Does this beard make me look fat

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Life is hard when your god has a hungry heart

Bruce Springsteen played the Thomas and Mack in Vegas a few years ago and considering he hadn't toured in several years prior to that, I figured I should wait in line for tickets lest there be a surge of Las Vegan's wanting to hear "Dancing in The Dark". So I did. Along with several dozens of other individuals, all wanting to experience the full custom gospel of the E-Street. Funny thing is, I like Bruce like I like so many other things which is with a subtle interest steeped in a cup of nonchalance but I figured I should at least see Springsteen once, so I got in line 12 hours before tickets when on sale.

Springsteen fans work in a type of fanaticism that occasionally defies the laws of nature, reason, hope, assorted State laws (depending on where the infraction occurred) and would lead some to believe that the man that wrote "Hungry Heart" could potentially possess the answer to the growing concern over the scarcity of Southern Nevada's water supply.

While standing in line, I struck up a conversation with several men, all Springsteen veterans. One man, whose problematic body hair forced him to shave a neck line in lieu of the hairy turtleneck that would have snaked out of his vintage "Born In The U.S.A." tour shirt, fired the first shot of insanity that led me to believe I was clearly not as emotionally vested in the Boss as the people I was standing in line with. This was the exchange between the man and I:

Me: So, you've seen Bruce a lot? (Stupid question, yes I know, but I knew this guy was loaded with nuttiness and I wanted to hear every last nuance of it.

The Man: (Clearly annoyed by the inanity of my question, but too much a Boss zealot to not acknowledge it) Uhm, yeah, like over 50 times.

Me: What's the best part about seeing Bruce?

The Man: (Honest to goodness, he said this to me) You know, it's not what's great about seeing him. It's what's not great. You know what that is? The day after seeing Bruce you wake up and you realize "I'm not gonna see Bruce today". And you make it through that day, somehow. And the next day is just slightly less difficult. This can continue for awhile. I get up. No Bruce today. And you eventually have to tell yourself you might not see Bruce for awhile. It's hard.

After this exchange, I realized this man was under-medicated and might have a criminal background peppered with violent acts I'd have no ability with which to stop him from committing. So I found someone else to talk to. The next guy was a normal New Jersey native who had also seen Bruce dozens of times. As with the other Bruce fans, I immediately wanted to hear anything the guy had to say about Bruce. So I asked him about all those legendary 80's shows where Bruce would play for just shy of 4 hours and the guy said this:

Boss Fan #2: One time I saw Bruce at the Meadowlands in Jersey. Man it, was raining cats and dogs, just buckets coming down. The crowd was soaking wet, but we didn't care. We just kept shouting "Bruuuuuuce, Bruuuuuuce". So all the sudden, Bruce steps out on the stage and he starts getting wet, right. Well, all the sudden, the E-Street Band starts playing "Who'll Stop The Rain", and God be my witness, the freaking rain stopped. I mean, just flat out stopped. Now I'm not crazy or anything, but before Bruce, we were getting dumped on. After Bruce, no rain. It makes you wonder man.

Was I there in Jersey in 84 when Bruce stopped the rain? No. I'd like to think it happened. I'd love to envision Springsteen as both a rainmaker and rain hinderer. If that were the case, then Nevada State officials could fly Bruce out to the ever-receding shore of Lake Mead and tell him to just go hog wild, and play whatever he wants, just don't stop till the water level reaches a mid 90's, water flowing over the dam, "holy crap, Vegas is gonna have water forever, who likes water sports?" level.

Springsteen manages to cultivate a shaman from Asbury Park aura by being two things: fantastical (that's a word HE made up, which I guess you can do when you're Bruce) and by being aesthetically average, but stealthily phenomenal. Bruce looks like a plumber, or your Uncle. That's why all those guys love him so much. Cause he looks like one of his fans. Bon Jovi, Poison, Ratt. All well coiffed, highly androgynous and responsible for music that boarded on hate crimes. They spent more time choosing what color high heels to pair with their scarves then on what their music was saying. Bruce simply went to K-Mart, found a flannel and recorded Born To Run.

What am I saying? I'm not sure. My birthday is in a few weeks and I'm feeling a little older, a little more "get the hell off my lawn, no wait, don't get off my lawn. I'm sorry that wasn't nice." Age has a funny way of softening you up, of pushing out a newer version of yourself you never knew existed. Like lets say the real rat bastard version of yourself was You.0, then you get older and it's you 2.0. I feel like I'm between a 2.0 and a 3.0. I'm turning into a big softy, I get a little choked up when people compliment me. I get choked up when I hear a pretty song. Sweater vests and Dockers can't be far away.

Love your aging like a boxed wine friend, LMF

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A letter from Tom Waits to a little Palestinian boy

I thought this was nice, so I'm sharing it with you. I love the part where he confides in an unknown youth that he too likes to hear that he has "value and relevance".

You're from Palestine? How did you find time to write….given all the trouble you are having with Israel? Good to hear from you, your sister has good taste, so do you. Allow me to formally encourage to write things down. So when you make it you can say, and I can say, I was in your corner all along. Thanks for all your kind words. Always good to hear from the younger generation telling me I have value and relevance. Stay at it Colin. Lots of good people come from Illinois because it is so flat you have to dream up everything, that's what my wife says….she's from there and lots of presidents are from Illinois. Ok Colin, go out there and take the world by the tail, pull it down, wrap it around and pull it in your pocket.

Tom Waits

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Crying coaches, flaming cars and weeping elderly: a non-sports fan ruminates about professional sports

I've never been a sports fan. Never really been a fan of anything competitive in nature, well save for my fleeting thoughts about taking my bowling skills pro, and competitive eating because really, if you can eat 59 hot dogs in 12 minutes (current record) then you need a ribbon, or a medal. I can get behind San Francisco's "BYOBW"- Bring Your Own Big Wheel Race, which simply put, is a race where grown adults purchase and stylize, "pimp out" or bedazzle the crap out of a child's Big Wheel bike, then proceed to ride the bike down a very steep, very curvaceous hill till A. A hippy gets run over or B. A lone mighty Big Wheel remains functional and ready to roll while all the others had crashed and burned. Well, there's no burning but those insane San Franciscan's sure do crash a great deal during the race.

Sports just never appealed to me on any level. My parents tried their best to sculpt my brother and I into well rounded young kids, entering us both into various little leagues. The first one was a soccer league and our team was called the Strikers. We were terrible. So terrible in fact, that not only did we never win a single game, but at the end of one game we returned to the bleachers to find our coach crying over his frustration in conceding to the reality that we wouldn't, or maybe couldn't, win a game without a parent paying a referee off. I don't know if there's laws against that kind of thing, but it would have been a nice gesture.

The next league I found myself in was a baseball league. I disliked baseball a great deal more and naturally my dislike for the sport was apparent in my approach to how i played the game. To be honest, I was afraid of the ball. I liked under hand baseball. There's less chance of injury and more for emasculated glory in the name of avoiding a line drive to the face. The coaches knew and acknowledged i was being forced into playing the game, so they agreed to use me as little as possible, unbeknownst to my parents. I appreciated this act of acquiescence tremendously though there was an unforeseen draw back to being voluntarily benched. One of the coaches, an older guy named Bob, wore these unacceptably short shorts that all but coaxed his gray hair adorned, flesh toned, deflated prune-like testicles out of one side of his shorts. I have to assume that at some point, probably in the fifties or sixties, some woman or, to be fair man, was very satisfied with Bob. I however, felt that Bob's bench-side attire was better suited for a swingers club or perhaps in a bar where Bob could go-go dance for other geriatric baseball enthusiasts.

Is it the sports fan instance on using possessive's when referring to their team's exploits? That's part of it. When you're referring to what two groups of men accomplished or failed to accomplish as the case may be, in an arena far, far away, you can't logically insert yourself into that scenario no matter how many jersey's, ball caps, pairs of underwear festooned with your teams logo (tell me they don't make them in men's sizes cause you know they do). When you say "we" did anything, what you mean is "Kobe lost the game, while I had a Hot Pocket and watched the game at home." Let's say I came to you and was talking about R.E.M. and I proceeded to speak of their upcoming tour. And in the midst of the conversation I begin to talk of how "we might tour Europe but we really need to focus on our Stateside fans because we never really regained traction in the U.S. after Automatic For the People". You'd say I needed to be medicated. How is this any different?

And the players? They don't know you. They'll let you park their cars and serve them drinks, but personally they don't know you and they don't want to. I met Michael Stipe and expected a flurry of high fives, chest bumps, numerous "How ya been sweeties". I got an awkward man, in odd eye glasses, in an expensive suit, who simply said "Hello, I'm Michael". I thought, hell yeah you are. You're Michael Mothertrucking Stipe. Co-creator of college rock, singer for one of the best god damned American rock bands in history, giver of hope to rapidly balding men everywhere. I said hello also, then proceeded to take the worst photo that could only be compared to when Ralphie meets Santa then blows his chance to seal the deal on the BB gun in terms of how terrible that photo looks. In it I look as if I was stranded on a desert island and lived off of an endless supply of Little Debbie cakes. It was a matter of the angle, not that I had just let myself go and looked to beef up my chin count.

Also, there's a level of emotional investment that sports fans extend to sports that is mystifying. I saw a documentary about the curse of the Red Sox where it was mentioned that the elderly would make pilgrimages to the graves of their loved ones to tell them about how the "Sox" were doing in the season. I can't imagine (if there's a little one in the room give em a dollar and tell them to wait for the ice cream man.....good? Ok.) that the deceased give a shit about how the Red Sox are doing simply because, well, they're dead.

Which brings me to the flaming cars, which yes, I realize is not a customary practice at sporting events. Just sporting events in areas where people like to engulf things to express their discontent with the outcome of the evenings baseball, basketball, football, ping pong? (it could happen) game. Again, back to the R.E.M. analogy. If they forgot to play "It's the end of the world as we know it" would I walk up to the first vehicle I saw and light it on fire? Probably not. Then again, I think the custom is to first turn the car over, then ignite it and R.E.M. fans just don't have the upper body strength, even in mob-form, to turn a car over.

But there is a catch to all my anti-sports leanings. If you're team is composed of unequivocal losers (i.e. the Red Sox for the better part of the last century, and the Cubs since baseball was created) then I want you to win. I think every one should get their day to shine, that one triumphant moment where all the efforts and losses and doubts coalesce into an endless ticker tape parade of confetti, congratulatory booty and Jager bombs. I watched a little bit of each World Series the Red Sox won and I thought "Well, good for them." And I hope the Cubs get theirs one day as well.

So what was it that killed the zeal of sports for me? I can't say it ever existed. But Bob's uncontainable testicles, weeping coaches and all those flaming cars in Los Angeles didn't help. But if wearing a clown wig paired with a painted face while holding a sign exclaiming "Brett Favre, you broke my heart" make the flames in your heart burn deeper, brighter with a slight hue induced by light beer coupled with hot dogs, then really, who am I to begrudge you? I just toured Europe with R.E.M.