We are back from a splendid event in Oakland, CA, involving some wonderfully genial and good-looking people in love, and their family and marriage vows and a dysfunctional photo booth and lots of liquor and cake. I played dance music on four Ipods, two turntables, and a laptop, which makes me feel a combination of shame and indignance- while playing MP3’s does not have the street-level credibility of playing records, I also did not want to schlep 500 records on an airplane. Pictured is a hilarious Ipod “mixer” that I got to use.
Because the groom works for a popular “rock and roll” group (GREEN DAY), a large percentage of that band attended. I had hoped that the presence of celebrities would generate gossip fodder, but in fact everyone was nice and appeared to have a great time. I had difficulty distinguishing band members from their friends and crew, because they were not wearing the eyeliner from their MTV videos, but were resplendent in suits and Vans. There is not a one of them I could not lift, if afforded the opportunity. A blog reader wrote to ask if they are as old as he has heard, but since Mr. Armstrong has exactly one year on myself, I will say that they are glowing with youth and vitality. Or at least, their wives and girlfriends were.
When I got to the Boiler Room last night for five minutes of open mike time, I sat down at a table with two other gentlemen, finding one of them kinda familiar. I assumed it was someone I had seen do stand-up, but then I noticed was that he was drinking a three-olive Martini, which I thought was a little Pearl District for Old Town, and then I realized that I was sitting with Oscar winner Gus Van Sant, and his suitcases, and his PA.
I tried to eavesdrop a little, and was surprised to hear that he was actually talking moviemaking with his compatriot while I tried to memorize jokes.
I was excited that the man behind a Drugstore Cowboy might see my five minutes of stand-up, and I thought that he might be impressed by a joke I was telling in German and decide to do a fantasy biography of my life, possibly casting Nick Cave as my husband, but when our esteemed emcee Kevin Michael-Moore launched into a version of The Girl From Ipanema where said girl is legally blind, my new famous friend found his legs and skedaddled, his attractive drinking partner carrying his bags. It was clear after his departure that every other comic had also noticed who it was, and most had prepared a joke for him, but then we just told them to each other, like usual.
If you want to lose five pounds fast, go to Korea and tell them you don’t want to eat any animals. We were served something at sushi that would still writhe if poked with a chopstick, and I think it’s made me even more vegan. We had Chinese food for lunch, I considered stealing the menu so Beloved Spouse could enjoy the legend of the Frog Congee and Fried Mud Carp Balls and Pig Giblet Soup- alas, I spilled soy sauce on it. I was reading the traveler warnings for Avian Flu, and they pointed out to me that I should avoid eating any raw duck’s blood while in Korea, which is all well and good, but what am I supposed to do with my Thursday night now?
Despite keeping me hungry, Seoul is beautiful and ultra-modern. I was annoyed that we missed Hugh Jackman visiting to premiere X-Men 3 at the movie theatre attached to our hotel by a scant five hours. I would have liked to wave at Wolverine in a sea of excited Koreans. We went out to drink and sing karaoke with people from work, (Favorite odd title: “Don’t It Make My Brown Eye Blue?”) and they sang me a song based entirely on the melody and rhythm of Cyndi Lauper’s She-Bop, but the lyrics are not about masturbation at all. They are about rice, naturally. That seems to happen a lot here, there is a video by a k-pop star called Jacky about Korea winning the world cup, and in it the pop star is running around playing soccer heroically, and the Superman theme is in it, totally without irony.
In the gym in Korea, they have a gravity machine that lifts you upside down, a wooden-beaded massage machine, and the vibration machines with the belt that you see women using on postcards from the thirties, and I saw people using all of these apparatus. They also let you borrow workout clothes *and shoes*, so the overall effect of being in the gym is a little Gattaca.
I left Korea at 2PM Friday, then traveled backwards around the world and returned to PDX around 12:40 PM on Friday, an hour and twenty minutes before I left. Oh, I could never get used to space travel. Anyway, I am back home, and someday I will no longer suffer from jet-lag.
Singapore is kind of a dream-state Fantasy Island. At least, the hyper-trendy-spendy Central area is. Every shop is playing Madonna’s Hung Up. At one point, I walked out of one shop playing Hung Up and into another playing Lucky Star. It was a Material Node. Singapore is named after the word for Lion in Sanskrit, but there aren’t any lions there. It’s super hot and Houston humid outside, so the residents have done the only logical thing, which is build a hamster trail of malls from place to place, and all through the subway, so you never have to be un-air-conditioned or without an espresso coffee drink. One of the disadvantages of living in such a wealthy, capitalist city is that you feel a little like a cog in the wheel of a money-making machine. One of the advantages is that there is a lot of public art and sculpture, and you are never without a coffee drink. Also, it is nice to be somewhere that at least feels more superficial than the U.S. This is one of the pieces I really like, it is a Frank Stella from the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, and to get it all in frame, I think I would have to lie down on the floor, which the employees would really not have liked. On another note, I never cared for Dave Chihuly until I saw some of his work in Singapore. I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.
This is a “Tanuki”, the Japanese racoon-dog. He’s got huge balls and represents good luck, but you can probably feel your luck change just looking at him. He lives in the Japanese restaurant at the hotel where we were staying. Apparently, there is a children’s song about the size and length of his scrotum (tankuki kao’s balls shake/even when there is no wind blowing) and I wonder if it is related to the song we sang about do your balls hang low, do they wobble to and fro?
At long last, I have found my own tube of Darlie toothpaste. I saw a great movie this year called CSA: The Confederate States of America (at the behest of my personal friend Ron Bennington), and it is a study of what would happen if the South had won the Civil war. The Mockumentary style is interspersed with commercials for products, many of which were available in the United States until well into the thirties, and Darkie toothpaste was listed as still available in Asia as Darlie or Black Man Toothpaste. And here it is. Smiling Black Minstrel toothpaste, for your mintiest mouth.
Last night at the giant mall that is central Singapore, we went upstairs to a section called “The Groove Zone”, and I noticed that “The Groove Zone” is really “Asian Teenage Land.” I went B*apeshit. I went to a store called Newbie and a clothing store called Milk and store called Make-Up Store that is a make-up store that carries a brand called Make-Up Store. A nice shopgirl asked if I was here on a shopping trip, and for a moment I fantasized about having the kind of life where I jet off to Singapore to buy Japanese T-shirts and listen to the latest Madonna single in the mall.
Postscript: I never thought my responsibility in this world would be writing a blog as a repository for un-PC foreign products, but a friend has brought me back this item from Helsinki that just would not fly in the States. It is described to me as “salty licorice.” Eccch.
Sign in Boots drugstore in Bangkok: MEN-CONDOMS. You’ll be happy to hear that FCUK has a personal care line, so that you can now use FCUK hand cream or FCUK hair rinse.
Yesterday the office building I was in got a visit from Prince Andrew of England, who is in town for the celebration of the Thai King’s 60th anniversary, and that was odd because they closed down the lobby and I was kind of milling around on the mezzanine with hundreds of Thai people. I was thinking of Prince William, the naughty-boy prince, but this is Fergie’s ex-husband. No word on why he wanted to go to Empire Tower, possibly he just wanted a quick Starbucks.
The Thai people are setting off fireworks and wearing yellow t-shirts that read “Long Live The King” in Thai. The streets are teeming with people, every one of them in yellow. There are reports of price gouging because of high demand on the special shirts. Lance Armstrong would be jealous.
My favorite sign on the train is a little yellow sticker on the end seat saying “PLEASE OFFER THIS SEAT TO MONKS.”
One night in Bangkok will make a hard man humble, but I have seen many more hookers than chess games. Stephin Meritt of the Magnetic Fields is in the Bangkok Post today, it is a reprint of a story from the NYT where he is called a racist because all his favorite music is by white people- It’s a ridiculous argument, because if I omit Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman from my favorites list, it doesn’t mean I hate women- but it is funny to read about him in Thailand. Also, since I went to Stephin’s DJ night at Beauty Bar, I consider him a close personal friend, despite the fact that I was too shy to speak to him.
Y’all know Ronald, right? Ronald is giving you the traditional Thai greeting, pressing his hands together in the gesture that says “Sa-wa-dee-kah!” If his hands were at his forehead, Ronald would be saying that he feels that he is your inferior, but as it is, Ronald feels that he is your buddy.
Ronald is a creepy buddy-clown.
I’m writing from Bangalore, where your 6:45 AM (Pacific) is my 7:13 PM. It’s the extra half hour that fucks with your head. How can I be twelve and a half hours off from home? Here’s a beautiful and intricate Hindu temple we saw. The Hindu people have blue, multi-armed gods and are vegetarians, so they’re my favorite religion at present.
In India, you just see cows and water buffalo hanging out by the side of the road, and I saw a momma cow and a calf together, and that was awesome. Sometimes there are traffic jams because a heifer decides to lay down in the middle of the road, and people carefully drive around it rather than honk or try to disturb the animal. It is interesting to think about how “Sacred Cow” and “Holy Cow” come from somewhere, although my feeling that “Holy Cow” was on some level offensive meant that I spouted it like a Tourette’s victim whenever we were around the locals.
All fans of the Grown-Ups, Denton’s finest ska band featuring a dancing Stormtrooper, will appreciate the fact that every time I saw a Bajaj, (the name that Vespa used for the South Asia market) I was stuck with “Bajaj in the Garage” in my head for the next half-hour. My favorite ad was a billboard with a motorcycle reading “Bajaj: Feel Like A God!”
Another one of my favorite people, Eddie Izzard, says that in order to get good at stand-up, you just have to do it a thousand times. I finally put my mike where my mouth was last night at the Boiler Room. Here’s that file:
When I first walked in with my posse, I assumed that roughly every third person was there to do a five minute set, but it was clear by midnight that every single person in attendance wanted mike time. Straw fedoras and “wacky” t-shirts abounded. The night was such a sausage party that I sailed into the ladies’ room past three anxiously waiting gentlemen, which never happens. As new meat, I was bounced 21 times and finally went on at a quarter of midnight. That explains something about the recording- the reason why it seems like only six people are laughing is that there were only seven in attendance at this point. I was pleased that everything got some kind of laugh, and was winding up for my finish when a cute but very inebriated metrosexual (it turned out to be Bobby Hacker) got up and started taking his clothes off, which was okay, but then he started taking my clothes off and putting a flashlight down my shirt, to what end I am not sure. So I took off abruptly, in the midst of the Emcee yelling “You’re gonna get kicked out again, Bobby!” All in all, I am fairly happy with how it went – I got a good reception from the few remaining patrons and comedians, and I plan to go back most Mondays and practice some more.