it is not dying; it is not dying

I Still Like Him Better Than Steinbrenner
For my Don Draper costume, I had to shave my sideburns off for the first time in at least six years. This took considerable effort, as attacking six years’ growth with a disposable razor will, and left the skin underneath a little raw. But it looks fine now. Shaving since then has been disconcerting, however, since I typically start at my ear line by muscle memory alone and have now had to start cutting even higher.

I put little effort into the costume itself (nicest suit I had, dress shirt, conservative tie); the accessories made it work. I showed up at the office Halloween party with a highball glass full of “scotch” (ginger ale) and a cigarette dangling between my fingers (unlit; borrowed). Most people identified me on their first or second try.

Full Dance Card
Counting work, I hit up five Halloween parties this weekend, including:

  • 90s Night at Common Ground, which gave away $100 for the best 90s costume. Logistics proved an issue, as management couldn’t convince Allston’s drunkest hipsters to circulate before the judge’s table, parading their wares. A horde of kids surged at the DJ booth, waving their hands and squealing like teenage zombies. I thought the kids in the Nickelodeon GUTS outfits had it locked, but Carmen Sandiego stole it.

  • Joanna and Brian’s Halloween party. I knew which subway station they lived nearest, but didn’t know if it was on the Cambridge or Somerville side of the border. I guessed Cambridge at first. My GPS promptly led me to a Jewish dorm outside Harvard.

  • Katie and Sylvia’s Halloween party. I wore a different suit for the Don Draper costume – double-breasted, even less period than the first. But people still got it, especially after I borrowed another cigarette. Half the party circulated in the kitchen, eating delicious sweets; the other half planted in the living room, watching The Craft. Remember those quaint days when Wiccans and goths were exotic?

  • The Gorefest cast party. I congratulated the players on another successful and blood-drenched show. Our host baked a plate of monkey bread – essentially, a massive pile of butter, cinnamon, sugar and dough. We picked at it like savages until Paul challenged everyone at the table to eat one last piece and then stop. An hour later, three people were sitting on the floor with chunks of butter-soaked dough clenched in their front teeth (but not swallowed) and there was a pot of sixty dollars. Let no one say improv people don’t know how to party


The Patriot Marked for Death is Hard to Kill Under Siege
After a brief hiatus, I returned to the Overthinking It podcast last night. We planned to talk about Halloween costumes, haunted houses and the cultural rituals surrounding scaring each other. Then someone brought up Steven Seagal. Guess what we spent most of our time discussing.


fish don’t fry in the kitchen, beans don’t burn on the grill


  • I thought I did the smart thing by eating a light lunch on Friday, saving room for Redbones barbecue that evening when Kristen A. came to town. But maybe my ab workout at the gym that afternoon hurt matters. Regardless, after a pulled pork sandwich, half a plate of fries and a too-sweet Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA1, I felt like I had a wet bag of sand sitting in my gut. People stared at me with concern. I walked around with my hand on my stomach, as if I would give birth to a squalling pork baby any minute.

  • Lisa F. had a going-away party, prior to her move to New York City, which I devoted an hour and a half to. I expected a quiet gathering of a few close friends, but man! Her five-bedroom apartment got packed out in all directions. People from all walks of life – ImprovBoston, her music program, coworkers – turned out to snack, drink and carry on.

    “So many people,” I said.

    “I have lived here for nine years,” she explained.

    “I’ve lived here for ten years!” I countered. “I couldn’t get this many people if I threw a going-away party!”2

  • Deirdre’s the volunteer coordinator at the Dorchester Beach Festival3, so I dropped by to visit her and her husband Auston on Saturday morning before gaming. Gourmet caterers Au Soleil served some remarkably good burgers (considering it was a town’s summer festival) and Utz Potato Chips. Auston marveled at these, since you almost never see Utz north of Philadelphia. But apparently Utz has serviced Costco and WalMart since at least 1997, and they’ve got a distribution center in Shrewsbury. “These are surprisingly good chips,” he said with astonishment.

1 I recommend their 60 Minute for all IPA fans, and the 90 Minute if you want to get drunk really fast, but the 75 Minute didn’t work for me. Maybe if I had it with dinner instead of after.

2Immediately after making this statement, Royal realized that it was true.

3 Dorchester has a beach! With real sand! I’m as surprised as you.

just how deep do you believe?

Oh, man. This weekend:

  • Had probably the best Sister Mary Ignatius / Actor’s Nightmare show of the run on Friday. RJ, Rachel V. and Jason came to see it. We repaired to Casa de Pedro afterward, which despite unforgivably slow service cooked up a quality meal. Jason talked smack about the Dresden Dolls.

  • Chorizo quesadilla still marching down my gullet, I hit up Jake Ivory’s for Laura D’s birthday. Though Jarret & Co. apparently played none of our songs, we still danced and had a good time. I have started to realize that Boston girls can handle themselves in bars. Just because a guy with spiked tips, a popped collar and the stench of AXE keeps pitching his mediocre line at them, I don’t need to offer to punch him in the throat.

    “No, it’s cool.”

    “You sure? Because I totally will.”

  • After some logistical planning that never would have worked in the age before cell phones and dashboard GPS, a few of us ended up at Lauren K’s house afterward. George G. brought over a bottle of terrible yellow wine which I wisely declined. Then I drove home. Landing time: 4:00 AM.

  • Saturday afternoon, I met Sarah H. at the Wine Gallery in Brookline for a free beer tasting. We sampled a variety of microbrews. One local brewery made a creme brulee stout that tasted sweet but went down a little hard. I definitely could not drink a 22 oz bottle in one sitting, anymore than you could eat 22 ounces of creme brulee in one sitting. However, I would definitely serve it at a party. Bring out a tray full of creme brulee shots for people to nurse while they talked of urbane things.

  • Sarah H. gave me some guff when we ended our walking tour of Brookline with a trip to 7-11 so I could buy another niacin megadose. But that shit works! After the final Sister Mary Ignatius / Actor’s Nightmare show, I slammed a bottle of that and felt fast and loose all night. I hit up coworker Fred’s going away party at Rattlesnake first. In a rare fit of extroversion I bought a round of kamikazes for my manager’s team, which Fred had been on, and we did a shot for our client.

  • At 11:00 or so I sped to Davis Square to catch the latter half of Jason H’s going away party. I spent most of the night playing Rock Band, rotating between vocals, guitar and drums. I not only managed “The Hand That Feeds” on mic for the first time ever, but sang my way through “Gimme Shelter” on Hard, too. The secret: a lot of beer. Jason kicked us out at about 2:00, but not before loading me up with excess beer from his fridge. So: party at my place. Landing Time: 2:30 AM.

  • Sunday I had my first Gorefest rehearsal. Already I can tell this cast will be a joy to work with: everyone has energy and a great sense of humor, the script packs plenty of surprises, and Bobby’s a tremendously creative director. Once we brainstorm some of the technical hurdles (e.g., “should the diarrhea cannon hit both of them, or just Liz?”), this show will fall all the way off the hook.

  • After reading at home and napping, I hit up the Nerds On Sports Pizza Party – for which read “Will, RJ and I” – at Newtowne Grille in Porter. We waited 35 minutes for our pizza, which gave us plenty of time to talk about work. “Google owns me,” I mentioned at one point. “Between GMail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google as a search engine and, of course, Google as part of my job.”

    “Technically, Google’s paying for this pizza,” Will pointed out.

  • Once Marie C. arrived back in Davis from Logan Airport and got settled, I bought her a beer and caught up with her trip home. I also returned two books I’d borrowed from her and lent her Japrisot’s A Very Long Engagement in return. Without the aid of a niacin megadose, I passed out around 11:30 PM.

a couple of the sounds that I really like are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike

I had a bad experience with crepes in middle school. A kid in my sixth-period French class attempted to make crepes for a class project. Being thirteen, however, the best he could manage were pancakes stuffed with Cool Whip. Imagine sinking your teeth into a cold, undercooked pancake wrapped around a glob of Cool Whip on an empty stomach and you’ll see the source of my hesitancy. Fortunately, Skim redeemed the crepe in my eyes by introducing me to Mr. Crepe in Davis Square on Friday. I had a tasty ham and cheese crepe.1

We saw two people I knew and lots of people I didn’t at the b0st0n meetup at Good Times. Skim’s friends from central MA showed up later and we tore the arcade apart. Each of us ran the table on at least one game – whether SkeeBall, Tetris or Laser Tag. Between our 300 or so tickets we cleared the place out of oversized bouncy balls. If you wanted a comically undersized Budweiser golf bag, well, don’t go looking; Good Times has beat on, a boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.2

I did some grocery shopping on Saturday, paid some bills, then went to Gina’s birthday dinner at the Uno’s in Porter Square. I squeezed into a seat at the far end and talked classic films with Fraley, Melissa, Bobby and DJ. I also surprised myself by ordering a salad instead of fries with my burger. And I haven’t died yet! Apparently vegetables won’t kill me, provided you drizzle them with house dressing first.

With plenty of time to kill until my next engagement, I took the T to Park Street and had a leisurely walk through the Public Garden and the Mall on Commonwealth. The sun had just set and a blue blanket of fog kept everything intimate. I enjoyed this quiet hour alone with my thoughts before getting to Jake Ivory’s and seeing those thoughts obliterated.

Backstory: when Michelle B. picked Jake Ivory’s for her birthday, I made a lot of hemming nonsense about how I might not attend. My last trip to Jake Ivory’s sucked pus, but for Michu I readily made an exception. And I had a blast. What made the difference?

  • Last time I paid an $8 cover and bought a $5 Budweiser for a place that was still under renovation. This time I paid an $8 cover and bought a $5 Budweiser in a fully functioning nightclub.
  • Last time, two fat, balding losers in Hawaiian shirts played the piano, sneering at anyone who requested a song they didn’t know. This time, two young hep guys – one of them BC’s own Jarret Izzo3 – lit up the crowd with verve and charisma.
  • Most importantly, I have come to terms with Jake Ivory’s as a concept. No one goes to Jake Ivory’s to pick up single ladies or to watch a baseball game. You go to Jake Ivory’s with a bachelorette party or a birthday party, and no other function. So the crowd will be full of screaming women between the ages of 28 and 36. Accept it. Don’t pretend you’re Too Cool.
I danced, I shouted, I made introductions, I took the T home.

Walking home through Davis, I saw a drunken asshole get bounced from the Burren. First I saw the bouncer drag the guy from the back door – one hand under his arm, the other hand jamming a knuckle into the hollow of his jaw. Then the guy shoved the bouncer, resulting in a hammerlock escort to the bus bench outside the bar. After a minute of posturing, the guy came back and swung a fat overhand left at the bouncer, which led to the guy eating Elm Street while the bouncer twisted both arms behind his back. “Get this guy off me!” the drunk asshole screamed, to no purpose but my deep amusement. When the cops showed up the drunk wanted to press charges (“he grabbed me by the throat!”), but the cop issued some very stern instructions and sent him walking4. I waited across the street, hoping that after a cigarette and a conference with some friends he’d go back for more, but the cop must have scared him sober.

I promise you: no matter how alone you find yourself on the foggy walk home, you’ll find company in a crowd full of strangers laughing at a drunk guy getting his ass kicked in Somerville. On such truths we founded this great nation.5

1 This post now holds the record on this weblog for most uses of the word “crepe.” The prior record, zero, was shared by every other post.

2 Soon it will become an IKEA.

3 Michelle: He needs to shave that goatee. Unless he’s going for the “porn star” look or something.
Me: Well, technically he is a lounge singer.
Michelle: Touche.

4 And even if the drunk had been in the right, what did he imagine would happen? Who do the cops always side with in these situations – the slurring guy with a bruise on his face, or the bouncer with whom they have this same conversation every Saturday?

5 Well, this one plus Ireland.

I need a miracle, I need a miracle

Sleep evaded me this weekend.

I made a long delayed return to 90s Night (warning: MySpace) at Common Ground on Friday. New friends and old showed up – Skim, Rick, MPerrotti, Jen, Cheshirepk8, Paperface, Ryan, Kate, and of course our vigilant DJ (yes, I know I’m forgetting some people – comment if I missed your name / LJ). We kept the slam-dancing drunk Allstonians in a tight knot until a bouncer could come scoop their beer bottles off the floor. I worried that he’d consider us part of their crowd, but Rick made a Bouncer-Dismissing Gesture and we got out okay. I would like to learn that gesture.

Afterward we tromped across the street to Redneck’s, who follow a business model that really should get more play:

  1. Sell fried food; and
  2. Stay open 30-45 minutes after the bars close.
I didn’t have a stomach for cheese fries at the moment, so I sat there while Jen explained the origin of her LJ handle. “What superpowers do you have?” I kept asking.

When Redneck’s kicked us out, the posse degenerated into one of those leaderless mobs where everyone shouts and laughs for ten minutes but nobody actually goes anywhere. The party kept threatening to go to Brookline and continue drinking, but I waved off and returned to Davis Square (which, Skim’s villainous slander notwithstanding, is still the coolest place to be).

I did some grocery shopping early on Saturday. What I thought would be a literal milk run turned into a three-bag trip, including a stop off at a bake sale for Obama on the walk home. I bought a brownie (more out of my love for baked goods than any particular political affiliation) and ate lunch while watching Netflix.

Kristen and her roommate Jeff invited me to their Midsummer’s BBQ just up the road. No one had adhered to the implied theme of dressing up like a faerie, which I considered fortunate. I surprised myself by being sociable at a party largely full of strangers: talking Keynesian economics with Jodi, comparing Maryland stories with Becca’s friend Anna, chatting up Mike and his girl Karen, etc. Two beers that I set down ended up tumbling over, which I blame on the slope of the backyard and not at all on the three that I drank on an empty stomach.

Colby threw another legendary luau later that evening, which I arrived at early enough to get some chicken and birthday cake. Megan and her coworker Renee floated over from the earlier Midsummer’s BBQ, proving that everyone knows someone who can get them into this party. I saw most of the Nebulas‘ set, watched Dea and her friend do firespinning once the sun went down, then hit the dance floor indoors for about 2 hours without break. If you haven’t been to one of these, keep in touch with me around June next year and I’ll bring you along.

Greg had folks over for board games on Sunday. Amy throttled me in a quick round of Battlelore, then I played some folks in EVO before the pizza arrived. I struggled my way through two rounds of Mario Kart Wii – the steering wheel responds better than you think! – and wrapped the afternoon with Pick Picnic and Pandemic (of which more later – it’s really fun).

Hawver had the brilliant idea of getting the old crew back together for burgers and cheap beer at Our House West in Allston, across the street from the Brain Trust. I drove directly there, watched Hawver slaughter his way through a round of Big Buck Hunter, then flagged the waitress down. “When do you start serving dollar burgers?” I asked.

“We … don’t?”

“Oh.” Not only does Our House West no longer serve $1 cheeseburgers on Sunday, I’ll bet no one currently working there remembers that was ever an option. You can’t go home again.

Hawver, Fraley, Melissa and I reminisced on a grand scale, talking about the days when we all first met each other. “We never really talked,” Mel said to Hawver, “because you always fled whenever I came over for gaming.”

“I really could not stand your dice rolling,” Hawver confessed vehemently.

After making fun of Fraley’s musical taste for a while (“Fraley, this is the Clash”), we went our separate ways. I ended back in Davis, where I dropped in on Katie H.’s place to watch the last half of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. Never been a huge fan of the series, so the addition of Rifftrax made for a welcome distraction. I laughed myself silly.

I did not end up in bed before 1:00 AM on any night this weekend. This may be a recovery week for me.

make sure he a thug and intelligent too

Some life lessons, smuggled in the form of weekend anecdotes:

Learn Enough Dance to Dance to Funk / Soul; Everything Else is Wasted. Well, okay, and the bare minimum of dance required to get married in the States. But so few places bust out any sort of swing worth swingin’ to, and salsa can only be found in seedy gin joints with knife artists in sharkskin suits. But if you’re ever in Central Square on a Friday night – like I was for Rachel R’s birthday – stop by the Cantab and listen to Diane Blue and the Fatback Band lay down the oldest and greatest. “Dancing in September,” “Knock on Wood,” and maybe even a little James Brown for you. Really – all you need.

Pick a Party and Stick With It. I left Rachel’s celebration midway through to see if anyone had camped out at 90’s Night in Allston. Had I called ahead I could have saved myself the trip – the cool kids had been crowded out by the BU kids. After waiting in line for a minute and confirming the situation with Matthew, I returned to Cambridge and closed out the night at the Cantab. I probably missed a lot of prime dancing thanks to my indecision and I will regret it until the day I die.

You Build a Surprise Party with 90% Discipline and 10% Innovation. I went to a surprise party with Kym from work on Saturday evening. Kym’s friend Allie had been planning this for about a month and had gone above and beyond to keep everything quiet. But it takes more than just secrecy to get a surprise party going. So, that afternoon, she recruited Kym’s landlord, who called Kym and told her that a burst pipe had flooded her closet. She hurried home and found us waiting.

Never Drink On An Empty Stomach. Seriously! Never! What did you think would happen? And no, two plates of tortilla chips and a bowl of creamy dip do not count! And no, a single slice of a pulled pork quesadilla does not count! How old are you? Have you learned nothing? Seriously! It’s like I can’t even look at you!

(But I had an excellent time at Bukowski regardless, helping Kate G. tick off the last few items on her beer card. If you go into the Inman Square dive and find the Charlotte Perkins Gilman mug off its hook, you’ll know she’s in town)

If You Have Time Alone, Enjoy It. I caught up with Jodi at the Grafton St Pub in Harvard on a cool Sunday afternoon, giving her the chance to vent about dealing with undergrads (apparently, the dumb kids at Harvard are just as dumb as the dumb kids anywhere). After seeing her off, I took the T to Kendall and walked to Kendall Cinema to get tickets for Redbelt. With two and a half hours to kill, I had an early dinner at the Cambridge Brewing Company right around the corner.

The afternoon had hit that “magic hour” that photographers love, when the sun lights everything soft. The red brick of the CBC kept the inside warmer than the outside (low 60s), but the ceiling fans provided a gentle downdraft. Not quite dinner time yet, so I had a quiet corner of the bar to sit and read some Fritz Leiber while a perky bartender brought me a pulled pork sandwich and the house pale. Afterwards I walked two blocks and bought ice cream at a 7-11.

Don’t look too hard for those moments; that never helps. Just stay ready when they arrive.

every little piece of your life will mean something to someone

# Waiting in line for a scrip at the Target Pharmacy, I glanced down the aisle and saw a sign for Insolence Aids. Useful little niche, I thought. Use Dr. Fulghum’s Patented Mollifying Tonic for Ages 3 to 13. Same great formula for over one hundred years. Guaranteed to cut back-sass, pouting and tantrums by fifty percent. Then I realized I’d conflated the words Incontinence Aids and Insoles in a hasty skimming, a mistake I can’t be the first to have made.

# I went to a co-worker’s party in Brighton on Friday night. Folks I never saw played Beirut (which I always clarify as “beer pong,” because I don’t know that everyone uses that name) in the kitchen, while I sat in on several heated discussions to the rules of Asshole in the living room. We watched the Celtics lose Game 6 (“you’ve got to go for the percentage shots,” I kept yelling at the TV). I danced to an amateur DJ’s relatively small 90s crate and smoked a clove cigarette outside. Good times.

# I have a variety of exciting new bruises on my forearms from jiu-jitsu on Saturday. One’s about the size of a White Castle slider; the second, maybe a silver dollar. Another student got nicked in the temple with the point of a wooden knife. It bled worse than it turned out to be but, if the divot below my right index knuckle indicates anything, he’ll have an exciting new scar in about a week. Look out, ladies!

# I attended a Kentucky Derby party on Saturday! I don’t know if I made myself a mint julep, but I combined bourbon, ice, seltzer, syrup and mint leaves in a combination I found tasty. Gentlemen lounged around in suits and ascots; ladies preened and cooed under floppy sun hats. I missed the entirety of the actual race due to the smallness of the living room, but had an excellent time regardless. I hope to see everyone involved again some time soon.

# Allow me to confess some petty larcenies. FIRST: while driving through a McDonald’s on Saturday morning, I arrived at the first pay window with a dollar held out expectantly. The lady inside didn’t even glance my way in the thirty seconds I idled, fussing with an umbrella. Presuming I’d picked the wrong window – sometimes the drive-through uses one window, sometimes two – I motored up to the next one, where a young man thrust a cheeseburger on me. So I got a McDonald’s double cheeseburger without paying. SECOND: I trust the laundromat on my corner enough to leave stuff in the washer or dryer without sitting in front of it. You can always see a staff member hovering inside while the ‘mat has its doors open. On my third and final trip to the ‘mat on Sunday, the shy Asian lady behind the counter shuffled up and pressed a crumpled dollar bill on me, nodding and smiling. I looked at her in confusion until another customer translated: “you left it in the machine.” “Thank you,” I said, unsure how to explain to someone who apparently spoke no English that I hadn’t laundered anything that day other than bedding. So I’m up $2 on the weekend.

# I somehow took the exact same Red Line train car to and from Park Street on Sunday night, four hours apart. How do I know? The train compartment smelled vaguely of shit; it got so I didn’t mind it. That’s the worst thing that I can confess.

# “Does the bet still pay off if they shoot the horse?”
“Yes, it does.”
“The system works!”

# Finally, congratulations to ImprovBoston for holding a fantastic date auction at Venu on Sunday night. IB raised, if Sasha’s math can be trusted, just over $6000 from the auctions and raffles alone. Special congratulations to Serpico and Christine, friends and regulars both, for their fund-raising efforts. The whole night really felt like a grown-up prom, with classy folks parading on stage for the crowd’s approval and a late night dance party in formal wear. I had to practically tear myself away at 11:30 but could have stayed later.