Friday, December 2, 2016

Burt or Maybe Bert...

I went on a long run today and as I was rounding the corner where Amsterdam Tavern is, the wind hit me just right and I remembered a character from our past.

Sal and I went exploring when we first moved to the city. This would've been like late 2008. We ate at Three Monkeys and then tried this bar that had just opened down the street.

So we see this dirty looking guy in this dimly lit bar that had a couple soccer scarves hanging on the walls. There's one guy at the bar drinking a beer and following it with whiskey, but soon he leaves.We thought we had found a dive bar we couldn't have imagined being open more than a few months.

Sal and I order. Amsterdam only had about 6-8 taps when they first opened, one of which was Guinness. At the time, it was a bold move to have a nitro stout on your tap. Most places were still heavily focused on Wheat beers and macro beers.

So I order a Guinness because you can't get it anywhere else. The bartender gets excited and starts talking about how there's nothing better than a properly poured Guinness on a cold afternoon. Sure enough, he pours the beer in the glass at a 45 degree angle until it's 3/4ths full, sets it back down, and let's it rest.

While the beers were resting, he handed Sal and I about $3 a piece in quarters and told us to go put some music on the jukebox.

We pick a couple of our favorites. Probably things like The Toadies, Wilco, Against Me!, David Bowie. I can tell the bartender is listening intently to each song, judging our musical taste.

And then he hears the opening riffs to Generation X's "Kiss Me Deadly."


He pulls out a couple of tumblers, pours very gracious pours of Powers Whiskey, slides them to us, and says, "Hi, my name is Bert, I punched Billy Idol in his stupid f*cking face in 1986 in a club in New York. He'd split Generation X up by then and had become a sell out piece of shit, and I was a punk... and I was drunk and probably on drugs. So I laid him out and then ran out of the club as fast as I could."

This is one of the first new people... actually... probably was the first new person we met after moving back from St. Louis. He was this like late 30's, sort of 1980's dirty white t-shirt wearing punk rock guy, who was one of the partial owners of the Amsterdam tavern. His name was Bert.

Bert handed us a business card with his cell number on there and regaled us with tales of his insane nomadic life spanning from California to Miami, involving some of the most famous concerts ever, and being held up at gun point.

Now Bert had some insane stories. If he had wrote them down and you just read them, you wouldn't believe the stories, but there was something about the sincerity with which he told them that you sort of believed it.

Bert was one of those guys you wouldn't trust watching your house while you were out of town, but if he were like, "Hey man, follow me down this dark alleyway, I have something to show you." You would go. You were drawn to him and the possibility of adventure.

We spend the next two or so years going to Amsterdam, eventually meeting about 4 of the 6 owners and becoming pretty good friends with them.

One random  late summer day, we went in and Bert said, "Hey Dan, would you want to come over and listen to some records this weekend? I'm off Saturday. Might be the last time we can hang out."

It was an unexpected qualifier on the end of the sentence. As far as we knew the bar was doing really well and Bert was really happy.

I said, "Sure man, that might be a good time, what's going on?"

"I don't really want to talk about it here, but I got into something and I'm moving to Argentina in 10 days."

We were invited to Bert's going away party at the Amsterdam. They set up a turntable in the corner of the bar, hooked it up to the PA system, and locked the door for anyone that wasn't on Bert's list. Bert brought in about 600 of his favorite 45's and asked everyone to bring their favorites.

It was a Tuesday night, Sal and I couldn't stay out too late since we had to work the next day, but for those two hours it was like we were in some sort of weird movie montage where a song played over people clanking glasses together in cheers, hugging Bert, just celebrating this weird guy that was in all of our lives.

I heard from Bert once when he moved to Argentina. He sent me and email saying he made it and that the weather was super nice, and he was going to the beach every day.

I don't know why today he popped in my head. I literally hadn't thought about Bert in six years, but something about the temperature, the time of day, the way the sun hit the Amsterdam sign just reminded me of Bert.

It's weird how someone can be in your life for such a short amount of time, but you have these incredible memories that sometimes you question if they actually came from a book you read.

If you look at Amsterdam now, it's grown five times the size it originally was, has about 400 new scarfs from soccer teams around the world, and if you look closely, there's one picture behind the bar of all the original owners. One of those guys is Bert and that picture is the only evidence of his life in St. Louis.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's the Sleep I Miss

I sort of joke that I haven't had a good night of sleep since Wells Fargo laid me off.

It's not necessarily an incorrect statement. Something broke in my mind where I'm in a constant state of survival mode. Always trying to pursue this relaxation that I'm beginning to think doesn't exist.

I mean, I probably sleep a good night 3-4 nights a week. It's usually when I've taken a Melatonin pill, or it's the weekend and I have nothing to wake up early for, or I've had a beer or two, or a really hard workout.

With the holidays though, I've not been working out. I've not had any weekends where I don't have to wake up and do something. I've had a ton of extra stress to think about.

Between 3-4 am every day, I wake up. Usually because I have to go to the bathroom, but sometimes I just sort of jolt awake.

I'll sort of re-position myself and try to go to sleep again. But for the rest of the night I'm thinking about work, or thinking about the errand I need to run. I toss and turn. I get up and walk around for a few minutes. Come back to bed, rollover.

And the morning sun, now coming up earlier and earlier it seems, shines directly at the window next to my side of the bed. It doesn't matter we have blinds and curtains, the light shines through like something from Poltergeist. I squeeze my eyes shut as hard as I can, pretending that the sun isn't there yet.

I used to go to the other room and sleep on the couch, but since the wall has been taking so long (another thing I often think about at 3 am) I can't sleep well in there because the litter box smell is too much for me.

So the only thing I can do, is sleep on my stomach and put a pillow on top of my head. It drowns out the sounds of Sal's fan, the humidifier, and shuts the light off.

This was the only way I could sleep when I had a broken leg. (I can't sleep on my back at all) But now, I can only sleep on my stomach for 20-30 minutes before my back and neck start hurting.

And I can't look at my watch. If I see what time it is, my brain does the math and constantly repeats, "GO TO SLEEP, ONLY 3 MORE HOURS TO SLEEP, GET AT IT."

And the next thing I know, it's 7 and I sleepily climb out of bed, ready to work.

I'm hoping this is just temporary while the holiday stress is hitting me. I don't like relying on Melatonin pills to get a good nights sleep.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Country That Doesn't Want You

I've been soaking in the reactions since the election. It's exhausting.

The mud throwing calling Trump supporters racist and misogynistic were covering my Facebook page the first two days. Many of these posts were reaching to find swastikas near pro-Trump messages on walls or a few idiots beating the shit out of Muslims and telling them to go home. It was damning people for voting for this orange asshole.

Now, the Trump supporters who are tired of being called racist have been fighting back in disgusting ways. I've seen people say things like, "The KKK hasn't been involved in a violent incident in 20 years. Black Lives Matter have been involved in violence this year." I've seen a lot of people saying, "stop crying pussies." Someone even told my wife that racism no longer exists and tried to quote the Civil Rights act of 1964 to her.

I've largely stayed out of the discussion because honestly, I'm tired and I don't want to respond with emotion.

But I've read. I've been sitting back and trying to figure out what the hell is going on with our country.

And I have no answers.

I do know however that my wife has gotten little sleep and wakes up depressed every day since the election.

I know my Pakistani friend has gone quiet on social media since the election.

I know my gay and lesbian friends have been starting fights on Facebook daily because they have gotten so close to having equal rights with everyone else only to have everything ripped away time and time again..

The black, Bosnian, and Asian members of my community all feel the need to arm themselves because they no longer believe in the police force that is supposed to protect them.

And even though I'll never understand fully, I understand. We will continue to be a divided nation for the next four years.

For everyone that has posted about the cry-baby libtards and said, "Welcome to how 2008 was for me" I don't think you are understanding what the Trump presidency actually means to these people. (Also, in 2008, Republicans still controlled many parts of the government)

My wife is constantly dealing with men talking down to her, assuming she knows nothing about men things like cars, assuming she is draped in pink dresses while she cooks dinner for her man. It happens constantly. In the grocery store, at work, and even our neighbor refuses to talk to her about anything and instead will give her messages to give to me.

My Pakistani friend is called terrorist weekly. He can't go out for a drink without someone making a terrible joke about how he is probably the one with a bomb strapped to him. He's working twice as hard to hold the same jobs that half as talented peers hold.

My gay friends fear bringing their long term, adult consenting, significant others around their families because of the off-hand comments about those "liberal faggots" from their uncles.

Most people that voted for Trump are not racist or misogynistic. But, Trump getting voted in is affirmation that they would rather this person who is absolutely racist and misogynistic be president, rather than Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein.

These people I'm talking about essentially have seen half of their country say, "I care about getting rid of Obamacare more than I care about your equality." It's lonely, isolating, and depressing to wake up every day and feel like you country doesn't want you.

I try to envision Obama saying all white males are rapists and they should be registered and possibly deported back to Germany / Britain. And then envisioning people cheering him getting into office.

It would be very hard to get out of bed in the morning.

So I understand friends. I understand why you wake up pissed off daily. You've worked hard for the American dream and it was pulled farther away from you with this election.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post Election Reactions - It's a long one

This morning I woke up to emails from friends in Britain sympathizing with me. They warned of hate crimes they saw after Brexit because actual racist people saw this as affirmation that their country hated foreigners. They felt they could act out. My friends still mourn the loss of their country's personality. 

A message came from Axel in Germany telling Sal and I that we could come live in his apartment to escape the wave of conflicting ideals in America and that most of Germany is terrified of a Trump presidency. 

A co-worker from Canada IM'ed me this morning, quipping that their immigration site went down from the amount of people wanting to see what it took, but that we should seriously consider moving to Canada because they have good beer, better hockey, and awesome cities. 

I'm sure Americans all over heard similar stories from foreign friends. Back in May, CNN searched for countries openly endorsing a Trump presidency. Time Magazine found that Trump has alienated much of Europe. They found the likes of Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Zimbabwe were among the countries where Trump was popular and literally the rest of the world didn't want him to come to power.

I'd love to join the droves of people that always say, "I'm heading to Canada." But that's not the answer. 

After seeing Missouri almost completely voted against everything that I did, I thought, maybe Sal and I pick up our bags and move to a more moderate or blue state. 

But I love my country and my city. (I hate my state) Me leaving doesn't solve anything. It just takes another voice away from what is now the opposition voice. 

I was never going to be 100% happy as no one should be with who our leaders are. There should be some ideal you don't agree with. Blindly following a party is a terrible way to run a political system.

I have socialist tendencies that I know are a pipe dream that can never exist. I'd love to have a nationalized health service, free or reduced higher education costs, gay marriage, easy access to women's services, real work toward solving oncoming global disasters such as global warming, limited resources, exploding populations. 

As someone that knows what it's like to pay 60% of your salary to medical bills and student loans, I would gladly pay 30% in taxes to pay for higher education and have a nationalized health service. 

Is it because I support all of that? Not necessarily, but I do think as long as what you're doing doesn't affect me, I shouldn't tell you not to do it. 

Breaking it down poll by poll

President Trump vs Clinton vs Johnson vs Stein

This was a tough one to swallow. As I said before, we had some terrible candidates to choose from. 

I had hoped for a couple things. 

The third parties would get enough votes to be taken seriously next election. They did not. 

Clinton would win if for no other reason than we stay the course for now. The past 8 years have been constantly getting better for Sal and I. We've been able to get a house, we've been promoted and given raises, many of our friends have gotten married and bought houses, we have gay friends that feel comfortable coming out, women have made great strides in equality in the workplace. 

It was a huge positive swing from where we were, 25 and scared of our future at the end of Bush's presidency.

It's not fair to break down Trump supporters as racist and sexist. I know most of them are not. A lot of votes weren't pro-Trump, they were anti-Hillary.

There are a lot of people in the rust belt that have seen factories leave their small towns for Mexico and China. They grasp at this version of America where they have a fair chance at a living wage, wave American flags along parade routes, and know their neighbors. Instead, they feel stuck in these small towns that are dying because industry left. 

But I did hope Trump would shake the foundation of the Republican party. I was hoping long time supporters would take a good long look at what it had become. 

I had hoped that Evangelicals would see Trump as a walking character of vice and someone who doesn't appreciate the sanctity of marriage. He's a man that's been divorced multiple times, has openly admitted to adulterous activity, and encouraged former wife Marla Maples to get an abortion. He's the embodiment of greed, lust, gluttony, pride, and wrath. 

I had hoped the moderate Republicans would be repulsed by his anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican rhetoric. They'd look at his economic policies and realize the deficit he would bring if unchallenged to do what he pleased. They would call for their party to reign it in a bit.  

But here we are. The popular vote was barely skewed in Clinton's favor, but the electoral college system put Trump in power. It's a system that we know the rules for and try to play to it. And this time, Trump won. 

Democrats now have to look in the mirror and figure out how they were beaten by a guy that was barely supported by his own party. They have to figure out if it was worth skewing the primary for Hillary.

Sal came barreling up the stairs to wake me up at 2 am when they announced it, frantic and almost in tears. All the progress we thought we were making. All of the hope and the things we loved about the Obama presidency, all of it is being handed to Trump. 

Not only is it being handed to Trump, but unless his party challenges him, he has almost no opposition. There's not a Republican President, Senate, House, Governor majority, State Senate, and State House and probably Supreme Court. 

This is not something to celebrate. No party should ever gain that much power. It disrupts all of our checks and balances. 

US Senator - Kander vs Blunt

Kander was sort of a dream Democratic candidate. He was moderate, good looking, served in the military, and was taking on a lame duck when Missouri could use some change. Missouri has been in a terrible financial situation, rank 32nd in education, and got a C- in our transportation and infrastructure

I thought this would be where we saw the most likely change. But it not to be. 

Governor - Koster vs Greitens

I didn't really have anything to say about Koster. I was picking him because Greitens and his supporters just seemed like terrible people. Every time I picked up the phone or read one of his flyers it was just very machismo and "you gonna try to take our guns pussy? I'll punch you in your face." So I voted Koster, mostly to be against Greitens. 

State Treasurer - Baker vs Schmidt

I actually voted Republican on this one. Schmidt had more experience and better economic policies. This is the only election my candidate won.

Tobacco Taxes

Both of these as written makes it sound like a good thing. Increase the tax on tobacco by a certain amount and it goes to schools and roads and such. 

But there's something shady here. Tobacco companies were the ones supporting these. Places like the American Cancer Association, American Lung Association, Cancer-Free Kids Association all opposed it. It's the way the amendment was written. It basically seems like this will be a way for Tobacco companies to get good press and more money. 

I voted against both of these. They both passed. 

Voter ID

On it's face, I support this one. But with the caveat that it's easier to get IDs. This amendment as written is going to create another hurdle for people to vote and the people it's going to affect the most are the poor and hourly workers. Ones that may not have a drivers license. They are going to see that they have to pay for a non-drivers license and get it updated every few years and basically say, "It's not worth it."

I voted against this measure.

Campaign contribution limits

This was a tough one for me. I went back and forth. I hate how much money plays into politics nowadays. I would love to strangle it out. 

But it also said it would cost the state a lot of money per year to enact this law. Money that if Missouri history holds true will come from roads and education. 

Ultimately I voted yes on this, hoping that the change it will force in future years may ultimately balance out the price. 

Sales Tax Limits

This was a hard one. Do we start taxing labor industries such as hair stylists, massage parlors, etc.? The income for those workers is already pretty low for something that costs so much. 

But, inevitably marijuana will be legal. (It's going to be everywhere in the next 10 years) This would also allow Missouri to tax marijuana growers and dealers and boost the state income by a ton. Income we are desperate for. 

I voted against this measure only because Missouri hasn't even entertained Medical marijuana, so figured we could revisit this in the future. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How did we get here and can we just blow it up and start over?

It's less than a week before election 2016. Most people know who they are voting for... begrudgingly.

It was only 8 years ago when we were choosing between a young Barack Obama on a platform of hope and and John McCain, a man with tons of experience who ultimately would've done a great job as president.

And yet, we spewed hate. We thought we had it bad. We thought the other guy was the worst. We thought we had a lot of complain about.

Now we have four of the most unlikeable candidates in history. If one party put forth even a halfway decent candidate, they would've run away with the election by now. If Obama or Bush were running against their opposing candidate in this election, either would easily win with 70% of the vote.

But instead, everyone is using the phase, "lesser evil" a lot.

We have Jill Stein with the Green party who has in the past been against getting vaccinations. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian who can't seem to name a single world leader. Both of which have economic plans that economic think tanks believe would send our national debt skyrocketing beyond anything we've ever seen.

We have Hillary Clinton, one of the most experienced career politicians, first woman candidate for president, sworn enemy of the conservative right for decades. Despite her mostly favorable approval rating as Secretary of State, she now has a 57% disapproval rating.

Clinton has friends on Wall Street, the sworn enemy of the people since 2008. She takes donations from companies with less than smooth pasts. People love to shout about her emails, all while having the word Bengaazzzziiii on their lips just ready for the right moment to pounce.

We have Donald Trump, a presidential candidate joke from as early as the 80's. A man who also has a 57% disapproval rating.

People love to shout that his followers are racist reading jokes about "grabbing women by the pussy." (Sorry grandma, it's a direct quote that's not easy to soften up)

Clinton is being investigated by the FBI for her handling of emails. Trump is due in court on rape charges of a 13-year-old girl and racketeering charges. This is the best we could come up with?

We have accusations of FBI directors using their power to change an election. We have physical violence threatened to votes. All while people are denying climate change when it's 86 degrees in November and a large group of people believe the Earth is flat.

Where did we go wrong? Why is there so much hate and divisiveness in the world when we really need to come together because fresh water and fuel are starting to run low, robots are seriously going to replace 70% of us in the job force, we're on the verge of another world war, and the population continues to grow despite all of these warnings that we are dooming ourselves.

Ultimately, the losing party might win in the end. Either party losing this election is going to have to take a long hard look at themselves, figure out how they got here, and start changing things. The winning party may get a seat or two in the Supreme Court, but with these approval ratings right now, any decent candidate in 2020 is going to unseat the president.

I guess my only advice for this election is not to just vote party lines, but take the ISideWith quiz. It's non-biased and asks a ton of questions to help you figure out which candidate is actually for you.

And if you don't feel like going through that, maybe just write in Chewbacca. He's loyal, honest, and will rip the arms off of any country that tries to take us on.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Childhood Embarrassment: Leather Jacket Edition

I hung out at a cool corner bar in downtown Madison tonight and there was this girl there that reminded me of this high-school girlfriend named Kristi I very briefly had.

She was a total rebound girl after Rebecca and I broke up.

Completely the opposite of the type of person I normally dated.

She was a cheerleader, was always decked head-to-toe in pink, had a super high-pitched valley girl voice. When dated for about 3 weeks and in that 3 weeks we went to three high-school football games, went to the mall specifically to go into Clair's Boutique looking for more pink crap roughly 5 times, and one time when I played Pearl Jam's Black in the car one time, she started looking around and exclaimed, "It's like in my brain or something."

Needless to say, we weren't meant for each other. (She also got pregnant by her next boyfriend about six months later... so bullet dodged?)

The reason I bring this up is because at this time, I was wearing a leather jacket my grandpa gave me. He got this leather jacket from Pepsi points. I inspected it and the only place I thought it said Pepsi was on the back tag which was hidden most the time. So I thought I was pulling off this Pepsi jacket like I was Fonzi or something.

Kristi thought it was really cool. It wasn't until we broke up where a guy that sort of hung around my group realized the buttons had the Pepsi logo and he thought it was the funniest thing.

This guy ruined the entire facade. He started calling me "The Pepsi Challenge" and eventually got others to join in.

Usually I'm not one to buckle at pressure like this, but I soon hung the Pepsi jacket in my closet, leaving it behind when I moved to college.

I need a new coat this year. I was considering a leather jacket. Maybe this time I get one fitted for me without the product placement on it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Back to 2001

I had a really weird Sunday. Like really really weird. I might have noticed this more because Sal and I have been watching Back to the Future lately.

Started off "normal" enough when we went out to St. Chuck for Brett's birthday. We all had a good time, ate, generally just sort of eased into Sunday.

Then Sal and I made a run to MidRivers mall because she needed some new work clothes for a business trip coming up.

I, not really wanting to hang out in The Limited all day, split off from Sal and went to fun stores.

I didn't realize how weird the day was until Sal and I split off. I was standing in the former Borders (now V-Stock) in the section where the music biography books used to be. I spent hours in this section looking for a Nirvana or Kurt Cobain book I didn't have already.

I looked out over the parking lot at MidRivers mall. I could see the Ruby Tuesdays I used to split large cakes with. I looked at the former CD Warehouse where I bought Sublime's acoustic album and Goldfinger's self titled album. I started looking around V-stock. It was this weird shadow version of what Borders used to be.

I started feeling really weird, like I just miss these places. St. Charles has progressed passed my childhood. None of my favorite places are still around. I started just feeling really heart heavy for those lazy Saturday afternoons I'd spend wandering the mall, trying to decide what to spend the $30 in my pocket on.

The mall even had Sheryl Crow and Hootie and Blowfish playing over the speakers while advertising that the 90s were the trend again and you should buy overalls and fanny packs.

I went to Slacker's in the mall. It's designed strangely like the Slacker's that used to be in Chesterfield. But gone was Babbage's, the Wizard's Wagon, even GameStop left the mall. Tilt took down all of their bowling alley carpeting and black light decorations and modernized itself. (For whatever a modern arcade looks like.)

I even was wearing cargo shorts that I'm pretty sure I bought from Kohl's in 2003, shortly before going off to college.

The day ended seeing Blink-182 at RiverPort. (Or UMB Banklywood Theater or whatever it is now.) I was standing in the lawn, not far from where I stood seeing them and Green Day at the same venue in 2002.