Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Keys to Everything

I lost my keys on Thursday. Never done that before. And it's so weird, because I lost them somewhere within a three block region, so you'd think I could find them.

I parked my car on Durant just below College, and walked to KALX. Halfway through my show, I realized I didn't have my keys in my pocket. I always put them in the same pocket, but I realized that I had a long coat on and may have put them in the coat pocket instead. But when I checked, the pockets were empty. Later, I retraced my steps several times, went to the UC Berkeley police lost and found, looked through the windows of the car. Nothing. Russ came and we poked around with his flash light, but didn't see anything. He was very thorough -- went back to KALX and looked everywhere, even in the T section, near Toto.

I don't have a lot of keys. I kind of pride myself on how few I have. But I did have the keys to Kathleen's car and to my home, and now I didn't have AAA and I didn't have a way to get home or get into my home. Luckily, Brent had borrowed Kathleen's car and never returned her spare keys, so he was able to come and save me. (Let this be a lesson to you: Always keep your ex-girlfriend's car's keys, until she asks for them back.) And, for better or worse, my apartment is somewhat easy to break into (not as easy as I thought but easy enough, um, but please don't take this as an offer).

Inside the apartment, I found a spare PO Box key, spare apartment keys, a spare bike lock -- everything but my mailbox. I guess I was more prepared than I realized, except that everything was in my apartment, instead of at some friend's house. Forget earthquake awareness; I need to start a dunderheaded awareness program.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mad Men

This was supposed to be a post about the Eye-Gazing Party, but I got horribly ill and couldn't go. (Luckily for you, MSNBC was there and filed this report.)

How ill, you ask? This was a bad one. I felt like I'd swallowed razor blades. My body ached everywhere, right up to my eyeballs. I had the chills and then the sweats. My voice, when I actually tried to speak, sounded like that lady bailiff from Night Court channeling Tom Waits after her fourth pack of cigarettes. I spit up big hunks of green phlegm, which looked a bit like alien jello. And then I started hallucinating. This wasn't as bad as the time back in 2000, when I was so dehydrated that I thought great winged creatures were beating on the windows, trying to carry me away and I had to crawl down the hall of my apartment to my girlfriend because I couldn't raise my voice above a whisper. But I did hear things. Scary things. Voices, like on that Lost show.

Most bizarre was the loss of appetite. It was just gone. This never ever happens to me -- I get the two-hour feeding need, no matter what. So it's really liberating to look at food and think, "Nah, I don't need it." It's probably also not so healthy to eat once a day, and then only a little.

So, what did I do besides drink gallons of water, take cough medicine, and sleep 12 hours at a time? I watched TV shows. First I finished the initial season of Mad Men, which I highly recommend. It's written by a bunch of the old Sopranos writers and has a similar mix of dark humor, pathos, and masculine cool. It takes place in 1960 and revolves around a New York ad agency whose main client is Philip Morris, so everyone smokes all the time. I mean, all the time. Pregnant mothers smoke, children smoke, dead people smoke. Apparently, they use herbal cigarettes so no one croaks on set.

It's definitely a more innocent time -- at one point, the main ad man calls television evil -- but it's also pre-women's lib, pre-gay rights, pre-everything, practically. So it's fascinating to see these straight-laced people discover pot, vibrators, divorce, homosexuality, and other "unseemly" things for the first time. Plus, there's this one woman, Joan, who, well, I don't want to offend the women readers of this blog but she's built like some kind of teenage boy's wet dream. We're talking Jayne Mansfield curvy. And they put her in these amazing, body-hugging dresses, and then have her strut around that office as if she were demonstrating every theory of gravity and physics at once. She's over on the right here.

Season two starts this summer.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Book em, Dano

Suddenly, for the first time, I find myself in a book group. With my old knish friends Laura and Leslie and their significant others. Every six weeks, we will meet and discuss something that one of us has forced the others to read. I have a feeling that it will be a very loosely policed book group, since Leslie is already saying she just wants to drink wine and hear about dating mishaps. Laura picked the first book, Therese Raquin by Emile Zola. I've never read him, and I'm a little nervous about 19th century authors, what with all the description of the quivering hedges and such.

I just finished reading my Holiday Party Book Swap book, The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud. It took me a really long time to get into the book, probably 150 pages, because the characters were so unlikable. Just rich or pissy or self-righteous, which was the point, of course. Messud swaps POV each chapter, which made it hard to get into the story as well -- and made me wonder if even the nice people I know would be perceived less nicely if someone could read all their thoughts. I'm sure I would be.

But eventually I found myself caught up in the churning plot, so much so that I was surprised by the big old honking tragedy that arrived (hint: the book takes place in the early part of this decade).

The novel also has some things to say about friends and family and how your perceptions of them change. One minute you're happy with them and the next they've disappeared or disappointed or done something so kind that you're brought that much closer. There's also a fantastically apt section about how sad it is that you laugh less as you grow older, especially in some relationships, and then things like this bit about reading books in general: "You do need to read them. That's what it means to be civilized. Novels, history, philosophy, science -- the lot. You expose yourself to as much as possible, you absorb it, you forget most of it, but along the way it's changed you."

This quote reminded me of a line from a recent Nick Hornby column in the Believer, in which he related how a friend, after finishing a book, waits a few days before starting another one, in order to give the book "more time to breathe." Hornby, though, can't read like that: "Those of us who read neurotically, however -- to ward off boredom, and the fear of our own ignorance, and our impending deaths -- can't afford the time."

Sometimes I think that's all life is, no matter what your life entails. Whether you spend your time working 60 hours a week or raising three children or staying up all night doing coke of strippers' butts, we're all just trying to ward off boredom and our impending deaths. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Between Here and There is Even Better Than Here and There

I decided to add a new section to my CD library the other day: The favorite albums section. It just seemed weird that I'd have all these old records that I love tucked away in the CD alcove, so I decided to put them all together in one tidy area, where they could compare cover art and argue about who had better lyrics.

Partially, I realized that I listen to music in a different way nowadays. Either I’m trying to keep up with all the new releases, whether it be for the Rickshaw or KALX or Three Kinds of Stupid, or I put one song from a CD on a mix and listen to it along with a lot of other single songs. So there's a 2008 mix, a 2007 mix, an '80s mix, a singer-songwriter mix, a sounds-like-Pavement mix, a hip-hop mix, a songs-from-friends-mixes mix, etc etc. What I don't do anymore is go back and listen to old records nearly as much.

But after starting my new section, I had a revelation: the cd-changer revelation. Do you remember when you got your first multiple-cd player? Man, that was a sweet day. All that deciding which 5 cds to put into it, all that breathless anticipation of "what song will come up next?!" Well, now it was back! And it was goooood.

This should put to rest that question of whether I'm a nerd or not.

Of course, this process led to other realizations. Like: Luna's Bewitched is as near to a perfect album as you can get, and I'd forgotten how much I liked Quasi's Featuring Birds. Also, that first Rogue Wave record stands up to a lot of other classics, the first Human Television EP is pretty damn timeless (in that it still sounds great, but it also sounds like it could've been made in 1985), and I don't love Slanted and Enchanted as much as I used to (the drums sound like a wet box, which didn't used to bother me). Stay tuned for more fascinating revelations...