Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weekend Theme Song Challenge: "Stuck In The Middle With You"

Last weekend’s theme song – if you hadn’t yet guessed by the title of this blog – was “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I thought that Bob Dylan sang that song. He doesn’t. Wanna know what else I thought, that I turned out to be wrong about? “Fresno is an ultra hip, bustling metropolis.” Totally not true… but totally a great surprise of a city!

Fresno? More like FresYES!
Indeed. I spent the weekend in the city of Fresno, California. Why did I think it was a place where cool people – the type who wear “ironic” clothing – live? I blame it on the Beastie Boys, who oh-so-aptly rhyme with the word “Fresno”: Got busy in Frisco. Fooled around in Fresno / Got over on your girl ‘cause you know she never says ‘no’. Doesn’t Fresno sound rad? I want to "get over" on a girl – whatever that means.

Anyway… How does this weekend’s trip fit into this weekend’s theme song? Well, I spent about 8 hours in a car, driving to and from Fresno through the California desert. Essentially, I was “stuck in the middle” of the desert – and California itself – with three enchanting companions. (“Clowns to the left of me. Jokers to the right”, as the song goes.)

Leaving LA
The farther you drive away from Los Angeles, the more you remember what the real world is like. Los Angeles is kind of like a weird land of make-believe for adults. You forget you’re in it until you get out of it. The first sign that we weren’t in Los Angeles county was literally a sign, mounted on top of a large, brand new apartment complex. It read: “Free Rent”.

You won’t see signs like that in or near LA, but I guess it’s harder to get people to move into apartments in the 100 degree heat of the desert. A few miles down the road, I saw another sign worthy of note. It was affixed to a ramshackle house with a fenced-in yard of patchy desert grass. Inside the fence was a shirtless man with cutoff jeans and unkempt hair, who was hosing off a dog for some reason. On the sign, he had done his best to print the words “Dog Problems”, followed by a phone number. If I call this number, will he cause or fix these “dog problems”? I don’t want to know.

The highlight of the drive to Fresno was the “Musical Road” near Lancaster, CA. Perhaps you’ve heard of it by its other name – “Awesome”.

If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking, “Quit talking about the ride to Fresno and talk about the damn city itself!” Fine. The part of Fresno that we stayed in was slightly run down, but it had a lot of heart. It reminded me of a small town in Minnesota, because of all the positivity and hope it seemed to radiate. Nothing visible, just a kindness and sense of something greater in the hearts of the city’s people.

Sadly, the economy didn’t seem to be treating this part of Fresno very well. It may have been the unrelenting desert heat, but the city was far from bustling on this particular Saturday. And there seemed to be an abundance of abandoned warehouse-type buildings that made me want to buy them and shoot sappy music videos in them. While at a local eatery, Jay, a fellow traveler, noticed that two of the three TVs mounted on the walls weren’t on. He pointed out that they seemed to be symbolic of the businesses in Fresno – plenty of buildings, most of them empty.

Chukchansi Park
One shining beacon of hope in Fresno was Chukchansi Park – the home of the Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team that was playing the Albuquerque Isotopes on our Saturday evening visit. This game was our reason for going to Fresno since one of our travelers – Amy – has a brother who works for the Isotopes as a Video Coordinator. It was a fun game. Fantastic food and desire-quenching beer. Here are some pictures of me living out the weekend theme song with clowns and jokers …

They call her Mustang Sally
In some ways, “Mustang Sally” could have been the theme song to this weekend. After the game (Isotopes won! Go ‘Topes!), we all met up with Amy’s brother and had some cheap beer at a place called “Hero’s Sports Lounge”. The employees there were my heroes! One was from Minnesota. Maybe she was the one giving off the happy Minnesota vibe that I felt in Fresno.

Anyway, “Mustang Sally” could’ve been a great theme song for this weekend, because the lovely Alexis – another traveler – and I were one of a few couples dancing to that song when a gentlemanly bar band was playing it in the upper level of the bar. It was fun. A middle-aged couple, who seemed to “know a thing or two” about dancing, told us they were the judges and that they judged Alexis and I to be the best dancers. Winners! “Mustang Sally” stayed in my head for the rest of the night and into the following afternoon when we hit the road and headed back towards LA.

Cheese? Bravo!
As we departed from Fresno, we enjoyed from the road the view of the many and varied agricultural endeavors – grapes, nectarines and who knows what else! A half hour into the journey, Jay pulled over at a place called Bravo Farms Cheese Factory. Having been to only one other cheese factory in my life, I was excited to have a cheese factory affair.

I could spend a whole other blog post writing about the merits of the Bravo Farms Cheese Factory, and maybe someday I will. But, for now, I’ll just write a bunch of phrases that sum up the experiences you can have at this wonderful and magical place…

-Free cheese samples might get you drunk
-"There's a mini toilet in the bathroom!"
-Puppets sing along with satellite radio

-A backyard you never knew existed
-I’m nuts about nuts and carbohydrate snacks!
-Cheese and keychains and magnets and wine and gifts and cheese
-Amy calls them “Aw-renges”

The whole weekend was a darn happy California experience. I may have been “stuck in the middle” of California, but it was a good kind of stuck – the kind of stuck that can only be experienced with three wonderful traveling companions. Thanks guys!

NOTE: If you don’t know what the Weekend Theme Song Challenge is, go here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

America's Funniest Home Videos

"Awesome." "Practically the best thing ever." "I can't believe I like this so much." These are my responses to a rediscovered love in my life - "America's Funniest Home Videos". This show has been on since 1989, and has had, on its grand and lively set, four hosts of varying talent and sexiness. For my money, the best host was Bob Saget. From here on out, that’s the “America’s Funniest Home Videos” I’m talkin’ 'bout.

Although, as a child, I really disliked his inane, rambling "monologues", complete with jokes that trailed off into rolled eyes, I can't help but look back at Bob Saget's years on this show with the fondest of feelings. Perhaps it was the 24 oz. can of Miller High Life I was drinking, but last night, I absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed this show - Bob Saget and all!

It's so damn good
Why was this show the source of so much joy and excitement as a child? And even now as an adult? After all, many of the video clips featured on the show were predictable; you knew what was going to happen the moment you saw the setup…

Setup example:
A 50-year-old man at a wedding anniversary reception is on the dance floor shaking his groove thang. But – uh oh! – ten feet away is a woman carrying a large sheet cake! What happens next?
A) The man stops dancing and asks the woman for a piece of the cake.
B) The man slips and falls into the woman, destroying the cake.
C) The man continues dancing, and waves at the woman benignly as she walks by.

I think you know the result, but I’ll say it anyway – it’s “B”. Why was it “B”? Obviously, we want to see crashes and injuries! And dogs doing human things! Adults doing childish things! Men getting nailed in the groin with various objects!! Babies vomiting on babies!! Trees tipping over on cars tipping over on sandcastles!! And for Pete’s sake – if they look awesome in reverse, play them in reverse!!!

"A.F.V." provided all of these appealing video scenarios – and oh so much more. They did it with musical montages, Bob Saget’s lively, high-pitched voiceovers, and a glorious selection of cartoonish sound effects. My – this show had it all! And its supreme early-90’s splendor lives on in syndication… and YouTube.

Won’t you join me in reliving some wonderful "A.F.V." moments? Yes. Yes, you will…
Intro to the first show!
Love the high-pitched voiceover at 1:00!
An honest look at the real "A.F.V."?
Many more videos here!

Epilogue: the theme song
I almost forgot! Do you remember the original theme song for “America’s Funniest Home Videos”? I do, and I still sing it at my mirror every morning while I’m combing my freshly-showered hair and wearing sunglasses. The comb usually doubles as a microphone. If you can remember all or most of the lyrics, you and I should be friends – not real friends, but the kind of friends who sing this theme song together.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Say Tuned: Weekend Theme Song Challenge #2

The song for this weekend's Weekend Theme Song Challenge, is "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel. (If you don't know what the Weekend Theme Song Challenge is, go here!)

Stay tuned as I attempt - against the will of my blog nemesis ("blogesis") and friend, Hyperbole Personified - to live out my weekend according to this fantasticated song! I'll post all about it next week at some point. Check my blogesis's post about her weekend, too. (Enjoy it while you can, because she will surely perish by my hand!)
I'm going to Fresno and no one can stop me!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Sometimes I will write the music of my life.
Sometimes my life will be at the end of a cereal box.
Sometimes everyone in the party has cardboard for fingers.
Sometimes fingers have all the right moves.
Sometimes joysticks aren’t what you think she is talking about for real.
Sometimes paying attention can get expensive.
Sometimes I like you.
Sometimes I like you a lot less.
Sometimes it’s okay to be on the phone.
Sometimes you’ll dial the wrong numbers.
Sometimes I listen to you what you are saying.
Sometimes I pretend I’m listening by saying “uh huh” over and over and over until you shut up.
Sometimes I think what it would be like to be a plant.
Sometimes I plant about what it would be like to be a think.
Sometimes I time the timer on the microwave to see if it’s accurate.
Sometimes it’s always accurate.
Sometimes accuracy is blurred by emotion.
Sometimes emotion is a bag of cookies in a Tupperware container from a faraway grandma’s freezer.
Sometimes the years pass like so many of our lives do.
Sometimes we want what we can easily have but don’t want to do anything to get it.
Sometimes when you get your dreams, you don’t want them.
Sometimes I wish I already had my dreams so I’d already be at the point where I didn’t even want them anymore.
Sometimes I think that would be easier.
Sometimes, I say I’m from one state.
Sometimes, I always say I’m from another.
Sometimes, my state cannot be clarified.
Sometimes I say I’m from a rap song.
Sometimes I say “I’m from ‘Crank That’, by Soulja Boy”.
Sometimes people believe me.
Sometimes I decide it’s time to stop.
Sometimes I keep on writing forever and forever.
Sometimes her feet fall asleep.
Sometimes loud noises wake them up.
Sometimes a nice shower will do the trick.
Sometimes, you need to remind yourself that “Plants need water, man.”
Sometimes sunshine.
Sometimes bees.
Sometimes sometimes.
Sometimes please!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Weekend Theme Song Challenge: "Right Place, Wrong Time"

The theme song for this past weekend’s “Weekend Theme Song Challenge” (see my last post for an explanation) was “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John. How damn appropriate that I traveled from California, where I live, to my hometown of Fargo, to surprise my brother for his 30th birthday.
Allow me to explain why I succeeded with such flying colors at this "Challenge". I consider my home town the "right place" for some of the best moments in my life. And since my brother didn't know I was coming home, my appearance in Fargo was at the "wrong time". Thus, just my being in Fargo was essentially living up to the weekend theme song!
But, the song isn't just about (in)appropriate places and times, it's about all of life's (in)appropriate moments. So...

Here is a short story about me doing some - among many - inappropriate things this past weekend. I call it "Bowling and A Dog and a Butt: An Inappropriate Story"...

Once upon a time, I took my brother to a bowling alley to use him for bicep curls. (Wrong place, wrong weights.)

I became distracted, so I broke into the children's playroom (wrong place) and brought a stuffed dog to life (wrong... science?)

We became the breast of friends. (Good.)

But I decided it was in my breast interest to make a strange, new friend. (Wrong friend.)

We tried to learn how to kiss (Wrong... style.)

Next, I did a smelly thing in the "Employees Only" bathroom. (Wrong place, wrong bodily function.)

My brother did not approve of it. (Whatevs.) You can see my shirt. (Right shirt.)

When we escaped from the bowling alley, my new friend and I met two hillbillies. (That seems okay enough.)

I showed one of them where my butt is. (Wrong.)

THE "END" (Butt pun.)

Well, as you can see from this story, it was a strange yet wonderful time. There was more to my weekend, but most of it was good-natured and not as strange. Mostly just damn hard fun. Speaking of fun, here's a fun video that shows how I surprised my brother on Friday when I arrived in Fargo. (I sang in a child's voice in this video. Don't ask.)
That's all for this "Weekend Theme Song Challenge". I'm not sure if I won or Hyperbole Personified won. I think her weekend was more crazy than mine. But... I'm certain that mine was stranger than hers. Possibly more heartfelt since it was a non-sexual "love" surprise for my brother? Is it a draw? Or do I have to pull out the big guns???

Monday, May 4, 2009

Stay Tuned: "The Weekend Theme Song Challenge" is coming

Someone stupid once said “music is the soundtrack of your life”. While I feel that is a very broad, obvious and uninspired statement, I will use it to segue into today’s blog post.

I was thinking last week that it would be cool to have not a whole “soundtrack”, but just a theme song, for every weekend of my life. In that way, I would behave according to the mood/words/theme of each particular weekend’s song.

I told the (now, former) radical intern at my place of business about my idea. She informed me that she was going to steal the idea and write about it on her blog, which is called Hyperbole Personified. I told her to not be such a jerk for once in her life, so she said we’d turn into a competition on our blogs. I agreed.

Here is an interpretation of the rules (taken from her blog)…
Every weekend we pick a song. It will serve as the theme of the weekend, and whoever comes back with the best story revolving around the theme of the song wins all sorts of street cred! Some weeks we may have the same song (in order to battle) and other weeks we may just pick our own to compare and see who has the most fucked up/hilarious experience.

So we determined last week that the theme song for this past weekend would be “Right Place, Wrong Time”* by Dr. John. Stay tuned for a posting that will detail how I made “Right Place, Wrong Time” the theme song to my insane weekend… but not the “soundtrack of my life”... because Dick Clark is stupid.

*The link to this song is a YouTube video, which shows the lyrics in the info space. The audio is pretty good, but the video... well... I don't know what the heck it's all about.