I’m learning Spanish. I’ve known some Spanish for a while now, of course. It’s pretty much mandatory if you live in Arizona or have ever spent time in Mexico. But what I knew was limited to the crucial terms: Where are the bathrooms?; Another beer, please; Where is the nearest house of ill repute? You know, the basics. But now I’m learning Spanish in a more formal sense because my daughter isn’t.
Ok, here’s the deal: My daughter is a freshman in high school, and she’s taking Spanish. Her grades aren’t great, and I spoke with her Spanish teacher who believes that her low grade is due to lack of effort. So I made a deal with my daughter: We’d both download the Duolingo app for the iPhone, and we’d go through the lessons in tandem. This gives us time to work on Spanish together, and then at least I have a shot at helping her out when she’s stuck without running the risk of accidentally teaching her that the term for shirt is cien pesos si lo hace esa cosa con el burro de nuevo.
Duolingo is kinda cool. It’s a fun way of learning some of the basic, non-Tijuana related Spanish words, and they use levels and bonus points to make things fun. But sometimes I wonder what kind of fucking freak they’re trying to turn me into. I was recently asked to translate into Spanish the following phrase:
We are all spiders.
How much acid do you need to take before the sentence, “We are all spiders” comes out of your mouth? In what universe is this an important phrase to learn? “Duolingo must have some reason for teaching me this phrase”, I find myself thinking. I get the feeling that twenty years from now we’ll all smack ourselves on the forehead and say, “How could we not see that Duolingo, Orkin, and Starbucks were conspiring to turn us all into spiders?” And then we’ll go back to spinning silk shirts for Walmart. We are through the looking glass here, people, or as they say in Tijuana, me siento mal por el burro.
In other, non-Spanish news, a coworker of mine knows a friend of a friend who has a boyfriend that got sentenced to a lengthy stint in the hoosegow recently for the kind of shit that seems really cool when it’s on Sons of Anarchy, but in real life is really frowned upon. And I pointed out to her that Arizona, like most states, has an online inmate locator, which she then used to look this guy up.
She pulled up his info on the screen, looked at his picture and said, “Boy, that’s not a very flattering picture.” Yeah, I thought, they don’t really do the whole Glamour Shots thing in prison. But the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that the idea merits consideration if for no other reason than that it would be goddamn hilarious.
Photographer: Ok, I’m going to give you this shiv, and I want you to hold it like you mean business.
Prisoner: (holds shank)
Photographer: Great, now hold it a little over to the left, and turn your head slightly to the right. Ok, now lift your chin juuuuust a little bit. Perfect! Just hold that pose, and we’ll Photoshop in a nice Thug Life tattoo for you afterwards.
The possibilities would be endless. Who wouldn’t like to commemorate their new life behind bars with a nice portrait taken while pretending to make moonshine in a toilet?
Ok, we’ve covered the Spanish language, the Arizona Department of Corrections, and so it’s only natural that you’re thinking to yourself, “Greg, have you had any recent thoughts about Jackson Browne?” Why, yes! Yes, I have.
First of all, for those of you under a million years old, Jackson Browne is a singer-songwriter, which is what we called a person in the 70’s when they’d show up at your party with a guitar and sing sensitive songs to impress girls, and then wind up porking a fat chick in the bushes. He’s best known for a bunch of songs that you wouldn’t recognize if I listed them here, but if you heard them in an elevator and the DJ then informed you that the song was by Jackson Browne, you’d say, “Oh, yeah! I know that song! I’ve always hated it.”
Actually, I think his most well known song is Doctor My Eyes, which has the following lyrics:
Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand
Which seems all deep and introspective and shit, but really Jackson Browne is just trolling blind people, because he’s an asshole like that.
Anyway, I haven’t given a single thought to Jackson Browne in I can’t remember how long, but the other day I was walking through a store that had a TV playing an old concert, and as I passed by the screen I realized that I was looking at Jackson Browne, and the very next thought that popped into my head was, “My God, that haircut makes him look like a singing penis.” Here, you be the judge:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo that looked as perfect as what I saw in that video, but dude: When your hair stylist refers to your hair cut as “The Glans,” you need to make a change.
All right, it’s getting late, and since my boys have a tendency to wake me up at 4:00 AM to ask me urgent questions, such as, “Are you awake?” I need to get to sleep. But one last thing before I go…
I recently mentioned that a guilty non-pleasure of mine is the TV show Sons of Anarchy, which is a show that reminds me of this joke/story/anecdote that I once heard. A guy walks into a bar, looks around, and then loudly announces that he’s out of money and asks if anyone would buy him a drink. When no one offers to buy him a drink, he walks over to a large spittoon that had obviously been used heavily, and shouts, “If someone doesn’t buy me a goddamn drink this very second, I am going to drink the contents of this spittoon!”
Everybody looks at him funny, some people wave him off as drunk and stupid, and they’re all about to turn away when the guy grabs the spittoon, raises it to his lips and starts chugging the contents. After a few seconds, a wave of revulsion sweeps the room, and people start shouting at him to stop. Quickly, several people order drinks from the bartender, who puts them in front of the guy, who is still heartily chugging the contents of the spittoon.
A full minute later, amid shouts of, “For God’s sake, STOP!” the man finishes off the spittoon, wipes off his chin and sits down to enjoy his free drinks. The bartender looks at him and shakes his head. “Let me ask you something. I know you wanted a drink, so I guess I understand why you started drinking from the spittoon. But why didn’t you stop once you had your drink?”
“I couldn’t stop,” said the guy. “It was all of a piece.”
The Sons of Anarchy is all of a piece, and no matter how much it pisses me off, I can’t find myself able to stop watching it. And every week I find a new reason to dislike the show. This week, the reason has to do with kids.
The Sons of Anarchy has always spent a lot of time showing interactions between bikers and their family, especially kids. This is because one of the themes of the show is that family is important, especially when you spend all day kicking people’s teeth down their throats. It’s the glue that holds everything together, allowing you to get up in the morning and sell automatic weapons to Nazi skinheads so that the IRA is happy and won’t blow your family up in retaliation for doing business with the Mexican drug cartels, which have been infiltrated by the CIA, a fact which you only just now became aware of when a Hispanic gang told you about it because they’re happy that you just gave them the heroin trade in prison to appease the Chinese.
(If you’ve never seen Sons of Anarchy, you might think that I am exaggerating, but let me assure you that every single person who has seen Sons of Anarchy is right now at this very moment nodding and thinking to themselves, “I remember that episode!”)
Anyway, they do a lot of family interaction on the show, and they’ve gone to great lengths to include the protagonist’s young children. At first this wasn’t a big deal. They were babies, and so the plot didn’t involve them as people, as much as it turned them into little abstract bundles of drama. “I’m going to have a baby!” turned into, “My baby was born deformed because his biker-whore of a mother spent the last trimester freebasing thalidomide,” which turned into, “Those potato-eating Irish bastards STOLE MY BABY!” Ridiculous, sure, but no more ridiculous than anything else going on.
This season, though, the eldest of the kids is now old enough to talk, which is not to say that he’s old enough to act because goddamn, the last time I saw delivery that wooden and stilted it was in this context:
If you walked up to any given door frame in your house and asked it to read the line, “Daddy, did grandma kill mommy?” I would wager almost any amount of money that the door frame is going to give a more realistic and nuanced reading than the kid they got to play this role.
Look, I’m sure he’s a wonderful kid, bright, loving, and that his parents are very proud of him, and rightfully so. It’s just that if he is going to spend his life in front of the camera, it’s more likely to be at Glamour Shots than in a movie studio. And if you keep letting him hang out with bikers/Nazis/the IRA, etc., that Glamour Shots is going to be located in Riker’s Island.