I like political cartoons. My favorites come from artists like Dwayne Booth aka Mr. Fish, The Sacramento Bee’s award-winning Jack Ohman, and Gary Trudeau’s syndicated Doonsbury. I also enjoy the animated cartoons by Mark Fiore. Terrific stuff! I guess that makes me a political (cartoon) junkie, though I do read Scott Adams’ syndicated Dilbert on Sundays. I work in an IT cubical farm and understand Adams’ humor too well. I used to read his three-panel weekday strips, but I got annoyed how Adams too often wrote the funnier joke on the second panel leading the reader to be disappointed when the third panel fell flat. Does he do that on purpose?
A few years ago I was showing my son a Mr. Fish comic. He laughed. Then a few minutes later produced a printed copy of a strip titled “Skub” from something called The Perry Bible Fellowship (PBF for short).
Besides being very funny and insightful, I noticed how simple and whimsical the art was–almost childlike, which accentuated the humor. I mistook the strip as political simply because my son handed it to me as a reply to a Mr. Fish piece and the message could easily be construed as political factions warring over a petty issue. More importantly, I had never heard of PBF, not seen any other strips from the artist, though it had been on the web since around 2005-2006. So I and this post are embarrassingly late to the party. Still, I’ll continue for anyone who is as tardy as I am.
My son handed me another sheet of paper with a comic strip on it before I had a chance to visit the PBF website. “Today’s My Birthday” was just as funny and was right up my alley–dark. I visited the website and was on the site for over an hour, forgetting to take my now thoroughly wrinkled work shirts out of the dryer.
The PBF comic strip is the brainchild of Nicholas Gurewitch, an illustrator based in Rochester New York. He attended Syracuse University, where he studied film and where his comic strip was first published in The Daily Orange. The comic gets its title from the name of a church in Perry, Maine. (Source: Wikipedia)
The three comics reproduced in the post and many other comedic gems can be found in The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack seen above featuring my foot and hand. This is a follow-up to The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, though there is some overlap, I have been told. I only have the Almanack collection.
Gurewitch’s style varies. Sometimes he mimics famous artists like Nancy Munger, Quentin Blake, Shel Silverstein, and Robert Crumb. Some of the art looks like it comes from early comic books, in other strips Gurewitch seems to be copying other artists’ styles that I can’t identify, but have seen before. One of the first ones I viewed from the PBF website is his hilarious parody of the late Bil Keane’s Family Circus.
While I was being introduced to Gurewitch’s genius via Almanack and the PBF website, he had already crowdfunded and published his latest book. Notes on a Case of Melancholia, Or: A Little Death, is a brilliant homage to Edward Gorey’s style though instead of sketching his images, Gurewitch painted each plate black then etched the images into life–a subtractive process illustrated in the twelve-minute documentary Notes on a Case Nicholas Gurewitch. The documentary shows how much work went into this project. By watching the video, the reader can begin the appreciate Gurewich’s creative process. Some of the plates in Notes on a Case of Melancholia took up to a million strokes to fully flesh out the image. Also, many plates and early drafts never made it into the final product. Notes on a Case of Melancholia is a dark and touching thirty-seven-page story of Death and his son. The story has no text, but each page speaks volumes on the beauty and humanity of Gurewitch’s art.
Well, I guess I’ve caught up with Gurewitch, and no, I’m not turning BurgerScoot.net into a review of books. Just consider this post the flipside of my piece on the books by Arundhati Roy.
Found this while tooling around on the web. I first read this in National Lampoon when I was in college. Funniest damn thing I read in those years. It pre-dates The Simpsons so it might have been the inspiration for The Itchy & Scratchy Show. The eyes have it!
Recently, while flipping through my athletic club’s newsletter I found what I thought would be an exciting addition to the GX schedule, Breakfast Club. Alright, I exclaimed to myself, now we’re talking! All this Pilates, Step, and Indoor Cycling shit at my club was getting me down. Now we have something I can really get into! (Oh, by the way, for any of you exercise squares out there, “GX” is the hip way to say Group Exercise. You’re welcome!) Why the newsletter has a breakfast event in the GX schedule is beyond me. Of course, the club could be viewing the 1985 film directed by John Hughes, but three times a week, every week? They better be serving breakfast with that if they expect members to return.
I worked out a deal with my manager to come in a little later on these days so I would be able to make these foodie events that occur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 a.m. Even as I penned the email to him asking for the arrangement there was a cloud of negativity hanging over me. Man, I would have to get up really early.
Figuring out just how early I had to get up to make it there by 6 a.m. ready to go through the line picking my favorite items then sitting in the corner somewhere alone, not socializing, took some thinking. I came to the conclusion that I was not going to ride my bicycle as I usually do. Kind of a double-whammy considering the only exercise I get (save for walking my dog) was from riding to work and back every day on my bike. I would have to ride my scooter.
So, early Wednesday morning I hopped on my scooter and headed for the club–the Breakfast Club, that is! Well, as it turned out there was no breakfast to be found in The Breakfast Club. There is no long steamtable of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, and hash browns. No scones, croissants, and muffins artfully stacked for the participating members. There wasn’t even a carafe of coffee and individual servings of cream on ice. Nope, just a line of step decks and mats and a young athletic woman with hair the color of an almond croissant queueing music. We won’t be consuming calories in this breakfast club. We will be burning them. Well, I could do that by sleeping another hour!
So the young athletic woman with hair the color of an almond croissant is Bernadette. Her voice comes over the studio’s speakers with the house music telling us to get two sets of weights. I don’t remember how heavy, but that’s because I’m still thinking of hash browns. I look what the tall guy and the blonde woman with all the tats get and decide to get lighter sets. I take them back to what is my step deck and mat.
I flinch at the prospect of using the step deck. I have never been to a step class and have no plans to attend one in the future. Years ago my wife bought a step deck and an exercise DVD so she could practice at home. During one workout she wanted me to “work in” (to use weight room lingo) a few minutes just to see if I liked it while she sat out to catch her breath. I reluctantly agreed and about four steps into a routine I tripped and fell. I do not have the coordination to do this step thing, and I’m sure the chances of stumbling would only increase the more fatigued I become. As it turned out the step decks in this class was more of like tools to be used in other ways then stepping on and off: a bench for exercises like push-ups and dumbbell flys.
Along with fewer risers under my step deck and lighter weights, I also took the cautious (or is it wimpy?) approach to this first session in the actual exercises opted for modifications. When Bernadette and the other two overachievers did star jacks I started doing them until I literally saw stars then just did standard jumping jacks. When the class did high steps, tapping the step deck with alternating feet, I just lamely alternated lifting my feet a few inches off the ground.
The style of workout I believe is called H.I.I.T. or High-Intensity Interval Training: workouts that alternate between intense bursts of activity (also known as “burst circuits”) as well as fixed periods of less-intense workouts. I’m not a stranger to burst circuits. I did this style of workout in a weight room setting where a trainer had me go to multiple stations, lifting to fatigue, immediately move to the next station where I would work on another set of muscles. When I had hit all the stations I was awarded a short break to catch my breath and hydrate then repeat. Since the weight room routine was not called “The Breakfast Club” I was under no illusions.
When the hour was up Bernadette told us to replace our step deck, risers, and weights. After an hour of this torture, I’m holding onto my kneecaps feeling my heart beat through my eyeballs, and she wants me to carry her water. You’re so damn fit put this shit away yourself, I thought. I did as I was told and left The Breakfastless Club.
Friday morning rolls around and I make my way to the Breakfast Club. This morning their serving up Boot Camp nice and hot: a series of cardio-centric exercises including suicides, scrambled eggs, backward suicides, green chilies, butt kicks, about a half an avocado, high knees, onions, overhead squats, cheddar cheese, jumping jacks, sourdough toast, lunges, hold the salsa, reverse lunges, a side of bacon, push-ups, and house potatoes. (Just kidding, the edibles are the contents of a South of the Border Scramble or at least the way I order it at Cafe Dantorels. Oh, and the push-ups are the hard kind, not the ice cream confection.)
The torture this morning is dolled out by Scott, a tall redheaded, bearded fellow that does not remind me of any food except ginger, but not gingerbread because that’s not really a breakfast food in my view. Scott gives me a lot of one-on-one attention–kind of like a Special Physical Education teacher. I’m not keeping up with the three overachievers in the group, including the retired woman who is running suicides around me all the while talking to Scott how much she loves retirement. Shut up!
On the far side of the room, there’s this tall, thin brunette with long hair. The brunette does not opt to put in a ponytail that insists on doing all exercises with dumbbells in her hands. I want to yell across the room at her, “Hey you, Scott didn’t tell us to use weights!” Instead, I shoot dirty looks at her via the mirrors that virtually surround us. She is too busy getting ripped to notice my glares. Anyway, her hair is in her eyes half the time. The guy between Miss Dumbbells and me is the second-most out of shape person, but he is soldiering on better than me. I doubt he thought The Breakfast Club were foodie events.
~ A Yoga Interlude ~
I attend yoga at the club on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could comment on the Thursday night class between Bernadette and Scott, but it was the usual–nothing different from all the other Tuesday and Thursday classes. I have been practicing on Sundays the longest. This yoga class–the one after Friday’s torture and the unknown but forboding Monday class was very different. We were introduced to our new teacher. Let me make a point here. I don’t cruise yoga studios with my eyes. Yes, there are pretty, young women I practice with, but I pay them little mind. I’m concentrating on my practice. However, the yoga teacher who walked into the studio on Sunday was mysterious, dark, shy, and she taught Yin yoga. Yin is a style where the practitioner holds asanas (poses) for long periods of time—anywhere from two to four minutes in this kind of class, though the more skilled hold them far longer.
Because of this style and the longer time spent on each asana, the teacher is able to walk around and make adjustments to her students’ asanas. So I am in a hip-opening asana with my head down nearly facing the floor. There is music playing, but it is soft, the lights are low–like they always are in practice–and I can hear her whispering as she walks around the studio. My guess is the teacher was adjusting her students. Suddenly I am hit with the most wonderful scent. It’s the teacher’s perfume. Then her hand gently caress my leg. She moves it forward whispering in my ear if this movement is painful. No, mystery yoga teacher, but do you really have to move to the next person? Wait, is my head in line? What about my arm? But she is off to another practitioner and I immediately feel her absences.
The class continues until we go into Shavasana (corpse pose)–the final asana of the practice. I don’t want it to end. We all lie there in the dark, eyes closed. Then I feel hands on both of my shoulders. She has noticed how rounded they are. (Thirty years at a desk.) Lee, a Sunday yoga teacher from a few years ago, discovered ole Quasimodo during Shavasana too. She tried to man-handle my shoulders flat like she was trying to get me to tap out. This angel was soft. Then she did something I haven’t been able to get out of my mind: she gently rubbed Eucalyptus oil above both eyebrows and then on my third eye (the Ajna Chakra). I almost spontaneously weep. She moved on to other people but laid there seemingly in another state. When Shavasana was over I quietly rolled up my mat and left. Now, that was better than any breakfast I have ever had!
It’s Monday and I’ve had five days to get over Brutal Bernadette, three full days to recoup from Suicide Scott and fifteen hours since parting with the mysterious yoga teacher and her incredible touch. I walk into the studio and see the step decks are out. I introduce myself to Janelle, the trainer for this Breakfastless Club. No part of her body reminds me of food in any way. Perhaps this is a good thing. She assures me this is not a Step class and that we use the step decks for balance and leg strength exercises.
As it turns out Monday’s Breakfast Club is a lot of leg exercises. Janelle also likes working out with weighted fitness bars. From across the studio, it looks like a black barbell without weights. Janelle tells us to grab one for some squats. It’s early in the workout so I’m thinking, “Shit, with no weights on it this should be a snap.” The first thing I notice is that it has a rubber covering–not just metal like a barbell. I grab one at the top end of the bar and it will not budge. Janelle walks over, chokes up on the bar a little, and easily pulls it out of the rack and hands it to me as if to say, “Easy now Gramps, this is really heavy and I can tell how old and fragile you are.” When I re-grip the bar she lets go of the fitness bar and I nearly drop it.
The Monday, 6 a.m. class used to be Power Pump (a total body workout with that emphasizes building strength and sculpting the body). But this isn’t Power Pump. Whatever this is it turns out to be fine, but the least favorite of the three classes. Perhaps coffee and donuts would bump the class up on my list of favorite Breakfast Clubs.
Janelle says she hopes more people come to the class so it can continue. Only one other person beside me showed up on this day. I want to point out to her if this were a real Breakfast Club attendance wouldn’t be a problem, but she’s sweet. Also, when I checked out the club’s website at work later in the day, I notice that this is the only class Janelle leads. I’m not sure if she’s an employee with all the security that brings or if she is an independent contractor. If the latter is the case and the class doesn’t hit critical mass she would be out of a paycheck. That would be a drag.
It’s Tuesday–in between Breakfast Clubs. I think I’m done with the jokes. When I see Bernadette tomorrow morning I seriously doubt I will think her hair is the color of an almond croissant. Maybe she’s a strawberry blonde. Mmm, strawberries. Like in strawberry vanilla pancakes!
This is only tenuously related to the subject above, but I saw this months ago and think it is funny and very touching so I wanted to share it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
What the hell is it with the word yummy? I can’t really accurately express how much I hate this word. While researching its etymology and applications I found Ladies, This Word Needs to be Banned, an anonymous post on the women’s blog Blogher.com that expressed my feelings better than I ever could. I have edited for context and brevity.
“You know who uses the term yummy to describe food? Toddlers use the word yummy. Mothers convincing children to eat lunch use the term yummy. … Food bloggers over the age of four should NOT. … Use delicious, delectable, perfect, ambrosial, amazing, whatever tickles your tongue–they’re all better than yummy. … Yummy is for babies, ladies. Do most guys who sear a steak describe it as yummy? Or would a four-star restaurant be using the term yummy on a menu? Has anyone ever seen James Beard describe anything as yummy? No? Well, that’s why. Yummy is cute and childish, not something that can be used to describe food with integrity. Jean-Georges Vongerichten would probably never describe anything from his kitchen as yummy- even if a gun was pointed at his head. Neither should we.”
Then there are the restaurants with the big signage I can’t seem to avoid…
Is the cafe really yummy? Christmas lights in August? Lazy bastards!
I’ve actually had lunch here. That’s correct, I have given money to a business that has the word “yummy” in its name. And no, there appeared to be no yummy choices available! So, “cuisine” is a stretch. Jesus, don’t they have someone on staff that can write on a sandwich board legibly?
I drive by one of these once or twice a week. I’ve never been in. Anyway, one of the best donut shops in town is much closer to where I live. So take that, offending donut shop name! Something tells me a Peanut Butter & Jelly-filled donut would not taste, well, you know.
Wikipedia says “Yum cha generally involves small … dishes. … People often go to yum cha in large groups for family get-togethers or celebrations.” That sounds like dim sum–which I love–by the way, especially when someone else is picking up the bill. So the root word “yum” is a Cantonese word with historical/cultural weight. I would ask my daughter-in-law about it, but she speaks Mandarin. Aside from yum’s legitimacy, did the owners think they were being cute by throwing the extra “yum” up there? They were wrong! Glad this place is way across town!
Jack has a very unhealthy attachment to food. As overweight as he is, Jack would be twice as big if he had the full breakfast he desires every morning–every single morning. Instead, he has roughly the same thing every weekday morning: a cup of coffee with cream. On the weekends he usually has coffee with the same lousy 2% milk that he has on his lousy cold cereal (though he occasionally has a couple of frozen waffles and maple syrup instead of the lousy cereal and lousy milk). Even though he always have eggs in the fridge, he’s usually too lazy to make them for his self. (Lazy=Lousy.) It is ironic that his favorite meal of the day is the one he almost always skimps on. Some evenings, when he’s too tired to read, he’ll join his wife who is watching that lazy Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham in “Downton Abbey” still in bed when the rest of her household is up, a tray of messy plates and silver next to her, talking to Lord Grantham about how tough they have it. Breakfast in bed every morning and she still finds something to whine about. No wonder Jack can’t stand the show.
Oh, but I digress.
About once a month, Jack breaks this monotonous breaking of fast and pigs out. He’ll take a day off in the week (either because he has a doctor or dentist appointment in the afternoon or something is broken in the house, and he’s staying to greet and, ultimately, pay the handyman. Whatever it is Jack strategically sets up the appointment in the late morning or the afternoon, so he can ride out to a restaurant in the morning and treat himself to a big breakfast. He usually orders a scramble with a lot of stuff in it like cheese, sausage, onion, peppers, and avocado. He also gets home fried potatoes or hash browns, (sourdough) toast, and a side of bacon. The bacon is cholesterol overkill considering he usually gets sausage or ham in the scramble, but he doesn’t care. At least for now. Ask him if he cares after his first stroke, and he’ll mumble out of the functioning side of his mouth, “Fffoukk yuucsh.”
Jack’s usual choice for this morning feast is The Artist Formerly Known as Crepeville. Actually, it’s Cafe Dantorels, but that name is so clumsy that Jack’s brain refuses to consign it to memory, so he calls the place its previous name with a twist in honor of Prince. He’s not claiming Danto-whatever is the best place for breakfast, it’s just that it is close to his house and the food is good.
Some people may poo-poo Jack sticking with one restaurant and not venturing out, but he doesn’t believe in taking chances when it comes to eating out–especially because he doesn’t get to do it that often anymore. In the 70’s and 80’s, he used to go to Spenger’s (a storied family-owned seafood restaurant in Berkeley) most times he was in the Bay Area. When he did, he ordered the same thing: Shrimp Scatter (deep-fried baby shrimp). One time he chided himself for being so boring and tried something different. It was good, but it wasn’t Shrimp Scatter. Similarly, when he would occasionally take his wife and kids to the Old Spaghetti Factory, he would always order the Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese until the time he didn’t and regretted it.
So here he is at the same ole place ordering the same old thing and loving it. Now that we got Jack’s oddball obsession out of the way let’s discuss breakfast’s oddball cousin.
Brunch? “It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.” – Jacques, Marge Simpson’s bowling instructor, and romantic interest
This Western post-Sunday church service phenomenon may have started in England, but Jack’s personal history of the ritual comes from his mother who never was a church goer but would have brunch with her lady friends often when Jack was growing up. Jack wouldn’t be surprised if his mom still did it. It was a bit of a mystery to him. It seems like a Red Hat Society kind of thing. Jack could count the number of times with one hand he went out for brunch, but soon he may need more digits!
You see, Jack was checking out a new restaurant that popped up in his neighborhood recently. Selland’s is an excellent and pricey restaurant here in Sacramento. The original location in East Sac is a little out of the way and is always very busy for Jack’s liking. So while he was waiting in line to place his dinner order at this shiny new Selland’s, he noticed in the to-go menu a Sunday Brunch section that looked great despite the COMING SOON in large faded text beneath the menu items. He was instantly filled with delight. Sunday Brunch, just like Mom used to do (or still does). The dishes looked absolutely yummy, and Jack absolutely hates the word “yummy”!
There’s Breakfast Pizzas and Breakfast Biscuit Sandwiches. Even the stuff that he usually wouldn’t order looks promising: Breakfast Tartines and Breakfast Benedicts. Finally, there is a build your own “American Breakfast.” “Now, we’re talking,” Jack accidentally blurted out in line. It was as if the Selland family’s distant cousin from the planet Vulcan jumped through Jack’s window one night and surreptitiously did a mind meld on him.
Most of the items on the Sunday brunch section cannot be found in any variation on the regular menu. This is a good thing considering what the ever-quotable Anthony Bourdain has said about brunch menus in his bestseller Kitchen Confidential:
“Remember, brunch is only served once a week—on the weekends. Buzzword here, ‘Brunch Menu’. Translation? ‘Old, nasty odds and ends, and 12 dollars for two eggs with a free Bloody Mary’.”
I don’t think that’s going to be the case this time, chef. This stuff should be fresh. Jack will find out when the restaurant opens for Sunday brunch. In the meantime, he’ll look forward to teeth cleanings, dermatology appointments, x-rays, MRIs, and for the next time something in his house breaks.
I’m getting up there in age; things aren’t as tight down there as they used to be (Too much information? If so, the reader should go no further.). Too, while yoga has a way of working out the tight muscles it also has a way of working out other things–like gas. It happens to many practitioners. It’s all over YouTube.com. It happened to an attractive older lady who often practices behind me in the classes I take. It has also happened to the guy in shaded glasses who often rolls out his mat next to mine. Shit happens–er, well close enough.
So on the rare occasions when I hear toots, farts, poots, or whatever you call them, in class, it usually breaks my concentration, and I think, “Oh, that’s embarrassing.” It has happened to me before, but I was in some posture close to the mat so at the last second I was able to quickly sit on it like falling on a grenade. Did anyone else hear it? I guessed not.
Usually, I get a warning, and when I’d feel one coming, I’d go into DNF (Do Not Fart) mod tossing the Soham mantra out of my mind, tighten my ass cheeks, and concentrating on imploding the thing before it escapes to my utter embarrassment. I doubt this shift in concentration benefits my practice, but it is an emergency. When my lower GI somehow deals with the bubble, I go back to my mantra. Sometimes it never does, and I think to myself, can I let it go when everyone is saying “Namaste” at the end of the practice? No, I put away my mat, blocks, and blanket, waddle into the men’s locker room and dispatch the bad wind, but what if I can’t control one? What if one gets away from me during class?
Last Thursday night that is exactly what happened.
I didn’t feel it coming. There was no time to go into DNF mod. Worse, I was in Downward Facing Dog–probably the worst possible posture to be in when this happens. (You don’t know why that is a critical position to be in when DNF mod is not engaged? See the embedded image.)
I suppose I could have had this accident without ever stepping on a yoga mat. Flatulence increases with age. Digestion slows down, and food moves through the gut more slowly creating more gas. It probably does not help that I’m a walking CVS, with my anti-seizure meds, thyroid med, statin, and maybe even the supplements I take to combat the number some of the meds does to my bone density plays a part.
Finally, there’s my Hoover-like eating style: I’m probably taking in too much air as I rip through my meals. It is ironic that this blog started, in part, as a review of local hamburger joints, but I eat so fast I often would forget to really taste the thing I was supposed to be evaluating. Add to this cocktail the spinal twists and other asanas of yoga that probably work as a flatulence accelerant–like gas pouring on the smoldering fire, this is my fart factory GI system.
It was both a blessing and curse that it happened on this night, with this teacher, guiding us through Vinyasa-style yoga. The curse first: the flowing movements of this kind of yoga must have really pushed the evil bubble down my lower GI and out of my ass in such a quick way that my usual countermeasure could not be deployed in time. The styles of yoga practiced in my classes give me time to feel the foul thing coming. The blessing is the commands from the teacher come faster than in the other classes so maybe, maybe, maybe no one heard. Shit, that’s an empty wish. The fart shook my body, my cheeks vibrated! Everyone must have heard the proclamation–even if it was wedged between the teacher’s directions: “Upward Facing Dog, Downward Facing Dog [FART!], Lunge…
After the practice, I skulked away, took a shower and quietly left the club. As I exited the building that night, my yoga teacher was sitting near the bike rack as if waiting for me. We immediately struck up a conversation first about bicycle commuting and then yoga. I kept thinking that any minute he was going to give me some comforting words about farting during practice which would have been horrible–that he had somewhere else to be, but he wanted to wait for me and make sure I wasn’t going to quit yoga over a loud fart in practice. He didn’t, and I appreciated that, but I still wondered why he was ready to ride off on his bike but was sitting there. It appeared he was not waiting for someone else since he mounted up when I did and rode off a few minutes ahead of me.
Like most of the yoga practitioners at my gym, all those YouTube video yogis, and in the glossy pages of Yoga Journal, yoga appears to be a pastime for younger people–though I know that is not completely true. I still feel a little older after Thursday night’s event. I told my wife a couple of years ago that if I ever rip one loud in a class, I would immediately stop group practices and buy a Seane Corn or Rodney Yee DVD and start my home practice. It is turning out that I think I can show up Thursday nights without feeling too embarrassed. Also, I attempted a home practice a few times and found, if I don’t have somewhere to go I’ll find an excuse to watch TV or read. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I break wind during my Tuesday Noon class, though–that’s at my job and everyone knows me!
Over the years I have spoken to older men who will break wind in mid-sentence and without shame say, “Excuse me,” and go on with what they were saying as if they sneezed. That’s the future me, I guess. I hope I can pull those unfortunate events off with the same grace and composure. If so I may end up a master yogi, and also, I’m afraid, a great breaker of wind.
Recently I participated in one of those Facebook quizzes. This one was called “Ten live shows one is a lie. Which one?” I had to guess which show my Facebook Friend did not attend. One of the shows this friend wrote as a possible lie was The Ramones. I immediately remembered The Ramones concert I attended in San Francisco. Great show. Then my right hand twitched. I had forgotten that Dee Dee Ramone crushed my right hand at the same moment the band launched into one of their songs. Which song? Hell if I knew. So many of them sound the same–like “Louie Louie” on rocket fuel.
I attended many concerts in the late 70s and the early 80s. Most of them were Punk or New Wave bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Talking Heads, Fear, Black Flag, PiL, and X. There were countless no-name bands, as well. They seemed to always open their songs with “This song is about [insert something like nuclear war, cops, Ronald Reagan, the government, etc.].” Then the singer would yell in a machine gun fashion “Onetwothreefour, onetwothreefour!” Virtually all of these shows had “festival seating” which is to say no seating at all. Since I wanted to get up as close as possible, I had to work my way to the very front while avoiding the mosh pit. In reality, I could never truly avoid the mosh pit–it was like one of the few things I remembered from high school science: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When Derf pushed Flea in the center of the mosh pit, Flea slammed into Shit, Shit slammed into Scratch, Scratch slammed into Mom Fucks, Mom Fucks slammed into someone else and finally, way out on the edge of the pit Jack got pushed. Not cool!
Then there was stage diving. I’m not talking about the kind of stage diving that artists Katy Perry, Bruce Springsteen, and others performs: falling back into gentle hands of their fans. No, this is more violent and without grace. When moshers would run around to the side of the stage, run past the playing musicians and jump into the mosh pit, many times doing forward flips–their big black boot heels being the first thing to hit the moshers. I never understood the appeal of stage diving or being the recipient of some 160-pound punk’s body slamming into me. Flying punks were another reason I stayed clear of the mosh pit’s epicenter. The only thing entertaining about stage diving was the hefty, unkempt roadies with their faded Zildjian t-shirts who guarded the sides of the stage. Any prospective stage diver had to run the gauntlet past these gorillas. If the roadie caught hopeful, the roadies would hurl him backward off the stage where there was no soft mosh to break his fall, maybe some empty guitar stands or a couple of symbols. The crash added to the ambiance. It was strange how this abuse wouldn’t detour the punks from making continuous attempts at stage diving.
I never understood the appeal of stage diving or moshing. It hurt, and it took away from the concert experience, but I suppose some people were there to “party.” I just liked getting up close. Maybe I’m too much Johnny Winter and not enough Johnny Rotten. Anyway, I don’t recall who opened for The Ramones that night, but I knew that even if it were a crappy band, I was going to have to get close during their set because, by the time the main act took the stage, it would be nearly impossible to get close.
I spent the time during that opening set pushing back on all of the moshers. I never really understood the whole mosh pit thing. Whenever I would make my way to the stage, I would get angry at getting pushed around, but whenever I pushed hard again somebody in frustration they would smile and then push back on me, as if to say, “Thanks! Here’s one back at yeah, brother. Isn’t this fun!”
When the Ramones took the stage, I had finally worked my way up to the very front of the stage–audience right. There was no one separating me from the stage. I looked up, and in the darkness, I could see Dee Dee Ramone adjusting the strap to his bass. Damn, this was going to be awesome! The lights went up; Joey Ramone said something like, “Hey, We’re the Ramones. This is ‘Blitzkrieg Bop.” Dee Dee then shouted “One, two, three, four,” jumped forward, and they were off.
It was a great concert, but not without its drawbacks. I didn’t take into consideration how loud it would be near a stack of speakers. Mind you I was a seasoned concertgoer by this time, but The Ramones played LOUD, and I couldn’t have got any closer to the speakers. The few seconds between songs didn’t provide much of a respite for my traumatized tympanic membranes. In fact most of the time the music never stopped. The way The Ramones played there was usually some feedback from Johnny’s guitar blaring through the speaker, then Joey would yell the title of the next song, and Dee Dee would yell off mike “One two three four” and off they would go into the next song. It didn’t matter. I was digging it. I would pay the price for my position near the stage. In fact, my ears would still be in a congested fog for most of the next day, but something else happened that eclipsed that discomfort by quite a bit.
From time to time there would be this surge from the mosh pit that would make it to me. I would get pushed against the stage like waves crashing into the rocks with me in between the two. I was pushed up against the stage and then released and then pushed and then released. When the push came hard, I could feel the pressure on my sternum. Years later, my wife would comment on how weird my sternum felt. She called it my “ski jump.” I seriously doubt that being pushed up against the stage made my sternum concave in the middle with a ski-jump-like lip at the bottom. Still, whenever I notice it, I remember that great Ramones concert, the crushing pressure I would feel off and on against the stage and Dee Dee Ramone crushing my hand!
Throughout the concert, I would get smashed hard enough against the stage that, in my frustration, I would with the heels of my hands push off the stage to give me some space. Near the end of the concert, I got pushed hard and angerly pushed back, but my right hand slipped this time just as Dee Dee jumped and landed on my hand. The pain wasn’t immediate; it was more like a shock. All I remember was pulling my hand back fast and dropping it down to my side. The ache would come a minute later. By the time I got my car and was trying to find the Bay Bridge entrance, my hand was killing me.
The pain was becoming unbearable when that beautiful sign on I-80 appeared in the distance, “Pinole Next Exit.” Anyone from my area going home from a late night Bay Area concert or sporting event back in those days knew what that meant: Jack in the Box at Pinole was the only fast food joint that had a 24-hour drive-thru. If you missed the Pinole Jack in the Box you were screwed, you wouldn’t be eating until you got home. I bought a large Coke with extra ice, hold the Coke and drove home with the cup in between my legs gingerly icing my DeeDeefied hand. This while my ears rang.
Dee Dee gave me a purple and yellow bruise that would last for over a week. By the time it was gone, I had missed it. Not the pain–hell no! The idea of it was cool, but I don’t believe I ever got that close again.
In the same year, I saw The Ramones; I attended an Iggy Pop concert in a small venue at the University of California, Davis. The crowd was mostly comprised of what I believe were college students. I remember wishing I got there a little earlier since the stage couldn’t have been any higher than two feet and I would have had a full view of “The Ig” himself. Instead, I was about two or three student types from the stage. Because of the little stage, this meant I would only see Iggy’s upper torso at times, only his head at others.
I was kicking myself for not getting their earlier when Iggy suddenly took the stage and introduced himself by coughing up a big lunger and launching it my way. The oblong green glob careened through the air right at me, but then dropped, landing on the right shoulder of the guy standing in front of me–right on his cashmere sweater. (I told you it was a college crowd!)
The concert went on. Iggy, gyrating to the songs from his new album New Values, some classic Stooges material, and the solo stuff in between. The undergraduate occasionally looking at Iggy’s loogie on his shoulder. I thought if I were one man closer I would have got it right between the running lights. Later in the show, Iggy pulled out his dog and dice. Why? I have no idea. I didn’t see his undercarriage. I didn’t get there in time for a better spot–so I could see Iggy Pop’s junk? Sometimes it better just to sit back and enjoy the show from a comfortable–not to mention safe–distance.
To conservatives he’s written off because he is a comedian. To the dull he is just plain long winded and doesn’t look the part, so it must be a bunch of B.S. Though he has had written a few books, I’ve only read his latest one Revolution, which seems like a departure from the previous works.
If you have any grey matter upstairs it is hard to write off the man. His ideas–which he admits are not original–seem fresh with his unique voice. What’s more important is he is a perfect vehicle to deliver his messages to younger/more open audiences. Finally, he is funny.