Monday, December 31, 2007

Hasta, um, never again

Dear 2007,

Fare thee well, 2007. You have been a trying and eventful year, and though I enjoyed many moments of you, I am happy to see you go. Don't get me wrong, you weren't a TERRIBLE year (like 1997 or 2003) nor were you a GREAT year (like 2002 or when I was in 2nd grade). You were just a year where lots of shiznit -- good and bad -- happened (sort of like 1996, 2001, and my sophomore year in high school). Just living through you was like a decathalon: diverse, with some events I enjoyed more than others, but tiring as hell all the same. Not to seem unappreciative, 2007, but without you I wouldn't have (a) gotten a new job, (b) move to a city I really enjoy, (c) finished my dissertation, (d) made a bunch of new and interesting friends, (e) lost a couple old ones, and (f) painted my apartment in a rather conversational shade of green.Take it easy, 2007 -- put in a good word for me with 2008, ok?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Winter break

Dear Cleveland Bachelor Readers,

First of all, I truly appreciate both of you.

Second, I'm about to take a brief vacation from the blog, as I depart manana for the breathtaking expanse of central Illinois.

However, I will be back at the very end of the year, or maybe the very beginning of next. Either way, I have some interesting plans to begin next year, my own way of getting to know Cleveland better while doing my small part to promote the things about the city I'm growing to love.

In the meantime, as I prepare for my first sustained trip away since moving here in August, I have some thoughts.

In brief, while there are some pretty serious problems facing this city (too much crime, too few cops, suburban sprawl and some strikingly flawed economic development plans for staving off the impending downtown collapse, and - worst of all - some really terrible upper-level political leadership), there are also many, many jewels, architectural, commercial, and human. I've really enjoyed my efforts to immerse myself in the various cultural scenes here and have been helped along by some great people. The guys at the Glass Bubble Project (Mike, Chris, and Dave), proprietors and staff at local book and music stores (including Suzanne at Mac's Backs, Mike at West 25th, Kevin at Music Saves, and the clerk at Visible Voice whose name I am humbled to admit I cannot remember), and a number of other cool folks that I've met out and about, as well as through social networks like yelp and the prospering online community.

I'm looking forward to my return and spending 2008 continuing to explore the city, now as a member of the community rather than as a tourist or new arrival.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


After a LONG day of work, I came home, cleaned the baby beagle's ears, then headed over to the Grog Shop to see Unsparing Sea play. There had been a pretty awesome write-up this past week in the Free Times that really made me want to see them. I was envisioning something like a Van Occupanther-era Midlake meets toned down Arcade Fire, and got exactly what I expected. The show was pretty awesome, and I ended up picking up a copy of their CD (2 actually; one for Ducky for christmas). While I was waiting to get to the merch table, the next band came on: This Will Destroy You (from San Marcos, TX). They were also pretty terrific, some sonic insanity w/o lyrics. I'm a lyrics guy, and if you could pair some poetry with their jams, you'd have something really special.

I'm home now, about to hit the hay. Tomorrow night, there is another interesting show, this time at the Beachland Ballroom feat. Brooklyn's White Magic and Cleveland's own Mystery of Two. I may check it out. Though I REALLY need to do some laundry. We shall see.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What to do today?

Got a little chilly last night. And, of course, it snowed. Just a baby snow, but enough to make the roads a little weird. The convergence-continuum show was terriffic, well acted and conceived. Plus, there was a total surprise of a nude scene that I still haven't wrapped my mind around.

After walking out of the performance of Demon Baby, I realized it was only about 9:20; plenty of time to drive over to Cleveland Heights and check out the 9:30 showing of The Big Lebowski (part of the Cedar-Lee monthly cult film series), rather than wait till midnight.

I ended up parking my car about 9:50, the trip taking twice as long as it should have, partly due to driver cautiousness (mine and others), mostly due to the fact that I missed turning on Lorain and took a twisting turning route through the Flats to catch Carnegie right in front of the stadiums.

The movie was great on the big screen and I remembered why it has been in my Top 5 since I first saw it almost a decade (!!) ago. (For those extra-inquisitive readers, the other 4 would include Love Actually, Dog Park, High Fidelity, River's Edge ... don't even ask about the order, lest you wish to be involved in a multi-hour conversation about nonsense).

Today, I'm feeling a bit domestic. I have gobs of laundry to do, which may be the reason why. There are a handful of options, but so far all I've been able to decide on are excuses. Like I could go see the showing of Crossing the Line (about a US defector to North Korea) at the Museum of Art, but that's pretty far to travel for a documentary I'm only very casually interested in seeing. Plus, something about that particular museum rubs me the wrong way, and parking stresses me out, and I'd probably end up missing the beginning of the Browns and/or Bears games. Similarly, I could go see Pulp, which features one of my new Yelp friends, but I really don't want to put on decent clothes and I would definitely miss at least the full first quarter of the game(s) if I went down to the Cleveland Public Theater. I could take Smelly Ellie for a walk, but it is too cold to make it enjoyable and my back still aches a little from yesterday's workout (my fault, not the pilates). I could go check out the Lake Erie Monster's minor-league hockey match against Syracuse this afternoon at the Q, but I don't really like hockey, especially not enough for those prices.

Hmm. Maybe I'll do some work. Pop on the space heater by my feet, read my friend's paper on the importance of developing scholarly approaches to the study of presidential losers (not dickheads like Bush or Harding, but the folks that run for and lose an election, but still change political reality in a discernible way). I also have a bunch of research ideas of my own that could only benefit from listing out -- both so I don't forget what I was thinking and so I give myself a little extra push to actually complete the work.

Oddly enough, that idea sounds nicest of all. If this keeps up, I'm doomed to keep the "bachelor" part of this blog's title forever!

Now where is my space heater...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

trying new things

Woke up this morning thanks to a call from Mike, reminding me we were to go over to Lakewood for our first pilates class with Christina.

How could I forget that? I'm no Rambo/Rutger Hauer/John McClain-style overtly self-consciously macho man, but the idea of taking a pilates class had me a little freaked out. The text message from my friend Jen in Texas suggesting a leotard didn't help matters.

After lumbering about, convincing myself not to convince myself to feign a sore throat or fluey stomach, it was off to Lakewood. We survived, though my shoulders are pretty sore and I don't think I'll ever be able to make eye contact with Christina again, after my embarrasing performance.

Afterwards, I dropped Mike off at the bubble, had a morning beer with his business partner Chris, and then it was off to Gateway for Smelly Ellie's last check-up related to her infected cyst of a few weeks ago. She got the thumbs up from Dr. Abby, but my last second request to have Ellie's ears looked at (she's been asking me to rub them an awful lot lately) revealed two separate yeast infections, thus raising the price of the visit another half-bill and getting her two more forms of medication. I also could swear I got some glares from Abby and the nosy woman at the examination table next to me. Two infections in as many months -- I must be doing something wrong! People, she's a beagle. Big floppy ears and deformed glands -- what am I supposed to do?

Anyway, chastened, wallet lightened, I depart, head home, have lunch and play with Smelly. Then it is off to the RTA station, to catch the Red Line to Tower City. I manage to avoid cursing at the J. Crew-ensconced drunk couple harassing the conducter (Seriously - is there a stand somewhere in the bowels of the West Side Market that gives away shots along with fruit samples? Cause I'd like to go, too.), jet off the train, and head up to Caribou coffee for a ... wait for it ... cup of coffee. Seasonal spirit momentarily and unwisely struck me and I ordered up a ho ho latte or something stupid like that and remembered an oft-learned lesson: I hate the confectionary coffee drinks these places serve. Oops.

With a mustache full of whipped cream, I head out Tower City and over to Prospect, then down a half-dozen blocks to Mike the Hatter's. I'm a hat guy, have been since I was about 10. Once you near 30, the opportunities to wear ball caps become pretty limited, but I still don headware on a very regular basis. Places like Mike the Hatter's allow you to do so, look somewhat like an adult (though my businessman meets pirate t-shirt and my eleven-year-old blue hoodie messed that up anyway), and even feel like a historical throwback. I bought a beautiful cap for about $50 bucks - a little pricy, I admit, but it is really pretty (a descriptor that, despite the pilates class mentioned earlier, I don't use often) and classic.

Then it was back down Prospect, to the Sincere Building (at the corner of Prospect and E. 4th). to check out the Bazaar Bizarre. Brought to the city by the SUPER cool Pop Up City organization. Stay tuned for other things by these folks for sure. There were about 3 dozen tables manned by some really edgy crafts artisans. Edgy crafts people? I know, sounds weird, but there was some really cool shit here. I wish I would have had more cash -- one table was selling awesome "seasons greetings from cleveland" funky postcards and cool red rider christmas cards. I bought myself a lapel pin that I think will look cool on my ragged brown cord default lecturing blazer. I also got my little sis a cool wrist thing made out of a necktie. I think she'll like it; more importantly, I will feel like the one brother that managed to get the high school hipster something she won't return. Or at least can't return. Mwah ha ha.

After all that, it was back home, to feed Smelly. I'm about to take her for a brisk walk, then head over to the convergence-continuum theater in Tremont to check out the new play they are staging, Demon Baby. The name alone is probably worth the 12 buck admission, but the online reviews of other stagings look promising. Then, maybe, depending on my mood, energy, and the residual effects of the pilates, I might check out the midnight showing of The Big Lebowski at the wonderfully-named Cedar Lee. We shall see...

(Wait, that rhymes!)

Friday, November 30, 2007


I was driving over to Cleveland Heights this evening for a poetry reading. As I drove, it struck me that I kept hearing and seeing great phrases. I have a theory that I was primed for them, because poetry was on my mind. Sort of like, when you are going to a comedy show, everything is funny or coming to or from a gallery featuring found art and everywhere you look you see beauty and accidental cleverness. You know?

Anyway, on the train home from work I was reading Saul Williams' She. There are pages of great lines, but two separate stanzas jumped out at me:

"and it hurts even more to write it/than it does to live it"


"and these tu lips/might soon eclipse/your brightest hopes"

Cool, huh?

On the stereo was a happy mix I had made back in Texas, with lyrics like

"Ooh baby/let's have a baby/before Bush do/something crazy" (by marxist hip-hop act the Coup)


"you can't watch pornography/without being affected/my broken heart/was mysteriously neglected/i tripped on my troubles/riding the sunshine/i tried to call her/but the undertaker answered/at the haunted house" (by Danny and the Nighmares)


"well do you have a girlfriend/does she look as good as you/would she like to meet my brother/he gets outta jail in a month or two" (by Cracker)


"I'm crawling slowly in the dark/feeling for/a punchline" (by Daniel Johnston)


"your pops don't like me/but your mom sure does/cause she sees the looks that I give you/and sees nuttin but love/enough to know this ain't no phase/or some part-time craze/it's a love affair/that's even during the week days " (by G. Love)


"heard it before and had my share/it didn't lead nowhere/i would go along with someone like you/ it doesn't matter what you do/who you are hanging with/we could stick around/and see this night through" (by Peter, Bjorn, and John)

Anyway, eventually I roll up to the parking garage across the way from Mac's Backs. Run in, get quarters, run out, deposit quarters, run back in. The poetry itself was rather forgettable, but I got a chance to meet (for the second time) Bree. Earlier in the day I had received a package in the mail from her, filled with awesome stuff, including her press binding of Charles Potts' two-volume memoir, Valga Krusa. She was really nice and even gave me a free copy of a new piece she had just pressed, which included the work of several different authors (one of which was by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth fame). I also got a chance to say hi to the owner, Suzanne, who recognized me -- that's always a nice thing, starting to be recognized by folks when you are new in town.

After departing Mac's I booked over to Collinwood. The Besnard Lakes were opening for the aforementioned PB&J. I stopped in to Music Saves first, picked up a copy of the recenlty released Audio Eagle compilation, which will hopefully aid in my quest to become more familiar with the music of NEO. Then it was off to the Beachland Ballroom, where I observed a great set by Montreal's Besnard Lakes. They were AWESOME, the ballroom is super cool, sort of a cross between what you see in Hollywood prom scenes and what I imagine really old-school talk shows had. Best of all, the bar is cool and cheap -- I only had a small amount of cash, less than ten bucks, but I was still able to grab a Genesee tall boy for $2.50 and a bottle of Straub (of which I had never heard, but it is pretty good) for the same price. After the BL played, PB&J came on. They were good, but I've heard their music so much in the past year it wasn't really exciting. I left at the beginning of the encore, but did stay long enough to hear them play their hit "Young Folks" (with Olga from the BL filling in for the golden-throated Victoria Bergstrom from The Concretes/Taken By Trees) and, better yet, totally freak out on "Objects of my Affection." As I went out, the guitarist/singer of the Besnard Lakes was manning the merch table. I congratulated him on his performance and, on the spur of the moment, asked him if there were any acts out and about these days he was really into. He thought for a moment, then suggested David Vanderveld and Sunset Rubdown. I'm new to both, but will give them a listen.

I headed out, stopped in to Music Saves again to pick up the BL album for Ducky's Christmas present and got some tips on December shows from the owner (he especially endorsed the White Magic/Mystery of Two show on 12/4, by the way), and then got back in my car for the short drive home.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Full of Thanks ... and just plain full.

As Thanksgiving comes around this year, it has been an interesting time. For the last 5 years, I spent this day dining with and enjoying the company of many of my colleagues. It was a good day, and I miss the conviviality in general and the people specifically. This year, I decided to hang by myself. The idea of driving over to spend the holiday with family and the idea of dining with one of my new colleagues here were both a little to stressful. Besides, I just want to rest and travelling was out of the question, since Smelly has a check-up tomorrow.

My casual boycott of this uniquely American holiday, however, does not mean I'm not thankful. In my three months here in Cleveland, I've been overjoyed with the richness of the cultural institutions and communities. I'm finally in a place where my desires for urban atmosphere, culinary sophistication and variety, an active literary community, and excellent indie bookstores are satisfied fully. I'm also particularly grateful for the friendships I've made and for those it feels as if I'm on the cusp of making.

Last night, I went to my friend Mike's place for an impromptu Thanksgiving potluck. Mike, his roommate , his cousin, his neighbor, and a few of his other friends all had a fine, enjoyable, peaceful time. His roommate provided an excellent pork loin stuffed with Italian sausage and a beautiful fruit cheesecake. I contributed that Midwestern standard, green bean/crunch onion casserole. It was a lot of fun, and I went home later with a full belly and heart.

The evening left me a little regretful that I wasn't doing anything official for the day. So, after snagging a cup of coffee at Talkie's, I stopped by Dave's to rustle up what I needed for a quick and dirty Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to the leftover green bean fantasia from last night and the leftover lamb dirty rice from earlier in the week, I picked up some spicy mashed potatoes, a lean turkey breast to roast, and some mushrooms and carrots to roast along with the turkey. Add to that some sourdough bread and herb butter I had around, and I think I'm on the verge of a nice feast. Another thing for which I'm thankful.

After that, who knows. Assuming it isn't raining, maybe I'll take Ellie on a leisurely walk. There's also a show at Pat's in the Flats tonight featuring Coffinberry, which I've been looking forward to for quite some time. Or maybe I'll hop the train to Tower City and check out the recently released Hitman, or maybe American Gangster before it leaves the theater.

And somewhere in there I'll have to squeeze in the anxiety-laden phone call home to the p's and siblings. But for now, I'm enjoying my Leinie's Apple Spice beer, basking in the roasting aroma, listening to Wilco's second-to-last album, and finding myself pretty content as fall pushes into my first Midwestern winter in a half-decade.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cinematic Inspiration

Movies always move me. They make me cry (all the freaking time), sometimes they make me want to exercise (though that doesn't last long). Today, one even sorta influenced how I look at my career.

Thanks to the wonderful email service Cleveland Cinemas offers, I was reminded that Lions for Lambs (starring Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and ugh Tom Cruise) would be leaving the theater soon. As it was Magic Tuesday, I had nothing to do, so I took the train over to Tower City for the 2:20 showing.

The movie isn't that great, a little overwrought and incomplete, but Redford's character's lines about how he views his career (he plays a professor) struck several chords. I left the theater with new ideas about how to reach students and what to say when I do, as well as totally sticky sneaker bottoms from the ridiculously gross floors there.

Now I'm trying to figure out how to translate those thoughts into action, as I write my lecture for tomorrow's class. I'm also half-watching Detroit Rock City and enjoying the smell of the dirty rice (with lamb instead of ground beef) simmering on the stove. In a few minutes, I'm gonna go butter some bread, heat some creamed corn, and make a quick spinach salad. Yum.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cross-County Wanderings

I was all over the place yesterday, man. Maybe cross-county isn't exactly accurate, but my motoring did extend from Lakewood to Cleveland Heights. After my last post, I freshened up and did some very quick grocery shopping: cleaning supplies at the Dollar Store, some creamed corn at Dave's, and then over to the West Side Market for some trout. I plan to encrust the fish with some herb butter and pepitas this evening, so I picked up the butter and pumpkin seeds there, too.

I left the market, jumped in my motor vehicle, and made it over to the Borders in Cleveland Heights just in time to hear Michael Ruhlman give a brief talk about his experiences as a writer, a celebrity, and cooking. He is an interesting guy and an excellent writer. I keep waiting to be put off by his attitude (like Jay McInerney) or find him a douche trying to strangle me with his coolness (like Bourdain), but he never does. Instead, he's a calm midwesterner that loves what he's doing (writing pretty successful, almost first-person non-fiction on things he's passionately interested in) and also realizes he's doing well as he does it. I picked up a copy of his new book for myself and my friend Alex. Alex doesn't need it, but it was a chance to get Ruhlman to put something in the inscription. (Alex, if you are reading this, I'll put it in the mail on Monday.)

Then I stopped off at Mac's Backs, the store that has been widely reputed to be the indie bookstore headquarters of Cuyahoga County. The store is cool and the owner Suzanne is delightful and kind. Visible Voice strikes me as much better organized and has a superior selection of books, but there is an energy at Mac's that isn't duplicated by Visible Voice. Suzanne is also an enthusiastic supporter of the literary scene in Cleveland, and has organized and hosted events large and small that keep the community as robust as it is. I picked up a few slim volumes by area poets and a copy of The Bush Dyslexicon (for $5!), which I hope will help as I prepare to write a paper on Dubya's rhetorical legacy with a friend and colleague.

After that, it was a quick stop off at Dave's Cosmic Subs. Dave's is a Cleveland institution, sort of what Freebirds is to College Station, but with the focus on subs instead of burritos. I thought it was cool, the food was certainly good, the prices right, and the hippie theme pleasing. Sadly, the lady behind the counter was a jackass, apparently put off because I ordered a sandwich. I thought to reminder her, but then decided against it, that she was working in a restaurant and her job is to take orders for sandwiches. I'm pretty sure she already knows this, so I just thought mean thoughts about her as I walked back to my car. The thoughts didn't last long, as I quickly discovered I had lost my car. After about 15 minutes, I remembered where I parked it, got in, and drove back to the west side.

I stopped by the bubble to say what's up, hung for a bit, then went home to feed Ellie and confront my sub. About 10 minutes after completion, Mike calls and says to come out to some vegetarian Thai place in Lakewood with he and his cousin. I oblige, we end up meeting another friend of his at the Thai Hut up on Madison and Chesterland (or thereabouts). We had a lovely time and I enjoyed a nice cup of chicken coconut soup.

The guy running the place was super funny and nice. He kept joking about how the hostess girl was his girlfriend (she clearly was not) and then gave Mike's cousin, Stephanie, a can of the coconut milk they use because she'd asked so many questions about it. I'll definitely go back, just because the folks were so cool.

After the Thai experience, it was off to Christina's studio opening. It was fun, though not a lot of booze was available. The mini cupcakes nearly made up for it. By the time we left and I got back home I was bushed from all my observing of other people's creative efforts. Imagine how tired I'd have been if I'd actually done shit!

Anyway, laid back day today -- Browns at 1, Bears at 4, trout sometime shortly after that. There is an interesting documentary about Albert Ayler, the Cleveland free jazz phenom and junkie of the 60s, playing at the Cinematheque tonight that I might check out. Or Mike wants to go bowling an accidentally on purpose bump into some lady he's been talking to lately. Sounds a little dangerous to me. What will I choose? I guess you'll have to tune back in tomorrow (or some time next week) to see ........

Some incentive, huh?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Crushed Proletarian Fantasy

As I had nothing scheduled and Ellie seemed to be recuperating nicely, I spent the day bumming around. After doing the doggie circuit and giving Ellie her pills, I went across the street to the bookstore to browse while I waited for my new friend Dan to drive over from the east side. I was on a mission to find the copy of David Sedaris' book of Christmas essays that I had hidden the last time I was in (I didn't have any cash on me, but didn't want anyone else to buy it, either ... so I hid it. Makes sense, right?). Dan made good time and drove up at almost the exact moment I realized that I had hidden it so well even I couldn't find it. Oh well.

I hopped in and we headed to Old Brooklyn, an edge neighborhood populated mostly by Cleveland cops and firefighters forced to balance residency requirements with the desire for their children to get an education without getting them shot. It is a nice area, almost completely residential and obviously blue collar. Too bad cops don't seem to be able to afford to live in my neighborhood -- the police presence in Old Brooklyn is about 10 times what it seems to be in Ohio City, where there is actually shit to steal and retail/restaurant/bar revenue to be made.

But I digress.

We headed to Steve's, a local diner place. I wasn't very hungry so I didn't do much damage to the pan-fried chicken I ordered. It was good and the place had character, but not enough for me to probably go back to on purpose. Besides, with Sokolowski's just down the road from me, I can have even more character with even better food all the time.

But again, more digressing.

Afterwards I headed over to the Bubble, chatted with folks, and eventually headed over to the Great Lakes Brewing Company for a pint of their magical mystical Christmas Ale with Terry, one of the glass-blowers there. After that (and a coffee from Talkies to pick me back up off the ground to which the beer had knocked me) I trudged to Dave's Supermarket to get a 12-pack and then it was off to Lakewood to help my friend Mike work on his friend Christina's new dance studio. Her new business, BE Studios, is a pretty interesting venture, part pilates, part dance, part erotic exercise. Seriously. Christina is going to be teaching both the exercise classes and seminars on pole dancing, lap dancing, and strip-teasing.

While there, I helped out by weaving stereo wire through an obstacle course of pipes and beams and shit. I really got into it -- the buzz helped -- and started visualizing myself as a new style worker-hero. I was coming up with genius strategies for getting the wire from the basement up through the floor and feeling pretty good about myself over all.

Until I stepped in dog shit outside while getting a table out of Mike's van.

Stepping in dog shit never fails to bring a man low.

After that, I just felt like Dog Shit Guy and secretly yearned to leave.

Eventually all the work that could be done was done, and we left Christina to some last minute organizing and swiffering. Her grand opening is tonight. I hope it goes great, not only because she seems super cool and she has a neat idea, but because it is an independent attempt to thwart the corporate behemoth's that dominate every industry, including the exercise market.

See, the worker-hero didn't completely fade. Just a little smudged. With canine feces. Yuck.

After leaving Lakewood, we headed back to Tremont and caught the last bit of the Hobo Monk performance at Visible Voice. I snagged a free beer out of some mini keg - something by Dogfish Head brewery, but I can't remember what. It was tasty. I drank it, purchased a volume on the poetry and art of d.a. levy, and we took off, searching for food. We stopped by Edison's Pub first, but the kitchen was closed, so it was off to Lolita, as it was just after 10 PM and their happy hour menu started.

Lolita, the #2 restuarant in the Michael Symon empire, was pretty packed, due in no small part to Symon's recent victory in the new Iron Chef contest. That's right, the newest Iron Chef is a Clevelander. Cool, huh?

We were both bushed but also hungry as hell, so we ordered liberally. $5 burgers for each, and plates of mac n cheese and crispy chicken livers to share. The chicken livers sucked ass, but the mac n cheese was pretty good -- if a little goaty. The burgers were good, even if the were a touch dry and Lolita is too bougie to stock ketchup. Seriously, guys, it is the most fucking popular condiment in the country. Add some basil to it or something, if you need to funkify regular Heinz, but gimme some ketchup. The burger isn't so awesome that we need to worry about ruining it. For Christ's sake, it is a burger after all.

OK, ketchup rant over.

We finished up, paid up, and headed back to Ohio City. I helped Mike and his new roommate move some shit around, then it was home and off to bed (after feeding/walking/medicating Ellie).

Today I'm thinking about checking out Cleveland Heights a bit. Mike Ruhlman has a signing of his new book at the Borders there, after which I might head over to Mac's Backs (allegedly the very best indie bookstore in town) to peruse and to Dave's Cosmic Subs to gnosh. We shall see.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Flexible Scheduling

I'm in Philadelphia right now.

Actually, I'm not. I'm sitting in my palacial Ohio City apartment, waiting for a pizza to be delivered. But I'm supposed to be in Philadelphia. According to my calender, I am. According to my students and my boss, I am.

But I am not. For various reasons, the most important of which being the infected cyst Smelly Ellie developed over the last 48 hours or so. I didn't really notice it till the day before yesterday, then by yesterday it was obvious it needed to be treated. So I blew off my travel arrangements and took Ellie in to the vet.

I had been leaning toward not going for various reasons anyway, and had already told the people I was supposed to meet up with that I wouldn't be going, but was still not fully certain. Ellie's "condition" made it pretty easy to decide.

So after cancelling her boarding reservation and my own lodging reservation, I headed to Cleveland Heights to see a couple comedians perform at the Grog Shop. The comedians were Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, two of the funniest members of my second favorite comedy troupe (The State) when I was in high school and ranked such things. (FYI - Kids in the Hall was my favorite.) The show itself was ok, Black was funnier than Showalter (as I somewhat expected), though both were pretty lethargic and lazily riffed on various things for about half of their respective performances before getting into the material they were touring specifically. Showalter did this pretty funny thing where he played songs from his laptop, and then pretended the songs were background music in movies where he was playing the protaganists. Black brought a heckler on stage and interviewed her. This chick ended up being so freaking weird. Let's put it this way: she takes karate lessons and carries a photo of the lead singer of A-ha in her wallet and is not trying to be funny or ironic. He also did some funny bits about his kids recent halloween costume, like when he told his 6-year-old son, who wanted to be a pirate, that he might as well dress as a fucking jerk-off because that's what his dad thought of him now.

The whole thing only lasted about 1.5 hours, which - at $17 - was a bit of a rip off, but I was glad to be heading home early. I was a little guilty about leaving Ellie and was pretty wiped from my 1 day work week anyway. (Is it weird that easy weeks make me more exhausted than full weeks?)

Today I woke up and took Smelly to Gateway Animal Clinic around 1030. The infection turned out to be worse than I thought and her exam ended up being pretty painful. She was a trooper, though. And the ladies at the Animal Clinic, from the awesome Dr. Abby to the vet assistants to the secretarial staff, were all extraordinarily compassionate and kind. An overwhelming number of them also had really sexy haircuts. (Is it weird that I was thinking about sexy haircuts while my beloved dogder is having her worst hour in many months?)

After it was over and I paid for her new drugs -- baby gets to be on muscle relaxers for a week! lucky -- we emerged into the freezing rain. That ended up killing my budding plan to drive down to Pittsburgh to see the Polyphonic Spree. The Spree's current tour is awesome, but I've already seen it twice. Besides, my knees can only handle about 1 night a month of the spasmodic calisthenics I call dancing and an Electric 6 show is coming up (also at the Grog Shop) at the end of this month.

I brought Ellie home, played with her a bit, gave her the first dose of the meds and waited for her to pass out. She did relatively quickly, and I headed out on the town. I bullshitted with a friend for a bit, caught a quick buzz, then went to the cinema at Tower City to view 30 Days of Night before it left town. It was a just-ok vampire film, though it had a pretty clever concept (vampires invade the northern-most city in Alaska during the dead of winter, where there is no sunlight for an entire month, as much blood-sucking and vampire destroying ensues). Afterwards, I headed back, stopped for a bloody mary at the Old Angle, then came home to rescue Ellie from her loneliness and pharmaceutical haze. She ate, shat, took some more pills and is now passed out again on my bed. She makes the cutest little cocoon thing with my blanket when she does that...

I am, as I mentioned earlier, waiting for a pizza. How about you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Even the longest weekend must end

Here I am, once again, at the ass end of another long weekend. Thanks to Veteran's Day, I haven't had to "work" in almost a week. Tomorrow should be decent, too; one exam to return, another lecture to finish.

Right now, I'm sitting at my "desk" (a stainless steel commercial kitchen table that has actually been converted pretty well), speed-grading essays on culture and politics while drinking Beck's tall boys that I got at a ridiculously reduced price and half-watching what I am frighteningly starting to realize is a Freddy Prinze Jr. movie marathon.

On a completely unrelated note, I must say that having bookshelves really lessens my furniture anxiety. It is bizarre to even have furniture anxiety, I think I just made it up, but it makes me much happier to have those bastards up on shelves and off the floor. Of course, that leaves more floorspace to keep clean ....

... good thing I'm the proud owner of a Swiffer!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

One Whupped Puppy

When I was younger, I remember my dad referring to someone who was tired or even over-tired as a "whupped puppy." I don't know if that was a common phrase or something unique to him, and now that I'm a technically an adult, I don't see the link between a beaten canine and fatigue, but still, the expression holds (for me, at least).

All this is to say, I'm tired. Or tarred, as the folks back in Texas would say. I tried not to be friends with those folks (i.e., the rednecky, hickish drawling types), though, so really I'm just going off a stereotype. But I digress.

Last night was Art Walk in Tremont. It was interesting, as usual, especially this month's exhibit at Doubting Thomas. By the time I was walking home, I was pretty buzzed from all the free glasses of wine and donation import beers. I came home, fed and watered Ellie, talked to Ducky for a bit, then hung out with Mike. Next thing I know, I'm passed out on the couch at 3 AM, and the end credits to River's Edge are rolling.

I stagger to bed, turn on the soothing sounds of George Noory, and pass out again, regaining consciousness around 1 PM.

After bumming around the pad for a little while, I got to work cleaning and then spray-painting some of the bookshelves I acquired the other night. This took a surprisingly long time, quite a lot of elbow grease, and many more cans of paint than I expected. By the time I finished, my thumbs were completely cramped and I felt pretty stoned from all the fumes. Those folks (the ones who write the warning labels) weren't joking about painting in a well-ventilated area. Maybe I should try that next time. Which will be tomorrow, when I paint the other half of the bookcases.

After all the hard work was over, I treated myself to a healthy and delicious homemade meal, courtesy of the culinary bounty available at the West Side Market.

OK, so when I say homemade, I should clarify: it was homemade by my standards. At the market I picked up some lovely spinach and cheese raviolis and pretty killer Italian sausages (total cost was less than $10). I brought them home, grilled up the sausages on my fancy new indoor grill, covered the raviolis in a hearty, aromatic organic puttanesca sauce, rich with the flavors of olive and anchovy. It was delish.

Now I'm waiting for laundry load #3 to dry, so I can fold the shit and get back in bed. Tomorrow is another day of cleaning and painting. Yippee!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Material Possession Update

For all you out there following the trials and tribulations of my Cleveland transition, please rest easy (or, at least, easier).

I am now officially on owner of a Swiffer.

And, thanks to the fleet vision of my friend Mike, a set of metal bookcases that, once cleaned and repainted, will actually hold books.

By the end of this weekend, I should have cleaner floors, encased books, and a few things checked off my extensive "Shit to Get" list.

At which point I will start whining about how difficult it is to find decent frames for reasonable prices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Creeping on Lakewood

So I finally made my way over to Lakewood, the funky near-west suburb, today. Barely.

My friend Mike had to install a light fixture at his friend's soon-to-open dance studio. I had the evening free and took the opportunity to ride along. I met his friend, checked out her cool new digs, then headed across the street for a beer while Mike did his business.

The bar across the street, Mars Bar, wasn't really anything special, just the typical corner bar, nearly empty, with a handful of inebriated regulars arguing over what would be worse for someone to eat, rotten clams or rotten mussels. Seriously. After literally about 10 minutes of this, I wanted to shout at them, "They are both fucking rotten -- who cares which is worse!" Instead, I gulped down my Leffe and left.

As I was waiting for the bartender to run my card, Drunk #2 apparently won the argument, by convincing Drunks #1 and #3 that drinking clam broth would only make you sick, but drinking mussel broth would kill you dead. Seriously.

I got my card back and headed across the street to Beer Engine, famous for its beer selection and burgers (named after the machine that was used in olden days to pump beer from basements to taps). It was cool, a typical fancy beer place. I had a Jever and a Tuscan burger -- neither of which were very good. About the time I was getting my food, Mike walked in. We both ate and drank, harassed the married barmaid, and then headed back to Cleveland. On the way we drove by a huge pile of discarded furniture, including a bunch of painted steel bookshelves. We ganked them and tossed them in the back of Mike's van. Hopefully, with a coat of paint and a good cleaning (in reverse order), they'll look good in the light of day.

Before heading to our respective homes in Ohio City, we stopped at Visible Voice in Tremont. They were having a few experimental musicians playing, two in from Minnesota. Earlier in the day I had checked out the groups' myspace pages and was modestly impressed, but once the evening began it was sorta lame. We browsed for a few minutes, chatted with the cool clerk about the independent bookstore universe in Cleveland, I purchased a copy of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber for a whopping 7 bucks, and split.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Additional things I need

Top of the list, right now:

A fucking swiffer. I realized the swiffer necessity this morning, while doing some house-cleaning.
I love my dog and I love the beautiful hard wood floors in my apartment, but the two things do not complement themselves very well.


Ellie sheds like you would not believe and I loathe sweeping almost as much as I loathe vacuuming.

I bought a little broom from the dollar store the other day, but it doesn't seem to do the trick. A swiffer, though, now that might do it.

I'll have to find a big box retailer somewhere around here and pay a visit. Soon. Before the cloud of dust and dog hair turns me into Pigpen from the Peanuts strip.

Weekend of Watching

As the title of this post indicates, I spent much of this weekend watching stuff. Some interesting stuff, some pretty banal. The important part was my passive participation in entertainment. By the end of the work week I had magically accomplished everything on my list and am already pretty well down the list for next week, so I have the weekend open for laziness. (Of course, I'd have been lazy either way, but this way it feels like I earned it.)

On Friday, I came home mid-evening, fixed myself some chili dogs (the last for a while, as I embark on a 2-week apples and beer diet manana) and watched American Psycho. After dinner, I took Ellie for her evening consititutional, and then went over to my friend Mike's house to have some beers. Over there, I watched the original Rocky (and managed not to weep) while he fiddled with a massive puzzle. I came home later and had a nice co-buzzed conversation with Ducky before floating off to sleep around 3.

Today, the watching was considerably more extensive, ambitious, and - some would say - sophisticated. I spent the early afternoon answering emails and searching ebay for Ikea Klippan slipcovers while watching the first half of Thank You for Smoking. Then it was off to the east side for a double feature at the Cedar Lee.

Isn't that a great name for a movie theater, The Cedar Lee? I love it. It is thus named for the intersection at which it is located (i.e, Cedar Road and Lee Road), so the name is less than inspired, but the coolness I think it imparts continues when you walk in the door. As the main commericial independent film theater in town (the Cinematheque is more artsy and academic, while the Language Foundry is more experimental and DIY), they have a good selection of movies at any given time. Plus, the concession stand sells beer -- really good beer, including a few different bottles from Great Lakes, as well as Pabsts for 2 bucks. Though I'm not sure if the PBR is an everyday thing, or was just being offered this weekend in conjunction with their showing of Blue Velvet as this month's selection in their Cult Film Series.

Today, I went to back-to-back showings of Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited and Goran Dukic's Wristcutters: A Love Story. Showing during the pre-film commercials each time was a preview for an interesting movie titled Juno (starring Ellen Page). I definitely plan on checking it out when it is released in mid-December. The ads for Margot at the Wedding (with Jennifer Jason Leigh and directed by my man Noah Baumbach) looked cool, too.

The Darjeeling Limited was good, especially the little vignette at the beginning with Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman. Owen Wilson seemed to have mailed his effort in and Wes Anderson's fascination with set pieces and short-legged suits once again gets in the way of what could have been a great movie. It was better than The Life Aquatic, though.

Wristcutters, on the other hand, was fantastic. The concept itself was out there. In the film's alternate universe, when an individual commits suicide, instead of going to heaven or hell, they actually go to a parallel world that really sucks, in a general smoggy malaise sort of way. The film is a roadtrip through this bleak world, featuring Zia (the protaganist, who offed himself because his girlfriend was cheating on him), Eugene (Zia's Russian friend, whose entire family has committed suicide and live together in this life as they had in the past), and Mikal (a recent suicide played by Hollywood's hottest actress, Shannyn Sossaman. On the trip, Zia is looking for his girlfriend, who killed herself shortly after he did, Eugene is going along to have a good time, and Mikal is looking for the PIC (People In Charge) to see if she can get a visa back to life because her overdose was accidental, not directly suicidal. Throw in bit parts by Tom Waits and Will Arnett, weird plot devices like a black hole underneath Eugene's beater car's passenger seat, and imparted wisdom such as the fact that people who ride in the back seat clearly have no cock (something apparently everyone already knew, except me), and you have a great movie. The ending was kind of weak, but not weak enough to matter that much. 5 stars, I say.

After the film, I headed back to Ohio City and swung by the Glass Bubble. I met up with Mike and we headed up to Detroit and 65th to check out Osama the Hero, a play on its final night at the Cleveland Public Theater. The play was really good, and the actors were surprisingly talented -- I keep underestimating the artistic community in Cleveland, stupidly -- but the topic and story brought a lot of anxiety to bear. After the play, Mike and I walked down the street to the Happy Dog for beers and dinner. On the way, we passed the studio of a friend of his who makes neon signs. We stopped in and chatted, and the dude gave me an impromptu lesson in making neon signs. Nickel summary: it is really cool and really difficult.

Finally, we made our way down to the Happy Dog. We had a pretty good waitress who kept telling us about her cleavage awards and a decent meal, which included a small order of sauerkraut balls. I'd never heard of them before, though now that I've tried them I don't think I've been denied all that much.

Tomorrow, the watch-o-rama will likely continue. The Browns play around 4 (the Bears are thankfully, mercifully off) and the Language Foundry's Sunday film series is at 8. Of course, whether I go to the latter will depend on whether this time change will cause me to gain or lose sleep. 6:45 comes like a bitch no matter what, but an hour one way or the other makes a HUGE difference.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Watching Dubya get captured by robots

Today was pretty cool. Actually, as it is quarter to 1 AM as I type this, I should say yesterday was pretty cool.

I was somewhat concerned it wouldn't be cool, what with having to go in to the office on my day off to attend some bullshit curriculum meeting. The meeting was indeed bullshit, but the bullshittiness of it was slightly ameliorated by the fact that I ate a delicious roast pork sandwich before we got started. The garlic gave me a bit of a stomach ache, but I'm sure it bothered my colleagues even more, so it was worth it.

After the meeting, I jacked around my office a bit, had a long chat with my friend Brian, then hopped the train home to feed/water/walk Ellie. We did the doggie circuit pretty quick and then I jumped in my car and drove eastward. Back to Collinwood actually. First stop was Music Saves, where I chatted with the owners about the cool Zaireeka event they had held, bought a copy of the Besnard Lakes' recent cd, The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse, and a ticket to a comedy show at the Grog Shop in a couple weeks (feat. Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, a couple of guys from The State, one of my favorite tv shows when I was in high school). After making my purchases, I headed down the block to the Beachland Ballroom to see Captured! By Robots.

Opening for C!BR was Motivational Speaker Dance Party, a new-ish local kitschy super-group, made up of area students, classically-trained musicians, and members of my favorite Cleveland rock group, Coffinberry. MSDP's act is a gag, a 5-step faux-motivational group presentation set to rock songs. But it was fucking hilarious and I was busting a gut by the time they left stage.

After their short set, and another 30 minutes or so of stage work (during which I flirted with a girl wearing a t-shirt that said "I'm a-Freud to fall in love," until her husband came back with their beers), C!BR took the stage. C!BR is an incredibly interesting group. Actually, it is just one guy, stage name J-Bot/real name Jason Vance, and a group of animatronic robots. Animatronic robots, you ask? Think the robotic musicians from the Chuck E Cheese band, stripped out of their costumes and redressed as politically relevant figures. Specifically, Dick Cheney on bass, Saddam Hussein on the traps, Condi on a bass and snare, and a three-robot horn section featuring Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and a bunch of different Republican candidates (the troupe was referred to as the Presidential Hopeful Horn Section). There were a couple hold-overs from the old Chuck E Cheese band, but instead of playing instruments they provided a recurring interview between Wolf Blitzer and Nancy Pelosi (but, you know, as bears).

Man, I really wish I had brought my camera.

Vance had the rest of the robots programmed to actually play their very real instruments, and what the performance amounted to was mostly metal, with a little hard rock and a splash of rap thrown in.

Let me be clear, this was a great show. The music was a lot of fun and the knowledge of Vance was evident and impressive. As he performed, he donned a crazy George W Bush mask and stayed in character the whole show. He played a dozen or so songs, including original gems such as "Hanging Chads," "I Am Bush" (which consisted of him screaming the title over and over; afterwards, he said it was a great song about America), "Dubya Dub" (a light reggae rap about our dear president and his druggie past), "I Got His Gun, Dad" (about getting Saddam's gun as a souveneir after the Iraq war), "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (a riff on national security and eavesdropping on cellphone conversations, set to the tune of the christmas carol by the same name), and a straight-forward cover of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." This cover closed the show and was the best part, in my opinion. As the bridge ends, the Dick Cheney robot leads in the thunderous reprise on bass, and J-Bot giggles just like Dubya, shouting to the audience, "That's my Vice-President!" During the instrumental jam, he ran around the audience, saying random things like "No sir, we won't get fooled again, can't be, that would be un-American."

Between songs there were 5-10 minute conversational interludes, ranging from Saddam's diatribes against Dubya about how much he hated our president and making fun of him for not being cool (Quote: "Oh, you invaded my country. That's so awesome. I fucking hate you.") to Condi's occasional outburst about how much she loved him and wanted them to be together to J-Bot's commentary on Wolf and Nancy's interview. Priceless moment, when Wolf asks Nancy if the Dems are going to cut funds for the war, Dubya/J-Bot shouts, "She's not gonna cut funding for shit!" and goes into a tirade about pussy communists. Whenever anything failed on stage, from one of Condi's drumsticks breaking to the mic getting unplugged to J-bot falling off stage, he blamed terrorists and threatened to send random people to Gitmo or Abu Gahraib.

This may not sound funny to you, particularly whatever conservative asshole may be reading this (without my permission, by the way! Get off my fucking blog, you ridiculous fascists!), but trust me, it was really fucking funny. I haven't had so much fun at a show in a long-time.

Best part: since I'm working on research about the relationship between rock and roll and the presidency, I'm pretty sure I can write off my beers.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Great Day!

Today, my friends, was a great day. It started off on a positive transportation note, as I just got to the RTA platform as the train was pulling in, and then, after exiting Tower City, I walked to the trolley stop right as it pulled up. I get to my office, plenty of time to spare, catch up on some emails and look over my lecture notes, and then it is off to two relatively smooth classes.

I get back from class #2, check my email, and am greeted with two wonderful developments: my paycheck has been deposited a day early AND an article by Jose and I was accepted for publication in a pretty good journal. Then a book lady comes by and gives me $135 for the stack of American Government textbooks I had amassed over the last several weeks.

Eventually, the good days comes to an end and I head home. During the train ride, I decide to stop off at one of the many places in Ohio City and reward myself. I head up the stairs, then start toward the Garage Bar for a $3 bowl of chili. About 80% of the way there, I think, "You just got a free $135 bucks, live a little."

As is usually the case, I did what the voice told me, turned on my heel and headed toward the Flying Fig. As I made my way there, I saw the sign for Bar Cento, a new winebar next to my apartment building. I decided to go in, and boy oh boy was it a treat.

I bellied up, ordered a fancy beer and the spicy salami and pickled veggies plate, and perused the menu. Bar Cento specializes in pizzas, pretty beautiful pizzas that are criminally under-priced (ranging from about $7 to $17). I decided to splurge and went the "liver and onions" pizza -- a decadent blend of foie gras, carmelized onions, and boudin noir. I'm not such a big fan of the boudin (hey that rhymes!), so I had them substitute lamb sausage instead. I also ordered a side of warm beets and bleu cheese and a semolina cake with chai ice cream. They packed it all up, along with the bottle of Willamette Valley pinot I bought and brought home at the last minute. (You can buy anything on their wine list and bring it home -- for 50% off!)

I can't find a website, but you can see a menu here.

I can't wait to go back, to try the "sunnyside pizza" (thin crust with eggs, pancette, and lots of black pepper) or the "seaside pizza" (with clams, white wine, garlic and parsley) or the seared Lake Erie walleye (not a pizza, thankfully). They also have a pretty decent daily special list, particularly on the great lakes fish days.

Now, I'm home, fat and too tired to be sassy. Tomorrow I have to go in to the office for a 3 PM meeting, despite it being my day off, but that should be plenty of time to work off my red wine hangover.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An exhausting relaxing Tuesday

Got up bright and early, despite it being Magic Tuesday (i.e., my day off), and went over to the Glass Bubble Project. After back-tracking a bit, to catch a java fix at Lelolai, it was off to downtown Hudson -- a sort of bougie, articifially-created downtown commercial suburban area between Cleveland and Akron -- so Mike and Chris could install some light fixtures they had made at a local restaurant.

We enjoyed a lovely ride, sharing differing philosophies on getting stuck in traffic jams and dating approaches, and made it to Hudson in about an hour. After a bizarre interlude in an Ace Hardware and a failed attempt to buy iced tea, it was time for them to do work (and for me to pretend to be some hybrid artist/supervisor role. It wasn't that hard.).

The installation turned in to something like a practice run as the fixtures weren't exactly right (though they looked pretty awesome) and one of the pieces had broken in transit. Mike and the proprietor talked about what to do next, and then it was off to Kent, home of Kent State University, Mike and Chris' alma mater.

We picked up some burritos, stopped at an apple orchard for non-pasteurized cider (though we settled for pasteurized. In addition, I bought a cool chocolate/marshmellow spoon that you use to stir hot milk and as it melts makes hot chocolate. Awesome, huh? And only $1.25), and then went over to this beautiful park. After walking the trails, checking out the large Hopewell Mound they had, and hypothesizing what a Native American tribe that predated Christ and were members of a "mysterious cult of death" would do if they could be reincarnated and caught us kicking it like slackers upon their thoughtfully crafted monument to their deceased ancestors, we headed over to the glass blowing studio and, then, art building at KSU. Outside the art building was a really cool sculpture of sorts, comprised of stacks and stacks of newspapers and now home to a small garden at the top.

After the campus pit stop we hit Arby's for milk shakes, jamocha for Mike, chocolate for me and Chris, though his wasn't chocolately enough so he flat out refused to drink it. Eventually, we rolled back into the lot outside the studio. I, beat, staggered back to my place, signed in, wrote this, and now ....

Monday, October 29, 2007

A little secret

So, here's something you may not know about me, dear reader.

I am a weeper.

Let me clarify. Movies, whether art films or mass schlock, make me cry. All the time.

I first noticed this my freshman year in college, when I played football and a group of my teammates and I would spend the late morning/early afternoon every Sunday after a game (and the subsequent evening's bachhanalian excesses) by watching a Sylvester Stallone movie marathon. Every odd weekend was the Rambo trilogy, every even weekend the Rocky series (or maybe it was vice versa). The afternoons were often capped off with an extra extra-large pepperoni pizza, slathered in grease, from a pizzaria near campus that was awesome. I can't remember what it was called, something generically Italian, but no clue what.

Anyway, every weekend, there was a certain moment in Rocky III that would reduce me to tears. Every time. By the end of the season, Jimbo, my offensive lineman buddy, would know it was coming and be there with a manly half-hug or, more famously, a quick rendition of our group's favorite dance move, "The Lumberjack," to console me.

Most people, when they hear this story, automatically assume it was the scene when the Russian kills Apollo Creed in the ring, but they are wrong. I'm not that ridiculous. It is actually the scene when, after Apollo dies and Rocky has decided to go fight the Russian on the Russkie's home turf. The scene when he passes Adrian on the fancy staircase in their mansion and she tells him not to go, that he shouldn't go because he would lose ("You can't beat him, Rock!") and that they would lose everything they had. After playing dumb ("Lose what, Adrian?"), Stallone strikes the best slack-jawed, emotionally destroyed expression ever captured on film, muttering something to the effect that he never expected Adrian to doubt him, not Adrian. Anybody else, but not Adrian.

Reduces. Me. To. Tears. Every. Time.

There is also a scene in one of the Rambo movies, specifically the one at the end of Rambo: First Blood, Part Two, when Col. Trautman asks a diffident Stallone what it is, exactly, that he wants. His response, vintage: "What do I want? I want what every guy who spilled his guts over there [Vietnam, duh] wants ... For our country to love us as much as we love it."

Waterworks. Gasping, snotty tears.

Moments like this make me vow never to watch these films in front of any woman with whom there is an imaginable chance of future procreation.

Problem is, these moments come all the time. Scenes of romantic distress? Tears. Examples of the sacrifices inherent in true friendship? Crying. Scenes of familial bonding bridging chasms of dysfunction? Bawling. Little kids doing cute things? More tears. Training montages and dramatic victories? More crying.

It really is sickening.

In the last couple of days, I've gotten choked up at the following points: when Keanu Reeves lets Patrick Swayze "escape" into the sure-death of the killer 20-year wave in Point Break, when one of Jude Law's daughters whispers "berry kiss" in response to the name of Cameron Diaz's lipstick in The Holiday, when the fat guy from the old Nickelodeon shows manages to land the plane in Snakes on the Plane, when the little boy spots his father (played by Tyrese) walking down the beach at the end of Waist Deep and shouts "Padre," again in The Holiday when Jack Black tells the other chick he only used the good notes when composing a song that sounded like her. The part in Singles when Campbell Scott tells his girlfriend that she lost the baby as a result of the car accident and, again, when she gets back from her ecological superhero boat trip and that old spark isn't quite there and she moves back in with her lame ex.

Don't even get me started on Love Actually. Or the very end of Before Sunset, when Julie Delpy is dancing to Nina Simone and jazzily sings to Ethan Hawke that he ... is going to ... miss ... that ... plane ... and he just smiles and says, "I know" and the screen goes black. Dear good. You'd think it was Old Yeller or something.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I was saved by rock and roll

Ok, so the title of this blog actually draws from some Tweedy-penned Wilco lyrics, but they still seem kinda relevant.

To cap off my weekend, I headed over to the east side to visit Music Saves, a cool independent record store and an cultural/commercial anchor of the surging Collinwood/Waterloo Road neighborhood. (Check out this article for more about Waterloo Road and the role Music Saves plays in it.)

Music Saves reminds me a lot of Tim DeLaughter's great record store in Dallas, Good Records (pun intended), only a little smaller. Same vibe, though; well-selected indie rock and fan ephemera, moderate album selection, but no overwhelming hipster know-it-all attitude. Good people, great music, plus a bonus sense of community and shared prosperity. Good for the soul, better for the ears. Or some shit.

Anyway, Music Saves was celebrating the 10th anniversary of Zaireeka. What is Zaireeka, you ask? Well, that's a good question. Zaireeka is an experimental album released by the Flaming Lips 10 years ago (duh). (Here is a good brief history of the album and the experimentation that led up to it.) Actually, it was four albums, designed to be played simultaneously on four separate stereos. I have every other Flaming Lips album, but have never even heard any of the music from Zaireeka (mostly because I don't have four stereos), so I figured this would be as good a time as any to visit Music Saves. I'd been hearing about the store from just about every solid music listener I've met since moving to Cleveland, but still haven't gotten over there. Talk about serendipity.

So, after prepping the requisite peanut butter rawhide, I snagged a couple tall boys from the fridge and hit the road. I found the place with no trouble, walked in, chatted with one of the owners for a bit, and began browsing and boozing. They have a decent selection of concert and pop art, and about the time I got done checking the inventory out, it was time to begin. The music of Zaireeka was cool, you could definitely tell it was a turning point for the band, as it reflected more of the music that came after (especially The Soft Bulletin EP) and not so much the psychadelic hijinks that came before.

While the cds were playing, some guys from the LA-based band Film School came in. They were playing a set that night at the Beachland Ballroom next door and seemed to be just as geeked about the Zaireeka event as everybody else. The guys were really cool and offered a place on their guest list for the show, but I passed. After the disaster that was last week, I want to start this week fresh and energized. Staying up till 2 to listen to a band, no matter how well-reviewed and how cool the members are, just wasn't in the cards.

But the offer added to my overall positive feeling about Music Saves. I'll be back again, soon. And when I do go back, I'll probably pick up the latest album by Film School.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Recycled Toppings

Had a lunch fit for a king ... or at least a king with a kingdom currently suffering from an economic recession.

A burst of creativity struck me as I was gazing into my refrigerator for the third time of the day. Thinking, "If I combine this and that, it might be ... and that and the other thing would ... hmm."

Like any bachelor, my fridge is filled mostly with condiments, beverages, and toppings. Between the three, I composed a lunch of a minimalistic chef's salad and a small bowl of chili.

To make the chili, I heated up a sauce pan full of beanless hot dog chili sauce (using the remains from last night's chili dogs) and some medium-heat queso (usually used for chips or to slather on chicken patties), and then added some oyster crackers (left over from the clam chowder I made last week).

The salad included shredded lettuce (left over from taco night a few days ago), half a tomato (originally from the West Side Market a couple weekends ago; the other half had to be quietly sawed off and disposed of), rolled and sliced turkey breast lunch meat, and a bleu cheese vinaigrette, the origin of which I'm not really sure.

In all, it was surprisingly delicious, appropriately filling, and economically efficient. Yum.

Now I'm off to catch the train. I'm heading down to Public Square, where they are apparently giving free tours of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument and its underground tunnels until 4 PM. Should be cool.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Thank Fucking Christ it's Friday.

This week blew.

But even I couldn't keep up the week-long sourpuss. I cracked a smile against my will when sudden and very brief downpours manifested only when I was (a) taking Ellie from my building to my car and then again (b) when I took her from the car to doggie daycare. All other moments were, of course, dry.

Later, I suddenly giggled when reading my current book on the train and coming to a passage where the protaganist's pathetic dentist was being described:

"He had strawberry blond hair. That's enough right there. That's all you need to know. If you're a man with strawberry blond hair and you're not in the circus or a Viking, odds are you have not found your place in life and never will. Doug's strawberry blond hair hung down in limp curls that always looked like they were wet, like he was an out of work Hasidic Jew who just didn't give a shit anymore. But then he also had the monk's tonsure up top where male pattern baldness had started its slow, inexorably humiliating crawl. Doug's head was an aesthetic and theological mess. And he had a mustache. It was too big and too ragged and trying too hard to compensate for what he'd already lost on top, and it was a few shades more strawberry than blond. He looked like the star of a new "Would you leave your child alone with this man?" pedophile awareness campaign, one that would be very effective."

Once at work, I snickered (in a very nice and supportive way) during my upper-division class when, during debates about the Electoral College, one student used the phrase "ameliorate the institutional deficiencies" (though he was actually 100% in both substance and usage) and guffawed when, after her team came in last place and thus failed to earn any extra credit points, a student slammed down her pencil and muttered, "We don't need any sympathy bonus points."

And, just a few minutes ago, while I was changing clothes and watching the early part of Something About Mary, I howled during Ben Stiller's "franks and beans" scene. When the initial zipping occurred -- howling. When the step-father scolded him -- more howling. When the cop came through the window and the firefighter asked how exactly Stiller's character got the zipper up to the top -- the most howling. And when the actual damage was shown, I simultaneously subconsciously crossed my legs and ... snorted.

Thank Fucking Christ it is Friday. I need the weekend.

To celebrate, I'm off to have a beer with the Ohio City hordes.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Boycott Work

I boycotted work today. Rather, as it is still mid-afternoon, I should say I'm currently boycotting work.

The great thing about academia is that you don't even have to make up an excuse not to go to work.

Slept in, took Ellie to the dog park in Tremont. She didn't do so well there. Two different times, bigger, more hyper dogs tried to play and she got really upset. More upset than usual, really, despite the fact that she's been going to this doggie daycare place semi-regularly. I'd have thought she'd be more socialized by now. Hmm.

This week has been sort of a bummer. It began with the Indians blowing a 3-1 lead in the ALCS (and thus costing me dearly) and has since featured another midnight intrusion by Awful Neighbor and a bit of a melt-down in my Intro class.

Awful Neighbor apparently got shit-faced at the wine bar down the block, came home and found her smoke alarm "chirping." She wasn't able to get in touch with the maintenance folks (surprise - it was midnight), so she pulls the fire alarm. Twenty minutes later, we're being hustled outside as the CFD explores the building. She made up some choice details like how it woke her up from a sound sleep and how she smelled smoke as she was leaving the building. Then she went BACK to the wine bar.

Awesome. At least the building owner hates her because of all the trouble she causes -- almost getting the building's apparently quite expensive security doors busted down by the firefighters didn't endear her to him any more.

The next day, I go into my Intro class. This one has been stressing me out quite a bit, but lately it has really gotten my blood pressure up. Seriously. Today was the low point, of a semester that has already featured its share of low points -- and we are barely past midterms. Here's the play by play:

This girl shows up late then proceeds to talk and pass notes for about 15 minutes. Finally, I asked, "Is there something in that note that is more interesting than what I'm talking about."

She smirks and says, "Kind of."

Don't ask questions you don't want the answer to, I guess.

I said, "Listen, you are paying a lot of money to be here...."

Her interruption: "I don't pay tuition."

I paused, (more) blood rushes to the head, and turn around and start erasing the chalk board. I get about halfway through, turn back to the class and say "Class is over. The material I didn't cover today will definitely be on the next exam. Perhaps your classmate over there (nodding to her) can give you the rest of the lecture."

Stunned silence. I finish erasing. I leave.


This class is seriously the worst group of students I've ever had, in terms of manners, professionalism, and comprehension. I have tried everything I can think of to remedy this, from being cool to pep talks to explaining why students are failing to ignoring it to begging/pleading/crying for them to just pay attention. Needless to say, nothing works.

Today, I'm trying a one-man, unannounced campus boycott. I'm skeptical this will accomplish anything. But at least I'm sitting at home in a beat-up sweater and track pants, instead of fighting rush hour train crowds and indifferent teenagers.

Maybe, though, the wardrobe dimension of this boycott needs some further attention. Seriously, I look like track suit-sporting Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One small bummer

I just realized something today, one negative aspect about my transition from Texas to Ohio.

I don't listen to as much music as I used to.

Between the fact that I don't have a stereo in my office (mostly because I don't spend enough time there at night and on the weekends to make it worthwhile) and the fact that I hardly drive anywhere anymore (thanks to the recently awarded "best in the nation" Cleveland public transportation system).

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not missing the 60-70 hours a week in the office that I clocked in grad school and I'm totally digging the fact that I fill my gas tank about once every 6-7 weeks.

But I do miss the music.

Whine over.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I need a fucking table...

and several bookcases.

If there is a single aspect of my relocation that is lagging behind, it is my indecent lack of furniture. I'm typing this post on my laptop, which is stationed on a requisitioned end table that has one leg shorter than the other three. At the same time, my long breakfast bar is filled with stacks, stacks of bills, stacks of clippings, stacks of books, and - now that I glance over - stacks of plates that I thought I had washed, but apparently just moved out of the sink.

There is one thing that could solve the dueling problems of the wobbly end table and the over-flowing breakfast bar: a table. A table, a not uncommon piece of furniture, would solve both problems AND provide a place for me to eat. Right now, the end table is also doubling (or, I guess, tripling) as my dining room table -- the laptop just goes on the floor.

Behind me, to my left, to my right, and in front of me are many more stacks -- this time of books. In all, about 800. These books are stacked because, well, my crappy bookcases in Texas weren't worth dragging up to Ohio. If I had, I don't know, 4 or 5 bookcases, that would be AWESOME.

The problems I have, I tell you.

All over the road

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Although there are writers and works falling within the Beat milieu that I appreciate more, the level of celebration evident in the literary community here has been quite impressive. Throughout the entire weekend, there have been interesting On the Road events, each one slightly different, but all featuring public readings of the book.

Friday night, at Visible Voice, there was a beer bash in honor of Kerouac (who was, somewhat ironically, I guess, an incredible alcoholic that drank himself to death before he turned 50). So-called "local dignitaries" read bits of Part 1. That was pretty boring, actually, so after the first reader, I headed up to the attic there and watched a half-hour or so of film clips about Kerouac, as well as Ginsberg, Burroughs, and other important Beat figures. I stayed around till about 915 or so.

Once in my car, my typical map anxiety kicked in, as I tried to fine my way over to the east side, to watch one of my cooler student's band play. The band, the Whisky Daredevils, were pretty cool, actually -- a hard rockin' rockabilly spectacle. The two opening acts were cool, too; one a faux-southern experimental apostolic rock act, the other a straight-forward rockabilly troupe. One of my colleagues joined me, along with his wife, though they mostly hung to the back, blaming sensitive ears and early bedtimes. It was cool that they came out, though, supporting students and being open-minded to cultural events attended primarily by folks a generation or two younger than them.

Afterwards, I headed back home, watched an episode of Oz, and hit the hay. Saturday morning I woke around 11:30, put on a sweater (and pants, duh) and walked over to the Bookstore on West 25th. This was part 2 of the Kerouac festivities, and this time, instead of booking a list of "dignitaries" - many of whom had never actually read On the Road and mistook Kerouac for a hippie, even though the book was written 20 years before the Summer of Love - it was a free-wheeling, democratic affair. I had submitted a poem of my own via email for a related event to Jim Lang, the big chief of the event, and when I met him, he was enormously kind, greeting me with a bag of poetry (you'd have to see it to get it) and an introduction to the literary scene in Cleveland. We read and read and read, interspersed with some pretty great blues music from a local guy (also a Cuyahoga County newbie, though from West Virginia, as opposed to Illinois/Texas) and lukewarm beers. It was so much fun, I haven't laughed and smiled as I did there in a long time, especially when words like "maniacally" and "Tucson" and "Houma" and others were mispronounced.

After a while, the energy started to fade and the critical mass began to disperse. Most of the poets headed over to the Barking Spider Tavern, an interesting bar frequented by writers and artists on the campus of Case Western. I headed home, attended to the feeding/watering/walking needs of Smellie Mae, and watched another episode of Oz.

After getting on Mapquest and trying to find out how to get to the Cinematheque (an awesome indie/art/international film theatre on the campus of the Cleveland Institute of Art, I kissed my darling doggie goodbye and left for an evening of live jazz-accompanied silent films. I got there about 45 minutes early, so I walked over to the Barking Spider (2/10 of a mile away, or about that anyway) for a beer and to observe part 3 of the Kerouac festivities. They had Labatts on tap and on special, so I ordered one, said hi to the Visible Voice owner and a couple of the writers I had just met a few hours before. About the time my beer was gone, it was time to head back to the theatre.

I got back to the CIA building, with just enough time to find the restroom, get a watery coffee out of a machine, and find the perfect seat (according to my own baroque movie seat preference matrix). I did, plopping down in the seat on the inner aisle of the last row in the left third of seats at the front half of the room. The place is great, by the way. I think it seats about 600, though there only seemed to be about 250 in attendance. The sound quality is extraordinary, the projectionist the most professionally competent I've observed since the Angelika Film Center in Houston. They really take their craft seriously at the Cinematheque and it makes a noticeable difference.

Eventually the announcements concluded, the lights dimmed, the previews ended, and the musicians took the stage. First up was Blackmail, an early Hitchcock film starring Anny Ondra, John Longden, and Donald Calthorp in a story about a woman who ditches a boorish Scotland Yard detective for a smooth-talking artist who later tries to rape her. She kills him, flees the scene, and later the jilted lover is assigned to the case. When he finds evidence tying her to the crime (a glove with holes at the ends of two fingers - earlier in the film he noticed the holes and dryly commented that he would have to buy her fingernail scissors for Christmas), he goes to confront her. As he is trying to do so, another hoodlum steps up and tries to blackmail the estranged pair. Drama ensues, ending with a chase scene, a fatal fall, and a narrowly avoided confession.

At intermission, I went for another coffee, filled in some nervous Indians fans on the score -- thanks to Cary and his texts, I was well-informed throughout the night -- and then headed back for the next film. Next up was Underworld, a movie about organized crime figures, love triangles, and betrayal. It ends with a pretty awesome shoot-out/siege scene, especially considering the era.

All in all, the evening was great, the movies were fine, and the musicians were fantastic (though I still have to give Graham Reynolds' Golden Arm Trio's live score of Battleship Potemkin at the old Alamo Drafthouse in Austin the nod). I headed home, played with the dogder a bit, and hit the hay.

Today, I woke up, decided against attending the final Kerouac event and instead took Ellie to the Tremont Dog Park. She's usually skittish when playing with other dogs, at least for the first 20 minutes. Today, it seemed to take her longer to warm up, and she never did do much running around, mostly just sniffing and walking and exploring. She finally did a little running toward the end, when I was chasing her, but even then she seemed disinterested. We eventually left, but I decided to stop off at Lincoln Park in Tremont before heading home. I took her on a long walk around and through the park, and here she seemed happier and more relaxed. I enjoyed it more, too. Lincoln Park is really beautiful, and with the leaves turning and crisply covering the grass, it was wonderful, the first true fall day I've enjoyed since before I moved to Texas in 2002.

As Ellie and I walked, I kept getting deja-vu vibes, as the foliage and the setting reminded me of times when I was very young, visiting my great-grandmother Ross (my mom's grandmother) on her farm in Bonfield, and also of times driving alone in the afternoon on 113 back in Illinois. Those times, for whatever reason, always make me think of the Civil War, what it was like, fighting battles between trees and over stone fences. If I believed in reincarnation -- I'm not against it, I just don't carry a torch for the idea -- I'd swear that in a past life I fought and died in one fall day, somewhere in Virginia or Tennessee or Pennsylvania.

Anyway, eventually it was time to go. We'd ceased the hike, were sitting and observing the quiet area at a chess table in a corner of the park. A look between the dog-der and I sealed it, and we headed back to the car, driving home to the sweet sounds of Electric Six's new album.

Now I'm at home, about to make tacos and then look for my VHS copy of the Deer Hunter (most of the domestic portion was filmed in the very same neighborhood that the dog park and Lincoln Park are located). After that, there's a lecture on presidential elections to write and an Indians game to sweat.

Go Tribe!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Life and Times of a Twenty Dollar Bill

When I go out, kicking about town, I often take a single $20 bill with me. I'm always interested in how it gets spent. Sometimes, I buy a CD, other times a few beers, or a meal, or a double feature and a cherry coke.

Yesterday, I took $20 out of the ATM. Here's how I spent it.

$1.50 - parking outside the Grog Shop. Amount remaining: $18.50

Leaving Visible Voice, I broke the bill. The cool clerk there told me to bring plenty of change for parking at the Grog Shop, where I was headed. I didn't have any in my car, and didn't want to incur the wrath and howling of Ellie by coming home and then leaving again, so I had him give me $2 in change and smaller bills. Apparently, the cops focus far more on parking tickets than real law enforcement there. Judging from all the transit cops around the area, the advice was solid. I plopped 6 quarters into the machine.

$4.00 - PBR tall boy (2.75 for the can, 1.25 for the tip). Amount remaining: $14.50

The show at the Grog Shop was sponsored by Pabst, which meant (a) that it was free and (b) it would be the height of ingratitude for me to drink anything else. So I sauntered up to the bar, bought myself a tall-boy, and nursed it the rest of the night.

$8.00 - 2 books at the Bookstore on W. 25th. Amount remaining: $6.50

The next morning, as I was waiting for the Kerouac event to start up, I was browing the innumerable disorganized stacks of used books. Naturally, within 15 minutes I found about 80 books I wanted to buy, but by virture of some time-consuming, borderline pathological tournament-style decisionmaking, I whittled my selections down to two: Don DeLillo's Mao II and Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends (apparently a vampire love story. I bought it because the dude in the tryst was likened to an undead Kerouac, so it seemed appropriate).

$5.00 - Joe Landes Demo CD - Amount remaining: $1.50

Before the reading roundtable and, occasionally, during, a young musician named Joe Landes played some pretty impressive slide steel guitar. I wasn't really sure what the story there was, but he was good and was pretty stoic about being ignored by the assembled writers, so I decided to temporarily become a patron of the arts and buy his record, Blues from 402. Will I ever listen to it? Probably not. But it paid for his gas to get there and back, I guess. Maybe I'll give it to my boss, who is into such instrumentation.

$1.50 - bought a little kid a cheap paperback. Amount remaining: $0

I was with a group of poets at the Bookstore on West 25th, across the street from my apartment, doing a roundtable reading of On the Road, and this family came in. Mom and Dad were doing their thing, little brother and sister were in the kids section, but this kid - probably 7 years old or so - picked up a book about werewolves and came and sat by the folks reading Kerouac. Jim Lang, the main guy organizing this event, asked the boy if he'd like to read a page from his book, and to my surprise and the little guy's credit, he agreed and did a great job. The passage he read was about a telegram, and he would say "stop" at the end of several sentences. You could tell that didn't really make sense to him, so a couple of the poets explained to him what telegrams were and why they would say "stop." For whatever reason, I just knew his parents were going to tell him to leave the book behind, so I gave him the last $1.50 in my pocket to buy it for himself. He did. Now he has a new book to read and I have a shoulder out of socket from patting myself on the back. Seriously, though, it was a good way to finish off the twenty.