Friday, February 15, 2008

Sympathy for the Devil.

I did an illustration yesterday and part of today for an article about blues musicians, including but not limited to Robert Johnson, who allegedly sold his soul to Satan for the ability to play anything he wanted on the guitar, before being poisoned in 1938, at the age of 27. 

For more information about Robert Johnson and/or the Devil, look them up on Wikipedia like I did.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Avoiding Death in Las Vegas.

Well, somehow I managed to come back from Las Vegas with both legs intact, without hitting my KeyBank overdraft account, and with a wonderful sense of fulfillment gained from transcending an unavoidable age milestone without having a psychotic episode or a dream about futilely outrunning the icy cold hand of Death. Actually, I did have a dream where I was playing blackjack at the same table as Optimus Prime of Transformers fame, but I have yet to decipher the meaning.

So, I am back in Ohio, after Frontier Airlines decided that, even though our flight was delayed by a few hours, and we didn't even land until after 2 am in Indianapolis, I didn't really want my luggage to end up at the same place as me. I know that, deep down, Frontier Airlines is just trying to teach me a lesson about casting off the heavy shackles of the need for material possessions, and why I don't need hair gel and shaving utensils to appreciate my own existence, and for that reason, I'm not all that angry. I do think that it's fitting that Frontier's mascots are all animals living in environments untouched by civilization, and they're directly responsible for my looking more like a caveman at work today. There will be more news about my luggage and its adventure across the country in the screenplay I'm pitching to New Line--Forsaken: The Story of My Dirty Laundry and the Long, Largely Uneventful Journey Home.

Vegas was incredible, and I had a great time with my girlfriend and the surprise guest appearances of a lot of my close friends who flew in from different parts of the country. I walked around the Strip and downtown, or Old Vegas. I won money in Roulette and lost it at Blackjack. I made the discovery that on the Strip, each casino is, basically, a medium-sized town. Moreover, I got to see an atmosphere that differs from any previous experience I have had, and I got to see it with friends. This wasn't without at least a couple of tribulations.

Casinos are gigantic. If you're standing outside of Caesars Palace, and decide that you want to hit up the Venetian, you'll undoubtedly say to yourself, "All right, let's head across the street and check it out." Three hours later, after you've walked eleven miles, you've run out of water and supplies, and your Sherpa has died, you truly appreciate the scale these buildings are on and curse your lack of depth perception. Exaggerations aside, the buildings are deceiving, and walking around inside and between casinos can be pretty draining, which is the condition I was in when we decided to walk into the Mirage.

The Mirage was kind enough to put moving walkways at the front entrance of their building, and we were on one when I accidentally made eye contact with some dude staggering down the parallel walkway leading out of the building. He was all tagged out in Giants gear and carrying a bottle of Bud Light, which would normally set off a mental alarm, but since Nevada has no open container laws, he wasn't in violation of any state regulations. He started talking to me at about ten yards out, and as he passed me, the conversation went something like this. Remember that this is a vague translation:

Shitfaced Stranger: "Heeeeeeeey!"

Me: "Hey."

Shitfaced Stranger: "Well, you could give me a job! Ha haaaaaa..."

Me: "Uh...yeah...what?"

Shitfaced Stranger: "Yeaheah. That...that way I could make some money, and I'll get ta kill ya!" (maniacal laughter)

Me: "Ha ha...wait, what?"

(He and I are passing each other at this point. He keeps laughing wide-eyed, and I pretty much just stare at him in confusion. I turn back towards the entrance to the Mirage.)

Me: "Dude, am I hallucinating, or did that guy just threaten to kill me?"

Eric: "Uh...actually, yeah. I think so. I'm pretty sure he did."

Now, this was a pretty strange occurrence for me. I don't think that a stranger has ever let me know that he would like to murder me, let alone see the obvious black humor in killing a stranger in broad daylight for no apparent reason. I thought about what he said as we were looking for the lion exhibit inside the Mirage, and I came up with a few things he might have meant. I've also taken the liberty of listing what I think the odds are that I'm correct in said assumption.

Scenario 1: He is out of work and earnestly asking me for a job.
Vegas Odds: 20 to 1.

I don't dress like much of a high-roller even when I am wearing a suit, and not only was I not wearing one at that point, I hadn't even showered yet, so I can't say that approaching me for employment makes much sense. Also, if he was, in fact, out of work, he was drunk enough to break two of the major rules of unemployment: A) Stay the fuck away from casinos, and B) Try to refrain from telling a potential interviewer that you'd like to kill them after they hire you. Regardless, if that's what he said, this is the most literal interpretation of it.

Scenario 2: He is trying to solicit sex from me.
Vegas Odds: 15 to 1.

Las Vegas is pretty unique for a lot of reasons, and the abundance of people openly and legally offering sex for money is no exception. He did use the word "job" in what he probably thought was a full sentence. And while it's true that I regularly refer to myself as being "ruggedly handsome," and I did make eye contact with him, albeit accidentally, he may have seen some sort of erotic connection between the two of us, or at least between himself, me, and my girlfriend, that I missed. I'd still say the odds are against it. Understand that in Vegas, the dudes that are openly offering their services to other dudes are typically wearing hot pants and tiny bullfighter shirts, and I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Plus, there's still the whole death threat thing, and even if this guy was drunk enough to chance getting his ass kicked by soliciting gay sex from guys that aren't gay prostitutes, it takes a lot of liquor and logic avoidance to forget to not tell them that you're going to kill them instead of paying them.

Scenario 3: He's blacked out, and has no control over his inner monologue.
Vegas Odds: 2 to 1.

This, even if it's not the most exciting reason, is easily the most probable. People say a lot of crazy things when they're blacked out. My freshman year of college, I was told that I went off on a tangent about fighting a dragon that kind of looked like Steve Buscemi, and I was witness to a host of lunatic soliloquies, ranging from accusations of beating up someone's grandmother to claims that a significant other had slept with someone they had never met. And that's just things I've seen associated with too much alcohol. For all I know, this guy was on his way out of the Mirage to watch tapes of Giants games while maintaining the chemical balances in his basement meth lab. The possibilities are endless.

So, I'd have to say that overall, it was a great trip and an even better 30th birthday experience. Having said that, it has been tempting to answer every inquiry of how my trip was with "Oh, pretty good. Some guy threatened to kill me outside of the Mirage," every time. But hey, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That is, except for scars resulting from stab wounds with a crude shiv formed out of a broken Bud Light bottle, courtesy of a blasted Giants SuperFan.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Well, I knew it was going to happen, mostly because time passes in an unalterable constant, and I'm still here. In about 14 hours and 45 minutes, I will legally be 30 years old. Fortunately, I will be distracted by slot machines and free booze in Las Vegas, where I will be in roughly 23 hours and 15 minutes, courtesy of my girlfriend being awesome. While I am excited to explore the various establishments trying to screw me out of money, I feel admittedly apprehensive about ditching my twenties and entering a new decade of existence, even if I can't quite pinpoint the source of purported dread.

Everyone gets older at pretty much the same rate, so getting bent out of shape about it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. I think the last birthday that I had any reservations about was my 21st, but, at that point, I was more driven by a fear of alcohol poisoning, which, thankfully, didn't happen, despite my asinine willingness to do shots of 151. Maybe I feel that I have more responsibilities that would demand my attention now that I'm older, and maybe the concept of taking care of those responsibilities instead of spending my free time doing what I normally do is a little disheartening. Maybe I feel ashamed, because up until I was 26 or 27 I thought of 30 as being so old. And while it was somewhat flattering to be invited to college parties pretty regularly up until a year or two ago, it does kind of put things in perspective when a group of people demand a keg stand out of you, and you catch yourself saying, "No way, man. I haven't done one of those in, like,  ten ye--uh...oh. Wow."

I know that 30 isn't really that old. Having said that, the idea that the next milestone birthday after this one will be my 40th is staggering, and then comes 50, 60, and, with any luck, on and on. I know that technology will probably have advanced when or if I get really old, to the point where they'll sell human kidneys (now with transplant kits!) in the pharmacy at Walgreens. Human life expectancy rates have been climbing steadily for the past few centuries, and don't show any signs of stopping. Therefore, I'm being a big baby about the whole goddamn thing and should probably stop whining. I will, however, go ahead and compile yet another list to try to make myself feel better about getting older.


5. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt/Edward Norton), Fight Club
Even though I go into a state of self-loathing every time I realize that it's happening, every once in a while I tend to be tricked by our media and advertisers into thinking that I am measured by material wealth. Yes, I was forced to buy a new car this year, but then again, I bought a Wii and an iPhone during what I like to call Things I Don't NeedFest '07, and even if I don't feel bad about either purchase in the least, it's encouraging to realize that you really wouldn't require any of this stuff to survive; it's also nice to recognize that I don't have another personality that makes soap and beats people within an inch of their lives. As far as I know.

4. The Dude (Jeff Bridges), The Big Lebowski
I love the Dude, because he proves that it's never too late to not care about having your shit together. He also is a great reminder that, no matter what, you can always just blow off life and go bowling. You just shouldn't.

3. Blondie (Clint Eastwood), The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly 
Clint Eastwood was 36 when the last of the Dollars trilogy was filmed. This means that the possibility exists that I'm not past my prime yet. Then again, Clint Eastwood has pretty much been in his prime for the last 40 years, so that's kind of nonsensical. 

2. Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson), Old School
Example: When I think about going to bars for Halloween, I immediately think of when my tequila-saturated goon friends were throwing drinks and ice at each other and wrestling around on the floor of Longworth's. The night ended with a broken window and a trip to the hospital for one, who had his nose broken by a wayward barstool. What year of college was this, you ask? Well, this didn't happen when I was in college, it happened a year ago, and these weren't testosterone-fueled meatheaded college kids, these were testosterone-fueled meatheaded men in their mid to late-twenties. Old School is a nice reminder that you're never too old to watch your friends act like idiots. I should make a point of saying that, while this is a wonderful sentiment, it doesn't make me any less furious at them for this type of behavior.

1. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), 24
According to Wikipedia, Jack Bauer was born in 1966, making him a almost twelve years older than me. Despite this, Jack Bauer can run faster than me, think quicker than me, punch people in the sternum more forcefully than me, and shoot interrogation suspects in the kneecap more insensitively and with higher accuracy than me. Actually, I forget why this is supposed to make me feel better. Oh, right--Jack Bauer is 137% older than me and he's a total badass.

Well, that's about it for now; I'm off to Vegas to meet my destiny. In about 24-36 hours, when I'm having my legs shattered by some mafioso with a crowbar for welching on a debt, we'll look back at the abject whininess of this blog entry and laugh.

Arrivederci, me in my twenties.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Paying Attention.

Ah, Monday after the Super Bowl. There's always a certain feeling of loss and the passage of time after the Super Bowl is over; this has been something that I've noticed since I was a teenager, and even though I haven't really cared about any teams that have played in the Super Bowl since I can remember (I was really pulling for the '85 Bears because Jim McMahon wore Oakley Razors and there was a guy named Refrigerator on the team. Also, I was seven). I suppose that, even if I'm not even close to being emotionally invested in either team playing, I always jump at the opportunity to kill some brain cells, and the Super Bowl is an excellent reason, right up there with the NBA finals, St. Patrick's Day, and the passage of another Friday afternoon.

That being said, there are consequences to the actions that we take, and I do make an effort these days to avoid being hung over at work, and if anybody reading this ever worked with me for Kaman's, you'll know that this is a relatively new concept for me, and I hope you're proud. I had sort of an epiphany a couple of years ago, when I had to fake a phone call from my brother at the first KAS @ King's Island 2006 management meeting to go to the secret bathroom behind the Fudge shop to throw up. Sure, I'm Irish, and sure, it was the morning after St. Patrick's Day, and sure, tequila and Jager have nothing to do with Ireland or driving snakes out of Ireland, but I felt insurmountably guilty about it. And yes, I missed ten good minutes of a team-building exercise where your biggest enemies are the weight of a tennis ball and the structural integrity of a garbage bag, and yes, I and everyone else on my team had done this same exercise at least four times in previous years. It doesn't make any difference, because I'm not Jim Morrison and I shouldn't drink like him when I know I'm going to have to give a short presentation about the interesting idiosyncrasies that accompany handling guest complaints from rednecks the next morning. I digress.

So, I kept myself in check for the most part last night, but helping my girlfriend move this weekend and the constant, slow ingestion of beer that accompanies any move took more of a toll than I expected, so I was moving a little slow when I got to work this morning. I decided to take out the garbage while I was waiting for the caffeine in my coffee to kick in, and on my way back from the dumpster, a Buick Century pulled up to me. The window rolled down to reveal some kid with a chinstrap beard and giant zirconium earrings, and a guy in the driver's seat that looked like he was probably his dad. The kid asked,

"Hey man, do you know if there are any lawyers around here?"

I replied that I was pretty sure that there was one on the corner, but that I didn't know what kind of law he/she practiced. He said thanks, and they went on their way. On the rest of the way back to my office, I looked at the other doors in the office condo complex, and sure enough, a full 90% of them had placards right next to the door that had names followed by "Attorney at Law." So, this kid's question struck me as being odd for two reasons:

Reason #1: If you have some sort of run-in with the law, I'm not sure that making your dad drive you around until you happen to find an office with a lawyer in it is the best method of securing defense for your case. When I'm cooking spaghetti and find out that I need to buy sauce for it, I don't wander door to door in my neighborhood, assuming that the odds of eventually ending up in the International Foods aisle at the grocery store are in my favor. It isn't hard to find lawyers. You can use the internet. You can open a phone book. You can even sit on the couch and watch World's Strongest Man reruns until a poorly edited television commercial featuring a lawyer pops up. The lawyer is the one who isn't a Scandinavian giant with a semi-truck tied to his ass.  

Reason #2: I work in an office complex where I'm one of the ten people who actually aren't lawyers, and reading the signs next to the door will a) tell you which of the people that aren't me are lawyers, and b) save you the trouble of admitting to me, a complete asshole stranger, that you've done something stupid requiring the services of a non state-appointed lawyer. I know that the word "attorney" is confusing because it doesn't specify what the occupant is an attorney of. Oh, wait, I forgot that all attorneys are attorneys at law. Guess that fires that reason out the window.

This situation, like pretty much everything else I come across in life these days, is perfectly exemplified by the sociological microcosm that is the modern amusement park. I realize that people don't come to amusement parks to read and/or pay attention, but as I, as stated above, was usually fighting off the diuretic effects of alcohol from the previous night, I probably didn't show the patience with the American public that I could have, and therefore was less tolerant when they said or did something idiotic in front of me, which was about once every ten minutes. When you're making rounds on International Street and someone asks you where the Eiffel Tower is, and you don't really have a choice but to say, "Uh, it's the big blue tower dead ahead that's shaped like the Eiffel Tower. You can look at it on the map that you're already staring at right now, and that tower that you're pointing directly to is actually a fairly accurate drawing of the tower right in front of you," you start losing faith in your fellow man. When you're busy trying to fix an exploded cash register at an Airbrushed Tattoo stand, and someone is pointing straight to the sign that says "Temporary Tattoos" and asks you if they're permanent, you're going to reluctantly chalk up another negative point for Social Darwinism. When you're sitting at an easel at a caricature stand covered with pictures of caricature sketches, and you're drawing a caricature of a person sitting in front of you, directly underneath a sign that has more pictures of caricatures with their prices next to them, and someone asks you if you sell ice cream--you get the point.

People are developing shorter and shorter attention spans, and I'm not sure I want to live in a world where every sign is a pictogram with an arrow pointing in a direction that you can find the crudely drawn action in question. Maybe it's early exposure to television and internet browsing, like the psychologists on TV and the internet say. Maybe getting by in society is getting to be too easy because the lowest common denominator keeps accidentally driving off of cliffs because they don't know what the squiggly arrow on the yellow sign means. Maybe it's because people assume that they can maintain the same ignorance of the world around them as the self-absorbed idiots on reality television shows. Maybe I'm the idiot because people have always been like this, and not only do I not know any better, I actually behave in the same manner and fail to recognize it. Maybe.

But then again, maybe people have to look around and find things without assistance once in a while. We can only hold each other's hands for so long before no one knows how to read anymore.