Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ring ... ring ...

Hi, this is Jake. Sorry I missed your call, but if you leave your name and number I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


To leave a callback number, press one.

To leave a hollaback number, press two.

To page this person, press star and say jones.

To contact your local animal shelter, press pound. GET IT? POUND!

To hear how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, press three.

To hear what two times two equals, press four.

To tear down that bitch of a bearing wall and put a window where it ought to be, press five.

To learn how to whip up a nice meringue, press six.

To contact the devil and his unholy minions, press six, six, six, and say "I summon thee" five times and you will be connected directly to Karl Rove's underpants Tom Cruise's man-uterus the producers of Wife Swap.

For good luck, press seven.

To hear a song about using the telephone, press or say eight, six, seven, five, three, oh, nine.

To hear more options, press nine, followed by the 10-digit Fibonacci sequence from The Da Vinci Code.

To speak to an operator, press … oh, whom am I kidding? You’ll never speak to an operator! I can’t believe I even thought I could get through that with a straight face. Ha! I crack me up!

When you have finished your call, you may hang up or press one for more options. Or maybe it’s two. Or three. Definitely three. I think.

If you have forgotten whom you called in the first place, please hang up, recharge your phone and press the redial button.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Colored girls, rainbow flags and enuf

The chorus (at least a small segment of the chorus) is singing tonight at a memorial service for a guy I’ve never even heard of. But apparently he was rather prominent in the gay community, because the service is supposed to be huge.

And apparently he (or his surviving loved ones, at least) had a great sense of humor. Because we’re singing “Tap Your Troubles Away” from Mack & Mabel (show tune alert! possible homosexuals in the building!) and Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” complete with white guys colored girls singing doot-do-doots in lovely harmony.

The “Wild Side” arrangement is all a cappella, with really cool voice splits and syncopations. As an upper bass, I do some syncopated tss-tss-tssing at the beginning and then just sing low, harmonious doo-doo-doos behind the more interesting stuff.

And last Sunday night when we were learning the piece, I kept finding myself bursting into tears in the middle of my doo-doo-doos. Which is so weird. I didn’t cry over my breakup in December. I didn’t cry over my friend Joanne’s death in April. And here I am crying over a silly pop song (albeit one I’ve always liked) that’s going to be sung at a memorial service for a man I never even knew.

Which I guess means I’m not totally dead inside.

In any case, it’s not the most upbeat way to kick off a holiday weekend, but it’s definitely fitting for Memorial Day.

And after the service, I’m spending the weekend with friends. We’ll be doing as little as humanly possible. Which sounds like the best way possible to kick off the summer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Two dates in two nights!

I took my friend Jennifer out for an alfresco (we Chicagoans love to eat outside! even if it’s too damn cold!) birthday dinner, over which we shared some scandalous gossip about people we know. Then we wandered over to our friendly neighborhood multiplex, where we took in a rather late showing of The Da Vinci Code. Which I really liked.

While I love anything that lampoons the ridiculousness of organized religion, both the book and the movie of The Da Vinci Code serve up equally heaping piles of counterridiculousness. But I’m always fascinated by stories involving ancient secrets bubbling up in the present, and TDVC’s settings are right out of the Jake Gushes Shamelessly Over Anything European Handbook, so I’m willing to overlook a lot of silly for the sake of enjoying what is essentially a fabulous story.

When I read the book last month, I had a hard time overlooking Dan Brown’s hackneyed writing, though. The man loves his adjectives—more than most people writing junior-high term papers do. Thankfully, there’s no place for endless strings of hyperdescriptive adjective-noun clusters in a screenplay, so the movie spares us all his “massive table” and “soaring ceiling” and “furrowed brow” speedbumps.

(This week’s New Yorker movie review also lashes into Brown’s adjective habit, pointing out that the book can't even get past its first sentence without tumbling into the Well of Clumsiness: “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.”)

In any case, I definitely loved the movie more than the book. It manages to squeeze in a good 90% of the book’s intricate plot, which should keep the purists happy. The cinematography mixes a palette of inky colors into a swirl of interesting camera angles and crane shots. The flashback sequences are told with nuance and efficiency. And I didn’t even hate Tom Hanks’ hair.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with my opinion. But since I am the Keeper Of All Empirical Truth, it doesn’t really matter what these people have to say:

I’ve kinda bonded with a guy in my marathon training group. Since our first Saturday run almost a month ago, he and I have been cracking each other up with the funny-only-to-us stuff that spills out of our mouths faster than OxyContin on a bumpy train ride with Rush Limbaugh. After he (my friend, not the crack whore with the radio show) joined my visiting friends and me last weekend for our Shameless Tourist Adventures Through Chicago, he and I discovered we share a lot more than a twisted sense of humor. Given the recent events in our lives, in fact, it’s almost uncanny that we met each other at this moment in time.

So he came over last night to join me in what the AIDS Marathon people call a “maintenance run,” which is really just a fancy name for a run that occurs on a weeknight without the rest of the pace group. We pounded out five miles in beautiful weather (even though my new running shoes gave me some wicked bad ankle pain for the first two miles) and then retired to my house, where I cooked us homemade beef and vegetable soup, raspberry-lettuce salad, and broiled garlic cheese bread with a hint of freezer burn.

Then we sat and talked for a good three hours about everything and nothing ... and about how much we enjoyed each other’s friendship. And—freezer burn notwithstanding—I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Running away with the spoon

Why is it that we can’t get hand soap in our office bathrooms for weeks on end, but our cleaning ladies are so vigilant they take things off my desk they THINK are garbage and I never see them again?

I shouldn’t complain. We have four very nice employee kitchens that are stocked with all kinds of disposable plates and cups and silverware—all free, all for our personal use. But the silverware is so flimsy it bends and breaks when you’re trying to use it for things as simple as stirring oatmeal or spreading peanut butter or performing emergency tracheotomies. Now, I’m a growing boy with a bottomless pit of a tummy, and I keep a huge filing cabinet in my office stocked with peanut butter and bread and water-packed tuna and oatmeal and protein shake mix. So I use a lot of plastic silverware for stirring and eating things and—in the case of the oatmeal—sculpting replicas of key Civil War battle scenes (you should see my Antietam in Maple and Brown Sugar).

So I need my cutlery to be sturdy. Or my quality of life plummets faster than Tom DeLay’s dignity.

Which means that whenever we cater in for office meetings or I go someplace fancy like Chipotle for lunch, I’m compelled save any unused plastic cutlery—which is always sturdier than the Flimsy McBreakables we keep in the office—and keep it on hand in my own private filing-cabinet kitchen.

But! God forbid I run out of time and don’t get the sturdy stuff washed and put away after I use it, because the cleaning ladies take a General Sherman approach to clearing the office of debris, perceived debris and anything that wouldn’t support the ideals of the Union.

Just last night I lost two sturdy forks I’d used to make tuna salad for lunch and to scrape the last of the peanut butter out of the jar for a peanut-butter-and-banana snack that day. The forks were sitting in a plastic cup in a faraway corner of my desk behind my computer—where you’d actually have to do some hunting to find them—until I could find a moment to get them washed. But after a long afternoon of meetings (whee! meetings!) I had to race out of here last night to meet a friend for a training run, so I didn’t get them washed.

And they were gone when I got in this morning. Just like that. No card, no ransom note … not even a fork you on a Post-It. The poor little forks were abducted and carted away, probably kicking their little tines and screaming at the tops of their little … um … fork lungs by Our Cleaning Lady of the Overzealous Trash Pickup.

And now I’m down to one reliable fork and a supporting cast of utensils more suitable for yoga demonstrations than for actual eating.

On the plus side, we finally have some freakin’ hand soap in the bathrooms again. So if I get all smeary digging in my peanut butter with our store-brand cutlery, I can at least wash my hands of the whole sordid mess. So to speak.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Russian through Chicago

A friend who was studying Russian once told me that the Russian language has only future-tense verbs. Which may or may not be true—I don’t even remember who the friend was, and I’m pretty sure that conversation happened in college, which was back when I was really into acid (-washed jeans)—but it doesn’t explain all the future-tense verbs we had to endure this weekend in America when Jeff and Matt and two of their friends were visiting from Iowa and we decided to take the double-decker bus tour through downtown Chicago. Our tour guide was this avuncular Jerry Garcia type—ponytail, bad suit, dazed look, he mentioned about 40 times that he used to be in a band—and his idea of the kind of formal language appropriate for describing Chicago history on a bus tour didn’t include any past-tense verbs. Example! “In 1932, Al (he never uttered the name “Capone” for some reason) will rent the suite in this hotel for $1,000 a night.”

And if you think two hours of misconjugated verbs is more than any taxpaying citizen should have to endure, try doing it on a bus designed for people under 5'6". The seats were literally too close together for me to get my femurs parallel to the ground. I’d demand that we create a FEMA for femurs, but Dubya can't even spell FEMA and Cheney is too busy shooting his constituents or tepidly helping promote his ho-mo-sex-u-al daughter's book to get it done—and I don’t plan on taking that tour ever again, so what do I care?

Even though the bus tour will be the least exciting part of last weekend, Jeff and Matt and their friends and I will have a great time together. We will shop on Michigan Avenue two days ago, visit the Holy Land (DSW, the designer shoe warehouse in Boystown, where I will buy new shoes I've already worn three times), take in a mediocre show at Second City, do some eating, and end our nights with slushy drinks at Sidetrack. And this future-tense thing will cease right now.

The boys left Sunday, and I spent Sunday morning finally getting my new Vonage system wired and working. I’d had the hardware for a week, and my land line had been shut off most of that time, so it had been kind of quiet here. The system works, I’m pleased to say—though the Motorola router the Vonage web site said would work as a wireless router for my laptop didn’t come with any instructions to cover setting up that feature. And I’m obviously too stupid to figure it out on my own, so I’m still tethered to the earth with a giant yellow cable at the moment. I feel almost like a parade float, but without all the bloating.

I’d forgotten that my TiVo and my cable box need to be hooked to phone jacks as well, and they’re on the other side of the wall from my computer. So I pulled the cable switch plates off those walls yesterday, chopped holes in the drywall in places the plates will keep covered when they’re attached and fed the phone lines through the wall to connect to the Vonage router. It doesn’t look terribly pretty, but it’s better than running phone lines clear around the wall. There’s no easy way to check if it’s working, but if I stop getting TiVo shows to watch, I guess I’ll know I’m not the DIY stud I think I am.

If that day comes, though, it will be in the future. And I’ll be pretty tense about it.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

This week’s adventures. So far.

After spending the last few months of 2005 logging 80-hour weeks at work and none at the gym, I was starting to look like Ann Coulter. Except with less back hair. So when I reclaimed my life in January, I also revamped my workout philosophy and my diet, trading the moderate-intensity, one-body-part-a-week program I’d been using for at least 10 years for one that involves maximum weights, lifting to failure and hitting every body part at least twice a week. My diet was already pretty good for what I was trying to do, but I amped up my lean protein consumption, packed the majority of my carbs into the mornings and afternoons, and started chugging creatine and Muscle Milk. Just like the vapid circuit boys big boys at the gym. Oh, and I switched to diet soda. Even though I hate it. But I couldn’t justify all those empty calories. And once in a while I just crave that caustic blend of chemicals and carbonation.

The result? I quickly regained what I’d lost in November and December, followed by a lengthy plateau … and then on Monday I hit three big-boy milestones:

Big-Boy Milestone #1: I hopped on the scale at the gym and discovered I’d finally crossed the 10-new-pounds-what-I-hope-is-muscle plateau. (You can expect to gain about 1.5 pounds a month on a good workout program, and I’ve averaged out to 2.5.) So I’m now tipping the scales at 195 pounds! And the crowd goes wild! I’d never really done squats before January, so the majority of that new muscle is in my legs and in my still kinda sad little butt. And as marathon training gets more intense, I’ll probably lose most of what I gained by July. But still. 10 pounds! Woo-hoo!

Big-Boy Milestone #2: I bench pressed 225 pounds ALL. BY. MYSELF. You get 225 by adding one 45-lb bar and four 45-lb plates. The big boys bench press at least 225 all the time, but us trying-to-be-big boys see it as a pretty major landmark. After years of nothing more impressive than 185, I’d been benching 225 with the help of spotters for at least a month. But on Monday I couldn’t find anyone I wanted an excuse to talk to to spot me, so I did it on my own. And I got three sets of three reps with no trouble at all. And the crowd goes wild again!

Big-Boy Milestone #3: I survived my one thousandth listening-to of Kelis’ tender love ballad, “Caught Out There.” My gym apparently has one CD in its sound system, so at least once a workout I get to hear Kelis’ clever wordplay and thoughtful insights into the human condition, a fine example of which appears in every chorus: “I hate you so much right now! I hate you so much right now! Ugh. I hate you so much right now!”

I joined MySpace last week just for fun. While Rupert Murdoch found enough value in it to buy the site for $580M last July, I found little more than an interesting diversion in it—a way to post pictures, write goofy things about myself and link to legitimate friends and fake muscleboy profiles alike. (It’s amazing how many 21-year-old supermodels with removeable tattoos there are in the world—and how many of them really, really really want to be my friend.)

So I was pleasantly surprised when two of those attractive strangers emailed me and quickly proved themselves to be articulate, intelligent and fun to talk to. One of them lives half a continent away, but the other lives just a couple blocks from my office. So we met for dinner on Tuesday. (A Norwegian and a Jew walk into a Thai restaurant…) And we had an awesome time together. Even though I felt compelled to order a diet soda. After three hours of conversation just flew by, he walked me to my bus stop and waited for my bus with me. Such a charmer. Best of all, our next dinner date is already on the calendar.

After last night’s freakish hailstorm had cleared and the frog-size chunks of ice had melted, I ran five miles hopped over five miles of giant puddles with a guy in my marathon pace group. On the way back to my place we stopped at my friendly neighborhood Dominick’s (motto: The bare minimum is often too much to ask) for dinner supplies, then we invited a guy from a different pace group (fraternizing! with the enemy!) who lives a few blocks from me to join us for spinach-raspberry salad, stuffed chicken breasts and what was left of my homemade low-fat custard after most of it boiled over onto the stove. Stupid low-fat custard.

Then the three of us spent the evening solving the world’s problems over white wine while we gazed out my window and enjoyed my spectacular view. Which might not be mine much longer, because I’ve been condo shopping. And I may have found The One. Stay tuned for all the super-expensive details …

Monday, May 15, 2006

Flight 93

I was surprised how hard I had to look to find anyone who wanted to see this movie. But I finally got three people together Saturday: a guy in my building and two guys I’ve met through the AIDS Marathon. We saw it that night, only two hours after brief introductions in a car and a quick dinner at a chain restaurant.

Flight 93 is not the ideal movie for four people just getting to know each other. But it’s pretty spectacular.

There’s nothing I can say about it that really hasn’t already been said. It’s as brutal and raw and painful as you’d imagine. It’s a grand opera punctuated by small, poignant details: the routine closing of an airplane door, a choked call on a cell phone, the incredulous comments of an air traffic controller as he struggles to stay focused.

The story isn’t new. We all know what happens. In fact, the film assumes its audience is steeped in enough context that it brushes over basic narrative elements—which is fine today but which might make the film harder to grasp in 50 years.

The film is two stories, actually: the air traffic controllers across America desperately trying to comprehend and manage multiple hijackings, and the events aboard Flight 93 itself. Both stories are riveting, though the events on the ground—in the relative safety of the control towers—are certainly easier to digest, if only because you know everyone will survive.

There is a masterful moment halfway through the film where the Flight 93 pilots have been warned about the World Trade Center attacks and told to be alert for potential cockpit intrusions. It’s told in such a way that you find yourself hoping that maybe—just maybe—the pilots won’t open the cockpit door and set in motion catastrophic events that await them.

But that element of hope is a tiny beacon among crashing waves of dread and panic and anguish and devastating sorrow—waves that left me repeatedly with the urge to throw up as I watched. Where my urge to vomit was stronger than what I’d felt when it fully dawned on me exactly what had happened to my friend Miriam in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Than when I watched breast cancer and the effects of chemotherapy almost destroy my mom. Than when my dad and I cleaned up a family friend’s bloody murder scene so her son and grandson wouldn’t have to do it.

Yet I had to see the movie all the way through. Ever since Pan Am 103, I've had this compulsion to understand devastating tragedies on deeper levels than the it-must-be-horrible-to-die-this-way abstract. It’s the same reason I needed to see Titanic. Silly love story aside, the movie shows you exactly what it was like to watch your world literally disappear beneath your feet, to be crushed by tons of iron and steel, to freeze to death among thousands of wet, screaming, terrified people who were powerless to save themselves.

My complaints about Flight 103 are small, and they’re made only in the spirit of hoping for a more powerful tribute to the victims of the attacks. For starters, the hand-held camera technique, while great for imparting feelings of chaos and panic and immediacy, quickly becomes upsetting in an unhelpful way. And Paul Greengrass’ decision to let his actors—especially his amateur actors—ad lib produced a lot of dialogue that’s awkward, forced, inefficient, self-aware and distractingly unrealistic. For instance, in all my years of flying, I have never had a flight attendant greet me at the door of the plane, check my ticket and point me to my seat. Even first-time flyers can tell that all the seats are to the right anyway. Nobody needs to point. Yet the Flight 93 flight attendants repeatedly said things like “Seat 12B—to your right” as the passengers boarded the plane.

In contrast to these distractions, John Powell’s score is masterful, enhancing the story without ever resorting to manipulation. It’s both spare and charismatic, borrowing traditions of chordant dissonance from Pärt, poignancy from Vaughan Williams and the proud resignation that haunts Górecki’s third symphony. It anchors the final moments of the film, providing a sure-footed foundation for the chaos and panic and uncertainty that drive the story to its devastating conclusion.

The popular consensus is that it’s too soon for this movie, but I disagree. I think the timing is perfect. As a nation, we’ve collectively reached the point of emotional fatigue, where we’re squabbling over memorial architecture and the political posturing of legal action. We’ve started losing sight of the enormity of the events of September 11, the human cost, the transcendent level of Greek tragedy that played out in major cities and lonely fields and 24-hour news stations and private living rooms across the continent—the globe, even—that morning.

It takes us back to the human story. The story that really matters. The story we can’t—we should never—forget.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Piling on the debt

If the new bike pump and fancy underpants I bought last weekend don’t send me to the poor house, last night’s purchase is sure to push me over the edge.

I’d bought the last generation of wedge-shaped iMacs back in 2001, and while Crashy McSlowprocessor hasn’t been a nightmare computer, it’s sure been a challenging one.

I learned early on to back up my files often, which I randomly did a few weeks ago. Which proved to be damned good timing, because we had another crash on Monday (The Crash of Monday the 8th, it will hereafter be solemnly called). And even though my hardware diagnostics CD told me there was nothing wrong that a little rebooting couldn’t fix, the computer couldn’t seem to find its own hard drive (there’s a Dubya metaphor in there somewhere) when I tried to reload three different operating systems: OS X, OS 10.2 and—in desperation—OS 9.

Which I took as my sign to throw in the towel. I was tired of lugging 5,000 lbs of dead weight to the Mac store and reloading all my backed-up files every time Crashy lost another baby, and I was tired of trying to do Internet things (like Internet radio—get your minds out of the gutter) that my sad little processor wasn’t fast enough to process.

So I marched into the Mac store last night and stumbled out half an hour later with the bigger one of these bad boys in my hands:

Now I have the latest in high-tech gadgetry AND the portability to make it easy to take the damn thing in for repairs when if it crashes. I also got 30% off a .Mac subscription AND a free printer (after 100% rebate)—all for … well, let’s not dwell on how much I spent on everything.

What’s more, I just signed up for Vonage, which will save me about 60% on my phone bill AND give me a free router that works for my phones AND (what’s with me and the all-caps ANDs today?) for my new wireless-enabled laptop. What. Is. Not. To. Love?

My meaty man-hands have always made it hard for me to use laptop keyboards and mouses, though, so I kept Crashy’s keyboard and mouse, which work perfectly with my new laptop. And so far the only problem I’ve had with the new computer involved getting the Internet connection to work—I had to call Comcast’s tech support line last night and talk to Mumbles McThickaccent, who informed me that Comcast doesn’t support OS 10.4 (Comcastic, my ass). I convinced him to walk me through the 10.3 setup, though, and after a bit of clicking and whirring, I was back online. WHEW.

And now the final issue: what to do with the old computer? Since its hard drive is as tanked as Dick Cheney at a quail hunt, I can’t get in to delete private stuff on it (résumés, passwords, financial information, pictures of me killing hookers in the basement)—which precludes my donating it to someone who could try to repair it and steal my celebrity-blogger identity. I may pry out the hard drive and then leave pieces of the computer in the dumpster behind my building on random days of the week. Or I may set it on fire and show it who got the last laugh.

In any case, I’m now a member of the Laptop Generation, with all its attendant benefits: a free-n-easy lifestyle, lower sperm count, less efficiency at airport security and personal assets as liquid as Karl Rove’s ass.

(I have no idea what that means either, but I’d bashed Dubya and that lesbian-dad/friend-shooter guy, so I figured I had to give the entire unholy triumvirate equal opportunity to feel the sting of my rapier-like wit.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It started out innocently enough.

I’m on the board of a non-profit organization, and we were looking into some viral marketing options that would appeal to the cool kids without breaking our budget. We wanted something relevant, fun and sticky that would make maximum splash with minimum cost. Something that said, “Hey! We’re down with you kids, yo. Word!”

Then one of the cooler kids on the board mentioned MySpace. He said people post profiles and pictures and other related stuff there like on Friendster, but it’s wackier and more interactive. He said bands and movies and other non-profits regularly put up profiles and get people to link to them, and that as long as their profiles are fun and clever nobody seems to mind that they’re being marketed to.

So I thought I should check out this MySpace. I should educate myself about trends in e-marketing. I should keep my finger on what’s pulsating in today’s youth. (I hope that last sentence didn’t come out wrong.)

So I put up a profile last week and started clicking around. At first, nobody even noticed me. Then I found a few friends of mine and linked my profile to theirs. But still: yawn. No traffic. No interaction. No fun.

Then I clicked around some more, and I discovered what all the really popular profiles had in common: Recipes. Folk-song lyrics. Pictures of Rush Limbaugh making out with Pat Robertson. SKIN.

And it all suddenly became clear to me. I had taken that picture of me in my shorty-short running shorts* for a reason: to post on MySpace, solely in the interest of market research. The day I put it on my profile, I went from six friend links to 36. Of course, I don’t know half of my new friends. But they’re hot! And they show skin too! So we share the bond of shameless self-promotion! BFF!

*I lost my nerve on those shorty-short running shorts, by the way, and I took them back. (Without ever running in them, just for the record.) I just didn’t think at my age I could pull them off. I mean I could physically pull them off—they weren’t stapled on or anything—but even after five months of 225-lb squats and oceans of water-packed tuna for dinner I still felt more than a little ridiculous in them. I’d rather have people say Hey! I bet he’d look hot in shorty-short running shorts! than Wow. He’s way too old be running around in a skirted mankini. But I still don’t want to do another marathon in just-above-the-knee shorts, which tend to bunch up when I run as though they were being eaten alive by my ravenous mangina:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Unfortunately, my only other running-shorts option—upper-mid-thigh length—tends to look like a wrap-around tennis skirt on my hips, but I’m holding out hope that I can still find something in that family that doesn’t turn me into Billie Jean King: The Musical.

Where was I? Oh, yes: keeping my finger on the kids. Or something like that.

So MySpace is totally more fun than a bucket of wet kittens, but it does have a few features I find more irritating than Karl Rove in corduroy pants.

Example! You can rig your profile to play your favorite song the moment people click on you. But I don’t want to hear people’s stupid favorite songs; I’m clicking on them to see if they have any shirtless pix conduct very important market research. Besides, it totally slows down my computer. And even when I go in and tell MySpace I don’t want to hear people’s stupid favorite songs, it still plays their stupid favorite songs for me anyway. Love on the rocks! Ain’t no big surprise. Just pour me a drink and I’ll tell you my lies …

One more example! You can somehow (I have not figured out how just yet) put giant pictures of whatever you want in the background of your profile. Which sounds like a good idea in theory, until the background pictures get so busy you can’t even read the profiles (some of which are pretty clever, though many are painfully not) or find the links to add random hot guys people you have known and loved for years as your MySpace friends.

Final example! MySpace is like heroin. I have lost serious amounts of what could have been productive (e.g., laundry-folding, vacuuming, etc.) time clicking around on it. But who cares if my socks are wrinkled! I have hot shirtless friends! I’m on MySpace! I’m down with the kids, yo! Word!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Shoot me. In the skull.

I can’t get Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” out of my head today.

I hated it when it came out in 1986—the same year that trendy people started leaving an effluvium of Obsession everywhere they went. That retarded song and that sticky-sweet smell will forever be linked in my mind.

I hated that “Nasty” was mass-produced pablum that nonetheless entered the cultural zeitgeist. I hated that it tried to force a ridiculous catchphrase on malleable consumers. I hated that the lyrics were so friggin’ stupid. I hated that it had a shitty tempo for a dancing, but everybody tried to dance to it anyway.

I hated that other people liked it.

And now, 20 years later, it’s stomping around in my brain again, conjuring up long-forgotten images of overtanned men in neon shirts and pegged jeans and espadrilles dancing under a sad little disco ball in an Iowa gay bar. (And for those of you paying extremely close attention and doing the requisite math … yes, I had to borrow my roommate’s ID to get those images in my brain in the first place.)

Ms. Jackson—or Janet Privacy Control if you’re nasty—I’ve seen your boob. I’ve endured your songs. I’ve had enough.

So put your nasty fruit in your nasty car and please go jam to your nasty groove somewhere else. My nasty thoughts can’t take it anymore.

Weekend adventures

Dinner with Matthew on Friday night.
We had drinks at the bar in the Sofitel and then ate a lovely meal at RL, the country-clubby restaurant attached to the Ralph Lauren store on Michigan Avenue. And since it was Matthew's birthday, I even let him have a bite of my salmon. Afterwards, we popped into Filene's Basement so Matthew could show me a suit he'd been admiring. Never one to pass up discount underwear, I nabbed myself some fancy-schmancy new 2(x)ist briefs while we were there that made my butt look so butt-like when I got home and tried them on that I went out the next day and bought five more pair.

First day of marathon training.
Matthew and I met up at the ungodly hour of 7:30 on Saturday to join all the AIDS Marathon runners for our first run of the season—on an ungodly (ungodlyly?) cold morning. We were timed on this first run and put into our official training teams, the members of which will reportedly become Best Friends For Life after we complete the marathon together. The people on my team seem friendly, which is a good sign. Matthew, who ended up on my team as well (yay!), brought his camera, so you-all can get an exclusive first peek at my new BFFs:
(Teams are named after famous marathoners of yore, and apparently this Tegla person ran the Yore Marathon a few times.)

After we finished running, I joined four of my new BFFs at IHOP to counteract the benefits of all that cardio, and then I hit the stores in and around Boystown for some retail therapy. I came home with a portable tire pump (with a built-in pressure gauge!) for my bike, two huge containers of Muscle Milk (which may or may not have been a good deal, but I'm afraid to comparison shop after the fact), a hand mixer so I can whip up purées and protein shakes at the press of a button, and a new tattoo!*

*Actually, this is a blatant lie engineered to give my mom (Hi, Mom!) a heart attack. But she and a few other interested parties will probably be troubled to know that I did indeed visit a tattoo parlor on Saturday with intent to get the tattoo I blather on and on endlessly about in the post below. Except the tattoo guy talked me out of it. It seems my idea (upside-down from the image below, so the tiger's tail peeks up from my waistband and the tiger is hidden in my fabulous new underpants) would require the poor tiger to have an extremely long tail and a freakishly short body. Or else he would have to be tattooed over the crease in my skin where my leg bends, and I wouldn't be able to sit for a week while it healed. And I like to sit.

Um ... stuff.
The rest of my weekend wasn't terribly noteworthy. But if you insist on knowing, it consisted of: Dinner with my other friend Matthew on Saturday night. Laundry, cleaning, working out, playing with my digital camera* and chorus rehearsal on Sunday. And that's about it. Aren't you glad you read this paragraph?

*I saw this cool picture in an old running magazine of a runner lacing up his shoes. He looked all lean and fit, like an official runner (especially because he was wearing shorty-short running shorts and tying his shoes), and I thought I could re-create it starring me using the timer on my camera. Why? I don't know. I just wanted to try it. And it turned out pretty OK, except my bookcase crept into the frame and the camera angle ended up making my shorty-short running shorts look exceptionally micro-tiny. I apologize in advance if this somehow scandalizes you. And since I'm in no danger of being featured in a running magazine lacing up my shoes in my shorty-short running shorts any time soon, I'm gonna post the picture here:

Friday, May 05, 2006

I want another tattoo.

Which, combined with my first two tattoos, my (formerly) pierced nipples, my seven skydives, my (former) fascination with Chess King, my shaved forearms and my long history of voting against Republicans, is totally going to make my family go back and make sure I wasn’t accidentally switched at birth with the demon spawn of gypsies, tramps and/or thieves.

My first tattoo was a cute little portrait of Mickey Mouse on my ankle:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I got it almost 15 years ago to celebrate my love for all things Mickey. It was applied by a very large man who was packin’ heat the whole time he defiled my flesh with his filthy needles. Which made the whole Mickey Mouse thing seem really, really gay.

I got my second tattoo last spring to commemorate my first marathon, which I’d completed six months earlier:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I designed it myself, with a bit of help from a friend who knew Photoshop better than I did. It was supposed to go on the instep of my right foot because my right leg had given me the most trouble during the marathon and it needed to be punished. But the tattoo guy said you slough off skin cells on your feet so fast that the tattoo would disappear in a matter of months. So I put it on my lower back. Because the Clone Council mandates that all gay men eventually get tattoos on their lower backs.

My third (hypothetical) tattoo is a little bigger in scope. And I want it in a place I can’t show people so easily. And I want it for no bigger reason than the fact that I just want it. ’Cause I think it would be hot.

And thanks to a quick Google search and my burgeoning Photoshop skills, I designed a pretty good representation of how I hope it will look:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

For those of you who can’t squint that hard, it’s a tiger (but just black ink on pink skin; I don’t have the Photoshop skills—or the patience—to strip all that white out from between all those tiger stripes) that looks like he’s clawing his way up from my swimsuit area. I know: Tram-PEE. But loaded with street cred. (“Hey! Don’t mess with Jake! He has a tiger tattoo. And tigers can really mess you up with their sharp claws and their biting sarcasm.”) Besides, I’ve always thought tats peeking out from waistbands are cool, and as I’ve started barreling toward my Big 4-0, I’ve replaced sheet cake with water-packed tuna as my dominant meal plan. So my abs still look tigerrific (I just made that word up!) in certain light.

Anyway, the whole tiger tat thing is still in the I-wonder-if-I’ll-actually-go-through-with-it stage. Which means it wouldn’t happen until I thought about it for at least another six months. Then again, I’ve already been thinking about it for years, so maybe I’ll just squeeze it in between bank and grocery errands tomorrow.

Either way, the hospital birth records department will be hearing from my family soon.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Songs I Love That You Probably Hate

America Neil Diamond
Bandstand Boogie Barry Manilow
Beautiful Noise Neil Diamond
C’est la Vie Robbie Nevil
Conga Miami Sound Machine
December 1963 Dance Mix Four Seasons
Devil Went Down to Georgia Charlie Daniels Band
Go West Remix Pet Shop Boys
I Can See Clearly Now Jimmy Cliff
I Got the Music in Me (Original Happy Mix) Marilyn
Innocent Man Billy Joel
The Lion Sleeps Tonight N’SYNC
Longest Time Billy Joel
Love is in the Air John Paul Young
Never Gonna Get It En Vogue
Take on Me A-ha
Time and Tide Basia
Uptown Girl Billy Joel
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go Wham!
Wild Montana Skies John Denver
Xanadu Olivia Newton-John

WHEW. Glad to have those embarrassing secrets off my chest. I’d publish a Songs I Love That You Probably Hate: Showtune Edition, but there's no way you have the bandwidth.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Souvenirs from Orlando:

• Kick-ass wraparound sunglasses.
• A weird little sunburn on the sides of my feet where I didn’t put enough sunscreen.
• A four-pack of Muscle Milk (the newest, trendiest and probably ultimately just as worthless weightlifting supplement, though it’s quite tasty).
• A sore, achy body courtesy of some killer workouts with Keith.
• An expired one-day Disney pass for my scrapbook.
• One completed Da Vinci Code and one half-completed American Gothic: A Life of America's Most Famous Painting.
• Stray granules of sand in my dirty laundry.
• A painful eye infection.*

*This is technically misleading on two fronts: 1) I left for Orlando on Thursday with the infection already in place, but I thought my pink, puffy eye was just a byproduct of the headache that had been throbbing above it all day. It turns out the headache was probably a result of the infection. 2) It’s not even an infection. After visiting two doctors today (my internist, who wasn’t sure what the hell was wrong with me, and an ophthalmologist, who is more fun to spell than to visit) I have learned that I am suffering from a horrible, disfiguring, turn-sunlight-into-lasers-of-pain case of Really Dry Eye.

That’s right. After five days of irritating pain, two copays and three hours of missed work, I’ve learned I’m suddenly incapable of producing adequate eye moisture. And that I kind of whimper when the ophthalmologist (there’s that fun word again!) does an eye exam involving bright lights and little sensors that actually touch my eyeballs.

But it’s nothing serious. And I get pretty fast relief just by putting expensive over-the-counter drops in my eyes as often as I feel pain. Which is every freakin’ minute of the day. And I can still wear mascara.

And now I have no vacations planned until July, when I’ll head home to Iowa for (twitch!) my (gag! ack!) 20th high school reunion. Which should fill my eyes with enough tears that I’ll save a bundle on drops.