This one time, I… Grew a mustache

Ever since I first viewed the phrase on a souvenir t-shirt in the Wisconsin Dells at a young age, one personal mantra – that I’d “try anything once” – has stuck with me. The mantra has resulted in experiences of varying degrees of success. [On a scale of 1-10: a night out at the race track (1), dating a woman (1.5), working as a magician’s assistant for a week (5), eating a fried cheese curd (10).] But no matter what the rating, each experience certainly taught me something new and did not result in life-threatening circumstances (with the possible exception of the excessive fumes and nightly crashes at the Lake Geneva race track).

Therefore, in the spirit of lifelong learning [all the rage in these recession-riddled days, I hear], arrives the latest installment of this blog: “This one time, I…” Here, I will recount something I did during that past week/month/unspecified period of time I’d never done before. With pictures. First-hand accounts. Maybe even video or animated GIFs (you could be so lucky). Finally, for you Thievy McMusicPirates out there, there will be themed music mixes. It will be fun, I promise: TAKE THE CANDY. So, without further ado…

I grew a mustache.

Well, to be completely accurate, I trimmed my existing facial hair (which tends to be quite bountiful) into a mustache. It was something that always seemed like a good idea at the time, but alas, I lacked the bravery to walk about town sprouting a cookieduster. A flavor saver. A mouth brow. Until recently.

The product of a curious Friday night trim session resulted in a weekend-long case study into the discrimination faced by sporters of the pushbroom.
The product of a curious Friday night trim session resulted in a weekend-long case study into the discrimination faced by sporters of the pushbroom.

As I stared back in the mirror at what I’d done, I wondered if friends would treat me the same. If passers-by on the street would gawk. If my family would still love me. With a deep sigh, I turned away from the mirror and headed out the door to face the world I expected to shun me and my facial transgression.

As it turned out, besides a startled baby and an overly-friendly bear bartender, my mustache did not result in any unusual treatment. In fact, I could feel peoples’ eyes look at me with a fresh curiosity, a stirring interest. Historically, commanding officers of the military; like General Lew Wallace; strangely appealing pop stars of the ’70s and ’80s; including Freddie Mercury and Frank Zappa; and eccentric filmmakers enjoyed a certain air of reverie surrounding their ‘stache-wearing ways. And the Mario Bros. had a pretty phenomenal run. Perhaps, based on the results of this study, it could be argued that the well-documented cultural enchantment with the mustache lives on to the present day. Therefore (this is the thesis):

Operation StacheGrow: A success. But would I do it again?
Operation StacheGrow = A success.

But, would I do it again, you ask? I can’t say I’d be in the quickest of hurries. In the end, my Diet Coke still tasted the same, the CTA was still dirty and the music in Boystown remained ear-bustingly loud. Despite the undeniable cult following my ‘stache enjoyed during its 2.5 days of existence, I still felt one pair of overly-large, “ironically-hip” glasses away from looking 100 percent creeptastic.

What I don't want to look like in fifteen years.
What I don't want to look like in fifteen years.

I’ll certainly keep it in mind if I ever become a pop star in need of a PR booster, a la John Oates’ “Ride the Mustache/J-Stache” campaign and its blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed and video series. Apparently Oates, er, J-Stache wants to “tame Leslie Feist’s shrew.” Which level of this statement do you find to be creepiest?

All told, I think this experiment has stirred a rediscovered admiration of the mustache to me. As the great lesbian philosopher Sheryl Concrowcious once said, “if it makes you happy, it can’t be so bad.” Despite carrying stigma in certain sub-communities, it has served as a symbol of manhood, virility and fuzziness for centuries – the first mustache – worn by a Scythian horseman – was documented in 300 BC. That’s before Jesus, therefore I believe it deserves our respect, honor and possibly its own religion. Or, at the very least, a photo montage. Below are a few of my favorite ‘staches through history, in addition to a little mini-mix for your ears (you know, the things on your face located directly to the left and right of your muzzy).

Discussion questions: Have you ever worn a mustache? Do you know someone who has? Do you plan to some day? Would you describe yourself as a Geraldo Rivera fan?

MUSTACHE MIX-A-LOT – A tribute to Nose Neighbors and Those Who Pull Them Off:

Download: Hall & Oates ‘Private Eyes’ (mp3)
Download: Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head ‘Beard Lust’ (mp3)
Download: SSION ‘Street Jizz’ (mp3)
Download: Islands ‘Creeper’ (mp3)
Download: Queen ‘Good Company’ (mp3)
Download: Patrick Wolf ‘The Hairy Song’ (mp3)

Or, download the whole mix.

FuManchu

fridakahlo mario

john-waters

john-oates

Career counseling

[Below is another tiny excerpt from my novel project – Wonderland. This post serves as a tribute to the modern, post-recession job hunt. For those job seekers out there, find a handy, middle school-esque career quiz at the end of the post. It’s simple: Download each of the songs loosely based on an occupation. If you like the song, that means that you should pursue that career. Yes, it’s that easy! Enjoy, and hang in there, job hunters.]

Pen against face = anxious job hunter? Maybe. They look like Vampire Weekend.
Pen against face = anxious job hunter? Maybe. They look like Vampire Weekend.

I’m a perfectionist.

What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?

Really, honestly. What is it?

And I’m not talking about the stock answer that you provide in every job interview – you know, one of the following required responses, all of which can actually be spun into positive things: “Sometimes, I don’t take enough time for myself, because I work too hard… Sometimes, I care too much… Sometimes, I’m too much of a team player.”

My biggest weakness at the moment, as it seemed as I was getting dressed before hopping on the train en route to my interview downtown, was being able to find a matching shirt and pants that were (a) clean, (b) not wrinkled and (c) coordinated with the one suit jacket I owned. Deciding that the slightly crinkled pale blue shirt would do, I headed out to the train station in a dash, convinced that I would be late.

Interview number one, as it turned out, was for a canvassing director position with an environmental non-profit organization, Green Illinois. The position did not pay well and demanded long, exhausting hours and I doubted that I would accept an offer even if it were granted to me. That said, I figured that it was worth the practice, and I was certainly not in a position to be turning down interviews from anywhere, anyone.

But then again, a job is a job…

Ding. Daydream over. I was now in an ornately-decorated elevator and had arrived at the floor of the office where I was to be meeting with Harrison Davis, an executive with a sister organization of Green Illinois’.

As I stepped out of the elevator, I glanced at my phone – 2:54 p.m. Six minutes to spare! Walking into the office, a group of three casually-dressed possible environmentalists turned simultaneously toward me with looks of disdain at being interrupted.

“Hi,” I said, with my voice cracking. “I’m here for the – the interview with – um, Harrison. About the canvass director position that you, or, the Fund has an op–”

“Interviewers go over there,” said a brunette wearing trendy Dolce & Gabbana frames a tight-fitting gray cashmere sweater, tweed skirt and hooker boots. She did not seem to be impressed by my inability to spit out a complete sentence explaining my presence in the office.

I walked past the cubicles and piles of boxes of sheets of paper and approached Harrison Davis, a somewhat gawky, awkward-looking man with short mousey brown hair, wearing a gray pinstriped suit and a purple striped tie. His initial expression toward me was only slightly less annoyed than the welcoming committee head that I’d encountered upon entering the office. I sat down on a metal folding chair after handing over a clean copy of my resume.

He looked it over pseudo-pensively for several seconds before launching his first question.

“So, it looks like you don’t have any direct campaign experience here. What makes you think you can just walk in here and do this job? Do you understand that this is difficult work?”

“Well, yes, I understand that there are a lot of responsibilities involved in the position, and that it is probably quite challenging…” I began as Harrison sliced a hole through my forehead with his menacing stare. “When I was in my undergrad in Madison, I learned several lessons right away, while trying to balance school, work, internships and volunteer work. First of all, it was that priotizing was crucial. Second, that sometimes you need to ask for help and build coalitions. For example, in one of my jobs…”

“No, I mean, you can’t just waltz in here and think that just anyone can do this,” he continued, staring at the wall while avoiding my eye contact until he suddenly shifted his gaze back in my direction. “Really, what skills do you have?”

“I have good organizational skills, can run meetings, have recruitment experience…” I slowly realized that I was growing increasingly sweaty – I felt my chair sink in the floor as I faced cross-examination from the defense stand. “And on my resume you’ll notice the computer programs I’m familiar with are quite numerous. And –”

“OK, OK – Got it, you’re not a moron. Super.”

“Um, yeah, I guess,” I replied, as face deepened to a medium shade of pink. “I mean, what I’m getting at is that I have employed many leadership skills in my previous positions, actually including quite a bit of volunteer and intern coordination, in addition to fundraising and team-building. I–”

“Okay, well… I have a meeting coming up, so let’s just get this over with. Would you relocate?”

“Honestly, probably not,” burst the words from my mouth before I had even given them a thought. I began to sweat. My face: From pink to a light red – what shade would they call that? Suddenly, the job I was barely sure I even wanted in the first place seemed bigger than the room. Bigger than the entire high-rise office tower. Bigger than the world. “I mean, I just moved here from Madison and have a one-year lease I was planning to live out. I live in Andersonville, it’s a really nice neighborhood and–”

“Right, right. We’ll see what we can do. How about you fill out this informational sheet. Be sure to list the places you would be willing to relocate to right here. I’m sure we’ll be calling you later this week, I think you’d be perfect for this job.”

“Oh, um, thank you.” Confused.

“Yeah. You can show yourself out. Nice… meeting you.”

He tentatively extended his hand while standing up, before leaving the room.

The next day I was offered the job for which I was (apparently) completely unqualified for.

Maybe it was pity, or maybe it was a fluke, but whatever the case may have been, I turned down the offer for a position entailing 70+ hour work weeks and a fair share of street canvassing, which is only a few steps above panhandling.

CAREER QUIZ MIX — The song you like most represents your ideal future career! (Sorry, no one sings about accountants..)

Download: St. Vincent ‘Actor Out of Work’ (mp3)
Download: Garotas Suecas ‘Ghostwriter’ (mp3)
Download: The Barmitzvah Brothers ‘Thrift Store Owner’ (mp3)
Download: Final Fantasy ‘The Butcher’ (mp3)
Download: M. Ward ‘Underaker’ (mp3)
Download: Tori Amos ‘Waitress’ (Live in Chicago, 11/6/07) (mp3)

Four-letter word

selfhelp

How do you deal with a rough day/week/month?

Sure, I mean there’s the obvious: A bottle (or other container) of your substance of choice. Distraction. Intoxication. Trying to forget.

But what if that doesn’t work?

If you’re at all like me, you launch into a cleaning/reorganizing frenzy. Out come the creme-coloured filing folders, cue the mock-up drafts of new bedroom furniture arrangements and make some coffee – this is going to be a big project.

As you dig through the piles of papers and envelopes to cards you’d sooner forget receiving, nostalgia is hard to avoid: A grimace, a slight smile, a faint giggle. That trademark stomach-sinking feeling. These scraps, stubs and receipts are all that’s left of days past – the places we’ve gone, the plays and movies that we’ve seen, the faces and bodies we used to swim alongside in this giant pool. <Best served with copious amounts of Fiona Apple playlists>.

“I miss you.”

I. Miss. You. How was it possible that such a seemingly simple, three-word sentence carry such complication, rendering doubt over its true meaning? Pushing aside the pair of pronouns, the remaining four-letter verb can be defined eight different ways:

1. to fail to hit or strike: to miss a target.
2. to fail to encounter, meet, catch, etc.: to miss a train.
3. to fail to take advantage of: to miss a chance.
4. to fail to be present at or for: to miss a day of school.
5. to notice the absence or loss of: When did you first miss your wallet?
6. to regret the absence or loss of: I miss you all dreadfully.
7. to escape or avoid: He just missed being caught.
8. to fail to perceive or understand: to miss the point of a remark.

Suddenly, the sentence — scrawled dozens of times on Facebook walls to long-lost high school “friends” and college acquaintances, usually followed by “let’s totally get coffee and catch up soon! yeah!” — doesn’t seem so simple or empty anymore. It never was.

SONGS FOR A FOUR-LETTER WORD:

Download: Los Campesinos! ‘It’s Never That Easy Though, Is It? (Song for the Other Hurt)’ (mp3)
Download: PJ Harvey ‘Silence’ (mp3)
Download: Metric ‘Help I’m Alive’ (mp3)
Download: Cold War Kids ‘Hang Me Up to Dry’ (mp3)
Download: Passion Pit ‘The Reeling’ (mp3)
Download: Nite Jewel ‘Lover’ (mp3)

Love is..

wepod

They say that love is kind. Love is patient. Love is all you need.

I think those are all too convenient. At least for today’s world.

Yesterday, while riding the train to my heartless, passionless job that pays my rent (but not much else), I had to smile when I witnessed the display of true, unbridled love: Sharing a pair of iPod earphones with your lover.

There they sat, hand in hand, taking turns choosing their next song and holding the communal iPod. wePod. usPod. ourPod.

No quibbles, no fights – here’s a couple that can agree on a playlist. Sure, it’s likely a premise filled with the occasional sacrifices, but isn’t that indicative of any relationship dynamic?  <Really, Feist again, baby? … Choose your battles, choose your battles…>

Now, if only Apple comes out with a contraption fit for the three-eared, socially-aware, American Apparel-clothed family of the future. And then this couple’s adorable baby could have joined in on the fun.

**Cue Audience Participation** What music would you listen with your S.O. and baby on your wePod (via a three-pronged earphone set-up)? Do you even like children? Would you adopt an Asian baby? Do you ride public transit? Do you know someone who does?

MY FUTURISTIC, FAMILY-FRIENDLY 3-EARPHONED WEPOD PLAYLIST (IN THE MAKING):
Download: Loney, Dear ‘Everything Turns to You’ (mp3)
Download: Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘Hysteric (Acoustic)’ (mp3)
Download: Tori Amos ‘Welcome to England’ (mp3)

Give a listen to… Telefon Tel Aviv

It’s been a while since I’d featured a musical artist in this blog’s “Give a listen to…” series, and after previewing a track from the forthcoming album from Telefon Tel Aviv, a Chicago-based, New Orleans transplanted electro-pop duo, I knew that the feature was ready to make its triumphant return.

The track that did the trick is “Helen of Troy,” a lush, pastoral electronic track that is sweetly infectious (and available for download at the bottom of this post). I could listen to it on repeat for eons. The track seems to be on the brink –I’d give it two months — of remixes galore and probably a good six months from blogofame, particularly if the rest of Immolate Yourself, out on January 20, 2009, matches the level of this track.

The duo, comprised of Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper, recently changed record labels to BPitch Control, have previously released two original albums, 2001’s Fahrenheit Fair Enough and 2004’s Map of What Is Effortless. The below track, from a live performance at the Kick It! Festival in Rome last year showcases, in admittedly low quality, their live presence:

The band have a handful of North American stops left on their tour this month, and will surely be on the road in the new year, so be sure to keep a look out for them. Meanwhile, enjoy the track below, and if you like what you hear, go and buy some new music.

Download: Telefon Tel Aviv ‘Helen of Troy’

Visit: Myspace | Official Site

Previously listened to on GALT: Kate Nash | Owen Pallett | Onili | Lykke Li