Valium Vickie

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Annual Bilski Family Christmas Letter

For many, 2010 will live on in infamy as the year the Julian Assange became a household name, the year Leslie Nielsen breathed his last or the year a fairytale rescue of a group of Chilean miners was overshadowed by the infidelities of one its members. But for Libby, Carver and Jared, 2010 was just another year. It had its ups, it had its downs, but the fabric of this little old-fashioned family is even stronger than it was at this time last year. Before I jump in and share the major events of our year, I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you (Yes, even you Aunt Bernice) for allowing us to share our favorite moments of the year in this little labor of love I like to call: The Annual Bilski Family Christmas Letter. On behalf of all Carver, Libby and Jared, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Carver: Looking at this little rough and tumble bundle of joy, it’s hard to believe that just three years ago, our doctor was saying that my low sperm count (Libby is screaming TMI as I write this) would make it all but impossible for us to conceive a baby on our own. But before we called up David Crosby or, worse yet, pulled a Brad and Angelina, we went away for a long weekend in the Poconos. Libby always says that “everything happens for a reason.” Well, at the risk of giving away TMI again, that weekend e-v-e-r-y-thing did happen. And, we believe, that’s the reason we were able to conceive Carver of our own accord.
I believe, like Magellan, little Carver is destined to be an adventurer. But all children are curious, Jared. Au Contraire Bilski newsletter readers from Pennsylvania, Alaska, Michigan and California – to name just a few. Just the other day, Libby and I must’ve dozed off. I woke up to a loud knock at the door. Our neighbor Helen and little Carver – whom we assumed was sleeping peacefully in his room – were standing at the door when I opened it. Unbeknownst to us, Carver had wandered past his sleeping parents, went out the front door and started his trek to … well, I guess we’ll never know where. Turns out, Helen was coming home from the store when she saw Carver in the middle of the street waving goodbye in the direction of our home. Of course, we felt like horrible parents at the time. But I’d be lying to you people if I said that there wasn’t a small part of me that was like, “This is DEFINITELY going in the Christmas letter.”
Libby and I have also noticed that young Carver already has an extraordinary propensity for kindness and compassion. Libby told me that just a few weeks ago, she’d taken Carver to a little park where many of the local mothers bring their children to socialize. The kids were playing among themselves when a few of the more boisterous ones started picking on a little Indian boy named Sachiv. The teasing quickly turned into all out-bullying, and the most portly boy of the pack, Mason, told poor little Sachiv, “Brown people are weird,” and commenced to push him to the ground. All of the children laughed and ran away, as the mothers started rushing over to see what was going on. All of the children except for Carver I should say. Libby says Carver walked over to the tristful-looking Sachiv with Buddhist-like calm, told the little Indian boy, “It doesn’t matter that what they say about you, because God still loves you,” and helped Sachiv back to his feet.
Libby: Wife, mother, lover, nurse, friend and love of my life – where do I even begin? Two-thousand and ten was a year of firsts for my dear Libby. This year marked the first time Libby had ever experienced the phenomenon known as a colonic. For those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, a colonic is “the infusion of water into the rectum by a colon therapist to cleanse and flush out the colon.” Libby’s first colonic was followed closely by her second, then her third and, according to my latest figures, she’s had 17 colonics during the past fiscal year. For years, I’ve been telling Libby she should pamper herself, but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. In the way some women are obsessed with chocolate or swiping their husbands’ credit cards (I’m talking to you Shelly!), my wife is literally obsessed with her colon. After extensive research, Libby has learned a tremendous amount about the health – and in most cases, the lack therein – of the colon. For example, according to the Harvard Business Review, women who receive regular colonics are 70% more satisfied with their marriages and 50% less likely to get divorced than women who don’t get colonics. Fellas, if that’s not incentives to get our old ladies out the back door for some TLC on their back doors, I don’t know what is? Not only does Libby immensely enjoy the physical sensation she gets from the colonic process, she also revels in the fact that she’s taking a proactive role in improving her overall health. True to form, Libby has taken her obsession and transformed it into an opportunity to help others. She recently created a small group – 11 women and growing. Every few months, the girls will get together to receive their colonic treatments. After the cleansing, comes the purging. The girls will head to a local eatery and unburden themselves of all the juicy gossip they’d been sitting on since the last session. Libby’s been on me A LOT lately about popping my colonic cherry but, at the time that this letter went to press, this guy was still one of the few colonic virgins in this great country of ours.
Jared: Finally, we’ve come to me. I’ll try to keep this brief because I still have some last-minute shopping to get done – always the procrastinator, that’s me. This year, I managed to survive a slew of layoff scares. But a huge part of me was actually hoping that I would get a pink slip. That way, I’d finally get a chance to see if Scorpion Red Eye had the chops to hack it as full-time gig. For the unfamiliar readers, Scorpion Red Eye is my speed metal quartet, complete with supersonic guitars, blistering bass and hard-hitting drums that are as relentless as Libby’s requests for me to get a colonic. When the band comes together, four responsible adults shed their day-to-day responsible personalities and transform themselves into their chosen ultra-egos, Dale Driver, Jack Stiff, Edgar McRiff and Dennis Wachinski, respectively. With a little help from our tight spandex, which all our wives agree accentuate our extremely average-sized packages, Scorpion Red Eye comes to life.
SRE has come a long way since it first played live for a sparsely populated crowd at the 2001 Norristown Battle of the Bands. In 2009, Scorpion Red Eye played a total of two gigs all year – with one being the Berda’s annual Fourth of July picnic. In 2010, SRE had five shows – and two of them were even paid. There was a moment at the Bridgeport Polish Festival last summer when it seemed to all come to together for us. We were hammering away at the third song in the set when a woman somewhere between the age of a Cougar and a Senior Citizen – Teradactyl is the correct term I believe – approached the stage and threw her Girdle at my feet. My Rock Star dream had finally come to fruition. A member of the opposite sex had thrown her undergarments at me while I was rocking out. I have that beautiful memory safely stowed away until Carver is old enough to tell – eight or so (Libby, I’m kidding, I’m kidding!).
Well, that concludes the Bilski newsletter. We hope you all enjoyed the little peak into the window of our utopia. May this Christmas season find each and every one of you a little happier and a little healthier than last – but still a little worse off than us! (Libby’s screaming at me to tell you I was just kidding about that last part – but I think ya’ll know already ;)
Carver, Libby and Jared

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3 Things to Try at Christmas Mass this Year

If you're like most Catholics, Christmas is the one time of year that you drag yourself to church for the archaic ritual of Catholic Mass. Let's face it: If you're not heavily medicated or secretly masturbating this can be a long and torturous process to endure. To liven things up, here are a few things you can try this year. (Note: I wrote this year's ago but, for the most part, these things are still just as ridiculous today.)

The Stunt: Needs Something
What you need: salt, pepper or any seasoning and/or condiment of your own preference. A complete disregard for everything that devout Catholics hold sacred.
How it works: (Tip: do not take Communion orally even if this is your custom.) After receiving Communion, calmly step to the side (but still in plain sight of the majority of the congregation) and begin to season the Eucharist with salt, pepper, ketchup or whatever you choose. Offer to pass your seasoning or condiments to the next patron in line, then get the fuck out without ever turning back. Warning: If hell exists, this will probably ensure that you'll up there.

The Stunt: That Guy
What you need: sunglasses, a newspaper, an iPod or discman or walkman (if you're over 48), and a natural talent for pissing people off.
How it works: Arrive fashionably late (after the opening procession is complete). Sit down somewhere in the first pew for maximum visibility. (Note: This is extremely important. No matter how crowded the first pew is, find a way to squeeze in. The success of this stunt really depends upon it.) After your bothersome entrance, proceed to put your headphones on and pull a carefully folded newspaper out of your inside coat pocket. Hum or even sing along to whatever tunes you're listening to, loudly crinkle the completely open paper, and mumble inappropriate comments about different headlines in the news: "Looks like they repealed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' When are they gonna do something like that for the priests?" Do not stop just because people start to cough and moan; proceed until you are asked to leave the premises.

The Stunt: "You Shouldn't Have"
What you need: A white rob similar to in appearance to those of the time period 6 BC - 39 BC with a matching maroon or red sash, sandals (preferably without a visible Hollister logo), two and a half months without a haircut, and a beard you can hide entire meals within.
How it works: (Note: Again, entrance is key. Try to arrive fashionably late, possibly right behind the entrance procession.) Walk into the church in awe at what you're seeing. Comment out loud to yourself as you loudly take your seat, saying things like, "Would you at this," or "Well, I'll be damned." As you take your seat, tap the person directly next to you on the shoulder and say, "All this for me and my dad? Wow! You guys shouldn't have. I mean, I know I died for your sins and all, but this is really too much. How many of these places are there anyway?" Maybe as an afterthought add, "Look at my abs in that picture up there. So fucking tight, right?"
Warning: The warning from stunt #1 to the tenth power applies for this one.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A WAY Better Version of 'Dancing with the Stars'

It's amazing how shows like "Dancing with the Stars" and "Skating with the Stars" are so popular. But that's how obsessed Americans are with celebrities. They're so obsessed that they'll tune in faithfully week after week to watch these "Stars" doing things they have absolutely no real interest in. No one cares about ballroom dancing on its own. But when you take a bunch of quasi-celebrities and ask them to compete to see who can become the best ballroom dancer, all of a sudden you have the number one show in the country.

This begs the question: Can you imagine how popular a show would be if it showed these Stars doing things people actually gave a shit about? When are we going to see "Fucking with the Stars," a show that puts down-and-out celebrities with professional adult films actors and gives them a chance to prove they have what it takes to become a legitimate porn star? Obviously you couldn't put it on ABC or NBC, but "Fucking with the Stars," seems like it would be right up HBO's alley. Picture this: After getting the shit fucked out of her by Lexington Steele, Snooki limps meekly over to the judge's table, which consists of former porn stars like Ron Jeremy and Linda Lovelace and whoever the gay equivalent of Ron Jeremy is. First the judges complain about Snooki's camera weight, then they chide her for not arching her back enough in the doggy-style position. Finally, they rip into her for that awful Jersey accent she moans with.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Life According to Stone Temple Pilots Albums

People love to say, "Music was so much better when I was growing up." I don't agree with this statement at all, but I can definitely see why so many people feel that way. As much as I enjoy "discovering" a great new band, these new additions to my iPod never seem to rival the bands I first heard in grade school or high school. And it doesn't have much to do with the actual music. For me, it's all about the memories and emotions that the music stirs up. Music is like time travel sometimes. There are a bunch of songs that can actually bring me back to a specific moment in my past. There are times when "Scar Tissue" comes on the radio, and the next thing I know, I'm back in my scrawny, 17-year-old body driving my old Jeep Wrangler with the top down. Just another white-beater clad asshole headed down to Ocean City, NJ, for Senior Week. Unfortunately, all of the songs that have power to achieve this were recorded between 1992 and 2002.

More than any other band, the Stone Temple Pilots have served as the musical soundtrack to my life. For every STP song -- from "Wicked Garden" to "Coma" -- there's some memory stowed away in whatever part of the brain it is that keeps important info safe for later use. And the different phases of my life can be neatly divided according to a corresponding Pilots record. So here's my life according to STP albums (phrase trademarked by Greg Dougherty):

Core: I actually picked this up on cassette back in fifth or sixth grade -- right before a field trip to Harrisburg. On the trip up to the state capital, my teacher at the time, Mrs. Heinly, picked up the cassette jacket, looked over the tracking listing, and handed it back to me while simultaneously shaking her head and muttering something about "Sex Type Thing" and "inappropriate." I bought the STP album simply because I didn't want to copy off of Dave Tassoni and Shawn Moore, both of whom had recently discovered Pearl Jam and Nirvana. What started as a complete accident became a lifelong obsession, and I've been in love with this band ever since.

Purple: This was the first Rock CD I ever purchased (Bobby Brown was the first actual CD). I bought it at the Circuit City up in King of Prussia, PA. I remember playing it start to finish on my Sony Boom-box -- the one with speakers you could slide off of the main player. I listened to songs like "Meatplow" and "Still Remains" while studying the linear notes and pictures, and thought Weiland looked a lot like a woman. My love of STP was at a fever pitch at this point in my life.

Tiny Music Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop: I don't actually remember where I was when I bought this album. (I've purchased several replacement copies over the years.) I have a ton of Tiny-Music inspired memories from this time but, for whatever reason, these two stick out the most:
  1. Watching this rockumentary with Ryan Doc in my Kendrick Lane basement. It was one of those perfect spring days where you could smell the raw sewage from the plant down the street wherever you were in my neighborhood. I remember the special ended with Weiland confidently stating that his problems with drugs were in the past and "Lady Picture Show" playing out the closing credits, and
  2. Seeing the band live for the first time at the Spectrum with Greg and Ryan Doc -- and a bunch of other people that I don't remember at all. Arguably, this was when the band was at its best live. In response to the constant bashing and Pearl Jam comparisons they'd endured from critics during the first two albums, STP dropped their most creative and ground-breaking album to date. Not only did they have a lot to prove, but Weiland was still in the honeymoon phase of his heroin addiction at this point. This show included the infamous acoustic set that was lowered from the ceiling, complete with the old couches, a rocking chair, lava lamps and David Bowie cover of "Andy Warhol." During "Big Bang Baby," a deluge of multicolored balloons came down from the ceiling and landed on people in the good seats, which we'd somehow managed to sneak into during the concert.

No. 4: This album came out during my senior year of high school. First time I heard the album in its entirety was on a Y-100 preview show/in-studio interview with the band. The tape deck on the Sony broke (even though the Boom-box itself had another two years left), so I commandeered my sister's stereo -- and her room -- to tape the event. I stayed up listening the first new STP I'd heard since grade school! In between songs like "Sour Girl" and "Church on Tuesday," Weiland and the DeLeos attempted to explain the inspiration but, like most musicians, they communicate far better through music than conversation.
Between Oct. '99 and Oct. '00, I managed to see STP live three times: 1.) In the pit at the Tweeter center when the band formerly known as Shirley Temple's Pussy headlined the Y-100 Feztival 2.) At the PNC Arts Center when they were co-headlining with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (A drunk lady "accidentally put her cigarette out on my bare back during this show), and 3.) At the Wachovia Center in Oct. 2000 -- I skipped several classes to make the trip down from State College for this one.

Shangri-La Dee Da: Bought this one at Disc-Go-Round, on the small wall at the front of the store that sold new releases for a buck or two less than stores like Circuit City or Best Buy -- and five dollars less than the outrageous Sam Goody.
I remember listening to this album with The Fist in my old green Jeep Wrangler. We were in one of those neighborhoods next to the State Hospital. This was back when Jon was the master of creating aluminum foil bowls -- and always carried a wad of foil on his person. "Black Again" was playing when Jon passed me the foil. I've always had trouble doing two things at once, so I stopped the car in the middle of the street and took a nice slow hit of the Fist weed. I remember Jon cracking up and saying, "Bilski, you're fucking ridiculous. I love it."

Only saw the band once in support of this album: After I finished the first night of my red belt test -- still the most grueling physical thing I've ever done -- I picked up Greg and Shawn, and we drove out to Latrobe, PA, for the Rolling Rock Town Fair. When we finished the four-hour trek sometime well after midnight, we had nowhere to stay. Greg and Shawn slept in my car (the gold Saturn). I spent half of the night on the pavement outside of a motel room, and the other half on the floor inside the hotel room of a group of ravers. We managed to get extremely close to the stage by the time the Pilots went on. But, because it was one of the hottest days of the summer, the concert was mostly an endurance test. STP ended up playing one of the best shows of their career and even included a bunch of footage of it on the DVD that accompanied their greatest hits collection. Here's a clip.
On the way home, Shawn and I were both hallucinating from lack of sleep, and I ended up getting pulled over for speeding -- by a cop that had his lights off. As the cop was telling me what I did wrong, Shawn leaned across my seated and yelled, "Hey! You're not allowed to pull us over. You need to have your lights on, man. It's the law." It was not the law; I got a ticket.

Stone Temple Pilots: Bought this one at Target on my lunch break, which marked the fourth phase of my life in which an STP record came out -- grade school, high school, college and work. Because it came out right before the Memorial Day weekend, it's already become the soundtrack to a weekend that included stories that will be grossly exaggerated for years to come. On Sat. night, JUSTIN WILSON announced that he wanted to sit on the porch, drink a few beers and listen to the new STP record. By the end of the night, I had watched a perfect game in the home of the Gallagher's, a very, very, very old couple, been arrested (and bailed out of jail) for a warrant that had been outstanding since 2003, watched a very inebriated JUSTIN WILSON lose his balance and fall ass-first into a group bushes while the cops who were arresting me at the time exchanged a Can-we-really-let-this-shit-go look, and got repeatedly yelled at by Greg Doc for not grasping the finer points of "Apples to Apples."

Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington

File:Stone Temple Pilots High Rise EP.jpg

High Rise: I went back and forth about including this one. I mean, if I'm adding Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington to the list, then why not include Talk Show as well? And if I include Talk Show, then don't I have to do the same for Velvet Revolver? And what about Army of Anyone or Scott Weiland's solo albums? On top of that, I wasn't even going to buy this album; I wanted nothing to do with the Stone Temple Pilots without Scott Weiland. But like every musical endeavor that includes either Scott Weiland, Dean Deleo, Robert Deleo, Eric Kretz or any combination of the four, I paid my hard-earned money to give it a listen. For the past three days, I've been telling jokes at Magooby's Joke House, an A-level comedy club with a F-level name. I picked up this little EP at a Best Buy located a few minutes down the road from my shithole hotel (when I checked in, there was a man in a wife-beater on the second level -- outdoor -- balcony, who was gripping the railing and howling at the Baltimore night). I'm actually writing this post at the same Cockeysville, Md., Starbucks where I penned a letter to the accepting Christian folks of the God Hates Fags organization.

A lot has happened since the last Stone Temple Pilots' album back in 2010, both for me and the band. Since that eponymous, Deleo-brother-produced STP record, I've entered in my third decade on this planet, lost my dad and my dog, and gotten engaged to a girl I started dating while the band was broken up. For their part, Stone Temple Pilots fired and sued a former singer, hired a new one and completed a short tour where they took the stage at the scheduled time for each performance. Their former singer released a memoir and album of cover songs, counter-sued his former band, married for the third time, went on his own tour and allegedly recorded a new album of solo music. Because there's only five songs on it, I've already listened to this effort more than half a dozen times already as a crisscrossed the greater Baltimore area looking for ways to kill time before talking to strangers. 

Is there something undeniably strange about listening to an STP record without Weiland's signature voice and brilliant melodies? Absolutely. Will High Rise ever compare to the other STP albums (including the 2010 self-titled one) in my eyes? Probably not. But you know what, High Rise isn't half bad, and I'd much rather have new music from this incarnation of STP than wait for Weiland, the Deleos and Kretz to figure out a way to release a new album. So, like many things that have happened since I first discovered this band, STP's new situation isn't exactly ideal for me. But not only do I accept it, I may also learn to love this line-up at some point -- especially if they keep showing up for concerts on time and putting out new music regularly.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Comedy Gone Bad

When I first started doing stand-up, I was desperate for any stage time I could get. But the only spots I ever seemed to get were either: A.) Guest-spots as Bruce Larkin's fluffer over at Chuckle's Comedy Club -- where I'd do a 3-5 minute set and spend the rest of the night washing dishes at the club's restaurant, or B.) for a guy named Troy Stephen Sanders (a.k.a., The Colossus of Comedy). Now the Colossus is a great, great guy who's super passionate about all of his comedy projects and promotions, but the Colossus' projects are a lot like the Philadelphia 76ers: Of course you root for them to succeed, but deep down in your heart you know they won't amount to much. I should've known this would be one of those projects.

When the Colossus called me up and asked if I would be interested in taking part in a "unique comedy opportunity," I should've known I was in for some shit. But he was a pro at selling his projects, and of course, I was desperate for stage time. So I was in before he even described the show. The show was to be a marriage of "comedy and music." According to Troy, something like eight diverse, original bands were booked to play for the spectacular event. So what was my role? All I had to do seven different 10-minute sets while the upcoming bands were setting up their equipment and tuning their instruments. Seventy minutes of comedy; that's ALL. I'm emphasizing the all because all I had at the time for an act was maybe 15 single minutes of shitty comedy -- not a polished arsenal of different 10-minute sets. But I figured I'd mix in my regular material with, oh, I don't know 40 or 50 minutes of fresh crowd work and new material. How hard could that be? It would be a challenge I told myself.

The show was at a place called "The Arena," which I thought sounded like it had to be a cool venue for concerts or shows. But in fact, "The Arena" was a bowling alley in Northeast Philadelphia, prominently situated right off of Roosevelt Blvd., like some grand, white-trash monument. The crowd consisted of a few scattered groups of the bands' friends, as well as eight to 10 local drunks who looked like they'd been stationed at the Arena's bar since their lives fell apart. But the best part was the bands. Every single one of the diverse, original bands looked like that skinhead house party band in American History X.

The first band I followed was a little hardcore outfit called Southern Grievance. These guys had the oh-so-popular Confederate Flag everywhere -- on their clothes, their instruments, one guy even had it tattooed across his chest. If I had any chance of getting the crowd to pay attention to me that night, I knew my opener had to be strong -- really strong. And during Southern Grievance's abortion of a set, I thought I came up with the perfect way to start off the comedy portion of the show. So, when my time came, I took the mic, motioned in the direction of the exiting Nazi band and said, "All right, how about a hand for Southern Grievance everybody! That's Southern Grievance giving us a great example of why the South will never rise again!" Instead of a thunderous wave of laughs, I got a bunch of boos, groans and one loud, "Fuck you, you pussy faggot!" Fifteen seconds in to my first set of the night, and I get called "Pussy Faggot," which I'm guessing is even worse than a regular faggot. Now I still stand behind my joke, but maybe, just maybe, a joke about the South wasn't the best way to open at a show for Aryan Brotherhood's music festival.

Anyway, the rest of the show was a disaster. But somewhere around my third or fourth failed set something magical happened: I just stopped giving a shit about the crowd altogether. I was passionately talking in front of a group of people, and no one was even paying attention to me. It's probably as close as I'll ever come to understanding how it feels to be one of those schizophrenic homeless guys that just shouts out absurd shit on a crowded street corners all day long. It's not as bad as you'd think.

Throughout the entire night, I only got one legitimately solid laugh. And that was only because, while they were setting up, the guitarist for one of the bands simulated fucking me in the ass with his guitar during my set. It wasn't until the top of his Les Paul actually went into my ass that I realized it wasn't my material they were laughing at.

Troy closed the show with a few minutes of stand-up. But before he went onstage, he asked me to help him put on a gladiator costume, which has absolutely nothing to do with Troy's act. (Side-note: Troy's outfit wasn't your run-of-the-mill Halloween-store gladiator getup. It was authentic -- and very, very expensive. In fact, because Troy failed to make all of the payments on the gladiator costume, it got repoed. Yep, his gladiator costume got repossessed like it was a fucking RangeRover.) Anyway, my last clear memory of the show is this: I was on my knees outside of the bar, attaching Troy's golden shin-pad to his leg when this pack of hot, slutty girls walked by and peaked in at the show.
"What's going on in there?" one hot slut asked.
"There's a bunch of bands playing, and I think there's like some losers trying to do comedy, too." another whore responded.
And I still remember being on my knees, helping a grown man put on an unnecessary outfit for this shitty show and thinking: She summed that up perfectly.
"Some loser trying to do comedy." That's exactly what I felt like driving home from that show -- from a lot of shows actually. But I wouldn't change it for anything, because all of the horrific gigs supplied me with so many ridiculous stories like the one I just told.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Purple Cocks: A Birthday Story

I took my mom out to dinner for her birthday, because that's what you do when you're too lazy to come up with a thoughtful, original gift for someone you love. You buy her (or him) a meal, food -- something that's necessary for human survival.

My mom chose The Regal Beagle and, yep, the place is just as gay as it sounds. The Beagle is a new Norristown eatery owned by my mom's hair dresser, Billie. Here's the thing about Billie: My mom (and an army of Billie's other middle- to upper-middle-aged women clients) worships this man. She would support anything Billie endorsed. If, instead of a restaurant, The Regal Beagle was Billie's underground dog-fighting ring, my mom would be there every week screaming for her dog to, "Rip that fuckers throat apart."

On the drive over to the Beagle, my mom says, "You know the last time I was at this place, they had sex trivia hosted by these two guys in drag."

I don't say anything because, really, what the fuck the can you say to that? My mom, however, mistook my silence as a sign for her to keep going.

"If they have the sex thing tonight, I'm not sure I can do that with you there. It might be a little weird, you know?" No response on my end so, of course, my mom pushes forward with this gem, "It would be even weirder when I know a bunch of the answers to the questions."

Despite the threat of trivia, we took our chances and secured an outdoor table at Billie's restaurant. After a little time passed without a single tranny sighting, I decided we were safe. But just when I settled into a quiet evening of listening to my mom trashing my dad, a giant man in a beautiful purple gown emerged from the indoor part of the restaurant and lit up a cigarette. In the crouch area of his form-fitting dress was a tremendous bulge -- and I couldn't stop staring. There's something about the juxtaposition of man's enormous package on a woman's dress that's completely hypnotizing. Who knows how long I would've stared at this guy's purple cock if he didn't notice me. And, just to let me know that he knew what I was looking at, he thrust his crotch slightly forward, took a long drag on his cigarette and said, "You guys know trivia starts in 10 minutes, right?"

When neither my mom nor I said anything, he finished his cigarette and went back in. We finally had the silence that I was craving on the car ride over. After a few moments, my mom broke the silence by asking, "So you just want to go to Applebee's, instead?"

Thursday, September 09, 2010

An Offer the Upper Darby Free Public Library Can't Refuse

Dear head librarian of the Upper Darby/Sellers branch of the Delaware County library system:

Recently, I went to your website in the hopes of procuring a novel of leisure for myself. You can only imagine my chagrin when I tried to reserve such a novel and was told I could not do so until my late fees – in excess of $15 – were paid.

First off, Delaware County, I don’t want you to think ill of me for my delinquency. I never meant to fall behind on my account at your facility (my account with the Fascists over at Comcast is quite another story, however). You see, I have been so engrossed in my own writing over the past eight months that I have completely cut myself off from the outside world. Holed up in a tiny abode in the Clifton Heights region of our fine county, I just completed my fourth novel: “Red Sky, Blue Eagle: The Carnal Beauty of Loving the Dead.” Ostensibly, the 7,252-word coming-of-age tale is about necrophilia in its many brilliant shades. In reality, however, the tale’s message is much more sublime.

Simply put: We are all dead on the inside and could only be “brought back to life” by succumbing to our most carnal desires (i.e., face-to-face coitus of the marital variety, etc.). Of course, such a brief synopsis does no justice to this soon-to-be classic, which pits Reynoldo and his Mingia Men against the Plumber’s Local Union 211796. But I digress.

I’ll get right to the point: I have a mutually beneficial proposition for you. In lieu of paying my debt, I will come down to your facility (during a date and time that is convenient for me) and read a passage from “Red Sky, Blue Eagle: The Carnal Beauty of Loving the Dead.” As if this isn’t enough, I’ll even sign copies of my masterpiece for adoring fans following the reading. One condition: I will only sign autographs for 20 minutes, and you must provide your own security. The choice is yours, Delco. Although, for the life of me, I can’t think of one logical reason why you’d even consider turning down my magnanimous offer.


Jared Anthony ‘Tony’ Bilski,
Author, Poet, Empathetic Member of the Human Race

P.S. One word of warning: On the date of my reading, you’ll no doubt have to turn down attendees after the library has reached capacity. Even on the shortest possible notice, I can’t fathom a scenario where your Lilliputian facility can accommodate my vast army of reader

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Experiencing Canada's Second-Largest Comedy Festival

When I opened the e-mail titled "FunnyFest booking," I found what I looking for instantly: "We would desire that perform & participate for at least four consecutive nights." It was right there in writing -- I had gotten into my very first comedy festival. I went to the Calgary Comedy Festival website where phrases like "delivers 50,000 comedy lovers," "11 day mass media event," and "largest comedy festival in Western Canada & second largest in the nation" jumped right out at me. I pictured myself in front of sold-out theater crowds where the uncontrollable laughter was interrupted only by thunderous, Comedy-Central style applause breaks. I envisioned being ushered offstage into a small, side rooms where I'd be interviewed -- performer badge proudly displayed around my neck -- by the exotic "Mass Media" of Calgary. What I actually experienced up in the Nashville of the North wasn't quite that.

6:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST): I answer a call from my mom/ride to the airport
"Hey hon! Funniest thing, for a second there, I thought I was supposed to take you to the airport today."
She was most definitely supposed to drive me to the airport that day. On a rushed drive to Philadelphia International Airport, my mom switches lanes haphazardly while juggling a cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. I wonder whether the onset of dementia is setting in.

1:40 p.m. Mountain Standard Time (MST): Our plane lands in Calgary. My girlfriend, Liz, asks what the plan is. I pull a printed e-mail out of my bag confirming that someone is supposed to pick us up and take us to the hotel. At this point, I start worrying about the packet -- containing the festival schedule, hotel info, etc. -- that I was supposed to get a few weeks ago, but never did. We wait 20 minutes, and Liz makes a comment about this "being all on me." I call the festival organizer, Stu, tell him my name and a conversation like this ensues:

Stu: Hi, Jared. What are you doing? We have a show in an hour. You need to be at the hotel.
Me: I thought someone was picking me up. I sent over an itiner...
Stu: Oh, yeah. We lost a car. You gotta get over to the hotel, eh. (Note: The majority of Canadians end all of their sentences with 'eh.' It's like the verbal equivalent of a period or an exclamation point or even a question mark in some cases.)
Me: What hotel?
Stu: Best Western. Port O'Prince. Not sure of the address. Figure it out. Call me as soon as you get into your hotel room.
Me: Sounds good, man. I'll see...
Stu: As soon as you get there. Call. As soon as you get there (phone hangs up).

A shuttle brings us to the hotel, which appears to the only functioning business (besides a shady-looking Vietnamese take-out restaurant) for miles. When I give the clerk my name, I'm relieved -- and a little surprised -- to find I actually have a room. In the center of the lobby is a giant, cutout of a cartoon cow adorned in a jester's cap and collar. The cow is holding a microphone in its left hoof and sitting cross-legged on a stool fashioned from its own udders. This is the FunnyFest mascot. Despite the giant jester cow, and an array of FunnyFest flyers and handouts littered throughout the lobby, no hotel workers seem to know anything about the giant festival. So I head up to my room to drop off my bags and field two calls from Stu in the process.

3:35 p.m.: Back in the lobby, there's a guy in his late-twenties pacing back and forth. He notices my girlfriend and me and introduces himself as Ben -- our ride to the show. Ben's ride is a Mercedes-Benz that must be at least 25 year's old judging by the rust that has built up on its light blue body. Inside, I can't believe the odometer, which reads 395,000. It takes few minutes to remember that Canadians measure everything in kilometers.
On the ride, Ben points out a building where he was ordered to take anger management classes after the "fucking all-knowing Province of Alberta" decided to take away his license. I ask why, and Ben tells me aggressive driving and lots of speeding tickets. "In Calgary, they care more about speeding than drunk driving, but I got a few DUIs, too." he adds.

Show No.1: China Rose

3:50 p.m.: We arrive at the China Rose, a standard Chinese restaurant complete with bad lighting and a massive buffet station. A side room is packed with 20 guys and two well-dressed older women. This would be a great crowd for a Tuesday afternoon in a random Chinese restaurant. But it soon becomes clear that everyone here is a comic. Liz and I have a conversation with the older women -- a sketch-comedy duo known as 'Cow Tips.' In the background, a few people wearing blue polos with the festival's mascot on the chest hang an unnecessarily large "FunnyFest" banner behind a makeshift stage.

4:00 p.m.: A tall man donning the same blue polo as the stage crew enters and makes a rushed announcement about the magnitude of the festival. He begins calling out names I recognize as the comics listed on the festival's web page -- waiting until each answers, 'here' or 'present.' He lets everyone know they're to do three-minute sets. Then, he asks, "Is Jared Bilski here? Yeah. Good. Jared, you're closing out the show. You'll do six minutes, eh?"

This is Stu, the executive director of FunnyFest, the Calgary Comedy Festival. After his speech, I introduce Liz and myself, and my second conversation with Stu follows:

Stu: You didn't tell me your girlfriend was coming. This really messes up the logistics of everything. Jesus Christ, eh!
Me: I told you over the phone. Plus, I sent you both of our itineraries and I even talked to you about....
Stu: Yeah, whatever, OK. This really messes things up, eh. So when you're done your set you're gonna have to hurry and get a ride over to the next place. Jesus Christ, eh?

Before I could ask where the next place is, Stu walks way.

For the next hour and a half there's a steady flow of movement -- comics walking to the stage, comics exiting the stage, packs of frustrated comics heading to the buffet, happy comics returning from the buffet with heaping plates of laxatives disguised as lo mein and General Tso's chicken. By the time my name is called, all of the comics have left for the next show. Luckily, a group of four non-performers wander in. Always the consummate professional, I do the full six minutes and exit the stage to thunderous sounds of four pairs of clapping hands and one timid, "Nice job, man." My first show of the 2010 Calgary Comedy Festival is complete.

Show No.2: King Henry VIII

6:30 p.m.: I second venue is a standard watering hole with low-lighting, a huge oak bar and a series of wooden booths throughout. Several TVs are showing playoff hockey and the five or so non-comedians seem completely unaware Canada's second largest comedy festival will be starting in a mere thirty minutes. In addition to the TV, the perimeter of King Henry's is littered with VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals) -- Canada's answer to the slot machine. I count the back of eight patrons who are engrossed in the game and note that we have over ten people at this show. Next to the bar is a makeshift stage. It's a slightly raised block of wood with a checkerboard design that's closer in size to an actual checkerboard than a real stage. The regular-sized microphone resting in the center of the "stage" adds to the overall sadness of the set-up. Of course, the ubiquitous FunnyFest banner hangs proudly in the background.
The 20 or so performers are huddled around the complimentary food and drink -- a single appetizer sampler and one pitcher of beer -- when Stu enters room. He calls everyone to attention and launches into another pre-show speech.

OK. Everyone listen up. What the hell are ya doing? Move out from behind me, so I can see everyone. This is important, eh. I need everyone to listen. I don't ask much -- just five minutes of your time a day, OK. So, here's the line-up, eh. Everyone do around four minutes. Corey, you're going close out, so do between seven and ... Hey, can all of ya shut up, eh. This is serious. We're about to do a show here.

After Stu's pep talk, he asks Ben -- the angry guy who's been driving Liz and I to the shows -- to hang up some FunnyFest flyers at the local businesses in the area. When Ben mumbles that hanging flyers "isn't exactly what he was told he'd be doing," Stu informs him:
"It's a privilege for you to be here. I know tons of people who would want your job. You don't want to hang fliers, eh? You see that? That's the fucking door. Get the fuck out."

The driver informs Stu that he's "a human being" and storms off to hang fliers.
The show's another marathon of short, rushed sets with little to no audience reaction -- save for an old, leather-clad biker guy with his back to the stage. He's visibly drunk and participates in the show by yelling out his own jokes while the comedians are delivering their punchlines. The only non-performer who's directly facing the stage, my girlfriend, is only doing do out of some vague sense of obligation to the person she has sex with. She's stationed in the center of an island of empty chairs. About 45 minutes into the show, the drunken biker decides he wants to physically interact with the comics. He walks up to the stage, takes out a tape measure and tries to determine the various dimensions of the comic onstage. After about five minutes, the bartender decides the biker's gotten enough measurements and kicks him out. The Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) players haven't turned around once during show the show. I make it a mini-personal goal to get at least one of these people to look in my direction. I don't succeed -- even after I describe the clothing of several VLT players. I practice a few of my bits, take in the silence and walk off the checkerboard.
A few moments after the MC brings up the headliner, one of the polo-wearing workers bursts in and yells, "Hey man, that's it; show's over. We don't have a microphone at the next place, so we need to use that one." The headliner's response, "Thank fucking god," gets the biggest laugh of the night. With that, my second show of the day comes to a close.

Most of the comics are at the next venue, so I check my e-mail to see if I can pull up an old schedule rest of the night's shows. Instead, there's a singe unread message from Stu with the subject line "Rides for performers only." The e-mail contains the following message:

Rides are for performers only. No exceptions. No lap sitting. Thanks for understanding. Stu

I head to outside to search for a cab to the next show.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recipe for a successful beer commercial: One part laid back white guy in casual clothing, one part pathetic-looking dog and one part really cute but not ridiculously hot girl. Put those three things together, and you're guaranteed to have a successful beer commercial. That's all it takes. Sure, there are tons of more elaborate commercials out there. But what's the point? One of my favorite example comes from Miller Lite. Here's the set-up:

The cute -- but not super hot -- girl is draped all over her boyfriend at an outside table of a generic-looking sports bar. A few Miller Lites are prominently placed on the table. The girl's asking the type of hard-hitting questions that always seem to come up when people are having a few beers and watching the game.

Girl: Here's one for you: If me and Buster were hanging over a cliff and you could only save one of us, which one would you save?
Guy: Easy ... You.
Girl: Oh. Me or your mom?
Guy: Sorry mom.
Girl: Your Miller Lite?
Guy (Grinning nervously): Aw, man. (Turns and looks at the girl deadpan) How high's the cliff?
At this point in the commercial, the girl storms off dramatically because her boyfriend failed the test. In the all-important game of "What would you do if you were placed in a situation that would never ever happen game," he couldn't decide whether or not to save her or his three-dollar Miller Lite.

Then, the narrator comes -- while a close-up shot of a tall, sweaty glass of a Miller Lite containing the perfect ratio of beer to head comes into focus and "Taste Greatness" slogan flashes across the screen -- and announces:
"Do you love your beer this much? Well, you could. Try a great pilsner taste of a triple-hop brewed Miller Lite. Taste Greatness."
The commercial ends with the guy hysterically mimicking his girlfriend being all girly and shit:
Guy (Bobbing his head from side to side spastically and raising the pitch of his voice): If me and Buster were hanging off a cliff (returning to his regular voice) What is she talking about?
Buster (returns his lolling tongue to mouth and glares angrily at the guy): GRRRRRRRRRRR.
Guy: I know. Seriously.

Adorable, right? Of course, this guy is going to chose his shitty lite beer that he can replace at virtually any store (except in Pennsylvania because that bullshit Puritanical state only sells alcohol in beer distributors, pizza places, bars and liquor stores) over his girlfriend because that's how much guys love beer. Guys love beer more than their girlfriends and their wives and, of course, way more than their children.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I have a dog and two cats, which is the perfect number of pets to have when you live in an apartment with a "No Pets" clause in the lease.
It's really not a problem normally -- unless my landlord shows up unexpectedly. Then, I have to stow all the pets away in crazy hiding places like the dude who hid the Jews at the beginning of "Inglorious Bastards." I've only been caught once -- or at least I think I was caught.
It was a Sunday morning after an all-day drinking event when my landlord, Rick, showed up. He knocked on the door, and my girlfriend went to work stashing the pets safely away. There were no animals in the apartment when Rick walked in, but there was an assortment of our unconscious friends passed out Helter Skelter on couches, chairs and the floor -- two with trash cans next to their foreheads, just in case.
Rick had come over to fix the leaky shower faucet in our bathroom, but he didn't make it there before it got awkward. On the way, one of our cats jumped off the top of our hutch, cleared Rick's head and landed right at his feet. The cat stayed put for a moment or so before scurrying away. After my cat hurdled the landlord's head, in the same apartment that he specifically told us was to be "pet free," I had only one choice: act like nothing happened.
But that wasn't good enough for my girlfriend. She devised an impromptu plan to trick Rick into believing the cat wasn't ours. Here's what she choreographed: While Rick was fixing the faucet, my friend Dan left his spot on top of the couch, walked over to the doorway of the bathroom and started making idle small talk with the landlord. As soon as he said the words, "Well, I gotta get outta here," Liz made her move. Clutching the only cat that Rick knew we had, she rushed over to Dan and announced, "D-o-n'-t f-o-r-g-e-t y-o-u-r c-a-t, D-A-A-N-N-N." She said it in that slow, loud, methodical voice people use when they're talking to a foreigner who doesn't comprehend English too well -- to ensure Rick heard every word. Problem solved.
Dan walked out of the house clutching our cat, Inca, and started heading back to his car -- where he was instructed to wait until Liz drove around in her own car. When Liz pulled up next to Dan's car, he made the drop (i.e., passed Inca back to Liz). Unfortunately, despite even the most careful precautions, unexpected elements can foil any good plan. In this case, Rick remembered that he needed something -- something that was located in his car. On his way, Rick happened to run into Dan, who was passing his cat back to Liz. At this point, Rick knows we have at least on pet, so we might as well go all out. That way, the next time Rick comes by to fix a leaky faucet or replace the garbage disposal, instead of a wayward kitten, maybe he'll run into a ferret or a python or even a goat.