Old Man in the Mustang

Old man in the Mustang
What are you doing
Waiting at the train station
Each and every morning

Why do you sit there
You’re not dropping off
You’re not picking up
But you’re always there

Why do you wait
On the little side street
Like a creepy stalker
Who are you stalking

Is it your ex-wife
Or a former friend
Are you trainspotting
Or planning a hit

One thing I know
Is that you’re quite old
‘cause you have a navy cap
On the back window sill

I would love to ask you
Why you’re always here
But I’m afraid of you
Old man in the Mustang

(Even if it’s a new Mustang
Made out of cheap plastic
Instead of a bad-ass Mustang
From Nineteen Sixty Eight)

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The Jewfro Monologues

Growing up my greatest desire in life was to have long hair. I didn’t care about fame or fortune. I didn’t dream about power or prominence. I just wanted long, flowing locks. Back then, long hair stood for something important. It stood for rock and roll.

When grown-ups spotted a man with long hair they would inevitably think of him as a derelict or remark that he looked like a girl. Not me. I saw a rebel. I saw a free thinker. I saw the man that I wanted to become.

By the turn of the decade (the decade being the 1980s) rock and roll was under assault. Punk, disco and new wave conspired to make rock and roll seem dated and irrelevant. But for us, the last generation raised on The Beatles and the Stones, on Zeppelin and the Who, we still held on to the dream. We wanted to live the rock and roll lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Sure, sex wasn’t happening and allergy shots were the drugs of choice, but we could still rock.

And nothing said rock and roll more than long hair.

Once I was old enough to throw off the shackles of my mother’s stylistic tendencies – she who seemed to favor the Prince Valiant haircut and polyester jumpsuits for her boys – I knew that I would immediately commence OPERATION: LONG HAIR. I figured that I’d hit shoulder-length by 15 and Crystal Gayle by graduation.

And then a funny, horrible thing happened. My hair, finally given the chance to grow DOWN decided to grow OUT. It was clear that I had the curse of our people – the dreaded Jewfro.

I should have known better. One of our favorite family stories involved a young Woodstock-era uncle, a bottle of hair relaxer and some panty hose. What a fool I was to think that I could break the curse and achieve the long hair. Nope, the closest that I would come to being rock and roll was Art Garfunkle.

In other words, not very rock and roll at all.

As my Jewfro grew I grew to resent it more and more. Every mousse, gel and random cream that I found in my father’s vanity failed to tame the beast. All of my academic, athletic and romantic failures could be traced back to that accursed Jewfro. That goddamn chia pet on top of my skull was the bane of my existence.

Luckily, over time I began to accept my lot in life. Sure, I’d have moments of delusion where I’d try to grow my hair out and convince myself that it looked good, or I’d get angry at it and cut it too short. But time has a way of softening the hurts of life and I began to embrace the ironic use of facial hair to compensate for my inability to do anything even remotely cool with my hair.

Of course, time also has a way of teaching you painful lessons, and as my forehead continues to grow and my hair line continues to shrink, I’ve begun to miss that old Jewfro. We sure had some good times together. And while long hair is clearly better than a Jewfro, a sweet Jewfro is assuredly better than being bald.

So, some advice to our young male readers: don’t hate your Jewfro. Celebrate it. Love it. Revel in it. Because, as the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

And besides, Bob Dylan has always sported an amazing Jewfro, and you can’t get any more rock and roll than that.

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A Truffle Scuffle, or The Most Dangerous Word in the English Language

Unless it’s a smutty double-entendre I’m generally not a big fan of words that have multiple meanings. So I was trying to think of the most egregious example of a word that poses the greatest threat of misinterpretation. And after many, many years of reading dictionaries, attending prestigious universities and interviewing linguists, I think I’ve found it.

The most dangerous word in the English language is….Truffles!

That’s right – truffles. Please allow me to explain.

On the one hand, truffles are the most wondrous creation in the known universe. Who can resist those delicious little balls of chocolate that are filled with a variety of smooth fillings? I’ve tried just about every type of Lindor truffle and they’re all good. Just thinking about the peanut butter truffle makes me want to drive to the mall, scam a free truffle, leave the store, go to the costume shop, buy a costume and go back incognito for more free truffles.

I even invented a novel way of eating truffles. I call it “doing a rainbow.” You should totally try it RIGHT NOW. Go to the store, buy a large variety bag of truffles, go home (or sit in your car in the parking lot) and eat one of each flavor. Get it…you’re eating a “rainbow” of flavors! And it’s totally not just a terrible excuse for eating 6 truffles in one sitting.

So, you see, a truffle is a wonderful thing and the word ‘truffle’ should evoke feeling of overwhelming joy.

But it doesn’t. Why? Because ‘truffle’ is also the name for a disgusting mushroom. And I like most mushrooms. In fact, I usually order mushroom omelets. But truffles are just revolting. They’re like the worst-tasting mushroom combined with the worst-tasting dirt.

One time I was a Smith & Wollensky’s for a business lunch. At the time I was a vegetarian and my choices were limited, to say the least. But they had a mac and cheese dish on the menu. Score! Sure, it was infused with truffles, but I figured that cheese is more powerful that mushrooms, so I ordered it. Big mistake! It was beyond revolting. The first bite made me gag. The second bite made my cry.

Do you know how embarrassing it is to cry at a business lunch because you don’t like your mac and cheese?

Now, I’m not really surprised that truffles taste like garbage. Do you know why? Because farmers use trained pigs to find truffles. Guess what, Francois, PIGS EAT GARBAGE. Of course they love truffles. They love garbage.

I’m totally pro-France but they’re crazy with their food. Think about it – the most prestigious foods in France are truffles, caviar and foie gras. That’s gross mushrooms, gross fish eggs and gross liver to me and you, kids. They’re just lucky that they invented French fries to redeem themselves.

So there you have it. Truffles – one of the greatest and one of the worst foods in the world dangerously sharing the same name. I propose that one of them (i.e. the gross mushroom) gracefully back down and adopt a new, less deceptive name.

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The Boston Cab Driver’s Quick Starter Guide

Congratulations!  Your decision to pursue a career as an officially licensed cab driver in the City of Boston will provide you with an exciting and lucrative opportunity filled with mystery, intrigue and fascinating strangers.

As Boston is a world-class city steeped in history and tradition it’s important for you to recognize the vital role that hackney drivers play as community ambassadors.  Oftentimes you will provide visitors with their first and last impression of Boston, so please make it a positive one!

To that end, following are 5 simple guidelines that will assist you in providing exemplary service to the assorted tourists, business people and drunken college students that fill our streets looking for a ride.

1) Vehicle Upkeep

By law, you are required to keep the “check engine” light lit at all times.  Your patrons will appreciate the uncertainty that accompanies riding in a potentially dangerous vehicle.  And remember, the light says “check engine” not “check engine NOW.”  You can address any alleged mechanical problems whenever you feel like getting around to it.

For the health of passengers smoking is not permitted in any vehicle unless YOU want to smoke – then roll down both front windows and enjoy that sweet, sweet nicotine.  Don’t worry – you can cover up the smell by hanging multiple stinky trees from your rear-view mirror.  We recommend the vanilla.

2) Passenger Safety

In order to keep abreast of any potential emergencies, it is recommended that you wear a Bluetooth headset and stay on the phone with your girlfriend at all times.  Please feel free to argue with her.  If the fare tries to interrupt your conversation by providing directions or instructions, point at your ear and make it clear that you’re on the phone and they are bothering you.  Some people are so rude!

3) Collecting Fares

First off, never tell the passenger about any additional charges for tolls.  It’s important not to disclose what the bonus charges are actually for or riders might begin to realize that they frequently get charged for bridges and tunnels that they never actually used!

Also, thanks to that meddling Mayor Menino, all cabs in the City of Boston are now required to accept credit cards for payment.  But that doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it!  If a passenger attempts to pay by credit card:

First, say “credit card?” in a sad and questioning manner.

Then say “you don’t have enough cash?”

If they still want to pay with a card, you can always pull out the timeless classic: “machine is broken.”

If the passenger keeps insists on paying by credit card (jerk!) then at least try to get the tip money in cash or drive away before they can get their luggage out of the trunk.  That’ll learn ‘em.

4) Providing Receipts

If the passenger asks for a receipt when paying, always ask them “how many do you need?” with a wink.  If they accept your offer for multiple receipts then you know that you have a passenger with questionable ethics.  Now is the perfect time to offer them a great deal on meth or tranny prostitutes.  Remember – it’s not a receipt, it’s a test!

5) Choose Your Own Adventure

Let’s be clear here: you’re a taxi, not a bus.  Why should you have to drive to parts of the city that you don’t like or pick up passengers that look sketchy?

May we recommend a proven technique that we call ‘profiling’?

(Please note that ‘profiling’ is a catch-all term and doesn’t necessarily apply to refusing rides based on a person’s race.  You may also wish to avoid: ugly people, BU students, old ladies going to Shaw’s, Bruins fans, etc.)

One Final Note

You know that the South End and Southie are two different places.  We know that the South End and Southie are two different places.  But they don’t know.  A simple rule of thumb is that the South End is where you take fares looking for the “shortcut” to the airport and Southie is where you take people looking for those overpriced fancy restaurants.

We hope that you found this Quick Start Guide helpful.  Best of luck in your new endeavor!

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If you like Boston-centric humor, you might enjoy these hilarious essays as well:

In Defense of Jaywalking in Boston

How to Drive Like You’re From Boston

Riding the Rails, Boston-style

The Boston Sports Fan’s Guide to Choosing a Jersey

Fight Club Discovered North of Boston

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Rating the Snack Cakes

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

The other day, at the supermarket, my son and I were surveying the snack cake aisle, looking for a delicious dessert treat for the week. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I have a weakness, nay an addiction, to snack cakes.

(Please note that when I say “snack cake” I mean Hostess or Drakes snack cakes – not those low-rent Little Debbie knock-offs. )

I’ve always loved snack cakes. Case in point: as a child, my parents were dismayed by my lack of skills or interests, so they “gave” me a hobby. I was conscripted into being a coin collector. In truth, being a coin collector isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Basically, people from my extended family would bring me back foreign coins whenever they traveled overseas. I would briefly inspect the coin and then throw it into a little plastic McDonaldland trashcan bank in my closet. That was the extent of my hobby. One day, when I was around eleven years old, I took the entire collection to a local bank in an attempt to turn it into real money. I guess the exchange rate between the Bahamian quarter and the US dollar wasn’t very strong in the early ’80s, because I recall getting about $2.50 for the entire trashcan. I promptly biked over to the local Kwik-e-Mart and spent the haul on a Suzie-Q, a Chocolate Cow and two games of Ms. Pac-Man. Best money I ever spent!

So where was I? Oh yes, the supermarket. So we’re going through the snack cake options and I see this disturbing note on the Drakes box:

“Drakes by Hostess”

WHAT? I’m outraged. Globalization has gone too far this time. You know, I don’t get too worked up about cloning or GMOs, about international monetary fund policy or off-shore tax shenanigans in the Cayman Islands. But this is completely unacceptable. Hostess and Drakes are mortal enemies! And now the noble Drakes duck has to live with a Hostess logo under him?

So, in memory of a free and independent Drakes, today I present to you …Rating the Snack Cakes!

Hostess


Twinkies: always dependable, it’s the golden cake with the creamy filling. It’s a little sticky on the fingers, but quite light and tasty. Twinkie the Kid is one cool cowboy, too. 8 (out of 10)

Chocodiles: The holy grail of snack cakes, the Chocodile (and its pimped out mascot Chauncy) is now only available west of the Rockies. It’s a chocolate-covered Twinkie and it’s spectacular. Why are we denied this sublime pleasure on the East Coast? 10

Suzie-Qs: Great song, great snack, the Suzie Q is hardcore. It’s a big rectangular chocolate cake with tons of creamy filling. In my high school people used to separate the halves and try to get the Q to stick to the ceiling in the cafeteria. 8

Ding Dongs: round chocolate coated chocolate cake with creamy filling. The combination of chocolate cake and chocolate coating is heavenly. 8

Cupcakes: poorly designed. The chocolate top often separates from the too-dry cake. And the golden version is a travesty. 5

Ho Hos: a sophisticated treat with an unsophisticated name, the Ho Ho is a fancy swirled cake and cream combination covered in chocolate. Best saved for dinner parties or holidays. 8

Donettes: the powered version is as bad as the chocolate version is good. Either way, there are better donut options in the world (e.g. glazed pop ‘ems). 6

Sno Balls: creepy and dry with a terrible mouthfeel. Only eat when desperate! 3

Fruit Pies: Fruit Pie the Magician is a cool mascot and the pie is pretty good, but I prefer the two mini pies (Drakes style) over the one big pie.  As far as flavor preference goes you’re talking cherry, apple, blueberry.  6

Mini-Muffins: When did they invent this travesty? Are parents supposed to think that this is a healthy option? Absurd. 3

Glazed Honey Bun: my preferred breakfast in school, it’s a sticky mess but it’s well worth it. And it’s even better warm. 8

Drakes


Devil Dog: inexplicably popular, the Devil Dog is sahara-level dry. It sticks to the roof of your mouth, too. 4

Yankee/Sunny Doodles: chocolate and yellow cupcakes, sans icing. Cupcakes just aren’t that great, come to think of it. 4

Ring Dings: these are really just Ding Dongs, but they’re also known as King Dongs (awkward!), King Dons, and Big Wheels, each with it’s own mascot – the Indian Chief Big Wheel and King Don himself. 8

Yodels: Yodels are the same as Ho Hos, with a European-style name, making it even more sophisticated. These are for fancy dinner parties with the boss or country-club friends. 8

Funny Bones: I love Funny Bones. Once again the marriage of Chocolate and Peanut Butter rocks my world. I’d probably opt for this bad boy on death row, it’s so good. 10

Coffee Cake Junior: more of a breakfast treat, the coffee cake was a mature way to start your day. It’s a little dry, but it has a nice flavor and it’s a change from the chocolate-cream combination. 6

Fruit Pies: it’s just a personal preference, but as mentioned above, I like the two mini-pies over the one big pie. Fruit pies are good for when you’re dieting, obviously, because they’re made with fruit. 6

I’m speechless. Here I was all outraged over Hostess owning Drakes and yet it’s clear that Hostess has always owned Drakes, at least metaphorically. Better selection, better taste and better mascots (except for the Chief. I loved that guy.) And if it wasn’t for Funny Bones, Drakes wouldn’t even be in the running.

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Concert Review: Furthur in Manchester, NH, 2/18/10

(You can listen to the show here.  Hug a taper!)

In the 15 years since the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead have been searching – sometimes together but frequently apart – for the right way to keep their music alive without the presence of their friend and reluctant bandleader.

They seemingly chose two radically different paths: Lesh played with a rotating group of “friends,” bringing in fresh voices from outside of the dead family in an attempt to continuously reinterpret the classic sound. Regardless of the band members, Phil’s sound was typically in the mold of the late 1960s version of the Grateful Dead – bluesy and psychedelic, experimental and risky, with an equal opportunity for success or failure.

Bobby took a very different road. His band, RatDog, was built for consistency and professionalism. The sound was much closer to the late 1980s iteration of the Grateful Dead when the “Bobstar” was in ascendence. RatDog’s music is tight and jazzy. While the songbook is large, the setlists tend to be fairly formulaic.

The one area where Phil and Bobby seemed to agreed was in how to handle the ‘Garcia dilemma.’ Rather than trying to find a replacement for Jerry’s two dominant voices: his guitar and his vocals – they seemed to specifically avoid putting anyone in that hot spot. In RatDog, Bobby took over singing duties for all of the Jerry tunes and put Mark Karan in the lead guitar slot. Karan is an amazing musician (as evidenced by his terrific debut album, Walk Through the Fire <review>) who plays in service to Bobby’s vision, as opposed to taking the dominant Garcia role. Phil’s friends – Warren Haynes, Joan Osbourne, Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson, Larry Campbell, Trey Anastasio, Jimmy Herring, Steve Kimock – never attempted to mimick Garcia either. If anything, many of Phil’s friends seemed to be filling the Pigpen slot in the band.

In a weird way it made sense. Garcia was such a force of nature that it seemed impossible, perhaps foolish, to try to replace him. So the challenge over the years became one of presenting a compelling version of the Grateful Dead without its key ingredient. Sometimes it worked – PLQ, TOO ’98, Phil & Chris, Dead ’03 – but oftentimes it also felt like a watered-down version of the Grateful Dead.

Given the history, it was shocking when Phil & Bobby announced last year that they would forming a new band without Billy Kreutzmann & Mickey Hart but with the inclusion of John Kadlecik – best known as “Fake Jerry” in the much respected Dead cover band Dark Star Orchestra. For the first time in 15 years Phil & Bobby were consciously choosing to “replace” Jerry Garcia in the band. It was a risky decision. If it worked, the Grateful Dead – the real Grateful Dead – might finally be back. If it failed, they would have committed their legacy to the nostalgia heap forevermore.

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Arenas, even small ones like Manchester, New Hampshire’s, are a challenge when one is used to attending theater shows. The atmosphere and acoustics are designed for minor-league hockey games, not musical parties, but as far as arenas go, this wasn’t a bad one. It’s comparable to the Agganis Arena in Boston. I suspect that sound quality is entirely dependent on where you’re sitting. We were diagonal from Jeff Chimenti, so we got a lot of piano in the mix – which isn’t a bad thing at all. Ticket time was 7:30 and the band took the stage at precisely 8:00.

As soon as the band started warming up two things became readily apparent: first, we’d be getting a Feel Like a Stranger opener. Secondly, JK’s guitar tone was perfect. Stranger was solid – a languid version that seemed to embrace rather than rev up the crowd – but the guitar tone was unmistakable. I’ve heard better Strangers in the last 15 years, but I’ve never heard one that sounded as “right” as this version. The gauntlet was down – John Kadlecik announced from his very first note that he was definitely going to deliver the unmistakable Garcia guitar sound.

Next up came a standard reading of Loose Lucy that featured very strong vocals by Bobby. He sounds and looks great right now. Bobby’s appearance is usually a pretty reliable indicator of his performance level and right now he’s obviously in a very good place. In fact, 2010 might feature the skinniest front 3 in 30 years or so. Appearances aside, nothing could prepare us for what would come next.

John’s first lead vocal performance on It Must Have Been the Roses was nothing short of astounding. I’m not sure if it was the song, the performance, or the fact that it was my first exposure to his talent, but it was the single greatest version of a Grateful Dead song that I’ve heard since Jerry died. He didn’t just nail the song, he fully inhabited it. At that moment, everything made sense. I suddenly understood why Phil & Bobby, after so many years, had finally decided to replace Jerry. Instead of trying to find a new path for a Jerry-less version of the Dead, they were trying to resurrect the Grateful Dead. We all felt it – the Grateful Dead had finally returned. It was one of those rare, magical moments that explains why we seek out live music.

Although the emotional peak of the night was reached so early there was still plenty of music ahead. Bob and John alternated verses on a fun version of Deep Elem Blues, which also featured a great solo by Jeff. The fallow portion followed with the Brent tune Just a Little Light followed by a newer RatDog song Money for Gasoline (how did Bobby sneak that one past Phil?) It’s not to say that those songs are bad or that the performances were weak – Jay Lane in particular was great on Money for Gasoline – it’s just that those songs can’t measure up to the many, many stellar tunes in the Grateful Dead songbook.

I predict that a new mantra, “let John sing,” will sweep through the Dead community, especially after hearing him give new life to old warhorses like Loser.  I’m an Bobby fan from way back when (okay, from way back in the ’80s) but there’s no reason for Bobby to sing Jerry songs when John is standing right there.  Natural order can finally be restored to the universe: Bobby can sing cheesy rockers and cowboy songs, Phil can sing Phil songs and John can sing everything else!

The set closed out with a great Sugaree, once again driven by John (perfect solo) and Jeff. It was a short 72 minute set, but it was long enough to demonstrate that Furthur was very different than previous iterations of the Dead. The only thing that seemed to be missing was Phil. His presence wasn’t absent in the first set, but it wasn’t dominant either. Hopefully the second set would rectify that problem.

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At 10:00 a slow and tasty Truckin’ got the action started again. We seemed to be getting a lot of the “big” songs, which contrary to popular belief, isn’t always a good thing. It’s often hard to find freshness in songs that have been played and heard so many times before, but Furthur was bringing a different vibe to the classics. They sounded both new and old at the same time, probably as a result of bring in the “old” voice of Jerry through John, in addition to the newer perspectives of Joe Russo and Jay Lane on percussion and Jeff Chimenti on keys. It needs to be said that Chimenti is a beast on the piano. He plays somewhere between the boogie-woogie blues of Pigpen and the clean improvisation of Keith Godchaux. For a band that’s gone through quite a few keyboardists in the last 40 years, Jeff is definitely a keeper.

The opening bars of Viola Lee Blues had a transformative effect on the crowd and instantly we were transported to a Phil & Friends show. To me, Viola Lee is the quintessential Phil song and the long jam was just great. Man, I loves me some Viola Lee and this was a good one.

Years ago Phil realized that Ryan Adams does a better job of writing contemporary Americana (i.e. GD) music than any other living artist and he was wise to incorporate many Ryan tunes into his songbook. Tonight we got (as I predicted in the car!) an excellent version of Nobody Girl, sung by JK. Next, Phil came roaring back with a tremendous Bird Song that again showed his gift for elevating simple compositions. Bobby, not to be shown up, treated us all to a Born Cross-Eyed, a difficult song to perform that was pulled off quite well.

The second set continued on its epic (yeah, I said it) path with a great Scarlet Begonias. All night I was trying to put a “date” on the band. They sounded too polished to be the early Dead but they definitely didn’t sound like Brent-era Dead either. During Scarlet I got a very strong 1976 vibe, so I’m sticking with that. Furthur sounds closest to 1976 vintage Dead (sans Donna). I can’t imagine anyone complaining about that.

Unlike 1976, they followed Scarlet with Fire on the Mountain, which was great, even if a part of me missed seeing Mickey with his fucking beam rapping the lyrics. We’ll always love you, Mickey.

The set ended at 11:41 with Sugar Magnolia/Sunshine Daydream played perfectly. The second set, both in performance and design, was masterful. It was a set worthy of the good old Grateful Dead.

Two short minutes later Phil came out to make the Donor Rap and the band played The Weight to close out the night just before midnight. It was a fitting end, with John, Bobby and Phil sharing the verses as well as sharing their visions of the past and the future of the Grateful Dead.

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Many months ago I asked the question, “Is it a good idea for Bobby & Phil to go Furthur?” My fear was that they would finally, fatally turn the Dead into a nostalgia act by including a Jerry replacement. But the Grateful Dead was always a band defined by living on the edge of disaster and taking risks. Embracing the possibility of failure was a key component to their success. For 15 years Phil and Bobby did everything they could to avoid being the Grateful Dead. Out of respect or perhaps out of fear they left the Jerry spot vacant. And while the results were frequently enjoyable, Jerry’s absence was always present on stage and in the sound of the music. But by bringing in John and bringing back the voice of Jerry, we no longer have to miss Jerry – we can celebrate him and revel in his legacy.

Here’s the truth: John Kadlecik doesn’t bring us Fake Jerry. He brings us the real Grateful Dead.

(Yup, it’s that good.)

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Things In Life That You Can’t Live Without Once You Start Living With Them

As a child I always figured that I’d grow up, work for a few months, save up a couple thousand bucks, tell everybody to screw off and then live off the land and my sweet bankroll for the rest of my years.  Now this might sound like some crazy freegan delusion, but believe you me, this was no fantasy.  I had it all worked out.  No way was The Man going to make me join his evil rat race.

And yet…here I am, lo these many years later, still working and hardly ever telling anyone to screw off.  What happened?

Let me tell you what happened.  You see, as the years went by I discovered that there are certain things in life that you can’t live without once you start living with them.  And once you start “needing” things then it’s a slippery slope right into The Man’s clutches.

So what are these evil things that I can’t live without?  Well, I’m glad you asked!

The Dishwasher

One of the first luxuries that apartment dwellers fall for is the dishwasher.  After years of manually scrubbing, rinsing, drying and putting away the dishes finally a machine promises to automate everything (except for the scrubbing, rinsing and the putting away parts.)

Come to think of it, dishwashers suck and I’ve never met one that actually does a good job.  Plus, it takes a small nuclear generator and 3 hours to do a job that previously took 10 minutes. I’d get rid of the dishwasher in a second if it wasn’t for the substantial ego boost that I receive as a result of my Tetris-like gift for squeezing another meal’s worth of dishes into an already full machine.

Air Conditioning

Where I live, near the water, the houses are old and A/C is not a common feature.  Realtors always tell new home buyers that they don’t need A/C on the coast because of the sea breezes.  That is a lie.  What they meant to say was, “when you are sweltering in the summer heat it will definitely smell like fish when you open your windows in a desperate attempt to catch the mythical sea breeze.”

Please note that it is consider impolite to brag about having A/C in the company of your A/C-less neighbors and they will probably not be overly sympathetic when you complain about having a summer cold “because the A/C was set too low.”

Leather Belts

For my entire childhood I used a humble length of cord to hold up my britches – I honestly never knew there was an alternative.   Well, imagine my surprise when I moved to the big city and discovered that fancy folks were using leather straps with holes in them to suspend their trousers!  And the buckles were so beautiful!  Well, ever since that day I’ve spent a substantial portion of my fortune collecting belts and/or buckles.

Automatic Transmissions

People don’t watch black and white TV anymore because someone invented color television.  People don’t have to read Dostoevsky anymore because someone (presumably Cliff) invented Cliff’s Notes.  And yet when it comes to cars people still like to pretend that standard transmissions are somehow superior to automatic transmissions.

Let me get this straight: you want me to have to use a clutch, change gears every 5 seconds and have a minor heart attack every time I park on a hill, even though they figured out how to make the robot do all of those things for me?  Really?  You say things like “I have more control” and “it’s more fun” but I have TWO FREE HANDS for texting and road raging while you have none.  So who’s really having more fun on the roads?

Well, I’m sure there are more examples but I can’t think of any right now because The Man has also ruined my attention span with his stupid internet.  What are the things that you can’t live without?

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Don't Bother Arguing: Led Zeppelin is the Greatest Band in Rock & Roll History

At this juncture in history I think that it’s important that we all acknowledge that Led Zeppelin is the greatest band in rock and roll history and there will never be another band that comes close to the greatness of Led Zeppelin.  They are the alpha and the omega of rock and roll.

Now, please don’t misinterpret this irrefutable fact.  I did not say that Led Zeppelin is my favorite band.  I did not say that they are the best songwriters in the history of rock and roll.  I just said that they are the greatest band in rock and roll history.  Here’s why:

Led Zeppelin is the greatest band in rock and roll history because each member of the band is the most valuable player in rock and roll history on their respective instrument AND the sum of the parts exceeds their individual contributions.

Robert Plant is the greatest vocalist in rock and roll history.  He is also an excellent harmonica player.  I can’t think of anyone who even comes close to Plant.  Maybe Rod Stewart in his prime? 

Jimmy Page is the greatest guitar player in rock and roll history.  He also produced all of their records.  Sure, I love Clapton, Beck, Hendrix and the old blues masters, but who else has the range of Page?  He delivers the crunching chords as well as the heart-wrenching solos.  Page is like Keith Richards and Mick Taylor combined into one player.

John Bonham is the greatest drummer in rock and roll history.  Sure, Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts are amazingly talented drummers.  Keith Moon was a monster.  But Bonham beats them all.  I get physically tired just listening to him play.

John Paul Jones is the greatest bassist in rock and roll history.  He is also a great keyboard player.  JPJ never gets enough credit but his work is stellar.

Led Zeppelin’s first seven albums are perfect.  Sure, the songs are overplayed but can you think of another band that went 7 for 7?  (Yes, In Through The Out Door kind of sucks, but it’s certainly better than most albums released by classic rock bands in 1980.  And Coda doesn’t count as a real album.)

Led Zeppelin also gave the world the insanely entertaining film The Song Remains the Same.  Each time I watch it I am amazed that someone greenlighted the concept.  It’s a concert film!  It’s an art film!  It’s a film about people making tea, talking funny-style English, racing cars and roaming the countryside with devil eyes!

That said, does anyone remember laughter?

Led Zeppelin also had the good sense to call it quits after Bonzo died, keeping their legacy intact.  Sure, it was mean of Page and Plant to reunite without JPJ, but how sweet is it that they really believed that there couldn’t be a Zeppelin without Bonham?  Plus the initial Page-Plant reunion project, The Honeydrippers, was super cool and provided us with our wedding song (“Sea of Love”).

The only bad thing that can be said about Led Zeppelin is maybe, just maybe they had a tiny problem with pinching tunes from the old blues masters.  Now, on the one hand, plagiarism is a bad thing and the courts seemed to agree that Jimmy might have lifted some riffs.  On the other hand, the blues is a traditional form of music and building upon songs from the past is a part of the tradition.  If you don’t believe me, you might want to give Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft a spin.

 So there you have it – my completely unnecessary defense of Led Zeppelin’s legacy.  I will now retire to my bedroom to stare at my blacklight hermit poster and draw runes on my Trapper Keeper.

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I’ll See Your Banh Mi and Raise You a Chacarero (Introducing the Chazer Mekheye)

While the rest of you are wasting time making personal improvement resolutions, I’m kicking off 2010 by coming up with new and exciting schemes for securing global fame and fortune.

I’m thinking that inventing this year’s hot new sandwich might be a good angle. 

It seems like each and every year a new sandwich takes America by storm and what could possibly be easier than: 1) inventing a delicious sandwich that’s never been thought of before, 2) opening a restaurant that sells the aforementioned sandwich, 3) garnering many positive reviews in the media and creating an insatiable demand, 4) franchising the whole operation and 5) retiring on a houseboat with all of my delectable sandwich money?

Last year’s big sandwich was the Vietnamese concoction known as the Bahn Mi.  A bahn mi is a baguette filled with pickled carrots and radishes, cilantro, cucumbers, mayo, and literally anything else that can be jammed into the bread: meat, eggs, old newspapers, whatever.  Now, that may sound disgusting, but the Bahn Mi was the perfect sandwich for the recession year of 2009: it’s super-cheap and it has a cool name (bahn mi means ‘bread’ in Vietnamese.  Methinks that “bread sandwich” is somewhat less catchy than “bahn mi”.)

So there are the first two pieces of the puzzle: our new sandwich for 2010 needs to be cheap and it needs a cool name.

In Boston we have the truly awesome chacarero sandwich, which is allegedly a traditional Chilean sandwich.  (I say allegedly because no one has ever been to Chile to confirm its provenance, or for that matter, to confirm that Chile really exists.)  The chacarero features homemade bread (kind of a cross between a roll and a pita), green beans, avocado, tomatoes, muenster cheese, hot sauce and either beef or chicken (or both).  The chacarero is very popular and commands impossibly long lines at lunchtime.

Studying the Chacarero gives us two more secrets for creating the perfect sandwich: the crucial role of good bread and the need for a mysterious origin/backstory.

Many of you may be familiar with the wrap sandwich.  While tasty, the wrap sandwich represents cultural imperialism of the worst kind.  You see, the wrap is nothing more than a bastardized burrito.  A good burrito is a wonderful thing – the perfect lunch that’s just big enough to ruin dinner and set you up for a night of early dessert gorging.  But the reason that the wrap will never be cool is because people seek authenticity, and there’s nothing authentic about a burrito made out of tuna fish.  Our perfect sandwich will most assuredly be authentic.

Finally, we must also remember to include bacon.  “Vegetarian’s kryptonite” as I like to call it – bacon is the perfect food.  The problem with bacon, of course, is that everyone knows that it’s bad for you.  As a result, people feel guilty when adding it onto their sandwiches.  Our challenge is to include bacon on our sandwich without making people feel guilty about ordering it.

So there you have it.  The big idea sandwich for 2010 needs to:

1)      Be cheap ($5 maximum)

2)      Have a cool name (i.e. not English)

3)      Feature good bread (no seeds or oats or grains or weird shit)

4)      Possess a mysterious backstory (think J. Peterman)

5)      Be authentic

6)      Include bacon (but not that fake Canadian stuff)

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Introducing…The Chazer Mekheye

In ancient times, a small but forgotten tribe of Jews, known only as the Hogakanazi, fought the rabbinical authority and refused to consider the world’s most delicious animal, the pig, as treif (or non-kosher).  These brave Jews spent thousands of years in hiding, honing and refining the perfect sandwich – known only as the Chazer Mekheye – as a symbol of their devotion and solidarity.

The dying wish of the last of the Hogakanazis was to finally share this incredible sandwich with the rest of the world.  The secret of the Chazer Mekheye was entrusted to just one man – me – and now I will share the fruit of the Hogakanazis with you.  In 2010 I invite you to experience this nearly-forgotten culinary delicacy.

Each Chazer Mekheye is lovingly hand-crafted on our unique artisan Hogakanzi bacon-infused bagel, with a dab of horseradish mayonnaise, crisp leaf lettuce, vine-ripened tomato, Vidalia onion and your choice of beef, chicken or combo.  All for just $5.

The Chazer Mekheye.  It’s so good you might just plotz.

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Villains of Christmas Past

With the Christmas season upon us, I once again find myself pondering the big theological question that’s on everyone’s mind:

Who’s the worst Christmas villain?

First, let’s start with the obvious choices.

The Grinch was clearly a bad dude. He terrorized Whoville, abused his dog Max, stole all the presents and decorations and foisted a shitty Halloween sequel on us (“Halloween is Grinch Night”). Then again, was it really his fault? The Grinch had a congenital heart defect (you try living with a heart that’s two sizes too small) and he rehabilitated himself, without any help from Dr. Drew or the Scientologists. If anything the Grinch is a Christmas hero, not a villain.

Ebenezer Scrooge is the other most famous Christmas jerk, but was he really all that bad? Scrooge was a small business owner – no different than your average Joe the Plumber – during the worst recession since the Dark Ages and he still gave that slacker Cratchit a full day off with pay to celebrate Christmas. And how does Cratchit thank Scrooge for his generosity? By whining about not getting a half-day on Christmas Eve! Poor Scrooge was so upset that he went home, smoked a little Jacob Marley (obviously laced with PCP), had a few bad hallucinations, woke up and started giving away turkeys like there was no tomorrow. In other words, Scrooge was another genuine Christmas hero.

So let’s talk about some real Christmas villains.

Donner was one of the most famous reindeers on Santa’s varsity sled team. He was also a vicious child abuser who treated his son, Rudolph, with open contempt. He berated his son and made him cover his beautiful red nose but was all too happy to take credit when Rudolph saved Christmas. Now that asshole was a real Christmas villain.

Charlie Brown might be the worst of the bunch. While we’re never clear whether he’s been treated for his clinical depression or not, Charlie makes it his mission in life to ruin Christmas for everyone, including his amazing dog. Sorry, Charlie, but it’s not our fault that you’re a friendless loser. Being alone and sad on Christmas isn’t enough for Charlie, though. Charlie must take revenge on everyone and everything by constantly railing against presents, decorations and entertaining stage shows. Now that’s one little rage-filled communist that the government should definitely keep an eye out for.

So, who’s the biggest Christmas villain on your list this year?

(Note: Joe Lieberman doesn’t count.)

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