Thursday, December 28, 2006

Available At Metro Center

My girlfriend has a brand new kind of Metro card. I call it the "Hi, I'm Pretty!" card.

You see, when my girlfriend arrived from New York last Wednesday she bought a seven day pass at the Union Station Metro stop(cost: $32). It stopped working the next day. While I stood holding the things she needed for the day at my parents, my girlfriend asked the station manager at Greenbelt why her pass stopped working. Turns out, the station manager explained, that the pass was de-magnetized. Probably by a cellphone, she said. No problem, the station manager just circled the date on the card with her pen and told my girlfriend to just tell every station manager what had happened. For the next seven days.

So up until yesterday, my girlfriend has had to show every station manager her metro card, complete with pen-circled date and say " card was de-magnetized." And it worked. No one questioned it. Apparently, circling things with a blue pen is some kind of secret station manager code.

Of course, when the station manager was a man my girlfriend could have said anything. In fact, I'm sure everything she said was translated through that little booth's intercom and came out as "Hi, I'm pretty! Let me through!".

Every male station manager flirted with her, unaware I was waiting for her on the other side of the gate. One particularly adventurous Columbia Heights manager asked her, on Christmas Eve, if she was his present. What could he do to make her his present? I didn't hear any of this at the time.

If I was smart, I would have stayed with her instead of going through the gate first every time, sparing her the ordeal. I'm not that smart, though. Plus, it was somewhat enjoyable to see the dismayed looks on the station manager's faces when she took my hand as we exited the station.

One manager did see me first, however, and asked my girlfriend if I was a) her best friend, b) her brother(I'm white, she's black, so he was assuming my girlfriend is mixed, which she isn't) or c) her half-brother. He simply didn't want to believe, my girlfriend said, that we were together. Such are Christmas hopes, and how easily they are dashed.

So, I'm sorry Metro Station managers, but she's taken. And yes, she is taken by the whitest looking white man on earth.

Ho Ho Ho...Holy Sh!t, the scale says what?!?!

The holidays have done their damage. This past year, through steady exercise and somewhat restrained eating habits, I lost about 15 pounds. The past month, I've gained about three, really three and a half, back. I wasn't running as much, and I ate well. Too well.

So it's back to my usual routine, which means more running, and hopefully some weight lifting. I was thinking of investing in a personal trainer, but instead I'll just do some research, buy the soundtrack to Rocky Balboa, and hit the weights more often.

I'll also have to get back to my better eating habits, which means more fruits, vegetables, fixed lunches, and less holiday sweets, California Tortilla, and fried chicken.

Head start on New Years, bitches.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Not Dead

Sorry for the lack of posts, all eight of you who read my blog ;)

Christmas shopping, work, writing(but not for this blog, obviously). I've been working on a lot of record reviews(you can read one at BigYawn right now, four more to follow), and on my Top 10 list for 2006, and other projects.

Anyway, hopefully I'll have some fresh blog material soon. In the meantime, everyone have a happy holiday.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Announcement

I have a huge announcement. Yesterday, I was folding laundry at my apartment when I realized something profound: I finally have enough underwear.

I am a clothes-challenged person, especially when it comes to the unglamorous members of the dresser; socks, undershirts, underwear, etc. I never have enough to get through a week, and I find myself either wearing some unsavory items or doing multiple loads of laundry every week. Yesterday, though, I finally won. I have so much underwear, even when I do a weekly load of laundry there are at least four or five pairs that haven't even been used yet.

Next on the agenda, socks and undershirts(socks are pretty close, actually).

My issues with clothes can leave me in some nasty little binds in the winter. I always forget to buy gloves, scarfs, hats, etc. Since I've moved at least once every year for about the last four years(sometimes twice a, I didn't realize it was that much until I thought about it), I always seem to lose track of whatever winter accessories I had the year before.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago when it was really really cold, I had to go out grocery shopping. It was around seven or so on a weeknight, and I was completely out of, well, everything. I knew from my walk home, with only my winter coat, that it would not be a pleasant walk. Especially since I had already changed out of my dress shirt and tie(the idea of putting on a dress-shirt and tie just to simulate a scarf occurred to me, but I decided that was too pathetic...of course, what I did next calls my sanity into question regarding that).

I needed a scarf if I was going to bear the walk, and I remembered I had an old H&M sweater that I was no longer wearing because(being over a year old and from H&M) it was developing holes all over. So, I took out my scissors and went at that sweater, and lo and behold:

I am the scarf NINJA. It was warm, and it a scarf. Yeah, you wish you'd thought of it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Starring Me as Myself

I've seen this musical meme making the rounds at two of my favorite blogs. It creates the soundtrack to the movie of your life, if anyone ever made it. And the way you do this is:

  1. Open your music library (iTunes, Winamp, etc.)
  2. Put it on shuffle
  3. Press play
  4. For every question, type the song that’s playing
  5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
  6. Lather, rinse, repeat. DON'T LIE, IT'S NOT COOL(I won't, no matter how embarrassing).

Opening Credits: "Help Me Spock" - Warp 11
Ah, a preview to my unique brand of geekery. What kind of opening shot would this be, me struggling with a problem only a Vulcan could help me overcome? Help Me....SPOCK!

Waking Up: "Oh Girl" - The Chi Lites
Well that's just fucking great, I wake up heart broken, yearning for some girl who broke my heart(she better be played by Lisa Bonet or Rosario Dawson). This is turning out to be a great movie. Shit.

First Day of School: "The Post" - Dinosaur Jr.
Um...I have no idea, really. I guess "Eyed it, dried it, untied it/Chilled it, spilled it, refilled it/Paste it, traced it, erased it" works for school.

Falling in Love: "Just Because I Do" - My Morning Jacket
Well this is almost a better fit, it does sound like a good love song. Maybe I fall in love with someone who isn't right/good for me, so "I'm hoping you'll get better, and ill get rid of you. " Wow. That's weird.

Fight Song: "Four Dead in Ohio" - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
My love is killed in a student protest, so I set out to confront the establishment bastards who took her from me. Yeah. "gotta' get down to it/ soldiers cuttin' us down/ shoulda' been done long ago/ what if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? how can you run when you know?"

Breaking Up: "Good Times" - Sam Cooke
A very ironic song for my breakup. This plays while I wallow in exaggerated comic misery - or, I'm just really happy because my girlfriend after my dead girlfriend was a real bitch, and I go out partying. Either way.

Prom: "Carry On My Wayward Son" - Kansas
I go back in time, to 1977, when this song was a Top 40 hit. It plays after I make sure two star-crossed lovers share their first kiss at the prom, and Al tells me to get ready for my next leap. Then I wake up.

Life: "So What" - Miles Davis
A nice, jazz-backed montage of my life. In black and white, featuring some shots of me playing pool and smoking for some reason.

Mental Breakdown: "Sweet Little Sixteen" - Chuck Berry
After a series of personal and professional disasters, I'm reduced to a cowering shell of a man who takes multiple personalities to cope. One of them is a girl celebrating her 16th birthday. This plays on a record player as I manically celebrate by myself with a cake and stuffed animals.

Flashback: "European Oils" - Destroyer
The lyrics talk about the past, so it's a good song for a flashback. A previously unknown chapter in my life, where I fall in love with an English woman named Candice, and her father ruins our relationship " She needs to feel at peace with her father, the fucking maniac...". It ends with her tragic death, and me at her wake, ringing bells for my lost love. "I made a tomb for all the incompatible cells I could take/I brought bells to the wake/And you, you didn't mind shedding your beautiful European blood as I screamed - "Death to the murderers we've loved all our lives!""

Getting Back Together: "Lonely Train" - Black Stone Cherry
My next girlfriend serves in Iraq. After punching the President in the face, I travel to Baghdad to saver her(I'm convinced her death is inevitable). This song plays as I'm helicoptered around the war-torn streets of Baghdad, before finally finding her in the middle of a viscous firefight. We kiss, and fly off together, and somehow we bring everyone else with us.

Wedding: "Bitch" - The Rolling Stones
Um...yeah. Actually, once you hear the song, it fits pretty well: "Yeah, you got to mix it child/ You got to fix it must be love/ Its a bitch/ You got to mix it child/ You got to fix it but love/ Its a bitch, alright". Love and relationships are something you have to work on, and eventually you learn that. It's not all fun and games. It's a bitch.

Birth of a Child: "Strawberry Fields Forever" - The Beatles
I have no idea. Maybe the entire idea of fatherhood is so alien and scary, the entire birth scene is very surreal to me and doesn't seem like it's really happening? "Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout."

Divorce: "Commotion" - Creedence Clearwater Revival
The divorce is frantic and messy. I have to move to a small apartment downtown, and my daily life turns from serene to tumultuous.

Final Battle: "Swee Dee Dee" - Cat Power
I guess it's not so much as a final battle, but a final confrontation with the ex-wife. We share bittersweet memories before making love one last time, and this song plays as it fades out from us in our last embrace.

Moment of Triumph: "Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon" - Queen
I live on and have a great life, relishing in the pleasures of the everyday.

Work: "I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl" - Nina Simone
A thankless job; I long for something more, something more exciting. Or, the coffee is just too black.

Death Scene: "Wild Thing" - Jimi Hendrix
I die pursuing a side-career in street racing. A horrible, horrible fiery crash. Jimi plays the song for twice as long as the original(over six minutes), so I have time to pull of a spectacular win before my final crash.

Funeral Song: "Sweet Child O' Mine" - Guns N Roses
My friends carry of my casket, but it's kind of a celebration of my life funeral instead of an oh fuck he's dead funeral. My hair reminds someone of a warm place where they would hide as a child. I go out rocking. "Where do we go? Where do we go now?" I'll find out, Axl, I'll find out.

End Credits: "Tremor Christ" - Pearl Jam
Eerie. There is a twist ending, it turns out I was the evil twin all along. Or Jesus. Or something. " little secrets, tremors...turned to quake.../the smallest oceans still get...big, big waves.../ransom paid the devil...he whispers pleasing words...".

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Musings

I think these lyrics from The Streets Get Out Of My House best sum up my side of every argument I've ever had, for any reason whatsoever, with any women I was ever involved with:

So there you go
Don't try and gimme that shit, right?
'Cos, d'you know what I mean?
You're not exactly...fuckin'..y'know..d'you know what I mean?
It don't really matter anymore, d'you know what I mean?
It's hard enough to remember my opinions without remembering my reasons for them
You're confusing me now
I'm not gonna give you an example
I can't remember an example
You do it all the time
You know, that thing that you do
I...look, I can't remember when you last did it can I?

Mike Skinner is a true poet.

Anyway, last weekend I did more driving than I've done in a long time. Living in DC and not owning a car, I had forgotten the pleasures of listening to the radio. No, seriously.

It had been so long since I'd listened to music that I hadn't personally selected, I forgot the feeling you get when a really good song comes on the radio. It's like winning a small contest, making it a little sweeter.

I like the Gilmore Girls, or at least I watched it from when Rory was Senior to when she started dating that blond creep(who is now her boyfriend, ugh - although he isn't as creepy as he was before). One thing I was really happy about was, when I stopped watching, Loreali and Luke were finally together.

But now, I catch a few episodes, and she has married Rory's father Christopher! WTF!?!?! It's suppossed to be Luke, man! I don't care if he was the jerk pitcher from Little Big League, Luke is the man on that show.

So, to make myself feel better about the lives of fictional characters, I'll be watching this video:

Bam, right in the face. I could watch that over and over again.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's Cold

The heat stopped working again this week. Guy is coming this weekend(!) to work on it. I'm huddled in a blanket, wearing my jacket, using my MacBook in my lap for warmth. My girlfriend just told me I could be sick forever...I'm pretty sure she was kidding.

The space heater a co-worker(thanks Brian!) gave me works though; I just have to plug it in through the bathroom so it doesn't short out the bedroom's power.

My landlord is playing techno-infused rave music upstairs now.

Welcome. Welcome, to my cold dark hell.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Game

The game Sunday was fun, even though the Redskins lost. They lost, after going up 14-0 early, in the first game I've been to in almost twenty years. Which means, as a friend pointed out, the last time I was at a game my youngest brother James - who was sitting next to be - had yet to be born. Of course I was eight then, but that's beside the point. I was there with Scott(my other younger brother, but the oldest of the three), his girlfriend Devin, and James.

I only have a couple pictures of us tailgating:

Scott, drinking while wearing his Laguna Beach sunglasses.

James, who only slept two hours the night before(Scott, zero)

We waited for the local liquor store to open at 11 am before heading over to FedEx Field. Without a parking pass, we had to pay $30 for the privilege of parking in a nearby strip of brown office buildings and taking a Metro shuttle to the stadium. We managed to kill about half of a 30-pack of Coors Light(Scott's girlfriend's preferred beer, which does taste as if it was brewed in a mountain stream: cold, watered down dirt). In the middle of our Rocky Mountain fun, though, a man walked up and asked us:

"Are you under the influence....?"

I panicked. Was James(who is underage) drinking? Are we going to get busted?

"...OF THE REDSKINS!" he finished, producing some Redskins buttons. He asked for a donation of a couple of bucks to some charity in return, and we obliged, even if the charity was probably "The Button Guy Charity".

After this, Scott announced for at least the fourth time he really had to pee. I gave him my advice, which was to think about fucking(I read in Men's Health that this helps by blocking the urinary tract, but I could be mistaken). Since his girlfriend was right there, I didn't think it would be too hard, but it only worked for about five minutes. We set off to find him a bathroom.

Circling the brown office building(which was locked), all we could find were some small bushes surrounded by other Redskin fans. The only possibility was to run across 202 to the woods on the other side, or pee in some empty AMP and beer cans in the car. He took the second option.

James, Scott's girlfriend Devin and I surrounded the back of the SUV to prevent any peeping and Scott proceeded to fill up one tall can of AMP and half a can of beer. The AMP can was a stroke of genius; before disposing of it he loudly announced if anyone wanted anymore "AMP" before he poured it out.

On the way to catch one of the last shuttles to the stadium, we found a porta-potty just over the crest of a hill. Scott was not nearly as amused as I was.

The bus dropped us off on the opposite side from where our seats were. After a little hike to the correct gate, we split up; James and I going to our seats, Scott and Devin going to theirs.

I gave James twenty dollars to get us two hot dogs and a soda before we went to our seats. If I hadn't actually seen the lady ring the items up, I would have accused my younger brother of trying to steal from me when he gave me my change: $4. I finished the hot dog before we even got off the escalators up to the upper deck.

You can read about the actual game here.

Afterwards...well, right now I'm finding it hard to write because I keep getting up to help my roommate clean the kitchen. Every time I feel we've finished and sit down, she starts cleaning something else. She's sweeping the front room as I type this. I'll get the dust pan.

Anyway, after the game, we couldn't find the right shuttle back to the parking lot. Scott tried to get us to board the bus back to the Landover Metro, despite the fact that we didn't park at the Landover Metro. We found what we were told, by a Metro employee, was the correct bus.

The bus was packed; Scott and I stood while Devin and James sat. We traded disappointed banter and looks of dejection and fatigue. Suddenly, I had a nice kick in the shin to go with my dejectional bantering.

A drunk girl seated behind me was going on and on about her asshole boyfriend, and in between repeated exclamations of "is it me, do you understand?" to her friend, she was kicking her leg out with an exasperated sigh before bringing a hand to cover her bloodshot eyes. What followed was the most cliched conversation I've ever heard: the dying relationship pep talk. The girl's friend and the friend's boyfriend kept telling the drunk girl how strong she was, how independent she could be, and that she was too good for the asshole boyfriend. Before the bus ride was over, everyone in the back of the bus had shared knowing glances of annoyance and laughs under their breaths. Scott and I wondered if we should turn around and offer some kind of intervention in the form of an inspirational rap, or repeated slaps to the face.

After running off the bus, we realized we were in the wrong parking lot. Sure enough, there was a brown building, just not our brown building. In fact, there was nothing but brown, nondescript office buildings for as far as we could see(if you didn't count the stadium mocking us in the distance). We wandered between the buildings, crossing grass fields and hedges, ending up behind a warehouse.

We found the road to our lot at the front of the warehouse, where Scott and James also found two small pumpkins. In the middle of an asphalt parking lot, just chilling, doing whatever it is pumpkins do in the wilds of Landover business parks. Whatever that is, it couldn't have been has thrilling as the aerial ride the pumpkins took before their untimely demise a half mile before we finally found the car.

We had dinner at Outback, and there - in the usually tranquil burg of Bowie - something happened that will now forever be known as the Tabasco Incident.

After Scott and Devin went to the bathroom, I dared James to put Tabasco sauce in Devin's cosmo(because I'm an evil asshole), but he put Tabasco sauce in Scott's water(because, being related to me, James is also an evil asshole). The trap was set, and what James did when Scott got back should be in the set-up hall of fame. It should be framed and studied by spies, negotiators, and con artists.

Scott sits down, and James simply says: "H20!", to which Scott replies "H20, yeah!" and takes a HUGE gulp of water. There are no words, in English or any other language, that can accurately describe the look of horror that was on Scott's face when the taste hit him. He froze for a second, then spit the water back into the glass.

"You FUCKERS! Watch out! Watch out, see what happens when you get up!" he said, pointing his steak knife at me and James.

James' plan for me was almost as brilliant. When I returned from the bathroom my potato soup and obviously been tampered with, so I reached for a piece of bread. Luckily, one side was very, very damp from the Tabasco sauce and I didn't eat it. If he hadn't gotten greedy and soaked it, he would have fooled me too.

And that was the end of that. It was a good day.

Monday, December 04, 2006

No Power Monday

I lost power in my room this morning. This is the second time in as many weeks this has happened, and I was doing the exact same thing both times: ironing pants. I'm pretty sure my iron is just a normal iron, but apparently it's putting incredible strain on my apartment's wiring.

After ironing my pants in the hallway(the roommate had already left), I set out relatively wrinkle-free into the cold. The rest of the morning routine went largely without incident. However, I did see something rather strange.

Walking to the Metro, I saw a young girl walking to school and eating an ice cream bar. Now, this girl is either a genius or just insane in the way kids often are.

Think about it. It's freezing, so she is guaranteed to be able to enjoy her frozen treat during her entire walk. No melty mess to explain; no damning evidence of eating an unbalanced breakfast. Then again, she is eating ice cream on a day when it's 32 degrees and feels like 22.

Work is getting stressful. I have tasks piling up on top of each other, like so many things that pile and stack. I'll probably stay late a couple of days(at least) to try and get some extra work done and keep the customers happy.

Other than that, life is good. This morning I had another great iPod moment: glancing over someone's shoulder at the Express headlines, I noticed one about the Iraqi Civil War just as "WAR! GOOD GOD YA'LL!!" rings in my ears. Made me forget all about having no power at home.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Greatest iPod Moment EVER

AC/DC's "Back In Black" comes on, just as a large gentleman wearing a black hoodie, pants, and an AC/DC hat sat down across from me on the Metro. The only way it could have been better is if he was black, which he was.

Avec une araignée

Ah, the morning shower. I like to run the hot water for a bit before I get in, brushing my teeth and letting some steam build up. That's my perfect morning shower: hot water, steam, and a spider.

Right. By. My. Head.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see something dangling at eye level. For less than a split second, I thought I was losing my hair(the spider was dark brown, which is what dead, wet falling out blond hair would look like I guess). Then it wrangled it's legs around it's little spider sling and paused right in front of my face as if to say, "Hey, how's it going. Nice shower this morning. Whoa, calm down fella...what are you doing with that tissue paper? know what, I'll just be going."

It climbed back up to the ceiling, where I killed it. Sorry, it was a primitive reaction. I flushed it and still had the willies all morning.

It's a mad world.

I'm going to the Redskins game Sunday; my first at FedEx, and the first since 1987. The only thing I remember about that game was my father seemed to be some sort of giant among men(I was eight). I'm going with him again, two of my three brothers are going but they will be seated elsewhere.

Again, congrats to my friend Jamie and his new job, hope the first day is going well.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Jamie's Got A Job

Dedicated to my friend Jamie, who starts a great new job tomorrow. To the tune of "Janie's Got A Gun":

Jamie's Got A Job

Dum, dum, dum, look what jamie's done
Dum, dum, dum, guess he won't become a bum
Dum, dum, dum, look what jamie's done
Dum, dum, dum, become a bum, a bum...
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah....

Jamie's got a job
Jamie's got a job
His whole world's full of fun
Future looking bright as the sun
What did his resume do?
Is he glad unemployment is through?

They say Jamie was real invested
To find a job that wouldn't fry his brain
Oh man, he had it comin'
Now that Jamie's got a job
He's gonna buy tons of new games

Jamie's got a job
Jamie's got a job
His best day's just begun
You know his last job, it wasn't fun
Don't tell him now it's untrue
He told that job 'screw you!'

He went to Baltimore with his lady
We moved their shit in the rain
With nothing to hide under
The lightnin' and the thunder
We'll never help him move again

Run away, run away from the rain
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Run away, run away from the rain
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away, run, run away

Jamie's got a job
Jamie's got a job
His best day's just begun
You know his last job wasn't fun
Don't tell him now it's untrue
He told that job 'screw you!'

That job it wasn't easy
Almost put a bullet in his brain
The work it made him queasy
His boss was such a sleeze
And the compensation was so very lame

Run away, run away from the strain
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away from the strain
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away, run, run away

Jamie's got a job
Jamie's got a job
Jamie's got a job
Everybody is on the run

Jamie's got a job
Long days just begun
Now he can buy some rum (but he doesn't have a drinking problem)
'Cause Jamie's got a job (like me he's really white)
Jamie's got a job (it can't be used for robbin')
He'll need a place for the rum (His frigde is full of sprite)
This weekend we'll have some fun
'Cause Jamie's got a job

Monday, November 27, 2006

You Tried, Cockblocking Greenline

Boy, did you ever try Greenline. I applaud your efforts to keep me from having sex Saturday night.

If there is anything Casino Royale should have been good for, it's being the kind of movie to get men and women in the mood. Scary movies are good for that too, but Bond movies have exotic locales and eye candy for every sex and taste(The movie was very good even if you don't count it's potential to facilitate fucking, incidentally).

Exiting the Regal theater that night, all seemed to be going well. Kisses before, during, and after the movie. Light touches, heavy touches, and just the right amount of anticipation. Then you stepped in.

The wait at the Chinatown stop for a train going back to Columbia Heights was 17 minutes due to track work. A long time to wait. Now, I'm not saying I can't keep anticipation building for seventeen plus minutes - I'm not a teenager anymore - but this was compounded by the fact that we had seen a late show, and some dreaded yawns were slowly escaping both of our mouths. Plus, she hates waiting any longer than eight minutes for a train(that's the New Yorker in her). Fatigue and irritation, twin mood killers staring me right in the face.

I persevered though. Tender embraces on a stone Metro bench; kisses on the forehead. Chemistry that comes from great physical and mental compatibility is a powerful ally. You weren't finished, though, where you? You played your strongest card, Greenline.


I can play around a lot of things to preserve the mood, but a drunk man puking in the phone booth - right in front of us - is not one of them. There isn't much romantic about vomit, or slurred words of apology to no one in particular. You weren't finished with that, though, were you Greenline?

A bar playa sat his very drunk conquest right next to us, and her odor finished off any thoughts we had other than for the love of God please let the next train be ours, before we start running down the tunnel just to escape the smell of puke and bile!

Finally, our salvation arrived, and I'll bet you thought your work was done, didn't you Greenline? I'll grant you, sex was the last thing on either of our minds as we finally exited Columbia Heights and made the cold walk back to my apartment. But that's what John Legend, Al Green, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye are for. That's what a warm bed and a back massage are for. You failed that night, Greenline, and I succeeded.

The next morning too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Folds, Black, and Dobler

Ben Folds is going to get me into trouble. Maybe killed.

His very merry, very catchy cover of Dr. Dre's Bitches Ain't Shit is in heavy rotation on my iPod. Folds has turned it into a real sing along; which is what I have found myself unconsciously doing while walking, at a Subway Restaurant, and even on the Metro. Happily bobbing my head side to side, singing "Bitches ain't shit but ho's and tricks, lick on these nuts and suck the dick, just get the fuck out after yer done, and I hops in my ride to make a quick run!"

I have a very low sing-along voice, so luckily no one has heard me yet(that I know of). I really have to work on controlling myself when that song comes on. If I get caught, it won't be cute like the scene in About A Boy where Marcus is caught singing along to Mystikal's "Shake Yo Ass". It will be ugly, like the scene where Marcus sings Killing Me Softly at the high school talent show. Except with more violence.

Ben Fold's interpretation of a gangsta-rap classic is part of my recent pursuit of cover songs, both obvious and obscure. It had led me to purchase the sound track to High Fidelity, just to get Jack Black's rendition of Let's Get It On(which is good, and if you didn't know that, I've just ruined the movie for you. You're welcome). Actually, I'm a bit surprised I didn't already own it since a) I loved High Fidelity and b) John Cusack and Nick Hornsby have great taste in music.

Incidentally, after High Fidelity Nick Hornsby said he wanted John Cusack to play the lead in every film based on one of his books. Sadly this hasn't come true - though in the case of the Jimmy Fallon vehicle Fever Pitch, that's probably good for Cusack - but I don't blame Hornsby for wanting Cusack in all of his movies. In the aforementioned About A Boy, the role is played by Hugh Grant(and he was great), but I could easily picture Cusack in the role. Hornsby writes about the everyman, and Cusack has made a career out of playing the everyman. Cusack also has something extra, though.

I think Chuck Klosterman, in his excellent book Sex, Drugs, And Coco Puffs, summed up Cusack's appeal best:

It appears that countless women born between the years of 1965 and 1978 are in love with John Cusack. I cannot fathom how he isn't the number-one box-office star in America, because every straight girl I know would sell her soul to share a milkshake with that motherfucker. For upwardly mobile women in their twenties and thirties, John Cusack is the neo-Elvis. But here's what none of these upwardly mobile women seem to realize: They don't love John Cusack. They love Lloyd Dobler.

Lloyd Dobler, of course, is the hero from the 80s flick Say Anything. A charming, lovable and sometimes goofy teenager, Dobler uttered one of my favorite movie quotes of all time, in a scene in which he tries to explain his future plans to his potential girlfriend's father:

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

You really have to see the movie to get the full effect.

But anyway, I love John Cusack - not because of Lloyd Dobler - but because he always seems like an effortlessly cool, charming guy who somehow falls half-assed into attractive women by virtue of being himself all the time. Not too attractive to be other-worldly, but attractive enough that his movie relationships/hook-ups are always believable: Lisa Bonet in High Fidelity, Julia Roberts in American Sweethearts, Minnie Driver in Grosse Pointe Blank, Annette Benning in The Grifters, Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity, and even Angelina Jolie in Pushing Tin. In none of these movies does the attraction ever seemed forced(incidentally, Lisa Bonet is my favorite; she was so beautiful in High Fidelity that it hurts me now as I write this to think about it).

Once, an ex compared me to Cusack and Lloyd Dobler. It certainly wasn't based on appearance, I might be as pale as Cuscak, but my hair is dirty blond and my eyes are blue, plus he is at least an inch taller. I think it was simply because she fell in love with me for the same reasons Diane Court fell for Lloyd(or at least that's what she told herself at the time).

This has the potential to ruin my love life. Thankfully, I have a girlfriend. For argument's sake, though, let's say I didn't. Now I have a concrete notion of what made one woman fall in love with me. I might try and emulate this niche character as much as I can, banking on this behavior to get another woman to fall for me. In fact, I already often find myself wondering what I could do to act more like many of Cusack's movie characters. It seems to work for him, and with a range of women from the really cute(Driver, Roberts) to the incredibly beautiful(Bonet, Beckinsale and Jolie), the upside would be incredible.

Doing this would also be incredibly stupid. Movies are fake. I know this seems obvious, but most of us forget this routinely. How often have you compared your life to a movie, or a TV show? And I don't mean wishing your life was like that of Carrie Bradshaw, Tony Soprano, Chandler Bing, or Rory Gilmore(or Dexter Morgan, for the really sick people out there). I mean you actually think your life is remarkably like that of a fictional character.

This means you are ignoring all the warts of real life: morning breath, bed-head, grocery shopping, work, dullness and well, no drama. It's impossible for fiction to show us everything that would happen in real life. If it did, we wouldn't watch it. Which means we are essentially living a life we wouldn't watch on TV(the Navy plays on this fear quite well in their commercials). Not, at least, without some goddamn good editing. The night spent watching re-runs of The Fresh Prince? Out. The night you drank too much, punched a guy, but sang karaoke(at a non-karaoke bar) with him later that night, witnessed a taxi cab crashing into a storefront during your drunken walk home, and woke up with the local weather girl? That's in, baby.

Unlike our movie and TV doppelgangers, however, we can't skip the uninteresting parts. They are always several worlds removed from the one we live in. And conducting yourself in this world as you would in the movie world can only lead to disaster and disappointment.

Though, on the outside chance you could land Lisa Bonet, maybe it's worth a shot.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Horror Of Horrors

I walk ten minutes in the cold to see this:

I just want some hot chocolate! Get some hamsters in a wheel or something! Pedal a bicycle! I'll do it; I didn't walk here for nothing!

Oh well. There's always tomorrow for Starbucks.

There better be.

A Late Weekend Recap


A Foosball table cut my wrist up good this weekend. It looks like I tried to kill myself with a slab of concrete, skinning my wrists instead of slitting them.

I was helping my friend Jamie unload the table at his house; he's storing it for our friend Aaron who is moving to an apartment too small to handle his table. One of the sides caught my wrist when we turned it over. I didn't even notice cut for a while.

Jamie picked me up at the Greenbelt Metro, in a truck, with a small wooden table in the passenger seat. That I was expected to have in my lap for the drive back to Baltimore. Not exactly the ideal set up for having good conversation ("Sup, table bitch!"), to say anything about safety. So I shoved that fucker in the back, despite Jamie's reservations about being decapitated.

"Well, before I would have been decapitated."

"Yeah, but I was fine with that."

On the way to Baltimore, we stopped at my parents' house in Laurel. They were painting the kitchen(they means my brother Scott, which is the real reason I wanted to stop by; I hadn't seen him in at least two months). Now, the last time I saw the kitchen it was in a series of re-paints. I had misunderstood my mother's explanation on what part of the stage they were at, and I thought the color I was looking at was the old color. I said it was hideous; then she told me that was actually the color they had settled on.

"Oh...well, it's dark in here. I'm sure it will look great with all the lights on." I said this in the midst of broad daylight with a straight face.

Anyway, the room Friday night looked great. The hideous color actually looked gorgeous once it dried and was set against some white trim.

Scott seemed a little out of it; I learned later he was taking sleeping pills because he had been staying up for 40 hours at a time the past two weeks. Jamie, Scott and I admired my parents new HD TV for a while, talked some bullshit about football and I agreed to be at my parents house to watch the game with Scott and my Dad.

Jamie and I went the rest of the way to Baltimore with the table still in Jamie-decapitating position; thankfully we made it without any heads rolling. Our friend Paul met us for dinner at a nice Chinese restaurant, were we learned that Jamie and Paul were born in the year of the Monkey, and I was born in the year of the Horse. According to the calendar, I should marry a Dog. Which, according to my ex-wife's birthday, I did. The description of the year of the Dog said Dog's were known for their loyalty.

What do the Chinese know?

Afterwards, the three of us and Jamie's wife Cheryl played a fun game whose name I can't remember. It involved playing roads, castles, and churches(some with roads, and some in the middle of nowhere I guess). Paul was hyped and couldn't stop from looking at his piece before his turn and come up; I was forced to hide the box with the pieces in it.

I slept on a couch in the basement and had a dream that Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was force feeding me the world's worst chili at the DC 101 Chili Cook Off. This reminded me I had to buy some cans of Turkey Chili Sunday when I went grocery shopping(I forgot, and I'm terrified of what dream Flea will do to me now).


"Your face it dances and it haunts me
Your laughter's still ringing in my ears
I still find pieces of your presence here
Even after all these years"

- Colin Hay, I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You

Saturday morning I awoke to Flea's voice morphing into Jamie's. It was 10 am; time to head over to Aaron's to help him move. We stopped at McDonald's for some breakfast. The cashier in training had a unique way of handing me my change: she just stuck her open hand out, palm up - evidently expecting me to snatch it out of her hands. Jamie observed the trainer of the trainee struggling with removing his ordered milk without spilling the coffee creamers that were piled on top of the milk.

"She'd be a shitty Jenga player," he observed.

We arrived at Aaron's to find his parents, his sister and her husband were already there. Aaron raised his hands in exasperation at our time of arrival, which was curious because he must of known there was no way we would be there any earlier that 11 am on a Saturday.

Things went very smoothly. We loaded most of Aaron's stuff into a large crate for storage; the care was being picked up later and driven to a warehouse. I was completely unaware that such a service existed.

The only thing that went wrong was when Jamie, Aaron's brother-in-law Glenn and I dropped Aaron's mattress in a puddle. It was only one corner, but it was very noticeable since we dropped it right in front of Aaron, in the parking lot. Technically, Glenn lost his grip and it caused his and Jamie's end to drop. However, whenever Aaron referred to the incident again, he eyed me and Jamie exclusively. Such is family loyalty.

After the bed, Aaron's bedroom was barren save a few discarded items from his desk on the carpet. Aaron asked me to get a box from his room. It was near his closet, and next to it, out of the corner of my eye, I caught something peculiar. A flash of some familiar colors. Two pictures were partially concealed beneath a sheet of printer paper. Through the paper I could make out one of the pictures.

Me and my ex-wife, on our wedding day. Probably the last thing I expected to see while helping my friend move. She looked beautiful; I looked happy. I wish there was a word for all the sorrow, foolishness and grief I felt. Only for a second. I wiped away a few tears(thankfully I was alone), asked if I could throw them away, and that was that.


I went over to my parent's house to watch the game. The Redskins lost 20-17 to the Bucs, and Scott, James, my father and I screamed at the TV the entire time. It was a frustrating loss.

Afterwards, I helped Scott move a couch and love seat into his girlfriend's house. He and his girlfriend both work at Outback Steakhouse; the furniture was generously donated by a regular. An older, almost sad regular who was giving three waitresses some furniture because he probably gets a thrill getting some bought attention from young, pretty girls.

Sunday night I worked on some record reviews(that hopefully you will be able to read soon), bought some songs off of iTunes(including the Mad World cover from Donnie Darko and the Gears Of War commercial).

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Today's weather is three kinds of shitty: wet, cold, and dark. This morning, I woke up late, realized I forgot to dry/iron clothes for work, and then spent a half hour looking for my umbrella. My search was not successful.

Surprisingly, walking to work in a steady cold rain is making me feel like I'm about to be sick. It feels like my body is glowing red at an increasing frequency, like a video game bomb about to explode(if you never played Legend of Zelda or it's many incarnations, this makes no sense, and I'm fine with that because you are obviously some kind of heathen). I'm hoping a nice hot dinner and some rest will reverse things.

My usual cold lunch was not going to cut it on a day that looked like the day before the apocalypse, so I set out to a nearby Subway for something hot and more filling. As I sat down to eat, TLC's "Waterfalls" came over the restaurant's radio.

I hadn't heard "Waterfalls" in at least seven years, possibly more. There was a brief period in 1995, however, when I heard it at least 100,000 times a week. Besides being all over the radio and MTV, my brother Scott loved that song and played it all the time. Tionne Watkins, Rozonda Thomas, and the late Lisa Lopes where in my house, my friend's houses, the family car, and even school. There was no escape. Even at Pizza Hut.

Once a week my family would eat out, and "Waterfalls" was the soundtrack to every one of those meals for at least a year. My brother would get a dollar, play "Waterfalls", something by Mariah Carey, and maybe something by Oasis, I can't remember. I, being in a defiant classic rock phase, would play "Free Bird", "Walk This Way", and "Go Your Own Way". It was always a game to see who could get their songs to play during the main part of the meal(which was pointless because the jukebox seemed to play the songs in a random order). Our waitress did compliment me on my taste in music one day, making me very happy. Which was strange since she was basically saying "You like music that people twenty to thirty years older than you enjoy, way to go!" and I was at the age when that should have been devastating. My brother(being more socially aware) picked up on it though, and it validated his musical tastes as well. What a waitress.

Anyway, today - with no sibling rivalry to give the song context - I really enjoyed the 13th greatest song of all time(according to VH1, I shit you not. What, can you name twelve songs better? Are you thinking 'Do I have to stop at twelve?'?). I probably enjoyed it 1995 too; though I would never have admitted it. Though the narrative is pretty depressing(drug killings, AIDS), it has a great hook and a memorable chorus. Plus, Chili looked killer in the video. You could eat off those abs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Giant Lobsters and CDs

One of my favorite things to do at the Giant(a north-eastern supermarket chain) is a thing of the past.

No, it's not staring at the lobster tank(that was fun when I was a kid though...OK, fine, it's still fun now but the Giant near my apartment doesn't even have a lobster really...OK, I still like to stare at the lobsters).

What I am going to miss is the gloriously messy giant Giant CD display. Every week, I stop by - often letting my frozen wares get dangerously close to thawing - and go through a huge pile of CDs, all piled and thrown about on a little table near the magazines and greeting cards. The chaos of the pile dares me to try and find a hidden gem. It's my poor man's version of record hunting. Or it was.

I did find a few albums for myself deep beyond the first layer of Jessica Simpson, Toby Keith, Avril Lavigne, and For Her collections: Black Sabbath's Greatest Hits for $3, Josh Stone's The Soul Sessions for $8, The Ramones Greatest Hits for $6, and Gordon Lightfoot's Summertime Dream for $9.

Last week, I was surprised to see Corb Lund's Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer near the bottom of the corner nearest the bagged candy(I noted this for future reference). Canadian country just isn't a genre I thought a supermarket would carry. I have the song "All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards" off it, and I really liked that so I thought about picking it up. Next week, I told myself. I'll get it next week.

It's next week, and all the CDs are gone. The table has neon picture frames and other assorted nick knacks on it now(at least I think it does, I was too upset to take a really close look at it).

No more CD hunting to liven up the grocery shopping. Oh well, there's always the lobsters.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Boys

A father and his boys. I found this picture while going doing some late(by about three months) unpacking. It was taken - I think - three years ago. I don't remember whose idea it was, but all the boys of the family where asked to stand together: My younger brother Mike, me, my younger brothers Scott(the Marine) and James(in the red), and my father.

It's the only picture I have and may be the only picture that exists of all five of us together. In the three years since it was taken, Scott has left the Marines with an honorable discharge, Mike and James have both graduated from high school and gone on to college, and I've gone through a divorce.

For most of that, we weren't together. Mike and James still lived in the house we all grew up in, Scott was at various times in California and North Carolina, and I was in between places in DC. Wherever I was, I had this photograph. At one point, I had two copies; one for work, and one on my nightstand, resting on the lamp(I was always meaning to get a proper frame, but I kept forgetting).

Through the hard and hardest times, the photograph would remind me I was not alone. It was taken before my grandmother's funeral, one of the hardest. And even in the wake of grief, we managed some joy. We were all together,all four of us; and when that happens, something unspoken - that assurance of home, comfort, and belonging - takes over. It's having three best friends who will always be there; they will always have your back.

Now, instead of four boys, my parents have four men. James, the youngest, is 18, and I, the eldest, will turn 28 soon. The bonds that bridge ten years are strong, but men need more room then boys do. As boys we played, went to school, fought, cursed, and laughed with each other for what seemed like endless days. As men, the times together are shorter, and they come less and less. School, jobs, careers, and girlfriends all take up our time now. The endless days have ended.

Yet, when we get the chance to hang out, get drunk and play some video games, and fuck with each other the way only brothers do; we get to go back in time. Even if it's only for a night.

My father has one brother, and they rarely speak. That's what years, distance - life - can do. I can't imagine that happening to us, even though as of today, I haven't spoken to Scott in weeks since he moved to a new apartment in Crofton. Where do we find the time? Besides, I will see him(and the rest) at Thanksgiving. Right?

I hope that photograph is never the only reminder I have family.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Giddy As A Schoolboy

My review of the Killers' Sam's Town has been used by! I'm geeking out! :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Beautiful Beach House

After nights of heavy drinking, I contemplate weird scenarios: What would happen if Lars Ulrich hadn't stolen the name of his band, would a band named Metal Mania sell millions of records? What if Bob Dylan and the Beatles had never met? And most importantly, if the White Stripes were kidnapped, bashed repeatedly over the head with aluminum tubing and ivory sticks, what would their next record sound like?

Thanks to Beach House's self-titled debut album, the last question has finally been answered: almost ambient, beautiful sounding music, with slide guitar and organ replacing the guitar and drums combination. The comparison to Jack and Meg is pure rubbish, really, it's simply by virtue of the band being the Baltimore duo of Alex Scally (guitar/keyboards) and Victoria Legrand (vocals/keyboards) and not Alex, Victoria, and some other fellows. The Stripes are so ingrained in the music scene now, though, that any guy/girl combo is going to have to deal with it.

On the band's MySpace page, the duo describe their sound in some unique ways: a penny dropping into a cup of oily water, a diamond's best girlfriend, twin camels taking a luscious nap in the Sahara, sound of the ocean through an expensive cell phone. I can't describe it any better; it's eccentrically beautiful.

Is it good? I don't know, it just sort of "is". It's light rain outside your bedroom. It's not unpleasant, and it has a lot of gorgeous moments - but it will have been over for ten minutes before you notice it's gone. This isn't to say the songs are ambient background noise; Legrand's voice is too beautiful and distinctive for that. It's more like the soundtrack to a French film about autumn changing to winter, perfect for scenes of chilly days with wind-blown leaves whipping about some tall, thin, cigarette smoking figure. Whereas in my American fall scenes I'm used to hearing California Dreaming or the theme from Rocky.

The album is very consistent in it's slow, mellow tempo and mood, making it the sort that really deepens with repeated listens. Moments that were at first indistinguishable come into relief, and others recede as the individual tracks start to stand out. Tokyo Witch, Apple Orchard and Auburn and Ivory are my particular favorites. Getting past that first listen, though, might be more than some are willing to give.

This is different, and as I stated earlier, I don't know if it's good. It's beautiful, and let's leave it at that.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Some Local Flavor

Baltimore band ilyAIMY describes their sound as "acoustic mayhem". After seeing them recently at College Perk, I'd have to agree. Beyond mayhem, it's an acoustic attack, an explosion of percussion, joined with powerful, haunting vocals. I bought their album The Fifth Circle right after the show.

Frontman Rob Hinkal plays the hell out of his guitar with such ferociousness it pounds and resonates like a team of hardcore drummers. Hinkal's band has been called an acoustic Tool, and part of that has to be his voice's resemblance to that of Maynard Keenan. Hinkal, however, possesses not only Keenan's howling prog-rock rage, but also a growling, guttural range that makes his vocals more primal than the Tool singer(Incidentally, ilyAIMY members Sharif Kellogg and Rowan Corbett did a kick-ass cover of Sober before ilyAIMY's set at the Perk, part of their IO project).

Hinkal and vocalist Heather Lloyd are the creative core of ilyAIMY(which stands for I Love You And I Miss You). Live, Lloyd pounded on the djembe(a hand drum, being lame I had to look up the real name), belted out songs and was the gravitational center of the band; everything seemed to flow from her. All this while seated with a bad leg(she came in on crutches). I can't imagine how dynamic she is when her mobility is not limited.

Keyboardist Sharif Kellogg and percussionist Rowan Corbett round out the attack. Corbett's double-handed drumming is something that has to be seen to be believed; it's the 400 pound bone-hammered heart of the band.

Fifth Circle does a great job of capturing ilyAIMY's live energy. Any band with a signature sound flirts with the danger of all of their songs sounding the same. Every time I felt I could apply that label to this band, they kicked my ass. Whether it was a vocal harmony, a surprising electric guitar or violin, ilyAIMY shows great depth. My favorite track Strain hits the musical trifecta with music, lyrics, and a vocal styling that perfectly match each other. It's a song that you imagine was born, not written.

Buy this CD now, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Slowly Getting Through Monday

It's taking a little longer than usual to break into the work week and get my brain out of a bus-lagged fog.

Today, I came into work and noticed my cubicle was darker than usual(the fluorescent lights underneath my shelves were out), and I decided this was obviously because of my new flat screen monitor not being as bright as the old one, despite the fact that the monitor wasn't turned on.

I went to get some breakfast. I bought two small boxes of raisin bran. I sat down, emptied a box into a small styrofoam bowl, and stared at it with the vague sense something was wrong and I usually didn't eat raisin bran like this. Oh yeah, I forgot to buy milk.

After a lunchtime run at the gym, I showered. Successfully. Maybe I was snapping out of it, I thought, as I raised my deodorant to my face with the intention to use it as moisturizer.

Luckily, I caught myself.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Next Time I'll Use Amazon Like A Civilized Person

Where did all those fucking kids come from?

I went to Pentagon City during my lunch break, and teens and tweens or whateverthefuck were all over the place. Do schools let out for a two hour lunch break now? There was no escaping them. I just wanted to quickly buy my girlfriend's birthday present and get out. I didn't count on the pushing and nudging through a wall of minors who stand around slack-jawed, not realizing they are idling in front of the god damned cash register and every one above the age of twenty assumes they must be in line.

"Oh, I'm not in line...sorry!" she says, taking a sip of her McDonald's coke. In the fucking store.

This wasn't just ignorance or rudeness, this must have been some kind of cruel performance art. This was some bohemians' senior thesis entitled "Oblivious Teens In Store Drive People Batshit Crazy, Number Seven".

This means I'm getting old, doesn't it? Shit.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Puppy Story

Today, I witnessed the rare event that in it's brief life goes from cute, to cruel, to disgusting(this excludes all baby-related stories).

I was having my early-afternoon Starbucks break, when I saw a man walking the world's most adorable puppy(like babies, the most recent puppy I've seen is always the world's most adorable). I have no idea what breed the dog was; I'm very ignorant of such things. Dogs, to me, fit into same three categories as movie popcorn: small, medium, large. Lassie is a medium, the Taco Bell dog is a small, and Marmaduke is the rare jumbo bucket.

This dog was small. He resembled a miniature fox. As he trotted behind his owner, he looked happy in that blissful, clueless way dogs do.

The puppy slipped, and his back legs gave out. His owner, irritated, dragged him along on his little doggy ass. I briefly considered murdering this man for treating something so cute with such disdain. Then, the puppy began to pee.

And he kept peeing, streaking dog urine for a good ten or twelve feet of sidewalk before finally getting back on his feet and merrily trotting away. I stared at the urine streak. I watched as - gasp! - joggers ran over it, business men stepped in it while hailing cabs, and others went about their day with no idea they were stepping in dog piss.

Maybe it was the angle of the sunlight that allowed me to clearly see the streak, a thick nasty brushstroke of liquid reflection that people obliviously kept stepping in and smearing across the pavement.

Well, I certainly wasn't going to walk there.

Anyway, on the non-urine front, I'm frustrated that I don't have the extra money to pick up all the new albums that I want to listen to. Beck, Meatloaf, Jet, John Legend, The Dears, Albert Hammond Jr.'s solo disc, and even My Chemical Romance's latest, The Black Parade.

I know all five of you who read my blog love reading my album reviews, but I would like to make them a little more timely. Oh well, soon enough I will have extra money. It's always fun to write about music; even if it's just for my own amusement.

Monday, October 30, 2006

An Evening

Saturday, I met up with a couple friends for dinner.

We ate at a restaurant in the town I grew up in, more or less. I don't count the six months spent in Hawaii, or the four years spent in Greenbelt. I can barely remember any of that, but Laurel is a fixture in the back of my brain.

Laurel is going through some kind of chain-establishment revival, added since my departure are a Starbucks, California Tortilla, Coldstone Creamery, Shoppers Food Warehouse, Applebees, and a LoneStar Steakhouse. The steakhouse is where we ate.

My three younger brothers work at an Outback Steakhouse. I wondered this meal counted as an act of betrayal. Instead of boomerangs and upside down maps of the world(putting Australia in it's proper place, playing second fiddle to Antartica I suppose), there were fake steer horns and paintings of cowboys taming the wild west; or maybe the taming was already done, since there were no Indians in any of the paintings. The Maryland football game was on the flat screen TVs hanging over the bar; we briefly discussed it and it became apparent none of us had any idea or interest in how the season was going for a school we all used to go to(and should therefore care about), but it was a game on TV, what else were we going to talk about while waiting to be seated.

The food and service were adequate. I briefly speculated as to how many waiters I could trip before they realized I was doing it on purpose. The consensus we reached was three to six, depending on what they were carrying. Then we discussed the best domino strategy, since the staff often traveled in packs of two or three. Trip the lead, the middle, or the straggler? Cases were made for each.

Our waiter himself presented an interesting conundrum, at least to me: how does someone so devoid of charisma get by being a waiter? Saturday night was the closet I have ever come to being served by a robot. An instantly forgettable man. My theory is he gets by because people, not being able to remember much about him, can't remember how the service was and tip at least fifteen percent. I tipped him twenty, because I always tip twenty, and I couldn't remember how the service was. Hell, I didn't remember him taking our order; when the food came I was surprised. Who ordered this? Have we been here that long?

The girl who brought the food, however, was very memorable.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Favorite Albums Of 2006, So Far

Two months and some change is all that remains of 2006, one of the better years in music(for me at least). I know every blogger does a Top X list, so here's mine. Feel free to tell me what great/crappy taste in music I have.

1. Pick A Bigger Weapon, - The Coup. A politically Marxist rap group from California, The Coup made not only the best hip-hop album of the year, but also the best record of the year, period. Filled with clever, cynical lyrics that attack the President, corporations, and other things worth hating, Weapon will blow you away.

2. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - The Arctic Monkeys. Chuck D may have told us not to believe the hype, but in this case, believe it. The Arctic Monkeys are that good. Their blend of indie-rock/punk sensibilities with catchy, story-telling lyrics is superb.

3. First Impressions Of Earth - The Strokes. The third album from the kings of the guitar revival, Impressions does not disappoint. The Strokes rock on songs like Juicebox, Heart In A Cage, Vision of Division, You Only Live Once, and the great stylistic departure Electricityscape.

4. Food & Liqour - Lupe Fiasco. If it wasn't for The Coup, this would have been then best hip-hop album of the year by far. Fresh, clever lyrics that touch on everything from skateboarding to fantasy to politics, delivered with an incredible flow from a new, young voice.

5. Boys And Girls In America - The Hold Steady. A band that plays seventies style rock through an eighties indie filter for a twenty-first century that badly needs them. If this were the 1970s, they would be one of the biggest bands on earth.

6. Broken Boy Soldiers - The Raconteurs. A very solid album. Not one weak song, which is what I would expect from a Jack White and Brendan Benson collaboration. I think some people where expecting a supernova of an album; the listening equivalent of multiple orgasms or something. Talent does not work like math, people! We have two great songwriters, and we got some good and great songs from them. Calm down, smoke a joint, and go back to ranting about how there will never be another Cream(or that they were overrated, whichever).

7. Magic Potion - The Black Keys. The Akron, Ohio duo of Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney deliver another great blues-rock record. Although there isn't much growth from earlier albums, their formula still works with some stirring musicianship and a never-boring style.

8. Dying To Say This To You - The Sounds. Infectious indie-punk with pop/new wave stylings, Dying is a great showcase for the best The Sounds have to offer. Maja Ivarsson is a great rock vocalist.

9. Hello Young Lovers - Sparks. Metaphor is one of my favorite songs of the year; Dick Around is an anthem for the ages. The Sparks make great pop music.

10. Destroyer's Rubies - Destroyer. More cryptic, but alluring shoegazing lyrics and "european blues". A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point is one of my favorite songs of 2006.

11. Modern Times - Bob Dylan.

12. Show Your Bones - Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

13. Standing In The Way Of Control - The Gossip.

14. Death By Sexy - The Eagles Of Death Metal.

15. Daggers Out! - Magneta Lane.

16. Eyes Open - Snow Patrol.

Albums I am eagerly looking forward to hearing that could change this list: Ear Drum - Talib Kweli, The Information - Beck, Shine On - Jet, Once Again - John Legend, Bat Out Of Hell III - Meat Loaf, Chinese Democracy - Guns N Roses(wait, what? seriously?), Kingdom Come - Jay-Z, Light Grenades - Incubus, Hip-Hop Is Dead...The N - Nas, Beach House - Beach House.

Disappointments Of The Year, So far: Sam's Town - The Killers, A Blessing And A Curse - The Drive-By-Truckers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No Longer Four-Eyed

I finally picked up my contacts yesterday; a month and a half of glasses in enough for me, and everyone else for that matter.

I relapsed into being four-eyed again pretty easily. 17 years of wearing glasses should make that transition smooth, I guess. My switch to contacts was one shot in a rapid-fire self-improvement spree five years ago(that also included a new haircut, running shoes, and what is possibly the deadliest of all sins - online dating).

Anyway, it's good to be wearing contacts again; I'd forgotten what my unobstructed face looked like. Although my friends will contend otherwise(because they are good friends), I do look better without glasses. At least I get laid more( I realize this may be the result of my improved self-confidence from thinking I look better, but more women approach me sans-glasses than with).

I get my contacts from a trendy place in DC, Blink Optical. Outside it's pretty unassuming. Inside, the place looks like a swank lounge or club; it even has the euro-electronic muzak to go with it's stripped-down urban-industrial chic look(see, I can make up bullshit just as well as any club promoter). Hell, even the staff look like international scene regulars. Throughout the store, slumped and stacked behind the register and perched in designer chairs, Blink is sure to be employing an array of people who are at least three of these five things: a) urban hipster, b) thin, c) tall, d)European, and e) attractively androgynous.

What Blink really is, I realized, is the parallel dimension version of a trendy lounge - the version from the good dimension. It's only open during the day, all the pretty people are courteous and warm, there are no drugs(unless you count the wine - I shit you not - they serve while you wait or browse), and I can see more than three fucking feet in front of me. Euro-electronic muzak must be a multidimensional constant, however.

One thing I didn't count on, now that I have my contacts, is how it would affect my running. I developed the habit of taking my glasses off when I ran at the gym, to blind myself to the numerous gym distractions: TVs tuned to MTV1 and VH1, group aerobics classes, inappropriate spandex displays, etc. That, and I grew tired of pushing my glasses up Kent style every thirty seconds or so.

Having all those distractions filtered out really helped my focus. Nothing existed outside of step, push, stride, breathe, plant, repeat. My times improved steadily during my six weeks of wearing glasses.

Today, I'm running and I have to work to focus. I can see everything very clearly, but I refuse to take my contacts out in the gym locker room. They go in after I wake up, and go out before I go to bed. Anything else just complicates the entire process and throws the universe into chaos. So to focus, I picked a treadmill from the line of machines that had a clear line of sight to a glass door - giving me a phantom me to stare down while I psych myself up to set a new best time.

One last hazard of this switch: I keep trying to adjust glasses that aren't there, making me look insane in public.

1I don't know what tripping on LSD or mushrooms is like, but I imagine the disorienting effect is something like watching MTV muted and without context - utter nonsensical imagery full of big, bright colors and quick cuts.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Boys And Girls In America

Twenty-first century indie rock has been dominated so far by post-punk, prog-rock, and art bands who largely ignore much of rock's history. The Hold Steady - much like their predecessors The Replacements did in the previous century - are injecting the indie scene with a much needed reminder that you don't need to tear down the old to make room for the new. Filled with powerful classic rock influences, stories of debauchery and love, Boys And Girls In America is one hell of an ass-kicking shot to the arm(or liver).

Right from the beginning, with the opening power chords and keyboards of Stuck Between Stations, the record grabs you. The band chisels the influences of Springsteen, the aforementioned Replacements, Thin Lizzy, a little Cheap Trick and Meat Loaf into a big, fun, powerful sounding record. Tad Kubler and vocalist Craig Finn's soaring and intertwining guitars never swallow drummer Bobby Drake(I'll won't make any Iceman jokes if you don't) and bassist Galen Polivka's driving rhythm section, resulting in a full, layered sound when they all play together. Keyboardist Franz Nicolay reminds you, yes, keyboards do belong in a rocking band with inspired playing that's as chilled as the guitars are scorching. Not only does he provide the slower songs with depth, but he adds feeling to the faster numbers without being overwhelmed by the rest of the band.

The album even features a beautiful acoustic track, Citrus, one of the few songs that leave Finn's vocals and brilliant lyrics largely alone and unchallenged. One of the albums few weak points is that it's sometimes hard to hear Finn when the rest of the band are all wailing at the same time, which is more often than not.

Finn's singing hits you like a strong shot of whiskey; it takes some getting used to if you're a virgin to either. Sounding like a slightly drunk, American Elvis Costello who is telling stories while shooting the shit with you at the bar, Finn is never uninteresting or whining, and always clever. He writes timeless lyrics of boys and girls trying to make sense of themselves and each other through drugs, booze, and parties.

This is the drinking album for the fall; for house parties with old friends while the record seemingly narrates your memories. It's that personal connection, the ability to make a song seem like it's about you, that's the strength of Finn's songwriting that puts him in the class of Westerberg, Joel, and Springsteen. You Can Make Him Like You will remind everyone of a girl they know, and Massive Nights is the soundtrack of great debauched teenage memories.

Finn and the band even have a penchant for the silly and absurd with Chillout Tent, a mini-rock-opera. The bizarre story of a love'em and leave'em encounter in the unlikely setting of concert detox, the song reaches it's comical climax right after the male protagonist is likened to Izzy Stradlin, whose mention blew my mind. Seriously, I haven't thought about Stradlin in years and hearing his name poked a long forgotten and unused part of my brain. It was like tripping. Incidentally, the lovers' vocals are provided by Soul Asylum's David Pirner(a perennial guest vocalist, all the way back to cussing out the Minneannapolis police on The Replacements Kids Don't Follow) and The Reputation's Elizabeth Elmore.

Arguably the best American band right now; in a prefragmented pop landscape The Hold Steady, with their big, fun sound could have been the biggest band on the planet(and probably could be today, but they would have to dumb it down). As it is, they are playing in 2006 and not 1986, and so are an "indie" band. And using influences unassociated with and therefore largely unused and neglected by the genre, they have delivered the most refreshing indie rock record of the year.