Category Archives: What Strangers Ask You?

Raging River Continued: The Bad Bet

Jake and his wife were playing pool in the corner when we walked into Brews n’ Screws in Hayfork California, trying to line up a ride between our put-in and take-out spot. I recounted how we’d heretofore struck out on lining up said ride, despite our generous offer of 30 bucks.

The bartender had called everyone he knew with our amazing offer and despite enthusiasm from various folks, we huddled around the bar mildly depressed (or was I happy?) that we weren’t going to be rafting the mysterious class TBD rapids of the deserted canyon. Perhaps we should have been more concerned that E wasn’t quite sure how “rapid-y” this off-the-grid spot on the Trinity River was, but we weren’t, we were laser-focused on lining up a ride.

Scotty and I meandered outside and struck up a conversation with Jake and his wife as they were smoking. Jake’s wife appeared to have a bun in the oven, but we were not there to judge. The conversation pretty quickly veered into our ride sitch.

To say Jake was violently enthusiastic about our generous offer would be a major understatement. “WHOOOOOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

The feeling was mutual amongst Scotty and I as we walked inside to tell E what we had just lined up. As our “driving member”, E should have been wildly excited to have secured a shuttle, but he appeared to be shaking his head as we came back inside.

“You got us a ride?”

“YEAH! That guy and his wife are going to shuttle us tomorrow!! Awesome, right!?”

“Did you notice that swastika tattoo on his hand?”

…….. dramatic pause ………

E is Jewish. More accurately, he’s a devout atheist whose mom’s side of the family has been non-practicing Jew for at least a couple of generations. He’s also my friend who is probably least tolerant of assholes and unafraid to start something with someone who is much much bigger.

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The Raging River Continued: Beer-Drinkers Roads and Lining up the Shuttle

I recently realized the memory was getting cloudy as I half-heartedly recounted the story of Jake, his interesting tattoo, and backwoods winter whitewater raftin’ that was once my go-to anecdote. This story exposes both my wild-sportsman and outrageous prankster sides, as well as my humanity — and it was becoming a bit opaque.

You can find my lame attempt at the start of this story on the internet$, Raging River – 3 men enter, and it’s not worth clicking on (despite the PV earning me millionths of thents!). In theory I gave it this sensationalized 3 men enter title because I was going to turn the story into something else.  Something with death and violence and perhaps one character would come out of the closet. In actuality, the real characters and weird things that happened make the story good enough as non-fiction.

Now that I’ve built it ITBTS (impossibly-too-big-to-succeed), let’s continue…. The alps, deep Northern California, chilly February, 3 friends, a cab-over-camper, some serious parallels to what you might expect to find in rural Arkansas, West Virginia, or Kurdistan. We did a bunch of rafting in my friend E’s “pea,” a small-yet-mighty 4 person raft.

E is a rafting obsessive; spending his summers between law school livin’ out of his van, rafting the froth¹ and buying a bunch of gear, including this pea. He spent 10 summers outside of Salida, Colorado at a couple of different rafting companies that run the Arkansas river, and now lives outside Denver. I’m convinced that if he could find a decent woman to live in his van with him, he’d probably have foregone the whole law thing and just stayed livin’ down by the river. Why some good woman simply won’t MOVE INTO HIS VAN!!! is something I still can’t figure out.

This was our beautiful home in the Trinity Alps. Scotty's cab-over-camper replete with chef's kitchen, and enclosed patio. We lived out of this beauty for 3 days of rafting Northern California in the mid-00's.

This was our beautiful home in the Trinity Alps. Scotty’s cab-over-camper replete with chef’s kitchen, and enclosed patio. We lived out of this beauty for 3 days of rafting Northern California in the mid-00’s.

Advanced rafting technique, whereby you try to knock your friend's helmet off so that he has to jump into the freezing river to retrieve it. Safety first!

Advanced rafting technique, whereby you try to knock your friend’s helmet off so that he has to jump into the freezing river to retrieve it. Safety first!

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Everyone needs a little human touch… or do they?

I’m a bit of a touchy feely kinda guy, and I’m the first to admit, probably a bit of a over-hugger (although I NEVER hug someone after meeting them for the first time unless they go-in first). I know this used to humiliate my ex, who was never shy in her disdain of my “hugginess”.  Sure, we’d be at some work function of hers and I’d run into one of her co-workers that I liked and would quickly bat away their outstretched “handshake” hand and go directly into a deep, meaningful hug. I learned the hard way that sometimes even resting my head (which was probably over a foot above the hugees head) onto their shoulder rubs some “uptights” the wrong way – unless they’d had 7 scotches. So the lesson I learned was to wait until they’d had 7 scotches before saying, hello! Continue reading

Celebrity babies, they’re just like our baby… Andie’s first haircut with Dave Mathews!

To be honest, I wasn’t that jazzed about Andie getting her first haircut. For one thing, maybe she’s not ready for it – she doesn’t really have any hair to cut.  For another, they want to charge me $20 for the 3 minute chop – what are we, some sort of celebrities?!!?  More on that later.

$20 infant haircuts are not just the province of the uber-celebrity, but us regular folks too....

As we drove there, Maggie was wondering which hairstyle the stylist would “recommend” –  a bob?  maybe a perm?  perhaps one of those off-kilter hipster pixie doos (that frankly she had already cultivated naturally).  I suggested a straight pixie, because that was really all that could be done with the material presented.  Generally though we were both excited to see what would happen.

She was starting to have 2nd thoughts at this point.... do I know this isn't some sort of waterboarding device?

It was really a great experience and I was surprised to see that the haircut really made a big difference in her appearance.  No longer did she resemble an employee at American Apparel or a surly barista, her hair looked cute.  That’s not to say that the process wasn’t without some tears.

When we arrived the stylist let us know that only 1 parent was allowed with the kid at a time, so Mags went first.  It was great for her to be able to play and comfort her while the haircut was going on – Andie seemed blissfully unaware and they both were having a great time.  Then it was my turn and I was informed that we were going to “do the bangs.”

“When we do the bangs, y0u’re going to need to wrap one arm gently around her arms to pin them down, and with your other arm gently pin her chin against your chest!” – As you might imagine that is not one of her favorite positions.  When you have to “pin” some part of her down, she’s not going to be a big fan.  So my experience was a little different in that she was crying the entire time and looking at me like I was trying to pry her fingernails off.

Her new haircut is pretty sharp....

We were at Wallingford Center, an old school that’s been refurbished as a retail space in the heart of our neighborhood.  As the haircut was wrapping up, I glanced over towards the waiting area and noticed a little blonde boy with flowing locks who was on-deck for a haircut, and then I noticed who the little towhead was with, none other than your favorite South African singer, and my Wallingford neighbor – Dave Mathews.

By all accounts, Dave is a very nice guy. and I can attest to the fact that he lives in a very modest house (I can also attest to the fact that he likes to keep his blinds closed, and yes, he does have an alarm system).  We made eye contact, and I don’t think I’m out of line in assuming this was mutual, but some serious sparks were flying and both of our hearts were racing.  Even under this duress, I think I said something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, baby loves her first haircut” – as I was wiping away one of her tears, to which he tenderly replied, “That’s a good one.”  I’m not sure if he meant, “that’s a good one” in mocking reference to my joke -OR- if he truly appreciated my pithy-yet-observant comment.  Regardless it was pretty special for both of us.

Dave and I made some more deep eye contact and we were really vibing each other.  As we were paying for the haircut for our 7-month-old (that cost only slightly more than my own haircuts cost), Maggie looked over and smiled at Dave.   This was the 2nd time she’s had an encounter with Dave.  The first was on a walk with our friend Kelly – a big DMB fan.  She made Mags walk in front of his house and he happened to be outside with one of the kids.  Just as they approached Mags went under a low-hanging branch with a bunch of cobwebs, and with her typical gracefulness, she made a yelp and flailed to get the cobwebs off.  I guess this is a typical manner in which Dave’s fan greet him so he mistook this as a gesture of a rabid fan.  According to Kelly, he made kind of a flirty passing comment.  Kelly had to explain the magnitude of this encounter to the Magster as she had absolutely no idea that that person she literally ran-in-to, had actually been Dave.

We walked out of Wallingford Center very happy with lil’ Andie’s new doo, and I made a comment to Maggie about the encounter with Dave Mathews we had both just had, to which she replied, “What?  He was there?”  Yes, yes, he was.

Just because our child gets her haircut at the same place Dave Mathews’ kids get their haircut, doesn’t mean we’ve changed.  We’re still the same people.  We’re just a LOT more important.

Only one of these guys lives in my neighborhood (although this photo was taken at my house)

Do not drink the fire water!!

I originally wrote this for, the last time the San Francisco Giants were good.  In honor of making it to the National League Championships, I’m reposting it here:   Go Giants!


Please bare in mind that I was in my early 20’s when I wrote this and therefore… I sound like an idiot.


********************  August 2003 *************************


I learned a valuable life lesson this past weekend.  Went to a Giants game and met up with a big group of friends to have some pre-game bloody marys, we also had some beers at the game, and after they won this this lead us en mass to a bar next to the stadium called Tres Agaves.  This is a large industrial space popular amongst the polo shirt crowd, and started by the Red Rocker-Tequila shlocker himself, Sammy Hagar.  We had a big rowdy crew and were feeling no pain.  At one point, I ended up outside with my friend Brady who is a man amongst boys who could quite possibly have been the basis for the Frank-the-Tank character from “Old School”. Yes, I know that every group says they have a Frank-the-Tank, but I’ve yet to meet anyone else’s FtT that was in the same league. So our Frank says, “I’ve always wanted to try this habañero* tequila, let’s take a shot, I’m buying” — I’m not one to turn down a free, well anything, so I agree.



I'm frugal... not cheap. But this life experience reiterated the old adage, "nothing in life is free."


“Are you guys sure you want this?  You know it is extremely hot! Very… very hot” were the bartender’s exact words to us.

“I like spicy stuff, we’ll be fine”, I heard myself say


“You don’t have any kind of heart problems or high blood pressure do you?”


That one scared me a little, but we both replied no.  The shots were poured; I took a sniff, and the smell was almost medicinal, but not bad.  Looking back, this smell should have tipped me off to the silent assassin within.  The first couple of seconds after drinking, it didn’t feel like much, sort of numb-y.  I should say too, that I had one other habañero experience with another group of idiot friends.  That one involved daring each other to take a bite, followed by extreme mouth and throat pain, massive pourings of salt and ice water (bad idea) in our mouths, followed by feeble beggings for milk (the only known antidote – and not a particularly effective one), followed by some self-congratulatory assurances that we would “never do that again”.  So I should have known this wasn’t going to end well.

After the initial feeling of nothingness, there is an incredible pain fuse that goes off and rapidly travels down your throat and into every crevice of your innards.  I would not trivialize a fatal or debilitating illness, as I’ve never had one, but if I was to imagine how it might feel to have stage 16 stomach cancer this would it.


The next thing I know, I was doubled over on the bar, sweating profusely, cursing under my breath, and making whimpering sounds.


I looked up at one point and saw a group of people staring at me with blank looks on their faces and I felt like maybe I may have been slipped something.  I needed to get to a bathroom to get this devil water out of me.  I lurched away from the bar without saying a word to anyone (leaving behind my leftover margarita which couldn’t have sounded more unappetizing), on a journey to the WC.  I made it about 10 feet before I came crashing to a halt in the middle of the dining room on a leftover chair. This leftover chair happened to be attached to a table being enjoyed by a nice family who were pretty horrified.


What could have been seconds or hours later, I wasn’t quite sure how long I had been under this spell, but it seemed like an eternity, and death seriously felt like a comforting option.



This is not what the Habanero tequila looked like, but it is what it tasted like


Again, I was sweating profusely and helplessly clinging to life, and now I was worried that I might actually have a major accident.  There is not a more helpless feeling than being in a bar with the sinking feeling you might go number 2 in your pants.


Now though, instead of being next to a friend and just a handful of strangers, I was on display in the middle of the dining room.  I hated Brady with a passion, and not knowing if this feeling of pain and desperation were unique to me — I hated myself.


Somehow I managed to drag myself to the bathroom, only to find that some asshole was already using the only stall, and it sounded like he was reading the newspaper.  I don’t recall if I was trying to sound threatening or completely pathetic, I would guess the latter, but he put the newspaper down and gave up the stall.  So I sit on the toilet… and nothing happens.  Well, “nothing” is an understatement, there was quite a lot of sweating and spinning, and dry heaving.


Almost as suddenly as it had come on, I was free.  I came out of the other side of the tunnel, and felt like a man just released from being buried alive.  Needless to say I was relieved, I was ecstatic, and I don’t think I have ever skipped out of a bathroom before — but I did this time.  I wanted to tell my girlfriend and friends how much I loved them, how I was sorry if I ever made them feel unappreciated, how I wanted to be the best friend in the whole damn world, but then Brady told me that a group of them wanted to try one, and I laughed and laughed, and then I couldn’t wait to see them suffer.

Five of them lined up at the bar, and I watched them with baited breath as they laughed, punching each other in the shoulder’s, completely oblivious — I was overtaken with giddiness.  My friend Barrett walked up to me and said, “dude, I love spicy food, this shit IS hot… isn’t it?” I could hardly contain myself, but for the sake of our sick sociological experiment I just nodded.  A couple of seconds later all five of them had shot out of the bar, three out to the alleyway to dry heave, and the other two to the bathroom.  The bartender informed us that usually people don’t last longer than a couple of seconds after the shot is taken before they are running for the bathroom.  Brady was the only one he’d ever seen just sit at the bar casually.




This guy is a real asshole... as evidenced by his Habanero Tequila


You can try the habañero tequila at Tres Agaves if you have the stomach for it or are some sort of sick, sadomasochistic person, or better yet, trick your idiot friends into trying it.


*for those that don’t know, a habañero is an extremely potent chile used in small doses to add spice to Mexican-food.  You gringo.


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