Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 25

Note: If you follow the links in this entry, forgive the commercials.

So I'm on a bit of a music kick these days. I used to do this when I was younger, particularly in high school and college. I would buy an album (Jeez, remember CDs?!?) and listen to it beginning to end with the liner notes in hand. Lots of times I had to have music playing to fall asleep. I'm not listening to more music or enjoying the music I do listen to any more than I normally would, but I'm thinking about it more. Some of this undoubtedly has to do with long commutes with nothing but my iPod for company. I'm a big fan of putting the two thousand something songs in that little miracle box on shuffle and just letting it rip. I do my fair share of skipping around, but it's nice to get reacquainted with a song or unexpectedly hear something that takes you back to a specific moment in time. That's not always good, but it's always interesting.

The other catalysts for this renaissance of musical primacy are friends of mine who are either in the business or just have really, really ridiculously good taste (at least similar to mine) in artists. My buddy Mike, who is a member of a prominent band which shall remain unnamed, has recently introduced me to Paper Route. Mike has a habit of giving me solid referrals to the point that when I'm feeling things are getting a little stale, I'll call him up and ask him what he's listening to these days. I have yet to be let down.

My self-admitted music snob friend Maria has similarly introduced me to Sleigh Bells. Maria's introduction was kind of a wake up call. You can't turn on the TV or get online right now without seeing something about Sleigh Bells. I guess it was a sign of how far gone I had gotten (and how much Top 40 radio I was listening to) that I had no idea who they were until Maria threw me a bone.

I love having people like this in my life. Music always changes and new bands are constantly popping up all over the world. Your favorite song is probably still floating around out there in someone else's head. It's just an idea he/she needs to write on paper or tentatively pick out on the strings of a guitar. It's exciting to compare musical tastes and new bands with friends like these because the conversations are always reinventing themselves and discovery is always just catching up away. Which is why I'm presently at such a loss, a loss dripping with guilty pleasure.

You can tell a lot about a person by what's in their iPod. And you can tell even more about them if you go to their Top 25 Most Played list. I did this earlier today. I was shocked. Apparently, my sensibilities are a lot more mainstream than I'd like to admit. I attribute some of this to pre soccer or training run playlists. At least, that's what I tell myself. It would be really tough to glide through a 10 mile run listening to Elliot Smith. Seriously. But the fact remains that the majority of my Top 25 Most Played is rap music. I can't quite explain this. I grew up upper middle class and white. So did my sister, but she has a deep and abiding love for Tupac.

It occurred to me to doctor the list. I could squeeze in some Gaslight Anthem, Mumford and Sons, Death Cab For Cutie, et al and post a list sufficiently cool/esoteric enough to rescue my ego from total disclosure...but where's the fun in that? So,here goes:

1. I'm So Hood (remix) by DJ Khaled - This one cracks me up. Mostly because DJ Khaled is such a freakin' joke. I am patently against producers in their own songs and especially when they talk over huge portions of the song bragging about how they make hit records. Having said that, the first few verses in this song are awesome, particularly Ludacris and Busta Rhymes. I also gain a little bit satisfaction watching the artists in this song awkwardly interact with DJ Khaled in the video. He clearly has no idea what to do on screen and winds up looking like a bad high school improv student. Plus, they all look low grade annoyed by him, sort of like having to hang out with the water boy at the football party. Or like they're all thinking, "God, I wish he'd quit doing that with his hands." Perfect pre soccer song. PS: There is nothing about me that is even remotely hood.

2. All of The Above by Maino - Firstly, Maino is awesome. It's complicated, but he's one of those artists who is a total trainwreck/thug, but is also completely authentic. I don't think I'll ever wrap my mind around how someone can have booze and strippers i their videos, but also be a positive role model for kids. This only seems to be a debate in rap music. I don't think I've not gotten a yellow card in a soccer match when I've listened to this song before kick off.

3. Everybody's Changing by Keane - Clearly, we're changing gears here. I'm pretty sure Maino and Keane have nothing in common. To be honest, I wasn't a big Keane fan until I saw them at Austin City Limits Festival. It was during that huge "we all want to sound British and somewhat vintage" phase and I sort of dismissed them out of hand. Granted, they are British and don't try to sound vintage, but whatever. I just wasn't in to bands like this at the time. I was at the festival with my girlfriend, it was early evening, the festival hadn't quite yet turned into the choking dust bowl it would the next day, and we sat on a hill and watched their set. I was in love and this was one of those perfect moments that you later realize occur so rarely in life.

4. Buried Myself Alive by The Used - Changing gears again. I used to think of The Used solely as "that band with the lead singer who was dating Ozzy Osbourne's daughter" (a clear publicity stunt). Having said that, they have some pretty damned good songs. What can I say? It appeals to the skate punk in me.

5. Ride by Ace Hood - I plead the Fifth here. No idea what to say. I can remember being between relationships and getting a ride to the airport from a female friend with whom there was always a mutual attraction. This song was on the radio and I thought, "Maybe?" PS "Maybe?" is never a good thing to think when contemplating whether or not to start a relationship. Also, Ace Hood songs should never serve as an emotional impetus for anything.

6. Get Like Me by David Banner - Total disclosure? I love David Banner. I remember after Hurricane Katrina there was a huge controversy because Banner gave a huge amount of money and time to the relief effort in Mississippi (his home state) and was later given some civic honor for his efforts. A Republican politician had the temerity to suggest that Banner wasn't a role model and should not be honored for his work and support because some of his songs are less than totally appropriate (some are, but seriously, what a dick). Also, I went through a phase when this song came out that when people asked me what I was up to later I would just say, "Stuntin'." When they stared at me blankly, I would clarify, "It's a habit."

7. What You Know by T.I. - Great song. Awesome beat. TI is easily one of the best lyricists in hip hop music today. Maybe not in this song, but that's beside the point. What makes this song is the beat. It's epic. Yes, epic.

8. Banquet by Bloc Party - I was actually introduced to Bloc Party by a video game. It was one of the incarnations of EA Sports' FIFA franchise (I can't remember which). Who says video games can't have positive effects on young minds? I'm not quite sure why it's this song that's in the Top 25, especially considering there are other songs by the band that I like much more, but I'll take it.

9. Out Here Grindin' by DJ Khaled - Here's that freakin' DJ Khaled again. Honestly, he's a total ass clown, but maybe all he does is make hit records? Does anyone remember when you could buy "Homies" from candy dispensers? DJ Khaled looks like a Homie.

10. Lights, Camera, Action by Mr. Cheeks - What's great about this song? The guy's name is Mr. Cheeks. That is the least badass rap name of all time, which makes it badass. Plus, when this song came out I think Mr. Cheeks was something like 40. Whatever. It was my go to song when I was playing soccer in college. Coincidentally, my girlfriend at the time was also a soccer player and it was her go to song as well. I'm guessing this had less to do with lyrical content and more to do with the chorus and the beat. I'm hoping so anyway.

11. Give it All by Rise Against - If Maria isn't rolling her eyes already, she will when she reads that Rise Against weighed in at number 11. Firstly, they're from Chicago (her hometown). Secondly, they're a politically active, vegan, environmentalist, animal rights band. I mean, really?!? Can a band be more earnest? I can't help myself though, this is a great punk anthem. Love it. Trivia: the lead singer has two different colored eyes.

12. Stuntin' Like My Daddy by Birdman and Lil Wayne - Can you not like Lil Wayne? What a freak show. Say what you will, but the guy is a legitimate rap star. Prolific, artistic (or at least a trend setter), and he just doesn't give a damn.

13. Unholy Confessions by Avenged Sevenfold - This is definitely a guilty pleasure band. When I was teaching high school and overhearing teenagers bitch about their angst filled lives, I had to accept the fact that I was listening to the same music they were. This is definitely a band in the "my parents just don't understand me" genre, but the two guitarists are legitimate virtuosos and there's something reassuring about the fact that even the 2000s couldn't kill The Metal. PS Watching this video makes me want to be a ROCK STAR.

14. Shawty Say by David Banner - David Banner again. This song is essentially about treating women correctly. Granted, David Banner says it in his own special way - which is probably the way the previously mentioned Republican politician was referring to when he railed against him being honored for charity work - but that's beside the point. The other great thing about David Banner? The chick who says his name over the beat at the beginning of every song.

15. Kimdracula by the Deftones - This one totally flummoxes me. The best I can guess is that I made a playlist once and put this song on it twice. I love the Deftones, but this is not the song I would have picked. *High School flashback* My best buddy Gary took me to a Deftones show in 1996 at Liberty Lunch in Austin, TX. There were all of 300 people in the crowd and the show cost $3. $1 for each band playing. Deftones, Man Will Surrender, and Human Waste Project. It was, and still is, the best concert experience of my life. Chino Moreno has an incredible voice and they are one of the few bands I listened to at that age that has actually grown with me. Also, "I wish these snakes were your arms...." great lyric. Note: The video on this link is not the actual music video because they never made one for this song.

16. Dope Boys by The Game - Ok, I legitimately have no business listening to this song. Like I said before, there is zero hood about me. The Game is from South Central Los Angeles and had a scholarship to play basketball at Oregon State but just could not shake the hood in him. Honestly, and I mean this with no judgement or humor, but if another rapper is going to get shot sometime soon, a la Tupac, it's going to be this guy. Having said that, the beat is ridiculous.

17. You Are the One by Shiny Toy Guns - This song is addictive. I'm not sure a keyboard riff has been more balls out awesome since "The Final Countdown". I mean that ironically and seriously. I used to listen to this song before indoor soccer matches to get my Euro fix (the band is actually from California). I also have to confess that I had a faux hawk at the time and was referred to at work as "The creepy European guy". Shiny Toy Guns no longer has the same female vocalist. They replaced the chick in this song, Carah Faye Charnow, who is also exhibit A in how sexy tattoos can be on a woman, with another girl named Sisely Treasure. Does that not sound like a porn name to anyone else? Anyhow, treasure does a decent enough job, but Charnow had a voice like a bell.

18. Just Dance by Lady Gaga - Ok, ok. What the hell? Well, I'm a product of my times and my times are currently defined by Lady Gaga (at least my popular culture times). Honestly, though, I challenge you to not want to dance, or at least hum along, to her songs. Plus, she's an actual artist who actually writes her own songs. She's also proof that you can exude sexuality and be sexy without actually being terribly good looking.

19. Hi Hater by Maino - Another great song I challenge you to not sing along to.

20. Savior by Rise Against - Maria, roll your eyes once more. Honestly, I can't explain the video. People in stuffed animal suits. Who knows? It's a pity too because the song stands on its own merits and would be fine if the video were even just a performance montage. Whatever. I'm not sure why I love this song so much, but I think it reminds me of an Ex in that waaaaaaaay too serious and emotional kind of way.

21. Jackie Will Save Me by Shiny Toy Guns - Again, no official video for this song, but I wasn't listing the Top 25 Most Played Videos, was I? I've got nothing new to say here about Shiny Toy Guns. Guilty pleasure...Euro feel...Carah Faye Charnow is sexy as hell. That about covers it. Oh, one more thing. If I were a professional soccer player and had to have a Youtube clip video set to music, this might be the song I'd use. I'd be badass...and maybe a little gay.

22. The Taste of Ink by The Used - Another The Used song. I think it's hilarious that an emo band hails from Salt Lake City. Great song to belt out late at night in the car.

23. Split Me Wide Open by the Bravery - This is another band I got in to because of the Austin City Limits Festival, and this is just a great song. Synth, guitars, great vocals. Sort of reminds me of all the reasons I love The Cure. There's this highly sexual and somewhat androgynous quality to the lead singer's voice that fits just perfectly with the music. Can't believe I just wrote that. See the last five words on #21.

24. Smile Like You Mean It by The Killers - I feel like I may have a thing for keyboards.

25. Wake Up by Metalkpretty - I have a thing for bands with female lead singers who have PIPES. this girl can sing her ass off. Also, and this really creeps me out, she looks exactly like a girl I dated a couple of years ago. The resemblance is uncanny enough that I wikipediaed (I totally made that a verb) the band to make sure it wasn't her. Also, some friends of mine saw the girl I dated in a Lowe's the other day. Pretty good sign she's not a rock star. Damn.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

American Girls, They Want the Whole World/They want Every Last Little Light in New York City

I get addicted to bands. I'll hear a song that strums one of my admittedly many emotional chords and I'm hooked. Sometimes this results in a terrible crime. I love a song so much and put so much stock in how well written all of said band's other songs must be, and then...nothing. It's the worst kind of sleight of hand. You get all prepared to love a body of work but instead you're asked to tolerate a life's work of mediocrity for two minutes and thirty seconds of accidental genius.

[Aside: I had this great analogy working here about wonderful first dates and shitty second dates and wanting to be rescued from shitty second dates and I even worked "deus ex machina' in there, but it seemed too self satisfying.]

[Aside to my aside: See how I went ahead and used the self satisfying analogy in a self deprecating way? I am such an asshole.]

Such is not the case with The Gaslight Anthem. There is nothing profound about me saying this as they're already a critically acclaimed band and have been around for a few years, but I'm just now getting into them and want to enjoy this honeymoon period for all it's worth. If you don't know the band, please consider this an earnest introduction. In particular, check out The Queen of Lower Chelsea (title of this entry from the song), Miles Davis & The Cool, and She Loves You.

Lyrically, all of these songs are outstanding. Touching, intelligent, mature. Plus, they can bring the rock. That's always important. Enjoy!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Another Letter to My Nephew

Dearest Otto,

Here's the deal: It looks like your folks have settled on Otto as The Name You Will Forever be Called. I put that in all caps to remind you later on how final something like this is. Seriously. My folks decided, for no other reason than to be confusing I'm thinking, to also call me by my middle name. Every roll that is called, every job interview you attend, every face-to-face meeting with someone in an official capacity will start with you saying, "Actually, I go by 'Otto'."

Whatever. Your dad is in the same boat so maybe he thought he'd be a smartass and pay it forward. To be honest though, it's not that you'll have to explain, ad nauseum, For The Rest of Your Life (See what I did there?) that you actually go by your middle name that bugs me, but that for whatever reason, the much, much cooler "OJ" was voted down. I know, I know, initials for names can be obnoxious. Trust me, I once had a friend named "BJ", I know the weight a set of initials can put on the shoulders of an unsuspecting adolescent. It's not pretty. "OJ" though? for the whole "named after a probable double murderer" thing. Details, details.

Anyhow, how have you been? I still haven't gotten to meet you in the flesh. I'm feeling a little like I'm shirking my duties as an uncle, but multiple time zones and a paucity of expendable income in my bank account have conspired to keep us on opposite sides of the country. Soon, dear Juice, soon. I have, however, seen many a picture of your earliest days and have heard you wailing like a banshee over the telephone as I try to talk to your mother about shit that probably doesn't really matter to her at all these days. Tough to tell her about what I'm listening to or reading these days when she's worrying every second about the helpless infant crying in her arms for whom she is SOLELY RESPONSIBLE. Puts things in perspective, I suppose. If anything, it makes me realize how desperately unready I am to impregnate anyone. I say "impregnate" not to make it impersonal, but to point out the fact that I have a few hurdles to jump over before I can say "have a baby." You know, details like fall in love, get married, plan. Actually, you don't, but one of these days you will...and I'll be able to offer you a whole slew of advice, not all of it willingly gained. But that's a conversation for another day. Just remember, you'll have tough times, but eventually it will all be worth it. If you ever get lost, look at your parents as a model. Hell, even I do sometimes.

Enjoy discovering the world on a daily basis and doing whatever it is 3 month olds do to occupy their time. I'm guessing this is a lot of feeding and sleeping. Sounds like heaven!


Your Uncle

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Love, Tex-Mex, and IBS or When a First Date Goes to Shit

There are a few simple truths I've been taught in my time on this earth. No one is in charge of your life but you. Curiosity is one of the greatest blessings in life. Love and generosity are incredible gifts to both the recipient and their source. Those are of the high brow ilk.

A few others for your consideration: Beer is better with friends. Sex is best when you actually like the other person involved. Everyone knows at least one good "Oops, I shit my pants" story.

It is the last of these truths of which I would like to write today. In particular, I am thinking of a story that was relayed to me in college (What is it about those years that a good story outweighs potential embarrassment every time?) and that has stuck with me ever since. Were this story not told to me by a person one degree of separation from its unfortunate protagonists, I might doubt it as a horrifying and ingenious work of fiction composed by someone seeking to entertain, sort of like the Lard Ass story from Stand By Me. However, I have never doubted this story's veracity.

This is a tale of woe, misfortune, and love lost at the hands of a particularly irritable bowel. The protagonist, who we'll call Billy, was a newly appointed youth minister in a prominent church in a small town in Texas. Coincidentally, Billy's name was/is really Billy. I figure "Youth minister who shit himself" is a largely unGoogleable phrase and would likely render no results for the actual Billy of whom I'm writing. Fingers crossed.

Anyhow, Billy was young and single and launching what promised to be a long and successful career in the ministry. If you know anything about Texas, you'll know that this is the type of thing mothers of young, single women who are members of prominent churches in small towns in Texas lick their chops over. Such was the case with Billy. Every mother with a single daughter of marriageable age in this particular town was slyly and not-so-slyly trying to hook Billy up with her daughter. It was only a matter of time before Billy accepted one of these dates (I mean, if he didn't the rumors might start regarding his sexuality, and then where would he be? This also happens in prominent churches in small towns in Texas, sad to say).

The date was to be a traditional dinner and a movie affair with the dinner part taking place at a Casa Ole. Apparently, this was the small town girl's favorite restaurant, which probably should have been a red flag to Billy. Casa Ole is the bane of legitimate Tex-Mex all over the Lone Star state. It's sort of like the Chili's of Tex-Mex, but of lesser quality and with a more obnoxious decor. Jose Lima used to sing the jingle. Some say that, aside from his Cy Young caliber year with Houston, this was his best work.

Enough about Jose, God rest his soul, Billy knew two things about himself that were unconditionally true in all situations. 1: He had to have home field advantage for any bowel movement. It was a hang up born from something that must have occurred early on in life. I can only guess what this was, but I think a lot of people have this hang up, although probably not to the degree Billy did. 2: He was afflicted with irritable bowel syndrome and never quite knew what would set it off. Sometimes it was spicy food. Sometimes it was greasy food. Sometimes it was something he couldn't put his finger on. At any rate, he occasionally experienced regrettable and violent bouts of explosive diarrhea. With those two truths having governed a substantial portion of Billy's behaviors for God-knows-how-long, Billy and his date arrived at Casa Ole to begin their evening together.

According to the version of events that was told to me, the date was going swimmingly. Conversation had flowed easily and familiarly in the car on the way to the restaurant and the two had continued their enjoyable evening over a bowl of salsa and some tortilla chips. Billy was genuinely interested in this small town girl and the small town girl appeared to be genuinely interested in Billy. She was attractive, intelligent, and witty despite her affinity for Casa Ole.

The two had ordered their food but it had not yet arrived when Billy felt a horrifyingly familiar sensation in his lower abdomen. You know what I'm talking about. It's as if someone has reached inside your body midway between your navel and naughty bits and clenched your intestines with an iron fist. You break out in a low grade sweat and wring your hands at the discomfort and begin to asses, with razor sharp accuracy, the most efficient route to the nearest bathroom. Billy, unfortunately, was a prisoner to truth #1 and the most efficient route to the nearest bathroom was not left at the hostess stand and all the way to the back of the restaurant, but straight at the hostess stand, into the car, east on Interstate 20, off at Main Street, through two lights, left, right, another left, into his garage, out of the car, through the utility room and kitchen and living room, down the hall, and left into the bathroom.

Billy looked at his date and interrupted her mid sentence.

"We have to go. Now."

"What?" She replied. "The food isn't even here yet and the movie doesn't start for another hour."

"Now," Billy said as he plopped a fifty dollar bill onto the table.

[Aside: Casa Ole's entire menu probably doesn't add up to fifty dollars]

Billy jumped up from the table and his date, confused, followed after him to the car.

Speeding out of the parking lot, the small town girl tried to ask Billy what was the matter, but he couldn't say anything, such was his level of concentration at keeping what was inside of him inside of him. Even if he could explain, that's really not first date conversation.

They made it to his exit, but Billy knew he wasn't going to make it. He was face to face with a horrifying choice. He could violently shit his pants in the car with his date, a date he genuinely liked, or he could pull over on the Interstate and unleash hell. Billy chose the latter but was immediately confronted with another horrifying choice. Once out of the car, he had to decide, given that there were no bushes or trees to conceal himself behind, whether to face the car and thereby give his date a front row viewing of his expression during the most agonizingly embarrassing moment of his life, or he could face away from the car and give his date a front row viewing of the reason he was having the most agonizingly embarrassing moment of his life. Billy again chose the latter, slightly more modest option. He ran 10 yards away from the car, turned to face his confused and worried date, dropped his pants, and absolutely turned himself inside out while he grunted, cramped, and gasped his way through the ordeal.

Cars honked.

When it was finally over, Billy pulled his pants back up and tried to act as professional and appropriate as one possibly can in a situation such as the one he was now in. There was no toilet paper, and despite his date graciously averting her eyes, she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what had just happened. Billy got back in the car and began to head for her house. There's really no salvaging things when a first date goes this route. They drove in silence for a few minutes as they both must have searched for what to say. Finally, the small town girl broke the silence.

"Are you OK?" She timidly asked.

"Did you not see what just happened? Of course I'm not OK," Billy replied.

I would love to say that Billy and the small town girl were able to recover from this epic catastrophe and that they're laughing about it now after years of marriage, but I can't. I mean, I suppose it's a possibility, but this is where the story ended when it was told to me. I like to aim a little lower and think that this is finally what cured Billy of his need for home field advantage. Left at the hostess stand is always the best option.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

De Ja Vu or Crazy "Matrix" Shit

This is just WEIRD. Go back and read my post from September 17, 2006 (or don't; it's probably not that weird to you). Good? Finished it? Now read the post from September 17, 2010.....

What the fuck?!?!

Friday, October 29, 2010


Of all of the galactically stupid things I've done in my life, the most recent doesn't really rank in the top 10, but it's pissing me off something fierce. Last weekend, I flew back to Texas to watch my Baylor Bears become bowl eligible for the first time since my voice Homecoming...with the majority of my college buddies present...and my father...and as an added bonus, we earned a top 25 ranking. This also has not been done since about the time my voice changed. Tex Mex was consumed, stories were bandied about shotgun style, karaoke was preformed, an alumni soccer game was played, and I generally got to recharge my happiness batteries although I was exhausted by the end of the trip.

As per my previous post, I'm a new uncle and my sister lives on the other side of the country. Flights are not cheap to the other side of the country and I had my fingers crossed that American Airlines would overbook at least one leg of my trip and need volunteers to take a later flight in exchange for a voucher. This happened on the second leg of my trip and I volunteered, but alas, they did not need me and I arrived in Texas empty handed.

However, on the return leg of the trip, I accepted a 4 hour lay over in exchange for a $300.00 flight voucher. Success. This morning I was thinking of dates that might work for a trip out to meet the Little Fella and catch up with my sister when I remembered, with a sickening feeling, that I HAD FREAKIN' SHREDDED MY BOARDING PASSES AND FLIGHT COUPON AT WORK THE DAY AFTER I GOT BACK. The voucher is non refundable and American Airlines will not replace it. I spent 4 extra hours in the DFW airport just for the hell of it. There isn't a suitable profane phrase to sum up how I'm feeling right now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Letter to My Nephew

Dear Samuel Otto,

Where to begin? Well, first off, welcome to the world. It must seem like a big place all of a sudden. I mean, one minute you're floating around in blissful darkness and the next it's all lights and doctors and hustle and bustle. Right now you're preoccupied with sleeping and feeding and pooping yourself, but all of that will change, probably quicker than your parents will want (more on them later). It's a funny thing this world. It can be scary and overwhelming. Trust me. But with some time you'll come to see that it's really pretty small and we're all pretty similar despite our trying desperately to prove otherwise. Right now there's a kid on the other side of this floating blue sphere experiencing many of the same things you are. Maybe you'll meet that kid some day and find something in common. Seem strange? Well, let me tell you, I've run in to people I went to high school with on other continents. No planning or forethought to it. One minute you're walking down a street in Scotland, far away from anything that seems like home, and then you bump into (literally, in my case) you're buddy from English II. It's only scary if you allow yourself to settle for a smaller scale. Be curious! I know you will, it's in your genes. I think between your mom, dad, grandparents, and myself we have all the continents covered...well, maybe not Antarctica. Put it on your list. We've only got a limited time here and your clock started ticking on October 7th, 2010. That's when you were born.

Your parents will be able to tell the story of your arrival much better than me, I wasn't there. They'll talk about how the electricity on the military base was out and how the dog needed x-rays and how the car was broken down. They'll talk about how happy they were that you were born easily and that you were healthy and they'll argue about who you most resemble. They'll talk about how they picked your name. Let me tell you, it wasn't an easy process. They intend to call you Otto, which is cool by me, but since your last name starts with a "J" I may exercise obnoxious uncle rights and refer to you as OJ or Juice. Not a fan? Well, you were almost a Miles. Seriously. Your mom was partial to the name, but your dad and I had to talk her off that ledge. You may know a Miles in your time on this big, tiny planet and I can all but bet that Miles has two inhalers, allergies, and glasses well before the other kids. I like to think of Miles as that kid in the back of the class who wipes his nose on his sweatshirt and is always a step behind. Your third grade teacher may say something like, "If all of you get your science books out in five seconds we can play Heads Up Seven Up at the end of the day." Don't worry if you don't know what that is, it's a badass third grade game and you'll love it down the road. Well, Miles will be the kid that gets out his history book and ruins it for everyone. You'll hate yourself for it later, but with all the other kids you'll turn around and say, "MILES! Not your history book!" Count yourself lucky. You're OJ.

Life's going to move pretty fast, OJ. It seems like just yesterday that your mother and I were smuggling vegetables from the dinner table into our underwear, excusing ourselves, and flushing the offending greens down the toilet. She'll never tell you this, but she got caught once because said offending greens were too much for our childhood home's plumbing to take. No way can you convince your parents that you ate, digested, and crapped whole trees of broccoli. Remember when I told you I had a lot to teach you? Consider the dinner plate to underwear to restroom heist and early freebee.

Before you know it you'll have left childhood and games of catch and Saturday morning cartoons behind and you won't even realize you miss them. There's a brief moment of hell called middle school that you'll get through fine. Remember, whether you're a jock or a band geek, nothing is permanent. Middle school kids suck and, I hate to break it to you, you will too. There's no way around this. It's a cruel time and kids that age are cruel kids. On the whole, you'll probably be one of the less cruel kids because you've got two gems as parents. Trust me on this one. I've known your mom literally since the day I was born and your Old Man has been a buddy of mine since the middle school days I was just referencing. In fact, your mom has known him since about this time as well, and she thought we were both way too full of ourselves then. Truth be told, we were...and probably for the ensuing ten plus years afterwards. You'll get out of that stage. Things change and so do people.

Back to your parents. Your folks are the kind of people who would stop in a rainstorm in the middle of nowhere to help someone with a flat tire. They're the kind of people who, around Thanksgiving, will buy an extra turkey and donate it to a homeless shelter. They're the kind of people who will teach you to always stick up for the underdog and always take your victories and losses with humility and grace. I'm saying this with years and years of evidence and the privilege of witnessing them both at extraordinary highs and debilitating lows. They're salt of the earth type people, and although I'm sure sometimes you'll be embarrassed by them, in the end you'll see the same qualities I'm telling you about now. You're a lucky kid, Samuel Otto.

You don't know it now, because you're really just a pudgy ball of baby rolling around in blankets and flapping your arms, but someday the shit is going to hit the fan and your parents will be the first people there for you. Some bully is going to insult you or some girl is going to break your heart and your mom will say something like, "This too shall pass." I know she'll say this because that's what my mom (your grandmother if you're not big on the whole geneology thing) said to us. You'll roll your eyes and sarcastically think, "Thanks for the comfort," but she'll be right. Time is a funny thing. When things are going well, you'll never have enough of it, but when things are bad, when your heart feels like it's been wrenched from your chest and you just want to be better NOW, minutes will pass like days. I hate to be a spoiler, but this will happen and it's what makes the good times that much more delicious and meaningful.

Your dad is going to teach you a lot of cool stuff. When you're old enough to understand, he'll be your hero. It's kind of unavoidable in your case because he's a fighter pilot. Without getting into all the weighty moral intricacies of what being a finally honed weapon of war entails, being a fighter pilot is pretty freaking cool, and you'll most certainly be all about it. I know this because I felt the same way about my dad. Your mom is a sensitive, thoughtful, emotionally intelligent woman. Your father is similarly thoughtful and emotionally intelligent, but he provides a needed foil to your mom's way of thinking. Ditto my parents. Sensing a pattern? Your dad will be gone a lot. It's unavoidable considering his job, but those moments when he's home? Cherish those. There's nothing like basking in the glow of a father's affection and feeling the love of something that is a part of you and will leave again. Take a nap next to the guy. Go on a hike with him. Let him teach you how to start the grill or work on the car. When you get to that crappy middle school phase, he'll become less your hero and more your task master, but that phase will pass. By the time you're your own man and can look back on your childhood and reflect on your teenage years, your dad will be your hero again, but he'll also be human. That's an important combination because it allows you to love him even more. It allows you to see that he chose to be that person for you. OJ, you're already a lucky boy.

I hope I get to be a big part of your life. I hope you come to see and love me as I've come to see and love my uncles. I hope our geographic differences are not too much to overcome. I hope you always feel loved and cared for. I hope you are able to embrace every opportunity you choose to take advantage of. I hope your life is an adventure of your making. I know you're off to the best possible start with the best possible parents. I can't wait to meet you.

Your Uncle

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Holy Awkward

So, I would normally never post on back-to-back days. It's sort of a principle thing. Blogs are a dime a dozen, and who's really interesting enough to write about their life every single day?

[Aside:] The answer there is no one.

But I feel compelled to let this one rip (future pun totally intended). I'm in the process of training for a marathon. This process is sometimes rewarding and sometimes utter torture. Occasionally I feel like Mercury flying wing footed just above the ground and the pure exhilaration of running fast(ish), over distance, and comfortably is enough to make me smile suddenly and laugh to myself. This was the case yesterday when I found myself slowly but surely clicking through the gears on a seven mile run and finishing strongly with a maniacal grin plastered across my face. But, as the Greeks were so fond of pointing out, when a mortal likens himself to a god, there's sure to be some sort of divine punishment. Ah, hubris.

I set out on my run today feeling full of myself, but I quickly realized the legs weren't there. Whereas yesterday I felt springy and light, today I felt like an elephant with concrete shoes. First my ass tightened up, then my calves, and finally my stomach started to rumble in protest. Two thirds of the way though my planned run, I was out of gas and walking dejectedly back home.

On the trail in front of me an Asian couple was shuffling along enjoying an evening stroll. When I first saw them they were a good hundred yards in front of me and I was confident that there would be no awkward walker-passing-walker exchange. You know what I'm talking about. It's sort of like when you see someone you know in public and have a brief exchange, say your goodbyes, and then both realize you're headed in exactly the same direction. No one likes that. It's awkward. Before I knew it though they were only fifty yards in front of me. Then twenty. Now ten.

They had been passing a mobile phone back and forth and speaking a staccato rhythm of what I believed to be Mandarin Chinese and I was confident that they had not yet noticed I was just behind them. Right as I was about to break into a jog and play the I-just-caught-up-to-you-because-I've-been-running card and coast the final quarter mile back to the house, the woman in the couple hung up the phone, paused for about two beats, and then uncorked the longest, most intensely strained fart I have ever heard in my life.

Oh. My. God.

I was like a burglar in a Loony Toons cartoon. I froze in a tip toe and tried not to breathe...both out of fear of being noticed and of the possible malodorous consequences, my face strained as if I were in the process of dipping myself into a frozen lake

At that very moment, the woman SHOOK HER FREAKIN' LEG to wrest out the final crescendo of gas. All told, we're talking a good five seconds of fart time.

Biting my cheeks and holding my breath, I faked my best I've-been-running-for-a-while-and-just-now-caught-up-to-you-and-no-I-definitely-did-not-hear-you-tear-the-sky-in-half-with-your-ass jog. When I was at the woman's eight o'clock, she noticed me, stepped to the side, and grabbed her husband's arm. As I passed, she said something in Chinese which, although I don't speak, I was able to roughly translate as, "Holy fuck, I just crop dusted the bejesus out of that guy!"

I ran the final quarter mile to sell the farce that I had been running the whole time and finished with another huge smile on my face, but for an altogether different reason. As my sister once told me, with a look of convicted sincerity on her face, "I don't want to live in a world where farts aren't funny."

Amen to that. And also, I'll think twice before cutting a run short again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cracker Barrel Casanova

I have never used a pick up line. To be honest, I didn't realize "game" and "raps" were as prevalent and well-rehearsed as they are until recently. I kind of always figured that if you were yourself and yourself was an attractive, confident, intelligent, and witty dude, that yourself would bat at least .300...which I guess sort of sounds like a pick up line. I also just realized I used a sports analogy to quantify matters of the heart...well, maybe not the heart...maybe just hormones...does that make it ok? Crap. Now I'm confused and off topic.

Regardless, I have never used a pick up line (trying to find my initial thread of thought again). I'm not saying I'm charming and witty and awesome enough to just be myself in front of an attractive stranger and legitimately expect a reciprocated interest. Quite the contrary. What I'm saying is that I have NEVER walked up to an attractive stranger and PURPOSEFULLY started a conversation in the hopes that one thing would lead to another and we'd wind up in the sack together. This is not to say I'm a shrinking violet, but that to me a planned approach to someone just seems really sleazy. Well, depending on your motivations, I suppose. I mean, if you're generally love struck by someone I guess a well-intentioned approach is ok, charming even, but walking up to a stranger to get in their pants is sort of heartless. Actually, it's the definition of heartless. But isn't "love struck" just a politically correct way to say you think said attractive stranger is really, really hot and want to get in their pants? Damn! Now I'm confused and off topic again.

This whole post started as a vehicle to relay the most ridiculous pick up line I've ever heard. I promise I'll get back on track. So, the other night (see, I'm back on track), a guy I know, and he's a really good guy - honestly, he just plays to the audience sometimes and I think spouts locker room banter to be one of the boys but is actually a big softy - said that he leads with, and I'm not making this up, "So, let's say after you and I wake up tomorrow morning, we go have breakfast at the Cracker Barrel." Cracker Barrel? Seriously? I feel like breakfast in bed would be a better route to take, or even a nice cafe with farm fresh omelets and mimosas. Crepes? Belgian waffles? Lattes? But Cracker Barrel? Off the highway? Exit 103? Maybe it's just ridiculous enough to work. Regardless, I can't say I'd jump at the opportunity to hook up with the girl who swoons at the prospect of a $6.99 eggs and bacon breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.

To each his own. I guess it's better than a McDonald's egg McMuffin.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Phantom Pains

I've read before that when a patient needs a limb removed either because of irreparable injury or cancer or infection that they can sometimes "feel" the limb even after it's gone because the nerve endings transmit sensations as if the limb were still there. I can't imagine how disconcerting this must be to the amputee, especially in the months immediately following the amputation. Can you imagine waking up one morning and feeling your arm only to come fully awake and realize that this appendage you can't imagine being without is gone? Forever? If the arm or leg was lost in a clinical setting, clearly it had to go. A conscious decision was made to sacrifice a limb to save a body, but that can't make it any easier to be without. Maybe it helps to rationalize and be philosophical about the loss, but in the end it's still a loss - a vital loss - and it must be heartbreaking.

Without indulging in hyperbole or stooping to teenage poetry, I'm feeling a bit like that these days. Before I go on, I have to admit that I'm a writer. It helps me make sense of things and order my thoughts. It's sort of like organizing a disheveled work space. Bills go in one folder, incoming and outgoing memos are separated, trash is disposed of, and before you know it, you can see a clear path forward and prioritize your actions. It's like that, but with emotions and thoughts and hopes. In realizing I need to do this to make sense of myself, I have to ignore the audience. It isn't for the audience (well maybe this explanation is), and I can't help that I know some of the people who will read this and that they may see themselves in it. It's not a message in a bottle or a flare from a sinking ship. It's where I am and hopefully a starting point to where I want to go.

To pick back up my analogy, my amputated limb is the loss of a relationship. I mean that strictly in the sense of loss and the now, more than three months later, realization of the gravity of that loss. It's the strangest thing that the easiest part of a break up, at least to me, are the few weeks immediately following the decision to end it. All of the bad things are perched aggressively in the forefront of your mind and the frustrations and hurtful things and reasons why it's not right come at you like a rapid fire diagnosis. I had to end things to save us from an unhappy relationship. We have to take your arm to save your body. I can accept that. I imagine most amputees can as well. When you're presented with all of the reasons why a thing has to be done, you can rationalize doing that thing, even if it's highly unpleasant and emotionally wrenching. But then the recovery starts...

You don't miss having your arm because it had cancer. You miss your arm because it was a part of you; because you could climb and throw and reach and hold hands or stroke your lover's face. You come to this point months after you've experienced the loss when the clinical decision has been taken and the necessity of having to make that decision has faded into the past. I don't miss my girlfriend because we fought and didn't trust one another and became gradually resentful of our differences. I don't miss her because I never felt she was comfortable being totally vulnerable to me or because I craved a measure of warmth, intimacy, and understanding that I'm sure looked an awful lot to her like losing herself. I miss her because she gave me exhausted hugs at the end of her workday and she sometimes unknowingly used the wrong word to hilarious effect. I miss that she has to sleep in pitch blackness, is the world's worst cook, won't save herself from embarrassment if the story is good, smiles like a spotlight, and when she genuinely laughs, sounds like a symphony. I miss her striking beauty and her graceful power. The diagnosis has faded and now I'm living without something I thought I would live with for the rest of my life.

Which places me at a starting point. Pick yourself up, kid.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dirty 30

Full disclosure: I hate being 30.

I know it's just 30 and you hear all sorts of cliches about the joys of turning 30, but I think most of them are BS.

"30 is the new 20." No it's not. 30 is 30. 30 is 10 more than 20. 30 and 20 have very little in common except they are both divisible by 10...and 5...and 2. Ok, that's three things, but none of them make me feel younger.

"Life begins at 30." No it doesn't. Life begins at birth. Or if you're a Super Pro Lifer, it begins at conception. At any rate, it doesn't begin at 30. You can't abort your child as long as they aren't 30. That's murder. And murder is illegal.

"30 is when you get to start really enjoying being an adult." What does that even mean? All the fun adult stuff starts at 18 or 21. I feel like the 30 adult stuff is a mortgage, car payment, receding hairline (more there later), and an expanding waistline. Why did I have to wait 9 years to enjoy adulthood? And now that I did, I have the sneaking suspicion that the only reason someone is now telling me I get to start enjoying it is because this is precisely the moment that I realize I would like to be 21 again.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, turning 30 is a little like that moment when you wake up and realize you've slept through your alarm clock. One minute you're cozy and half asleep, like the bear on the Sleepy Time Celestial Seasonings tea box, the next minute you're in a complete state of wide awake panic because you're never going to make it to work on time. It's like that, but with more expletives.

Why, you ask? Well, at a time when all of my friends are married, about to get married, having kids, buying houses, taking fabulous vacations with their fabulous significant others, and generally loving being loved, stable, and secure, I'm single (again), childless (as far as I know), renting a room from my buddy, and still planning for my financial future. I can hear your objections now:

"You have plenty of time."

"Don't be in a hurry."

"All of those things will eventually happen for you."

"You're still young! 30 is the new 20!" We've covered this one. See above.

Here's the deal, I'm not in a hurry. Clearly. If a relationship is not right, it's not right. No way am I going to wind up 60, brow beaten, and miserable because I married the wrong person. Nor do I want any hypothetical kids of mine to get some fucked up sense of what a marriage is supposed to be like by watching mommy drag daddy around by the balls or vice versa...except without the balls part...although that would certainly confuse my hypothetical kids. Not doing that. The real issue here is that the people I still have a lot in common with are in their mid 20s. I'm not afraid of winding up childless and alone, but as my same age friends check out of the single, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants club, I'm afraid of winding up the creepy older guy who doesn't quite fit in with the 20s crowd.

It wouldn't be so bad, but it seems like my beard and hair decided to turn gray at exactly the same moment. That moment? 30. Oh, and for added giggles, my hair decided to abandon my scalp in a way that leaves a tiny island on the crown of my forehead. My hairline is like the last stand of the 300 Spartans of Thermopylae. A few brave follicles are holding the pass while my forehead advances in a classic Rommel style pincer movement. I'd punch a baby for a full head of hair. Kidding. Well, maybe not. I guess it depends on the baby. I mean, if life doesn't start until 30...

Also, my left knee is becoming progressively wonkier. It used to be that running and riding the bike and playing soccer could be counted on to make me feel young and free and happy. Now I'm losing a step and having a little bit of difficulty keeping up with the younger players. Just standing in the kitchen making dinner, one of the decidedly adult things I actually do, causes my knee to swell up. Who gets hurt making dinner? 30 year olds. Oh, and when I do suck it up and play soccer I feel like I got the shit beaten out of me the morning after...and the morning after that.

A buddy of mine at work (he's 25...fucker) gave me crap about wearing a v-neck t-shirt the other day. Apparently, I'm too old. Too old for a v-neck?!? These kids today!

I accept that age cannot be reversed and I'd never go so far as to dye my hair or call Hair Club For Men (side note: are those not the creepiest commercials on TV?) or roid it up to try and reverse muscle and joint deterioration. I would stoop to Cialis though. Why lie? I just don't want to be the awkward older guy hanging out with the kids. No one likes that guy. Not even that guy likes that guy.

Here's to hoping 30 sits easier with me as the year goes on. It'd better. Next year I'll be 31.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just a Random Great Song....

Sometime Around Midnight- Airborne Toxic Event

And it starts...
Sometime around midnight
Or at least that's when
You lose yourself
For a minute or two

As you stand...
Under the barlights
And the band plays some song
About forgetting yourself for a while
And the piano's this melancholy soundcheck
To her smile
And that white dress she's wearing
You haven't seen her
For a while

But you know...
That she's watching
She's laughing, she's turning
She's holding her tonic like a cross
The room suddenly spinning
She walks up and asks how you are
So you can smell her perfume
You can see her lying naked in your arms

And so there's a change...
In your emotions
And all of these memories come rushing
Like feral waves to your mind
Of the curl of your bodies
Like two perfect circles entwined
And you feel hopeless, and homeless
And lost in the haze
Of the wine

And she leaves...
With someone you don't know
But she makes sure you saw her
She looks right at you and bolts
As she walks out the door
Your blood boiling
Your stomach in ropes
And when your friends say what is it
You look like you've seen a ghost

And you walk...
Under the streetlights
And you're too drunk to notice
That everyone is staring at you
And you so care what you look like
The world is falling
Around you

You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her

And you know that she'll break you
In two

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Do Not Think That Means What You Think That Means

I'm a huge fan of people using the wrong word to express the wrong thought. Part of it is the deliciousness of being a grammar/vocabulary Nazi and secretly judging the person guilty of the misuse, but mostly it's the unintentional humor it creates. It's sort of a guerrilla chuckle. First you're in a business meeting expecting all sorts of boring nonsense bandied about by people acting important and then your boss throws out something like, "In the coming physical year we can expect to get more bodies." It's not that funny, granted, but hearing the boss confuse fiscal and physical is a petty little reminder that maybe, just MAYBE, you're more qualified to do his job...and therefore better...and therefore justified in playing Brickbreaker on your Blackberry when you probably should be nodding attentively. Whatever. As a side note: In case the boss in question is somehow reading this, I really don't believe I was more qualified to do your job. The preceding was for humor value...which I suppose was just ruined by way of my explanation.

A buddy of mine who's wife teaches at a well respected Southern university called me today and read the opening sentence of a paragraph from one of her student's papers regarding Title IX legislation. The student in question, dissecting the complexity of his point, decided to put it in "lame man's terms." Awesome.

My personal favorite incident of word misusage occurred recently in a moment of intimacy between two friends who will remain unnamed. The couple in question is limited somewhat in the realm of sexual positions because the female has a suspected retroverted uterus. I personally had never heard of this condition, but apparently it occurs in something like 1 in 5 women. Check Wikipedia if you're curious...or writing a term paper. Anyhow, the condition means that the uterus is tilted slightly to the back as opposed to the front and can cause pain in certain sexual positions. The couple in question was in flagrante delicto when the female, intending to make a joke about her suspected retroverted uterus, instead referenced her introverted uterus.

My vagina likes to spend time alone and is uncomfortable in social situations. Classic.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

One Upper

We used to play this game in theater class in high school (yeah, I was in theater) in which the participants were to ad lib one upping one another. The trick was to start modestly and then increase the one ups in very small increments. You couldn't, for example, start with, "I signed my first professional football contract today, married a supermodel, and got a personal message from the President in my voicemail box congratulating me on how badass I am and how much he wishes he were me." I mean, where do yo go from there?

There was a flip side to this game in which the participants one downed each other. Same principle, but with progressively more depressing events. I recall one game being won by my buddy Will after he had been quiet for about five minutes. We all assumed he had given up as the other two players made up slightly more awful things that had befallen them throughout the day. Finally Will softly spoke up and, staring into the middle distance, whispered, "Do you ever just go outside, dig a hole, and lay in it?"

I loved these games mostly because I knew how obnoxious it was to be one upped and also because, as someone who has been accused more than once of being cocky, it sort of kept me in check. I was reminded of this last week on a business trip with some coworkers I had never before met. Turns out, one of the guys in the group was an ex New York City cop. One night over beers, he gradually started to open up about some of the things he had seen and done on the job. Mostly, these were your run of the mill cop stories. People caught in compromising positions in compromising places, bodies found, bizarre acts witnessed, etc. The guy was a cop in NYC for 10 years. Things happen.

Every step of the way this other guy, whom I had never met, would butt in with, "That reminds me..." or "Yeah, something like that happened to me once..." If I had been listening to two veteran police officers talk shop over beers, I would have thought nothing of it and just enjoyed the ridiculousness of the stories, but this other guy had never been a cop...or a soldier...or anything more than a mediocre desk type. Still, he comported himself like Billy Badass and at one point even wanted to compare calf muscles with the ex cop (he would have lost badly).

All of this was amusing and mildly annoying until yet another coworker asked the ex officer if he had been at Ground Zero on September 11th. He had, as it turns out, and he answered questions about it in the way that I have seen combat veterans answer questions about their experiences. That attitude is sort of tough to nail down, but when you see it, you know it's not bullshit. It's not braggadocio, but it's also not out for sympathy. It is what they saw. Period.

Everyone got very quiet as he said that one of the two things in his life he will never forget was the sight and sound of bodies hitting the streets as people jumped from the towers before they collapsed.

I put my beer down as I absurdly struggled to wrap my mind around what that must have been like, but was interrupted by the one upper. "Yeah, that reminds me of..."

Everyone else at the table turned and stared at him. We must have all been thinking the same thing. That reminds you of absolutely nothing! There is nothing you have experienced that can even remotely compare to witnessing the sky rain live bodies! You ass! I can't recall wanting to punch someone so badly, and when I scanned the rest of the table, they all seemed to be thinking the same thing. Everyone, that is, except for the ex cop. He listened politely and sympathized with whatever BS story it was that the one upper related to the table. I was shocked and a little shamed as well. The ex cop had every right to interrupt the one upper and tell him where to go with his likely fictional story, and the one upper, upon completion of his story, took a drink from his beer with a self-satisfied smirk.

Maybe that's the gift of tragedy. It gives us the ability to empathize and respond with grace even though there's no reasonable expectation that we do so. I still haven't picked my jaw up off the floor.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Unclear on the Concept

I was driving home from work today and I saw an obese (not fat....OBESE) woman brazenly throw her McDonald's hamburger wrapper out the window of her car.

She was driving a FUCKING PRIUS!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I once crouched next to a woman and her husband as he was dying. He had collapsed in a soccer match and half of his body was numb from a massive stroke, but he was still conscious. He was terrified. His wife knelt gracefully beside him, sobbing gently, and stroking the side of his face that could still feel her hand. She was terrified.

I happened to be there when he collapsed and offered the small medical training I have more as comfort than treatment until a doctor emerged from the crowd of gathered people to take control of the situation. She checked his vital signs and asked him questions and ordered people about until an ambulance arrived and the buzz of movement was amplified by paramedics as they prepared to move him to an ambulance and eventually the hospital where he would die.

The man and his wife never broke eye contact. Amidst all of the moving bodies, amidst all of the questions and medical devices and the oxygen mask they were still. Terrified but present; not just afraid, but alive. As she stroked his cheek all she said was, "I love you." Over and over again. I love you.

Bless you both. You have no idea what a gift you gave in that moment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Mom Used to Sing This to Me

As I went home on Monday night as drunk as drunk could be
I saw a horse outside the door where my old horse should be
Well, I called me wife and I said to her: Will you kindly tell to me
Who owns that horse outside the door where my old horse should be?

Ah, you're drunk, you're drunk you silly old fool,
So drunk you can not see
That's a lovely sow that me mother sent to me
Well, it's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more
But a saddle on a sow sure I never saw before

And as I went home on Tuesday night as drunk as drunk could be
I saw a coat behind the door where my old coat should be
Well, I called me wife and I said to her: Will you kindly tell to me
Who owns that coat behind the door where my old coat should be

Ah, you're drunk, you're drunk you silly old fool,
So drunk you can not see
That's a wool blanket that me mother sent to me
Well, it's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more
But buttons in a blanket sure I never saw before

And as I went home on Wednesday night as drunk as drunk could be
I saw a pipe up on the chair where my old pipe should be
Well, I called me wife and I said to her: Will you kindly tell to me
Who owns that pipe up on the chair where my old pipe should be

Ah, you're drunk, you're drunk you silly old fool,
So drunk you can not see
That's a lovely tin whistle that me mother sent to me
Well, it's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more
But tobacco in a tin whistle sure I never saw before

And as I went home on Thursday night as drunk as drunk could be
I saw two boots beneath the bed where my old boots should be
Well, I called me wife and I said to her: Will you kindly tell to me
Who owns them boots beneath the bed where my old boots should be

Ah, you're drunk, you're drunk you silly old fool,
So drunk you can not see
They're two lovely Geranium pots me mother sent to me
Well, it's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more
But laces in Geranium pots I never saw before

And as I went home on Friday night as drunk as drunk could be
I saw a head upon the bed where my old head should be
Well, I called me wife and I said to her: Will you kindly tell to me
Who owns that head upon the bed where my old head should be

Ah, you're drunk, you're drunk you silly old fool,
So drunk you can not see
That's a baby boy that me mother sent to me
Well, it's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more
But a baby boy with his whiskers on sure I never saw before

And as I went home on Saturday night as drunk as drunk could be
I saw two hands upon her breasts where my old hands should be
Well, I called me wife and I said to her: Will you kindly tell to me
Who owns them hands upon your breasts where my old hands should be

Ah, you're drunk, you're drunk you silly old fool,
So drunk you can not see
That's a lovely night gown that me mother sent to me
Well, it's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more
But fingers in a night gown sure I never saw before

As I went home on Sunday night as drunk as drunk could be
I saw a lad sneaking out the back, a quarter after three.
Well, I called me wife and I said to her: Will you kindly tell to me
Who was that lad sneaking out the back a quarter after three?

Ah, you're drunk, you're drunk you silly old fool,
So drunk you can not see
That was just the tax man that the Queen she sent to me.
Well, it's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more
But an Englishman who can last till three I've never seen before

Thursday, May 13, 2010


So, I was thinking today (because I have plenty of time in my current state to think of all manner of ridiculous stuff) who was the marketing whiz who decided to name America's Number One Condom Trojan? I mean, it's a fine product and all, but Trojan? Is that really the best name for a product designed to prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted infections?

There are two ways to look at this, I suppose.

1:The Female Prespective- America's Number One Condom is named after the massive wooden horse that was accepted as a gift by the City of Troy thinking it a sign that the ludicrously long Trojan War was over. In reality, said horse housed Odysseus and his buddies who snuck out in the middle of the night while the Trojans were drunk and sexed up, unlocked the gates of the city, and let in the entire Greek army to murder the bejesus out of them and burn the city to the ground.

I don't know about you, but if I'm a member of the fairer sex I don't want my man's condom acting all safe and secure and then unleashing sperm, bacteria, or viruses into my "secure city" when I think all is right with the world, never mind the massive wooden horse part. Ouch.

2: The Male Perspective...or maybe it's the Less Female Perspective (I haven't thought that far ahead yet).
America's Number One Condom is named after the Trojans themselves. First of all, Paris was a bitch and I'm pretty sure no self respecting guy with a condom wants to be thought of that way. Second, Hector was pretty badass, but he still got killed by Achilles. Third, Helen was almost certainly the hottest young lady in the Ancient World, but was she really worth it? I mean, she caused an epic war with massive casualties that culminated in the utter destruction of the entire city.

For a condom that's supposed to facilitate safe, relatively consequence free sex (at least physically) the aforementioned marketing whiz seems not to have picked the most desireable name. What about Ft. Knox Condoms? Or Citadel Condoms? Or even Spartan Condoms if they were dead set on the Ancient World theme?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lost. In Translation.

I once found myself at 2:00AM spread eagle with my hands on the trunk of a taxi in Mendoza, Argentina while two police officers in tactical gear took turns frisking me and asking me who I was and where my passport had gotten off to. I tried to calmly explain that I was an exchange student, was leaving the next day to return to the United States, and that my passport was on a nightstand next to a bed in my host family's house a few blocks away.

This didn't seem to satisfy the curiosity of my interrogators. Maybe it was the multiple glasses of wonderful Argentine wine I had consumed in the preceding hours or the way the taxi driver nervously tugged at his jacket and kept repeating, "There's no problem here," but I didn't seem to be getting anywhere with the two militaristic looking policemen holding my Texas driver's license (the only ID I had on me) and my thoughts turned more and more to the horrendous human rights record Argentina had earned a few decades earlier and the thousands of disappeared that have never been accounted for.

Eventually they explained to me that there had been a spate of taxi robberies. They did this as they waved their hands mocking exhaustion and blamed it on The Crisis. Everywhere in Argentina in 2002 all manner of problems were blamed on the crisis. The buses aren't running: The Crisis. The prisoners are rioting: The Crisis. It's unseasonably hot: The Crisis. As they followed my cab they noticed that I had been leaning forward from the back seat and appeared to be having an animated conversation with the driver and assumed it was a hold up.

The officer speaking to me half smiled in apology and I took this as an opening to explain to him what we'd actually been discussing. The taxi driver, finding out that I was an exchange student, had asked me how I had enjoyed my time in Argentina. Feeling emboldened by the wine, I decided to try to be clever (side note: this is never a good idea in a second language). I told him my time in Argentina had convinced me that the world was coming to an end.

"Really, how so?"

"Well, The United States made it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup," I said.


"I went to Patagonia to see the whales and there was no wind," I continued.


"And there was the biggest earthquake in years," I finished.

"I see...that's interesting. I have to disagree with you, however," said the driver. "You see, The Bible is very specific about the coming of the End of the World."

"Oh, I know," I laughed, "I was just making a joke."

"I know you were joking, but God's word is very specific. There are seven signs. The rivers will turn to blood, the ..."

It was about this time that we were pulled over and the previous scene was played out to the point where I decided to explain to the policemen what the taxi driver and I had been discussing. As I started in on my "End of The World" line of humor I could see the taxi driver cringe. I pushed on anyway thinking he was just your run-of-the-mill religious fanatic (they exist in every country). When I finished, expecting at least a polite laugh, the policeman I had been directing my stand up routine to was staring at me blankly.

"I see what you're saying," he said. "But The Bible is very specific about the Signs of the Apocalypse."

"That's what I said," exclaimed the taxi driver.

I finally made it home that night a bit cowed by my inability to be funny in Spanish and wondered how, in the span of a few hours, I had gone from wine-fueled joviality to a frisking that led to a theological lesson. I couldn't wrap my mind around it then and I still can't now. Maybe it was The Crisis. I'm feeling a bit like that night these days except The Crisis is much more personal to me and much more complex than an ill constructed sentence in a foreign language or a mis-conjugated verb.

I have a girlfriend I love dearly. To be fair, we're so different I think sometimes we are speaking different languages, but when things are still and the world has slowed down just a little, there's no one else I would rather have wrapped in my arms. The problem is, things have not been still recently and instead of slowing down, the world has sped up for us both. Her sister has just had a baby and mine has one on the way. She just got promoted and either has to sink or swim but hasn't been in her new position long enough to even know how deep the pool is yet. I've been promoted due to a prolonged absence by my boss and am experiencing many of the same frustrations and running up against the same terribly steep learning curve. We've been working opposite hours. There are a whole slew of other complications, fears, and frustrations that really have no business being posted on a blog, but all of them are at least equally as weighty as the ones I've just described. In the midst of all of this I have tried to be a good boyfriend, but my attempts have sometimes come off looking just as cumbersome and addled as my End of the World routine. To make it worse, I feel like maybe my apologies have as well.

In my mind and in my heart I want this period to end the way I had envisioned my interaction with the cops would. I wanted them to throw there arms up in laughter, hand my driver's license back to me, pat me on the back, and wish me safe travels. I want my girlfriend to sigh in relief, hug me, and rest knowing that we made it through all of this together. That in spite of our differences, we are stronger for having them. I'm afraid though that in that moment after it's all still again I'll be face to face with a cop in Argentina wondering how in the world I got there and searching in vain for an answer.

I guess what's really important is that I told the joke not knowing if it would be funny or not. I told it in an effort to connect, with the thought that somehow, in such a strange situation, the taxi driver, the cops, and myself could all willingly wind up in the same punchline. In the end we all did, just not as I had envisioned it.

I think the joke is funnier for it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A High Straight in Plainview, A Side Bet in Idalou, And a Fresh Deck in New Deal

So, it was Texas Independence Day yesterday. I thought I should point this out to any and all readership of my decidedly underwhelming blog. For one, I'm duty bound as a Texan to embrace any opportunity placed before me to preach the face- melting awesomeness of my home state. And dos, I'm duty bound as a Texan to embrace any opportunity placed before me to preach the face-melting awesomeness of my home sate. That is what we call impervious logic.

So here's to you, Texas! Yellow Roses, Lone Stars, Bluebonnets, Shiner Bocks, Rattle Snakes, BBQ, Two Steps, Cowboys and all. Don't let the bastards grind you down. We'll talk soon! Miss you.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Murder Most Foul

I lived in several ramshackle apartments while I was in college. I think of it as a measure of how far I've come that I can look back on these places, places I once viewed as "quaint" or "hip" or "nice," and describe them now as "dank" and "shitty" and "Hooverville-like." It's the same sort of thing with furniture. I think everyone I know at one time or another saved a "perfectly good" piece of furniture from the dumpster. Only a college kid can look proudly upon a living room furnished with a plaid La-Z-Boy, glass coffee table, faux leather couch, wicker love seat, and Wal-Mart TV stand and think, "I am master of all I survey." It's a matter of place I suppose. When you've got no money, "nice" and "perfectly good" are negotiable terms.

The first "nice" place I lived in was a hideous box of an apartment in a sprawling complex well away from campus that was originally built as Section 8 housing. The carpets were forest green and every room was perfectly square. If a German Leggo designer had been asked to create a floor plan, this would have been it. The whole place had a prison feel. The apartment was access controlled, but with the buildings shaped and organized the way they were, 8 foot wrought iron fences surrounding the entire complex, and large grass fields separating the buildings from the fences, one got the feeling it was more about keeping the residents in as opposed to keeping any would be ne'er-do-wells out.

Of the countless ridiculous acts I witnessed or partook in at this apartment complex, the cake taker has to be the time an acquaintance of mine was propositioned by a prostitute in the parking lot of the complex. He was walking home from a bar, no doubt more than a little pickled, and did not have the mental capacity at that moment to realize what was going on. He just thought he was irresistible. After a good five minutes in flagrante de licto, my acquaintance had a moment of clarity, realized he was dealing with a pro, and, moreover, that the pro she was actually a pro he.

My next apartment was actually not bad, save for the complete lack of windows, the halfway house next door, and the attempted murder I witnessed in the parking lot when I was moving out. I knew this place was going to be great the first night I spent there. Pulling into the complex well after midnight, I was a little shocked to see two roaring blazes shooting flames out of the two community dumpsters in the parking lot. Pacing back and forth between these two gateways to hell was a well muscled, shirtless black man with a menacing look on his face clutching a pipe wrench. I guess I should have said, "I knew this place was going to be great the first night I was to spend there," but I just coasted straight through the parking lot and drove to a friend's apartment where I crashed on his couch. John Henry and the Bonfires were just a little too post apocalyptic for me.

After waaaaaaaay too many good times, a record low GPA, and countless other Animal House acts of tomfoolery, I thought I finally got it right when I found an old apartment well on the other side of town. My unit was one of four (just four!) in what looked to have been one large house built sometime around the turn of the century. I knew all of the other tenants well, the neighborhood was quiet, the unit had high ceilings and wood floors, a working Murphy bed, and most deliciously, I would be living there ALL BY MYSELF. I cannot stress how delirious with joy this made me. I loved all of my previous roommates, but the idea of having complete rule of my domain was beyond appealing.

For the first year, I was in love with the place. The commute was a hassle, but it served as an unassailable excuse when my buddies wanted to go out and I wanted to stay in. My GPA recovered its health, I witnessed no more acts of violence or prostitution, and I was generally very, very happy. Then one night I heard a noise in the kitchen. I had immersed myself in my studies in the living room (I was playing Xbox) and from the kitchen I could hear what sounded like a plastic package being opened. I pressed pause studies...and listened closer. The noise continued in spurts, but was most definitely coming from the kitchen. I slowly made my way from the living room, through the dining room, and to the entrance to the kitchen where I stopped to listen again. After a brief moment of silence, the noise started again and I turned on the kitchen light. An explosion of scuffling erupted from the top of one of the kitchen cabinets over the sink and then all noise abruptly ceased.

This was not at all what I wanted to be dealing with at 2AM. My quaint apartment on the other side of town was now a quaint varmint infested apartment on the other side of town. I immediately recalled the story my buddy Mike had told me about the family of raccoons that had lived in his attic and how one of them had pawed a hole in the bathroom ceiling as his roommate was occupied on the toilet. This lead to their landlord "solving the problem" by entombing the raccoon family in the attic Cask of Amontillado style. In the following days, my buddies were serenaded by the raccoon family's starvation shrieks. After they all finally succumbed to what must have been an excruciating death, the stench of a rotting raccoon family tainted the air for many weeks to come. In Disney movies, families of critters are cute. In the real world, they get murdered by a dimly lit college slum lord and their decomposing carcasses assault your inner sanctum.

I climbed on top of the kitchen counter and peered toward the back of the top of the cabinet. Sure enough, there was a small hole in the wall and littering the top of the cabinet were old roach traps gnawed around the edges. I went immediately into panic mode. The hole was clearly only large enough to accommodate a squirrel, mouse, or rat. In my thinking, at that hour any self respecting squirrel would be sleeping amongst his collected nuts in a tree somewhere and a mouse could not possibly have the chompers to make the sort of racket I had been hearing all the way from the living room. That left one possible culprit: A rat. And said rat had been gnawing on roach traps. Roach traps?!? This meant a further few things: 1) The rat was not eating plastic for sustenance which meant he/she could only be nesting. 2) If he/she were nesting that meant he/she was expecting a family to be moving in some time soon. 3) Roach traps?!? I must have really let myself go if my potential roommate list was now comprised of rats and roaches.

I sprang into action, my mind awhirl with possible IMMEDIATE solutions to my new rodent problem. My eyes darting around the kitchen, a large, gleaming knife caught my attention. This was it! I could position myself on the kitchen counter, knife pointed motionlessly at the rat's hole, and when he/she showed its little rodent face, I would stab it in one incredibly gruesome thrust. The idiocy of this plan occurred to me only after I had been standing on the kitchen counter for a good five minutes. How could I be sure I killed the rat with one fell swoop? What if I only mortally wounded it and it escaped back into my walls to die and rot thus filling my living space with the stench of decomposing rat? What if I merely succeeded in pissing off the rat and instead of flight, he/she decided on fight? I could think of few worse things than having my face gnawed off by a recently stabbed rat. Clearly, the knife solution was not going to work.

I started to scan the kitchen again for a more effective murder implement. At one point, I noticed a book of matches and an aerosol cleaning can. I could strike a match and flame throw the rat to death. Brilliant! Again, I started to climb the kitchen counter when I realized that a flaming rat scampering through the walls of my wooden apartment would not be the best thing in the world. I could imagine trying to explain to the Fire Marshall as we surveyed the smoldering ruins of my apartment building, "Well, there was this rat, right?" In addition, there was the very real possibility that I could experience a repeat of scenario number one and be attacked by a flaming rat instead of a recently stabbed one. Clearly, the impromptu flame thrower option was not going to work either.

By this point, it was approaching 3AM and I was out of ideas on how to kill the rat. I would have to wait until morning to solve my rodent problem. But what to do for the rest of the night? I would have to leave the rat to his/her own devices. What was to prevent the rat from crawling out of my walls and getting in to my food? Or bedroom? And chewing my face off? I found a beer bottle and shoved it in the rat hole. Then I placed a heavy book behind the beer bottle to make sure the rat couldn't get out for the evening. I didn't sleep a wink.

The next morning I had to leave the apartment early to go to my work study job. After work, I had a seminar class that lasted three hours and got out at 5PM. With each passing minute of class, I imagined the rat waking up somewhere in my walls in his/her half made nest and stretching his/her little rat arms and yawning a devious rat yawn. I had to get home before the sun set, lest the rat complete his/her project before I could get to the business of killing him/her.

As soon as class let out, I sped to the grocery store and found the pest killing aisle. So many choices! At first I went for the sticky trap but then remembered my sister's own collegiate rat issue. She too had opted for the sticky trap and woke up one night to hear the rat becoming successfully ensnared in said trap. The following morning, expecting to walk into her kitchen to find an exhausted rodent with a "You got me" look on his face, she instead found a right rat arm and a left rat arm but no rat. I put the sticky trap back. The next option was the poison rat pellets. This seemed a good idea at first as it would excuse me from the actual business of killing the rat. Plus, it seemed a little more cerebral and civilized. But then I realized that I would probably wind up with a dead rat in my walls again and I didn't want to endure the whole rotting rodent thing. Eventually, I opted for the tried and true rat trap...three tried and true rat traps to be exact. Marching proudly toward the check out counter, I passed through the shampoo aisle and, remembering that I was about to run out, grabbed a bottle. While I was at it I thought I would grab some toothpaste and deodorant as well because I was pretty sure I was running low on those two things. Approaching the check out counter with my shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and rat traps I realized why the exceptionally attractive check out girl was giving me an exceptionally revolting look. Clearly, I was a guy with a rat problem. And clearly, I had decided the source of my rat problem was a total lack of personal hygiene.

It was almost dark now and I had just made it home. In the final moments of sunlight, as the rat was no doubt waking from his/her filthy slumber in MY WALLS, I prepped the killing field atop my kitchen counter. After initially setting only one rat trap immediately opposite the rat hole, I figured overkill was better than underkill so I set all three rat traps in a semi circle of death facing the rat hole. I coated each rat trap spring with irresistible peanut butter, then, deviously, I moved the gnawed on roach traps to the opposite corner of the cabinet top. Admiring the precision of my work, I shut off the kitchen lights and took up residence in the living room waiting to hear the delicious SNAP of the rat traps doing their business.

An hour later I heard the roach traps being gnawed upon.

Impossible! I snuck into the kitchen and turned the light on. Silence. I carefully climbed atop the kitchen counter and peered over the edge of the cabinet. The roach traps had indeed been further gnawed. The tasty peanut butter and rat traps? Untouched. I was dealing with a pro. I repositioned the rat traps to IMMEDIATELY in front of the rat hole, coated them with more irresistible peanut butter, shut off the lights, and went back to the living room.

10 minutes later I heard the roach traps being gnawed upon again.

This was getting old. I marched back into the kitchen, flipped the light switch on and listened. Again, silence. Again, I climbed atop the kitchen counter and observed exactly what I had previously observed. Rat traps and delicious peanut butter? Untouched. Out of frustration, I moved one of the roach traps to one of the rat traps. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I thought I would either finally get the rat, or I would kill the hell out of a giant roach. Again, I climbed back off the counter and shut off the lights.

5 minutes later I heard the roach traps yet again being gnawed upon. Rigoddammeddiculous!

I ran to the kitchen yelling and flipped the light on. The metallic SNAP of a sprung rat trap echoed through the kitchen and a hideous flopping and scurrying sound emanated from atop the cabinet. I froze in the kitchen listening to the gradually slowing death throes of my rat nemesis. After things were good and quiet for a few minutes I carefully climbed back on to the kitchen counter and leaned over the top of the cabinet. There, with a roach trap still clenched in his/her jaws, was the biggest rat I had ever see. Seriously, you know that rat from The Nutcracker? It was a least as big.

I decided to leave the rat king on top of the cabinet that night. Why did I do such a disgusting thing, you ask? As a warning to other rodents who might have become emboldened when this rat started nesting in my walls. I was no longer the college kid in apartment B. I was a stone cold killer and I wanted the world to know it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Benjamin Busch Essay

I heard the author read this essay on NPR today and I was struck by how eloquently he articulated such a delicate point. It is written by a Marine responding to the recent revelation that a company that makes rifle sights for the military has, for a long while now, been stamping the rifle sights with Bible verses along with their serial number. Any point involving religion in the public discourse is rife with the opportunity for misinterpretation, reaction, and offense. I am always struck by how easily we make religion support our conquests and fight our battles without thought to how anathema the idea of killing one another is to most world religions. As a Christian I have grown to believe that the simplicity of Christ's message is its beauty, but probably also why it is so easily perverted and clouded by our own experiences, prejudices, and particular political/social bent.

At any rate, this was an interesting and touching essay and one that touches on a fundamental difference between our world and the one that is envisioned by Sunni terrorists.

Benjamin Busch was an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps. His memoir, 'Bearing Arms', recently appeared in 'Harper's' and his photographs from Iraq have been featured in 'Five Points', and 'War, Literature, & the Arts'. His newest essay, 'Growth Rings', is in the current issue of the 'Michigan Quarterly Review'. He lives in Michigan with his wife and their two daughters.

As a Marine invading Iraq in 2003, I thought we actively separated church and state from our motives.

I know that Scripture embedded in the obscure numbers on rifle scopes may seem like a small detail, and that manufacturer Trijicon likely intended no particular malice by placing biblical references on its equipment. Like, 2COR4:6, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." There seems to have been neither marketing nor secrecy associated with the presence of these inscriptions.

But these are not innocent times, and the codes are still messages printed and sent out. These notes have now been read and exposed, and we have the baggage of explaining ourselves to people convinced that many of our actions are motivated by religion instead of self-defense, justice or altruism.

As a Marine, I aimed at Iraq through rifle scopes, my vision amplified. When viewing other cultures, even enemies, I think we should be wary of seeing them through a lens marked by religion.

The United States is fighting Islamic extremists. But we are not Christian extremists. When I returned for my second tour in 2005, we were in the embattled city of Ramadi, and we fought jihadists, tribal factions and criminals alongside almost entirely Muslim Iraqi soldiers. It was impossible to segregate the ambitions of singular religions then.

Although the rifle equipment was stamped as a private act by a private company, it was sold to governments, and therefore unavoidably and knowingly coupled with politics. Biblical quotes were thoughtfully chosen — thoughtful enough not to be allowed as innocent of larger context.

By branding weapons with Christian messages, there is a deep and ugly blending of religion, politics and bloodshed, and it has unwittingly painted our government and military with the embarrassing language of "crusade."

America is largely composed of people who consider themselves Christian, separated by various interpretations of the same book. But I did not go onward as a Christian soldier. I went forth as an American, a Marine. I was sent by my country to fight a threat, and thereafter with the best intentions of democracy, not theocracy.

Our efforts in the Middle East were complicated enough, and small symbols are examined carefully by our opponents. Based on my understanding of the teachings of Christ, he would be very disappointed to see his Gospel assigned to war of any kind in the first place.

I leave you with a verse that has not been stamped on our weapons: "But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you" — Matthew 5:44.