Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Man's Amazing Progression

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I found this on MSN.com in their Space photo section. It's a photo of the ash plume from the Cleveland Volcano in Alaska, as taken by astronaut Jeff Williams.

Three thousand years ago, Indians would have thought that this eruption was a sign that the Gods were angry with them; in 2006, a man photographed the eruption from space before anyone on the ground even knew about it.

This all makes me think that it's not The DaVinci Code that the Church should be worried about...science is far more dangerous to their existence than any novel. Anyone should be able to see by now that the progress men have made in the short time we've been around is monumental, and human history is, as a whole, amazing. It makes me believe in God and doubt him all at the same time...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend

It was a good weekend full of drinking and barbecues. There's nothing better than drinking outside when it's beautiful out and it's some kind of holiday that revolves around drinking and eating.

I spent tonight, the actual holiday, over by a friend's house in Haledon. I walked up towards his two-family house, of which he lives on the second floor, and I hear him yell, "Hey, this is for you"; I looked up only to see his bare ass in the window.

He had to come downstairs to let me in to the house, and he apparently decided to put some pants on finally (thank fucking God). As we walked up the stairs, I could feel the temperature rising faster than I've ever felt, and when he opened the door, I was hit with a wall of heat that almost knocked me on my ass. I work all day outside, so I'm no stranger to the heat rising from a big open parking lot; when you walk into someone's house, of course, you don't expect to feel that same heat.

As it turns out, the air conditioner had broke, and it was probably about a hundred degrees in the apartment. Normally I might not have lasted as long, but being as it was Memorial Day, I had that feeling that I should just be out somewhere doing something, and I shouldn't just be sitting at home. My buddy and his roommate were there, along with a couple others from assorted places. The sauna like humidity of the day combined with this overwhelming heat in his apartment had left two of them shirtless, just sitting on the couch, and another panting like a mutt whose been running from Animal Control. It was initially funny when I walked in, but it lost its charm really quickly, and soon I was sweating my balls off, not too mention sitting on the couch shirtless.

We planned to go to a nearby bar, being as we figured that it would not only have food but be air conditioned, and we'd be able to fucking breath in there. After a short walk down the road, the bar came into view. Of course...there was a big piece of plywood in the damn doorway, and some fat guy yelled from the inside that it was "Close for renovations". Fucker. Time to walk all the way back.

After biting the bullet and stopping at a nearby Italian restaurant, we headed back to the apartment. An argument commenced between me and one of my buddies about who would be able to kick whose ass, a weightlifter or a swimmer. For some reason he kept ranting about how swimming is the "best workout ever", and kept talking about "stabilizer muscles"; I told'em that Ronnie Coleman would rip the shit out of some pussy swimmer. Even though I think he was just delirious from being in that superheated apartment all day, ironically enough, it was me who was winded from walking back up that hill to his house...I can't seem to walk and talk at the same time anymore, especially up hill. Fucking cigarettes.

The rest of the night was a strange blur. It was so hot in the apartment that I took my own shirt off, and so there we four sat. It was one of the nights that you'd think happens only in old movies about drifters, where the ceiling fan cuts the light every couple of seconds to give a creepy feel, and the lean, haggard main character sits on the bed smoking cigarettes. Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" would play in the background.

One of my buddies breaks out a pipe and starts smoking a strange mixture of weed and opium, something that looks gross and smells even worse. As they smoke it, my girlfriend covers her face with my discarded shirt, and I go outside to have a smoke. That stuff smells like shit. It was kind of surreal in a way, between the heat, the beer I was drinking, and knowing that drugs like that were in the room with me. I don't smoke the shit, so I didn't care, but there's just something about being around opium that intrigues me and disgusts me at the same time...I think it's because the first thing I think of are the Opium Wars in China, and how addictive that shit is. I would never again go near anything that's so addictive, as I seem to like such things just a little too much.

Eventually, I took off, and drove back into the air conditioned world. What an odd night. I'm not even drunk now, although I feel that I should be.

Define irony. Somewhere, soldiers are digging trenches to fight for America, and I'm sitting here drinking. Isn't Memorial Day for them?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Steve's Inspiring Quote of the Day

"All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring. "

- Chuck Palahniuk

The face of disillusionment?
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What a fucking quote, eh?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Wrist and Michael Jordan

There's only one thing that I hate about weightlifting, and that is getting injured and being out of the game for a while. My wrist is still killing me, yet I'm going insane with a kind of stir-craziness that I can't explain. I want to lift so badly, but every time I get under the bar, or even down to do pushups, it feels like the fucking thing is a twig trying to support the rest of the tree- and it's cracking. Even now, though, there is some kind of drive that I have where I have to find a way to fix myself so I can keep lifting, even though at the moment I'm competing with nothing more than my own pride.

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Copyright Phill Stevens

I hear people all the time asking why someone would risk their career to come back early from an injury, such as Terrell Owens rushing back from a broken leg to be in the Super Bowl, or Willis Reed giving that spark to the Knicks in the 1970 NBA Finals.

"Why would you risk everything, your whole future, just for that one game?"

Sometimes, that one game is all that life is going to give you. If you don't make it there, you might not get another chance. I think that most people can at least understand this, and that's what drives them to try as hard as they can to get back. Yet, the people I'm talking about are different.

When I was a little kid, I was a huge fan of the NBA. My favorite team was the Orlando Magic, and I was a faithful follower of the blue and black, a Shaquille O'Neal worshipper, and a Penny Hardaway wannabe in gym class. I thought Nick Anderson was great, even though he missed all those foul shots at the end of end of Game 1 in the '95 Finals, and I still thought Scott Skiles sucked.

The Bulls were the team that everyone loved to hate back then, and as they rolled up championship after championship every year, I began to join the ranks of the Bulls haters. You couldn't hate Jordan; the guy was a legend. But you could certainly hate the rest of them, (including Scottie Pippen, which is still the gayest name in sport's history) in the same way you'd hate the Yankees- too dominant for too long, and they had more rings than they did fingers to carry them on. I got sick not only of the team, but of their taunting fans, praising the Bulls while wearing their stupid "33" jerseys, acting like tough guys at lunch on the basketball court as if they actually had something to do with this team winning championships.

There is one thing, though, that I'll always remember- no matter how much you hated them, Jordan was untouchable. You couldn't despise someone like Jordan; a figurative giant in a land full of men, always head and shoulders and sometimes knees above the rest of guys he played with. When he retired to play baseball in '93,I was thankful. The Bulls reign of darkness was finally over.

Unfortunately, it was short lived, as the bastard came out of retirement in '94. Fucker. Everyone knows what followed after that: 55 points in his fifth game back (against the Knicks no less), the 70 win season, the championship the next year..

However, it was something different that put him into my pantheon of "Tough Bastards I Admire". In Game 5 of the '97 NBA Finals, he showed me why he was the man, and it's something that I will never forget...when I'm old and drunk and babbling, I will remember Jordan's performance. Some guys will blame 'the breaks' when they fail- "That's the just the breaks man". Well, fuck that. Jordan made his own breaks, and he didn't give a shit whether you were with him or not. What made this night special, though, was the fact that this guy was decimated by the flu, and felt like he was going to die during the entire game.

"I almost played myself into passing out," Jordan said. "I came in and I was almost dehydrated and it was all just to win a basketball game. I couldn't breathe. My energy level was really low. My mouth was really dry. They started giving me Gatorade and I thought about IV."

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Now don't get me wrong- I don't remember the particulars. The only thing that I truly remember thinking was that there was no way in hell that this guy had the flu, and that the papers must have been lying just to give the hapless Jazz a hope. The guy scored 38 points while he was on death's doorstep, and that image I'll always remember is of Jordan throwing his arms in celebration after hitting that last three pointer that broke the tie with 25 seconds left; it was almost as if he himself couldn't believe that he was pulling this whole thing off.

The Bulls won the championship that night, on the back of a man with the flu who thought he might drop at any time.

There are other examples that I could come up with, of course; Curt Schilling's balls to the wall performance in the ALCS for the Red Sox in 2004 (one of my favorites, of course), or Emmit Smith playing with two dislocated shoulders, or Arturo Gatti winning a bout after breaking his hand early on, just fighting through the pain. And yet, this moment with Jordan really sticks out for me, possibly because I hated his team so much, and yet even I had to respect the effort. I knew in those moments that I was watching history, and that one day I would write about the day that Jordan risked everything to play in that game, and took his team on his shoulders, and won. When game time came, and everything depended on him, he made his breaks, and did his thing. If he hadn't risen to the occasion...well, ask Bill Buckner how that feels.

Either way, it kind of makes my wrist hurt just a little bit less.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Moving on

It's funny. I take three weeks off from lifting, and my wrist feels a million times better. Too bad my fucking shoulder like it's hanging on by the toughest tendon I've got, and even that's giving out. I'm enraged now at this weakness that my body is showing, so I'm just going to say fuck it. I started lifting again tonight, hitting the bench press, rows, and squats. If something breaks, I'm going to tape it up and push on. I've had it. No breaks until it starts snowing....

This guy laughs at pussies like me:
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Monday, May 22, 2006

The Days of Rocky

When I came home early on Saturday night, I was searching for something interesting to watch. Normally, I'm drunk by 11 and hammered by 2, so I don't have to worry about such things; of course, having blown my proverbially load in the past two days, I was shot. I had drank too much and had worked too much in the past couple days, so in I was, browsing my 543,255 channels that DirectTV offers in an attempt to fins something other than MASH reruns or A&E specials on the Illuminati and the Bible Code.

I turned on HBO, and finally found something cool: WBC Super Featherweight Championships. These are the 130 pound fighters who beat the living hell out of each other and are as tough as coffin nails. The champion, a Mexican guy named Barrera, was taking on a guy who was going to fall off the map if he lost this fight; this was one of his only chances to prove himself. Being as he was not only the challenger, but also shorter, I had to root for Barrera's foe, a man named Rocky Juarez.

Juarez has had no easy life; this made me like him even more. If there's anything that I like in a fighter, it's when they grow up fighting in the streets. In the spirit of the Dempsey's and Graziano's of the world, Juarez was a street tough who just got noticed.

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"We used to box in the streets in my neighborhood. We'd have rivalries: street vs. street, neighborhood against neighborhood. I had an advantage because my grandfather, Pedro, taught me the basics of boxing when I was very young."

He's climbed from a kid in the streets fighting for pride to the man challenging the champion in WBC championships. This 5'5 Mexican- American has literally fought his way to the top, leaving sweat and blood in every ring he's been in. I didn't know this guy from a hole in the wall before last night; I'll remember him after watching this fight. After watching the brutality round after round, it seemed clear that Barrera was trying to stay out of the way of the younger Rocky's left hook, as it'd almost floored him a couple times. Being the veteran, Barrera held on, and was never knocked down; he knows better than to walk into a punch like that. When it came down to it, though, the judges called the fight a draw. Barrera held onto his championship belt, but Juarez earned more respect than I thought was possible for a guy to get from one fight...and with the balls he showed, I'll root for this guy from now on.

It's funny how sports do that. Even I'm not immune to being at least a little anti-Mexican once in a while, especially when I hear the stories from Texas of the illegals robbing shit off the homes of people who live near the border, or about how they want social security but never pay towards its. Still, 20 minutes into this fight, I was rooting for this guy Juarez like he was a guinea from Jersey. He showed heart, and that's a trait that all men from all countries can admire.

In a time where there is so much anti-Mexican sentiment, one fighter (who is a Mexican American) will still wear the colors of America and Mexico on the same trunks, and will still inspire pride in both countries. There were no questions if Rocky was the son of illegals, of people who swam the Rio Grande... no, he is just a great fighter, and he was born in America, so he is one of us. Sports can unite, they can make us look past origins and nationalities, and just enjoy the fact that these two athletes who are in peak physical condition can go through a war like that fight was, and still respect each other. Sometimes, like the Gatti/Ward fights, they can even make brothers of you (even though one was a Irishman from Boston and the other an Italian immigrant).

How quickly we all forget that we are a nation of immigrants, and that at one time, all of us were on the bottom of the social ladder. Don't give me the bullshit of, "Well, we all did it legally"- you didn't. WOP means, "With Out Papers". Hence, illegal. Irishman came over like locusts in the 1840s- my great, great, great grandfather was among them. If they were all legal, I'll slam my dick in a door.

Is it really better to just build a big fucking wall at the Mexican border? Will we look back at this time of "Anti-Mexicanism", and really be proud of what we're doing? Or will we look back in humiliation and disgust, as we do when we realize that Congress, at one time, put quotas on southern Europeans because they were Catholic? We're all people. We deserve a shot at life, and a good one at that. We are the sons of immigrants- do not forget that. Boxing won't let us.

Marciano, the son of Italian immigrants:
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Dempsey, the son of Jewish and Irish immigrants:
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Juarez, the son of Mexican immigrants:
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Work

Working is killing my writing time...four seperate pieces that I don't have time to fucking finish. My shoulder is killing me, and I can't figure out if it's from all the pushups I've been doing or moving heavy shit at the job; it's probably a combination of both. I hate this shit.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saturday

11:05 on a Saturday night and I'm inside. Even though I've drank to drown in the last three days, I still feel like a pussy for being inside tonight. I'm exhausted though, so even I can't be down on myself. Working all day moving cement and stone (all the while hung over and banged out from the night before) can do that to a guy, even to a man who exhibits superhuman endurance like myself.

I'm glad that I'm working full time again. My forearms are getting thicker from moving all the stone all day, and my paycheck will be following suit on Thursday. I'm fucking shot, and don't have the energy to finish this.

Goodnight sweet prince...may flights of angels sing thee to rest

Friday, May 19, 2006

Through Bloodshot Eyes

This morning, my girlfriend brought me to pick my truck up outside the bar I was at last night. I wasn't tremendously drunk, but drunk enough that I knew that if I got pulled over I'd be fucked with number 2, and I really didn't feel like making friends with the Wayne cops again.

Unfortunately, the "beer shits" came right after I started the car, and with a brutal vengeance. I probably could have made it home, but once again, I figured I'd better not risk it. I stopped over at the first strip mall on the way and walked straight into the bathroom of the Dunkin Donuts.

When I walked out, I was struck with images only the morning can produce. Don't get me wrong- as an avid drinker, the time between 6- 10 AM are the worst hours in the world for me, and I hate them with a passion. Yet even I had to admit that if you watch close enough, there's some interesting things in there for the drunken observer.

Walking out of Dunkin Donuts as I was walking in was a stunning dark haired broad, too tall for me but beautiful nonetheless. She looked like she worked in an office, or somewhere where you have to dress fancy in order to get paid; what a looker this one was. I only saw her from afar, but I was impressed anyway. She fit in well with the swarms of beautiful girls that are always going into the World Gym at the end of the mall, once again dressed far too nicely to go workout. That gym is expensive as hell, and gyms like that are gyms that nobody actually works at, but places where people go to check each other out and talk on cell phones between their 'sets'. It's more like a bar with some weight benches than an actual place to lift.

I went into this smoke shop to get a pack of cigarettes after Dunkin Donuts (where I didn't order anything...fuck them. Their coffee sucks). The place is run by a couple of Indians who I assume are husband and wife. When we were younger, we used to steal porn out of the "Adult Section" of the magazine rack that lies in the back of the store; they eventually changed the store around so they could watch it better, and I like to think it was because of our young souls. Normally I wouldn't buy smokes from these assholes, being as I don't like to support their business. These fuckers are the stereotype of what you would think Indian immigrants are, and I don't like that they perpetuate it with their "I'll sell you anything to make a buck attitude". I guess you could call them perfect capitalists, but these two that own the place are really models of classless people. Maybe I'm biased, being as they charged me $20 for a fake Zippo a couple years ago and swore up and down that it was real, only to have the wick literally burn away a couple weeks later.

I swallowed my pride though and bought smokes from them, and the women charged me $6.35 for the pack (I fucking hate Jersey sometimes). She wasn't even acknowledging that I was there, as she was concentrating on running lottery tickets through some machine the whole time, and talking to some old guy who looks like he's there every morning because he's got nothing better to do. Bitch.

I walked out of the store and into an overcast, damp New Jersey day. I lit my cigarette and began walking. Looking over towards the gym, I saw the guineas walking in from the parking lot, their designer gym bags in hand, hair all gelled up to...go workout. Their muscular fellas, but not what I would call "big", and certainly not relative to all the time they spend hitting the weights. I'm half their size and probably push bigger numbers, but hey, whatever. I figure if I gelled my hair like that to go workout, maybe I'd be cool like them. I'll consider it next time.

There's a huge green dump truck in the lot that says, "Gaeta" on the side in yellow letters, and three gigantic black dudes are leaning on it having a cigarette and eating breakfast, drinking their coffee. I can't remember whether the guy who owns the trucks is a cop or in the mob, although in New Jersey it's not like it matters. They kind of nod to me as I walk by...I'm sure I look like the guy that just picked his truck up at the bar, so I look worse than they do.

Women are all over, some with their kids, some without. Most look like "Moms" somehow. Moms irritate the fuck out of me, no matter whose mom they are, so I get the hell out of there. I remember quickly why I like the night so much- these old guys who talk for hours, these women and their rugrats, they're all inside their houses, and there's only people like me left out in the world. The people of the night are far more interesting...God I hate mornings.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My Words Go Beyond Me

Tonight, I went to a bar that I call the Shepherd and the Knucklefucker. I think it's actually called the Shepherd and the Knucklehead, but I never remember that.

The place is smaller than your living room. When you see it from the outside, it looks like a place better fit for Greenwich Village then for Haledon; a brick building that somehow looks short and squat, with an overhang that you would barely notice (unless you're a smoker that has to stand outside when it rains).

Outside the bar there is a plaque that is bolted into the red bricks, and it has a picture of Jack Kerouac, along with some caption that says, "We think if he was alive, he would like to have drank here". Being as Kerouac was a drunk, I think he would have liked to have drank anywhere that there was liquor, but hey, that's not the point.

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When you walk in, it smells how you'd think your grandparent's house smells; homey in a way, but a homey that was familiar to someone else. I mean, it might just be the influx of hippies that hang out there, but it certainly has a distinctive smell to it, especially for a bar. Now that smoking is banned, bars smell almost like other places- neutral (or "fresh" depending on your point of view). No, not this one. It smells like it looks: kind of rangy, dirty, crowded, and filled with people that won't ever go up to the rich kid bars like the Greenhouse or Casey's.

The first time I went in there, I was half drunk already, so I couldn't really figure out how cool this place was. The second time though, which was tonight, I was a little straighter, so I could see what was going on a little better. The last time I was there, I remember texting myself the word, "Words". But then, I was drinking...so I completely forgot what it meant or why I text messaged myself it. I knew that it was something important that I had wanted to remember, but that was it. I gave up, but kept it in the back of my head to look for the next time.

I knew, of course, that it had something to do with the bathroom. The bathroom at this place is covered in graffiti, so much so that if you wanted to write something you would really have to struggle to find a spot to carve. However, this is not some bullshit gangsta graffiti that says, "Reppin 201 Jersey", as you so often find in New jersey, nor is it some, "call 978-454-9696 for a great blowjob" graffiti. It is the kind of graffiti that souls who have read too much know, the kind where you pick that one quote from some book that you really dug and write it everywhere. Well, these walls promote that.

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On these walls, there are all kinds of things. There are anti-Bush epithets right alongside quotes from Faulker and Wilde, there are quotes that guys made up, quotes from Hemingway, and there is, of course, once in while, talk about blowjobs (this is New Jersey, I mean. Apparently, we're all about "good head".) Either way, as soon as I walked into the bathroom, I knew that the "words" thing came from here. Being as I know myself pretty well, I knew I would find it quickly; I took out the camera phone while I was pissing, figured on trying to at least give an impression of this bathroom.

I figured it would be at eye level since I rarely look higher than my 5'6 stature when I'm drunk; sure enough, I found it there. The quote was as beautiful as it was the first time I saw it, and it meant as much the second time: "My words go beyond me". For those of you that aren't writers, you might not dig this as much. For those of us that are drunken bards, however, it means the world.

I have doubted the existence of God since I could think straight, and I have known that I am a cursed writer from the beginning, and so these words meant more to me than I could say. It was almost as if it was God himself calling out to me, saying that what I write now will live and breath far beyond my earthly body. If you study writers enough, you realize that most of us die penniless, and we are rarely appreciated until a couple centuries after we died in the slums. This one quote, however, gave me hope; no matter what I do, history will verify that what I say will live on through the ages, and that no matter when I die, my words will not only continue, but take on a world of their own, completely independent from their drunken author. It is, in some ways, a comfort; in another way, it proves, at least to me, that God exists.

When I came out of that bathroom, my camera phone was safely stowed away, so that no one can see that this drunk is taking pictures of the bathroom walls (unless they see that picture above, of course). As I walked out, some dude is walking in, and, being as there is no lock on the bathroom door, I'm glad that I averted an embarrassing situation by leaving when I did. With a nod of, "It's cool, man" I let the guy into the bathroom and take off.

The first thing I saw upon reaching the bar was two bearded guys wailing on the bar itself like it was a massive drum in the Congo. I wasn't in the bathroom for that long, of course, but in my absence these guys claimed the spot near the end, and one was playing harmonica while the other hammered on the dark wood. Both were shorter than me, and had that leanness that comes either from too many nights in the woods or too much coke and acid (or both). The guy with the smaller beard was playing the harmonica, and the other fella was hitting and smacking with some kind of rhythm that we've all long since forgotten; his hippie buddies were just sitting there, nodding their head and digging what is going on. I don't remember what song was on the jukebox, but when it ended, they just start nodding their heads and talking about some bass riff that I didn't even hear, saying how the other one was 'right on". When they finished, I heard a guy from the other end of the bar yell something about how they should take a shower. Obviously that guy's never been here before.

Sitting there, me and my buddy were talking about starting a magazine that will indulge in the greatest sin of America- sports gambling. He keeps talking about what's going on, and how much money he's got at stake, and I just thank fucking Christ that it's not me with $42,000 on the line, because I'd be in debt till I'm 40 if it failed. Being as it's his money, of course, I just kept saying that we shouldn't worry, because if we work hard enough, and are good enough, we'll make it just fine. It's a lot easier to say that when it's someone else's money. Hell, I should be writing for that magazine right now, but this is just coming easier at the moment.

As I looked up, behind me and to the left, I saw a picture of Hunter S. Thompson hanging crooked on the wall. Tacked on to the bottom of the frame is the obituary that came out of the Bergen Record after he committed suicide last year; somehow, I could tell that the picture was there first, and the obituary was put on after it happened. It was the same obituary that I have on my wall in my room. This man was my idol, one of my favorite writers, and he ended up dead at the age of 67 from a self inflicted gunshot wound.

"67. Seventeen years more than I need or wanted. This won't hurt at all". This is from his suicide note, the part that has somehow stuck with me, the part that I have unwittingly memorized. Someone behind me mentions that Thompson got his start doing freelance sportswriting, writing about teams and such; I wonder what people will think of me after I'm gone, and if in fifty years, my picture will be on the wall at some hippie bar in a shit town like his is. I wonder whether he would be impressed or disgusted.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The NSA

Recently I was told by a person of the Conservative nature that I should move to Canada, being as I said that I question everything that the government does.

My immediate reaction was to be my condescending self and tell this guy that people who don't question everything are wasting my air, and that he should promptly fuck off (I did this, of course). Honestly though, it irritated me a lot more than I thought it would and not because this guy told me to move out of the country. What truly bothered me is this cult of apathy that is going on now in regards to politics in general.

Is this still America? Aren't we supposed to question everything? Isn't that whole "Freedom of speech" thing what this country was built on in the first place? If not, then maybe I should move to Canada, because I obviously don't know American history that well.

The freedom to question our leaders and to demand that they be accountable for their actions is what is at the very heart of "being American". The right to burn the American flag is the reason that I love that very same flag- we are allowed to protest. Hell, we shouldn't even be allowed to protest, we should be encouraged to protest.

Don't get me wrong, of course- if you believe nothing else, believe that the last thing the government (or any government for that matter) wants is an aware, active public. They don't want angry masses determining what laws they think are just; they want the public watching American Idol and rooting for that dude that sings Queen songs real good.

This is being proved more and more currently, with the disgusting mess that is the NSA spying program. The folks who defend this use the classic line, "If you're not doing anything wrong, than you shouldn't be worried". The stupidity of that statement is the fact that they don't realize who gets to define right and wrong, and that is where the true danger lies.

To me, Al-Qaeda is fucking dangerous. If there is anyone to track, it's them. It is safe to say that I hate these people, these zealous purveyors of a form of an organized religion that is meant for killing (although honestly, which one isn't?). If you want to listen in on them...I can deal with that.

However, who's deciding who else they should listen to? Why are the calls of average Americans being logged? Simple: so the government can know what its citizens are doing. Freedom of speech has always been a myth - the government has killed or jailed many people who have said things that are potentially dangerous to its existence. There were points in the 1800s when Union members were jailed because the bosses thought it to be a "Communist rising". In the 1950s, many Hollywood types were "blacklisted" for allegedly being part of the Communist Party. Every black movement in history has been under the watch of the government; some, like the Black Panthers, were murdered in their sleep for thinking how they did.

There are a million other historical events where the United States Government has abused its power; why would anyone think that this administration would be any different? If anything, they have proved themselves especially untrustworthy, with their ridiculous war, their tax cuts only for the rich and powerful, and their consistent lies about what is going on in the world. That being said...why the fuck would you give them your phone records?

It is very disappointing to me that people have all this trust in the government and its agencies, although I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I think it was the white trash piece of shit Britney Spears that remarked, "I think we should just trust our government and our President" a while back (thank God she's got tits, because she's certainly got nothing else going for her). I don't think most regular people pay much attention to history, but if they did, they'd realize that power corrupts. Every government that has gotten too powerful, or had its people trust it too much, has ended up in rubble at the end of an uprising. Rich and powerful people are dangerous for the simple fact that you can't trust them to care about the working masses, but you can always count on them to care about themselves. Don't get me wrong- I'm not sure what the solution is here. I don't know whether we need a revolution every hundred years to keep people in line, or if we can solve this simply by tightening laws on lobbyists and campaign contributions.

What I can say is that the American government has proven time and again that it is not to be trusted. Saccho and Vanzetti, the blacklisting of Communists, McCarthyism, the Pentagon Papers, the Gulf of Tonkin, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and now Iraq, have all proven that the government of this country will take power when we let it and abuse it immediately after. We cannot trust the NSA to be fair in its eavesdropping, and we cannot trust the government when it sneaks into our private lives. This kind of thing crosses party lines, and should concern everyone who calls themselves Americans - get off your asses, and start making some noise.

Unless, of course, you hear that clicking in the background on your phone. Then, you might just want to shut up for a while.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Holes

I tried all week to sit down and write something worthwhile, but it wasn't happening. I've got a piece about some conservative piece of shit who told me that I should leave the country because I'm as liberal as I am, but I don't know when that's going to be up. My story of St. Patrick's Day is mired in sloppy drunken memories that I can't piece together in a way that makes it seem any less foggy then it does in my head. Fucking drinking...

The parents get back today, which should be interesting. I dig when they go away; it's like my little vacation from everything when they're not here, and I don't mind. Four days of drunken debauchery is enough for me though, and I'm ready to calm myself down and start working out again. Trying get my shit straight from being blitzed for a week is like climbing out of a big hole in the sand....you think you're almost out, then the shit slides right back in on you, and you're back where you started.

Although I do have a story on the subject of holes that I thought was pretty humorous. The other day, I had to dig holes in the back yard for the coming addition to the house, and they were about 12'' wide by 3' deep. Of course, this quickly reminded me of why I want to graduate college and get a decent job: I fucking hate digging holes. Anyway, of course, I they're about 2 feet apart from each other, and they effectively close off one side of my yard, being as I didn't want to take the chance of falling into them when I wasn't paying attention (which can be quite frequent). This works fine when I'm sober. When I'm drunk, it fails miserably.

I don't know why I was over on that side of the yard, but then I don't know why an open beer was in my center console of my truck on the morning either, so I guess it was just that kind of night. But, sure enough, I'm drunk, bullshitting around the yard because we started a chiminea fire, and I looked away from my steps at the wrong time. *WHAM* Right into one of those fucking holes. When I hit the ground, the bottle in my hand shattered, I slammed my elbow onto a rock, and I just lay there for a second, incredulous not only at my shit luck but also by own incredible stupidity.

In my mind, I just kept saying to myself, "You asshole. You dug these holes. You knew where they were. And yet, no one falls into them but you." I'm sure that's saying some kind of metaphorical bullshit about my own life in general, but I'm going to ignore that idea because I just thought of it.

My elbow is still sore, but the cuts are healing on it. My jeans got fucked up pretty bad, my shoulder was bruised, and I was sore in my ribs for a bit. It was worth it either way; this weekend was fun, and I've got yet another drunk story to tell. It'll be good to have people in the house again though, because I don't like when things are so quiet all the time.

But when the contractors start that addition, I'm going to shake my head and smile when they fill those holes up with concrete for the footings. Ohhh, the drinking life. What a trip.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Heroes

Jack Kerouac
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Thomas Paine
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MLK Jr.
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Tommie Smith and John Carlos
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Bush Hits New Low

When you combine this with the fact that George II has received the lowest poll numbers in his history, it makes for a good week. It seems that all the regular folks everywhere are realizing the bullshit that's gone on in the past six years, and they aren't happy. 31% of America still thinks he's good at what he's doing, and the rest are pissed.

It's kind of funny, of course, because I've been screaming about this shit for the entire time. They called me insane when I said Iraq was no threat to us, and that they didn't have any weapons. They called me a communist when I said it was all about oil, and that this war has far more to do with a long range strategic advantage in the area where oil was prevalent.

I find it funny that four years later, after the "Mission Accomplished" banner that that fucknut put up on the carrier, everyone is thinking like me, and wondering why the hell we went there.

What perturbs me the most was the way it came up. I never understood where Iraq came from, and no one can explain it to me. One day, the news was full of talk about Afghanistan (the war that we should have fought instead of the Northern Alliance) , and the next it was about how we should be invading Iraq. I don't know when Bush believed that he could invade another sovereign state without a serious reason, but he's learning now.

Just remember, all you folks, that there were people out there like me who called George II a fascist from the first second, and said that his views and policies would be the death knell of America. Thank God he's out, and that old pendulum seems to be swinging again, yet this time, far, far left.

We are coming...

Shindig

Finally, I have this whole damn house to myself. The parents are gone for a full week, and this makes me a happy guy. I'm never here too much anymore anyway, between working and school and what not, but it certainly feels good regardless. The air is just a little fresher today, my mood a little higher, and soon enough, I'll be a lot drunker.

This should be the start of a damn out of control week for me; I don't have to worry about catching shit about anything. I may not be sober all that much this week...and I'm down for that. Hell, I might even go experience the strip club for the first time ever this week. Right on.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Crazy Bitch

These are the darkest days that Rock N' Roll has had in years. There were golden days once, when Led Zeppelin was doing coke off stripper's nipples, then going out to play "Rock N' Roll", or when Jim Morrison was drunk, singing Roadhouse Blues, or when Skynyrd blew The Who off the stage, with Ronnie Van Zant singing barefoot so he could "Feel the heat comin off the stage". There has been excellent rock n' roll every decade since the stuff came out in the 50's; even the 90's saw AC/DC still rumbling, Oasis rising, the Black Crowes still rocking, and the emergence of Kid Rock as a powerful performer.

Unfortunately, everything has been turned upside down in these last few years. The whiny "emo" bands have emerged in place of the boy bands, and this new brand of pussy punk has emerged as the dominant force in the genre. I mean, even look at the names: Yellowcard? My Chemical Romance? Fall Out Boy? Are you kidding? These are the ones who are inheriting the Rocking and Rolling torch?

To be plain, these bands suck. They whine about girly things, they're always crying, and always...well, being "emo". Now, I've got a girlfriend; I don't need this shit in a rock n' roll song. What I want is all out, tattooed, badass motherfucker I'm-so-drunk-I-can't-even-fuck-gimme-some-coke-and-send-over-the-broads rock n'roll.

Who shall inherit this proud mantle!?

I've got your answer, and it's these fucks:

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This band put out two albums that smoked (and by smoked, I mean smoked) The first was self titled, and the second was called Timebomb. When it seemed like they were poised to break into the mainstream rock n' roll big time...they fell off the face of the planet.

I always checked the racks at Borders, looking for the new CD that I was sure they would eventually come out with, the one that would put them over the top and bring old fashioned rock back into the world. It never came. I had lost all hope.

For four years I wandered on, despondent about the hopes of rock, and watched as Oasis broke up, the Black Crowes broke up, and, even though Kid Rock pushed on into Southern Rock, it wasn't enough to stem the tide of whiny emo bands that have flooded the airwaves in the past two years. They broke the levies that keep shit music in the back of the music racks and away from the radio, and quickly took over not only MTV, but all the other music outlets they could. Before I knew it, all I heard were songs about breakups with girlfriends and some stupid thing mentioning "Ocean Ave". It was all G-rated music that little kids could sing along to and not get yelled at; there were no swears, and the guys that were actually in the bands looked like ten year olds themselves, with their little Zelda haircuts and pop punk style.

Just when I believed that rock was destined to die an especially pussy-ish death, that old band arose like a phoenix from the ashes that we'd thought had blown away. That band has returned triumphantly, and, like true champions of the cause, released their first song (which is about fucking strippers). I haven't got the album yet, but it was released last week, and what I've heard is astounding. It is a brutal, all out assault on all the sandy-vagina-ed crying bullshit that rock has become, and it brings it all back home to the roots of tattoos, drinking, strippers, and living. Joshua Todd is back out in front screeching his wild mantras like few others can do, with CHAOS tattooed on his stomach and the suicide king on his back, and his wail should cause the music industry to tremble and break. They are proving, once again, that there is room in this world for old fashioned hedonism, and that there is even more room for it when you combine it with some badass riffs from guitarist Keith Nelson.

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This band is a true throwback to the times when rock n'roll ruled all it saw, and there was no room for anything else. They play in the spirit of Zeppelin, AC/DC, Guns N'Roses, and all the other bands that represented not only the excesses of rock, but also the inimitable talent and beauty that is inherently possible when a group of tremendously talented individuals get together to drink and jam. They are X-rated, they are wild, and they don't care. Support them. They are Buckcherry.



Hey, you're a crazy bitch
But you fuck so good I'm on top of it.
When I dream I’m doing you all night
Scratches all down my back to keep me right on


- Buckcherry, Crazy Bitch

Monday, May 08, 2006

Tattoos

I never believed people when they used to say that tattoos are fucking addictive, but yea, it turns out they are. I got one when I was 18, and I've had the itch for another one since then. Not knowing what I wanted to get was what was holding me back (that and my mother saying she's going to throw me out if I get another one), but now I've got the idea for what I want.

Of course, tattoos seem to be a very polarizing subject. I hear a lot of people saying that they don't carry the stigma that they used to, that they aren't so much for the trailer park anymore as they are for lawyers and doctors and what not. Apparently, now it's "OK" to have tattoos, and that they aren't looked down on so much as they had been previously.

Personally, I don't like this. I got a tattoo because I didn't want to be like these boring old fucks, these cute little family men who practice law or some other reputable profession, all the while sporting their off-the-wall tribal armband, or maybe even a little sun on their shoulders. I've seen them come into the Garden Center, driving their Mercedes, skinny except for the gut that accompanies a desk job, wearing their tank tops to show off the colorful markings that shows that deep down inside, they're really a masculine, rebellious guy.

No, I want my tattoos, and I don't want them to become reputable and acceptable. I like when people look at me differently, when they think that I'm not exactly part of the main stream. The same look they give me for having tattoos is the same look they give me when I say "fuck" fifteen times in a sentence, or light a cigarette in a crowded place, or when I pull up next to them with Motorhead blaring out my truck (it is one of my greatest joys to see people scowl at me, then roll up their windows and put the air conditioning on so they don't have to hear the music). It's giving the world a big "fuck you" without even having to say anything.

So now the only thing that I can do is to just get more, and make them visible; the "professionals" haven't yet taken the stigma out of having ink where the whole world can see it every time they look at you. Some folks tell me that I have to watch where I get them, because, "You never know, you might work in a place where that's like, unprofessional or something, and then what are you gonna do?" Honestly, if they can't deal with a guy that has tattoos, something tells me that they're not going to be able to deal with a guy like me anyway. If they couldn't look past some ink on my arm, would I really want to work there anyway?

The next tattoo, minus that background:
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

He Drinks With a Passion

I was once in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot having a smoke when he pulled up next to me. He was a nerdy looking type, blue collared shirt, glasses, child molester comb over. I watched as he reached into the back seat of his little Honda and pulled out “The Club”, the infamous locking device used for securing cars.

What I saw next was an exercise in patheticness as this asshole trued futilely to get the thing to work for him and not against him. Twisting, turning, smacking himself in the chin with it, leaning back between the seats so he could turn it around… he did everything to try and get this thing on there. After fifteen minutes, he’s finally got it, and so he gets out the car with his refillable Dunkin Donuts travel mug and ambles in to get his coffee. Two minutes later, he is back, and warring with The Club again, this time going through fifteen different keys trying to unlock it. All of this in suburban Wayne, where carjacking happen in fairy tales and Paterson.


Things like this make me just shake my head. This guy, this one asshole in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot, has proved that he’s completely lost with his life. He wasted twenty minutes there messing with that stupid piece of metal, and that is time in his life that he is never going to get back, never going to see again. That twenty minutes was time that this lost soul will never recover, and I bet on his deathbed, he will be able to think of a hundred different ways he would rather have spent it. At least if the car got stolen, he’d have had a story out of it.

Sometimes, people ask me, “Why do you smoke? That’s so bad for you”, or “Why do you get tattoos? They’re nasty”, or “Why do you drink so much? Are you, like, an alcoholic or something?”. I want to smack them. Others ask me why I weightlift so much- “Don’t get too big, it’s weird when guys are too big”. I never answer these questions directly. Maybe I’m like Kerouac, I say, in that, “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn burn burn”.

Or, maybe I just hate being boring. I ask them similar questions, of course, which make them as uncomfotable as they make me.

"Why do you have a to-do list and a schedule set up for next week? You might be dead in an hour. If it's not important enough for you to be able to keep it in your head, then it wasn't that important, was it?" No one likes admitting this, but it's true.

They'll follow it up with some prudish comment about how cynical I am, and then brush me off. Cynical? I think it's realistic, and it frees me from many of the things that hold them down. I don't care what happens next week, next year, or whenever, because I might not be around to see it. Therefore, I have no other choice but to live for today.

People like Club Man are people who never take chances, and have never even considered "living for today". He probably doesn't drink because he doesn't like losing control of himself, and he doesn't smoke because it gives you cancer (sshhh, don't tell him that you die anyway). He was so worried about his damn car getting stolen that he probably even forgot why he came there, or how good that coffee was, or how much he'd like to go to the strip club right now. There are more people like this out there than I like to think.

I constantly think about life, and wonder what the true purpose of the thing is, but I have yet to come up with any solid answers. However, the one personal conclusion I've reached is this: I want to live passionately, whether others think it's right or wrong. I want to live to the point where I stare death in the face; I don’t want two beers; I want twenty. Why? Because I like to. When I work out, I don’t want to do some pushups, I want to deadlift 500 fucking pounds. Why? Because I think I should be able to.

Most people never come anywhere close to their potential in what they do. They become mired in all the bullshit that life throws at you, they get stuck in middle management, the forget what living actually means. Many live vicariously through their kids, or, even worse, have their wives tell them how to live.

"Don't eat that, it's bad for you" , or "You had how many beers?", or even better, "Stop wasting your money".

How about this? "Go fuck yourself woman, I will do what I want." Might kill'em, but I say it's worth a shot.

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If I'm not reading or writing, I'm weightlifting or going out. I don't want any dead time, I don't want any boring moments. I don't want to sit on the couch and watch TV; there's knowledge out there, ideas, revolutions, strippers, drug dealers, narcs, politicians, money... I want to enjoy all of it, learn from it, write about all of it, and smile when I look back on it.

I want the experience. Life is incredibly short; I found that out the hard way last year. We can die at any time, for no reason, and without cause. Life is not like the movies, the main characters don't always live, and there isn't a happy ending ever time. Because of this, it’s my job as a writer to live, to be at the heart of whatever is going on, because most guys are too tied down to be able to. I'm able to get the tattoos, to drink until I can't move, to get in a fight, and still find a poetic way to say it in the morning. Hopefully, if I do that well enough, some poor bastard sitting in an office reading this in between doing work and looking at porn is going to snap, and say, "Fuck this, this is my life, and maybe I'll live it my way."

I want the life that feels like you just took a double shot of whiskey, and it burns all the way down, and only warms you at the end. I've got a Jihad on being average, and I want no part of the safer things in life; it's only the ones that walk on the edge of the cliff and look down who can really feel that passion that no other creature on this Earth can feel. As another racous soul has said, "You got one life here to make it for the movies".

And, if I ever buy a CLUB... just fucking shoot me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Will the Democrats rise?

This seems to be the great question of the age in regards to politics lately: Why don't the Democrats win elections anymore? Most of the country doesn't appear to like our glorious leader George II, so how come he is still around? How the hell did they lose the 2004 election when the thing was just laid out for them? They seem, kind of like the New York Jets, to be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and I've got some ideas about why this is. Some may be speculation, and other pieces I know are true. Either way, never let the crazed fat cat Republicans convince you that America is getting "more Conservative", because that's simply bullshit concocted by the Republican war machine in order to discourage those of us who will continue to fight the good fight.

Some say that the Democrats have lost touch with regular people, the everyday fellas who go out and break their asses all day in the sun, then just want to go home, have a six pack, and watch Gladiator. Is this true?

These guys probably voted Democrat. Would they now?
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To a degree, I have to say that Democrats have lost the vote of the men in this country. They are no longer seen as the workingman's party, as the party of those of us who see more in common with the thick forearm holding a hammer than the skinny one holding a pen. The Democrats seem, even to me, to be a babbling bunch of very rich men (and women who look like men) who rarely make any points worth talking about anymore. Men seem to be convinced that Democrats are just elitists who don’t care about the regular people in the country, when, in fact, it has been historically the opposite, with Republicans being the fat cat elitists. Their tenets have not changed at all, but the perception of Democrats is what has changed.

There's a point in a boxing match when you can tell that someone has taken the initiative. There is one guy who is moving forward, jabbing, throwing the occasional cross, and generally just moving forward, while the other guy is consistently backing up, bobbing and weaving, and trying to do little more than just get out of the way of the aggressor's punches. These are the Democrats right now. They are so busy reacting to what the Republicans do that they've forgotten how to win in the first place. It isn't about whoring yourself out in order to get voted in, it's about standing by your principles and letting the people come to you. People have figured out that the laissez-faire capitalist system simply doesn't work; this was discovered long ago with things like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and the Molly Maguires. The Republicans want it back to where it was, so that the bosses can prosper. It's a pretty simple equation, really; the Right believes in business, and that the free market solves its own problems eventually, and the Left believes in more of a social contract, where the government has the right to step in if something is going on that is morally wrong, or dangerous to the workers.

Of course, the neoconservatives have made it seem like that belief system is just the pinnacle of European socialism, and to believe in such a thing is un-American and leads to a welfare state where no one works and everyone sits around smoking cigarettes and thinking about how entitled they are. I mean, I'm impressed, of course, because fooling the masses like this is not something that is easy to do, but the right has pulled it off. By making folks believe this shit, they are making it seem like Democrats are more and more the fringe, the remnants of socialism which should be stricken from American soil altogether.

Essentially, Democrats are scared. They are worried about being relegated to the annals of History as that party that was out of touch, like the Know Nothings of the 1850s. While part of me understands this, part of me is enraged at the cowardice they've exhibited. Their biggest accomplishment has been what? Killing social security? That gives them the right to clap for themselves at Bush's State of the Union address? What about that war that you got us into, that all of you should have been opposing? What about the 35 million people living below the poverty line (in this country), the ones that Bush is attacking right now? What about Halliburton, what about WMDs, what about Osama?

The fact is they've rolled over and died. They've been trying to court those people in the middle for so long that they've forgotten what they originally stood for, and that is why they are falling. Is this really the party of Roosevelt? Is this the party that led the fight against the bosses, the war against looking at people as just numbers?

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Once, long ago, the Democrats stood for protecting the environment. They wanted to preserve open spaces, reduce the damage done by logging and strip mines, and raise the standards on auto emissions to look something like California's. They were against drilling in ANWR, and they were for the Kyoto Treaty.

That was long ago. They have refused to take the banner of environmentalism, and, in part, have given the Republicans even more ammunition when they say that everything is a "crazy, enviro-lib PETA movement aimed at destroying businesses to save a couple butterflies". The Democrats, again, have done little to counter this. They could, of course, just stand up and go, "Hey, this is the only fucking planet we can live on, we might want to take care of it". But then, of course, they might not get reelected, because America hates it when you take a stand on your principles.

This was once the party of those who would have a floor that no man could fall below, a cutoff as to how much men should starve in dark times. Now, they are the party that is simply an annoying bit of white noise in Congress, no more important or noticed than the air conditioners that hum incessantly.

The Republicans have pulled that pendulum all the way back to the right, and it slips from their grasp, it can travel a long way in the other direction. Social justice and progressivism may be lying bleeding in the corner with its tail between its legs, but it is not dead. It is possible to resurrect it, and strengthen it like it never has before.

It's going to take a return to traditional Democratic ideals, such as helping the workers, breaking monopolies, helping the "little guy" (i.e. the family hardware store, not the Home Depot) in order for them to win their voting base back. They don't need to try and court Republican voters- they aren't going to vote Democratic, and they should know this. They need to reestablish their base, which is minorities, Catholics, Jews, immigrants, and workers. This is the kind of thing that wins the working men of this country back over- defending them against the seemingly unstoppable march of the huge corporations and big box stores. They need to be leading the fight against racism, against sexism, and all the other “-isms” that the Republicans have assured us have died out, and are no longer relevant. Most importantly, they need to appeal to the regular guys again, the guys who pay their Union dues, the guys who work the 9-9 shifts, and the guys who they should be trying to help. They need to be tough, angry, and ready to fight the Republicans, and to be able to propose good alternatives to the Neo-cons fascist plans. And they need to now

When this happens, they will win elections again. And then, maybe I'll vote for them with a clear conscience again.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Joe Carini

You never know who you're going to meet, especially at my job. When you work at a big store in the middle of a main highway in New Jersey, the odds of you encountering interesting people goes up quite a bit. I mean, you get a lot of fuck ups too, but you take the good with the bad.

On Sunday, I was helping a guy and his wife out with some cement blocks for their backyard. The guy was about the same height as me, maybe an inch or so taller, but wide as a damn house. He certainly wasn't a bodybuilder, and if I hadn't been lifting for so long, I might have just thought this was some regular fat guy who sat behind is desk and ate Doritos all day.

However, I've known a couple powerlifters, and there are telltale signs that not everyone will be able to see that prove that they are far more than just fat guys. For one, their palms sometimes start to face backwards, and their hands are turned in from all the heavy pressing movements they do. They have guts, but they don't look soft, if that makes any sense at all; everything about them is solid looking- big, but solid. Their forearms are massive, built up from years of heavy deadlifts and grip training, all in pursuit of higher numbers and new personal records. If you can't tell by this, well, they all have shaved heads and attitudes to match. They're tough guys, and they let you know (I can't even knock them for this, because if you can bench 400 pounds, then that 's badass. Forget over 600).

Anyway, this guy had all of the characteristics, so I figured I'd give it a shot. He and his wife paid for a bunch of blocks, and I started loading their car up with said cement.

"You a powerlifter? You look like a powerlifter" I said.

"Yea. I'm Joe Carini, from over at Sports University. I set a record last week, an 1100 pound squat", he replied.

It still took a while to click, at least until he said that he was the guy that trains Tiki Barber (the Giants' running back).

"Holy fuck! Now I know you! You're doing a hell of a job!", is all I could say. I'm very into lifting, and I'm learning a lot about powerlifting lately, so this guy is a celebrity of sorts to me. Especially being that he is training Tiki Barber.

I told him that I was messing around with powerlifting, and getting a little bit more serious with it now, even though my maxes are still low (compared to a guy like him).

"You do dumbbell bench presses on a Swiss ball?" he asked. This question pretty much meant, "Are you a big fucking pussy?".

"Nah. Big three, that's the deal. I'm just getting into it though", I told him. I've been at it for about a year, and he's been doing this for I think twenty five. He says that at 47, he feels better than ever. He seemed to like me, even though I was stuttering because I was just a little intimidated.

Before he took off, he told me that Barber is stronger than ever, and he's going to have a great year this year. Being as I've been a Giants fan since I was about two months old, this makes me a happy guy. He told me to come over the Sports University and he'd hook me up, being as I'm looking for a gym in the next few months while Montclair State is closed for the summer. If I get a shot to work out with this madman that is Joe Carini, I'll be even happier.

Hell, he even tipped me five bucks for helping him the cement. Right on.

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"I just felt stronger. And I think it was confidence as well. You feel like your body has no weaknesses or faults. A lot of what Joe did for me was mental, not physical--the mentality of fighting through tough times. Sometimes he will use a ridiculous amount of weight, and I'll say, "Joe, this is heavy. This is hard" He's like, "Life's hard." I never get a break with him."

-Tiki Barber

Johnny Damon

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Looks like Jesus.

Acts like Judas.

Throws like Mary.

Red Sox- 7
Yankees- 3

Monday, May 01, 2006

Glory

Night has descended on this lone beach in South Carolina. In another time, in another life, lovers might have held each other here, watching the gulls coast on the breezes coming off the ocean; not on this night. On this night, the raging howl of war was to be heard for miles around, and Charleston would groan and bleed as it had rarely before, paying for the crimes it had committed against a race of men.

The all black 54th Massachusetts was to see its first true fight, and how they performed would have a lasting effect on how America would look at all blacks for years to come. This would show that black men could fight, and they did not have to stand idly by while other men warred for them. Enslaved for nearly two hundred years, the weight of centuries was on their shoulders, and the chains they had once broken so quietly to go North were still weighing them down and dragging behind them, leaving trails in the sand with every step forward they made. They went forward anyway.

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The great blue mass, bayonets fixed, shuffling towards the shallow moat that surrounded the fort, kicking up a cloud of fine dust as they went, sped up as they got closer. Whereas normally this unstoppable wall of men might have been intimidating, it no doubt simply enraged the defenders of the fort, for the faces in those approaching uniforms were black, not white.
These were not men on their level, as they had thought would come to attack; no, these were the men that they had beaten and starved, the men whom they had sold like pieces of raw meat, the men whose families they had murdered in the name of money of wealth. Tonight would be different though. These slaves had indeed risen against their masters, and with a Biblical rage that only a people that have been nearly destroyed can have, were seething for their retribution. That time had come, and blood would soak the beaches of South Carolina in a righteous way, and the hand of God would sweep this battlefield before the night was through.

Cannon balls plow holes in the advancing regiment, but they move forward anyway, eventually laying on their stomachs to avoid the bullets. Trapped on the sandy slope in front of Fort Wagner, the 54th Massachusetts laid down on the beach, staring right into the mouths of the Southern rifles pointed down at them. They might have stayed there, too, had not their fiery colonel gotten up in an attempt to make them move forward. He is shot three times, and, with cold, stunned eyes, drops dead on the beach. This man who had been like a father to the troops, who had taught them discipline, and how to fight, now lay dead in front of them. He had made the ultimate sacrifice, and he had made it for them.

With wide, furious black eyes, the troops get up and storm straight up the rampart, fire flying around them, illuminating the American flag that briefly passes over the dead Colonel’s body. The clash at the top is brutal, with the sounds of bayonets and swords shattering the calm that would have been this warm South Carolina night; men are stabbed through their backs and shot through the eyes, the soft lead shattering minds and loves and hearts and hopes. Yet, these black troops are finally fighting against the men that enslaved them for so long, they are finally raging against the injustices and brutalities that they’ve endured. They are fighting for the future of their own race, for the freedom of their sons and daughters from an oppression that can only be said to be inhuman.

This fight is like Hell rising to the surface. Both sides are enraged, and all here know that the symbolism of this attack carries a weight far greater than the outcome of the battle. Satan's laughs are masked with gunfire, for his finest invention, this curse of war, is coming to a head in so many hideous ways. The smoke from the black powder guns is a choking fog hanging over this field, with the only light being the stray cannon balls that illuminate the night sky.
Through this apocalyptic scene, the 54th moves forward. They pour over this wall and into the now burning fort, led by one black man who had scaled the wall first. He carried no rifle though; his only weapon was the American flag, the flag of freedom and hope to the world. As long as that flag stood high, they could not lose.
They again advanced in the face of withering fire from the rear rebel ranks. What so often was described as a “sheet of flames” killed many of them, but they would not run. They’d waited too long. This was their time.

There were no questions ever again about them. They showed what they were made of. In the midst of war, the most horrific thing that man has invented, these men were perfect, if only for a few hours, and fought the good fight like few ever have. There was no money in it for them, no land, no spoils. They were fighting for the right to live, and there is no more noble cause that blood has been spilt over. It is hard for me to even picture what they went through in their lives, being slaves in the South, and being hated still in the North, yet having the guts to face all of this down, and continue on.

Sometimes, History gives us hope. This world is full of dark and brutal things, and it makes me wonder whether there is hope for mankind at all, or if we are destined to destroy each other in some great war where we lose sight of what is really important. But, once in a while, good truly triumphs over evil. Once in a while, we, as people, are willing to stand up and fight. There are some men, some great men, who are willing to give all they have, including their own lives, for something that is greater, for something that may change the scope of the human existence for a thousand years to come, and they will do it without blinking an eye. When history calls upon them, they did not shirk to rear, or run with bleak fearful eyes. They roie up, strong both of back and of mind, and stand up for what they know is right, and answer History's call to arms.

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When the 54th Massachusetts reacted like it did in this battle in front of Fort Wagner, they shattered those chains they’d been dragging for so long. Though they were eventually thrown from the fort, they had done what they'd come to do. It mattered little how many bodies littered the beach, or how many had died in this, the greatest fight of their lives. What mattered was the impact that they had left, and the crater on world's landscape that these "noble 600" had left.
Behind them were trails of tears, trails of blood, and the shattered memories of the families they had left in bondage so long ago. It was a long journey, and it was far more difficult than any of us spoiled 21st century people could ever imagine. But they went forward anyway. They proved that they would never be slaves again, that they would die standing up before they lived kneeling down.
Like I said...History gives us hope.

Their innocence. Their heritage. Their lives. Nothing would be spared in the fight for their freedom.