Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Back in the A-T-L

Back in the land of gray skies and America's retardedest drivers. It's kind of comforting, actually.

Today's just a quiet day, decompressing from vacationing, and waiting for my friend who just bought an Xbox 360 to quit pretending he's asleep, and call me to come over.

In the meantime -- when I started this, one of the goals was to write about current events. That's fallen by the wayside (of my three main topics -- hockey, dating, current events -- the only one I ever talk about is hockey, and much of that is in the context of "I missed the game last night because I was at work/at the bars"), obviously.

Part of that is because I spend much of my social time discussing developments with friends (worryingly, I note that as of St. Patrick's Day, my drunken pickup line of conversation has become "talk to girls about the Palestinian situation") and am left with nothing new to say here, and part of that is because there are much more articulate people tackling the appropriate subjects. I missed it because I was in Boulder, but check out Tony Karon's Iraq piece. It's good stuff. Nothing to add, really.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Last Notes From Home

I dedicate far too much of my agonized contemplation to my relationship with different places -- a contemplation that's not reciprocated, unless I missed something and the Boulder Daily Camera last week dedicated a column to "Greg comes back."

It used to be far worse. The first few years after I moved out to Atlanta, every trip back home prompted soul-searching, and inevitably ended with a bold proclamation -- either "I'm over Boulder" or "I need to move back tomorrow."

Now, I seem to be at some peace with the place. I'd love to move back someday, yeah, but it no longer seems a pressing issue in my life. I no longer feel an urge to put it behind me, either. It's home, but there's no reason I can't have other homes as well.

They just won't be quite as pretty.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Fan's Notes

"What a game! I almost felt sorry for the Red Wings, but then I remembered that they suck!" -Greg's Dad, after some past Avalanche-Wings playoff game

Haven't taken much note of the hockey world since I've been out here -- I've been out most nights, and the Avalanche have pulled their usual "Greg's back, let's blow a few games" routine. Back in Atlanta, apparently, the Thrashers' new habit of giving up five goals a game stopped working last night, and they find themselves just out of a playoff spot, once again.

Having lived in Colorado (the second time around) from 1996 through 1999, there's one obvious thing that Thrashers fandom misses out on: a suitable villain, a rival, an antagonist, a team that breeds hate. The Avalanche had Detroit, and man, did that make a big difference.

When the Thrashers play their division rivals, the teams produce either healthy respect (Hurricanes and Lightning), "eh" (Panthers), or "I hope they hold Ovechkin to two goals" (Capitals). There's no one to hate on those teams; they all seem to be upstanding citizens. Carolina would seem to be the most natural rival, due to physical proximity and being really good, but ... there's just no hate there, yet. The players are the type I like. The fans are pretty entertaining sorts. If they were to advance to the Cup, I'd be likely to root for them.

Compare that to the Red Wings -- if they advance to the finals, even now, I don't root for them to do anything except fire the puck into their own net (a la Paul Coffey in 1996, har har). While they've had a FEW (Yzerman, Fischer, Fetisov) players I've respected, the majority of them are recruited from the dregs of society. If Kirk Maltby were to get some sort of brain-destroying gonorrhea, the only personal pain I'd feel would be from laughing myself into a hernia. The presence of Chris Chelios on the USA hockey team is enough to make me root for Kazakhstan. It's taken me until this year to forgive Slava Kozlov for cheapshotting Adam Foote. I still giggle silently to myself at night, thinking of Dino Ciccarelli and "I can't believe I shook his freakin' hand."

The Thrashers don't have an opposite number like that, yet. Sure, there's some tensions with Toronto -- a team with Darcy Tucker and Tie Domi whining about cheap shots -- but who doesn't hate the Leafs? There's a bit of bitterness toward Dany Heatley and the Senators, but I can't imagine that lasting.

So there's no one. Perhaps Atlanta will creep into the playoffs and wind up in an intense, cheap series such as the Avalanche-Wings in '96, and that'll finally do it. In the meantime, any 'Canes fans out there -- can't you persuade Staal or Williams to take a run at a Thrasher? Nothing too serious (and no one too important), just enough to raise the stakes a bit. We'll all benefit.

Books Update

Fell off the pace a bit due to the monumental Graham Greene biography. 10 books read as of today:

7. "The Moor's Last Sigh" by Salman Rushdie
8. "The Life of Graham Greene" vol. 1 by Norman Sherry
9. "The World: Life and Travel 1950-2000" by Jan Morris
10. "Our Man in Havana" by Graham Greene

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Most Beautiful Sight in the World

(The headline would work better with a backdrop of the mountains rather than the neighbors' back yard, but my parents' house isn't laid out properly. We make do with what we have.)

I only come back here two, three times a year. In the intervening months, memories fade, I convince myself that it has some competition. But then I come back, and I'm invariably reminded:

Fat Tire is the best beer in the entire world.

Oh, the Irish, the Czechs, the Oregonians, the Californians, the Brits -- they all make good beer. And in a pinch, it'll do. But when I come back here, I have eyes and taste buds for no other.

Unfortunately, it isn't distributed anywhere east of the Mississippi, for reasons I can't recall now -- perhaps because it's such a beautiful creation that it wouldn't ship properly. And Georgia is east of the Mississippi. Really. You can look it up. The nearest state that has it is Arkansas (and I've just found my first impetus, ever, to go to Arkansas).

Those of you who can drink this magical brew on a regular basis -- I envy and salute you. Those of you who are likewise stuck in purgatory -- road trip to Arkansas?

Fat Tire is brewed by the New Belgium Brewery, and their other beers are pretty good, too. They deserve, at the very least, a Nobel Prize.

So Boulder

Much as I love this place, it's good that I only spend about five-six days at a time here. It's short enough that all the things that drove me batshit insane when I actually lived here are reduced to endearing quirks, and long enough that I actually remember those things, and thus don't quit my job, sell my place and move back immediately.

A combination of geography, climate, altitude, and the most over-educated populace in America make Boulder unique and appealing -- and often aggravating. I've mentioned before that a sense of unreality pervades, and that when I left I felt like I was slingshotted into adulthood. Peter Pan had to become a man. For a lot of those who haven't left, it's forever that way.

Nowhere save New York, DC, London will you find people more aware of world events than in Boulder -- and nowhere will you find people more disconnected. The aforementioned geography, in a valley protected by mountains with only a few paths to the outside, breeds insularity, a simplistic and judgmental view of the outside world, everything in black and white. There's a peculiarly blue-nosed humorless liberalism here -- when just about everyone around thinks the same way, it's easy to think that anyone who thinks differently is evil or misguided. Left-leaning though I am, some of it just excites the contrarian in me -- the signs proclaiming stores "hate-free businesses," for example. It would perhaps be braver if there were some pro-hate businesses in town; and would perhaps mean more if Boulder weren't the epitome of liberal white flight.

Many of the city's more admirable traits provoke similar negative reactions -- I don't know if the city's "environmental police" are still around, but for chrissakes, environmental police? (they were more aimed at quelling loud parties, I think, but still -- environmental police tooling around town in green vehicles was a pretty ridiculous sight) And the anti-growth laws would be more impressive if motivated by genuine benevolence rather than, as I suspect, elitism and property values.

God, I really do love it here, and would someday love to move back permanently (I figure I can still gain acceptance as a Boulderite -- I've been gone for six and a half years, sure, but I've also spent 2/3 of my life here). I just think it would be beneficial for the city's residents to, y'know, get a little dirt under their fingernails. Maybe live in Atlanta for six months of the year. I'll happily housesit while they're away.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Boulder's Buildings

If Boulder has a real visual flaw, it's the architecture -- away from the downtown/Pearl area, most businesses are examples of the worst in 1970s excess: faux chalets, faux pagodas, or bizarre Mothership creatures.

But along Pearl (which is where I spend most of my time, aside from my folks' suburban house), they've done an excellent job over the years preserving the character -- at a semi-educated guess, the majority of the buildings date to the late-19th/early-20th century (excepting the recently revitalized "East End," but even there, the buildings are largely tasteful and restrained) genesis of the city. I can't seem to find a good book on Boulder's historical buildings, but the number of prominent 1880s and 1890s dates on storefronts is gratifying. (Not that I exactly have an expert, unfailing eye: yesterday as I wandered around, I looked lovingly on another wonderful example of old buildings -- then noticed the enormous "ERECTED 1998" on the front. Whoops.) Living now in a city that's largely neglected its old buildings until it's forced to tear them down, that's pleasant to see.

It's sometimes taken to a ridiculous extent, I guess (as is the case with much of Boulder's good intentions). The papers last weekend were filled with some discussion of 1950s tract homes being designated "historical." But in many cases it's probably a good barrier against the worst instincts of developers. Down at Pearl's West End yesterday, there was a bunch of construction in the "unprotected" areas, developments that were looking soulless and dull (or strange: why anyone outside Arizona would want to emulate the adobe-lookalike styles of suburban Tucson is beyond me), and in the midst of it, the lonely little building to the left -- boarded up, surrounded by mud, but protected by a "landmark" designation (half-assed research didn't tell me what it was, but it's a landmark). It had more character than any of the buildings in the vicinity, and thanks to some actual foresight, it'll stick around for a while, eventually getting reused in some way or another. Downtown Boulder's track record in these matters is hardly perfect, and people involved with the preservation would likely squawk at any praise for how the city's treated its history, but compared to many other places -- it could be so, so much worse.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blogging From Boulder

It's often driven me mad, particularly when I lived here, but scenes like this make me wonder why I ever left.

I love the ocean, love trees, love desert, but -- because of conditioning or whatever -- nothing beats the mountains for me.

(of course, I nearly cracked my head open on icy cement shooting this, which I suppose sums up my love-hate relationship with the place.)

Demons by Daylight

I've been having bad dreams near-nightly of late. Death abounds, many grim portents and omens. There's no real reason that I can see for this; aside from that stint on the overnights, my subconscious hasn't had much reason to complain. But they've still kept coming, ominous and unpleasant.

It's not the first time this has happened. Last summer, I went through a stretch where every night, I dreamt of death. Again, no outward cause could be seen, and once the phase passed, I put it (happily) behind me. Now they've been coming back, and it's disturbing. Several have been grim enough to wake me from a deep sleep, and I could do without those moments of uncertainty, wondering if the various evils depicted in the dreams are actually the reality.

The most vivid, most unsettling (and least realistic) took me to an abandoned mental hospital, now populated only by spirits. Images from that one have stayed with me well into the waking hours. In a misguided attempt at self-therapy, I went back to an old, now-forgotten fascination of mine -- urban exploration (or whatever the preferred term is now).

Mind you, I don't actually go out rummaging through abandoned buildings -- that's for those more agile than me, and with less of a fear of crashing through rotted floorboards. I'll happily and passively live vicariously through sites like this one. But they play into a love of mine, that of the abandoned. Things that have outlived their function, remnants that aren't supposed to be there, whether it's ghost signs or abandoned buildings. I could look at the photos on Dark Passage and similar sites all day (and on some slow shifts, I have). More grist for the nightmare mill!

Above sculpture: "Notre Denver" by criminally-underappreciated musician Terry Allen, on display in Denver International Airport. That's right -- I'm back in the homeland!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Working For (On?) the Weekend

Yeah, man, 9:10 pm on a Saturday night and I'm parked in front of a computer, bored, watching the Thrashers stumble toward defeat. Of course, to put it in perspective, one week ago at this time I was just ARRIVING at work, so I shan't complain. And after typical St. Patrick's foolishness last night, a quieter night isn't such a bad thing.

Interesting footnote to last night: when I woke up this morning, there was a bottle of cologne next to me in bed. Now, I came home alone last night, and was -- if not totally in my right mind -- relatively aware of my surroundings. So how did I end up with cologne in my bed? Was I making a statement?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train

It's official, though details remain sketchy: this little stint of moving back and forth between the evenings and overnights is over -- muerto -- by the end of April, and I'll be moving to the evenings on a full-time basis. That means much less bitching about how tired I am and much more bitching about being here while the Thrashers are playing (for a bit, at least) or being here while the bars are open and presumably filled with beautiful young women (after the Thrashers are bounced). But, really, future bitching aside, this is only a good thing. After this past weekend's unwilling experiment with sleep deprivation, something had to give ... and it could have been my sanity.

Of course, not like I've been going to Thrashers games even when I can lately. I did catch a good portion of this one tonight (4-2 over the Islanders), and they seemed pretty good -- though if they surrendered enough shots that Lehtonen got a star choice after giving up two goals, maybe they weren't so hot. I saw enough of Hossa, though, to mumble to myself, again, that he's the best thing ever to happen to the city of Atlanta and the sport of ice hockey. Really, I may have to get a tattoo.

And in minor league news: apparently PPA player-of-the-year-now-and-forever Tomáš Klouček is doing ok and will be back with the Chicago Wolves for the playoffs. At least, he's on the Wolves' playoff roster. Their website is crappily assembled enough that there's not really any news on it (they've yet to address Klouček's injury, and if you click on "featured news" you get something from 2/11/06), and since the Chicago newspapers cover the Wolves even less than they do the Blackhawks, one has to turn to sketchy message boards to get news about Tomáš. Or here, I guess, once I've scoured the sites.

* * *

Moving right along (and presumably having lost three-fourths of my audience -- if you've made it this far, I'll buy you a beer), I'm still knee-deep in the life of Graham Greene. I've hit the part where he travels through then-undocumented inland Liberia, the trip that would ultimately become "Journey Without Maps," and it's got me restless again. I was oddly disappointed when I read the book (as a sort of warmup to my trip to Albania), but reading this second-hand account of it, with the immediacy of diary entries and lacking the polish of the book, gives me the sense of excitement and fear that the book sometimes lacked. And, as I plan future trips (it's looking pretty firmly like SE Asia, now, once I hear back from my uncle, and possibly either Poland or Russia later in the year), really drives it home: you can't travel like this any more. There's certainly a few places that are largely unexplored by contemporary Westerners, but the Hindu Kush or the jungles of the Congo really don't hold much appeal in current times.

* * *

Finally, some overdue thanks and acknowledgements; a few people have actually linked to this still-fledgling site, so děkuji to them.
Sid, as previously stated, was one of the long-term inspirations for this lil' blog, and he's started writing again too. Fredoluv was another of the first people I knew to start up a blog, and once he starts blogging about Dick Tarnstrom some more, it'll be even better. Afshin has been mentioned on these pages before, and you should buy his book, and also check out his Amazon thingy (my palsied brain can't figure out how to link to that -- there's a link on his first page). Sidearm Delivery is one of my favorite hockey blogs, and one of the only places to find true quality AHL coverage -- if he had a clone in Chicago, we wouldn't have my Klouček troubles. And, finally, I discovered Indiscretions through comments on Afshin's thing -- it's good fun and smart fun. So, thanks, all y'all. On that note, off to the bars!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Literary Achievement

I was sort of aware of this when it came out, but forgot about it until a friend cited a NY Times reference this week -- The Modern Drunkard book is out, and it's the type of genius only a true Coloradan like Frank Kelly Rich could produce. An offshoot of the equally wonderful Modern Drunkard Magazine, it's one of those gimmick books that I've bought a billion of over the years, but this one's a keeper. I've rarely laughed so hard, drunk or sober. Try not to be put off by the fact that it's on the same shelf as Larry the Cable Guy.

* * *

I was reminded somewhat brusquely last night that this was originally supposed to chronicle, in part, the follies and frolics of my dating life. It really hasn't, partly because things have been rather quiet (by choice! really!) on that front. Last night, went on a date, and was reminded that dates are like music reviews: they only make good copy when they're really bad. Had a pleasant time last night, will see her again -- isn't that just boring as shit?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Balkan Beat Box

Longtime readers of PPA may remember how, over the weekend, I vaguely promised to write something about Slobodan Milosevic. I underestimated just how insanely tired I'd be of the story after three days hearing the phrase "Butcher of the Balkans" ad nauseum, but I've got my latest overnight parole, it's too damned humid (in MARCH!) to set foot outside, so what better things to do?

I don't think there's too much mourning outside of Serbia's nationalist community -- it's pretty indisputable that Slobo was a nasty piece of work. (and I suppose I should put in a disclaimer at this point: friends of mine "in the know" have accused me, probably rightly, of some pro-Croat bias over the years) That said, he's being portrayed (and has been portrayed) as the sole architect of the breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent bloodshed.

That's pretty unfair, as even a brief perusal of the simplest online sources will indicate -- Croatia and Slovenia were itching to break off thanks to different economic priorities. Milosevic's intransigence accelerated the process, certainly, and made it more painful, but to hear some of the reports, you'd think he ordered the other republics to break away, then launched random bloodshed.

As for the destruction of the early 1990s, yeah, his role is really indefensible. But, if he was a puppetmaster controlling Serb diaspora in Croatia and Bosnia, the puppets escaped from his hands pretty quickly.

I feel like I've gone over to Milosevic apologist now -- hardly. But there were sleazeballs on all sides of the conflict, and to act as if one man ran the show is simplistic and not helpful. Carla del Ponte has said that had he lived, she would have tried to get Franjo Tudjman in the dock -- though one wonders how that would have played, as a former national leader who was smart enough to make sure he was on the winning side at war's end.

I suppose Slobo and Franjo can debate the point in hell now. Now, the interesting bits going forward are whether Milosevic's death will (as some predict) lead to a rise in Serb nationalism, as we face the (likely) total breakaway of Kosovo, and (possible) final severing of Montenegro. Interesting times and I do hope it all stays sane.

* * *

As stated, it's humid and gloomy here today, perfect for a day off. Thanks, world -- it was pure paradise while I was working, now that I can enjoy it, I feel like I'm wearing a wool bear suit everywhere I go. Thanks, though, to no sleep, I managed to spend a pleasant interlude in the park with friends yesterday, staring at the sky and loudly bemoaning the fact that I have a job.

Went home with hockey in mind, but was too late to see
Peter Budaj shut out the Flames (yeah!), then apparently turned on Center Ice mere seconds after PPA non-favorite Marc Savard scored to lead the Thrashers over the Rangers (yeah!), and finally settled for the Oilers-Wild game -- I couldn't care less about either team, but the excellent Covered in Oil is such compulsive reading that I'm more familiar with Edmonton than most teams, and Ales Hemsky is becoming one of those guys I'd pay to watch. Alas, I turned it on right after some random Oiler dude scored a goal, then Center Ice did its regular crap-out seconds before some other random Oiler dude scored a goal, and I turned it off in favor of staring into space. Obviously my timing was off yesterday. (Footnote: all those random Oiler dude goals didn't help, and the Oilers lost anyway.)

Other than that? Date tonight, the last vestige of the online dating experiment. Then a decent shift at work for a week, and then a trip to Colorado. Things are looking up.

Balkan genocide to my dating life in mere paragraphs. The Post-Pessimist Association -- dropping some serious science since February 2006!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Broken Promises

So it's been a couple days (nights) now since I said that more posts were imminent, and, uh, they weren't. Blame it on the overnights -- I'm on this benighted shift again (for a few nights). I broke down today and took some Tylenol PM to sleep -- technically I'm not supposed to do that based on some other (pneumonia-related) meds I've been taking, but after sleeping something like 2 1/2 hours Friday, something had to be done. End result: I slept seven hours today, but feel vaguely insane and physically unpleasant.

I feel like I should write something about Slobo, but just no energy right now. Perhaps Afshin will -- we may disagree but it'll be smart, at least.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Trade Deadline Follies

I'd planned some sort of pre-trading deadline post (for my non-hockey-oriented friends, which is most of you, this is the NHL trading deadline) but got sidetracked by weather, beer, and furniture, and didn't bother. The teams I follow were largely quiet, aside from one biggie:

The Avalanche swapping goalies with the Canadiens yesterday.

Oh boy, does this look like a mistake on every level. Theodore's having a lousy season, his one great year looks more and more like an aberration, he's injured and out for two more weeks, Aebischer has been fantastic the last few months, and Theodore has an enormous albatross of a contract through the next two seasons.

If Theodore returns to form outside of the Montreal fishbowl, great. But my first thought on hearing this is that it's Pierre Lacroix's love for French-Canadians skewing his judgment. I've yet to see anyone call this a good deal for the Avalanche.

Of course, it remains to be seen how this plays out on the ice -- when the Avalanche traded for Patrick Roy back in 1995, I and many others thought that was a mistake, which it obviously wasn't. And the Theo Fleury trade looked like genius at the time; now, it looks like the worst trade Lacroix has ever made.

So I hope I'm wrong about this one. And I hope that the Fleury trade doesn't wind up being the second-worst.

In other news, the Avalanche got Jim Dowd, which isn't bad (I figured he'd go to Atlanta - it was one of my teams, just the wrong one) and the Thrashers picked up defenseman Steve McCarthy, which could eventually be good -- he's sort of seen as a bust, but he's still relatively young (24 or 25) and defensemen traditionally take more time to develop etc etc. I figure he's competing with Hnidy and Exelby for the fifth/sixth spots.

More (non-hockey) stuff later.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Got Nothin'

It's already an absolutely stunning day outside, I don't really have anything (save assembling a new coffee table) pressing to do, and I feel strangely carefree. This being the last day of an extended weekend and with me having a song in my heart, it's far too nice to stay inside, so it's off to the Russian market to get some beer, and then I'm gonna go while away the day in the park or on a patio.

Two quick things:

1) I've been reading the first volume of the Graham Greene biography (its girth alone may put a damper on my book list), and I'm struck by one thing: GG may have been one of the greatest novelists ever, he may have lived an amazing life full of travel and adventure, but the guy was sufficiently lousy with women as to make me look like Rudolph Valentino. I find that strangely encouraging.

2) With no entertainment coming from me today, how about Milan Hejduk?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

6 a.m. and Wide Awake

When I visit my parents outside of Boulder or friends in Atlanta suburbs, I find myself vaguely weighing the pros and cons of living outside the city. On the one hand, it's quiet, calm, and friendly; on the other, I can't walk to any bars or bookstores or ethnic restaurants. (and the bars/bookstores/ethnic restaurants are usually better down here.)

One thing they definitely have on me, though: I'm willing to bet that my suburban acquaintances have never been awakened at 4:30 a.m. by some dude ringing the doorbell over and over and over, wondering if "my brother still lives here." I love livin' in the city.

As anyone reading this likely guessed (or as anyone who's spent more than about five minutes around me has heard, repeatedly), I've got some troubles sleeping even when Atlanta's citizens aren't contributing. I don't know when it started exactly, but when I remember my Mom teaching me yoga exercises in hopes of knocking me out even back in elementary school, so it's not like this just developed.

When I was younger, it was kind of fun. I'd stay up all night at Tucson's Orange Grove Denny's in high school, and then one summer in college I'd work till 4 a.m., go to the all-night party at my little brother's house, leave at sunrise and go to sleep, and wake up three or four hours later to go to another job, all with a seemingly limitless store of energy.

Now? Less fun. That energy's long gone and every minute of sleep is necessary. I worked three years on overnights, from 2001-2004, and was able to live -- now, two years later, it hits me far harder, and a few overnight shifts turn me into a neurotic wreck. I've cut back (way back) on coffee, exercise more, and I'm still lucky if I get four hours of sleep. Plus, Atlanta's not the most thrilling city to watch awaken, so there isn't even that to provide inspiration. A 5 a.m. trip to the Majestic Grill is as good as it gets.

By those standards, last night was a banner night: I'd got somewhere around five and a half/six hours before my unexpected guest. And there are advantages, I suppose, to waking up (or being awakened) this early -- I, uh, get a head start on the day? Have plenty of time to prepare breakfast? I suppose I should take my cue from the Army -- "We do more before 8 a.m. than most people do all day." Maybe I missed my calling -- I was meant for the military life.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Out of Time

(a/k/a the last Anthrax album I ever purchased. This post was handwritten about six hours ago, shortly after noon, for proper reference)

Once upon a time, I was able to relax like no one else. I'd think nothing of spending the day sitting on the balcony with some music or hours on a bar patio with a book and a steady stream of Pilsner Urquell.

Those days are long gone, man. No matter what I accomplish in a day, I'm fixated on what I didn't, and no matter what I'm doing, I'm worrying about what I'm not.

Take today: I'm writing this at 12:30 pm. Since waking at 4:30, I've done some writing, done the dishes, done a few loads of laundry, carried out a few favors for friends, dropped some mail off, paid bills, gone grocery shopping, gone for a walk, and now I'm taking a break, enjoying the weather (gorgeous! Every spring I believe, for a few weeks, that Atlanta is paradise), looking at pretty girls and enjoying a Bloody Mary.

Well-deserved break, no? But good lord, I haven't done any reading, or work on the novel, or cleaned my bedroom, or cleaned the bathroom, or ... you get the idea.

Even pure leisure time isn't as relaxing and enjoyable as it could be. I can't simply watch a movie at home -- not when I could also be reading or cooking or catching up on e-mail. As you might imagine, this hampers the film experience, and it's a rare film that I sit down and watch all the way through in one sitting (so kudos to "Kontroll" and "Pepe Le Moko," two films I actually watched all in one gulp).

I don't have a good explanation for this often self-defeating hyperkineticness. Part of it may be lack of human contact -- after Friday night's foolishness I was largely housebound and solitary yesterday (I did go down to Eclipse di Sol to see friends, but when all of those friends are on the other side of the bar serving up Peronis, people start to refer to you as having a "problem"), so maybe I am a little bit stir crazy today. When I'm with friends, the impatience and neurosis lessens.

But this has been growing for some years now. When I left Boulder in 1999, it was a bit of a jolt -- I remember telling a friend just months later that it was a shock to realize I wasn't going to be 25 forever. A friend recently called it a "fake world," which is both harsh and accurate. When I lived in Boulder, a city that cultivates a sort of false immortality, I'd sit on the porch watching it rain and down a bottle of wine, and feel all was right with the world. After moving out here, a vague sense developed that I was wasting my life.

And then there's the curse of unfulfilled goals. This past year, more than ever, there's been a sense of time slipping away. The books I haven't written, the trips I haven't taken, the women I haven't seduced, all loom larger than ever. A good portion of the things that hover over me deal with this rather than the more banal bathroom-cleaning duties -- I should be learning Czech/hammering out a script/planning a trip to Yerevan/etc.

I've discussed this state of mind with a few friends lately, enough to know I'm not alone and that this isn't peculiar to me. How to sort it out, at least partially -- that's less clear. I travel back to Boulder soon, for a week's vacation -- perhaps that will calm me. Must remember to avoid the one-sitting bottles of wine, though.

Oscar Picks

Tonight's the Academy Awards ceremony -- really! You may have missed out on it, but it's going on, under-represented as ever.

When friends mention the Oscars, I get the same sort of pained look on my face that my friends do when I mention hockey. This year, I've been telling everyone (to circumvent the discussion) that the only movie I saw in 2005 was "Good Night, and Good Luck," which I'd be quite happy to see win every Oscar, EVEN IF IT WASN'T NOMINATED.

I missed one, though. I saw "Paradise Now," a shattering and powerful film, and I suppose I didn't think of it because I saw it the day before I came down with severe pneumonia, and also because it never occurred to me that it might be up for anything.

It is, though predictably, I didn't realize it 'til there was an uproar over its selection. The petition campaign ... I don't feel I have any right to criticize the organizers. If I'd lost someone in a suicide bombing, certainly, it would be quite an effort to look at the subject dispassionately.

But. As someone who has the luxury of being outside the conflict, it's very hard for me to see how "Paradise Now" glorifies suicide bombers. Portrays them as human beings? Certainly. Raises some difficult questions? Absolutely. But glorifies suicide bombers? No, not at all. I think that anyone of a thoughtful mind who was completely unaware of the events in the Middle East (a stretch, certainly, but they had to find the O.J. Simpson jurors somewhere) who viewed this movie would subsequently see the greater conflict as ... less than black and white.

I've had more discussions than I care to count about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past few years, escalating even more since the Hamas victory in January. I'm tired of it, and yeah, I have opinions on it which probably aren't hard to guess at. It strikes me that this petition can only backfire on its organizers; it's going to bring more publicity to a film that many would have missed, a film that's intelligent and excruciatingly thought-provoking.

It's a great -- if unpleasant -- movie, and I hope to see it do well.

Saturday Night's Alright for a Really Boring Game

After Friday night's predictable excesses, Saturday was devoted to responsible living, and thus I was at home and watching the Thrashers take on the woeful Capitals. I'd thought about getting tickets to this game but thank the lord I didn't -- dull dull dull, even with a pleasant result. The most entertainment I got was from the bizarre low production values on the DC-based feed -- color analyst Craig Laughlin, who's loony as it is and well on his way to taking up Stan Fischler's mantle, sounded like he was calling in from the men's room of the local QuikTrip. They also have an "Ovechkam" -- I guess when you have only one marketable asset, you milk it for all it's worth.

The Caps and their one marketable asset nearly throttled the Thrashers, though. Low though their talent may be, they can play a pretty stifling game, and through the first 45 minutes or so it looked like they could make Brian Willsie's goal stand up. Atlanta got a decent amount of chances, but none of them were really exciting -- throughout the entire second period, which I swear lasted six and a half hours, the most exciting things were a late Lehtonen save, and noted goon Eric Boulton decapitating Jamie Heward and not getting called for it.

When the third period started with more boredom and an Atlanta parade to the penalty box, I was ready to shut down for the night -- screw close games, when they're so soul-suckingly boring, I'd rather stare at the ceiling. But as these things happen, Modry got a goal, Kovalchuk got a quick one, and it looked like it was all over -- till Marc Savard either a) took a bozo penalty or b) got jobbed by the refs (initial reaction was "a," but after some sleep, perhaps it was "b"), and with 30 seconds to go, the Ovechkam got put into play as you-know-who tied it up.

Thankfully, the refs made a horrendous call on some poor schlub on Washington right before regulation ended, and while the Thrashers couldn't score on the OT power play, Marian Hossa (who'd been the best non-Lehtonen Thrasher all night) banged one in, and I could go to bed happy. To, unfortunately, wake up for no reason at 4:30 a.m.

Highlight: Laughlin calling Lehtonen "Alexander Ovechkin in goalie pads" (?)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Whoops, again.

So things I didn't know about Blogger: if you start a post, save the draft, do another post later, then go back and finish the first post -- post #1 shows up as older and not up top. So go here to read about my sordid past, while I go out for the evening. Happy Friday!

UPDATE: Problem solved. Thanks Brushback!

I've Got the Straight Edge

Well, not any more, obviously.

My recent passing dismissal, a look through what's left of my record collection, frequent painful hangovers and too much time on my hands on the overnight shift led to some pointless-yet-fun nostalgia for my straight edge years, distant though they are. It's been, let's see, a good 12 or 13 years since I "broke the edge" and started drinking, I'm only (even vaguely) in touch with two people from that era, and I've gone a good long time now without listening to anything on Revelation or Conversion Records. But much as I (weakly) try to disavow that time, the years of shaved heads, backward baseball caps, chugga-chugga music and debates over whether Sunkist Lemonade was vegan were important ones, if a bit painful to relive.

By the time I moved to Arizona during high school, I'd been pretty seriously put off by the drinking and drug culture in Boulder -- the hippie/yuppie combination would put anyone off -- and when I first heard Minor Threat my first year in Tucson (thank you, Daron Hollowell), I was shocked that there was a band that espoused a non-boozing lifestyle and actually managed to look cool. Soon after, went to my first show -- something like twelve bands down in Bisbee, headlined by Malignus Youth, featuring the pre-Groundwork Upside on the bill. Probably 98% of what I heard that night would make me vomit blood now, but I was 16 or 17, lonely, and absolutely loved it. I got home at 6 a.m. (where my parents were still awake waiting for me -- quite patient and understanding, in retrospect) and was hooked.

To make a long story short, once I got past Minor Threat to the whole youth crew scene -- bands like Insted, Youth of Today, and No For An Answer were pretty shocking and new to me -- I'd more or less committed myself to spending all my disposable income (and some indisposable) on this new love. With (lots of) hindsight, there's a strange acquisitiveness about straight edge -- all about the biggest record collection and the most shirts. Being a relatively well-off suburban kid, I bought in more than most. Everyone had the Gorilla Biscuits LP -- but not everyone had the Forbearance 7" on Smorgasbord or the Awake "Beliefs" 7" on Skene. And when some guy at college gave me his old Judge t-shirt with the crossed hammers pocket logo, I was the shit for a while among the Tucson Arizona Straight Edge crew -- never mind that it was about two sizes too small for me.

The strangest thing, though, in retrospect -- speaking as someone who drinks fairly heavily now -- was the absolute hatred and bitterness aimed at anyone who had lost the edge. We were convinced, as I suppose all opinionated 17 and 18-year-olds are, that we had everything figured out, and being loud and obnoxious about it covered any insecurity. I thought I'd go the rest of my life without drinking. As is probably easy to guess, it lasted 'til I turned 21.

Past my freshman year of college, things started deteriorating rapidly; people relocated around town, stopped spending seven hours a night hanging out at Denny's when there wasn't a show, and the natural frictions began among a group that really had only an outsider status and an abstinence from controlled substances to hold them together. Some of us became college snots, others reverted to natural skinhead tendencies; developing political beliefs made some of us a strange leftist-puritan hybrid, others far-right. By the time I was 20, we were really only running into each other at occasional shows, and there was less and less in common.

Then, of course, the inevitable -- my 21st birthday, and a co-worker gave me a case of (God) Mickey's Big Mouth, and to be friendly, I took the fateful sip. And didn't lose my mind, didn't rape or murder, and most importantly, didn't feel an iota of guilt. Soon after, I saw a girl I fancied at a party with another guy, marked that occasion by getting plastered on (God) Labatt's, and that was that. Figured at the time it was just me that had this moral shakeup, but really, several other friends were realizing that there were worse things in the world than drinking. From then on, the only time I ever really thought about straight edge was when I'd get drunk and put on the Side by Side or Chain of Strength 7"s, which would produce a weepy, sloppy nostalgia -- and when I met some hot straight edge girl from Connecticut and pretended I was still really into it long enough to fail to seduce her.

Now? Well, I wish I'd kept the records around long enough to get into the eBay era -- the Straight Ahead 12" would be a good debt reducer. And, obviously, looking through the old photos is funner than shit. There's an optimism and innocence that I envy now, a certainty that things were great and were always going to be that way, that would occasionally be nice. In them, I've got the joyous smile of someone who's never awakened after six hours of white wine-drinking, someone who thinks the "I'm always gonna be straight... like... an... arroooooooow!" line from Up Front's "Deliverance" is COOL, and sings along lustily. But what can you do? It's Friday night now -- off to get drunk!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Robert Mitchum

I vowed I was going to do one post per day this week, to get my average a bit higher, but today apparently marks the kickoff of allergy season, and I've been devoting all my attention to a nose that's been running like the Chattahoochee and a head that's .... really in unpleasant shape. Claritin has not made any dent. To add to the fun, I head for work in about 6 minutes.

So while I started a longer post, one that's a bit of a trip down memory lane, it'll have to wait until the world sorts itself out a bit.

In the meantime, the following literary conversation, with a fellow patron at the place where I had dinner, as I was reading the Greene biography:

Acid Casualty: Is that guy as good as Raymond Chandler?

Greg: Well, uh. Um. Totally different writers, really different styles. But yeah, I like this guy better.

AC: Fuck, man, Dashiell Hammett -- "Red Harvest"? You ever read that? Completely fucked me up.

GD: Yeah, I've read that, I lik....

AC: Completely amoral! Nothing like it. Man, I was watching this film noir movie the other day -- and Robert Mitchum? He got busted for smoking a joint in 1949, and you see the pictures of him being booked -- he's a badass.

GD: (Giant cartoon question marks appearing above head)

AC: I don't know why they keep remaking movies. When they remade "The Manchurian Candidate," that was it. I said "fuck YOU!"


AC: Robert Mitchum. Complete contempt for everyone.