009....

Somehow back in the 80’s I acquired a number of albums from bands with “meat” in their name. It probably started with the Meat Puppets. Added a Meatmen (NSFW) record. I’m sure a Meat Loaf record regrettably found it’s way through my collection. And finally I discovered a little indie record with a handmade album cover from an odd ensemble calling themselves Meat Joy. Since then I’ve added some mp3’s from The Meat Purveyors, but I’m not counting those – vinyl only.

But I digress. Everyone knows that I review the annual Lovehammers New Year’s Eve show for my first post of the year. Even when I’m not there. Unfortunately, I seemed to have rankled a few hungover Hammerheads last year because I guess they were expecting an actual review of the show (what were they thinking?) including a set list and pictures of Marty. Because we know there aren’t enough of those out there.

So here’s my review. The lines for drinks were too long. Dot Dot Dot was annoying, but everyone was too drunk and paid too much to care. The Lovehammers rocked even though they haven’t played together in several years. And lots of women held up their cellphones all night either giving cell-certs to their far away friends or taking crappy cellphone pictures.

As you can see I’m generally cranky and don’t like people so I don’t have many friends. Even my wife left town for the week so she wouldn’t have to ring in the new year from the shadows of my disdain. So I hopped in the Sid-Mobile and drove up to Madison, home of The University of Wisconsin and unknowing coeds. The Sid-Mobile is kind of like the Batmobile except it doesn’t go as fast and doesn’t have nearly as many options. But it gets bitchin’ mileage, so cut me some slack.

The High Noon Saloon in Madison was hosting a bevy of bands, including my buddies The Von Ehrics. I could go up there and bug them as much or as little as I liked, hear some new music, do some people watching, and be otherwise free of any social niceties or responsibilities.

I rolled into town a little early so I could grab a bite to eat, and decided to check out the Brass Ring joint next door. It just happened that Gabe and Jeffery were there playing pool, so I caught up with them and ordered a Madtown burger for my last supper (of the year). It was a little light on the advertised Canadian bacon and if that had truly been my last supper I probably would have been pissed. Even Jesus might have sent it back. Also a little pricey, but not enough to get their High Life confiscated.

Eventually we headed over to the Saloon where the band gave the doorman the thumb pointed in my direction. I thought that they were possibly issuing a club restraining order against me, but as it turned out, in a moment of holiday charity they had deemed me worthy of “the list” and saved me the $12 cover. They must have also vouched that I was indeed 21 years of age as I didn’t have to show my ID even though I don’t look a day over 56.

We had missed the first band – The Hussy. A two-piece with a girl on drums and a guy on guitar, prompting obvious comparisons to, yes, The Carpenters. You know, assuming that Richard played guitar instead of piano. Sounds original – I hope it works out for them.

As I was hanging out at the bar, a guy caught my eye. Not because I’m gay, but because he was wearing Chuck Taylors. And overalls shorts that were too small for him. And makeup including lots of eye glitter. I was both hoping and fearing that he was part of the next band. Hoping that this wasn’t some random patron’s NYE ensemble, but fearing I would have to watch a band that included him. Sensing my unease, the guys invited me back to the green room, a small room next to the stage about the size of a foosball table. Where we were soon joined by overalls guy and a cast of other assorted characters gathering up props such as balloons, homemade train car cutouts, and foam disc shooters. I’m sure The Von Ehrics have seen lots of stuff on the road but as overalls guy bent over to tie up his shoes, I’m pretty sure it was the first time Jason has had a guy wearing glitter makeup and singing show tunes shaking his ass in his face. At least I hope it was. I also got to see a girl change clothes from a 50’s style homecoming dress into a ninja outfit. Even I can’t make this shit up.

After hearing a few songs from the green room, I left the guys to plan their set list and decided to check out Screaming Cyn Cyn and the Pons. Surprisingly, I was not as annoyed as I was entertained. It was as if you took the B-52’s, mixed in an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, and added a touch of Devo and the Suburban Lawns. I actually enjoyed the Cyn Cyn’s song Set The Table and wish I had it on video. Oh, wait, the magic of youtube. I don’t think I’d drive two hours to Madison to see them again, but if they were playing in the neighborhood and there weren’t any good games on TV I might venture out to see them. And I'd definitely show up if Cyn Cyn set a spot at the table for me.

Next on the bill was Ouija Radio. I had high expectations for this band – pretty cool name, normal looking drummer, white-guy dreads on the bass player, and a Leather Tuscadero for the new millennium on guitar and vocals. And they pretty much delivered some straight-ahead, high energy, in your face rock and roll. If they had been playing Arnold’s Drive-In down the road in Milwaukee, the Fonz would have approved and probably taken front-woman Christy Hunt out after the show. Then there would have been the emotional episode where she has to leave town to tour in support of the new Von Bondies record, but the Fonz has to be cool with it because music is her passion. And rhythm is the dancer.

The Von Ehrics were up next and here is another thing I love about them. They pretty much booked the show knowing that they wouldn’t have their equipment with them. They had flown to Madison the week before to record their new record for Crustacean so only had one guitar, one bass, and a bag of drumsticks. They knew they could depend on the generosity of their fellow musicians to hook them up, and the other bands on the bill proved them right. It was a regular Hallmark moment. I shed a tear but I think it was just the smoke hanging in the air.

As they were setting up someone alerted Jason that midnight was approaching so he improvised a countdown using his cellphone and probably got it within a minute or so of the actual time. He ain’t Dick Clark, but these days neither is Dick Clark.

I was forewarned that the set had the potential to be a train wreck as they hadn’t played since the summer, but other than a couple small hiccups I couldn’t tell the difference. It’s not like they were playing for the admissions committee at Julliard. They were playing a loud and fast set for a bunch of drunks that wanted to ring in the new year loudly and fastly. Done deal. Even a group that looked as if it had been delivered from The Island of Misfit Revelers had formed a wonderfully dorky pseudo-moshpit. If you want more details on a Von Ehrics show, check out my extremely long-winded, wildly digressing post on their 2007 World Tour. Otherwise just trust me when I tell you not to miss them if they come to your town, and even better, buy them a beer and be sure to introduce yourself. Also make sure they have a place to crash, and while you’re at it buy a CD and a t-shirt so they can fill their tank with gas. It’s very little to ask before Miley Cyrus takes over this fucked up world.

The little green room was getting crowded with the ghost of New Year’s bands past, present and future, so I made sure not to overstay my welcome and stayed out in the bar to check out the next set from Brainerd. Was Paranoid in your album collction in the 70’s? Do you still have it? Was playing Metallica at your wedding reception part of the negotiations with your ex-wife? Are you still mourning the loss of Dimebag Darrell? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’d probably feel right at home at a Brainerd show. I can’t tell you the difference between thrash metal, death metal, black metal, power metal, doom metal and precious metal, but Beavis and Butthead would approve and would probably steal a Brainerd t-shirt.

By this time the remaining revelers were more sauced than the crowd at the annual La Tomatina tomato fight. A guy in a Packers touque stumbled up to me and just stared at me as if he were trying to figure out whether I was a streetlight or Shania Twain. Immediately thereafter a girl walked right into me as if I weren’t an obstacle that needed to be avoided. Had I not been there she surely would have walked into the pole behind me. She stopped, grabbed my arm, tapped my beer bottle and pointed it toward my face and then wandered toward the door. Another girl was passed out on the pool table – I’m sure you can find the photos on Facebook somewhere. Even though The Zebras still had to play that evening, I decided to call it a night before I ran into any of my new friends on the road. Or have them run into me. Besides, I’m not sure I could handle the spastic, fun, discordant, deconstructionist art-punk-metal that The Zebras promised to bring. I wasn’t in the mood to have anything deconstructed. Nothing personal.

So there you have it. The Von Ehrics. The Von Bondies. Von Iva is coming to town soon. Not to mention the Von Trapp family, Ludwig Von Beethoven and Von Halen.

Yep, Von is the new Meat.

Happy New Year, Y'All.