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Friday, November 23, 2007

Illegal No More

Way back in September I turned 30 and received some mighty fine gifts from some folks. Dolores and her gentleman presented me with a fresh bottle of good brown.

My buddy Jon sent me shitloads of fantastic Omaha Steak products.

the food came packed in dry ice, which went into my toilet.

And then there's my friend Joe. Joe wanted to get me something I could really use all year long, so he bought me a subscription to a dirty magazine.

I bring this up today because from age 15 or 16 all through my time spending Thanksgiving in my hometown in SW Michigan, I always bought a pornographic magazine on Thanksgiving. It started out with me being bored of sitting around with my family all day. I wanted to get out of the house, smoke a cigarette, and give me something to do for the rest of the day. Then I just made the purchase to keep my own tradition going.

These days, the dirty magazine has really taken a back seat to internet porn and adult dvd's. You can get something new to service yourself to everyday if you want, all without having to overcome the shame of a face-to-face transaction.

So in honor of Joe, the rest of this post concerns this new subscription.

In a world where eighteen year old girls cover their breasts and other privates with clothing, shriek in horror or call the police when asked questions like "How do you like to be fucked?" and "Do you enjoy exposing yourself in public?", and generally do not smile naughtily at you, one glossy covered magazine blasts you off to a magical land where panties are always on the way off, the questions you really want to ask are answered, and Chris Hanson is nowhere to be found. Is this Legal? No. It's Barely Legal.

"It started with a simple dream, and an erection that I wasn't sure I should have had. One day I was flipping through the March edition of Hustler, when I stopped and took a good long look at this chick sitting on top a big screen tv with her tits out and her legs all spread out and shit. I think it said 'Boob Tube' on the screen or something real clever like that. And I'm saying to myself, 'Who is this young lady? Where is she from? What's her height and weight?', and most importantly, since she looked so young that it almost felt wrong "looking at her, 'How old is she?'. So that got me thinking about starting a 'zine that only had those really young looking types. The idea was - stay with me, now - for it to be a magazine for men who like masturbating to images of girls who are by law the youngest they could be, and still get their pictures taken without their clothes on. All I needed was a good name. I first was thinking Hot Teenage Snatch would be good, but I wanted the customer to pick it up, look at the cover and read a title that assured him that what he was doing was perfectly ok. I wanted the name to say to him, 'Hey guy, these girls are super young, but I assure that they're all just old enough for none of us to go to jail, so you can take me home and jerk off with peace of mind.' Barely Legal just came to me."*
- Chester Feeley, Barely Legal creator**

It's November 23rd, 2007. In front of me on my table sits a copy of the January 2008 Barely Legal magazine. I wonder if the girls photographed for this magazine are legal as of today or January 2008, like dating a check months ahead. The cover girl appears to be eighteen years old or close to it. She is wearing striped underwear and what appears to be a red denim skirt cut off just above the crotch line with an electric hedge trimmer. She sips on orange juice through a straw leaning against a wooden door with her left shoulder and upper arm -- the arm with the juice glass in the hand -- and she playfully tugs down her bikini top with her other hand. I think I can see part of her nipple, but I'm not sure if that would even be legal to show. Then I remember that it must be, but just barely. In big letters next to her:


Clearly. Did they think we didn't notice that she was drinking orange juice through a straw?

Also on the cover is a 3x2 matrix of photos of extremely young looking girls. Five of them are smiling. The girl in the (1,2) position of the matrix has braces and at first glance looks like she is pulling on something with her teeth. She is one of the five smilers. On closer inspection, it appears that she has the waistline of another person's panties stuck in her braces. I feel like a scumbag for some reason.

The price for this January 2008 issue: $8.99

Flipping through, I notice a few things common with all the pictorials:
1) an "interview" with each girl accompanies the photos. example questions/answers:
"Do you wear panties?"
"Yes. I'm into cute underwear, as you can see."
"Biggest turn-on:"
"A penis. :)"
2) an information box containing age (usually 18, sometimes 19), height, weight, measurements, and hometown.

"What the fuck am I doing, this girl just can't be legal", I say to myself for the forty-first time. I wish I was eighteen too. I think it's always better to masturbate to your contemporaries. That would feel the least weird. This is how I think this relationship can be best represented:

Note: I know that this will only be appropriate for certain reference ages, but I'm not going to make a 3-d plot. I haven't used Matlab in years.

In summary, Barely Legal is a great magazine to masturbate to if you are barely legal yourself. If you're lucky, one of the models will go to your high school. If you have a class with her, you probably won't get a good grade because you'll be thinking about 'doing it' with her, just like every other guy in the class. There may be lots of thump-thump-thump noises in the room. So join 'em, and beat it yourself.

* may not be accurate
** may not be correct name

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Amateur Hour In Michigan Is Finally Over

One of these three fans will be posting one very soon. Hopefully a couple.

Football fans all know someone who doesn't "get it". I'm not talking about the wife of a degenerate sports gambler who hates football because she constantly worries about her man spending the grocery money. That woman probably "gets it" all too well. I'm referring to people who never learned the game enough to reject it. It's hard to grow up in the United States a male and not learn the basics of American football. If you didn't pick it up at home sitting watching your father yell at games on the television, you probably learned about it at school during recess or while hanging out with friends. Even if you don't particularly care for it, you recognize the significance of college bowl games, the NFL playoffs, and Thanksgiving day games, and possibly even major rivalries. Even if the word "football" disgusts you, you know what "fourth and inches" means. You know what an "upset" is. You know that the Detroit Lions suck.

A girl I know doesn't "get it". She grew up in the US, but her parents were immigrants and she gravitated towards the arts (not to be confused with Art's Performance Center). Now she works in an office where everyone, she says, is obsessed with football, and this bothers her because she not only does not understand how the game is played, she doesn't understand what is so compelling about the game. With time and her attention, I am confident that I could explain the key rules and objectives to her. I think I could also explain why I find the sport compelling. She may come to understand why I love it, but there is no reason why her understanding this will make her more excited about the game.

This past Friday I flew to Detroit to go to the Michigan - Ohio State game with my dad, who flew up from Florida for the same purpose, in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

The game started well enough for Michigan as they took a 3-0 lead on a field goal in their first drive, but their offense quickly faded. I decided to record this play below for some reason, and it turned out to be the biggest gain on the ground Michigan had all day.

By the end of the first half, Michigan was down 3-7 to the Buckeyes, and while the score was close, the Buckeyes were controlling the game with their dominating defensive line. Mike Hart did not look like he had recovered from the injury that had kept him out of the previous couple of games. Neither did Chad Henne. His passes sailed over the heads of his receivers when he was able to get the ball out of his hands before getting mauled by the OSU defense.

This was tough to watch, especially standing outside in the constant steady rain with the temperature just above freezing. The sky, above Ann Arbor on November 17th, 2007, was a gray that I hadn't seen since moving to DC. It felt like the cloud line was five times lower and thicker than cloud lines are supposed to be. There wasn't fog -- just extremely dense clouds that made it feel like it was dusk, even though it was early afternoon. It was so cloudy that if you had no understanding of what the sun was, and someone next to you in Ann Arbor last Saturday was pointing up to the sky, explaining that there was a dense mass of burning gases far away in space that gave off light so bright that looking at it directly could blind you, there would be no reason to believe it. It was so gloomy that they had to have the stadium lights on for a 12:00 game. At halftime, my dad and I stood under the stands in the upper level of Michigan Stadium, drinking hot chocolate, trying to enjoy being out of the rain. This was the first time I could remember, since moving to DC, that my feet were so cold and wet that I could not move my toes inside my shoes.

The second half was far worse. While the wind and rain picked up and the temperature dropped, so did the Buckeyes' stranglehold on the game. Most of the times Michigan was able to advance the ball occurred on the rare occasion of an Ohio State player committing a penalty. Chris Wells, the OSU running back, ran for a long touchdown early in the second half and it looked like the rout would be on. Michigan hung in there though. The defense responded by shutting down the Buckeyes' offense, which was almost entirely running plays in the second half. At first I wondered why they weren't throwing on us anymore -- keeping our defense honest would have opened up more long runs by Chris Wells -- but then I realized that Jim Tressel was so confident in their defense holding the Michigan offense that he just wanted to run the clock down with the lowest possible risk of turning the ball over, which was the only way Michigan was going to come back. Each time OSU got the ball, Michigan's defense would stop them, usually in one series. Each time they punted, we were hopeful that Michigan would somehow move the ball on the Buckeye defense. And each time that hope was crushed. The only thing that changed as this series of events repeated was the hope that Michigan would find a way to score.

I have seen my share of losses to Ohio State, especially since the hiring of Jim Tressel. It's normally highly emotional walking out of the stadium, win or lose. Not last Saturday. There wasn't any "we should have won that game" thinking. The better team won. If we played Ohio State ten times, they would beat us ten times -- at least with Henne and Hart injured as they clearly were. There was no feeling of hatred towards Ohio State for what they did. They didn't run the score up. They did not commit penalties for excessive celebration. It was as if during halftime Jim Tressel told his team the following:

"Men, we are the better football team today. We all know this. What we are going to do now is dedicate the way we play this second half to the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry itself. We are going to win the game in a manner that everyone associated with the history of this rivalry will appreciate. We will win with honor. We will win in a way that not only our own fans will respect us for, but also in a way that the Michigan players, coaches, and fans will have no choice but to do so as well. We will not run up the score to impress outsiders, as the opinion of outsiders does not matter to us. The final score will not be lopsided, but anyone who watched it will recall this game as one of the most convincing wins they have ever seen."

This may sound like a miserable experience. You may imagine me being bitter for having payed to fly to Michigan just to see my team get crushed by its biggest rival in terrible weather. This, however, was not the case. I still had a great time (and no, I didn't get laid on Friday or Saturday night). The drinking with your Michigan friends, the tailgating, the masses of fans dressed up in their schools' colors outside the stadium, the crowd noise when Michigan was on defense trying to stop OSU on third down and high-fiving my dad when they succeeded, and the post game drinking, eating, and watching other games with friends all combined to make it a great weekend.

What makes people so crazy about football is not that there is something intrinsically entertaining about a football being moved up and down a field by groups of similarly dressed muscular dudes. It is the collection of past experiences associated with the game, including the events surrounding it. All of these events are more fun when your team wins, but the older I get the more I realize that they are still pretty damn good when they lose too. Or maybe I'm just getting numb to Ohio State beating us year-after-year.

I'm not sure if being a football fan is something that you can or should make an effort to become, if you're not one already. There are plenty of enriching activities to engage in out there, and along with the good things I have described, there are many unpleasant things that come with being a fan (ticket expenses, standing in long lines to go to the bathroom, obnoxious fans, etc...) that may not be worth getting used to. So if you're trying to "get" football, just stop. It's something you just "have" or don't "have". Like AIDS.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Matchday Memories

Saturday morning I woke up in the smallest room I had ever slept in, took a shower, and went out to get some breakfast and coffee before getting ready to walk to the Gloucester station and head up the Piccadilly line to the Arsenal stop. As a big fan of the traditional Irish breakfast, and general lover of most meats, I was surprised to find out that I do not really like the traditional English breakfast. It was similar to the Irish Breakfast in that both come with eggs, tomato, and ham, but the English version that I was served had some kind of meat product, which I now think may have been blood pudding, that I could only manage to eat half of. It looked like a pile of canned corn beef hash, but instead of being loose, it was a dense piece of pink meat and fat. I tried to eat it at the same time as eggs and tomato to mollify the dreadful flavor, but finally had to give up on it.

Filled with caffeine, sodium, and saturated fat, I went for a walk in the neighborhood in search of a flask that I could take with me to the stadium, and would make for a nice souvenir to take home. No luck. I instead went to Sainsbury's, a grocery store chain in the UK, and purchased a bottle of water for 42p, downed it, and filled the empty plastic bottle with Jack Daniel's.

Wearing my Arsenal 07-08 third jersey with a light jacket over it, my whiskey bottle in the side pocket, and my "ticket" in my inside jacket pocket,

I boarded the Piccadilly line going in the direction of Cockfosters. The train was pretty full, but not overly crowded. I spent the twenty minute or so ride drinking whiskey, reading the instructions for entering the stadium with this ID card that some fan - Mr. Martin Woods - had sold to the ticket broker on condition of its safe return after the match, and looking around the train at the other fans that were making up more and more of a percentage of the car as we drew nearer to the Holloway Road and Arsenal stops.

I joined the mass of people walking to Emirates Stadium. Streets surrounding it were blocked to cars and food and memorabilia vendors were set up. It was somewhat like going to Wrigley Field in that it was surrounded by a residential and commercial neighborhood. Of all the good looking food stands, I picked probably the worst one. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger. The cheese wasn't melted and the bacon...the bacon was horrible. Brits seem to like their bacon soft and fatty. I had to remove it so that i could finish the burger. I went to the location, by the two cannons, where the ticket rep was supposed to be in case of any questions or issues with the ticket came up.

There was no stand for the ticket broker company set up, as secondary sales are illegal. I called the number for the rep but it went to a voicemail. I finally just walked up to the entrance area. I was concerned about a couple things:
1) I had a legit ticket.
2) I would figure out how to present it without looking like it was my first time using it, risking a possible request for ID by security to verify that it was in fact my pass. I'm not telling what my name is, but it is not "Mr Martin Woods".

It worked out fine. I just placed the id wallet with the card inside inside a scanner slot, a green light and a beep followed, and i was in.

The seat that I ordered was supposed to be along the long side of the pitch, and I was given a seat on the short side, but it was a pretty amazing place to be so I was completely happy. Just like before a football game or baseball game, the players were out on the pitch warming up. Right in front of me.

About twenty minutes before the start of the match, the players left through the tunnel, the pitch was watered down briefly by built-in sprinklers, and ten minutes later they were coming back out.

After player introductions, the match began. No national anthem, which was sweet.

There was no scoring in the first half. The free-flowing Arsenal movement I was used to seeing wasn't on display as much, due to the outstanding defensive positioning by Man U. From what I remember, I think both sides hit the post and there were some quality chances. As good as the Arsenal defense is, they had all they could handle with the United forwards Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney in the middle and Cristiano Ronaldo out wide. Ronaldo played close to a perfect game. It was incredible watching him take long passes in the air going straight up the field down the right side and precisely head the ball to Rooney or Tevez in the middle. An amazingly skilled dribbler, when Clichy would give Ronaldo room in the corner, all you could do was hope that an Arsenal player would beat the Man U attacker to the crosses he made in front of the goal. Early in the second half, United scored on this scenario, as Gallas dove to try to steer the ball away from the goal with Rooney running right with him but unfortunately put the ball in the back of the net.

The rest of the second half was kind of a blur. Arsenal tied it on a goal from Fabregas where the ball bounced to him uncovered at the top of the penalty box. He had time to settle it and place it in the left corner. With very little time left, Ronaldo scored for United to put the visitors up. This was a stunner to the crowd, as it looked like United would switch places with them at the top of the table and drop to second. But deep into extra time there was a flurry of chances in front of the Man U goal and the signal came in from the referee that the ball had crossed the line. The place went nuts. The absurd cost of the ticket seemed reasonable.

So that was the game. There was some serious drama going on, however, due to an incredibly stupid decision on my part. That ID card I had delivered to my hotel was sold by a season ticket holder to the ticket broker company on condition of it being returned. I was given instructions to call a phone number of a representative of the ticket company to meet up with after the game to return it. At the end of halftime, the dude sitting next to me asked me how much I paid for my ticket. I told him it was more than I could afford, and he told me that it was his mate's ticket and asked if I had given it back to the contact person yet. I said no, saying that the plan was to give it back after the game. He said that I could give it to him if I wanted, and he could just give it back to his "mate". Not really thinking about anything other than how awesome it was being there, I handed him the card and thanked him.

The second half was extremely exciting with four goals and Arsenal tying it in added time, however I couldn't completely enjoy it because I was getting more and more worried about the idiotic move I had mad by giving the card to the big thug next to me. Midway through the second half I told the guy that I would be most comfortable if he gave it back to me so that I could return it to the designated person after the game. He basically told me to fuck off and that I wasn't getting it back. Did I mention that the dude was at least my height and had me by at least 10 kilos? And he was with his friends who were not gentlemen. So I was pretty much fucked, I thought. I was going to be stuck paying some enormous sum to the ticket company for giving the ticket card to a stranger instead of returning it. The guy was not interested in listening to why I needed the ticket back, saying that it wasn't coming out of his pocket. I had seen the pocket in his coat that it had gone into and finally lunged for it. Bad move. I was blocked, and lucky for me actually, his friend next to him stepped between us. We about got into a fight, then Arsenal scored and we chilled out for a bit. As bad as things were, it really did seem like these guys had season tickets as they were talking with others around them in the section in the same way as I was used to seeing strangers talking to each other at, say, a Michigan football game that sat next to each other all the time, except for these guys being cockney accented asshole motherfuckers. After the game I phoned the ticket rep while following the group next to me. They didn't appreciate me following them, and let me know this. Again, close to getting beat up. I told the ticket guy that the guy next to me was the "mate" of the owner of the ticket and he had it in his possession. I asked if this was OK. To my surprise, the guy said that it was fine, and so I hung up the phone and stopped following the fuckers and that was the end of that.

When I got back to my hotel, however, there was a message from a "Chris" who said he would return Monday to pick up the ticket. "Fuck", I thought. Some hired goon was going to come up to my room while I was sleeping and break my legs with a baseball cricket bat. Sure enough, Monday morning I got a call from the front desk saying that a "Chris" was downstairs and would like to speak with me. They put him on the phone. He asked for the ticket in a nice, polite tone, and I told him that I had given the ticket to the guy next to me and that the rep at the stadium said it was OK. This was enough for the "Mr. Chris", and he said "cheers" or something and the conversation was finished.

Right after the match, I walked from the stadium to meet Dolores's bff and her boyfriend - a Tottenham Hotspur (Arsenal's natural rival) fan - and we had several drinks and talked soccer and a variety of other subjects, some of which were quite odd to be discussing with people I had just met, but it was pretty much a fantastic time. Dolores had mentioned my interest in cougars, and the boyfriend accused me of someone who likes to "go cougaring". I also learned that "pants" means "briefs" over there. Makes sense, right? Panties and pants? Oh, and they seem convinced that all American football players are on steroids. I guess that makes sense that they would think this, considering the average build of Europeans. They had never been to Texas. I just don't understand why football is "American football"...why wouldn't they make up a name for it reflecting their feelings about the participants? How about "Thugby", mates?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

The Curse of Spartan Bob

I was nervously watching the end of the Michigan vs. Michigan State football game on Saturday feeling like I'd been there before. Michigan scores a late touchdown on a long pass to the corner of the endzone to take a 4 point lead. Michigan State gets one last drive. They move the ball past midfield. Michigan gets a sack. Suddenly its fourth and long. Incomplete pass!

I sat there on Saturday in a crowded Washington, DC sports bar, flashing back to six years earlier when I had witnessed this same exact sequence play out in person at Spartan Stadium, only to have Michigan penalized for a personal foul face mask keeping the drive alive. Michigan State went on to move the ball down to the Michigan one yard line, spiking the football with no time (Michigan version)/one second (Michigan State version) remaining. This stopped the clock and gave Michigan State one last play in which quarterback Jeff Smoker scrambled to his right, lofted a little pass back across the field between defenders to Michigan State running back TJ Duckett for a touchdown and a 26-24 win. The game is remembered by many as the "Spartan Bob" game after the game clock operator employed by Michigan State who stopped the clock prematurely or in accordance with the rules, depending on who you talk to.

Initially I wasn't terribly outraged by the whole Spartan Bob fiasco. Don't get me wrong, I have never seen a clock stop more abruptly after the end of a play, almost as if the clock operator was anticipating Jeff Smoker spiking the football. And how the referees missed the blatant holding that occurred on the last play of the game is beyond me. Still, those things can happen when you allow a game to be decided by one play - particularly on the road against a rival. Michigan had plenty of opportunities to win that game that they didn't take advantage of. Michigan State played better football in the second half and deserved to win.

On Saturday, after Michigan State's 4th down pass fell incomplete, it took me about 10 seconds to realize that there was no penalty flag coming and that Michigan would in fact win this time. It was like one of those movies that has alternate endings, and I definitely preferred the 2007 version. But all of these similarities got me to thinking: What if Spartan Bob, by stopping the clock early, placed a curse on the Michigan State football team that continues today? Consider the evidence:

- In the six seasons prior to the Spartan Bob game, Michigan State was 2-4 against Michigan. Including the Spartan Bob game, 3-4. Michigan State is 0-6 against Michigan ever since.

- In the six and a half seasons before the Spartan Bob game, Michigan State was 27-25-1 in Big 10 play. They are 15-34 ever since, including a three game losing streak that commenced the week after the SBG.

- Between 1995 and the SBG, Michigan State's three wins were each by a field goal or less while each of Michigan's four wins came by 12 points or more. Somehow, Michigan State always seemed to find a way to win the close games. Since the SBG, four of the six Michigan vs. Michigan State games have gone right down to the wire, including two overtime games. However, since the SBG, Michigan State has been the team to collapse down the stretch in close games.

- The two post-SBG Michigan vs. Michigan State games decided by more than a touchdown came in seasons that led to the Spartans parting ways with their head coach. Strikingly, the year after the SBG, Michigan beat Michigan State 49-3, the Wolverine's largest margin of victory over the Spartans in more than 50 years. The next week, Michigan State dismissed head football coach Bobby Williams. The extent to which Michigan's 36-13 drubbing of Michigan State in 2006 contributed to John L. Smith's termination is not as clear, but I'm sure that it didn't help.

- Perhaps the most compelling reason to believe in the curse of Spartan Bob is that Saturday's game, which mirrored the SBG in so many ways, was six years to the day after that clock stopped early, giving Michigan State an opportunity to score six points. One miserable, heart wrenching loss for each misbegotten point.

Was the SBG in fact such an egregious miscarriage of justice that it spawned its own curse? Did all of those whining Michigan fans have a legitimate gripe all along? And perhaps most importantly, assuming that the Curse of Sparty Bob is real, at what point will Michigan State have paid its karmic debt to the universe and resume beating Michigan approximately once every three years?

Friday, November 02, 2007

My Better Half

Last Saturday night I discovered something about myself. The something that was discovered turned out to be a positive attribute, I suppose, but the positive attribute is unfortunately tied to a man-made object. By "man-made object" I really do mean "man-made object" because machines that once produced these objects were set to produce other objects instead of this one a long time ago. Also, I doubt that any females have crafted one of them in the recent years, at least in the style mine was in. As you may have inferred from keywords like Halloween and style, I'm talking about an article of clothing that once was, if not common, unsurprising to encounter. I can't be sure of the time period of its glory, but without research and going solely on the memory of my adolescence - where admit it or not, everyone American, at least, is most keenly aware of fashion appropriate to their their contemporaries out of fear of being ridiculed or physically harmed - the half-shirt era was completely over in the heterosexual community by 1990. By then, if you were, say, a thirteen year-old lad, trying to light a poorly rolled joint, sitting on a fallen tree trunk on the trails in the woods by the paper company down the street from his house, you would be so confused by the sight of an approaching older guy with longish hair, a sleazy mustache, and wearing a half-shirt, you wouldn't know what to think. Too showy to be straight, to scraggly to be gay, and who knows if the dude's dangerous or not. Yet just six years before, that hypothetical older dude in the woods would have surely been greeted with fear, or caution at the very least.

Where have you gone, half-shirt? Even in the athletic apparel section of thrift stores, you are nowhere to be found. Perhaps the more interesting question is "Where did you come from?" At the tender age of thirty, I am far too young to answer this. My earliest memories of half-shirts are likely from its high point. When my family moved from southeast Michigan to southwest Michigan in the summer of '84, half-shirts were everywhere. Music videos featured rockers and rappers alike wearing a tee-shirt truncated on both the sleeves and the, um, trunk. Perhaps a wrapped bandanna was worn on the head along with it. On the football field, wearing a jersey that exposed the abdominal region was extremely common, especially among the more brash players on certain teams (Miami, Florida State, etc...). And yes, tough older guys with mustaches who smoked cigarettes, drank cans of beer, and scored with awesome chicks in the woods down the street from your house also sometimes wore half-shirts. But when did this start? When did this now strange article of clothing first come into existence, expressing the extreme machismo of those fit to wear it? Was someone at a gym somewhere, pumping iron in a poorly ventilated room, and just needed some more air down there? If I had to guess, I would say it all started with some guy who wore sleeveless "muscle" shirts, but wanted to separate himself from everyone else that did as well. "Fuck it.", he said, out came the scissors, and off went a two inch wide band on the bottom.

The half-shirt era is not forgotten. Fans of "Wet Hot American Summer" - of whom I am one - are familiar with a magical scene near the end of the movie where the "Coop" character walks in the camp cabin where the talent show is being held, dressed completely different due to his new attitude after having been taught "The New Way" earlier. The new confidence and masculinity is reflected in his clothes, which included a headband and wristband. But the real centerpiece was the half-shirt. At some point last week I abandoned my initial plan of going as a federal employee (badly fitting suit, white socks, white sneakers, and a badge tucked into the shirt pocket) in favor of "The New Way" version of myself, but I did it. And I don't think I ever looked better.

I arrived at a party hosted by a girl formerly known as my special lady friend in a sweatshirt and warm-up pants so that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable on the bus ride up. I saved that discomfort for the party, which when I arrived was made up of just five girls and one guy. My date was not there yet, so I had some snacks and chatted. I knew all but one of the girls and had no idea who the guy was. He appeared to be older - close to forty - and was dressed in an assortment of garments that somehow collectively were supposed to represent "the red death". The following conversation occurred between us at approximately 9:30PM:

"Hey, so how do you know these girls?"
"Oh, I used to date Laura."
"Oh, OK, which Laura?"
"The Laura who lives here."
"That's funny, I'm actually currently dating I guess I'm the new you!"
"Uh, yeah, I guess...or you could say 'I'm the old you'."

We laughed uncomfortably about the awkwardness of the situation.

"Sorry, it's a bit uncomfortable for me to be meeting you when I'm dressed like this.", I said. "Not nearly as much as it is for what do you do when you're not working out?"


I did the only thing my instincts told me to do between that point and the arrival of my date: drink heavily. Later the new me's friends came by, sans costume. I was a little uncomfortable still, but the alcohol was working and I was actually starting to get used to wearing the half-shirt. The women seemed to really like it. There were lots of compliments at that party and the one that I went with my date to next. But the one I remember most clearly came from one of the new me's friends at the liquor table:

"You know man, I love your costume, because as ridiculous as it looks now, people really did used to dress like that."

Maybe I was born to rock a half-shirt, but unlike "the dude" in "The Big Lebowski", I'm just not the man for my time and place.

Current conditions: altitude: 35,000 ft, temperature: -67 degrees F, speed: 596 mph
Position: due south of Keflavik, on the tip of a peninsula off southern Iceland, 957 from final destination - London, UK.

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