Yeah, We Can Hear You Now

Walking into a restaurant the other evening, my friends and I found ourselves entering behind a man and a woman engaged in a heated discussion. Or rather, the woman was engaged in a heated monologue.

“If they fucking try to charge me for that I’m gonna fucking go off,” she exclaimed. “Fuck Verizon!”

Her male companion said nothing and stopped to open the door for her. The woman walked unsteadily, not as if intoxicated, but almost as though she was not practiced at walking in high heels. She was easily a size 24 squeezed into what was likely a size 16 dress that appeared to have been a holdover from someone’s wedding — yes, a bridesmaid dress. The woman appeared to be wearing a bridesmaid dress, with the full glory of her back tattoo on display for all to see. “Angel”, it read across the back of her neck, visible because her hair was swept up in a formal ‘do, presumably for the wedding she just left.

As she carried herself through the entrance, she continued to rail against the wireless company. “I mean it, Fuck Verizon, their service is for shit, this phone is a piece of fucking shit and I’m just fucking sick of dealing with them! Fuck them!” This, as she is standing at the “Please Wait to Be Seated” sign.

Her companion said nothing still, and held up two fingers to the hostess who approached them with a mixture of fear and disdain. The hostess grabbed two menus off the stand and showed them to their table. 

But we heard her exclaim, as she strode out of sight, “I don’t care who fucking hears me! I’m fucking pissed! Those assholes!” When they rounded the corner to the dining room, the rest of her diatribe was lost. We were blessedly seated in the opposite direction.

I have no idea what could have caused this woman to be so upset with Verizon. My experience with them as a consumer was always favorable – they have excellent coverage and more than helpful customer service. I admit it’s been a while since I was a customer of theirs, but still – what could they have done to anger this woman so?

It occurred to me later that Verizon didn’t “do” anything. This woman — any woman who walked into a restaurant, ranting and raving about ANYTHING in such a manner —  has anger management issues. Period. And no amount of hair styling and dressing up is going to change that. You can doll it up and take it out, but rage is still ugly.

My friends and I had a good laugh, though. Whether we were laughing more at the cries of “Fuck Verizon!” or the irony of the “Angel” tatt across her back, I’m not sure. But I wonder how her boyfriend enjoyed his dinner. Or the acid reflux that likely followed…

Just Another Day (after)

I admit that I had pre-conceived opinions of the idea of a “Tribute Band”. I judged them as musicians who could not make a name for themselves on their own merit and thus rode the coattails of a well-known artist in order to gain some small amount of celebrity without having to find a “real job”. Herbert Spencer correctly labeled contempt prior to investigation as a principle that would keep a man in “everlasting ignorance”. I now see my old ideas on the subject were completely flawed.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a concert featuring an Oingo Boingo tribute band called Dead Man’s Party. I went with two guys I’ve known since high school, Lee and Larry, whom I had only seen once in the last 20 years. When I got to the theater and saw them, I was amazed at how quickly we fell into the old familiar rhythms of humor, wisecracks, and good-natured jabs at each others’ expense. I asked myself several times why I had not seen these men in so long, for I felt so glad to be with them, it was good for the soul.

We made many jokes about the opening act, featuring a lead singer who could not have been more than 12 years old and the courage to belt out a few AC/DC tunes. When his voice changes, he might have a future – an original song they performed that this young kid wrote showed promise.

The next act was a Misfits tribute band, and I was horrified to hear myself saying “all these songs sound the same” – but they did. We laughed heartily at the bass player’s intro count – “ONETWOTHREEFOUR!” – to every song, and were forced to watch the lead guitarist -sporting a black leather vest- shred on the guitar in a manner that caused his gut to vibrate like a coin-operated bed in a cheap motel. When they announced, “This is our last song”, we shared a collective cheer.

When the headlining act came out, Lee – who has seen Dead Man’s Party on multiple occasions and who organized the evening’s get together – shot out to the pit to express his inner rock fan. I was immediately impressed by the bands tight sound, and how incredibly alike they sounded to the actual band. The lead singer had all of Danny Elfman’s good-natured-yet-creepily-psychotic expressions and mannerisms – and also a hell of a voice. He absolutely sold me from the first song.

Sitting at our table on the outer ring of the theater, the band launched into “Private Life” and I couldn’t take it anymore — I had to get up and dance. So I told Larry I was going out there and I hit the pit. Seconds later, Larry was right behind me.

Getting to the center of the pit, I found Lee and tapped him on the shoulder as I joined in the singing and the fist pumping. Lee turned and saw me and the look of joy on his face was worth the traffic I sat in to get to the show – he embraced me in a big, joyful hug and we joined in the singing, with Larry taking up position on the other side. The three of us bounced, jumped, shook, slammed, singed, screamed and laughed through song after song.

This will sound trite and cliche, but I was transported back to the days (or nights) of my youth, attending Boingo shows at Irvine Meadows and doing all the bouncing, jumping, singing to the same songs. The effect was surreal — it wasn’t Boingo, but it was a Boingo show. The band nailed every nuance of every song, and played selections from the catalog that went further back than even I remembered. The band were clearly having a great time themselves, and the atmosphere of fun spilled over the edge of the stage and enveloped the audience of thirty- and forty-somethings who were all there for the same reasons we were: to hear music that we grew up with, that harkened back to a time when life was a party and the biggest concern we had was whether we would get seats on the terrace or end up on the lawn.

The band played over 2 1/2 hours and played nearly every song I could think of. The party atmosphere increased as the night went on and the strangers in the audience became friends as they stepped on each others feet and apologized, only to be met with an “It’s okay dude!” and a pat on the back. I was jumping like a coked-up gazelle during my favorite songs and more than once bumped into someone I didn’t know. Never was it met with anything other than a good-natured smile and a wave of dismissal to say “don’t worry about it.”

I don’t know where the energy came from. I am twice as old as I was when I would attend the Boingo Halloween shows, and recently the concerts I’ve attended have had the mellow, relaxed vibe of John Mayer or David Gray or Natalie Merchant – even the U2 show I went to at the Rose Bowl last year –where I stood the entire show and danced occasionally — couldn’t match the frenzy of wild abandon I reached as the band launched into “Grey Matter”. I was sweating buckets and knew that I’d be paying a price for all the leaping and bouncing and slamming I was doing, but I didn’t care: at that moment, I wasn’t a fortyish single dad getting a rare night out with adults; I was a free and vital young man who was living life like it was 1989, and I lost track of any care or concern I had.

After the show ended and we were in the Denny’s next door, I couldn’t stop laughing. I felt high, though I was stone cold sober. I was giddy, and couldn’t stop laughing. I felt like I had just been through a transformation of some kind, and in a way I had been: I’d been transported back to my youth, where I partied for a few hours, and then transported back to the present where the effects still lingered. The smile is still on my face as I write this nearly 24 hours later.

A tribute band wields magical powers. I imagine those powers are proportional to how much an audience member loves their music, or what kind of memories that person associates with the original band. For me, Dead Man’s Party hypnotized me into thinking I was 21 again and enjoying a kick-ass New Wave show, and they did it all while singing and playing instruments. That’s no easy task – I’d say that’s a “real job”.

By the way, I am so not 21 anymore. I am paying the price today with sore legs, no voice, and impromptu napping. Magic spells seldom last long.

There’s An App(liance) For That

I’m pretty sure the dishwasher in the townhome I’m renting was one of the first to ever roll off the assembly line. They might not have even HAD assembly lines back when this thing was made. This thing might pre-date such industrial advances.

I try to be grateful to have a dishwasher in the first place – it certainly beats washing dishes by hand. But that’s not really true here because if I don’t wash off the dishes before they go in this water box, they come out covered in whatever was on them before they were “washed”. I have to wonder about the water pressure in it – it seems more akin to a leaky garden hose than a whirling pool, if you catch my I-don’t-wanna-get-sued meaning there.

Yet the leaky garden hose theory is thrown out the window the minute one hears this machine. It sounds like Niagara Falls in there! When I turn on this dishwasher, all conscious thought is driven from my head by the deafening roar. Forget about having the dishes washing while anyone in the house is trying to watch TV, or listen to music, or complete a sentence. I could run a vacuum, a blender, a hair dryer and a leaf blower at the same time and you’d still hear the dishwasher over everything else.

I see advertisements with the lovely, my-life-is-so-happy models in a so-professionally-designed-it-does-not-exist-in-the-real-world kitchen discussing or operating a “whisper-quiet” dishwasher that not only gets your dishes sparkling on the first try, it also freshens your air, discharges negative energy from your garbage disposal and balances your chi – all done with the silence and precision of a shaolin monk. That dishwasher is a Prius; my dishwasher is a logging truck. 

My dishwasher tries. I sense this. It doesn’t want to be a D student, it just struggles. Maybe it is dyslexic. Maybe it should be in a special school. A home owner would have sent it to the appliance pound, where used and refurbished refrigerators, washers, dryers, et. al. are locked up, awaiting for a new owner to come and pick them out, give them a new home. But I am not a home owner. I rent this place, and as such, it is not in my control which appliances get replaced. If this dishwasher does the job, well, my landlord doesn’t have any real reason or obligation to replace it. Just because I use twice as much water washing the dishes by hand before they go in the “dish washer” doesn’t matter. Just because operating it after 10:00 pm would violate the curfew for “quiet time” in this community doesn’t matter. The appliance functions, so it stays. I do not feel the need to press the issue of replacement.

Besides – if there’s anything going to get replaced here, it’s the nuclear-powered clothes dryer that somehow manages to get my clothes hotter than the surface of the sun after only 20 minutes a-tumbling.  Or the stove with burners that rest at a slight 13-degree angle, thereby making it impossible to cook anything in a pan evenly. Or the water heater that’s the size of a beer can and only provides 8 minutes of hot water per shower. Or the refrigerator that freezes anything placed near the back, regardless of the temperature setting. Or the furnace that sounds like a screaming woman is trapped in the air ducts…

The Sound of Something Shiny

I was exiting the freeway yesterday and saw a car that grabbed my attention instantly – not because it was stylish and sporty, not because it was flashy and cool, but because it existed.

It was a Chevrolet Nova, and the body was in fairly good condition – no dents, no unsightly scrapes – but it wasn’t pristine. Or “cherry” as they used to say back in the day. It was just a Nova like thousands of others still on the roads of America today.

What made this one remarkable? Its color. The owner of this car had paid someone good money to paint it avocado.

It was an Avocado Chevy Nova.

The car itself stood out among others because of its unusual color, but long after it had turned a corner and rolled out of my sight, the echo of its uniqueness kept playing in my ears.

Avocado Chevy Nova. Avocado Chevy Nova. Avocado Chevy Nova.

I couldn’t stop saying that phrase. It seems magical – move over, “abracadabra”. Wave the wand and say, “avocadochevynova”.

Need a meditation mantra? I invite you to use “avocadochevynova”

Need a game to occupy elementary school-aged kids? Have them find all the words that can be made from the letters in avocadochevynova.

Writing a book involving a hot Russian female spy? You could name her Avocado Chevynova.

I wish I’d had my camera so I could post a photo of it here. But really, it wasn’t the car that was memorable. It’s that addictive phrase.

Avocado Chevy Nova…