Monthly Archives: June 2011

Comedy Factory at Tiki

The comedy factory, a show of changing locations and players run by my good friend Tim Loulies was at Tiki Island Bar in Virginia Beach last night. I was asked to feature there, as I’d done a couple of times before. The headliner that night was Adam Dodd. The audience, comprised mostly of Northern Virginia tourists, was fantastic, and Mr. Dodd was even better. Typically, when I find out a comedian is a guitar act, there’s usually an instant decrescendo in my enthusiasm for what I’m about to see. When Mr. Dodd got on stage though, I was seriously surprised at how funny Adam was. Yes, there was some song parodies based on popular songs, but there were far more funny originals and things done as a guitar act I’d not seen before. If you have a chance to catch him, do so.

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“New Choice”

Basically, every time you say something, the MC has the power to shout “New Choice” and you have to make up something new off the top of your head to replace what you just said. The language can get to be a bit much at times, but… you’ll see how much fun it is.

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Worst Food Ever, or “Rich People Will Pay Ridiculous Amounts of Money To Eat Things They Shouldn’t.”

The rest of this rant is based on the following article : Women flock to take horse semen shots.

This link probably makes you ask a bunch of questions. I will try to answer some of them. No, this blog is not going to be about equine moneyshot scenes. No, these girls are not shooting up horse loads intravenously. Yes, they are drinking horse semen.

It seems the subject of the story, Chef Jason Varley, serves horse semen shots at his restaurant.  First of all, at what point did he arrive at the conclusion that horse semen was something to be served at a restaurant?  Like, was he sitting there thinking to himself, “what’s the most nasty thing I’ve seen in a teen sex romp comedy?  Oh yea, that one scene in Van Wilder where they trick a bunch of idiot frat boys into eating bulldog semen!”

Or was he simply shopping around and happened to see horse semen next to his eggs at the local organic farmers market and said to himself “here we go! Now that’s a new ingredient!  Pure eau de vie de Mr. Ed!

One wonders if he had to call the supplier of the stuff and have a conversation where he said something along the lines of “hey, this is chef Jason Varley. Yea… I was wonderring if this semen was food safe? Hello? Hello? Hello?” Because, frankly, if someone called me up and asked that, I would hang up on him. Unless it was Richard Gere, as multiple urban legend stories have told me that Mr. Gere is a fan of eating things like this, and/or animals.

At what point, if you are in a restaurant and the waitress offers you this, do you still continue eating there?  If someone were to buy a shot for you, it would, definitely, be considered a gag gift by this blogger.  The strangest thing of all?  It’s expensive.  Apparently the going rate for [food grade?] loads is 20 vials for 300 dollars.  How big is a vial?  I don’t know.  But that breaks down to 15 dollars per vial… or is it vile?  The best thing about this, is that it’s making some creep of a man ridiculously rich.  Because, well, most naturally occuring horse semen, one would imagine, ends up in mares or the peritoneal cavity of Kenneth Pinyan, aka Mr. Hands.  But no, this semen ends up in vials.

This means there’s someone out there whose job it is to jack off horses, save the horse semen, and then pour it into vials.  I don’t care who you are, you have to be weird as hell or have the worst high school guidance counselor ever to be the guy whose job it is to masturbate horses and save the end product.  I could see the guy in high school… his friends getting ready to go to college, join the Army, or apprenticing for a trade… and he says “I’m going to jerk horses off and sell the product!”  And as his friends ran from him, he just screams “I’ll be rich!  Rich I tells ya!  Rich!”

15 dollars, wholesale, per vial.

And then people pay to drink it.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

And well, some people apparently pay to consume horse loads.

I still want to see Andrew Zimmern down a few of these.

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To help pay my bills between shows, I do have a day job.  It sucks, as every time someone wants to act as though they are making a dig at your talents, they merely shout “don’t quit your day job.”  One cannot simply stare back at the person judging them and  shout “I see what you’re getting at, but you see, until one has developed a certain network of booked comedy gigs, figured out an efficient way to travel the large distances between venues, and generally survive on a payment system that’s not effectively changed since the 80’s,  it’s kind of hard to support one’s self off of comedy alone.”

No.  This typically doesn’t work on stage.  Instead, one must usually rely on stand-bys like something penis-related, or, if the venue allows for it, the comedy club stand-by of years past, present and future:  “fuck you.”  Having not worked in a grocery store before though, it’s all very new to me.

First of all, you never have an opportunity to get bored. As soon as you clock in, your day’s tasks have been delineated for you. Work old frozen foods, work the freshly delivered frozen foods, stock the produce, corral the shopping carts, lunch break, steal the women, rape the horses, etc. This is great, because, one of my favorite things about the restaurant business is that if you’re working hard enough, time flies. I remember once working at Macado’s (an extremely popular family dining/sandwich shop/bar chain) in Blacksburg on a game day, clocking in at 9, and clocking out at 4:30, and having no idea where all the time went, as I just stood in the same spot the whole time.

Second, it’s a lot more physical labor than I thought it would be. It’s apparently so much that in the last year or so, 8 or 9 people quit after their first day because it was too much. To me, it’s just enough to be a little sore and tired at the end of the day. But yea, you’re lifting stuff of varying weight all day long, which I love, as if I work good and hard all day, by the end of the day, I’m just tired and happy from the little bit of endorphins. If I am not active enough during the day, I end up all fidgety by 8:30, and I’ve noticed that any day I work, I fall asleep very well that night.

Third, the shoppers. It’s really funny the wide range of folk that come into the stores and how much of an adjustment it is from my Portsmouth folks.  The store is in Virginia Beach’s nicer northern end, and as such there’s a lot of people with very high-end attitudes.  I was training on the register one day and this older gentleman had an interesting looking tie on… it looked like an impressionist painting.  I asked him about it, he told me it was his payday tie. I asked why, he said it was because when he wore it, he always had “Monet.”  I laughed, and correctly guessed that the painting the tie’d been made from, and told him about actually being able to see the painting live and up close at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Then he slapped me in the face and told me to take his bags out to his car.  Okay, the last part didn’t really happen, but it almost feels like it could, as there is always an understood dynamic of subservience and inferiority between those with a name tag and those without.

Another subset of rich people are the health-nuts, which I really don’t mind, as it is not visually unpleasant seeing a woman who has tried really hard to keep her body in shape wearing spandex and a sports bra while she buys her groceries. Though, there is a funny side effect of this.  Pretty women are so used to men hitting on them that, for some, any conversation seems like a sexual advance.

For example, if I see a woman of above average desirability staring at the same few spots in the freezer, looking confused. So I walk up, and ask “you finding everything okay?” She, being apparently such a beautiful woman, hears something else, perhaps grunts and clapping,  and looks at me like I’ve just delivered the worst pickup line in my life.  But seriously.  It’s part of why they pay me to be friendly and offer assistance.

To this woman, I’d like to say this:  I’m sure when you sit down to pee and take off your panties it has to be hard quieting down the angelic choir-like tone and blindingly radiant light your lady parts emit, and I’m sure you’ve accidentally inspired Trojan wars and/or circle jerks through the simple act of picking up your dry cleaning, but you know what? I’m just doing my job. I am just trying to meet the obligations inherent to my paycheck, not bed you.

If I do, I know what I’d have to do first.  Quit my day job.

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Video Blog 6/12/11

Here’s my second attempt at a video blog. I didn’t have a lot of sleep, so it’s awkward. Tried to fix that in post, but we’ll see…

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Storytelling Night at Belmont is Alive and Well!

After talks with management of Belmont House of Smoke, we agreed that the show would slow its pace down and concentrate on having one really awesome Storytelling Night a month, and have a stupendous night of narratioon, rather than try to make the show as frequent as it was.  The last Sunday of the month shall be Storytelling Night!  This is good for a variety of reasons.  When people know something is going on every week, they’re often less compelled to come out, because they can always catch it next week.  It’s sometimes taxing to the storytellers, trying to come up with an anecdote from their own lives that matches up with a random theme.  And it’s better off for me as the guy who runs it, as figuring out a universal commonality for people to share a variety of stories about gets to be taxing after a few weeks.

The end result is going to be more energetic storytellers, more vivid and relatable themes, and an audience who can’t wait for the next show.  The next storytelling night, starting the last Sunday of the month tradition, will be on June 26th.  The theme is “Dads.”  It can be anything to do with fatherhood, how they might or might not have been there for you, or what it’s like for you to be a father.  There’s more details available here on the event page set up on Facebook for it:

Facebook Event Page for Storytelling Night at Belmont: Dads. June 26th, 2011.

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Portsmouth, VA

If you watched my first video blog or if you’ve seen me do stand-up, you know that I talk about Portsmouth a lot.  Portsmouth as a city, isn’t completely crappy.  There’s actually a few nice blocks in the downtown “Old-Town” area that are less full of crack and poverty.  It’s as if the crack epidemic of the 80’s was a zombie uprising and the uninfected set up a perimeter that held some office buildings and the The Bier Garden (seriously one of my favorite places in the entire universe that I strongly recommend you check out if you ever do find yourself in Portsmouth).  But aside from Old Town, Portsmouth is a grimy place that has the continuous feeling that something you shouldn’t know about is happening just around the corner, and trying to figure out exactly what that is could kill you.

That being said, you’re likely wondering why I would spend time in such a place.  In what now seems like a past life, I led the life of a beer distributor salesman.  What that mostly entailed was visiting five or six grocery stores and about a hundred convenience stores in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk and lastly, Portsmouth; and write down what they needed delivered the next day.  Now, convenience stores, in general, are not good places to be.  The entire business model is set up on the premise that usury is okay if instead of interest on loans, one makes an exorbitant profit on household items in the name of convenience/easy access to products that help you get intoxicated.  If you’re from another country, it’s a great way to make quick money.  In addition to this, convenience stores always have large fluid reserves of cash on premises, which make their mere presence a certain kind of security risk.  Put all of that in a neighborhood where people are struggling with drug addiction, drug sales and food stamps, and things can get really interesting.

My first entry into Portsmouth’s rougher neighborhoods made me very uncomfortable, for a variety of reasons.  The most obvious reason was that I stood out.  Like a white thumb.  Portsmouth’s largest racial demographic is African Americans, and again, if you know me, you know that I’ll never be confused for being African American (credit score notwithstanding).  Essentially, if you were to look up Caucasian in the dictionary, you would find a picture of me with an innocently ignorant smile on my face, drinking a glass of milk, doing something that unwittingly seems offensive to other ethnicities.  And so, I was worried.  I don’t know why I was worried.  In retrospect, it’s not as though I seriously expected that, upon making visual confirmation of my presence, a signal would be given and I would be mandatorily stabbed, or called cracker, or something silly like that.  Yet still, I was tense.  It was a tension I had internalized and taken for granted, up until the moment we were about to get out of the car.

I was being trained by a veteran of these neighborhoods named Ray.  Ray was about 6’4, and also black.  We parked in front of Save and Save.  Save and Save was a small grocery store directly across from some low income housing, and bordered by two vacant lots that seemed to be good for not much else besides storing random chunks of concrete.  As I turned the key off to my car, I likely exhibited the same energy that is given off in the moment of self doubt that make it clear some men will become other men’s girlfriends in prison.  Ray leaned over to me and whispered.

“You’re not the first white person these people have ever seen.”

“Cool.  No mandatory racial violence,” I said in my head.  Just in case, though, I figured I’d put on my war face.  A carapace through which no fear could be seen.  I put on a face that, to me said “don’t mess with this guy… it’s just not worth it.”  Tough guy face on, head high up, chest out, swagger down pat… I came up to the front door and those who loitered around it.  One of the locals began eyeing me.

“What you look so pissed off for man?”

Great.  In trying to look unfuckwithable, I apparently still came across as just looking like I needed to change my tampon.  Also, that day, I realized that the great majority of people are good folks, just trying to make the best out of a shitty situation.  Even the convenience owners.  The great majority of them had come from around the world, trying to find a better life.  A great majority of them had come from Palestine, India and Korea, but they’d also come from places as familiar to people from the Hampton Roads area as the Philipines.  All in search of the American dream, though if one were to look at parts of US history and some new immigrants’ interactions in convenience stores, they might just think the American dream was just in fact being dickish as hell to black folks.

See, despite the fact that these folks came from around the world to end up where they did, after some time, they’d absorb the local culture.  Just as “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” if you’re in Portsmouth long enough, it becomes part of you.  All convenience store owners present a certain swagger and absolute unwillingness to back down from any fight.  Every now and then though, one goes above and beyond and begins incorporating the dialect into their own use of English.  A great example of this was Jimmy, who runs a One Stop on Turnpike Blvd.  I walked in one day, and saw Jimmy, who that day, had wetted down his black Indian hair and combed it straight.  I told Jimmy, “you’re looking slick today, buddy.’

Jimmy replied, through an accent as thick as curry, “you know how I do.”

The locals were always full of surprises as well.  One day, I went to my scariest convenience store of them all, Freddy’s, the place where those who, by some mistake made earlier in life, found themselves living in Portsmouth’s Lincoln Park projects, located at Deep Creek and Frederick.  According to one cashier, it was where both “the sellers and the buyers” came to get their beer and blunt wraps.  Even my supervisor, Ray, veteran of the streets, felt uncomfortable hanging out at Freddy’s too long.  Freddy’s has that ghetto vibe where, if the cops drive by, the place empties out, but it is otherwise, a combination diner, grocery store and watering hole.  After going in one day to write their weekly order, two girls began an argument.

The root cause of the disagreement was that, one girl had engaged in a tryst with the man of the other girl, though the man had been involved in a relationship with the second girl.  It very nearly came to blows, and everyone felt uncomfortable, as there’s no easy way of breaking up a fight between two women.  One girl, deciding that violence was inappropriate, decided to threaten the girl in a different way.

“You fucked someone I fucked, so I’m’a fuck someone you fucked!”  While I deeply respect the use of the F word, that’s not a very creative sentence.  Like half the words in there are “fuck.”  Also, I have this mental image sometimes that this argument will end up causing a pyramid scheme-like effect in which after this fight, there are literally hundreds of men who have gotten laid due to a blood fued via intercourse.

The thing about ghetto things in Portsmouth, is that they always happened by surprise.  You would never expect it to happen, and then you round a corner, and Wow.  I once went into one of my stores to write an order.  I had been at this store, probably hundreds of times.  It wasn’t a great neighborhood.  Crack sales happened there with little shyness.  Well, either that, or most people love looking over their shoulders frequently before shaking hands, and they both always have somewhere to be quickly afterward.

At any rate, I walked into the store, walked out of the store, and then thought I saw someone looking into my car.  She caught my eye, and as she did, I realized she was also pulling up her pants at the same time.  It turned out she had actually stopped to pee, and hid behind my car and just happened to be pulling her pants up as I walked past.  How did I deduce this?  As we eventually made eye contact, she said to me “Oh, I’m sorry, I just had to take a piss.”  And in your head, when you imagine someone taking a piss next to your car, you have this mental image that you’re going to say “NO!  DON’T URINATE NEXT TO MY CAR!  WE’RE HUMAN BEINGS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!”  In reality, when someone urinates next to your car… you just want to get away as fast as possible.  It was moments like these, or a crackhead screwing up the words of the hook for “my neck, my back” as “my neck, my back, my pussy set up just like that,”that made my days the most interesting for better or for worse.

All in all, I was lucky that I never got hassled too much.  To be fair, a great deal of the real violence happened at night, and people usually had some reason to worry before they got hurt.  And sometimes, I miss some of the people I got to interact with.  At the same time, I’m happy I don’t have to go out there.

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First Video Blog Evar!

Basically, I’ve seen other people do stuff like this and thought it might be a fun exercise, if nothing else, to keep my video editing skills present. If this gets good feedback, it could become a regular thing, but if it seems too attention whorish, well I think I might just stick to text/speaking to live audiences.

Enjoy [possibly]!

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Illusions of Grandeur: Thoughts On Being a Big(ger) Person

While on my blog, I’m usually limited to the mere size of your monitor, leaving me the possibility of being technically limitless in size, but of varying clarity, depending on the resolution of the monitor with which I’m being viewed. In real life, (“IRL” as the kids call it) I’m actually about 6’2, 230 lbs. Taller, but not freakishly tall, and heavy, but, again, well within the middle part of the bell curve. I’m tall enough, where if walking through a grocery store, shorter geriatric/arthritic women are likely to ask me to reach up and grab things for them, which is nice and gives me a feeling of accomplishment, as though the genetic attributes that have given me a higher view of the world were somehow my doing. However, being six feet, two inches isn’t all that tall. There are still basketball players and plenty of other people who are taller than me. The net result of this is that I exist between two worlds, that of larger people, and that of the shorter normal world.

It started in middle school, where I was 6 feet tall in the seventh grade. Of course, everyone suggested I go out for basketball. Everyone. Now I was overweight and had the coordination of a stroke victim, but everyone to told me I should do it because I was tall. After not making the team, due to a devious policy the school had about giving the players with the most athletic talent the opportunity to be on the team. Later, I tried out for football and found that my middle school’s team practiced this evil policy as well.

In high school, I decided I would go out for wrestling, as I was a big guy, and should figure out what to do with my all of my bigness, or at the very least consolidate it, and wrestling seemed like a good place for that. Unfortunately, wrestling pairs you with people of your own size, and thus my main advantage was rendered useless by being set against individuals in the 215 weight class who were actually gifted athletically. And, nothing makes you feel smaller than someone bigger and more skilled than you picking you up and throwing you on your back with more force than you’d like, or as it’s called on some college campuses, “rape.”

So, after high school, I still tried to fit into my own skin, to reconcile the body and the mind, the unwitting pubescent Buddhist that I was. It’s strange, you feel like a normal person, but don’t realize how you appear to some people who are shorter than you. I went to one of my first college parties in a place called Floyd County, an Appalachian community-turned hippie colony, a town adjacent to both Radford University and Blacksburg’s own Virginia Tech. It was a field party. The landowners had a natural ampitheatre, and so on 4/20, they invited several bands to play, and charged people five dollars a head. While at the party, I actually managed to strike up a conversation with a girl, no small feat considering I’d been drinking half the day. We’d really hit off. She thought I was charming and had rescued her from a creepy burnout townie local. I thought she was beautiful. I finished my beer and she finished hers. And then it came to that special moment that occurs whenever two people are about to hook up at a college party.

We needed more beer.

Being that this was a field party, all of my beer was inconveniently located at a campsite deep in the woods. So, to get the beer, I would have to walk through about a quarter mile of a thickly wooded trail to a clearing in the woods. Now, being in the middle of Southwestern Virginia’s wilderness, I did not want to get beer alone, as it increased the likelihood that an a bear, a sasquatch, or worse yet, an invisible woods demon monster, could chase me down through the woods and devour my immortal soul. All I needed was someone to go with me, so I could settle my fears. So what I said to this girl at the party was “come with me to the campsite to get beer.” What she apparently heard was “I’m a giant man who can overpower you like a more athletic wrestler would overpower me, and if you come to my campsite I will rape and murder you, but it’ll be too far away for your friends to hear.”

Or something like that. Because, rather than wander through the woods for beer, she said no thanks and found her friends.

The illusions of grandeur experienced by those who see me are not only experienced by women. For example, whenever I attend a party, it is often assumed by many that I will am the de facto bouncer. Here is a common scenario:

Person A begins shouting and knocking household objects around.
Person B: Someone ought to stop Person A
Everyone at party looks at Brendan.

And that’s how it goes. People often assume that in being of slightly more mass that you are a certified doorman, skilled in throwing people out as needed. In truth, if you ask me to throw someone out of your party, chances are, I’m going to go up to him, and in a very tall and broad-shouldered way… ask him to “just keep it down because this isn’t that type of thing, man. Just be cool, please?” Nobody ever has these expectations of short people. If you’re of a certain stature, people just think you’re just naturally inclined to help them move a couch, or beat people up as needed. No one ever goes to short people and says things like “Hey, I want to have a chip on my shoulder, could you help me with it?”

In reality, the best friends to have when you are a bigger guy, is just other large people. Number one, chances are, if the shit goes down, if you have enough friends who are big guys, that one of them will be a good asset in a fight when one eventually occurs. Better yet, they will tell you when alcohol has allowed you to believe that you have an advantage when you, in fact, do not. Recently, I was at a bar, and felt as though I’d been slighted by a guy who was in our general group. I approached a friend of mine and said to him “I think [so and so] has been giving me the stink eye. I’m going to go talk to him.”

He replied “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

The muscles I imagined I was covered in swelled in pride. “Oh? And why is that?”

“Homeboy does the P90x like every day, and I’m pretty sure he’ll beat the shit out of you.”

“Thank you.”

It was then that I remembered, finally, I’m exceedingly average. As I reconsidered my slow reaction times on the wrestling mat, the failures of my tryouts in middle school, it all became clear. Yea I’m 230 pounds. Yea I’m 6’2. But no, should I ever think that makes me anywhere near qualified to engage anyone in combat. I might have a little more altitude than some, but in reality, I’m not a fighter. I just happen to be better than some people at reaching the really good hot sauce they put above the rest.

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