The Blogging Affairs Desk

When It’s Good, It’s Good, When It’s BAD, It’s Better…

The Saturday Night Kegger

I’ve been out of college since 2005, so that’s roughly four years give or take.  So it’s hard to blame me for not knowing how to dress to a kegger.

“Are you going to change?  Because you can’t wear that,” my wife Ang points out with a touch of helpfulness slathered with disdain.  What I’m wearing in question is a plain white short sleeve button up, and a pair of gray pants with white Chuck Taylors.  I think I look fine, but Ang disagrees.

“You’re going to a Truro party, don’t wear that,” she says.  Truro is the equivalent of any backwoods locality to where you may reside.  For my Maine readers, think of it as Shapleigh.  For Wulfgar, who resides in Michigan, think of it as fucking Canada.

So into the bedroom I go, peeling off the near-pristine all white Chucks (it was raining out, I wasn’t going to wear them anyway), the gray pants, the white shirt.  I put on a black t shirt and jeans, black Chucks, green hoodie and we leave.

The Saturday Night Kegger at it’s most basic is just a grouping of young adults (though this party was crammed with people of a questionable drinking age.  Ang:  “You’re going to be the oldest person there, everyone’s going to be under 24.”) who gather around the drum of cheap beer seated in ice and pump the little handle and try to pour in the dark as so you don’t get a cup of foam for your efforts.  It’s a place where, if you know everyone, you gather and bullshit and play drinking games and yell a lot in between laughs and backslaps.  Inevitably someone gets too drunk and falls through a sliding glass door.

But luckily that didn’t happen, at least while we were there.

We arrived around ten-thirty and parked down on the street in knee-high-tall wet grass and made the short hike up to a one story house.  Ben, the 6’5″ host who looks like he walked off the set of Braveheart, greets us with hugs and off-hand handshakes.  He invites us to get cups, which is closely followed by telling us that they will cost 5 dollars a cup.

I’m actually kinda stunned that we’re being charged admission to this kegger.  Now, while 5 dollars is chicken feed, I thought somehow we’d get a pass.  Ben directs me to another guy, a young version of a shaved Dom DeLuise complete with funny hat, who’s holding a stack of blue plastic cups while playing at an expert level of beer pong.  His name is Steve and I approach him with two five dollar bills.

“I’ll take two,” I tell him.

“I bet you will!”  And he haws.  He’s good natured, his presence matches his size, where even if he were half the size, you’d still notice him.  After penning our names on our new cups, Ben reemerges with “free cups” which is about ten seconds too late.

I want to be a little upset, but I’m not.  I don’t want to ruin the vibe in this little house with the dirty floor and askew wall mounted pictures that makes my OCD rage.  People are having a good time and it seems that the crowd is split in two: a group of folks are outside smoking, the others are crowded around the stained and chipped table, watching two teams of two toss pingpong balls at a plastic party cups arranged in pyramid formations.

Looking around at the people, I’m still obviously the oldest and I feel a little out of place.  I’m not exactly clinging to my wife’s arm (she went to high school with a lot of the people at the party) but I’m not straying far either.  It’s a blue collar crowd with the guys mostly wearing beards and black smudges on their hands and clothes and the girls dressed in semi-goth attire, huddling into practiced stacked formations to all squeeze into the same picture being taken at someone’s arm’s length that I’m sure if I cruise around on Facebook or Myspace long enough, I’d be able to find.

“Jim, go mingle!  You’re looking really out of place over there!”  Ben calls out from across the property.  I smile sheepishly as EVERYONE turns to look at me holding my little blue cup, and although wearing a hoodie and jeans, still feel somewhat overdressed.

“Thanks… for uh, bringing that to everyone’ attention, Ben,” I say.  This gets everyone to laugh and eases the freshly created tension.  I take Ben’s advice and gravitate towards the beerpong table and watch a match or two.

Ang mingles as well, catching up with people she hasn’t seen (read: avoided) for the last few years.  She ends up in a conversation with the only other girl who’s not dressed as if tonight’s Halloween.

I don’t remember her name, but Ang knew her from high school and the young lady is attending college in the Fall.  As I half listened in, half made wise cracks about what was being said, she explained that she was nervous about starting school at a new place (she had previously been part time at a local college) plus having to find someone to take over her spot in her shared apartment.  Ang suggests finding a year round “foreign” person.

“Your roommates will never see them,” Ang explains.  The “year-round foreign” work multiple jobs.

“But they sure as hell will be able to smell them,” I finish.  This results in Ang whacking me in the gut.

Meanwhile, I find myself in a conversation with an eleven-foot tall 15 year old who has a full grown beard and is slugging back cups of beer like a marathon runner drinks cups of water he gets from the sidelines of a race.  I don’t believe him for a second that he’s actually fifteen, and once I get him to commit to an age, I spring an old cop trick on him by asking him his birth year.  Typically, liars will commit to an age and overlook what year that age would’ve been born in, and are stuck doing the backwards math in their heads, oppose to someone who’s telling the truth and who can plainly tell you off the top of their heads.  Works great for kids under 18 whom you catch smoking.  Ask them what year they’re born after they tell you their 18, and if their lying, their eyes will shoot to the roof as they try to come up with the math.  Use that pause to tell them they’re busted.

But not this kid, who just by appearances I would easily sell him anything from cigarettes to full penetration pornography, to illegally manufactured in Mexico fireworks.  He’s on the ball when he spits back a date in 1994.  He then produces two IDs, one a captain’s license and the other a high school ID.  The captain’s license has his name and DOB, and his high school ID has his picture.

“Christ!” I say while looking over the IDs, “you must’ve had a birth weight of 65 lbs,” he nods between sips.  I don’t ask him how many drinks he’s had, but I assume it’s been quite a lot, and yet he’s not even remotely intoxicated.

We don’t stay long much after.  I have one beer, which was half foam from the fact that the keg was stuck in the shadow of a tree, which made it an even playing field if Stevie Wonder happened to show up and was thirsty.  Ang had two or three half cups herself, and by midnight we were walking back down the poorly lit dirt driveway back to the truck.  Ang had to work the next morning and visiting a vestige of my youth put a metallic taste on my grown palate.

I put the experience on the same list I put other things that remind me I’m an adult now:  buying a mattress, figuring out my health insurance, and an overall dislike for loud music coming from someone else’s car.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Love | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Move It or Lose It

Before I get into the meat of this article, let me address the Michael Jackson thing real quick:  Say what you will, he was a genius and a monster, he was two halves of the same coin cast by a sadistic father and spent by the hands of greedy hangers-on.  He’s dead now, so regardless what he did, good or bad, let the argument rest, as we should his body and soul, whatever remains of either.  How pointless is the conversation on whether or not he did what we all know he had done?

Just let it go already.

***

So for the second time this year we’ve moved, and for the second time this year our nerves were put the the most stringent test that a married couple can go through.  Moving, in case you’ve never had to do it as a couple, is an exercise in communication and patience.  It’s also a fantastic method for finally letting go of shit you’ve been both physically and emotionally holding on to.

For instance, when my Memere passed, she bequeathed to me all of my Pepere’s old coins and weird odds and ends: little cheap trinkets that I’m sure should I hold on to for the next fifty years, might earn me a little cash on Antiques Road Show 2059.  But we just don’t have room for all this shit that was somewhat dumped into our laps by my mother, and although it bothers me a little bit to just heave the bulk of it into a dumpster, it’s also liberating.  Jesus, all that room that was being taken up in the closet by old Christmas tins…

(Don’t worry mom, I saved all the stamps and put them into storage, and I kept all the coins that are worth more than their printed amount.  But seriously, the printer paper box lid full of pennies?  Really?)

I should start this off where it needs to be started, which is at the beginning obviously.  It’s been well documented that the previous apartment we were living in (which was a complex) was a shithole.  Right up until the day that me and two other strapping young men were loading a couch into the back of a Uhaul, the police seemed to make our undersized parking lot their own, which is both good and bad.  Having an increased police presence obviously makes one feel a little safer, but on the flip side, why do they always have to be there?  It’s a double-edged sword.

So about a month ago we, Ang and I, decided enough was enough, especially with Meth Zombies roaming our property, strange smells lingering in our hallways, noisy neighbors and ethnic school children waiting for the bus to take them to school every morning (Christ!  Even Saturdays!).  We fired off an email explaining our displeasure with the apartment overall to our laissez faire landlords a state away and started packing.

I took some time off from work (two weeks) to help in the move, and we figured that we’d do it “right” this time by renting the aforementioned Uhaul, which only ended up costing an arm and a leg in the end due to mileage.  Where we moved to was roughly 40 miles away, and with two trips at 89 cents a mile… you get the idea.

In the end we found a place with “character” as Ang puts it, an older stand alone apartment over a small trinket store that’s a little more than what we want to pay, but at the end of the day, we’re the only people here.  Our cars stay parked out front without interference, the town is small and has a touch of culture (as in a semi-famous playhouse, oppose to… dark people from abroad).  It also cuts my morning commute from 50 minutes to twenty 🙂

We’re not thrilled exactly with our new landlord, as she too is from out of state and seems to have her head so far parked up her own ass that she still smells breakfast from three days ago.  When we first met her, and decided on taking the place, with check in hand I asked “if I cut you a check right now for first month’s rent, when could we move in?”  Mind you, this was the middle of June.

“You could move in tomorrow…” was her response, direct quote, full disclosure.  Ask my wife, she was standing right there.

So I cut the check and we start the process of fixing the place up.  It needed a lot of work, especially with cleaning, painting, patching holes, etc.  This is all stuff that as a renter, we shouldn’t even have to fuck with, but we did it anyway, because we’re clean people who demand a certain style of space to live in.  In the end, I painted two rooms with four total coats of paint (effectively turning a puke green kitchen white, the office space got a fresh coat of white as well), Ang slaved over a bathroom that was caked in lime, rust, cobwebs and all sorts of other nasty bits, and we cleaned.  We cleaned our little twenty-something asses off.

Despite all of this, two weeks later, while Ang is walking out the front door that conveniently goes through the downstairs store, the store owner/landlord stops her.

“Are you two living here now?”  Ang stalls for a second.

“We just got here this morning,” she lies.  We had spent our first night the night before.

“Oh, well, if you’re living here, I need a check for this month’s rent.”  The landlord says.  Stupefied, Ang climbs the narrow, impossible-to-get-a-queen-sized-boxspring-up stairs and finds me in the bathroom putting my contacts in.

“(The Landlord) wants a check for this month?”  Ang reports.  She goes on to explain the conversation she had below, which sends me into a (barely) controlled rage.  With checkbook in hand I march downstairs into the middle of her shop amongst her snooty customers ready for the confrontation.

“What’s this about a check?”  I ask her.  She looks up from behind her glasses.

“Oh, are you guys living here now?”  I don’t balk.

“Yeah,”

“Well, I’m going to need rent for the the last week of June then,” and she produces a calculator to figure out what a quarter of 950 is (I’ll save you the math and tell you it’s like 300-something).  This old wrinkly bitch wanted three hundred and change for one weeks rent!

“What happened to the check I already wrote you, that you already cashed?”  I demand.

“Oh, that was a deposit.  That’s not rent,”

I’m confused at this point.  To move in, she told us all she needed was first and last.  We gave her first, with the expressed understanding that “last month’s rent” was going to come her way on the First of July.  I only get paid on the 1st and 15th – a guaranteed check for X amount because of the job I do.

Her greed nearly blew a guaranteed 950 a month for the next year or so.

I let her know, real quick, what I thought of the situation without resorting to calling her a greedy cunt.  I explained the work Ang and I performed upstairs, at our own expense (80 dollars in paint alone) and how we weren’t taking it out of the rent, and she had the nerve to attempt to charge us for a week’s worth of rent for moving in early when she said we could in the first place.

I nearly destroyed her store.

She relented in the end, of course, when faced with near-tantrum I was throwing in her store with customer’s around, painting the picture of a greedy, miserly old hag without saying the words.  She called the work we did “even” for moving in early.  I set the can of gas with the rag sticking out of the top down and went back upstairs.

Like the Spartan Warriors at Thermopylae, I might have been outnumbered, but I picked the battleground, and she suffered for it.

Since then, it’s been tense, and we’ve largely stayed out of her way, as she’s stayed out of ours.  But regardless, we’re in an older, but better place.  It’s bigger too and we’re actually moved in, oppose to the other place where it wasn’t big enough for us to unpack a few boxes, which were just left in the bedroom, which killed the mood every time I looked at them.

But, and I’ve said this to Ang twice now, we’re not moving again anytime soon.  I don’t care how bad it gets around here, barring the building catching fire or collapsing, we’re not moving for at least another 18 months.

I fucking hate moving.

June 27, 2009 Posted by | Blogging Couple, Corporate America Hates You, Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Hate, Shameless Self Promotion, The Great Indoors, World Wide Events | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From The Vlogging Affairs Desk: The “Talk”

Ang wants me to get snipped.  The following video is a recording of our conversation on the matter after she linked me to the wiki page on vasectomies.  Enjoy.

I tried to get the subtitles to work for when Ang is talking… but I couldn’t do get it to sync up.  I’m still learning the whole video editing thing on here, so bare with me.  Just turn your volume up.

June 27, 2009 Posted by | Blogging Couple, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Love, Shameless Self Promotion, The Great Indoors | , , , | 1 Comment

The Post-9/11 Head Scratcher

I’ve always been a proponent of the Second Amendment, the Amendment in which we as citizens of the United States are allowed to purchase, maintain, and keep firearms in our homes.  I’ve also always been an advocate for “less regulation, more education” on these matters.  My premise has been that if we, as rational, educated gun owners and champions of the Second Amendment went out into our communities and tried to dispel rumors and negative propaganda about firearms, an educated public will see how outright banning them for private use is a bad idea.

I won’t get into why it’s a bad idea – that has little to do with why I’m writing this article.  I’m writing this article because I just learned from a NYT article that being on a federal terrorist watch list does not exclude you from being able to purchase a firearm.

It kinda makes sense, doesn’t it, that if the federal government thinks that you have ties to a terrorist organization, both domestic or international, you shouldn’t be able to pass a federal background check which is required when purchasing firearms.  But alas, Al Qaeda, White Supremacists Groups, Militant “Militia Men” who refuse to pay federal taxes, and other extremists can walk into any gun store in America (and there’s only like a million of them all over the place) and buy whatever they have the money for providing they can pass the background check.

Then again, it’s not as black and white as I’m making it sound.  Although the firearms federal background check paper work is nothing more than an ink-and-paper “on your honor” formality, lying on such can create a nest of hassles for you which will include doing time in a federal penitentiary.  But nothing on that paper work says anything on it about being on a federal government terrorist watch list.

And would you know if you were?

And what does being on a watch list mean, exactly?  According to the article in the NYT, being on the list excludes you from getting on an airplane in the United States or on a plane headed for the United States.  An example of this is when a plane carrying Cat Stevens into the US was forced to land at Bangor International Airport under the escort of two F-16s a few years ago because he was on some sort of “no-fly” list.  Whatever.  Another thing:  Apparently you can’t apply for a visa to the US, both of which restrictions were implemented ex post facto from 9/11, as Saudi Arabian – born terrorist both boarded US flights and even went and applied for Work and Student Visas.

Terrorist organizations are not going to fly planes into buildings again, it’s too time consuming and they’re aware that we’re watching every plane as it takes off and lands.  So what could a terrorist do to upset a lot of people, that’s somewhat cost effective and readily available?

Right?

Opponents to adding this restriction (and by “opponents” I mean the Gun Lobby in Washington DC) to the purchase of firearms cite gaping holes in the legislation due in part to the fact that there “may or may not” be people who have no reason to be on the terrorist watch list.  “Mistaken identity” they say.  Also, there could be cross-bureaucratical confusion as one agency thinks someone should be on the list, and another agency sees things differently, or doesn’t have an adequate reason to place someone on this list.

Currently there are 24,000 sum-odd people on this list, a mere fraction of a fraction of the population of the United States.  What the Gun Lobby and the NRA (who I’m ashamed to say that I’m a member of – ashamed because I feel they make gun owners look more like fanatics with guns than rational citizens) are worried about is the slippery slope effect, wherein you pass one piece of anti-whatever legislation, you open the door for more restrictive legislation down the road.  There’s some truth to that, as I am against passing any restrictive legislation as well.

For instance I don’t want the government to come in and restrict any type of abortion, so-called “late term” or otherwise, because once you take away one right, you lend yourself to the think that “hey, what’s one more step?”  Soon we’ve taken too many steps and we can’t turn back.

So I’m cautious about this new gun legislation, but then again, I’m also a rational-fucking-person, and banning people on a terrorist watch list from buying guns seems like a no-brainer.  But there has to be oversight, because we don’t want to end up with just a roomful of people deciding on who can be on the list and who shouldn’t.  There has to be criteria, and even that criterion is going to be subject to scrutiny.

Sadly, terrorism is here and is going to be here for a long while.  What we as a country need to do is stop playing catch up and passing new legislation after the fact.  What’s that old saying?  Why close the barn door after the horses got out?  And then something about leading them to water?

Regardless, let’s be proactive for once.  Ok, let’s pass this legislation and hope that positive measures keep the list fair and objective.  Give people on the list a chance to prove that they shouldn’t be on it, or institute a mandatory ten-year review on all persons on the list.  Once every ten years review that person’s history, records, etc, and based off of that do we think it’s a good idea for them to come off the list?  If the guy’s a responsible business owner and pays his taxes every year, then ok, I can see him coming off the list.  If a guy keeps flying to and from Syria every 6 months, then well…

Instead of “less regulation, more education”, maybe what we need is “less isolation, more legislation.”

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, People I Hate, Those Crazy Politicians, World Wide Events | , | 1 Comment

Watching a Dinosaur Die

I was just reading in the NYT about how the last Virgin Mega Store in NYC has shuttered its doors in Union Square this last weekend, marking an end to a culture that I can’t really put my finger on.

That culture is not the trendy, ironic hipster culture of the vinyl record store or independent music store that are locally owned and operated, but the culture of the chain music store, the analog iTunes of adolescent’s past, a Wal Mart for music if you will.

I don’t know how I feel about the slow death of this Brontosaurus of business, because it’s been so drawn out over the years that it’s practically stayed under my pop culture radar.  All over the country over the past ten years chain music mega stores, like Tower Records and now Virgin, have been folding due to the lack of business.  People were no longer flocking to these locations to buy their music.  No longer was there a niche market for people to go to one giant store to find all the music they could possibly need, and discover.

We had Napster, then (the much more legal and albeit coolly efficient) iTunes.  But before that we had Wal Mart and Best Buy, which took away from the variety but passed on the savings to its customer.

I had visited the Virgin Mega Store at Union Square a number of times while I was living in NYC, and it was a cool place for Manhattanites whom weren’t “too cool” to avoid big business and simply wanted an album or maybe a book or concert dvd.  I enjoyed the layout of the store, the variety of the wares and found the employees to be pretty knowledgeable, which in a big box store is incredibly rare (looking at you Home Depot.)  I guess what I’m saying is that I’m surprised it’s taken this long for these types of stores to finally lay down and become dust, simply due to the fact that they tended not to fully function in our preconceived notions of today’s society.

In today’s world people aren’t really buying albums anymore, they buy songs.  CD purchases are actually dwindling probably more so for the fact that buying an actual, physical plastic disc is colorless, odorless and has all the personality of that sheet of paper sticking out of the top of your printer.  You simply go into whatever local entertainment store is nearest to you, browse the unkempt racks of over packaged, under priced, bulky cases until you (maybe) find what you’re looking for, take it to the register and leave for home where you’ll push the disc into your computer and import the songs on to your iPod, discarding the disc to some dusty grave on the corner of your computer desk.  That is, if you don’t support your neighborhood’s local music store (looking at you Wulfgar.)

If you do support a local record shop, good for you, but I’m sure even that experience has lost some of its luster.  I’m not terribly old, though my wife loves to point out to waitresses that I’m closing in on 30, but even I can remember the sense of community that surrounded the local music emporium.  I would spend no less than an hour digging through the Used CD bin looking for something interesting to give a listen to for under ten bucks (this was probably 1995, when it was still reasonable to pay more than 15 dollars for a compact disc…).  My best friend at the time and I would compare finds, egg the other one on to make a purchase and run home and give our treasures a listen.  It was an experience.

Now-a-days I load a prepaid iTunes Gift Card for X amount of dollars into my computer and browse through songs, buying each one individually and loading them on to my iPod.  Ashamedly I’ll purchase songs and won’t even remember it, recalling them later on when they come up in a workout shuffle.

This is why the music industry is losing ground; music no longer means anything to anyone anymore.  We have generations coming up who will never experience what it’s like to waste a Saturday afternoon digging through boxes of CDs.  We’ve lost the human touch of music, that connection.

What was your first album that you bought with your own money?  Do you remember what the album was?  Do you remember where you bought it from?  Do you remember the experience?

Here’s mine:  I paid nine dollars for a used copy of Ice Cube’s “The Predator” from Music Plus back home in Biddeford Maine when I was 13 years old.  The old guy behind the counter asked me if my parents knew I was buying this album because of the huge Parental Advisory sticker on the front cover.  I lied and said yes.  I figure he knew I was lying but wanted to make the sale anyway.  My bicycle was parked just outside the door, by the front window, and the store’s owner, this old man gave me a tiny plastic bag to take the cd home in.  I got home, snuck the cd into my room, put my head phones on, the ones with the fuzzy ears, and listened to the whole album uninterrupted as I watch tv with the sound off.  It was a Friday afternoon in the Summer.   I earned the money to buy the cd from weed whacking around the property for my dad.

What’s our kids’ first album memory going to be?  “I logged into my parents iTunes account and clicked ‘buy for $9.99’.”

I’m not advocating for the return of the music store, because it’s a lifeless body.  To call for its return to our neighborhoods would make as much sense as to demand a frozen over corpse be reanimated after it had stayed under a sheet of ice all winter.  I’m just wishing that, not so much music as a whole, but the purchasing of music, still had some sort of community-like tie to it.  I wish it was personal again, and not so fucking ….

Dehumanized.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, The Great Indoors, World Wide Events | , , , , | Leave a comment

Barbershop (But Not Like The Movie)

As of late it has become increasingly difficult for me, as a man, to get a haircut on this fucking ridiculous hook-shaped island.

But I largely suspect that men all over the world are facing this trend, as the once lauded bastion of man-dom, the barber shop, has become a dying branch on the tree of local society.

This downtrend in barbers is largely due to the fact that it’s literally a dying art; all it takes is for one look at the average age of most barbers and you’ll see that far too few are below the age of 30, and to be completely frank with you, I have a hard time trusting any “kid” to cut my hair.

Which brings me to the personal aspect of this article:  I can’t find a goddamn barber who cuts my hair just the way I want it.  I’ve been dealing with this micro crisis for the last few years, drifting from one barber to another, searching for the one who will cut my hair in a fashion that not only I can accept but lately my wife as well.

Currently I go to this Turkish barber a few towns over, but I never seem to be able to get into the Turk’s seat, always relying on his apprentice to cut my hair, because no one ever visits this barbershop to sit in the apprentice’s seat – people come for the Turk.  This is another indicator of the drying up of the barbershop field:  Longer waits.  With so few barbers, especially a barber that caters to the men’s lifestyle (ie harboring an environment befitting a man, with flat screen tvs with sports on them, girlie mags, the rich aroma of cigars, banter about sports, women, nagging wives, politics, etc), the wait for a haircut has grown exponentially.  Hey, I’m all for hanging out at the barbershop, but not all fucking day.  If I’m waiting for more than an hour to even sit in the chair to start a twenty-minute-long hair cut, we have a problem.

This is how I end up in the apprentice’s chair and not in the Turks.

I’ve been going to the Turk’s shop for about two months now because since moving from where I was living before, where I was going to see The Greek, it’s become a hassle to go back there since there as well is a longer than average weight to get into his chair.  Between The Greek and The Turk I went to this guy who has a shop at the end of my street, but after two trips, one of which lasting more than two hours just to get into his chair and the sneaking suspicion he was selling drugs out of his back room, I never went back.

It’s been very transitional for me.

So, on the suggestion of a few co-workers I started going to The Turk.  “Dude, he does this wild shit with thread and your eyebrows, fire on your ears” which apparently has a name but I forget what it is, but it’s all the rage now in beauty salons and barber shops, as people – both men and women – have started to care about their eyebrows and ear hair.  I decided to see what the hype was all about, but as I’ve said, I have yet to have the man himself cut my hair or give me a shave.

And it’s because no matter when I go, no matter if it’s morning, noon, or night, this guy’s got a fucking line out the door of men waiting to get a trim.  I go in, sit down on the leather sofa, flip through a paper, check my Blackberry, watch the big flat screen tv mounted to the wall, and wait.  The apprentice will finish up with someone and ask who’s next.  No on answers, and being that I’ve already waited half an hour, with three or seven people ahead of me to see The Turk, I step up.

I got shit to do.

But the kid, who’s maybe 22ish, doesn’t cut my hair that entirely well.  He cuts my forehead more than he cuts my hair, and often I’m walking out of the barbershop with talcum powder sticking to my face where he’s nicked me with a straight razor.  Ang hates how my hair looks, and recently I noticed way too far after the fact, that this kid left me uneven in the front, where everyone can see how stupid it looks.

“Why don’t you just go to a salon?”  My wife suggests the other day when I got back from the barbershop with a head looking like mince meat.  I wanted to extol on her the virtues of going to a barbershop for a man, but I knew it would be lost on her.  I started the sentence but then slammed on the brakes.

She’d never understand.  What I wanted to say was:

The barbershop is more than a place to get your haircut.  It’s a place where men can go and there are no women around to make us suck in our guts or act gentlemanly.  We can sit, bullshit, cut a fart, call Curt Schilling a “fucking cunt” if we want to, and be men.  It’s a tree house for the adult male, no girls allowed.  It’s an oasis in a world where men are expected to act a certain way and don’t want to, where we quietly rebel from behind our suits and ties and company softball games and dinner with our in-laws.  It’s that location on the edge of the map that is our neighborhood’s no fly zone, in a world where the local pub is being run into the ground by fucking TGI Fridays.

When your wife or girlfriend doesn’t want to hear you talk about how Kobe’s better than LeBron, there’s the barbershop, the men down there will listen, and argue with you until you’re driven to shout and call them bastards.  The barbershop is where hotly contested debates on whether or not Mike Tyson in his prime could take out Ali in his prime.  It’s the home of the son of a bitch; where speculation and ego mix together, and no place else can a man be as free as he can as he sits and waits a reasonable amount of time for another man to groom him.

For a short part of the day, once every three weeks, the caged lion is allowed to roam the savanna.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Out and About | , | Leave a comment

Big Fat Liar

When I started to get ‘back in shape’ I remember having a conversation with myself, no matter how shallow it was, where I convinced myself that I wouldn’t become one of those people who pushed my new lifestyle on to others.

“Fuck it,” I thought to myself, “if my results don’t speak for themselves, I’m not going to chase after people,” and it was so.

But what I’ve been dealing with lately, especially around work, is people coming up to me for health and fitness advice, and then lying to me, bold face, about their progress.

Normally, I’m of the mindset where I don’t give a shit if someone wants to lie to themselves.  Sure buddy, the weights coming off, keep eating those peanut butter sandwiches.  But when you lie to me, directly to my face, that you’re losing weight and making an impact on your day-to-day life, when if anything you’ve been gaining weight and been wholly absent from the gym, that’s where I take issue.

Case in point:  There’s this little lying piece of shit here at the office who’s known for spinning ridiculous yarns for attention:  He was ‘drafted’ by Honda straight out of high school to go to work in their engineering division and make 60K a year to start, but instead took a job making less than half of that when he had a baby on the way.  Or the one where he ‘could’ve’ played NCAA D1 football as a linebacker when he’s 5’7″ and (currently) pushing 190 lbs, most of which is a growing spare tire about his mid section at the tender age of 20.

It’s insulting to have to listen to him, honestly, because he thinks we’re dumb enough to believe his bullshit.  Why I don’t call him on this shit I have no idea, but when I think of going to do it, I kinda feel bad for the guy.  Others around the office, probably either feel the same way I do, or simply don’t give enough of a shit.

So, a few months ago, while I was making strides on losing a ton of weight and sexing up my image, he came to me in this weird kind of buddy-buddy way and asked if I’d help him trim up.  He (amongst others) noted how much better I was looking, not being so puffy, etc.  I told him I’d help, but he’d have to do everything I was saying and make a lot of sacrifices.  I even drafted him up an email that included a work out routine and diet, along with tips like ‘count your saturated fat percentages on everything you eat, try to keep it below 60% of your daily value’ and ‘drink water’ as the first three things on the list, in a row.

It was a huge waste of my time.

He asked to go running with me, and I was reluctant because one, unless you’re running my pace or faster I don’t like to be dragged down waiting for you to catch up, and two he’s the type of guy who likes to talk a lot during a run, whereas I like to listen to my iPod.  But I brought him along anyway, telling myself not to be an asshole in my wife’s voice in my head.  I geared up and waited for him in the lobby of our office as I stretched.

He came out with a dumb, slow smile on his face and we started out.  I asked him multiple times in advance if he was going to be able to do my distance (three miles, not brutal, but a workout that gets a little sweat on your skin) and he said yes, no problem as long as we kept the pace neutral.  Ok, fair enough, I’ll do your pace and you do my distance, deal.

I honestly was nearly walking.

He plodded along at an 11 minute mile pace, which I had difficulty maintaining because I’m so used to running much longer distances at higher speeds than he was.  I tried to stay positive for his sake, encouraging him to let his arms hang, to regulate his breathing, to attack hills and stride down the backsides, etc.  He kept his arms up by his chest, was taking baby steps, sucked wind through his gaping mouth, and never maintained a rhythm.

Fuck it.

We finished half the course, which took us right by our office, and he broke away, waving me off.  I sprinted the last half of the course – a mile and a half – barely getting in a decent work out.  In reflection I felt how my wife must feel sometimes when we have sex; it was good, but could’ve been a lot better if I had just been on my own [rim shot!].

I went back into the office, sat down in the cafeteria and had a cup of water with some of my co-workers, who wanted to know how it went with what’s-his-name.  I said nothing, no reason to embarrass him or make me look like an asshole.  I just shrugged off the questioning and tried to change the subject.  But despite my best efforts, in comes this guy, drenched in sweat, with that euphoric glow over his face, asking me what kind of pace we’d been running.

“That’s the fastest I ran that course ever, that must’ve been a nine minute mile and a half,” he drawled.

I can’t remember now how I responded, but it was probably something like a coughing laugh.  I had no choice but to be honest with him.

“That was probably a 12 minute mile pace,” I said.  He disagreed, and in his disagreement I sensed damaged pride.  Again I tried to change the subject but he persisted, saying that he ran it faster, debating with me as if I had no clue what I was talking about.

It donned on me that he was/is delusional.

For the next few weeks I avoided him, I just did my workouts on my own or with some other people whom are on some sort of commitment to getting healthier.  I’ve avoided giving training instructions, only when solicited, and then it’s something vague, like dietary advice or a workout I think they’d benefit from.  But this guy still haunts me.

Today he came into the cafeteria with two cans of tuna fish.  He read someplace that to develop lean muscle you need an enriched protein diet; these are his words, not mine.

He’s halfway right:  In order to develop leaner muscle, protein is vital, but what protein does is help muscles regenerate faster so you can get more workouts in during your weekly cycle.  Protein alone will not help you thin out; it’s just a means to allow you to workout more.  If one wants to burn fat to encourage a leaner body type, then they take thermogenics like guarana seed extract, zingiber, etc.

Actually working out helps too, you know, but I was tired of wasting my breath on this guy.

So he produces a big mixing bowl and opens up the tuna fish.  Mind you, at the same time I cooked myself two hamburger patties and stacked them on top of each other, with a cooked egg between them to make a protein loaded double cheeseburger.  I’m not saying that I’m a saint when it comes to dieting, but that burger at most was probably 600 calories.  This guy I’m talking about dumped that much in mayonnaise on his tuna alone.

He squeezed so hard on the mayo bottle that it started making those plastic bottle farting noises.

I bit my tongue.  I let him eat his saturated fat literally by the forkful and wash it down with super sugary Country Time Lemonade, so much in fact that he kept the pitcher right in front of him at the table.  I just shook my head and sipped my water.

Some people can’t be helped I guess.

[Post Script:  I burned that burger off about two hours later doing a brutal ab work out, so don’t judge me too hard]

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Hate, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , | 1 Comment

Gamer Wife

“Gamer Girls” don’t really exist.  That is, they exist the same way hot lesbians exist; in some sort of false reality brought to us by television, the internet or just in the male fantasy psyche.  Girls and video games go together like sharks and kittens:  two things that naturally don’t go together, but when brought together are adversarial to their very cores.

That’s not to say girls don’t play video games, they do, but the gaming industry doesn’t exactly cater to them the same way they cater to the other gender, because the industry isn’t seeing the same amount of dollars spent.  True, when all a game publisher puts out is military-style shooters and games gratifyingly glorifying high crimes, you’re not going to see the female demographic bother to waste their money, at least, the majority.

But publisher and the industry make half-assed at best attempts to reach the female market at an earlier stage, with titles like “Barbie’s Day Out at The Mall” and other such suckage.  Ok, let’s say that a young girl is remotely interested in the above shallow attempt to get them involved in gaming.  So what happenens when she matures and is looking for another game to break into?  No self respecting 16 year old is going to drive Barbie around in her pink convertable without giving serious consideration to driving that bitch off an overpass.

This is the state of gaming for young women.

***

I don’t remember how it happened exactly, but lately my wife uses my Xbox 360 more than I do.

Actually, I do remember what happened and how it happened:  About two months ago, on a whim I bought “Fable 2” because I was bored and had a bunch of games I didn’t play anymore, and wanted new games.  So I went down to the local GameStop with this handful of lime green cases and handed them over, and with the resulting store credit bought “Far Cry 2” and “Fable 2.”

Sequels starting with the letter F aside, one night while button mashing in Fable, my wife Ang, who typically looked at me playing video games in the least as a huge waste of time and at the most out right ignoring her, spoke softly from over my shoulder:

“Do you think you could show me how to play that?”

I don’t know what hooked her, whether it was the bright game animation, the colorful magic, the story itself or the fact that you had a loyal puppy following you around throughout the game, but within 15 minutes of showing her what to do, and another hour or so of Co-Op play, she pretty much had the game down cold.

She was hooked, like many of us gamers tend to get when we come across a really good game we can fall in love with.  I’d come home from being away at work and she’d still be plugging away in Albion from her spot on her upholstered chair, the ferret gnawing on a piece of velcro at her feet, her eyes glazed over reflecting the flickers of light from the screen as she sent fireball after fireball after trolls, banshees and balverines.  When she wasn’t glued to the game play she was researching tips, cheats and walkthrus on Fable-Wiki and other sites she discovered.

What happened to my wife?  How did she become a gamer?

I thought she was fully engulfed, but it was becoming apparent that Fable was getting stale, even as she diddled with the downloadble content.  She tried halfheartedly to go into other games, but nothing held her interest.  This is where I step in.

I don’t want to use this article to toot my own horn or anything, but Ang isn’t a pro-level gamer – yet.  She still asks me for help with difficult finger-gymnastic-like movements or platformer puzzles.  Often as she’s playing I’m sitting at my desk in front of my computer, half contemptuous/half envious that she’s hogging the damn Xbox, but I let it slide, giving her advice and pointing out things she might’ve missed, whether they’re doors or treasure, etc.

I went back to GameStop the other day with the idea I wanted a new shooter and to get Ang a new button masher (this genre seems to be her favorite, as she has shown very little interest in FSPs, Sandboxes, or any other style of games.).  For myself I got Battlefield: Bad Company because I hear there’s going to be a sequel soon and after doing some research I found that the first Bad Company got decent reviews, and for Ang I got her Lego Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy.

LSW2TOT is a combination of things my wife loves: button mashing action, immense replay value, cutesy characters and the first three Star Wars.  I’m surprised it took my this long to turn her on to the game series.

The game has just about everything she likes and from my standpoint, it’s a fun easy going game with clever cut scenes that stay true to the films but ad lib their own little touches which makes it just different enough for a veteran Star Wars geek to get something new out of the game.

So as we speak, my wife right now is probably planted in front of the television, clutching her white controller, using a cartoonish Lego Wookie to rip the arms off of an equally silly looking Stormtrooper.  How long will it be before she has her own gamertag and we have to get another 360 and systemlink them?

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Blogging Couple, Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, People I Love, Shameless Self Promotion, The Great Indoors, Why Am I Watching This? | , , | 1 Comment

The Summer Choke

If you’re like me, you’ve spent pretty much your entire life living full time in some tourist spot.  If you’re not like me, then you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about when I say “the summer choke.”  So in light of this, assuming that the bulk of readers have no fucking clue what I’m talking about, come along with me while I describe the high levels of frustration and near murder-inducing rage I face every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Living on Cape is pretty much like living at a water park.  Three-quarters of the year you pretty much get the place to yourself because who the hell would come to a water park in the middle of winter?  But as soon as summer comes, so do the throngs of people with a false sense of entitlement and a lack of spatial recognition.  What used to be a ten minute drive to the grocery store now takes a half hour in the least.  Laundry down at the laundromat is a circus where a melding of languages and cultures seems to mash together like whites and colors set to permanent press.

And even as I keep the Summer Choke in the back of my mind all year long, I take for granted the simple pleasure of being able to maneuver through town uninhibited by dickhole tourists slamming on their brakes for every yard sale and fried seafood restaurant they come across, which is roughly every eleven feet.

The Cape has two major arteries for getting around, with a third minor that really only the locals know about, but only goes through half of the Hook.  Both of these major arteries are (for the most part) single lane and the only real route to get from one side of this island to another.  Both become mind and soul crushing parking lots; Rt 28 because there’s so much for the tourist folk to take in along the sides of the road, from the dozens of batting cages/mini put courses, to the millions of generic ice cream spots and antique shops that are really just junk shops selling shit from someone’s attic at a thousand percent mark up.  Route 6, which is more like a highway, is four lanes from the bridge in Sandwich til about Dennis, where it suddenly becomes a fucking bottle neck to just two lanes, one going East, the other West.  It doesn’t become four lanes again until you get to Orleans, which is about twenty miles down the road, where it will become two lanes again in Wellfleet, and then open up again one town over in Truro.

But all that doesn’t matter, just understand that driving around during the miserably rainy summer is akin to trying to hike up an ice covered cliff face.

What compounds things is that during this time the Cape receives an influx of Eastern Europeans that flock to the fast food industry like flies to …the fast food industry.  Now, since I’ve pretty much sworn off of fast food (did I mention I weigh 174 lbs now?  That’s 22 lbs lost since Jan.) I still need Dunkin Donuts coffee to be fully operational.  Now that these Russian kids are running the show, it literally takes quadruple the time to get a cup of coffee at the drive thru than it did before, because Olga has no idea how to ring in a medium regular with skim and sugar.

This only fuels my rage behind the wheel as I sit and spend my time waiting for a broken English apology, so I can sit and wait in Summer Choke traffic with my substandard cup of coffee that I’m sure has Albanian spit in it.

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Hate | , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Dress Like a Douche

So the other day, the wife and I went out to the local mall to go clothes shopping.  Mind you, this is not something I regularly do with my wife, because normally she’s fussy and indecisive.  Watching her pick through a pair of pants is akin to waiting to be shot by a firing squad.  But we stoically persist, we married men, to smile and tell our wives whatever they want/need to hear in order to buy a pair of overpriced denim pants.

Regardless, during our outing, we came across one particular store that I had no honest intention to go into, even on a goof, ever.

If you have a Hollister Co. store in your mall, you’re probably aware of it by smell before you even lay eyes on it’s dark, foreboding tiki-like surf shop appearance.  This is because there is a paid employee who ritualistically stands at the front of the store spraying a Lysol-sized bottle of their overbearing, overpriced cologne on the mannequins at the entrance.  How do I know this?  Because as we walked by, some oafish clown decked out in Hollister Co. clothing was doing just that.

I smelled an article for this blog, along with the overpowering aroma of douche at the same time.

So I suggested to Ang that we go check it out, on a goof, to see what they had to offer, not telling her that I was using this experience as fodder down the line for an article when I got home.  She agreed and the goon at the door stopped hosing down the poor plastic mannequins long enough for us to walk by without being maced by a riot-sized can of his scent.

Allow me to take you on a tour of Hollister Co.’s store, if you will.  It’s dark, that’s what you’re going to notice first after your sinuses clear themselves from the clear-colored gunk that’s clotted them up.  It’s so dark that you can’t even see what the hell you’re really looking at, as far as merch is concerned.  Is this shirt navy blue or black?  Where the hell is the price tag?  Did I just bump into someone or was that a low table?  Why is there a baby crying somewhere around here?  Where the hell is the exit?

And that’s probably what they want, they don’t want you to be able to find the exit once you’ve walked in the door.  Lobster and crab traps work in similar fashions, only instead of fish bait, Hollister uses sensory deprivation, canceling out your vision, smell and hearing.

That’s the other thing, the terribly trendy music you’ll find inside this store is cranked up to bluddy twelve, so you have to shout at the top of your lungs to be heard.  The US Army uses a similar tactic when trying to drive narco-dictators out of hiding.  This apparently works opposite for gushing teenagers and 20-somethings bent on being walking billboards for Hollister and their sister company Abercrombie and Fitch.

Did you know, that… before Abercrombie and Fitch sold out to being trend whores, they were fine purveyors of high end garments and luggage?  It’s true, look it up.

Anyway, you can’t find a sales associate to save your life, because number one, it’s dark as shit in the store, almost to the point that given the thumping music and acrid, acidic musk-like smell of their cologne, you’d think an orgy was taking place around the polo shirts, and two, they blend right in with the lifeless plastic mannequins.  They mimic the mannequins so well in the fact that they too are fake-looking, no personality having walking, barely talking, shirt folding counterfeits of real people.  Getting one of these impostors to help you with anything is as frustrating as waiting for Ang to pick out a pair of pants she can settle on enough to purchase.

I know the decor is supposed to be a surf shop mock up, but how many surf shops have you been in that can’t pay their electric bill while open at 11 at night?

I’m not going to get into what I think is fashionable and what’s not, because my own taste in fashion differs probably from yours, but what ever happened to wearing clothing that wasn’t adorned in a fucking giant label across the chest, un-centered, that wraps around the back?  Since when did flying the flag of a corporation become trendy?  I mean, I used to wear Nike t shirts when I was in middle school, but that was nearly 15 years ago, and I was an impressionable moron.

No, now-a-days, if I wear a t shirt, it might have some funny, ironic slogan on it, or it’s just a plain white v-neck from Calvin Klein.  Usually, for me, it’s jeans, and monochromatic tops of neutral colors, blacks, whites, a splash of red or blue, and that’s that.  Though, I’ve been told I look handsome in kelly green.

I can’t picture myself being a bluddy pitchman for some company because I think people will like me better, or think I have money to throw away on some poorly manafactured piece of garmetry that was stitched together in Mexico, I just can’t do it.  But then again, I don’t really care about what people think about me, especially if those opinions are based upon my cover and not at least my table of contents.

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Hate, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , , , | Leave a comment