Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy Holidays

In small talk lately, people ask me circumspectly, 'what holiday do celebrate?' Not even committing to a 'do you celebrate [Hanukkah/Christmas]?' Does this happen to everyone? Or is it happening because of my ambiguously Jewish last name?

I went to Aimee Mann's Holiday Variety Show last night. (Suck on that, PlanetDan who never visits me in Chicago) The live comic bits seemed a bit forced: two funny people suddenly having to be funny is rarely funny.

The music was great and the bits that were more scripted and canned like a traditional variety show seemed to work better. I especially enjoyed the Hanukkah Fairy, who rapped the story of the Maccabean revolt. The chorus had Aimee background singing 'She's the mother fucking Hanukkah Fairy.'

Aimee also made a holiday film. At one point she's walking on the beach talking about how she needed to be alone and get away from all of the Hollywood bullshit. The camera man asks her if the crew should give her some space and let her be alone.

'No,' she says, 'could you just film me being alone for a while?'

Last week I went to the Modest Mouse show with my friend Steven Soderberg (no relation). I had missed them at Lallapalooza and had been looking forward to them for a long time. Steven may or may not have been looking forward to seeing the band, but he did get to enjoy some frottage with the straight college dudes who were crowded around us.

'When it happens with straight college dudes,' I said, 'I think it should be called frattage.'


Thank you, good night!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Winter Wonderland

It snowed in Chicago this week. It's the first time I've seen real snow in about 13 years, so I've been listening to PlanetDan's Christmas CD and driving around the city.

When I was a child, I had a Christmas Carol songbook and the lyrics to Winter Wonderland had a typo, so for most of my life I thought the lines were:
We'll say 'are you married?'
He'll say 'no man,
but you can do the job
when you're in town'

As a child, I didn't question the lyrics--in the same way that I knew 'bells on Bob's tail' rang, but didn't realize Bob was the horse's name. But as an adult, I wondered exactly what job the minister had in mind. I imagined clandestine scenes in the fellowship hall and behind the baptistery.

It wasn't until a few years ago--when I had a couple of eggnogs in me at a Christmas party and suggested something about snowballing--that someone explained the correct lyrics to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I have come to realize that there is virtually no combination of items that can be bought with condoms that don't inspire jr high laughs. I have written about buying the combo of condoms and padlocks, buying the combo twice in two months time because I am constantly forgetting combinations. I have read several accounts of similar experiences, my favorite was condoms and 20 pounds of catfood.

This weekend I bought them with a money clip, a USB JumpDrive, two batteries and three padlocks.

No matter what you buy it's like you are smirking saying 'that's what she said' to some random comment.

But while we're talking about it, Trojan Ultra Thin has made some sort of improvement and I highly recommend them. I actually had to stop and check it, thinking it had come off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Doctor Erik and The Germ

I made a new friend; his name is Germ. He's a cop and the lead singer in a punk band. And his girlfriend's a drag queen.

'They're going to put our adventures,' he told me, 'in comic books.'

'They already have,' I said.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Things I like about Chicago

There are bus stop benches all over the city that read:


And nearly every one of them, as if the city as a collective whole decided it was a typo, has been amended to read:


Though my favorite one reads:


At the hospital, someone put up a handwritten sign by the elevators on each floor that read:

I lost my dark brown
backpack. Please call.

and on each floor, in different handwriting, it's been amended to read:

I lost my dark brown lover
backpack. Please call.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Sometimes I wish that I could stop me from talking...


After the rugby game, someone's complaining that he was told he had manboobs. (which he did)

He asked a group of us if we though he had manboobs, lifting his shirt slightly above his nipples as he did so.

'Yeah, you have'em,' I said, with buzzing honesty, 'but they're not huge. They're like a French girl in an independent film. I wouldn't worry about it.'


I'm talking to someone about gay people and the difficulty of creating an identity that doesn't center around their sexuality.

I'm talking about how I was spared some of this difficulty because I have gay father. Oddly, at some point I try to make a comparison to the newly rich and refer to gay people who don't have a gay parent as 'nouveau gay.'

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Every Song is a Comeback

When we first get to Pritzner Pavillion at Millennium Park Wilco was not going to go on for about 40 minutes. So my friend Steven Soderbergh (no relation) and I laid down in the lawn and are looking at the sky blue sky (it was, really) and chilled out, eyes half closed. Both of us had worked a long day--I in the clinic, he running delicious wines about the town.

The lady next to us leans over and asks, 'do you have any more of whatever you guy's just did?'

'I just had a big bowl,' I tell her, 'of fettuccini alfredo.'

'Well, I suppose,' she says, 'that would do it, too.'

Watching the show in our hoodies as the sun goes down over the Chicago skyline, the day's cool and reminds me that fall's almost here. And, like Jennifer Grey, I'm having the time of my life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

one month

I haven't even told you about joining the Rugby team yet, have I? Things have been so busy and full the past couple of weeks.

I got back to Iowa for a reunion with my cousins and had a great time. We went canoing and mountain biking up at the farm.

A judge struck down a law prohibiting same sex marriage and my father and his partner of 30 years got married--my sister and I lit the candle at the beginning of the church ceremony. A stay was placed on the order to permit same sex marriages and though they have their marriage license, the clerk was not permitted to record it--so they are in limbo until the state supreme court reviews the appeal.

I went to see David Bazan with my friend Johnny at The Beat Kitchen last Saturday. I've said before that when you think you are the only person in the world who cares about something or are trying to figure out if we have any obligations to anything, Pedro the Lion's voice beckons you out of your wilderness. David Bazan dropped the moniker of Pedro the Lion, but is still standing sentry. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone opened for him. Watching him set up his sound boxes and devices was more interesting than most television.

I also joined a rugby team, the Chicago Dragons. We practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That keeps me pretty busy--it's surprising how much two nights a week takes of your time. We also go out after practice--on school nights. So Wednesday and Friday I typically nap after work. It's just as well though, cause after practice I hurt from working out weird muscles. My shoulder was terribly sore for about 10 days.

More later...

Monday, August 13, 2007


According to new numbers released by the Census Bureau, the life expectancy of Americans is now less than the life expectancy of 41 other countries. We have fallen from the 11th place we held 20 years ago.

But before you get all excited and point to our lack of a single payer system as the cause (it's lack of insurance, not who's paying for it, that is likely the largest problem) let me refer you to Paul Terry, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta, who sited our obesity rates as a factor in our rating drop:

"The U.S. has the resources that allow people to get fat and lazy. We have the luxury of choosing a bad lifestyle as opposed to having one imposed on us by hard times."

Woo hoo! USA! USA!

Take that, Micheal Moore!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


My lesbian sister has decided to have a baby. She's researching sperm banks and called to ask if I'd fill out some forms for her, as the institutions require a physician to sign off before giving women semen samples. The forms essentially say that the woman understands the risks and benefits of sperm, specifically that she is aware the product can cause her to become pregnant.

As we talked about the odd set of litigation concerns they must have, I suggested that if she needed more than three or four samples she make a complaint call.

'I have two complaints,' she'd tell them. 'The first is that I've been using your product for several months now and I'm still not pregnant. The second is that it tastes terrible.'

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Lollapalooza, day three

On Sunday, I'm able to sleep in a bit and hit the gym before heading to Grant Park. My shoulders and back have been uncomfortable, so I wasn't going to work out too hard. Surprisingly, my whole body felt a lot better after going to the gym.

When I get to the Bud Light stage Amy Winehouse's covering Lauren Hill's Doo Wop. Her set's very good, mixing her limited oeuvre with girl group covers. Her voice and backing band are solid and she's dressed really cute.

At the end of her set, I watch a bit of Paolo Nutini, whom I thought was Brazilian but is actually from Scotland. That takes a while for me to wrap my head around and I end up being let down and leave their show after a song or two.

I get some chicken-on-a-stick over noodles, which are very good--slurping it all down. Then head over to the AT&T stage, where my good friend Adam had set up camp right in front of the sound deck. There was a fenced off T from the deck to the stage so that no one would trip or disconnect the cables. He had put a blanket down in the corner of the T, made some friends, and been elected as viceroy of Cornerville.

I settled in among them and got ready for Kings of Leon, whom I had been very excited about seeing for quite a while. They were fucking incredible.

My original plan was to head over to Yo La Tengo and then Modest Mouse (whom I had also been anticipating for a long time), then head back to watch Pearl Jam perform a couple of songs, then head out. But my friends talk me into staying in Cornerville and seeing My Morning Jacket-who are performing with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra-and then Pearl Jam. Things are getting so crowded we were becoming ensconced within the crowd. I waffled for a few minutes-I really didn't want to miss Modest Mouse-but decide to stay in Cornerville.

This is kind of important, because this is where the weekend changed for me. Up until this point I've been enjoying the bands, but I was mostly hanging out toward the outer half of the crowds, close enough so the sound is good and I can see the stage-but really I watch the big screens, a habit I dislike, but can't stop. Out there, the people sway, occasionally dance, some lounge on blankets and tap their toes. Some even read beach novels while their friends enjoy the music. In Cornerville, I'm in the throng. The people around me are ecstatic and jumping and entirely into the music.

I had heard of, but not heard, My Morning Jacket before. They were so delightfully good. I'm having an amazing time, grooving on a Sunday afternoon. The Youth Symphony Orchestra were exactly what I hoped for, some of the boys trying to look cool with sunglasses, some of the girls trying to contain their smiles.

Before they started we braved through the crowd to pee and buy beer. That occurred around 5:30. My Morning Jacket finishes at 7:15 and I'm ready to pee again, but we were fully immured by the crowd. There was no getting out for more beer or a bathroom or even a porta-potty. By 8:15 Pearl Jam hasn't started yet and I know there's no way I'm going to last until 10 without peeing. Adam feels the same way, so he has his girl stand in front of him and pisses into a cup while I serve as a side block, turning my back to him and chatting up the girls who are sitting next to us.

'How are you girls doing?' I ask. 'Isn't this a great weekend? The bands sound great. Did you see Daft Punk? I hear they were amazing.'

But it's apparent what we're doing and the crowd around us lets out signs of disgust, especially when he's done and pours the urine into a bottle so he could cap it off.

I wait a few minutes until Pearl Jam is getting ready to go on and the crowd is distracted. Adam covertly holds an empty trash bag in front of me while I piss and the crowd's none the wiser.

One final note: Pearl Jam rocked so fucking hard it made me remember why I love music.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Lollapalooza, day two

After I went home from day one, I ended up going out to meet up with my friend Johnny C to see the Flesh Hungry Dog Show. I was out until nearly 1 am drinking Jack and Coke, so my plans to get up early and work out before day two didn't happen.

I make it to Target and get some milk and some cargo shorts. The cargo pants I wore on day one were too damn hot. I make it to the park, all sunscreened up, a little before two and head straight to Tapes'n Tapes who are playing the MySpace stage. I've built them up in my head quite a bit-even though I haven't really listened to their music-so I'm a bit disappointed with their solid perfomance.

Silverchair follows them on the AT&T stage. The lead singer has the cheesy rock banter down pat. I can't tell how much of it is a put on. He also has the rock guitarist thing down, playing it with his teeth, kneeling down to play parts of songs just by changing the settings on the pedals. He started the show wearing a jacket and no shirt, then took it off revealing a pretty cut body, some tattoos and bilateral nipple piercings. He says the drummer asked him to clarify that they weren't gay. I was happy for the clarification. I've noticed several men in Chicago who appear straight, but with pierced nipples. It's something that doesn't make any sense to me. (But I don't like my nipples played with, so maybe it's just me.) Anyway, it sounds like Silverchair has been listening to a lot of Rush and Prog Rock since the last time I listened to them. Also, they have the crowd sing the chorus on a lot of their songs. I never really considered them a chick band, but it's the girls who seem to know all the words.

I get a call from my friend Adam and we try to meet up near Buckingham Fountain. We're not able to find one another, but he texts me an invite to his boss's vodka lemonade after-party. This day is delightfully overcast and a great temperature. It keeps threatening to rain, but at this point it hasn't.

One of the best things about this festival is that Grant Park has real, brick and mortar bathrooms with running water. They have several hundred porta-potties, but there was never much of a line at the real bathrooms. So I head to one and was waiting with about 4 guys for a urinal and this guy comes up and opens the door to one of the stalls. It's the handicapped stall, and when the door opens everyone in line has a direct view of this poor guy reaching around to wipe his ass. The guy apologized for opening the door and threw it shut. The guy wiping his ass, in this kind of pathetic voice, said it was alright and then apologized for not locking the door. He explained that he could not get it to lock. All of us in line have now become part of this interaction and here is where it gets really disturbing: When the guy slammed the door shut, it slowly swung back open.

They guy, who is still wiping his ass asks the guy to please shut the door. But he's so aghast that-even though he is maybe 3 feet from the door-he has his head bowed and eyes closed-trying to pretend he is somewhere far far away-and does not hear him. Those of us in line hear him, but are already far more involved in the situation than we want to be and are doing our part by pretending the door isn't still open. The third or fourth time the guy's pleading voice asks him to shut the door, he snaps back to reality and shuts it for him.

So I pee, wash my hands and head out for a Bratwurst and some new sunglasses. I watch The Roots who are performing at the Bud Light stage. They give a great summer afternoon concert, all rhythm and joy with inspired versions of some of their best songs. (My favorite was a sped up and extra groovy The Seed.) Here's what they sound like live:

Ragina Spektor disappoints me with a rather extreme faux gratitude. She sees the crowd and looks positively shocked that anyone's there. Was this a surprise concert? Did her friends tell her she was going to see someone else perform? 'You all are here to see me?' every glance seemed to say. Some girls behind me start mocking her, screaming loudly, 'We love you Tori!!!' She dedicates a song to, I think, 'Patty Smith' (rhyming Smith with pith, not scythe) and drumming a chair with her right hand while playing her piano with her left. The drummings terribly syncopated, it becomes more so until I have to believe she's just fucking up. At that point I leave and get an ear of corn (delicious) and catch the end of The Hold Steady (excellent).

I see The Yeah Yeah Yeah's, who are a revelation. She introduces Maps by asking if anyone in the crowd had fallen in love that summer, saying that there is nothing as sweet as summer lovin'. She dedicates the song to everyone who has fallen in love and the crowd seems to buy it. Enough so that I thought I have been misreading the song all these years, until at the end of the song she holds up the mic like it's a dagger and plunges it into her heart.

On my way to see Spoon, I run into one of my best friends from school, Sean, whom I haven't seen or heard from in four years. I hang out with him and his little brother for the rest of the night. At the Spoon show, there's a couple in front of us, she has her back to the stage and is alternating between making out with him (with her leg hiked up around his waist) and dancing/rubbing against him. Sean leans over and asks me if I think 'they're on E or just assholes.'

'Assholes,' I say. Spoon's giving a great show. Later, someone's weaving through the crowd in front of us, but when he sees the couple, he comes to a dead stop and looks first at them and then at me with a 'what the fuck' open-mouthed look on his face.

'It's been going on for some time,' I deadpan, shaking my head.

'They were in front of me at the last show, too,' the girl next to me says. 'They've been at it all afternoon.'

'Do you think they're in love,' I ask her, 'or just assholes?'

'Assholes,' the girl says.

'Assholes, definitely,' the guy weaving through crowd agrees, before continuing on his way.

We head over to the Bud Light stage to watch Interpol. They are, as expected, very, very good.

I take the train home and go to sleep.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Lollapalooza, day one

I get a late start on my day. My ambitious plan's to clean the house, work out, go to Target and head to Grant Park for Lollapalooza in time to catch Elvis Perkins, who opens the show at 11:30. Instead, I check my email, try to figure out my new Tivo and don't make it to the park until nearly one.

The first thing that strikes you about Lollapalooza is how fucking organized it is. As you approach the gates-with its massive inflatable lettering and masthead-you hear a sanitized voice-over letting you know which gate to approach and what you will need when you get there. It reassures you that 'emergency providers will be available first aid tents' in several locations. It reminds you of what you are-and what you are not-allowed to bring into Lollapalooza.

After you are through the gate, that initial 50 feet where there is a thinned herd of people who have made it through bag check and wristband redemption is gawking around trying to figure out which way they should head, people are offering to check ID's and give you your wristbands now. Such a good use of that initial few moments, rather than the standard 2 lines at the beer tent.

I catch the tail end of the Fratellis, who are playing on the MySpace stage. I had heard a bit of their music before, but I hadn't really noticed how great their sound was-a bit British Invasion. I liked them more than I had anticipated. I was able to head over to the food court and get a gyro while still listening to them. I particularly liked that.

As would happen many times throughout the event, as they finished their closing chords, a voice from the opposing stage introduced the next act. It was quite beautiful choreographing.

The next act, on the AT&T stage, was, for me, the big find of the first day. Ghostland Observatory. A big, chewy Cabernet of a funk rock act. I have embedded a video of them performing live at an other venue:

Wow. I really got sunburned watching them. Here is a dramatic before and after recreation:

When they were done Ted Leo and the Pharmacists started. I thought most of his songs were Thin Lizzy or Uriah Heep covers until he was halfway though them. Flipping back between the AT&T and the Myspace stage, which faced each other on the same field was remarkably easy and enjoyable. So when Leo was done, I started watching Jack's Mannequin. This is one of those suddenly ubiquitous rock bands led by a guy on a piano. A rock-band-led-by-a-guy-on-a-piano is the new blond-teenage-southern-girl-singer. If you are familiar with Jack's Mannequin and were wondering what their songs were about, he told us the backstory before each song. They are about, in order, 'a girl,' 'a girl I liked a lot,' 'a girl I used to know,' 'a girl who broke my heart,' and 'a girl.' (I wonder if he's gay?) The other unfortunate thing about Jack's Mannequin is that every time I hear the word mannequin, I think of Meshach Taylor as Hollywood Montrose from movie Mannequin.

By this point the sunburn I sustained from Ghostland Observatory's performance was now starting to bother me, so I headed to the shade, then decided to head to the north stages. I got a loose meat sandwich. The girl serving me asked who I was hear to see while we waited for my sandwich to be handed up to her.

'There's a bunch of bands I'm happy to see,' I said, 'but there isn't one in particular I'm here for.' I smiled and asked her who she was here to see.

She thought for just a beat and then smiled earnestly as she handed me my sandwich and said, 'I'm here to see you.'

I thought that was very sweet and I told her so.

I ate my sandwich and then fell asleep under a tree for about a half hour.

I woke up in time to head to the Bud Light stage and watch M.I.A., who surprised me by having some of the most inaccessible music of the entire festival. This surprised me because I originally thought her hit Bucky Done Gun was just a fun dance number. She mixes tons of styles and sings notes that should be considered blue, but when she sings them, they're orange. She sounds like what world music would sound like, if world music wasn't targeted toward the NPR set.

G Love and Special Sauce followed her on the opposing adidas stage. G Love is a blues band with hip-hop style vocals, which sounds promising. Unfortunately, their songs are largely a Jack Johnson style of boring. When you're 22, singing about cold beverages and your baby having sauce is great. At 34, singing about the cool kids hanging in the back of the bus is staid and retread.

But, in fairness, I was standing on hot pavement and fighting off the beginnings of heat exhaustion when I saw them. I left after about 5 or 6 songs. I wasn't really excited about seeing either Satellite Party or The Black Keys, so I was trying to figure out if I wanted to pass the time until LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk came one. But I knew I was fading and Daft Punk wouldn't even be going on for nearly two and a half hours.

I decided to head home and cool down. There would be lots more to see over the next two days.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Pizza and Style

Last night I met a friend for pizza at Piece. They serve New Haven style pizza--a rather thin, crispy crust baked on cookie sheets with tomato sauce and Parmesan. When you order it the waitress says, 'It doesn't have mozzarella, is that okay?'

I think I'd get very tired of asking that to every table. But I guess it's not terribly different from asking, 'would you like cream with your coffee?' And I never got tired of asking that. It was just something I did.

We walked back to my place and watched Patton Oswalt's Warewolves and Lollipops. Afterwards, he gave me a blowjob. (I always have to check my 15th edition Chicago Manual of Style to ensure movie titles are to be italicized. I can't really imagine what else I'd do with them. Perhaps reading too much internet, I feel they should just be hyperlinked.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wordy Rappinghood

I'm out with a friend and somehow we start talking about homonyms. (He writes plays and stuff.) He mentions that there are homonyms that are also synonyms, such as an apple and a Washington Delicious Apple.

We spend a little time trying to come up with homonyms that are antonyms, which we don’t have any luck at, because we are on our third or forth beer.

This goes on for a while and then we start talking about words in general.

‘My favorite are onomatopoeias,’ I say, ‘that’s when a word sounds like what it is, as in gerrymandering.’

Monday, July 30, 2007


The bartender hands me a slip of paper and says, ‘on the front I wrote my name and number. On the back I wrote the things I don't do on a first date.’

I look at the paper, read the name and number, then flip it over. There’s nothing written on the back.

‘Do you really,’ I ask, ‘spell your name with two x’s?’

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Welcome to Chicago

I’m at the White Sox game and the girls three rows behind me are being crowded on either side by overly large White Sox fans.

‘No one's going to be sitting in these seats,’ I turn around and tell them, gesturing to all the empty seats around me. ‘I have the tickets for them in my pocket.’

They talk it out for a moment and then step down and sit, still leaving an empty seat between us.

This is all occurring during one of the many contests that go on during the breaks in action that allow for television commercials. They woman playing the contest wins thirty dollars worth of lottery tickets. The kid won a t-shirt the last contest. The guy before that won a tote bag.

‘Is it just me,’ I ask them, ‘or do these prizes really suck?’

One of the girls laughs, but her friend just leans in and says, very directly, ‘Why are you here alone?’

I toy briefly with the idea of coming up with something as desperate as the question deserves--My wife left me and took the kids? My parents and brother were killed in a car accident last month?--but instead I tell the simple truth.

‘I’ve just moved to Chicago and someone from work gave me the tickets,’ I say, ‘I called the three people I know in Chicago but none of them were available.’

They smile and ask me where I'm from and we get to talking.

‘Welcome to Chicago,’ they say at the end of the game, which the White Sox lost to Detroit. And I do, I do feel welcomed.

I have a good feeling about this…