My tweets of the last week:
Archives for April 2011
This morning I was on the slowest possible trolley.
It made me think about travel powers, how we take our limitations for granted, and how no one can change that but ourselves.
I drove a lot this past week.
I drove us into the city to hang out with friends. I drove Nan’s massive shuttle bus of a vehicle to pick up our fine dinner of Chinese food. I drove a tipsy E home at midnight in blinding rain.
(Which is an absolutely perfect situation to learn how to drive on a highway, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. The rumble strip is there for a reason, you know.)
My recent time behind the wheel has given me a chance to contemplate how I’ve limited my life around not being able to drive. I buy my essentials in bulk, since I can’t drive myself to the grocery store. I’m perennially absent from parties – especially ones at any distance – unless I can crash with someone else.
Even music – music – my number one commitment outside of staying married and holding down a job I enjoy – is limited by non-driving. I don’t go for gigs outside of Center City. I don’t look at concert listings outside of Philly. I assume I have to buy all of my friends’ new LPs online because I’m not going to make it out to their shows.
Of course, that all seems pretty normal. It’s been my life for my whole life. My non-driving was a serious commitment, right up there with my not watching TV, not eating meat, and not acknowledging the existence of Miley Cyrus. It was a big part of my identity.
It was also practical. And I didn’t have the money for a car, or for car insurance. I didn’t have the time to constantly circle for parking spots when we lived in South Philly. And for a long time I didn’t even have a car to learn on, so the entire point was moot.
Really, me not driving was for the best.
Back when I lived most of my life inside of City of Heroes I had a similar limitation: I wouldn’t take a “travel power.”
Most superheroes have them. Superman can fly. Spider-Man swings from rooftops. Batman has a mobile. Nightcrawler teleports – the whole point of him is travel! In City of Heroes every hero could choose a travel power at level 14 – flying, super-leaping, teleporting, or having super-speed.
All seriously cool powers, right? But, my main superhero gal was meant to be a normal human being. Plus, why waste a power on moving around when I could be… you know, more SUPER. SUPERER!
I was super. I was a serious superhero that could kick the ass of anything near my level. But you know what? I was slow. It took me forever to get to the place where I needed to be super. Teammates were constantly standing around waiting for me.
It didn’t bother me at all … until I finally broke down and learned to fly, at level 35. It was awesome. Everything was faster. I got to PLAY the game more, instead of just jogging around the game. Within a day I was saying, “Why the hell did you all wait for me all of that time? You should have given up on me and made me learn to fly!”
They all cross their arms (really, there was an emote for that) and said, “You SAID you weren’t interested in flying. You SAID you were happy.”
I don’t have my license yet, but my increasing confidence in the car means I just need to wrangle up a licensed driver if I want to go for a ride. I drove to a party I would have never made it to in time on SEPTA. I got new prescriptions on a weekend, without wasting a lunch break on them!
I drove the Nan-Tank to get Chinese food like it was nothing, electing not to dwell on the fact that it was my first time driving a car other than my own, and it was in flood conditions.
(“Just think,” Nan pointed out with glee, “if we weren’t in [the Nan-Tank] that wall of water we just kicked up would have swallowed your entire car!”)
(I can neither confirm nor deny if that was followed by a subtle “yee-haw!”)
As it turns out, real life isn’t entirely different than City of Heroes, except I wasn’t stubborn enough to wait until I turned 35 to learn to drive. In both places I insisted I spent my time, effort, and money on the most high quality parts of my life and not letting anyone convince my otherwise.
That’s great when it comes to not wasting money on cable TV or never having heard a note from Miley’s lips, but not when it hamstrings me from doing even more of the high quality things I like to do.
Soon I will be a sure enough parallel parker to obtain my lisence, and then that housebound, SEPTA-reliant portion of my life that I’ve always taken for granted will be over. I can go to parties. I can go on a vacation alone! I can go on a road trip!
Odds are you probably have your own travel power, but maybe you have some other limitation you’re taking for granted. Do you have the power to eliminate it? How would your life be better without it?
Or, is it there for a reason – like paying for cable television would just give me a pointless way to waste my money and time?
My tweets of the last week:
I have never been “one of the guys.”
I don’t do a lot of typical dude things, like ogle women or watch sports. Most of my friends are women. Even in my dim memories of kindergarten, I surrounded myself with girls.
That’s not to say I don’t have any close male friends. We just don’t do dude stuff together, like … uh, I’m out gender stereotypes already. This is how little I am connected to my dudeness.
That said, I have found myself in the groom’s party of one of my longtime male BFFs and – unlike my wedding party – this one is a single sex affair. A fest of sausage, if you will. Which means not only am I in for some guy-on-guy quality time, but I was in for a bachelor party.
Prepared as I might be to drink other men under the table while watching sports (seriously, just try me), inherent in the looming bachelor party was a looming visit to a strip club.
I dreaded the concept. The only time I was nearly convinced to attend a strip club with friends I wound up having dry heaves before I could even get in a cab. I’m too little of a stereotypical dude and too much of a feminist. Paying to objectify strange, naked women is really low on my list of things that sound fun.
(To wit: my own bachelor party was a co-ed 80s prom entitled “Like a Virgin.”)
Yet, at a strip club is where I found myself on Friday night. Well, they had tops and bottoms on, so I guess it wasn’t a strip club. A pole dancing joint? Is that more accurate?
Hilariously, I turned out to be a live-nearly-nude-dancer magnet. E thinks it’s because I looked like Bradley Cooper in the episide of Alias where he pretends to be an Australian rock star.
She was probably right.
And, folks, point numero uno everyone failed to tell me about strip clubs? You might have to be careful how you touch the women, but they do not have any hesitations about how they touch you.
You know, I can’t not be polite and chat for a minute if someone is nuzzling me with her breasts, and then I feel bad for taking up her time, and then I am obligated to fold dollar bills and slip them into improbably small straps holding together even more improbably small garments.
The whole thing is ooky and disgusting slippery slope (not unlike a stripper pole … HEY-OH!)
After the first hour I was tipsy and having fun with the guys and alternatingly glowering at my cell phone in an attempt to ward off further elbow-molesting bosoms, having driven off the last woman by going on at great length about how my beautiful wife helps me select all of my fashion after she complimented my scarf.
I felt another pair of breasts at my elbow (seriously, my elbow = SO POPULAR), and turned for my casual brushoff. This woman’s opening gambit was to ask me what I did for a living. When I said, “communications – marketing, really,” she exclaimed, “That’s my major! Well, really I’m journalism.” Which, as we know, I was too.
That’s when I started to have a little fun at the strip club. At first it was a room full of strange women, none of whom where even vaguely as attractive as my wife. As aerobic as their gyrations were, it didn’t feel much different than watching a class at a gym.
Then I actually took the time to meet one of the women – a perfectly sweet Italian girl – and give her advice on how database classes are going to help her if she ever has to do any direct marketing. And then I met another woman who was a fitness instructor and collected comic books.
You know what, I didn’t mind watching them dance. They were real people with great legs. And we kept chatting after they danced.
(Of course, there was still the inherent weirdness of having to tip a girl to have the sort of conversation I’d have at a networking night at a bar…)
Does this story have a moral?
I am one of the guys, even if I’m not a stereotypical guy. I can drink and carouse and have fun without being a chauvinist, so I need to get over my fear of “The Boys Club.”
Also, I was reminded of something important: attraction is context. My wife is more attractive than any stripper not only because she is smokin’ hot, but because she’s my mega-talented best friend. Similarly, I think my friends’ wives and girlfriends are beautiful. Why? I know them. They are not random pretty faces on the street – they are dynamic people with a myriad of skills and interests.
So are the women in a strip club – but you don’t really get the chance to hear about that (unless you keep tipping them). I guess most men are fine with that, but my not being fine with it doesn’t mean I am not a man, guy, dude, or boy.
Next up? I hear it’s traditional for us to kidnap the bride at the wedding and barter in liquor with the groom for her return.
That, I think I can handle.
My tweets of the last week:
Her car slowed to a crawl by the curb as she rolled down the window.
“Hi there!” She exclaimed.
I had no idea who she was.
“Are you having problems with your pipes?” she asked, her voice filled with sympathy.
I looked up from my shoveling, one leg hiked up on the pile of dirt while I wiped the sweat from my brow with the opposite hand, reflecting that I was striking one of the more manly poses from which I’ve ever been interrupted, and replied.
“Sure looks like it, huh!”
As it turns out, we were not having a problem with our pipes, or really any kind of problem at all. Everything was proceeding according to plan. E’s plan.
You see, all home repairs are remanded to the exclusive custody of E due to a combination of my OCD and my having never lived in a house where I was allowed to do anything to anything.
As a result, I can’t even put a screw into a wall without wanting to call in an architect. I’m like, “You want me to do WHAT to the WALL of OUR HOUSE that WE OWN? Are you sure?”
And then E takes the drill from me, sinks a screw into the wall, and hangs a picture. Or installs a laundry system or hooks up a digital thermostat or whatever other crazy MacGyver insanity she does while I’m worriedly reading and re-reading instruction booklets and internet how-tos.
So, when E proposed a plan for regrading our front lawn that began with, “find some free fill dirt from Craigslist,” I just nodded. I mean, first, she’s always right, but also, it’s not like we are going to break the front lawn, right?
Like, what’s the worst that could happen?
Right. That question got a little less rhetorical on Thursday night when a 30-year-old dump truck cracked a panel of our sidewalk and dug its wheels into our lawn in a possibly irretrievable fashion.
For a few minutes I really thought we had acquired a permanent 30-year-old dump truck lawn ornament, which I guess I was okay with. That was before it stood on its rickety pneumatic hind legs to expel what was surely close to a ton of dirt onto our front lawn. Then there was also the chance that the entire thing would tip over backwards and somersault through our front window.
Well, we got rid of the truck, but were left with a pile of dirt that was only slightly smaller than a VW Bug, bristling with hunks of broken concrete. Honestly, it looked to be about 30% dirt, 70% shattered ruins. Between the broken sidewalk, the massive tire rut, and the subsequent pile of rubble it really did look like we were digging up a ruptured sewer pipe.
Which maybe is why three separate people asked about that, even when I was halfway through shoveling said dirt to its final resting place. Because, as it turns out, the rubble was not bristling with concrete – it was clay dirt, and all of the various rock-like bits were clay that easily gave way beneath my shovel.
(Gina was able to discern this immediately when she arrived for rehearsal yesterday, despite my trying to convince her the yard was filled with rubble from a giant robot fight that had occured in our lawn over the weekend. Maybe I should have skipped the giant robot part.)
Three hours of manly labor later and the pile was half-depleted – more of a buttress than a Bug – while our lawn is now graded up almost a foot at the foundation of the house.
What might my solution have been, you ask? I probably would have paid one of the three landscape engineers we are personally acquainted with a large sum of money to find a solution that involved neither a dump truck or me spending a day shoveling dirt.
Of course, E’s solution was free less the cost of the new sidewalk panel, plus I got to look manly for an afternoon, so that’s why she’s in charge of these things.
At about midnight on Saturday Gina and I were having some issues.
At that time we were on the third song of our full-length, fully-electric Arcati Crisis set at Fergie’s pub.
Actually, we were about four minutes into trying to start our third song, my one-minute and six-second tune, “Glam.”
In case you are bad at rock math, 4:1 is not a very good prep-time to play-time ratio.
On the left side of the stage, one of Gina’s two lowest strings was a hair out of tune. On the right side of the stage, I was playing the opening riff to my own song in the wrong key (which sorta made Gina’s ever-so-minor tuning issue a moot point).
Even in the moment I was struck by the Alanis-Irony that after six months of preparing for our big electric debut we were having the kind of rock-stoppage that regularly felled us a decade ago when we were acoustic teenagers, all while our brand new drummer looked on, bemused.
That’s rock for you. You can practice all your high flying solos and set up an awesome effects chain, but rock has some basic requirements to fulfill and one of them is playing in the same key as each other (unless you want to play more experimentally and/or with a lot more distortion than we do).
You don’t think about this stuff when you watch a pop band play their new single on Saturday Night Live. They have guitar techs. The drummer has a click track in ear so they can cue samples. One of the guitarists is actually playing into a midi sequencer so it doesn’t matter too much if he’s a hair out of tune. And on every chorus the singer is doubled by a ten-track, four-part harmony pulled right off of her record.
That shit is way above our heads.
Of course, if one of them forgets what key the song is in they’re still in trouble, so I suppose what I’m saying is Gina would do fine on Saturday Night Live, but I would be immortalized in my own Ashlee Simpson moment.
But not really. Because I am a freakish perfectionist, and we had played all of these songs hundreds of times already, and we already played an awesome sneak preview date and teaser set and two awesome songs, and I was not about to let me forgetting for three measures the song was not actually in F ruin my night.
The upshot of this story is that the gig was awesome. The whole “Glam” snafu was barely a blip. On our third try we just started the damn thing, and after the eight seconds of dischordant intro all of our issues were over. We proceeded directly from that into a raucous debut of our cover of “Moonage Daydream.” Then we played Gina’s brand-new “Song for Mrs. Schroeder” for the first time, and turned in pitch-perfect versions of “Apocalyptic Love Song” and “Love Me Love Me Not” to end our first set.
I even hit the little hammer in the last verse of “Love Me Not” I had missed in our last few rehearsals.
Over an hour later we closed the night by launching into one of the most awesome, hard-rocking versions of Gina’s seven-minute epic “Brother John” that we’ve ever unleashed.
When it was over we said thank you, doled out sweaty hugs to our friends that had hung around until last call to catch every song, and got paid.
And then I drove a car inside of the Philadelphia city limits for the first time ever – at 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning – and I didn’t even kill any drunk douche bags on Walnut.
In sum, the “Glam” incident barely even ranks. I’m only devoting precious digital column-inches to it as a reminder that the stupid crap that happens to me in the middle of a show only has to matter if I let it.
Otherwise, it’s eight painfully out-of-tune seconds out of a three-and-a-half hour gig, and that is a really effing good out-of-tune to awesome ratio.
My tweets of the last week: