Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jay-Z In Philly

On Friday, October 24th Philadelphia’s Power 97 (or something like that) had their annual Power Jam concert at the Wachovia Center (clearly a name change is in the works).  I am well aware a similar show is coming to the Izod Center, which is 10 minutes from my house, on Tuesday, but I was so fired up to hear about a Jay-Z show coming around that I immediately bought tickets even though it would entail traveling to the worst city in North America.  Luckily the common Philly trash did not disrupt the show by acting like the ignorant lummoxes we all know they are.  Nobody started chants about their embarrassing sports teams, started yelling about Rocky or stabbed a guy to look like a bad ass on their street in that respect it was a good night for the people of the City of Brotherly Love. 

I went to the show with my friend Don, we met close to two years ago and quickly bonded over a mutual love of hip-hop and a mutual hatred of buffoonery. Don was nice enough to drive in exchange for a ride to Philly the next time we have to visit that festering cesspool of a city. 

The events of the actual concert are as follows: 

Keisha Cole: From what I understand Keisha Cole is one hell of a singer, however I wouldn’t have guessed it from her performance because it entailed excessive amounts of waving the mic at the crowd for us to sing her lyrics, she probably sang 25 lines total over the course of a 30 min. show.  I paid close to a hundred dollars for these tickets and I don’t want to sing YOUR songs, I want to sit down like a gentleman and be entertained, apparently that is too much to ask.  I am not too familiar with her entire catalog, but she has a lot of songs about letting things go, in fact I think that line is in close to all of her songs.  I estimate that in 30 min. she let go of 50 or 60 items, including: her triflin’ man, her painful past, her messed up family and her weave.  There was no mention of her dress, which was clearly about to “let go” of her boobs.  It was a little strapless number that was clearly made for a 12 year old and not what she had going on.  At the conclusion of her performance she reminded the crowd to tune-in to her BET reality show, so you could watch her “let go” of even more stuff from the comfort of your own home.    

T-Pain: This man is a buffoon! He danced around to other people’s songs, sang into the computer, did a freestyle that kinda dissed Roger Troutman (this is foul on two counts: first, he’s dead and second, he originated the Auto-Tune “Computer Love” and get familiar). He rapped/sang/yelled about having money and strippers and how he is the “ring leader of the industry” seemingly oblivious to the fact that he’s not even the “ring leader” of his own label (Akon’s his boss).  The crowd of Philly trash ate this up, I was pretty indifferent and Don was enraged about the level of buffoonery he just witnessed, luckily the next act calmed him down.

Ne-Yo:   The Gentleman put on a great show: awesome three piece suit, great songs, really good band and back-up dancers and expert song selection and pacing.  The only way this performance could have been better is if he took off his suit jacket and was wearing Young Berg’s Transformer chain.  

Jay-Z/TI/Ludacris: After a lengthy break that involved listening to most of the “Sweat” half of Nelly’s “Sweat Suit” album and the new Coldplay song twice, Jay Hova came out and he did not disappoint!  This is the third time I have seen the Jay this year and the show doesn’t change much, but it’s so close to perfection that it’s hard to complain.  He went through a lot of the American Gangster album and a few older classics before he got to “What More Can I Say?” as he got to the end of the first verse he said “Bring ‘em out, Bring ‘em out!” and TI rushed the stage to perform his hit of the same name.  

TI came out bundled up like he was walking from Geno’s to the Palestra in late January, but steadily removed layers as he progressed through older hits and selections from the bangin’ “Paper Trail.”  By the time he performed “Whatever you like’ he was shirtless (removing like 6 layers) and almost pants-less (due to lack of a belt), luckily he kept it together, because as much as I like that song I think it would have lost something if I saw him perform it sans pants.  When he got to “Top of the World” Ludacris joined him onstage to the complete shock of the crowd, they finished that song and Luda did “Move!” without putting down his bottle of Jack Daniels.  TI came back and finished his set, culminating in “Swagger Like Us” when Jay came back out to bat clean up. 

Jay finished the set with an unbelievably long list of classics and then brought out home town favorites State Property.  This “reunion” was lackluster to say the least: Sigel was a no show, O, Sparks and Peedi were no where to be found and Freeway, Chris and Neef were brought to the stage in a kind of hip-hop “show and tell.”  The most positive thing about this part of the concert was that The Young Guns were not allowed to perform “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.”  I was actually pretty disappointed in this part of the show because I can count the things from Philadelphia that don’t disgust me on one hand: State Property, The Roots, Mitch Canopus (a guy I work with), the sneaker store UBIQ, and...damn, I guess that’s it.  

The show concluded with Jay-Z talking politics and telling the crowd to get home safe (a nod to Philadelphia’s incredibly violent population).  

Overall it was a sick show and it was definitely worth a trip to my least favorite place on earth. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Under and Over Rated 3

Under Rated

Alternative Neck Wear: When choosing neck wear men should have more choices than: Windsor or Half Windsor. We have been brainwashed by fashion magazines and other forms of media that the only appropriate neck wear is the traditional tie. This narrow-minded approach to formal wear leaves out such viable options as the Neckerchief, Bolo, Cravat and my personal favorite, the regal and refined ascot. There are people that ascribe to the mantra “Alternative Neckwear = Alternative Lifestyle.” This statement is unequivocally untrue. I am 100% heterosexual and 100% interested in wearing ascots and neckerchiefs, in fact I believe most women find a man wearing a button down shirt with any type of scarf absolutely irresistible.

The “Second Team” in Various Cities: Everybody knows New York is a Yankee’s Town and the Lakers dominate LA’s fan base, however there is something to be said for a team that remains in a city where they are not even the most important baseball or basketball team in that market, it’s like putting a moderately sized, heated swimming pool in your backyard and then Disney opens a massive water park right next door. While these teams are pretty entertaining, it’s their fans that are really interesting: the Chicago thugs and hooligans that root for the White Sox instead of the Cubs (it’s not a coincidence that the White Sox hat was a symbol for thuggery for people like Dr. Dre and Jodeci), the white trash Jet fans that are usually unemployed, drunk and wanted by the authorities for unpaid child support or other warrants, these fans have all the characteristics of Eagle fans (bad facial hair included) but have not figured out they should move 75 miles south for more opportunities in the packing, shipping and general warehousing industries, Clipper fans that think it’s acceptable to root for a team that has sucked for half a century and on any given night is probably the 1,500th most interesting thing happening in LA, and Met fans that are oblivious to the fact that even if they win 10 World Series in a row, the Yankee’s version of the “NY” logo will always be the symbol of the city. There is something to be said for unwavering devotion to teams like these...although I’m not sure what it is.

A Good Buffet: Buffet’s are everything that is good about restaurants (variety, expertly prepared food, ambiance) and nothing that is bad (waiting to be served and deciding what to order). Also, Buffet’s are often associated with resort cities like Vegas and AC, but I have been to amazing “All You Can Eat” extravaganzas in towns as diverse as Fuquay-Varina NC, Christiansburg VA, St. Petersburg FL and Lakewood NJ. If you want to find a good buffet you need to think outside of the chafing dish.

Drinking in the Woods: If you grew up in the suburbs you either associate drinking in the woods with the best times of your life or the “bad kids” you were afraid of. Either way, you cannot argue the greatness of combining a case of MGD with a heavily wooded area. For proof of this, just look to all the “adult” recreational activities we engage in that are all slight variations on drinking in the woods: Camping, Paintball, Hiking, White Water Rafting and Golf.

Over Rated

Sober Britney Spears: Upon hearing Britney’s new single “Womanizer” I immediately decided her music was infinitely better when she was out of her mind on drugs, walking around barefoot and having kids with K-Fed. The songs from that “Era of Britney” like “Toxic” (the very beginning of the bizarre behavior), “Gimme More” and “Break the Ice” are so much better than the new Britney with her life together. As a side note about a month ago some pictures came out of Britney in a bathing suit and the media declared she was “Back and Better than Ever!” While I applaud her efforts at physical fitness, there was no mention of whether she was singing, dancing or writing. So, basically she was in good shape to be a swimsuit model, but not really a singer or entertainer.

Bottle Service: Paying a grand for a $30 bottle of vodka and some cranberry juice is asinine…that’s all I have to say about this.

Touch Screen Phones: If you have been following this blog, you already know my opinions on ringtones (they are stupid) and other forms of useless technology (pretty much anything sold in Sky Mall). However, there is no excuse for the way adults are losing their minds over the new iPhone clones that have touch screen technology. Touch Screens are not new; they have been employed in “touch games” in dive bars for at least a decade and probably longer than that in the chain restaurant industry. When I see somebody take one of these phones out of their pockets I’m not sure if they are returning a text message, trying to point out minor differences between pictures of “Studs and Babes” or sending an order for a Blooming Onion back to the kitchen.


Note: This was written in Spring 2008, before the economic crisis this fall.

As I grow older and more mature (not necessarily the same thing) I become more and more confused with the youth of today. I also realize that “youth” is a subjective term that is constantly in a state of flux because medical science continues to find ways to prolong the expected life-spans of human being into the triple digits, ways for women to have children well beyond the natural child bearing age and surgical procedures that allow the very wealthy to look like they are 25 well into their 60’s. Taking all of these factors into account I believe the overwhelming majority of Americans consider “youth” to be from birth until college graduation. This is the developmental period when the offspring should attain the proper knowledge and skills (through schooling, home life, and other influences) to become a self-sufficient and productive member of society. The fact that many “youth” make it all the way through college without even a fraction of the skill set required of American adults should tell us that there is a problem somewhere along the line. Where exactly this happens is arguable, however, the fact that American colleges unleash tens of thousands of graduates every year into our society that have no idea how to balance a check book, finance a car or handle a credit card, is not.
This year President Bush has authorized a payment of $600 to a large segment of the US population to “invigorate the economy.” Unfortunately, the problem with the economy is not that 20-somethings working their first job do not have a Playstation 3 or Louis Vuitton’s spring handbag, because honestly, this is where most of this money will go. The problem is that people in this age group spend money like the “Reality TV Stars” they have grown up watching with no regard for the fact that not everybody can afford designer clothing, expensive cars and lavish Sweet 16 parties. However, this is not a diatribe against the wealthy, if you can afford to buy your daughter a Range Rover and a $300,000 gala with a performance from 50 Cent for her sixteenth birthday, without even noticing the money is gone, who’s to tell you not to do that? But, if you are a student or entry level employee struggling to put gas in your car (not to mention the high-interest rate monthly payments on that car) a $500 purse or a weekend in Vegas is not for you. There is nothing wrong with living within your means, not everybody can have alligators on their short-sleeve collared shirts, it’s just not for everybody, somebody has to have tigers and some people have to wear shirts not adorned with any animal, it’s just the way of the world.
That is why I propose that the billions of dollars that Bush is borrowing (most likely an attempt to be remembered for something other than the worst approval rating in history and being constantly lampooned by the entertainment industry) should not be used to give Americans the means to buy electronics that will soon be obsolete, clothing that will be laughed at in two years and vacations that will result in myspace/facebook pictures that may eventually cost the individuals in question their jobs. Instead, the money should be used to start a mandatory nationwide education program in all high schools that will address finance and economics and prepare the next generations of Americans to make smart decisions and lead us out of the quagmire of credit card debt, home foreclosure and impulse buying that has lead huge numbers of young people to financial ruin before they have even started a family or had a chance to establish themselves professionally. Even though I have professed the need for this “class” I am still unsure about exactly what the curriculum should include , mainly because most of the “problems” we are having fall into the category of common sense, issues like:

1. If you work for somebody else, you may lose your job…plan accordingly.

2. If you own your own business, you may go out of business…plan accordingly

3. If you don’t make enough money to support yourself, do NOT have kids. This should not be hard with the wealth of contraceptive options currently available, however I am perpetually confused as to how poor people seem to get laid so much.

4. If you work at a job that requires you to wear your name on your shirt the following items are out of the question: New Cars, Boats, Jet Skis, Concert Tickets, Vacations and eating in restaurants. These items are off limits until all income is used to improve your situation in life (community college, trade school, becoming physically attractive enough to attain promotions) You can enjoy the fruits of your labor as soon as your “labor” does not entail wearing your name on your shirt.

5. If you are overweight no amount of designer clothing will make you attractive to the opposite sex. If you are broke, start running around your block and stop eating. If you are wealthy, get plastic surgery. Either way, do it before you buy a $3000 jacket. There is a reason they don’t make Gucci in XXXL.

6. If you do not own the home you live in your car should not contain any of the following: TV’s in the head rest, rims that did not come with the car, an audio system that can be heard from 3 miles away, leather/heated seats, any video game console or a camera to show you what is happening behind you. If you can not back out of a parking space without the use of an elaborate surveillance system your license should be revoked.

7. If you are not a rapper, do not try to live like one. The fast life of Bentleys, mansions, Big Pimpin’ on yachts, jump-offs and Champagne in gold cellophane is not for regular, workin’ dudes…and since the advent of digital downloads it’s not for most rappers.

8. Don’t go to strip clubs, it is literally throwing money away. They do not like you; they are at best indifferent and in some cases actually hate you. They are paid professionals that take your money in exchange for pretending to not be repulsed by you for the length of one techno song. If you think it’s more than this or you think this is a good use of your money, you need serious psychiatric counseling (which you probably can’t afford after blowing all your dough at the Go-Go Rama).

9. Don’t use credit cards in bars. Buying everybody you know rounds of shots on your “tab” seems like a great idea, but rarely do people open up their bills a month later and say to themselves “Wow, I’m really glad I had those 3 more Long Island Iced Teas!”

10. Gambling is dumb. There are teams of mathematicians (that are still smarter than you after they drink a quart of Hennessy) working day and night to ensure that you can not beat the house. If that is not proof enough, look at your house and then look at Donald Trump’s house and ask yourself if it’s realistic for you to beat that guy at anything, ever.

Follow these if you want, I gotta run and spend the better part of the day in line at FootLocker for a pair of $300 Jordans that I may or may not actually wear.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

5 albums I would take to a deserted I could laugh hysterically before I die of dehydration

The question of which 5 albums you would take to a desert island comes up quite often in conversations about music. This question does not come up nearly enough in conversations about comedy and even less in the comedy sub-genre of albums dedicated to prank calls. The 5 albums produced by the Jerky Boys (excluding solo projects and greatest hits compilations) are inarguably the best albums in this genre and possibly any genre of recorded entertainment. From the “ring” that proceeds the opening of the first album to the conclusion of the “1,000 Chicken Trilogy” six years later, everything they did was pure genius and has inspired an entire generation of wise asses to call people names like: Nits, Rubber Neck and Sizzle Chest. What follows is a review of each album and how each innovated and brought prank calling to the next level.

I became aware of The Jerky Boys the day before the last day of my freshman year in high school. I had been hearing rumors of older kids having copies of blank cassette tapes of hilarious prank calls for the previous few years, but finally in the summer of 1993 my man Iceburg (not his real name, obviously) had the real thing. A legit, factory manufactured cassette, straight from Camelot Music in the Ocean County Mall, containing an hour of profane and hilarious prank calls. We started listening to the tape at his house and by the time Side A was over I was laughing so hard I had to take a break and walk down the street to my house to listen to the second half for fear of a heart attack or aneurism (I realize these are not common in otherwise healthy 15 year olds, but better safe than sorry). Side B was just as good, if not better, than Side A and I became a Jerky Boy fanatic, I memorized almost every call and can still recite most of them verbatim almost 10 years after the release of their last album (the criminally slept-on “Stop Staring At Me!”).

The Jerky Boys (1993): This album was their introduction to the world and was as brash and shocking as NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” The Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks...” or Nirvana’s “Never Mind.” This is the album that introduced the world to characters like Sol Rosenberg, Kissel, Tarbash the Egyptian Magician, Jack Tor_S, Mike DeRucci and the undeniable classic Frank Rizzo. While I celebrate the entire catalog, Frank Rizzo holds a special place in my heart because he’s the stereotypical NY/NJ tough guy that I grew up laughing at multiplied by 100.

This album threw down the gauntlet for prank calling at all levels of the game and let fans and haters alike know that calling a super market and saying “Do you have Olive Oil in a can? Well, you better let her out, Popeye’s getting mad!” and then laughing maniacally and hanging up was no longer going to cut the mustard. These guys were professionals and they conducted themselves as such. They would go to extreme lengths to anger or upset whoever was on the other end of the phone. They would ask a few probing questions to see what upset the man or woman and then peel back that onion until the victim was either enraged or threatening to call the police and they would stop at nothing to reach this ultimate goal. They would accuse the person of committing crimes, insinuate they were homosexual or even play a tuba to get the desired response. This showed incredible levels of persistence, quick thinking and self control (to keep from breaking up when people said insanely funny stuff). This album was also light years ahead of it’s time with the character of Tarbash the Egyptian Magician because it mocked middle-eastern culture almost 10 years before Hollywood jumped on that band wagon.

Needless to say, this album is an absolute classic and should be listened to and memorized by all members of western society. I have been laughing at skits like “Tile Man” and “Uncle Freddy’s Dead” consistently for the last 15 years and they are showing no signs of getting old.

The Jerky Boys 2 (1994): The release of this album was met with great anticipation from Jerky Boy fans because its’ release in chain stores meant that they were no “One Hit Wonders” and they had a chance at a long and prosperous career. Also, this was before the internet, so they were not releasing calls on an official website or having tracks leaked to file sharing sites, so people were hungry for more prank calls from the best in the business.

However, once the initial hype of a new Jerky Boys album wore off most fans were at least slightly disappointed with this effort. Most of the innovation of the first album was replaced by intensity (many calls started with them yelling) and absurd amounts of profanity. For proof of this listen to the racial slurs of “Mexican Roofing,” the blood curdling yells on “Husband Beating” or the nearly 90 sec. cacophony of curse words on “Fava Beans.” While no new characters were introduced and most agree this is their weakest album, it provided several great calls and would hold fans over for the next two years until the release of their next masterpiece.

The Jerky Boys 3 (1996): Following the mediocrity of The Jerky Boys 2 in 1994 and the flop of their self-titled movie in 1995 the Boys were back with a vengeance on 1996’s The Jerky Boys 3. This album introduced several new characters, including Racine (a hispanic Jack Tor_S), Curly G (a rapper that makes Young Jeezy seem as intelligent as Stephen Hawking) and Big Ol’ Bad Ass Bob the Cattle Rustler (self explanatory). More interesting than these new personas was that the group employed the technique of placing ads in the classified sections of New York newspapers and having people call them looking for Civil War memorabilia or answering personal ads. These calls provided unprecedented levels of hilarity because they were fielding calls from the type of person that answers these kind of ads and in several instances it is hard to decide who is funnier: the character or the unsuspecting “victim.” These experimental techniques paid off in a major way as the Jerky Boys produced another classic.

The Jerky Boys 4 (1997): The Jerky Boys 4 can best be compared with Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” or U2’s “Achtung Baby” in the way it showcases an artist at the top of their game making an album that was even better than their already impressive body of work. The album highlights the classic characters from the first album, the exaggerated emotions and profanity from the second and the incoming calls from the third to produce the most consistently funny and cohesive release in the Jerky Boys’ incredible career. It should also be noted that The Jerky Boys 4 also contains the first, and to my knowledge only, foray into music for the group. The album concludes with a song titled “Jerk Baby Jerk” that seamlessly combines Miami Bass music with highlights from prank calls and funny sound effects, a fitting end to the finest moment in Jerky Boy history.

Stop Staring At Me! (1999): Following the overwhelming critical success of The Jerky Boys 4 the group released “Stop Staring At Me!” which was innovative for many reasons beyond its’ lack of a numerical title. This collection contained calls tied into The Howard Stern Show (“You Wanna Scrap?”), calls to entertainment industry legends (“Huck-A-Buck”) and the infamous call to a football player with “hamstrings like animals” (“Big Hock”) where the “victim” was unquestionably funnier than the comedian. It also features the “1,000 Chicken Trilogy”, an epic 10 min call broken into three installments that truly elevates the art form of the prank call. “Stop Staring At Me!” is the forgotten classic in the catalog and often gets left out of conversations about their best albums, this is unfair and this release deserves a second listen from fans that dismissed it upon its’ initial release.

The Jerky Boys did not fare as well in the new millennium as they did in the 90’s. They essentially became victims of their own fame, much of the “act” depended on calling unsuspecting people, however, once they gained widespread notoriety through appearances on Howard Stern, MTV and various talk shows, it became increasingly difficult to make calls to people that didn’t know who they were. Eventually, their affiliation with Howard Stern dissolved, MTV pulled the plug on their commercials and they broke up due to dwindling record sales and monetary disputes. Both Johnny B and Kamal released solo albums in the early 2000’s, but none of these approached the quality of the original 5 albums they released together. It is rumored they are working together and a new collaborative album that is due out before the end of 2008, the validity of this claim has yet to be determined.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Working Out Down The Shore

One weekend this summer I was “Down the Shore” and wanted to work out.  Normally, my weekend workouts consist of running up and down the Seaside Heights boardwalk sans shirt with some kind of mega-mix blasting in my iPod. This is by far the best way to combine working out and clubbing into one enjoyable experience and also the motivation to shave my entire torso every Thursday from mid-April to late-September.  However, this weekend was a little different, it had been a hectic week up north and I couldn’t get all of my regular workouts in during the week, so the weekend was here and I wanted to lift.  The Jersey shore will do this to you, I’m a pretty even-tempered guy, but after a few hours in Seaside all I want to do is lift weights, get tattoos and brutally beat homeless people (you kind of have to experience this yourself, but trust me, it’s powerful).  

On previous trips home I would just take my father’s card to his gym and work out there while pretending to be him.  Nobody really cared and as long as I could remember to answer to “Charlie” on the way in and out there were no problems.  However, his gym hired some new manager that was less then accommodating the last time I tried this stunt (something to the effect of “Even if you really shaved your mustache and got green contacts since you got the membership, I just don’t believe you were born in 1953!”), so I had to go another route…going to a new health club and actually paying to work out.  

I pulled up to the place and the parking lot was packed, I thought this was a bit odd since it was a Saturday morning and normally the only people in gyms during this time are meat-heads that work the night shift bouncing or otherwise securing something and women with eating disorders.  As we all know, anyone that’s worth knowing is either still passed out or waking up groggy trying to piece the previous night together at this time.  As I walk in the gym I realize the interior of the place is almost completely deserted, where the hell are all those people that drove the cars to the parking lot?  Out back smoking? Making out with chicks in the woods? Playing fantasy football in some secret room behind the Stair-masters?  Who knows?  Anyway, when I walk up to the front desk I try to explain my situation to the front desk attendant, and she is pretty much the stereotypical “Health Club Front Desk Person”: Fake tan to the point that her skin looks like the new Louie V bag, hair died a shade of red that does not occur in the natural world, black stretch pants with a slight bell-bottom at the ankle and  a hoodie advertising the name of the gym.  She is only about 19, but looks 37 and I am willing to bet she’s dating a guy in his mid to late-20’s.  When I walk up to the front desk the following  conversation takes place:

Me: “Hi, I’m only in town for a day, how much is a one-day pass?”

Desk Girl: Blank Stare

Me: “I just want to work out today, how much will that be?”

DG: “Huh?”

Me: “I want to train for about an hour, just weights and maybe some cardio, no spinning, no pool, no yoga, just access to the weight room.  How much do I owe you?”

DG: Removes an iPod ear-bud style headphone from her ear and says “Let me get my manager”

As I stood there waiting for the manager I tried to comprehend what exactly her job entailed if she was unable to perform that basic of a task.  It was pretty clear that she must have been either dating the manager or her father owned the place and her job description involved sitting by the front door and making sure nobody stole a squat rack or elliptical trainer through the front door.  After I entered the training area I realized there were no big empty spaces, so apparently nobody has been able to steal a large apparatus of any kind, she’s doing a hell of a job!  When the manager finally showed up he ran through several membership options, including lifetime access for $1,500 that I would, in his words, “Be a damn fool to pass up.” Finally, I paid $10 for a one day membership.  This seemed like a reasonable price until I realized a monthly membership is $30 (a dollar a day) and I paid 10x the regular price…always a shrewd businessman, way to go! 

As I walk toward cardio section to get warmed up I pass a small cubicle where clients can meet with personal trainers before they start working out.  I glance inside and I see a guy that’s about 5’10” 360 saying “My doctor says I need to lose weight.” This is something that has confused me my entire life, how do you not know you’re fat?  How do you shop at Big & Tall stores, have to ask stewardesses for seat-belt extenders and wear khaki-pants with elastic waist bands and not realize you are significantly overweight?  This statement is almost as stupid as people that grew up poor saying “We never even knew we were poor because we had so much love in our house.” It’s Effin ridiculous, I love my family to death, but if every night we all shared one packet of Ramen Noodles for dinner, I would have had a pretty good idea that we were broke.  In the same vein, if you need a healthcare professional to tell to you to lose weight you are a stupid ass and I hope when you are too fat too walk that your health insurance doesn’t cover your scooter!

I get to a treadmill and decide I’m going to jog a mile to get warmed-up.  They have a “Cardio Theatre,"  means there are 5 televisions set to the most asinine, lowest common-denominator programming available and you can plug your headphones into your machine of choice and listen to whichever one you find the least mind-numbingly stupid.  Since I left my headphones in my car and it will cost an additional $5 to rent a pair (this is an incredible waste of money and paying to take a piece of foam-covered plastic out of somebody else’s sweaty ear and place it in your own is a horrible concept on so many levels). Needless to say, I do not rent any headphones and decide to gut out this mile jog while watching the live-action movie of “Underdog” on the screen right in front of me.  I start out hating this arrangement, but by the time I break a sweat I am completely drawn in by the scenes of a real dog wearing a cape, flying around a city and saving people in distress. If it’s this good without sound, I have to see this ASAP…looks like a Blockbuster night is in my near future.

  While I am pounding out my mile with workman-like, methodical intensity a guy gets on the treadmill to my immediate right wearing a polo shirt, pleated khaki shorts, tube socks and brown Rockport dress shoes.  This is something that has also befuddled me for quite some time, how are you so committed to being out of shape that you don’ t own workout clothes?  I understand a gym membership is a fairly expensive commitment by itself and the economy is making it hard for a lot of people, but have some self respect.  I’m not saying you need to go to Champs and buy out the Jordan section, but go to Target and get yourself some mesh shorts and a tee-shirt so people don’t point and laugh at you when you’re doing your calisthenics.  

After that awesome warm-up, I go to the weight section and begin some sets of bench press.  I start with 135 (if I can’t do the exercise with at least 45 lbs. plates on each side I don’t do it in public), knock out a few sets and get to 225 (I haven’t competed in years, but I still got it, at least a little bit).  It strikes me that I should probably have a spotter for this, it is awkward to ask people you don’t know for  a spot, but not nearly as awkward as yelling for help when you are pinned under a barbell.  There are only two guys in my general vicinity: a middle-aged fellow in a Dan Marino jersey doing deadlifts with 95 lbs. (clearly, he doesn’t ascribe to my idea about only lifting 45’s or more in public settings) and a younger dude that is jacked and completely hairless except for two massive black eye-brows that make him look kind of like a face drawn on a pumpkin with a Sharpie marker.  It’s pretty obvious the old man can’t help me, so I ask “Ron Browz” for a spot and the set goes off without incident.  

After some back work I go over to the Dumbbell section and start doing some Biceps and Triceps work (a weekend down the shore, of course I’m doing a straight meathead/beach workout!) While I’m doing this, there is a small group of guys that are obviously using steroids, covered in tattoos and discussing beatings and various drunken shenanigans.  As I force my biceps through several sets of hammer curls to failure (I might have to get out my Richard Jefferson jersey tonight) I begin wondering what gang these guys are in, because they are talking about some pretty heinous stuff.  After my third set, I hear one guy say something about “Vacation Time and getting promoted to sergeant” and it becomes obvious they are not gang members, but police officers…awesome. 

At the conclusion of my workout I go into the locker room to get my stuff to drive home.  When I open the door there are two completely naked grown men staring at each other and it is obvious they were in the middle of a heated exchange right before I opened the door.  The silence in incredibly uncomfortable and you could cut the tension with a knife, I stand there in near shock for a second and then…Pow! Right in the Kisser! The guy farthest from me lunges forward and decks the other guy right in the mouth.  He stumbles back and falls literally inches from my feet. The first guy is now yelling something about “What kind of god damn fool erases all the songs on somebody else’s iPod?” as he continues to pummel the other guy into the tile flooring.  I come to the following two conclusions: First, this is the closest I ever want to be to the prison shower scene in “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” and second, how many copies of Metallica’s The Black Album could this kid have erased to warrant this kind of beating?  I am temporarily unsure what to do, I can get a gym employee, but I’m pretty sure they are ill-equipped to deal with a situation like this and I will probably have to hang out and be some kind of witness if the cops are involved  or I could try to break it up myself and risk getting tangled up between these two naked animals beating the crap out of each other.  I decide the only reasonable course of action is to step over the mass of mangled humanity at my feet, reach in my locker, get my keys and wallet and get the hell out of there.  That’s exactly what I did. I have no idea what happened to those two guys, they might still be fighting for all I know and as inept as that health club staff was, I doubt anybody went in there and broke it up, unless it was to sit them down while still naked and pitch them both some kind of “Refer a Friend” deal where they could both train there the rest of their lives for one low price.

NOTE: This post was actually a collection of several trips to this health club and the last scene was drastically exaggerated because two guys verbally arguing about an iPod in a locker room is not that entertaining.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

45 Hours in Raleigh

Disclaimer: All names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved, however they may not have been changed nearly enough.

I recently had the chance to spend a weekend in Raleigh, NC. I lived in Raleigh for the first half of the “Two Double O’s” and I welcome any chance I get to go back down there and hang out with some of my best friends, including Lyle Mead, Milo Nicks (who could not make this trip), Farrah and Josephine Davids, Mr. Belvedere, Ryan Liter and Robin Van Dam. This was going to be a fast and furious trip (not even 48 hours) because like Vegas, New Orleans (pre-Katrina) and Teaneck, Raleigh is a party town and being there too long is just too much, even for a beast like me.

I flew into RDU International right after work on Friday afternoon and landed about 8:00pm. Lyle picked me up in his monster truck and we went to a quiet dinner (not like that!). After a chicken sandwich, a vegetable “medley” consisting of only asparagus and a half gallon of sweet tea we decided it was time to hit the town and meet up with Farrah Davids, Robin Van Dam and some of their friends. We get to a country bar called “City Limits” and the place is off the chains, packed with “country people” rocking tight jeans, cowboy boots, vests, NASCAR shirts and western hats of various gallons (I realize most people refer to them as “10 Gallon Hats,” but some of the ones I saw looked a little light and I don’t like to give credit where it is undeserved). As we approach the door it becomes obvious it is not just any night at the Road House, Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish was performing! I am not much of a country fan, but dude blew the roof off the dump. He did all his new songs, country versions of the Hootie hits and old school favorites like “Family Tradition.” This would have been a good show if I was prepared for it, but because it was a total surprise it was that much better. Once the show was over and the DJ started playing “Cotton Eyed Joe” to entice drunk country chicks in matching denim pants and vest ensembles to dance on the bar, Lyle and I called it a night and rolled to his house. Side Note: I don’t care what Farrah Davids says, Gym Class Heroes IS the new Hootie and the Blowfish! A non-threatening black guy, surrounded by even less threatening white guys, mixing genres and making harmless party music, clearly I am right about this. In 10 years when Travis McCoy makes a country record and tours NC, I’ll be at that show too!

Lyle purchased a beautiful townhouse in palatial North Raleigh since the last time I was down in the Dirty South, after a tour of the place we embarked on an epic conversation that spanned the entire length of “Rocky Balboa”...twice. We covered topics including all kinds of music, movies and Tucker Max. Just after 4:00 am he drops “We gotta be on the road by 7:30 to get some stuff done for the tail gate.” Awesome, 3 hours of sleep before an 8 hour debacle of mingling in the sun with people I see once a year, this should go well.

I get up, shower and am sitting shotgun in the truck by 7:30 am, we go to Walmart for a cooler and then an ABC Store for...the only thing you can buy at an ABC Store. While in the state-run liquor store I get a call from Farrah Davids and proceed to say the following into my phone at a volume audible to every employee in the store: “Hey, what did you say you wanted again? I couldn’t remember if it was supposed to be Watermelon or Sour Apple Pucker. I know you told me last night, but it was hard to concentrate because you were trying on prom dresses.” I thought that would make it obvious we were buying alcohol for minors (which we weren’t), but nobody in the store had any reaction at all. We paid for the booze and went back to Lyle’s house, but the fact that we accomplished all the errands with ninja-like efficiency meant we had about 3 hours to kill before we left for the game, which wasn’t starting for like 9 hours at this point.

We finally get to the parking spot at about 2:30, it’s pretty much Me, Lyle, a few decrepit old people in Winnebago’s and security guards, not exactly Fun City...yet. Over the course of the next hour all of my NC people filtered in the lot and made their way to Lyle’s parking spot (literally 50 feet from the field). The afternoon progressed with obscene amounts of beer, sweat tea flavored vodka and scotch (we even tailgate like gentlemen) consumed by just about everyone.

After about 6 hours of parking lot fun we decide to actually go to the game, on the way in Lyle stops to buy a pretzel and gets into a verbal altercation with an elderly man. It is currently unclear whether this altercation was the result of the elderly man suggesting Lyle should count his change faster and clear the pretzel cart for other customers or if he made a disparaging remark about diabetics. It should be noted that Lyle does not suffer from diabeties or even know anyone that does, he simply has taken it upon himself to defend people stricken with this horrible disease.

The first half of the game was not that entertaining, South Florida was crushing State. Right before half-time the sky opened up rain drops the size of Jolly Ranchers began to pelt the crowd. A mass exodus of the stadium started immediately and in the confusion I began running back to Lyle’s truck. I get about 50 feet away from our tailgate area and I realize I am running by myself. In the midst of the confusion of tens of thousands of people rushing for shelter I look back and see Lyle with a derranged look on his face, searching the crowd and moving side to side like Shawn Merriman in the throws of a ‘roid rage. He was seriously looking for the old man that upset him on the way into the game, when I walked over to him I could hear him mumble about a “Curbside Smile.” Luckily he never found the guy and we all went back to the tailgate, the rain eventually calmed down and we hung out until about the end of the 3rd quarter and then called it a night.

We returned to Lyle’s house and talked about old times for a few hours. The best part of this whole thing is that every time Mr. Belvedere’s sidekick Pat Billiards opened his mouth everybody told him to shut the hell up, I’m not sure why this kid is such a whipping boy, but it’s pretty clear his “friends “ hate him like Lyle hates people that don’t respect diabetes. At one point he tilted his chin up and barely opened his mouth attempting to say something and Josaphine Davids smacked the living shit out of him, I’m pretty sure she knocked his jaw loose, I hope he ends up being alright. We eventually all went to sleep, but because we were all sopping wet from the monsoon at Carter-Finley Stadium, Lyle let us borrow clothes to sleep in. These outfits were comprised entirely of athletic gear from NC State and Florida State, putting any combination of people together for a picture resulted in a photo that looked like an advertisement for Dick’s from the Sunday pull-out section of the newspaper.

Sunday was cool and relaxing, we hung out and watched The Departed. They literally could not have included any more celebrities in that movie and while it was a little hard to think of Leonardo DiCaprio as a bad ass, it was pretty good. I went to the airport Sunday afternoon and while my flight was delayed several hours I ran into some guy I haven’t seen in years and the following conversation took place:

Him: You should have told me you were coming to town.

Me: I decided to come down at the last minute, and by last minute I mean early August.

I finally made it home late Sunday night and then returned to Dirty Jerz life on Monday morning.