Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remember MTV Unplugged?

A few weeks before my trip to Appleton, I contacted a Kieran Grogan, friend of mine, about possibly playing a show in the short amount of time I was back. He only had a few days to work with but was able to come up with a coffee shop and a date. Sweet. The only downside was that I was going to have to learn how to play my songs.

I walked into the coffee shop on the night of the show and looked around. Nothing had been set up, there was no form of speaker system, stage, or even a spot clear of tables. I saw no sign on the door on the way in or any mention whatsoever that there was supposed to be a two hour show that night.

“Hey, are you playing music tonight?” someone asked when they saw my guitar.

“Uh, I think so.”

I started thinking that maybe I had gone to the wrong place when Kieran walked in. He talked to the manager and found out that they had expected us to bring microphones and a PA system with us. However, they hadn’t mentioned this before. We looked around the coffee shop, which was full of people talking, clanking cups, and laughing.

“Wanna just do it unplugged?” Kieran asked me.

“Sure, why not.”

We convinced a couple people to move to a different table so we could make room to play. We sat towards the front of the coffee shop and the people in the back probably had no idea we were even there.

I went on first. I noticed any song with finger picking would be inaudible so my set list got cut in half. Kieran ended up doing the same thing. Playing shows is always a little weird since I never know what the hell to say between songs. I usually just babble like I had just huffed a bunch of glue until I get my shit together to play the next song. The usual standby to fill this time is to introduce the next song. But, for some reason, I can never remember the names to any of my songs. So that’s out the window. I also seem to have problems with my own lyrics. I can sing along with any shitty pop song from the mid-nineties but if I wrote it, it’s like I never heard it before.

Since there was no form of amplification, any talking you wanted to do had to become a yell. Since I had nothing to communicate worth yelling about, I kept quiet. If I said anything it was to whoever was directly next to me, and even then I was sometimes not heard. Oh well. It’s not really important for people to know that changing strings sucks, or whatever the hell I decided to say.

After we had finished we talked to a few people and walked out the front door like we were spies that just completed a secret mission.

All-ages shows have gotten old.

Throughout high school and into college I attended local concerts quite frequently. At one point I would even go to shows when I didn’t know any of the bands playing. I would stand right up front and give every band an honest chance, often buying their self-recorded/released CDs.

Then I got older. As I aged I became more jaded towards music and basically every band I saw. Unless I had a friend in the band, it was pretty hard to get me to like them. Unless, of course, they were actually very good (which is rare).

Eventually, the only shows I attended were when my friends were playing and I would just sit at the bar until they went on. This is how it’s been for a while.

Monday night, however, I found myself at an all-ages show. I didn’t even know they still put on all-ages shows in Milwaukee but there it was. It was at the Miramar Theater, which I had been to quite a few times, and was an all day event celebrating Festivus (for the rest of us!). My friends’ band went on at 8-ish and I foolishly showed up a couple hours before. I was hoping I could snag some free beer backstage or something but that didn’t happen. I was able to steal a few pieces of pizza so I guess it wasn’t a total waste.

While walking around the show I couldn’t stop looking at all the teenagers. I couldn’t believe how young they looked. I felt like I was chaperoning a high school dance and it made me feel creepy. Another funny part was how people dressed exactly the same as when I was still going to shows. The “scenester” style hasn’t really changed in ten years. I guess if you want to be “alternative” these days you just gotta rip off what people were doing when I was in high school.

I spent most of the show in back, occasionally checking out a band here and there. The kids all packed in towards the front and stood, nodding their heads, as the bands went about their business. Same ol’ shit.

Finally, Red Knife Lottery went on. I have been watching these guys since 2004 or so and still enjoy seeing them every chance I get. It’s kind of funny to think of the older shows, with a different lineup, and compare them to the ones now. They seem to have started taking themselves more seriously, which can be good and bad. If you want to be taken seriously, take yourself seriously. It’s a good idea. I, however, liked it when Ashley spit beer on the all-ages audience on her birthday a few years ago. They should keep doing stuff like that.

Halfway through the second song of their set, a “pit” broke out. Yeah, I know, I haven’t seen one for a while either. Arms started flailing, heads started banging, and bystanders started getting pissed. That’s the thing about hardcore dancing, it just pisses off everyone that’s not doing it. A perfect example was how after a couple songs a fight broke out because someone minding their own business got annoyed with kids constantly bumping into them. Understandable.

As annoying as I find that stuff now, in a way, I still like to see it. I noticed right when it started that the band got more energized which made for a better show. Plus, I imagine it being a nice feeling for them to see their music inciting kids to beat the hell out of each other. Also, when I was their age, I was into the same shit. I’ve done my share of stage dives and knocking into people and crowd surfing so I encourage others to take part. I never did that stupid shit where they just swing their arms like a bunch of idiots, though. That’s just retarded. In summary: I don’t like slam dancing nowadays but I support it, even though it’s really annoying when you just want to watch a band.

The band’s set consisted mainly of songs off of their new CD, “Soiled Soul and Rapture.” Which, as Ashley described it to the crowd, “is pretty good.” There was one old song which stuck out in the set. The songwriting style from the first EP to the new LP has changed quite a lot. I guess getting two new members and waiting six years will do that.

They played well, I didn’t notice any mistakes, and the crowd seemed really into. It’s a little weird since most of them are older than me, but I remember thinking that I was proud of them while they played. I know they’ve all come a long way to be in this band and it’s paying off. So if anyone is reading this that doesn’t know of Red Knife Lottery (which I kind of doubt since it’s only friends of mine that read this), go get the CD. Get two and give one to a bum. Then give me twenty dollars. Go. Do it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who needs motivation?

I’ve never really thought about career paths or ways to become financially successful. I’ve always known that to be “successful” you need to have a certain amount of ambition and motivation. However, I do not possess these qualities. This may contribute to the fact that I am unemployed, and have been for a while, but the economy is shitty so I’m going to blame that while I still can.

I graduated with a degree in creative writing. Why did I choose this? I figured that a college degree of any sort would open up job opportunities (bullshit) after graduation. When figuring out what to go back to school for, after taking a booze-filled year of food stamps, I figured I could either learn a whole bunch of shit or just make it up. I decided to make it up: Creative Writing Major.

Earlier today I decided that if I am going to get into an MFA program one day, I should probably try to get some stuff published. So I printed off some stories and mailed them in. This is when I realized that I picked the perfect major, assuming I can ever find a way to make money doing it. It fits in perfectly with my no-motivation-apathetic habits. Here’s all it is; write a story, print it out, pop it into an envelope, mail it, wait. It’s pretty damn close to doing nothing. Then, after the story is mailed out, you get to wait for a few months to hear that your story was rejected. That’s probably my favorite part. For those months before I hear back, I get to feel like I’m doing stuff all the time. Sure, it may look like I’m sleeping on the couch at three in the afternoon, but actually, I’m waiting to hear back on a story. Productive shit.

Now, I know that sending out short stories like this will never actually be able to pay the bills. Hell, I’ll be lucky if it even buys me a bottle of whiskey. That’s not really the point, though. I’m just looking for a way to lie to myself so I can feel like I’m not being a complete pile of shit while acting like a complete pile of shit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

German = Scary

At the risk of sounding xenophobic, I'm going to say German is a really ugly language. No matter what is being said, it just sounds evil.

A couple years ago I sat on youtube for a couple hours looking up the German versions of cartoon theme songs. Yeah, I know, I have no life.

This was the funniest one I found. The "Let's get dangerous," part sounds like he's declaring war on Poland. Think Nazi jokes are a little too obvious? Too bad.

Even poetry sounds like shit when falling out of a German mouth. Proof:

Maybe I have these associations because of Hitler. Whenever I hear the German language I can't help but to think of Hitler's speeches (which I've also listened to even though I can't understand a word). Someone can ask me what my favorite color is, but, if it's asked in German, I'll only think about Panzer tanks decimating Europe.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Elvis Sucks

I don’t understand why Elvis Presley is such a big deal to some people. I mean, he died on the toilet, so that’s kinda cool, but other than that I shouldn’t have to hear his name anymore. He was a hack.

I’ll give him the fifties. You can have that one. In the fifties he helped bring “black” music to “white” America. This is also a reason that I hate him, but I’ll get to that later. He was basically the Marilyn Manson of the “Leave it to Beaver” era. There’s the whole deal about being shot only from the waist up on Ed Sullivan, people saying that his music was the end to decency in America, FBI files reporting him as a danger, etc. He was basically a fancy shirt that showed a little too much cleavage. It enthralled some and aggravated others, so no matter what, everyone was talking about it.

Beyond that, he was just some shitty actor before he became a shitty nightclub act covered in sweat. Watching videos from his Las Vegas days is just depressing. He tries to thrown in the spices of his mid-fifties swagger but it just looks forced and pathetic.

People put this guy on a huge pedestal like he wrote the songs that defined the world. The thing is, he didn’t write his songs. His early hits were simply written for him or rip-offs from noteworthy, black, musicians. All Elvis did was repackage them into something the racist mainstream was able to accept. He was to blues and rock ‘n roll what Vanilla Ice was to rap: a shitty, consumer-friendly, white version of a style of music that would be recognized a few years down the road for its original merits.

Here's the original version of one of Elvis' first hits by Big Mama Thornton.

And Elvis' shittified version.

Presley was able to dupe some songwriters into letting him put his name as co-writer on some songs. He was even able to get full songwriting credits for “Heartbreak Hotel” even though he had nothing to do with it. The woman that wrote it just liked him and wanted to help him raise money. Bullshit.

He was able to dance around and make girls squeal. That’s about it. His voice sounds like a retarded fat dude with a speech impediment singing through a damp rag. The Backstreet Boys were able to make girls squeal. Will people be praising them like they invented the light bulb while walking on water forty years from now? Probably not, but, I guess, you never know.

Here’s Elvis in his Las Vegas “glory days.”

Weird, he’s singing a cover song. Just look at the outfit. This is what we know as the “Fat Elvis” get-up. How can people take this man seriously when he’s dressed up in a onesie fitted with jewelry that looks to be bought from a dollar store?

Elvis impersonators are funny, for all the wrong reasons. Elvis movies are funny, for all the wrong reasons. Anything after 1960 is funny because he turned into a caricature of what he was in the fifties. Elvis should be regarded as nothing more than some schlub that was able to trick the ignorant middle-class in the first years of television.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Underestimated

While cruising around Craigslist a couple weeks ago, I came across a posting for an open mic. I gave ‘er a click which directed me to a number so I gave ‘er a call which led me to a voice mail so I left ‘er a message.

A day passed and I got a call back. She told me a little about the deal and I told her a little about my deal. This is when I learned the open mic was actually an online show, called The Underestimated, which had been going on for six weeks. The show revolved around a spoken-word competition in which contestants get eliminated each week until the two finalists are left for an all out, no-holds-barred, knock-em-out, spoken-word-to-the-death, re-animate-em-and-kill-em-again, head-to-head joust of words. Serious business.

She asked me what I do, I gave her my myspace page, and waited to hear back from her. An hour went by and she called me back to ask me to play. yay.

I was told that I had a grand total of four minutes to strut my stuff. Usually, open mics let you play three or four songs, but this wasn’t actually an open mic. We were just fluff to help fill out the show. I figured that I would be playing with rappers and whatnot so I dug out something from a show I played a few years ago.

I was to play a show with a pile of MCs (I was told there is a difference between MCs and rappers) so I figured I would have to do something a little different than I was used to. I made backing tracks to my acoustic songs and played them through the PA and then played over them. The same way MCs and R&B artists perform live (excluding The Roots and similar groups).

So, I chose a song from that setlist and brought the backing track with me to the show.

We drove into Decatur. Deep into Decatur. I was sent an e-mail that included directions to get to the venue. It said the building would be easy to find because there would be balloons and large sign out front. However, the building was not easy to find. Even with the help of a GPS, we drove past it twice before figuring out where to go. As we turned into the driveway, I noticed one half-inflated balloon flapping in the wind.

We parked, got out of the car, and started walking towards the door. The doorman looked at us like we were lost and asked us what we wanted.

“I’m here for the open mic deal.”

“Are you guys in a band or something?”

“No, I’m just… I was told to come here at 5:30.”

“By who?”

“I don’t know. Some woman on the phone.”

He looked at us for a minute as if he thought we might be spying for all the other white people that weren’t represented. A guy ran inside to check our story and came back out, letting us know it was okay to go in.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Ted asked me as I grabbed my guitar out of the car.

“Of course!”

We were led inside. Ted had to stay in the lobby and wait for the doors to open, since he’s a talentless hack, and I was led backstage to get everything together. I was shown to the back room where the other “open mic” guys were.

“Not even a bag of chips!”

“They got a full bar, but no alcohol!”

They weren’t too pleased that we were simply thrown in a back room and made to pay for chips if we wanted them. While they bitched about the empty bar, I opened my backpack and pulled out a beer.

“I’m from Wisconsin, we always come prepared when it comes to beer,” I told them.

We sat around and joked for a while before we were asked to come out for soundchecks. When it was my turn, the soundman seemed as if he had never seen a guitar before and had no idea how to work it. They checked the sound levels of the backing track and the vocals, but didn’t bother with the guitar. I guess they figured they could just figure it out as I went along.

The show started and all the non-spoken-word performers were asked to sit in the crowd so the place wouldn’t look so empty on camera. There were probably about 40 people there, which slowly dwindled as the show went on. We were encouraged to clap enthusiastically, but they were prepared with a clap track that was played over the PA system just in case.

My fellow open mic’ers were peppered throughout the show. A couple rappers here, a Christian poem there, an R&B singer here, another Christian poem there, and then me. All of a sudden a white dude with a guitar and a harmonica rolls onstage. After an awkward interview with the host of the show, I played my song. I couldn’t hear the backing track, which is pretty essential when you want to play along with it, and was told my guitar was inaudible as well. I had to stop at one point and listen to the bass to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.

I had planned on doing the moonwalk, a few backflips, and at least one stage dive but I was unable to focus on the dance moves on account of all the attention I was spending on just trying to make it through the song. It wasn’t until the harmonica came in that people seemed to get into it. I’m not really too sure though, I was mesmerized by the Billie Jean dance floor I was standing on and thinking about the smoke machine above me.

It can all be seen here. I go on around the 40 minute mark.

I finished, walked off the stage, and was followed by another spoken-word performer. Throughout the rest of the night, members of the audience, as well as the other performers, told me I did a good job. This was pretty funny to me because of all the problems that happened during the song. I wondered if they were just happy to see someone play music, instead of just speaking (not to take away from the spoken-word performers who were actually really good, well, some of them at least) or if they were just being nice. I would say it was the latter, but they seemed sincere. I’ve heard my share of insincere praise before, so I feel that I have the authority to tell the difference.

The show itself ended up being surprisingly good. The finalists in the show were really talented as well as being nice people. Overall, it was a good experience and I’m glad we actually found the place, even though the balloons weren’t as magnificent as I had hoped.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What I done did?!?

Ted wanted some beer. Weird. So we drove to the nearest grocery store to procure some. Not too interesting. Definitely not worth writing about. However, the disorderly drunk we saw on the way in certainly is.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed an ambulance. A little weird, but the lights were off and there was no hustle and/or bustle going on around it. We found a parking spot and started walking in. Before we reached the entrance, however, we heard some yelling and noticed there was a police car about ten yards away. I looked to my left and saw an awesome dude having an awesome night.

He had a cop on both sides of him, handcuffs on his wrists, and a big smile on his face. From what I remember, handcuffs aren’t too comfortable so he must have had some other awesome shit going on. Then I noticed that he was unable to walk in a straight line, even with the help of two police officers. Two men walked behind him, one of them obviously a manager of the grocery store, looking very displeased.

Snap judgment: Dude got drunk, went shopping, got a little nutty, and got the cops called on him. No biggie.

They put him in the back of the car, took off the handcuffs, and started talking with the other two men, leaving the car door open while standing next to it. They began discussing what happened and the drunk guy got agitated. Apparently, their account of the situation differed from his.

He got ornery and tried to stand up to let everyone know he was unsatisfied with the circumstances. There was some problem with his cell phone, and its whereabouts.

“Motha fucka I want my cell phone! I just paid fo’ that motha fucka today! Where my fuckin’ cell phone at?”

He began struggling with the cops as they tried to subdue him. This is when all of the drunk man’s dissatisfaction came out. One cop struggled with him through the open door while the other cop ran to the other side of the car, opened the door, and tried to subdue him. At this point, the drunk became a donkey.

“Stop fucking bucking me!” yelled the cop.

“What I done did?!? What I done did?!?” came screeching from the backseat.

While this scenario played out, a group of about ten people gathered to watch. I’m not sure why, but people figured Ted and I had all the information.

“What’s happening?”

“I’m not too sure, we walked up and saw this drunk dude in handcuffs,” I said as the man yelled and flailed in the background. “I’m guessing he was being a little disorderly.”

One woman we talked to was friends with one of the cops. She watched with a smile, obviously proud of her buddy for kicking some inebriated ass.

Eventually, the cops subdued the man and closed the door, breathing a sigh of relief. We decided the show was over so we walked into the grocery store. When we walked out, the scene was calm and the woman we spoke with earlier was talking to her cop friend. As we walked past, she said goodbye to her friend.

“So, what happened?” we asked her.

She looked a little disappointed. “Nothing too exciting,” she said.

“What, were you hoping for a knife or something?”

“Oh, no no no!” she said with a smile.

Too bad. I really wanted to see the cops beat the hell out of that guy. Normally, I’m fervently against police brutality. But, in this situation, I could see how a cop could get frustrated and rattle off a few punches to the face.

95% of all statistics are wrong.

While perusing Craigslist for jobs in October, I stumbled across a chance to make some easy money. Georgia State University had a posting for a study on the effects of alcohol on reaction time. It seemed they would get you drunk and see if your ability to respond to simple stimuli would be affected. Hmm, a chance to make some money while getting a few free drinks? Of course I’m going to call them.

After the initial telephone interview to make sure I was an acceptable candidate for the study, I was brought in to fill out some preliminary forms and questionnaires. This is when I became skeptical. I was asked to fill out a packet of about 40 pages. The first two pages related to my drinking habits and views on alcohol consumption, the other 38 related to my views on homosexuality. Hmm.

While making my way through college, I took a few psychology courses. In these classes, of course, we discussed different aspects of performing studies and different methods of collecting data. One of which was to lie to the participants to get a more realistic set of responses from them. I had this information going through my head immediately, and tried to figure out exactly what they were looking for during my time at the study center. I figured that whatever they told me, they were actually doing the opposite.

I showed up to the study center this morning to go through the second part of the study, in which we would be either drinking alcohol or straight orange juice (to act as the control group). I was told before I imbibed my first beverage that I would be a member of the control group. My first thought was, “Bummer, I was looking forward to drinking free vodka at nine in the morning.” Then, I realized that since they told me I was not going to be drinking alcohol, that I would most likely be getting alcohol. Maybe they were testing the affects of our outlook on being drunk instead of our reaction time.

I had seen a video of one such study in high school. The people performing the study went to a bar and bought nonalcoholic beer for everyone under the guise of a free promotion, or something along those lines. As the night went on, they interviewed some random drinkers and asked them how they were doing.

“I’ve had, like three pitchers. I’m pretty fucking hammered!” they would say.

At the end of the night they revealed to the group that the beer was nonalcoholic and you could watch everyone sober up in about thirty seconds. Turns out, getting drunk is as much as a mental trick as it is a physical impairment.

So, when they gave me my first glass of orange juice, I drank it while analyzing the taste for hints of vodka. Nothing. Then they gave me another, told me to finish it in ten minutes and then they came back in with a breathalyzer. This is where another flag went off. Why would they need to analyze my blood alcohol content if they were just giving me orange juice? I knew something was up. Truth is, I did feel a little different after the two cups of orange juice. But drunk? I don’t think so. It was probably the fact that there are vitamins and nutrients in orange juice that my body isn’t used to since I live a pretty unhealthy lifestyle.

“On a scale of one to eleven, eight being the most drunk you’ve ever been and eleven being even more drunk than that, how do you feel?” they asked me.


Honestly, if they had put vodka in that drink and asked me the same question, my response would most likely have been the same. I’m from Wisconsin, two drinks are basically like stretching my legs before running a marathon.

They had me sitting in a room while the other participant sat in another room down the hall. The idea was that we would compete with each other. A thing on the computer would tell us when to release the space bar and whoever let go second would receive a shock.

The room consisted of a computer in front of me, a camera behind that and a television next to the camera. The reason for the camera, I was told, was so the experimenter wouldn’t have to walk between the two rooms to make sure things were going correctly.

Before the test began, the TV sprung to life and I could see the other participant sitting by the computer, fidgeting with the shocking mechanism that was attached to his fingers, just like me. I could hear the experimenter say that the other participant’s ride was there. This was another flag. I was told that if we drank alcohol that we would have to sit around for up to eight hours, until our BAC came back down to normal. The experimenter walked into the room and asked the other participant how drunk he felt. He responded with “six.” Six? You’re only two points away from being the drunkest you have ever been after two measly drinks? Either this guy is the biggest lightweight ever, an embellisher, or a liar.

Then, his friend walked in, another dude. They gave each other a big hug, and discussed their plans for going to a movie later tonight. They kissed, said “I love you,” and the friend left. This is when I remembered all of the questions from my last visit about homosexuality. I figured I had the experiment sussed out. After this, they had a “problem” with the TVs and they were turned off.

The experiment started. Whoever won the task of releasing the space bar first got to shock the other person on an ascending level of power from one to ten. Of course, I immediately figured I would fry the bastard on ten the whole time strictly on the basis of it being funnier to tell everyone that I ruined some guy’s morning. By the time the experiment started, however, I figured out that this is exactly what they wanted me to do. They wanted to see if I hated gay people and would punish this guy strictly for his sexual preference. So, I elected to give him the lightest shock possible.

The shocks went exactly as I had thought they would. First they gave me the lightest ones, to build a sense of camaraderie, I guess, before giving me the largest shocks towards the end. They wanted me to retaliate by shocking the hair off of the other guy. But I stuck with the light shocks.

After the test was finished, they handed me another questionnaire to see if I hated gay people yet. Nope. Then the administrator came in to tell me what the study was all about.

“You are the only participant here today. The video we showed you was recorded earlier with two actors reading from a script.” Duh. “The test was rigged so you would receive a predetermined level of shocks throughout the course of the experiment.” Duh. “We were actually testing your level of aggression towards homosexuals to see if it would grow with the increased level of shocks.” Duh. “You don’t seem too surprised by this.”

I told him that I had basically known the study was about views on homosexuality from the first day I came in. “You should probably try to add a few more questions about alcohol to off-set the insane amount of questions about homosexuality in that 40 page packet.”

He just laughed and told me that he thought it was a little easy to see through as well. Then he told me that some people saw through it like I did, but 95% of the people buy into it.

This confuses me. I’m guessing that most of the participants in the study are college students and I’m also guessing that a large percentage of college students, at one point of another, take a psychology course as part of their general requirements. The methodology of these studies is generally covered in the introductory courses. So, people should know about these kind tricks and tactics.

Regardless, I got $35 out of the experience and something to talk about when an awkward silence fills the room. It’s too bad they have to throw out all of the information they got from me. Sorry, GSU, for wasting your time. But, thanks for the OJ and the cash.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Neon Deion

I hit the sidewalk and, of course, had to stop walking because the dog was infatuated with a patch of grass and refused to move. Nothing new. While she explored, I took the time to look around since I have no interest at staring at her asshole as it opens up to perform its duty.

Today, while she examined the grass, I noticed a couple of dudes walking towards me. I had headphones on so I couldn’t hear exactly what he said but I could tell by his huge smile that he was happy to see me. The man had a closely shaven beard and cheap, but not bum-like, clothes. Before I could take off my headphones to see what he wanted, I inferred from his body language that it was hug-time.

It was a soft embrace. Not one that you would receive at Christmas after a long flight from the other side of the country, but still, nice. But, really, when does a hug suck? Don’t worry, I didn’t jump into this hug without any regard for my own well-being. I was conscious of my pockets the whole time and kept my eye on his friend in case it was a sneak attack. This, however, wasn’t necessary. After our soft embrace ran its course I was able to take off my headphones and see what the hell was going on.

“Hey man! How ya doin’?” he asked.

I run into this situation from time to time, as I’m sure everyone does. Say someone calls and you don’t recognize the number, you talk to them as if you know who it is until you are able to figure it out from the subtle clues of the conversation. Same deal when it happens face-to-face, except you have to mind your facial expressions as well. Head nods are a good tool, hand motions, basically anything where you can seem agreeable without actually saying anything.

“You, know. I’m good,” I responded, nodding my head.

He stood in front me, mimicking the head nods, smiling. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”

“Uhh, no.”

“Yeah you probably don’t recognize me. Deion. Desert Storm Vet. Last time I had a long beard and was all homeless. I remember you though, man. You helped me out. I gotta tell you, I know it didn’t come back to you yet, but it will!” Big smiles all around. Even his buddy got in on the action.

First of all, I was amazed that this guy recognized me. Second of all, I was amazed that he knew that the karma he felt I was afforded hadn’t come back to me yet. I mean, do I really look like my shit is all messed up?

Also, I was amazed that I had helped the guy out. When I first moved to Milwaukee, I gave money to beggars all the time. I knew a lot of the people that asked for money didn’t really need it but I figured if only one out of five needed it, then good enough for me. This was also a time where I had a lot of money saved up from working in a paper mill so it wasn’t hard for me to hand out a few dollars here and there. Eventually though, after meeting and talking to a lot of beggars, I grew jaded. I stopped giving money to people all together except for when they had a really good story or put on an interesting show. One guy told me a joke that used all the letters of the alphabet in order from A to Z. That guy deserved all the pennies in my ashtray.

After Deion and his friend left I walked down the street trying to remember where I had met him, how he remembered me, and what joke he told me to deserve whatever I gave him.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Exciting Excitations.

I looked into the cupboard this morning to figure out what to eat for breakfast. Translation: Which kind of Ramen Noodles will I have today? I gazed onto the pile of square packages that reside behind the wooden door.

Chicken? No. Oriental? Nah. Wait a second. Is that? Yes! A package of roast beef flavored Ramen!

I hadn’t had this flavor for a while so I was excited to jump back into it. Almost immediately, I thought, “Well, that’s a strange thing to get excited about.”

Lately, I’ve found myself getting excited over mundane aspects of my days. I don’t know if my being poor and unemployed contribute to this, but I have a suspicion that it does.


A couple of nights ago, I ran into a bum. Weird, right? We were getting into my car as he started giving us words of wisdom. “Unlock my door. Unlock my door,” Ted repeated as I continued listening to the bum. We finally got inside the car and the bum walked on over and began telling us that he loves us. Which was nice. He saw the change collection I had and, of course, requested his share. I grabbed a handful of pennies and handed it to him. He asked for another, so I gave it to him. When he finally left I found myself excited that I had successfully avoided the three quarters while handing the man handfuls of pennies. I could easily turn those quarters into a burger from the dollar menu.

I found a giant cockroach in my bedroom last night as I was trying to fall asleep. I heard it. HEARD it. That’s how I learned it was there. It put on its loud boots and clomped around until it caught my attention. I saw it, swore, stood up, grabbed a shoe, and then contemplated the attack. After psyching myself up I finally ended it. As I picked up the shoe, the cockroach’s legs were still twitching and I continued yelling, “Oh no. Oh no. Oh no,” until it was fully flushed and out of my life. Then I got excited that I didn’t have to deal with it anymore.

Taking the dog out can prove to be an annoying experience. She has no attention span and is very stubborn. She’s like a child without a diaper or the potential to eventually clean up her own shit. So, when I take her out and she pees/shits immediately, I get excited. I don’t have to walk behind her going, “C’mon. C’mon!” I don’t have to step over the other piles of shit that other dogs have left behind. Most importantly, I can return to the couch without delay. I’ve always thought it funny that people get excited when dogs relive themselves (assuming I’m not alone in this). “Good girl! Yeah! Take that piss! This is awesome!” Picturing somebody standing behind a dog, making eye contact with the shit as it slides its way to the ground, and getting excited makes me laugh.

Maybe it’s a good thing to get excited about little things like this. I’ve always thought that if I could look at the world like a four-year-old, when everything was new and interesting, I would be much better off. I once watched a kid open and close a door, giggling like a drunk, for fifteen minutes. Click, open, slam, close, laugh. Repeat. That’s all he needed.

The more I think about it, I think this is just my inherent laziness coming out. If I can be happy opening and closing a door then I won’t have to go out and find something to entertain myself with. Whatever, I don’t mind. Maybe I should just start huffing paint fumes every day until I become clinically retarded.

We’ll just say that my getting excited about a new flavor of Ramen or holding onto my quarters after a bum attack are good things. Little spices to make my day better. We’ll ignore the connotations of an 18 cent meal and the perceived high value of quarters that point to my being a bum with a roof. Because, honestly, that’s all that is separating me and the man that told me he loved me in the parking lot of the grocery store.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Driving in Atlanta is stupid.

I began noticing differences within the first half hour of the first day I came to Atlanta. I had always heard about how bad the traffic is here, which I attributed to a large population. Rush hour. You can’t blame anyone for rush hour.

This, however, is not the reason driving in Atlanta sucks. Sure, there are way too many cars. And, sure, they don’t have any form of required driver’s education classes to take before you get your license so no one knows how to drive a car. And, sure, the lanes are far too narrow and the traffic lights screw up occasionally. These are problems, but, really, nothing you can easily point to as an absurdity worthy of ridicule (well, maybe). My main beef with driving around here are the traffic signs.

I noticed this one when I was being shown around town the first day. At first glance, I recognized it as the Ghostbusters symbol but without the ghost. I’ve seen this red circle before and know it to mean that whatever is in the middle is bad. No whatever-is-in-the-middle allowed. But, since this sign has nothing in the middle, I was led to believe nothing was allowed in the intersection. No nothing allowed. It took me a few months but I finally figured out what it means. The sign is placed on the opposite side of the intersection that it faces and is over oncoming traffic. The lane it sits over lines up with the left-turn-only lane from the sign’s point of view. This makes sense, kind of. This means that they put the sign up because too many people were pulling into the left turn lane, thinking it was a normal lane, and driving head first into oncoming traffic. This must have happened a great number of times to warrant the pressing of these signs and placement of them throughout the city.

Next, street names. The city planners of Atlanta thought up about seven street names and just decided to repeat them no matter how confusing it makes the daily commute. Going for a job interview in a part of town you’ve never been before? Make sure to print out the directions from Mapquest and then throw them right out the window. While driving around to take a picture for an example of this, I found three intersections besides the one I had in mind.

Two of these occurred on the same street, two miles apart.

That’s right, there are two intersections of Ponce De Leon and Ponce De Leon within the same zip code.

The original target for the example was the corner of Clifton Road, East Clifton Road, and, again, Clifton Road. The first time I saw this sign I thought my head was going to explode. It is a three-way intersection where, I guess, Clifton turns into East Clifton and is intersected by Clifton. That makes sense, right?

Kramer knows what I'm talking about.

ALSO, there are 71 streets with a variation of the name Peachtree. Just sayin’.

The streets are confusing enough that, on this same excursion to find stupidity in traffic signs, I saw a fire truck get lost. I had a green light at an intersection and wasn’t moving. I was wondering why, but I wasn’t wondering too hard. When in Atlanta, you just have to assume you’re going to see someone do something stupid whenever you leave the house. After about 15 seconds a fire truck slowly entered the intersection. Once again, I didn’t give it much thought since the truck was crossing against the light. He just wanted to be safe. However, I saw the driver pause in the middle of the intersection, look around, and slowly continue through. After the truck passed, the light turned red and I had to wait. Before my light turned green, the same fire truck, lights still flashing, turned the corner a block ahead of me and came back through the intersection, turning left, going the opposite way it had originally came.

The driver had no idea where he was going.

Lastly, the parking situation here is a little interesting. It seems that you can park on either side of the street, facing either direction, whenever the hell you want to. I saw this car parked nose-to-nose with another car.

This isn’t unusual. The best part? Not only is the car parked the wrong way, but it’s also blocking a driveway. That’s right, there’s a driveway right outside the car’s driver-side door.

These are the reasons it sucks driving in Atlanta. I refuse to leave my house between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. unless it is absolutely essential. If you ever decide to visit Atlanta, take this advice to heart. Also, if it starts raining, pull over immediately. Once the ground gets wet, everyone shuts their eyes and forgets that they don’t know how to drive.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Atlanta Pride.

They didn’t start serving drinks until 12:30. I know it was before noon but, goddamnit how am I supposed to enjoy a gay pride parade without being drunk? My choices were to either tally as many dude-blowjobs as possible or get drunk and dance the afternoon away. Luckily I had a water bottle half-full of whiskey to hold me over.

Once 12:30 rolled around we placed out drinks at Park Tavern and waited. And waited. I know that Coors is brewed in Colorado but I was hoping they would have at least some sitting around behind the bar. After we flagged a waiter and told him our server abandoned us, the waitress came back and took everyone’s orders again. Everyone besides me.

“Am I here? I’m here right?” I asked the person next to me.

Once in a while I need to make sure I’m still around. Automatic faucets seem to never work for me and people never move out of my way on the sidewalk. My only explanation is that I cease to exist every once in a while.

After finally getting our drinks we take off to find the festivities. There were gay people everywhere but no blowjobs. What kind of gay festival is this? We stumbled upon a cop and figured she could help us out.

“Do you know where the free blowjobs are?” a friend of mine asked.

She didn’t.

We found an open spot and waited for the parade to make its way to us. We could see it coming down the street like a typhoon of self-comfort and flamboyant cheer. Sailors without shirts. Roller skaters without shirts. Leather pants…without shirts.

As the floats and cars cruised by we decided to give something back to the paraders. I mean, they were giving so much to us. We offered pepperjack Cheez-Its to all comers and only a few were willing to jump onboard. The ones who refused, however, were not free from the cheese. I perfected a Cheez-It toss much like that of a Frisbee. The arc is the thing you have to get control of. Cheez-Its began flying at all angles towards all comers. Dancing on top of a float? Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a treat. Zing.

We danced, slapped high fives, threw food, and drank in the gayest way possible and had a great time doing it. However, the group of lesbians ten feet away didn’t share my enthusiasm.

“Hey! Watch your mouth. There are kids around!” they said.

I looked left and right. Up the street and down the street. I was not able to spot one child. Even if there was a child, it’s pretty unlikely that it would be able to hear me due to the music being played at such a high volume. Besides, I don’t judge them for their lifestyle choice. Why should they judge me if I like to swear and tell cross dressers that I want to sleep with them. That’s unfair and they are hypocrites.

This led me to wonder, if a lesbian were to beat me up, would I be the victim of a hate crime? I decided that yes I would which gave me more motivation to ignore their warnings. I could’ve been the next Malcom X, but for straight people at gay pride events.

The festivities eventually ended and we made our way out. I left my friends to turn down a street where I though my car was waiting for me. It wasn’t. I walked around the neighborhood for a half hour before finally finding my beautiful, green Chevrolet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BET awards

When I heard the BET awards were going to be in the Atlanta Civic Center, I immediately thought of the door leading from my apartment complex to their back parking lot. I knew the roads would be blocked off, but I doubted they would notice a tiny door in the back corner of the lot. The second thing I thought of was how a few years ago a mini-riot broke out at the BET awards, so, I was excited.

The parking lot has a little alcove in back that is outlined by the fence that surrounds our apartment building. The fence has a door in it that would go unnoticed by a cursory glance over the area if you didn’t already know it was there. The door requires a key to get in and out of, so the only people that use it are our neighbors.

We sat around Saturday afternoon wondering if the red carpet would be in the back or front. Of course, it was in the front so we didn’t get to see the ridiculousness of that. I periodically walked back there to see if there was anything going on. All I saw was a parking lot filled with police, security guards, and RVs.

7:30 rolled around and we decided to just walk out there and see what was happening. We were sure the event had started but didn’t really know what to expect. While walking back we spoke with a neighbor that said the awards would be over at 8:00. This surprised me but then I remembered that Snoop and Ludacris had a party to throw at Club Esso. They had shit to do.

Ted, my dog Alameda, and I walked through the gate and along the fence that had been set up in the middle of the parking lot. The dog wasn’t too fond of the walk. Too many noises. The parking lot had some action towards the building but the lot was near vacant, besides a few random security guards bumbling around. We walked up to what we figured led to the stage/backstage area and camped out.

A line of SUVs pulled up to the curb next to us with their doors open, eagerly awaiting some sort of hip-hop artist. Some people milled about, a few walked out of the building and hopped in cars but we had no idea who they were.

“Holy shit,” Ted said. “Here comes Ice Cube.”

A few seconds later, Ice Cube appeared like the sun through broken clouds after a hurricane. Seeing famous people in person is a little weird. Not because they are so great and worthy of a huge amount of adoration, but because they look SO much like themselves. Like, almost a little too much like themselves to the point where they seem like a caricature.

“Hey Cube, say hi to my dog!” I said over the bustle of his posse.

Without breaking stride he glanced over and said, “What’s up dog?” After taking a few more steps he felt the need to elaborate. “I was talking to the dog,” he said with a laugh.

As he hopped into his SUV we looked at each other as if to say, “Holy shit. That was the crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube from the gang called Niggaz With Attitudes."

We stood around joking about Are We There Yet 3 before Ted said, “Well, there’s Missy Elliot.”

I turned my head and saw her hop into one of the SUVs behind us.

“Huh, good thing it’s not raining,” I said.

“Yeah she can't stand that shit,” replied Ted. Another minute passes and he says, “Hey, here comes Snoop.”

Sure enough, I look to my left and see a group of about seven people with Snoop in the middle. He was wearing an all black outfit with the words “Amerikaz Most Wanted” written on the back. His hair hung long around his black sunglasses even though the sun had sunk beneath the horizon an hour before.

“Hey Snoop, pet my dog!” I yelled.

He slowed his roll and glanced over, simply laughing to himself as he continued walking towards the RVs.

We figured we couldn’t do much better than Snoop and Ice Cube so we just walked back home, calling and texting everyone we thought would enjoy the story as much as we did.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Neighborhood bar.

O’Terrill’s is a bar down the street from our apartment complex. From the outside it looks like a low key place that would most likely be inhabited by alcoholics in their mid-forties, women wearing Looney Tunes shirts, and extra greasy bar food to wash down your beer. We had talked of making this bar our “Cheers,” but haven’t actually made it there before last night.

We walked in and sat at the bar on one of the many open barstools. Saturday night at ten o’clock and the bar is near empty. This is a good sign.

After ordering our drinks and making the usual conversation with the bartender, we get introduced to Rufus. Rufus is the owner of O’Terrill’s. His last name is Terrill, but his bar is called “O’Terrill’s.” Why the extra O? “Rufus’s middle name starts with an “O” and Rufus's bride's middle name starts with an “O." So there you have it: O’Terrill’s!” states the bar’s website.

The first thing he tells us about is the Bumbot, which sat seven feet behind us. Turns out, Rufus worked for the Department of Defense and built weapons. Now that he owns a bar, he still finds time for engineering experiments. “Google it, it’s one of the top five most evil robots of all time,” he told us. Turns out, he wasn’t lying.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Difference Makers - BumBot
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Bumbot is a PG version of the robot that protects his house. We’ve all seen the kid’s toys that are little dogs, take a few steps, bark a few whimpy yelps, and then do a backflip. Right? Well, he has one that has a gun for a nose. Once it does a backflip, it shoots you. This is what protects his house, or so he tells us.

He then went into the story of how he came to Atlanta forty years ago. He grew up in Florida in the Everglades where his family poached alligators. They would take out about twelve every night, skin the stomachs, and leave the carcass where it was. When his Dad got caught, the judge realized that if he sentenced him to prison (he was facing twenty years) the state would have to support Rufus and his two siblings. The solution? The family was kicked out of the state and can’t go back. Or so he tells us.

We asked him how he felt about the location of his bar, which is located a few blocks east of Peachtree, a popular bar street. Piedmont, the street O’Terrill’s is located on, is much less happenin’. Across the street from the bar is Renaissance Park. The park is nice but it’s the large population of homeless people that live there that make it an undesirable neighbor for a bar.

“The location sucks. But at least it’s good for bum fishing,” he tells us.

“Yeah, okay. Bum fishing…”

“Seriously, you want to see my rig?”

“Of course we do.”

Rufus leads us to the patio where we see what looks to be a barber chair. Once we get close enough we realize it’s actually a deep-sea fishing chair. Resting on the railing in front of the chair is a large fishing pole. At the end of the line is a lure covered in electrical tape with a one dollar bill scotch taped to the end.

“You see, it takes them about thirty seconds to get the tape off, so you got about a thirty second fight every time,” he tells me after he makes me sit in the chair.

“Do you actually go deep-sea fishing?” Ted asked.

“Yeah, for bums,” replied Rufus. “I’d much rather fish for people. They’re smarter. It’s more fun.”

I’m not sure how much of these stories should be believed, but I’ll just tell myself they are all true. The Bumbot was proved true, so maybe he really is a fugitive gator-poacher that builds robots in his spare time. Either way, we’ll be making sure all the bartenders there know our names by the end of the month.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dragon Con: A nerd's wet dream.

I only got about two blocks before my house before I realized my grave mistake.

“Shit, I forgot my camera.”

I usually don’t bother taking many pictures of my activities, even when I say to myself, “I’m gonna take some pictures today.” I really wanted that camera with me on Saturday, but, I guess not enough to walk the two blocks back to my apartment.

A camera was necessary because I knew I would be attending an event called Dragon Con. My understanding of the event was that a lot of people dressed as characters from their favorite nerdly medium would gather in a hotel and discuss who would win in a fight. Superman or Spiderman? Pokemon or Ryu? Whateverthefuck or Whoeverthefuck?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Space Law

A favorite activity of mine when at a party is to find someone who seems to be either really drunk, dumb, or a combination of the two and start lying to them. There are two ways to go about doing this. I either go the completely ridiculous route or I actually try to convince them of something.

Ridiculous route:

I was leaving a bar the other night and a guy asked me which type of law I practiced. This may seem like a strange question, but I was hanging out with a group of law students so he figured that I was part of their club too. I mean, why would law students hang out with someone that isn’t in law school? That just doesn’t make sense.

Prior to being asked this question I had decided that I didn’t like this guy. He made some sweeping statements towards our table and I had him blacklisted basically right from the start. This includes calling him an asshole to his face, which is why I was surprised when he inquired about my specialty in law.

“Superheroes and monsters,” I told him.


“Superheroes and monsters. I represent superheroes and monsters.”

“Ha ha ha, c’mon man. Really.”

“Superheroes get in trouble a lot in comic books and I have to bail them out. It’s a necessary service.”

I walked away and caught up with my friends.

“That guy was an asshole, right?” I asked.

They all agreed.

Convincing route:

I attended another law school get-together a couple of nights ago. It was a get-to-know-ya engagement for all of the new students that started class last week. It was decided early on that if the question of what kind of law I practiced came up that the answer would be a lie.

The night got fairly far along before the question was finally posed. Again, I had decided that the questioner was a dumbass so I didn’t feel bad about lying to him.

“Space law.”

“What, really?”

“Yeah. There’s going to be a big to-do about the plots of land on the moon soon and I want to be at the forefront of that scene.”

He thought for a moment. Not about how plausible this scenario was, but how awesome it was. It didn’t take him long to decide it was top-notch cool.

“That is AWESOME!” he told me with a giant grin on his face before slapping me a pretty hardcore high five. He seemed genuinely excited about me working in space. I then decided to stop hating him and downgrade to just being annoyed by him. He meant well.

My favorite party lie came out a few years ago. I was sitting in a garage at my friend’s house in Appleton when I decided that the girl across me from wasn’t too bright. I decided to convince her that I was born in Africa.

We did the usual introduction questions: “What is your name?” “Where are you from?”

“Zambia,” I told her.

She looked at me as if I had spoken to her in tones instead of words.

“What? That’s not even a country,” she said.

“Yes it is. It’s in southern Africa. That’s where I was born before moving to Canada and finally here.”

“Yeah right. You’re not African.”

“I sure am.” No smile. No hint that I was making this up as I went along. The first rule in selling a ridiculous lie is to believe it yourself. As George Costanza said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it’s true.”

“But you’re not black,” she said.

I ignored this brief venture into rationality.

“And you know what? The crazy thing about moving to a different country is all the small things that you don’t think about.” Sell it with small, specific details. “Like traffic for instance. People drive in a completely different manner here than they do in Zambia.”

She looked at me for a moment with skeptical eyes, arms crossed. Her stern posture began to soften as I looked back at her with a confident demeanor as if I had just solved a math equation for her and was sure if it’s validity.

She finally leaned forward and said, “Wow, that’s so cool.”

It was at this point a friend of mine walked into the garage. She looked at him and said, “Hey, did you know this guy’s from Africa?”

He looked over at me and said, “What? Josh? No he’s not!”

I laughed and the girl walked away, defeated.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lady Gaga

I wrote a little deal about Lady Gaga's song, "Love Game." It didn't make it onto the site it was written for so I figured I might as well just plop it in here.

Here ya go:

There’s no mistaking this song is about sex. There’s no way to twist the words to find another meaning, no way to be led in any other direction than the bedroom. You don’t need to go any further than the first line to figure it out.

“Let’s have some fun, this beat is sick
I want to take a ride on your disco stick.”

Yeah, that’s right. She says “disco stick.” Now, you might be able to make the case that a disco stick could mean something as harmless as a stripper pole, but that’s not the case. We all know she’s talking about grinding on somebody until she comes in her pants. I know, I don’t like it any more than you.

Songs celebrating women’s sexuality is nothing new. I think everyone remembers Khia’s hit in 2002, “My Neck, My Back,” not to mention Madonna, Lil’ Kim, and Trina. It’s songs like this that female artists put out to try to take sexuality back into their hands. “No longer will we let men be the only ones that can be whores and have it be perfectly acceptable,” seems to be their battle cry. Another example from "Love Game":

“I’m educated in sex, yes,
And now I want it bad, want it bad.”

I’m all for women to be treated as equals, dropping the double standards and treating people like people, but this is a step in the wrong direction. Misogynistic songs have been around for so long that people don’t even take notice. This doesn’t mean it’s okay. Racism has been around for a while too and may be accepted by some (I’m looking at you, the south) but that doesn’t make it right.

Women making songs like "Love Game" are following a trend that shouldn’t be followed. The only thing that will come from it is that the misogynists that either make songs like this or simply enjoy this song are only going to subjugate women even more because women are voluntarily jumping into the roles the men ask of them.

Aside from the misplaced feminism of Lady Gaga’s hit song, another thing hit me when I was listening to it. This is not a new revelation since I have it almost every time I turn on the radio, but, the song is horrible. I mean, really bad. Dangerously bad. Suck-out-your-brain-and-make-you-dumb-like-The-Riddler’s-machine-in-Batman-Forever kind of bad.

Lady Gaga should be arrested and all of her fans euthanized.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Drinking can turn you into a detective.

It’s quite an experience to wake up lost. No idea where you are or how you had gotten there. It sets you up for a full day of solving mysteries. This is the trick I pulled yesterday.

I woke up on the floor. When I sat up and looked around, I said “I have no idea where I am.” I began running through the events of the previous day, looking for any clues as to how I may have ended up on a random floor.

My apartment complex threw a “community event” at the pool in the afternoon. This included a large quantity of free hotdogs, chips, soda, DIY ice cream sundaes, and a DJ. We sat by the pool enjoying all the free stuff when the competitions began.

I didn’t particularly want to join the bout of musical chairs, but they were short a few people so I joined. After a lengthy battle I was the sole person sitting in a chair when the music stopped which won me a ten dollar gift card to a restaurant. Cool.

Almost immediately after that, the cannonball contest started. This is when the training Ted and I had done all summer came in handy. People performed the textbook cannonballs while being scored on a one-to-ten basis. They had some good looking cannonballs but they didn’t know what they were in for when it was my turn. I performed a running backflip cannonball which secured me a twenty-five dollar gift card to a different restaurant.

Next up was the bellyflop contest. Ted decided to join this one so I knew I would have some competition. It was set up for three rounds. We easily made it into the second round and then into the third round. The final round was simply between Ted and I. We knew that no matter what we were both going to be using that card so we didn’t really care who won. It was all for bragging rights. Ted did a 360 Christ Air belly flop. As I tried to come up with a flop to beat his I went blank. I had no idea what to do so I just jumped in while grabbing my ankles behind my back. I was hoping for splash points but I guess I didn’t get enough. Ted walked away with the fifty dollar gift card.

We walked up to the DJ afterwards to claim our prizes. The person who set up the event walked up to us and thanked us for entertaining the pool. Seriously. Then a girl came up to me and told me I was her hero.

We got our cards and continued hanging out by the pool. I found a crew of super nice gay dudes that were more than willing to fill beer bongs for races. I hung out with them for a while, bonging beer, before we finally called it a day on the pool.

We went inside and I think this is where my trouble started. Events start getting foggy around this point in time. The majority of the rest of the story was told to me the next day by my friends. It goes like this:

We went to a party at one of Ted’s friends. I had never met the guy before and I bet if I meet him again it will be the first time all over again. I met a girl at the party who had a shirt that kind of looked like a doily. Thus, she was dubbed “doily” for the rest of the night. I introduced myself and asked her if we had met before. “Maybe once or twice,” she responded. After I walked away, however, doily told my friend that she and I had met about five times. Whoops.

I was introduced to another guy at the party. “So your name is [insert name]? You wanna have a handstand contest?” He looked at me as if I had guessed the name of the street he grew up on before starting to laugh. I was making a really good impression on everyone that night.

We then left the party to meet another friend at a bar. Somehow I managed to pick a girl up immediately and hung out with her for the night. I’m really curious as to how I could have been anywhere close to smooth since I had been blacked out for a good two hours by that point.

Bar close came up and my friends were heading home. I was still talking to the girl and Ted decided that he would help me out by saying, “Alright, we’re gonna go. You two have fun,” thus basically making me go home with her. I’m guessing she and I took a taxi to her house and I’m guessing I fell asleep on her floor as soon as I got there.

This is how I ended up on a floor without knowing how it happened or where I was. Keep in mind I didn’t figure any of this out until Ted finally picked me up around noon the next day. This is also when I learned that my friend stole a Waffle House shirt from a guy. Now, when I say she stole a shirt from a guy, I don’t mean that she went into his closet and took it, or saw it lying on the floor, she walked up to him and ripped it off of his back. This is the shirt she wore when we went to Waffle House for breakfast after I got out of the mystery house.

Also, I just spoke with a friend of mine while writing this. She told me that I called her while going from the party to the bar and I told her that we were going to go swimming and that she needed to bring burritos.

When Ted and Diane (the Waffle House girl) got back to our apartment after leaving me with some girl, he realized that he didn’t have his house key. This meant only one thing: Ted had to break in. He hopped two fences and broke out the screen from a window and was inside in no time. It’s kind of scary to know how easy it is to break into our house. No more leaving the windows open when we leave.

All in all it was a pretty successful day. When I finally got home I checked my bank account on the internet. I was horrified that I had opened a tab at the bar or paid for the cab ride to the mystery girl’s house. I know I’m broke and can’t afford these things, but blackout-Josh knows nothing of the sort. Luckily, I made it through the night without spending a dime. I’m still pretty curious as to what that girl’s name is, though.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Exploded a Cockroach

One of the first things I heard before moving to Atlanta was to watch out for cockroaches. People made it seem like there were roaming packs of renegade roaches that would pounce and you and eat your eyeballs.

Luckily, this is not the case. I see cockroaches fairly frequently, but usually outside and not in large numbers. I normally see them on the sidewalk, skittering away from me like I’m the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The apartment I live in is usually kept pretty clean and before today I had only seen one cockroach. Before today.

I saw it run towards the kitchen and immediately got tough. “Oh you little fucker,” I said, trying to intimidate the insect. I grabbed a square of paper towel as a weapon. I paused and went back for another, it could get messy.

I stood above the little guy, who was relaxing next to the wall. I looked down on him and over to the paper towel in my hand. I inspected his exoskeleton and decided a couple thin sheets of paper wouldn’t provide me with the protection I felt I deserved. I looked to my right and saw a sandal on the floor.

I grabbed it and wasted no time going after my target. It started to run so I slapped it without mercy. Once I hit it, pieces of the cockroach and various goos shot out from under the sandal. My tough demeanor immediately dissipated and I squealed like a little girl. It was disgusting. I picked up the sandal and saw the cockroach in a pile of its own innards with the nerves in one of its remaining legs twitching. It was like a scene from a horror movie.

The fact that this grossed me out is a little funny when compared to my cockroach holocaust by the pool a few weeks ago. I had been drinking and decided that I would be the savior of the pool and annihilate as many cockroaches as possible. This involved lunging handslaps from within the pool and karate chops when out of the pool.

It was a hell of a lot more gross than my encounter today, but I didn’t mind. Maybe it was the fact that it was nighttime and I didn’t see the guts and carnage my attacks brought forth. Or maybe it was the beer.

Whatever the case, that cockroach today was fucking disgusting. I don’t think I’ll go into the kitchen for a while.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm an idiot.

It’s not a secret. If we’ve known each other for a week you know it. If we’ve only talked a few times I may be able to fool you, but that won’t last long. Concrete evidence of this fact: I locked my keys in my car today.

I turned off my car and sat in the driver’s seat for a moment, reading a book. I showed up to an appointment early so I figured I’d kill some time.

“Hmm, this car’s a little warm. Maybe I’ll sit outside and read while I wait.”

Processing that one thought in my mind completely eliminated the fact that I hadn’t taken the keys out of the ignition. I opened the car door and stood there, with the door open, rolling up my window. This afforded me about five extra seconds to think about my keys.

It’s a little surprising that I didn’t since I have a long-standing distrust of pockets and my ability to have all necessary instruments for my day. I’m constantly patting my pocket to make sure my phone is there. Or slapping my own ass to make sure my wallet is secured. This is why I keep my keys on a clip attached to my pants. It’s not a fashion statement. It’s because I don’t trust my pockets or myself to hold onto them.

After rolling up the window I began closing the door. I thought about how I hoped it wouldn’t rain before I got home. I thought about how nice it was that it wasn’t two hundred degrees outside like it has been lately. I probably thought about a sandwich too but I definitely didn’t think about where my keys were.

Before I moved to Atlanta I worked as a pizza delivery driver. During my time at this job I grew a habit of opening my door and locking it in a continuous motion. I do it every time I open the door as a reflex since I had to do it a hundred times every shift. I guess my hands trust society less than my mind trusts pockets.

The car door closed and I immediately knew what happened. I froze. My mouth began forming curse words before I even checked my empty back pocket for my keys. I pressed my face against the window like I was trying to lick it and saw my keys dangling from the ignition.

This set off a momentary fit.

I immediately thought of the last time this happened to me. I was on a delivery for the pizza place. I had only to run up to the house and drop off some soda so I left the car running.

“This will only take a second,” I thought. “No need to even turn off the car.” However, when I stepped out, my distrustful reflex locked my door for me and I was screwed. Not only were my keys locked in, but the car was also running.

I called my roommate to bring the extra set but he was a half hour out of town. I had to wait by my car, which was parked in the middle of the road, without a hat or gloves in the middle of January in Milwaukee. I believe it was negative ten degrees Fahrenheit that day. It also didn’t help that there was a sign on top of my car that drew more attention and might as well have read, “Hey everybody! This guy here is a fucking idiot!”

I proved my stupidity today but it could have been worse. My roommate brought my keys to me with a smile on his face so I didn’t need to worry about that. At least this time I didn’t freeze my ass off while my car ran in the middle of the street.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I got a job the other day.

I have officially quit my job. And when I say quit, I mean I am just not going back. This week I had two days of orientation and one day of one-the-job training. What is the wonderful job I was able to get? Meat salesman. Door-to-door meat salesman. Yeah.

I showed up at The Cattle Exchange at 8:30 in the morning. We were supposed to be there by nine so we could start heading out with other drivers. Of course, we had to sit around and listen to more pointless motivational speeches until people were ready to finally leave. There were about thirty people in the class and we were getting pulled out one by one. Drivers were leaving pretty slowly so it was taking some time to get people out to train.

Eventually, a few of us just stood outside in hope of getting picked simply because we were in their line of sight. This worked out perfectly for me.

A tall, thin guy named Tim came up to me and said, “Hey, do you have a license?”


“Alright, let’s go.”

And I was off. I was lucky to be standing where I was because I’m sure everybody didn’t get the opportunity to go out and train. This would mean I would be at the store again today waiting to decide that I hated selling steak door-to-door. I’m almost positive a handful of people had to sit in that stinky, hot room for a few hours after I left until they were told it just wasn’t going to happen for them that day. I would have been livid, as I’m sure the rest of them were.

The company gives you a truck with a freezer on the back and you cruise around looking for people who like steak. That’s the job. The van Tim and I were assigned, however, didn’t have a freezer so we had to take one off of another truck and put it in ours. Not only was the freezer missing a part of the lid, but it wouldn’t stay closed. As you can imagine, this doesn’t help in keeping the frozen meat frozen for long. Our method of fixing this problem: Cinder block on top of the freezer door.

This meant that every time I had to quickly decelerate, the block would slide towards us and fly off of the freezer. If I hadn’t been paying attention it very well could have cracked one of us on the back of the head as the freezer was right behind our seats.

After we got everything loaded up we cruised to the area around my house. We hit Boulevard, which is known to be a bit on the shady side, and he starts yelling out of the window.

“Hey man! I got steak at ‘hood prices! Three dollars a cut!”

Normally, this might make me a little nervous, as he said he was making a point to look for “dopers.” However, Tim’s a black dude and I felt like I had a permission slip to be there.

After cruising around for a while and not making any sales, we decide to head north to Gwinnett where Tim had a client. We arrived to find that he couldn’t get a hold of him/her.

“It’s cool man, we’ll just get a couple of beers and head to my sister’s house.”

We headed to a gas station where Tim jumped out. “What kind of beer do you like?”

“I don’t care, whatever.”

“Malt liquor?”


“Really?” He says this as if he’s never seen a white person drink malt liquor.


He smiles, gets a little spring in his step and runs into the gas station. He returns with two 24 oz. cans of Crazy Horse Malt Liquor. We drive to his sister’s house and sit on her porch, drinking our beers.

Now, I know that the black community will often refer to each other as “brother” or “sister” even though they have no real familial relations. However, I thought these two were actually related. So when we were on Nelly’s porch, and Tim walked inside, I asked her, “So you’re Tim’s sister?”

This is when I learned they weren’t actually related. Stupid white boy.

This is also where I learned that if I need strippers for a party or if I want a “Hollywood caliber” girl to spend the night at my house all I have to do is holla at Tim.

We left after our beers and started looking for people to hock some meat to. As we were driving, Tim got a phone call. Well, actually, I got a phone call since he doesn’t have a cell phone.

“Hey, man, we gotta swing back for a minute. I gotta pick something up.”

This is when he decided to pull a five dollar bill out of his pocket and hand it to me. He felt bad that we hadn’t sold anything yet that day, but he assured me it would happen.

We drove back and he ran into the apartment. Fifteen minutes later he came back with an Icehouse 24 oz. can and jumped in the van. He offered some to me, but I politely declined. Drinking a beer on the porch is one thing, but drinking one while driving down the street in a company car is something totally different.

Icehouse in hand, Tim tries to sell to a car next to us at a stop light. He sees them laughing in their car, windows rolled up and says, “Hey, I wanna laugh too!” He eventually gets the woman to roll down her window and he starts talking to her. Not about the meat we were selling but random, everyday stuff. You have to set up some rapport before you try to rape them on meat prices.

This woman thinks Tim is trying to hit on her or something and gets pissed. The man sitting in the passenger seat of her car leans forward and stares at us as if he’s trying to burn holes in our faces with his eyes. This goes on until the woman finally says, “You want me to call the cops? Ima call the cops.”

The light turns green and we drive away, laughing. What could she possibly have called the police on us for besides the open can of beer that she knew nothing about.

We continued to drive around, knocking on doors, bothering people at gas stations, and we didn’t sell anything. The only productive part of the day was when I was walking back to the van after being told to go fuck myself and a little fat white kid came up to me. He was probably six years old and had red stains around his mouth, possibly from a popsicle.

“Can you fix my bike?” he asked me.

“I can try, let me see.” I flipped the bike over and saw the chain had fallen off. After a few minutes of messing with it I was finally able to get it back on. “There you go,” I said as I flipped it back over.

He smiled and hopped right on it. Cruising in circles and popping wheelies. I watched him for a little bit and talked to his friends before Tim came back and we drove on down the road. I usually don’t like hanging out with kids too much but talking to these kids made me feel really good. As we were driving away one kid ran next to the van and tried to race us. He got up to fifteen miles per hour. Not bad, little guy.

As the day went on, my sales pitch began to evolve. At first, I did it the exact way they taught us to do it in orientation. That didn’t work. I then tried to work the familiarity aspect and adopted a southern accent.

“How y’all doin’ today?”

That didn’t work either. Eventually I realized how I wouldn’t be doing the job after that one shift so I switched to survival mode. I would walk to people’s houses, trying to pick ones that looked as if the owners were gone, and give them my new pitch.

“Hey, my name is Josh. I’m selling wholesale steak, chicken and fish.” No bullshit. No sales pitch. Just the facts. I have this. Do you want it? No? Cool, have a good day.

We didn’t sell anything all day, meaning that we had a lot of product slowly thawing out in our shitty cooler. The sun was going down and Tim wanted to just get the food out of the van.

“Alright, we gotta find the ‘hood. We gotta unload these boxes.”

I guess he figured he could sell the boxes easily in an area of lower-class black people. Something tells me he’s done it before.

We end up not finding the black folk and head back to the store. We first stop at a motorcycle shop where his brother, his actual brother, works. We hung out and I talked to some of the guys that were standing by their bikes. People were drinking 40’s still in the plastic bag and smashing them on the ground when they were done. There was a pitbull chained in the bed of a truck, which ended up being a really nice dog. It was pretty “hood.”

We left there and returned the van, tucking our tails between our legs as they counted up the remaning boxes from our day.

After all of this I have made five dollars. That makes the hourly rate for the number of hours I was there around twenty cents an hour. Awesome.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

9/11 and Hitler

So here are my dreams last night:

First up, 9/11.

I ran out of building two with the other firefighters and began walking down the street. I talked to some passersby as we witnessed five planes hit some random building.

“I don’t remember that happening,” I told them.

“You don’t remember?” a lady asked.

“Yeah, I’m actually, um, from the future.”

“Great, tell us how to get out of here!”

I first bet the woman two thousand dollars that the buildings would fall. She agreed. What a dumbass, I just told her I came from the future. We then start running down the street, since I knew the buildings would envelop the city in that horrible ash and debris.

We made it to a restaurant and barricaded ourselves in a stall in the men’s bathroom. We figured there were no windows so we would be safe. However, since we weren’t running from a tornado, simply being indoors would have been good enough.

I decided to go back outside to see what was happening. This is when two dudes on motorcycles showed up and brought me back to ground zero against my will. I guess they figured “fuck you” for no reason. Thanks assholes.

The buildings began to tumble and I had to outrun the cloud that was eating the city. This wasn’t too bad though, I simple flew away to safety.

Next, the Holocaust.

I was in a snowy climate with my family and friends. We were forced to walk around, some of us without coats or shoes. I’m not exactly sure what we were looking for. The guards gave us a lot of room but not enough to actually get away. They probably had barbed wire fences set up somewhere, those Nazis were pretty thorough.

After returning from this walk, keep in mind I was with a guy I’ve known since preschool and my family, we were made to sit in a theater type room. We watched a movie but the real excitement didn’t come until after the film was over.

Hitler came out. Let me rephrase this. Alien Hitler came out. He basically looked like a pile of spilled jelly that could walk. No face, no arms, no uniform. Just a purplish blob that we all knew to be Hitler.

The concentration camp we were in does this every night. They fill a theater with people and wait for Hitler to show up to decide if he will pull the lever or not. What does the lever do? It opens the floor to expose lava before the seats lean forward and dunk everybody in. But before this happens, we get an intermission.

We all walk into the lobby and discuss out chances.

“Do you think he’ll do it tonight?” I ask my brother.

“He’s been going nuts lately. He dunked everyone the last two nights.” I guess he was there but somehow didn’t die.

“Alright then, we gotta just run.”

“But they’ll shoot us!”

“I’d rather be shot than be slowly dipped into lava!”

This is where the dream ended. I’m guessing that we all got out safely and killed Hitler with a flying karate kick/chop combination. I mean, how else are you going to kill Alien Hitler?

I woke up at this point but was still drowsy. I was in that state that you don’t really know where you are. This is why I still thought I was going to have to face the lava. I literally lay in bed thinking how I was going to get away from the Nazis.

I then had to convince myself that I wasn’t in a concentration camp. I believe this involved sitting up and looking at my phone.

“They don’t allow phones in concentration camps!”

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Matter of Social Security

Earlier today I went to the Social Security office in Downtown Atlanta. The office is housed in the Peachtree-Summit Federal Building that contains other government-type offices. Because of this, the security for the building is fairly heavy.

As is required in airports, visitors have to walk through a metal detector before entering. Before you get to go through this however, you need to sign in. This is where I met the coolest guy of the day.

“Step over here to sign in and get out your IDs,” he said, standing perfectly straight. This man is probably in his late 20’s and seems to be really excited to hold a position of, albeit minor, power.

“I left my ID in my car,” a woman said as I held my driver’s license in front of me like a child offering oats to a horse.

“You what?” He couldn’t believe she didn’t bring her ID in order to enter the building. Hadn’t she ever been to a grocery store, bank, or a friend’s house where you are also required to have picture identification to enter?

“It’s in my car.”

“Well here’s what I’m going to do,” he leans over the table, placing his arms a few inches from my outstretched hand containing exactly what he wanted. However, someone was challenging his power now. He had more important matters to attend to. “I’ll let you go through if you promise to wait afterwards. I don’t want you to take off to the 26th floor without my knowing. You know why?”

The woman stared at him with an indignant look on her face. She obviously wasn’t impressed by his ironed shirt and fifty cent badge.

“You know why?” he reiterated. “Because I’m going to find you.” A slight smile grows across his face as he imagines how great it would be to take down a evil-doer. First I’m going to yell halt, then I’ll run up to her telling her not to move. I’ll tackle her and handcuff, wait, I mean tie her hands with this piece of plastic while everyone around me cheers and the women try to kiss me. I will walk on, though, the bad guy needs to be incarcerated.

At this point I look around me to see if anyone else is witnessing this idiot. There’s an elderly couple to my right which are not laughing or looking around for “wtf” eye-contact like I am. They either buy this man’s tough-talk or are too polite to laugh at his face. I, however, am neither of these. I grin as I watch the security guard puff his chest and bathe in his own self-importance.

“Just sign your name over here, show your ID, and head through there,” he says, pointing to the metal detector. The woman from before starts walking towards the metal detector. “No! Not you! You need an ID!” I thought he told her before that she could go through without him, but his convoluted directions seemed to have confused even himself. The girl laughs as she walks back to where she was standing before.

After holding my ID out to the man for a few minutes he finally takes it and tells me to move on without even looking at it.

His final words of wisdom as the elderly couple and I walk towards the metal detector. “Move along expeditiously and the line will move quicker.”

First of all, I think he made a guess and got lucky that expeditiously is even a word. Second, he basically said that if you move quicker you will go quicker. Right.

I’ve gone through quite a few metal detectors but I’ve never been asked to take off my belt to pass through. I could understand if they made you take your belt off if you had a giant belt buckle that you could possibly hide something in. But they were making everybody take off their belts even if they had the simplest style of belt buckle.

I understand that it’s a government building and that those buildings get the highest level of security. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be funny and/or ridiculous. I haven’t been on a plane since 9/11 (Remember the terrorist attacks on New York City? Just Google 9/11 and you should probably be able to find some info) which may make me a little less accustomed to how crazy things have gotten.

Regardless, taking off your belt is funny and that high-on-power-even-though-he-has-none security guard is also funny.