The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Friday, December 29, 2006

2006:Your Pal in Review

I started writing a year end post, until I realized that there all way to many of those already. with my end picks for music especially echoed too many other people's (Hold Steady, TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs).
The other things I wanted to write about have been done to death by people who get paid to write(You Tube, DVR, MySpace).
So I just wanted to thank my readers for their time. Having the immediate feedback of blogging has helped me immeasurably with my writing. I'm a little more than halfway done with my book "Surviving Retail" and most of that has been since I started blogging, after six years of stops and starts. Thanks a lot for everything.
My Favorite Posts.
Episode VII:Salad Days of the jedi
Things I've Never Understood About Men
How I stopped worrying and learn to love going bald
Part 2
I Need Coffee!!
Things I've never understood about women
Lonnie Bruner vs. the Catfish
Nice Guy's Burden
My Fifth Anniversary 9/11 post
Mid term elections and the Trix Rabbit
The Real Santa
Have a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Future weeps for itself

I was writing my last post on my day off, watching "T-Minus Rock" on MTV2 to catch up with what "the Kids" are into and let me tell you people, they are depressed!
Most of the songs were like melodramatic cries for help set to the same kind dropped tone riffing. They don't scream as much now, but they do yell a lot and almost all dress in black. The main diferences seem to be mainly cosmetic, some bands have long hair, some short, some have Jared Leto as a singer. It all seems as formulaic as 80's hair metal; they've traded songs of hedonism for ones of aggressive depression and hair spray for black eyeliner. They both have break downs in their songs designed to have concertgoers sing along:
Poison: "Don't need nothin' but a good time!"
Fallout Boy:"This isn't a scene, it's a goddamn arms race!"
What the fuck does that mean, more importantly, do I care?
It makes me think about when I see kids throwing tantrums at the store, I think, "Kid, you don't know the half of it." I think that's why people yearn for their younger day, when they had the luxury of thinking not getting a toy or getting grounded was the worst thing that could ever happened until wisdom or fate widened the possibility of how bad things can really get. I don't believe that life gets better when you get older because it gets easier, it's gets better because you can deal with it a lot better (hopefully).
The font of teenaged angst begins flowing when a child becomes aware enough to realize that enough things that their parents or other adults tell them are either lies or baldly hypocritical to not believe anything they say. This have been going on through out history.
This cross-generational truth played itself out on "T-Minus Rock " in Distubed's cover of Genesis's "Land of Confusion." The Singer of Disturbed is one of the many bald celebrities that people say I resemble.




Quién tiene el sexy? Disturbed Dude y Your Pal?
Your Pal by a back hair!
I'm sure Disturbed did the song mainly to grasp at their last bit of relevance but the lyrics were hard to ignore. "I won't be coming home tonight/my generation will put it right/ we're not just making promises/ we know we'll never keep" Did Phil Collins's generation put it right? Will Disturbed's generation? Will Rise Against bring about fair trade because their song says so. The cliché goes, "easier said than done", because almost everything is. It's easier sung than done, and can be more profitable too.

I watched the beginning of the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards to catch My Chemical Romance play a new song, "Welcome to the Black Parade." I like MCR o.k. , but I could never bring myself to buy anything by them for the same basic reason I didn't buy "Appetite for Destruction" when that came out; it had too many trappings of genres I don't care for overcoming my admiration of the music.
When Gideon whats-his-nuts introduced them he said that,"The scope of this band's vision is exceeded only by the depth of their sorrow!" With a straight face! If Kurt Loder (who's 5 years older than my dad) or John Norris (11 years older than me) had delivered that line without at least an conspicuous smirk, I'd believe they had been replaced by robots. At least that would explain John's hair.Robo Norris and his hair
I don't have to weep for the future, The future weeps enough for itself.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday Memories 2006

Another Christmas in retail gone by. It might have passed on the calendar, but this marks the beginning of my least favorite part of the holiday: the returns. Starting off a conversation with," We have a problem," or "You're gonna hate me but...", does not point to a peaceful resolution. Pavlovian conditioning instantly raises my defensive shields.
Anyhow, this isn't about now.

Overall, things went a lot smoother than the memories of Xmas past, But the long hours were a stone bitch. Doing anything, even things you like, for 12 to 15 hours a day will drive you fuck nutty. It's obvious that not that many people read my holiday shopping tip posts, but sitemeter already told me that already. But still, people were surprised we were busy and shopped for their kids with their kids.

Do a lot of stores close Christmas eve? It seems like an economically retarded thing to do, since at that point boiling desperation will make anyone buy ANYTHING. But, every year, I always have tons of people ask me if we're open on the 24th.

Anyway, this is the one story I have from this season.

As I mentioned in the tips, the only time you should get in line to go to the register is when you're truly ready to pay. Any questions will be far better answered by one of our top flight salespeople, not by the busiest, least mobile person. On top of that my self imposed register exile has also left me as one of the least knowledgeable people there.
It was Saturday the 16th and we were at the craziest moment of the busiest day of the year. All registers blazing we were rocking not unlike a hurricane. A lady came up with about $350 worth of stuff and had a question about one of her purchases.
"What is the age and weight limit on the Wobble Deck?"
"I don't know.", I answered, and I honestly didn't. I knew it was a deck that you wobbled on and for some reason needed 2 C batteries, and that was IT.
This wasn't good enough for her, "Can't I ask a question at the register?"
I repeated myself, admittedly a lot more tersely,"I Don't Know!"
My boss finally got her attention (he'd been standing there the whole time); before she turned to him she said, "You don't have to bark at me!"
She had a lot of shit and couldn't carry it all, so I helped her take it out across Treacherous Connecticut Ave.since we normally had people drive around to the back to take stuff out. It was my way of silently apologizing for my "barking," but she wasn't staying very silent.
"You know, if it wasn't for your boss, I would never shop here again; you were really rude to me. I know you guys are stressing out, but that's no excuse."
"Well you asked me a question that I didn't know, and you thought I was trying not to answer you."
"There are nicer ways of doing it." It never occured to her that if she just believed when I answered her question originally, none of this unpleasantness would have occured.
I explained," thought I might have upset you, that's why I'm taking this out to your car instead of having you drive around like we have everyone else do, to make it up to you."

She softened up a bit, talking about how people lose the christmas spirit and it's zen or something; the filter of my seething anger wouldn't let much into my memory.
In response, I said, "I guess working 15 hour days, six days a week has kind of made me lose that." as I loaded up her Mercedes Benz SUV.

I wanted to walk home right then and there, but there were hundreds more people waiting for me.
Post script: That lady's check bounced. It was the first time my boss ever laughed getting a bum check, because he knew this story.
He asked me, "Do you want to call her about this?", with a broad smile.
If I thought I would get any satisfaction out of it I would have.

Monday, December 25, 2006

RIP, James Brown: A Pop Quiz

I'm sure by now you've heard about the death of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
I believe his musical innovations will echo though out future generations of popular music for hundreds of years. His level of showmanship I've created a multiple choice quiz to test your knowledge of the legacy of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. The prize if you get all of them right is that you know some of the greatest music ever made, in my opinion.

1. In the mind of JB, what kind of world is this?

A. A Man's
B. A Man's, Man's
C. A Man's, Man's, Man's

2. What is the acceptable level of mess that Papa will take?

A. Not much, that is certain!
B. Changes on a mess by mess basis.
C. No

3. JB my not know Karate, but what other effective method of self defense does he employ?

A. Judo
B. Fung Shui
C. Ka-Razor

4. To maintain the status of "Sex Machine", what must one do?

A. Have a partner (or partners)
B. Have a tube of Ben-Gay handy
C. Stay on the scene

5. What's the proper JB exclamation when you "Got That Feeling"?

A. "UUUHH!"
B. "Baby!"
C. "Ow!"
D. All of the Above

6. True/False: Ain't it Funky Now?
Here's a video of the concert James did in Boston that is widely credited with saving the city from the kind of rioting that happened in other cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Holiday Shopping Tips from a Retail Perpective:Part 2

1. Coordinate babysitting swaps.
People add the cherry to their shit sundae that is holiday shopping by bringing the kids while they shop for their gifts. Admittedly, it adds A LOT of stress to me when a mom wants me to hide the biggest thing in the store when I have had no formal training as a magician. If you have friends with kids, offer to babysit their kids while they shop if they return the favor.

2. Make another list.
Almost everyone had a gift list of who to buy for, but there are other things they need. One of the things people always forget are things like cards, gift bags, batteries and gift wrap until they're in line and people aren't always willing to be understanding if you're holding up the line. If you put all those other accouterments on your shopping list, it'll save at least one headache.

3.Don't get in line until you are done shopping.
Busy cashiers make shitty salespeople. They will give you the shortest and broad answer possible to keep the line moving. If you have an exchange, a return or are picking up something, it's usually best to ask a salesperson about it. Speaking of which....

4. If you send somebody in for something, tell them what it is they're getting.
It'll make the person doing you a favor's life simpler. Names are written on tiny slips of paper the items themselves are much easier to spot.

5.Don't buy video games or computer software.
Unless you know exactly what the person you're buying for owns. I can't count how many times grandparents have been sent in to buy video games (which I think is tantamount to elder abuse) and say they need games for "the Nintendo" which now can mean the DS, the Wii, the Game Cube or the Game Boy Advance.
This is especially true of computer software. There's little writing on every piece of software that has the system requirements for it. People go, "They have Windows XP," and expect it to work; that is merely one of as many of a half dozen things that have to be met or exceeded for it to work. Also, if it's marked "expansion pack" it needs another piece to work. And because of copyright laws opened software is not returnable, as disappointing as it is to not get what you want, it's worse when you do and can't use it.
6. Line navigation can be done.
Social conditioning makes us instinctively line up directly behind the person we think is in front of us in line. The line could evolve based on how that person choses to stand. This is very rarely how the line is moving. I recently asked the line of people I was ringing up to from along the counter so that any coming into the line would know how to queue up. Someone said, "I think people are smart enough to figure it out." I countered, "Trust me, they don't."
If you take a second to figure out the layout, you can even do it when you first enter the store, it'll save a lot of trouble. The only kind of store line I have seen in the past few years is when I buy groceries. Every other place has one line, so that the next person that is ready gets the next available register. This system works best when you wait until you're called to the register. People try to be efficient and make their way to the register before their called, but trust me waiting until your called will save you more time than those couple steps.

7. If someone's letting you go in front of them, thank them and go ahead of them.
This will save a back and forth of "No, you go", "No, you go","I've got a lot of stuff" on and on. They're not ready and you are. Please don't forget to thank them. Also, regardless of what it might seem, if I cashier looks at you and tells you to go to them, go. You're next, trust me. If for some reason somebody else is actually in front of you(mistakes happen) you can always say, "I'm sorry, (he or she) said I was next."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday Shopping Tips from a Retail Perpective:Part 1

A lot of these tips might seem to be a tad too obvious, but trust me; it's not. As Voltare said, "There is nothing common about common sense," and that was during the Age of Enlightenment. Some of will only help you if other people do it, but aren't we in this together? Don't we just want to survive? No? oh well...
This season has has been kicking my ass so hard, I might need a butt cheek transplant after it's all over. In fact, this post wouldn't exist if me boss didn't call me as I was leaving for work and tell me to come in later. If he had called me when I was still in bed, I would have stayed there. I'm too tired after work to do anything but watch The Daily Show and (maybe) take a shower. Still, time is short and I can only give you a couple tips now. I know it's a bit late in the season, but hopefully they'll still help.
1. Rule of thumb: ALL bets are off.
During the holidays, you can't count on anything. Anything. If you see it, and know you're going to need it, buy it. It might not be there tomorrow. The first crazy Christmas season I worked was at the Sharper Image. For all the things they pushed in their Holiday catalog and prepared us to sell hundreds of, the biggest in demand item BY FAR was a handheld bass fishing game. All the excitement of bass fishing in a portable package; I didn't see the appeal (although it was fun), but the Sharper Image and I ruined many holiday wish list with our shortsightedness.

2.There are going to be lines, get over it. Eaither give yourself enough time to wait, or don't bother (you're likely to leave empty handed, anyway).
Regardless of how many newspaper stories there are about Holiday shopping mob scenes, People are still suprised when the store is packed with people. "Why are you guys so busy?" The first couple times I heard this I laughed, until their reactions suggested that they were serious. I have taken to answering, "This Christmas thing is REALLY catching on!" or "Well, 2000 years ago a baby was born that many believe was the son of God."
Everybody is buying presents for everyone else and Christmas and Chanukah are on everyone's calender on the same day.

Safer (not safe) bets are shopping when store extend their hours. When I worked at the mall, they had it open until 11 and the place was dead most of that time, but the Rule of Thumb still applies.

3.Don't write checks. Use a check card.
Believe it or not, a lot of people think a lot of places don't take them or they'll get a bill if it's not processed a certain way. The commercials are right, you can use them anywhere that takes Visa or Mastercard and it goes directly out of your checking account. Check processing services like Tele Check kick back a lot of people's checks, because a lot of people who don't normally write checks write a lot of them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

VH1 Classic=Video Crack!

In a way, VH1 Classic is worse because you can't DVR crack to smoke it later.
With all my recent pop culture shenanagans I've come to a realization that as much as I know about movies and TV, it pales beneath the absolute white hot geekery of my knowledge about music. Like anyone suffering a terminal desease, I've taken it upon mysef to learn much about what's taken any semblance of a real life from me.

The original recipe of VH1 was bad enough, with it's Pop Up Videos, Behind the Musics and it's "I love the..." series. VH1 Classic is basically all trivial killer and little trivial filler. It's got all that kinda stuff plus the shit I used to stay up late to watch on "Nite Flight", it's a rock geeks dream.

The thing that's been kinning me lately is "the Alternative", showing the videos that I used to tape off of "120 Minutes" back in the day. A lot of people that I've come across in my adult life (especially those who grew up with free form WHFS) find it easy to dismiss anything MTV related, but in rural Delaware it was the only way to hear anything other than Bon Jovi or Janet Jackson.

The absolute biggest recent televised coup was ..Urgh! A Music War... I..ve been wanting to see it forever and hadn..t been able to find it. Unfortunately, they had cut out The Cramps but there was plenty of gold to be found like The Police meer moments before they started sucking and a pre fame Go-Gos having their shit together but my favorite was Devo doing "Uncontrollable Urge":
.. width="425" height="350">..>

Klaus Nomi also makes an appearance. If you've never heard of him he's a German who sang new wave versions of operatic arias, he was the visual embodiment of the 80's esthetic; like the earliest synthesizers and drum machines at the time they seemed futuristic, but now seem cutely quaint.:
.. width="425" height="350">..>

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday

When I was 22, I worked at a Pawn shop. Not blessed with the relative abundance of self awareness that I have now, I didn't realize I was too sensitive for that kind of work. People at their most desperate, readily exchanging their valuables for pennies on the dollar and a paper pawn ticket to forever remember their trip to rock bottom.

When Christmas time rolled around my boss asked me to be Santa and wave at passing cars, and I immediately said yes. Other than a similar twinkle of the eye, I had no physical resemblance to St. Nick, but a mid priced santa suit and some carefully placed pillows were going to take me the rest of the way.

After a couple weeks of brain melting boredom in front of the store, my boss had a favor to ask of me; a woman he knew needed a Santa for her daughter's Brownie troops holiday party. I agreed pretty quickly, but I should have thought about it a little. I had only had direct interaction with one child, a two and a half year old girl that had convinced her father to pull over to visit me. I had had enough of my own visits with Kris Kringle to be able to wing my own decent Santa cliche setlist. I started off with an earnest "Ho Ho Ho" followed by the standard "have you been a good girl?" right into" ..what would you like for Christmas?" capping off with a "well, so long Merry Christmas" with a surprise reprise of "Ho Ho HO!" If her expression was any indication, my performance was top notch. She radiated nothing but glowing adoration the whole time she was in my presence. So I thought I was golden. My boss's friend (I'll call her Debbie, though I have forgotten her real name) gave me a couple of items of advice. "The younger girls will think anyone in a Santa suit is the real deal, but the older ones will be more cynical..". In the occasionally unreliable note taking section of my mind, I should have highlighted that older girl=cynical bit, I say foreshadowingly.

The evening of the party started less than promising. I was running late anyway, but the rural road maze had added a few more minutes to my arrival time. The brownie lodge was at the end of a long, dirt driveway that led to a car choked parking lot. Thankfully, I had enough foresight to dress in the entire outfit, except the above neck accouterments. I bolted out of my car adjusting my beard when I saw Debbie frantically searching for me in front of the main entrance. She greeted me with obvious relief and told me everyone is SO EXCITED that 'm here. And as soon as I was ready I was pushed though the front door into the bright lights of the lodge. The 3 dozen or so young girls shuffling around the room simultaneously stopped and turned their heads towards me upon my entrance and began running, as a group, towards me, all excited looks and fulfilled anticipation.

And I felt like a total and complete fraud. To them I was the greatest man that wasn't their daddy, but I knew I was just a 22-year-old man playing said Saint Nicholas. No amount of fake white beards was going to change that. I felt just like a man holding a lit match while a wave of gasoline quickly approached. I knew once the kids got close enough to feel that I had pillows instead of paunch and that my beard wasn't attached to my face, but to a cheap elastic band, it would all be over. Their hugs would turn to tiny fists of fury, punching too fast and from too many directions to defend myself. I braced for impact, but they stopped. Their Santa reverence stopped them at a safe distance, like an invisible fence. Debbie let me to the stool where I was going to give presents to the kids. What, I'm giving them presents? I don't remember exactly what I thought would happen when I did this. Maybe just another stellar version of my Santa set that killed em in front of the pawnshop. I certainly didn't mentally prepare for this!
Such direct contact gave a taste of what a crappy mall santa I would have been. At least I didn't have children sitting on my trembling lap telling me their deepest X-Mas wish while in the background, one or both of their parents give me an expression that says, "Don't get the kid's hopes up, OK?!"

They got into a long, orderly line to get a sit-down with St. Nick, the toy pimp himself.
It was like the beginning of The Godfather. Debbie played Robert Duval to my Marlon Brando, feeding names into my ears and presents into my grip. I greeted them with a "Have you been a good girl?" and sending them off with a "Ho, Ho, Ho!" at an increasing efficient pace. The faithful mixed with the doubtful in a way that never made me comfortable with either. But let me tell you the young ones were believers! They were bursting with excitement, occasionally greeting me with tiny sweet hugs that were much too quick to give me away. But cynical was a massive understatement in describing the older girls. They might believe in Santa Claus, but they knew I wasn't him. They'd shoot me a look that they would later perfect on boyfriends, auto mechanics or anyone else stupid enough to try to fool them. The look that says, "I. Don't. Think. So." After they took their presents they'd say things like, "Thanks, Santa" coated with a sticky coat of sarcasm. The only thing missing was that they didn't do the air quote gesture when they said "Santa". I was just hoping they would keep my secret at least until I left.

After I waved my last goodbyes, I ran into my car, whipped off my wig and beard and inhaled like I had been trapped underwater. And in a way I was, stuck under my own deceit and I just wanted to breath freely. I didn't have much time to relax though, as a 4 year old came out the front door with her parents to go home. I froze, what was I going to do? I didn't want her to see Santa without a beard and hat, but if I put that stuff back on even a 4 year old knows that trading a team of flying reindeer for a beat up '82 Mustang is a crappy deal. So I ducked under my dash and waited for their headlights to pass. I knew I had to get the hell out of there. All the youngsters would be going home soon, my tardiness had made Santa the headliner and the show was over. I threw my car into reverse and headed out of the driveway pointed in the opposite direction. I noticed a fork off to the right that I hadn..t noticed during my first trip. I backed up a short way down it to point me in the right direction and I was free!

But I wasn't quite done with the Father Christmas. My boss thought it would be a good attention getter to have a Santa in front of the store in February, so there I was, about to learn that the average person has no sense of irony. I stood in front of the store dodging nuggets of the obvious shouted from passing cars. "Christmas is over!" Yes, thank you, I do have a calendar. One guy stretched himself out of back seat window of a car to give me some criticism. "Santa, you son of a bitch, ya didn't get me what I wanted for Christmas!" he screamed. I answered,"Well then you should have been a good boy, asshole!", HO, HO, HO! Ya Bastard!

After that day I gave the outfit back, and haven't worn a Santa suit since. Debbie wrote me a very sweet note a short time after the party thanking me. At the end of it she wrote, "You are the REAL Santa!" Would she have still felt this way if I had told her that I had originally thought I was going to get paid for making the appearance? No, Probably not.

But writing this story did make me think about the power of Santa. By this time, both the loyal and the cynical little girls are now young women, way too smart to believe in Santa. But hopefully they'll enjoy their children's acceptance, while they still have an imagination big enough to believe a wonderful man can visit every house on earth in one night and that he can look something like me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Song that make me cry.

Be it the beauty or sadness of the melodies or the memories I attach to them, these tunes almost never fail to turn me into a sobbing, colossal (but unapologetic) wuss.
When compiling this list, I didn't expect it to be so long and some of them might betray my true lack of cred, but as I often say, "There's no future in fronting."

"Walk Away Renee" by The Left Banke
Whenever this song comes up on my Ipod, I sing and weep almost involuntarily no matter where I am. I must look like I'm insane to the people I pass by, but I couldn't care less.

"Evil Will Prevail" by The Flaming Lips.
Lately, the evidence is overwhelming that this is true.

"Mass Pike" by The Get Up Kids.
This is the rare song that makes me think of two different relationships.

"God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys.
I've known a lot of people that would agree that this song has otherworldly tear-inducing properties.

"Dragon lady" by the Geraldine Fibbers
This song is like the prom scene in Carrie, with Carrie with scraped knees and torn dress instead of pig's blood; killing everyone with her actual anger and hate instead of a telekinetic manifestation of it.

"I Am A Scientist" by Guided By Voices.
The song itself doesn't do it, the lyric "I am a lost soul/I shoot myself with rock and roll/ the hole I dig is bottomless/ but nothing else can set me free" does.

"Helena" by My Chemical Romance
If I was too self conscious to include MCR in this list, I would have been too self conscious to make it to begin with.

"Birds" by Neil Young.
It's just a beautiful song.

"The Beautiful Ones" by Prince.
This doesn't have as much effect as it used to, when the musical question, "Do you want him/or do you want me/ cause I want you" was answered "him" a lot.

"Love Can Destroy" by The Ravonettes.
Destroy, disintegrate, obliterate, whatever.

"Couldn..t You Wait" by Silkworm.
I don't have any idea why this opens up the ole eye faucet, but baby, they're open.

"One More Hour" by Sleater Kinney.
This brings me back to a specific morning when I realized that no matter how safe or loved somebody feels in your arms, sometimes that's not enough.

"Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens.
I've only listened to this song once all the way through, it's weepy power is so strong.

"Maps" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I don't think any explanation is needed, unless you haven't heard this song.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cursing at the Toy Store

I'm a vulgarian by nature; I love the cathartic nature of using naughty words, but I work at a toy store.
Rest assured, when the final door is locked and the last child is beyond earshot, my co-workers and my language becomes saltier than the bottom of a bag of pretzels. But when we're open...
My boss says, "Sugar!" in vain, store open or closed, but in the holiday stress and opening a new store lets the occasional "Shit!" out. I'm very proud of him.

My safe curse is, "Shiz!", which magically turns to "Flaming bags of shiz!" of "Shiz-wah!" for no explainable reason.

My favorite, however, is my comrade Lizzy's with her "Fudge!" which expands to "Fudge McGirk!" when a little extra color is needed. But in times of extreme stress it becomes,"Fudge McGirk making his final Broadway appearance!"
Religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel, so please Lord make this my last Christmas working in retail. I actually want to enjoy it next time. Amen.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Black Friday, Schmack Friday

Black Friday is, from my retail experience, a highly overrated, media stoked event. I'm referring to the Friday after Thanksgiving, the acknowledged beginning of the holiday shopping season, when peoples reaction to any trapping or suggestion of the upcoming holidays changes from, "What! It's not even Thanksgiving yet!" to "Yeah, I guess it's getting to be about that time".
Big box stores create their stupid Black Friday sales, marking a limited supply of coveted Items lower than the store's actual cost (it's called a loss leader)so that people clog up the highways with the other thrifty shoppers and line up the night before for the privilege of pushing through the doors when the store opens and inspiring recent headlines like, "Fisticuffs, aisle two".

At the toy store where I work things are a little different, a lot of people go out of town to visit family; people don't schedule a lot of birthdays that weekend, so no last minute party gift buying that make up a lot of our weekend business. Last weekend was A LOT busier than this weekend, since people kill two birds with one stone by delivering Christmas gifts during the thanksgiving visit.

That said, we certainly still get a holiday angst preview even if we don't get people tackle one another. This occurs mostly courtesy of the visiting grandparents who being asked for things that they can't even remotely relate to.

A grand father asked about a Gamecube game that was the only thing his grandson wanted for Christmas. Unfortunately, I thought might be out of print, "It's an really old game, at least two or three years".
"Two years makes it old?"
"For a video game, yeah."

For those not in the know, Lego makes a line of popular action figures called Bionicle. A lot of kids get obsessed with collecting every one when a new line comes out; from a parental perspective, the difference between them is mainly the six different colors they are. A grandmother had a list of the coveted colors from her grandchild, "He wants the red and blue Anika Bionicle."
I showed her where they were but she was skeptical, "But these are,'Inika' Bionicles."
"Yes, he must have misspelled it, there is no such thing as 'Anika' Bionicles."
"I don't know, he was pretty specific about what he wanted."
"This is what he's asking for, trust me."
"I guess I HAVE to trust you..." There's nothing like having to talk people into buying what they came in the story to buy.

Another came up to register with a small knight figure. "Do you have a box for this?"
I said,"No, we do't have gift boxes, we can wrap it, though."
"I think for this type of money ($4.50) I should get something, do you have any tissue paper for it?"
"No, we don't have any tissue paper either, but they can wrap it in the back of the store."
"You can't give me a sheet of tissue paper," he said incredulously; convinced that I was hiding something from him, for no other reason than random spite.
Eyeing the growing line forming behind him I said,"I'm sorry, but I can't give you what I don't have." He gave no response as I directed his attention to behind my counter with it's utter lack of gift boxes, shiny tissue or any gift wrapping accoutrements. "And I can't conjure one up for you."
"That will remind me not to shop HERE again."
I shrugged him farewell.
His daughter called to complain about me, "My father wanted to get a figure wrapped, and your cashier wouldn't do it. We spend a lot of money there, " which is a common reason people use at my store to expect the impossible and suspend the basic rules of human decency.

"The customer is always right," if you've ever said that without irony, you've never worked in retail.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fun facts about Music

I've been getting some complaints about not posting enough, so he's a twofer. Some of my younger readers might not know what I talking about, so be forewarned.

Rick James and Neil Young were in a band briefly in the mid 60s called the Mynah Birds. The group formed in Canada while Rick was AWOL from the Navy and recorded an album for Motown before Rick got arrested by the FBI for desertion.

Children's book authorShel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree) was a songwriter that wrote hits "A Boy Named Sue", made famous by Johnny Cash, and "The Cover of The Rolling Stone" done by Dr Hook and the Medicine Show.

Chevy Chase played drums in, his discription, a "bad college jazz band" called The Leather Canary that turned into Steely Dan after his departure.

Richard Edson, Veteran "That Guy" actor was the first drummer of Sonic Youth.

You know, that guy!

Barry Manilow's "I Write the Songs" was actually written by Bruce Johnson of the Beach Boys.

America's Lowest Common Denominator Found!

Researchers and social scientists announced that they have finally discovered what they believe is the American public's lowest common denominator: the point where increasingly sensationalist and sociopathic behavior no longer becomes welcome as popular culture. With the public disapproval of the release of the O.J. Simpson book, If I Did It, and a subsequent promotional interview reaching a level for both projects to be abandoned; this line, which many believed wouldn't be discovered in our lifetime. With the recent televising of public defecation on Flavor of Love and the rumor of a $50 million offer for the Brittany sex tape the line looked in-perceptively low.

Acclaimed amateur sociologist Pete Wright says of the development, "It's some what relieving to know that the general public doesn't think of an acquitted double murderer's de facto confession as acceptable entertainment, especially since he, his interviewer (If I Did It's publisher Judith Regan) and Fox (owner of the network that was televising the interview and Reagon's publishing company) were going to make a lot of money off it."
"Thankfully, corporate deregulation and 'synergy' can only go so far."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stupid things you only do in your early twenties (hopefully)

Most of these things are more guy things, but anyway...

If you arrive late at a party, you drink a lot quickly to "catch up".

You decorate your living room in stolen signs and/or porn.

You are friends with people you can't stand.

You date someone that treats you like shit because they're really hot. No dude, seriously, really hot.

You actually WANT to go to a party at a shitty house with sweaty drunken people packed in like Vienna sausages.

As a guy, You wear a dress and/or makeup and identify yourself as a "feminist" to celebrate your originality and open mindedness, when it's really to get attention from feminists who like girly men who wear dresses and make-up.

As a girl, that this approach would actually work.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More Fun Facts!

The state motto of Maryland is, "Manly acts, womanly words".

Mario, the star of countless video games, was named after the landlord of the Nintendo of America warehouse to honor the fact that he didn't kick them out when they owned him back rent, in the financially lean times before "Donkey Kong" made them overnight sensations. The Mario character in the original Donkey Kong video game was "Jumpman".

Mariska Hargitay, best known as detective Olivia Benson on "Law and Order:SVU", was the daughter of bombshell Jayne Mansfield. Mariska was sleeping in the backseat when her mother was killed in the car crash that claimed the lives of her divorce lawyer and driver as well. Contrary to popular Hollywood legend, Mansfield wasn't decapitated in the accident.
Also, Loni Anderson and Arnold Schwarzenegger played Mariska's parents in a TV biopic about them. Is that geeky enough for you?

Metal god Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath played briefly with Jethro Tull. He was with them long enough to be filmed with them when they played the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. The video shows the Tull looking so grungy that if they took a bath, they'd make soup.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Your Pal Pete to the GOP:"Crackers, please!"

People who know me personally know that if I come across something or someone says or does something that doesn't fit my perception of the truth, I'll exclaim "Cracker, please!".
This happens a lot at the movies, big surprise. But lately the desperate and deceptive politics played by the Republicans.

"President Bush never said 'Stay the course'".
Cracker, please! That's like saying Larry the Cable Guy never said, "Git-r-done!" Not only was it practically all he said for a while, he seemed to be pretty proud of it when he said it.

"John Kerry 'stay in school or go to Iraq' joke was shameful."
I agree but,
Cracker, please! Who's the one who loosened the academic and psychological requirements for recruits?

"The timing of the Mark Foley scandal seems to be suspiciously timed to help the Democrats"
Cracker, please! It's not nearly as suspicious as the fact that a Republican congressman was a sexual predator and there seemed to cover-up to hide that fact from the public.
It's called an "october surprise" and it's as common as a wrench in the political toolbox. In fact the modern day October Surprise was perfected by the Republicans to get Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan elected.

"If you vote Democratic, the terrorists win"
Cracker, please! To my perception, they're already winning. Five years after 9/11 and we're still tearing ourselves apart as a country, using means that we thought we were above using to justify ends that we can't easily define (just saying "to spread freedom" won't wash anymore).

We have created more terrorist and more people that support their activity by this misguided war that seems to be made up as it goes along. It sucks when they do it in Jazz, why should foreign policy be any different?

I wonder with all the lurid scandals that have hobbled the GOP lately if Katherine Harris would stand by her comment that voting Democrat would be "legislating sin". If she did, I would be first to give her a hearty..... You know.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Mid-term elections and the Trix Rabbit.

I was going to save this post until the 2008 election, but I couldn't wait. I think this is because the wind of change is blowing so hard that nobody notices how bad it smells. The Democrats should remember the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 or the real Republican revolution of 2000, getting there isn't nearly as important as what you do after you get there.

"If you don't vote, you can't bitch."
People love to trot out that old chestnut whenever election season rolls around, especially in D.C.. The fact that some of these peoples jobs hinge on people voting, or at least voting for the right people, never seems to come up. I personally feel that this line of reasoning would make a lot more sense if people only argued when they had the right to. But men still argue about if a woman has a right to choose, priests will still argue about how you live your life, and Joan Rivers and Mr. Blackwell will still argue about who looks the worst at award shows.

In the mid 70s, when I was about 5, I participated in my first election. The Trix rabbit was being unfairly denied his Trix. This inflamed my burgeoning sense of righteous indignation; at five I was very concerned with what was fair, and this was not fair. He wasn't able to enjoy a simple bowlful of over sugared corn balls with a full day's supply of artificial flavoring and coloring, a right I enjoyed every morning my Mom would allow. This wasn't much, we mostly ate Cherrios and were only allowed this indulgence once and a while.

I made sure my Mom sent in my ballot and in 4 to 6 weeks the General Mills company sent me a button so I could show my kindergarden classmates and the rest of the world that, "Yes! Give the Rabbit His Trix!" It was the first time in my life I felt like a badass and also the first time I was wrong about being a badass.

Finally, the results were in. We, the collective cereal demographic, had risen up in one voice and said, "Yes! The rabbit should have his Trix!" We had done it!

But the rabbit didn't get his Trix, I mean, it's half his Goddamn name. Regardless of our opinions on it, the rule remained the same, "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!" I was beyond disappointed, it just wasn't fair. I still feel that way about voting today. To Paraphrase Bono (and this is the only time I'll ever do that!), no matter who you elect, you still get the government.

Friday, October 20, 2006

my Subconscious, A Guited Tour: part 1-Monsters 'n Such

I get chased a lot in my dreams, by all manner of hulking creatures, demons, and the occasional murderous mob. I’ve run through forests, beaches and meadows, but I’m most often running through houses; in and out of trap doors I some how knew were there.

But I always escape, always. Or at least I do in all the dreams that became memories in my waking life. Sometimes by a lot, sometimes by a shoelace, I always wake up out of harm

In one dream, I lived in a utopia in one dream that attributed its good fortune from a welcoming ritual. They had a party after I and a dozen new people had arrived. They got us drunk and led us to a circular chamber where we kneeled around the center as a cloven hoofed demon walked around us and slaughtered most of us.

Being a survivor left me with a lot of guilt, making it impossible to enjoy my ideal surroundings. One of the elders tried to reason with me about my bloody survival, “when he passed by you and slashed the throat of the person next to you, weren’t you disappointed?” I was. I also had a hot girlfriend that tried to convince me that I was lucky and blessed to be there, but it wasn’t enough.

I stole a car and made my escape, driving as fast and as far as I could. I finally stopped at a gas station that I thought was far out of the commune’s influence. As I filled the tank, I heard the station’s phone ring and got an impulse to see who may be calling. The station attendant immediately started staring at me. I took off across the street as the bell on the station door ring as he took off after me.

Then I suddenly felt it getting really hot behind me as I dive into the ditch on the other side of the road. I turned to see the station, my car and the attendant consumed with raining fire surrounded by blazing, heavy air that warped around it like a funnel.

After all this, I finally make it home. I turn on my TV and see the demon; he thanked me for escaping, it gave him the opportunity to end the deal he had made with the commune, which was now swallowed up by the ground.

I tell him that he was lying and that I had got the better of him, but he proved he could get me whenever he wanted by blowing up my TV.

I’ve been strapped to a metal table and made to read a story so horrific I begged to stop, but the tentacle multi-eyed floating monsterball made me keep reading. I’ve tangled with super naturally powerful backwoods gents who don’t take “no” for an answer.

But I’ve always gotten away.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My Subconscious, A Guited Tour: part 1-flying

When I was in high school, my best friend Chris came to me with a written story about a dream he had the night before. His nightmare was a confusing tale of mazes that had left him, obviously, moved to words. I read it to the end and he asked me, "Isn't that fucked up?"
"No offense," I answered," but this is the kind of dream I have when my brain is idling".

My entire life my subconscious has played an amazing assortment of nighttime movies upon my mind's eye. I've worked out quite a few of my life's problems in those precious eight hours. I've had some dreams that foretold the future, but I've had a lot more that seemed like they did, but didn't.

I have memories of my old preschool where I was tied to a toilet for getting paint on a case of watercolors and got put into a high chair and fed chicken soup when I started eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich before grace (which sucked because I hated chicken soup). My parents are convinced that these incidents were dreams, and considering what my upcoming dreams had in store for me, these would have been like frolicking in the park. I'll write the next couple posts about my wild and wacky subconscious. If you are waiting for my fun Bible facts, I need to do more research.

I fly a lot in my dreams, with varying degrees of success; I less soared than hover most of the time slightly above the reach of whatever is after me. When I did get a bit higher in the air, I constantly flying into power lines, giving me a little shock until I flew into the next one.

I've had other super powers, but they've never strong been enough to fight crime only enough to be a side show attraction ("See the floating man who walks on walls, just don't give him anything to carry while he does it, cause he'll fall!") The one time (I remember) I did have that type of power, I was Superman, costume and all, saving a circus full of people from certain doom. I looked exactly how I really looked then, still bald and slightly chunky. As I flew around I couldn't help but notice that, while they were grateful, they couldn't hide the disappointment that Superman looked like me.

These days, instead of hovering, I can jump in my dreams insanely high and far; I have no control of where I land though, so I often end up in the water or running into more power lines.

In a recent dream I fought the Hulk, actually more like kept him off of me, he kept trying to pummel me but I was invulnerable. I'd grab him and throw him through the walls of whatever house I'd been plopped in. To try to stop him for good, I grabbed his feet and spun him around and tossed him into what I thought was the ocean. But I soon spied him jumping through the skies, looking for me. I whistled for him and the fight was on again, or at least it was when I woke up.

I try to create mental triggers to make me realize that I'm dreaming when I do things or stuff happens that could never occur in real lucid life, but they rarely work. I'm too busy flying to get away from whatever is chasing me or enjoying having a full lustrous head of hair to care.
Prince and the Muppets

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Your Pal Pete's Fun Facts!

I apologize if you knew about these already; people are always surprised when I mentioned some of these. Just to keep it straight, I had read about these things and just used the internet for secondary research.

1.Laura Bush killed a guy!
From snopes.com: "May 2000, a two-page police report pertaining to a fatal accident that had taken place near Midland, Texas, in 1963 was made public. It contained the information that 17-year-old Laura Welch had run a stop sign, causing the death of the sole occupant of the vehicle hers had struck. According to that report, the future First Lady had been driving her Chevrolet sedan on a clear night shortly after 8 p.m. on 6 November 1963 when she entered an intersection without heeding the stop sign and there collided with the Corvair sedan driven by 17-year-old Michael Douglas. Also in the car with Laura Welch was a passenger, 17-year-old Judy Dykes."

"How fast Miss Welch might have been driving is open to question." Unfortunately, according to Ralph Nader the Corvair was unsafe at any speed, so it might not have mattered.

2. President Harry Truman briefly belonged to the KKK!
From wikipedia: "In 1924, Harry Truman was a judge in Jackson County, Missouri, which includes Kansas City. Truman was up for reelection, and his friends Edgar Hinde and Spencer Salisbury advised him to join the Klan. The Klan was politically powerful in Jackson County, and two of Truman's opponents in the Democratic primary had Klan support. Truman refused at first, but paid the Klan's $10 membership fee, and a meeting with a Klan officer was arranged."
"According to Hinde and Truman's accounts, the Klan officer demanded that Truman pledge not to hire any Catholics or Jews if he was reelected. Truman refused, and demanded the return of his $10 membership fee; most of the men he had commanded in World War I had been local Irish Catholic"..

3.Mike Nesmith, from the Monkees, is the son of Bette Nesmith, the inventor of Liquid Paper.

4. Thank God for James Bond!
In the Movie Goldfinger, the titular villain planned to detonate a nuclear device in the gold depository at Ft. Knox to make it radioactive. What it would actually do is create a shimmering pool of mercury. Pretty.

5.Dude, the googol, dude!
The googol, as you may know, is 1 followed by 100 zeros. Computers can crunch those kinds of numbers and it can be used to calculate probability; but according to most estimates, all the particles in the known universe don"t number that high! Dude!


Coming soon : Fun Bible Facts!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Proclaimations, bold and not so bold:Music

Some of these boldly go against the status quo; some hug it like teddy bear.
I'll let you decide which one's which.

1. The Hold Steady and TV on the Radio are fucking awesome! Rock critics are draining their hyperbole wells dry over both band's new albums and I dig them a lot as well, but if you like both bands you should check out their previous albums as well. Both band play the kind of music that makes me hesitate recommending them, mainly because they both play the kind of music that I'm not normally into.

The Hold Steady(check out "Chips Ahoy!") play a very Springsteen-esque indie rock full of dead end souls and the self-destructive results of a lifetime of Catholic guilt. Craig Finn's voice is not for everybody but he writes some amazing lyrics ("yr little hoodrat friend makes me sick but after i get sick i just get sad. because it burns being broke and it hurts to be heartbroken but always being both must be a drag". "your little hoodrat friend")

TV on the Radio (check out "Dry Drunk Emperor") is one of the few bands that, in my opinion, are both "experimental" and "good". They have solids hooks without being remotely pop; bending and winding melodies and harmonies around repetitive loops and live instruments in a way that makes them unique, sometimes even to themselves. They're kinda like a sample based Radiohead. Speaking of which..

2. Radiohead is really overrated! I'm running the risk of alienating one friend in particular, but I just don't get it. Don't get me wrong, they've got some great songs, I just don't think their worthy of the pants-wedding devotion some people I've talked to give them.

That's the thing, I hate Rush and the Grateful Dead, but I can see how they can have an appeal to the hygiene impaired and the irony challenged.

3. Justin Timberlake has been successful in his attempt to bring "SexyBack"!
The Non-sexy have oppressed us long enough! JT has given us the power to finally we needed to escape their tyranny!

4. Bands need to stop saying they're gonna make music history and actually do it. I've read recent stories about what's-his-nuts from Blink 182's new band and his claim that their album would cause "The greatest rock and roll revolution this generation"(it didn..t).
The Killer's singer said that their new album was one of best of the last 20 years, when it wasn't even the best one released that day (that would be the Hold Steady). I actually like the new Killers song a lot, but you can't just say things like that and expect that's going to be enough. Whether your the President or the Killers, you don't decide history;history decides you.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness:Bonus

I thought I was done with the Salisbury stories, but then this one popped back into my head.

I was watching TV in the living room on a weekend night, just taking it easy. That was until my roommate Shawn and his then-girlfriend Michelle barreled through the door, coming back from a party. His fraternity and her sorority had a semi formal mixer and so they were dressed much nicer than I normally see either of them; but they were quite still set on rowdy.

Shawn called in a pizza (I had already eaten)and had engaged Michelle in a argument that was a bit more playful than aggressive. That light heartedness, however, didn.'t extend to Michelle making good on a threat to leave and walk back to her dorm( a good two miles away in the dead of night and in high heels); before she left she whispered in my ear,"He's gonna come after me...

Shawn smirked the smirk of the defiant as it became more obvious that Michelle wasn't coming back but he held firm.

Angie, a friend of ours who had a monster crush on Shawn that became more aggressive when she added alcohol, called our house drunk wanting to chat with our boy. He was polite and listened to her ramblings as his pride slowly gave way to concern for his errant girlfriend.

Our house phone then was one of those shitty corded phones they gave away with magazine subscriptions and the little plastic tongue on the phone cord that held it in the wall jack had broken off so the slightest tug disconnected the call, which is what happened in the middle of Angie's call. Intentional or not? You'd have to ask Shawn.

Right around this time Shawn sprung into panic mode and left in his car to find Michelle. About a minute later, Angie called back, except this time she was drunk and crying.
"PEEETTTEEEE! Shawn hung up on me! I thought we were friends! PPPPPEEEETTTEEE!"
I tried as hard as I could to calm her down, "Angie, we got our phone from Time Magazine, it comes out of the wall, he didn't mean to do it(I think)".

Then a knock at the door, Shawn's pizza had arrived. I didn't have any money. I gave the pizza guy a brief run down on the situation and offered to give him a check.
"We don't take checks."
"I don't have any cash, would you rather go back with the pizza than take my check? Do you think I'd pass a bum check to you when you know where I live?" He agreed and took my check.

Shawn finally came back a few minutes later, he had found Michelle walking down Salisbury's main drag, going the wrong way. They plopped down on the couch and dug into the pizza. Shawn generously offered, "You can have some if you want."
Thanks, pal.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mark Foley, Casualty of the Class and Culture Wars

This is what brings down the thin facade of Republican moral superiority? Emails and IMs? Hypocrisy, cover-ups and sexual misconduct are hardly unprecedented in politics. This should not be taken as me not taking the whole thing seriously, quite the opposite. I mean Mark Foley is freaking co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and he's sending these uber-creepy IMs to 16 year olds?

I haven't thought of the Republican party as the moral choice for a while. Morality to them is another thing that they treat like a "Mission Accomplished" banner; they say it, they expect it to be good enough of us, facts be damned.
"Culture of Life" Terri Schivo's dilemma caused President Bush cut his vacation short, but an obliteration of a major american city didn't seem important enough to change his travel plan actually going in the opposite direction after Katrina ravaged New Orleans.

George Bush has shown more emotions towards frozen fetuses to be used for stem cell research (fetuses that would have most likely be destroyed anyway) than the innocent Iraqi citizens that have been killed in our invasion, both in the cross fire and the resulting tribal violence.

"War on Terror" After 9/11, we were suppose to go after the people responsible and the countries harboring the culprits. Instead we invaded a country that had neither, lest we forget, that was the one of the justifications of invading Iraq. Our own intelligence has said recently that we have help make Iraq what we originally said it was, a haven for terrorist activity. The Taliban that harbored the men who executed the attack are regaining power in Afghanistan.

"No Child Left Behind" Ask a public school teacher if the education system has improved on Bush's watch.

"War on Drugs" The emphasis is still on Pot being the number one drug problem when Crystal Meth has been decimating entire communities and straining already slim social service budgets.

Add to those a series of tax code changes that seem to overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. It's like "Trickle Down" economics, without the "trickle down" pretense.
It's Class warfare dressed in Culture war clothing. What Foley did is inexcusable, but yet some conservatives people are still trying to excuse it. It seems like they're trying to do the classic, "Do as we say, not as we do" defense. It didn't work when you were a teenager why should it work now?
Video Fun: Mark Foley and John Walsh, before the fall. Warning:Ironic Content! check out the end.

Ann Coulter on Foley totally missing the point that the problem is not that he's gay, it's that he's a pedophile and those are two different things.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness:Part 3

Jake and Falcon were the guitar players in one of my favorite Salisbury bands, a punkabilly tinged combo that was big on the hard drinking, drug taking, tattoo getting stereotype of those kind of bands. I went to Falcon's house one night for a after party after one of their shows and arrived right in the middle of a bourbon drinking contest between Falcon and a girl that was part of his circle of friends.

They squared off in the kitchen, going shot for shot. His opponent was about 6 foot 3 and proportionately sized for her height, but she was still a woman, so the slowly revealing fact that she was winning this contest was quite a shot to Falcon's ego.

He started getting more louder and belligerent; if he was going to lose, he was not going quietly. Pans were clanged; a bottle of hot sauce was opened and waved, drawing red stripes in the white ceiling. The bottle of bourbon was drained empty, but an auxiliary one awaited.

Falcon's roommate, Mark, was not too keen on the prospect of an even drunker Falcon, so he hid his other fifth of alcohol. Falcon went on a semi-coherent rampage through the house about his missing bourbon and about how he wasn't going to lose a drink off with a girl. He ambled upstairs and down, but came up short.

He was yelling in the living room about how much we sucked when Jerry, a slight kid who had just moved to the 'bury, spoke up. He had been passed out for so long on the floor at the party that someone had put a blanket over him, but Falcon..s ranting had woken him up. He stood up and yelled,"Why don't you shut the fuck up!""

If this story was ever dramatized, this would be the cue for the sound effect of the needle falling off the record. All of us more sober people looked at each other, Jerry was about 7 inches shorter than Falcon and had the muscle tone of a English dandy, this didn't look like it was going to end well. But Falcon didn't react the way we had thought he might.
"I like this guy, he fuckin tells the truth!" and then they kissed. They locked into an embrace with such force that they fell over the couch and onto the floor, still in each other arms. We looked on with slack jawed amazement.

But bellicose clamoring and male on male make-outs weren't getting him closer to his missing whiskey, but he did know the culprit.
"Mark! Give me my bourbon!" he yelled upstairs as he went up after him. Yelling was soon replaced by furniture sized crashing and the grunts of physical contact.

Then suddenly it stopped, and Mark stomped downstairs and sat on the couch, breathing heavy and hard, still in fight rage mode. His face was covered in blood and it didn't seem to be his, Jake immediately ran upstairs to see how Falcon was.

Falcon yelled from upstairs, "Mark, let's see how tough you are without a Samurai sword!"
Jake came down with an announcement, "Anyone who doesn't want to talk to the police, should probably leave right now," so off we went.

I saw Falcon at a bar a few days later. He still had all his limbs, thankfully, but his face looked like it had gotten hit with a whiskey bottle, because it had been. His face was still pretty swollen and discolored with a jagged stitch going from the top of his nose up to almost his hairline. I asked him if he was looking for another place to live.
"Nah, as long as he pays my hospital bill, we're fine."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness:Part 2

Simone was a woman I used to live with on Camden Avenue, in a huge group house. She was a friend of our roommate Angie and was desperate for a place to live. She was an expat German who had married an American serviceman and come to this country, only to have it bust up shortly after she got here. Little did we know that when Simone moved in we also got blessed with her boyfriend, Bill.

In the few times I had any direct contact with him, he struck me as the kind of fella that’s nice and personable enough, but a very forced kind of way, like he was keeping something under control just behind the eyes. He was a big, muscular guy who was trying to join the military himself had the haircut in anticipation.

I came home after working late and walked into the room where we kept our answering machine and listened to the messages. There were two, both from Bill.
“Hey Simone, it’s Bill.”, he started in a affable tone, “just catching up. O.K. so, give me a call, or I’ll come over and kill your roommates.” as casual as if he said,”Catch you later !”

That literally sent a chill up my spine into my chest, causing me to lose a breath. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as one of the most common slasher flick cliché came to life before my eyes, made more vivid by the fact that the only light in the room was the blinking red one on the answering machine. Then there was the second message.

His tone had changed, now was talking low and what he probably thought was “sexy”, but with his jocky cadence was more like, “porny.”
“Simone, baby, I wanna drag my knife across your body, I want to cut your clothes off. I gonna give it to you, whether you want it or not.”

What the fuck, I thought, does this guy knows this is all our answering machine? I turned on the living room light and the phone rang. Bill. The voice he used was the same “Hello, Mrs. Cleaver, is the Beaver home?” as the first message.

“Is Simone there?”, he asked.
“No.”
“Thanks!”

I talked to my other roommates about this, and one said,”Don’t worry, she’s breaking up with him.” I was naive enough to believe that this would be the last we’d hear of him.

I woke up about 3 am one morning about a month later to an awful racket downstairs, like people falling down the stair case over and over. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, wondering if I was still asleep then started to get up to see what was up. I stopped when I heard our front door open like someone had been pushed through it and heard Blotto(one of the other roomies) yell, “You know where to come back if you want anymore, bitch!”, so I put my head back down to bed.

The next morning I walked down the stairs and noticed blood on our banister and smeared on the glass in the front door, but I wasn’t able to get the full story until that night allowed my curiosity to fester almost to the braking point.

Simone went out with Angie and her boyfriend and came home with a guy who was not Bill. Since she lived on the first floor of the house, it was easy for Bill to look in her window, as it turns out he had been doing for a while. He burst in the house and kicked open Simone’s bedroom door. The new paramour, not having signed up for this, took off, leaving Bill free to choke Simone. Angie’s boyfriend tried to help, but just got swatted away.

That meant BLOTTO TO THE RESCUE! Perhaps I should describe Blotto, he was extremely obese,with no trace of a neck, but still maintained the quickness he had when he played football. He had spent a lot of his post college time bouncing at area bars so he had a well honed talent for taking care of drunk guys who underestimated him.

Blotto came in and pulled Bill off her and tried to get him out the door, but he wasn’t leaving that easily, pulling away from the door and into our living room coming to rest on one of our couches. Bill tried to get him off by punching him in the side, but this merely angered him as he answered with his own blows.

He finally got Bill out, but wasn’t able to lock the door before Bill came back for round two, this time armed with brass knuckles he had on his motorcycle. Blotto immediately disarmed him and started to work him over on our staircase, which explained the banister blood. Then he shoved him out and said the “you know where to come back” thing that made me comfortable enough to go back to sleep.

It wasn’t until after all the excitement settled that Blotto took a closer look at the brass knuckles. In the darkness and confusion, Blotto didn’t notice that the knuckles were actually the handle of a rather large knife with a curvy, showy blade. I could have only assumed this was the knife he had referred to in his charming phone message a month earlier. Paging Dr. Freud!

I slept so deep, the police arriving didn’t wake me up, as they took statements and evidence to eventually charge Bill with assault with a deadly weapon. Not aware he was about to be arrested, he showed up at our house the next day and sheepishly asked for his knife back. We had to break it to him to it was now possessed by the Salisbury police. When your “sensual aids” become “evidence”, it’s not the sign of a healthy relationship.

I have to honest, the rest of this story is a bit lost to time, so I only remember some of the details. I know that at the trial, Blotto told his side of the story and Simone told hers. She had seem to totally forget the fact that Bill had tried to choke the life out of her and that Blotto had risked his life to save her. In fact, she had started complaining that Blotto should stay out of her and Bill’s life because, since the incident, they had gotten back together. The thing that pissed her off the most was that this was hurting his future in the military, not grasping the fact that they had rules about things like this to keep people like him from having unfettered access to explosive ordinance.

The judge said that he could tell that Simone was lying and he was abusing her, but he couldn’t prove it without her saying he did it. Blotto, however, told the truth and the police had the knife to prove it. I had heard the judge had remarked about Bill’s cutlery of choice,”I have opened my utensil drawer to get a knife to cut my steak a hundred times and I’ve never seen one with a blade like this.”

Bill got put on probation and had to keep 500 feet away from Blotto, which is tough to do in a town like Salisbury. We ran into him one night at an area bar when he was hanging out with one of his friends. Blotto said to me,”as long as he stays away from me, I won’t be a dick about it.” But Bill and his pals left soon anyway. A friend of ours heard one of Bill’s buddies ask him,”You mean that roly-poly motherfucker beat your ass?”

The peaceful coexistence was short lived as Bill started regularly dropped by our place to pick up Simone and occasionally spent the night under Blotto’s roof. Eventually he had enough and called Bill’s probation officer. Bill went to jail and Simone was so pissed off she immediately moved out.....and moved into Bill’s.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wag the Dog, Hello?

I recently wrote a post partially about how humans, with all our intelligence and language, still do 60 percent of our communication from body language. Man if that hasn't proven to be true after the President vs. Chris Wallace dust-up. All anyone can talk about is the outside voice and agitated gesticulation the former president used and not the fact that, for the most part, he was fucking right.

It wasn't too long ago that I can't remember when Republicans and conservative commentators yelled "Wag The Dog!" when then current events reflected the recently released movie of the same name; where a president created a war to divert the nations attention from a sex scandal.

Right around the discovery of the most historically significant money shot in history and the subsequent impeachment, The United States attacked Iraq,Afghanistan and the Sudan. A lot of people, myself included, thought this was a little too conveniently timed, but history has told a different tale. He did retaliate against attacks on the property of the United States (the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania) by attacking the people that were actually responsible for it and actually did destroy factories making actual WMDs. I used actual a lot because people seem to be having a hard time separating rhetoric for facts.

Not my readers, of course, you know.

I was never a huge Clinton fan, although I did vote for him twice. The same history that President Bush hoped will vindicate his current foreign policy seems to have worked for Bill Clinton first; but history only works if you remember the facts, not the gestures; remember the dead solders and civilians and not toppled statues and "Mission Accomplished" banners. What emboldens our enemy more, dead children or Bill Maher jokes?

I have grown to miss the leadership Clinton provided, but with George W. Bush at the helm, I find myself missing George Sr., too. But the fact is, Bill Clinton did attack Osama before Osama attacked the American mainland. True, he tried to stop him and failed, but he admitted his mistake. When will the current model President Bush truly admit his?

As for Clinton's aggression and oversensitivity, a TV mini-series did just air where he was shown worrying about the blowjob heard round the world more than our national security, when there is no evidence to support it. I'd be pissed too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Remember When?

Remember when you could agree to disagree?

Remember when we voted for someone instead of against the other person?

Remember when things went without saying, you didn’t say them?

Remember when you were naive enough to assume that people were being straight with you?

Remember when you could just be happy and not wonder how long it was going to last?

Remember, when talking about a movie/tv show/anything, you could to say,”How can it go wrong?” and it didn’t?

I haven’t felt that way in so long, I’m starting to think it was I dreaming that it ever happened.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness:Part 1

In sorting out my Salisbury posts, I tried to figure out in what order to tell them, in amount of police involvement or ratio of alcohol fueled mayhem to more clinical insanity, before settling on amount of blood spilled. This one has the least. They are all true, to the best of my memory.

Brian and Cathy were a couple that were part of my Don’s Belladonna circle of friends. Unlike a lot of the others in that crowd that I had met before my Don’s days, I knew them from the bar only for a long time, but my roommate Blotto had known them for quite a while.

I liked both of them separately, they seemed like fairly normal, in comparison of what I was used to. I didn’t hang out with them as a couple, but they seemed pretty level the few times I did. But Blotto and some of their other, closer friends had some stories about them that I found impossible to reconcile with the people I knew with the same names. They had a reputation as being far beyond dysfunctional into straight up mutually physically abusive “Brian? Cathy? From Don’s?” This just didn’t make sense. Cathy chased Brian through a cornfield with his car? They got into a fist fight when he was driving and she was in the back seat? Their arguments were knockdown, drag-out in the most literal sense. I knew these guys weren’t lying about the drama that surrounded them, but I wasn’t a direct witness. That was until the day....

We were planning on having a July 4th party at my house but got the keg a day early, so we had a smaller July 3rd get together. Having a kegerator, pool and foozball table made our house popular for any instant get together, this was a good and bad thing. Having your room nearby made it extremely likely that if I were to pass out, I’d land in my own bed. However, occasional vomiting from our guests and floors too sticky to wear socks were what we had to deal with in return. And sometimes alcohol makes bad ideas seem to look like good ones.

I had just started shaving my head with electric clippers and Brian asked me to cut the back and sides short so his hair would look less like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I’ve always been kinda nervous to cut anyone else's hair, but he wanted was pretty straight forward and the detachable hair guides guaranteed a minimum of error and he begged me to do it, so I was more than happy to oblige, but Cathy stopped me before we got to the bathroom and pleaded,”Pete, please don’t do this.”
“I’m sorry,” I told her, “This is going to happen whether I do it or not and I’m the most experienced at this and the least drunk person that’s willing to try it.”

She relented, but if looks could kill, there would be nary a survivor if they dared cross the white-hot glare Cathy aimed at Brian’s freshly shorn head.

About 15 minutes later, I was sitting in our living room with about a half a dozen guests watching TV when Brian and Cathy walked in. Actually Cathy walked in, pulling Brian backwards by the remaining long hairs he had at the top of his head. She dragged him across the living room floor, his legs flailing underneath him to walk backward fast enough to keep him on his feet.

She finally rested on an ottoman at the far end, in front of where I was. As she sat down she pulled Brian’s head into her lap and growled obscenities through her frothing, clenched teeth. Her white hot glare was replaced by twin thermonuclear explosions consuming any trace of reason or civility I may have ever seen in her. Brian turned to me and said flatly, “Pete, get this bitch off of me before I beat the shit out of her.”

This all had happened so fast I was still in bewildered mode. One thing was certain, the party was over. All nonessential personnel disappeared instantly, with not a “see ya” among them. Blotto and some of the remained pulled her off and threw her out of the house.

About half an hour later, I had mentally drifted away from the earlier excitement as I went to the bathroom. I was walking past our front door when I heard, “Pete?” I was startled to find Cathy standing on our front porch on the other side of the screen door. She said, with the relaxed smile and calm cadence of a Stepford wife,”I just wanted to warn you, I called the police and they’re going to arrest Brian for attempted fetal homicide.”

Attempted fetal homicide? She’s pregnant? They’re bringing an innocent life in to this? But the cops never came and, as it turns out, Cathy wasn’t pregnant. Yet. That would happen in a couple months.

An interesting post script: I was telling this story not so long after it happened to a friend and she said,”Wow, that sound’s like a friend of mine’s sister ” She went on to tell me about this friend’s wedding, a horrendous affair spiced up to a Springer-esque level by her sister and her boyfriend fighting. The cherry on top of this matrimonial shit sundae was the sibling (who was her maid of honor) delaying the ceremony for an hour and a half after she locked herself in the bathroom. It didn’t take us long to realize that my story sounded like her because it was her. It was Cathy’s sister and Brian was the boyfriend.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tales of Salisbury madness

I lived in Salisbury, Maryland from age 20 to 26 (1990 to 1996). It seemed like a step up from Georgetown, and for the most part it was. Most of my friends had gone off to college and a lot of them had ended up in Salisbury, so I moved there with my best friend when he transfered from the University of Delaware.

Your early to mid twenties tends to be the time when you make some of your most memorable mistakes. Mine was Cisco fortified wine, but that story is for another time. My mom and I were talking about that time in my life and she said, “I thought you had a drinking problem.” I said, “Nope, I was just in my early twenties.”

I made some of my best friends there, and I have some fond memories of the ‘bury, but it’s exactly the kind of town that Bruce Springsteen sang about eather leaving or being hopelessly trapt in. It was lame,but it was dangerously easy to get comfortable there. People stayed there after dropping out or finishing college at SSU. The only link some of them had was a bar, mine was Don’s Belladonna.

It took a trip to RICHMOND for me to realize how uncool Salisbury was. Georgetown, Delaware(where I grew up) was boring, but Salisbury had drugs and plenty of alcohol and enough people I liked hanging out with to keep me there.

It is a college town, but it’s the most conservative one I’ve been to. Beer flowed like wine throughout the ‘Bury, but the local government operated with all the blustery cluelessness of Colonel Klink. A store across the street from the campus hemmoraged cases of National Bohemian every weekend but the town council wouldn’t allow a brewpub next door because they didn’t want to increase the alcohol consumption of the college students. A underage kid died of alcohol poisoning the summer before I moved there and thus few people could have parties that weren’t visited by the police. Then the parties moved out of town to places like Fruitland and the bars were packed with underaged kids with fake IDs, where you pay 3 bucks for a single beer instead of all you could get as long as the keg lasted.

When I wanted to leave, I had to leave. I packed my shitty Mustang with essentials and I took off in the dead of night for Rockville in thick fog and the power being out along a lot of the way, like the town was trying to keep me there.

More than one person I’ve known has had things happen to them that kept them there when they would try to leave. One friend met a girl and got engaged to a townie after he had already decided to leave and spent a good chunk of their relationship trying to get him to move back after he moved to Silver Spring.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those days and jarred loose some memories that I wanted to share. There’s a lot of drinking that I took part in and a lot of fighting that I didn’t. I’m a lover not a fighter. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

From the "weep for the future" department

I was on the Metro Saturday night, going to seethe Glory and the Majesty at Iota(if you like pop music like I do you should check them out). I was on my way to Virginia when a trio of teenage boys came on and stood by the door. Two of them looked like teenagers do, all baggy sweaters and awkwardness. But the other one was going for something different. He was about 5' 7" with a massive jewfro adding a couple of extra inches. He had a black studded belt, which served a mainly ornamental purpose since his pants were falling down at an alarming rate. But the crowning touch was wearing a leather jacket with no shirt, featuring his hairless chest for all the lucky ladies he'd be crossing paths with. I simple couldn't imagine him looking in the mirror at home and saying, "Oh yeah, this is exactly the look I'm going for." But here he was.
I had to stiffle a laugh the whole rest of the ride, but I had to hold my mouth and stare at the floor until I left the train. A guy who was looking at the kid with similar knitted brow consternation got off at Clarendon with me and I just had to say something, since words could not truly capture this moment.
"What was up with the kid with the jewfro?"
After a moment acclimating to a stranger talking to him, he said,"With no shirt? I know, that was fucking hilarious!"

Monday, September 18, 2006

I wanna be a millionaire, but alas...

I tried out for the "Who wants to be a millionaire" pop culture week in NYC last week(I'll write more about that later). I had to fill out a questionaire that didn't get seen because, sigh, I didn't make it that far, but I wanted to share it with you.
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE
POP CULTURE WEEK AUDITION APPLICATION

Please answer the following questions:

1. Why do you consider yourself a Pop Culture buff? (Do you go to a ton of movies, record hours of shows, subscribe to crazy amounts of magazines, etc.?)
Its what sticks in my brain, all this useless trivia. Ive seen tons of movies, watched tons of TV, and music oh, music. Its ruined my life, but I couldnt have had it any other way.

2. What do you like about Pop Culture?
I often say that pop culture is a whore running at the speed of light. If you try to catch it youll die of exhaustion, you can only hope to be in its way. Thats what I love about it. These days especially, they can make a multi million-dollar movie that nobody cares about, but someone can shoot something in their living room, upload it, and it can be a literal overnight sensation.


3. Do you have any strange or quirky Pop Culture related collections?
I had to think about this for a second before finally realizing, my entire life is a pop culture collection from the t-shirts I wear to the DVDs of seasons of shows and music and movie magazines strewn about.

4. Did/do you follow fads, watch shows/movies or worship celebrities that you are embarrassed to admit to?

Loving pop culture means never having to say youre sorry, or at least it should. As much as I preach about not believing in guilty pleasures, I hide my admiration of Justin Timberlake from my roommates. Trust me, its for the best.


5. Finish this sentence... I would be totally devastated if my Mother/Wife/Roommate ever threw away or I ever lost my... (insert your most prized pop culture memorabilia here)
The hard drive from my computer. Some of the songs on there may very well be gone forever if I lost it. Just thinking about it makes me tear up.

6. Have you ever missed work or an important event to see a movie, go to a concert, watch TV, etc?
When I was 12, a girl I liked told me I could come by where she was babysitting the same night as the last episode of M*A*S*H* and I stayed home to watch it. Really.

7. Why should you be on this show?
Because Im good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like me. No, seriously, the pursuit of pop culture has cost me money, time and the chance of a real social life. I want payback.

Monday, September 11, 2006

This is true story.

When I worked at the toy store, a lady called from Upstate New York who wanted us to send her a special scooter that only our store had in the entire country. We sent it to her, since it was still in the box it was shipped in, it was easy to slap a new label on it and send it on it's way.

The next Monday, she called again. The handle bars weren't in the box. O.K., no problem, we told her, we'll call the company and they'll send some to you.

We called the company later that day, and they said the lady had already called three times about the shortage by calling the number on the warranty card. They said it's taken care of and it was going out on 2 day air today and it should be there from California by Wednesday. In summery, everyone did everything they said they'd do to correct this problem.

On Thursday, the lady called again, despite our best efforts the handlebars didn't make it to her, and someone was going to hear her yell about it. .

Maybe I should tell you a little more about this story, that Monday when the handles got shipped was September 10th, 2001. The next day, as you may have heard, the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack in the nation's history. The air traffic above the entire United States was limited to Air Force One and fighter planes, stranding people and handlebars alike in airports and freight distribution centers.

"You ruined my daughter's birthday!", she had told the poor soul that had answered the phone. I don't remember what my co-worker said in response. But I do know what I would have.

"Ma'am, I'm only going to apologize if you've recently come out a coma, but Tuesday something real fucked up happened and the Air Force aren't letting anything or anybody into the air right now, under threat of being shot out of the sky. I'm afraid the threat of certain flaming death outweighed any duty to get the handle bars to you on time. No, I'm not the person who ruined your daughter's birthday. That would be Osama bin Laden, and I dont have his extension.

That's what I think of whenever anyone likes to talk about how we've changed since 9/11.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Three Types of Human Failure and President Bush

As I write my book, "Surviving Retail", I'm thankful for what fate has given me to work with. The toy store has provided me with a great way to finish it off. It's the closing argument for my amateur sociological thesis. Seeing multiple generation of people and their interactions ties a lot of my theories together.
The other things are my roommates that I've had for the last year. The many opinions and observations that we've shared as given me a fresh perspective on human behavior that I've gained more from than anything I ever learned in community college.

My roommate Ed in particular has come up with something that really cleared my way of thinking, the three kinds of human failure. When we see someone (or ourselves) do something wrong or make a bad decision, we say "What a fuckin' idiot!", but it's not that simple. We've been all three more times than we'd like to admit, but for illustrative purposes, I'll take the hit.
1. Stupidity- Sometimes I simply do not have the mental ability to make the right decisions. I think this accounts for less human failure than people think.

2. Ignorance -I may have the cranial capacity but I've never been taught or had the life experience to know better.

3. Foolishness - I'm smart enough and should know better, but I still do the wrong thing. God Damn, have I been foolish!

When I write about my crazy customer experiences, I'm assuming they're much more intelligent than my interaction with them may have suggested. I do this hoping someone will extend me the same courtesy when I'm at my worst.

So how does this relate to President Bush? I'm glad you asked. I was watching Bill Maher this past weekend and Christopher Hitchens was pissing me off a bit. I will say, however, that he is definitely the most intelligent man that believes Bush is doing the right thing. He bristles when people call George W. Bush a "moron" but didn't have a problem calling Bill Clinton a "rapist", when there is a lot more direct evidence of the former rather than the latter.

But I agree with him, President Bush is certainly not an idiot, malapropisms aside. But he is foolish, and regardless of how you arrive at the wrong decision, it's still wrong.
Calling him an idiot is like calling him a nazi, it's false and it destroys a lot of the intellectual credibility the person saying it may have with the kind of people whose minds truly need changing. Let us on the left side of the fence come up with our own version of "cut and run". Let's call it what it most obviously is: our "foolish" foreign policy, our "foolish" domestic policies. It's created by people that should know better, but fail regardless. Hearts and minds are two different things, both need to be appealed to before anything can be accomplished in any lasting way.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Shitty Action Movies, part 2: John Carpenter edition

Oh my days off, I had just gotten back from Chipotle, having had my traditional day off burrito, and switched on the TV and saw that "John Carpenter's 'They Live'" was on. Any film geek worth their salt should be able to guess what part of the movie I was in the middle of when I tuned it in. That's right, the "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Keith David fight.
This is an oft-discussed subject among my roommates and I.
If you've never seen John Carpenter's"They Live" It stars Piper as a guy that discovers that aliens are living amung us and are manupulaing the human population into complacency, placing subliminal messages in billboards and magazines. The Rowdy one wanted Keith to put on his special sunglasses so he can see through the alien's brainwashing and see the world as it is. And Keith doesn't want to put them on. And so begins one of the longest and certainly the most pointless fight scene in all of film history. These moments are what I think about when a movie has the misfortune of being called "John Carpenter's" ANYTHING. I think about the basketball scene in "Escape From LA" where Kurt Russell does lay ups for his life. I think of every single frame of "Ghosts of Mars". That's what the name means to me.
What positive feeling am I suppost by know by knowing he's involved? Because of "Halloween"? I apologize if I'm upsetting anyone by saying this, but that movie has not aged well. Whatever happened to P.J. Soles anyway?

Roddy quotes in "They Live":"Life's a bitch and she's back in heat!"
"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum"
"White line's in the middle of the road, that's the worst place to drive."

It's a shame, really, "They Live" has a great premise done in by clumsy and inept execution. It seems like it would fit well in today's political climate and the fever pitched, farflung senarios of the modern conspiracy theorist. It's still too out there to be real, right?

Warning! Film Geekery Afoot! Shitty Action Movies edition

The Jason Statham dilemma.
I still don't know how I feel about Jason Statham, action star. He's got a new movie "Crank" coming out and he's a man on the edge, much like his characters from the "Transporter" movies. His character, Chev, seems to have been poisoned and much keep his adrenaline up or he dies, kinda like a bio-chemical version of the bus bomb in "Speed".
It's not that he's not a good actor, his turns in "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" proved that. He certainly has the graceful physicality of the modern action star, but something's still amiss.

It's like the feeling I got drinking strawberry milk as a kid, it tasted like strawberries alright, it just feels wrong.

It looks like I'm not the only one who thinks so, even after the "Transporter" movies, "Crank"'s advertising has begun featuring as his co starAmy Smart, hitching his wagon to her considerable "star power". If there was a emoticon that said "sarcasm" I still wouldn't use it. It certainly doesn't help that he got in the trouble he got into in those flicks because he fucked up at his job "transporting".
I actually watched "The Transporter 2" today, and I think I know what they're going to do. Accepting Statham as a limey Jackie Chan is, by a huge margin, the most believable thing about this movie. This movie makes you stretch the limits of the plausible to level that can best described as "Segal-esqe."
Speaking of the leathery one, Steven Segal used to bristle when people would call him a "martial arts" actor.
"Is Frank Sinatra a martial arts actor because he used it in The Manchurian Candidate'?'"
No, it's because I have a problem with calling you just an "actor" like the problem I have calling Bowlers, "athletes". The "martial arts" qualifier is essential to accept it.
But, god love him, he's made it work for him, there is no way he could been a star any other than beating the living shit of as many bad guys as much as humanly possible while keeping his ponytail in place. He was what ever the movie told him to be, Steven Segal was "Out for Justice", he is, "Above the Law". "Hard to Kill" had his actual wife as his love interest and they displayed the kind of chemistry that got me a "D" in science class.
He can't kick above his waist anymore, but people actually consider him an action star. Is it the irony factor? The smart assed cracks during the movie factor? Sometimes the musky majesty of Segal needs nothing more than to be taken in with out comment... and then quickly coughed back out in fits of laughter.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Nice Guy's Burden

!WARNING: LONG PERSONAL RANT!

I'm a nice guy, no apologies about it, but this is a cruel world for the nice guy. I try to keep this blog as free as possible of angsty musings, but I've been thinking a lot about this a lot lately and something had to give. I appreciate the indulgence.

Although it might sound like I'm talking about all the women I've dated, it's just the solid majority of them. The exceptions know who they are, and I'd like to say thank you for being exceptional.

On the almost laugh-free Comedy Central Show "Mind of Mencia" recently I saw something that stunned, but shouldn't have surprised, me. Carlos, the host, directed women to ask him questions that he would answer for all men. One women asked him, "Why are men jerks?", to which Carlos replied,"Because women only have sex with jerks!"
He continued by having the women clap who truly wanted to date a "nice guy", and just a few women clapped. He then asked just the women that clapped to clap again if a guy can be "too nice". Almost as many clapped.
"YOU STUPID WHORES!", he screamed, as is often his fashion. That statement in itself illustrates a huge difference in me and a lot of guys I know. I've never called a woman a whore unless she, in fact, has sex for money and I've called a lot more men bitches than women and I've never said it in anger to any woman, regardless of the ferocity of any argument.

I was lucky to have a strong female role model when I was growing up in my mother and her relationship with my dad was plenty contentious, but not abusive.

When I was growing up, I lived far far away from any kids so I was extremely socially retarded much later in life than most people, so I still quaintly hold on to the "Golden Rule" to treat people the way I want to be treated. I'm kind and honest with women I like because that's how I like to be treated.

Unfortunately, this have proven to make me a more effective girlfriend than boyfriend, with some women including me in on intimate conversations about their sexual past, as if I was "one 'o the gals."
"You know what Mark did in bed that I loved?"
"NO! And I don't want to! I've got a penis, we're not suppose to be privy to this intel!"

It was too late, I had been emasculated and placed in the "friend zone", never to return except as sounding board and crying shoulder to hear about how big as asshole the guy that managed to be smart enough to avoid this designation is.

The demonstration on "Mind of Mencia" started me thinking about the luck (mostly bad) I've had with women. I known and dated women that have had boyfriends that have gone above and beyond the usual lying, cheating and stealing. These women have been drugged, more than one beaten almost to death (including one woman that woke up in the midst of being buried in a shallow grave). Another found out that their boyfriend was getting underage girls to send him pornographic polaroids, and another's boyfriend called her so she could listen while he had sex with somebody else. I have more, but I need to move this along. Only in one case (and not the shallow grave one) was this kind of behavior a deal breaker.

I have been far from the perfect boyfriend, but I haven't lied, cheated, or stolen, to,on, or from my girlfriends. But through out my life I've been broke up with, basically, for being "too nice". "I would love to end up with a guy like you someday, but not today." Great, so after you get passed around like a frathouse bong, you mean. You'll forgive me if I'm not waiting around for that.

In my twenties the phenomena was more mysterious. I wouldn't throw around dangerous phrases like "I love you" or "wanna be my girlfriend?" but suddenly girls would stop calling when everything seemed to going great. Of course, I'm a lot older now so I know that (forgive me) she wasn't that into me, but at the time it seemed like someone called them in the middle of the night and told them to break up with me or else. But it wasn't all ignorance and paranoia.

In my mid-twenties I was at a party and found myself in a drunken make out session with a friend, as sometimes happens in your mid-twenties. She went to the bathroom and when she came back she wouldn't look me in the eyes, much less continue making out. Ok, I thought, this might be weird for her since we've been friends and we crossed a line, but it was still a bit puzzling that she wouldn't even talk to me.

A few weeks later she explained what had happened, a friend had stopped her coming out of the bathroom and warned her, "Don't hook up with Pete, he falls in love too easy!

What?! The "friend" that said this had never even met anyone I had even dated, much less been in love with, where could she have gotten this crazy idea? Who said what to who and why? Besides this helpful person was in a relationship where she'd never go home earlier than she was expected becase she didn't want to come home and find her boyfriend having sex with one of her two roommates again.

In my thirties, my sweet and patient nature (their words, not mine) was appreciated much more, but not without problems. I seem to give the women the feeling that they are going to marry me if they date me. I understand that a lot of men in their thirties think about starting families, but I don't do a single conscience thing to suggest that I'm even remotely ready for that step yet. But something creates that feeling in them regardless of my arguments to the contrary.

It has quite an ironic effect, women that I genuinely like run from it.
"I don't want to get married yet, I still have things I want to do!", they say.
"Neither do I, I don't recall asking you to. I just want to spend time together!" I'm paraphrasing, but I've had this conversation countless times with so many women, some I've known less than two weeks. The effect is quite the opposite with women in relationships where things were a bit, um, more casual or it's obvious, despite mutual attractions, that things wouldn't work out.
Her: "So, how badly do you want to have kids? I can't have them."
Me: "We just met 15 minutes ago." Really, that conversation happened to me once.

I got engaged once, when I was 18, and it was a mistake so big you could see it from space. This has made me very careful about approaching that mile stone again.
The mother of my children has to be someone I can stand for the rest of my life, and you can't figure that out until you get to really know someone and that takes time. Besides, what's the rush? I've just wanted the women I've been with to feel as beautiful and special as I sincerely believe they are (present tense because I still believe it for all of them).

But regardless, it's not something I want or feel like I need to change. Being a "nice guy" is not like jury duty, some loathsome activity that can be avoided. I am what I am and I can't change that any more than I can grow a luxurious head of hair , and just like my baldness I don't see it as a problem. It just makes me sad that so many wonderful, intelligent, and beautiful women can't deal with it when someone tells them so.

But if another woman says to me, "Pete, entertain me, my boyfriend's being lame," I'm charging admission.