Tuesday, July 28, 2009


So, check this out.....

Fred Armisen tends to make me laugh. A lot. But he also creeps me out to no end. And I find him a little annoying.

But Carrie Brownstein? That's a different matter entirely.

I know it's doomed for obvious reasons, but I still find myself falling more in love with the lovely Ms. Brownstein every day, and in the immortal words of Randy Owen, I'll be over the edge now in no time at all.

And giving love to Mr. Danzig? Now you're just toying with me.

C'mon, Carrie.....next time you're out east to meet the suits, give me a holler. We'll get together and listen to Static Age. Whaddaya you say?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fear and Loathing In Seattle - Part II

Seattle Mariners vs Chicago White Sox
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

Lordy, Jesus......road madness, cigarettes and Jaegermeister would drop me like a dead moose these days. But then again, I've lost a step in my race towards the Grim Reaper. (He's patient, that Grim Reaper. And when he wants you, he'll find you. He isn't interested in making your job any easier, so I sure ain't interesting in helping him do his anymore).

But, I suppose I was a little more stupid back in the summer of 1998. Behold......


At some point, the music at the Showbox ended and we ran across the street to a swing dance bar where another live band was playing. The bartender was from Philly, and he gave free Jaeger shots to Fran the Man and to Ms. J, because there were Delaware Valley residents. (I was zombified enough that he wouldn't serve me. Even for money. And I was really bummed about it).

After last call, I have a fuzzy memory of a pizza stand where I was allowed to order pizza, but refused access to the lavatory. I was really bummed about this, as well.

And then...oh, Jesus.......Then we went back up to our shady 1940's downtown hotel.

I can't even begin to explain what might have been going through my head, but as we tumbled into our hotel room, the discussion became a little raunchy. There was talk of sexual naughtiness. Hell if I know what I was thinking, but I decided that it might be interesting to find out of Ms. J wanted to make out with me.

In fact, I believe that the exact words of proposition, as quoted by Fran the Man over the next several weeks, was the stunningly charming and romantic, "Hey....HEY! I daryou to makeow wi me."

Given Ms. J's recent-at-the-time history of calling my bluff, this was a really dumb thing of me to say.

And given that I was convinced that there was a spark to be lit between Fran the Man and Ms. J., it's an indefensible thing for me to have said. (Never you mind that Fran the Man's steadfastly insisted that he was not interested in her...what kind of a friend would attempt to hook up with the annoying girl that he thought was interested in his buddy....In front of his buddy?....In the same room as his buddy? Who does a thing like that?)

Jesus, this is icky, even ten years later.

Within miliseconds of my dare, I had been aggressively tackled by Ms. J and we careened to the floor in a drunken, clumsy, unattractive form of kissing. Her enthusiasm was a little daunting, but my inner Bacchus saw to it that we made the best of things.

I imagine that Fran the Man shielded his eyes before he (mercifully) cut off the lights - perhaps to protect our dignity, perhaps to protect his own.

He then (unmercifully) collapsed onto his bed, and began snoring loudly.

He had abandoned me.

Despite the fact that Fran the Man had left me to my own drunken devices to bring this horrible mistake to an end, it actually was Ms. J who, after several odd and surreal moments called things off before they got out of hand. Which was very thoughtful of her. I fell asleep there on the floor, and she sacked out on the bed.

No harm, no foul. Honestly, it was all really innocent, I guess.

Except it kind of wasn't. I really thought that things were meant to be between Fran the Man and Ms. J, and I'd yapped about it for the past several days. And there I was mouth-moshing with her while my best friend right there was in the room with us. There's nothing innocent about that.

And, frankly, Fran the Man and I both found her to be a little intrusive, and we each held a slight amount of hostility towards her for wanting to be one of the boys so badly that she crashed a road trip.

And we were all so absolutely, poisonously loaded that everything about this particular hook-up really stands out as messy at best and vaguely mean-spirited at worst.

(I don't even know why I'm admitting this; it doesn't have anything to do with music, and it certainly doesn't fall into the category of the kind of humorous confessional that I like to talk about. At least not when you're half-way honest about it).

((And making some wise-crack about how this particular hook-up falls within the theme of "bad taste" would be a little more rude than I'm willing to be)).


I awoke the following morning to Ms. J stampeding over my nearly lifeless body as she hurried to the hallway bathroom, which we unfortunately (for them) shared with the visitors in the next hotel room.

I rubbed my eyes and looked around the room, which seemed to have been trashed the night before. Recounting the evening's events with no small amount of physical and moral discomfort, I breathed heavily, and stumbled to our 11th floor window.

Heaving the heavy window open, I bent over and stuck my head and shoulders out for a breath of fresh air. At that moment, Fran the Man limply roused from his bedsheets, rolled over, and addressed me in his textbook morning-after croak:

"You can jump now, Thomas."

((In all my years of friendship with Fran the Man, this is undoubtedly my very favorite moment of his undeniable wit. There was no comeback, no appropriate call for mercy. I was to be shunned and punished for my questionable judgment, and I had no course but to accept it as I faced a hangover that was simply devastating...even in those days when I routinely laid a hurt on myself several times a week.))

"I think (Ms. J.) is throwing up," I mumbled, with the irony of my response lost on neither of us.

"Yup," he responded. "I sure did about an hour ago."

I turned and looked over the room with disgust. There was the spot on the nasty carpet where I'd slept all night. There was the bed I'd passed over to Ms. J. There were the countless items that the three of us had overturned the night before.

I was depressed and full of regret.

"Fuck, we have to go to that Mariner's game, don't we?" I asked Fran the Man, who had arranged a meet up with a distant cousin and his wife, for the day's 1:30 battle with the White Sox.

"Jesus, what time is it? Is it Noon, already?" he asked into his pillow.

"Do we have to go?"

"Kind of."

An absolutely green Ms. J. emerged from the bathroom. She looked like she'd shown up at a brick fight without a brick.

"There is no way I'm going to that game," she moaned as she fell onto the bed.

I felt terrible for her. But I also was shamefully motivated to get out of the room as soon as I could, so I did my turn attempting to make myself vomit in the toilet (...an unsuccessful effort, despite the fact that the one-two punch of Fran the Man and Ms. J's stomach contents had somehow manage to clog the toilet, leaving a grotesque foamy yellow-green film all around the inside of the bowl.)


Somehow, I soldiered through a shower and dressed, and Fran the Man and I went down to the corner grocery to purchase for Ms. J a hangover kit (bagel, OJ, large water, Tylenol and rock candy). Upon our return she gratefully accepted our gifts and told us to go ahead to the game without her.


Fran's cousin and his wife we a little older - probably young 40's or so. And they were really friendly and great. Awesome hosts, and glad to meet up with us, even though the adventures of the night before undoubtedly left us looking like lost members of G.G. Allin's touring band.

Fran the Man was hanging on pretty well, but I was about to drop dead. From the minute we entered the stadium all I wanted in the world was a nice, tall, cold overflowing Coca Cola to help mask that flavor of day-old cheap beer and cigarettes that never quite gets out of you mouth the next day. But, naturally, I'd spent every cent in my wallet on alcohol the evening before, so I ran unsteadily around the concrete hell hole that was the Superdome, searching in vain for an ATM. (I finally found one somewhere behind the home plate area, a cruel joke of fate given that we'd been seated somewhere around the 300 level).

On the way back to the seats I searched just as feverishly for a water fountain, but couldn't find one anywhere. Finally, I got myself in line for a concession stand that moved as slowly as possible. As I sweated Jaegermeister and inadvertantly swayed back and forth trying to keep my balance it dawned on me that I was still quite inebriated. (This occurred to me after I did one of those one-and-a-half-step stumbles into the woman standing in the line next to me).


All I remember about the game was hating the stadium, and watching Ken Griffey, Jr. (who was part of that multi-year Brady Anderson, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa home run race) absolutely BELT a homer. Which isn't quite as exciting when you're indoors.

Oh, and I also remember generally feeling like shit on a English muffin.

One other thing that sticks with me is just how overwhelmingly friendly Fran the Man's cousin and his wife were. I mean, it was
odd. I understood them being excited to see the East Coast relative, but why were they being so.....inclusive......to me?

(Faithful readers may have figured out by this time, that they totally thought that I was Fran the Man's boyfriend. This tended to happen to us frequently sometimes, though no one ever actually said it out load. Nonetheless, I got pretty good at picking up at the "don't worry, we love gays" tone of voice that certain people's families and friends used to use upon meeting us for the first time.

We really should have gone out with more girls...)

Fran the Man and I left the game and spent the afternoon bumming around Seattle, avoiding the hotel. He was giving me hell about the previous evening's activities with Ms. J, but I think he could also see a mixture of remorse and embarrassment in me, and I could tell that he actually felt a little sorry that it took me just this long to realize that Ms. J had been tracking *me* - not him - for the past few years.

But he liked it a little, too. I can be an amazing jerk to the people I love, and I had needed to be knocked down for an awfully long time. And I could tell he was kind of glad to see it done with no blood on his hands.

Some time before dinner, we headed back, and there was Ms. J, still lying in bed. There was a pail next to her, and the room still had the sick smell it had that morning. She hadn't left the room all day, and I felt pretty lousy about ruining her vacation.

I think we all had an awkward dinner together, but I don't really remember. The two of them sacked out early since we had flights the next morning, and I sat in the lobby and read a book by myself, feeling like a coward and a jerk.


Much of the following day was a blur. Ms. J was trying to be an adult about everything and I continued to avoid conversation with her, which was mean and immature. We boarded our separate flights and I can honestly say that I don't remember a thing about the next several hours it took to get to Philadelphia.

But I do know that I never saw Ms. J. again, and I'm fairly sure that her friendship with Fran the Man withered shortly thereafter as well. Which strikes me as just plain terrible. Friendships are hard enough to keep alive once you get past your mid-to-late 20's and I feel pretty much directly responsible for killing that one.

Am I over-thinking it?

Yeah, totally: Hooking up with people you aren't supposed to is a big part of your 20's. And, heaven's to Betsey, you all know that more than once I've been the subject of that awful "Holy shit, I didn't actually make out with HIM last night, did I?!?" moment.

In a lot of aspects, the way you manage that uncomfortable aftermath can be a big part of what defines your character as it relates to the opposite sex in those years. Chalk it up to a crazy night, and there will be a lot fewer hard feelings than if you go out of your way to act embarrassed. But, of course, that would necessitate my thinking more about the other person than myself, which wasn't something I was very good at.

The next few years, I had abysmal luck with women. Just terrible. I'm not sure anyone even knows how bad because for a time I just stopped talking about my many failures and missed cues.

And it occurs to me that there's a lot to be said for karma.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fear and Loathing In Seattle: Part I

Besides the obvious, there was one key reason that it was dumb not to invite the punk rock girl to join us on our trip to Portland: an acquaintance of Fran the Man's whom we will call "Ms. J."

During the planning stages of our trip, Fran the Man and myself were unexpectedly joined at his King of Prussia, PA residence by Ms. J.

Ms. J was a nice girl. A true tom-boy, she was an athlete, a grade school teacher, and the type of girl who seemed to associate primarily with dorky guy friends like ourselves. She wasn't particularly feminine, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that she was unattractive; she just wasn't the type who cared to expend excessive effort into her appearance, and instead tended to get by on her outgoing and accommodating nature. She interacted with people with an immediate sense of familiarity - in fact, she used to call me "Tommy-boy" whenever she saw me, which was fairly frequently now that I think about it.

In fact, Ms. J had a way of showing up at Fran the Man's house almost every time I came up from D.C. to visit him. And she'd tag along at the last minute to various road trips, too - the trip to Boston after my Morrisey-style heartbreak over my dead romance with that insane Irish vagabond girl from Oshawa, the trips to the Jersey shore, and a couple of other random parties and misadventures in between.

Naturally, I assumed that there was some latent romance waiting to burst forth between Ms. J and Fran the Man, and that the two of them were just waiting for their Harry-and-Sally moment. That seemed to be the style of the both of them.

Looking back, I might have read that one wrong....

Anyway, weeks before the trip, Fran the Man and myself were on his fancy Internet machine, trying to timeline our trip and book our motels, while Ms. J. lay on Fran the Man's empty bed, watching us, and occasionally telling us what an awesome trip was, and how jealous she was of us.

"Man, I wish I could do a trip like that," she said, perhaps four different times over the course of an hour.

Fran the Man and I failed to respond sufficiently - after all, this was a buddy trip - no girls! As a result, Ms. J continued to push the issue: She really liked the idea of our trip. And she really wanted to come with us.

I decided to finally address the situation, by foolishly saying "Well, you should meet us in Portland!"

And, of course, my bluff failed. Her response was enthusiastic and immediate.

Fran the Man's response was an uncomfortable silence.

My response was to assume that Fran the Man was simply upset that I was forcing his hand in the matters of romance with Ms. J.

(Did I mention that I misread that whole thing?)

So, in Portland, we would be a trio. I wasn't totally thrilled with myself for opening up this door, but I figured that by the time we hit Portland, maybe we could use the company. And this would be far more uncomfortable for Fran the Man that it would be for me, anyway.

At least, that's what I was thinking.

And as a result of my flawed conclusion, I teased Fran the Man mercilessly all the way up the West Coast...about how his lover Ms. J. was chasing him across the country for a little of that Fran the Man magic. And I was awful about it: I was rude, I was annoying, I was persistent, and I was generally disgusting with the details.

Fran the Man, however, managed my comments with his typical grace and good humor. I couldn't quite get under his skin, and it was bothering me. It was almost as though he knew something that I didn't know. (But the thing is, Fan the Man is a really smart guy. And I've spent so much of my life assuming that he knows a great many things that I don't know, that sometimes I don't realize when I'm in trouble).


Ironically enough, by the time we arrived in Portland, we DID need the company. Fran the Man and I were bumping heads over little things like maps and directions, and a third wheel actually helped alleviate some issues. Sure, it might have been nice if that third wheel had been a cute punk rock girl from NoCal, but whatever. Beggars and choices, you know?

In fact, Portland was kind of a blast. We had drinks at Dots, told all our stories from San Diego and LA and San Fran, and then we went out and saw the sights of a music festival taking place in town (which - I swear to god - was called the North by Northwest Music Festival).

The following day we split up. I drank a lot of coffee and bought a bunch of books and records at the many independent stores down town, and took an urgent and long over-due bowel movement in the lobby bathroom of a very fancy hotel.

(...you're welcome!)

In the evening, we got together for a nice dinner at Montage, then caught more bands, including a beloved-to-me Baltimore punk-pop band called LoveNut and a free outdoor show by some semi-famous funk band (no idea who).


The following day we were Seattle-bound. There was a sense of euphoria between Fran the Man and myself: We'd made it from one end of the country to the next. We'd survived all manner of screw-ups and unexpected nightmares, and made it though still friends. And so this first night in Seattle, we would celebrate.

It all started innocently enough. We had dinner at Kells, walked around the Pike Place Market and took things slow. Later that night we hit up the bars in Pioneer Square.

And this is where the wheels officially came off the wagon.

By some stroke of great luck, we wandered into the Showbox Lounge (I think it was the Showbox - hard to remember a damned thing after a certain point in the evening) on a night when the club was featuring the side-projects of members of several national acts: Buzzo from the Melvins was doing his solo thing (but not Fantomas - at least I think I would have remembered if it was). One of the guys from Tool had a band. One of the guys from the Presidents of the United States of America had a band. And I'm pretty sure there was one more.

I don't really remember exactly what happened for much of the night, but things got ugly and out of hand very suddenly. There were beers. There were shots of Jaegermeister. There were a lot more beers. There was a failed conversation in the men's room with a very indifferent (and possibly hostile) Buzzo. To the delight of a very tall and attractive older woman in a red cocktail dress, a Budweiser was accidentally spilled down my pants when I drunkenly stood up to buy cigarettes.

And then there was the memory of watching Fran the Man and Ms. J. completely shitfaced and smoking Marlboro Reds with me - a smoke that I always found harsh enough, but was undoubtedly more toxic to the palates of my two compainions, who didn't even smoke.

(...Now, I say this with as little braggadocio as possible, but I've had something of a history of excess with alcohol. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that most people who know me know a little too well that my relationship with alcohol has never been very healthy. And at that point in life I was about to really kick things into high gear. This didn't really phase Fran the Man, because Fran the Man is bigger and stronger than I am. And for a guy who lives in a state of moderation, his tolerance for alcohol is awe-inspiring.

Ms. J however, seemed to be somewhat new to this approach to self-destruction, and in the back of my drunken little horse brain, I knew that this wouldn't end well.)

((But what did I care. Right?))


Next up: the fear and the loathing. In Seattle.