Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Childhood Utility Drawer

You know how every has that junk drawer in their house with a deck of playing cards, loose screws, a little change, and sometimes a hammer?

Well I had that when I was a kid, but it was much more fun.

I blame it on the Adam West Batman show. I used to watch the hour block of Batman everyday at my babysitters house and I was always amazed that no matter what sticky situation Batman and Robin found themselves in, they had a gadget to get out of it.

I also watched a ton of sitcoms, especially TGIF (Full House, Family Matters, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boy Meets World, etc) and SNICK (Are You Afraid of the Dark?, All That, Keenan and Kel)

So, in my young impressionable mind, I learned 1. to be prepared for any situation and 2. wacky adventures would pop up and you needed the tools to overcome them.

My first move was Christmas one year. My brothers and I would go through the Sears catalog and circle the stuff we wanted. I found a 101 Magic Trick set and quadruple circled it. To me, that seemed like buying a tool box before getting specialty tools.

Turns out this kit was a bust. There was the magic wand that would get longer by you tugging on the white capped end. The deck of cards that were tied together by a very obvious string that you could pretend to drop and pull back up like a yo-yo. And then there was a normal deck of small, cheap cards, and a book with 50 card tricks. Only one of the tricks kind of worked and it involved doing a swap-a-roo with the 6 and 9 of diamonds and hearts.

I then started building my specialty tool collection.

Arcades and skate rinks were primed for this. While my friends would turn in tickets for candy, I grabbed fake dog poop, a small screwdriver set (which snapped first time I used it), knotted metal rings, Chinese finger traps, an over sized checkers board, and one of those peg games you see at Cracker Barrel.

Beyond that, there were all these old quarter and dime machines that still had toys in them in my cousin's basement. The keys were long lost and we weren't made of quarters and dimes, (We were like 10, come on.) so we broke into them using a hammer and flat head screw driver. Ryan would pry the lid open as much as he could and I would reach my scrawny little hands in there.

I scored moldy temporary tattoos, a plastic Riddler shot glass, a dozen or so bouncy balls, and weighted dice.

These stayed in the same drawer until I left for college. It was one of those regrettable things where I just couldn't justify moving it and I knew my parents weren't going to hang onto this stuff. I went through it all, and realized that out of all the years, only one of my sitcom pranks worked and it was glorious.

That, was the exploding cigarette.

It was a small tin, much like what you get Altoids in, filled with these little seed looking things. You'd sort of pack the seed into the end of a cigarette and as the person was smoking, the seed would heat up until it popped, exploding the end of the cigarette.

I pulled a pack out of my dad's Blue's jacket, stuffed one in a single cigarette and waited.

A few days later, my dad came in the house laughing. "Did you do that? It scared the hell out of me."

My only regret is I didn't get to see it happen.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Trials and Tribulations of Trying to See the Foo Fighters

Last night, after just about 15 years of trying to see the Foo Fighters, I finally got to see them.

It's not for lack of trying. Every time I'm about to see them something happens.

November 1, 2000 was the first time I tried to see them. They were playing at The Pageant. I had recently turned 16, so I was free to actually drive to the show. And coming out of my dark Korn, Sliknot, Staind phase, I was excited to have happy rock back in my life.

I asked around and only my friend Megan wanted to go. I offered to drive if she procured the tickets. She agreed. She went to Sears to buy tickets from customer service. Yes children, there was a time where Sears was the quickest way to buy concert tickets.

I even remember a week before the show, I was working at Bandannas and the Point played a supercut of all of their hits at the time. Mind you, this is only 3 albums in and they had roughly 15 hit songs. This is even before probably their biggest hit Times Like These. I was amped.

Now, I had only known Megan for about a year at this time, so I didn't know one of her major character flaws. If she had a boyfriend, she would ditch you in a minute.

The Saturday before the concert, Megan met a guy through her older brother. This guy was really into fishing, hunting, camo, and Megan. And she was into him.

The day before the concert, Megan told me she had a new 18 year old boyfriend. The day of the concert I tried to call Megan. She didn't answer until 7 pm, where she answered her phone at the Pageant, and screamed over the crowd, "Me and Nathan are at the show. Where are you?"

I was crushed. I ended up sitting at home alone that night being really angry. I probably put on Staind because I was so angry.

The worst part was, I found out Nathan didn't even like the Foo Fighters.

I was in Columbia for the next two times the Foo Fighters came through.

The next time was over a decade later. Foo Fighters at Scottrade Center on September 17, 2011. Tickets went on sale in August. It was one of those things where the tickets were slightly too expensive to just buy them, so you had to talk to the significant other and make sure it was ok. Sal felt the same way.

By the time we got home from work that day and talked about it, the show sold out, and the aftermarket tickets were incredibly more expensive.

So we decided we would wait until pay day and see what was available. This is one of the few times where I can say waiting paid off. Before the next payday was when I broke my leg.

Completely buried in medical debt, unable to walk for months, we decided that the Foo Fighters show was not going to work.

So last night was a huge deal. And the show was great. Dave sat in his giant metal throne thanks to his broken leg, but still rocked. You could tell he just wanted out of his chair so he could jump around.

Unfortunately, with my bad knee and the lack of sleep Sal and I have been getting, we didn't make it past 10 pm. The lawn is not my friend anymore.  Luckily, that was already about 2 hours into the set. They ended up playing until 11. We felt like we got our fill.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Bunch of Idiots Sitting Around Playing a Card Game Online Instead of Socializing Like a Normal People

A recent trend among my friends and I are playing card and board games.

There was a solid 15 year period where I didn't touch a board or card game. I didn't have any use for them. Why would you pull out a game when there were so many other things to do? I was busy driving around St. Charles, watching my sweet DVD collection, and going to concerts.

It started when I went to Salt Lake City in 2007. My buddy Allen had this game called Killer Bunnies that we played several nights while I was there. The game was so fun, I ended up buying it and most of the expansions before I got home.

My love of the local, real life game faded a bit with graduating college, getting married, moving across state, getting laid off, etc. We didn't have time or friends nearby to play a game that needed at least 3 people to be fun.

Then there was a night where Sallie and I were sitting in bed next to each other playing "Words With Friends" which is a straight rip off of Scrabble.

There was a point where we both sort of looked at each other and thought, "This is really stupid, why don't we just bust out the Scrabble board so we don't have to look at this screen anymore?"

So for the next several weeks, we would sit in bed playing Scrabble against each other.

Our re-found love of games didn't really spill into the party arena until a game for terrible humans was released. Cards Against Humanity is a game much like Apples to Apples, except most of the cards are violent prompts with Hitler answers.

The first time we really played it was Christmas Eve 2011. Nick and Brett came over to our house and the four of us played through the entire deck because it was so hilarious. There were times where Nick was laughing so hard at a well placed poop joke that he couldn't read the rest of the prompt and drool was spilling from his mouth all over the coffee table.

Recently Sal and I got the itch to start a puzzle. We went to Target and after pouring over some really dumb puzzles of flowery fields and cartoon characters we didn't know, I found a puzzle of Scottrade Center in the clearance aisle. 1000 pieces for $3. Can't go wrong with that right?

Well, we worked on the puzzle several Sunday nights in a row, making slight progress. Soon we realized that it was a cheaply made puzzle. It was one of those where the picture was sort of blurry enough on certain parts of the crowd and the pieces could sort of be forced to fit that we weren't sure if we were actually making progress.

We gave up on that puzzle, but maybe we'll pick one up again soon. It was relaxing to do while watching TV.

A few weeks back, Brett, Rosie, Sal, and I were sitting around my brother's loft downtown wanting some entertainment we could all play. My brother was talking up Settlers of Catan, a game that was popular among my friends already, but I had never played it.

It was a blast. Unfortunately, it's only a 4 player game and somehow Sal and I tend to hang out in groups of 6 most often. So it hasn't come out since that first night, but I'm itching for more.

While we were shopping for Settlers of Catan, the guy at the comic book shop talked up a card game called Boss Monster. I just bought this using a gift card from my birthday. I can't wait to play it. I really can't.

It's weird having this love of the board game all of a sudden again. In a way, I feel like it's some rebellion against the screen. It's a way to keep people's attention span long enough so that their nose doesn't get buried in their phone browsing Reddit and you can just hang out like normal people.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Defender of My Mouth

I've never liked things near my mouth. I think it started the first time I went to the dentist and they started poking me with that damn hook and then I had to do a fluoride rinse that tasted like bubblegum dipped in sewage.

And because I don't like things near my mouth, my tongue has become the defender of my mouth. Anything gets near my teeth, it springs into action and attacks.

If I didn't have teeth, I'm 90% sure my tongue could do chewing for me.

I'm fairly sure my tongue even fights sickness. I rarely get strep throat. Yes, my tonsils do a pretty good job, but I think they get to sit back a little bit while the tongue keeps nasty things out.

If I do get a sore throat, it's because of my sinuses and that's all on my nose, which frankly has been doing a terrible job since I was born.

My tongue becomes especially problematic when I have to go to the pesky dentist.

A cleaning takes a ton of concentration on my part to keep my tongue from hitting all the tools coming into my mouth. I've had my tongue polished before and trust me when I say, it tastes awful.

I had to get a few cavities filled on Friday.

My first tooth was numbed up without much issue, but then my tongue realized trauma was happening.

The dentist brought the needle in for a second time to numb another tooth and my tongue sprung up and was like, "NAH MO-FO! This is my mouth. Who's house? Tongue's house."

My dumb tongue sprung up and knocked into the end of the needle. Yeah, tongue had a lot of fight in him until he went complete numb seconds later.

The next several hours my teeth were hurting, both sides of my mouth were completely numb, and I couldn't talk because my stupid tongue was hanging out of my mouth drooling everywhere.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Experiencing It Again for the First Time

One of my podcasts discussed the question, "What do you wish you could experience again
for the first time?"

I ignored a large portion of the rest of the podcast because I was thinking about my answer

This first came that came to mind was seeing Ghostbusters 2 in theaters when I was 5. I went with my Aunt Laura and Aunt Debbie with some of my cousins. I remember hiding my eyes during the courtroom ghost fight. I also remember it being one of those experiences where I thought, "I'm going to remember this forever."

Also the first time I saw Clerks was with my cousin Jake. We rented the black and white indie film from the local Blockbuster. Super surprised we were able to rent it considering we were both around 10 years old. I remember thinking... wow, movies don't have to be blockbuster action flicks. They can actually be potty-mouthed, everyday life.

And then I remember seeing Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when they released it in theaters in 1998. Hearing the full wall of sound, seeing the ships flying, the ATAT getting knocked down... it changed my life. Enough so, that I can even forgive the prequels.

Video games play a huge part of my life and there are a few times I wish I could experience again for the first time.

I was blown away by Super Mario Brothers 3, Punch Out, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but the first time I played Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo was a life changing event. I still play it about every 18 months. Hearing that opening theme, seeing the colorful sprites, finding all the hidden areas, and just seeing how robust a game could be with branching paths was incredible.

And then came the Playstation.

My cousin Ryan bought Resident Evil almost immediately after it came out. It remember we both sat on the edge of his bed, lights out, drinking malts from Crown Candy, trying to figure out this horror game with puzzles meant for adults. It was one of the most gratifying things I've accomplished to date.

And along the same theme, Jake and I sitting cross legged on his floor, eating BBQ potato chips, playing Metal Gear Solid is another one of those memories.

Even the sound of the Playstation 1 booting up gives me goosebumps.

Basically, for the past 20 years, I've been chasing the feeling of first playing both of those games. If you look at my game collection, 80% of it is Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, or a clone of either of those.

Then there's events.

My first Blues game against the Blackhawks in 1991. I believe this is also the first time I had stadium nachos.

Going to WWF Badd Blood 1997 when Shawn Micheals took on Undertaker in the cage. After pleading with Brett for the better part of 45 minutes to go to the bathroom, Brett decided he needed to go to the bathroom 15 minutes into the match. My dad and Brett missed the introduction of Kane. The demon Kane came out and ripped the cage door off it's hinges and Nick and I flipped out.

And to this day, all of these events are still incredibly important in my life. I still go to Blues games, I still go to wrestling events, I still play those games, and I still watch those films.

It's amazing how certain things can resonate with you and you want to feel it so much again that you chase it all throughout adulthood.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Camping and Parenting

Over the weekend, Sal and I went camping for the first time in 8 years.

The last camp trip we went on, we left before night fall because it was a 4 hour float trip where 9 of the 10 couples on the trip, were broken up by the end of the 4 hours. Sal and I were the 1 couple together and we decided to get out of the poisonous environment and sleep in our own beds.

We left the tent with friends of ours (who drank way too much and we later found out were on drugs). They returned the tent where it sat on various shelves of ours over the past 8 years.

Last week I pulled the tent out only to find that our friends never put the poles back in there.

Should've definitely checked that years ago. I think the "statute of limitations" on shaking them down for a new tent was over at least 7 years ago.

We bought a new tent and were the Swiss army knives of survival. We had a dry kit with toilet paper, matches, an LED latern, paper towels, allergy medicine, itch cream, bug spray, 3 different sun screens, etc. We had the easy snacks and hot dogs ready to go. We were ready.

We went to a place in Steeleville Missouri called Brown's Canoe Rental. We were greeted by a rough shack and folding table where we checked in and were shown the beach where we could pitch our tents.

It was a pretty cool spot. There was a harder ground only 50 feet from the river's edge where the tents went. So within 15 minutes, we had our tent up, tables up, chair in water, and beers in hand.  The weather was perfect, sunny, low 90s, plenty of shade. Really, the ideal setup.

Some of our friends came with their kids, and this is where I really loved camping. I got to be the "father" figure to keep them entertained.

Archie is almost 1. We put him in the water in this chair thing and that dude was loving life. He kept taking my hat off, pouring the water on his head, laughing, just being a real dude.

Then I got to teach the two girls how to skip rocks. I blew them away when I skipped 5 times and made it across the river. They kept practicing and kept asking if they were doing it right. Eventually, Clementine nailed a 4 skipper.

There was a bridge that was about six feet off the water. At one point the girls asked if I was going to jump off the bridge with them. No hesitation, hell yeah, I'm going to jump off the bridge. We spent roughly an hour jumping from the bridge, floating underneath it, and climbing up the other side.

And then came the discussion of the Snipe Hunt. I brought it up, remembering going to the woods and turning out all of our lights when I was a kid.

Soon the adults had swapped stories of what a Snipe was. I discussed the opossum / raccoon hybrid while others spoke of a peasant like creature.

We talked about various capturing techniques.

I brought up the freezing them with beams of flashlights. Another spoke of chirping, "Snipe" while dragging a plastic bag across the ground.

I decided to go against the more intense "scary" Snipe hunts I remember and told of a shy, but cuddly animal, much like a Leprechaun. If able to catch one and pet it, good luck would follow.

I told them that I and another master Snipe hunter would lead the charge and that they would have to take the pledge to protect the Snipe and to only divulge the secrets to people they trusted.

The kids were amped up, ready to go on a Snipe hunt. Unfortunately, one of the dad's there was being a butthole all day and didn't want the Snipe hunt to happen. He killed it before it started.

But not all was bad. Smores came out and the girls made me some incredible smores. Like I really don't know how they got everything perfectly melted. Most of my smores involved burnt marshmallows and cold, unmelted chocolate.

Sal and I went to bed around 10:30.

Some of the other people decided it was time to share a box of wine. So while Sal and I attempted desperately to sleep, we got to hear really intelligent debates about gun control, obesity, how to off a lantern with literally one knob on it. We got to hear a couple argue over a flashlight that wasn't working, got thrown into the woods, and then they realized it wasn't theirs.

According to my Fitbit, I had one nap of 40 minutes and another for 120 minutes. Around 5 am, I got up to use the restroom. I heard the lightning and thunder rolling over the hills. I decided trying to sleep wasn't worth it and started packing up some of our stuff.

Soon Sal came out of the tent with the same intentions. We picked up all of our stuff, took a bunch of trash to the dumpster and were out of the campsite by 5:45. The storm hit right as we got on the highway. Our friends got a bit wet, we however, got home by 8 am and were able to sleep in our own bed for a few hours.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Technology Is Ruining the Human Experience

We went to this ultimate 90's concert last night. Everclear, Toadies, Fuel, and American Hi-Fi were playing an outside venue called the Bootleg and there was a really great Green Day cover band playing inside between the bands.

I was stoked. I had a really good sandwich. I had a couple delicious craft beers. The weather was perfect for an outside show. I was into it.

And then during Fuel's set, we all felt a breeze above us and heard this buzzing noise. The singer's eyes went above us, then everyone started turning around one by one, and there, about 30 feet above us, was a drone filming the crowd and show.

For the next few minutes, people kept turning around and taking pictures, and the singer kept looking toward the sky with disdain.

Fuel was done, our drone friend left, and you could see it flying a hundred feet above the Grove, but it was no longer in venue.

Now this was a great show. The venue was able to break down and then set up each band in about 12 minutes with that awesome Green Day cover band keeping us entertained between sets.

Then the Toadies came on stage. They were the band I was really there for, and they were killing it. And my ears were ringing. And I was having fun.

And then our drone buddy came back. And there was this terrible Big Brother feeling.

And then the phones came back out. It was so bad at one point the singer acknowledged it when he dedicated Possum Kingdom to the girl that muscled her way up front just to turn around and look at her cell phone and talk to her friend.

And the worst part of this show was when a guy we met at the show tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Mr. Story, you're a tall guy to stand behind. Mind if I get in front of you."

I let him in front of me and immediately he held his phone up in front of my view so he could record crappy audio synced up with under lit video.

This continued throughout. Drone, phones, drone, phones, drone, phones. We ended up leaving 35 minutes early because I was steaming and not having fun anymore.

Can we just have a raw human experience anymore? This was a rock show. Something to come together and sing along. A place to get frustrations of daily life out. Instead, everyone is so worried about Instragraming their terrible concert footage in the constant pursuit of likes.