Friday, March 28, 2008

Rendition--Rent It

"What I wanted to do in the film is try and present every argument around this very complex issue from as many sides as possible, and not in a purely intellectual way but in a very visceral and emotional way.

I hope that the film on another level is just a poetic lament about where we as human beings are in our conflict with one another."

Gavin Hood, Director of Rendition

Jake Gyllenhaal as Douglas Freeman
Omar Metwally as Anwar El-Ibrahimi
Meryl Streep as Corrine Whitman and Alan Arkin as Senator Hawkins
Reese Witherspoon as Isabella Fields El-Ibrahimi and Peter Sarsgaard as Alan Smith

Read more!

The man who made lists to fend off depression

Peter Mark Roget is shown in this 1867 photograph from the Wellcome Library in London.

By Arthur Spiegelman
Fri Mar 28, 8:48 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - His mother suffered dark depressions and tried to dominate his life. His sister and daughter had severe mental problems, his father and wife died young and a beloved uncle committed suicide in his arms.

So what did Peter Mark Roget, the creator of Roget's Thesaurus, do to handle all the pain, grief, sorrow, affliction, woe, bitterness, unhappiness and misery in a life that lasted over 90 years?

He made lists.

The 19th century British scientist made lists of words, creating synonyms for all occasions that ultimately helped make life easier for term paper writers, crossword puzzle lovers and anyone looking for the answer to the age-old question: "What's another word for ..."

And according to a new biography, making his lists saved Roget's life and by keeping him from succumbing to the depression and misery of those around him.

"As a boy he stumbled upon a remarkable discovery -- that compiling lists of words could provide solace, no matter what misfortunes may befall him," says Joshua Kendall author of the just published "The Man Who Made Lists" (Putnam, $25.95), a study of Roget's life (1779 to 1869) based on diaries, letters and even an autobiography composed of lists.

Kendall, in a recent interview, said Roget cared more for words than people and that making lists on the scale that he did was obsessive-compulsive behavior that helped him fend off the demons that terrorized his distinguished British family.

Madness was a regular guest in Roget's home, Kendall said. One of his grandmothers either had schizophrenia or severe depression, Roget's mother lapsed into paranoia, often accusing the servants of plotting against her. Both his sister and his daughter suffered depression and mental problems.

Then there was the case of Roget's uncle, British member of Parliament Sir Samuel Romilly, known for his opposition to the slave trade and for his support of civil liberties. He slit his own throat while Roget tried to get the razor out of his hands.

Unlike a Thesaurus, no one understood Uncle Sam's last words: "My dear....I wish..."

Indeed, to quote most of the Thesaurus listing for pain, Roget's was a life filled with grief, pain, suffering, distress, affliction, woe, bitterness, heartache, unhappiness, infelicity and misery.


Kendall said, "The lists gave him an alternative world to which to repair." Many writers have declared their debt to Roget, including Peter Pan's creator, J.M. Barrie. In homage, he put a copy of the Thesaurus in Captain Hook's cabin so he could declare: "The man is not wholly evil -- he has a Thesaurus in his cabin.

The 20th century poet Sylvia Plath called herself "Roget's Strumpet" to pay respects for all the word choices he gave her.

But the British journalist Simon Winchester holds Roget responsible for helping to dumb down Western culture because his work allows a writer to look it up rather than think it out.

Roget made his first attempt at a Thesaurus at age 26 but put aside the effort and did not publish his book until 1852 when he was in his 70s and retired. He then kept busy with it for the rest of his life.

It became an instant hit in Britain but did not sell that well when an American edition was published two years later. But when Americans went crazy for crossword puzzles in the 1920s, the Thesaurus assumed its place on reference shelves.

Kendall's book is written in a style that he calls "narrative non-fiction" which contains a lot of dialogue and descriptions of how Roget and his friends feel and think, all, he says, based on source material.

"I did a lot of work to stitch together a narrative," he said, adding that all the scenes in the book are based on actual events.

Read more!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The World's Shortest Fairy Tale

[From my friend April in Arizona.]

Once upon a time, a guy asked a girl "Will you marry me?"

The girl said: "NO!"

And the girl lived happily ever-after and went shopping, dancing, camping, drank martinis, always had a clean house, never had to cook, did whatever the hell she wanted, never argued, didn't get fat, traveled more, had many lovers, didn't save money, and had all the hot water to herself. She went to the theater, never watched sports, never wore friggin' lacy lingerie that went up her ass, had high self esteem, never cried or yelled, felt and looked fabulous in sweat pants and was pleasant all the time.

The End

Read more!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

That's a Wrap, Folks!

Johnny outside the Lafayette County Courthouse in Darlington, WI on Wednesday, March 19.

I snuck out of my home office at 12:15 Thursday and headed downtown. Didn't even bother trying to resist. I found reduced crowds, antique cars, tired security guards, and Mayor Nancy Osterhaus. No one could have predicted this.

I found the real crowd behind a barricade on Ludington past the Fire Station, several blocks from the (non)action, and decided to skip the cattle call. I still remember the crowd getting restless Tuesday evening and hearing one woman yell, "Take it easy! I have a prosthetic, for Christ's sake!" The little girl in front of me tugged on her father's sleeve. "What's a persetic, daddy?" I didn't want to re-live that moment.

The Poser House, Columbus, WI

I turned and headed uphill to the Poser house, eight blocks from downtown. There I found a lot of the movie crew, setting up lighting and still adding snow to the back entrance, which was to be the "front" entrance to the "brothel." If Michael Mann's PA had read the weather report they could have saved themselves a lot of money and come back tomorrow to shoot the real thing. (Ed. note: It is now Friday and we are in the middle of a blizzard with at least 6 inches on the ground, and several more to come.) Although, as one crew member put it to the spectators on Monday, "The fake stuff looks more real, anyway." Who are we to argue with Hollywood?

Fake greens wait for direction on the front lawn.

It was now approaching 12:30. No cast or directing crew were on the hill yet. It would seem they were eating lunch. Again, something no one could have predicted.

I took a few pictures of the house before the sun moved behind it, and headed back home to work for the afternoon. On my way down, a golf cart drove up Prairie Street towards the Poser house. The mayor waved. As elusive as Johnny himself, I missed the money shot of the mayor but did stop to take a picture of the cool old house in front of which we crossed paths.

Prairie Street house eats the mayor's golf car dust

Looks like so far the mayor hasn't been invited to ride in Michael and Johnny's shiny black and gold Ford Expedition.
It's only a matter of time.
After work, I took the girls and my Kodak and climbed the hill again. I could see the police tape from blocks away, along with plenty of people to make my movie-watching experience unpleasant.

Looking up at the Poser house, on the left
Once I reached the house, I had a great view of the crew's trucks and somebody's Honda Element.
Something told me that peaking into the window of the Poser boudoir was out of the question. Every thirty seconds a squirrel would run across the street, leaving me to re-set my shoulder into its socket after Ginger yanked it out by lunging to the end of her leash. That I got any steady shots at all is a miracle. Of course, the squirrels were smart enough to use tripods.

Looked like this was going to be a wrap. People were so bored I could hear them discussing the jean jacket SodaPop was wearing. (Hey--it was chilly!) I found that even sadder than all of us standing there staring at big white trucks and orange cones with no hope whatsoever of getting a meet & greet with Mr. Depp.
That started me thinking. How many times have I woken up, opened the curtains and found hundreds of actors lined up behind police tape, waiting for a glimpse of me selling equine pharmaceuticals over the phone? I don't think I can remember a single time. And I think if I had, I would have found it extremely irritating. Stalking just isn't polite.
With that, Soda, Ginger, and I put away the camera and walked back home. We had more important things to do.
Later, Johnny.

Photo by Jen McCoy at the Portage Daily Register

Here are a few more houses on Prairie Street that make my town way more special than yours.

The Blue House, directly across the street from
The Pink House
Read more!

Spring Postponed Indefinitely for WI

Another Blast Of Winter Delays Spring's Arrival

Reported by Channel 3000 Wisc TV News: 9:10 am CDT March 20, 2008

MADISON, Wis. -- Parts of Wisconsin are expected to get another blast of winter-like weather, just as the calendar turns to spring.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for portions of southern Wisconsin Thursday night through Friday.

The storm could dump 5 to 9 inches of snow in the southern third of the state.

I love winter. It's my favorite 8 months of the year. Read more!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dillinger Caught at Last!!! UPDATE

UPDATE: It WAS Johnny on the running boards of the car in yesterday's escape scene. See details below. Photo by Shannon Green.

This shot is mine.

This would be the money shot. This is the getaway car after the fellas broke out of prison in Crown Point, IN, a few hundred miles away--just a technicality. Johnny is there on the running boards of the car, and the crowd, ever mindful of the fact that this was an actual scene for which we were supposed to be silent, cheered as they drove by.

No respect for Hollywood.

I wasn't going to go downtown after work. I wasn't. I was just walking the dogs and I was pulled by a force--the force of Shameless Celebrity Worship (SCW)--out of my traditional path and into the crowd. This did not work so well with the dogs. Small boys wanted to play with Ginger, distracting me from my stalking. Then the Tommy guns went off, and Soda shit her snow suit. Mom (whom I had also dragged along) had to squeeze Soda in her arms to keep her from running all the way back to Arizona. I lodged Ginger between my knees and told the boys to go away or they'd get eaten. I didn't specify if it would be by Ginger or her owner.

Still unable to resist the gravitational pull of SCW after getting my required shot of Johnny-on-a-car, Mom offered to walk the dogs back home while I scoped out a few more locations. Got some nice shots, but Johnny was shooting a scene in the center downtown intersection and really couldn't be seen from any place mere mortals were allowed. After 6 or 7 more hours, I gave up and walked home. But not without getting a tip as to when and where the next shooting would be.

I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you.

Though it is very exciting standing in a crowd of tired and frostbitten movie fans, it is apparently a little too much for the dogs. Though Soda stopped shivering once she reached the house, Ginger promptly threw up her entire dinner.

Note to self: Dogs don't give a shit about Johnny Depp.

In between takes I got some nice pictures of some great classics. And no, Johnny wasn't anywhere near them, either. All of these are parked on Harrison Street and pointed in the direction of my house, two and a half blocks away. That makes my house very, very cool by association.

Click the prompt to see more fantastic old cars. They got them dirty on purpose so they would look more "real." It probably killed their owners to do it. After the shoot, they'll be cleaning and detailing their "babies" until July, at least.

Read more!


Director Michael Mann hangs off Johnny's car filming dialogue March 17, 2008 in downtown Columbus. Photo by Steve Apps, WI State Journal

Looks like the trick to hanging out with Johnny Depp and "Public Enemies" director, Michael Mann, is to be elected to public office. Mayor Nancy Osterhaus reported to the papers that she was delighted to find herself seated next to both of them during various points of the shoot downtown yesterday. Ya' think?!

Here are pics from reporters with slightly better access than I.

Photo by Steve Apps

Photo by Morry Gash, AP

I was shivering just two blocks behind them over the hill when this was taken. Couldn't see a damn thing. But I'm not bitter. Much.

Johnny also filmed (or is filming today) a love scene in an old house three blocks north of mine. They turned the house into a brothel for the scene. Three blocks from my house. Did I mention that part?

I said it yesterday and I'll say it again today: Argh.

Photo by Morry Gash, AP

Johnny throws me a sardonic look that all but says "Bet you wish we used your house, huh?"

I have an answer ready for him, but he'll have to stop by my place to get it. Read more!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Quiet on the set, please!

I am having one hell of a time focusing on work when they are shooting a Johnny Depp movie (Michael Mann's "Public Enemies") four blocks from my house.

And NOW, after standing out there in the cold for hours waiting for a glimpse of anyone resembling John Dillinger, I sit here and listen to machine guns firing at the local bank. I KNEW those bastards would wait until I came home to start shooting--literally and figuratively.

So no, I haven't seen Johnny.

He wasn't drinking coffee with the stage hands...

Not surprisingly, he wasn't at the police station...

He wasn't on the Inverness bus...

He wasn't at Dee's Cleaners...

He wasn't at Milar and Sons--though Mayor Nancy Osterhaus (stage left, blue coat) was...

He wasn't at the City Paper (reconfigured as an appliance store for the shoot)...

He wasn't at the furrier's...

He wasn't at the drug store...

He wasn't there when they were laying the cobblestone road...

He wasn't even at the post office with the really cool tow truck...

The only thing I got a really good look at was the goddamn snow machine!
Just what we needed. More fucking snow.
Read more!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Tale of Three Cities: Part 1, Detroit

[All concert stories contain both adult and childish language. You have been warned.]

All photos courtesy of

You won't find me I'm going MIA
Tonight I'm leaving going MIA
So you don't find me I'm going MIA
Tonight I'm leaving going MIA
Say good-bye to me I'm going MIA
I can find relief I'm going MIA
Getting lost in you again is better than being numb

Quote of the concert: "I know Detroit like the back of my fucking hand. And that's saying alot." Dave Grohl

The moment I got word that the Foo Fighters would be stopping in Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis this February, I knew I had a difficult choice to make. A Wisconsin show would have made life much easier, but apparently the band was more interested in making us Cheeseheads prove our loyalty by hitting the road. But which show? With general admission at $60 per ticket and gas quickly approaching $32 per gallon, it wasn’t a decision to take lightly. The fate of the free world rested on this verdict.

Many sleepless nights followed as I waited for tickets to go on sale. By the time that fateful morning rolled around, my choice was made. I would go to every fucking show. I mean, what’s 1500 miles and a mortgage payment between friends?

Detroit, my first stop on the tour, was the longest journey at seven hours. Even my iPod only had six hours of Foo tunes before it went into redux. The only taxing part of the trip was the short span of Illinois one has to traverse between Wisconsin and Indiana. I have yet to figure out how the IL DOT manages to squeeze in 27 toll booths on a stretch of highway approximately three miles long. The tolls themselves are determined by an official suffering from untreated ADD and vary without warning between $0.13 and $17.92. Thank God I always keep at least $327 in loose change in my Beetle’s bucket seats. I still had almost $4.00 to spare once I finally hit the Hoosier state, which I spent on earplugs to shove up my nostrils so I could make it past Gary, IN without passing out from toxic fumes. Gotta love Gary.

Finding my hotel in Woodhaven, south of Detroit, was a piece of cake. I looked for the nicest, cleanest hotel on the main drag, and then circled behind it to check into the dilapidated one to which I had a free pass. As I walked in I was enveloped by thick clouds of cigarette smoke which all but obscured the “Smoke Free Rooms Available” sign. I assume those were located on the roof. When another guest opened the front door and caused a draft to part the smog, albeit temporarily, I saw the largest sign on the desk, which advised that all persons checking in were responsible for securing their own valuables—regardless of forced entry into any room. I could tell I would soon be calling this motel my second home.

Driving downtown to the Joe Louis Arena proved a little more challenging. Every exit I passed warned that the next exit would be the last one before the US-Canadian border, and as I saw no sign of the exit I wanted, I began to wonder if the arena was not located on the other side of Toronto altogether. I cursed myself for leaving my passport at home. I figured if I did end up at customs, I could avoid being sent through by threading together all the Arabic phrases I still remembered and reciting them at the top of my lungs. I reconsidered this plan when I realized that the Foo Fighters had no shows scheduled at Guantanamo this time around.

After running through several standard prayers (in English and Arabic, just for good measure) I finally approached what I assumed was the general vicinity of the arena. My first clue was a billboard on a deserted industrial back street that said “You’re getting warmer.” (I’m not making that up.) My final clue was several men standing in the middle of the street threatening to carjack you if you didn’t turn into their paid parking lot. I was herded into a $10 ramp, from which I had no view whatsoever of any musical venue, and threw in one more Hail Mary for good measure. I parked and proceeded to follow several young men in concert T-shirts, deciding that where I ended up would just be part of the overall adventure.

Where we ended up was the abandoned set of Bladerunner, with steel and concrete tunnels and caves leading in every possible direction. The round “windows” set in the sides of the steel Habitrail were covered by iron grids and looked out over busy highways with imposing concrete walls. If nothing else, the ten minute journey proved I was not severely claustrophobic—though I would have felt far more comfortable had Harrison Ford actually been there with me. (I expected a maniacal Rutger Hauer at every turn, but luckily encountered only panhandlers.)

By YoGazpacho on Flickr

Unbelievably, the maze did culminate at the FF venue. And so I met the humble home of the Detroit Red Wings. Humble may be a bit of an overstatement. The floor of the stadium was stripped down to concrete, which was only a slight improvement over leaving it iced for the show. I made a quick check of the front rail and realized I was about 20 minutes too late for that, so found the last rail position stage right of the “secret” acoustic stage.

After waiting a year and a half to see them again, (last show was the Skin and Bones acoustic tour with Dylan on October 31, 2006, in Madison, WI) then risking my life to take in their show in “America’s Most Dangerous City,” my adrenalin was fairly high by the time the lights went down for the first band, Against Me. I spent most of their set wondering if I’d remembered to lock my car. When the lights went up again, I started chatting with the family next to me. I had been scribbling details for my blog when my neighbor said he felt guilty for not taking notes. Mark was there with his family, including his 12 year-old son. It was Kyle’s first rock show, and he was reportedly holding out for Monkeywrench. Good taste! I do hope he enjoyed it—he spent most of the time looking mortified at being seen with his parents, as most kids would. Hey, Kyle, parents may be geeks, but only the SUPER cool ones take you to see Dave Fucking Grohl!

Serj Tankian soon distracted me from my note-taking with his own maniacal show. His backdrop banner proclaimed “Elect the Dead” (though mentioning no one by name) and he commanded the stage like a circus ringmaster. His white suit and top hat only accentuated this affect. His voice, which has a life all its own, careened wildly about the arena as he danced, knelt and bowed by turn, sweeping his tattered hat at the mesmerized audience. Politics are the foodstuff of Serj’s music, and he did not disappoint as he railed most harmoniously against the “fucking hypocrisy” of those who say “Praise, the Lord, pass the ammunition.” What’s not to love about a superbly-voiced Armenian anarchist? Being under his spell almost made being lost in Detroit feel more comforting.

Serj, pre-show, courtesy of

But it was Dave we yearned for. Another half-hour passed after Serj and his “Flying C--ts of Chaos,” as he so affectionately referred to them, fled the over-illuminated stage. The arena grew simultaneously bright and restless. Eighteen months and 500 miles I had come to hear Dave’s voice, experience his energy, and bask in his smile. As the lights went down the sound of the crowd grew deafening. My ear plugs kept each other warm in my coat pocket.

Dave running the stage, courtesy of
I have tried for days to describe how the opening strains of a deeply admired band unleash one’s spirit. I have not tried for my own understanding—I have only to experience the moment to know how irreplaceable it is—but I have tried for those who do not understand it. Several people have asked me how one might find enjoyment at seeing the “same” show several times over.

It is probably a poor reflection of my former life that my first attempt to explain it was by alluding to intoxication. Why does one get drunk more than once, if one truly enjoyed it the first time? It’s the same old beer, right? Exactly.

The music and energy of the Foo Fighters is inebriating. Though many rows removed from the front stage, Dave Grohl’s tremendous smile could have lit the room without lights. That is why we come back. Layer over Dave’s personality the strains of Chris Shiflett’s guitar, Nate Mendel’s bass and the bone-vibrating pulse of Taylor Hawkins’s percussion and you will find yourself experiencing an exhilarating dialysis of the soul.

Find me a beer that will do that, and I’ll take up drinking.

The band opened its show with the mesmerizing new track “Let It Die,” followed in short order by a hard-rocking version of “The Pretender.” That was enough to render most of us hoarse, but Dave went on to perform “Times Like These,” during which he sauntered down the long runway leading from the front stage to the acoustic stage. Just when we though we had no voices left, he turned to us for the chorus of “Time Like These,” as the house lights went up and Dave shared his moment with us. We did not let him down.

Dave, courtesy of

Eventually, Dave paused to greet Detroit—Rock City. He ran from one end of the front stage to the other with his Gibson, pointing out individuals to ask “How are you? And you? And what about you?!” He directed the neck of his guitar into the stands, left , right and center, directing a chorus of cheers whichever direction he pointed. And smiled non-stop throughout. Who doesn’t love a little attention?

“So, you guys got some free time tonight?” Cue applause. “You wanna hear some old shit?” General roar. “You wanna hear some new shit?” Roar deepens. “You wanna hear some acoustic shit? ‘Cuz we got some of that, too!” Crowd proves they respond well even without “Applause” signs.

“I just hope none of you gotta work tomorrow, ‘cuz we’re gonna be here all fucking night!” I am surrounded—and consumed—by primal screams. It is good.

They resumed their set with “Learn To Fly,” during which the four screens behind them showed aerial views through scattered clouds. Even with them playing right in front of me I couldn’t hear that song without picturing the video, I’ve watched it so many times. They then introduced their newest single, “Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running).” Warhol-esque shots of drag queens replaced the clouds on the screens and, when we were lucky, we were treated to close-up shots of the band as they performed.

Chris, courtesy of

There soon followed an amazing arrangement of “This is a Call” which turned into a prolonged guitar battle between Chris and Dave. I have never seen Dave really go at his guitar with such fervor, and it was something to witness. It wasn’t until the following night that I got a good shot of him making love to that Gibson. (See Part 2: Chicago) The blues riffs Dave introduced halfway through were intoxicating. (Not to overwork an analogy….) After only briefly catching their (our?) breath, they moved into an extended version of “Stacked Actors” which included both a seizure-inducing drum solo by Taylor and more incredibly tight band work. The guys were one well-oiled unit…

Sorry, got lost there for a minute…

As “Stacked Actors” wrapped up, Dave began a killer tease as the acoustic stage dropped slowly where I stood (with a few others) in the center of the arena. He ambled slowly down the runway, playing strains of “Skin and Bones” as he grinned like a Cheshire Cat. As the technicians released the stage from the rafters and secured it, Dave stepped confidently into our midst. It was an appearance well worth waiting for. Dave in High Definition. In the darkness behind him the rest of the band made their way to join us for the acoustic set.

Courtesy of

Dave stepped up to the center mic (facing away from the main stage) and began to sing—silently. The mic was mis-wired. He repeated the guitar phrase and tried twice more before giving up and calmly heading over to one of the two side mics, where he was successful. No temper tantrums with this guy. By the end of the song they had the mic working and he came back to greet the back of the venue.

This was the moment I had been waiting for. I had not come empty-handed. I had prepared a sign for Dave like any self-respecting attention-whore would have done. One side said “Cheesheads Love the FF.” The other side was a more obscure reference to a 2007 benefit performance Dave had done with Will Ferrell. The video had recently been posted on the FF website. Dave and Will had sung a hilariously dry cover of the Stevie Nicks and Don Henley duet, “Leather and Lace.” Since I didn’t expect to see Will at any of the shows, I wrote “Davey & Ty,” Dave and Taylor’s nicknames from the “Long Road to Ruin” video, under the song title. Taylor has always been Dave’s best comedic foil, and I thought they’d have real magic together. And since no one else was likely to request the song (primarily because any fool knew they’d never do it) and I was eager to see what reaction it might get from the band.

Nate, courtesy of
As Dave was spinning around soaking up applause from the back of the stadium, I held the sign up in front of Nate, who was positioned directly in front of me. He laughed.

Dave's hair, courtesy of

Several suspenseful minutes passed before Dave stopped running around and found a reason to look in my direction. When he did, I was ready. Dave’s long hair completely covered his face, and I could just make out the squinting of his eyes as he tried to read through his locks. As he did, a sly smile overtook his face. Contact had been made. I was a happy woman. Just moments later he turned back in my direction and pointed. I immediately held my sign up again. He laughed and shook his head, having found something besides me worth commenting on. From then on I just let the “Cheesehead” side hang out, and that was the side that ended up on the FF photo album the next day.

Needless to say, no one around me knew what the hell I was referring to with the Leather & Lace request. Were there no true fans here? I educated as many as I could, but I had a show to enjoy.

“Marigold” followed “Skin and Bones” and was a huge crowd favorite. This was definitely an audience who loved the “old shit.” We may be getting old, but some things we’ll never forget. They next did a great version of “My Hero” before Dave decided it was time to introduce the full band. Bassist Nate Mendel smiled shyly, and guitarist Chris Shiflett nodded appreciatively. The Foos have expanded slightly since the Skin and Bones tour, and now have with them keyboardist Rami Jaffee (of the Wallflowers), cellist/violinist/vocalist Jesse Greene, and the best fucking triangle player performing today, Drew Hester.

Drew and Dave, courtesy of

Dave loves to rib Drew about being so damn talented that he can make a living playing an instrument we all learned to play in second grade. He has a valid point. Dave went on to point out that not only were we all losers for giving up the triangle so early in our lives, but that if we had really wanted to succeed, we’d have dropped out of high school altogether and started riding motorcycles, as he had. Another good point. I had to wonder what went through the mind of 12 year-old Kyle just on the other side of me.

The Foos have also picked up former guitarist Pat Smear for shits and giggles—and I mean that literally, as Pat seems to be grinning and laughing through every performance I have ever seen. I don’t know what he’s on, but I am definitely jealous. As is typical, Pat was smoking as he was introduced.

Pat enjoying a moment with Dave before the show, courtesy of

Dave saved the last introduction for his BFF, Taylor Hawkins. It was the perfect segue into Taylor’s song, “Cold day in the Sun.” I had not heard this particular version before, which opened with a surprisingly melodic belch from the drummer turned vocalist. Dave scrambled between all three acoustic mics to sing back-up vocals for Taylor, leading one to expect him to tumble into the audience at any moment. He was so busy horsing around that Taylor had to call out during the song, “Dave—my vocals!”
Taylor, courtesy of

After Taylor wrapped up his tune and Dave had taken a few sips from his “therapeutic” Coors Light, he launched into a beautiful rendition of “But, Honestly,” which ended with Dave thrashing his head from his shaky perch atop one of Rami’s pianos. I believe that is one of the best songs off of this exceptionally-produced album, Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace. It won a Grammy, you know.

As everyone made their way through equipment and wires to head back to the front stage, Dave finished up our little acoustic show with his personal favorite, “Everlong.” The ending strains of the song were picked up by Chris up front, and Dave bid us all adieu—at least for the acoustic stage.

Back on the main stage, the band flew head-first into a huge crowd pleaser, “Monkey Wrench.” The bridge in the middle of this song, all sung on one breath on the original record, is the greatest challenge for any audience. The first time around, Dave went mute where the bridge would be, putting us all on the spot. We couldn’t do it in one breath (and neither can he, on tour) but there were enough of us singing that you couldn’t really pick out the times we paused to gasp for breath. A little further into the song Dave surprised us by launching into it himself, and we were more than willing to make one more go at it—at full volume, of course:

One last thing before I quit
I never wanted any more than I could fit into my head
I still remember every single word you said
and all the shit that somehow came along with it
still there's one thing that comforts me
since I was always caged and now I'm free

Just when I thought he couldn’t top that, he pulled out my personal favorite, “All My Life.” I could tell there are only squeaks coming out as I screamed along, but it made no difference. I was smiling wider than Pat Smear as the band faded away and the crowd screamed for more.

An encore was expected, but its precursor was not. As we waited and cheered for their return, the screens up front suddenly revealed a hand-held camera panning over the evening’s set list. It dipped lower and lower, but pulled away just as it got to the last song we’d heard. It then panned back up to the header of the list, which had written on it “Detroit—Rock City, 2/24.” Cue crowd.

As the arena cheered, the camera turned 180 degrees to reveal Dave behind the eyepiece. Four screens filled with Dave’s enormous smile. There was no sound with the video, but he could be seen asking if we would like to hear one more song. He stroked his beard as he listened to our response. “How about two?” He asked. The crowd grew even louder. His brow furrowed as he told us he had to “think about it.” He took a slow drink from a plastic cup and grinned again.

Suddenly the camera panned over to Taylor, sitting, sweating and smoking with a towel draped over his head. Smiling, he suggested maybe 4 or 5 songs. With a jerk, Dave turned the camera back onto himself. He frowned. “No way.” He said. “We’re not doing five songs.” The crowd booed. “Maybe two.” The crowd booed louder. “Okay, three songs. We’ll do three more.” The crowd went crazy as Dave and crew immediately ran back onto the stage.

Instead of launching into the next song, however, Chris made himself comfortable on the drum riser as Dave finished his beer in front of the audience. It was storyteller time.

“Okay, so how many of you are actually from Detroit?” Dave asked. A handful of people raised their hands.

“So there’s your drug dealers.”

Dave took us back to 1987 when he played his first show in Detroit at a club named Paychecks. He was then touring as a teenager with the punk band Scream, and they had opened for the Laughing Hyenas. Scream had virtually no money to their name, and jumped at the offer to sleep at the band’s house after the show instead of in their van. That sentiment changed quickly once they saw the frightening condition of the Hyena’s pad, however, and Dave soon decided he was better off in the van.

Sometime after falling asleep, he awakened in his sleeping bag to find the van moving. Their lead singer, Pete, was driving. Just as Dave started to ask what the hell was going on, Pete asked him if he believed in miracles.

As it turns out, one of the guys left their cash bag—the bag with every penny they had to make it through the tour, about $900—on the top of the pump at the last gas station they used, in the seediest neighborhood in downtown Detroit. “Crackhead Central,” Dave referred to it. Pete drove all the way from Ann Arbor to Detroit until they reached that gas station. There, sitting on that pump, was their cash bag, undisturbed.

“And that’s what I love about this fucking town. Only in Detroit are the crackheads too fucking stupid to steal a bag of money left right in front of them!”

And only in Detroit would that be taken as a compliment. The audience loved it. Having warmed us back up, he and Jesse sang an acoustic version of “Big Me,” followed by a rousing version of their last new single, “Long Road to Ruin.” Dave paused just long enough to thank us all for spending a few hours with him before they broke into “Best of You.” He gave us a few last runway walks as they wrapped it up, and soon we were left with nothing but the ringing in our ears. And a smile I didn’t think I would ever peel off my face.

Finding my way back to the car after the show was made only slightly more interesting by the bored security guards blindfolding each of us and spinning us at least six times before letting us back out into the steel Habitrail. I didn’t really care what VW Beetle I found at that point. I figured I’d try my key in the first one I found and just go from there. Amazingly, I eventually found my own car, and was soon driving past the lot attendant slumped all the way back in his chair, mouth open and snoring. (I remembered that being a frequent on-the-job hazard as a parking attendant, and hoped he didn’t accidentally spend the whole night down there.)

I wasn’t overly concerned with what road I took out of Detroit. I knew I’d end up either in Nova Scotia or somewhere in mid-Michigan, both of which were preferable to Detroit proper. I did indeed get lost and enjoy a small detour towards Lansing, but I was so high from the concert that I couldn’t have cared less. It was by sheer accident that I stumbled across the long cross street leading to my fine establishment, and I soon collapsed in a heap on my bed. I was so tired by that time I forgot to strip off the quilt, which I had been warned via numerous chain e-mails was riddled with all sorts of diseases and afflictions, never being washed since its creation. It is a wonder I lived through the night.

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