Friday, January 15, 2016


Hey. It's Conor. I'm not here to talk about anything in my life other than this video game I started playing yesterday. It's called Rocket League. This is Rocket League. Don't watch the whole video. I want to keep your attention and I don't think asking you to watch more than 20 seconds of that video is a good way of accomplishing that goal.

That is Rocket League if you play it all the god damned time. I downloaded Rocket League yesterday from my brother's Playstation account, booted it up, and ignored the exhibition game it offered me as well as the tutorial (do not insult me, O Rocket League) and dove straight into a 27 game season. There were several difficulty levels below "All-Star," all of which I scoffed at. And we're off!

Game 1 Wyrms @ Skyhaws L 1 - 9 (0 - 1)

Imagine an NBA or NHL team were somehow forced to have someone on the field at all times who had never, ever played the sport that they were now competing in at the highest level. This person isn't necessarily unathletic, in fact they could be in incredible shape (the analogy here being that I've spent an embarrassing amount of time playing video games -- I know the way they move, generally), but still. The results will be ... telling.

That was the setup to the Wyrms game and first loss of the season,  9 to 1. It was 8 - 0 and man, did that one goal that we scored (I think it was Merlin? Can't be sure) shine a ray of hope onto our stupid car faces. Onwards and upwards, right.

Game 2 Wyrms @ Rovers L 2 - 6 (0 -2)

Within the first 20 second of play I fucking drilled a goal straight into the god damn goal for a goal. We then proceeded to meltdown. It was during this game that I realized the importance of personifying my teammates and my enemies. Merlin and Sundown are hard to read, Merlin incredibly so. Sundown often does some questionable things on defense (I know this because I get a great, relatively unobstructed view of much of our defensive tactics while I struggle with the controls on the other, empty side of the field), but the second I question him he does something cool. He scored our second and last goal.

The Rovers had a pretty clear enforcer on their team. I saw Buzz destroy my teammates 2 or 3 times through this game, because I guess blowing up your opponents in this game is a thing. I have not yet experienced it, but I fear it greatly. I do not want to be destroyed.

I'm looking at Merlin and Sundown and I do not think either of them are enforcers. This means I have a niche to fill.

Game 3 Express @ Wyrms L 9 - 3 (0 - 3)

The score can't be entirely trusted on this one. In a lot of ways the Wyrms are a team who are finding themselves. I scored a goal that was the equivalent of a put-back dunk, a no-skill effort point I was rewarded for following the ball like a dog chasing after a car, or, less adorably, a terrified kid on a bike. Merlin went off, scoring the first two points of the game.

Still a lot of problems. A look at the box score says that Sundown made neither of his two shots on goal (meanwhile I was 1 - 1 -- thought I'd mention that), he had no assist and four saves. Defensive specialist, right? Wrong. I got very, very worked up about one goal we suffered because Sundown threw it in reverse right as a ball came careening at the goal he was defending. It looked a lot like this.

I like this core. As both team manager, coach, and clear worst player on the team (I have no idea how our personal scores are calculated at the end of game but here were are standings this time -- Merlin with 290, Sundown 180, me with 145) I have to remain optimistic, but my optimism is not forced. I feel like we can go somewhere. I just have to remember the acceleration button and Sundown has to play some god damned defense.

Game 4 Pioneers @ Wyrms L 2 - 6 (0 - 4)

This one was painful. Definitely a step back. Miscommunications everywhere. I did at one point say out loud "CLEAR IT DOWNFIELD, I'M SO OPEN, THERE ARE NO OFFSIDES IN THIS GAME, WE'RE ALL ROCKET CARS." I'm still worked up about these games, even though the progress I want to be seeing isn't always there. That's a good sign. Gotta stay engaged.

Side note: This stadium is awesome! Haven't been talking about the stadiums because they've all been the same, I had assumed up to this point that they were all the same layout with different aesthetic differences, but this one, The Wasteland, it seems to be called, had raised edges as if we were playing in a plate. Why oh why don't sports do this? This is the one thing baseball does better than other sports, it's cool that it's way easier to score home runs in certain ballparks. Fuck whatever difficulties that creates for the people who are supposed to compile advanced statistics, that shit's awesome! As a kid, and then as a teenager, and then as a college student and now still as a post-grad I've always wanted there to be loop-de-loops on highways, or trolls I have to fight in order to get across certain extremely necessary bridges. Sports are escapism, right? Why can't they be more fantastical? Fuck yes, tell me this isn't the craziest map they have.

Oh god looking at the results throughout the league going into Game 5 is not not not encouraging. There are 10 teams and we are now the only 0 - 4 club. Let's change this.

Game 5 Wyrms @ Cyclones L 4 -7 (0 - 5)

Holy shit did I want this one so bad.

I'm obviously very glad that point differential isn't a thing in this league, because our first couple of games would have definitely damned us if that were the case, but this game was so close.

I'm looking at the league. 27 games in a season before the playoffs. 6 of 10 teams go to the playoffs. (The other option was 4. So very glad I chose 6) Is this doable? Yes, when it comes to numbers, yes, very clearly it can be done. Am I going to achieve this? No, probably not. Am I going to play the rest of the season out? Yes. Because Merlin, Sundown and I are going to watch the post-season, and we are going to be hungry. And then there will be the season after that. And then the season after that.

Trust the process.

GAME 6 WYRMS @ MAMMOTHS W 4 - 3 (1 - 5)
















Game 7 Wyrms @ Monarchs L 3 - 6 (1 - 6)
Game 8 Rebels @ Wyrms L 8 - 4 (1 - 7)
Games 9 Wyrms @ Guardians L 2 - 7 (1 - 8)

Not much to say about these. Maybe there was something to the process after all.

Game 10 Wyrms @ Skyhawks W 7 - 6 (2 - 8)
Game 11 Wyrms @ Rovers W 5 - 3 (3 - 8)
Game 12 Express @ Wyrms W 2 - 4 (4 - 8)

What the fuck?

Game 13 Pioneers @ Wyrms L 3 - 2 (4 - 9)

Listen this one is technically a loss, but it's in this game that Wyrms fans really saw what we had in mind for this franchise. Against the Pioneers (The god damn Pioneers! 10 - 3 after this game, they're unstoppable. Can anyone slow Scout down? And does Skyhook get enough credit? [I made Skyhook up, I can't remember any of the other names, I'll be on the lookout next time I play the Pioneers to decided which car will forever be nicknamed Skyhook]) oh shit where was I that parenthetical aside really got away from me

oh right, yes, anyway, this was a really good game, and we won our three previous. The playoffs are no longer a dream. It'll be difficult, but we're only two victories behind the 6th seed (The Express! Those pretenders we handed a 4 - 2 loss to last week!). I've decided that this league is ruthless, and the bottom 2 teams at the end of the regular season get demoted to the next difficult down, known as the Pro-League but more commonly referred to as the No-League, or maybe the So-Bad-League.

The Wyrms will not be demoted to the Faux-League. It's not going to happen. The Wyrms have wormed their way into the hearts of whatever town or city they represent (ideas? This game seems to take place in the future, but I'm willing to spin this into some high fantasy shit), and soon they'll scorch their way into the playoffs.

Where they will probably be eliminated in the first round by the Pioneers, or the Cyclones, if they're lucky.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I've Never Drummed Hard Enough

Today, I was celebrating my best friend's birthday. I've always considered him my best friend, even though I've never been entirely sure that he thinks of me in the same way. Anyway, I was drumming a pretty mediocre beat on a practice drum pad while we listened to some of our favorite songs, playing loudly over the TV speakers. This particular song that was playing was especially important to me, because it always makes me think of a certain person that I've cared about for a long time. Then my friend comes in, drunk, and tells me, "Brian, you don't drum hard enough". Naturally, I ask what he means by that, and he says, "Like, for this song, and for life in general".

I can't express to you how sad this makes me. Because he was right. I've never drummed hard enough.

I've always wanted to be a rockstar. I've dreamt about it every day. But I've never thought that I have the talent. Sometimes I blame my parents for that, because unlike all my friends, I never was enrolled in music lessons when I was younger. But then I think about it, and it isn't their fault. They never had the money to give that to me, and I was always introverted as a kid, so they couldn't even have known that that's what I wanted above all else. I never talked to anyone about what I wanted, let alone my parents. Nothing I loved was on the table. Everything I loved was out to sea. It's my fault. Maybe if I ever had the balls to just have a real conversation with anyone, I would be what I want to be today. Maybe if I wasn't so scared of failure, I would be happy.

But I'm not.

Instead, I'm now a spectator in my own life. I get to sit by and watch while other people live the lives I want to lead. They get to be the person I want to be. They know what they want, and they've taken it for themselves.

I'm a coward. I've never even been able to admit to myself, let alone to anyone else, what I want. To this day, I don't even know what it is that I want. All I can do is close my eyes, pull the trigger, and hope I don't hurt anyone that I care about.

"We're going to be together until one of us dies". Never have I heard a more beautiful, sincere statement, and never has anything depressed me more. To have that kind of certainty and passion about literally anything must be exhilarating, but I wouldn't know. The highlight of any day for me is when I manage to break the seal of apathy that restrains my life. I can't even express to you how good it feels for me to care about anything. Even being sad about something makes me happy in a way. But that's rare. Instead, I find myself drifting.

It's so good to feel.

Someday, I'm going to be a rockstar. Someday, I will be happy. I swear to God that one day I will have the balls to be what I want, to do what I feel. I'll tell everyone how I feel about everything, and I'll be at peace. I'll be the man I should be. I'll have direction. I'll know what I want. I'll know who I love, and God dammit, they'll love me too. I'll climb my way out of this ridiculous pit I've dug myself. Sad songs will no longer be the most relatable thing in the world to me.

I have spent so much of my life hiding my sadness, because I've always thought that I wasn't worthy of it. There will always be someone out there with more problems, with bigger problems. But I've come to realize that life isn't like that. Everything isn't some sort of competition. I'm entitled to my sadness, even if you don't think I deserve it, even if I don't. Feelings are feelings, and I feel them. Someday, I will learn to control them, I will learn to own them. And then I will be happy.

Never forget what it is to love. Never forget what it is to hate, to feel sad, to be resentful, to be annoyed, to be happy, to be lonely. And never stop caring. Because the day that you forget, the day that you stop caring, is the day that you stop living.

She's never been there for me. I have a glitch. I don't know who I am.

Always drum your hardest.


Eliot's last post on Classic Brian because, you know, like, fuck it, it's his 21st birthday.

Listen; it's my birthday, and I'm totally above this kind of shit. Because, hey, now I'm 21, and if you think about it, when this blog started, I was 17 years old.

What was I thinking at that point in time? I don't know; I have no idea. It's this same idea, this same ideal. Because growing up is such a fucking arduous task, I decided to document it. With the help of my friends. Because I wanted to give you multiple perspectives, because despite the fact that you never experienced multiple perspectives and never learned empathy, I trusted you. I trusted you to know more what our life was about. And so, hey, here you go, because why would I not give this to you, after, you know, we've been through so much.

This is me.

I've been alive 21 years. This realization, this legal martini and this under-appreciated shot of pumpkin schnapps, they're all I have left in growing up. I can't tell you how confusing it's been. But at the same time, I can't lie to you and say that I've had it easy or have been waiting for this to happen. It's just this thing, you know, growing up, that you have to experience for yourself.

I only say that because everything that I've experienced to this point has the conventional research to that point and I thought that she would be there for me.

... I don't even know who she is. Because, like, yeah, I'm dating Jenn,  and surely by now, you know that. But, hey, why don't you know that as who I am when I input text into this medium. It's a part of you. Blogging is scary. But don't act like it's not the best way of reaching yourself along with reaching your subject matter.

I have so many troubles. And God, I'm so scared. But I'm a late bloomer and a late guesser, so shit, I mean, who ever is going to take dreams away when everyone assumes they're already gone. Who? Fuck you, I'm ending my Classic Brian blogging with a question. Because I have done a great job of figuring out who I am. And, hey, gotcha!, that was why I made this blog up, so, ha!, ha. So, hey, what have you figured out of yourself? Because you have a glitch too. You have a mistake, too. So don't act like that will never occur again. Just, acknowledge it.

Be who you are.

Look, deep inside yourself.

And hopefully you find you.

Because otherwise,

you know,

you'll be...

a fucking worthless piece of shit.

....So I hope you found yourself.

But hey, I love you.


Don't feel discouraged.


You know.

You've got your own life to make completely invulnerable.

And stuff.

I love you,



-- Eliot (two dashes, for fun)

miss you.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eliot's reaction to Arrested Development's fourth season

I'll try to keep this short so I don't have to write so much. I'll also try to avoid making any Arrested Development joke references in this post because that's cheeky.

I fell asleep during the 14th episode of the fourth season of Arrested Development. I wasn't sure whether to be disappointed in myself or disappointed in the show. It was a little of both.

The Funniest Show's fourth season had a distinctly different feel to it than its previous three seasons, which were a dream. It was sitcom television reinvented. To compliment it to a just extent is unnecessary at this point, which is ironic, yeah.

This fourth season was something different. It wasn't more Arrested Development. It was a new mold, another innovation. And it doesn't leave you the same way the original seasons left you. Here is a really fair argument against the show.

In summation, here were the gripes:

• It wasn't as funny as the first three seasons
• The episodes dragged on sometimes
• It got boring seeing the same scenes repeatedly with an extra line or so of information
• Its self-awareness was gratuitous and detracted from the story
• Celebrity cameos were overabundant and forced in some cases
• Netflix's style of releasing shows to the masses prevents united consumption

I agree with all those things. All those things passed through my mind while watching the 15 episodes.

But in the end, my heart sided with Arrested Development and its creators, Jace Lacob and The Daily Beast be damned. Seriously. They can go to hell.

Here's why you can box up your complaints and ship them up your own ass.

 • No one watched Arrested Development at the same time anyway.
Arrested Development was like a disease to which the masses were exposed and of whom very few were infected. They spread the disease directly to others and soon the entire country had the itis for AD. Sure, if they released episodes one at a time, it'd be cool to watch it as this giant family of infected Arrested Developers, but that's not what the show was about, nor was it what we missed about it. It was never a communal experience, and it has become one now, more or less, with everyone racing to various devices to see it within about a week or so. An hour (or half hour) per week doesn't really fill the hunger of TV fans. People always watched AD at their own pace. This keeps that up.

• The show was saturated with celebrity cameos out of respect.
Everyone wanted to be a part of this show because everyone loved it and wanted to pitch in. I thought it was adorable. Dozens of new funny people scraped out screen time, and I think it's great because it allowed the show a massive cast. It was a comedic inspiration, and everyone wanted to pay respects by playing a part. I think the real winners here were Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen, who landed the parts of flashback-Lucille and flashback-George Sr., respectively, and did well with them (I liked Wiig better than Rogen, for what it's worth). I didn't necessarily like all the cameos. I didn't light up when I saw the boys from Workaholics on screen, but I was sure they were really honored to play roles in the show and it made me think about what this season meant to television comedy as a gesture, if nothing else. It was like a living funeral.

• The fourth wall has been broken on this show for a long time.
The reason they couldn't reel off a smooth fourth season is because their previous season was cut short awkwardly as they made subtle jabs at their own cancellation and general doom, and also was seven years ago. The time element is impossible to ignore, and with that, you have some gray area there that, if ignored, lowers the quality of your show. Had they just made the narrative, and ignored the gravity of their resurrection as having a tangible impact on their story, they'd be ignoring the most triumphant aspect of the return.

• The structure of the storytelling was a good thing.
Like it or not, this season had to go in circles because the premise of it is "What happened?" So they have a lot to explain, and it wouldn't be AD's style to lay it all out chronologically and run out of breath exposing the next event in the story repeatedly until we're done. That would be boring. Instead, the writers gave fans something to do, keeping with the same active watching crowd that praised the original works. Now viewers are trying to keep the whole timeline in their head, piecing together events and scenes as a means to enjoy what is a fairly arduous expository story. It took a lot of effort for the show to separate itself from the season three ending that all its fans had come to understand as the end of the show. And then to create a position for the finale (being the movie) to take off from was more effort. A lot of basic moves needed to be made, and they found a way to do it interestingly.

• It serves no one to limit the show in any way, timewise.
The episodes dragged on. They were longer. The older ones were shorter. Yes, the quick editing made for a wittier dialogue between show and viewer. But given the opportunity for more show, there's no reason to turn it down. I truly believe that as much as anything else, this show's return was about catharsis. Being able to watch the Bluths again, to see the characters be their hilarious selves was the real win. Fans had gone so long without seeing them do new things, and now, blessed with that opportunity, the writers took serious advantage, and I don't blame them at all. We now had more time to spend with them. No one was pining for shorter episodes. Perhaps quicker editing could've been utilized but that doesn't mean I'd rather cut out dialogue that helps me get to know or affirm what I know about these characters.

• At a certain point, the quality of this season didn't matter.
There were things about this season that were really hard to accept, watching strictly as someone who watched as many of the old episodes before the release of season 4 to immerse myself in AD. I found myself laughing less toward the end of the series, as things became gradually more clear in ways I was expecting, rather than the AD tradition of things becoming suddenly clear in ways I didn't expect and had only subconsciously considered. But while I wasn't laughing out loud, I was smiling. This goes back to the catharsis of having a fourth season. Arrested Development was always unique for being a plot-driven sitcom, and its narrative momentum was gutted by years of hiatus. But when the bell was rung for the new season to begin, every single person involved with the show's initial run came back. Not just the main characters, but a majority of the smaller characters as well. Short of J. Walter Weatherman and Wayne Jarvis, I didn't notice anyone missing that I wanted back. The important thing of this season was that it happened, and that it didn't compromise the spirit of the show. It was pretty much a lock that its spirit wouldn't be compromised because everyone came back to put it back together. I don't think anyone expected to go in and make Arrested Development's best season yet, but to right the wrong of the show's cancellation. The show was back. It was itself, only a little aged.

So yes, in regards to season 4 of Arrested Development, there were some things that I wish were not. The majority of them had to do with circumstance. Those that didn't were understandable choices. At this point, we — the beggar crowd that blamed the rest of the country for canning our baby — cannot complain. If there is a loss suffered at the release of this show's fourth season, it is lost in the time elapsed since the last new episode, and nothing more. We got what we wanted, which is more than we expected, and it couldn't have been done better.

--Eliot Sill

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Some Russian stranger

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, no one has ever recommended I read you. None of my friends my age, to my knowledge, have ever read you. I, in a certain sense, could be considered never to have read you. All the while, I really enjoyed reading The Idiot. Thank you for writing it.

I don't know anything of 19th century Russia. What I do know of it, which is nothing, I know from reading The Idiot. I don't know the type of aristocracy that exists there, I've only read about it. I've read an account of it, rather. I do not know much of anything about what I read, but I read it.

Jeff Kirshman (sports editor Jeff) quoted someone in the final sports desk meeting before last summer, that as an aspiring writer, you should read stuff that intimidates you. OK so he paraphrased. But Dostoyevsky, you son of a bitch, you are intimidating.

The only reason I knew who Fyodor Dostoyevsky was is I remember my dad read a book by him several years back, and so enjoyed his name, Doh stoi yeff ski, that he often said it in a certain gruff, low voice. And that he would, when inquiring about my English classes in high school, ask if I read any Doh stoi yeff ski. He would say it so that the Doh was a regular quarter note, the stoi slurred into the yeff, which was staccato, as was the ski. If you don't know exactly how he said it by this point, I'm sorry for wasting so much of both of our time.

Anyway, my impression of this guy was simple: gruff, Russian (Grussian). After reading For Whom the Bell Tolls, I wondered if Dostoyevsky was like a Russian Hemingway. I wanted to read something by the guy who had inevitiably earned the favor of my father. So while perusing my mom's vintage boutique, Birdsong, located in Elkhart, Ill., right off I-55, where you can fulfill all your vintage clothing/book/miscellaneous needs, and my mom might have Mac(s) with her, and you could pet him, and tell him hi for me, ... I saw an old copy of The Idiot. The cover was black and white, featuring a fair haired and bearded young man, whose eyes carried both frightened vulnerability and determination. This was the Idiot, I supposed. I decided to grab it, and that I would read it at some point or another, and see what this Russian guy was about. I remember liking the work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, so why not Fyodor here?

I met the Idiot, and Fyodor, and a lot of semicolons. The Idiot, Prince Myshkin, which is a great name that I one day would absolutely consider endowing to a cat or dog, is more than a dim-witted royal junkpiece. He's epileptic. That's what "idiocy" is. The disease translates fairly well to the modern slang colloquialism. The Prince is an utter dupe, he takes everything at face value and doesn't learn from being duped in the past. He is, at first acquaintance, the most wholesome person one could ever meet, and never shows any depth of character beyond that. He is honest for better and worse, and has an inherent trust, or rather, love, of everyone he meets.

It's hard to know what you want for Prince Myshkin, should his climax be to climb out from under his illness, to break through and be 'cured'? (The novel used single quotes for every quote, and double quotes for quotes within quotes.) Or should he fall in love with the beautiful Nastasya Fillipovna, who is also crazy? Or should he settle for Aglaya Yepanchin, who is the more decent looking, slightly crazy but more home-y type who loves him for his simplicity. My personal hope was for Vera Lebedev, the landlord's lowly daughter, but it wasn't to be.

Should he even have a love interest? After all, he's mentally ill. Perhaps if he helps everyone else find their dream match, I'll be satisfied as a reader. Also, reading from his perspective becomes grating and difficult when someone is pulling his leg. As a character, he's sympathetic, frustrating and ultimately pitiful.

If anything, Dostoyevsky's writing struck me as brave. Whenever I pick up a 'classic' novel, I fear that it will have a cliche ending, excusable via grandfather clause of it setting the bar for said cliche, but nevertheless disappointing. This novel was unique, and I found it bold to write a story with a mentally ill person as the main character. Because of this, you can never doubt that Dostoyevsky knew exactly what he was looking to do with the story, otherwise he would never have dared to tell it in such a way. If I lived in 19th century Russia, I think I would find it a fascinating commentary on my civilization. As it is, it is a fascinating social commentary given the time and place. The narrative is intricate, but the story was long, at about 660 pages.

Dostoyevsky used semicolons and colons seemingly as often as commas and periods, pretty well thwarting my Ernest Hemingway comparison. But I'd say he tackled the subject he aimed for with the exact type of fortitude and informed confidence that made Hemingway great. And there were a couple passages where the novel gets on a roll and makes you laugh or leaves you agape, similar to how Hemingway throws himself into drunken tirades or explodes his own powder kegs at a climax. It was a translated work, so any superior manipulation of the language itself was lost, which is most unfortunate.

Fyodor. No one recommended you to me. You were dead for a century before I was born. You wrote in the other hemisphere, about the other hemisphere, for the other hemisphere. You didn't even write these words; some bloke named David Magarshack translated them. But hey, I read your story about Prince Myshkin. And I rather liked it. Thank you.

--Eliot Sill

Friday, April 26, 2013

The New Orleans trip, part I

By Eliot Sill

John Steinbeck and I were leaving Texas together. He ended up getting out a couple hours before I finally did, but we were there together, and instead of consuming he and Charley's travels, I was rivaling them. Instead of a dog, a fully equipped truck and a fantastic poetic disposition, I had Nick, Brian, Conor and Nina Horne — a friend of Conor's from Oklahoma University — for companions.

I suppose the most important aspect of my vacation is that I did it. Until a week before, I was fairly committed to the idea of using Spring Break as a sabbatical to catch up on classes and read some books in the solitude of my efficiency apartment, in a city that everyone I knew would be vacating for a week. It would be nice. But I was tired of turning down my friends' expeditions for the sake of giving myself time that I could only hope would be put toward bettering my journalistic aspects. I could only hope to use that time. I would put myself in the arena and wait for the game to be played around me. I needed to leave the arena. The ease with which I did so was liberating. I simply decided to go. A week later, I had gone.

The trip began without ceremony. I left my dog Mac(s) and my mom behind, riding with Nick and Brian out of Springfield (we were to meet Conor in Norman, Okla., and Nina in Dallas). I fell asleep pretty soon after we got on the highway, have vague sleepy memories of the difficulty experienced navigating St. Louis, then woke up in earnest somewhere in Missouri. How nice.

The weather for the first leg of our trip, a 10-hour dive down to Norman, was utter shit. Gray skies made for ease of sight, but eventually those skies opened up and spit and urinated on our silver Taurus for approximately 900 percent of the trip. My driver's license was suspended, so I was useless beyond added conversation and enthusiasm for radio plays of Taylor Swift's “Trouble,” which I had picked up on pretty quickly as what would be a hallmark of the trip. Other hits were Justin Timberlake's “Suit and Tie” and R.E.M.'s “Losing My Religion.” What a crew.

After Nick spent a few hours trying to outrun the rain — which looked on the radar like a Google Maps route line for our progress thus far — we pulled into a Steak N Shake for a late lunch in hopes that the rain would get over itself. I felt the familiar judgment one feels whenever walking into his local Steak N Shake chain; these places are typically filled with locals who have a good chance of knowing anyone who would walk in. I ordered cheese fries and was greeted with phony ass nacho cheese drizzled over my fries. Oh, Missouri. Pretty soon after Brian took over the driving duties, the rain became inconsequential.

Robert once called Missouri “the brooding artist of the Midwest,” speaking about its geography. I don't know if they were his words, but if they were, he can take satisfaction in knowing that the phrase has stuck with me and is warmed in my memory every time I travel through Missouri. Missouri has great hilly rifts within itself that paint the highway scenery in such a way that makes even the 70 mph speed limits not enough to counteract its beauty. Steinbeck wrote of his travels in the time when such interstate highways were just being built, and he saw them as a potential demise of the aesthetic appeal of travel. I subscribe to this belief, if for no other reason than that I've never been wowed by high speed countryside.

The 70 mph speeds, when combined with the gray rainy weather barf, were enough to make Missouri as breathtaking as a pile of wet toilet paper. At one point, Missouri open fired on us with a barrage of hail that changed the 70 mph speeds to 0 mph ones. Nick, driving, laughed in terror as Brian and I sat more upright in our seats and used our hands to hold on to things. Other than that minute-long sample of hell, the weather was drab and boring. Brian, Nick and I were left to commenting on Missouri's alter ego, Missouruh, which is how we referred to Missouri's trashy parts. Brian went so far as to say that Missouri's landscape is just like Illinois' but with hills, which I agreed with in the same vein that I think the ocean shares Illinois' geography, only it has water.

Eventually Brian took us into Oklahoma, which geographically is an impressionable friend of Texas and Missouri that holds no loyalties to either state. It is plains upon plains with minor variations here and there, but nothing particularly characterizable. It is also a big state, and hides Norman from Illinois like the human body hides its liver. We traveled through Oklahoma for exhausting lengths of time.
Our correspondence with Conor to this point had been very little. We were going to spend the night with Conor in Norman before shipping out for New Orleans the next day. Eventually we made it to Oklahoma City, where I saw that one building TNT always shows during city cut-away shots before and after commercials of Thunder games. OKC phased seamlessly into Norman, and suddenly Conor was within shouting distance.

Conor was a friend with whom I had become quite distant over the past couple years, mainly because I kept turning down offers such as these for extended stays with him. Staying in Champaign had produced exceedingly moderate results, but this decision produced Conor O'Brien, right in front of me, when I otherwise simply would not be in contact with him. At Conor's, we had beers like men while catching up and swapping stories and engaging in a random dance-off to please the funk emanating from his iHome. The catching up felt sweet and genuine and more or less I was with my boys again for the first time since Solstice 2011. A game of Mario Party 3 stopped short, thank God, and I went and slept.

I had read John Steinbeck's “Travels With Charley” at a stone's pace over the semester, and was determined to finish it on this trip because the stack of books I was “determined to finish” before the end of the semester was mounting, having been defeated by course readings yet again. Steinbeck was an appropriate romanticizer. He would take a brief conversation had by some local in a stranger, with he in all his writer's pretense and massive, overstocked truck dubbed “Rocinante” — he may as well have been a blog riding an elephant, and characterize an entire state or region with care and poignancy. Many digressions of his tackled seemingly outdated subjects with an uncanny timelessness that made me lower the book in incredulity. Maybe it was his writings, and how he tied these tales of wisdom to the simple fact that he got the hell out and went somewhere, that persuaded me to enlist in this vacation.

I read a lot of “Travels With Charley” before the trip, and this made me want to take Mac(s) with us, though I knew how implausible that was. But the half of the book I read on the road made me glad Mac(s) had stayed back.

That and the fact that we picked up a fifth person just a few hours after leaving Norman and our car became stuffed. Nina Horne, an Ultimate teammate of Conor's from Oklahoma, whose parents live in New Orleans, was someone who had let me sleep in her bed before I ever met her. Maggie Tyson turned out to be one of these people as well, but we'll get to her later. Nina was someone whom I'd wanted to meet since Conor began telling me stories involving her two-plus years ago. Plus she was from New Orleans, so how awesome could she not be? Nina's dad, Kevin Horne, or Mr. Kevin, as Conor called him, had shelled out drinks like peanuts last time Conor, Nick and Brian had visited. He had quite a reputation, and his daughter was friendly, polite enough not to chastise us for singing along everytime “Trouble” came on the radio, which was very frequently. We had to alternate the GPS with the iTrip because the Taurus only had one cigarette lighter plugin. The iTrip was off in city areas, and the competition between “Trouble” and “Suit and Tie” was in full swing. As of this writing, it is still ongoing.*

It was during this leg of the trip, after picking up Nina from Dallas, where I read to the end of “Travels With Charley.” The sun had joined us for the drive from Norman to New Orleans, thankfully enough, making reading a more pleasant experience. I am not a skilled reader. I still pass through stretches of text while thinking about my personal life without remembering to reread the passage. I hate to think of how many intricacies I passed over during moments of sleepiness and bright sun. I hate to think this because I don't like rereading books. I like it in theory, but I am not a skilled reader, and thus read quite slowly. To reread one book is to unread another, and I need not unread any books, few as my kill total stands. I always try and force more interaction between myself and the outside world than is required, because ultimately it is this interaction that keeps one from passing through the world unnoticed. However, I know full well that I still do a lousy job of this. In Steinbeck's time it was more commonplace to talk to strangers, now everyone's just afraid you're here to rape their loved ones, and with understandable reason, given the commonality of such tales of late.

I came to a part in “Travels With Charley” where Steinbeck drove through Texas, which was doubly cathartic when read while traveling through Texas. A memorable passage was of a grand dinner he and his wife (who had visited him during this phase of his traveling) had with some wealthy Texans. He talked of the special preparation with which the meal was prepared. He ended by stating he refused to believe people in Texas ate like that every day. This realization is one that everyone should inherently know about hospitality, but doesn't think to consider specifically. In Steinbeck's journey, he left Texas for New Orleans, which in reading created a giddy excitement in me. I was also heading to New Orleans via Texas. Steinbeck was going to see the Cheerleaders, New Orleans mothers who protested integration of schools. I was going to glorify the unique cultural blend harbored by the city. There we differed, and it was ironic. Steinbeck's writing lost passion after New Orleans. He tired of traveling and this was reflected in his writing. It made me feel good to know that the Steinbecks of the world get tired of projects they enter with ample excitement and are carrying out successfully. For this reason, the book ended quickly after Steinbeck's trip to New Orleans, and I partly wished it would have ended there, but I was thrilled with the parallel nonetheless. Of course, I had been riding the superhighways that defeated the beauty of travel, and was neither writing my experience down as it occurred nor washing my clothes in Brian's trunk.

Nina soon ran into a traffic jam. We chided her for “driving so slow” and she took it well in stride, which while not surprising was pleasant and went to make it easier to talk to her. I wanted to get a start on my next literary target, Dostoyevsky's “The Idiot,” which was, uhh, placed in the trunk for this journey. Our traffic jam slowed to a dead stop, however, and Nina agreed to pop the trunk while I ran out into the middle of I-20 to retrieve it. “The Idiot” scared the hell out of me. Tiny text, imperceptibly thin pages, translated work, 1800s writing, Russian setting I knew nothing about. This was not the timeless Steinbeck writing an acute depiction of a country I already knew in a neat 250 pages. This was Dostoyevsky, whatever the hell that meant. I read that day until it got dark on the road, reading for pages and trying to invest myself in a story I knew a certified nothing about.

We got to New Orleans after midnight.

The city — though we were merely on the outskirts and away from “the city” in the sense one would imagine it — greeted me with a hug of warmth, the kind which I had not felt in months, that of a natural, night warmth. Like an invitation to see someone you thought was angry with you, it grabbed me by the shoulders and led me out of the car. Here I met Kevin Horne.

Nina's dad, Kevin Horne, was here for the same reasons I was. The difference was that he had gotten to stay here and raise a family, and I likely will never get that chance. It only took about halfway into our handshake for me to envy him. His salt-and-pepper moustache was not so flamboyant as to be handlebarred, but was an upward twist away from that level, and nevertheless a prominent feature of his. He sported horn-rimmed spectacles that reminded me of something my mom would find at a thrift store and subsequently try to pass off as vintage-fashionable. His gut toed the preferred side of the line between happily married and fat. He was wearing shorts and sandals, but the rest of this paragraph should have given that away to you already.

Out of the corner of my eye, from the low-lit front yard, palm trees tugged at my attention from the corner of my eyes, as if to say “Hey, see us? We're palm trees. And down here, we're freaking walkway foliage.” I took their arrogant jabs in good stride, knowing that I'd have palm trees in my front yard if I lived in New Orleans as well, and they'd be instructed to convey the same message to any out-of-towners.

New Orleans, for its cultural sublimity, is my version of a dead-sexy Hollywood actress that I can't get out of my head, that I don't admit to my friends just how much I love her based on only surface knowledge. She is the one whom I must have, be she out of my league or not.

We parted with Nina and went over to the Tysons to sleep. We parked our car in front of their yard and nervously walked our way around the house to the back door, where we were greeted by a bug-eyed black and white miniature boxer pug pup with a red, rubber-stubbled ring in his mouth. It was as if we were late to an appointment to play. No humans found us as we snuck up quietly to the bedrooms the Tyson family had sacrificed and set up for us. We quickly, quietly divided rooms, before finding one of Maggie's two sisters — whose name may have been Sarah but I can hardly remember and she shouldn't credit me for thoughtfulness if I'm correct — who gave us the Wi-Fi password so we could get on with our lives after hours spent away from the Internet.

Classic and I shared a room, and the puppy came up to play with us, feeling stood up. We were nervous about making noise and thus were poor playmates. We sent him out of the room eventually, and I turned a light on, read a chapter of Dostoyevsky, and went to sleep.

part II will come out eventually; just wait, knuckleheads.

*- It is no longer ongoing. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Someone should be shot in the face for this

Whoa, that is some delicious looking juice. As we all know, red and green are complementary colors, so this bottle pops. It's a slim bottle, weighing in at a petit 10 ounces. Great, now I don't even have to count calories. But can I draw attention to that red ass grapefruit again? I mean look at that thing! It looks like and uncooked steak or something, or an ocean with the sun setting inside of it. It's goddamn gorgeous, which could not be a more perfect adjective, because I want to gorge that grapefruit or anything associated with it, namely this bottle of grapefruit juice.

Right now, you probably feel like you're watching the hopeful beginnings of a horror movie. We're all going to camp! Where we'll tell ghost stories, eat s'mores, drink merrily without getting caught by the police, and yay! But the title of this post suggests that yay is code for a serious violation. I'm getting there. It is.

The juice itself tastes slightly underwhelming. There's the initial "Mmm!" factor, where you're hit in the mouth with sweetness and red flavory redness. Those are the 33g's of sugar at work on your tongue. It's so sweet, so regularly sweet, so pasteurizedly, processedly sweet. It's not too sweet, but something is fishy. Let's go back to the bottle.

100% juice! Praise Jesus, 100 percent of what's in this bottle is honest to goodness bone raising juice. If you took away all the juice from this bottle, nothing would be in your hand. Even the bottle is made of juice! Plasticized gourmet labely juice. Man, what a great tasting thing. Good thing I paid $1.55 plus tax for this nectar of steak-ocean grapefruit paradise. And BAM! If you don't want 100 percent juice, there's no way you don't want 100 percent Vitamin C. So we'll at least give you a bottle that's only 10 fluid ounces that carries 100 percent of your daily value of Vitamin C. That's 10 percent per ounce. Holy mackerel. By the time I've taken a gulp of this baby I'm already throwing colds off my shoulders. Both shoulders! Left and right. So this grapefruit elixir, that tastes so plainly sweet. How did they do it?

Wait, I thought that was supposed to just say, like, "juice"?

Now the horror begins.

First ingredient: filtered water. THANK GOD THEY FILTERED IT, BUT, I'M PRETTY SURE NEITHER FILTERS NOR WATER ARE JUICE. .......... Wow. Ok. I guess most things have water in them. That doesn't mean they're lying to me, I guess it has concentrated juice or someth—WHAT THE FUCK WHY DOES THAT SAY WHITE GRAPE JUICE CONCENTRATE?

Let's examine the label again.

I'm not crazy, am I? That says RUBY RED GRAPEFRUIT! They even specified the shade and color! There is no way white grapes are on that label? Maybe they're really small and hard to see. MAYBE BUT I DON'T SEE THEM. So it's grape and grapefruit. That's why the sweet is so civilized. There's no space in "GRAPEFRUIT" either, I checked. Still there's a bunch of other st—WHY THE SHIT, THE NEXT INGREDIENT IS APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE! LOOK!

So this 100% RUBY RED GRAPEFRUIT JUICE's first three ingredients, the three most prominent ones, have absolutely nothing to do with rubies, red grapefruits, and aren't 100 percent juice. Right now we're at 66.67 percent juice. Jesus. The next ingredient is ruby red grapefruit juice concentrate, as if it's any consolation. It's like when you ask for 100 dollars for your birthday and you get a suitcase, a book about lawns, a 12-pack of Dasani water and 15 dollars. You're like great. I was going to use 100 dollars to feed my homeless friend, but now I'll have to settle for a meal for two from Subway, even though we both hate Subway.

Tropicana, Mr. Tropicana, if you're out there. You sick-witted filthbag, what makes you think white grape and apple juice make a combination suitable to lead the ruby red grapefruit juice bottle into the American marketplace. IF LEBRON IS SCORING THE MOST POINTS IT'S CLEARLY NOT D-WADE'S TEAM, RIGHT? Well in this case we're claiming the team is Mario Chalmers'. It isn't. I'm drinking a lie, living a lie. And what the hell is the word "Tropicana" anyway? It's some dumb word association between Americans knowing that fruit is made in tropic climates and "cana" is a Latin suffix. What a genius combination. If this is the way America views grapefruit juice, America should be deported. It's a travesty. It's a transvestite.

I bought this bottle of 10 ounces — which is really not a satisfying amount of liquid — to taste the acidic quenching sweetness I get when I fang into a plump pink grapefruit. Grapefruits, the best fruit by the way, are made up of crystal shards containing a sweet stinging citric acid packed nectar. And this tasted like grape juice with apple juice and grapefruit flavoring poured in. It's the artificial flavor made authentically, and it defeats the purpose of selling grapefruit juice. I'm hurt by this lie, and I don't know why it's been deemed acceptable to market such a deceptive product.

Oh yeah, it says 3 Juice blend on the front of the label in the bottom right corner. Haha. Joke's on me. You got me Tropicana. For the last time.

Shout out to Espresso Royale for carrying this falsehood in its Caffe Authenticana atmosphere; it fits right in.

--Eliot Sill