Posts from January 2007.
Josh Davis and I both worked at Amazon.com during the zenith of Dotcom Mania. While most of us, upon escaping the clutches of the World’s Largest Bookstore, just staggered into similar careers elsewhere — customer service, IT support, website design, and the like — Josh had Big Dreams, and set out to pursue them. He studied mixology, became a bartender, worked his way up from dives to cocktail lounges, and, less than a decade after starting down this road, purchased his first bar, lovely lovely Lottie’s Lounge. Oh, and along the way he also married one of my best friends. NICE WORK JOSH! P.S. The pesto linguine kicks ass. — MB
Okay, so my first attempt at writing something about Lottie’s Lounge sounded like a plug for a Ronco product or maybe a nice-smelling perfume. And while our food is delicious and the smells of Lottie’s are typically pleasant, Lottie’s is neither a rotisserie nor is it something quite as chic as Paris Hilton’s latest fragrance. So, like the coffee shop that became a bar, and then the bar that became a coffee shop and a bar, I’m making an effort to redo the first perception and talk about Lottie’s Lounge for what it is.
The thing is that I don’t know what Lottie’s Lounge is. You would think that a place where I have spent the last two years of my life–the last year roughly 75 hours a week–I would have some idea of what the place is. I could say it’s my lover but that just isn’t a very welcoming way to describe a building. I could say it’s my wife, but my real wife would probably not like that. I could say it’s my job or my child or some other metaphor, but those don’t do it justice. It’s not that Lottie’s doesn’t have an identity (it almost literally oozes an identity) it’s just that it can’t really be described. It has history. It makes people happy. It’s family, not just for me but for everyone who walks through the door. That’s all I know. People come to drink coffee, to eat food and to drink booze (sometimes in large quantities). People come to see their friends and to gather. People come to hear music and to laugh and to sometimes cry if necessary.
So even without knowing exactly what Lottie’s Lounge is, I know it is a good place for good people. It’s a good place for good food and it’s a good place for good drinks. It’s not a place that is fancy like the Dial-O-Matic nor is it a place that wants you to smell pretty like Britney Spears (or at least like her perfumes, because she probably smells like a bucket of fried chicken and a spent Marlboro 100), but I digress. Lottie’s is just a place where you end up and find that that is where you wanted to be.
Lottie’s Lounge is located in historic Columbia City on the corner of Rainier and Ferdinand in Seattle, Washington.
The following post was inspired by the eighty-second suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Tom Fakes of CRAZ8.
I bought some frozen hashbrowns. The cooking directions say “Microwave for 90 seconds, if desired.”
I’m glad they specified that they should only be cooked when desired. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a plate of streaming hot hashbrowns out of the microwave and thought, “Man, I wish I was hungry. What the fuck am I going to do with these?”
I was a party for John Moe the other night, celebrating his new job, when someone asked how he and I had become friends.
“Hah hah — that’s a funny story,” I said. “See, a few years back he was the head writer for a local comedy program called Rewind, and I would sometimes submit sketches. Since John was also the guy in charge of submissions, he was the one who always wrote back to tell me that my stuff had been rejected. So, then …”
Here I sort of trailed off and stared into the middle distance for 20 seconds or so.
“Um, yeah. Anyway, we’re friends now. Somehow. In retrospect, I have no idea how that happened.”
I wrote this book called Conservatize Me, right? I tried to switch from liberal to conservative through a variety of experiences, some quasi-serious and some — most — not so much. The research took place over the course of a month in the summer of 2005 when the nation had recently re-elected Bush (or, depending how Kos you are, Bush stole Ohio) but the horror the horror the horror of Iraq was becoming evident. As the book came to fruition, I was struck by the idea of routines. The research phase was not routine at all: it was full of diverse adventure like having tea with man-whore/reporter Jeff Gannon, shooting guns, getting high on jellybeans at the Reagan museum, crashing the college Republican convention, and shopping for Escalades. The writing phase was completely filled with sameness (6am at West Seattle Uptown Espresso, get handed my 12oz coffee before even ordering it, fire up Postal Service on iTunes, and I was writing before Ben Gibbard could even point out that something seems so out of context in this gaudy apartment complex).
The promotional phase of it, though, was a dizzying blend of tedium and new experiences. HarperCollins shipped me around the country, putting me up in swell hotels and hiring folks whose only job was to tend to me. Though every radio interview I did was somewhat different, they all asked pretty much the same questions, making me realize I ask the same questions of guests I interview (or did at my old job). Stops on the tour were exciting and getting to see your book on the shelves at Harvard’s bookstore is bonkers exciting, as is finding yourself in Austin. But the bookstore events are always — ALWAYS — just a smattering of folks (8 to 60 on my tour) and you read the same stuff and answer the same questions. So diversity and routine all at once. Except the Glenn Beck show on CNN Headline News.
See, we had struck out on most national media. Nothing ever came of NPR’s national shows, the Today Show nibbled but didn’t bite, same with Olbermann and Hannity. Then, weeks later, we get a call from the Glenn Beck show. Radio guy gone to TV, conservative, Mormon, from Everett.
Here’s how it worked on the day of the show:
- I get picked on the heroin dealer intensive street outside my (old) office in a car that is somewhere between a luxury car in a limo driver.
- The driver has lots of stories about Axl Rose (nice guy and very reasonable until they get to the Tacoma Dome when he gets out and puts on the jerk act) and about drunk driving (in 1965 Seattle, it was okay to do it but cops encouraged you to have some coffee.)
- I arrive at the KOMO studios down by the Space Needle. I’m hustled up to a studio where I’m seated in front of a bookcase full of books that aren’t real. They’re hollow. Not even props, just part of a set. To my other side is a potted plant. Around me, but out of camera range, are people’s desks and cubicles. So to the camera, it is as if you’re joining me in my author’s study.
- I am slathered in makeup. Quickly and efficiently.
- I’m given an ear piece and my choice of what ear to use. I pick my right forgetting that that’s the ear that’s oddly shaped making earbud headphones impossible and shutting me out of part of the iPod revolution.
- I’m told to talk into the camera as if I could see Glenn Beck but, crucially, I cannot. WHEN YOU WATCH TV, THE PERSON BEING INTERVIEWED PROBABLY CANNOT SEE THE INTERVIEWER. KNOW THIS FOREVER.
- The interview starts and Beck asks almost none of the questions his producer posed during our hour of pre-interview. I make jokes and try to smile. But all the while, I feel that earbud slipping out.
- From my other ear, I hear the guest in a nearby studio. He’s there to talk on a different show about fantasy football. “Make sure to play Travis Henry! And the Buffalo defense! THIS WEEKEND!” he bellows as I try to recall my conversations with William Kristol of 15 months before.
- With each question, Glenn Beck gets fainter and fainter due to that earpiece. If you happen upon footage of this interview, you can see me get increasingly baffled and worried. Finally, I can hear him no longer and am forced to say “I’m sorry, Glenn, I can’t hear you any more.”
- An engineer comes in to tell me the interview ended 60 seconds ago.
- Quasi-limo driver takes me back to KUOW.
I might never be more famous than this day. How would it have been different had I picked the left ear?
The 2007 Make-Yer-Own Oscar Pool Page is ready to go. A big thanks to everyone who helped test it out. And if anyone else notices further bugs or errors, be sure to drop me a line.
(Oh, and keep those cliches coming. Still haven’t decided what to do with them all, but I’ve been getting some great ones!)
The following post was inspired by the thirty-sixth suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Jan Ives of Dr Jan’s Tips From The Top.
To: Ma Baldwin
From: Matthew Baldwin
Date: Jan 26, 2007 11:58 AM
Subject: Embarrassing photo
Hi, mom. This week my defective yeti posts are based on a book of blog suggestion. I had my readers randomly select the topics, and today I'm supposed to post an embarrassing photo from when I was younger. I sure you have a few laying around the house. Can you pick one, scan it, and send it my way?
To: Matthew Baldwin
From: Ma Baldwin
Date: Jan 26, 2007 1:57 PM
Subject: Re: Embarrassing photo
Here you go. I love this photo, but I bet you are probably embarrassed by it.
To: Ma Baldwin
From: Matthew Baldwin
Date: Jan 26, 2007 3:10 PM
Subject: Re: Embarrassing photo
Oh, god. You win that bet.
On my top ten list of Internet Crushes, Sarah Brown’s name appears three or four times. For years she has been revealing funny and embarrassing details about herself via Que Sera Sera; now she’s letting the whole NetarWeb in on the action with Cringe, which she describes as “A monthly reading series … [in which] brave souls come forward and read aloud from their teenage diaries, journals, notes, letters, poems, abandoned rock operas, and other general representations of the crushing misery of their humiliating adolescence.” — MB
I wish I’d never made the joke that Cringe was “better and cheaper than therapy,” because every interviewer since then has really tried to grab onto that and make it their “hook,” which is funny to me, because why can’t the hook be that this thing is really funny? Because it is; it’s really, really funny. That’s the best part about hosting it, and reading all these book submissions. They make me laugh that kind of laugh where you sort of bark really loudly in surprise and then your stomach hurts and you say, “Oh… ohhhhhh. Oh no.” That’s probably my second favorite kind of laugh. Definitely beats the accidental fart while being mercilessly tickled laugh.
The entries that kill me the most are the ones where people simultaneously exaggerate or embellish the truth, to their own diary, and then, in the next sentence, lay all their hopes and dreams bare. There was a great reader named Roslyn, who at seventeen was determined to stay a virgin until marriage, but she was also “dying for some play.” She then launched into this elaborate fantasy about her dream boyfriend, and what they’d do if her parents went out of town. It jumped back and forth between the sweet and clueless, like them having cookies and watching a movie and ordering a pizza, to the unflinchingly raunchy, all handjobs and oral references (apparently her definition of sex was the Clinton one), but lingered mostly on these heartbreakingly small details, like how her hair would be “perfectly blow-dryed,” and how she hoped he’d come into her bedroom and ask questions about each little thing she had on display, every picture on the bulletin board.
That kills me most of all, because at that age, you spent so much time assembling your room because you couldn’t really assemble the personality you wanted any other way, and to have someone pick up each and every thing and ask you about them probably would have made most of us happier than actually getting in on. Most of us. And the honest truth is, a part of you still wants that. You want someone you like to come into your room and ask you if you’ve read all those books and which was your favorite and who is this in this photo and when was it taken, blah blah blah, you want that tractor beam of attention, that teenage feeling. And that, to me, is the best part of Cringe: you laugh off your most unbearable moments and everyone laughs with you, but there’s the unspoken understand that we’re all still pretty much just like that, clueless and horny and full of hope and dread.
Submissions are open for the Cringe book until February 14 at cringebook.com.
The following post was inspired by the third suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Deron Staffen of Lectures on Everything.
The nicest present I gave anyone went to my little sister, in 1984. She wanted a copy “Like A Virgin,” and I bought it for her. This may not seem too impressive, until you consider that (a) I was a shy, 13 years boy, and (b) the front of the record featured a reclining, bustier-clad Madonna, with bosoms heaving every-which-way. I was mortified by the thought of handing it to a cashier and telling her I wished to purchase it. And since I only had enough money for the record, I couldn’t even employ the teenage-boy condom-buying ruse of piling an assortment of miscellaneous other items on top of it at the checkstand and then feigning surprise when the cashier uncovered it. (“What the-? How did that get there?! Well, you might as well ring it up …”).
Several Christmas earlier my sister had given me a package of pencils that she purchased with her allowance, because she’d heard me say I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. At the time I thought it was the lamest gift ever, paling in comparison to the Death Star playset I’d received from my folks; In retrospect I think that might be the most thoughtful present I’ve ever received.
I don’t actually know Neal Pollack, and even calling him an “Internet friend” would be a stretch, but I am nonetheless indebted to him for his unwitting contribution to this site. A few months after I started defective yeti I wrote about an event I attended, in which Neal was interviewed by John Hodgman. The post gained me some measure of notoriety as it was linked from all over the web, increasing my daily hit count by a dozen or more, and catapulting me into the rarefied ranks of E-list bloggers where I remain to this very day.
Neal Pollack’s newest book, Alternadad, is a sobering look at what happens when a baby enters the life of a man incapable of remaining sober. — MB
On Monday night (Tuesday morning?) at 1 AM, I found myself in the studios of WOR Radio, in New York. I was to be a guest on The Joey Reynolds Show. I didn’t know much about Joey Reynolds, other than that he used to be Wayne Newton’s manager, sometimes serves his guests homemade cheesecake, and wrote a memoir titled Let Your Smile Be Your Umbrella, But Don’t Get a Mouthful of Rain. Also, his real name is Joey Pinto.
I arrived at the studio baked out of my mind, which was the only way I could make it to 1 AM with any semblance of coherence or humor. There, I found a woman named Ronnie Koenig sitting on a white leather couch. Ronnie is the former editor of Playgirl Magazine. She has written, and is performing in, a play based on that experience. We wondered what we were doing on AM radio at one in the morning. Meanwhile, Joey Reynolds was talking on air to a guy with a German accent.
Joey’s producer came to get Ronnie, which left me alone in the foyer to do nothing but pace and do easy yoga stretches. A panel discussion was in progress on the radio. In addition to Ronnie Koenig, Joey’s guests were Kenny Kramer (the “original” Kramer), and an Albert Einstein impersonator. They spent much of their time talking about the high personal cost of fame. Meanwhile, I waited to get into the cocktail party.
When it was finally my time, I entered an empty studio. Everyone else had been ushered out the back door while I was taking a piss. I met Joey Reynolds, who was aging, but in a good Tony Bennett kind of way. Reynolds, who had not yet seen my book, took a look at my readers’ copy, said, “Alternadad? What the hell is this?” and then launched into another on-air monologue about the high price of fame, and also about how he doesn’t like upper-level radio station management. Fifteen minutes later, he cut to commercial.
“You have to connect with the people,” he said.
I hadn’t yet said a word.
Eventually, we talked at length about my book, an interview that, I’m sure, led to thousands of sales. During commercial breaks, he told me about his friends Charles Grodin and Dan Parcells, the brother of Bill Parcells. And then it was over. Before I left, I had to pee again. Joey was in the handicapped stall, smoking.
“Nothing to see here,” he said.
“I saw nothing,” I said.
He looked at me kindly.
“You’ll do fine,” he said. “Just don’t get addicted to fame.”
Somehow, I felt like he understood.
And then he was off to interview the former manager of The Smithereens.
All this week (and next!) I will be making posts based Mighty Girl‘s book No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog. In preparation for the event I asked readers to send me numbers from 1 to 100; I am now writing entries based on the corresponding suggestions from the book.
Today’s randomly selected writing prompt, #27, reads, in part:
The people around you are doing worthy things ... write little profiles of your friends.
Well, hey: the other thing I am doing this week (and next!) is letting my friends use this site to promote the various “worthy things” they have recently accomplished. And I’m even prefacing each with a little profile. In other words, I am already implementing this blog suggestion, and needn’t write anything more about it. ISNOW DAY!
That said, I’d be remiss not to mention that today’s suggestion was chosen by Felix Helix of Ipecac Aperitif.