The 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are approaching. That’s right, it’s the Carnival of global sporting competitions. New events this year include Synchronized Samba, 400 Meter Drag Queen Parade and Golf. I actually made up two of those, unfortunately the ones that aren’t Golf.
So there’s a lot to learn about Rio 2016 besides how to vaccinate Zika. I’d like to offer a quick overview of some of the more obscure events, because you can’t get by solely on your knack for knowing China is a favorite in Table Tennis.
First off, Kitesurfing (or Kiteboarding) is a new event this year, replacing Windsurfing – both popular activities in hair-loss commercials, both mainly perpetrated by guys named Braxton. Kitesurfing however employs more than just wind, but, wait for it, a kite. Remember flying kites? Too much fun! How exhilarating it was, your dad shouting “Run! Run! Higher! Higher!” as that rainbow-colored, piece-of-shit, tissue paper diamond rose 3 feet, 4 feet over the meadow until your little legs gave out, sending you tumbling into the tick-infested brush where you contracted Lyme Disease. Well now our world’s greatest athletes are taking that experience to the next level. On WATER! Look out for this event, and dazzle friends with your prediction that someone from a “beachy” country will bring home gold. But not France. They consider Kitesurfing to be (blows smoke from cigarette), “Infantile.”
Another overlooked sport in this year’s Olympics is Badminton, Tennis’s goofy little step-brother. You might know Badminton if you’ve ever attended a backyard barbecue in 1981. It’s what you did after the tetherball rope snapped or Uncle Pete impaled the dog with a lawn dart. Players wield bulimic tennis rackets, smashing what’s called a shuttlecock back and forth over a raised net at hair-bending speeds of up to eight miles per hour. Landing the shuttlecock on the other’s court gets you one point. Scoring goes to 900, at least it feels that way. A shuttlecock is difficult to describe, mainly because as you describe it, you’re snickering at the word “shuttlecock.” Badminton was introduced to the Games in 1992, marking the year Earth became the laughing stock of the universe.
Finally, I’d like to talk about an event that was introduced at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics – a sport that really could only come out of LA – Rhythmic Gymnastics. It’s that thing where spritely elfin nymphs sporting sequin and man-buns prance around a rubber mat taunting you with ribbons and hula-hoops. “Look at me! Look at my cascading ribbon! I’m frigging swan-like! You’re NOBODY!” Really though, it feels like you’re watching the D-squad of Cirque Du Soleil. Not to say Rhythmic Gymnastics aren’t impressive. These girls are lifelong gymnasts who decided one day they’d dip into the prop closet and shake things up a bit. In addition to ribbons and hoops, the gals also brandish plastic balls, clubs and rope. It’s kind of like a game of Clue if Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum were wearing unitards. But don’t let all the tchotchkes distract you from the pure elegance of this event. Rhythmic Gymnastics are a direct descendent of classical dance and ballet, and these are professional athletes at work. Though it makes you wonder if one day, other events might start tossing doodads into the mix: “From now on, all basketball players will be awarded points for their use of chop sticks in a zone defense.” You never know.
As a bonus, here’s a list of some pithy Olympic event summations that can serve as a quick reference in case someone in the room needs schooling:
Fencing – Bee Keeping with Swords
Rugby Sevens – Somewhere between Rugby Sixes and Rugby Eights
Artistic Gymnastics – Self-Aggrandizing Gymnastics
Equestrian – ????????
Taekwondo ¬ – Opposite of Taekwondon’t
Trampoline Gymnastics – Gymnastics BOING! Gymnastics BOING!
Marathon Swimming – A Marathon Where People Aren’t Handing Out Cups of Water
Synchronized Swimming – The Rockettes in Chlorine
Table Tennis – Actual Tennis on a Table
Triathlon – 3 Athlons
Beach Volleyball – Spring Break
You’re now officially ready for this year’s Olympic Games. Enjoy Rio 2016 and remember, don’t try any of the events at home. Except Archery.
There was no Santa Claus. I had come to terms with this fact at age seven.
Years later, when Adam called to deliver a similar bit of devastating news, I felt the same smack of disbelief as the night I caught dad setting up Hot Wheels tracks under the Christmas tree.
“Shut up! No!”
“Seriously. It wasn’t them. I saw their Website. It was a tribute band.”
Steve Perry had not been in front of us that night, clad in acid washed jeans, serenading the heavens. He was a hired impersonator, so were all the members of his band, and they had all manipulated me into believing I'd just witnessed the highly unlikely reunion of one of rock and roll’s all-time pretty good groups, Journey.
“No way!” I protested, “We were like 15 feet away from them. I saw Steve Perry’s mole.”
“Probably fake. Fake mole, fake mullet, fake falsetto…”
It had been the opening night after-party for “Rock of Ages,” a Broadway musical featuring the electrifying sounds of 80s hair bands. Our friend at the time, Amy, was the female lead and had offered me a last minute ticket. I attended the performance and the after-party. It was a legendary night, mostly because Journey performed. Or so I thought. What a waste of lighter fluid.
“Are you positive?” I wouldn’t let it go.
“It wasn’t them.”
When you believe in something with such vehemence, like Scientologists do, you resist accepting the truth with every fiber of your body. I continued to resist.
“What about everyone else there? They all believed it.”
Adam paused before answering. He knew this would sting,
“She knows now? Or she knew then?”
“She knew then.”
“But she was going crazy like we were. I grabbed her and screamed ‘OH MY GOD!’ and she screamed ‘OH MY GOD!’”
“This is a joke?”
“No. They’re called Evolution (release the doves!). They’re a Journey tribute band. Steve Perry was a guy named Hugo. Amy didn’t have the heart to tell us.”
Amy had held onto to the truth. Probably didn’t want to bust our bubble. I’m still wondering if it was the best decision on her part. I’d be fine not knowing forever. Maybe this was how Scientologists felt. So I went to their website.
“I can’t believe these jackasses make their living by messing with the emotions of pop/rock enthusiasts.”
“A pretty successful living.” Adam said, half-kidding.
“Well I’m going to write a letter.”
(And I eventually did.
Dear Dream Crushers,
I’ve stopped believin’. My arms are no longer open. If I can’t have it anyway I want it, I don’t want any of it.
I never sent it.)
“Jesus, I texted everyone I knew that night,” I muttered regretfully as if recollecting the moments of a black-out crack binge, “
“Yeah so did I.”
Of course we did. When (who you think is) the original line-up of Journey is belting out, “Na Na, ne Na Na nuh …” from their 1979 smash hit “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’,” you grab your mobile device and go to town, posting and texting stuff like:
“Journey's back! Full Escape line-up: Perry, Cain, Schon... I am witnessing it right now! Sucks not to be me!”
Goddam social media.
“What do I tell the people who now think Journey’s back together because of me?”
“Ahh, let it go, ”Adam countered, dismissing my panic.
“But everyone’s gonna think I’m the boy who cried Journey.”
“Why are you worried about what everyone else thinks?
Good question. Why was I worried? This was about my sense of existential loss. I needed to come to terms with being duped by a bunch of permed poseurs. Evolution (more doves!) had betrayed my memories of Journey by looking just like them. Wait a minute...
Had Evolution really betrayed me? After all, they had succeeded in recreating not just the music, the look, the everything of a Journey concert, but also my experience of being a crazed fan as a kid, which ultimately resulted in the realization that rock stars weren’t all they seemed to be – they were just a bunch of guys from the suburbs using copious amounts of hairspray and an upper middle-class music education to score chicks. Could it be that Evolution was honoring my memories? Honoring the passage to adulthood I experienced years ago when I learned that my feelings, which had seemed so intense at the time, were actually fairly juvenile and easily manipulated… kind of like how I felt that night at the after-party?
And what about my friends discovering I was a fraud? That I wasn’t the bitchin’ dude who witnessed a once in a lifetime performance? (Evolution in fact was booked fairly regularly around the country.)
Here’s how I see it.
The night of the after-party, I really was watching Steve Perry sway gently as he crooned “Wheel in the Sky.” I had believed. Just as I had believed in Santa Claus. Shouldn’t that be all that mattered now? It had still been one of the greatest nights of my life. It had still been the night Journey put aside all personal differences in the name of musical theater after-parties. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s all my social network needed to know.
“So did Amy tell anyone it wasn’t Journey?” I plotted.
“Don’t think so,” Adam replied, reflecting back, “I think she’s been trying to protect us. She did tell people Night Ranger was there.”
Night Ranger actually was there.
I continued, “So you think anyone knows we didn’t really see Journey?”
“So we did see Journey then?”
“Yeah. We did.”
“No.” I demanded, “You have to believe we saw them. Do you believe?”
“Yes, I believe.”
“Good. So do I.”
I just Googled “What sex is Nyquist?” Nyquist was the horse that won this year’s Kentucky Derby (equine gender keeps me up at night). A menu dropped down of most frequently asked “What sex is……” questions, the most popular being “What sex is my baby?” “What sex is my baby?” was number one! This thwarted my line of questioning. Now “Do people know what penises look like?” seemed more hard hitting. The first “Do people…” question option here was, “Do people use QR codes?” Ya know what, why don’t you worry about how YOU'RE using QR codes, not how everyone else is? The first “Why don’t you…” search result was “Why don’t you do right?” I am doing right. I’m asking questions. I’m looking for answers. That’s what life is about. Why don’t YOU get a life? Ha! The first “Why don’t you get….” question was “Why don’t you get a job?” Well asshole, I’m looking for a job. Job searching leads you down unexpected roads. Like trying to figure out what the goddam sex of Nyquist is!!? HE’S A BOY. Of course you’d never know that. YOU see a dick on a baby and think it’s a third leg! Ya know what, I’m done here. I need to find a job. Or do I? Let me ask Google.
Are you looking to carry yourself like a modern gentleman? Does your demeanor turn people off? Is it because you were raised by aardvarks? I see you nodding your head yes.
I’m here to help, because I too was raised by aardvarks. I too know the difficulties of entering a room as a modern gentleman when your entire being screams, “I am a sub-Saharan pig-like animal!”
To be a gentleman, first get yourself a tailored suit. Don’t picture how it will look as you scavenge for ants– that’s not you anymore. You glide debonairly down banisters. You do not have four legs ideal for digging burrows with multiple entrances; you have two legs that float across dance floors. (Note: embrace dancing even though it feels counter to survival.) I know, there was a time you could dig the hell out of a burrow– fourteen, fifteen entrances, sometimes more. Bitch-ass hyenas were left scratching their dumb mullets as you darted into entrance #9 behind the peyote cactus. You were one badass capital-double-A AARDVARK. Man I feel you. That was me in a nutshell. Trotting through the Sahara like my feces didn’t put predators on my trail. You know what though? Forget all of it. Ant Season is over. You are a man, and the time has come to dig a burrow in a man’s world. Just make sure you do it wearing cufflinks.
Second, your fingernails and toenails should always be clean and manicured. “Ridiculous!” you’re thinking, “that people would expect this of me after a day of cracking through crusty termite mounds,” right? But wait, why would you be doing that? You’re a man. STOP EATING TERMITES. If you have some in your mouth now, spit them discretely into a napkin (the one in your lap!), excuse yourself from the table and flush them down the nearest toilet. It’s not what a gentleman eats. He eats foie gras and croissants– anything requiring a slight French accent. Sure, there was a time female aardvarks got all gooey when you showed them your filthy, chipped nails. You’d be like, “Yeah, I probably foraged 50,000 termites today. Got some back at my burrow.” And she’d be all, “I should really wait for my friends...” And you’d be like, “Suit yourself, I’ll just mate with someone else--” And she’d be all, “Wait! Where’s your burrow?” Score. Next thing you know, she’s staring at fifteen strategically dug entrances all leading to one tricked-out, sub-Saharan mammalian cave. Those were the days.
You may be wondering if I’m for real. “Does this guy seriously think my interest in becoming a gentleman stems from my aardvarkian past?” Fuck you, this is not a joke. When I was a young boy on safari in Botswana, my parents were mauled my lions after attempting to hug them, and aardvarks took me in. They prepared me for a life of eating ants and digging burrows with multiple entrances, and I thank them for it. But then, years later, after poachers discovered me napping in an empty ant nest (excavated by yours truly), I was poached and sold back to my real grandparents in San Diego. I had to retrain myself to behave like a man, i.e. not run for my life in a zigzag fashion every time the neighbor’s goddam pug, Saffron, came into our yard. I would have to repeat it to myself: “He is not a predator. He is Saffron the pug.”
It was a hard road. Kids in the neighborhood would call me Arnold “anteater” Goldblatt. I am not a goddam anteater! YES aardvarks eat ants. YES they have long, beautiful noses built to jam down anthills, but they’re nowhere close to being related to anteaters. Anteaters are of the suborder Vermilingua while aardvarks are of the order Tubulidentata. It’s like if you called an armadillo an elephant shrew. Exactly– duh.
So after years of ridicule, I decided to make sure no one ever mistook me for a sub-Saharan pig-like animal again. I decided to become more than just Arnold Goldblatt, the kid down the street who ate a SHITLOAD of ants. I became a gentleman, and now I want to give back to the young men who face the same problem. I want them to know it gets better. Better than a volcano of tasty fire ants scattering helplessly from your sticky snakelike tongue. Fire ants are not all that. They think they’re hot shit, but I’ll suck up two thousand of those little pussies in one snort without feeling a single sting. Punk-ass fire ants. Not that I would ever…anyway, where was I?
As a gentleman you should always wear a classy watch. Never be caught checking the time on your cellphone or by the angle of a soldier-anthill’s shadow.
Finally, and most importantly, to be a gentleman, you must behave as one, e.g. say please and thank you, don’t curse, don’t poop on the floor of an Olive Garden (been there), etc. When a woman enters the room, do not feel threatened and run for the nearest burrow– stand up. When meeting another gentleman, do not flip onto your back and lash out with all fours– shake his hand firmly. When the check comes, do not snort and bellow– reach for it.
That’s it. Follow these rules and I guarantee, when you look into the mirror, even though the thing staring back at you may still seem strange and grotesque, he will be a gentleman.
Oh and remove your hat indoors.
So my wife joined Snapchat. Finally, she and I can communicate through quick, fleeting images of each other wearing dog ears. The day she joined, I did what any normal husband/father of two does - I send her a dick pick. It’s why Snapchat exists, right? I was paying tribute to the platform’s roots. Really strange, though, pointing my phone at my penis and snapping a photo – framing it up, focusing, making it pop. Not that I was trying to do it justice. My penis doesn’t seek justice. Just a nice pat on the head every once in a while…but anyway it was weird primping it for a photo shoot. After taking the shot and typing, “Welcome to Snapchat!”, I entered my wife’s handle and sent it through. Later that evening I asked if she'd received anything interesting on her first day of Snapchat, tee hee. "No," she replied. "NO? What do you mean NO?" Obviously she didn’t grasp the user functions yet. So I grabbed her phone and opened the app. She was right. No message alerts, nothing. My exposed ding dong was out there somewhere, on some cloud, possibly in the palm of some other woman, or MAN, and I had no idea where. I must have mistyped my wife’s username before sending. Exactly one week later, I get a call from my friend Billy. It’s his dad. Brain cancer.
When someone like Prince dies, I wonder why I’m struck with such sadness. I mean I know WHY: an incredible artist is gone, and living in a world without him feels less vibrant. But it’s not like I knew the guy. I knew his music. I loved his music. I loved who he was and what he stood for. I’ll never forget the first time I came across Prince. It was 1982, I’m at my friend Damon's house and we head down to his brother Jeff's room in the basement. Jeff is listening to Prince on vinyl – Dirty Mind or 1999, I can’t remember which record – and he shows us the album cover then opens it to a picture of Prince lying on his side naked, glistening like a pornographic Calvin Klein ad. I was like WHAT THE SHIT IS THAT? Jeff replies, “That’s Prince,” and I was like, “I need to forget I ever saw this” as I continued to stare…and listen – my prepubescent brain knew something was up. Purple Rain wasn’t far behind and somehow with that release, the same little lascivious creature from Jeff’s room had crept his way, still naked, across a bathroom floor and into the mainstream. The rest for me was history. Decades later as a DJ, I’m closing every party with a Prince jam (or Michael Jackson) (ok sometimes with Footloose) (I no longer DJ) and I'm playing Raspberry Beret daily for my kids.
And now he’s gone. But his music is still alive. It’s right here on my computer, though frankly, I haven’t been waiting anxiously for him to drop an album in some years. So why my profound sadness? I think it has something to do with how I feel about time and space and the slim odds of being alive to bear witness to someone so extraordinary in the first place. Humans have been around in modern form for a couple hundred thousand years, and could be around for thousands more (barring a Trump presidency), so to think that within my small window of time on this planet, Prince was also here making music, that’s pretty fucking fortunate. John Quincy Adams never heard Darling Nikki and I feel bad for him. You and I are part of an elite club that in my opinion is learning and experiencing the most exciting stuff ever to be learned or experienced by human kind: the dawn of rock and roll, the Internet, Doritos, and so much more (not that the light bulb wasn’t mind-blowing for folks back then or the wheel wasn’t the illest thing on “Shark Tank B.C.”). I just feel like our era (about the last hundred years) is such the sweet spot for seminal sounds, tastes and patterns, that losing Prince is losing a rarity that in essence will never be matched for an eternity, not just because he was so unique and self-possessed, but because of how watered down the world has become and will become. I hate to sound so cynical, but we all know that with every passing year, art and culture get exponentially derivative – to me, one of the future’s saddest truths – (and yes I'm aware that much of Prince's music was derivative, but skilled and wildly creative nonetheless). So can we even breed another Prince? And will that person have the edge of someone as raw as Prince? For my kids’ sake I hope so. God we were so lucky to have had him. Maybe I’m sad not just because Prince is dead, but because he represents a certain sort of genius that, in the wake of a ticking clock, will never be heard from again.
I finally found a program that offers practical help to those in search of inner peace. It's called Free Philosophy and classes are said to teach ideologies of both East and West. Also how to rid your life of worry and pressure, bringing profound value to your existence. I think it sounds awesome, like a reasonable way to connect to something deeper. But classes are all the way up on 72nd Street, so fuck that.