Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Witz DOESN'T Pick: This Song Lyric

I couldn't help but make this brief post as I was listening to the new album by The Decemberists entitled "The Crane Wife" and was thoroughly enjoying it, when suddenly I came upon this lyric:

"When we arrive
Sons & daughters
We'll make our homes on the water
We'll build our walls aluminum
We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon now"

WHAAAT? They did NOT just say what I think they said! Then it came again,

When we arrive
Sons and daughters
We'll make our homes on the water
We'll build our walls aluminum
(Sons and daughters)
We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon
(We'll make our homes on the water)
We'll make our homes on the water
(When we build our walls of aluminum)
(We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon)

I SCREAMED out at the stereo! NO!!! NOOOO!!!! DON'T!!! ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME???

It was like The Decemberists read Witz Pickz, perused it, and then spat in my face.


Did I not stress that enough in my Cinnamon Implosion article?? Hooooly crap people.

"We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon?" Maybe I'm missing the point of the song, but unless they're saying, "We'll effing ruin our lives and traumatize our senses" DON'T FILL YOUR GODDAMN MOUTH WITH CINNAMON!

My cautionary tale was meant to spread the word of cinnamon trauma. If The Decemberists put this idea in people's minds, I might as well just give up now. Check out The Crane Wife because it is an enjoyable new album, but my god, please remember not to eat tablespoons of cinnamon.

Witz Is Sick (with worry),

Thursday, December 14, 2006

WitzPickz (and you're not gonna effing believe this): Banding Together...Again.

That's right. Two out of Three Witz Posts involve banding together. And fight "GINGIVITIS!" This tale is a tale of a more subtle type of banding. The type of banding that usually does not result in banding, but in anger, insults, and sometimes, a furious or violent exit. This banding takes place in a restaurant.

The site: Buca di Beppo's. That's right, it was my first experience at the Italian chain and I was up for anything. I was therefore completely baffled when our party of six (My girlfriend's family and I) was led through the kitchen to the main dining room. Call me old fashioned, but it just seems like you shouldn't let people walk that close to the food you're cooking and setting out to serve. People are filthy, disgusting creatures. We cough, we sneeze, we have viruses we don't even know about, and then exhale them into the general vicinity. I don't need Patient Zero exhaling in the direction of my spaghetti and meatballs. But it was kinda cool going through the kitchen. You got to play the "which way ya goin'? This way? This way? Hahaha, OH Us!" game with the servers as they tried to enter at the other end. And that's always a joy. Also there was a table in there, which is either novelty cool or novelty health code violating. And what about the health codes? On the day of inspection before they opened, was the health inspector like,

"Ok, check, check, check...and you're good to go...unless you have anything else..?"
"Not unless it's a problem that we're going to lead every single guest through the kitchen on their way to their tables..."

Anyway, I'm over it. We got to our table.

Once at our table, I discovered the always baffling "Table Menu." Like the menu is on the sheet on the table. It's like an enema in the dark-- you never see it coming, but it's always surprisingly effective in the end. Yeah, that's a pun-- it's gonna be like this today, so get used to it.

Our waiter comes over and takes our "family style" order. There are two things here that bother me: first, the waiter is one of those social enigmas that doesn't know where the correct pauses go in conversation. One minute he'll be pausing after asking a question, and the next minute he'll be pausing with the same expression on his face AFTER we've answered the question. Which makes you think you've gotten the answer wrong. But when the answer is Fettucini Alfredo...and the question was "What can I get you tonight?" I have to think we're in the right. My other problem with "family style" is that to me, "family style" means "Involving long discussions that ultimately devolve into arguments resulting in angry, hungry family members who aren't even getting what they want and certainly aren't sure if they're getting the correct portions for the group or spending far too much money on the whole." I like "Witz Style." Here's how it works. "What would you like Witz." "Whatever Witz orders, fully aware of the food and the price." I don't know what Italian families did growing up, but I can't recall a single time in my life where my mom and dad sat down for our family dinner and said, "It's family dinner. Here's the Fettucini Alfredo, Ravioli with Meat Sauce, Linguini with seafood, and Pizza!" That's too many pastas. You make one. There are other days in this life and if you don't die of a heart attack, you might live to have another one of the five main courses that you would like to eat. Just my opinion.

So we order, the waiter simply stares at the menu items we've circled, Cam Jansen's the whole thing, and leaves without even taking out a pen. It is then that we notice the table next to us. They are a super loud, rollercoaster ride of entertainment and annoyance, ranging from "BEER! WOOOOOO!" to "It's a mole! It's a COUNTRY MOLE!" when referring to one of the presents that they are passing around to each other. They've clearly already eaten, worked through about ten bottles of wine for the eight of them at the table, and are all large-ish middle-aged men. I think Hootin' n' Hollerin' is the best way to describe them. They are apparently on at least the third round of joke gifts and show no signs of stopping.

So we wait

And our salad comes. It is delicious.

Then we wait...

And the grandma's pizza comes...which we all eat ravenously. Sorry Grandma. And besides, food only weighs people down. The elderly need to be light on their toes--nimble. We were doing her a service.

And we wait...

And we wait...

Where the hell is the--

This is when a nice looking lady accompanies our conversationally impaired waiter to the table. Whenever your waiter needs assistance at your table, and you're not at a strip club, you can be pretty certain something bad has happened. In this case,

"Hi folks, how are we this evening? It looks like your ticket disappeared somehow, so your entree order never got placed! So what we're gonna do is, we replaced the order, it'll be ready in about 10 minutes, and Aaron's gonna treat you to your meal tonight!"

This is a) awesome-- our 100 dollar meal is suddenly free b) great-- their service doesn't suck, we just got screwed over and will get food in 10 minutes c) really crappy for Aaron, who I somehow think DIDN'T want to buy dinner for us tonight. Shit-- 100 dollars? How do you possibly lose a ticket in the-- d) AHA!!! OUR TICKET WENT MISSING IN THE KITCHEN, EH? Well how could that have happened? Certainly not the easy access by EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER IN THE PLACE! Here's a note for you all: EVERYONE EATS FREE AT BEPPO'S! Just excuse yourself shortly after ordering, walk through the kitchen to the bathroom, snag your ticket on the way, wait an hour, and SHAZAM! free meal. Free 100 dollar meal? How bout that vindication, eh? Biblical in proportion!

Speaking of which, our food arrived ten minutes later and was Biblical in portions. The plates were huge and delicious, and we managed to smile politely at Aaron and nod thankfully when he set down our bowl of mashed potatoes, not Green Beans that we ordered in front of us. So much for photographic memory. That's ok though, for 100 bucks, Aaron can buy me whatever food he wants.

This is just about the precise moment when EVERYTHING GOES NUTS. The big party next to us suddenly starts passing out crapy gifts to everyone around them. CD Cases, Shrek Chia Pets, Hats, Halloween Costumes, Christmas Mugs all get handed out jollillilillilly to all the tables and booths around us. The birthday boy a table over gets a gift. The people next to us who arrived later but got their food first get a gift. We get candy canes and christmas mugs, and oh yes, that shrek chia pet. We give some candy canes to the next booth and they inexplicably trade us for the cd wallet which I actually need. The Gift Men are singing and drinking and throwing gifts around-- literally, and there is a mound of food in front of me and 5 more around the table and it suddenly becomes clear to me that our section of this restaurant has BANDED TOGETHER! Forget annoyance, anger, late food, segregating birthdays-- we are one! We talk to each other and shout to determine the worst gift of the bunch. The birthday posse gets the birthday boy's (and when I say boy, I mean 30 something 300 lb. Samoan dude) picture taken with the drunken Santas. We eat the rest of our meal as part of a group. A great big, drunken, birthday ridden, holiday group, with none of those adjectives overlapping each other. Separate entities banded as one.

As we leave, we thank the gifters and ask who they are. "We're all friends from high school. We make a pact to spend one day of the year for the rest of our lives just getting together and having fun, so that's why we're here." Now that is banding together. A thirty year pact fulfilled at a family style, kitchen accessible, waiter-impaired restaurant. I'm just glad we were there to be a part of it....well and for the free meal....and the cd wallet....

Happy Holidays,

Friday, December 08, 2006

Witz Pickz: Bookz

Tired of the "z"'s yet? Nope, me either. Here are some books worth reading:

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem:

I'm like you readers-- I'm tired of not reading books that are about Tourrette's ridden mafia-detectives solving their boss's murder. So I read this book by Jonathan Lethem and loved it from start to finish-- like a fudgcicle or the song Informer by Snow. I had been plodding through The Fortress of Solitude by Lethem for around a year off and on and so was skeptical of this other book. After one page, however, I was hooked, and read it through in no time. Definitely worth checking out.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hasseini:

The Kite Runner is one of those books EVERYONE was talking about and EVERYONE said was amazing. All I knew about it was that it was about children in Afghanistan, which somehow is not my go to genre. I ignored it for a few years and then found it on my friend's bookshelf. I read the first page and just like with Motherless Brooklyn was pleasantly surprised at how my expectations were entirely off-base. A week and 400 pages later, I was stunned with how good it was. The Kite Runner examines the lives of two children in Afghanistan, and while Afghanistan is alive and vivid on the page, it is not an "exploring afghanistan" novel. It is a human novel-- the story surrounding two boys and their families, guilt, life, and redemption. It is no more political that it needs/ought to be and focuses on people as people, not groups. One of my fears for all timely novels about other cultures/regions is that they are popular not because of their quality, but because of their subject-- that they are preachy and often times either describe an issue too simply, or in such a depth that the content is rendered useless. The Kite Runner avoided both of these potholes and stood out as one of the more vivid, meaningful novels I've read in years.

That's all for now. Two books, very few jokes. More to come.


Friday, December 01, 2006

WitzPickz: Banding Together or "How I learned to stop trusting airplanes and learn to love the Mini-Van"

Man, that Witz character sure hasn't posted anything in a while-- he must be some kind of cocky sonofabitch to think anyone will stick around to see if he posts again! Correct on both accounts avid reader! It's been quite a while since my last mediocre post about a less than mediocre show with less than mediocre Heroes. And yet it is all I give you until now, so I will make up for it with a story of mass proportions, involving not only airplanes and luggage, but crossing international borders and possibly even some government intrigue. What say you now you doubting malcontent (who stuck around to see if I'd posted)? What say you to THAT!?

So here's the deal:

Never ever ever say, "I'll just fly through X instead of Y because X never has cancellations due to weather." Be it electrical storms, blizzards, earthquakes, typhoons (or typhoon lagoons), or even a diseased outbreak, something will always happen to X to make Y smile at you as if to say, "What's up now, dickhead? How you like dem apples (read: fires, tidal waves, smallpox)?

Having said that, I flew home from Paris (soon to be picked), through Montreal, to Vancouver planning on heading down to Seattle. I did this instead of through Chicago because Chicago is the Purgatory of airports, the only airport where all of the previous dangers could happen at once thus cancelling your flight to Phoenix or Los Angeles. They do make a good pizza though.

After flying for fourteen hours (a good round number), and watching both The Devil Wears Prada (first flick) and Pirates of the Carribean II (without sound-- proving that the dead last seat not only doesn't recline, smells like toilets, and gets service last, but also receives the brunt force of violent outbursts as well. I did, however, manage to accidentally elbow the male Flight Attendant squarely in the groin WITH force after he was a perpetual a-hole to me the entire flight. Also, I'm sorry, but there is such a thing as "too big" a flight attendant. The aisle is a tiny and valuable thing which must be kept safe and available. Plunking a deuce-seventy five flight attendant in there with a large cart and saying, "just walk up and down there for about 8 hours and try not to crush the fingers and knees of every single person along the way" just isn't a good idea. The fact that he was a complete douchebag didn't him anymore appealing-- thus it was extremely satisfying when coincidence struck (literally) and I evoked a high-pitched french "A-Whoops!! from the giant obstruction.) I was ready to make my connection for the final 50 minutes from Vancouver to Seattle. I got off the plane (did I tell you how much I love the last row?) in about half an hour while people stumbled over themselves to find their overhead bags (where'd I put the bag-- honey, ohmygod, where'd I put the bag?? We're in a confined space where nothing could get lost, but ohmygod WHERE'D MY-- Oh, there it is, directly above me, where I placed it, in its confined cubby). After deboarding I waited for my luggage, got it, went through customs, re-checked my luggage, went through customs, walked five miles to the gate where 30 of us were waiting to board our Balsa Wood Jet to Seattle when, "Flight 8097 from Vancouver to Seattle has been cancelled. There will not be any more flights tonight, and most likely tomorrow either as your flight is not a high priority. Also, since it is a weather problem, you will not be compensated for either the flight or accomodations for the night. You can try Amtrak, but they probably won't be running until tomorrow morning at the earliest, so our best advice is to band together and rent some cars to drive down to Seattle. The roads are pretty clear so it shouldn't be too bad a drive."

We managed to find out through the grapevine that there was snow in Vancouver and Seattle and Vancouver was LOW ON DE-ICER. HOLY CRAP, HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? AND DOESN'T MORE EXIST?

We immediately look at each other like idiots and wondering what the hell to do when I see a guy with a Microsoft backpack hustling off in the direction of the rental cars.

"Excuse me, are you going to Seattle?"
"Think I could split a rental car with you?"
"Well, uhhh, my company's kinda paying for my car--"
"--So, uh, sorry guy." and he tears off down the hall.
What? So the car's free therefore I can't come with? Are you integrated with the car and I'm not compatible, what the fuck is going on here?

Just band together. Right.

This is when I meet the first member of what would become our epic group-- we'll call him Jacques. Jacques is from Montreal and works in Seattle at an internet company. Jacques heard what happened and wants to rent a car with me to Seattle. Jacques is over 25 and can rent said car. Jacques and I BAND TOGETHER.

Back through customs into Canada, back to the Air Canada desk, where are my bags, back down to pickup my bags and wait wait wait.

Jacques and I are standing waiting for my bag, me apologizing profusely so he doesn't leave (he somehow didn't recheck his bag) when Ryan comes up to us. "Hey, you guys goin to Seattle?" Yep. "Cool, I've been here for 24 hours, my flight was cancelled yesterday and I've been sitting at the bar all day-- can I come with?" Absolutely. Shit, why not, let's just band together and whatnot. 3 IN THE GROUP. Ryan had several things on his side-- he looked exactly like my friend Ryan (hence his pseudonym), he was going to Seattle (so were we!) and he was a person (rental car's is expensive!). He was in.

I get my bag, we move on. As we're crossing the street we meet Brian. "I'm takin Amtrak." Amtrak might be closed (i'm a wealth of knowledge), wanna come in our car to Seattle, there are 3 of us and you would be 4, perhaps a sedan is in order. "Yes, I will-- we are of similar age and appearance, let us band together." Good, then, we are banded-- "yes, banded." And we were.

"We have a car you can rent for 540 dollars."
"I think you misplaced the decimal point when you spoke."
"I think you need to rent a car and we have cars."
"I think your name is BUDGET and you overestimate my salary and living expenses."
"Others will rent the car in your place-- you are nothing to us."
"Are you aware we have banded? Do you see that? We will defeat you."
"We shall see."

Suddenly another Seattle-bound member appears in line and says the name of one of our traveller's. Brian. Brian recognizes the guy and within minutes, we figure might as well fit 5 in one car-- cut down on the price. When--

"$385" What? Who said that? Brian points over to two slim men in trench coats standing at the next counter over. They look similar and it's tough to tell whether that is because they are or because they've been around each other so long they just inadvertently give off the sense that they are one person. They're in their mid forties maybe and are the target of Brian's finger.
"Excuse me, did they tell you 385?"
"They did."
"Oh good, over here they wanna charge us 540"
"Well, we're getting a mini-van." There's ice on the roads, snow all around, there's two of them and they're getting a mini-van."
"Huh. How many's that hold, ya think?"
"Let me ask-- how many does that hold?"
"Seven." The rental clerk says.
"Seven." the two men alert us.
"Huh." Looking around. "You guys wanna have five strangers in the back of your mini-van?"
The two men look at each other and smile, not the type of smile that says, "fresh meat" but more the kind that says, "Are they suggesting we band together? We're two WILD and CR-AZY guys, let's do it!" and tell us,

So there we are, five unrelated twenty-somethings and two older men. We head to the mini-van: Our Dodge Caravan to be exact. Introductions are exchanged, us already like a family introducing itself to these two men who tell us their names are Glenn and Gary and that they are paper salesmen from California. We all look at each other and pile in the car. Within minutes we're on our way, out of the garage and heading towards the border. The roads are less than clear. Fucking Air Canada.

"So you guys aren't really paper salesmen are you?"
"Of course we are."
"You're definitely CIA."
"Haha, why do you say that?"
"The trench coats, the looking alike. Glenn and Gary."
"How did you know my name was Gary?"
"You told us."
"I said my name is Andy."
"You said Gary."
"I go by Andy."
"Your name is Gary and you go by Andy?"
"No-- I mean Yes, but-- My middle name is Andy." These guys are definitely CIA. Suddenly his phone rings. Gary-Andy answers it and immediately busts into a string of Japanese. We all stare at him wordless. "Oh they are DEFINITELY CIA."
"Sorry about that."
"What was that?"
"Oh, I speak Japanese."
"Clearly. Why do you go by Andy?"
"Because when I was in Japan as a kid, I found out that Gary is Japanese for diarrhea."
" a very good reason....and what does Andy m--"
"Andy doesn't mean anything in Japanese."
"But we're not in Japan anymore..."
"It just kinda stuck."
"Until you told me your name was Gary."
"I said Andy."

And on we went along the road, just the world's worst winter season, most tippable vehicle careening dangerously along Canada's finest snow and ice laden concrete. Heading towards the border. Just us seven random strangers and about fourteen bags in the trunk. This got us thinking:

"The border is going to be terrible."
"Does anybody have anything that is going to get us strip-searched?"
"Don't make ANY jokes."
"We have 3 Americans and 4 Canadians."
"How do you guys know each other?"
"Oh, you know, drug dealers."
"Oh, you know, myspace."
"Oh my no-- I don't vouch for any of these people!"
"Well, officer, our flight from Vancouver to Seattle was cancelled and so we all banded together, rented a mini-van, and are heading home together...also, this kid has heroin up his ass."

The border is going to be a delicate affair.

Another delicate affair is the driving situation. It becomes clear about, oh, say, 30 seconds into the drive that Gary and Glenn have absolutely no idea how to drive on snow. They are two paper salesmen from California. They speed up on straightaways and accelerate just before hairpin on ramps that are covered in white packed snow. They RENTED A MINI-VAN and we failed to miss the clue. We all offer to switch driving but Glenn is ok in the driver's seat. He's, "gettin' the hang of it." Super. I lean towards the middle of the van so I can see, push my fingernails into my skin and stare terrified ahead for the entirety of the trip, occasionally mumbling things like, "you know just because it's black and clear looking, doesn't mean it's NOT black ice so maybe 70 mph isn't the--" and "Must slow down, must slow down, must slow down," and "Maybe the two cars are going 35 for a reason and the lane you are passing in is not a lay per se so much as a breakdown--" concluded mostly with, "AAAAHHG" but always without incident. This draws the question from Ryan,

"What kind of car do you usually drive. Porsche, Honda Civic." We hear no response. Oh. Right. Probably a Dodge Caravan, huh? I feel safer already.

When we reach the border, it is empty, but snow laden. We pull up to a stall and all try not to laugh which only makes us shake. You know, laughing in church and whatnot. Only this time if we laugh it'll be like laughing in church and then getting hauled out of church, thrown into a detention facility and more than likely getting a prostate exam wa-haaaaay ahead of schedule. So we try not to laugh.

"Hi there."
"Hi." Glenn and Gary.
"What's the purpose of your trip?"
"Oh, flight cancelled, going to Seattle, etc etc"
"Ok, and it's just you two?"
"Oh no, we have five more in the back."
"I'm gonna need you to open that back door." I slide the door open and feel very mexican all of a sudden. We all wave.
"How many of you are there total?"
"Seven-- in the"
"And you're all American?"
"Nope, four are Canadian!"
"Aaaand how do you know each other?"
"Oh no, we don't-- at all actually. I mean, we're paper salesmen from California so WE know each other, but the other five don't knwo us or each other at all. Air Canada suggested we just band together...we want to get to Seattle."
"Yeah, I'm gonna need to see your passports." So we do. He plays some games with us, tells us when we've gotten a new haircut or HAVEN'T and waves us through the border. No bag check. No anything. I feel thrilled, but also fairly certain my homeland security taxes aren't being put to proper use. I'll take it. 128 miles to home.

This along the way:

"Do you think Air Canada ever expecting so much banding to take place when they suggested we band together? I'm thinking this is maximum banding right here. We're like a third of the flight."

"A guy walks into a bar. Guy at the bar says there's a weird wind thing out the window that you can jump out, fly around, and it drops you back inside. Guy says no way. Other guy says yes way and shows him-- jumps out window, flies around, comes right back in. Other guy says WOW and jumps out the window, falls and crashes to his death. Bartender says, 'Superman, you're a real jerk when you're drunk.'"

"We sell all types of COOL paper-- we have color changing paper, see through paper, paper with heat sensitive spots on it. Casual Paper is our company."
"Do you sell to the Paper Zone."
"We do."
"I, sirs, have purchased your paper."

"Let's all do a million Borat impressions-- it will never get old. AGREED!"

"We're all gonna die, we're all gonna die, we're all gonna die." (me, staring at the road, awaiting our icy, sliding off the guard rail death)

117 miles and 2 hours later we reach the outskirts of Seattle-- and DEADLOCKED TRAFFIC. It's the kind of traffic you look at and say, "I can't believe the T-Rex escaped the island and is rampaging the I-5 bridge." We sit for 45 minutes and move 1 mile-- enough to escape onto an exit ramp and head towards freedom. We then drive for another hour on the terrifyingly more icy roads while Love Tap in the driver's seat refuses to brake until he is .111111111222234 inches away from the bumper in front of him. He's really getting a feel for this ICE AND SNOW THING.

We somehow make it back and reflect on the trip:

"I really didn't think we'd make it."
"I definitely didn't."
"I can't believe we're here."
"We definitely need to get drinks sometime."
"I can't believe is a website (check it out)."
"I can't believe VANCOUVER ran out of de-icer."
"I can't believe it snowed in Seattle!"
"I still don't believe Glenn and Gary are paper salesmen."
"I feel like we went on a great adventure-- I'm glad this happened."
"Yeah, plus we learned a lot along the way."
"What was the MORAL of this trip?"
"Superman's a dick when he's drunk."

And they all freakishly survived.