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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: October 20- October 26, 2003

Friday, October 24, 2003:

Jess talked to a couple of her friends who were actually admitted to the Pleaseeasaur/Captured! By Robots show the other night, and they said that CBR was one of the best things they'd ever seen, but Pleaseeasaur either didn't show up or played his set ridiculously early (i.e., before 10, which is when we arrived), so we wouldn't have seen him anyway. So the whole thing is somewhat less disappointing.

Tonight, Lorenzo is having a costume-mandatory Halloween party, and I plan to go as a member of Devo (circa the "Whip It" video), because I already have the Energy Dome and it therefore spares me from having to be creative and think up a better idea. Anyway, I went to the Salvation Army today in search of a black turtleneck whose sleeves I could cut off, and wound up buying a bunch of hilarious audiocassettes (including a 1982 tape about computers and technology that's wonderfully dated and features one narrator who's apparently doing a James Mason impersonation and another who's attempting a New England accent but sounds closer to Irish) and perhaps the coolest thing I've purchased since... well, since the Skugga light at Ikea last weekend, anyway...

I am now the proud owner of one of those old, bulky, electrical weight-loss machines where you put a belt around your waist and the whole thing vibrates the pounds away. Which it doesn't. But still. You know the things I'm talking about? I can't find a picture to link to, because I don't even know the technical term for this contraption (mine is labeled "Vitamaster Massage Belt," but the Internet seems devoid of references to such a thing), but you've seen them. Lots of cheap commercials use 1950s-era stock footage of fat people using the machine because it's theoretically funny to watch 'em jiggle. (This footage is usually paired with that famous shot of the fat guy getting blasted in the stomach with a cannonball.) My acquisition is much more impressive if you know what I'm talking about. I'm really happy about it. It looks cool around the house, and it feels nice to use, too.

And speaking of whimsical, ironic fun, I just got ahold of the CD Dirty Fan Male, which Mark had recommended to me in New York this summer, and it's one of the funniest things I've ever heard. Some guys in England got ahold of a bunch of fan letters written to porn stars and Page 3 models by lunatics, and it's an album full of dramatic readings of said letters. Here's an example of one of the letters, which is obviously very funny in and of itself, but it's even better hearing it read aloud by a man who really throws himself into the role of these weirdos, maintaining all the grammatical flaws and pronouncing the misspelled words phonetically. It's hard to get ahold of unless you order it directly from Trunk Records, but it's worth doing because it's insane.

CURRENT MOOD: That weird, semi-nervous reluctance I always feel before parties, which is odd since I almost always wind up having fun. Hmm.
That Kikko-Man song, for some reason.
5:34 PM.

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Thursday, October 23, 2003:

Vince accidentally pulled the fire alarm at work today, filling the bookstore with one shrill, sustained screech for several minutes. Clever man that I am, I said, "So now we know how it feels to be Pete Townshend."

"Who?" Vince replied.

"Yes, that's right," I said. I then wore the smug grin of the Unsubtle Rock Jokester for about an hour.

Yesterday, I went to visit Jess in Ann Arbor. Following an afternoon of watching old videotapes of Pee-wee's Playhouse, Full House, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and revelling in the memories, we'd planned to go to the Elbow Room in Ypsilanti- hometown of Steve & Abe- to see Pleaseeasaur and Captured! By Robots. That didn't pan out, unfortunately. Seems the Elbow Room got busted by the cops on Monday for serving alcohol to minors, so they hastily decided that last night's show would be a 21-and-over event, and since Jess doesn't turn 21 for another month, she couldn't get in. Despite the fact that she has been a regular at the Elbow Room for quite some time, and the bar's website said nothing about this being a 21-and-over show (in comparison to the Stars show coming up, which clearly says "21+"), and they could very easily have just put an X on her hand to indicate that she can't purchase liquor like they do at most concerts, the security guy wouldn't let her pass.

We were each immensely bummed ("That makes me feel so small," she said) because we were really looking forward to both of those bands. We had a brief discussion in which Jess wondered whether the fact that we both have such negative, cynical attitudes toward the world somehow draws bad luck. Not just last night, but our horrible Radiohead experience a few months ago, Pip getting wrecked, Jess's bike getting stolen, etc. She said she doesn't really buy into the whole "karma" thing, but the fact that bad things seem to happen to both of us so frequently might mean that we're putting some sort of energy-or-whatever out into the world that causes shit to rain down upon us. I said I doubted it because, for instance, cynical though Jess might be, she's still a very nice person. There's a difference between feeling angry because you hate the way the world is going and actually taking your anger out on the world. I can't imagine how just feeling bitter and disillusioned would be a cosmic liability if you still try your best to do good, assuming such things matter. However, later on, I thought about my brother, who just expects things to always go well for him, and they do. Always. The jerk. So maybe there's something to Jess's theory, but at any rate, we both agreed that attitude adjustments are pretty much out of the question. Then we went back to her place and drank some beer and watched Cannibal! The Musical, which made things seem not so bad. (If the trailers that appeared on the video before the actual movie are any indication, it's probably the only decent film Troma has ever released.)

CURRENT MUSIC: Life by the Cardigans.
CURRENT MOOD: Schpadoinkle.
Congressman Joe Knollenberg. He responded to my e-mail about Bush's dumb, homophobic "Marriage Protection Week" with some wishy-washy crap about how he'll keep my opinion in mind, but he punctuated it with a smarmy Webster's definition of marriage that pointedly includes the phrase "between a man and a woman" (or something like that). For one thing: if you ever use the phrase, "Webster's dictionary defines [term] as..." then you are a lazy writer and/or speaker. For another thing: although I have nothing against the fine people at Merriam-Webster, it doesn't seem like they should be the final authority on marriage laws in our nation. Let's not vote for this clown ever again, okay, folks?
5:05 PM.

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Monday, October 20, 2003:

Happy birthday, Ben! Er, yesterday...

Saturday, I borrowed my mom's Trailblazer (Pip is still in the shop, and the roofer guys selflessly agreed to pay half the repair costs- because, you know, me swerving into a ditch to avoid colliding with their workers who failed to yield was just as much my fault as it was theirs) and drove down to Chicago to visit Adrienne again. And if you haven't yet had the pleasure of driving a new Trailblazer, you may as well have never seen a rainbow, or never felt the unconditional love of a puppy.

Or never had your face repeatedly slashed open by the serrated edge on a box of aluminum foil.

Besides sucking down gas in a manner that suggests Karen Allen in that Raiders of the Lost Ark drinking contest, and besides making you sit so high up that it feels like you're riding one of those scary, old timey bikes with the big wheel, the Trailblazer's climate control system is quite the brain teaser. Instead of having a simple, easy-to-understand pair of knobs like Pip does- one of which controls the level of air blowing through the vents and the other of which controls the temperature- the Trailblazer has literally a dozen buttons and knobs that apparently all must be mastered to be the slightest bit comfortable. In roughly twelve hours of driving this weekend, and even with Adrienne's help, all the fiddling with these controls gave the following results:

ACTION: Turning knob to decrease temperature on driver's side. RESULT: Blast of cold air in face for both driver and passenger.
ACTION: Turning knob to increase temperature on driver's side. RESULT: Blast of cold air in face for both driver and passenger.
ACTION: Hitting button to decrease strength of fan to lowest setting. RESULT: Blast of cold air in face becomes no less powerful.
ACTION: Pressing button to recirculate air throughout car rather than sucking in cold air from outside. RESULT: Blast of cold air dissipates for a few minutes, then suddenly returns with a vengeance.
ACTION: Speeding up car without touching any climate controls. RESULT: Blast of cold air in face becomes more insistent.
ACTION: Hitting "Off" button in hopes of halting arctic winds. RESULT: Blast of cold air continues unabated two out of three times button was pressed. Finally stops, and car becomes intolerably stuffy unless windows are opened.

I'm happy we somehow managed to avoid accidentally hitting the "Scalding Hot Seltzer" button.

When I arrived at Adrienne's apartment, she greeted me with a basket of great banana bread she'd baked for me, which was an incredibly sweet gesture and made me happy beyond words. (For some reason, I'm always floored and immensely grateful whenever someone gives me food they've made. I can't explain exactly what my reasoning is, but I think it's the nicest thing you can do for someone. Last spring, in fact, Adrienne brought me a batch of chocolate chip cookies one night, and after she left, I cried uncontrollably with happiness for about an hour. It really affects me and I don't know why.) We then went to Target, because she doesn't have a car and therefore often has trouble getting around to these places she needs to go. She bought an air mattress and an air pump, and exchanged her defective copy of Bend It Like Beckham for a new one.

Adrienne then took me to Ikea, which was new to me because they don't yet have a store in metro Detroit. That place is gigantic! And awesome! It was a 40-minute trip from Target, located rather inconveniently. Not that the store is in the middle of nowhere, because there are plenty of restaurants and angular, glassy corporate buildings all around it, but Ikea looms over its surroundings like an enormous blue Lego. It's odd. And inside, it's like shopping in The Sims! All the home furnishings you could possibly want, mostly in cool, modern designs and colors and patterns! I know this isn't going to sound like much of a revelation to anyone who has grown up with Ikea as a part of his or her life, but the sheer volume of cool stuff in that store had me grinning like a dork for the entire hour or so we spent inside. My taste in home decor doesn't always intersect with Adrienne's, but we both share a powerful enthusiasm for Attractive Things, so I had a blast looking around with her.

I bought an awesome wall light named Skugga. It looks like those little backlit "No Smoking" signs that are on airplanes, only much bigger, and it comes with nine interchangeable plastic slides you can put into it: a cigarette, a cell phone, a P for some reason, a heart, a coffee cup, etc. (And it also comes with a transparent sheet with a diagonal line on it, so you can negate any of the above by placing that sheet over one of the other symbols. The cell phone becomes "no cell phones," for instance. For the moment, I have the line running through the heart.) I saw a clock I rather enjoyed, too, but Adrienne advised me to wait on that. I can't remember the actual product name, though, since they all have grin-inducing Swedish names like "Flabb" that aren't really descriptive.

Afterward, we were supposed to meet some of Adrienne's friends for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, but since neither she nor I can parallel park in even the tiniest of cars, and going to that particular restaurant would require one of us to correctly park a sizable SUV, we decided to skip it. Until some auto company starts equipping cars with Inspector Gadget-style wheels that can rotate 90 degrees and roll sideways into a parking space, I shall be forgoing any and all social engagements that would require parallel parking. Instead, she and I went to Clarke's diner again- yay!- and talked about our miserable high school days, and our hopes for the failure of our former classmates' lives.

Adrienne took me on a tour of some of the Northwestern campus's more aesthetically pleasing spots as well as its boxy architectural disasters, and we saw ducks and fish and enough squirrels to feed Ted Nugent well into the year 3000. It was a gorgeous autumn afternoon, and perhaps the most enjoyable walk I've ever been on. Not that it has much competition, but still. Then Adrienne needed to buy the new Dido album for her music review assignment that's due Tuesday, so we went to the Borders by her place, where they offer a generous 20% discount for Northwestern students. (Even with the discount, it was something like $15.99, which is about twenty dollars more than I would personally pay, but Adrienne liked her first album and needed to find something that would be easy to write up anyway. If nothing else, I think it would definitely be easy to review one of Dido's albums. A certain two-word Spinal Tap review springs to mind.) She laughed at me for feeling a need to straighten the books while we were there, though after a bit of that, she told me I really need to get out of the bookstore business.

After stocking up on juice at a convenience mart, we went back to her place and watched an abysmal Trading Spaces while we attempted to inflate the air mattress on which I'd be sleeping. Since it turns out the Coleman air pump she'd purchased is incompatible with the mattress itself, this took quite some time despite my peerlessly helpful, MacGyver-inspired suggestion of fashioning some sort of adapter from the cap of her hairspray. I don't know. Then we watched About a Boy, which was cute, and the episode of Square Pegs featuring Devo, which Adrienne had been thoughtful enough to tape for me awhile back. It ended just in time for the late-night craptoberfest that is Saturday night basic cable. VH1 was airing a special on celebrity asses, MTV was airing some show where frat boys and soro-hos root through each other's bedrooms and comment on the findings, USA was airing an encore presentation of their original movie about the Beltway Sniper... for two bad-TV connoisseurs, it was a wonderful waking dream. We also watched a half hour or so of Posse, an excellently awful film featuring Billy Zane (who, during the climax, has his eyepatch actually on his eye in some shots and flipped up onto his forehead in others), Tone Loc, and Carl Winslow. Then I kept her up talking till 3 A.M., and by the time I feel asleep, my cheeks actually hurt a little from all the smiling and laughing I'd been doing. What an odd feeling.

After we'd been asleep for a few hours, I was awoken by Adrienne hissing, "Stop laughing at me!" I looked over, and she was asleep with her finger pointed indignantly into the air. I giggled.

As a sidebar, I thought I'd mention two other amusing stories of people talking in their sleep:
1) In eighth grade, my entire class took a two-night trip to Washington, D.C.. One night, my hotel roommates and I were awoken by the sound of our friend J.J. yelling something in the adjoining room. The following morning, my friend Devan informed me that J.J. had yelled, "It's a hamburger it's a fight!"
2) A few years ago, Jen woke me up in the middle of the night by angrily elbowing me in the ribs. Before I realized she was still asleep, I said, "Ow! What?" and she scolded, "Never show mean qualities at the river!" She was quickly woken by the sounds of me laughing in her ear.

Anyhark, I left Adrienne's at noon the next day because she had a ton of homework and I didn't want her to feel like she needed to continue entertaining me with all that stuff hanging over her head. She walked me down to my car, we said goodbye, and once again, I went home feeling revitalized from the trip.

Immediately after I got home, Jess, Lorenzo, Aimee, Ashleigh, Aimee's friends Jim-and-Candace, and I went to Caribou Coffee in Royal Oak for a few hours. It was fun, but I noticed that after about an hour, my comments and jokes started getting incredibly mean. Borderline cruel. (Not cruel to my friends, but just making smart-ass remarks about topics that shouldn't be handled smart-assily. At least, not unless there's some sort of intelligent, South Park- or Mr. Show-esque commentary underlying it.) I know I have an inappropriate mean streak at times, and try to suppress it, but I still find it unnerving whenever this stuff bubbles to the surface, because I don't like it. Just mean for mean's sake. It's unbecoming and stupid. Must try to rectify that.

I just realized that my mousepad has a gigantic Detroit Vipers logo on it. How long have I had this thing, and where did I get it in the first place?

And now, a collection of entertaining e-mail subject lines from my friends (alphabetical by friend):

·"Bad sci-fi is good sci-fi."
·"It never ends."
·"You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles."
·"The sound is forced, the notes are few."
·"But I sat next to the class clown, and I studied him."
·"Sensation of Crawly Things"
·"Cinnamon cookie men."
·"Things to make you angry."
·"Little Indians. Three, to be exact."
·"Guilt warring with severe annoyance."
·"Mmm... Colin Firth."
·"Headache. And frogs."
·"Is kimono capitalized and other mysteries."
·"Stale Quaker Oat squares make a poor breakfast."

·"It's just my job five days a week, I'm a rocket man."
·"Little feet leaving footprints on your lawn."
·"Do you feel like a chainstore?"
·"If I ever had been here before I would probably know just what to do..."
·"Quack quack."
·"You are a radiostahahahahahahar."
·"I don't really know clouds at all."
·"wat is er mooier dan een stukje fietsen als de zon schijnt?"
·"Mrs. Robinson, At the Zoo, and other Graduate references."
·"Omni presents."
·"It's a good day for flying... Seeeeeeeeeymooooooooooore Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiin"
·"Where liquor in a mug can warm you like a hug."
·"Home again, and the streets here are much cleaner."
·"I learnt mostly everything I know from Calvin & Hobbes."
·"Throw out your gold teeth and see how they roll."
·"If I can get a job, and still do permanent makeup..."

·"He's a famous jazz musician!"
·"Veggieburger in Paradise."
·"Hoo-ah!" [the last two were sent within two days of one another.]
·"Oh, no! Beta!"
·"Unless he's a drooling vegetable... but I think that's only common sense."
·"You ducks are really trying my patience!"
·"I've had enough of your White Zone shit."
·"Want sex fg kj35jf 674m."
·"Dogs are idiots!"

·"Frostbite is better than nothing."
·"Chocolate-flavored bubblegum just isn't the same."
·"More Ovaltine please!!!"
·"Oops there goes another rubber tree..."
·"Call me morbid, call me pale."
·"No scrubs."


I like my friends.

CURRENT MOOD: Still feeling pretty good.
"MR GAS" and "VAG DOC."
TIME: 8:53 PM.

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