All posts by ReasonablySober

On Common Interests

I listen to The Dan Le Batard radio show every day on my phone. Around noon my Podcast app refreshes, and I get all 90+ minutes, sans commercials. I’ll plug it into my car and listen as I go to lunch, or when I go for a walk in the afternoon, or while I clean and make dinner after work. Every day, I never miss a listen. I genuinely love these people for making me think, for making me laugh to the point of tears, for giving me a respite from an endless stream of #HotTaeks that come my way every day, whether I’m looking for them or not.

I was thinking about this last night as I listened to the day’s episode. For years, Dan and the guys have read emails, texts, and tweets from people who complain that the show isn’t talking enough sports, not bringing on enough coaches and athletes, or generally doing the exact opposite of what every other sports radio show is doing.

“Real great show, Dan! One of the best NCAA Championship games ever, and your entire guest list today is a damn ZOO KEEPER to talk ANIMALS. [bleep] OFF!”

…forever followed by:

The guys had me rolling last night. YOU DON’T GET THE SHOW is now officially an in real life thing.

“Dan, my seven year old daughter heard me listening to the show and asked me why I would do that. Hit her with a YOU DON’T GET THE SHOW.”

“Dan, was at a stop light when the person in the car next to me heard you guys yelling, ‘GO KILL A DRIFTER! GO KILL A DRIFTER!’ and he looked at me weird. I told him YOU DON’T GET THE SHOW.”

This morning, Awful Announcing ran a glowing piece on “the premier sports radio show going“:

There are plenty of choices in sports radio land. Many are terrible. The search for something informative, entertaining, and different can seem like a hunt for a $2 bill. Your limited choices generally fall into these categories of show that takes itself way too seriously (looking at you, Mike Francesa), show that’s flavorless (looking at you, Mike & Mike) or show with scalding takes simply meant to incite (looking at you, Colin Cowherd).

Sometimes this audial onslaught can make you lose faith in humanity. You’ll want to gouge your eardrums out with a rusty spoon after all the name-calling, unfunny jokes, and manufactured arguments over who/what is to blame for your team’s misfortune.

The Dan Le Batard Show is a respite from this mind-numbing drudgery. Sure, Le Batard is polarizing and delights in being the guy many people despise. But his show is (thankfully) the antithesis of virtually every other sports radio program out there. He is fearless, humorous, and enlightening whether the topic is race, the NCAA’s exploitation of student-athletes, or disagreements with his employer, ESPN.

To me, these 90 minute daily podcasts are the very definition of perfection, provided you’re the type to regularly listen to sports radio or even just like hearing entertaining people say fun and interesting things. But every once in a while I’ll see my intelligent, sports loving sister re-tweet something from the Mike and Mike show, her preferred choice of daily radio, and I’m  reminded of the depressing fact that no one I personally know listens to these geniuses. I’ve tried to get friends and family to tune in, turned on the radio when I’ve been driving and gestured as if to say, “See! These guys are amazing!” only to get blank stares at best, hostile revulsion at worst. They don’t get the show. They don’t love what I love.

There couldn’t be anything less surprising about this sobering fact. No one loves what I love. No one I personally know, that is.


 

This last week a girl I was seeing (hanging out with?) and I decided we were gonna stop doing whatever it was we were doing. She recently got out of a relationship and wasn’t ready for something serious, I’m old as shit (35, she’s 24) and don’t really date around anymore. It was a disappointing, if inevitable conclusion that I saw coming since the first night we got together.


*editor’s note: I fucking loathe Rob and High Fidelity. One of those movies you loved in college and regret now with every fiber of your being as an adult. Chasing Amy and Garden State, looking at you two motherfuckers too.


 

The beauty of social media, and Twitter specifically, are the communities that form. Post enough about any one thing, and you’re gonna end up meeting people online that share your same interests. Eventually you’ll start referring to these communities with proper nouns.

Brewers Twitter
Game of Thrones Twitter
Black Twitter*

Soon you’re getting to know these people, both online and in real life. I’ve been to weddings of folks I got to know only because we both loved the Milwaukee Bucks. I got into a long distance relationship with a girl in Milwaukee because of Wisconsin Cooking Twitter (yes motherfuckers that’s a thing). One of my dearest friends in the world is a woman I only know because three years ago she Fav’d a tweet I wrote about Keith Whitley. I sent her a bunch of books when she was pregnant, she sent me a shit-ton of delicious crawdads.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.29.41 PM

*I am not a member of Black Twitter but it seems dope

I’m incredibly fond of so many people I’ve met on Twitter. There are some that I would do anything for at the drop of a hat, and we only know each other out of a mutual admiration for Prince music. Prince Twitter, y’all.


I leave people behind. That’s what I do.

I’ve moved, by my count, 24 times in 35 years. When it happens, I don’t keep up with the people I met. When I left high school I never went home to visit a single person. Ditto college. I’ve met some amazing people and had some of the best years of my life with friends I made in my 20s as I’ve bounced around from job to job, town to town, and I don’t even keep up with these people on Facebook anymore.

There are moments when I ask myself whether or not I’m missing out of an essential part of life, those friends you spend your weekends with watching sports or weeknights you get together for playing video games or checking out the latest episode of Mr. Robot. But those people don’t exist anymore for me, outside of nearby family. Once you hit a certain age, the only people you meet are those at bars and those you work with, and I work with people that are hella old.

So I’m on Twitter every waking moment of the day, talking with people I’ve mostly never met, bonding over our mutual love for stuff that a lot of people probably believe  doesn’t matter.

And I love it.


One night a couple weeks ago the recent girl and I got back to my place. She sat down on my couch and noticed Twitter on my open laptop. She knew that it was a thing I was into, one because I was always on it, and two because I told her. I didn’t tell her why specifically, because who gives a shit. But she made a comment and gave me a look that was essentially, “Really? Twitter?”. This is the reaction I get from 98% of the people I know in real life (shouts to Eliza, Adam and Beck). I’ve tried over the years to explain to friends and family how amazing it is to get instantly breaking news, how much more aware you are of the world you live in, how fewer baby photos you’re forced to see than on Facebook.

It doesn’t work, and I wasn’t surprised that night that she thought my interest in it was stupid. She checked out during an episode of You’re the Worst, talked through The Usual Suspects, and when she wanted to play me music she played Bieber and Florida Georgia Line.

Nobody loves what I love, but especially when they’re 24 years old.


A day after I told this girl that I was checking out of whatever it was we were doing, I was depressed. More so than I usually am, as someone who’s been diagnosed with clinical depression. I took two days to be self-destructive, drank more than I should have, and slept a lot less. Despite knowing almost immediately that it wasn’t going to work, there’s still always going to be that sliver of hope when you meet someone new that they’re going to be one who loves you and all your weird shit. She wasn’t going to be that, and it stung, because she really is a fantastic person. But some differences are way too much to overcome.

Three days later I was over it. Five days later I’m happy to have known her and she isn’t on my mind.


I hold out hope. Not just for meeting that person, but for people in general. I know that there are folks out there who live and die by who the Bucks draft and sign in free agency, who get disturbingly excited for Shane Black films, and would rather spend a night sipping whiskey by a campfire than going to the trendy bar with hundreds of people. If you got this link from Twitter, there’s a chance it’s you.

Hopefully we’ll meet one day. Life’s too short not to share our weird shit together.

An Ode To My Favorite Genre Of Music

Yesterday UPROXX briefly set the internet on fire when they posted this, a NCAA style tournament to determine the Most 90’s music:

This isn’t a terrible effort! It definitely captures the music that comes to mind when you think of the 90s, with one key exception:

WHERE IN THE HELL IS GARTH FREAKING BROOKS?

Or Alan Jackson or Reba McEntire or Dwight Yoakam or Confederate Railroad?

Where is the 90’s COUNTRY?


I grew on country music because, frankly, it’s the stuff my folks listened to and I didn’t have much of a choice. Keith Whitley, George, Patty, Vince, Garth. I remember saving up chore money so I could buy my mom CDs by The Judds on mother’s day. Every summer before my teenage years we’d make our way to Eau Claire, Wisconsin for Country Jam and Cadot, Wisconsin for Country Fest. One year I met Hal Ketchum as I was leaving our hotel; my mom and I lost our collective minds when he spotted us in the crowd later that evening, tipping his hat to us during a song. I remember having dinner with Nicki Nelson of Highway 101 because my mom won a radio call in contest. My sister became something of a sensation in the family because she could identify songs on the radio only a note or two into a song. I can still remember her blurting out, “JOE DIFFIE PROP ME UP BESIDE THE JUKEBOX!” from the backseat of the car.

She was, like, three years old at the time.

When I hit my teenage years I stopped seeking out country music to listen to. Out was Little Texas, in was 2pac and Naughty by Nature and Westside Connection and DMX. Later came punk and Fat Wreck and Nitro, a phase that lasted a solid decade.

But despite not owning any country albums or keeping the radio dialed to country stations for a solid seven years, I still know all the hits because of my folks. I still generally liked it.

But it wasn’t until I hit my 30s when I really was able to appreciate the country music from my youth. Why? Two reasons.

The first was the rise of patriotism in main-stream media. After 9/11, letting everyone know just how much you love Jesus and the good ol’ U.S. of A. and your pickup became normal. Singing about how the Middle East was going to get their collective asses blown back to the stone age was officially a thing.

I blame Toby Keith.

And my commie pinko liberal tree hugging ass hated it. Patriotism…cool, whatever. It’s when you make it your brand I have a problem,  and it seemed like every country artist I grew up loving couldn’t wait to make a song about how much they loved this country and Jesus, i.e. The Dude Who Created It.

So I tuned out.

But there was another reason why I could suddenly appreciate the old Garth Brooks or Vince Gill or Trishia Yearwood or Tanya Tucker songs of my youth:

Bro Country.

From Wikipedia:

Bro-country is a term for a style of mainstream country music originating in the second decade of the 21st century. It is a general term for styles of country music taking influence from 21st-century hip hop, rock, and pop. Many “bro-country” songs are about partying, attractive young women, consumption of alcohol, and pickup trucks.

Look, the country music I grew up on was depressing as hell. You wouldn’t even have a difficult time convincing me that it had a negative effect on my emotional growth. The overwhelming majority of the songs I listened to were about the loss of love. How can you not be completely messed up listening to hundreds of sad songs in your formative years?

What I didn’t hear was rapping about who in the hell knows what and singing about red solo cups. I definitely didn’t get a distinctly rapey vibe in these tunes.

I mean, just look at these two awful motherfuckers.

But this is what the genre seems to be these days. Last summer I went to Country Jam for the first time in 20 years, and stuff like this was all I heard when I arrived. Then a drunk girl puked on my shoes and threw a wedding ring at her equally drunk as hell husband.

Yes, I’m old and out of touch and get off my damn lawn, but you can have all of it.

But enough about frat boys and their date-rape soundtracks, let’s celebrate a time when the music was about something great:

Being completely miserable!


First, your playlist. This may be my greatest contribution to mankind:

*this playlist was 300 songs. then i realized it only took 200 when you embed it. cutting 100 songs was not easy

Now, not all songs here are from the 90s. I included a band I loved quite a bit that didn’t arrive until 2006, The Wreckers. That they only made one album is a tragedy. 

I also included 80s hits from The Judds and Keith Whitley. 

A notable omission is Garth Brooks, because he won’t let his catalog appear on Spotify or Youtube. This is a terrible move. THERE ARE MILLENNIALS WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD “WHAT SHE’S DOING NOW”, GARTH.

OBSERVATIONS

Holy Shit Did These Folks Crank Out The Hits

Like, you knew back then that Vince Gill and George Straight and Reba McEntire were monstrously successful. But then you look at their lists of songs and holy hell Reba had 93 singlesShe had 24 that reached #1.

MJ is the GOAT and he only had 11.

But it isn’t even powerhouse artists like Reba that could say they were massively successful. A guy like Clay Walker (really good!) but never someone you’d consider a massive star cranked out enough singles that you could legitimately fill in a greatest hits album and leave a couple off because of time restraints.

It’s totally dumbfounding. You know who Joe Diffie is, but it isn’t until you fire up Spotify that you realize HOLY CRAP I KNOW EVERY WORD OF LIKE A DOZEN OF HIS SONGS AND I NEVER OWNED A SINGLE ALBUM OMGGGG

Toby Keith Wasn’t Always Terrible

I still remember when Toby Keith came out in ’93. I was 12 years old at the time. He was immediately huge with Should’ve Been a Cowboy, and followed it up with about seven years of really good ballads. Dude had an awesome voice and came out with killer sensitive tunes that were, like everything at the time, totally depressing. I LOVED THEM ALL.

To this day when I’m listening to country music he’s the guy I’m likely to sing along with in the car or in my apartment doing laundry or cleaning the dishes. I know my neighbor can hear my belting out Wish I Didn’t Know Now from time to time and I REGRET NOTHING.

Top Five Toby Keith Songs When You’re Terribly Depressed Because Your Love Life Is A Dumpster Fire:

5 – You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This
4 – He Ain’t Worth Missing
3 – Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You
2 – Who’s That Man

1 – Wish I Didn’t Know Now

Then the 2000s happened and he turned to shit.

Music Was Hella Punny

That may be my biggest takeaway, putting together this playlist. It wasn’t something I realized at the time (because I was 12) but oh man if you had a pun you could make it into a country song.

Patty Loveless: Timber I’m Falling in Love:

Travis Tritt – Here’s a Quarter (call someone who cares):

Joe Diffie – Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox If I Die

Joe Diffie made one or two of the decade’s most incredible songs, but he also made the punniest songs in music history.

Best Music Video To Feature Luke Perry As a Bull Rider

Underrated Artist That Still Holds Up Surprisingly Well

Mark Chestnut. Of everyone on this list, he’s the guy I’m least likely to hit skip on when he plays. Every damn thing he released is solid and still worth listening to today.

Top 5 Mark Chestnut Songs I’m Probably Going To Listen to Tonight:

5 – Goin’ Through the Big D
4 – Too Cold At Home
3 – I’ll Think of Something
2 – Ol’ Country

1 – Almost Goodbye

Song Tragically Ruined By An Ex-girlfriend

Clint Black – Like the Rain

NOT COOL, LEAH.

Artist Worth Being Super Happy For

Ty Herndon, who came out last year. Good for you, dude!

The Criminally Underrated

Hal Ketchum, no question.

You would think a guy who had 5 albums and 16 singles in the 90s could qualify, but this is someone with a legendary voice. I’d put it up against anyone other than the next person on this list. He was amazing.

The Voice You Would Kill Numerous People To Have

It’s Vince. Of course it is.

He didn’t have the volume of George Straight or the peak that Garth Brooks had (though still pretty dope with 14 albums, 49 singles) but absolutely no one will ever match his voice.

He’s the guy that I’m singing in the shower but only because the sound of the water masks how obviously inferior my sound is to his.

The Other Voice

…belongs to Alison Krauss.

Look, she’s almost got a voice that would make this heathen believe in angels. It’s perfection.

Speaking of that song, the original is responsible for the most depressing country music of all-time…

The Truly Sad

It’s Keith Whitley.

On the morning of May 9, 1989, after a weekend of drinking and partying, Whitley awoke and spoke with his mother briefly on the phone. He was then visited by his brother-in-law Lane Palmer, and the two had coffee and they were planning a day of golf and having lunch, after which Whitley had planned to start writing songs for Lorrie Morgan and himself to record when she returned from her concert tour. Palmer departed at approximately 8:30 a.m., informing Whitley to be ready to leave within an hour. Upon returning, Palmer found Whitley face down on his bed, fully clothed.

The official cause of death was determined to be acute ethanolism (alcohol poisoning),and Davidson CountyMedical Examiner Charles Harlan stated that his blood alcohol level was .47 (the equivalent of 20 1-ounce shots of 100-proof whiskey[10] and almost five times the then Tennessee level of .10 legal intoxication limit, and nearly six times the current .08 legal limit to drive). Whitley was 34 years of age.

Fuck.

The Top 10 Favorite Country Songs That Are All Super Depressing (Non-Garth Division)

I know you’re super interested in finding out the songs that ruined me for a good decade. Here they are!

10 – Sawyer Brown – All These Years

9 – Keith Whitley – Don’t Close Your Eyes

8 – Dixie Chicks – You Were Mine

7 – Faith Hill – Let Me Let Go

6 – McBride & The Ride – Sacred Ground

5 – Travis Tritt – Tell Me I Was Dreaming

4 – Vince Gill – Pocket Full of Gold

3 – Joe Diffie – Ships That Don’t Come In

2 – George Straight – I Can Still Make Cheyenne

1 – Little Texas – What Might Have Been

My Favorite Chapter (probably)

Today on Gawker they have their 50 Best opening lines in literature. 

I don’t know if this is my favorite but it’s the first one that came to mind:

and it’s a story that might bore you but you don’t have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that, and it was, she thinks, her first year, or, actually weekend, really a Friday, in September, at Cam-den, and this was three or four years ago, and she got so drunk that she ended up in bed, lost her virginity (late, she was eighteen) in Lorna Slavin’s room, because she was a Freshman and had a roommate and Lorna was, she remembers, a Senior or a Junior and usually sometimes at her boyfriend’s place off-campus, to who she thought was a Sophomore Ceramics major but who was actually either some guy from N.Y.U., a film student, and up in New Hampshire just for The Dressed To Get Screwed party, or a townie.

It’s from “The Rules of Attraction” by Bret Easton Ellis. It’s one of my favorite books and I’ve read it a half dozen times. I read it, give it away, realize I want to read it again and give it away again. That’s the cycle that’s occurred a half dozen times since college.

Anyway, it’s good.

Here’s my favorite chapter, it contains no spoilers. It’s told from the perspective of Sean Bateman, younger brother of the infamous Patrick Bateman. He’s one of three main characters (all in college) in the story and the three of them switch perspective on a chapter to chapter basis. This is Bateman telling us about a girl:

Sitting in class, staring at the desk, someone’s carved ‘Whatever Happened To Hippie Love?’ I guess the first girl I kind of liked at Camden was this hippie I met my Freshman year. She was really stupid but so gorgeous and so insatiable in bed that I couldn’t help myself. I had met her once, before I fucked her, at a party off-campus my first term. The hippie had offered me some pot and I was drunk so I smoked it. I was so drunk in fact and the pot was so bad that I threw up in the backyard and passed out in some girl’s car who had brought me. I was embarrassed but not really, even though the girl who drove was pissed off since I lost it again all over the backseat of her Alfa Romeo on the way back to campus, and was jealous since she could tell that the hippie and I had been making eyes at each other all night, and had seen the hippie even kiss me before I left to throw up in back.

I really got to meet her the following term when another person I knew when I first came to Camden (and who had been a hippie but quit) introduced us at a party at my urging. I cringed, mortified, when to my shock I realized I had been in the hippie’s Intro to Poetry Workshop my first term and this girl on the first day of class, so high her head looked like it was on springs, like some doped-up jack-in-the-box, raised her hand and said slowly, ‘This class is a total mindfuck.’ I dropped the class, disconcerted, but still wanting to fuck the hippie.

This was the Eighties, I kept thinking. How could there be any hippies left? I knew no hippies when I was growing up in New York. But here was a hippie, from a small town in Pennsylvania, no less. A hippie who was not too tall, who had long blond hair, features sharp, not soft like one would expect a hippie’s features to resemble, yet distant, too. And the skin smooth as brown marble and as clean. She always seemed clean; in fact she seemed abnormally healthy. A hippie who would say things like, ‘None of your beeswax,’ or commenting on food, ‘This is really mellow chili.’ A hippie who would bring her own chopsticks to every meal. A hippie who had a cat named Tahini.

JIMI LIVES was painted in big purple letters on her door. She was constantly stoned. Her favorite question was ‘Are you high?’ She wore tie-dyed shirts. She had beautiful smallish firm tits. She wore bell-bottoms and tried to learn how to play the sitar but she was always too stoned. She tried to dress me up one night: bell-bottoms, tie-dyed shirt, headband. Didn’t work. It was extremely embarrassing. She said ‘beautiful’ constantly. She didn’t have any goals. I read the poetry she’d write and lied that I liked it. She had a BMW 2002. She carried a bong in a tie-dyed satchel that she had made herself.

Like all rich hippies (for this hippie was extremely wealthy; her father owned VISA or something) she spent a lot of time following The Dead around. She’d simply split school for a week with other rich hippies and they’d follow them around New England, stoned out of their minds, reserving rooms and suites at Holiday Inns and Howard Johnsons and Ramada Inns, making sure to always have enough Blue Dragon or MDA or MDMA or Ecstasy. She’d come back from these excursions ecstatic, claiming that she was indeed one of Jerry’s long lost children; that her mother had made some sort of mistake before she married the VISA guy, that she truly was one of ‘Jerry’s kids.’ I guess she was one of Jerry’s kids, though I wasn’t sure which kind.

There were problems.

The hippie kept telling me I was too stiff, too uptight. And because of this the hippie and I broke up before the end of term. (I don’t know if that’s the real reason, but looking back it seems weird that we even bothered since the sex was so good.) It came to an end one night when I told her, ‘I think this is not working.’ She was stoned. I left her at the party after we made out in her room upstairs at Dewey House. I went home with her best friend She never knew or realized it.

The hippie was always tripping, which bothered me too. The hippie was always trying to get me to trip with her. I remembered the one time I did trip with her I saw the devil: it was my mother. I was also sort of amazed that she even liked me in the first place. I would ask her if she’d ever read much Hemingway. (I don’t know why I asked her about him since I never had read that much.) She would tell me about Allen Ginsberg and Gertrude Stein and Joan Baez. I asked

her if she had read Howl (which I had only heard about through some crazy class called Poetry and the Fifties, which I failed) and she said, ‘No. Sounds harsh.’

The last time I saw the hippie I was reading an article on the postmodern condition (this was when I was a Lit major, before I became a Ceramics major, before I became a Social Science major) for some class I failed in some stupid magazine called The New Left, and she was sitting on the floor of the smoking section, stoned, looking at the pictures in the novelization of the movie Hair with some other girl. She looked up at me and giggled then slowly waved. ‘Beautiful,’ she said, turning a page, smiling.

Yeah. Beautiful,’ I said.

‘I can dig it,’ the hippie told me after I read some of her haiku and told her I didn’t get it. The hippie told me to read The Tale of Genji (all of her friends had read it) but You have to read it stoned,’ she warned. The hippie also had been to Europe. France was ‘cool’ and India was ‘groovy’ but Italy wasn’t cool. I didn’t ask why Italy wasn’t, but I was intrigued why India was ‘groovy.’

‘The people are beautiful,’ she said. ‘Physically?’ I asked.
‘Yeah.’
‘Spiritually?’ I asked.

‘Uh-huh.’

‘How spiritually?’

‘They were groovy.’

I started liking the word ‘groovy’ and the word ‘wow.’ Wow. Spoken low, with no exclamation, eyes half-closed, fucking, how the hippie said it.

The hippie cried when Reagan won (the only other time I’d seen her cry was when the school dropped the yoga classes and replaced them with aerobics), even though I had explained patiently, carefully, what the outcome of the election was going to be, weeks in advance. We were on my bed and we were listening to a Bob Dylan record I had bought in town a week earlier, and she just said, sadly, ‘Fuck me,’ and I fucked the hippie.

One day I asked the hippie why she liked me since I was so different from her. She was eating pita bread and bean sprouts and writing on a napkin with a purple pen, a request for the comment board in the dining hall: More Tofu Please. She said, ‘Because you’re beautiful.’

I got fed up with the hippie and pointed to a fat girl across the room who had written something nasty about me on the laundry room wall; who had come up to me at a Friday night party and said, ‘You’d be gorgeous if you were five inches taller .’

‘Is she beautiful?’ I asked.

She looked up, bean sprout stuck on lower lip, squinted and said, Yeah.’

‘That bitch over there?’ I asked, pointing, appalled. ‘Oh her. I thought you meant that sister over there,’ she said.

I looked around. ‘Sister? What sister? No, her,’ exasperated, I pointed at the girl; mean-looking, fat, black sunglasses, a bitch.

‘Her?’ the hippie asked.

‘Yeah. Her.’

‘She’s beautiful too,’ she said, drawing a daisy next to the message on the napkin.

‘What about him?’ I pointed to a guy who it was rumored had actually caused his girlfriend to kill herself and everyone knew. There was no way in hell the hippie could think that he, this fucking monster, was beautiful.

‘Him? He’s beautiful.’

‘Him? Beautiful? He killed his fucking girlfriend. Ran her over,’ I said.

‘No way,’ the hippie grinned.

Yes! It’s true. Ran her straight over with a car,’ I said, excited.

She just shook her lovely, empty head. ‘Oh man.’ ‘Can’t you make distinctions?’ I asked her. ‘I mean, our sex is great, but how can everything, everyone be beautiful? Don’t you understand that that means no one is beautiful?’

‘Listen, man,’ the hippie said. ‘What are you getting at?’
She looked at me, not grinning. The hippie could be sharp. What was I getting at? I didn’t know. All I know was that the sex was terrific.

And that the hippie was cute. She loved sweet pickles. She liked the name Willie. She even liked Apocalypse Now. She was not a vegetarian. These were all on the plus side. But, once I introduced her to my friends, at the time, and they were all stuck-up asshole Lit majors and they made fun of her and she understood what was going on and her eyes, usually blue, too blue, vacant, were sad. And I protected her. I took her away from them. (‘Spell Pynchon,’ they asked her, cracking up.) And she introduced me to her friends. And we ended up sitting on some Japanese pillows in her room and we all smoked some pot and this little hippie girl with a wreath on her head, looked at me as I held her and said, ‘The world blows my mind.’ And you know what?

I fucked her anyway.

Thing that is undisputedly better than sex.

It’s 10:50 am. I just got home after spending the night with family at my folks’ place. We were supposed to have the traditional Christmas eve dinner and gift opening and drinking and cards and such. Mostly it didn’t happen. My brother has the flu and didn’t travel, meaning the little baby wasn’t gonna be in attendance. That’s a blow too big to recover from so we’re delaying Christmas a week and trying again next Wednesday night.

No big deal.

But anyway, there was still a little traveling involved and spending the night on a coach and not my bed and since I was only gonna be gone about 20 hours I didn’t even pack a bag or change of clothes.

I got back to my apartment just now and like any normal person would do I put on my sweats and most comfortable tee and hopped on the couch and for some reason I was immediately reminded of a passage from the Chuck Palahniuk novel, Choke: 

The problem with sex is the same as with any addiction. You’re always recovering. You’re always backsliding. Acting out. Until you find something to fight for, you settle for something to fight against. All these people who say they want a life free from sexual compulsion, I mean forget it. I mean, what could ever be better than sex?

For sure, even the worst blow job is better than, say, sniffing the best rose . . . watching the greatest sunset. Hearing children laugh.

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a hot-gushing, butt-cramping, gut-hosing orgasm.

Painting a picture, composing an opera, that’s just something you do until you find the next willing piece of ass.

The minute something better than sex comes along, you call me. Have me paged.

This. This is better than sex. Or an amazing meal. Or seeing the ocean for the first time after a long drive. Or anything, really.

Getting home after holiday traveling, almost regardless of distance or time away, putting on comfortable clothes and gearing up for a day of not dealing with anything holiday related is literally the best.

Playlist 101

So you’re a dude and you’re going to be picking your date up for the first time. What music are you gonna rock? You can’t rely on that shit you’ve been blasting in your little Toyota the last six months. This is SERIOUS and requires a certain amount attention and thought.

In fact, this isn’t just for dates. This is for those occasions when ANY reasonably attractive young female happens to get a ride in your ride. Giving her a lift across town? Picking a friend up for brunch? Roadtrip? In times like these there is music you play, and music you don’t. Think you’re gonna win her heart by having Kris Roe serenade her to some overly-emo acoustic rendition of Your Boyfriend Sucks? NO. She’s gonna be uncomfortable and you’re gonna look like an asshole.

Oh? You say you want to send out some kind of message with your choice in music? That’s perfectly fine! But it’s got to be subtle, my friend. You gotta have that gal thinking,

“Oh, this is nice. He’s got good taste in music. I’m gonna have to illegally pirate this when I get home…”

and when she least expects it, on the 15th time listening to that very song, BAM, that tune reminds her of YOU. It’s THAT EASY. But for god’s sake, man, be judicious in your choice of tunes. For your aid, here is a guide.

1 – No Barry White. No Isley Brothers. No mood music WHATSOEVER.

2 – Nothing that has the potential to induce a headache. You may like Fat Wreck beats, but it could sound like a machine gun to the lovely by your side.

3 – Skip the sensitive stuff. Like you some Ben Jelen, Straylight Run or that one country “artist” who sings about pickup trucks and slow dancing and his dead dog and Jesus? FORGET ABOUT IT.

4 – Nothing you should have stopped enjoying in high school or (ugh) junior high. Hey, I have no problem rocking out to 80s hair metal or rapping Westside Conection. But NOT in front of a date who’s sitting there wondering how I’m only going through that musical period now in my late 20s.

5 – No boy bands, no Kelly Clarkson, no Michelle Branch, no Avril Lavigne, no Hilary Duff. This one is particularly painful, as every CD I’ve ever made has had some of the above on it. But TIME and PLACE, people.

6 – No garage bands, no under-produced indie tunes. I can appreciate some Lucky 7, Mineral or Jawbreaker. Your girl may even like that kind of stuff. A first or second or third date is not the time to find out. More people than not just find that shit completely awful.

“But Matt! What the eff AM I allowed to soothe her ear-holes with?!”

Well, Matt, I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips:

• Be respectful of her musical tastes. This is a little tough if you have no idea what she likes, but if you have a general idea, try not to go too far outside her comfort zone.

• But stay true to what you like! What kind of music you listen to is at least a partial indicator of who you are (SHIT!). So represent.

• If you’re gonna introduce her to a new band or artist, do so with the mindset that it should probably be accessible. I love Thrice. I loved Identity Crisis and the Illusion of Safety. If I’m gonna introduce a gal to the musical genius that is Dustin Kensrue, I’m probably gonna chose something a little smoother and easier on the ears. Something chill but still illustrates serious musical talent. Pick a song that makes you think, “No way she couldn’t POSSIBLY love this”.

• Peaks and valley’s, my friend. Don’t follow Ryan Adams up with Pete Yorn. Take it up a notch, take it a little higher then bring it back down. This is Playlist 101.

• Give your CD a little variety. I’d stick to one song per artist if possible, and I’d use multiple genres. A little hip-hop, maybe some R&B, some pop tunes, definitely a good amount of rock. Don’t stick to one kind of music.

• Include some tracks you’re positive you’ll never even play. They’re just there as an excuse to hit Next on the CD player. Be careful with this song, though! Nothing too recognizable. Can’t have the first few bars from I Want it That Way come out of your speakers. Choose a rock song, something with some guts.

• Have not one, but TWO disks ready to go! Genius, RIGHT?

Don’t think I was gonna let you go at this cold. Here’s two sample playlists:

1 – Jimmy Eat World – Sweetness
2 – Thrice – Come all you weary
3 – Orianthi – Drive away
4 – Atmosphere – Modern man’s hustle
5 – Blakroc – Tellin’ Me Things
6 – Lady Gaga – Paparzzi
7 – Ryan Adams – Wonderwall
8 – The Vines – Ride
9 – Lupe Fiasco – Never Lies
10 – Brand New – Jude Law and a semester abroad
11 – Damone – Now is the time
12 – The Transplants – Diamonds and Guns
13 – Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
14 – Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
15 – Phantom Planet – Big Brat
16 – Surgarcult – Memory

1 – The Bravery – Believe
2 – Lily Allen – Smile
3 – Augustana – Stars and Boulevards
4 – Dustin Kensrue – Please come home
5 – Kings of Leon – Use somebody
6 – Weezer – No other one
7 – Rihanna – Rude boy
8 – Stereophonics – Minute Longer
9 – Pete Yorn – Just Another
10 – Metric – Black Sheep
11 – Bouncing Souls – True Believer
12 – Jack’s Mannequin – Dark Blue
13 – Thrice – The Whaler
14 – Zero 7 – In the Waiting Line
15 – The Veronicas – Untouched

BOOM.

And a wonderful life it is

Being a charter member of the Hopelessly Single club, the Holidays were supposed to be a reminder of what I don’t have. Holiday parties have to depress me. Spending hours alone in my car should be a conduit for thoughts of loneliness. I’m supposed to look out my window at the holiday decorations, look around my empty place and wish that I had someone there with me to celebrate the season.

Yet for a variety of reasons here I am, three days from Christmas and a little over a week from New Years, and I can’t remember a time in my adult life when I was ever happier.

The realization came Sunday after I’d returned home from a getaway weekend with a lot of family and friends. I was exhausted from the travel, the lack of sleep and the damage I’d done to my body with all the eating and drinking. But I started a fire in the living room, plopped myself down on a couch and thought about how lucky I was.

I love my job. It’s not perfect and maybe it’s not ideal in some ways, but for someone with my skills and background it’s an incredible situation. I went from a struggling agency to a successful international company that had real use for me. I’ll be working here for a very long time.

It took a couple years, but I’ve come to love Eau Claire. So much so I don’t know if I’d want to live anywhere else in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Recently voted one of the 100 best places to live in the US by CNN, I can’t really argue. At 66,000 people, it’s certainly not small. The local universities ensure there’s always going to be entertainment for the younger crowd. The golfing is amazing. There are lakes and rivers and bike trails all over the place. We’ve got a Northwoods team that brings in a great crowd during the summer. The music scene is remarkable. Phoenix Park on any given Thursday is a great place to catch a couple bands. The bars range from dive to chill to sports to classy to dance club to places you can catch a good band. What EC doesn’t have in fine dining it makes up for in mom and pop joints that make for ideal meet-ups after a night of drinking or during the week when you need a good meal with good people over lunch. The housing market is great and affordable. It’s about the perfect place to raise a family.

But mostly, what has endured me most to EC is what it doesn’t have. Crime. Traffic. Ridiculous prices. The feeling that no matter where you are you’re always invading someone else’s space. I love that if I have to take a cab home it’s a five minute ride instead of thirty. I like that after going to a bar or restaurant or grocery store or golf course a few times they remember your name, who you are and treat you like a friend.

I’ve known the above for the last few months. It is important. But what really drove home the realization that my life was so great came this weekend. I was sitting a table with my brother and his girlfriend, my sister, my cousin Adam and his wife. We were playing a drinking game, telling stories and making each other howl with laughter. Here I was, sitting with some of the people I’m closest to in the world, and it hit me that each of them is local.

The four people I grew up with are my brother and sister, and my cousins Bobby and Adam. I moved often but they were the constants in my life. Now they’re all living in the same area as me, available at the drop of a hat. Through them I’ve met other awesome people, too. My brother calls me he wants to go golfing. My sister stops by to watch the Packers. Bobby and Whitney like to get drinks on the weekends. The Katies insist I come along when they need a happy hour or a big breakfast at Chucks. Now we’re adding Adam and his wife to our clan.

I’ve known some amazing women and had a few very special relationships. But when I look back at the times I’ve been the most happy, they involve a great group of friends more than anything else. My senior year(s) in college with my housemates and neighbors. My second year at Footlocker with my coworkers. Back then I knew none of that would last for one reason or another. It couldn’t. This is the first time I can look around at the people I love spending time with and believe there’s some staying power. These are people like me who are looking to make a life, put down some roots and stick around for a long time.

The thought that I might have this kind of company for a long time does nothing but make me thankful for the kind of life I’ve got.

The more things change

I’m a digital pack-rat. I don’t delete anything unless it’s easily replaceable. Movies, mp3s, software…sure. Text documents, artwork, college projects, emails, work related items…that stuff I keep around.

There’s nothing sinister involved. I’m not doing it because I think I could use it against anyone at some point down the line. Most of the time I’m not even consciously saving these relics. Google and Apple do a great job ensuring that I’ll always have a copy of whatever I need whether I like it or not.

No, I have an email inbox of 22,000 because I love reflection. I have AOL instant messages and G-chat conversations from 2003 because I love looking back.

My mom has told me that if the house was ever on fire the first thing she would run to save (assuming her family was outside and safe) would be her extensive photo albums. I can relate. When I was a junior in college my house was broken into and my laptop was stolen. I didn’t give a shit about the computer itself. What broke my heart were the emails and IMs and blogs I’d written that I didn’t have anymore. My thoughts and reflections that I’d taken the time to make note of were gone. They dated back to my junior year in high school. Even worse, they were in the possession of someone who had no business reading them. What was stolen was my version of my mom’s photo albums.

I like photos as much as the next person, but nothing will bring you back as much as the written word will. I thought about that tonight when doing some work. I needed the log-in information for an application I was going to be training an intern on tomorrow. I searched my extensive e-mail inbox for what I needed and in the search results I came upon an email from an ex-girlfriend that was dated back in 2007. I read it and was immediately brought back to where I was when her and I were together. I read it and smiled. I liked the memory so much I found the rest of the emails from her and read on.

I started at the very beginning. I read the awkward tiptoeing around our first hook-up and planning our next scandalous meet. I read the emails in which we talked about our date nights. I even read the most boring and mundane relationshippy stuff you get from couples who have long forgotten how to be interesting.

I kept an eye on the dates. I’d long forgotten when we broke up and lot of the small details, but the words on the screen told the story. Even as awful as some of it is, reading what was going on brings me back like it was yesterday.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00_5HFEtV5s]

God, I was such a fucking asshole.

I wasn’t a dick. Not really. I just didn’t handle the breakup that well. Hell, I was the one who broke up with her. But nothing that happened after the breakup was good and unfortunately I’ve got typed documentation that proves it. Tonight I couldn’t even read what I’d written. It’s brutal.

If I still had my old laptop that was ripped off I’d have some embarrassing discussions from bad breakups past. Is it a theme? Probably.

Putting your every thought in a document is great for reflection. I wouldn’t trade these conversations for anything. But when you look back and see yourself behaving like the antithesis of everything you consider yourself to be, it’s the text version of car-wreck.

And I sorta love it.

SI Author Takes Not So Subtle Jab At Blogger Who Says He’s Not Really A Blogger

Murray Chass, former New York Times baseball writer, hates bloggers, which is sorta ironic considering he himself is one.

I’ve never spent much time reading his stuff, particularly because he seems to represent the old school baseball line of thinking that is slowly being killed by advanced stats and young blood being interjected into the industry.

The only time he ever pops up on my radar is when he fucks up or annoys the blogosphere, which happened recently when he published a load of erroneous shit.

Verducci responded in a beautiful way.

Number of times he refers to Murray Chass as the dreaded “B-Word” in the brief piece? Seven. Seven times Verducci drives the knife in and gives it a good ol’ twist.

Well done.