Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year's Ruminations

Happy 2015!

I hope y'all had a good one, filled with grand adventures, piles of beer, and mountains of groupies.

By the way, do yourselves, and the world, a favor, and refrain from doing a Google Image search on "Piles of Women".  Dear God, the things one can't unsee . . .

I know, right?  What the hell, internets.

I had a pretty sweet holiday myself, ladies and gentlemen.  I ended up getting in some killer Winter beach time, spending more than a week on the deceptively named "Isle of Women" down by Cancun.  The weather was great and the food and beers were in abundance, but I gotta say, with a name like that, I was kind of expecting to be chased around by topless women on roller skates or something.  I mean, it's not like the place was called "Isle of People Hanging Out at the Beach and Listening to Bad Spanish Pop Music", amiright?

Although, upon further sexy reflection, I guess "Isla de Personas Colgando en la Playa y Escuchar Mala Música Pop Española" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Be that as it may, I had good times with good friends, had some beers, and successfully tanned myself to a delightful shade of luggage. I have a ways to go until I can claim to have mastered the art of Lovecraftian Bronzing, though. I need some tips from this lady:

Elder Ones, indeed.

Nevertheless, here we are, now in the nascent stages of what looks to be a delicious 2015.  It's gonna be an interesting year, dear reader.  I have the Norway Rager in April already lined up, with other exploits sure to occur.  Also, the Fall of next year will be when I start gearing up for a new round of job searching (see past year's tales of whoa here!  First cheap plug of 2015!).  I am excited to see where I could find myself in 2016.  Back in Asia?  Sexy Europe?  Sexier Eastern Europe?  Craigslist?  The possibilities are endless.  Will I be a VP somewhere else?  Some kind of Dean?  The guy who fixes the Slurpee machine?  Maybe I can get the role of aging, bitter gigolo.


I have also made lots of progress in plotting out my next book.  I think the three of you who bought the last one will be very pleased with it, as I am basically trying to steal from Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut, at least structurally.  The plot is gonna be interesting.  I think (Spoiler alert!)  I'm going to try to integrate my 30K word memoirs into my last two books, retcon a bunch of stuff, and make up a story where my writing has changed the course of history forever.  Or something.  It will totally be an exercise in authorial restraint, for sure.  We will see how it turns out, but I'll start writing soon, once I have it all sussed.  My goal is by this time next year to be able to say "Hey look!  I'm almost done.  And check out these abs!"

You can't prove it ISN'T me . . .

And my new review site is off and running, with a whopping 10 entries so far covering music, books, movies, and video games.  Interested in what fuels the Rage Cage?  Come check it out here!

So that's what's going on with me, you bastards.  As for you?  Well, I wanted to share some wisdom, a few dear words to guide you along the rocky path of 2015.  What's the secret to happiness?  What's the trick to leading a kick ass life?  What will make the world a better place, full stop?

Hell, I dunno.  But you know what I'd like to see change in 2015?  You know what I want to see you do, you sexy bastards?

And no, it doesn't involve Inebriation T Shirts . . .

What I want is much simpler.  Less glorious, but way better for everybody.

Stop being offended on Facebook.

And you know who you are.

(Whips on old man pants).  Maybe I'm grumpy, but it seems this was the year of the manufactured offended reaction to news bites.  The pattern is as follows:

1)  Someone posts a "real" news story on Facebook.   These do not usually involve spandex, sadly enough.  The person oftentimes posts it to show the world how ANGRY they are.  Something must be done! Bonus points if it's a personal anecdote.

2) People chime in to say how offensive the story is.

3) People argue about which side can be more offended.

4) Internet points are given out for most stricken reaction (with extra hugs for things like "I am crying as I read this", or "I couldn't even breath because of what they said")

5) Participants congratulate themselves on proving how much they care about their fellow man, as shown by how quickly they can click the "like" button.

6) Content with the knowledge that the world has been saved by their efforts, everyone then watches Youtube clips of fat people falling through things.

In their defense, that's pretty funny.

Listen, everybody (polishes monocle on old man pants). We all know the world is a pretty crappy place to be, for most people, most of the time.  People do awful things to each other.  We let each other down, we lie, steal, cut in line at theme parks, use online exploits to cheat at Smash Brothers, etc etc.  That's part of the sweet, sweet human condition.  A religious person would say it's Eve's fault, whereas I tend to lay the blame upon the fact that there aren't nearly enough gummy bears to go around.

This could end both world hunger and police brutality.

Let us try to maintain some perspective though.  It's always been that way.  It'll always be that way.  I don't know what the solution is, obviously, but I do know that when people spend hours debating these things on the internet you're not solving the problem, or even helping to fix it.  It's just adding to the white noise. Clicking "like" doesn't feed a kid, or put bullets back in a gun, end silly drug laws, or save a frightened women from her shitty husband.  What it does accomplish is making the clicker feel better about themselves without having to do anything of substance at all.  It's kind of like a slacker's vision of utopia, where everyone else builds everything and all they have to do is tweet about it.

This isn't about politics, because EVERYONE, on every "side", does it.  I guess what annoys me about the internet these days is that it has become soooooooo easy for someone to rend their clothes and tear their hair out in grief publicly.  I am not impressed by strong reactions on Facebook because the whole setup is like an audition for "America's Got Feelings".

Remember the good old days, when the internet was about watching midget porn and emulating old video game systems?  Ah, the memories.  While I know those halcyon days are gone forever, it would be nice to recapture that wide eyed innocence again.  Not everything has to be a belief statement.  And, sometimes, at the end of the day, we just wanna watch fat people fall through  a store.

                         Goddamn that's funny.

BE the change, people!  

Happy New Years!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hoppy Holidays!

Ah, the holidays.  Or, as hipster douchebags would say, holidaze.

Get it?  Get it?  Daze because . . . oooh, wingtips . . .

Christmas is for sure one of my favorite times of the year for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the fact that, due to my killer job, I always get like three weeks off around this time.  

Oh, don't be jealous, dear reader.  I do you much honor whilst you toil away.  After all, it's people like you that make my decadent, world plundering lifestyle possible.

You're welcome.

Christmas comes in two flavors for me.  There is the "Away Christmas" and the "Home Christmas".  Now, oftentimes, the Away variety tends to be enjoyable, greasy, and filled with the sort of juvenile ribaldry that would get you expelled from a confessional in any church outside of Las Vegas.  Highlights of Away Christmases for me have included times spent in Thailand (Chang Mai New Years was great, even though I almost caught on fire), Borocay (where I found a steak house run entirely by dwarves), and Athens (Gypsies, Uzo, and the Acropolis at dawn- good times).   Fantastic experiences, for sure, but not quite in the traditional holiday spirit.  Especially in terms of outfits.

What?  What do YOU wear to the beach?

As I have gotten older, and my abs have begun to steadily dwindle into obscurity, like a protean Howard Dean, I have seen a bit of a shift in my holiday ragers from the sybaritic journeys of days past into the slower, more contemplative Home Christmas.

A Home Christmas involves watching Christmas movies, spending the day with family (with all the awkward moments and comfortable lulls that entails), preparing and eating a huge meal together, and generally not throwing up on anyone.  

Except for this guy.  Miss you, Uncle Flapjack.

Now, dear reader, there are of course some pros and cons to each type of holiday.  One HUGE advantage to the home Christmas, though, is being able to partake in something that is uniquely American (or Canadian, you bastards): holiday beers!  

God beer us, everyone.

It's that magical, mystical time of year where every liquor store abounds with Pumpkin Spice Ale, Cinnamon and Nutmeg Beer, Santa's Holiday Lager, Chocolate Stout, and every other possible combination of vaguely seasonal brews one demented liquor elf could devise.  Overseas, for all that sexy, sexy madness mentioned above, people are usually stuck with only two or maybe three different beers (with the exception of awesome Latvia, of course), all of which tend to taste the same.  I have found that this corner of the world gives one an almost unlimited opportunity to try a new flavor. Especially with those awesome multi-packs that you can buy during the holidays.  

Or you could always stick with Pabst.

In some ways, it is truly the reason for the season (sorry Jeebus). Talking with family is great, exchanging gifts is always a good time, watching The Christmas Story for 8 hours never gets old, and buying super loud and annoying gifts for the toddlers belonging to my best friends has to be one of the greatest things ever, but . . . at the end of the day it comes down to the beer.  Case in point:  I have in the fridge right now a Shocktop Chocolate Strawberry White Ale, waiting to either be drunk by me or thrown at a pack of elves.

Life is good.  Oh, and did I mention I'm going to Cancun for New Years?  Nothing too greasy, just a small place off the coast called the Island of Women.  

Once again, dear readers, I couldn't have done it without you.  

You're welcome.  Again.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

I hope there's beer in there.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Norsk Rager!

Hello all.  Happy holidays!  For my American friends, I hope you had a glorious Thanksgiving, filled with turkey, cranberry sauce, awkward political arguments, good beers, and delicious amounts of familial gossiping or nay-saying.  For my non American friends, happy Thursday, you Socialist bastards.

I, myself, have much to be thankful for: a good job, good friends, wacky adventures, and an ample supply of terrible Egyptian beer.  And, of course, my three or four readers.  Also, I have great news to share.  In April I will be heading to Norway!

 . . .


The land of vikings, trees, snow, and, um . . . more snow!

And boats!

And, of course, kick ass landscapes that have inspired D&D enthusiasts (but not those AD&D snobs) for decades.

There's like six ogres and a beholder in that cabin.

So why am I going, you may ask?  Well, last April I hit Latvia, and it was awesome.  So, going North for Spring Break makes a fistful of sense as it is, but there is one sexy reason . . . the Inferno Festival!

Yeah, kind of.

The Inferno Festival, you curious bastards, is an annual Black Metal concert that darkens the already darkened streets of Oslo.  As an avid fan of black metal (check out my Skogen review!) I've always had this concert as a large chunk of my heavy metal bucket list.  A few years ago I went to Wacken (as recounted here) and it was fantastic, so I am super pumped.

For those of you who are not very familiar with Black Metal, it is basically Death Metal's socially awkward cousin.   You know, the cousin with the spikes, leather, occasional neck beard, and a complete sense of Not Giving A Fuck.  And I love it so, so much.  More primal, more raw, and usually far more atmospheric, it has its roots in Norway, and one look at the landscape can tell you why.

So Metal.

There tends to be lots of corpse paint, spikes, chains, and rage, not necessarily in that order.  

I think that was his hot tub.

The imagery appealed to my 14 year old thunder and now, as a wizened old man, I don't wear the leather but I still love the music.  Most people I know wouldn't even call it music, of course, but most people tend to be enslaved by radio or whatever a pod cast is, so screw those jerks.  The first time I heard Mayhem it changed my musical life and I am glad to report they are still going strong today, even though they ate their first singer more than twenty years ago, which normally causes a rift in the band.  Here is a song from one of their newer albums, Order Ad Chao, which is one of my favorite Black Metal releases ever.  If you can make it through the whole song I will give you a skull shaped lollipop.

It's gonna be a great time, ladies and gentlemen.  I will have four days of Black Metal and beer filled rage, then, when my super patient but not very metal lady friend shows up, we shall do the more cultural side of Norway.  Hopefully that will still involve beer, leather, and vikings, because, I mean, come on, it's Norway.

Oh yeah it is.

See you in April, you frost bitten bastards.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sing, Oh Muse . . .

Warning: angst filled confessions alert!

No.  Please, God, no.

This time last year I was plunging headfirst into a world of Assistant Principaling.  It was an interesting time, filled with parent meetings, city wide riots, hordes of angry Chinamen, and lots of requisite lifestyle adjustments.  Just keeping my head above water took up most of my sexy energy.  Sadly enough, the first thing to go was my delicious creative side.

I know- I missed the thunder too.

Over the past three years I have published two books (check Amazon oh God cheap plug), wrote a bunch of stories, and got the first 20,000 words of my assuredly awesome memoirs written down for posterity.  Last year the whirlwind came to a complete halt, however.  Somewhere amongst the cacophony that goes with new job, new country, and new pants, I lost the ability to think of great new stuff to write about.

As one can imagine this was rather frustrating, especially for my die hard legion of fan.

"He hasn't updated for three months!  Rah."

This blog became my only reliable source of writing that didn't involve all staff emails, even though I never got around to making those awesome Rage Cage t shirts (patent pending).  My tenuous grip on sanity and personal hygiene is really tethered to my creative output: I need to be writing, or planning writing, or thinking about planning writing, or, at the very least, running away from 35 scantily clad groupies who want to ask me in depth questions about my writing.

Yeah, that'll work in a pinch.

So you can imagine my frustration, you empathetic bastards.  I have spent months trying to think of something fresh to write about, something new to put out into the world which will be read and enjoyed by like four people, to no avail.

Thanks for nothing.

All that has changed though, fellow Ragaholics.

I was in the airport in Lisbon (no big deal), waiting in line at the Burger King (classy), when it came to me: the idea for my next book!  Within the next hour, in a fit of inspiration, I wrote down a general plan for the whole book, and some brief character sketches.

What's it about, you ask?

Oh, I can't tell you, you curious sumbitches.  I'll update you in a year or so (drops mic and walks away. Then remembers something and comes back sheepishly).

I haven't started writing the actual book yet, but it feels good to get back in the saddle.  Welcome back, Muse- I missed your musk.

Man, what a great movie.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why Latvia Might Be One of the Greatest Countries to Ever Exist Ever.

Hello all, and a fond welcome back to the Rage Cage.  A lot has happened between July, when last I darkened your sexy doors, and the present time.  I had a killer trip to Mallorca in July, went to Ireland for the first time, began a new school year (a time of changes, for sure), and just got back from a fun, albeit waterlogged, trip to Portugal.  I know, I know- a hard knocks life, for sure.

We have so much to catch up on, dear readers.  For one, I have new shoes.  And a couch.  And I may or may not have been wearing new pants this whole time.  All in all, an era of sweeping changes in the house that rage built (patent pending). Before I move forward, however, I have been looking back through my prodigious archives and realized I forgot to tell you all a story- a singular story that will encapsulate my Latvian Rager from last year, which I went on, bragged about, and then promptly never mentioned again.

How sloppy of me, you might say.

You'd be right, for sure, but, in my defense, I have been rather distracted with my abject laziness as of late.

So, onto Latvia.

Now, a caveat here: I know nothing about Latvia.

I am a rather stupid man, at times, doubly so when it comes to geography.  If you asked me to find Latvia on a map, I would probably throw a globe on the ground in the hopes that a smoke pellet was hidden inside so I could slink away, ninja style.  When I spent a week in Riga I learned much about Latvia and her awesome ways.  I studied her invasion double header (When the Russians came in, followed by the Germans, followed again by the Russians), and found out Latvians have to be some of the most attractive people on the planet. As irrefutable proof, I Googled "Ugly Latvian", and this was the first image that popped up:


Riga is an awesome city, filled with bars, lovely walking bits (something anyone from my neck of the woods can appreciate), great food, good views, and awesome, randomly terrifying, buildings like this:

Pretty sure this is the Justice League's headquarters.  Or the world's most Stallone In The Future-ish library.

According to my ignorant lack of research and keen observational skills, the Latvians love four things above all else, erstwhile reader.

Wonderful parks...

Twinkly bits at nightime...

Literal store names...

and beer spas.

Wait, what?

Beer spa?

Yeah, that's what I thought too.

When I saw this place, right around the corner from my ridiculously fancy hotel, I had the same reaction.  If Tom Cruise has taught us anything, it's that who dares wins (or that explosions are good- I get mixed up) so, much like the Light Brigade in that Madonna song, or wherever it came from, I did not wonder why- I just went in, or something, and found myself in heaven.

Or a beer fueled facsimile.

See, the Beer Spa was like a regular type of spa joint, except for one key, life changing detail: every thing was related to beer.  

I went into the lobby and, putting on my best "ignorant American" tourist face, told them I was new to Latvia, thought the beer spa was the greatest thing ever, and wanted whatever the best package was.  The decidedly good looking woman at the counter smiled and asked me to have a seat.  After a few seconds she handed me a beer while I waited.  Needless to say, this did a great job in setting the tone.  The aforementioned "treatment" turned out to consist of the following:  a beer massage (using the primeval beer ingredients as oils), a soak in the beer bath (as awesome as it sounds), and then a stop in the beer sauna, where hops infused clouds filled the air.  All of this was as absurd and relaxing as it sounds.  If supine could be used as a verb, then, well, I was even too lazy to do that.

Pretty sweet, huh?

This was totally me in the sauna.

As I sat in the mist, wearing a fluffy towel surely hand crafted by a cozy God somewhere in the Valhallian garment district, sweating out the beer that I was drinking from my own keg (placed for me in the sauna by another example of Latvian virtue) because of course, the door opened and ANOTHER gorgeous woman entered.

Her face was indistinct, a blurred suggestion hidden in the beer scented steam.  She might have been an illusion, conjured from my own Id.  

Or symptoms of heatstroke.

She asked me the question that changed my life, and will forever more mark me as an ardent supporter of Latvia and her ways:  "Sir, how many steaks would you like?"

Nearly spitting out my precious beer, I stammered out a suave answer, as is my wont under duress.

"Um . . . what?"

Her hand waved at something on the other side of the door.  It was probably a baker's dozen of blond Latvian women.

"At the conclusion of treatment, you receive steaks with your beer.  How many would you like?"

My heart skipped a beat.  Was this really happening?  Was that actually a question?  As an aside, I am glad there is a place in the world where steaks are considered a side dish to beer.

"Um . . . I think . . . I think one will be enough.  Probably.  Maybe two."

She nodded, I think, and made her way out of the room, Eastern European style.  

As I sat there, finishing my keg and feeling the steam soak through me, I pondered the vagaries of life, as one does while sitting in a beer sauna: what a tangled, winding road I have walked on, to go from Red Bank metal guy and end up on the other side of the world, working as an assistant principal in Egypt and seeing things that most people only get to experience in ponderous indy films.  It's like a greasy version of that Dr. Seuss book that everyone is gifted when they graduate High School.

Sadly enough, time waits for no man, no matter how swaddled.  

My recollections were finished with my last drop of beer and I slowly, sleepily, blissfully, got up and walked out of the sauna which had been my slice of heaven for the past thirty minutes.

I strolled through the sweet smelling wooden hallway/changing room, following signs that eventually, improbably, unthinkably, led me here:

Goddamn you Latvia, you sexy bastard.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Passing The Torch

Well here I am, ensconced in the middle of a sultry Jersey summer.  I survived the end of the year at school and all the madness that entails, and have wrapped up my first stint behind the admin desk in fine fashion (or at least I think I have).  Now I am taking my well earned leisure time, since lord knows we didn't get enough breaks this year.  

So far my vacation has been good times, with frequent trips to the beach and boardwalk, many chances for beers, and even a return to some of my greasy haunts of yesteryear.

I have to say, there is something surreal about walking into a bar you last inhabited 20 years ago, when your band played there for the last time, and having the owner remember you (and, incidentally, give you a free beer).  That's the kind of moment that makes you think about where you've been, where you are, where you are going . . . and before you know it you're curled into a fetal position in the parking lot, clutching a beer to your chest, and singing the theme to "Golden Girls" in between sobs.

Although all of the above could also be caused by encountering the famous Jersey Tan whilst hobnobbing on the boardwalk.  Don't worry, you guys totally don't look like Goblins.  

Right before leaving sunny Cairo for sunny Jersey I passed a huge milestone in my life- I got a new passport. Why, you ask, you sexy, hopefully-not-orange-skinned things you?  Because my former passport had been filled up.


She doesn't doesn't have the same passion these days.

 It literally could take no more.

And she's kind of let herself go . . .

"That's what she said" jokes aside, it was pretty cool to realize I had actually filled the thing.  I had gotten two extensions to the old girl, one in Myanmar and one in Congo, and it still wasn't enough to accommodate me (okay, I'll stop).

Switching out passports is definitely a time of reflection, existential pondering, and paperwork.  And waiting in lines.  But mostly reflection.  When I got the first passport I was a doe eyed youth of 29, and the furthest I had been abroad was an ill advised trip to Mexico and a dalliance with  a Quebecois Denny's.  Little did I know that just 8 years later I would have visited dozens of countries, met wonderful, beautiful people from all over the world, have the privilege to work with so many different cultures and groups, and try enough different beers to satisfy all but the most cravat-engorged hipsters.

When I flip through her pages I remember all the times we had together . . . getting detained by customs in Vancouver, heading over to Thailand for the first of what would become 33(!) trips, spending a wonderful two weeks on the beaches of Vietnam, seeing the sun rise on New Year's day at The Acropolis, being able to spread my thunder far and wide over the four  corners of the globe . . . I could go on but I think this would turn into the world's least sexy vacation slideshow.  But wait, hold on- everyone likes slideshows, right?  No?  Well, too bad.  Here are a few of my favorite memories from the time of my first passport . . .

Ooooh baby camel- taken during a desert camping trip in Egypt.

Ooooh baby Burmese kiddos.  Taken during a wonderful week long trek through the jungles of Myanmar.

All decked out for the Water Festival in Yangon- one of the most fun truck rides anyone can ever hope to take part in.  I looked forward to this every year.

The view from my balcony in Myanmar- still my favorite place to have lived thus far, even accounting for the censorship rage.

The first party from my first week in Mallorca.  I met tons of great folks that summer and had amazing adventures.  I liked it there so much I've gone back for the last two years after graduating!

My favorite bar in Congo.  Right by the river.  One of the places that made me feel privileged to do what I do.

Thanks for the memories, you sexy, well worn, slightly heavier than you used to be thing.  You changed my life, literally.  For anyone who wants to travel abroad, and has the means to do so, but also has doubts or crippling fears about the lack of thunder, just go and do it.  You never know what you might find, see, taste, drink, or make out with that could potentially change your life, hopefully for the better.

And so I say goodbye to you, dear friend.  Thanks for the memories: good, bad, greasy, and otherwise.

And you- you clean, no wrinkled bastard.  You have some big shoes to fill.  Hopefully in another 8 years I will be able to say the same about the great times you've brought into my life.

Happy July 4th, everyone!  Have a Liberty beer for me!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Farewell To Arms . . . Goodbye Oderus

I know dear readers, it has been quite a while.  Nearly two months have passed since my last update.  Ah, if I close my eyes, and stop drinking for a moment, I can just about picture us back then:  tanned, fit, the stars in our eyes, the wind in our hair, and the fire in our loins.  Truly the halcyon days.  So much has changed in the interim, dear friends.  I have had some good to great times, some successes, some failures, and some random adventures.  I finally got to live my dream of seeing Latvia and literally being enveloped in beer (more on that next time), and have managed to scratch my karaoke itch rather successfully in the past while.

So, why has it been so long, and what the hell do I have to say for myself?  Well, I lost my usual excuse rolodex, so will just have to lay it out there: I have had some depressing news, and wanted to write about it, but it took me a while to work up the courage/energy/egomania to do so.

In brief, in the course of three weeks I lost two very important, integral, life defining parts of my childhood.  In less than a month, the world said goodbye to The Ultimate Warrior (who I will talk about in a later post) and also one of the few men I would list as a personal hero of mine:  Dave Brockie.  

Dave Brockie?  Who’s that, you ask, you inquisitive bastards?   

Well, you might know him better as Oderus Urungus, lead singer and creative dynamo behind GWAR, one of the greatest stage acts of the modern era.

 Oh, THAT Dave Brockie.

Now, most people, when they think of GWAR, just dredge up images of blood and various other bodily fluids spraying on an audience whilst random acts of simulated debauchery take place on stage.  Fear not, conservative ones amongst us,  I am not going to suck up your precious, sexy time, World Maggot style, in trying to get you to see the wonderful musical talents, intense levels of creativity and dedication, and fantastic, scarily relevant social commentary hidden under the surface (although it’s all there, for sure).  I won’t point out how the band, in its nearly 30 years of existence, has paved the way for Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Lordi, Dick Cheney, or countless other depraved aspects of modern culture.  I mean, I could (adjusts monocle), but that’s neither here nor there.  There have been hundreds of tributes to Dave and his legacy posted over the past month, all of them better than mine, so I won’t get into all of that.

What I want to talk about is what Oderus Urungus and by extension, GWAR, meant to me.  So, this is will be a bit of story time.  Of course, it won't be as good as when Oderus does story time:

I first found out about these guys when I was 12.  This was in the pre internet era, before Facebook, when Youtube was just a really awkward name for those porno booths in video stores, and I had just gotten into heavy music.  I was riding high on Metallica, Pantera, and the recently discovered Obituary.  I was a young lad, hoping for two things: chest hair, and music that would push my newly blown wide boundaries even further.  Down at Jack’s music store I was flipping through the CDs, not knowing who the bands were, looking for that distinctive heavy metal logo or album cover, when I found this:

I mean, Goddamn.  I had to have it.  Scumdogs of the Universe!  What a cool title.  Look at that sword!  My intrigue grew when I went to buy it and they wouldn’t sell it to me because I was under 16. I was blown away.  This was the first and only time this ever happened to me.  I mean, these guys had to be the heaviest thing ever, right?

Then when I managed to get a friend’s mom to buy it for me, at first I was thrown off.  While the imagery was super gory, and the lyrics were probably the most vile I had ever heard (this was also before I had discovered Cannibal Corpse), the music was . . . different.  Mostly punk/popish.  It was catchy.  One might even say . . . hooky.   And, bottom line, I thought the lyrics were hilarious.  In a world where every band seemed to be named after acts of brutality and sang completely seriously about brutal stuff and played brutal riffs, to have people so obviously having fun, and making jokes at the world’s expense, was such a breath of fresh air to me.

C'mon, who can't get into that song?

Needless to say, I was immediately drawn to them and Oderus, as the ringleader, became someone I looked up to very quickly.  He was a guy who used over the top violence and sexuality as a mirror to catch our own reflections, almost to the point of absurdity.  I remember that famous time in Georgia where he was arrested on stage for wearing a prosthetic penis, in a venue where ACTUAL nudity was allowed.   

I mean, I was a 12 year old heavy metal outcast who thought the whole world sucked, and their third album was called America Must Be Destroyed.  What's not to love? Ironically, this song below was my favorite song on that album and it just gets more meaningful to me as the years go on and the goodbyes pile up- but the video is still one of my faves:

I guess the reason they appealed to me so much is, growing up with the childhood I had, I have a rather finely tuned sense for bullshit, as my grandpa would have said.  We are a society where people for a while were more offended at GWAR’s simulated butchering of a fake Jon Benet Ramsey then at what actually happened to Jon Benet Ramsey both before, during, and after her death.  Preteen beauty pageants are perfectly legal but breasts on TV are the worse thing ever.  We live in a twisted world, my friends, where a school shooting is immediately followed by frothing television pundits weighing in on why it should be harder to buy video games or music then it is to buy guns.

GWAR was the perfect way to point out that absurdity and to me, as a teenager, I loved it.  I have been to almost 15 shows over the years, and at each one I felt like I tapped into something special, something that went behind the “ooh, blood and sex and stuff” that was their window dressing.  As I got older, and was able to appreciate the nuances of both their music and their political stances more, I felt even more in tune with the band.  I felt that as they evolved, as their stage shows got more elaborate, their concert numbers got bigger, that I was growing up with them.

I didn’t know much about Oderus Urungus as a person. I found out his name was Brockie when I was 25, but didn’t know what he looked like behind the mask until two years ago.   To me he was always The Monster.  He would tear apart our society on the albums and revel in our hypocrisy, hedonism, and blatant support of ignorance.   As a kid I never thought about the human beings behind those costumes, content to chant their stage names, buy their merch, and get fed to the world maggot at their shows.  I spent more time listening to GWAR, talking about GWAR, and going to their shows then I did with my own family growing up, I think. 

I still have fond memories of Slymenstra P. Hymen spitting in my face and calling me and my buddy useless dogs before breathing fire at us during The Stone Pony show.  I think she was my first crush.

 And who could blame me?

While their music isn’t for everyone, their message, as I see more and more of the world around me, becomes even more important: Don’t let the world judge you, because the world is usually tragically wrong about everything.  Don’t allow people to tell you what to think or how to feel.  I know, not the most deep screed, but it seems every few years we forget what cynics and pessimists have been saying for millennia and it takes some huge crisis to make us use our brain parts again.

When I was 12, and saw that cover for the first time, I thought that I had finally found something that was MINE.  Something that I wanted to hear and experience, more than anything.  And from that first listen I have taken them with me on my life nearly every day since then.  I listen to GWAR at least once a week, even now.  They have been a huge, huge part of my life, and have probably defined my thoughts on religion, society, and politics more than any other single institution.  In a way, they raised me.   Could be a scary thought, I guess, unless you knew GWAR like I do.  I hope that, if I am ever lucky enough to have a little kiddo or whatever they're called these days, they will have a chance to get a glimpse of life out from under the societal yoke just like I did. 

Now, I am 36.  Older, for sure, wiser, maybe, but for the first time in 24 years I am facing a life without GWAR.  When I heard that Mr. Brockie had passed away last month at 50, it gutted me.  It was like losing a father, especially the kind of father you’ve seen on stage half naked fighting a gigantic mechanized tyrannosaurus surrounded by topless penguins. 

 Maybe you had to be there.

Goodbye, Oderus Orungus.  Goodbye, Dave.  Thank you for all you've done for me.  I’ll miss you.