Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Mission: Couch Photos

Our February mission was taking an old couch around town and taking pictures with it. Yup. That's it. But, hey, it was no easy task. We remember the words of Jesus over 2,000 ago to a sick man on his portable sofa, "Pick up your couch and walk." (Close enough.) We still think it's a good idea. An old couch is a lazy man's best friend...the least we can do is take it with us to see what it has been missing all those years in front of the electric rot-box. For details of our day's adventure, see Matt's post below, 'We called her Ol' Blue.'

We Called Her Ol’ Blue

She wasn’t a pretty thing. She probably grew up in some old cottage or ranch-style house. Her housemates, though old-fashioned and probably just old, had cared for her and spent many special evenings sitting and talking. She had a sturdy build but was light on her feet. Her body was soft, some would say comfortable, and her skirt modest. She was ugly, but attractively cheap, and for a haggled-over price of $15, she was ours for the night.

We took her to a few different spots, with the intention of getting our picture taken together around town, to somehow prove that were not all couch potatoes. The idea was a good one and for the most part we were true to its purpose. To accomplish it we would pull up to a prospective locale, carry her from the van to a spot with the best view, and set up our cameras. Putting her in the best possible light and angle, we would then sit with her as the cameras did their jobs. Then quickly, leaving the cameras in place, we would jump up and take her back to the van, stuffing her in and closing the hatch before anyone could see. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to be seen with her, we mostly just didn’t want to have to answer embarrassing questions.

Once we asked a store owner if we could pose with her in front of their establishment, only to be turned down. After that we decided it was better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Another time we trespassed into an old graveyard, to lay her down by some crumbling headstones. She got her feet wet, on the swampy bank of a small but picturesque pond; and she sat crookedly at another place, on a pile of old bricks and mortar. At a pedestrian overpass we started to notice her weight, when we carried her some two-hundred yards to a spot over the highway, from a nearby Jack-in-the-Box parking lot. We weren’t terribly happy with the spots we ended up picking for the pictures, but what was important was that we were out of our houses and spending time with her.

At the end of the night we took her back home. We laid her down gently not far from where we first saw her, and we took one last picture to cap off the night. Some people stared, and odd murmurs could be heard, but we both thought she was worth every penny.

Looking back I think we gave her the ride of her life. She will probably be doomed to sit and watch as others come and go, only giving her a fleeting glance. I don’t feel bad though, as she served her purpose well. And let’s face it, she’s still an ugly old couch, and she knows it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Full Night of Almost...

We had a bit of a late start to our first event outing, but hopes were still high for a night of new things. We set out to get a little culture infused into our slowly rotting bodies, to start the year out with a nice fierce slap to wake us from our slothfulness. That's what we set out to do, and that’s what we almost did.

When we got to the Schlafly Taproom, we were excited and even eager to see what was in store. We crossed the street from the parking lot with night around us and a chill in the air. I was immediately impressed by the building’s brick architecture and the sheer size of the place, which had several floors. Without delay we entered and asked to determine where things were going down. The answer was heartbreaking... things had gone down, and had all but cooled and crusted over. Culture had flashed, briefly, like lightning, in the Taproom and only a dim after-image was left hanging tauntingly in our vision. This place was now just a bar, and we had almost attended Burns’ Night.

So we hit the road, but not to give up and head home. This was the first of the Not-Rot excursions, and we would not be so easily deterred. That being said, we had no contingency plan. But hey, we were in the city, and there had to be some other culture-rich activities we could take part in, we just had to find them. So we drove, and drove, and drove around some more, until we were pretty sure we were lost, but still determined to find some area of the city we recognized.

It turns out if you drive long enough and turn at semi-recognizable streets, you will end up on Washington Ave. We turned down the avenue and were greeted by hanging lights, a brick street, and… a Hookah bar! We both quickly agreed to check it out, but once the girl working the bar told us the price and the duration (3-4 hours!) we left, having almost hit the hookah.

We walked down Wash. Ave brainstorming on what we could do, while I was getting a bit discouraged that the night would be a flop. We saw the Jive and Wail piano bar but they were closed, so we almost listened to live music. There was a coffee shop where we might be able to try some real Italian roast, but it was late and I didn’t want to caffeine to keep me up; so we almost had deep philosophical conversation over coffee. We completed our circuit, still culturally deficient, so we hit the road again and headed for the Loop.

Now at this point we were really just looking for something comforting to do to make ourselves feel a little better about our defeat. I pointed out Cheesology as we passed it, and we made plans to park further down and walk down to at least have some delicious mac ‘n’ cheese and a beer to finish the night. On the way down we passed the Tivoli and almost saw a movie. Then we passed in front of Star Clipper, a really cool comic book/graphic novel store and I suggested going in. We had a good time looking around then continued down to Cheesology, ready to sit and eat and relax.

We hesitated for a moment because they were stacking stools on the tables, but a quick glance at the door told us that they were open for another hour. We recovered and tried the door, which was locked. What?! The sign says you are open! Stop putting the stools up, we are hungry, damn it! No, please no, for the love of God... All we want to do is finish this cold and miserable night with warm food and a cold beer... Alas, it was not meant to be. We left, hungry and discouraged, to get back in the car for home. This was the end of the night we almost.

In chemistry, Entropy describes the “compulsion” of chemical reactants to always attain their lowest energy level or state. In the Burns’ Night experiment, we attempted to do the opposite, or at least fight the compulsion. In this regard we succeeded. We got off of our rotting butts and made an effort to stretch outside the norm. It wasn’t exciting (to read about) but it was fun, and we gave an honest effort. I think we are both more determined than ever to succeed at our next outing, even if that means really reaching beyond our comfort zones. We also learned that a good contingency plan is a must, and next time we will be more prepared. Because those that fail to plan, plan to ROT.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Rot: 2012 Schedule

2012 Schedule

We are planning one event a month that will nudge outward, even if only by a hairs-breadth, the boundaries of our world. We will also blog our results, good or bad, mundane or extraordinary. The more unexpected the results, the better.

January: Burns Night at Taproom/ Walkin’ downtown

February: Photos with old couch around town

March: Cathedral/Holocaust Museum (contrast)

April: World Book Day, April 23 (http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/about-world-book-night/what-is-world-book-night)

May: Geo-caching

June: Pick up game/ meet up adventure outing

July: Poetry reading/author reading

August: Auction

September: Casino

October: Larping/Boffer (even attend a meeting at the very least)

November: Visit a religious center of some sort (shrine, temple, church; Islam, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist, Christian Scientist, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, radical Pentecostal…etc.)

December: Survey in public place--Christmas themed

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Burns' Night

Mission One: Burns Night at The Tap Room in Downtown St. Louis."

Status: Completed


The location looked promising. Outside it was really neat looking. Matt and I walked into the Tap Room and asked the hostess where to go for Burns Night. She said we could either sit downstairs in the restaurant and have a pint of newly-released Scottish ale, or we could go upstairs to the pub, get a drink, and listen to some Scottish musicians play. I asked where the poetry reading and such was happening. She said the bagpipe procession had already taken place along with the poem (singular) reading.

W. T. F.

Seriously? That was Burns' Night? A new beer to sample? Who goes to this stuff? We went upstairs for the heck of it. It was crowded up the butt, and the two Scottish instrumentalists were in a dark corner, suffocated by, as far as I could tell, the roar of normal Wednesday night drinking crowd with nothing better to do. Don't think we lost heart and just left. We squeezed through the blathering hordes to confirm that there wasn't a place to sit that was remotely close to the ‘cultural corner’ of music. We were right. I snapped a few embittered photos over the many talking heads to prove to everyone that we had actually been there. We left.

But we did it. We jumped out and away from the What-We-Knew-It-To-Be, and had no choice but to meet the oncoming Whatever-It-Would-Become. And that's the point. In the words of Kahlil Gibran, we "finally extended our knowledge to a world beyond the narrow cavern of our birth." I look at it this way, if what we found in the end was too predictable, then we could be sure we didn't make it out of our existential backyard. So, I’m glad it wasn't exactly what I expected—that would have been an utter failure. I thought I would learn about Burns and his influence on culture...and who knows, maybe I did in a way that is a bit deflating to my ideal of Burns.

Burns was all about the common man. He had a lack-luster pedigree himself, and developed a profound appreciation for the hardship and joys of the working class. His poem, "A Man's a Man For A' That" extols the man and woman of low degree: "The rank is but the guinea's stamp, the Man's the gowd [gold] for a' that." There was plenty of Burns' "hamely fair" brewing this night at the Tap Room, and is it so bad that the celebration of culture was not a celebration about culture? If Burns’ true interest was in the fellowship of mankind without regard for the stamp of cultural rank, then the pageantry of this night was most likely antithetical to Burn’s praxis of drinking it up with friends.

I only wish I could have seen or heard a “pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth” in the whole place. Who knows maybe the sense and worth marched out with the bagpipes. I pray with Burns that “ Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth, shall bear the gree, an' a' that.” Here, here!

Yes, let’s bear the gree. It’s all in the gree ya know. That’s the only place it’s ever been in. The gree.

Burns, my homey from another croney, with what I saw tonight, are you sure a man’s a man for all of that? I can hear you now, “No, I ne’er said ‘a man’s a man for all of that’. I said “a man’s a man for a’ that.”

Ah yes. Who am I to argue? Now pour me anither paiynt!