Aloe Blacc: "I Need a Dollar"

Aloe Blacc is a relatively new Neo-Soul artist (a genre I was way into in high school and still hold a fondness for) out of California that is blowing up thanks to this song being the intro to the new HBO show "How to Make It in America". I figured I would celebrate some one making some legitimate R&B instead of singing the choruses of Flo-Rida songs. It's a pretty cool tune and it has gotten me to listen to a few of my old favorites of the genre which haven't gotten a lot of play lately. Check it out.

Aloe Blacc: "I Need a Dollar"

As a little bonus here are a couple of older jams that have been in rotation of late.

Anthony Hamilton: "Charlene"

India Arie: "Video"


Your Redneck Past...

This one's for anyone who has a little bit of country in 'em. K-Mart...I'm lookin' at you. For all the bros who wanna have a drink and just wail, this one's for you. Windsor...on the rocks.

Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show


It Must Have Been Dark in the Closet

Disclaimer: this post is in no way meant to be offensive/derisive against homosexuals. Here at 31/Chi, we have many gay friends and we love them very much.

That being said....

Ricky Martin came out of the closet today, announcing to the world that he is, in fact, a homosexual man. In this CNN.com article, Martin states that, "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man" and "these years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn't even know existed." Good for Ricky Martin. I can say with the utmost sincerity that I admire someone who has the brass to come into the public sphere and tell the world (who really has no right to know) that they are a gay guy.
On the other hand, however, I can't say I'm surprised.
Ricky Martin issuing a press statement to say he's gay is like Jack Nicholson holding a media junket to announce that he is, in fact, a creepy old lecher. Seriously, Ricky, you didn't think we knew, or had at least assumed, you were a homosexual?
Really, bro? Did you really need a press statement? I'd say those pants did a pretty good job of getting the "I'm a homo" point across all by themselves.

While we're on this note, I would like to point to Ricky's recent actions as another occurrence in the trend of "famous people" announcing their "coming out". I use these two phrases liberally because the individuals in question are usually C-list celebrities that everyone has assumed are gay since Day One. Here are a few examples.

31/Chi responds, "No shit?"

The world would have been more shocked if Clay Aiken had released a sex tape of him banging two or three coked up Hooter waitresses than they when he "let everyone know" that he was a homosexual. Clay, you let everyone know you were gay when you got in line at American Idol tryouts all those years ago. Also, it appears that People magazine is the periodical of choice to make your long anticipated homosexual revelation.

Back in the '80s, this dude repeatedly denied that he was gay. I guess he thought people should be more worried about the Soviets and Ronald Reagan than what he was doing when he slipped out of that silk, sequined, fur-lined jacket and sparkly pants and shook that shiny pompadour loose. Oh, and in case you're blind, Liberace really was gay.

So, yeah, these are a couple dudes that told the world they were gay only to be met with the nonplussed nod of, "Oh...ok." What I really would like to see is someone that NO ONE thought was gay coming out of the closet. I want to pick up an issue of people magazine and see someone who has been free from homosexual gossip their entire life saying, "Oh, yeah, I'm totally into dudes."

I would never suspect this guy.

Or this guy. Although it would be pretty easy to play 2,632 consecutive games when you don't have to worry about picking up chicks.

Can you imagine if The Boss turned out to be gay? That would really change the meaning of "Dancing in the Dark."

So, let this go out to the national news media: no more stories about guys coming out if they have been the butt of jokes and rumors from the second they appeared on the national radar. Or, if you must insist on letting the world know every time one of these bros "comes out," could we please get a little a balance and receive updates like "Ben Affleck is Still Straight" or "Carmelo Anthony is a Good Basketball Player"?


Amsterdam XXX (long overdue)

Amsterdam is a crazy city. I suppose now I should probably elaborate a bit. It may be the most interesting city I have ever been to. There is literally no place like it on earth.
I'll start out by clarifying a few things about the city. First of all, it's not 'all' about drugs and sex. Just a very high percentage. Ha, no but really it's more about just a really liberal lifestyle. Also, the city of Amsterdam has an enormous amount of history and culture. For example, the obvious things like the Anne Frank house and Van Gogh mueseum are historical resources and artifacts that have affected the world. Anne Frank was a very humbling, powerful experience. So many emotions go through your mind when looking and thinking about what occurred here all these years ago. Van Gogh museum was pretty awesome. I am a fan of Van Gogh's work and I think about it now, they must have though he was a pretty trippy son of a bitch back in the day. I can't even imagine people's reactions to some of his abstract paintings back in the day. Anyway, Amsterdam is a very historic city that has an extremely liberal outlook on life and modern culture influences.
Let's talk about weed. I had always heard that people just walk into "coffee shops" and order weed/hash. I wondered, is "coffee shop" some kind of inside term they use for places that actually sell it. Nope. People literally walk into coffee shops, get a cappuccino and roll a j. Or maybe just buy a pre-rolled guy or a even a gram for their piece. The point is, these coffee shops are littered through out the city and it is just a part of these people's every day lives. Agree with it or not, it is fact. Be it as it may, for the record, during my time abroad I have decided to embrace the cultures of these different countries, to a healthy(ish) extent. With that said, there is some pretty dank bud in that city for what seems (at least to an amateur as myself) a very reasonable price. Sky high. One complaint about the coffee shops, they need to get some better tuneage. With the exception of one or two, most of the music wasn't much to ride home about. Also should be noted for those of you who it may interest, though I didn't have one while I was there, the "space brownies" seem to take a little while to kick in. Ha, a few of my acquaintances found that out. As far as my experiences lie within this category, at least for now, we'll leave it as a leave your question for the author subject. Or perhaps a we'll elaborate later on.
The Red Light District. I had heard thing about it, but had no real understanding of it. Obviously I knew some things about it but I really didn't. I will do my best to describe it for you, but in all honesty it is best to just experience it yourself at some point in time. The Red Light District is oldest area in Amsterdam. The city itself lies on a canal system that leads into the sea. Obviously back in the day, sailors used these canals to come into the city and get what ever "things" they needed. Sailors were not the most reputable of people in these times. I have no idea how it came to be, but at some point prostitution was introduced in Amsterdam and it never left. It is completely legal and in case you didn't know/get the impression from the above paragraph, weed is as well. Back to the Red Light District. It literally lies in the center of the city and is pretty decent sized. In the day time, it is easy to walk into it without even realizing it. Night is a different story. You definitely know where the RLD is at night and when you are walking into it. At night, this place is pretty freaky. Especially if you have been in a coffee shop at all before you walk through it. Best to do it in a group. Don't get me wrong, I felt safe walking through it, it just feels a little bit sketch doing so and here's why...There are tons of great bars, shops, coffee shops, strip clubs, and what not and these are relatively normal. What's not normal are the prostitutes standing in the windows with a red light ambience creeping around the window pane with nothing but skimpy lingerie on. You just don't see that everywhere. The part that is kind of sketchy is that sure you have your normal tourists like us walking through just to check it out and what not, but you forget about the people who actually live there and 'take part' in some of these promiscuous activities. For example, we were walking by a window when a Mercedes comes screaming past us, puts on the brakes 15 feet in front of us, a man gets out walks in one of the red lit window-doors and closes the curtain. Yep. I will leave the rest up to your imagination. The RLD is not the same during the day, though I was very surprised to see those nice ladies standing in the windows even during the day. It was also interesting to note and think about the fact that most of the buildings in which the ladies are standing in the windows are very nice, old buildings that are really apartment complexes. So while you may have a hooker standing in a window for business on the street level, you also have whole families living their normal lives 4 floors above. This is the part of this city that just astounds me. Like I said, it's a completely different way of living and outlook on life. Agree with it or not, it was a fascinating experience and I am definitely glad I did in fact experience. It should also be noted that Amsterdam is a total "bro-trip". I don't feel as though I need to elaborate. I can also tell that while I was in Amsterdam I did not partake in any illegal activities. I promise.


From Break

photos captured by K Mart

Ellie Goulding: "Under the Sheets (Chiddy Bang Remix)"

Most of the people who read this blog probably know that I have a pretty huge musical soft spot for Chiddy Bang's MGMT-sampling breakthrough, "Kids". Well they are back with a leak from their upcoming mixtape. This time they remixed songtress and certified hottie Ellie Gould's 'Under the Sheets" and the result is the song I'll be playing incessantly for a couple of months. Click on the link below and let me know what you think.


Spring Break ’10, Texas.

We woke up Tuesday morning at 8:00, a shocking feat, and after a quick breakfast and some pick-me-up showers we were on the road. The road in question was I-44, which goes through the state of Missouri diagonally from St. Louis to the Oklahoma border. Missouri has always been interesting to me. Here we have a state that is anchored on the west and east with awesome cities—Kansas City and St. Louis, respectively—with hundreds of miles of absolutely nothing in between. On Tuesday, we traveled the hundreds of miles of in between. Things improved little when we reached the Oklahoma border, where not only did we have to drive through hundreds of miles of dull landscape, but we had to pay to do so—I hate toll roads. Our drive was briefly livened by some friendly Oklahomans driving a souped-up, CB antenna sporting pick-up loaded down with shingles. These hillbillies were the victims of KMart’s ‘conservative’ driving and when they finally got the chance to pass us they gave us the finger not only through the front window, but the back as well. Good times. The rest of our day long journey was uneventful, and we pulled into KMart’s driveway just in time to eat a little supper, watch a little Planet Earth, and hit the hay.

Wednesday, Texas. We began the day with a hasty breakfast prepared by yours truly, before heading out. Waking up around 11 everyday has its perks in the fact that rest of the world has been functioning for hours in preparation for your arrival. First, we ventured to the alternative school where KMart’s mom is the principal. We met a few interesting characters, then continued our journey, which took us to the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum. We may not seem like the art museum types, but we do like to appreciate the finer things in life from time to time and we spent an hour or so taking in an Andy Warhol exhibit. Class acts, that’s what we are. We grabbed a quick bite—Stronghand’s first Whataburger experience—then headed for the homestead. KMart’s mom was hosting a church group, so were quarantined to the back porch, where we took up station next to the firepit with a trusty cooler full of friendly longnecks. We tried to light a fire, but to no avail. Correction: by “tried to light a fire” I mean we squirted lighter fluid on a log and threw matches at it, then squirted more lighter fluid on it. The ensuing blaze was underwhelming. Once Bible study concluded, we turned the TV towards the window so Stronghand could watch American Idol while we floated in the pool. Luckily, someone had moved the cooler next to the pool, ensuring the beer didn’t go bad before it could all be drunk. After a few hours of soaking, we returned to our sleeping quarters for another restful night.

Thursday began with a drive from Ft. Worth to “the ranch” in nearby Rio Vista. After lunch at Fat Albert’s—classic smalltown joint—we went to KMart’s grandparents’ house. There, we met Mimi and Papaw, the saintly forebears of our own KMart. After some requisite chatting, Papaw offered to mix us a drink, since it was, after all, almost 2 o’clock. The offer was for a bourbon and water, which we all accepted. It’s a good thing we weren’t too picky because, according to Papaw “water’s all I got to mix it with and y’all don’t get any scotch.” We watched the first half of the A&M-Nebraska game while Papaw spouted wisdom to us from his easy chair. The most treasured gem was, of course, “Do your loving while you’re young, you can drink when you’re old.” What a guy. After a muddy rip around the pasture on the 4-wheeler we set to our “chores”, namely sweeping out the barn where KMart’s sister’s engagement part would take place on Saturday. This took, like, twenty minutes, followed by more bourbon and waters and shooting the same Dr. Pepper can over and over with a .22 until we ate supper and headed back to KMart’s house. I don’t know if it was the sun or the bourbon or just the last couple days catching up with us but we were lights out by 11 o’clock. Embarassing.

Friday saw the arrival of many party guests, including KMart’s sister and her husband-to-be, along with his family, his best man, and various relatives of both families. This jovial, party-like atmosphere was a change from the frat house, drink to get drunk attitude and I will say it was a welcome change. Finger foods abounded and a giant Shiner variety pack replaced Coors Light in our diet. Awesome. We put on our best “hanging out with adults” act and I must say we did an alright job at it. Well, at least I think so. The ladies headed off for a bridal shower, leaving us to our own devices. We ventured to the Stockyards, where KMart’s dad graciously paid the 12 dollar cover at Billy Bob’s Texas (thanks again, Mr. Martin). Billy Bob’s Texas is a giant ‘megabar’ that you could probably fit my entire hometown inside of. It features a bullriding arena and live music. Friday’s act was Mickey & the Motorcars. I would not recommend them to my friends. The stereotypical “Texas” crowd was out in spades. Cowboy hats, Wranglers, bigass beltbuckles, and starched shirts were the reg here, and along with the bright neon lights it was a definite change of scenery from the dingy bars stuffed with college kids we’re used to. After our spell in Billy Bob’s we headed downtown to a hookah bar. This was when the night took a turn for the strange. The hookah bar was staffed by sketchy looking Lebanese guys and smelled like falafel. So far, this does not differentiate from any hookah bar I have ever been to. The fact that Stronghand had to buy a one year membership ($10) and the hookah “lounge” was a tiny, crowded room furnished with tattered furniture and equally creepy blacklights and middle-aged dudes set this hookah bar apart from the rest. The tobacco was good though and our six-month hiatus did nothing to stop us from buzzing like bees. KMart’s parents, in wishing to avoid us coming back to the house at 3 a.m. had the foresight to get us a hotel in the lovely Park Central hotel downtown. This was a very cool old hotel in a very cool old building in a very cool old part of town. But, as I mentioned, it was old. Someone commented that it reminded them of the room Chigurh shoots up in No Country For Old Men while others thought it would make a great hideout for bank robbers. Either way, we were there for six hours, max, catching a little sleep before heading back to KMart’s for Saturday, the big day.

Saturday, aka Judgment Day. We rushed home from the Park Central for some breakfast burritos; it’s always awesome to be staying in a real house where someone cooks you food. Quick showers and we were out the door. We’d spent a bit of Friday setting out tables and chairs in the barn so all that remained were a few last minute detail and testing out the sound system for the outstanding party playlist we had compiled, which featured such jams as “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Kentucky Rain.” The rest of the day was spent milling around until we were allowed to tap the kegs. And tap them we did. The Texas Party was a marvel to behold. 50 pounds of brisket, 90 pounds of crawfish, sausage, potatoes, corn, mushrooms, onions and even some salad. This feast was improved on—no easy measure—by the two easy flowing barrels of monkeys in the corner. We laughed, we danced, we sang raucously. We became fast friends with total strangers. We drank. We reveled in the presence of two fine young people getting ready to tie the knot (congratulations, Stephanie and Chris). We set and broke our own kegstand records. I played flip cup on a team where I was the only one without kids. Someone’s mom tried to teach me to two-step. Good times were had by all. My hat is off to everyone who had a hand in that party, and I’m thankful that I was fortunate enough to attend. As the night wore on, though, the crowd thinned and the gusto for drinking beer waned. KMart disappeared to wander a pasture and I was fast asleep in our sleeping quarters—the back of the Nitro—before he returned.

Sunday was for recovery. Not much more can be said for a day where we had to be practically pummeled awake. Breakfast was ready, but the interest in sausage gravy and biscuits was at an all-time low. I struggled through a biscuit and a half while the adults looked on and laughed at our youthful stupor. We put away the tables and chairs, took out the trash and headed home for Planet Earth and naps. I had one ambitious beer with supper, but my enthusiasm for alcohol was pretty weak. We floated in the pool, watched some SportsCenter, looked at the pictures from the weekend, then grabbed some floor for a good night’s rest before Monday’s long ride back to Omaha.

We woke up Monday and wasted no time getting out the door. Our bags had been packed the night before and left by the door, so we made a quick escape after thanking our hosts (thank you, Martin family). Quick fact: I saw more donut shops in Ft. Worth than I have seen anywhere else in my entire life. This being so, we had to stop and check one out before we split town. We were served by the friendliest Japanese man wearing a towel on his head I have ever met in my life. This guy was awesome, and he gave us a free donut. Loaded up for the long haul, we took the northern road through Oklahoma and Kansas. On this drive we were dismayed to see snow for the first time in a week, forgetting tha spring break doesn’t always mean spring. More toll roads, more desolate, godforsaken brown countryside, and a few more plays of “Rhinestone Cowboy” and we were back to the place we call home, right here at 31/Chi.

Spring Break ’10, Saint Louis.

Spring break began for us on a bright and sunny Friday afternoon. Unlike most of our compadres, we couldn’t leave Thursday night due to poorly scheduled classes/clinicals. However, it is probably better that we weren’t present, since I received a text at noon Friday from my buddy—we’ll call him Beechnut—that read ‘Already got kicked out of my hotel. Epic.’ I feel like any added fratitude would have fueled the aforementioned chaos into Beechnut and me being ran out of the city entirely. Anyways, we loaded up the car—with KMart throwing all his stuff into a large plastic storage bin he referred to as his ‘TupperWare’—and hit the road. We headed south and we would have made fantastic time if not for one small inopportunity. The slow down happened just outside Kansas City, where the Missouri State Police pulled KMart over for a little chat about the excessive speed at which he was traveling through their fair state. This put us about 30 minutes off track. It was also at this time we learned that Creighton’s basketball team had lost, making this trip near superfluous. Pistol P cheered a cheer of anti-basketball tournament joy, and I balked at his treason. From there, equipped with an awesome pump-up playlist, it was smooth sailing. Well, for awhile, at least.
We cruised in to St. Louis around 10:00 and established base camp Stronghand’s posh residence. In my book, a 10 p.m. arrival in a city means a 10:30 arrival at the bars, but this pack of Marys just had to have their precious showers. Finally, around 11, we caught a cab and headed to Morgan Street, where we were set to rendezvous with some tried and true pals. However, more complications arose. Turns out, if your fake ID is a fake Missouri license, you probably shouldn’t try to use it in Missouri. What’s more, if your fake ID says you are from St. Louis, you probably shouldn’t try to use it in St. Louis. KMart—or any of us, I guess—had any of those thoughts, and before I knew it I was being dragged out of a crowded ball full of all my old—and a few new—pals to another cab that was to take us to out night time domicile. We rectified our losses by drinking all the beer in the house, and I mean all the beer, and watching 9 before retreating to sleep.

Day 2 dawned with us waking up in our unique sleeping set-up. Point of information: since Stronghand went to college, his mom and dad have since sold off their house in the suburbs and moved downtown to a very nice condo. However, this very nice space is not made to accommodate five dudes. We were given the run of a small bedroom with two twin beds and enough floor space to (kind of) fit three sleeping bags. KMart and Stronghand claimed the beds, leaving me, Pistol P and the Undertaker to sleep in a jumbled heap of sleeping bag on the floor. Negotiations came up to zip all three into some sort of “UltraBag” or “SuperSack” but these talks never came to fruition. Shame. We ate breakfast then spent our Saturday walking through the ‘Loop’. This is an area of St. Louis with some restaurants and shops and stuff. I’m not really crazy about it, but Pistol P loves it so he can flex his indie nuts in various record shops and vintage clothing stores. I did, however, score a lovely Boone’s Farm T-shirt that will be worked into my wardrobe often and the Undertaker scored a DVD copy of Big Trouble in Litle China. We viewed that cinematic masterpiece, maybe ate supper, then headed out once more, leaving poor, poor KMart behind. I might be a bad friend.
Nonetheless, we headed out, back to Morgan Street and the Morgan Street Brewery. This is one of the most interesting bars I have ever been to. I guess the story goes that it started as one bar and as they made more and more money they bought the bar next door, then the bar next door to that one, then repeated. The result is a conglomeration of 4 very distinct spaces all housed within one door. The first part is more of an alum area where the oldsters back in town for the tourney can chat about their mortgages. The second area is geared towards the “I Love College” crowd: dance floor, shitty DJ, a reek of sweat, cologne my brother wore in junior high, and Bacardi Limon. No thanks now, no thanks ever. Finally, if you had the stomach to soldier your way through this offal, you are rewarded with an area of the bar I alternatively referred to as “The Promised Land” or “Oregon” since the rigors and hazards of the journey there mirror those found in the classic original Apple game “Oregon Trail.” This backroom bar was great. For starters, not that many people went that far back in the bar, so the crowd was mostly people I knew and liked. Second, this small crowd equaled quick service at the bar. Third, and most importantly, it had tables and booths. Maybe I’m getting old, but I’ve discovered I would much rather post up in a booth than make laps through the bar, so ample seating is a must. This is where I stayed for the most part until the end of the evening, which came at bar close, which was—in a pleasant surprise—3 a.m. But my night was far from over. While the rest of the 31/Chi team hopped in a cab, I followed Beechnut to a nearby casino. Most of my knowledge of gambling comes from Kenny Rodgers’ classic “The Gambler” but at this point I was down for anything. The casino was a nightmare. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a casino at 3 in the morning, but it’s a nightmare. Everywhere you look, you are struck with the thought “I hope I never end up like this.” The casino part of the night is a little blurry, so I’ll try to recap the highlights: I lost 40 dollars in 4 hands of ten a hand blackjack, almost got my ass kicked by a bunch of middle-aged Wichita State fans, and watched my friends leave, one by one, shaking their heads at the money they’d just lost. Somewhere around 5 a.m., Beechnut and I crafted a master plan to see the sunrise at the Arch and began mass texting in search of company. Beechnut had been evicted from his hotel and my current crash-spot was in a different part of town so we headed towards a hotel where we knew a lot of Creighton kids were staying. After a walk through a rainy, eerily quiet Morgan Street we arrived to find a lobby of like-minded sunrise-seekers. About 30 people were sitting in the hotel lobby, consulting various online almanacs as to when the sun would appear. The consensus: 6:24. We had an hour and 10 minutes to wait, which sounds easy, but proved near impossible. The number in the lobby rapidly dwindled, while Beechnut and I were only able to hang in there with the aid of warm Bud Light and Packard Club Snuff. In the end, only seven people made it to the Gateway to the West to greet the day before stumbling back to the hotel to crash on the first available floor. In my case, this was the floor of the room shared by seven girls, who were probably very surprised to wake up and find the Geico caveman asleep by their door. After two hours of refreshing floor sleep, I scored a ride back to Stronghand’s place where our customary noontime breakfast was waiting. Over bagels I gathered that I was not the only one who had a late night adventure as Pistol P regaled us with a tale of friendly cab driver who took him to Jack in the Box for a late night meal and Stronghand’s dad treating KMart to his liquor cabinet.

How would we follow up the night before? How do five rough and rowdy college kids spend the day after a strange night of hard partying? We went to the zoo, drank some beers, went to Shutter Island (two thumbs up), then drank some more beer. Life was good. Monday saw the departure of Pistol P and the Undertaker, while Stronghand, KMart, and I prepared for our long, Tuesday drive to Texas. We were treated to a lovely supper by Stronghand’s mom and dad, and then drank some beers. Of course.


"I see you shine in your way
Go on, go on, go on..."

-ezra koenig


Toro Y Moi "Talamak" video

I haven't written anything about Toro Y Moi, which is a shame but give me a break, I have been out of the country for a few months. Since I have been gone, I haven't had much time to reflect on the awesomeness that 2010 is bringing us in music so I guess I'll try to catch up. I guess you would put Toro in the category of "chillwave" artists like Neon Indian and Washed Out. His debut came out at the end of last month and "Talamak" is one of the top specimen on it. When I throw on his music I can just close my eyes and picture those warm summer evenings late into the night spent with good friends and maybe near a beach. I find that the production value in Toro Y Moi's music superb and beautifully crafted. As for the video, it's pretty simple but very well done and visually pleasing. I'm a fan.

Talamak - Toro Y Moi


Interlaken, Switzerland

Two weekends ago I traveled to Interlaken, Switzerland. We left Florence on bus Thursday night around 7 and got to Interlaken about 3am. It was a long bus ride, but well worth it. I actually did this trip through an organized trip booker for students studying abroad. They did an excellent job with the weekend. Upon arriving in Switzerland Friday morning, we were all shocked to see how amazing our hostel was. It didn't seem like the stereotypical hostel, more like a 3 star hotel. When we got into our room at 3am, we were a bit disappointed that we didn't have a few of the mountains. Well in the morning when we woke up, we discovered that there were indeed mountains very viewable from the porch balcony of our hostel room. Nothing like waking up to the sight of Swiss Alps in the morning.
Friday morning we woke up relatively early and got a start to our day. We were treated to awesome toast and jam every morning while we were there. We usually made the most of it and tried to stuff ourselves seeing as how it was fantastic and free. In the hostel lobby, there is a huge St. Bernard dog named "Spliff". This thing was absolutely enormous. I just wondered how many small children it had eaten till I actually watched it for a while and realized there was no way this dog had done anything worse than slobber on a hands and pant legs. One of the hostel workers told us that Spliff could take us for a hike so we decided take them up on that. Spliff decided to call it off early, but the rest of us hiked around a decent sized hill that gave us breathtaking views of Interlaken and the Alps. The rest of the afternoon we decided to walk around Interlaken and check it out. It was a very tourist-oriented city, yet there weren't that many tourists to speak of, which was ideal. Interlaken was exactly what I pictured a Swiss city to look and feel like. Everyone is very laid back and in tune with the outdoors and their surroundings. Not to mention everyone there could speak at least three languages since Switzerland really doesn't have a language of its own. We finished out the evening by going night sledding. Now I really didn't know what to expect when it came to "night sledding", I mean I like sledding just as much as any other person who doesn't know how to grow up but I was a bit skeptical about paying 65 euro for it. In the end, it was a blast. They took us to a train in a small village just outside of Interlaken where we rode the train up to the top of the mountain. We were each given our own sled to go down the hill on and there were three different courses for us to do, each with its own difficulty level. Those sleds can flat out fly and that made turning interesting or in my case, useless. It was a lot easier to stay warm with a few beers and a bit of Jägermeister. Made the sledding interesting too. We ended the night by grabbing a beer or irish coffee at the ski house and headed back to the hostel.
The next morning I decided to go paragliding with a couple other friends. They took us straight up the mountain in a van to this really tiny village that litterally sat right on the side of the mountain. It was so beautiful. My paragliding pilot was a good guy and quite easy to talk to. He informed me that Interlaken actually means between two lakes, which of course Interlaken sits between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. The paragliding itself was so relaxed and just mesmerizing. Once you have that initial rush of running of the side of the mountain and the wind catches you, it is just super chill with amazing views and fresh air. My pilot let me take the reigns over for a few minutes and eventually landed us in the middle of some park right in the middle of the city. The suburban landing took me for surprise a bit. The rest of the day we took trains and checked out a few more of the nearby swiss villages and grabbed some hot chocolate with baileys at a local joint. That night we all went out to a club and I experienced what I like to call a "Swisspter" aka swiss hipster. The swisspters were out and about that Saturday night and were all ages. Literally saw swisspters that were 16 and swisspters who were probably mid-40s. Whatever, they were all pretty cool for the most part. I find that a swisspter is basically the local ski bum who may or may not know how to ski or snowboard, but regardless wear their neon colored boarding gear with wayfarers at the night clubs. Probably experienced the worst DJ I have heard while I have been over in Europe on this night as well. That was probably the worst part of this trip, so I was able to deal with it especially seeing as how the Italian discotecas know what's up.
Sunday morning, I went canyon jumping. If you want to get a serious rush, go canyon jumping. Wow. We walked up the side of this mountain till we reached a crevice that was of course the canyon we would be jumping into. Right before we were getting ready to jump, one of the workers told us about a girl that literally shit herself while jumping off the ledge. So this was of course very reassuring to hear right before I took the plunge. Canyon jumping was different than bungee jumping in that you free fall for about 5 or 6 seconds and then the harness eventually catches your weight and you begin swinging through the canyon until you eventually come to a stop. As for the free fall, it seriously felt like you were just jumping and really had nothing there supporting you. It freaked my shit, but it was great. It was especially interesting doing this head first. I would do it again in a heart beat.
We returned for Florence around 4pm and eventually made it back. Again it was a long ride, but it was a lot easier to stand when you have the beauty of the Swiss Alps to gaze upon during the ride. Switzerland is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been to. The natural beauty of the country is astonishing. It was different than anywhere I had been in Europe up to this point. What an amazing trip.


Spring Break Dedication

Maybe this is it. Maybe this is when we distill the essence of our mid-American young manhood. We are the products of others’ influence and the institutions we’ve attended, but we are not the mean summary of our academic careers or the fulfillment of expectation. This is not a neo-existentialist crisis or a testing of boundaries. We are volunteer. We are the eager pursuants, trying to figure out how to be alive in this benumbed digital age. We are bright eyes on the horizon, four wheels on the asphalt, no time for sleep, no reason to waste that time when we are together. We are penitent to mom and dad and God but for now we are fallen at the feet of chemical revelation, forgetting what it means to be nearly grown and remembering what it means to be drunk with your friends; remembering that when things were good, they were great, when they were bad, they weren’t that bad. Everyone happy, everyone safe, everyone cool. Is it now, the time to tear the fervent eastern highway? Is it now, the time to set out towards self-destruction, towards self-discovery? Is it now, is it now? One moves, the other follows, call it walking, and all these words seem excess compared to the ones we are waiting to hear.

Here we go.


Wild Kingdom

Let’s talk about bars. I like bars because they combine two of my favorite things in the world: drinking and hanging out. However, I don’t like hanging out with everyone, in fact, I really dislike most people. That’s why bars and I have a precarious relationship. It’s awesome to be out and about hanging with your pals, but it’s another to have to be out and about hanging out with everyone else.
The main thorn I have with bars is these people, the others, the everyone else. Everyone else sucks. So, in case you find yourself in a bar crowded with what Stevie Janowski would call “posers, hos, and shitheads” I have prepared this handy field guide to the clowns you’ll have to deal with.

The Werewolf

Is it a full moon? It must be, because The Werewolf is out and drinking. The Werewolf is easily distinguished by their drink of choice. How so? The Werewolf’s drink is nice. Look for a draft microbrew, a Jack and Coke actually made with Jack, or anything that isn’t on the specials board and you’ll find the werewolf. Aside from their drinks that make your for-the-masses swill look inferior, one might think The Werewolf to be fairly innocuous. Wrong. The Werewolf can be one of the most annoying people in the bar. Because they only come out once in a Blue Moon, The Werewolf wants to hang out with everyone. Worse, they think everyone should hang out with them. By the end of the night, the, “C’mon, man, I never see you anymore” of The Werewolf will seem more unsettling than the howl of its furry namesake.

Blackjack Ketchum.

Don’t let the badass name fool you; Blackjack Ketchum is a tool. Named for the above-pictured New Mexico outlaw, the bar incarnation of Blackjack Ketchum is infamous for the same thing as their real-life counterpoint: hanging. In 1901, the Ketchum was hung, but the rope was too long and it ripped his head off. Every weekend, the modern day Blackjack Ketchum can be found “just hanging out” in your favorite bars and taverns. Blackjack Ketchum can play a valuable role, that is they are often teetotaler designated drivers, getting people home safe and providing a much-needed service to society at large. Most of the time they are judgmental assholes. A short chat with your typical Blackjack Ketchum would develop on the following lines:
“I saw you at the bar last night, did you get hammered?”
“Oh no, I don’t drink.” (this is where the judging begins)
“Really? Then why’d you go to the bar?”
“I just like to hang out and watch drunk people make fools of themselves.” (more judging)
“Well, that’s cool…I guess.”
Blackjack Ketchums are a bunch of dicks. They are usually girls, they usually hang out in packs, and even if they give you a crucial ride home, they will hold it over your head in a way that makes you wish you had walked those 19 blocks in the snow.


The friend of a friend. The buddy from out of town. The dude that you kinda know. These are the three main categories the Tagalong can be sorted into, each one of them with its own set of annoying characteristics.
Let’s face the facts, this is the 2000s and many of us hang out in more than one social circle. We diversify. These are my buddies I play mini-golf with, these are the buddies I birdwatch with, these are my buddies I go drinking with, etc. However, sometimes these friend groups can intersect. This is a classic Tagalong situation. On paper, it seems fine; I get along with this guy, I get along with these dudes, why wouldn’t we all make one great group? Because that’s not how it works, that’s why. The friend of a friend Tagalong will not branch out and mesh with the group. Nope. He will latch onto the friend that brought him in, effectively shutting that guy down for the night and generally dampening the overall vibe.
The buddy from out of town is a hit or miss. When one of your friends brings in his buddy from high school or whatever he can either be a totally righteous, kickass cat or a total asshole. Usually, he’s an asshole. The buddy from out of town’s forte is letting you know how much awesomeness his life consists of. His college? More awesome than yours. His high school stories? More awesome than yours. The bars in his town? So much more awesome than yours. Between this one-upsmanship and the fawning your pal will bestow on his long lost buddy is enough to ruin your night. This is our bar. Fuck off, man.
Rhetorical scenario: you have a class three times a week, and within that class there are a few people who you generally agree with and seem like cool kids. But you leave that in the classroom. However, say you see one of these kids at a bar, and their friends have flaked on them. You are the person they know at this bar and now they’re sitting at your table. What do you talk about? Class. Why? Because that is the only thing you have in common and you are both struggling to keep any awkward conversation afloat. Suddenly, the guy you kinda know Tagalong has made your night out work. What a shithead.
The Tagalong is a manifold bar personality, but ultimately one of the most insidious. They may be a nice person, but the gauche vibes they put out just aren’t copasetic to good times.

After School Special.

Look at this guy. Look how drunk he is. He is just pounding beers, slamming shots, and getting rowdy. Maybe he’ll take his shirt off and cause a big ruckus. Oh my, he just broke something. Looks like he’s getting kicked out. How cool.
The After School Special sucks. The derivation of his name comes in two parts; the first being that his behavior is better than any episode of School House Rock to warn children of the dangers of alcohol, the second being that he usually starts drinking right after school. This is the same kind of person who comes up to you on a Monday and says, unsolicited, “Dude, I got SO hammered this weekend” and continues to regale you with a tale that might include the phrases “…just shitfaced…”,”….might have blacked out…”, or “…pissed my pants, man!”. The After School Special is, for all intents and purpose, a child. They are loud, obnoxious and too dumb to realize that they are the aforementioned. I know the ways of the After School Special well because, let’s face facts, I used to be one. Eventually, I realized that acting like a total dumbass is not equitable with being a total hardass. Eventually, I realized that if you get kicked out of too many bars you’d end up drinking alone in your room, where you’d end up breaking your own stuff. And that would just be silly. To the After School Specials out there: grow up, Peter Pan, summer camp’s over.

Frosty the Bro-Man.

Frosty the Bro-Man is an enigmatic bar presence. He is a regular, he seems like he can slam a lot of beers, and it seems like a lot of the other patrons know him. However, he is rarely seen not sitting at his table in the back with his fellow Bro-Men, leaving in turns to pick up the next round, and his cold, indifferent attitude makes him somewhat unapproachable. Frosty the Bro-Man and his compadres seem snobbish, stand-offish and condescending, and most of the time they are. Maybe they considered this ‘their bar’ before other people started coming, and they consider everyone else an intruder. Maybe they are deep in conversation about an important issue. Maybe they’re just a bunch of assholes. We’ll never know.

These are the people you will see in every bar you will ever go to. Aside from the usual slutty girls (see: Know Your Enemy), they will be the main impediment to an enjoyable weekend evening. Hopefully this primer can help you navigate through the sea of lameness on the way to good times island.

The Dubliner used to be cool.

Siena & San Gimigiano

So I finally have a new post for y'all. Sorry it's been a while, I have been having major issues with the wireless connection in my apartment, but I think we finally have it fixed for good...hopefully. Two weekends ago, I went on a day excursion through my study abroad program to Siena and San Gimigiano. We left at 9am and got back around 7 or 8pm that night. Besides the small bit of rainy weather, it was an excellent trip.
Fr. Bruno had explained to me one evening that Siena is considered the rival city of Florence, mostly by a means of art. Florence, of course renown for their art, and Siena have had a numerous confrontations in the past most dealing with a some piece of art. There were two that he was describing to me that really stood out and I thought were pretty cool stories. The first story was basically about when both Florence and Siena were building their Duomos back in the day, Florence had made (at the time) the largest Cathedral in the world. When word of this got around to Siena, they did their best to top them and succeeded in creating a Duomo even larger than that of Florence's. Well that of course didn't stand well with the people of Florence so they ended up adding on to their Duomo and making it the massive structure that it is today. So yes, Florence took the cake on that particular occasion. The second story was about a renaissance painting (sorry can't remember which one ha) that an artist from Siena had painted for their Duomo. Florence was so enamored with the painting, that they kidnapped the artist and forced him to paint a duplicate of the one that was in Siena. He did so and was let go afterward. Not long after the painting was finished, there was a fire in Florence to which of course the painting was destroyed in. I guess some things are just better off the first time around. Anyway, walking through Siena was beautiful and actually reminded me quite a bit of Florence, but smaller. Siena is also located in higher elevation on the Tuscan hills. When we got there in the morning, there was actually a fresh snow on the ground. San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. It is mainly famous for its medieval architecture, especially its towers, which may be seen from several kilometers outside the town. While cities in Tuscany such as Bologna and Florence were both a ravaged by war, San Gimigiano was unscathed and still holds 14 towers. It was a beautiful village with some of the most amazing views of the Tuscan countryside I have seen yet.