Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What I Was Missing By Not Watching The Jersey Shore

“I was like, yo girl, its four o’clock, we gotta roll. We been here since midnight. That’s like five hours.” But isn’t that actually…never mind Ronnie, have some HGH.

Thank you, that’s my review of Jersey Shore. (But what fun is that!)

Here is a slightly longer recap. They (and by “they” I mean a group of over-everything twenty-somethings): get primped, go to a club, get drunk, make out with everyone (or if all else fails, each other), get into a fight/argument/altercation, walk home drunk, argue at the house. That seems to take about ten minutes of air time, at which point they reach the next day, and they do it all over again.

I like to think (pray) that the Jersey Shore was the most difficult show to cast. I have this fantasy that finding talent this obscenely stereotypical was akin to discovering D.B. Cooper alive and well living in Youngstown. I fear, however, that it was not. I fear that the casting director stood outside a random bar on the ocean in New Jersey and told his young intern, “Go inside and grab the first eight people you see.”

The question may arise, “Dave, what the hell are you doing watching, ‘Jersey Shore’?” An apt question it would be. Well, my wife had just returned from a business trip from hell (“the ten PM flight from Detroit to Pittsburgh? Yes, that actually leaves at two AM! Thanks, there is a water fountain down the concourse for your refreshment!”) so she was recovering from that and the kids were outside. I found myself flipping through the channels and, WHAMMO, I heard “Snookie” say, “I thought I was gonna get me some ass.” How can you pass by that? (By the way, Snookie is a girl.)

There was one funny moment. The “crew” was eating at a restaurant (in a slight shift from the above mentioned plot-line) and “Snookie” and “The Situation” (No kidding, that’s what he calls himself. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to Pauly Shore – which is even funnier because this is the Jersey Shore – but I digress) were arguing. When the Snookster asked someone to pass the rolls, the “Sitch” (his nickname for his nickname) says, “You already got a couple.” The funny thing is that Snookie does indeed look like a little Italian sausage, and a) she does have rolls, and b) she, like everyone else is not nearly as attractive as she thinks she is.

The other comical aspect of this show is that because the cast is almost always either drunk or in a screamingly loud bar, you can never hear them, so they have to subtitle a large portion of the show. However, since they curse so much the subtitles are almost like playing Wheel Of Fortune and often look like this: “F****r! Go f**k yourself sl*t b***h wh**e before I f*****g rip your b***s from your little d**k. You c**t.”

This may be the worst show on television…which also makes it one of the best!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Leathery and Lace

I enjoy when the eyes of my twelve year olds pop out of their heads. A little shock value when you least expect it is pleasing to the senses. Such was the case yesterday.

My family and I had just finished lunch at the Hard Rock Café in Station Square. I had a monster headache from the previous night. You know that commercial for Dos Equis beer where the actor says “I don’t often drink beer, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis”? Well, I went for, “I often drink beer, and when I do, I sometimes drink enough to give me a hangover from Dos Equis.” Therefore, I needed to scoot to the Sheraton next door to overpay for some Advil, or an awl to plunge into my head to relieve the pressure – either one.

As we were walking toward the entrance, my gaze drifted to the people standing out front, and my first thought was, “Wow, my kids are going to see their first transvestite!” Upon closer inspection, I realized she was not a transvestite, but a female body builder. As parents, when something like this is happening, your first instinct is to glance at your spouse. I tried that, but Bonnie was busy thinking, “Wow, my kids are going to see their first transvestite!”

Lucky us, we stumbled into the epicenter of a female body-building competition. Now, before I go any further, I want to say for the record that I applaud individuality and am devoutly a “live and let live” kind of guy. OK, now that the disclaimer is out of the way – what the hell kind of woman does this to their body? Upon closer inspection (or darting eyes out of fear one of them would fasten me to a lat pull-down machine) these women looked exactly like male body builders with two distinct exceptions – one of those would be breasts – the other I am making an assumption. Their skin wasn’t tan as much as it appeared a ten year old tried to stain grandmother’s end table by mixing orange latex paint with decade’s old brown stain – then applying a fine leather grain pattern. Their legs looked like gnarled telephone poles and their backs like cinder block walls with walnut sized bulges of muscle where the mortar should be.

As I am walking out of the sundry shop chewing my way through three layers of protection on the pill bottle (I was so desperate I almost ate the cotton) I saw the boys frozen against the wall like they had just seen the two headed man in a 1920’s carnival – but this was no parlor trick.

I asked my son what he thought of those female body builders. He said, “They were weird.” Literally.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Butter Your Way To A Better Sandwich - Channel 40 Style!

One of the real benefits of having Bonnie away for work is that I get the bedroom TV all to myself. Normally, we compromise; for instance, if I want to watch Mega Ships and she wants to watch What Not To Wear, we compromise – and we watch What Not To Wear. Since I was only sharing my bed with Zeke the dog, and he was fine watching anything as long as he could sleep for the next sixteen hours, I was downward descending through the channels when I came upon “At Home With Arlene Williams” on the local religious station.

Arlene hosts a cooking show on a stage that looks like a head on collision between a high school prop department and fluorescent Sharpie’s. This episode was devoted entirely to sandwiches. (I usually try not to watch cooking shows late at night for fear that I reason a plate of chicken nachos at 10:30 sounds like a good idea.) Anyway, don’t expect to see dear Arlene in Kitchen Stadium battling Iron Chef Bobby Flay over a table of Sea Urchin stomachs.

First up was egg-salad with its own secret ingredient which she teased for a full five minutes while she mashed hard-boiled eggs on a plate. Was it going to be some exotic Indonesian spice? Of course not. The secret ingredient was – a big forkful of butter. Oh yeah. But as she is mixing up her egg, butter and mayo salad she said the most interesting of things. When she was adding salt, she said “My dad only liked salt on two things; eggs and chicken. He was such a funny guy.” No, Arlene, he was a lunatic.

The coup de grace was when Arlene fixed what she called her “combo” sandwich. More specifically, she said,” When I want a combo this is what I do.” First, she gets three slices of bread from (not kidding) a bag that still has the twist tie on. (For the sake of reality though, how many of us have a cracked whole wheat artesian baguette sitting around?) Mayo on two slices and Dijon on one; so far, so good. Then she heats a single slice of ham in a skillet with butter and plops that between two slices with a piece of cheese. She fries an egg in the same skillet with more butter, pours that on the second slice of bread and adds a tomato. Now she says as she grabs the salt, “Always salt the tomato. Paul (I am assuming her hubby) always says, ‘Arlene, did you salt the tomato?’”

I felt like yelling at her, “Arlene, what the hell is up with the men in your life and this salt thing?” She needs to tell Paul (as it is very possible my wife would), “You want salt on your tomato? Here’s your fucking salt!” as she chucks the shaker at his skull.

But I digress. This “combo” sandwich was three slices of bread, one lousy piece of ham, a slice of cheese, an egg and a tomato…properly salted. If that doesn’t say hunger buster what does? I swear she did that on the fly. Maybe she was listening to her Charlie Parker before the show and told the producers, “Arlene is improvising today! Get me a piece of ham and loaf of bread and watch me freestyle!”

I grew tired at this point, so I missed the ham salad segment. It was either go sleep or go to work on those chicken nachos.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How To Adapt To A Life Full Of Adaptors

There is a mischievous Fairy loose in my car. He (or she) has a singular purpose; tying the headphones from my iPod into a white, tangled mess. There can be no other reasonable explanation as to how I can place my iPod in the center console of my car after the gym, only to retrieve it a day or two later to find it knotted like the halls of Congress. And I do mean knotted. Tangled? OK. But seriously, the headphones look like they are trying to mate. I have seen; a half hitch, a halter hitch, a left hand bowline and a Carrick bend – sometimes all at once. Some people start their workouts with light cardio – I start mine fiddling with (and cursing at) wires. I do wonder if that time counts toward my workout.

I keep my iPod in the car not just out of convenience. I keep it there because of the fear that if I bring it in the house, it will migrate with the other 32,000 electronic devices in our home, rendering it nearly impossible to find when I need it. It is the same reason I never put my phone or laptop away…they would become co-opted into the Union Of Impossible To Find Devices and Adaptors. The name is a misnomer, however. Things aren’t impossible to find. It is only impossible to find what you are looking for.

I can find AC adaptors….plenty of them. I can just never find the right one. I can find adaptors for, a) cell phones we no longer own, b) games the kids haven’t used for five years, c) one’s that appear to not belong to anything (maybe the bastard offspring of A and B), and d) adaptors that seem to be designed to connect to a rather important piece of electronics, like maybe WOPR from War Games.

In ten tries you couldn’t find the correct adaptor that links my digital camera to my laptop. The real fun part is, when you do find it, you have to first figure out where the input on the camera is located (you may need a microscope since the cover is supremely camouflaged into the body of the camera), then try to insert it until you are almost convinced you have the wrong one since there are only two possible ways to do it and you have tried each one eighteen times.

And this is the other point. Why is there this seemingly contrite and selfish fetish amongst electronic manufacturers to provide different adaptors to every single model of device? When I recently switched cell phone carriers (I went with the one offering an app that gives me command over the weather) my son and I realized our phones used the same charger. No kidding, this was cause for actual celebration.

“Can you believe this, son?” I exclaimed, “Our phones use the same adaptor!” He was as stunned as I was. Never in his twelve years has he seen such a technological anomaly. He and his brother’s lives have revolved around having adaptors splayed around their room like groupies in a Motley Crue tour bus.

The upside of course, is that when we are getting packed to travel, we always have something to argue about and scramble around looking for – this usually takes place as I have my car keys in my hand.

Still, I never lose faith that the car-living, knot-tying Fairy will one day have an appetite for digesting coffee cups. Until then, I am going to look in the attic for the TV remote, I’m sure it’s up there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Private Parts and the Right To Marry

It’s not often I hear compliments from total strangers. In fact, I hear them about as often as the President hears, “Good news, the bill passed unanimously!” So, when I paid for my Diet Coke at the convenience store today, and the guy said, “You look great today,” I was so taken aback, I asked him to repeat himself. Suspiciously, he said, “You have a great day today.” Hmm. Maybe.

“Thanks,” I said, “you too.”

My wife told me this morning before I left that I looked nice, but I chalked that up to me sporting a golf shirt with her company’s logo on it. To be fair, they give out great golf shirts and I have three. I would have more but a few years ago they started to produce them cut more to a woman’s figure, so my wife cut me off from the cool graft. She used a really cool fashion word about the way it is sewn…it’s beyond me, but she is good with those words.

Nonetheless, the whole experience had me thinking about gay rights, or lack thereof, in this country. And for a straight guy, I spend an awful lot of time thinking about them. Actually, I spend that time thinking that it is insane that in 2010 we are still debating whether some people should have rights.

Here is a how a state determines if you will be allowed to marry, the most sacred of institutions. The lowest ranking government official comes from around the corner and does a quick crotch grab. If one penis and one vagina is present (one each per person of course) you are signed, sealed and delivered your marriage license. Actually, that is not how they do it. No one comes around the corner. If you look like a man and woman, that is usually good enough. Therefore, if you are standing around outside the courthouse and see someone (of the opposite sex) feel free to pop the question. The states will welcome you…for a small fee of course.

It gets fun when two people who love and care for each other and want to validate their union through marriage have that quirky flaw of each owning the same private part. The states can’t have that; it could lead to interior design madness.

I love watching people lose their mind over this issue. The fact remains; you don’t have to like it and you sure as hell don’t have to support it. Churches don’t have to endorse it, although a certain number are pretty damned adept at turning a blind eye toward other offenses. But hey, let’s not let a few cases of pedophilia get in the way of passing the collection basket.

If the states were actually as concerned as they claim about preserving the “sanctity” of marriage, you would undergo a full background check and be under video surveillance for a year before and five years after you were married. It’s bullshit. Politicians are worried about votes and heterosexuals against this are afraid they might catch something, when they are not running around making sure the sky is not falling.

Be not afraid. You could be the next one getting hit on in a convenience store. Or not.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Advice On Living From The Strangest Of Places

“He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.” Hunter S. Thompson

I wouldn’t say I spent the last two Tuesday nights crying – I was engaged more in the shedding of a few tears type of drama. See, Tuesday nights is when Deadliest Catch is on. For those not in the know (and shame on you!) it chronicles the adventures of Alaska’s crab fishing fleet as they battle the Bearing Sea, ice and each other in heroic efforts to catch king and opelio crab.

I was hooked (so to speak) since its start in 1995. Initially, I chalked the whole season up to viewing hour after hour of a shit I would never do. I loved to watch guys almost routinely get swept to their deaths by twenty foot waves while they fetched massive crab pots from the sea floor, all the while being berated by gnarly, salted captains because they refused to give it their all after eighteen straight hours.

Well, this season saw the demise via stroke of Captain Phil Harris of the boat Cornelia Marie…not long after one of his two sons on the boat admits his drug addiction problem. (Oddly, his sons are named Jake and Josh, similar to the Disney show Drake and Josh. My advice? Pick Jake and Josh to win by TKO.) The decline of the Captain has been played out vividly the last few weeks. This week is the week he will pull that last proverbial crab pot.

On last week’s episode, the older son, Josh, is pondering the future of the ship, its crew and the legacy his dad had built. In the wheel house with Josh is a maniacal Samoan, Freddy. While Jake is feeling the pressure of the family business, Freddy offers some of the most sound, reasonable and caring advice that resonated (that word again loyal readers) not only across the wheel house, but all the way to Cranberry Township, PA. It was crystal clear, spot on introspection about the things that are actually important, not the things that seem important. Freddie’s insight on loss and the importance of family was a home run.

There are a million things that can go wrong in our world; some big and some small. We are all sinners who have made bad choices and regrettable decisions. None of it means there is not a chance for redemption. Eddie Vedder sang, “I’m a lucky man, to count on both hands, the one’s I love.” The people you love and the people who love you…never forget how much that counts.

If you have three minutes, check out this clip of that interaction (you have to sit through a brief commercial). My opinion…some powerful stuff.

(In the photo, Phil is out front, his two sons are on the right, and  Freddie is in the back.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

French 101 - Or...What Happens When Someone Actually Buys Your Accent

Before we left for Quebec, we were curious as to how much English would be spoken. My wife has passable French language skills while mine consisted of the three words all men know but rarely experience - ménage à trois While we fully expected Quebec’s charm, we were a bit surprised that we were able to communicate as easily as we were. Since French is the official language of the Province, we were quite certain, and in fact a little excited, to have a bit of a struggle. We didn’t, with two exceptions.

First, the only time someone truly trapped me in their French language was when a drunken guy came up to me near the Parc-de-l’Artillerie and rambled something that would have been hard to understand in English given his state. When I said “Je ne parle pas français” (one of the very few French phrases I know…basically translated as “I am a stupid American who thinks the world should speak English, so excuse me but I have no friggin’ idea what you are saying.”) he repeated it very slowly. Now, not speaking French means that regardless of how slow someone speaks it, I still do not understand! Fortunately my wife walked up and said he was saying something about a sunset by the river. For all I know, he was asking me on a date, but since my wife frowns on me heading off into the twilight with drunk Quebecers, I smiled, said “merci,” and moved on.

Secondly, and if I had to phrase this in the form of a joke, it would go like this: “An American walks into a Lebanese restaurant in Quebec.” The gentleman spoke fluent something, but it sure didn’t sound like French, and zero English. Luckily, being great fans of Middle Eastern food I knew I couldn’t go too wrong. With some finger pointing (at the menu) and much gesturing, we managed to get ourselves some gyros, kufta and hummus. We did both manage the word “Coke.”

Over the course of the week my French phrasing improved. At first, every time I said “bonjour” I was politely greeted with a “hello.” As if to say, “That’s cute, but for my own sanity let’s speak English.” However, by the end of the week, my “bonjour” and “bonsoir” was occasionally being replied to in French, to which I would then sheepishly say, “hello” or “good evening.” Hence, if the exchange was in one language would be: “hello,” “hello,” “hello.”

Other than those two instances, the rebellious Quebecers were not only extremely bi-lingual, but friendly and gracious hosts. I still didn’t get to use ménage à trios…unless that’s what the drunken guy was talking about.

(Side Bar - Unrelated to the above.

I wondered, when the American with the gaudy t-shirt tucked tightly into his belted shorts that were laboriously fitted below his gut, asked the shop keeper on Rue Saint Louis if she could recommend a restaurant that served, “you know, regular food,” if in fact she didn’t feel like shoving the "I Love Quebec" coffee mug squarely up his ass?

I would have smiled broadly if she had said, “You mean the type of food that has made you both fat and ugly you ignorant American?” Alas, she didn’t. Nonetheless, it did embarrass me. Here we were, in beautiful, historic Quebec, and some schmuck is upset because he can’t get “normal” food. Whatever that is.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010


“If I wasn’t exactly finding the joy in that scenic splendor the way I used to, I was at least ‘resonating’ again, feeling the beauty around me, and curious about what the next line on the map might look like.”

Good or bad, funny or pathetic, I always like to have my own thoughts, it helps to explain why I believe in gay rights and gun ownership, I guess. But the above line, from Neil Peart’s book, Ghost Rider, really has hung around for the last twenty-four hours, almost like a song you can’t get out of your head. Neil was on a motorcycle journey to help him come to terms with the death of his daughter and wife in sixteen months. He had returned to his lake house in Quebec, saw these two rocks jutting out from the water and said to himself, “I still like those two rocks.” Resonance.

As we all know, it can take more than a few rocks in a lake to elevate our disposition. But that isn’t the point and he knew it. What it did though, was give him hope. It gave him encouragement. It wasn’t some epiphany, “Ah! The rocks! Everything will be fine!” Not at all. He would wallow many hours in sorrow and pain; pain of the darkest kind.

But I think this idea of resonating is illuminating. In fact it may be bravery of the most stalwart kind. In your darkest hour: loss, pain, grief, the fortitude to find that one sliver of enlightenment can be daunting. That sliver of enlightenment may not alleviate the darkness, but using it for what it is, a brief glimpse of hope, may damned well bring some salvation. Hope that all is not lost. Hope that something matters, or in this case, hope that something still matters. That with all the sorrow in your world, the things that gave you pleasure in the past are still capable of giving you pleasure in the present or the future. This resonance doesn’t replace pain, it just lets you know that there are things that can still matter; somewhere, sometime.

For Neil, these rocks were a connection. They were a connection to his past and maybe a conduit to his future. But maybe resonance doesn’t have to be something from our past. Maybe sometimes it is something new and unexplored. Something that jumps up when we least expect it and proves to us that life and hope can spring eternal.

I think I know this; keeping my eyes closed is the only one sure way of guaranteeing there will be no resonance in my life. Is that a world any of us want to live in?