Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remember MTV Unplugged?

A few weeks before my trip to Appleton, I contacted a Kieran Grogan, friend of mine, about possibly playing a show in the short amount of time I was back. He only had a few days to work with but was able to come up with a coffee shop and a date. Sweet. The only downside was that I was going to have to learn how to play my songs.

I walked into the coffee shop on the night of the show and looked around. Nothing had been set up, there was no form of speaker system, stage, or even a spot clear of tables. I saw no sign on the door on the way in or any mention whatsoever that there was supposed to be a two hour show that night.

“Hey, are you playing music tonight?” someone asked when they saw my guitar.

“Uh, I think so.”

I started thinking that maybe I had gone to the wrong place when Kieran walked in. He talked to the manager and found out that they had expected us to bring microphones and a PA system with us. However, they hadn’t mentioned this before. We looked around the coffee shop, which was full of people talking, clanking cups, and laughing.

“Wanna just do it unplugged?” Kieran asked me.

“Sure, why not.”

We convinced a couple people to move to a different table so we could make room to play. We sat towards the front of the coffee shop and the people in the back probably had no idea we were even there.

I went on first. I noticed any song with finger picking would be inaudible so my set list got cut in half. Kieran ended up doing the same thing. Playing shows is always a little weird since I never know what the hell to say between songs. I usually just babble like I had just huffed a bunch of glue until I get my shit together to play the next song. The usual standby to fill this time is to introduce the next song. But, for some reason, I can never remember the names to any of my songs. So that’s out the window. I also seem to have problems with my own lyrics. I can sing along with any shitty pop song from the mid-nineties but if I wrote it, it’s like I never heard it before.

Since there was no form of amplification, any talking you wanted to do had to become a yell. Since I had nothing to communicate worth yelling about, I kept quiet. If I said anything it was to whoever was directly next to me, and even then I was sometimes not heard. Oh well. It’s not really important for people to know that changing strings sucks, or whatever the hell I decided to say.

After we had finished we talked to a few people and walked out the front door like we were spies that just completed a secret mission.

All-ages shows have gotten old.

Throughout high school and into college I attended local concerts quite frequently. At one point I would even go to shows when I didn’t know any of the bands playing. I would stand right up front and give every band an honest chance, often buying their self-recorded/released CDs.

Then I got older. As I aged I became more jaded towards music and basically every band I saw. Unless I had a friend in the band, it was pretty hard to get me to like them. Unless, of course, they were actually very good (which is rare).

Eventually, the only shows I attended were when my friends were playing and I would just sit at the bar until they went on. This is how it’s been for a while.

Monday night, however, I found myself at an all-ages show. I didn’t even know they still put on all-ages shows in Milwaukee but there it was. It was at the Miramar Theater, which I had been to quite a few times, and was an all day event celebrating Festivus (for the rest of us!). My friends’ band went on at 8-ish and I foolishly showed up a couple hours before. I was hoping I could snag some free beer backstage or something but that didn’t happen. I was able to steal a few pieces of pizza so I guess it wasn’t a total waste.

While walking around the show I couldn’t stop looking at all the teenagers. I couldn’t believe how young they looked. I felt like I was chaperoning a high school dance and it made me feel creepy. Another funny part was how people dressed exactly the same as when I was still going to shows. The “scenester” style hasn’t really changed in ten years. I guess if you want to be “alternative” these days you just gotta rip off what people were doing when I was in high school.

I spent most of the show in back, occasionally checking out a band here and there. The kids all packed in towards the front and stood, nodding their heads, as the bands went about their business. Same ol’ shit.

Finally, Red Knife Lottery went on. I have been watching these guys since 2004 or so and still enjoy seeing them every chance I get. It’s kind of funny to think of the older shows, with a different lineup, and compare them to the ones now. They seem to have started taking themselves more seriously, which can be good and bad. If you want to be taken seriously, take yourself seriously. It’s a good idea. I, however, liked it when Ashley spit beer on the all-ages audience on her birthday a few years ago. They should keep doing stuff like that.

Halfway through the second song of their set, a “pit” broke out. Yeah, I know, I haven’t seen one for a while either. Arms started flailing, heads started banging, and bystanders started getting pissed. That’s the thing about hardcore dancing, it just pisses off everyone that’s not doing it. A perfect example was how after a couple songs a fight broke out because someone minding their own business got annoyed with kids constantly bumping into them. Understandable.

As annoying as I find that stuff now, in a way, I still like to see it. I noticed right when it started that the band got more energized which made for a better show. Plus, I imagine it being a nice feeling for them to see their music inciting kids to beat the hell out of each other. Also, when I was their age, I was into the same shit. I’ve done my share of stage dives and knocking into people and crowd surfing so I encourage others to take part. I never did that stupid shit where they just swing their arms like a bunch of idiots, though. That’s just retarded. In summary: I don’t like slam dancing nowadays but I support it, even though it’s really annoying when you just want to watch a band.

The band’s set consisted mainly of songs off of their new CD, “Soiled Soul and Rapture.” Which, as Ashley described it to the crowd, “is pretty good.” There was one old song which stuck out in the set. The songwriting style from the first EP to the new LP has changed quite a lot. I guess getting two new members and waiting six years will do that.

They played well, I didn’t notice any mistakes, and the crowd seemed really into. It’s a little weird since most of them are older than me, but I remember thinking that I was proud of them while they played. I know they’ve all come a long way to be in this band and it’s paying off. So if anyone is reading this that doesn’t know of Red Knife Lottery (which I kind of doubt since it’s only friends of mine that read this), go get the CD. Get two and give one to a bum. Then give me twenty dollars. Go. Do it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who needs motivation?

I’ve never really thought about career paths or ways to become financially successful. I’ve always known that to be “successful” you need to have a certain amount of ambition and motivation. However, I do not possess these qualities. This may contribute to the fact that I am unemployed, and have been for a while, but the economy is shitty so I’m going to blame that while I still can.

I graduated with a degree in creative writing. Why did I choose this? I figured that a college degree of any sort would open up job opportunities (bullshit) after graduation. When figuring out what to go back to school for, after taking a booze-filled year of food stamps, I figured I could either learn a whole bunch of shit or just make it up. I decided to make it up: Creative Writing Major.

Earlier today I decided that if I am going to get into an MFA program one day, I should probably try to get some stuff published. So I printed off some stories and mailed them in. This is when I realized that I picked the perfect major, assuming I can ever find a way to make money doing it. It fits in perfectly with my no-motivation-apathetic habits. Here’s all it is; write a story, print it out, pop it into an envelope, mail it, wait. It’s pretty damn close to doing nothing. Then, after the story is mailed out, you get to wait for a few months to hear that your story was rejected. That’s probably my favorite part. For those months before I hear back, I get to feel like I’m doing stuff all the time. Sure, it may look like I’m sleeping on the couch at three in the afternoon, but actually, I’m waiting to hear back on a story. Productive shit.

Now, I know that sending out short stories like this will never actually be able to pay the bills. Hell, I’ll be lucky if it even buys me a bottle of whiskey. That’s not really the point, though. I’m just looking for a way to lie to myself so I can feel like I’m not being a complete pile of shit while acting like a complete pile of shit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

German = Scary

At the risk of sounding xenophobic, I'm going to say German is a really ugly language. No matter what is being said, it just sounds evil.

A couple years ago I sat on youtube for a couple hours looking up the German versions of cartoon theme songs. Yeah, I know, I have no life.

This was the funniest one I found. The "Let's get dangerous," part sounds like he's declaring war on Poland. Think Nazi jokes are a little too obvious? Too bad.

Even poetry sounds like shit when falling out of a German mouth. Proof:

Maybe I have these associations because of Hitler. Whenever I hear the German language I can't help but to think of Hitler's speeches (which I've also listened to even though I can't understand a word). Someone can ask me what my favorite color is, but, if it's asked in German, I'll only think about Panzer tanks decimating Europe.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Elvis Sucks

I don’t understand why Elvis Presley is such a big deal to some people. I mean, he died on the toilet, so that’s kinda cool, but other than that I shouldn’t have to hear his name anymore. He was a hack.

I’ll give him the fifties. You can have that one. In the fifties he helped bring “black” music to “white” America. This is also a reason that I hate him, but I’ll get to that later. He was basically the Marilyn Manson of the “Leave it to Beaver” era. There’s the whole deal about being shot only from the waist up on Ed Sullivan, people saying that his music was the end to decency in America, FBI files reporting him as a danger, etc. He was basically a fancy shirt that showed a little too much cleavage. It enthralled some and aggravated others, so no matter what, everyone was talking about it.

Beyond that, he was just some shitty actor before he became a shitty nightclub act covered in sweat. Watching videos from his Las Vegas days is just depressing. He tries to thrown in the spices of his mid-fifties swagger but it just looks forced and pathetic.

People put this guy on a huge pedestal like he wrote the songs that defined the world. The thing is, he didn’t write his songs. His early hits were simply written for him or rip-offs from noteworthy, black, musicians. All Elvis did was repackage them into something the racist mainstream was able to accept. He was to blues and rock ‘n roll what Vanilla Ice was to rap: a shitty, consumer-friendly, white version of a style of music that would be recognized a few years down the road for its original merits.

Here's the original version of one of Elvis' first hits by Big Mama Thornton.

And Elvis' shittified version.

Presley was able to dupe some songwriters into letting him put his name as co-writer on some songs. He was even able to get full songwriting credits for “Heartbreak Hotel” even though he had nothing to do with it. The woman that wrote it just liked him and wanted to help him raise money. Bullshit.

He was able to dance around and make girls squeal. That’s about it. His voice sounds like a retarded fat dude with a speech impediment singing through a damp rag. The Backstreet Boys were able to make girls squeal. Will people be praising them like they invented the light bulb while walking on water forty years from now? Probably not, but, I guess, you never know.

Here’s Elvis in his Las Vegas “glory days.”

Weird, he’s singing a cover song. Just look at the outfit. This is what we know as the “Fat Elvis” get-up. How can people take this man seriously when he’s dressed up in a onesie fitted with jewelry that looks to be bought from a dollar store?

Elvis impersonators are funny, for all the wrong reasons. Elvis movies are funny, for all the wrong reasons. Anything after 1960 is funny because he turned into a caricature of what he was in the fifties. Elvis should be regarded as nothing more than some schlub that was able to trick the ignorant middle-class in the first years of television.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Underestimated

While cruising around Craigslist a couple weeks ago, I came across a posting for an open mic. I gave ‘er a click which directed me to a number so I gave ‘er a call which led me to a voice mail so I left ‘er a message.

A day passed and I got a call back. She told me a little about the deal and I told her a little about my deal. This is when I learned the open mic was actually an online show, called The Underestimated, which had been going on for six weeks. The show revolved around a spoken-word competition in which contestants get eliminated each week until the two finalists are left for an all out, no-holds-barred, knock-em-out, spoken-word-to-the-death, re-animate-em-and-kill-em-again, head-to-head joust of words. Serious business.

She asked me what I do, I gave her my myspace page, and waited to hear back from her. An hour went by and she called me back to ask me to play. yay.

I was told that I had a grand total of four minutes to strut my stuff. Usually, open mics let you play three or four songs, but this wasn’t actually an open mic. We were just fluff to help fill out the show. I figured that I would be playing with rappers and whatnot so I dug out something from a show I played a few years ago.

I was to play a show with a pile of MCs (I was told there is a difference between MCs and rappers) so I figured I would have to do something a little different than I was used to. I made backing tracks to my acoustic songs and played them through the PA and then played over them. The same way MCs and R&B artists perform live (excluding The Roots and similar groups).

So, I chose a song from that setlist and brought the backing track with me to the show.

We drove into Decatur. Deep into Decatur. I was sent an e-mail that included directions to get to the venue. It said the building would be easy to find because there would be balloons and large sign out front. However, the building was not easy to find. Even with the help of a GPS, we drove past it twice before figuring out where to go. As we turned into the driveway, I noticed one half-inflated balloon flapping in the wind.

We parked, got out of the car, and started walking towards the door. The doorman looked at us like we were lost and asked us what we wanted.

“I’m here for the open mic deal.”

“Are you guys in a band or something?”

“No, I’m just… I was told to come here at 5:30.”

“By who?”

“I don’t know. Some woman on the phone.”

He looked at us for a minute as if he thought we might be spying for all the other white people that weren’t represented. A guy ran inside to check our story and came back out, letting us know it was okay to go in.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Ted asked me as I grabbed my guitar out of the car.

“Of course!”

We were led inside. Ted had to stay in the lobby and wait for the doors to open, since he’s a talentless hack, and I was led backstage to get everything together. I was shown to the back room where the other “open mic” guys were.

“Not even a bag of chips!”

“They got a full bar, but no alcohol!”

They weren’t too pleased that we were simply thrown in a back room and made to pay for chips if we wanted them. While they bitched about the empty bar, I opened my backpack and pulled out a beer.

“I’m from Wisconsin, we always come prepared when it comes to beer,” I told them.

We sat around and joked for a while before we were asked to come out for soundchecks. When it was my turn, the soundman seemed as if he had never seen a guitar before and had no idea how to work it. They checked the sound levels of the backing track and the vocals, but didn’t bother with the guitar. I guess they figured they could just figure it out as I went along.

The show started and all the non-spoken-word performers were asked to sit in the crowd so the place wouldn’t look so empty on camera. There were probably about 40 people there, which slowly dwindled as the show went on. We were encouraged to clap enthusiastically, but they were prepared with a clap track that was played over the PA system just in case.

My fellow open mic’ers were peppered throughout the show. A couple rappers here, a Christian poem there, an R&B singer here, another Christian poem there, and then me. All of a sudden a white dude with a guitar and a harmonica rolls onstage. After an awkward interview with the host of the show, I played my song. I couldn’t hear the backing track, which is pretty essential when you want to play along with it, and was told my guitar was inaudible as well. I had to stop at one point and listen to the bass to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.

I had planned on doing the moonwalk, a few backflips, and at least one stage dive but I was unable to focus on the dance moves on account of all the attention I was spending on just trying to make it through the song. It wasn’t until the harmonica came in that people seemed to get into it. I’m not really too sure though, I was mesmerized by the Billie Jean dance floor I was standing on and thinking about the smoke machine above me.

It can all be seen here. I go on around the 40 minute mark.

I finished, walked off the stage, and was followed by another spoken-word performer. Throughout the rest of the night, members of the audience, as well as the other performers, told me I did a good job. This was pretty funny to me because of all the problems that happened during the song. I wondered if they were just happy to see someone play music, instead of just speaking (not to take away from the spoken-word performers who were actually really good, well, some of them at least) or if they were just being nice. I would say it was the latter, but they seemed sincere. I’ve heard my share of insincere praise before, so I feel that I have the authority to tell the difference.

The show itself ended up being surprisingly good. The finalists in the show were really talented as well as being nice people. Overall, it was a good experience and I’m glad we actually found the place, even though the balloons weren’t as magnificent as I had hoped.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What I done did?!?

Ted wanted some beer. Weird. So we drove to the nearest grocery store to procure some. Not too interesting. Definitely not worth writing about. However, the disorderly drunk we saw on the way in certainly is.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed an ambulance. A little weird, but the lights were off and there was no hustle and/or bustle going on around it. We found a parking spot and started walking in. Before we reached the entrance, however, we heard some yelling and noticed there was a police car about ten yards away. I looked to my left and saw an awesome dude having an awesome night.

He had a cop on both sides of him, handcuffs on his wrists, and a big smile on his face. From what I remember, handcuffs aren’t too comfortable so he must have had some other awesome shit going on. Then I noticed that he was unable to walk in a straight line, even with the help of two police officers. Two men walked behind him, one of them obviously a manager of the grocery store, looking very displeased.

Snap judgment: Dude got drunk, went shopping, got a little nutty, and got the cops called on him. No biggie.

They put him in the back of the car, took off the handcuffs, and started talking with the other two men, leaving the car door open while standing next to it. They began discussing what happened and the drunk guy got agitated. Apparently, their account of the situation differed from his.

He got ornery and tried to stand up to let everyone know he was unsatisfied with the circumstances. There was some problem with his cell phone, and its whereabouts.

“Motha fucka I want my cell phone! I just paid fo’ that motha fucka today! Where my fuckin’ cell phone at?”

He began struggling with the cops as they tried to subdue him. This is when all of the drunk man’s dissatisfaction came out. One cop struggled with him through the open door while the other cop ran to the other side of the car, opened the door, and tried to subdue him. At this point, the drunk became a donkey.

“Stop fucking bucking me!” yelled the cop.

“What I done did?!? What I done did?!?” came screeching from the backseat.

While this scenario played out, a group of about ten people gathered to watch. I’m not sure why, but people figured Ted and I had all the information.

“What’s happening?”

“I’m not too sure, we walked up and saw this drunk dude in handcuffs,” I said as the man yelled and flailed in the background. “I’m guessing he was being a little disorderly.”

One woman we talked to was friends with one of the cops. She watched with a smile, obviously proud of her buddy for kicking some inebriated ass.

Eventually, the cops subdued the man and closed the door, breathing a sigh of relief. We decided the show was over so we walked into the grocery store. When we walked out, the scene was calm and the woman we spoke with earlier was talking to her cop friend. As we walked past, she said goodbye to her friend.

“So, what happened?” we asked her.

She looked a little disappointed. “Nothing too exciting,” she said.

“What, were you hoping for a knife or something?”

“Oh, no no no!” she said with a smile.

Too bad. I really wanted to see the cops beat the hell out of that guy. Normally, I’m fervently against police brutality. But, in this situation, I could see how a cop could get frustrated and rattle off a few punches to the face.

95% of all statistics are wrong.

While perusing Craigslist for jobs in October, I stumbled across a chance to make some easy money. Georgia State University had a posting for a study on the effects of alcohol on reaction time. It seemed they would get you drunk and see if your ability to respond to simple stimuli would be affected. Hmm, a chance to make some money while getting a few free drinks? Of course I’m going to call them.

After the initial telephone interview to make sure I was an acceptable candidate for the study, I was brought in to fill out some preliminary forms and questionnaires. This is when I became skeptical. I was asked to fill out a packet of about 40 pages. The first two pages related to my drinking habits and views on alcohol consumption, the other 38 related to my views on homosexuality. Hmm.

While making my way through college, I took a few psychology courses. In these classes, of course, we discussed different aspects of performing studies and different methods of collecting data. One of which was to lie to the participants to get a more realistic set of responses from them. I had this information going through my head immediately, and tried to figure out exactly what they were looking for during my time at the study center. I figured that whatever they told me, they were actually doing the opposite.

I showed up to the study center this morning to go through the second part of the study, in which we would be either drinking alcohol or straight orange juice (to act as the control group). I was told before I imbibed my first beverage that I would be a member of the control group. My first thought was, “Bummer, I was looking forward to drinking free vodka at nine in the morning.” Then, I realized that since they told me I was not going to be drinking alcohol, that I would most likely be getting alcohol. Maybe they were testing the affects of our outlook on being drunk instead of our reaction time.

I had seen a video of one such study in high school. The people performing the study went to a bar and bought nonalcoholic beer for everyone under the guise of a free promotion, or something along those lines. As the night went on, they interviewed some random drinkers and asked them how they were doing.

“I’ve had, like three pitchers. I’m pretty fucking hammered!” they would say.

At the end of the night they revealed to the group that the beer was nonalcoholic and you could watch everyone sober up in about thirty seconds. Turns out, getting drunk is as much as a mental trick as it is a physical impairment.

So, when they gave me my first glass of orange juice, I drank it while analyzing the taste for hints of vodka. Nothing. Then they gave me another, told me to finish it in ten minutes and then they came back in with a breathalyzer. This is where another flag went off. Why would they need to analyze my blood alcohol content if they were just giving me orange juice? I knew something was up. Truth is, I did feel a little different after the two cups of orange juice. But drunk? I don’t think so. It was probably the fact that there are vitamins and nutrients in orange juice that my body isn’t used to since I live a pretty unhealthy lifestyle.

“On a scale of one to eleven, eight being the most drunk you’ve ever been and eleven being even more drunk than that, how do you feel?” they asked me.


Honestly, if they had put vodka in that drink and asked me the same question, my response would most likely have been the same. I’m from Wisconsin, two drinks are basically like stretching my legs before running a marathon.

They had me sitting in a room while the other participant sat in another room down the hall. The idea was that we would compete with each other. A thing on the computer would tell us when to release the space bar and whoever let go second would receive a shock.

The room consisted of a computer in front of me, a camera behind that and a television next to the camera. The reason for the camera, I was told, was so the experimenter wouldn’t have to walk between the two rooms to make sure things were going correctly.

Before the test began, the TV sprung to life and I could see the other participant sitting by the computer, fidgeting with the shocking mechanism that was attached to his fingers, just like me. I could hear the experimenter say that the other participant’s ride was there. This was another flag. I was told that if we drank alcohol that we would have to sit around for up to eight hours, until our BAC came back down to normal. The experimenter walked into the room and asked the other participant how drunk he felt. He responded with “six.” Six? You’re only two points away from being the drunkest you have ever been after two measly drinks? Either this guy is the biggest lightweight ever, an embellisher, or a liar.

Then, his friend walked in, another dude. They gave each other a big hug, and discussed their plans for going to a movie later tonight. They kissed, said “I love you,” and the friend left. This is when I remembered all of the questions from my last visit about homosexuality. I figured I had the experiment sussed out. After this, they had a “problem” with the TVs and they were turned off.

The experiment started. Whoever won the task of releasing the space bar first got to shock the other person on an ascending level of power from one to ten. Of course, I immediately figured I would fry the bastard on ten the whole time strictly on the basis of it being funnier to tell everyone that I ruined some guy’s morning. By the time the experiment started, however, I figured out that this is exactly what they wanted me to do. They wanted to see if I hated gay people and would punish this guy strictly for his sexual preference. So, I elected to give him the lightest shock possible.

The shocks went exactly as I had thought they would. First they gave me the lightest ones, to build a sense of camaraderie, I guess, before giving me the largest shocks towards the end. They wanted me to retaliate by shocking the hair off of the other guy. But I stuck with the light shocks.

After the test was finished, they handed me another questionnaire to see if I hated gay people yet. Nope. Then the administrator came in to tell me what the study was all about.

“You are the only participant here today. The video we showed you was recorded earlier with two actors reading from a script.” Duh. “The test was rigged so you would receive a predetermined level of shocks throughout the course of the experiment.” Duh. “We were actually testing your level of aggression towards homosexuals to see if it would grow with the increased level of shocks.” Duh. “You don’t seem too surprised by this.”

I told him that I had basically known the study was about views on homosexuality from the first day I came in. “You should probably try to add a few more questions about alcohol to off-set the insane amount of questions about homosexuality in that 40 page packet.”

He just laughed and told me that he thought it was a little easy to see through as well. Then he told me that some people saw through it like I did, but 95% of the people buy into it.

This confuses me. I’m guessing that most of the participants in the study are college students and I’m also guessing that a large percentage of college students, at one point of another, take a psychology course as part of their general requirements. The methodology of these studies is generally covered in the introductory courses. So, people should know about these kind tricks and tactics.

Regardless, I got $35 out of the experience and something to talk about when an awkward silence fills the room. It’s too bad they have to throw out all of the information they got from me. Sorry, GSU, for wasting your time. But, thanks for the OJ and the cash.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Neon Deion

I hit the sidewalk and, of course, had to stop walking because the dog was infatuated with a patch of grass and refused to move. Nothing new. While she explored, I took the time to look around since I have no interest at staring at her asshole as it opens up to perform its duty.

Today, while she examined the grass, I noticed a couple of dudes walking towards me. I had headphones on so I couldn’t hear exactly what he said but I could tell by his huge smile that he was happy to see me. The man had a closely shaven beard and cheap, but not bum-like, clothes. Before I could take off my headphones to see what he wanted, I inferred from his body language that it was hug-time.

It was a soft embrace. Not one that you would receive at Christmas after a long flight from the other side of the country, but still, nice. But, really, when does a hug suck? Don’t worry, I didn’t jump into this hug without any regard for my own well-being. I was conscious of my pockets the whole time and kept my eye on his friend in case it was a sneak attack. This, however, wasn’t necessary. After our soft embrace ran its course I was able to take off my headphones and see what the hell was going on.

“Hey man! How ya doin’?” he asked.

I run into this situation from time to time, as I’m sure everyone does. Say someone calls and you don’t recognize the number, you talk to them as if you know who it is until you are able to figure it out from the subtle clues of the conversation. Same deal when it happens face-to-face, except you have to mind your facial expressions as well. Head nods are a good tool, hand motions, basically anything where you can seem agreeable without actually saying anything.

“You, know. I’m good,” I responded, nodding my head.

He stood in front me, mimicking the head nods, smiling. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”

“Uhh, no.”

“Yeah you probably don’t recognize me. Deion. Desert Storm Vet. Last time I had a long beard and was all homeless. I remember you though, man. You helped me out. I gotta tell you, I know it didn’t come back to you yet, but it will!” Big smiles all around. Even his buddy got in on the action.

First of all, I was amazed that this guy recognized me. Second of all, I was amazed that he knew that the karma he felt I was afforded hadn’t come back to me yet. I mean, do I really look like my shit is all messed up?

Also, I was amazed that I had helped the guy out. When I first moved to Milwaukee, I gave money to beggars all the time. I knew a lot of the people that asked for money didn’t really need it but I figured if only one out of five needed it, then good enough for me. This was also a time where I had a lot of money saved up from working in a paper mill so it wasn’t hard for me to hand out a few dollars here and there. Eventually though, after meeting and talking to a lot of beggars, I grew jaded. I stopped giving money to people all together except for when they had a really good story or put on an interesting show. One guy told me a joke that used all the letters of the alphabet in order from A to Z. That guy deserved all the pennies in my ashtray.

After Deion and his friend left I walked down the street trying to remember where I had met him, how he remembered me, and what joke he told me to deserve whatever I gave him.