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.