Archive for March, 2008

Buying a condo: Almost as expensive and furnishing a condo

moving.jpgHello from Saipan! In case you were wondering, it’s pretty hot on this part of the planet. It also happens to be the hot season, so it’s extra hot. And humid. It’s the humidity that really gets you, ya know. That and the heat. Which is on the hot side, incidentally.

So, in summary it’s hot.

As I flit hither and thither, solemnly viewing WWII sites and noting the deals that can be had at the Prada duty free outlet, my mind is still very much back in Minneapolis. This is because I am closing on my bitchin’ new condo two days after I return from Micronesia and I spent the week prior to my departure racing around the city buying stuff to make it livable. This was not cheap. Let me set the scene:

Let’s pretend that you’ve just been dropped off on Earth after four and a half years on an alien planet. Just for fun, we’ll call this imaginary planet “Romania”. Now interstellar travel between Romania and Earth isn’t easy at the best of times. When you make the journey, you can only bring so much with you. Mostly just clothes and, if you’re feeling up to it, the Vlad Tepes Dracula coffee mug/ashtray set that some naïve, but good intentioned native gave you on a birthday.

So now you’re back on Earth. Firstly, welcome back! It’s pretty much the same as when you left except we let the economy go in the crapper while you were busy trying to sort out the metric system, but c’est la vie!

When you left four and a half years ago, you figured that you’d be gone a long time and since your parents frown on you storing your stuff in their garage, you pretty much sold everything you owned. You saved some random clothes that are no longer in style, a few books and DVDs and that’s pretty much it. Since you can’t sleep on old clothes or watch TV on a book, despite what grandma claims, you’ve got considerable shopping to do.

Having never had to start from zero like this before, you never could have imagined exactly how protracted and expensive this was gonna be. Even when you moved out at 18, you had your bedroom furniture and the apartment’s existing garage sale living room and dinning room sets that barely survived the last student residents.

So, it goes without saying that you need furniture: Bed, couch, dinning room table, chairs, desk, entertainment center, wardrobe (the bitchin’ condo has precious little storage space), coffee table, bedside table, couch-side table…

Then you need all the basics for the kitchen and bathroom: plates, knives, forks, glasses, pots, pans, cutting knives, spatulas, cutting board, pasta strainer, spice rack, towels, soap, mats, toilet paper, magnifying mirror for those hard-to-shave areas…

Then you need cleaning stuff: broom, vacuum, mop, bucket, garbage cans, garbage bags, toilet brush, microbial organic growth neutralizing spray-on compound…

And let’s not forget the all important home office and entertainment components: printer/scanner, PC speakers, optical mouse, shredder, absurdly large plasma TV, amp, speakers, DVD player, stripper pole…

What I’m getting at is that furnishing a condo from scratch – even one that is of modest bitchin’ size, as mine is – starts to add up. Staggeringly so. I spent about $6,000 in less than a week and that was even after getting a BeautyRest bed at 70% off and the geeks ringing up my stash at the electronics store forgetting to scan most of my home office stuff. And I still have to grit through the whole double-barreled shotgun blast to the ass-side where I keep my wallet with next week’s down payment and closing costs.

The smoking crater that used to be my savings account aside, my credit rating must be 1,000%, or whatever an idyllic credit rating is these days. Only a few months ago, I was reportedly flagged as having “no credit” – you are thusly punished for having the audacity to live abroad long-term – but after this series of purchases, I bet I could buy a private jet and an island off Dubai with only a phone call.

Anyone wanting to go in on an island off Dubai with me, email my corporate secretary. No freaks.

[Photo credit: cockanippledoo]

Uncategorizable | 28.03.2008 6:26 | 7 Comments

This is why I love the Minnesota RollerGirls

rollergirls.jpgT, A, bloodlust – what’s not to love?

I was fully expecting my first attendance at a Minnesota RollerGirls bout to be awesome, but Buddha help me, the experience was so beyond awesome that my limited edition of the “Directory of Mega-Evocative Adjectives” has failed to do justice to the experience.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, exposed cleavage and ass cheeks aside, this is a genuine sport. Nothing is staged. The girls aren’t cast-offs from Texas body building leagues or retired strippers from Nevada. The RollerGirls are just a bunch regular women that like skating, competition and inflicting debilitating pain.

This is not a joke, many of these girls are flat-out mean – born and bred. Most had a criminal record by the 3rd grade. But it’s heartening to see that they’re not so consumed with unchecked rage that it inhibits creativity and wit when it comes time to select their menacing player pseudonyms, so as to invoke fear and loathing in their competitors and preventing creepy fans from stalking them. Names like “Punish Mint Patty”, “Kim Jong Kill”, “Frau Scientits” and “Ji Spot” are brilliance that primetime sitcom writers can only dream about – and you know none of those pasties ever sterilized a home room teacher with a staple remover.

gardabelts.jpgFrom the moment of the first whistle, when the elbows started flying and the first shove caused a girl to fly into a happy geek’s lap, I was in awe. The flat, slippery corners at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium mean that speed is limited and spinouts guaranteed – ring-side spectators often come away with skate-shaped shin dimples. Flagrant penalties were frequent and celebrated. Not like those drama queens in soccer or basketball when the accused gets a pathetically incredulous “who me?” look after committing a foul. When a RollerGirl trips and face-plants a competitor, they skate to the penalty box with joyous satisfaction, gesturing at the crowd as if to say “Look at me! I dislocated that girl’s ankle! I own this track, mufucckkaaaaahhhss!!”

At half-time the Dance Band played to the euphoric audience that rushed the track to dance. I was too sober to get into it, due to the Roy Wilkins bar’s inability to serve more than one patron every seven minutes. I had to console myself with a $2.75 Snickers and the knowledge that their wine probably wasn’t fit for cleaning automotive components anyway.

The second half was inconceivably more violent than the first. There were times when the penalty box had three or four girls cooling their wheels at once. Checks and shoves were brazen, falls were bone-crushing and bruised knees and asses multiplied. One girl’s shirt was nearly torn clean off. The end of one particularly brutal bout was punctuated with a bench-clearing brawl, which was inconveniently held on the back side of the track so we couldn’t see who was doing what to whose kidneys. It was just outstanding.

As sweet and wholesome as an evening with the RollerGirls can be, the action unfortunately attracts a certain unpalatable element in the audience. Just behind us sat a couple of early-40s, Abercrombie & Finch-wearing douchebags that had just seemingly completed their annual recertification at the Chris Farley School of Gentlemanly Conduct and Sobriety. Nostalgic for their days at the frat house, these f*ckwits were in top form making asses of themselves from the moment the bout started. Our eye-rolling at their foot pounding and incoherent screaming turned to horror after Buffy the Vampire Skater was sent to the penalty box (directly in front of us) and they started hollering “Come over here and suck my dick Buffy!!” Either Buffy didn’t hear them or she showed Academy Award winning poise by not turning around and skating over their testicles. Mercifully, the douchebags got wholly distracted by the beer table during the first break and weren’t seen or heard from again until just before the night ended when they remembered why they’d come to the Roy in the first place.

I’d like to go again this weekend, but alas I’ll be half way around the planet scuttling around Micronesia, enjoying beaches, pristine waters, world-class diving and pseudo-Vegas dinner shows with Japanese budget tourists for travel journalism posterity.

So, if you think about it, I’m really the travel writing version of a RollerGirl. I’m dedicated, I’m cruel, I have a funny name and I totally sacrifice the bod.


Sports | 18.03.2008 9:03 | 8 Comments

This is why I love First Avenue

It’s been a while since I posted a Minneapolis love sonnet and since I’ve actually left my building almost daily this past week, I’ve got some good material that has nothing to do with dangerously low temperatures or the spread of a non-hand-washing influenza pestilence of such magnitude that even the bible didn’t have the guts to foretell it.

Like my fawning post about the Current, I’m not exactly uncovering a well-kept secret here. First Avenue not only boasts biblical longevity, but it also has the street cred to back it up, proudly displayed, coincidentally, right on the street in case you had any doubt. Walking around the club’s fa�ade is to see a veritable roll call of every great band in modern history, who inevitably played at the Ave before they hit it big – and many times after.

First Ave is no longer just a great club, it’s historical. I expect that the Smithsonian will arrive some day soon, construct a tent over the whole building and start charging admission. I imagine that tours will go something like “These are the beer bottles that Black Flag peed in back in the day when there was no bathroom backstage. And here’s the chair that Prince busted his head on when he slipped on his mascara brush. Five stitches.”

Whatever your opinions on live music clubs and current tastes, no one in their right mind can disparage nearly 40 years of saga-like live music, starting with Joe Cocker on opening night in 1970 and enduring through last week when I stepped foot in the joint for the first time in six years to see Bob Mould.

A lot has changed while I was away from the Ave. First and most heartening, the Minneapolis smoking ban has made a night out at local bars/clubs a lovely and civilized experience, rather than a toxic fume bath that took days of showering, clothes laundering and 12 hours in a pure oxygen chamber to recover from. First Ave was especially affected by the ban, as it had the air circulation of a 19th-century colonial bank vault. So, to simply walk in the door and not have my eyeballs burst into flames and my blood-oxygen levels drop 50 points was inexpressibly pleasurable.

Also, they serve Strongbow now, which is the difference between four stars and five stars as far as I’m concerned. In an effort to modernize, they’ve hung flat panel TVs all over the place, which I’m not sure was absolutely necessary, but at least it wasn’t offensive. The same can’t be said for their “sight line seating” reservation scheme though, where one can reserve a three-seat table by the upstairs railing for $45 (in addition to the price of the tickets to the event). I understand the urge to maximize potential revenue streams, but is this bourgeois element really necessary?

A final notable difference is that they apparently took a portion of their tiny indoor parking/dock space and turned it into the VIP Room, for strict DJ music and smaller special events. I didn’t get to check out the VIP Room myself, but a few smokers standing outside as I passed seemed quite pleased with venue.

Embarrassingly, this was only my first time seeing the iconic Bob Mould. The man can still rock his balls off. No messing around or idle chit-chat between songs either. That’s not how the Mould rolls. Apart from introducing the band during a late pause and the token mention of how bloody cold it was outside, the man’s segues averaged about 1.5 seconds. All about the music, which was hard, loud and testosteronily charged, evidenced by the male/female ratio of the crowd; about 2,000 guys and five women, including the two that I brought with me. I’m told the term is “sausagefest”.

On a side note, it was quite nice to have my grand return to the Ave coincide with a Bob Mould show, because the median age of the audience was like 42, which made me feel all youthful and spry. Those people were old, man. If I’d brought my father to the show, I don’t even think he would’ve been the oldest in the room. It was a far cry from typical First Ave shows where only about 5% of the people in there have actually shaved.

So, now that we’ve established that First Ave is one of the greatest live music venues since the dawn of humans, I just have one, humble query. A trifling matter really, but nevertheless, I was just a little curious about WHY IS THE MUSIC SO F*CKING LOUD???????

Dear Lord all mighty in heaven, what are you people thinking? I had a profound hearing loss for over 48 hours after that goddamn show! Is that really necessary? Huh? Really? What the f*ck?

Don’t get me wrong, the music should be loud enough to drown out the conversation of the drunks in the back, but Jesus Harold Christ, I felt like I was being attacked by an anti-riot aural cannon. When did you guys replace audio quality with stupefying wattage? Do you really think your patrons are too dumb to tell the difference?

By the fourth song I was literally too dazed to pay attention to the show. My eyes were involuntarily rolling into the back of my head and I had to lean on my lovely companion’s wheelchair to keep my knees from buckling under me. The distortion was so bad that you could only discern about 25% of the lyrics that poor Bob had agonized over.

Now I’ll admit that I’m somewhat to blame, because I forgot my earplugs, but equally earplugs shouldn’t be necessary if you don’t crank the volume to ’13’ and focus a little more on sound quality. The wretched audiophiles in the audience were nearly in tears, both emotionally from the butchering done to the music and also due to the physical agony we withstood from that god-awful sound.

It wasn’t always like this. I happily went to shows at First Ave for about 10 years before I started to become uncomfortable with the volume and Wednesday’s show broke every audio distress assault I’ve ever withstood.

Get it together people. Fire whatever self-trained, tone-deaf jackass that’s running sound for you now and get someone in there that actually knows something about the fundamentals of acoustics, not to mention the upper tolerance limits of the human ear.

Music | 10.03.2008 10:18 | 6 Comments

Germs, germs, germs!!!

barf.jpgI’ve been receiving email and telephone reports from outside my hermetically sealed Chamber of Super Awesome Journalism that there’s a strain of flu out there that’s immune to the flu shot and you filthy Twin Cities residents have been passing it around like an elite Frisbee football team.

Honestly, doesn’t anyone wash their hands anymore?

It’s times like this that I thank Buddha and his benevolence in allowing me to work at home where I have complete control over every single microbe in the joint and I no longer have to keep tabs on co-workers who exit the bathroom a dubious three seconds after flushing, then having to avoid them for the rest of the day, lest they touch me with their bacteria-infested extremities, forcing me to burn every stitch of clothing upon returning home that evening and taking a bleach shower out in the garage. God I miss the Federal Reserve Bank…

Meanwhile, since none of you can keep your various and copious diseases to yourselves, I have no choice but to remain sequestered here, writing tedious, but absurdly well-paid corporate content and having my meals delivered at precise intervals, three times a day through my one-way, air-tight, pass-through carousel, coated in a microbial organic growth neutralizing compound. Like Buddha intended.

Actually, this bloody cabin fever is killing me. The combination of staggering workload and prohibitively awful weather has kept me rooted to my desk chair for weeks like those creepy Second Life enthusiasts. The only time I get up during the day is when I take calls on my cell phone, requiring me to walk across the room, press my head against the window and stand in the Tranquility Tree yoga position, so that the call won’t drop because T-Mobile’s coverage in downtown Minneapolis is reprehensibly weak.

But the end of the tunnel is rapidly approaching. I left the building a record three times last week for various errands and business, during which time the sun and temps in the 30s zapped the little transistor in my brain that usually compels me to go outside a minimum of three times a day in the summer. Reactivating that part of my physiology couldn’t have been timed better, because I leave for a two week “familiarization tour” to Guam and Saipan on the 20th – via a one night layover in LA – where temps are in the 80s and 90s and despite the prevailing duty-free, budget Japanese vacation atmosphere, I’ll be enjoying pristine beaches and some of the finest SCUBA diving on that side of the planet.

Then there’s the developing side trip to a curious Micronesian island called Yap, where judging from the picture gallery on the Visit Yap web site, women still wander around the island topless as a matter of course (and presumably dance euphorically for prominent visiting journalists). I answered the email invitation reluctantly, approximately two seconds after receipt, solemnly accepting the duty of thoroughly and exhaustively researching the anthropological curiosity that is Yap for journalistic posterity. I am, if nothing else, a slave to my rarified art form.

[Photo credit: PayPaul]

Uncategorizable | 3.03.2008 10:25 | 3 Comments