A Pale Horse Named Schick

3 Jan

Sometime around my 18th birthday I received a plain brown package in the mail. It was about the size of a VHS tape and had no return address. Turns out it was a gift of sorts, though it wasn’t from a relative or a friend. No, this was a present from the kindly folks at Gillette, who had sent a package containing a Mach 3 Turbo and a tiny bottle of shaving cream, as if to whisper from afar, “Shave that neck hair, you sloppy fuck. You’re a man now.”

The Mach 3 was notable because it had three blades crammed into its pivoting head, making it a destroyer of hair, a veritable neutron bomb compared to the Bic muskets of yesteryear. At least that’s what the packaging seemed to promise. On it, the Mach 3 beamed with the intensity of a solar flare, and a single tendril of blue light weaved its way out of the conflagration, off of the package, and into the heavens, presumably, where it dry humped the face of God. Shaving was no longer a rote exercise; it was a daily expedition. Like a monkey blasted into space, you could scarcely fathom the enormity of your undertaking.


BEHOLD, THE PINNACLE OF HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT. (Not pictured: weeping onlookers.)


If three blades seemed like overkill, and it fucking did, then a brave new world lay ahead. Supping up shaving kits was once comic fodder, but with the razor wars continuing apace, we find unleashed upon the world monstrosities such as the Schick Hydro 5, which I received in my Christmas stocking this year, much to my consternation. (Five blades? FIVE fucking blades???)

Edward Gibbon, an 18th century British historian, wrote: “History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.” The Hydro 5 is a footnote in that history — an overwrought, unwieldy footnote bedecked with blood. The “5 Ultra Glide Blades” lovingly shred your skin like a meat slicer going to town on a hunk of applewood smoked ham. The “Hydrating Gel Reservoir” secretes not soothing aloe but the concentrated venom of a million fire ants. Mid-shave, you tremble as you realize that this is it. It’s all over. One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will be bursting through your bathroom door at any moment.


As foretold by Nostradamus.


Recommended for: masochists, undiscerning yetis, apocalypse enthusiasts

Proof That the Internet is a Hilarious Clusterfuck

1 Feb

Search Terms That Directed People to This Site:

mary todd lincoln nude
people who eat scabs
colostomy haters
i want to eat my daddy to shreds
hamburger crotch
sexy larp
abe lincoln gets beaten up
old people eating cat food
best short haircut for woman with jowls
rich white people
useless liberal arts degree
ugly people that look like cum

Looking for support groups dedicated to old people addicted to cat food. It's not going well.










Search Terms That Directed People to “Let There Be Danger,” Which Used to Be Called “Neurotic Apes with Bad Haircuts” and “End of the World News” Before That:

asian girls being finger fuck on buses
how to cheer yourself up after a bad haircut
why did people stand on the mountains in utah thinking the world would end?
monologue character who is a little off-center neurotic and slightly vacuous
neck veins tv
dangers of greyhound buses

Now THAT'S some quality public transportation fingerbangin' action. Thanks, internet!

Level 7 Nostalgia Spell

28 Dec

How did you ring in the New Year of 2010?

LARP partyyyy!


My friends and I stayed at the Ramada Inn and LARP’ed our hearts out. At midnight I tried to cast a spell of enchantment on a particularly fetching gypsy, but alas, my magic failed to ensnare her. Lovelorn, I retreated to the tacquito bar to gorge away my sorrows. Oh m’lady, your heart is a 24-sided die and I am but a pair of clammy hands forever rolling snake eyes!

Did you stick to your resolutions?

You know, you tell yourself over and over again that this year you’re NOT going to drink liquid LSD and run amok in public, like, say, at your ten year high school reunion or your nephew’s birthday party. But then you get bored  and dose your drink anyway and all of a sudden everything’s a whirlwind of melting faces and theremin overtures, and you’re all like, “Oh okay, I may as well staple Bible verses to my crotch and anoint everyone’s forehead with that maxi pad I found in the trash.” Long story short, I’m barred from Chuck E. Cheese and future school reunions.

Are you better looking this year than last year? Explain.

Yeah, I think so. I hit the tanning bed really hard and got some sweet tribal. Plus, I started wearing cummerbunds, which really work miracles when it comes to hiding the ol’ colostomy bag. (That’s right, haters! Stick THAT in your colostomy bag and drain it! Or, wait, no — I’m, uh. I’m the one with the colostomy bag. [Dumb dumb dumb.] Well, stick THAT in your…umm…Ah, forget it.)

Describe your “style” in 2009 vs. 2010, using only 2 words:

2009: Saucy hobo.

2010: Jordache barfstain.

How did you spend your birthday in 2010?

LARP partyyyy! (I got ticks...)










Did you dress up for Halloween, and, if so, what was your costume?

Of course. And this year I wanted to go all out. People always dress up as sexy cats and sexy vampires and sexy Lou Gehrigs and whatnot. I was gonna go as a sexy ogre, but at the last second I decided to go as the Elephant Man instead. Just because it involves wearing a bag on your head doesn’t mean you can’t put your nethers on display, ya know?

Did you move?

Did you know that the earth travels at an incredible 67,062 miles per hour? Essentially, we are all cosmonauts aboard the same vessel, forever trekking across the great, boundless adventureland that is outer space.

But no. No, I stayed put because it’s really hard to move my terrarium.

Did you meet anyone new?

Oh, for sure. Skeeter. Marv. Anita. Surly Chris. Rufus Mangrove Buckletuck. Stevie Nicks.

What was your favorite piece of art (this includes music, writing, etc.) that you created?

In the Homeric tradition, I composed an odyssey entitled 24 Hour Burrito Joint. One reviewer exclaimed, “Never before have botulism and bathroom sex conspired to create a tale of such whimsy!”

Did you learn any life lessons/experience any epiphanies?

Butter is never not good on everything.

Describe your best day in 2010:

I kept hitting the snooze button and eventually freaked out because I thought I was late for work. Turns out it was Saturday. It was pretty sweet.

Describe a day you’d like to strike from your record:

Ugh, there’s one in particular that I’d TOTALLY like to strike from the record. So you know that new Hane’s commercial with Michael Jordan where they make fun of some dude’s wrinkled collar and say that he has a “bacon neck” or something? Well, back in March my stepmom ended up with an actual bacon neck. She tripped and fell at Hobby Lobby and impaled herself on a weather vane. They had to use pig parts to reconstruct her esophagus. Anyway, I had to spend like three hours at the hospital and there were no good candy bars in the vending machine. (Payday? Fuck Payday.) It sucked.

5 Words/principles/goals you hope will define your year in 2011:

1. Pizazz

2. Razzle

3. Dipdipdipdip

4. Ointment

5. Eww

Grandma Stories (Yes, These Are True)

18 Dec

1) My grandmother grew up in Logan Square or Humboldt Park. I don’t remember which. Her father, who I came to know as Papa Zoom Zoom, was a terrible asshole by all accounts. One day he did something — I don’t know what — to royally piss off his kids. So my grandmother and her siblings got revenge the way any prepubescent morons would: They drank all of his wine while he was at work. Of course they got sick as dogs and puked everywhere, which only made him more mad when he got home, but at least they drank the fucker’s wine, right?

2) My grandmother and her siblings used to hang out in alleyways, as was the style at the time. One day she found a dog. A female dog. It was friendly but it was bleeding all over the place, so my grandmother took it home and swathed it in band-aids. My great grandmother returned home to find, in her kitchen, a dog with band-aids all over its crotch. The dog was on the rag.

3) When she was a teenager, my grandmother was warned by her father never to come home with a full belly. Apparently innuendo was lost on her, because she thought he meant not to eat anywhere except at home. If a friend of hers invited her over for dinner, my grandmother politely declined.

4) I have no idea where my grandmother and grandfather went on their first date, but considering that all their “dates” in the early years of their marriage consisted of them going out for strawberry sodas, I’m guessing it wasn’t all that extravagant. So anyway, before they’re married he takes her on a date. When he drops her off at her place, he kisses her, as any guy would. That’s what you do after a date. Duh. Well, my grandmother freaks out. She can barely sleep. She feels sick to her stomach. When my grandfather stops by again, she says, “Bob, we need to talk,” with all the pathos she can muster. He’s puzzled. My grandmother wrings her hands and blurts out, “Bob, I’m pregnant!” “With who?!” he demands. “With you, dummy!” she cries. And that’s when my grandfather explained to my grandmother that you can’t get pregnant by kissing.

5) (This one’s about my great grandmother, but since it was told to me by my grandmother, I guess it’s her story too.) My great grandmother grew up on a farm somewhere in the Midwest. I forget where. (Northern Illinois? Michigan?) When she was a kid, she and her sister would get into knock-down drag-out fights. Later on, when I was a teenager and could process things better, I came to realize that my great grandmother possessed an inherently rural character — folksy and syrupy sweet, but also tough as fuck — even though she was an urban transplant later in life. Anyway, my great grandmother and her sister got into an argument one day. Her sister said she was chickenshit. My great grandmother protested that she was, in fact, not chickenshit. “Oh yeah?” said her sister. “I bet you won’t chop my thumb off.” And then she placed her thumb atop the chopping block. A strange gambit for sure. Well, my great grandmother was indeed NOT chickenshit. She grabbed an ax and chopped her sister’s fucking thumb off. (SHE CHOPPED HER SISTER’S FUCKING THUMB OFF.)

I loved my great grandmother.

6) My grandmother used to tell me stories about her and her grandmother walking over to Humboldt Park to pick dandelions so they could make soup. I thought she was fucking with me until I found out people actually DO eat that shit.

Ah, the Great Depression. ‘Twas a culinary wonderland.

My grandma and my sister.

An Excerpt from a Play I’m Writing about the Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln

8 Dec

Abraham Lincoln: O how you comport yourself, my love! Sometimes I just want to crawl inside your head!

Mary Todd: It’s not much fun up there, Abe. Trust me. It’s like an under-inflated Moon Bounce full of nauseous kids.

Abraham Lincoln: What’s a Moon Bounce?

Mary Todd:

Some Thoughts After Watching “You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk, 1977-1984″

15 Nov

– The early years of Chicago punk, circa 1977-79, were pretty damn lousy. New York had the Dead Boys, Cleveland had the Pagans, L.A. had Black Flag, San Francisco had the Avengers, and Chicago had…Tutu and the Pirates.

We sound the way a yeast infection smells.

— Like American Hardcore, this film claims that punk died around 1984 or ‘85. Whenever people take that position, they come across as grumpy and clueless. It’s not like any one generation can claim proprietorship over rock ‘n’ roll and its many permutations. By the time Naked Raygun played their first show, Johnny Rotten was probably sitting in a bar somewhere telling an interviewer that punk was dead. Know what I mean?

— Some of the best parts are the stories about how dickish Chicago cops were. Corrupt cops make for good anecdotal fodder, especially when they’re smashing mason jars full of weed across teenagers’ faces.

— I like the idea of jocks using “Hey, Devo!” as an insult for punks.

— “I didn’t even know who the president was,” says the singer of Rights of the Accused, showing that he’s a fan of hyperbole. True, a lot of the Reagan backlash in early 80s hardcore was infantile crap, but when anyone with a brain penned the lyrics it often made for some powerful indictments that still resonate today.

— In a similar vein, it’s amazing to me how dismissive some of the interviewees are about political bands. Writing it all off as the work of attention whores chomping at the bit for Maximum RocknRoll’s approval is, well, pretty weak. Rock ‘n’ roll is great whether it’s political, apolitical, or any gradation in between. If anything, I walked away from this movie convinced that there should be more bands like Dillinger Four — intellectually engaging on their records, yet hilarious live. You can give a shit about stuff without being a sanctimonious prick, and vice versa.

— Thick Chicago accents are funny, and they sound even funnier when the topic of conversation is punk instead of Ditka and Polish sausages.

"Muscle beach is now pork chop hill."

— Having bottles thrown at you does not mean you were in “a riot.”

— I had no idea that Jeff Pezzati used to get all glammed up and sing in a suburban metal band before joining Naked Raygun. That shit is HI-LARIOUS! He looked like Dee Snyder except prettier.

— Vic Bondi challenges Steve Albini to a fight near the end of the flick, which is really fucking dumb but also funny in a sour old bastard kind of way. Regardless, Articles of Faith wrote some of the most anthemic and intelligent songs of the early 80s.

— Big Black sucks.

— Since punk tends to have youthful connotations, it’s interesting to see the transformation from spiky hair and ripped shirts to male pattern baldness and jowls.

Oh yes, Strike Under were delightful minstrels! Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a dialysis machine.

— Chicago seems to have been spared the heroin epidemic so prevalent on the coasts at the time. Good job, Chicago.

— I just finished reading Gimme Something Better, an oral history of the Bay Area that pays a lot of attention to squats, gangs, runaway kids and skinheads, and now I’m left wondering what sort of role, if any, those things played in Chicago. You Weren’t There treats punk as a musical form rather than a culture or a community, which is a shame because a lot of the most interesting stories have nothing to do with shows and records.

— It’s almost guaranteed that the word “codified” will show up in a retrospective. Example: Punk used to be blah blah blah before things got codified.

— Now someone needs to make a documentary about Chicago pop-punk from the 90s so I can hate the shit out of it. With the exception of Screeching Weasel and the Vindictives, all that stuff was terrible.

On History and Hidden Lives

15 Oct

Everyone’s dreams in all those apartments. All those thoughts. We’ll never know. That’s the truth of it.
— Caden Cotard, from Synecdoche, New York

A life’s residue is messy. (Jizz joke?) Try as we might to divine the motivations, actions, and outright cognizance of someone else’s being, the interpretive walls we impose on others leave us wanting.

When I tried (and failed) to be a historian, I was drawn to the experiences of those who fly under the radar. The travails of workers, agitators, burnouts and lumpen piqued my interest because they are, in my opinion, the North Star of collective experience. Though pedestals abound whatever one’s political or moral persuasion, the struggle, malaise, and celebration of workaday life bespeaks a glaring resonance that many of us simply cannot find in the halls of power. Allow me to borrow some words: “I wanna raise cain when the patriots say: ‘Take pride in the joys of home’ / I wonder if they think their Congressman knows what it’s like to have collection agents on the phone.”

And so on and so forth.

Bristling against whitewashed narrative isn’t new, of course. Iconoclasm is as primordial as teen angst or a pointless middle finger aimed at the TV screen. But who are we flipping the bird at these days and why? Why do the same eyes that devour reality TV also curse politicians when the ten o’ clock news come on? How do people conceive of their place in this country, this world, or their homes and neighborhoods for that matter?

I haven’t much of a clue anymore, honestly.

Some context: On the academic front, an entire groundswell of otherwise neglected voices has been brought to the fore in the last half-century and especially in the last couple decades. But source material is often beguilingly scant when researching groups that didn’t have the privilege of a decent education or access to a mode of expression that would crystallize their experiences for future generations. Social history has done much to use raw data to reconstruct the past, but charts and tables are sometimes like barbed wire fences: imposing, bleak, and not easily traversable.

The job of future historians will grow exponentially easier or more difficult depending on how you look at it, the profession’s vicissitudes bound to computers and the ways in which we use them. Gratefully, an avalanche of information will now be at their fingertips; the gulf between intuition and testimony will recede tremendously. But they will be left to contend with the Internet’s memory, and every emotion and anecdote, feigned or true, that weaves its way through fiber optic cables. Much of it will be dreck. Still, maybe backlit screens will shine some light on what transpired in those apartments, those heads. The shorthand anyway.


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