Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Rod Rambles No More 

Ramblin' Rod died. OK, it was last year, but I just found out. I was home watching Death To Smoochy last night and I started wondering if Rod was still on the air. Apparantly not.

See, back in the early days of Television (as in all of it up until about, uh, now) every town had a home-grown kiddie show hosted by some local third-string celebrity. In Portland, Oregon, that man was Ramblin' Rod Anders. Ramblin' Rod ran on KPTV, Portland from 1964 until 1997. That's 33 years, folks.

It was pretty typical of kids shows from the period, but Rod kept it simple. No costume for him, just polyester slacks and a cardigan weighed down with hundreds of buttons kids had given him over the years. Every morning at 7:30, Rod rode in on a tugboat, talked to the kids, ran a smile contest, introduced his special birthday guests, ran some cartoons, gave out a few cases of Pop Shoppe Pop and tickets to The Oaks Amusement Park. Every morning, the bleachers were packed with Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Bluebirds, and the kids loved him. There were pretenders over the years, Heck Harper, Rusty Nails, Dr. Zoom, Rod buried them all. Sound a little low-rent? It gets better.

KPTV wasn't a network affiliate. Back when there were only 3 networks, KPTV was the "other" station in Portland. They ran a lot of syndicated programming and a lot of old movies. On weekend evenings, it was Portland Wrestling, which was a lot like the WWF if their budget was around $50 an episode. Between bouts, Rod did ads for used cars. As I got older, this disturbed me. Even as the world's most cynical 12-year-old, I was disturbed by the concept that Rod had to do ads. The man was an icon, for God's sake.

There was a disturbing rumor, though. When I was about 8, I read an article about Rod that suggested the worst. That Ramblin' Rod...didn't like children. That sat kinda weird with me. Maybe Rod was just a sell-out, only in it for the bucks. As time passed, I realized that it didn't matter much. If he liked kids, great. If he didn't, then he was one of the great actors of all time. Imagine, if he actually did hate kids, then he managed to be their best freind and hero every day for over 30 years without developing a drinking problem. And if the worst you can say about him was that he didn't like kids, the man must have been a saint.

Does any of this sound familiar? A children's show pimping off-brand soda and a run-down amusement park? Maybe he doesn't even like kids and he's only in it for the bucks? Seem like you've heard this before? Here's why: Simpsons creator Matt Groening is from Portland. There is no possible way the Groening could NOT have watched Rod as a child. There's much discussion among Simpsons-obsessives of where Krusty the Clown came from, and Ramblin' Rod is one of the leading contenders.

I'll tell you the truth, though. My brother and I always had a secret dream. See, we grew up in Corvallis, about two hours south of Portland. We always knew that we were never gonna be on the show. We wanted to destroy it. Our plan was to get some wino off Burnside and plant him on the show. With any luck, he'd soil himself on camera. What can I say? Eric and I share a pretty dark sense of humor.

It's sad, really. Rod was on the air for 33 years. Clearly, there was an audience in Portland for a locally produced children's show, and Rod did the job well. What replaced Rod? "Good Day Oregon." Seems like everything on TV these days is either network, syndicated, or so bleached out generic that there's no difference between "AM Seattle" and "Hello, New Orleans". What ever happened to locally produced programming? What happened to local sports talk shows replete with bad toupees and loud sports coats, alcoholic sea captains interviewing children's librarians, fat Midwestern Vampires introducing horror movies, and cross-eyed, hare-lipped Libertarians ranting about free trade? This is what made television great, and it's disappearing every day.

So for you, Ramblin' Rod, and your bygone era, I offer this salute. I raise a glass of off-brand cola to your memory.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

TV Eye 

I'm a huge Iggy Pop fan. Huge. One of the most frustrating things in my life has been society's refusal to recognize his genius. 10 years ago, I was working in a coffee place, and playing "Lust For Life" in an almost continuous loop. The reactions were uniform: "Iggy Who?" "This is weird, I don't like it." Fast forward a decade and "Lust For Life" is being used to advertise everything from cars to cruises. I hope he kept the publishing.

I was a happy guy in 1990 when Iggy finally got some recognition. Mtv bestowed upon him their Best New Artist award for "Candy". I'll point out that Iggy's first record with The Stooges was released in 1969.

In a business where most artists either burn out and die young or get old, fat, and irrelevent, Iggy stands in very small company. After almost 35 years, he's still a caged animal. As far as I can tell, he doesn't even own a shirt. He's wandering around a stage on my TV right now. At 55, he's at the top of his game, and he's in better shape than he was at 25.

Oddly, the only other performer I can think of who's still putting out new and relevent material in their 3rd decade on the road is David Bowie. It's no coincidence, because when these two polar opposites have collaberated, they've both turned out some of their best work. I think it's the same reason that Bowie works so well with Trent Reznor. Where Bowie is all poise and calculation, Iggy is an animal, just released from his cage, exorcising his demons through performance.

Cable has provided a nice Iggy fix for me this week. Tonight, he's on "Sessions at West 54th" on Trio Network. It's an intimate performance, maybe 75 people in the audience. Iggy is still on fire. It's the only time I've ever seen him play guitar live.

In direct contrast is my favorite episode of "The Adventures of Pete and Pete", which Tivo was nice enough to find for me. It's Pete's first school dance, and his best friend Nona's father is looking for a dance with his little girl. He's been looking forward to it all week, and he's been practicing dance moves out in the yard. Nona, of course, is mortified and looking for a way out. The payoff is that Nona's Dad is Iggy Pop, and the dancing that's so bizzare is just his normal stage antics. Oh, and the band playing the dance? Luscious Jackson. And this is a kid's show. I don't know who produced "Pete and Pete", but they were fucking geniuses.

The best part is that barring car accidents and obsessed fans, we have at least another dozen Iggy Pop albums to look forward to. Iggy takes care of himself, and he shows no sign of slowing down. Good God, Iggy Pop will probably outlive me. Can someone arrange to have him dance on my grave? To "The Passenger", please.

Why Can't George Read? 

You ever discover something that was terrifying and yet explained everything? It happened to me today. CNN ran an article about President Bush's reaction to the race for the Democratic Nomination.

Here are some choice excerpts:

Bush said he insulates himself from the "opinions" that seep into news coverage by getting his news from his own aides. He said he scans headlines, but rarely reads news stories.

"I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news," the president said. "And the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."

Dude is the President of the United States, and he doesn't read newspapers. Let me repeat that. He's President, and he doesn't read the paper. It explains so much about him. Now, in his defense, I'm sure he has an aide who reads Ziggy to him every day. "Ah, Ziggy. Will you ever win?"

It explains a lot, when you think about it. First off, I'm sure he's dead serious, because there's no possible benefit to lying. If we take this at face value, it means that he's simply repeating whatever his advisors tell him, without doing any analysis or research of his own. Now that's a leader. It also explains how it is that he can keep changing his story without seeming to notice. Even he doesn't know what he's saying, he just reads the teleprompter. I have always suspected that Bush was simply a puppet and that Dick Cheney and/or Karl Rove were pulling the strings. Now, I'm sure of it.

A few more choice tidbits from the article:

"[French President Jacques Chirac] and I have had some pretty frank discussions before about issues," Bush said. "I will continue to remind him, though -- and he needs to hear this clearly from me, which he will -- that America is a good nation, genuinely good."

Way to take a stand, George. "America...Good!"

And, of course, he weighed in on Iraq (glad he's taking an interest).

"Obviously, I think they're going badly for the soldiers who lost their lives"

Again, The President cuts right to the point. Things aren't going well for the dead. Things aren't going well at all for them. With bold statements like this, I'm sure he'll have many dead people voting for him in 2004. Especially in Florida.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Sounds like an injury to me 

I found myself watching SlamBall tonight, God knows why. Normally, I'd issue some snarky comment here about the game, but the description on the info screen says it all:

SlamBall. Extreme. Sports Non-Event

I really can't improve on that.

Lost In Translation 

I saw Lost In Translation, Bill Murray's latest film. I am stunned. This is one of the best films I've seen all year. I came out of the theatre wondering if it was fair to call it Bill Murray's best film. It's definitely his best dramatic performance, but there's not much drama there to compare it to.

Bill plays Bob Harris, a famous actor who's come to Japan to shoot a commercial. He's bored and completely out of his element. At the hotel, he meets Scarlett, who's in Japan accompanying her husband on a business trip. She's just as lonely as Bob, and just as confused by this alien culture. Neither of them can sleep, and both gravitate to the hotel bar, where they meet.

What follows is completely unlike the films Hollywood generally makes. There's comparatively little dialogue, and what there is, rarely serves to advance the plot. Bob and Scarlett hang out, club around Tokyo, and become friends. Sophia Coppola, who wrote, directed, and produced the film, takes great pleasure in shooting colorful passive scenes, and NOT filling them with pop music, clever one-liners and catch phrases. The result is a performance so natural that Bill Murray doesn't appear to be acting at all. By deliberately not explaining everything that's happening, Coppola allows us to see Japan through the character's eyes, beautiful but confusing, and at times incomprehensible.

Bottom line, this is one of the best films of 2003. Do yourself a favor and go see it.


I've been thinking a lot about Canada. It's nice country up there. Cold as death, but nice. I've been there a few times, and it's always been fun.

When I was 18, in 1986, I had to register for the draft. Well, they didn't actually call it a draft because there wasn't a draft at the time. As Jerry Reed put it back in the day, it's just a list of names we can call on if there's an emergency. Funny, I already had a Social Security card and I was registered at Oregon State University. Plus, I was getting financial aid. Seems like the Government could find me if they needed to. Still, in order to get the aforementioned financial aid, I had to register.

Now, this was 1986. Reagan was in the White House, and seemed to be doing everything he could to provoke a war with somebody. I lived in Weatherford Hall, a complete slum of a dorm. Now, I say slum, but I don't really mean it. Weatherford was built in the 1920s. It's very old, and poorly maintaned. Sometime in the 1970s it was decreed that residents could customize their rooms however they wanted. Many students went to town. My room, for instance, had a big loft, a bar, a couch that folded out into a bed, a desk, built-in shelving units, and a keg cooler hidden in the closet. Honestly, that room was one of the nicest places I've ever lived. The one thing it didn't have was phones. For the first four years I lived there, everyone on the third and fourth floor shared a single pay phone. 50 guys, one phone. Even better, one year there were 5 guys named "Andy". Somehow, it worked. That said, I imagined this scene:

Knock Knock Knock
"Phone, Logan"
"OK, Thanks."
I walk downstairs
"Hi, Logan. This is Bob, from the Government?"
"Oh, hi. How are things in Washington?
"Oh, not bad. Kinda humid, but it's nice. Fishbone’s playing tonight."
"Yeah, ‘Truth and Soul’. Good album."
"Yeah, so reason I'm calling..."
"Well, I dunno if you've been reading the news, but we have this thing going on in Nicaragua?"
"Oh, yeah. I thought that was illegal."
"Yeah, it was. But we've got that all sorted out, and it's cool now."
"Anyway, it’s getting kind of hairy down there and we wanted to know if you were into helping us out?”
“Well, Bob, see, normally, I’d come help you out, but I’ve got this whole college thing going on.”
“Cool cool, no problem. Maybe next time.”
“Sure, have fun at Fishbone.”
“Right, bye.”

Yeah, that’s gonna happen.

Filling out the Selective Service form, I told myself not to worry. If things got bad, I can always head for Canada. I’ve got an Uncle in Toronto. It’ll be fine.

As time passed, things improved. I finished college and got a job as a DJ. I figured that if the draft came, I would be in the radio corps, probably not in combat. More time passed, and I got older. Bill Clinton was President, and the odds of going to war ebbed even further. I got older, and wandered down to Silicon Valley to work as a Software Engineer. The odds of seeing combat ebbed further. I was administering systems and writing code, so I figured I’d probably be stationed in San Diego writing code for the Army. I turned 30, and the odds of being drafted receded further. Finally, I turned 35, and I was safe. I always figured that if there was a war that was big enough and bad enough that they were drafting 35-year-old engineers, I’d be volunteering anyway.

Then 9/11 happened.

Over the past two years, I’ve seen the USA PATRIOT Act passed, and PATRIOT 2 threatens. I’ve seen the Attorney General tell us that people need to watch what they say, and suggest a corps of civilians to keep tabs on their neighbors and report any suspicious behavior. And I’ve seen thousands of people detained and held incommunicado, without access to lawyers, without their families being told that they’ve been taken. I’ve seen American citizens declared “Enemy Combatants”, and denied both their Civil Rights and their rights as Prisoners of War. Over the past two years I’ve become more and more afraid.

I think about Canada. I think about the stories I’ve heard about the last trains out of Germany before they started arresting dissidents. I think about Toronto spending more on grants for artists than all of America. I think about clean streets and rivers, and low crime. Finally, I wonder if there will even be an election in 2004, if the new voting machines are pre-rigged to give the election to the GOP, and what happened to America that I suddenly have to worry about these things.

Joey? You looking for a roommate?

Update: Maybe so.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Comedy, or Why Am I The Only One Who Gets It? 

Comedy. I'm a bit of a fan. No, really? How novel. When I moved to The Bay Area, the thing I was most excited about (besides becoming obscenely wealthy) was seeing live stand up comedy. San Francisco is legendary for great clubs with first-rate comedians. As soon as I was settled, I started checking the club listings. I was not disappointed. My first Halloween, Comics Come Home did a benefit in SF. The lineup was great: Janeanne Garofalo, Bobcat Goldthwait, Margaret Cho, David Cross, and a host of others. Amazing show, and the first time I ever saw Patton Oswalt (Or as I like to call him, "The Evil Little Gnome who is America's Greatest Living Performer").

Here's the weird part: no one wanted to go. I talked to everyone I knew, and got the same response across the board: "Comedy? Wha?". I was finally able to convince my roommate that this was gonna be fun. He was tentative about the whole thing, especially when we found out that Scott Weiland was playing the same night. 10 minutes in, my point was proved. Everyone was red hot. Absolutely on fire. And, in retrospect, Patton Oswalt is bigger than ever, and is the (IMHO), best comedian working today. Scott Weiland, however, has yet to have another hit. Musically, I mean. He's had plenty of the other kind.

Over time, I've repeated the process. "Dude! Louis CK is playing Cobb's next weekend! Are you in?" "Who? What? What the hell are you talking about?" It's amazingly difficult to talk anyone into going to a comedy club the first time. After the first visit, they're sold. I really don't understand it. If you go to a rock club, and the band sucks, they will suck loudly and to the exclusion of any other activity (save drinking) for the next 45-60 minutes. At a comedy club, no matter how bad the guy is, he's guaranteed to be pretty good. After all, he gets paid to be funny in public. But the same people who will pay $9.50 (plus popcorn) to see a movie that got 2 stars won't pay $15 (plus two drinks) to see someone who is internationally famous for comedy.

I dunno, I just don't get it. No one has ever been able to explain to me what's so weird about stand-up comedy. I'll offer to pay for tickets AND drinks, and people will counter-offer with "Let's just go see the latest piece of shit from Ashton Kutcher". Maybe I've stumbled on a weird metaphor no one told me about, after all, this is San Francisco. Maybe "stand up comedy" is code for "watersports and rough leather sex". Someone explain it to me. As with so many things, I just don't get it.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Recall My Ass 

Latest news from California
It's all about the recall here. As we all read in the news, the recall vote has been postoned by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue at heart is that there are 6 counties that still have the old-school punch card voting machines. Being as these machines are rife with errors, this means that it's a dead cert that a significant number of votes (about 40,000) from those counties will not be counted.

The problem here is that the replacement machines will be electronic touch-screen's which are totally insecure.

There is some good news out here, though. Buried deep in the list of candidates for Governor is one familiar name: Jack Grisham. For those of you who suffer from cultural illiteracy (and by that I mean "weren't into Punk Rock in High School"), Jack was the lead singer for the seminal eighties punk band True Sounds Of Liberty. Time to dig out that copy of "Dance With Me" and Rock The Vote!

OK, that's totally disingenuous, as he's not even top five on my list of candidates, but TSOL did kick ass back in the day. At this point, my short list breaks down about like this:

1) No. No recall. This recall was a bad idea from the get go. We voted the bastard in, and now we're stuck with him. It's called Democracy, guys. Look it up.
2) Cruz Bustamente. I'm not what you'd call a fan, but he has a good chance of winning, and I fear him less than Ahh-nold.
3) Ariana Huffington. No chance of winning short of Arnold, Cruz Bustamente, Tom McClintock, Peter Ueberroth, and Bill Simon all being filmed shooting herion into each other's cocks while praising Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin. So there's some hope.
4) Peter Camejo. I go through this every year. I want to vote Green Party, but I keep thinking about Nader in 2000, and I end up voting for the Democrat.

It occurred to me far too late, but I should have run. I should have taken a leave of absence from work and run for Governor. There's no way I could have won, or even made a dent in the outcome, but for the rest of my life I could have put "2003: Candidate for Governor of California" on my resume. For the rest of my life, every time I applied for a job, some guy would read that on my resume and I'd get that second look. If it was me reading that on a resume, I'd be all over it. I'd fire up a browser and check to see if the guy was on the level. If he was, I'd definately schedule him for an interview. How could you pass up an opportunity to talk to a Candidate for Governor one-on-one? I'll admit there are 135 people running, but they'll all have a hell of a story to tell at parties.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

8/28/03 9:21 am
The Worldcom execs have been indicted. Wither punishment? Theirs wasn't a violent offense, but neither was it a victimless crime. The direct victims, the shareholders, can't be reimbursed because the money no longer exists. Greater still is the collateral damage to the market and the economy as a whole. I know what my takeaway from the corporate scandals was: why should I put money into the stock market? The stocks were over valued, the analysts were lying about the stocks, and the companies themselves were lying about their performance. I might as well put my money in my mattress.

What to do?

There are 2 elements to a sentence: punishment & prevention. If Bob makes $10 million from his crime, is fined $2 M and serves 1 year, where is the incentive not to offend? I'd do a year in jail for $8 million dollars. Let's face it, even if it's ass-pounding prison, who wouldn't be everyone's prom date for a year for $8 million dollars?

We like to say that the punishment should fit the crime. In this case, the crime is greed. The punishment should be poverty. These men, having abused and betrayed capitalism, should lose their right to it. Start with forfiture of all assets. Everything. They start over with only their wits. Then, for the rest of their lives, they must live on minimum wage. They find a job, work 40, and get $5.15 an hour. If they make more, it's forfeit to pay their fines. If they can't find work, too bad. They can work road crew for minimum wage.

Their finances should be strictly audited. Gifts of cash or in kind counts as income. The onus would be on the offender to prove compliance. Fail, and it's prison. Every month, they have to show documentation of their every expense. If Bob claims that he's working at McDonalds, but drives around in a new BMW, he better be able to demonstrate that he's living in it and eating brown rice 3 meals a day.

Suppose our offender's spouse still makes $100,000 a year. Why should she suffer for his sins? Admittedly, she shouldn't. However, a spouse shouldn't be able to bail him out. the whole point is to make the guilty party suffer. Ergo, eery dollar
she gives him, every bagel, cab ride, and night at the mansion should count as income. If she can't handle it, tough. It's hard being married to a criminal.

This is the best scenario. There's money for the victims, and the penalties really hurt. Under this schema, if someone considers fraud on this level, the kind that can trash a national economy and hurt millions of people, they're not risking white-collar prison, they're risking everything with no way out. Forever.

8/28/03 10:53 am Boarding in Minnesota
All the Midwestern kids affect California Orange County. OP surfer jams. First class is full of salesmen, all listening to cell phones. The hours spent @ the gym 5 years ago visible under client dinners kept in check by 20-minute bursts on the Hyatt

Airports look more like malls every day. To get from Terminal G to D, I pass Chili's, bookstores, pet stores, clothing stores, there's even someone hawking beds. The billboards sell office solutions and advertise more billboards. Can there be no vertical surface free of advertising?

Hindus & Sikhs creep through the halls like hunted animals. They know this is an airport in the Midwest and olive skin=terrorist. I can see the man in front of me tensing as he watches a grandfather reading the Punjabi Times. I want to explain it to him: "These are Sikhs, not Muslims. You can tell by the turban."

Me, I'm completely unconcerned. Hijacking is dead in America for at least 20 years. Anyone who stood up on a plane with any sort of announcement would instantly
rushed and beaten half to death with copies of Skymall. Even if it was only that they'd found someone's glasses.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I'm back from my East Coast Vacation Odyssey. As always, it was a good time. I hung out with my friend Gary for about 10 days, rolling around Baltimore and doin' the do. While the do was being done, I took note notes-a-plenty in anticipation of blogging the whole trip. Sadly, all this information is on my PDA. In order to get at it, I have to sync with my PC, which is down. It gets better. The antenna broke off my Handspring Visor (3rd time), so I am sans phone. And I am never without my phone.

Being a full-on gadget freak, I took this as an omen: it's time to get a new PDA/Phone. Admittedly, the invason of Iraq, the recent proximity of Mars, and the death of Leni Riefenstahl were also clear signs that I needed a new cell phone.

The Handspring Treo 300 looked pretty good, but for one thing: it won't send SMS messages. It'll recieve SMS, but for some reason Handspring decided that sending was uneccessary. I am baffled by this decision, and am tempted to insert a rant here about SMS spam and Handspring seeing it's customers only as wallets and passive recepticles for advertising, but there's always time for that later.

Right now, the frontrunner is the Treo 270, but I'm not happy about it. Handspring's hardware is cheaply made, and I've already had to replace my Visorphone three times (at a cost of $110 each). I'm really hesitant to hand them another $500. The reviews are mixed on the 270. I'm afraid it's gonna break on me within a year. I'm also a tad nervous about the money. I'd like wireless email and web, but I don't to want to blow $200 a month on my phone.

On the other hand, the Palm Tungsten T2 is dead sexy. It's got the phone, the Palm OS, the color screen, the SMS, and almost everything I want. The only thing that's missing is a speakerphone. If I've gotta plug in a headset everytime I answer the phone, fugeddaboudit.

In third place is the T-Mobile Sidekick. I saw one of these on a plane about a year ago, and it's pretty cool. A phone/PDA with unlimited data. I played with one of these, and they've really got the interface down. The problem twofold:

First, it's a proprietory OS. That means that the thousands of third-party applications devloped for the Palm Pilot and the Pocket PC won't work. Specifically, it means that the greatest Palm application currently available, Vindigo, won't work. That's a deal breaker for me. Vindigo saved my ass when my car broke down in LA.

Second, you can't sync with a PC. With the Palm OS, I have a backup of everything on my PDA backed up and burned to cd. When I upgrade or if my PDA goes tits up, I have a backup. With the Sidekick, this isn't an option. This isn't a dealbreaker for me, but it's a great feature. I'm probably not gonna get the Sidekick, but I'm gonna watch them closely.

I so don't get this. You can get an mp3 player with 128 MB RAM for about a hundred bucks, and phones are practically disposable. Make it a PDA, the memory drops to 16 MB and the price jumps by $300. Come on people, can't we get together on this?

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Baltimore 3: Happy Birthday to Me 

I turn 35 today. That's a big birthday. I was anticipating some sort of emotional ketchup burst, but it's been pretty sedate.

The plan is to go to Annapolis for crab. A word about Mid-Atlantic weather: it's hot. And humid. Put 'em together and it's hot and humid. Like 90 and 90. I walked outside, and my sunglasses fogged up. Annapolis seems like a more upscale version of Newport, Oregon, but hotter. I see now why the founding fathers got the hell out of here every summer.

The ultimate goal for our journey: traditional Maryland blue crabs. One thing I was fairly clear on was that I didn't want a 5-star brassiere nor T.J. O'Pootertoots Family Seafood Emporium. See, when I go on vacation, I like to check out the local cusine. In Baltimore, that's crab. More importantly, I really hate chain restaraunts. Chili's, Denny's, Shari's, I hate 'em all. When I go out, I'm looking for someplace original and authentic. In a new town, I want to go where the locals go.

And I found it. Cantwell's is a local place off a side road off another side road down by the river outside Annapolis, Maryland. Their specialty is a cafeteria tray piled high with whole blue crabs and a couple of ears of corn: all you can eat for $20. Summertime, you sit out on the porch on picnic tables covered in butcher paper. You are given a full set of utensils, but crabs are a food to be eaten with a wooden mallet. Just smash 'em up and dig in. Served with a bucket of Rolling Rock Beer (proudly served in cans), count on being messy to the elbows. They're ready for this, though. There's a sink on the side of the porch for washing up. You want authentic, this is it. The crab, incidentally, is fantastic. I've paid twice as much for crab that wasn't half as good.

As birthdays go, this one was beyond low-key. No screaming, no guitars, no vomiting. Past birthdays with Gary include seeing the Ramones with Mudhoney, The Sex Pistols with Goldfinger, Henry Rollins, and Iggy Pop (plus Gary's infamous Gothick Danse Party in '94). Things are getting more sedate, but the fun never stops. I can think of far worse ways to spend birthday #35.

Road tunes: Songs in the Key of Springfield, Todd Rundgren's "Acapella", and Warren Zevon's Greatest Hits.

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