Monday, May 30, 2005

How The Other Half Lives

This story reminds me of the time my stepfather sat me down to explain sex when we lived in Tennessee. It was a lesson that combined crass vulgarity with uncomfortable drunkenness and culminated with him offering to enlist the services of a "colored hooker" whom he frequented on the other side of Pickwick Dam he saw on the side to "get my dick wet."

But that's a story for another day, one I've been rewriting for years now because I don't think I've captured the full absurdity of the experience.

Wonder if the hooker looked like the stripper in the news piece?

Goodbye "Mr. Kicks"

Oscar Brown, Jr. 1926-2005

I've had the privilige of knowing Mr. Brown through work and his wonderfully talented daughter Maggie. I routinely play his records both at home and at work (Sin and Soul is a classic, in my estimation- one of my "desert island discs" that I cannot really live without). The term is often overused, but trust me when I say that Oscar Brown, Jr. had an unmistakable aura that drew people to him. Amazingly talented and constantly lusting for life, his passing reaffirms for me the belief that life must be seized by the living.

Please visit Mr. Brown's official website to see for yourself.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"Everything Evens Out For Me In The End"

That quote from "Seinfeld" just about summarizes what's been happening the past few days. I've been balls busy at work, here at home, and catching up on soem things before I roll two weeks worth of laundry out of the house.

In a nostalgic moment tuesday I bought a copy of the new Def Leppard retrospective "Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection." If you're the type of person who pays attention to music and movie critics in choosing whether or not to spend your moeny, you probably deserve the torment you constantly find yourself in.

So, in an attempt to not steer you worng, just trust me when I say you might be better off going to iTunes, eMusic, kazaa, or whatever torrent/file sharing service you prefer and put amend disc 2 so that "Photograph"and "Stagefright" from Pyromania are represented.

Disc 2 mainly culls tracks from the time in Def Leppard's history when drummer Rick Allen had two arms and the band as a whole had enough "testicular virility" to kill a bull elephant. Songs like "Rock Brigade", "Wasted", and a surprisingly hard-rocking cover of badfinger's "No Matter What" show a hunger the band lacked once Hysteria took off and shot the band into the stratosphere.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

...But When They're Held For Charity They're The Balls That I Like Best

It's nice to see that when once-popular politicians see their approval ratings plummet and the beginnings of a scandal brewing they can take solace in the knowledge that they have "testicular virility."

So what Governor Blagojevich said, essentially, yesterday at a middle school on the near west side was that not only does he have balls, but that they produce copious amounts of semen that threaten to fertilize any and all ovum that make contact.

I think he also betrayed himself as a fan of pro wrestling.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Drinking First; Safety A Close Second

Monday Night I attended a service industry party sponsosred by Absolut Vodka at the Grand Ballroom at Union Station. The main objective was for Absolut to unveil its new peach flavored vodka. My main objective was to make face time with the marketing reps who were throwing this shindig so that I could be fresh in their minds when they have another hundred grand or so to throw around indiscriminately.

I've attended Absolut sponsored events before and lived to tell about it so I knew that I would be confronted by an obscene amount of old men, younger women, workout freaks with steroid-polluted bloodstreams, capri pants, American Spirit cigarettes, greasy hair, Golden Tee junkies wearing their striped shirts with unfastened cuffs, liquor salespeople (the least evil ones in this list), average deejays, apple martinis, subliminal messages for Absolut vodka, spray-on tans, unfortunate piercings, and breast enhancements gone wrong, but Monday night was a completely different matter entirely. After checking in I made my way down to the Grand Ballroom, taking in the spectacle and artifice, trying to wade through a sea of orange goblins and people who don't know when they're being given bad advice, yet still manage to succeed.

Ugh. I knew I should not have been there when I ran into the lead singer from Kill Hannah- a poseur amonst poseurs playing warmed over Smashing Pumpkins riffs. I should have just turned around and left. But instead I started text messaging the people I invited to this damn thing, seeing if they had checked in, then offering to apologize for my lapse in judgment in inviting them.

The whole atmosphere reeked of this group of marketers who sat around trying to figure out what would pass as decadent without actually being so. A giant metal structure was set up, with acrobats and trapeze artists climbing all over to the tune of Creed's "Higher." Scantily clad women danced half-heartedly inside opaque plexiglass booths to "The Way You Move" by Outkast. There were stilt-walking jugglers who couldn't hold on to their plastic bowling pins and drag queens going through the motions.

To the side of the ballroom a lounge was set up with three understaffed bars, one of them ostensibly run by the alliterative "Marvin: Master martini mixer" who had no idea what he was doing. I queued up at one of the side bars and waited twenty minutes while the very gracious bartender loaded us up with drinks so that we wouldn't be waiting all night.

I headed back into the ballroom, toward a makeshift stage and dance floor behind the steel structure. There were rumblings about a "major band" signed to play the event that was supposed to be top secret. This- and the continuous open bar- might have contributed to the ugly atmosphere as to most of these service industry types "major band" meant U2.

So imagine the mass apathy when 11:30 rolled around and They Might Be Giants stepped onstage and immediately tore into "Birdhouse" to the apathetic crowd.

And yet the real drama didn't start there.

Two drunken attendees began dancing on the false stage in front of the band where previously a tightrope walker was performing. Security had a rough time getting these two down from the stage. So the band had to implore what audience that was paying attention to them to not jump on the false floor, as it was dangerous.

But they did it in TMBG style. "We know you're not paying attention to us up here, but just so we can say we warned you: Drinking first; safety a close second," said guitarist John Flansburgh. "Do NOT dance on this stage!! It isn't safe." That was when John Linnell mumbled into his mike, "Dicks."

And I was feeling real bad for TMBG by then, but as they began playing "Alphabet of Nations" I thought that I shouldn't. Hell, TMBG were the ones who agreed to play this gig, they were the ones who took the performance fee. If they were expecting a rapt audience for their brand of ironically humorous music they were sorely mistaken.

Christ, they were playing what amounted to a glorified service industry night to a bunch of club types who may have never heard of They Might Be Giants. So for TMBG to get all pissy because the audience wasn't paying attention to their music was bullshit, really.

I walked away back into the lounge, hit a couple of buffet lines, and then left to hail a cab, thankful that my Monday nights are usually preoccupied and glad that I have better things to do than blow off steam with vapid, clueless club kids.

Monday, May 09, 2005

On-The-Job Training

First I wanted to post this and worry about the future of our world.

As the clouds roll in right now I hark back to Saturday. A friend had extra tickets to ther Cubs game and needed a fourth, so I eagerly accepted his invitation. Now the forecast said that it would be partly cloudy and 75 that day, and as I boarded ther Orange line at Halsted it looked like that would be a fair assessment.

I transfer to the Red line at Roosevelt and settle in for the twenty minute trek to Wrigley Field. Since three-quarters of the trip is underground, I was wholly unexpected for the downturn in weather when I disembarked at Addison.

51 degrees.

And dropping.

I only wore two shirts and shorts. I made it to Murphy's Bleachers jsut as the wind picked up and set nipples rising all around. It got so cold outside that it hurt to hold my beer; I was very concerned about risking frostbite.

The game itself was uneventful, except for the prevailing sense that the fans attending the games are now holding up this team to the level expected of a $93 million payroll. This team is underachieving, but it wasn't built to win a division to start. It's capable of 85 wins, which, given the strength of the NL east, will not earn a wild card.

I was struck by the collective lack of heart the Cubbies were playing with- as though they expected something to happen for them to lose the game. It brought to mind the "lollygagging" rant from "Bull Durham." It is a simple game- you hit the ball. You throw the ball. You catch the ball.

$93 million should buy you at least that.


I had an impromptu evening of drinks at Puffers' with my neighbor and good friend Anne last night. She and two other friends went to the Skylark Friday night and passed this quote to me:

"It was like being in Wicker Park ten years ago."

And it got me to thinking about hipster culture. It always seems to be in stasis. It never changes; never gets too mainstream; never falls too far out of favor. Hipsters ten years ago dressed and acted the same as today's hipsters. It's like they're trapped in a vacuum.

Or, more appropriately, a mass Dorian Gray portrait.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Smell of Victory: Pungent and Loaded With Carcinogens

There's a firebug loose in my neighborhood. In the past month this wiseass has torched garbage cans on four different occasions, all within two blocks of my apartment.

Before leaving for work yesterday I ran into an familiar face from Puffer's who works as an arson investigator for the Fire Department. He was searching the alleys with a dog for evidence of incediary devices. He didn't need to look for kindling as every garbage can in the alley could qualify.

It's the first time in my nearly six years living here that I felt any semblance of concern about living in Bridgeport. I'm not jumping to conclusions- after six years in the same neighborhood one tends to have vested emotional and economic interests.

Still, even if it's some "idiot teenager" like Vic suggested it isn't fun to know that you can go to sleep one night and wake up before dawn hustling out of your home in not much more than your skivvies because some stoned dumbass likes the cool sounds galvanized rubber makes when it burns and melts.

Overall I guess I'm lucky. I visit Wicker Park and there's always a bulletin posted in shop windows the with an artist sketch of the latest sexual predator du jour. And Bridgeport doesn't have the endless screaming debates about gentrification that never seem to end in Bucktown and Liquor Park and are just now starting to rise in Pilsen.

The obvious symbol of near South Side gentrification is University Village, erected over the still fresh ruins of the old Maxwell Street Blues and Market District under the joint spearheading of the University of Illinois at Chicago and our democratically elected Janitor With A Vision, Richard M. Daley. It's townhomes and condominiums stand as a physical symbol of the conformist hive collective mentality with which yuppies are generally- and accurately- branded.

Travel down to 22nd Street and Halsted and you'll find a less obvious example of the genrification problem: the Skylark Tavern. Gentrification, like many aspects of life, is a lather-rinse-repeat vicious circle:

  • Ambitious-but-poor artistic class move to depressed neighborhood for affordable rents and freedom to follow their artistic muse.
  • Ambitious-and-well-heeled businessmen buy property and businesses, essentially hedging their bets that coolness factor of ambitious-but-poor artistic class attracts well-heeled-but-not-artistic-worker drones to depressed neighborhood.
  • Well-heeled-but-not-artistic worker drones purchase starter homes or hastily constructed lofts in depressed neighborhoods, displacing both Ambitious-but-poor artistic class and working-class ethnic types who were also living in neighborhood.

A qualifier: I personally love the Skylark. It affords me an option besides Puffer's to get a decent beer in the neighborhood without having to take three trains and a bus to the far North Side. But sometimes I walk in there and a feeling comes over me, like the people in the bar are waiting for the flood to come. I heard constant updates in my initial months living here about the Skylark opening. It took four years before they could open their doors. Once the rumor mill stopped I knew I could trust the information I was hearing.

Now the owners of the Skylark aren't naive businessmen. They also own the Rainbo and used to own the late lamented Blue Bird on Clybourn, if memory serves. It just seems that the atmosphere in the place is forced, like they're waiting for the Rainbo crowd to come down.

And it's usually places like the Skylark that fall in the second wave of investment in the gentrification cycle. I'm hoping they realize their innate cooness and stop catering to the Wicker park crowd. This is a great neighborhood on its own.

I Have Readers, Apparently

Or, at least, someone who doesn't like Jay Mariotti, either. Thanks to Chicago Media Monitor for the tip of the hat regarding last week's Mariotti post. If you're a fan of reading on the workings of local media, CMM and Phil Rosenthal's new Tribune column are must-reads.

I can guess that CMM was hipped to this place either through a reader or a search. I've long stated my aversion to hit counters and comments. The former is a sign of vanity and the latter allows chickenshits to snark with anonymity. Anyway, whoever alerted CMM to the site, thank you.

Tuesday night I had a dull throb in my lower back, around my kidneys. I didn't think much about it; figuring I hadn't taken in enough water I hade sure I got my suggested amount and went to bed. When I woke up yesterday I literally could not get out of bed, to the dog's chagrin.

I've got a high tolerance for pain, but this was unbearable. It felt like the pain shifted every time I shifted position in bed. If I was on my side, the pain was there. If I was flat on my backm the pain was there. I went through the options in my head- everything from back pain to kidney infection to appendicitis. The pain's better today, but I'm still walking around very carefully.

Monday, May 02, 2005

No One Asked For This

And yet I always thought that there was nothing wrong with Ann Coulter that couldn't be remedied by some hard assplay:

I Fucked Ann Coulter In The Ass, Hard.

Really, no one asked for Ann Coulter fan fiction.

No one asked for this, either:

Strap-on Veterans For Truth

When it rains...

Let's Go Get Stoned

Saturday night I went out with friends to catch "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy." The movie was great, but you're reading the opinion of a Douglas Adams fan and frood who knows where his towel is, so it's also a biased opinion.

Anyhoo, we were leaving the theater when we came upon this guy who fell asleep halfway through the movie and, upon seeing us, proceeded to ask an endless series of questions about what he missed.

And this guy had "comic book geek" written all over him. He was short, round, grease stains on his shirt, and a perpetually confused smile on his face. I almost mistook him as retarded, but as a reformed comic book geek myself, I eventually figured it out.

My favorite question was , "So what happened at the end of the movie?" So I told him that Arthur Dent gets Trillian and they all decide to eat at the restaurant at the end of the universe.

This is where the fun starts. Comic Book Geek asked me, "What was the name of the restaurant?"

"There is no name," I said. "It's the restaurant at the end of the universe."

"It doesn't have a name?"


"Why not?"

"It's just the restaurant at the end of the universe. It's book three of the series??" I had incorrectly assumed that since he looked like a comic book geek that he'd read the Hitchhiker's trilogy (in four books, but Adams admitted before his death that he was never very good at math.) I began to wonder if he might have been retarded after all.

This still didn't register to Comic Book Geek. "The restaurant has to have a name."

"No it doesn't. It's just the restaurant at the end of the universe."

"But what's the name?

"There is no name. It's the restaurant at the end of the universe."

Comic Book geek eyed me warily. I turned to catch up with my party, hoping the questioning was over when he asked, "Okay. Do you think there will be a sequel?"

The interrogation was devolving into an Abbot and Costello routine. "Yes", I said.

"Did the words 'to be continued' appear on screen?"

"No, but it's implied by the way they left everything sort of open."

"And the restaurant has no name."


"Why doesn't the restaurant have a name?

"It just doesn't."

"But if it's at the end of the universe, shouldn't it have a name so that people can recognize it?"

I scratched my head and headed with my friends to the car, bidding my farewells to Comic Book Geek, who had an even more confused smile on his face, and left him to the care of the theater ushers to answer his questions.