Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Sound Of Silence

When I got to my car the other day to head home from work, I realized that my MP3 player was not attached to my bag in its usual spot. I searched around for it with no luck. Thinking that it couldn't have gotten far (being that it is an inanimate object and only takes one AA battery), I assumed that I left it at work somewhere and that I would just pick it up the following day. Little did I know that the drive home would be a journey back through time.

I pulled out onto Liberty Avenue and reached down to turn on the radio. They play music on there, too, right? Well, sometimes. I flipped through the 7 presets and found that 6 of the stations were broadcasting commercials or people talking. The other one was playing a song that I have never heard by some guys that sounded very angry about something. I wasn't angry. I was going HOME from work, remember.

I kept flipping, hoping that the commercials would cease and a song would come on. Or that some DJ would run out of breath and put on some music. You see, I like to sing along in the car. And drum on the steering wheel. And play a little air guitar when the mood hits me. But I cannot justify getting that excited about the American Equity Mortgage :30 second spot. The future may belong to me, but that is just not sing-along material.

Then it finally happened. Styx. Right there in my speakers. I heard the piano intro to "Come Sail Away" and got excited. This is a good one for the car. Nice ramp up. Guitar solo. I was ready. And then the singing started. "I'mmmm sailiiiiiiing awaaaayyyyy...."

Into the Liberty Tunnel.

You may be able to get cell phone reception in there, but no radio waves come through after about the first 50 feet. As Dennis DeYoung's voice gave way to some pretty loud static (I had turned up the volume in anticipation of the song), I decided that the radio thing wasn't meant to be.

Some quick thinking and some slow traffic gave me another idea. I had a tape in the center console from long, long ago. You know, an audio cassette tape. From the analog music era. I fished it out and popped it into the slot in the dash. It was a Smashing Pumpkins dub that my friend Jason had recorded for me during my college days. Thank goodness it was still around.

I remembered most of the lyrics, but when I wanted to get to the next song I ran into a problem. We're talking 2 technologies ago - going backwards from mp3 to CD to tape. There is no NEXT button on a tape player. Just fast forward and reverse. So I held in FF for a bit. Then I pressed PLAY. Still the same song. FF again. PLAY. Not enough. FF. PLAY. Closer. FF. PLAY. Oops. Too far. This was getting stupid.

I decided that maybe I should listen to the whole songs from now on when using this archaic technology. Which may be for awhile. When I returned to work yesterday the MP3 player was still missing. I don't know if I can handle too much more of this.

I tried listening to the sound of silence on the way home last night. Not Simon & Garfunkel. Actual silence. It didn't work, though. I think I would rather listen to that same cassette that is in my car over and over again. Which is good, because I can't find any others anywhere.

I need to get a new MP3 player. But if it takes as long for me to pick one out as it did to settle on my new TV, I may get to know those Smashing Pumpkins songs really well. How many times can you play a cassette until it wears out and breaks? I'll let you know.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Iced Over

The NHL season has officially been cancelled. I just got through watching the commissioner of the league at a press conference. It went something like this - blah, blah, salary cap, blah, blah, linkage, blah, blah, tragedy. This is the first time a North American sport will lose an entire season because of a labor dispute. It's kind of sad.

Not that anyone is paying attention. Those who were interested saw this coming for a few months now. The fans have already been finding other things to do, and they are figuring out that instead of taking a family of 4 to a Penguins game they can purchase a Cadillac Escalade.

The labor dispute that caused the loss of the season boils down to how much millionaire owners are willing to pay millionaire players. Basically. But I'm not worried about those two groups. I'm concerned for the things on the periphery of the sport.

Will NHL analysts like Barry Melrose and Darren Pang be able to pay their mortgages when they have nothing to talk about? Will the 2004-2005 spot on the Stanley Cup be kept blank? Does Mike Lange have a bunch of bad local commercials lined up for him to voice over? And how is the crazy IC Light vendor from Mellon Arena taking this news? There are only so many tractor pulls and stars-on-ice shows that come to town.

But most importantly, will the mullet fall out of popularity? I'm not sure this hairstyle can withstand the absence of an entire season of its heroes in the spotlight. Will we start to see fans with Lemieux jerseys on their backs and cornrows on their heads?

Boy, I hope not.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

An Unwelcome Visitor

There are some reactions you can't plan. You just don't know what you will do when presented with a situation that you haven't seen before. For example, what would you do if a mouse ran across your family room while you were watching tv?

My wife jumped up and stood on the couch. I thought that only happened in the movies or in a comic book. But that was her reaction. Right up on the cushions. And she didn't put her feet on the floor until the next morning.

I chased our rodent invader downstairs into the basement, where we proceeded to play a game of flashlight hide-and-seek until he darted behind the pile of boxes and disappeared. We have never had any animals inside the house before. Water, yes. Gallons. But animals? They usually stay outside and dig up the lawn. I searched for signs that our new visitor had moved in permanently, but I found nothing. No wood shavings, no droppings, no little yellow shoes or little white gloves. I was convinced that the mouse had just wandered in, and none of his animated friends had followed. Even so, my wife could think of nothing worse than having this thing in our home. We're not running a rodent motel.

The next morning, my wife went shopping. She came back with an arsenal of anti-mouse weapons the likes of which had never been seen. We could have eradicated the entire population of mice on the eastern seaboard with the collection of snap traps, sticky pads and poisons that she purchased.

I didn't think we needed to use all of armaments at the same time, so I selected a few of them and got out the Jif. My favorite was an update to the classic wooden snap mouse trap. It was plastic, and it kind of looked like an oversized bag clip. You know, the thing that keeps your Cheetos fresh. We (I) baited the traps and set them in places where we had seen the little guy running.

I woke up the next morning and it was done. No more fuzzy visitor. Well, he was still there, but his interest in peanut butter had gotten him inescapably stuck in the bag clip. My wife didn't want to know any details. Just that the mouse had checked out.

She is still in the process of cleaning everything we own with anti-bacterial Lysol. "It is gross to think about a live rodent walking around in our house," she said. While she couldn't help jumping onto the couch when she first saw it, my wife has since been able to decide on her reaction to the whole situation.

We're moving. We have to. There was a mouse in our house.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Penguins Are Driving Me Crazy

Not Mr. Lemieux's penguins. The actual flightless bird ones. I'll explain.

For some reason a company named Arhaus decided to send me a catalog featuring their overpriced furniture. I should have just thrown away this junk mail, along with the 3 credit card applications that shared my mailbox space with it. But I made the mistake of leafing through the pages instead. While looking at pieces of furniture that I will never own, I noticed a lot of penguins hanging around the stuff. Here is an example.

Penguins are interesting creatures, don't get me wrong. I can see how they could be used to advertise tuxedos or submarines or even a hockey team. But furniture? This is a frigid, wet, flightless bird. How cold do you have to set the thermostat at your house for penguins to drop by?

I needed to find out what was going on. In the front flap I found the rules of a contest - count how many penguins are in the catalog and you could win a leather chair. I counted 31. The entry form even gives you a hint and makes it multiple choice. 31 is not a choice.

I recounted. 31. I circled the penguins in red and numbered them so that I could keep track. 31 again.

I can't stand it. I need to know how many penguins are actually in the pages of this catalog. If you would like to look for yourself, download the .pdf from the Arhaus site here.

If you keep coming up with 31, too, then there is nothing I can do for you. If not, you can send in your entry online and maybe win the leather chair. We may never buy their furniture but that is OK - there is no purchase necessary to enter.