Monday, February 23, 2009

"Burn Man"

What you are about to read is an un-edited, un-cut, un-solicited, un-derwear version of “Burn Man.” This is a true tale of a man overcoming his fears, beating the odds, and defeating adversity only to ultimately experience the only real life simulation of the feeling one feels as they show up to school naked in their nightmares…

Corte Madera, Ca- 1994

The day started out like any other. My Mom asked me repeatedly to bring my jacket, and if I had locked my bedroom window as she always did before we departed for the day. I assume she did this just in case a burglar the size of Stuart Little with the flexibility of Gumby was somehow able to squeeze through the extremely small window and then rob us blind. It was scheduled to be a joyous day of touring the metropolitan city known as Sacramento; our state Capital. While this activity didn’t necessarily peak our fif-teen year old site seeing interests, we didn’t have much choice and we were finagled into the car, but not without fantasy baseball magazines, car games, and video games ready to distract us from whatever boring activities lied ahead.

Somewhere in the Sacramento Suburbs

The day started out like no other. A man, who for the rest of time would be known to us by the simple nickname of “Burn Man,” sat patiently awaiting his breakfast. He had been through a lot in the past year, but on this jovial morning, he felt like a million bucks.

“Thank you Dear,” he responded as his freshly cooked eggs and bacon was placed in front of him.

“What shall we do today honey bunches? His wife pleasantly interrogated.

“I thought we’d stay in and watch a movie,” the man suggested.

“Honey, I really think it is time.”

“Sheila, we’ve talked about this many times. Not until I’m completely better will I go out in public.”

“But honey you are completely normal. You’ve come so far; I think you can do it. For me? Its beautiful out, I’m sick of us being cooped up in this house.”

“I just don’t think I have it in me. You heard the Doctor, no sunlight, until the scars have completely healed, so that means...”

“So what? I don’t care.”

“People might laugh or point at me; I just don’t think I can do it.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. What sick person would ever do such a thing?”

Somewhere on the 80 Freeway

My Mom was engaged in a deep read of the normally sleep-inducing Sacramento tour book. Most people either accidentally pass out or put the book down after three minutes due to utter boredom, but she was determined to get the full experience of whatever Sacramento had to offer which by the way, was close to nothing. Nonetheless our car surged forward with all of us unaware of what events were to transpire.

Somewhere in the Sacramento Suburbs

Less than halfway into his mummification, with one arm wrapped snuggly in his orange garments, Burn Man had a feeling of liberation despite looking like a pumpkin on Halloween that had been smashed all over the street. He hadn’t been outside since the fateful day of the accident, when a few beers had caused him to pass out at the family Labor Day party only to wake up to Indian burns covering ninety percent of his body.

“You are lucky to be alive.”

The words from the ER Doctor still played like a broken record in his head…

“Not only did you survive the Indian Burns, but the wet willie missed every major ear organ and had that atomic wedgy been performed an inch higher…(pause) we (pause) may not be having this conversation today…”

He looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the man staring back at him. He wasn’t sure if it was because he had lately started using an electric razor instead of a regular razor, or the fact that he was dressed in a ridiculous non-ostentatious orange outfit. Either way, Burn Man was still just a remnant of his former self.

The pain.

The anguish.

The marathons of David Hasselhoff shows he had no choice but to watch before the invention of remote controls.

It had been tough, but it had all been worth it. Today was a new day, and the first day of the rest of his life.

State Capital - Sacaremento, Ca

After being dragged along on tour after tour through our state’s capital where Joey and I were unwillingly treated to a plethora of not so famous spots where past Governors had either signed a famous bill, met with someone we’d never heard of or used the bathroom, we would have been open to a suggestion of ice skating while watching Dirty Dancing had it been suggested to put us out of our misery. So when going to Old Town Sacramento was suggested, we were all for it. Besides how old could Old Town Sacramento really be? No city on the west coast was older than 120 years anyway. It’s not like there would be six foot-seven mummies walking around the town in broad daylight like the sleeping dead from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video right?

The Driveway - Sacramento Suburb

Somewhere in the distance a crow squawked.

The front door blew open and there standing timorously in the doorway stood Burn Man. He took a long breathe of fresh air and let the warm afternoon breeze hit his skin…or eyes rather since the rest of his body was behind the newest fashion style picked up from his local outfitter, Mummies R’ Us. Somewhere behind the orange fortress of bandages was an amiable smile, and a man ready to get back on his bike and give it a ride. He was back. Nothing could get him down on this day. Nothing.

Somewhere in the distance a crow was hit with a slingshot.

“Where we heading honey?”

“Old Town – you’re favorite spot.”

“You’re the best honey. It’s going to be a great day, I can just feel it. What could possibly stand in our way?”

“Oh sweetie, I love your outlook. Just in case I’ve already taken the initiative to alert the police department, fire department, The Marine Corps, nine stealth bombers, twelve secret service agents and Tonya Harding just in case. And again, what sick individual would do such a thing?”

“Oh honey you are such a jokester. I trust you honey. What could ever go wrong?”

----- 1 hour later ------

Old Town Sacramento

It wasn’t quite as bad as watching paint dry while also watching grass grow simultaneously, but Old Town Sacramento was a close second. We were finally heading back to the car, trudging along exhaustedly on the Old Town Sacramento cobblestone streets. The cobblestones were probably added to convince tourists that had nothing better to do on the weekends that Old Town Sacramento was actually old, and not built in 1975 which it probably was.

Joey and I had just finished off debating on the best three-point shooter in our Game Boy All-Star Basketball game when we saw it. Heading towards us at about 0mph in the bright light of the day was the most shocking, mind-boggling and uncomfortable site we had ever seen. Seventy county fairs, three semester internships at a mental institution and an all nighter at Dennis Rodman’s house couldn’t have prepared us for the disconbobulation we were witnessing. A terrifying beast stood before us, wrapped from head to toe in bright orange bandages, and at that moment Burn Man was born. Moving at a snail pace this orange creamsicle mummy inched his way towards us, while Joey and I both tried desperately to keep calm and not break out in awkward laughter at the poor chap.

Burn Man was about ten feet in front of us when we heard the fateful words that I can still hear in my head to this day, and probably will haunt Burn Man for the rest of eternity.

“Hey Guys, look at this guy!”

Holy shit, I thought, did that really just happen?

“Guys look!”

There it was again. Yes someone was definitely trying to torture the poor bastard. Who could be doing this I thought? A pugnacious bully? A roaming gang of viscous thugs? A kid picked last in kickball, forever seeking revenge on a weaker foe? Even Brandon Fraser from the movie “The Mummy,” wouldn’t have attempted this nefarious hounding, and he unearthed the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

I turned around in utter disbelief to see that my mom was the one pointing at the poor lad and motioning in our direction all the while breaking out in insidious laughter. I’m not sure what Kool-Aid she had just drank but Joey and I weren’t about to try a sip, as we did our best to cover our faces and awkwardly sidestep away from the outlandish behavior.

Oh my god this is really happening, I thought trying to keep my focus at whatever object a hundred yards past Burn Man I could focus on.

It was too late not to notice. Like a kid caught with his hands in the Sour Patch Kids container at the local candy shop, Burn Man had already stopped in his tracks. Although in My Mom’s defense, his tracks basically spread about one millimeter apart due to his sluggish crawl so he may have just been in between steps; the jury is still out on this one.

Since the poor guy had been mummified, and only his eyes were visible, it made it impossible for us to really know what Burn Man was thinking, but I think we can only assume that it was something like this;

“What sick individual would do this to me?”

Joey and I quickly sauntered by Burn Man in hopes of escaping the extreme embarrassment, and the releasing of rabid bats as I’d seen mummies do in some past flicks. I’m sure if Burn Man could have lifted his arms, for example, more than the one centimeter he was able to, he would have angrily squashed us like bugs. As it was however, I felt like the bully in jail who had just forced a weaker inmate into sodomy and then topped it off by swiping his corn bread.

The guy goes through months of therapy, overcomes a million fears, and probably was a prominent figure before his accident only to have it all come crashing down at the hands of a four-foot eleven Italian mother of three who stood there for what probably felt like an eternity pointing and cackling at the poor chap.

Not a word was spoken after that as we passed Burn Man and proceeded down the street, making it the most awkward thirty seconds of my entire life. Neither of us looked back to see the debris or wreckage of the disaster we had left behind.

“Oh I thought he was a character like at Disney Land,” was my Mom’s explanation after the silence was broken when we turned down the next street.

Disney Land? Character? Donald Duck and the Pirates of The Caribbean are characters. A six-foot-seven man wrapped in bright orange bandages on the streets of Old Town? Not a character. I could see how it could have transpired…

Old Town Sacramento Tourist Board Monthly Meeting

“Ok, so who has got some ideas, we are trying to spruce up tourism in Old Town and as we all know those cobblestone bricks that Smithson came up with last meeting are just not cutting it… Yes Johnson? You have something?”

“I got it! Let’s have characters walk around the outskirts of old town, in say…I don’t know… bright orange mummy outfits. And they can walk really, really slow. Kids would love it!”

“Johnson that’s brilliant…lets get that in the books and out on the streets ASAP. This is going to be a bit hit…A bit hit I tell ya…”

We never heard of saw of Burn Man again. We can only guess he high-tailed it back into the confines of his own home at rapid walking speeds of around .003 mph as soon as my Mom’s distasteful pointing occurred, and was never seen on the streets of Old Town Sacramento again. In my Mom’s defense she did feel really bad about the incident, and furthermore, if you’re wrapped in a bright orange mummy outfit in the middle of the day you probably are asking for it, but maybe not necessarily from a middle aged mother of three…

…This is a true story – only the names of the incident have been changed to protect – actually wait a second, nope Burn Man I’m sure was his legal name…Although the editor of validity of this blog is still researching the cause of accident, as Indian Burns may or may not have been made up…

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"Super Bowl Blues"

This week's post is kind of like turning on your favorite TV show, excited for the new episode, only to witness a rerun that ran six weeks prior. This piece is an article I wrote for an online sports site following the Superbowl XL - Steelers vs. Seahawks. It basically applies to every Superbowl and instead of changing the names to keep updated with this year's games, who am I to pull any trickery? Ultimately it is more laziness than anything else however...Here is the original piece in antique form.

"Super Bowl Blues"

The last remnants of hardened cheese and bean dip have been extracted from couch cushions and floorboards deposited there by drunken Superbowl XL guests.

The very last drop of beer has long been siphoned from the keg.

You’ve analyzed, re-created spliced, diced and argued every aspect of the big game over and over, from blown calls to commercials at the office water cooler with everyone from Frank in accounting to Ingrid the cleaning lady.

“Back and to the front. Back and to the front,” you’ve exclaimed to Ingrid time and time again, in a flurry of Kevin Costner, JFK-like arguments regarding the Darrell Jackson pass-interference call. '

There is no fighting the inevitable. The harsh reality has begun to set in.

Football is over.

Your addiction that has consumed you for the past five months each and every Sunday has vanished like a phantom in the night. You must quit cold turkey, and there is no football patch in sight.

To many wives and girlfriends, the end of the football season equals the return of their loved ones on Sundays. Calls like “Chad Johnson over the middle,” will now be drowned out and replaced by “Do these jeans make me look fat?” as your Sundays will now be filled with painful trips to Bed Bath & Beyond, Mervyns and Express.

You find yourself wandering the streets with your lazy boy on rollers, and bowl of pretzels in hand, looking for any football you can find. You may have even found yourself stopping in front of teen-agers playing pick up games in the street, yelling feverishly at a youngster after he fumbles somewhere between the neighbor’s mailbox and a dead bird in the gutter.

Your capricious moods are affecting every one around you.

You have a problem.

There is no Major League Baseball, NBA Playoffs, or March Madness to catch your fall when you come spiraling down from your NFL high, jittery and feeling like a useless piece of jelly.

While the NBA and NHL all-star games may be a momentary fix over the next month - it is not the answer. If you think that you can simply coast until mid March, the start of the NCAA tournament, you might as well apply for a frequent buyers card at Bed Bath & Beyond right now, because you are not going to make it.

Before you break out in sordid hives due to withdrawals, I have conjured up just the right prescription for your ailment. These sporting events will lead you right up to Dickie V and friends, and from there, you’re golden.

These events are not embellished, for they need no embellishing. If you’re committed to the healing process, they should not be missed. (Unless of course Home Depot is running a sale on shower curtain rings).

Feb 11th & 12th : Westmininster Dog Show, New York City, New York - Taking place at Madison Square Garden, the Westminister Dog Show is the Superbowl of dog shows. These stunning canine athletes will send chills down your spine with their determination and spirit. If you’re not able to sneak away from your Valentine’s Day week to catch these astounding pups then you’re are truly missing pure sporting elegance. Airs on USA.

Feb 16th : Inazawa's Naked Festival, Inazawa City, Japan - Bare-bottomed men ages 23-43 crowd the streets of Inazawa City, in hopes of touching another naked man to ensure good luck for the upcoming year. A naked man is chosen before the event and then besieged by 9000 men in loincloths in attempts to rid themselves of bad luck, thus transferring it to the naked man. I’m all for traditions, but wouldn’t it just be easier just to pick up a lucky rabbit’s foot at your local 7-11? You may have to channel surf a bit before you find this one.

Sometime in February: Hog Calling Contest, Weatherford, Oklahoma– Hog calling, a true American pastime combines excellent hog communication skills along with a pure adoration for these revolting swine. You need to become one with the hog in order to succeed in the sport. "I do eat pork. But not if I know the hog,” said former champion Roxanne Ward in a 1996 interview with the Houston Chronicle. “I will go to the store to buy pork chops. But I don't eat my friends.” …Check your local listings or your local mental institution for date and time.

February 19th: Five Angry Gods and a Contest of Strength, County of Kyoto, Japan – This annual strongman competition combines steroids, bulging biceps and rice cakes. The cakes, weighing up to 150 kilograms for men and 90 kilograms for women are far from the Quaker rice cakes packed with bursting flavors most of us are accustomed to. Not being very knowledgeable with the metric system I couldn’t say for sure how heavy these cakes really are, but according to Johnny Depp in the movie “Blow,” that would mean some pretty serious cash.

Sometime in February: Camel Wrestling Festival, Seljuk, Turkey – This inhumane, testosterone releasing event pairing man versus camel gives the men as well as the camels a healthy outlet to alleviate stress, and release tension. The last man or camel that remains standing or doesn’t get flagged for eye gauging is deemed the winner. Get out your foam fingers ready for cheering and contact your satellite provider for dates and times.

March 5th : Carnival of the Deer Man, Castelnuovo del Volturno, Isernia County, Italy – This epic saga between a grown man dressed up in an deer outfit and a holy man acting as a saint is probably more than enough to make Bambi’s ancestors shutter in their thickets. The regular man morphed into an impervious, antlered brute, comes down from the hills to wreck havoc among herds of cattle until confronted by a saintly figure wearing a fairy-hat. The holy man succeeds where the cattle could not, by summoning a nearby hunter who blows softly into the antlered beast’s ear that in turn destroys the sins and evils of the past year. It makes perfect sense. Check your TV guide for times and channel, but if anyone on the show asks you to drink the kool-aid, please refrain.

By this point of the lackluster sports month, most of you will be having visions of bracket logy dancing in your heads, but before you completely slip back into the normal sports routine, there are two more events that you should start thinking about. It requires preparation.

July 4th: World Pillow Fighting Championships – Sonoma, Ca There is not much history or much skill needed for this daring battle. Opponents must first straddle a slippery pole suspended over a mud pit, then violently bash their opponent with their goose down pillow until their foe plummets to their muddy demise. Don’t get any impure thoughts just yet; you’ll need a subscription most likely to see the sorority chicks give it a go. Contact your cable provider now so you don’t miss the epic event.

July 7th : Wife Carrying Championships, Sonkaj√§rvi, Finland – With early roots dating back to the early 1800’s when men actually did sneak into neighboring towns and carry fellow mates’ wives off into the night, this humorous yet competitive event, which grossed 500 million viewers last year, is entering its 14th year in Finland. Men must carry their wives a tumultuous 253.5 meters, over sand, grass, gravel and water hazards, stopping only to throw back the “wife carrying drink,” at special checkpoints. Before the barbarian in you tries to pull a fast and buy that six-teen year old, sixty-five pound exchange student from down the street a one-way ticket to Finland to claim your victory, you should know these two simple rules. (Provided by the official website of the games,

1. “The wife to be carried may be your own, the neighbour’s or you may have found her farther afield; she must, however, be over 17 years of age. The minimum weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilos.”

2. “If a contestant drops his wife that couple will be fined 15 seconds per drop.” (after a swift kick in the groin from your angry wife, a 15 second penalty won’t seem so bad).

If you follow this simple program I’ve created, the names Peyton, Madden, Holmgren and Roethlisberger, will soon only be a figment of your imagination.

On the other hand, you may wake up in a cold sweat after haunting images of antlered deer men, fighting camels and bare-bottomed men visit you in your dreams…Good luck, and I’ll see you on March 16th…