“The Finger Thing Means the Taxes!”

Greetings, gentle reader. It’s been a while since I wrote anything, and as usual I have as many ideas as I have excuses, but today I had a rare day off to myself, so I decided to sit down and hammer something out. I then decided to delete half of it and rework the remaining half, and now I’m left with this half-assed whole blog post, and you get to reap the “benefits”.

What an absolute piece of shit this year has been, eh?

Sorry, I’ve never been good at small talk. But here’s a “large talk” thing that’s on my mind right now, in part for reasons that were included in the deleted half of this post (and which may still surface here someday). Don’t worry, I’m barely making sense to myself here.

Someone I know told me recently that their taxes are going to go up under Joe Biden’s tax plan. I assume Trump told them this, but I don’t know for sure, because I don’t listen to that fuckin blowhard. Regardless of where they got that information, the fact is I don’t know anyone who makes over $400,000 per year, which means I don’t know anyone whose income taxes will increase under Biden’s tax plan. And don’t mistake this as an endorsement of Joe Biden; I didn’t vote for Joe Biden so much as I voted against Donald Trump. Some members of my family might be bothered by that, but I sincerely couldn’t possibly care any less about that than I already do. I would’ve voted to eat a turd every day for the rest of my life over another four years of Donald Trump.

Watch this:

I just think it’s really funny, is all.

On an at-first-seemingly-unrelated note, I learned today that Tiffany & Co. sells a sterling silver dog dish for $2,500. Here’s a screenshot, in case you don’t wanna give their website any traffic:

“Add a whimsical touch to your home with this bowl that any dog will love.”

True story: I once saw a dog eat cat poop, throw it up, and then eat the throwup. Dogs will drink antifreeze. I love dogs more than I love most people, but it’s a fact that most dogs are pretty dumb about a lot of things, and I guarantee you there isn’t a dog in existence who cares one way or the other if its food and water are served in sterling silver bowls, as long as you give it food and water. And if I’m wrong, and there is a dog in existence that expects its food and water in a sterling silver bowl? Well then that dog is an asshole.

On a side note, if sterling silver adds a “whimsical touch” to your home, your home is probably as whimiscal as the average tomb.

There is a smaller version of this bowl available for “only” $1,800, but that’s not any less stupid.

Speaking of “Bone China”…

Anyway, that whimsical-ass silver dog dish isn’t even almost close to being the most expensive item listed on the Tiffany & Co. website. They offer a non-functioning decorative greenhouse for $275,000. That’s approximately two times more than I paid for my real house. Granted, my real house wasn’t “hand-assembled by the finest Tiffany artisans”, but I can stand inside my real house, so that’s gotta be worth something.

Peep those dimensions on the bottom right, folks.

And even that Barbie Dream Artisan Greenhouse doesn’t approach the most expensive item on the Tiffany & Co. website (the most expensive thing I could find that didn’t require booking an appointment just to be told how much it cost was a $630,000 necklace). Stuff like this is designed for the kind of assholes who pay $400 for plain white t-shirts. Like Patrick Bateman-level shit.

Here’s a stone cold fact (with apologies to Stone Cold Steve Austin): if you can’t afford to throw your money away on a $2,500 sterling silver bowl for your dog to eat thrown-up cat poop out of, you will not be paying more income taxes under Joe Biden’s tax plan.

I was unable to find any sterling silver diamond studded hand-crafted artisan guillotines on the Tiffany & Co. website. Maybe Armani makes a nice leatherbound model.

I’m sure I would’ve had to book an appointment to look at them anyway.

Thanks for reading. As usual, I don’t really know what the point might be, or if I even have a point, but I do know this: the world can be pretty goddamn shitty and unfair sometime, and while I may not always act like it it, I do sincerely believe kindness and compassion will win in the end. It’s just a matter of making it happen. Be the change you wish to see, and all that shit. The eviction of the Current Resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave on January 20th will be a breath of fresh air, but it has to start with each of us. Look out for each other. It literally costs nothing to not be a dick.

Cook As Needed For Pain, Volume 1: Ratatouille

Note: I wrote most of this on August 1, and then I just abandoned it for some reason. I sat down to write this morning, and noticed it there in my drafts, and decided to finish it. Must be your lucky day.

I was making ratatouille earlier while listening to sludgy metal/hardcore NOLA legends Eyehategod’s mindblowing second album (1993’s Take As Needed for Pain) when it occurred to me that I could (and should) make a blog about it. My plan as of right now is to make “Cook As Needed for Pain” a regular feature where I write about what I’m cooking and what I’m listening to while cooking (hence the “Volume 1” in the title), but I don’t wanna get ahead of myself.

Ratatouille, if you’re not familiar with it, is more than a funny and touching Pixar movie featuring funnyman Patton Oswalt as an adorable little rat. It’s also a delicious French stewed vegetable medley that happens to be a super easy way to use up summer vegetables. I first learned about it at the not-very-good French culinary school I attended back in aught-three, but as is typical of things I learned there, I don’t remember much about it. I’ve been making it pretty regularly for the last 10 years or so, though, and it’s really just a delightful dish, and it could only be easier to prepare if someone else made it for you and asked you to reheat it.

The New Food Lover’s Companion (Third Edition) (a book that I still reference on a regular basis, even though the internet exists) defines it thusly:

A popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs – all simmered in olive oil. The vegetables can vary according to the cook. They can be cooked together, or cooked separately and then combined and heated briefly together. Ratatouille can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature, either as a side dish or as an appetizer with bread or crackers.

Sounds pretty easy, and versatile as fuck, right? That’s because it is. My favorite things to cook are the things I can riff on – chili, gumbo, curried vegetables, ratatouille, what-have-you. I mean, if I wanted to measure a bunch of ingredients, I’d be a baker.

Here’s the list of ingredients in today’s batch of ratatouille:

1 medium green bell pepper
1/2 a small red onion I had left in the refrigerator
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium eggplant
2 medium-sized tomatoes, plus 5 or 6 cherry tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
dried basil
dried thyme
dried oregano
kosher salt (to taste)
fresh ground black pepper
olive oil

Note: I cut everything except the garlic and onion to roughly the same size as half of a cherry tomato, and I minced the garlic and onion. Mrs. Circle Pit doesn’t like the texture of onions, so if I wanna cook with them I have to either cut them small enough to essentially hide them or cut them large enough that she can see them and pick them out.

I started out by sauteeing the onion and bell pepper in olive oil over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, then I added the zucchini and yellow squash, sauteed that for a couple of minutes, then added the eggplant, cooked for another minute or two, then the tomatoes, then the garlic and all the herbs, then I cooked it together for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then I turned the heat down to low and covered the pan. And I don’t mean to alarm you, but the ratatouille is STILL SIMMERING LIGHTLY AS I TYPE!

Just look at this pretty motherfucker!

It was seriously so fucking simple, and it’s gonna be even more delicious than it was easy. Also, I got to listen to Take As Needed for Pain while I cooked it. I’ve definitely had worse days.

This brings us to the end of the original post. All I really want to add is that you should make ratatouille as often as possible, and you should also listen to Eyehategod as often as possible. Don’t let their name scare you, there’ll be plenty of time for the music to take care of that. Thanks for reading.

Finding Something New

“Tone deaf” is certainly an appropriate word to describe Ivanka Trump’s entire life, but this “Find Something New” campaign that she rolled out yesterday reaches Beethoven levels of deafness. Some rich asshole who’s never worked a day in her charmed life is gonna tell me to get a new career just because her piece of shit dad fucked up by pretending like this pandemic wasn’t real? How about you get a new career fucking off, Ivanka.

In all fairness, Ivanka isn’t the only tone deaf member of that family, but as the most attractive of the Trump kids (just ask her dad!), everything she does has bit more of a sinister edge than if Eric or Don Jr. were presenting the same ideas. When you see those two assholes, you expect a certain amount of chicanery.

I mean, these two dickheads are obviously full of shit.

On the surface, the idea is not without merit – learn a new skill, get a career in a field that pays relatively well, leave your low-paying job behind. But what happens when everyone who is currently laid off, or who is currently working a low-paying, “unskilled” job “finds something new” and leaves their low-paying, “unskilled” jobs behind?

Oh, you want a decaf pumpkin spice latte with skim milk? Too fucking bad asshole, all the laid-off baristas found something new, and are now repairing elevators. You wanna order the Cobb salad but you wanna sub cheddar for gorgonzola and you wanna sub steak for chicken and you wanna sub spinach for half the amount of lettuce? Sorry fuckwad, all the furloughed servers and cooks found something new, and they’re working as electricians and plumbers now.

Look here: I’ve been cooking professionally for more than half my life, and I’m fucking good at it. It’s not considered skilled labor, but I promise you it is, and I challenge anyone who disagrees with that statement to step into a busy kitchen in the middle of a Friday night dinner rush and prove me wrong. That shit is exhausting, both physically and mentally.

Unrelenting heat, flames and steam and smoke shooting out from all over the place, slip-and-fall hazards that can’t be dealt with right away, sharp knives moving everywhere, dehydration, never-ending noise coming from every imaginable direction, 7 tables order at the same time, and one of those is a 20-top who wants to modify every goddamn thing they order, food being sent back because a surprising number of people don’t seem to know what “medium rare” actually means, all while trying not to piss yourself because you haven’t been able to step off the line to go to the bathroom in over 4 hours. And when it’s all over, you get to start restocking and cleaning!

That’s not something any random person can do. The list of people I’ve worked with who found that out the hard way and moved on is much longer than the list of people I’ve worked with who are still in the industry.

But don’t just take my word for it. Watch the late, great Anthony Bourdain step back into his kitchen for the first time in years.

And I’m not saying my job is anywhere close to being the hardest job. Hell, I’ve worked harder jobs myself. I once spent the absolute worst three consecutive weeks of my life as a construction laborer, and I left there to go back to foodservice, because fuck every bit of being a construction laborer.

What I am saying is that it takes a certain set of skills to be good at working in the service industry, regardless of the specific job. Cooks, waiters/waitresses, bartenders, baristas, manicurists, hair stylists, estheticians, hotel workers, retail, bowling alleys, convenience stores – all of it. Shitty, unskilled employees exist in all areas of the service industry (as in every industry), but the ones who are good at it, and who can make a career of it, are skilled, and if you can’t see that, you’re big ol’ shit head.

But Ivanka Trump thinks I should use my time while I’m furloughed from my relatively well-paid job at a beloved locally owned restaurant that offers health insurance and PTO to pay for classes and training and “find something new”. Simple, right? No way a 43-year-old man would have any trouble getting a job in a new industry in the midst of a recession.

I know, I’ll just ask my dad for a small loan of one million dollars, and I’ll find a new career making guillotines!

Y’know, for Alice Cooper. In case he ever gets to play live again.

Thanks for reading. And good luck finding something new.

Current Situation, 06/17/2020

Here are the current contents of my brain, in no particular order:

The cops who murdered Breonna Taylor should be in jail.

I really miss my mom, and I wish I could show her what I’ve done with yard since we bought our house.

Systemic racism is real, even if you don’t believe in it.

My friend Chris is making a comic out of one of my old short stories, and it’s awesome.

The only appropriate response to “Black Lives Matter” is “yes, they do.”

There’s a cricket in the garage, and it might drive me to madness.

Corporate-backed media isn’t telling you the whole story about anything, and you should seek out alternatives.

I only have old short stories, because I pretty much never write anymore.

The new Run the Jewels album is fucking amazing.

Police departments need to be de-militarized immediately.

My hibiscus is getting so tall.

Donald Trump does not care about you, unless you are Donald Trump.

I’m very sad that Darn Good Soup is closed forever.

If you are Donald Trump, you can and should go fuck yourself.

I like my job, but I really wish I didn’t have to go back to work.

Defunding the police does not mean abolishing the police, it just means reallocating funds into programs and services that are designed to help the people rather than the state (i.e., “protect and serve”, but for real).

If you haven’t watched What We Do in the Shadows (the movie and the series)(and especially the series), you should change that.

Fox News and MSNBC are state media, and you should stop watching them immediately.

If you don’t appreciate absurdity, you probably shouldn’t bother with What We Do in the Shadows.

“White privilege” doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it means that your life hasn’t been made harder because of the color of your skin.

This song has been speaking to me a lot lately.

Climate change is real, even if you don’t believe in it.

I’d eat tacos every single day if my health would allow it.

The majority of confederate monuments were erected in the era of Jim Crow laws, and their purpose was to intimidate black people and reinforce the losers’ backward-ass belief in white supremacy, and that’s why those monuments belong in the museum or the ash heap.

Look at this fine specimen of confederate pride: “master race”, indeed.

I wish I could get paid to write without having to sell ads.

Antifa just means “anti-fascist”, and being opposed to facism is not up for debate.

Coffee is just the fucking best.

Seriously, fuck Donald Trump forever and ever.

I started laying this thing out just before I got into bed last night. As I was drifting off to sleep, I realized that if I’d started writing regularly when I first got furloughed back in March, I’d’ve kinda been getting paid to write this whole time. I’m not especially smart sometimes. Thanks for reading, though.

Ignorance is No Excuse

I don’t have anything new to add to the ongoing conversation about the impending fall of the American Empire, but since this is my blog, I’m gonna sort out my thoughts here, hit that “publish” button, and wait patiently for people to unfriend me on facebook.

I will start with this, because it is fucking important: BLACK LIVES MATTER. Full stop.

Stop saying “ALL LIVES MATTER!” in response. There are thousand people who have already explained this better than I can, but would you go to a walkathon for Alzheimer’s Awareness and shout “ALL DISEASES MATTER!”? No, you wouldn’t. And if you would, you’re an asshole.

And besides, if you really believe all lives matter, then I assume you’ll agree that both the death penalty and the for-profit prison system should be abolished immediately. Spoiler alert: they fucking should.

After several days of watching and reading about unprovoked police violence against people exercising their constitutional right to protest peacefully, and against journalists exercising their constitutional right to report freely on the events, I’m at a near complete loss.

“What makes a person want to be a cop?” That’s a very good question, Poison Idea. I sure as shit don’t understand it.

“But, Joel” you ask, “what about the looting and the smashing windows?”

I don’t condone property damage and theft, but you know what I don’t condone even more? A piece of shit cop with a documented history of racism choking an unarmed man to death in front of witnesses because of a counterfeit $20 bill he was black. Fuck that guy, and fuck all of the other cops who looked on while it happened, and fuck any cop anywhere who doesn’t stand up and say “ENOUGH!” And if property damage and theft are more important to you than human life, then fuck you, too.

Windows can be fixed. Innocent people are dying. I wanna break some fuckin windows myself, and I didn’t even know George Floyd.

And besides all that, there’s plenty of evidence that the majority of the people causing damage are just using the protests as a way to create chaos and/or steal things. This includes white nationalist groups and paid instigators. (My friend Liz helpfully pointed out that I forgot to mention this. Thanks Liz!)

Here’s some helpful info, if you want to educate yourself on police violence: https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

And here’s a condensed version of this information: https://policeviolencereport.org/

And don’t even get me started on that pumpkin-headed, blubbery-assed, tiny-handed, puckered-up-butthole-mouthed toddler currently lowering the property value at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He is not a good person, he is not “presidential”, he is obviously not a Christian, he does not have good intentions in his head or in his heart, and he clearly does not care about anyone other than himself. His language since his campaign began has been loaded with violence, and it’s only gotten worse. And now he’s tear-gassing peaceful protesters so he can clear the way for a photo op to pander to his base.

It’s a picture book.

He is doing nothing to help this situation, he is on the wrong side of history, and anyone who continues to support him will be, too. If that upsets you, good. See if he’ll let you hide with him in his bunker while the world evolves around y’all.

And look here: I’ve been on the receiving end of discrimination in the past. In elementary school and junior high (and, to a lesser extent, in high school) I was harrassed by people for my long hair, and for the music I listened to. As a broad-shouldered adult man with a pretty large beard, I’ve been subject to suspicious looks in airports (especially when I’m wearing a metal t-shirt) and plenty of jokes about how I “look like a terrorist” (my usual response: “just because I’m white doesn’t mean I look like Dick Cheney”).

But you know what? None of that amounts to a pimple on a whale’s ass compared to what people of color have dealt with for centuries. I’ve never feared for my life because of the color of my skin. That is my privelege, and I own it. I grew up in a “poor” working class family, so it took me some time to accept the fact that my skin color has always granted me some level of privelge, but I understand it now. Educate yourself. Ignorance is no excuse.

I cannot know what it’s like to experience the kind of systemic racism that BIPOC face every single day. I can only say that I see you, I hear you, and I support you. I will continue to do better, and I will do everything in my power to help. I’m also mad as hell.

I cannot remain silent while people of color are murdered and beaten by cops, in full view of witnesses, with impunity.

I cannot remain silent while our government officials and the police who are hired to “protect and serve” are teargassing and firing projectiles into crowds of peaceful protesters.

I will not remain silent while a lying, adulterous reality television star/failed businessman continues to embarrass our country every single day.

Thanks for reading. Now keep reading. Get involved. Be on the right side of history.

I’ll leave you with someone else’s words. This song that was written in 1987, but it could just as easily have been written today.

“Police Related Death” by MDC (words by Dave Dictor, music by Ron Posner & Willie Lipat)

Racism is as American as apple pie
And if one black boy dies who’s gonna cry?
Smashed and handcuffed and beaten to death
One colored man to deal with less

A graffiti artist was his crime
Mayor Koch says New York’s finest are fine
Can justice be really this blind?
If you or I were black would his death be yours or mine?

South Bronx elderly woman can’t pay her rent
She’s a mental case so the SWAT team was sent
Wouldn’t open the door so through the window they went
Blew her away in cold blood without a regret

Police related death
Just another police related death

Pregnant woman from east L.A
Asked who knocked, they would not say
Refused to answer, those sheriffs went wild
Shot her in the stomach and she lost her child

Those teenage boys from Texas caught with a little dope
It was Black Freedom Day, a prayer and a hope
Sent handcuffed in a boat to the middle of a lake
The boat sank, the boys drown, precautions they didn’t take

How many men of color were shot last year?
How many dents did it make in any policeman’s career?
The mayor and chief cry crocodile tears
Just look a bit concerned as election time nears

Police related death
Just another police related death

Two sets of laws for the rich and the poor
Look at the prisons and tally the score
Black man’s chance of prison is one in four
Prejudice and racism wrapped in class war

If Malcolm X and Martin were alive today
How many lives of grief and pain they could relay
And how for these injustices can anyone repay?
And what amount of sorrow can anyone convey?

How much suffering must be endured
Before this social cancer can be cured?
Do color and class make one good or bad?
Doesn’t prejudice and hate make humankind sad?

Police related death
Just another police related death

The State of the Things Address

Soooo, shit’s pretty weird these days, eh? Toilet paper memes have become the new legal tender, and most of us seem to be dazing through the days, largely unaware of when and where we are. I won’t pretend to understand it any more than you or anyone else understands it, but I do know that I’ve already missed some really cool shit because of what’s happening in our world, and I’m finna miss a bunch of other really cool shit in the next month or so (at least!) because so many dumbass motherfuckers refuse to take this shit seriously and just STAY THE FUCK HOME.

Oh, and stop listening to that brain dead shit gibbon in the White House. He is not a scientist, and he is not intelligent.

Seriously, people…this country was seemingly founded on laziness and half-assing everything, and now that the world needs y’all to just sit the fuck down and watch TV, everybody gotta hang out at the park, climb on the playground, throw parties in their backyard twice a week, and go to the store all the fucking time while refusing to pay attention to your surroundings and not get so motherfucking close to strangers.

Now that that’s out of the way: Hello! How are you? It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything for this blog (or much of anything at all, for that matter), but I seem to have an abundance of time on my hands for some reason, so I figured I’d roll up my proverbial sleeves and think out loud (i.e.,on paper) (i.e.,on electronic paper) and see what I can come up with/get out of my brain, because let’s be honest, friends, I got some stuff I need to get out of my brain.

Before this train leaves the station, a full disclosure, for anyone reading this who doesn’t know me personally: I am not sheltering-in-place alone – I am happily married, and I love and adore Mrs. Circle Pit, and we’ve been having a lot of fun together. And I know things could be worse for me in an inconceivable number of ways, but having said that…

April 13, 2020 might be the day I lose my goddamn mind.

Much hubbub and hullabaloo has been made about the psychological effects of social distancing, self-isolation, and sheltering-in-place, and I’ve been aware that those negative effects are very real and very powerful for a lot of people. But if I’m being completely honest, I’ve been pretty immune to the effects so far. I’ve never cared much for people in general, what with humanity being completely fucking awful and all, and as far as working goes, not having to work is all I’ve wanted out of life since about a week after I started my first job however many years ago.

“I’m tired of this back-slappin’ “isn’t humanity neat” bullshit. We’re a virus with shoes.” – Bill Hicks

I’m seven years younger than my closest sibling, which means I didn’t have a built-in playmate around the house growing up; I spent a lot of time reading and playing by myself, and I enjoyed it. I’ve always had a few close friends, but the operative word there is “few”. It’s not that I can’t get along with other people, it’s just that I usually don’t want to. I’ve found that more often than not, people ruin everything. For better or worse, I identify much more with Holden Caulfield and Kilgore Trout than I do with Dean Moriarty and Jay Gatsby.

I like not having to be around people, and I’m generally pretty content to be left alone. I’m completely happy to be not working, and I’ve been mostly okay with not being able to do things off the property.

Until today. Today might be the day I lose my goddamn mind.

Up until today I’ve kept busy with lots of things – learning to bake bread, cooking in general, doodling/drawing, gardening/yardwork, cleaning, listening to music, going for walks in the park around the corner from our house, watching movies, reading, etcetera. Today, I’m at a complete loss. Not a single indoor thing sounds fun or enjoyable or interesting, and we’re experiencing 30-35 mph sustained winds (with 50+ mph gusts) and falling temperatures, so I can’t really enjoy anything outside. I’ve already washed all the dishes, and I’ve paced the entirety of our house about 30 times since breakfast, and now I’m about to lose my goddamn mind.

I have to admit, to myself and to the world, that this awkward, introverted, curmudgeonly misanthropic humanist really fucking misses human interaction, at least a little bit. I have so much disdain and contempt and disgust in my heart for the human race at large, but I sincerely love and miss the people I chose to surround myself with when the world was still chooglin along. I’m likely to pull a muscle hugging somebody when this bullshit is over, as long as I don’t lose my goddamn mind first.

Stay strong, stay safe, and stay home. And don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help. Until next time.

The Great Trumpet Will Sound

I had a crush on the same girl from kindergarten through 5th grade. In grade two a few of my friends and I would play this game at recess where some of the girls would snatch the hats off our heads (usually after a swift kick to the balls) and run, and we’d try to catch them. I should mention that the sole reason we wore hats outside at recess was so the girls would kick us in the balls and take them off our heads. Why were we into that? Who came up with the idea? Seriously, what the sincere, actual fuck?

Anyway, I always wanted Angie to take my hat, because I liked her, but when she did, I could never catch her, because she was easily the fastest girl in our class. She was probably the fastest person in our class, period. Fuck, could she run. I always wanted to do whatever Angie was doing, because I liked her, and that’s what I thought liking someone was all about. Doing the same things, together, all the time.

So when I found out Angie was gonna play trumpet in 5th grade band, I had no choice but to beg my parents to get me a trumpet. They finally relented, scoring me a used trumpet on payments at a local music store. This was gonna be the answer, I thought…all my Angie-related dreams were about to come true, and it would all begin with me sitting next to her in band practice.

I ended up being accidentally kinda good at the trumpet (or I was better than the other 5th graders, anyway), so I quickly earned the first chair position, which immediately made me nervous. I’ve never wanted to be in charge of anything, and I don’t much care for being looked at, but I accepted my new role with the all grace and aplomb that a 10-year-old boy can exhibit.

For our annual Christmas concert that December, the 5th and 6th grade bands were combined into a Super Band (not its real name), I assume with the purpose of shortening the overall concert time, since there were also choir performances slated for pretty much every grade, and ain’t nobody got time for that. Since the bands were combined, I was seated to the left of the 6th grade first chair trumpet, Jackie.

One of the songs we were performing that night was “Carol of the Bells”, and I was tasked with the heavy responsibility of beginning the song 100% solo. I was nervous, but at the same time, I was as confident as I’ve probably ever been in my life. The time came, the band director indicated that the floor was mine, and I began to blow a perfect rendition. She quickly waved me to a stop, did something with her hands that seemed to indicate that I should be playing louder, and started things up again. I once again played flawlessly, and as loud as I could possibly play, and she once again waved me to a stop, and did the same thing with her hands again.

I was sweating through my clothes at this point, beyond embarrassed, and wanting nothing more than to simply disappear forever. I was just about to start playing a third time, even louder this time (I don’t know if that would even have been possible), when Jackie leaned over to me and said “you’re in the wrong key”. Turns out while I was playing the notes correctly, I was indeed playing in the wrong key, and the band teacher’s hand motions didn’t mean that I should play louder, they meant that I should be playing an octave higher.

30 seconds in, that was me, but one entire octave too low.

Angie quit the trumpet after 6th grade, but my parents wouldn’t let me quit, as they’d paid a small fortune, relatively speaking, to satisfy my schoolboy crush – a crush that by then didn’t even exist anymore. I played on through 7th grade, at basketball games, concerts and the occasional football game, constantly regretting my shortsighted decision to learn how to play the trumpet.

Thankfully, my parents got tired of having to drive me to concerts and games, and upon completion of my 7th grade year, I was allowed to stop playing the trumpet. The cursed instrument went into our attic, where it stayed for the next decade, until I sold it to a former co-worker, and now…

I even had to google “key vs octave”. I still feel a mild twinge of panic when I hear “Carol of the Bells”, though. I’ll never forget that.

Pizza Monster: The Origin Story

My pal Collin mentioned yesterday that he’d been reading this esteemed blog, and really wanted to know more about the time I ate 22 pieces of pizza. That story is the first of a few different instances of me becoming what the missus semi-affectionately refers to as “The Pizza Monster”. I’ll probably share the rest of those stories eventually, because they’re pretty funny, but for now, here’s the origin story of my alter ego, The Pizza Monster.

Like all high-school-age boys, I was pretty gross. I never drank or smoked or did anything “wrong”, really, but I did have a vice: shoving foodstuffs down my big fat piehole like it was my job. I was a chonky boi, as the kids might say, and as such, I could put away some food, friends.

One night, about 30 minutes after finishing my supper (I don’t remember what we ate that night, but I can guarantee I ate seconds of everything, and probably thirds of some things), Travis called to see if I wanted to join him, his brother Tyler, and their mom on a trip to College Mall. I couldn’t turn down that offer – a chance to go to town on a school night? Fuck yeah that wide!

 

On the drive up, Travis told me we were also gonna go to Mr. Gatti’s after we were finished at the mall. At the time, I’d never been to a Mr. Gatti’s (or even heard of it), and said as much. Travis regaled me with tales of all-you-can-eat pizza, breadsticks, and cheesesticks, plus air hockey, Street Fighter II, skeeball, holy shit was I ever stoked! Travis mentioned that the last time he was there, he ate 20 slices of pizza. Before I even realized what was happening, I responded “I can eat more than that.”

Travis obviously accepted my challenge, and soon after – a mere 2 hours after I’d eaten essentially two full meals with my family – we began our contest. If you’ve ever been to Mr. Gatti’s, you know that not all their slices are cut evenly, so we placed no limitations on size, but we also didn’t purposely choose smaller pieces just to increase our count. We ate and ate and ate, and then we ate some more. When the final buzzer sounded, I’d eaten 22 slices, and Travis had eaten 23.

I want to take this opportunity to remind you that I’d eaten dinner not long before our journey began. We were also definitely guzzling root beers the entire time we ate. If I hadn’t begun the contest on a full stomach, who knows how much pizza I could’ve put away? I may still be there eating pizza to this day. 

Travis, by the way, stands at least 6’5″, and can still destroy some pizza to this day. About five years ago, I saw him devour two New York-style slices (each bigger than my certified XL head) like they were a couple of potato chips, and as recently as three years ago, he ate a large pizza and an order of breadsticks by himself.

Those slices were very much like this.

As for me, I still wanna eat all the pizza in the world, and I still eat too much of it every single time I eat it (did I mention that I’m a Pizza Monster?), but I’ve never again come close to the glory of that day in 1993 when I consumed 2-3 days’ worth of calories in a mere 4 hours.

Bloomington Music Expo

I just returned from the second annual Bloomington Music Expo, where I accidentally spent 3 hours looking at records and CDs, and I came away with a pretty great haul, though I did leave behind a few things that I’ll surely think about longingly (for at least) days to come. Regret will have to wait, though, because today I got some rad shit! Here are the things I picked up, mostly in the order in which I purchased them.

Holy shit!

I’ve written about Testament extensively on my other blog, so I won’t bother here. They’re one of my favorite bands, and this album is an overlooked gem that got buried in the darkness that was 1990’s heavy metal. This particular edition is on beautiful white vinyl, features “artwork reimagined by Marcelo Vasco”, and is limited to 1,000 copies worldwide. It’s sooooooo goddamn good.

The dude I bought it from had a beautiful original pressing of Gorilla Biscuits’ Start Today, and I’m already regretting not picking that one up.

I didn’t even know this beauty existed, but holy smokes am I ever excited to own this! The B-side features a bitchin etching of the title card from the cartoon, which unfortunately does not photograph well with my phone.

Two of the greatest albums from one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands to come out of the United States. I’m pumped about In Color, in particular – if it was the only album Cheap Trick had ever released, they’d still be one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands to come out of the United States.

Evidence.

Roy Orbison and Cyndi Lauper both rule, obviously. The booth I got the Cyndi Lauper record from was like looking through my sister’s record collection from when I was kid.

I got these three, along with the Roy Orbison record pictured above, for a total of ten bucks!

If you’re unfamiliar with Roy Clark or Jerry Reed, you should change that.

Evidence.

And last, but certainly not least…

…I got the motherfucking 12″ UK single for “Wasted Years”, my favorite song ever from my favorite band ever. I’ve written a lot of stuff about Iron Maiden, some of it for my other blog, most of it on my personal Facebook page (which led directly to my decision to create my other blog), and I will likely write more about Iron Maiden in the future. Rest assured, I am beyond stoked to own this. The B-side consists of a phenomenal song called “Reach Out”, which features lead vocals by guitarist Adrian Smith (who also wrote “Wasted Years”) and backing vocals by Bruce Dickinson, as well as a fun tune called “Sheriff of Huddersfield”, wherein the band pokes fun at their longtime manager Rod Smallwood, who had then-recently moved to Los Angeles and constantly complained about it.

Adrian’s solo gets me every time.
This is a fan-made video which repurposes footage from the “Wasted Years” video. Adrian’s voice is so good.

I also got a pristine copy of Steve Earle’s first album, Guitar Town, but I left it in the car. It’s a fantastic album, especially for a debut.

That’s all for today. I’m gonna blast the shit outta that Testament record. See y’all next time.