Monday, August 29, 2005

A Lesson For The Kids

When on a bender, avoid mixing in the following order:

beer -- Hop, Skip, 'N Go Naked (an evil cocncotion of beer, vodka, and lemonade) -- beer -- Mai Tai's -- beer, beer, beer

The headache is like a vice grip and the subsequent BM's are anything but solid.

The Death of a Luddite

It was inevitable and now it has happened. I finally broke down and bought a cellphone. For all of my anti-cell posturing and longwinded diatribes about their tackiness and direct contribution to the decaying of social etiquette, I decided to eat a big steaming plate of crow and just give in.

In the end it was the gadetry, not the funcitonality, that sunk me. About a month ago I fell in love with the Motorola RAZR V3, the goddamn Escalade of cellphones. It's slim, black, cool as hell and if it was available with 22-inch spinning rims I would have got 'em. If all this thing did was open soup cans I still would have bought it, but it is indeed a cellphone and I am now officially wireless.

I can already feel the change coming over me...I'm becoming one of those people. Like Frodo with the Ring of Power, I am constantly fiddling with it; checking my pocket to see if it's still there, opening it to gaze at the backlit acid-etched keypad, and holding it up to other fatter objects for perspective on how slim it is. It's only been in my posession for 4 days and I would say that my ratio of pertinent to frivolous transmissions is something approaching 1 to 10. In that time I have also transmitted 8 text messages, all of them meaningless.

Over the course of the next few weeks I am going to seek out some counseling and find a way to deal with my competing emotions of love (love of my new toy) and self-loathing. I wonder if I have any messages...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Twin Cinema

Carl (A.C.) Newman has done it again. I've been listening to the latest New Pornographers album, Twin Cinema, nonstop for the last 24 hours and I have decided it that it may be their best album to date. It doesn't have a straight up in-your-face catchy single like the previous albums but there are some moments that are just incredible.

Unlike earlier tunes, the songs on this album have a real slow-burning effect. While I love the way that tracks on Electric Version and especially Mass Romantic hit hard right off the bat, it seems like the band has reined in their sound on this album. The result is some great tension, and dynamics, which makes for an even more exuberant chorus when it finally breaks through. (Imagine not hearing Neko's wail until the last half of Letter From an Occupant...pretty powerful.)

Like many "great" albums I don't know if over time this will be my favorite New Pornographers album, but I think it is the best and most interesting work I've heard from them. I can't wait for their show which is coming to the 9:30 Club in October.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Drunk Sluts in Short Skirts

OK, that wasn't very fair. I don't actually have any evidence regarding the promiscuity of these girls but the title sounds good and they certainly fit the M.O. What am I talking about?

Last night I went to Wolf Trap to see Huey Lewis & The News. We had a good time hanging out on the lawn, listening to the radio/video hits of our youth, and observing the rest of the scene at the show. One of the great things about Wolf Trap is that you can bring a ridiculous amount of booze into the park. Now while I abstained last night, due to two prior nights of binge-drinking, everybody around me proceeded to get shit-faced. Good times.

The most impressive exhibit at the show was the group of twentysomething SoHo-ish chicks directly in front of us slamming 40 oz. bottles of Hurricane. No that is not a typo, they were drinking 40's. And that was at 6:30pm right as the park first let people in. They all had the same uniform of short skirts, tight tank tops, and expensive flip-flops and were definitely there for a good time.

It turns out that the 40's were just an appetizer. Most of them took 'em down in about a half hour and Jamie claims that she saw one of them kill hers in about 15 minutes. Impressive, but meerely a warm up. They immediately tore into shots and then shotgunned beers with a group of shirtless chachies strategically seated next to them. I swore up and down that there was no way these chicks were going to make it through the night but goddamn was I wrong. They drank and danced through the entire show and I didn't see one puke or fall over the entire time. I guess they did learn something in college.

Huey Lewis & The News - 3 stars (out of 5)
Drunk Sluts in Short Skirts - 3.5 stars

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Why Star Wars is my religion

I’ve been having a lot of religious discussions with my family lately. Mostly having to do with how they are Catholic and I am not or even more so to do with how much I despise any and all organized religious doctrine. I think that they are in some way concerned that I am going to hell, which I probably am, but for reasons far more significant than the pettiness of church on Sunday or blaspheming The Good Book. But what they don’t realize and what I’ve just come to figure out is that I have religion, just not in the traditional sense.

You see I don’t need Catholicism, or Judaism, or whatever because I already have a constant presence that has framed my everyday goings-on since I was 5…Star Wars. And I’m not talking about that crap that’s been in the theaters the last couple of years (read: post Lucas complete megalomaniacal breakdown). I mean the real deal; Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and even the Ewok-littered Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. These films are my canon.

Now before we get off on the wrong foot, please realize that I am not some action figure worshipping lunatic who camps out for movie tickets six weeks in advance. There are no hidden secrets within the film scripts. And much like Han, I do not believe in the Force:
Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to other. I've seen a lot of
strange things, but nothing to convince me that there is one all powerful
"Force" controlling everything. There's no energy field controlling my destiny.

However, I will admit that I do own the toys, have purchased somewhat pricey memorabilia, and did in fact stand outside Best Buy in the cold for an hour awaiting the midnight sale of the Holy Trilogy’s DVD release. But I truly believe that I have many other healthy American Guy interests that offset these occasional dorkish indulgences.

The point being that I am not crazy. When I say that Star Wars is my religion, what I mean is that I grew up during the dawn of the multimedia age when kids were no longer an afterthought but actually had a demographic all their own. The shows I watched, the music I listened to, the toys I played with all said something about who I was/am; much in the same way that being Catholic said a lot about my parents when they were growing up.

My sister turned me onto this great term: Cradle Catholics. It refers to being born into Catholicism rather than the Church being a conscious spiritual decision. My parents are Catholic because their parents are. I was Catholic because my parents are. There are millions of us like this and we all go through the same rituals; First Confession, First Communion, Confirmation, Sunday School/CCD, brutally long services on Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday parking disasters, sleeping in the pew during Midnight Mass, uniforms, rosary upon rosary upon rosary…it’s always the same. And while these rituals are part of our “religion,” most of us robotically step through them without any thought to the spiritual content. It’s just what we do. That’s what these old institutionalized religions do. They provide a framework, a set of milestones that we look to as we grow up and give some perspective on how long ago this was or how much longer until that. Some people go through all of this and do end up contemplating the spiritual aspects: “Is the Bible truth or fiction?” “Is masturbation a sin?” “Am I supposed to feel guilty all the time?” But for many, including myself, it was just the process. It’s what we did.

And in the same way, Star Wars (and all the iconography of my youth) serves the same purpose. It was what I obsessed over as a child and in some ways still do. Star Wars was the first film that detached me from the real world and actually brought me into the cinema experience. Playing with the toys night and day was one of the first experiences that sparked my imagination and made me think of things beyond the here-and-now. As an adult the films still mark my existence. My friends and I trade quotes to show how we all grew up the same way. I have certain pieces of memorabilia because when I look at them they remind me of when I was a kid and that always makes me happy. We still watch the films once or twice a year and when we do it’s an occasion. “You know what we haven’t done in a while? Order some food, mix some drinks, and watch the entire Trilogy front to back.” Good times.

So, when I think about the way Star Wars impacted me as a kid and makes me feel as an adult, it’s a whole hell of a lot like the way Catholicism also affected me at the same time. You do the steps, you mark the time, you compare experiences with the friends who were there, and ultimately you always have something to talk about. Since I’m an agnostic, I don’t buy into God or fatalism or determinism. Therefore I don’t need all of the hocus-pocus baggage that comes with the Catholic framework. Give me Star Wars, or indie rock, or books by Nick Hornby, and I can still mark the time, commune with my friends, grow old and reflect on youth, and still turn out a pretty decent guy.

That’s what I mean by “Star Wars is my religion.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Jammin' Java

Last Thursday I went to a small concert venue in Vienna, VA called Jammin' Java to see the Pernice Brothers. Per usual, Joe and the boys put on a great show. I'm not completely sold on the new album so I was happy to hear them play a solid set of material from all four albums (plus Joe's solo acoustic encore featuring some Scud Mountain Boys tunes).

It was my first time seeing a show at Jammin' Java and I was pretty impressed with the venue. Especially since it sits in a strip mall on Maple Street in Vienna...not the hippest of locations when one thinks of a concert venue in the DC area. But it has a friendly staff, reasonable prices on beer, a solid sound system, and a very relaxed vibe inside. I'm ashamed to admit that I was especially happy to see that there were a number of tables and chairs set up in front of the stage. I must be getting old because I was more than satisfied to sit on my arse throughout the course of the show. (Now in my defense, the Pernice Brothers do play some really thoughtful pop music that doesn't require one to be on his feet "rocking out.")

However the thing that really struck me about the place was how many hot seemingly-single women were there for the show. I don't know if they were there for the band or the venue but I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of women out doing the concert thing without being dragged around by their boyfriends. So my question is this, "Where do you all hang out when you're not going to shows?"

There must be a secret location somewhere...

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Nick Hornby part of my psyche

This is one of my favorite bits from High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. It captures the spirit of what I think about when people ask me what sort of woman I am looking for:

Five women who don't live on my street, as far as I know, but would be very welcome if they ever decided to move into the area: the Holly Hunter of Broadcast News; the Meg Ryan of Sleepless in Seattle; a woman doctor I saw on the telly once, who had lots of long frizzy hair and carved up a Tory MP in a debate about embryos, although I don't know her name and I've never been able to find a pinup of her; Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story; Valerie Harper in the TV series Rhoda. These are women who talk back, women with a mind of their own, women with snap and crackle and pop...but they are also women who seem to need the love of a good man. I could rescue them. I could redeem them. They could make me laugh, and I could make them laugh, maybe, on a good day, and we could stay in and watch one of their films or TV programs or embryo debates on video and adopt disadvantaged children together and the whole family could play soccer in Central Park.
I think I love Hornby's writing so much because he understands how his hobbies (read: obsessions) fit into the scheme of the would-be women in his life.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Best Wedding Ever: Part III (The Conclusion)

The dinner service was a very classy affair. Held under a large tent overlooking the lavender fields, we sat at assigned tables that each represented an important location in the lives of the couple. I usually think that kind of stuff is pretty corny but I have to say it was a very nice touch. There were little placards at each table describing why the location was special and we were split up between the Lake Monticello Table (home of the annual Memorial Day Weekend Festivoo) and the Four P’s Table (where Katherine and Brian met).

The meal itself was a nice catered mix of London Broil, pasta, and grilled prawns. I am not a seafood guy but everyone went on and on about how great the prawns were. So great in fact that Jamie went hopping from seat to seat stuffing everyone’s leftover prawns into his mouth. Seeing as we were sharing a hotel room I was quite frightened of what the scene in the bathroom was going to be like at 2am.

I’d like to say that we stuck to the agenda and behaved ourselves through dinner but the cocktail “hour” went on way too long and we were restless by the time we got seated. The wine had been flowing since just after the ceremony and the kegs got tapped before the dinner service which meant is was a downhill ride after that. Karl broke the seal, so to speak, at my table by making some anal sex remark about Robin. Normally that would be par for the course (I think some people would have been shocked if he hadn’t said something crude by then) but we were in mixed company and the date of the groom’s old roommate had quite a shocked look on her face. Fortunately laughs broke out all around, more bottles of wine were uncorked, and that was our cue to get stupid.

Shortly thereafter Scott and I were rather loudly discussing masturbation techniques all the while calling out clock times if any booty happened to pass by (6 o’clock. 6! No, your 6!!). I immediately fell in love with one of the waitresses and Scott began taking pictures of her ass every time she passed the table while trying to hide his activities from both the waitress and his girlfriend...Alicia handled it with great aplomb.

So the dinner service was starting to get a little rowdy with all of us maintaining conversations three or four tables away. Fortunately the speeches started (well done by both the best man and the matron of honor) and before we knew it the dinner service was over and so finally was any attempt at decorum. Time to slam ‘em.

The bride’s family has a large, modern, and very nice barn on the ranch which they completely decked out with lights and decorations. They hired a band, parked the kegs right outside the front door, and turned it into a dance hall. And drink and dance we did. Mostly drink.

It didn’t take long for it to become apparent that we were by far the rowdiest and alcoholiciest group at the party although some of Diepolds’s college buddies hung right there with us. Drinking turned to dancing and dancing turned to grinding and then people just started falling all over themselves. All the while we were charging out the barn door for more beer (which I kept feeding to the band trying to get them fucked up) and to piss in the Don Jon’s they had wisely set up outside; wisely because otherwise we would have been pissing all over their very expensive lavender plants.

Things start to get a little blurry once the “dance” portion of the evening began. I definitely attempted some very humorous swing dancing maneuvers with various friends’ girlfriends and at some point someone was doing the worm while the groom’s 10-year-old cousin did back spins. This is the same cousin who was so small, that I and a couple of other people were tossing him back and forth across the dance floor. In retrospect it probably looked like a very bad midget-tossing contest.

Even later on things began to get really hairy. After a few too many keg stands, the beer ran out so the bride’s brother drove a golf cart across the ranch to get the other kegs and bring them back to the barn. Upon seeing the cart and more importantly the beer arrive, I allegedly leapt onto the roof of the golf cart almost toppling it. Now, did I belly-flop onto the roof of the cart? Yes. Did the cart almost topple over? I think that is highly exaggerated. And besides, that is not nearly as bad as what happened next. After I climbed down and concerned myself with more important things (i.e. the newly arrived beer) Piete and Greg stole the golf cart and took it for a little joyride. Drunk behind the wheel and peeling across the turf, Greg steered the thing around the guests, between the barn and the house, and almost barreled into several parked cars before skidding to a gravelly halt. And everyone thought I was an idiot.

Suffice to say we partied until last call and caught a very crowded shuttle for a loud drunken ride back to the hotel (much to the dismay of our surly townie bus driver). No one had any juice left in the tank and so people punched out almost immediately. I tried to rally a few stragglers into causing a ruckus in the town (according to Karl I yelled “Come on, Karl!” 17 times in a row trying to roust from his drunken near-slumber) but my adrenaline rush soon crashed and I turned in for the night. Fortunately for me, Sean knocked it out for the second night in a row and I once again had a nice soft bed all to myself. (The next my morning he declared that "My pee-pee is tired." Priceless.)

I can’t say enough about what an incredible weekend it was. I spent another two days in Seattle but didn’t do a whole lot because my body was punishing me for what I had done to it just days before. But it was worth every hangover. Huge thanks to Brian and Katherine for including me in their big day. They should get married every year.

Best Wedding Ever: Part II

Alright, Saturday morning. As I mentioned in Part I, I spent a good portion of the night sleeping on the floor unaware that one of my bunkmates had pulled some tail and slept across the hall. Realizing this at 5am and cursing his name, I pulled my aching body into the unused bed in the room and drifted off for another few hours.

Everyone who had flown out from the East Coast the previous day was jet lagged so we all woke up at around the same time. After obliterating the continental breakfast offered by the Coupeville Inn (the rest of the guests were not happy about us having drank all the coffee by 8:30am) seven of us sat on the floor of the second-floor hallway staring out the balcony window and trying to piece together the events of the previous night. It was about the time we got around to Sean’s exploits that the groom-to-be wandered in after finishing his morning run.

Scratching our heads trying to figure out where Sean was Diepold (the groom) says “Check Erica’s room” and pointed to her door across the hall. At that very moment poor Erica walks out of the room to see Diepold pointing at her and seven open-mouthed faces on the verge of hysterics. She made an immediate 180 and ran back inside and no doubt heard us scream with laughter a split-second later. A good five minutes later a tired Sean rolls out of Erica’s room wearing a sheepish grin and his clothes from the night before. Needless to say we all burst to our feet in a raucous round of applause which again, I’m sure that Eric heard. But she was a very good sport and eventually came out to take her medicine like a trooper.

Saturday afternoon was a slow hung-over trek of sightseeing around the island. Whidbey Island really is a beautiful place with a lot of natural scenery to explore. Deception Pass (a span bridge that connects the island to the mainland with a beautiful gorge beneath it) and Fort Ebey were the highlights. And it was just what the doctor ordered because by the time the shuttle arrived at the hotel to take us out to the ranch for the wedding at 4pm, we were ready to rock.

The ceremony was extremely well done. It was held outside with a view of Penn Cove and the Olympiads setting a backdrop for the happy couple. The service was brief and soon after it was time to celebrate.

While the wedding party took photos the rest of us were shuffled off to drink wine and play croquet and bocce. It was all very high-class and an unusual situation for most of us to be in. But we were pretty well-behaved having made a conscious effort to not repeat the previous night’s debauchery…until after the dinner service.

Dinner and Reception in the exciting conclusion…

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Best Wedding Ever: Part I

Wow. I just got back from Seattle after attending what might go down as the greatest wedding of all time. I hope I am able to put into the right words what an incredible (incredibly debauched) time we had.

The whole affair took place on Whidbey Island which is one of the many islands floating out in Puget Sound just north-west of Seattle. The scenery at the ranch where the wedding took place (which is owned by the father of the bride and is a commercial lavender farm) was breathtaking. Sitting on a somewhat elevated point of the island the ranch offers a near-panoramic view of Puget Sound to the west, the Washington state mainland to the east, and the Olympiads peaking over every horizon. Absolutely incredible. But now to the good stuff…

Friday was a bit of a show, travel-wise. I left DC at 0830 Least Coast Time and ultimately made it to Seattle at 1400 Left Coast Time. I was staring down the barrel of a very long shuttle ride out to the northern point of Whidbey Island and then somehow finding my way 10 miles south to the town of Coupeville where Penn Cove Ranch is located. (The ranch is named after Penn Cove which is the little cove that Coupeville sits upon. This will become important later.) But luck was with me and as soon as I found my way to the baggage claim my buddy Jamie was standing there with his girlfriend Linda. Our flights somehow came in at the same time so I skipped the shuttle and bummed a ride in their rental.

Seattle summer traffic sucks. It was a Friday afternoon and we spent 3.5 hours crawling north on The 5 (that’s right Charley, The 5) desperately trying to make the rehearsal dinner which began at 6pm. Suffice to say we were a little late but I rolled in un-showered, unshaven, and ready to party. Most of our friends were already there along with 2 kegs of delicious high-octane microbrew. It wasn’t long before the evening took a dark turn from congenial family affair towards “My god, who invited these people?!?” It is probably worth noting that when my friends get together we behave, and more importantly drink, as if we were still in college even though we’re pushing 30. As you can imagine the level of conversation sank from “we’re so happy for the couple” to anal-sex references, loud inquiries as to the promiscuity of the female attendees, and at one point me yelling about “the bitch that just stole your chair!” – who it turns out was the ex-nun, practicing Zen Buddhist, aunt of the bride who was to preside over the ceremony the next day. I am such an asshole. Fortunately it was pretty loud in the room and the only people who heard me were those sitting at my table who were both too drunk and too familiar with me to be shocked by such an outburst. (Besides, I didn’t anything by it.)

By the time the kegs were kicked we all got tossed from the Coupeville Recreation Hall which was hosting the event. Being only 10pm we went on the crawl for more booze and the lot of us stumbled into a little tavern called the Mad Crab Inn right on the water. At this point I think I should clarify that Coupeville, and Whidbey Island in general, is a quaint little community catering to very small crowds of antiquing seniors and the Bed & Breakfast crowd. Thus, the proprietors of the Mad Crab Inn were not expecting a loud degenerate house party to come rolling in through their front doors. I don’t know who was more frightened, the little jazz-trio that bore witness to some highly inappropriate grinding on the dance floor, or the bartenders who had probably never served that many Jager-bombs in her entire life. Yadda, yadda, yadda the shit got pretty sideways at that point.

The rest of the night was pieced together from various reports the following morning. Sometime after leaving the Mad Crab Inn a few of us made our way down to the marina and found ourselves standing on the dock staring out over Penn Cove. On a bet/dare (and a whole lot of goading) I stripped down to my boxers and contemplated jumping into the cove. Thinking I should probably examine the water temperature first I stepped off of the dock onto a small dingy which almost immediately capsized. Holding on to the mast for dear life and perched at about a 10 degree angle above the water I decided to take the $60 and just let go. Frigid. And what’s worse, the dock was a lot higher off of the water than I first thought so I had to be dragged out of the cove almost losing my underwear in the process. Shivering (but not too badly thanks to the Jager-bombs) on the dock I decided to complete the event by offering my soaking Hanes as a sacrifice to the sea gods. Butt-naked and aware of the “shrinkage” I quickly got dressed and we all headed back to our hotel where another party was raging full-bore. I don’t remember much of this but according to reports (and photos) everyone was asking about my trip into Penn Cove and feeling the need to prove that I left my underwear behind, pulled my pants down several times (just bare ass) in front of a large number of complete strangers. Priceless.

Finally someone cut us all off and we retired to our respective rooms where I was passed out in my sleeping bag on the floor. The reason I slept on the floor was because Jamie and Linda were sleeping in one bed and I decided to let my buddy Sean have the other bed since he was going to be in the wedding part the next day. I’m a nice guy like that. Well, Sean was nowhere to be seen when we got to the room so I curled up on the floor and let sleep wash over me. Much to my dismay I woke up jet-lagged at 5am on the floor with a stiff back and a pounding headache. Not a big surprise except for the fact that I looked up and saw an empty bed that no one had slept in the entire. Apparently Sean made a little friend that night and I slept on the floor for no reason. Dammit!!

I’m exhausted just writing about it. Anyway, that brings us to Saturday which I will get around to in Part II. Stay tuned…

Monday, August 01, 2005


I'm a little late on the bandwagon here but if you haven't done so already, check out Sufjan Steven's new album Come on feel the Illinoise. It's really amazing how much songcraft this guy put into one album. There are plenty of beautiful melodies and arrangements that you just don't hear a lot of. I would compare the sound to that of the Arcade Fire but less erratic and intense. Check it out.