In my ongoing quest to make as many awesome decisions as I can before I die, I got another tattoo. Well, two, actually. But since I had to space them a few weeks apart, I’ve decided to post them one at a time.
This masterpiece of blinding awesomeness, I got for my 31st birthday. It’s not an original idea by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’ve seen a few others very similar to it sported by fellow fans of a particular band from New Jersey. I even considered not getting it for that very reason. Because, as much as I love them (the band; I don’t really know the fans), I didn’t want it to come off as just a cookie cutter homage to them because I was shooting for something a little bigger. I wanted something to mark my love of music in general, not one act in particular.
My wife initially suggested that I get a guitar tattoo since that’s what I play. But a guitar tattoo would suggest that I’m more proficient on the instrument than I actually am. And the last thing I would want is a bunch of people saying, “So you must be pretty good, huh?” and me having to respond with, “Define ‘good.’” But, who knows, maybe one day when I know more than one scale.
Besides, I had had the gramophone in mind for a while and was thinking more along the lines of how some songs/albums become almost a part of our DNA. If you stop and think about it, it really is a very personal, mysterious and powerful thing. I still remember listening to my parents Motown records as a kid and the Sam Cooke tape that my mom and I would play over and over in the car while she was driving me to school. All those songs feel like home to me now. Probably still will when I’m eighty. And, sure, an iPod would have been a more accurate depiction of my current listening habits, but where’s the romance and nostalgia in that? Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPod, but pressing “play” will never offer the same sense of satisfaction as dropping the needle on a record.
Now, as far as the rose goes, I’ve read somewhere that it is a symbol of timeless beauty, among other things. And I could certainly sit here and wax poetic on how that symbolism ties in with the essence of great music and how both a song and a rose, with its thorns, can be both beautiful and painful at the same time and blah, blah, blah….and that would all be true. But at the end of the day, it just looks really $%&@ing cool.
The quote says, “We sing with our heroes 33 rounds per minute.” It’s from a song called “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” by The Gaslight Anthem, that particular band from New Jersey I mentioned earlier and one of my favorites. It’s a really popular line for fans to get tattooed and, as I previously stated, that fact initially gave me pause. But I soon realized that I wasn’t going to find a better line to sum up my feelings on the subject. And, in the end, who cares how many people have the same line tattooed on them. It’s brilliant. More people should have it. Like the song says, “We like our choruses sung together/We like our arms in our brothers’ arms.” If some of those arms happen to have similar tattoos on them, even better. Because music and life are best when shared. So why not tattoos?
Anyway, I’m exceedingly happy with how the tattoo turned out. It was, indeed, an awesome decision. I did, however, foolishly go into it thinking that getting tattooed on my shoulder would somehow be less painful than the inside of my forearm. And I was wrong. It hurt more. It was still bearable and I walked out with my dignity still largely intact, but, damn, that was a long four hours. Worth it.
And for anyone who hasn’t heard it, here is “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” by The Gaslight Anthem. It’s brilliant in both its simplicity and its emotional punch and is definitely tattoo worthy. I could go on and on, but it’s probably best that I shut up and just let you listen to the song. Enjoy.
(Once again, this tattoo was done by Lirette at MidCity Voodoux Tattoos.)
Several weeks ago, I decided for the second time in my life to break one of the cardinal rules I live by: No outdoor music festivals. They’re hot, I’m pale, port-o-potties are essentially giant boxes of AIDS. It’s just not a good scene for me. However, when Bruce Springsteen decides to play Jazz Fest, exceptions are made: Sunscreen is heavily applied, money for overpriced water is withdrawn and bottles of hand sanitizer are procured. Because if The Boss is punching in for work in the New Orleans humidity, then so am I. And while I couldn’t talk my wife into accompanying me on this adventure, she did agree to drop me off at the gate and pick me up afterwards so I didn’t have to worry about parking. I married a team player.
A little background: The first time I broke this rule was also for Springsteen. It was the first Jazz Fest after Hurricane Katrina and it was one of the most moving performances I have ever witnessed. When he played “My City Of Ruins” and debuted his version of “When The Saints Go Marching In,” grown men cried. That show is now part of New Orleans legend. And while it was definitely crowded that day in 2006, and despite the fact I arrived only an hour before he was set to take the stage, I was nevertheless able to maneuver through the crowd and find a decent spot on the grass from which to take in the show. See, not bad…
So, this year, I figured I would be able to roll the dice again and get away with the same thing…….and I was wrong. Upon entering the grounds, I asked a lady working the event for directions to the Acura Stage. After she pointed me in the right direction, I asked, “And that’s where Bruce will be, right?” “Yeah,” she said, “along with 10 million other people.” She was only slightly exaggerating. I’ve seen disturbed fire ant mounds that were less crowded. After circling the field for almost half an hour, the best I could do was eight deep on the dirt track that encircled the grass. I brought binoculars. I needed a telescope.
And it was back here, in BFE, that I found myself in one of those situations where you are forced to consider the question:
JUST HOW BIG OF A JERK AM I?
Let me explain. After finally finding a spot with a decent sight line to the stage, I unfolded my chair and struck up a conversation with a guy from Dallas named Gary. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find a woman who appeared to be in her seventies accompanied by a man appearing to be in his fifties. I was standing at the time and she asked me if the chair behind me was mine. I told her it was. She said if I wasn’t using it at the moment, did I mind if an old lady sat in it for a while and rested.
Being a relatively nice guy, I said, “Sure,” grabbed my $3 bottle of water from the arm rest and moved over for her to sit down. I figured she’d rest for a few minutes, get back up and be on her way. No big deal. I go back to talking with my new friend, Gary. After a minute or two, I notice out the corner of my eye that the she is already getting up…..to pull the chair up to join the party in the row in front of me. Several people immediately converge to fill in the gap where my chair used to be. Then, looking around, I notice that the guy that was accompanying her is now nowhere to be found. Awesome.
As for Gram Gram, she is busy cozying up to some ladies in the group camped out in front of us like she has known them her entire life. Gary tells me, “I think you just lost your chair.” Gary is right. SON OF A #@$&!!! She does, however, turn back briefly from her conversation with her new-found best friends to say, “Just tell me when you want your chair back.” I know this game, Grams. That is old lady code for, “This is my chair now, bitch.” She’s definitely banking on the hope that a thirty year old man will not risk looking like an insensitive douche by taking a chair from a senior citizen. Well played, old lady, well played.
Twenty minutes roll by and this chick is not moving. Neither has her escort returned. The time for Bruce to take the stage is drawing close and I’m getting progressively more pissed by the second. Now, I know, I know, I’m young, she’s old and this is really just a minor inconvenience, what with children starving in India and whatnot……BUT IT’S MY CHAIR!!! I PLANNED AHEAD, SHE DIDN’T AND I’M STILL GETTING SCREWED INTO STANDING FOR TWO AND A HALF HOURS!!! AGHHH!!! And just in case you missed it, I’ve already spelled out my general dislike of standing at concerts here. Only this time, instead of having to deal with a drunk girl constantly stumbling into me, it’s a little old lady conning me out of my seat. Green Day was right: Nice guys do finish last….right behind the drunk and elderly.
You know, sometimes, when I find myself in awkward situations like this, I ask myself “What would Jesus do?” But given the fact I had the feeling that Jesus would have just let her have the chair, and that not being the answer I wanted to hear, I thought I would ask a much better question: What would Gary do? So I ask Gary, “On a scale from one to ten, how big of a jerk am I if I ask for my chair back?” I figured I should probably give a scale because, let’s face it, taking a chair back from a senior citizen is not going to cause someone to accuse you of not being a jerk. But just HOW BIG of a jerk does it make you? If it’s less than five, I can live with that. “Zero from me,” Gary replied, “It’s your chair and you’ve let her use it for twenty minutes. She should have brought her own.” I like Gary. Gary is good people. Now, granted, that was just one opinion out of the thousands that were there, but it was plenty good enough for me. And being that the instrument techs appeared to be wrapping up their pre-show duties, it was the only opinion I was going to have time to take before the show started and I lost the chair for good.
So, moment of truth: Do I take back my small oasis in the middle of Jazz Fest purgatory, or do I just swallow my annoyance and let it be? Oh, I kicked Grandma to the curb. I didn’t feel great about it, but let’s look at the facts. This isn’t a crowded subway; it’s a music festival. There is no public seating provided to the general admission public. It’s bring your own chair. And you didn’t. And then when someone lets you use their chair, you grab it and drag it off to join a different group of people. I don’t care if you lived through two world wars, that’s just rude. And rude people stand. Even grandmas. There was a notable shock on her face when I asked for it back….and if I would have thought about it too much, I could have let it really get to me….but I was too busy….sitting in my chair.
And, as it turned out, this was only a minor speed bump for Granny. She almost immediately turned to the guy sitting in front of me and asked if the chair next to him was taken. He told her it was his fiancee’s. To which she replied, and I quote, “Well, is she here?” Grandma has got some stones. I’ll definitely give her that. And she sat in that chair for at least half the concert, until her mystery man finally reappeared and they wandered off. Where the guy’s fiancee was for over half the show, I have no idea. Perhaps she didn’t realize that Bruce $%@&ing Springsteen was playing. Or maybe she did and chose to skip because she has horrible taste in music. But I can only speculate. Whatever the reason, that crew left before the show was over anyway, which is another pet peeve of mine, but that’s for another day.
Anyway, the concert finally came to an end (but not before Bruce broke out “Saints” again, cleverly sandwiched in the middle of “Rocky Ground”) and I packed up my chair, shook hands with Gary and hiked back to the entrance and up the street, where my wife dutifully picked me up and brought me home. Looking back on it now, it was definitely worth breaking my “no music festival” policy for the second time. Not only was the concert phenomenal, but I also got to see Bruce & E Street perform a song with Dr. John, I had a nice conversation with an out-of-towner and I got to put a senior citizen in her place….kind of. All in all, not too bad of an afternoon. And the cherry on top of my Jazz Fest Sunday: The sanitation level of the port-o-potty I used was actually okay….I’ve got to say it was a good day.
* Artist John Wagner created Maxine in 1986 as a new character line for the Shoebox Greetings™ card division of Hallmark.
My break for the holidays somehow extended into April. My bad.
To get the ball rolling again on this little vanity project, I think a little catching up is in order. So, let’s see, what has happened since my neighbors almost burned down my house last year?
I started playing guitar in one of the bands at church. It’s been going well, despite the fact I’ve almost thrown up from nerves on several occasions. You see, “play” is kind of a strong word to describe what I do, since I don’t really “grasp” musical theory. I’m a little short on what the experts would call “talent.” So imagine my delight when I show up to play in a band for THE FIRST TIME EVER and the drummer doesn’t show. Wondering how this affects me? Glad you asked. You see, the plan was for me to be the second guitar (read: stand in the back, hit some chords, act like I’m doing something really important). Now, with the drummer M.I.A., the singer/really good guitar player had to lead from the drums, Don Henley-style. Guess who that left flying solo on guitar? That’s right, THIS GUY!! And this happened in church. Where I couldn’t curse or throw things. Fantastic.
Now, I don’t get that nervous talking in front of people, but it’s a whole different story when it comes to guitar. My palms get sweaty, my muscles tighten and I totally blank on chord changes. It’s all the makings of a slow death. And to top off the fact that I just learned these songs a couple days earlier, the band leader, Ronnie, looks over from the drum kit during sound check and informs me that I’ll be starting off the third song unaccompanied and the band will come in after a little while. WHAT?!! WE’RE TRUSTING ME TO PLAY IN TIME NOW?!! At that point, I thought about suggesting a name change from “Worship Band 2″ to “The Hindenburg.” Either way, we’d be on fire for Jesus.
Fast forward through the rest of rehearsal/soundcheck to standing on stage, moments before the set. There were two options at this point: 1.) Play well, or 2.) Play like crap, and since it’s a Celebrate Recovery meeting, tell everyone the drugs haven’t worn off yet and that I actually sounded fantastic. That’s right, I have no shame. Thankfully, though, it didn’t come to that. God had mercy. My hands loosened up, my focus was sharp-ish and the few glitches weren’t momentum breaking. Also, my bandmates are much more talented than I am, which helps.
I like to think that I walked away with a little “stepped out in faith” badge that night. If nothing else, it was great preparation for when, later down the road, Ronnie would turn to me during rehearsal, half an hour before the performance, while the band was rehearsing a song I hadn’t had a chance to learn, show me a scale and tell me to “play whatever I feel.” I feel like puking, Ronnie. How is that best expressed with an E major pentatonic? Thankfully, God was merciful then, as well. And, in all seriousness, I am getting much better and my bandmates are great and encouraging and just all around wonderful people. I’m honored to get to play and learn with them. Overall, it has been a wonderful experience……that sometimes I feel I need to bring a bucket to. Just in case.
While we’re on the subject of music, I took my wife to a Better Than Ezra concert around New Years, where it became readily apparent that I am getting old. Not so old that I’m ready to start yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but if I’m going to a concert, I definitely want a chair. Seriously. I wanted to just enjoy the show, but all I could really think about was how hot I was, how much my feet hurt and what I was going to do if the drunk four, who thought she was a nine, elbowed me in the side one more time.
Consequently, what is it about a few drinks and little rock ‘n’ roll that makes girls lose their &#%$ing minds? Because while I was busy plotting out that chick’s fall down a flight of stairs, my wife and brother-in-law were enduring lashings from a girl, hammered out of her mind, swinging her long hair around like a windmill. Hey, honey, we’re at a BTE show, not Metallica. Nothing here is that heavy. And with the way she was stumbling, you would think her girlfriends would be watching her carefully. And you would be wrong. After falling into my wife and brother-in-law a few times, she eventually found the floor. Thank you, gravity.
And then there was the portion where the band invited girls from the audience to dance on the stage. Almost a good idea. Twenty jump on stage; one can actually dance. Granted, I consider “the running man” dancing, but this girl had obviously done her homework on the subtle nuances of MC Hammer. And, for that, she is to be applauded. The rest just awkwardly wiggled in place and tried to take pictures with the band….while they were trying to play and sing. And I’m not even going to get into the dude repeatedly yelling “shut up and sing” whenever the singer paused to talk for a minute. Stay classy, dude. God forbid a performer actually tries to connect with the audience. Now, granted, I don’t really like crowds, but I can’t be the only one who gets by annoyed by peoples’ general lack of awareness and respect for others. A friend of mine puts it this way: People suck everywhere. I find that a hard notion to refute at times. But I know, I know, I’m no fun. I’m going to go yell at some kittens now….
Speaking of cuddly creatures, I ran into Gregg Williams at the airport the weekend after the San Francisco game, in which I hear the unthinkable happened. Something about the defensive coordinator electing to leave the 49′ers only decent receiving option in single coverage repeatedly. That’s what I’m told, anyway. I’ve blocked all those memories out. Days spent curled up in the fetal position crying can have that effect. But I digress.
Anyway, he was on the same flight to Dallas as my family and me. I happened to finish checking in first and was standing by the luggage drop-off area, waiting for the rest of my party to catch up. Williams finished checking in and started to head toward the terminal. As he approached me, I knew I had three options: A) Ignore him, B) Tackle him or C) Take the high road and thank him for his service. Now, despite the fact that it was very early in the morning, my conscience seemed to be awake, so I went with Option C. Plus, in my mind, helping us win a Super Bowl far outweighed the tragic decision to not double cover Vernon Davis. So, as he passed, I simply said, “Thanks, Gregg.” He paused, thanked me and said it meant a lot. He was very gracious and came across as genuine. It was a cool moment. He even signed a visor for my brother-in-law, the eBay value of which has since plummeted.
And I have to say, it has been somewhat bizarre to watch the news since the bounty story broke and have these descriptions of him as some kind of monster juxtaposed against the memory of this smiling, seemingly affable, guy. And as overblown as I think this whole thing has been, I’m glad that the G Dub chapter in New Orleans has come to a close and that we are moving on as an organization. Whether or not this scandal ever happened, it was time. I’m really looking forward to what SpagNOLA is going to bring to the table, especially with the defensive moves we’ve made this offseason. And despite Sean Payton’s suspension, I truly believe we are still in position to make a serious run at this thing. If any team is built to weather this kind of storm, it’s us. It all hinges on one thing: #9. Make it happen, Loomis.
So let’s recap. I’m enjoying playing guitar, despite the very real possibility of puking onstage from nerves. If I’m going to watch other people play guitar, I want a chair. Preferably, a comfortable chair. You know, for my old, feeble bones and whatnot. People still suck. And I’ve met exactly one member of the Saints organization in my life: arguably the most radioactive member in the franchise’s history. And, believe it or not, he actually seemed to be a nice guy.
Now, oddly enough, all of this kind of ties together. You see, it was our band’s turn in the rotation the weekend of the San Francisco game. The setlist for that week happened to be very upbeat and celebratory. The Saturday gathering before the game was energetic and a lot of fun. We all left in great spirits, ready to watch the Saints move one step closer to another Super Bowl. And then Vernon Davis in single coverage happened….and happened….and happened….and happened. And as soul-crushing as that was, it didn’t change the fact that we still had to get up and play the same upbeat set on Sunday, although considerable consideration was given to changing the set to the slowest, saddest-sounding songs we could find.
There was even a brief discussion about just throwing down our instruments and walking off stage if it became too much to bear, as well as the real possibility of breaking down into tears and starting a chorus of “WHY, GOD, WHY?!!” in the middle of the set. But, in the end, we put on brave faces, prayed for God’s presence, and soldiered on. Because, really, that’s all you can do. And that’s exactly what the Saints and the Who Dat Nation will do now. I mean, if we can put the worst natural disaster in U.S. history behind us, I don’t foresee this being a problem. So, until next time: Peace, love….and, as always, WHO DAT!!!
Ever see that movie, Limony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events? Yeah, me neither. Jim Carrey kind of lost me after Bruce Almighty. Hey, Jim, if you ever decide to do another Ace Ventura, give me a call. I’ll be there opening night, popcorn and Junior Mints ready. Otherwise, continue to enjoy making millions off of movies that I’ll probably never see. But, hey, we’ll always have Fire Marshall Bill. Anyway, we here at the palatial Casa de Nervous Feet recently underwent our own series of unfortunate events. And while it didn’t involve blowing up an entire school, FMB style, it wasn’t all that far off. LEMME SHOW YOU SOMTHIN’!!
Unfortunate Event #1.) There are two things in this world that my wife guards with her life. One is her car. The other is her iPhone. Want to guess which one fell in the toilet last week? Yep, my wife’s Xterra got jacked up. Our toilet is huge. No, wait, that’s just me wishing it had been the car. That would have been far less dramatic. My wife would actually set her car on fire before she let anything happen to that phone. Fact. However, in her defense, some back story is in order. Last year, about five seconds after she sold her iPhone 3 and upgraded to the iPhone 4, it got stolen. We have excellent footage of the event from the restaurant’s video cameras. Too bad the police didn’t find it all that interesting. Thanks for nothing, Jefferson Parish P.D. Anyway, after months of saving and combining that with some Christmas cash, my wife was able to replace her phone and all was well with the world. Fast forward to last week….So there I was in my man cave, being awesome, when I heard my wife scream something that I can’t repeat here. My first though: There’s a ninja in my house and my wife just got cut. Second thought: My first thought was stupid.
Upon emerging from my office, I arrived at the bathroom door to find my wife drying off her phone with her bath towel. Apparently, there’s not an app for that. She said she had reached for her phone on the counter and accidentally pushed it off into the toilet. I made a mental note to burn that bath towel. Next thing I know, the screen is black and my wife looks like someone just shot her best friend in the face. I probably should have been more empathetic at the time, but I was too busy calculating how much blood I was going to have to sell in order to replace another iPhone. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. It turns out that someone had already dropped their iPhone in the toilet and had posted the solution online: rice. I’m guessing that person was MacGyver.
Long story short, my wife’s phone spent the next few days buried in a container of rice….over which an alter was built and candles were lit. I thought the incense and animal sacrifices were a bit much, but whatever. I’m just glad it worked. The phone emerged from the rice four days later, good as new. Thanks, Uncle Ben. So the good news is we don’t have to buy a new phone. Yea for Aaron’s wallet. The bad news, however: My wife now talks on a toilet phone. That’s right, a toilet phone. That she puts on her face. The same face that she puts next to my face. For all you non math majors out there, let me break this down for you. Transitive property: I’ve peed on my wife’s face. And while that might be something R. Kelly may be into, I’m not. I’m currently dodging my wife like the plague until she’s due for another upgrade. When I agreed to that whole “for worse” thing at our wedding, I had no idea a pee tainted phone would be involved. I was so naive.
Unfortunate Event # 2.) There are a few things that I quite like about renting. Renters insurance is reasonably priced. I don’t have to cut grass. If something breaks, I get to call the landlord and let him deal with it. It can be a pretty sweet deal. But, as with most things in this life, it does have its drawbacks. I’m not building any equity in a home. I have to share walls with other people. The people who share those walls will eventually try their level best to burn your $#&% to the ground. You know what’s a good time? Thinking you smell something vaguely smoke-ish and then walking downstairs to discover a mist so thick you’re half expecting to bump into Sigourney Weaver and a #%$&ing gorilla. Things get real, real quick. If nothing else, it will cure any constipation you may have. It is also not the optimal time to realize that you haven’t checked the fire alarm battery in, oh, never. That one’s on me.
The next several minutes were a blur of opening doors and windows and trying to find the source. The stove was off and the outlets looked fine. Nothing was engulfed in flames. This fire was obviously a hide and seek genius. I was on my third pass through the kitchen before my eye caught a small stream of smoke coming from the vent above the stove. The vent that we share with the unit next door. Our neighbors were trying to kill us all. Excellent. Only they didn’t appear to be home. Even better. Time to call the professionals.
With the fire department on the way, I suddenly realized that a golden opportunity was lying before me. This could very well be the only chance I ever get to kick in a door. Seriously, who doesn’t want to kick in a door? Nobody, that’s who. Now, granted, it didn’t really work out too well for that guy in Backdraft, but I bet he felt awesome for the 0.3 seconds before he got blown into the next century. I like to think so, anyway. As for me, I didn’t even get the chance to chicken out, because when I stepped back outside, the door was already open with smoke billowing out. Our neighbors had returned home. Well, one of them. It turns out the other one was across the breezeway the entire time visiting a friend while the chicken she left in the oven cooked over. Boy, he was not happy with her. I think. There was a lot of yelling in Spanish. Shortly thereafter, the fire department showed up…to put out a chicken…
Hey, you know what smells are great to have lingering in your house? Christmas tree. Freshly baked bread. Big piles of money. You know what’s not? Smoke from a chicken fire. We currently have bags of volcanic rocks placed throughout the house to absorb the smell. Thankfully, it seems to be working. Plan B was to buy twelve Christmas trees and decorate them with those pine tree air fresheners you hang from your rear-view mirror, which I thought was brilliant. But I guess the volcanic rock plan is a bit more practical. If not as much fun.
The Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened. Unfortunate Event #3.) This year marked the second time my wife and I have played each other in fantasy football. Last year, she caught me with two of my best players on bye and pulled out the win. It was a hollow victory that she seemed to enjoy, nonetheless. Well, you know what? She can take her bragging rights and shove….Sorry, I get carried away. Anyway, I had been waiting for Business Time v. Junk Punch, round two, for a whole year and it was finally go time. Oh, and lookie who has their two best players on bye this year. Not me. All I’m missing is a stupid tight end. Who’s ready for an incredibly meaningful, vengeance-filled victory this year? Two thumbs pointed straight at this guy. Somebody que up the Warren G, because I’m about to regulate. I even had plans to purchase billboard space and commercial time to broadcast my triumph. Redemption was all lined up. And then the fantasy football gods decided to dropkick me in the junk. Again.
As with most avalanches, it started small. News broke early in the week that one of my starting running backs would miss Sunday’s game with a groin injury. Super. I should still be OK, though. I’ll just have to plug in my backup, Pierre Thomas, and hope for the best. That will make the Saints game more interesting to watch, anyway. Besides, I’ve still got enough fire power to pull this thing out.
My team is pretty stacked. My team is full of morons who are not very good at football.
We spent the first round of games at my brother-in-law’s house, with the rest of her family. My wife spent most of her time previewing her victory dance. I countered by throwing a pillow at her head when Pierre Thomas scored a touchdown. What? It was a soft pillow. And, besides, if you break out a premature victory dance in this league, you get something thrown at your face. That’s just the way it is. Only it turned out to not be so premature. I got rolled….for the second year in a row. My team, who had been in a dog fight all year to be the highest scoring team in the league, forgot all of a sudden what to do with that brown pigskin thingy everyone else on the field seemed to be making such a big fuss over. Meanwhile, her “team” of bye week fill-ins and paint chip eaters scored more than Charlie Sheen at a hooker convention. Shoot me. Business Time v. Junk Punch, round three: 365 days and counting.
So, yeah, it was a pretty interesting week. But the real icing on the cake came when both my wife and I caught a stomach bug from watching the game that day with her family. The universe: It sees that you’re down and just keeps kicking anyway. We both spent the next few days face planted in our smoke flavored home, buckets within reach, praying for the sweet release of death. I just made sure to remind my wife that when she sprinted for the bathroom, to please leave her phone behind. There isn’t enough rice in the world…
This month marks the 20th anniversary of U2′s Achtung Baby (a.k.a. the greatest album known to man). To mark this occasion, I’ve decided to start an ongoing series dedicated to bands who dare to not suck. And who better to start with than my favorite band of all time. This is not intended to be a history of the band nor a detailed analysis of their music; there are plenty of other sources that do that better than I ever could. This series is strictly a view of bands/artists from my perspective and my relationship to their music….with some bad jokes thrown in for good measure.
U2 saved my life. I don’t mean they pulled me out of some kind of addiction or anything like that. I mean they kept me from rolling down the window and jumping out of a moving vehicle in an effort to escape my body in order to escape Oklahoma. I was tagging along with a friend of mine’s family on a trip to visit some of their friends at a rural outpost in the land that time forgot. I’m 97% sure I saw a Stegosaurus somewhere around the Texas/Oklahoma border. The year was either 1995 or 1996. That’s right, pre any kind of a keep-you-from-slitting-your-wrists-from-boredom-while-you’re-stuck-in-the-backseat-of-a-Crown-Victoria-on-an-endless-drive-to-Oklahoma device. There were no televisions in the backs of headrests. No portable DVD players. No….DVDs. The iPad wasn’t even a seedling in the Apple orchard. Oh, sure, there was the Gameboy, but Tetris is only going to get you so far before you crack and murder everyone in the car. All I had was a borrowed personal CD player that went through batteries like Shamu goes through herring. The situation was dire.
Somewhere along the way, we stopped at a Wal-Mart and I ventured over to the music section, as was my habit. I had just started to take more than a passing interest in music and was looking for something to latch onto. Something to help me channel my inner rock star and, more importantly, get me through the endless hours on the road, murder free. All I knew of U2 at the time was the few videos I had seen on MTV (Yes, kids, MTV used to show actual music) and what I had read in a few magazines. On one hand, I knew that they were Irish (well, two of them, anyway) and heavily influenced by their faith — both pluses. On the other hand, I had seen pictures of Bono dressed up as the devil and had heard him drop an F-bomb on national television and piss off my dad, which I always thought was interesting considering how I had heard my dad curse a million times. Parents are funny like that. Anyway, to my young, black-and-white teenage mind, it didn’t seem to compute. What’s this? A band who can talk about their faith one minute and have my dad yelling at the TV the next. I didn’t quite know what to make of it at the time, but I knew it was interesting. One thing I did know for sure, though: If the police have to shut you down, you must be awesome.
Looking over the inventory in the store, I decided that if I was going to start exploring the band’s music, I should start with what I knew. And what I knew was that I was one of about twelve people who didn’t own The Joshua Tree or hadn’t heard it in it’s entirety. Plus, with all the desert imagery in the artwork, I figured it would make the perfect soundtrack for my time in the land of dirt and tornadoes. And I was right. Staring out the window at a lot of nothing isn’t so bad when the soundtrack kicks ass. And I’m also happy to report that there was no murder and that I am still here, obviously. U2: 1. Oklahoma: 0. And that’s where it started for me. What began with a simple purchase turned into a lifelong relationship with four men from Dublin who I will probably never meet, but have impacted my life and my faith just as tangibly as if they were my roommates. You know, the good kind. The kind that listen to you and accept you, not the kind that eat your food and listen to Nickelback.
Not long after that trip, I discovered this monster called Achtung Baby and Zoo TV (which totally explains that whole devil thing, by the way) that I had largely overlooked when it came out because I was ten at the time and more interested in my dirt bike and Super Mario Bros. Stupid ten-year-old decision making skills. If I ever procure a DeLorean and a flux capacitor, my first stop is a Zoo TV show. My second stop is to buy lots and lots of stock in Apple. My third is to go to another Zoo TV show. But what’s interesting about Zoo TV is that U2′s arguably most spectacular stage show was in support of such a dark album. I’ve heard Achtung Baby described as a concept album about the dark night of the soul. I agree. What starts out in “Zoo Station” with a man wanting to see and do it all ends in “Love Is Blindness” with him lamenting, “I don’t want to see/Won’t you wrap the night around me.” It’s the best and worst night out ever. It’s sensory overload. It’s love fracturing and coming apart at the seems. It’s the brokenness and hypocrisy in us all. And there are no easy answers. No “All You Need Is Love.”
But as desperate as it gets, it is not without hope. There’s this Spirit that moves, one could say, in mysterious ways, prodding, wooing and calling out to us the way we should go. And that’s what I love about U2. They are not afraid to take you to the depths of despair and confusion, but they never leave you there. There is always hope. And that’s what reaches me. A lot of spiritual songs that I hear nowadays are very sanitized and distant and leave me unaffected. U2 aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They mix hope, despair, faith, doubt, sexuality, spirituality, the personal, the universal and the political all together. They are, in a word, human. They also had flying Trabants and a belly dancer at their concerts. My fourth stop would be another Zoo TV show.
This is probably where I should mention that I actually passed up the chance to see U2 on the Elevation Tour in Germany while I was studying abroad in London. You see, what had happened was….Seriously, I would have had to bail on my previously scheduled, and possibly only, trip to Paris, so I’m giving myself a pass on that one. Fortunately, I’ve been able to see them a couple times Stateside on the Vertigo and U2360 Tours. I even braved Houston traffic both times to do it. Seriously, guys, we have an arena and a stadium here in New Orleans. You are allowed to play here. I’ve seen you do it….twice. Only I had to watch those on TV because tickets were impossible to get. I’m still bitter.
As far as the concerts that I was fortunate enough to attend, they were both well worth the wait and the cost. I vividly remember singing along to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” at the Vertigo concert and knowing exactly what Bono meant when he said that God occasionally walks through the room during a show. I will never forget it. Although, I think my brain did overload and shut down from too much awesomeness when they played “Where The Streets Have No Name” because I have little to no recollection of it. All I know is that I walked out of that arena a different person than when I walked in. My wife, who was only a moderate U2 fan before the concert, was fully converted by the show’s end. She immediately bought some Converse shoes like the Edge, which made me love her even more. She also informed me that the drummer was hot. Watch your back, Mullen…
In addition to those particular shows, I’ve been able to have a few other memorable experiences that have centered around my music obsessions. I’ve walked across Abbey Road, I’ve held Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, I’ve tried to pretend I wasn’t tearing up while Bruce Springsteen sang “My City Of Ruins” at the first Jazz Fest following Hurricane Katrina. All good stuff. But I think my favorite might be the hour I took out of my do-over honeymoon (That’s right, honeymoon) in Ireland to sojourn to Hanover Quay Studios in Dublin. It was a do-over because Hurricane Katrina washed out the plans for our first one. Long story for another day. Anyway, on our first day in Dublin I asked our tour guide where Hanover “Kway” was. He informed me it was pronounced “Key” and that I was an idiot. Fair enough. (Ok, he didn’t actually call me an idiot, but he definitely had a chuckle at my ignorance. Can’t blame him.) When he was done correcting my Gaelic, he pointed me in the right direction and the missus and I headed off. U2 weren’t home at the time, but that didn’t stop me from getting my freak on. (Click each photo to enlarge)
The Promised Land Gangsta lean, son I can feel the power Nope, not U-2
When all else fails… Fine, I’ll worship here I stole a rock. Shh… Best. Wall. Ever.
Hello, hello… My wife is awesome We look good Graffiti skills. We got ‘em
In the intervening years since that first purchase, I’ve spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a “crap-ton” of money on U2 albums, singles, bootlegs, DVDs, books, tickets….. “do-over honeymoons” scheduled around a trip to U2′s studio. You know, the usual. And I don’t regret a cent of it. In fact, I’ll be doing it again this year on the Super Deluxe re-issue of Achtung Baby. What can I say? These dudes are my heroes. And I know it may sound a little weird to say that four musicians are your heroes, but I know how much they’ve influenced my life and I know I’m not alone in that. I only hope that I can have the kind impact on someone else that they’ve had on me. I don’t think I could fully explain it if I tried. In fact, if you’ve noticed, I’ve largely tap danced around getting into what their music means to me. And that’s because I don’t think I could do it justice and would probably come off sounding cliched and overly simplistic. Also, delving into every album would take forever.
So I’ve decided that the best way to wrap this up is to just get out of the way and let someone else do the talking for me. I’ve heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words (Dammit! I knew I wouldn’t make it without a cliche!). Well, if that’s true, then this video is worth more than all the rambling I could do in a lifetime. It’s the essence of what U2 is to me. The darkness and the light. The despair, the prayer and the salvation. It’s my favorite piece of live music. It hits me in the gut and touches my soul every time. I am never unaffected when I hear it. And that’s what I love about music. It is mysterious and powerful. It can tear down walls and heal the broken places. It can change the temperature of a room and put a derailing train back on the tracks. And, on occasion, it can also prevent a road trip murder/suicide, which is always nice.
(Update: The Bad/40/Streets video I originally linked to was removed from YouTube and I couldn’t find another one with just those parts. This is the same performance, but with the inclusion of Stay (Faraway, So Close!) at the beginning. Sure, it’s 17 minutes long, but it will more than likely be the best 17 minutes of your day.)
Thank you, Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry.
I love Halloween. Always have. I like costumes. I love candy. Disney’s Halloween Treat is some of the finest programming to ever grace the airwaves. And “Monster Mash” is the jam. However, in the run-up to this year’s Halloween, I want to take a moment to broach a subject that far too often gets swept under the rug in popular culture. NBC will not be running any “The More You Know” PSAs on it, the police will not be handing out any literature warning you of it and your parents never did have a sit down to talk with you about it. But deep down in the core of your being you know what I’m about to tell you is true, just like I have known it to be true since I was four years old. And if you take nothing else away with you this Halloween besides a sugar coma and the entire basket of candy the neighbors were dumb enough to leave out with a “Please take only one” sign, know this: Clowns are evil. Period. From your run-of-the-mill street mime all the way up the food chain to Bozo himself, clowns are evil to the core. Like mayonnaise. Like black jelly beans. Like Ticketmaster “convenience” charges. Don’t believe me? That’s cool. I brought exhibits…
THAT JUST HAPPENED!! And that’s just what they do to super awesome bikes.
You see, with Freddy, Jason, Ghostface and the like, you know what you’re in for. “Ok, that dude is obviously going to try to kill me.” But, you know what, I appreciate their honesty. There’s no ambiguity. It’s a run, fight or die situation. But a clown? Oh no, they paint on a happy face and slip a ridiculous polka dot onesie over a black beating heart of death. But it’s a trick. No one is going to hang around if they see a dude in a hockey mask walk through the front door, but a psychopath with a red rubber nose just might slip through the cracks. And remember, John Wayne Gacy didn’t reach for a hockey mask to hide behind. Nope, he reached for the face paint. Which is why I live my life by a very simple rule: Never trust anyone who paints a smile on their face. For reals. Because clowns are never what they seem. Sure, they’re all smiles on the outside, but on the inside they’re either a psychopath or some kind of predatory demon life-form like in that Stephen King movie I never saw because it had a #$%&ing clown on the cover. And always keep in mind, clowns are not just coming after your physical body. Those demented circus freaks and their over-sized, floppy shoes are coming for your soul, too. And I hate to break it to you, but if your parents ever hired a clown for your birthday, they hate you. Watch your back.
Now, there are multiple ways to fight a vampire: garlic, crucifix, sunlight, steak through the heart. You’ve got options. And even with a werewolf, you can always pop a silver cap in its hide or even take a more hands on approach if a silver bullet isn’t handy. But I wouldn’t even know where to begin with a clown. And even if you did take him out, chances are he’s got 27 of his buddies in the car with him. You’re screwed. You’ll run out of ammo long before the last suspender-wearing death dealer waddles out of the car to take you down. It’s a no-win situation. So, you see, clowns are like STDs: It’s better to just avoid them entirely than to take your chances and deal with the repercussions. And trust me, a burning sensation when you pee will be the least of your problems.
And just to be clear, there are no good clowns. No clown is to be trusted under any circumstance. Ever. Oh, what’s that? You kind of like that red-headed windowless van owner that sold you a cheeseburger. If only there was some video footage I could show you to wake you up out of your naïveté. Oh, wait, there is….
Truth: It just shot you in the face. You’re welcome.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking: There is no such thing as vampires or werewolves (that we know of) and I’m just holding onto an irrational fear of clowns that I developed somewhere in my childhood. Maybe. All I know is that they creep me the #$%& out and that something isn’t right with a person who views clown as a viable life choice. Listen, clown, I don’t want your balloon animals. I don’t want to smell the flower on your lapel–I know you’re just going to shoot me in the eye with your demon water. And I hope you ride your unicycle into a semi truck. And you can all laugh at me now, but I bet no one will be laughing when a body turns up with a size 18 shoe print on the back of their head from where they got curb stomped by a circus act.
Look, I just want everyone to have a safe and happy Halloween. I’m just speaking up because I care. And I’m almost positive that if Freddy, Jason, Dracula or Ghostface show up at your Halloween party, they’re probably just there to have a good time, flirt with all the girls dressed up as naughty whatevers and maybe pass out on your lawn. That’s all fine and dandy. But just do yourself a favor, if a clown should show up, keep an eye on him. He could just be there for the free food. But he’s probably there to kill your entire family and drink your blood. I’m just saying: Have a plan. And have that plan involve setting the clown on fire……and then putting those ashes into another fire just to be sure. Better safe than sorry.
With all that being said, I hope everyone has a great Halloween and that you rack up on all the good candy and not something lame like popcorn balls. Seriously, if you’re handing out popcorn balls, you deserve every egg that finds your front door. Them’s the rules. I didn’t write them. It is what it is. But if somewhere in your Halloween festivities (or in your everyday life, God forbid) you should run into a clown and you start thinking to yourself, “Hey, this clown seems legit,” just remember: Things aren’t always what they seem. What looks harmless in broad daylight, could look very different come the witching hour. In fact, it could look something like this. Yeah, let that soak in your mentals. And haunt your dreams. You may not sleep tonight, but you’ll thank me later when you’re the only one to make it out alive because you knew that freak in the corner with the painted smile on his face was bad news. You’re welcome.
Well, I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. My job here is done . You have all been warned. It is time to sign off. I leave you now with the words of a wizened sage who also sees through the makeup to the black abyss inside and whose words ring out like a church bell, calling the masses to gather and partake of the wisdom of the ages.
“When I see professional clowns, mimes, or people who make balloon animals, I think of their relatives and how disappointed they must be.” –Jimmy Fallon
Well said, Jimmy. Well said. Happy Halloween, everyone.