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.

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