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!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Things I'm gonna miss about D.C.

I'm leaving D.C. March 1st. First to Austin to visit my friend Johanna, Phoenix to visit my family, then Shenandoah, Iowa to finish my book Surviving Retail. I love D.C. very deeply and hopefully will make it back someday.
Things I'll miss (besides my friends and co-workers):
Those amazing national monuments I've taken for granted
The Black Cat
The National Zoo
On Demand Cable(not as wide spread as you'd think)
Access to every ethnic food imaginable
Happy hour at Cafe Mozarts
Public transportation
Living in a place that leans unreasonably left politically instead of unreasonably right, like I did most of my life before.
Having options

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Is being bald THAT bad?

If I was my younger, twitchier self, I might be offended about the hostility thrown towards baldness as of late. Britney is one thing, for someone that is one of the most obsessed celebrities in our celebrity obsessed culture, shaving all your hair off can be seen as nothing less than a folicular cry for help.

But in my opinion, she looks pretty good bald, a lot of women do. Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta? Rawr!

Then we get to the Vince Mcmahon/Donald Trump feud. The climax of their upcoming "Battle of the Billionaires" will be the shaving of the head of the billionaire who backs the wrestler that loses the match. I think, considering the men involved, the winner should get the pompadour-ectomy. The Donald's hair helmet is possibly the most parodied in all of America.

I had my own well documented stuggle with baldness myself(Part 1 Part 2)
I've firmly believe that everyone should shave their head at least once in their life, but of course I do it three times a week. It is amazing the perspective you gain for not having something that is so easy to take for granted in your life.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Your Pal's Brushes with Greatness:Iced Earth

When I was in high school, one of my best friends was Matt Barlow, former singer for metal bandIced Earth . We started playing music about the same time, him singing and me playing bass. At first we played in our school's "rock" band Excalibur, then after graduation in the more metallic Tainted Halo. We were unique in lower Delaware, while other bands of the metal genre in the area had one original song, we had almost a full set of our own stuff mixed in with the Poison and Van Halen covers.

Matt always hankered for the harder stuff, so he and his guitarist brother moved to Florida, which at the time was the death metal capital of America. I never heard from him again. A few years later, I read a fanzine review of Iced Earth's "The Dark Saga" and came across his name and just about plotzed.

Not being much of a metal fan (Tainted Halo membership notwithstanding), I never followed Iced Earth too closely; I only recently found out that Howard Stern cohort Richard Christy used to play drums for them. Among fans of their Iron Maiden-inspired thrash, though, they are gods. Matt left the band in the wake of 9/11 and is now a police officer in our hometown of Georgetown, Delaware. This was heartbreaking news to his fans and I had heard that a few fans were planning a pilgrimage to Georgetown to find him. By the way the guy who replaced him was Tim "Ripper" Owens, the guy that replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest and inspired that shitty Marky Mark Movie.

My old band, the Milk-O-Matics, was playing what turned out to be our last show with Hustlero GT, a band whose singer I had met in Salisbury back in the day.

The Hustlero drummer was talking about the awesome Iced Earth/Judas Priest (Matt was still in the band then) he had recently attended. I mentioned that I was best friends and had played with their singer in high school, and he smirked and said, "Yeah, right." I thought to myself, why would I lie about knowing someone in a band I know next to nothing about? Not being prone to lying, I become very defensive if someone suggests I'm being less than truthful, especially when it comes to someone who I've spent as much time with as Matt. I went to his brothers Jim and Mike's weddings (Tainted Halo played at Jim's), fer christsakes!

I remembered something from our past that might prove me right. The Hustlero guitarist and I had first met playing with Matt and his brother in a short-lived thrash band right after Tainted Halo broke up.
"Remember when I first met you in Matt and Jim's attic?", I asked him.
He knew exactly what I was talking about, "That was the same guy?"
The drummer, a rough stocky dude that beat the drums like they slept with his girlfriend and scowled the entire time, melted in a puddle of fanboy geekdom.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Believe it or don't, this is absolutely true!

Scene: yesterday at my toy store.

A customer calls, she had bought 3 flashing heart necklaces and two of them didn't work and wanted her money back for the defective ones. Ok, no problem, bring them in and we'll take care of it. Well, as it turns out, she had thrown them out, but she felt she should still get her money back.

Sorry, as much as return policies vary from the common boutique policy of all sales final to Nordstrom's famous (and dumb) "take everything back" policy the one constant that remains it that if you return something, you have to return SOMETHING.
"Well, I was told they would work," she argued. As I store, we only try to sell things that work. The only necklace that we had had returned defective worked fine after we put the batteries in (really).
"I spend a lot of money there!" This is used as a excuse for a lot at my store, but it's not a spell that magically makes two trashed necklaces appear.
The funny thing is this has happened about 5 or 6 times since I've worked there. Another woman once protested, "I was told that if it didn't work for me I could get store credit for it."
I said, "You actually have to bring it in."
"She didn't tell me I had to do that."
And with that, another entry for the sad, growing list of "Things that should go without saying, but I still have to say."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Frozen Valentine's Day!

I hate Valentine's Day, it's easily my least favorite holiday. Some regular readers might think that it would be Christmas with all the stress and work that I've bitched about leading up to it, but Christmas itself is awesome; a guaranteed day off!

I spend a lot of time sympathizing with women for the world we live in, with it's ridiculous body expectations and generally having to deal with men, but Valentine's day really is hard on us guys. Instead of being a day where you express your feelings towards the special person in your life (which a lot of guys have a problem with anyway), it becomes a chance to totally fuck up, brought to you by Hallmark.

The Valentine's related commercials around this time realize this. There's a candy commercial where a bunch of guys are saying things like, "If I don't bring her chocolate on Valentine's Day, watch out!" Another one for custom made teddy bears shows a woman getting a bear delivered at her work and all of her co-workers coo, "I wish my boyfriend would get me something like that!" Which, us men know, implies that whatever her boyfriend gave her wasn't going to keep him out of the dog house.

Valentine's day for me personally has been a mixed bag. For most of them I've been single, but almost all regardless have been pure psychic nightmares. I won't get too deep into it, but once I hit the good boyfriend mark with the woman I was deeply in love so hard, she said after we broke up she couldn't touch what I gave her without crying. But it was too good, it was indirectly responsible for her breaking up with me less that two weeks later.

Monday, February 12, 2007

You think Barack has it rough?

Your Pal's pick for President, Barack Obama, has had an interesting few days since announcing his candidacy. He's had to turn up his collar to a shitstorm that includes accusations that he's not black enough and the Australian Prime Minister saying Obama is Al-Queda in Iraq's choice for President. He, thus far, has weathered it admirably, but it's going to get so much worse. But someone else is going to get it far worse if they gain the nomination in '08.

I lived on the eastern shore of Maryland for 6 years. For a couple of them I worked at a convenience store that was an unofficial meeting place for discussions, political and otherwise. Whenever I'd voice an opinion that was slightly contrary, it would be dismissed with a, "that's right, you're 'the liberal'!" like I was the only one.

But I listened and got a feel for the concerns for what most Red Staters. The all-encompassing animosity that liberals have towards President Bush was exactly how conservatives felt about Bill Clinton down to the last bad vibe.

The difference was there was somebody that they hated even more, with a white hot intensity that defies any reasonable explanation: Hillary Clinton. The RNC muck machine will use any rock, any weapon, ANY morsel of mud available to prevent another President Clinton.

We've got one hell of a bumpy ride ahead of us.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Conservatives Are Terrible At Being Gay!

"This is a baby, This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child."- Mary Cheney, openly gay daughter of Vice-President Cheney talking about her pregnancy. Really? Don't think so? I disagree, we live in a country where every gay family is a political prop; why is Mary Cheney exempt? The answer: she's not, saying she is doesn't make it so. She's obviously decided that the rights of people with her sexual orientation isn't as important as other issues facing this country, but she played "house lesbian" while this administration had made it clear that they cannot recognize two lesbians and a baby as a real "family". So questions will be asked, rest assured.

And what of Ted "completely hetero" Haggard? He wasn't really gay, he was just acting out and after 3 weeks of prayer and counseling and all his homosexual urges are gone, while the rest of us sit in front of the schadenfreude channel and wait for the next time he "acts out".

This shows the intrinsic flaw in social conservative demonizing. Criminals are evil and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, unless you're related to one and then it's just a bad decision. Celebrities are all rich elitists that have no right to express political opinions, unless you're Arnold Schwartzenegger. Homosexuals are trying to subvert the American family and recruit unsuspecting heteros into their "lifestyle choice" as part of a larger "Homosexual Agenda" unless you have known a few and realize that they're just like everyone else; we're all just trying to find our place in this increasingly confusing world.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

News That Makes It's Own Gravy

This Astronaut Love Triangle reminds a little bit of dog food that makes it's own gravy. It's one of those news stories that makes it's own funny. Like Dick Cheney shooting a guy in the face, or Boston being brought to it's knees by the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, or Ted Haggard's "Three weeks to complete heterosexuality",you don't need to spice it at all with any sort of satirical insight, just state the facts and you have an instant joke!

But it's only funny because the attempted kidnapping stayed attempted. As anyone that has seen as many violent movies as I have can attest, the things that they found in her trunk pointed to a much more chilling conclusion to this story. A new steel mallet, a new 4 inch knife, rubber tubing and large garbage bags; it may just be a coincidence, but she's a shovel and some lime powder away from having the complete psycho killers grocery list.

But obviously the plan wasn't as planed out as the truck contents may have suggested and so we can laugh about it!
Dude, she drove the whole way wearing astronaut diapers!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Your Pal's Brushes with Greatness:Death Cab For Cutie

But first, these promotional messages! I have some new demos of new songs on my myspace(link): "1-4-5" and "Last Night A Pop Song Saved My Life". I just wanted to get these songs out of my mind and onto the intranet. Justin Timberlake successfully brought "SexyBack", I'm bringing "HairyBack"!
Now, our feature presentation

My friend Mike had told me to go to a upcoming Death Cab show at the Black Cat, assuring me that I would dig them. This was slightly before they gained notoriety riding Adam Brody's (Seth from the TV show the O.C.) rocket to semi stardom, so I was able to get some tickets the day of the show.

Before I went upstairs to the show I did a little pre-game at the downstairs Red Room Bar. I saw my friend Gretchen, who I hadn't seen for a while, sitting with a couple of regular looking dudes. She asked what was up to and I replied,"Ya know, just checking out the indie rock all the kids seem to be listening to these days," refering to Death Cab For Cutie.

I saw Mike and was catching up when Gretchen came up with an embarassed look on her face, "The guy sitting next to me was BEN!"
"Okay," I said, not quite getting her point.
"Ben from Death Cab!"
Oh the main dude, gotcha. I still didn't get her embarassment; I heard they were good and went to see them, if I was him and some stranger said what I said about my band, I would have been psyched. It's not like I said that I came to check out the latest opportunistic douchebags riding the unending font of teenage angst to alterna-rock paydirt, which I'm not saying they are, I just wanted to use all those words in the same sentence.

Besides, it was much kinder than if I gave her a post-concert assessment that even superfan Mike agreed with:
"That band bored the piss out of me."

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Pigeonhole Paradox

I was recently reading the blog of a friend of a friend where she was complaining about how after changing the orientation on her myspace profile from "straight" to "bi" she immediately got hit up by couples waiting to be more "adventurous"; meaning wanting her to be their ambassador to bi-curiosity. Her point was that "bisexuality" is not short for "freely promiscuous". And she, in my opinion, is absolutely right.

A friend told me about an uncomfortable discussion with a group of people she had met. She identifies herself as a Lesbian, although she has had boyfriends. This led to too many questions about her sexual orientation and how it affects her life, especially as an African-American. She complained about this to a friend and he told her it was her responsibility to educate people on behalf of Black Lesbians everywhere. He, in my opinion, is wrong.

But I understand the curiosity, if not the tact. One of my main observations about human behavior is that people hate to be pigeonholed, but they LOVE to pigeonhole. That's how we make sense of new things, to have a relatable experience from the past to help explain the present.

The problem is when you identify yourself as anything, you immediately take on whatever characteristics and attitudes that people believe that group has. If someone is Christian, the popular assumption is that they will preach to you; If you're a liberal, you drive a Volvo and favor lattes as your beverage of choice.

My pal Lonnie faced a bit of this recently when immigration was such a prominent part of the national discourse. At the time, he worked at a nonprofit agency that provided legal assistance for immigrants. Having a unique perceptive on the issue, he felt that a particular country's immigration policy should not be decided by those with a desire to immigrate here especially since the Mexican government actively assist and advise poor Mexican on how to safely cross the border illegally(here's a link). This position riled a lot of his more lefty friends, who were quick to accuse him of turning "conservative."

Now to know Lonnie is to think that's a ridiculous, he's the one of the most liberal people I've ever known. He used to love going into conservative chat rooms type "Long Live the Welfare State!" and bask in the resulting flames from outraged red staters. He is also a person with dynamic opinions that evolve with life experience and information gathered and not necessarily fitting with pre fitted notions or leanings.

In other words, an adult.

Yes, I realize I myself have pigeonholed in this post; just because I recognize it doesn't mean I'm above it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sometimes, I don't need to do anything...

As I become a short-timer (Feb 28th) at the toy store, I've taken a different tack as most. Some would use their limited time to make there language a little looser, to bring thoughts to the light of day that their steady paycheck would have kept hidden; I have ratcheted down my smart assed comments unless they're desperately needed, I do have co-workers to entertain.

But sometimes I don't need to do a thing to earn the ire that I would normally receive from a well placed zinger.

A lady came in the store and stopped at the door, noticing our new marble run display(for the non toy savvy, It's one of those things you build and drop marbles down and watch it travel down rails and spirals). I saw her dump about a dozen marbles at once, watch them slide and careen down to the base. After that she walked towards the back; I smiled slightly and nodded hello, but you'd think that I was tapping my foot and shooting a disapproving glare from her reaction.
"What do you expect when you put that up front?!" She barked.
"I didn't say a word," I protested. It was something I myself had done many times, I do work at a toy store.
"Yeah..", she grunted and disappeared into the back of the store.
Not a single discouraging syllable was uttered, but now magically I'm an asshole.

One lady recently asked me about Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I don't know if you know about these things, it's part of a phenomena known as collectible card games. Long story short, I would never sell crack, but I do sell Yu-Gi-Oh, similar compulsions are involved.
She asked, "Is there a game that goes with these?"
I said, "There is, but it depends on the child. The kids that collect these cards are usually too young to play the actual game, so they have there own rules, if they play a game at all. It's actually pretty complicated how they play with them. I'm writing a book about retail, in fact, and the things like Yu-Gi-Oh takes up about 4 pages alone."
She looked at me cock-eyed and huffed,"You've got a funny way about you, I just ask a simple question and you give me...."
A simple question asked is not always a simply answered. For me to fully answer it I would need to spend a lot more time hanging out in schoolyards and talking to little kids than it is socially acceptable for a single, childless 36 year old man to do.