I am back from a whirlwind of work and vacation and trying to settle back into ordinary life. I have that feeling where you stop running but still feel like you’re being tugged by leash. It’s been three days and I’m just starting to feel myself slip back to normality.
Vacation was fantastic, as it always is. We took our annual beach trip with The Lovely Becky’s family, and we had all the ingredients for a successful trip: beer, Canadians, sea, sand, fried food, grilled meat, and an older child who was delighted to herd the younger ones so that we only occasionally had to put down our drinks and act like parents. The men even grilled during a thunderstorm where we put up a tent over the grill to keep the coals dry, while holding the metal poles to keep it from blowing away as lightning flashed all around us. Put that in a fucking commercial, Budweiser.
I snapped a few photos that reminded me of the illustrious thunderpants, although not the same level of quality he delivers. The house we rent is on the ocean row, so we have easy access to the beach as well as a great view.
1) “Begin the Begin,” R.E.M. Before we got to this magical time of not working, there was much work to be done. My company sponsors a pretty big conference each year—we had 1500 attendees this time—and it just so happened that it was in Chicago right before I left for vacation. Now, there are worse things than spending a few days in The Loop, but as it’s our event, the conference is very exhausting because you are constantly on. For instance, let’s say (hypothetically) that you are in an elevator and feeling some ill effects from drinking too many beers the night before and especially the gas generating effects of said hops, malt, and yeast. You are alone in the elevator and you simply cannot wait, so you do what you have to do, figuring at least you’re only punishing yourself. Except right after the fog horn sounds, the elevator stops, and four attendees enter, see your name badge, and then narrow their eyes as they wrinkle their noses. You didn’t just commit a faux pas, you just lost a sale! Alec Baldwin definitely won't give you the good leads after something like that.
2) “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Joe Cocker. Of course, I would not be employed by a company that was all work and no play, and my company knows how to let loose. In fact, I was asked by our events manager if I wanted to manage “the suite.” Due to the size of the event, we usually sell out our host hotel, so they throw in their presidential suites. We use these as our sanctuary where we can hang out, drink, and be our real selves, potential elevator consequences be damned. The downside is that whoever stays in the suite has company well into the night, but as our manager pointed out, “You’re usually one of the last ones there, so I figured you wouldn't care.” That logic was water-tight, so I gladly accepted this most important of responsibilities.
The suite was amazing. It was as big as the main floor of my house and had a view of Navy Pier—from the Jacuzzi tub! What has two thumbs and was going to enjoy that view while sucking down a few cans of Fat Tire? This guy! The first night wasn’t even too bad. People were still trickling in to the conference, so we had a modest group, had a few drinks, and everyone was out by 11. I let out a Sir Robin, “That’s easy!” and retired to bed with plans to enjoy my big soak the next night.
3) “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” Led Zeppelin. The second verse was not the same as the first. The first full day of the conference was very, very busy, which meant I was feeling even more in the mood for liquid refreshment than usual. I also wound up going out and having preliminary drinks with some friends who happened to be in town, so I showed up back at my palatial abode with my wheels already greased. I had given my key to someone earlier so he could unlock the suite, and as I rounded the corner of the hall, I could hear the unwinding quite clearly. The suite was full, many bottles were empty, and quite a few more fell to the wayside until the other side of midnight. No soaking for me and not a lot of sleep, but what’s a little fatigue to hang out with friends.
I forgot, however, that the night before the last day of the conference is always the FINAL night, because most people leave after the final session (myself included). So night number three carried on into the wee hours past 1:00 am…and I was scheduled to man our exhibit booth at 7:00 am. We also spent the evening taking pictures of people in my tub (clothed, sadly or gladly, depending on your point of view), and as the final guest departed, I decided against a late night Jacuzi blast because I was worried I would fall asleep beneath the bubbles. So for all the luxurious frippery of what will probably be the nicest room I will ever stay in, my use of the room extended to getting not enough sleep in the bed and cleaning up beer bottles at the end of the night. Yeah, I know, it’s white people problems, but I was genuinely bummed about the tub. I also volunteered to do it again next year.
4) “Skyway,” The Replacements. The best part of the week was being in downtown Chicago. I have made it abundantly clear how glad I am to be out of Frosty Beaver, Michigan, and back into a land full of traffic, corruption, and random crime. But I live in the burbs and have only had the occasional afternoon or evening jaunt into the city. Being able to stay downtown for a few days really let me soak the city in. Just walking around to and from dinner was so invigorating. I really hope civilization doesn't collapse in my lifetime because I quite dig it.
5) “Two of Us,” The Beatles. TLB is a notorious Beatles agnostic—not a hater exactly, but she doesn't believe in them. I love her despite this, the way she loves me for enjoying screeched-out prog-rock missives about trees unionizing in a forest. We had this conversation recently.
TLB: I heard “Let It Be” today, and I think I figured out why I don’t like the Beatles. It’s because they don’t do enough of anything for me. They’re not rocking enough, not folk enough, not arty enough…they try all those things but don’t take them as far enough to be interesting to me.
ME: (pause) It’s amazing, but my ears completely closed up after “…I don’t like The Beatles.” You had this reaction after hearing "Let It Be?" Like, one of the greatest, most moving songs in recorded history?
TLB: Yes. (shrungs)
ME: Let's not speak of this again.
6) “Turk,” High on Fire. METAL! The cover of this album features a guy who is either a skeleton or wearing a skeleton mask and also carrying a bag of skulls. The guy next to him is wielding a glaive, which I recognize because I learned about medieval polearms from playing D&D. It is easily my favorite album cover of the last 10 years. Yes, I am 41 and not a virgin.
7) “Burn After Writing,” The Menzingers. TLB and Libby flew out for vacation a little early this year, which I couldn't do because of work. Instead, I drove out to meet them after I was done. I had two days by myself in the car, and I don’t think I have ever driven that far by myself before. It was also two days with my iPod and no demands from my daughter to play all “girl singers” or hearing “I HATE RUSH” from both of the ladies in my life. So I enjoyed this bit of punk pop that has a splash of emo at high volume without hearing complaints from the booster seat or someone psychoanalyzing my enjoyment of high school pop punk as a symptom of Peter Pan complex. I’M CRYING BECAUSE SHE LEFT HIM BEFORE THE PROM! THAT’S SO SAD! Seriously, though, I really like this.
8) “When I Was a Young Girl,” Feist. Libby had a blast on vacation. Two of her cousins who accompany us are six and five, so the three of them enjoy playing together. At the end of the week, however, she got very upset when she found out we were leaving. We told her we had to go home and another family was coming to rent the house. “I don’t want them here, I want to stay!” she said. I think she thought we had moved. We talked about how she would go back to school and see her friends, and she gave us a look that said they were all dead to her. The real irony is that TLB and I were discussing whether to move Libs to a more affordable daycare. We ultimately decided no, in part because my itinerant, Navy-brat existence has made me want to provide my daughter with as much social stability as possible. Yet here she was, ready to ditch kids she’s known for two years for ocean-front property.
9) “Call the Doctor,” Sleater-Kinney. A few weeks ago, I went to see my doctor because I had a chest sensation. It was this odd feeling that lasted a couple of days. As soon as I felt it I was immediately on WebMD looking up heart attack symptoms, and I realized that WebMD should require you to present RN or MD credentials, because that fucking site can talk you into anything. Oh my God, I have fatigue, I must have West Nile! Anyway, as I have high blood pressure (gee, I wonder why?) I went in to my doctor. I felt like a tool in a Hertz commercial when he asked his questions: Does it hurt? Not exactly. Do you have any pain? Not exactly. Are you a giant dingleberry whose imagination and high-speed Internet connection turn you into a panicky idiot? Exactly! Just to be safe (translation: avoid a lawsuit when I dropped dead of Ebola), he sent me in for a cardio test. They put you on a treadmill for a while with electrodes everywhere and find out how much of a fatty your heart is. I was fine, of course, but the bonus (translation: punishment) was that I got to have my chest shaved with a DRY RAZOR do they could attach the electrodes. So I went to the beach with swaths of chest hair mowed down like a Brazilian rainforest. Would it have been too much to tell me ahead of time so I could have manscaped properly? Afterward, TLB said it wasn’t that noticeable, but that’s what they say about Ebola until it’s too late! So I spent all week in a swim shirt.
10) “Bring Me Back,” Seeker, Lover, Keeper. Here’s what I hate about buying music digitally: I have no real connection to the buying process. I can look through my CDs and kind of remember mostly what I was doing, where I was, or how drunk I was when purchasing those albums (hello, Lita Ford’s Greatest Hits). Now I probably buy more than half of my albums digitally, and I wind up with stuff like this—perfectly lovely female folk, but I can’t remember what possessed me to buy it. Had I been driving my Subaru a lot? Wearing Becky’s underwear? Trying to find something to calm me down why reading symptoms of leprosy online? Yet I can remember exactly the time I marched into the local shithole record store and bought Danzig II: Lucifuge on cassette. (I think a Lucifuge is a centrifuge that turns holy water into a fallen angel.)
11) “On the Way,” Dinosaur Jr. Only a week from my fantasy football draft and I am like Rainman waiting for Wopner. One of the running backs I was hoping to draft broke his clavicle last night, and I spent at least 20 minutes laying in bed mentally debating the merits of taking two wide receivers with my first two picks. This is why TLB’s Beatles animosity doesn’t bother me, because she puts up with a hogshead of retardary from me while she has a shot glass of things that mildly annoy me. On the plus side, my heart felt great.
Enjoy the weekend!