Monday, June 4, 2012

Play It Again Sam Because I Didn't Hear A Thing The First Time Round: Slurp, Crackle, Popcorn

I sit in a dark and gloomy bar, somewhere on the outskirts of the Cape Town Harbour. Outside a neon sign flickers in the winter darkness reading Ricks Café Americain. I wore a deadpan expression on my face, staring deeply into the rolling remains of my diluted bourbon. A couple of other drunks sit near by mumbling obscenities under their breaths to ghost like patrons seemingly lost in their own misery.

A piano man unofficially donned Sam taps away at the keys of a salmon colored piano in the corner of the room playing what sounds like the beginning of Claire De Lune or some other melancholic tune.

“Christ it had been a long year and it was only May.” I mutter under my breath, “Sam?”
“Yeah boss”
“Its 31st of May in Cape Town, I’m guessing it’s about the same in Casablanca. What time do you think it is in New York?”
“I…my watch stopped working boss.”
“I bet they’re sleeping in New York. I bet they’re sleeping all over America.”
Overcome by the pain I slam my fist down onto the bar. “Of all the cinemas, in all the cities in all the world they walk into mine. They had to order the extra large popcorn, a gigantic slushy drink, and whispers to boot. Arrive five minutes late and sit in my isle. What’s that you playing?”
“Oh, just a little something on my own” he responded sheepishly.
“Well stop it. You know what I want to hear.”
“No I don’t”
“You played it for those two you can play it for me. 
“Well I don’t think I can remember…”
“You play at a bar called Ricks Café Americain God damnit. Now play it!”
“Alright boss”

Sam begins to play “As Time Goes By”.

“Christ I haven’t heard this tune in a while. Brings back painful memories of a time when a night out at the cinema still had a certain romance to it. Back then we didn’t go to the movies. We went to the pictures. We dressed up and respected the time-honored tradition. Nobody had cell phones or facebook to ‘check-in.’ Nobody cared if you were reuniting with your college pals at some trendy bar, or how much you ‘mish’ each other, paraded unashamedly over virtual ‘walls.’ You didn’t check in with anyone, people only checked out… And when they did, we went to their funerals and that was the end of it.

“What was the last picture you went to see Sam?”
“Crazy, Stupid Love with Steve Carrell I think.”
“And was it any good?”
“It was pleasant enough.”
“You don’t lie as well as you used to Sam. You know it was God-awful drivel. What did the audience think of it?”
“They seemed to be enjoying it.”
“Of course they did. You know what’s worse then an unintelligent movie Sam?
“No boss.”
“An unintelligent audience that’s what. Oh, Who can blame them? What with the dross that Hollywood produces every week…their expectations have lowered…”

“I guess Boss…”

“But I do blame them. If they stopped paying the entrance fee the careers of these unfunny hacks would die and I wouldn’t be three quarters of a way through a bottle of Jack. I saw that Avengers tonight. Highest grossing opening weekend since Harry Potter they tell me. Where did all the money go? I’ll tell you where it went. Into a bunch of high-powered effects that’s intended to distract you from a lack of meaningful plot and one-dimensional characters.  The only character I found half believable was that green angry fella.”

“The Hulk?”

“Yeah him…the only character I could relate to. Course I might have enjoyed it a little better if the guy sitting a couple of seats down from me wasn’t performing fellatio on his straw that  protruded out of his oversized slush. If he’d exhibited the same kind of skills on the strip they’d call him Roxanne.”

“You don’t have to put on the red light” sang one of the drunks across the bar as if a dog howling to the moon.” The bar fell silent for a moment.

I continued, “Anyway, I gave him the quarter head turn, then the half head turn, and he still carried on sucking away. His goddamn slush was empty by the second trailer. We all knew it. But he just continued to slurp away at the goddman thing like he was Daniel Day Lewis sucking for oil. And always at the most inappropriate times, right over important dialogue. You think people would exhibit some restraint in their eating habits during the more intimate moments of a film…. not that there were many in The Avengers. Just a bunch of explosion and action scenes followed by some nauseatingly smug quips from Robert Downey Junior.”

“I thought he was kinda funny boss”

Ignoring Sam I continued, “Oh who am I kidding, all the romance of it is dead. It died a long time ago when the cell phone was born and social networking became second nature. People’s attentions spans lasted longer then a music video. Comedy wasn’t reduced to a bunch of bridesmaids getting diarrhea…the genius of that. These days going to the pictures is like flying economy class. Leg room has been reduced, ticket prices have gone up, you’re forced to sit next to people that aren’t fit for a zoo and just when you’re about to get comfortable some little blue light flickers in the corner of your eye, accompanied by a loud whisper that says, “'Excuse me I have to use the toilet again…'I might as well wait for the movie to come out on DVD.

“You’re only saying this because you’re drunk and…”

“I’m saying it because its true! I sit in these theaters watching these pathetic excuses for public service announcements that urge the audience in vein to turn their cellphones off, and somehow it never gets through. That’s because they’re never hard hitting enough. If I had my way Christian Bale would accompany me to every film and if anyone so much as uttered a word over a piece of dialogue they’d have the Terminator to deal with. I public humiliation fit of an angry Mel Gibson.  But they’ll never do something like that of course because the companies that own the cinemas couldn’t care what you do once you’ve paid the price of admission. ‘Set the fucking reptiles loose on each other’ they’ll say, ‘as long as the movie makes budget.’"

A thud is heard as another one of the drunks falls off his stool.

“And yet week in week out I return to these relics is the naïve hope that it’ll be different this time. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon... Soon I’ll go see a picture. The audience will be considerate, turn off their phones and sit down in time. They’ll realize that they can put their lives and relationships on hold for a couple of hours, sit in the darkened theater and be absorbed into another universe. Be transported into a world foreign to their own that contains truths so true its as if the dialogue was written for them alone. This is my hope Sam…”
“We all hope for that boss.”
“Cheers to that,” another drunk says as be proceeds to tumble, joining his friend on the floor.

“Sam, I’m no good at being noble but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of a couple of drunks, a piano man and one infrequent blogger doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Some day you’ll understand that.” A single tear rolled down Sams cheek as he chimed out the final notes of ‘As Time Goes By.”
“Now now,” I commiserated, “Here’s looking at you kid.” And raised a toast to hoping.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Embellish A Little

Dear fellow burners,

Recently a friend of mine got involved in a rather nasty cycling accident resulting in two broken arms. This was during the 5 Boroughs Bike Race in and around New York City. Apparently he had a momentary lapse of concentration (probably admiring some passing by fun-bags on the side of the road – not confirmed), which resulted in his foot getting caught in his front wheel and the subsequent tumble.

Naturally I was sympathetic but advised that he might change up his story a little. There’s nothing particularly heroic or interesting about getting your foot caught in your front wheel regardless of the size of the fun bags, which I imagine must have been fairly substantial (wait...lets imagine them for a little bit longer. Yeah, they must have been glorious). Embellish a little, I said. This story could work to your advantage and maybe even get you laid. 

This is what I suggested he might say:

It was a dark and gloomy day in cold, scary Brooklyn as you sped along the route of the 5 Boroughs Bike Race, avoiding bullets, discarded Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, and other natural hazards of the borough, in your single minded pursuit for victory. Though this race was for more than victory. It was for little Jimmy, for little Kimmy and all the other sweet, sweet kids at the St George’s Children’s Hospital that needed your support. The race was going well. Your legs were a little sore from the marathon you ran for the St. Bartholomew’s orphanage the previous night but all things considered you were making good time. Seemingly out of nowhere, a little boy ran into your path, chasing his labrador puppy, (though in Brooklyn odds are it would have been a malnutritioned midget hipster OR Gary Coleman and Urkels love child chasing a rat – but as I said embellish a little). Cars rushed towards you in the opposite lane but you had no other choice but to swerve into the oncoming traffic. You plowed straight into a black Escalade, which sent you flying a good 10 feet in the air. The Escalade lost control and slammed into an out-of-order fire hydrant.

The driver seemed to be ok but the car was a right off. After dragging yourself up from the glass littered tar, you noticed the drivers face for the first time. It was none other then FBI’s most wanted, Miguel Juan Antonia Ortega also known as El Puma or The Puma, (who you’d recognized from an interesting and informative documentary on "The War On Drugs" which aired a couple of nights ago on Discovery). Instinctively you made a b-line for the escaped drug trafficker come-murder. You chased him right down into the 'Marcy Avenue' subway. Driving through the people, you lost him briefly and somehow you found yourself on opposite platforms, starring each other down. You would have pulled out your 9mm at that point but you'd left your piece at home after watching an interesting and informative documentary on Discovery entitled "The War On Guns".

Miguel gave you a dirty grin as a train approached on his side. There wasn't enough time to cross the platforms using the stairs or tunnel, so you decided to leap across… a ‘leap of faith’ if you will. Your whole life flashed before your eyes as the distant train galloped towards you. You remembered all the charity work you did on your 'Gap Yah’ in South America and Sniffles, your Belgian Corgy, that had passed on when your were eight. You remembered your favorite meal, cooked by your Mom and the first pass of a football with your Dad, which ultimately lead to a brief but eventful two-year professional career at Fulham FC. (Nobody would question the validity of this because know one really knows who's playing for Fulham FC at any given time or cares.) You remembered the first time you made love to your first and only love of your life but simultaneously had something of an epiphany, realizing that you could love again as long as you 'believed' and found the 'right' girl... [At this point, you take a sip of your beer and look into the distance reflectively].

[Returning to the story], Miraculously, you landed on the other platform missing the hurtling train by inches.  Miguel wore a stunned look on his face as he entered the train, amazed by your heroism. You scrambled up and gave chase into subway car. Chasing him from car to car, Jason Bourne style, you found yourself at the final car and seemingly had El Puma cornered. "The games up Miguel!" you said, “You can’t keep running for the rest of your days!” "You'll never get me alive" responded a defiant but worn out Puma. He made a dive for the door just before the train departed. Wedged between the doors, he struggled to get out as you tugged to get him back in. The train started to move. With one last push Miguel somehow managed to squeeze out the jammed doors. "You see amigo, no one can stop El Puma!" But you still had a grip on him as the train accelerated out of the station, your arms protruding out the doors. You weren’t going to let go now. "Let go" shouted Miguel. "Let go you son-of-a-bitch. But you defiantly held on. "I'm invincible!" he yelled, “invincible!”

"No Miguel,” you said calmly, “You're just another brick in the wall!" [INSERT CLASSIC QUOTE HERE.] BANG

You might want to work on this line a little. Perhaps something more cutting. Something Arnold or Christian Bale would be proud to deliver. Something like... "lets see if cats really do land on there feet, El Pumo"....which doesn't really make sense since he's not really falling  but rather being slammed into a wall at high speed.

[CONTINUED] as you ‘delivered this timely quote, Miguel smashed into the oncoming wall along with your now, dislocated and broken arms. You fell back to the floor of the train, panting and in pain. Your arms dangling like pool noodles from your shoulders. [PAUSE briefly].

You never did find out if Miguel survived the ordeal but you suspect that he didn't. All you do know is that you had a race to finish because God knows that St. George’s Children’s Hospital didn't need any more broken promises. And with that you gathered up your strength, hobbled off at the next stop, recovered your mangled bike, and rode, hands-free the rest of the way, through the remaining boroughs.

Naturally anyone with a heart will call you a hero and buy you a drink but if not, maybe you could add:

“I’m glad I managed to finish the race I guess, but I’m just a little sad I couldn’t get the victory I had promised for little Jimmy, for little Kimmy and for all those beautiful kids at St Georges. I guess next year I’ll just have to try harder.”

Anyway, I wish you a speedy recovery.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Blame It On Serge: Requiem For A Jerk

Screen fades to black.

(Credits role.)

Vincent Cassel as                                                                                        Jacques Mesrine
Vincent Cassel as                                                                                                               Vinz
Monica Bellucci as                                                                                                              Lisa 
Catherine Deneuve as                                                      Séverine Serizy/ Belle De Jour
Eric Elmosnino as                                                                                    Serge Gainsbourg
Laetitia Casta as                                                                                          Bridgitte Bardot 
Anna Mouglalis as                                                                                           Juliette Gréco
Anna Mouglalis as                                                                                              Coco Chanel
Jean-Paul Belmondo as                                                                             Michel Poiccard 
Juliette Binoche as                                                                                                          Elise
Romain Duris as                                                                                                            Pierre
Gérard Depardieu as                                                                                                     Guido

The last note of Les amours perdues fades out. I sit for moment in silence at the DVD kicks back to the main menu. I switch off the television, and reflect. The clock reads 1:07am. I lock up the house, and proceed upstairs to my room. I hit the lights, scramble around for my headphones, scroll down to ‘Serge’ on itunes and hit play - Requiem Por Un con – That should set the mood just right. I’ve successfully managed to stay lost in the world created by one of the half dozen French films I’ve watched over the past couple of weeks.

“Monsieur, monsieur?” says the imagined concierge standing across the desk from me, “do you wish to check out of this fantasy?” "No merci", I reply, “another bottle of le chateau Toulon six huit. and vite vite monsieur. Vite vite.”

I start to fantasize about what my life could be. How my life should be. Why couldn’t I or shouldn’t I live a life as chic! as tragique! as hédonistique! as the likes of Serge Gainsbourg or Vincent Cassel. The modern day equivalent of Bridgitte Bardot is just waiting for my warm embrace. With a little tinkering to my everyday goings on I could become the next Serge Gainsbourg. Bar the fact that I can’t play the piano, paint, speak French or write paradigm-shifting lyrics I’m almost there. These are just mere speed bumps on my way to having a scandalous love affair with Mrs. Bruni. 

I imagine myself five years down the line, standing on a small fire escape balcony, in the bohemian quarter of Paris, sucking on the remains of the cigarette, reflective, as I observe the chaotic street scenes below. Hysterical cackling and the sounds of les flics disrupt the silence of night as un con chases another into the darkness. Inside incense mixes with the smell of burnt tobacco and expensive perfume.  A Smith Corona deluxe sits at my desk, next to a half completed manuscript. Remnants of hash and papers lie strewn across the small coffee table, which holds on top of it a bottle of cognac and couple of bottles of uncorked red. A record collection with enough serotonin to kill the likes of Lester Bangs, clings for dear life to the shelf above my bed, on the verge of collapse.

“Come back to bed my love” says the beautiful Amber Heard. I turn around the face her. Her gorgeous, naked body lies entwined in a sea of white Egyptian cotton sheets (thread count 1500). Rolling over she notices something under my pillow. She reaches under and pulls out a revolver. “What’s this?” She asks, terror running across her angelic face. I grab the gun from her, spin the cylinder and bring the barrel to my temple.

“Oh god, what are you doing?” I cock the hammer back.
“No! No!”
CLICK! I start to laugh.
“Oh my god, asshole!” She hits me with a pillow.
Shock still in her eyes, “Is it loaded?!” She looks inside the guns cylinder and sees five bullets in the chambers. She gasps. “You’re crazy!” And tackles me back onto the bed. We continue to make love for the rest of the night. That is until tragedy strikes….

The headline reads:


Better still…


2016-05-20 17:18

Neil Solomon was pronounced dead today in his small apartment in Montparnasse. Paramedics conclude the cause of death was exhaustion from a seventeen hour-long orgy with eighteen runway models.

Neighbors alerted police when the cacophonic sounds of orgiastic delights were replaced by mournful sighs and wailing. On arrival Inspector Depardieu found eighteen scantily clad women scattered around the apartment in various stages of mourning.

One model, (who preferred not to be named), sobbed uncontrollably as she recounted the events: “We had just finished Jean Paul’s (Gaultier) show. Neil had invited us all back to his apartment for some drinks. Seventeen hours later and…. this. I’m sorry I need, I can’t…”

Another said, “It’s so sad. C’est tragique. I was number eighteen. You understand? I was eighteen! I never got the chance to… I’m sorry, I need… I can’t…”

Informed over the phone of the tragedy, Neil’s father, Peter Solomon, asked as to how his son had died? “He died of over sex exhaustion monsieur. A seventeen-hour ‘session’ with eighteen… well, very desirable women.”
“That’s my boy!” responded his father in an eerily optimistic tone and promptly hung up.

Tributes flew in from across the world. Canal Plus have already optioned the script to his biopic, (suspiciously written by the deceased). It’s said to star Vincent Cassel and Amber Heard. 

By Anonymous

But perhaps prophecies cooked up at 2:43am are no sure path towards clairvoyance. The following morning I wake up tired and alone. No Bridgitte in sight to spoon with. No Alizée to caress. Later I find myself scrolling through the channels stopping on Seinfeld. It soon occurs to me that I have more in common with George Castanza than Serge Gainsbourg. I’m unemployed, I live with my parents and I guess a receding hairline is not entirely out of the equation.

My chief concern that day was to find helium for a remote controlled floating shark while Serge lies in bed making Bridgitte the Bonnie to his Clyde.

This has always been my problem. Delusions of grandeur verging on pure solipsism. The inability to distinguish the difference between fantastical European films and my own life. But so what? We’ve all at one stage or another imagined our lives as one big epic film, starring ourselves in the lead role. These delusions of grandeur are necessary. Its what lets us escape from our mundane existences, whether it be for three minutes, or three hours. It lets us believe that we’re a little more exciting then our day-to-day lives suggest. 

Alas, the time is now 3:07 am. Tomorrow I begin my path towards ‘chic’dom. I’ll rid myself of all forms of technology. Begin an epic vinyl collection. Take up smoking two packs a day, drinking three bottles of wine, embrace a life of hedonism and get off all forms of social networking. After all, no one checks-in (online) at the Chateau Marmont despite what The Eagles might have you believe.

And as I become increasingly more pretentious, trapped in my own self-delusion don’t pass judgment or blame me. Blame it on summer nights in November. Blame it on French New Wave Cinema, on Bardot, on Gréco, on Cassel or Serge. After all, this is a requiem pour un con.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Breaking Up With A City

Dear Fellow Burners,

The five stages of grief read like the last few months of my life. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining*, depression, and acceptance. What’s worse is I haven’t quite reached acceptance yet. I’m still wallowing in the depression phase of it all with brief interludes of extreme highs, disguised as denial. In fact, I’ve been in denial so long that I’ve had to skip past anger, done a little bargaining in the form of booking a trip to New York, and now I find myself wallowing in a black hole of depression. I guess the only consolation -the light at the end of the Holland tunnel if you will - is that thing called ‘acceptance,’ not to be mistaken with New Jersey. Being that as it may, due to city wide power outages, (#3rdWorldProblems), the light is currently not working and I find myself stumbling along in the dark, with no direction home.

There being no light I spend most of my days living in some empty nostalgic haze dreaming of what once was. Baz Lurhman said in that ‘Sun Screen’ song that nostalgia is a way of fishing away the past from the disposal, whipping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more then its worth. Or was the advice? Either way, New York and my two-year love affair with her, didn’t really have too many ugly parts. Oh sure, she’s got her problems. Garbage bag aromas on a stinking hot day in August that manages to ruin that perfect Marilyn Monroe moment, as some unsuspecting beauty steps over a subway grid; the fire engine catching you off guard as it blasts its horn into your ear, causing your head and heart to throb like an obese woman caught in a lasso; the jerk who jumps in front of you to steal your cab on a freezing January night; February in general; Wall street preppy’s; the tattooed up hipster in your local coffee shop who insists on playing Regina Spektor all day – I know she’s quirky and so are you. We get it! Now return to your old school game boy strapped around your neck, and throw something on the speakers that doesn’t resemble your non-prescription glasses or ironic moustache. (Oops there’s some of that anger).

But for me our time together was just mostly good. Free comedy shows with Zach Galifianakis; watching The Dude abide on the Brooklyn promenade with a lit up Manhattan skyline in the background; Method Man crowd surfing; Julian Casablancas crowd surfing; The Gorillaz at MSG; The Black Keys at a ‘secret location’; James Blake in Williamsburg; Woody Allen films on opening weekend; The Yankees in the Bronx; supporting Spain in a German beer garden; Halloween; Halloween again; Santacon; Christmas and a desperate, yet ultimately feeble attempt, to find small town girls in fur boots, huddled around a roaring fire, with whiskey filled coco and an inviting smile; joy riding around the city in a coupe; The Frying Pan on a sunny weekend evening; conversations with ‘pizza’ girl; watching an ‘ex-cheer leader’ demonstrate her ‘skills’ in a closed off Thompson’s Square Park; Boom Bar; the girl that got away at Boom Bar; cheering on Luis Goodman as he makes his way down St Marks; Hurricane Clemze; Sasha visits; Emma visits; screening my thesis to a bunch of strangers and some friends; porn star conversations; singing ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ on an empty Wall Street without even a hint of irony; Summerstage; being ‘caught out’ at the Standard; The Standard Beer Garden; dinner and breakfast with the face of Africa (thanks pops); Ludlow street; rooftop bars; Chelsea market; fake plastic trees on fake plastic beaches; pub crawling with the rugby team; the return of Lauren Hill; Wu Tang, Wu tang,  the list goes on and on. 

Like any relationship there are far too many memories to recount them all into something manageable. But it’s never the big events that one remembers most. It’s those moments in between. Life is what happens when you’re making plans. Closing a restaurant over shallow or heavy dinner conversations; watching the city being reduced to a small town by massive snow storms and the snowball fights that ensue; walking home on a Friday evening, ipod in hand, a cold beer or whiskey waiting for you when you get back; the first bite into a chipotle burrito, (never did get to the last); sitting in a plunge pool on a mates roof; bike rides up the Hudson; sitting on 2 Gold rooftop talking shit; watching the boats go up and down the Hudson as Lady Liberty gives you a cheeky wink; dolphin taming and dolphin training conversations; mancunian swagger; retelling stories of the previous night with old pals on couches, while you slug back a couple of myprodols and prepare yourself for another adventure filled day; brunch by yourself; brunch with friends; people watching at BUA; people watching in general; meeting some of the craziest, coolest, most full of shit people I’ve ever come across,  MOMA days and nights; beer pong; flip cup; flip pong; the Manhattan skyline; having an accent – “Why yes I do have an accent and yes I suppose it is kind of enduring the way I use words like ‘inconvenient’ and ‘howzit’. By Jove look at the time. Best be putting the kettle on the boil. I’m yearning for a fresh cuppa. Freshen your drink guvna? Howzit bru. Your place or mine?”

I encounter these memories on a daily basis all of which seem to come flooding back on some idle week night. I’m tempted to text New York. Send her inappropriate messages that I’ll end up regretting in the morning and sometimes I do. The only consolation is that one day I won’t get horribly drunk, stumble into New York again in some dive bar, and make an ass of myself, saying, “Look at me now New York. Look at what I’ve become. I’ve found a new woman, that’s better then you. She has more fire, more excitement, more charisma then you’ve ever had. Her names Wanda.  Rrrrrraaaaa wanda to you!”

But I guess I’m slowly coming to terms with the ultimate burn. New York was never mine to begin with, even though she made me feel that way. The moment I stepped off the tarmac she’d moved on. She’d already made plans for that night and weekend ahead. Cavorting with her many other lovers. Slut! But I guess that’s why I was attracted to her in the first place. I’m always been attracted to ‘free spirited women’ I can’t have…  

And while I still refuse to accept that we don’t ultimately belong together I’m not going to revert to anger. There’s nothing to be angry about. New York City and the people in it have given me the best years of my life. How could I be angry with someone like that? She might have moved on a little, her inhabitants changed, her tastes evolved, but her glorious, imperfect, edifices remain and will for some time. Her intoxicating energy will endure through thick and thin, and one day I shall return to continue my love affair with the city that’s given me all of her greatness and then some. 

Wait, I think I see a light….

*Bargaining refers to: trying to establish a new relationship. This usually involves trying to be friends with your ex which generally doesn't work out. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Deep Burn - Gym

Note: This post might make more sense if you have seen the music video to System Of A Down's "Chop Seuy" -

Dear Fellow Burners

Recently I started attending the gym located at the bottom of our building. And with each visit something unexplainable happens to me. As I enter that cold dark arena of grunting, snorting and all around male bravado an unknown aggression inside me builds. The sound of metal clunking together, the sight of teeth gnashing. Crazed beasts marching up and down, ipods in hand, chests puffed out, only broken by the sight of a couple of girls jogging effortlessly on treadmills in the background. Their bosoms rolling like vast swells in a violent ocean. Its impossible not to notice them as mirrors surround you in every direction you look. As a result you unconsciously find yourself competing for their approval

In the mist of all of this the atmosphere could only be described as ‘tense.’ So much so that at any moment all hell could break loose kicking off into some sort of chaotic mosh pit reminiscent of a Metallica concert or the video for System Of A Down’s ‘Chop Seuy’*.

On one such occasion I founded myself more aggravated then most. I’d already made a dismal attempt at the bench press. Now to move on to curls. I walked over to the weight shelf, eyes down, trying to keep my feelings of angst toward my fellow ‘gymers’ to a minimum. 17.5 will do just fine for curls today. The Japanese version of Hercules stepped up next to me. We glanced at each other. He looked down at the 17.5’s smirking arrogantly. I wanted to knock his head off right then and there, but in my heart of hearts I knew I didn’t stand much of a chance against this pumped up bastard. Move along you sonofabitch, I thought. Go do some stretching. Yeah that’s right. Run along. Amber on the treadmill was now in clear view so naturally I skipped over the 17.5’s and moved straight to the 35’s. Way above what I am capable of lifting, but I got caught up in the moment. I struggled over to the only free bench located in amongst the ‘chamber of mirrors.’ Japandroid from earlier was sitting on the bench next to me. Great I thought. What exactly is he doing? Mocking me? Taunting me! He’s certainly not doing any 'gyming.' The desire to fight him grew stronger. I envisioned tearing off my Nike ‘dry fit’ shirt and in one brisk movement ripping his head off. Amber on the treadmill having seen my brute strength would wonder over, at which point we’d ravish each other right there on the bench.

Snap out of it I thought. Ignore these horrible urges. Just concentrate on the task at hand. Lifting a mountain of weights without shitting out your own intestines.
But still that bastard starred at me. He expected me to fail but by god man I wasn’t about to give up now. Not today. Amber on the treadmill will be mine. Oh yes, she will be mine.

All right that’s it. Get your back straight. Arms rigid. Looking good. Now easy does it… ‘Onnnnnneeeeeeee.’ That’s right baby. You’ve got this. ‘Spaniard, Spaniard, Spaniard. Channel Gladiator.’ “Tttttttwwwwooooo.” Almost there. My arm felt like it was going to snap at any moment but I kept my eyes on the prize. Eyes on the price? Who says that? Who am I?

“Threeee,” My face was slowly turning the color of a turnip. “Fouuuuur” Almost half way. “Fiiiiiiii” My right arm collapses under the weight, inciting laughter from Jerkulese who’d been watching all along.

Are you laughing at me? I said.
“What?” Replied Jerkulese.
“Yeah that’s right. You! You think I’m funny? You think this is a joke?
“Cause if you think for a second that the girl from 4501 likes you, you’ve got another thing coming.”
“What?” said Amber in astonishment, “how do you know where I live?”
“Whatever,” responded Jerkulese, “Amber’s been eyeing me out all week. Amber needs a real man. That can lift ‘real weights.’ Not a skinny boy like you.”
“How do you know my name?” asked a bemused Amber.
Ignoring her I responded, “Amber doesn’t need another beefcake. She needs a man with style. With intelligence. With substance.
“Oh really,” says Jerkulese, “and I suppose you’re the one to give it to her?” I rose up to meet the Goliath. We squared off like two cowboys in a dual. I could hear The Good, The Bad and the Ugly score whistling through my head. “Waaa, waaa, waaa”.
“What was that?” Said Jerkulese.
“You shut up!” I snapped, and with that I lurched at him. He elegantly moved to the right, sending me crashing into a giant inflatable stretch ball. I rebounded back off the ball as if in a wrestling ring, and hurtled towards him, arm out. “Close line. Bam!”

He lay helplessly on the cold ground. But I wasn’t done yet. An excitable crowd had built up around us, and I was going to give them what they wanted. I climbed up the weight shelf, standing on top of it, ready to jump onto the barely conscious Jerkulese.

“Jump” one shouted. “Crush him,” yelled another.. “Spaniard, Spaniard,” they began to chant. I looked around at the rows of gnashing teeth and clenched fists. What was I doing I thought. What had I become? I looked down at them with distain. “Are you entertained?” I asked them. “Is this not why you are here?” There was much grunting but no discernable response. I leapt forward. There was a hush as I flew through the air. I came crashing down next to Jerkulese's lame body with a thud. Fortunately a mat was there to cushion my fall. The crowd sighed, disappointed by my change of heart. I got up and offered out a hand of support, “Let me help you up my friend.”

He smirked and kicked violently at my ankles. I went tumbling down. Jerkules jumped up, rising over me. “Finish him” they cried. His fist came down like a hammer hurtling towards my face. I moved out of the way just in time, grabbed him in a headlock and in one brisk movement sent a knife slicing through his well-groomed ponytail.

“Last Samurai my ass” I said, holding up the loose ponytail in triumph.
There was a moment of silence. A look of pure disbelief swept over the crowd as the ponytail swayed in my hand.

“Well, that’s incredibly racist,” said one onlooker.
“He’s not even Japanese!” said another.
“Where did he get the knife?” inquired a third.

What have I become, I thought. Dear God what is this place turning me into. “You have disgraced yourself and your family,” said Jerkulese. I looked around at the sweaty men, judging me. “Its this gym.” I said, “These weights. All this testosterone clogging up the air. It’s messing with my head.” I broke down onto the ground, looking up to the heavens in despair.

“Father,” I sang, “why have you forsaken me? In your eyes forsaken me, in your thoughts forsaken me.” Jerkulese looked at me with pity, seeing the utter despair in my eyes. He dropped to one knee and joined in, “in your heart forsaken me”. All the men inspired by this moment of camaraderie embraced. Like a choir, we looked up the heavens and sang the chorus to Chop Seuy, “trust in our self righteous suicide, weeee cry when angels deserve to die, in our self righteous suicide. We cry, when angels deserve to die.”

There was an eerie, silence as twenty or so sweaty men, arm in arm stared toward the ceiling waiting for some kind of divine revelation but nothing came.

Eventually the door to the gym opened and in came a vision far more inspiring then an angel. The girl from 3604, clad in light blue hot pants and a white tank top. Men broke off quickly so as not to appear awkward, returning to their gym equipment with gusto. Much grunting and snorting ensued.   

“She looks like fun ey?” I said to my disheveled looking comrade.
“She’s mine you son of a bitch”
I looked down, clenching my fists in rage, and made for the showers.


Monday, November 15, 2010

That Wallace Sure Does A Lot Of Meeting

Dear fellows burners.

A friend of mine shared this with me the other day. He happens to live in a high rise apartment adjacent to the very same building that he works in. His bedroom is in fact visible from his offices. This has afforded him the luxury of going home for a nap during lunch, amongst other things. One day however, he forgot to close the blinds leading to disastrous consequences. Well… depending on how you look at it.


It was 11am on a Monday and ‘Bob from accounts’ was on his routine coffee break. Bob liked to stroll around the office stopping occasionally to make small talk with various colleagues. On this particular Monday he thought he’d drop by Wallace and Richard's desk. Richard who was affectionately known as Dick, (though he hated being called Dick), was busy and didn’t have time to chat to Bob from Accountants.

"Where's Wallace Dick?", said Bob, as he sipped gingerly on his coffee, standing awkwardly close to Richard. Richard did not bother to look up, as he secretly hated Bob from Accounts because Bob from Accounts was just so smug! "Don't know,” replied Richard. “Think he said he had an important meeting.”

Bob from Accounts reflected out loud, "Ah, that Wallace sure is a hard worker. He sure does do a lot of meeting."

Bob continued to stand next to Richard casually scanning the building across the way. Something however, caught his eye. He squinted trying to make sense of the shape and movements. "Hey what the hell is…. Dick..."

Richard continued to stare at his computer, though now noticeably frustrated "What?" said Richard. “Dick, Dick. Look over there, Dick. There’s some guy masturbating in that apartment in the building across the way." Richard peered over his cubicle and astonishingly Bob wasn't lying.

"Hold on," said a bewildered Richard. "That's not just some guy. That's Wallace!"

This observation caused Bob to spit out his coffee onto Richard, and Richard’s computer. "Oh. Sorry Dick. I was just so..."

"My name’s not Dick you son of a bitch. It’s Richard. Richard!" Richard shoved Bob from Accounts. He'd shoved him again and again. Across the office they went. "Get it. Richard! And you're not sorry. You're anything but. All you are is God Damn smug." 

They were now on the opposite end of the open floor approaching a balcony. Bob almost toppling over with every shove. But before Richard could gain control of himself, he gave Bob from Accounts one last, fatal push. Bob lost balance and went crashing backwards, out onto the balcony and over the railing. Floor after floor he dropped. It would seem like an eternity. Falling, falling...

Richard, as white as a ghost, turned around to face his hushed colleagues.  Shaking, sweating, Richard said, "Dear God, what have I done?" his voice quivering with fright. There was dead silence in the office.

"Dick! My God. You've killed him," said Hassleback. “Well Dick, we can't have that happen in such a reputable institution that is Webber and Wicks Bank. “No, no," continued Hassleback, "Can’t have that. If we were to go around pushing every smug in-house accountant out of the window to their inevitable deaths, lets just say that the IRS would be up to their guts in audits." The whole office laughed at this.

"I'm sorry Dick, but we're going to have to let you go."
"But sir, its Wallace. Wallace was...."
"Now now Dick. Don't blame it on Wallace. Wallace is a respectable, hard working  employee....".
“A credit to this institution”, said another,
“He sure does do a lot of meeting.", said Higgins.
"To true.”  Continues Hassleback. “Speaking of which, looks like we’ll have to give that promotion to Wallace now, since well, Dick’s a murderer and all. Where is that son of a gun?”

Jut at that moment a sweaty looking Wallace came hurriedly back into the office, “Sorry fellas. Was just at a meeting. Did I miss anything?”

“Only the death of an account, and a promotion!”
"I got it?” said Wallace.
“You sure did Wallace” said Hassleback.
“But I thought Dick was a shoe-in?”
“Well that was before Dick went awol and murdered Bob from Accounts.”
“That’s great news. I mean, that’s tragic…”
“I’m not going to miss that smug son of a bitch. Are you?” The whole office laughed, except for the accounting department, who while having heard, and seen the events pass, were physically incapable of laughter, or any other human emotion.

Richard, dragged away, kicking and screaming by security, made one last defiant statement of intent, “I’ll get you Wallace. If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll get you.”

Wallace ignoring Richard looked down at his watch. "Well. No time to waste," he said, "I got a meeting to get to. Later"

The whole office laughed at this, simultaneously giving each other high fives….


Friday, November 5, 2010

These old locks?

Dear Fellow Burners,

Las Vegas is a city that every man or women should get the chance to experience once in their lifetimes. It is a city that burns and anti-burns simultaneously and therefore a city after my own heart. To give the story below a bit of context when I was in Vegas I fell in love with a stripper – lets call her Maria. Maria told me many things that night. Many wonderful things. She had an acute awareness of all things good, and right and beautiful in the world.

“Handsome,” she said, “Have you ever considered hair modeling?” “Me?” I said confused, “Why no. As a matter of fact I haven’t. Why? Do you think” She interrupted me, “Because you’ve really got some great hair.” She continued to stroke my skull leisurely. Purring like a kitten I said, “These old locks? Well, I guess. I mean, you think I have what it takes?” “Absolutely!” And how could I not take her seriously. She’d never lied to me before. “Another dance?” she asked. “Where do I sign!” I said.

I still maintain, perhaps somewhat naively, (and much to the amusement of fellow burners), that Maria and I, or whatever her name was, shared something special that night. I wasn’t just another client, and she wasn’t just another hot Vegas stripper.

Anyway that should be enough context for the story below.


Summer scent was fresh in the air. Energy levels were high and expressions happy. I love summer in New York and what better way to explore the city then on a bike. This would be first priority, so I set off to Soho Bikes to find my two-wheeled companion.

I browsed around the store. Nothing in particular took my fancy. I was becoming despondent. On my way out however I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. There it was. A black and brown Biria. A simple classic street bike. No gaudy gimmicks. No shock absorbers, bells or whistles. Just a comfortable seat, low profile tires, and a bit of character. My interest had not gone unnoticed. The store owner had seen me drooling over the Biria and had swooped over to seal the deal.

“Yes sir. Is there anything I could help you with today?”
"Ah, well I quite like that one. The Biria. How much does that cost?”
"Yes sir, a mighty fine choice indeed. On sale in fact. The last one of this model. You’ll need to act soon though because today is the last day of the sale, and these have sold like hot cakes. It’s really an anti-burn at that price. He showed me the price tag. It was more than I bargained for. “What happens if I don't have the money right now?" I said. “Well then sir,” he responded,  “I guess you can go and burn!” Oh no I thought. What the hell am I to do. I must have that bike! At which point, another customer interjected and said, “Look boet this is not fuckin Paris, floating down the river Sienne on a Gondola...”
“or some shit.” said the man behind the counter. “Make up your mind.
I looked at the bike again. I caught my reflection glistening in the frame and responded. “Tell you what, we can make a deal. I'll give you $100 dollars and the rest in hair. Imported from Africa you know.” The owner paused for a moment, "Hmmm, well that does seem like some mighty fine hair. Mind if I ruffle my hands through it a little.”
“I’d prefer if you didn't”. I had another look at the gorgeous machine. “Go wild” I said.
The man made claws for hands and suddenly lunged his hands into my thick locks. He shook my head around uncontrollably, sending me flying too and fro. As a result I knocked down one of the bikes creating a domino like effect, sending all the bikes in the shop crashing to the ground. The resultant sound was deafening. Thousands of bells rang off simultaneously reminiscent of a schoolyard at the end of lunch. Out of pure instinct pedestrians on surrounding streets dived into the closest stores. Women and children were tossed aside in the chaos.  A couple of no good hipsters choose to play hooky and stayed outside, smoking casually, cursing the bankers and lawyers who scuttled frantically into the surrounding shops, calling them sellouts and teachers pets. Policemen interrogated the hipsters asking them where their hall passes were.

In amongst all of this I found myself on the ground clutching my head. The owner seeped through the crowd, eyes fixated on my hair, “Its mine” he said, “my precious.” In one last desperate effort he made a lunge across the room. I moved out of the way just in time. His head went crashing against the wall. Fortunately for his sake, it was the same wall, which contained the helmets and consequently only suffered mild concussion. I had to get out of this place.

I scurried out of the store running up the street in search of the closest hair salon. Please, give me a haircut. Make it short. Real Short.
“Sure honey” said the man behind the counter. “But are you sure you want to cut it so short. You really do have great...”
“Just do it!”
A few minutes went by in what seemed like an eternity.
"Well that's it." He paused... “You don't mind if I keep some of this”, he said referring to my hair. “You know just for...”
"Do with it what you will! How much will it be?"
"That will be $100.00."
"What?! $100.00..." I felt faint
"Sir? Sir!!!" I walked out of the shop, into the middle of the empty street as if in some catatonic state. Dropped to my knees, looked up at the skies, tears in my eyes, shouting