RSS

My friend, Handsome/English/Drummer Rob

I met Rob at a bar in Brooklyn. It was already late, my then-fiancee was behind the bar and things were winding down. Then Rob comes in, loud and all kinds of British. Without knowing me, he grabs me in a great big bear hug and starts into a conversation like he’d known me for years and I literally had just laid eyes on him.

At the time Rob worked at A Salt and Battery, a fish and chips shop in the West Village in Manhattan. Long hours in a chip shop filled with fry grease and greasier tourists and somehow he was still the nicest bloke this side of the puddle.

Rob was and is a drummer. A damn good one too. He’s played with smaller bands and even did a stint with a local mega church, drumming for Jesus. It’s a tough gig being a musician in New York with a day job that sucks, but he’s a passionate guy (just ask him about his Arsenal themed wedding cake) and a true pal. Hell, he even helped plan my bachelor party and threatened to stop off at the local midget stripper joint because I told him I had an irrational fear of Gremlins. You know, like a good friend would.

Why tell you all this? Because, as of last week, Rob’s band is the iTunes Single of the Week. His band – We Are Augustines – just finished a US tour and are heading off to Europe. They’ve sold out the Roxie theater in LA three nights in a row. I’m telling you this for two reasons 1.) Because I want you to go to iTunes RIGHT NOW and download their album and 2.) Because Rob is a shining British example of how if you stay true to your passions, work your ass off and be a nice person,  you WILL make it.

Why download WE ARE AUGUSTINES: Rise Ye Sunken Ships? Because my friend Rob is a goddamn rockstar, that’s why.

Real Arsenal fans wear hats.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

My Father the Bear

I’m sure many of you at some point in your early life participated in that proto-military survivalist organization, that relic from the Cold War paranoia that teaches young boys to always “be prepared”. You know the one – the Boy Scouts of America. While I was only in the BSA until about age 10 and was technically only a Cub Scout (I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid when I saw just how “cool” Boy Scouts could be), there were quite a few excursions that made being a Cub Scout worthwhile.

Back then, a friend of mind owned a piece of property out by a lake in the middle of Washington. Now before you get any ideas of fancy lake houses and bottomless glasses of Chardonnay for the adults, this place was decidedly more rural. This was the kind of lake where you went fishin’ with a cooler full of Budweiser and a handful of Slim Jims for bait. In other words it was the perfect place for a pack of sugar fueled boys to wreak mayhem and destruction on Mother Nature.

The first day went by in a blur of escalating dares – “I dare you to jump over that giant gap” “I bet you can’t stuff 40 goldfish crackers in your mouth” “I bet I can pee further off the dock” – you get the idea. As night started to fall, campfires were lit, s’mores were readied and the time honored tradition of cheesy ghost stories around the crackling fire began. There were about six different families there, but the dads had the lion’s share of the campfire stage, each trying to do their best to spook the boys with stories of escaped convicts with bloody hook hands or lumbering creatures that gnawed on little boys’ bone marrow. It might have been the sugar, it might have been the campfire stories, but that night was definitely a restless one for the Cub Scouts of Troop 256.

Around 3am I woke up to a strange sound outside my tent. Of course, everyone’s first instinct was “bear,” but something was off.  I looked over and my dad was still asleep. Maybe it was that hook-handed convict sneaking into camp, lurking and plotting to skewer some unsuspecting Cub Scouts into well-seasoned shishkabobs.  That bloodthirsty Sasquatch story was even more believable when there were no lights on. My tiny ten year old brain said that this wasn’t a bear – there was no sniffing, no random growls, no missing picnic baskets. Just some under-the-breath mutterings and frustrated tent zipper sounds, the scraping of a boat being push off into the lake and then – nothing.

Apparently, whereas I had been desensitized to my dad’s ursine feats of snoring by years of exposure, the rest of the campers had not been appropriately forewarned. While there was freakish similarities between my dad’s severe sleep apnea and the roars of the common black bear, no one was prepared for just how much those sounds would carry over the lake. By 3am, the dads had had it. They were desperate to get some sleep, any sleep, and they would go to any lengths to get it.  So, logically, they took to the waters. Pushing the rickety boats onto icy cold lake, these dads would rather face the frigid waters and almost certain death than to suffer through another hour of the snoring serenade.

When they came ashore the next morning, they were understandably grumpy. However, despite their lack of sleep, or perhaps because of it, they did manage to catch enough fish for everyone to have an amazing Pacific Northwest breakfast of grilled lake trout. My dad was appropriately unapologetic – after all, bears don’t say sorry for terrorizing Boy Scouts, especially when they are rewarded with trout – but for the rest of the camping trip, the campfire stories always ended with someone getting eaten, mauled or snored at by a hungry bear.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Perils of Suburban Living

Last Sunday was a bit of a revelation. The latest big piece of news to come out of our little hamlet is that we signed a lease on a 2-Bedroom house deep in the wild suburbs of Mountain View. After months of feeling bored by the general comatose nature of MTV (it’s what the cool kids call it) we chose to double down and move deeper into suburban life rather than return to the ways of the city folk.

Let me give you a quick recap of how my weekend went. First we went to Home Depot. We picked out paint swatches for our new kitchen and even discussed an accent wall. Then Costco, where we raided the samples and looked at an assortment of potted plants to plant in our new yard. Then Target, to buy food for our tiny poop machine (or dog as the common folk call her).

Going to any one of those stores typically wouldn’t bother me. Honestly. I enjoy going to all three. But combined they formed a trifecta of suburban complacency that shook me to my core. But the worst part – the absolute WORST part – was my own damn fault.

As we pulled into Target, I made what I thought was an innocent comment – “Huh, that’s a nice Volvo.”

Let’s pause for a moment. Have you ever uttered that phrase? Try it, go on. I’ll wait. It leaves a weird taste in your mouth, right? Like you just ate a big mouthful of freshly cut grass, bitter but at the same time the smell strangely comforting.I started shaking uncontrollably, like I just watched a freak wood chipper accident and it wouldn’t stop replaying in my head.

Frankly, I think I’m a goner. I may be just a shell of my former self.  But goddamn is our house going to look awesome.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

My Wife is a Dog Hypocrite

When we first moved out to California last June, one of the things we were most looking forward to (beside the sunshine, free flowing wine and non-assholic people) was the ability to finally get a dog.

Our old shoebox apartment in Brooklyn was so small that having a pet of any kind bordered on animal cruelty – though that didn’t stop the mice and cockroaches from making a few guest appearances. It also didn’t help that our NY landlord had evicted a previous tenant for having a dog, so the idea of finally having a place where we could own a dog was certainly appealing.

When we were in NY, we would brainstorm names for our hypothetical dog that we would someday bring home as we walked to and from our apartment – Turkey, Sushi, Baron Barker Von Wolfenshtein. After we finally got settled in California, we searched for nearly two months, going to Humane Society Shelters every weekend and checking rescue organization’s websites to find our perfect dog. When we finally found Layla through the Grateful Dogs Rescue Org, Cady had already established a few ground rules which – under penalty of death – would never EVER be broken. Among these were:

Rule #1. No dog sleeping in the bed.

Rule #2. No feeding her people food. Dog food only.

Rule #3. No dog on the couch.

Rule #4. No dog left out in the apartment.

Now before I give you any clues, can you guess which of these rules have since been broken? And just to be clear, I don’t mean by me.

Do you have a number in mind? Good.

If you guessed ALL of them, then you’d be correct. Layla has officially taken over our lives. She broke down the hard and fast rules put in place by Cady faster than Kirstie Alley opening a box of mini-donuts. So how, exactly has my dear wife broken the rules she adamantly defended prior to the pup? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Broken Rule #1 -Every night I have to fight the dog for space on the bed. She growls at me if I try to lift her from her spot – which incidentally, is actually my spot. Of course, Layla never sleeps on Cady’s side of the bed, just mine. And in the mornings, I’m inevitably awoken by Layla’s rank dog breath and tickling whiskers two inches from my face. She has a habit where she will watch me sleep, unblinking, and the instant I shift around or open an eye, she starts licking my face or literally stands on my throat. If I try to fake like I’m still sleeping, she’ll stand right by my pillow and stamps her feet until I wake up. She’s very persuasive that way.

Broken Rule #2 – I have caught Cady “accidentally” dropping pieces of cheese in the kitchen. Do you know what cheese is for a dog? Instant diarrhea, that’s what.

Broken Rule #3 – Layla practically lives on the couch. She’s even managed to figure out how to sit on the back of the couch like a cat and stare at birds on the branches outside. It’s a little creepy.

Broken Rule #4 – Typically we try not to leave Layla in her crate for long stretches of time. It’s just not cool. We’ve left her out a few times and we’ve discovered something fun – she loves to eat paper. Ever wondered what is the best way to shred toilet paper into tiny slobbery clumps? Give it to my dog. Ever had a comic book that you didn’t know how to dispose of? Give it to my dog. She’ll eat the whole damn thing.

Moral of the story is that having a dog is like having a child – you start off with all these rules and ideals but you end up just losing sleep and picking up their poop. At the end of the day though, you wouldn’t want to come home to anyone else.

It's quite obvious who rules this household (hint: it's not me).

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Tags:

Indiana Jones, Han Solo and Me

One of the first things I did when I stepped on my college campus was not to find the nearest drug dealer or burn a couch in front of a frat house. No, unlike the depictions of college in films, if you don’t come from a family with a trust fund and six yachts, you’re going to have to get some income flowing in order to pay for the fun. I needed a job.

One day I saw a flier for an informational meeting to write for the Stanford Daily newspaper, so I figured it was a good enough scam that I could probably squeeze a few bucks out of it along with some sweet sweet press passes to get in free to sporting events, etc.

I started out as a layout artist, designing page spreads in the entertainment section. Working until the wee hours of the morning after a day of classes turned out not to be as bad as it could have been though on one occasion a boulder leaped in front of my bicycle at 2am as I deliriously made my way back to my dorm. (No, alcohol was not involved, thank you. Though it would have made the crash a lot less painful.)

Unlike the rest of the newspaper which had to adhere to strict formal journalistic standards, the entertainment had free reign to do ANYTHING. I think at one point I wrote an article about how the smurfs were all communists, and once printed a picture of Bob Saget flipping the bird that somehow got onto the front page. But the best part about the gig was that for some reason the newspaper had all sorts of connections with publicity companies and film PR firms that set us up with free press screenings for movies so we could obsentisibly publish what passed as reviews for new and upcoming films.

On rare occasions, these press screenings also came with the added bonus of the press junkets. These were the coveted assignments. Seniors wanted these and there was no way a freshman would get to do it. They were usually somewhere fancy like the Ritz and they involved all the top talent from the film. My very first assignment was for the little seen and critically abused film called “Firewall.” The movie itself was nothing to write home about but it came with the mind-blowing opportunity to meet and interview Harrison Freakin’ Ford.

As any self-respecting geek will tell you, Mr. Ford is something of a geek icon. Han Solo. Indiana Jones. Decker from Blade Runner. These were the heroes that defined my childhood and here I got to meet the man that played them. AND I was getting paid. A stern face and gravely voice awaited me and maybe – just maybe – there would be a trademark whipcrack as sharp as a wisecrack.

I was late as I check in at the Ritz Carlton in SF. I was nervous because I just spent the Caltrain ride over second guessing all my questions and I was sweating like a hooker in church after having just climbed San Franciscan Himalayas. But just as I rounded the corner, there he was –  a lumbering hulk of an old man, sour faced and fresh from the bathroom. He looked like he had just punched the mirror because he didn’t like the way the other guy made eye contact.

Other journalists came and went, photographers did their thing and finally, after about a half hour of patiently waiting in the fanciest of lobbies and my heartrate going through the roof, I went inside the meet the man.

There were three of us – two college kids and some over the hill journalist from some obscure film magazine. I instantly felt a connection to this middle aged portly man. He’d brought a poster for an autograph because his kid asked him to (yeah, sure) and did that thing where he tried to feign that he wasn’t  staring but really was quite obviously staring holes into Harrison Ford’s face.

If you’ve ever heard the expression “deer in headlights” or had the pleasure of actually seeing it happen as you plow your pickup through a dumb deer, you’ll have an idea what happened next. I froze. Literally froze. I sat there for 30 minutes in a room with the man who had done the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs and I literally didn’t say a word. There were points I’m sure that the other two journalists in the room looked over at my dumb grin expecting me to offer up a question, but they were greeted by a 19 year old’s vacant expression. It didn’t matter that Harrison Ford was sick and drinking Robitussin from a tumbler glass (bad ass by the way) it was like anything I could have asked would have been grounds for an old fashioned butt-whoopin’. He could have been bleeding out at the table and staining the carpet for all I cared and in that moment I still would have considered him more than just a mere human being.

The interview ended as quickly as it began. Since I had already made a fool of myself, I figured I would go all in and whipped out my camera. I don’t think I even asked for a picture, I probably just pointed to it and raised an eyebrow as if it was enough to convey my intention. Apparently it was.

Yes, I survived the encounter.

I really hope Mr. Ford never actually reads this post for 2 reasons:

1.) He’ll find out how much of a boob I was at 19

2.) He’ll track me down and shoot first. And yes, he would shoot first, no matter what the Star Wars Special Editions might have to say about the matter.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Putting the Fear of God back into Farming in Costa Rica

When I was about 4 years old, my mom took a sabbatical from her job as a professor at Washington State University and moved down to Costa Rica to teach there. For a while she taught at the university in San Jose, the capitol, but through some strange connection which to this day is still a mystery to me, we ended up living out in the countryside. If you asked me where exactly we were or why we moved out there, I swear I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. All I know is that I went from a cozy little house in the drizzly woods in Washington to a fairly arid farm in the middle of the Costa Rican countryside.

To call it rustic would be giving it too much credit. The main mode of transportation was a horse; the main source of milk was the cow in the back; breakfast came straight from the hen house; if you wanted chicken for dinner you had to watch it die; and the main form of rat control was the 20 foot python that lived in the attic. Every night before bed, you had to shake out the blankets to make sure there were no scorpions and you sure as hell had to make sure to use your flashlight when you went to the bathroom at night. I saw my first dime-sized tick on the car/horse’s haunch and I milked my first breakfast milk cow.

The family who owned the ranch were exceedingly kind and generous with what little they had to share. Every morning Dona Berta would hand make tortillas and I can to this day remember the smell of the hot coals as she roasted the tortillas, warmed the black beans and sizzled the fresh eggs that comprised the day’s breakfast. They had a young daughter – maybe 14 or 15 – who I heard years later had gone off to college but whose name escapes me now and an older son named Fabio who embodied everything in the dictionary definition of masculine. I remember him as a massive goliath of muscle and brawn, waking up at 4am to milk the cows and returning from the ranch reeking of animals, harsh sun and hard work. He was a very serious young man in just about every regard, though not at all mean about it. About ten years ago I heard that he managed to save up enough money to buy a motorcycle only to crash and lose an arm.

It was a very simple life and though I remember watching this family fulfill their chores and finish the day tired, they seemed happy. They’re only real link to the outside world was a small TV set with grainy color and shoddy reception from rabbit ear antennae. I can distinctly recall watching a poorly dubbed Spanish version of the Incredible Hulk TV show which was advertized as “new” despite having originally aired back in the early 80s.

In those days, I was very into Captain Planet. I carried my action figures with me wherever I went. They were like my totems, my plastic links to the life we left back in Washington, where the electricity didn’t come from a gas generator and hot water came from the faucet and not a pot on the stove. Though the Captain himself was very much my prized possession at the time, he needed foes to fight, chief amongst which was a character by the name of Duke Nukem. On the cartoon, the Duke was meant to teach kids the dangers of nuclear power so of course the action figure was painted with a phosphorescent paint that glowed in the dark. One day without thinking, I left the Duke out on the kitchen table in the morning as we went out exploring in the fields. We didn’t come back until late that night and found a scene that’s permanently engrained on my memory.

Apparently, leaving Duke Nukem out was a big mistake. Fabio had come home after dark. Tired from the days’ work, his eyes landed on the Duke glowing from the kitchen table. As he told it, he let out a shriek he was ashamed to admit sounded like his sister after having seen the rats in the attic. Not knowing what the hell the Duke was, he of course thought it was a demon. So, the burliest man on this ranch threw his shoe at the demon toy as he screamed like a little girl. Without giving it a second thought, he ran out of the house and straight to the shed next to the house. He grabbed a machete. Mustering up his courage, he inched his way back into the house – wearing only one shoe.

Eventually he made it back to where the toy lay prostrate on the floor and poked it with the machete. Realizing his mistake, he said he felt like a total idiot. Luckily, no one was in the house at the time, because he said he probably would not have hesitated in swinging the machete. My four year old brain processed this as the most amusing damn thing that could ever happen with a toy. Forget play fighting, this was more fun. I don’t think I stopped laughing. So the next logical step was to leave the Duke in Fabio’s room that night and wait.

Those were some of the best times we had in Costa Rica. I’m sure I’m missing out on a lot of the details, but man I wish I could have seen his face when Fabio saw Duke on that kitchen table. It would have made the scorpions on my pillow worth it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Tags:

A Change of Pace Perhaps Methinks is in Order

As you can probably tell, I haven’t been updating things on a what anyone would call a “regular” basis and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that coming up with topics to write about feels a little contrived and (dare I say it?) forced. The other large factor has to to do with Charlie Sheen. After that tiger-blood fueled tornado of crazy, it feels almost disrespectful to label anything else as absurd.

So I’d like to propose a change of pace.

I’ll be taking a page from my wife’s new blog (http://brainsandblonde.wordpress.com/) and doing a more slice of life type of deal from now on. I want to focus more on ridiculous stories from my childhood, about my family and everyday life rather than the esoteric happenings in popular culture and/or comic books. I can’t guarantee that I’ll post frequently, but hopefully it will be a little less disingenuous than the crap I was posting before (eg my previous post).

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Uncategorized