Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Portugal vs. Spain: A Riotously Good Time in Newark

Since our last soccer pilgrimage to Newark was so successful, we decided to do another, and we didn't feel like we were pressing our luck because Newark's murder-free streak is over--which is a relief-- how long can you keep something like that up?  In a sense, a murder free streak in Newark is exactly like a 0-0 soccer match, you know something eventually has to give, and the tension is unbearable.

We weren't going to the new soccer stadium in Harrison via Newark this time-- this time Newark was our destination: the Ironbound neighborhood in particular, which has a huge Portuguese population.  We thought it would be a fun place to watch the Spain Portugal game, and it was.

Since Terry and I weren't murdered on our last trip, we were able to coerce a few other people into going: Ed, Stacey, and my wife.  Terry is on the far left in the picture above, and he is fascinated by this stuff called "beer."

My wife, Terry and I took the train from New Brunswick, and-- as instructed by TR, The Official G:TB Drunken Public Transportation Correspondent-- we drank some of these "beers" on the train ride, but we did not overhear anything as fantastic as this.  In fact, our conversation was the exact opposite of that one; we ran into our neighbor Roman, who is a medical doctor, and we talked about liver transplants and blood clots.  Not very sexy at all.

Digression:  you know what is NOT funny to say on the train when you are a teacher on summer vacation?  "What are all these people doing on this train? And why are they all dressed up?  Oh, that's right, they have to work."  We're lucky they didn't beat us up and take our benefits.

Our first stop was Iberia Peninsula, which is a rather touristy place on Ferry Street.  Ed and Stacey were enjoying a bucket of ice cold beer in the outdoor seating area, which was festive but loud as all fuck, so Terry, Catherine, and I decided to do a recon mission and scope out a number of bars that were rumored to be "soccer joints."

After a bit of walking , we found ourselves in a Brazilian neighborhood.  How could we tell?  Brazilian flags.  Boi Na Brasa looked promising and a bit quieter than Iberia Peninsula . . . but as we closed in we realized it was too quiet.  There was a tent and outdoor seating, but it was abandoned. Why is it abandoned? we wondered. There's soccer afoot.  It took us a moment to unravel the mystery: the tent was for Monday's game . . . the Brazil game.  Brazilians, despite speaking the same language, don't give a fuck about the Portuguese soccer team.  I guess when you are Brazilian it's hard to deign to watch any other team.  But here is the great thing about America:  you can walk from Portugal to Brazil.  Next World Cup, we know where to head for the Brazil games-- East on Market Street.

We tried one last spot:  The Madrid and Lisboa Restaurant. This place appealed to Terry because he wanted to root for Spain, and he figured at a place with both Madrid and Lisbon in the name, you could root for either team.  He was wrong.  The place was perfect, as long as you were rooting for Portugal.  For the sake of G:TB, I conducted a short interview.  I asked the little dark-haired bartender:"Are you for Spain? Or Portugal?"  She said, with contempt for my questions: "Portugal," and scurried away-- the place was way to busy to answer idiotic questions like that.

The place was packed, and the atmosphere was soccer oriented yet festive, so I stepped into a back room and called Ed and Stacey to give them directions. I used my cell phone (these things are pretty excellent and very convenient in a situation like this one) to convey this information and then I "texted" them the address so they wouldn't miss it.  In the old days, I would have used a "pay-phone" to call the restaurant and they would have "paged" Ed and Stacey, and then Ed and Stacey would have "written" the directions down on a "napkin," but those days are long gone.

When Ed and Stacey arrived, Stacey claimed she was a victim of "white racism" at Iberia Peninsula-- the wait staff ignored her because she didn't look Portuguese and she couldn't speak Portuguese.  They couldn't ignore us at The Madrid and Lisboa because we had three seats at the bar.  I'm not sure exactly how this went down, but when I returned from using my "cell phone," Catherine and Terry were sitting front and center, with a bar stool between them.  Apparently, when some guys got up (this was before the game started) Catherine slid in and grabbed the stool-- which some other guys were eyeing-- and when one of the guys said, "Are you serious?" Catherine said, "Yes" and sat down.  She was one of two girls in the place at the time, and the Portuguese are chivalrous, so the guy backed down. 

The game was a good one, and the Portuguese team hung in against mighty Spain.  They even looked dangerous at times. The bar was festive in the first half: people blew vuvuzelas and cheered for anything remotely pro-Portuguese (including an inadvertent kick to a Spaniard's face).

But the second half the bar almost became somber, and everyone watched the game intently, as if their seriousness could convey the gravity of the situation.

And after David Villa struck that perfect heel pass from Xavi Hernandez and then scored on his own rebound, things got downright grim.  Even Terry began rooting for Portugal.  We were all desperate for an equalizer; we wanted to see these festive folk happy again, but alas, Spain was controlling play.  It was downright depressing, but then we remembered: we had seats at the bar!  We ordered more sangria, more buckets of Sagres, and more food.  And it's hard to be depressed when they bring you one of these . . .

It's actually called what it looks like: a "flaming sausage." I won't even bother with the jokes.  If you can't think of your own, ask T.J. for help.  He's not an expert on "flaming sausage" per se, but he knows a great deal about each word individually.  

The game ended and everyone filed out to smoke, but we stayed to finish our Sagres and to enjoy the post-game quiet.  And that's when I saw him. A genuine celebrity sighting!  Here in the Ironbound, in Newark!  Which made perfect sense. What better place to escape your celebrity?  You could vanish into the ethnic neighborhoods and do your own thing.

There he was . . . just outside the bar, through the window . . . Danny Devito!  Wait . . . maybe not.  But it was certainly The Portuguese Danny DeVito!  Or maybe not.  My wife didn't really see it, and maybe I had consumed too much sangria, but if it wasn't The Portuguese Danny DeVito, than this guy looked like somebody.  I got everyone to agree to that.  This guy looks like somebody. Here he is: you make the call.

After the game the Spaniards came out of the woodwork and started parading around the streets, but Terry observed that it seemed to be a "friendly rivalry."  It was a riot, but not a real riot, like the old days.

So, in short, we had a great time in Newark.  There may have been some "white racism" but we were treated pretty well, and most importantly, we weren't murdered.  In fact, we felt quite safe, even amidst celebrating Spaniards.  The city didn't seem particularly dirty or seedy.  For example, we didn't see anyone smoking crack.  In fact, the only crack we saw was this one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Caption This

A few housekeeping items, before I let you jackals have at it. Yes, that is a functioning telephone booth. And no, I do not fit at all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Poorly Thought Out Musing on Race and Sex. And Crossword Puzzles.

Over the years, our tightly knit readership has grown to learn much about each other, through blog postings, comments, party stories and other means. As some of you may have learned from my comments, I commute to work in New York on dilapidated New Jersey Transit trains. While the commute is arduous, crowded, noisy and often foul-smelling, I have my rare moment of Zen every Friday afternoon. For on my Friday commute home, I become a train beer guy. I allow myself a 24 oz. can of beer to sip on while I head to the chaos that is a home with two children under 3. I used to drink Foster's oil cans, but I've been enjoying Heinekens of late, with an occasional Corona mixed in when I feel extra tropical in Penn Station. When I board my train and find my seat, I have my headphones on, a large beer in one hand and the Friday Wall Street Journal crossword in the other. For 45 minutes, I am king of my one-seat palace. I don't answer e-mails on my BlackBerry, I don't pick up cell phone calls and I don't talk to anybody. It is me, music, beer and 30 Across, a 1973 Rolling Stones hit that is five letters. Angie. Duh. You gotta do better than that, puzzle creators.

Each of these components to my commute home serves a purpose. The music piping through my headphones drowns out yappy passengers (to some extent). The beer makes me feel like the guys on the roof with Andy in Shawshank. And the crossword mentally occupies me. Whenever I lose an element in this combination, I become extremely agitated.

Which brings me to my commute home last Friday. With my boss traveling, I made the executive decision to leave the office at noon, take a train towards the beach and get scooped up the missus on the way to the Jersey Shore. I am generally apprehensive of off-peak trains because they tend to get filled with a detestable lot of societal detritus that errs on the side of screaming into their cell phones at loud decibels. So, naturally, my commute gets immediately ruined by a large African-American man who sits in front of me and starts loudly humming along with the R&B blaring from his headphones. As my ire starts to build, he gets a call and starts talking. To a lady. And it gets dirty. And loud. Quickly. And then it gets even dirtier. And it becomes the greatest sex talk I have ever intentionally eavesdropped on. It made me re-think a lot. I wanted to be single again. I wanted to be African American, to be able to repeat the things he said with a straight face to a woman I intended to bed.

I immediately started listening closely to what he said, scribbling the highlights in the margins of page W3 of my copy of the Journal. I couldn't keep up with all the highlights, but I got a lot from this man. To call him a 20-minute mentor is an understatement. A foul-mouthed Svengali is more accurate. Let's just say that I earned a PhD in booty talk in the time it took us to travel from New York Penn Station to Rahway, where he departed.

To give some context, he looked like the intersection of Craig Robinson, Jonathan Ogden and Isaac Hayes. A svelte man he was not. But he had the loquaciousness to offset the heft. And did his gift of gab ever offset his wealth of flab. The highlights from his conversation are below. I strongly urge you all to use these lines when talking to wives, girlfriends, single ladies and/or anonymous men you encounter in Port Authority bathroom stalls. I am ashamed I did not capture more pearls of wisdom. If only my note-jotting hand could keep up with his filthy fantasies.

Chapter 1: Background
"I been through some shit. I tell you that."

"Right now? I'm about to get my calisthenics on all weekend. Yeah, for real."

Chapter 2: Dirty Cell Phone Pictures
"I been sending you shit, but you ain't given me nothing."

"You gotta show me the twins."

Chapter 3: What I Will Do To You And You Will Do To Me
"I"m gonna take my time. Break it slowly."

"You gotta work it. Nurture it."

"From the tip of my hand to the bottom of palm. That's my size. Ain't nothing to be scared of."

"I'm 9 inches. Or 8 and a half. I'm not standard. And it's straight. Ain't got no curve or nothing."

"Like I said, I'm a gentle giant. Ain't into that snatch and grab shit. I take it easy."

"Tell those bitches right now. This nigga don't share. I'm stingy."

"I just want you to sit on it. I wanna have fun, feel the walls."

"I'm a professional. I take my time. Ain't gonna hurt nobody."

"I treat that pussy good. It's like a little kid. You gotta pamper it. Spoil it."

"I'll do it every day. Shit that's what it's for. No doubt."

Fashion is Dumb: Right Stuff Edition

Leave it to the Paris Menswear Show to unveil something so heinous it revives one of our oldest and least popular recurring segments. (did Mr. Truck light a fire?)

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you wear brown shoes with a black belt..."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

G:TB . . . A Critical Performance Review

Sometimes it pays to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.  And not one of those circus fun-house mirrors that makes you look all tall, psychedelic, and wavy.  No, I'm talking about one of those bathroom mirrors in an office building, where they have especially strong fluorescent lighting, so you can see pimples you had in seventh grade.

And so, in the best interests of G:TB, I have taken a step back and detached myself from this little neighborhood of the inter-net, which I previously assumed was the Platonic ideal of a blog (along with Sentence of Dave).

You might be interested in what I found.  But more likely, you'll say to yourself, "No shit!  Does Mr. Truck really need to point these things out when we already know them.  Why does Mr. Truck need to fuck with our self-esteem?  And who is Mr. Truck, anyway?"  All good points.  So good that I won't even try to refute them.  Instead, I will just get on with G:TB . . . The Performance Review.

1.  The Name.  The name is extremely clever.  It is a wonderful pun on the glossy political magazine George founded by John F. Kennedy Jr. and named after our first president.  G:TB's  founding father Gheorghe Muresan is a perfect symbol for the blog's subtitle: "dedicated to the premise that life would be better if we all took ourselves a little less seriously."  Muresan also played basketball in Washington and New Jersey, which is generally appropriate geographically.  And posting a picture of him always gets a laugh.

But the problem with the name is that it is difficult to spell.  Friends of mine have expressed interest in reading something on the blog, but if we're not next to a computer and I actually have to explain to them how to get to the site, then I have to recite the paragraph above this one.  By the time I am finished explaining what a pun is, the short-lived superficial lifespan of the original George, who Gheorghe Muresan is, and how many "h"s it contains, I've generally lost my audience.  And I haven't even mentioned the 77!  Which again, makes perfect sense, but it takes even more explanation.

2.  The Content.  The content is inconsistent, at best.  Whenever I do actually manage to direct someone to the blog because someone has just posted something funny and informative, like this, I wonder if by the time they figure out how to spell "Gheorghe," and then remember to attach the 77, they are going to end up finding a post like this. Or this-- which is actually one of my favorite posts, but still, there's something wrong with me.  And God forbid they run into a 14,000 word Greasetruck filibuster with attached lyrics and music.  The only thing worse than that . . . is this.

You might head to G:TB for insightful and funny sports analysis.  If you come on the right day, you'll get it. Stuff like this.  But if you come on the wrong day, you'll get this. There's only two people who consider that post funny:  Dave and Mr. Truck.  And there's only four people who consider that last sentence funny:  Dave, Mr. Truck, Whitney, and Igor.

You might find a list like this and think: this is the blog for me!  I'm heading back here for awesome content! 

But then you might return and find this list.  Yuk.

3.  The Comments.  One of my friends, who actually found the blog, and then actually read something on the blog, said to me, "the comments aren't about the post.  They're just random."

I think he's dead wrong on this count.  I try to make my comments pertinent to theme of the post.  In fact, I think that all commentators do a pretty good job of staying on track in the comments section, so that readers can see the themes and motifs of the post expanded upon in an intellectual manner.

Question: is this what you call someone who comments?  A commentator?  That doesn't seem right.  But it does remind me of a joke.  So this girl potato is starting to date boy potatoes, and first she brings home a Russet potato, and her dad says, "Pretty nice, a Russet, good name there, good reputation . . . not bad," and then she brings home an Idaho potato and her dad is really impressed.  "An Idaho potato, fantastic.  That's a good potato."  But then the girl potato gets involved with Dan Rather, and when she breaks the news to her dad-- that she's no longer seeing the Idaho potato, and instead is dating Dan Rather, her dad says, "Oh no!  Not a commentator!"  Get it?  Common 'tater?  Commentator.

So I think this is one thing I can refute.  The writers at G:TB stay focused and germane.

4.  The Pseudonyms.  Who is this Mr. Truck?  And what does he have to hide?  Or who is he hiding from?  How about Igor?  And how are Igor and Mr. Truck connected to the rest of the staff.  Or is Mr. Truck actually Igor?  That's what most people believe, but is it actually worth figuring this out, or is it just annoying?  It's hard to say, since I am Mr. Truck and I also might be Dennis, and Dennis is most certainly Whitney, and I know for certain that Zman's name is NOT "Zman" but actually T.J. 

And the monikers T.J. and TR are way too similar, which leads me to believe that these two are different manifestations of the same person, who has had his corpus callosum severed in a tragic accident.  TR represents the verbal side of the brain, and he can actually write-- and T.J represents the visual side of the brain, and he cannot communicate verbally, and so instead gets his ideas across by sending pictures to the world.  Like this.  And though you might want to mock him because T.J. is special, don't forget this.

5.  Recurring Theme Posts that Never Recur

What the fuck happened to the Ghoogles?  I love the Ghoogles!

And what happened to "What the High School Kids Are Watching"?  I love that one too.

The only recurring post you can count on is this one, and it's very difficult to spell.  And it only comes once a year.

6.  The Abbreviation.  The abbreviation would be fine if there wasn't another blog that goes by the same abbreviation.  I'm talking about the other G:TB.  People are definitely going to get confused.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


When I was in first grade, my parents signed me up for our neighborhood soccer team in the local community league. Didn't make a whole lot of sense to me at the time -- our family was and is much more baseball-oriented, and my grandfather and uncles had been throwing wiffle balls, tennis balls, and baseballs to me (and at me) since I was knee-high to a squirrel. I think the people in my folks' cocktail party circuit were getting their kids into soccer, though, so that's the way it went.

I wasn't very good. Middle of the pack speed, rudimentary ball skills, not willing to take a header. But that's the way it went, a Larchmont halfback in 1st grade, then 2nd, and on up. By 3rd or 4th grade I was markedly better, owing simply to playing season after season, and by sixth grade I was starting at forward. In my last game that year, I scored four goals in an 8-0 rout of league rival Ghent. Soccer was my sport, every autumn.

But then, well, our school offered junior-junior varsity football to grades 7 and up, so that's the way I went. I trotted off the soccer pitch at age 12 and never looked back. There was simply more allure with football, more American street cred and more potential for glory. For me, the move -- coupled with my growing to 6'4" by the time I was 16 -- led to a high school career littered with dozens, nay several touchdowns, some paltry Virginian-Pilot coverage, and a hearty sex life of backseat handjobs from one of the prettier cheerleaders. The gilded days, as they say.

Save for a pair of left-footed fluke goals in one of our Lumpless Gravy B-side soccer matches in college, my futbol playing days largely ended with my fellow 6th graders. (Oh, there was also an indoor match in which Mr. Truck and I played a man down and lost 15-1 after an own goal put us up 1-0.) But my interest in the sport was never fully extinguished, not by years of dedication to other sports, not by the nation's general apathy to it, not by decades of drinking heavily and forgetting everything I once knew.

In 1992, our comrade Cliffy and I, both in our bonus year at W&M, enrolled in Principles of Coaching, a Kinesiology class that reeked of "gut" more than a Mangino waistband. (We were scouring the curriculum for such classes by that point.) As part of the class, we coached the Comets, a 1st grade squad whose saga I won't bother relating but was filled with comedy, drama, and an uplifting final chapter worthy of an ABC Afterschool Special. Plus, we got A's, which I desperately needed. And the sport got its hooks in me once again.

Here we are, 18 years later (yikes), and my two daughters are both seasoned veterans in the community soccer league in the same town where I donned the Larchmont kelly green so many years ago. And now, with the United States poised to make some noise in the most watched tournament in the world (I need the YES network to spruce up that hyperbole), the sport has infected me like that itch I picked up in New Orleans. I'm still that same first-grade spazzy mcgee flailing about out there, but now I'm in a bar watching my countrymen excel.

So here's to this sport soccer, and here's to an American generation that has played and coached it now watching intently and hoping for national success.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Return of the Mack

Come on, cut me some slack, it's too hot for anything else...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Return of the dead guy...

You may have noticed that I've been less of a presence around here than normal lately. There are myriad reasons for this that include, but are not limited to a new job, a neck injury that made sitting at a computer a little slice of hell, long stretches of therapy at the gym and, of course, apathy. Well, nothing can shake me out of that apathy like one of my (and TJ's) favorite "events" of the year...the NBA Draft.

I love the NBA Draft and, frankly, I like to think I'm pretty good at evaluating much of the talent in each year's Draft. Part of this comes from watching tons of college basketball. However, there is another ingredient that comes from having played thousands upon thousands of hours of basketball over the last 20 years. Just two years ago, I told you that Michael Beasely was soft (check), would eventually end up as a small forward (check) and that the player he reminded me most of was Wayman Tisdale. Look at those stats. Pretty comparable aren't they? Now, if Michael Beasley starts a second career as a music producer, we all might need to start worrying about his long term health. Now, I don't mean to come off as arrogant on this topic. I was just trying to make my point. I've certainly had plenty of misses over the years (Reece Gaines represent!) but I'm confident that my successes far outweigh my failures. Now where's my cushy professorship at the University of Hawaii?

This year's Draft promises to be unique for one (actually two) very different reason(s): The biggest free agency period in league history is a week away AND there are a number of teams shedding salary due to a terrible economic climate in the NBA that could very well lead to a lockout. What does this mean? It means that you'll see far more trades of (it's already started) significant players and picks than is standard for the NBA Draft. It also means that this Draft that is low on bankable and recognizable stars will get a shot of excitement. Hell, I'm already excited.

5 guys I Love (well, like a lot):

John Wall: Freak athlete, long arms, immediately fastest guy in the league, unselfish, better than average passer, and a chance to become an elite defender. Downside: His jumpshot isn't a jumpshot. It's basically a set shot and that shit will not fly in the NBA. That's teachable though. Nobody will be able to guard him in the open court.

Evan Turner: The draft's most versatile player and a guy who could immediately make nearly any NBA team better due to this. His jumpshot needs work but he's big, skilled and can get into the lane. He's also shown an ability to create for himself and others. Super tough. Downside: Does his fractured back have long term durability implications?

Damion James: He won't ever be a star but he'll rebound at a high rate and defend multiple positions for 10+ years. If he ever develops a 3 point shot, I could see him becoming a James Posey type. Downside: Never took the next step to be a star while at Texas.

Darrington Hobson:
Kind of a poor man's Evan Turner. Super versatile, big and very skilled with the ball, carried New Mexico to a great season last year. Downside: Lacks great athleticism or else he'd be a top 10-15 pick. (I'd like to see the Magic grab him).

Avery Bradley: He had an up and down freshman year at Texas but much of that was due to the composition of a veteran laden (and very up and down) Texas team. He's not really a point or a two (then again neither is Russell Westbrook) but he's got elite athleticism and he's already a terrific perimeter defender. It's been proven that athletic guys who can create off the dribble can find a role for themselves in today's NBA. Bradley is no different. Downside: What position?

5 Guys I Don't Like:

Derrick Favors: Extremely raw, somewhat underwhelming year at Georgia Tech, did a lot of whining through his agent during the workout process.

Gordon Hayward: Sorry, I don't see it. He's
an average athlete, has no bulk and isn't a good shooter. I know that everyone says he had "an off year" shooting the ball last year but shooting 29% from 3 is what it is. And what that is, is terrible. He reportedly shot terrible in workouts as well.

Solomon Alabi: Not just because he's a Nole either. He's got all the tools but he was never, ever dominant at FSU. He's still very raw and he's soft to boot. I wouldn't go near this guy. He's got Sam Dalembert written all over him.

Hassan Whiteside: I've never seen him play but he's supposed to have serious attitude issues and not be very coachable either. He's said to have Marcus Camby like ability but that's a long way away for a guy who played at Marshall. Did I mention he played at Marshall? Yeah well, that too. His adjustment to the NBA will take a while, if he lasts long enough.

Al-Farouq Aminu: Besides being the ugliest player in the Draft, he's also a man without a position. A little too small to be a 4 and not nearly a good enough shooter or handler to be a 3. He has great long term potential if he can become proficient enough offensively to be a 3, but I have my doubts on that one.

5 Guys Who I Can't Predict at All:

Demarcus Cousins: Will he be a 20-10 guy and an eight time All-Star or will he be convicted of running a 5 state marijuana ring? Both?

Ed Davis: Everything you want in a 4, on paper. He has too show at least some level of consistency though. I want to love Ed Davis but he's not making it easy.

Greg Monroe: Super skilled with a motor that revs about as fast as TJs, and he's a very average athlete. He's somewhere between Lamar Odom and Vlade Divac in both size and skills. Will this translate at the next level or will he get dunked on constantly and become a running joke?

Wesley Johnson: I like Wes but not as the third pick in the Draft. He can't create for himself off the dribble at all. That's something I like in my small forwards. I'd love Johnson at the 7th pick but 3 is just too high for a guy with as many holes in his game as Johnson. Again, I like Johnson a lot but he's going to go too high in this Draft.

That's all bitches. See you in the comments.

Things You Can Do in a Prius: Greasetruck Attempts to Enter the Rockabilly Pantheon

There is a long tradition in popular music of singing about automobiles. The car, like rock and roll, is loud, powerful, adventurous, and sexy. And not only is it sexy, but it is also (especially when you are young and don't have a swinging pad of your own, and especially in the '50's and '60's when cars were BIG and had trundle seats) a great place for sex. It is both the theme and the setting. This post is certainly not a history of the car in music-- there are plenty of places you can read about that. Here is a great list, and here is a LONG list, and here is an excellent little history.

I am going to discuss something more specific, and honestly, I think my thesis is groundbreaking, so bear with me. And, as an added bonus (or punishment, it's all a matter of taste) I have written and recorded a Greasetruck song to illustrate this theme.

If I were going to make a general list of my favorite songs about cars, I would wax poetically about "Bitchin' Camaro" by The Dead Milkmen and "Joe Stalin's Cadillac" by Camper Van Beethoven and "El Camino" by Ween. But though those songs are quirky and funny, they only allude to the sexual power of the automobile in our culture. They certainly prove my point, but I'm going to use more obvious examples to show you something particular and profound about the automobile. I assure you, you will never be the same.

I further need to limit my thesis to rockabilly car songs. And again, I can't afford to be general. If I were to get into my favorite rockabilly songs about cars, then hands down, my favorite is "One Piece at a Time," which was written by Wayne Kemp and sung by Johnny Cash. It was the last Johnny Cash song to reach number one on the Billboard charts. I love the song because the hero, a working class guy at the Cadillac factory, steals a Cadillac part by part. He's patient, clever, and creative. He perseveres, not only over the years, but also over difficult engineering dilemmas-- and the song specifically addresses these; it explains how they drilled out the frame so it would fit the engine block, and the general asymmetry of the car. And then, after all this work, there's a great plot twist at the end: when he registers the car at the DMV, it takes them all day to type up the title because it is so difficult to determine what year and make the car is.

This difficulty in determining if the car is new or used or something else entirely addresses a classic philosophical dilemma-- if you were to replace parts in your own car, piece by piece, when you had replaced every part, would it still be the same car? Or would it be a different car? If you were to replace your brain, synapse by synapse, with circuitry-- circuitry that worked essentially the same as your brain-- say at a rate of one percent per day, when would you cease being you? Or would you still be you? Or a would you be a clone of you? But that's the subject of another song.

The song that inspired me to get to work on my own rockabilly car song was originally done by Charlie Ryan and the Livingston Brothers, but it was made famous by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen. It's called "Hot Rod Lincoln" and it starts with a spoken couplet: "My pappy said, "Son, you're gonna drive me to drinking if you don't stop driving that Hot Rod Lincoln." This song tells the story of a drag race, and again, it alludes to the power and sexuality of the car, but it's not the perfect example. The reason I need to mention it because when I heard it on WRSU the other day, the lyrics to my own rockabilly car song came to me in a flash. I’m not going to claim it’s the best song I’ve ever written, but it is definitely the fastest song I’ve ever gotten down on paper—from start to finish it took me five minutes to write. It came to me in a dream, like the way Mohammad received the Koran or Joseph Smith received the Golden Tablets of Mormonism or George De Mestral thought up Velcro.

The kind of rockabilly car song I’m talking about is when the car obviously represents sexiness and the engine obviously represents the sexual act and the driving represents full on doing it (riding, as they say in Ireland) and the car is also the place to have sex in. So you've got the outside of the car, which is a phallus itself. And compare a sports car to a minivan-- which is more phallic? Which will snag you more snatch? The humming throbbing engine is obvious enough as a symbol, but the smooth leather interior is symbolic as well. The folds in the seats, the new car smell. You’ve got both the male and female apparatus here. The outside is male, and the inside is female. Your driving a penis while sitting inside a vagina.

Now this is the paradox. The car is the thing and it is the setting for the thing. The long sleek body of the the fifties vehicle, with it's odd attachments, fins and such, is the male genitalia. And everyone knows what that greasy engine represents when it's trucking along. And the shiny smooth inside of the car, leathery with plenty of folds, is the female genitalia. You get inside and it has that nice smell (if it's clean) and a lousy smell (if it's not.) But the car is also the place to have sex, so it is the penis, the vagina, and the bed, all rolled into one.

So the car is having sex with itself, inside itself. There’s something deeply philosophical about this, and maybe that’s why cars are so deeply embedded in our culture, and so often sung about. Before I had this epiphany, I hated cars-- I thought they were loud, annoying, dangerous, overblown, and an environmental disaster-- and perhaps that’s why Greasetruck has only recorded one song about a car, and it's not very sexy at all. It's called "George Bush Stole the Plans for My Air Powered Car" and it features a monologue about how George Bush and Bill Clinton like to ride around together in a pneumatically powered car and visit nudey bars. But I have seen the light, and now I understand why public transportation will never make it in the United States (although trains are pretty sexy when they go into a tunnel). Now Greasetruck will attempt enter the car rockabilly pantheon, but the competition, is to say the least, stiff.

The archetype is Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place to Go.” The narrator and his girl are simply “driving around” with no particular place to stop and have sex, so of course, they park “way out on the Kokomo" and decide "to take a stroll.” The lyrics are ambiguous. Is the stroll into the woods? Into her pants? The next lyric helps: the narrator is foiled because he “couldn’t unfasten her safety belt!” I appreciate this because I didn't learn how to undo a girl's bra until I was thirty-six. Does the safety belt represent her bra clasp? Or is it just the car's seat belt? That seems unlikely, considering people didn't wear seat belts back then. Perhaps it is a chastity belt. I'm sure Chuck Berry didn't specify so it could be all these and more. I wish I could be so playfully obtuse in my lyrics.

I am also partial to Chuck Berry’s "Maybelline," both for the content-- a high speed car race with a cheating woman-- and the use of the verb "motivating," as in, "I was motivating over the hill/ I saw Maybelline in a coupe de ville." The race is a sexual contest—a courtship ritual, like when male elks butt antlers or peacocks strut with their tail fanned or when basilisk lizards do those crazy dances-- and Chuck Berry needs his engine to run fast and powerful to court a girl as wild and sexy as Maybelline. So he's in the phallus, racing his engine, but she's in a phallus, and racing her engine, and maybe not with him. It's racy because "Maybelline" is an assertive powerful woman who makes her own choices. Once again, "she done started doing the things" she used to do. The narrator can't control her sexuality-- and he's having enough trouble controlling his own engine, but he does catch her at the top of the hill-- the climax of the song, and it's all downhill from there. And now, with looser censorship laws and new technology to assess, Greasetruck will try it's hand at the genre. Though I know I can't compete with the greats, I believe my new song conquers new territory; it is the first rockabilly song celebrating the sexuality of the hybrid vehicle. It's called "You've Got to See Us in Our Prius." Hope you enjoy it. Feel free to offer your own automobile analysis. You've Got to See Us (Driving Round in our Prius) by Greasetruck

You've Got to See Us in Our Prius

So if you need to pick up chicks,
then a cool set of wheels is your fix:
a Lamborghini or maybe a Porsche.

Something sleek and something fast--
the chicks will think that you're a blast
but maybe that's not your style at all.

Maybe the girl you want to impress
likes whole grains and patchouli scent.
Maybe she just got back from saving the whales.

Then the car you want runs really quiet,
Let's put the world on an oil diet.
I'm talking about 78 horsepower here.

Hey baby, you've got to see us,
driving round in our Prius,
The wind blowing back my Moonbeam's hair.

But I got to tell you something if you don't know:
hippie chicks don't dig fellatio . . .
something to do with not eating any meat.

And the car's too small for full on screwing,
so you can guess what we've been doing--
I feel like I'm back in the tenth grade.

Well, look at me I've come real far:
getting hand jobs in an electric car.
Who could guess what the future would bring?

So if you see a Prius driving real slow,
and my smiling face in the window,
you'll know what's going down in there.

We'll be driving this little car forever,
can't sell it cause of the stains on the leather
actually, you would think it would be faux-leather, but it's not.

So we're driving this thing come Armageddon.
Driving this thing to my grand-kid's wedding
I suppose I'll be doing Viagra then.

Getting hand jobs in my electric car--
who ever said I wouldn't go far?
I know all you guys are all turning green.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This is How We Do It (USA Soccer Preview, Montell Jordan Edition)

In honor of Rob's favorite mid-90's R&B crooner/Doug Christie relative, we are making a small change to our Team USA Soccer picture of the day. We are taking Shlara's future ex-husband off the screen and replacing him below with Jonathan Bornstein. You all may feel that we are ruining some sort of streak, but the streak is a streak of ties. And that is not what we want on this fine Wednesday morning, gentlemen (and gentle ladies). We want a win. We want to see our team play with the lead for a minute in this tournament. We want to see them shake off the emotional tie on Friday, finish with authority, defend the counter-attack and show a killer instinct against an Algerian squad that played over its head in its last match against a befuddled England squad. We want Altidore to put a scare into the rest of the field, Howard to continue coming up big and Dempsey to show he's a world class midfielder.

I know that the USA can advance with a tie, but ties are horseshit. Rolling into the knockout stage with an 0-0-3 record against a weak group will be extremely disappointing. As Iron Maiden front-man Bruce Dickinson says "If you're gonna die, die with your boots on." Bruce may be British, but he's also a huge soccer fan. So let's turn it up to 11, Team USA, and show him how mighty our stones are.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wish Me Luck . . . or Hope I Bomb: It's Your Choice.

So later today I am going to deliver the commencement speech to the EBHS class of 2010 at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton.  I am fairly nervous because I've never spoken in an Arena before . . . past speakers have told me it's pretty weird: you hear an echo and you can see yourself on the big TV screen.  I am sure I will screw something up.  I am trying to memorize my speech so it sounds natural and I don't have to fumble around with paper, but I typed it up in case I look out into the sea of 5000 faces and freeze up. As a special treat, I am giving readers of G:TB and Sentence of Dave a sneak preview of the speech . . . I won't actually deliver it until 11:30 AM, so this is a real perk for fans.  You will be in the know.  Also, if anyone who knows me well reads this and decides the speech is totally stupid, you have until 11:30 to text me a better speech.  I thank you in advance.  I'll try to report back later in the day on how it went. 

                                                             My Speech 

Good morning.  I would like to thank all the parents for raising such bright and engaging kids, and I would like to thank the Class of 2010 for selecting me to speak.  I felt like a celebrity when this was announced: students came up to me in the hallway and congratulated me . . . and then immediately gave me specific suggestions for the speech: I had you for four different classes-- you have to say my name . . . you SAID our Shakespeare class was the best ever, so you should mention ALL of our names . . . you're going to say something about our undefeated eighth grade soccer team, right? . . . and although I can't accommodate all these requests, I certainly was certainly flattered by the attention.  It made me feel appreciated and loved.

Then one particular student looked me in the eye, and she said, in a very serious voice: "I voted for you and I'm glad you got selected.  I expect a lot from you." Then I didn't feel so happy anymore. Instead, I felt a great weight on my shoulders to say something profound.  So I will try my best to give you some advice you can carry with you into the real world, although I feel horribly under-qualified to do this, since I spend my days teaching kids about books inside the safety of the high school, and you are walking out those stadium doors into the unknown.

My wife and I have two little boys at home and one of the things they like to do-- one of their hobbies-- is running around the house and slamming doors, usually on their little fingers and toes. We're are always yelling at them:  don't play with doors!  You don't play with doors! I use that deep crazy Darth Vader parent voice: Doors are not for playing with! My kids are a lot younger than you, but this is still good advice, especially since graduation is about walking out the doors of East Brunswick high school and opening new doors to new places.  Let me give you a couple of helpful examples.

The first is from when I was in college, but I think it's useful for any of you that are pursuing a career in the military as well. If anyone is going to serve in the military-- don't do this.  I had a noon anthropology class, and it was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and all my friends were outside playing Frisbee and I was stuck in this huge lecture class-- a classroom like L7-- but much bigger. Tiered seats, a couple hundred students. You walked in at the bottom and climbed steps to get to your seat.  After the sign in sheet came around, and I signed in-- we had sign-in sheets in those days-- I decided I would try to make my escape. The professor certainly didn't need me in there-- like I said, there were a couple hundred students, but my friends needed me.  Frisbee needed me.  But I didn't want to walk down all the steps and exit the way I came in.  I would have to walk right past the professor. He might ask where I was going.  It would be awkward and I had no excuse. It would be obvious that I had signed in and bolted.  I needed a different route, a stealthy route, an escape route . . . and there it was, at the top of the stairs, a door, my door to the outside where it was beautiful; the door out of this lecture hall and to the place where all my friends were.

So when the professor turned to write on the board, I realized this was my chance. I made a break for it; I ran up the steps-- BOOM, BOOM, BOOM-- and through the door. It took a second for my eyes to adjust. It was dark, but in a moment I realized that something was wrong.  There were too many walls. It was a wall and a wall and then another wall. This wasn't a hallway to the outside. It didn't go anywhere. It was a dark box. I was in some kind of closet. There was a little open window next to the door. I poked my head through. Everyone was staring at me, including the professor. Some people were laughing. Others were confused.  They were all wondering why someone had trapped himself in the projection room, the little alcove where you set up the camera to show a movie.  There was only one way out-- the way I went in. I sheepishly opened the door and slunk back to my seat, embarrassed and foiled by poor planning. I'm sure you get the point here: map your route. You need to have some idea where you are going before you barge through a door. You have to do some reconnaissance.

But no matter how prepared you are, you can't always know what to expect. I will end with this example, which is a little more puzzling. I'll be honest, I rarely tell this story, because I don't know what the exact lesson is.  Before we had kids, my wife and I taught for several years in the Middle East, and we were on a camping trip with some Canadians and Norwegians-- the Norwegian lady had the car through her embassy-- and we were driving far out into the Western Desert, the huge wasteland between Syria and Iraq. We were in a desolate area. It wasn't beautiful sand dunes like the Sahara, instead it was endless fields of black and white stones, and extinct volcanoes in the distance-- a creepy place-- and we had to stop for gas.  I got out of the car and asked the attendant for the bathroom in my primitive Arabic: "Weyn hamman?" 

The man took me by the arm and escorted me around to the back of the low concrete building-- I could see out into the desert-- and he nudged me towards a door and said, "Faddal."  There you go. I opened the door. It was dark, but I had been in some sketchy bathrooms before, so I went to step inside, but as I stepped into the darkness, these two horns came flying at me, right at waist level. Right at my groin. I had to grab them to keep from being castrated. I'm pretty sure I screamed. But the creature was tied up, so it couldn't actually gore me.  The animal was an oryx, this antelope-like creature, like a mountain goat, but with two long straight horns. They used to thrive in the desert, but now they were nearly extinct.  We had seen some at a reserve in Jordan.  They were very rare . . . aside for the one this guy kept in his broom closet.  And the Syrian guy, this Syrian Ashton Kutcher, he was laughing and laughing.  This was his practical joke, when people asked to go to the bathroom, he led them to this door and then watched them jump-- and though it was a cruel joke, it was kind of funny. And it was more cruel for the poor oryx tied up in the dark closet than it was for me. There's not much entertainment in the middle of the desert, and I'm sure my reaction made him happy for a long time. The American guy who shrieked like a little girl. I was too shocked to appreciate the humor then, though. I went to the bathroom and then got into the car and told my wife and friends what happened. I'm not sure if they even believed me. 

And what was I supposed to do? I didn't know the number for the Syrian SPCA.  Should I have contacted PETA? A rescue mission out there wasn't really practical. Should I have been happy I wasn't impaled? Happy that I got to see an endangered species up close? Honestly, I still don't know what to make of it, except this: when you open a door, I can't tell you exactly what to expect. This is the real world; you have to be prepared for anything. You might walk through a door and trap yourself in an A/V closet in front of hundreds of people. You might walk through expecting a dirty gas station toilet and instead get a pair of horns coming at your crotch from the darkness.  I can't tell you what you're going to find. I can't tell you how to react. But, class of 2010, I will tell you this, unlike my kids, you are old enough to play with doors, so plan your route and open as many as you can. I have spent the last three years with you, and I can confidently say that whatever you encounter, you will conquer it. Thanks and good luck out there.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's the first day of summer...'s been 90+ degrees and humid every day for the last two weeks, and we need filler. So enjoy this tune (and just for the hell of it, someone want to tell me the movie this was used in?)...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sad News

Before there was Gheorghe, there was Manute.

Sadly, Manute Bol lost his battle today with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a skin condition he contracted while in his native Sudan working to build a local school. He was 47 years old.

Though it was easy to characterize Bol as a gimmick, the 397 shots he blocked as a rookie in 1985 remains the second-highest single-season mark in league history. His post-NBA life was marked by his quiet dedication to helping others in his home continent and his string of bad luck with illness and injuries. Among his many friends in and out of the league, Charles Barkley once said of Bol, "You know, a lot of people feel sorry for him, because he's so tall and awkward. But I'll tell you this -- if everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it's a world I'd want to live in."

R.I.P., Manute. May you spend eternity jacking and making awkward three-pointers.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This Calls for a Drink

And what better drink to drown our collective sorrows than a 2008 Whitesnake Zinfandel. It's got a Kitaenish nose with hints of cheese, metal, and hair product.

Don't take it from me, though. In the words of David Coverdale, "It's a bodacious, cheeky little wine, filled to the brim with the spicy essence of sexy, slippery Snakeyness ... I recommend it to complement any & all grown up friskiness & hot tub jollies ... Is this love? ... I believe it is ..."

Bob Bradley might need a bottle or six.

Like Crash Davis Said

Never fuck with a streak. For previews of Team America's second World Cup opponent, the Green Dragons of Slovenia, we recommend the work of Jerry's Wheelhouse or our very own Zman. Unless, of course, you'd like to learn anything about the Slovenians.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Slow Week

In honor of the first-ever semi-official-all-absurd G:TB Summit, we give you the best we could come up with. Hope to see you all this evening at Bungalow Billiards in Shirlington.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This one's for the Zman

If you have been following along in the comments the last few days you've noticed that the Zman is having a great deal of difficulty with a certain shit cable company whose name starts with "Time" and ends with "Warner". Here's why said cable guy can't show up at the Zman's house:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

rob found the 69 bus post too subtle for his liking

So here's some clip TR sent me with Natalie Portman in it. I'm a big fan of Ms. Portman. As for the clip? Hell if I know. I didn't even watch it. I just figured everyone else would be as bored of the 69 bus post as tiny.

How I got to work today

And it was of the short variety to boot.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Even More Definitive (and Prolix) World Cup Analysis!

After Steven Gerrard blew past Ricardo Clark in the fourth minute, the US soccer team looked to be in BIG trouble, but they quickly regained their composure.  In fact, though England appeared more dangerous in their offensive thrusts, the US team showed that their skill level is on par with the best teams in the world.  In fact, it will only take some minor adjustments to get the team ready for Slovenia.  For example:

You might recall the sequence when North Brunswick native Tim Howard cannily hurled the ball to Carlos Bocanegra, who elegantly brought the ball to his feet, then nonchalantly tapped it back to Oguchi Onyewu, who completed the switch through the back by playing a crisp pass to Steve Cherundolo. Then Cherundolo turned up field and played a perspicacious ball to the side line, where Landon Donovan trapped, attempted to turn, but was repelled and so turned back.  He wisely knocked it back to to Cherundolo and then moved to space.  Cherundolo sagaciously probed the middle with a ball to Michael Bradley and Bradley took several cunning touches before playing a support ball to Onyewu.  Onyewu played a sincere* one touch pass to Jay DeMerit.  Demerit attempted a brazen long ball down the line, but it was knocked out by an assiduous English player.  DeMerit threw the ball in and Clint Dempsey altruistically** knocked it back to him on the one touch.  DeMerit took several crafty touches, then passed it back to Dempsey.  Dempsey touched the ball twice with the inside of his foot, then once with the outside*** then played to Bradley.  Bradley cleverly played the ball back to Dempsey, who had a better view of the field.  Dempsey cogently knocked it back to Cherundolo.  Cherundolo, under pressure from an indignant Rooney, who was frustrated that he had not received the ball in a while, passed it to DeMerit.  DeMerit played an omniscient ball through to Bradley, and then Bradley salaciously dribbled ten yards or so into English territory.  Donovan began emphatically streaking down the wing and Bradley touched the ball three times and then stridently played a long ball to the outside.  Donovan was called off-sides.  I discreetly went to the bathroom. As I returned, I saw Robbie Findley clairvoyantly snag John Terry's pass to Steven Gerrard.  Findley then judiciously knocked the ball wide to Clint Dempsey.  Dempsey courageously passed the ball back to Cherundolo.  Cherundolo decisively knocked it to Onyewu who dictatorially knocked it to Bocanegra.  Bocanegra defiantly knocked it back to Onyewu, and Onyewu bravely knocked it back to Bocanegra. Bocanegra attempted to slip past Frank Lampart but the ball slid out of bounds.****

* It might have been an earnest pass. I can't remember.

** Unless he was expecting the ball back again.  In that case, it was a selfish pass. We'll never know.

***  It might have been twice with the outside and then once with the inside-- I was very drunk.

**** This entire description is suspect.  As I mentioned, I was very drunk.

Do you remember this?  My question is, when Onyewu played the effervescent one touch pass to Bocanegra, why didn't Donovan diligently move forward in space, so that Bradley could have dribbled stochastically instead of rigidly, and then perhaps Donovan could have been a bit less zealous in his run and not been called off-sides, and if Cherundolo had telepathically overlapped, then the US squad would have had numbers and, perhaps-- and this is only hypothetical, of course, but perhaps they would have gotten a shot or at least a cross out of this sequence.  This is the kind of thinking and vocabulary the US team is going to need if it is going to move out of group play and into the knock-out rounds.