Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moving Tales Part II

(Note: For best results, scroll down and read Moving Tales Part I first.)

There’s a bookcase that’s been in my family since at least 1975. I think it goes back even further, but I might be confusing it with another bookcase. I can’t remember exactly what this one looked like before it received its current paint job. It’s not an heirloom, nor was it expensive as far as I know; in fact, it looks like something you might buy at Ikea, circa 1975, for $8.

It didn’t really become memorable until my older brother was allowed to decorate his bedroom. He chose a décor of purple and silver accessorized with a purple candle on a black four-foot-tall stand, purple walls, a lava lamp, and aromas of incense. The bookcase was purple with metallic silver lining on the shelves. (Think Barney with foil accents.) My brother had always planned on being a lawyer with a vague notion of running for political office someday. Of course, secret photos of this bedroom would ruin a politician (as opposed to posing nude in Cosmopolitan). But all in all, this was a typical teenager’s room in 1975.

Through the years, as we six kids moved from bedroom to basement and back again, or moved out and got on with our lives, the bookcase traveled as well. The last place I remember it occupying at my parents’ house was my younger brother’s room where it was painted blue but retained the shiny silver shelves. Some years later, I finally graduated college, was thrust out into the real world, and moved into the big city. My parents helped me move. Actually, they totally moved me for reasons I won’t get into. They loaded the u-haul themselves then drove it to my new apartment in the big city where I awaited. So I’m going to speculate that, as my dad finished loading the truck, he saw the opportunity to get rid of a few things he and my mom no longer wanted.

And that’s how I inherited the silver and blue bookcase.

But for a poor, struggling professional whose net worth was about $1.99, the bookcase came in handy. I had books and CDs and stuff that needed to be put somewhere easily accessible. So, simple as it was, it was much appreciated throughout my bachelorhood. I was more interested in function than color-coordinated décor. Alas, the long winding road led me to Texas and St. Pauli Girl. When I moved in, we put all of my non-vital belongings in the garage. Daily, St. Pauli Girl perused my stuff and mentally noted which things to get rid of. Somehow, someway, the bookcase always made the cut as I always needed some shelving to store books that I never read or referenced. Finally, at our last house, she’d had enough, and the bookcase was banished to the backyard shed where it was employed to host tools, paint, and other hardware which we seldom used.

Finally, in March 2009, it was time for another move. This move would be 400 miles (which still didn’t even come close to the border of Texas). Even though Rip-Cat was eliminated from our Rolodex, I knew St. Pauli Girl would still call them. Luckily, they didn’t do long distance moves. We ended up hiring one of those big name, professional moving companies. The day of the move, everything went smooth, and I personally ensured they had loaded everything. “This is great,” I thought. “Movers that actually move everything.”

Three days later, we arrived at our present house. The movers did a great job and put everything where we asked. This house was smaller than our previous house, so they unloaded a lot of furniture into the detached garage. We didn’t go through the inventory list, as we weren’t too concerned about anything missing. (In twenty years, my net worth had probably only risen to $4.99.)

Two or three months later we decided to clean up and organize the garage where all of our extra stuff was crammed into a narrow space. Slowly, we worked our way through the boxes. Near the end of our long day, I noticed a stack of blue splintered wood taped together laying on the floor. I pulled it apart, scratching my head trying to figure out what it was. The old blue bookcase! It had been shattered into about six large, flat pieces. Someone had ripped the wood apart, then wrapped it all together in one neat package. The movers?

I wondered if it was the result of anger on the movers’ part. Perhaps one of them was an interior designer on the side, and the silver and blue bookcase insulted his profession? Or maybe they all resented that we had so much junk, so they carried the poor misfit bookcase to the alley and smashed it into bits with highflying karate kicks?

But then it dawned on me. Since the bookcase was in the tool shed, it was probably one of the last items loaded. It probably didn’t quite fit. So, since these guys were professionals, they destroyed it to make it fit rather than leave it behind Rip-Cat style. Then, upon arrival at the new house, they casually unloaded the kit of broken shelves and hid it between other items of stored furniture hoping it wouldn’t be discovered until long after their departure. (Long after we’d signed off on the contract.)

It still bugs me. Couldn’t they have just showed it to me and said, “Sorry dawg, it just couldn’t handle the trip.” No big deal. We wouldn’t have cared if some cheap old shelves were the only casualty of the move. The bookcase was worth maybe 75 cents. But no, they had to sneak the shattered pieces in and hope we wouldn’t call the moving company and complain. After two or three days (or months, in our case), who’s to say who destroyed it?

I imagine they sit around at other jobs and talk about that ugly blue bookcase:

“Man, we sure got away with that one.”

“Dude, that was genius, taping the pieces together like we had actually taken it apart.”

“That thing should have been in the dump forty years ago.”

“We sure showed it who was boss!”

Silver and blue bookcase:
RIP March 9, 2009.

(Note: we suspect the time of death was actually between March 6 and March 9).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Moving Tales Part I

I well remember the first time real movers actually moved me. My stuff, I mean. I was being transferred within my company to a distant city, so my employer picked up my moving expenses. The day of the move, I woke up, let the movers in, then sat and watched them. I didn’t even have to pack one box. Granted, I was 29 and lived in a one-bedroom apartment with old milk crates as bookshelves. In fact, I could tell the movers intentionally moved slow to drag the day out and get in a good six hours of work. Regardless, it was so painless I decided I would never move by myself again.

And I didn’t. Two years later, I hired movers to move my furniture across town. Fast forward to my moving in with St. Pauli Girl. We rented a house for a year before purchasing one roughly ten minutes away. We moved what we could in our cars and hired a “discount” company she had used in the past to move the furniture. We’ll call that company Rip-Cat.

I went to work the day of the move and enjoyed another stress-free move. Afterwards, I stopped at the old house only to find a pile of blankets and a big easy chair in the living room. “Hmmm, guess they’ll be coming back for that,” I thought. But no. I went back to the new house where St. Pauli Girl informed me that the chair wouldn’t fit on the moving truck, so the movers just left it behind. “But they’re movers,” I said. “They’re supposed to move our stuff. All of it.” We never did get the chair (it was old and in bad shape anyway) but were assessed $50 by the landlord for its removal.

A year later, we moved again. With great reluctance, I let St. Pauli Girl hire Rip-Cat again mostly because they were really cheap. Now this one was partially my fault. It was the first time I had sold a house, and no one bothered to explain that when you close the deal, you’re expected to have moved out at that point. I figured we could move when it was convenient. But it’s not like we waited a month; we moved out the day after closing because that’s when our new house was available. Anyway, at 10:00 a.m., Rip-Cat still hadn’t shown up. Meanwhile, the buyer’s realtor knocked on the door and wanted to know if we intended to vacate the house. Rip-Cat finally arrived just before the buyer’s friends arrived in pickup trucks with her furniture. So we were moving out at the exact time they were moving in. To make things easier, St. Pauli Girl and I moved all of our stuff to the garage while the Rip-Cat movers loaded it on the truck We still had a half-garage full of stuff when Rip-Cat announced that the truck was full, and they were pulling out. “But you’re movers,” I said again. “You’re supposed to move all of our stuff.” But there was no time to argue. I had to make 3 or 4 trips in my car to clear out the garage.

Two years later, time to move again. This time we were moving to a town 120 miles away. “This time we will call real movers,” I told St. Pauli Girl. “Real movers actually come to your house, look at all your stuff, know ahead of time what they are supposed to move, quote you a price, and know immediately how big a truck they need and how many movers it will take.”

Real movers are also outrageously expensive. So . . . St. Pauli Girl called Rip-Cat. In their defense, this time a guy actually came out and looked over everything. And then quoted us an unbelievably low price. Despite my misgivings, my wallet overruled me.

The day of the move, we waited and waited. Finally, we called Rip-Cat, and they assured us they were on their way. The movers showed up at 1:00 p.m. fresh from moving someone’s piano across town. “Um, you do realize we are moving 120 miles from here?” we asked the movers.

“What? That’s impossible,” said the lead mover, flipping through his notebook.

“I’m quite certain where we are moving to,” I replied.

“Man, Gary did it to us again.” The lead mover called Gary, his boss. I listened to him cuss back and forth before he finally hung up and rubbed his forehead. “If we knew we were leaving town, we’d have brought the good truck. I’m not sure this one will make it.”

They finally jumped into action. And of course we helped-- otherwise it would have been midnight before we got to our new house. At about 5:00, the truck was getting full. The movers said that’s all they could do. “But, but, but, there’s the grill, the smoker and half a garage full of stuff. You’re movers! You’re supposed to move all our stuff. Gary did an inventory a week ago!”

St. Pauli Girl took charge of the situation and started loading more stuff on the truck herself. We probably crammed in another 400 pounds before she decided that’s all the truck could handle. Not too bad; we could get the rest in our cars on another trip.

The caravan headed south and arrived at our new house about 8:00. One mover stood in the back of the truck throwing down stuff to the other mover, St. Pauli Girl, her two kids, one of their friends and myself. I’ve never worked so hard in my life—and paid for it. We got the truck unloaded in just under two hours. Then I had to talk to Gary on the phone.

“You know the price I quoted you was for a cross-town move,” he said. “Two hours and 120 miles away is going to be a little more expensive.”

“But, but, but, you came and looked at our stuff, and we told you where we were moving to. You wrote stuff down.” His daughter had just had a baby that day, he explained. He might have forgotten the details.

But the new price was still pretty good, so I simply said “fine.”

“And don’t worry about the guys,” Gary said. “I told them to take their time coming back, and I’d pick up their dinner tab.”

Rip-Cat was finally eliminated from our Rolodex. We decided we couldn’t afford even their cheap rates. And I’ll bet anything those movers are still trying to get Gary to reimburse them for their fast food dinner.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Perhaps We Need an Elevator

We moved into this house ten months ago. It’s been over 20 years since St. Pauli Girl or I had lived in a house with stairs. But this shouldn’t be a problem. We’re two adults able to walk and chew gum at the same time. (Actually, I hate gum; maybe I can’t do that.) Regardless--other than the fact that we’re getting older and tend to tire more easily--we should be able to safely navigate our stairs. There’s no need for a fancy chairlift, even if the manufacturer guarantees they will strong-arm Medicare into paying for it.

I needed no adjustment. I greeted the stairs like a long lost friend, quickly returning to the habits I had when I was a kid: dashing up the stairs two steps at a time, jump-landing from the bottom fourth step, sliding down the banister, or sledding down on a flattened box. (Okay, maybe at this house I just did the first two, for old time’s sake.) But a few months ago while running up the stairs, I took a mighty leap and slammed my toes into the step above. I keeled over in pain. Not one to give up easily, I did it again a few weeks later. This time there was blood and probably broken bones. This time I finally learned my lesson: I was going to have to start walking up the stairs like an adult.

Then I got new shoes. The shoes were slightly larger and clunkier than my previous pair. So of course the first time I went down the stairs in them, the heel caught the edge of the step and I promptly slid halfway down on my back. So the stairs have been a bit of a demon in our house.

Even our previously-stairless dogs have issues with the stairs. They will not attempt to climb them even while chasing a cat. We have to carry them up if we want to hang out with them in our upstairs den. At one point, in an attempt to teach them stair-climbing, St. Pauli Girl set one of the dogs down a few steps from the top. He instantly went limp, extended his four legs and slid all the way to the bottom on his tummy. We are considering a doggie stairlift, if Medicare will pay for it.

Last week, I was working in my home office. St. Pauli Girl’s daughter was also visiting, and I knew she was roaming about the house. I heard a loud thud, like someone dropping a heavy box to the floor. I didn’t even pause. That must be St. Pauli Girl’s daughter moving some stuff around, I thought. A few minutes later St. Pauli Girl came into my office. “Did you not hear me fall down the stairs?” she asked.

“Um, no. You fell down the stairs?”

“I hit my back, hard. I laid there for like, five minutes.”

“Oh. Are you all right?”

“I hurt my back. I’ll bet the bruise will be this big,” she said, holding her hands about two feet apart.

“That’s awful.”

St. Pauli Girl slowly limped away.

Now this is where some marriage advice would have come in handy. Unfortunately, we were married by Elvis in Vegas, and the only advice I got was never double down against an ace and always split your eights. The proper response would have been for me to come running when I heard the thud, carry St. Pauli Girl down the stairs and offer her first aid and comfort. At the very least, a shot of whiskey. But I’d had my own trouble with the stairs and hey, I lived to tell about it. (This is the kind of dumb guy thinking that should go away at some point after the age of 16.)

Later that night, St. Pauli Girl casually mentioned, “So if I’m out in the garden some day and just keel over, I’m going to die out there, right? Will you even bother to look for me if I’ve been gone for several hours?”

“Of course I would. No later than sunset.”

She just stared at me.

“Yelling would help. If you yelled, I would definitely come running.”

Somehow one of us skillfully changed the subject. But she couldn’t resist needling me, “If I fall down the stairs but no one is around to hear it, did I really fall?”

A few days later, the bruise finally appeared, and she had her sweet vindication. So I have learned not to ignore things that go bump, bang, or ka-boom. But hopefully, everyone has learned that a yell, shriek or moan, if physically possible, is the best way to draw attention to a medical emergency. Even old people on those medical alert commercials yell, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” when it’s obvious they aren’t getting up.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our Life in the Music Industry

Our dearly departed restaurant, hereafter referred to as Good Eats, had a wonderful, large patio with plenty of space for live music. And live music is big here. Or so we were told. Having never booked musical acts before, I thought long and hard about the process: pay, contracts, licensing, managers, booking agencies. Come to find out, I thought way too much. In the end, we posted some trial ads on Craigslist. Bands came pouring out of the hills, clawing at each other in desperation to play on our restaurant patio.

Negotiations were easy as well. “This is how much we pay,” we’d say, and 99% of the time, the bands said “Okay.” Of course we couldn’t afford much, nor could we charge a cover because of the unfenced courtyard layout, so we usually just ended up with two people playing guitars and singing.

We were very lucky in finding a couple of good acts right off considering we were going on ad responses or maybe hearing just a few songs on their myspace pages. But then there were the acts that made us glad we don’t have to deal with booking bands anymore since Good Eats’ demise. Such as . . .

. . . Desperately needing to fill a sudden vacant spot in our schedule, we contacted a guy who had responded to one of our ads. He had no songs for us to listen to but he promised he played Americana and sounded a lot like Buddy Holly. He showed up with what I thought was his drummer carrying a small wooden box. I showed them where to set up; the “drummer” set his box down then sat in a chair while Buddy Holly II set up his amps and whatnot.

“Maybe he has a set of bongos in that box,” I thought to myself as I watched the drummer sitting and smoking. After a quick sound check from Buddy, they started the show with the drummer sitting on the box and pounding out a rhythm with his hands on the box. I remember calling St. Pauli Girl and saying, “Yeah, he showed up. With a, uh, boxer.” It was weird, but the music wasn’t half-bad. As far as the singer sounding like Buddy Holly, he kinda did—if you consider it the voice of a dead Buddy Holly that has been decomposing for 40 years.

. . . Then there was the commensurate professional musician that visited us one day. He informed us that we couldn’t afford him, but he’d like to talk to us about getting the music up and running. He gave us some ideas and came back fairly often, which was odd for someone so expensive. Finally, he revealed to us he wanted to play there by himself without his band. So we gave him the standard rate. He was a no show. We never saw him again.

. . . And once, we somehow booked a 7-piece blues band for $200! They were good, and we liked them. We called back a week later wanting to book them again. The guy we dealt with before told us we had to call another guy because he wasn’t allowed to book the band anymore. Apparently, the band didn’t know they were playing for only $200 until after the show. It seems the ex-booker didn’t know he was supposed to negotiate a minimum rate for the band.

. . . Bands and musicians seemed to materialize on our doorstep, dropping off CDs or just flat out asking if they could play: one guy told us he would play just for tips because he was only in town for a short time and wanted to play with his son who lived there. Sure, no problem. We didn’t know what to expect from the gravel-voiced man who seemed to have weathered a lot of miles. Turned out he was good, but even better was his son who played the drums and bass at the same time and sang! It was a fantastic night with a good crowd, and everyone had a great time. I approached the son after the show, complimented him and told him he could come back anytime. “Sorry, I just do this for fun. Just a little side hobby.”

. . . Then finally, there was the notorious bandleader who never let the lack of a booking stop him from performing. Just for fun, we’ll call him Nelson Riddle. Nelson had a hard working band that played in clubs all over the area. But he really wanted to play on our patio. He begged and pleaded with St. Pauli Girl who finally agreed for him to do a short trial performance for free. The band was loud, un-interesting, and had a song list we didn’t want to force on our Saturday night patrons. In fact, St. Pauli Girl hid in the office all night.

After his band’s “audition,” Nelson kept coming back wanting to play again (and for actual money), but we politely declined. And declined. And declined.

In April, the town had its annual spring fling festival which attracted a lot of tourists. To get in the spirit, we booked some bands for the weekend. The Tuesday before, Nelson Riddle came into the bar and talked with our manager, Eduardo, and they shook hands. Nelson said, “See you on Saturday.” We asked Eduardo what he was talking about, and he just shrugged, “Guess he’ll be at the spring fling.”

On Saturday night, as things were hopping in the restaurant, a pick-up truck rolled up onto the patio. A couple of guys jumped out and started setting up a drum kit on the patio. St. Pauli Girl ran out to ask what they were doing. “We’re the Nelson Riddle Band setting up for the gig,” they said. At that point, Nelson Riddle came walking up the sidewalk. St. Pauli Girl asked him, “Who booked you?” Nelson stammered, “Your husband.” She took him by the arm and dragged him up to me in the restaurant. “Did you book him?” she asked me. Nelson jumped in, “Oh no, no, not him. It was your son, the manager.” She pulled him over to Eduardo, “Did you book him?” Eduardo shook his head.

Nelson panicked. “Obviously there’s some misunderstanding. But it’s no big deal. I play anyway.” A furious St. Pauli Girl responded, “No, we don’t want a band tonight.”

Nelson left for a few minutes and sat with his band on the patio. After awhile he came back in and said, “Look the guys are here, we really want to play. We’ll play for tips.”

“No. Get out.”

The band was still sitting on the patio. In our bar, I talked to a gentleman who used to have a night club in town. “Oh yeah, Nelson always does this,” he said. “At one club, he’d just show up, and I’d show him where he wasn’t on the calendar. He’d suggest I forgot to write it down and try to play anyway. But the scary one was his wife! She accosted me in Walmart one day and cussed me up one side and down the other for not letting Nelson play.”

Finally, the band packed up and prepared to leave. One by one the band members came into the bar and flipped off Eduardo, who they’d decided to blame. (At some point wouldn’t you get suspicious if your bandleader kept dragging you to places that seemed to have forgotten they booked you? You’d think.)

After they were gone, I saw a distraught St. Pauli Girl coming back from the restroom. “She followed me in there,” she said. “Nelson’s wife. She started yelling at me, saying that Nelson was a fine man who didn’t need to be treated that way. She said I didn’t have to be so mean! I tried to leave but she blocked the door. I thought she was going to punch me, but she just kept yelling. Finally she left and slammed the door.”

Nelson still plays around town. We suspect sometimes he’s even actually booked. I’m sure his wife thinks the closing of Good Eats was righteous karma for the way we treated him. That’s okay with me. I like not having to deal with people like Nelson. Or the customer who demanded enchiladas one night even though they weren’t on the menu at Good Eats. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Shocking Truth

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that if I pick up a “How-To” book in a home improvement store, I will not be killed or maimed if I follow the instructions. Apparently, this is not the case. In a shocking announcement, Oxmoor House is recalling over 1 million home improvement books that have been on the shelves as long ago as 1975! These books included faulty instructions and diagrams that could cause people to be shocked or create a fire hazard.

I’m trying to imagine how this could have happened. It must have been much easier to get published in 1975. Hmmmmm, yes, I can imagine how it all started:

The Pitch
Ernst Klondike IV: So I got this idea for a new book…

Publisher: Yeah, so’s my aunt, my sister’s comicbook writing fiancee and my cat’s working on three manuscripts between coughing up furballs….

Ernst Klondike IV: With the economy the way it is, more than ever people will be doing home projects themselves.

Publisher: Yeah, why pay a crooked contractor when you can pay me $12.95? Go on.

Ernst Klondike IV: I’m thinking starting out small with electrical work. Show people how to install switches, doorbells, ceiling fans.

Publisher: I like ceiling fans. Got ‘em in every bedroom in my condo in Boca. It’s got that Bogie Casablanca feel. Saves on the A/C too. Yeah, but you don’t seem the electrical wizard type.

Ernst Klondike IV: Well, no, but that’s the beauty. I learn it from a master, put it on paper and the reader learns just like I did. That way, I don’t have to worry about forgetting steps since I don't know anything about it.

Publisher: Hmmm, self-help, self-learning. Not bad, could work. So you getting a construction job or something?

Ernst Klondike IV: No, I’ve got it all set. I know a guy who builds houses. I’ll do some jobs with him. He won’t mind, and he’ll show me the ropes.

Publisher: Well, I ain’t got no money for him…

Ernst Klondike IV: It’s fine. He owes me. And he’s a talker.

Publisher: We’ll have to do something about your name too. A pseudonym. No one would read a construction book with your name on it. We need something manly like Stan. Hmmm, yeah, Stan Hammer. Alright, get started!

The Status Meeting
(3 months later, over the phone, Publisher in his office, Ernst in a bar)

Publisher: So how’s that electrical manual coming along?

Ernst Klondike IV: Glad you called. Going great. Should be done in another few weeks. I’ve got let’s see, eight, no, twelve chapters.

Publisher: Yeah? Read me some.

Ernst Klondike IV: (putting down a martini) Uh, don’t have it with me. I’m on location doing a job.

Publisher: What kind of show and tell you got in there?

Ernst Klondike IV: Well like I said, installing doorbells, ceiling fans, uh trash compactors and electrical garage doors. And a safety chapter. Yeah, always wear goggles.

Publisher: That’s good. So you done some jobs and whatnot, with that guy?

Ernst Klondike IV: Yeah, we’re doing a job.

Publisher: Just one?

Ernst Klondike IV: Well, it’s a club.

Publisher: Oh like the CBGBs or the Classic Cat?

Ernst Klondike IV: Clubhouse might be a better term.

Publisher: Sweet. Golf course. Like Shinnecock?

Ernst Klondike IV: Kid’s club house, actually. It’s for his five-year-old daughter. We’re building it in his backyard.

Publisher: Oh.

Ernst Klondike IV: But we’re running electrical out to it. It’s gonna be really nice with a doorbell and everything. Electricity works the same if it’s in a big house or an outhouse. You still got your AC and your DC and they like cross paths and stuff lights up. You guys do have fact checkers right?

Publisher: Not on staff. We do have lawyers.

Ernst Klondike IV: Good, good, that’ll work. Hey, I gotta go. I’ll invite you out to the open house.

At the Open House

Ernst Klondike IV (pushes doorbell button on tiny dilapidated kids clubhouse barely standing): Ding-Dong.

Publisher: Did you just say Ding-Dong?

Ernst Klondike IV: Yeah, but it’s a real doorbell. We just didn’t activate it.

Child (opens door from inside): Hello, come in.

They duck their heads and enter the tiny room where 3 more children sit around a table with a giant flashlight on it.

Publisher: So this is it? Your friend the contractor built this?

Ernst Klondike IV: Yeah, got spare lumber and stuff from one of his jobs. Anyway, you can see the wire from the doorbell going behind that wall there. That’s where we would’ve attached the electricity.

Publisher: So there’s no electrical?

Ernst Klondike IV: He decided it was too expensive. But they’ve got that flashlight. That was my idea. It uses a battery so it’s actually electrical. I describe that in the book.

Publisher: You just a wrote a book on electrical work without doing any electrical work?

Ernst Klondike IV: Yeah, thanks. It was really hard.

Publisher: Did your friend look at the book, make sure everything’s kosher?

Ernst Klondike IV: Oh yeah. He looked at every single diagram. He can’t read though.

Publisher: Ah, people like pictures better anyway.

Ernst Klondike IV: Anyway, I’ve been thinking about my next project. College textbooks.

Publisher: Hmmm, expensive, trapped audience, forced guaranteed flat sales. I like it.

Ernst Klondike IV: So my son’s got this “Operation” game which I’ve gotten pretty good at. I’m thinking maybe a brain surgery textbook.

Link to original article:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Boats Are Burning

So I’m killing time yesterday browsing through my usual online newspapers when the headline “Japanese whalers accused of sinking protest boat” caught my eye. Plus video. Like the freak show thrill of driving past a car wreck with lots of carnage, I immediately click on the video.

Before I go further just let me say I have no sides in this. Animals will die awful, grotesque deaths so that I can enjoy prime rib, foie gras, and raw tuna. Conversely, if you are anti-whaling and wish to confront men with harpoons on big whaling vessels, you might expect a little danger. Maybe even some casualties. (And if you’re trying to film a documentary or reality show about it, casualties are ratings gold.)

Anyway, the anti-whalers are coming up in some sort of stealth speedboat as the whalers hose them down. Seems like everyone is having a rollicking good time except that it’s bitterly cold. (Another side note to the anti-whalers: a boat straight off the set of Batman will not elicit much sympathy to the cause.) Eventually the boats collide, there’s some damage, and it’s pretty anti-climatic. This certainly wasn’t The Poseidon Adventure.

But then the video switches to an interview with some sort of Australian minister. I shriek like a schoolgirl catching a glimpse of Bobby Sherman or Taylor Swift depending on your demographics. Is that Peter Garrett? It is! It is! (He’s about 7 feet tall, bald and has a skeleton face.) The Australian Environment Minister is none other than Peter Garrett, former lead singer of Midnight Oil (that rose to American fame in the 80s with their Diesel and Dust album and hit song “Beds are Burning”).

I knew back in the day that he had graduated law school and even ran for office. But so what, Mike Leach also graduated law school and Kinky Friedman ran for governor of Texas. But twenty years later, this is unprecedented in my mind. This is the equivalent of Cyndi Lauper becoming Secretary of State, or better yet, Huey Lewis running for congress and then becoming head of the EPA. (For you youngsters, that would be like David Guetta getting elected President with Akon as his Vice-president. Yes, I just googled Billboard Top 100 because I’m so out of touch and for some reason he caught my eye with his hit song “Sexy Chick” off his Sexy Bitch album. I can’t make that up.)

So my only point in all this is what a fine role model Peter Garrett is. Lawyer, rock star, government official. What do they have in common? Mega babes and tons of money! (Assuming you’re taking bribes as a government official). It doesn’t matter if you agree with his politics or even liked Midnight Oil; the man’s had quite a career and he did it his way. Sure, we’ve had similar successes in America: Ronald Reagan, Al Franken, Jesse Ventura and Fred Gandy (Gopher from Love Boat, then congressman), but they came into politics later in life. Peter Garrett went to law school, got into politics and formed a successful rock band on the side. At the very least, he is a symbol to never give up on your dreams.

And so-- what did he have to say about the whaling incident? “The point I would make is that the risk of accident is high and the capacity for rescue in these areas is low and it is absolutely critical that restraint be prudently exercised by all parties.”

What a marvelous politician.



Monday, January 4, 2010

You have the Right to Remain Athletic

It’s another collegiate sports blog, but I can’t help it--sometimes they just write themselves:

Knoxville Cable TV presents: The University of Tennessee Coaches’ Recruiting Hour with your hosts UT football coach Lane Kiffin and UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

[Camera focuses in on a family room decorated in orange and white. There’s a haze of smoke lingering just below the ceiling. Bruce Pearl, in an orange suitcoat and sweatpants, sits on a barstool next to Lane Kiffin who’s wearing an orange and white checkerboard suitcoat with short, tight white shorts. They sit in front of a bar with drinks.]

Lane: Welcome to the show. I’m Lane and this is my main man, Bruce “The Juice” Pearl.

Bruce: Yeah, thanks Lane, the, uh, Muffin Kiffin. Or should that be Miffin? Wait. Lane the Drain! Yeah! Score!

Lane [giggling]: Anyway, we’ve got a great show, and we’re going to tell you recruits out there why UT should be in your future.

Bruce: That’s right, Lane. Let’s get to it. Tell ‘em why they should play football for the heir of General Neyland.

Lane: Well, for one thing, if you visit UT, I guarantee you’ll have a great time. And by great, I mean--

Bruce: Shhhhh! Remember, they’re not officially [makes quote gestures with his fingers] “affiliated” with the university.

Lane [slaps forehead]: Oh, that’s right! Let me introduce Bambi and Chiffon, two of our UT hostesses.

[Two young women dressed in cheerleader uniforms come out and do a few kicks, then snuggle onto the coaches’ laps.]

Bruce: So Bambi, what are you studying at UT?

Bambi: Anatomy.

Bruce and Lane [as they high-five each other]: Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!

[Bruce stuffs a five-dollar bill down Bambi’s top.]

Lane: Now, seriously, there’s been a lot of bad press about our hostesses lately.

Chiffon and Bambi [with dumbfounded looks]: Huh?

Lane: So Bambi is here to set the record straight. [He slips another five-dollar bill down her top and points toward the camera.]

Bambi [reading in a monotone from a cue card]: That’s right, Coach. The UT hostesses are not affiliated in any way with the University of Tennessee, nor does Coach Kiffin ever tell us what to do. We’re just a bunch of young, small-town, innocent, mostly blond, vix, vix, v-v-v--

[Lane whispers in her ear]

--schoolgirls who are trying to be UT athletic supporters.

Lane [giggling and whispering to Bruce]: I wrote that.

Bruce: Man, you’re the most! [They toast to each other, splashing their drinks and giggling.]

Bambi: And furthermore, the UT hostess program is a non-profit corporation registered in Thailand, and we would never do anything that is illegal. [Squints at the cue card.] In Thailand.

Lane: Good girl! Say, I’ve got a tenner in my shorts. Can you find it?

Bambi: [searches Lane’s pocket then playfully punches him in the shoulder]: Oh, you! Got me again!

[Lane tucks a ten-dollar bill into her shorts, kisses both girls on the cheeks, then pats them on the rear end as they leave the set.]

Bruce: Man, if I played football, I’d be calling the number on the screen right now. But wait, recruits, there’s more! On to basketball! Are you ready? Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome . . . Cheech and Chong!

[Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong stumble onto the set and sit on a couch next to the coaches]

Bruce: Hey guys! When a basketball recruit visits UT, what can they expect?

[Cheech and Chong snicker.]

Cheech: Well, man, we got this ’72 Plymouth Duster, and we take the kids up and down Kingston Pike and show ‘em the nightlife. You know, have a good time.

[He holds two fingers close to his mouth and inhales, then exhales slowly.]

Chong: Hey man, I seen that Chiffon chick before.

Lane: Of course! They have a calendar. I sell ‘em out of the back of my car.

Chong: No, no, man. Like somewhere else for real. Is she some sort of athlete?

Bruce: Um, yes, I believe she’s a pole vaulter.

Lane: You mean pole dancer?

Bruce: That’s it! Pole dancer! [He toasts Lane.]

Cheech: Anyway, yeah, so we like take the recruits to dinner and stuff. Usually, the 7-11 at midnight.

Chong: Yeah, I got a 7-11 credit card with no limit. We usually get Pringles, and Cheet-os, and more Pringles, and pork rinds. You know, munchie stuff.

Bruce: What a treat! In a’72 Plymouth Duster? How did you guys get that to pass inspection?

Chong: It’s a green car, man!

Bruce: You mean a hybrid?

Chong: No. It’s green. You know, shamrock green. Plus, it recirculates the air. So nothing goes to waste. The whole car’s one giant bong!

Bruce: Let’s get serious a minute. I know there’s a lot of stories going around about a gun in the car.

Cheech: Pfftt! Man, that’s nothing.

Chong: Yeah, I mean, a real gun has serial numbers on it.

Cheech: Yeah. But not this one.

Chong: So it couldn’t have been a gun.

Cheech: Yeah, man. It was a . . . cigarette lighter.

Chong: Can you imagine having to register lighters? Whoa, dude.

Cheech: But there’s no serial number on this one, so we wouldn’t have to.

Bruce [pulling a handgun from the waistband of his sweats]: Guys, this is the gun they found in the car. Are you telling me this is a lighter?

Chong: Well I don’t know, ‘cause there’s no serial number on it.

Cheech: Hey, but lighters don’t have to have ‘em, man.

Bruce: Are you sure it’s a lighter? So, I can point this at your head and pull the trigger? Really?

[Cheech and Chong glance at each other and shrug. Chong pulls a big doobie from his pocket and places it in his mouth, poses.]

Cheech: Fire away, dude.

[Bruce pulls the trigger. A flame shoots out of the barrel and lights the doobie.]

Cheech: Commercial break?

Lane: Great idea. We’ll be right back.

[After the commercial, Cheech and Chong are gone. Lane and Bruce sit at the bar stuffing their faces with potato chips.]

Bruce: We’re going to switch back to football for a second. Lane, tell recruits what they can get.

Lane: Boys, come on out. [Four huge footballs players wearing ski masks come into camera range.] These are some of the finest student athletes that I’ve had the pleasure of being associated with.

Bruce: Wait. Student athletes?

Lane: I mean, athletes. Students of football. Class is optional, but we still guarantee you’ll meet up with some coeds. Anyway, all of our players are now required to wear ski masks in public. Because if there’s an armed robbery, how do you know who did it?

Bruce: Now that’s thinking outside the box. And they call Jimmy Johnson a genius.

Lane: But if there is a problem, we’ve got a whole scout team full of guys that’ll do your time. It’s a great incentive to be the best you can be. If you’re first team, you’ll be playing on Saturday, I guarantee. If you’re scout team, try to be inconspicuous. But here’s the cool thing, prison time does not count as NCAA eligibility. So when you get out, you’re back on the team!

Bruce: Of course there are rules. You can expect to miss some playing time against the Elon’s and the Wofford’s and the Chattanooga’s of the world. But if it’s Bama or UK, you’re out one play, tops!

Lane: Yeah, plus, we won’t put you in a dark closet! You may end up in prison but at least you’ll be there with your friends and teammates.

Bruce: I guess that’s our show for today. I hope all you recruits out there can see what a great place UT is.

Lane: Please join us next week when our guests will be Gilbert Arenas and Willie Nelson. Party on, Bruce.

Bruce: Party on, Lane.

Editor's Note: Further reading if you're not up to date on UT athletics: