Them’s birds a-roost’n

My muse, James Calabrese, once wrote “These 48 hours will require a separate and detailed blog post in order to fully mention the bisque. It will undoubtedly come in an untimely manner.” How about over 3 months later? Untimely enough for you? Well estimated former James.

Looking back on those 48 hours through the rose colored lenses of nostalgia make me feel that those 2 days were in fact…. still really fucking miserable. Nothing changes. I’d like to elaborate on one portion of those 48 hours. A one hour span that wasn’t so much miserable as it was way to reminiscent to the opening scenes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

It’s about 10pm, I’m camping somewhere outside of ___ Texas (overlap #1 of many with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and I’m driving away from camp with two bikini clad blond ladies (high five! Who saw that coming after my last bro-blog post. A brog post? also, overlap #2). We are heading out to purchase some firewood to bring back to camp. After a spell, we happen upon what looks like it could be a back-country general store of some sort. Blond #1 and I walk in, and immediately regret that decision (#3).

It was not a creepy general store, but was in fact a creepy trailer park bar. Blondie and I are greeted by a who’s who of trailer park trash (#4). A transgender going through a low budget male to female gender transformation. Or perhaps just a really big ugly women (think Briene of Tarth from GoT). Two guys who I think were brothers, or father & son, or father & brother, sporting a trailer-classic look. An IT specialist down on his luck. And a few more rounding out a crowd of about 7. All were well lubricated and staring at the bikini clad blond, and the tank top clad “fresh meat”.

Blondie somehow breaks through the silence and starts chatting with the bartender about where we can drive to buy wood. I stand there feeling useless and rapeable.

“Need wood for cook’n or for heat’n?” is posed to me unexpectedly from one of the particularly well seasoned alcoholics at the bar (although through the magic of alcohol and chain smoking he may not be 73, but could be 31 for all I know).

Not knowing there was a difference in wood types, I shakily answer “heating.”

“Would cedar do the trick?” he asked. Who is this guy? Some sort of arbor savant?

“Yeah Cedar would do just fine.” I answer trying to act like I actually put rational thought into it.

“Alright hold on.” He says as he pulls out his phone and begins dialing. He quickly gets someone else on the other end of the line and begins coordinating what I assume to be my kidnap and murder. God I hope it is only kidnap and murder.

“Sir, that’s okay. We are just gona go to a store and buy the wood”

“Nonsense, my brother Skipper lives right around the corner. He’ll sort you out”

At this the bartender considers his advice superseded and stops instructing Blondie on how to get to a real, presumably torture-free, store. We awkwardly listen to the directions to Skipper’s trailer and then shuffle outside. Back in the car we all agree/question that we guess we are going to Skipper’s. It was like a Ouija board at a middle school sleep over – nobody knew who was moving it, but we all held on as something terrifying was spelled out before our eyes. (just try to imagine how far off I was from correctly spelling the word ‘ouija’)

The directions were surprisingly good, and we arrive at Skipper’s trailer in no time. Skipper greats us in the headlights of our car with the beat red face of a life long alcoholic, and a 2 pack a day voice to boot.

“You need wood for heat’n or cook’n”. Damn these guys knew their wood.

“Heating”

“Would cedar do?”

“Cedar’s perfect” I answer with the confidence of repetition.

Skipper leads us around to the back of his trailer where what can best be described as a drug deal went down. “How much you got?” “How much do you need?” “How much does it cost?” “Is it dry?” “I’m not paying that for some damp ass Cedar!” “I’ll throw in some kindling”, etc etc etc. It even concludes with Skipper pulling out the largest wad of cash I’ve ever seen. He either is a drug dealer, or mistrusts banks. I’d believe either.

By the time we’re done we’re actually all quite chummy and I’m enjoying Skipper’s company. Skipper worked in a coal mine for many years, and all the noise isn’t from cicadas as I thought but in fact “them’s birds a-roost’n”. Skipper offers to help us out with any other camping needs that may crop up tonight or in the years ahead. During this offer he goes on one of my favorite monologues of all time:
“Now if yous come on back here, and that there truck is gone. Now that’s my wife’s truck. That means she’s gone… probalby at the bar. If that there golf cart’s a-gone. That’s my cart. That means I’m gone… probably at the bar.”

What a guy. God I want to party with him.

We return to the camp site in high spirits having completed our primary task of wood acquisition and our secondary task of not getting Texas Chain Saw Massacred, Delivered, Sling Bled (especially the Dwight Yoakum parts… mmhh), Roadhoused, Earnest Scared Stupdided, Southern Comforted, Motel Helled, or Taken (not a scary southern themed movie at all, but still that would suck to get your ass kicked by Qui-Gon Jinn or taken and sold into sex slavery).

Sadly I didn’t stay to enjoy the fire because if you recall I hated those 48 hours. So I promptly went into my tent alone and listened to Game of Thrones on tape (suck it reading!). Oh Daenerys, fetch me a dream.

-James

Bonus Q&A:

“James, you hit the obscure movie links extra hard this post, but somehow failed to add one Star Wars link. All we got was a lazy Liam Neeson Qui-Gon Jinn reference. What gives?”

“Great observation friend.  The lack of Star Wars was no accident.  I want you begging for Star Wars so I can shamelessly promote my upcoming performance at Speakeasy DC on Tuesday October 8th.  I’m telling a story all about Star Wars! I know, finally.  You’re welcome. Check out the details here if you want to come watch and be terrified by the role Star Wars has played in my life.”

Spooky Camping #1

Spooky Camping #1

Spooky Camping #2

Spooky Camping #2

Can a bro get a bro?

Long time no write ya nerds. I’m not sorry for the blogging hiatus because I’ve been too busy picking up dudes. Yes you read that correctly, and I implore you to continue reading so I can add some heterosexual context.

Your first question for me is likely “what?”. An unimaginative, but non the less fair inquiry so I’ll be your huckleberry and answer before dying of tuberculosis. While traveling I’ve found I have an ample allotment of “James Time”. Typically this is my most favorite of times used predominantly to freestyle rap and play make believe. Much like midnight all you can eat red beans and rice or 3am $1 tacos (6 bowls and 13 tacos respectively), too much of a delicious thing can actually become sorta boring and leave you rubbing your distended belly on the couch for the next 12 hours while coming to terms with coronary artery disease. As convoluted as that last sentence was the point is sometimes I don’t want to be alone. And when I get that feeling, it’s not Marvin Gaye’s timeless cure-all that I need, it’s a bro.

Someone with whom to slam beers, hike, swap tall tales, and silently stare into a sunset wrapped in the comfort of our communal brodem. For these needs, a women just won’t do.

How does one pick up a bro though? Sadly there is no manual out there. No The Game to equip me with a pre-packaged conversation starter or closing ‘neg’ strategy. A google search of “how to make dudes like you” leads to a plethora of advice centered around delayed fellatio. This advice was not exactly applicable to my predicatment. Having been abandoned by google, I had to ford the raging river of Brotown USA all alone. There wasn’t even an Indian guide I could trade some of my thrift store clothing to in order to help me and my $1600 of ammunition across. (if you didn’t go to school as personal computers were becoming popular then you will not get the Oregon Trail references, and your life is sadder for it).  It turns out that in this river, however, I’m a god damn 2008 Michael Felps (remember how awesome that was? And that?  Sucks to be Italian at the 4:40 mark).

That’s right, I’m currently batting 1000 in the ball park of bros. And I’m out in the wild bromosphere in totally uncharted bro-ographies. This isn’t Dispatch’s last concert or something. These are real wild bros. Back story: In 2004 I had my first ever bro pick up while traveling to Boston for Dispatch’s last concert. Some friends and I beat a pack of college bros in a pick up game of ultimate frisbee at Harvard square the day before the concert. We then had said bros buy us alcohol and save us seats in the second row. Stellar bro pick up across all the major categories of setting, event, and favors garnished.

So that’s when I first dipped my toes into the brocean with some buddies at 17. Now I’m on my own at 26 and while my flick might be a little rusty I can still sure as hell hook a bro. (Did you notice the guys name in the last link? What a superb bro)

I have 2 primary tactics:

1) The move that never fails – Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits

For years I’ve been extolling the merits of fruit and yogurt parfaits to anyone who will listen. There is no better way to start your day, and no better way to pick up a bro (or a chick. This one is a unisex move because EVERYONE loves fruit and yogurt parfaits). I used this tactic in Nashville TN with clinical precision going through all of the standard steps of brocation, broproach, brodvance, and brocure. It went like this:

After an evening of revelry I went to bed late at the hostel in my 4 person shared room. I noticed one bed still unoccupied despite the late hour. I woke up early to find it inhabited by a man fully clothed in the fetal position with the hostel linens still folded up neatly at the foot of his bed where the staff placed them prior to arrival [brocated – bro located]. I saw him again around 11am sitting in the sun outside the hostel smoking a cig (might as well have been flying a bro-flag). My bropening line was a textbook “big night last night?” [broproach – bro approached. Also known as the ‘bropener’ in some circles]. After swapping tales I went for it (better to strike early when hunting serious bros). “Hey, I was just about to walk to Walgreen’s and grab some Greek yogurt to complete my fruit and yogurt parfait. Do you want one?” [brodvance – advance the bro situation]. Of course he did. Everyone does.

Wrapping up breakfast at 12:30 he asked “do you want to start drinking” (wow, the brogame equivalent of an UNO reverse draw two). At this point of if you are not saying “oh most definitely” then you had no place trying to pick up a bro to begin with. Over a cooler of beer and a Nalgene of gin and tonic we discuss literature, philosophy, travel, and throwing knives (true bros are well read and well rounded).

12 hours later David (because at this point he deserves a name) and I were 25% of the occupants at a bar on the outskirts of town. We found ourselves in an arm wrestling match with a hulking man called “D”. The more impressive the man the fewer letters he requires. That is why I include my middle name on Facebook. This arm wrestling move is a more advanced blue-collar brogame tactic that shouldn’t be used lightly, and doesn’t quite deserve a full break down like the parfait does. Anyways… D and I roll up our sleeves, I turn my hat around backwards, and get my ass kicked. Beyond the obvious Over The Top implication of the hat turn, I also make plenty of Ash Ketchum references in case there were any bro-nerds at the bar. The brokemon shout outs didn’t win me any bros (couldn’t hurt to try, and it entertained me at least) but the arm wresting did the trick for D and his girlfriend. We proceeded to drink drinks and laugh laughs together for the night.

David and I toured Nashville the next day, and he is planing to meet me with his boat when I get to South Dakota [brocured – bro secured]. Doesn’t this feel like the final freeze frame caption on David and my coming of age movie? A truly great brogame win.

Related Side Note: In Calgary I received the best John Bender fist pump of my life.  Hamza and I were walking down the street and a homeless guy asked if we could spare any change.  Without breaking stride I grabbed all the change from my pocket and dumped it in his hands.  Because Canadian money is silly, they have $1 and $2 coins.  So I could have given him anything from 75 cents to 14 dollars.  It must have been a lot because as we walked off he took stock of the coins then shouted “where are you from?” I shouted back “Washington DC” and after a brief pause he simply gave me a huge fist pump and held it strong in the air for a few seconds.  I pumped back, and walked on.

Double Side Note: What is it like for strippers in Canada?  Do they just get pelted with coins when they are on stage?  That’s not sexy.  Maybe there is some sort of ticket system like at an amusement park? Wow, now there is a business idea. A Gentlemen’s Carnival!

2)  Still bros run deep

A bro slamming beers is a dime a dozen. Don’t get me wrong, though shallow, this is still a solid bro.  Star Wars parodies are a dime a dozen as well and that certainly doesn’t mean they don’t fucking rule.  But this bro is more of a drinking buddy, not a bro to share your broul with (broul = bro soul).  That requires a bro of some depth… that is what I advertise, and it couldn’t be easier.  Here is how to do it in a few easy steps:

a) Timing: Show up to a bar at the start of happy hour.

You do this because you want the atmosphere to be lively, but not crowded.  You need to guarantee yourself a stool at the bar.

b) Dress: Like you don’t give a fuck.

This doesn’t mean you dress like a GDI, but that you dress your way.  It lets everyone know you are from out of town, and that you don’t care about them.  I personally go with a lot of thrift store garb which in any combination guarantees a certainly level of weirdness. Weird = Intriguing.  Some might call this peacocking, but that implies that this isn’t your normal attire.  Wear what you’d normally wear, but make it the outfit you’d wear to a lake house labor day weekend.

c) $$$: Show your wealth

Everyone is attracted to money.  Men just as much as women.  Even more so perhaps.  And bros above all.  Remember, $$$ = rounds.   So when you sit at the bar don’t act like a peasant sophomoric frat bro and order a miller light, and don’t try to be some sorta hipster and sip on a PBR.  Order an IPA, or better yet something with bourbon.  Better yet, order a bourbon neat.  Also order some food.  Raw seafood if you can swing it, but any food will do.

d) Mindset: Block out the world

Remove your conscious self from the bar.  My preferred method is by writing.  Get out a little notebook and start scribbling and your first bro encounter is less than 5 minutes away.  You can also read a book, but this necessitates a very specific bromosphere.  If it is too rowdy you are just a weirdo for reading.  I pulled off a literary pick up once on this trip, but conditions were perfect.  I was also reading “Old Man and the Sea” which is a high on Broprah’s Book Club list.  Hemingway is one of histories top bros.

It’s that simple.  Follow those steps and bros will come to you.

Timely Testimonial:  I’m currently writing about tactic #2 at a restaurant in Missoula Montana.  I’m supposed to meet up with a friend from elementary school here, but this ancient connection is proving to be unsurprisingly fruitless at the moment.  I can’t exactly blame Nickie for ignoring my recent facebook messages since my adult life as a dork was proceeded by an equally dorky and even more sweatpants heavy adolescence when we knew each other. So I’m here quietly getting drunk with no place to sleep tonight.  Until my waiter checks my ID on my 4th beer and sees that I’m from DC. Blah, blah, blah I’m crashing at his place tonight.

God I’m good.  God I wish I was good at other stuff… anything else…

-James

One of my most bizarre thrift store arrangements.

One of my most bizarre thrift store arrangements. This goes a bit beyond what should be worn to a happy hour, but you can see what sort of weird articles I’m working with.

Athletic bro. Look at the tool limits I'm pushing in this shot. I'm actually holding the bike over my shoulder to show off how strong I am.  A bit much even for me... and it is me.

Athletic bro. Look at the tool limits I’m pushing in this shot. I’m actually holding the bike over my shoulder to show off how strong I am. A bit much even for me… and it is me.

Who doesn't like flowers? Is that related to my desire to pick up bros?

Who doesn’t like flowers? Is that related to my desire to pick up bros?

I'm a sucker for a good wild flower

I’m a sucker for a good wild flower

IMG_2318 IMG_2326
Oh My God, everything is flowers!  Bro, take a picture of me and the flowers!

Oh My God, everything is flowers! Bro, take a picture of me and the flowers!

Picked up this bro while camping. He built a fire and had incredible movie knowledge.  Solid pick up.

Picked up this bro while camping. He built a fire and had incredible movie knowledge. Solid pick up.

James 0 : Bojangles 1

Billed as one of the highlights of my trip, Asheville NC instead brought rain, searching, and upon finding what I was searching for, intense terror. It was just like that scene in Se7en where Brad Pitt is chasing Kevin Spacey through the rain only to finally catch him and get his ass kicked and nearly killed (spoiler!). In this story, I’m Brad Pitt (like I am in every James’ life to movie character analogy), the rain is the rain, what I’m looking for is sun/camping, and nearly getting killed… is kind of nearly getting killed. Let’s start from the beginning.

I arrive in Asheville only to be greeted by a bitch-slap from mother nature. The Cash sisters (actually people, not some weird nickname for my money) and I do what we can, but we quickly exhaust all of the tea shops and bowling alleys in town.

Side note: what bowling ally plays heavy metal and angsty alt-rock music videos during cosmic bowling? Hitting a strike right in the 1-3 pocket just isn’t the same to Puddle of Mud . Can a roller get some Shirelles or something? (to PoM’s credit, that guy looks like a good dad in the music video despite a short-hat-hair combination that would suggest he’s a better Madden 2K13 player.  If you make it to the 1:57 mark in the second video Shirley, Doris, Micki, and Beverly really amp up the dance moves!)

Anyways…hanging out in Amanda Cash’s apartment is not a sustainable solution because it is disgusting. So Rachel and I are desperate to get outdoors, and are considering driving upwards of 6 hours away to find some sun. Until… Monday morning the clouds part unexpectedly and let a little hope fill our hearts.

We set out for the Graveyard Fields in the mountains of Asheville rejoicing in a rare moment of hydrologic fortune as we travel a remote and winding mountain road. We reach the top of the scenic pass which should join us to the main road cutting across the ridge of the mountain. Our joy immediately erodes as we are pimp-slapped by the man. Lord knows why, but there is a gate down blocking our entrance to the main road. We are literally 10 yards away from the road we need to get on. Much brow furrowing ensues, and we backtrack.Fail

Blah, blah, blah we make it to Graveyard Fields, dominate the hike, scope some choice campsites, and decide to make a night of it since the weather continues to hold. We get our gear from the car, and set up about 1/2 mile away. The night gets cold and I fail to start a fire with the sopping wet wood #EagleScout. So we turn in early. Us in the tent, my pack right outside the tent 18 inches away from my head under the rainfly.

… I bolt awake at 1am to the sound of someone ripping my pack out from under the rainfly and running away. I shake Rachel awake and declare  “you are not going to believe me, but somebody just stole my pack… stay here!” I grab my headlamp and knife, throw on my shoes, bolt out of the tent, and dash up the trail to catch the thief. I’m scrambling up the trail in the dead of night save the narrow beam from my headlamp. At this point I actually begin to think thoughts which include “what happens if I catch this guy”, “does he have a gun”, “what if there are multiple guys”, “did he even run this way”, “shit, I just left Rachel alone!”. Upon that last thought I run back to the tent.

There Rachel and I shiver together in the cold and terrifying night. Every twig snap or leaf rustle sounds like some Bojangly ass mother-f***er moving around outside. Who is out there? What are they capable of? I don’t want to get delivered. Did they break into my car? They stole my damn pack!

The mix of anger and fear are hard to describe. If you’ve ever had something stolen from you then the anger is easily understood (a catalytic mix of innate carelessness and living at 5th and P in DC has made me well practiced in this form of anger).  The fear, however, was an uncommon one. We’ve all felt rushes of fear before, but this was a sustained fear. The kind that is only felt when you are totally alone and helpless in the wilderness. It is a vulnerable fear that sinks in deep.

Our tent became a cocoon of terror. The visual sensory deprivation heightening the fear registered by our ears. Eventually this was too much to bear for me, and I hated the thought of Rachel feeling similarly. So I got out of the tent to stand guard  At least then I could see what was out there, and put myself between Rachel and whatever pack-thieving, bucktoothed, bojangly ass, coloring book reading, single digit tooth having, back water son of a bitch was out there. I grab a big stick and take up my post.

I was right outside our tent on the edge of the path with my head bolting left, then right, then left, then right. Up and down the trail. About 20 yards away up the trail to the left was a small bridge which was a little lighter then the surrounding wilderness. Every look left and my first thought was that it was a person. I became a metronome of fear. Look right, then look AHHHH, then right, then EEEEEE, then right, then WHAT, then right, then WHOLY SHIT… on and on and on. I remained there for about 30 minutes before returning to the tent very cold and at least confident enough that we were out of harms way that I could fall asleep. This was not very confident…I’m just a great sleeper. Like Brad Pitt in Sleepers (I have not actually seen it, but assume it heavily features napping).

Blah, blah, blah… In the morning I find my pack in the woods about 75 yards away from our tent. It had been shredded by a bear!

First of all, is it more or less scary that it was a bear?  I don’t know.  It is just different scary.  I certainly feel more stupid because it was a bear.  Second of all, I’m really glad I didn’t catch it when I ran out of the tent.  That would have gotten awkward real fast. Third of all, this was clearly not his first pic-a-nic basket. To have known to snatch the strap of my pack from under the rainfly, run off, and slice through the pack like a surgeon (well… a bear surgeon.  Reference the pictures) is pretty darn impressive. This was the Yogi Bear of Asheville. Definitely smarter than the average bear, and arguably smarter than the average James. The biggest loss besides the pack itself was a beautiful sandwich I’d held off eating the night before in anticipation of an awesome breakfast. My secret ingredient is baked sweet potato. Also my pride… that was lost too.

Day 4 of 120. We are off to a promising start.

Bojangaly,
James

A pretty literal hiking trail

A pretty literal hiking trail

Some light bear wear and tear

For Sale: Male hiking pack with light bear related wear and tear

Shaving a few ounces off my hiking brush. Thanks bear!

Shaving a few ounces off my hiking brush. Thanks bear!

It is really a nice place when you aren't quivering in fear

It is really a nice place when you aren’t quivering in fear