Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strange Nights with the Girls

If you've followed this foolishness for any length of time you'll recall my belief in the healing power of booze. I wouldn't consider myself a big drinker, but going on a drunk every couple months (when done correctly and monitored by professionals) can be therapeutic - blasting away bad feelings and negativity, and sometimes resulting in the rare negative hangover the next morning - where you feel no ill effects from the alcohol, but instead experience a feeling of peace and cosmic wellness.

Hopefully this will result in breaking down communication barriers, and really, really connecting and feeling something, man. Think of that scene in The Breakfast Club when the kids smoke a doobie and can finally relate to each other. Or if you want to get all highbrow, there's that William Blake quote Hunter Thompson used about a thousand times, "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." 

That's a little dramatic, but there is something to be said for getting drunker than a poet on payday with some friends and seeing where the night takes you.

A friend of mine was in town last week. Let's call her Laura. My ex-wife and I have known Laura since college. She was supposed to stay with me Saturday night after seeing a band downtown. 

I have a pretty good relationship with my last two exes. It's fairly remarkable and cosmopolitan. I'll get drinks or dinner occasionally with my last long term girlfriend, and visit with my ex-wife about every other weekend at the Riverside Arts Market, catching up on gossip, eating Filipino food and just hanging around. I'd like to think they both still hang with me because I am so damn loveable and charming. 

Yeah, that's probably it.

It could be weird at first when I'd run into them, but things have settled into a nice new routine, and I'm legitimately glad to see them and keep in touch, and it seems they like seeing me. Oh. I should mention. My ex-wife is gay, and recently got remarried in New York. To a woman. I get along great with her also. I told you it was all very cosmopolitan.

So that's the backstory. Back to the drinking. After watching the band, my ex-wife, her wife, Laura and I ended up at Birdies (home of the $2.50 mixed drink, if you don't mind Aristocrat gin and a possible paralyzing hangover the next morning), because, well, you pretty much always end up at Birdies when going out in Jacksonville.

I don't think anyone was too drunk, I wasn't eating money or ripping off my shirt yet, but I was comfortable enough to dance in public. And hell, if people didn't want to see me dance then they shouldn't be playing Prince and Cheap Trick. It was fun. I was dancing with a bunch of ladies, doing my patented shaky leg dance (I'll show you sometime ladies, but be warned - you WILL be turned on), and having a blast.
Me with ladies. Note the extended pinky. Classy!

When closing time rudely interrupted the hijinx, Laura was looking for more fun.

"I've got some gin and whiskey at my place," I said. "I think probably some ancient rum and some beer there too."

So it was decided. Actually, here I'm a little unclear. I don't remember if Laura invited my ex-wife and her wife over to my house, but I don't think I would have. No offense to them, but I thought it might be weird, since she hasn't been in the house since she moved her stuff out about three years ago. I mean, like I said, we have a great relationship now, but why mess with stuff, you know?

I didn't have anything to worry about. We put a sizeable dent in my hurricane supplies, everyone was getting along great and laughing and I was DJing. Yes, "Troglodyte" got played. Probably a couple times. I gave everyone the grand tour which was pretty funny since most of what little furniture I have is still in the same place it was three years ago. Hey, I've been busy, alright?

I never thought I'd have my ex-wife and her wife drinking at my house, but everybody was having fun and there was no evident weirdness. After a couple songs, the ex requested a certain song. I was a bit hesitant.

"Dude, you gotta play "Hello, Lucille, Are You a Lesbian."

 "Wait, really? Are you sure? I mean, it's not weird or anything now?"

"No, no, just play it."

And I did. As always, novelty funk music and alcohol brought people together. And that's exactly what I was talking about earlier. It was super fun having the ex and her wife (and Laura, too) in my house that night, but if it weren't for the sweet, sweet booze, there's no way I ever would have been suggestible enough to let it happen. Kids, if you're under 21 and want to have this sort of excitement and open communication EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIVES, find a kindly hobo or local priest to buy you some alcohol. Or perhaps steal some from your parents if they have a liquor cabinet. Maybe learn to distill your own wine from simple household ingredients - ask an ex-con for instructions on the best methods.

Trust me, you will thank me later when you're having adventures, exciting, witty conversations and therapeutic breakthroughs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How I Caught Crabs

Every teacher had a side hustle, whether it was selling real estate, subbing or peddling cosmetics. They also had all sorts of ways to save money throughout the year.  My parents were no different. They preserved and canned food, bought stuff at yard sales and all sorts of other things that make people think that we grew up in the 1930s or in some Little House on the Prairie frontier instead of the 'burbs like everyone else when I talk about my childhood.

Actually, with their vegetable gardens, second-hand buying, reliance on DIY home maintenance and yardwork (DIY meaning me and my sister), and love of the homemade over the mass-produced, you might stretch things a bit and call my parents early hipsters.

My sister and I just thought they were cheap.

My dad helped stretch the food budget by providing us with fish and crabs from the Manatee River, which was a short walk down from our house.

That makes it sound a lot more dramatic than it really was, like dad was some Deadliest Catch guy out there braving the elements every weekend to put food on the table for his family. Basically, he liked to fish, and he liked eating fish, so it all worked out.

We'd go out with him fairly regularly. Dad had a one-man boat that would fit him and one kid. Early in the morning we'd go out and catch trout or jack, which were awesome. A five-pound jack will put up enough fight that you feel like Ernest Hemingway reeling in a marlin, especially if you're a kid. People say you can't eat them, but people are stupid. Fried up they tasted just fine. Of course, I would probably eat a shoe or a bar of soap if you fried it up, so maybe you shouldn't trust my tastes.

The author in middle school. Ladies, I'm wearing those shorts right now.

Dad also had about 6 crab traps that he'd check once a week or so. You'd pull up the trap while barnacles squirted water on you, bring it on to the boat and take the angry crabs out with a pair of tongs. Dad usually handled the crab wrangling part. After that I'd have to clean the guts out of the crabs on the front yard with a hose, then bring all the fish and crab guts down to the river for disposal. I also remember having to carry the car battery from the boat up to the house, which  weighed like a thousand pounds when you're 13. You'd think that doing that every weekend would give me arms of iron, sort of like Conan turning that big wheel every day, but I never saw any results.

Before he made the traps, and before we had regular access to the river, Dad went poor people crabbing, which is pretty awesome in its simplicity. You tie a chicken wing to a string, then throw it out in the water and wait for a scavenging crab to bite it. Then you reel him in. I'm hoping that knowing this sort of stuff will help me after the apocalypse hits.

I was a shitty kid. I was constantly in trouble with one or both of my parents or school, which would lead to trouble with my parents. I was once grounded for an entire school year due to failing Spanish each quarter. That sort of stuff was pretty much forgotten when I was out on the river.

It's not like Dad was imparting big life lessons on me or giving me advice while we were out there, it was more like putting our fights and disagreements on pause for a couple hours. Occasionally he'd say something along the lines of "You know you're messing up," or, "You know you need to apologize to your mother" or whatever, but it was a nice oasis in my life of constant trouble, all of which, admittedly, I brought on myself.

After a while my sister and I got sick of crabs. We had blue crabs regularly - made into crab cakes, boiled, or made into a crab boil when my dad was experimenting with Cajun seasoning. Why couldn't we be like normal people and go to McDonald's instead? Why did we always have to eat crabs or fish?

Now of course, I'd kill for some blue crabs (that I don't have to prepare or clean or anything, of course), and haven't even considered going to McDonald's in forever. I can't say I miss the feeling of wondering the next time my laziness or one of my lies was going to get me in trouble, though. I manage to go fishing with my dad once or twice a year, and, like men, we don't really talk about anything important, just sort of sit there next to each other and let the time pass while we catch fish. It's still nice.

Man, do I wish someone would bring me some crabs.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Co-worker talking about strawberry cake:
"I eat everything but the pink stuff."

Advice to my Imaginary Son on the Occasion of his Acceptance into College

Son, as you prepare to embark on your new life away from your mother and me I’m awash in many different feelings. You’ve always been a great son, and I’ve tried to impart as much wisdom as I could throughout your life. But this is one piece of fatherly wisdom that might top everything, something I wish your grandfather had shared with me before I left home. Are you paying attention? Write this shit down.

I know this might come as a shock, especially given your hot mom, but your old man never felt he got all the action he should have in college. Or pre-college. Or post-college, now that I think about it.

Let’s be honest. You missed out on the genetic lottery. You inherited both my looks and my grating personality, so I should tell you that you’re going to have to work twice as hard as other guys. Unfortunately, you’ve also inherited my crippling laziness, so we both know that ain’t gonna happen. So here’s what you need to do.
Fake a British accent. You have all summer.

If anyone asks where you’re from, just make something up. Hotpence. Stratford on the Willshire. Saint Blimeyston. Trust me, you’re gonna be around Americans. They won't know. Call your apartment a flat and the TV a telly and the battle's halfway won.

I’ve put a lot of thought into this. You should strike a balance between jaded European baffled by our hick ways and enthusiastic visitor. Try this - "Your supie's big enough to drive me lorry in!" or "You yanks know nothing about real football."

If you get stuck, just make up words. Like I just did there with "supie." Now it means supermarket.

Let's face it. You're awkward and clumsy, even more so than the usual 19 year old. Luckily, this can work for you. Girls will think you're overcoming a cultural barrier, so they won't be expecting too much from you. Plus, with your new accent it will all seem charming and witty.

Sure, there's a downside, you might have to keep faking that accent for years if you find someone you really like, but if romantic comedies have taught us anything, you can explain everything with a huge romantic gesture and everything will work out fine.

This accent isn't just for matters of romance. Think how future employers will melt when they hear your British tones during an interview. So you finished last in your class - who cares! Every company wants to add some class and European sophistication to their operation. You'll be turning down job offers left and right!

So I'm effectively grounding you for the summer to give you practice time. Trust me, you'll thank me soon enough.