Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dear Record Stores

Even as I write this, the idea of a record store almost seems quaint.  It feels like a throw away joke from Back to the Future II, where someone would razz Marty for asking about them when he is in the "future".  Of course, the future in that movie is 2015, so that makes my point for me.  The only iteration I can even think of in modern day terms is the FYE stores, where CD's have slowly been pushed to the side by DVD's, which are being pushed back by BluRay, which are being bought by elitist tools.  Just thinking about pining away for them puts me into some circle of Dante's hipster hell, but nostalgia forces my hand on the matter, and I must write.

Maybe things are different in big cities. In a small town like where I live, the options were limited even back them.  Now, it's nonexistent.  I went to The Sound Garden in Fells Point with my cousin a year or so ago, and it was everything I remember a record store could be.  Cramped, cluttered nonsense, and the walls littered with bands tees and old concert playbills.  The last time I was in a store like that? 2001 in Philadelphia.  A dilapidated Tower records on South street, where I bought the Bouncing Souls Hopeless Romantic on vinyl, and my friend Ben introduced me to the Cometbus zine, which blew my mind for a period of time before I realized that punks can be lazy, jobless hippies too. Before that it was all the dank beachside stores like Chat Street in Ocean City all through high school, and before that was an incense laden Greatful Dead fest of a record shop in Myrtle Beach where I got Sponge and Meat Puppets t-shirts back in 1996.

Don't get me wrong though, it was never just about the indie shops.  I practically lived in the Sam Goody and Waxie Maxie through middle school and high school.  The latter in particular had a special "punk compilation" section where I could buy $5 cd's with twenty or thirty bands on them, and I could try to be cool by finding a band that my friends didn't know.  In fact, the whole reason you went to the record store was in some vain attempt to look cool and be accepted.  Remember the listening stations?
This was the in-store equivalent of sitting at a stoplight in your car with the windows down and the music blasting.  The only difference was that you had on headphones, and had to hold the cd while you made a scene of dancing to the music or lip-syncing along, all the while pretending that you weren't trying to get attention.  You were at the store to be seen buying whatever "cool" cd it was at that time. 

It just seems odd to find ourselves in a place where this has become obsolete.  We now sit in our rooms by ourselves, buying music off of some server.  I could write something about how we are isolating ourselves, or have found ourselves tearing down the places we previously used to communicate and interact with each other, but that would be a bit much.  That would be trying to use my sociology degree for something other than a thing to cover up where I put a hole in the wall with my head after a "disagreement" with a power cord.  If I really want to get maudlin, I could drop some knowledge like "you can't go home again" or something perhaps more fitting.  In the end, though, if these stores were still around, I wouldn't go in them.  They aren't a place for the person I am now.  They were a big part of my life then, but I outgrew them while the simultaneously blinked out of existence.  If they were still around, I would hate every person in there, I would hate that they don't carry the music I like, and I would hate that I changed but they didn't change with me.

Mostly, though, I would just hate that every one of those shops had to smell like Nag Champa and a false sense of superiority.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dear Carmine's Pizzeria

I have worn glasses for the past eight years.  I should have been wearing them for the past eleven, but apparently an overweight college kid whose only "good" shirt is a throwback Phillies customized jersey has some problems with vanity when it comes to eye wear.  I get tired of constantly having to clean my glasses, or take them off when walking in the rain, or not being able to see much when I exercise.  Therefore, I decided to try contacts two years ago.  Whatever novelty I had from being able to see without glasses was kicked in the head after the second or third time I was late to work because I couldn't get the lenses to stay in.  I also had a problem with the contacts trying to burrow their way into the back of my eye sockets like naughty little gophers that just wanted to hide.  I still have the majority of that first order of contact lenses in my drawer, woefully out of prescription and date. So, when I found out that it had become remarkably more affordable to get LASIK eye surgery, I signed up for a free visit to see if I was a candidate.

Of course, the closest place to get checked out was over an hour away, so I was up nice and early to make my appointment and I was reservedly excited.  The bad signs started fairly soon.  Due to some trickster demon making the office building move around, I was almost late to my appointment.  I signed in, filled out my forms, and got through the first half hour of tests with no problems.  My murse Brad, who I had foolishly started to trust at this point, then told me he would have to numb my eyeballs, and asked if I had any history of fainting.  I explained I had only fainted once, while giving blood because I hate needles and cry when I see them while in a cage match against five bears, only after having used one bear's body to bludgeon another.  He put the drops in, and then poked my eyeballs with a machine, explaining that this was usually where people get squeamish.  No such problem from me, but over the next minute or so, my eyeballs got very heavy, and this is not a good thing.  When your eyes get heavy, apparently the rest of your head gets much lighter, which I started to explain to Murse Brad before passing out.

I remember dreaming I was underwater.  I can't swim, so this was not a happy circumstance for me.  I started screaming, but no one could hear me under the water.

At this point, I woke up, screaming in awake-world.  Murse Brad, in the minute I was unconscious, did the honorable thing and got a doctor instead of helping himself to a big old pile of molesting an unconscious Greg.  So, when I woke, there was Brad, a doctor, and two cute lady nurses.  Before I could turn up the charm, my body went into its second wave of attack, which was making me sweat so hard that I soaked through my clothes in three minutes.  The doctor, trying not to drown in my perspiration, explained to me that I went into a small seizure as I woke up, and that the sweat was probably due to a large amount of adrenaline my brain was letting loose upon my tortured body.  He told me that an ambulance had been called, and that I had to wait to talk to the EMT's.  As a rebuttal, I threw up in his wastebasket.

Greg-1, Doctor-0.

The EMT's arrived, checked my signs, and said that I could go.   They only advised me to get something to eat to counteract the nausea and sent me out into the world, pupils dilated and clothes soaked.  I knew I couldn't go to get food dressed as I was, so I walked a block to the nearest shopping center.  This was not just any shopping center though.  No, I had been here before.  If I was to procure new clothes, I would have to do so at the Burlington Coat Factory.  I wandered in and headed for the Big and Tall section, but it became clear that my eyes would not be able to read any of the tags.  I went to a rack I thought held clothes of the correct size, felt around for some fabric I liked in a color that wasn't too bad, and pulled out a shirt.  Then, I turned to a man that was shopping at the next row over, held up the shirt, and asked him what size it was.  In retrospect, I feel sorry for this man.  All he wanted was some discount clothing.  What he got was a large, drenched man with giant pupils asking him what size a shirt is that he pulled from a clearly marked rack.  To his credit, he leaned in hesitantly, and confirmed it was the correct size.  I thanked him, and bid him a fine day.

Getting to the register, I realized I had no idea how much the shirt cost, having not further quizzed my friend the good Samaritan.  The cashier was less enthusiastic to help me.  "It's on the tag." she told me, indifferent to the ordeal I had weathered.  When I told her I couldn't read it, she was even less thrilled, and was done with me when she told me it was $8 and I then asked what brand it was.  I cut my losses, paid, and changed my shirt at the car.  Now, properly attired, and looking less like drowned bear, I was able to procure some pizza from your fine pizzeria.

This brings me to the purpose for this letter.  On previous occasions, your establishment had crushed ice in the drinks.  This is by far my favorite type of it.  This time, you had ungainly cubes.  Please remedy this immediately, because it ruined what was an otherwise fine meal. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dear Jelly Belly

1976- A year marked for Americans by a giddy love for their country in the spirit of the bicentennial.  A young Sylvester Stallone captured our imaginations with the first Rocky movie, and Elton John and Kiki Taylor raced to the top of the Billboard charts with "Don't Go Breaking My Heart".  However, not all was good, decent, and patriotic.  While we barbequed, drank, and shot each other with Roman candles to the end of disco era, an evil festered, ready to bludgeon the baby seal that was our collective happiness.  That malicious goo of dread and misery was you, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. 

You are not buttered popcorn.  You are not a delicious juicy pear, a tart green apple, or the most delicious of all soft drinks, the Cream Soda.  You are an imposter, a mimic, and a charlatan.  You are what happens when science goes awry and laughs in the face of all that we know and love.  Fun fact given by your company website: it takes seven to twenty one days to make one Jelly Belly Jelly Bean.  I guess that is how long each spore gestates before bursting from its host's stomach to fill the world with false hopes of honey buns and root beer.

What sort of crossroads deal did you have to make to steal the very essence and flavor of these things that we love, and put them in your sugary tempting death beans?  Did you bury a picture of popcorn, some graveyard dirt, and the backbone of a black cat and wait for some demon to show up and strike a deal?  Maybe Jeffrey Alan Jelly Belly, Sr. has that much juice with the devil that he just had to snap his fingers for the Lord of the Flies to appear.  I don't care what sort of hoodouin, mugumbo, juju, or voodoo you have gotten into, because none of it is justified by you making your beans taste just like a cherry.  Is your eternal jelly bean soul a worthy price for this sorcery?

I will stand strong.  No longer will I eat bags upon bags of your confectionery conglutinates, encased in a candy coated crust of lies and sugar.  I will return to my mistress that is Sour Patch Kids, which reliably taste only of green, yellow and red, and are dusted with the tart and tingly taste of sweet wholesome freedom.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dear People With Ringback Tones

Let's just get this out of the way: you did not put a ringback tone on your phone for any reason other than to show off.  Unless you call your own phone frequently, you just want people to think that you are cool, or smart, or whatever the song you chose to play instead of a ringing line is supposed to say about you. 

Chances are, I don't like your music. I don't need to hear it when I call you, just like I don't need to hear it blasting out of your car window at a stoplight.  I like music that I like, and if I want to hear that, I will listen to it on my Ipod.  The only thing I am looking for when I call someone is for them to answer, tell me what I need to know, and then hang up.  I don't need to hear Big and Rich telling me not to have sex with a horse, but to have sex with a redneck woman instead.  That is something they have taught in Maryland schools for the last twenty years, so I already have heard it.

My favorite is when I have someone apply to work for me, and I have to give them a call regarding their application.  One time, I dial the number, and I get the old familiar "Please enjoy this ringback tone while your party is being reached".  Lo and behold, Afroman's "Because I Got High" invaded my ear holes like an unwanted brain chigger.  This was at least six years after the song came out, and roughly five years, eleven months, and two weeks after it was funny to play the song for others.  I actually tried to sit back and follow what the thought process had to be for this person.

1.  Hey, I remember that novelty song from several years ago that was all about smoking weed and ruining my life.
2.  I think that song means enough to me that I must possess it.
3.  In fact, I need everyone to know that this song epitomizes who I am, and what I am about.  If only I had an efficient means to disburse this knowledge to all that interact with me on a regular basis.
4.  Spongebob is on.  That Squidward is such a jerk. 
5.  I know!  RINGBACK TONES!
6.  I have given these prospective employees my number.  Good thing this song will let them know that I love weed and I don't care who knows it.

Needless to say, this person did not pass the background check we ran.  Perhaps it was a cry for help, or maybe she had simply smoked herself into idiocy.  Maybe, just maybe, she was just trying to save my company the $40 on the background check only to find that she had been arrested for biting a woman during a fight at the Green Turtle.