In September of 2004, You Learned:
HOW TO MAKE DAVE EGGERS ADOPT YOU.
[apologies in advance for the deep brain fog under which this will be written. i slept for approximately 3 hours last night, on and off, and under great self-induced illness and duress. i woke up this morning and all my teeth were reduced to a fine, white powder from unconscious grinding and gripping. jealous much? i am, lately.]
It was nice to see and hear The Decemberists play a musical concert last night. I truly enjoy bands that play well together and, even though with each successive viewing of the band live it's grown ever so slightly more and more into the Colin Meloy & Superpals show, The Decemberists still are, inarguably, a cooperative band. It makes a difference.
[I had intended to comment on the opening act, and a once-personal favorite of mine, Lou Barlow, but to do so would just make me feel very sad. Suffice it to say success does not necessarily breed confidence. Also, his closer was a song about his cats and was perhaps the only instance of genuine happiness I saw in his entire set. Fuck. OK, I guess I just *did* comment on the opening act.]
It's strange to see The Decemberists play in a rock venue. They seem more suited to perform in an Amish barn or a straw-littered square or inside the dusty parchment pages of a book, where each song is a woodcut plate. They're a special kind of precious. What other band could introduce songs like this:
- "This is a song about a French Legionnaire"
- "This is a song about a Turkish prostitute"
- "This is a song about a YMCA youth soccer league in Montana"
- "This is a song about a chimney sweep"
and still receive the same raucous, anticipatory ovation another band might get for saying, "This is a song about an all-night titty party?"
It was actually refreshing to hear one (possibly drunk) guy in the audience admonishing the band's leader throughout the concert. When Colin began mumbling through his B-game of between-song banter, the guy yelled out, "Less talk, more rock!" When Colin knowingly stated he was about to play an acoustic cover of a Big Star song, the guy yelled out, "FUCK YOU!" The heckler seemed almost self-aware, like he was taking it upon himself to punch a little hole in the bubble of preciousness in which we all volunteered to enter when we purchased our tickets. It didn't ruin the experience at all – the heckler's words were carefully chosen – but it did make us see that once-pristine bubble with a dull little patch on it to repair the puncture, reminding us it's OK to blink and exhale every now and again.
The first time I saw The Decemberists live, I had a reaction to them that was very much outside of myself. I thought, "You know, I'll bet Dave Eggers would like this band." I had the same reaction the first time I heard Joanna Newsom, and it wasn't far off. (Eggers later professsed his affection for her in his Spin column, and Newsom has been the interview subject of Eggers' magazine, The Believer.) I can't quite explain that instinct, except to say that Dave Eggers (whose writing I enjoy, incidentally, and whose efforts at making people think reading is fun and preferable to, say, burning down schools I truly commend) seems to cultivate preciousness. Lyrical references to Charles Dickens, dromedaries, gingham, trapeze artists, parapets and coronets? Check. Out of place and time musical sound produced through the employment of old fashioned-y instruments, like harps, stand-up bass violins, and accordians? Check. Fresh-faced and well-scrubbed, with the exception of a little hair muss and a skinned knee? Absolutely. These seem to raise flags in the asthetic conscience of Dave Eggers.
I have this fantasy where I imagine Dave Eggers "discovering" a new talent to include in his anti-ironic Justice League. For instance, with Joanna Newsom, I pictured Dave finding her playing her harp barefoot, or in jewel-encrusted, silk slippers of an Asian style. Behind her, a man is making barrels by hand. A peanut brittle vendor drifts through the small crowd of mill workers, seated uncomfortably on long benches of graying, warped pine. Suddenly, the stable door (yes, they're in a dusty stable, with shafts of sunlight casting the characters in a kind of warm half-light) slides open and Eggers steps inside. He looks like he's stepped out of a time machine, where the present is a distant dream, because he's wearing Patagonia pants and a no-logo t-shirt.
Dave extends his hand and Joanna knowingly advances. As she passes through the stable door, Dave makes eye contact with the cooper, who is also encouraged to join him. All three of them step aboard Dave's skiff, and sail off to the McSweeney's offices, where Joanna, the cooper, and all of Dave's other discoveries will live forever, sleeping in giant nests made of birch wood, strips of linen, colored raw silk, and the torn pages of manual written on the subject of tying seaworthy knots, published in 1832. (Neal Pollack is the only exception; he sleeps in a doghouse, outside the McSweeney's complex.)
I think this account is probably only about 68% accurate.
HOW TO QUIT SMOKING.
At one time in his life, my grandfather chain-smoked upwards of three packs of cigarettes a day. Camels unfiltered. Serious cowboy stuff. In fact, we used to call him "Smokey" – not because of his nicotine addiction, but because my grandfather was covered in thick, brown fur, like a bear. Also, he was a forest ranger.
Everyone encouraged him to quit, particularly my grandmother. (We called her Stella, because that was her name.) She would say, "Smokey, you gotta stop this. You're gonna get cancer and I don't want to bury you. Please, I love you, now quit these nasty things."
We all echoed this sentiment, warning my grandfather about cancer. So eventually, out of respect to his family and, hopefully, to himself, he made up his mind to quit cigarettes. Then, when people would ask Smokey if he had a spare cigarette, he'd say, "No, sir, I do not. But I do have a hug." My grandfather believed this was good karma.
That's what made it so much more terrible and ironic when, five years later, my grandfather died of hug cancer. He's buried in Albany, and his gravestone reads, "Here Lies Huggy Bear" – not because of his habit of giving out hugs, or his thick fur, but because my grandfather was a pimp and a police informant.
HOW TO HANG WITH THE HARD-WORKING PEOPLE.
I'm sitting in my coffee shop of choice, along with a dozen or so other cyborgs. We're all tapping away on our laptops (mac to pc ratio a demographic research boner-inducing 2:1), drinking $2-$4 cups of fair trade coffee concoctions. (i'm having a thai iced coffee that is so delicious i can't believe it doesn't have breasts) The stereo, driven by an iBook running iTunes, is playing The Rolling Stones' "Salt of the Earth." Nothing could be funnier to me.*
*Oh wait. A fat bakery deliveryman just slipped on a mess of marbles, fell on his behind, and then the banana cream pie he was delivering landed on his face. Now there's a bulldog in a tutu licking the cream off the fat guy's face. So I guess, in regards to that "nothing could be funnier" comment, I stand corrected.**
**The dog just farted on a baby. Greatest day of my life.
HOW TO LOSE TRACK OF GOOD TIMES AS YOU KEEP TRACK OF BAD TIMES.
"What kind of jackass launches a beach ball in a Franz Ferdinand crowd?"
When the first beach ball took flight over the thousands of fans (and malingerers) gathered to see FF at the Austin City Limits Music Festival last weekend, I was both surprised and disappointed. Jimmy Buffet seems like a good beach ball concert. So does Jimmy Cliff. Or Jimmy Swim and the Beach Ball Bunch. But not Franz Ferdinand, a group of Scotsman so thin and wan they look like dimly charged fluorescent tubes flickering onstage. But the first rule of Festival Concerts is this: once a crowd exceeds 70,000 people, EVERY show becomes a Jimmy Buffet show. This means you're going to have to live with beach balls and beer cozies. And you're going to have to live with shirtless dudes in bucket caps and pookah necklaces, doing that weird, dodge-dodge jackrabbit dance they teach you at Phish Concert Orientation Weekend.
So there it bounced, through "Auf Acshe" and "Jacqueline," making its way from the tight swell of under-twenties crowding hard against the stage, and back to the less dense throngs of (older) people more prone to heatstroke in the park's shadeless 95 degree weather. As the beach ball floated within 20 feet of me, I began to strip away my own initial reaction to its presence and see only the subtext of my complaint, which was, "Oh dear God please do not hit that fucking beach ball to me."
While I'm perfectly capable of gently tapping a beach ball into the air – I've a Masters Degree to prove it – my performance anxiety mounts in direct proportion to the number of witnesses for the event. (see "How to Make Mistakes in Public" for a further discussion on this matter.) I was sure the beach ball would at some point reach a bouncing frenzy and the shirtless masses would begin counting out its consecutive bounces like they were God's miracles – "67...68...69 ("tee hee!")...70" – and, which each successive bounce the crowd's pitch would grow wilder and wilder, until only dogs would be able to count along. Soon, the beach ball would reach me and, with sweat cascading off every ridge of my body and dual cool rivulets of perspiration sneaking through the hair on my legs, on their way to the lips of my sneakers, I would raise a hand to swat the ball and one of the following things would happen:
- I would swing and miss the ball completely, letting it fall to the ground.
- I would swing, miss, and snag a fingernail across the cornea of the most beautiful girl at the concert, blinding her instantly and turning her into a misshapen monster. She would find herself unable to cope with a leading a life this way, no longer capable of using her tremendous beauty as a crutch for social anxiety. She would later throw herself into Austin's lake and then Jack Johnson would write a song about her.
- I would swing, make contact, and the ball would instantly burst in mid-air, its pieces floating down like butterfly wings, and everyone would go home disappointed, knowing that if it weren't for me, we could have made it to at least 200 bounces before Franz Ferdinand's encore.
- I would swing, make contact, and send the ball on its way. However, right after my swing, someone in the crowd would yell out, "Nice hit, queerbait," and all 80,000 people at the Austin City Limits Music Festival would laugh, including the drummer from Franz Ferdinand. (this would fuck up the tempo during "Michael" for just a second, which would cause someone to punch me in the face for "fucking up my bootleg, dick."]
It was because of this concern that I cannot tell you a single song FF played during the second half of their set, as I spent the entire time watching the beach ball, worrying, practicing a swing in my head, and cursing those jackasses who set it loose at a Franz Ferdinand concert.
HOW TO EXTRACT PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS.
ADULT ENTERTAINMENT VIDEOS REVIEWED AND REJECTED FOR PATIENT ASSISTANCE AT THE NEW YORK CITY ADVANCED FERTILITY SERVICES CLINIC
- No Entry [grounds for rejection: "no entry"]
- Exploding Penis Terror Gang-Bang
- Limp Dicked Faggots, Vol. 3
- Dr. Dirtdick Fucks Your Mom in 3-D [grounds for rejection: "3-D glasses easy to lose, difficult to clean"]
- Cumshot Holocaust
- Pee Freaks 12, Volume 3: Yellow Fever [grounds for rejection: "niche"]
- The Brown Bunny [grounds for rejection: "ponderous"]
- Super Sex Fuckers in Love [grounds for rejection: "too romantic"]
- The Dirty Doms Force You to Drink Your Own Cum, Vol. 2 [grounds for rejection: "failure to produce working samples"]
- Pushin' it to the Limit: Bangkok Holiday [grounds for rejection: "content pushes well beyond anticipated limit"]
- Two Tons of Titmeat [grounds for rejection: "excessive titmeat"]
- Itty, Bitty Tiny Titties [grounds for rejection: "inadequate titmeat"]
- 9 1/2 Teats [grounds for rejection: "1/2 breast too many/too few"]
- Fertility Clinic Spy Cameras XXX
- The Amazing Gay Panda Adventure
- Burn Victim Orgasm Faces Mega-Collection
- Hell is for Masturbators
- Lukewarm Anal Action
- Poisoned Pissholes
- Dr. Dirtdick Fucks You While Your Mom Watches and Shakes Her Head Disapprovingly: Filmed in XXX Mirror Holo-Vision
- Semen-Sniffing Nurses
- Semen-Sniffing Lab Technicians
- Semen-Sniffing Medical Couriers
- Semen-Sniffing Freaks Who Purchase Blackmarket Semen from Medical Couriers Expressly for the Purposes of Sniffing, and Then Encourage Said Couriers to Replace the Missing Specimens with Regular Ivory SoftSoap to Cover Routine Random Inventory Checks
- Peter Boyle Scat Party [grounds for rejection: "uconscionable"]
HOW TO SWEEP ANY SMALL CRUMBS OF SEX APPEAL OUT THE DOOR.
I like video games. Not all video games – I don't like the kind that require any time spent talking to elves or purchasing seeds. I like the twitchy kind of video games about which priests and 4-H counselors have warned children and parents over three generations. The kind that are supposed to give you epilepsy or night blindness or AIDS or whatever, and ruin reception on your color television. (I still have a recurring nightmare in which I'm made to re-experience the moment when, after spending the grand sum of my Bar-Mitzvah money on a new Atari 5200 and a handful of games, my parents discovered it could only operate when hooked up to a color television and therefore forced me to return it as "we read somewhere that these things make your color TVs explode." I ended up squandering that money on a Members Only jacket, some Tom McAnn jazz shoes, and several dozen boxes of Nerds. I was a man, after all.)
I never grew out of video games, really, though I rarely talk about my love of them publicly. There's a reason I keep this enthusiasm out of the ears of most friends. You see, I enjoy having sex with women. And, in my entire life, I have met a total of three, perhaps four women, who considered sex a viable post-Burger Time activity. And at least one of those women was faking it when she let me beat her at Tekken Tag-Team Tournament. So, for now and probably forever video games will remain my nerdy trump card and super-duper-unsexy secret. When women see the Playstation 2 tucked between my television and stereo and ask what it is, I usually just tell them it's a machine I bought to polish my scrotum. Crisis averted!
But even my ugly secret has a secret within it: I SUCK at video games. I'm horrible. In fact, once video games graduated past three buttons and a four-way pad, I was tragically left behind and have still never caught up. In my adult life I've finished only a handful of video games I started. Mike Tyson Punchout? No problem. That game, and my easy mastery of it, made me a hero in college. They even called me "MONSIEUR FAGGOT," which I'm pretty sure was the name of one of the better fighters in that game. Can't remember, really. That was a long time ago. Since then, nothing. I have gotten to the final level in several games, but gave up to write or drink or beg girls to French me. Don't have it in me, I guess, but that doesn't stop me from trying.
There have been many occasions when a (male) friend was at my house and, after freshly picking up one of my video games for about three minutes, handily whipped my ass. I think there's an unspoken etiquette that frowns upon beating a man at his own video game in his own home, but I've had to exempt people from it for obvious reasons. I don't resent them; I envy them.
Lately, I've had a pretty tentative relationship with video games. I usually stay far away from anything that would seem to require my attention for more than 30 minutes at a time. (This is a rule I reserve for television, too, with only a couple historical exceptions.) And I haven't touched my Playstation in several months. However, I can feel myself slipping in other areas of my life (please refer to the Rodney Dangerfield joke that has been up on tremble since tuesday) and have been thinking, "I can't think of a better way to celebrate bottoming-out my self-esteem than in a dark room, beneath a pile of SNICKERS wrappers, with a game pad sugar-stuck to my palms." I guess what I'm trying to say is, "I'll see you this weekend, Burnout 3: Takedown."
HOW TO WRITE THE GREATEST RODNEY DANGERFIELD JOKE EVER.
"I tell ya, I stay away from Oriental food nowadays. The last time I ate Thai food, it was a buffet at a Bangkok strip club. I don't know what they put in that stuff, but I spent the night in the bathroom, shooting ping pong balls out of my ass. The bathroom attendant gave me a dollar. I told him to go Phuk himself. No respect whatsoever."
[long weekend. apologies.]
HOW TO PRODUCE SHOCK AND AWE.
I've said it before – I'm not a very politically active person. Sure, I wear my "Lick Bush" muscle t-shirt with pride, but I've been wearing that thing since 1992.
However, I cannot help but feel outraged and deeply concerned this election as I see the sort of dire state of a country I actually, with no shame or embarrassment, love very much. I have sat through to the lies, the impossible promises, and the reprehensible fear tactics of this administration for so long and now, as we get closer and closer to November, this is the first time I can ever say, without any creep of cynicism in my voice, that this election really matters. Oh my God does it matter. In that sense, Bruce Springsteen and I have a lot in common. (See how I did that?? I cannot grow up.)
I haven't used this site to discuss anything of a political nature because A) I don't think my opinion is the most informed one (I wish Janeane Garofalo were as generous in this regard), and B) Really, how many Republican conservatives are reading this site? Really. Besides a few folks who've found tremble through links I can't (and don't wish to) control, I think most of the people who read this site are on my side, if not personally then at least politically. So I think using this site as a forum for my political views would be like calling myself just to hear the sound of my own voice. Which doesn't sound like such a bad idea.
My point is, my opinion would not be surprising or enlightening. Today, however, I was fortunate enough to have a friend forward me an opinion that was both of those things. It wasn't on Slate.com or KillthePresident.com. In fact, I can't believe I'm about to link to this without the addition of swear words.
I have never said it before and will likely never say this again but for today, I really appreciate the opinion of New Republic Editor, Andrew Sullivan.
HOW TO BREAK ALL THE RULES.
Today, I was trying to find evidence that I used to be funny, so I began paging through my Notebook of Genius™. For those unfamiliar with Notebooks of Genius, they're pocket-sized writing pads, usually of this variety, used by writers and comics and incredibly swift thinkers to record their thoughts and insure that other people in public spaces – people without a Notebook of Genius – are made to feel palpably aware of the difference between us (GENIUSES) and themselves. (SHEEP) It's pretty simple, when you think about it.
I keep a Notebook of Genius. I used to write original ideas in it; now I basically just write out my set list before doing a stand-up show, which means my NoG is filled with page after page of bulleted lists that look sort of like this:
- Gay people - why so gay?
- Pineapples & Artichokes/God hates us
While flipping through my set lists and growing more and more ashamed of myself with each page – "Erosion Pornography"??? What's wrong with me? – I found this list I most likely scrawled out on the subway, while feeling very sick very early in the morning. The list is titled "NEW RULES" and those rules are as follows:
- Meat only 3x / week
- Less sugar
- No more caffeine
- Nothing fried, as often as possible
- Dinner prepared at home 2-3 times / week
(There was also a notation I wrote in the margin of list. It reads, "This is how crazy people talk!" with an arrow pointing to the list. Beneath that notation I added, parenthetically and inexplicably, the words, "NO DOUBT, PONCHO.")
Judging by the surrounding content in my NoG, I think I created that list sometime last June. And how are my new rules holding up? Well, here's what I ate today, in order:
- Medium (grande!) iced soy latte with two sugars
- A handful of grapes and an orange slice
- Tuna salad sandwich
- M&M cookie
- Caramel popcorn
- Caramel popcorn dipped in chocolate
- Sugar-glazed popcorn
- chewing gum
However! I cooked myself dinner last night, for the first time in several months. I made grilled Oreos.