Thursday, June 27, 2013

On the Road: San Diego Mardi Gras!

With my tour schedule this year, unfortunately I was unable to make it to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras celebration, so I had to make due with a west coast alternate. I've always heard that San Diego has the largest celebration out here, and now that I live down in southern California, I grabbed my friend comedian Dave DeLuca and headed down to join in the festivities.

Let's just say it's no New Orleans. I knew that going down, but San Diego has an area downtown similar to the French Quarter called the Gaslamp District. It's a few city streets lined with old buildings housing bars and restaurants, and this night a block party in the streets. Plus there's a shit-ton of Mexicans down there, and where there are Catholics, there is lent. I figured we'd still have a good time. 

San Diego's Mardi Gras is NOTHING LIKE NEW ORLEANS. The only similarity is that there are lots of beads being worn, but the beads aren't being thrown from parade floats or balconies, they are being passed around by marketing teams and included corporate logos or sold by street vendors. A lot of people, myself included, recycled beads from Mardi Gras past, but just walking around wearing beads does not make a party. Flashing boobs for those beads helps, and I saw maybe one pair of boobs (well, barely - there was an attempted flash that exposed a little bit of nipple).

The bulk of the block party was an expensive street rave that most people seemed uninterested in. It cost about $40 to enter and looking through the fence it seemed that very few people in San Diego had forty bucks to spare. Mardi Gras techno party, yeah that's a tradition right?

Dave and I got duped into eventually shelling out some cash for a so-called VIP ticket to all the area bars, which included free drinks (1 shitty drink per bar) and VIP access to get in. The problem was it seemed as if EVERYONE who did not pay for the rave bought the VIP package to the bars so the line to get in was just as long as the regular P line. AND the free drinks had to be purchased before some stupid hour, I think eleven, so basically we wasted money trying hard to not waste money. 

Fuck San Diego Mardi Gras. Next time it's New Orleans or nothing. 

I did manage to get some horrible video of the night, enjoy!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Del Valle Chronicles Part 1: You Can Never Go Home Again

Apparently there's a reunion of sorts coming up for my old High School, which reminded me of this old piece of an unfinished project:


Last week I was flying out of the new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which was built on top of my old neighborhood the closed-due-to-military-budget-cuts Bergstrom Air Force Base. That fact in itself is still hard to get used to. I mean, it is a fairly common experience to have a house torn down to make way for new development; it is quite unusual to have an entire community removed to make way for an airport. Anyway, I had some time to kill so I decided to turn the corner over to Del Valle High School (ah, the sweet memories) because I heard it has been renovated.

Driving there from the new airport, while still trying to figure out exactly what stretch of runway used to be my house, the first thing I noticed was a large fence surrounding the school grounds, behind the fence was a recently demolished vacant lot full of construction vehicles removing the remaining debris. Del Valle High, at least the one I spent four years of my life skipping classes from, no longer exists. Actually the only remaining structures were the dilapidated football field and the entrance sign, which now read “East Highland HS.” Apparently Del Valle High as an entity was gone even before the building was leveled.

I'm no nostalgia buff, and I definitely don't look back on my time at Del Valle with any degree of fondness, actually it was quite horrible, but this was just weird; totally unexpected. For those of us who spent our formative years on Bergstrom and attended Del Valle, all remnants of our entire community have been wiped clean. Too bad the same can’t be said of our memories. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On the Road: Stalking Honey Boo Boo

If you've been following me for a while you probably know that last year comedian Erin Loftus and I met the family of Honey Boo Boo in Georgia. You may remember this photo of me and Mamma June:

Well, if you weren't following closely you may not know the whole story behind that photo. Here now is "Stalking Honey Boo Boo"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Viral Stand Up

In March, I posted a video of a set I did at the Nutt Street Comedy Club's open mic in Wilmington, North Carolina. The video quality sucked, but it was a great short set in front of a really great audience.

Unless you are famous or there's something particularly unique about a clip (like bringing a heckler on stage) most stand-up clips don't get that many views. Hell, I can't even get my parents to watch one when they visit me and I turn it on for them. So you can imagine my surprise when, while celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, Georgia I started to notice an unusual number of views on my video. And it kept climbing! Every time I checked it seemed there were 50,000 more views! Either that, or the green beer was especially potent.

A viral video is to a comedian what an endorsement by Oprah is to a book. You can imagine my excitement when I realized, even when sober, the view count was climbing. Ultimately I broke 300,000 views which is nothing compared to your average cute cat video, but still ranks pretty high in my list of personal achievements.


Monday, June 17, 2013

On the Road: True Ballers

Recently someone referred to me as a "1%er", which is flattering but just a slight overestimation of my net worth.

I may not yet be part of the 1%, but I am a TRUE BALLER.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sure, I'll accept your LinkedIn request...

...But you've got to realize it's a pretty boring site.

I really do enjoy social media. LOVE it. As I travel all over the country it is one of the primary means in which I maintain a sense of connection to my social life. Also, it really helps when meeting new people on the road. It's great. Plus, you get to see what I'm eating on a regular basis.

However LinkedIn, the "professional" social networking site, is not a part of that. And why would it be? It is structured to be job-related. Jobs don't change frequently enough to warrant posting and as a result the site has been encouraging somewhat annoying interactions between its members. All of which are really, really, really boring. Dr Brian says he knows how to use SPSS, do you want to endorse him on on this skill? You do? Whoo hoo! That was a blast, thanks LinkedIn for giving us this opportunity to interact. Wow, and I never knew that you had observed me doing statistical analyses on my laptop.

It is true that who you know is important to your career, maybe even more important that what you know. That social network is really important when it comes to job and business opportunities. This serves as a rationale for LinkedIn, and seems to make sense on the surface. But the reality is your social network is who your friends are. The people that you go to happy hour with after work, the people you call up on the weekends, the people who listen to you complain about work. Not all the people in your cubicle farm that don't know how you really dress and you never talk to despite working in the same general space together for a few years but will occasionally make awkward eye contact with as you pass each other in the common areas.

That is not a social network that is going to produce the desired results behind networking. If we've never met, never done business together, never shared a laugh or high-fived over a three-way then why would I think of you when I hear of an opening? Hell, we don't even have to know each other in real life to create a bond. Thanks to other social networking sites like FaceBook and Twitter, I've got plenty of online only acquaintances that I'd be way more willing to do business with than 75% of my LinkedIn connections. If I've never seen pictures of your kids, or you've never liked one of my many status updates or retweeted me then you are pretty much guaranteed to be outside of the consideration set when I am hiring or passing on business information.

So that said, quit trying to be my colleague and lets be friends.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Speak No Evil...

Today the 3 wise monkeys made an appearance in Los Angeles.

Played by Ryan Seacrest, Stevie Wonder, and Bill Clinton respectively...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Throwing Water In The Fryer

From the vault, 10 years ago...

Throwing Water In The Fryer

Almost everyone knows that water boils at a much lower temperature than oil. That is one of the reasons oil is good for cooking; it can take the heat without evaporating. Oil is also lighter than water and settles on the top when the two are mixed. Anyone that has ever cooked with oil must also know what happens when a small bottom layer of water evaporates into gas and bubbles up through the very hot top layer of oil. It isn’t pleasant. The bubble pops and scalding hot oil is thrown all over. I have suffered a fair amount of burns because of this.

Years ago, in what now seems like someone else’s life, I worked for the fast food industry. I use the term industry instead of mentioning specific companies because I literally served time at most of the big ones. For a period of about three years I made just about every piece of fast food on the market: hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza, deli sandwiches, even Mexican. I worked drive through, took orders, made deliveries, and even managed a little. However most of my time was spent in the kitchens. Grill was my usual station, and I was damn good.

Overall, it was a horrible way to support myself during my first few years of community college and I’ve probably blocked most of my memories from that period as a coping mechanism. However there are a few things that I’ll never forget including one very important lesson that I learned while being trained for my very first job:

“Never put water in the fryers.”

Almost every fast food franchise has a fryer for something. Foods like French fries, chicken, hush puppies, fish, donuts, and other bits of un-identified batterables all get dunked into big vats of oil that are maintained at insanely high temperatures and cooked almost instantly. (A side note: once a co-worker threw a hamburger bun into the fryer for a minute, took it out and covered it in powdered sugar. “Here, it tastes just like a donut” he said and surprisingly it did. I lost all desire for donuts after that.) Water, or other drinks, should never be kept near the edge of a fry vat. If a few drops of water are enough to make a big splattering mess of your stovetop, imagine what a full cup of soda would do in a 50-gallon fryer. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

So I learned that I should never, ever put water in the fryers. Sometimes while working the grill at that lousy high-paced, low-wage, dead end job in my uncomfortable polyester uniform I imagined, even fantasized, about what exactly would happen. I pictured myself, standing as far from the fryers as possible, throwing a cup or maybe a plastic bag full of water into the fryer. I imagined the first few seconds would be quiet and then under the immense heat the water would begin to boil, rapidly bubbling out of the fryer and spewing forth scorching hot oil all over everything in the vicinity. Anything nearby would be burnt; the stacks of cups and other paper goods would be ruined, melted by the heat. The entire fry station would be damaged. The store would have to close. It would be a glorious disaster.

I hated working fast food. I joked to myself that on the day that I finally quit I would indeed throw water in the fryer. Of course, I would never really do something so destructive especially when it could potentially harm many innocent people. Instead, I quit like a lot of fast food employees do: I stopped showing up.

Ever since I have used the phrase “throwing water in the fryer” where others would use “going out with a bang”, or “burning bridges behind you”. One last “Fuck you” as you slam the door closed behind you and never look back. A friend of mine threw water in the fryer when he exposed his bare ass to his entire school and community during a graduation speech. Even Bill Clinton threw water in the fryer when he surprised the American public with his questionable series of last minute presidential pardons on his way out.

It has been over ten years since I last worked fast food. Now, after surviving the debauchery of college and the horrors of graduate school, I have landed an office position. I work at a desk with a computer screen staring at me and a phone that occasionally rings. Sometimes, my work involves accessing shared files; large files stored on mainframe computers that I have never seen located somewhere in the basement. The closest fryer is the one at the chicken place two blocks down. For two years, another individual with similar education and skills as my own but far more experience has occupied the office next to mine. Two months ago he and I began working on a large project together and divided up the task so that I would handle the presentation and he would manipulate the proper files. One month ago our company decided it needed to cut back a bit and he was handed his notice. Yesterday was his last day.

We were never friends. In fact, I really didn’t like the guy. I never discussed my personal life with him and discouraged him from sharing with me (the little bit that he had shared was either borderline offensive or just plain uninteresting). Sadly, he was one of these people whose absence could go completely unnoticed. That is, unnoticed until I tried to access some of the files related to our project and found them conspicuously missing.

I don’t know how he did it, but he had deleted everything relating to the current project from our mainframes just before making his exit. All attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful. His telephone is disconnected with no forwarding information and the only address we had listed was one he moved from over a year ago. With an approaching deadline, it will now cost my company almost three times the estimated costs to complete this project. He threw a whole lot of water into a very big fryer. For the next few weeks, I am going to have to bust my ass with unpaid overtime just to make up for his sabotage and get the project completed on time.

It will be hell, but for some reason I can’t stop smiling about it.

Toothless Justice

Another one from the vault, this time 20 years ago...

Toothless Justice

On Tuesday April 16, 1993 I had to appear in court. No big deal, I thought, I've been to hearings before. However, this was to be one of the most bizarre mornings of my life and it went a little like this:

First of all, the court was in some tiny spot on the map between Houston and Austin, and I had to be there at 9:00 am. I am never anywhere at 9:00 am, so this was going to pose a problem. It was a hearing about a speeding ticket that I had pleaded not guilty to. I had gotten the ticket on my birthday, January 2, coming back from a disastrous day of being lost for four hours among Houston's highways but that's another story. Anyway, my offense was going too fast, obviously not fast enough because I still got caught. I was going 97 mph in my friend's car. We had just gotten pulled over 10 minutes before for his third ticket of the day and decided to switch off for the next one (sort of a lets-take-turns-getting-busted game). I remember my arresting officer very well, he had a great sense of humor and laughed out loud when he saw our three previous tickets on display on the dash board. He said something like "damn boy it's only been 10 minutes since your last ticket, and only 5 minutes between these two!" I said, "No sir, those are his tickets, we are taking turns." I realized that there was no way I could hope to explain going 97 mph in a 55 mph zone at 2:00 am on a foggy night, so I just took the ticket and said thanks. I threw it on the dash with the others and asked my friend if it was a local cop or a state one. It was state, and I knew I'd actually have to take care of this one. (There are, no doubt, warrants for our arrest over the other three tickets but we'll never go back to Houston)

Anyway, I had to be at some small town courthouse at 9:00 am. I figured that if I woke up at 7:00 and left Austin at 8:00 I could do it, if I speeded. I only scheduled this thing because I had heard that a lot of the time at hearings like these, the witness against you doesn't show up (cops must live such busy lives) and you can get off. This is what I was hoping for. I drove down the highway from Austin and thought about how ridiculous this whole thing was. Why didn't I just buy that radar detector I was going to get? It would have undoubtedly been a hell of a lot cheaper for me than this. I could barely afford the gas for the trip down there. I found the town with no problem at 8:50 am. Now all I had to do was find the court. I decided not to waste my precious remaining minutes by driving around the country and getting lost in a field somewhere, so I stopped at a gas station to ask for directions.

A toothless old man walked up to my car. When I say he was toothless, I'm really just exaggerating as I tend to do. He had teeth, three of them as a matter of fact, it's just that they must have been pretty useless to him with one being in the upper right corner and the other two in the lower left. I couldn't understand a word he said. Maybe he was drunk. Maybe he was stupid. Maybe he was just toothless, I don't know but he did look at me like I was an alien with a third eye or long green tentacles or something. At least he could lift his arms, I'll give him credit for that. He did manage to make some sort of motioning gesture as he was grunting and I figured that was about the best I'd get from " ' him, so I took it and followed the street he waved at.

Four blocks down I found a building with a cop car in front of it. This couldn't have been it. I've been inside bigger Taco Bells. I mean this place couldn't possibly be a courthouse. I kept driving and realized that there was absolutely nothing else down the street so I decided to check it out. I walked in at 8:59 and was told that the judge was busy so I should wait in her office for my turn. She would come out and get me when she was ready. Right here I feel I need to give a little description of this place. It was like something right out of a movie like “Deliverance” (actually I've never seen “Deliverance”, but I hear it's pretty good). The place was so Andy Griffith-ish, it looked like the whole town was built for a Twilight Zone episode, I mean how could people live in a place like that? Did they even have running water? It was just so damn weird. Being a former New Yorker, I think my opinion of the place may be a little culturally biased, but there was this other guy waiting for the judge too. He looked pretty consistent with the local ambiance, cowboy hat, missing teeth, limited gene pool, and bright red arms and he started a conversation with me with the opening "damn, now this is a hick town!" It was so surreal, so Beverly Hillbilly-esque, so backwoods I couldn't believe it.

I think I waited for at least 45 minutes for that judge. During this time "Bubba" and I talked. I'm not kidding here, he told me his name was Bubba with a straight face. Bubba was there for the same reason I was and we were both hoping to get off on the technicality. As we were waiting, we saw a cop enter the building and go into the courtroom. I heard him speak, recognized his voice, an immediately realized that I had wasted my time. This was my cop. (I didn't tell Bubba this, I would've hated for him to get off and me not to). Suddenly the judge came and got me. I can't believe it! She wasn't busy, she was just making me wait until the cop got there! What about my technicality, I was there on time! It's just another way to keep liberal white guys down.

My hearing was quick, I changed my plea to guilty because of the cop showing up and then told them that I was not financially able to pay my fines. Another hearing was going to be scheduled to determine if I was indeed as broke as I said I was. I thought damn, I'll have to come back here, when the judge turned to the prosecutor and asked him if he could do it then.

The prosecutor asked me a bunch of questions about my income, my bills, my tuition and such. After declaring me broke, he suggested that I perform community service instead of pay a fine. This meant that I'd have to make several trips back to this crummy town and service its toothless community. I would have been okay with the idea if it was my own city, but really I didn't want to do work for this town. Besides it was such a small town what kind of work could I really do? I only saw maybe four pieces of litter on the street coming in. After picking that up, then what? Odd jobs for the state? Washing the police car? Picking up lunch for everyone in the office (probably no more than five people)? Or even babysitting the judge's kids? I just couldn't see it. Finally the judge put me on a payment plan to last the rest of my life and sent me on my way. I passed Bubba as I left and told him that I got off. "wasn't my cop," I added, "good luck".

I ran outside to my car, tore off my tie, changed my shirt, and got out of that place as fast as I could. I couldn't believe my morning and couldn't wait to get back to Austin.

I was doing 93 when I got pulled over again.