Christmas Day/Night

It’s Christmas night. I had recently endured driving and more driving and then more driving, before arriving home. First was to my father’s house in the early afternoon (8 miles), followed by further travel to my brother’s house soon after (50 miles), followed by the departure from my brother’s house back to my father’s house (50 miles), before ultimately landing at home after driving home from my father’s house (8 miles). The morning drive to my father’s house was as pleasant as I would hope Christmas could be. I’ve given up on relying on the gifts of giving and receiving in regards to Christmas; it is now an excuse and ultimate dependence on the fact that certain times of the day (both morning and night) will be characterized by the lack of people and crowds and traffic and the population going about their business as usual for one day of the year. Peace on Earth doesn’t arrive through the birth of a savior anymore, it arrives through empty roadways and desolate parking lots given unto us weary early morning travelers by Christmas morning, and it is marvelous. For a few hours each year, rushing to destinations isn’t an issue and there’s no need to make extra travel time to accommodate for traffic. It’s peaceful for the few of us that get out of bed and get behind the wheel, though that serenity only lasts til the early afternoon in most locations. (By 2PM, life is back up to speed and traffic is prevalent to the wayward X-mas traveler.)
But I enjoyed it while it lasted. I savored my glimpse of what I envisioned life to be like, were I the only driver on the road, and it was good. Then I arrived at my father’s house and we got stuck in traffic on the way to my brother’s house. Peace on Earth is fleeting in regards to the Garden State Parkway, but we endured.
The drive home was less grueling of course, as night had arrived. We made it back to my father’s home, and I left bound for my house soon after. My drive home was more of what the morning offered me; empty roads brought on by the general public’s obligation to be at home with family, and I savored it once again.

I returned home and realized I had nothing to drink for the festive night, then quickly shot back down the street to the bar that serves packaged goods out of the side of the bar. It was packed. The strangeness of feeling obligated to spend more than a usual amount of time around one’s family usually has people itching to escape the confines of home come X-mas day, and as everything is closed, not many options for refuge are available to the familial escapees. Luckily, bars and convenience stores remain open throughout the holiday season. Kisko’s is a tavern down the road that additionally serves packaged goods in a small alcove of the bar that was recently fashioned into the shape of a small liquor store. It’s cheap and open past 10PM, which allows every would-be-alcoholic in the area the chance to not seem like they need to rush to the normal liquor store before 10PM. It’s the loophole drinkers seek when friends are hinting that there might be a problem, and it’s only a bike ride away.
I entered the bar and made my way to the packaged goods section. The crowd was boisterous and additionally filled all sides of the bar. Parked just within the door were other bikes aside from the one I just entered with. I filed past the bar and into the store area, oblivious to the bartender. She was at the other end of the bar, serving customers and partaking in the festivities. I perused the various wines available conveniently down the road from my house at 10:30PM on Christmas night. The selection wasn’t outstanding, but at least this option of a poor selection of various wines from California was available to me, reminding myself once again that it is 10:30PM on Christmas night. I ignored labels and simply went by price. $5 was too cheap and would have to be forced down, and the selection didn’t vary too greatly from the $5 variety. I reached up to the top shelf and grabbed a Cabernet. It was $9.40.
I waited for the bartender patiently for about 3 minutes, whom was still serving patrons of the bar. I assumed she hadn’t seen me and decided to walk from outside of the store area and into the bar, hoping to make enough eye contact with her so that she would understand the “Hey, I need to pay for this wine over here” aloofness I was aiming to portray. Ultimately, she did.
Bartenders serving packaged goods have, in the past, not been the most friendly cashiers. I assume that bartenders see people buying packaged goods as missed opportunities for getting tipped at the regular bar. At least I would were I a bartender.
Kisko’s is different though. I think the clientele at the bar harass the bartenders to the point that they appreciate less business, but this is pure speculation brought on by one event about a year ago, buying packaged goods in the same bar on a less festive night than Christmas. The woman bartender ringing up my purchase asked me if I had a girlfriend. I immediately stuttered, and softly replied, “Umm, yeah I do. Sorry to disappoint you.” She then quickly retorted, “No, I wasn’t hitting on you… Some dirtbag back there (motioning in the direction of the bar) brought my flowers today, and he’s a total creep, so I was asking you if you had a girlfriend because I was going to offer you to take the flowers off of my hands and then surprise your girlfriend.”
I was taken aback. Here was someone simply trying to present me with a nice gesture, and I made it seem like I was a pompous fuck riding my bike around the downtown area, assuming every woman I came into contact with was interested with me. I slowly replied, “Fuck, sorry about that. I hope you didn’t take that the wrong way. It’s just that the last time a woman asked me that, she then tried to ram her tongue down my ear.”
“No, I didn’t. It’s an understandable reaction. Do you want the flowers though?” she followed with.
“Sure I guess so,” I replied. “Will the guy get mad?” I asked.
“No, he’s a complete psycho. He does it to all the girls that work here,” she answered.
I paid for my wine, thanked the bartender and made my home to a newly happy girlfriend, content with the fact that the flower buyer was just “a complete psycho.” I didn’t pass it off like I bought the flowers though, sure that I would’ve paid dearly for such a karmically poor action somewhere down the road.
Anyway, this encounter reinforced my assumption that the bartenders embraced packaged good customers at Kisko’s with open arms; on the basis that the quick fire in and out customers presented less of a problem than the ones that stayed a while and offered up their self-fortified brands of liquid courage.
The new Christmas night bartender approached. She asked if the wine I was about to buy was a gift or not. I immediately started to worry if there was some unknown law about buying wine for yourself on Christmas night, but then blurted out, “Whatever way puts me to sleep faster.”
She then replied, “So I guess I don’t need to wrap this then?”
“Yes,” I said.
She packaged it up and then said, “Maybe you should just get some Nyquil instead?”
I grabbed the small talk bait and replied, “Yeah that would work, but it just doesn’t go down as smooth. I need a hint of the fruity aftertaste that a nice Cabernet offers.” I was two things here; surprised at my quick and witty reply, but also surprised that I was somewhat comfortable in making small talk with a strange woman, whom also had a revealing top on that cradled her rather large breasts together. (Usually, the breast thing spells ‘intimidation’ in all capital letters.)
She gave me a courtesy laugh, took my money, gave me change and offered her sincerest holiday greetings, which I returned. I think she had bigger assholes than me to attend to in the regular bar, ones that would tip on behalf of the cleavage factor. I rode home through the cold Christmas night air, fully aware that I was about to escape reality through two quick glasses of wine and a 1-2 punch to the pillow. 40 minutes of The History Channel later and I was out cold and done with another Christmas, (the actual day at least).

How I Ended Up at Ivy’s Birthday Party (The Night I Should’ve Stayed Home)

Let me set the stage here. I received an album from a guy named Mike Kinsella a little over a month ago. The album I received was called ‘I Do Perceive,’ and I spent quite some time getting to know the words, thoughts and emotions of the song writer. Kinsella was in a band called American Football a few years ago; he wrote all of their music, broke the band up after one album and, to the outsider, didn’t really seem to be up to much. He actually was quite busy within the past four years though. He was in countless bands backing his brother Tim up as a multi-instrumentalist (including Owls, Joan of Arc, also helping out Aloha and Maritime on his own) and was also busy writing and recording his own music, under the guise ‘Owen.’ The sound and feel of Mike’s music is important here, but describing it would do little to aid in the actual unfolding of the story. For storytelling’s sake, I will say that Mike’s music as Owen is amazing to me, and that would explain why I scribbled in a date to catch him live when I knew he would be in the area. The date was December 19, 2004, and Mike as Owen was going to be playing at a club called Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ.
Let me now also set the tone of late December weather in New Jersey, which can basically be whatever the fuck December feels like doing. Sometimes, New Jersey December wants you to enjoy the outside in jeans and a t-shirt. Other times, NJ December doesn’t want you to know that the outside exists. It would rather you suffer innumerable days inside your home, warmed by artificial heat that dries your body out, both inside and out. This particular year, late NJ December opted for the latter. It had been formerly bearable, but December 19 was a Sunday, and by dusk, the temperature was steadily dropping. This normally happens to a certain degree, but the combination of wind and precipitation prompted the night to freeze beyond anything 2004 in NJ had seen thus far. It was the first night of the new winter which truly allowed all that were suffering through it to say, “It’s too cold. I’m staying home.” By 7PM, the temperature was in the low 20’s, snow was coming down and the late day’s rain was quickly freezing on the roadways.
I was half-heartedly expecting myself to back out of leaving the house, but often times when I do, something will happen that makes me kick myself for not going, so I’ve always tried to wage decisions on my first instincts- If I first wanted to go do something, but then have second thoughts against the first thought, I go with the first thought. This rule also applies to picking lines in supermarkets- Stick with something and follow through with it. It’s part of the persistent nature that’s gotten me this far, and I usually don’t let petty things like snow, ice and freezing temperatures keep me from doing anything.
I’ve also given up driving to see live music for the most part, with a few reasons backing up my decision. One, is that live music is usually accompanied by alcohol, and since I go to a lot of shows on my own, I often rely on alcohol to ease the nervous tension of standing in a room full of people dressed more hip than myself. So driving after the fact is usually a bad decision, one that would put me into more debt that I already am in, so I take the train. My second reason is my truck, and it’s un-trustworthy-ness, coupled with the fact that the exhaust system has now become a dirty smoke manufacturing machine. It’s not Earth-friendly at all, and as of lately, has become a local-only mode of transportation. Thirdly is, the train. I’ve taken a liking to traveling on the train because it offers me the chance to interact with a broad range of people, possibly broader than that of the Division of Motor Vehicles. I don’t feel unusual on the train. Everyone on the train is an outcast of society, and I like to think that we all pick this mode of transportation because, when outcasts mix it up so fervently, something fucked up is going to happen, and we all want to see what in fact it is that’s going to happen (and usually does). Perhaps we all know this? And perhaps, this is why so many strangers silently nod to each other upon entry and exit of the train? I’m not here to speculate on our secret society, but I will say this, if you have to give up drinking but love the strange scenarios that bingeing on alcohol produces, get a cup of coffee, ride the train for an hour and be glad that you remember your dreams when you wake up the next morning hangover free. I digress yet again though.
I liked an album from Mike Kinsella, he was scheduled to play not too far from me, it was cold outside and I like trains; there was only option for me. So I broke out my winter coat, my gloves, a hat, my backpack and my bike lock, trudged out to my garage, got on my bike and started pedaling full bore into 20 MPH wind gusts. My hands immediately froze underneath the thin layer of protective stretch cotton, but I continued onwards. By the time I reached the station, a mile or so from my house, I was frozen, as was my bike. I grabbed the frame and carried it up the stairs to the platform, and noticed that ice had frozen onto the tube where water had been beating off of it while riding up the street. I waited about 5 minutes, then received a call from April. She would be in the area around 11PM, and wanted to pick me up. This was the catch though- her phone only worked when when her car was on and plugged into the car lighter, so there was no way I could contact her until she was in her car on her way to get me.
Shortly after, the train arrived. A man got on a stop after me, made a big deal of missing the ticket station on the platform, then argued with the conductor over not paying the $5 surcharge for buying tickets on the train. It wasn’t fucked up, but it did provide a distraction for everyone in that particular car. He also needed a cigarette, which no one had, and informed everyone that he was driving to Buffalo after picking up his car in Newark. He really just wanted to talk to anyone that would listen, and I entertained his story for a few minutes before our last stop in Newark. He was going to endure an all-night drive, needed some smokes and needed to break a few $50 bills. I offered him no answers to any of his problems, but he still remained content in simply communicating his grievances, which you don’t get when you drive on your own in a car. We arrived in Newark and I customarily ran through the station to the PATH train, destined for Hoboken. Down one set of stairs, across the station mall, past the popcorn stand where everyone gets sucked in by the aroma of freshly popped popcorn, and up another flight of stairs to the PATH entrance. I paid my way and entered the train, seeking the handicapped location where i usually stow my bike, then grabbed a seat. A young woman entered, asking me if this train was going to the 33rd St. Station in New York. I never realized it before, but I’ve become a connoiseur of PATH train lore. And it wasn’t even a chore. (I’ll stop rhyming now.) It was Sunday after 7:30PM, which meant that only one line ran from Journal Square to the 33rd St. Station. I explained the awkward loop to the woman, though she didn’t ask about it, then informed her that it would eventually arrive where she wanted to go, and that because it was a Sunday night, it just took longer. Most people don’t talk on the train, but once you get them started, they don’t stop, and I was now the man driving to Buffalo, seeking cigarettes and smaller bills in exchange for his $50 notes. I did quiet down after my nights, weekends and holidays spiel, then exited the train without saying another word to the woman when my train arrived in Hoboken.
The weather was now much colder, and as Hoboken is surrounded by water, off-shore wind was now added to the equation. I bundled up yet again, stopped at an ATM, then rode the two miles to the club. I was frozen when I arrived, and quickly locked my bike up outside the exit.
My first thought, when I entered the door, was to peruse the show schedule, which displayed no mention of the word ‘Owen’ for the night of December 19. Instead, it said ‘Ivy’s Birthday Party w/ Bern, Fly Me Courageous, The Misery Loves, 7PM, $5.’ I thought “What?” to myself and ventured further in, hoping that might be in the restaurant section of the club. It was not though. The door guy politely said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” when I asked him, and I then went outside to see if I could call someone and see what happened. No one that would have any knowledge of the purported mixup was near a phone, and no one that could cull some knowledge from the Internet was also not near a phone. The time was 8:30PM, which is important to remember, because if you might recall, I had a scheduled pickup for 11PM, with no way of reaching that pickup person in the time between then and now.
I was basically left with no option other that to wait it out, and as it was too cold to actually be outside at this point, I was also going to be relegated to waiting this ordeal out through Ivy’s Birthday Party w/ Bern, Fly Me Courageous, The Misery Loves at 7PM for $5. So I marched back inside and paid the $5 to stand in a dark club by myself for 2.5 hours.
I grabbed a beer first and foremost and found a corner to lean against. Bern was now playing, which translated into one young woman singing while playing acoustic guitar. It actually wasn’t half bad and reminded me slightly of PJ Harvey. Then she played a PJ Harvey song and I felt better about making the comparison to myself. By the end of her set, I had moved from Bass to Yuengling and on my way to beer number 3. And things were already improving as a result.
The following band, as best I could describe them, was a 3-way split between Living Color, Lenny Kravitz and Parliament Funkadelic. The Living Color segment of the band was the guitarist. He wore his hair in dreadlocks underneath a winter beanie and played nonstop metal riffs not far from ‘Cult of Personality.’ The Lennzy Kravitz segment of the band was the lead vocalist. He also wore his hair in dreadlocks, except he also wore a ruffled poet’s shirt that was unbuttoned halfway down his chest and tight jeans. And then there was the P-Funk bassist, who put on sunglasses when the band played, then took them off when they were done. He was wearing plaid pants that were tucked into suede knee-high boots, with a leather vest and a medium-sized but well managed afro. He was also thoroughly bored with the music unless allowed one of his many funk-based solos, which prompted him to cut loose on the stage. They were called ‘Reese,’ and each song began with the lead vocalist screaming “Maxwells, I can’t hear you!” I could be a wise ass and say that he might’ve been deaf, but it was simply one of those miserable attempts that willing rock stars concoct to connect with audience members, and it was actually working here, as the whole of the club began twisting and contorting with the metal-riffed, funk-fortified rock of Reese, The Band. Reese, The Band also encouraged the entire audience to feed birthday girl Ivy as many shots as she could manage, which no one actually did.
The highlight of the band, aside from the band itself, was one choice audience member in his late 40s to early 50s. He wore his hair in a ponytail, with a beret over top of that, and had a unique style of dancing to funk metal. What he did was, he would take each foot and make the shape of an x on the floor with that foot, and then follow through with the remainder of his body. 40 minutes of this dancing on soil could’ve shaped a 6-foot deep x in the ground, but this was Ivy’s birthday party, and the dance floor wasn’t collapsible in the least bit. The audience carved out an x-shaped parabola around the dancer and let him get his creative and drunken dance fix in. This was the moment I realized that I enjoy throwing myself into awkward situations. Reese, The Lead Vocalist shouted “Happy Birthday Ivy!” between another song, the bass player slapped a few funk chords out, the beret-ed dancer marked his spot on the floor and I sat in the corner, wondering how the hell I ended up in the current scenario, but somewhat glad that I did.
I exited the club and walked into the lounge area. It was now 10:30PM. I caught the last few minutes of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the tale of a web programmer that’s supposed to go without any type of sex for the duration of the movie title, then got a call from April a few minutes earlier than expected. She picked me up outside the club and we drove home while the rest of New Jersey fell under a cold and thunderous period of frost.
The next morning, I emailed Seth from the record label that puts out Owen records. He had no idea what happened, asking me if I was sure that I’d actually gone to the right club. I informed him that I’ve been visiting said club for upwards of ten years and unless someone slipped me some really good acid, that the show didn’t happen and no one in the club knew anything about it.
The first instinct thought process I mentioned earlier isn’t fool proof, as evidenced by the unfolding of this night’s events, but it does allow me to explain away some of the unusual circumstances I’ve entered myself into. I guess I really don’t need an explanation of this night though. I had either been the victim of a scheduling error or some erroneously placed acid that worked wonders on my brain. I think I can safely rule out being slipped acid, and although I’m waiting on a reply from Mike Kinsella (of Owen who may have started this whole mess), I’m blaming scheduling for the time being. Life has a way of taking you where it goes, which is, often times, not the most direct route to where you want to be.

Alone on the phone; and it’s injection into movies of the past

More ubiquity, this time cell phones. Everyone uses them, and everyone knows they’re everywhere. They can be very practical when the opportunity presents itself, but more often than not, they seem to simply serve the mundane moments of physically being alone that arise during the day. Think about people you see walking down the street alone, or eating alone, or driving alone. They’re not alone anymore. More than a fair share of those same people are now on a mobile phone.
My fascination with the technology has arisen from the fact that the technology was virtually non-existent ten years ago, and now it is omnipresent in society. Because of this fast rise to social prominence and acceptance, I tend to wonder how people thought and acted prior to the technology. What did those same people do while they walked down the street or ate food in a restaurant alone ten years ago? I walked and ate alone in 1994, and contemplated. Not grand schemes of life or anything, just minor occurrences that I may have encountered earlier that day or just prior. And I think I was pretty comfortable walking and eating and contemplating and alone. But you don’t see this behavior nearly as much as you used to, which leads me to believe that people walking and eating and doing anything that would involve being alone, whom are also on the phone, are probably not comfortable being alone.
So if I had to speculate on why cell phones are so important now. I’d say it’s because only very small percentages of the public like being physically alone, and not because it’s handy when you get locked out of the car.

I do think as well, that cell phones can be practical. But for some reason, I don’t usually apply their practicality to my own life. I do, often times, inject cell phone use into movies made before the turn of the century and the technology’s ubiquity. I often speculate over how the technology could’ve averted conflict and basically eradicated the entire premise of the movie or program in question. Of course, this equation only works with movies that do not have rich people or spies in them, because they always seemed to have some sort of mobile phone with them prior to the introduction of mobile phones into all strata of society, which makes their movies unalterable. Historical movies also don’t apply. Jesus still would’ve been crucified in ‘The Passion of The Christ’ if the apostles had cell phones. Actually, they probably would’ve been crucified as well for even having them. But I digress. Crimes and any form of miscommunication could certainly have been averted, had the technology been more widespread, as displayed in the following scenarios:

Die Hard: Would it have happened if everyone inside Nakatomi Plaza had a cell phone? No.

So I Married An Axe Murderer: Would Mike Meyers be so afraid of his new bride while on their honeymoon if his friends could’ve used a cell phone to call him and tell him that his wife is not in fact, an axe murderer? No.

Pulp Fiction: And would Jules have been able to give Ringo such a long speech about his recent epiphany if everyone in the restaurant had cell phones? No (because someone would’ve called the cops and we would’ve got short changed of ‘Path of the Righteous Man’ speech because of it. Did I really need to make that connection for you?)

I went for a walk to go get something to eat today, all alone, and this was what I contemplated…

Horton Hears a Who, Duncan Shoots a Shotgun and Gloria Jean Brings a Transsexual Home for the Holidays: Coffee from Canada to Middle Class-dom to Mid 90’s Snootiness…

People are always trying to meet each other by discovering common interests and behavior patterns. Ever had a friend tell you, “You like such and such books and/or music? Oh you should meet my friend, you two would get along so well..”
I don’t need to meet people that I have similar points of interest with. The people that act like me on some levels don’t really interest me, cause I can at least somewhat understand their behavior.
I need to interact with more people that are vastly different from me, like god-fearing Christians that vote Republican and listen to Garth Brooks. I’ll never understand that type of behavior, but would appreciate some insight into it nonetheless. My point being, people should strive to meet other people based more people on dis-commonality rather than simple and compatible commonality. I think it would aid in breaking down boundaries that god-not caring about agnostics that usually vote independent and listen to Fugazi (like myself) put up against all the really strange people in the world.

As a postscript, I’ve felt bad that this hasn’t been updated in a while. I’va had all these great titles that I’ve been scribbling down but not enough content to make anything out of them; jut random scribblings of shit that comes and goes in my head. So yeah, I would make a great titleist this week, but not such a great story teller. And please don’t make any comments now about the golf balls named titleist; I’m onto you golfers out there.