Laundry Day

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Things are really heating up around here. Today is a shitstorm. The baseball playoffs start tomorrow. And, the forecast is calling for the low 80s by Friday afternoon.

And, the modern American culture resembles that of the 1980s, with slight differences in context. We exchanged the Delorean for the Tesla. We traded our “Sunday Papers” for a 24-hour news cycle.

It’s still a singles culture, baby! The young urban professionals are just having fun, no strings attached. We’re living in the (kale) salad days. The music is good, too. And it’s all singles. We don’t want the album. We don’t have time for that nonsense. The singles hit us instantly; they’re attention grabbers.

Do I have your attention now? Or maybe CNN got your attention last night around midnight PDT? Something happened in the desert. The events that unfolded reminded me of that Brand New song. The song I’m referring to has the potential to be a single. It’s very radio-friendly.

ICYMI, Tom Petty just passed. And, Hugh Hefner died last week. And, FIDLAR’s “Drone” was licensed for a Toyota commercial. And to make matters worse, the Atlanta Falcons (of Atlanta) lost. Yet, they were 8-point favorites? It was a shoo-in, a sure thing. Or so I thought. I didn’t survive. I was eliminated. And believe it or not, my team name was  “Mary Jane’s Last Pick Set.”

I had a really good weekend, though. When I arrived at The Uptown on Friday evening, the band was doing a rendition of The Spencer Davis Group’s hit single, “Gimme Some Lovin.’” Upon entering, John and Jess said, “So glad you made it.” It was so apropos.

I “lost myself” on Friday night. Hey, it’s healthy to “lose oneself” every once in a while. I was relatively responsible, too. After a long week, I called it an early night so I could get a good night’s rest.

Saturday was a marathon. There were twenty bands on four stages across two venues. Sunday was a fun day, too. When I got to Eli’s Mile High Club, I presented my credit card, and told the bartender, “I’ll be here all day.” She caught my drift. Ultimately, we both knew that “I [Would] Pay In The Morning.”

This weekend, I attended the fourth annual installment of “This Is My Fest” in beautiful Oakland, California. I survived.

I woke up today, and thought to myself, “Thank God It’s Monday.” Inevitably, that brought to mind NOFX. I’ll see NOFX in less than two weeks at the Punk In Drublic festival.

See, today was supposed to be a recovery day. Today is now a day of mourning. We witnessed an American tragedy. And the news cycle is an “American Attraction,” which is a subtle reference to the new Anti-Flag single.

And I always like to begin a discussion by talking about the weather, and then “eaze” into other topics.

Like, did you know that medical marijuana delivery services exist?

I usually work Mondays, but I wasn’t scheduled today. As a valet, I’m in the driver’s seat. As a bellman, I carry other peoples’ excessive baggage. Still, I am rewarded heavily in cash tips. Cash is king. Credit is like a handsome, young prince.

So, I had a lazy Monday. So shoot me. I crafted a breakfast sandwich using egg, sausage, ham, and cheddar cheese. I placed the ingredients between two slices of toasted, buttermilk bread. I dubbed it “The Cardiac Arrest.” I also updated my online profiles. Which reminds me, I’m really fond of the Spotify integration on the Tinder platform. What are your thoughts?

Last week, I worked Monday through Friday. I never work during normal business hours. It was weird. And then I had a traditional weekend. It felt normal.

For once in my life, I [felt] good about myself. For once in my life, I [didn’t] want to be somebody else.

But I digress.

Now, “It’s Monday And Raining.” Not literally, though. It’s actually a beautiful day outside. I think I’ll go for a jog. Nope, didn’t happen. The day got away from me. I was thoroughly absorbed and engrossed in my work. Now, I’ll probably head out to watch what’s left of the MNF game. Then I’ll share this masterpiece with you later.

The world is crumbling.

Life’s a Drag.”

It’s like the Menzingers say, “I am just freaking out, yeah I’ll be fine.”

And, I keep on writing the same blog post. It’s merely a format, an outline for a discussion. And, I’m very subtle, too. It’s a character flaw.

It’s like Less Than Jake, and how they produce the same record over and over again. Thematically speaking, that is. The songs are different, but it’s the idea of being trapped in a suburban hell, and wanting to escape. Then, we opt to return to what we knew all along. It’s like the saying, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” At the end of the day, we crave normality. We crave familiarity. We crave simplicity.

Humans love the concept of being at “home.” To be “Well-Fed and Warm” is to be content.

This morning, I listened to “Clean Up” by I Am the Avalanche, because it felt appropriate. I Am The Avalanche is an offshoot of The Movielife, who just released Cities In Search Of A Heart (2017 Rise Records), which is their first record in 14 years. My friends don’t really care for the new album. They say it sounds too much like an I Am The Avalanche record. Hmmm. The lead single, “Mercy Is Asleep At The Wheel,” is really good, though.

I think I’ll see The Movielife in Berkeley this coming Saturday night.

And, did you know that music is a derivative art form? Musicians don’t want to hear that, but it’s a valid argument. It’s the job of a music critic to sift through and make comparisons. The comparisons should not be interpreted as negative feedback; it’s more so a token of authenticity.

The Hammerbombs – their energy, their stage presence – remind me of The Dopamines.

The Copyrights are in the same vein as Direct Hit!

I couldn’t tell you much about Hot Bods, because they don’t have a Facebook band page (yet).

I can assure you that Heartsounds are a Strung Out derivative.

Meanwhile, Civil War Rust are noticeably influenced by the likes of Green Day and Alkaline Trio.

And, I stick out like a sore thumb at these rock ‘n’ roll festivals.

I’m only 5’5’’, maybe 5’7” if I wear Timberlands. Somehow, I manage to fit right in. I usually don my A’s hat, and I wear a black t-shirt that carries an obscure band reference. It’s all in the name, really. I carry a backpack, too. I stock it with sunblock, bottled water, and a hoodie, just in case the weather turns. It’s good to be prepared.

And I’m not really a punk, per se. You know this already. I had a good upbringing. I’m well educated, too. And, I don’t have tattoos. I don’t have a mohawk, either. “My mom [wouldn’t] let me get one.”

Even so, I like interacting with the recurring cast of characters at these events. We’re all members of the music community.

“All these years I’m living in a community, I had no idea!” said Jerry Seinfeld in a classic Seinfeld episode called “The Alternate Side.”

By the way, the Mohawk bit – that was an A.F.I. reference.

I’m a budding comedian. Could you tell? Don’t you know that punk rock is a form of stand-up comedy? It’s good old-fashioned family fun, kind of like bowling.

And, in case you didn’t know, I named this episode “Laundry Day.” Reason being, I wrote the crux of it while doing my laundry, which is an otherwise mundane task in our daily lives.

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Kickoff Weekend

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Lately, the weather in San Francisco has been “off.” Would you agree?

This time of the year is usually referred to as “Indian Summer.” For the better part of September and October, the Bay Area typically enjoys a uniform distribution of temperatures. The weather patterns are similar from the ocean to the bay, and all the way out to the inland valleys. The days are warm, yet not overbearing. The nights are cool, yet comfortable. If one opts to “go out on the town,” I’d recommend jeans and a light jacket.

2017 has been different, though. The last two weeks have felt like a science fiction movie. On September 1, the Financial District hit 106°F, surpassing the (previous) record of 103°F (June 14, 2000). And the nights have been brutal, too. I can’t “Sleep In The Heat.”

As I drove on 24-West through North Oakland the other day, the San Francisco skyline was barely visible. It looked and felt like Los Angeles. It was really hot. There were periods of humidity, followed by phases of desert-like conditions. Wildfires raged up and down the Pacific Coast. It was smoggy, and downright disgusting to be out in the open.

The weather has been awful, but I’ve been on a winning streak lately. It’s like nothing can go wrong. I even found a dollar bill on the ground the other day. But isn’t a winning streak basically the same as a Losing Streak, aside from the outcomes? No matter what one does, he/she can’t alter the positive or the negative charge, or so it seems.

The Indians have won 21 games in row. They beat the A’s record. It’s bittersweet. It’s good for the game of baseball, but it’s crushing for A’s fans. Of course the A’s would solidify plans for a new ballpark on this historic day in MLB. Hey, I tip my hat to The Tribe.

And, of course, I took The Big Short route the last two days, because the payout was larger. Oh well. What did I have to lose?

Meanwhile, the Dodgers had lost 11 in a row, until Tuesday night. The Dodgers needed a Hollywood ending, and they got it. I was the lone “‘A’s fan’ at the ‘Giants – Dodgers’ game.” I had no business being there, except for the fact that I love the game of baseball. It was Paul’s birthday, too.

I only paid $6 for a nosebleed seat on StubHub, because the Giants are horrible this season. I ate a burrito, and I watched Klayton Kershaw duel Johnny Cueto. And, my friends snuck me down into the Virgin America Club Level. But not in that order.

By the way, the Virgin America Club Level, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend [it.]”

In the midst of my “winning streak,” I went to Luka’s Taproom on Broadway and West Grand Avenue in Uptown. I always go there for the burger. This time, I got the steak frites. I got ketchup, horseradish, ranch, and A1 steak sauce on the side. A-1 is so crucial.  I paired it with a Scrimshaw Pilsner. As I (thoroughly) enjoyed my meal, I thought to myself, “I can’t date a vegan; I need a ‘meat-and-potatoes girl.’” I need simplicity.

And, why do we always frequent the same spots? There are so many options from which to choose. Why do we prefer Restaurant A to Restaurant B? And, why do we typically go to Hotel DEF instead of Hotel XYZ? Ain’t America great?

Or so I thought.

Football is back, my friends. Americans rejoice. Meanwhile, I stand on the sidelines wondering why.

So, I joined a survivor league. I tell people this, and they somehow equate it with Lord of the Flies imagery. I joined two leagues, actually. But I’ll tell you about the one with the higher stakes. It’s 100 participants, $20 buy-in, winner take all. All I’ve got to do is pick one winner per week, for 17 weeks. The caveat is that, in subsequent weeks, I have to pick a new team. No repeats allowed. No reruns. This isn’t TBS. This is fantasy football, folks. It’s also called gambling.

Why is it that most gamblers are referred to as “degenerate gamblers?” Are there any other types of risk-takers out there? How do we classify the Wall Street bigwigs and the big banks? What about the NFL executives? What about ticket brokers? Finally, what about produce managers? Hey, “Fruit is a gamble. I know that going in.

Are we a merely a country of degenerates?

Last Thursday night, my Uber driver was legit. His name was Michael. He was from East Oakland. He lived, “Off of 21st Avenue. Yeah, man. Born and raised.” He’s a little further east of me. I live 3 short blocks from the lake. We hit it off right away. He smelled something, too. I told him, “It’s probably my cologne.” We talked about Oakland professional sports, or the lack thereof? We talked about greed in America. We talked about Bay Area hip hop, the new and the old stuff. At one point, Michael said, “Hey, if you wanna fit in, you gotta stand out.” I couldn’t agree more.

He dropped me off at Drexl Bar on 19th Street. I immediately gave him a 5-star review, and tipped him $2 (in-app), because that’s an option now. And, one should tip his/her Uber driver, because it’s the service industry. I mean, what’s $2? It’s all relative, I suppose. Everything is. My token of appreciation was the same as my base fare in this instance. I had 50% off all Uber rides from September 4 – September 11.

You know they rate you, too? I have a 4.85 Uber “riding rating.” I’m not here to boast, either. I look at it like an “Adult GPA.”

What’s your Uber “rider rating?” Or do you prefer Lyft?

I drink Coca-Cola; others choose Pepsi. I swear by In ‘N’ Out; my friends prefer Shake Shack. Some swipe on Tinder; others look for love on Bumble.

Do you see what’s going on here?

Maybe the Uber executives read my Green Day post. Or maybe they just realized that I use their service A LOT.

It’s like the credit card industry. You want that credit, no doubt (in case “the shit hits the fan”). And you want the rewards. But you don’t want to mismanage that credit. You don’t want to end up, “Throwing nickels at [your] student loans.”

I had never been to Drexl before but wanted to check it out. I figured I’d order a cocktail and catch some of the “(NFL) Kickoff Weekend.” The Patriots squared off against the Chiefs. I ordered an “old-fashioned” with Bulleit Rye, because, “That’s how I roll.” The venue was a bit too trendy for my taste, so I decided to leave. I can’t remember what the score was at that point.

I’m lukewarm when it comes to the NFL; still, I decided to play along this season. What do I have to lose? The Raiders should be really good. But then, they’re leaving in 2 years. What’s that all about? And Millennials tend to brag incessantly on the Internet. What’s that all about?

Yeah, everybody’s talking about It. But I haven’t seen It yet. Sure, I saw the original. It was scary as hell. Did you know “Pennywise the Dancing Clown” inspired not only the band name, but also the title track on the 1991 self-titled debut LP? The reboot always looks so cool, so modern, so hip, so authentic. Does It live up to the original?

Hollywood can never reboot Moneyball. The story is too original, too exclusive. It was, indeed, based on true events. I was at game 2 and game 19. The streak was magical. In fact, I still have my “There is an ‘A’ in Streak” t-shirt. I’ve had that shirt for 14 years. I still wear it around the house. Unfortunately, I had water polo practice on the evening of September 4, 2002.

And, does anyone recall the “Athletics – Twins” box score on September 6, 2002?

See, America “shifts gears” rapidly these days. America loves things, and widgets, and gadgets, and stories that are “brand new.” To be “brand new” is to be cool. To be “brand new” is to be relevant. To be “brand new” is to be fashionable. Brand New are a good band, too. Jesse Lacey and Co. can reinvent themselves at any time.

Have you heard Science Fiction (2017 Procrastinate! Music Traitors)? Better yet, have you seen the album art? The license plate reads, “SOS 666.”

My advice: Stop what you’re doing right now, and listen to the record. Because this masterpiece requires your attention. So sign off Facebook. Don’t reply to any emails. Stop Snapchatting, you Millennials! Please pay attention to what’s going on in this lovely world of ours.

Everyone’s a critic. Some people are cynics.

Brand New are cynics. But, it’s all in good fun; I guarantee it. Their brand of music critiques the state of modern rock. They’ve been performing this act since 2000. The popular thing to do nowadays is to critique the state of America. America is in disarray. Science Fiction accomplishes this brilliantly, not only from a satirical standpoint, but from a musical perspective, as well. The lyrics are over-the-top, eye-popping, and absolutely necessary. Brand New are artists. Brand New are auteurs. Brand New are amazing. Brand New are the “It” band. You should see Brand New before they break up.

Brand New are so literal, yet so subtle. The better rock musicians opt to play that role. It’s the school of life. Play your part. Know your role. Do your shit. Take care of your responsibilities. And have some fun along the way. If everybody did that, the world would be a better place.

And, make sure to have friends in different places, too. You need “connectors” in the different “industries” of your life. It’s like your brain as a file cabinet. Maintain a discipline, a purpose, a “telos,” if you will. And, take the time to talk a lot and speak your mind. Because if you don’t, it’s just the “status quo.” Under the status quo, things don’t change. And, when things don’t change, we’re bound to repeat history.

“Let’s all go play Nagasaki, we can all get vaporized,

Hold my hand, let’s turn to ash

I’ll see you on the other side.”

Yikes.

Americans love pigskin. I get it. Americans also elected our current “leader.” I don’t get it. Ain’t democracy great? See, America was never “bad,” per se. We were always the “good guys.” We never had to be “great” again. We were doing just fine.

Our “leader” is a liar. Plain and simple. And, I won’t say his name, either. I won’t give him the respect, because he doesn’t deserve an ounce. Americans elected a liar. Americans elected a fascist. Americans are idiots for doing this. We live in an idiot country. And, the next NOFX album will undoubtedly be called, Idiot Cuntry.

What a joke. My life is a joke. My life is like a TV show. The news medium in this country is a joke. It’s just a money grab. This is why SNL is relevant again. Likewise, that’s why it feels like there is a revival of sorts in the punk rock community. A liar can’t lead a positive movement for the people. Punk rock can.

Science Fiction was the number one record on the Billboard Hot 200 charts. It had to be. It was brand new. It lasted two weeks in the top slot. And, they probably paid for the top slot, too, because that’s so America. You gotta pay to play, baby! Now, it’s at 97 or 98 or something else. It doesn’t matter. It’s not brand new anymore. It’s old news.

And I’ve told you this before, but I figured I’d tell you again: Brand New are really good at what they do. Science Fiction sounds like a “Brand New” album, but it’s also groundbreaking. It’s different from every other Brand New record.

But you’ve “already heard” this before (see: Deja Entendu), so what’s the use?

And I’ve told you this before, but I figured I’d tell you again: Life is a comedy. Tragedy is like the “Wicked Witch of the West.” She’s just an illusion. She’s a bitch, too. She makes you feel shitty inside. She’s probably a prude, too. Ya dig?

“Well, goddammit you look so lovely, but you sound, you sound, you sound so ugly.”

Isn’t it funny how we pay attention to what we “like?” We feed our “inner child.” We have to train ourselves to be happy.

I don’t pay attention to the news other than CNN push alerts, because it feels like we’re on the same team. We think alike. I can trust CNN to hear what I want to hear. I also watch the local morning news, because I can connect with the personalities, and the community at large. It’s hilarious, too. The local news is basically cat rescues, consumer tips, weather forecasts, and traffic reports. But traffic isn’t relevant to me; I have a reverse commute.

All along, Conservatives pledge allegiance to FOX News. Why? Because it makes them happy.

I’m happy when I’m seeing live music. I’m such a “scenester.” I saw PUP on Sunday at Bottom of the Hill. Then I saw Brand New on Monday at The Warfield. Then, I woke up on Tuesday morning with a brand new hangover. I had never experienced anything like it before. Getting old is tough. I was physically wrecked. I was mentally exhausted.

Still, I had to “face the music,” and the day ahead of me, for that matter. So, I fried some bacon, and I scrambled some eggs, because I’m American and, again, “That’s how I roll.” Then, I toasted two slices of Jewish Rye, and served it with a “schmear” of chive ‘n’ onion cream cheese. Meanwhile, I prepared a cup ‘o’ joe, with half-and-half, hold the sugar. I also had a banana, with a glass of OJ, alongside my vitamins, B-12 and C. As I enjoyed the “most important meal of the day,” I succumbed to the fact that, “My Life Is Over, And I Couldn’t Be Happier.”

I also shaved. Shaving is such a hassle, but it’s well worth it. Afterwards, I felt like a million bucks.

And, I only wear my Menzingers’ t-shirt on special occasions.

And, I tried a “Soco Amaretto Lime” before the show, because I had never had one before. The bartender had no idea what to do.

And, “Same Logic / Teeth” is by far my favorite track on Science Fiction.

And, sometimes, “[I have] three beers and I’m so messed up, get drunk, and I can’t shut up.”

Then, “She says I need to grow up.”

And, I had originally bought four tickets to see Brand New at $54.16 apiece, because I’m a capitalist. And, at the 11th hour, I sold two tickets at the “low, low price of $132.99 each.” Because that’s what the market dictated. The show paid for itself, plus $22.74. I had a payday on Monday, and I can’t even eat peanuts!

And, I’d tell you about the Brand New show, and how they played the deeper cuts from Daisy, and Devil and God, and a handful of the new Science Fiction songs. I’d tell you more, but “You [Wouldn’t] Know.” I’d tell you that they didn’t even play “Tommy Gun” or “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows.” I’d tell you that the girl next to me at the bar after the show claimed that, “Brand New are breaking up, for good this time.” I’d tell you that, but you’re probably not interested.

Hey, “Don’t come running to me when they’re coming for you.”

So, I’ll tell you about the PUP show, instead. It’s more niche, anyhow. It was at a smaller venue. It was more “punk rock.” It felt like a basement show. It was hot. It was hawt AF, indeed.

I met up with my friends John and Jess, and Rene and Dante. The five of us are in our early thirties. My friends and I, “We’re on the long plan.” We had Hamm’s and whiskey shots before the show at The Connecticut Yankee, just a couple blocks down the street. We talked about the weather, the hurricanes in the Southeast, upcoming Bay Area shows, the art of tipping, and the concept of After The Party. They have really good burgers there, too. I got mine with avocado and cheddar cheese. Medium. Always medium.

It was Sunday night, and they weren’t on till 11pm! OMG. The crowd waited. And waited a little more. On the back patio, there was a staircase that led up to the green room. We tried sneaking in, but to no avail.

They finally graced the stage, and played “Guilt Trip,” “Dark Days,” “Reservoir,” “Lionheart,” and “Yukon.” Those are all from the first album, PUP (2014 SideOneDummy Records). These guys toured the shit out of that record. They are one of the hardest working bands out there. They played over 250 live sets in 2014. That’s commitment, my friends. And that’s the key to success. Make plans and keep them. And, connect with your audience. Because everyone is human. Everyone is angry; everyone is insecure; and, everyone feels like they’re wasting their lives.

And, the second record might be superior. Hell, PUP might be a modern, “Brand New” – prototype. They’re maturing, musically and in their personal lives. Interestingly, the sophomore LP resembles FIDLAR’s Too. It’s not as extreme, not as self-deprecating, but PUP are still coming to terms with their life choices. It’s about finding satisfaction and facing reality. Aptly titled, The Dream is Over (2016 SideOneDummy Records), PUP brush on “Old Wounds,” “Doubts,” and “Familiar Patterns.” And, yes, they played all of those songs on Sunday evening.

And, how about when the PUP lead vocalist, Stefan Babcock, crowd surfed from the stage to the side bar, all for a shot of bourbon? Yeah, he made it there and back, no bruises. I couldn’t tell you what type of bourbon it was, but it was so punk rock.

PUP ended by saying they wouldn’t be doing an “encore.” Reason being, (1) “There really isn’t a ‘backstage’ [at the Bottom],” and (2) the audience already knew what was in store. They ended in a blaze of glory, cranking out “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,” which inevitably led into “DVP.”

Brand New didn’t do an encore on Monday night, either. Encores are so cliché, right?

I exited the venue, parted ways with my fellow punks, and told them, “I’ll see ya when I see ya.” Then I opted to take an Uber home. Because when I need a lift, I hail an Uber.

Taco Tuesday

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I don’t have a “real job,” per se. I am overeducated, yet inexperienced. I “learn by doing.” I’m part Millennial, part Xennial. I’m part public school, part private education. I did my undergrad by the beach. I earned my Master’s in a concrete jungle. I’m disciplined; I’m organized; I’m a “culture enthusiast.” I can hang with the best of ‘em, but I’m not really inclined to work for you.

What are you selling, exactly? And, how much are you paying?

See, I park cars for a living at a luxury boutique hotel in the suburbs. The thought of it is extremely dull. Well, it is dull. And valets are so undervalued, don’t you know? But hey, “I’m takin’ what they’re givin’, cause I’m workin’ for a livin’.

I grew up in the countryside, too; now I’m a “city slicker.” Smart people evolve. Intelligent folks adapt. Shrewd individuals can recognize an arbitrage.

As we speak,

All my best friends are “off bread.”

All my best friends work in “tech.”

All my best friends are really ironic on Venmo.

And, of course, “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads.

It seems like, “I’ve got nothing in common with anything, anymore.

As a result, I typically carve out a lot of “me time” these days. Rest assured, I’m not a loner; I’m independent. I jog around the lake, I go to shows, I write, I celebrate “Taco Tuesday.”

I like punk rock, but I’m not that punk. So, last Monday night, I decided to catch Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers at The Greek Theatre. It was the “40th Anniversary Tour.” I had the night off. I got a great deal on a last-minute ticket. I saw Banjo Man in the crowd, too.

Tom Petty falls somewhere in between “classic rock ‘n’ roll” and “punk” and “new wave.” Hailing from Gainesville (Rock City), Florida, Petty came of age in the late 70s and early 80s. The Gen Xers are fans, most definitely. But Petty never really released a “groundbreaking” album, so to speak. He’s always been more of a “singles” guy. Sure, I remember his videos on MTV and VH1 in the early 90s; but at the end of the day, I only know the Greatest Hits. Admittedly, that’s all “I Need To Know.”

I went, mostly because I had never seen him before, and moreover, when would I ever see him again? The dude is 66 years old, after all. And, he had just recovered from a bout of laryngitis and bronchitis.

He was slated to perform three sold-out nights at The Greek, those being Tuesday (August 22), Wednesday (August 23), and Sunday (August 27). Tickets on StubHub had gone “through the roof.” The secondary (i.e. “natural”) market offered “lawn” tickets upwards of $100 apiece. The Tuesday show went as planned, but the subsequent Wednesday and Sunday concerts were postponed until the following Monday (August 28) and Wednesday (August 30), respectively.

The postponement was not only an inconvenience for concertgoers; it was an economic disruption. A handful of original ticket holders could not attend their rescheduled event(s). In a scenario like this, Ticketmaster – the primary vendor – is required to deliver full refunds to its customers. In turn, the supply increases rapidly, and the demand drops off substantially. It’s economics 101. I ended up buying a ticket at the “11th hour” at face value.

“[Hey] Baby, Even The Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes).”

And my roommate, A.J., told me to “swipe” at the show, because that’s how people meet nowadays. I thought, “Eh, I suppose. I’d much rather meet someone IRL.” I simply wasn’t in the mood to “swipe.” I wanted to enjoy the show!

I ended up talking to the folks sitting next to me. We discussed Petty’s career in detail, covering the highs and the lows. We brushed on the “evolving” music industry, ticketing, and whatnot. And, before he graced the stage, they assured me that, indeed, he would play the “hits.”

Still, the online profile is so crucial nowadays. But has the advent of this technology advanced our society? Or, are we more “Disconnected” than ever before? Do you feel comfortable having random people “follow” you on Twitter? If someone follows you down the street, aren’t you “creeped out?”

What are we really trying to do aside from making sure that other people “like” us? LinkedIn, Tinder, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. It’s all personal branding!

I can’t land a job because my LinkedIn is not “professional” enough. I can’t get a date because my Tinder is not “hawt” enough. My Twitter is a mess. But Facebook is different. Facebook is fun.

Facebook is a series of digital “stop and chats,” a form of mobile human interaction made famous on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Likewise, Facebook users are extremely selective. They choose which conversations they want to enter. As such, Facebook is a waste of time for many, unless you are using it correctly.

See, I am an original Facebook user. I can hark back to the early days, when we were merely college students, documenting our experiences on this brand new, exciting platform. The truth is, is that we were guinea pigs in a larger sociological experiment.

So, yes, I use Facebook. But, I use it to invoke irony. I like to poke fun at the world. Life is too short to focus on the negative. Plus, comedy = tragedy + time. (Don’t believe me? Just do the math, or watch a Woody Allen flick). And, I like to poke fun at the art(?) of making a Facebook post. Do people plan these things? Are most people spontaneous? Meanwhile, do most people really care about other peoples’ kids, their houses, and their made-to-order avocado toast?

And, when did avocado toast become a “thing?” It’s simply avocado on (toasted) bread! Moreover, why am I purchasing it for $8 and change? And when did ginger beer become trendy? And when did a “bartender” evolve into a “mixologist?” Just give me a “Jack and ginger ale with a wedge of lime,” and we’ll call it a day.

Today’s means of communication are so concise. They have to be. Nobody has time. Nobody talks on the phone anymore, unless it’s scheduled beforehand. People are tied to text messages, and one-line email responses. I know this, because nobody has the patience to read a piece like this, except my mother. (Thanks, Mom). I’m trying to cater to the Millennials, and they don’t get it! The Xennials are similar; perhaps they’re slightly more open-minded.

What people really need is good, in-person dialogue – you know, a series of meaningful questions and answers. And tangents. Tangents are the cornerstone of a healthy conversation. They allow for a meaningful, verbal exchange. Tangents reflect widespread depth, knowledge, and expertise. Otherwise, why would the individual go off on the tangent in the first place? Tangents generate reason, purpose, and reciprocal interest. 

And, every action is executed by a decision. A decision is man-made, but can also be interpreted through machines, like a Tesla. See, I don’t really care for these cars. They feel too “automatic.” I’m behind the wheel, but it feels as if I have “no control.” Do you comprehend?

And, subtlety in dialogue is integral, as well. But you have to be smart to “get it.” Lucky for you, I’m “over the top.” Indeed, illustrating subtlety on e-communication lines is a challenging task. That’s why people use emojis. But emojis are so cheesy, except for the “cool” – looking, smiley face dude donning the black shades (😎).

I wrote this piece over the course of two weeks. I drafted it on my Android cellular telephone using my Gmail app. As I jotted down ideas, I thought to myself, “Will the kids (of subsequent generations) be taught how to type on a traditional, desktop QWERTY keyboard? Or is it all SMS moving forward? It takes a certain skill set to text well. It’s quite a workout for your thumbs, too. I want to know, will the kids be alright?”

I was on the BART platform at the Lake Merritt station before the Tom Petty show. I was awaiting the Richmond train. I had to get to Downtown Berkeley. It was a 24-minute wait.

By the way, it’s “BART” (Bay Area Rapid Transit), not “The BART.” Only tourists say the latter. But sometimes I feel like a tourist in my own hometown. And sometimes my friends tell me that I’m a “Chatty Cathy.” But my name is Ian, so I really don’t understand their “train of thought.”

And, I know BART “like the back of my hand.” One must board the Richmond train if he/she wants to get to Berkeley. There’s no other option. This isn’t New York City. BART is expansive, yet inefficient. The NYC Subway is intricate, yet versatile. People wait in lines in San Francisco; it’s a “free for all” in New York.

In NYC, I might’ve caught another train. A different line, the same results. There’s so much overlap in the Big Apple. Not in the Bay. BART is a simple rail service that resembles the Washington DC Metro. It offers service from the city center, to the major airports, and all the way out to the ‘burbs.

I wrote the second installment of this masterpiece on “Taco Tuesday.”

I kindly asked the barkeep to change it to the A’s game. He said, “Sure man, no problem. But it’s so hard to watch a baseball team in September that’s not in contention.” I concurred, and added, “Hey, there’s always next season.”

And there really wasn’t much else happening on this Tuesday night. It truly was a “Monday” for the 9-5ers. Labor Day had passed. “Summer” was basically over. Nobody in sight was wearing white pants.

So it goes. I ate my fish tacos, and I washed it down with a margarita. And, I always order my margarita with “No salt. NO SALT!” And, I overpaid for a mere three tablespoons of house guacamole. And, I found a French fry in my basket of tortilla chips, but I didn’t think much of it.

In the midst of it all, I was at peace. Everything was “Back To Normal.” The heat wave had finally subsided. The fog had rolled in. It was a classic “East Bay Night.” I could write again. I could think logically. It was just another episode, “somewhere between the lows and the highs.”

Mental Health Day

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Life is a series of idioms and expressions. It’s just “a matter of time” until you actually get to include these phrases in your conversations.

I love “train of thought,” “on the fence,” and “the writing on the wall.” But those don’t really “come into play” in this case.

I “called off” on Friday night. Technically, it was 12:10AM on Saturday. So, I “played hooky” on the Sabbath. But, I never take “sick days,” per se.

“Fuck it, Dog. Life’s a Risk.”

And, I always thought the expression was “call in,” but nowadays people say, “call off.” Regardless, I had the whole day to myself. I felt fine physically; this was a “mental health day.”

I slept in, but I can’t really “sleep in” anymore. I’m a “morning person.” That’s when I do my best work.

So, I made coffee. I wasted time on Facebook, engaging in endless banter with my “friends.” Then, I watched some videos on YouTube. I really enjoyed this one for its originality and its modernity. This one here is a little dated, but it “set the tone” for the entire day.

I had the A’s game on in the background, because baseball is the perfect backdrop. It was “Dennis Eckersley Bobblehead Day” at The Coliseum. The players wore nicknames on their jerseys. It was kind of silly, but I dug it. Turns out the league-wide gimmick was “a blessing in disguise,” when considering the “black eye” from a few days prior.

I was “in a zone.” I listened to FIDLAR on Spotify. I also cranked it up in the car on the way to the drugstore. Walgreens, not CVS. I usually shop at CVS for the deeper discounts, but Walgreens is a shorter drive. And in America, convenience is paramount.

Isn’t it funny how casually Americans refer to the corner store as “the drugstore” or “the pharmacy?” Yet, we go there to buy sunblock, gum, and maybe a can of almonds (if they’re “on sale”).

I love FIDLAR (2013 Mom + Pop Music). I like Too (2015 Mom + Pop Music), as well. The self-titled record is a gem. Initially, Too seemed like a recycled version of the debut record, maybe a bit mellower. The first few spins were kind of “comme ci, comme ça,” but now it’s “growing on me.” See, FIDLAR are “like a fine wine; they get better with age.” It’s just a matter of being patient, actually listening to their stories. I can’t wait for the next record.

FIDLAR are so ironic. They’re so sassy. They sing about serious topics, but come off as carefree. Their tragic experiences are strategically disguised by way of easygoing, surf rock vibes. They’re so “in your face,” so explicit. They’re definitely NSFW. They’re like NOFX; they’re “the kings of comedy.” They’re self-deprecating. They’re so catchy. They’re not creeps; they’re realists.

And rest assured, FIDLAR are “so L.A..” They’re merely “Valley Rats,” wasting away the days. They “got no job, got no money, got no place to be…run[ning] through the desert trying to find the beach.”

This is the premise of the self-titled record. The lyrics are so juvenile, yet so relatable. On “Max Can’t Surf,” we learn that Max lacks “balance.” He’s also a redhead. He spends his days, “Eating Del Taco and sleeping in, playing video games.” This is one of many lessons brought forth on self-titled. We all need balance in our daily lives.

FIDLAR is an anthology of twenty-something experiences, showcasing extreme highs and lows. The young’uns tend to drink “Cheap Beer,” because they can’t afford much else. They wander aimlessly around town in “hundred dollar Volvo[s].” They sing about girls, namely “Sally” and “Sue.” They hang out from “5-9,” (because 9-5 jobs are not cool). In the process, they get arrested, do way too many drugs, and forget to pay the rent. Musically, this album is brilliant. Lyrically, this album is honest (and a bit absurd).

Too is extremely candid, as well. However, the party is over. This record is all about “coming clean.” In the interim, lead singer Zac Carper went to rehab and got “Sober.” His real-life experiences sound downright scary. He copes today by writing music.

So it goes. FIDLAR grew up. Rapidly. And, the timing of this record is perfect. FIDLAR are “Too late to die young, and too young to burnout.” They cleaned up their act, and released a mature collection of tunes for the “Why Generation” to digest.

I’m a “music nerd,” could you tell? But I’m also a “lyrics guy.” Too is just as important, if not more so than the self-titled effort. It’s evident that FIDLAR are coming to grips with who they are as individuals. “40oz. on Repeat” is not about drinking oversized malt liquor. Instead, it’s about Carper’s fascination with the classic Sublime album, 40oz. to Freedom (1992 Skunk Records / MCA).

FIDLAR are nostalgic on Too, also. “West Coast” references the good old days, driving up and down the (you guessed it!) west coast, playing shows, and “barf[ing] on [one’s] shadow.”

As Too wraps up, FIDLAR acknowledge that they made a series of “Stupid Decisions,” and have subsequently developed “Bad Habits.” But they’re human. We’re all human. We’re flawed. We all have bad habits.

Musically, FIDLAR is superior. From a lyrical standpoint, Too takes the crown.

As I concluded my listening session, I decided it was time to go out and meet some friends. I’d continue the 24-hour therapy session, but now I’d have other humans with whom to interact.

It’s always good to talk to people in real life. Yet, in this lifetime, we prefer to spend most of our time with our “head[s] in the cloud.” We are glued to our email, our social networks, and our group text threads.

In this particular instance, I was on the sidewalk, staring directly at my phone. I sent Nick a message (via SMS), advising him that, “[I] was on my way, [I’d] be there soon.” And then I felt something hit my head. I thought, “Was it a branch? An acorn? A pine cone?” Nope, it was a fresh pellet of bird shit. It landed right on my head. It was in my hair. It was a “shitty” situation.

I had to go home and shower. On the way back, I thought, “Is this what I get for taking a ‘mental health day?’” On the flip side, maybe this was “A sign of better things to come?”

In the end, my mental health day was much needed. But I couldn’t afford to “call off” two days in a row. I couldn’t validate that. I had to get back to work, make that “cheddar.” After all, “I got bills to pay, and I got pills to take, cause I’m born and raised in the USA.”

 

 

East Bay Night

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I missed the solar eclipse on Monday, but I saw Rancid on Sunday night. I had seen them countless times before, so Sunday night was nothing out of the ordinary. It was just another “East Bay Night.

Do you listen to the band in question before seeing the live show? I do. Absolutely. About five days out, I’ll dig into the catalog. I’ll start with the “big” records, and I’ll gradually ascend into the more obscure. Maybe two days out, I’ll listen to something else entirely to get my mind off of the main attraction. Because, “I like to go in fresh!” After the show, I’ll continue to listen to the band for days on end.

On Sunday night at The Greek, Rancid was the main attraction. Interestingly, the concert was billed as a double headliner. The Berkeley edition of the “From Boston to Berkeley Tour” would feature The Dropkick Murphys and Rancid, respectively. Ultimately, the tagline caught some attendees off guard.

Technically speaking, you can’t have a double headlining bill. From a marketing standpoint, it’s okay. It excites the audience; it builds hype. Still, it’s only okay, because on any given night, there can only be one headliner – the band that plays last. Traditionally, the headliner drives ticket sales. And more often than not, the headliner is the more acclaimed act. Years ago, however, I witnessed Bad Religion “open” for Blink-182 at Oracle Arena on the Enema tour. But that story is for another time and another place.

So, as “double headliners,” do the bands alternate the headlining slot every night? Is there regionalism at play? Is it random? Is it whomever is less hung over from the prior night? Is it a last-minute decision or is it planned? Is it at the discretion of the local promoter?

As I settled into my temporary seat (as it was a GA show), I encountered some loyal Dropkick brethren. These folks were under the impression that Dropkick was, in fact, the headliner. I assured them that they were misled, “Bro, this is the East Bay. It’s the ‘From Boston to Berkeley Tour.’ In Boston, they’re the headliners, but not in Berkeley. That wouldn’t make sense.”

See, Dropkick Murphys never appealed to me. I appreciate what they do, but I never took the time to dive into their catalog. “I’m Shipping up to Boston” is the only song that I can sing along to (partly because it’s featured in The Departed, and partly because it’s a fucking ripper of a song). I know “The State of Massachusetts,” too. It’s catchy, but isn’t it technically The Commonwealth of Massachusetts? Again, nothing against them or their music, it’s just a matter of one’s environment (i.e. I’m not from Boston), and one’s religion (i.e. I’m not Irish), and one’s upbringing.

Rancid played a large role in shaping my musical tastes. They’re another gateway band for me. Today, they’re punk rock legends, “That’s Just the Way it is Now.” That’s just “The Way I Feel.

…And Out Come The Wolves (1995 Epitaph) was my introduction. My dad purchased that album when it hit record stores. He was so hip. He still is. For him, Rancid was authentic and cutting edge. Their style mirrored the early days of punk rock – The Clash, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols. You know, before punk rock was a dying breed. Over the years, I inherited the compact disc (CD), then I uploaded it to my iPod, then I sold the CD because CDs are worthless today.

“…But legends never die.”

It’s nearly “[26] Years Down,” and Rancid still have the ability to craft structured, comprehensive albums. Let’s Go (1994 Epitaph) had 23 tracks. …And Out Come The Wolves originally sported 19 songs (the 20th anniversary reissue has 21, including previously unreleased tracks, “Blast ‘Em,” and “That’s Entertainment”). No album features less than 16 audio recordings. That’s impressive.

Nowadays, modern rock albums typically have 10, maybe 12 tracks. Nobody cares about the album anymore. We live in a singles world. It’s like the ’80s all over again! But, I digress.

These two records play brilliantly from cover to cover. There’s no “filler” whatsoever. Indeed, Rancid hit an artistic (and subsequent commercial) peak from 1994 – 1995. Let’s Go and …And Out Come The Wolves are on another level. And as a result, most of the songs from their live sets are pulled from these two anthologies.

I’m okay with that. That’s what any successful act does in a live setting. “Band X” always plays the “hits,” don’t you know? It might come off as being a bit predictable, but the results are in accordance with the expectations. On Sunday, we heard classics, like “Maxwell Murder,” “Ruby Soho,” “Time Bomb,” “The 11th Hour,” “Olympia WA,” and “Journey to the End of the East Bay.” But the night would not have been complete were it not for “Salvation,” “Radio,” and “Nihilism.”

“Bloodclot” was the only song that was presented via Life Won’t Wait (1998 Epitaph). It’s a great record; it just wasn’t …And Out Come the Wolves. It would have been damn near impossible to surpass that crowning achievement.

Instead, Life Won’t Wait was a “walk on the wild side.” “Old school”- type Rancid vibes were visible, most notably on the “Intro,” which inevitably leads into “Bloodclot.” As the album progresses, they integrate a great deal of second wave ska and reggae components (see: the title track, as well as “Hooligans,” “Coppers,” and “Crane Fist”).

Indeed, it’s their most eclectic record to date. My standouts are “Hoover Street,” “Cash, Culture and Violence,” “Who Would’ve Thought?,” “Corazon De Oro,” and “Turntable.” I appreciate the melding of musical styles; I like the fact that they took a risk; but I still hark back to that classic “Rancid” sound.

That’s what we got in 2000. Rancid stormed back with their second self-titled album. It was a return to form, paralleling their debut self-titled record (1993 Epitaph). I love the first two tracks, “Don Giovanni,” and “Disgruntled.” There’s so much continuity at play. On Sunday, they played “Radio Havana,” probably the most radio-friendly (no pun intended) track on this album. This is a “rough-around-the-edges” album fit for long-time Rancid fans. Undoubtedly, it’s hardcore street punk done right.

As the night rolled on, we sang along to “Fall Back Down,” because it’s bound to happen at some point in your life. Maybe it’s already happened. But I know this much, “If I fall back down, you’re gonna help me back up again. If I fall back down, you’re gonna be my friend.”

So it goes. Collectively, Rancid are auteurs. They might not be relevant anymore, but they are still really important. I enjoyed Indestructible (2003 Warner Bros. / Hellcat / Epitaph), and I even bought Let The Dominoes Fall (2009 Hellcat / Epitaph). However, I am not as familiar with …Honor is All We Know (2014 Hellcat / Epitaph), and their latest effort, Trouble Maker (2017 Hellcat / Epitaph).

The cynic in me says that they keep on making the same record, co-signed with the same message. Tim Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Lars Frederiksen (vocals, guitar), Matt Freeman (vocals, bass), and Branden Steineckert (who replaced Brett Reed on drums) continually stress the importance of unity, brotherhood, and hometown pride.

I’m okay with that. It’s a good formula. After all, Woody Allen keeps on making the same film over and over again, and nobody seems to mind.

So, “Until next time, we’ll see ya guys later!

 

 

Green Day

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I never go to stadium shows. Except Guns N’ Roses last summer at AT&T Park. And, I rarely go to amphitheater shows. Sure, I saw Blink-182 at Shoreline last September. More often than not, I prefer the intimate, hot n’ sweaty, punk rock clubs.

Last Saturday night, I had the “Time Of [My] Life” at the Overstock.com Coliseum. Billie Joe played that one. That was the final song of the night, the second song of the acoustic encore. It reminded me of the Seinfeld finale.

I met up with a classmate that I had not seen since junior high. We “pre-gamed” – a healthy dose of beers, sandwiches, and old stories – in the parking lot before the show. But, I am a devoted A’s fan, so it was just another home game for me.

They keep hinting that they are going “tear this place down,” “blow it up” and build the A’s a new ballpark, because Oakland is now a “baseball town” by default. The Las Vegas Raiders are too sexy for Oakland, and Dub Nation presumably “left (their) hearts (and their wallets) in San Francisco.” And, in 2017, “Moneyball” is dead. There’s no sequel for you, Brad Pitt! Sonny Gray was the last key piece of the that era, and he was dealt to the Yankees last week, ICYMI.

If you build it, they will come,” right? But where will “it” be? Maybe on the waterfront at “Howard Terminal,” adjacent to Jack London. There is talk about “Peralta,” near Laney College, accessible via Lake Merritt BART.” Meanwhile, the “Coliseum City” design would require significant gentrification efforts at the Hegenberger / 66th Avenue corridor. (Hint: “Coliseum City” might be the best option in terms of logistical infrastructure!)

The Athletics do have a solid core of young talent at the moment (see: Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, and Ryon Healy), but they need a decent venue in order to succeed.

Likewise, “Green Day” would not have been “Green Day” without the aid of 924 Gilman in the late 1980s. See, the “fortunate ones” have access to opportunities and the “smart ones” take advantage of said opportunities. Opportunity breeds success.

But, do the kids comprehend the meaning of “green day?”

“Green day” can be interpreted as (A) a profitable day at work; (B) a day spent smoking marijuana at the expense of pure boredom; or (C) a “successful,” “mainstream,” “pop-punk” band hailing from West Contra Costa County, East Bay, California.

“(C)” formed in 1986, and hit their stride with their major label debut, Dookie (1994 Reprise Records).

(Aside #1: “dookie” is slang for “shit” or “poop.” In 1994, music consumers bought shit.)

IMHO, Green Day hit a sophomoric plateau by the turn of the Millennium. WARNING: (2000 Reprise Records) did not have any pizazz. It was bland. It was time for a hiatus. A string of mediocre compilations ensued, spattered with International Superhits (2001 Reprise Records) and other Shenanigans (2002 Reprise Records). Green Day came back to form in the post – 9/11 era when a handful of American Idiot(s) (2004 Reprise Records) were running the country. And, nothing has really changed. We still live in an idiot country!

(Aside #2: I urge you to disagree. That is the spirit of punk rock.)

See, in college, American Idiot was not my “jam,” per se. I preferred The War on Errorism (2003 Fat Wreck Chords). I was so hip back then. I listened to “underground” punk rock. I did not listen to that major label, manufactured “pop rock” crap.

I had not seen Evan since eighth grade, when nimrod. (1997 Reprise Records) was popular. We played Little League together, but we were never really “friends.” We went to rival high schools, in fact. “In the End,” we shared an affinity for Green Day.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, alternative rock radio – “Live105” (FM 105.3) here in the Bay Area – was so groundbreaking. Some things never change. The same radio station helped promote the show last Saturday night at the Network Associates Coliseum.

Prior to the show, I posted a Green Day “roll call” on Facebook, because that is what people do in 2017. To many, social media is therapy. It is communication on some level. It allows one to engage with his/her closest friends and re-connect with individuals from one’s past. However, it should not serve as a replacement for real, human interaction.

None of my friends IRL wanted to go. My music industry friends were jealous, and most are scattered all around the country. My “everyday friends” are responsible. They have “real jobs,” girlfriends, maybe wives, some with kids, and a perhaps a mortgage. My “punk friends” are “too punk” for Green Day. And my “work friends” are just that – “work friends.”

I had never seen Green Day, and I am from the East Bay! I knew this show would be so East Bay. There would be a great deal of hometown pride at play. Plus, I had never been to a concert at the Oakland – Alameda County Coliseum. I had to go!

But, how would I get to the show? I live in a neighborhood in Oakland where parking is scarce. Returning late at night is a gamble. How would I get to the show and guarantee a parking spot when I was expected to return after midnight? Uber, of course!

Uber is awesome. In fact, I utilize it too frequently. These days, I only drive to and from work. I have a reverse commute. I am living the dream.

But, Uber is nothing new. The idea is actually very old-fashioned. It is a taxi! Millennials think they are so special, but they are simply hailing a cab by way of a digital platform on their handheld devices. Technically, it is a sexy taxicab. And it is “uber” convenient.

The service, itself, is fantastic, but from an operational standpoint, it is inefficient. The allotted wait time is never accurate. This poses a problem, because the majority of Uber users are Millennials, and these folks take things literally.

After buying refreshments at Lucky’s, my wait time was projected to be “7 minutes.” Then, five minutes elapsed, and my wait time was still “7 minutes.” So, what does that mean? The Uber eventually arrived, after I called my driver, Dawa, to confirm the pickup. He had to pick up “Crystal” beforehand, because I had selected an “Uber Pool.”  “Uber Pool” saves money, enhances the dialogue, but also sacrifices time.

See, I am part of the “Xennial” generation, so I did not interpret my allotted wait time at face value. Still, I would have appreciated a better-estimated arrival time on my end.

It is like “The Chinese Restaurant” Seinfeld episode. The maître d’ keeps reassuring the gang that the wait time for a table will be “5-10 minutes,” but they are never seated. The gang is fed up with the service (or the lack thereof) and eventually leave the establishment. Jerry goes to his uncle’s, Elaine goes to Skyburger, and George goes home after missing an important incoming phone call. The night is ruined.

“Wait times” are relative. They are only estimates. They are a “state of mind.” They are merely expectations. When expectations are met or exceeded, people are happy. When expectations are unfulfilled, people become agitated.

That said, Uber ought to do a better job of framing wait times. As consumers, we are paying for the service, and we have expectations. If these expectations are not met, we go to the competition. Uber is such a basic service, yet this is a major hole.

(Aside #3: Next time at work, when your colleague takes a “10-minute break,” do not take it literally. Interpret it as a “short break.”)

As I jumped in the Uber, I genuinely thanked Dawa for his service and his patience, because it was not his fault. And Crystal was not to blame, either.

She was from Oakland, born and raised. We got to talking about Uber, the underlying service, and the operational shortcomings. We even speculated that “Uber Pool” has the potential to supplant itself as a modern “speed dating” mechanism. It is either that or “swiping right” on your cellular telephone. Take your pick.

I told the duo that I was on my way to see Green Day at the Oakland Coliseum. Turns out that my driver and co-passenger did not know anything about “Green Day.” What?! I had to summarize their whole career – their humble beginnings, their rise to fame, their sophomoric slump, their comeback, and their ultimate status in pop culture – in a 10-minute car ride. All along, I thought Green Day was “mainstream,” like pot and porn.

I “[had] a blast” at the show. They did not play that one, though. Nor did they play any cuts off of Insomniac (1995 Reprise Records). It followed Dookie, but was not as critically acclaimed as the former. It is kind of like Green Day’s Pinkerton. My favorite tracks are “Geek Stink Breath,” “86,” and “Westbound Sign.” But, I digress.

They did play the hits: “Longview,” “Basket Case,” “Welcome To Paradise,” “She,” “Jesus of Suburbia,” “Holiday,” “When I Come Around,” “American Idiot,” and “Minority,” among a plethora of other singles from the days of yore. They also played newer tracks like “Bang Bang,” and “Revolution Radio.” But I appreciate the older stuff. Because I am a Xennial. I grew up on that “shit” from 1994. Dookie was the starter album for modern day punk rockers. American Idiot, while important, is more highly regarded amongst the Millennial subset.

And, the performance itself was superb. They went off on absurd tangents, jamming for minutes on end. They integrated cover songs by The Rolling Stones [“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”], The Beatles (“Hey Jude”), and Operation Ivy (“Knowledge”). They invited “super fans” on stage to perform guitar solos and sing verses.

The production on Saturday night was as much of a protest as it was a concert. I can now see why American Idiot evolved into a Broadway show. Between songs, Billie Joe would literally roll around on stage, citing how “fucked up” things are in America circa 2017. It was punk AF.

I did not recognize the new band members on stage. There were a couple of additional guys on guitar, another on saxophone. In the old days, Green Day was a trio – Billie Joe Armstrong on guitar (and lead vocals), Mike Dirnt on bass (and backup vocals), and Tré Cool on the drums.

The concert was not “sold out,” either. After all, Green Day “sold out” years ago, right? Keep in mind, the Coliseum is a massive venue. It is hard to fill it up entirely. It is an “old-school,” outdated, multipurpose, concrete structure situated in a dilapidated neighborhood. The Coliseum is not “sexy” like Uber, but it serves a good purpose. It will be bittersweet when it goes.

And, Green Day is not my favorite band by any measure. Instead, Green Day was my “gateway band.” Moreover, Green Day is not really a “punk rock” band anymore, but that is okay. Today, Green Day is a legacy act. They play stadiums. They rock hard. They are past their prime, but they are still relevant AF.

East Coast Trek

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“I felt American for once in my life. I never felt it again.”

-The Menzingers

Each baseball position renders a unique personality and carries with it distinct characteristics. Likewise, no two American cities are the same.

The “big men” – the tall, lanky, sometimes overweight “power” hitters – generally thrive at  first base (or “DH,” for all the American League connoisseurs). Second basemen are smaller, agile, and mild-mannered. “Leaders” play shortstop. Third basemen are extremely quick and acrobatic. Outfielders carry larger egos. Center fielders are downright fast. Right fielders have exceptionally strong arms. Catchers are hard as nails. Pitchers are bulldogs. Utility men are so clutch, because they can play a multitude of roles. They have a diversified skill set.

Catchers might evolve into first basemen over time, but not vice versa. Left-handed players are sought-after commodities, but are generally limited to pitcher (i.e. “southpaw”), first base, or the outfield. Of course, a right-hander covers more ground in right field, whereas a lefty is more effective in left field.

Today, we are clinging to this notion of being the “United States of America.” Yet there’s so much regionalism, so much variation at play. Each American city produces a different vibe, a different feel.

A few weeks ago, I went back east for the first time in six years. I traveled solo, and met up with old friends in various locales. Over the span of eight days, I saw five cities, took in three baseball games, and enjoyed a concert cruise on the East River. But, rest assured, I’m not a “tourist;” I only play one on TV.

In Baltimore, I sipped on “Natty Boh” while devouring a side of pickled fries. In Philadelphia, I had a Campo’s cheesesteak (because “it’s all in the name”). I took the “wit wiz and fried onions” route, and paired it with a Yuengling. Late at night, I walked the streets of lower Manhattan eating folded pizza. As Friday night turned into Saturday morning, I watched the sun rise on the Atlantic City boardwalk. In Boston, I enjoyed a lobster sushi roll for which one would die. In the midst of it all, I developed a growing love affair with Dunkin’ Donuts.

This trip was so American.

See, “vacation” is a mindset, kind of like “Monday morning.” People always claim to be “late” on Monday morning because they are still stuck in the “weekend” frame of mind. Work keeps us grounded, but getting back to the “grind” is a difficult task. Still, if that’s the case, why not simply get up earlier?!

On the flipside, we think more clearly on vacation. Vacation is not a “grind;” it’s pure leisure. We can let loose. We can “shrink our brains,” as my Dad would say.

However, “travel” isn’t easy by any means. Baseball teams traditionally have worse records on the “road.” Similarly, west coast elitists are at an extreme disadvantage on the east coast. Sure, the gas is cheap, but the “tolls” will bite you where it hurts.

And how about those “rain delays” during the summertime? Californians don’t have to deal with downpours in June, only fog and microclimates. And, don’t get me started on driving in Manhattan. It’s pure chaos. The lanes aren’t defined on the avenues, and delivery trucks transform the right lanes on the streets into their own personal loading zones.

The thing about New York City is that one single event can alter the flow of the city on any given day. The city is so interconnected that one disruption can interfere with your “typical” travel plans. You might be a part of the event, or you might simply be a spectator.

On Sunday morning, I “did the whole thing.” I went to brunch in Jersey City with some friends, some friends-of-friends, and the friends-of-friends’ family members. The diner was so Jersey. My “pancakes, plus eggs, bacon and sausage” platter was so American.

On the trek back to the city on the PATH train, our route options were limited because the MTA always plays that “game” on the weekend. And in this instance, the tourists always lose. So, we get off at 9th street, near 6th Avenue in the West Village. Any other day, it would have been fine. Walk a couple avenues to east side, and catch the 4-5-6 to the Upper East Side.

Not on Sunday. Not during the Pride Parade. We were stuck. “Literally!” as most Millennials would say. For nearly 30 minutes, we desperately navigated the packed sidewalks adjacent to the cordoned-off, cobblestone streets. It was more or less a re-enactment of the “The Puerto Rican Day Parade.”

In all honesty, New York City is a wonderful place. I was blessed to live there for two years. It truly is a melting pot of ethnicities, cultures, and ways of life. New York is the model city for America. Every resident is entitled to live out his/her “American Dream,” because all dreams are relative. It’s always been that way. Do what you love, just make sure to pay the bills on time.

While the “American Dream” is still a thing, the Millennial generation has taken it to a new level, an unhealthy level at best. We were born with silver spoons. As children, we got trophies when we lost. We were told that we could do anything. As a result, we built up a sense of entitlement.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re smart individuals, perhaps “overeducated.” Still, we’re obsessed with social media, our “careers,” and those cool job perks. We rely too much on technology, and we have very little patience. Everything is “on-demand,” and when it isn’t, something seems off. We don’t use dictionaries or card catalogs anymore; Google is sufficient.

Now the older core of the Millennial generation is burnt out. So, do we settle down like most of our peers, or do we keep the party going?

My journey was so classic. It centered on baseball, our “National Pastime.” Or so I thought.

We live in a fast-moving world. As such, people prefer fast-paced sports. It’s sad to admit, but baseball is no longer the “National Pastime.” In America circa 2017, the NBA and NFL have surpassed MLB in terms of mass popularity, media attention, and general appeal. Bars prefer to air NBA summer league games in July instead of primetime, Saturday night baseball. There’s so much hype in the NBA, even during the offseason, if you can call it that. And how about the NFL? It’s a blatant money grab. The Super Bowl is a national holiday. It’s not even about football anymore. It’s about hot n’ ready pizza, potato chips, beer, iPhones, and the upcoming summer blockbuster.

I’m such a purist. I find value in tradition. I’m so American.

In the old days, ballparks were centrally located in densely populated urban areas, not necessarily “downtown,” but within the city limits (e.g. Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium).

Then in the ‘60s and ‘70s, in a cost-saving approach, municipalities began building “multipurpose” stadiums and domes on the outskirts of town. It was a bit more travel for fans, but these sites allowed for ample guest parking and pre-game tailgating opportunities. Furthermore, the massive structures could cater to both NFL and MLB organizations (e.g. Oakland Coliseum, Candlestick Park, Joe Robbie Stadium, The Astrodome, Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium, The Metrodome, The Kingdome).

By the late ’80s, change was imminent. The Baltimore Orioles broke ground on a new baseball-only complex in 1989. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, conveniently nestled between the Downtown and Inner Harbor neighborhoods, opened at the start of the 1992 campaign. It set the standard for “new era” MLB ballparks. It’s a rather beautiful park in an otherwise underrated city.

Baltimore gets such a bad rap, mainly because of The Wire. But it’s called “Charm City” for a reason, folks. See, Baltimore resembles Oakland. It’s “edgy,” yet “cool.” There are good pockets and bad pockets. But if you find your niche, then you’re bound to have a good time. If you look close enough, you’ll find that “charm.”

Meanwhile, Philly has a very efficient sports complex. It is located just steps from the AT&T SEPTA station (the last stop on the Broad Street line, a few stops after Tasker-Morris Station). It’s not a burgeoning residential area, but there is business at all times of the year. Within two square miles, fans have access to Citizens Bank Park (Phillies), Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles), Wells Fargo Center (Flyers, 76ers), and XFINITY Live!, where Philly sports fans can enjoy pre and post-game refreshments.

It’s nothing “over-the-top.” Nothing is in Philadelphia. Philly is so mellow. It’s very “working-class” and “community-oriented.” The streets are narrow. The J-walkers are abundant. The bars are packed late at night. Philly is an older version of New York City. It’s an “old-school” city that offers an impressive whiskey pour, superior to that of New York City.

And Boston. How can I forget about you, Boston? You bring so much attitude to the table. I feel like such an outsider in your town. You won’t talk to me until the middle of the third inning. I’m not welcome until I buy you a round at the bar. But Fenway Park is a work of art. It’s a masterpiece. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I truly saved the best for last. Thank you, I appreciate that. Still, your thunder and lightning storms managed to hold me hostage at Logan International for nearly three hours, when all I wanted to do was get back to the Bay and “unwind.”

So there you have it. Eight days, five cities, and three key takeaways: (1) I like the east coast, (2) I love baseball, and (3) The Menzingers are my healthy obsession.