Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From the Pied Piper to Clash

In my elementary school's rendition of the Pied Piper of Hamlin I played the part of cat #3. I delivered my single line surprisingly late to an audience cramped into plastic chairs designed for those four feet and under.

On Monday, close to 20 years later, I made my triumphant return to the stage.

My family isn't big with the whole performing arts thing. My dad can tell a good story, my mom can sing or hum the same line of a song for the majority of an afternoon, and once my brother and I were complemented on our voices when we were trying to sing in an obnoxiously low baritone at church.

That said, when we entered the bar, and the slightly dilapidated black stage loomed in front of me, I was both exhilarated and intimidated. I found a place in the back, a can of PBR in my hand, and watched the likes of Ron Jovi masterfully sing "Wanted Dead or Alive" and a guy named Kurt perform "On a Plain."

The performers knew what they were doing. They had confident, sensible mannerisms and were possibly in local bands. Nobody can rock like David Cross, but most of them could have held their own on American Idol.

I was with a group of four, and when one of the girls pulled me along to go look at the song list, I played along. When she flipped through the book once and submitted a song, I started to get nervous. Sure, I was a little nervous for her, but more importantly I was nervous because this meant soon enough I would be on stage as well.

The crowd was supportive. It couldn't have hurt that she was a cute blond with knee high black boots on, but as she worked her way toward the chorus of "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley, it didn't sound that bad.

I was confused by her reaction when the song was over. She wasn't excited or relieved, she simply walked over to me and told me that I had to sing next. I already knew this. I'm not the kind of guy that is one-upped without resistance. But I let her feel like she was convincing me.

Like my mom, I only know the chorus of most songs. Flipping through the pages, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, and Clash all stuck out. I asked the girl collecting names to recommend something easy, and she pointed to "Should I Stay or Should I Go."

It's a popular song, but it's the kind of song that I don't know why I know it. I don't listen to rock on the radio and I don't have the Clash cd or any of their mp3's. This fact worried me, but other that general hilarity, I don't know why this woman I'd met a minute before would steer me in the wrong direction.

I went with it, and she told me that I had 15 minutes. I went to get a shot of Tequila and headed for a bench near the stage. I tried to repeat the lines in my head, but didn't get past the title.

I can't tell you much about the next ten minutes or so. Like any good performer I was getting in the zone.

Before I knew it, I was called to the stage. I had planned on saying “any fan involvement would be appreciated” before I started, but it didn’t feel right and I didn’t. I kind of have a gift. I would rate my current stage presence a 3, but my potential is 10.

As the song started I started to rock from side to side, emphasizing the hips. It was a good feeling to be up on stage with a band, and at that moment, at least symbolically, I was the leader.

With the familiar guitar chords being played to my right, I glanced up at the monitor. My glance turned into a stare, as I waited for the first word to change colors or something. They never did, and before I knew it the bassist was singing, "Darling you've got to let me know."

After that, I managed to catch on. The great thing about Clash, and this song inparticular, is that the lines are pretty well spaced out. My confidence grew with each line. Eventually I got my stage feet under me and incorporated a overdramatic indie quick bounce that was probably all the rage five years ago.

Halfway through the song another guy came on stage. I felt like I was doing pretty well, so I kind of nodded my head at him as if I knew what he was up to. Next thing I know, he's yelling inaudible phrases between my lines. The crowd seemed to like it, so I sent off as many embracing vibes as I could muster.

At the time I felt like we were really creating something special. Like there was some type of connection we had, and we were making something new and fresh. Walking off the stage, to a pretty good cheer from the crowd, I imagined me and this new guy taking the music scene by storm. I found out later that he was just singing the other part of the song.

It was an unforgettable night. I convinced my other friend to sing, and after a rousing version of "Don't Stop Believing," we called it a night. Luckily they were selling DVD's of the night's performances.

I bought one, and it is being mailed to me at this moment. If I can figure out how to rip it onto the computer, It will be on this blog. Check back soon ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Love & Life just outside of Macy's

Pictured above is four elderly men seated silently outside of Macy's at 11:20 AM on a Tuesday. It's the One Day sale, the biggest day of the year at Macy's ... and they are MISSING IT.

Initially, I had a somewhat feminine reaction, it was kind of sweet for these old guys to half-heartedly tag along with their wives on the big trip to the mall. After further inspection, I noticed they appeared somewhat miserable. I would find out why minutes later.

I needed a suit, and while Macy's doesn't always have the hippest of fashions, I'm not always the hippest of people. I tried to immerse myself in the all-important decision of grey or navy, but I was distracted by the mass of energy and movement 20 yards away in the dress shirt section.

I approached cautiously, still in the mens section, to see a horde of women surrounding a 15'x 10' table full of packaged dress shirts.

If I had to guess, the average age was 65. And while there were a few men jockeying for position, the vast majority were women in the grandma category. It was the "Morning only" sale, and the shirts were going for $9.99.

They clutched shirts of creamsicle orange and blue and green plaid, confident they were briging home a winner. I started to wonder if their husbands still worked, or if they have just been programmed for this sort of behavior.

One thing I'm sure of, is that the men that were waiting outside weren't interested in what they had to offer. Their perfectly worn in sweater jackets, and flannel shirts were there for the long run. And since this Macy's "biggest of the year" One Day Sale, is supposed to only happen once a year, they've surely got the next dozen years covered.

I'd like to consider myself a romantic, somewhere between hopeless and hopeful. But if this is the grand finale, I'm not sure I want continue my search.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another amazing feat of balance

I didn't spend more than 15 minutes working on this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's in a name?

Say your first name aloud. Repeat it until it starts sounding strange.

For me it doesn’t take long. Around the third time, I begin to say it mockingly.

“Steven, Steven, Steven.”

If I think about it, Steven sounds like the appropriate name for an uppity receptionist at a downtown law firm, more concerned with the company on his boss’ business card than his own role.

The abbreviated version isn’t much better. Steve, to me, is the guy who wears a different windbreaker vest every day, and shakes your hand a little too hard and a little too often.

I’m horribly inconsistent with choosing which name version I introduce myself with:

Job interview – Steven
Friend’s friend – Steve
Girl – Steven
Family member – Steve
Call in radio show – Steven
Forwarded email – Steve
Restaurant hostess – Steven
Fightclub – Steve

As you can see, it’s a lot to remember. Sometimes I wonder if anyone’s first name is their first choice.

In the 13th century people started a practice known as “rhyming nicknames.” That’s how you get Ted for Edward, Bill from William, and Bob from Robert. Those are pretty common names. These people are so dissatisfied with their name, that they abandon the first letter altogether.

When that isn't enough, there is always the middle name, which is pretty much a backup plan. I’m confident that this is why it was invented (also useful for creating embarrassing initials … mine are S.A.C.). If you find your first name so unacceptable that you can’t derive a different version from just one to two of the letters, you’re granted an entirely different set.

If you're in the public arena, like actors, radio personalities and strippers, you probably use a stage name.

I’m not sure of a solution. I don’t particularly like the sound of my social security number. And if we waited until adulthood to choose our name I wouldn't know what to choose, except for purposes of self amusement.

So I guess I'll just have to settle for the name I have. And next time someone tells me, "you don't look like a Steven," I'll be sure to return the favor.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Cold Hard Truth about having a Wingwoman

The wingman is an impossibly selfless and depressingly necessary component when talking to a foreign member of the opposite sex.

The wingman can be bad. They can be rude, annoying or awkward, and what does that say about you?

They can be too good. If they are funny, they’ll steal your thunder. If they’re too good looking, well … you’ll look bad.

The purpose is to make you look better. Better than you really are. So wouldn’t a beautiful woman, a wingwoman, do the trick?

The answer, simply, is no.

I learned this first hand at a bar aptly named Teasers in St. Simon’s last weekend. Our group arrived at around 10, with 19 people crowded into a van taxi. I quickly bored of playing pool in the back, and went with my friend Fred to analyze other costumes.

We spotted an above average Betty and Wilma, and we decided to talk to them.

I asked what their costumes were, not because we didn’t know, but so they would ask us what we were.

First, it should be known that Fred is Jewish. I feel like I can say this, because for years he has lovingly called me Aryan. Anyway, we look different. He has a full beard, and I have 13 chest hairs.

Thankfully they inquired about our costumes, and our hearts filled with glee. With the precision that could only be attained by two guys who’d drunkenly annoyed their friends with the same joke for the last five hours – we responded.

“We’re Identical Twins!” we yelled, as our faces struggled to contain our smiles.

Somehow they weren’t impressed. Their friend interrupted to inform us that they both have boyfriends and pulled them away.

This phenomenon repeated itself a dozen times, until Fred was summoned by his girlfriend (remember to write future article about why guys in relationships aren’t ideal wingmen).

I don’t want to say Fred was a bad wingman. I guess the problem here was that we were more amused with ourselves than the women we were talking to.

Alone and dejected, I did what any man in his mid-20’s would do – head toward the closest live country band. Lucky for me, they were less than ten yards away.

A couple of the girls that had made the trip down with us sensed my despair, and asked if I wanted to dance. Dancing with friends’ fiancées and girlfriends is a difficult proposition. If you don’t have fun, then you’re boring, if you have too much fun, well that’s not ok either.

Although they were better looking than the other girls on the dance floor, they were relieved by my wondering eyes. Instead of formulating an undeniable plan, as Fred and I had earlier, they started to push me toward another group of girls.

I’d imagine that this method has worked for them. Get a big group of girls together, giggle, and bump into guys. I’m not a girl, but I’m pretty much positive that this is how it works.

The first time I bumped into the girl they had chosen as my ideal dance partner, it wasn’t that bad. I glanced over my shoulder, said sorry, and tried to smile. I think I’ve read that smiling is good in either Maxim or Seventeen magazine.

After the first bump it got a little weird. Sure, I should have just asked if she wanted to dance, but I didn’t. And with Dixieland Delight playing in the background, I found myself trying to shuffle appropriately, all but abandoned by my most recent dance partners. They remained a couple feet back, like proud mothers, prodding me to “go for it.”

I’d been uncomfortably in their space for too long now, and this was clear to all parties involved. By chance my beer was empty, and I suddenly really needed another drink.

I returned to the friends, and they seemed amazed that their master plan hadn’t worked.

Maybe it was the girls, maybe it was the country music, and maybe, just maybe, it was me. But I spent the rest of the night dancing by myself.

Dancing with girls is overrated anyway.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What we've accomplished this year

He did this ...

I did that ...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Heaven at the Corner of Randolph and Bay

JACKSONVILLE – “Too much watermelon, not enough turtle necks.”

It doesn’t make much sense. But as I sat down to write about my love affair with our tailgate spot, one that I’ve traveled near 3500 miles for the last five years, this line is repeating itself in my head.

Let me set the stage. A man in his late 40’s is approaching, wearing a blue dri-fit-ish turtle neck, carrying a plate of cut up watermelon. Just before he passes, I yell, “too much watermelon, not enough turtle necks.”

He’s looking right at me, somewhat confused as to why someone is yelling from less than eight feet, and his head cocks a little to the side. At the same time, my friends begin to yell. A chorus of “Ohhhhh”’s, and the catch phrase for the weekend, “you just got got … kinda” are echoed by about a half dozen friends standing within earshot.

There really isn’t anything to say in response to this comment.

Does it make more sense now? … Exactly

Ok, well that story doesn’t really do this 1,000 square feet of grass justice. Just trust me, it's really great.

It has history – a depressed hedge, where my friend Homer fell and eventually passed out, has not yet recovered. Tattered remains of plastic bags used for holding makeshift signs are still wrapped around street signs.

It has friendship – old friends reunite, and the most recent girlfriends are assessed. Strangers fail to walk by and become new friends.

It has passion – the comments range from mean spirited to nonsensical, but it doesn’t really matter. People usually appear appalled when they look at us, but it’s the reason they’re there. What happens on the football field matters only because the fans care. And most of the fans that make it to Jacksonville care a lot.

Post any clever or not so clever things you said, or heard someone else say, to Florida fans below. I tried to think of a bunch, but haven't had much luck.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Going Bananas with Busch Light

I'm not sure why my hand looks incredibly fat or why the beer appears to be an extension of my palm, but I intend to elaborate extensively on my recent trip to St. Simon's and Jacksonville.

What you have to look forward to:
  • Potential sound bites (if I can figure it out).
  • A run in with an A-list commercial celebrity.
  • A visit to an establishment named Teasers, which isn't a strip club.
  • Campaigning for an unknown political candidate via techno dance moves.
  • An epiphany in the midst of one of Georgia's worst losses I've been a part of.