Thursday, November 13, 2008

Missing a bad habit.

Yeah, I've quit smoking, but in my heart I'll always be a smoker. That's probably why today's Wikipedia featured article on the anti-tobacco movement in Nazi Germany tickled my little smoker's lungs. It gives me a legitimate reductio ad Hitlerum when I call the anti-smoking lobby "fascist."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

For Andi:

Loyal readers, thanks for checking in to check on me. I’ve been pretty quiet, mainly because I really don’t know how to blog this part of my life. Things have been going well with Meg and we’ll have been together for five months this coming Friday. The adventures haven’t stopped; they’ve just changed. The Famous International Playboy gig has been put on the backburner.

I have not had the opportunity to wear the bespoke tux. I did go to a bourbon tasting with Frankie and Bob, the “periodic table man.” Bob started dating Elisa, the Fulbright Scholar in April, and . . . well . . . he accidently knocked her up within a month after they first got together. They’re having a boy. As Elisa is Meg’s friend, and she introduced us, I have come to know Bob in all his nerdiness and it turns out he’s all right.

I smoked my last cigarette on August 7th, and haven’t fallen off the wagon. I must admit, I was a smoker for so long, it’s hard not to think of myself as a smoker. My lungs still have pangs of longing – not unlike hunger pangs – but I feel healthier for having quit. The Girl bought me a bottle of bourbon to mark one month smoke free and has kept a stock of Maker’s Mark at her place for me.

I made Meg a mix-CD, and here is the playlist. I call it the:

Sitting by the River Mix 2008
  1. Bring on the Dancing Horses – Echo and the Bunnymen
  2. Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
  3. Ride a White Horse – Goldfrapp
  4. Shoulder Holster – Morcheeba
  5. The Last of the Famous International Playboys – Morrissey
  6. The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure – The Magnetic Fields
  7. Sweet Jane – The Velvet Underground
  8. There She Goes – The La’s
  9. Brimful of Asha – Cornershop
  10. You Can Get it if you Really Want – Jimmy Cliff
  11. My Little Red Book – Love
  12. Picture – Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow
  13. Modern Love – Last Town Chorus
  14. Southern Cross – CS&N
  15. The Moneymaker – Rilo Kiley
  16. I Got You – Split Enz
  17. Pretty in Pink – Psychedelic Furs
  18. All out of Love – Air Supply

Turns out this is a pretty decent road-trip mix. . .

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dirge

Hey kids, greetings from the happy corner. I wish I had an exciting story or two, but the thing about being in a new relationship is that I think it pretty much makes for boring blogging. Things are going well with The Girl. I actually quit smoking cold turkey, and had my last cigarette on August 7th. For a decent run-down of my life lately, check out Frankie's rant here. And the following excerpt from an e-mail chain between my co-worker Walt and Frankie:

Frankie: The sooner you are able to reconcile that you need to say goodbye to the Jack you knew in April, the sooner you'll be able to move on. Then again, there's an outside chance that Meg figures out in the next few weeks that the real Jack is not the same guy she's been dating for the last two months and dumps him. That result is a long-shot though, because she sounds like the kind of girl who will convince herself that she can "change" him, and Jack has shown a propensity to actually give up all kinds of things for this woman.

So I'm guessing this is how it plays out over the next year or two: 1) Jack continues down the path of spending more time with Meg and her family and less time with his friends; 2) Your time with Jack continues to decline until it settles into a happy hour every third Thursday or so; 3) you get over it, because that's what guys do; 4) in about 18 months, after a particularly nasty fight during his first year of marriage to Meg, Jack realizes that he's marginalized all of this guy friends and asks you to have a few drinks so that he can apologize to you and vow to be a better friend; 5) Jack makes up with Meg and you go back to seeing him about once a month for 3 hours, yet now it's on the sly because Meg thinks you're undermining her.

Then again, if you fall in love and get married to a woman Meg likes to spend time with, you'll have more time with Jack, but only when you're together with your significant others.

Good luck.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Skin of my teeth . . .

After work yesterday, I met up with Sam and her friend Chrissie at happy hour. Over three cocktails, the topic of sex came up, and we became very graphic and open. It turns out Chrissie has been married 13 years and has never owned a vibrator. Sam and I committed to remedying that, so we left the bar and headed to the nearest sex store. I bought Chrissie an oscillating egg, and Sam bought her a rabbit. I figure she’ll thank us for that sometime soon. Her husband should, too.

While we were at the store, the Kaiser called me and asked if I wanted to join him for a beer at the Pub. You readers know I don’t go to the Pub very often anymore, so it sounded fun. I showed up there and had chicken strips and two beers. At about 9:00, Meg texted me and asked me what I was doing, and if I wanted to meet up, so I left the Kaiser.

I wasn’t driving five minutes when I saw cop-car lights in my rear-view mirror. I knew they were for me, and my stomach did a somersault. At three whiskeys and two beers, I knew I would fail any sobriety test he would give me. There was nothing I could do. I pulled over, and got my drivers’ license, registration, and proof of insurance ready. The cop walked up to my car. He asked if I knew why he’d pulled me over, and I said I didn’t. He claimed I had made an illegal left-turn. He asked if I’d had anything to drink. “No, officer. Not a drop,” I answered. He took my documents to his cruiser, and I crossed myself three times and pulled out my lawyer’s card from my wallet, ready to make the call I’d hoped I’d never make. My phone rang. It was Meg. “I just got pulled over, I’ll call you back,” I said.

The cop returned to my car, and gave me back my docs. “You’ve got to be more careful,” he told me. Then he threw me for a little of a loop: “Do you have your weapon in the car?

Yes, officer, in my console,” I answered. My concealed weapons permit must have showed on his computer.

Ok. Have a good night.

I drove home. Meg came over. I woke up at 4:00 this morning, and had a panic attack at how close a call that was. I’m going to church today to light a candle in thanksgiving, and resolving to be smarter about these things.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Quick Update

  • I went to Mexico City with The Girl for a week. Stayed with her cousin and had a marvelous time. We've been together a month now, and this was our first travel experience. Good travel companion all-around. Also, I ate grasshoppers while in Mexico City.
  • Zeke had been working on a one-year dry-spell, and went to Israel to meet a nice Jewish girl, and ended up doing his part for Arab/Israeli relations by having relations with an Arab chick while there. Shout-out to Z for breaking the spell with style.

Friday, June 13, 2008

One year on . . .

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Chronicle of a Mad Shoeshiner. Looking back at what I was saying last June 13th, I realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Life is good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Inevitability

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.
-J. Robert Oppenheimer, Interview about the Trinity explosion, 1965.

If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.
-Japanese Proverb

Closed a three-month long, frustration-laden siege courtship on Saturday. I’ve tried to write out the story a few times and just can’t do it justice. Remember the Fulbright Scholar? Remember how she had lived in Mexico with the sister of one of my college buddies? Well that girl has a cousin named Meg, who it turns out lives about two miles from me. I met Meg at this function. I thought she was pretty and classy at the time. I didn’t see her again until this meet-up. After that we started hanging out somewhat regularly, albeit not romantically. I’d been working to change that slowly and steadily. And I finally cast the proverbial die at the Jefferson, the place we first met, in a cliché-laden WAWA (“where are we at?”) speech fueled by the liquid courage wrought by five hours of solid drinking.

That is all for now.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Fortune and Glory

I had to wake up early this morning to go to defensive driving school because I got a fucking photo-radar ticket for going 39 in a 25. Damn it. Blew half my Saturday. Got out in time to catch the Belmont, though. I have to say, I was a little disappointed that Big Brown didn't win the triple crown this year, making it now 30+ years without a triple crown winner. I wasn't even alive when Secretariat won the triple crown in 1973, but thanks to YouTube, we can all watch his Belmont race.

Before a crowd of 67,605, Secretariat and Sham set a fast early pace, opening ten lengths on the rest of the field. After the 6 furlong mark, Sham gave up, ultimately finishing last. Secretariat astonished spectators by continuing on the fast pace and opening up a larger and larger margin on the field. He hit the 1 1/4 mile mark at 1:59 flat, which was faster than the track record at the time. In the stretch, Secretariat opened a 1/16 mile lead on the rest of the field. At the finish, he won by 31 lengths and ran the fastest 1 1/2 miles on dirt in history, 2:24 flat, which broke the stakes record by more than 2 seconds. Secretariat's world record still stands, and in fact, no other horse has ever broken 2:25 for 1 1/2 miles on dirt. The video below is a little long, but it is also pretty awesome.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The fifth food group . . .

So I was visiting a lady friend last night, and I ended up hanging out until close to midnight. That’s not really my story, except that I hadn’t eaten dinner before I swung by her place, because I figured I’d just eat after. Problematically, she had beer, and I had four on my empty stomach. When I got home, I was a little drunk, and quite hungry, but it was late and I had no desire to actually cook anything, and unfortunately my refrigerator was bereft of any leftovers or anything that could qualify as sustenance, so I opened a can of Underwood deviled ham and ate it right out of the can. I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t very satisfying. Wasn’t very satisfying at all.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Schrödinger's Cat

Last night, every woman between the ages of 25 and 35 that I know was at the Sex and the City premiere, narrowing my night-life options a bit. I was in jeans and a tee-shirt and looking for something chill to do, so I called Frankie and told him to meet me at Tres Generaciones, or “3-G’s”, which is one of those faux Mexican beach bars with a nice, big patio.

I got to 3-G’s first, ordered a Dos Equis lager, and sat to wait for Frank. It was about 8:30 and the crowd was sparse. As expected, there was a bit of chorizo there. Frankie showed up, got a Corona, and we caught up a bit. Directly across the bar from us at the bar was what appeared to be a happy-hour crowd that had gone long. I pointed a girl in the group out to Frankie, as she was a real good-looker, with more than a passing resemblance to Jennifer Connelly, including the dark hair, nice rack, and radiant smile.

Have I mentioned why Frankie and I work well together when we’re out? It’s because we compliment each other’s weaknesses in “game.” To wit, I can open and close, but I really have no middle. Frank is all middle.

The way the 3-G bar is set up, Jennifer Connelly was within earshot of us. I scoped for an opening. I saw she was smoking Parliament Lights, and she was with two guys, one in a Denver Broncos jersey and a ball-cap (douchebag indicators, both), and a fat dude in a polo-shirt and cargo shorts. It was clear she wasn’t there “with” either of them. So I made eye-contact with her, smiled, and started the silly small talk. I asked what she was drinking – Bacardi and diet-Pepsi – and ordered her another. Within a half-hour, Frankie and I had secured a four-top table and she was drinking with us. Now, as I said, I have no middle. I sometimes think I have ADD; I was really flitting in and out of the conversation that Frankie was having with the chick. She’s a marketing director for a local restaurant chain. She visited London once. Her family was Sicilian (that one threw me, since I’d pegged her for a Jew when I saw the Parliament Lights). In contrast, Frankie’s middle-game was on fire. I admit, I was a little mesmerized by the girl’s mannerisms, to the point that I didn’t say much.

At about 10:30 I got a text message from Missy asking where we were. She showed up about 15 minutes later. I was happy to have her there, because Jennifer Connelly wasn’t giving me much flavor, and Frankie needed a reason to engage in one-on-one conversation. I’ll hand it to Missy, she was a great wing-man for him. She had two beers, and then left, but not before she invited Jennifer Connelly out to a birthday party we’re going to tonight. Plus, Missy was looking pretty good, which never hurts. As for myself, my wing-man skill set entailed ensuring that there was never an empty Bacardi and diet-Pepsi in front of Jennifer Connelly, and smiling and nodding when she said something that I figured she thought was clever. At 1:00, I decided to call it a night. Fact: Frankie needs to learn a closing move and I need to learn some middle. That’s all there is to it, so I took my leave and left him with Jennifer Connelly. Sink or swim, motherfucker. I’ll see him this evening, but for now, I like to think that he didn’t drop that ball.

Friday, May 23, 2008

History Lesson

Because we strive to be educational here at the Mad Shoeshiner, apropos of the last post, and courtesy of the repository of all human knowledge:

Damn the torpedoes is a well-known quotation that has passed into popular culture. The original quotation was by U.S. Navy Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay, during the American Civil War. Mobile, Alabama, at the time was the Confederacy's last major port open on the Gulf of Mexico. The bay was heavily mined (tethered naval mines were known as torpedoes at the time). Farragut ordered his fleet to charge the bay. When one ship struck a mine the others began to pull back, but Farragut shouted the order, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" The bulk of the fleet succeeded in entering the bay and the heroic quotation became famous.

Featured Album

Laz called me late last night, and we were reminiscing on old times, and he reminded me of a time back in 1999, when I was a summer intern in Chicago, and a waitress from a deli in Evanston picked me up one Sunday morning after church. And by “picked me up” I mean I was eating alone, she gave me her number, and we met for dinner and drinks that evening. At the time, I was 23 and she was 34 and much too fast for me, but I rolled with the situation. The only reason I was even in Evanston was that I was house-sitting for my boss over the 4th of July weekend, so I took the waitress back to his house, which I promptly passed off as my own. The whole experience had a very “Risky Business” air to it.

In that same time frame, my buddy Meno was living in New York City, and I looked to him for musical suggestions. He had suggested that I pick up Massive Attack’s Mezzanine album, which I remember buying at a music store on Rush street. As it turned out, not only was it a great album, but it turned out to be, in my opinion, the single sexiest album that I’ve ever owned. Serendipitously, I happened to have the album with me as the deli waitress seduced me at my boss’ house, and since that day, I have to say that Mezzanine has been the soundtrack to about 75% of first-time sexual encounters to which I have been able to control the music.

I admit that my musical taste has stagnated since around 2002, but the only real album that has vied for “closer” status in my CD player is Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry. The beauty of Mezzanine is that it comes on slow, sets the stage, and guides you through the obstacles and inevitabilities of a romantic interlude much as a road map in a foreign city. You’re sitting, having a cocktail while “Angel” rhythmically lulls you into the mood. The seamless flow into “Risingson” begins a crescendo, which captures and placates any anxiety one may have about moving forward. At the same time, Mezzanine doesn’t have the goofy, forced feeling of, say, a Marvin Gaye album. By the time that “Teardrop” comes on, if you’re not hooking up, it’s just not going to happen. If you’ve made it to first base, though, then damn the torpedoes. . . the rest of the album will get you through to the end.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Ride

Hat-tip to Frankie, who surprised the shit out of all of us yesterday by buying a new 2008 BMW 528i, and leading me to suspect that he's secretly been dealing drugs on the side or something. Upgrading from his 1996 Toyota 4Runner, this should be a welcome change, given that the new wheels comes with such things as power windows and doors, and a CD player (hell, it even has an iPod connection).
. . .

BMW: Sleek and smart. For men who like handjobs from beautiful women they hardly know.

. . . like a cigarette should.

Smokers are loyal to their brands. I mean this is the very reason that the cigarette companies marketed to children for so long, right? In fact:
I’m not going to attempt to rationalize my bad habit in this particular post, so spare me the lectures, but I do want to explore my choice of brands. I started smoking when I was in high school. I grew up in a small town that revered military service, and I really looked up to the old WWII-era GIs, who were ubiquitous in my childhood. Most of those GIs were smokers, and most of them smoked Lucky Strikes. When I (illegally) purchased my first pack of cigarettes, I bought a pack of non-filtered Luckies, of course. Joe fucking Camel didn’t have anything on my grandfather, who stormed Anzio beachhead, or my dad’s high school principal, who was a Bataan Death March survivor. Lucky Strikes came in a little square soft-pack, and I thought the packaging was pretty cool. I didn’t know better, so I thought all cigarettes tasted and smoked like a Lucky Strike. Fourteen years later, I still love a lot of the Lucky Strike “mystique” – the packaging, the history, the name – but it wasn’t until I went to college that I realized that there’s a reason Lucky Strikes (and Chesterfields, and Pall Malls) no longer command the market share the once did: they’re just not good.

In one of my first weeks at college I found myself at a fraternity party during pledge week. I was out of smokes, so I bummed one. That cigarette happened to be a Marlboro red. Compared to a non-filtered Lucky Strike, the Marlboro was exceptionally smooth, mild, and pleasurable. It was love at first drag. I bought a pack of reds the next day – and it came in a box! A box that I could put in my front pocket and not crush. The Marlboros had filters! No more tobacco falling onto my tongue. All in all, they were a superior product.

Now, folks will tell you that Marlboro reds are pretty high-up on the “harsh” scale, and I guess they’re right, but coming from where I came from, I had the opposite impression of them. Most smokers I know these days smoke some sort of light cigarette, but I’ve never been able to smoke lights. It sort of feels like I’m sucking on a straw when I do so. My lungs actually crave a little harshness (for that matter, I drink my coffee black and don’t have much of a like for sweet cocktails). An unintended consequence is that when folks see you smoking a red, they assume that you’re serious about your vice. I’m not one for the “Marlboro Man” appeal, but I’ll take it if you want to give it to me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bring on the Dancing Horses

To quote the Mad Shoeshiner: "You buy an electric toothbrush and then you have to buy a house that has electricity" . . . I was out shopping on Saturday, and I found a smoking deal on a Ralph Lauren tuxedo shirt. It was so good that I couldn't afford not to buy it, so I did. Interesting thing is that I've never owned a tuxedo. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and I'm tired of wearing somebody else's clothes (i.e. renting) when it comes to hitting the black-tie events. Hell, I've passed on more than my fair share of black-tie events because I didn't want to go through the hassle of renting a stupid tux. So today, I called up the tailor and placed an order for a tuxedo of my own. I went as classic as I could . . . shawl collar, one button (pictured above). You really don't see the shawl collar anymore . . . and the notched collar kind of annoys me on a tux, since I think a tux should have a little more flair than my typical suit. Of course, now I'm going to have to buy a cummerbund, and a tie, and the right shoes, and a set of studs . . . etc. But in the long run, I think of the tux as an investment. In two or three wearings, I'll have made up the capital outlay, due to not having to rent.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Viernes

There's really got to be an easier way of courtship than this stupid thing Americans call dating. My buddy Jason married his high-school sweetheart/first girlfriend. I missed that boat.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the things I carry

Seems like a couple of folks caught this when I first posted it on Sunday. I initially pulled it because I figured I'd break it down into eight separate entries. I think I'll still do that, but if the comments from the last post confused you, check the photo below, and stay tuned for the separate installments for a monologue on each.
* * *
Sunday, May 11
So I got my hair cut today. I can't stand the feeling immediately following a haircut, and always try to take a shower as soon as possible after visiting the barber. When I got home, I figured it would be a good day to wash my jeans as well. I emptied my pockets onto my bed, and realized that as a still-life, it sort of said a lot about me, so I took the following picture:

A quick summary of the things I carry on any given Sunday, starting clockwise from the wallet:

  1. Wallet, with enough ducat to make it happen
  2. Handkerchief, and an Ace hard rubber comb
  3. Victorinox classic pocket knife
  4. Marlboro reds and Zippo lighter
  5. Cell phone
  6. Smith & Wesson 442 revolver
  7. Wristwatch (today, a Longines Dolce Vita)
  8. Car keys and house keys

Monday, May 12, 2008

Typical guy thing

Text message conversation starting at 8:11 p.m. last night, below. Identifying the female right now would be too much backstory for the message of the post. Stay tuned, though.

Drink?
Drink. What do you think? Where are you?
My house and watch brothers and sisters? Or do u hate that show?
Never even heard of it. U have booze?
I have beer and a bit of tequila. Bring ur own if u want.
Ok.

There is not a single heterosexual man out there that's ever watched this show of his own volition. Those who said they did were just hoping to score. I've been here before. I watched two whole seasons of the Gilmore Girls with the ex and pretended to care about Rory's trials and tribulations. So I showed up at the girl's house with a bottle of Smirnoff blueberry vodka and a bottle of soda. She had opened a bottle of white wine, so the vodka was all me, although I donated it to her hopelessly empty liquor cabinet. If I'd have been selfish I'd have brought a bottle of whiskey; don't ever accuse me of being inconsiderate.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bender lite

It turns out that I got drunk every night this week. I've been a good citizen and made it to work with minimal hangover, but it doesn't change the fact that I've woken up on my couch fully clothed at around 4:00 a.m. for four mornings straight and had to shuffle into my bedroom. The only real downside I've noted is that I keep forgetting to eat dinner. Bar appetizers hardly qualify as sustenance, and I think the celery that comes with buffalo wings actually has negative calories, so malnourishment is my main concern. As far as benders go, this really doesn't qualify as one, I know, but I sure am hungry this morning.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

random kicks in the nuts

I was at a sweet patio bar with Frankie and Sam last night, enjoying what must have been my fourth Maker's Mark and soda. We were having a good time when around 10:00 I looked up and caught sight of Keri. She was at the bar with a new guy (the doctor went kaput after Paris) who looked like he failed the casting call for a live version of a Tim Burton claymation feature. It kind of sucked. Truth be told, it really sucked. Even though we've been broken up for a long ass time now, I'd never actually seen her with one of the guys that followed me.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Some of the people all of the time

The Kaiser called me last Saturday. He’d been out with his lady on Friday night, and they’d gone to some new trendy bar. The reason he was calling, he told me, was that he’d been drinking absinthe there . He swore it was absinthe. Lucid, he told me, was the brand. I had a hard time believing him, as I happen to know that the absinthe importation ban is still in effect. I went to their website, and it looked like the real deal. For a moment, I got a little excited. But just as things too good to be true tend to be, this was. It turns out that in October of 2007, the Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau revised its policy regarding the use of the term “absinthe” on labels of distilled spirits products and in related advertising material:

We approve the use of the term “absinthe” on the label of a distilled spirits product and in related advertisements only if the product is “thujone-free” pursuant to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulation at 21 CFR 172.510. Based upon the level of detection of FDA's prescribed method for testing for the presence of thujone, TTB considers a product to be “thujone-free” if it contains less than 10 parts per million of thujone.

In other words, Lucid can be legally sold in the States since it contains less than 10 ppm of the stuff that makes absinthe a good time. It’s as if the government clarified the definition of “marijuana” to allow the sale of THC-free products, and I marketed non-filtered Lucky Strikes under the name “420,” and claimed they were cannabis because each cigarette contained a hemp seed. What a gyp. Pernod has been around forever, and tastes exactly as a good absinthe should. To hell with Lucid.

Incidentally, Samantha went on a vacation to Prague with her brother and his wife last month. She was able to smuggle me back a bottle of Czech absinthe. I’ve mentioned before that Czech absinthe tastes horrible. I can only liken it to drinking Windex, but it definitely has the thujone kick. I’ve always preferred Spanish absinthe, but when you’re looking to get drunk, Old Milwaukee is better than water, right? I’d run out of absinthe during my first Ubermom rendezvous, so now my supply is restocked.

Crap that makes me wonder. . .

Number four on the "Top 25 Most Played" songs on my iPod is When Will I Be Loved, by Linda Ronstadt. Which is peculiar for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it's not on any of my playlists. Hell, I can't recall ever consciously playing that song, hearing it come on, or even downloading it for that matter. That adds to my paranoia a little . . . is my iPod sentient? Is somebody playing songs on it when I'm not around? Do I have split personalities? If so, both of them have been remiss on the blog lately, that's for sure. It's Thursday and I can't wait for Friday.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

AWOL

Readers: sorry I've been incommunicado. I will return. For several reasons, the spirit's just not been up to blogging lately. Consider this a sabbatical, and thanks for checking back. I've got enough fodder to keep me going once I do get back on the horse . . .

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guaranteed laughs

A friend of mine forwarded me a link to the following blog yesterday:


Absolutely killed me. Comparing it to my recent blog posts, I didn't realize I could be so white. In the last ten posts, I hit on: Starbucks; iPod; not owning a television; sushi; and wine.

Monday, February 25, 2008

More Cowbell


I was at Starbucks on Saturday afternoon, and my iPod kicked out Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper." Of course, that song will forever be associated with the SNL "More Cowbell" skit, and it occurred to me that the cowbell is really not all that pronounced on that song. In fact, you really have to listen for it. That made me think about cowbell songs in general, and I decided to come up with a list of the top five cowbell songs out there. Well let me tell you, coming up with a list without the assistance of Google is a near impossibility. We've just become lazy as a list-making culture. Came up with two off the top of my head, but could just barely come up with even a third song that had pronounced cowbell in it. I had to scroll through the 'pod to even come up with a fourth, and I never found a fifth. I wrote down my Google-impaired cowbell song list and present it here.
  1. Low Rider, by War. This one was easy. In fact, I'm pretty sure they have a dedicated cowbell player in addition to their drummer. Gene Frenkel would have fit in well with War.
    ...
  2. Honky Tonk Women, by The Rolling Stones. It sounds like the cowbell on the opening to this song was actually hanging around the neck of a cow in the studio.
    ...
  3. Funky Cold Medina, by Tone Lōc. This song may feature a sample of a cowbell, rather than the real thing. I don't know. Actually now I do, as I just looked it up on Wiki:

    This song contains samples from six songs, "Honky Tonk Women" by The Rolling Stones, "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner (whose guitar riff dominates the song), "Christine Sixteen" by KISS, "All Right Now" by Free, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and the introduction to "Get Off Your Ass and Jam" by Funkadelic (from which the drum break during the song's bridge is derived).

    Damn you, Tone, I don't know if that deserves an asterisk now. I'll keep it on, as it's from my initial list.

  4. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me, by Terri Clark. I had to scroll long through the iPod to find this nugget, and I don't know if many folks even know it, but the cowbell permeates throughout the song. There's originality points here, too, since she's covering a Warren Zevon song that features no cowbell.

Enigmas

So we went out to a wine bar with the Fulbright scholar and her entourage this past Saturday. It turned out to be pretty fun, but I left without thanking her for setting everything up and planning. I sent her a quick text the next day just saying thank you, and her response was:
thx jack-i really appreciate it, u r a great friend : )
Not that any of this story is particularly interesting, it's just that I've detailed how I feel about her before, and I don't think I've been much of a "great" friend to her, except to show up at stuff that she coordinates. Having seen the lengths to which chicks go to compose text messages, I've determined that she must just not have very many good friends or something. It's always strange when that happens . . . when you think somebody really doesn't like you much and it turns out they have good things to say about you. As a strange aside, the periodic-table-man was there as well, and it turns out he used to work with Keri (the ex). Small world. It was obvious that he didn't care for her much. We didn't dwell on it, as it was a mixed crowd. There were two girls who seemed interested in Frankie, both were cute in different ways, but he went indecisive on us, and like the dog chasing two rabbits, caught neither.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bibliography

As an adult, I didn’t have a television until after September 11, 2001. The events of that day convinced me that sometimes radio just isn’t enough, and the internet is too slow to update for certain newsworthy events, so I broke down and bought a TV. With the television came the obligatory DVD player, TiVo, and cable (which had the unintended consequence of giving me high-speed internet). With the cable came my “shows,” and with the internet and my shows, I filled significant chunks of my evenings.

Before 2001, I read for pleasure a lot more than I do now. I had numerous magazine subscriptions, as well as a subscription to the Wall Street Journal. I used to tell people that my personality could best be described by the three magazines that I read religiously at the time: the Economist, Harper's, and Playboy. That about summed it up. I also read a book a week, on average – everything from cheesy sci-fi to the Classics. I was a regular at the used book store and my queue of books to read was as impressive as the list of books I had read.

So, when Bonnie asked me for a list of books, and I noticed that Andi had started a new blog devoted exclusively to lists, I couldn’t help but oblige with the following list of five books that I’ve read numerous times – to the point that if I had to rattle off a “favorite” list, I’d hit y’all with this one, and a very brief summary of why:

  1. 1984, by George Orwell. The man was a prophet. Unfortunately, I think this book may be more relevant today than ever before; unfortunately few people seem to care. As an aside, Winston’s conversations with Julia about sex and the correlation between political orthodoxy and sexual repression is one of my classic “go-to” discussions when I’m trying to close an intellectual chick.
    ...
  2. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Beautiful, beautiful book. See entry here.
    ...
  3. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. One of the few books that has made me cry every time I have read it. Pip’s feelings for Estella, and his climactic outburst to her may be among the greatest paeans to unrequited love ever written:
    Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since - on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!
  4. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I still read Gatsby at least once a year. It is the one book that I read in high school, in college, and as a “grown up” that has spoken to me with equal poignancy each time, but for very different reasons.
    ...
  5. Ernest Hemingway. Collected works. As trite and clichéd as it may sound, Papa changed my life.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Libros

Got tagged by Andi with a pretty easy meme regarding one of my favorite things: books.

Here are the instructions:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.


Here are my 3 sentences:


“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never really been that fond of penises.”

I tired to get her to talk more about this, but she wouldn’t except to say that she could never tell her family about any of this, at least not the lesbian part.


From the book Self-Made Man, by Norah Vincent, wherein she chronicles an eighteen-month experiment in which she disguised herself as a male. I haven’t actually read the book. I bought it, and before I had a chance to read it, Sam borrowed it from me over the holidays, and returned it looking like she had taken a swim with it and then given it to her pet badger to store for a couple of weeks. It was, however, the closest book with more than 123 pages. The nearest book was actually Elie Wiesel’s Night, but that weighed in at a mere 120 pages. Lesbians are more fun to blog about than concentration camps anyway, I suspect.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Vice Report

The market for vodka is pretty much over-saturated at this point. Seems like three-quarters of any given bar these days is vodka-based. My two favorites: Ketel One for the mixed drinks and Grey Goose on the rocks. Sometimes I end up with strange and interesting vodkas in the liquor cabinet, though, and it’s rare that I find one that I don’t like. I’d been holding on to an unopened bottle of Estonian vodka for a couple of years now: Türi. I’d had it as part of a “Soviet Union” flight of vodkas at Red Square in the Mandalay Bay back in 2005, and had bought a bottle shortly after getting back from that trip, but hadn’t opened it since then. I remembered it being pretty good, and the bottle looked cool in the liquor cabinet. I had a couple of folks over last night, and ran out of Ketel. I decided there was no time like the present to open the bottle of Türi, and let me tell you, folks, it was a wallop of disappointment. It had some real “burn” to it, and smelled like rubbing alcohol. I had poured myself a rocks glass half full of the stuff, and had to cut it with soda just to finish it off. Life’s too short to drink bad vodka, so I’m off to Costco to buy another bottle of Ketel One today.

Friday, February 15, 2008

And out of left field . . .

One of the oddities on my iPod’s most recent “Top 25 Most Played” list is “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” from the Bollywood movie Dil Se. I discovered it as the opening song to Spike Lee’s Inside Man and downloaded it immediately, only to learn its original source much later. I get a kick out of people’s reactions when they happen into my office and it’s playing. I’m afraid one of these days somebody is going to call Homeland Security on me if I don’t keep my musical tastes in check.

Friday Afternoon Randomness

Saddest thing I’ve read today: evidently even koalas get the clap. Poor little buggers. The male koalas need to learn to stay away from the pick-ups and the “good time” girls. Here’s a job I’d hate to have: “At the Koala Conservation Centre, we test the koalas for Chlamydia every few years.” Maybe they should look into passing out little koala condoms? And they should probably put this poster up in the habitat parks:

Bust of Mao Revisited

They say only Nixon could go to China. But Kissinger is the guy that had to deal with Mao. The conversation below is awesome and hilarious and absolutely batshit crazy all at the same time.


Now if I ever get another opportuntity to leverage my Bust of Mao, I'm totally referencing this negotiation between Mao and Kissinger:

"You know, China is a very poor country," Mao said, according to a document released by the State Department's historian office.

"We don't have much. What we have in excess is women. So if you want them we can give a few of those to you, some tens of thousands."

A few minutes later, Mao circled back to the offer. "Do you want our Chinese women?" he asked. "We can give you 10 million."

"It is such a novel proposition," Kissinger reportedly replied, "We will have to study it." I wonder where I could find the results of that study?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Angels and ministers of grace defend us!

I had a strange memory-flash to my childhood just now, and remembered scraping myself and my mom applying Mercurochrome to the scrape. And then I thought – you know, I haven’t seen Mercurochrome in over 20 years probably. Upon reflection, the last I had even heard of it (and remember noting the reference) was when I saw Rent, and one of the lyrics in “Today 4 U” is “The Nurse Took Him Home For Some Mercurochrome,” and I’m pretty sure that’s because of the rhyme and meter of the word, rather than the probability that Angel would actually have had Mercurochrome at his (her?) place.

Thanks to Google, of course, I found this article by Cecil Adams on “What happened to Mercurochrome?” Apparently, in 1998, the Food and Drug Administration declared that Mercurochrome, generically known as merbromin, was “not generally recognized as safe and effective” as an over-the-counter antiseptic and forbade its sale across state lines. What the hell? I remember it being safe and effective . . . . How did I ever get out of childhood alive?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Apropos of Valentine's Day

A public service announcement:


I've been looking for an excuse to post this classic WWII poster, directed at our men in uniform back then, but the message rings true to this day. I have a buddy whose uncle once told me that he had been to whorehouses all over Asia when he was in the military, but it wasn't until he came back to the hometown that he got a dose of the clap. I'm not sure what a "pick-up" is, or how she differs from a "good time" girl, but I have an idea. Syphilis and gonorrhea, while no cakewalk I'm sure, are nothing compared to the other diseases folks of my generation have to deal with.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Watching every move on her face

All Right Now,” by Free just played on my iPod. That song reminds me of San Diego in July of 2006. I was waiting for Keri to pick me up outside of the Embassy Suites on 601 Pacific Highway in the early afternoon. She drove up in a rented red Mustang convertible with the top down, and that song was playing on the radio, and she was wearing sunglasses and a hat and a smile. It was a perfect moment . . . the kind of moment you see in movies and doubt ever happens in real life. Moments like that, and the hope for moments like that, make life worth living.

The opposite of Neil Diamond

Vincent van Gogh: artist, absinthe drinker, lunatic. I confess I’ve never been a big fan of Van Gogh, but I think that’s mostly because when I was in college all the wannabe hip pseudo-intellectual girls had posters of Starry Night on their walls. Dude’s gotta be the king of the art calendar/museum print circuit.

Well it all caught up to me this year, when the guy in the office next to me asked me if I wanted a calendar that somebody had given him for Christmas. I’m pretty lazy about my calendars; last year’s was a pharmaceutical company’s free calendar that Laz gave me, which advertised some epilepsy drug. Well, this year, courtesy of the guy in the office next to mine, I’m treated to twelve months of old Vincent Van. Weird thing is this month it’s his Le Café de nuit (The Night Café), and every day the picture drives me a little more crazy.


Here’s Vince’s own take on the piece, in a letter to his brother Theo:

I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four lemon-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens, in the figures of little sleeping hooligans, in the empty dreary room, in violet and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for instance, contrast with the soft tender Louis XV green of the counter, on which there is a rose nosegay. The white clothes of the landlord, watchful in a corner of that furnace, turn lemon-yellow, or pale luminous green.

I swear, I think I’ve drank myself senseless in this place, if only in my dreams.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Making it happen.

There’s a sushi place that opened up within walking distance from my house last summer. Aside from being super convenient, the place is fabulous. The fish is always fresh and the quality is unrivaled. It’s not the fanciest place, and there’s not much flash, but when I get the craving, I invariably find myself there. They don’t have a liquor license, so the place is BYOB, which is actually pretty cool, since I’ve found myself trying out different types of sake that I pick up either from Cost Plus, or the local “fancy” grocery store. Last Tuesday, I walked there, but forgot my sake in my refrigerator. I ducked out to go get it, and Koji, the sushi chef was out back for a “smoke” break. I’ll leave it to you to figure out the quotation marks. I laughed as I caught the unmistakable scent, since I’d describe Koji as demure, if that adjective can be applied to a male, and I’d never really said much more than a couple of things to him. As I jogged past him, I commented that I’d forgotten my sake. “Bring me back some vodka!” he called after me. I knew he was joking, but when I got home, I half-filled a plastic juice tumbler with Ketel One from the Costco-sized bottle in my freezer, and took it back with me. I gave Koji the vodka, and was delighted when a couple of chef’s choices came my way gratis. Among them was some delicious toro nigiri. When the check came, it was surprisingly less than I had expected.

Last night, I had the sushi craving again, so I went to the fancy grocery store to pick up a bottle of sake. As I was in the liquor aisle, I noticed that they had a sale on Rain vodka. I’d never tried it, but it was regularly $24 for a bottle, and selling for $17. In light of the “access and cachet” moment I’d had at Robertson’s on Friday, I decided to try an experiment. I bought the vodka, intent on giving it as a gift to Koji. I even bought one of those fancy little wine carriers so it would look gift wrapped. Let me tell you . . . after I got there and presented the bottle to him, as far as access and cachet goes, it was indescribable.

Koji came from around the bar, shook my hand and bowed, thanked me repeatedly, and told me that he was going to do something special for me. One of the waitresses opened the bottle on the spot and poured him a long draught of the hooch. She also brought me a sake cup full of it for my enjoyment as I waited for a table to open up. Served neat, I was pretty impressed with the smoothness of the Rain.

I paid close attention to my order, since I was sort of experimenting. I ordered some yellowtail, some snapper, a Vegas roll, and a California roll. When my order came out, Koji had doubled all my orders, and had included some toro sashimi, and a couple of other morsels that I’d never tried or seen. He also included some pickled wasabi. I actually struggled to eat it all . . . I was literally gorging myself on sushi. When I finally threw in the towel, I was spent. The vodka and the sake had also gone to my head a little and I was glad that I’d walked to the place. I asked for the check, and when the waitress brought it to me, I couldn’t help but chuckle. $31. I glanced at the sushi-menu just to gauge the net worth of what I’d been served. By my estimates, it was about $75 worth of sushi. The toro sashimi by itself would have been $20 if I had ordered it.

Sometimes, if you actually know somebody, or if you’re a regular at a place, greasing them a $20 bill can come across a little gauche. For those folks, the access and cachet requires thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness always pays off.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Access and Cachet

One of my clichés when people ask me why I carry cash in this age of credit cards is: “Because at the end of the day there’s no better travel agent than Benjamin Franklin.” I believe that, and there are times, like last night, when the cash money talks in a way that the credit card never will.

My buddy Dan called me late last afternoon and asked if I wanted to get dinner with him and his co-worker Albert. Dan and Al are good guys, and word on the street is that Dan had recently broken up with his girlfriend of a couple of years. I said sure, and asked where they were going. Dan said he’d had a craving for Robertson’s for a few weeks and nothing short of Robertson’s would do. He suggested we meet there at 7:00.

Now, I know from experience that Robertson’s is a hot-spot for dinner on the weekends, and they don’t take reservations for parties smaller than four. When I pulled into the parking lot and saw the number of cars there, I knew we were in for a long wait, and I didn’t feel like waiting; I was hungry.

I took a $20.00 bill from my wallet, folded it in quarters, and put it in my front pocket. I walked in, worked my way through the crowd, and found Dan and Al, who had just gotten there as well. We walked up to the host, and Dan told him we had a party of three. He informed us that they were fully booked with reservations until 8:30, but he would put our name down and we would be in the queue with the other folks, behind the ones that had gotten there before us. I saw the look of disappointment on Dan’s face. I thanked the host, shook his hand, discreetly slipped him the $20, and told him that we would wait at the bar, and if there was anything he could do to minimize our wait, we would appreciate it. We weren’t at the bar long enough to even order our first drink, when he approached us and told us that our table was ready.

Dan and Al bought my dinner as a thanks for that moment of élan. $20 well greased will open doors for you. But it’s all about doing it right. I’m a firm believer that any gentleman worth his salt should know when, where, and how to grease a palm. It just makes life easier.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bachelor life

I finished my Costco-sized bottle of Crown Royal last night and had to break into my bottle of Crown Special Reserve. I have to tell you, strange as it sounds, I prefer the regular Crown to the Special Reserve.

Got home from work late last night, and had two boiled eggs and a can of tuna for dinner. As it often is, the Crown was the highlight of the evening.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

fly on the sitemeter wall

Somebody in Atlanta, Georgia must have been horribly disappointed when their Google search for "big dick fever" led them to this entry here at Mad Shoeshiner.

Because you can't unring a bell . . .

Courtesy of my buddy Robb, one of my first e-mails of the day:

I'm listening to the song "goodbye horses" by Q Lazzarus. It's not a bad song--very techno 80s. But there's no redemption for the song that was used in the "tuck" scene in Silence of the Lambs.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Back in Black

Well, it’s back to the grind. I wish I had a truly good adventure story to tell y’all, but nothing really emerged. Had a good time, and time spent with friends is always awesome, but not necessarily blog-worthy. Not even a great miss to report. Three thoughts from the weekend:
  • Sometimes if you want to have a good time, you have to spend money. If you’re not going to do something right, you might as well stay home. I should have slung the shekel and gone to one of the “good” parties in Scottsdale (ranging from $100-$400) on Saturday night, rather than the $40 block party that turned out to be the ghetto/overflow party.
  • Alka-Seltzer is a surprisingly effective hangover remedy. It tastes like carbonated saltwater, but it had me feeling like a million bucks unlike most “remedies” out there.
  • People watching never gets old if you’re in a target-rich environment.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

[hangover]

Двете споменати по-горе реакции също изискват преобразуването на NAD+ в NADH. За да може да обработи прекомерните количества NAHD, черният дроб отклонява киселината pyruvate от останалите процеси които я използват. Един от тези процеси е синтезът на глюкоза, а когато този процес е нарушен, черният дроб не успява да снабдява своевременно с глюкоза тъканите и най-вече мозъка. Глюкозата е основната енергийна суровина за мозъка, и при недостига ѝ се наблюдават някои от типичните симптоми на махмурлука – умора, слабост, промени в настроението, понижени внимание и концентрация.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Epicurean truth

It was 35 degrees in Phoenix this morning. Good thing I brought my coat. Can’t believe I actually debated whether to do so. Had a very nice, relaxing dinner with Carlos last night at a place called Durant’s. Ended up getting a little lit. Had three Crown Royals during the interview, and half a bottle of wine at dinner.

Let me tell you, Durant’s is a “Jack” kind of place, down to the red wall paper. The founder, Jack(!) Durant’s words are prominent there – words that speak veritas to me:

Good Friends, Great Steaks, & the Best Booze, are the necessities of life.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Answers and stats

A cut-and-paste job from Wikipedia's article on the Phoenix Open:
  • The tournament was originally the Arizona Open, but was known for most of its history as the Phoenix Open until the investment bank, Friedman Billings Ramsey, became the title sponsor in October 2003.
  • The 4-day attendance of the tournament is usually around 500,000.
  • The most popular hole for spectators to watch is the 16th hole due to the "Amphitheatre" atmosphere of the hole, created by the stands erected every year before the tournament. The hole could be described as "one big party", with many students from the nearby Arizona State University.
  • Poor shots at the 16th hole receive boos, because the hole is very easy by the PGA's standards. Good shots, however, are cheered for loudly. Famous moments at the 16th include Tiger Woods' hole-in-one in 1997, which caused the gallery to erupt, throwing cups and other objects in celebration, and Justin Leonard giving the finger to the gallery after a poor shot.
  • This is the best attended golf tournament of every calendar year, and in 2006 the FBR Open set a PGA Tour single day attendance record with over 168,000 fans in attendance on Saturday, Feb. 4, as well as a tournament week attendance record of 536,367 fans.
I make no promises about the accuracy of these statistics, but just wanted to give you guys an idea of what's going on in this town.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Thank the Lord for the Night Time

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” I believe this. My latest adventure began last night. I was watching the latest episode of Nip/Tuck, when at 11:16 p.m. my BlackBerry buzzed. Turns out it was an accusatory and terrifying e-mail from one of the honchos at work. He wanted an explanation that I couldn’t give him until today, but if it wasn’t satisfactory, I would be in a world of shit. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep, my mind raced for most of the night, and I got out of bed at 5:30 this morning and was at work by 7:00 to figure out what I was going to do. I sent a detailed e-mail explaining myself and sat to wait. I was in a veritable state of panic until about 10:00, when I got a call from the honcho. Turns out the whole issue was a paper tiger. No problem. Situation normal. Sorry about that e-mail last night . . . . etc. I hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief, said a prayer of thanks, and wondered if it was too early to have a glass of whiskey.

My phone rang, and the caller ID indicated a 602 area code. It was my childhood friend Carlos, who lives in Phoenix. He’s working on his Ph.D. and I’m a research subject for his dissertation. I’ve been part of his research for the better part of a year, and he wanted to set a date when he could interview me for about three hours. I told him what had just happened and expressed my general frustration. Ever the old friend, he suggested that I hop on the next flight to Phoenix and come out for the weekend. The Phoenix Open AND the Super Bowl are both going on there this weekend, and as far as parties go, it’s the place to be right now. He has two guest rooms, and what better time to do the interview, catch up, and have good times? Well, I really couldn’t say no to that proposition, could I? A few clicks of my mouse later, I was booked on a late afternoon flight to the desert southwest.

Life is good, and I needed a vacation. Phoenix can be a good town, and the first chapter of the adventure has turned out to be great. The Phoenix Open (the “FBR” to the locals – I have no idea what the letters stand for) is essentially a gigantic party with a golf tournament built into it. I got in too late to see any golf, but not too late to make it to the “Bird’s Nest” – the party tent that is the real centerpiece of the event. Tonight, they were featuring the Neil Diamond tribute band Super Diamond.

Now Neil Diamond is about as square a performer as ever walked this Earth. My mom liked him in like 1983, for God’s sake. Neil Diamond and Anne Murray were staples of my childhood soundtrack, and I wouldn’t be caught dead at an actual Neil Diamond concert. A Neil Diamond cover band, on the other hand, is a whole other story. From a postmodern kitsch standpoint, it is hard to beat. This was my first Super Diamond concert, but they’re pretty much the World Series of Neil Diamond cover bands. Going to one of these concerts is like going to a thousand-person simultaneous karaoke bar. Given the sheer volume of alcohol consumed at the FBR, the crowd had shed all singing inhibitions. Like all these sorts of things, there was price gouging on the drinks. I was trying to save my ducats, so I asked for a Smirnoff – the cheapest vodka on the menu at $6.00 – and soda. In my opinion, Smirnoff is the best of the “cheap” vodkas. Skyy tastes like rubbing alcohol, and Absolut is little more than Skyy with a catchy marketing campaign. For some reason, the only Smirnoff they had was flavored – raspberry and blueberry. I opted for blueberry vodka and soda, and stuck with that through the night.

I just realized tonight that the reason that Neil is such a popular sing-along artist may be because the bastard has a three-note range. Pretty much anybody can sing along to Neil Diamond and feel like they can sing. He’s not like Axl Rose or Brian Johnson . . . everyone my age loves songs by Guns n’ Roses and AC/DC, but there are few things more awful than some jackass trying to sing Sweet Child of Mine.

Also, I just realized tonight that Neil has a pretty good repertoire of boozer songs. Red Red Wine and Cracklin’ Rose make being a wino seem almost noble. And I found myself actually reflecting on the lyrics of Solitary Man:

Don’t know that I will
But until I can find me
A girl who’ll stay
And won’t play games behind me
I’ll be what I am
A solitary man
Solitary man
A woman in front of me threw her 40 DD brazier onto the stage and flashed a dude who took a picture with his cell phone. A guy tried to rush the stage and was taken down by security immediately and severely. It was, in short, a pretty good PG-13 rated spectacle. Because it was a “school night” for Carlos, after the band went off the stage and last call was announced at 11:00, we headed to the shuttle back to the parking lot. It was a pretty good end to a day that started off so poorly. I don’t know how many adventures may come from this boondoggle, but I’ll keep you updated. Jack Gordon, live from Phoenix, signing out.

Also, I may need to buy myself some black velvet pants.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Don't hide behind me when TSHTF . . .

27%

I'm not feeling horribly inspired at the moment, so I fall back on the crutch of bloggers everywhere in times like this . . . the internet quiz! The beauty of the results of this one is that scoring low is actually a GOOD thing.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Head to Head

I’m about as excited about the candidates in the 2008 presidential race as I would be about the prospect of watching one wrestler. I’ve never picked a winner in the primaries (Wes Clark in 2004, baby . . . and I think I can say with statistical certainty that Ron Paul isn’t getting the nomination in 2008), and I’ve never voted for a winner in the general presidential election (Nader, Gore, Kerry). Regardless, what’s turning out to be entertaining is the Hillary/Obama smack-down that’s going on right now. I feel really bad for Obama in this fight, since he’s outnumbered and outgunned against the Clintons. For an interesting take on it, check out this commentary from Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.

Here’s an apocryphal story that parallels the Clinton strategy against Obama: In 1948, Lyndon B. Johnson was running for the U.S. Senate against former Texas governor Coke Stevenson, and it was a very tight race. Johnson was conferring with his people, and he said: “I know, we’ll say ‘Coke Stevenson fucks his sow.’” One of Johnson’s advisers said, “Lyndon, we can’t call Coke Stevenson a pig fucker, you know that’s not true.” Johnson replied, “I know, but we’ll let him deny it!”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Theirs not to reason why . . .

Today in history: In 1879 one hundred and thirty-nine British soldiers successfully defended their garrison against an intense assault by four to five thousand Zulu warriors at Rorke's Drift. The overwhelming Zulu attack came a damned close to defeating the tiny British garrison. The successful defence of the outpost is held as one of history's finest defenses, and makes the Texans at the Alamo look like a bunch of rank amateurs. I hold all kinds of historical grudges against the British, but that doesn't mean I don't respect them.

Dancing with myself.

I've had a little writer's block lately. It's one of those periods when not all that much is going on. The world is going to shit all around us, but my life is, upon reflection, pretty good. I have good friends and I eat well, and that, really, is what it's all about. I was talking with my dad this morning, and I quoted the first line of A Tale of Two Cities to him. Then I looked it up when I got to work, and it pretty much summarized the world and my life right now:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
It took me a long time to warm to Dickens, but I finally did in my early twenties, and there's some real gold in his works. He is a little verbose, though. As I read the passage above, I was further reminded of the old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." Perhaps I'll bask in the boredom of my situation for a spell.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Weird e-mail of the week (and it's only Tuesday)

You're only young once, but you can be immature forever. Opening line of the latest missive from my buddy Jason:
It's a question we all face at some point in our lives: do I know enough people who are willing to dress up in Velcro shoes, striped tube socks and headbands to field a dodgeball team?
Sam and I already volunteered.

51 First Dates

Got another e-mail from the Fulbright scholar yesterday. Despite my feelings about her, I have to give credit where credit is due: she sets shit up, and I look forward to it.

It's time for another great gathering featuring good people and DRINK. For completely non-interesting reasons, I have to skip the hosting honors this month but let's get together and enjoy a drink at The Jefferson (4440 W. Twelfth St.) this Wednesday at 7:30 ish.

Thanks to all those that brought new faces to the mix last month--keep them and others coming!!

-elisa

I have to say, her distribution list always includes a very promising girl-to-guy ratio.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Night in Bangkok

I’ve been to more than my fair share of party cities (such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Ibiza); and to a decent number of “special” parties in cities not really known for their partying for the rest of the year (ranging from Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to the San Fermines in Pamplona, Spain). Volumes have been written on any of these destinations. What I want to discuss today are the five best non-party-party cities that I’ve stumbled across in my adventures. By that, I mean, none of the following cities is a “destination” and I would never suggest that anybody go out of their way to visit any of them. In fact, a couple of them are downright uncool. But all five of the following cities exceeded any expectation that I may have had about enjoying them, and I had an exceedingly good time in each one of them (some more than once), and some I enjoyed far more that cities that I have visited with higher sense of expectation – for instance, on each of the three times that I have been in Baltimore, I have had a much better time than I have ever had in the half-dozen or so times that I have been to Washington, D.C., although D.C. is the “destination city” and I’ve never met anyone that actually wanted to visit Baltimore.

In chronological order:
  1. Chihuahua, Mexico. Granted, I was 18 years old, couldn’t legally drink in the States, and it was my first real trip out of the country, but I partied like a rock star in Chihuahua when I found myself there in the Spring of 1995. Despite the sound of it, the city was pretty cosmopolitan and the nightclubs were better than anything I’d ever seen. The girls were pretty, the beer was cheap, and the nights never seemed to end.

  2. Setúbal, Portugal. There’s nothing quite like finding yourself in a strange city in a foreign country after everything’s closed when you realize that you have no money in the proper currency, no knowledge of the local language, and no real plan. I faced that reality along with four friends during a failed attempt to get to Lisbon for a three-day weekend in the summer of 1997. The Setúbal locals proved to be collective guardian angels and their city proved quite the playground. We never made it to Lisbon, opting instead to spend the weekend hitting the beautiful local beaches by day and enjoying the Portuguese generosity as they showered us with fish based foods and round after round of wine and beer by night. I may never return, but I definitely salute the Setubalese for their commitment to the good times.

  3. Baltimore, Maryland. My college roommate lived in D.C. after we graduated, and I had never been there when I visited him in 1999. Imagine my disappointment when he told me that one evening we were going to meet up with some of his friends in Baltimore. I didn’t fly to our nation’s capital to live some sort of knock-off of Diner. When I woke up on a strange couch covered by a strange afghan in somebody’s apartment with no real memory of how I got there and only patches of memory involving shots at bars both on the inner harbor and not on the inner harbor, I realized that the town had potential. I’ve found myself there two more times since, and the locals are just as awesome as they were that first time. I can taste the Old Bay and the cold beer as I type this.

  4. Salt Lake City, Utah. I felt like I had been punished when my boss told me that I had to spend a week in Orem, Utah in October of 2003. The bosom of the Mormon religion is not exactly where you’d expect to find a good party, and the state of Utah makes getting one’s drink on a challenge, but the non-Mormons in SLC are more than up to it. My favorite memory of Utah from that trip was the overwhelming smell of marijuana permeating the (non-smoking) bar/private club that I found myself in as I enjoyed the live music of Michael Franti and Spearhead.

  5. Tucson, Arizona. I’ve partied in Tucson twice – once in 2001 and once in May of 2007 when I was out there for a wedding, and hit the town with Laz and Frankie the night before the ceremony. Back in 2001, I woke up fully clothed in my hotel room on a Saturday morning with no memory of what had transpired the night before, but a pocket full of credit card receipts attesting to the good times that I’d had and the rounds of shots that I had bought. The consummate experience from the last time I was there was the out-of-body experience I had at a bar called the Meet Rack where a guy named “God,” who appears to be the owner, happily brands willing patrons with an image of HIS FACE. That pretty much summarizes what drinking in Tucson has been for me, and why it has to make the top five of my non-party-party cities.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

21st Century Drunken Snafus

So Frankie and I went to Tahoe with four women: Missy, Sam, and two of Missy’s friends – Veronica (“Ronnie”) and Therese (“Teri”). I’m telling you, it was like having backstage passes to chickapalooza. I didn’t realize that women in their thirties were just as neurotic as they were in their twenties (or their teens). I wish I could say that I learned more about women from the experience, but I don’t think I did.

Here’s a classic “woman” moment from our first night there. Sam got a text message from some dude that she’s sort of dating. We call him “Meat Head” since his claim to fame is that he’s a cage fighter. Not my nickname, and I’ve never met him, but if the shoe fits and all . . . anyway, the text message read: “do you miss me?” And all four women in our group spent what must have been half an hour discussing what that meant and what Sam should text back. As all four were seriously soused when they were doing this, it was extremely comical. I didn’t read the final product, but I swear, they ruminated over including the word “the” for a good three minutes. The Declaration of Independence was written in less time than this response text.

A few days later, Sam and I were laughing about how funny it must have looked to us when they did this. And I tried to explain to her that guys don’t really think that much about what they text, and that while it took a full half hour and input from four females for her to respond to it, Meat Head had probably sent the initial message as part of a mass text. I was a little drunk myself during this conversation, so to prove my point, I told her I would demonstrate. The first female in my phone’s contacts list is Allie Roth. So I texted Allie: “do you miss me?” No response.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bone Fever

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my dad had a much more interesting life than I did in his youth. Among other things, before he got drafted into the Army, he got a degree in forestry and worked for the U.S. Forest Service. For many years, he and my uncle were seasonal forest fire fighters. Members of a fire crew, they would get called up to go fight forest fires wherever the need arose. My uncle was on a Helitack crew, which I still think sounds impressive to this day. I was too young to remember any of that, but they did it until I was about three or four.

I can’t say that my dad’s ever been particularly good with small children – I really haven’t seen him interact with many. Even in my childhood, I think he treated me more like a little man than like a boy. He was, however, my hero, and I soaked up what he told me or taught me as if it were the word of God. I remembered my dad when I was at the casinos in Tahoe last week. When I was in fourth grade, he taught me how to play craps. One thing that the fire crews used to do to pass the time at camp, he told me, was gamble. Pickup craps was one of the most popular games. For some reason that I can’t recall, he decided to teach it to me. Using my toy-box as a back-stop, my dad taught me the basics of a craps game – on a come out roll: 7 or 11 you win; 2, 3 or 12 you lose, but you remain the shooter, etc. In my house, we had a plastic Slush Puppie cup commemorating the 1984 Olympics that we would throw our loose change into and we would divide the money in it into equal piles before we’d start to play. I never won or lost much more than a couple of dollars, but our games would last for a half hour or so. We played craps off and on until I was in about middle school, and then my folks taught me poker, my mom got in on the fun, and we passed the time playing poker, along with any uncle, cousin, or friend who happened to come by the house.

Perhaps most memorable were the craps rhymes that I picked up from my dad, which he had picked up from God knows whom. To this day, I can’t play craps in a casino without reverting to those rhymes. They get a strange turn of the head at the craps tables –usually from my friends – and I’ve never heard anyone else use any of them in a casino. And when I tell folks that I learned the rhymes as a 10 year old kid from my dad in our dining room, they just can’t believe it. Of course “eight, skate, and donate” and “nine, skline, the money’s mine,” are pretty benign and catchy cants. But when your point’s a five and you say: “fever in the whorehouse, run girls, run!” or on a ten point: “looking for a big dick daddy from Cincinnati,” it definitely raises some eyebrows.