Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Curse you, Nancy Reagan!

So Andi has a post over at her place featuring what appears to be an Australian public service announcement that reminded me of this chestnut from my middle school years. It cracked me up then, and Laz and I still use the line: “You, all right, I learned it by watching you!” for comedic effect on occasion. This has got to be one of the least effective PSA’s ever conceived, and I actually think that some teens in the eighties may have smoked a bowl or two out of spite for the idiots that came up with this.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The history of cool.

[T]he wise man should always follow the roads that have been trodden by the great, and imitate those who have most excelled, so that if he cannot reach their perfection, he may at least acquire something of its savour. Acting in this like the skillful archer, who seeing that the object he would hit is distant, and knowing the range of his bow, takes aim much above the destined mark; not designing that his arrow should strike so high, but that flying high it may alight at the point intended.
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter VI

For a while now, I’ve wanted to write a new blog series: “Famous International Playboys,” to pay an homage to those historical figures whom I have sought to emulate at various points in my life – whose works or lifestyles have inspired me somehow – and who have positively impacted my outlook in some way.

Apologies to Morrissey, “Famous International Playboy” is just a verbose way of saying “Byronic.” How badass do you have to have been when your name went on to become an adjective for “cool motherfucker”? For that reason, I have to make Lord Byron the focus of my inaugural column. Byron was famously described by Lady Caroline Lamb as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” And not only that; he was a pretty good writer. His poetry is pretty good to plagiarize if you need to write an epic love letter. Throughout my twenties, I secretly wanted to be described by someone as “Byronic” – ideally by a girl that was in love with me. Alas, I don’t think that’s ever happened. And now that I’m pretty jaded, I don’t really care how I’m described anymore. According to Wiki:

The Byronic hero presents an idealised but flawed character whose attributes include:

  • having great talent
  • exhibiting great passion
  • having a distaste for society and social institutions
  • expressing a lack of respect for rank and privilege
  • thwarted in love by social constraint or death
  • rebelling
  • suffering exile
  • hiding an unsavoury past
  • arrogance, overconfidence or lack of foresight
  • ultimately, acting in a self-destructive manner

Jaded or not, my hat tips to Lord Byron, the consummate Famous International Playboy who set the stage for countless many more to follow and aspire.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reflections upon a Bust of Mao

Back when I was still in school, my buddy Laz went on vacation to China with his family. When he came back, he brought me a little alabaster bust of Mao Zedong as a souvenir. It was a little dirty, about two inches tall, and had a real quaint “Red China” aura to it. I was still living in a dorm at the time, and I put the little stone bust on my bookshelf. I had a small menagerie of communist paraphernalia from a trip to Cuba that I had made, and the Chairman fit right in among it. I lived on the 9th floor of a high-rise dormatory, and shortly after acquiring the bust, I was at a function at the bar and grill on the second floor of the dorm. I was enjoying my drink, and I found myself talking to an attractive med student. Her name escapes me now, but I recall that she was very involved in that “doctors without borders” bringing medicine to the third-world scene. And somehow we ended up talking about communism. And I said to her: “You know, I’ve got a Bust of Mao in my room.” And she said she’d like to see it. And I said OK, and we went up to my room, and from Mao, the conversation drifted to my CD collection, and I put on some music, yada yada, and we ended up hooking up. It all happened so fast, and was so serendipitous; I thought something like that would never happen again. And then it did. A couple of more times. And it got so that the “Bust of Mao” achieved talismanic status in my head. At the time, I didn’t understand why it worked – in fact, I sort of thought it might be a lot like Dumbo’s Magic Feather, and maybe I could do the same thing without the reference to the dead Chinese Chairman. I was only partly right.

Once I got out of school, and got my own place, the “Bust of Mao” reference never helped again. I still have the little statue, but by and large women in their thirties don’t talk about communism and idealism and crap like that.

In 2001, right after September 11th, my friend Webster was visiting me from out of town, and we were at the tavern next door to my apartment complex at the time. We were drinking at the bar and we noticed two passably-cute girls at a booth eating dinner. We wanted to send them a drink, and debated doing so, made eye contact with them two or three times, and finally approached. Web is smoother than I am, I guess, because after a couple of minutes of chit-chat he tells the two girls that I have a bottle of absinthe at my place and asks would they like to try it. That night merits a whole blog entry, but both girls – complete strangers to us before that night – came back to my apartment with us.

In September 2003, I flew to Vegas for Frankie’s birthday party. On the flight I sat next to a pretty girl, and we ended up exchanging numbers. About three weeks later, we met up at an Applebee’s for drinks on a Monday night. In passing I mentioned that the day before I had made a candle out of an old stone inkpot and some liquid paraffin. She said that sounded interesting, and I said I lived less than half a mile away if she wanted to see it, and she came over, and literally, within 15 minutes of walking into my place she was topless on my couch. Life is good sometimes.

It wasn’t until I was nearly thirty years old that it dawned on me how the Bust of Mao principle worked, and I realized that my Bust of Mao was no more magical than a bottle of exotic liquor or a homemade candle. The magic in all three was in what wasn’t said during the discussion about them.

In March of 2006, I was in Puerto Vallarta for a conference at the Westin resort there. The last night of the conference, I found myself drinking and talking with a pretty young lady from Chicago who was there to check folks in and oversee logistics, etc. We were drinking mai tai after mai tai, and were both drunk enough to make some bad decisions when the bar closed. There was definitely a spark, and sufficient nonverbal communication to signal the green light. But when they announced last call, and it was clearly the end of the night, I wished I had brought my Bust of Mao with me. Asking her straight to my room seemed so gauche, and we bade each other an awkward good night, as our rooms were in different directions from the bar. As I lay awake in my bed that night alone in such a romantic locale, with the sound of the ocean in the background, I kicked myself for being such a fumbling fool. On the flight back, I had one of those “What I should have said” moments, and it all made sense to me.

The magic of the Bust of Mao is that it gives an excuse for cutting away from the herd, so to speak. I’ve never met a woman who would respond positively to “Hey, do you want to go back to my place and fuck?” I’m sure she exists out there, but even if she does, she is definitely in a very small minority of women. Society just frowns too much on that sort of openness and honesty. Likewise, pretty much anybody, male or female, would follow you home if you said: “Hey, I’ve got two lottery tickets at my place, and one is guaranteed to win a million dollars; I’ll let you have your choice of the two if you want.” The Bust of Mao passes the “laugh out loud” test for why you’d be coming back to someone’s place, but is just banal enough to convey the message that “I’ve got a bit more than a stupid little statue there.” I remember my friend Jacob asking a girl in our dorm (now his wife) “do you want to come listen to me play my harmonica?” In reality, nobody wants to hear a dude play a harmonica, and a homemade candle is interesting for like one minute, maybe.

That night in Puerto Vallarta, I didn’t need the Bust of Mao; I needed a Bust of Mao: “the night view out my window is spectacular; you’ve got to come see it,” or something like that. I live and learn.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day Drinking Ahead

At precicely 10:49 a.m. today, I jumped on an office grenade and volunteered to take an emergency project that will require some work over the weekend (probably most of the day Friday). My only request was that I get to bug out early and have all day tomorrow off. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of my favorite drinking days of the year, and I was able to recruit a few crew members to join me this afternoon. We're priming the liver at 2:00. In preparation I should probably stop by an ATM and hide a $20 bill in my boot for cab fare later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Greatest Misses - 2007

I was just reading through my entries from the past month or so, and realized that my life’s been pretty uneventful lately. Peter Piper Pizza? A story about my parents? Beef stew and Brylcreem? Reading Frankie’s first entry made me nostalgic for the days when I couldn’t blog fast enough to keep up with our stories. The majority of them remain in the ether, and eventually I’ll get to telling them, but there are no current “good” stories being generated. After Frankie’s waitress experience and my ubersaga, we both sort of self-imposed celibacy on ourselves to gather our thoughts. So I haven’t woken up next to a crazy chick since early October. I was going to put one of those “sobriety counter” widgets up here, but instead of sobriety, it would count days of chastity, but I think in the long run that would be depressing if I were to hit a real dry spell. Instead, I’ve spent the last month in introspection. When all is said and done, all I really want is a woman who’s faithful and kind at suppertime. Who would think that’s so hard to find?

I was at the mall on Sunday, killing time before a movie, and I ran into the girl from my very first entry. She was friendly and we chatted. She’s cute, and fun, but she shot me down at a time when rejection hurt more than usual. Whatever. I recalled the Milan Kundera line: “Love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory,” and I wondered what happens at the point when a woman receives a blog entry dedicated to her? And I thought about the “misses” of 2007. I was sure, after the breakup, that I would find someone else, and when I applied myself, it wasn’t really that hard to find a warm body. But there were a number of women that I thought of as “good leads” in that I really did find them cool, and could have seen myself dating for a while, if only to see where the pursuit took me, but for various reasons, things did not pan out. In no real order, Jack Gordon’s Five Greatest Misses – 2007:

  1. Allie Roth – An attractive, successful divorcee who also happens to have dated my friend Dan seriously, and Frankie not so seriously, along with a couple of acquaintances of mine. One Sunday I ran into her at the local mall and she invited me to join her at a wine bar across the street. That was around 2:00 in the afternoon, and we drank and talked and ended up at a sushi bar for dinner around 7:30. We made out first at the sushi bar, then in her Acura like adolescents. I didn’t try to take it any further assuming that there would be a second “date.” There wasn’t.
  2. Sandy Quinn – A stunning flight attendant, with whom I had a series of long phone conversations that were smooth and enjoyable. I had high hopes until we went on our first date and I learned that (a) she was an evangelical born-again Christian who had just gotten back from a three day Christian rock festival; and (b) she did not consume alcohol. I can’t handle bible thumpers or teetotalers. I suspect that “functioning alcoholic papist” was not high on the list of what she was looking for, either.
  3. The headshop girl – Weird choice, I know, but I was really, really drawn to her. I can’t imagine what we’d have had in common, but she just made me happy for the 20 minutes or so that we spoke. She was clearly more of a realist than I.
  4. Teresa Lindstrom – I was in Baltimore for a conference, and we met first at a happy hour following the conference, then ran into each other later in the hotel bar. We had an awesome conversation, and I thought she was beautiful. My line on her was “I have a lot of Neil Young on my iPod, if you want to come up and listen to it.” She did. I knew things would never work out with us due to the distance between us, and that, more than anything, made my heart ache the next day.
  5. The neo-pagan elf – When you expect nothing, and you get something, that’s destiny. When that something disappears as easy as it came, well, that’s just God having a sense of humor. My buddy Jason makes amateur films as a hobby, and he was picking up some props from one of his actresses at a bar across the street from where I work. He called and invited me to join in a drink, and I ended up hitting it off with the actress. She is a sculptor by trade, but an aspiring actress/writer the remainder of the time. We closed down the bar, and then relocated to a local resort designed by one of her favorite architects. We fooled around on the resort lawn like teenagers. We made plans to go on an actual date that coming Saturday. Saturday morning I called her and went straight to voicemail. I got a text from her later that day saying “sorry jack i am not interested in u in that way. i am in love with someone.” So it goes.

And so, like Gatsby, I beat on, boat against the current . . . or better yet, like Sam from Quantum Leap, I find myself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that my next leap . . . will be the leap home.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Youth is wasted on the young.

I just got back from a birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza. They serve beer there. Genius . . . sheer genius to serve beer at a place full of screaming children. I was through a pitcher before the Spider Man cake came out. I also won 240 redemption tickets from a machine that I swear was made to entertain mongoloids. With the same number of tokens, my friend Ray got like 15 tickets from playing skee ball, so I got the last laugh there. Unfortunately, you can't redeem the tickets for beer. So we got his 18 month-old daughter -- my goddaughter -- a stuffed soccer ball, because I was pretty sure all the other toys either contained lead-based paint or were laced with roofies.

Two blind men and an elephant

Frankie started a blog. Check it out here. I expect he'll relay a few stories you've read herein from his perspective. Don't believe him if his story contradicts mine. Also, keep in mind that he likes to take all the credit, but I taught him everything he knows. Either way, he's a good friend, and I'm glad to see he's going to start documenting his vida loca.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dieu est toujours pour les gros bataillons.

On November 16, 1532, Francisco Pizarro and company totally kicked the shit out of the Incas at the Battle of Cajamarca. 168 Spaniards versus 80,000 men, including 4,000 soldiers of Atahualpa's personal army. I've always found the story of the conquest of the New World frickin' fascinating. Regardless of history's judgement, there's no denying the Conquistadores had some real balls on them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Culture war casualty

I was in Arkansas last week, so couldn't write for a few days there. . . then I had a buddy from the home-town come in over the weekend, so I played tour-guide for a couple of days after I got back. So busy with work and company, the blogging's been scarce, but I'm pretty sure I'm back.

My folks were in town week before last, and stayed through the weekend as well. I love them dearly, and they are both pretty cool, albeit getting to the "old" point where they go to bed at 9:00 and wake up at like 5:00 a.m., which puts a little crimp on the "sleeping in" on the weekend.

My parents have always been pretty square, but I mean that in a very good way. My dad got drafted into the Army in 1965 and got out in '67. He had a good time of it, and he always spoke of his Army days fondly. When he was in, it was before Vietnam started getting too unpopular, and he did his patriotic duty with pride, so when he came out and enrolled in college in Northern California, I think it was a bit of a culture shock for him. He married my mom in 1969, and like him, she was from rural-America, and had pretty conservative values.

What's funny now, in cultural hindsight, is that the lefties won the culture war of the 60's. It's pretty hip to say "my parents were hippies," and tons of folks (like the ex's dad) claim to have been at Woodstock, etc. But that wasn't my experience at all. My folks disliked hippies, and were of the "better dead than red" mentality during the Cold War. A whole lot of Americans had to be like them, but apparently they didn't admit it. And my folks were total Democrats -- it's not even like they were hawks or anything. They just didn't suffer fools gladly.

I was reminded of all this when they were here last week, and my dad told me that he recalled being in the Army and Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets" was the most popular song at the USO club. I chalked that up to it being a USO, but looked it up in Wikipedia, and the friggin' song was number one for five weeks in 1966, and the number twenty-one song of the 1960's, proving that there must have been a ton of "squares" out there besides my parents. The song hung around our household through the vinyl era, and I still get shivers down my spine when I hear it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Impressing even myself

cash advance

There you go, dear readers (all four of you) . . . at least it looks like I may be educational somehow, despite all the drinking, smoking, and screwing that goes on around here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Paging Tyler Durden . . .

I'm typing this as I sit in my room at a Sleep Inn in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Business, not pleasure, in case you were wondering. Posting will be light this week due to my unfortunate situation. Just had some ribs for dinner at the Chili's across the street. It was one of those travel days -- got stuck at DFW Airport for four hours because American decided to cancel my flight from there to here without advanced notice. Then when I got here, it turns out I made reservations via Hertz for a car in Fayetteville, North Carolina, not Fayetteville Arkansas, and every motherfucking last rental shop in town was closed or out of cars. This isn't exactly a pedestrian town. Got a smoker's room, and it smells like the Pub used to before they made smoking in bars illegal. I may have to wrap up the few loose ends I have for work, and head back to the Chili's about 9:00 to drink away the boredom. Or maybe I'll just go to sleep early.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


You know what always makes me laugh? When you finally read the lyrics to a song that you’ve heard for a long-ass time, and sometimes particularly liked, and the subject matter of the song is not at all what you thought it was about – and sometimes it is quite sinister. I remember that happened to me with the Kinks’ “Lola.” Most recently, I had it happen to me with Beck’s “Girl.” I know I’m not the only one. It makes me laugh even harder when a band covers a song without knowing what the original was about. Like when lame Christian rockers Sixpence None the Richer covered the Las’ “There She Goes,” evidently without knowing that it was a song about heroin.