Stories and Spiels by Brian Costello

51. Fifty-One Fun Things Adjunct Professors Can Do During the Month(s) of Brokeassuary!

Hey hey, fellow Adjunct Professors! Whelp, it’s that time of year. That’s right: Brokeassuary! It’s when there’s still another six weeks or so until school starts up again, and the money you saved last Spring and Fall is gone, and it’s rice and beans for lunch and dinner—today, and everyday! Aren’t you glad you busted your ass to get a Master’s Degree, and aren’t you glad your employer is all like “Benefits, schmenefits?” Yeah. Me too.
But it’s not all bad. Sure, you’re drowning in insane debt—which is the price you pay in this country for trying to better yourself if you’re not born rich—your credit score is tanking because of all the unpaid bills, and any other potential employers think you’re “overqualified” because of that goddamn Master’s Degree, but hey: Knock off alla that “stinkin’ thinkin’!” Brokeassuary can be great fun, with the right attitude.
I’m here to help, Professor Brokeass. I’m here to help you survive Brokeassuary, and not only that—I’m here to help you find some enjoyment during this difficult time. So without any further ado, here are Fifty-One Fun Things Adjunct Professors Can Do During the Month(s) of Brokeassuary. Enjoy! Smiley face emoji! Thumb’s up emoji! American flag emoji!
1. Fill your empty shampoo bottle with water so you get an extra couple-two-tree days out of it. Yay! Fun!
2. Laugh heartily at the “crusty punk” sitting outside the Food Smart who calls you a “rich yuppie” because you can’t afford to give him the change he needs in order to attain a higher level of drunkenness.
3. Sell off all your favorite records, CDs, and books. You don’t deserve them, you lazy piece of shit. What did you ever do, besides get published, tour, work hard at things that don’t pay very much? Not a goddamn thing, Professor Bitchnmoan.
4. Learn to love Ramen.
5. Patiently explain to “Patricia” from Mumbai why you fell behind on your credit card payments.
6. Train a fleet of pigeons to send your oh-so-important texts to your friends, because your phone will be turned off.
7. Be delighted that your bank charges you a “service fee” of $15 if you don’t direct deposit at least $1500 in a month.
8. Go to job interviews, get interviewed by some Millennial dork who wants the workplace to be all “quirky” and shit, because that doesn’t feel forced, and as spontaneous as the cicada mating cycle. (“What?! It’s ‘Fake Moustache Friday!’ Oh, how fun! This is nothing like my grandpa’s old fart workplace!”)
9. Smile! (Why the hell not?)
10. Lose weight! Learn to live without so much food.
11. Politely explain—when those 2 or 3 figure freelance/odd jobs checks finally arrive—that you’re drinking PBR or Hamms not because you’re “a hipster,” but rather, it’s all you can fucking afford, you yelping piece of shit.
12. Look forward to dying penniless, if this shit keeps up.
13. Dog food, with what’s left of that Sriacha sauce you still have in your fridge, ain’t that bad, really. While some adjuncts swear by the “Healthy Radiance with Real Salmon” Beneful brand dog food, others insist that good old fashioned canned Pedigree Meaty Ground Chicken and Rice Dinner is the way to go. It really depends on your budget and your personal tastes.
14. Start a band and play shows. The “play shows” part is important. That way—you get a social life of sorts. You get a couple free drinks from the bar, and maybe somebody in the audience will enjoy the music you’re playing, and will offer you a drink. Then maybe you’ll meet someone who’s attracted to you, and sees your poverty not as the result of teaching at the collegiate level, but more because you’re an “artist,” an artist way ahead of his time and therefore beyond the comprehension of contemporary society. Own that shit, Van Gogh.
15. Sleep a lot. You might have dreams about working for a place that actually values, respects, and appreciates you.
16. Laugh what’s left of your ass off when some twitty-twat douche friend of yours wants to dismiss what you’re going through as—heh heh—“first world problems.”
16a. Don’t punch them in their stupid face.
17. Remind yourself that it will get better, somehow. Brokeassuary doesn’t last forever.
18. Eat a bag of dicks. You have no right to complain. You’re an American. Nut up, dude.
19. Watch the relationships with your loved ones strain and fray.
20. Wait for the next job interview. Brokeassuary is also the time when people who hire are on vacation. That’s great fun. Enjoy that!
21. Pretend you’re under house arrest and write your “prison memoir.” You can’t afford to leave your house anyway. Why not? “Prison memoirs” are hott and marketable. (Ever heard of a little something called “Orange is the New Black?” Hmmm?)
22. Freak out and use your debit card anyway even though it only has $5.42. “YOLO!”
23. Remember when you had money, and you bought a bunch of drinks for your friends who didn’t have money? Hey, whatever happened to those friends? FUCKING FIND THEM.
24. Remind yourself that this is all your fault. There’s no one else to blame. The policies of higher education have always been sound and logical. Education and teachers are the highest priority of this country. The school didn’t do a lousy job of finding donors, and they didn’t blow their load buying up a bunch of buildings during the housing boom of the mid-aughts. IRONY IRONY IRONY IRONY IRONY.
25. Make a “gourmet dinner” out of one bean, like they used to do in the cartoons. Wear a bib, keep the bean covered and centered on fine china (or a plate-“fine china,” you don’t have that!), raise the cover, and make a dramatic production out of cutting the bean with your fork and knife.
26. Fantasize about all the things you’ll do when you actually have money. Buy groceries. Take your girlfriend to Burger King. Pay a bill. DARE TO DREAM AND DREAM BIG
27. Buy food with a lot of spare change. It’s fun to count the spare change on the counter of the corner store. Everybody loves counting change! It’s exciting! Does he, or does he not, have enough money for a can of lentils? Drum roll, please!
28. Apply your rolling pin to your nearly empty package of toothpaste. There’s still some in there, buddy. The challenge is in getting every last bit of that toothpaste out, and challenges are fun and rewarding and they bring out the best in you.
29. Don’t get sick and/or injured and have to go to the hospital. But, if you do, you’ll get three square meals a day. So there’s that.
30. Learn to juggle. Juggling is a fun and cheap hobby. Learn to juggle all the things you do that don’t pay for shit. There are so many! OH WOW DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST DID THERE.
31. Have your friends with cable reenact the latest episodes of “your favorite shows” because of course, you can’t afford cable because you don’t deserve such a luxury you overeducated piece of shit.
32. Stand by the water faucet in your kitchen and pretend it’s the “water cooler” of an office breakroom and talk about “the big game,” or repeat incessantly the catchphrase in the latest hit comedy movie, or ape the talking point the right-wing screamy guy was all screamy about this morning…
33. Sit in the sun in the park long enough so the next time your friends see you they’ll be all like, “Hey, nice tan!”
34. Do your best to suspend your disbelief while watching “Gilligan’s Island” on MeTV.
35. Remind yourself that you’ve been through all of this before. Brokeassuary happens every year, and will continue to happen as long as you’re doing this.
36. Hang in there, buddy.
37. Accept the questionable life decisions you made, and live with the consequences.
38. Recall the good times. You’ve gotten to do a bunch of things most people never get to do, go places most people never get to go, and meet all kinds of incredible people.
39. Develop insomnia. That way, you get to experience every excruciating hour of Brokeassuary, and it will make you a stronger person. Brokeassuary builds character!
40. Take a shower and sing the Queensrhyche song “Silent Lucidity” like the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn.
41. Porky Pig it, in terms of your dress, or lack thereof. It’s Brokeasuary! Who do you got to be profesh for?
42. Write a screenplay about a “nerdy teen girl” who is lonely and awkward and bookish who turns into a “beauty queen” when she loses those glasses. See if Zooey Deschanel (that fucking nerd) will be down to take part in this project.
43. Get together with Mary to get serious about the Chicago-themed She and Him cover band called “Dis Guy and Dat Gal.”
44. Still remain perplexed as to why they called that movie, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” Shit makes no sense.
45. Develop a witty catchphrase like, “I can’t do that because I have no money.”
46. Have an opinion on the daytime talk shows, and be unafraid to verbalize your opinions, even if no one’s around to agree or disagree with you.
47. Dance like no one’s watching! No. Don’t do that.
48. Figure your shit out, dude. Seriously. Nobody wants to read whiny crap like this. Nobody.
49. Take up stick whittling, chaw chewin’, and idle gossip. (If you live in the South.)
50. Rebrand yourself, but don’t tell anybody you’re rebranding yourself, because nobody likes that word. “Rebrand.” Barf.
51. “Have a good time, all the time.”—Sir Mick Shrimpton.

50. “Get in the Ford F150…and stay there!” Another Oh-So-“Ha”larious Tour Diary

Dear Diary:
You know how I’ve always dreamed of loading out behind a club in an alley in Wichita, Kansas next to a large puddle of vomit right by the van backdoors and everything? Well…that dream finally came true!
Yes, Diary, the college kids of Wichita sure love their drinkees. Needless to say, it makes them witty, charming, and a delight to be around. Coors Light is a magical, magical thing…that’s for sure.
Anyway. To start at the beginning of the journey: We left Chicago around 9AM and drove straight through. It took about 11 hours. The Middle West right now looks all Field of Dreams and shit…you look out on all those rolling corn and soybean fields and half expect Ty Cobb to poke out his head and give you “the finger.” At first I felt a little bummed to be doing nothing but driving and sitting in a van doing nothing but scarfing down Cheddar Cheese Chomperz or whatever the hell junkfood I had for lunch, but then I realized that going on a nice long drive is exactly what I want to be doing. I hate Chicago this time of year. You can never underestimate how little I give two runny malt liquor shits from the ass of a trustafarian krusty bumming change in front of the 7-11 about Pitchfork. Now until Labor Day, Chicago is just a shit show of tourists, lunatics, boring music festivals, and homicide. Oh, and rats…
So yeah–sitting in a van redolent of smoky mesquite flatulence beats the same old b.s. back home. Plus, I get to play on my birthday, and there isn’t much I’d rather be doing on my birthday. I’ve played on my birthday a few times in the past–my 18th was at the Wekiva Cove Clubhouse back home in the Springs of Altamonte, my “thirtysomethingth” birthday was in Pittsburgh one time. It’s nice. So yeah–this birthday–I’m in Wichita for the very first time. We’ll get to stay there for five hours before we have to leave and drive straight back. (As the funny bumpersticker says: “Work sux, but I need the bux.”)
We played the Wichita Psychedelic Festival. We played outside on a stage in front of a large patio with tables and chairs and benches and an outdoor bar. It was a nice mix of carefree college kids, townies, music fans. All the tribes of musical sub-genres all hung out together, it seemed, as it usually goes in smaller towns. Nobody used the term “normcore,” and that in and of itself was refreshing as fuck. There was a dude there that used to work at Delilah’s, so we told stories from “those days,” the ones we can remember anyway. I can’t really remember any stories from the times I used to go to Delilah’s, because BOOZE! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHMAN!
Played the set. The drums and cymbals were singing, even if I can’t afford a new drumhead for my rack tom and it sounds like paper. At one point, I informed the audience that it was my birthday. Please buy me a shot. They just smiled and mouthed “Happy birthday.” That’s not what I asked for, Kansas, but that’s ok. I didn’t need it. It was 72 degrees and everything was pretty much perfect…
The last band really drew the collegiates. They played a kind of psychedelic shoegaze disco where an acoustic guitar was playing out of a laptop and large vertical lights were in sync with the quarter notes of the bass drum pound. They covered The Stone Roses; a party brah in the audience went up front turned around to face the crowd, raised his hands in the air and flashed devil horns with both hands. Diary: THAT. WAS. AWESOME.
Then we loaded out around the aforementioned vomit. I had had a bunch of whiskey and cokes by that point and was therefore brilliant. At the very end of the night, around last call and such, it got a little bit, I dunno–douchey?–the way most bars are at last call. We had to get back on the road immediately after, and I started thinking about the scenes in “Gimme Shelter” where people are freaking out on drugs…and I thought it would be funny to act like I was having a “bad trip,” since it was a “Psychedelic Music Festival” and all. So I started laughing real loud and maniacal like, paced in circles, bugged out my eyes, took off my shirt then ran. I didn’t think I was doing a very good job of this, so I ran out back and got into the van and waited until it was time to go. Clubby club types walked past…everyone’s walking barefoot because it’s summer even if the alley is covered in puke and so much more…
Fell asleep, had ok birthday dreams revolving around the theme of “hey, things aren’t that bad right now, ya know?” Woke up somewhere in Iowa to thousands (not literally) of wellwishers taking to social media hoping that my birthday is you know happy. Delirious from not really sleeping much, “Car Talk” was on NPR, and I started imagining what it would be like if Click and Clack hosted a sex-positive podcast instead of a radio show about auto repair. This amused me until we crossed the Mississippi.
Into the Land of Lincoln. We take 55 and get out at the California exit and go north to the practice space. The street scenes were like a montage of everything wrong with the city…sirens, accidents, arrests, shitty driving…all it needed was a flaming barrel with a bunch of bums around it singing doo-wop. Summer, late summer, is exhausting and annoying.
We drove 22 hours in about 26 hours. Everyone was teetering on incoherent exhaustion. But there was no time to sleep, Diary. It was my birthday, and I had already made plans to meet up with friends at a place that serves drinks. I walked there, listening to the Who album “It’s Hard,” and while powerwalking past the summertime idiots of Milwaukee Avenue, I remained convinced that this still wasn’t a very good album.

49. Is this, how the kids say, “YOLO?”

1. Drinking Bud Light Lime while listening to Pitbull?
2. Wearing sunglasses at the beach while dancing to that one top 40 song about having fun no matter the opinion anyone else has on the matter?
3. Sex?! (Tee-hee.)
4. Mowing the lawn on Sunday because if you don’t do it now, when are you gonna do it, Gary?
5. Telling a woman “U so fyne” on OK Cupid?
6. Getting a “handy” from a Tinder date?
7. Drinking beer to excess while discussing the highs and lows of living and loving in “this day and age?”
8. Attending a night club in the downtown area of your city, drinking Red Bull and vodka to excess, and dancing to songs in which the 4/4 beat pulses in synthetic bass quarter notes?
9. Daring to ride the “Aqua Drag Racer” at Wet n’ Wild in Orlando, Florida?
10. Asking not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?
11. Getting blacked out drunk and behaving like a lizard-brained dipshit at the Owl?
12. Waiting outside Walgreen’s before it opens on Sunday to buy a pregnancy test?
13. Pizza?!
14. Unable to hold it in any longer and crying on the shoulder of a friend at the Empty Bottle during brunch because you feel like your whole life has fallen apart?
15. Walking home from the bar, alone, convinced you are going to die alone?
16. Waking up next to someone from the bar, convinced you are going to die alone?
17. Joining in on the ol’ “Tomahawk Chop” at the Braves game?
18. Vomiting cheap beer at Riot Fest?
19. “Making eyes” at the girl working at the Sunglasses Hut in the mall?
20. Eating the final “Boneless Wing” off the plate at Applebees, after you and your co-workers did the whole “No, you eat it!” “No, you can have it!” “No, I couldn’t possibly…” “No, man, I’m full…” and here’s where you say, “OK, fine! I”ll eat it…YOLO!” ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha?
21. Running 6 miles in the park while listening to “Motoraway” by Guided by Voices and thinking, “Yes, exactly!”?
22. Daring to tell your story on Chicago’s hottest new literary reading series: “Yeast of Eden: Stories About Yeast Infections?”
23. Writing a garage rock anthem about the consumption of fast food in a party-like atmosphere?
24. Praying the rosary?
25. A hunger strike?
26. Karaokeeing the song “Hunger Strike?”
27. Farting gas created by eating Cool Ranch Doritos–too fast, too soon?
28. Ironing your “TapOut” t-shirt?
29. Getting baked and spending the day going through all the episodes of Season 3 of that TV show everybody’s talking about?
30. Shouting “Whoo!” when the band asks “How are you doing tonight?”
31. Playing in a band and telling the audience the name of your band, the city in which you live, the merchandise you have for sale, and that you have two more for ya?
32. Acting real proud that you’re from Cleveland?
33. Obama?
34. Biden?
35. Turning up “Master of Puppets” in your “souped up” Firebird?
36. Making kissy noises from the passenger side of a truck while passing the attractive woman?
37. Drive-by shootings?
38. Proudly telling me that the last book you read was the Motley Crue oral history “The Dirt?”
39. Using the term “per capita” during a bar conversation in which you compare the women of Milwaukee with the women of Chicago?
40. Tipping the Chippendale dancer by placing the currency in your mouth?
41. Leaving the kale to rot in your fridge until it smells?
42. Calling “sports talk” radio from the bar after you’ve had a few, because–goddammit!–you have an opinion on Le Bron James, and it deserves to be heard?
43. Trying to walk through the drive-thru of your local fast food restaurant?
44. Consuming a jello shot on St. Patrick’s Day, in honor of your glorious Irish heritage?
45. Using social media as a tool to you know start complainin’ about stuff?
46. Advocate the impeachment of Rahm Emanuel?
47. Voting?
48. The Peace Corps?
49. Kicking your friends’ asses at the game “Apples to Apples?”
50. Kicking your son’s ass at the basketball game “Horse?”
51. Writing an epic poem about your newborn baby?
52. Instagramming your dinner at the fancy restaurant?
53. Clipping coupons?
54. “LOLing” at the quirky wit of Groupon?
55. Taking notes while watching a Suze Orman money management lecture on public television?
56. Giving “the finger” to an authority figure when their back is turned?
57. Yelping about shit?
58. Living in a “hip” urban area and acting smug?
59. Yelling incoherent requests at the DJ at Continental at 4 in the morning?
60. Requesting that the DJ play The Misfits at Delilah’s?
61. Getting into a “YouTube hole?”
62. Classic rock?
63. Catheter commercials on MeTV?
64. Telling your Mom that you love her?
65. Planting basil?
66. Craft beer?
67. A meaningful handshake?
68. Jaegerbombs?
69. 12-grain bread?
70. The Tolstoy novel “Anna Karenina?”
71. Nature?
72. Spirituality?
73. Phrasing the answers in the form of a question on “Jeopardy?”
74. Practicing drums?
75. Paying bills on time, and even going so far as to set up an online “bill pay” system so your checking account automatically pays the bill on the day it is due?
76. Stevie Nicks solo albums?
77. Hearing the Golden Earring song “Twilight Zone” five times in one week while listening to the radio station “The Drive” and wondering why that’s happening?
78. Eating cold spaghetti-o’s right from the can.
79. Reincarnation? (WHOA DUDE)
80. Trying to play “the Purdie Shuffle” while sitting at the bar?
81. Dancing and singing along to “The Curly Shuffle?”
82. The Led Zeppelin song “Achilles Last Stand?”
83. Doing some research in order to find the best over-the-counter treatment of “athlete’s foot?”
84. Butts?

48. I Would Never Leave a Plastic Bag Filled with Dog Shit in a Red Eye Newspaper Bin

I would just like to make on thing perfectly clear: If I was walking my dog, and my dog did his “business,” and there were no garbage cans to be found on the sidewalk, and there was nothing but a Red Eye newspaper bin, there is no way I would ever in a million years simply leave the plastic bag of dog shit in said Red Eye newspaper bin.
The Red Eye provides an important service in the cause of a functioning democracy–the dissemination of important information required to keep the public informed and educated about current events that have a direct and lasting impact on their day-do-day lives–and what kind of message would I be unintentionally sending by leaving a plastic bag filled with dog shit on top of a stack of Red Eye newspapers? I suppose someone would see a direct correlation between the plastic bag of dog shit and the content of the newspaper, and that would be a terrible correlation to make, and that’s why I would never in a million years do such a thing.

And what about the loyal readers of Red Eye in my neighborhood who turn to Red Eye to get their journalistic who, what, where, when, and why? They probably wouldn’t want to grab a copy of the paper if there was a plastic bag of dog shit in the bin. They’d spend the day clueless and ignorant to what’s happening in the world they live in. They’d go an entire day without seeing those great punny headlines on their front page. It wouldn’t be right, so, again, let me just stress: I would never leave a plastic bag filled with dog shit in a Red Eye newspaper bin.

The freedom of the press is sacrosanct in this country. Without newspapers like Red Eye keeping our leaders’ feet to the proverbial fire, this would be a really messed up city filled with leaders who think they can get away with pretty much anything. I guess all I’m trying to say here is that–hey–maybe you have a dog, and–hey–maybe you’ve been in the situation where your dog does his “business” and there aren’t any garbage cans around and all there is is a Red Eye newspaper bin. I know what you’re thinking, and let me tell you: No. Don’t leave a plastic bag of dog shit in a Red Eye newspaper bin. I’m begging you. Don’t. Do. It.


47. Weekend (34 sounds)

1. Mario’s “pling-pling-pling-pling-pling-pling” footsteps in the original “Donkey Kong.”

2. Snoring (dog)

3. Snoring (human)

4. Theme to “The Love Boat”

5. Side One of the first Boston album.

5A. Tom Scholz’s pickslides–epic, powerful, hard to air-pick slide while driving

5B Brad Delp’s hitting of the high notes–epic, powerful, hard to sing if you only have a half-octave range

6. Both sides of the Ramones’ album “End of the Century”

6A The catch in Joey’s voice in the lyric “I think I may start cryin'” in “Baby, I Love You.”

6B Marky playing “behind the beat” in “Danny Says.”

6C The “Disc Jockey” in “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?”

7. Columbo stopping, turning, and saying, “Oh wait. There’s…just one more thing.”

8. Clank of dropped tools at the auto repair shop.

9. “Do you own any normal pants?”–my friend Brian, to me.

10. The swiping of a debit card at grocery stores and bars.

11. World Cup tomfoolery, on bar television.

12. “Oh, thank you very much! You’re such a nice man.”–old woman to me, after I held the door for her at Tecalitlan

13. “Aw…hahhahaha..fuck you man…”–jovial drunk guy, to his friend, at Tecalitlan

14. “30% of attendees actually made donations this year…”–report on this year’s street festivals on the news

15. Dog panting as he smiles.

16. Dog claws on hardwood floor, pacing, it seems, waiting to, you know, w-a-l-k.

17. Pop of tire, punctured by a wonderful combination of a pothole and a nail.

18. Printer shriek, printing out the estimate of getting new tires.

19. “What about ‘Tour Spiel?’“–something I yelled at the band Electric Hawk when their drummer, Noah, said that there aren’t any good songs about what it’s like to be in a band…

20. Electric Hawk, performing at the Milwaukee Avenue Arts and Crafts and Stuff Festival–“math metal”

21. Crunch of Sun Chips, chomped at a “Canada Day” party.

22. Laughter (lots and lots of…)

23. The Coldies, at Liars Club–nonstop, “bringing the heat,” like a machine…no pauses between songs.

24. Various Punk Rock Songs We’ve All Heard at Least 10 million times, but it’s not so bad to have a sense of grounding in the familiar instead of being bombarded all the time with the chaos and uncertainty of “out there,” so it’s good to be rooted in something, at Liar’s Club.

25. Elderly man on the TV commercial talking about his catheter, in a straightforward, “no nonsense” kind of manner.

26. Back-and-forth whirs of a newly-purchased desk fan.

27. Soft mumbling of man passed out on Cortland, leaning against a fence, Busch tallboy between his hands, pirated DVDs spread around him.

28. Fireworks, set off by (presumably) morons/gaping assholes, late Sunday night, for an hour or two.

29. Frozen Margs, slurped through straws.

30. Big Star, on the Ricochet’s jukebox.

31. The glug-glug of wine poured into a glass or sipped directly from the bottle.

32. The Modern Lovers, in a car stereo as the memories flood of delivering pizza 20 years ago in Orlando and getting into this album and how it made sense even if I had never been to Massachusetts by that point, but it didn’t matter because “Road Runner” and “Government Center” are as universal as they are specific…

33. The Modern Lovers, recorded live “in concert” on a stereo while talking about times I’ve tried to meet Jonathan Richman, and how contrarian he is, overall…

34. The punch of a key when you think you’re saving what was a nice little tribute to Joey Ramone and the album “End of the Century,” but it turns out you’re not saving it at all, and WordPress didn’t save the draft, and it no longer exists, and it’s impossible to get the words back, and you’re so pissed off you try to make a list of sounds you heard over the weekend but realize it sucks but you press on anyways, because you have to have something–right?–even though that Joey tribute wasn’t half-bad but no one will get to see it and don’t think about that right now because it’ll only piss you off so finish this garbage and go run then get back to work, already……jeez.

46. Zen and the Art of Running a 5K While Listening to the Self-Titled Tubeway Army Album

After last summer’s month-long tour of the western United States, I decided to get “serious” about running. The plan was to run a 5K by Thanksgiving, and slowly build up to longer distances after that (trying to run a half-marathon by Labor Day, but it’s entirely dependent on my knees and my will power, so we’ll see ’bout that..)…sitting in a minivan for hours at a time, living on not-much besides Cool Ranch Doritos and Mountain Dew (at my age) should make one reassess what he’s doing and where he’s going with his life, and that’s what happened.

It’s important to keep trying new things; can’t just be the dude always going to shows. Shows–enough shows, anyway–get to be boring, after years of it. (It’s true, kids!) Not boring, per se, but the sense of “yeah, I already know what this is like because I’ve experienced it time and time and time again since my late teens…”

So I got into running. Not sure why–it never interested me in the least before…always too “punk” to have much respect for joggers–but it happened. Lots of pleasant surprises along the way. For one thing, I tell everybody that running makes me feel the way drinking used to make me feel in my 20’s. Unstoppable. Confident. Capable of anything. I guess the major difference between the two is that, at the end of a running binge, I’m far less likely to jokingly scream “California” by Phantom Planet at the top of my lungs as I am at the end of a drinking binge. So yeah, not as, um, “charming,” when I run. It’s a ripple effect that leads to focus, drive, happiness, no matter what the hell else is going on in the remaining hours of these unreal days and nights.

But the hedonism can’t be escaped. The last time I went running in the park, a few days before we went on tour, friends were having a picnic. The first thing I drank after running 3.6 miles was a mimosa, chased by PBRs. OK, OK…the hedonism can be escaped, but why would you? Especially in the too-brief Chicago summer, where you only have so much time to get your proverbial warm weather ya-yas out before it’s cold again. 

In the minivan–all these crazy ambitions of doing triathlons and being in perfect shape and actually writing every day and finishing novels at a slightly faster pace than the cicada life cycle (hey-oh!), plowing through all 500 Library of America books and all 790 Criterion Collection movies….oh, and actually making money for a refreshing change. Thoughts like these, as we rolled through the alien Arizona countryside.

And back in town, it’s a miracle to even whittle away at any of these oh-so-grandiose ambitions. It takes the rules Ray Bradbury taped to his typewriter: 1. Work. 2. Relax 3. Don’t think. (And it also requires not closing down a 2AM bar then going to a 5AM bar, but that’s another story…) Don’t think. Be a machine. Be a….NUMANOID!

So yeah: The first Tubeway Army/Gary Numan album, the first of a series of masterpieces from 1978-1980. It’s my favorite album to go running to…all the anxiety and depression and suffering of existence melts, and I’m just another lonely android engaged in some light cardio–here we go–“down in the park.” (Zing!) Robot sweat. Robot panting. BCOZ720, gleep glop gleep glop gleep glop. Right, left, right, left, right left….at the 1.5 mile mark, there is only the present moment and nothing else except “My Love is a Liquid,” with the koan, “Did you know that friends come in boxes?” A lovely disconnect from the world at large, for 40-45 minutes, depending on how slow I’m “running ” that day. (BCOZ720 isn’t a fast runner.) Lap the double-wide stroller moms, get lapped by the fatless real athletes…“Are You Real?”   No, but that’s ok. I’m not real either.

Once, somebody in the park yelled at me, “Hey man, you’re a sick drummer!” Another time, somebody drove by and yelled, “You gotta pick up the pace! This is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s like a scene from “Full Metal Jacket!” Your yin and your yang….

Running isn’t cool. It isn’t all that interesting either. I don’t run on the street like so many others do–I don’t want to wait for traffic, don’t want to fall into a pothole. I don’t run late at night like others do; there’s just something really douchey about that. At night, you drink beer with your friends or read a book or watch a movie or whatever else people do at night (boi-yoy-yoing!). I run in the park, a robot wrapped up in his own isolation, forgetting that he’s battling with himself to screw up less–running laps in the late morning or early afternoon…an external disconnect but an internal retreat and recharge.

Someday, the desire to run year-round outside with e-z access to swimming pools and hot tubs will trump everything good about Chicago (bars, mainly, and some bands, and a couple museums, and the hockey team). Or maybe I’m married to this city, this (in the words of HST) “elegant rockpile monument to everything cruel and stupid and corrupt in the human spirit” for life, as long as I have these creative commitments that keep my heart pounding.

And the album ends with “Zero Bars,” and the 5K mark is hit, and it’s back to life, to work, to the stupid internet’s albanian fishbowl of an echo chamber, to the zero bars of the neighborhood…but the ripple effect of running provides a tremendous sense of hope, that there’s a big world out there, aside from the ever-present action and chaos of the Chicago summer, the hope and opening that music still gives me (but really did when I was younger and needed that idea of the Great Beyond outside of my Central FLA world…)…too robotic to feel self-satisfaction, but happy to be doing something new, because doing only the same things you did 5-10 years ago is a sad life and a vapid death.





45. To Do:

Drop off the Sprinter. Walk home. North on Western Avenue. Think how it would be funny to start a Descendents parody band called “Weird All.” Reject that idea. Stupid head. Listen to side one of “Let it Bleed,” but start at “Love in Vain” because you’re sick of “Gimme Shelter.” Gray old stupid Western Avenue. “The blue light was my baby. The red light was my mind.” Home. Whatever the hell that means. How did “the Stones” get to be so successful? Obsess on this. The answer is simple. They worked hard. Anyway. Home. Think about moving. But where? Idealize Florida. Remind yourself, “It’s not like that.” Try to find the beauty in this walk down Western. Fail in the attempt. Think of this quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: “If it was all bricks and concrete, pure forms of substance, clearly and openly, he might survive. It is the little, pathetic attempts at Quality that kill. The plaster false fireplace in the apartment, shaped and waiting to contain a flame that can never exist. Or the hedge in front of the apartment building with a few square feet of grass behind it. A few square feet of grass, after Montana. If they just left out the hedge and the grass it would be all right. Now it serves only to draw attention to what has been lost.” Jeez. Quit bumming yourself out. It’s just Western Avenue. “After Montana.” Post tour blahs. Deal with it. Laugh at “Live with Me.” “I got nasty habitssssuh…I take tea at three…” The traffic. The decay. Ah, yes. The eternal: “Fresh air/Times Square” debate. On “Green Acres,” it was settled simply by Eddie Albert saying, “You are my wife,” and Zsa Zsa, overwhelmed by this logic, exclaims “Goodbye, city life!” Man. What a sexist theme song. Stop at a bar. Beer. Shot. Try to read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. For all of his wisdom, his son was Commodus, the decadent emperor who began the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Therefore, how wise could Marcus Aurelius be? Maybe he just wasn’t at home enough. Can you be a shitty parent and be wise? World Cup. Eagles on the stereo. The Eagles. Ugh. But the handful of people here sing along. Tap your fingers in rhythm to “Witchy Woman,” in spite of yourself. Three women, young, to the left, talk at length about what it means if a beer is a “shandy.” Outside, rush hour. Think of the pools and the hot tubs from the tour. Recall how in one of the pools you thought, “How do I make this my life?” Another beer. Brood. Finish the beer. Walk home. Think of song titles for “Weird All.” “Suburban Gnome”? Stupid. Get that out of your head. Think deep thoughts. “I want a slice of pizza.” Great. Get home. Walk the dog already. Remind yourself that everything will be just fine. Everything will be just fine. Welcome home.

44. “Get in the Dodge Sprinter!” Tour Diary: Days 7-9

Dear Diary:

As the lady sings in the commercial: “American Mattress!” It’s great to be back sleeping on one of those. Not that Canadian mattresses were that bad–far from it–but it’s always nice to return to the familiar…America! Where the shots of liquor are more than one ounce. U!S!A! U!S!A!

Since Sunday, haven’t had much of a chance to chronicle what happened with the rest of the tour. It was a longboring drive back from Calgary; we left at 6 in the morning on Monday. The show the evening before went well, I thought. I gushed sweat, and the great thing about touring is that you can wear a shirt three or four times during three or four gigs, and it will smell wicked bad, but it just doesn’t matter, because TOURING. “Boy! Do I smell bad!” were the words that leapt from my lips to every Canadian who wanted to talk about our show, and they could not disagree. La Luz and The Blind Shake played after us, and they were (as we say here in these Middle Western United States) “aib-soh-loot-lee fuh-nah-min-ull.” We’ve played everywhere with Blind Shake, and hope we get to do so in the future, and definitely hoping to play with La Luz again as well.

There was a pig roast going on. A dude in one of the bands we played with the night before came up to us and said, “So we’re gonna go down by the river…we got some beer stashed in one of the bushes..if you wanna join us and drink some beers…it’s over by the church.” Didn’t get around to it, but I wish I had.

The show ended, I was out of money, loaded from the altitude–the altitude drunk is different than the drunk at sea level…dizzy, more out-of-it…managed to get back to the hotel…wanted to smash the hotel room. I hope I get to smash a hotel room someday. I get it. I understand why hotels got smashed by smashed “rock star” types. The show is over, and in the immortal words of HST, “It never got weird enough for me.” The come-down from performance is a strange journey…you’re supposed to shift gears and shake hands with people and not say, “I was trying to leave my body and transcend my genetics, conditioning, and psychological make up…and trying to have a little bit of fun while doing so.” I don’t know…sometimes the beer isn’t the magic it usually is…and to come down from that, and turn on the stupid TV, and fucking “Honey Boo Boo” is on, and you think, “Culture is one of our biggest exports, and this is the fucking bullshit we’re sending the world..” and yeah, I wish I could grab the TV with both arms, yank it out of the socket, open the window, and throw it and watch it fall seven stories into billions of little pieces because rock and roll and alla that.

Mary met some people in a band from Edmonton who asked, skeptically,  “What’s Chicago like?” (Images, always, Out There in the world of homicides stacked up to the Sears Tower, Al Capone, everyone eating deep dish pizza for lunch and dinner every day of the week, open warfare, death, drugs, and urban disasters on every corner…) Mary answered: “Well, it’s a really corrupt city and the corruption is in your face everywhere you go and you’re left feeling helpless to do anything about it so everybody just tries to do their own thing and to make the best of the space that’s out there to live a good life…” Something like that/pretty damn accurate.

Which mirrored my own discussions with Canadians about the problems both countries face, only in America, I feel like it’s so entrenched by history and greed that it’s hard to figure out what to do about it except focus on not being just another shithead making it worse.

Anyway. I didn’t smash the hotel room. Someday we’ll have the toonies and loonies to make that dream a reality, but not just yet…not just yet. Back on the road–bittersweet goodbye to Calgary, where they were so great to us–and back into the Alberta countryside…the sleep-inducing wheat fields…through the city of Lethbridge (remembering how I met some dude from there who said people from Lethbridge were called “Lethbians,” wocka wocka…)….through more fields and finally to the border.

Here’s the interaction between the American border patrolman and Zach after the patrolman looked over us and our passports:

Patrolman: So how was your stay in Canada?

Zach: It was fun as hell. Calgary is a great time.

Patrolman [after a pause of a couple minutes]: Welcome back. Have a great day.

…aaaand we’re back in the states! Simple as that. Our phones are back on; we’re getting texts from the past week, we can make calls again without paying out the rear end…and it’s the long drive through Montana ranch lands and small towns with “Last Picture Show” moods and desolation in the boarded up saloons and lugubrious gray silos…the endless green fields broken up by beautiful yellow “yellow mustard” fields…all we’re listening to is the podcast “How Did This Get Made?” and it’s making the time fly by for the most part….but there’s so much of Montana, and the toilets are gross and the food is snacks and lousy gas station pizza…all the running and working out of the recent months is getting negated by all this sitting around snacking on Cheddar Cheezy Ass Pringles and shit…A-Ron has the theme to “Dukes of Hazzard” stuck in his head, and I have “Hold on Loosely” by .38 Special in mine..and I’m actually seriously reflecting on the meaning of “Hold On Loosely.” “But don’t let it go/if you cling to the top there/you’re gonna lose control.” It’s Southern Zen, and it’s difficult to achieve. And the radio sucks…an endless nightmare of Christian talk radio, right-wing screaming, and young country songs…which reminds me of the next day, how we were making up a young country song in the van called “Daddy’s Cum Rag” with lyrics like “I was jerkin’ it in my 4X4/in the honkytonk parkin’ lot/usin’ good ol’ daddy’s cum rag/to catch the money shot.” For any number of reasons…jokes get raunchy after awhile when touring…Road Dawg delirium, I guess.

Stayed in a crummy hotel in Bismarck, but that’s fine since we were only there for six hours. Fell asleep on the floor listening to Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchadananda,” and all was right with my place in the world…

Bright and early in the morning–too bright, and too early, as the housekeeping lady hung out by the continental breakfast and said, “Good moorning dare den! Dare’s yoh-gurt in da fridge buh-low duh coffee maker” and the last thing I wanted to hear was anyone talking to me…grumble grumble grumble…oh, and Fox News is on! Let’s get the hell home to our Evil Motherland Chicagommorrah Illisatan!

Drove the first six hours…uneventful….we were all tired and ready to be in our own beds…with our pets and loved ones and friends and everything you miss about home. (Cue “Home Cookin’ by (hey, speaking of Canada..) The Band.) Kept listening to “How Did This Get Made?” to the point where I hated the podcast for about three hours, but then as we were getting closer to home, through the Wisconsin countryside and all these shitheads who don’t know how to drive on the highway with their stupid “I Stand With Scott” bumperstickers, I grew to enjoy the podcast again….

And then: There it was, like a beacon of hope, happiness, and liberty. No, not the Mars Cheese Castle, but the sign welcoming one and all to “The Land of Lincoln.” Oh, hello again, Gurnee! Nice to see ya, Skokie! Oh, Old Orchard Road…same as ever! Mwah! Mwah! Mwah! Then, the city–with its potholes and sense of eminent collapse…some jerk parked in front of the loading dock–some things never change–and we load in back into the dingy old practice space and the circle is pretty much completed…drop everybody off, worry that the Sprinter will run out of gas…curse the pedestrians and the bicyclists and the drivers and everybody in my way between these final few minutes and H-O-M-E…got a hero’s welcome from Baxter, dropped off my crap, then walked over to Cole’s where it was good to have shots of booze, American Shots (greater than one stinkin’ ounce), with Sara and Kristin–and even the Tamale Guy showed up!–and everybody lifted me up in the air, and walked me out onto Milwaukee Avenue and sang my favorite song, “For He’s the Jolly Good Fellow.” I love that song, and it’s the best when people sing that to me while hoisting me on their shoulders.

And, Diary, I’m going to end this chronicle with that image in your head. Roll the credits. Thanks for listening. Sorry so sloppy. Until next the next tour…stay metal. xoxoxo–Coz

43. “Get in the Dodge Sprinter.” Tour Diary: Day 6

Dear Diary:

Touring is tough. Case in point: I only got 15 minutes into the film “Shall We Dance” before we had to leave for the “gig.”

From what I understand in what I’ve seen of it thus far, Richard Gere plays a Chicago lawyer type who rides the el and has thoughts about how dissatisfied he is with everything. He walks into a dance studio, where he falls in love with Jennifer Lopez. He wants to learn to dance, but I suspect he wants to get into Jenny-from-the-Block’s danskins. But I don’t know if that happens. Maybe he realizes he’ll never be a dancer and Jennifer Lopez is “out of his league,” and he goes back to being a lawyer and learns to accept his fate. NO SPOILERS PLEASE.

Fortunately, the “gig” was worth the sacrifice of not knowing what happens with “Shall We Dance.” We’re now at the point where the locals are getting to know us and they’re buying us drinks. Which is good, in some ways, but bad in others….the altitude gives me a kind of dizzy/drunk….I walked past three members of the band at some point on the street and didn’t even realize they were there and yelling my name. But that doesn’t matter, in terms of playing…the only mistake I made was banging my fingers on the floor tom. We went on at one in the morning and even got an “Encore!” It didn’t get dark until 11, so it didn’t seem that late. The dizzy/drunk hits me more in my interactions…I just kinda nod a lot and go “Yeah…yeah…yeah!” to people who want to “talk shop” about music.

Almost into Road Dawg stage….where I really don’t give a shit about anything except playing….when reflection like this is impossible and somewhat pointless..(“Dear Diary: Today I ate Fritos for lunch, used my drink tickets to drink PBR and sat there waiting to play. This is the exact same thing that happened yesterday, and the day before, and the day before…”)

After the show, some dude asked me, “Do you believe in the message that your lyrics are expressing?” Me: “That the cheap narcissism of this age hinders each and every one of us from attaining the profound knowledge that we come from star-stuff borne out of the Big Bang? Sure!” OK…wasn’t that articulate about it…not that what I just wrote was all that articulate either…but I think I conveyed it to him somehow, since he asked.

But anyway: “Shall We Dance.” Jerks like Richard Gere’s character are everywhere in Chicago. They have a sad because they’re successful yet unfulfilled…so they start book clubs, or learn to play the lute at the Old Town School of Folk Music or go on pub crawls….I hope Gere doesn’t get to “bone” J-Lo, and I hope he injures his ACL while trying to learn to dance. That sounds like the perfect movie for my demographic of one.

Anyway…thoughts of my homeland, from which I am currently exiled. Will my country be the same when I return? As the Buddhists say, “You never cross the same river twice.” Will the gang at Cole’s Bar be the same…will they recognize me? This might be the Tim Horton’s “double-double” talking, but how will America receive me when I go back? How will I receive America? America…America….America.

I can’t/mustn’t think about that right now. One more show here in Calgary, and it’s a good ‘un. Playing with La Luz and Blind Shake. There will be karaoke afterwards. I will sing “Rio” by Duran Duran in Canada. A dream…fulfilled.

And then we leave early in the morning….I need to get off this computer and do some serious hot tubbing before I undertake today’s glorious adventures. Talk soon, Diary. xoxoxo–Coz

42. “Get in the Dodge Sprinter!” Tour Diary: Day 5

Dear Diary:

I am having a most difficult time trying to pass myself off as a cowboy here in Calgary. Sometimes, a Calgarian doesn’t cotton to my yellow gym shoes, bright green chino pants, and this red Dragon Sound t-shirt. But maybe it’s just as well…during Shannon and the Clams’ set, Shannon told everyone that we can wear whatever we want. I needed to hear that, Diary. I was getting my fair share of “guff” from some of these Canada people…ironically enough, from punk rockers, especially. But anyway…

Fun show last night. Back at the old folks’ home with the bingo board and the shuffleboard markings on the floor…Before Shannon and the Clams, La Luz played. Knowing how to play your fucking instrument makes all the difference. La Luz knows how to play their fucking instruments. The keyboard player wasn’t there, but it still worked out just fine. They even managed to get a “Soul Train Line Dance” going for one of their songs. I gladly took part in that moment. Are they my favorite “new” band? Yes!

Before this, we played in the afternoon for a very receptive audience. I was trying to have an out-of-body experience during the set–because, well…when in Canada…”yolo”…—and while that didn’t happen, it still managed to work out. Jason Lee was there again, wearing a “Canadian tuxedo” and everything. I guess he likes our band? Overall, we were locked in, even crammed in with the amps quiet and far apart and difficult to hear. If it’s a choice between playing for people who aren’t paying attention and walk out of the bar while you play, or people who pay attention and yell “Whoo!” at just the right times, I prefer the latter. But that’s just me.

Walked up and down/round and round Calgary. It has been raining a lot, but it’s like the Florida twenty-minutes-then-it’s-done-and-now-it’s humid rain. Construction everywhere. A boomtown. Canadians…Canadians…everywhere you look. It won’t get dark here until 11 o’clock tonight…hey, happy summer solstice, you old Diary sonofabitch!

Onto more important things: I ate my first meal at Tim Horton’s today. The grilled cheese was melted to perfection, the chips were nice and crunchy, and the coffee was bold and filled with caffeine. Had big plans for today…driving west to Banff or Canmore to look at some mountain ranges and shit…but the night went on a little too late and the best I could manage was the walk to Tim Horton’s, and a later trip to a food mart.

The hot tub was pleasant. Only one jet works, but no matter. The big hot tub reflection of the day was: Why did I want to have an out-of-body experience so damn bad? And what would I do if I left my body in the middle of the set? Where would I go? Banff? Canmore? Boston Pizza? I don’t know, Diary…..Only in Canada, as they say. Only in Canada.

With the natives, we talked about stuff like Farenheit and Celsius. I feel just like Yakov Smirnoff! “What a country!” indeed!

We play tonight at 12:30. I’ll be too tired to have an out-of-body experience by that point, and if it started to happen, I’d want to stay inside my body. I”m no longer interested in having that happen. I expect it to be a fun night, regardless.

That’s all I got for now, Diary. There’s a business here called “Great Pizza.” It’s a lot to live up to, and I hope to check it out and see if it lives up to its name. When I do, I’ll tell you all about it.




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