Friday, May 29, 2009

Hair and Now

Blooming like dandelions in a field, the image of my ear hairs in the mirror alerts me to one of my favorite rituals: it’s time for a trip to the barber shop. Although my barbers don’t trim either my ear weeds or the brow confetti , they do get the Wolverine mane that creeps up in the rear shirt collar region. The old school guys apply a straight razor on my neck for a nice smooth finish, possibly touching it up with a warm towel and a dash of witch hazel.

A trip to the barber while growing up was great not just because my dad, my brother, and I were male bonding, but because I always looked forward to that guaranteed lollipop. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee Greta ever going to the barber shop with me.

Perhaps my intuition here is sexist, but I assume first of all that she would prefer to get her up-do at the salon. Barber shops offer combs, clippers, and scissors – not foils, wraps, dyes, relaxers, perms, curling irons, crimpers, wax, or $50 shampoos in 6-ounce containers.

But secondly, the barber shop is more than just a place for $15 hair cuts. The storefront with the red, white, and blue swirly sign-thing outside the door is a sort of dude sanctuary. A good barber can shoot the breeze about anything: current events, sports, politics, women, you name it. The best chats extend beyond the guy sitting in the chair to the gallery of dudes within earshot. (I imagine ladies experience a similar sense of escape at the salon except $15 probably pays for only a six- or seven-toe pedicure.)

Waiting for their turn, customers peruse the standard reading material: tattered sports sections and 6-month old Sports Illustrateds, or the coveted nudie mags. You need to dig around for them, though, because they’re usually in the hands of the guys who arrived ahead of you. (For the record, I just read Playboy for the articles … and, um, to stay current about the most recent celebrities posing nude … I mean, it’s kind of like our Us Weekly. Moving on.)

“Skip’s” is a small place up the street for me. Bobby Cards is an old guy who hangs around there entertaining customers with his Donald Duck voice impersonations and card tricks that are about 67% successful. While sitting around, he’ll also show you pictures of his Cadillac and his winter home in Florida. Total character. My buddy Fun Boobs swears that Bobby greased him for a $20 bill that somehow disappeared when he went to pay for a trim.

Recently, a new trend has emerged, of which I frankly don’t know what to make. Shops previously content with AM radio broadcasts suddenly have enormous, flat screen TVs with ESPN telecasts blaring. Lollipop jars have been replaced by full service bars and cappuccino machines. Instead of waiting for the grandfatherly, white haired man in a tie and blue overcoat, I choose between a 20-something wearing a t-shirt tight enough to cut off circulation or his buddy with the alternate Celtics away jersey complete with gold chain and backwards, straight brim ball cap. Some of these new fangled places are even open for business on the previously sacred off-day of Mondays!

Is this a product of the “metrosexual” phenomenon or simply an industry adjusting to a more competitive market full of men with limited time and shorter attention spans? Or am I simply slipping prematurely into an old school generation nostalgically lamenting about what it was like in the good old days?

Whatever the situation, I’m off to “Skip’s” for my boy’s regular. Number two clippers on the back and sides. Scissors on top. No gel. Hey Bobby, show us that card trick again.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Granite State: Once Red, Then Blue, Now Pink?

Hold on a second, just getting on my soap box. Left foot, right foot. There we go.

Somewhere along my path in life, same-sex marriage became an important cause to me. I imagine part of the reason is because of my desire for our nation to constantly progress towards achieving a state of absolute justice and fairness, or at least as close as possible. Yeah, yeah, bleeding heart liberal. Hug a tree.

Seriously though, another reason is simply because of the loved ones in my life who aren't straight. It kills me to imagine that if two people are crazy about each other and even crazier to want to spend the rest of their lives together exclusively, why should they be denied the legal benefits of a status created and defined by our government in the Land of the Free? Forchrissakes marriage is hard enough, no wonder perks (like filing taxes jointly, for instance) exist to help ease the strain and challenges of a perpetual union.

Ironically, I probably know more gay people who are indifferent towards marriage equality than straight people who openly oppose it. Nonetheless, I simply cannot accept the idea of a government that blatantly discriminates based simply on sexual orientation. (Yeah, I'm one of those radicals that believes sexual orientation is biological, not a lifestyle that is chosen.) If my daughter ever chooses to take the plunge, I will be happily giving her hand away in the civil institution of marriage to her future spouse whether that person is a man or a woman.

I understand that religions also have their own definitions of marriage, which is separate and distinct from the status granted by a government. As much as I disagree with those religions who restrict the definition of marriage only to a man and woman, I absolutely believe that they deserve the protection of the First Amendment to give them the freedom to practice such a belief.

But last I checked, I don't vote for pope or bishop or rabbi or cleric. I vote for elected officials in a government that separates church and state.

Perhaps I'm preaching to the choir. I live in the state that was first to recognize same-sex marriage and issues tickets for possession of marijuana weighing less than one ounce. We have Dukakis, Kerry, and the Kennedy compound. Clothing in public will probably become optional next year. Yet somehow, the Bay State did not collapse after the monumental Goodrich v. Dept. of Public Health decision in 2003. Since then, the commonwealth somehow avoided absolute pandemonium and civil unrest. And the legislature declined to extend the right for people to marry animals.

Alas, the trailblazing lesbian plaintiffs in the Goodrich case eerily mirrored 50% of their straight counterparts: they divorced in 2006. Thus, we are reminded that marriages are challenging regardless of the spouses' sexual orientations.

In conclusion, with all due respect to the governor of my northern neighbors and my childhood home, practice what your state preaches. Live Free or Die. Let freedom ring in the Granite State and establish equal marriage for all. Thank you. I'll get off my soap box now.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rock On Completely With Some Brand New Components

In addition to cracking voices a la Peter Brady, bad perms, braces, and arm pit hair, musical taste begins taking root during puberty – or at least it did for me. Fortunately, my uncles Tim and Tom gave me a rock music birds and the bees talk when I was around 12 or 13. Okay maybe it wasn’t an actual sit down but because I worshipped anything that they did or said, I began paying special attention to their bands. As teenagers during the 70s, their tastes were unsurprising in retrospect but absolutely solid nonetheless. I recall The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, etc.

Lucky for me at that time, Uncle Tom purchased what was known as a “compact disc player” and bequeathed many of his albums to my brother and me. During those lonely junior high nights, I’d place the needle on a record and wear enormous earphones that dug into the side of my head if I moved my neck. The A side of “Who’s Next” provided the soundtrack as I pondered whether Christine Idzelis would ever go out with me.

Apparently, the popularity of record albums is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. The trend, I imagine, is due in part to the “hipster” generation of pierced and tattooed bike courier-types who forego iPods in favor of the more classic LP players. However, I must admit a certain pleasure exists in hearing the crackling and hiss that accompany songs played on vinyl.

Nowadays, my musical appetite does not consist strictly of Rock. My need for variety has introduced me to music of all genres. Some days, I’ll nibble on rap, hip hop, soul, funk, and top-40. Other days, I’ll feast on classical, Cuban, bossa nova, or jazz. And I’m not scared by heavy metal, punk, or bluegrass. But then, of course, I get one of those cravings where all I want is some good old, guitar solo/air boards/white man’s overbite/head bopping/freak out by yourself in a car with no remorse rock n’ roll.

“Irregardless,” I am so excited for that day when G-love is ready for her own sit down about beats and tunes. If you forced me at this very moment to list the top 10 greatest albums of all time, I’d be happy to indulge. But before doing so, you should understand my criteria.

First, “alternative” and “rock” will be considered together. I was in high school during the “Grunge Era” so these styles of music are overlapping in my world of music. Second, the albums were considered as a whole to the extent that an album with one great song and the rest mediocre will not make this list. For example, “Heat of the Moment” by Asia on their self-titled debut album is a great song but the other songs are pretty lackluster. Thus, these albums deliver an overwhelming majority of “solid” to “off the charts”-level songs from start to finish. In other words, you are not inclined to fast forward over any of the songs. Lastly, “Greatest Hits” albums do not count. Without further ado:

10. “Rubber Soul” by The Beatles. I omitted “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from this list because there are too many songs that I fast forward – “Fixing a Hole”, “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “Within You Without You.” Then I realized that I don’t FF any songs on “Rubber Soul.” I like to think this earlier album was a true harbinger of The Beatles’ future brilliance. “Drive My Car,” “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), and “I’m Looking Through You” are my personal faves.

9. “Who’s Next?” by The Who. The boards that introduce “Baba O’Riley” trigger an eerie feeling of temporary escape in my brain as soon as I hear that opening “ding – ding, ding. ding – ding, ding.” Moon’s drums are appropriately splashy (thanks Ron Burgundy), Townsend’s guitar blazes, and Daltrey nails high notes on the same level as Robert Plant. That’s right. I went there. I fucking love that song.

Often overshadowed by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Who was so effective at building an orgasmic crescendo in its anthem songs through effective repeating riff foreplay. (Besides “Baba,” think “Eminence Front.”) Anyway, don’t skip any songs on this album. Trust me. For the record, “Going Mobile” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” rock it out completely.
8. “Ten” by Pearl Jam. Think long hair, flannel shirts, and a voice that channeled the angst of high school kids everywhere in the early 90’s. “Release” is far and away the best song on this album. No argument. Hands down.

Unfortunately, Eddie Vedder developed a condition that my buddy Scott and I coined “E.V.S.” (Eddie Vedder Syndrome) where the band’s commercial success was such a strain on his artistic vision that he was unable to speak publicly in coherent sentences from about 1993 to 2000. You also write songs about “bugs in my head.” Fortunately, Eddie recovered and helped advocate an overthrow of the Bush Administration with Sean Penn.

(As an aside, The Killers currently have a serious case of E.V.S. I mean who the hell writes a song asking whether “are we human or are we dancer?” Give me a freaking break.)

7. “Motorcade of Generosity” by CAKE. The lead singer of this band would probably mock me just for writing a top ten list, but this is my favorite CAKE album start to finish. “Jolene” also happens to be my overall favorite song by this band, as well as my inspiration for the protagonist in my screenplay that will never complete. Anyways, I hope they give me permission to play the song when Jolene walks out on Jonas in Portsmouth.

For the record, these guys blow the doors off live. I lost my mind at The Orpheum seeing them with T-bone, Skipzy, and Bree a couple years ago. And, the first time I saw them live, they played “Jolene.” I almost cried. Almost.

6. “Weezer” a/k/a “The Blue Album” by Weezer. COLLEGE!!!! The vibe on this album just totally resonated with me when I heard it for the first time. It’s rare that I can listen to a band for the first time and truly enjoy every song. That happened for me one special day in 1995 after a trip to Pure Pop in Burlington.

Surprise, surprise, Jonas’ inspiration came from here. However, “No One Else” and “Surf Wax America” also make me want to dance around in my underwear. The wife and I watched one of their concerts in Japan on TV and they brought up a fan from the audience to play guitar on “Say it Ain’t So.” She was bawling, but she pulled it off. Re-donk-a-donk.

Weezer still does it for me (their song “Jamie” is a tribute to their lawyer – how cool is that!?) but I’m not sure their future albums can ever eclipse “The Blue Album.” Footnote that Rivers Cuomo has apparently recovered from his bout with E.V.S.

5. “Siamese Dream” by Smashing Pumpkins. Whenever I hear “Cherub Rock,” I think of a road trip to Montreal during college in which our car averaged about 90 the minute we crossed Derby Line, Vermont. Just thought you should know.

I challenge you to find a bad song on this album. You will not succeed. I once asked Tooth to play “Mayonaise” at my funeral. I’ve subsequently changed my mind but that was how strongly I felt about this album. Also, please do not overlook “Sweet Sweet” and “Luna.” They are two very pretty songs.

Unfortunately, Billy Corgan still has not recovered from his infection with E.V.S.

4. “Abbey Road” by The Beatles. If I was considering just Side B, we’re talking serious contender for Number One. That side starts with George’s masterpiece “Here Comes the Sun” and ends with possibly my favorite lead guitar solo ever (I think it’s John) on “The End” (well technically “Her Majesty” is the last song on but it’s kind of a mini-song only). Every song on Side B seamlessly flows into the next. By the way, I have no idea what “polythene” means but that song really does it for me.

3. “Achtung Baby” by U2. Back to high school again. Go to any party during the summer before my senior year in high school and this was playing either before or after “Check Your Head” by The Beastie Boys. The radio focused on “One” and “Mysterious Ways,” which are good songs. However, “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World” is far and away the best song on this brilliant album. “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” is a sleeper on this disc, too.

2. “The Beatles” a/k/a “The White Album” by The Beatles. I agonized about where to rank these last four albums, but I’m satisfied with their order now. This particular double album is like a Thanksgiving dinner of good songs. “Dear Prudence,” “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Blackbird,” “Revolution” (the slower version), and “Sexy Sadie” are my BFFs in this chapter of the Bible of Rock.

1. “The Joshua Tree” by U2. Heather Voigt let me listen to this cassette on her Walkman during a 7th grade summer camp overnight in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. That night, blondes and “With or Without You” established themselves as my personal kryptonite. “Joshua Tree” never fails me. It’s like a security blanket you pull out for emergency purposes.

If your heart rate doesn’t increase slightly when you hear those opening notes in “Where the Streets Have No Name,” I question whether you are alive at all. And is there a better 1-2-3 punch than “Streets,” “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For?” and “With or Without You.” It’s like Gehrig, Dimaggio, and Williams on the same team.

But don’t dare stop there. Please keep going. “Bullet the Blue Sky” is so purely dark and brilliant. “Running to Stand Still” and “In God’s Country” are off the charts, too. I thoroughly enjoy every single song on this album.

“The Joshua Tree” is just so absolutely perfect, I can’t handle it. I don’t want anything about it to change. Just perfect. I can’t say anything more.

So there it is. Take your best shot. What did I miss? Agree? Disagree? Has anyone even made it this far? Shout out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Post-Game Chalk Talk

(Written last week. I was too chicken shit to post three times in one week.)

Our sitter starts next Tuesday but the wife was returning to work this week, so I decided to stay home and take a week of vacation. Truth be told, I was really looking forward to some one-on-one with my little Pinkie Tuscadero.

As a stay-at-home dad, I wondered if I would be the conscientious kind of stay-at-home parent. You know, the parent who takes a shower and doesn’t wear sweat pants all day. The one who cleans the house and exercises in the same day. The one who doesn’t delay his/her infant’s bottle because they’re trying to set the DVR to record every episode of Jon and Kate plus 8 (oh my god, he is so not a good guy anymore!), The Hills, and The Real Housewives of New York City. What parent would stoop to such a level?

Even worse, I secretly feared I might start blogging from the tanning salon on East Broadway while kibbitzing with the bleached hair moms chain smoking Kools outside. To fit in, I would only drink extra large iced coffees from P.S. Gourmet or 64-ounce Big Gulps from 7-Eleven. I’d also have to look 45 even though I’m 33. I’d suddenly start yelling F-bombs at children because they’re, uh, swearing.

Fortunately, we’ve made it to Friday and no tanning salon in sight for me yet. Honestly, I’ve realized that naps are like pitch counts for starting pitchers. The higher the minutes without sleep or the more pitches in a game, the higher the probability of a meltdown. Before you know it, 7 innings or 5 hours go by and coach/dad has a disaster on his hands. Coaches and dads need some reps to detect the warning signs.

Anyways, I’ve definitely noticed that G-sizzle prefers to chew/suck on her fingers (or an entire hand) instead of a pacifier - although the soft handkerchief-sized fabric with an animal head on top is a close second. When she starts getting fussy and isn’t calmed by the giraffe or pointer/ring-finger combo, it’s kind of like when David Ortiz begins to get around on a starter’s fastball: the coach/dads nees to call for a reliever or a nap.

Probably my biggest area of improvement has been the neck bottle hold. Previously, I used my left hand to cradle the head and my right hand to hold the bottle. Operating a remote control at the same time is difficult unless you prop the bottle under your jaw, against your neck. That way, you can toggle between SportsCenter, ESPN2, and ESPN News without having to watch commercials while feeding.

Admittedly, the road hasn’t been entirely smooth. After a jog with the Cadillac of strollers, G-Love was snoozing so I kept her in the car seat while I hopped in the shower. Of course, she was freaking out about 3 minutes later. Hastily, I rinsed off and hopped out. It wasn’t until about 6 minutes after dressing when I realized that I still had soap in my crack.

It wasn’t until this week that I realized the actual number of wardrobe malfunctions during the course of a full day. Rumor has it that the Bellagio sports book just posted G's over-under tomorrow at 4.5 outfit changes in 24 hours. Poops, pees, spit-ups, and drool do a number on her threads, which - by the way - doesn’t include the wardrobe malfunctions to each parent's clothes.

Overall it’s been such a great experience, I think I’m ready to go Mr. Mom full-time. As Jack Butler once said, “When this beard comes in, it’s gonna look great.” Hey wife, you ready to be my sugar mama?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Whoa - ohhh - ohhh - OH MY GOD!

FOR ALL THAT IS SACRED AND HOLY IN LIFE, I THINK I'M PERMANENTLY TRAUMATIZED! I am on the last day of my vacation here at home with Gigi. The wife told me not to touch the TV at 10:45 because she was recording something on the DVR. (Shocker - about 97% of the day something is recording and chances are the show is absolutely terrible.) I could only imagine what was taping this time.

So I'm sitting there, peacefully reading the SportsGuy page on our laptop, when suddenly the corpses formerly known as New Kids On The Block start "performing" live on The Today Show. I didn't know whether to puke, shake my head in bewilderment/horror, laugh, cry, or do all of the above.

These men (who, absent their fame, would be ridiculed by any 20-year olds they approached to dance in a club) were dressed in Adidas shell tops, silky black shirts and pants with skinny, white 80s ties. They danced in jerky, awkward movements, occassionaly in unison, while weakly singing solos they each hoped would end very quickly in order to hide from the spotlight and rejoin the group. Every straight man in America must be equally disgusted. I even think Lance Bass might have cringed.

But the most shocking part? Thousands of screaming women surrounded their stage absolutely enjoying themselves. Some were actually crying! I was praying for a fan throwing her top at Donnie Wahlberg at the same time a censor was wondering what the heck happened since "Band of Brothers." Suddenly, the camera zoomed in on Natalie Morales doing some kind of goofy cabbage patch move. I had to look away!

What is it about NKOTB that temporarily suspends all reality and logic for white women between 30 and 40 years old? I was pondering the live train wreck when suddenly my precious little daughter began to stir from her nap. Gigi, like her mother will do when she watches the DVR after her work day ends tonight, started crying at the end of the song. God help me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In the Nick of Time

One of the more interesting pre-birth debates between my wife and I involved the name selection process. Like other expecting parents, we gradually narrowed down our respective lists so that we could present our oral arguments in support of our favorites. Both of us scoured various name list books, while cross-checking origins and meanings on the Internet. We wanted something less common and at the same time meaningful to us in some way. Personally, I also needed a name with good nickname potential.

For whatever reason, my relatives and friends love to assign nicknames. For example, depending on the circle, my brother goes by T-bone, T-boz, T-rex, Rex, Wrecks-n-effex, T-gunner, Gomez, Beaker, Mole, Moleman. Ryan has gone from Noondog to Shit Tooth to Tooth to Toof. Jake H. answers to anything with a “Z” sound in it such as Skittlitz, Sklipz, Skipzey, Scallopz, but he is not to be confused with Jake G. who is Yake, Footee, or Yake Foo. There’s also Hot Cold, Fun Breasts (a guy), Al B. Core, J-Brid (not Bird), the Colonel, Bones, Muffin, Morning Dove, Onion Boy, Hoiven Maiven, Sweet Willy Jive, and Mega Woman. My own aliases have included Deneye, Deniable, the little General, Lenford, D-Rock, Dentist, and Buttercups.

When we were still deciding, I was a big fan of Ernest. First of all, it is an uncommon name. Secondly, it’s got kind of a retro classic je ne sais quoi. Third, the nickname potential was off the charts: the big Ern (obviously, my favorite), Ernie, Ernesto, E.T. – the possibilities were limitless. The connection with Hemingway provided bonus points, too.

Unfortunately, the baby mama was diametrically opposed. In her mind, Ernest was someone who would be “beat up on the first day of school and get his lunch money stolen.” For reasons I couldn’t fathom, my counter-argument about nickname potential didn’t seem to resonate.

As a matter of fact, the wife rejected 99% of my suggestions. Her opposition was based generally on two grounds: a) she found a way to manipulate the name into a traumatizing taunt that our baby’s classmates would use to torture Baby T, or b) she had some type of bizarre association with the name that there was no way she could consider it.

Max? “I love that name – oh, but wait. Maxi pad. We can’t do it.” Phyllis? “Nope. Too close to Phil-latio.” Walter a/k/a Wally, Wall-man, Dubs? “We are not naming our child after our cat!” Oscar a/k/a the Big-O, Ozzy, Oz-man? “They’ll call him O-Face.” Peter? “That’s a name for a penis!” (I didn’t ask. )

In fairness, I rejected a fair share of her suggestions, too. She seemed to favor names like Apple, Suri, Maddox, and Rumor. Or maybe she was just telling me about “They’re Just Like Us” in “Us Weekly.” I can’t remember. Also, any name of someone we formerly dated was kind of dicey.

Somehow, we arrived at a mutually excited consensus about our final choices. I especially loved Greta Jane for our girl’s name because it honored both of our mothers and it sounded pretty to us. When Shell asked me for possible nicknames, I said Gigi and she was sold. Where we agreed on so few names, I intentionally kept quiet about the first taunting nickname that came to my mind and buried it away.

The past few ridiculously amazing months with Gigi have inspired other spontaneous titles, but none of which are likely to stick: Gorgeous Greta the Great Genius, G-Love, my little chicken mullet bug, and the chunky monkey. What can I say, she’s just inspiring.

So now that the birth announcements finally shipped in the mail, I can come clean and apologize in advance to my precious little peanut. Greta, if you ever read this, I’m sorry if the kids ever call you G-Spot. I hope you will forgive me for holding out on your mother, but Anya “was just too Russian gymnast.”