Friday, September 12

The 'Lost' CDP Mix-Tape Exchange Review.



The CDP Worldwide Mix-Tape Trade #3 wrapped up a few months ago to record participation and some amazing creations by the CDP fans. As a way to say thank you, I tried to review every single mix that was sent my way, resulting in many sleepless nights spent listening to dozens of hours of new music submitted by nice folks from all over the globe. For the record, it was great; I think I've been sent over 40 albums since the conception of the Trade.

However, there was one Mix that slipped my grasp this previous time around. CDP Alumni Smedley decided to puff his chest out and demonstrate his musical prowess and knowledge, sending me a six disk behemoth of sound; cover songs and original versions of said covers spanning almost the entire length of recorded popular music. I remember joking to him at the time that it felt like one of those Time/Life collections you see being sold on TV at 3:30am. I honestly felt bad that I didn't pay him for such a massive and amazing collection.

Sadly, time got tight, the Mix-Trade wrapped up, the CDP moved on to new essays, and the Smedley Mix-Tape review got lost in the shuffle, unfortunately. Until now. Somewhere in the midst of everything that's happened to me in the past month, I finally got the chance to sit down and give this Mix the attention it rightfully deserved. My findings are presented below.

Mix #20 - “Cover Me This, Cover Me That” - by Smedley.

The Skinny: There's absolutely nothing skinny about this mix. Smedley sent me a 6-disk monolith of sound that's heavy in the 60's and 70's, but pretty much encapsulates an entire historic section of classic bands covering classic songs by other classic bands. Had I attempted to recreate this collection using iTunes, it would have cost me well over $100, and I probably wouldn't have found 70% of the music he dug up for this collection. Where did you find this stuff?

The first 5 discs are a who's who of music history covering some of the greatest artists of all-time. Just a sample of the talent included here are: The Beatles, Dylan, Hendrix, The Byrds, Ides Of March, Yes, Elvis, The Beach Boys, Pavement, Queen, REM, MC5, Chuck Berry, The Stooges, Mission Of Burma, The Kinks, The Meters, Al Green, The Stones, Stevie Wonder, Prince, New Order, The Jackson 5, Alex Chilton, Black Sabbath, The Breeders, The Replacements, Joni Mitchell, Mudhoney, The Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr., Big Black, They Might Be Giants, The Dead Kennedys, Television, The Traveling Wilburys, The Velvet Underground, Johnny Cash, Curtis Mayfield, Devo, Husker Du, Superchunk, The Who, Bobby Darin, Led Zeppelin, Black Flag, Motorhead, Jawbox, Cream, Nirvana and ELO.

I'm stopping at 50 bands to be polite, but there's at least 100 more. Did he miss anyone? I think not.

What's more, the amazing thing is that all of these artists were captured within the somewhat-strict confines of a covers album. I had trouble finding a dozen tracks I thought were worthy of replaying on my own mix; Smedley shows up with all of them.

His sixth disc was a collection of cover songs that were far more famous than the original version; a sort of reverse-cover collection. This contained tracks like "I Want Candy,"performed by The Strangeloves but made famous by Bow Wow Wow. He also blew my mind when he mentioned that "Do Ya" was covered by ELO and originally performed by another group called The Move. My shock subsided, however, when it was revealed that The Move was essentially a Jeff Lynne vanity project. You learn something new every day.

The Highlights: I hadn't heard a lot of these covers, so I really didn't know where to start but the beginning. I put on a pot of coffee, did my stretches and got down to business.

Hendrix covering ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was a grandiose live opener, and I absolutely blew me away, like most of Jimi’s stuff. I used to listen to him a lot in High School, but for whatever reason, he’s sadly dropped off my radar. Time to get back in touch.

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood covering Johhny and June Carter Cash’s ‘Jackson’ was a surprisingly good time. Hazlewood sort of sounds like the Country/Western version of Calvin Johnson, however.

Smith taking on the Shirelle’s ‘Baby It’s You’ was rousing, wailing and beautiful, and Nickel Creek doing Pavement’s ‘Spit On A Stranger’ reminded me of just how great and far-reaching both groups were.

Mission of Burma doing The Stooges’ ‘1970’ was just as loud, chaotic and distorted as you’d imagine it being, and Otis Redding’s version of The Rolling Stones ‘Satisfaction’ is about as good as it gets concerning a legend covering one of the most recognizable riffs of all-time. Rage Against The Machine have rarely sounded angrier than their cover of ‘Pistol Grip Pump.’

Graham Parker’s cover of ‘I Want You Back’ is brilliant, but I consider it to be probably the greatest pop songs ever written (Barry Gordy never made junk), so I’m a little biased.

I haven’t heard the group Frente! for at least a decade, so their stripped-down, acoustic take of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is simply beautiful. Alex Chilton’s cover of Danny Pearson’s ‘What’s Your Sign, Girl?’ only solidified his legend.

Camper Van Beethover doing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Ledge’ was silly goodness, Big Black covering Kraftwerk is a match made in bizarre Heaven, and Dinosaur Jr. doing the oft-covered ‘Just Like Heaven’ was nothing short of blissful.

The Replacements covering KISS’ ‘Black Diamond’ sounded so right, Seaweed taking on ‘Go Your Own Way’ was a nostalgic slice of Seattle grunge, and The Cardigans pixie-voiced cover of ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ made me love that girl (and the original track) all the more.

Man, I wish that I could just upload Smedley’s great track-by-track comments here, because they really say more than I ever could. I’d like to think that he researched this stuff religiously before pecking it out, but I get the feeling that this was all stream-of-consciousness, which makes me so envious I could spit tacks.

Buck Owens cover of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ is a good, rocking reminder of where country music came from, as opposed of the melting pot or suck it’s become in the last 20 years. The Jam covering Curtis Mayfield got me to thinking about why they were never a more well-known group. As it turns out, they were just jerks who shunned the notion of American celebrity. Hey, whatever floats your boat, Mod fellows.

Husker Du can do no wrong, and their take on The Byrds ‘Eight Miles High’ is Exhibit A.

These are all just great tracks, almost an education, if you will. My only critique is that it’s all just too much. Even if every track is good, it’s just very difficult to digest so much culture at once, and it can’t help but get overwhelming and desensitized. I’m not saying that any of these tracks deserved omission, it’s just an absolute crap-ton of tracks.

The guitars in the Jawbox cover of REM’s ‘Low’ are powerful and dominant, which rules.

I notoriously despise Janis Joplin, so hearing the original version of ‘Piece of my Heart’ by Emma Franklin made me seriously happy, mainly because Franklin makes Joplin look like the unwashed hunk of heroin-soaked crap that she really was. Too much? Nope.

For as much as I’ve been reminded, I always forget that ‘Twist And Shout’ was a Isley Brothers song covered by the Beatles. Both versions are classics. Gloria Jones original version of ‘Tainted Love’ was incredibly eye-opening, and according to Smedley, didn’t even chart at the time of release. I had no idea the original track was so old.

ELO, to me, was one of the greatest rock bands of all-time; Jeff Lynne is a genius that completely understood the art of the hook, and coupled with his studio magic, created a nearly-unmatched legacy of awesome. Hearing ‘Do Ya’ reminded me that I need to bust out their albums. I’ve always stated that ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’ should be on every Mix-Tape you can cram it into, and I hold fast to that opinion.

Whew; I need to get out of the office for a few hours. That was intense.

By The Way
: Some people send me a handwritten track listing with descriptive notes. Smedley sent me a six-tab Excel spreadsheet. He seriously gave me about 140 songs that I didn't have for absolutely free, and I'm still a little stunned about the whole thing. I almost feel like I owe the man money. He truly went above and beyond, and his ego-free knowledge of music history rivals mine times about a hundred, and I even went to school for Music History.

Additional Notes
: Damn.

So, there you have it. I hope that I did this long-awaited review justice (Smedley had been patiently waiting for it for quite some time), and I recommend you get on Smedley's e-mail list, as he has a habit of giving out songs for free all the damn time. I salute you, good sir, and bow deeply in awe of your musical prowess. You must be like, 800 years old or something.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

NEXT WEEK: TV WEEK.

Wednesday, September 10

Smoochin'.



Last week, me and the Missus decided to take a break from our busy workdays and meet downtown for lunch. Afterwards, as I was walking her back to her car, I gave her a quick smooch and continued on my merry way. Simple. Very routine, very methodical and very robotic. Indicative of two people that have done it a million times prior. Thus goes the life of a married couple, and it got me to thinking.

For the bulk of my readers that are married or in a long-term relationship, I ask you: Whatever happened to the kiss? As a teenager or someone just starting out in a passionate, physical relationship, the kiss is about the most important thing you can do. It's what you strive for. It's the reason you put on clothes, smell nice and head out the door every day. Kisses create memories, they tell stories and they change lives on a daily basis. I'd even argue that a kiss is more important than sex in a manner of speaking, provided that conditions are correct.

The first time I kissed the Missus, it was in her parents driveway after we had gone out for dinner. It was January of 2000; I was 17, she was 16. I knew that something important was about to happen, I just didn't know what, and I felt I was too self-conscious and oily to make the move. After exchanging parting glances and pleasantries, I said good night and offered her a hug. Mustering every ounce of gusto I had, I had the brilliant idea to sneak a kiss on the cheek as I released her from my embrace. She, being the more intelligent and forthright member of this unstoppable Power Duo, was having none of that, and actually turned quickly to face me, effectively turning my innocent cheek-kiss into a full-on liplock that lasted 2.4 of the longest seconds of my life.

It was, to this very day, one of the greatest moments of my entire existence. Kissing flat-out works, bitches. Considering every little disgusting thing we've done since then, I still look to that moment because it encapsulated something one-of-a-kind. Unable to be duplicated. Void of ego and fueled only by emotion. Pure beauty.

But eventually, with marriage, adulthood and the unfortunate habit of taking your lover for granted, smooching inevitably becomes the background noise in your lives. As habitual as brushing your teeth or taking a shower, kissing becomes a formality, and there are little, if any, times where a kiss can ever take you by surprise the way it once did. It's not that you don't love and cherish the person that you're with, but it's just that your hand has been played. All of your tricks have been revealed, and nothing is going to surprise him or her anymore.

Married couples just don't take the time to properly experience what a kiss is supposed to be, and I felt that I should be the one to put a stop to all of that. Not take the Missus for granted so much, and harken back to a time when we were just wide-eyed kids, making out in my car like we had just invented a new drug (Makeoutazine? Sexapan?). Furthermore, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert/idiot on the matter, and I'm far too private to talk about anything beyond first base in a public forum.

I decided that action needed to be taken immediately, so I consulted the Internet and found a veritable Kama Sutra of First Base; varying techniques, inventive offshoots and reader testimonials concerning ways to breathe new life into a dead form of romantic expression for established couples. Whether the Missus wanted to or not, I wasn't going to let anything in our still-budding marriage die out so quickly, and she became a semi-willing test subject for about a dozen different methods of smooching, ten of which I plan to share with you right now.

The following kisses and testimonials are taken directly from a Match.com article, and they have been copied without permission. My (and the Missus) thoughts will appear under each one. Enjoy.

Great New Kiss #1: The Waterfall Kiss - The next time you’re walking your date home and it starts raining, consider grabbing your sweetie and giving a long smooch, sans umbrella. The wetness of your face and lips will give this kiss an incredibly sensual vibe. Just ask Seth, 31, from New York, NY, who began making out with his girlfriend in the rain with great results: “It became increasingly wet with the rain pouring down—it was just all tongue and water and slippery and very sexy,” he recalls. “Sometimes I try to create that in the shower with the woman I’m dating now. It works, but the original was definitely better.”

The Test: We didn't want to wait until a thunderstorm to try this kiss out, but we were also too lazy to follow Seth's secondary advice and jump into the shower. Besides, we both agreed that kissing spontaneously in the rain is an entirely played-out and overrated move by people who clearly don't care about having to do a load of laundry at midnight on a Wednesday. Impractical at best, and trying way too hard to recreate an 80's movie.

That being said, we certainly started out with a winner when the time came. The Wet Kiss, historically, is very passionate, memorable and sexy, but be warned that it's exceedingly sloppy and sort of disgusting to the untrained eye (like most sexual activity, really). I've never not been a fan of this particular smooch, and it came through in a big way once the rain started pouring down on our deck. The difference between now and when we were kids was the realization that we've been married for 4 years and were sharing a moment outside of the house we now owned as a couple. More than anything, there was a feeling of sheer accomplishment, which is a universal uniter. Nothing like a water softener or furnace to really bring a couple together.

The Verdict: Two soggy and wrinkled thumbs up.

Great New Kiss #2: The Tickle-Me Kiss - For a lighter, more playful night of necking, forget about your lips for a second and try using a new tool in your kissing arsenal: your eyelashes. Fluttered against a check or temple, they’ll deliver a barely-there sensation that will leave your lover wanting more, much more. Just ask Sarah, 30, from Denver, CO. “Sometimes I tickle my boyfriend before I kiss him by batting my eyelashes lightly against his cheek. I follow with a line of soft, light kisses there. He always laughs. It’s a nice way to remind him of the fun side of our relationship.”

The Test: We already knew that we weren't fans of the 'butterfly kiss,' so it didn't really take long to determine that it's more or less a huge waste of time. I understand that as married couples become more and more used to each other, the art of foreplay tends to take an unfortunate backseat at times. In this particular situation, it was mutually agreed that this didn't qualify at all as foreplay; at best, it was something you'd do to annoy someone.

However, it's hard to do this without laughing at each other, which I guess counts for something. It is a playful and cute thing to do, and the Missus found it tender; something done to show attention while sitting around the living room (which is what I did, during the Olympics, no less). But please, for the love of God, refrain from doing this in public. Revolting in every way and worthy of a throat-punching.

The Verdict: One embarrassed, male thumb down; one slightly-pleased, female thumb up.

Great New Kiss #3: The Roundabout Kiss - The outer edges of your lips are a sensitive, but oft-ignored, area—so try revving your amour’s motor by trying this move. Trace the tip of your tongue along this periphery, a move that does wonders for Virginia Smith, 23, from New Haven, CT. “My boyfriend would kiss me on the lips and then pull away a little and run his tongue slowly along my upper lip and then my bottom lip, in a circle. Every time I tried to kiss him, he would pull away, and then go in for some more circle action. It drove me crazy, in a good way.”

The Test: The description of this kiss makes it sound like it's something more than merely licking your partner's face, which is exactly what it is. After about a minute of lapping at the Missus like a dog, I decided that she didn't deserve such treatment and we quickly crossed this ridiculousness off of our list before she peppersprayed me.

I can't see much of a redeeming quality in this sort of almost-kiss. I mean, I understand the merits, but the execution is spotty at best. Also, if you busted this out on someone who wasn't expecting it, it would almost assuredly be met with sheer, abject terror. Luckily, I tipped the Missus off about this one beforehand, lest the police be called. Be careful out there.

The Verdict: Two slobbering thumbs down.

Great New Kiss #4: The Power Kiss - Sometimes the most passionate kisses have very little to do with your mouth. Rather, it’s the commanding way you use your hands that can make sparks fly. For Heather, 29, from New York, NY, kissing hits new heights when her girlfriend grabs her just so. “She’ll pull me close when I least expect it, putting her right hand firmly around my waist and cradling the back of my head with her left hand before kissing me,” she explains. “I love that kind of kiss!”

The Test: It should be noted that the above description of this kiss was relayed by a woman about her girlfriend, which was more or less all I needed to get into the correct frame of mind to knock it out of the park (I'm sorry; I just cannot help it). I'm pretty skilled at this one, as it is my already-favorite method of reminding the Missus that she's awesome from time to time. She arrived home from work last night, and I swept her up like a kitten, cradled her cheek, locked into her eyes and just obliterated her with a Power Kiss. BOOM! Job well done; Missus left breathless, sad and confused.

The Verdict: Two thumbs way up. Groceries dropped onto floor.

Great New Kiss #5: The Ice-Cube Kiss - On a hot summer day, you can still make chills run up and down your date’s spine by popping an ice cube into your mouth or eating a Popsicle… then planting one. Take it from Laura, 28, from Englewood Cliffs, NJ, who uses frozen grapes for a chilly surprise. “Sometimes, I’ll pop a frozen grape or two into my mouth before I kiss the guy I’m dating. It makes my mouth really cold and when I kiss his neck and down his chest, he loves the way it feels—he gets goose bumps everywhere.”

The Test: A word of warning, here. When dealing with extreme temperatures, please keep all kissing above the beltline unless properly warned in advance. Hospitalization or even death may occur. Remember in the cartoons, where someone would run straight through a wall, leaving behind only their outline in the wreckage? Yeah, just like that.

I quite enjoy this one. For our most-recent test, I had been drinking a Strawberry 'Fruitista Freeze' that I had just picked up from Taco Bell after work. I think I recall this trick being taught in Classless Loser magazine, and the Missus was left feeling refreshed and hungry for Cinnamon Twists.

The Verdict: Two frozen grapes up.

Great New Kiss #6: The Keep-Away Kiss - Making your lover beg for more can be a turn-on, and there’s a way to bring this element into kissing. Nicole, 26, from Miami, FL, has mastered the technique. “After I’ve been making out hot and heavy with a guy for a few minutes, I like to pull back and look him in the eyes. At this moment the guy will usually try to make out again, but I don’t surrender the upper hand! After I’ve successfully avoided another kiss, I give him a bunch of baby kisses along his lips starting at one side and going to the other. He always swoons.”

The Test: I don't 'swoon.' Never have and never will. I'm not sure I even know what that means. Furthermore, I don't consider this to be a kiss; more like something to be done in between kissing. This one doesn't count; it's standard foreplay and nothing more.

The Verdict: Not Applicable. There will be no swooning in my house.

Great New Kiss #7: Altoid Kiss with a Twist - Those mints that you keep in your pocket can help you with more than just your breath. Try this trick for a tingling sensation, and a tasty game of hide-and-seek. Karen, 35, from New York, NY, explains how she makes this work for her: “I tuck a spearmint Altoid in the back of my cheek and he tries to pull it into his mouth with his tongue. It makes for some good, deep kissing.” It adds a cool feeling to your kiss, and as Karen adds, “It's a fun way to ensure some lengthy foreplay.”

The Test: This is disgusting. I recall doing this a few times as a teenager with gum, but seriously, it's a pretty gross thing to do, hard candy or otherwise. Kissing can be a lot of things to a lot of people, but a tongue-administered Strep test isn't one of them. At least, for me.

You need to be in a fairly specific mood to make this feel like anything other than work. 'Playful' is the first one that springs to mind; a word that I would (thankfully) never use to describe myself and the Missus. Nonetheless, the absurdity of the kiss itself made us giggle, and I can assure you that when you're attempting to do this while laughing, it's nearly impossible.

The Verdict: Two minty thumbs in the middle, but a fun thing to do at parties, I suppose.

Great New Kiss #8: The Breathless Kiss - Many couples claim the scent of their sweetie is quite an aphrodisiac. If you agree, you’ll love this kiss, which actually involves no lip-to-lip contact, but instead zooms in on those heady aromas. Laura, 28, from New Haven, CT, explains why she loves this technique: “We’ll take long, deep breaths and move around each other’s bodies as if we’re kissing the other person, but we’re not using our lips,” she explains. “In many Asian cultures, it’s customary not to kiss with your lips, but to ‘sniff’one another, and — I have to say — it is very sensual.”

The Test: I fully understand why this is a turn-on, but the description makes us all sound like nothing more than canines. Also, I don't care what constitutes a kiss in other cultures, but this ain't it for sure.

The Verdict: Not applicable. The Missus always smells like sandalwood and sexy.

Great New Kiss #9: The Sugar Smooch - Food and kissing can be a great combination, but let’s just say that certain snacks are better-suited than others—and one of the best is marshmallow fluff. Why? It’s sweet, smooth, and melts in your mouth (so you won’t have to swap a big gob of food). Try this playful marshmallow move by M.W., a 26-year-old from New York, NY. “My guy and I do this thing where he puts a little dollop of marshmallow fluff onto his tongue and we start to kiss,” she explains. “The fluff melts easily in the heat of our mouths and what once was sticky becomes deliciously slick and sugary.”

The Test: Marshmallow Fluff used to be my best friend. I would treat it like some kids would treat pot: I always had a stash on me, my friends would get together, pass it around and watch MST3K, and it ultimately led to our overall stupidity and weight gain. I would usually buy a pack of M&M's, and stir them right into the Fluff jar, scooping out the delicious concoction with a spoon. Those were the days.

Then, I got older. More of a punk. Started hating stuff. Became a vegetarian and shunned all things gelatin, which included all marshmallow foodstuffs and Jell-O. Said goodbye to Fluff and never looked back.

The Verdict: I miss Fluff so bad.

Great New Kiss #10: The Stop-and-Go Kiss - This kissing game will get you steaming up the windows of your car in no time: When driving somewhere, promise to smooch every time you’re waiting at a red light. Whether you’ve got time for a full-blown make-out session or just a peck on the lips, it certainly beats just sitting there waiting impatiently, plus it can become a sexy new aspect of your relationship. As Erez Rotem, 30, of Brooklyn, NY, reports, “We just started doing it one day and now it’s become a sweet little tradition.”

The Test: At first glance, this seemed to me like a grownup version of the somewhat racist-named teenage game, 'Chinese Fire Drill.' Only this time around, it won't end with my friends leaving me for dead at the intersection of 9th ave and Mason, only to be driven home by the cops three hours later. Or maybe it would; how should I know?

We decided to test this the last time we wene grocery shopping, which is one of the few times during the course of a week that we ride in the same car together. It was then that we realized that there's only one stoplight between our house and the Copp's Food Center, and it just so happened to be green.

When we got in the parking lot, I leaned over and kissed her cheek anyway, just like I tried to do almost 9 years ago. And just like 9 years ago, she turned her head and planted one on my lips.

The Verdict: I'm a lucky guy. Furthermore, the Missus just reminded me that there's no gelatin in marshmallow Fluff.

Kiss off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Monday, September 8

Shop 'Till You Drop (Or Stab Someone).



CDP Headquarters experienced an emergency last week, as we nearly ran out of Mojitos on a Friday night. This would have proven to be disastrous, as it's prohibited by law to head into the weekend sober if you happen to be spending the evening at my house. Like a flash of alcoholic lightning, the Missus, myself, Benjamin and Sherry hopped into the car and drove to the supermarket to get the many ingredients necessary to create this delicious and unbelievably complicated Summertime drink (seriously, it takes like, three months to make).

The Copp's Food Center down the street had almost everything we needed, but had just run out of mint shortly before we arrived (perhaps everyone in Wyndham Hills had the same idea as us). This left us with one of two options:

1. No Mojitos (unacceptable by any means necessary).
2. Travel to the...other...supermarket across town.

You know the kind of supermarket I'm talking about. The one with the fluorescent lighting that makes you slit your wrists with a cat food lid as soon as you walk in. The one where everyone seems to get gutshot in the parking lot. The one where every checkout girl is 10 months pregnant with a baby that's already 4 months pregnant. The one where Peter Cetera never seems to stop singing. Yeah, the trip to the belly of Hell was about to be made for the good of the timeless Rum Highball.

"I've never been to this grocery store before," said a wide-eyed and naive Benjamin.

"Well, settle in. You're in for a treat," I quipped back, before checking my eyebrows in the rearview mirror and taking my pocket knife out of the glove compartment.

When we stepped into the Sentry Foods, I was instantly reminded of all the sadness and suffering in the world. It seemed to be in a constant state of unkempt renovation, as were the patrons. "Let's just get this stupid mint and get the hell out of here," I said. I'm typically always on the verge of a panic attack if you see me out in public, and this was certainly no exception.

As we meandered around the aisles, looking for a proverbial mint-flavored needle in a crap-flavored haystack, the Missus darted off in the correct direction while I was distracted. As I tried to catch up, I attempted to crack my friends up by doing my signature 'Power Walk.' If you're unfamiliar with the 'Power Walk,' I suggest checking out Mr. McMahon's WWE entrance. I do this in public all the time, because I think it's hilarious and it leads people to believe that I have something wrong with me.

As you can probably surmise, it's the funniest thing that has ever happened in America. That entrance song is also my ringtone. Let's move on.

As I power-walked around the corner and caught up with the Missus (who found the mint), I noticed a random shopper that was looking at me. He was short and chubby, tan-skinned, slightly feminine, backwards cap and dressed like a frat boy douchebag. We'd never get along, even if he was a Red Sox fan.

As the four of us crowded around the mint and determined just how many metric tons of the stuff we'd need, this guy managed to walk right up next to me and stare me down. He was sweating and appeared to be either severely intoxicated or under the influence of some narcotic. Weirder still, he had no groceries and wasn't even carrying a basket. I was ready for anything.

"You wearing an iPod?" He asked me, which ranked at approximately #998,603 on the list of the One Million Things I'd Expect To Be Asked By A Stranger At A Grocery Store, wedged right between "I'd like to eat Michael Dukakis' shoes!" and "Do you know what year it is, Neil Armstrong?"

My friends looked confused as I made the regrettable decision to respond to this sweaty mass of unbalanced humanity. "No," I said. "Why?"

He then proceeded to mock my amazing Power Walk, all while boasting a please-punch-me-in-the-knob grin. Dude had approached me for the sole purpose of making fun of the way that I pretend-walked.

Now, this shouldn't be a big deal to anyone with greater mental facilities than myself. Just laugh it off and move on, right? Well, not exactly. This guy had caught me at the wrong time; a time where I wanted to get confrontational and remind him that it's not nice to insult people. Who knows; maybe that's how I really walk? Maybe I got hit by a bus as a child and my legs didn't heal correctly. Maybe I was that guy in the POW camp with John McCain. Maybe I'm retarded and like to embarrass myself in public.

My friends looked at me as if to say, "Please, just walk away from this drunk idiot." Instead, I came slightly unglued.

"What the hell is wrong with you, man? Do you just approach strangers at random and make fun of the way they walk? Get outta here."

Dude didn't really know what to say, so we just sort of walked around him and made our way to the checkout. I was expecting more than that; perhaps I got off lucky. Hell, perhaps he did.

I'm an unassuming-looking guy. Medium build. Nerd glasses and a hipster attire. However, I was raised in one of the most rural parts of Wisconsin, worked at a dairy farm, redneck bar and hardware store, all before the age of 18. I will be more than happy to hand you your ass if the situation should present itself. I have a dangerous problem with male authority and bullying, and any guy that thinks it might be funny to tease or belittle me will be met with the sort of retaliation that can only come from a tiny man that was raised by bipolar women his entire life.

It ain't worth it, Cowboy.

But the moment had passed, and as we continued around the barren supermarket, my friends were giving me their usual schtick about what I did wrong; which is typically everything.

"Why didn't you just laugh and walk away?"
"Because that's a sign of weakness!"
"Why do you have to be such a jerk?"
"He deserved it!"
"Why does this stuff always happen to you?"
"I hit a leprechaun with my car when I was 16; happy?"

As the conversation continued towards the checkout line, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. It was the dude, sauntering back over to my general vicinity. I tried to act like I didn't see him, but if he was about to slash my throat with a poorly-concealed razorblade, I should at least make eye contact beforehand.

Was this guy insane? Was he asking for an ass-kicking? My theories were only heightened as he walked slowly past me, slo-mo power-walking the entire way and looking at me with the same douchebag grin. Bastard was egging me on.

Oh, that's it. Nobody gets between me and my mojitos.

I clutched the knife that was nestled in my pocket; this guy's eye was about to get carved out of its booze-soaked socket. Then, if I felt like it, I was going to go to his mom's house and Power Walk on her fresh corpse. The only person allowed to make fun of me is me, especially if this whole thing started due to me already making fun of myself. He was a dead man. A dead, ignorant man who doesn't understand humor and is now about to get stabbed because of it.

For about the millionth time in my life, I took a split second to fully understand the hilarious ridiculousness of the moment. Through a series of seemingly random and borderline-silly circumstances (jonesing for mojitos, out of mint, cross-town travel, power-walking in front of random passerby), I was about to beat the living hell out of a complete stranger that barely deserved it (I wasn't really going to stab him; I was just going to...you know...cut him a little).

Only the restraint of the Missus kept the situation from reaching a violent head, as the only thing I was able to do was say "I think you're done; get the hell out of here." He put up his hands in a defeated fashion and disappeared, once he realized that I did not find his brand of observational insult humor worthwhile in the least.

You'd think that my friends would praise me as a hero. Someone that stood in the face of annoying opposition and emerged victorious. Perhaps they would even gain some sort of masculine respect or attraction towards me, in that I wasn't some weak pushover that would take crap from people, regardless of if I might have deserved it for prancing around the supermarket like a gazelle in heat. Maybe they'd feel that I was someone who could protect them should something truly serious go down.

You'd be wrong. As is always the case, this entire situation was my fault. If you think that my 'I can't do anything right' act has worn thin, I can assure you that nobody is more sick of it than I am.

"What did I tell you about this place?" I said to the trio, clucking with disapproval. "Can we please go home and play Rock Band now?"

Thy will be done. And you know what? It was worth it.