Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What strategies will we be using during the vice presidential debate?

10) Showing a little breast/ball cleavage.

9) Sidestepping tough questions by reminding voters how we passed out oranges to youth league hockey players after games.

8) Talking non-stop until the everyone in the hall falls asleep, then peeking at the moderator’s question cards before he wakes up.

7) Promoting the historically accurate accomplishments of the Democratic party, such as how Franklin Roosevelt created the Apollo program and JFK could have cured with cancer with his tears, except he was too tough to cry.

6) Forgoing talking points in favor of insulting the audience, Don Rickles style.

5) Saying, “asphinctersayswhat?” under our breath every time our opponent talks.

4) Repeating the question loudly, looking thoughtful, then repeating what the guys in the van say into our earpiece.

3) Finishing the details to our solution to the financial crisis: returning America to a pelt-based economy.

2) Practicing saying “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” without giggling.

1) Praying. Lots and lots of praying.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

The Cubs clinched the best record in the National League this week. The timing is so perfect you would think they planned this century-long World Series drought.

I am on an e-mail list with a bunch of the crew from the Vegas trips, and the Cubs have been a frequent topic of conversation the last few months. As you can imagine, given their mishaps over the years, it’s easy for Cubs fans to be pessimistic. There is, however, a fine line between pessimism and psychotic nihilism, when every positive indicator is just one more deceptive illusion masking some imminent Cub-ian collapse.

Our resident Cubs Nietzsche this year was Sugar Ray, he of the MILF Hunter T-shirt and commando approach to undergarments. He joined forces with Double Down, he of the Dow Jones blackjack swings and an actual Milwaukee Brewers fan (yes, they exist in the wild). They began with the Negative Nancy stuff in the first month, predicting with Shakespearean foreboding that the Cubs' first two series against the Brewers—they went 2-4—would have dire consequences at the end of the season. Keep in mind, this was in May.

Double-Down more or less stuck to that line of reasoning, but Sugar Ray continued to dump on everything Cubs-related. Every small mishap was a grand tragedy, every triumph tempered by some polyp of negativity. What’s worse is that Sugar Ray—a self-proclaimed Cubs fan— justified his endless stream of doom and gloom as being “realistic,” even as the Cubs went on to win more games than anyone else in the National League and had strong stats in every major stat category. All season we asked what more a Cubs fan could ask for.

Tickle finally had enough. “Sugar Ray,” he wrote, “you are banned from watching the playoffs with me.” Others joined in: Hawkeye, Pancake Z, Veetz, Smoke...none of them would allow Sugar Ray to watch the Cubs playoff games with them. Tickle threatened to board up Sugar Ray’s house for the month of October so he couldn’t come out.

A couple weeks ago Sugar Ray mentioned he got a Garmin, one of those car GPS things. He was raving about how it could suggest restaurants and all the other cool features.

“Maybe you can program it to show all the places where you are forbidden from watching the Cubs,” I wrote.

So go Cubbies, and long live rock....

1) “Rock Star,” Everclear. I don’t want to be a loser, I don’t want to be an almost was. Despite being positive about the Cubs, there is no question that their other shoe is shaped like the Sword of Damocles, ready to drop on the nearest Cub about to make a key catch in foul territory or trying to close out a championship series against serial-cobag Steve Garvey. I am excited, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared.

2) “Hey Jude,” The Beatles. In my book, “Let It Be” just edges this out as McCartney’s best composition. However, this by far has the best na na na's in rock history.

3) “The Seer’s Tower,” Sufjan Stevens. From the album Illinois. I was surprised that he didn't record a song called, “O Steve Bartman, Whither Go Our Hopes for Joy in Wrigleyville (and a Triumphant Trumpet of Ha Ha Ha's for the South Side Sox Fans).” That's a little joke for you Sufjan fans.

4) “Any Colour You Like,” Pink Floyd. Johnny Rotten said it best on his t-shirt: I hate Pink Floyd. Without the presence of a bong and laser light show (or at least a lava lamp and black velvet Dark Side of the Moon poster), I don’t see the point. If it’s not “Wish You Were Here” or the admittedly awesome instrumental “One of These Days,” I’m skipping.

5) “What the Snowman Learned About Love,” Stars. The snowman learned that, while wearing a condom did protect him from PTDs (Precipitation Transmitted Diseases), the insulating power of the latex melted his snowballs. Yes, it wouldn’t be a Friday for me without a dick joke. Awesome user-created YouTube video for this song.

6) “Look for Me (I’ll Be Around),” Neko Case. She could sing about anything and make it sound like the most beautiful yet haunted thing in the universe. With her voice and her approach, she’d turn the Lucky Charms theme into a twangy epic about how the quest for one’s lucky charms are really about the failed dreams of youth and how we placate ourselves on life's marshmallows, sweet distractions that ultimately leave us feeling empty. How’s that for a toy surprise?

7) “London’s Burning,” The Clash. The gurgling anger in Strummer’s throat makes this song. The link is one of those "misheard lyrics" videos, and it's pretty funny considering I've heard this song 1000 times and still don't know all the words.

8) “To Here Knows When,” My Bloody Valentine. Pink Floyd for the Pitchfork set. I have tried, really, to get the “genius” of this album. In fact, after P-Fork claimed it as the greatest album of the 90s, I picked it up for 99 cents in a CD club bargain sale. It’s creative, it’s different, it’s beautiful in spots, but it fucking bores me to tears. This track sounds like five minutes of a great song malfunctioning in my tape deck.

9) “Innocent Bones,” Iron & Wine. The male Neko Case, who can make anything sound delicate and wispy with his whispered singing. He would turn a close loss in fantasy football into a bittersweet tale of realizing that, in God’s fantasy football league, we can never score enough points to overcome our mortality. Even if you draft well.

10) “Blitzkrieg Bop,” The Ramones. Hey, ho, let's go! pumps me up so much, I could run through a wall. A thin Styrofoam wall, but a wall nonetheless.

11) “Ask,” The Smiths. What better way to head into the weekend than a Smiths song in which Morrissey almost sounds happy. When you grade that on a curve, that equals pure bliss for most of us.

Have a great weekend, and if you happen to be sitting along the first- or third-base lines at Wrigley in the next month, let those foul balls go!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What's keeping us up at night?

10) Lycanthropy.

9) Buzzing sounds from wife’s side of the bed.

8) Foreboding, disembodied head of Paul Krugman.

7) Creeping ourselves out by counting cloned sheep.

6) Weighing whether Cubs World Series championship is worth triggering Apocalypse.

5) Current cardboard house much breezier and pebble-strewn than former foreclosed house.

4) Severe Viagra malfunction.

3) New Starbucks I.V. bag.

2) Gnawing feeling that life is but a series of empty, meaningless actions designed to distract us from staring at the infinite blackness of an uncaring universe/thinking about fantasy football lineup (tie).

1) “President Palin.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

A funny story from last week’s Bears-Panthers game. It was hot and muggy in Charlotte, and our seats, while offering an excellent view of the field, were about three feet from the sun. At halftime I went to get something to eat, grabbing a pop, hot dog and pretzel, the last two items having mustard on them.

I began the long, sherpa-esque climb to our seats. I noticed, as my feet trudged up step after step, that my shorts were about to fall down. They were loose to begin with, and I had forgotten to pack a belt. But the 90 degree weather and my profuse sweating turned them into a khaki slip-n-slide. As I tried to adjust my hands to pull them up a little more, I gave my mustard-laden hot dog a big fat hug, leaving a paintball-sized splotch of golden yellow on my dark blue Bears shirt.

Tickle, being the loving brother he is, pointed at me and yelled out, “Hey, that guy’s got mustard all over his shirt!” Which the Charlotte fans enjoyed also pointing out for the next ten rows. Have I said how much I like my brother?

On to the tunes...

1) “Blowin’ in the Wind (Live),” Bob Dylan. There’s one thing I hope eventually fades from the political horizon: fighting over the 60s. This election in particular seems really bad, with McCain’s POW status on one side and whether Obama ever shook hands with one of the Weathermen on the other. Enough. The 60s are over and it was a tie. We can have sex more easily but pot's illegal. We know that Vietnam was a colossal clusterfuck, but if you say that, you can kiss your political career goodbye. We have enduring music from that time, but also saw that music turn into Starship and $300 Stones tickets and "Ebony and Ivory." Let's just move on.

2) “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” Alice Cooper. We, meaning the American voting public, are full of shit. Barack Obama rose on a platform of playing nice with others, which resonated because we, the voting public, are supposedly tired of electoral politics being fought in the drainage ditch outside the rendering plant. However, when Senator Matlock started going negative, it’s like he had a Sears Die Hard plugged into his campaign. And you know, it’s always been that way ever since John Adams ran for office. So fuck it, let’s embrace it. It’s not that I want campaigns to do anything illegal or immoral, or that I even want more attack ads that make balloon animals out of the facts. Instead, make commercials like the Tina Fey-Sarah Palin sketch, where you show just how stupid and empty your opponent is without having to cite anything. Or run a wordless ad of McCain hugging Bush, set to the tune of Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting." That's negativity you can believe in.

3) “Favorite Thing,” The Replacements. My favorite fuckups. The Let It Be album is just so young. It’s got that energy and pathos and anger that you only have for such a brief time in your life. You do have to move past that period or you wind up looking like a joke (or, sadly, like late guitarist Bob Stinson, dead). It’s just kind of sad to let it go.

4) “I Get Wet,” Andrew W.K. I don’t know what possessed me to buy this years ago. I think I heard “Party Hard” and thought it sounded like a fun, tongue-in-cheek song to drive really fast to. Then I got the album and realized that he didn’t seem to be kidding. It’s like swallowing codeine-laced Pez. Oh, and he’s apparently a motivational speaker. I wonder if he uses this album cover for his posters.

5) “Who Are You,” The Who. Insanity is trying to mimic Keith Moon on a set of plastic toy drums, which I have been trying to do since buying The Who Track Pack for Rock Band. Even this song, one his more straightforward, gives me rhytmic epilepsy.

6) “Hey Ladies,” Beastie Boys. The best cowbell this side of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Awesome video too.

7) “City vs. Country,” Mobius Band. One of my favorite songs that few have heard of. I don’t usually get too uppity about being a music snob. I enjoy pouring melted megahit cheese on my good-for-you indie music broccoli. Every so often, though, I like having a little nugget of music to call my own. This is one of those nuggets.

8) “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses. I love it now as much as I did then. The song got played to death, Axl became a bloated joke, Slash, Duff, and Matt Sorum formed the GnR tribute band Velvet Revolver...none of that matters. I still do the Axl shake and air guitar the solo. That’s the sign of a classic.

9) “The Well and the Lighthouse,” Arcade Fire. Neon Bible is about as good as music has gotten in the last 10 years. I get annoyed when people complain that music sucks these days when albums like this are being made.

10) “Dim,” Dada. They will always be known for their one hit, “Dizz Knee Land,” but this song is the one I kept over the years. The Lovely Becky had this on cassette (!) back when we were dating, and we would throw it in the tape deck (!!!) of my car, roll the windows down, and drive with this song blasting.

11) “Closing Time,” Semisonic. Welcome to CJSD TV’s Buzz Bin. We’ll be playing hot new videos from all your favorite 90s groups that have disappeared into the ether. Up next, the latest from Harvey Danger!

Actually, I still dig this song and the very underrated album it hails from. Make a catchy, guitar driven song that has a singalong chorus, yet adds some other flourishes (musical or lyrical), and you can pretty much take me to bed. Musically, that is.

Have a great weekend. And if you’re going to a football game, watch out for that mustard.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we rescuing our financial institutions?

Special day late and 85 billion dollars short edition!

10) Increasing the street value of retirement accounts by changing them to 401 kilo plans.

9) Allowing the full drilling of previously restricted taxpayer deposits.

8) Unveiling our stimulation plan for the new Merrill Lynch.

7) Requiring CEOs to have golden chastity belts so they can’t fuck over the economy.

6) Offering them a pre-approved line of credit with no interest for six months on their balance transfers!

5) Making Senator McCain write a book report on Economics for Dummies.

4) Constructing a giant, federally insured couch that will store emergency currency under the cushions.

3) Rounding our losses down to the nearest trillion.

2) Putting their schwag on eBay before they run out of money.

1) Giving the free market the freedom to get government handouts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Random 11

I have a dream. A small dream, but a dream nonetheless. The dream is that the next person who controls the White House will be smarter than a fifth grader. Yes, I’d much rather have a Democrat, but I would take someone smart and competent at this point. There’s nothing worse than having your rights trampled and the trains being late all the time. Punctuality of mass transportation is one of the few perks of fascism.

The presidential races made it look dicey. I felt both Clinton and Obama were smart, even if I wished both had more experience. The Republicans were more questionable. Fred Thompson looked like couldn’t eat without having someone cut his food for him. Mitt Romney was a free-market Mormon Ken doll. Giuliani didn’t appear to know how to even campaign for president, let alone be one. And Huckabee, while an awesome Colbert guest, believes he didn’t come from no monkey.

Then, in this GOP Twit of the Year contest, McCain somehow won. I have a lot of issues with McCain and certainly am rooting for the other guy, but McCain’s capacity for thought is definitely a step above his current boss. He could, say, find Georgia on a map without always guessing it’s right above Florida.

Biden, while a boring VP choice, is a smart guy, too. So there we were, 75% of the way toward getting back to the notion that presidents and their emergency successors should, you know, be kinda smart, until we arrived at this:

Ms. Palin was clearly caught off guard when Mr. Gibson asked, “Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?” Seeking direction, and perhaps time to formulate an answer, Ms. Palin leaned back, smiled stiffly and said, “In what respect, Charlie?”

Initially unwilling to define the doctrine, Mr. Gibson said, “What do you interpret it to be?”

Ms. Palin asked, “His world view?”

Mr. Gibson said, “No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.”

Ms. Palin responded: “I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation.”

Mr. Gibson, finally defining the doctrine as “the right of anticipatory self-defense,” still struggled for a direct answer, asking twice more if she agreed with it before Ms. Palin answered: “Charlie, if there is a legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country.”
Chevy Chase should get out a dress, wig, lipstick, and glasses, because his career could be back in business.

1) “Svefn-G-Englar,” Sigur Ros. The most astounding song of the decade. Too much? Well, in the Age of Hyperbole, I understand the skepticism. But no other song since 2000 wowed me like this one. The grandeur of the sound, with reverbed guitars stretching from the bottom of the ocean all the way to heaven, mix with the intimacy of the vocals to produce something that feels like a hug from a giant cloud. Easily a desert island song for me.

2) “Scared,” Duffy. I got this album for TLB, who liked Duffy’s hit single “Mercy,” a song that initially frustrated us because we thought it was Amy Winehouse. I dig Duffy’s voice, and that’s 80% of enjoying music like this.

3) “Evil Urges,” My Morning Jacket. If Prince had been born in Lexington, Kentucky, his albums would have sounded like this. Seriously, there is a song on this album that I would mistake for Cameo if I didn’t know better. Word up, indeed.

4) “Wild Horses,” The Sundays. A great cover of the classic Stones tune. I think there are two ways to cover a song, especially a classic, well. You either completely mess with it, changing it into something so radically different that it bears little resemblance to the original. This is tricky, because people will give you a short leash when it comes to fucking with a classic song. The other method is to stay close to the original, but play it in such a way that it sounds like it’s really yours. This is the latter. It’s not that different from Mick and Keef, but the soaring female vocals and chiming guitar give it a gentler, almost ethereal feel.

5) “She Goes On,” Crowded House. My friend Bob recently moved back from Iowa City to San Francisco, and he has been tormenting me with “guess which act I’m going to see” e-mails. One of those acts was Crowded House. I was filled with jealous rage. We didn’t even get the lead singers of Warrant or Ratt up here this year. At one point over Labor Day weekend, I had Libby out on our back deck. There’s a “Blues Fest” here every year, and I could hear a band playing a pretty competent but practically note for note cover of “Jessica” by The Allman Brothers. That's about as good as it gets in these parts.

6) “Weekday Bender,” Paul Brill. New to me, and a tune worth hearing again. There’s a bit of Semisonic in here (I mean that as a compliment). And really, what’s not to like about a weekday bender. Anybody can drown a weekend in a bottle. It takes true liquor gravitas to do it during the week.

Speaking of which, I’m reading Steve Coll’s excellent book on the rise of the Taliban and bin Laden, Ghost Wars. There’s one anecdote where the CIA in the late 90s caught Mir Amal Kasi, the man who murdered three CIA employees outside of Langley in 1993. The CIA put out a massive manhunt for him and finally caught him after a few years. Upon hearing the news, CIA Director George Tenet told the CIA employs to celebrate and “have a cocktail before noon.” So George Tenet, this song is for you.

7) “Me and the Bean,” Spoon. This song sounds nothing like Nirvana, but Britt Daniels vocals sound eerily like Kurt Cobain’s—the low-key, haunted Cobain of the Unplugged album.

Speaking of eerie and haunting, TLB and I are addicted to Paranormal State. It’s like Blair Witch meets Scooby Doo, with a bunch of Penn State kids hopping in the Mystery Machine to fight ghosts and demons. I am very jealous of anyone who has had any sort of paranormal or supernatural experience—as much as that stuff freaks me out, I would get a big kick out of something like that happening to me.

8) “Street Fighting Man,” The Rolling Stones. I have always been more of a Beatles guy than a Stones guy, but this is a great song. I love how Bill Wyman’s bass sneaks out of the background at the end of the chorus.

9) “Ragged Wood,” Fleet Foxes. Like listening to the sun shine on your face. A terrific slice of folk-rock. And, heh heh, they said wood.

10) “One Reporter’s Opinion,” Minutemen. They really could do a lot in two minutes.

11) “Stand Back,” Stevie Nicks. My favorite song by her after Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” I appreciate how she was able to basically take a synthesizer-heavy dance beat and turn it into a distinctively Stevie Nicks song. Because after a long day of casting spells and communicating with fairies and making voodoo dolls in the shape of Lindsey Buckingham, even witches have to cut loose.

I am off tomorrow to Charlotte to watch Da Bears play the Carolina Panthers. I originally hoped I would be attending this game after the Bears posted a respectable loss to the Colts. But after last week’s improbable spanking of God’s second-string quarterback, I, like Sarah Palin, believe God is sending the NFL in a new direction. For did not the scriptures say, “And a little neck beard shall lead them?”

Have an awesome weekend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Marriage of Tickle

We stood inside a beautiful old cathedral, bathed in multicolored light from an army of stained glass windows, rehearsing for the wedding of my brother Tickle. During the rehearsal, as my brother prepared to embark on a lifelong journey of love and happiness with his new wife, we discussed how much it would take to get him to crap his pants during his wedding.

“$3000,” said Hawkeye, the man who always plays the role of J. Poop Morgan in financing this scheme.

“No way,” said Sugar Ray, the Brad Pitt of our group: pretty to look at, difficult to listen to when not following a prepared script. “No one would pay.”

“Oh, they’ll pay,” said Hawkeye.

“He won’t do it,” said Veetz, one of Tickle’s oldest friends, his shaved white head looking like a sno-cone waiting to be covered in syrup. “K would kill him.” K being my future sister-in-law.

“Actually, for $3000, she might be okay with it,” Tickle said. “It would pay for our honeymoon.”

I knew Tickle was marrying the right woman because I knew he wasn’t exaggerating. I had once asked K what she thought of Tickle nearly crapping his pants for $1000 in Vegas. “Considering how much money he lost, I almost wish he had done it.”

As the bishop in The Princess Bride said, “Wuv, twoo wuv, will last foreveh and eveh.” Tickle had indeed found his Princess Buttercup. And because he knows that, he did not poop himself walking down the aisle. At least, not intentionally.

Beach Blanket Bride

The story of Tickle and K began on the beaches of Florida, many years ago. Tickle, during seven of the more than 2,300 days he spent as an undergraduate, went to Florida with Sugar Ray for spring break. Along the way, they met K and her friends. I have drank a lot with my brother, and I have seen how he is with his friends. At no point have I ever detected even trace elements of Marriage Material. I can only imagine what he and Sugar Ray must have been like in a setting of Jello shots and wet T-shirt contests and MTV beach houses.

Yet, as K told us during her dinner speech at the wedding, she went back to the hotel, called her mother, and said she had met the man she was going to marry.

Wuv, twoo wuv indeed.

The man she was going to marry, however, was going to take a while to marry. He had to finish school—a fate he approached with the speed and energy of slime mold slowly devouring a rotten tree trunk. He then had to move to where she was, as he was a couple of “I” states to the east. He had to find a job and save money and be ready to settle down and all the myriad other things a man has to do before he finally accepts that having someone love him for the rest of his life is not such a bad fate after all.

The Groomsmen Get Groomed

At the rehearsal dinner, Tickle and K whipped out a little something they whipped up to honor the wedding party. It was a sheet of paper, lovingly designed and laid out, that talked about each of us.

K’s side was as sweet as she is, discussing how much her bridesmaids meant to her, how they were like sisters, including my sister, E. It was a hug in print.

Tickle’s side took a different approach. For instance, here was my entry:

Brando: Groomsman and my older, less athletic brother
Origin: Chicago, Illinois
Strengths: Overanalyzing, his brothers, Trivial Pursuit, dancing on platforms in Vegas
Weaknesses: Played lots of Dungeons and Dragons as a kid. He is a member of the fan club for the musical group, Rush.
Fun facts: Recent photo discovery has revealed that Brando actually thought he was Don Johnson from Miami Vice in the 80s.
Quote: “Mom, is my warlock costume clean?”

Tickle gave us all a little roasting, with some lighthearted inside jokes that gave us all a good laugh. But our youngest brother, Snake Anthony, got it the worst of all.

Strengths: Pizza engineering [he’s worked at the same pizza place almost as long as Tickle courted K], growing facial hair [at one point, his driver’s license photo made him look like a roadie for Phish], getting weird

Weaknesses: Bananas, cheese tacos, graduating college in a timely fashion [he is challenging Tickle’s matriculation record]

The cheese taco comment stems from Snakes’s picky, bland eating habits as a kid. He hated to eat most foods, but he loved it when my mom would make a “cheese taco”: a couple slices of American cheese microwaved in a tortilla. To this day, if I ask Snake what he wants to eat, I ask if he wants a cheese taco.

Fun facts: The circumference of Snake’s head has not changed since he was five years old.

This is true. My brother was 11 1/2 pounds when he was born. Ten of it had to be his head. He had the biggest melon of any baby I’ve ever seen, and it wasn’t until his 21st birthday that he actually grew into his head.

Quote: “Mom, I’m done!”

This was the coup de grace, the spine-ripping Mortal Combat comment that sent everyone in my family except Snake into fits of laughter. When Snake was a kid and learning to use the bathroom, he insisted on having my mother wipe him when he was finished. He would sit on the toilet and call out, “Mom, I’m done.” He would continue to chant this over and over, like some kind of Buddhist mantra, until my mother appeared. What made it even funnier was how big he was: my brother looked at least 2-3 years older than he was because of the size of his head. So here was this child who looked around six, calling over and over for our mother to clean his bum.

Tickle told me about Snake’s quote before the rehearsal. When I told Snake what Tickle was doing with the groomsmen list, he immediately knew what his quote would be, and sadly shook his large, but now proportional, head.

Commando Sugar Ray

Sugar Ray showed up to the rehearsal in white pants and a tropical floral shirt that made him look like an extra from the movie Blow. We kept calling him Escobar all night.

Commenting on the pants, Sugar Ray nonchalantly mentioned that he doesn’t wear underwear when he wears white pants. It took a moment for this horrifying revelation to sink in. Sugar Ray explained that he didn’t want his underwear to show through his pants.

I turned to Smoke, who gets called that because one of his strengths is “treating his glaucoma.” “I’m not comfortable even when there are two layers of clothing separating me from Sugar Ray.”

Later that night, at a bar after dinner, Sugar Ray sat laughing and talking with Tickle, his legs open and carefree as he rested his feet on two different bar stools. My brother stopped, screwed his face up for a moment, and then let out a cry of disgust. Apparently something much worse than panty lines made an appearance in Sugar Ray’s pants.

The Story of Pancake Z

Z served as Tickle’s best man. He is called Z because has one of those long Polish names that inevitably get shortened, like Coach K. Z is a large, nice guy, easily the nicest of the groomsman. Which is why he gets shit on constantly by his friends.

A few of the groomsmen were staying at Tickle’s house, and the day of the wedding, Z got up and made them pancakes. Smoke started calling him Pancake Z.

It’s usually the stupidest nicknames that stick the hardest. Tickle heard Smoke and also began using Pancake Z. By the time I got to the church, the whole wedding party called him Pancake Z.

“Stop it,” Z said. “That nickname will never stick.”

“I think it’ll stick like batter on an ungreased skillet,” I countered.

Veetz found a poster in the front of the church, an ad for a Catholic periodical. It showed a stack of pancakes with “Food for the body” on one side, and a stack of the periodicals with “Food for the soul” on the other. Pancake Z seemed anointed by God.

When we lined up for photos, the photographer kept pointing and saying “you” to direct us. After she pointed to Z, Tickle said, “you can call him Pancake Z.” She proceeded to call him Pancake Z every single time, except when she shortened it to “Pancake.”

We mixed it up a bit. We tried Flapjack Z, and I also suggested Griddle Cake Z. But we kept coming back to Pancake Z. It’s been over a month and it has stuck. This is why Z’s quote was, “I hate my friends.”

The Cock Lamp

The wedding went off without a hitch. It was a beautiful, touching ceremony, without a hint of irony or smartass comment.

Then the fun started.

The wedding party departed in one of those hotel shuttle buses that had been converted to a limo. We traveled around downtown Des Moines, drinking ample amounts of beer and stopping to have our pictures taken by the very nice but artistically aggressive photographer. At one point, we stopped near a reflecting pool in the middle of some office buildings. The photographer ordered the guys to take off their shoes and socks, roll up their pants, and go stand in the water. The bridesmaids were to hop on our backs for a “fun” photo. We protested but complied, because for some reason, when you hold a camera in your hand at a wedding, it’s like a scepter that gives you royal authority over the wedding party.

I had the added bonus of having my sister E on my back. I decided to make the most of the situation. After stepping into the scummy water and getting the photo taken, I set her back down. “That was surprisingly arousing,” I said.

“Gross, Brando!” E yelled. That made the bacterial foot infection I was bound to get worth it.

We arrived at the reception, and Pancake Z pulled the groomsmen aside to review his master plan for the toast. This requires a little history: Tickle and his friends have long had a habit of stealing things from each others domiciles. Never anything of actual value, but definitely things of sentimental value or items that would supremely annoy the other person. Tickle was one of the worst culprits, and very sneaky in his kleptomania.

Pancake Z decided to get a little revenge at the reception. He and the other groomsmen hijacked a whole bag of Tickle’s possessions. Most of the items were just jokey stuff, but a couple were true treasures of Tickle. One was a commemorative Indiana basketball plate that Pancake Z had lifted months in advance. Tickle knew one of his friends had taken it and was genuinely pissed about the theft. But the true Ark of the Convenant was Tickle’s cock lamp. My brother—30, college educated, homeowner, and soon-to-be husband—owned a lamp showing a rooster crowing. It was a prized possession.

Once Tickle and K were distracted by wedding activities, Pancake Z had the guys bring the booty into the cloakroom. We would strike during the best man’s toast.

As with the bridesmaid/groomsmen sheet at the reception, K’s maids of honor (she had two) gave their speeches first, delivering sweet, lovely speeches. After melting the hearts of everyone with their praise of K, it was our turn.

Pancake Z stood, turned to my brother, and said, “Wow, spring break. Heck of a way to meet chicks.” He spoke for a bit longer about Tickle and K, then turned the mic over to me—Z wanted a family perspective on Tickle’s nuptials and also needed a distraction to fetch our props. I didn’t write a prepared speech, but it went like this:

Many of us in my family did not think this day would come. Or, if it did come, turn out quite like this. You see, when Tickle was a toddler, he used to walk around in my mother’s heels carrying a toy purse our sister had, a purse shaped like a little house. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re absolutely right—he looked fabulous. But we had questions.

On top of that, Tickle was already married to a group of men. He and his friends have very close, almost intimate relationships, calling each other by pet names and arguing like married couples. So, again, we had questions.

But one day, my brother departed to search for a bride, as many men do, on the beaches of spring break. There he found K, to which I and the rest of my family are eternally thankful. Not just because K is such a wonderful, welcome addition to the family, but because she is the one wearing the heels and carrying the purse.

After I finished, Pancake Z announced that he had some gifts for Tickle. We proceeded to cover the table in front of them with an assortment of crap: work boots, t-shirts, videos of terrible movies, and a ton of other knick-knacks. We presented the Indiana plate, causing Tickle to launch into a series of “I knew you had this” assertions. Finally, we lifted the cock lamp on the table, setting it in all its frozen crowing glory right in front of the bride and groom. It is doubtlessly in numerous wedding photos.

Tickle gave a speech, one that was surprisingly straightforward for the most part—I think my brother was a little overcome. K spoke after him. She said the immortal words many say during wedding speeches: crying as she said, “I said I wouldn’t cry.” Amid her thanks and joy, she referenced the cock lamp by name, which was awesome beyond words. Addressing my family, her voice made extra high by trying to hold back her emotions, she said, “And I want to thank my new family. I love you guys, and I love coming to Grandma’s for Christmas, because it’s so hot and loud and everyone yells at each other.” It was one of the most touching cases of Stockholm Syndrome I have ever seen.

“I think I should take my shirt off.”

We ate, we drank, and we danced. Hawkeye and Trapper owned the dance floor the same way they did in Vegas, scorching the tiles in tandem with their wives. My Grandma—and one of Libby’s namesakes—got out on the floor, too, boogieing to “Shout” and “Brick House”:

The bar stayed open a good four hours, allowing the wheels of celebration to be excessively lubricated. Few wheels were more lubricated than my father’s. After all, he was paying for the booze.

Dad is a funny guy. Growing up, he had been a pretty stern authority figure—a funny man, but not one to put up with shenanigans from his children, who constantly engaged in shenanigans. Yet, as a child, he had practically been a greaser from The Outsiders, engaging in all sorts of hijinks, usually fueled by alcohol. That side tends to make an appearance at things like his son’s wedding reception.

In the men’s room, late in the reception, I ran into him. We were both sweaty and drunk. “It’s pretty hot in there,” Dad said. “I think I should take my shirt off.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” I replied.

Rhetorical questions are not meant to be answered, but my father answered mine by removing his tuxedo shirt. He spent the last hour of the reception in a sleeveless athletic t-shirt, having a grand time, and making my mother laugh despite her attempts to not to encourage him.

The apples didn’t fall far from the trees.

The reception finally came to a close, and we returned to our hotels and homes, trying to soak in that Tickle was now married. That seems much more odd than his ownership of a cock lamp.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What changes are we making to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Special extra big bailout edition!

11) Borrowers facing foreclosure must serve as indentured servants of Chinese investors who own their mortgages.

10) Bad credit risks can get pre-approved with qualified military enlistment.

9) Instead of being FDIC-insured, all future loans will have faith-based guarantees.

8) Board members will be chosen from winners of public Monopoly tournaments.

7) Once per year, a virgin hedge fund manager will be offered as a sacrifice.

6) Risky loan behavior will be curbed only through financial-abstinence-only education.

5) Shareholders are to be rounded up, shorn of their stock certificates, and put out to pasture.

4) High adjustable-rate mortgages may be exchanged for high-caliber weapons under new “ARMs for Arms” program.

3) All employees must wear matching question-mark suits.

2) Future CEOs must have at least one redeeming quality.

1) Taxpayers will be required to purchase their own lube.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday Random 11

I turned 38 yesterday. My brother Tickle “congratulated” me by reminding me that my father once owned a t-shirt that said “40 and Sporty” on it. “That will be you in two years,” Tickle said.

We laughed because my father seemed so much older than I do. By the time my dad was 40, he had four kids, worked two jobs, and was fully entrenched in adulthood. I feel like I just entered adulthood. Tickle is still waiting for his adulthood visa, which I suspect he won’t get because he’s on a maturity watch list.

Yet, at 61, my dad doesn’t seem old at all. This is a man who, just a few weeks ago, took his shirt off during the reception at Tickle’s wedding (which I’m finally going to post this weekend). We’re going to a Bears game in a couple weeks, and I know he’s going to be knocking back beers and cheering just as rabidly as we are. Maybe the fact that he was so sporty in his forties is what kept him young.

1) “Come Together,” The Beatles. I have to hand it to McCain, it is amusing to see him try to play the “come together” card. The whole RNC has been “Democrats bad,” epitomized by the dog-whistle shrieking of Sarah “fuck community service” Palin. He then comes in and says we have to overcome the Bipartisan Rancor, making it sound like that monster that Jabba the Hut kept in a pit in the desert. Except that the biggest cheers of his speech came when he went after Obama. Good luck with all that.

I also love that he treated his hug buddy Bush like Lord Voldemort, transforming him into He Who Shall Not Be Named. And we’re supposed to believe that the party of change is the party in charge....

2) “Don’t Get Me Busted,” The Donnas. An odd dilemma in female empowerment. Is it refreshing that a group of young women can play simplistic three-chord rock and sing about nailing anything that moves as well as the boys can? Or is it just sexism wearing a strap-on? And am I part of the solution or part of the problem for liking this?

3) “What Would Wolves Do?” Les Savy Fav. This album (Let’s Stay Friends) is so up my alley. It’s got great hooks but plenty of punky fire, along with bits of 80s production like the drums in this song. And who doesn’t love a little howling?

4) “Pinhead,” The Ramones. The other day, I had a discussion with one of my friends: Top 5 movies you liked but would never want to watch again. I listed American History X (mostly because of the street curb scene), he mentioned Schindler’s List. But really, the top would have to be Todd Browning’s Freaks, which inspired this classic Ramones song. I saw it when I was in grad school and it was about as unsettling of a movie as I’d ever seen. The ending of this song always projects the ending onto my brain and gives me a bit of a shiver.

5) “Big Boring Wedding,” Guided by Voices. I miss Guided by Voices more than any other group that disbanded. Even though singer Robert Pollard was the main force and has gone on to recording solo, there was something about him in a band format that worked so much better. He could crank out catchy, rocking ditties like this song as if he had a goose that laid golden pop songs. This is one of the ones that hooked me early.

6) “Welcome to the Terrordome,” Public Enemy. I got suckered into one of those VH1 greatest videos of the 80s marathons last weekend, and at one point they brought up Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” I was never a big fan, because Public Enemy didn’t really speak to me. But I’m always impressed how revolutionary this still sounds. The beats, the samples, and especially the attitude sound just as innovative and intimidating as they did nearly 20 years ago. That’s one of the most difficult feats in popular music, as yesterday’s “Revolution” is today’s Nike commercial or supermarket music. I doubt we’ll ever see Public Enemy selling minivans or mutual funds.

7) “Rehab,” Amy Winehouse. I am always surprised that people express surprise at our fascination with public train wrecks. We live for train wrecks. Publicly destroying our pop culture icons is the new gladiator combat, with TMZ and Us Weekly and blogs as the new arenas. Kudos to Winehouse for not only recognizing that, but embracing it and writing songs about how fucked up she is. That keeps the emperor’s thumb in the up position.

8) “No Lucifer,” British Sea Power. From their album, Do You Like Rock Music? My question is, how can you like rock music without Lucifer? I’m not a big fan of the devil, but damn if he isn’t a demon in the producer’s chair.

Also, if you’re going to call your band British Sea Power, you should be playing some sort of combo of prog/metal/math/space rock, not refried U2. Not that I don’t like the song, it’s just that I expected something that lasted as long as a voyage across the Atlantic, that packed the wallop of broadside blast into a French frigate, and that had a little scurvy in its musical gums.

9) “Junior Partners,” Sloan. On the other hand, if you are a Canadian rock trio, you automatically get the benefit of the doubt from me. Actually, this wouldn’t be out of place as a lost track from Abbey Road.

10) “Nothing Better,” The Postal Service. Also, if you rip off the 80s, you’re bound to get a listen from me. In the case of The Postal Service, they got lots of listens. A catchy synthesizer/drum machine beat, nice male/female interplay in the vocals...they had me at the first *BOOP*.

11) “Your Time Is Gonna Come,” Led Zeppelin. The churchy organ opening is awesome. As I’ve gotten older, I think Led Zeppelin I has moved into the top slot of my favorite Zeppelin records. IV is a deserved but overplayed classic, III is eclectic but kind of a mess, and II, Physical Graffiti, and Houses of the Holy have too much hot dog filler amid the classics. This is the only Zep album where I don’t skip a track.

And I’m begging, pleading really, for them to license some songs to Rock Band. I’ve got Keith Moon, I’ve got Neil Peart, and now I need John Bonham to complete the banging on plastic drums hat trick.

Have a great weekend. I will be having my first Daddy-Daughter Day with Libby on Sunday, teaching her how to yell at the TV during sporting contests.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What did we not disclose during the vetting process?

10) Demonstrated foreign policy experience by invading Kamchatka from Alaska.

9) Once dropped a bunch of mescaline and rode a moose naked through downtown Cicely.

8) Our brother, Michael, was the rotating head of an anarcho-syndicalist commune that advocated a filth-based economy.

7) Approved the construction of a tuna factory on the Island of the Blue Dolphins.

6) Advocated the teaching of The Flying Spaghetti Monster along with evolution.

5) Pushed for development of vehicles that could run on burning books.

4) Lobbied for earmarks to build a bridge to Tarabithia before throwing support to more popular Hogwarts projects.

3) Nipples harden at the phrase “abstinence education.”

2) To tell a family secret, our grandmother was Dutch.*

1) Didn’t look under the burka of our running mate until the night before our political marriage.

*not safe for work