Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Real Dream Team

While I was sitting at dinner last night I began to reminisce about something I came up with years ago, an all star team for bums. Was it mean spirited? Sure. Is it politically incorrect? Definitely. At the same time it made me laugh a hell of a lot at the time and just as much many years later so I've decided to share it with the world.

First I have to give some background to how the team was put together. First I had to decide on a format for the team. I decided to base everything on basketball since it required the fewest people. Sure, I could have painstakingly created a 22 bum roster like a football team but I would need the hobo rating equivalent of Mel Kiper Jr to assist and I don't even know if one of those exists. Then I had to come up with some sort of criteria as to what makes a bum worthy of all star status. I decided that outward craziness was the key factor; in other words how entertained had I been by their antics. Some points were given for regularity as well; how often did I encounter each bum. Some of the members of the team I only saw once but they had such raw talent that they made the cut, others were fixtures of my life for a while. Without further ado I give you my Bum All Star Team!

Cans Lady - Team Captain and Inspirational Leader. Cans Lady was first encountered in Logan Square around 1999 if I remember correctly. She used to walk around pushing a shopping cart while yelling, "CAAAAAAAAANS. CAAAAAAAAAANS." Whenever a can would appear discarded on the side of the road she would swipe it with remarkable swiftness while delivering her trademark line. Her career highlight would be when she approached a friend drinking a can of beer and yelled "CAAAAANS!" in his face before swiping it from his hand and continuing on her way.

Crack Whore Extraordinaire - Every good cadre of bums has to include a crack whore. This one just barely nudged out Exact Change BJ Crack Whore (She approached me on the Red Line and said that she would give me a blow job for $7.36.). Crack Whore Extraordinaire was witnessed on the Red Line as well having a conversation with, well, with herself I guess. In this conversation she was detailing the ways in which a little Colombian nose candy could enhance lovemaking. "You gots to put the cocaaaaaine on the pussy clit! NO! NO! On the pussy clit! Put the cocaine on the pussy clit!" She was delightful.

Wheelchair Jimmy - Wheelchair Jimmy was one of the more mercurial bums I have ever encountered. Many times he was pleasant while asking for some spare change and often I obliged him. It was when you didn't give WJ some change that things might get a little dicey as he would erupt with vulgarities and often give chase. One particular time I didn't have any change and told him I'm sorry but not today. He followed screaming that I was a cheap bastard and that he was going to fucking kill me while shaking his fist. In order to get away I had to cross the street in the middle of the block so that he couldn't follow, WJ screamed that my tactics were chickenshit. I like to think of Wheelchair Jimmy as the wild card on the team, he can give you a good effort or he might murder you depending on his mood.

Jesus' Executioner - One staple of America's homeless is the bum who had loud conversations with God. Often these conversations are fairly mundane. Not for Jesus' Executioner. Multiple times I've witnessed him on the train eyeballing the other customers before explaining to Jesus and the rest of the train how and why he was going to summon the power of the lord to end them. A choice quote that I will never forget was directed at two teenage girls sitting across the aisle from him. "Those girls anger me Jesus. They are pissing me off. I will use my electricity to strike them down, Jesus. I will electrocute every motherfucker on this train for my lord. JESUS, LET ME ELECTROCUTE ALL THESE MOTHERFUCKERS IN YOUR NAME!" Thankfully Jesus did not wish any motherfuckers electrocuted and the two girls got off the train in tears at the next stop.

Wolf Man - The last member of our team is the Wolf Man. While I only met him he put on a truly inspired performance. My friend Foss and his girlfriend were meeting me at my apartment before going to a Purdue/Northwestern football game. The girlfriend was from a small town in Indiana and had never really been to the big city before. I get a call from them that they can't come in because there is someone in the way. I go downstairs to find the vestibule occupied by a sleeping bum who has used my newspaper to make a nest. The door to the outside could not be opened because he was blocking it so I try to wake him up. First by yelling. Then by nudging with my foot. Finally he wakes enough to growl and snarl at me more wolf than man. Eventually he gets out of the way and is never seen again. I'm sure you have no trouble believing that Foss' lady friend never returned to Chicago after this experience.

There were many contenders who were close to making it on the team but fell just short. The Streetwise guy who used to give me boxing tips (Jab Stickem! Jab, Jab, Stickem!) is one that I feel has enormous potential coming off the bench. The Wild Wild West woman (Spent an entire train ride rapping the song from Wild Wild West) is another that I was saddened to leave off the squad. I hope you enjoyed learning about this powerhouse of craziness. Feel free to nominate some other potential all stars in the comments. Now go and tell all your friends to read this blog or I'm going to ask Jesus to let me electrocute every last one of you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Women's underwear: It used to be sexy now it's a pain in the ass

For 30 seconds I was contemplating writing a blog about the horrible realization that not all women's underwear is sexy. Every relationship hits the point where the idiot male realizes that Hugh Hefner and Victoria's Secret have been lying to them and that real women wear lingerie .03% of the time and every time it's a little depressing. I am fully aware that while the kind of woman who actually does wear garters and stockings and all that jazz would be enormously sexy she would also be unbelievably high maintenance. If someone puts that much effort everyday into clothes that, hopefully, at most 2 people will see they aren't going to be the kind of woman that accepts my 5 t shirt rotation and house pants. And as I started to think about the entire blog I could write going on and on about unrealistic expectations and that nonsense I realized two very important things.

1. Every comic on Earth has already done 15 minutes about this.
2. That isn't what infuriates me about women's underwear.

What I find absolutely asinine about women's underwear is the lack of uniformity in shape. Every pair is like a unique little snowflake and slightly different than the others, even the ones that are supposed to be identical. This little idiosyncrasy makes folding them virtually impossible. There is no pattern, there is no set way to do it, every damn pair requires a slightly different technique and this is maddening! Actually this goes for all of my girlfriend's wardrobe. None of her shirts (or blouses to be a fancy pants) are shaped the same either.

When I'm folding my clothes I know that I will have to perform one of 4 different actions: The T Shirt Fold, The Pants Fold, The Boxer Fold or The Sock Rollup. That's it. For her clothes I have to go about each one in a whole new manner. "Oh, these are the slightly wider panties that I have to fold an extra time," or "This shirt has the big neck so it's folded thus." Folding laundry is supposed to be a mindless activity that any moron can accomplish but now that I have to deal with all these chick clothes it's become as complicated as Euclidean geometry, whatever the hell that is. Instead of letting my mind wander and contemplate zombie survival skills or to plan my betting ticket for this weeks slate of NFL games I have to dedicate my full mental capacity to folding a pair of boring white underpants. Then I think about all my teenage fantasies of women in complicated lingerie with snaps, straps, bows and all sorts of other exciting junk hanging off of it and I am thankful that it is just a fantasy. If I had to fold a load of laundry filled with those it's conceivable that I would never finish.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 bucks for a pint of Bud Light? The terrorists have already won.

As I have mentioned on here numerous times I am a fan of booze. It doesn't matter what kind of hooch either I love it all. Except Malort. That shit is pure evil. While I enjoy sitting at home listening to the Bosstones and drinking a Red Hook IPA (as I am now) I also like to do a fair share of drinking outside of my house. I'm kinda like a college football team. Sure, there are advantages to only playing home games but what's the fun in that? Sometimes you need to go out and prove your mettle on the road. So when it comes to drinking I'm not a cowardly SEC team who won't play north of the Mason Dixon line. No, I'm more like an early 80's Florida St team or a modern day Boise St. Name the time and place and I will show up there and drink. (I'm pretty sure I took that metaphor at least 3 steps further than it needed to go.)

Over the last couple of years I have noticed a terrifying trend when I go out to bars, pints over 5 bucks. First it was only at trendy bars that I got dragged to by less enlightened friends and it tended to only be for brews such as Guinness. If I have to pay that much for a pint it better be a nice pint of the black stuff. Then the infection spread and soon all but the most dingiest holes had a couple of $5 pints. A little time passed and it was no longer just imports cracking $5 but all the microbrews and even some lowly beers such as Blue Moon. Then, almost overnight, every where I went charged at least $5 for everything except for Bud Light. And let's be honest, if you gave me $5 I'm not sure if I would accept the Bud Light along side it.

Sadly the inflation has not been contained to bars. It's difficult to find a good six pack (Anchor Steam for example) under $10 in the city of Chicago. The staple of my youth, six packs of tall boy "Ivy Cans" of Old Style, cost around $6 now, double what they were 8 years ago. God knows how much they've gone up in price since the Cubs won the World Series. The point is that this has gotten completely out of control.

There is something symbolic about certain dollar amounts when considering the cost of things. As movie prices inched toward $10 people bitched and moaned about it constantly. Yet once the theaters broke through that glass ceiling they immediately started charging $11 and it didn't seem like that big of a deal, people just accepted it. I will not accept $5 being the average price for a pint of beer without complaint. And I won't accept paying $6 or more for good beer without an all out bar brawl. It's absurd. I know that things go up in price over time, it's only natural, but there is no goddamn reason that booze prices have skyrocketed the way they have.

Cook county and the city of Chicago have decided to wet their beaks by taxing alcohol extensively much to the chagrin of drinkers all over the city. I feel that the mass taxation is being used as an excuse for raising prices but there has to be a breaking point, doesn't there? Are people really going to pay $6 for a shitty Bud Light (I'm assuming they aren't a cheap bastard and they are tipping)? How much are bartenders losing out due to such expensive prices? I bet a lot of people are tipping less if not forgoing it completely. The thing that galls me the most about this is that we are in a recession, hell, it may very well be a depression. There are 2 businesses that are essentially recession proof, gambling and liquor. When times are tough people turn to the bottle to cheer themselves up so the bars aren't hurting for business, the least they can do is throw us a bone and give us our hooch for a reasonable price. I understand very little about economics and business but there is one thing that I know for sure, prices never come down. Once we accept the $5 pint sooner or later we'll accept the $8 can of Natty Light. And when that day comes you'll find me on a plane to whatever country has the best combination of cheap/tolerable beer. Costa Rica is the front runner with the cheap and delicious Imperial. Too bad it doesn't come in Ivy Cans.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The one in which I make a stupid mistake

I don't function well in the morning. This is a pretty common thing. Lots of people take a while to wake up and tend to be grumpy until they have had a pot of coffee or they hit the snooze 73 times before finally rolling out of bed. These aren't my problems. On the surface I appear to be fully functional. I can carry on a conversation and even get some work done if needed. The problem I experience is that my brain doesn't wake up until noon. The rest of my body will glide along as if I am all there but I am not. If I have any actual thoughts in the morning they are all related to general "survival" related reasons such as to not bring my iPod into the shower and to obtain sustenance in the form of "the Honey Nut." I can't process any complicated matters pertaining to whether my clothes match, where I left my wallet, or what I need to accomplish that day. Basically I'm on autopilot. Sometimes this leads to a horrendous tragedy like what occurred the other morning. I drank orange juice no more than a minute after brushing my teeth.

It was truly the most revolting taste I had ever encountered. We all know that we should not mix the two and that if you do you will pay the price. Even if you try and wait a half hour or so you are usually punished for your hubris. Although unlike Icarus when he flew too high you are not punished with death, if only the punishment were that lenient. Instead you are forced to endure a lingering horrid taste in your mouth that will not go away. It just sits there causing great discomfort FOREVER. Immediately I spit out the OJ and it only made the taste worse. I dry heaved a couple of times praying that I could produce some vomit since only bile could cleanse my palette at that time. I failed. As I lay on the kitchen floor in the fetal position I had what I mistook for a fever dream at first but remembered that it was a memory from high school.

It was early evening and my friends were gathering for a party. I don't remember the exact details other than parents were out of town, booze was readily available and Sublime's self titled album was playing. (Note: While I don't actually remember the album playing I know for a fact that the only two cds that were ever playing at high school parties were that and NOFX's Punk in Drublic so I've got a 50/50 shot.) My friend Scott stumbled up to me and the following conversation took place:

Scott: Dude, you have to try this drink I made. It's soooooooooo good.
Me: (Takes sip, chokes it down) UUUUUGH! What the hell is that? It is god awful!
Scott: Creme de Menthe and orange juice, it's the best thing I've ever had.
Me: It's revolting. It tastes exactly like drinking OJ right after brushing your teeth.
Scott: I know! That's why it's so good!

I have spent the last day or two analyzing that conversation from 15 years ago and haven't been able to come up with any definite answers. This was not one of those occasions when Creme de Menthe was the only alcohol we were able to obtain. Teenagers will drink root beer schnapps mixed with battery acid if it's their only option. I remember chasing Captain Morgans with a warm 40 of Mickey's. I may have even actually consumed Hot Damn on one desperate situation. This was not one of those times as there was a cornucopia of booze and other beverages available. As I have pondered this I been able to narrow it down to three possible scenarios.

A) Scott actually likes the experience of brushing his teeth and then drinking orange juice. I find this to be the least plausible scenario. Although if this were true I would say that he is the biggest masochist in the world. Or his tongue is broken.
B) Scott was so drunk that he couldn't taste anything. Also possible although he seemed to be able to explain how it tasted so this seems unlikely.
C) Scott was pretending to like it in order to trick all of us into drinking that godforesaken concoction. This seems the most likely scenario to me. Even though he was observed drinking the devil's brew himself I assume he had just as much trouble choking it down as the rest of us.

I pray that C was the correct answer. God help us all if it were A. This is a bit of a long tangent that could have been condensed down to, "Don't be a dumb ass in the morning," but what's the fun in that? I'm sure I will learn absolutely nothing and will bombard my poor mouth with OJ and toothpaste again in the not too distant future, but hopefully all of you will learn a little something from my agony.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dear Bud Selig, 15 is not an even number

There have been rumblings about baseball expanding the playoffs for a year or so and I have done my best to hope that they were wrong. Baseball is not like the other 3 (or should I say 2 since the NBA is on it's way out) sports in that it doesn't need, nor should it have, an extended playoffs. Not to go all Bob Costas on you but in my opinion there are too many playoff teams currently. If the baseball playoffs were tweaked in one way or another my vote would be toward going back to the old system of two divisions per league and no wild card teams. Instead it looks like they are going to expand to having two wild cards per league in order to add another round of playoffs. I hate this. I hate this with the burning intensity of 1,000 suns. In order to avoid playing baseball on Thanksgiving or starting in February they are going to have to make the first round a best of 3 or 1 game playoff and that is not how baseball is intended to be played. Unlike football the best teams in baseball are best seen through a 7 game series. (As an aside, how bad ass would it be to see the Super Bowl played as best of 7? This would eliminate the sports graveyard that is the end of football through the start of the NCAA Tournament) This way a team has to use their entire pitching rotation and can't rely on having 1 good pitcher, when a series is cut to 5 games or fewer depth means less and it's possible for a team to advance as almost a fluke. As teams play a grueling 162 game season roster depth is one of the most important things that differentiates the good teams from the great ones and a 7 game series helps display that. After this season there were 3 90 game winners in the AL East despite Boston's attempts to lose every game in September so it seems like 2 wild card teams would be warranted but I think this is more of an abnormality than the norm. I'm pretty sure that within 2 or 3 years we'll see a wild card team that is only a game or 2 over .500 and frankly teams like that don't belong in the playoffs.

Yet I have almost no problem with expanding the playoffs compared to the way I feel about the idiocy of the Astros moving to the American League. Currently there are 14 teams in the AL and 16 in the NL. Now, as someone who doesn't know baseball they would think this is ridiculous and that the leagues should be even and to some degree you would be correct. The problem lies in scheduling. If there are 15 teams in a league it means one of two things. Either 1 team will get 3 days off in a row once in a while and we know for sure this won't happen. So this means that there will be interleague play every goddamned day. Interleague play is a horrendous abomination that should be done away with. I don't give a shit if players are injecting every known substance into their asses. I do care about having to see David Ortiz in the field or having to watch Josh Beckett swing a bat.

The Designated Hitter has completely changed the way teams are put together in each league. (The AL has it, the NL doesn't for those who don't know, although I assume you would have stopped reading 2 sentences into this post) An American League team can't hope to contend without a bona fide slugger as DH. In the National League there is no DH so they don't have that extra hitter. Therefore whenever there is interleague play one team is at a distinct disadvantage depending on where they are playing. In a DH-less NL stadium an AL team is basically forced to either sit their DH or have him in the field taking the place of an everyday fielder, either way it puts them at a disadvantage. This also means the pitcher has to "hit." AL pitchers will get, at most, 8 at bats a season so it's safe to say that they usually make fools of themselves. When the tables are turned and an NL team has to play with a DH it puts them at a disadvantage as well, although not as great of one. With the pitcher out of the batting order an NL team will plug in one of their bench players at DH. These players are usually utility men who are more capable with a glove than a bat since they are usually used for double switches, yet the AL team is allowed to keep their DH who is usually one of the top 3 hitters on the team.

I realize that went on for a bit, sorry. The point is that it is moronic to want interleague play to occur every day of the season. The road team will always be at a greater disadvantage than they already are by being on the road. The only real solution I can see is that MLB will finally have to shit or get off the pot in regard to the DH. Frankly I'd rather see a DH in both leagues but I'm sure all the super purist NL fans would be up in arms about this. "There's so much more strategy without the DH! Every player has to play both sides of the ball, it's pure baseball!" the purists will whine. First off, bullshit to both. I've never gotten excited about a double switch in my life and I'd much rather see someone who can actually hit take those 4 abs per game. If pitchers actually tried to be real hitters than it would be different but that will never happen. When a pitcher is even a mediocre hitter, like Carlos Zambrano, people go gaga over it. It's comical. I don't like seeing free outs at the bottom of a lineup like you do in the NL but that's my personal opinion. I would be totally fine if they eliminated the DH through all of baseball. Just don't give me an entire season featuring the farce of interleague play every day. Even if it's the same amount of interleague play for each team just spread out in small increments I don't care.

I've wanted to get rid of interleague play for years. It was always kind of cool that when teams met in the World Series it might be the first time they ever played each other, not just that season but EVER. For every marquee match up like Red Sox/Cubs at Wrigley there are countless Tampa Bay/Colorado and Cleveland/San Diego series' that no one in their right mind cares about. Each league used to be a unique entity and that's why the All Star game used to matter before they put a bullshit stipulation into it to "Make It Matter!" Of course my dream of eliminating interleague play will die if the Astros actually do move to the AL. And if you are going to move a team from the NL why can't the AL just take the Brewers back. THEY WERE OURS TO BEGIN WITH! No one cares about Houston. It's a horrible city with a god awful baseball team playing in an atrocious wiffle ball field. The fact that the team can be sold for more than $529 is pretty impressive to me.

I guess it's inevitable that this is the way things are going to go down though. More playoff games and interleague play all the time, joy. Please just fix the DH situation so the sport isn't bastardized completely out of recognition from the game I grew up loving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I may pity your city's situation but I still hate your football team

Sports journalism has always been hampered by a desire to matter far more than it actually does. Sports are a form of recreation, a diversion if you will, and because of this journalists shouldn't approach a football game with the same tone that they do an election. Yet for some reason sportscasters, journalists and announcers love to slip in side stories to make everything seem far more important than it really is. Often they like to go on about what a great person someone is off the field (The Tim Tebow). Other times they will go on about a scandal that has absolutely nothing to do with the play on the field (The Brett Favre). While both of these practices annoy the hell out of me I find them far more tolerable than when sportscasters say that a teams success will rescue a troubled metropolitan area or as I like to call it, The Detroit Rule.

Whenever a team from Michigan has even an iota of success every single story ESPN airs will be about how much it must mean to the people in such a troubled area. We get it. The economy sucks in Detroit and people are having a hard time. What the hell does this have to do with a sports team? Nothing. The reason I call this the Detroit rule is because of a combination of two things; Detroit has been on hard times for a while and their sports teams have been pretty good. It doesn't matter what sport we are talking about the story remains the same. Michigan St (football/basketball), check. The Red Wings, check. The Tigers, check. The Pistons, check. And now we get to go through it with the Lions. Remember, the Pistons won their title in 2004 and we were hearing about how much it meant to the downtrodden area back then.

The reason I hate this so much is that it is just lazy journalism. Every time I read a column that relies on this tired story it reads as if the column was mailed in. You can tell that the author was thinking, "Shit. The editor said I have to do a bit about the Lions. Should I actually do research or just rehash the article I wrote about the Tigers in September and substitute Suh for Verlander?" It seems like there could be a thousand different angles you could take to talk about any team but out of pure laziness people resort to the same tired story because it tugs on the heart strings a bit more than a story about the hard nosed defensive line would.

The main reason I hate stories like that is that they just aren't true. Sports are an escape and it's great to have an escape. I'm sure that the Lions winning would cheer up a person but it isn't going to save their lives as is implied. If you are unemployed and your house is getting foreclosed on a Lions victory isn't going to pay those bills for you. Not only is it idiotic to suggest that sports victories will solve serious social problems but I think it would be insulting to the people actually suffering. When The Saints played their first home game back in New Orleans every story on ESPN was about how wonderful it was for the city, and I'm sure it was nice. Yet if your house had floated away in the hurricane I'm pretty sure that all of your problems weren't solved by Drew Brees and friends returning to the Superdome.

There is no reason to overstate the importance of sports in instances like this. When I'm sitting down with a couple of beers to watch the Saints play the Lions I don't sit and ponder which fan base needs a win to distract them from their troubles, I wonder if Drew Brees will be able to get rid of the ball quickly enough before Suh and Fairley destroy him. Sports fans don't give a shit what the socio-economic climate is in the city their team is playing against. A Bear fan isn't going to pull for Detroit, Green Bay or Minnesota regardless of the unemployment rate in those cities. It's not because sports fans lack pity. It's because sports are completely inconsequential to the hard issues that dominate the news page 90% of the time and that's the whole point of escapism.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I wanna be a garbage man

This isn't really a rant. In fact I don't think there is any anger behind it at all. A few weeks ago I entered a McSweeney's column contest. I did not win. It must have been rigged. (There's the anger!) I pitched a column that would be about what I wanted to be when I grew up at different ages, I had a lot of bizarre ideas about potential careers as a child. Anyway, I really liked this as the sample column I wrote up and I wanted to share it with all of ya'll. Plus I'm doing too much actual work to write something today so consider this the first "clip show" of Irrational Anger. Enjoy.

I was told I could grow up to be anything I wanted to be, so when I was 11 I wanted to be a garbage man.

In the summer of 1991 I turned eleven years old. It was around this time that I started to understand how things worked in the world and I knew that I would need some job stability in the coming years. No longer could I waste my time dreaming that I would be the third basemen for the Oakland A’s; only one person had that job at a time and I was still struggling to hit a curveball. It was time to get serious. I needed to get realistic and set the bar just a little bit lower. Actually, a lot lower. I wanted to be a garbage man.

One day while playing with my Transformers I had overheard my parents having a discussion about how garbage men were paid more than teachers. Since I was still young and naïve I assumed teachers were paid astronomical amounts of money due to their importance in society, so therefore garbage men must be living in giant mansions in the hills. I had planned on owning my own mansion complete with a drawbridge, a Baskin Robbins and 7 red Ferrari Testarossas so I decided if I was going to make those dreams a reality I needed to get in on the trash game.

As I struggled to figure out exactly what it would take to become a garbage man I came across one of cinema’s great masterpieces, Men at Work. I was a huge Charlie Sheen fan (almost entirely because he was the most famous Charlie who wasn’t a cartoon tuna) so I would have loved Men at Work even if it didn’t portray the life of a garbage man as idyllic. Sheen and his brother Emilio Estevez spent all their time pulling pranks involving poop, shooting their pellet gun at stuff, and finding the occasional dead body. It looked like so much fun. Did you see the way they high-fived each other with the garbage lids? EPIC.

The more I thought about being a garbage man the more I liked the idea of it. More than anything I liked the idea of the truck. I would daydream about being behind the wheel of that behemoth careening down alleys at breakneck speeds plowing into anything that dare get in my way before slamming on the brakes and fishtailing to a stop right in front of a dumpster that needed emptying. As amazing as this all seemed I figured that driving the truck was the crappy job, it was the job you had to do if you were the last guy to show up to work. The real action was hanging on to the back; hanging on for dear life as you sped around town, high fiving strangers, getting to jump off while still moving and kicking at cars that show disrespect.

I was a curious kid and I wanted to know what was in everything, including the garbage of strangers. Bob, our neighbor next door, was constantly doing remodeling on his home so his garbage was far more plentiful and interesting than ours ever was, thus I spent a great deal of time rummaging through it. Eventually I drew the connection that garbage men get to travel around town to rummage through everyone’s garbage. How cool is that? I had found so much interesting stuff in Bob’s garbage and he was just one fairly boring old guy, imagine the bounty being thrown out by all the far more interesting people out there. My eyes would get wide just thinking about it.

I wasn’t under any delusions that everything I found in the garbage would be amazing (like a cracked bowling ball or a black and white television that only gets the even numbered channels); I understood that most of it would be useless trash. Wonderful, glorious, breakable, useless trash. Bottles, light bulbs, and furniture just sitting there waiting for me to smash them into oblivion. There is only one thing that an eleven year old boy enjoys more than breaking things and that would be getting paid to cause all kinds of destruction.

As far as I was concerned being a garbage man offered all that I really needed in life; a ton of cash, the opportunity to drive a bad ass truck, the even more bad ass prospect of hanging off that truck, finding treasure, and getting to obliterate objects on a daily basis. I would spend my days in a trash filled wonderland. My parents were slightly less enthused than I was. As incredibly supportive people they never shot down my rationale for wanting to pursue a job in sanitation, they just tried to subtly suggest I aim a little higher.

“Maybe you can be the guy who designs and builds the garbage truck,” my mom suggested.

“That sounds boring. Why would I want to sit in an office and draw pictures of trucks when I can hang off the back while speeding on the highway?” was my retort.

In retrospect I’m sure my parents had to fight the urge to blurt out, “You will smell like crap. I don’t mean that to say that you will smell badly, I mean you will literally smell like crap. Forever.” Instead they quietly waited for me to grow out of this phase as I inevitably did after a few months. The job lost most of it’s luster once I grew out of digging through garbage and breaking stuff. From a career standpoint I was starting to figure out that curveball so my fall back job as a major leaguer was still a viable option. My phase of wanting to be a garbage man was not without some reward, it did allow me to embarrass my dad at his job.

My dad was a nuclear engineer. At that year’s Christmas party I was surrounded by many of his co-workers when his boss asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’ll never forget the look of sheer horror on my dad’s face when I announced to his boss that I wanted to be a garbage man, it was the same look he would give me when I told him I wanted to be a writer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You are not a Teddy Bear, you are a sad looking 45 year old broad

Dressing age appropriately is a constant problem in our society whether it be young girls dressing like older (and probably slutty) girls or old guys dressing like they are still in high school. I understand that this isn't a crushing problem like unemployment or lack of health insurance yet it preoccupies me a great deal of the time. One item of clothing brings out my wrath more than anything else though; hats shaped like animals being worn by women over the age of 12.

I am well known for my feelings of animosity toward children (and I consider everyone under 26 "a child") but even I can admit that seeing a little tike wearing a black and white hat with panda ears on top is adorable. I may even throw out the word precious depending on the initial cuteness of the child. Precious is not the word I would use to describe the middle aged woman rocking the same hat while reading Chicken Soup for the Soul on the bus last night, instead I would opt to call it pathetic. Possibly idiotic, asinine, daft, inane, moronic or preposterous. I could go on but I think I have made my point pretty crystal clear.

I think it would be a pretty safe assessment to say that I don't dress my age and I'll freely admit that. I dress for maximum comfort. There is nothing in my life to compel me to wear anything other than t-shirts, hoodies, cords and Converse so why should I dress up? When the occasion calls for it I can look dapper in a suit and tie, my life just doesn't demand that I do that often. It would seem pretty silly for me to wear a suit to make the arduous two room trek from my bedroom to start work for the day. My only "co worker" that I come in contact with walks around naked all day (she is a cat) so I don't really have anyone to impress. Yet there is a huge difference in what I wear compared to animal hat lady. If anything I'm trying to turn back the clock no more than 5 years with my stylistic choices while she is trying to skip roughly 35 years of aging. When I wear a band t shirt, cords and Sox hat out to the store it doesn't raise any eyebrows but I can be damn sure everyone would be staring if I wore striped Osh Kosh overalls and a Thomas the Tank Engine shirt. Does this woman not know that she dresses like a toddler?

I can (barely) handle when grown women choose to dress like teenage girls. When I see a woman dressed like a sultry Catholic school girl it just creates a humongous clusterfuck in my brain. First off I think it's hot. Then I think that's it's wrong that I think it's hot since she's dressed like a teenager. Then I rationalize that it wouldn't be that wrong since teenagers who dress sexily know what they are doing and that doesn't even matter because this woman isn't a teenager anyway. Then I start to wonder if I'm even attracted to the actual woman or if I'm just attracted to the potential of going back to a simpler time. Then a red light goes off in my head and I think the only reason that I am remotely attracted to this woman is because she looks like a teenager and I must be a pedophile and that I should probably just go to the police station and turn myself in to avoid any potential problems down there road. Lastly my brain tells me that this is all silly and that I have nothing to feel badly about because the woman was in her thirties and everything is cool. Once I have processed this all in my brain I am 5 stops past where I was supposed to get off the bus and completely frazzled.

All of that comes from a woman dressing a few years younger than her age. I can't even begin to imagine the moral quagmire that would be created if I was attracted to a woman with a toddler's hat on. Although I don't see the likelihood of that happening any time soon because there is no possible way a grown woman with an animal hat will ever look anything other than ludicrous.

I'm not even asking that people dress their age, I'm just saying can't we all keep it within a 10-15 year window? That doesn't seem too much to ask. And that goes both ways as well. I'm sure that this woman would look just as ridiculous wearing a moo moo, orthopedic shoes with her hair dyed white. There is no way in hell anyone under the age of 70 would go out in public dressed like that. Please understand that from the point of view of this angry bystander that you would look far less ridiculous dressed like a 70 year old than you would wearing one of those absurd hats. Plus, moo moos are kinda sexy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Karaoke Rule Number 1: If you can sing stay the hell out.

Saturday night I went out to a bar in Wrigleyville for some live band karaoke. A friend of mine knew some people in the band and was going to be singing Knowledge by Operation Ivy so I felt that it was something to be seen, especially since the same friend used to sing Knowledge with my crappy ska band back in the day. I'd never been to live band karaoke but I assumed it was similar to regular karaoke except that the band might mess up the songs a little bit, which to their credit they did not. The crowd seemed to be on the same wavelength as far as musical choice as well so there was a lot of alternative/punk songs along with a few oddities thrown in. The crowd went nuts when someone sang King of Wishful Thinking by Go West which sort of threw me for a loop, if you have the time I highly recommend watching the video from this song. I really miss the period of the 80's when singers in music videos felt the need to shake as if they were having a seizure as they sang, but I digress, back to the karaoke.

About halfway through the night a girl walks up to the stage and announces that she is going to be singing "Piece of my Heart" by Janis Joplin. Immediately I was terrified. One of the pitfalls of karaoke is that there are a few artists that people insist on imitating and rarely can they even come close to doing the song justice. This is why I stick to songs by people who aren't very good at singing in the first place, like Dylan or Danzig. Men always tend to pick Frank Sinatra songs and butcher them, women tend to gravitate toward destroying Janis Joplin songs. 9 times out of 10 it is atrocious due to a lack of singing talent or lack of Southern Comfort and sometimes a combination of the two. It's infuriating to hear great songs completely butchered but it's part of the risk you take by going out to see karaoke.

As I was prepared for some horrible warbling it turns out I was wrong, this girl could really sing. In fact I would go as far as to say that it was a dead on perfect rendition. She was so good that I almost didn't believe that it was karaoke at all. You would think that I would be ecstatic that I was hearing the first ever good version of a Joplin song sung at karaoke but you would be terribly mistaken. I was enraged. This broad had a fantastic voice and she should be in a band somewhere singing her heart out. Instead she decided to show up at karaoke and make everyone else who sang that night look like complete amateurs who are horrible at singing. Of course, everyone else who sang was a complete amateur but that's the whole point of karaoke. It's so those of us who aren't talented enough to sing in a band get to live out our rock and roll dreams and maybe, just maybe, get the Japanese businessman in the back to give us a nod affirming we did a decent job. A talented singer doing karaoke in a bar is the equivalent of Mike Tyson sparring with a 6 year old. There's no doubt that he'll knock the kid out but should he really be puffing out his chest and feeling good about it?

Even though I was awed by the talent of Janis Joplin Jr. I was furious about the way she showed up everyone by being talented. I'm sure part of the reason is that I was jealous since I have the kind of singing voice that makes Tom Waits sound like Dean Martin and I know that on stage I would freeze up and forget the words to Happy Birthday, but isn't that the point? There's no chance in hell that I'd be singing on stage in any other situation. When I go to karaoke my drunk ass gets to belt out tunes for a room just as drunk and tone deaf as myself and we all live under the delusion that we rocked. When someone talented shows up it puts us back in our place and kills those delusions.

Luckily a singer or two later my palette was cleansed by someone who understood that karaoke isn't about singing a perfect song, it's about being a drunken buffoon. And as he stripped his pants and climbed onto a chair while screaming incoherently I couldn't help but think that the situation had been fixed and that all was right with the world.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The perils of having a hairless face

This past weekend I decided to shave off my beard for 3 reasons.

1. For my Halloween costume. I dressed up as one of my friends and he is what those of us in the beard community refer to as "a sissy" as he is sans facial hair.

2. I've decided to participate in Movember and grow a mustache while trying to raise some money for cancer research. I shall be a complete shill and leave the address at the bottom of the blog.

3. Curiosity.

I was a bit curious as to what my face looked like under all of that hair. I've spent the better part of the last 9 years with a beard. I decided to grow a beard for the same reason that I make most of my fashion decisions, laziness. The only thing that is ever successful in combating my fashion/grooming laziness is my desire to impress the ladies, in 2002 I had an opportunity to take a sabbatical from that task as my girlfriend was spending a semester abroad. The night she left I went on a bit of a bender with some friends, as was to be expected. We drank White Russians with Kahlua Especial (75 proof instead of the regular 40 proof) out of pint glasses all night and things got a bit sloppy. I woke up in the morning with a wicked hangover and the faint memory of promising to be in a band with someone. After completion of the first two of the 3 S's (shit, shower, shave) with an additional V thrown in for good measure I spent a little bit of time staring at myself in the mirror. I glanced between my reflection and my razor a couple of times. Finally I looked at the razor and said, "Fuck it." Charlie's beard was born right then and there.

Since that fateful morning I have been bearded except for a few special occasions; hanging out in the South or going to Vegas prompted me to sculpt it into "an Ambrose Burnside," one summer I rocked the Hulk Hogan look for a little while and for a few Halloween costumes I have been forced to discard the beard. Over the last couple of days I have realized why I rarely do away with the beard, being beardless sucks.

First off I have a weak chin. Well, sort of. If chins were judged in the way armies are then my chin would be very strong due to the extra chins lying in reserve, sadly this is looked upon as a negative when judging male attractiveness. This is the least of my concerns though, what is of great concern is the comfort issue. I live in Chicago and in the words of Eddard Stark "Winter is coming." We've barely gotten down to freezing and every damn time I go outside my face is cold. My poor face has been wearing a fur coat for the last 9 years and it hasn't had to deal with the harsh winter, in fact it reminds me of how my entire body felt after moving to the midwest from California. It is horrible. Since I wear glasses I can't walk around with a scarf around my face without fogging them up and wandering into traffic so I need to get growing quickly. I will admit that this was an expected problem as I shaved on Saturday so it's manageable. Which brings us to the most severe affliction I face now that I am beardless.

The Drooling. I guess that I have been drooling in my sleep for many years without being aware of it. My beard and mustache had served as a dam so that the drool never passed beyond the immediate area of my mouth and was thus never detected. Now that the floodgates have opened I am soaking every surface I sleep near with copious amounts of slobber. When I woke this morning my pillow was damp as if I had left it in the rain, the amount of saliva was awe inspiring. Looking at my face in the mirror I could actually see the path that the drool had taken over night, it looked like a dry riverbed running down my cheek. This now makes me without a doubt the worst person to sleep in the vicinity of. I sleepwalk, have night terrors, snore louder than a locomotive, rub my feet together vigorously and now my mouth is like a fire hydrant broken open in the summer. I am a disgusting beast. There is only one potential remedy as far as I can tell, to grow my beard back as quickly as humanly possible. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to puff my cheeks out as hard as I can to enhance the growth until my face is once again covered with a nice layer of chin hiding, warmth giving and drool stopping hair.

Before I accomplish that I'm going to continue working on a bitchin' mustache for Movember. If you would like to throw a little money to help with cancer research specifically aimed at fighting men's cancers follow this link: http://mobro.co/CharlieConnell Thanks a lot!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'm a Junior Hoarder

Moving sucks. It's been a month since I moved in with my special lady and I am still recovering. I had lived in the same place for 5 years and let's just say that I'm not the tidiest person on Earth. OK, I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a slob. I'm definitely a pack rat and I hate throwing things out. Now, I'm not talking about garbage, I throw out food and food remnants without hesitation, that's not the problem. The problem lies in all of the other stuff that I obtain as I bumble through life. This problem was especially bad when I was a daily subscriber to the Chicago Tribune. My apartment looked like I was potty training a small chow or about to kill Paul Allen. Friends of mine used the ample amount of newspaper as blankets when they would spend the night. It was bad. As the move date approached I would have little panic attacks at the thought of even beginning to rummage through everything, but eventually I soldiered on and did it.

As I packed up my shit I threw out an obscene amount of stuff. I filled two dumpsters and part of the alley with my horrible furniture. Some of the things I found were completely inexplicable. I had a ticket stub from a Red Sox game in the summer of 99. Presumably this ticket went from Illinois (where it was mailed to me) to Boston for the game, back to my parents house, to Lafayette for school, back to my parent's house and finally to 3 different Chicago apartments. It wasn't signed and it didn't have any specific sentimental value, I just refused to throw it out. Sanity finally prevailed as I tossed it in the garbage but I would be lying if I didn't consider retrieving it a few times. That's when the sad truth hit me, I'm a hoarder.

Now, I don't think I have reached full hoarder status yet. I do not have a collection of dead animals in the attic or a cellar filled with mason jars of urine. My apartment was not condemned. I did not try to physically assault anyone trying to convince me to throw things out. These are the signs of a true hoarder and I'm not quite there yet. I like to think of myself as a Junior Hoarder. I am a Cub Scout to the Eagle Scouts that you find on the television show. I still have a long way to go. As I was throwing out mountains of crap it was a bit difficult for me. I kept thinking that I had tossed out something that I needed. I think I even convinced myself that I may have hidden money in some old trinket because, yes, I am the "hiding money" type, although that's probably a blog post of it's own. It was completely stupid and irrational. I was able to fight the urge and threw it all out. I got rid of all of my VHS tapes which led to the best part of the week, seeing what movies had been scavenged out of the box each time I returned to the dumpster. Grosse Point Blank, Ferris Buehler's Day Off, The Godfather III, and a couple of "adult features" disappeared. I knew the porn would go quickly but Godfather III, really?

I saved only what I considered to be absolutely essential, or so I thought at the time. Now that I am unpacking boxes I am coming across nonsense that I have no clue why I saved them. For example: a little plastic lion playing a guitar birthday cake holder. WHY THE HELL DID I SAVE THIS?! I remember where it came from; it was on my birthday cupcake at the Gingerman when I turned 29. Why did I even take it from the bar? Or keep it on my computer desk since then, let alone why did I move it as I attempted to throw out all the junk in my apartment? There is no good reason why I did not throw it out 100 times before but here we are and it is staring at me with dead plastic eyes as I type this blog.

I'm sure the lion doesn't even make the top ten most useless things that I brought with me yet it symbolizes the reality of my hoarding skills. I'm sure somewhere in all of the boxes currently sitting in storage I have notes from a high school girlfriend, ticket stubs from concerts by bands I don't even remember any more, and clothes that haven't fit me since I turned 8. Next time I move I should really just incinerate all of my possessions and start from zero, if nothing else I'm sure my girlfriend would be happy to be rid of it all. I'm just afraid that I would dive into the incinerator to save my Fryin' Bryan Garbage Pail Kid.