Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Week 9: Now With Chin Whisker Twirling Action...A Very Unpleasant 30 Minutes

JN: It's fuzzy, it's shaggy, I'm happy! Reginald has gotten a little itchy, although it is nowhere near the level of annoying awfulness that is still to come. The very thought of that eye twitching, fist pounding itch makes me want to hurl whiskey bottles through windows and into the night. The dark, dark night. But no matter! This is what I signed up for, and I am damn well determined to to stick it out til the bitter end. People keep complimenting Reginald's growth, and I continue to feel more like my actual self. Looks like me in the mirror too. An added bonus is that now my chin whiskers are long enough for proper thought twirling. And what's the point in living if you can't twirl your chin whiskers while contemplating the cosmos? Not much is the correct answer to that question.

A note from the desk of Jeff Newman:

Heading home from grocery shopping the other night brought with it an incredibly unpleasant experience while standing atop the Granville platform of the Red Line. A train arrived heading south, and from out of the last car a young woman of about twenty emerged. She was incoherent, hyperventilating, and babbling about a man who was trying to hurt her. A man who was trying to rape her. There were four of us standing there caught in that familiar limbo place of what to do when something so flip side of normal happens in the city. Before anyone had time to assess this twisted situation, the man she was fleeing from approached from behind. He was wearing an oversized black Bulls coat with a huge red logo on the back. She pointed at him confirming through so many gasps and yelps that he was indeed the man she was talking about. He froze, saw the four of us standing there, turned, and walked away. As there was no exit from the platform in the direction he was walking, so the only reasonable explanation is that he hopped down to the tracks and fled the scene as it were.

Inhalers or puffers are used mainly for the treatment of asthma, influenza, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and Zanamivir. I only bring it up because there's a good chance that's why she was clutching her inhaler so tightly as she sat and shook in the corner of the hot box. Two puffs, then a third, trying her damndest to stay level-headed and failing miserably as she called her sister, and one of our four called the cops. Two of Chicago's finest showed up to take our statements, get a description of the man in question, and assure the safety of the young woman. She finally related that the man on the train was masturbating in front of her, and followed when she got off the train. It was when he grabbed her shoulders from behind that she started screaming. She insisted, or seemed to insist that an ambulance was not necessary, but the officers thought it best to have someone see her just to be on the safe side. Possible hyperventilation and all that. Neither myself, nor the caller from our group of four could agree on which direction the man had left in. As I said, I distinctly remember him turning and walking away. Our caller said he was sure the man walked passed us, down the stairs, and out the exit. It would seem that such an obvious detail having occurred not moments ago would be anything but fuzzy, and yet...

Her sister finally arrived and after a lot of close quiet talk, they rose and left with the police. The whole mess was over in about a half hour, though it seemed to last far longer. I received a call today from a detective asking if I'd be willing to come to the station and pick someone out of a line-up if it came to that. I assured him that I'd be perfectly willing, but was more than a little uneasy at the prospect of having to point out a guy I only saw for five seconds in the middle of a lot of yelling and confusion with no chance for second glances or caught breath. Detective Mark DiMeo thanked me for my cooperation and for being a good citizen. He gave me his number and assured me he'd be in touch. While this ending seemed happy enough considering what's possible with the same set up in any city in any country in any decade, I was very shaken by the whole ordeal. I knew without much consideration on the train ride home why I was so unsettled. It was as plain as the lump in my throat. A choked back sob of shame that I didn't feel like sharing until I was alone in the shower with steam, white noise, and a good stiff drink. Regardless of how childish, outdated, or impractical the sentiment, deep down I can't help but feel:

I could have done more.

Done more? Done what? What more is a good citizen supposed to do besides stay out of danger, call the police, give a statement, cooperate and be thanked for it? Why did standing back and keeping quiet fill me with such overwhelming guilt? This guilt stuck with me the whole way home, and all through putting groceries away, and all through loading laundry, and into the shower with the heat and whiskey and tears. I'm not Batman and this isn't Gotham City and that's not what I'm talking about. I don't know, nor have I ever known where the line is exactly concerning my own safety, my own responsibility to my fellow man, and the importance of minding my own business. The one thing I know for sure was the one thought that burrowed itself into my frontal lobe and would not vacate no matter how much I tried to expel it and be done with this nightmare forever. The fact that would not stop haunting me is knowing how I would feel if this was done to someone I cared for. Someone I loved dearly and could not do without. Someone who could not necessarily defend themselves from a large perverted fiend, and needed to reach out to whatever strangers and bystanders might be available on a cold train platform in February. Moments like this remind you exactly who makes this list in your life. I thought of that list. I thought of the young women in my life, particularly in the city who may one day face such a monster. And when I thought of that, I couldn't shake the knowledge that in this hypothetical situation, I would have done more. For my sister, for my close friends, for the young college students I work with, for anyone stuck in an impossibly helpless situation in need of a friend, if only for a half an hour. What made this actual situation different? This young woman was not my family. She was not my friend. She was my total stranger. So what? She was somebody's sister. Somebody's daughter. Somebody's friend. And, yes. I could have done more.

I could have chased this man and knocked him to the ground.

I could have beaten him about the face with a can of Campbell's Chunky soup from my backpack of groceries until he stopped moving.

I could have forced him to apologize and restrained him until police arrived.

I could have drug him the length of the platform on the concrete and thrown him down the stairs.

I could have shoved him onto the tracks hoping he'd get shocked to death by the third rail.

At the very least I could have remembered the man's shoes. If he was wearing jeans or pants and what color they were. Cliche though it sounds, it all happened so fast, and I just couldn't god-damn mother fucking remember. I could have done at least that. I could have asked the detective when he called what her name was. If he had spoken with her today. If she was feeling any better. I could have at least done that.

Lots more whiskey, laundry, pizza delivery, and XBOX 360 until seven in the morning was how I decided to deal with this emotional tempest. When a situation dwarfs your usual reason and the ground beneath you starts to shake, it's best to go with your gut. I knew deep down that this internal crisis would subside soon enough, but in the meantime it seemed like a good use of my time to take Arkham Asylum back from Joker even if that meant electrocuting his giant pasty Titan-form with my ultra batclaw no less than three times. Seriously, that is one of the easiest boss fights in the history of video games. I don't have a clean ending for this. There was nothing clean about the evening. There is nothing clean about my mood as I write this. In a despicably unsatisfying way, this was just something that happened this week. Something that made me ask myself a lot of questions I never wanted to answer. Something that fucked up my Sunday night.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Week 8: Enter The Curl...WWSLJD- pt. 1

JN: Things are growing along their lovely merry way as far as Reginald's physical progress is concerned. I'm getting more shaggy by the day and loving every minute of it. While Reginald is not yet quite long enough for me to pull at the chin hairs the way I like during contemplation, I have noticed that I'm rubbing my cheeks with both hands in a downward motion a lot lately. It's like smoothing the sides down, and feels very nice when contemplating things as well. This week also brought with it the reappearance of a certain giant curl of hair in the lower left portion of my face. This is like seeing an old friend not quite forgotten. I used to hate that curl because it stuck out and was weird. Now, I'm enjoying all the little nuances and details of Reginald's emergence and continued growth. The inquiry and resulting investigation into his potential treasonous actions of last week have not yet concluded, but the damage to our personal relationship seems pretty well in place. Our lengthy discussions of the previous month have all but come to a grinding halt. Our conversation has been reduced largely to curt, short sentence interaction. I don't like feeling like the bad guy, but democracy could be at stake. I don't feel I have any choice but to play it safe. Should Reginald prove to be above board, I can only hope he'll have the serenity to forgive me.

An extended note from the desk of Jeff Newman:

Heh. Extend. But, anyway. As stated earlier this past week, Reginald's posts will not be published until such time that his status can be cleared as a security risk. In the meantime, it only seems fitting that we continue the tradition of wise beardly wisdom with a little segment asking the one question that I believe everyone should ask themselves when facing a difficult conundrum.


Samuel L. Jackson has long been a man both respected and revered by the Beard community. Further study into Beard culture (which only grows more fascinating by the day) shows him to be the gold standard by which most of the rest of humanity is compared to. In their estimation, no human can ever achieve the overwhelming wisdom and decency of the mighty Beard, but Samuel L. Jackson comes closer than almost any in recorded human history. Not necessarily because of his own facial hair, which is both diverse and magnanimous, but because he consistently displays the decisiveness, honor, strength, and character that Beards prize above all else. It only seems fitting that we remind Beards everywhere of our unending respect for their culture during this investigation into Reginald's potential criminal ties resulting from his actions this past Tuesday. Details will be available as soon as they develop.
To begin, it seems best that we pick the most direct and specific question possible:


Let's look at some archival footage to see just what Samuel L. Jackson would do.

What are you sick of SLJ?

And what happened then? We all remember what happened then. He takes his gun and shoots out the windows thus creating a vacuum which sucks all the snakes out of the plane. Did he endanger the lives of everyone on the flight? You betcha! Did the snakes which were sucked out the windows most likely land on a heavily populated area below only to attack a whole group of unsuspecting bystanders? Oh, for sure! But that's not important. What is important is that when faced with potentially insurmountable odds, Samuel L. Jackson shows that decisive action must be taken. And as Sean Connery proved many years ago, shooting out the windows of an aircraft in mid flight can and will save the day. This solution can be applied to several other sticky situations that don't involve slithering airborne serpents. These include but are not limited to bad in flight movies, lousy in flight food, being stuck next to a crying child, or needing a diversion because you got caught in the lavatory joining the mile-high club.
By yourself.
Okay, I feel I've strayed a bit from the topic. The mightyness of Samuel L. Jackson and his wicked-cool, constantly changing facial hair can not be denied. It's a scandal and an outrage that this very topic isn't covered in any public school that I'm aware of. Until it is, I will certainly do my part. And you can do yours by taking a few minutes every week to ask:


Monday, February 11, 2013

Week 7: Beard At Last, Beard At Last...Reginald Slips Me A Mickey

JN: Well, as my father said when I lost my virginity, it's about damn time! Reginald's progress has finally gotten to the point that he can actually be considered a beard, both by the standards of others as well as my own. While grabbing at hairs to twist them in between my fingers is finally possible, I have to reach way down to the neck section where the hair is longest and thickest. This has helped my thinking, writing, and personal well being immensely. And there's lots of comfort in the fact that it's only going to get better. The possibilities are are pretty damn endless. Hell, we're just getting rolling on month two!

From the desk of Jeff Newman:

Just another Tuesday night. Another day in the week that wasn't the start or even the middle. It just was. But Tuesday brings with it a weekly tradition of writing, drinking, and music. A block down Lunt and a right on Glenwood will bring you to the Red Line Tap. A watering hole conveniently located in a wall just off the Morse stop on the red line. A pool table, an old arcade game, and a dark haze that makes the cold street outside seem bright by comparison. Evan at one in the morning.
But it wasn't the $2 Hamms or even the $5 Fighting Cock bourbon that brought me into this charming dive every Tuesday. Oh, no. It was the Mudflaps. James, Justin, and Brentley make up the three-piece bluegrass band that fills my Tuesday with beat, grit, and purpose each and every week. Sometimes after putting this baby to bed, sometimes feverishly trying to finish, but always with a cold beer and that heart pumping music filling my veins with a kind of life unknown to me six days out of the week. Often stumbling home refreshed and in good cheer, but no worse for the wear. But tonight was to be different. Oh, yes. This night would end very differently indeed.

Having finished the blog earlier that evening, I was in very high spirits. I filled my lungs with the green buds, pulled on my heavy boots, and made my way through the fresh fallen snow to my Tuesday night refuge. Mickey, at the bar as usual had my favorite beer open and waiting for me when I sat down. Tonight I asked for a short glass of the Fighting Cock to sip on. It was to be a night of loud music, strong drink, and contemplative contemplation. It most certainly was just that. It was during my second bourbon that I noticed problems. Sweet Jesus, the stuff had gotten right on top of me! One minute, I'm hearing the dulcet tones of a Willie Nelson song, the next I can barely hold my head up. Nothing was spinning. Spinning only goes in one direction. This was more akin to being stuck inside a giant cotton ball. Unable to move properly, think straight, or focus my vision. Feeling much more isolated than usual by the unfamiliar chemical composition coursing through my system.

Smoking cigarettes in the last seat
And trying to hide my sorrows from the people I meet
And get along with it all

But no. This wasn't a night for sorrow. It never was. This was a night for jubilee. This was Tuesday night at the Red Line Tap. And the combination of a dark bock, a fine bourbon, and full-flavored mary jane was nothing new to my system. 103 proof or not, something else was at play here. That's when it hit me. Reginald. The fuzzy follicle bastard! Isn't it possible he's been planning this all along? Watching me. Quietly noting my schedule. My routine. Patiently waiting for the moment he could seize. Slip me a mickey, and take over. And why not? He knew the score. He was fast, smart, capable, and ready it would seem to fly solo. Had I done something to offend him? How did we arrive at this moment? Should I have seen this coming? And just what unspeakable method had he chosen to employ in disposing my body? These were the questions wracking my horribly struggling mind as I leaned against the bar shoving chunks of a pizza bagel into my mouth. Surely some food would slow the process of whatever terrible drug was overtaking my system. Devil Reginald! How could I have been so blind? All this talk about his fascination with human culture and the stoic wisdom of the mighty beard. It was all a ruse, and I had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. Tuesday was unraveling before my very eyes. The decision to flee came suddenly. I paid my tab in such a hurry that I had no memory of doing so within seconds of standing. The block and a half back to my humble abode was more hazardous than usual. Between the slushy, icy sidewalks and altered state of gravity I certainly had my work cut out for me. But it wasn't until I was vomiting pizza bagel under the red line overpass that I realized just how sideways this whole evening had turned. What used to be pepperoni, mushrooms, and banana peppers was now a steaming, reeking confirmation of my worst fear from the moment I felt the bottom start to fall.

I don't remember the rest of the walk home, or anything else for that matter besides waking up safe and unmolested in my own bed. Cash and cards still in the wallet, keys and cell phone on the desk. A throbbing in my head, a rotten taste in my mouth, and a sore need for new combinations of new chemicals before anything would be alright again. Reginald must be behind this. Or maybe the Chinese. Either way, things will have to change. We haven't spoken all morning which only exacerbated my suspicions. At this point, I don't feel it would be safe to allow his posts to be published. If he is by chance working with the Chinese, there may be secret codes being transmitted. And I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing I was guilty of treason, not to mention aiding and abetting a breach of national security to a Beard/Chinese hybrid double agent. Some kind of 00-Fu Manchu. I don't even think that's a crime on the books, but you can be damn sure it will be if I don't put a stop to this post haste! When the bells in my head stop ringing, Reginald and I are going to have a very serious discussion. Frankly, I'm not looking forward to it one bit. Mostly because he's much smarter than me. -JN 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Week 6: I Can't Quite Think Yet...4 Simple Rules For Riding My Fucking Train...A Friendly Formal Farewell to the Former First Dog

JN: I've been tugging like mad at these little hairs, but they're just not where they should be for optimal finger-twirling. I spend the better part of my week thinking, and that is increasingly difficult to accomplish without a proper beard for assistance. I'm starting to realize now more than ever how much I took Reginald for granted. It's encouraging how well he's growing in, but my god it's maddening! To be so close to the chin whisker, fuzztastic goodness of yesteryear and yet so fucking far. Jesus, take the wheel! Reginald, give me strength.

From the desk of Jeff Newman:

So, there's been a lot of pissing and moaning the last couple weeks about the CTA hiking their prices up. Listening to this has got me thinking about exactly how many hours over my last two years in Chicago have been spent with my air-conditioner ass parked snugly in a plastic blue seat on the EL. Many Chicagoans who've lived here much longer than I have use this train system as a means for transportation every single day, and yet I am consistently surprised at just how many of these folks have absolutely no idea how to ride the god-damn train. Now, it'd be tempting, easy, and partially correct to blame this on dick-weeds from Evanston and Skokie who only come into the city to shop at Macy's or hit a Cub's game, drunken bros from BroTown, and dumbass college kids. However, the responsibility must ultimately fall to the rest of us marginally aware, marginally conscientious commuters to lead by example and follow some basic rules that are obvious to anybody with eyes, ears, and a 3rd grade- aw hell, let's call it a 1st grade education. If you don't live in Chicago, feel free to take notes. On your next visit to the Windy City, you can impress your fellow travelers with your comprehensive knowledge of CTA etiquette. 

Rules For Not Being a DICK on the CTA

1. When the doors open, people get off. THEN you get on.

*There's a reason this is #1 because it's the most elementary thing imaginable and yet the most commonly mis-performed maneuver. Think of the train as an elevator that moves sideways. If you don't wait for people to get off first, you can't very well cram your stupid ass in, now can you? Also, standing right in the middle of the doorway and waiting for people to exit isn't good enough. I'm afraid you'll need to ALSO move out of the god-damn way so they can too.

2. If all the seats are full, and lots of people are trying to enter behind you, WALK FURTHER INTO THE TRAIN.

*Haha. Enter behind you. Anyway, you can actually keep walking into the train thus creating space behind you for more people to get on. Standing still three steps inside the train car pisses off everyone stuck behind you, makes many of them late, and increases your chances of being bumped into, yelled at, shoved, or even bitten by a zombie. Hey, it happens.

3. Keep your belongings off the seat next to you so OTHERS can sit down.

*This is actually a direct quote that is played repeatedly throughout every ride on the EL you will ever take. Pretty simple. If someone is stuck standing up, and your backpack is occupying the only available seat- you are a dick. I actually saw a guy get punched in the face last year at 6:30 in the morning because he refused to move his bag so an old lady could have the seat. To answer the questions I know are in your head: yes, it was a dumbass college kid. And no, it wasn't the old lady who punched him. That would have been really cool. The point is: what could possibly possess a total stranger to punch you in the face before 7am? Being a selfish dick on the train, apparently.

4. Turn your god-damn music down.

*Again, you would think it's a basic, elementary concept not to blare your music so loudly on the train that everyone else on the train is forced to listen to it as well. And YET! Headphones are very cheap and very available. The douche-bags of which I speak have no excuse whatsoever. People who do this bank on the basic fear most people have of confrontation. When they jam their beats or beat their jams or whatever the hell they do loud as fuck on their stupid fucking phones, sitting there acting like it's the most natural thing in the world, they're essentially daring you to confront them. This is what douche-bags do, and it's tolerated by countless well-meaning commuters every day. Tolerance isn't always a good thing.

If you can follow these 4 simple rules when on the EL, you will have succeeded in avoiding being labeled a dick-weed, douche-bag, ass-clown, dick-cheese, douche-cock, or of course the classic fen-sucked dewberry by those of us who have eyes, ears, and a 1st grade education. This is not at all meant to be a condemnation of the CTA. Far from it. I treasure my train time. Hell, that's probably why I get so aggravated by the douchenheimers of which I speak. I've read most of the books I've read since moving here on the EL. I've written most of this blog on the EL. I've had amazing conversations, eaten terrific meals, and gotten free beers passed to me by brand new friends all while traveling to and from work. That being said, for twenty-eight bucks a week- the bullshit is getting is pretty old. -JN

From the desk of Reginald Buford Brimley:

The nation is in mourning this week, or at least some of it is. Flags everywhere will be at half-mast, or at least should be until such time as the people can raise their heads high once again with pride and confidence in the face of danger and adversity. The loss suffered will not be forgotten anytime soon, nor should it be. For the former commander in chief, Super Bowl Sunday brought with it a bittersweet sadness falling a mere forty-eight hours after the loss of his prized presidential pooch. Barney Bush, Scottish Terrier and former First Dog of the United States (2000-2008) died tragically on Friday after a lengthy battle with lymphoma, a kind of blood cancer which I understand continues to plague canines as well as humanity to this day. Former President George W. Bush posted on his Facebook wall Friday,

"...after twelve and a half years of life, his body could not fight off the illness. Barney and I enjoyed the outdoors. He loved to accompany me when I fished for bass at the ranch. He was a fierce armadillo hunter....Barney greeted Queens, Heads of State, and Prime Ministers. He was always polite and never jumped in their laps. Barney was by my side during our eight years in the White House. He never discussed politics and was always a faithful friend."

It should be noted that the official record reflects that Barney performed his duties as First Dog with unflappable aplomb. He caused not a scrap of controversy during his time in the White House. Nor was he ever indicted, questioned, or implicated in the near countless criminal offenses committed by the administration of his master. The sheer decency of this creature is as plain as the prominent moustache he wore proudly upon his snout. Beard culture has always held great respect for the animals often kept in captivity by their human oppressors. Particularly those owned by Heads of State. Though restrained through various forms of bondage, they continue to display the simple stoic dignity befitting any superior creature forced into such a subservient position, and Barney was no exception. Like many before him, and many more to come, he served as a great mustachioed symbol of the grace and elegance held by all those with fantastic facial hair.

It is important to remember that First Dogs have been a regular presence throughout American history. From President Washington's Staghounds, Sweet Lips, Scentwell, and Vulcan to President Obama's Portuguese Water Dog, Bo. However, the history of this nation shows far more variety in its First Pets than simply canines. Andrew Jackson owned fighting cocks, William Henry Harrison, a cow. Martin Van Buren briefly owned two tiger cubs, while Abraham Lincoln enjoyed the companionship of a turkey named Jack. Benjamin Harrison owned a pair of opossums, but Herbert Hoover takes the blue ribbon for excess with two crocodiles. In recent years, the First Pet position has been reserved mostly for dogs and cats, thus putting increasing pressure on them to stand alone as the shining example for all other presidential pets around the world. This pressure only makes Barney's performance during the W administration that much more impressive. Barney was never at the center of a pathetic grammatical blunder, thoughtless irresponsible abuse of power, or clear and flagrant fabrication which in turn spelled disaster for this or any other nation. He may be the only member of the W administration who can make this claim.
And so it is with a very heavy heart that we bid adieu to the former First Dog. His paw prints will not be easy to fill, but as Bo Obama begins his second term in the White House we cannot help but look forward to the future. Bo Obama will not be the next Barney Bush, nor should he be. Barney's time has passed, and with no concern or possibility of a third term for Bo, we can be assured of a very interesting four years indeed. And though I suppose I should restrain myself during such a time of mourning, I cannot help but ask: wouldn't Bo look better with a Beard? -RBB