Thursday, July 07, 2005

Good Night Chicago: Day 1

JJ Ava feet chicago DRUNK
Originally uploaded by truecraig.

My Lady and Craig visit JJ in Chicago. Ahem… is this thing on? Okay then.

Oh, Chi-town, how you made my weekend grand. Well, from what I can gather from shards of memory, hazed-up by consecutive hang overs.

I wasn’t really expecting too much from Chicago when we went. Sure, I’ve always been curious about the windy city. What with all the R Kelly urination films and such. Post-Air-Jordan. Ferris Bueller, Weird Science and some cow that kicked over a lamp which turned the entire metropolis into a blazing garbage fire. With history like that, who wouldn’t aim low?

How wrong I was to make such rude assumptions about such a wonderful city. If you have the means to go there, I recommend it. It is so choice.

My Lady and I arrived on Thursday afternoon. Planes and trains. We took the El and met up with JJ along the way to his crib. That was my brief moment of sobriety while there. Yep, just the trip in from the airport. That's about it.

A brief word on the preferred traveling style of Craig. As previous stories may have hinted, I tend to drink a-lot when on vacation (as I assume most people do). For whatever reason, my favorite way to see a new country/city/street is to show up, and then:

1) Wait until dark, and then commence to drinking anything remotely alcoholic (or wet) with the natives until I cannot tie my shoes or speak in complete thoughts.
2) Make a complete ass of myself in a very public place. Typically involving yelling insults at strangers, inappropriate urination, or trying to jump over things which are obviously too high for a man of my height to clear. Like a dumpster, minivan, or mausoleum.
3) Pass out face-first in a most uncomfortable position, as if I were thrown from a moving vehicle, on someone else’s bed/sleep-spot/front lawn.
4) Wake up with a devastating hang over that causes me to question my sanity.
5) Wander aimlessly around amongst the daytime population, staring awkwardly at everyone through sunglasses, pretending to pay attention to all things touristy.
6) Pack my intestinal tract with five times the recommended grease and fat intake of a full-grown walrus.
7) Evacuate a small bronzed puma, eight ounces of gravel, and six live chipmunks from my colon. Burn an entire book of matches afterward, so that the odors combine to smell like someone burned a box of horsehair.
8) Nap like a slobish coma-victim until darkness returns. Pass LOTS of gas.

And repeat that process daily until I am forced to leave. The longer the visit, the more of a flammable zombie I usually become. Empirically, my entire body tends to shut down after the fifth day. But that’s just an empirical watermark. I have no idea what my max is.

This fashion of travel does not sit well with everyone, and I am aware of this, but it does not curb my tendencies to do it anyway. My Lady, not being as much of a booze enthusiast as myself, is not a huge fan. Maybe a night or two of slurred words and embarrassing dancing, but she prefers to temper those nights with lots of “down time” and standard sight-seeing. I am slowly coming around to her more mature style of tourism. It really is the more intelligent and healthy way to travel. It’s just that, I can travel like that when I’m sixty (you never know!). But there’s no way I could travel at that age, the way I do now. So I can see where she’s coming from, but I’m just not there yet. Call me collegiate, immature, or juvenile. I have all the rest of my life to grow up, so why rush it?

Besides, JJ and I typically agree on the subject of active alcoholism, so it’s not like I was alone in my quest. Plus, I honestly believe he was expecting to spend every night of our visit dancing with liver failure, just as I intended. So we were the majority.

Got to JJ’s and dropped our bags off. The weather was absolutely splendid, as it waffled between mid-seventies and mid-eighties with true blue skies for the majority of our stay. The first thing we did was survey his neighborhood, Lincoln Park, which is known as a fraternity haven of sorts. Having known this beforehand, I was mentally prepared for a Caucasian invasion. But to my surprise, it was pleasantly mixed along ethnic lines. So, I’m not sure where the frat-like reputation comes from. Whatever. That's a pointless tangent, but I'm leaving it in there for flavor.

Time to eat.

Tapas and a pitcher of sangria for dinner. If you’ve never had tapas, that’s okay by me. Most fine dining is wasted on me anyway. To me, tapas are like high-class finger foods, which are delicious, but nothing to write your moms about. But if you’ve never had sangria, then you better ask somebody. Whoa. Cheap wine and rotting fruit, while pretty nasty by themselves, make a wonder-twin combination of fantasticalness that can only be properly described by someone who is already plastered on the stuff.

“Wha? Eez sankgria fuggin’ good? Fug yeah! I mean… I’d core an apple with my Johnson for another pidger of that shit,” [burps and passes out in your lap].

Absotively splendid.

And that dinner was the beginning of Craig’s 2005 Chicago Bender, courtesy of JJ, and allowed by My Lady. Now, I’m sure that there is an art to a executing a proper bender. But I have no idea what that art would entail. I just string nights of drinking together with the same care I put into aiming while pushing personal Pine Sol into a truck stop urinal. Take that however you choose. [I’ve been known to piss into the floor drain, sink, trashcan, or cobwebbed corner in those places. Ever seen what five pounds of random human feces looks like after it has been marinating in a broken toilet for a week in the August heat? No? Well then. Feel free to run that experiment at your own place and then talk to me about whether or not you considered where your piss ended up. The flies…. My word.]

So, the tapas dinner ended, and I stumbled out of the place. Just a slight wobble. Like my right ankle was made of jello. Nothing I couldn’t handle. I was still able to have intelligent conversations and obey traffic laws.

We wandered a few streets over, threatened to go into a few other bars, but decided to catch a cab to a place called Carol’s. JJ wanted us to hear some live music, and Carol’s is supposed to be a good venue. Plus, it was dive bar, and that’s always a plus in my book. We hopped out of the cab and entered the joint. Instead of live music, it was karaoke night. Everyone in there was absolutely obliterated. Staggering, blank staring, chorus ruining druuuuuunk. We entered through the corner entrance which put us right at the bar, with the “dance floor” and “stage” on the other side, facing the entrance. The two bartenders looked like a married couple, in their 50’s I would estimate. Got our booze and got a stage-front table. Order after order of beer, we three sat right up front and watched as song after song was brutally butchered. We sang along (for the songs we knew, as many of them were whitey-classics, and I am not familiar with the entire Fog Hat or Lynrd Skynrd catalogs, so we couldn’t sing along to them all), we danced, and drank. And drank. And drank.

It really was a fantastic experience, just to be in there amongst all of those regulars. They were like family, supporting each other even when their performances were frighteningly bad. In all fairness, most of the performers really were good. This one guy did “Baby Got Back” and he did not need the prompter. The song is meant to be silly, and he was a hipster kid who was trying to be ironic, but the crowd went ape-shit, and fun was had by all.

But not everyone was so talented or charismatic.

There was one chap who would not stop staring at me when we first entered. He was sitting right by the door, next to where we bellied up to put in our first order. Mid 40s, thick glasses, greasy comb-over of dirty blond hair, white kicks, a dark Members Only Jacket with a tucked-in Cubs t-shirt, and jeans with no belt.

That whole tucked with no-belt shit KILLS me. It's a pet peeve of mine, big time. The way it accentuates the paunch, making pleats up and over… Fuck. Just un-tuck that shit you toolbox.

Initially I figured he was just curious as to who the new entrants were. But then it descended into crazy creepiness. I looked at him, nodded hello, and figured that would be it.

Oh no.

Dude just kept on staring. What the fuck? So I locked him up in a returned stare. I was focused, trying look jailhouse crazy. Dude paid no mind and just kept at it. Like it was a contest. Seconds of locked gaze, until he started to crack a grin.

A fucking grin.

Hm. Whatever he was thinking right then, I knew it wasn’t to my favor. So I quickly disengaged and focused on the location of my beer.

It ain’t my town, cowboy. So you can have that match.

Two hours or so later, that same guy, still drinking, shuffled up to the stage to sing his request. Holy shit was he drunk. Pickled. Bamboozled. Shnookered. The guy was fucked up as all hell. Like, Thunderbird fucked him up in a Vegas vacant lot. His tee was half un-tucked, and his hair had gone from comb-over to flip-over. Like an opened tin-can. He was sweating, trying to sing an Eagles song or something similar, and was just shitting all over it. Getting the words wrong, even though they are scrolling across a teleprompter, two feet from his nose. Pausing during the chorus to stare at the wall. I think he even threw in some spoken word about how drunk he was. Damn. I almost saw my own future self in that piece of human aftermath. Scary.

But everyone clapped and cheered him on. It was amazing. I mean, he could have staggered up there, grabbed the mic, said “cock in your mouth”, turned around, pulled his pants down and squatted to take a crap on the stage while firing up two middle fingers. There would have been applause regardless. The guy was that bad, and the crowd was that supportive.

I loved it. Even if the dude creeped me the fuck out. It made me want to give it a go. Why not, right? Right.

But I just couldn’t figure out what the hell to sing. When you first walk in, they pass that binder with all the song codes to you like it’s a Baptist collection plate and shit, so you only get like five seconds to figure it out. Then, it gets shuffled off to someone equally clueless as to what they want to sing. By the time you get it back, you’re drinking-pints-with-cig-butts-in-them drunk and you’ve forgotten the brilliant ballad you planned to belt out to the Bud Lite crowd. So you thumb through it like it’s the yellow pages, searching for anything remotely cool to sing. But nothing jumps out at your drunk ass. You just stare at the pages until all the entries read “Billy Joel: Piano Man”, which you would rather mainline bleach than sing, so you give up and just sing along with the other alcoholics.

So, I didn’t get to sing anything. Which sucks, because singing in front of crowds is something of a phobia of mine (along with giving eulogies, standing in a criminal lineup, and sex with rabid wolverines), so I almost enjoy the mix of fear and drive to “just get the fuck over it already for chrissakes.” So I’ve only done it once in front of strangers, which is totally weak. Once? That's it? Little Japanese girls do this shit ALL the time without breaking a sweat? Seriously, what the fuck?

But I was drawing a complete blank while looking at that damn binder. Completely vacant, like it was penned in Dutch or something. My opportunity flowed away like so much beer-piss from a club commode. Damn.

Oh well.

The remainder of the night is not near as clear to me. I know it involved us leaving Carol’s and going to some late-night bar that had pool tables. I remember being REALLY adamant about playing. I get that way about all games associated with the consumption of liquor. Darts, fooze ball, cricket, Running Man, whatever. We played and drank until My Lady and JJ were too tired to carry on. It was somewhere after 3am, but I’m not completely sure of the exact time. I was too busy knocking over pints of other people's beer, telling some coked-up guy how much I love Philly (I’ve never been), shooting on the wrong balls in pool, trying to convince the bartender that I would not be driving anywhere later, and smoking ten cigarettes at a time (apparently).

We caught the El back to JJ’s from there. I vaguely remember walking up and down the platform, yelling at the neighboring flats (something about their patios I think, but it might have been a speech on the theories behind collapsing microtubules and consciousness) along with repeated threats to jump down onto and across the tracks. JJ had to tell me at least three times that there was indeed a third rail, and that only a dumbass would jump down there (which, predictably, only made me want to do it more). I’m pretty sure My Lady stopped listening to me around midnight, so she had nothing to add. I was just about to jump down and cross the tracks when I noticed that I could see through them, between the ties, down two stories to the street. Yes, Craig, it is the “El”, as in “El”evated. Fuck the third rail. The pavement would probably have been my most probable adversary. My drunken nemesis.

And I’m pretty sure I would have lost that battle. Miserably.

I remember NOTHING else about the trip back to JJ’s. I woke up diagonal across the bed, with a very miffed girlfriend who had apparently spent the majority of her slumber-time trying to convince me to straighten out. Apparently, I was pretty relentless. Call it a gift. In my defense, I only do this when innebriated while she does this pretty regularly. That's not an excuse, it's a defense. What do you mean "no Craig, that's dumbassery"? Tit-for-tat? Maybe? No? Oh well, I tried.

And I am going to claim my squaring off with the pavement below the El as a wash. You never know, I might have... bounced. Or something. Bygones.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I fucking LOVE bacon.

I’ve been thinking about communication a-lot lately, and how it is misused or misrepresented by both ends of the user spectrum. Specifically, I am talking about the use of the written word.

On one end of said spectrum are the lazy and/or uneducated who tend to misuse this medium. Incorrect word usage, poor spelling, errors in grammatical implementation, and ignorance of proper punctuation. The end result is that it is difficult to figure out what exactly the writer is trying to say. Its extremely important that punctuation as its used in todays world be executed in a way so as to make the meaning of a sentence more clear and accessible to the reader otherwise the reader ends up spending far too much time filling in the gaps in punctuation themselves thereby not spending that time trying to figure out what the point of the sentence is to begin with. Maddening confusion through misuse gets in the way of effective communication.

On the other end of the spectrum are the sticklers for all the tenets of perfect literature. When and where a semicolon should be used to split separate thoughts contained in the same sentence. Adverb placement in the context of modifying verbs of a particular tense. Excessive use of the ellipses. Even when applied to scribbles on bathroom stall walls. When too much attention is placed on the “art” of technically brilliant writing, the whole process becomes masturbatory. As if it is acceptable, if not brilliant, to say very little as long as it is perfect in form. Which is complete rubbish. Maddening hard-lining through misrepresentation gets in the way of effective communication.

For the most part, everyone I know (and most everyone who might be reading this) falls between these two extremes. While not perfect, we are all effective communicators. Sure, we make mistakes, but we get our point across in the end. We cross the finish line, even if stumbling through our to-too-twos. And that’s the real point of the written word, is it not? To communicate an idea, emotion, or memory? I certainly believe so.


Why would I bring this up? Why would I stall out on another story of some drunken escapade involving two twelve packs, a spring break parking lot complete with stripper pyramids, and me vomiting all over myself in a fold-up chair... just to talk about this? The "extremes" in the world of communication standards? Well, it is my belief that certain tools which are used in the act of communication are (once again) coming under undue fire.

Periodically in writing and consumption circles, a moral upwelling occurs and pushes against particular varieties of free expression. Pornographic depictions, violent descriptions, the loose use of racial epithets, or anything that challenges the sanctity of religion. Eventually, these protests are reversed on the obvious grounds that they assume all readers to be retarded eight year-olds with no ability to filter these things for themselves. Right now, I feel as there is an upwelling occurring out there in word land, which I find most disconcerting. I feel that cursing is coming under fire as an inappropriate tool for communication. And may I say, with as much gusto as I can muster, what the fuck is that shit all about? I pledge 100% full support behind the use of profanity as a tool of expression. 100%, as long as it is used with some semblance of standards, and that is an EXTREMELY important qualification.

Cursing. Hm. Where to properly begin? For starters, it is important to note the difference between gratuitous and normal use of profanity. Gratuitous use is just that. It is gratuitous, and unnecessary. For filler, perhaps. Or because the writers simply think people love to hear strings of cursing, marching out from the text. Whatever. There's no point in addressing gratuitous use, as I don't agree with using anything gratuitously. That goes for anything. Product placement, asbestos, retrospectives, flashbacks, or male nudity. Female nudity, by the way, is totally cool if it is gratuitous. That should be a given.

So, I am addressing the standard, normal use of cursing/profanity in prose. That's all.

I suppose it would be easiest to simply list the reasons that are being posed for its eradication and just knock those out.

1) It offends god’s ears. Now I don’t know where this concept came from, but its time came and went. Gone. WAY gone. There is no good reason why any god would take issue with the use of profanity. Even the extravagant and gratuitous variety shouldn’t be an issue with any reasonable deity. Unless, of course, the profanity is used AGAINST that god. But, it is important to note, that you could offend the same god, with the same intent, without the use of curse words. So it isn’t the curse words which are the problem. It’s the intent to offend which offends.

2) It displays a lack of intellectual substance. This is reverse-logic used incorrectly Sure, any yahoo out there can curse a streak of nonsense and prove that they are indeed, a douche-ballooned moron. “Hey, put the fuckin’ thing over fuckin’ here and shut that shit you fuckin’ asshole-nad-nibbler. Oh yeah, and fuck you too.” But it isn’t the cursing which signifies the lack of intellectual substance. It’s the rest of it. Specifically, that there IS NO “rest of it”. Nothing was said. The cursing has nothing to do with an absence of intellect in a statement. It’s a vacant expression, with or without the profanity. A statement forged from a strong intellectual position can be laced with curse words and honestly maintain its stature.
“The issue with turning away from socialism because it has failed in the past, is that it represents a failure to recognize that it was never implemented in pure form. The institutions which have historically run such social constructs were always hampered by strong elements of base-level capitalism.”
Adding profanity anywhere to that statement does not diminish its intellectual potency (if it had any to begin with).
“The fucking issue with turning away from socialism because it has failed in the past is total bullshit. It represents a big fucking failure by some assholes to recognize that the way in which it was implemented was all fucked up. The goddamn institutions that fucked it up, fucked it up by adding some goddamn capitalism in there, which diluted its potential for some fucking recognition on the world stage. Which really fucking sucks for purist socialists, because they look like complete ass clowns as a result.”

3) It replaces creative description. This is also a misnomer. Of course, one can always find a longer route to describe something. But why bother? Why not take the short-cut whenever it is readily available? Why use a crescent wrench to hammer a nail when you have hammers all over the place? Sometimes, brevity is the key to creative description. That is where similes, metaphors, and clichés come in handy. You see, a curse word, when used properly, is really just a clichéd phrase. The meaning behind the word itself has LONG been lost, and its deep and extensive meaning becomes implied depending on how well the word is used. “You know that goddamned man is no good for you. Toss his ass like the bitch he is.” The use of ‘goddamn’ is a definite use of cliché. Here, the cliché used is that if there is a god, he has forsaken this particular character, which proves him to be a most unsavory specimen – which justifies the second statement of the first sentence. “Ass” is also a cliché here. The cliché itself actually contains several adjectives as implied modifiers. Obviously, the comparison of the man to the part of a human body from which feces falls is already descriptive enough. But the implications of the word go further with the implied “stupid”, “dumb”, “retarded”, “lazy”, “good-for-nothing”, “lying”, etc… pre-fixed in front. The use of the term “bitch” here is also quite creative, and clichéd at the same time. The implication is that this man is actually a woman (a particularly unwanted one at that, mongrel-esque), or that he displays a multitude of the more obnoxious attributes of a female character. These are, in my mind, extremely creative uses of profanity for description, if used properly.

4)Profanity is simply that: profane; it should never be used. This type of argument should always be ignored. Anytime a person ever defends a particular practice by saying “well, that’s the way it’s always been done,” which is all this argument is, tell them to shut their teeth hole. That is not a reason, it is lazy analysis. If it is an “accepted rule”, then there is logic behind it somewhere. If the logic has been lost, then so has the rule. We get to eat delicious bacon today because someone, somewhere along the line was about to starve and asked the intellectually curious question “hey, why is it we don’t eat pigs again? ‘Cause I’m about to fucking die over here.” And kudos to that person.

For those of us who live in between the two extremes while trying our best to make our way in this world, we should feel free to use as much profanity as we deem necessary to make our point. Ignore those at the lower end of the spectrum who overuse them, bludgening you over the head with stings of curse-peppered gibberish. And ignore the elitists who will prefer you take that tool from your toolbox altogether. Do whatever you need to do to be understood. Don't limit yourself in any unnecessary way. It's already difficult for us to communicate effectively with eachother, so don't make it any harder. Right? Right.

I for one fucking LOVE to eat previously-goddamned bacon.

My Castle in the Sky Will be Furnished.

I wrote a quick story to win a chair from The Austinist, and by some voo-doo magic*, my little story got picked!

Feel free to read about it here. I’m not trying to brag about it or anything. I mean, after all, I did fuck it up pretty bad. When it comes to writing, I’m no rocket… ship. Or anything like that. But then again, I was pitted against a couple of really badass haikus. So there’s that.

If you live in the Austin area, check out Ben Brown and The Austinist. Why? Because they gave me a beanbag chair.

Peas, lobes, and wordness.

* ”magic” here, refers to: extremely limited number of entrants, which is totally cool by me. I’m not ashamed to lose [or, WIN, as this case appears] a war of attrition.