Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sometimes You Want To Go...

Will return to the topic of on-line "community" a little later. Today, a little levity.


I was ordering a pizza the other day and, as usual, the guy on the phone where we order our pizza from knew what I wanted before I finished. We order from the same place about once a week and we always get the same thing, large pie with fresh basil on the whole thing and black olives on half. The guy who runs the place always finishes my sentence for me after I say "Large pie with fresh basil..."

He'll say "Basil whole thing and black olives on half. Hey how ya doin' buddy," in classic New York pizza guy accent. We have a little bit of banter and he wishes me good weekend, having called me "buddy" several times. And I love it. The guy is so nice to me and it is such a difference from Boston. And in Boston the blue collar folk would call you "pal" or "guy," which both just come across as more terse than friendly.

So the other day when I got off from ordering and kind of said out loud how much I liked that, my wife said, "Of course you do. You like being recognized at places. You've liked that since you were a teenager hanging out at Denny's."

She really nailed it on the head. I really do. I love being a regular. I always have, just like she said. And she was right, it did start back at Denny's in Chicago's northwest suburbs, on the corner of Rand and Dundee Roads.

Now of course Denny's is not the hippest place in the world to hang out. But as a teen in white, middle-class suburbia there were not a lot of options. The redneck jocks with pick-up trucks already had the Burger King parking lot. Us New Wave kids had the local teen dance club (called Photon) and Denny's.

Pretty much every Waver kid from the general Arlington Heights, Palatine, Barrington, Rolling Meadows area hung out there on weekends, and every night during the summer. I hung out there so much that the hostess and most of the waitresses knew my name. It also helped that my friends and I actually tipped pretty well for teenagers. They pretty much let us hang out there as long as we wanted. We could spend hours at the back corner table drinking coffee and they were OK with it. I think the people who worked the night shift there liked the social outcasts like us. I never saw them be that friendly to a preppy or jock type that walked in. I was such a regular there that one night I pulled up as another group of people were walking in and it looked especially crowded. I thought we would have to wait for our table, but when we walked in the hostess (Gloria if I remember her name correctly) said, "Denny (as I spelled my name then) your table is all set for you," and we went back and sat down. She made the people who walked in first wait, because she had seen us pull up in the parking lot.

So of course I love it there. The Waver hangout Denny's was a little teenage oasis in the arid desert of white suburbia. But I had to leave that all behind when college started.

But I have had a regular place to hang out where people knew me just about every place I've lived since then. Of course, after the Denny's the rest of the places are bars.

Once at college I didn't really hang out at the college bars. I was one of those guys that hung out at the townie bars. They had much more character than the college bars. Not that I was the only student at them, but there were a lot less of us that liked the low-key bars over the meat-market frat bars. So much nicer to be able to have some food and beer in actual pint glasses instead of plastic cups at the Jackson Street Pub rather than listen to annoying Bon Jovi Music and giggling sorority bimbos ordering "sex on the beach" at the Gin Mill.

After I moved to Seattle I started hanging out at a jazz bar downstairs from the theatre I was working at where a lot of us from upstairs had ongoing tabs. That was the greatest thing ever. No matter how broke I was I could get a beer and a burger. The phrase "put it on my tab" is one of the coolest things to be able to say.

I think I still owe them money.

I had other place in town where I hung out and bartenders knew my name, and would give me lots of free beers.

After I moved back to Chicago I found another place because of working at a theatre. A bar across the street from the Steppenwolf and next door to the place I was working, The Royal George, was brand new while I was working there. So a bunch of us from my show were the very first regular customers they had. Sometimes the only customers they had. I had my very last cigarette in that bar, sitting there alone with the manager working the bar and nobody else in the place. It was the kind of place that knew me so well that I would have my beer sitting in front of me by the time my butt hit the bar stool.

Of course I didn't really get this in Boston, because people there just suck so much, including, and maybe especially bartenders. Except for a short time that I was eating lunch during a temp job at the bar at South Station, and the woman behind the bar there got to know me. And I haven't found my place in New York yet because we don't get to eat out all that much, and when we do it is always someplace different, and I don't get the chance to hang out in bars like I used to.

I guess that's why I like it so much that the pizza guy knows my order.

I don't know, does this make me needy? An attention whore?

Anybody else just love being a regular? What's your favorite place?

I know at least one of my readers (initials TBO) is as big a fan of the concept of being a regular as much as me.

What about the rest of you?

Oh, and I know the title of this post is pretty lame, but I couldn't think of another pop culture reference that related to this topic.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mr. Mayer And The Fluffy Circle

I suppose it was a good thing to give it a try. But in the end there just wasn't anything interesting/fulfilling about it, despite its lofty aspirations.

So I've quit the Roundtable.

Not that I think too many of the members were sad to see me go. And that was really the problem.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining or anything about it not working out. I really don't care all that much. It's just somewhat annoying when something is not what it is presented to be. The whole idea, as it is sold by the guy who started it, who calls himself RW, was that you could write about any topic you want on your turn and that people would join in on the conversation by leaving comments. The inspiration, supposedly, came from the whole concept of the old Algonquin Roundtable of Dorothy Parker fame.

Sounds great, right?

Well it could be, but it's not. I had several weeks before it was my turn to lead the discussion so I had plenty of time to share my thoughts on the other members' topics and they had plenty of time to see my kind of twisted sense of humor and my general way of making arguments. They also had plenty of time to see my usual blog writings and know what kind of things to expect from me. Remember, "any topic you want" was supposed to be the rule.

Look, I know I'm the guy who walks into a party where people may be having a conversation about the latest episode of American Idol and I quickly turn the whole thing into a discussion of the corporate control of the media and entertainment with the underlying purpose to feed the Military Industrial Complex and that I can do it with long run-on sentences. It's what makes me so charming. More importantly, it's what I do. You can't ask me to join the conversation and then bitch about what I talk about. Don't invite a hippy to your party if you don't like the smell of patchouli (seriously, that's why I never have hippies over).

So after enduring weeks of fluffy Roundtable conversations along the lines of "guilty pleasures" and "who would play you in a movie of your life" I finally got my chance to lead the discussion. I've got no problems with those types of conversations, and I was more than amused to participate in them. I just like to be able to discuss more serious topics sometimes. Besides, I thought the Algonquin Roundtable was the inspiration and not the 10th grade cafeteria. And I figured it would be cool to have a little bit deeper of a debate for my topic. I decided to talk about the whole idea of selling out and how far people will go for their own financial gain even if it hurts and oppresses others. And of course gave it a provocative title, Whoring. I thought people would dig it.

Well, yes and no. The debate became lively and entertaining I thought. It even got fairly heated at times. It was great. Aside from the snarky comments from RW. There is one thing I figured out about him in the time I was there. You know that friend who thinks he's funny but isn't even close to it? We all know somebody like that. He's that guy.

But then the very next Roundtable was led by RW, who went off on this weird ramble about "shutting up" and "who cares about your opinion" that was basically a thinly veiled dig at my post. Then a couple of days later he posted a rant at our info site going off on political posts and that Roundtable isn't about that and it gets too vicious and blah blah blah. The best part was that he said he wasn't trying to "control anybody's freedom of expression" but then said to keep Roundtable politics free and "if that isn't possible, just go away." When challenged he wouldn't admit that it was aimed at me, that he was just generally putting it out there because he just thought about it or whatever. He is also under the weird impression that Dennis Miller is a comedian.

If I wanted to deal with that much passive-aggressiveness I could have stayed in Seattle.

He, and a couple of others there, seem to have a misconception about what the Algonquin Roundtable was about. No topics were taboo there and things often got heated and very political. Jeez, why do you think it had been referred to, by one of its participants, as the "vicious" circle? Many of the people at this virtual Roundtable seem to think that all they did back then was talk about their favorite cocktails and what kind of animal they'd like to be. Dorothy Parker was not the Paris Hilton of her day for cryin' out loud.

So I stuck with it a little longer even though I offered RW the chance to tell me he wanted me to go. His passive-aggressive nature wouldn't even let him do it when invited.

But after my post on the appropriateness of hate the writing was on the wall. The very first comment was from a Roundtable member saying they didn't like to talk about politics and religion (though that wasn't the main point of the post) and many others didn't even join in the conversation. RW's link to my post in his blog was a one sentence dismissive and derisive comments. Again, digging at me in the most passive-aggressive way he could come up with as he wouldn't even come into the discussion and challenge me head on. Aggressive is fine. But that passive version is mind numbingly stupid. Got something to say to me? Fucking say it you pussy.

So I left. It really was pointless anyway. If you write something that provokes people to write comments in your blog, that's great. You know you've done something to stir the intellectual musings of some random person out there. But this forced conversation thing is exactly that, forced. And in those kind of settings it is rare for anyone to have anything interesting to say. Kind of like high school and family reunions.


I'm working on trying to turn this into a larger comment/discussion on the whole idea of the online "community" and if it really exist or is valid. But this got to be long enough for one post and I still need to simmer it for a little longer and gather my thoughts to see what I want to say/ask.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pretty Hate Machine

Well it's my turn to lead the Roundtable discussion once again. I think in honor of the passing of Jerry Falwell today's topic should be hate.

When I found out that Falwell died yesterday I was giddy. It was like a colon cancer had been cut out of the world, albeit much later than it should have been as the disease of bigotry and intolerance has spread to so many other vital organs, most notably the White House. I expressed out loud to several people how happy I was he was gone and that I was glad to learn that he died alone and I hoped it hurt and he was scared. Pretty much all the same stuff I wrote in yesterday's post.

Many people greeted my statement with the same twisted chuckle I had. There are others who are aghast at saying something so mean about someone who just died, even if he was a total douche bag.

Others will say that you shouldn't celebrate the death of someone. But a lot of these same people are the ones who would cheer the killing of Osama bin Laden. A dead religious fanatic is a dead religious fanatic, and it's a good thing either way. I don't support killing people, not even the death penalty for criminals, but I don't have any problem with celebrating the death of an evil person.

I got into an argument one time with some namby-pamby Christian type who told me that hate was always a bad emotion and I should love more. I told him that was bullshit. Hate is a human emotion like any other and it can be positive or negative. I gave him one easy example.

I hate war.

Nothing wrong with that kind of hate. And if you think it's wrong to hate war, well you got problems and your name is probably Dick Cheney.

Sure, lots of hate can be bad. The hatred that Hitler and the Nazis had for the Jews was terrible. The hate that caused the lynchings of countless black Americans by the KKK or their supporters over the years is revolting. The hatred of homosexuals by religious conservatives has led to the current spewing of nonsense by politicians like Mitt Romney and our idiot president that gay people are a threat to traditional marriage, which has in turn led to a rise in violence against gays and lesbians around the country. That hate has also led to the likes of people like Fred Phelps blaming the victims of those violent crimes for what has happened to them. He's the guy who led protesters at Matthew Shepard's funeral holding up signs like "God Hates Fags."

But hate can be used for good. Morris Dees hates racism and intolerance. He turned that hate into the Southern Poverty Law Center that works to fight against bigotry in all its forms. That hate has led to a major weakening of the Klan and other neo-Nazi groups.

I know that some of you are thinking, "But Deni, isn't the kind of venom you're spewing about people like Jerry Falwell just as bad as the hate they spread for women and gays?"

No, it's not. If you can't see the difference I just feel sorry for you. Think of it as this example. Hitler hating the Jews? Bad. Hating Hitler? Good.

So I'm OK with the hate that I have. I hate bigots. I hate gay bashers. I hate child molesters. I hate rapists. And I hate people like Jerry Falwell and those who follow them.

So the Roundtable questions this week are these. How do you feel about hate? Who do you hate? Even if you haven't said it out loud, isn't there someone who has died and your first thought about them was "good riddance?"

Be honest now.

Let me have your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Good Night And Good Riddance

What a beautiful day in New York City today. Sunny and warm with a high over 80, a nice breeze in the air and the wonderful news that the scum sucking maggot Jerry Falwell finally did the world a favor and left it.

For years we have been subjected to this vile man and his hateful message of intolerance. We had to listen to him question the integrity and honesty of Martin Luther King Jr. and speak out in favor of segregation. We had to listen to him demonize women and their fight for equality. We had to hear him spread his most vile hate toward homosexuals and proclaim that AIDS was their punishment from God. And then we had to listen to him blame pretty much everybody but his type of Christian for the events of September 11, 2001.

He left none of us blameless in that last one. Liberals, feminists, abortionists, homosexuals, secularists, the ACLU and The People For The American Way were all to blame for crashing jets in to the World Trade Center is his diseased little mind.

And he was always wrong about everything. Wrong about segregation and MLK. Wrong about the rights of women to be treated as equals. Wrong about the reasons for the terrorists attacks on New York. Always wrong about every view he ever espoused about homosexuality, often comparing to pedophilia and bestiality.

Or the laughable claim that it was destroying "traditional" marriage.

He stood against everything that was good in the world. The progress of our country may have been set back an entire generation because of his bullshit.

He was a lying, misogynistic, racist, gay bashing hate monger. The world is better place with him no longer in it. It should have happened years sooner.

I take great pleasure in knowing he died alone. I hope it was painful. I hope he was scared.

For a better (and more entertaining) blurb about his death than what I just wrote check out DeathWatch 2007.

A great story from Salon's archives about how the immoral asshole paid people to make false claims about Bill Clinton (you know the ones, Vincent Foster's "murder" and Bill's drug smuggling ring, among others) can be found here.

Campus Progress has a good short bio on the bigot.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Brain Freeze

My good friend The Beige One is hosting this week's Roundtable, which means we are only one week away from it being my turn again. Shit, whatever will I wear?

Well, while I ponder that go ahead and check out what Beigey is talking about this week. He wants to know what you do to shut your brain off at the end of a long day/week/month of being busy and stressed out. Besides drugs of course. That's not very interesting or original.

So head on over to Missive From The Beige and join the banter about good brain drain activities.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fetal Position

Ah, Mother's Day. A time to celebrate your mother and all the wonderful things she's done for you. A chance to thank her for always being there for you and for her unconditional love and support.

What utter bullshit.

It's just another in a long line of holidays made up by Hallmark and the flower industry to sell their wares. This one is right up there with Valentine's Day, Administrative Professionals Day (the new politically correct Secretaries Day), Father's Day, Sweetheart's Day (because the flower sellers needed yet another day they could charge ten times the normal price for roses), Bosses Day, Grandparent's Day and Easter.

Damn I hate these nuisance holidays. Oh I know what you're thinking, that it's good to honor your mother and show her some love and.....zzzzzzzzzzz....

Oh puhlease! You know, if you love your mother and all, think she's the bee's knees, is your best friend, biggest supporter, the gosh-darnedest greatest mother ever do you really need a day on the calendar to remember to tell her? And should the rest of us have to be pressured into dealing with it even if we don't really feel that way about our mother?

And what the fuck? Aren't mothers always telling us that motherhood is its own reward? They should be taking us out to dinner.

I suppose I might feel differently if I liked my mother. Probably not though. I still think Valentine's Day is fucking idiotic and I love my wife a lot.

I liked this a ton better when I didn't have to deal with it. That was basically my twenties. I moved to the west coast and never sent my mother a card or gift on Mother's Day. Come to think of it, I don't think I did for her birthday either. This made my life a lot easier. See, when you have a mother as bat shit crazy as mine, life is better when she's mad and not speaking to you. The happiest times of my life in my twenties were when she never called. Eventually she would always start bothering me again because she would realize that the silent treatment didn't work at all. She always has this image in her head that when she feels she's wronged she can stop calling me until I call to beg her forgiveness. Like I said, bat shit crazy.

But these are not these times anymore. Now that I'm married my wife doesn't want me doing this because she figures that my mother might blame her. That's actually a pretty reasonable belief seeing how my mother has acted toward her other children's spouses on occasion. So we send things on the pointless holidays now.

And she calls too damn much. To tell me I never call.

Most people can get that clue.

Look, I know there are those of you out there that think your mother is great and love giving her gifts on Mother's Day. I'm happy for you. I really am. But some of us had a childhood that less resembled a Norman Rockwell painting and more a bad ABC After School Special. Our house was a den of violence growing up. Our bitter, angry mother whacked us around, which of course socialized us to conflict resolving by the same method. My brother, sister and I were always beating the crap out of each other when Mom wasn't.

So forgive me the whole idea of "honoring Mom" leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Besides, do you know how hard it is to find a card that says, "Thanks for the broom across the back for the time I accidentally spilled dirt out of the dust pan on to the garage floor Mom," without a special order?

Or, "If it weren't for you Mom, I wouldn't have gotten to spend all that fun time in therapy. So thanks!"

And, "Mom, with you I got the best of both worlds. Physical and emotional abuse."

And she is coming.

She arrives late Thursday night to stay with us this weekend. She's leaving early Sunday, but still. I have to deal with actual Mother's Day in my face this year and have to actually do stuff with her for the weekend. Which will mean going to The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway because that is something that we can do that will require no talking. I wanted to go to something like Inherit The Wind or the just opened Radio Golf, August Wilson's final play in his ten play cycle, but my mother doesn't like to go to any theatre or see any movie that requires her brain to function. So The Drowsy Chaperone it is.

And I get to do joyful things like have to hang out with my obnoxious mother who likes to do embarrassing things in public in places like Sardi's and the Empire State Building. As an added bonus, she's a Born Again Christian now. Oh joy.

The best part is that I will regress back to my moody, pensive, angry 17-year old self. And that will be so much fun for my wife!

I think I'll be buying a bottle of red wine tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Hey. Sorry I have been in touch for a while. How a doin'? Me? I'm good. Busy as all get out. Been working out in Newark everyday for the last week and a half. That's why I haven't called lately, the three hour round trip commute on top of a whole day of work has been stealing all my time. No, that's no excuse I know, I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, I'm just checking in to say "what's up". So what's up?

Don't have much today.

But I do have a great thing to share. You all know I am obsessed with downloading live shows on the internet (if you don't know, see here) and I got a great one the other day from the Bard of Barking, Billy Bragg.

In an intro to one of his songs he said this:

I don't know if you in Philadelphia have ever heard of Rupert Murdoch, maybe you have maybe you haven't. I'll give you a quick biographical description of this chap.

He was born in Australia supposedly. And he bought lots and lots of media things in Australia. Built up an empire and that gave him the right to have his own Prime Minister. So having done that, he came to England, bought lots of media, and that gave him the right to have his own Prime Minister.

And now he's coming to America. He's bought the New York Post, The Village Voice, he's about to buy six TV channels so he can have his own station, as big as CBS and the others. And once he's got that, he'll be able to have his own President.

I warn you now, this man is coming. And in his wake there plenty of other people with quite similar ideas.

In England, not only does he have The London Times, he also has a newspaper called The Sun. Which is not unlike your Sun, much of the stories are in fact made up. They do kind of like, "Two-Headed Girl Found in Brixton" and things like that. And stuff like, "The Recession is Over," and you know, "We Have Turned the Corner."


This is a song about Rupert Murdoch and his friends. How they bend the news when they say we've turned the corner. They mean we turned the corner into their direction.

This is called "It Says Here."

---Billy Bragg, Philadelphia, PA - May 8, 1985

Man, all the way back in 1985. Billy tries to warn us. He really tried. If only we had listened...

It says here that the Unions will never learn
It says here that the economy is on the upturn
And it says here we should be proud
That we are free
And our free press reflects our democracy

Those braying voices on the right of the House
Are echoed down the Street of Shame
Where politics mix with bingo and tits
In a strictly money and numbers game

Where they offer you a feature
On stockings and suspenders
Next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders

It says here that this year's prince is born
It says here do you ever wish
That you were better informed
And it says here that we can only stop the rot
With a large dose of Law and Order
And a touch of the short sharp shock

If this does not reflect your view you should understand
That those who own the papers also own this land
And they'd rather you believe
In Coronation Street capers
In the war of circulation, it sells newspapers
Could it be an infringement
Of the freedom of the press
To print pictures of women in states of undress

When you wake up to the fact
That your paper is Tory
Just remember, there are two sides to every story

from Brewing Up With Billy Bragg