Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Brokeback Meatheads, Cognitive Dissonance and Linkin Park

I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately, or, more appropriately, thinking a lot about writing. Why I haven’t been doing it, whether I can think of anything to say, whether I can ever learn to spin the kinds of sentences that seem to pack every Doctor Who episode. Seriously, I have never figured out how to use timey-wimey or wibbly-wobbly in a sentence in such a way that no one would want to slap me. I suspect that this is still the case. So, after all my cogitating (also known as wasting time) what did I decide to write about? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Seriously. If we’re using the “shit or get off the pot” analogy, I just cracked the newspaper and settled in.

And then Monday night rolled around.

Dana and I left work early, packed a cooler with the last of our canned beer from the weekend’s redneck party and headed down to Chula Vista (epic, I know) for the Incubus/Linkin Park show. I was going to say Coors Amphitheater, but I know it’s Cricket Wireless Amphitheater and frankly, until it becomes the Shake Weight Center, I’m not sure I care.

This is where I saw things. I mean it, man. I saw things. Things that I don’t have the credit limit to drink away.

From here on out, this is going to be a bit of a concert/crowd review. Sorry.

We went for food while Mute Math was on. They sounded good, though far too Phish-y for my taste. Also, there’s just something sad about a band rocking the living hell out of a venue when no one is paying attention. But we enjoyed what we could of their short set, assuming that in a smaller venue, with more time, and more weed, frankly, they would do better.

When the set ended, the big screen over the stage came on and started playing interviews with Chester and Mike from Linkin Park. It took me a minute to realize that it was actually a Honda commercial. Then it repeated. And repeated. And repeated. And…you get it. This little two and a half minute segment with the two of them prattling on about how they’ve partnered with Honda to create a sustainable tour and offset the emissions of the vehicles that can’t burn anything but dinosaurs. I think they’re planting a tree and releasing a baby fox for every angsty yowl that Chester belts out instead of just yelling “FUCK!” like he wants to. Get ready for the rabid, starving baby fox invasion, folks. Head shots. Remember that. Head shots.
The other topic of conversation had to do with how crazy it was that both Linkin Park and Incubus are from “like five minutes apart” and they’ve NEVER toured together. Can you believe it? Me neither? Wait, was I supposed to care?

Anyway, the lawn filled up and Incubus eventually came on. After the massive, and I mean galactically scaled clusterfuck that was our last attempt to see them live, it was nice to have comfy chair to sit in and listen to the show from start to finish. Granted, it would have been nicer if we could have seen something other than meathead’s asses. And this is where it gets interesting.

I’ve told the story over the years about the guy at the Pink Floyd show I went to in high school. He was drunk as hell and running around hi-fiving everyone he could reach until the lights went down, when he promptly passed out. They played for an hour or so and took an intermission. The lights came on, he woke up, vomited all over himself and passed back out. He woke up during the last song of the encore and his buddies had to explain that he’d missed it. It was awesome.

I told that story to tell this one. In front of us on the lawn was a classic group of PB Bar and Grill meatheads. One shirtless, all wearing matching Abercrombie cargos and big fuck-off Spy sunglass knockoffs. Except their buddy, who was huddled down in his rented lawn chair, hugging his knees like they were the last things holding him in this plane of reality. The band came on. He didn’t look up. His buddies yelled at him. He handed over his phone. They took some pictures of the stage, then of him and tossed the phone back. It bounced off his chest and hit the ground. He nearly fell out of the chair getting it back. Then back to crash position.

The band played on, and really well. Brandon Boyd’s voice has held up nicely and the band was in top form. Great stuff, if you’re free the next time they come to town.

Now, this being rock and roll, of course Brandon ended up shirtless, with all his late thirties rocker hair and groupie targeting nipples on jumbotron display for the world and this is when it happened. The meatheads realized that they were in love. Just. Can’t. Quit. You. Love. When Dana started laughing I looked down to see that two of the meatheads were dancing with each other, in that “I’m totally not gay, bro” way. They were both shirtless and were tenderly putting their sunglasses on each other. Probably to help ease the blinding pain of their newfound cosmic love. Somewhere in there Incubus actually played half a cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” I like to think it’ll be their song.

Eventually, Incubus finished and we got another 30 minutes of Honda commercials.
When Linkin Park took the stage, I noticed that the arena was full now, and people really wanted them to start. It was about then that I realized I had no idea they were still recording. Now, to be fair, they sounded really good, but after a couple of songs, I found myself wanting to like them a lot more than I did. They came across as metal-lite. Sort what Kenny G is to jazz, or Justin Bieber is to people I don’t want to hit with a shovel.

I think the thing that killed it for me was when, about a third of the way in, after thrashing it up good, in a nice wholesome “you kids and your rock and roll” kind of way, Chester took a break from screaming to let us all know that he was sad the tour was ending because everyone in the other bands was “so fucking nice.” Cue screeching halt. Grinding gears. Smoking engines. Nice? NICE? You’re supposed to be angry. You’re supposed to be anti-establishment. At the very least the other guys should be “fucking awesome” or maybe “gnarly” or well any damn thing but “nice!” Jesus. Just stop and read off your recipe for vegan, gluten free tofurkey pizza while you’re at it. Oh, and thanks for also telling me you’re capping off the “most successful North American tour” you’ve ever done.

Jimmy Buffett used to do this thing where during the intermission he showed a video of him with his planes and boats and beach houses and pretty much pointed out which mortgages tonight’s show was paying. It was funny because it was so bold. It wasn’t “nice.”

Call me old fashioned, but I’m actually starting to miss the days when rock bands spent all their time between songs calling their audiences motherfuckers. If your songs involve screaming, you have an image to protect.  Telling us we’re all nice and that we’ve done a great job financing your kids’ education isn’t gonna cut it. Now go bite the head off a bat. You can get a tofu bat if you want. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fitness Thoughts. To Run or Not to Run?

Seems like a lot has fallen by the wayside lately. I made some good gains in January toward the weight goals and getting going on general fitness. But then February rolled around, and I lost it. Now March is almost over and I'm back where I started.

So what do I do now? Start over, of course.

The only bummer is that my goal from January of losing 30 pounds by my birthday has become a bit of a pipe dream. Okay, a storm drain of a pipe dream. It sucks, but it's my own damn fault. So I'm revising my goals. I'm shooting for 15 pounds by my 35th birthday and 20 by the 4th of July. I think that should do nicely. It's gonna be hard, but it needs to be done.

The question is, how to go about it?

I've got the boxing thing started, and thank you all for pinging me about it as much as you do. It makes me feel like I'm accountable, which helps. The first personal training session went well, and the second hits this Saturday. On top of that, I want to get up to two classes per week. Not terribly ambitious, I guess, but I've accepted that I need to start with a smaller goal.

We started seeing a new doctor recently and his response to my explanation of all the problems I have with my feet was to tell me to stop running. That it would do no good and wasn't worth the pain when there are so many other ways to get healthy. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, especially since he gave the same advice to Dana, which got her to go see a specialist about her back. She wants to run.

I know that I could go the same route. Get into rehab for my feet and go twice a week so I can get to running 10Ks without limping for days afterward. The problem for me has been that for the last few years that approach works well, as long as I keep up the PT. As soon as I stop, I revert. That has me wondering if it's worth it. Right now it isn't.

Not to say that I'll never run again, or that I'm taking my doctor's advice at face value, but I'm willing to give it time. I figure the boxing and long dog walks, hopefully some hiking now that the weather is getting nicer, will get me back into my wetsuit and bike shorts. Once that happens I can open up the arsenal and get my body closer to where I want it to be. Maybe then I'll try running.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hooked on Phonics Got Me Drunk

Dana and I went to Vegas last week, which is why I missed blogging after I said I try and get something up every week. Oops…

But, as it always does, Vegas provided some fun and some stories.

We were supposed to meet two of my college friends there, but they had to back out at the last minute. We considered bailing out as well, since we didn’t really NEED to go to Vegas, but hey, we did need a vacation, and so off we went.

I’ll leave out most of the stuff we did, since it was pretty tame, though if you get a chance to try Talisker Distiller’s Edition, I highly recommend it, and “O” at the Bellagio was a pretty damn cool thing to see.

But none of these are the things we’re still talking about, a week after the trip. No, the thing we are still talking about is the bar at the sports book in the Monte Carlo. Not the bar so much, which is just a standard casino bar with its row of old nasty stools bolted to the floor so drunks can’t fall out of them and its cloudy-screened video poker machines with the 70’s ashtrays on the side and the buttons with all the text worn off from years of drunken finger-sliding. No, it’s not the bar.

I think it was Thursday night, which is really the best time to be in Vegas. The frat boys and Jersey Shore castoffs haven’t descended en masse yet to pollute the city with crappy Target fedoras and fist bump you into an incredulous stupor. You can still see business travelers in the bars trying to work out how to expense the call girls. The clubs aren’t thumping obnoxious hip hop at all hours. The Vs aren’t as deep. Generally the douche-to-normal ratio is much lower. I mean sure, this is still the town where the Wynn can get you to buy a $12 can of PBR by putting tasting notes on the menu and a Subway $5 footlong costs $11.25, but there’s only so much you can do.

So anyway, it was a late-ish night, maybe 1 or 2 AM and we’re sitting at the sports book bar because it’s the only non-club open in the Monte Carlo and we want to be near the room in case either of us starts to pass out, which is a definite possibility.

We’ve fed a few bucks into the video poker machines, mostly on principle, since we’re only playing a hand or so before cashing out and eventually sticking our vouchers in new machines until we get bored with them too. We go for the booze and the people, not the games. What can I say?

So we’re aimlessly pushing buttons and nursing double Jameson and Sprites and chatting with the bartender when a drunken Englishman, or possibly a drunken something pretending to be an Englishman stumbles up to the stool next to us and starts ordering drinks. The bartender obligingly pours the gentleman’s obviously superfluous drinks and rattles off the total. At this point, He of the Drunken Accent inquires:

“What casino chips do you take?”

He begins tossing them on the bar.

“I got Ceasar’s, Bellagio, MGM…”

“I don’t take casino chips,” replies the bartender.

“Luxor, Planet Hollywood,” replies He of the Drunken Accent. At this point the bartender’s shoulders sag and he looks at us with an expression that falls somewhere between “see what I have to deal with” and “is this guy for real?” We laugh and sip our whiskeys. There is movement off to my right.

A small woman waves a $100 bill in the air and says “Excuse me” loud enough to know that she doesn’t give a damn whether she’s excused or not. The bartender turns away from the drunk man, who has been joined by a woman who has started throwing money on the counter to cover the casino chips, and says, “I’m just finishing up an order. I’ll be right there.”

The woman falls silent, leaning on the bar as though she doesn’t really want to touch it and clutching her hundred dollars in a way meant to show you that yes, I have a hundred dollar bill and no, you can’t have it. The bartender scoops up the money and leaves He of the Drunken Accent to his beverages and scattered chips. He crosses to the new woman who opens with “Do you have Appleton Rum?”

“No,” replies the bartender.

“Then what’s your BEST spiced rum?”

The bartender turns to study his liquor shelf. “Captain Morgan.”

The woman sighs, clearly disappointed, but she takes her moment, probably tries to figure out what Jesus would do, and confidently pipes up, “Give me one of those and Coke.”

Now, I’m a whiskey guy myself, so I don’t know that much about rum. I do know however that as soon as you add the phrase “and Coke” to any beverage title, it doesn’t matter what the hell is in the rest of the glass. It doesn’t even have to be in the same family of alcohol. In a casino pour, you can’t taste it. But I digress. Back to the story.

The bartender nods and pours the drink. “Anything else?”

The woman considers for a moment. She straightens up, takes a breath. Clearly, she does not want to fuck this up. “Do you have any Vivo Cleko?” (No, that’s not how it’s spelled, but I want you to have read this phonetically.)

The bartender arches an eyebrow, clearly a bit confused. Undaunted, she tries again.

“Vivo Cleko. Champagne.”


“Do you have champagne?”


“But not Vivo Cleko?”


“Then what do you have?”

“Our house brand. Monte Carlo.”

“But the guy over there,” she points vaguely behind herself, “said you could get Vivo Cleko.”

“That’s the high limit bar, ma’am. I don’t have everything they have.”

“He said you could get it. He specifically told me you could.”

“I can call him and see if I can get it from him. But I don’t have it.”

“That would be great. He told me you had it. Specifically.”

The bartender crosses to the phone and has a brief conversation.

“He’s already locked the cage. I can’t get it.”

“But he specifically said you could.”

“I can’t. That bar is closed. It’s probably why he told you to come here.”

“But he specifically said you could get Vivo Cleko.”

“I can’t…”

It went on like this for quite some time, with the bartender obviously being too polite to tell the uppity bitch that the reason the other bartender sent her to him was the had clearly committed some unforgivable sin against the other bartender and had to be punished. Oh, and by the way, it’s “Veuve Cliquot.”

I honestly don’t remember whether she got her champagne, but I do know that for the last week, I keep thinking that the only thing this place needs is a little Vivo Cleko.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why I haven't been writing.

Okay, so it's been almost 2 months since my last post and I meant to do better than that. Obviously, intent and reality haven't exactly collided there. But the thing is, I keep opening the new post page and closing it, dialing the first 6 numbers and hanging up before the seventh. Why would I do this?

I have a hard time imagining what I'm going to say that anyone will take the time to read. I'm not training for any races and I don't want to just post lists of what I had for dinner each day and so on, so what do I say?

When I first started writing posts about the world outside of triathlon, I got a lot of comments about how I was being depressing. People were worried about me. It was a little disconcerting and I stopped writing for a long time because I didn't want to scare people. I wanted to write, but I didn't know how.

Here's where it gets interesting, at least to me.

I started reading the new William Gibson book, Distrust that Particular Flavor, recently. It's a collection of articles and essays he's written over the years. A fiction writer's non-fiction output. Normally, I avoid these sorts of books because, like short story collections, they always let me down a bit. In this case though, as usually happens with Gibson, I got sucked in. What can I say, something about the way he writes always gets my wheels turning, and there was a passage in the very first essay that just triggered me. He's talking, oddly enough, about stereo equipment, and how he got talked into letting his friend install a big, high-end system for him. He says:

"It sounds fine.

But I'm not sure I really enjoy the music any more than I did before, on certifiably low-fi junk. The music, when it's really there, is just there. You can hear it coming out of the dented speaker grille of a Datsun B210 with holes in the floor. Sometimes that's the best way to hear it."

This is an odd leap, but it's the way my mind works. I got to thinking about writing, about the way I've written in the past and why I've been so reluctant to write again.

I write from a dark place. I always have. Angst and pain, at least in the written word, are about as natural to me as breathing. When I try to write upbeat stuff, chatty stuff, I feel a bit like a fraud. Not because I'm unhappy, but because with every word I type I can feel myself trying. Trying to govern my tone, to string together sentences in ways that aren't right. Like playing a harmonica with my nose. It can get it to make noise, but it's messy, and it sure as hell don't sound so good.

So where does that leave me? Gagged until I find my keyboard's Prozac? Nah.

I'd love to think that I can just write happy, but that's going to take a lot of work. It ain't gonna happen quickly. Not to mention, the dark place has done well by me with the written word. If I get back to fiction, I can almost guarantee I'll be using it extensively.

I'll try and post something here at least once a week. Dark, light, atonal or completely together, something. Read along if you want to. I'll be happy to have the company.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Okay, so I ran across the link to my own blog, this lovely page, the other day and I was saddened to see that I'd allowed a year to go by without posting. After the immense cluster that was 2010, I had fully intended to make 2011 better, and I did.

If you've followed Dana's blog at all, you've seen that we got engaged and are now in the throes of planning a wedding. Talk about something I never thought I would have to do. Maybe I'll write more about the proposal process, maybe I won't. I haven't decided whether that's self indulgent or not. In any event, let it be known that the moment she said "yes" made my year.

So what does 2012 hold? Who the hell knows?

I'm planning to be more active on this blog, so maybe if you keep reading you'll get to keep tabs on me. I think there will be two major topics of conversation: fitness and wedding planning. I assume that my take on the adventure will be, well, uniquely my own. It's a strange enterprise, full of insanity and silliness, and we've just begun.

As for the fitness, I think this is the more important topic in the near term. As Dana mentioned on her post, we've each got about 50 pounds to drop. In my case that will get me back to the weight I was holding when I was at the top of my tri career. Though that career may well be over, for a variety of reasons, I still need to get back to the weight. That only makes sense. Lighter is healthier, right?

So, now that we've chosen a wedding date, I've got a little over a year to lose that 50 pounds. I also have a big split to take in the middle. I turn 35 this year. In just about exactly 6 months.

So here's my goal: Lose 30 of the 50 pounds by June 9, 2012.

5 pounds per month. You think I can do it? If I do, then maybe I'll be in even better shape by the time the wedding rolls around. Wouldn't that be crazy?

More on the methods and the progress as they develop. Hope you stay tuned and, if you see me out in the real world, call me out if I look like I'm slacking off.

Don't worry, babe, you'll be stuck with me for a good long time.