Thursday, January 29, 2009

Strip It Good!

There's a common misconception among women that all men love strip clubs. Well, I'm one man that doesn't love strip clubs. I definitely don't hate them and, depending upon how much I've had to drink, I sometimes really, really, really like them. However, I don't love strip clubs.

Sure I love seeing tits and asses. Sure I love seeing young ladies humiliate themselves. But, the Internet can provide that without the puritanical laws that our beloved go go bars are held to. And human contact from naked girls? Well, that's nice, but there's a lot that comes along with it.

You have to be around said naked girls. Regardless of what they look like, they are strippers. They're the types of girls that go on shows like Rock/Flavor/Shot of Love, The Bachelor, and every other televised mecca for idiotic whores. Needless to say, they're not the sharpest heels on the shoe tree. For the most part, hearing them speak is like hearing nails on a chalkboard.

They always go on and on with their justifications for why they get nude for food. They're earning money to pay for grad school or law school or med school. They're raising seed capital to found a charity that helps children with cleft lips learn to smile. They're writing a dissertation on gender roles in post-feminist American society. They're trained actresses doing research for a Brechtian play about the burlesque arts of the twenties. Spoiler Alert - they're not.

When you speak with these "brilliant saints", you eventually discover that, at the ripe age of 21, they have eleven kids with thirteen different men. Or, they have a troubling addiction to a combination of Tylenol PM cut with Crystal Meth and chased with computer dust remover. Or, they dropped out of school at 12 and are too lazy to get a job that doesn't involve showing gash for cash.

In addition to being sub-par conversationalists, the ladies smell. That's right, these perfect specimens of the female form are malodorous. Makes sense - they're dancing around all night with their genitals hanging out. F.O. (Female Odor) is eventually going to rear it's ugly head. The ladies know this. So, they wear stripperfume.

Stripperfume is this strange scent that is seemingly only worn by exotic dancers. It's a rancorous mix of begonias, sweat, cigarettes, and bodily fluids. Quite simply, it smells like stripper. It hurts my nose and it makes me sneeze. By far the worst thing about stripperfume is that anytime you're within twenty feet of it, it sticks to your clothes and body and keeps you smelling of stripper for days. If you have a significant other, there is absolutely no way to hide the fact that you've been at a strip club. Not good.

Spolier Alert #2 - Strippers don't really like us. They just want our money. That's fine. They're capitalists like myself. Still, it's annoying when they're constantly asking you to buy them something or to give them cash for nothing. I have a wife at home for that. It's also annoying when you give in and get a private dance and there's a large man watching your hands and the dancer is watching her watch and you're watching your wallet. That's not titillating OR private.

Despite the strippers, a strip club could be lots of fun. Unfortunately, the proprietors of these establishments do everything in their power to keep that from happening. They charge exorbitant amounts of money for everything you could possibly consume. There's a strip club tax that adds at least 200% to the price of everything. A Beer is $14. A mixed drink is $25. ATM fees are $12. Nachos are $37.

No matter how much you spend though, you're still a second class citizen unless you have an expense account or a Middle Eastern friend, enabling you to get bottle service, go into the champagne room, or take home a stripper. If you don't have an expense account or a Middle Eastern friend, there's no reason to spend this kind of money at a titty bar. You will not have more fun. You will just be angry in the morning.

Strip clubs also have horrible DJs who are complete assholes that incessantly talk in that stupid strip club DJ drone and play cheesy music that no self respecting human should have to be subjected to during a military standoff, let alone a night out. Strip clubs also have strip club regulars - guys that go to these places every night and think they're something special for it. Look, you didn't solve Fermat's Last Theorem, you frequent a place called Teasy McDryhump's. Stop being a dick!

Occasionally, the strip clubs get visits from civilians. These are women that don't work there, but they think they're being so sexy and cool by going there. Spoiler Alert #3 - they're not. We like to go to strip clubs by ourselves, then go home and bang you. When you're there with us, you're an annoyance, not an added benefit. Although you act like you love it, you're just there to make sure we're not being too bad and to ease your paranoia when we're there alone in the future.

These are the same girls that take stripper exercise classes and have stripper poles in their houses, thinking we'll be turned on by them. We're not. Leave stripping to the professionals and relish your role as an amateur. Some guys, myself included, like amateurs better. We would rather see amateurs getting slutty at a regular bar than pros at the strip club. We would rather see natural boobs flop around National Geographic-style than lumps of of silicone standing in one place like Play-Doh. We would rather get suckered out of money with a marriage certificate than a strip club admission hand stamp.

So, with all the crap attached to it, you may ask why I ever go to strip clubs. Well, it's a rite of manhood. It's a bonding experience for guys to concurrently expose their sublimated misogyny in a controlled environment. Strip clubs allow us to add to our JOMB (jerk off memory bank) after we've exhausted the annals of the Internet. Strip clubs are a reminder of what we are or aren't missing by being in a committed relationship. It's fun to be in a place where no matter how obnoxious you are, you're not as obnoxious as the DJs or strip club regulars. It's fun to look at naked women, regardless of my aforementioned complaints. Plus, those $37 nachos are pretty damn good. Come to think of it, I do love strip clubs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jammin' On The One

Denver, for all intents and purposes, is the Jam Band Capital of the World. I, like anybody with an iota of taste, knows that's nothing to be proud of. Still, it's better than being The Old Person Capital of the World like Miami of The Douchebag Capital of the World like LA.

On any given night in The Mile High City (emphasis on high), we host at least a dozen bands that the mainstream music community has never heard of or has chosen to ignore (rightfully so). These are not critical darlings that just haven't gotten their day in the sun. These are lame hippie throwbacks that, if we were guided by a merciful god, wouldn't see the light of day. They're the jam bands.

They play bluegrass and funk and jazz fusion and smooth jazz and whitewashed reggae and whitewashed blues and John Denver-esque folk and Bachman Turner Overdrive-esque rock. They play for 6 hours and complete no more than 4 or 5 songs. If their songs have lyrics, they're either vapid or ridiculous. They noodle and meander and attempt to make music. For the most part, they fail, delivering cacophonous noise that doesn't belong on the sound system in a head shop let alone on a stage. They defend their trash by calling it a jam.

Reminds me of a joke Jerry Garcia once told me: What's the difference between marmalade and jam? You can't marmalade your dick up an ass. Anyway...

The Grateful Dead is the grandfather of the jam band scene. Phish is the heir apparent. Widespread Panic is the red-headed stepchild. Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson are the young cousins. There are a whole bunch others that are less ubiquitous - The String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, Moe, The Motet. Yup, they sound as lame as their names.

Believe it or not, I actually like The Dead. I even spent a summer or four on tour with them. Yes, I was young and stupid. Still, it was a great way to get laid, to do drugs, and to shirk responsibility. However, back then, the scene was different. The Dead was the scene. Now, it's evolved so far beyond The Dead that most Deadheads wouldn't even recognize the brown acid and glass bongs that these jam banders are sporting.

By far, the worst part of the Jam Band scene is the people. They're the bohemian bourgeois, which is essentially a paradox. The want to be liberally idealistic, but they're extremely materialistic. They want to take road trips, but they want to do it in Land Rovers. They claim to be environmentally conscious, but they engage in irresponsible consumerism and waste. They think that "being green" is the same as "smokes a lot of pot". They're the trustafarians that squander their parent's money. They're the yuppies that don't want to admit they've sold out.

Most of the guys look like the lead singer of The Spin Doctors. Most of the women look like the lead singer from The Black Crowes. They don't wear deodorant. It's not an accident or a moral stance. It's a fashion statement. Same goes for female underarm hair and and male dreadlocks. And the clothes? They travel the world (with their parent's money, of course) so they can get Guatemalan sweat pants or African dashikis. They're like d├ębutantes that travel to Paris or Milan in search of haute couture dresses.

They claim to be tolerant, but they're extremely judgmental. If you're not like them, they'll shun you. They frown upon individuality and they all try to be the same. Douchebags are douchebags whether they wear knit hats or baseball caps. Airheaded hos are airheaded hos whether they wear sundresses or sorority sweatshirts. They all exist to get wasted, to hook up, and to make bad decisions. In a scene that preaches peace and love, you'd be surprised by how many fights break out at jam band shows. You'd be surprised by how many non-peaceful chemicals like crystal meth and cocaine are consumed. You'd be surprised by the hypocrisy and misogyny that exists.

I don't have delusions that the Summer of Love hippies were all that great. I understand that hippie and morally corrupt often go hand in hand. Still, these jam band kids piss me off. They take otherwise good bands and destroy them (The Flaming Lips, My Morning Jacket, Ween). They even destroyed a great band, The Jam, by adding negative connotations to their name. Their patronage of shitty acts keeps decent acts from getting stage time. Their obnoxious attitudes and greedy sensibilities make those of us that are actually disenfranchised and anti-establishment look bad.

I know there are lots of good people in the jam band scene too. They're just outnumbered by the rest. Chances are you'll see me at a hippie bar or a jam band show in the near future. Despite all my disdain for this scene, it's still better than going anywhere that plays techno or serves tapas. Plus, in Denver, I have nowhere else to go. Jam on, brothers and sisters!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Nose

At first glance, most people assume I was born with an abnormally shaped nose. They assume that I, like Owen Wilson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zach Braff, and other rhinitically-challenged folks, came from the womb with a natural nasal flaw that separates me from my normal-nosed brethren. Well, they're wrong.

I was born with a perfect nose. My nose was so perfect, in fact, that some thought it was blessed. Others thought it was magical. It's been said that my nose's perfection was capable of curing incurable ails. It's been said that my nose's perfection could make grown men weep. Gawkers would come from all over the world just for a peek at my beautiful beak. Obviously, though, my powerful proboscis is merely a memory now.

You see, even though I was blessed with a super snout, I still had to get an education like everybody else. I still had to pal around with peasants and I still had to live in a world where imperfection exists. Such is life. Along with my perfect nose, I had a big mouth. And, I liked to use that mouth quite a bit. I would talk shit. I would make fun of people. I would start fights. Then, just as I was about to get my ass kicked, my aggressor would get a glimpse of my magnificent muzzle and would retreat. This lasted through grade school, summer camp, and high school. Then, I went to college.

I thought I was going to an Ivy League college. Unfortunately, the admissions committees at those universities couldn't see my nose in the application. I should have attached a picture, but I didn't. So, when I got rejected from every Ivy, I went to the only school that had a one page application and would accept late applicants - The University of Wisconsin. Coming from Miami, I had no idea how cold it was there. Still, I went.

Throughout the Fall semester, I was my usual asshole self, but my nose kept me out of harm's way. Then, come Winter, something horrible happened. It was a drunken night. I'd met a cute girl at the bar. I knew that she had once urinated on my friend's bed, but I didn't care, I was about to get laid. So, The Urinator and I left the bar. We bundled up because it was so fucking frigid outside. I even covered my nose. Big mistake!

Walking home, we came upon three UW football players that I had provoked the night before. I'm not sure how they recognized me with my nose covered, but they did, and they wanted a piece of me. One grabbed my hair, the other grabbed my arms, and the other took aim at my face with a huge corn-fed fist. Boom! I was knocked out. When I awoke, the football players were gone and so was The Urinator. I was lying in the street, afraid for what kind of damage was done to me. I at least hoped the scarf over my nose had protected my best asset.

Slowly, I removed the scarf and felt around. Blood was everywhere and I could tell that my nose was fucked up. How fucked up I did not know. I nervously limped back to my dorm to find a mirror. What I saw was not pretty. My face was literally rearranged. My nose was dangling from the side of my right cheek. I looked like a Picasso and not in a good way. Because I was a dick and my nose could no longer do my bidding for me, I couldn't find anyone to take me to the hospital. So, I took a cab, alone. The doctor said he'd never seen anything like it.

Next thing you know, I was having plastic surgery, specifically rhinoplasty. It was the most painful shit ever. For some reason, the anesthesia didn't work while they rebroke my nose over and over (like I owed them money), they packed my sinuses with 30 feet of gauze (imagine the worst sinus headache you've had multiplied by 30), and they sculpted my cartilage and bone like it was clay (except clay doesn't have nerve endings). It would have been worth it if my nose would be back to its former glory. It wouldn't. My nose would always be a little bit off, even if the healing went well. It didn't.

After the surgery, I returned to school. I still had a big mouth except now, my nose couldn't protect me. Plus, all swollen and pathetic, I looked like an easy target. Every time I opened my mouth, I got punched in the nose. I wouldn't turn my music down in the middle of the night, so my meek neighbor punched me in the nose. I made fun of a Russian guy for being Russian (even though I'm actually of Russian lineage), so the Russian guy punched me in the nose. I complained that my sub was taking too long to make, so a Subway Sandwich Artist punched me in the nose. Soon, it was an epidemic. Everybody I'd piss off decided to punch me in my recovering nose.

Eventually, I figured out how not to get my proboscis punched. It was too late though. All of the nasal knocking during my healing process left me disfigured. Now, Instead of looking like a Greek god, I look like Karl Malden. Instead of charming people with my olfactory organ, I scare them. It's sad. Plus, I have sinusitis and I snore.

Is there a lesson to be learned from this story? Well, I guess you can say that if you have something great, don't put it at risk. Or, stay out of Wisconsin. Or, don't talk shit. Anyway, now you know why I have a big, crooked, hook nose more befitting of a Jew than my god-given schnozz.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Greed and Sloth

It was 1995. I was fresh out of college and I was living in New York. Because the economy was almost as bad as it is now, I couldn't find a real job. Plus, I really didn't like working. So, I got a gig bartending at a Mexican joint in Hell's Kitchen. It was called El Azteca, which I think is roughly translated to The Aztec.

People liked me there because I didn't know how to bartend and subsequently, I made ridiculously strong margaritas. Once word of my ineptitude got out to the alcoholics in the neighborhood, I had a steady stream of regulars. One of those regulars was a guy named Dan.

Dan was about 40. He said he had a hot girlfriend (despite the fact that I never saw her at the bar). He said he was really rich (despite the fact that he spent his days at a shitty bar in Hell's Kitchen). He said he was best friends with disgraced football star Mercury Morris (I didn't know who Mercury Morris was, but Dan said he was pretty cool). Dan tipped me well and he seemed to be an alright guy.

One day, he made me an offer. No, it wasn't a proposition for gay sex. It was, as Dan said, the opportunity of a lifetime. He said that he laundered money for the mafia and, because I seemed like I could be trusted, I could get involved and make some serious greenbacks (yes, he said greenbacks). All I had to do was give him my money, let him launder with it for a week and then he would return with double the money. After pondering the prospect for a while, I figured what the hell and I gave him my tips for the night. Sure enough, a week later, he returned with double my tips.

I was stoked. How lucky was I to meet up with this guy that could make me rich without having to do a thing? I figured this would be my job. I'd be a money launderer. I could do this for a year or so and I'd retire to the beach at 24 without ever having to get a real job. So, when my parent's rent check arrived (yes, my parents were still paying my rent), I cashed it and gave the proceeds to Dan. If all went according to plan, I'd have double my money back just in time to to pay my landlord and then I'd reinvest the rest.

A week later, I anxiously waited for Dan to arrive with my cash. He didn't. I called him and he told me he'd meet me somewhere. He didn't show. Then, he apologized and told me to meet him somewhere else. He didn't show again. This cat and mouse game continued for a a while. Eventually, Dan disappeared. So did my money. I never did meet Mercury Morris either.

I got conned. Sure it was only $1000, but when you're 23 in Manhattan and you all you can afford are generic cigarettes and Ramen noodles, it hurts. AND, I had to listen to my dad call me an idiot when he cut me another check so I wouldn't get evicted.

In retrospect, I don't blame Dan. I blame myself. I wanted money, but I didn't want to work for it. My judgment was blurred and I trusted a person and a concept that shouldn't have been trusted. I fell victim to my own greed and sloth. It sort of reminds me of the current state of our economy...

Over the past decade or so, a lot of things occurred that made it easy to make money without having to do much. The mortgage industry was deregulated, while real estate prices went through the roof. If you had half a brain, you could buy a house, then flip it and make a tidy profit. Or, you could get a job in brokerage or construction or anything else necessary to support the real estate boom.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence reached record highs and the stock market saw record gains. Credit card companies gave away credit with reckless abandon and hedge funds invested with reckless abandon. Yes, it was a time of endless opportunities. The problem was that most of the people that took advantage of these opportunities were not hard workers. They were lazy, but they wanted to be rich, or at least live like it.

When I was growing up, there was a very clear differentiation between the classes. If you worked hard (or you were born right, married right, or got lucky), you were rich. Everybody else was either middle class or poor. The rich people had nice cars, nice houses, designer clothes, and vacation homes. Everybody else didn't. Over the past decade or so, that changed. The rich, the middle class, and the poor, had the same things. The class lines had blurred.

College kids were driving Audis and BMWs. White trash resided in million dollar homes with state of the art home theaters. Bottle service was the de facto way to drink and high priced clubs in Vegas were the only place to drink. Every dude had a Panerai on his wrist and every chick had a diamond tennis bracelet on her wrist. Everybody summered in Ibiza or The Hamptons and everybody stayed at boutique hotels or in beach front vacation homes. It was like communism except everybody had money. Unfortunately, none of it was real. It was the result of undeserved wealth resulting from unbridled greed and sloth.

We all remember when the shit hit the fan. People stopped being able to pay their mortgages, which led to the fall of our financial institutions, which led to the tightening of credit, which led to the inability of consumers to spend, which led to record unemployment, which which led to the drop in the stock market, which led to trillions of dollars of lost wealth (it's a rough summation, I'm not an economist). Essentially, everybody got conned. None of the prosperity of the past decade or so was real, but we wanted to wanted to believe it was. Now, we're going to have to collectively listen to our dads call us idiots while they cut us new rent checks.

So what's going to happen? Well, the American economy is going to reset. No longer will everybody be rich. As more and more Madoff-esque hedge funds are exposed to be frauds that relied on America's false prosperity, even the rich won't be rich. Then, everybody will have to start over. The people who work hard are going to rise to the top. Those who are lazy will sink to the bottom. We'll all settle in to our respective places in society.

Our country is a meritocracy. If you want things, you gotta work for them. There's no free lunch (except from the Hare Krishnas, but then you have to talk to those freaks). If you want to sling margaritas at a bar in Hell's Kitchen, that's fine. Just don't expect to have an apartment that's featured on Cribs or a car that costs more than a house. Greed and sloth are a bad combination. If you want to have money, you gotta get off your fucking ass!

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there will be another bubble or another ponzi scheme or another wave of unreal prosperity that will allow us to slide back into our riches. Who knows what the new year will bring? Still, if I were a betting man (which I am), I would bet that the easiest way to get rich in "The New New New Economy" will be to get a good job, work hard at it, and save as much money as you possibly can. Or, you could wait for a guy named Dan to give you the opportunity to launder money for the mob.