Friday, February 22, 2008


That's it. I've had it.

I can't deny it any longer, Quad Cities: I'm in a funk. The world has been conspiring against me lately. Let's take stock of the current situation, shall we?

Our entire universe is covered with ice. The temps have dropped from cold to freezing to unsustainable-for-human-life. When it's not been sub-zero out, we've made up for it in treacherous snow dropped on us by the pound. It's been so abysmal outside that the only recourse is to hide out in one's apartment and watch TV -- but thanks to the writer's strike, the only TV option appears to involve grown men and women dueling one another with giant Q-Tips on "American Gladiators."

And, of course, to top it all off, this week finds me staring down the umpteenth Valentine's Day spent woefully single and alone (Eligible Bachelorettes: insert pity party here).

Suffice to say, the world is my bummer. I'm sick of bringing people down with exasperated sighs. I'm sick of answering "how are you today?" with mono-syllabic grunts of displeasure. It's time I brought myself out of these winter doldrums.

That's why I had a brilliant idea for this column. I would write an epic ode on things to be thankful for, even in this, the winter of my discontent. Spring is a month away. The writer's strike is ending and new episodes of "Lost" are on. Our company's parking lot may be a solid block of ice, but perhaps we could rent it out to the QC Flames as a practice rink. There's no need to be so glum. I was looking on the bright side. I left work that night excited to compose my cheery masterpiece.

So what if there was a -20 wind chill? (Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah!) Why fret over a new-fallen inch of snow? (Zip-A-Dee-Ay!) Who cares about THE FLAT TIRE ON MY CAR? (My oh my, what a sucktastic day.)

It was dark, it was freezing, and my back left tire was flat as a fritter. I got in the car, turned on the heat, and screamed every single one of George Carlin's seven words. I even made up a few new ones of my own. Then I called the only person who I knew could help me: Julie, my personal roadside assistance claims tele-representative. I might have been freaking out, but Julie had a good head on her shoulders, I could tell.

"Do you have a spare tire in your car?" she asked.

Well, let's think about this. The contents of my car's trunk, as best as I can recall: Two or three blankets. A bag of decaying garbage. Somewhere around 100 ruined cassette tapes. Shards of glass from the bonehead who put a brick through my back window a couple years ago. The body of Jimmy Hoffa. The lost treasure of the Sierra Madre. And somewhere, deep under that metric ton of debris, was my spare tire. I knew what had to be done.

"Nope," I replied.

"I can call you a tow," said Julie. "You said you were leaving work. What's the name of the business?"

"The Dispatch," I said.

"Okay, what dispatch?"

"The Moline Dispatch," I clarified.

"Sir, your tow will be dispatched from Moline. I need to know where you're at."

"I'm AT the Moline Dispatch office. That's the business."

"You're at a dispatch office for what business?"

"No, I'm not at a dispatch office. I'm at The Dispatch office."

Once we got the Abbott & Costello routine out of the way, she informed me that someone would be there lickety split -- provided, of course, that my definition of lickety split was in the range of 90-120 minutes. I hung up and called my friend Jason, who gets serious kudos for bringing out an air compressor.

"It took me forever to fill my bike tire with this thing," he told me as he hooked it up and headed back to the heat of his car. "This'll be a while."

"What's it reading now?" he asked me a few minutes later.

"I dunno," I replied, craning my neck to read the gauge in the dark, "forty-five something?"

Jason and I have been best friends for over a decade, and I have NEVER seen him move faster in my life.

"SERIOUSLY?" he yelled. "Oh my God, get out of the way!"

Truth be told, Paris Hilton probably knows more about fixing a flat than I do. But that night I learned that my tire holds 30 pounds of air pressure, and that we had just forced nearly 50 pounds into the thing and narrowly avoided the tire popping like a grape with my head inches away.

We got the tire filled as my tow truck showed up. Rather than risk my bumper to a tow, we had the truck follow us as I drove slow and steady to the one place open at 8:30 p.m. for a tire fix. The one place that defines everything that is NOT me: Farm & Fleet.

And it was a learning experience. Their nice staff hooked me up with a pair of new tires while Jason and I sought entertainment browsing the "Bowhunting" aisle. (And you know what? For as much of an animal rights guy as I am, if deer are dumb enough to be lured by cheap cardboard cutouts of 2-dimensional she-deer, then maybe they deserve the occasional arrow strike.) And in the absolute best moment of the week, I was perusing their CD bargain bin and found an exceptionally horrifying Best of John Travolta disc for four bucks (SCORE!)

So the world isn't so bad after all. I survived the flat tire, the farm, AND the fleet. I'm going to survive this winter, too. And hey, I might not have a girl this Valentine's Day, but the next time I do, she's getting a mixtape with some awesomely awful Travolta action on it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eclipses Rule.

Photo thieved maliciously from

Eclipses are cool. I went outside like the nerd that I am and stared up at the moon for about five minutes. Two neighbor kids were outside gossiping about boys and music. I wanted to explain to them how an eclipse happens. I wanted to explain to them that the little star right next to the eclipsed moon is actually Saturn. They didn't care. They didn't even look up. They were far too busy trying to figure out what rapper does the song "Low." I knew it was Flo-Rida, but I didn't tell them.

Monday, February 11, 2008

COLUMN: Superbowl

The Diary of a Sunday that can only be described as fairly Super: A story in which our hero faces 5 hours of wall-to-wall hi-definition football coverage and lives to tell about it.

4:30 p.m. Friend Chris beats the snow and arrives at my apartment armed with a metric ton of chicken wings, a box of Coke, and nacho fixins aplenty. We brown some hamburger, throw on some cheese and salsa and sour cream, and dump it all atop an armada of tortilla chips. It is, by all definable measurements, an unquestionably super bowl of nachos. We are focused, primed, and football-ready.

4:50 p.m. The precise moment when the month-long pre-game show apparantly runs out of things to say about the game. This is the only acceptable answer as to why football legends are currently on my screen reading the Declaration of Independence. Something tells me that "the freedom to watch awesome, bone-crunching action" was NOT atop the Founding Fathers' pros and cons list for revolution. Still, these historic words have never carried such weight as when they're read by great orators like, oh, Peyton Manning.

5:30 p.m. Kick-off.

5:36 p.m. Bud Light claims their product can make people breathe fire. Friend Chris and I have a quick con-fab before pronouncing the idea "pretty cool."

5:46 p.m. Internet start-up decides that the best way to spend $2.5 million dollars is to make condescending racial stereotypes of Indian workers. Later their next ad involves crudely animated panda bears and stale jokes. Each second of these two spots costs around $83,000. I could do a lot with $83,000. They could have simply given me $83,000 and I could have walked around telling people, "Hey, visit," and it would have been a better thought-out ad campaign.

5:47 p.m. An announcer informs us that 30 minutes of the pre-game show was powered by a roomful of ridiculously muscle-clad people on exercise bikes. I laugh snarkily, and that laugh was powered by one dude sitting on a couch eating nachos.

6:03 p.m. Derek Jeter is the new face of Gatorade G2. Now, there's no one on Earth more diametrically opposite myself than a professional athlete. That said, I recently discovered that I quite like Derek Jeter's new cologne (men, ask your Avon reps!) If I like his cologne, perhaps there's hope for his low-calorie electrolyte beverage as well.

6:24 p.m. Sobe Life Water decides that their product is best represented by lizards dancing to "Thriller" with Naomi Campbell. They are VERY wrong.

6:32 p.m. New England QB Tom Brady starts to look less than perfect. I celebrate by running to the kitchen for a tasty beverage when I distinctly hear the announcer from the other room. "Oh, say," he says. "Human urine helped break up that play." Hrrrm. A myriad of thoughts course through my brain. I'm not exactly Mr. Sports, but I at least thought I knew the basics of football. That said, I must admit that I was unfamiliar with the human urine section of the playbook. In fact, I feel that human urine should count towards pass interference at the very least. Then I walked back in and discovered that "Oh, say, human urine" is, in fact, Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

6:40 p.m. Pepsi gives me a highlight of the night: watching Justin Timberlake get tortured for 30 seconds. But the question DOES exist: Why does Pepsi even need to advertise? Is there somebody out there going, "Hmm... Pepsi or Coke. Well, which one would Justin drink?" Why would you want to spend 2.5 mil on 30 seconds of airtime if you were Pepsi? There's only one logical answer: people are willing to put up absurd amounts of money for the joy of seeing Justin Timberlake get tortured.

7:08 p.m. Someone needs to alert the authorities: Tom Petty has been kidnapped and replaced by someone's very, very ugly grandfather. Happily, no wardrobe malfunctions occur and a grateful nation breathes a sigh of relief. Yes, nothing says hip, exciting entertainment like a geriatric rocker and his mid-tempo anthems o' blandness. Congrats, NFL, you've managed to suck almost ALL the life out of halftime. Maybe next year you can seal the deal by simply re-animating the corpse of Glenn Miller for the most rip-roarin', rootin'-tootin', swing-tastic bathroom break of them all.

7:36 p.m. Bridgestone wants to prove the durability of their tires by showing a car deftly swerving and NOT running over exercise guru Richard Simmons. Dear Bridgestone, I would be a far bigger supporter of your company had you proven the durability of your tires by repeatedly running over exercise guru Richard Simmons.

And then somewhere around here it all goes a bit grey, as my charming stroll through the world of advertising keeps getting interrupted by a pesky good game of football. New York wins while New England coach Bill Belichick storms off the field like a pouty baby. Either that or he wanted to be the first to log on to

All told, a good night out without ever having to leave the apartment.

The winners: The Giants, Justin Timberlake, the E-Trade baby, and Chris' nachos.

The losers: The Patriots,, anyone who likes Tom Petty, and my nacho-ravaged GI tract. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go. I think the 2009 Super Bowl pre-game show starts in like 20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

COLUMN: Corn Chips

"The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley," quoth the Bard of Scotland, Robert Burns. I'm no expert on 18th century Romantic poetry, so I can't speak on exactly what's being gangly aft-ed, but I can certainly tell you that this week's column has gone horribly, horribly a-gley.

Two weekends ago, the Quad Cities saw the opening of Energy, a new dance club strictly for the under-21 sect. "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" thought the innocent newspaper columnist, "A story idea presents itself."

Being an alumni of the teen club crowd myself, I was happy to hear that a new place was opening in town. Frankly, it's been too long. The kids of the Quad Cities need something fun to do on the weekends, and at least MY dictionary defines "fun" as "(noun). See: Dance club."

So I was going to write a grandiose column about teen clubs and time it to Energy's grand opening.

On their first two nights, they packed some 800 kids into their Moline location. And then, like the Party-Pooping Patrol, the city of Moline swept in and shut the place down after one single weekend in business. Not that the city's to blame. It turns out that the owners didn't have the building up to code, nor had they received the proper licensing from the city, and that's a big ol' bummer. Moline no longer has a teen club, I no longer have a column idea.

Or do I? Just because Energy's closed doesn't mean I can't still take my nostalgia trip. And the guys behind the Energy club haven't packed it in -- they're scouring the Quad Cities for a new, up-to-code location, and I for one sincerely hope they find one. As far as I'm concerned, a teen age without a thumping bass beat and a dancefloor with which to potentially embarass oneself in life-altering ways is a teen age I'd rather skip, thanks.

I'm sure it'll be of no surprise to learn that I was something of a nerd in high school. I wasn't particularly downtrodden or anything about it, but suffice to say me and my drama geek friends were not exactly invited to the A-list parties. Until, that is, I learned how to DJ them. Music was my social saving grace back then, and when Galesburg opened up a teen club -- Checkpoint -- I had to be a part of it.

Now I could lie and tell you all that the club went and sought me out for my exceptional DJ'ing abilities. Truth is, from the day the place opened, I wouldn't leave the owners alone and eventually weaseled and begged my way into the DJ booth. I fear that the inside of that DJ booth at Checkpoint might be the one memory that I will forever refer to as "the best time of my life."

Checkpoint closed down about the same time I moved to Rock Island for college, and my central weekend hangout simply shifted to Bettendorf's Stage 2. While my collegiate brethren were obsessing over keggers and frat parties, I was obsessing over which Chess King ensemble to best make the scene down at the teen club. Only-child-syndrome made living on my own kinda rough -- and since beer parties really weren't my thing, the teen club was my solace. If it hadn't been for the friends and fun of that club, I don't think I would have made it through freshman year.

On any given Friday night, you could find us down there. Half of the club would be filled with the preppies and the underage social elite, and the other side -- our side -- would be packed to the brim with the folks they called... "corn chips." To this day, I don't know where the name came from or how it was meant to be derogatory. I don't know if anyone does, really. Today the labels "goth" and "punk" might apply to similar cliques, but back then we were all a bunch of corn chips.

All it meant is that we liked different music than most, and admittedly had a unique flair for expressing it. And even on the outcast corn chip side of the club, tables were chosen by high school clique: The UT kids sat over here, the Moline kids over there, Bettendorf kids had the back corner, and the table by the snack bar? That was Galesburg territory and our nesting place. The drama would play out in perfect teenaged form. One of our favorite hobbies was to wait until the DJ played the corn chip tearjerker anthem "Somebody" by Depeche Mode and take bets on the number of girls who would run to the bathroom distraught over their unrequited crush o' the week.

Like all good things, eventually my time at Stage 2 had to end. As much as we hated to leave the teenage years, we had to, fighting tooth and nail the whole way. My friend Natalie was the only person I knew who had a fake ID -- to prove she was UNDER 20 and still admissable to the teen club. Me? I knew my time at Stage 2 had reached its end when I was a junior in college and got an invitation to a fellow club-goer's 14th birthday party.

Still, that building -- now a barren Bettendorf parking lot -- was where I forged some of the best friendships of my life, met amazing people, listened to amazing music, and made me want to be a DJ for the rest of my life. Here's hoping Energy can get it together and do the same for some other socially adrift kid out there. Good luck on finding a new location, and if you ever need a fill-in DJ, I'm your guy.

COLUMN: Spinach Dip

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't like to use my column to dole out free advertising to area businesses. Not that I don't love and support some of our local shops, because I certainly do. But giving a business a free plug -- even one that I adore and frequent -- creates an ethical grey area, and frankly, I've never looked good in grey.

If I were to mention Company A in a column, Company B might get upset. And what about Company C who drops a dime or two on print advertising in our papers? To be fair to all concerned, it's best to leave the advertising to the pros. Except this time.

One establishment in town has discovered the necessary trick to get me to step off my ethical high horse and shout their name from the rooftops. Well, maybe not the rooftop - it IS kinda cold out. Regardless, ethics (and editors with grouchy faces) be darned, for I'm making an endorsement right here and right now:

THE ROCK ISLAND BREWING COMPANY SERVES THE FINEST FOOD ON PLANET EARTH, IF NOT PERHAPS THE ENTIRE GALAXY. You should go there for lunch and/or dinner every day. Fold this newspaper up, put it under your arm, and strut on down to RIBCO where you can read the paper and enjoy the best meal of your life. Tell 'em Shane sent ya!

There ya go. A 100% unbiased, 100% unsolicited recommendation from yours truly. Trust me. The fact that I spend my weekends DJ'ing for RIBCO's sister club 2nd Ave. should be dismissed as mere coincidence. No, I'm speaking from the heart here. The food at RIBCO is oh-so-good. Especially, in fact, the spinach dip. To be honest, I was unaware of the wonder, majesty, and pallet-quenching joy of RIBCO's spinach dip until quite recently.

Well, until this very afternoon -- when I got a phone call from Debbie Tilka, who owns and manages RIBCO along with her husband Terry. I can safely say that it was the first phone call I've ever received from someone needing to urgently speak with me on the topic of spinach dip. As it happens, RIBCO has just redesigned their menu, adding and renaming many dishes.

Their spinach dip is now no mere spinach dip. It is, as of this writing, DJ SHANE'S SHOUT OUT SPIN DIP. That's right, mortals, I've officially arrived: I HAVE MY OWN MENU ITEM.

Accolades come few and far between in this business. Well, I suppose a successful newspaper columnist might yearn to one day win a Pulitzer Prize. Not me. For one, I bet the Pulitzer judges aren't progressive enough to recognize the esoteric genius of a column devoted to spinach dip. For two, have you seen a Pulitzer Prize? It's like an weird coin/medallion thing with a dude on it who appears, in my infinite knowledge, to be doing arm pulldowns on a Bowflex. It's not my scene.

Granted, I suppose the prestige of a Pulitzer Prize might outweigh the prestige of DJ Shane's Spin Dip. Still, the Pulitzer people need to face the harsh and ugly truth that, while their golden icon may be the pinnacle of journalistic success, it simply doesn't make a nice complement to whole wheat crackers or rye bread.

So I'm setting my sights on something higher than journalistic acclaim: world domination. Here's how it'll work: If you, dear reader, decide that you'd like to dine at RIBCO and try some of DJ Shane's Shout Out Spin Dip, when your waitress comes to the table, simply ask for "the Shane." Once enough people start getting used to calling spinach dip a Shane, perhaps it'll catch on at OTHER locations.

"Would you care for an appetizer?"
"Yes, please. I'd like a Shane."
"Coming right up. We make our Shane fresh!"

And so on and so forth, until one day my name will become synonymous with spinach dip everywhere and the world will bow before me. Don't believe me? Ask my friend, the Earl of Sandwich.

But I've got to be honest. There's one thing I need to do first before global conquest can ever possibly be mine. Over the past decade, I've eaten at RIBCO approximately a bajillion times. I've ravaged their menu -- there's not a dish I haven't tried. Except one.

That's right, DJ Shane has yet to try DJ Shane's Shout Out Spin Dip. I'm certain that it's quite tasty, don't get me wrong... but, well, it's green. And creamy. And being the world's most finicky eater, one of my devout rules is that things green and creamy are likely eccchy and hence should stay away from my mouth.

But as of right now, I am rescinding my rule. I simply refuse to have a food item named after me that I myself won't eat for fear of color and texture. And I swear to you all, I've watched my friends eat RIBCO's spinach dip and go on and on about how good it is. (And that's lucky for them, as DJ Shane's Shout Out Spin Dip shall henceforth be the expected mandatory order for all of my dining companions.)

As much as I tease, I really DO get a kick out of having my name on a menu, especially at a place like RIBCO with such great people as the Tilkas. And I'm honestly touched and warm-fuzzied by the sentiment, even if the menu DOES go on to say that "it's the only thing cheesier than our resident DJ!" I can live with cheesy. I've been called worse, trust me.

So go to RIBCO. Try the Shane, it's awesome. Then hang out and listen to me spin records next door. Then read all my columns, all our other columns, and support all of our fine advertisers. Even the ones who don't name stuff after me.