Thursday, July 28, 2016

Time Traveling Concert Goers Serve Their Own Selfish Rock Purposes

I had a dream last night where my good friend, HLP*, and I were transported back to various times in history. What an amazing opportunity! We could have saved the Kennedy brothers from being assassinated, stopped the world wars that cost the world so many lives, and maybe even smacked the AIDS monkey in the head with a crowbar.** But instead the first thing that occurred to us that we could do for the good of mankind went something like this, "Holy shit! We can travel through time seeing all kinds of legendary rock bands!"

HLP and I were discussing what shows we had been to during out time travels. One of us saw Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne in the 1970's, and on another night in the 1970's we saw Blue Oyster Cult. Seeing B.O.C. is not that exciting of an opportunity, but that is all we could find playing that night. And they didn't even play "Don't Fear the Reaper!" Now that I think about it, HLP and I could have been yelling out for them to play that song when it hadn't even been written yet. Trippy, right?

We found our potential Holy Grail when we skimmed through the newspaper to to see that Jimi Hendrix was playing that night! This must be what the Ziggy of our rock and roll "Quantum Leap" has been wanting us to see. It was all so clear now! The only problem was that it was sold out. First we tried to sneak through the front door, but the doorman busted us and kicked us to the curb. We then found a way to get in through the back door. This led us to the backstage area, but from there there was no way to get to where we could see the stage. We decided to hide behind some folding tables where we could hear the show perfectly and see Jimi playing from time to time when he walked by a door with a window on it. 

At one point Jimi happened to glance through the window and looked right at me. I didn't know what else to do, so I just smiled and waved. Mr. Hendrix stopped playing at this point and said, "Hold on a minute. We got a couple white boys*** back here." I thought for sure our goose (or geese) was cooked, but he asked the crowd if we should be let into the show. The crowd responded with an uproarious applause, and we came out and saluted the crowd to a standing ovation. HLP and I found some seats, but people kept arriving and kicking us out (we had no tickets, if you'll recall). Some seats that I sat in I had to leave even before anyone got there because my knees were hitting the head of the person in front of me. I found it odd at the time that some seats had more leg room than others, but maybe it was like that in the early 1970's. I'll never know because I can't really time travel.

Sometimes you just find that perfect Google Image.
With all the time I spent worrying if I would be thrown out, if a ticket-holding patron would arrive to take my seat, or if my knees would graze somebody's ear and piss them off, I realized that I wasn't paying much attention to why I was there: Jimi. Fucking. Hendrix. I will say that dream-time-traveling Kenneth was impressed with his playing, but Jimi didn't play one single, solitary song I had ever heard before.  

So, what does it all mean? Are the rock gods inside my insane brain trying to tell me something?
- Maybe I should just enjoy the moment more and not worry so much about little details?
- Perhaps it's a telling story about how I'm too overly concerned with rock music?
- Help me out, Seven Readers. Maybe there is a hidden meaning that I'm missing?

*This acronym stands for Heterosexual Life Partner. He has been a good buddy of mine since junior high, all through this blog's inception, and right up until now. We text one another just about every day about sports and music, so I would say life partner still applies.

**I'm sorry if any animal lovers are offended by this. Believe me when I say that it wouldn't be easy because I find monkeys so adorable. But I would hypothetically smash that little guy's infected nose right into the back of his disease-ridden skull for the good of mankind. But he would get a pass if Zeppelin or someone else awesome was playing that night.

***We weren't the least bit offended when he said "white boys" because he delivered it with no malice at all, and in fact, a great deal of warmth. Dream Jimi was extremely kind and gracious. He was everything I imagined him to be, but I just wish he played some songs that I knew! I mean, I have heard his whole catalog, so from what reservoir was he digging through for that night's deep cuts? I'll have to ask Dream Jimi if I ever have the pleasure of meeting him again, and while I'm at it I'll thank him for letting me and my "white boy" friend into the show.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The other day just about the only thing I had to do for the entire day was put a baby crib together. How long could that really take? Well, little did you know I got a C- in Industrial Arts in Junior High, and I suck at this sort of thing. If there is anything that could have been done wrong, I did it wrong. Two different times I figured out way too late that I had put something on backwards and had to take apart just about everything to get it put on right. Believe it or not, I woke up all sore the next day from sitting on the floor in awkward positions screwing screws into stubborn bolts. 

This was my first real dad task, and I'm not going to say it was a complete failure. Sure, there were a lot of bumps in the road and a lot of swearing, but I stuck with it and got it done. I think it was a metaphor for what parenting is going to be like from what I hear from my friends: You have to figure it out as you go, you're going to suck at it at times, but you just stick with it and stay positive. And they'll be lots of extra parts. Okay, that makes no sense. I suck at carpentry and metaphors. 

I ran the Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon last weekend. I have figured out that halves are plenty for me. No more full ones because those destroy perfectly good bodies. My good buddy, Night Train, and I run around 10 miles once every weekend, and it's been great for keeping weight off and gives us time to recover. Also, that way you don't get sick of running when it's just once a week. The race went really well for us, and they had live music along the way. They also had rock impersonators, and I tested the Blues Brothers guys and said to them as I ran by "Orange whip . . . Orange whip . . .," I was very pleased and impressed that they both responded with "Three orange whips!" and did the proper hand motion. The Elvis impersonator looked very hot, sweaty, and hungover, so I didn't engage him with any fun pop quizzes. He looked busy concentrating on not throwing up on himself. 

Hot yoga has been a great way for me to recover from running way too far and taking entirely too long to assemble things with seemingly simple instructions. Usually I'm just about the worst yogi (that's what they call yoga participants) in the class, and that's fine. You have to be willing to be the suckiest guy in the room before you can get better at anything. I'll tell you right now that I'm in decent shape but can't touch my toes. Not even close. Slowly I'm getting more flexible, and I always leave feeling refreshed and thinking with a clear head. However, yesterday right when the class ended, some country music kicked in and continued for at least four songs while I was in the locker room. I would prefer they play any innocuous new age wind chime music music that just blends into the background. That's fine and expected. But, I can't relax when I'm listening to a song about some guys drinking a six pack of beer in the back of a pick-up truck. Unless I'm right there in the back of that truck with them. Country makes me angry, and I can't tune that crap out. 

Always good to have a spotter
When I was in high school I left my alarm clock-radio alarm (I'm old) on the other end of the room and had it set on the country station. That way I knew I wouldn't lie in bed and listen to the music because I knew I would have to run across the room to turn it off or slowly lose my mind. So, it's been a long history of hating country music. I was thinking of leaving a complaint with the yoga studio, but I'll just complain to you guys instead because that's what I've always done.

So running, volleyball, and yoga have been about it as far as exercise goes lately, and I have been losing some muscle tone. I have been avoiding doing any kind of weight training due to an elbow problem, but today the elbow felt pretty good so I pumped some (really light-weight) iron. You know that debate kids have on the playground where they say "My dad could beat up your dad?" Well, what I don't want is some kid saying that to Kenny Jr. and poor Kenny is left saying, "You're probably right. My dad has pipe cleaner arms and can't even screw together simple wooden structures with directions that even a chimp can follow. He's hardly a man at all, but he can do a downward facing dog in his hot yoga class that will make your head spin!" That won't score him any points at all out there on that playground. 

No segue at all here, but I was at work not too long ago, and a coworker said, "Kenneth, I saw on Facebook that we have a mutual friend." She said the friend's name, and the name meant nothing to me. I looked it up, and it is a blog buddy. She was saying what a great dude he is, and it made me happy to hear that. I said he is an excellent writer, and she said that he helped everyone write their term papers in college. This pleased me too for some reason. I was proud of this dude I have never met. Then I had to explain to this coworker that I had never met him, and I'm a grown-ass man with pen pals. 

One blog buddy I have met is SO@24, and I was reminded recently of the time we first met in L.A., and for reasons I can't remember, we recreated the suggestive cover art from Hall and Oates' 1982 release, "H20." I thought of this because I went to an outdoor Hall & Oates show last night on a very hot and humid Chicago night with my sister, her boyfriend, and my very pregnant and sweaty wife. Believe it or not, we were actually just as sweaty as Daryl Hall and John Oates were in the picture! 

(Hall & Oates)

(Dr. Ken and SO@24. We should have got sweatier or just spritzed water on our faces. It will always be one of my biggest regrets.)

There has been no real rhyme or reason to where this post has been headed, and I'll just end it here. Go ahead and leave a comment related to any of the scatter shot of topics I have run down in this rambling stream of consciousness, or just say hello to your insane pen pal buddy from Chicago. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to admire the glorious crib that big daddy built with his own. bare. hands! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

You Asked and Ken Answered!

A little while back I asked you, my beloved readers, to ask me some personal questions so that you can get to know your favorite blogger a little better. I was blown away by all the responses filling up my inbox. It looks like you really want to know more about what makes me tick, and that is very flattering. I chose some of the most interesting ones and put some serious thought into my responses. I hope you enjoy . . .

Okay, I'm full of shit. I never actually asked that you guys ask any questions because there are only like 7 of you that read, tops. Truth be told, I just scrolled around the internet for interesting questions to ask myself because I had no blog topic ideas today. So, now I do have a topic, but it's kind of a crummy one. Whatever, we will make the best of it here at The Gancer. Away we go . . .

1. What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep? Toss and Turn? Try to get up and do something productive?

I usually read, but when I'm in between books or need a break from reading I play the name game in my head. For example, I'll pick a topic such as "heavy metal bands," and then I'll name a band for every letter of the alphabet. Usually by the time I get to N or so, I'm out cold. My dad also told me that when you are having trouble sleeping, get up to go pee even if you don't have to. That works sometimes too. Thanks for the pee pee trick, dad! You're the best. Also, it sometimes helps when I try to sync my breathing up to someone else's. Now that my wife is pregnant she is snoring like a snow blower (sorry to announce that to all seven of my readers, honey. You're still beautiful!) so it's really easy to get the timing of her breathing down given the volume of the snoring. Pretty soon we're both sound asleep, only she is far louder than me (Sorry again, darling. You're still the sex pot of my dreams).

2. Who performs the most random acts of kindness out of everyone you know?

That would have to go to my good buddy, Night Train. I went to a concert with him the other night, and we were partying in the parking lot with three random middle aged weirdos who were a little rough around the edges. When we walked by they said, "Hey, come hang out with us!" Odd that they wanted new friends so badly, right? We had written on our white styrofoam cooler full of beer that we were selling one concert ticket for face value that came with a free adult beverage. One of our new friends who invited us to hang out took it upon herself to help sell one of the tickets. She seemed to have trouble getting through any sentence without saying "motherfucker," and she didn't make exceptions even when it came to her sales approach. I for one wouldn't want to imply that someone had intercourse with their own mother as part of a first impression, but she had a style all her own. Someone would come around the corner and she would say, "Hey, motherfucker! We got a ticket here for sale, motherfucker!"*

*You see, MF'er appears in both sentences She never missed a chance.

(In case you don't know what a styrofoam cooler looks like)
We were all a little embarrassed by our new friend and were doubting the fact that she could help sell the spare ticket. As a matter of fact, we were convinced she was scaring the shit out of any "motherfuckers" who came near us. Nigh Train never doubted her for a minute, and he even offered her a $20 commission on any leads she brought in that led to a sale. Sure enough, she found someone who paid full price. After the transaction was complete and Night Train paid crazy lady her commission, he noticed that the customer had paid $20 too much. So, he ran after him to give him the money. Then it dawned on him that he forgot to get his free beer, so he ran him down to give him that as well. Night Train is just a solid dude, and that is all there is to it.

3. What are the top three qualities that draw you to someone new?

      3. Not selfish. The person cares about others, and the person actually listens to what others say - doesn't just wait for his/her turn to talk.

     2. An interesting conversationalist. If we've been conversing for the first time and over 5 minutes have elapsed without us extending things beyond the weather, what we do for jobs, where we live, and how many kids we have, then it's just not going to work out for us as new friends.

     1. Funny. It really helps if you're funny. Even if you're not actually saying funny stuff, it helps if you laugh at the super funny stuff that I'm saying to you.
How about you, Seven Readers? Do you want to answer any of these questions or just comment upon my wildly (mildly) entertaining responses?

Each of these men is either selfless (Andre), a good conversationalist (Wilt), and funny (Arnold). Wilt would have to be a decent conversationalist to bed 10,000 women, or whatever.

Friday, July 08, 2016

The Litter Box Bar League

A friend called me up and said he needed one more team to sign up for a volleyball league that takes place on a sand volleyball court outside of a bar in Chicago on Wednesday nights. I threw a team together and showed up that first Wednesday and couldn't believe that it was even worse than you would expect a court outside of a bar would be. At first I was pissed that I had committed my friends and I to playing in an unsanitary and unsafe environment once a week, but slowly all of these quirks have grown on me. I took some pictures to help you get a sense of just how crazy this whole thing is because I don't think you would believe me unless you saw it for yourself. 

Here is the court. It is a bunch of sand poured into a giant plywood box, which is why we started calling it Litter Box Volleyball. The net permanently droops in the center, and there is no way to adjust it. You get the volleyballs from the bar before your game, and many of the balls have bite marks in them. Why, you may ask? Because when the ball goes over that wall you see pictured, it lands in a Doggy Daycare. When that happens, the ball either flies over the fence back to us right away and we say thank you to the staff, or it mysteriously flies back over 45 minutes later, or it never comes back at all and becomes a permanent chew toy for the doggies. Because this disrupts the game and because the balls are expensive, whoever is deemed at fault for having the ball get into the jaws of the hounds has to take an immediate shot of room temperature Malort, which is just about the grossest liquor you'll ever have. 

The sand is not nearly deep enough, and in some spots there will be two inches of sand with concrete underneath. I dove a couple of weeks ago and cut my knee up really bad. One of the Litter Box veterans then told me, "Oh yeah, don't dive." Don't dive? I can't help it. I just react and go if I see a ball about to hit the sand on my side. Right when it was just about healed from a week or two before, I dove again and opened the cut right back up, which is what you see above. 

So you got the DoggyDaycare on one side line, the other side line is a street, and then on one end line you have two very smelly dumpsters, as you see pictured above. It's smells terrible on that end of the court, so dumpster side always serves first. Seems fair. If someone spikes one past you that doesn't get stopped by a dumpster, then someone has to run down the street barefoot to fetch the ball. Sometimes it sort of veers down the street and just rolls forever downhill. This is why I have found that when I'm holding down the dumpster side, it's good to keep my flip-flops handy so that I can slip those on and run down the street more swiftly and safely.

On the other end line you have the back wall of the bar, and there is an apartment above the bar. Sometimes the ball will hit the satellite dish, knocking out the transmission on the NASCAR event viewed by the regulars in the tavern, or it will land on the upstairs tenant's porch. The guy up there has visitors that come by very briefly and leave, there are some strange chemical smells coming out of there, and other signs that make us think maybe he runs a "business" out of there. But would he take such a risk with all these yuppies in his backyard drinking beers and playing volleyballs in his backyard? Maybe so because the other night he had not problem drawing attention to himself by hopping on his bicycle/motor cycle, cranked up that engine, and went around the block to fetch two tallboys of Icehouse beers. It looks to me like this is what we called a "mini bike" as kids, only this one has an engine attached to a bicycle so he has the option of pedaling as well. It was loud too, let me tell you! A five city block radius is always aware when this dude is making a beer run.  

There is one little nook where a ball can go down this alley as well. There are rusty nails everywhere,  so this is also a good opportunity to slip on your sandals before venturing in. Tetanus shots should be given out as readily as Malort shots around this joint. I'm serious. 

We usually drink buckets of beer outside by the shabby court, but on one rainy night my friend and I noticed the fine array of beef jerky flavors prominently displayed behind the bar. In case you can't read them, the flavors from left to right are as follows: Jerk This, Tickle My Teriyaki, Pepper My Cornhole, Blowout Cajun Jerky, Fire In the Hole, and Hot Habanero. You'll notice that's my hand throwing out a pair of scissors because I was thinking it would be a fun game to play paper, rock, scissors and the loser has to try the jerky of the winners choosing. If a guy had already Doggy Daycared a few balls that evening and earned a few Malorts, some Pepper My Cornhole jerky could really push him over the edge to have a reversal of fortune, or at the very least have a very, very rough Thursday ahead of him.

What do you guys think of Litter Box Volleyball? Anyone want to sub in next Wednesday? Anyone play in any goofy leagues of any kind this summer that you want to share with us in the comments?

Friday, July 01, 2016

So I'm married with our first baby on the way, but did you guys know that I was married once before? It's true. I was actually married for a whopping 8 months before my wife at the time decided that she should start sleeping with a Chicago Cop. At the time I was totally devastated, but now I would like to thank that man. Not only does he risk his life every day, but he got me out of a horrible marriage. She and I couldn't be more wrong for each other, so he did us both a favor. He did my wife, and he did me a favor.  It's weird because at the time I was so messed up about it that I hated all cops as a result, but now I would shake his hand and thank him from the bottom of my heart. 

But back when that whole thing was going down with the ex, I was an absolute mess. I was losing weight and couldn't sleep. One friend saw me and said I looked like death. Thanks! He was right. I almost laughed, but I couldn't. I'm a man who loves comedy, but nothing could make me laugh at the time. "Da Ali G Show" was new on HBO during that time, and he was the only guy who could get me laughing. This was a major revelation. If I could start laughing again, I could be myself again. Ali G, Bruno, and Borat became my therapists.

The second part of the puzzle was meeting other women, and I couldn't even think about that. I was fixated on my failed marriage and my depression. I moved out of our apartment downtown and back with my parents in the suburbs. My parents are wonderful people, but I was losing my mind and had to get the hell out of there. I would work and sleep all week in the burbs and then pack up a backpack to stay back in Chicago all weekend with friends. I would try to talk to women, but I was not in a good place. They don't want to talk to the sullen brooding guy. When you get dumped and you're young and stupid, you don't think you'll ever meet anyone again. Then one night an amazingly hot Asian Indian chick struck up a conversation with me, and I got her number. I don't think anything tangible came of that, but it gave me the confidence I needed. I remember when I packed up my car with my handful of belongings to move back into the city, I thought to myself that I would meet plenty of women and would be just fine. I remember gazing at the skyline on my drive in, and it was the first time I was really optimistic. My thinking at the time was: This will be a new chapter in your life, Dr. Kenneth Noisewater. 

I went out to the burbs yesterday to visit my dad because my mom is out of town for the week, and driving back to the city on the very same highway that I did so many years ago, I saw the skyline and was reminded how I felt that day. Moments like that are why this is my favorite city in the world and why Chicago's skyline has been at the top of this blog for so long. Thanks for listening, friends. Ali G and Associates were relieved of their duties of their duties as therapists in 2005. That role has been filled by you, seven readers. Thanks for listening, and have yourself a super-duper weekend.