into the arms of america

You know you’ve been working too hard when you get more excited about the errands you’ll run on your day off than the parties you’ll attend. Which is how Friday started: running to the bank for quarters, starting a load of laundry, picking up fifty dollars in dry cleaning (one suit, three pants, two button shirts, three polo shirts), swapping a load of laundry, going to the library, whoops!, strike that, library’s closed on the 3rd of July, mailed a package at the post office, got my laundry. Made a very light lunch.

Then I went to Joanna’s annual Independence Day barbecue – a day early, but we all had the day off, or took it – just ahead of some rain clouds. They followed me all the way to Porter Square, no matter how fast I walked. I came in on a foursquare game that was just wrapping up and Joanna’s roommate Matt stringing an impromptu tarp over the grill, lashed between the fire escape and one of the fences. Some of us hung out inside and drank, listening to Serpico talk about parties in Jersey, until the rain let up. I had a few hot dogs, Katie S’s brother (never did catch his first name) confused me with Robert Parish (“CHIEEEF” he yelled, once or twice), Sylvia stole my camera and we ran out of peanut butter cups but hey, it’s okay with me.

Ended up at 90s Night, as always. I picked Meghan O’ up from the bar at ImprovBoston, having a beer and chatting up the night staff. The Harold show let out a little after 10:30, so I said hi to cast and audience. As such, we got to Allston later than I might have liked and ended up waiting in line. DJ Phatmike couldn’t do anything for us – the cops were out in force for the long weekend, and headcount was tight – but the queue moved at a reasonable clip. I met Flannery’s mythical husband Nate and her friend Martha, and I didn’t miss “Flagpole Sitta,” and I never have a bad time there anyway.

And that’s just Friday. Did I mention the weather was gorgeous?

it’s been a year or two since I was out on the floor

I can no longer stay up past 2:00 AM two nights in a row.

I tried this weekend: dancing at Common Ground on Friday with Sylvia, Joanna’s roommate, Rachel and Caitlin’s friend Andrea. I also went out on Saturday when Megan and Amy put out a call for Phoenix Landing. The result: twinges in my lower back as I hunched over the sink the next morning. No spasms (yet). Just the quiet reminder that my body needed time to repair.

I can no longer eat whatever I want whenever I want.

Breakfast on Saturday was a Dunkin Donuts sausage egg and cheese sandwich. Lunch was four slices of pepperoni pizza with some Diet Pepsi. Dinner was a spinach and cheese quesadilla (from Pemberton Farms, home of healthy food, in fairness). Breakfast on Sunday was a post-jiu-jitsu protein shake from the Watertown BSC. Lunch was a grilled cheese with tomato and a side of fries at the Brighton Cafe with Provocateur‘s own Matthew. Dinner was a burger at Lucky’s in Southie, followed by two stiff cocktails at Drink with Rachel V. The result: toxic heartburn.

Add to that a sexy rasping cough from allergies, and I’m a bent old man.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Not strictly true – if I could choose to magically stay healthier and see my friends in one weekend, I would. But that’s not an option. So I suffer a little so that I can jump and scream to “Flagpole Sitta” at 90s Night. So that I can rap “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” with a total stranger in Cambridge. So that my friend Aaron can elaborate on the differences between Old Fitzgerald and Maker’s Mark while pouring me a vieux carre in Drink on a quiet evening.

All this talk about living passionately, cramming a life full of promise, carpe diem and that shit? Time to start taking it seriously.

then froze, only to blow the herb smoke through my nose

I hadn’t gone to 90s Night in a while, and my friend Meghan O’ also expressed a desire to go dancing. So after sharing some excellent Upper Crust pizza with Melissa and Fraley over the BSG finale, we trucked to Allston and shook it all out. The dance floor seemed more crowded but less sketchy than usual.

# # #

I bought an Afrin Pure Sea nasal rinsing … thing … about a week ago and started using it this weekend after some congestion. I can’t figure the damn thing out.

Both the bottle and the box ask me to refer to the insert for instructions, but the instructions aren’t so complicated that they couldn’t print them elsewhere. (1) Tilt your head all the way to one side. (2) Jam bottle into nose. (3) Let stream flow into upper nostril and out lower nostril.

I can manage step 1 just fine, but I may be failing on step 2. What inevitably happens is a stream of diluted seawater flows back out the nostril it went in, trickling down the side of my face and into my sideburns and ear. I wait there over the sink until my dignity returns, then cap the bottle, wipe my face and neck off and blow my nose vigorously. The result is marginally clearer breathing.

Possible issues:

  • Maybe I’m too congested in the nostril I’m trying. What if I stick the bottle up the clearer nostril first, and let the stream clear out the blockage with the aid of gravity?
  • Maybe I shouldn’t be holding my breath. Is that how the nose works? If I hold my breath, am I sealing up the necessary sinus cavities?
  • Maybe my head’s not tilted far enough to one side.
  • Maybe this is a scam.

Any advice, Internet?

look at the tested and think there but for the grace go I

At 90s Night this past Friday, I ran into KT, who had fully recovered from her case of K.I.D. (though I hear there’s 18 to 25 years of outpatient visits). I only got to see her briefly. And b0st0n regular jenskot (no known alias) showed up as well with a friend of hers from school. But the high point of the evening was running into Erin L. and Matt W. I hadn’t got to dance around to Bosstones with Erin since … 2001? Holy hell. College was a long time ago.

“It’s good that we’ve run into each other now,” I yelled to her over the music, “at a point in our lives where our hair is the best it’s ever been.”

# # #

Saturday, after brunching with Rachel V. in the morning, I went to Lisa B’s birthday party at her sky-rise in Medford. I lost several games of flipcup but stayed sober enough to drive home, partly by loading up on an insane number of carbohydrates.

Someone put The Princess Bride on TV about half an hour before I left. “What do you think would happen if Andre the Giant fell on you?” Steve M. asked me.

“He’s a bit taller than me,” I observed, “but he’s three times my weight. So I doubt he’d even …”

“Three times? Jesus.”

# # #

Sylvia and RJ mentioned earlier in the week that they’d never seen Road House, so I dragged them to my apartment on Sunday evening to watch it.

“She can’t make eyes at him,” RJ complained, as the Kelly Lynch / Patrick Swayze romance began to bud. “That sketchy bar owner’s already been sizing him up.”

“This movie has both homo- and hetero-eroticism,” I told him. “You’re allowed to have both.”

“I guess.”

# # #

Monday I attended my first Yelp! Elite event. I don’t know who’s making money off these things; it’s happening in a way that’s invisible to me. If you’re an “Elite” reviewer – and if they let me in, how hard can it be? – you get invitations to monthly events at local bars. Corporations provide gift bags and free drinks and snacks. Guests pay nothing. This has to profit somebody; I’m not sure who.

The February event was at Noir on Monday night. Not only did I chat up Serpico, Kim, Joanna and Brian – folks I see all the time – but I went out of my way to meet strangers, too. I mingled, which is shocking if you know me. And I loaded up on fancy appetizers and downed three Maker’s Mark Manhattans in ninety minutes. Either the bacon and spinach dip really soaks up the bourbon or they poured the (free) drinks light, as three Manhattans will normally floor me. But I was in good enough shape to watch people ice skate.

“Are you going to skate?” Lauren R. asked.

“Nope,” I said, gesturing in the air a foot above my skull. “My center of gravity’s right about here.”

“Well, we’re going to.”

“Great. Remember to fall on your forearms, not your hands. Have fun!”

in the streets I’m well known like the number man

I went out drinking with coworkers on Friday – George, A.A., Z. and a handful of others. The notion of enjoying myself with the people I work with, especially outside the context of the office, still hasn’t settled in my brain yet. We watched the Phillies knock one out against the Dodgers, then stuck around for a bit of the Sox game. A bearded guy played acoustic guitar during commercial breaks; George got his business card.

I needed a night of dancing to take the edge off the week, so I called an all-play at the Common Ground and a small crew answered: Mike P., Flannery and some friends of theirs. As it turned out, BC alumna Meghan W. and Marie C. also had a crew of their own present; a massive dance party quickly ensued. The BC kids were largely CCE vets, as well as one or two current CCE members. It’s odd thinking of myself as some dimly known figure from the ancient days, which I am to anyone who cares. It’s also odd that people born in 1986 can drink without legal hindrance, as some of those kids clearly were.

Saturday began the first in my series of constant rehearsals this week, as we all showed up at ImprovBoston to warble through some songs and run the show once. Don S., the show’s typical director, poked his head in on several occasions to watch key songs and scenes. I spent about an hour afterward sifting through used clothes at the Garment District and the Davis Sq. Goodwill in search of a Halloween costume, with no luck. I may end up buying an old coat and a few cans of spray paint.

Jodi texted me an emergency request for carbs and Red Sox, so we rendezvoused at Joshua Tree. We eventually lost patience with the game night crowd – “Standing Room Townie,” you might call it – and shifted to Orleans, where we caught up through the 9th inning with her friends Jeff and Armando. Jodi wolfed down most of a plate of chicken rigatoni, in preparation for her half-marathon on Sunday, but wouldn’t finish her Guinness. She did not get to join the Clean Glass Club.

Did you know that the Hong Kong in Harvard Sq hosts more than just an unpredictable stand-up night on Sundays? That the upstairs turns into a trashy college-kid rave, complete with Top 40 songs, glow sticks and $4 Budweiser, on Saturday nights? Neither did I! What have I been doing all this time? I gave Jeff and Armando a ride there, then stuck around to dance with them and some of their friends for a bit. A shirtless guy in tuxedo pants waved an inflatable sledgehammer on stage while Harvard girls twirled neon bracelets and Limbo’d under pool noodles. At some point I lost patience and wandered back to my car.

I had been keeping myself up with the use of 5-Hour Energy Shots on Friday and Saturday night, since following beers with niacin megadoses can’t be that bad for you. As a result, I started to crash pretty hard on Sunday afternoon, around hour five of the Gorefest dance rehearsal. Skipping breakfast probably didn’t help. Or dinner the night before. Or eating that fudgy cupcake filled with peanut butter, but come on! Fudgy cupcake! Filled with peanut butter!

The entertaining conclusion: I missed the Davis Square stop on the subway ride home and had to turn around at Alewife and passed out for thirty brief minutes when I dragged my ass back to my apartment. Regaining consciousness, I somehow heated up a pizza in the oven without setting the building on fire and ate it, along with some garlic toast and cottage cheese, at a reasonable dinnertime hour. The nap and the dinner combined to give me a second wind around 11:30 PM, just about the time I wanted to go to bed.

I think I have some normal weekends on the calendar for November. Maybe later.

nobody gonna take my car

Oh, man.

Friday saw the official debut of Flat Earth Theatre’s Night of Christopher Durang One Acts. A large and loud audience rewarded our efforts with laughs in all the right places. The newly minted Smithneys came to see it, along with Katie H. and Lisa B. from jiu-jitsu. I got flowers.

Afterward I dragged Skim, Rick and newcomer Viv and her boy from the theater to 90s Night. We met Belladonna, Perotti and Kate there, as well as LJ regulars two_stabs and damn it, sorry, forgot the other gentleman’s name. Oh, well. A remarkably beer-heavy and drama-free evening (aside from Perotti knocking a full beer glass out of Kate’s hand and down her pants) followed.

Since Michael Phelps brought tall skinny dudes back in style, I added some swimming to my workout on Saturday. I had forgot how fun it feels to immerse yourself in a body of water and let something denser than air support your weight. I had also forgot how hard swimming is, especially after a full workout. After as many laps as I could manage, I dried off in the sauna, took my time showering and had Burger King for lunch.

After another Flat Earth Theater performance that evening, I stopped in at Pete F’s birthday party at Tavern on the Square. I met folks I’d known in name only from IB, like Hannah F. and Jason C., and bought Pete at least one drink. The conversation turned to the Olympics, given its ubiquitous coverage. We agreed that the biathlon was a weirder event than the pentathlon – the pentathlon at least measures a broad cross-section, whereas the biathlon was apparently picked out of a hat full of slips.

Normally I’d crash at this point in the evening, but the niacin megadose I’d taken before Pete’s party carried me through to Katie Proulx’s final show at ImprovBoston. I had an excellent conversation with Michelle McN., debated the merits of Chinese Democracy with Marc Hirsh and shared pizza with Bobby S. In the wee hours, Will cranked the volume in the main theater and started a dance party while Clash of the Titans played in the background. Holy hell, that movie looks weird.

After the matinee performance on Sunday, Melissa and Fraley invited me over for Rock Band. I spent a few minutes designing a custom guitar player who looked just like me for their band, Style Merchants, and then proceeded to crap out on drums. And vocals. So we took a break for nachos and beer and Olympic boxing before diving back in.

My thoughts:

  • Train Kept A-Rollin’: “The song just started; how can I already have a guitar solo? Oh, well. Probably the last one.”

  • Highway Star: “These lyrics are pretty insipid.”

  • The Hand That Feeds: “Do you even need three people to play this song, or just one person playing three times?”

  • Maps: “Finally, a drum track easy enough for me to play.”

  • Gimme Shelter: “Raaaaaaape … MURRRR-daaaaaa ….

know when to walk away, know when to run

Continued from yesterday.

For all that I love casinos, I have never been a big fan of gambling per se. It combines two pastimes that make me incredibly self-conscious – losing money and doing something I’m not an expert in. I get weird and finicky when my friends watch me play. I alternate between wanting to dive right in and wishing I could be done sooner.

I really love casinos more for the scene than anything else. Folks staying up late, eating ridiculous food (vacation calories don’t count), seeing live music and dancing until the morning. Free drinks. Overdoses of oxygen. All good things.

So for any game I play, I work out a strategy which will allow me to stretch my stake for as long as possible. The casinos don’t get you with the possibility of a big payout; they get you because you don’t know when to quit. So I use the following method:

  • Start with a stake of x.

  • Play some games. Keep track of how much you lose – meaning, how much money hits the table and doesn’t come back – not how much you win.

  • When the amount you lose equals x, walk away immediately.
For a good evening of gaming and a game with decent odds, x should be 10-20 times the table minimum. I went in with a much smaller stake and ended early, with about x/2 in chips. But even then, with fatigue creeping in and the solidity of my method behind me, I heard the whispers creeping around my brain. You can’t be done yet. Look at all these people having fun. You planned on playing with more anyway, didn’t you?

But I shut that noise off quickly. I was already up for the weekend, in that I gave the casino $100 and they gave me a priceless steak, so I wanted for nothing else.

Fraley, Melissa and I took the last limousine shuttle back to the hotel. We tried to wait for Mark and RJ, but they had to cash out (Mark lost a little more than I did; RJ won back the cost of his dinner). I collapsed exhausted once I got to the hotel.

On Friday we sampled the Bellissimo Grande’s continental breakfast (Marriott quality, I’d say) and watched Dirty Jobs before Fraley invited us back to his parents’ house in Rhode Island. My GPS and my reckless driving got me there before Fraley and Melissa, but only just.

Fraley’s mom showed off their new enclosed porch and chatted us up for a few minutes before Fraley’s dad returned from the store, laden with smoked meats. He grilled up burgers and chorizo for all of us while we watched the Red Sox recover from an early 0-3 deficit. They’re generous and tireless hosts.

RJ betrayed us to go play Rock Band at Melissa and Fraley’s house, so I drove Mark back to Boston alone and loafed around the apartment for a bit before heading to 90’s Night, which had a light but comfortable turnout for the 4th of July. That bar gets more entertaining every time I show up, what with helping drunk girls up off the floor and watching portly construction contractors try to pick a fight with Rick. And every time I wonder if Mike isn’t the best DJ in Boston, I go to another club and realize that yes, Mike’s better than that DJ, too. God damn. (Oh, and: last Friday featured the return of Katie to the Allston scene. I don’t expect to see much more of her, for obvious reasons, but I’m glad she’s still mobile)

I don’t think I did anything else of merit that weekend – hell, I didn’t speak to another human being for all of Saturday – but Thursday and Friday were enough.