Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolutions


It’s almost 2009, which is a good thing. 2008 was a terrible year for just about everyone with a pulse. I think the only people happy about 2008 are Barack Obama, Christopher Nolan, and Satan. And even Satan’s not really feeling it this year. In keeping with the theme of the New Year and new beginnings and all that happy, fuzzy jazz, I’m going to participate in the annual ritual of committing to new ideas and new endeavors. With the knowledge, of course, that I will drop all of these commitments by the end of January:

* In 2009, I will adopt a Taiwanese boy in my continuing efforts to be more like Angelina Jolie, minus the boobs and other assorted girlie parts. I will name him “Trimm Trabb” and we’ll go to charity functions together. He’ll be the fabulous accessory that proves that I am both compassionate about world affairs and ultra-hip to boot.

* I will make an honest effort to understand the musical genius that is Phil Collins. I do realize that I’ve never given this man a fair shake. He was in Genesis, so that has to stand for something, right? I’ll start with the Tarzan soundtrack and make my way backwards. I’m just working on the assumption that the Tarzan soundtrack was his last album. He died ten years ago, right?

* I will do something “jauntily.” I’ve never done anything in my life “jauntily” and I feel like I’m missing out. If I must be accompanied by all times by a squadron of chirping bluebirds to accomplish this feat, I will make it so.

* I will attempt to watch an entire Will Smith movie without throwing up. Now, vomiting while consuming vast amounts of alcohol doesn’t count. I’m talking about the whole nine yards. I will watch an entire Will Smith movie sober and not vomit. I’m currently practicing for this feat by watching the films of lesser demons. I’ve gotten three-quarters of the way through a Tom Cruise movie before having to skedaddle to the nearest water closet. My tolerance for Nicholas Cage is still only at half a film. I have a lot of work to do before I can claim victory over the ravages of Will Smith.

* I will cease referring to the Bakersfield City Council as “mah bitches.” It’s rude, inappropriate, and only partially true.

* I will also quit drinking in 2009… Ah, just fucking with you…

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fiona Apple


I have a confession to make, but it’s one you already knew about…

I first heard Fiona Apple on a compilation for CMJ magazine, back when Sony was thrusting out copies of “Shadowboxer” to anyone who’d listen. This was a few months before the release of Tidal, and it was the first time I’d heard of her. She just seemed plucked from the streets somewhere and given a record deal and promoted heavily because of her age and voice.

And I hated “Shadowboxer” on principle. It was just the sort of thing I dislike. An artist snatched up by a major label and foisted on the public as sexy and cool and exactly the sort of thing a person like me should listen to. I was resentful. I rejected Fiona Apple.

But then I met you. You loved Tidal and listened to it all the time. Your favorite song was “Slow Like Honey.” I played along and bought you a new copy when yours got too scratched to listen to. I didn’t get it. When her second record came out, I bought us both copies. I gave her a second chance and, wouldn’t you know it, I actually liked When The Pawn… I became a fan because of you. Because you urged me to give her a second chance.

Years later, we went to the Greek Theatre in LA to see Fiona with my friend Rachel. It was cold and the crowd was huge. We had a blast, acting like kids. All three of us would scream at Fiona between songs, “You tell them Fiona! You tell those fuckers how it is!” We had an unbelievable time, and it was a massive bonding experience for the three of us. No matter that we’re not together anymore. No matter that Rachel lives in a different country now.

It’s now over between us and I keep coming back to Fiona Apple. I listen to her all the time. It took me over a decade to really understand her. I get what she’s saying now. She really was telling us the entire time. She knows how it is.

My favorite song by Fiona Apple is “The Way Things Are,“ because it was the first of her songs that really spoke to me. To who I am. But I listen to “Shadowboxer” because of you. I still have Fiona Apple, but “Shadowboxer” still belongs to you. It always will.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Orange Juice


Mom: “Sebastian sure does drink a lot of orange juice.”

Me: “Yeah, he also drinks a lot of tonic water.”

Mom: *grumble*

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Bouncing Soul


It’s Tuesday and it’s two days until Christmas. My dear friend is in town and we’ve been drinking and eating at various establishments in Bakersfield all afternoon. It’s evening and we’ve wound up at one of our favorite bars. And something inherently amusing to me is about to happen.

My friend lets me in on a little secret. She tells me that regulars at this bar tend to be given jobs around holidays to cover shifts so the owners don’t have to hire extra people. Sure enough, we’re given a job a few hours after our arrival. My friend is to check I.D.’s at the door the rest of the evening and I’m to back her up. To be “the muscle,” as it were.

Here’s a confession: I’m not a particularly intimidating person. But there is a small percentage of people who are intimidated by me for whatever particular reason. So, my friend alternates between telling me to stop laughing and to stop looking like a kicked puppy. “Butch up,” she says.

We work a four-hour shift at the door, covering each other and drinking for free. The bar is insanely busy. By this time at night, most of the regulars have absconded, leaving a plague of wannabe hipsters and lonely youngsters on the prowl.

We laugh at the boys and girls younger than us, the ones that look ten years older than we. I instantly fall in love with a girl who looks like Jennifer Connelly. She’s surrounded by a shield of willing suitors. I’m just “the muscle.”

A drunk man is confused by the jukebox and asks for help playing James Brown or Al Green. My friend gently takes him by the shoulder and explains how the jukebox works. She has a delicate touch with the damaged.

A man takes umbrage at being asked to leave his drink at a table before leaving the bar. Another man is upset that he’s being carded in the first place. I’m intimidating enough, apparently, that neither presses the issue very far.

Eventually, final call starts and we help the drunk and weary from their tables to the door. It seems like a hundred or so people are in the bar at final call. We lock the doors and help the bartenders clean the bar. They pay us from the tip jar for our efforts and thank us before sending us on our way.

Our reward to ourselves is the best-tasting Dell Taco experience of our lives. There’s nothing quite like working your ass off and rewarding yourself with mediocre fast food at 3 am.

Working the door at my favorite bar is not where I expected to find myself two days before Christmas, but it was an interesting experience, nonetheless. If I had a Bucket List, you could tick “bouncing” off of it. Maybe I’ve missed my calling this whole time. Who knows?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 #1


Portishead-Third

It took Bristol’s Portishead eleven years to release their third album, appropriately titled Third. They didn’t break up in the interim. This isn’t their big cash-in before a reunion tour. They just quietly did other things. Vocalist Beth Gibbons made an album with Paul Webb from Talk Talk (2003‘s Out Of Season). Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley produced records and started a record label. It was an inadvertent hiatus. An eleven year hiatus would normally kill a band. Not Portishead. Portishead made that third album as if only a few years had passed. Third isn’t just the proper follow-up to their first pair of amazing albums, 1994’s Dummy and 1997’s Portishead. Third is Portishead’s best album, period.

Third displays a downplaying of the “trip-hop” style that made Portishead (and Massive Attack, among others) famous in the early ‘90s. Album opener “Silence” features many of the textures and oppressive mood swings of early Portishead songs, but without being danceable or groovy in the slightest. “Plastic” is practically krautrock, reminiscent of Can in the best ways imaginable. The album’s highlight is “The Rip,” a song that slowly builds around an acoustic guitar loop and eventually crashes into synthesizers and Gibbons’ moody lyrics (“While, white horses/They will take me away/And the tenderness I feel/Will send the dark underneath/Will I follow?").


“Machine Gun”



Bonus! Radiohead’s hotel room cover of Portishead‘s “The Rip.”

The Best Albums Of 2008 #2


CSS-Donkey

Music labels are completely useless until you actually find yourself writing about music. So-and-so is electro. So-and-so is gypsy punk (Okay, so that’s just Gogol Bordello, but whatever.). When Cansei de Ser Sexy released their self-titled debut in 2006, they were lumped into the New Rave scene, a genre comprised of bands that sound nothing alike (Like most of the bands in these genres do.). CSS sounds nothing like Klaxons who sound nothing like M.I.A. But the media loves a good genre tag, so there you go. CSS became a bit of a genre representative, achieving a few minor hit singles and a surprisingly large following for a Brazilian band with questionable English language skills.

Their second album, Donkey, pulls back quite a bit on the pacing and pep of their first album. The songs are more mid-tempo and ready for live play. And if we were to label this record, it’d be with the good old “Alternative” tag (It‘s like a scarlet letter, no?). The songs on Donkey meld the electronic rock stylings of Cansei de Ser Sexy with a more straightforward alt rock sound. The influences on this album are more Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies/Breeders than EMF or Jesus Jones or whatever the New Rave tag is supposed to entail. The result is a more confident and complete record than Cansei de Ser Sexy.

“Move”

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 #3


Clinic-Do It!

Over the course of five albums and a handful of EP’s, Liverpool’s Clinic have made about a decade’s worth of weird and underappreciated music. They’re a quartet more noted for their predilection for surgical scrubs on stage than their music, which is a shame. The band has mastered an unusual blend of genres, from rockabilly to folk to krautrock, and continues to refine that sound every album. Singer Ade Blackburn has a whiny voice reminiscent of Thom Yorke, and is nearly as unintelligible. But unlike Yorke’s Radiohead, Clinic seems content to do one sound just right. Believe it or not, the band benefits from this approach.

There’s little on 2008’s Do It! to differentiate it from any of Clinic’s prior works. If you’ve heard any Clinic record, you’ve heard them all. What’s interesting about them is this: If you were to recommend any Clinic record to a newbie, this would be the record. Just as whatever their next record winds up being would be the record to recommend. Every new Clinic record is the same as the one before it, but it’s tighter. It’s better written. It’s fresher, even if it’s basically the same thing at its heart. So, Do It! is this year’s model. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer Clinic can keep improving on the same formula.

“Tomorrow”

The Best Albums Of 2008 #4


Crystal Castles-Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles were named after the old Atari game, or maybe they were named after a She-Ra toy. Who knows, really? They’re from Toronto, that’s for sure. And they write shimmery electro songs that borrow equally from Ed Banger records and Atari Teenage Riot. In a lot of ways, their debut album, Crystal Castles, sounds like a demo album. Few of the songs seem to fit together in any logical way. Some of the songs evoke digital hardcore. Some of the songs evoke old video games. And some of the songs are just plain crazy.

Lead track “Untrust Us” is essentially a remix of Death From Above 1979’s “Dead Womb.” “Xxzxcuzx Me” could have come from any early-’80s video game. “Crimewave” is a HEALTH cover, and a snazzy one at that. “Courtship Dating” is reminiscent of Freezepop, or even early Ladytron. Crystal Castles has a definite case of multiple personality disorder. The point is that Crystal Castles wear their influences on their sleeve. But they take them in some utterly fascinating directions.

“Courtship Dating”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 #5


Scarlett Johansson-Anywhere I Lay My Head

“Scarlett Johansson, you are accused of crimes against pop music. How do you plead?” I say “not guilty.” Let me explain. The very idea of actress Scarlett Johansson releasing an album this year was met with annoyance, disgust, and dismissal. The ghosts of Don Johnson and Bruce Willis were brought up. The Times Of London groused that Johansson has “a bleat that only a deaf mother could love.” I’m here to say that the critics have missed the point. In 2007, I saw Johansson jump on stage with The Jesus & Mary Chain at Coachella to sing “Just Like Honey.” The point isn’t that her voice stinks. The point is that she gets it.

What does she get, exactly? Music, kids. Scarlett Johansson gives a crap about music. This is why she recorded an album of Tom Waits covers. Tom friggin’ Waits, people! Any actress who has the cajones to record an album of Tom Waits covers get the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who can reel in TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek to produce said Tom Waits cover album obviously gets it. Anyone who can lure David Bowie out of virtual retirement to sing backup on two tracks on said Tom Waits cover album obviously gets it. Anywhere I Lay My Head is a bizarre, ethereal, clusterfuck of a Tom Waits cover album. It’s beautiful. It’s confusing as hell. It got me through my freaking divorce, people! It matters, in my book.

“Falling Down”

The Best Albums Of 2008 #6


Supergrass-Diamond Hoo Ha

Supergrass has always been a pretty easy band to get your head around. They broke out whilst still teenagers in Britain during the early ‘90s as part of the Britpop movement. Their debut album, I Should Coco, is a classic touchstone of the era. Later, the band embraced their inner T-Rex (Supergrass), and further paid homage to The Rolling Stones (In It For The Money). While their contemporaries either struggled in the decades that followed (Oasis) or just plain split (Blur, Pulp, everyone else, seemingly…), Supergrass pushed on, making straightforward rock albums.

Their sixth album, Diamond Hoo Ha, is a sure step forward after the gloom and doom ballads of 2005’s Road To Rouen. Supergrass has re-embraced the guitar as a weapon of choice and is back to writing loud, shiny, rock anthems. Lead single “Diamond Hoo Ha Man” is three-and-a-half minutes of pure fuzzy joy, especially when frontman Gaz Coombes spits out doozies like, “When the sun goes down/I just can’t reisist/Bite me!” Conversely, album closer “Butterfly” is more reminiscent of Supergrass during their creative heights of the mid to late-90’s. Diamond Hoo Ha shows a band not growing old, but growing into their skin.

“Bad Blood”

The Best Albums Of 2008 #7 (Tie)


Los Campesinos!-Hold On Now Youngster… & We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Just what the hell is “tweexcore” anyway? I only ask because of the Welsh seven-piece Los Campesinos! “The International Tweexcore Underground” was one of the singles the band released in late 2007 in anticipation of their debut album, Hold On Now Youngster… The song, tongue-in-cheek, name-checks Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye as artists, among others, that never mattered to Los Campesinos! But that “tweexcore” will save us all, apparently.

Tweexcore appears to be a peppy, perky, silly offshoot of indie pop. It’s like the second coming of cuddlecore or something. Like Belle And Sebastian without the honesty, or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but interesting. Both of the band’s albums this year, Hold On Now Youngster… and its speedy follow-up, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, are nearly pitch-perfect pop albums. Considering how utterly awful this year has been politically, economically, and socially, it’s fascinating to have a band trading in such bright colors. It’s as if Los Campesinos! are desperate for the rainbow after the storm.

“Death To Los Campesinos!”

The Best Albums Of 2008 #8


Bloc Party-Intimacy

Bloc Party has run the gamut from indie darlings in the early-aughts to future saviors of music in the mid-aughts to supposed has-beens in the late-aughts. And that’s based on a handful of EP’s and only three (!) full-length albums. The London-based band has essentially been a victim of being built up to ridiculous expectations. Their latest album, Intimacy, has been alternately adored and dowsed in gasoline in the press. Depending on who you listen to, it’s either the sound of what’s next or a desperate last-gasp of a band on their way “out.”

The release of the amazing single “Flux” in late ‘07 (The track is, thankfully, included on many pressings of Intimacy) gave a huge clue as to the future direction of Bloc Party. So, the advance single “Mercury” came only as a mild sucker-punch with its keyboard-driven verses and funky chorus. But it’s at least an intriguing direction and one that comes as a surprise for a band that was touted as part of the post-punk revival. While many of their contemporaries are flaming out (Jack White) or falling off the radar (The Strokes), Bloc Party is at least trying to move forward, which is a welcome sign of things to come. Intimacy is a weird album, for sure, but it’s a great one.

“One Month Off”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Not Goodbye. See You Later.


We were told that Muttley was a good German dog, but I didn’t quite believe it. It was the summer of ‘97 and some friends of the family were moving to Germany. They’re world-travelers, as it were. We’d see them every year or so and they bring us stories. And that one summer, they brought us a dog. A German dog, they told us.

They’d had the dog for six years and couldn’t stand the idea of taking him through customs again. They keep animals quarantined for months. They’d rather he have a stable home, so my parents agreed to take him in. Muttley was a curious little ball of white fluff. He didn’t seem German at all.

He would notoriously dig through garbage cans, looking not for scraps, but rather for used tissues. And he’d often pull boxes of new tissues off of end-tables and tug out the individual pieces out one by one. So, as a result, he usually smelled of Kleenex. I’d never noticed before having him around that Kleenex have a smell. Well, they do. I have Muttley to thank for that.

Muttley got older, as dogs are apt to do. I got older, too. I got a job. I got married. I moved out. I lost my job. I got divorced. I moved back in. But Muttley was still there. Over the last few years, his hearing dimmed a bit. His eyesight went completely. But he was still the same silly affable dog I always knew and loved.

This year, he turned 17, which seems like an eternity for a dog. I didn’t even know him his entire life. But I knew him for most of it. And watching him fade away the last few weeks has been heartbreaking for myself and my entire family.

Muttley died today. Just an hour ago, actually. My mother is dealing with it by cleaning. My father dug a grave for him earlier this week, ten feet deep so he'll rest undisturbed. And me? I write. It's how I cope.

I’d like to think that I got most of it out of my system yesterday, knowing this was coming any hour, any minute, but I’m often wrong. We don’t get over things like this. We just learn to accept. So, for me, it’s not goodbye to Muttley. It’s a see you later, Muttley. I know I’ll see him again, someday. I’ll see him again, somewhere.

(The photo above was taken sometime in late 1997...)

The Best Albums Of 2008 #9


The Futureheads-This Is Not The World

Sunderland’s The Futureheads rode a post-punk revival in the early aughts to success in the UK and a mild following in the US. Following the abysmal sales of their last record, 2006’s criminally underrated News & Tributes, the band started their own label to distribute their third album, This Is Not The World. Stylistically, This Is Not The World isn’t a huge departure from the band’s previous albums. These are still anthemic punk songs with soaring harmonies and catchy hooks that hearken back to Gang Of Four and The Fall.

The difference this time around is that there seems to be an ease in the songwriting that wasn’t present before. This Is Not The World sounds like an album entirely comprised of singles, like an instant greatest hits collection. It’s easy to get into and easier to love, even if there doesn’t appear to be any new ground covered. “Radio Heart” should have been a hit single, had enough people heard it and “Hard To Bear” takes a place in my book as one of the best songs about disappointment ever written.

“The Beginning Of The Twist”

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 #10


Hot Chip-Made In The Dark

Sure, London’s Hot Chip are a little weird and they've certainly been accused in the past of being ridiculous. They’re an electropop band with tongue firmly planted in cheek and a repertoire of hooks that makes their contemporaries flush with envy. They’re The Postal Service crossed with Peter Gabriel, but with more uplift and an actual sense of humor. They're like a modern Devo, minus the hats. Which isn’t to say that they shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Sure, their third record, Made In The Dark, has its moments of levity (“Wrestlers,” anyone?), but the sheer amount of brilliance exercised on the album is proof enough that Hot Chip are for real. “One Pure Thought” is a major standout on the record, as is "Bendable Poseable." And is “Ready For The Floor” an homage to Tim Burton’s Batman? The video certainly leans that way and the lyrics definitely show love for Burton's vision of the dark knight (Does “you’re my number one guy” ring any bells?).

“Ready For The Floor”

The Best Albums Of 2008 #20-11

Well, kids, that’s the top half of my “Best Albums Of 2008” feature. If you missed any, you can check them out here:

#20 Ladytron-Velocifero
#19 The Dodos-Visiter
#18 The Raveonettes-Lust Lust Lust
#17 Amanda Palmer-Who Killed Amanda Palmer
#16 TV On The Radio-Dear Science,
#15 Bauhaus-Go Away White
#14 The Long Blondes-Couples
#13 The Presets-Apocalypso
#12 Be Your Own Pet-Get Awkward
#11 Chris Connelly-Forgiveness & Exile

Check back over the next week for the rest of the countdown. For those curious, last year’s top ten was:

#10 Radiohead-In Rainbows
#9 !!!-Myth Takes
#8 The Good, The Bad, & The Queen-The Good, The Bad, & The Queen
#7 Of Montreal-Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
#6 Flight Of The Conchords-The Distant Future
#5 The Horrors-Strange House
#4 Art Brut-It's A Bit Complicated
#3 Klaxons-Myths Of The Near Future
#2 Moving Units-Hexes For Exes
#1 LCD Soundsystem-Sound Of Silver

The Best Albums Of 2008 #11


Chris Connelly-Forgiveness & Exile

2008 was an amazing year for former Revolting Cocks frontman Chris Connelly. Earlier this year, an autobiography chronicling his years in the late 80’s Chicago industrial rock scene, Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible, And Fried: My Life As A Revolting Cock, closed a huge chapter of his life with grace and humor. The end of the year saw a new solo record from the Scotsman, Forgiveness & Exile. It’s an album that takes his chamber pop-meets-David Bowie solo style and adds a layer of drama that’s both welcome and unexpected.

Forgiveness & Exile has a disturbing intensity to it that’s reminiscent of Scott Walker’s Tilt. It is, by turns, frightening, insightful, and horrifying. The musical unease is punctuated by Connelly’s wailing cries and passages of poetry read by a pair of special guests, actress Torri Higginson and Garbage singer Shirley Manson. Connelly wrote Forgiveness & Exile as a meditation on war and torture (Coincidentally, all proceeds from the album go to the Marjorie Kovler Center for victims of torture.) and it’s a record that’s both impacting and thoughtful.

Listen to “Arran” from Forgiveness & Exile on Last.fm.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Excerpt 6

I have no idea why I dreamed about you last night. It’s been, what, eight years since I last saw you? It was the fall, and you’d tracked down my phone number through a mutual acquaintance. You just wanted to see me again. You wanted to catch up. My girlfriend at the time was okay with that. She trusted me. I trusted me.

We met at a pizza parlor on White Lane. We shared some potato wedges and drinks, just like the old times. You’d dyed your hair black since I’d last seen you, and you were skinnier than I ever remembered. You looked hungry, and angry. And lost. It was weird talking to you again. You didn’t seem to know why exactly you’d tracked me down. There were painful, awkward silences. Before had been so good…

…We met when I was 16 and you were 17. It was in a journalism class in high school. Honestly, I’d never given you a second thought. You spent a lot of time with your best friend, who often shot catcalls in my general direction whenever I was stumbling about the classroom, throwing out orders. I was an editor. I didn’t really pay that much attention to it. But eventually, I did. Your friend hated me. But you didn’t.

We started dating. Your friends hated me. My friends didn’t give a crap about you. It was the fall. It was always the fall. You’d sit, cross-legged, in the yellow and brown leaves and I’d lie with my head in your lap. We’d talk as you ran your fingers through my long dyed hair. It was black. Your hair was a natural strawberry-blond. And we’d kiss…

A lot of things happened in the four months we were together. A good number of them amazing. I think I experienced things I’ve never experienced since. Feelings that were so new, and so special. Our relationship was intense… Passionate… But things ended badly. You believed your friends, who hated me. You started to hate me. So, I left you. And we didn’t talk again until you called me out of the blue, eight years ago.

Earlier this year, your sister tracked me down on MySpace. She lives in Texas now and wanted to know how I was doing, for some reason. She remembered me, even though she was just a kid when we were together. You never came up in any of the conversations. I never found out what she wanted to know or why she was checking up on me. After a handful of messages back and forth, she stopped contacting me.

I don’t have any photographs of you. The breakup was bad. I burned everything that reminded me of you. I was an angry 16-year-old, burning photographs of someone I never wanted to see again. But I did see you again. And it’s been ages since. You only seem to exist in my memories these days. My memories and, apparently, my dreams…

Bakersfield Glory Holes


Every few weeks, I log into Google Webmaster Tools to check out the statistics for searches related to my blog. Usually, there are one or two rather humorous searches, but today absolutely took the cake. Yes, someone found my blog by looking for "Bakersfield glory holes."

Now, what they would have found on my blog was this piece about the old Welcome To Bakersfield sign. But that's totally not what they're looking for, since the terms "Bakersfield" and "Glory Hole" weren't mutually exclusive. So, in the interest of community service, I shall provide the necessary information for future visitors looking for the locations of "Bakersfield glory holes."

"Bakersfield glory holes" can be found in the following locations:

* Bakersfield.

* Outlying areas of Bakersfield.

I hope that this blog can now be of some benefit to the kindly souls crawling desperately through Google for "Bakersfield glory holes."

The Best Albums Of 2008 #12


Be Your Own Pet-Get Awkward

Another album of the year, and it’s another one by a band that broke up in 2008. In just a few years, Nashville’s Be Your Own Pet drew the attention of Thurston Moore, pissed off their record label, and released a pair of punk pop albums that were rife with catchy hooks teenaged enthusiasm. The reasons behind the band’s breakup remain clandestine, but the albums they left behind are crystal clear. They’re Blondie meets Yeah Yeah Yeahs with a touch of the horror comedy of The Misfits (What, you take them seriously?).

Be Your Own Pet was signed to Universal in the United States, and the label saw fit to remove three tracks from Get Awkward for being too violent. They were eventually released on the Get Damaged EP. But look for the UK print of Get Awkward to get the full experience. Songs like “Becky” and “Blow Yr Mind” make Get Awkward fast, angry, and tough, just the way a good punk album should be. Maybe Universal wanted a top-selling pop band when they signed Be Your Own Pet, but they got something far more interesting instead.

“Becky”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Reasons I Can't Be Taken Anywhere


The Loss Adjuster should not:

* Talk about the awesomeness of Christmas songs performed in the “shoegaze” style.

* Talk incessantly about The Raveonettes.

* Make bad jokes about “General Tao’s Chicken.”

* Check his phone every three minutes.

* Complain constantly about “needing a cig.”

* Brag about meeting Jack Black at an Iggy Pop show. No one cares.

* Tell the truth.

* Make people cry.

Yeah. I’m still a public fail. That is all.

The Best Albums Of 2008 #13


The Presets-Apocalypso

When I hear The Presets, I think of a world that never existed. I think of a world that never moved past the 1980’s. Instead, the world just got tougher and harsher and more digitized. Game Boys became power tools, the Pet Shop Boys were anointed dual Popes, and Miami Vice never went out of style. It’s as if Max Headroom mated with Blade Runner and coughed out an Australian baby. If I could sum up The Presets with just one concept, it’s probably “8-Bit.” And I don’t mean the mixing movement, either.

The band’s second full-length album, Apocalypso, is an amazing blend of techno-rock from that imaginary world. “My People” is beat heavy and anthem-ready in all the right ways (Listen up, Does It Offend You, Yeah? You could learn a thing or two.). “This Boy’s In Love” is hands-down one of the five best songs of the year. “Talk Like That” is a hit single that never could happen in modern pop music. The Presets are the sound of cyber-punk and Philip K. Dick’s new favorite band.

“This Boy’s In Love”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reasons I Can't Be Taken Anywhere


I’m pretty sure I was drunk when I agreed to go with my friend to her work’s Christmas Party. I mean, I don’t remember agreeing to go, so I must have been drunk, right? That’s pretty much the only reason I can think of for agreeing to go. Oh, that and the promise of free booze. That pretty much gets me in any door. For future reference, the best way to kill me is to leave a bottle of Grey Goose at the bottom of a well. That’ll surely lead to my demise.

My friend is a nurse, so this was a party filled with nurses and doctors and pencil pushers and paper shredders, etc. And it was held at Seven Oaks Country Club, which is hilarious in and of itself. I’m amused by the fact that Bakersfield has a country club. I’m even more amused by the fact that Bakersfield has several country clubs. But Seven Oaks Country Club is the big one.

Frankly, I couldn’t be arsed to tart myself up, so I went with a simple ensemble of tan pants and an orange button-up. I know they’re the wrong colors for December, but whatever. I finished it off with my Docs. I was going to wear my hobo gloves inside, but I thought it might be the slightest bit tacky. I didn’t have to worry so much, considering the stylish hilarity of the people attending.

Once inside, we passed the usual assortment of finery and entered the main ballroom. It was decked out and shiny in that 1950’s sort of way. It’s like being rich hasn’t moved into the 21st century in Bakersfield. We still think everything should be gold and ornate. Naturally, I couldn’t stop giggling the first 20 minutes I was there.

Of course, one of the waiters (servers, servants, pool boys?) saw me laughing and immediately asked if I needed a drink. Uh, yeah? I could tell that the lad wanted to talk. He looked miserable and helpful in that way people who are treated like crap on a daily basis at work are. But none of them talked. It wasn’t their job, sadly. I bet he had some great stories to tell, if only he could.

My friend pointed out various co-workers of hers, usually with some sort of story. There was a boy there she has a crush on. I did a little recon work for her, but he couldn’t be pulled away from his plate of salmon and salad. He reminded me of a younger version of one of my old bosses a bit. I see male pattern baldness and a calculator in his future.

Naturally, I was the most fabulous person there, although the woman in the purple prom dress came a close second. I’m not sure if she stumbled in from a adjacent party or something, but the prom dress was quite fabulous. Frankly, most everyone else there was boring.

They were boring in that sort of staid, milquetoast way that people who make lots of money and don’t do anything different or weird or fun are. It’s like this party is the biggest date on their social calendar and their idea of getting loose is to drink two glasses of wine and table dance. Only, minus the table dancing.

The other people at our table found my friend and I fascinating. Likely because I was offering a running commentary on how silly the whole event was. Actually, they were probably annoyed with me. But if you think you can drink Coors Light at a country club and not elicit a snippy remark from me, you’re sadly mistaken! Open bar does not equal piss water. Sorry!

There was one of my friend’s co-workers that drew my attention because he was dressed like Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. She told me he dresses like that every day. Spike was followed around by a rather mannish ginger girl with a permanent frown. At one point, she nearly walked into me and gave me a look. As she was walking away, I offered, “Bitch, I will stab you in the eye with your own heels!” And, nothing…

Eventually, there was a slideshow and we were out of drink tickets. It was time to go. I rushed out, still giggling…

Vote LA Kings!

The Best Albums Of 2008 #14


The Long Blondes-Couples

Over the short span of four years, Sheffield’s The Long Blondes plied a Pulp-meets-Blondie style that felt both retro and right now. Their second full-length, Couples, was released earlier this year and is an album full of glittery lo-fi disco rock numbers that could be at home in any of the last four decades. But the dance party didn’t last long, unfortunately. In June, guitarist Dorian Cox suffered a stroke that essentially put a kibosh on any future work. In October, The Long Blondes called it a day with the release of a singles compilation.

As it stands, The Long Blondes never really had much of a shot at success. Their sound veered from too sexual to too distant to too dancey for most. They had some minor success in Britain, but never made much of a dent in America, much like their spiritual grandpappies Pulp. Couples remains as a snapshot of a band that was growing into its skin, full of sexy ideas and loads of glamour.

“Guilt”

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 #15


Bauhaus-Go Away White

Bear with me here. British gothic rock group Bauhaus split up in 1983, splintering into a myriad of side projects (Love & Rockets, Tones On Tail, etc.) and solo work (Um, all of them.). The band reunited in the late 90’s for intermittent touring, but a new album seemed about as likely as an alien invasion. Then something funny happened. Bauhaus released a new album early this year. And promptly broke up again.

The record, Go Away White, was largely criticized by pundits as sounding like a Love & Rockets album fronted by Peter Murphy. Honestly, I have no problem with that assessment. I love Love & Rockets. I love Peter Murphy. It’s like chocolate and peanut butter to me. Looking for classic early 80’s Bauhaus in Go Away White is simply counterproductive. It’s been far too long since the band’s heyday. What remains is a fascinating document of four solo performers mis-stepping and creating something interesting anyway. It’s like the gothic equivalent of Let It Be.

“Adrenalin”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 #16


TV On The Radio-Dear Science,

TV On The Radio have remained enigmas since their inception in Brooklyn in the early aughts. Their music is a bizarre blend of just about every style of rock, dance, and soul music imaginable. And when I say a blend, I mean it. It can be difficult to pull out styles and influences with any accuracy. When people ask me what TV On The Radio sound like, I usually respond with something like, “What Peter Gabriel should sound like?”

TV On The Radio’s fourth album, Dear Science,, isn’t sonically different from the three albums that came before it. What sets Dear Science, apart from the crowd is that TV On The Radio still hasn’t shown any downside yet. If anything, the band is managing to make distinctive records over and over again without there being any degradation of quality or innovation. And that is downright impossible to achieve in this day and age. We either have a fluke or pure genius on our hands. If they’re still this brilliant in ten years, we’ll be pretty lucky.

“Golden Age”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 #17


Amanda Palmer-Who Killed Amanda Palmer

So, what exactly is to be expected from a solo album by the songwriting and singing half of a duo like The Dresden Dolls? Is it something akin to a Paul Simon record after Simon & Garfunkel? Basically, the same thing only without that other guy? Well, sort of. Amanda Palmer’s first solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, is certainly very reminiscent of The Dresden Dolls. I mean, it’s not like she can help it. But it’s certainly so much more. Similar to the way Jack White expands on his repertoire when switching from The White Stripes to The Raconteurs, Palmer has found a wealth of other avenues to explore on Who Killed Amanda Palmer.

Sure, songs like “Blake Says” and “The Point Of It All” offer few surprises. But on “Leeds United,” Palmer finally takes advantage of a full band, complete with horns, to create a song long on humor and short on minimalism. And who expected a song like “Guitar Hero” out of Palmer? An ode to a mysterious musician built around the guitar theatrics of Dead Kennedys legend East Bay Ray? It’s just that sort of creative stretching of limbs that Palmer needed after a small handful of Dresden Dolls records. The result is a load of fun.

“Leeds United”

Friday, December 12, 2008

Simon, The Christmas Cat


It was December of 2003 and I was a newly married college graduate with a bright future ahead of me and unlimited happiness at my disposal. I’m still a college graduate. Anyway, my ex-wife and I used to spend a lot of time going to animal shelters and pet stores in our spare time. She grew up surrounded by animals. Me? Not so much.

Aside from a steady stream of dogs I didn’t like and a few rodents here and there, I was never much for animals. But living with my friends Remington and Steven had sort of turned me on to the idea of cats. I never had cats growing up, since my family seems to equate them with Satan or Bush or one of the lesser evils.

Living with cats for just a few short months turned me into a cat person, so anytime we’d visit a shelter or store, I’d immediately hunt out the kitties with an eye towards a good cuddling.

We were visiting the Delano cat people and giving the residents some well-deserved cuddles when the ex spotted a small black cat at the bottom of a pile of cages. He was a little scraggly, with yellow eyes. His card said he was 9 months old and that his name was Binky.

“Here, black cat. Come here!”

Binky came to my ex and meowed. She picked him up and handed him to me. He didn’t let me put him back down until we got home. Binky adopted me, not the other way around. While the ex handled the paperwork, I renamed him Simon “Puss Puss” LeBon, which is much more dignified than Binky.

From that day forward, Simon became my Christmas cat. He was a gift to myself at a time when I thought I could rule the world. The world is still safe, but Simon’s still here regardless. It’s the closest relationship with an animal I’ve ever had in my life. I love him a lot, but don’t let him know I said that.

The Best Albums Of 2008 #18


The Raveonettes-Lust Lust Lust

I have never found an album in my life that begs to be played at ungodly volume levels more than Danish band The Raveonettes’ 3rd full-length album, Lust Lust Lust. Lust Lust Lust finds band members Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo peeling away a smidgeon from the 50’s surf rock and Spectoresque styling of 2005’s Pretty In Black and embracing a minimalist shoegaze approach that hearkens more to bands like The Jesus And Mary Chain and Slowdive. And despite these minimalist leanings, the album just begs to be blasted at maximum volume.

Wagner and Foo have long incorporated the idea of singing lyrics together to create an unworldly drone. And while there are still a good number of tracks sung in harmony on Lust Lust Lust, the duo split from time to time to tackle songs solo. The middle of the record features a pair of songs, “Black Satin” and “Blush,” that work so beautifully together that it’s easy to imagine the solo albums coming inevitably down the line. I’ll be very curious to see if The Raveonettes can ever top an album as nearly perfect as Lust Lust Lust.

“Dead Sound”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Text Messages From Beyond


My dreams baffle me the vast majority of the time. I don’t have those prototypical dreams about walking naked into a classroom or office. I don’t dream about my teeth being pulled. No, I dream about completely ridiculous things.

Case in point: Last night I was dreaming about text messages. Now, why would I do that? I mean, I know I use my phone a lot, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t slip through my ear and into my brain at any point yesterday.

And the messages were completely apropos of nothing going on in my life at the moment. I might as well have been dreaming about clowns and balloons, for all the importance I can dredge from the messages I remember:

From John B:

I’m getting that feeling again! What you up to?

From Ginger P:

John is being an asshole! But what else is new?

From Jennifer G:

Bring the champagne. We’ll probably need it after the show.

From Amber V:

Don’t think about it anymore. We luv u!

The funny thing is, I don’t really remember sending any replies in the dream. I guess my dream people were just sending me random messages that meant nothing in context. It’s weirder than the airplane sonar dreams I used to have when I was a little kid.

Excerpt 5


It feels like I’ve known you forever, even though I haven’t. Why is that? How is it that we missed out on the family lottery? You should have been a part of my family, or I should have been a part of yours. Either way, really. At the very least, it would have given me a reason for feeling guilty for loving you the way I did.

I never felt that guilt, though. Sure, I probably shouldn’t have been in love with you. It would have saved me an awful lot of grief in the long run if I had been able to exist in a platonic relationship. But that just never worked for me. And you certainly never helped. I think you liked the feeling that there was always someone around who loved you more than you loved yourself. It must have felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket. Comforting.

I’ve never met someone so utterly confident, yet so gripped with self-doubt as you. For someone who’s done so much in her life, you sure don’t think very highly of yourself. In fact, you’ve accused me in the past of putting you on a pedestal. Of thinking you’re perfect. But I don’t think you’re perfect. I think you’re you. And that’s just perfect enough for me.

These days, we’re both less than the sum of our parts. We’re both gripped with loathing for our current situations. I’m going through a point in my life where I don’t know if I can escape from the mistakes I've made. You’re in a similar place, afraid of what’s next. I don’t have any answers. I just know that I’ll still be there for you, regardless of what the world throws at you. And I know you’ll be there for me.

And it'll be nice and platonic for once.

The Best Albums Of 2008 #19


The Dodos-Visiter

The Dodos are an indie-folk group formed in San Francisco just a few short years ago that is already starting to turn some heads. Their blend of acoustic guitars, resigned vocals, and syncopated drums are a welcome slap in the face in a year full of cookie cutter acts. An indie-folk group that actually puts an emphasis on drumming? Why the hell not?

Their second full-length album, Visiter, features a handful of near-epic compositions like “Joe’s Waltz” and “Paint The Rust” that rise and fall in tempo and composition so much that the intensity is surprising for what is essentially a folk record. These tracks are sandwiched by shorter interludes that give the listener a breather between blasts of energy. The effect is, well, effective. Visiter is one of the best and most surprising albums of the year.

“Fools”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Best Albums Of 2008 #20


Ladytron-Velocifero

Ladytron was a vital part of the electroclash explosion of the early 2000’s and, unsurprisingly, is one of the few survivors. Where so many of their contemporaries made bad decisions, Ladytron excelled. Fischerspooner lip synched. Ladytron performed live. Peaches fought to alienate listeners. Ladytron, despite chilly music and lyrics, were surprisingly pop. The Faint went crazy. Ladytron signed to Nettwerk (Which might be a sign of insanity, but whatever.).

The Liverpool band’s fourth record, Velocifero, continues a trend of increasingly darker, moodier records, yet without losing any of the pop sensibilities that made them palatable in the first place. Velocifero is chock-full of dark, sexy, and chilling songs that are just perfect for the upcoming winter months. And as a bonus, Mira Aroyo sings a pair of tracks of her native Bulgarian, which is lovely considering her near-absence on 2005’s Witching Hour.

“Ghosts”

Buy Me Stuff (Pt. 2)


I adore Franz Ferdinand and their 3rd album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, hits stores in late January. A special edition has been planned for the record that I must have. It comes with the actual CD, a dub version of the album on CD, a 40-minute DVD documentary on the making of the album, a hardback book of photos, and the original album spread out over six 7” singles. Oh. My. God. Must. Have. Anyone have a spare, oh, whatever the heck the thing’s gonna cost?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Frog And Peach


We're drinking peach cider on the back patio at the Frog And Peach pub in San Luis Obispo and it's getting close to time to head back to Avila Beach. We've been drinking all day at various pubs and bars in the area, trying to avoid a certain irritating hobo neighbor. I strike up a conversation about our rank, filthy, and instantly amusing surroundings.

The Loss Adjuster: “You know, this place is always what I’ve imagined the east coast is like.”

Discotrash: “No, not at all.”

The Loss Adjuster: “What, is it grimier out there?”

Discotrash: “Yes.”

We head back to Avila Beach. The hobo neighbor is still there. Off to another bar we go...

Indeed

Monday, December 8, 2008

Crummy Morning

Wow. This morning was pretty sucky. After Sebastian and I got up and had breakfast, I was settling down to use my laptop. My Dad rushed in to tell me that he needed me to look at something quickly. I got up and put my laptop down on the couch and followed him.

You see, a few days ago, I noticed that the weird damp smell in my car appeared to be coming from the trunk. When it rained last weekend, water leaked in. I had cleaned out the trunk and dried it. Well, my Dad checked on it this morning and the upholstery was damp again.

So, he took apart the trunk and found that there were two inches of water in the well where my spare is kept. I had no idea. Every day, the water was condensing and messing up the upholstery. So we drained out the water and started air-drying my car. It's going to take a couple of days to completely dry out. Even parts of the back seat are damp.

Anyway, on to part two of the bad morning. Finishing up with the trunk, I was heading back into the house when I stepped on something sharp. Yep, having rushed out of the house, I wasn't wearing any shoes. So, for the second time this year, I stepped on a piece of glass. Hooray, bleeding foot! Again!

This one took a bit more work to clean up, though. A sliver of glass actually worked its way in so far that I had to do a bit of amateur surgery to get it out. Now I bet you're wondering, "How does the morning get worse?"

Remember my laptop? Yeah. While it was on the couch, it appears that Sebastian got to it. It's frozen in a loop of booting up and restarting. I can't control anything. And nothing I've tried so far has worked. It's just not cooperating. Rather than chuck the thing out the window, I unplugged it and put it in the closet. I'll look at it again later.

One very, very long shower later, here I sit in an Anze Kopitar jersey. Thank Ceiling Cat I have things to do and places to go today. I need a distraction!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Buy Me Stuff (Pt. 1)


Somebody buy this for me. Seriously. It's, like, the sweetest Kings shirt ever. But it costs $49.99. Seriously. WTF?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Lipgloss

I guess this is the point in the proceedings where I'm supposed to say something poignant. It's been an enlightening week on a lot of fronts. I've learned that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We just choose to accent our personalities in this way or that way at any given moment. I suppose I haven't really changed as a person. I'm just putting forward better parts of my personality and burying less desirable ones. Or, at least, trying to.

I'm trying to avoid sweeping declarations here. There's really no point in doing that. I know that I'm the type of person who yearns to be loved, and I'm talking in generalities here. I take rejection hard in all forms. But I just burn with this passion to be loved and accepted and when it doesn't happen, I freak out. 2008 has been all about freaking out.

But the bad things I've done to other people shouldn't matter so much tomorrow. The bad things that have been done to me shouldn't matter so much tomorrow. I can only be myself and hope that's good enough for the world. The alternative, frankly, sucks.

I don't really know how to consciously go about getting what I want anymore. I'm taking baby steps forward. I had a really good conversation earlier this week with someone on that very subject. He's an amazing friend and I love him very much. He can see the progress, even if I can't. The good, or at least amusing, parts of me are coming back, bit by tiny bit.

I've talked before about getting my life back on track. Apparently, I was doing that the whole time and not noticing. Things are better now, even if they don't always appear to be from the outside. I'm capable of fixing my mistakes and finding true love and living again. I'm even capable of making new mistakes!

So, what was the point of this? I'm doing okay. I'm stepping outside and breathing again. I did a little casual dating. I've talked and opened up and caught up with a lot of people. I've even developed a stupid little crush I won't act on (I'm SO not her type). I'm getting hope back. Let's see if I can do anything with it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cuddles


One of my cats, Niro, is seriously independent. She doesn't like being picked up or poked or anything. She will come to you when she feels the need for petting. It's not that she's unfriendly. Quite the opposite, in fact. She's one of the friendliest cats I know. It's just that she has major cat boundaries.

As such, she never sleeps with me at night. That's usually Simon's job. It's also his job to wake me up in the morning with a well-placed paw to the eye, but that's besides the point. I bring this up because Niro has slept in my bed the last three nights.

The best I can suss out is that the latest round of Feral Cat Wars being played out in the middle of our street is bothering her. Both of my cats are indoor cats, so they mainly just watch as the neighborhood cats yowl and hiss and bat at each other's faces.

This week, the Feral Cat Wars have been especially loud. It's like the Kathy Griffin of feral cats has moved into the neighborhood and the paparazzi are on high alert. So, I get a little cuddle time with Niro out of the bargain. I'm just trying to enjoy it, since I'm sure she'll be back to being indifferent to my existence any day now.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Enter The Cheaptrix


$8.99 at Target last night. Seriously. All four movies, on two flipper discs. Yeah, the discs are fairly bare-bones, in terms of extras, but I can't argue with the price. We appear to be in that "end of days" period of discounting on DVD's. Here, take these four movies. Take them away from us!

Someone needs to remind the public that Blu-Ray players upconvert DVD's, so it's really no big deal to buy a lesser film on the lesser format. I mean, I do appreciate the discounts, but really?

And, really, I'd pay $8.99 for the first film and The Animatrix any day. Those other two films can go die. They're just frosting.

I wonder if I can convince the powers-that-be to put together sets like this for all the movies I've lost over the years? The Alien series? A Nightmare On Elm Street 1-578? Everything starring Clive Owen?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Sign Of Things Past


I miss the old Welcome To Bakersfield sign on the 99 freeway just south of town. It was only around for about a decade, quickly replaced by a prettier, younger sign. The old sign was great, though. There was a hole in the sign, just under the To. At night, the entire sign would be lit, save for this gaping black spot in the middle. As if to say, “Welcome To Bakersfield, The Black Hole Of California.”

The sign was often a topic of conversation with Bakersfieldians. Just about any discussion about traveling back to Bakersfield from the Los Angeles area could lead to that sign. Just about everyone had an idea for slogans revolving around it.

* “Welcome To Bakersfield, Fill Us With Goodness

* “Welcome To Bakersfield, We Could Only Afford 90% Of The Sign

* “Welcome To Bakersfield, Not A Bong

* “Welcome To Bakersfield, We Only Approve Of The Use Of One Hole

* “Welcome To Bakersfield, We Asked For Something Holy And This Is What We Got

* “Welcome To Bakersfield, Our Order For Welcome To Hell Was Misinterpreted

* ”Welcome To Bakersfield, God’s Glory Hole

* “Welcome To Bakersfield, Guess Where Los Angeles Sticks It?

Admittedly, the vast majority of slogan ideas involve the hole and what it could be used for. I like to think that it was just a reminder of how flawed the city is. Even our sign is incomplete. Maybe the slogan should have been, “Please Come To Bakersfield, Complete Us.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Munitions


Congratulations are in order for yours truly! I have accomplished another feat! I get to be the bad guy again! I have acted opposite another person and have, in the process, pissed them off enough to slag me over and over, in spite of a peace agreement. In a lot of ways, I’m used to it. Being the fall guy, being the last guy in the room full of weapons, it’s a familiar feeling to me. “Oops, um, these grenades are sooooooo not mine. Nor are the mines. Um, they’re yours, right? No? Fuck.”

I’m not blameless. Please don’t get that impression. I said a few things in a protected forum that leaked out. A few things that the other party found to be embarrassing. I get that, too. I’ve heard things I shouldn’t have heard before and was totally embarrassed, not because those things weren’t true, but because a few people whom I didn’t want to read them totally did. But that was before we met at the United Nations and agreed to unilateral disarmament. It turned out that there were a few spare munitions left, however. What’s that buzzing in my ear? Oh, BOOM? Okay!

Is this my last word on the subject (Or only word, for that matter…)? Probably. There’s no point in crying over spilled milk and there’s certainly no point in dragging someone’s name through the mud. The person on the other side of the negotiation table is actually a pretty nice person. The person on the other side of the Berlin Wall of our, um, hearts (My metaphors suck tonight.) is a pretty clever person with a great sense of humor. But we just argued and misunderstood each other far too much in the span of one short week to ever consider continuing our previous arrangement.

So, see you later. I hope you find happiness. I hope you find that true love you desire. If you ever need to talk to me, I’ll be over here on my side of the wall, counting grenades…

Excerpt 4

I’m sitting so close to you and it’s freaking me out. Our legs are touching out of necessity. I can feel the warmth radiating from you. I try to avoid eye contact, even though we’re talking. Everything that comes out of my mouth sounds ridiculous and I know it. It sounds especially ridiculous because I’m nervous. And I can’t stop being nervous around you, no matter how much I try to convince myself that it’s no big deal. I’ve convinced myself that you’d never have any interest in me anyway, so there’s no point in even thinking about it. But I can’t stop thinking about it. And that makes me nervous. Can you read my mind? I hope not.

I’ll admit it. I have a little crush on you. Okay, I won’t admit it to you, but I will admit it. I so clearly remember the first time I met you. It feels like it was ages ago. You looked surprised to meet me in the circumstances in which we met. Of course you knew who I was. You know everybody. But you knew me for a reason otherwise. You knew my family. But that was all there was, just a look of surprise and recognition. There was nothing else. But I felt something else, even if I didn’t know what it was at the time. I just thought it was fun. I enjoyed meeting you.

It’s not like we’ve spent mountains of time together over the years, just fleeting moments. But those moments were always so lovely. I don’t know what those moments mean to you. Should that freak me out? I hope it doesn’t freak you out. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know what it all means. I’m not appropriate for you, and I doubt you’d be interested anyway. For all our similarities, we’re just too different. You’re a genuinely good person and I’m, well, me. So, I convince myself that it’s a terrible idea to ever say anything, to ever act. And that’s okay, I suppose. Because I’d rather be nervous and be around you than never see you again.

Thank Ceiling Cat you’ll never see this.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Man Love


What a strange cultural phenomenon “Man Love” is. Generally, it denotes a heterosexual male having a close bond or exaggerated appreciation for another heterosexual male. But I like to apply it in the sports world, because it’s funniest when applied there.

We’ve all met sports fans with huge cases of “Man Love” (And by no means am I trying to be gender specific here; this is just a typically male sentiment.). No matter what their player does or doesn’t do, it’s not their fault. That player is perfect.

They’re the fans who wear Trent Dilfer jerseys without the slightest hint of irony. There’s nothing wrong with Trent Dilfer. I mean, the guy won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. But obsessing over a guy who was a “serviceable” player and ignoring that very fact is a symptom of “Man Love.”

My father has a case of “Man Love” for Brian Boyle of the Los Angeles Kings and I’ve been trying to figure out a way of breaking him out of it. Not that there’s anything massively wrong with Brian Boyle, but, well, let me explain…

Brian Boyle is a 6’7”, 250 lb center who’s played in a few dozen games for the Kings in the last two seasons. Usually, what happens is that he plays a few games, gets benched, and eventually gets sent back down to the minors.

Why? For a guy as large as Brian Boyle, he sure gets knocked around a lot. He’s slow. He’s inept in the defensive zone. He’s surprisingly weak. So, what does the guy have going for him that’s even allowed him to get this far? He’s got a pretty good shot and, well, he is huge.

But those two attributes are completely useless in the NHL without a good foundation to stand on. And my father seems blind to this. He thinks that if Brian Boyle played on the top line and skated a good 20 minutes a game, he’d be the best player out there. This is not the case yet. Brian Boyle needs to learn down in the minors and actually develop his skills. I think the guy will be a great player someday. Just not right this minute.

But that is just too much information to break through the shield of “Man Love.” My father just loves Brian Boyle and I just have to accept that when he tells me the Kings are idiots for playing him on the fourth line or teaming him with x player or y player. And at least he’s not a Trent Dilfer fan.

Plush With Anticipation


We’re packed like sardines in a tin can at Rabobank Arena, so I’m holding Jennifer and Denise’s stuffed animals to make room for them to sit comfortably. Although, it’s more like I’m cuddling their animals. The new friends I met tonight are having a little laugh at my expense, but that’s okay. It’s all for a good cause, and I don’t mind being laughed at when I’m squeezing a polar bear, a moose, and a panda.

We’re anxiously awaiting the first Condors goal. When that happens, not only is our local ECHL team on its way to another victory (Actually, they‘re not), but our stuffed animals are on their way to center ice. Close to 9,000 fans are in attendance for Teddy Bear Toss night, which means there are a lot of people getting excited at the prospect of chucking stuffed animals into the air.

Then, at 14:28 of the first period, forward Dale Reinhardt buries a shorthanded breakaway goal and the stuffed animals begin to fly. We’re in the upper section, so we have a fantastic view of the carnage. There are cats flying into the Idaho Steelheads’ bench. There are dogs catching themselves on the netting behind the goals. And there are some teddy bears so large the kids trying to carry them off the ice are falling over under their weight.

All told, it’s a complete mess. A glorious mess. There are thousands and thousands of stuffed animals on the ice now, ready to go to underprivileged kids in the area for the holidays. Everyone in the stands is happy; giddy almost. The ice is colorful cacophony of plushies. And I feel oddly satisfied about the whole thing.