Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A wild band of gypsies has set up camp a few doors down from me.

"Would you like a palm reading?", came an unfamiliar voice as I was walking my dogs past the cleaners and Mama Ayesha's, our neighborhood restaurant. Sitting in a white plastic chair across from a red sign decorated with stars, a moon, a palm and a crystal ball, a heavy-set olive-skinned woman looked at me expectantly.

"Uh, no thanks. I don't believe in that stuff", I responded.

This elicited a scowl and a quick scoff from "Mrs. Brothers", and she hasn't looked me in the eye since. I guess I won't be getting a discount on new age psycho-babble any time soon.

This gypsy matriarch appeared out of place amongst my suit-wearing neighbors coming home from their law firms and Hill jobs, but there she was---a slice of eastern Europe---camped out 50 feet from my apartment. And in the past six months, I've come to realize that a 10-person family of gypsies has claimed the top floor of our local cleaners as headquarters.

This location used to be the site of a vintage clothing store, owned by a middle-aged woman with bad sewing skills and worse taste in apparel, but I had no idea it was suitable for human habitation (ie, bathroom, shower, kitchen) because it's a retail space. But according to my friend who lives directly next door, the place is packed with a family of at least 10 bona fide gypsies. He's even seen a load of children up there watching TV when he was parking his car out back one night.

I have no idea how they stay in business and pay the rent. I've only seen one person---some drunk floozy from northern Virginia coming home from the bars one night---ever get a palm reading. But they must make money somehow because there are grubby strollers and pimped-out Nissan Sentras full of kids coming and going all the time.

The main person I see is the gypsy matriarch, sitting in her white plastic chair. She hawks her "services" at very odd times like 3:30 in the morning or 2:00PM on a Tuesday---just hanging out, beckoning to passers-by.

I suppose some people get a burning itch to find out if the random epidermal creases in their hands have some boogada-booga connection to events that will take place in their futures. And you never know when that itch will strike.

To be fair, they're fine enough neighbors, but yuppies are usually a natural repellent against all things gypsy. But that's not reality because at this point Bury Me Standing could be re-written based on my neighborhood alone.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Having a slight gut, being toothless, bald and bearded gets you cred' in Baltimore.

Not that it matters, but women in DC generally don't shoot glances my way. This is because I wear a wedding band on my left hand, never wear blue collared shirts tucked into khaki pants, have a slight gut, a shiny shaved head, am missing my top front tooth and have a scraggly beard---otherwise, I'm one of the most good looking dudes in town (picture at right).

These can be detrimental physical traits for men in cities like DC, but as I found this weekend, it's not a problem in Baltimore, Maryland USA.

At first I thought, "Why are these women giving me the eye? This is unusual ..." Then I remembered that the people in Baltimore can get away with a lot more slovenliness than other cities, and it's even considered attractive. And as you can see, I was surrounded by lovely ladies the whole evening (the loveliest, my wife, standing to my right):

And the bands are definitely weirder in Bmore. Check out this group, "The Headwounds". Their drummer was a big fat dude with a red beard and wearing a diaper, while the other band members included a lesbian faux-hawked guitarist and this "cheerleader" (right) in black face. The cheerleader's job was to pump her pom poms into the air while a strobe light flashed upward at her; she played no instrument and didn't sing.

Every time I go to Baltimore, I wax philosophical about moving there, but I know I never will. For people living in DC, Baltimore is a novelty, worthy of a few road trips. But living there would no doubt get boring after about 12 months.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bad Brains Live @ CBGB 1982: (sigh) rock 'n' roll is truly dead, isn't it...

The biggest letdown I felt when watching the newly released DVD of the Bad Brains playing at CBGB in 1982 was the realization that rock 'n' roll will never feel dangerous again. The death knells for rock were rung out many years ago.

Don't believe me? Take a look at a short clip from the 50 minute DVD. Remember, this was in 1982---the year in which Kenny Rogers' song Through the Years, Journey's Open Arms, Billy Joel's She's Got A Way and Jeffery Osborne's On the Wings of Love were all top 10 hits.

Rock bands nowadays go through the motions and play out the charade of something long gone. I rarely go to shows anymore because it's painful to watch would-be rockers make the same played-out moves, tired old poses, and twice-baked riffs. Sure, that old spirit probably exists somewhere, but in the end, this is 2006, for christ's sake. Everything's been done 10 times over.

The last time I felt the element of things-falling-apart danger at a concert was when Peaches played in Baltimore a few years back. But that's rare.

I challenge anyone to name a present-day music group that can give me "that feeling". And no, you can't count Justin Timberlake.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Let's have a coup party! -- I leave for Thailand in a few weeks.

Face it, a coup is exciting business.

Who could forget the failed attempt in the USSR in 1991 in which my one-time hero, Sir Boris Yeltsin, was holed up in the Russian parliament building for a week. When the press managed to get in for an interview, the world saw the tough-as-nails Yeltsin and his suit-wearing buddies wielding AK-47s behind sandbags blocking the doorways. When the reporter got to Yeltsin, we all saw the future president of Russia relaxing in his office with a bottle of vodka, calmly talking about the enemies of democracy. I still have the whole episode on tape whenever I need real inspiration.

And I'll never forget clinking glasses with my Venezuelan friends in April of 2002 when we thought the tyrannical asswipe, Hugo Chavez, was soon bound for the ash heap of history. We were wrong in our assumptions, but the excitement in the air was fun nonetheless.

When democracy becomes unruly enough, who better to take power than the true stalwarts of the democratic process: the monarch and the military.

To Americans, a coup d'etat is as foreign as the 30 hour workweek, a warm beer, or the six week vacation, but this type of necessary evil happens all the time---almost once a month in Africa. And now the State Department is issuing a travel warning to Americans (me) with plans to visit Thailand. Useless. Last I checked, the State Department had a warning for half the countries on the planet. No wonder only 15% of Americans even own a passport.

Change is in the air, people ...

Monday, September 18, 2006

My new pets are edible hermaphrodites.

My love for oysters is no secret, but now it's taken a new tack. I spent the better part of Sunday morning at the Cheseapeake Bay Foundation's environmental center learning how to properly care for my new pets: oysters.

"CBF's oyster restoration program provides citizens with the tools and information needed to help restore native oysters to the Bay. Until the 1980s, oysters supported the most valuable fishery in the Bay.

Today, as a result of decades of pollution, over-harvesting, and disease, the Bay's native oyster population is merely about 2% of historic levels.

Yet they remain an important part of the Bay's ecology."

CBF had us watch a 30 minute video which included footage of oysters spewing sperm and eggs. I wasn't sure this was appropriate, considering there were plenty of kids in the audience, but I suppose when the animals ejaculating are hermaphrodites, it's cool.

CBF has an amazing envirnomental center that's named after the late Philip Merrill, the eccentric Chesapeake-loving philanthropist who blew his brains out with a 12 gauge during a gusty solo sail this June.

All the water in the center is pumped from massive rainwater holding tanks on the roof and when using the restroom, you have to chuck a handful of sawdust down about 12 feet onto your own feces.

After I painstakingly transformed plastic-coated wire mesh into rectangluar cages, I spent an hour hanging them from the dock that surrounds my sailboat.

And Murphy's Law always wins when I'm cutting rope and untying tight knots; without fail, every damn time I leave my good knife at home I need to cut some serious lines and break crusty knots so I end up getting stuck with whatever dull piece of crap that I dig up from my rusty onboard toolbox. (Hopefully, I'm not alone among boat owners with this one).

So my job for a year is to make sure that the cages stay clear of excess algae in order to allow my oysters maximum water flow. Then, next summer, I give them back to CBF who plants them on a nearby reef with the long term goal of replenishing the oyster stock in the Bay.

And here they are, my babies. I just hope my appetite doesn't overrule my environmental conscience.

Friday, September 15, 2006

For my final day in the salt mines, I want to talk about shitting marinated cicadas.

I could spew boring blogorrhea about my final day working for d-bag lawyers, mealy-mouthed do-gooders and hangers-on, but instead---for posterity--I'd rather describe the time I ate wild cicadas, and how I hope to pollute this company's bathroom with as much stinky vitriol as I did in my own apartment back in 2004.

But first, some back story ...

In the Spring of 2004, I was excited about the local 17-year cicada infestation; eating bugs is exotic and I'd heard the NPR stories about French ex-pats delighting in eating these insects. How bad could it be? Hell, they do it all the time in the so-called Third World.

During the cicada attack in '04 I was commuting by bike every day to north Georgetown. My cicada collecting technique was to peddle hard uphill, a soy sauce-laced tupperware container bungie-corded to the back of my bike---all the while, stopping and picking these buzzing insects from the passing bushes.

Mind you, this was nothing new at the time; lots of people were eating them and I thought a new American bug-eating frenzy was at the cusp. Man, was I wrong ...

At what moment do you realize that your own warped mindset is half a click from the beasts that thrive around your feet? When I was sauteing cicadas back in 2004 and my dogs were chomping at my heels for every other half-cooked beastie I threw at them, I felt pure animalistic.

I won't waste time detailing how cicadas taste; what's more important is that my asshole spewed brown liquid for TWO DAYS---worse than I'd ever had from eating dried sausage swarming with flies in Cambodia; worse than the time I ate stank-ass oysters at the City Lite Buffet in Gaithersburg; and yes, worse than Salvadoran Mondongo Soup at Haydee's in Mt. Pleasant.

Here's to a new career!

(Above image, designed by my lovely wife, May 2004).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Few things make a dreary day improve like giving an older woman a compliment on her new haircut.

For some reason, the older a woman gets, the shorter her hair becomes. It's a phenomenon that defies logic but it's very common.

Picture, if you will, a co-worker of mine, in her mid-fifties, living alone, who struts into work today with a smart new haircut. Honestly, it didn't look much different from before, but by the new skip in her step, she seemed pleased.

Me: "Hey, Ann, did you get a new haircut? It looks great."

Man, you've never seen someone's eyes light up and mood improve like that. In fact, her big-eyed and wide-smiled "THANK YOU!!" was enough to make me feel good for the rest of the day too.

Younger men can sometimes be the boon of an older single woman's existence. And as I've seen more than once, when an older woman is looking to "get her groove back", as they say, a seasoned chicken and a fresh carrot make a helluva good soup.

With a dollar and the amount of time I spend thinking about retirement, I could play a video game.

I once had a friend tell me that he's going to start living like I do when he retires; that's the time for him to start seeing the world, relaxing with friends more often, and spending disposable income on alcohol and rap music. So while he's young, it's just commuting and raising children.

Don't get me wrong, I ain't judging him---love him to death---but what kind of world do we live in where people in their 20s and 30s are already considering what they'll do when they retire? I mean, what's the average age of retirement these days, 75? 80? I don't even know. Them's dyin' times, not livin' times.

People make innumerable excuses why they don't take advantage of their youth. Travel? Too expensive. A new guitar? Too expensive. A new job? Too risky.

My friends, money is meant to be spent as fast as possible on whatever fleeting pleasure happens to be in your face at the moment. Don't forget that. Life isn't short; it's very fucking long. I'm 32 and it feels like I've been on this earth forever. High school seems like a century ago and I'm hardly halfway done with my life, for christ's sake.

In the end we all end up with the same thing: six feet of mother earth.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Voting in the DC Statehood/Green Party primary is like voting for a Soviet

"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." - Joseph Stalin

Years ago, during my misguided radical leftie days, I registered with the DC Statehood/Green Party and haven't remembered to transfer to a real party since. For those who don't live in DC, yes, there is actually a political party dedicated to making Washington DC the 51st state (Ha! Yea right) whose membership was so low that they merged with the Green Party. That might sound like the Pissant Party merging with the Douchebag Party, but such is our present state of affairs.

And since the primaries were today---the REAL election in a city where Democrats are the only ones who ever win---I had a ballot with one Statehood/Green candidate for each seat in my local government.

That's right, each seat (Mayor, City Council, House Delegate, etc.) had ONE (1) CANDIDATE, with a useless option of writing in opposing names. So I ended up voting for Abe Vigoda, Steve Guttenberg and Danny Devito.

Wasn't there an election in Iraq like this back when Saddam was in power?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fascist Gone Wild! -- Vladimir Zhirinovsky

I admit, I thought it was damned funny when bat-shit-crazy Russian parliamentarian, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said that "Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers. She needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied." And that “Complex-prone women are especially dangerous. They are like malicious mothers-in-law, women that evoke hatred and irritation with everyone. Everybody tries to part with such women as soon as possible. A mother-in-law is better than a single and childless political persona, though.” (News link)

And how could one not find humor in Zhirinovsky's statements that Russia should re-take Alaska by force or that Russia should construct giant fans to blow nuclear fumes into Germany.


But this latest photo montage of him from is the best yet.

Why can't the US have fascists like him? Just picture Ann Coulter having a distilled spirit named after her or giving a speech in a paratrooper uniform while kissing hot-ass topless women. At least that would be interesting.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wall-Mounted 'Cuda: Best Gift in God Knows How Long

I'm not excited by many gifts.

Sure, I like getting a Henri Lloyd jacket or a gift certificate to West Marine now and again, but those who truly know me understand my base desires; since I was a little kid I've been obsessed with wall-mounted fish.

Now, I know that many people mourn the loss of our ocean's species, and lament the lack of man-eating sharks swimming about willy nilly; but there was a time when displaying your catch in all its glory on your wall was something commendable, and the open expanse of oceans was ours for the taking.

And for now, I'm sticking with the past.

When Jason opened his trunk to reveal my new wall-mounted barracuda that he got for $5 at a Germantown yard sale, I was like a ten-year-old again. I sprinted through the rain from his car to my apartment and felt like I was back in the 1980s---in my own world, clipping fish pictures from magazines and sticking them on my bedroom wall with Fun Tack.

And thank christ for mean-ass wives. Apparently, Jason bought the 'cuda from a poor fellow who'd paid $800 to have it mounted, only to have his shrew-wife tell him to get rid of it for peanuts at their end-of-summer yard sale.

How sad ... for him!! Ha! Sucker!!

I have a wife who's cool and let's me mount two (count 'em) fish in our apartment. Damn, I'm lucky.

Friday, September 01, 2006

My Tour of the Church of Scientology in Dupont Circle

I'm penciling the words "Kyle Gaffney" as my first and last names and my buddy is nervously scrawling the bogus "Frank Stafford" onto the two-page questionnaire given to us by the glazed-eyed, grinning receptionist at the only Scientology church in the Washington DC tri-state area.

I'd passed it a hundred times on foot and never stepped into their building on 19th Street. But today my friend and I have been left with nothing to do. Hurricane Ernesto has given us a 48-knot middle finger for today's long-planned sailing trip so we're wandering around looking for somewhere to eat when we pass the "Open for Tours!" sign.

"We have to fucking go in that place. WE HAVE TO GO", my friend urges.

Inside the Church of Scientology in Dupont Circle, you can't see much of the walls. They're mostly covered with framed pictures, quotes, books or news clippings by the their late founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

When talking about Mr. Hubbard, our tour guide has that too-enthusiastic chipperness that you only find in the very coked-up or the very religious. But she assures us that Ron isn't their cult leader. Oh Nooo...

"And, and, here's a newspaper article about the time he roped a bear in Alaska. He, like, roped a kodiak bear and fought it onto a boat. Can you imagine roping a bear?? CAN YOU?? I can't ...", she chatters on, as we listen in quiet awe.

We're led through elaborate rooms lined with dark wood and fireplaces until we come to a large well-lit office, closed off from the rest of the church by a thick glass door that slides into the wall. As we enter, a smell of eerie cleanliness surrounds us and I feel---for a moment---like I'm in the Oval Office.

Apparently, it's in an exact replica of L. Ron Hubbard's original study. It's the kind of office I'd expect uber rich people to have: leather bound books, a massive wooden globe, artifacts from Africa, expensive-looking items neatly laid on his dust-free desk, a full set of Joseph Conrad books shrink-wrapped in plastic ... wait, shrink-wrapped books?? Yes, that's how pristine this room was; hundreds of classic novels were wrapped in corrosion-proof plastic.

Our curiosity led us to ask about a strange 70s-looking electronic contraption in the corner.

"What's that?", we asked.

"That's the most important device invented by humans", she says confidently. We're dying to find out what the hell this thing does. (image -->)

Next I know, we're in the basement, each of "Frank's" hands are clasped around cylindrical metal nodes, and our excited guide-lady is asking him new-age psycho-babble questions about energy flows and auras. And apparently, The Most Important Device Invented by Humans can measure whatever he's thinking each time she asks something personal.

But we discovered that the meter on the contraption was sensitive to every reflex, no matter how slight: if we squeezed the metal nodes hard, the meter increased, and our guide would inform us that we were "stressed". Conversely, if we consciously relaxed our hands, the meter would show less "stress".

100% pseudoscience.

At some point, we became overloaded by psycho-babble and got an itching feeling to leave. IMMEDIATELY.

We were repeatedly urged to visit the Scientology museum down the block where we could see every trinket associated with L. Ron Hubbard's life (including his Boy Scout medals - no joke), but we thanked our guide and were on our way.

I know very little about this religion, but it seems full of the same trappings that all religions have; it's only interesting to an atheist like me for kitsch value. But if you're passing by 1812 19th Street in your nation's capital on a rainy day, it's worth the 45 minute tour ... at least until the smell of cleaning solvent and zealous cult worship become overbearing.

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