Sunday, October 21, 2012

He Blinded Me With Science!

Like  a mini Lucretius, without the madness.

Last Friday I spent a wonderful afternoon down by the river bar with a few friends, one of whom was gracious enough to bring Eli along.

Eli, for those of you who don’t know, is the child of one of the teaching couples here at TASOK (read about his prior adventures here!).  They have done a bang up job with him, as my exploitative stories have shown.  He is known to dozens of people all over the world (because of my privacy invading blog, hee hee) for three primary character traits:  his love of Smurfs, his unbelievable ability to turn down sweets (a skill I still haven’t learned) and his propensity to start every question with “Hey!”. 

Well, I can add another facet to this bag of mixed metaphors after sitting with him on the river’s edge for a while:  he loves science.  He is at that delightful age where, although he doesn't know much about science exactly, he takes the bits he does know and fuses them together to make a picture of the world for himself that makes sense, and then (here is the key bit that none of our politicians seem to have grasped this campaign cycle) he asked questions, tests his ideas against new evidence, discards what doesn't work, and moves forward from there.  

It’s the perfect example of a scientific mind in action. Since I haven’t ever taught a science class and it has been years since I have been able to talk philosophy with students (teaching 6th grade math precludes those types of tangents usually, haha), I realized how much I missed those kinds of conversations.  Quick self confession/obnoxious interruption- I am a huge science geek.  I love talking about M Theory, Black Holes, Space/Time Curvature, Biology (especially Marine Biology- man, I love going to aquariums), etc.  But it has been a long while since I've had people in my life who share those interests.  The last time I talked about relativity was with my 9th grade Literature class in Taiwan, and that was 3 years ago.  So, needless to say, I approached this conversation with mounting delight once I realized that science would be involved, after a fashion.

Here is a transcription of our riverside dialogue.  In the interest of full disclosure, I had pounded two beers at this point in the day, but I think Eli was used to that by now.  And he had Fanta, so we were even.

"Matt, you want to come sit by the river with me?  We can watch the water go by."

"Okay, Eli, sounds good."

"Here, you sit on this rock.  See, it's warm.  I'll sit on this one.  Mine's warmer though."

We sat in silence for a few moments, watching branches float by.

 Birds circled languidly overhead while the quarry across the river made dull pounding sounds.

Socrates, with far, far less Eros.


“What’s up, Eli?”

“Why is the water in this river not salty, and oceans are salty?”

So I went through a quick talk about evaporation, underwater vents and volcanoes, water picking up salt from rocks and all that fun stuff.  Once I mentioned the part about change happening over millions of years, he looked up at me.


"Hey what?"

“Do you remember like, a million years ago?”

I nodded sagely and wished I had a longer beard.


Eli confronts the bittersweet  constancy of transience.

“Do you remember, millions and millions of years ago, when there was no . . . no life, and no water, and everything was just rocks and stuff?”

“Yeah, I kind of remember that.  I should have written it down."

“So, hey!”


“So where . . .”  Here he looked out at the river in full ponder mode. "Where . . . how did, did life start?”

“Well, there’s a few different ideas about that, see-”

“- You know, Matt, I heard that it was a meteor, and the meteor landed on this green slime, and that's where life came from.  Do you remember that?”

“Remember the meteor landing?”


“I kind of remember that.  That was a weird day.”

He looked up at me with that earnest expression that only five-year-olds can muster.


“Yeah buddy?”

“I’m gonna find that meteor one day.”

Before I could answer we were summoned.  It was time to leave.  As he was gathering up his belongings (the essential water bottle, dinosaur book, and pencils/paper) he grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards the car.

“Do you think the meteor is at TASOK?  Let’s look there first.”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Here, There, and Back Again

Congolese Slim Jim.  Snap into it, vous b√Ętards sexy.

This, dear reader, is a story of friendship.  Of beer.   Of peanuts eaten, songs sung, and the heart warming commonalty of man.

But mostly of beer.

It's the story of how I found my favorite bar in the Congo, lost it, then found it again.

It's the story of Mama G's.

First, allow me to lay the sexy foundation.  As my friends, associates, and stalkers likely know, I enjoy partaking in a spot of beer from time to time.  On occasion.  

When appropriate.  

Oh god, who am I kidding.  I'm drunk and naked right now.

At least one of those is true.  You can pick whichever one works for you.

Be that as it may, throughout my travels on this green (occasionally oddly purplish) world, I have realized that, no matter where I am, the thing that makes me feel most at home, most at one with the ebb and flow of our shared human experience, is a local bar.  A place where I can relax, have a few beers, do some people watching, and rock good times with friends.  If it has a karaoke machine with selections from Grease and Dirty Dancing, then that's just more sweet icing on the good times cake.

Summer Nights FTW.

The first thing I tend to do upon moving to a new country is to find that bar, that special place that will be my new home away from home.  The worst thing about my move to Taiwan, other than the sociopathetic boss I had, was that, for the first four months living there, I couldn't find a place like that in my neighborhood.  Mostly because, according to local Taiwanese, I lived "where old people went to die." 

I love that local bar vibe.  In Santa Fe I had The Cowgirl.  Or The Cigar Club.  Or Second Street.  Pretty much every place, really.  In Myanmar, The Diamond White (and our six hour RISK games) filled that need.  Finally in Taichung I found PJs (and the whole plaza area).

In Congo, it's definitely Mama G's.

What a great place.  It's within walking distance of the school and the drinks are cheap.  With a decorating scheme consisting mostly of dirt floors, stray cats, and those pervasive plastic chairs, it's the perfect spot to sit on a corner and have beer as Congolese life rolls by.  Also a good area to occasionally get your shoes shined, buy some bootleg Kabila wedding DVDs, and haggle over the cost of grilled goat hooves.

When TASOK took us new folks there the first week of last year, I was instantly in love.  It was perfect!  I immediately started going at least once a week, trying my hardest to strong arm my unfortunate friends into going along.  It was a spot that made me feel at home here, in a way that took me far, far longer in Taichung.

I was in heaven. 

Then, we found The River.  

Now I was in double heaven.  Like a Mormon, except without my own planet.

The River was the eponymous name we gave to a series of awesome little beer stations (as they call them in Myanmar) that were on the edge of a small bit of the Congo River.  The perfect spot- they had great sunsets, good beers, fried plantains, and a man who crept out of bushes and sang "Hey Jude" to passers by.  How cool was it?  Check the picture.

 I am available for all your modeling needs, with or without beer.

Life was good last year.  I had two wonderful places, and many friends willing to go and hang out.  Which is all I ever need, really.  I am decidedly low maintenance when it comes to beer drinking.  I was loving it.  Towards the end of my sojourn in Mallorca (which was, of course, a fantastic time- read here you jealous sumbitches) I began to get a longing in my heart- I felt a pull towards Kinshasa.  Towards Mama G's.  

So imagine my heartache when, during that first week back, I arrange a big trip out to either Mama G's or the river only to be told by a local teacher that they were both gone.


Vanished, like dust in an unsexy wind.  

Leaving us behind to grope blindly through the shadows and beg for the light.

Man, that's a sweet lyric.

At any rate, the government had apparently razed the river spots for whatever crappy purpose governments do any thing other than giving me free stuff, and Mama G's had disappeared into the void for no reason we could fathom. 

I was gutted.

That, combined with the unusually high levels of stress and madness that seemed to follow me around those first few weeks, did not make for a happy Lippart, lemme tell you.  I also noticed grey hairs in my beard, so took to singing "Time In a Bottle".  But only the Muppets version, because I'm hard core like that.  Check it out here for the second saddest thing ever to involve cloth.

If you have an urge to cuddle after seeing this, I understand.  I will charge one beer per 30 minutes.

For weeks I wandered the TASOK campus, my eyes and heart searching for something that wasn't there.  Once in a while I would hear a shrill clanking sound and think "oh, the shoe shine guy is here!" only to remember where I was and realize it was the mournful clicking sound that really annoying bats make.  

I would drink Tembo but it wasn't the same.  It tasted of hops and loneliness, in equal measure, instead of sunshine and manliness.

Life was bleak, for sure.  Until one day in early September Adam came up to us with big news- one of the atelier workers found Mama G herself!  Even better, she gave him super vague directions to her new spot.  With suitable preparations made (involving arrangements to avenge our deaths should worse come to worse- always a good precaution in Congo) we piled in our cute blue jeep and drove through the indicated neighborhood, trying to find our personal Brigadoon.  We made several passes of the area, drawing much attention from the locals.  Our enthusiasm began to wane as no beer spots were found, and the good bar times seemed to remain a dim, forgotten memory, like the first time a young man watches Barbarella.  On two consecutive sweeps of a random intersection a Congolese man kept gesturing wildly to us.  After the third time round, on the brink of giving up, he came up to the car and asked if we were looking for Mama G's.  We said yes and he smiled, pointing to a large blue gate directly behind him.  

We could barely contain our excitement as we recklessly parked the car and went through the gate, not knowing what to expect.   Would it be a bar, a club, or a ninja attack? 

We walked in and there it was. 

Dingy, small, overcrowded.  

Cats on the floor. 

Shattered bottles glued to the tops of the walls.

Mama G's.


We missed you. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Return of Dirty Sanchez!

It has been a while, dear reader.

Perhaps . . . (strokes beard)  . . . too long.

That's what she said.

It's the 50th blog post here in the Rage Cage (still have to make those T shirts), and to celebrate this momentous occasion I thought I would do what I do best- talk about myself.  First off, I just realized I went through all of September without a blog update.  What a cold, cruel month that must have been, dear reader.  I hope that now you can finally open the blinds, clean the cobwebs off the mouse, and fire up your motorized beer hats (wish those existed).

I will apologize, though, as heavy hangs the head that wears the crown and all that jazz.  Between figuring out my next job placement (suggestions welcome- especially from you Polish bastards), working a full time plus one teaching schedule, and coordinating the Middle School into a next millennium (an epoch filled with light, love, hole filled socks- or sock filled holes? and endless amounts of self promotion), I have had very little time for any writing beyond school related stuff.  I want to sincerely apologize to my three fans for having been away for so long.  By means of atonement, I hereby present the cutest dog photo ever:

I would totally pillage with this lil' guy.
Speaking of vikings (you can nearly taste the segue fumes) I have some neat news, made possible solely because of the magic of Facebook.  I found The Viking Rager Song!

What is The Viking Rager Song, sexy reader?  I am glad you ask.

Send your minds back 15 years into the dark past, you interested bastards.  
It was a time of turmoil.  
Britney Spears was on the rise, Spice World was soon to be released, and President Clinton was waxing eloquent about the finer points of cigar making.
From out of this maelstrom arose a new concept- a band which tried to break all boundaries through the sheer force of minor creativity and abject laziness.  A band which attempted to fuse the worlds of rock and death metal together.  A band which recorded one 3 song demo, only to disappear forever into the dark swamps of New Jersey history.  
That band was . . . Dirty Sanchez.
It was my first "full on" musical undertaking after leaving Inebriation.  A spent a few years post Inebriation working on songs that blended a more rocky, looser feel to my crappy vocals.  Since I can only play four notes, writing tasty riffs was no problem.  The issue was finding people willing to play my stuff.  One summer I went back from college and got my good friend Padnes (we have spent many a night in Jersey drinking beer, eating White Castle, and singing a kick ass a capella version  of "Salaminizer")  and a random drummer to record three of my 12 songs as a bit of an experiment.    I think they came out reasonably okay (sound wasn't great), but, like Sonny and Cher, we never got a chance to keep it going.  Long story short I went back to New Mexico, puttered around, moved overseas years later, and re purposed some of the riffs for the heaviest album in Myanmar musical history!  (Cheap plug!  Man, it's been a while).

My home was broken into in 2002 and all copies of this original recording were stolen, which I'm sure disappointed the thief.  I had thought they were lost forever, until now.  Padnes posted a status update on Facebook that he was cleaning out his car and found the master cd nestled under 12 years of nonsense (although the Luther Vandross backstage pass is sexy as hell).
I am so glad that Padnes is a sloppy bastard like me.  Go Jersey!

So now, after almost 14 years in limbo, I present to you the one and only song about vikings I have ever written (I was going through a Bathory phase at the time):  The Viking Rager Song!

Click here to enjoy.   I will wait for you.

In other news, September marked the 20th anniversary of the first Inebriation show.  It was at the Deckhouse in Asbury Park, and we played for two hours in front of about six people.  Four of whom were parents- the other two were drunk and confused.    In honor of that, we have some Inebriation releases coming out over the next few months, hopefully.  Check this space!    The image below was created as part of the Inebriation 20th Drunkiversary Blowout: 

 I can't wait for the legions of Polish girls to rock this T Shirt.

Tune in next week, dear reader, where I will tell the story of how my favorite bar in Kinshasa was found, lost, and found again.  It's like The English Patient with beer.