Monday, March 20, 2017


It took less than 24 hrs. for someone to crack the code and find my $3 treasure!  Details to follow in my next column.  Thanks to EVERYONE for playing and harassing me all day long!  This might have to become an annual occurrence.

UPDATE: The Great $3 Treasure Hunt

Hey all!

So I know my blog is woefully out of date, I'm trying to put all my recent columns up this week. But if you're playing along this week, you'll know about the Great $3 Treasure Hunt going on RIGHT NOW.  If not, read my newest column to catch up:

Just so you know, the hunt has been live for just about a day now, and NO ONE HAS YET TO CLAIM THE TREASURE.  That's not to say that it's still there... there's a chance someone's found it. But there IS a note with the treasure to e-mail me with a secret phrase, and so far, no e-mail.  So the $3 could very well still be out there. 

If someone claims responsibility for grabbing the treasure, I'll let you know right here.  And in a few days, if no one claims it, I'll check to see if the treasure is still in its hiding place...

COLUMN: Sports Expert

I am not a big sports guy.

I know this must come as a shock to those of you staring at my fifteen-year-old photo naturally assuming that I must be a muscle-clad jock. I'm afraid you were once again led astray by my brute machismo. Unless we reach a day when Guitar Hero becomes a recognized sport, I'm just not an athletic supporter.

I'm not entirely bereft of sports knowledge. I've sat through many a Bowl that was Super (but secretly, I just watch for the commercials.) Like any good fair-weather fan, I enjoyed watching Jordan and the Bulls dominate back in the day, just as I enjoyed seeing the Cubs make their championship run last year. If you catch me in the right mood and the scores are close, I've even been sucked in by golf telecasts now and again. And, of course, there's my closet NASCAR obsession, which I can only blame on genetics and perhaps a few too many years growing up in Galesburg.

For the most part, though, I'm completely clueless when it comes to sports. I don't keep up with players or stats or teams. I only recently learned that the Montreal Expos are no longer a thing, and that happened in what, 2004? I've got other interests, sorry. There's enough on my plate as is without obsessing over people running, throwing, and catching things.

There's just one problem. Through no particular fault of my own, I have an acquaintance who may have been misled into thinking that I am a sports enthusiast. And because I'm the most socially insecure person on the planet, I've been playing along for way too long to come clean now.

I have to stay vague, because this person is real and in the Quad Cities, but I'm pretty sure he has no idea that I write a newspaper column, so shhh. Let's just say that I wear a lot of different hats in life, and one of those hats requires me to engage in brief bits of small talk with this person regularly. I don't know the guy well, but he seems like a good enough dude.

Well, a few months ago, we were chatting and he mentioned that he was bummed because there was some UFC thing on pay-per-view that he was missing. I don't know a thing about ultimate fighting, but I DO know my way around the internet. All it took was two swipes on my phone to find someone bootlegging the fight on Periscope. "Here you go," I said as I handed him the phone.

Little did I know my gesture of kindness would open a Pandora's Box of sports small talk that I've yet to escape. Worse yet, most of the time I have NO idea what he's on about.

"Today's game sure wrecked my pool," he said to me the other day. And no, I had no clue what game he was talking about. "I had them by fourteen," whatever that meant.

A self-confident Shane would have replied, "Sorry, I don't follow sports." A Shane who doesn't suffer from social anxiety might have said, "No clue, man, sorry." A Shane without a childish need for acceptance could have just shrugged his shoulders and been done with it.

Instead, here's what I said:

"Well, they went to sleep after the half. It was sad to watch."

I don't know who "they" were. I could only hope it was a sport that HAD a "half." But it must have sounded right, because he nodded right away in agreement. Thus began the pitiful dance of me having to fake my way through sports conversation on a regular basis.

Now, you may think this whole episode to be kind of pathetic, and I'm right there with you. Well, I was... at first. I should be far too grown up to still fall victim to an insecure need for acceptance. But now that I've carried on the ruse for a few months now, pathos has given way to fun.

You see, I've decided to turn our sports talk into a game unto itself, and that game is me figuring out how to continually fake my way though small talk while not knowing a thing about what I'm talking small about. Every time I see this guy, he comes at me with some sports comment, and I have to come up with some random reponse that hopefully doesn't make me sound like a lunatic. Most of the time, I'm just spouting total nonsense, and it's yet to fail me. Some of my go-to's thus far:

"Those refs had to be blind!" (Met with an enthusiastic nod. There's always a bad call somewhere in every game, right?)

"They played okay for what they had to work with." (Result? Solemn agreement paired with a thoughtful chin gesture. I'm clearly insightful.)

"They wanted it more and they played tough. What else can you say?" (What else, indeed. But please don't ask me.)

"I don't even wanna TALK about that game!" (Which is, most definitely, the truth.)

"The defense was reckless!" (Can a defense be reckless? I have no idea. Sounds good, though, right?)

"You could tell which way the wind was blowing." (This could mean 35 different things. I think.)

And my personal favorite?

"It's like 1994 all over again!" (I thought I was a goner with this one, but once again, it was met with a solemn nod. Maybe anything sounds believable if you put the right tone of self-confidence on it. Perhaps I should do infomercials.)

Thankfully, our encounters only occur in a few quick-sentence bursts, because this is a charade I clearly can't maintain for long. Heck, maybe he knows I have no idea what I'm talking about and just finds it funny to listen to me flounder. Either way, it's more entertaining than making banal comments about the weather to pass the time.

At some point, I should probably come clean and own up to being woefully ignorant about sports. Then again, I suppose if he mentions a team, I could always run to the bathroom real quick and look up the score on my phone. Or heck, I could take some time out and watch ESPN for a few minutes so I can REALLY fake him out. All I need to do is watch all the games, drive up to see a few in person, and maybe buy some jerseys and souvenirs. If I really want to be a convincing sports fan, all I need to do is become a sports fan.

Easy peasy. Just like 1994 all over again. (Smile and nod, people.)  

COLUMN: Change

It's probably not a good omen to kickoff 2017 griping like an old man, but it might just be my new specialty.

By the time you read this, I will have made my 46th revolution around the sun, which officially puts me closer to age 50 than 40. This does NOT sit well with me. I'm not QUITE ready to call myself an old man, but I think my days of self-describing as a "club kid" are over. I'm more like a "club man," and that just doesn't seem to work.

I am, inarguably, an adult. So why am I so bad at adulting? I don't know the first thing about car maintenance. The only things I know how to fix are empty dancefloors and frozen pizzas. I'm still not exactly sure what an "escrow" is, other than I keep paying it along with my mortgage because that's what adults do.

But there's one secret of adulting that eludes me more than anything else: I am incapable of saving money.

A streaming movie here or there, a trip or two to the record store, and a journey to the Taco Bell drive-thru now and again never feels like I'm spending a fortune, but it must add up. There's no other way to explain why I've spent the better part of my life living paycheck to paycheck. If it's in the bank, I'm spending it -- with little to show after the fact.

I might not make a very responsible adult, but I'm nothing if not creative, and I've figured out a way to defeat my own spending habits and save at least a little bit of scratch every year: I bought a jar. Okay, let's start 2017 with some honesty. I didn't buy a jar. I bought an oversized container of cheese balls. But I now refer to that cheese ball container as the First National Bank of Shane.

When I come home from work every night, I empty my pockets and throw all my extra change into the jar. It might be the grade school method of saving money, but it works. Remember two summers ago when I took a vacation to New York City? Paid in full by the jar. My X-Box One? Thanks, jar. Christmas gifts every year? Here comes Santa Jar.

Na'er-do-wells: Please do not break in and ransack my house looking for the jar. I have a security system and you WILL be on candid camera. Plus, trust me on experience when I tell you that there's nothing more embarassing than rolling up to a bank to deposit a giant jar of "CHEESE POOFS." And, as it turns out, now they won't let you.

When I went to cash in my change last month, I swapped the cheese poof container for three different smaller, slightly less embarassing jars. The cashier watched as I brought in one, then two, then the third jar of change.

"Hi!" I said with the pride and satisfaction of an adult capable of adulting. "I need to deposit this change into my account."

"I'm sorry," she replied. "We no longer accept change."

Umm. Say what? (AND why not tell me this BEFORE I lugged all three jars inside?)

Webster's defines "bank" as "the land alongside or sloping down to a river or lake." Wait, whoops. I need the other definition. "A tier of oars." No, that's not it. "The cushion of a pool table." Dagnabbit, hang on. Okay, here it is: "A financial establishment that invests money deposited by customers, pays it out when required, and exchanges currency."

Last I checked, silver change is currency. But no, apparently MY bank has now decided that it can be picky-choosy when it comes to what currency it takes in. As she explained, they recently did away with their change-counting machine due to its tendency to break down, and instead just decided to establish a corporate rule to not accept unrolled change.

"So you won't take this money for which I've established a savings account in order to save?"

"Sir," she said curtly. "We simply have no way of counting this money."

"That's funny," I replied. "I know a way to count it. Twenty-five... fifty... seventy-five... ONE dollar. Twenty-five..." She was not amused.

She gave me two options: Either take the change to one of those Coinstar machines that splits the profits with you, or come back later with the money neatly secured in coin rolls. There was nothing I could do but express my displeasure and storm out of the bank, an act that loses a bit of drama when you have to storm out three times in a row in order to haul three jars of change BACK to the car.

Look, I get it. I wouldn't want to count change either. That's why I'm not a bank. I don't like it when I'm at a DJ gig and somebody requests "Baby Got Back," but I still play it, because I'm a DJ, and that's my job. How are rolled coins any better than loose change? If there's no one at the bank to count it, what's to stop Joe Q. Public from short-changing the rolls? Or, even more nefariously, someone could easily roll up wooden nickels or a row of quarter-sized washers. This policy seems like it would create more problems than solve.

I'm sure some families spent Christmas night basking in the glow of a warm fire, singing carols and reflecting in the joy of the holiday season. The Brown family, meanwhile, spent Christmas night like Ebeneezer Scrooge on a bender, huddled around a pile of coin rolls indignantly muttering, "ONE penny... TWO pennies... THREE pennies..." If there were chestnuts roasting on any open fires, I sure missed it. I had dimes to roll up.

I tried to be an adult, I really did. I saved money like a grown-up (or, perhaps, like a 5-year-old with an alarming affinity for cheese balls.) It's not MY fault that my bank would have none of it. Maybe this is a sign I should take my freshly-rolled coins to the record store instead. I'll be the one shopping for old man music.

COLUMN: Almost A Car Wreck

If you're reading this, it's a good thing. You survived 2016.

Hopefully, so did I -- unless, of course, the paper is running this column posthumously as a moving tribute to my memory. If that's the case, I'd better see some tears from you people, because I WILL be watching. Also, please contact Zak Bagans and the Ghost Adventures crew and tell them to investigate my house pronto, because I have full plans to haunt the heck out of this place after my demise.

How much did 2016 suck? Some of my favorite TV shows got cancelled. Most of the summer blockbluster movies were awful. An orange-tinted reality star is about to be our next President. And yes, all the celebrities that ever mattered to my childhood seem to be shuffling off this mortal coil at an alarming rate. This jerkwad of a year took away Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Phife Dawg, Garry Shandling, and a kajillion other people we loved, including our good friend Ellis Kell. We lost Carol Brady, Jason Seaver, Grizzly Adams, Willy Wonka, Miss Cleo, and Mr. Drummond. Ziggy no longer plays guitar. No one wants to see us dancing in the purple rain. There's nobody to spin us right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby.

I'm writing this on December 27th. The serial killer known as 2016 has four more days before its execution. Earlier today, it almost got ME.

Technically, I'm on vacation this week. I had some extra time-off to burn in 2016, so I thought I'd splurge and extend my Christmas weekend by a couple of days. And oh my, did I have exciting plans. I wanted to spend my vacation at the happiest place in all the world. That's right, I went on vacation to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

My driver's license is set to expire soon, and I don't fancy a repeat of last time. A few years back, I had no clue my license had expired until I tried to go to a trivia night on Arsenal Island and handed my ID to the guard at the gate. Next thing I knew, I was surrounded my military police and my poor car nearly got impounded to federal car jail. Worst of all, we lost the trivia game, which if you know my team is nearly unforgivable. No siree, I needed to play by the rules this time and procure a spanky new license in sufficient time.

As you know, our local DMV is conveniently located on the absolute edge of nowhere in a strip mall that's so ridiculously hard to access, they might as well just hand out licenses to anyone who makes it in the door -- if you can find the place, you know what you're doing behind the wheel. The DMV is at the polar opposite end of the Quad Cities from my house, and any attempts to make it from here to there are less an errand and more like a daytrip.

I mustered up every remaining ounce of holiday spirit and climbed into my car with a positive attitude -- which lasted for eleven minutes.

That's how long it took for me to get to downtown Moline, where I witnessed one of the nastiest car wrecks I've ever seen. It was the kind of thing you simply can't make light of -- it was awful and I'm sure people got hurt. It happened just a few blocks ahead of me and caused a pickup truck to flip onto its roof, or what was left of it. It certainly wasn't what I wanted to see en route to renew a license that allowed me the privilege of perhaps being in a similar accident someday myself. My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved, and I hope everybody's okay.

Witnessing the aftermath of that collision up close and personal made me grip the wheel a little tighter as I continued on my way, and it's a good thing I did. Just minutes later, I was toodling down 12th Avenue when a woman in a pickup made a left turn against oncoming traffic. The oncoming traffic was me. This woman just turned smack into my lane as if I were Wonder Man flying my invisible jet instead of Chubby Guy driving a perfectly visible Hyundai.

I'm not usually known for my lightning fast reflexes. Thankfully, they were there today. The instant I saw her, I slammed on my brakes and missed t-boning her by three feet. She, meanwhile, had seen me coming and ALSO slammed on the brakes, stopping across my entire lane frozen like a deer with a dumbstruck look on her face.

I am a nice guy. I pride myself on being pleasant to people. But everybody has their limits. There are times when its proper to say "thank you." There are times when it's polite to say "excuse me." And now I can say with some certainty that there are times when you just have to roll down your window and yell "WHAT THE [EXPLETIVE], LADY?!" Sorry, my bad.

I picked my stomach up off the ground and headed on, leaving a good portion of rubber and a not-so-good portion of my lunch on 12th Avenue. Eventually, I made to the DMV -- to find it closed for the holiday. Exactly which holiday they chose to celebrate on December 27th is a mystery, but if I had to reckon a guess, I'd say they were observing International Elevate A Shane's Blood Pressure Day.

There's not too many things worth dying for. A visit to a closed DMV is certainly NOT among that list. "Here lies Shane; License Expired January 2017" is NOT the epitaph I'm looking for. If 2016 wants to end me behind the wheel of a car, it had better be preceded by a booty call from Katie Holmes or some equally worthwhile endeavor. Until that happens, I'm staying as put as put can be for the next four days.

Here's to a much happier new year. Sorry I swore at you, lady.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Daytrotter Downs 2017 This Weekend

If you need something to do this weekend, there's only one correct answer.

The line-up for this year's Daytrotter Downs festival is their best yet.  I'm beyond excited to check out Post Animal, Nothing, Gaelynn Lea, Joan of Arc, SSION, and that's only scratching the surface of the 40+ bands playing over the next two days.  You'll find me there for sure.