Friday, June 30, 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006


If you've got a house with termites, you call the exterminator. If your house develops a leak, you call a plumber. But what happens if your house comes down with something slightly more mysterious, spooky, or altogether ooky?

Stan and Dee Dee Gaunt are your typical young married couple. Having set up home in Wilton, IA three years ago with their young daughter, the three were like any other family -- until this January, when they say an uninvited houseguest moved in.

"I was at home by myself," explains Stan. "I was in the shower, when out of nowhere a female voice asked, 'Are you about done?'" Stan leapt out of the shower -- to find that he was still alone in the house. Not long afterwards, Stan was headed into the bathroom when both he and Dee Dee clearly heard the same voice asking, "Where are you going?"

It was shortly after that when the Gaunt's daughter began telling her mother about a "lady" and an "angel" who were appearing to her. "The lady doesn't say anything," Dee Dee explains, "but my daughter talks to her. And the 'angel,' who she says is a little girl, appeared in her room and asked her, 'Are you afraid of ghosts?'"

While Dee Dee Gaunt says that's she's always been a believer and "sensitive" to the paranormal, her husband isn't.

"I've never believed in ghosts," says Stan, "until I started hearing the voices." That was enough for the couple to try and use a ouija board to contact their new ghostly friends.

"We contacted a woman who says she's 30 years old. And she said there were 'others,'" explains Dee Dee.

Now convinced that they were sharing their home with the dearly departed, yet not wanting to tell anyone for fear of their reaction, the Gaunts instead turned to the internet to research their phenomena -- and that's when they found DIEPART.

DIEPART -- The Des Moines Iowa Extreme Paranormal Advanced Research Team -- has spent the past few years helping folks like the Gaunts. Their mission -- and it's one they do completely for free and out of their own pocket -- is to document ghost sightings and investigate purported hauntings throughout Iowa.

"We pride ourselves on our availability and our 24-hour helpline," says DIEPART founder Joe Leto. "People can and do call us when they experience activity that's so out of control they're literally unable to cope alone. We're someone to talk to who really cares, won't judge them, and will try to figure out with them the ghost psychology of a haunting. Most people just want to verify that they're not crazy."

Leto himself was a skeptic of the paranormal until an event happened to him that changed his life.

"I was home from work on lunch," he explains. "I had just gotten back to my truck when I decided to run back into the house and grab something to drink. When I walked into my kitchen, every cabinet and drawer was standing wide open. I had only been outside for a matter of seconds."

After Leto's own unexplained event, he founded DIEPART in an effort to capture scientific proof of things that go bump in the night. And now, on most weekends, you can find Leto and his team of volunteers trekking all across Iowa in vans and trucks loaded with investigative equipment of all sorts.

When DIEPART takes a case, a team of investigators shows up for a paranormal slumber party. The team sets up camp, spends the entire night collecting and recording every last detail, then spends weeks afterwards analyzing the data in hopes of proving or answering any unexplained phenomena. Very much like the acclaimed television show on the Sci-Fi Channel, Leto and DIEPART are modern-day Ghost Hunters.

DIEPART's investigations utilize tools that range from the scientific to the simple. When the team arrives at a location, the first step is setting up infrared cameras throughout the house. Weighted mylar strips are hung from the ceilings like futuristic flypaper to capture any unexplained movement or breezes on infrared. Parabolic microphones, so sensitive that they might actually hear a pin drop, record the entire evening's audio straight to a laptop computer in hopes of picking up EVP's (Electronic Voice Phenomena).

Then smaller controlled experiments are set up throughout the house. "One of the simplest controlled experiments we do uses just a golf ball and a rubber band," explains DIEPART investigator Terri Smith. "We place a rubber band on a flat surface, then set a plastic golf ball inside. At the end of the night, we'll look to see if a force of some kind has moved the ball outside of the rubber band."

After the experiments are set up, each member of the investigative team is given a thermometer, a camera, and is sent to a different room to observe. One member of the team roams the house to chronicle the progress, and another films the whole night for DIEPART's Des Moines-area cable access television show.

"I think the reason that we even discuss the paranormal is because it's so hard to prove," says Leto. "However, DIEPART is constantly pushing the extreme to find better mousetraps to catch these phenomenas that people cannot explain. It's our goal to keep trying new ways of proving or disproving that the supernatural exists."

DIEPART is not a group comprised exclusively of ghost-lovers. "We've got a pretty even mix of skeptics and believers on our team," says DIEPART volunteer Shannon Kingrey. "It keeps things even."

Kingrey says that she wasn't even sure of the paranormal until her first DIEPART trip. "I had just joined the group," she explains, "and we investigated a home in Fairbury, Nebraska. We experienced everything that night from a shaking bed to a glowing orb of light floating just feet away from me. I've been hooked ever since."

Pop culture often associates ghost hunts with images of mediums and psychics who attempt to contact the supposed spirits, but DIEPART laughs the notion off. "We call it 'conjuring,'" says Leto. "We need scientific proof of the paranormal, and speaking to dead air, no pun intended, is not science. We're here to find evidence, not practice witchcraft."

Leto also stresses that DIEPART are ghost hunters and NOT ghostbusters. If the team DOES find evidence of a haunting, they can only chronicle and report it. And that's fine by the Gaunt's.

"I don't want our spirits to leave," says Dee Dee Gaunt with a smile. "They're not doing anyone any harm. I just wanted someone else to experience what we have, so that we know we're not crazy."

The results of all of DIEPART's investigations, including strange EVP's captured at the Gaunt's home in Wilton, are available to the public via the group's website, The team is also seeking new investigations in the Quad Cities area, so if you think you've got a boogeyman in your basement or a poltergeist in your pantry, they encourage you to e-mail or call their 24-hour hotline, 515-250-2108.

COLUMN: Ghost Hunt

11:30 PM. I'm already a bit creeped out. Route 927 has never looked this ominous before. I'm in the car, on my way to the spookiest slumber party EVER. An avid fan of all things hocum-pocum, I've been invited to join the DIEPART team as they investigate a possible haunting at a home in Wilton. I am, in a word, psyched. Haunted houses can be spooky, but the fact that I'm going to be there with a half dozen paranormal investigators puts me somewhat at ease. I mean, if Gozer the Gozerian pops out of a wall, the pros can just blast it right back to Heck with some kind of thermo-gamma-ectoplasm ray, right? Right? The Psychedelic Furs come on my satellite radio with "The Ghost in You." I turn it to comedy, but not even Larry the Cable Guy can take the chill out of the air tonight.

12:00 AM. I arrive at the purportedly haunted house. It might very well be the UN-spookiest house I've ever seen. It's in a happy little neighborhood. The kind of neighborhood where kids play and people grill out. Not the sort of neighborhood where the undead roam the Earth seeking brains. Then again, if television has taught me only one thing, it's that you never quite know where those pesky ancient Indian burial grounds are located...

12:05 AM. Team DIEPART arrives in a caravan of trucks and begins unloading equipment. Surely if this place IS haunted, the ghosts are hightailing it out. Everywhere I look, there are cameras, mics, cords, and boxes of equipment. We look less like ghost hunters and more like Bon Jovi's road crew.

1:35 AM. The team members set up in different corners of the house and "Lights Out!" is called.

1:36 AM. "Lights Out" must mean something else in DIEPART lingo, because when the command is given, the house lights go out, but are replaced immediately by what I'd guess to be roughly 20,000 flashbulbs. Every few seconds, a team member whispers "FLASH" and takes a picture. I'd love to know what people driving by right now are thinking. The ghosts, meanwhile, remain silent (yet clearly now blinded.)

1:55 AM. I am positioned in the child's bedroom (the heart of the hauntings) with DIEPART member Shannon Kingrey. This is my favorite part of the whole night, as Kingrey kills the time with a good ghost story or two from her childhood. Atop the bed sits a ouija board, set out by DIEPART in case our boogeypeople want to host an impromptu spelling bee. Between the flashbulbs and the extreme silence, my blood is pumping.

2:00 AM. As I open my phone to check the time, it says that it's 3:00 AM. It's not. It's 2:00 AM. I blink and suddenly my phone says it's 1:00. I blink again and it's back to 3, then 1, then 2. My phone plays this game for 3 minutes. As a professional writer, my head fills with thoughts. Predominantly the thought that I want my mommy. My color returns only when another DIEPART member notices HIS phone is amok as well. We are the only two with the same provider. Either its a network-wide fluke or our spirits du jour have a serious issue with Verizon Wireless. Hey ghosts, can you hear me now? Gooooood.

3:19 AM. We're still in the bedroom, but the investigators in the front room ALL hear a whispery voice emanating from the hallway we're adjacent to. Shannon and I hear nothing. I brush it off (until two weeks later, when DIEPART sends me an EVP captured on 4 different microphones. A voice irrefutably whispers, "I am the one who said that." I've never been happier about my hearing loss from years of loud music, because if I HAD heard that, I would've leapt out of my skin and become a ghost myself.)

3:30 AM. Now I'm hearing a noise from down the hall. It's a breathy growling sound that common sense and my years of training tells me is either a werewolf, a hellhound, or the ghost of Ginger, the poodle I tormented as a child. Either way, I'm a goner. I creep down the hall, ballpoint pen readied as a melee weapon against the supernatural, to find a DIEPART member snoring away in the back bedroom.

5:15 AM. Having heard no more whispers, the team packs it in for the night. Rather than stick around and risk more heart attacks, I bid adieu to Team DIEPART and any assorted Wilton wraiths and make for civilization (after first checking the car for hitchhiking ghouls.) There's nothing on but conservative talk radio, and for the only time in my life, I'm okay with that - Ann Coulter might be insane, but at least she's not dead. Little do I know that as I cruise back to Rock Island, the DIEPART team experiences ghostly humming and the overpowering smell of bubble gum as they tear down. I just hope Banshee Bazooka Joe doesn't hum his way to Rock Island.

Thanks, DIEPART. It was a fun weekend.

Monday, June 26, 2006

VW 1, Arson 0

So last night at 11:54 PM, suddenly there's banging on my door. Loud banging. Angry banging. The kind of banging that doesn't say, "Hey, how's it going?" More like the kind of banging that says, "Hey, here to kill ya!"

After readying myself for combat (cell phone in hand, 911 pre-dialed), I opened the door... to find my neighbors yelling for me to come outside. I wander outside to a blaze of fire and sirens.

Turns out someone had purposely torched an old Caddy in the parking lot of my apt. complex... and guess who had the lucky pleasure of being parked right next to it? I tried to move my car but the R.I. Fire Dept. was already there with hoses on, and told me not to.

So I got to stand there and watch flames lick the side of my car while firefighters tried to get a handle on the blaze... which they did, in record time.

Early inspection shows what appears to be absolutely no damage to my car... once again proving my theory that the New Beetle is indestructible.

The big test will be in 20 minutes when I leave for work... which reminds me, time to shut this off and leap in the shower...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hear Me Make a Fool of Myself

That's right.

I'm putting on the weekend DJ persona on a WEDNESDAY just for kicks. Word on the street is that I'm going to be the guest DJ on the Phat Brothers Freak Show this Wednesday night from 7-9 on Power Hits 103.3.

Come hear me bring the hip AND the hop to the QC airwaves. I'll probably be all nervous and screw up a mix or two, so you'll have something to laugh at all week. I gotta be good for sumthin'.

Now I'm off to edit out naughty words from my usual 2nd Ave. set... sigh.

COLUMN: Hooters

As the prominent and beloved Quad City literary figure that I know I'm not but pretend to be, I figure it's my calling -- nay, my DUTY -- to live the good life. I need to smell wine and be able to talk about its woodsy bouquet. I need to join outing clubs and take, err, outings. I need for the staff at Deere Run to affectionately call me "Mr. B."

Surely these things will come with time. For now, I simply need to be seen at the gathering places of the Quad Cities elite. That's why my best friend and I embarked last week to a night of fine dining at one of the QC's classiest of restaurants. You guessed it, we dined at Hooters.

Known far and wide for its exceptional service and stellar menu, the reasons to walk into Hooters are limitless. Well, kinda. Okay, let's be honest. Truth is, there's only one reason why people go to Hooters:

That's right, the grilled mahi. Which might have been succulent and tender. It might have been the best morsel of food to ever pass my lips. Then again, it could have tasted like a day-old fish stick left in the sun. Frankly, I could have cared less about the fish. I guess a was a bit distracted. See, it turns out that what people REALLY go to Hooter's for is, umm, hooters.

HI, KIDS! Knowing this to be a family newspaper, there are times when I like to give a special shout out to my younger readers! And, in case you kids were wondering, back in that last paragraph, when I was talking about hooters with a small 'h,' obviously I was talking about our friends, THE OWLS. Here's a fun fact: Did you know that most owls are nocturnal? Can you say 'nocturnal'? That means they come out at dark. That's why sometimes daddies don't come home from Hooters until VERY late at night.

Oh, forget it. "Hooooo" am I kidding? Kids are welcome at Hooters, too -- they must be, because they have a chidren's menu. Yep, Hooters is great family fun -- provided, of course, that you're the Hefner family.

It's at places like this that I am TRULY at my most awkward. What's the proper behavior at a Hooters? Are you supposed to just sit there and LEER at the Hooters Girls? I mean, isn't that the whole point? But as I looked around the restaurant, I didn't see anybody else leering. In fact, I saw nothing but a bunch of other guys struggling to look nonchalant while being waited on by girls wearing clothes that might fit a 7-year-old.

Truth be told, Hooters is a savvy business empire. They've spent years perfecting their scheme, and for the most part, it works like a charm. When a customer sits down, they're immediately waited on by a babe from the Island of Improbably Attractive People. Your Hooters Girl sits down next to you and spends a great deal of time pretending that, in her eyes, Average Pathetic You is, in fact, the greatest thing to ever walk into her life. For one shining moment, YOU ARE BRAD PITT. Until she stops flirting long enough to get your order, and then *poof* she's vapor.

At least, that's how it SHOULD have worked. That's how it worked at every table I watched EXCEPT ours. Instead, our Hooters girl sat down, asked us what we wanted, and then left. No flirting. No idolation. She might have been a Hooters Girl, but we ended up feeling like Denny's Guys. This was, needless to say, a massive boost to our collective ego. I mean, how nerdy must we be to not even elicit PHONY flirting?

The guy next to us was having a bachelor party; his Hooters Girl was writing on his custom t-shirt, "You look HOT! Too bad you're taken!" MY Hooter's Girl forgot my soda. Life is cruel. But not as cruel as what happened next.

After we ate, a DIFFERENT Hooters Girl plopped down at our table. This one had the flirting down to a science. She complimented me on my t-shirt ("Medium Pimpin',") she talked about the weather, she batted her eyes. Suddenly we were feeling better. THEN out of nowhere, she plopped down an armful of trinkets. Hooters magazines, Hooters cards, Hooters shot glasses, Hooters mints -- it was a veritable cornucopia of needless junk. And her job, of course, was to sell it to us.

The sales pitches went from impressive to desperate. She even talked about the high quality of plastic used in their shot glasses. I swear at one point she started reading the ingredients off the box of mints. Then it hit me: to them, we weren't JUST hapless nerds, no -- we were hapless nerds who were EASY MARKS to buy junk.

I felt insulted. I went into Hooters looking for a shot of confidence, and I left feeling more pathetic than when I walked in. But I should look on the bright side. At least the next time that I need a shot of confidence, I've now got the high quality limited edition plastic shot glass to put it in. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a flirt.

Monday, June 12, 2006

COLUMN: Air Show

I've never understood typical "guy" behavior. You know... running around, fixing stuff, building stuff, destroying stuff, chugging beers while making college b-ball brackets. It's all beyond me -- I think perhaps I've been machismo-challenged since birth.

Thankfully, though, I've learned over the years how to deal with it. When some of my guy co-workers start in on a conversation about home repair or the NCAA or what-have-you, I know where to properly insert the grunts and nods to cover up the fact that, as far as my nerdtastic self is concerned, they may as well be speaking Martian.

That said, I've discovered one thing about myself that falls in line with the other Average Joes of the world. Maybe it's something that's firmly rooted in my DNA, something I'm chained to by testosterone and testosterone alone. It's what assures me that perhaps I'm merely one American Eagle Outfitters visit away from being "just one of the guys":

I like things that are loud and fast. And that's why last week was pretty exciting in Shaneland.

It's not hard to tell when it's Quad City Air Show weekend. It was Thursday and I had just left work for lunch. Walking to my car, I received a call from a girl I'm crushing on right now. "Hey you," I said, "It's good to hear your WHOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAARRRRGH!" Well, I didn't say the last part. That would have been the Blue Angels as they darted over my head at umpteen hundred knots per whatever. The point is, I went "eep" like the big sissy I am. There are lots of words I want this girl to hear -- and "eep" isn't one of 'em.

But if I'm going to have my day interrupted and my bejeebies scared out of me, there's no better way to do it than via a screeching jet fighter. As we drove Saturday to the Davenport Municipal Airport, we passed person after person opting for the view from their yards instead of the airport.

"Enjoy the cheap seats, suckers," I thought to myself. I wanted the whole nine yards. (Well, that and I won free tickets in a drawing.) But I wanted to see the show from the airport itself. After all, an air show isn't just entertainment; it's also educational. Among the things I picked up during said education:

• Water is a limited resource. I wasn't aware we were having a shortage, but it must be true. What else could explain why small bottles of water were selling at the air show for $3? I'm never flushing again.

• Speaking of overpriced concessions, there was a trailer selling "GIANT TURKEY LEGS!" First off, I wasn't aware that giant turkeys were roaming the Earth, and now I'm vaguely concerned. And even if these mutant giant turkeys were all safely being exterminated in some kind of gruesome leg harvesting genocide, does eating a greasy turkey leg -- regular OR giant -- sound remotely appetizing on an 85 degree summer afternoon? Ick.

• The Blue Angels are awesome. However, why was it that every manoever the announcer referred to as being "incredibly difficult" or "rarely performed" happened DIRECTLY OVER MY HEAD? I couldn't help but be a wee bit spooked.

"Don't worry," my friends said. "These guys are pros. They've had loads of experience."

Well, no offense, but I've now had loads of experience writing newspaper columns -- but that doesn't mean I don't make the occasional typo. Call me a wuss, but I'd be happier if they did their schtick over a cornfield, or maybe a square mile of pillows or something.

Little did I know that the Blue Angels were the warmup for the REAL main event -- something I like to call the "Traffic Jam-boree." Yes, there's nothing like witnessing the greatest feats of mechanized speed and power followed by a 45-minute wait in the car in order to go 2 blocks. By the time we left the parking lot, I wanted to BE one of the cheap-seated people I was making fun of earlier. At least they could leave. Meanwhile, the Blue Angels could have made it to Botzwana. Better yet, they could have called in an airstrike to take out the bazillion people in front of us -- or at least the one dude playing Kiss at volume 11 with the windows down. (As it turns out, sometimes I DON'T wanna rock and roll all night and party every day.)

By the time me and my friends escaped, we were tired... yet emasculated. We had seen the sky, and we had seen dudes slice through it like butter. I felt like high-fiving someone. I felt like belching. In short, I felt manly. There was only one option. We pointed the car towards Hooter's. More on that next week.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rock Island's finest?

Okay, so I'm no expert in law enforcement, but wait 'til you hear what I saw last night.

So last night I'm in the District at Gumbo Ya-Ya, right? More to the point, I'm getting off work from DJing at my weekend gig. At roughly 2:50 a.m., every club in the District shuts down and proceeds to herd the remaining crowds outside like cattle. At THAT point, it's up to the District's police presence to get everyone off of the downtown plaza within a reasonable time -- I think there's a law that calls it loitering if you're in the plaza after 3:15 a.m.

Well, in addition to the USUAL chaos, it's the District's first proper festival of the year, Gumbo Ya Ya. Despite the cold weather, there were quite a few people out and about, and afterwards, you've got scores of cleaning crews and sound guys out there tearing down all of the outdoor stages and trailers.

So in other words, it was EXTRA chaotic last night as the clubs were herding people outside. As a result, there were quite a few EXTRA police there last night. In addition to the usual Rock Island city cops, there were some of those brown-uniformed cops there, too (like I said, I'm no expert -- are those guys COUNTY cops? I think so.)

So we had just gotten everyone out of our club, and the police had ushered most of the people out of the plaza. Suddenly from outside, someone yells "FIGHT!" and our security guys all go bounding outside (as did I, because, hey, I'm nozy.)

Across the plaza from our club, I see some dude -- a BIG dude -- being restrained by several of his friends. (He didn't come out of OUR club.) What had occurred prior to this I was NOT privy to -- perhaps the guy had traded punches with ANOTHER guy, or maybe he was yelling at his girlfriend, I couldn't say for certain.

All I know is that, by the time I got outside, he was yelling at two of these brown-uniformed cops: "No one tells me what to do! I do what I want to!"

Class act, eh?

So one would think that would be enough for this idiot to spend the night in the ol' drunk tank, ya? Apparantly not, as the cops kept ushering the guy to the end of the plaza.

Now, at this point, the guy's girlfriend is tugging on his arm, in a last-ditch effort to get this dude to shut up and not go to jail. Out of NOWHERE, this guy BACKHANDS THE GIRL AND SENDS HER SPRAWLING TO THE CONCRETE.

"Finally," I think, "NOW this guy is going to jail."

I should have seen the two uniformed cops throw the guy to the ground, cuff him, and put him in the back of a squad car.


In other words, they essentially gave this drunk SOB a uniformed escort TO HIS CAR. Now, I have no idea whether or not this guy was driving. After seeing that, I almost hope he DID drive, wrap his car around a telephone pole, and then sue the city for allowing him to get behind the wheel in the first place.

So... what DOES it take to get arrested in the District? THE GUY BATTERED A WOMAN in full view of TWO COPS and about 30 bystanders... and DIDN'T GO TO JAIL.

It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen, and just made me lose an AWFUL lot of respect for my county police. While I'll clearly give the allowance that I WAS standing a half a block away and couldn't hear what was being said, I DID see the guy knock his girlfriend to the ground, and i DID see the police walk past the girl and eventually let the guy go.

I've seen people get arrested for a LOT less in Rock Island. Wait, let me rephrase, I've seen BLACK people get arrested for a lot less in Rock Island. I don't wanna be THAT guy who plays the race card -- and I can't say for certain whether or not the cops' actions were influenced by race, color, friends, the need to disassociate arrests with District festivals, or ANYTHING -- but it sure looked like some serious favoritism in the District last night.

If any Rock Island county officers read this and could explain to me what REALLY went on, I'll be glad to publically apologize in this blog. The last thing I wanna EVER do is tick off the cops. But when I see something as unjustified as it looked last night, I HAVE to comment on it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thumbs UP.

I repeat my mantra:

I am a humor columnist...
I am NOT a political columnist...
I am silent as to my politics...

Aw, the hell with it.

GO GET 'EM, PHIL. Congrats.

(Congrats also to Mark Schweibert. You may have come in 3rd, but you're still the top guy in MY book.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

COLUMN: The Great American Novelist

This past weekend, I went to see my cohort Sean Leary's My Verona production of "The Pillowman" at Comedy Sportz. Though the play's dark tones aren't my usual cup o' tea, the production was nicely executed and Sean deserves serious kudos for playing it unsafe and bringing such a talked-about and edgy play to the Quad Cities.

But there's a thing that always happens when I go see a play. Inexplicably, I go home with one thought blazing through my brain: "I could do that." And for days afterwards, I keep thinking about the prospects of writing a play. Heck, all I need is, umm, some characters... oh, and a plot. Yeah, I just need to think up one of those plot dealies and I'm all set. At some point, I usually decide that I am at my creative zenith, head to the computer, open up a blank document, grab the keyboard, and sit...

Usually ten minutes later is when I reach my frustration zenith, shut the computer off, and go watch reruns of "Cops."

"You're such a good writer," my mom always used to say to me. After a few years of compliments, even ones from family, you start to believe it. Maybe Mom's right and it's my destiny to write The Great American Novel. Shame of it is, I just don't have anything meaningful to say.

I'm not a deep guy. I've never sat around and gotten all existential. I've never had internal monologue about life's challenges. I've never discovered a universal truth. And I'm okay with all that.

It's why classic literature always seems to escape me. I remember being in lit classes as far back as high school and having to suffer through assorted Great works of fiction. I use Great with a CAPITAL G, because it's not me who thinks they're great, but rather some historians who think they're Great. Me, if it doesn't make me laugh or it's not about music or pop culture, I tend not to connect with it. And that makes me one shallow dude.

At some point, I've had to suffer through all the snoozers. Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tolstoy... yawn, yawn, yawn, and yawn. Truth be told, if I had to choose my favorite novel of all time, it'd probably be Stephen King's "Pet Sematary." THUD. That was the sound of every literature teacher/aficionado reading this column hitting the floor in a unison of disappointment and disgust.

As someone who gets paid to write, I should have a comforting bookshelf somewhere with worn copies of the classics. Instead, my bookshelf contains such epic tomes as "Dave Barry is Not Making This Up," "The National Enquirer: 30 Years of Unforgettable Images," and at least 20 Dilbert collections.

Part of my issue with "good" literature is that I've always been unable to wrap my head around symbolism. I remember being in school and forced to read some random acclaimed book, and then the teacher would say something like, "The most important element in this chapter is the author's use of the tree, and how it comes to represent mankind's stoic resilience against oppression."

Wait, what? You've gotta be kidding me. "Mankind's stoic resilience?" I just thought it was a stinking TREE. So now to write great literature, I've got to have characters, plot, AND be well-versed in arboreal imagery? Forget that. That's why I shy away from the classics; I just can't appreciate any text where even the grapes have to be wrathful.

Maybe one day I WILL pen the Great American Novel. Until then, you're stuck with the shallow me. The me who sees ridiculous stuff and gets paid to make fun of it in print every week. If I ever shed light on mankind's stoic resilience against oppression, I hope I can do it with a smile on your face. All I can say for certain is that -- should you ever be at a Borders of the future and see my name on the spine of a novel -- if there\'s a tree in it, rest assured that it'll be just a stinking tree.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Perfection in the Quad Cities?

Here's a random thought for a lazy Sunday. Two things that bring me warm fuzzies in life:

(a) Sitting somewhere in a shiny metropolis and gazing at skyscrapers and humanity. I remember one time I landed the dream DJ gig: a wedding reception at the top of the Allerton Hotel. If you don't know the Allerton, it's a crusty old classic of a hotel on Michigan Ave. about 2 blocks from the John Hancock Center in downtown Chicago. After the reception had ended, we had full run of the room while we tore down our gear. When our work was done, we killed all the lights in the room and just stared out the window (it had to have been 30-35 stories up) at the hustling Saturday night commencing below. I could have stayed there 'til sunup.

(b) Sitting alongside the banks of any random large body of water and gazing at nature. When I went to Florida a few weeks ago, we spent one night wandering around downtown St. Petersburg. We happened upon a little bar with a deck that stretched over a Tampa Bay marina. The 2 hours that we spent just hanging out on that deck are probably my favorite moments of the whole trip.

Point is: The Quad Cities SHOULD have the potential to fulfill BOTH of these desires at once. We've got downtown Davenport... and we've got the Mississippi River. Yet, for all the potential, I don't think there's one place that you can hang out & eat or have some drinks while having a neat view of both the river AND downtown, is there?

Or have I just not found it? One of these big buildings needs to have a top floor restaurant or something. There's too much great scenery in this town to not exploit it for commercial gain!