Doctor can’t prescribe the medicine to pull you through.

May 4, 2009

I know I’ve been away for too long — I apologize. In addition to a lot of work jammed into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last week, I also made a last second jump for a much needed vacation down to Florida.

The exclusively music posts will return soon, but first I thought I’d make a travelogue of my journeys to fill you in on what I’ve been up to while you’ve been checking this site to find no new updates. Since I don’t Twitter yet (and don’t see myself picking it up, frankly), this is the forum in which I can express the wonderment I find in daily life when not seated in front of a computer.

Plus, there’ll be some tracks for you here.

5 p.m. Wednesday, 29 April
After jam packing my workdays Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday under the knowledge that I’ll be virtually unreachable, I leave work and pick up my date for the evening. We are heading from Madison to Milwaukee to see Franz Ferdinand. The show is sold out, and I was fortunate enough to get tickets from a pretty awesome co-worker. I’ve been a big Franz fan since the debut album in 2004, which pretty much soundtracked that summer of my life, but have never made the effort to see them live. This is for two reasons. 1.) They tend to hit venues in Chicago that get filled up pretty quickly by guys like me and I have no interest in driving two and a half hours to stroke my chin with a bunch of like-minded music aficionados (or, as you might call us, snobs) and their girlfriends who kind of like that one song from the one CD. No, not that one. The other one. 2.) I know there are a plethora of live videos on YouTube, but when the first album came out, I saw them perform “Take Me Out” on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and was unimpressed. I figured they were more of a studio band at that point, and never got the urge to see them live.

8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 29 April
Following dinner at John Hawk’s Pub (still lovin’ it) and a ticket/parking pass pickup, my date & I arrive at the Rave. The Born Ruffians are opening. I’m not impressed. The drummer is alright — he’s into it and can wallop out a good groove, but the singer’s relatively inaudible and my date and I exchange jokes about the bass player’s growling in several songs. “He beat out the singer’s dog for the part,” I remark. I think it was the opposable thumbs and ability to hold an instrument that tipped the scales.

9:20 p.m. Wednesday, 29 April
Franz Ferdinand take the stage and open with “No You Girls,” my favorite track on the new album despite the fact that iTunes looks set to beat it into submission with its new iWhatever campaign. Sounds quite fierce live. In fact, all the songs do. These guys are incredible live and I’m quickly into the show. Good example of how potent they are — “Take Me Out” is haphazardly thrown into the middle of the set. Not an opener. Not a closer. Not an encore piece. Just a midset, “Oh you might know this one.” I respect the gravitas. I also respect the musicianship and showmanship. These guys are into it. A broken foot has made Nick McCarthy less mobile, but he’s still grooving, and Alex Kapranos absolutely commands the crowd. Few deep cuts I was excited to hear — “40′,” “Jacqueline” and “The Outsiders” among them. Little disappointed that neither “Come On Home” or “Twilight Omens” got a showing, but I can forgive that. I also get to hear “Tell Her Tonight” live. I forgot how much I liked that song, although I still suspect part of the reason I liked it so much on the first album was the knowledge that “Take Me Out” was next.

Franz Ferdinand – Tell Her Tonight

11:30 p.m. Wednesday, 29 April
En route back to Madison to drop off my date for the evening. I make the decision at this point that rather than risking oversleeping in Madison or unforeseen Chicago traffic conundrums threatening my arrival at O’Hare for my 9 a.m. flight, I’m going to head straight to O’Hare after dropping her off. This means that by the time I reach O’Hare, I will have driven from Madison to Milwaukee to Madison to Chicago and will quickly be approaching 24 hours of being awake.

12:01 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
Just dropped the girl off and ended the night with a kiss on the cheek. Don’t like to do the cheek kiss as a general rule of thumb (either leads to awkwardness or an inference that the guy lacks the balls to go for the lips), but I actually think it played out smoothly. Successful date? I think so. I think. Goddamn Franz Ferdinand, playing “The Dark of the Matinee,” “Live Alone” AND “This Fire” and confusing my general state of mind (shall I be shy or aggressive? Alas! Alas!). I drive toward Chicago, listening to Neil Finn’s One All, which I’ve always considered a good “in love” album, but now find to be a good soundtrack to wondering about being on the verge of something. Also a nice, gentle album to roll along to on empty highways in the wee small hours of the morning. Take care with tracks like “Lullaby Requiem” however — don’t want to be falling asleep at the wheel.

2:30 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
My dad’s office is near O’Hare, so I can park there and save myself the $30/day charge of O’Hare’s general lot. This is nice. However, I still need a lift to the terminal, and despite the fact that I can see planes landing and hear the deafening roar of them doing so from where I stand, I have to cab it to the terminal. The cost to do this — I kid you not — is $14.

2:45 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
My plan to get to the gate and try sleeping there is thwarted as soon as I step out of the cab and see that no ticket attendants are on duty, nor are the security checkpoints open. This isn’t a big deal, as I can use one of the self-service kiosks to get my boarding pass, but now that means I have to wait on one of the very few uncomfortable-for-sleeping chairs in the ticketing area until the security checkpoints open at 5 a.m.

4:45 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
Although I’ve been able to grab a 15-minute nap here and there for two hours, continual slumber eludes me. The public service announcements remind me time and again that I can’t have liquid containers of more than three ounces in my carry-on bags, but it doesn’t register with me that I’m carrying cologne, contact solution and aerosol deodorant in my carry-on until now when ticket agents are starting to take their stations and the security gates are opening. For a moment, I panic and start to think about jamming all of them into one of the tiny plastic bags you’re afforded to carry (despite the fact that all three items are in containers measuring more than three ounces). Then reality hits me and I realize I don’t want to have to check a bag, so I toss all three. The contact solution hurts most. It was one of those big bottles that lasts you three months. I bought it last week. Those babies aren’t cheap. Dammit.

5:30 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
The chairs at the gates really aren’t any more comfortable than the chairs in the ticketing area. After finding out that I have to pay to use wireless internet at the airport, I close my laptop, and grab a spot on the floor, using one of my carry on bags as a pillow to try catching some solid sleep. This proves impossible as more and more people arrive for flights and continue to stand above me and look down on me as if I’m some vagrant that defied airport security and made it off lower Wacker Drive for a good night’s sleep in O’Hare’s American Airlines Terminal. To their credit, I’d been up for 25 hours at this point and probably did look a little worse for the wear.

6 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
Can’t sleep with everyone looking at me and still have three hours til my flight, so I decide to go kill time by grabbing breakfast at McDonald’s. I figure this will eat up at least a half hour, but I finish off my sausage mcmuffin with egg and small Coca-Cola in 10 minutes flat. Dammit. Still tired. Can’t find a comfortable sleeping place so I go to Hudson News to see if there are any magazines worth picking up. Rolling Stone has a feature on Bob Dylan’s new album, but knowing Dylan’s penchant for obtuse interviews and Rolling Stone’s general practice of not asking questions that I would, I decide no. Spin has a feature on No Doubt reforming. I’m as uniterested in them now as I was when every girl you knew owned Tragic Kingdom. Jennifer Love Hewitt looks rather fetching on the cover of this month’s Maxim, but I’m not f*cking buying a Maxim. I almost think Blender is worth the small investment until I see the cover story is on Kelly Clarkson and under the headline of “Our Lives Would Suck Without Her.” I don’t think so. I’ve always thought she was marginally attractive, but if I ever met her, I’d overlook all that to question why, WHY, WHY she records the songs she does. I’m not buying. I decide to go to the gate and do some work on my book. But then I realize I’m too tired to write cohesive sentences. I put the laptop away again, pull a row of chairs up to one of the gate windows so I have a makeshift footrest, and try sleeping again.

6:45 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
After passing the 15-minute mark for my catnap and crusing along toward 25 minutes, my cell phone rings. It’s my Dad, calling to make sure I got to the airport OK. I was supposed to call him when I’d boarded the flight, which I planned on doing. Either out of his own boredom that morning or suspicion that I was probably awake anyway, he decided he couldn’t wait to find out and called me instead. I will not get back to sleep for the rest of the morning now.

8 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
They’ve turned on the TVs at the gates. CNN is running a loop of impending Chrysler foreclosure and Joe Biden saying he wouldn’t tell his family to travel amidst this swine flu scare. This generates an audible scoff from a guy in a suit about 10 feet in front of me who turns to the lady next to him (who obviously isn’t interested in what either he OR the TV has to say) and remarks, “That’s the stupidest f*cking thing that guy can say right now. All you have to do is be smart. Just wash your hands.” I make a run to the bathroom. I come back and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN tells me the swine flu is somewhere between an international pandemic emergency and something that could completely blow over in a few weeks’ time. Thanks, Doc.

9 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
My dad actually scored me first class tickets for my whole trip, which was awfully nice of him and made me quickly forgive the whole waking me up 20 minutes into a nap thing a couple hours prior. Aboard the flight now, and longing to sleep, but the dude next to me is making a series of phone calls. He’s Spanish and keeps asking about various things — I can’t say what, because most of my vocabulary from 7 years of Spanish classes has fizzled. But after every question, he waits a few seconds and then says, “Bueno. Perfecto.” He then gets into a dispute with the stewardess about whether or not his phone is turned off as we prepare for take off. She makes some sarcastic comment about the illuminated pearl being a good indicator that it’s still on, and he mutters something under his breath in Spanish. I don’t know what he said, but then again, I’m sure I was never taught that word.

9.45 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
Lord knows I’ve got the right kind of airplane seat to try catching a few Z’s, but my body is now doubly pissed off at me for not getting a good night’s sleep and trying to sneak a sausage mcmuffin with egg by it. My body doesn’t react to those sandwiches well anymore, but it gets particularly bothered when I eat them on little sleep. Which I suppose is fitting, because I only seem to have access to them when I’m on little sleep. Suffice to say I’m waiting for a turn in the lavatory, and despite the offer of pretty much anything I want to drink, I don’t think alcohol, juice or even water is going to help me feel any better at this point.

10.30 a.m. Thursday, 30 April
Long since relieved, I try again to get some sleep, but the stewardess comes around offering breakfast. I feel like I have to make good on my first class trip. Since I am not really in the mood for booze at this point, why not put a bit more food down? I wisely choose to a southwestern-style omelet, paying no heed to the lessons learned from the mcmuffin 45 minutes earlier. Fortunately (and I think mainly due to a lack of grease), the omelet goes down and stays down. When I finish my meal, I cough. This is more as a throat clearing measure than anything else, but I look up and see three people glaring at me. Oh, right. The swine flu. We’re all a bit paranoid now, aren’t we?

I’m actually increasingly paranoid about whether I did well on my date last night. Now there’s something to worry about, eh, Ian?

Ian Brown – Lovebug

1:30 p.m. (local time) Thursday, April 30
About a two and a half hour layover in Miami. Swine flu paranoia is in full swing here. One in six people wears a surgical mask. I don’t like surgical masks. I had an asshole of a dentist when I was a toddler, and he wore one, so that was my first association with them. From now on, everyone who wears a surgical mask is implicitly a bad dude. Miami airport is full of bad dudes today. Then again, people have reason to be paranoid in Miami International Airport. It’s filthy. No one throws anything away. Used tissues, half-eaten candy bars — they’re all strewn about the floors and empty seats at each gate. No one disposes of them because everyone’s too afraid to touch them. CNN is still running the Joe Biden interview. Pretty funny to watch a guy talk about how incredibly unsafe it is to fly right now to a roomful of people wearing masks and awaiting their respective flights.

Say it ain't so, Joe.

Say it ain't so, Joe.

3:35 p.m. Thursday, 30 April
En route to Tampa. One hour flight, so hardly worth trying to get any sleep at this point. 36 hours of being awake.

4:30 p.m. Thursday, 30 April
My sister picks me up from the airport, and we drive to Walgreen’s so I can replace my deodorant and contact solution. Then she shows me her apartment, where I meet her roommate. I look like the walking dead by this point, so I’m sure she either thinks I’m a transient or a valium addict. Thankfully, I get a shower and shave in at my sister’s place, but then her boyfriend shows up and we’re off to Longboat Key so I can just let my mind totally go for a couple days. What’s more, folks, there’s a bed there!

5:15 p.m. Thursday, 30 April
My sister’s afraid to drive over the super bridge outside Tampa, so she lets her boyfriend drive. I’m too tired to talk, let alone drive, so I cram my weary body into the back of her two-door Toyota Yaris. I try stretching out to sleep (hard to do in the backseat of a Yaris when you’re six feet tall). Then we find out we can’t go over the super bridge anyway, because on some other bridge, someone saw a wave detector, didn’t know it was a wave detector, and called into a report a bomb. The Tampa Police are diverting traffic and we leave it up to the GPS to find an alternate way to Longboat Key. Whatever. I’m not paying attention. I’m trying to sleep. My sister starts complaining of an earache. I’m drifting off.

6:15 p.m. Thursday, 30 April
I’ve obtained my longest nap now at about 50 minutes in length, but the combination of an increasingly aggravating earache and my sister’s distaste for coldness forces her boyfriend to turn off the air conditioner and roll down the windows (in some innane hope for pressure change) as we bowl down the Florida highways at 90 miles per hour. As I wake up, the closing guitar/strings mesh of the Rolling Stones’ “Sway” is blaring. It sounds like the greatest f*cking thing ever recorded. I know that it’s not. That’s not to say it’s bad, but mind you, in a mild state of delirium here. I look at the GPS and see we still have a long way to go. I decide I need to properly listen to Sticky Fingers again sometime soon.

7:20 p.m. Thursday, 30 April
Excitement is high as we near Longboat Key. The neighboring town is called Cortez. I’d have probably done this on the back of a good night’s sleep, but in my sleep deprived madness, I adopt a Spanish accent and start cursing some imaginary Cortez figure. “CORTEZ! YOU STOLE MY WOMAN! YOU FIEND!” etc. My sister’s boyfriend lets out a sympathetic laugh, but my sister’s reaction tells me that I’m the only one truly amused by my improv comedy at the moment.

8:30 p.m. Thursday, 30 April
We’ve arrived, eaten and I’m more than ready for bed. But there are only two TVs in the condo and Mom and my sister must watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” This displaces my sister’s boyfriend to the bedroom I’m sleeping in so he can watch Game 6 of the Bulls-Celtics series. He’s a diehard Boston fan. This game will go into triple overtime. I’m ready to denounce basketball altogether for the purposes of sleep by the end of the 3rd quarter. You can imagine my delight as neither team was able to finish the other for hours afterward. I know it was a good game. And in any other scenario, I would have appreciated it.

8:00 a.m. Friday, 1 May
Despite having been up for ungodly amounts of time, my body still rises at its normal Friday time, as if programmed to be ready for work. Thankfully this allows me to catch a “West Wing” rerun on Bravo.

10:00 a.m. Friday, 1 May
Dad and I go kayaking in the bay. I quickly realize I am out of shape. And did not apply enough sunscreen.

12:00 p.m. Friday, 1 May
I hit the pool. The radio is playing a very eclectic mix of Christian rock, 1990s hits and Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do.” They edited Left Eye’s rap out of “Waterfalls.”

2:00 p.m. Friday, 1 May
My sister, her boyfriend and I hit the beach. We get a game of frisbee going, but when my sister lets an errant pass find its way to an old crotchety couple about 30 yards away, I get an earful of “Keep it to yourselves!” curtness. I respond with a friendly, Wisconsinite “I’m sorry about that! We’ll be careful!” but this woman’s in no mood to forgive. On a beautiful f*cking beach on a gorgeous day, and this lady’s still got a stick up her butt. I’d like to show her a Madison winter. Life’s too short to get annoyed by one errant frisbee pass.

4:00 p.m. Friday, 1 May
LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG nap. The one I’d been trying to get all day the day before.

6:30 p.m. Friday, 1 May
Dinner at Ciao’s, a place with flimsy menus and expensive food. My sister’s boyfriend retorts (without a trace of sarcasm or humor in his voice), “I’ve never seen prices like this on a menu like this.” I’ve had a few cocktails up to this point, and when I get drunk, I get generous. Seeing as how my family flew me down first class and got me out of the office for a couple days, I feel the least I can do is pick up this check. Which I did. Can I borrow a few bucks, dear reader?

9 a.m. Saturday, 2 May
The family heads out for breakfast at a place called Harry’s. Good stuff. Outdoor dining. Bees are a little nosy, but no one gets stung. Really good biscuits. That’s saying a lot. I tend to despise biscuits. But I was won over by theirs.

10 a.m. Saturday, 2 May
Mom, Dad and my sister express interest in doing some shopping in Sarasota. Neither her boyfriend nor I are interested, so we take the kayak out. We find some manatees frolicking out in the bay. At first we can’t tell what they are from afar, and my sister’s boyfriend gets sufficiently freaked out. We’ve got a cooler full of booze, he argues, and we don’t need to risk being tipped over. I agree with him as I take a swig of Stella. So we watch from afar, but they start moving closer. My sister’s boyfriend insists we keep our distance, but as the beer continues to go down, he gets a little less anxious about retreating. “They’re closer,” I point out. He doesn’t care. We notice the signs about manatee zones and slow boating speeds. He points out manatees get hit by boats all the time. This leads to an exchange of what a manatee would say if we bumped into it with the kayak. We agree it would be a dispassioned, baritone “Ow.” We also find that hilarious and repeat it for the rest of the trip.

1 p.m. Saturday, 2 May
Returning to the homestead and finding the others haven’t returned yet, we eat some lunch, listen to Oasis’ Dig Out Your Soul and discuss the finer points of Oasis’ recent work and the art of writing in general. At this moment I decide I completely, 100% approve of the guy my sister’s dating. Then we decide to go to the beach. He wants to read. I want to walk. I take my iPod and take a 5-mile hike along glorious sands, nodding at several pretty ladies and listening to a plethora of good tunes. I will say this for certain – Oasis’ “Going Nowhere” has never sounded better than at midday on a beach, looking out at teal water and not seeing a single cloud in the sky.

7 p.m. Saturday, 2 May
Dinner and preparations for Game 7 of the Celtics-Bulls. The Celtics run away in the 2nd quarter, so the game loses it’s appeal for all of us. My sister and her boyfriend take a nighttime stroll on the beach, while I hit the pool for a moonlight dip. When we all return, we polish off the booze in the refrigerator, I go on a fantastic comedic tear that comes to an abrupt halt when I nearly break a lamp. I still think it’s funny, but no one else does at this point. Day of fresh air has played it’s part on all of us and it’s another pretty early bedtime.

8:00 a.m. Sunday, 3 May
Breakfast outing before my sister, her boyfriend and I head back to Tampa. Not as good as Harry’s.

9:30 a.m. Sunday, 3 May
We depart, with I again sprawled across the Yaris’ back seat. We stop for gas about a half hour out of Longboat Key, and as we’re pulling in, I hear my sister’s boyfriend chortle and go “WHAT???!” I ask, “What?” And he points at this.


Here’s the back of the van.


Go ahead, check out the site. The dude really thinks Stephen King shot John Lennon. The driver looked a bit like, well, a guy who’d do up his van like that. But I’ve always disliked Stephen King and now when people ask me why I can say I have a reason. I had Lennon-esque shades on, and I joked momentarily about going over to him and saying I was John Lennon, but alas, we had to get back to Tampa. I had a flight to catch.

John Lennon – I Don’t Wanna Face It
A rollicking take extracted from the 4-disc John Lennon Anthology. Sounds different to me since learning Stephen King was the one who pulled the trigger. But maybe that’s just me… and probably the guy driving the van.

12 p.m. Sunday, 3 May
My sister gives me a tour of her apartment complex. She lives across the street from a bunch of mansions, a few of which have those great “southern bed and breakfast”-type 2nd floor balconies. I decide that when I get famous, I’m going to buy one and just prance around the balcony in an all-white suit talking to myself in a southern gentleman drawl. “Sur, I said, Sur! I find this heat most unpleasant!”

3:35 p.m. Sunday, 3 May
I’m off from Tampa, headed back to O’Hare then to Madison. But as if to appropriately end the trip, my first class seat neighbor this time is a crotchety old cat lady who has one of her felines aboard for the trip. She’s tempermental about everything. She starts by asking me if I have allergies to cats. I say I don’t, although I don’t tell her I actually am kind of terrified by them. She responds, “Well, good. ‘Cos frankly, I don’t know what YOU would do if you did.” Then every menu item and snack item given to us during the flight is not to her liking. She asks what else they have to offer, but gets nothing. The stewardess (who is very attractive) is visibly showing contempt for the woman. I start to get worried the stewardess thinks I’m related to this old lady. At one point, a gentleman ahead of us reclines. She finds this most aggravating and begins punching the back of his seat. No response. So she starts poking the top of his head. He turns around, looking confused. “TOO FAR!” she screams. “SIT UP!” First class. The woman’s lucky if she’s five feet tall, and yet she still doesn’t have enough leg room. When we land in Chicago, she asks if I can get one of her bags down from the overhead compartment. I say I can. When I do, she starts screaming at me. “NO! NOT THAT ONE! THE HEAVY ONE!” We’re on a packed flight, so I’m pointing to everyone within reach, all of which she says aren’t hers. “IT’S BEHIND THEM!” she yells at me. I find it, gently lower it as to not drop it on her head and even pull out the walking handle for her benefit. Not even a “thank you”!

And there you go. Now back to talking about music…

One comment

  1. Your attention to detail and comedic observations about these few days in your life would make Alan Alda proud.

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