Thursday, January 29, 2004

Dennis, Please -- Sail Away. Far Away

"Dennis F--king DeYoung?" I shouted to my empty car. "Are you kidding me?"

Not hearing an answer, I continued searching for a parking spot. Twenty minutes later, I found one, and I had to walk four blocks in the freezing cold. All because of Dennis DeYoung.

I was driving to my friends' coffee shop/meeting place, The Commonspace, so that I might appear on television. It seems that Smash, a former VJ turned local DJ turned local reporter does a weekly broadcast from a hotspot. Usually, he goes to MP O'Reiley's or some such pit of Hell, where's he's surrounded by slurring frat boys and near-comatose girls, and tonight, he chose The Commonspace's Thursday night "Board Game Night" -- which, I might add, unofficially ended a few months ago. So much for having your finger on the pulse of today's youth, I guess.

So I was driving up Grand, looking for a place to park, praying that nothing was appearing at the Fox, or I was up a creek. No such luck. By the time I made it there, I was three miles downstream with a leaky raft and broken paddles.

Normally, this wouldn't bother me. I like the Fox. I like that it's an ornate, majestic theater that plays a lot of great shows. Only tonight, as the sign boldly announced, the headliner was Dennis DeYoung.

I'm not sure what appalls me more - that Dennis DeYoung still performs his brand of pompous, overproduced whiny rock, or that several thousand of my fellow citizens actually shelled out $50 to hear him wheeze through "Mr. Roboto", "Don't Let it End" or "Renegade".

As a result, I had to walk several blocks to my destination. Ordinarily, I wouldn't mind this, except that it was so cold my testicles crawled back up inside, and I don't blame them. Oh, and I was walking because people actually paid to see Dennis DeYoung.

I could understand this if they still played his music on the radio, so that people would become susceptible to the subliminal messages telling them to buy his albums or see his concerts. But KSHE, the local classic rock station, wants nothing to do with him -- they're too busy playing Little Feat, which is a whole other post subject.

So it's two hours later, and I can finally feel my feet again. And my nose. And I'm still appalled that my fellow citizens, who live in the greatest country on the earth, would pay money to see Dennis DeYoung.

I'm going to lock myself in my house if (-shudder-) Sammy Hagar ever forces himself on us again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

A Sleeping Dilemma

There's actually a beginning part to my earlier post: one of the reasons I had trouble finally waking up is that I haven't been sleeping well at all for the past three nights. I'm starting to become a little concerned; I stopped drinking caffeine several hours before going to bed; I exercise, hoping it'll tire me out, but instead, I lie in bed exhausted, desperate and sleepless. Not fun.

I've tried finding that little thread in my head that leads to sleep -- you know, the one that causes your thoughts to become unfocused and relaxed as you fade out, but for something always drags me back. This lasts until sometime around 3:00 AM, when I finally nod off.

The hell of it is that I start fixating on it, and that makes it that much more difficult. I've tried reading myself to sleep. I've tried watching television. I've tried just lying in a darkened, quiet bedroom, trying not to think about the day's ghosts - memories that crawl back and replay themselves to me.

I just don't want to turn into the Narrator from "Fight Club" -- working in porn theaters while my alter ego plots to overthrow society. I don't like that idea: nothing would depress me more than working in a porn theater, and as for the world thing, I'm already working on it, so my alter ego can just butt the hell out. Besides, no one at work would notice if I showed up with a bruised face and bloodied clothes - I do it all the time.

All kidding aside, I think the problem is fixation: my mother always said she's not truly happy unless she has something to worry about, and I know I inherited some of that. Two nights ago, my neighbor's car was stolen; now I'm sure when I walk out in the cold morning that there won't be a car waiting for me. I hear a drip from the bathroom and convince myself there's a leak that will eventually cause the bathroom to fall into the kitchen -- probably while I'm on the throne. You get the idea.

Perhaps a vacation is in order. Perhaps a big change of some sort. Perhaps shakabuku ("A swift spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever" -- big props if you can name the movie).

In any case, I'm headed off to bed now; worst case scenario: I'll finish some Sherlock Holmes mysteries and be extra cranky at work tomorrow, best case, I'll be out in ten minutes. I'm hoping for the latter.

Monday, January 26, 2004

A Waking Dilemma

I like to think of myself as a morning person; someone who leaps up at the first alarm, flies into the shower, skips to the car and runs into work. This morning, I began to realize that I might be full of it.

I woke up at 7:30. The big problem here is that I set my alarm clocks (that's right -- two clocks) for 5:30 and somehow turned both of them off while sleeping. Not good. Part of the problem is that I hate work, and I see little point in sitting in traffic for 45 minutes to go somewhere I'd rather not be.

Another part of the problem is that it's really cold out, and I don't like to be roused from hibernation. I've often said the bear leads the perfect life -- they wander around the wilderness, eating berries, ants and honey and sleep for four months. That's a lifestyle I can get behind.

And it's not like this is a new problem. My junior year of college, I sat up all night studying for a final and decided to get two hours of sleep. I woke up hearing a strange buzzing sound, which after five minutes, my sleep-addled brain put this series of thoughts together:

"Isn't that the fire alarm?"
"Yeah . . . "
"That's kind of funny. They usually only test those on Thursdays . . ."
"Well, it is Thursday."
"But don't they test those at SWEET JESUS!! TEN-THIRTY!!!!!!"

The final was at 9:00. I won't bore all three of you with the details of the truly epic ass-kissing I pulled off to be allowed to take the test a day later. Needless to say, the Two Alarm Era began that afternoon.

But now it appears to be failing. I need to rearrange the clocks to remedy this problem. Sure I could go to bed earlier, but why would I do such a thing? So I don't know what to do about this problem, but short of paying someone to walk in and pour freezing water over my head, I don't really have any good ideas.

Needless to say, I have my best man working on it -- me. I expect a solution will present itself soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Keno, Anyone?

Cosmic balance has been restored.

How, you ask? Let's turn the clock back to the heady days of late summer 2003, when young impressionable me headed to Vegas for the first time. I'm s simple Midwesterner; the combination of bright lights, free drinks and wild abandon threatened to overwhelm me completely. Case in point: those damned Wheel of Fortune slot machines.

If you're one of those souls who never sets foot inside a casino, a brief explanation is in order. Slot machines have progressed past the simple yet quaint one-armed bandits who sat quietly in the corner, waiting to rob you of your pocket change. Now they have screens. They shine. They scream. They glitter. They beckon. And none beckon like the Wheel of Fortune.

"Wheel! Of! Fortune!!!!!" The voices shout, just like the TV show. You hear the game's siren song: "Doo Doo Dee-do". And I couldn't resist the damn thing. The machine just kept giving money away. Everyone walked away with 20, 30, 40, 100 dollars. Everyone except me.

I could feel frustration mounting as I sat in front of one of these damned machines, surrounded by the majesty of Caesar's Palace, and all I could think of was how I had just dropped $20 into this cursed slot machine and didn't get to spin the freakin' wheel once.

It was enough to drive me to drink. And it did. But at least I had obnoxious - but very cute - dealers to look at then. Instead of a kaleidescope of evil spinning in front of me.

But tonight, the scales have returned to balance. I went to the casino with some friends. They decided to play Keno (apparently my friend is turning into a little old lady, but that's another story). I grew bored and went for a walk.

Wheel! Of! Fortune!

I heard it. Then I saw it - a bank of nickel machines. Next to a TV playing the Blues game. So I thought, surely there's no harm in watching a little hockey. Right? And what's the harm in sitting in this empty stool? And, well, shoot, there's a commercial. Hey, it's only one dollar.

I was down to $.20 when I finally could spin the wheel, and the magic 1000 came up. So here I am, $50 richer.

With a light heart and heavy wallet, I strutted back to my friends - you know, the ones playing (-snicker-) Keno? I figured I'd get some good gloating in. One of them won $300.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Martian Chop Shops and the Future

So we've lost contact with the Mars rover. Do you think that 20 years from now, when the first astronaut scrambles out of the airlock and onto the Martian surface that he'll find it stripped and on concrete blocks?

If a Martian walked up to the rover and started yanking parts off, what would NASA do anyway? "Hey! Back off man! No! We're not kidding! Don't make us come up there . . . in 20 years."

All kidding aside, I find these missions fascinating, and I hope they reestablish contact soon. People tend to disregard these missions, calling them too expensive and risky. But call me naive, but I think the thrill of watching a man (or even a woman) first stepping onto Martian soil will help bring us all together.

Plus all the scientific benefits. Just think, the moon missions brought us Tang - good Lord, what could a trip to Mars bring us? It boggles the mind . . .

I'm not a big fan of President Bush. I think he's more interested in making him and his buddies more rich than actually benefitting the country (see Iraq, the "needed" energy policy, drilling for oil in Alaska, I think you get the idea). But this is one idea I do support.

I hope that 20 years from now, we're watching a grainy picture of an astronaut coming off a ladder onto alien soil for the first time. I hope that it helps bring us all together - like Neil Armstrong did for a short time 35-odd years ago. I hope that this astronaut, whoever he (or she) may be, can fetch back the parts of the Mars Rover from the martians at a fair price.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Trust Me! Of Course I'm Honest!

I received an e-mail from Citibank yesterday, and I have to say that I think they're in trouble. I found this rather strange for a few reasons. One -- because I never gave Citibank my e-mail address. Second, because they never found it necessary to e-mail me before.

But mostly, I was worried about their atrocious spelling. Here's the first line:

Thiss E-MAIL was ssent by the_ _Citibank servers to
veerify your _email_ adress_.

See what I mean? That's horrifying!

Also, can't Citibank afford their own e-mail server? I mean sending an e-mail from seems kind of cheap. Couldn't they secure the domain name? Heck, Microsoft sues 17-year-olds for coming up with riffs off their name based on his own. Citibank is just too darn nice for it's own good I guess.

But the thing that concerns me the most is that they asked me to click on a link, and enter my account number and PIN in the "litlle winddow". Whatever that is. But wouldn't Citibank already have that information? Why should I type it into a "litlle winddow"?

What's that? This is a scam, you say? Nonsense! It can't be!

In all seriousness, I can't believe that people actually fall for this stuff. Identity theft scares the hell out of me. Anyone can get scammed, and some poor sucker actually falls for this lame-ass scam? I'm insulted they sent it to me . . . even though I won't tell them about it. The last thing I need is more spam.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Fear and Revulsion in the Cracker Aisle

She kept glancing in my direction as I mulled over what brand of cracker to buy. At least that's what I was telling myself - cute blond. No visible deformations, tatoos or mental illnesses. I decided to risk a second glance, when I saw it, shining like a red light: the ring. So why was she looking my direction?

Then it hit me -- I was talking to myself. This is something I do. I like lists. I make lists constantly. Lists are a cornerstone of my existence. However, when I'm alone, I tend to make lists, and sometimes I mutter them - you know, stuff like "Buy crackers, milk and horse tranquilizers." So it looks like I'm talking to myself.

I like to think it's charmingly eccentric, but apparently there are those who think it's disturbing - like pretty blondes at grocery stores. So my question becomes this -- am I turning into one of those crazy guys who wanders the streets muttering to himself? Well, more than I do now? Should I stop snarling at happy couples walking by arm-in-arm? Should I start shaving and wearing clean clothes?

Nah -- I like being charmingly eccentric. Besides, after awhile, one restraining order is like another: just a piece of paper lining my walls.

So ladies, if you see me wandering around the streets, glancing furtively about and muttering something, it's okay -- I'm pretty harmless, not homeless and I'm employed. I just carry on long conversations with myself. And the voices in my head.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Miscellaneous Stuff

Life has hit one of those lulls, so today will just be some random stuff - although I promise to write more. I've been slacking lately, and it will stop.

I need to figure out how to slap my boss down for last week's episode of "Treat Brian Like He's Stupid" -- he described what an ice bucket does, because apparently I'm too damn dumb to know better. I thought about just killing him on the spot, but that seemed like it might be a little extreme.

I'd pity him for being in a bad no-win situation, but he's such a horse's ass that I simply can't. Hopefully, I'll be out of there soon. Or else I'll need the number of a good body disposer. Know any? How about a nice pig farm? That'll do, too.

One bit of very good news -- I'm going to be an uncle later this year. My brother will be a fantastic father, and I'm really excited for him. I thought my mother was going to explode when she told me. She was going in for knee surgery the next day and she was kind of nervous about it, so this took her mind off things nicely. Of course, no one's called her "Grandma" yet.

Originally, this post was called "Frustration" and it was a musing on how we go from finding something relaxing to frustrating. I still think it an interesting idea and I want to explore it more, but it was also pretty damned moody and depressing. Perhaps later.

'Night, world. Keep your nose warm and your conscience clean.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Drama, Betrayal and Kickball

Apparently, I've made enemies. My first enemies in 11 years. Now, when I look in a darkened corner, I see red eyes glaring back at me. Every walk to the car is fraught with danger - because I don't know if the car will be there. Or if the tires will be intact. It's a scary, exhilerating feeling, knowing the wolves are at the door and the barbarians are at the gate.

What caused this, you ask? Well, my friends . . . it's that dangerous game known as kickball, and how I'm too damn nice for my own good.

Looking back, I think I can best describe my leadership style as "trying to keep everyone happy". Well, you know what happens when you do that - no one is happy. On top of that, I'm a pretty competitive person. Usually, I direct it inward, but as the seasons went on and we kept losing, I became more and more frustrated.

My frustration wasn't helped by the fact that we were two teams -- one team that wanted to drink like fish and just have fun out there and one that wanted to have fun but at least be competitive. All of my close friends on the team belonged to the latter group, so guess who wound up with more of the playing time. And this started the sniping, along with more frustration.

And when something isn't fun anymore, it's time to stop - especially when it's a kids game.

So the plan was simple: I step down, Cathy takes over the team, and I talk to the "fun-lovers" - Alex, Katy and Wendy, suggesting they form their own team where they can have fun, and we walk away happy. Then Jones stepped in to help. And help he did. Now they're forming their own team and they think I'm a prick.

I'm not blaming Jones. He was just trying to help and the situation grew out of his control. I blame myself and them for this stupidity. And hopefully, some of these rifts will be healed someday, because this is a lot of stupid nonsense.

But if we play them this season, and they start winning the game, I'm going to tell everyone on the team to kick the ball to Wendy - she can't catch.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

One Step Closer . . .

I decided to actually celebrate my birthday this year, instead of sweeping it under the rug, like my dustbunnies or my secret addiction to grain alcohol.

As I mentioned before, last year was overwhelmingly uneventful. All the bad stuff was generally balanced out by something good, but it was a year for spinning wheels, so I've decided to try generating more energy this year; hence a birthday celebration, as opposed to me sitting in a darkened room, sipping bourbon from the bottle and contemplating the years gone by. (I don't really do that - that would be depressing and sad --- I keep the room lit.)

So I gathered the posse and hit a local bar, where several local acts were playing. And I'm here to tell you -- If you're looking for the next "scene", a la Seattle or New York, don't look in St. Louis. We're not quite there yet.

The first band was a three-piece combo called the Natural Laps. While not bad, they weren't really good either. The second band, "Incorporated", needed work. I figured there would be trouble when the lead singer walked up on stage in his leather pants and black silk shirt. The man was styling, but his voice sounded as if he hadn't taken a good crap in about three weeks -- sort of like Neil Diamond without the emotion.

Between "songs", they regaled us with sound effects - rain, cars crashing, computer noises. It was painful. It was boring. It was never-ending. Finally, they left the stage, bringing on the headliners. They actually made my "worst concert ever" list -- which I'll share at some future date.

The Maxtone Four is a local band that's best known for its hyper-aggressive self-promotion. But they are trying to bring indie acts to St. Louis, so I applaud them for that and decided to check them out. And honestly, they were pretty good - a nice tight, four-man rock band. Just the right combination of pretension and actual ability to be a decent band. I would recommend anyone seeing them. If you live in St. Louis. Or they actually leave St. Louis, that is.

But overall, it was a nice way to celebrate a birthday. If you have to go one step closer to the grave, there are worse ways to take the step.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Charlie Hustler

For 15 years, we've listened to him claim he's been framed, treated unfairly and he deserves to be in the hall of fame.

For 15 years, he's appeared at conventions and gatherings, signing autographs (and making some good money) and telling everyone who will listen that he never bet on baseball. Yet he never sued baseball or went after them in any fashion - despite the fact that many people said the Dowd report contained flimsy evidence, at best.

Thursday, Pete Rose's book comes out, and this weekend, he'll be interviewed on 60 minutes. And he's going to admit - on the air and in print that he bet on baseball.

Baseball is a forgiving sport. You beat your wife? Well, mistakes happen. You get drunk every night? Well, who hasn't gone on a bender now and then? Drugs rule your life? It's okay, son - baseball is here to help you. But there's one unpardonable sin, which is posted on the walls of every clubhouse in professional baseball:

Don't bet on baseball.

I'm not saying that baseball always does the right thing - far from it. The sport is a mess. I love it and return to it every spring, excited about the coming season, but it has problems. See the earlier paragraph. But one thing is drilled into the heads of every manager, player, coach and umpire:

Don't bet on baseball.

Now Pete Rose admits to betting on baseball in the hopes that he will be allowed in the Hall of Fame, at least as a player. And people are all for forgiving him. And that's just nuts.

"He only bet for the Reds, so he couldn't throw games," they say. This is from the guy who for 15 years lied about betting on baseball at all. Why is he suddenly telling the truth about this? Why should we suddenly believe him?

I could probably swallow his "apology" better - if he actually sounded like he was contrite. But he's not. He just wants to get into the Hall, like nearly every great player who ever played the game. But Pete Rose crossed the one line, and for that, he doesn't deserve to be reinstated or put in the Hall.

I know it's in to forgive and forget, but you don't spend years bucking the system, turn around with a half-assed apology and expect people to welcome you with open arms. It cheapens the sport. It shames the Hall of Fame.

You committed the sin, Pete. Now you must pay the price.

Monday, January 05, 2004

2003 - The Year of Happy Futility

2003 is over. Finally.

And I'm back on the Internet - hopefully on a more permanent basis. So first off, I should say that this PC doesn't like me. It growls at me. It watches me with suspicion as I walk in the room. It drew blood the other night. You're probably asking what causes a computer to develop such a powerful dislike for someone? Let me tell you - it knows. It knows that I'm going to replace it sometime after I find a new job.

But the thing is that it'll just go back to my mom, who will definitely treat it better than I do, so I don't understand the hostility. However, if I wake up dead some day, strangled to death by a power cord and a NIC card sticking out of my mouth, then you might be able to find the suspect - it's the squat square grey dude huddling under my desk.

So let's get back on message. 2003 is over. Finished. Fini. Over. Done. No more, and I have to say I'm happy about this. About two weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend, and we declared 2003 the year of happy futility. I hate my job, but at least I have one. I had the most friendly breakup ever - we're still friends (Really. Honest!)

Basically, nothing played out the way I wanted it to, but I still had a mostly good time. Although winning more kickball games would definitely bring things up a few notches.

Since I pulled in two hours of sleep last night, I need to wrap this up. Sorry. I lied -- no more lists this year, but next year's will be a lot better. I have plans and stuff.

Farewell 2003, may 2004 be the year of unfettered success for all.