Friday, May 27, 2005


I love the Ocean, and everything that comes with it. For me, there are few things as exhilirating as the scent of an onshore breeze. I love to watch pelicans glide and dip over the waves, framed by the silhouettes of fishing boat steaming for the horizon. I love the grumble and roar of a shorebreak, the shroud of early morning fog, the smell and texture of an old pier. Even though I have never lived close I think I have a spiritual connection with the ocean, and she never fails to bring me peace which might explain my constant state of restlessness, because I'm pretty fucking far away from it. The best I can do is the Guadalupe River.

Now I don't have anything against rivers. In fact, I prefer them to lakes (except for Lake Tahoe, which is a great lake, but not a Great Lake). They just ain't the Ocean, that's all. Take sunburns, for example. An Ocean sunburn makes you feel like you've been Out There. Even if you're out in the waves for an afternoon, you still feel like a sailor, or a whaler, or an old man of the sea, because you get burned and windchapped and sea-breezed, and if you eschew the towel-dry option in favor of sun drying, your skin gets the salty sheen and crusty texture of one of those expensive kettle potato chips that are cooked inside lighthouses near dunes in New England.

A river sunburn, however, is a lazy sunburn. You don't get the same feeling of detachment you get from having been at the mercy of a powerful elemental force. The sunburn you get from floating on a river is not far off from the sunburn you get from lying by the apartment complex pool. The only major difference is in the chemical participates on your skin. With an apartment complex pool sunburn, your skin is cured in excess chlorine and toddler pee. A river sunburn, by contrast, is coated with the residue left from a heady solution of mud, beer, aquatic-organism-detritus (dead fish, decaying plants, turtle poop, etc) and weekend-camper effluvia.

Anyway, I got a river sunburn last weekend because I floated down the river with a bunch of friends including Yackie, Wright Angles, Westicle, The Bitter Banker, The Metrosexual Biker, and a bunch of his friends, such as Pig and The Jerk, whose nicknames are used in real life as often as their real names (the nicknames of my friends are used in the fake life of my blog to protect their identities, but they are not used not very well).

We got lost on the way down there, which wasn't a big deal, other than the fact that everyone says I am terrible with directions, and I hate giving my critics more evidence in favor of their charges. The other crummy thing was that it was much more expensive than we had anticipated, and when you factor in the price of gas and also beer... well, now I get to split Yackie's credit card bill this month.

Once we got ass-humped by the campground (and the next day, we would get ass-humped by the $30 it cost to float the river), we went to this bar that looked like it was used in the movie Porky's. It was called the River Road Ice House, and everyone was there watching the Mavericks blow a huge lead and end their season. Frankly, I couldn't have cared less, as I am a Kings fan, and a casual one at that. While the Mav's were busy sucking on TV, this country-rock-blues band started sucking over in a corner of the bar. I fucking hate the blues in any form other than the form stolen and mutated into metal by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. If there is one thing I hate about Texas (and there are many things I hate about Texas), it is Texas's obsession with the blues. It is nauseating. I hate it so much that I am willing to suffer a Halloween ass-kicking by cowtown morons just so I could walk around the Stockyards or Keys Lounge dressed as The Reanimated Corpse of Stevie Ray Vaughn. I hate his stupid hat, and his hot lixx, and his corny Indian necklace, and the way he ruined "Pipeline," and even his cheesy strat. The only blues guitarist I despise more than SRV is Eric Clapton. More like Eric Crapton, if you ask me (minions, you were supposed to guffaw and hi-five each other at that remark. Now you'll have to turtle wax my Trans-Am).

With the Mavs headed home, we headed back to the campsite. Westicle made the fire happen (he is a marine, after all, and well versed in setting things ablaze, as well as toppling dictators, statues of dictators, fixing trucks, and blowing shit up, though I have never asked for details. These are mostly things I assume he can do), and we spent the rest of the night slapping bugs, drinking beer and listening to '80s rock, which has long-since ceased to be a funny joke for me (I am awaiting for the death of irony and the return of the pun, because I am getting worn out on irony), but some people actually really like it. Pig whipped out the ol' acoustic, and Wright Angles whipped out the ol' melodica. If you don't know what that is, you're really missing out. It's basically what happened when the recorder and the key-tar made a baby. You blow in this hole on the end and play a keyboard, and it sounds like a toy harmonica. It's useful for playing .38 Special songs and the theme from Legend of Zelda, and probably "Smoke on the Water." Suffice to say, the melodica got passed around quite a bit, with minimal wipeage. My hepatitis test results will be ready on Tuesday. People started dropping off to bed, so Yackie and I passed out in her car, having taken special care to park it as far away from Wright Angles as possible. "Like a mother fucker" does not even begin to describe his snoring, nor does "like a chainsaw," nor does "like a jet plane launching and crashing over and over again." No, Wright Angles's snoring is more appropriately compared to the sound of the sky getting torn asunder by the hellish roars of a thousand ancient and evil gods. It is the sound of nuclear war. It is the sound of the Final Judgement, if Michael or Gabriel or Frank or whichever angel it is were to blow one of those Ricola alpine horns, amplified through a seven-story Marshall stack.

The next day, we got up and waited for some other people to drive down from Austin and meet us, which meant that I started drinking beer around 10:45 in the morning. I haven't done that in about seven or eight years, but what else are you going to do while waiting to get in a rubber boat and drink beer? Not drink beer? Before I got too involved in drinking, however, I remembered to put on sunscreen. I used Coppertone Sport SPF 15, because it comes in a spray bottle and that allows me to avoid one of the most awkward situations you can ever face, which is having to ask another dude to rub sunscreen lotion on your back. First of all, you have to ask him. You can immediately see the discomfort on his face as he weighs the option of having to touch your body in a manner that does not involve punching, tackling, pantsing or any other type of buffoonery, against the option of protecting his friend (you) against melanoma, coupled with the fact that his back will require the same treatment. He always agrees, because, hey, you're buds, right? But because of the whole unpleasantness of the situation, what you get in terms of sunscreen coverage is two handprints on your lats and ten finger-width streaks down towards the middle lumbar region sporadically transversed by streaks around the bottom of your shoulder blades. You can get better protection if there are girls around and you haven't sufficiently creeped them out beforehand, but even then, your front and torso are up to you, and they might be in trouble, especially if they are covered in hair. You might think that chest and shoulder hair protects you from the prolonged stares of UV rays the same way it protects you from the prolonged stares of supermodels, but it doesn't. As for spray on sunscreen, all you need to know how well it works is that the blisters on my shoulders are almost gone now, and my back has mostly returned to its normal spackle-colored tone, as opposed to the angry, irradiated color it sported for most of the week.

After we handed over our inheritances to rent the rafts, we hauled all our gear down to the river's edge, and piled it into the rafts. By gear, I mean beer, and the outfitters had to give us an extra raft because there wasn't room for all twelve of us to ride and still keep the six ice chests and four or five separate 18-packs of Miller Lite and Keystone. We pulled the rafts into the current, and of course there were abortive attempts to coordinate a launch, as well as the hassle of on-the-water cooler switching. We also witnessed the tragi-comedy of a fat lady in a purple swimsuit attempting to get into her tube while in the grip of an eddy. It was sort of like watching a plum try to climb on top of a chocolate donut in a draining sink. We finally got our dorky armada assembled and pushed off into the flow. Then came the major Bad Idea of the Day.

Our raft was crewed by myself, Yackie, Wright Angles and Westicle. We were carrying a large cooler full of fifty or sixty beers, plus two 18 packs of Miller Lite and the rest of a 12-pack of Keystone that didn't fit in the cooler. When the loose attempts to keep all the rafts together with proximity and good intentions failed, we lashed ours with a buckled life jacket to another raft that had drifted from the flotilla. Tying the rafts together was a great idea for floating down calm parts of the river, but not so much for floating over rapids. Naturally, we had to float over some rapids. They were pretty minor, but minor rapids are still rapids. They were bracketed on the left by the river bank and the right by a big rock; our conjoined rafts, of course, were too far to the right of the rapids, and we drifted toward the big rock. The fore-most raft (not ours) bumped into the rock, and meandered into the flow of the rapids, while ours hit it starboard amidships. The life jacket's buckles snapped, and the other boat floated safely over the flow, while our boat tilted up and over, spilling myself, Yackie and Wright Angles into the river. As the boat bumped into the rock, these were my thoughts:

Aw crap! We're going to hit the rock. Oops--there goes the life jacket. Wait, how is--THE RAFT GOING VERTICALLLLLLL--SHIT!!!!!

which was immediately followed by:


and then:

Great panicking, bonehead. How funny will it be when the only person who drowns is the one who has swam all his life and who used to be a lifeguard?


Great. There go my sunglasses.

Wright Angles ended up near the boat with everything--his hat, sunglasses and koozie--in his possession. Yackie and I got dragged over some rocks, and she lost her hat, sunglasses and koozie. Inexplicably, Westicle never fell out of the boat, and neither did the cooler nor any of the other beers, though they were more or less freed when the water dissolved their cardboard containers. I did find my koozie in the boat, amid the thirty-odd beers bobbing comically in the water we had taken on.

The rest of the afternoon was relatively uneventful. Wright Angles and The Metrosexual Biker drew a bit of attention by wearing speedos, while The Jerk drew a lot of attention by sporting a thong. Wright Angles splashed people with a paddle. A friend of The Metrosexual Biker who was on the boat that made it over the rapids nearly killed himself not once but twice on a rope swing when he let go as it swung back to the riverbank and its pointy, half-submerged tree spikes, rather than disengaging at the apex of the arc like you are supposed to. We drank almost all of the beer. We played baseball at a shallow part with crushed empties and the oars. Our boat lost an oar. I think we floated past a wedding. When we were all done, we went back to campsite and headed to a barbeque joint that should be renowned for its lousy service. The only other thing that happened worth remarking on is that there are people who live in the area who think that driving by the campsite honking and yelling when people are presumably asleep is the funniest thing in the universe. The joke was on them, though, because I never went to sleep, as I lay down in the back of Yackie's car with my head on a negative slope so that all my blood dumped into my head. It took me all night to figure out that I could move the pillow to the opposite end and sleep without that problem.

All in all, I had a great time. I wouldn't say that it was a completely crazy weekend, which was nice in and of itself. The buffoonery level wasn't really any higher than on our tour last year, and I'm sure I've had weekends when I've drank that much beer. But the river is pretty good. It doesn't have the rhythmic lull of the Pacific, but if I am ever reincarnated as a carp or a discarded Cheeto bag, I don't think I'll mind the river at all.

The Robo-Pirate

Monday, May 09, 2005

An Argument Against Inflation

This thing that happened last Saturday involved my being a jerk, and I am not sorry, not even one little bit. In my opinion, I was justified on a matter of principle. To put this anecdote in the proper context, you need to understand that I am rather particular and opinionated about music. I wouldn't call myself a snob, as I know a few people who are far more elitist than I am, but there are a few unforgiveable tastes as far as I am concerned, and a few practices that should at the very least be punishable by public ridicule. Some of this stems from some formative music experiences that involve punk rock; to me, punk comprises a pretty important chunk of popular music, and I am of the mind that one should know what one is getting into before claiming any sort punk rock boilerplate. In other words, just because you see someone famous with a CBGB's t-shirt doesn't mean that you need to go get one. Especially if you play in a band that cites Matchbox 20 or Train as an influence, if for no other reason than that if CBGB's was a real person, he (or really, maybe even she) would most definitely kick the living shit out of Rob Thomas and Patrick Monahan.

In the case of last Saturday night, a guy who plays in a band that does, in fact, cite Matchbox 20 and Train as influences, strolled into the bar I hang in while wearing a DEAD KENNEDYS shirt, which is even more egregious and offensive than if he had been sporting CBGB's-wear. You might say that I'm being too hard on people, and who am I to judge; I say to you, hold your horses--I've just gotten started. In any case, this guy, he's a nice guy. Never means to hurt nobody. But Jello Biafra does, not that this guy knows who Jello Biafra is. One person this guy does know is a fancy hairdresser, as he has one of those haircuts with the swooping bangs in front and the shotgun-blast in the back. It's the kind of haircut kids who listen to fashionable indie rock have. In other words, it's a girl's haircut. But I digress. I should probably save that rant for later entry.


So this guy, he's gladhanding at the bar, on his way to sit at a table with this other guy who he totally idolizes, who also has an expensive-looking girl's haircut (minus the hilarious shotgun-blast); he's not a terrible guy either, at least until I see him with a vintage punk rock t-shirt.. Before this guy (not this other guy) can get to the other guy's table, I waylay him.

Me: So, you like the Dead Kennedys?

This Guy: Um, well, I like a couple songs....

Me: Really? Which ones?

This Guy: Oh, the ones that are kind of punk, kind of grunge, with that early '80s thing going on...
(I don't think either of knew what he meant by "early '80s thing.")

Me: I'm not familiar with those songs.

This Guy: Well, you know, they're on that one album. You know that one I'm talking about?

Me: No, I don't. I don't know the one you're talking about.

Him: You know, the Christ one. Something about Christ.
(I'll give him credit here. He was trying to identify Frankenchrist*, which is the DK album you know if you know a little bit but not much at all. It's like calling yourself a Zeppelin fan because you've heard of "Stairway to Heaven," or claiming to be a Presidential historian because you know whose face is on a penny.)

Me: (deliberately feigning ignorance) I'm not sure--they made five albums.
(This remark, admittedly, was laying it on pretty thickly, for if I knew how many albums they made, then I surely would have known that he was trying to tell me about Frankenchrist. In other words, I was just being mean.)

This Guy: I'm sorry man--I've had too many shots. I just thought it was a cool shirt.

You just thought it was a cool shirt???

A couple of things:

I am, at times, a total asshole.

I don't even like the Dead Kennedys, and for that reason, I would never wear a shirt sporting their logo.

I do know where they fit into music history, however, and can identify, if quizzed, several tracks off of their most popular album.

Did I extract pleasure from making someone (potentially) feel small? Yes. Does that make me an icky person? Probably, and if not, it definitely makes me petty. For me, though, it's a matter of principle. You just don't wear the shirt of a band that you don't really like. Sporting a band's shirt is an expression of devotion. It is a badge of identity and a form of recognition between members of a club who may otherwise have nothing else in common. What it is not, is a fashion accessory. Certainly, combined with other elements, a band's t-shirt does make a fashion statement, but firstly and most importanly, it identifies you as a fan. Wearing it because you think it is hip and trendy is misrepresenation.

By misrepresenting yourself in that fashion, you devalue the currency of devotion traded by real fans. That may sound sort of sissified and fragile, but think about it: let's say I decide to start wearing a Tupac t-shirt. I like Tupac well enough, but I can't recall one word of a song that wasn't a single. If a real Tupac devotee sees me sporting Tupac's penitent-thug visage, he'd probably be pretty irritated. I'm sure it would have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I'm white.

Okay, maybe that's a bad example. But here is a better one. I've wanted, for quite some time, to get the Aztec calendar stone tattooed on my back. Really big. Do I want it because I'm Mexican? No, even though my ethnic heritage is such that I have a small but defensible claim (which is to say barely any) to a Mexican cultural icon. The reason why I would want a tattoo like that is because I think it's cool, but I don't feel that I have thoroughly legitimate motives in co-opting another's culture for the benefit (or detriment, if that is how you feel about sub-dermal ink) of my physical appearance.

You did, in fact, read that right: I did just compare a lousy shirt to the heritage of a magnificient (if a little bloodthirsty) culture which was exploited, decimated and oppressed by crummy old Europeans. But here's the thing: though the level of affront is not really comparable, the iconic DK logo (no, not Donna Karan) is a symbol of a particular culture, just as the iconic Aztec calendar is symbolic of another, and I don't believe in taking things that don't belong to you. If you persist in assimilating another's culture into your wardrobe, it would behoove you to be versed in the history of the elements you're stealing. You know why it's hard for us goyem to become Jews? Because Jews make you go all the way. You don't have the luxury of becoming a non-practicing Jew. I don't think they require you to get a black suit and a beard, but you have to learn Hebrew, and study the Torah, and on and on and on, until real Jews are convinced you are not just faking it because you read about Matisyahu in Spin.

All this over a t-shirt? Maybe, I have a flair for drama, and by drama, I mean righteous indignation. I guess it's just a matter of principle.

The Robo-pirate

*Frankenchrist came out in 1985, which makes his "early '80s thing" description even more perplexing; as far as I know, 1985 was in the middle of the decade--but now I'm fussing over semantics, and that's pretty much intellectual masturbation. Call a spade a spade, I guess.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Response to the Anonymous Commentator

Well anyway, I got a couple comments on my second post. There was one that was sort of negative, and that puzzled me. Not because I can't take criticism, but because I actually thought I had dispensed a fair amount of good advice and was surprised to see someone take issue with it. See, I've had this band for three years. We're not huge, but we have enough fans in our hometown to continually break even. We've sold CDs to people in four or five different countries. We've gone on a small tour, on which we played to handfuls of people in three states. I wouldn't say that we're doing everything right, and in fact, we do a number of things wrong. Sometimes, such as the week in which I posted my 40 pearls of wisdom, my band is a real pain in the ass. It puts a strain on my relationships, checking account, academic performance, and the timeframes of several goals I have for my life. But I still do it because it is fun and I believe in it.

But this jackass, whose cognitive abilities appear to have no means of detecting satire, must have taken a significant level of offense. If you, Mr. or Ms. The First happen to read this post, please understand, if you are able, that I am not apologizing. Also understand that if you were in a band, you would probably be familiar with a few of the headaches I mentioned and appreciate a few of the suggestions. You take me to task for my opinions, but many of them are criticisms and hassles with which I have had to deal while booking and playing in my own band; I feel that my opinions are at least informed enough, if not qualified, to pass along to anyone thinking of trying their hand at music. Then you accuse me of hiding behind the anonymity of a blog, yet you have made yourself unreachable. I have debated whether or not to respond to your carefully contemplated missive, but in the end, my mood today is such that I decided you do in fact merit a moderate quotient of my ire. So fuck off. Or better yet, go start your own band and experience all the ups and downs of having one. I'm sure it will be awesome and everyone will love it.

--The Robo-Pirate