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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: April 21-May 27, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008:

I'm very amused by my friends' e-mailed wittiness. I'm also a little proud of my responses; I hope they come across as funny as I'd intended them.

From T-Bone:

Hey brother,

I've been working on my resume, brother, and I was just wondering if you would take a look at it for me, brother, and see if you have any suggestions. LeAnne thought it would be a good idea to make a functional resume, so it's kind of different from my normal one, brother.

Let me know what you think, brother.


The intro paragraph of my reply:

Well, I tell you, Hulk, my great-grandmother was looking down on me tonight while I read your resume, and I just felt her presence and she gave me strength to read it all the way through, I know it. And I just know that everyone here tonight was with me tonight, WHOOOOOOOOOO, and it just goes to show you that persaverence [sic] can help you overcome any obstacles that might get thrown your way, and I just know that everyone back home at the Cooterville Diner was rooting me on, and I AM an American Gladiator and, thank you, God, for just giving me this opportunity, it's what I've always dreamed of. YEAH!

From Tim:

On Thursday when Jess and I were driving through western Michigan on the way to Chicago, one of our many pit stops was a McDonald's in Paw Paw, Michigan. Some marketing genius, obviously realizing that the local McDonald's was the only draw on the outside world, strategically erected a huge wooden sign between the exit ramp and the McDonald's parking lot. The sign had big, hand-painted block letters that said:


In my judgment, it's a pretty successful ad campaign. I now know that Paw Paw contains a McDonald's and Old Paw Paw. I assume whoever brainstormed that sign went on to create the GEICO Cavemen.

My response:

Hey Tim,

That? Is awesome. Thanks for passing it along! I did some digging, and here's the timeline I came up with regarding that sign:

December 9, 2007: At monthly Paw Paw city council meeting, Councilman Jennifer Horr draws attention to mention of Paw Paw in recent interview with actor James Avery published in Jet Sr. magazine. Avery is quoted as saying, "I was born in Paw, Paw, Michigan [sic] and my family moved away three months later. The less said about Paw, Paw [sic] the better. I'd rather discuss my guest spot on The Hogan Family as a driving instructor, if you don't mind. Ugh." Horr suggests Paw Paw apply for historic status as childhood home of Avery. Motion is approved 5-0, and Mayor Gale Thibodeau formally announces plans to form exploration committee to discuss feasibility of installing signpost on exit ramp denoting Paw Paw as an historic city. Motion approved 4-1.

74-year-old, moustachioed resident Harold Carruthers, present at meeting to hold forth on "other business" including objection to use of "non-traditional, heretical" font on street signs, desire for 6:30 p.m. curfew specific to house of his next-door neighbors whose garage-mounted basketball hoop makes "rattling" noise, and desire to increase town's proximity from "Sodom-and-Gomorrah hellhole" of Grand Rapids, impugns Avery's status as human being. Proclaiming himself "Old Paw Paw" as town's eighth-oldest resident he is aware of, Carruthers demands signpost in own honor. Motion defeated 3-2.

January 10, 2008: At monthly city council meeting, City Clerk Trevor Thibodeau announces open search for bids to install signpost in honor of James Avery, with funds to be drawn from annual town tourism budget ($1,500) and remainder, if necessary, to be drawn from "rainy day" fund ($410,000 following Michigan Supreme Court decision in town's favor in lawsuit against Tyson Foods, currently being appealed). 74-year-old resident Harold Carruthers, present at meeting to hold forth on "other business" of perceived lax police enforcement of public expectoration statues, perceived tardiness of Paw Paw daily postal deliveries, and perceived need for local homeowner's association to clarify verbiage ("homeowners" distinct from "homos"), voices objection. Carruthers is forcibly removed from meeting.

January 17, 2008: City Clerk Trevor Thibodeau rejects petition, submitted by resident Harold Carruthers, to change Michigan state constitution to explicitly forbid installation of any form of signage "over four inches" within Paw Paw city limits, on grounds that petition has apparently been signed by 123,822 citizens in a town of 870 people, all in identical purple ink.

January 20, 2008: City Clerk Trevor Thibodeau rejects petition, submitted by mysterious "Old Paw Paw," to issue "official Michigan fatwa" on the heads of City Council members, on grounds that Michigan constitution does not permit publicly-funded murder of public officials.

February 1, 2008: Low bid is accepted from Troy-based Monuments, Tombs, Etc. (NASDAQ symbol MTE) for installation of signpost. Total cost to town: $31,279.

May 2, 2008: Brass-plated signpost appears just off interstate, reading, "Welcome to Paw Paw, Michigan. Historical Childhood Home of TV's James Avery. 'Shredder' of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and 'Uncle Phil' of Fresh Prince of Belair" [sic].

May 3, 2008: Local resident Harold Carruthers is arrested on charges of loitering and vagrancy following 911 call reporting Carruthers leaning nude against James Avery signpost and making obscene gesture with one hand while holding cardboard sign in other hand proclaiming himself "Old Paw Paw."

May 8, 2008: Signpost is reported missing by local taxidermist Isaiah Gundenhaus at 3:40 a.m.

May 9, 2008: Paw Paw City Council decries theft of signpost in local periodical Paw Paw Courier. $6,500 reward is offered for information leading to arrest of thief and recovery of signpost.

May 10, 2008: Reward is clarified in Paw Paw Courier; typographical error resulted in $65.00 reward being published as vastly inflated amount.

May 14, 2008: New signpost appears in place of professional signpost. Handmade bulletin proclaims Paw Paw to be "HOME OF OLD PAW PAW."

May 14, 2008: Harold Carruthers' home and 12 acres of surrounding property are searched; missing signpost is located in abandoned moonshine still, along with shoes of numerous missing hitchhikers. Carruthers is arrested and subsequently released on own recognizance. $65.00 reward to be awarded to whistle-blower Trina Carruthers in public ceremony on July 6 (though check is not to be cashed until January 2009).

May 16, 2008: Paw Paw City Council announces search for bids to reinstall original sign. Monuments, Tombs, Etc. immediately stakes right of first refusal on low bid, submits own bid of $43,219.

CURRENT MUSIC: Waves are Universal by Rachel Goswell.
5:29 p.m.

Doot? | |

Saturday, May 17, 2008:

First off, an update on our parakeets: Turns out Goldklang is a girl. We thought they were two gay boys, but Goldklang's nostrils have turned flaky and brown, which means she's not only female, but a female who's In the Mood, and Gormley was all up in that the other night. I don't know how I thought bird eggs got fertilized, but I was naively unprepared to see actual birdie humping. (Possibly because I never rented the unrated director's cut of Winged Migration that caused such a fuss.) According to our parakeet book, it will take nine or 10 days before eggs appear, and I guess we're going to have to simply dispose of them if they do, since we don't have the space or resources to raise baby birds right now. That makes me sad, especially since Goldklang has been pulling apart her rope toy, strand by strand, to make a nest in anticipation of the big event. I really hope Gormley has been shooting blanks and I just realized that this entry is starting to take a dangerously odd turn so let's move on now.

Monday, Bev and I took a ride down to Boston to see The Cure play at Boston University's Agganis Arena. You're going to hear about it and like it.

Just south of Portland, Bev and I stopped for sandwiches at Ainsley's, a nice little filling station and snack shop. As we rode back toward the highway, we spotted a woodchuck resting in the middle of the road, pivoting in a circle on one of her front paws. I stopped the car and blocked traffic while Bev fetched a board that was lying in the grass. She tried to slide the board beneath the chuck (who we quickly named Scampers even though Bev keeps referring to her as "Shuffles"), but Scampers decided it was more comfy to recline against the board, as though Bev had arrived simply to provide her a makeshift chaise lounge. Bev and I switched roles at that point, and I used the board to prod Scampers gently under the chin. After a few seconds of this, she got annoyed and scuttled off the road, so if her leg was indeed hurt, it didn't seem to be bad enough to impede her movement. Bev thinks she may have just been stunned by a car straddling her and grazing her paw or something. I hope she's okay. And I don't know what we would've done had that board not been there (I learned not to get too close to road-bound animals after Hammond the turtle took a swipe at my leg), so the lesson is: littering is good.

We passed a Hannaford produce truck that had a picture of a perfect, ripe strawberry on the side. Bev grumbled something about it not being representative of the quality of Hannaford produce, and I commented that at least it wasn't a Shaw's truck. (Shaw's is a competing grocery chain that has the crappiest produce I've ever seen this side of Wal-Mart.) We spent the next 10 minutes or so thinking up pictures that would accurately depict Shaw's veggies. Suggestions included:

Around 2:00, we checked into the Ogunquit Resort Motel, just a few miles north of the Maine border, and about 90 minutes north of Boston. We planned to stop there for the night on the way back from the concert, and it made a convenient place to dump our stuff. (My stuff was a messenger bag with a change of clothes wadded into it. Bev's stuff--for our 30-hour trip--was a backpack, a canvas Harry Potter tote bag, and a plastic Hannaford bag, all full. She's not doing much to overturn sexist stereotypes, I must say.) Bev fixed the TV, we took a quick nap, got lunch from Yum Mee, the Asian restaurant next to the hotel, and struck out for Boston.

Didn't take very long to actually get to the city, but it also didn't take very long to get hopelessly lost once we were inside it. For one thing, between the two of us, Bev and I had managed to obtain three different, conflicting sets of directions to Agganis Arena. For another thing, although Boston seems to me like it would be a very pleasant place to live if you don't own a vehicle, an overhead view of the city's streets must resemble a contour drawing of a sweater crammed through a meat grinder. Exits appear, with no warning, around blind corners. Roads disappear down trapdoors, only to pop up again in some other part of town. Some goofball actually riding on a Segway makes you cackle so hard that you miss your turn. And all the while, the damn Citgo sign flashes its hypnotic Masonic iconography down at you like some dystopian mind-control device.

Needless to say, the 45 minutes we'd allotted for travel troubles turned out to be far too conservative. Bev and I got to our seats literally one minute before opening act 65daysofstatic left the stage. (Yes, we arrived toward the end of the 64th day, har har.) From what little I heard, they sounded like a fairly good post-rock band, like Explosions in the Sky with a whiff of electronics. I wish I'd heard more of them.

People-watching then filled the time as The Cure's roadies set up. Aside from being, curiously, almost uniformly white (and not in the goth makeup way you might be thinking, but the Republican National Convention way), there was an interesting mix of people in the venue. You had the characters you'll run into at every concert, of course: Crying Girl Stumbling Around Aimlessly, Drunk Girl Passed Out on Miserable Boyfriend's Lap in the Lobby, and Thirtysomething Dicksmoke Who's Trying to Stave Off the Waning of His Youth-Culture Relevance by Shouting and Dancing in an Intentionally Obnoxious Fashion Within an Eight-Foot Radius of Where I'm Standing. But Monday night, you also had Woman in Slinky Evening Gown Who's Having Trouble Walking Down the Arena Stairs, Pockmarked Old Wiseacre Who Appeared to Have Been the Father of Both Marky Ramone and Lemmy From Motorhead, and Unspeakably Awesome 10-Year-Old Boy Wearing Gallons of Eyeliner. Apart from the Ween show Jon and I went to a few years back, The Cure boasted probably the most diverse crowd I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, I can't give you much of a concert review because Bev is the big Cure fan in this household. I do like The Cure, I own nearly all of their albums thanks to the generosity of Scott Floman, and I flat-out love Disintegration and their singles compilation, but for whatever reason, I've never really become a real fan so much as an interested observer. Maybe it's because Robert Smith doesn't really write melodies, instead whimpering along with the music in a way that's effective but nearly note-free (as opposed to my golden-throated favorites Rodney Anonymous, Jeff Magnum, and Wayne Coyne). Or maybe, as with Neil Young and Frank Zappa, I simply felt so daunted by the breadth of their pre-existing discography by the time I discovered them that I've been content to self-consciously pick and choose which albums I revisit. Thus, I recognized lots of the songs at the show but didn't know the titles, which puts a crimp in my efforts to tell you about it all. For instance, until I just now Googled the lyrics, I thought "The Walk" was entitled "Japanese Baby." 

So here's the setlist, copied from www.cure-concerts.de (though I added quotation marks and capital letters because I'm that way): "Plainsong," "Prayers for Rain," "Alt.end," "A Night Like This," "The End of the World," "Lovesong," "Sleep When I'm Dead," "Pictures of You," "Lullaby," "The Perfect Boy," "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea," "Hot Hot Hot," "The Only One," "The Blood," "Wrong Number," "The Walk," "Signal to Noise," "Push," "Inbetween Days," "Just Like Heaven," "Primary," "Us or Them," "Never Enough," "One Hundred Years," "Disintegration." Encore one: "The Lovecats," "Freakshow," "Close to Me," "Why Can't I be You?" Encore two: "Play for Today," "A Forest." Encore three: "Boys Don't Cry," "Jumping Someone Else's Train," "Grinding Halt," "10:15 Saturday Night," "Killing an Arab."

Robert Smith looked kind of doughy, like a cross between Chucky and a freshly exhumed Tiny Tim, but was playful and in good voice throughout the evening. The show's focus was on the rockier elements of the band's discography, culminating in vicious, pissed-off renditions of "Us or Them" and the gorgeously dissonant "One Hundred Years," both of which flooded the arena with all manner of cathartic guitar noise. It was interesting to hear the bass taking "Lovesong"'s instantly recognizable keyboard hook, but I do sort of wish there'd been a fifth band member onstage taking the keys, if only to add some sort of atmospherics to songs like "Never Enough" and "Prayers for Rain." It's hardly a complaint worth complaining, though. I was prepared to credit them with a win after they opened with the disconsolate "Plainsong" against a backdrop of glittering lights and CGI stars.

Bev and I left after "Lovecats" out of exhaustion and to get out of the parking garage without becoming ensnarled in a web of impaired pedestrians and bleating car horns, but looking at the setlist, I'm kind of bummed to see that we missed a full 10 songs as a result. (I figured we'd miss three or four, including "Boys Don't Cry" and "Friday I'm in Love," neither of which we care for.) I'm really bummed to see that we missed "Killing an Arab," which I enjoy but whose title I restrained myself from shouting between songs because I thought it would be slightly gauche to do so. Still, Bev and I caught two and a half hours' worth of fine performances, and "One Hundred Years" was the song I was most hoping they'd play, so I was pleased.

We crashed at the hotel and drove back home the following morning. On Route 1, I got stuck behind an off-brand model of car called an Esteem, which I followed very closely because its driver was not driving fast enough for my liking and I am kind of an impatient jackass behind the wheel. This went on for miles, and at one point, we came upon a plodding line-painting truck with a sign on its back reading, "WET YELLOW PAINT PLEASE KEEP OFF," as well as a big electronic directional arrow. Now, Bev maintains the arrow was pointing to the right, as in "Go around me on my right side," but I could have sworn I saw the arrow pointing to both the left and the right, Wizard of Oz scarecrow-style. I grudgingly admit that a double-headed arrow wouldn't make much sense unless the intended message was, "This truck is a solid mass; do not attempt to pass through it as you would a fine mist or ghost." At any rate, I obliviously kept on the Esteem's tail as she passed the truck on the left, allowing us both to smear the freshly-painted yellow lines all over the road and our tires as the truck driver blew an angry, disbelieving horn blast at us.

Cora was reluctantly collected from Bev's parents' place (she gets lots of treats there) and we drove home. Another band off my concert checklist. It's kind of depressing how short that checklist has become as I push 30. The Handsome Family has a star next to it, but they're the only one I think I'd drive down to Boston for at this point. Because I'm old and I also live in a crappy state where no one wants to come. When I worked in Ann Arbor, I could walk from Math Reviews' offices to Luna's last ever Michigan show, by the way. Sharon and I drove, of course, but the point remains...

CURRENT MUSIC: Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore by Puerto Muerto.
"Mexicans are great, don't get me wrong..."
1:11 p.m.

Doot? | |

Monday, April 21, 2008:

I happened to glance in the clearance box at Hannaford this afternoon, where they usually dump post-holiday merchandise and cereal boxes bearing long-expired movie/NASCAR tie-ins ("Emerson Fittipaldi says, '*batteries not included is the feel-good hit of 1987!'"), and saw that they were selling individual bottles of off-brand beer for 75 cents each. I impulsively bought the four that I thought looked most interesting and/or tasty so I could review them here. Yes, it would've been far more entertaining for me to buy, like, eight beers and write reviews that are increasingly drunk and unintelligible, but I only had four dollars on me and Bev is never thrilled to come home from work to find her husband blotto from an all-day bender. Furthermore, part of me thinks that the notion of a crappy, four-beer clearance taste test is hilarious in its useless jankiness, so here's Willie's Remaindered Beer Corner!

Entry one: Stone Mill organic pale ale. "A classic taste that is the perfect balance of maltiness and hop bouquet," according to the label. Brewed and bottled by Green Valley Brewing, Merrimack, New Hampshire.
Verdict: Yummy. Could stand to be a little more tart and less watery, but I tend to favor extremes in that regard, which many people don't. (The first pale ale I ever tried was at the Mathematical Reviews employee picnic and I couldn't stand the taste. Since, I've come to favor, savor, and sign waivers for that flavor, but I can vividly remember barely being able to choke down my initial bottle. So I understand why Stone Mill might not want to make it stronger.) At any rate, it goes down as easy as a Killian's.

Entry two: Peak Organic nut brown ale. The Jones Soda-inspired label features a picture of a wedding party with the caption, "'Our wedding by the cape. The ceremony wasn't complete without jazz hands on the beach.' -Sean K., Brooklyn, NY." Sorry, Sean, but those aren't jazz hands. The men appear to be performing some sort of Vaudevillian gesture, while the women are patiently clasping their bouquets and waiting for the men to finish. Peak Organic is brewed and bottled by Peak Organic Brewing Co. LLC in Portland, Maine.
Verdict: Ugh! Sweet! Whatever weird spices they're putting in this, they need to stop. I mean, I'll drink it, but I won't be happy about it.

Entry three: #9 Not-Quite-Pale Ale by Magic Hat Brewing Company, South Burlington, Vermont. Psychedelic graphics on the label are presumably a tip of the hat to the scene that erupted around Burlington's own Phish.
Verdict: The label hides its claim "brewed with the essence of apricot" near its (October 2007) expiration date. I wish I'd noticed that before I purchased it, because I hate apricots and nearly gagged on this. Still, I like Phish a lot and this is a far more palatable Phishy consumable than Ben & Jerry's cloying, marshmallow-based Phish Food.

ETRNY F4ur; I'm sad :(( that alla video store's are clos;ign becuse of NTFLIX?!It 's pathetic (or 'pqhtetique to quote Taikovsky) to see posterres for movies like Ocreans 13 and There May Be BLood and Anvil and the Chipmonks all bleached BY THE SUn and hanging n the windows and all the brwn colors aer purple and oranges too!

Just kidding.

Entry four: Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale, "ale aged on bourbon barrel oak and vanilla beans," by Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Misery. There's a snowman holding a pint glass on the label. Makes me not feel so bad about purchasing a tub of margarine that said, "Great for holiday recipes!" on its lid in the middle of April.
Verdict: You can really taste those vanilla beans, alright. Tastes kind of like melted French vanilla ice cream stirred into a bowl with a bottle of Bud (i.e., like any given Sandra Lee recipe). Evokes gas station refreshments, for some reason. Maybe less healthy. I wish I drank this first, because it's tough to get down as a finale.

CURRENT MUSIC: Hotel Morgen by To Rococo Rot.
Homesick for Michigan.
4:24 p.m.

Doot? | |

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