Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dear Custom License Plate Buyer

Driving is one of my least favorite things in the world.  Take all of the worst attributes of any given person, and those flaws will have a spotlight shone on them when they are driving.  People are rarely as self centered and idiotic as when they are commanding the wheel of thousands of pounds of metal and cheap upholstery.  I've spoken my peace about bumper stickers in the past, but a recent trip on the Washington Beltway proved that I had not gone far enough.  Those stickers only cost a few bucks.  The true egotists are those that pay much more money to have six to eight letters encompass their whole being as a vanity license plate.

It became clear to me that these were the endtimes as I got struck behind a Mercedes doing 50 in a 65 on one of the most aggressive and dangerous roads in the Mid Atlantic.  As cars streamed along 25 miles per hour faster than us on either side, I had no choice but to follow close on his tail and witness his "BuyAYot" license plate.  I can only assume you mean a luxury sea faring vessel, and you aren't telling me to invest in a yellow/orange tabby, a Yugoslavian orangutan trainer, or a young oriental toddler.  No, you rich prick, in your car that costs more than I ever make in a year, you are telling me that in addition to your lame excuse for a penis extension you also own a boat that costs more than I will make in a decade.  Well, guess what, seaman?  You're on dry cot-damned land, and you're in my world now, Jack.  Move your overpriced womb out of my lane.

Later down the road, I ran into possibly the only functioning 1993 Toyota Tercel left in existence. It was a pleasant mix of Robin's egg blue and hellfire rust, and seemed to run on the souls of both Milli and Vanilli, judging from the cloud of death following it.  Through the exhaust, I was able to make out its plate "DaCoach".  Here's a list of things you can be the coach of and still ride around in the 90's version of a teenager's first car.

1) Any tee-ball team, anywhere, but that has to be your only paying job.
2) The owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, if he refused to buy a car after Barry Bonds left the team.
3) Someone who does performance art pretending to be a Coach brand handbag on subway cars or in Subway restaurants. 

Seriously, I think the license plate was worth more than the car.  It looked like it was being held together with a mixture of Elmer's Glue and unmitigated spite for the world.  An ape at the zoo could have angry sex with a dumpster and that dumpster would end up in better shape, and cleaner I might add, than that Tercel, yet this person felt the need to jazz it up with a little personal flair.  There is such a phrase as "lipstick on a pig" for a reason.

I will make one concession on this, before my esteemed colleague Karl Spackler hunts for the only available  WIFI signal in the holler he lives in to send me hate mail.  Motorcycles get a pass on the custom plates, because they are for fun.  Car drivers that have them are not having fun.  They want people to think they are having fun, because they spend most nights crying as Jay Leno lets them know that the darkness is so very close. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dear Guy at the Gangstagrass Show

Concerts started to get tiring for me in high school after I hit a growth spurt.  I hated having to stand on the periphery, or along the walls of the club, but if I stood in the open, I would sooner or later be kicked in the head by a crowdsurfer.  That, I have since found, was only true when I was a lowly small sized gigantor, topping out under 6'4".  Now, with my superior full sized gigantor height, I have become a force of physics, or some science involving shapes.  I have created the Cone of Greg.

The Cone of Greg occurs at any show now when I stand anywhere towards the middle of the floor where I might actually get a good look at the band.  Since the average size of a normal person is roughly a foot shorter than me, the same problem that used to lead to me getting brain-kicked now allows me a completely unobstructed view of the stage.  Observe a scientific table made by scholars:

That beautiful red triangle is the completely empty space behind me at any given show.  People have simply decided not to fight it, and they go to either side of me, leaving a triangular shape about ten feet behind me, moving to the point where they can again see over my head.  I have parted the sea of jerks.  I don't get elbowed, crowded, sweat on, spit on, or licked unless I ask.  It is glorious.  And, I can see where this is going, but I never stand any closer than less that halfway between the back wall and the stage, so I am not purposefully blocking people.  I just feel I should get to stand somewhere near the stage too.  Every once in awhile, though, some poor soul flies into the restricted airspace of the Cone of Greg, beyond all logic and decency.  This is one of those stories.

I recently caught Gangstagrass on the first date on their new tour.  I missed the first opening band due to a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant, and cigars in front of the venue.  When my friends and I got inside, the very talented The Walkaways were just starting.  Roughly fifty people were scattered around the spacious room, while another sixty to seventy were content to stay in the outer room, sitting around the bar drinking imported beer and comparing ironic t-shirts.  These people were dead to me from the word go, and my compatriots and I enjoyed the elbow room while we watched a solid band play a solid set.  All good things end, however, and when Gangstagrass took the stage, hundreds of people crammed into the room and pushed for the front.  I didn't give an inch, and reliably, the Cone of Greg formed by the end of the first song.

The set was going amazingly well, even though they hadn't played their awesome cover of the spiritual "O, Death", or their big hit, the theme song to the show Justified.  A group of drunken idiots to our left caused some issues as they tried to hit on the only woman in the group, but otherwise, the crowd wasn't bad.  I got cocky, and though that I was going to have a issue free evening.  The gods laughed, and as the band got ready for a new song, a Pabst scented wind drifted over my shoulder, and the words "PLAY FREEBIRD!" were shrieked into my ear.

I turned to find a man a few inches shorter than me, holding a cheap beer and wearing chef pants and a hat with the brim pushed up like a neck bearded, white Spike Lee.  He thought the Cone of Greg was custom built for him, since he was tall enough to peer over my shoulder.  He stayed roughly six inches behind me, and again bellowed his command at top volume into my ear, then stumbled away.

Are we seriously still doing this?  I understand, yes, Gangstagrass plays some down home music, much like Skynyrd did.  However, no one has ever found this funny.  There is a group, formed by the lead singer of The Decembrists, called Musicians Against the Calling Out of “Freebird”.  It has become that bad.  Why don't you people just sit at home on Facebook and wait for someone to screw up so you can tell them that they are drunk and should go home?  How about we start yelling "WHAZZZUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP?" again?  Let's have dogs lay with cats and let's just let society implode upon itself, because maybe things have finally gotten so bad that they will never get better again.

The only small solace I can take is the coda to this story.  During the second encore, the band got into a very long jam song, so I went to get a soda and use the restroom.  I had some blessed peace in the empty restroom until Mr. Chefpants Von Stupidhat stumbled in.  He waddled up, went to the urinal directly next to me despite the fact we were the only two there, then started talking to me, thereby breaking ALMOST EVERY RULE I HAVE. His drunken, goon tongue was able to push the words, "You're the only one taller than me" past his goon teeth and out of his goon mouth.  I was having none of this, and love messing with a drunk moron, so I turned quickly and said loudly, "What did you say to me?!?!?!"

He did not yell.  He wasn't even scared.  He got a very sad look on his face, hung his head, and said, "I'm sorry."  Then he lost his balance and almost fell into the urinal. 

Sometimes, things do go right.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Bench

“Excuse me.  Miss?” 

She turned at the waist, remaining seated at the bus stop.  At first she didn’t see him, but the little wave his hand tentatively put forth alerted her to his presence.   He was halfway up the stairwell leading to the building twenty feet behind the bench, dressed like the blind spawn of a Wednesday night league bowler and a record store clerk.  She gave him an inadvertent half smile, which in turn gave him an inadvertent blush and stutter.  

He was able to stammer, just barely, “Are you waiting for the bus?” 

She nodded, imperceptibly moving her head, afraid that any more of a brash movement might betray her.   

He grew bolder, her reply and the four Schlitz’s he had at his friend Craig’s house dulling the terror.  

 “The bus doesn’t stop here anymore.  The town is too lazy to take the sign down.“ 

She was able to look at the bus stop sign without moving her head.  With her eyes, she moves from him to the sign and back again. 

“Oh.  Well, that’s okay I guess.  I’m not sure I could have done it anyway.” 

“Leaving town?”  he said as he leaned onto the railing.  She had four or five pieces of luggage at her feet and next to the bench.  He was trying to act nonchalant and was failing spectacularly. 

“No.  I was going to jump in front of the bus” she told him in the same tone as if she said she preferred Raisinets to Goobers.  This did not help him keep his hip vibe.   

“I’m sorry, what?”  

She carefully smoothed a wrinkle in her sundress, and stared at it as if her vision was an iron that would make it crease free.  “Now that I really think about it, jumping in front of a bus at a bus stop isn’t the best plan.  It would be stopping here, wouldn’t it?” 

He moved down a few steps hesitantly, not sure he should go to her or beeline up the stairs to his parent’s split level.  He hedged his bets by slowly moving back up the stairs, then down again. 

“Why would you do that?” 

She tucked a tuft of hair behind her ear, saying, “I don’t know you.” 

He resolved himself and moved to her, down to the side of the bench.  “You told me what you were going to do.  You trusted me with that.” 

“It was more an aside.  Yet another thing I just can’t seem to get right, no matter the planning.”

He sat down on the far end of the bench.  “You live close to here, right?  Otherwise, you walked a long way with those bags.”

She smiled lightly and briefly raised her arms, pointing toward a building down the street.  “I work there.  I kept the bags in my cubicle all day.  I didn’t want to jump from the bus stop I get off from for work because I like the driver.  I don’t want that on his conscience.  He’s never stopped here, so I figured it was someone else’s route. “ 

“That was thoughtful of you.  I want to ask though, why bring the luggage at all?”

“I didn’t want my roommates to get my things.  I live in a loft with four other girls, and every one of them is awful.  They can’t have my books or my mother’s jewelry.  They steal my food, make fun of my clothes, but I have to draw the line somewhere.” 
“Seems prudent.  I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but why do you want to do this?  Couldn’t you just move out?”   He scooted closer to her, trying to get her to look at him.  She stared at her lap and smoothed her dress again. 

“My whole life, it was just assumed that I would go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a great job, marry, have kids, and they would repeat the cycle.  Plans are for nothing.  They never planned that the job market would crash, and that thousands of other people without jobs and the same degree as me would fight each other for whatever little scrap we could get.  They never planned that the degree would make me unhireable for any regular job that would help me pay the bills until I could find something in my field.  It wasn’t a plan that I’d have to live with four bitches because with the combined income of all five of us, we can just afford the one-hundred-square-foot per person dump we are renting.  So, no, I can’t just move out.”

“I live with my parents.  Couldn’t you do that?”

“Even if it wouldn’t feel like I was settling in for a second childhood, I can’t.  When I moved out, my parents sold the house and have been traveling for the past year.”

“Any friends...”

She snapped and cut him off, saying “If I had friends, I wouldn’t be on this bus stop.  I dedicated four years of college to a degree, not to sororities and parties.  I was the valedictorian of my class.”
She tried her hardest not to cry, that was obvious.  He wasn’t sure he’d ever put as much effort into anything as she was into not crying.  It scrunched her face up and made it an angry color of red.  He wished he had a tissue for her but could only produce an old bandana from his pocket.  He held it out and stared at it, and she grabbed it from him before he could protest.  She dabbed her eyes for a moment, until her face screwed up even tighter.

“What’s on this handkerchief?”

“It’s a bandana,” he said helpfully and cheerfully.

“Okay, same question though.”

“That was on a dog for much of the afternoon.  I can’t really say what the dog had been into, though.”
She gently handed it back to him and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.  “Why do you have a dog’s bandana?”

“Technically, he had my bandana, but it made him look sporty, so I let it go.”  He smiled.  Cartoon chipmunks didn’t smile as sugary as this.  It put her at a loss for words, which she didn’t mind.  It was nice just having him there, even if his mere presence might be giving her diabetes.  

“You’re a pretty happy person, aren’t you?” she said as if it had just dawned on her.  

“I don’t know.  I guess.  I’m a little buzzed too, so that helps.”

“You live here?” She motions to the steps behind them.

“Yeah.  My parents’ place.”

“You don’t mind?”

“Why would I?  I love them, and we get along.  I pay them what I can, and I work at my father’s restaurant.”

“Did you go to school?”

“Yeah, for communications.”

“Wouldn’t you rather work in that field?”

He thought for a second.  “I communicate with people all the time.  I think I’m good.”

She laughed, despite herself.  This made him smile, whole mouthed, goofy grin smiling.  She wasn’t sure she’d even met anyone goofier.

He stretched like he was waking up from a nap, and asked, “Do you want to get some pie?”  and she was certain he was the worst.
She smiled at him, and it made his whole world roses and rainbows.  “Not coffee?”

“You can have coffee.  I need pie.  I can help you with your things, if you’d like.”

She sat for a minute, looking to the street, then nodded.  

“I think I would.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dear Lego

It might not even be safe to write this letter, but I feel I need to do it.  Your power has grown immensely since I was a child.  Somehow, you were able to bring Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Disney, Marvel, and DC comics all under your licensing to make toys.  This is the business equivalent of trying to get two angry dogs to kiss and not getting bitten.  You made a movie that ostensibly was an hour and a half long commercial for your products, and looked like geniuses instead of money grubbing asshats.  The movie had something for everyone, and already has two sequels on the way that people will actually be interested in seeing.  With all that power, would it be so hard for you to do me one favor?  Could you bring back the big red bucket?

Near Christmas, I went into a Lego store with my friend Kentucky Jim.  He was either looking for a gift for his niece, or trying to fill the void in his soul that was left when Hangin' With Mr. Cooper got cancelled.  I really don't pay much attention when he talks, to be honest.  The point of the story is that we went into the Lego store.  Quit getting caught up with the details. 

Anyway, I remember thinking that it was a bit crazy that there was a whole store devoted to Legos.  When I was little, there was just a small part of the aisle set aside for them, near the Lincoln logs, tinker toys, and those bigger fake Legos they made for toddlers.  The only Legos I remember having or being sold when I was of Lego age were sold in a big red bucket with a lid on it.  There were no people Legos, just different colored blocks, some windows, and a few different shaped Legos so you could build houses, or buildings, or anything vaguely  square or rectangle.  Now, there are playsets where you can build whole scenes, including an awesome looking X-Wing that I would have done any number of terrible things for as a child. 

After looping through the store, it struck me that the one thing I hadn't seen was my old favorite.  In the midst of all the glitz and new stuff, there didn't seem to be an option for just a pack of normal building blocks.  Everything was a set based on a movie or some object.  Jim was puzzled as well, because he wanted to get the very same thing for his niece/HWMC withdraw.  He wanted her to be able to use her imagination to build anything she wanted, not be told that she was building the Chamber of Secrets.  Does this sound familiar at all, Lego Corporation?  Is this maybe the theme of a certain movie that is making you lots and lots of money?

Jim shouted hysterically at the clerk, asking where the big red bucket was.  At least I assume he did.  I swear, when he opens his mouth, it's like a high pitched buzzing mixed with the sound of a pumpkin slowly imploding while a middle aged Persian woman hums a tune she wrote to The Wreck of the Hesperus.  Regardless, I had to step in because he was making a hysterical scene, and the preteen looking clerk behind the counter had no idea what we were talking about.  It's as if the big red bucket was put into some Lego Gitmo, never to be seem or talked about again.  He asked two of the other workers, and they didn't know either.  Worse, the only simple package they had that just sold blocks was very small, and cost about as much as the sets.  They suggested he buy her one of the theme sets, and she could use the blocks from that to make whatever she wanted.  Kentucky Jim proceeded to vomit in disdain.

While it is true that kids are going to do whatever they want, with most other activities they are taught to follow the rules.  Draw in the lines, Do Not Pass Go and Collect $200, Simon Says Green Yellow Red BUZZZZZZZ, and don't hit the sides in Operation.  So, if you give a kid a Temple of Doom playset, more than likely they will be Kalima'ing each other and making the little Short Round Lego say vaguely racist things.  They aren't going to use that set to make a boat. 

Look at it this way: Baskin Robbins didn't stop selling vanilla when they got up to 31 flavors, because it is tried, tested, and true.  Does that help you understand?  Well how about this: Did Mark Curry give up when that one woman that isn't famous that was playing his housemate left the show?  No.  He hired that annoying girl from The Cosby Show to fill in, and Mr. Cooper continued to Hang for another few seasons, because the show was about Mr. Cooper, not his housemates.

The Red Bucket is Mr. Cooper, in case you didn't get that.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dear Bro's and Hon's

There's an quirk among my male friends.  Almost all of us have a nickname, and for a long time, that name was used much more than our real name.  I have personally given out plenty of them, some well liked by the recipient (Gizmo), others less well liked (Shitporn).  Some people have received multiple nicknames through the years.  The right honorable Mayor Yolo McCheese has also been known as Chinbilly, which he hated with the passion of 1000 fiery gerbils, and Sir Luther Shabazz in the last ten years.  I have always had my reasons for using these, mostly out of a sense of familiarity and brotherhood.  These are people I care about, and I want them to know it through clever and sometimes offensive nomenclatures.

I am also infamous for rejecting any name given to a friend's pet, and substituting my own.  Cadfael the cat became Gigglesvitch, his sister Aoife was Sweet Lou.  Some pets, I never even bothered to learn their real names, because the names I gave were far superior.  This applies to any number of dogs that I have dubbed "Flapjack", as well as Professor Von Whiskerson the Cat.

One of the only instances where I am not free with the pseudonyms is with my lady friends.  If I dated you, you were never sweetie, honey, baby, darlin', or the ever popular sugartits. I usually called you by your given name because that is one of the only signs of respect I have left. 

What I cannot abide is the use of pet names for people you barely know.  If you meet me at a bar or out somewhere, please know that I am not your bro.  We are not brosephs, broheims, broba fetts, Hall and Broats,  or bro choice.  These are not nearly as clever as you think they are, and nowhere near as cute.  To your knowledge, I am not a high ranking fireman or police officer, so don't call me "chief".  I do not and would never willingly employ you, so don't call me "boss".  In the same token, ladies, don't call me hon, sweetie, or some other placeholder.  You don't know me like that.  We've never slept together, or at the very least made out behind a Popeye's with Asia's Heat of the Moment playing over the car stereo, so you don't have the right to use those terms with me.  Only diner waitresses can call me this, and only if they are wearing traditional diner uniforms and/or have made out with me.

For whatever reason, this feigned familiarity irks me to no end.  What is truthfully a case of you not remembering or never knowing my name, or an attempt to act chummy, falls flat and feels phony.  Why can't we just accept that we do not know each other, and that there is no need for us to try?  No one likes meeting new people, and if they say they do, they're planning on stealing your organs, both musical and meat based. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dear Gavin Rossdale

Wikipedia says this about your song, Glycerine: "Glycerine"is the fourth single from British grunge/post-grunge band Bush from their debut album Sixteen Stone. The power ballad is notable for featuring the cello."  It fails to mention that in 1995, to the 12 year olds in my class who had not yet found out about vodka, there was no more potent panty melter than that song.  Of course, we didn't know what panty melters were in the sixth grade at my Catholic school, but that is besides the point. 

Sure, at the middle school dances, "Lady in Red" was the go to for that first slow dance, where you dance with that gangly girl that is taller than any boy in the class.  If you needed to get freaky and let it hang out on the dance floor, that is why Rednexx wrote "Cotton Eye Joe".  It could be the only reason that song was written, other than as a joke, or to punish children that have eaten too many sweets and can't force their pudgy little bodies to remember what true fear feels like.  The wow factor came with that slow, slogging almost ballad.  That was when you looked for that girl you spent all math class pretending you weren't looking at, but subtlety isn't in the repertoire for any middle school kid. During those four minutes and twenty seven seconds, that was when the magic happened.

Every boy back then learned how to play that song on guitar, and every one of them made sure it was sung all angsty and slightly douchy, just like you.  Somehow we just knew you knew more about chicks than Eddie Vedder or Chris Cornell.  At least, you certainly looked less like you needed a bath or a comb.  Glycerine was the second song I learned after I got my guitar, after the theme from Top Gun, because, c'mon. I could not sing it and play at the same time, but still, I had a leg up on the bastards that played the flute in music class. 

It inevitably got the the point where everyone was using the song as the sixth grade siren call to hand holding and closed mouth kisses.  It got to be lame, and you failed to further pave the way for melancholy British acts to follow like Coldplay, and....Coldplay.  The closest thing you came up with was Swallowed on your next album, but that rocked just a bit too hard to set the mood.  We awkward almost teens had to turn to the newly released Vitology, and the gushiness that was Better Man

Dirty little Eddie Veddar bested you in the end, and you were forced to marry the weird chick from No Doubt as penance.