Monday, June 30, 2008

Rays of hope indeed!

It's June 30th and the Tampa Bay Rays are in first place, starting a three game series tonight against the second place Boston Red Sox, after which they could be anywhere from 3 1/2 games up to 2 1/2 games behind. The biggest milestones in Rays history are March 9th, 1995 (the day the franchise was awarded) March 31st, 1998 (the first game) and August 7th, 1999 (the night Wade Boggs homered for his 3000th hit), but depending on the outcome, and what happens the rest of the season, the next three days could be somewhere among those momentous occasions.

With so much at stake, now is as good a time as any to assess what your level of support for the beloved home team is:

1) The Die Hard - Goes to games no matter how well or how poorly the team is doing. Knows the team's winning percentage and batting orders against righthanders and lefties. Owns several jerseys.

2) The Fan - Goes to games frequently, or watches them on tv. Knows what place the team is in. Can name most of the starting line-up. Owns a cap.

3) The Bandwagon Jumper - Is aware of the team's general level of performance. Goes to games when the team is doing well. Might buy a t-shirt. Often confused with The Frontrunner (see below) but is generally harmless and should actually be welcomed, as in most cases, there just aren't enough of #1 and #2 to support any professional sports franchise (with the possible exception of some European soccer teams).

4) The Frontrunner - Roots only for teams that are in first place and switches allegiance frequently and easily. Wears several different teams t-shirts at the same time so they can change as the prevailing winds blow. This is the lowest form of parasite in sports (slightly above agents) and should be shunned and avoided at all costs. Where the Bandwagon Jumper says things like "I haven't been to a game all year but they're doing pretty well. I think I'll get tickets this weekend", the Frontrunner says things like "I haven't been to a game all year but I'm blowing off work tomorrow to attend the victory parade". If this is you, we don't need you

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hey bartender!

At my favorite adult gathering place (adult, as in not kids. Kids, and by "kids", I mean "children", if you're reading this, A. Stop it and B. Don't go to my favorite adult gathering place. Nobody wants you there. I consider myself a nobody and I don't want you there, so I guess technically it's nobody DOESN'T want you there. Take that, underage children and English language!) I was recently treated to something I'd never had before: the Bay Breeze, which consists of vodka, pineapple juice and cranberry juice. It's a little fruity, but not too much, and very refreshing. A perfect drink for summertime. I like it so much that when I was invited to a party, I thought it would be nice to make a batch to bring along. I asked the bartender how to make them and she said "I don't really follow a recipe, I just kind of make them. You want to watch me?" I thanked her and told her but I don't really learn visually, or at all for that matter, so I would just get the recipe from the most reliable source of information in the world: the first web site I came across after a cursory search on the internet.

Now, I'm not a bartender but I'm fairly competent when it comes to following clearly worded instructions. And as you can see, the instructions clearly call for 3 parts vodka, one part pineapple juice and one part cranberry juice. 60%, 20% and 20%. Pretty simple! Sure, it sounds kinda strong, but I want it kinda strong. Besides, it's on the internet. What's not to trust? So I got my supplies together and with the aid of my trusty clear Pyrex mixing cup, I started mixing the concoction.

Let me take a second here to tell you a little something about vodka. It's strong stuff with a very unique taste. Like tear gas. There's a reason nobody ever strolls up to a bar and asks for something nice and vodka-ey and that is that nobody really hates themselves that much. You will never see someone just order glasses of straight vodka. The only reason you would ever want to do that is to make the coroner's job a little easier, allowing them to just write the word "vodka" under cause of death. When you get a sip of straight vodka, bolts of invisible lightning form in your mouth, bounce around your sinuses for a few seconds and then shoot of your eye sockets.

At least that's what it seemed like when I took a trial sip. I don't know what the hell happened to all the pineapple and cranberry juice I had poured in there. Maybe the vodka overpowered them, tied them up and stuffed a gag in their mouths so they couldn't warn me to watch out. There was nothing remotely refreshing about it. Getting a shot of pure vodka-flavored vodka when you're expecting something fruity and refreshing will make you temporarily speak another language and it ain't Russian. I think what I said was something like "Wow woo woo wee wow wow woo wow wow". Obviously, any time you put something in your mouth expecting it to be one thing but it turns out to be something else, that's going to happen (apply that to your own personal life experiences if you're having trouble relating to the whole vodka thing. I'm not here to judge).

Anyway, I knew I couldn't tell people I was bringing something called Bay Breeze and then show up with something that was closer to Siberian Winter of Chemical Weapon-Induced Death so I dumped in all the rest of the cranberry juice, all the rest of the pineapple juice, then some orange juice and every ice cube I could get my hands on. That did the trick, which is good because after that, all I had to throw in there would have been milk. Of course, I wouldn't have had this problem if I'd just taken the time to look at another web site or two, such as this one, where you'll notice the ratio of booze to mixers is basically reversed. But, you know, what's the fun in that?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A short conversation about racism aided by the usage of poorly constructed metaphors

"I've discovered that using metaphors and similes enliven my vocabulary and help me express myself more effectively. Therefor, I'm going to start using them more than a million aliens at a carrot picnic. For instance, Mexicans are funnier than a new shrub with purple branches."

"That's so racist it makes coconuts look like a spoon factory."

"I disagree. What you discern as racism smells fishier than a donut factory in Kansas. And we need to be able to talk about it with one another!"

"Yeah, but that's like saying a needle-eyed trout is floppier than a back-twisted fiddlesticker."

"You make it sound like a homeless convict with webbed feet and banana hands. And that simply isn't the case."

"Well, I guess I can see where it would be like trying to stir fry a helicopter."

"I'm glad we were able to reach an agreement on what can be a complex and sensitive issue. It's like I suddenly have anvils in my diaper helmet."

"I've never wanted to run you over with a bulldozer made entirely out of machine guns more than I do right now."

(Thanks, B McB aka K)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

So this is our new coach

Barry Melrose is now officially the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, replacing the recently fired John Tortorella, under whom the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

I don't like it.
Having spent the last 13 years as a tv analyst on ESPN, promoting the mullet as a viable hairstyle and generally not being a hockey coach, in my opinion Melrose is as qualified to lead the Lightning as Willard Scott is to be the director of NOAA.

Of course, I should point out that it might be a good idea to ignore my opinion. After all, I once believed that signing Dave Andreychuk would turn out to be one of the dumbest things the Lightning had ever done.

Get on the bus already, will you Gus?!?

I was driving west down Hillsborough Avenue yesterday afternoon, stuck in late 5:00 rush hour traffic when I glimpsed a man charging full speed down the sidewalk. It had to be about, oh I don't know, 137 degrees out, he was wearing work clothes and charging like an Olympic sprinter. Good for him, I thought. Who needs spandex, optimal training conditions and sensible shoes for a nice workout? I looked a little further down and realized he was trying desperately to catch a bus. It was probably close to a quarter mile away and I didn't think he was going to make it. Now, it's not that I was hoping he wouldn't get there in time. On the contrary, I was rooting for him. I didn't want the poor guy to be late for whatever he was on his way to or anything. It's just that I wouldn't have minded seeing what would happen if he hadn't. Much of what we consider humorous is born from anger and there's no doubt that this would have been one angrily, humorous meltdown. But he did get there, with time to spare as it turns out. He probably could have sauntered leisurely to the bus because he and I had both apparently forgotten that we are in Hillsborough County, where the term "bus stop" is taken quite literally. In most cases, the buses stop right in the middle of the lane when at a bus stop and HARTline buses are known to actually sit parked and block traffic flow for minutes at a time. I don't know what's going on in there, but I've never seen anything like it. I've seen how buses operate elsewhere so I know of what I speak. In Germany, if the schedule says the bus will be there at 8:15, accept it as fact that it will be and proceeding to the next stop before the clock hits 8:16. In New York and Chicago, the buses never actually come to complete stops at any time when taking on or discharging passengers. But in Tampa, I think the following steps are taken every time a passenger gets on:

  1. A fare is paid in rare Asian coins that the driver must count individually by hand.
  2. The driver issues a three-part, hand-written receipt.
  3. The passenger peruses the selection of available seating options, eventually choosing one.
  4. The driver takes a cello lesson.
  5. The previous four steps are repeated until all passengers are seated satisfactorily.
  6. Then and only then, the driver begins seriously considering the resumption of forward progress.

So anyway, the guy got there in time and presumably got to relax in air-conditioned comfort before arriving safely at his destination. Good for him. I honestly would have felt badly otherwise. Laughing hysterically, most likely, but definitely feeling bad about it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'll never grow up

I'm not saying it defiantly, like "I refuse to acknowledge the natural process of aging and will demonstrate it by wearing inappropriately ridiculous clothing, buying a sports car, playing with toys or otherwise acting out, damn it". I mean, I do buy and play with toys, but just because it's fun, not as some kind of statement. No, rather I'm resigned to the fact that I will never really ever be the standard archetype of patriarchal authority figure that is so commonly associated with the word "man". I'm not really sorry about it either. There are so many ways that I'm Not Like The Other Boys that I'm losing count and I simply don't care anymore. I'm just stating facts. And as is the case with most facts, there is evidence to back it up.

I recently did some work for the father of a friend of mine (by the way, I can do some work for you too; just go here to hire me) which turned me instantly into a 15-year-old and I addressed him as Mister followed by his last name. Not only a 15-year-old, but apparently a 15-year-old from the 1950s; "Gee Mr. Williams, you sure got a swell home here!" My friend asked me why I would do such a thing. "Why would you do such a thing?", she asked. She doesn't understand that there is a tiny gland in my brain whose sole purpose is when confronted with interacting with a girl's father under any circumstances to secrete a potent cocktail of pubescent hormones that make me automatically call him Mister. It also causes my voice to crack and a sudden breakout of acne. Plus, I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure that if I'm meeting him for the very first time I actually shrink an inch or two. "Well, what did you expect me to do?", I answered her in the form of a question. I tried to explain that I couldn't just assume instant familiarity: "Well, hiya Jeff! How's it hangin', man? Hey, is your daughter home? What's that? Why yes, I am a douchebag!" "You do know his name isn't Jeff, right?", she asked and I answered that it didn't matter because his name was Mister Her Dad as far as I was concerned. I told her that in these situations while it is possible to start out stiff and formal and gradually work your way into a casual relationship, it absolutely can not work the other way. Especially if he kills you. She rolled her eyes and walked away. I didn't know how else to explain it without role playing the situation with Indiana Jones and Batman action figures, which I just happen to own more than enough of to do so effectively.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

As promised, a post regarding the least serious subject in the universe

Boy oh boy, do I love to fart! Let me tell you all about a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and that rhymes with...

Just kidding. I'm not going to write about farts. Although I could. And might later. Because I do love 'em ever so much.

Speaking of farts, that's about all that Jeeves has been running on for the last couple of days so I absolutely had to get gas today. The tank was so empty the car actually had trouble starting. I drove immediately to my local Sunoco station, which is not only the closest station but is also usually a few cents cheaper than most places. The sign by the road said $3.90 a gallon which is really good for around here right now. When I got to the pump however, the price was $3.95. Bummer. I figured the price had actually just gone up and they just hadn't updated the street sign. I started pumping my gas and as i was finishing up, all the pumps started beeping. I thought that was kind of weird because it was pretty early in the morning, about 7:30, and I was the only person there getting gas. I couldn't figure out why the pumps would be making noise. But when I got done pumping, returned the nozzle to it's cradle and finished paying, my pump beeped too. I looked down and the price had gone down to $3.90! "Ain't that a bi...", I thought and went inside. "Hey, the price just went down!", I said to the woman behind the register. "Yep, sure did! I just changed it a minute ago", she replied happily. 'Yeah, no shit. I figured out your sinister beeping pumps', I thought to myself and mentioned that I had just paid the higher price which didn't seem entirely fair. She said something about being sorry about that, no refunds on gas purchases. "Yeah, but come on. If I had just stopped at a single red light on the way here, I'd have gotten the benefit of the lower price", I protested. "You shouldn't run red lights", she chastised. "Being in a hurry and driving recklessly is not only dangerous but cuts down on your fuel economy as well." Abandoning this argument, I pointed out that the big sign advertised a price that wasn't available when I pulled in, amounting to what is basically a bait-and-switch. Wouldn't it be better to change the price on the pumps before changing the sign and give the customer a pleasant surprise instead of the other way around? She just looked at me with a "now why in the world would we want to do that?" expression on her face. Realizing that I was arguing about less than a dollar and that I wasn't going to win anyway, I gave up and left. But not before taking four cents out of the Take A Penny Leave A Penny cup. Take that, greedy oil barons! The consumer strikes back and as a result Christmas is going to be just that much less merry in Dubai this year.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Looking for some help here

(NOTE: This is my second serious post in a row. Fear not. I promise my very next one will be about the least serious subject in the universe.)

I know the last thing this country needs is yet another special interest group. It seems like every day there's another fresh batch of hyphenated subsets showing up at our doorsteps, whining "but where's miiiiine?".
That said, as far as I can tell there are virtually no resources available for the ex-significant others of those dealing with domestic violence. A certain well known (in Tampa), established victims assistance organization basically refuses to offer any help whatsoever to a person who's only interest and involvement in the situation is not seeing their ex, you know, die. I'm not mentioning it by name because I don't want to disparage an organization that does good work otherwise, but come on.
So if anybody knows of any resources that cater to this particular niche, let me know please.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Bloomingdale Library Assault Victim Fund

No doubt many of you have heard about the attack on the young woman returning books to the public library in Bloomingdale. It's a crime so vicious, ugly and senseless that there are simply no sides to take and no issues to debate. Unfortunately, it looks like that might not turn out to be the case in the aftermath. Here's hoping that this doesn't turn into another moral, ethical and, ultimately, political football, like the Terri Schiavo case. The victim and her family have certainly suffered enough without that circus coming to town again.

In the meantime, while we're all still being civil with one another and are at least in agreement that these people are facing unimaginably horrific circumstances over which they have no control, at least we can help. SunTrust Bank has established the "Bloomingdale Library Assault Victim Fund" Call a local SunTrust Bank branch and tell them that you would like to contribute. Please spread the word about this young woman and her family, so that she is not forgotten, and let others know how they can help, too.

Another musical discovery

I honestly don't understand how anybody who lives here can ever be bored unless they're really going out of their way to make an effort. There is always something going on and whenever you think you've done everything there is to do, you'll come across something new.
For example, this past Saturday night I found myself in an art gallery in downtown St. Pete listening to chamber music. Believe it or not, that's actually not how I spend every Saturday night. Studio@620 was hosting a performance of chamber music by the FloriMezzo Music Festival. It was very casual (nobody was wearing a tux) and entertaining. The musicians experimented with the music and bantered with the audience, explaining things and soliciting feedback. The gallery staff was very friendly and accommodating. Not at all the stuffy, intimidating atmosphere that your average ham-and-egger (like me) might expect. In fact, the exhibit on display "Purses and Passions" featured photos of some of the beloved Tampa Bay Derby Darlins! It was there (Studio@620, not the roller derby) I had the opportunity to speak with Eryn Bauer. She is from Tampa (a 2006 graduate of Chamberlain High School) and is currently a Bassoon Performance Major at the Eastman School of Music in New York. She has soloed with the Tampa Bay Symphony. and is a member of the "Arabesque Winds" woodwind quintet, who recently won the International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition which was held in Carnegie Hall. That means she's talented and stuff. I asked her a few questions:

What the hell is a bassoon?
A bassoon is a double reed woodwind instrument. It is known for having many thumb keys, nine for the left thumb, and five for the right one, and having a humorous and mellow tone.
Ha ha! That is humorous! Why do you play one? You don't have that many thumbs.
When I started playing in middle school nobody else played bassoon and I liked being the only one on my instrument. My mom had always told me that the bassoon is a good instrument to play, and once I started playing it I really liked the sound of it, so I stuck to it!
It's always a good idea to listen to your mother (Hi mom!). But what about chamber music should appeal to jamokes like me? I don't even own a tuxedo.
Everything in chamber music should appeal to the average person. Chamber music is different from an orchestra in that there aren't as many musicians, so there is no conductor. That means that it is the ensembles job to make the musical decisions, decide the tempos, and lead the cues.
No authority figure in the front telling everybody what to do? I like that (Hi mom)! What's FloriMezzo all about and what's so special about it?
FloriMezzo is unique because it allows musicians of many different levels to play together and learn from each other. When you attend a FloriMezzo concert you will be hearing professionals, students, teachers, and community musicians all playing side-by-side.
Can I be in your group? I can play woodblock and triangle and tambourine and cymbals.
So you're a percussionist?
I don't know what how I celebrate holidays has to do with anything.
Well, there might be a place for you with FloriMezzo but the instruments in a woodwind quintet are the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn.
What kind of horn?
A French horn. The French horn is commonly referred to simply as a horn.
That must be strictly a music thing. If you go into a restaurant and just order toast, all you're going to get is hot, crumbly bread. Count your lucky stars, Eryn Bauer!
It would work with fries though.
Ok then! Thanks. I have to go now. I hope to see you at another performance some time.

Upcoming FloriMezzo concert performances:
  • Thursday, June 19th Festival Chamber Concert 7:30pm - First Presbyterian Church, 701 Beach Drive N.E., St. Petersburg, 33701.
  • Sunday, June 22nd Festival Finale Chamber Concert & Reception 2:00pm Palladium Theater 253 5th Avenue N., St. Petersburg, 33701.

Tickets are $10, $12 and $15 and are available at the door before each performance.

Friday, June 13, 2008

From Clark's Kitchen

Oh, hi there! Say, do you eat? Do you enjoy food? Would you be interested in a quick and easy crockpot recipe for chicken noodle soup? Of course you would! Well, here you go...

Clark's Chicken God-Noodle-Damn Soup

1 alarm clock
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 slices bread, crumbled
2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, smashed, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 green peppers, cut into strips
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • Set alarm clock for one hour earlier than you usually get up.
  • Get up when it goes off and go into kitchen.
  • In a medium bowl, beat eggs lightly; add milk and bread and let stand for about 5 minutes.
  • Add ground beef, onion, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper; mix gently until well blended.
  • Shape into about 24 meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Place meatballs in a generously greased large shallow baking pan.
  • Bake meatballs at 450° for 25 minutes.
  • Get ready for work while meatballs are baking.
  • Put meatballs, spaghetti sauce, onions, peppers and mushrooms in large crockpot.
  • Set on crockpot on "low" and go to work for 8 hours.
  • Anticipate all day long the delicious aroma that will greet you when you get home and what a perfect beginning to the weekend that will be.
  • Arrive home and think "that's odd, I thought it would smell stronger than that".
  • Discover that crockpot was never plugged in.
  • Swear.
  • Open can of chicken noodle soup and nuke it in the microwave.
  • Continue swearing
  • Serve in your favorite unnecessarily large cereal bowl in an attempt to compensate for the bitter disappointment and anger churning in your stomach (note: it won't work).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A short conversation about this fully armed and operational battle station

"Fire at will, commander (destroys the planet of Alderaan). Well, what do you think about th...wait a minute. Are-are you doing that sarcastic slow clap thing? God, I hate that!"

"Yeah, well, wow. Way to go. This is a big moment for you, I guess?"

"I just destroyed an entire planet!"

"Yeah, I saw that. A planet that I had just told you was a peaceful world with no weapons."


"It wasn't even moving! I mean, other than it's natural rotation around however many suns they have...excuse me, had. You dick."

"I-I can not comprehend how you are not suitably impressed by this awesome display of destructive might!"

"What's the big deal? You and a whole crew of guys were able to sneak up on an unarmed, stationary target the size of a planet and hit it with a laser that had to warm up like a 1950's television. What is that, a cathode ray tube? It's really not all that impressive when you think about it."

"That was Alderaan! Your home planet! All your friends and family, dead! Just like that!"

"Ok, Let me explain something to you. I'm a princess, I was a member of the Imperial Senate, I'm a leader of the rebel alliance, space travel is my primary mode of transportation and I happen to look smokin' hot in a metallic bikini. In other words, I have a lot going on and I don't have time to get weepy every time I hear bad news from back home. I'm not exactly the kind of person who's going to show up at the high school reunion, you know?"

"I...I don't know what to say."

"Listen, I know you're all really super impressed with your new, gigantic, spherical toy. Very subtle, by the way. Where's the other one?"

"I...uh, I don't get...what do you mean?"

"Never mind. What do you call this thing anyway?"

"It's a Death Star!"

"Death Star?!? You have got to be kidding. You should have called it 'Planet Lame'. How do you get to work every morning? In your Doom Cruiser or your Destructomobile? Or does your mom drop you off?"

"Now wait a minute..."

"What a bunch of losers. It might have been a better idea if you'd blown up the planet filled with teddy bears. They pose more of a threat than Alderaan ever did. After all, they have rocks and sticks."

"Well, now I think you're just trying to be hurtful..."

"Whatever. I'm going back to my suite. I noticed you assholes forgot to cover the exhaust port so try not to get this stupid thing blown up before I get rescued, okay? How's that for constructive criticism?"

"(Under his breath) See? Was that so hard?"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Always take the weather with you

I grew up in the midwest where I learned to be terrified of tornadoes. I've never witnessed one in person but religious zealots from all faiths will tell you that a lack of actual practical life experience doesn't have to prohibit you from living with irrational, paralyzing fears. As a result, even visual images of tornadoes, like this one, scare me. The black and white beginning of "The Wizard Of Oz" creeps me out. Even "Twister", possibly the dumbest movie ever made, gives me chills. Such is life.

One of the things I considered to be a plus when I moved to Florida was escaping the damn things. Sure, I would be trading "up" for hurricanes and other tropical storms which are generally far more destructive. But in most cases, a tropical storm will give you a day or two's head start before it comes and beats the crap out of you and your stuff. If you think about it, hurricanes are like schoolyard bullies. They give you repeated warnings, telling you exactly where and when they plan on kicking your ass, allowing you at least a little time to arrange an escape of some sort. Or you can stick around and take your chances with the knowledge that many times they're not as tough as they appear and sometimes they don't even show up at all. Not so with tornadoes, who are more like ninjas. They announce their arrival by arriving suddenly amid a swarm of dark, sinister clouds, spinning around a lot and unleashing an ungodly howl before kicking you around the yard for a while and then disappearing into nothingness. That hardly seemed fair, so while I had some trepidations about moving from one end of the country to another, I was glad to leave the stupid things behind.

What also didn't seem fair was finding out Florida has tornadoes that are just as nasty as the ones up north. Sometimes they precede or even accompany hurricanes. Isn't that funny? Ha ha ha! Yeah, I didn't think so either. Upon learning this, I felt like a character in one of those Faustian tales where someone trades their soul to Satan to fulfill their lifelong dream to be the greatest musician the world has ever seen and they wind up with the ability to be a virtuoso, but can only play bagpipes. Granted, tornadoes happen less frequently here, but they're like speeding tickets; it only takes one to completely ruin your day.

So yesterday around 4:30 in the afternoon during a standard Florida afternoon thunderstorm, when we looked out the window at work and saw ourselves being bombarded by hail, I immediately flashed back to being a youngster watching those horrifying duck-and-cover style educational films in school. The ones we watched every spring that told us that if we heard the siren wailing and we couldn't get to a basement, or a ditch outdoors, we should curl up in a ball and hope that there were enough windows open to keep the pressure from building up and making your home or school explode like a hydrogen bomb. A co-worker said "Doesn't hail mean that tornadoes are coming?" My mouth replied calmly, "Well, it's an indication that conditions might be favorable for the possible formation of tornadoes" while my brain screamed silently, "Yes! The tornadoes are definitely here for us and nothing can sate their savage, destructive hunger. Prepare for Judgment Day, for we are in Florida, where buildings have no basements and we are truly doomed." It was windy as hell for a little while but the storm subsided without incident...this time. This was good because if I'd actually seen a funnel cloud, I don't mind admitting that I'd have cried out for my Auntie Em. And I don't even have one.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Takin' it for the team; Let's hear it for the DDs!

If you have friends who like to go out and have a good time, you know that sometimes you have to take your turn being the Designated Driver (DD). Not getting to drink is a very small price to pay when the alternative is putting yourself or people you care about at risk of getting a DUI, DWI or something worse. Personally, I believe drunk driving is the dumbest crime anyone can ever commit since it's so unnecessary. There are always alternatives and to ignore them is just selfish and stupid.

Besides, it's not like it's a completely thankless job:
  • You get to take care of your friends and help keep them safe from harm, which feels nice.
  • Unless your friends are complete assholes, they'll sincerely appreciate your sacrifice and let you know about it.
  • While you may only be drinking soft drinks, fruit juice or water, you probably won't have to pay for it.
  • In most cases, you'll probably get dinner out of it too.
  • And there's the added benefit of still getting to spend time with your friends and enjoy their bad behavior with the benefit of an unimpaired view.
For example, I recently served as DD for a group of friends who wanted to enjoy the splendor of Ybor City, a place where you can witness a group of young men marketing their Christian/Hardcore band by walking up and down the street holding up a sign reading "Poop" and it probably won't be the strangest thing you see.
We visited a hookah lounge at the corner of 7th Avenue and 17th Street, underneath a tattoo/piercing parlor and next door to a Subway restaurant. Smoking from a hookah was something they'd never done before and that they were curious to investigate apparently. No problem. Since I wasn't drinking, it was very easy for me to say "no thanks". They got some kind of substance that was supposed to be watermelon flavored and most of the group thought that was what it tasted like. One very vocal member, however, insisted it "tastes like a Strawberry Shortcake doll smells". She also later said it tasted like a blueberry Pop Tart. It didn't exactly smell like watermelon to me, but it also didn't smell like a doll or a Pop Tart to me either. She asked why I didn't want any and I reminded her, "Hi, have we met? I'm Clark and I'm a non-smoker". "So am I!", she responded, as smoke billowed from her mouth and nose like a dragon. Later, on the drive home she made a remark about how interesting looking the guard rail along I-275 looked as we drove by. This was prior to her announcing "I feel weird". No kidding? You're an inebriated non-smoker who's spent the last hour and a half attached to a bong that smelled like somebody set fire to a bag of wet Skittles that you say tasted like either a toy or a toaster pastry who finds guardrails aesthetically intriguing. I don't see how you can even define "weird" at this point, let alone know if you feel that way or not.
The evening was capped off with breakfast at Ihop that took nearly 20 minutes to order due to a nearly fatal case of giggles. I don't know how they do it but waitresses on the graveyard shift must either absolutely love or hate their jobs. There can't be any middle ground there. I think they deserve at least as much love and admiration as the DDs and maybe more in some cases.

Bottom line is just because you're the DD doesn't mean you can't have a good time.


Made up words beginning with the letter "i" are very popular these days: iPod, iMeem, IHOP. One of the most popular made-up i-words in the whole, wide world is poised to hit Tampa in 2009 but is already making a major impact: Ikea. The Dutch home products retailer broke ground on their new store here in Tampa this past Wednesday with the intent of opening next summer. This news is apparently a very big deal as noted in the St. Pete Times:
"The field of dirt featured no sparkling showrooms, no cafeteria with Swedish meatballs, no stylish furniture to buy.
Yet Claire Pustarfi, Kelly Hickman and Charlene Beverly were giddy over the possibilities as they scurried across a dusty lot to attend Wednesday's Ikea store groundbreaking ceremony."
Here's another i-word for you: iDon'tgetit. I'm not being critical. Seriously. I don't know enough anything about the Ikea phenomenon to criticize it so that wouldn't be fair. But when the rubber meets the road, it is just a store...right? And a store that isn't even going to open for more than a year shouldn't inspire rational people to scurry giddily around construction sites and lovingly create blogs about the subject, should it? Yet when I ask questions like these (strictly in an attempt to become informed, not to create mockery...honest) to those who do know, I sort of feel like I'm facing down Donald Sutherland at the end of "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers":
"So what's the big deal?"
"It's Ikea! It's amazing! The Ikea experience is coming to Tampa!"
"'The Ikea experience'?!? Now I'm getting scared."
"You shouldn't be. You're not afraid of Target, right?"
"I guess not. Target is a fine store."
"Okay, Ikea is like Target on steroids!"
"Well, why didn't you say so? You know there's no endorsement that carries more weight with me than association with a substance that has done so much for so many people!"
"Why do you hate Ikea, Clark?"
"I don't hate Ikea! I just don't understand. I mean, it's a furniture store, right?"
"No, it's not just 'a furniture store'. It's a complete marketplace environment that is going to feature 10,000 exclusively designed items, three model home interiors, 50 room settings, a 300 seat restaurant and a supervised play area for children."
"Wow. You sure know a lot about Ikea."
"And it's going to employ 400 people, Clark. And I'm going to be one of them! I'm going to work for Ikea. For free. That's right! They don't have to pay me. It will be reward enough to just be there, letting Ikea wash over me like golden rays of light."
"I'm...going to leave now."
"Have a meatball, Clark. You'll feel better. Ikeabots, seize him!"

Friday, June 06, 2008

Think fast!

WARNING: This post isn’t really about Sharon Stone or what she said about China that upset everyone. Rather it’s about a person’s (my) reaction upon first learning that Sharon Stone had said something about China that upset everyone. If a search engine has sent you here seeking a blogger’s opinion on Ms. Stone and/or the remarks she made, sorry about that. Please hit the “back” button on your browser and visit any of the 18 billion blogs that talk about it. Thanks and have a super day!

It’s old news that in today’s society we are bombarded constantly with information. Ads, news, entertainment, warnings and instructions are being fired at us from all directions at once during every waking minute of our lives. I have difficulty comprehending how older people who didn’t grow up conditioned to absorb this constant multimedia onslaught keep their heads from exploding. I also can’t imagine how it can possibly get any more intense than it already is, although I have no doubt in my mind that it will.
Since there is so much information clamoring for our attention, it’s being delivered in shorter, faster and more concentrated doses. As such, we’ve been forced to receive and process the content in a manner not unlike a crack addict on a caffeine jag playing charades like our lives depend on it. Because maybe it does. Who knows? If we don't digest everything, we might actually miss something.

I was in line at the post office the other day where there was a tv mounted on the wall showing CNN. Across the bottom of the screen, along with two stock market tickers and that night’s American League pitching match-ups (the screen shown here looks positively barren by comparison), ran a crawl that read “CHINA ANGRY OVER SHARON STONE’S QUAKE KARMA REMARKS”. For the less than five seconds it took for the words to travel across the screen, my brain went to work as follows:

CHINA – "Beijing. Olympics. Protests. Great wall. Chinese food. Chicken lo mein would be good for dinner. Lo mein rhymes with ptomaine. Maybe I don’t want Chinese food tonight."
"Mad. Grumpy. Grouchy. Hostile. Dick Cheney."
"Easy. Under. Done. We have clearance, Clarence. What’s our vector, Victor?"
SHARON - "Umm, I don't know...Stone?"

STONE – "Yay! I guessed it!"
"Earthquake. Housequake. Youthquake. Quake cereal. Quisp cereal! I’ll have cereal for dinner instead of Chinese food."
"Instant karma’s gonna get you. We all shine on. Shiny happy people. REM. I'm sleepy."
REMARK – "Reflect. Reflex. Relax. Don’t do it. Frankie Goes To Hollywood. When two tribes go to war…My god, Sharon Stone has said something that has caused China to declare war on us!!"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Talkin' dirty after dark

From time to time, I get called by a marketing firm to participate in consumer focus groups. This is a paid gig and doesn't come around that often, simply because they don't want to talk to the same people over and over again. They're also usually seeking feedback from certain target demographics so even if you're called, there's no guarantee you'll be selected unless you make it through a detailed screening process. It just so happens that I recently dropped significant cash on car repairs so I really need money right now. So when the call came in with an offer for $100 for a two hour discussion, I was thrilled. After you do enough of these, sometimes you can get a read from the screener what they're looking for and you can kind of steer your answers toward what they want ("Did I say I don't drink ginger ale? What I meant was I not only drink it but frequently buy extra so I can bathe in it."). It's kind of the opposite of what you try to pull when you're called for jury duty; you actually want to be detained and locked in a windowless room with a bunch of strangers for a period of time.

As it turns out, the nature of this particular study was adult entertainment, specifically that which is available on cable television. I don't think I'm allowed to tell you the brand. Maybe you can guess. I don't know. I don't think I'm even allowed to give hints. Sorry. Anyway, as part of the screening process, the lady who called from the research firm asked the usual questions about age, race, line of work and such but also concentrated on two particular points:

  1. You will be required to view and provide feedback regarding sexually explicit video clips and images.
  2. You must be comfortable speaking in front of others and discussing and viewing adult content material.

She made a point of asking about these points several times, which is totally understandable. Obviously, they want to make sure they get people who aren't shy with what can be a sensitive topic. Now, I like to think I'm pretty liberal but I'd also like to think I'm discrete and polite, and that can come off as being a bit of a prude. So while I'm not necessarily uncomfortable talking about porn, it's probably not among the first three or four topics I'm liable to bring up while making small talk with someone. I don't think that makes me a weirdo but maybe I'm wrong. Like I said, being a veteran I kind of know how to manipulate the game at this point. And being desperate for money, I'm willing to do whatever it takes.

SCREENER LADY: "What, if any adult men's magazines do you read on a regular basis?"
ME: "Read? Hmmm..."
SCREENER LADY: "Well, you, enjoy."
ME: "I'm not sure what the name of it is because it's all in German".
SCREENER LADY: "Oh. Ok. Uhh..."
ME: "Which is odd, since all the models are Asian, you know?"
SCREENER LADY: "Well, all right. Uhh..."
ME: "I just ask the guy behind the counter for one of the ones where they're all wearing rubber outfits."
SCREENER LADY: "That's great. Now, um, how can you assure me that you will be comfortable discussing this type of material in front of strangers?"
ME: "Well, would you like to hear me recite a list of crude euphemisms for female genitalia to the tune of 'Turkey In the Straw?'"
SCREENER LADY: "Uh, no. That won't be necessary."
ME: "Are you sure? There's two verses and a chorus..."
SCREENER LADY: "No, no, that's ok. I think you'll do fine. These are just questions I need to ask. You understand, right?"

Sure, I understood. The main thing was that I was in!

The discussion took place tonight and consisted of me and nine other dudes (surprise, no women) sitting around talking about what kind of programming could be added to a certain cable tv channel to get us ten dudes to spring pay for it. There's always one person who is more vocal at these things who tends to dominate (or try to anyway) the discussion who made an appeal for programming with some character development so it would draw his wife into it and become something they both could enjoy together. Doesn't that sound nice? However, this same guy later in the discussion also said he'd subscribe if the directors would "just pan down and zoom in already". I guess the characters he wanted to develop wouldn't have speaking parts. I'm not sure how much his Mrs. would enjoy that, but what do I know? The guy moderating the groups said he was only talking to 20 people, our group of ten dudes and another ten that was in before us, so we all represented, like, 10 to 20 million dudes each. That's a lot of dudes and a lot of responsibility! Suddenly. I kind of felt like a senator. A dirty senator ("The chair recognizes the distinguished gentleman from Smutslvania." "Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm here to express concern about the rising price of petroleum products..."). When it was my turn to talk, I campaigned for entertainment in adult entertainment. Now that I was guaranteed to get paid I didn't have to worry very much about what I said. I told him if it's adult entertainment show me some programming with comedy, drama, sports, current events...but strictly for grown-ups. Seriously, I probably would pay for that. Does anybody remember that's sort of what we were all promised cable tv was going to be when it first started? But I don't think that's what they were looking for as they kept going back to Mr. Pan Down, Zoom In. I kind of feel like I let my constituents down and they probably won't elect me to a second term. Not that I mind. I was only in it for the $100, which is a bargain rate, considering that there are people that get $3.95 a minute to talk about sex. What can I say? I'm cheap.

"Massive Confederate flag flies in Tampa"

I can't, don't and won't speak for anybody else but I'm a lot more worried about the people who get worked up about flags, one way or the other, than I am about the flags themselves.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Look what I found

Ok, first of all I am aware that I am not the first person who found a musical artist that you've probably never heard of and had the idea to write about it in their blog (can you even imagine how rich that person must be? I'll bet they own a car!). However...
This is Jen Leigh and I accidentally found her on line late last night while goofing around on MySpace. If you like women who play guitar (and seriously, who in their right mind doesn't?), you owe it to yourself to check her out. Plus she loves dogs which would be enough for me to be a fan even if her music stunk, so it's a bonus that it doesn't. She's played with lots of different artists, including Michael Jackson, George Clinton & P-FUNK, Kelis, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Merl Saunders & the Rainforest Band, Vicki Randle, Cindy Blackman, Chuck Rainey and Buddy Miles among others.
This is her solo stuff. I'm not sure if it's rock with a funky edge or funk with a rock edge or edge with a rocky funk. I'm not very good at labelling stuff. But it's good music and I really, really like it.
Therefor, I humbly submit my official recommendation that you check her out and if you like her music (and I think you will), you can buy it here.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Babbette would like to be added as one of my friends!

Yeah, I bet she would...

Folks, one of these girls (it really doesn't matter which one) is Babbette and she just sent me an email via MySpace requesting to be added to my list of MySpace friends. This picture of her and a friend (it really doesn't matter who's who) in their skimpies is what's posted on her MySpace page. I get between 10 and 20 requests like this from girls just like Babbette here (whichever one she is) every week and I always turn them down. But I've been thinking, maybe I shouldn't do that. I mean, I don't know very much about Babbette, other than from what I can see in the picture that her shirt doesn't fit very well. What kind of superficial jerk would I be to reject someone's plea for friendship just because of something like that? We've all had laundry mishaps! I examined her online profile and listed among her interests is "HAVING FUN!". Well heck, I like fun! I also looked at pictures of her other MySpace friends and they're all girls kind of like her, dressed very casually (very very casually) and lounging about in bed. They have names like "Extreme Ass", "Candy Lips" "Berry Wild" and "Spicy Girl". Maybe Babbette is tired of lazy friends named after food items with low self esteem and is looking to expand her horizons. You know, that's probably why she sought me out.

"Gee, I sure wish I could find just one friend who's into music and midgets, afraid of giraffes and old enough to be my dad. Oh look, here's one! I'll ask to be his friend {BEEP} I sure hope he says yes! {BOOP} Oh dear, he said no! (sob, whimper)"

That's kind of heartbreaking, isn't it? Now I feel terrible. I think I should accept Babbette's request to be my Friend. This is an opportunity for me to demonstrate how thoughtful, sensitive and empathetic an individual I really am. Yes, I am sure this is the thing to do. After all, being a truly conscientous member of the human race means being committed to the well-being and benefit of those in need.
Man, I sure hope she's the brunette. Ga ga ga gooie!