Monday, December 15, 2008

They Are Not a Jukebox!: Blasted By A Sound Wave in Spartanburg


Ground Zero: often thought to be the location of the terrorist attacks that took place in New York City in 2001. In reality, Ground Zero is a heavy metal/punk/hardcore music bar located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The two locations are not without some haunting similarities, even if Spartanburg probably doesn't make the terrorists' list of 1,000 places to jihad before you die. I recently journeyed to the very apple core of this rock n' roll fruit basket to see Local H and The Electric Six perform, and will now relate to you the horrors of what occurred within its hellish depths.
Ground Zero is located amidst the heart of the American textile industry. Unfortunately, like the rest of the products our nation once manufactured, these jobs have been outsourced to China or some other foreign land where chopsticks are considered necessary tableware. What I instead ventured into was an industrial wasteland reminiscent of Eastern Europe after the end of Soviet rule (or Northern New Jersey for those of you whose geopolitical understanding is limited to the United States).
Empty buildings of stone and concrete littered the landscape, which could only have been made bleaker if a series of tumbleweeds had rolled down the thoroughfare. One of these edifices happened to have the words Ground Zero sprayed on the side, in what appeared to be more of an attempt at graffiti than a rational attempt at signage.
Inside the warehouse, which is what the building had clearly been in a former age, a heavily tattooed and pierced middle-aged man laughed at my silly attempt to pay with a credit card, pointing out that they were lucky to even have electricity much less a computer system. After some negotiating I was allowed in, and I peeked around the corner to see what I had gotten myself into.
The soothing sounds of NOFX coming from the stereo served to decrease my apprehension immediately, and as I turned the corner, a huge open space appeared before me. With an entire football field's amount of room stretching before me, I wondered how many people would be coming to fill what seemed to be an abandoned airplane hangar.
As it turns out, this area, which the owners refer to as upstairs, was not the place where the performance was to occur. No, this empty cavern was home to the upstairs bar, which was crammed against the wall, myriad chairs crowding in around it like football players in a huddle. One wonders if they could have created a bit more elbow room, what with the 27 acres of openness stretching behind nearly into infinity.
Down a massive flight of six stairs was our true destination, where I found the surroundings much more intimate and homey. That is, of course, if you like the color black (or rather the absence of color) and concrete. The regulars were all dressed in black as well, and were remarkably friendly with the bizarre foreigners, of whom I was one, who so foolishly chose to garb themselves in another hue.
Visiting the urinal in preparation for the show, I was given the opportunity to multitask - I could pee on the stickers of various bands taped to the inside of the trough while compiling some phone numbers for later. FYI, if you are a girl, or a boy and you anticipate having to drop a deuce, wear a pair of Depends to the show instead.
Things quickly got underway with two opening acts warming up the crowd. I highly recommend checking out the first band, which was known as Automatic Dough. I would give you a link to their My Space site but since this is a newspaper, you wouldn't be able to click on it. The second band was named something and they played some songs, but that's really not worth getting into right now.
Thoroughly warmed up, I tensed myself for the entrance of Local H. Originating in Zion, Illinois, Local H (pictured above) is a rare two piece hard rock act best known for their songs "High Fivin' Motherfucker" (requests to hear this tune were turned down by a fellow audience member who pointed out that the band was not in fact a jukebox), "Eddie Vedder," and "Bound for the Floor" (the one where the guy uses the term copacetic so much you just had to look up that particular collection of letters in the dictionary).
After some initial problems with the sound (the sound check involved 20 different uses of the word fuck), the duo began to play, and in this writer's opinion, commenced to shred in a most effective manner. The drummer, Joe Daniels, smashed his sticks in violent thrashes reminiscent of the mentally ill. Comparisons to the character Animal from the "Muppets" were all too obvious for those of us in attendance. Scott Lucas, the vocalist and guitarist, was no slouch either, pumping out a driving guitar sound that, combined with the work of Daniels, made one wonder how two people could put out such an immense amount of noise. "California Songs" off of the album Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles was a definite highlight.
Just to give a contrasting opinion, I will mention that my friend Dan went to the upstairs bar and grabbed a drink, where he was informed that Local H did not kick enough ass to warrant the attention of those assembled there. Apparently, the regulars only like music if it is loud enough to make their ears bleed. To each their own, I suppose.
Electric Six took the stage to cap off the night. For those of you who have never heard of them, get off your ass and download, then purchase, either of their first two albums, Fire! or Senor Smoke. Both discs highlight the strengths of this eccentric crew. When at their peak the group combines all the best aspects of Queen, the Darkness, and various dance bands into a musical melange that would satisfy even the most sophisticated aural palette. I wore a fat smile as I jumped up and down to my favorites, "Dance Commander," "I Buy the Drugs," and "Danger! High Voltage," all of which were played during the hour and a half set.
I must warn you if you plan on seeing Electric Six play, that the singer does have a tendency to blather a bit in between songs, and his warped attempts at humor were successful only about half the time. Not a bad average for baseball I suppose, but there were a complete moments when awkward silence was the crowd's only response to the bizarre ranting.
Don't let this one bit of negativity keep you from seeing Electric Six , though, they truly are something for every music fan to experience at least once. I would say the same for Ground Zero - although not aesthetically the most welcoming place I have ever visited, the downstairs area where the bands played made me feel as if I was listening to these bands in a garage with some of my closest friends. What else can you ask of a venue?

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Ain't Thanksgivin Without No Grits


Thanksgiving is a holiday created by and for Yankees. I don't mean just the Evil Empire nine from New York, but the entire region of the North such as it existed in 1865 when history ended due to the unfortunate surrender of Robert E. Lee (everyone in Dixie knows Appomattox was a conspiracy, Lee would have never given up - I suspect a second gunman or a black helicopter or something). Massachusetts liberals dreamed up the idea many years ago and have foisted their culture on us in one of the most insidious flanking maneuvers of the culture wars.
Raised as a southerner, I have to wonder why we allow our regional uniqueness to subverted by this so-called tradition. There is little doubt in my mind that with a little tinkering, we can take this day, meant to celebrate our thankfulness for all that God has given us and taken away from the Indians, and make it our own. Southerners killed just as many Native Americans as anyone else, there is no reason we should be given short shrift.
What changes need to be made to add the required regional flavor? The meal is, of course, the centerpiece of the holiday, so any improvements should start with a full-frontal assault upon our taste buds. Some of our Southern neighbors have already seen the light and begun to fry their turkeys. A step in the right direction to be sure, but we must go further in our attempts to take back the day. First, go outside and fill the closest wild turkey full of lead. After plucking and dressing your bird, marinate the bird in sweet tea, fry the bugger in lard, and stuff her with grits n' gravy. We will eliminate the traditional mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and corn. French fries, onion rings, and fried cranberry sauce (try it you'll like it) will make for some tasty, healthy Southern treats.
Don't forget to prepare for the vegetarians as well. Always have a bottle of Wild Turkey on hand for those who don't eat the real thing! They will want to be part of the celebration, too.
The atmosphere in your home is also crucial to making the day a success. Plant a few confederate flags in your front yard to let everyone know that you mean business. I know this space is usually reserved for storing old appliances and rotting vehicles, but be flexible with your decoration - Thanksgiving only comes once a year, unless you are half-Canadian. Feel free to have a bonfire going in the back yard, your family and guests may need to keep warm, depending upon the weather. If you have a couple of wooden crosses sitting around the house, just use those.
Manners and hospitality are an integral part of our Southern Thanksgiving. Yankees are rude and impatient - don't allow any of that foolishness in your household. During dinner, wait for your elders to be served first, and give them some time to eat before you grab yourself a plate. Grandma and grandpa may have to share one pair of dentures and, if so, they will be a little slower to masticate than the rest of the crew.
Also, always have enough grits on hand to satisfy your guests. There should be an unused tub full of grits and gravy sitting out in the front yard if necessary. Don't let this food go to waste, even if you aren't hungry anymore. Grits are well-known to sustain the health and vitality of your skin as well.
Take these bits of advice and you can count on a Happy Thanksgiving next year. That is, of course, your family isn't composed of a bunch of total ass holes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time to Make Like a Tree and Fall


What has happened to my soul as I drift down the long road that is the life of the travel correspondent? I felt the taint of corruption penetrating frenetically down to my inner core like a mole on ritalin. Perhaps too much time spent near politicians in our capital cities? After recently visiting such exotic locales as Washington, DC and Columbia, South Carolina, I sensed the moment had come to take a break. Why not enjoy some of the beauty that exists in our more immediate surroundings? Since the onset of autumn, I had been hearing the hills of western North Carolina calling me home like the song of the sad sperm whale, wondering how the hell it got beached in the middle of a mountain range.
Much of my childhood was spent amidst the landscape of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, wandering the dusty trails with my mother and father leading the way, my brother and I straining our little legs to keep up with the grinding pace set by our parents. Not since the days of the Bataan Death March of World War II have such arduous treks been undertaken.
Despite my moaning, I admit that I owe a great deal to these hikes. During that period in my life I came to appreciate the brilliance of nature and the astounding diversity of plant and animal life that Mother has to offer. More importantly, I think, I learned the feeling of satisfaction that comes with completing a difficult journey. There are few moments in life that match the instant when you take one last painful step and are suddenly confronted with the awe-inducing panoramic view of tree-lined valleys and wind-sculpted rock that God (or infinite chance for you Atheists out there) has created as the reward for your suffering.
Stuck in the iron grip of such nostalgia, I made my way towards the Blue Ridge Parkway, located just an hour's drive north of most Upstate residents. The park stretches almost 500 miles through the moonshine-drenched mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. You can almost hear the banjo and fiddles pounding out their tunes as you twist along the country roads, wishing you had a bottle of white lightning in your lap. Remember kids, in the wise words of NOFX, "Don't drink and drive - you might spill your beer."
My father had rented a cabin in the area and brought along his new wife and her son. My brother and I arrived without Tommy Lee to complete our motley crew. We set off soon after to explore some of the park, which was built in the 1930s as part of a government works project designed to combat the Great Depression (little known fact: Herbert Hoover was a great inspiration to our current president). The first thing that struck my eye was the beauty of the trees, whose dying leaves created a kaleidoscopic array of reds, oranges, and yellows I had not seen since my latest lapse into the land of the lysergic.
I have painstakingly interviewed various sources in order to ascertain whether the recent drought creates more or less vivid colors in the foliage and they all disagree. I suggest you go check it out for yourself next year, even if you have never visited the parkway and have nothing with which to compare the sight, you can always feign expertise. How do you think I got this column?
In between the colorful canopy of the forest and the breathtaking valley views, we paused along the way in order to make brief excursions to some of the other fine features available in the local wilderness. Looking Glass Falls was our first stop, a cataract that drops sixty feet. The falls are named for Looking Glass Rock, whose expanse the creek runs underneath before making its hasty descent. The view of the falls is especially impressive during autumn and there is no hike involved, so it is a good spot for those who want to check out nature's dripping, naked beauty, but are physically unable to endure the inconvenience of walking in the process.
Not yet tired of watching molecules of water conform to the whims of gravity, we hopped back into the auto and headed toward Graveyard Fields. The area got its name in an age long gone from the tree stumps and surrounding trees that looked similar to grave stones in a graveyard setting. Influences such as forest fires and the living dead have changed the area's appearance greatly in the intervening years. I recommend pausing in the parking area, which provides an awesome view of the surrounding countryside. Once we were done pausing, we quickly dove for the cover of the forest canopy - it was colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra up there!
Once your eyes grow tired of gazing upon one bit of the Earth's majesty and would like to move onto the next, there are a couple of options at Graveyard Fields. You can either visit the lower falls, only a quarter of a mile away or take a longer jaunt to the equally impressive upper falls. Let me know if they are as impressive as I say, frankly we only had time to check out the shorter path.
As the sun fell from the sky and the frigid mountain air began to beat against our skin, we realized that it was time to abandon the wilderness and make our return to civilization. A hot meal was also on the agenda, and we decided to visit the nearby town of Asheville in order to find the best available vittles. Dad's new wife Nalan happened to be turning twenty nine that day for the twentieth time, so we decided to pick out a special spot so we could properly celebrate this joyful occasion.
After a brief discussion we chose to obtain a reservation at Jerusalem Garden, smack in the center of the vibrant city. Colin's girlfriend Arby joined us at the restaurant and we sat down for an impressive repast. I started with an Efes, a Turkish pilsner named after the ancient city of Ephesus, located on the western coast of Turkey. I sipped my beer and laid back to soak in the rhythms of the Middle East.
Surprisingly, despite being the home of several terrorist groups and a religion even more repressive than Mormonism (debatable, I suppose), the Middle East is a source of a lot of great culture. Belly dancing is just one fine example, and we were treated to a fine display by a lovely lass whose sensual movements and penetrating glances would turn even the most stone-faced macho man into a weeping mass of shameful lust. Behind her played a two-man band, cranking out classic hits from 1056 on their ut, a guitarlike instrument, and darbuka, which are somewhat similar to bongo drums.
As we enjoyed their ancient Billboard Top 40 music, we dined upon a smorgasbord of dishes from the region, beginning with baba ganoush, hummus, falafel, and a mouth-watering pie made out of spinach and feta cheese. I was particularly surprised that I enjoyed the spinach appetizer, being that I am the anti-Popeye. Eating a can of the stuff would cause my body to break out in hives and my muscles, limited as they are, to run away and hide.
We finished off our meal by discovering the location of the long lost sheep of Little Bo Peep. Apparently, they were being prepared and served in a cornucopia of entrees by the kitchen staff. Lamb kebabs, lamb schwarma, and minced lamb arrived on steaming plates and the flock soon went to its ultimate fate, digested inside our satisfied stomachs. Colin also took home a very nice new sweater.
For those interested in visiting Jerusalem Garden for a private party, they do have a back room decorated with colorful Arabic rugs and tapestries. If you like chairs, do not apply, the private dining area provides a more authentic experience, which does not include such modern amenities. In exchange, you will receive personal performances from the lascivious, lusty lass with the belly of jelly. You might have to go elsewhere for a happy ending, though, unless in your mind the term connotes the end of another one of my interminable diatribes. If so, you are in luck!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Open Thread

For some reason, the comment section for the following post, "Evil Countdown," is not working properly. Comment here if you would like to leave a comment on your favorite bad guy. Thanks!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Evil Countdown


With the passing of the devil's favorite day, Halloween, it suddenly hit me that I have spent way too much time here at Thoughts Askew focusing on the positive. Alas, there are some bad people out there who would try to ruin our lives, and end the worldwide party of peace and love that those of us who abide are attempting to perpetrate.
Today, we shall expose these bastards by putting them in a list, similar to the FAA's no-fly list, but with one million less entries, in order that I may finish writing said list before my personal expiration date comes to pass. To make this a traditional countdown, we will start with number 10 and move inexorably towards the number 1 spot until the evil thickens around you like a quicksand composed mainly of devil's food cake, death by chocolate, and other sinful creations. Occasional shout-outs to Dante (the medieval author, not the Detroit Lions quarterback who spells his name wrong) will pop up in the form of my own circle of hell punishments that must be administered to these fools if there any justice in the afterlife.

10) Rupert Murdoch. Founder of FOX networks and owner of just about everything, this d-bag is most especially loathsome for his creation of Fox News, which purports to be "fair and balanced," but makes Mussolini look like a whimpering socialist in comparison to their extremist right wing views. Ironically, the network, which spends all its time telling us how to be patriotic and pro-American, is owned by an Australian. Yep, Murdoch is from down under, yet another unscrupulous foreigner crossing over the Rio Grande to steal from us honest natives. Ole Rupert also recently made news by finishing 50 out of 50 in a list of charitable giving among billionaires. Kudos to our modern day Mr. Scrooge! For his sins, Murdoch shall be stuck in an endless line at a homeless shelter trying to attain food, but never arriving at the front, an evil Oliver Twist, with his belly rumbling in eternal agony.

9) Art Modell. Ask any Browns fan and they will tell you why he is listed at number 9 here in our countdown. I am a Bears fan, so I have no clue why he is on this list. I will allow the Cleveland folk to dole out their own punishment, perhaps forcing him to live in Ohio forever or something.

8) Robert Mugabe. This gentleman (I use that term loosely) is the lifetime dictator of Zimbabwe (the artist formerly known as Rhodesia). Once known as a revolutionary hero of the African people, Mugabe has become increasingly corrupt in his old age. The crotchety bastard has forcefully taken land holdings away from the majority of white citizens in his nation. While that may or may not be somewhat forgivable given the country's dark colonial past, the dictator has done very little for the native blacks either. Rather than redistributing the land to the people, he divided it amongst a handful of his political cronies. Zimbabwe is currently a place whose citizenry live in dire poverty, terrorized by the secret police. For no particular reason, Mugabe's punishment will consist of being surrounded by movie screens playing "Gigli" repeatedly until his brains drip from his eardrums in search of an escape from the madness.

7) Fred Phelps. You may not know who this bastard is, so prepare to be enlightened. Phelps heads a small group, mainly composed of, but not limited to, members his family. These people attend gay pride rallies and military funerals and attempt to incite the folks there to attack them. They hold signs like "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers." Homeskillet's organization tries to use these banners as well as their incendiary speeches in order to incite the crowds to commit acts of violence towards their group. They then sue their attackers, funding their "church" and their sick lifestyle. Once Phelps enters the seventh circle of hell to receive his comeuppance, he will be entered in a spelling bee where he will be asked repeatedly to spell such words as "homoerotic" and "salacious sodomizer" (okay that is two words but I see no reason to let the guy off easy.

6) Steve Bartman. He knows why. Bartman, you are hereby forced to be a Cub fan for all eternity or until the space-time continuum is reversed and Moises Alou catches that doomed foul ball.

5) Radovan Karadzic. The mastermind of the Bosnian genocide was finally captured this year and will soon stand trial at the Hague. For punishment he shall have those annoying birthday candles that never blow out applied to his ball sack and lit, his hands will be tied behind his back so he can do nothing but savor the excruciating pain.

4) Pat Robertson. There are few sins worse in my mind than corrupting the Christian religion by using it to preach hate instead of love. Like the recently deceased and currently burning Jerry Falwell, Robertson has made a career out of this sort of behavior. His insane ramblings could be easily dismissed if the man wasn't a so called religious figure with thousands of ignorant followers hooked on every movement of his twisted lips. Want some evidence of Mr. Robertson's hate speech? Here are some gems. For those of you unable to get the link to work, savor a couple of excerpts:

"(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." –Pat Robertson


"Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up" –Pat Robertson, on nuking the State Department

For Robertson's work in the name of intolerance, he will be forced to become a lesbian living in Saudi Arabia for seven consecutive lifetimes.

3) Omar al Bashir. The relatively unknown leader of Sudan is responsible for the most heinous genocide of the new millennium, the slaughter of nearly half a million people (according to UN statistics) in the Sudanese region of Darfur . Bashir's government has attempted to cover up the killings, so the numbers could potentially be much worse. The International Criminal Court at the Hague currently has three charges of genocide, five charges of crimes against humanity, and two charges of homicide pending against Bashir. Upon expiration, the Sudanese tyrant shall be forced to roam the Sahara until he finds my brother's misplaced copy of Playboy's May 1997 issue.

2) Lowry Mays. This worthless assmunch founded Clear Channel Communications, the radio station-owning corporation that is responsible for the complete destruction of popular music in America. With ownership of over 1200 stations across the country and a stable of right wing talk show loonies preaching hate, May's company is responsible for almost every wrong-headed rumor not heard first on Fox News. Here is the money quote summing up CCC's commitment to fucking over America: In 2003 Mays testified before the US Senate that the deregulation of the telecommunications industry had not hurt the public. However, in an interview that same year with Fortune Magazine, he remarked, "We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers products."
For your misdeeds, Mr. Lowry, you are condemned to an eternity of listening to Rush Limbaugh warble Creed's "greatest hits."

1) Osama Bin Laden. I think most of us recall this SOB's greatest hits. If the afterlife is fair, hopefully he will get all those virgins after all. Only it turns out he is impotent and they have cocks that would put a donkey to shame and a propensity to use them on his naked booty. Oh, and in the afterlife he is a chick instead of a dude. I love the smell of justice in the morning!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Save This!


Note to the reader: This is my 69th post here at Thoughts Askew. I encourage everyone to celebrate this milestone in the appropriate fashion.

I detest daylight savings time with the kind of passion that is usually reserved for politics, religion, and other topics one is not allowed to discuss at a bar for fear of the inevitability of broken bottles being smashed over the heads of previously peaceable neighbors. I wonder, as someone who only commune with the sun for a few hours a day anyway, who is the sanctimonious bastard that thinks he can take yet another sixty minutes of rays away from my pasty white skin? I love going out late and having a good time on occasion, but I am hardly a vampire (it wouldn't be a good fit anyway since I fear the sight of blood more than Medusa fears combing her hair). And, no, I am not going to get up earlier, so get that bit of insanity out of your head.
What can be done to combat the approach of that fateful day when time stands still or goes backwards or forwards or to a dimension beyond our ken? A couple years back, those who make the great calender in the sky (whom we must perform human sacrifices to in order to prevent the dragon from eating the sun) dictated that daylight savings time would be moved back a week or two from the date upon which it had fallen in the past. A step in the right direction without a doubt, but why can we not eliminate the concept entirely?
I suggest a boycott of DL in order to show"whitey" the strength of our numbers and our determination to defeat his dastardly plans, whatever the hell they may be. We must have a plan to confront DL . This coming Sunday, November 2nd, refuse to turn your clocks back. Don't worry about your computer, that poor guy is still probably programmed to change the time weeks ago and doesn't know what is going on out there in the real world. Microwaves, oven clocks, and other timepieces won't change unless you tell them to, so think of all the hassle you will be avoiding there. Your cel phone will annoy you by changing on its own, so just destroy it - you may remember living without one for a good deal of your life unless you are twelve years old or younger. If you are that young, quit reading this damn site, as it is written for adults, you motherfucking ass hole.
Show up for your appointments on the old schedule - the time your clocks say it is. People will respect your decision to fight the system, even if you show up an hour late all the time (or is it an hour early?). They will adjust to you eventually. Or you can move to Arizona or Hawaii, where Daylight Savings Time has been eliminated. Either way you win!

Author's Note: It has been brought to my attention that it is Standard Time at which I should be directing my anger - apologies to Daylight Savings Time. I hope no one was offended or otherwise injured by words, so carelessly flung as they were.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Chosen One


Content Warning: I have a lot of trouble taking anything too seriously, so know beforehand that even though this may be an important election, I am unlikely to treat it as such, at least within the boundaries of these pages.

Election time is rolling near, and those of us who aren't poor African-Americans just trying to get an ACORN prepare to vote in a contest that will determine our future to an even greater extent than the results of American Idol. Barack "The Insane in the Membrane Hussein" Obama looks as if he will be the next president of the United States, barring a last second collapse of the kind that only the Chicago Cubs and the Democrats are capable of producing. John "No Pa(l)in, No" McCain appears to be headed back home, even if they have to chop him up into several pieces so that he can occupy all those residences concurrently. So, although it may be too soon to assume the race is over, for our purposes we will declare a winner and proceed to analyze the how and the why of this cycle's assumed results.
Why will Barack Obama win? Because he is dead sexy. In the past, once we have pared down the field to a mere two contestants, the uglier candidate is the one who will be voted off the electoral island. Surely we cannot be such a shallow land? Elections for the most important office in the nation must be decided by carefully regarding the issues and weighing the views of the candidates. To some extent this point is well-taken. The majority of voters do approach the process seriously, even if they are extraordinarily uninformed. Races aren't decided by these folks in reality, though. The so-called issue voters generally fall evenly on each side of the aisle and end up countering the totals of the other side, resulting in a stalemate. Who is left to break this sister-kissing tie? The idiots, who, according to NOFX, are taking over.
The best of the rest are a conglomeration of people who just can't seem to make up their minds between two parties that could not be more different (granted you could easily disagree with both groups of imbeciles). These folks definitely have no clue about the issues and they sure as hell aren't going through the trouble of finding out. What do they base their choice on then? The way the candidate looks and the way they present themselves.
Sounds like I am spouting off at the mouth again without any evidence to back up my claims, eh? Let's look at the presidential showdowns dating back to the first televised debates and you will see what I mean. Occasionally, the race comes down to two ugly white men, and the nation has to use other factors to make the decision.

1960 - Tricky Dick vs JFK (just fucking kidding). Nixon could not have been more qualified for the nation's top office. He had already governed the state of California, whose GDP back then equaled the entire continent of Africa's. In addition, tricky Dick had been the Vice President under Dwight Eisenhower the past eight years. His opponent was the youngest in history, John F. Kennedy, a World War II hero with only ten years spent in Congress. JFK won of course, since he is considered the hottest man ever to sit in the Oval Office. How do I know his beauty did the trick? Check out this fact: those who watched the two debate on TV said that JFK was the better debater by a landslide over the sweaty, pasty-faced Nixon. Those that heard their clash on radio claimed that Nixon had won. *Counter-argument: Everyone knows that thousands of dead people (thanks to the unlikely coalition of George Romero and Richard Daley) voted JFK over the top in Illinois, thus handing him the victory.

1964- LBJ (loathes Bob Jones) vs Goldilockswater. These guys were pretty much a toss up in the ugly department. LBJ fooled the voters with some brutal commercials pertaining to Goldwater's nuclear policy. Johnson was never scared to be a bastard when he felt the time was ripe. Check out this vignette about LBJ's first race for a State House seat back in Texas. Going negative can be effective as long as you don't try the strategy against a pretty boy-type.

1968 - Tricky Dick Returns vs Humphrey Dumpty. These fellows tied for the league lead in mirrors broken per day or MBPD's. Humphrey inherited the Vietnam War from LBJ and lost mainly because the party was split in half over whether to support the war. Nixon won by claiming he would end the fighting, although being Nixon he was probably lying due to the fact that he always was. If Tricky Dick had one of those Pinocchio noses, we would never run out of building materials. Humphrey got a dome named after him as a consolation prize.

1972 - Tricky Dick vs. Photo Not Available. There aren't any pictures of George McGovern available to tell us what he looked like. My friend Mark claims he was a fetching young lad, but McGovern's biographers are all dead, so we may never know. George was from South Dakota, which I am not sure is even a state. He may even still be alive. No one knows. No one even knew who he was then. He lost, quite badly. Hunter Thompson wrote a book about the race, read that instead of my jibber-jabber.

1976 - Impeachment Replacement vs. Peanut Farmer. Former football star (from before the invention of the forward pass - ask McCain if you are unsure about any rules from this era) Gerald Ford came in off the bench to replace Spiro Agnew after he was forced to resign and then became president when Nixon followed suite. The tawdry shenanigans of Watergate along with the fact that Ford had been hit in the head too often spelled his doom. Jimmy Carter, the well-spoken Governor of Georgia managed to bring the Dems back to the presidency for the first time since LBJ proving that smart ugly men can defeat dumb ugly men.

1980 - The Teflon Ron vs. Peanut Farmer. The gipper was able to win one from the peanut farmer by using his theatrical skills to great effect. A Hollywood actor for many years, Ronnie had starred alongside such great actors as Jane Wyman and Bonzo the Chimp. With a bottle of "Formula 44" always in his hip pocket to defeat the onslaught of greying hair, Reagan was able to portray himself as attractive and well-spoken rather than a senile old man consulting astrologists before he made important decisions. The former governor of California proved that dumb attractive white men can win against smart ugly white men. I think this concept is like rock-paper-scissors, but with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

1984 - The Teflon Ron vs. Garrison Keillor. Reagan's opponent during his re-election bid of 1984 was actually a Minnesotan named Walter Mondale. More people probably know who Minnesotan Garrison Keillor is, or maybe Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Either one could have attained more electoral votes than Mondale, whose brief moment in the political spotlight didn't even garner him the honor of having a dome named after him. The poor guy just got a lake, which, according to the license plates I have been reading lately, there are 10,000 of in Minnesota. Kind of like having a cornfield named after you in Iowa. Mondale's true claim to fame was his VP nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first and so far only non-retarded woman to run for the nation's second highest office.

1988 - The Prudent One vs. Zorba the Greek. Reagan's VP, George HW Bush was able to continue the Republican legacy by defeating a Massachusetts Liberal named Michael Dukakis by portraying his opponent as weak on crime and not manly enough to be our President. A slight bit of the racism was used via the Willie Horton ad, in order to freak out the white peeps and send them scurrying into the protecting arms of their right wing daddies. Bush was accused during his years in office of being a mediocre chief executive, lacking in vision. Now that we have experienced eight years with his son as our leader Bush Sr. seems worthy of having his visage chiseled into Mount Rushmore. Palin has made Quayle look like a boy genius as well. Strange how time changes our perspective on things, eh?

1992 - The Arkansas Horny Toad vs. The Prudent One vs Utter Gibberish. Bill Clinton was a poor Arkansas boy who raised himself up from nothing to become governor of his state. When he first entered the presidential race, everyone figured that Bush Sr.'s reelection was fait accompli. Things changed all of sudden when the economy began to collapse and Bush broke his lip reader's promise not to raise taxes. The race was further livened by the entry of an eccentric Texas billionaire named Ross Perot. While the other two candidates kept Dana Carvey busy, Clinton managed to become the second coming of Beatle mania, driving the ladies into a frenzy and drawing in the Branford Marsalis crowd with his sexy saxophonic stylings.

1996 - The Arkansas Horny Toad vs. The Third Person. World War II veteran and long time Kansan legislator Bob Dole was the next to take on the lascivious lady killer. The campaign was a hopeless endeavor for the challenger, who was the first non-athlete to adopt the hideous habit of speaking about Bob Dole in the third person when he was, in fact, Bob Dole. America was enjoying an impressive run of prosperity under Clinton, and saw no need to change sex-mad horses in midstream. Bob Dole went on to a successful career as a rep for a pfarmaceutical company selling boner pfills for pfogies.

2000 - Dubya vs. Al Bore. Al Bore defeated the eldest son of George HW Bush in a tight race. Rainbows graced the sky, global warming was ended, there was no 911, no WMDs, no needless war in Iraq, and someone in the White House actually noticed the arrival of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Alas, 2000 was the year that our corporate masters chose to change the system, and instead of our votes counting, the Supreme Court was allowed to pick the President. They chose Dubya, a downhome folksy guy from Texas who understood the average American (billioniare). Well that is what we were told, and the strategy was bought hook, line, and sinker by much of the nation. Al Bore was smart, and perhaps could even be termed an intellectual. He was also incredibly boring and easy to make fun of, so he never had a chance, except that he won. Isn't all of this very confusing?

2004 - Dubya vs. Frankenkerry. The Democrats in their infinite wisdom thought to nominate another Massachusetts liberal to represent their party, since that plan had worked so well the first time (see Zorba the Greek). John Kerry had the kind of charisma normally only seen in inanimate objects. At least he was a military hero, but once the Swift-Boat mafia was done with Frankenkerry, you would have thought the Vietnam avoiding, occasional National Guardsman was the true hero, protecting America from the traitorous Democrat.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Freedom Isn't Free, In Fact It Costs a Buck o' Five


As you may have gleaned from the previous column, I enjoyed my trip to Washington, DC and the soccer game I attended there. There was one small detail that bothered me whilst I sat in my seat and viewed the action. The constant robotic chants of USA, USA, USA! Don't get me wrong, although I do have some socialist leanings (like my support for the Neo-Marxist Obama), I was rooting for the American side with one hundred and thirty four percent of my being. I thank God, Allah, Zeus, the mother goddess, and 7000 Hindu deities every single day that I was lucky enough to be born in the good ole USA.
Nevertheless, I was unable to join in with any fervor when the crowd began the endless repetitions of our country's name. Maybe I was just unused to the spectacle since I had never attended a national team game of any kind before. Who knows? The possibility could exist that I am just a traitorous liberal surrender monkey as our "patriotic" 24 hour news network would no doubt describe me. Although in order to keep my sanity I continue to doubt every word I hear spoken on Faux News.
The chanting and screaming just makes me think too much of the mindless nationalism that is sometimes foisted upon the American people. We are given slogans and songs and told to be proud of who we are. I like singing as much as the next guy (much to the regret of those unlucky enough to listen to my warbling), but words are no substitute for solutions and we as a nation are currently suffering from many serious problems that cannot be fixed so easily. Our response to 9/11 was to start singing "God Bless America" at baseball and football games.
Despite my misgivings, a part of me wanted to scream along with everyone and be part of the fun. We were seated on the side of the field opposite of Sam's Army, the official US soccer supporters group. They were having fun - singing, dancing, waving flags, beating drums, and yes, chanting USA. Given my druthers, I would have been right there next to them.
-Post interruption-
My friend and fellow blogger Robert has made a good point that made me stop in my tracks. Since I didn't seem to be in any way organized or have any special destination with this rant, I think we can all thank God for that. Roberto points out in his article about Saturday's match that the stands were filled with the kind of diversity you rarely see at events in America. The people shouting USA were not a lily-white group of Hitlerites, but a rainbow of fruit flavors representing each part of our various cultures. If a soccer game can bring about that kind of solidarity in our country, there surely can't be any reason not be proud to shout our nation's name in praise and in thanks. There aren't many other places on Earth where such a peaceful gathering could take place.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Impending Evacuation: Part Two

Friday was spent with Robert's family in Raleigh, where we were treated to a traditional Ecuadorian meal of chorizo, steak, chicken, shrimp, and salmon. Not big vegetarians these Ecuadorians. We finished off our feast with shortbread filled with dulce de leche and guava, with a bottle of port to wash down the deliciousness. The next morning the five of us hopped into an Acura built for two (and maybe a midget) and made our way towards the nation's capital.
When I entered Washington DC on a beautiful fall Saturday, I expected to be greeted by a dirty, murder and narcotic-riddled city teeming with congressmen, lobbyists, and other assorted gang members. I had no doubt there would be a crack-house named in honor of former mayor Marion Barry somewhere near Pennsylvania Avenue.
Riding through the Mall area and past the parks astride the Potomac River, I realized how mistaken my preconceptions were. The weather could not have been more beautiful, nor the surroundings more picturesque.
The natives were everywhere, some jogging, others playing volleyball, while still more plied the still waters of the Potomac in kayaks and canoes. The road to my cousin's flat was surrounded by the lush vegetation of Rock Creek Park, an urban jungle composed not of cold steel and concrete, but rather the verdant green of trees and plants. The city contains an impressive amount of parkland, 720 acres of which surround the river's edge.
Everything was not wine and roses, of course. Washington's streets were an intricate maze, with roads running into one another at angles that defy any attempt at reasonable explanation. Driving was, as a result, a tricky proposition at best, and the dense traffic made the task all the more difficult. Once you are ready to put your car to rest, trying to find a parking space in the capital can be harder than finding a politician who won't accept a campaign donation from one of our "rescued" banks.
Thankfully, DC is blessed with an excellent public transportation system and once we arrived at my cousin's place we were able to dump the car in exchange for the relatively stress-free comfort of the metro (subway). Once ensconced in our train, we headed out to RFK stadium, named after JFK's equally assassinated brother, in order to view the forces of good (= USA) do battle with the satanic Cuban side in a soccer match of unmatched historical importance.
A small, but boisterous crowd of 20,000 greeted us as we moved towards our seats, and despite the defection of two Cuban players unafraid of the current American economic crisis, the game went on as scheduled shortly after seven p.m. The damn commies put up a heck of a fight for the first forty-five minutes, pulling into a defensive shell and holding the US side to a 2-1 halftime lead.
Those who view the beautiful game of soccer as a boring affair slightly less interesting than watching their carpet grow would have been shocked at the second half results. The ejection of a Cuban player late in the first half led to the opening of the floodgates. With only ten players on defense the Americans were able to take advantage to the tune of four goals, and the game ended 6-1 in favor of Uncle Sam's bunch (for a more professional look at the results, check out my friend and soccer expert Robert's analysis).
The victory ensured the United States advancement into the final round of World Cup qualifying. My need to celebrate such a momentous occasion was insatiable. Since I was suffering from the dreadful sting of poverty at the time, as was my brother (a perhaps as yet unmentioned traveling companion), we chose to eschew the usual bars and nightclubs in favor of the excitement that runs throughout the length and breadth of the downtown Washington neighborhoods.
In other words, we chose to defile ourselves in the semi-privacy of the stoop in front of my cousin's flat. DC is chock full of areas where the houses have been turned into apartments and rented out to the younger denizens of the city, who are otherwise unable to afford the astronomical housing prices prevalent in the District.
We grabbed some beers and a grill and proceeded to find our inner girl scout by roasting smores and draining some Coors (or possibl another beer that does not taste like old socks). We sat, chatted, and watched groups of young people go by on their way to the bar district only a few blocks away. Those returning a little later on were infinitely more entertaining courtesy of their awkward stumblings, feeble fumblings, and incoherent grumblings.
As the night faded and my time in Washington came to an end, thoughts of a return danced on the outer edge of my vision. There was no chance during my short visit to get lost in the labyrinth of the city's eighteen Smithsonian and Smithsonian-affiliated museums. If I took five minutes to look at each individual exhibit, I will likely have seen them all by the year 3405.
I also have plans to visit the reflecting pond in front of the Lincoln Memorial and challenge Michael Phelps to a 400 meter freestyle race there. Finally, a third national political party needs to be created in order to bring back democracy to America and to destroy the current kleptocracy. Sounds like I will be busy on my next trip!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Impending Evacuation


The bailout/rescue or whatever you want to call the thing has been signed into law, but the economy continues to fail without the commanding presence of Richard Pryor (see prior post). The stock market has crumbled to beneath ten thousand for the first time in years. Bank stocks continue to tumble like meteors from the heavens, threatening to turn mankind into the newest version of the dinosaurs. To avert the seemingly inevitable apocalypse, I have decided to head to DC and remove the politician's heads from the asses within which they have been deeply entrenched for way too long.
Sadly, a miracle worker I am not, although my keen senses have at times been compared to those of Helen Keller. In actuality I am visiting the town that made corruption famous in order to witness the American national soccer team do battle with the evil forces of Communism represented by Fidel Castro's Cuban side. In years past we could expect to win by forfeit, as half of the Cuban team could be counted on to defect before the game, leaving the opponent without enough players to compete. This year the potential defectors will, in all likelihood, hear about the state of our nation and decide that living in poverty in a Caribbean island isn't really that bad after all.
Seems as if we may actually play the game - and in order to understand the intricacies of international soccer, I am bringing along Latin American and MLS futbol expert and friend of the blog Robert Mera in order to grasp fully the implications of such an earth-shattering match. Robert will also be celebrating his 30th birthday this weekend, which means I have to obtain accurate information from him before then as Bob Dylan says not to trust anyone past the age of thirty. Upon further review, though, I have aged gracefully past thirty myself and should be trusted. Ponder the question; when have I ever led you astray?
While in the city of DC (stands for District of Corruption) we will be staying with my beautiful and brilliant cousin Jennifer (that is sick dude, don't even think that) and her wonderful fiancee, Adam. My coz is adding to the diversity that my family was dreadfully lacking upon my birth. In 1975 we were just a ho-hum group of crackers, mostly Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Things have changed significantly since that fateful year. Added to my delightful, sprightly gayness has come my father's marriage to a lovely Turkish lass named Nalan. Jennifer has jumped into the mix with her coming betrothal, at which time she will be converting to Judaism, the religion of her future husband. Now, I will have an inside track in order to uncover the worldwide conspiracies which the Zionists are clearly behind.
Maybe instead my family's newly found diversity can be used to bring the world together. Heck we even have a black sheep/conservative in my Uncle David to make sure that all sides are represented in these negotiations. Our next family reunion has the potential to be more earth-shattering than the Camp David Accords. Or we may turn into the Palestine family and start throwing rocks and tanks at one another. Either way, good times will be had by all.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Dude Abides


The time has come for a brief respite from the seriousness of our impending economic collapse. Anyway, if you read the subsequent column, you are aware the problem will soon be solved. Let us move on then, towards a subject laden with frivolity and bereft of the soul-crushing sadness some may be feeling as a result of our current catastrophe. Such a journey will take us beyond our own world and into the realm of fantasy, driven on the wings of a projector whose light lands softly on a wide screen. So come with me and my roundish buddy Roger Ebert, as we go to the movies.
I have ranked some of my favorite flicks in three categories - comedy, action, and drama. There may be some overlap - "Pulp Fiction" could easily fit into any of these three groups, for instance. Go ahead and disagree, we still live in a free country, at least for the moment. Besides I lose a brain cell or two every day and may have left out a classic. I have also included a quote from each movie - any suggestions in that area are also encouraged.

Comedy

1. "The Big Lebowski" - That rug really tied the room together.
2. "Monty Python's The Search for the Holy Grail" - Now go away before I am forced to taunt you a second time.
3. "Clerks" - Try not to suck any dick on the way to the car!
4. "Army of Darkness" - That's just what we call pillow talk baby.
5. "Airplane" - Have you ever seen a grown man naked?
6. "Office Space" - Why should I change? He's the one who sucks.
7. "MASH" - [as Frank Burns is being taken away in a straight jacket by the MPs] Now, fair's fair Henry. If I nail Hotlips and hit Hawkeye can I go home too?
8. "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" - She's the village bicycle. Everybody's had a ride.
9. "Blazing Saddles" - Mongo only pawn in game of life
10. "Animal House" - Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

Action
1. "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" - We grow copious amounts of ganja and you are carrying a wasted girl and a bag of fertilizer. You don't look like your average horti-fucking-culturist
2. "No Country For Old Men" - Carla: I got a bad feeling Llewelyn / Llewelyn: Well I got a good feeling, so that should even out.
3. "Pulp Fiction" - Did you see a sign on my house that said dead nigger storage?
4. "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - One ring to bind them and all that jazz.
5. "Fight Club" - The first rule of Fight Club is don't talk about Fight Club
6. "Reservoir Dogs" - Are you gonna bark all day little doggie? Or are you gonna bite?
7. "Star Wars" trilogy ("Star Wars", "Empire Strikes Back", Return of the Jedi") - Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?!
8. "Aliens" - We're fucked man! Game over!
9. "Kill Bill" Parts 1 and 2 - He hates caucasians, despises Americans, and has nothing but contempt for women. So in your case it may take awhile.
10. "The Usual Suspects" - I hear that Soze is some kinda fucked up psycho butcha, eh? (or basically any line Fenster/Benificio Del Toro spouts throughout the entire flick)

Drama
1. "The Godfather" - Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.
2. "Shawshank Redemption" - Get busy living, or get busy dying.
3. "Full Metal Jacket" - Oh that's right Private Pyle, don't make any effort to get to the top of the obstacle. If God had wanted you up there he would have miracled your ass up there by now, wouldn't he?
4. "Lone Star" - All that other stuff, all that history? To hell with it, right? Forget the Alamo.
5. "Last of the Mohicans" - I will find you!
6. "Almost Famous" - Rock stars have kidnapped my son.
7. "Trainspotting" - We called him Mother Superior on account of the length of his habit.
8. "Gandhi" - An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
9. "The Professional" - Leon: Stansfield? /Stansfield: At your service/ Leon (pulls pin from grenade): This is from Matilda.
10. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - Is that crazy enough for ya? Want me to take a shit on the floor?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Economy is Stupid


The thought just hit me like lightning striking the tallest tree in the forest, leaving nothing but ash to remind the world of a tenuous existence. Since I am one of the world's leading figures, at least inside the warped confines of my brain, I should weigh in on the recent economic crisis that has hit the banking/mortgage industry over the last couple of months. I don't know very much about the problem, frankly, but that has never previously inhibited my forward momentum.
With 700 billion dollars about to be injected into the economy, I feel there have just got to be better ways to use the cash than to send it to people who have already proved they are inept at dealing with other people's money. Although, the Daily Show's concept of giving each American 2000 McDonald's apple pies is appealing when one considers the inflation-driven food prices of the last year, I feel we may need to look at a solution that attacks the crux of the matter. Henry Paulson, our infallible Treasury Secretary, has proclaimed himself the overlord of all the economy, and has inserted language into the planned bailout package giving himself unquestioned authority in these areas. Such economic tyranny balances well with the current status quo in our governing system, but Paulson is clearly not the right choice for our dollar bill dictator. There is only one way to spend such an absurd amount of money and only one person we can count on to make certain the cash flow is sent out in a diverse and effective manner. We have to dig up and reanimate the corpse of Richard Pryor.
In the 1985 flick "Brewster's Millions" (complete synopsis) Pryor's character, Montgomery Brewster, inherits an absurd fortune worth three hundred million in cash. There are a couple of intimidating roadblocks in between Brewster and his inheritance. Montgomery must first manage to spend thirty million dollars in a month's time - without accumulating any assets whatsoever. He is also forbidden from telling anyone what he is doing, so of course he is thought nuttier than giving a fruitcake as a Christmas present. In the end, our hero is able to complete his task, avoiding various obstacles along the way. Such a man is needed to steer our current economic ship. Here is a man who knows how to blow ridiculous sums of money in a creative fashion. Henry Paulson may not have the experience necessary to properly dump the American people's money down the crapper. Richard Pryor clearly does.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Sweltering Armpit of South Carolina



South Carolina is a state often under fire from outside. The controversy surrounding the confederate flag atop the state house comes to mind, but we are often the butt of other jokes concerning our ignorance and apparent desire to marry relatives. All in all though, I am a fan of our fair state of South Carolina, regardless of these criticisms, some deserved and others not. There is, however, one part of our beautiful land that I will not stoop to defend. Our capital,Columbia, South Carolina's sweltering armpit.
During two separate summers of my blissful youth, I was torn away from happiness and carried toward despair. Mom and Dad claimed that for the benefit of their historical research (both were college professors working on books at the time) we needed to leave our home in Charleston and head up I-26 to Columbia, where they could be within shouting distance of the State Archives. My brother and I were abandoned, thrown into a series of summer camps amidst the barren wastes of the city. Most of these camps took place in the open air, and although the town is a shit hole inside and out, the summer weather is assuredly the worst feature. Satan had originally planned to have Hell located in Columbia, but he decided that the town was just too hot to subject anyone to, regardless of how bad their behavior in the previous life had been. Heat and humidity combine to form a perfect storm of oppression that makes the Sahara desert seem like the ideal location for a vacation.
The city of Columbia was originally founded in 1786 due to complaints of those in the Upstate that Charleston, the previous capital, was just too far to travel. These whiny bitches/legislators chose a chunk of terrain located in the very center of the state as a compromise solution and moved the seat of government there permanently in 1790. Apparently no one had considered why the land had been unwanted in the first place. Besides the oppressive heat, the area was swampy, plagued with mosquitoes, roaches, and other signs of God's displeasure. The arrival of politicians only made the place even less desirable.
What of the quality of today's Columbia? Maybe the addition of various modern amenities could help the place to overcome its unfortunate location. Riverbanks Zoo is certainly a positive one can point to in defending the beleaguered city from its detractors. There is no better spot in the state to view caged animals prancing around their prisons. Kid stuff, though, and I imagine the thirsty reader not into exotic bestiality requires a bit more to be enticed into visiting our lovely capital.
For those in need of an oat soda or two, there is Five Points, the bar district made famous by the state newspaper, creatively entitled The State. The notoriety is due to the areas attraction to underage University of South Carolina football players and their apparently intense desire to get arrested there. Starting quarterbacks seem to be especially prone to the affliction, although former star running back Derek Watson did at one time have an entire unit dedicated to dealing with his illegal machinations.
If you would rather see this group stomping around the football field unfettered by handcuffs, then Williams-Brice stadium is the place to be for several Saturdays a year. Tailgating is a must, for watching the Gamecocks play in a sober frame of mind has been known to cause self-inflicted blindness and at times, outright insanity. The Cocks have been so terrible over the years that even Chicago Cubs fans like me feel sorry for their plight. The stadium nicknamed, "God's fingers," has seen much more plague and famine than it has seen feast over the turbulent recent years.
Despite misgivings, I traveled back to Columbia last month in order to see if the place had improved much since my troubled adolescent years. Since seeing Flogging Molly play live in Atlanta had improved my views on the city of Atlanta, I tried the same plan - seeing the band play live at Columbia's own, Headliners nightclub. Our capital still managed to come up snake-eyes though. The acoustics at Headliners were some of the worst I have ever experienced. Sound bounced around the box-shaped club like a deranged racquetball, clattering into itself in a wave of incomprehensible white noise. Only when the band started to play some of the slower songs in their set was I able to discern any of the lyrics, which are a somewhat integral component when listening to a group that specializes in sing-a-longs. The floor area was so small that the jam-packed crowd alternated between being slammed into the bar and the stage, which were only around twenty feet apart. Somehow, in the midst of it all Flogging Molly still managed to put on a great show.
Although there was very little in the way of actual sound quality, Headliners did manage to kick the violence up a notch, with three major fights occurring during the concert. You can't blame the folks, though, I would be pretty angry too if I lived in Columbia.
After the bruised and broken bodies of the wounded were cleaned up, I returned to the house of a Columbia native, with whom I spent the night before heading back home. She taught me how the locals deal with their appalling surroundings. I was handed a bottle of moonshine and ordered to drink heavily. After a short time, my senses all blurred and my consciousness began to slip slowly away. Hmmm, I thought as I fell into the welcoming arms of catatonia, this does seem to make things a bit better.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The 70s Return Uninvited

I have just returned from a short jaunt to Asheville, where we celebrated the birthday of the lovely, luscious lass that my younger sibling is lucky enough to be dating. I forget her name, but although it does not rhyme with a part of the female anatomy, it does have something to do with delicious fast food burgers. The host of the party, a good man we call by the name of Dan, chose to give the party a theme, eschewing the traditional birthday cake nonsense. Instead, we traveled back into the past, making a visit to the decade we should by all rights have forgotten, the 1970s. On the other hand, what better time to hearken back to those years? With skyrocketing inflation, energy crises, an unwanted and unnecessary war, and an extremely unpopular Republican president, residents of the decade could travel to our time and feel right at home.
Since the entire ten year period was an unholy fashion abortion, party goers had a vast array of possible costume choices. Unfortunately, I could not find a company willing to make me a fur suit made out of shag carpeting. Instead, I sported a tribute to the ABA, the era's failed basketball league, which gave us Julius Erving's plush afro and sporty Chuck Taylor shoes, not to mention the patriotic red, white, and blue ball. Every time someone managed to put the colorful orb into the hoop, a dollar was donated toward the defeat of the Russian horde. Although I was not able to grow an impressive afro in time for the event, I did manage to find the requisite headband, armbands, and tube socks that composed the outfit of the era's ballers.
Once attired in my jester's outfit, I felt right at home amongst the rest of the fools. My brother Colin chose to compose an ode to Starsky and Hutch with his costume. After donning his dark shades and a shirt somehow colored silver and brown, his sideburns and hair suddenly seemed as if they were beamed directly to him by Erik Estrada or some other 70s demigod. The birthday girl flashed a white and red flower-print dress resembling the kind worn by the Brady girls. In a celebratory mood, Wendy proceeded to eat a bowl composed of jello shots and pass out on top of the Twister board. Although there were other impressive costumes, I think we have reached the limit of my ability as fashion impresario.
With the red carpet rolled up, we then proceeded to annihilate ourselves in the traditional fashion. Twelve games or so of beer pong later I too was ready to become one with the Twister board. My zen drinking master, David Carradine, would be proud if he saw me today.

Monday, September 1, 2008

This Land is Your Land, But This Land is Not My Land


Over the last couple of years I have developed the habit of going on walks in the vicinity of my home. On many instances, my steps have led me onto the local golf course that abuts my neighborhood, known as Pebble Creek (not to be confused with Pebble Beach in name or quality). Never have these meanderings caused any problems - until recently.
Last week, as I strolled along the cart path, I was intercepted by the Marshall, a gentleman whose main tasks normally include making sure that golfers have paid and that they maintain a steady pace of play once they begin their round. Marshalls are generally fairly old and cantankerous by nature, and this fellow was no exception. I was informed that I could not walk on the golf course, non-members could not walk on the golf course because members payed a lot of money, and people who were not wearing a t-shirt could not walk on the golf course. The manner in which I was told directly resembles the monotony and lack of thought you just witnessed in the previous sentence. If my presence there was considered trespassing perhaps just telling me once would suffice. The man's verbal diarrhea continued, but I put on my headphones and proceeded off the grounds, resolving never again to play either of the Pebble Creek courses.
So am I overreacting? Sure you may say, they have a right to kick anyone off their land they see fit to, America is a country founded on the sanctity of private property and I was in the wrong. Perhaps, but allow me to humor you, the patient reader, with my point of view.
First off, I have to confess that at the time of my apprehension, I had been walking on the property for a decent stretch of minutes. In fact, about nine separate holes had been graced with my presence. During this period I gazed upon the faces of a grand total of zero golfers. You are correct in assuming that is not very many. I must have been bothering quite a lot of folks, like maybe the ghosts of former members, who knows? The Marshall sure wasn't lying when he mentioned during his interminable spiel that Pebble Creek was an exclusive club.
So I wasn't bothering anyone that particular day, what if there had been actual people occupying the fairways and greens, would I not have caused them difficulty. Highly unlikely - as I mentioned earlier this was not my first rodeo, so to speak. On many previous occasions my destiny has crossed that of golfers. I am, believe it or not, a duffer of some quality myself, with a handicap easily below fifty. With my vast experience and expertise I am aware that golf is a game requiring an intense amount of concentration, not to mention mental focus and brain wave function of some sort. As a result, when I come upon a portion of the links inhabited by fellow hackers, I turn my wheels in a different direction. There are myriad spots to exit the course or move to a different portion.
Why not walk an alternate route? Give Pebble Creek a miss and avoid the hassle completely. I could and I have and it seems I will do so again in the future. When I have the time, I steer my car over towards Furman and use the many trails that dot the campus. The university is a decent drive from my house, however, and the recent rise in gas prices has made repeated trips there prohibitively expensive. Instead, I choose to stay in the vicinity of my residence. The majority of my sorties take me along the roads adjacent to my neighborhood. These streets include major thoroughfares such as Stallings and Rutherford. Travelling here adds not a small bit of risk to my journey, with speeding vehicles passing within feet of my fragile human anatomy. Blind curves on several sections do nothing to increase the safety rating of this area. One of my favorite authors during the foolish days of my youth, Stephen King, was nearly killed when he was hit by a van coming around a turn similar to several I encounter while traipsing along my way.
I suppose none of that really matters to some folks. I was on someone else's property, therefore I was not on the side of the angels. Perhaps I am on to something with the heavenly reference, though - would a higher power not be on my side in this matter? God, Allah, Zarathustra, Bob or whatever you want to call him or her gave us this Earth as our home. The idea of fencing off and dividing the land into pieces is a human invention, not a divine one. Are we not insulting our maker when we banish and punish people who are doing no harm? Just a thought, feel free to let it simmer in your skull.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Newest Olympians


Unless you have been residing under a rock for the last week or so, the Summer Olympics are well under way in Beijing, China. Soon enough the torch will be extinguished and the wait for the 2012 version will commence. Sadly though, the next go around will not feature the sports of softball and baseball - the players of these sports have been told that there is just not enough global interest in their tiresome, mind-numbingly tedious games to justify their continued presence on the world stage. Meanwhile, there are now a couple of open spots in need of filling in time for the next Olympics. Such a conundrum got me thinking. What could possibly be an exciting and globally relevant replacement? What could match other truly impressive athletic endeavors like trampoline jumping, synchronized banner twirling (probably called something else), ballroom dancing, or power-walking. In my mind there is only one choice (granted there are two open slots, but we will make the other one your goddamn problem) to be elevated to the Olympian heights - and that, of course, is beer pong.
Question my logic if you will, but I shall now bring an assortment of overwhelming evidence to the table that will leave you awestruck and doubting your sanity rather than mine for at least this single instance. First of all, beer pong has been catching on all over the country, as a recent two page article in "Time" magazine indicates. A preeminent periodical would not fill important space with such a frivolous topic without good reason. Just check out these recent covers if you doubt Time's commitment to serious journalism: 1) Lebron 2) Bode 3)Spielberg. Well, at least they take the Olympics and movies seriously.
Beer pong is not just an American phenomenon either. The movie "Beerfest" illustrates the international appeal of drinking related contests. In this cinematic masterpiece a group of Americans stumble into a secret tournament held by a great German brewing family. Our heroes come close, but are unable to defeat their hosts and vow to return the next year to redeem themselves. Although I shall not reveal the ending to those few sad saps who have failed to view the film, the athletic pursuits contained within its reels are unequaled (well maybe with the exception of "Kingpin"). The movie was an overwhelming success in theaters and on DVD because the games showed within are practiced by millions of young bingers around the world. I could see myself in many of the characters as they struggle to chug down the last of the boots filled with beer. The market for beer pong in the Olympics is clearly out there. In fact, a variety of new competitions could be derived from drinking pursuits. Perhaps a decathlon for alcoholics could be created. Total crap like synchronized swimming, or perhaps gymnastics could easily be replaced to make room for these much more worthy athletes.
Why is beer pong an endeavor worthy of Olympic glory? Read the rules here if you need to know a little more about the sport first. Okay, now that you have caught up with the rest of the world, you've probably already left to get involved in a game. If not, let's examine the arguments for including beer pong during London 2012. First off, throwing a small ball at several targets only a few feet away may seem to be a fairly simple task. I am sure that for those at the top level of competition, such a toss is not terribly difficult. I propose, therefore, that the contest should be of such length that the amount of beer consumed (even by teams doing well) should significantly curtail the abilities of the competitors. A best-of-25 format would probably suffice to stagger even the highest tolerances. Try shooting with vision so blurry that the five cups appear to have become twenty cups and your arm feels like jello (not the shitty kind with bananas in it) - now that is a worthy challenge. The saliva from your teammate's slurry attempt at instructions dripping from your eyeballs also helps to obscure the target further. Multiple days of competition could add difficulties brought on by massive hangovers and the crusty, bloodshot eyes of the terminal drunk. Some contestants might have to overcome the raunchy odor of their own puke-stained uniform to compete, not to mention the spiders and snakes crawling across their body as they arrive in the terminal stage of delirium tremens. If such imagery does not remind you of the Greek Gods, I don't know what could.
Before our country can hope to take home the gold medal in beer pong, a dream team of sorts would have to be put together. What kind of motley crew could be counted on to do the nation proud? I believe a competition that begins at the grass roots would be the best possible approach. Starting at the local level will allow us to unearth any hidden nuggets of beer pong greatness. For example, Upstate restaurants and universities could put their own teams together and show off their talents in a regional contest. Although most observers would favor a restaurant team or perhaps a group from Clemson, the Bob Jones Fighting Baptists would probably battle North Greenville College for the title. Severely repressed people are just better alcoholics - its a proven fact. The winners would move on to statewide, Southern Regional, and finally national tournaments. Everyone who has raised a glass of beer would have a chance to pursue their own Olympic dream. What is more American than that?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Go Cubs Go!


As most people who know me are aware, I am a rabid, drooling, somewhat irrational follower of the Chicago Cubs, the cursed baseball franchise that has driven the majority of its fan base to an early grave or merely drooling catatonia. Every once in a while, and an astounding portion of the time this year, the good guys manage to pull out a victory. When such an unlikely occurrence does take place inside the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, the win is quickly followed by a song, an insanely catchy ditty that goes by the title "Go Cubs Go." Here is a link where you can hear the tune if it is unfamiliar to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrlLmTh32KI

Musician Steve Goodman wrote the original lyrics, which are as follows:

Baseball's season's underway
Well you better get ready for a brand new day
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
Cubs are gonna win today
They're sayin

Go, Cubs, Go
Go, Cubs, Go
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
Cubs are gonna win today (repeat refrain)

They got the power, they got the speed
to be the best in the national league
well this is the year and the Cubs are real
so come on down to Wrigley field

We're singin now
Go, Cubs, Go
Go, Cubs, Go
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
Cubs are gonna win today (repeat refrain)

Baseball time is here again
you can catch it all on WGN
So stamp your feet and clap your hands
Chicago's got the greatest fans

You're singin now
Go, Cubs, Go
Go, Cubs, Go
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
Cubs are gonna win today (repeat refrain)

I feel strongly that, although the song is a good one, a preponderance of cheese does occasionally infiltrate the lyrics and drive down the level of quality here and there. I have, therefore, made my own humble attempt to rewrite the words in a way that is a little more intimidating for the foolish foes that dare oppose my beloved Cubbies. Here are the results:

Life is ceasing soon I say,
get your ass ready for a funeral today,
Hey, Chicago, what do you say,
Cubs are gonna massacre (opponent's name here) today
They're sayin

Kill, Cubs, kill
kill, Cubs, kill
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
Cubs are gonna maul (opponent's name here) today (repeat refrain)

Now comes the hour, now comes the need
to obliterate the entire National league
well here come the fear and the death is real
so come check out the body count yield

Crush, Cubs, crush
Crush, Cubs, crush
Hey, Chicago who do we flay
Cubs are gonna perform a vivisection on the decapitated corpse of (your team here) today (maybe don't repeat refrain) *Author's Note- vivisections can only be performed on the living but reality should not determine lyrical content

The end time is nigh again
wallow in the destruction
so smash heads and wipe blood from hands
mutilate the opposing fans

Die, Cards, die
Die, Cards, die
Hey, Chicago make the day red
with the gore of St. Louis dead (repeat refrain)

I hope that you enjoyed my much more pleasant rendition.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Second City



Chicago has long been considered second behind New York in the list of great American cities, a silver medal winner in the urban olympics. Is the runner up in the race for metropolitan mastery a worthy competitor or just another in a long line of loser towns dotting our nation? I recently traveled there myself to get a lay of the land and to investigate the bars and restaurants of the Windy City. Would I find a sizzling party town on par with any other, or is Chicago just a frozen icicle of boredom hanging from the sagging nipple of Lake Michigan? I brought my brother along for the ride, so that he could decipher my decision from amidst the incoherent rambling of my binge-induced blackouts (assuming he could avoid similar stumbling blocks).
Our arrival was timed carefully so that we would show up in the summer months, when the depression inducing frigidness of the Midwestern winter would not distract me from my appointed task. In addition, we slunk in under the cover of night in order to avoid the traffic that would have driven me into a panicked frenzy and left my weakened cranium unable to lucidly judge the quality of the town. When my friend Tim, with whom we were staying, returned from work early the next afternoon, we were ready to begin. Colin (my brother) thought we should check out the Navy Pier, but Tim thinks that place is an overrated in all facets except for sucktacularity (tourist trap). He suggested that we check out some of the Irish culture that is a feature of life in Chicago. The Irish had been integral in the construction of the city, and any visit would be incomplete without experiencing some of the landmarks of Irish culture that dot the area. Therefore, we headed straight to a bar.
The first destination, Corcoran's, was great, but it was merely a warm up bar, so I will move on to our second location, which was known as Fado. By the time we appeared there, our warm up beverages were starting to marinate nicely and we were ready to move on to the complete defilement stage of the binge. Several of Tim's Chicagoan friends joined us to provide local flavor and good conversation. All of the Chicagoans I talked to were lifetime natives, a fact that is definitely in the city's favor. On second thought, perhaps when winter comes around, and they want to leave, they find themselves frozen in place.
Fado was an authentic Irish bar, the Gaelic word for post office was written atop the bar to prove its inherent Irishness to any doubters. Since we were in an Irish bar the only beer for me to drink was Stella Artois (hey Belgium is in Europe which my geography teacher claimed is near Ireland). Actually I started with the aforementioned beverage and was planning to switch to something else later when a crazed female friend of Tim's informed me I would get too drunk if I persisted in imbibing Stella. Being stubborn, I decided then and there to drink nothing else that day. I possess a level of stubbornness that would make a mule jealous. I am so unyielding that once I have found my path I find running into walls preferable to going around them (actually that part may relate to my abject laziness).
Since this publication purports to be about restaurants I suppose I should speak for a moment about the food at Fado. Colin (my brother) and Tim enjoyed an Irish favorite known as the quesadilla (according to historians the Irish were the Mexicans of their day) while I actually did consume an Irish meal, something called steak boxty. This dish consists of something similar to Guinness stew (beef, potato, carrots, sauce) wrapped inside of a potato crepe. A mouth-watering meal it was too even if Tim's friend Steve, who told me seventy five separate times to get the Guinness wings instead, was a bit disappointed in my choice.
Shortly after supper we left for our final destination of the night, (bar wise at least, some claim that we had a midnight snack at a local diner later) a little place called Salukis. Salukis is owned and operated by graduates of Southern Illinois University, a school unfortunate enough to be burdened with the odd mascot that the bar is named after. According to my buddy, this bar happens to have the only pool table in downtown Chicago, so we took over the felt and reigned supreme there until the late hours, when we got kicked the hell out for some unspecified reason (I think it might have been because they were closing). After a delicious breakfast of omelet cheese runoff, we went to bed and prepared to face a day of debauchery at the epicenter for all that is liver-obliterating in Chicago - Wrigleyville.
Upon my birth, my father came up with an ingenious scheme to keep my humble and help me to understand suffering - he made me a Cubs fan. So I have remained to this day, over thirty years of pain later. Each season a new beginning, a hope for something great, ending in tragedy and failure, crashing upon the rocks of the National League. Not once have the Cubbies even seen what a World Series game would be like, but always we believe that next year is the time the drought will end.
Needless to say, the Northside Nine drive many thousands of their fans to drink, and nowhere is that fact more evident than in the bars and restaurants surrounding the field. We arrived in this area, known simply as Wrigleyville, early in the afternoon during the middle of the Cubs/Pirates game. We sat down in an establishment called The Houndstooth Saloon and settled in to watch the ballgame and have a few Old Styles, the semi-drinkable official beer of Wrigleyville. The Cubbies pulled out a 5-1 victory and the celebration was on, the whole area turning into one big party for the team and their legion of cursed fans.
The Houndstooth itself was a curious amalgamation of Alabama Crimson Tide (safe to assume the owner was a graduate) and Chicago Cubs regalia mixed with chandeliers constructed from antlers that would have seemed more at home in a hunting lodge. The signature beverage there was a forty oz. wrapped in a paper bag, the homeless guy special, I suppose. The crowd was equally odd and even more entertaining than the drinks and decor. After a couple hours of imbibing Old Styles and singing "Go Cubs Go" (I promise a future blog entry dealing with this awful and yet infernally catchy ditty) a game of speed quarters broke out at the table next to us. These fools had brought their own shot glasses into the bar in order to play that most magical of drinking games. Our kindred spirits found, we immediately jumped into the fray.
After one of the shot glasses was fatally wounded, we decided to move on towards the heart of our journey, Wrigley Field itself. Wrigley is more than just a baseball field, more than just another patch of grass surrounded by seats and screaming fans. Wrigley is a shrine to everything that is great about baseball - warm summer days, cold beer, beautiful women (so I'm told), hot dogs, lush ivy, cracker jacks, and an exciting win or devastating loss for the hometown Chicago Cubs. Blasphemous though it may be to some (and not just to rival Cardinals fans), stepping onto that field would be like a religious experience for me. Although some claim there are two teams in Chicago, only one of them can turn me into a twelve year old boy again, ready to scream in exultation or to bury my head in the ground in a fit of overwhelming sadness (unfortunately the latter has been the norm over the years). I grabbed my brother's shoulder tightly as we walked down Sheffield Avenue and gazed upon the white W hanging over the old hand-operated scoreboard, indicating the Cubs' victory that day. Who knows, I thought, as I wiped a single tear streaming down my face, perhaps this just might be the year we win it all. No more chants of wait til next year for the lovable losers. I would shed a lot more than one tear were that day ever to come.
After our haj to the corner of Waveland and Addison, we had one more important task to take care of before our departure the next day. Although Chicago cuisine boasts many world class chefs and myriad fine dining establishments, the real judge of a town is the kind of food the working classes eat. For the masses in the Windy City there is nothing more delightfully delicious than a deep dish pizza. Eating one of these pies is more like a mining operation than a meal. The crust is like the side walls of an edible quarry and inside lies the loot, a layered bottomless pit of cheese, meat, and sauce. The sauce lies on top, a thick layer of soil over top of the diamonds and emeralds that are the cheeses and meats beneath. When your excavation is complete, your stomach will be filled with a treasure trove of pizza goodness that would make King Solomon go green with envy.
Sunday morning came all too early, the time of our journey home at hand. The three of us headed upstairs to take one last look at what two of us would be leaving behind. Atop the forty-four story building in which Tim resides lies a breathtaking view - and not just of the glistening, oiled, half-naked bodies absorbing the sun aside the swimming pool that sits on the roof. The entire city of Chicago opened up before us, expansive Lake Michigan reflecting the sunshine as ant-like splotches of humanity crawled across the shore. Giant skyscrapers reached to grace the heights previously inhabited only by God before the coming of steel monstrosities like the Hancock Building and the Sears Tower, the occasional crane indicating that the skyline is not yet complete. A hugely impressive city indeed, but the equal of the city that never sleeps? Perhaps not, but one can hardly blame the residents of Chitown for taking a nap every once in a while. Even the hardiest bear would be smart enough to hibernate through the arctic blasts of the Windy City winter. As my brother and I found, waking up during the summer in Chicago is certainly worth the wait.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Moratorium


Apologies for not posting anything in the recent days, I have been out of town participating in the third annual Bele Chere whiffleball tourney in scenic Asheville, North Carolina. We finished 5th out of 12 teams, but did get to play in what was probably the most exciting game of the event, which sadly we lost 20-15 in extra innings despite coming from nine behind to tie the score earlier in the contest. The weather was typical of a Bele Chere Saturday, dreary and rainy early and sun-baked later on in the day. The liquid gold overflowed our gullets as usual and one of our teammates may have sustained fatal drinking injuries as a result. Get well Dan! Colin wants to take another stab at finishing off the last sliver of your liver down in Edisto.
In news relating to the future, I will be traveling to the great city of Chicago with my brother this weekend to see my friend Tim and hopefully we will be able to take in a Cubs game. A visit to the Navy Pier is also in order. I shall return on Monday the 4th and my twisted blabbering will resume shortly thereafter. Perhaps I shall speak further of this Chicago place. Please forgive my prolonged writing absence as I have just turned 33 and I plan to see the world quickly before the creeping death of middle age comes up and bites me into senior citizen submission.