Monday, May 30, 2011

American Intercontinental University Called Me

American Intercontinental University called recently looking for Reverend Clovis. The good Reverend was feeling very spiritual that particular day and was overjoyed that Jesus had sent a rep from American Intercontinental University to help him obtain a graphic design degree so that he could make pamphlets to carry his message out to the masses.

Some of the highlights of this call includes:

  • Clovis declaring Jesus' love for concealed weapons ("Praise the LORD and pass the AMMUNITION")
  • Clovis' singing a verse of John The Revelator
  • Clovis declaring his disdain for the Anglican church

I wanted to wrap this call up quickly, so I queued up a sound effect from my fx soundboard. I tried to make it sound like Clovis was in a horrible car crash, but I'm betting that the rep from American Intercontinental University didn't hear it well enough to understand what was going on.

Friday, May 27, 2011

One Final Story

I thought I would wrap up this New Orleans thread by telling the story about how ChrisMac and I set out upon an adventure to find some crazy dive bar at 3am.

Late last week, while drinking in one of the clubs at Bourbon Street, ChrisMac and I made friends with a number of the employees. When the bar closed down at 3am, we were invited to hang out with them at another bar a few blocks away. I put the name of the bar into the Google Maps app on my phone and ChrisMac and I headed out. The journey was fraught with danger, intrigue and hilarity.

Halfway to the bar, we passed a filming crew. I had no idea what they were filming, but some snub-nosed geek soon got in my face to tell me that I couldn't proceed down the street.

"Are you a cop?", I asked?

He told me that he wasn't.

"Then I'm not interested. Google tells me to walk that way, I'm walking that way".

I pushed the guy out of my way and walked further down the street. I heard someone yell "HEY! Who the hell is that on my set?"

"I'm Nicholas Cage, bitches!!", I yelled back to the entire crew.

After getting lead around in circles by Google Maps and after getting followed for two blocks by an inquisitive crack whore and her pimp, ChirsMac and I did eventually make it to the bar. By then, we were so exhausted, we didn't make for good company. Plus, ChrisMac kept referring to me as "Nick Cage's stunt double".

Maybe I was kind of a prick for pushing my way through the movie set. Still, I find it very satisfying to know that, somewhere out there on some random cutting room floor, there exists a clip of me telling off the crew.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Delay

I had apparently used up all of my good airport karma while traveling down to New Orleans last week. My flight to New Orleans actually deposited me in The Big Easy a good hour ahead of schedule. My return flight, however, was much more like an old episode of the Keystone Cops. The finer points of missed connections, weather cancellations and botched re-bookings don't really matter here. All you need to know is that I got screwed hard by American Airlines and a hotel hosting me as a distressed passenger gave me one last rogering for good measure.

When my extensive delay ultimately led me to seek accommodations for the night, I spoke with an American Airlines rep on the ground and asked if she could provide me with a distressed passenger voucher for a lowered rate at one of the airport hotels. She told me that she was out of vouchers but pointed me to a certain hotel that would honor the distressed rate. I called that hotel and was assured that I would indeed get that lowered rate. With that in mind, I asked them to send the shuttle around to pick me up. Once I was there, the lady who had originally taken my call was about to put in my distressed rate when her manager came over and told her that the rates would not be given without vouchers and without his authorization. I protested, stating that I was told that there were not any more vouchers available and that I had already negotiated the rate. The manager didn't believe my story, stating that American Airlines always has vouchers and that, without one, I would be charged the standard rate. I wanted to scream "bait and switch", but, what could I do? I was already there and I was exhausted. I agreed to pay the standard rate.

This little tale of woe gets worse. In reading over my bill this morning, I found that I was actually charged $20 over the standard rate. I could not let this stand, so I called the hotel. The extra $20 charge was chalked up to operator error. The lady who checked me in was new. I went on explain that, even though I agreed to the standard rate, I was thoroughly disappointed at being denied the distressed rate over something as trivial as a paper voucher, even though the rate had been agreed upon prior to my arrival. Again, the excuse was being given that the employee I had dealt with was new and should not have agreed to the rate without checking with the manager first. It was eventually agreed that I would be refunded an additional $10 for all the hassle, which means I was only paying $10 over the distressed rate. It remains to be seen if they will actually call the charge back from my credit card. I'm hopeful, but, with the way I was treated, I'm not expecting much.

A small victory, I guess. It doesn't matter, really. I'm just happy to finally be home.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The New Orleans Police

You'd have to be majorly drunk on Bourbon Street to not nice them. There's a significant police presence there, especially during the rowdier parts of the night. Some of them are on hoseback, some of them patrol on foot and I think I have even seen a few riding Segway scooters. These are the guys who are keeping Bourbon Street from descending too far into total drunken anarchy.

The NOLA police get the occasional bad rap, but, as far as I have seen, while they are perhaps a bit personally aloof, they do have genuine concern for the safety of the people partying on Bourbon Street. In the few incidents of street arrests that we saw over the week, the New Orleans Police Department (8th District) stepped in and handled the situation with professionalism and concern. I was so impressed with how they handled a particular incident involving a bar brawl that I visited the 8th Ward the next day and bought a T-shirt to support them.

Have a look at the arrest below:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Places We Ate

One of the points of going to New Orleans was to sample the local cuisine. The Crescent City offers a diverse cuisine and the French Quarter is one of the best places to take advantage of it all. That being said, I'd like to take this opportunity to focus on some of the better places ChrisMac and I ate during out stay.

Johnny's Po'Boys: I'm pretty sure that there's no such thing as a bad po'boy. When you get right down to it, wherever you get a po'boy in the French Quarter, you're going to have at least a decent experience. Many of the locals pointed us towards towards Johnny's Po'Boys, citing it as the best place to go. The place is your typical hole in the wall restaurant with a huge menu and a line out the door. We waited a while before getting our food, but it was totally worth it. Myself, I got the Johnny's Special which is beef topped with grilled ham and melted American and Swiss cheeses. These are big, messy, delicious sandwiches. In fact, the portion was so big that I couldn't eat the entire thing. I felt terrible for having to leave 1/4 of a po'boy behind. It was like I was throwing out a work of art.

Clover Grill: There is a lot of debate about where the best burger in the French Quarter can be found. It comes down to two contenders: Port Of Call and Clover Grill. The consensus seemed to be that, if you wanted a big hunk of meat, go to Port Of Call. If you want a flavorful burger in a fun environment, go to Clover Grill. We decided to go with Clover Grill because it was closer and we were intrigued by the stories we heard about the hilarious staff. Alright, yeah, this place is practically a landmark, so if you get there at peak times, the line is going to be out the door. The place itself doesn't look like much, but it has character and the burgers are great. And the burgers are indeed cooked under a hub cap. ChrisMac and I both liked our burgers and fries a lot and the staff had us laughing through the entire visit. For the record, a group of New Yorkers we partied with most of the week absolutely raved about Port Of Call, so if you're in the area, you will probably want to check that place out. Me, I'm going back to Clover Grill the next chance I get.

Fleix's: Whenever ChrisMac and I were wandering around the Bourbon Street area, there was always a huge line outside of Acme Oyster House. I don't get it. Raw oysters are raw oysters, right? The thing is if you go to Felix's, you'll be downing your third dozen oysters while the idiots across the street are still waiting in line. Felix's is basically just a long, narrow room with tables on one side as you enter and the oyster bar on the other. ChrisMac and I decided not to grab a table or instead just stood at the oyster bar and ordered directly from the shuckers. Jessie, our waitress made us feel right at home and even showed us how to make cocktail sauce with the fresh horseradish on the table. While she was mixing the ingredients in the little plastic cup, I felt like I was watching a mad scientist brewing up something up because of the way she was pouring things into this tiny little cup. Jessie gave the sauce a few stirs and said "Baby, wait till ya try this." And, of course, the cocktail sauce was amazing.

Louisiana Pizza Kitchen: The old saying about pizza is true: when it's good, it's good and when it's bad, it's still pretty good. There's lots of pizza to be had in the French Quarter and tons of it is available right near Bourbon Street. If you're willing to go a little bit out of your way to the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, you will not be disappointed. Their pizzas are made using fresh ingredients and are wood-fired in a brick oven. The food here is easily better than any sort of pizza concoction that you'll find on Bourbon Street and is definitely worth the price and the walk.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Jesus Freaks Were Out Tonight

I'm not one to bash someone's religious beliefs too terribly hard, but I have to wonder about the intelligence behind the decision for a church to send a number of their ministers out into the middle of Bourbon Street to preach to the masses there. Perhaps they think they are on some sort of mission trip to a den of iniquity. But, let's face it, the people who come to Bourbon Street aren't of the mind to be converted. Sure, you might get lucky and pull in a few souls looking to get saved, but outreach efforts are probably better spent feeding the homeless and ministering to those who can actually hear and understand the message.

I listened to some of the ministers and, with beer in hand, took one aside to advise him that he was speaking to close to the microphone and his words were coming out heavily distorted. He told me I was going to split Hell open and that I was lustful and a drunkard. I asked him why he was doing this. Was it for God's glory or his own? The guy actually got up into my face as he quoted scripture from memory. He was aggressive and was bordering on bullying as if he actually wanted me to strike him. I laughed. There's no way I'd give him the satisfaction.

Folks like these Bourbon Street preachers aren't there to plant the seed of salvation. They are there to collect war stories and make themselves feel good about themselves by putting others down in the name of God. And the ultimate badge of glory for them is to get injured in the line of their duty. If you do encounter these hypocritical nutbags, don't confront them, don't give them the satisfaction of arguing with them and don't listen to them. Instead, offer them a beer. After all, Jesus turned water into wine, not Kool-aid.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Some People Just Can't Handle The Big Easy

ChrisMac and I have walked these streets like two men just released from indenture. If we are not considered to be Kings of Bourbon Street, then we are at least Dukes or some other form of higher nobility. At the very least, we hold court at the Huge Ass Beers stand. And that's where we have met so many incredible people so far, including a group of hard partying New Yorkers and a gaggle of flight attendants. And, while it's fun swapping war stories and telling jokes, it doesn't take much to be reminded that too much of a good thing is hazardous to your health.

For the most part, the party goers on Bourbon Street have at least some amount of control over themselves. There is the occasional reveler who gets a bit too far into his cups. I've been witness to a small number of of people openly vomiting in the street. I even saw one woman who was so badly passed out that she had to be carried off by her friends.

Anyway, no matter what your reason for hanging out on Bourbon Street, make sure you drink somewhat responsibly. Failing that, make sure you've got someone you can trust along with you to drag your dunk ass back to your bed. And if you don't, you've got no right to be surprised when discover a clip of yourself on Youtube horquing all over yourself in full public view. Consider it a modern form of public shaming. This fine gentleman was none too pleased to discover a number of people taking his picture and shooting video of himself ruining his shoes via reverse-peristalsis. He did make a half-assed attempt to grab a few cameras but gave up when his puking mechanism engaged again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The House Of The Rising Sun

There is a house in New Orleans
They call "The Rising Sun"
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
But which house is the actual one?

On a whim this morning, ChrisMac and I decided to track down the house that inspired the 19th Century folk song "House Of The Rising Sun". A version of the song became a huge hit for The Animals in 1964. The Animals' version changes the narrative of the song. Originally, it was written from the point of view of a woman who had descended into a life of degradation. In the Animals' version, the subject is a male, whose father was now a gambler and drunkard. "House Of The Rising Sun" had also been recorded by several artists both before and after The Animals' version including Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and Woody Guthrie. But, where is the actual house that inspired the song? Does it still exist? Did it ever exist? The Macs decided to put their shoes to the pavement and find out.

The phrase "House of the rising Sun" was a well known euphemism for a brothel, but it could also refer to a certain women's prison that used a rising Sun as a logo. Either way, there are a number of places in the New Orleans area that purport to be the inspiration for the song. Here are the ones we checked out:

  • 333 Bourbon Street. It's a bar and it's pretty obvious that they're just using the name for the recognition factor. There's no connection to the song here. 
  • 826-830 St. Louis Street. Most guidebooks in the area claim that this is the inspiration for the actual house. It is said that the house was a brothel in the 1860's and was named for its madam, Marianne LeSoleil Levant, "Le Soleil Levant" being the French words for "rising Sun".
  • 1614 Esplanade Avenue. It is currently known as The Nola Art House. This place actually does look like it could have possibly been a brothel. I'm not sure what its connection to the phrase "Rising Sun" is, but a small number of gudebooks and the Nola Art House wikipedia page claim that it was the inspiration for the song. Some entries also claim that Marianne LeSoleil Levant operated out of here rather than on St. Louis Street, but that seems to be mis-information that has been constantly re-printed.
  • 535 Conti Street. This is the former location of a placed called the Rising Sun hotel. It burned down in 1822.

It could even be that there was never a real house and that whoever wrote the lyrics just made the whole thing up. We will probably never know the real story, but it was pretty fun to make up our own "House Of The Rising Sun" New Orleans tour.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Macs Take New Orleans

I took the red-eye flight from Chicago to New Orleans this morning. I was in the Crescent City by 10:30am. Part of me wondered if I would be landing amidst a chorus of locals singing "When The Levee Breaks", but I was happy to find out that Sweet Lady Gumbo wasn't in any danger of being drowned under the cresting Mississippi. ChrisMac wasn't due to arrive for another six hours, so after talking my way into an early check-in at the hotel, I dropped off my bags, picked up a cooler full of beer, a jug full of sweet tea and a bunch of 5 Hour Energy shots.

Once ChrisMac arrived, we started hunting for some food. The Po'boy place I had wanted to eat at was closed already, so we decided to scout out some restaurants on Decatur street and just slip into the first one that caught our attention.  When I saw a baby goat sitting outside the restaurant, I knew that we had to eat there. The food wasn't anything spectacular, but I got to play with the goat, which was very cool. I just hope the poor kidd doesn't end up on the menu.

Serving This Goat For Dinner Would Be Baaaaaad

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Now I Know How My Mom Felt

My mother loves to embarrass me by telling the story of how, when I was in 4th grade, I would leave for school during the Winter under protest because she made me wear a heavy jacket that I absolutely hated. To spite her, once I got out of sight, I would take the jacket off and stuff it into my backpack. We lived only two blocks from my school, so my exposure to the cold was minimal. During a parent/teacher conference, my teacher lectured my mother about the need to provide her children with warm clothing. My mother was mortified and, to this day, she has never let me live it down. She always said that, if I had children, one would pay me back for the embarrassment I doled out to her that season. She was right. It happened last night.

My daughter came to me complaining that she had an eyelash in her eye. I examined it and couldn't see anything. I went to get some eye drops but found that we were out. So, we made a trip to the local Wal-Mart to get some for her. While we were there, I remembered that I needed a new belt. I picked one up along with the eye drops and headed to the check out lane with my daughter trailing behind me. While we were walking, I was fidgeting by snapping the belt in my hands and soon noticed people were looking at me weird. Were my pants falling down? Was my zipper open? Had I sliced my face open shaving?

I looked behind me to ask my daughter if she noticed anything off about me and soon realized the reason for the strange looks. My daughter had rubbed her eye so hard that she had given herself a bright pink shiner. As I snapped the belt in my hand, I understood the implication. Suddenly, I realized how my mom felt all those years ago. The second I got home, I called her up and apologized.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Orbita Watch Winder

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Orbita. All opinions are 100% mine.

It's a little known fact that even expensive, automatic watches need a little exercise every now and then. For those of you who don't know what they are, a watch winder is a device engineered to mimic the winding action of a human wrist to keep your watches fully wound with no possibility of over-winding. In my opinion, the orbita watch winder is the best watch winder on the market, delivering value in an American-made product that is second-to-none.

Orbita's fully programmable winders will wind every automatic watch available. And, unlike most other winders, they are repairable and are serviced in America. These whisper quiet winders are a beautiful addition to your automatic watch. They truly are the Cadillac of watch winders.

Do you have a number of impressive watches but have nowhere special to keep them? Well, why not buy a beautiful watch case to protect and display your timepiece collection? There are a number of items to choose from in a wide variety of styles.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Waiting For The PS3 Network To Come Back Up

Poor Susan Lancaster. What A Way To Go
The Playstation Network has been down for around a month. I don't know how it got taken down, and I don't know why it has taken so long to get back up. All I know is that I've had to cancel the credit card I was using with the Playstation Network Store and that playing games over the network has been impossible, which means that Jason and I can't play Call of Duty: Black Ops or Dead Nation over the network while drinking beers and talking trash. No, we've been consigned to playing single player campaigns on our respective systems. Jason has been working his way through Fallout: New Vegas while I have been playing Fallout 3 like it's going out of style because, well, it basically IS going out of style thanks to New Vegas. After about two weeks, I had gotten about as far as I could on Fallout 3 without being able to download the expansion packs, so I soon resorted to doing unpublished side missions like selling the residents of Tenpenny Tower into slavery one-by-one to pay them back for their bigotry against the Capital Wasteland's ghoul population or inciting Millicent Wellington to kill her husband and his mistress, Susan Lancaster by showing Mrs. Wellington the love note Mr. Wellington wrote to Susan Lancaster. After watching that little drama unfold, I accidentally found out that you can drag objects, decorative items and even the dead bodies of non-player characters around the game map. This made for some perverse fun as I dropped the bodies of Mr. Tenpenny and Mr. Burke off of the penthouse floor of Tenpenny Tower after I had killed them by dropping garden gnomes on their heads.

After a while, even running through Fallout 3 as a completely evil character started to get old, so I started collecting various trinkets from around the Capital Wasteland. I spent a number of hours collecting garden gnomes, but soon abandoned that idea because they were so hard to place precisely around my room. Instead, I started collecting teddy bears so I could just throw them on my bed and be done with them. Below is a shot of the number of bears I had collected so far. I'm not even halfway done. Good thing that Playstation Network is expected to be up by the end of the weekend. I'm starting to go crazy on Fallout 3. Soon, I'll be back to getting my ass kicked in Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Saw Thor

Jason and Jim and I had been planning to see Thor since the first preview hit several months ago. Marvel Studios has been doing a great job making films with the properties they still retain the movie rights to, aside from the mediocre Iron Man II. Aside from his appearances in the Avengers and the occasional crossover series, I've never been a huge fan of Thor. However, the previews actually made me cautiously optimistic about this film.

I'll start out by saying that my eight-year-old daughter, who tagged along because my babysitter backed out at the last minute, had a one word review of Thor: "Boring!". I'm sure she means that overall, but I did catch her digging the scenes involving the frost giants as well as the battle with the Destroyer.

Personally, I think that the effects are fantastic, the characters are strong and have an a palpable depth. Chris Hemsworth as  Thor is inspired casting on the level of tapping Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Hemsworth's performance as Thor and ownership of the role is just shy of Christopher Reeve's interpretation of Superman. Anthony Hopkins as Odin surpasses Marlon Brando as Jor-El. The rest of the cast of Thor is rounded out well with some impressive A-list talent. The story itself is almost Shakespearean in nature although it does stumble a little and doesn't take as many chances as I would have liked it to.  

In short, Thor is a film that raises the bar for this year's comic book films. 

I feel I should also mention that, with the limited release of Mel Gibson's new film "The Beaver" this week, headline writers are missing a golden opportunity. Gibson's film has not lived up to studio expectations which may be due to Gibson's tumultuous private life, the film's quirky subject matter, Thor's presence at the box office or any combination thereof. Whatever the cause, I'm surprised that I have yet to see the following headline:

Thor Hammers Mel Gibson's Beaver At The Box Office.

Monday, May 9, 2011

ATI Insurance Accepts My Tourettes

When ATI first called me, I had thought that they were one of those fly-by-night extended auto-warranty scam peddlers. Turns out ATI is one of the largest independent insurance agencies in the Southeast. Okay, so maybe they're legit.I really don't care. ATI Insurance called me, so the telemarketer on the other end was subjected to my wrath.

The ATI rep called looking for Thomas. I informed her that Thomas had recently had a stroke and had developed Tourettes. I stammered throughout the call, often interrupting with spontaneous outbursts of proper names. I also declared that I had purple monkey testicles and a boil on my ass that looks like Elvis.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Trolled By The Local Fitness Club

I had been expecting my state tax refund for about a month now. Naturally, when I found a brown envelope in my mail last week with Pay to the order of Thomas Mac visible in the envelope window, I was ecstatic. I had been expecting a refund of about $200 and had been making definite plans on spending the money in a way that would stimulate the economy and add to my wardrobe. Seeing as it had been shaping up to be a busy week, I placed the envelope on the mantle with the intentions of depositing it in the bank later.

I finally got around to making the deposit on Friday. With the envelope in hand, I drove to the bank. I didn't have any deposit slips on me, so I would have to go in rather than use the drive up window. I took the check out of the envelope to sign it. Attached to it was a flyer advertising Zumba classes and Pilates classes at the local gym. I thought of how desperate the state must be to allow such advertising to go along with their tax returns. I detached the check from the flyer and looked for a place to sign it on the back. This was my first indication that something was amiss. An endorsement line had not been provided. I turned the check over and discovered that it was written in the amount of $331 which was quite a bit more than I had been expecting. Further investigation indicated that what I had in my hands was a coupon for a membership to my local gym cleverly disguised as a fake check.

If that didn't make me feel idiotic enough, surfing through the pile of junk mail that I had in a pile near my shredder did. I checked with the state Comptroller's office which informed me that I should have gotten the check about three weeks ago. I didn't recall seeing it, but figured I would check my junk mail pile just in case. Sure enough, in the pile was a plain white envelope with blue printing. This was my state tax refund. I had almost shredded it as junk mail.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Super Hero

This is yet another in my series of office-type videos made using the Xtranomal text-to-speech engine. When confronted about his odd behavior, our intrepid office worker tries to convince his boss that he is, in fact, a super-hero.

And, no, this one isn't based on personal experience. I got the germ of the idea from a video made by one of my former students.