Friday, March 29, 2024

COLUMN: Locker Room

There were a lot of things on my dance card for this week. Exposing myself to an elderly lady was NOT one of them.

I've never been one for public nudity. In a civilized society, I wouldn't expect this to be an especially controversial stance. Maybe stripping down to your skivvies is your idea of a fun time. If so, have at it. To each their own, I say. There's even a nudist campground a few miles outside the Quad Cities. If you fancy heading out there to risk bees stinging you in places bees should never visit, don't let me stop you.

(True story: It's been years since I've been out that way, so I don't know if it's still there, but there used to be a farm next to that nudist campground where they raised somewhat exotic animals like buffalo and llamas. I was aimlessly joyriding one weekend when I happened upon that farm. I had recently purchased a fancy camera and thought the buffalo might make good test subjects, so I pulled off to take a pic. Only then did it dawn on me that snapping pics with a telephoto lens while standing feet from an entrance to a nudist campground is probably NOT the best plan of action should I wish NOT to have a reputation as a creeper pervert, so I quickly eased on down the road with no candid buffalo snapshots as a memento of my journey.)

I'm not anti-nudist, but it is NOT my lifestyle du jour. If my clothes could wear clothes, I'd enthusiastically encourage it to happen. I've spent a lot of time in this body, and it's not exactly a treat to behold. I know its nooks and crannies quite well, and it's never going to win any awards. A renaissance artist is never going to stop me on the street and say, "I MUST PAINT YOU!" 

But I'm pretty sure that even if I were svelte, symmetrical, and statuesque, I still wouldn't be into showing off my goods. The master list of people who have seen me naked is fairly small, and I'd like to keep membership to that club as exclusive as possible. If I could wear clothes into the shower, I probably would.

When I graduated high school, I took comfort in the fact it might be the last time I ever stepped foot into a locker room. But that was before this exciting past year of doctors and lectures and medically-motivated gym memberships. I've been going to the gym regularly for months now, but I've also been fairly steadfast about avoiding the locker room. I simply roll up to the gym already dressed in workout gear, get sweaty and gross, and then drive promptly home to shower in privacy.

But a funny thing happens in the wintertime I'd never factored: it gets mighty cold outside. Trekking to your car in a t-shirt and workout pants when there's a -20 wind chill isn't especially ideal. So, with teeth clenched, I took the plunge and rented a locker at the gym. Yes, nothing brings us together as a society quite like communal nudity and the compelling stench of B.O. mixed with Axe Body Spray. Oh, how I missed you, locker rooms.

When I'm changing at the gym, I try my best to keep my head down and blend into the woodwork. I have but two rules of etiquette in the locker room: (1) Get in and out as quickly as possible, and (2) ignore everything and everyone around you. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's not. 

A couple weeks ago, I was in the locker room with a couple other guys who, based on their racquets and, umm, balls, had just finished playing racquetball. It quickly became apparent that the two were co-workers, and Guy #1 was giving Guy #2 advice on an upcoming work presentation. This was fine and dandy, except Guy #1 was doling out his sagely wisdom while standing there stark naked. At one point, he abandoned all pretense of getting dressed and just stood uncomfortably close to his colleague in nothing more than a birthday suit while discussing marketing strategies. I'm not sure if I was witnessing pure confidence or pure obliviousness on his part. Either way, I'm not buying whatever you're selling, dude.

But that was nothing compared to this week's locker room adventure. As per usual, I was giving my best effort at ignoring the world around me. I even had an audiobook playing in my earpods. Stephen King was avidly describing a grisly murder to me in gruesome detail, but I wasn't paying attention. I was too distracted by the weird noise coming from my left. It was the sound of water running, but nothing was over there except some other dude changing.

Curiosity finally got the better of me, so I finally stole a glance to see what the noise was. I was not expecting the noise to be an elderly lady. My locker room buddy was changing, sure enough, but he also had his phone propped up in his locker, and on that phone was video of an elderly woman doing dishes at her kitchen sink. But this wasn't watching a movie. He was Facetiming and chatting with this woman in real time.

"Well, that's just silly," I thought to myself. It took five more seconds for logic to hit me. If I could see this random elderly woman, this random elderly woman could DEFINITELY see me -- and more of me than she should ever be seeing. Yep, all my assorted bits and bobs were right there in glorious 5G technicolor. I pulled up my pants and dove out of frame so frantically I nearly faceplanted over one of the benches. I sure hope Random Guy's Mom enjoyed the show. For all I know, I could be the star attraction on as I type.

I should've screamed at the guy. I should've tattled to the front desk. But my urge to remain anonymous and blend into the woodwork won out, so I sheepishly left while cursing him out in my mind. My new locker room plea is to please ignore me and carry on doing whatever you do, UNLESS what you do is amateur cinematography. Warm weather can't get here fast enough so I can go back to avoiding that room like the plague. In the meantime, quick, everyone put some clothes on -- I need to call my mom and tell her what time I'll be home for Easter.

Friday, March 22, 2024

COLUMN: Cat Psychic

As I type this sentence, my cat is sitting in the kitchen staring at me. She's been at it for around fifteen minutes now. Just sitting perfectly still, eyes focused my way with a cold emotionless gaze. I have no idea what's behind this. Am I entertainment? Am I prey? Am I being disapprovingly judged? Is her brain simply in the "off" position? I have no way of knowing.

At least I didn't until now.

It's no real secret that "reality" TV is the bottom of the entertainment barrel. I know this to be true, because I have swum to the bottom of its acrid depths and tasted her rotting forbidden fruit more times than I care to admit. I'm a sucker for any show where idiots are forced to interact with other idiots. Or where bumps in the night are irrefutable proof of ghosts. Or where any rustle in the trees means "there's a 'Squatch in these woods!" I'm perfectly okay with reality TV as long as you realize it's not especially real.

At least I was until now.

I've just watched a few clips of a new British reality show that's surely 100% real and not a load of hooey whatsoever. It's a show that could change the course of humanity, expand our basic understanding of nature, and cause us to question and redefine our very place in the cosmos. A show that could only be called... "THE PET PSYCHIC."

Some people coast through life, offering no positive contributions to the world around us. No such fate has befallen Beth Lee-Crowther. Beth has instead, at what I can only assume to be great personal sacrifice, gifted society with her wonderful talent -- the ability to psychically communicate with our household pets to tell us their most intimate thoughts and desires. Just like the famous Dr. Doolittle before her, Beth can talk to the animals.

It appears to come fairly easily to a skilled telepath like Beth. She just sort of sits next to your pet, makes a weird face, and then tells the owners something like, "Your dog just told me he thinks you're lazy" or "the cat thinks your kids are too loud." Seems legit to me. After all, there's no evidence that she's NOT psychically talking to our beloved pets -- well, I mean, apart from our basic understanding of science, nature, biology, and the known limitations of minds both human and animal. But otherwise, it seems to check out. If she were a fraud, surely our pets would let us know, right? 

And last week, Beth dropped a bombshell. In an interview with, Lee-Crowther informed us of a new and exciting development in pet psychic-dom. According to Beth, we are ALL blessed with her same gift and can communicate psychically with our pets. We just need to follow her step-by-step instructions. Ever wondered why your dog pees on the carpet? Concerned whether your cat prefers chicken or salmon? Ever stayed up late at night worried that your lizard thinks you're lazy? All this time, we've had the ability inside of us to seek the answers.

According to Lee-Crowther, here's all you need to do to psychically have a chat with your beloved pet:

First, use a meditation technique of your preference to get your mind into a "relaxed theta state" in order to send and receive telepathic messages. I have no idea what this means, but hey, give it a shot. I'll wait. Okay, are you relaxed and all theta'd up? Good. Next, take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for seven seconds, and breathe out your mouth. Do this three times.

With your eyes open, take your middle finger and place it on your intuitive third eye in the center of your forehead between your eyes. Then tap this point with your fingertip gently seven times. Keep your finger on your forehead, look up at your finger, and slowly cross your eyes while staring upward for 10 seconds. Now, close your eyes and imagine yourself at a familiar and happy place you love. Think of the animal you want to communicate with. Open your eyes to look at the animal, and in your mind, say their name three times and ask them to join you.

According to Beth, you should now be able to carry on a mental chit-chat with your pet and they should respond to your questions in turn. The answers "may seem like your own voice in your mind or it might be a vision or thought from the pet or animal. It could be an emotion, gut feeling, or aroma. Each animal is always different, but just allow the messages to flow."

Seems perfectly logical and not at all insane, and I've always yearned for my cat to send me psychic smells, because the litterbox just isn't visceral enough. So I just gave it a shot. I meditated for a bit, held my breath for seven seconds, put my middle finger on my forehead, tapped seven times, stared upwards, did the hokey-pokey, and turned myself around. I closed my eyes and imagined myself at a familiar and happy place I love (Co-Op Records!) I thought of my cat, said her name three times in my mind ("Meatbag Meatbag Meatbag,") and asked her to join me.

She didn't budge, but it didn't stop me from asking, "What are you thinking right now?"

Plain as day, I heard my cat psychically respond in my brain. She clearly said, "I'm wondering why you're flipping me off. Also, you're lazy. NOW GIVE ME FOOD."

Bless you, reality TV. Without your informative truth, I might never know how real housewives behave. I would have no idea how people catch Alaskan king crab or drive trucks on ice roads. I might not even know who Kylie Jenner's dating. And now, I can carry on all the private mental conversations with my cat I fancy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go. I need to hold my breath for seven seconds, tap my forehead seven times, slide to the left, slide to the right, take it back now y'all, cha cha real smooth, and find out why my cat is sending me psychic urine smells from the basement.

Friday, March 15, 2024

COLUMN: Pothole Champion

This week, I want to bring you a feel-good story. One of those tales that fills you with warm fuzzies and makes you wanna run out and adopt a dog from Sarah McLachlan or something. Today, I use my platform to salute a tireless community activist who goes the extra mile to help his entire neighborhood through times of crisis.

Yes, today I'd like to celebrate... ME. As it turns out, I'm kinda awesome.

I've been called MANY things, but "community activist" has never been one of them. I like my community just fine, but in the motion picture that is my neighborhood, I much prefer the coveted role of "quiet guy who mostly keeps to himself although sometimes we occasionally hear dance beats coming out of his basement." This is the carefully crafted mystique I have painstakingly carved for myself, and I'm in no hurry to change that. 

As a Rock Island homeowner, my demands have been fairly minimal. I like to feel safe in my neighborhood. I like to treat people with kindness and hope they do the same in return. I like peace and calm. And I like driving down my alley without feeling like someone kicked me between the legs. One of these things has been a challenge of late.

To call the chasm at the end of my alley a "pothole" would be a bit of an understatement. For some time now, it's been less of a pothole and more of a pot-canyon. Our delightful Midwest weather routinely wreaks havoc on our area roadways, and my own neighborhood is no exception. What started as a wee crack last year where my alley meets the streets has now become a crevasse unfit for man nor Hyundai. There's been one tiny remaining parcel of pavement that you could ride out to the street if you aimed JUST right. But if you miss that mark a few inches to the left, you're basically falling into the Land of the Lost where you can only hope the Sleestacks are friendly folk who operate affordable tire repair shops. 

I've been dealing with it for weeks now. And yes, I could simply drive the OTHER direction and exit my alley from the far end, but that's a lot to ask of my brain at 8:00 a.m. before it's had coffee. I always forget until I pull up right to the edge of the hole, and by then I'm usually stubborn, lazy, late for work, and resigned to allowing my left tires to take a quick spelunking expedition to the lower depths of Rock Island. 

Last week, I finally decided to take action. That's right, at great time and personal sacrifice, I Googled "HOW TO REPORT POTHOLE ROCK ISLAND ILLINOIS." To my surprise, Google answered quickly. I had no idea that many of our local governments use a service called SeeClickFix to allow residents to report potholes, animal control, graffiti, and other non-emergency issues. The process is smooth and takes just a few seconds.

I clicked submit and had to laugh when SeeClickFix replied with the message, "Thank you for reporting Pothole (#16128520)." I may have even posted a snarky comment on Facebook that 16,128,520 potholes in Rock Island seemed accurate. 

I didn't expect any type of immediate resolution. Heck, part of me didn't expect ANY resolution other than the personal satisfaction of narcing out my pothole to some kind of electronic powers-that-be. I took Civics class in junior high, and I've even been to a couple city council meetings. Here's what I expected to happen: My report would be logged. Perhaps one day, it might be even be seen by a human. That human might then bring it to the attention of other humans who probably have a subcommittee that's created a task force to analyze these sorts of complaints. And maybe, just maybe, one day the issue might get resolved.

Once you've registered on the SeeClickFix site, it sends you alerts when other issues in your neighborhood get reported. A few days later, someone else reported a different pothole a block away. When I was online checking that out, I also looked at the status of MY request. The last time I'd checked, it was under the status of "ACKNOWLEDGED." It had since moved to "CLOSED." The pothole had NOT been fixed. Hmm.

I decided to message Rock Island Alderman Dylan Parker. He's not MY alderman, but we're friendly on social media, so I asked if he knew what the "CLOSED" status meant. "That means they think it's resolved," he replied, and asked me to send him a pic of the pothole. But I don't live in Dylan's ward and didn't want to bug him. Instead, I did something I've never done before. I wrote MY alderman and explained the issue. I've never met the guy before. I always assumed they were busy, you know, aldering and what-not. 

I certainly didn't expect a prompt response that my request had been forwarded to the City Manager and the Public Works Director. And I definitely didn't expect to come home two hours later to discover the mighty chasm filled with fresh smooth blacktop. The next day, I noticed the other pothole a block away had been patched as well. Ask and ye shall receive, I guess.

Guess what? City governments actually DO work for the people sometimes. Honestly, I'm still blown away. Frankly, it took more work to write the thank-you reply than it did to get the pothole fixed, and that's just awesome. I had a preconceived notion in my head that my request would get filed in a "we'll-get-to-it-when-we-get-to-it" pile, and the city just proved me wrong in the best way.

So here's a big public thank you to Aldermen Robinson and Parker and the whole Public Works team at the City of Rock Island. I've seen umpteen people complaining about potholes on social media. I was one of 'em. As it turns out, maybe we should all stop complaining to the gods of Facebook and instead try submitting our requests to the elected people who can (and do) make a difference. You might just be surprised what you can get accomplished.

I don't think I'm cut out for city government. My skin's probably not tough enough for everything they have to endure. But I'm AWFULLY good at whining, so maybe community activism should be my new calling. What should I tackle next? Economic development? Gentrification? Crime prevention? Wait, I know:

"Dear Mr. Mayor, for too long, my neighborhood has been shamefully lacking in taco trucks..."

Friday, March 08, 2024

COLUMN: Roundabout

I've always taken pride in being a forward thinker.

Even as a kid, I loved sci-fi dreams of flying cars and household robots to carry out my every need. I've always been a fan of breaking new ground and pushing boundaries. New technology fascinates me. I look to the stars and seek the answers to life, the universe, and everything. I am Shane, embracer of progress.

At least, that's the story I try to tell myself. Truth be told, I'm a future-fearing fuddy-duddy. 

I hate change. There is comfort in the routine and familiar. Sure, I love going to new places and trying new things, as long as I know I can drive home on familiar streets to the same house in the same condition I left it, where all my stuff is in the same place I know it to be. Knowing how things work and knowing what to expect yields confidence, something my brain has always woefully lacked.

I pretend to be a cheerleader for progress, but here's the truth. About a year ago, we re-arranged the cubicles at my office. I was NOT a happy camper, and spent the better part of a week throwing what, in hindsight, can only be described as a hissy fit. I liked my old cubicle. I liked its views, its size, and its proximity to the break room.

But here's the thing. Our cubicles at work are identical. They all have the same views: cubicle walls. They're all the exact same size. My new cubicle is a few more paces to the breakroom, but a few less paces to the photocopier, so it's a fair trade. By and large, it's the exact same. But the mere idea of being forced to change was enough for me to throw a tantrum and act like some great injustice had been thrust upon me. I'm a sad, silly person.

And yet the future keeps coming. Artificial intelligence is moving at such leaps and bounds that in just a few years, we might be going to the theater to watch movies scriped, produced, and acted by computers. Popular music sounds more and more like angry robots every day. Cars are driving themselves. Don't get me started on politics and what the future (or potentially lack thereof) may hold.

But there's a couple things happening locally that are causing my irrational fear of change to max out. Don't be surprised if you soon see me outside picketing with a sign that says, "I HATE THIS AND I CAN'T OFFER A RATIONAL EXPLANATION WHY."

In less than 2 weeks, the Government Bridge to Arsenal Island will close for the remainder of spring and a good part of the summer. Why? Because Davenport is taking out the perfectly functional intersection at the end of the bridge and replacing it with a roundabout -- or, as I like to call them, a WHEEL OF ETERNAL FEAR.

I despise roundabouts. And I come from Galesburg, where we had one in our downtown before roundabouts were even cool. I don't understand the need, the point, or the advantages. Ergo, I looked it up. All you have to do is type "roundabout" into Google, and you're immediately greeted by not 1, not 2, but SEVEN articles from assorted state governments entitled, "THE BENEFITS OF ROUNDABOUTS." Note: If your state's government has to publish articles about why roundabouts are a good thing, it likely means there's a whoooole lot of people who need convincing.

The basic pro-roundabout arguments: They're less dangerous. There's a 90% reduction in fatality collisions. They slow down dangerous traffic and risky behavior. They control the flow of traffic without the need for stoplights. One article even argued they curb pollution, which is hooey. At best, they curb pollution at that particular intersection. But the cars are still polluting, whether they're stopped at your light or toodling down the road. They're just helping disperse the pollution. 

All these pro-roundabout arguments only work if you assume that (a) you're not an idiot, and (b) neither are any of the other drivers around you. That's a big ask. When I merge into a roundabout, my blood pressure raises and I white-knuckle the steering wheel through the whole process. I never know when to smoothly merge or let others merge. There's always a crazy person cruising the inside lane like they're turning laps at Bristol. There's honking and scowls and friendly greetings from middle fingers aplenty. I suppose the statistics don't lie, but in my world, it takes more brainpower and stress to navigate a circle than stop and watch a pretty light turn from red to green.

The roundabout, though, is just a pre-cursor to the main event, which is when Davenport converts their downtown one-ways into two-lane stop-and-go streets in a year or two. I'm also not a fan of this plan, but I also have NO justifiable reason for my outrage, other than my 6-minute commute will likely become a 9-minute commute. I plan on spending those three bonus minutes pouting and grumbling under my breath. Be prepared.

The downtown one-ways can certainly be hazardous. There's nothing kids love more than treating those stretches of road like their own personal drag strips, and it's intimidating to cross them on foot. There's also morons who turn the wrong way down those one-ways. I should know, I was one of them once. Back in high school, shortly after procuring my license, I tried to impress a girl I was sweet on by driving her up to the Quad Cities without my parents knowing (sorry, Mom, if you're reading this.) She wasn't especially impressed when I turned the wrong way onto 3rd Ave. and almost made fast friends with an oncoming truck. I get the arguments, but I still don't want things to change.

I can't help but feel like the little kid in me would be horribly disappointed not just by my fuddy-duddy attitude, but by our entire concept of future reality. After all, we were promised jetpacks and flying cars. Thus far, the only thing the future holds is stop-and-go traffic and driving around in circles. In the meantime, I'd better go clean my kitchen. It appears my robot maid must be taking a personal day.

Friday, March 01, 2024

COLUMN: Auction Barn Fire

On Saturday evening, the former Rock Island Livestock Auction Barn burned to the ground. Investigators have determined the fire appears to have been intentionally set. At the time I'm writing this, the culprit has yet to be found.

It wasn't me. I've got an alibi, promise.

I was on my way to a trivia night in Davenport, and had just stopped for a pre-game bite at Qdoba on Kimberly Road. "Whoa," I said to the open air as I got out of my car and saw the plume of black smoke billowing from the southern horizon. "That's a big fire."

I didn't realize at the time HOW big it was. I assumed something was ablaze just a few blocks away, not a few MILES away. It wasn't until I was leaving the restaurant and back in my car that I realized the scope and distance of the massive fire. This caused a couple panicked moments of wondering if it was my neighborhood (it wasn't.) Then it caused a couple downright stupid moments of me trying to check my phone while driving (not advised. Also see: illegal.)

Then it was back to panic when I realized the car behind me was doing the same thing and appeared more concerned about the growing fire than my rear bumper, which he allllmost had a blind date with before my honking made him look up and slam the brakes. Of course, the guy in front of me then thought I was honking at HIM for some reason, which caused him to wave hello with his middle finger. It was a good time.

Alibis aside, though, there's a number of reasons why I wouldn't make a good arson suspect. For one, fires are scary. I like a good campfire, but only provided someone ELSE is in charge of it. Responsibility has never been my strong suit, and I've seen too many horrible stories of devastating infernos that can be traced to one idiot who didn't put out a campfire correctly. No thanks. I don't need that kind of pressure in my life. 

Also, I've always really liked that auction barn. I've never been inside, but it was a cool building from the exterior. Back in the days when I may or may not have been partially responsible for bringing rave culture to the Quad Cities, we even looked into renting that place once for a party. But as memory serves, a rather confused gentleman had to gently explain to a couple of aspiring immature entrepreneurs that putting a thousand teenagers in a wooden building full of hay and manure probably WASN'T a top-notch idea.

But mostly, I'd make a lousy arsonist because I wouldn't be able to hide the crime well. All they'd have to do is listen and follow the sneezing. I've suffered from hay fever my entire life. And, as it turns out, it's especially bad when the hay in question is aflame.

As I drove home after trivia that night, the fire had been mostly contained, but the smoke was pretty terrible. I don't live especially close to the auction barn, but even my Rock Island neighborhood was looking like foggy London when I got home. "Uh oh," I mumbled as I pulled into my alley, "this isn't gonna end well."

It takes approximately six steps to get from my garage to my back door. I was outside for less than thirty seconds. But the simple act of walking those six steps and unlocking my back door was enough to launch my allergies into overdrive. I was sneezing before I even made it in the house. Thirty minutes later, I was still at it. Even the dual defense line of Claritin and Flonase were no match for the cooties in the air that night.

I can't count the number of times I've started off the day with a 21-sneeze salute to the morning. There's just no way to be cool while you're sneezing. I've known people with the uncanny ability to stifle sneezes and just make a little "fft" noise under their breath. That's not a life skill I've been blessed with, and also seems like a nifty way to burst your eardrums and shoot your eyeballs clean across the room. When I sneeze, it's an ugly, unctrollable "ra-FLUGHEOOOOOOO" sound that no one on Earth wants to hear, let alone me.

There was once a time when I could almost make uncontrollable allergies seem charming. One sneeze is perfectly acceptable. Two or three in a row can be cute. Ten is annoying. But when you sneeze twenty times in a row, it transitioned into comedy gold. Those were the before-times. Then COVID hit. Today, we're all a little bit more hyperaware that the air we're breathing is being shared by everyone else in the room. If I go into a sneezing fit nowadays, the best I can hope for is a nervous giggle that says, "you're silly. Please don't let your silliness kill me."

These genetics were lovingly handed down from my mother, who also suffers the same crazy allergies as me. Growing up, mornings at my house must have been SUPER fun for my poor dad, sitting at the breakfast table while mom and I traded off rapid-fire assault sneezes while squabbling over control of the tissue box. 

Allergies or no, though, the fire at the auction barn was BAD. Remember how fast I dashed into the house that night? Just the three seconds I had my back door open was enough to cause the air purifier in my living room to kick on. It could smell what the Rock was cooking that night, and it was apparently toxic.

So to whoever started that blaze, you suck. People could've been hurt. You took down one of the coolest buildings in Rock Island, cost the city a ton of time and manpower, caused the entire west end to lose power, and presumably made the whole town reek like a bonfire. I couldn't tell, because I spent the night looking especially sexy with a red face, watery eyes, and Kleenex shoved up both nostrils while checking my security cameras to ensure no cows were milling about in my yard. 

I was, however, looking for something to do that night, and I guess you solved that dilemma for me. Gee, thanks.

Friday, February 23, 2024

COLUMN: Inner Gold

WARNING: The following column features activities performed either by idiots or idiots under the supervision of other idiots. Accordingly, Shane must insist that no one attempt to recreate or re-enact any activity mentioned in this column.

Or, in short, please don't pee in your eye.

There was once a time when I would've assumed "don't pee in your eye" would be an unnecessary disclaimer in a world with common sense. But that was a world BEFORE the internet. We now live in different times. Stupider times.

I've spent the past few columns obsessing over online idiocy, and that's because I have nothing much better to do in the winter than sit around and scroll through TikTok in judgment of society. I've found videos claiming the Super Bowl was rigged and other videos offering "FINAL PROOF" that Taylor Swift is, in fact, a reptilian alien with a hidden agenda for global domination. I've watched cringe-worthy livestreams of individuals unburdened by talent who think they're great singers and/or captivating comedians.

On special occasion, I've even watched clips of people convinced that our Earth is flat as a pancake. Here's what I don't get about that argument: if the world were flat, which it decidedly is NOT, why the global (or, errm, rectangular) cover-up? Wouldn't we have just learned this flat factoid in science class? Why would our flat earth require some kind of epic conspiracy to keep us in the dark? Is it just so none of us dare sail off the edge into oblivion? I don't get it. 

But nothing I've run into on TikTok is quite like the page of one Suama Fraile.  

Suama is an "assistant metaphysical counselor," which is apparently something that one can be. When it comes to natural holistic medicine, she claims to be an expert. You can tell this because she exudes an aura of confidence (and possibly patchouli) in her videos -- and also because she paints a little sun on her forehead, which is something I always look for when seeking expert counsel.

When I'm fast-scrolling through dozens of videos on TikTok, you've got about 1.5 seconds to pique my interest or I'm flipping right past you. Well, Suama's video got my attention in record time by its opening line alone: "I will now tell you why urine is so wonderful." Interest level achieved. Well done.

According to Suama, we've all been doing this whole "life" thing wrong for a mighty long time. Some people say that laughter is the best medicine. Personally, I've always advocated that medicine is the best medicine. Suama is a firm believer that the best medicine is actually human urine. 

"We carry our own internal medicine that's perfect for us," she explains. "Wonderful herbs come out of the urine," she declares confidently. "It is loaded with minerals, like gold. Our own inner gold."

To prove her point, she then tells us that she's cured herself of astigmatism and myopia. How, you may ask? By pouring urine into her eyes on a daily basis, of course. How could we as a society have been duped all these years into wearing glasses and trusting optometrists when we can simply fix it all with our "inner gold"? Curse our foolish naivety.

You may have questions. I certainly do. Chief among them: who was the first person to attempt this, and WHY? Who was the legendary trendsetter who thought, "Hey, THIS stuff belongs in my eye!" Second, even if you wanted to partake in such an activity (which you should NOT), HOW does one even accomplish this? I would think there might be logistical challenges in such an endeavor. After all, you don't want to run the risk of an errant shot causing your forehead painting to run.

Like all of us (admit it), I have not been immune to one or two restroom mishaps in my life, but thus far nothing so tragic as to introduce my eyes to "inner gold." I did see a funny video once of a new father suffering a horrible fate while attempting his first diaper change, but I don't recall him throwing away his contact lenses in triumph. Instead, I'm pretty sure he screamed.

But questions are okay. Questions are good, and Suama's ready for them. She'll answer them all. All you need to do is provide Suama with your credit card and you can take her class to learn all the wonders of "urine therapy." She'll even teach you how to "make" something called "enhanced urine" (I'm not asking.) In another video, she tells of a secret mantra you can utter several times a day to fix all your woes. That's a separate class. Apparently, based on her fiscal solvency to consistently afford forehead paint alone, people are paying good money to learn how to mumble nonsense and pee into their own eyeballs. I love our world.

I did some research (and am now probably on some kind of FBI watchlist) and "urine therapy" really is a thing in some of the stranger corners of the holistic internet. REAL doctors even did a study you can find entitled, "The Golden Fountain - Is urine the miracle drug no one told you about?" Spoiler alert: It is NOT. Unsurprisingly, words like "contamination" and "bacterial growth" are abundant in their findings, and the study even shows that folks who recycle their "inner gold" for crazypants purposes are often prone to antibiotic resistance. In other words, DON'T DO IT. Like, ever.

But, I suppose, who are we to believe? Science and scientists and doctors and nurses and anyone with a shred of common sense? Or a nice lady with a forehead painting asking for my Mastercard? Maybe if we stopped listening to that pesky logic of ours and followed Suama's helpful advice, we could one day be able to walk down the street with perfect 20/20 vision, which we could then use to clearly see all the people pointing and laughing and saying, "there goes the crazy lady who pees in her eye."

Friday, February 16, 2024


We are a bitter, divided nation. The bickering, hatred, and putdowns have become too much. This week, all I've seen is division and squabbling and the ugliest sides of human nature in full display. Is it a fool's dream to think we can mend the fences, bridge the gap, and bring everyone closer in unity and harmony?

Somehow, some way, we need to come together... and just accept this year's nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

As arguments go, this is one I'm okay with perpetuating. Do I have opinions on politics, vaccinations, Russia, immigration, and the current state of our economy? Sure I do. But, by and large, do I keep my yap shut? You betcha. For one, I don't want to alienate half my readership. For another, I'm fully self-aware of my lack of qualifications to talk about such things. You want political opinion? Turn to the opinion page. You want a bangin' mixtape? I'm your boy.

Music is my life force. I was changing records on my mom's hi-fi before I could properly walk. I can't dance to save my life, but it turns out you can still belong in a dance club if you're the one standing in the DJ booth shaping the playlist. The only reason I bought a house was because my record collection was outgrowing my apartment. The other day, I overheard some co-workers talking about music and all I felt was pure seething rage that they had the audacity to not include me in the conversation. I am music nerd, hear me roar.

And if there's one thing that pushes music nerds into overdrive, it's the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Every year, the closed-door nomination committee of the Rock Hall presents a shortlist of nominated artists, who are then voted on by an elite group of music industry experts. Artists qualify for induction once it's been 25 years since their first release. The winners are then inducted at a nationally televised ceremony. Following that, they're added to the ever-growing exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland. It's a fairly big deal.

And every year, they invariably get it wrong. No self-respecting music nerd is ever happy with the nominees, the winners, or the ceremony. The entire process seems less about honoring the inductees and more about getting fans upset about who DIDN'T make the cut. Either that or maybe I need to make different friends on Twitter. The music geeks I know get REALLY mad. Cursing and swearing mad. 

There's two common themes to the outrage. The first, and most obvious, involves the rather loose application of "rock & roll." Most people hear the term and think guitar/bass/drums. The Rock Hall thinks otherwise. There are country, soul, and pop artists in the Rock Hall. There are (gasp) rappers in the Rock Hall. This irks rock purists to no end.

The other argument is something along the lines of "how dare they nominate [any popular artist] when [some influential band who only 4 people on your continent have ever heard of] hasn't made it in?!" The righteous music nerd in me agrees with these sentiments to a degree. You might not have heard of The MC5 -- they're certainly not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But in greasy Detroit clubs in 1968, The MC5 pretty much invented punk rock. Search the Rock Hall all you want, but you won't find the industrial clangs of Throbbing Gristle or Einsturzende Neubaten, a German band known for playing homemade instruments made from scrap metal and power tools. But you WILL find Nine Inch Nails in the Rock Hall, a band whose very existence was predicated on those noisemakers paving the way (often literally, with onstage sledgehammers.) Two of the most influential bands of MY musical upbringing, The Smiths and My Bloody Valentine, have never made the cut.

But I get it. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame isn't just an honor-bestowing organization. It's a business. No one's gonna tune in to watch a band they've never heard of get inducted. The museum needs to draw more visitors than just pretentious record store clerks. Few people on Earth would make Cleveland a vacation destination in order to see a sledgehammer that Einsturzende Neubaten once dragged onstage. The Rock Hall needs Elton John's glasses. It needs Michael Jackson's glove. It needs Taylor Swift's catsuit.

This year's nominees were just announced. It is perhaps the least rock & roll offering they've ever assembled. There is much outrage. Even I was initally like, "Whaaa?" But the more I thought about it, the more impressed I am by this year's nominees.

You've got a handful of true rock artists in the mix: Ozzy, Peter Frampton, and Foreigner. Newly qualified artists like Jane's Addiction, Lenny Kravitz, and the Dave Matthews Band have made the shortlist. The late Sinead O'Connor has been honored with a nomination. But let's focus for a second on the ones the rock snobs are mocking. I argue they have every right to be there.

Mary J. Blige was the first artist to bridge the gap between R&B and hip-hop. Kool & the Gang have twenty-one Top 40 singles. When Liam Gallagher heard his band Oasis had been nominated, he said, "I don't need some wank award by some geriatric in a cowboy hat," which is pretty rock & roll if you ask me. Eric B. & Rakim wrote the blueprint for modern rap. A Tribe Called Quest made jazz cool again. Sade are far from rock & roll, but may have been the soundtrack to your conception. Mariah Carey has more #1 hits than I can count, and half of them are "All I Want for Christmas Is You" -- plus she secretly recorded a grunge album in the 90s just to see if she could do it, which is a seriously rock move. And let's face it, Cher belongs in EVERY Hall of Fame. There should just be a Cher Hall of Fame. 

So step off your high horse, my fellow nerds. Music is subjective, and that's what makes it such a powerful force. Last night on Facebook, I was greeted by a post from a friend IRATE about this year's nominees. The very next post was from a different friend saying, "The Rock Hall finally got it right this year! What a great list!" I don't need a museum in Cleveland to tell me what music's awesome. You don't need me to tell you what music's awesome (although I can if you want. In great detail. Just ask.) But if we've got to argue about SOMETHING on the internet, I'll take this over politics any day of the week.