Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Oh, umm, hi. You people again? So soon? Okay, umm...

How 'bout this craaaazy weather, huh? And those football teams with their football games, there's somethin' to talk about, eh? And how 'bout that Conan O'Brien? He's a... umm... wacky...

Okay, is it THAT obvious that I have no clue what to write about this week? Truth be told, I have nothing to write about because I've ceased to have a life. Well, I have a life, but for the past 3 weeks, it's been developing eyestrain, sitting in my living room, plugged into a Mac Book Pro. I'm pretty certain that I might just be going insane.

Or I might just be going a little OCD. Now, I know that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a real thing that afflicts tons of people. And I'm not going to make light of it, lest I get a flurry of angry letters that real OCD sufferers will send just as soon as they're done washing their hands for the 34th time this hour. I couldn't imagine a life ruled by ritual behaviors and paranoia and anxiety, and I sure as heck hope that none of you fine folks are afflicted by it.

But what I'm pretty sure I DO have is OCPD: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. I've never been officially diagnosed as such, but a quick trip to Wikipedia pretty much nails it. According to Wiki, the primary symptoms of OCPD are "a preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, and schedules; being very rigid and inflexible in one's beliefs; showing perfectionism that interferes with completing a task; excessive focus on being productive with one's time; hoarding items that may no longer have value; and a reluctance to trust a project to someone else for fear that one's standards will not be met."

Now, some of you (namely: my girlfriend, parents, friends, co-workers, and everyone who's ever met me ever) may be laughing right now, because I'm pretty much THE dictionary opposite of organized and detail-oriented. And the only time I'm rigid and inflexible is when I've laid on the couch so long that my muscles have atrophied.

But when it comes to ONE particular aspect of my life, the above description is pretty much me in a nutshell. That's why, at great expense of time and manpower, I've come up with my own malady. I fear, ladies and gents, that your humble columnist suffers from OCMND: Obsessive-Compulsive Music Nerd Disorder. And right now, it's about thiiiis close to wrecking my life. Let me explain in the least nerdy way I can muster.

You guys know that I DJ on the weekends at a club down in the District, right? Well, recently I made the decision to change my DJ system to an all-digital format. Out with records and CD's, in with mp3's and laptop computers.

For me, it was a decision of logistics. On any given night, I lug books and books down to the club full of roughly 2500 CD's. And when you've got a cubic ton of CD's scattered around you, the whole DJ booth starts to feel like a game of Musical Mah-Jong. In order for me to play a song, I have to remember what book it's in, which CD it's on, and what track number it is. With a digital system, all you have to carry is a hard drive capable of storing a quarter million songs. There's just one teensy tiny problem.

The hard drive capable of storing a quarter million songs starts out EMPTY. I first must go through my entire music library and rip the songs I need down to the mp3 format. In my delusional head, I thought I could get it done in a couple of days. I've been at it non-stop since Christmas and I've only just reached the "N"'s.

At least I'm learning new and exciting things along the way. For instance, I've learned that when your girlfriend wants to come hang out, she does NOT want to sit on the couch in silence as you huddle over your laptop for hours on end. I've also learned that when you sit Buddha-style in front of a laptop for hours on end, eventually your legs want to fall off. I've also learned that your friends and family don't like it when you get too "on a roll" to answer your phone, leave your apartment, or - in my worst moment - fail to shower for 48 hours straight.

But they don't understand my OCMND. It needs to get done, and soon, and the right way.

Let's go back to the symptoms:

1. A preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization and schedules.

I'd like to pretend that I didn't spend an hour trying to decide whether to alphabetize "The Dave Matthews Band" under D or under M. Guilty.

2. Being very rigid and unflexible in one's belief.

I believe that it should alphabetized under M. Rigidly. And don't get me started on what to do with A Flock of Seagulls or The The. These kinda things keep me up at night. Guilty.

3. Showing perfectionism that interferes with completing a task.

Which might explain why I'm only through the N's after weeks of working. Guilty.

4. Hoarding items that may no longer have value.

I own three Dexy's Midnight Runners CD's, and only one of them contains "Come On Eileen." Guilty.

5. Excessive focus on being productive with one's time.

It's kinda killing me a little bit to sit here and type this column while the O-Z CD's are unripped. They're staring at me longingly from their place on the wall right now. I'm pretty sure one of them keeps muttering "loser" at me. I suspect it's a Beck CD.

6. A reluctance to trust a project to someone else for fear that one's standards might not be met.

Bless her heart, my girlfriend offered to help, she really has. I politely refused. She thinks it's because I'm such a caring dude that I wouldn't want to subject her to such a boring time-waster. Truth be told, I didn't think she could pull off the correct spelling of bands like Einsturzende Neubaten.

Enough chitter-chatter. I've got an overdue appointment with an Oingo Boingo CD. Don't blame me; blame my OCMND.


[The following column might just raise the bar for acceptable levels of cuteness in professional journalism. As a total surprise, my girlfriend Amy's birthday present to me was to try her hand at column-writing and give me a week off. WARNING: It's full of the sort of warm, fuzzy, "aww"-inducing touchy-feely romantic mumbo-jumbo that may very well hit the gag reflex of our more testosterone-laden audience. And it's also one of the nicest things anybody's ever done for me.]

Dear Shane, you've said before that it would be fun if I helped write your column sometime. Well, I needed a good idea for a birthday present for you -- so here goes!

I first got the idea to write this as a response to people saying, "Let's hear more about this boyfriend of yours!" So I began thinking about how we met and the first time we really got together - which happened to be on your birthday, exactly one year ago...

You used to be some guy who worked at a dance club where my friends and I went to dance.

[Actually, I was the borderline creepy leering guy who couldn't stop staring at the cute girl on the dancefloor.]

Then you were a Myspace friend while I lived in Cairo, Egypt for two years.

[yep, I was THAT guy... Mr. Internet Stalker.]

Then we became fast Facebook friends, of course.

[I was THAT guy, too. See, it was just my luck to notice a super cute girl in my club, happen upon her profile on Myspace, get up the nerve to send her a message, and THEN find out that she had just left for two years in Egypt. Le sigh. But she was worth waiting for, and we really DID become fast friends via the keyboard.]

I began to notice that your posts always made me smile. We spent a lot of time instant messaging, and you constantly made me laugh. Once I got back to the States, you eventually invited me to hang out "in real life." It took several times, over a period of months, before I finally accepted the offer. It was your birthday, and we watched a movie. If you know me, you know I love birthdays, so there was no way I was showing up to your place without some sort of gift! Hmmm... what to get for Shane? Well, I considered some sort of music -- but then I remembered you saying that you owned about a billion CDs. I decided to stop by Old Town Bakery for a fancy cupcake. Everyone likes cupcakes, right? The celebratory cupcake was a hit, although it ended up flipping upside down in the box on the way to your place.

[Truth be told, I'm not really a fan of cupcakes -- but when a cute girl hands you one, you eat the heck out of it, even if it looked like the thing had exploded all over the box.]

You tried to prepare me for the extent of your love for music, but I was still shocked when I walked in to find one wall in the living room covered entirely with shelves full of CD's. (I later found out about the mountains of records you have stashed in closets and under the bed.) That night, you entertained me with several stories of how you acquired the many autographs on your wall of the musicians you had met.

[That's right. I'm not above name-dropping. 'Check it out, this celebrity totally gave up .5 seconds of his or her time to sign this piece of paper... because I'M SO COOL!']

Then it became a little more personal when you gave me a sampling on a CD that you had titled, "Amy's Favorite Mix CD Ever". I started to listen (with strict instructions to not read the tracklist until I had listened to the entire CD without peeking.) It was while hearing lyrics such as "You've got terrible vision if you can't see that I'm in love with you," (Rhett Miller) and "I want to tell you..." (The Beatles), that I began to realize this Shane guy kinda likes me -- like, the more-than-just-friends kind of likes me!

[Not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty doggone good at making mixtapes -- and that one I made Amy was, like, a harmonic convergence of aural and lyrical perfection, if I do say so myself. Bachelors, a well-made mixtape can be the greatest weapon in your love arsenal -- e-mail me for advice anytime.]

Since your birthday last year, we've talked or spent time together every day. I'll never forget when you asked me to dinner for Valentine's Day -- and what a hilarious night we had! (Still my favorite column you've written so far.)

[Nothing says romance like second-degree burns, a broken-down car, and a two mile jog through the snow.]

You've taught me so much this past year. For example, I've learned more than I ever cared to know about British rock music. I know the best techniques for getting points in a Rock Band tournament. (You really could be a professional Rock Band coach, you know.)

You've shown me that cats aren't too scary and that I can even pet them! (Somewhere along the way in life, I developed an irrational fear of cats. No, not lions and tigers and the really scary big cats -- I was terrified of your average housecat. I mean, scared to touch them or even have them near me. Once in high school, when I was babysitting, I called my mom crying because a cat was "looking at me!" Scary, right??? But Shane insisted that his cats were nice... and I slowly began to see that he was right!

I have learned that snuggling on the couch with you, even while you teach me the many strategies of Nascar drivers, is the best place to be. You've shown me that long drives to nowhere can lead to the most wonderful places.

I've learned many more things about you this year, like how much you hate onions, peppers, mushrooms -- and GERMS! I learned that you play trivia like a professional. I found out that your eyes are the best shade of green God ever made. I found out that when you hold my hand, I can feel it in my heart.

You are such a caring, loving, and kind man. You have been there to encourage me when I was sad. You didn't give up on me, even when I was tempted to give up on myself. You have laughed with me and cried with me. You make me want to be better and do great things. You make me feel like dancing!

[Any girl who can drop Leo Sayer lyrics on the fly is the one for me.]

I hope you have a wonderful birthday, honey! I'm so very thankful for you! You have blessed my life, and I pray that I will be a blessing in yours. For all the gifts you've given me, here's one for you. Happy Birthday! Love, Amy.

[Awww... I'd mention how this column almost made me cry, if I wasn't such a burly and macho piece of man-meat.]

COLUMN: Holiday Roundup

Ho, ho, ho! Season's Greetings to one and all! Deck the halls with...

Wait, what? The holidays are OVER? ALREADY? But my tree's still up! There's still an animatronic dog on my coffee table that barks "Jingle Bells"! I'm still in the mood for more presents!!

The fun thing is that, at least for me, the holidays are NOT over. Because I lead the world in efficiency and time management, I like to bang out every major holiday in one big, wintery thrust. First, it's Christmas. Then BAM! it's New Year. Then five days later, it's my birthday. As I write this, I remain a young and spry 38-year-old. By the time you read this, I will be old and haggard and 39 and likely mired in a deep well of despondency. For now, though, I'm still surfing on a wave of holiday bliss.

And, as you'd expect, I've been having a holly jolly season full of the kind of awkward and uncomfortable situations that make my life little more than a 3-D comedic nightmare. On the up side, we've got LOTS to write about.

For instance, on Christmas Eve my girlfriend and I went to one of those candle-lit church services, because those are super pretty and festive and full of warm fuzzies, no? Well, I wouldn't know, because we got to the church to discover that a recent incident involving no less than a flaming wreath had put a moratorium on the candle-lighting tradition. Instead, they provided these weird little plastic faux candles that flickered with glowing LEDs like little holiday lightsabers.

Weirder still was the cute little nativity scene set up at the front of the church. This would have been warm & fuzzy, had I not noticed a striking similarity between the nativity's Baby Jesus and something altogether different.

"Umm," I whispered to Amy, "Don't look now, but did Mary just give birth to a King #11 Hobo Combo?"

She may have responded with the don't-crack-jokes-in-church evil glare, but there was no denying it: that baby looked a lot less Savior and a lot more like a sub sandwich from Hungry Hobo. And when the minister began gently cradling it during his sermon, I couldn't help but feel hungry. And then, I'm afraid my earlier comment caused my goody-two-shoes girlfriend to ALMOST laugh out loud in church when the minister unwrapped the baby Jesus to reveal... a loaf of communion bread.

And later, when the Three Wise Men showed up in a reenactment asking, "Where is the King? Where is He?" and Amy whispered to me, "I'm pretty sure we just ate him," I knew I'd officially corrupted my true love and could cross off "accidentally descrate religious ceremony" from my to-do list.

Another tradition that runs deep at the holidays is spending time with family. MY family members have all had the good sense by now to die off or move to distant lands, so holidays with the Browns are usually low-key affairs with me, my mom & dad, and gobs of presents. This is how I enjoy Christmas.

Amy, on the other hand, has a family tree the size of a deciduous forest, and they all live and thrive within five miles of the Quad Cities. And if there's any excuse for all kajillion of them to congregate at someone's house and eat mountains of food, they're doing it. Don't get me wrong, I like her family a LOT -- but for someone with as much social anxiety as myself, it can be a little daunting.

This brings us to New Year's Eve, and a drop-in to a Clan Amy shindig at her aunt's house. We're welcomed warmly at the door and ushered to the main room, where we're told a board game is afoot and we "have to play!" Okay, fine, I like board games, I'm in.

That's when I discovered the game they were playing was "Things." If you've never played it before, umm, don't. Here's how it works. Somebody draws a card. On that card is an incomplete phrase, like, "Things you should _________." All of the players then fill in the blanks secretly on little slips of paper and give them to the guesser, who reads the answers and then must accurately guess which player wrote which answer.

Sounds fun, right? It's not. Imagine my turn as guesser, and the card I draw is: "Things you should never swallow: ___________." As I read the little slips of paper, the answers began tame but - as you could imagine - grew more and more perverse. Like, the category may as well have been "Things you can never reprint in a family newspaper: ___________."

So it was then my task to determine who wrote which marginally obscene answer. Let's see... was it my Christian schoolteacher girlfriend? Or perhaps her Christian schoolteacher mother? Or her dad, whose approval and respect may or may not hinge on when I accuse of him of writing, umm, That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named? Maybe it was this Random Family Member who I've never met before tonight? Or good ol' Uncle What's-His-Name?

Instead, I chose the easy way out by turning red and giggling like an 8-year-old who just said "doodie" for the first time. The good news is that I escaped playing Who's-The-Pervert-In-Amy's-Family. The bad news is they now probably think I'm a meth-head.

We capped off the week with a wonderful pre-birthday romantic dinner at my favorite fancy restaurant, which may or may not rhyme with "Konnie's Italian Steakhouse." Well, it would have been wonderful and romantic, had they not sat us within earshot of The Tragic Family. I know nothing about The Tragic Family, and there's a chance they may not even BE a family, but they were seated 8-deep at a party table, spoke about 20 db over the legal sound limit, and featured some of the greatest dinner conversation of all time. Among that which we inadvertently heard:

"...can never have another child again, what with the ripping and tearing and bleeding..."
"...tumor the size of a cantaloupe..."
"...six months later, there was still an oozing hole in her gut..."
"...couldn't stitch up the open wound from all the infection..."

I kid you not. And all this while I'm attempting to enjoy a delightful bleu cheese-encrusted filet oozing with goodness. Or possibly oozing with infectious pus. Happy Birthday to Me. Sigh.

But on the whole, it WAS a happy birthday, just as it was a happy new year and a happy Christmas -- all because I got to spend it with the people and places I care about. I hope your holidays were equally as awesome and as free of open wounds as possible. Now then, I'll talk to you people later - I've got to go become old.